“Your usual professor has been called away to consult on a case out of town. That being said, I will be his replacement until further notice. Are there any questions?”
A few hands shot up, and Hannibal smiled. Of course there would be questions. Will Graham was a mysterious person at the best of times. His students would take any opportunity to peek behind the curtain if they could.
Hannibal nodded to one student who met his eye, and the hand lowered as she voiced her inquiry.
“What case is Graham working on?”
Hannibal hummed lightly, as if considering if he should answer her.
“I am not legally permitted to reveal such things,” he said, then, smirking at the disappointed looks from the class, “however, I trust that no one will endeavor to put me in an uncomfortable situation if I do give you a few details. Professor Graham is consulting on a profile for a killer that has been stealing teeth from his victims.”
A good portion of the class grimaced at the revelation, and a few even gagged at the image it conjured in their minds.
“Another question?” Hannibal asked, ignoring the few students who looked a bit green. They would not make very good agents if they couldn’t even withstand something as mundane as human teeth.
Hannibal nodded to another student who raised his hand.
“Are you an agent with the FBI?” the boy asked.
Hannibal huffed a soft laugh.
“No. I am not an agent, nor am I a teacher in reality. That being said, I am a Doctor, psychiatrist, and serial killer, so I feel I am qualified to fill in for professor Graham in his absence.”
There was a chorus of laughter that rippled through the class, as they all unanimously decided his comment about being a killer was a joke. Hannibal laughed softly along with them, but for other reasons.
“Very well,” Hannibal said with a clap, turning to the lesson for the day, “Enough about myself. The subject for today is the relation geography has with the decay of a body. Please prepare to take notes, as I will be just as severe as your usual professor.”
There was a rush of shuffling papers, dropped pens, and hurried whispers as they all did as they were asked. Hannibal was pleased with how things were going so far. He had made a good impression on the students, and he was confident they would pay as much attention to him as they would if Will were there.
“Are there any questions before I begin today’s lecture?” Hannibal asked.
As expected, several hands shot up. Hannibal chose a student and nodded to them.
“Are you married?” the boy asked. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to be asking out of any interest of his own, but just general curiosity.
Hannibal smiled and rubbed his thumb over his bare ring finger.
“Not at the moment,” he replied, “Though I’d like to amend that soon.”
The next question was a bit of a surprise, but it impressed Hannibal by the observational skills of Will’s students.
“Do you cook your own food? Your lunch last time was really fancy, but it wasn’t in a restaurant box.”
Hannibal huffed a soft laugh. He hadn’t realized anyone had paid attention to the lunch he had packed himself, but he was very pleased with how observant the girl was.
“I do. I am very careful about what I allow into my body, so I end up preparing most of my own meals. Very few restaurants live up to my standards.”
There was a murmur of surprise and curiosity as Hannibal turned to the lesson. He only gave them two questions each day, and they would be recognizing the pattern now. If they were curious enough about something, they would gather outside of class to come to an agreement about how to ensure it would be answered the next time. They had no way of knowing how long he would be their teacher, after all.
“Insect activity after death,” Hannibal stated, “your professor has actually written a monograph on the subject, and I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to understand the relations of the environment to the activity of insects. It is an informative read.”
Hannibal saw a few heads tip as students wondered if he had actually read it himself or was just trying to prove that he was informed. Of course, he had read it the moment he had learned Will had published something. He had a unique understanding of things, and Hannibal always enjoyed the insight he could gain from Will’s words.
“What might the consumption of body parts show in the mentality of the killer?” Hannibal asked, quite pleased that he was here still for this lecture.
A few hands lifted, though Hannibal recognized the hesitance. He knew Will was often rather blunt, and the students must be wary of saying anything incorrect in his class.
“You needn’t fear,” Hannibal said with a smile, “there are many possible answers to the question, and you have proven to me that you are intelligent students.”
He nodded to one of them, who was blushing from nerves.
“Uh, maybe schizophrenia?” he offered, “delusions that they might gain some power or energy from eating their victims?”
Hannibal nodded with a polite smile.
“That is one of the possibilities,” he agreed, “though one of the least risky hypotheses, and the least imaginative. Schizophrenia is commonly used as a derogatory diagnosis by laymen, labeling individuals who are not understood by the masses, in order to no longer require an explanation. Any ideas of why an individual who does not have schizophrenia might choose to consume pieces of their victims?”
The boy sighed and shrank back into his chair a bit, grateful the focus was no longer on him.
One girl raised her hand with a rare confidence that intrigued Hannibal. He knew she was one of the more intelligent in the class, and he wondered what she might have to say on the matter. He nodded to her.
“Superiority,” she stated, “cannibalism is a way the killer can show they are above or better than their victim. They are the predator, and the victim is the prey. They might not even consider it cannibalism, because they do not see themselves as on the same level as the victim.”
Hannibal smiled and nodded.
“Very well put,” he said, “that is certainly an interesting one. There are more options, though. Anyone else?”
The next student was one who was usually quiet, but Hannibal knew she was intelligent by the way she watched intently as he spoke, and how her papers were always impressively well done.
“It’s a way to keep the victim with the killer, as a part of themselves, without having evidence that could get them caught,” she said, her tone flat and likely to unnerve the others around her, “most serial killers take trophies, like a wallet or a piece of clothing. If the killer takes a piece of the victim, and eats it, they have their trophy with them forever, making up the cells of their body and giving them energy, but it is not left behind to show they are guilty of the crime. Also, if they feel any emotional attachment to the victim, it could be a way to show their affection or love for them. By giving them a higher purpose in death.”
Predictably, a few students shifted uncomfortably in their seats at the things she said. They would think she was creepy, and probably a future killer herself. Hannibal knew better. She was intelligent, and had a morbid curiosity, but she had no interest in actually acting on her dark thoughts.
“Very impressive,” Hannibal told her, smiling warmly, “There is a fairly recent case that has much to do with what you have just said.”
Hannibal clicked to the next slide, and it was a picture of Garrett Jacob Hobbs alongside a list of his victims.
“The Minnesota Shrike case was difficult to solve, because there were no remains to be found, aside from the eventual discovery of pillows stuffed with the hair of his victims. He used every part of the victims, and he believed he was honoring them. In his mind, it was not murder because they were not going to waste. There was no evidence because he ate it. That’s what I would do, wouldn’t you?”
There was a ripple of nervous laughter. The students were used to his dark jokes by now, and there were always a few who genuinely enjoyed them. The quiet girl smiled in amusement, pleased that she had been praised for her comment and that Hannibal had taken her side by adding to the morbidity of the discussion with the joke.
“This is something you must be able to do if you wish to profile a killer properly,” Hannibal stated, “you must be able to put yourself into their shoes, and think the way they think. If you had the desire to kill someone, and the courage to do it, what would you do with it, and what would you do after? These are things you must consider in order to properly track and predict the actions of the killer.”
“Why are you the replacement for Graham?”
Hannibal let the question hang in the air for a moment, a small smile pulling at his lips as he leaned back against Will’s desk.
“Your professor asked me, personally, to cover for him in his absence,” he explained.
Several more hands shot up, eager to have the opportunity to ask the last question before the lecture.
Hannibal chose a student who had not asked a question before. A few students had tried staying after class to ask questions, but Hannibal had only answered those that were pertinent to the curriculum. They had learned to ask personal questions before class and relevant questions after.
“Have you proposed?”
Hannibal was startled, and he laughed softly in surprise.
“I beg your pardon?” he asked.
The student shrugged, grinning.
“You told us before that you aren’t married, but you want to be soon. So, have you proposed yet?”
Hannibal shook his head, but he was still smiling.
“I have not,” he answered.
The class erupted into objections, apparently invested in his love life, and upset that he was lollygagging.
“Why not?” was one of the repeated questions being shouted at him. Hannibal shook his head and waved them down.
“I have not had the chance since I first mentioned them to you,” he said, “and regardless, I am not sure they would say yes were I to ask them.”
Another chorus of objections filled the air, apparently certain that no one could refuse a proposal from him. Hannibal silenced them with another wave of his hand.
“This is an off topic discussion. I must redirect us to the lecture material, or your professor would skin me alive.”
There was a low ripple of grumbling, but the students opened their notes as Hannibal turned to the projector with a smile.
Will would be back soon. Hannibal was pleased with the news, even though he had rather enjoyed teaching in his stead. It had been a wonderful opportunity to see things through his eyes once more. He saw the desire Will must have to see these young minds grow and develop, and the motivation to help them in that journey.
It gave Hannibal a new appreciation for the work Will did off the field.
“Your usual professor will most likely be back before you see me again,” Hannibal announced before the usual round of questions for the morning, “so I must ask that you not complain about my teaching methods to him, or he very well may murder me.”
There were some laughs, and some sighs, and a general consensus that he would be missed. It was almost touching that Hannibal had been able to earn their respect and good opinions.
“That being said, these will most likely be the last two questions you may ask me about myself,” Hannibal continued, “so I would advise you to make them count.”
There was hushed conversation for a moment before a few students raised their hands. Hannibal was pleased to see them strategizing, and he was curious what they would consider worthy questions.
“Do you enjoy working with the FBI?” the first student asked.
Hannibal considered it.
“I enjoy being of help to the investigations, when I can,” he answered, “and I find the company of the agents to be anything but lacking. It is clearly not my chosen profession, but it is pleasant enough.”
“When are you going to propose?”
Hannibal smiled. He sighed dramatically and shook his head.
“The moment I see them next,” he answered. It was the plan, at least.
There were a few cheers from the class, and many smiles. They had all decided to follow the development of his relationship status, and they were pleased he was finally going to do something.
“Seeing as I am not likely to see you after today, I will send word with Professor Graham to let you know the moment I have proposed,” Hannibal promised, earning a full round of cheers and clapping from the students. They were almost as excited as he was, and it was endearing to see.
“Now, bite marks and bruises on a victim,” Hannibal said, turning sharply back to the curriculum. They would still have to learn, regardless of his love life.
“I know, you did not expect me to be here again,” Hannibal said as he set up the lecture, “your professor is running late on his journey back. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
The students didn’t seem too upset about it, but there were a few murmurs of concern for Will. He had never been away from class for this long, and it was growing to be unusual.
“Being as it is, I will allow you two more questions, as is routine,” Hannibal promised.
Hands shot up, and they didn’t seem as concerned about making the questions count today. They hadn’t expected to have them, after all.
“Have you ever met a serial killer?”
“A few,” he answered, “I believe there is a convention we are all invited to once a year, in order to find others of a similar mentality, though I have never attended.”
The class broke into waves of laughter. He waited for it to calm down before he accepted the next question.
“How well do you know Professor Graham?”
Before Hannibal had the chance to answer, the door to the lecture hall opened, and Will walked through. He had his shoulders hunched, and he looked tired. He walked forward with his eyes on the floor in front of him.
Will stopped just in front of Hannibal, and looked up to offer some sort of explanation for his sudden appearance.
Hannibal shook his head to keep him from speaking before he dropped to one knee. He grinned as he pulled out the ring box and held it out to Will.
“I promised them I would propose the moment I saw you next,” he whispered.
The class erupted into chaos, as the students absolutely lost their minds. They cheered and screamed and laughed, and every other reaction possible. Will winced slightly at the sound, but laughed.
“They knew about this?” he asked.
“They did not know who I planned to propose to,” Hannibal answered, “but they have been very supportive of my proposing.”
Will smiled, taking off his glasses and slipping them into his coat pocket. He pulled Hannibal to his feet and kissed him.
The students grew even louder with their excitement, some of them even jumping up and down next to their seats. The stomping of their feet added to the cacophony of sound that filled the room.
“I can’t exactly turn you down in front of an audience,” Will said, still laughing at the situation.
“I told them you might,” Hannibal replied, giving Will an out if he truly needed it.
Will shook his head.
“Did you also tell them you’re a serial killer?” he teased.
Hannibal kissed Will again.
“The first day,” he answered, “they found it an amusing concept.”
Will laughed, his shoulders shaking with it, and set his head on Hannibal’s shoulder. Before anyone could say anything else, the doors burst open again, and Jack stormed in with an air of confusion and concern.
Hannibal caught his eye and lifted the small box in explanation. Jack lifted his hands in surrender and spun on his heel to leave the way he came.
“Just quiet the hell down!” the man ordered before the doors swung shut behind him.
Hannibal fixed the students with a look that did indeed get them to calm down. Will pulled back and shook his head. He was still shaking with laughter, and grinning.
“So?” Hannibal asked, pressing the box into Will’s hand, “Will you marry me?”
Will was nearly glowing and Hannibal felt he might be as well.
“Of course I will, you pretentious bastard,” Will said.
The class broke out into applause as Hannibal pulled Will into a kiss. They were much more subdued with their clapping after Jack had interrupted them, but there were still a few whoops and whistles.
Hannibal slipped the silver band onto Will’s finger, and a matching one on his own. He grinned at the sight, and admired Will’s hand for a moment.
“I have a lecture to give,” Will stated, clearing his throat and straightening his appearance, “If you would excuse me, Doctor Lecter.”
Hannibal bowed slightly.
“Of course, professor Graham. Please inform your class that I have finally proposed, and I was accepted. I promised to send word through you the moment I asked.”
Will rolled his eyes and waved Hannibal away. Many students watched as Hannibal walked out the door, and he was pleased with how everything had turned out.