Clarice stared at their clasped hands for a few seconds, captivated by something. Lecter decided it was the place his mouth had touched. Talking without barriers or distance between them was still very much a novelty. He decided he didn't want to allow her to become too familiar with physical contact, not yet, and withdrew his hand gently. 'Always leave them wanting more,' came the unbidden thought, and he smiled inwardly. From the faint, sweet scent permeating the warm air, Clarice did, indeed, want more.
She took back her hand, clenching a fist self-consciously, and then she shifted. As her hips moved with the motion, her arousal grew more apparent. Lecter wondered whether she could smell it on herself, and decided that even if she couldn't, she'd be aware of his awareness. The game was heading into thrilling territory, and he took a moment to find stillness, before reapplying himself attentively, as Clarice spoke.
"Umm ... what time is it, anyway?"
"It's just after two o'clock."
"And what were you planning to do here, if I hadn't woken up?"
"Nothing. I was about to leave."
"Then what did you do before I woke?"
"Nothing unbecoming to a gentleman."
"Besides breaking and entering, and watching me sleep?"
"Well, I did that in a very gentlemanly way."
"I don't doubt that." She smiled at him, her face softening with what could almost be a fondness, and Lecter smiled back. Despite his poise, his heartrate was still elevated. The curve of her lips provoked a powerful desire to close the distance again, and this time possess her mouth. He wondered fleetingly whether she would yield, or fight. Before he put the notion from his mind, he found himself hoping for the latter. The inevitable yielding would be sweeter with the battle.
"Tell me, Clarice. How are you sleeping, these days?"
"I sleep okay."
"And do you dream?"
"Come now, it's a little late for us to be evasive with each other."
She reached to drag her hair back from her face, and held it in place with hands which shook with tension. "I still hear screaming lambs. Is that what you want me to say?"
"Want? No. But it's what I anticipated." He allowed something of his concern to permeate his expression. "What will it take, do you think, for the screaming to stop for good?"
"I wish I knew." She shrugged the subject aside. "Dr Lecter, I was serious about the danger you're in."
"Believe me, Clarice, I'm not blasť, myself."
"I mean - there must be some plan for your capture."
"I'm sure there is."
"You do realise they could be parked outside right now!" Her mannerisms were becoming more animated. Lecter pondered whether she was more concerned by the danger he was in, or the way this threat to him made her react.
"Not right now," he soothed. "I watched the area for several hours before entering your house, and I've heard no vehicles drive past in the time I've been here."
"Even so - they could be on their way!"
"And this bothers you? It isn't you they want to torment."
"How can I stand by and let them take you?"
"Ah, Clarice, Clarice, always driven by the plight of the victim. I must say, I never thought I would become the victim, for you. Have you always thought of me that way? Someone to protect? Even when we were establishing such a wonderful rapport, down in that dungeon in Baltimore?"
She was tense for a moment, considering. His questions had not unsettled her, so much as invited self-examination. Lecter revelled in the response, and allowed her the time she bought herself as she reached forward to claim her drink and swallowed the contents of the tumbler.
"Back when we first met," she finally began, her throat slightly roughened by the liquor, "I was occasionally ... concerned for you. I ... I didn't like the things Chilton did, to punish you."
"Go on," he encouraged, after she had shot him a glance.
"But I don't think I ever considered you a victim - because I came to understand your strength."
Lecter nodded. "And now?"
She swallowed and made her confession. "Now I'm concerned for your safety."
"So I've become a victim to protect. To rescue. A respite from the screaming lambs."
"Amongst other things."
"I think that's enough about me for a while, Doctor," Clarice said suddenly, gathering herself. She sat up straighter and met his eyes without flinching. Lecter let her see his irritation at this interruption to the flow, but she didn't back down. Rather than anger, he could only feel a rush of desire in return. He blocked it and was controlled once again. Adopting an expression of polite enquiry, he waited for her. "What about you?" she asked. "Why are you letting them manipulate you?"
"I've been living quietly for too long," he answered. "It's grown tedious. I wanted some action. All the signals pointed to this place and time."
"You're inviting danger?"
His head tilted. "I made a conscious decision to respond," he qualified.
"You must have been pretty bored."
"Oh I was, Clarice. And it seemed the right time to renew our acquaintance."
"Consider it renewed. What did you hope it would achieve?"
"If you want to ask me something, Clarice, do, please, feel free to come out and say so."
"Okay, I will." She drew breath. "Why are you here, Doctor? What is it you want from me? Am I simply a means to get at Mason Verger, like he thinks I'm just a means to get at you?"
"Oh Clarice, you know better than that."
"Then tell me!"
His demeanour lost its congeniality. Lecter sensed his face grow hard at the demand, and as his chin lifted and his eyes chilled, Clarice drew back in her chair and looked away, scanning the room, realising perhaps for the first time that she was sitting in the dark with Hannibal Lecter, and she had no means to defend herself from him.
"What is it that you want to hear, Clarice?" he asked coldly.
Miraculously, her voice refused to shake. "I want to hear an answer. I've been honest with you, Dr Lecter. Please show me the same courtesy." She met his eyes unflinchingly.
"You're being deliberately provocative now."
"Maybe it's the right time."
"Maybe." He was a battleground, his menace threatened by the passion he felt. In his mind, a stray thought rose unbidden. 'I want to take this woman and make her scream my name.' He tossed it aside, but his body was not so quick to discard the notion, his libido undeniable. "I am here, Clarice, because I am drawn to you. That must come as no surprise."
"What do you want?"
"I believe the question was ... what do I want from you?"
"So tell me."
"I wanted to talk. To hear your voice and watch your face. I wanted to ask you if you still have nightmares, and I wanted to know how you feel about your career. Your life." He wet his lips. "I wanted to touch you." He paused, and invited a reponse with his eyes. Clarice's arousal, rather than tapering with his new danger, had intensified. He could taste her excitement for him in the air.
"You've done all those things. Does that mean you're ready to leave?"
Lecter drew breath, then let it out slowly. Clarice held his gaze steadily, though he sensed her wariness. "I've kept my distance for ten years, Clarice. Had I not heard your voice tonight, I might have been able to walk away. But now we have spoken ... I find I want more."
"And that would be?"
"It seems, I want exactly the same thing that you want."
Clarice finally turned her head away, flinging it against the chair to hide her face. "Talk about busted," she muttered.
"I'd prefer it if you looked at me," said Lecter quietly, after a polite pause. Clarice reluctantly turned her head back and met his eyes once more. "Thank you. Are you going to deny that the same thing is very much on both our minds?"
"Then tell me to leave, right now, and I will go without another word."
She drew breath. It hitched in her throat, and Lecter saw her bottom lip trembling. He held himself still and calm, ignoring the fire at his groin which begged for attention. There was a long pause. He schooled himself to patience.
"I can't," she finally confessed. Then she frowned at herself, and in a stronger voice added, "I won't."
"Be very sure about what you're saying, Clarice, because I am at the far reaches of my control."
The threat sent a powerful shiver of arousal through Clarice, and Lecter shuddered with the knowledge that she was responding to him. "I'm sure."
Almost through clenched teeth, Lecter barked a final question. "Is that because you believe this is an interlude outside of time, where the normal rules don't apply?"
"No!" She narrowed her eyes at him, glaring as she fought to mask her desire. "It's because I didn't understand how damned lonely I was, until I woke up to find you standing in my living room."
His restraint collapsed. Lecter rose from the chair smoothly and grasped Clarice's arm, yanking her up beside him. He did not wait for her to steady herself, instead turning to leave the room, his hand wrapped around her forearm like a manacle as he headed for her staircase. She stumbled along behind him, but he couldn't turn to look at her. He was determined to at least make it to a bed, before tearing the clothes from her body.
They ran up the stairs together. Lecter considered asking which doorway led to her bedroom, but the small landing offered only three choices, so he tugged the first one open. Clarice's arm shot out and slammed it shut again, and in his surprise, she was able to press him into its surface.
"It's the airing cupboard," she explained thickly. The next thing Lecter knew, Clarice had closed the small distance between them and was pressed hard against his mouth.
He let out a growl and kissed her back. Moments away from falling to his knees and taking her right there on the landing carpet, he marshalled his control, walked her backwards to the opposite door and wrestled the handle open, as their lips duelled hungrily.
Second time lucky. Clarice's bed chamber was visible beyond her shoulder. Lecter pushed her backwards again, his arm holding her upright as she tripped over her feet in haste. Once within reach of the mattress, he reclaimed his hands and addressed the problem of her clothing. One dark T-shirt posed no obstacle. His hands grabbed a fistful of material each side of her spine and tugged, and there was a pleasing rend as the garment split from hem to neck. Still invading her mouth with his tongue, drunk with the flavour of her, his fingers found the hook of her brassiere and pinched it open.
Lecter withdrew his mouth, eliciting a vague whimper of complaint from Clarice, but he barely registered it, so focused was he on disrobing her. The distance allowed him to grasp her ruined top and tug it from her body along with her bra. Breathing hard, Clarice glanced down at her naked chest almost in surprise, before her eyes narrowed and she reached out with lightning reflexes to grasp his open shirt and push it from his shoulders.
"No," he refused with a bark. There was no time for such attention. Patience had deserted him and he wanted only to see a naked Clarice Starling writhing in arousal on her bed, waiting for him. He grasped her disobedient hands and firmly pushed them away, then reached to undo the button on her slacks. Once unzipped, he yanked the clothing down her legs, underwear and all, almost floored by the potency of her arousal for him as his nose lingered near her sex.
"Lift," he demanded, and she raised one leg. He yanked her boot off without undoing the laces, and they repeated for her other foot. Clarice stepped out of her trousers awkwardly, her hands steadying her on his shoulders. Once naked, he had to draw her near and breathe her in. She yelped in surprise at the force of his embrace, but the scent was too inviting. For sweet seconds he pressed his nose and mouth into the mound of curling hair at her groin. His arms held her tightly against him and he heard her moan encouragement as his teeth nipped at her skin.
Reining himself in, he rose to his feet again and pulled her unclothed body into his arms. His mouth found hers eager and passionate, her tongue unafraid to push between his teeth and stroke his own. Her hips pressed against him, and she rubbed the stiff outline of his erection wantonly, making him groan. With iron discipline, Lecter denied himself the giddy pleasure of their kiss again, clasping Clarice by the arms and pushing her away.
He walked her back until her legs touched the bed, then pushed more roughly than he had intended, to make her fall away from him. By the time she shuffled backwards, her eyes dark with the same passion which filled him, he was already tearing his clothing from his skin. His shirt was tossed one way, his T-shirt another. When his hands unstrapped his belt and unclasped his pants, Clarice moaned out loud, her eyes locked on his fingers, her tongue slipping between her lips in anticipation.
He kicked his boots off, bent to pull his remaining clothes free, and then stood up smoothly. He didn't give her the time to sweep her gaze over his body, because the sight of her parted thighs and the fragrance of her excitement was almost too much to bear. Lecter rushed over her body, kissing her once before moving his lips to taste her breasts. Clarice's hands clasped his head, stroking and scratching.
"Hannibal!" Clarice's voice was whining her impatience, but her abandoned use of his given name lent him pause. His head came up and he shuffled back along her body until their eyes were separated only by an inch or so.
"Say that again," he murmured.
She glared at him. "Make me."
Her defiance both surprised and pleased him. Hiding his satisfied smile, he reached smoothly beneath her left leg and lifted it until it bent back across her body. Automatically, she spread its partner wide and pushed up, seeking his hardened member.
There was no need to test her readiness, he considered, intoxicated by her musk.
With his weight leaning on her leg, pressing it back, opening her up, he positioned his cock and swiftly pentrated her. Clarice gasped in shock and pleasure, and Lecter saw a strange relief in her expression. He relinquished his hold on her leg and smiled as it wrapped around his waist, linking with the other to welcome him deeper inside. She was tight and hot around him, and the sensation was blissful.
Moving with animal urgency, he withdrew and thrust, then thrust again, lowering his lips to kiss her neck, then licking at the sweat gathering at her throat. Clarice's hands reached above her, steadying herself against the headboard as their rhythm quickened. Her head tipped back and she offered herself with a small croon of need. As his hips continued to grind hard against her, he sucked her flesh between his teeth and savoured her taste with his tongue. Clarice's breath caught, and she began to mutter incoherencies which might, in any other context, have been amusing. Lecter left her throat and moved over her face again. Her eyes were wide with sensation.
"I said," Lecter grunted, his voice rasping with effort, "Say that again!"
"Oh god ..."
"So good ..."
He growled, though her pleasure was infectious and fundamentally satisfying to his ego. "I'm glad you think so," he muttered, his own exertion making speech difficult. He was close to orgasm and a bead of perspiration was running down his temple, itching and distracting. "But I said -"
"Hannibal!" she gasped, and her pupils lost focus. Lecter felt her tense and made his final thrusts hard and fast. She sobbed out loud, poured astonished gratitude into his eyes with her own, and then exploded, calling his name hoarsely, one final time.
"Oh yes," he agreed breathlessly, feeling her contract and release around him. An instant later he returned the compliment, murmuring her name as his balls tightened and then his cock jerked, waves of pleasure rippling through him as the warmth of his essence spilled forth.
Breathing hard as his climax dissipated, Lecter let his head tip forward, and he rested it at Clarice's shoulder in deference to her own recovery. Still joined, he shivered with aftershocks and smiled as Clarice did the same. It took long minutes for either of them to calm sufficiently to speak.
When they had, he lifted his head and found her looking unwaveringly back at him. Clarice had the glowing, languid look of a woman who has just been well and truly pleasured. Lecter allowed himself to enjoy it.
"Hannibal," she said quietly, teasingly.
He had to smile. "Yes, I got that much."
She smiled back. "Just one question."
"What's that?" he asked.
But he already knew what it would be.