I wrote this fic in April and put it on AO3, but in light of "Roti," I thought hurt/comfort fans who don't read AO3 might enjoy it. For canon clarification, this fic was written after "Potage" (1x03) with the last chapter influenced by "Coquilles." I think it remains more or less in character but it isn't particularly up to date. Nonetheless, happy reading.
Will Graham slumps against the rough wooden wall of the old slave quarters back of a former plantation outside Charleston, South Carolina. His eyes burn along the seams when he closes them, blocking out yet another macabre scene. At least he didn't have to shoot anyone this time. Jack's minions cuffed the killer, caught alive, and took him away moments ago. His last victim hangs from the rafters in the small building, still dripping blood.
Will inhales the metallic scent. He's grown so accustomed that he smells it in his dreams now.
Ten young black men, all carefully lynched so they would not die immediately. While they still lived, the killer – Herbert Michael Jost – castrated them, carved invectives into their chests, and gave them the wounds of Christ's Passion. They died slowly of asphyxiation.
He hears someone call out; they've found the horde of genitals. God. Will has seen that cache in his mind's eye. It sickens him.
Will's throat aches when he swallows against the threatening bile. The room is hot and stuffy in spite of the cool winter night. He wants to shed his jacket, but he also wants to stay still. If he could melt into the solid oak planks, he would. Anything to ease his trembling muscles. He curves nails into his palms repeatedly, no longer noticing the pain.
Nine inch nails through the spook's wrists. He pounds them in place with a carpenter's hammer.
Will stares at the hammer on the table. The bloody blade of the butcher's knife. These are Jost's instruments. Just as he'd known they would be.
Minions cut the body down. James Young, the tenth victim. Gone.
One of the minions brushes past Will and Will flinches. Knives slice his throat when he swallows. Blood. He can taste it. It's not really there – he knows that – he's tasting the stench – but it's too much and he ducks out of the cabin and into the cool night air.
Hannibal follows him.
Will is staring at the flashing lights of local PD cars when Hannibal speaks.
"You don't look well, Will." The words come out rounded and exotic like a heady perfume. "Are you feeling all right?"
Will breathes past the lump in his throat and glances at Hannibal. A caring, kind – if reserved – expression graces Hannibal's face in alternating blue and red.
"Tired," Will manages, releasing his nails from his palms. Hannibal's presence calms him. The subtle shakes of his muscles subside. "I'll be fine."
"Perhaps we should adjourn to the hotel," Hannibal suggests.
Will doesn't speak, doesn't nod; he just starts shuffling toward the rental car. Will's eyes follow his footsteps through the dead leaves. The same path trod by Jost.
Nails, pounding nails, the bright spray of arterial blood, a bitter tang in his mouth.
He wants to vomit but swallows heavily against the urge. For someone of his experience, vomting at a crime scene is unbecoming. He clenches his teeth and wills the nausea back.
He pops an aspirin in spite of nausea and an aching throat. His aching head is worse.
Red lights splash against the leaves like bright blood, like the intense satisfaction of severing male flesh. His own flesh shrinks at the thought, as it has for more than a week. Jost derived such pleasure from the act of removing the men's genitals.
Will's own flash of pleasure and control and power upon killing Hobbs mixes with Jost's and Will stops abruptly and gulps in air.
Beside him, Hannibal tenses slightly. Will feels Hannibal's gaze on him.
"It is a terrible thing to do to a man," Hannibal says. His uncanny ability to think along with Will no longer seems odd – nor does the hand that rests gently on Will's shoulder, supportive but not intrusive.
Will's head jerks in a nod. He blinks away the images and, seeing the car nearby, forces his feet to move. He'll feel better once he's in his room with a locked door between him and the eyes of the world.
Once he's in the car, Will buckles his seat belt and lets his eyes fall shut. He longs for sleep. His body aches in the absence of adrenaline. The cool air has seeped into his bones. He pulls his jacket more tightly around himself.
The companionable silence Will so appreciates when he's with Hannibal settles in. He relaxes, feeling the troubling images in his mind dissolve.
The next thing he knows, Hannibal's hand is on his shoulder again. Will blinks, his head foggy with sleep. Surprise and disbelief jolt his sleep-dulled body at the sight of his house in the pale dawn light.
He turns to look at Hannibal, who looks not the least bit tired. A smile plays in Hannibal's eyes. A love for this man he cannot quantify rushes through Will.
"You didn't have to drive all this way," Will croaks, wincing at the sandpaper in his throat. Perhaps he isn't well after all. "Thank you."
The smile reaches the corners of Hannibal's mouth. "Not at all, my dear Will."
As Hannibal retrieves Will's bag from the trunk, he explains. "You were still asleep when we reached the hotel. Given the difficulty you have sleeping, I thought it best to continue home rather than wake you."
But it's seven hours, Will thinks. He should make something of it, but his tired mind can't process anything. Instead, he merely smiles as he takes the proffered bag. "I appreciate it, Hannibal."
The hand on his shoulder again. Another smile from Hannibal.
"I shall see you this evening for dinner?" Hannibal asks, referring to their new custom of dining together the day after a case. Will thinks of it as a kind of debriefing. "Or is that too soon?"
"No," Will shakes his head. "Seven o'clock," he confirms, hiding a wince at the pain in his throat. He offers a parting smile.
Will lets himself in, hearing the happy yelps of his dogs over the sound of Hannibal driving away.
When Will fails to appear at the appointed time, Hannibal packs the still-steaming flesh and vegetables in containers and drives through the wealthy D.C. suburbs to Wolf Trap. Such an affront from anyone else would garner meticulous rage, but not from Will. Will is stubborn yet loyal, fragile yet strong. Courteous, in his own way. If nothing else, he would have called.
Hannibal leaves the meal in the car, mindful of the pack of dogs Will keeps. The lights are on and Will's car is in the driveway, but only dogs answer his knock.
Worry glimmers at the edge of Hannibal's mind. He had observed the burn of fever in Will's too-bright eyes morning. Despite his brilliance, Will takes poor care of himself. And in spite of Hannibal's nature, he cares for Will. Will is his equal. One day, he will be Hannibal's undoing.
Until then, Hannibal will savor his company. His mouth shapes itself in a grin as titillation takes the place of worry.
Will is the first man Hannibal has desired in many years, but even when Will is rattled, he notices everything. Hannibal has not been able to get close to him. In time, he shall have Will Graham, but not yet.
Now, though, Hannibal is sure that Will is too ill to remember the many touches Hannibal intends to bestow. And if he does remember, Hannibal can easily persuade him that it's doctorly as well as friendly concern and nothing else.
He's already fed off of Will's starvation for a friendly relationship. Yet Hannibal does not pity him. Will is his equal in too many ways.
After several attempts to reach Will – surely the racket the dogs are making would have roused him – Hannibal picks the lock and brushes past the animals to the bed.
He stops to take in the scene before him. The room reeks of sweat, fever, and illness. The smell is organic but not entirely unpleasant, mixed as it is with Will's unique scent.
Sheets lie in a tangled heap at his feet. Towels hang off the bed at odd angles as though they'd been thrown weakly. One covers Will's stomach and thighs, leaving everything else – a veritable feast of flesh – exposed. Hannibal refrains from licking his lips.
The man himself is asleep but tense, his chest and cheeks flushed. His head jerks and he mumbles unintelligibly, then stills.
He can touch Will without his knowledge. Arousal tugs in Hannibal's stomach and groin.
Two of the dogs pad past him, look from him to Will and back, and whine. Hannibal ignores them, stepping forward instead so he can brush Will's matted hair from his sweat-damp forehead. Will flinches at the touch and mutters, his eyes rolling wildly under their lids.
Yes. Hannibal had pictured a scenario similar to this one as the best possible option. What he did not expect is the odd pull of compassion Will's complete vulnerability elicits. It mixes with the respect he has for Will and the physical attraction he can't deny, and he feels what it's like to be overcome by…love?
Yes, the feeling of love. He turns it over in his mind as though it's an object from an archeological dig that challenges the narrative of history.
He sets the feeling aside for later study. Tonight, he will satisfy his baser desires.
The dogs follow him, their nails clicking on the floor, as he returns to his car for the bag of basic medical supplies and instruments he brought. The smell of dog assaults his refined olfactories. Hannibal understands the comfort they provide Will, but his lip curls nonetheless at the totality of their presence in the house. He shuts them out of the living room.
A temperature reading reveals that Will ought to be in the hospital. No. Will would not like the empty touches of faceless staff, and Hannibal cannot abide that.
He rests his hands where the towel meets Will's flesh. His sensitive fingertips chart the undulations of Will's ribs as he skims upward. Will shivers at his touch; Hannibal realizes his hands must feel cold on Will's burning skin.
He's thrilled by the reaction. He wants to make Will shiver again.
Hannibal savors the trail of gooseflesh his hands leave as they push up the slick plane of Will's chest. His pectorals are more developed than Hannibal had imagined. He pauses to run his fingers along the contour of the muscles, stopping to tease Will's nipples.
Will gasps but does not wake, and Hannibal feels blood rush to his penis as it twitches in his trousers.
He lingers, savoring the exquisite prick of desire.
After a moment, his hands reach their goal: the lymph nodes in Will's neck. Swollen. Will whimpers. Painful, too. His mongoose is quite ill indeed.
The way forward is clear. He must lower Will's temperature enough to wake him so Hannibal can rule out the more troublesome possibilities like meningitis. Will needs acetaminophen, too, and as much water as he can handle.
Hannibal reluctantly removes his hands.
Will shivers again, then gasps and begins to thrash and cry out hoarsely. Immediately, Hannibal strokes Will's hair, leaning forward.
"Hush, sweet Will," Hannibal says into his ear. "I've got you."
Will quiets quickly, much like a child would. Sheer vulnerability. Satisfaction fills Hannibal like a fine reduction of heart steaming on a plate.
"You have a high fever," Hannibal continues. "I shall place wet towels on your head, neck, and feet. You will feel more comfortable."
His patient stills. Hannibal lingers a few moments longer before he opens the door. All six dogs greet him. He bares his teeth and growls.
A quick investigation reveals a back porch littered with dog dishes. Hannibal props the screen door open so the dogs can go in and out of the porch, and fills their dishes with food and water.
Already selecting the means of seduction, he closes the door to the house behind him. He will not be interrupted by dogs.