Disclaimer: The characters and concepts in this story are the property of Thomas Harris, Bryan Fuller, and their related affiliates. This is an amateur writing effort meant for entertainment purposes only.
Summary: Will's caught between a rising tide and a raging fire. Hannibal sees him safely home.
Author's Notes: Classic hurt/comfort again. Spoilers for 'Buffet Froid'.
Fire and Ice
The house rocks slowly on the churning fields. There's a storm brewing. A great swell of salt wind slams into Will, and the once clear, cloudless night is overtaken by a low ceiling of black clouds. Thunder rumbles from somewhere inside him. Lightning flashes through the haze. Mavericks made of earth and long grass slam against his porch rails. He's not worried about losing the house though. Light blazing from the first floor, Will knows his boat will stay afloat. Of course it will: he's not inside it.
Will braces himself against a tree. His mind's being tossed about even if his body isn't, and the wide Sargasso Sea between him and home tilts at odd angles, even for stormy waters. He reels and sways dazedly, arm shifting of its own volition over the bark. "We should go inside," Abigail says. Will shakes his head. The tree is a worthy anchor for an unseaworthy vessel, but there's no sailing home now. "We just have to wait it out. I'll hold," Will basks in the feelings of calm his house elicits. "I'd rather be standing out here anyways."
The tree catches him when he knees buckle, and there's no escaping the tide of sea water that rushes against his calves. Will stares down at the coils of grass slicking oily against his skin, and the wrongness of the situation starts to dawn on him amidst the torpor. They had floods like this in Louisiana. Will remembers heaving sandbags into barricades because the sky had opened up in a downpour that tried its hardest to wash the world away. He's been walking around in rain boots full of water ever since. Abigail sighs, "We're going to freeze out here." Dad said the same thing any number of times in any number of tones. Sometimes he was stating a sad fact, that this was the storm that was finally going to do them in; other times, he was asking a question. "We gonna freeze out here, Will?" because for whatever reason, Will refused to come inside when he rained. He trudged up and down the flooding streets looking for abandoned animals, for more mouths they couldn't feed.
"He let me keep them anyways," Will tells the rain. "Each and every one of them. No matter how desperate it got."
"Who let you keep what?"
Will has already forgotten the question. His head droops forward, and the embers above his right ear get stirred up again into a small flame. If Sutcliffe put him back in the MRI – if Sutcliffe was alive, of course – Will imagines the right hemisphere of his brain would light up like the Fourth of July with how much it hurts right now. "My worst case scenario used to be a complete psychotic break, but that doesn't scare me anymore," he half-laughs, half-cries. Make it stop. "Now I know the only thing scarier than losing my mind is knowing that I'm losing my mind. And that there's nothing I can do to stop it."
The fear claws its way up from his stomach then and Will can't bear to look at his house anymore. "I don't...I don't feel safe. I can't feel safe. I just...want somewhere...where these things can't find me. But how can I do that when they're inside me?"
He digs his fingers into the side of his head. Increasing the pressure seems to alleviate the pressure. Why? Because he's insane. That's why. Where the brain goes, the body follows.
Lightning forks along the horizon, and the thunder that rumbles overhead shakes the tree and brings Will to the ground. The water's gone now, replaced with the flurry of dry grass on the wind against his skinned kneecaps.
He blinks. Wrong. All wrong. The storm's there but the water has vanished, and he's been talking to dead air this whole time. Will hugs himself against the bitter chill of the cold, biting back a cry that's forcing its way out of his throat. At least he remembers dreaming this time? Will almost sobs. That's his consolation prize out here on a stormy night: at least he remembers dreaming this time, and as far as dreams go, a flood isn't so terrible.
The rain, however, is. And when the sky opens up, Will is drenched with an icy torrent that freezes him so quickly he doesn't have time to start shivering. The fire in his skull is the only heat left in his body, and even that is content to rage in a single concentrated area. He is cold, numb, and nauseated; the tree's the only thing keeping him even halfway upright.
Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop.
He's actually saying it out loud now. To the rain. To the house in the distance. Begging them. Will digs his fingers into his head again and prays that this time he'll breach the skull. He just needs a tiny hole to let the rain drip in and wash away that awful burning that's spinning his world off its axis. That's making the grass look like water, making the water feel like ice, making the trees look like Garrett Jacob Hobbs. Will tears at his hair a little, praying now for some kind of relief. Make it stop.
Leaving the tree sends the world spinning again, and this time, not even the house is immune. One minute it's directly in front of him, the next it's under his feet, then in the sky, to his left then his right then around and around...Will drops to his knees into the mud. Dogs are barking in the distance, or at least, it sounds like they are. His mind being what it is, Will can't be sure. He climbs back to his feet, nearly pitching forward as he does so, and tries to get a fix on the house again. He catches a quick glimpse of it through a flash of lightning, but then the whole world plunges into darkness, the house along with it.
Thunder quakes through the sky, air, and earth, knocking Will back on the ground. Fine. He sits and waits for the disorientation to pass, for the nausea to subside, for the burning in his head to engulf him completely. The house is still there even if he can't see it, and it isn't far. He'll get there. He'll get there. Will reminds himself to just keep on breathing, to not black out. "I'm in Wolf Trap, Virginia. I am Will Graham. I'm in Wolf Trap, Virginia. I'm Will Graham. I'm in Wolf Trap, Virginia..."
Light shoots out of the darkness and blinds him. Will raises a hand to shade himself - his brain is already lit up well enough – but even as the light shifts, he still feels it piercing through his eyelids. The beam's getting closer and closer. Will can hear the wielder traipsing quickly through the mud towards him.
He holds his head. Not the kindest way of greeting his psychiatrist, but Will can't help it at the moment. The doctor's proximity makes the world spin anew.
"Terrible night for a walk."
"It wasn't..." Will has to stop. He can't catch his breath, and it's all he can do not to half-laugh, half-cry again. Dr. Lecter doesn't leave him sitting in the mud for another second. He offers a hand, Will takes it, and then he's pitched into stormy seas. No, no...I'm in Wolf Trap, Virginia. I'm Will Graham...I'm Will Graham...
"You are indeed," Dr. Lecter says. "It is eleven forty-two p.m., Will, if you were wondering."
Will leans all the more heavily against Lecter, if that's possible. The doctor is impossibly steady in the choppy water...er...dry land. As if it matters. "They're going to lock me up..." he laments.
"Let's get you inside the house and dried off first."
Will's ankles get caught up in the reeds, and he trips, slips, is almost lost in the waves. Lecter's grip around his waist tightens. "Not much further now, Will."
"Don't let them take me...don't let them..."
"No one's going to take you, Will."
Lecter's calm should be comforting, but the closer they get to the house, the more Will wants to turn and run. He doesn't recognize the dark windows or the pawing of dogs behind the door as his anymore. This is a shade of a house, some twisted hallucination. Maybe Lecter is too. His whole world is being washed away in a half-forgotten memory from his childhood. We gonna freeze out here, Will? His cold fingers bury themselves into the wet fur of a lone dog let loose on the street, mangy, half-frozen and starved. Will sees himself in the dog's eyes.
Stairs are impossible for him. "Let me go. Let me go."
Lecter holds fast to him. "Almost there," he heaves Will up, up, up, one step at a time. The change in altitude sends Will's stomach into his mouth, but he's not sure what happens next. Lecter's talking – or is he? – the world's spinning – or is it? – and his head, his head is on fire. Of that, Will is absolutely certain.
"Will, I need you to stay awake for me."
"It's eleven forty-two p.m..."
"It's eleven fifty-four p.m. now."
Will shakes his head but the rain's pounding in there now. Stormy seas, abandoned dogs, Dad...how far back does his psychosis go? How much of his life is a hallucination? Jack didn't notice his blackout in Grafton. He could have been losing his mind for years now, or maybe he's never had his mind at all. The fire in his head burns on the longer he thinks about it in spite of the rain.
Lecter pulls his hand away from his head firmly but gently. "I need you to talk to me, Will. Do you know how long you were outside?"
"It's eleven fifty-four p.m.," Will sighs, trying to remember. His thoughts keep getting side-tracked though by fire and ice and rain and wind and Lecter's hand brushing through his hair like he's a sick child. "Dad only ever touched me when I was sick..."
The doctor's face swims in front of him, warmly lit by small stubs of emergency candles. Will furrows his brow and reaches for them, trying to see if they're real. Lecter restrains him again. "While I appreciate the insights into your family life, Will, I need to know how long you were outside."
"I don't know."
Lecter hums, expecting as much. He releases his grip on Will's wrists and pulls some heavy fabric round the younger man's torso. Will jerks about unsteadily in his chair. "No, no..." Not a straight jacket.
"Relax, Will. It's the blanket from your bed," Lecter runs his hands over Will's arms to generate some heat. "I need to raise your body temperature. Do you have any other blankets? Will: do you have any other blankets?"
"There's some...some..." the muscles in his jaw have started to loosen now that they're out of the rain, and Will finds it difficult to form words. "Linen closet. S-s-second floor."
"I'll be back," Hannibal assures him. "Rub your chest, Will, if you can."
He can't. He tries, but he can't. His body has turned to lead, his brain is molten iron, and Will keeps getting lost in the waves.
Wolf Trap, Virginia. Will Graham. Wolf T-t-rap, Virginia...Will Graham...
Light and heat wait for him when he opens his eyes. "The power's back," Will notes.
"You have quite the penchant for overstating the obvious, Will."
"No need to apologize. Speaking will keep you conscious," Lecter wraps another blanket around him. "Perhaps even on topic for longer than a few seconds."
"Perhaps," Will breathes, though unconsciousness is looking more and more comfortable with his head hurting so much.
"Tell me how your feeling, Will," Lecter says as if reading his burning mind.
Will has no reserves to evade or lie. "Cold," he answers honestly, "and hot. My head...my brain...everything else is cold, but I just...something's burning...inside my skull..."
Lecter's preternaturally cool hand is on his forehead again. "How long have you been experiencing this kind of headache?"
"A while. Just not...not like this..."
Make it stop. Make it stop.
Lecter's hand disappears. "Have you taken anything tonight?"
Will shakes his head, trying and failing to clear it again. He can't tell his memories apart from one another right now. Did he take Aspirin before going to bed, or is he just remembering taking Aspirin last night, the night before, the night before that? Inside, his memories are collapsing into one big ocean. Try as he might to pile sandbags, the water's getting higher and higher, brushing the base of the fire but never reaching it. Will's only choice is to sink, swim, or burn.
Something warm enters his mouth. "Swallow, Will," Lecter tells him. "It's just warm water."
"Ground water does."
Will can't argue with that, even if his water has never tasted funny before. His next thoughts are of calmer waters and rising tides that wash over the fire. He's aware of movement: the feeling of clean clothes, of warm blankets, the dry wind from a space heater. Aware of Lecter's voice herding the dogs from him, shushing them. Then he's falling back, back, back...through nights and days until Dad's hand is running through his hair, his hands are running through a dog's wet fur, and the water swallows him up.
He wakes up to dim sunlight, warmth, and the smell of melted butter. No fire, no water: Will's on dry land in his bed, wrapped up in just about every blanket he owns. His headache's back, but as long as he doesn't move, the coals don't quite ignite. He can rest a little while longer before facing the day and Dr. Lecter.
Nevermind. Will looks up to find Lecter standing in the doorway. He makes a show of trying to rise, but both he and the doctor know it's just a show. Will's far too tired, stiff, and sick to move.
"Is this real?"
"One should never ask a hallucination whether or not something is real," Lecter replies, "but if you do still value my opinion, yes, Will, this is real."
"How did you find me?"
"Jack Crawford could not get a hold of you last night. He called my home looking for you. I was concerned, so I drove here. Apparently, my instincts were correct. You were in quite a state when I arrived, Will."
"You have quite the penchant for understatement, Dr. Lecter."
The doctor smiles. He comes into the room and takes a seat in the chair he's pulled up next to Will's bed. "Your memory seems to be intact."
"Not all of it."
"You were very ill last night, Will."
"I'm sorry," Will says, even though there's no real reason to apologize. "My head...my headaches are getting worse."
"And these headaches compelled you to sit outside in a thunderstorm?"
"It certainly wasn't going to let me come back inside."
Hannibal nods. Considers. Will tries to read him, but he's far too tired to do so. He closes his eyes instead and swims just below the line of fire in his brain, controlling his breathing to keep from having another attack.
"Perhaps you should make an appointment with another neurologist, Will."
That surprises Will enough for him to open his eyes. "Sutcliffe said..."
"Sutcliffe may have been mistaken," Hannibal replies. "Doctors occasionally are."
"But not you?" Will jests.
"No," Lecter smiles, "Not me."