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: Alana's hands straddle the same fine line between personal and professional interest that she does. Lecter's hands are always professional and pragmatic.
Will's hands are just itching to tear the world apart.
Author's Notes: Started as a sweet idea for a one-shot involving a feverish Will reluctant to have a sponge bath. The feverish-Will part happened; the sponge-bath is for another time apparently. In the words of Britta Perry, "Exactly! Life got dark!"
The title is taken from Romeo and Juliet.
(For Saints Have Hands) That Pilgrims' Hands Do Touch
When Will wakes, Alana's hands straddle the same fine line between personal and professional interest that she does. She always finds the space right between his hand and wrist, a polite, honest compromise that Will finds both comforting and uncomfortable at the same time.
Lecter's hands are always professional and pragmatic. He touches Will's forehead to gauge his temperature, Will's wrist to measure his pulse, Will's feet to test his reflexes. There's machines to do all that – Will can hear them dimly over the hum of heat and heavy heartbeats in his body – but Dr. Lecter is nothing if not a traditionalist. He's also preternaturally cool, something Will finds soothing, especially when Lecter's hand lingers just a little longer than necessary on his brow. The hospital can forgo the ice bath he's heard talk of if Lecter would just hold his hand there longer.
Crawford never touches him, but shivery Will opens his eyes to find a frazzled nurse draping another blanket over him as the older agent stands watch. "Sleep, Will," Crawford tells him, and Will obeys, thinking this is just some fever dream until he wakes up and finds the extra blanket. Crawford, of course, is gone.
Will's temperature falls slowly and unsteadily - tenths and hundredths and then degrees – before holding at increments between 101 and 102. He's fuzzy, dry-mouthed, and aching when he's awake, restless and delirious when he sleeps. If he sleeps. Waking and dreaming blend together. Will can't see the clock on the opposite wall without his glasses, so he tracks the time by the light in the room, by his visitors and their touches. Alana has taken up rubbing his arm and tucking him in; Hannibal continues to monitor his vitals: pinching Will's finger nails for his blood pressure and checks his pupils with a penlight (shushing or outright ignoring Will's grumbles). The nurse on day shift is a veteran of the craft, and Will knows her hands from how stern and strong they are when pulling his fingers from his IV butterfly or shoving a thermometer in his ear. The nurse on nights is younger, still timid, but she draws blood like a pro and doesn't use pet names, for which Will is grateful.
"I want to go home," Will tells anyone who'll listen.
Alana rubs his arm and says, "I know. They just have to run a few more tests."
"When they've identified the source of your infection," Hannibal replies.
"Don't we all," the day nurse laments.
She disappears after the second day. Family emergency apparently, but no one knows for certain, and Will's gut twists from more than nausea when he hears but he doesn't know why.
The night nurse smiles at him supportively and apologizes for his extended stay. She knows the least and tries the hardest. Will is struck by the sudden impulse to tear his IV out and stab her in the neck with it.
Will's heart rate climbs. He breaks out in a cold sweat and trembles so violently that the whole hospital seems to vibrate along with him. "I'm sorry," the nurse apologizes again and runs a gloved hand along his upper arm.
"Don't touch me," Will says in Garrett Jacob Hobbs's voice. Or maybe it's Hobbs speaking in his voice. Will can't tell the difference.
The nurse removes her hand. Sadly, she apologizes once more, and then leaves the room.
Will stops sleeping after that.
Alana is the first of his Holy Trinity to notice. Will knows because her first question upon entering his room becomes, "How'd you sleep?"
It's perfectly obvious how he slept: the bed's unmade, the sheets and his hospital gown are soiled. Will wears his sleeplessness in every pore on his body, from the fine tremors rattling through him to the dark circles under his eyes to the pallor of his skin (which is somehow paler than when he was admitted days ago). Her question initiates a stream of images in Will's head, all of them bloody. Just what do Alana's insides look like?
He remembers himself. Dimly. "I slept fine, thank you."
Her brow furrows with concern, and she takes several steps closer to the bed. Will sees Alana in grad school, eager and determined, back when she could have been one of Hobbs's chocolate bars. "Your temperature's up again," she sighs.
"I hate those monitors," Will mutters. He has his glasses now, but his vision blurs whenever he tries to read them. His heartbeat looks like waves on the ocean, the numbers flicker too quickly on the screen. Will sees Hobbs's reflection in them too, but it's only his face, distorted by inky, empty blackness. He looks away, back to his hands folded in his lap.
"I can't think of an anti-pyretic they haven't tried yet," Alana notes.
"Well, they could try treating the cause."
"They're working on that, Will."
"Not hard enough apparently," he's trying not to sound sullen, but the effort is just making him angrier. They've been running all manner of tests, drawing vial and vial of his blood, pumping him full of fluids and drugs, and his head hurts more now than it did days ago, weeks ago, years ago, whenever he was admitted. Will's chest lungs hurt from trying to keep up with his heart, and his eyes burn with fresh tears. He doesn't even know how long he's been there anymore. Or how long they intend to keep him there.
Alana takes his hand this time. "Will, you need to calm down."
"I've been calm."
"You need to stay calm. These diagnoses take time, but you have the best doctors working to try and figure out what's wrong with you."
"Oh, I think we already know what's wrong with me."
He wonders if she bleeds as nice as she smells and if she tastes as nice as she bleeds. One little cut to the side of her neck would let him know. Will wants to shove his tongue into her muscles and make her twitch like a puppet cut from her strings. "And I don't think they've invented a test for it yet."
The knowing is etched into Alana's face. Her brow doesn't crease but Will can see it furrowed; her eyes stay fixed but they're looking through him, past his perspiration, through his skin, between the sinews, all the way down to the deep, dark places where killers like to lurk. "You don't sound like you, Will."
Her insides are where her outsides ought to be. Will vivisects her with his eyes and eats her raw while Tobias Budge plays her screams into seven elegiac octaves. "No," Will growls, chest heaving under the weight of how right it feels to tear someone open, "for the first time, Alana, I think I sound exactly like me."
Alana's hand slips from his, and she takes a step back from the bed. Her lips set into a hard, thin line. The hurt doesn't even cross her face, which just hurts Will more. He wants her to get hurt. He wants her to see how bad it would be for them to be together. He wants her to leave him alone. But Alana's unwavering professionalism sees her backing slowly out of the room and then disappearing into the hall without another word.
Will gags the second she's gone. He tries to scrub the violence out of his skin, but he only finds sweat and tears on his face. Cruelty is deeply embedded within him now; its roots have taken hold. No amount of scrubbing is ever going to tear them free.
Will starts unpacking emotional baggage after that. Antlers first followed by angel wings. Cat gut stings in the corner. None of it is really his, but the room really starts to feel like home.
Hannibal takes note of his redecorating with the same dispassionate gaze he uses to cut everyone and everything down to its proper, examinable size. "How are you today, Will?"
"You know how I am today," he replies darkly. Hannibal's arrived too soon after Alana's departure to not know. At least, Will thinks it's too soon. His grasp of time is admittedly skewed.
"I know that Dr. Bloom is concerned about you," Lecter folds his coat over the back of one of the chairs in the room and makes his way slowly to where Will is standing by the window. "You disconnected your IV."
Pretending to remember to do that is easy now that Will doesn't care. "I didn't see the point anymore. What they're treating isn't physical, is it, Dr. Lecter."
Lecter does not even dignify that statement with a sigh. "Psychosis does not cause fever."
"Psychosis does cause everything else I'm experiencing right now."
"Describe what you're experiencing right now, Will."
"I read somewhere that pain obliterates the capacity for language," Will's picks at the tape on his wrist still securing the IV butterfly in place. "Violence seems to do the same thing: there are no words for the things I want to do to people, Doctor."
"Try," Lecter says. "Tell me what you want to do, Will."
There are too many ways to honour the good doctor for Will to start describing them. He pinches a corner of medical tape between his fingers and tugs, freeing the tubing from his forearm. "How about I show you?"
Will's hands are hot, slight, and trembling, but they know exactly what to do when they finally reach Hannibal. One locks tightly onto the doctor's coat lapel; the other ends up around Hannibal's neck, fumbling to cut open his jugular with blunt nails and the IV butterfly.
"WILL," Hannibal braces his arms against Will's torso and tries to push him off, but the smaller man's fingers have locked on his coat with a strength that used to belong to Tobias Budge. They get locked in a shuffle instead, dancing back and forth on their tiptoes, hands tangoing through the air. Fragile as he is, Will still manages to slip from Hannibal's strong grasp at every turn. He tugs on the doctor's lapel and uses the inertia to swoop the needle into Hannibal's neck.
Blood splatters on the window. Hannibal's throat rumbles. "Welcome to my world, doctor," Will growls and stabs again.
The curtains lift slightly on Hannibal's polished veneer. His remarkable, eerie calm never leaves him, but something dark asserts itself from underneath it all. Hannibal grabs Will's stabbing hand and rotates it painfully around the smaller man's back, then shoves him against the window ledge, immobilizing him until the nurse arrives with some orderlies.
Even after he's heavily sedated, Will's fingers still need to be pried off Hannibal's coat lapel one by one.
Will wakes up in the MRI plagued with his usual heat and pain. His glasses are gone again, everything's blurry. He's sick to his stomach too, and the only thing that will make him feel better is cutting the hospital staff to pieces and decorating the hallways with their body parts. Just in time for Christmas.
The loud banging penetrates the homicidal haze that's clouding Will's better judgment, dulled as it might be by the ear plugs he's wearing. His pores rattle in his skin from the reverb, and he feels his anxiety rising even if his body is still too drugged to express it. He wants out.
"Will," Alana's voice comes in through the intercom over the thundering of the machine. "Just hold still. We're almost finished."
"Let me out," Will chokes. He struggles to crawl, but he can't seem to navigate. His head's all wrong. It tosses helplessly against the metal frame holding him in place. "I want out, please. Please, let me out."
The machine shuts down. Will feels himself sliding out into freedom. Alan's at his side and catches his shaking hands in hers. No negotiating what's personal and professional anymore: she has him, he's hers, and he never wants to disappear again.
Will tries to lift himself, but whatever put him out so completely is still lingering in his system. He can't get off the table. "Don't let me go," he holds fast to her hands. "Don't let me go, don't let me go..."
Alana's other hand comes to rest on his cheek. "You're not going anywhere, Will."
Poor choice of words. Will really wants to panic now, and the fact that he causes him physical pain. They're going to keep him here forever. Lock him up in a padded cell, let him out for daily sessions with some half-wit shrink who'll keep him so snowed under Will won't remember his serial killer selves any more than he will his real self.
"You're right here, Will," another hand – preternaturally cool – comes to rest on his shoulder. Hannibal. His neck's been cleanly dressed, but Will can still see the redness and irritation around the edges from where he was stabbed. Where Will stabbed him. "Repeat after me: it is three twenty-seven p.m."
"No, no, no: that's not me anymore, don't you see? Don't you see?" Will's muscles still aren't cooperating. He can barely get himself an inch off the table. "I'm not me anymore...I'm not me anymore..."
"Will," Alana turns his head to face hers. "I need you to listen to me right now: they think they've found the source of your infection. We just need an MRI to confirm. We just need you to hold still for a few more minutes. Can you do that?"
"Please don't let me go."
"We're going to be right here waiting for you when you get out."
"I don't like what's going to come out of there."
"You're going to come out of there, Will. You."
Will cries. "That's the problem."
Because even if they do identify the source of the fever, they'll only treat the symptom, not the cause. He'll still wake up not knowing who he is or what he's doing. He'll still want to turn people inside out. "Just stay with me."
"Your temperature has spiked again," Hannibal notes. "Hopefully, we'll know soon what will bring it down."
Alana rubs soothing circles against his cheek. "Can you lie still for us, Will?"
He can't catch his breath. "I can't..."
Hannibal rubs his shoulder. "You can, Will. Not much longer now."
Alana's hand leaves him. Someone fiddles with his new IV port, the one in his opposite arm. "It's three-seventeen p.m., Will," Hannibal tells him. "Say it."
Will's forearm burns. "It's three-seventeen p.m."
But Hannibal's voice sounds distant. So does Alana's. Will feels their hands leave him as his body drifts back into the still, quiet of the MRI. He tries to remember what he's supposed to say after the time, tries to focus on situating himself, but then the machine springs to life around him. Will has to close his eyes against it. It's three-seventeen p.m., he thinks, but then there's a bright flush of blood behind his eyelids, and Will dreams about what Hannibal tastes like.
Heavy. Really heavy. The world has gained weight since Will's been asleep, and it presses down upon every inch of him. His eyelids won't open, his arms won't move, and it would be hard to breathe if not for the nasal cannula supplying him with a steady supply of oxygen.
Alana's hand smoothes over his arm. "I'll go tell the doctor," she whispers. Will's mind follows her footsteps out the door.
He follows the voice, opening his eyes just a crack to greet a blurry, blue world. Hannibal's face hovers close to his bedside. Will recognizes him more from his voice than his features, which have all blended together.
The thought to cut him new ones doesn't follow. Well, it does, but in a self-reflexive way more than anything else.
"Are you present, Will?"
He tries to nod. Talking seems impossible with how dry his mouth is, but Will manages to croak out the only thing he can think to say: "I'm sorry."
"You have nothing to apologize for, Will."
Hannibal sounds like he means it too, a fact that triples Will's guilt. His next breath is a shuddering one. "I definitely do," he replies.
"You were not yourself."
The only thing heavier than the air in the room is the pain Will feels upon hearing that. His face crumples. His shoulders curl towards his chest. The sobs start. "Yes, I am..."
"No, Will," Hannibal says. "The MRI indicated that the source of your infection was anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. It's a rare autoimmune disorder that mimics psychotic behaviour."
Will fights back tears, struggling to comprehend what Lecter is telling him in his snowy state. "So, what? The...hallucinations, the disassociation, the sleepwalking..."
"We won't know until the infection has been cleared, but yes, I suspect that the majority of your symptoms can be explained by the encephalitis."
Shock descends in a chill on Will's body, one that he simultaneously relishes and eschews. It's the first time he's felt cool in days. "How did Sutcliffe miss that?" he asks.
"Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis is a very rare disorder. It's possible that Dr. Sutcliffe did not know what he was looking at," Hannibal picks at the plastic armrests on the chair. "It's also possible that he was hoping to study you. Either way, Will, I believe it is I who owe you an apology. I recommended Dr. Sutcliffe to you."
"You," Will stares him down, "have nothing to apologize for."
"I am responsible for allowing the disorder to progress thus far," Hannibal says.
"I...stabbed you in the neck with a needle. And felt good about it."
"And had you not been running a fever of 104 degrees, you might have thought better about it."
Hannibal's smile is small, more implication than anything, but Will finds himself returning it sadly. "How is your neck?" he asks.
"It will heal. Just as you will," Hannibal nods to him.
Will nods back, then nods off.
Alana's hands aren't cautious anymore. She doesn't withhold herself from Will, doesn't straddle state lines. Her hand finds his, clutches it, then works its way through her usual, affectionate rounds of adjusting his blankets, brushing his cheek, or, once, playing with his hair.
Hannibal's hands are less obsessively clinical. He still maintains his air of cool professionalism, but the urgency and meticulousness drifts away now that Will's receiving treatment. There's also something...Will can't quite articulate it, but if he has to, the word 'wounded' comes to mind and stays there, not just because of the bludgeoning his neck received.
Crawford's hands sign Will's temporary release from the hospital before his course of treatment has finished. They've found his old day nurse's body two states away near her family home. The Ripper apparently found her as rude as Will did.