Another day, another crime scene. More blood, more gore. A cornucopia of body parts and internal organs, arranged on an iced-over lake off the Potomac River. The parts lead to the middle of the lake where a hole had been bored, and three decapitated heads had been tied together and lowered in.
Will stood at the edge of the lake while Price, Zeller and more of the FBI’s finest processed the scene. Jack was nearby talking to Hannibal, out of Will’s range of hearing. The profiler sighed and coughed, feeling Jack and Hannibal’s gaze on him.
Will had already been out to the center of the lake, after being assured that the ice was thick enough to hold the weight of ten men. The pendulum swung three times, and Will was able to catch a glimpse of the monster, but only for a second. A coughing fit wracked his body, and he had to stop, coming back to the edge of the lake and giving Jack an apologetic look and a shrug.
Jack shook his head, disappointed and continued talking to Hannibal, whose gaze remained on Will.
“He is unwell Jack, he shouldn’t be here.”
“People still die and crime scenes still need to be processed, Hannibal. Even if Will isn’t feeling well.”
“He cannot perform at his best when he is sick.”
Jack threw his hands up.
“If he wasn’t feeling up to it, he could have told me when I picked him up this morning. I wouldn’t have forced him.”
“When there are lives at stake Jack, do you really think Will could have said no?”
A sneeze, and another coughing fit from Will. Jack rolled his eyes. He wasn’t in the mood to be nurturing and gentle with Will. He was cold and tired.
“Take him home, Hannibal. Do you mind?”
Hannibal shook his head.
“Not at all Jack. Give my regards to Bella.”
Jack nodded, the mention of his wife bringing a small smile to his face.
As Hannibal approached, Will took of his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
“You’re sick, Will.”
Will gave a small, exasperated laugh that set off his coughing again.
“What gave it away?”
“Come, I’ve been asked to take you home.”
“I’m fine, Hannibal.”
A pause while Will blew his nose.
“The longer you stay out here, the sicker you will get, Will. And I’m guessing you don’t like being ill, am I correct?”
Will sighed and nodded.
“Come. I’ll take you home.”
Will fidgeted with his gloves as they walked towards Hannibal’s car.
“Um…my…my house is being fumigated. The dogs are with the neighbors. I was planning on heading back to the office after this, catching up on some paperwork until I could go back later this afternoon. Just…maybe just drop me off at a hotel. I’ll get a room for the afternoon.”
Will felt pathetic and awkward.
“Don’t be silly. You will come to my house, you can rest there for the afternoon.”
“Only if you’re sure, I’d be fine at a hotel.”
“I am positive. I couldn’t let a friend recuperate in a horrible hotel room, alone. “
Hannibal calling Will a friend was always a little foreign sounding to Will. They weren’t really colleagues. More than acquaintances. But friends? Before Will could think about it anymore, he sneezed three times.
Sighing, Will climbed into the car and they made the journey back to Baltimore.
Will had fallen asleep in the car on the hour-long drive. The warmth, along with the soft sounds of classical music from the radio combined with the foggy feeling in his head had made him feel like closing his eyes. So he did, just for a moment.
The next thing he knew, they were pulling up to Hannibal’s terrace. Will woke with a start. This wasn’t the first time he had fallen asleep in Hannibal’s car.
“Sorry, I meant to close my eyes just for a minute.”
“No need to apologise, Will. You must be exhausted.”
“Exhausted is an understatement.”
It had started snowing again. Hard. They rushed inside, shedding coats and hats. Will began to cough again.
“Come. Let’s get you into bed.”
Hannibal led the way, Will following dutifully behind him. Looking at the bed in the guest room, Will just wanted to crawl in straight away. It looked so inviting and he was so tired.
“I’ll lend you something to sleep in.”
“Oh. I can sleep in my clothes, it’s fine, really.”
But Hannibal had already disappeared down the hall, returning in an instant with a long sleeved cotton top and a pair of pyjama pants.
“Please, Will. Put these on. I’m going to go and get changed myself.”
Hannibal left, shutting the door behind him. Will quickly removed his clothes, draping them over a chair in the corner, before putting on the pyjamas. They were a little big, but were so comfortable. They smelled fresh and clean and entirely like Hannibal. Going into the ensuite, Will washed his face and looked at himself in the mirror.
His eyes were red and his skin looked pale and sickly. His hair was long overdue for a cut and he hadn’t shaved in days.
A knock at the door pulled Will back to the bedroom.
“Are you dressed, Will?”
“Uh yeah. Come in.”
Hannibal had changed into a pair of dark jeans and a red sweater. He looked so different when he wasn’t trussed up in his three-piece suits, Will thought. More relaxed. More human.
Hannibal handed Will a glass of water and two aspirin.
“These may help you sleep. Did you have breakfast this morning?”
Will downed the aspiring and took a long drink of water. He nodded.
“Good. Well I can fix you something to eat now, or perhaps when you wake up?”
“I think I’ll sleep now. I’m so tired, I can’t even think about eating right now.”
“Very well. I have some things to attend to downstairs. I’m not far away if you need anything.”
“Thank you, Hannibal.”
Hannibal left, shutting the door but leaving it slightly ajar. Will climbed beneath the sheets, falling asleep almost instantly as his head hit the pillow.
Four hours later, Will woke slowly. His mind registered he was not at home, not surrounded by dogs. He was not sweaty, nor had he dreamed. He was lying in a soft, clean bed, in soft, clean pyjamas.
Hannibal had been in a few times to check on Will as he slept. Only once had he approached the sleeping form, placing a hand gently to Will’s forehead to check for a fever. He was warm, but not alarmingly hot. The sounds of his breathing was, however, more troublesome: a congested, thick noise coming from his chest.
Will sat up and noticed his clothes were gone. He frowned and made his way downstairs.
“In the study, Will.”
Hannibal was sitting at his desk, shuffling through papers when Will walked in. He glanced up when he walked in.
“You look better, Will. Did you sleep well?”
“I did, thanks. Uh, where are my clothes?”
“I folded them and placed them in the bathroom, incase you wanted to shower after you slept. Are you hungry?”
Will coughed again.
“A little. I wish I could get rid of this cough.”
“I’ll make you some tea with honey in it. It will soothe your throat.”
Hannibal made his way to the kitchen and Will followed, taking a seat at the breakfast bar.
“Did you have patients to see today?”
“I did. But they have been rescheduled.”
“I told you Will, there’s no need to apologise. For any of this.”
Will coughed, deeper and longer than before. Hannibal frowned, setting a teacup of hot tea in front of Will.
“I don’t like the sound of that cough, Will. Perhaps I’d better take a listen.”
As Hannibal headed to his study to get his medical bag, Will called out after him.
“That’s really not necessary. It’s just a cough, I’ll be fine in a day or so.”
“I won’t hear any protestations Will. Unless you’d like me to drive you to see your regular doctor.”
Hannibal took a stethoscope out of his bag and placed it around his neck, waiting for Will to answer. Will swallowed.
“No. I guess…I guess you can take a listen.”
Hannibal moved closer to Will, holding the end of the stethoscope in one hand, placing his other on Will’s shoulder.
Hannibal pulled down the front of Will’s top and placed the round disc just above his heart. Will flinched ever so slightly at the cool metal making contact with his skin.
“Breathe in, Will.”
Will took a breath, trying desperately hard not to cough. Hannibal moved the disc to the other side.
“And again please.”
Will breathed in again. He could smell the scent of Hannibal, warm and spicy.
Hannibal listened some more, and then moved around to behind Will, pulling the back of his shirt up.
“Just a few more breaths please Will.”
On the last breath, Will gave into the tickle in his chest and throat and coughed as Hannibal pulled down his shirt and put away his stethoscope.
“It doesn’t sound like bronchitis Will, but it doesn’t sound altogether healthy. I recommend you rest for the next few days, allow your body to heal itself.”
Will ran his hand over his face and took another sip of tea.
“I guess. I mean, I guess I can take the time off work.”
“If you want to recover quicker, I would suggest you do. Now, are you hungry?”
“A little bit.”
“I can make a quick chicken soup, if you’d like? Or something else?”
“You don’t…you don’t happen to have any tomato soup, do you?”
Hannibal looked at Will. There must have been a reason for this.
“I don’t, I’m afraid. But I can make one, it won’t take long. Why tomato soup, Will?”
“Whenever I got sick as a kid, my dad would always make tomato soup and grilled cheese for me. Nothing fancy, just your standard Campbell’s soup, Wonder Bread and American Cheese. It’s just…just a thing. Don’t worry about it.”
Will took another sip of tea, a little embarrassed at his apparent penchant for childhood favourites when he was sick. Hannibal smiled fondly at him.
“While I don’t have any of those items in the house, I’d at least like to try and bring you comfort by making them for you?”
Will gave a small smile.
“I don’t want you to go to any trouble. I feel like I’ve inconvenienced you enough.”
“Nonsense. You can even help me a little, if you feel up to it?”
“Sure. What can I do?”
Will got up and washed his hands at the sink.
“You can stay seated. I’ll get you to chop up some tomatoes. I got these fresh from the farmers market on the weekend, and have been wondering what to do with them.”
Hannibal handed Will the bag of tomatoes, a chopping board and a knife. While Will chopped the tomatoes, Hannibal cut up some onions, carrots and celery, frying them up in a pot with some olive oil. He added the tomatoes, some herbs and spices, salt, sugar and stock and let it simmer on the stovetop.
Will’s mouth began to water as the soup began to boil. Hannibal cut some thick slices of sourdough and buttered both sides before sandwiching them together with some Gouda cheese.
Will liked watching Hannibal move around the kitchen. He had only done so once before, but didn’t stay for dinner that night. There were other people invited, and he had felt anxious and sad, feeling like he wouldn’t make good company. Now that it was the two of them, he almost enjoyed it.
As Hannibal stirred the soup, he could sense Will watching him. In the quiet of the kitchen, he enjoyed having Will there. Hannibal had plenty of dinner guests, and enjoyed the pomp and ceremony of producing a feast. But there was definitely something grounding and homely in making Will’s childhood meal for him. It was intimate.
“I think this is ready to puree.”
Hannibal grabbed a stick blender from one of the drawers and began to puree the soup to a rich, thick red. Leaving it to boil a little longer, he buttered a skillet and placed the sandwiches in the pan.
“Tell me Will, did your father cook very much for you when you were young?”
“Sometimes. Though it was the same thing when he did: fish that we had caught on the lake, maybe some vegetables. Other times it was canned soup or stew. We had some nice neighbours who fed me more times than I care to admit.”
Hannibal flipped the sandwiches.
“My dad did his best with me. It can’t have been easy after…well…it can’t have been easy.”
Hannibal didn’t push. He knew Will’s mother had been absent, but never knew why.
Hannibal placed the sandwiches on two plates, slicing them so the cheese began to ooze out. He ladled the soup into two bowls, garnishing each with a basil leaf plucked from the plant on the kitchen windowsill. He placed a bowl of the soup in front of Will, as well as a sandwich, then came and sat next to him in front of his own food.
“Bon appétite en bonne santé.”
Will took a sip of the still piping hot soup. It was soothing and comforting and gave him warmness in his belly. The sandwich was crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. It was nothing like the soup and sandwiches he’d had when he was sick as a child, and as comforting as it may have been to have canned soup and artificial sandwiches, Hannibal’s food would always be more wholesome.
“Thank you Hannibal. This looks delicious.”
“I’m glad you like it Will. It’s always a pleasure cooking for you, my friend.”
There. That word again. Will, full and content, let it wash over him. He looked down at his empty bowl and empty plate and back at Hannibal. Will gave him a small smile.