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The Mathematics of Love

copyright 2001, by Glimmerdark

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

The room was darker now, quiet and still. Only the soft whisper of Clarice’s breathing betrayed the fact that she was still alive. A single white candle on either side of the four-poster mahogany bed illuminated the ethereal scene: Clarice Starling, at rest. Gone were the shadows of anger that had hovered around her mouth, gone the lines of tension etched across her forehead, gone the staring intensity of her wide-open eyes. Covered in only a light silk sheet, she was ageless, timeless, and supremely beautiful. 

From the velvet armchair in the dim corner, Hannibal Lecter’s eyes never moved from her motionless form. His body was a statue, the picture of implacable control. But while a part of his brain registered every detail of her condition, monitored the nuances of every breath, and waited for the first signs of the stirring of consciousness, another part focused on relaxing his own strain, the muscles of his body aching from the hours of crucifixion, bound in unnatural pose. It had been long indeed since his body had been subjected to that kind of treatment, and he ached all over. He tensed and released every muscle separately, willing himself to release the aftermath of the struggle, to return his body to the readiness that might be required at any moment. He laughed then, soundlessly, only the hint of a smile playing on his face. It would do no good to relax his body if he could not master his mind. 

In the heat of action, Lecter had forced his brain down familiar avenues of control. He recalled holding Starling’s body against his while the pigs roared around his feet. The only portion of the adventure worth calling to mind, he thought, playing the scene over and over in the cinema of his memory palace. He remembered the machinelike ticking of his thought: this action now, that action then, watch for this, remember that. The gorgeous order of a computer program had usurped the power of the flooding images, scents, sounds…… only the smell of Starling’s hair in his nostrils had caused a moment’s wave of passion. Even the dripping wound on her shoulder had not affected him so. 

Not until he had her safe, back at the house on the Chesapeake, and had laid her unconscious body on the butcher-block island in the kitchen. He gathered his equipment swiftly and turned on the harsh spotlight he had installed over his impromptu operating theatre, then cut away the remnants of her shirt, exposing the bloody mess. With water first, then Betadine, he had scrubbed her skin clean, prepping her for surgery. He froze as he gazed at the hole in her flesh. In that moment, it looked like a stigmata. 

A torrent of thought, symbol, image and emotion threatened to engulf him. An impulse to put his mouth to the wound tore at his self-control. A vision of Clarice falling at his feet in the filthy pig barn, her eyes meeting his as she fell, burned behind his eyes. He braced his arms on the table, his head dropped down and he inhaled deeply, steadying himself as the world shook under his feet. With a scream like a whiplash he called himself back to order, shouting in the vaulted chambers of his mind. Instantly, his head snapped back and he became once more the icy Doctor of his infallible reputation. With the bolt shot tight on the doors of the palace, he carefully, delicately inserted an IV line. He slid an airway in her mouth, tilted her head back and propped a towel under her neck. Almost gratefully he hid her face under an oxygen mask and lightly anesthetized her, just deep enough to keep her unconscious. With a small forceps he probed her shoulder cautiously, removing the bullet while keeping damage to nerve and muscle fiber at a minimum. He looked at the blood-coated lump of metal a fraction of a second too long, then threw it violently off into the corner of the kitchen. 

As he irrigated the wound and packed it with antibiotic powder he recited chemical formulas and algebraic theorems to keep his thoughts at bay. While stitching the lips of the gash together he demanded perfection of himself in every motion. He placed each suture precisely, deftly, to minimize the detrimental cosmetic effect of the……  

Fool, snarled a harsh, raspy voice from the back of the palace. Do you think this is the scar she will mind? 

His hands almost shook as he finished the neat row of stitches, did shake as he dropped the suture needle into the steel basin on the counter. The critical actions taken, her life relatively safe now, he had longed to release the lock on his emotions, his fear, and the unfaced conflict taking place behind the doors. A soft moan jolted him back to himself and his cool demeanor surfaced once again. Reaching for a vial of Versed, he drew up a milligram and gently pushed it through her IV. So attuned was he that he could actually feel her slipping down, away, into the nothingness of oblivion. 

Only then did he allow himself to really see her, to capture in his mind the dirt caked in her auburn locks, the foul mud crusting her khaki cargo pants, the bruises flowering on her paper-thin, pale skin. He placed one hand softly on her sternum, between the swelling mounds of her breasts, and felt the rhythm of her breath. He inspected her lips, took her hand and examined her nail beds. Only a part of him thrilled at the intimacy implicit in the contact. Only a part of him remembered the first time their fingers had touched, and the electric shock of that unforgettable moment. That touch had been both theme and counterpoint in his dreams ever since, endless variations playing on his mind like quills on the strings of a harpsichord. But the Doctor was in control now, keeping cool, keeping clinical, coldly judging if she would be able to tolerate the stress of a bath. 

The voice from the back of the palace hissed again in his mind. If you are so calm, Doctor, so cold, from whence comes the heat in your loins? From whence the hammering of your heart? It’s ticking away, you know, at a rate more like one-eighty-five. 

Looking at Clarice, concentrating on her hurts, her needs, Lecter had been able to ignore the voice. He took off the oxygen mask, withdrew the airway from her mouth, and removed the saline drip but left the capped IV line in place, in case she would need more sedation or hydration. With a bandage scissors he cut off the rest of her soiled clothing and tossed it into the fireplace. Gathering her naked body into his arms, he took a deep, steadying breath and moved carefully toward the staircase and up to the master suite.

FIN

Part 1 of 2

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copyright 2001, by Glimmerdark

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