Hannibal mouths at Will’s cheek as Will changes the bandage on the bullet wound, and Will lets him.

It hurts, the dull ache of pressure combined with the sharp sting of the stitches being gently tugged. Will loves it. Even now, hovering on the knife-edge of a fever and with a wound that seems to have only very narrowly avoids puncturing his gut and killing him, Hannibal mostly manages to remain dignified— mostly. It’s only in the way the soft pink flesh of his tongue probes into Will’s face, tasting the blood and little crusts of scab and pus, that Will can feel his desperation. It feels like tiny sparks on his skin, hot and wet and terrified.

Hannibal is just a body. It was so easy to forget that with the glass in between them, or in the memory palace, or staring up at the man in his straitjacket looking like there was nowhere else he would rather be in the world. Now Will cannot escape that Hannibal is made of meat as much as anyone else. The skin near the wound is soft and white and too wrinkled, and it smells wet and animal when Will bends down to inspect it. He would shove his own tongue in it if he wasn’t too deathly terrified of Hannibal dying.

He places a hand below it instead, once the new bandage is in place; in between where the V of muscle points down towards Hannibal’s soft cock. His lower belly is slightly distended, and Hannibal moans slightly with even the gentle pressure of Will’s palm as Will leans in to kiss him.

Kissing Hannibal is easy. It would have been more difficult to prevent their bodies from crashing together in every way possible, after Will had taken him in his arms at the top of the cliff and allowed them to topple over. Touching him is easy, especially with Hannibal weak and nearly kitten-like in the narrow bunk of the boat’s cabin. Will can take him hin his arms, run his hands over Hannibal’s skin, press and squeeze and pinch to draw small sighs of delight and distress. He presses his groin into Hannibal’s ass as they fall asleep at night, and thinks fuzzily about what he’ll do when they’re both strong enough to have sex. He wants to, but it doesn’t consume his thoughts the way the idea of fucking Hannibal, or being fucked by him, used to. They’re too caught up in each others’ bodies every moment of every day to worry about things they don’t have the strength for.

So they live in the miasma of each others’ blood and pus and sweat and spittle, and when Will takes to pissing straight off the side of th boat just to see what Hannibal will do, what Hannibal does is join him. They stand together mixing themselves with the sea. Will feels Hannibal’s eyes on where the too-dark stream of urine exiting Will’s body— dehydrated, we both probably need to drink more water— and sees the separation between their physical selves crashing down like dominoes. They can never inhabit one body in the way that they inhabit one memory palace. But soon there will be no more secrets between their bodies, and that is almost the same thing.

So when Will brings him his pain medication and antibiotics the next day, there’s another pill mixed in with the handful. Hannibal is perfectly capable of standing and putting together the day’s medication himself, but he doesn’t. He seems to enjoy having Will do it for him. Except for now, when he winces at the sight of the new pill, and looks up at Will I’m with eyes that are almost beseeching.

Will smooths the soft blond hair back over the crown of Hannibal’s head, away from his eyes. It’s slightly tacky with sweat, his body painful and a tad feverish despite being on the mend– or perhaps because of it. “I know it hurts,” Will says soothingly, in the tone of voice he would use with one of his dogs. The voice that says that the words don’t really matter, because Will is going to have his way no matter whether he’s convincing or not. “But you need to try.”

Hannibal knows it already, of course. There are unpleasant things that can happen to one’s body that are less interesting than bullets or stab wounds, and severe constipation is one he’s hovering perilously close to. Will can see how his abdominal muscles ache and pull with every movement of his torso, and the idea of the muscular effort required for defecation is clearly a feeling he’d rather not think about.

Which is why he hasn’t been. Defecating, that is, and Will has noticed.

So Hannibal swallows the laxative, and when he sits back on the narrow bunk they share, Will brings him broth from the refrigerator (merely chicken) and watches him swallow it down delicately.

Hannibal lies down on his side, and Will clambers in behind him. Their bodies fit together like puzzle pieces, and Will’s arm drifts down Hannibal’s chest, skirting the wound and coming to rest just above his groin.

“Tell me when you need to go,” says Will gently. The kind of thing you would say to a child. Will’s never said it to a child– but then, it was Hannibal who destroyed any hopes he might have had of doing so, so he supposes it’s only fair for him to say it to Hannibal instead.

He half-expects Hannibal to shake him off, or protest at the indignity of this treatment, but he doesn’t. Will thinks back to the fluorescent glow of Hannibal’s cell in the BHCI. Alana has threatened to take Hannibal’s toilet, Will knows. Had she done it? Had Hannibal shit on the floor, and if so, had he done it locking eyes with his captors? It’s hard to imagine Hannibal being bashful about anything, or missing any opportunity to turn an indignity aimed at him into an indignity for someone else.

Will has no interest in seeing Hannibal hard and defiant, locked away behind his person suit. Neither does he want to see him debased. He just wants to see Hannibal, and he probably couldn’t stop now if he tried.

So Will feels the rumble in Hannibal’s lower belly before Hannibal even admits it to himself. He leans in to press a kiss to Hannibal’s neck, slightly sticky and musky with sweat. “Bathroom,” he whispers, and Hannibal obeys.

(Hannibal obeying him: there’s yet another small earthly miracle to explore, once they’re well.)

There’s no lid on the toilet, nothing to flip up with a clank to telegraph your intentions to the world. Hannibal is wearing drawstring pants— the only thing that will lie comfortably overtop of the bandages— so Will murmurs “let me,” and leans forward to pull on the strings. He loosens the waistband until he can slide the pants and Hannibal’s underwear down his hips without disturbing the bandage. They pool around his ankles, and Hannibal has to shuffle slightly backwards with his feet to sit the pale white skin of his buttocks and thighs down on the cold ceramic of the seat.

He looks up at Will, and in the moment that Will had expected to be ordered to leave, he sees a small flicker of fear in Hannibal’s eyes.

Not fear of pain; Hannibal doesn’t fear that. Fear of humanity. Fear that being merely a body that eats and excretes like any other will do what being a monster couldn’t: push Will away for good.

It’s awkward to kneel down in the small space beside the toilet; Will’s knees start aching the moment they hit the floor. He shuffles over next to where Hannibal is sitting, leaning their sides together. Will reaches around him with one arm, so that he can place both of his palms gently on Hannibal’s stomach.

He rubs them in tiny circles, the gentlest massage he can manage, and Hannibal lets out a little pained grunting noise at the feeling. Will pushes in a little bit more.

“Press against my hands,” he instructs, and feels Hannibal curl forwards with the effort as his abdominal muscles clench, bulging forward into the support of Will’s palms.

He can nearly feel it slip out of Hannibal, the distension of his belly easing and his moan half of pain and half of relief. Or maybe Will is only imagining that he can feel it; his sense of touch filling in what his nose is telling him. All shit smells mostly the same, underneath superficial variations of diet. And Will, during his long career spent seeing, touching, and smelling the mortal remains of humanity’s worst impulses, has more associations than most with the odours of the insides of human bodies.

Hannibal is gasping in relief, and Will nuzzles into his face and presses a kiss to the side of his jaw. “There,” he says soothingly. “There, it’s over, you did it.”

Then, “Stand up. I want to see.”

Hannibal does, still leaning slightly on Will from the exertion. Will stares down into the toilet bowl. He pulls Hannibal closer and feels his fragility, his brief mortal body with its heart fluttering against his ribcage and his guts transforming food into energy, into self, into radiance.

He has the strange feeling that Hannibal’s body is his own— who, after all, stares into a toilet bowl full of shit produced by anyone other than themselves? Yes, they must truly be one person now.

Will cleans himself off— or is it Hannibal he cleans?— and kisses the lips he possesses, takes to bed his own body, owns and is owned with joyful abandon.