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Extended Vacation

copyright 2001, by DianaLecter

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling 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 1

Marseilles, France

It was perhaps a month after Clarice Starling, thirty-three year old veteran of the FBI, formerly known as Special Agent Starling, or Starling, Clarice M. to one Jack Crawford, had decided to leave the comforts of home and travel across the world for a taste of amnesia. To forget who she was and what she once stood for. It was a place of refuge, sought to forget Jack Crawford, Ardelia Mapp, the FBI, the late Paul Krendler, and most of all, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Perhaps it was luck that all her wishes hadn’t come true. Starling liked to toy with her current predicament as a twist of fate, however much she might believe in any deity.

Still, approximately thirty-one days since her feet stepped on foreign ground, Starling was intensely satisfied with herself, more so than she had been in many, many years. The idea of jealousy that played with her mind the first few days was not needed; she saw that almost immediately. Dr. Lecter only had eyes for her, and he made very sure in an equally discreet way that she knew it.

The rented room at the Windsor had not been occupied since the first night of her arrival. Money was not an issue for her travel companion had a more than healthy supply. He spoiled her outrageously, though modestly. Starling marveled at his ability to be both ends of the same extreme simultaneously.

The scarf he bought her in the first days of her arrival was commonly the only thing she wore to bed at night.

Outside thoughts failed to plague her, and it was a long while before she allowed her mind to drift to Jack Crawford, waiting back in the States. She knew without having to consider that she would never set foot in Washington again, much less anywhere near her former superior or Ardelia Mapp. It wasn’t a difficult decision; she knew sacrifices were expected and she was happy to meet the demand. The idea of losing Mapp was not especially attractive, but she knew what she was gaining, and that made it all easier. Needless to say, when it came down to Dr. Lecter and Mapp, the scale weighed greatly on one end, leaving nothing for the other.

It was a long while, it seemed, before her mind surrendered itself to bad thoughts. However, as all dreams must, her’s came to an end, and she knew it was time for action.

This realization struck her one night while she was soaking in the comfortable bathroom tub of the Auberge de Châteaux hotel, surrounded with rose petals and bubbles. Starling had never been one to indulge in earthly pleasures such as this, and she quickly realized what she had been missing. Her feet were sore from a night of dancing in intensely uncomfortable shoes, and she was enjoying the effect the water had on her tired, yet effectively spent body. It was relaxing, and Dr. Lecter did little to disturb her during these times. He was happy that she was taking refuge in the simple pleasures of life, and waiting was not something he was unfamiliar with. Starling knew that he would be awake when she emerged, most likely engrossed in a book, drawing, or writing to some other correspondent. Since his favored pen pal was no less than ten feet away, she safely ruled out option number three, and gladly indulged herself further in the warm sanctuary of the tub.

The events preceding her arrival here, in the helpless clutches of this madman, as much as she might enjoy it, played wickedly through her head, and she couldn’t help the satisfied grin that tickled her lips. What tremendous luck! Her disbelief at her decision to come to the very place he had sought refuge at still lingered, though it did little to bother her.

She wondered if Mapp was terribly concerned, and she stifled a giggle despite her sorrow. Everyone back home must be combing through her things in order to locate her. It was to her advantage that she declined from informing anyone or leaving any evidence that she was planning this crazy weekend get-away. Perhaps they would enlist her as a missing person; perhaps they would think Dr. Lecter got to her after all.

At that, she couldn’t maintain her giggle, and it ricocheted off the walls and escaped through a tiny crack in the door. If Dr. Lecter heard, he did not make any sound in reply. Starling fought the temptation to sink into the bubbles completely, knowing another burp of laughter was possible and that would produce an unusual gurgling sound.

She almost wished he would give it up and join her, but knew better than to expect that or ask him to do so.

It was then the thought struck her, a horrible notion that she hadn’t considered before. Would Crawford or Mapp check the airlines? When she left, Starling had no idea that she would have found her calling here, that she would still be here in the company of a dark and debonair gentlemen who happened to be a serial murderer as well as a member of the astute FBI Ten Most Wanted list. More over all, she was certainly not here as a prisoner. She was here because she wanted to be, because she screamed at him and herself when presented with the idea of being peeled from his side. Because whenever she thought of being without him, tears tempted her eyes and she had to bat them away with a shrewd scold to herself. Because for the first time in her young-old life, she was considering the idea of love, unconditional and unbridled, something she could keep and would cling to for the rest of her days.

Because at times she was so afraid of losing him it was difficult to breathe.

These worries seemed elementary - very elementary. It was clear that Dr. Lecter felt strongly for her. After all, ten years and some very thorough unpleasant events had threatened and even weakened their relationship. However, after all they had been through, passed Jame Gumb, Paul Krendler, Jack Crawford, the mess at the lake house, and even their own petty fears, admitted into existence or not, here she was, and she didn’t plan on going anywhere.

That is, unless, she was forced, and she hated the idea of being forced. Hated was such a weak word, she realized, for she could use it a million times, combined with the power of confused, depressed, and heart-broken and it wouldn’t even begin to tap into the sea of emotion she would experience.

Would, would, would! Remember, Clarice, you still have him, you’re still here. Don’t grieve he who is not dead.

Still, Crawford and Mapp could have gone to the airlines. It would be foolish to consider her dead or missing without consulting every possibility, even the slimmest ones.

That thought forced Starling out of the tub. She reached for her towel and routinely dried herself off, wrapping it around her as she emerged from the rest room and into the main hotel room. As she predicted, Dr. Lecter was reclined on the bed, immersed in a book on psychology. She read two things from his expression, and was amused with both. He knew the author, and he was less than impressed with the work.

His eyes rose slowly from the pages to her, and he was both glad to see her and concerned with the worry he undoubtedly read in her eyes. Placing his book aside, he sat up slowly.

“Something the matter, my dear?”

“I just…thought of something.”

“Oh?”

He would not come out and ask; she knew it. He would string along a casual flow of questioning until she spilled it herself, unprovoked.

“I think we should leave,” she said, hesitation in her voice since she so clearly enjoyed France and didn’t want to depart. Dr. Lecter looked at her expectantly, and she continued.

“As much as we would like to think Mr. Crawford and our friends at the FBI are completely naïve, they won’t list me as a missing person until having exercised all possibilities. Don’t you think that would include checking the airlines?”

Dr. Lecter smiled slightly and stood. “Do you mean to tell me that you, Ex Special Agent Starling, are at a loss at what to expect from the FBI?”

She took the time to smirk at him. “I don’t think any FBI agent - or in this case, former agent - has ever disappeared without a trace, without informing anyone, without being on a mission in which it’s likely to disappear. I was never presented with the possibility when I was in the FBI. I’m assuming they’ll check the booked flights and see that I came here. You see, I didn’t think to use an alias.”

That provoked a short chuckle, nothing she could revel in. “Why, do you suppose, Jack Crawford would be so interested in your affairs?”

“Why do you think?” she asked, rather skeptically, knowing just as well as he did that Crawford most likely had an unhealthy infatuation with her.

“Scenarios again, I see,” Dr. Lecter said, enjoying the angry look that flustered on her face in the briefest second. Amusement danced in his eyes, and it was apparent he was not concerned. “Tell me, Clarice, did he ever attempt to indulge himself? More importantly, did you let him?”

Oh, how he loved to torment. “Your sense of humor astounds me at times.”

“Purpose achieved, I’d say, wouldn’t you?” he grinned.

“You can tease me all you want later. What do you think about Crawford?”

Dr. Lecter stopped and considered. “I believe he’d be very foolish to pursue you here. Who knows whom he might…run into. Strange town, you know.”

Starling stared at him, her heart stopping a minute. “You intend to kill him?”

“If, by chance, it comes to that. Oh no, Clarice, I would never hunt him down like an animal. After all, you two were quite…chummy.”

Again, Starling snickered at his choice of words, and decided to backfire with a favorite of his own. “Touché.”

Dr. Lecter did nothing but smile at her. “Would you feel at ease if I booked us a flight out of France?”

“More so than I do right now.”

“Where would you like to go? I doubt it’s necessary to remind you that Italy is not an option.”

Starling took a minute to look at him before nodding. “Yes, I know. Umm, well, I don’t want to dictate the decision, and I’m sure there’s a place you’d like to go.”

“My dear, I will be perfectly content wherever we go. This trip has exceeded all my expectations, and I believe you know that I adapt well to any given environment. I know you won’t pick somewhere utterly tasteless. For a rube, you have adapted a keen state of elevated style.” He winked at her, his hands folded properly behind his back.

It was then she realized she was still dressed in a towel. He must have noticed for his eyes fell from her gaze and to her festive attire. “You’ll catch the death of cold if you don’t demonstrate some common sense and get into bed, Clarice. I believe your hair is still wet as well. Unwise.”

There was an unmistakable kidding tone in his voice. Starling gave him a coy look before inching toward him. His eyes narrowed a bit and his smile remained amused and pleasant. Just as she was about to forgo the outer layer of clothing, he surprised her by seizing her arm and pushed her gently to the bed. With that, he yanked the towel away and quickly covered her with the blanket. Smiling then, a deceptive and teasing smile, he folded the towel and said, “Mmm, that should be better. I wouldn’t want you to fall into ill health, Clarice. Especially since we are making preparations to leave the country.”

The moan he received in reply only made him smile wider. He retreated into the bathroom and retrieved the hair-dryer. With a light smile, he plugged it into the circuit and the nozzle exerted its warm air to her scalp. To make it easy for him, she sat up, always enjoying the aspect of not having to concern herself with her hair. If it looked like shit in the morning, she could blame it on him.

Even so, she found it erotic and it made her fidgety.

“Sit still, Clarice, or your hair will never dry.”

At that point, she didn’t care, though she knew the object of his statement was to make her restless and turn to stone. The feeling of his hand against her scalp was incredible, and she couldn’t help leaning back some, if only to give him easier access.

When he finished, her hair suffered the sensation of being puffy. However, she was pleased when she looked in the mirror. Smiling slightly, Dr. Lecter returned the hair-dryer to the bathroom before disrobing, slicing the lights, and sliding next to her in bed.

The fleeting thought that perhaps they would rest from intimacies tonight drifted unwittingly through her head, and Starling felt a streak of disappointment. She didn’t like the idea of boring Dr. Lecter so quickly, much less suffering nights without what she had tasted so exquisitely over the past month.

This worry was put to rest as she felt a massive arm drape over her shoulder and pull her toward him. She couldn’t see him in the darkness, but she knew his eyes were on her. As a sixth sense, she could also sense his amusement.

“You’ve developed patience over the month, I see,” he said, his voice chilling the silence as though the words were not meant to exist.

“I’m doing my best,” was her weak, yet stable reply.

“Trust me, Clarice, you’re doing fine.” His lips found her shoulder easily, burning with unquenched hunger. She smiled and pulled herself into him, slightly exhilarated with the thought of his own impeccable patience faltering. As she raised his head to meet her mouth, she swallowed a content sigh, and let herself fall into him.

***

It had been nearly two weeks, and still, Jack Crawford and Ardelia Mapp had led themselves to a dead end. Streaked with an insistence not to give up until they had at least some lead that led them elsewhere, Crawford refused to leave Marseilles.

The Bureau was not happy with this. They saw it as a personal matter, and that a missing ex federal agent was nothing to concern themselves with. After all, it was most likely a simple case of cabin fever. Starling had been through a lot only to be dropped by the FBI. She needed to get away, and probably wanted to avoid the sympathies or offers for accompaniment from friends and former colleagues. There was no sign that indicated that she was missing by means of foul play.

People were beginning to question Crawford’s feelings for Starling, and their questions weren’t pretty. It was only means of Mapp’s similar concern that prevented them from interfering.

It never occurred to Crawford how much he would utterly hate France. Despite Mapp’s fluent tongue and their wide knowledge of the English vocabulary, he found them an insufferable people and the longer he stayed, the more he wished he had it within himself to leave. However, the mere thought of Starling would drive that back, and he found himself incapable of any action.

Mapp was enjoying herself, thoroughly though she hated to admit it. He was glad one of them was. As he sat in a quaint and comfortable café, he awaited her arrival but imagined she had met someone or was investigating a lead. He figured she was not as concerned seeing as there was no evidence of foul play. It was simply the matter of Starling was not a person to make quick decisions and act on them without considering the consequences. More over, he found it slightly less than believable that she wouldn’t have told anyone, much less called when she arrived.

When Crawford was tired of waiting and finished with his coffee, he stood and paid, turning then to leave. As he stood on the somewhat busy sidewalks, he drew in a deep breath and looked from left to right. It was then his heart stopped and he felt an uncomfortable clogging in his throat.

Down the sidewalk, not twenty feet away, was Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He was alone, dressed splendidly, and looking in his direction. Their eyes met and sparks flew from behind his nemeses. He never thought that Dr. Lecter would be here, never in a million years. However, such knowledge bared heavy on his heart. He knew then that something had happened to Starling, and wouldn’t be surprised if her sudden departure wasn’t the result of her receiving a lead. After all, Starling would do anything to save her career. Somehow she made the assumption that she could reprimand him without a weapon, badge, authority, and magically get out unscathed.

Crawford felt sick, but Dr. Lecter had a bizarre smile. Slowly, he started to approach.

Crawford slapped his side and retrieved his .45, but had some difficulty in whipping it out at lightening speed. He averted his eyes to his holster and fought to free it, and when he looked up, Dr. Lecter was not before him. Nor was he in the multitude of people. Crawford felt his pulse increase to the point of a mild heart attack as he looked to all directions for the possible location of the doctor. He knew Dr. Lecter wouldn’t carry on blissfully, not yet, not after seeing him. Not until he was dealt with.

It wasn’t until he felt the blade at his back that he froze, closing his eyes momentarily to curse himself before he heard the voice. That despicable voice. As he opened his eyes, his utter disgust and contempt for the man poured out.

“Good morning, Jack,” Dr. Lecter said pleasantly. “If you don’t mind…” With that, he grasped the gun in Crawford’s grasp and rotated the blade, indicating his wish to see his face. Crawford’s fear must have been evident, for the monster laughed. “I sense you’re repressing something, Jack. Tell me, is that the way to greet an old friend. Honestly, I don’t know how you managed here, but it will prove most interesting, I’m sure. Please…” He nodded casually to the café Crawford had just vacated. “Won’t you join me for a drink.”

It wasn’t a request, he knew that instantly. Crawford felt himself incapable of any other movement other than to obey as he stepped in front of Dr. Lecter, the blade finding its way comfortably against his spine, as he stepped indoors, closely followed by his newfound captor.

Fin

Part 1 of 5

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