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Hannibal - Reprise

copyright 2000, by Zircon

Disclaimer:    The characters Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling, Ardelia Mapp, Jack Crawford and Jame Gumb 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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Clarice was trapped inside a moment, her world reduced to a pair of hooded, maroon eyes gazing implacably into hers. An offer had been made, cryptic but unmistakable, and she had rejected it. She had known as soon as the denial was wrenched from her lips that her life had been leading up to this exchange for ten years, and an inappropriate despondency consumed her at its passing. She had refused him. It was always going to be so. Neither of them had expected anything else.

It still felt like a death.

Clarice wished he hadn't used the word 'love', as though the connection between them could be couched in normal, human, everyday terms. Monsters should not be able to love. Love should be anathema to Hannibal Lecter, if her world was to stay ordered and comprehensible.

The moment stirred and time started again.

Lecter bared his teeth and jerked towards her threateningly, but Clarice was too displaced from reality to flinch. And the attack never came, because his expression strained and then softened, as though he fought some internal conflict, and then he half-smiled, before murmuring, "That's my girl." The words hinted at something bittersweet, though Lecter's eyes glittered with their usual feral awareness. And there was nothing she could say in reply, because she understood in that instant that, even in her refusal, she was his, and more incredible still, the reverse was also true.

Lecter leaned forward then, to kiss her as she stood, immobile, pinned against the refrigerator. His lips pressed hers, firm but hardly aggressive, and she was grateful for the way he had caught her hair in the fridge door, because it gave her a genuine excuse for not trying to squirm away. When she heard the snick of the handcuffs, she was almost as surprised as he. The doctor pulled back and then, astonishingly, he grinned widely. He really seemed to be enjoying the game.

"Well Clarice, this is interesting!" he observed gleefully, raising their captured wrists together. Clarice couldn't reply. She was still processing her reaction to the sensation of his mouth on hers. There was a small part of her which screamed outrage at her lack of disgust, but the drugs left her unable to analyse further. She was aware, and the haze was slowly fading as she concentrated, but there remained much that was dream-like about this awkward stand-off in the kitchen.

He'd been talking. Demanding the key? She hadn't heard. Then her eye caught his free hand and saw the cleaver. Captive in the refrigerator door, she had no leverage to wriggle away as his cuffed hand clamped hers to the table.

"What do you think, Clarice, above or below the wrist?" he asked conversationally, and gestured accordingly with the honed steel. Her blood ran cold. All thoughts fled to leave her reality centered on the wicked blade of the cleaver. Ridiculously, she wanted to shake her head violently and wake herself from the nightmare. With deceptive mildness, he added, "This is really going to hurt."

And then she knew.

It was something in his eyes, or something in the words they'd exchanged, or something buried deeper, something instinctive, but she knew, and her stomach pitched with the knowledge. Even as the cleaver was raised to scythe downward, she found her voice.

"Oh god, it's going to hurt you more than me, isn't it?"

He paused and looked at her curiously. There was reluctant admiration as he acknowledged her perception, quickly replaced by strangely gentle reproach.

"Clarice," he berated softly, without elaborating. He took a hold of the cleaver more firmly and prepared to make good his escape. And she knew he could do it, because pain didn't affect Lecter in the same way it affected most human beings. He could compartmentalize it, shove it to one side, lose himself in some other area of his mind. He was going to get away despite her efforts. And he would rather maim himself than harm her. With that awareness, everything changed, and a thousand years flew past in a heartbeat.

"Don't! The key's in my sandal," she blurted out. Her ears picked up the distant sound of sirens and she realized that there was no time left. Her head strained uselessly against the door for a moment. "I can't reach it but you can."

There. The choice was back with him again. Lecter didn't dwell on this change of heart, his actions efficient and smooth. The cleaver dropped to the floor, his free hand snaked between their bodies as she lifted her foot awkwardly, and his fingers located the key beneath the sole of her foot. His gaze didn't leave her face as he did so, and Clarice let her eyes fall shut because she was too tired and conflicted to see his expression any longer. One thing she did know, however. He hadn't thought for a moment that this was a ruse to waste some more time. He had witnessed her epiphany and recognized it for what it was.

A snick, and the warmth of his body drifted away from her. It was a loss, and Clarice swallowed. Another snick. Had he freed her or left her bound? In a way, the greatest gift he could give her, now she had refused to accept a severed piece of his hand, was to leave her cuffed to whatever was convenient and run. She could have her life back, then.

But did she really want that life, with the politics and the petty personal disputes and the corrupted morality shrouded in the letter of the law? Did she want to go back to the J. Edgar Hoover Building and try to pick up the pieces of her career? Nothing seemed less attractive in that instant. The foundations she had built her career, indeed her whole life upon were flawed. Rotten. Now, she wanted something purer, and she'd been certain of that fact since making the decision to drive out to Verger's estate and do her best to save a killer from a vigilante execution.

She moved her arm experimentally. She was free. She opened her eyes to see Lecter looking back. The sirens were getting louder. He reached past her and prised open the refrigerator door sufficient to free her trapped hair.

"Want to change your mind again?" he asked. "I think the candlestick's still around here somewhere ..."

The adrenaline-fuelled urge to attack him had long since departed, however. She'd already made her decision. What was important to her now was that Lecter should understand it came from a position of strength rather than surrender. She shook her head firmly. "I've chosen this on my own terms."

He acknowledged her with a small, significant nod. If he was as disconcerted by her assertion as she was, he didn't betray it. "We need to leave, right now."

"What about Krendler?" The tea-towel covered man-shape was still moving, but barely.

"What about him?"

"Will he live?"

"Would you prefer that he does?"

"Yes. No. I don't know."

"Let the paramedics take care of him. Que sera and all that." He gave her no chance to reply, spun away and dived out of the kitchen. Movement made her woozy again, but she kept up as best she could. They proceeded through the house to a patio door at the rear. Lecter opened it and waited for her to creep past him, then he pulled the curtains closed and hit a switch just inside the house. The yard was suddenly plunged into darkness. Lecter shut the door as Clarice slipped on the step and an iron-strong hand was immediately clamped around her upper arm, hauling her back to her feet.

"Carefully," he advised.

"Be easier if I wasn't pumped full of morphine," she complained recklessly.

"Right you are," said Lecter, mildly. He stepped down beside her and pulled her arm over his shoulder, then half guided, half carried her down the path to the small jetty she had observed earlier from upstairs. "Next time you're shot by an animal tranquilizer, no pain-killers. Promise."

"Great. Now I'm putting ideas in your head."

When he answered, his voice seemed very close to her ear. "Oh, Clarice, you've been doing that for ten years." A chill ran down her spine, and Lecter squeezed her closer momentarily, as though he sensed it.

Distantly, she heard the slam of a car door and raised voices. This was too close. "I'm slowing you down," she observed. "I'm deadweight."

"Are you trying to convince me or yourself that you're making a mistake?" Lecter countered impatiently. He let her arm go as they came to the end of the pontoon. She watched him step into the boat moored alongside the jetty and move a drawstring sack from the tiny covered cabin to the stern. He looked up at her as the cool night air chilled her half-naked form. It didn't feel like July.

"Put this on," he instructed, and took his jacket off. She slipped into it, comforted by  heat that had been generated by Lecter's own body. Meanwhile, he began to busy himself with the rope which secured the boat. Without looking at her again he said, "Get in the boat, in the bow. Stay as low as possible and wrap up in the tarpaulin."

Following instructions was easier than thinking. Clarice stepped uncertainly into the boat, immediately queasy with the motion. She swallowed hard and tried to make herself as small as possible at the front of the craft. The tarpaulin was heavy and uncomfortable, but it would be concealing and protective too. She fought it for a moment, pulling it awkwardly around her shoulders.

The boat lurched as Lecter stepped in. "Nothing like cutting it fine," he murmured, reaching for the motor. He tugged once and the engine growled into life, the sudden sound alarmingly loud. Clarice scanned the back of the house, waiting for the police to pour into the garden and force an unconditional surrender. They were here because of her. They were the good guys. She was only moments away from a blanket and a coffee and a warm seat in a patrol car ...

... and her small life where influence outweighed integrity and people looked at her but never saw.

She didn't even think about crying out for help. In truth, she'd been doing that for a long time, and the only man who had ever heard and listened and understood was sitting a few feet away from her.

When the boat began to chug away from the jetty, progress was maddeningly slow. Lecter immediately angled the craft such that it was swallowed up by the bordering tree-line as soon as possible.

"Keep your head down, Clarice. If they see the boat, better that they see only me aboard."

That instruction was easy to follow. Clarice let her head drop into the tarpaulin and tried to remain still and calm. She told herself that she should be thinking about the implications of the choice she had just made, but the thoughts kept petering out in her exhaustion. After a few minutes, she gave in to the urge to let her eyes fall closed, and blackness swallowed her up.


Part 1 of 5

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