Will climbs slowly out of the deepest sleep he's had in months. He feels heavy and fuzzy but comfortable, if a little cold. The light streaming through the window tells him it's morning. He's woken up here too many times in the past twelve or more hours not to know where he is. He reaches for the comforter with a clumsy hand and pulls it up over his shoulders, shivering slightly until he's warmer. He drifts back into sleep.

After some time – he has no idea how long – awareness returns. Light. Morning. Hannibal's house. That phrase comes naturally now, even if he wishes the circumstances of his waking up rested and sore at Hannibal's house were different. He's is stiff from being in the same position all night. He thinks about rolling over – how nice it would feel to stretch his legs out and rest his sore back on the flat surface of the mattress.

Several sleepy minutes pass before his leaden body obeys. When it does, his back sighs contentedly. He feels more or less good. Well, not good per se, but also not bad, which is its own kind of good. Rested – something he hasn't felt in too long. Still sick, but not in an imminent way. Comfortable. He must have slept for several hours. He doesn't recall any nightmares. No dreams at all.


Will blanches.


Okay, not drugged. But drugged.

That's how he feels: comfortable because he was drugged.

He remembers that Hannibal gave him a sedative because he needed it. He remembers that he'd agreed to take it. To be fair, though, he was ready to agree to almost anything at the time.

But still…

Will blinks vacantly up the ceiling, knowing he's safe but not feeling safe. The muscle memories attached to sedation conjure fear, panic, and desperation. Awful dependence. Failure.

The last time he came out of sedation, he was in a hospital bed. As soon as he could form a coherent thought, he'd worried the bed was in a psych ward and got, as the nurses later told him, combative. Chemical restraints were easier to manage than physical ones, so he woke up drugged twice in one day.

It turned out to be a regular floor, but his fear remains well-founded. What he does could so easily be construed as the work of a nascent psychopath. Who knows when the men he works will see a rabid cur where they once saw a faithful bloodhound. Or worse, he could one day become the men he imagines being - and if he should ever deserve to be in a psych ward, he would also be unable to comprehend the scope of his own madness. The ultimate loss of control.

The idea makes him shudder.

What he knows is this: if he does one day break in a way that can't be fixed, he'll know it by waking up from sedation.

Will feels panic try to creep up on him. He's too calm physically for it to claim him; instead, a profound sense of unease pervades his mind and body.

He feels too exposed now, lying on his back – as though someone could leap upon him and spear him with a motorcycle handlebar. He concentrates on willing himself to move again. Shoulders are easier to turn than hips and legs. Bare shoulders, he realizes, to his chagrin.

When he finally rolls onto his left side, he notices Hannibal sitting across the room at the desk. Writing. Writing intently. In longhand. In an oversized journal.

Will stares at him, blinking slowly. How long has he been there?

He's wearing a cashmere sweater over an oxford shirt: the same thing he wore the day they visited construction sites in Minnesota, the day Will shot Hobbs, the day they gained a surrogate daughter. Except this sweater is blue. Placid blue. Like an alpine lake.

He's still not all together coherent, Will realizes, as his mind, bobbing like a boat without a rudder, drifts back to that day. He wonders if Hannibal kept that sweater and the shirt underneath. He recalls a stain on the cuff. Who would keep a ruined shirt? The pragmatic thing to do is throw it away. But he thinks of his own shirt from that day, tossed into the closet once he'd gotten home and forgotten about until this moment, and wonders how close he's getting to the edge. Again.

He shouldn't derive any comfort from the knowledge that Hannibal will not only understand this but also not judge him. He does, though. He derives immense comfort from it.

Hannibal has a whole Mr. Rogers thing going in that sweater.

Will blinks. Thoughts like that don't usually accompany the dying effects of sedative.

He thinks about where that thought came from; his mind wanders aimlessly until he shivers. Right. Of the two ways his body would fight the bacteria, one was fever. He'd stupid with fever.

Where was he? Mr. Rogers?

God forbid we become friendly.

But it's more than that. Hannibal knows almost as much about him as he knows about himself. Hannibal saw him shoot Hobbs, stayed in hospital with Abigail, understood his fears and dreams – and still Hannibal not only sees him but feeds his dogs, helps him with cases, invites him into his home, and pushes him just enough to challenge him. Never pushes him too hard. Never flinches or pulls away.

Hannibal is his refuge. He's known that for weeks without acknowledging it.

And now Hannibal has gone out of his way to make this damn illness easier.

"Good morning, Will," Hannibal says.

Will blinks. He hadn't noticed when Hannibal stopped writing, capped the pen, closed the journal, and turned in the chair to face him.

"You look better," Hannibal says with a smile.

"I feel drugged," Will says. He sounds drugged, too. Maybe it's not just fever that's messing with his head.

Hannibal frowns slightly. "The medication I gave you should have worn off by now."

Will watches through half-lidded eyes as Hannibal stands, adjusts his sweater, and crosses to the bed in a few strides. Hannibal has to reach across his side of the bed – his side of the bed? yes, it still smells like him, fuck – to place the back of his hand on Will's forehead.

"Your fever's gone up."

Will lifts his eyes to Hannibal's hand. "That's an accurate method?"

"Accurate enough," Hannibal replies good-naturedly. He sits on the edge of the bed, his shoulders turned so he can face Will. The professional distance is made intimate by the space of the bed, though Will doesn't think Hannibal means it to be taken that way.

"Something's troubling you."

Will closes his eyes and swallows to avoid snapping at Hannibal's perceptive niceness. Like this is one of their sessions. He's irritable, he realizes: memories of a very bad time in his life compounded by illness and his natural abrasiveness.

What would Mr. Rogers want with him?

And then he looks more carefully at Hannibal and he sees it. Hannibal's expression is more open and inviting than usual. It's as though he wants to please Will and will be disappointed if he doesn't or can't. As though he cares more deeply than he did before about Will's welfare and happiness.

Will isn't sure to what to make of this change. All he knows is that he owes Hannibal an explanation. In fact, as much as he doesn't want to admit it, he needs Hannibal to know this.

He needs help.

"I don't like being sedated," Will admits cautiously.

He sees Hannibal infer his meaning. "You had a bad experience?"

Will wishes he weren't lying down, sick and stupid as he tells Hannibal about this time in his life, but it can't be helped.

"When I worked homicide," he begins. He takes a deep breath. "I was doing too much. Seeing too much. Not sleeping." He closes his eyes. "Nightmares. Sleepwalking. Hallucinations."

When he looks up again, Hannibal is watching him intently. "Worse than they are now. I couldn't get everyone else out of my head."

There's no pity in Hannibal's eyes. Sympathy, yes. But no pity.

Still, Will looks away, knowing that Hannibal reads his expressions as easily as he does a newspaper. He doesn't need to see Hannibal's reserved reaction.

"I was at a crime scene – nothing particularly gruesome – and I couldn't take it anymore. I had a panic attack." He sighs. "I'd had them before, but nothing like this one. It wouldn't stop. I don't know what happened, but I woke up in the hospital."

Will glances at him. He sees the offer of security and feels a little better, a little warmer inside, despite the memory. Then Hannibal's expression turns inward and it's like clouds covering the sun.

"They gave you Valium?" Hannibal asks.

"I don't know. Something like that."

Hannibal's jaw muscles stand out, one of the few tells that he's unhappy or upset.

"I'm sorry," he says tightly.

"Don't apologize," Will says. "It's not your fault."

Hannibal doesn't seem to think so. He looks troubled for a moment before he speaks again.

"That's when you started teaching?"

Will nods faintly. He doesn't want to talk anymore. If they were in Hannibal's office, he'd wander to one of the bookshelves and thumb aimlessly through a volume or stare at one of the drawings or paintings on the wall. The best he can do now is try to sit up.

It's a challenge. Even though he's slept, he's still tired. Weak. Nauseous, too, now that he's moving. He rests a hand on his stomach and makes a face.

Hannibal rounds the bed and offers a hand.

"Tell me this is going to end soon," Will groans as Hannibal helps him stand.

"It will end eventually, yes," Hannibal says.

"Can't you tell me what I want to hear for once?" Will grumbles.

"Maybe next time," Hannibal replies.

Will thinks he hears a slight awkwardness in Hannibal's tone. He thinks he hears it because he's never heard – and, honestly, can't imagine – Hannibal being awkward. But his mind is focused elsewhere.

When he closes the door behind him, he feels an overwhelming sense of loss, like he's closed the door on the dogs at night when they just want to be near him. He can't bear to do that, which is why they share a room with him.

Hannibal isn't one of his dogs, of course, but there's a love and loyalty he's never seen before.

That's got to be it, he thinks as he submits to the misery of the bacteria. It affords him a considerable measure of comfort. He feels hope peeking like the shy sun out from behind the clouds at the end of hurricane season.