I am a lantern ---
My head a moon
Of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin
Infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive.
Does not my heat astound you. And my light.
~Sylvia Plath, Fever 103°
It’s not that Will minds the smelling thing; it’s hardly the weirdest part of their lives. It’s just that he’s trying to get dressed at the moment, and Hannibal’s practically plastered against his back sniffing at him. He’s worse to maneuver around than any dog Will’s ever had. At least the dogs are trainable.
“I can’t possibly even smell like anything,” he complains, reaching for his shirt. “I just got out of the shower. Please tell me you’re not developing some kind of soap fetish.”
Hannibal takes a step back and looks at him thoughtfully before changing the subject: “I think I’m going to pick up some groceries tomorrow. Do you need anything?”
Hannibal returns from town loaded with bags and spends much of the afternoon in the kitchen, chopping and simmering and humming along with some symphony that Will probably ought to be able to recognize by now. Will wanders into the kitchen at one point to notice the world’s biggest stock pot and asks, “How long have we had that?”
“I picked it up this morning.” Hannibal looks so pleased with himself that Will’s mildly suspicious. “Pleased” is bordering on “smug” and that doesn’t always end well. “I had an urge to make soup.”
It does smell delicious, Will has to concede. Although soup seems like a weird choice in the middle of summer. He peeks into the pot and the smell tickles a vague sense memory. It takes a moment to chase it down, and then: “Enough chicken soup for a small army?”
Hannibal tosses a handful of something else into the pot and covers it up again. He pulls Will in for a hug (and another damn sniff, which Will decides not to even dignify with a response) and then pushes him gently away from the stove and toward the living room.
“I’m making salmon for dinner. It’ll be a few hours. Why don’t you go rest for a while?”
Will blinks, mildly confused. “We’re not having the soup?”
“Not yet. Tomorrow, maybe.”
There’s no point arguing with Hannibal when he’s in his inscrutable-smugness mood. And Will is actually a little tired; he could do with a nap. He rolls his eyes but lets himself be directed out of the room.
On his way out the door he sneezes three times in rapid succession, startling one of the dogs.
Will wakes up in a sweat with his teeth chattering, and for a confused moment it’s as if time has slipped sideways. That old familiar semi-lucid sense of being on fire, burning from the inside out. He expects to see his house in Wolf Trap. His dogs; his careful, simple life.
Of course he sees nothing of the sort. Of course when his mind rights itself, he understands the vat of soup.
It’s fuck-off o’clock, I’m Will Graham but the last documents with that name went up in flames two years ago, and it would serve my smug goddamn husband right if I woke him up right now to yell at him.
Instead, Will slides unsteadily out of bed and makes his shivery way to the bathroom medicine cabinet for something to bring down the fever.
He sleeps fitfully through the rest of the night and well into the next day. Hannibal wakes him eventually with more pills, the damn soup, and reassurances that the dogs have been fed and walked.
Will forces the pills and a few swallows of soup down before mumbling, “I can’t believe you smelled this two days ago. You’re a freak of nature.”
Hannibal smiles serenely at him, unbothered, and answers, “So you’ve told me many times. You can tell me again when you’re back on your feet.”
He gives every impression of being prepared to sit there and hand-feed Will, so Will glowers and picks up the spoon himself to manage a few more swallows. It is good, but his throat hurts and his muscles are protesting at the effort it takes to keep sitting upright.
He manages to convince Hannibal to leave the soup at his bedside by taking a solemn vow to eat more later, and slides back down again to drift in and out of hazy fever-dreams. Abigail is in some of them, and Dolarhyde, and Will’s most-hated sixth-grade bully. Later in the afternoon, Hannibal sits next to him and reads aloud, or Will thinks he does - it’s possible he dreams that, too.
“I can walk, Hannibal,” Will snaps, or tries to.
He’s feeling slightly more human but still not precisely snappy. Another night of fractured sleep was punctuated by both chills and coughing, for extra fun. He’s exhausted and grumpy and wondering vaguely if he should be worried that the fever hasn’t broken for good yet, but he supposes his bloodhound of a husband would know if there were anything to be really worried about, given that he can’t stop sniffing at Will every so often.
Hannibal backs off from his attempt to scoop Will off the bed, but he doesn’t look happy about it. “Of course you can, but there’s no reason to.”
“The reason is that I’m a grown man who isn’t actually dying, even if that might be preferable right now.”
That earns him a sigh and an I-am-disappointed-in-you sort of expression, but Hannibal vanishes into the bathroom to check the bath temperature again. He’s been fussing for several minutes about making sure it’s the right temperature for a fever, neither too hot nor too cold.
Will watches him go, decides he definitely isn’t dying if he can appreciate the view of the man’s ass that much even if he’s in no state or mood to do anything about it, and heads after him. Slowly and carefully, since he actually does feel like he might fall over, and he’s not giving Hannibal the satisfaction of having to pick him up and carry him back to bed.
The bath turns out to be warm and fragrant with god knows what Hannibal’s put into it. He lets himself slide all the way under for a moment, entirely surrounded by warmth and near-silence. He’d stay there longer but another tickling cough swells up in his chest as he holds his breath, so he forces himself up into the air again. When the racking coughing fit passes, he rests his head back against the rim of the tub and looks up at Hannibal, lingering conspicuously in the doorway.
“Worried I’m going to drown, or just admiring the view?”
“I’m capable of doing more than one thing at once,” Hannibal answers primly, and Will grins despite himself.
He feels like hell and he’s still annoyed that Hannibal didn’t see fit to tell him he was getting sick, but Hannibal’s trying so hard to take care of him. It’s not his fault that Will hates being hovered over when he’s not feeling well. And truth be told, maybe he doesn’t hate it so much, when it’s Hannibal.
He summons a burst of energy to flick a handful of water at Hannibal, most of it falling short but a few drops dampening his shirt. “There. You’re going to have to take that off now. Might as well get in here with me.”
“I was going to change the sheets,” Hannibal says, in what’s barely a protest. It’s not as if it’s ever taken much to get Hannibal into a shared bath.
It takes very little acting to look tired and as if he might slip under and drown at any moment, since that’s not far off from the truth, but it’s possible Will oversells it a little when he asks, “Please? It’ll make me feel better.”
Then again, it’s almost impossible to oversell anything to Hannibal. He’s such a sucker for a well-aimed please?
Hannibal starts with “If I come in there with you,” but it’s not entirely convincing as a call for compromise given that he’s working at his buttons as he speaks. “…then afterwards you will eat more soup while I change the sheets. And you’ll let me carry you back.”
Will considers. “You’ll stay and read to me?”
Hannibal concedes and Will considers pressing his luck by asking Hannibal to make him cherry Jell-O for his sore throat, but instead he scoots forward to make room in the tub. If he has to take the time to explain the nostalgic value of Jell-O and then soothe Hannibal’s horror afterwards, the water’s going to get cold.
Some water splashes over the edge as Hannibal climbs in and settles himself behind Will. There’s a bit of confusion over whose legs are going where, and a less-than-sexy coughing fit. Nonetheless, when everything settles out, Will finds himself comfortably leaning back against Hannibal’s chest and wrapped up in familiar arms strong enough that they could carry him, were Will less grumpy about being babied.
“There,” he says contentedly. “Much less risk of drowning now.”
Hannibal smooths Will’s wet hair back against his skull and reaches for the shampoo. Will lets himself drift, warm and cared-for and mostly happy, other than the lingering desire to rip out his own throat to make the scratching, stinging pain stop.
They linger a long time until the water cools and eventually Will does let Hannibal carry him back to bed, but as payback he explains Jell-O. Hannibal counters with some sort of horrible-sounding aspic-based dessert idea, and they compromise on ice cream.
Will spends most of the day on the sofa with the dogs, who are near-frantic at having him shut away in the bedroom for two days. They glom onto him from the moment he emerges, and can hardly be persuaded to leave his side for food or romps in the yard.
He can’t quite manage to focus on a book, but he finds some very soothing fishing shows on one of the outdoor-sports channels. Later in the afternoon when those run out, he settles into a marathon of bad movies punctuated by naps.
Hannibal shuttles back and forth from the kitchen, where he’s tending a vat of consommé, bringing Will endless cups of honeyed tea. He appears to be endlessly pleased that Will’s fever has broken and he’s feeling well enough to be out of their room. Will rather suspects that Hannibal credits the improvement entirely to his damn soup.
Will continues to admire the view every time Hannibal walks away from him, back into the kitchen. He’s just about decided to go on living, rattling cough or no rattling cough.
Feeling just about human again, Will declares that he’s going to take the dogs for their afternoon walk. As they leave the yard, he pretends not to notice Hannibal hovering at one of the windows watching to make sure Will doesn’t have a fainting spell or whatever it is that Hannibal fears. They don’t make it far before he tires out and turns them back for home, but it feels good to get some fresh air and sunshine.
Back inside, Will kicks off his shoes and goes to find Hannibal to prove he’s alive and well. He finds his husband in the study, nose in a book, doing a good job of pretending he hasn’t been fretting about Will’s absence for half an hour.
He drops onto the sofa and makes a pest of himself until Hannibal puts the book aside and gives him a welcome-home kiss. Will does his best to turn that into a proper kiss. It’s been days after all, days that he’s been tired and cranky and not in any state or mood for –
Hannibal pulls away from the kiss suddenly, with the oddest expression, and Will wonders for a moment if he’s somehow done something wrong. Startled Hannibal, failed to brush his teeth, something?
Hannibal makes a strangled little noise and then sneezes, twice.