To say that the students of the FBI Academy in Quantico are enthused about remote learning would be an understatement. Most of them, upon remembering the difficulty with which most professors display PowerPoint slides or turn on the microphone, actually cringe. But the quarantine has no exceptions, and so to home everyone goes: the staff to make online lesson plans, and the students to brace themselves for lessons where everything goes wrong. Even Professor Graham, the newest and youngest on the roster of teachers, is met with sighs and suspicious side eyes when he announces that he’ll be livestreaming for the remainder of the semester.
Thus, it is safe to say that no one expects the Husband, otherwise known as CHEF: cheekbones hotty & extraordinary foodie.
The story of how the students meet CHEF goes a little like this.
It turns out despite everyone’s fears, Professor Graham is actually not bad in terms of tech savviness. After a bit of fumbling to angle his webcam so that it shows his face and not the floor, he settles down in front of a mantel, pacing back and forth as the television screen set above the mantel serves as his projector. Some students do take note of the style of the mantel, which is elegant and refined and everything Professor Graham in his ill-fitting suits and battered suitcase are not, and some even try to squint at the pictures on the mantel, which show Professor Graham actually smiling, but Professor Graham doesn’t wait for students, and so after ten minutes, many have returned their attention to his slides and his lecture.
This is why the first sitting of the Husband goes without much ceremony.
A plate appears at the edge of the picture, a beautifully arrangement of steak and asparagus and rice with sauce, and the arm attached to the plate is covered in a dark suit. The arm settles the plate down on the nearest table as Professor Graham pauses, looks to his left where the plate is, and nods at something the person attached the arm says.
“Yeah, I’m almost done,” he says, and his voice is so dramatically different – softer, rougher, flowing with an undercurrent of emotion – that many students look up from their notetaking. “I’ll eat later, okay?’
The hand taps its fingers on the table, and from the way Professor Graham looks at the ground, the person clearly disapproves.
“Just another twenty minutes, I promise,” Professor Graham says.
It appears to satisfy the plate bearer, as the arm withdraws.
No questions are asked then, mostly because Professor Graham immediately clicks over to the next slide, which is gruesome enough that no one wants to think about food, and as soon as the final slide is done, Professor Graham ends the session immediately, directing all questions to be e-mailed.
The next sightings of the Husband are all in the same vein: every once in a while, an arm in a perfectly fitting or beautifully patterned suit will appear, bearing a plate or drink with sumptuous offerings of food, and then it will withdraw when Professor Graham promises to eat.
Finally, though, two weeks in, they get the bottom half of a torso.
Professor Graham – who has his clicker in one hand and his plate in another – is busy describing a case where the killer liked to break off chair legs from the victims’ kitchens to utilize as his murder weapons when his head suddenly turns to the side, clearly having heard something too soft for the laptop’s microphone to pick up. He mumbles something about a break and pushes the lid down, far enough that most of the view is obscured.
Most of the view.
An elegantly dressed leg appears at the edge of the camera, and then another. They come to a stop in front of Professor Graham’s, too close for casual acquaintance, and a low voice rumbles in the distance.
“Are you hungry yet?” comes a man’s voice, smooth and refined.
“Talking makes you thirsty, not hungry.”
“I defer to your experience. I, of course, hardly have the need to talk.”
“Your clients squeak,” Professor Graham retorts. One of his feet moves closer, the leg brushing up against the other man. It’s a clear invitation, but it’s also without hesitation, an indication of just how comfortable he feels. “Give me an hour?”
“I’ll be expecting you,” the man says, and then the legs turn and vanish out of the side.
Professor Graham makes a soft noise – it could almost be amused, but Professor Graham isn’t amused at anything – and then he returns, lifting the laptop’s lift back up and giving the chat a quick scan.
“I already said I won’t be answering any questions about my personal life, it’s no business of yours,” he reprimands sharply. “Now, back to the case at hand . . .”
They don’t get a full sighting of the Husband until another week. Professor Graham is clearly tired – he started the lecture with bags beneath his eyes, stubble on his cheeks, and pillow crease marks on his chin, and that doesn’t even take into account his wrinkled shirt and mismatched tie – and although the lecture is as deep as ever, Professor Graham is a little slower on the technology front. He spends ten whole minutes lecturing on a slide that he hasn’t yet clicked to, so everyone stares at a blank title slide until Professor Graham finally looks at the chat and moves on. He also skips a few slides and finishes class early. However, he’s still in fine form enough to demand good essays or else.
Usually, his next step is to stop streaming and then shut the laptop, ensuring that no one has time to try and scrutinize the mantel behind him because everyone is too busy scribbling final notes.
This time, though, he just clicks blindly on the screen and then goes and slumps in a chair, not ending the stream and not closing the laptop.
After a few moments, a man enters the camera’s vision. He’s as elegantly dressed as Professor Graham is not, with a red and black patterned suit, matching patterned tie, and shiny leather shoes. He has an expensive watch on one hand and a shiny silver ring on the other, and the way he goes to Professor Graham and kneels in front of him – uncaring of his suit – speaks volumes.
“I think you should go upstairs and rest,” the man says.
“You were up half the night staring at a folder,” the man notes. He leans forward, one hand reaching up to rest on Professor Graham’s shoulder, thumb sweeping with casual affection on his cheek. “This quarantine is no excuse for you to exhaust yourself in mind as well as body.”
“You have no room to talk, you only sleep for four hours,” Professor Graham retorts, but there’s no bite in his words. If anything, he appears to be leaning forward, as if giving into the siren call of sleep.
“And I am well-rested and not about to fall asleep,” the man replies. “Come; I think a rest would do you a world of good.”
“But I still have homework – ”
Professor Graham’s face creases into a smile. Clearly it’s some kind of inside joke. “Well,” he says with a huge yawn, “if my doctor ordered it.”
“Your doctor does,” the man says. He slips an arm round Professor Graham’s waist and lifts him easily to his feet, as though Professor Graham is a child and not a full grown man. “Dinner will wait for you.”
The two men slowly shuffle off screen, and for a moment there is silence.
Well, in the real world, anyways.
In the chat, those students who were fortunate enough not to immediately sign off explode into conversations. Professor Graham is notoriously tight lipped about his personal life; the only reason they know where he graduated from and when is because it’s in his file. Everything else that they know is due to careful observation or gossip: the fact that he probably has a dog, the way he sometimes slips up in his accent, how he probably doesn’t actually need glasses because one time he forgot them and was perfectly fine.
Now, though, they are getting an inside look to his life – to his expensive looking home, to his meals, and to his live-in doctor friend.
The doctor returns after a bit. He doesn’t go to the laptop directly, however. He at first straightens the room, tidying Professor Graham’s papers and not hesitating the least bit of the gory photos. Then he shuts down the projector and begins, one by one, to put the pictures Professor Graham had flipped face down back upright. Then, finally, he goes to the laptop, which is when he notices it is still live.
The doctor tsks. “I suppose it had to happen once. Good afternoon. Please sign off and do your homework, and do your best to present your best work. Papers filled with typos and misspellings do not fill me with confidence over the rest of your work.” He pauses. “And to answer your question: yes, I am Will’s husband.”
Then he ends the stream.
After that – and a few more sightings of the Husband’s torso and legs and hand – the counter begins. It starts off being labeled “the hotty hubby” counter, but someone eventually realizes that almost every single time the Husband appears, he either brings food or scolds Professor Graham for not eating. Given that Professor Graham once passed out in his office due to not eating, it’s not exactly unexpected, but it does give the students a new idea.
One day, the counter has been relabeled to the “CHEF’s counter”. Otherwise known as “the counter for sightings of Professor Graham’s Cheekbones Hotty & Extraordinary Foodie”.
The next mission, now that there is confirmation of the existence of a HusbandTM, is of course to determine who the Husband is. A quick Google search brings up Professor Graham’s marriage certificate, but while Professor Graham’s signature is legible to anyone who’s received his graded remarks, the signature of his husband is remarkably less so. Mostly because it’s so loopy and long that most of the students give up after the first syllable.
They scour the records of doctors, but the list is very long, given that they have no idea what specialty the Husband might practice or where he practices. Eventually, though, someone remembers Professor Graham’s comment about squeaking clients, and the idea turns to scouring veterinary lists.
This is, perhaps, assisted by the next sighting of the Husband.
Professor Graham is in the middle of lecturing about a killer who liked to drown his victims – an intimate, personal killing – when the door clatters open and a golden brown blur comes into frame. The animal makes no nose, snuffling at the carpet, but it is clearly a pet and clearly a dog, and Professor Graham either doesn’t notice it or doesn’t care.
However, the Husband does.
The husband – still immaculately dressed – approaches and grabs the dog’s collar, making a tsking sound. He then carefully leads the dog out, and everyone starts chanting “DOG” in the comments.
This is validated when – only a few minutes later – the camera captures the sight of wet golden brown blur streaking down the hallway. It is closely followed by the Husband jogging down the hallway, vest absolutely drenched, and once everyone has mastered their laughter, they go off again because the Husband jogs back the other way, carrying a wet squirming golden brown dug in his arms.
When Professor Graham ends the lecture and goes to squint at the chat for any questions, he sees the continuing chant of “DOGGY DOGGY DOGGY” and seems slightly confused. Then he says “Oh no” and slams the laptop shut.
The dog becomes a common sighting after that. It has a fluffy curled tail and a brindled golden brown coat, but it is clearly very loved and very loyal, as sometimes it creeps into the study during lectures and dozes on Professor Graham’s feet for hours. Other times, though, the Husband appears and coaxes the dog away, his tone like one used to being obeyed.
The students go back to scouring veterinary lists.
Professor Graham finally figures out about the CHEF counter when the quarantine is almost lifted. The streaming service is going on the fritz due to a huge volume overload, and so Professor Graham happens to have his face buried in the laptop, checking whether or not the signal is working, when the Husband enters with a plate topped with greens and sushi.
Immediately, the counter comes alive with chef hat emojis, and Professor Graham just happens to look at the chat just at that moment.
“Is the stream broken again? What’s with the chef hats?”
Most of the students are smart enough to immediately cease triggering the counter. Others, though, continue, because the Husband hears Professor Graham and comes closer.
“I checked the equipment,” the Husband says. “The Internet should be working perfectly.”
“Yeah, I guess so, but why the hell are my students spamming the chat with chef hat emojis?”
The Husband pauses. After a moment, he bends down to look as well, giving everyone a close up of his cheekbones. Then he smiles and straightens.
“I believe,” the Husband says, “that they are referring to me.”
Professor Graham looks at his husband. Then he looks at the chat. Then he looks at the food, and then at his husband again. “You didn’t,” he says, tone full of outrage.
“You forgot to turn off the camera,” the Husband says, innocent as freshly fallen snow, eyes gleaming with hidden amusement. He turns away and walks to the doorway. “Do remember to eat, my dear. I’ll see you at dinner time.”
Professor Graham glowers at the camera. “Class is over,” he snaps.
The final sighting of the Husband is the last day of remote classes before break. Professor Graham’s lecture that day is relatively light compared to most; he discusses a kidnapping case which was solved pretty easily, but he challenges his students to put themselves in the kidnapper’s mindset. “After all,” he says, “not every case you’ll face will be murder. You have to apply the observational skills you learn with me to every case.”
Then he opens the floor to questions, scans the chat, and ends the class as usual.
Or, rather, would have ended the class as usual if for the fact that this time, he does not end the stream and he does not close the laptop.
This time, instead, when the Husband emerges like clockwork to urge Professor Graham to dinner, Professor Graham slinks up to him like a cat, smile wide and inviting. The Husband does not bat an eye when Professor Graham curls within his arms, so clearly it’s not new to him, but it does make the students gape.
Then their jaws hit the floor when Professor Graham kisses the Husband. He kisses with the kind of passion most students wouldn’t dream of coming from twitchy, quiet, tight-lipped Professor Graham, as though they are set to be parted forever and he is feasting upon his last moment with the Husband. The Husband returns it in equal fervor, hands tight upon Professor Graham’s waist, legs entwined, eyes closed, trusting and loving and affectionate.
They open to amused slits when Professor Graham slips a hand to the back and gropes his husband.
“What’s inspired this?” the Husband asks.
“Just remembering our wedding night,” Professor Graham says innocently. “I think you set the world record for using the words ‘my husband’ in a three hour period.”
“Well, you did refuse my proposal three times,” the Husband says. “Some people were confused as to whether or not you were, in fact, my husband, and not just my on-again, off-again bed partner.”
Professor Graham scoffs. “The first two proposals don’t count.”
“Agent Crawford agreed they were.”
“Jack didn’t even know we were dating until you bridal carried me from the car to our hotel room after that case.”
“Someone wished to keep it secret, as I recall.”
Professor Graham kisses him again. “You’re not a secret,” he says quietly, voice thrumming with emotion. “You’re my husband. My very hot husband who is very good at cooking as well as . . . other things.”
The Husband tilts his head. “Are you showing off?” he asks, as if sensing a trap.
“You show me off all the time.”
Unfortunately, the Husband appears not to be fooled. His eyes go straight to the laptop, and then they narrow. “Will – ”
“Oops, silly me, I forgot to turn off the camera.”
The Husband shuts the laptop, so that the last sighting of Professor Graham’s CHEF is of them kissing again, as besotted as a newly married couple, and the chat floods with chef hat emojis again.
For the first lecture once in person classes resume, Professor Graham announces that there will be a guest lecturer.
“I’ve done enough talking in front of screens for a lifetime,” he says, leaning against the table. “Besides, it’s important for you all to receive information from many sources. Other points of view can be very helpful, and especially when you work in a team. So! Guest lecturer today.”
He clicks to the next screen, which says merely: “Guest speaker introduction”.
Then he nods to the entryway and says, “May I present one of my fellow consultants, an esteemed psychiatrist and excellent ER surgeon: Dr. Hannibal Lecter.”
When the Husband walks in, the class is so quiet that each step echoes like a rock falling down a mountain. No one dares to comment, and they hardly dare to breathe. This is not helped by how Professor Graham brushes a kiss on Dr. Lecter’s face and hands over the clicker, grinning from ear to ear, as though this is a common occurrence - never mind the fact Professor Graham hasn't had a guest speaker in all the years he's been teaching this class.
“All yours, darling,” he drawls.
“Thank you very much, my love,” Dr. Lecter says, accepting the kiss with a sly smile, as if it’s his due. “Let’s begin, shall we?”
Afterwards, when the last student has filed out of class, silent and wide-eyed, Will breaks down laughing so hard that Hannibal has to reach over and catch him so he doesn’t face-plant on the ground.
“Breathe,” Hannibal counsels, but he too is smiling when Will presses his face to Hannibal’s shoulder.
“That was amazing,” Will wheezes. “Oh my god, their faces! You’d’ve thought I stripped and danced naked up the aisles. That was the best thing ever.”
Hannibal kisses his forehead. “What a mischievous streak you have.”
“And you love me for it.”
Will says it without hesitation. Perhaps, once, he might not have believed it – after all, the Chesapeake Ripper is brutal in his kills, and Hannibal is no less brutal when he wants to be – but that was before he looked anew at the kills, before he opened his eyes, before he could see. Now he eats the food Hannibal gives him with relish, knowing that his husband has triumphed and brought him meat to sate his belly.
“But of course I do,” Hannibal murmurs. “Why else would I have indulged in your little show?”
“Because you like messing with people too.”
“Now, now,” Hannibal says, “don’t go giving away all of my secrets, mongoose.”
“You’re no secret now,” Will remarks. “You’re my husband.”
“Your cheekbones hotty and extraordinary foodie.”
“You’ll never let me live that down, will you.”
Hannibal brings their entwined hands up, the left hand where he once slid a ring onto Will’s finger in the sight of all of their friends. He kisses it as reverently as any priest might kiss the Pope’s hand, eyes burning with an emotion far deeper than love.
“Until death do us part,” Hannibal says.