Title: Fortunate Monsters
Series: Profilers for Christmas 2019 Advent Calendar
Author: Keira Marcos
Genre: Romance, Crime Drama, Established Relationship, Alternate Universe
Relationship: Will Graham/Hannibal Lecter
Beta: Jilly James
Content Rating: PG-13
Challenge: This story was originally published as part of the Profiler’s For Christmas Advent Calendar. My prompt: “Character reflects on how their life has changed since the previous Christmas.”
Author Note: Hannibal is a cannibal, Will knows, and he doesn’t care. There is no actual cannibalism in this story, though, since they don’t actually eat a meal. I accept no judgment!
Word Count: 2,020 (complete)
Summary: Will reflects on how much his life has changed in the year since he met Hannibal Lecter.
– – – –
December 13, 2013
Will accepted the glass of wine that Hannibal pressed in his hand and just shook his head as he was summarily dismissed from the kitchen. Due to the number of people soon to be in their home, Hannibal had hired a catering crew to help him prepare the food for the dinner party. Will went to the dining room, glancing over the table to ensure that the table would meet his partner’s standard. The young woman currently setting it looked up and paused in her work.
Will took a sip of wine. “You have the glasses in the wrong order.”
She frowned and focused on the table.
“The water glass should be directly above the knife, not the red wine.”
“Oh.” She exhaled. “Thank you, Mr. Graham.”
Will nodded and meandered away. He wondered briefly why the service would risk putting someone so new on a job for Hannibal Lecter. His standards were exacting, to say the least. A year ago, he wouldn’t have known the difference between a water glass and a wine glass. Hannibal was in many ways a hedonist—the luxuries he surrounded himself spoke to that and to an old-world wealth that many found daunting or, in some ways, deeply amusing. Will had, in the beginning, found Hannibal’s penchant for making everything around him beautiful a startling concept. He’d lived a small, rather bland life in Wolf Trap, Virginia. Part of him missed that life just a little but never enough to go back to it. They’d kept the farmhouse and, after a bit of renovation, Hannibal wasn’t at all bothered to spend weekends there when they had the time.
The doorbell rang, and he walked to stand in the doorway of the formal salon where all their guests would be corralled until dinner was served. One of the hired staff answered the door and took coats from Jack and Bella Crawford. Bella looked tired but better than he’d expected. They hadn’t been certain she’d be able to come to the party at all due to her illness and the chemo treatment that came with it.
“Ah, Will,” Jack said cheerfully. “Great to see you.”
The cheer didn’t quite reach the older man’s eyes, and Will didn’t have to wonder why. Things had been strained with them since he’d taken a sabbatical from the FBI to pursue his Ph.D. in forensic psychology. Everyone at the academy was thrilled with the development as it would make Will a better academic resource in the future. Jack had been genuinely appalled. He’d spent weeks trying to get Will to change his mind and hadn’t taken it well when even the emotional blackmail had failed to work.
“Will, you look so well-rested and happy. I’m glad for it.” She hugged him briefly. “Life with a gourmet chef clearly agrees with you.”
“Hannibal excels at people feeding,” he said wryly. “Dinner will be served within the hour—you’re the first guests to arrive. Come, there are appetizers and wine in the salon. There will be seven courses, so please leave room.”
“Good lord,” Jack said. “I can’t wait. It’s been ages since Hannibal hosted a party.”
“A feast presents itself, I’m told,” Will murmured and motioned them toward the salon.
Bella headed for the food, but Jack lingered at Will’s side by the doorway.
“Thank you for the invite,” Jack said. “Bella hasn’t been…all that interested in leaving the house lately. She couldn’t say no to a chance to eat at Hannibal’s table.”
Will nodded. “Despite what you think, Jack, I’m not angry with you.”
“You told me to fuck off the last time I called you,” Jack muttered.
“I was studying for a test, and you were trying to get me to go look at dead bodies in a creepy mushroom garden,” Will reminded and sighed when Crawford just grinned at him. “Most people in your position would be thrilled that I want to further my education.”
“You’re already the best profiler in the whole country,” Jack said and patted Will’s shoulder. “But I look forward to reading your dissertation.”
Will just shook his head as the older man left him and went to browse the appetizers. The doorbell sounded again, and Will wondered if he could get away with hiding in his office until it was time for dinner. A warm, solid little body settled against his leg, and he looked down to find Buster staring up at him. The Jack Russell terrier was wearing a tartan vest and a little bow tie.
“You look ridiculous.”
Buster chuffed like he was offended and trotted to his spot by the fire. When Will had moved to Baltimore and into Hannibal’s house, he’d brought two dogs—Buster and Winston. The others had been ready to be rehomed at that point, so he’d done it, though he did miss them. Hannibal, to Will’s amusement, had appeared kind of disappointed when he’d learned that Will had rehomed all but two of the dogs. Winston hadn’t been ready for it, and Buster was Hannibal’s favorite, so, of course, Will couldn’t rehome him. He really didn’t know how the Chesapeake Ripper would respond to the rehoming of the dog he’d claimed for himself, but Will figured the blood bath would be epic by anyone’s standards.
He turned and found Alana Bloom passing off her coat. “Alana.”
Their relationship had been a little tense as she’d harbored some feelings for him that he hadn’t been able to reciprocate. Then he’d gone and fallen in love with her mentor, a man she’d tried to seduce more than once. Hannibal found Alana entertaining and beautiful—like a painting—but that was as far as things went. In truth, genuine sexual attraction was hit and miss for Hannibal. Will counted himself lucky that the man did truly want him as Hannibal had confessed that he could count on one hand the number of partners that he’d desired sexually. He’d faked it a lot. Sometimes, Hannibal seemed really surprised by how deep desire ran between them.
“You look great,” he said as she approached.
“So do you.” She hugged him, and he tried not to stiffen up. “You had us worried for a bit. Encephalitis is nothing to take lightly.”
“Fortunately, Hannibal noticed before I had any serious symptoms,” Will said and guided her toward the salon. “Jack and Bella are here.”
Buster came trotting over to greet Alana, and she knelt without a care for her dress to greet him. “Look at his little vest.” She laughed. “Where’s Winston?”
“He doesn’t like crowds, so I settled him down upstairs,” Will explained. “Plus, he whined like his world was ending when I tried to put his party outfit on.” He rolled his eyes when she laughed again and offered her a hand to help her stand. She took it with flushed cheeks.
“Alana, it’s a pleasure to see you again,” Hannibal said smoothly as he joined them. He wrapped an arm around Will and settled a possessive hand on his hip as she stepped back.
“Hannibal,” she murmured in greeting. “I was surprised that you chose to have your Christmas party so early in the month. The last few years, you’ve preferred Christmas Eve.”
“We’ll be leaving town on the 20th,” Hannibal said smoothly. “And won’t return until after the New Year. Will has promised me his undivided attention—a gift beyond any measure.”
Will noted that she barely refrained from frowning. He wondered if Alana understood, at all, that she couldn’t really hide from him. It wasn’t like he could cut his empathy off and on. “Hannibal wants to show me Paris—I couldn’t think of a reason to say no.”
“Christmas in Paris,” Alana said. “I can’t think of a reason to turn down such a thing either. I think I’ll go chat with Bella.”
Will watched her hurry across the room toward the bar where Bella was seated on a stool. “A little sour.”
Hannibal hummed under his breath. “I’m told I should thank you for saving my table arrangements.”
“I’m surprised that Francine would send over someone who wasn’t properly trained.”
“Last minute substitution,” Hannibal explained. “I agreed—she’s Francine’s granddaughter. She was properly apologetic for her mistake. We learn by doing, or at least that’s my experience. She’s got a deft hand with a knife, so I expect she’ll do well with the company if she wishes to make a career out of it.”
Will nodded, and the doorbell rang again. “You know, most people actually invite people they like to their Christmas parties.”
“I assure you, dear Will, that no one does that,” Hannibal said. “In fact, most dinner parties are entirely populated by individuals we wish to make utterly miserable by revealing their mediocrity in the face of our greatness.”
“You narcissist,” Will muttered and took another sip of wine.
Hannibal smiled. “Speaking of.” He released Will. “Frederick, good of you to come.”
Will sighed and wondered if he should get another glass of wine. Frederick fucking Chilton was in his house—had actually been freaking invited. Will had exhausted his single veto on Freddie Lounds, of all people, and while he didn’t regret it, he still wanted to know why he only got one veto. He watched with a narrow gaze as Hannibal prodded Chilton straight into the salon then rejoined him.
“My name’s on the deed.”
Hannibal focused on him. “Pardon me?”
“The deed to this house. My name’s on it.”
Hannibal nodded, clearly happy. “Yes, it is.”
“I only got one veto.”
Hannibal laughed and pressed a kiss to his mouth. “Next year, you may have two.”
Will huffed. “You know, Dr. Chilton might be the rudest person I’ve ever met. At some point tonight, he’s going to have one drink too many and ask me some deeply invasive and personal question. And because I’m, apparently, a co-host to this…thing…I’m going to have to be polite about it.”
“One day, I shall invest myself in teaching you how to be both polite and devastatingly cruel at the same time,” Hannibal murmured. “In the meantime, just smile at Frederick like you’d be happy to eat his face every time he says something you don’t like. He’ll feel deeply threatened, and he won’t even know why.”
Will laughed and leaned into him. “I adore you.”
Hannibal responded by pressing a soft kiss to his temple. “We are very fortunate monsters—you and I.”
“Yeah,” Will agreed. “I’ll go try to socialize and continue to ignore the fact that Buster’s vest is bespoke.”
Hannibal blushed. “Proper tailoring is what separates us from the rude and thoughtless pigs of the world, Will.” He took Will’s hand when he started to move away. “You’re happy?”
“Last Christmas, I ate a frozen dinner and chased it with half a bottle of whiskey,” Will murmured and laughed at Hannibal’s horrified expression. “I was moving through life on autopilot, and I thought I was happy. I didn’t even know what happy looked like, Hannibal, until I met you. Now, go fuss over your food while I pretend to like the people you’ve invited to our house.”
Will got another kiss for his trouble, and Hannibal returned to the kitchen with a brief glance toward the doorman who was opening the door yet again. Mrs. Komeda had arrived, and she’d left her husband at home as usual. Will was relieved since the guy was an asshole, and the last time they’d had a meal with both of them—Hannibal’s left eye had twitched for a half-hour afterward. Mr. Komeda’s days were certainly numbered, and surely a feast would follow.
By the time he’d made his way to the bar for a refill on his wine, all of their guests had arrived. Buster was making the rounds with far more social grace than Will had, greeting anyone inclined to pet him. He leaned on the bar and just shook his head as Chilton patted Buster’s head. Will had no idea how his life had turned into this, but he wouldn’t trade it for anything.