If infatuation painted the world in bright reds and love made you blind, Will had no idea what Hannibal felt towards him, just that he was delirious with it. The naked adoration he would sometimes catch in Hannibal’s eyes when they had been courting each other was always there now. His touches were no longer ones born purely of necessity or reassurance, but of a desire to reach out and feel the one he cared for most. Sometimes Will was almost tempted to blush from the way Hannibal said his name, as if it were a loving caress. Moments would pass when he would wonder how he could cope with so much affection when he’d grown used to having so little, and as if responding to his thoughts, Hannibal would shower him with more, drowning him with so much attention and fondness he’d forget what he’d been concerned with in the first place. Nothing about Hannibal’s love for him was conventional or normal, which is why it was such a shock to Will when he realized Hannibal had turned into That Guy.
At some point or another, everyone encountered That Guy, or at least Will hoped so because he didn’t like thinking he’d been dealt such a bad hand when it came to the various social circles he’d been forced to interact with throughout his life. That Guy was so easy to spot that Will couldn’t even fathom how he had missed it for so long, in the man he knew as well as he knew himself no less.
It was about a year after their fall off the bluff and into each other’s arms when Will found himself at a charity event for the university Hannibal taught at when he finally caught on. They had arrived in the ballroom and immediately separated, Hannibal to look at the items available during the silent auction and Will to retrieve flutes of champagne. As he waited on the bartender to pour their drinks, he felt a tap on his arm.
“Excuse me, but I’m afraid I don’t recognize you, Professor...?”
Looking to his right, he saw two women who looked to be about student age eyeing him expectantly. He cocked an eyebrow at them curiously.
“Oh, sorry. My name is Leila,” the tallest of the two said as she pointed at herself and then her friend. “And this is Malika. We’re both on the student body here and we make a point of getting to know all the professors. Neither one of us could remember you.”
“And I think we’d both remember someone so striking.”
Will recognized their flirtatious tone and he felt heat rise in his cheeks. “I’m afraid you don’t recognize me because I’m not a professor here.”
“Or a donor perhaps?”
“Neither. I’m married to one of the professors, though.”
The playful light in their eyes dimmed a little at the gentle acknowledgement of him being married and he did feel a tad bad about that, but they needed to know that any advances they may be thinking of making would be futile.
“May I ask which one?”
Not a second was allowed for him to linger on the unfamiliar feel of Hannibal’s assumed name on his tongue before the women turned to each other in surprise and actually squealed in excitement. Will couldn’t recall the last time he’d seen girls do that and he smirked at their reaction, not knowing what caused it but knowing it wasn’t malicious.
“What? Did I say something?”
Once Malika composed herself, she smiled at him and laid her hand flat on her chest. “Believe me when I say I have been dying to meet you!”
“Why is that?”
“Everyone knows Professor Drexel is married. Like, literally everyone,” Leila giggled, her and Malika sharing a knowing glance. “Sometimes during lecture he’ll get this look and we just know he’s about to say -”
“’My husband!’” they cooed together.
“And here we are meeting the husband in person.”
“We knew you’d have to be charming but who knew you’d be such a dish!”
Malika smacked Leila’s arm and gaped at her. “Leila!”
“What?” she retorted, unabashed and turning back to look at Will. “Professor Drexel is stunning and you’re so handsome. You two must make for a gorgeous pair.”
Will didn’t even know where to start with forming a reply. Objectively, he knew he and Hannibal were attractive, but he had never thought to picture them together and evaluate how their features played off of each other’s. The women clearly could and their enthusiastic faces made him smile, their happiness infectious and easy to absorb. He was saved from having to scramble for a suitable response by a familiar hand resting on his shoulder.
“I had wondered where you’d wandered off to.”
Turning to look at Hannibal, his smile grew at the ever-present joy in his eyes, as if seeing Will was enough to fulfill him.
“I thought I’d get us some champagne. You know how long these things tend to get.”
“Yes, and only imbibing alcohol can get us through it with good humor,” he teased, shifting to greet the girls. “And good evening, ladies. I see you’ve had the pleasure of meeting my husband.”
Leila and Malika shared another deliberate look at the title before Malika replied. “He’s so charming, Professor Drexel.”
“It’s so nice to meet the person you speak so highly of, sir. If you don’t mind me asking, how long have you two been married?”
“We recently celebrated our one year anniversary,” he answered, nostalgia swimming in his eyes. Will was flooded with memories, too, recalling vividly their week in Russia where they killed a couple who controlled a human trafficking ring. White Russian snow looked stunning covered in liters of blood. “But he has had my heart for much longer.”
Hannibal was obviously playing into the romanticism the girls had formed around them, giving their young passionate hearts something to latch onto, and Will found that he was supportive of it. Leila and Malika were in love with the idea of them in love and that was something he didn’t encounter much anymore; a sincere type of envy that wasn’t destructive, but rather fuel to the fire that they might one day feel the same all-consuming love. They would never feel the love he and Hannibal had towards each other - no one could - but he liked the notion that he could feed their hopes.
Grinning in a way that could be seen as coy, he placed a possessive hand on Hannibal’s stomach and wrapped his other arm around his waist so it sat on the small of his back. He may be playing it up a bit, but he loved the desire it lit in Hannibal’s eyes and the tender smiles it put on the girls’ faces. “Don’t make yourself sound like a martyr,” he lightly chastised. “You know I’ve been taken with you for years.”
At any reminder of Will’s love for Hannibal, he would get a look that bordered dangerously on looking demure. It was fascinating for Will to see someone who was as formidable and powerful as Hannibal look shy, like he may blush. Hannibal would never cease to amaze Will and he allowed him to see that thought flutter through his eyes. Remembering that the girls were still there, Will glanced at them. They looked ready to burst from the show they were putting on for them.
Clearing his throat, Hannibal regained his bearings and got their attention. “Apologies, but we have some rounds we must make before the auction. If you would be so kind as to excuse us.”
“Of course, professor. We didn’t mean to keep you and your husband,” Leila replied contritely.
“It was no bother. In fact -,” he said, leaning in and whispering conspiratorially. “You two are far better company than some of the people we are about to encounter.”
Malika placed a hand over her mouth and whispered back, cringing in an exaggerated fashion. “Especially if one of those people is Professor Thompson.”
Will had no idea who Professor Thompson was, but he had to be pretty damn boring if Hannibal freely joined in their laughter. After exchanging platitudes about how nice it was to meet each other - which Will was pleased to realize he meant - Hannibal picked up their champagne flutes from the bar and turned to leave.
“Oh, and ladies?” he called over his shoulder, getting their attention before they moved on as well.
“I have it on good authority that your philosophy teacher is going to unexpectedly test you on Wednesday about paragraph 132 in Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. It might be wise to prepare for such an eventuality.”
With a wink in their direction, Hannibal turned and lead Will through the throngs of the academic elite (Professor Thompson really was that boring) and one thing became very clear, very quickly: Will didn’t have a name. Hannibal would introduce him as “my husband” and whoever he had just been introduced to would be off to the proverbial races, talking about how it was good to finally have a face to the title. Basically what he gleaned from the long, arduous evening was that Hannibal waxed poetic about him to anybody and everybody within earshot. To occupy himself throughout the auction, Will formulated a plan to observe how Hannibal referred to him, to see whether the event was a one-off occasion or part of a pattern. Turns out he was wrong on both counts... Hannibal was pathological.
“My husband would like a cup of coffee. Black, two sugars.”
“Having dogs was something I had to concede to having or my husband wouldn’t marry me.”
“I think the light blue tie would bring out my husband’s eyes.”
“Your wife fishes? She and my husband would get along famously.”
“One time my husband sailed across the Atlantic to surprise me.”
A master’s degree in forensic psychology, five years on the New Orleans police force, over a decade of teaching at the FBI academy, and countless hours profiling the worst of the worst and it took two overly excited twenty-somethings to make Will realize Hannibal was That Guy. Maybe too long of a time had passed from when he last came across That Guy – they were most common among men in their twenties and early thirties – but that didn’t comfort Will and his apparent inability to spot the markings in Hannibal. He decided to take his concerns to the man in question.
“Hannibal,” Will said as he walked into the kitchen. From what he could see, Hannibal was preparing to roast a heart for dinner. Probably from the druglord they killed the previous night (the scumbag tried to buy them off with a kilo of cocaine. Will laughed as he used it and nine others to entomb his head in a giant mass of coke that made him look like a body topped off by a Lego block).
“I have to admit,” Will started, watching the muscles of Hannibal’s arms shift as he chopped rosemary. “We know each other better now than we used to and yet you still remain difficult to predict. Sometimes I don’t know what to make of you.”
“Whatever you decide on, I’m sure it will be more creative than the menu Mason and his doctor prepared.”
Will glared at Hannibal, knowing he felt it by the slight upturn of his lips. He had waltzed right into one of Hannibal’s ridiculous puns, as if he needed help in that area. Hannibal was a walking, talking arsenal of cannibalism jokes and Will was amazed that he had missed so many over the course of their relationship. They were criminally obvious in retrospect.
“I’m fed up with your puns.”
He also knew he was guilty of playing into them now. The first time he did it, Hannibal laughed until he cried, which was sweet in its own warped way. Hannibal didn’t laugh like that every time, but his pleased laughter always made it worth it.
“I did not mean to derail you, but I couldn’t let an opportunity pass me by,” he assuaged as he laid down his knife, giving his full attention to Will. “Was there something you wished to discuss?”
“I want to know when you became That Guy.”
The raise in his eyebrows made him look adorably confused. Will decided to play this out as long as possible. “Yes, That Guy.”
“Whoever That Guy is, I can assure I did not purposely become him.”
“I know you didn’t,” he insisted, all faux-bluster and sternness. “That’s what makes it so interesting.”
No matter how many times he said it, Will knew Hannibal still got a little thrill when he called him interesting. He could see the comment register, but it was glazed over by Hannibal’s puzzlement reaching critical mass. It may be somewhat cruel to take such enjoyment in it, but he framed Will for his murders at one point, so felt he deserved this at the very least. Will leaned against the wall to watch Hannibal, who was leaning on his arms on the countertop to watch him, the strain on his forearms making his veins stand out. If he concentrated, Will liked to think he could hear the blood thrumming through those veins. How it gently pumped through him when he was at rest, but speed up when he wasn’t. When they were killing someone, when they were working out, when they were in the throes of –
Abruptly pulled from his thoughts, he blinked owlishly at Hannibal through a lustful haze. Hannibal evidently enjoyed knowing where Will’s mind had wandered off to, but he was still dreadfully confused, which was marvelous. Confusing Hannibal was one of his greatest joys in life.
“You were about to explain to me how I unwittingly became That Guy.”
Will decided to take pity on Hannibal. “Have you ever meet newlyweds?”
“The kind that are so insanely love they can’t see straight?”
“How do they always refer to each other?”
Realization dawned on Hannibal after a few seconds and his expression was caught somewhere between helpless and amused, making Will grin and a smile stretched across Hannibal’s lips. Walking around the island in Will’s direction, he nodded. “I see. That Guy.”
“That Guy,” Will echoed in confirmation.
“Am I really that bad?” he asked, coming to stand before Will.
“Horrible. Terrible,” Will gravely informed him. “My husband this, my husband that. It’s a wonder Jack hasn’t followed your trail of “my husband”s to our front door. ”
“He doesn’t know we’re married.”
“He’s the only one!” Will laughed, Hannibal’s laughter chiming perfectly with his. “Seriously, Hannibal, it’s like I don’t even have a name. Your colleagues, your students; they all just think of me as the guy you always call “my husband.” You might as well just cross out James Moradi’s name on my papers and write My Husband.”
“Does it bother you?”
That question was something Will had to ruminate on after he figured out what Hannibal was doing. He'd never been one to like it when he heard couples do it, thinking of it as annoying on the best of days and vaguely demeaning on the worst. It was so possessive, like a verbal brand, calling someone by the title of how they belonged to them. The spousal title was different from other familial ones like an uncle might have or grandmother; those were more honorary to show relation rather than possession and were often accompanied by their name. There was a reason why saying “Aunt Julia” was different from “my wife, Julia.” With the spousal title, the name was more optional than required. The spouse could effectively remain nameless but for the possession.
But Will was positive that wasn’t what Hannibal was doing. He would see it as rude, which left Will with the task of figuring out why he did it and he could admit he drew a blank on that line of inquiry.
“Not really. I was more fascinated by the concept of you falling prey to something so... pedestrian.”
“Would you care for an explanation?”
“You knew you were doing it?”
Hannibal shook his head, his loose hair falling over his forehead. “Not the full extent of it, no. But I can imagine why.”
“I’m all ears.”
“I confess that it feels odd when I use your alias, and when I find something unpleasant I do my best to avoid it. To me, you are Will, my husband. James is not my husband.”
“Will Graham is dead,” he replied, his throat tight with emotion at Hannibal’s words.
“Will Graham is standing before me in our kitchen,” Hannibal refuted, reaching out to take Will’s hands in his to play with the platinum band on his ring finger. “Marriage is a state of being, not a piece of paper. On paper, Will Graham is dead, but to me, he is the one my soul seeks.”
“One soul. Two bodies. The halves forever trying to become one again, risking annihilation to do so.”
“I think it’s the world that risks annihilation if our soul ever reunites.”
Snow crunched beneath Will’s feet as he lead Hannibal to the flower shop where he normally picked up flowers for their dinner parties. They were having one that night and Will was eager about the prospect for once, knowing he would find great humor in watching some of Hannibal’s more obnoxious social acquaintances eat a freshly dead serial killer. It put him in good spirits and Will guessed Hannibal was wanting to stay in the orbit of such energy, insisting on putting a hold on his early preparations to walk with Will down the street to pick up the flowers he ordered. Arriving at the little storefront, Will held the door open for Hannibal and followed him inside.
“Margaret!” he called out as he stomped his shoes on the doormat so he wouldn’t track snow through the store.
“Is that the sultry sound of my favorite patron screaming at me?” she yelled from the back of the store, smiling when she emerged and saw Will. “It is! How the hell are ya?”
Margaret was the seventy year old, foul-mouthed American owner of the flower shop and perhaps one of the few people he would never invite to a dinner party, no matter how welcome her company would be. He liked her and dinner parties were, in his mind, reserved for people who he would gladly eat if he ever found out they were guilty of a crime that was justifiable in his design.
“Better now that I’m in the presence of such beauty.”
“You’re so full of shit. I don’t know why I put up with you,” Margaret said as she warmly hugged him, having to stand on the tips of her toes as Will bent down to greet her.
“It might have something to do with me buying enough flowers from you every month to keep your store open for years.”
“Speaking of, when are you going to invite me to one of those fancy dinner parties you have? I’m old, I have to plan.”
That was something else Will loved about her, her own absolute disregard for her age. She didn’t fear death; in fact, he was convinced she thought the concept was hilarious. The level of disinterest she showed towards it was reflective of someone who lived a full life and accepted that death was a natural occurrence. With each flippant comment, Will could feel himself grow fonder of her.
“Perhaps we could have you over sometime this week. As much fun as I’m sure you two would have making smartass remarks to each other about the other guests, I’m equally as sure that you would prefer to yell at each other in private.”
Will was impressed. Hannibal swearing immediately put him on Margaret’s good side, she loved people who were just as crass as she was, and he knew exactly how they would behave together at a dinner party: badly. He also respected what Will saw dinner parties as and found a way to have her over without bringing her into that. Will smiled thankfully at him.
“Who the fuck is Mr. Cheekbones?” she asked as she rounded on him.
Covering his mouth so his laughter wouldn’t sound so booming, Will watched Hannibal stare down at her, his mouth twisting in such a way that he knew he was fighting back his own laughter. Hannibal was likely thinking he didn’t want to give her a point yet in what could turn into a verbal sparring match Will would pay good money to see. He wasn’t even sure who would walk away victorious.
Making sure he had Hannibal’s attention as well as hers, he answered. “My husband.”
After they’d paid for the flowers and set a date for her to come over, Will and Hannibal left the shop and began their short walk back to their place, arms overflowing with bouquets. Will was happy to find that his favorable mood had elevated even more thanks to his banter with Margaret. Today was going to be a good day.
“It would seem you are also That Guy.”
“I think this makes us That Couple.”