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copyright 2003, by Mel

Disclaimer:    These characters 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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Having handed in her report to the Bureau earlier that morning, Clarice Starling was making her way through the maze of grey and taupe corridors, traveling deeper and deeper below the earth, on the way to her windowless office in the basement of Behavioral Science. Blevins had sent an escort with her 'for her own comfort,' and she had barely managed to shake him off after a quick visit to the lavatories on the ground floor. She had lost him in the throng in the lobby. Still, she only had a few minutes at best. There were just one or two things she preferred they not know she had taken…

When the young agent arrived, slightly red-faced, at the door to her office, Clarice greeted him brightly.

"Quite a crowd up there huh? Well, I'm more or less done here. Just a few personal effects from my desk." For show, she picked out a few knick-knacks and doodads from the desktop and inside the drawer, and dropped them into the carton she was carrying. Her hand paused, hovering over John Brigham's pecking bird. She chose to leave it. A cardigan from the back of her chair thrown nonchalantly on top of the contents of the box finished her pillage of the office.

"I hope you get to come back to work soon, Ms. Starling." The agent hovering in the doorway said sheepishly, "as soon as you're feeling better, that is."

"Oh I'm quite alright now - Steve, was it?"

"Yes ma'am. Steve Harwell"

"Well Agent Steve Harwell, thanks for accompanying me. If you have to see me out, let's get it over and done with." There was not a hint of accusation in her voice, but the young man had the good grace to blush and apologize.

"If it was up to me, ma'am…"

"I know." She looked at the office one last time. "Let's go."

Clarice had been out running in the park, but it had become painful emotionally, to run in that same place knowing he had watched her there. Home again, and a quick shower later, she was nursing a cold Dos Equis and trying desperately to think of something to do until Ardelia Mapp came home and provided some welcome distraction. Sitting idle like this was poison. She supposed it would get better in time, but every heartbroken soul knows this, and none much care. How she missed him. If she thought of her heartache as payment for his freedom it was a little easier to bear, though not by much. The heart is selfish deep-down, she was coming to understand. The cold beer was soothing going down, though she knew she would feel the complaint from her over-active stomach sooner or later. She attributed the recurring sickness she was experiencing to the stress and drama, and figured it would go away sooner or later. Despite all her best efforts to the contrary, Clarice found herself dwelling on those last few hours on the Chesapeake once more…


The bedroom was dark but a soft glow from a nightlight in the hallway outside enabled Clarice to see her way to the bathroom without bumping into anything and making too much noise. Only when she closed the bathroom door and switched on the light did she realize the absurdity of her carefulness. He had certainly woken as soon as she had left the bed, if not sooner. There was no doubting the sharpness of his senses. She wondered vaguely if he always slept so lightly. She splashed a little water on her face, and slicked her tousled hair back from her face.

When she emerged from the bathroom, he was up and drawing the curtains. He had donned his trousers and his shirt hung open on his broad torso. They looked at one another for a long moment before he spoke.

"There are clothes in the closet, my dear."

"Thanks," she hesitated, suddenly aware of her nudity. Her body read a little like Wound Man, but she was oddly un-shy now.

"I'll be making dinner, if you're hungry. Might I suggest the black dress that is hanging? There are also the shoes I bought for you…"

She crossed to the closet and, opening the doors wide, pulled out the slip of a dress hanging therein. The material was silky soft yet heavy and, she noticed, there was not all that much of it.

"I've never worn anything like this in my life," she half laughed.

"We have a guest downstairs, also." He offered.

"A guest?"

"Mr. Krendler. I caught up with him two days ago when I ventured out for some medical supplies for you."

Clarice swallowed hard and looked down at the floor. She was not sure how she should react. Certainly she understood that Lecter was not a cat to change his spots, she just hadn't expected to be consulted. She was giving him the freedom he wanted, but she didn't want to be holding onto the tail of this snake. Evidently he understood.

"I tell you, my sweet girl, not to invite you into my plans, merely to have you understand that you may wish to stay upstairs a while longer, and then join me later. Surely you have," he paused as if searching for the words, "things women do, to do…?" He cracked a grin at his ineptitude. Relieved, Clarice relaxed.

"What time would you like me to come down?"

He looked at his watch.

"It is just 6.30 now. I'd be happy for you to join me oh, around 9?"

"I'd love to."

A heavy silence followed. They stood on either side of the room trying not to look uncomfortable. There were things that needed to be discussed. He took the lead, moving to the bed and sitting down on it. He patted it lightly.

"Come sit for a moment."

Clarice obliged.

"I think it best if we get you out of here tonight. Sooner rather than later is always better."

She nodded, suddenly choked up. He went on:

"In order to keep you out of trouble, it would be safest if we fabricated a capture and escape. We'll put a few things in place, you will call the authorities, and I… I will leave."

Glossing over the details of their little playlet, Clarice went straight to the issue that bothered her the most.

"Where will you go?"

"Honestly? I haven't decided yet. Asia, possibly. Florence is a little hot right now, for me at least." He showed his small white teeth in a soft grin. "I haven't visited Hong Kong in many years."

"Will I hear from you?"

"Maybe not for a long time. Maybe not… well, I can't promise a lot of anything. You must understand, they'll be watching you like hawks. They distrust you already. They're still waiting to be able to put that final nail in the coffin of your career."

"Well I'm gonna beat them to that." She muttered.

"That's my girl." His quiet response touched her deeply. It was true, she was now forever his. Instead of fearing her future alone, Clarice now saw more potential there than she ever had.

"So," she said, affecting a brightness she didn't truly feel. "9 o'clock?"

He drew her into a kiss then, a kiss that lingered on her lips long after he had left the room, closing the door behind him and leaving her to her thoughts.

Soaking in the bath-tub an hour later, Clarice hummed to herself and tried not to think of what might be going on downstairs, out of sight and out of earshot. She felt no remorse at Paul Krendler's fate. His death would have a certain symmetry, she mused, a certain irony; the rudest man she knew was being attended to by the most polite.

Aside from not thinking about Krendler the hyena, Clarice was also not thinking about the likelihood that her dinner date, in just over an hour's time, would be the last time she saw Hannibal Lecter like this. She tried to think of him as 'Hannibal' but the thought did not rest easy with her, and the odds were that she wouldn't have time to grow into that familiarity with him. Toweling off and applying some of the fragrant lotion she had found in the bathroom cabinet brought Clarice to 8.30pm, and she decided it was time to dress and go downstairs. She ran her fingers over the smooth black dress and thought for a second about underwear. Feeling brazen, she slipped the dress over her head sans panties, and turned to the mirror to survey the image. What she saw she was not expecting.

Although her hair was in the same pony tail it always was, her face bore the same lack of makeup as ever, the reflection in the glass was a different woman than she was accustomed to meeting in the mirror. Something had changed, something major. Clarice felt she was looking at a new face, and it was not unpleasant. She saw herself standing straight, she looked confident and beautiful. The dress became her terribly. Sliding her feet into the shoes, she buckled the ankles and returned to her image in the ornate mirror. The dress was simple, slashed from the neckline all the way to her navel, and the same in back, and falling to just below her knees. The shoes felt expensive. For a second Clarice had a glimpse of the woman she was in his presence, the woman he had made her, and she wanted to weep with pleasure. She felt a pride in herself that had been long dormant, felt it swelling in her breast and shining from every pore in her body. An inner calm was settling over her being as she continued to stare at herself. She wondered how she could ever repay him for giving her life, and her thoughts turned back once more to the immediate. It was 9pm.

She was telling the truth when, in her paperwork for the Bureau, she had reported that she hadn't eaten at dinner with Dr Lecter and Paul Krendler. She and Lecter had shared a quiet supper in the living room. She wouldn't have even known Krendler had been there if not for the delicious smell of cooking that hung in the air, and every now and then a short burst of song was audible at the edges of her hearing. At Lecter's request, she did her best to put it from her mind.

"So it's time, I guess," she offered. "I wish we could stay like this forever, but this is killing me." She dropped her gaze.

"I understand." He leaned closer on the couch they were sharing and put one hand to her face. "Never forget, Clarice. You're always mine."

"And you?" she said quietly, hardly daring to hope.
"I think the fact that you sit here before me speaks of the value I place in you."

They sat companionably, for another few minutes, before he broke the silence.

"Let's go trash the kitchen."

An explosive laugh was forced from her and he stood and tugged her to her feet. In the kitchen, they set about knocking dishes from the spaces on the shelves and units, Clarice trying not to look at the wooden screen that hid the evening's earlier dinner guest. Lecter yanked at the door handle on the fridge, while Clarice fastened her cuffs around her own wrist and let the other end hang free.

"It's time for you to make the call Clarice."

"Yes," she nodded, stepped into the hallway and picked up the receiver. Lecter turned his back. She did not see him squeezing his eyes tight shut, nor the deep breath he required not to call it all off and steal her away, forever on the run together. She dropped the handset mid-conversation with the emergency services and turned to him. From his suit jacket, Lecter produced a syringe. Clarice's eyes filled with tears, but she stubbornly blinked them back and offered her arm.

He advanced upon her position, and covered her mouth with his as he simultaneously inserted the needle under her skin.. She choked back a sob as he withdrew the hypodermic, immediately beginning to feel the effects of the morphine, and feeling a rising panic at having to let him go now the moment was upon them. He pulled her into an embrace and whispered into her ear.

"Be careful, my Clarice. Don't try to go too far, you might hurt yourself."

"I won't." She muttered, her head swirling. "You have to go now."

"Don't forget me, Clarice Starling."

"Not in a thousand years."

Clarice stood straight and tall, as she watched him leave, dimly registering the sirens in the distance. After what seemed like an age, she dried her eyes and stumbled outside.


PART 3 of 5

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