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Cutting Old Strings

copyright 2001, by DianaLecter

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling and Paul Krendler were created by Thomas Harris.  They are used herein without permission, but in the spirit of admiration and respect.  No infringement of copyright is intended, and no profit, of any kind, is made by the creator, maintainer or contributors to this site.

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Part 2

One thing she was certain of when she arrived was the amusement Dr. Lecter would find in her resorting to a Motel 6.  With little pocket change as it was, it seemed to be the most logical choice.

Once everything was settled in, Starling took a moment to gaze at her surroundings, awestruck. 

What am I doing here?

Was it possible that just five hours ago she was reading a letter from Dr. Lecter and had made the conscious, undrugged decision to fly down here on a wild goose chase?  She had her .45 handy, something the Bureau would scream at her for.  Now that she thought about it, the idea that Dr. Lecter was down here now mocked her, and she was almost immediately convinced that she had wasted her time and money for nothing. 

Were you really foolish enough to believe that he would willingly allow you to find him here?  He’s had two months to settle elsewhere, in Europe, where his tastes are commendable and he wouldn’t stand out.  For Christ’s sake, he has the most recognizable face in the world right now.  Did you honestly think, girl, that he would stay in the United States simply because of you?

Letting out a breath, Starling allowed her form to collapse on her bed.  After a few minutes, she stretched out onto the mattress and fell asleep.

When she awoke, Starling was drenched in sweat. She was still lying in bed, above the covers, having never made her way under their protection. The room itself was vacant, though the effects of the dream forced her to search each room thoroughly several times before she was satisfied that she was alone.

Daylight. There was little to fear in daylight. The perfect archetype signaling trouble was a dark, stormy night. It was neither dark nor stormy, and though it was something small and silly to find faith in, for the next few hours, Starling was at peace.

She spent the majority of the day trying to get her mind off her true purpose here, doing her best to ignore the fact the Dr. Lecter could be watching her. Spending what little cash she had to burn, Starling made the purchase of lunch and a pair of -

You know what you look like to me with your good bag and your cheap -

shoes. Quite exquisite; Dr. Lecter would be pleased.

For Christ’s sake, will you get out of my head?!

Oh yes. Get him out of your head. You forget your primary objective here is to find him. It would do well to get him out of your head now. Good one, girl, good one.

Maybe she should fly home tonight. Okay, so, she was here. Now what? Did she honestly expect him to be the first person she met on the street? In a town this big, with the knowledge that he might not even be here?

You know, you drastically need work on your thinking skills.

As the day progressed, Starling became more and more determined to leave as soon as possible. She was almost certain, even after a day, that she had been led here under false pretenses.

Needless to say, it was well past dark before she could pull herself from the quaint shops in the French Quarter. It had been long since her last visit to New Orleans, and in her tossing of thoughts, she forgot exactly where she was. The town was dangerous for a single white female at night. As she entered more secluded and dangerous ground, she became steadily aware of her .45 attached to her ankle, yet the thought gave her little comfort.

Soon, the click of her heels against the pavement was joined with another. Starling’s breath caught in her throat. Now don’t panic. You’re a trained federal officer. A thug shouldn’t be any trouble.

However, she refused to allow herself to turn around. Perhaps it was simply another patron from the busy streets wanting to return to their house or hotel or wherever they were staying.

An instinctive shiver of her heart told her otherwise. The footsteps behind her increased in speed. Starling’s breaths quickened; she heard them echoing around her and was sure whomever was behind heard them as well.

Reach for your gun. No. Don’t pause. Keep walking. Hurry now. Hurry!

They were directly behind her now. Starling knew her time for reaction was gone. A fierce hand grasped her arm and twirled her to face him. She found herself yearning to see the doctor’s familiar eyes, but the gaze she received was cold and foreign. A small gasp permeated the air as the nozzle of a gun met her eyes.

“Your money. Now. Don’t scream. Scream, and you’re dead. Do you understand me?”

Starling nodded quickly, refusing to let her strength betray her. She looked to her purse and fumbled to pull the zipper open, unaware of her rapidly increasing breaths. Please don’t panic. Please God, don’t let me panic!

A hand pried at her throat, the other keeping the gun with her eye level. Starling let out a whimper against her will, feeling her strength beginning to crumple. She felt the hand leave her neck and trail down her body to her belt. Obviously, he wouldn’t be satisfied merely taking her money.

“Oh God,” she muttered, her voice clogging with tears. The belt pulled itself free of her waist and was discarded on the concrete.

“Like I said,” replied the assailant in a husky voice, “scream and die.”

Suddenly, her breath caught in her throat as the grip on her waist was released. The nozzle also disappeared from her eyes. A voice, so welcome and soothing at this point greeted her ears, and she nearly cried out in relief, yet refrained.

“Bonsoir, si vous ne vous occupez pas de tourner autour de…” The doctor’s French flowed beautifully, though Starling had little time to savor it as a knife quickly sprang from his side and slashed across her assailant’s neck. The man gurgled and dropped beside her belt. Starling, sprayed only minimally with blood, looked to him with a slow, breath. After a few minutes, she brought herself to meet her savior’s gaze, and let out an exasperated breath of relief and comfort, though that was not revealed in her voice. “Dr. Lecter,” she said shortly.

As always, his eyes were unreadable, yet by looking in them she knew that he had been following her for the majority of the day.

Relief swept over her once again, but was replaced with uncertainty at recalling her dream the prior night.

“Good evening, Clarice,” he said finally, wiping the side of his mouth quickly with the knife hand. Anyone else would have lost an element of mystery with the common gesture, but not him. No, it made him, if possible, to look even more elegant. Starling’s pulse accelerated.

“Good evening, Dr. Lecter,” she replied, not being able to stop the extreme relief from flowing into her tone.

“Are you all right?” he asked calmly.

“Yes.” Strength recollected in her tone, yet it was still shaky. At that, she burst into tears, the horror of the events finally catching up to her. She cursed herself for crying but she couldn’t stop it; the tears poured openly and gave no sense of ceasing.

“Hush, now, little Starling.” Dr. Lecter flashed the blade away as though it never were and took her in his massive embrace, encouraging her to rest her head on his shoulder. “You’re fine now.”

Am I, Doctor? You tell me.

Starling pulled away and nodded, her cheeks stiffening as the tears stopped their flow and crusted against her skin. Almost subconsciously, Dr. Lecter drew a hand across her face and brushed the remains away before stepping back completely, evaluating their distance.

Though brief, Starling was horrified to find herself savoring the touch, and more over, wanting another. However, she did nothing to break the space between them.

“Why are you here, Clarice?”

He waited patiently as she found her voice, and she took comfort in the soothing quality his voice generated to her calming soul.

“Your letter brought me. I thought it was a long shot, but here you are.”

Dr. Lecter grinned slightly, entertaining the idea that he had grown predictable. “And here I am. Congratulate yourself, Ex Special Agent Starling, you have found me. What exactly did you hope to find?”

Starling, shook her head, wondering when his voice had stolen the words she had been asking herself all day. “I…I don’t know, Dr. Lecter. Things are…a mess.”

“A ‘mess?’ How elaborate.” There was a cold tone now, biting and almost carrying a threatening quality.

Oh please. Please. If you only knew what I’ve been through.

“Dr. Lecter, I didn’t come here for sympathy, or guidance, or to fix a mistake I am willing to admit that I might have made. I came here…simply because I had to. Your letter-”

“Which part of my letter brought you from the comforting familiarity of your home? Certainly not the descriptive distaste I found in Paul Krendler’s contribution to our dinner two months ago.”

Letting out a breath, Starling shook her head. “No, Dr. Lecter…not that.”

“Then what? Quote the exact passage, Clarice. I want to hear my words on your tongue, with all the emotion that convinced you to bring yourself across the country in the hope that I just might be here.” Dr. Lecter looked intrigued, the coldness drawing away from his voice as though it hadn’t existed.

Starling drew in a breath, having memorized practically every word on the flight over. Slowly, she recited, “ ‘Now what are you left with? A bad name, a tarnished career, a stolen kiss from lips you will never feel again?’ That…I suppose…and one other.”

“Tell me.” Dr. Lecter’s eyes, unchanging, remained burnt into hers.

“ ‘Where am I within you?’” Starling broke her gaze, unable to register that she was here, in New Orleans, before renowned killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and basically admitting that she felt something for him, after everything.

Who am I? Why am I here? What is left of me if I allow myself to admit that I could possibly love a being that goes against every moral ethic I ever crafted of myself? Why does he empower and excite me rather than scare the shit out of me?

Whatever she expected to see in Dr. Lecter’s eyes, she did not. Instead of a cold stare, she found humor and reasoning. “Am I to understand you came all this way for a single kiss?”

“I came here to find out who I am, Dr. Lecter,” Starling replied steadily, surprised and equally frightened by the strength supporting her voice. The truth was, she wasn’t ready to know, or to find out, even by accident.

Who am I?

“Clarice, don’t you believe you have known me long enough to discard the formalities? Please, my name is Hannibal. Say it as well as what you feel.”

Starling closed her eyes, something she knew might bring about her end. “Dr…excuse me, Hannibal…I don’t know what I want. The Bureau isn’t me; I don’t think it ever has been me. I don’t expect anything of you…and I honestly don’t know what the entire force was that brought me down here. Perhaps it was…the thrill of the unknown. I am confused…you confused me and you can’t take that back. I honestly don’t know what you expect of me anymore.”

A reasonable silence. “Clarice, I never expected anything you were not capable of. You are your own person, and I can mold you into nothing that you do not likewise mold yourself into.” Dr. Lecter surprised them both by closing the space between them. “I know who you are, Clarice Starling, I’ve always known. Forgive me; it seems the words in my letter were a misled lie.” His eyes landed on her mouth. “Or simply misled.” With that, he brushed his lips against hers, and she savored the taste of his mouth. When she did not withdraw, Dr. Lecter drew himself closer, his tongue breaking the barrier of her mouth and he drank her in. Starling, at a loss for words, found herself incapable of any other action other than to wrap her arms around him, letting out a satisfied sigh as his lips moved from hers and found her neck.

“Do you know, Clarice? Do you know who you are now?” His voice was close, terribly close to her ear, his breath warm yet it sent shivers over her body.

“Yes!” she replied, perhaps too eagerly, wanting only at the moment to pull him closer. “I know exactly who I am.” And at that moment, she truly did. She knew who she was, and the only person she ever wanted to be. There, in the night of New Orleans, in the arms of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, she felt truly at peace for the first time since the death of her father.

“Tell me who you are, Clarice.” His arms clasped tighter around her, strong and urgent.

Starling pulled herself away, simply so she could look into his eyes. “I’m yours, if you want me.”

Dr. Lecter looked at her for a long moment; it was enough for her to panic that his intentions were not to claim her, rather to tease and kill.

However, every doubt she had felt or would ever feel was swept away with his words. “I have known this since the day I met you, Clarice. I wondered how long it would take for you to come to the same conclusion. Now…” His voice trailed off as his eyes landed on her mouth once again, and she could barely manage a gasp as he claimed it once more. A few breathless minutes later, Dr. Lecter pulled away and whispered, “I believe these streets are not as safe as you are used to. Come.” With that, he took her arm and enclosed it with his own, and led her down the street, eventually to coming across the extravagant Windsor hotel, a great improvement over her own.

Once they were secured behind a locked door, Dr. Lecter, always the gentlemen, caressed her hair, pulling it from its design, his hand trailing down her cheek. “Are you sure you want to be mine?”

“Yes…I’m very sure.”

“After tonight, there is no looking back.”

“I know…Hannibal.”

At the sound of his name on her mouth, spoken without hesitation, made him smile. His mouth found hers, and as they fell onto the bed, Starling was sure the only person she was ever meant to be was here, right within his arms.

***

Two weeks later, Starling sent a letter to Jack Crawford. It was short, explanatory, yet still overlapped with shadows of her whereabouts.

Mr. Crawford,

I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t see myself in the Bureau. I’m not sure if I ever could. Thank you for everything you ever did for me. You’ve been a great friend.

Ta,

Clarice Starling

The words stung Crawford, for he could only guess what they meant.

The Bureau, after reading the letter, removed her name from their association forever.

At the same moment Crawford was reading her letter, Starling and Dr. Lecter were enjoying an exquisite bubble bath. Her hair was a deeper shade now, and they were far from New Orleans, or anywhere in the United States.

Neither were seen by any prior associates again.

FIN

Part 2 of 2

1 of 2 | 2 of 2

copyright 2001, by DianaLecter

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