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Obsession

copyright 2001, DianaLecter

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Ardelia Mapp 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 I

The days following the events at Chesapeake were a blur, and Clarice Starling did her best to block them out. Within a week, her gun and badge were taken away, as well as her back-up firearms. The Bureau was pleasant about it on the surface, smiling through their teeth as they gave her false praise for the good work she had done and expressing their grief that she would no longer be working with them. Likewise, Starling felt compelled to return the same false sympathy, denying the large part of herself that was relieved.

Ardelia Mapp was astonished, in the very sense of the word, after learning of her roommate’s actions at the Muskrat Farm. At first, she gave Starling a cold stare, wondering how anyone could be so utterly foolish in thinking that some blade-welding cannibal was worth her career and self-value. After a while, she began to sympathize with Starling, and even brought it upon herself to take her breakfast in bed.

It wasn’t until the second week that she received the notice to move off government property. Mapp offered to help her look for an apartment but Starling declined, saying this was something she wanted to do for herself. After all, Mapp would want her to live close, and she wasn’t sure if that was something she wanted. All that concerned Starling was starting over in a new house, with a new wardrobe, a new job, something that would completely disassociate herself from the FBI. She wanted to forget everything, EVERYTHING that ever marked her as an agent.

Most of all, Starling wanted to forget Dr. Hannibal Lecter, but knew better than that. In ten years, she hadn’t forgotten him, and now she had much more to remember him by. She supposed she would never be able to look for dresses without thinking of him, buy shoes, or even experience the first kiss with a prospective lover without remembering his lips on hers. Every time she allowed her mind to wander in that direction, she would curl up and feel herself shudder.

What was that, Former Special Agent Starling? A shudder of disgust or pleasure? Does he make your skin crawl, or do you simply want to crawl all over his skin?

Starling batted away these uncomfortable thoughts, knowing they would lead her to an awkward place. She knew better than to imagine herself in some fairy tale where love - unabridged - was unquestioned, and you were no less degraded if you allowed yourself to fall for someone as unspeakably vile as a smooth-talking cannibal.

You wish he was here right now, don’t you? There are some faces in the Bureau you would like to see gone. He took care of that nasty Krendler for you. You just know he’d love the quid pro quo his services would demand in getting rid of more. Do you want that, Clarice? Do you want him to demand compensation to all the things he’s done for you?

But he would never do that, Starling knew. Dr. Lecter, first and foremost, was a gentlemen, something no other living being would ever understand. He would never take it upon himself to demand anything from her. That would be devilishly rude.

You wish he would, though, don’t you? Come back and demand it all.

Starling grew frustrated and wondered exactly where that voice had come from, anyway.

In frustration one evening, Starling logged on to a travel site that listed the most popular places to visit, determined to get her mind off things. She cursed herself the day she let Hannibal Lecter inside her head, knowing now it would take a twenty year comma for the image of his face to even fade away. Sometimes she awoke in the middle of the evening, sure he was with her, watching her. The darkest part of herself refused to acknowledge the disappointment she felt when she realized he wasn’t.

What am I thinking? What could I possibly be thinking? That he doesn’t scare me, that he makes me yearn in a way I didn’t I was capable of yearning? Good Lord, what would I be admitting if I admitted I want him, that…that…

Starling would stop herself there, refusing the knowledge that even having that discussion with herself confirmed her desire. Hoping that some time out of the states would give her the courage to see things in a different light, she booked a flight for Marseilles, France that was scheduled for the end of the week. Without bothering to let anyone know she was planning such a leave, she bought a few outfits, none too revealing as she felt people looked at her enough without given a reason. Starling wasn’t going to flaunt herself or attract attention; she was going to clear her head and enjoy time away from everyone that had caused her grief in the passed ten years.

The relief she felt as the plane lifted from the ground rivaled the pleasure of an orgasm. Starling didn’t realize she had gasped until noticing the stares from the elderly couple sitting to her left. Smiling pleasantly, she declined an explanation and turned to order a soda from the flight attendant.

Stepping off the plane, Starling enjoyed the rush she experienced with the unknown sense. She hadn’t made hotel reservations, or even packed that many outfits. No one in the States knew where she was, or even that she had left. She had money, nothing she should be wasting given her recent unemployment, but something compelled her to do this wild thing, completely out of character.

Not giving a damn about money, she ended up staying in a masterfully comfortable hotel that commanded a marvelous view of the city. It was a suite, and it wasn’t cheap either. She didn’t know how long she hoped to stay, but knew her credit card would receive more attention here than it had in ten years back home. Having a bit more than fifteen hundred in cash, Starling was determined to enjoy herself, even if it ruined her financially.

Such careless spending would have issued severe punishment from her father, and for once, that didn’t bother her. She supposed not caring should bother her as well, and once more, it didn’t. Here, nothing that was once herself seemed to matter, and she absently marked her behavior under the stereotype that everyone acts differently in foreign countries.

Even Hannibal Lecter found a no-vacancy sign when it came to her daily thoughts, and she was glad for that.

It was the second day of her arrival, the first true day of vacation. Starling found herself exhausted when she made it to the hotel the night before and was incapable of any action that led her outdoors. Ordering in a meal by courtesy of the hotel staff, she rented a Pay-Per-View movie on the television and enjoyed the art of doing nothing. It had been so long since her agenda book was free; so long that she could remember the date; the day after graduation when there were no classes, no homework, and no studying. The distant memory of Mapp taking her out for drinks lingered in mind, and she smiled to herself at recalling her friend’s drastic attempts to get her on the dance floor with the bartender of this place called Duke’s. The bartender was twice her age, large with a long beard and a thinning hairline at the peak of his head. Starling eventually did so and made a profit of three hundred dollars.

There was no Mapp here, and she hated to acknowledge her relief. Best friends were great companions, however sometimes it is essential to get away from everyone, even those you love the most.

Now, walking out of her hotel down toward a café, Starling considered her life back home rather grimly. The absence of a firearm would need to be taken care of. In her years at the Bureau, she had always slept better knowing she could take care of the situation if a robber or worse decided to break into her home. Starling carefully noted to write down an agenda for when she returned, that being the first priority.

The first café she came across was quaint and charming. College French tugged at her ear, and she found that she remembered more than she credited herself. Stepping inside, she was immediately approached by a young woman who greeted her with a terrific smile and exclaimed: “Bonjour! Comment allez-vous ce matin?”

It was a greeting that took Starling a few seconds to process, but in time she found her French ear and replied smoothly. “Je suis très bien, merci. Specials pour le jour?” She knew her accent betrayed her as American, for she was never very talented at pulling off a foreign tone, but the woman seemed genuinely impressed that any American would know the language well enough not to ask for a translation.

“Nous prenons le café français de vanille aussi bien que la noisette. Vous aiment un menu?”

Starling nodded. “Oui, merci.”

The waitress drew two menus by the stand at which she would later pay and motioned for her to follow. “De cette façon, s'il vous plaît.”

As Starling sat, the woman placed a napkin and spoon at her disposal and smiled, this time speaking in English, her voice doused with a French accent as she said, “You speak French very well, mademoiselle.”

“Thank you,” Starling replied with a smile. “I took several classes in college.”

“Decided on anything to drink?”

“That Hazel Nut coffee you mentioned sounds divine.”

The woman nodded and was off within a second. Starling considered inquiring about a paper for a minute, then realized it would be in French and knew she couldn’t read the language as well as she could speak it. Chuckling to herself, she sat back, blinking at her surroundings for the first time in disbelief.

“How did I get here?” she said aloud, not registering the idea that she was speaking to herself.

Easy, Starling, you had a moment of temporary insanity. But who’s complaining? You’d much rather be here than at some job interview in the States, now wouldn’t you?

The answer to that question seemed more than obvious, and Starling felt no need to answer herself. Her coffee came shortly and she was left to examine the menu for possible breakfast items. She was grateful for the English translation to the side. She found she wasn’t terribly hungry and ordered a simple bagel. Simplicity was blissful at times.

A variety of conversations surrounded her, most all in French. She supposed she would run into fewer tourists here than if she were in Paris, and was glad for that distinction. Tourists were often obnoxious, and she didn’t want anything here to spoil her fun.

After finishing her second cup of coffee, Starling’s eyes wandered upward, toward the door. Her tongue trailed over her upper lip to wipe the residue of Hazel Nut away, and froze there for a number of seconds. When it came to her attention that her tongue was hanging out her mouth, she drew it back in with subconscious slowness. Her heart likewise stopped, and she let out a breath as it started again.

Sitting perhaps five tables away, in the company of a man and woman approximately his age was Dr. Hannibal Lecter himself. He wasn’t looking at her, nor was his face alert to her presence. Starling stopped and considered. Was it possible he hadn’t seen her? Certainly not; the doctor did not miss anything. However, she was sure he would meander over here in his own good time and make the formal greeting as was customary. Her morning was stolen like a rug under feet, and she found herself incapable of enjoying her coffee or even the manners of the polite waitress.

Within an hour, the man in his company stood. Dr. Lecter likewise rose to his feet and shook his hand. He then turned to woman, not as old as Starling thought, and kissed her hand. In reply, the woman batted her eyes shamelessly, stumbling over herself to flirt with the doctor. Starling felt something rise within her and regrettably acknowledged it as jealousy. She thought such obvious attempts to get into his pants would offend Dr. Lecter, but he seemed to reciprocate and even enjoy it.

Then, he was gone. All three of them left, the doctor still failing to make eye contact or even register that he was aware of her presence. Starling suddenly felt empty inside. Had she really been such a small addition to his life? After their last meeting, she hardly thought so. Now, seeing him speaking civilly with people, people so very oblivious to his past history, Starling could hardly understand how she would mean anything in this man’s life. That thought drained even more emotion from inside her, and she felt the distant need to cry.

This is stupid! She scolded herself, standing to pay for her coffee. You made the decision back at the lake house, you made him very aware that you would never want him. So why are you upset now? Just because he smiled at another woman instead of eating her tongue doesn’t mean it will go anywhere. Hell, he’ll probably lose them the first chance he gets.

But she had to be sure. Grasping her purse, Starling jumped to her feet and rushed out, placing her sunglasses over her eyes as she caught sight of them down the sidewalk. Determined to maintain a casual air, Starling started walking at a good pace, though it hardly looked rushed. Locals might pass it off as a common American and how they were always in a hurry. No time to act leisurely now. If she didn’t put her mind to ease now, her entire vacation would be ruined.

It’s a bit late for that, girl, the voice told her knowingly. Even if he isn’t another woman, what do you plan to do after that? Stalking him down the sidewalks doesn’t really scream that you’re over it. In fact, I’d say you’re pretty much under it. If he is with another woman, what then? Will you go home and cry your eyes out? Will you make petty suicide threats to your reflection? Denying that you feel nothing toward this man is utterly in vain, and this only proves it. Why did you even come here? To get over things. This is hardly getting over anything, sugar.

Starling screamed inwardly for the voice to shut up, and that seemed to silence it for a few minutes. She felt her hair tumbling from its clip and slowed her pace, knowing if she was going quick enough for her hair to catch the wind, that she was losing her control. Her thoughts traveled to scenarios. Perhaps he had seen her. Would he be amused that she was following him? What would he think of her attire? It was classy; a much improved selection of her prior wardrobe. Today she was dressed in a gray blouse and black dress pants. Her shoes were only slightly improved over the ones he had insulted ten years before; black and clunky. It occurred to her how much she had grown to value his opinion, and cursed at herself again.

His breakfast companions were getting into a cab now, and Starling forced herself to stop, turning to her right abruptly to look as though she was window shopping. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw with relief that Dr. Lecter wasn’t going with them, instead turning and continuing in the opposite direction. Starling wasn’t aware she was moving again until she nearly stepped in front of a car. She was relieved when it declined to honk and waited until the road was clear before pursuing.

Okay, so he’s alone now. Why the hell are you still following? Turn around, Starling, turn around now and go back to your hotel. Better yet, go shopping. Yes. That’ll take your mind off things.

But her feet were not obeying her mind. She felt herself shoot forward, despite her attempts to stop. At some point, Dr. Lecter stopped and turned into a shop, disappearing with fluent ease. Starling’s heart skipped a beat as she hoped against hope that it wasn’t a men’s store. To her relief, it wasn’t; rather a lotion shop. Carefully staying out of the vision of the front windows, Starling decided against entering and instead turned to the shop beside it. Perfect; a women’s clothing store. Not believing her good fortune, Starling trailed inside, staying near the window so she could see when he left.

This break from her walk gave her time to consider. How likely was it that she had chosen the exact city Dr. Lecter had fled to for her vacation? Of every place in Europe, of every place in the whole goddamn world, they both ended up here. Starling had never toyed with the idea of fate, her devotion to any deity not as remarkable as it had once been. If there was a God, she didn’t him setting her up with a cannibal twice her age. However, she was here, and no more than ten yards away was Dr. Lecter. Three encounters in ten years, all tampering with her emotions in a way that was unhealthy for any woman in her situation.

People will say we’re in love.

Yeah, people have been saying it, Starling thought grimly, brushing through a selection of sweaters, her eyes elevating to the windows every few seconds. Now the big debate is…are they right?

Of course they’re not! She screamed at herself a second later. The voice returned then, as loud and insulting as ever.

Of course not, Starling, of course not. That’s why you’re here, waiting for the chance to follow him again, hoping he isn’t attached to anyone. Why you’re on the verge of tears when you think of him even looking at another woman. No, no, little Starling, you’re perfectly healthy. Every FBI agent has nasty thoughts about the centerpiece of the Ten Most Wanted. That’s right. Every damn one of them.

Starling shook her head, distantly hearing the jingling of the bell above the entrance door. Her eyes were embedded on the ground, her mind doing somersaults as she continued to scream at the voice, whosever it was. Her fingers brushed over a nice-feeling sweater and she checked for one in her size. Forcing her thoughts away from Hannibal Lecter, she took it off the hanger and she headed for the register.

That’s when she heard the voice and stopped her in tracks. She couldn’t see far in the direction it was coming from for a display of pants between here and the register. Her breath stilled and she stretched herself to hear, sure that the pounding of her heart could be heard all through France.

“I am looking for a scarf,” Dr. Lecter was saying.

“Oh, good, we have lots of scarves,” replied the saleslady. It was almost difficult to understand her for the accent. “What color do you have in mind?”

“Violet,” Dr. Lecter replied, his voice flowing beautifully, something she had always admired.

Why the hell is he buying a scarf? For a lady friend? Oh, God, I’d kill myself!

“Allow me to go check, monsieur.” The click of the saleslady’s heels could be heard long after she exited the room. Starling thought it best to make a bolt for the door. She crept back to the place she acquired the sweater and placed it delicately on the hanger, eying the door now with a sort of grim knowledge that speaking with him would be inevitable if she left. She wasn’t sure she could go through with it; the idea of meeting him in a store where he is buying a gift for a lady friend especially unattractive.

I should just tough it out, she thought. He’ll leave in a few minutes, and then I can buy my sweater and leave. Then I’ll stop thinking about him and try to enjoy my vacation.

She took the sweater back off the hanger and held it indecisively.

The voice returned then with a mocking tone. Yeah right. That’ll happen. Uh huh. Brilliant plan, Ex Special Agent Starling. Brilliant.

Starling forced the thought away as she settled down, thinking it was possible, that she had lived ten years without giving him a thought of this nature and now shouldn’t be any different. Hell, she hadn’t even felt this way until seeing him kiss that other woman’s hand. How was she to know it wasn’t that bizarre behavior that people undergo when in foreign countries thing again?

Because it ain’t, hunny, said the voice. It ain’t and you know it.

Shut up, shut up! For God’s sakes, SHUT UP!!!

For a minute, Starling feared she had shouted that vocally, but realized with relief that the echoes were still only in her mind.

Then, a voice that was most definitely not in her mind, said delicately from behind her. “Good morning, Clarice.”

Fin

Part 1 of 3

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copyright 2001, DianaLecter

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