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Aligning Windows

Story copyright 1999, by Lectergrrl

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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Clarice Starling hooked her hands behind her head and gazed out her window, not really looking at the bright stars gleaming in the velvety black of space. No, her eyes were centered beyond reality, within that place where one forgets time and substance. Nothing much matters, and it is usually with sweet sorrow we depart from such serenity.

It was over. She had been booted off the case by that awful Doctor Chilton ...

Have you seen his credentials?

... by that awful Director Chilton, and Clarice's hopes of impressing Jack Crawford had reached an unattainable level. She sighed, unaware that she did so in her world of equanimity, her eyes wide and unfocused. She wished, for a moment, that she could remain in that place forever.

Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center. Sounds charming.

She'd deceived him.

If I had sent you in there with an agenda, Lecter would have seen right through it. He would have toyed with you then he would have turned to stone.

"What marvelous trust you had in me, Mister Crawford." She was surprised at herself for voicing the thought aloud; it broke the serenity. She blinked, yearning to return. But the thought loitered in her mind. She had deceived him. Was that even a possibility?  Even accidentally?

She sat up in her bed, rubbing her tired eyes. Littering her bed were rolls of butcher paper, some opened, some neatly tucked. Drawn to one in particular, she stared long and hard at it. As though moved by some unseen force, she brought her fingers to the harshly textured paper, tracing the charcoal lines. It was her portrait - a perfect image of her sitting alone from Dr. Lecter's perspective. The bullet-proof glass was missing, as though he'd privately wished for it to be gone. To kill her? To escape? Or something more?

She abruptly retreated her hand when her fingers began to smudge the charcoal. She'd strayed. Leaving her bed, she fished for a cigarette and lit it briskly, throwing the lighter unceremoniously on her mantle. A picture of her father stared back at her, the crimson point of her cigarette reflected in the glass, staining his hat.

His hat ... her mother, washing the blood in the kitchen ...

She moved away, her throat constricted. She had strayed again. What was it? Ah yes. Deception. Could Lecter be duped? Was it likely? She paused by the window, leaning on the sill and listening to night's song. It was balmy. Temperature she suspected Lecter would enjoy. She didn't know what made her think that, but she was fairly sure of her assessment.

Yes or no, Clarice? Poor little Catherine is waiting ...

His voice was in her mind, taunting her. She closed her eyes, willing herself to listen; the cricket's song managed to clear her thoughts for one, blissful moment. The cigarette propped in her lips, she gathered the drawings and tucked them under her arm. She took one last, insignificant drag, and crushed the cigarette in a too-full ashtray.

"I'm flying to Memphis," was the last Ardelia heard of Clarice until her return the following night, exhilarated, flushed and clutching a thick dossier which would mean more to Clarice than Ardelia would ever hope to divine.

The door slammed and Mapp resumed her studies only after a prolonged pause.

"People will say we're in love."

Clarice's chin lifted at this statement. His poise was slack, reposed. He'd locked his fingers laxly over his lap, elbows propped on his chair. He had the countenance of a psychiatrist in session. His demeanor suggested he was in control. He looked out of place in his steel cage, but acted as though the bars, the police barriers, the cops ... none of them existed.

People will say we're in love ... Is that what you want, Doctor?

Clarice was shocked by the intrusive thought.

"Anthrax island," Lecter resumed. That was an especially nice touch, Clarice." A pause. A nod in acknowledgment. "Yours?"

She tried to keep her excitement from showing. "Yes."

"Yeaaah ... that was good." Somehow, Lecter made the compliment sound double-edged. Had he truly been deceived? Had Clarice - mild-mannered orphan-raised Clarice - managed what very few had achieved before?

"Pity about poor Catherine though. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock ..."

This was it. With a furtive glance to the officers she whispered, "Your anagrams are showing, Doctor. Louis Frend? Iron Sulfide? Also known as fool's gold?" She circled his cage, though did so with less predatory grace than she'd anticipated. Lecter watched her, amused. His answer disappointed her.

"Oh Clarice. Your problem is you need to have more fun in life."

"You were telling me the truth back in Baltimore, Sir. Please continue." She couldn't be sure ... but was it a tinge of pleasure she saw in his eyes? The respectful 'Sir' had slipped without her conscious thought, but it didn't evade the keen Doctor's attention. Quickly, it was gone, and he was motioning to his desk.

"Well I've read the case file. Have you? Everything you need is right there in those pages."

Her patience wore thin. "Then tell me how," she prompted. She glanced again at the officers. Dr. Lecter had lost her interest momentarily, and it didn't seem to please him. He decided to taunt her with further information.

Not too much though ...

"First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it, in itself, what is its nature...?" His voice lowered in pitch ... it became almost seductive. "What does he do, this man you seek?"

Clarice let the sorrow taint her eyes. "He kills women." Blunt. Simplicity. That is what he had asked of her ...

"No," Lecter intoned sharply, closing his eyes in scolding. "That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does, what need does he serve by killing?" An emphasis on need. She paced around the cage, rattling off words as though she was being timed.

Tick tock, tick tock ...

"Anger, social acceptance, sexual frustration--"

"No." This time, his tone brooked no argument. And as Lecter leaned in, his eyes wide with gleaming intensity, Clarice froze. "He covets," he pronounced. "That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now ..."

She paced again, trying to avoid his gaze. "No. We just ..."

"No ..." Softer now, as though seeing potential in her. "We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don't you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice?"

Clarice froze again, though stared right ahead at him at his words.

I feel yours, Doctor, right now ...

"And don't your eyes seek out the things you want?"

Do they? Are they seeking what I want right now?

"All right yes," she nodded quickly, frustrated that he had her so tangled up in doubts, angered that he could manipulate her way of thinking so skillfully. "Then tell me how," she added, re-affirming her agenda.

"No." Playful this time, his body swaying with the chair as he swiveled. "It's your turn to tell me, Clarice. You don't have any more vacations to sell. Why did you leave that ranch?"

He had won, in the end. She wasn't sure if it was a perverse wish to see her crumble in the face of painful memories. Did he get off on tears? No. He had cried too. Something so subtle would have passed by unnoticed by anyone, but Clarice had detected the single unshed tear in his eye as he looked off to Chilton. But still, he'd taken and given nothing in return but a simple thank you. Still, from Dr. Lecter, a thank you was already an accomplishment from a man whose ego spanned far and wide. And perhaps only because she'd given of herself so freely. Not as a patient, but as a woman who needed desperately to save Catherine Martin to silence her lambs. It hadn't been a ploy to advance her career, and Lecter had divined that. Perhaps a lot earlier in their time together than Clarice imagined. That had made her different.

When their fingers touched - the contact had released some unnamable emotion. In that moment, he could have had asked anything, and she would have yielded. And he knew. In that eye-contact, as they touched, the moment stretching into eternity, he knew he had her. And she knew it as well.

Even as she was led away, she glanced back, her eyes peeking over her shoulder pad, burning his image in her mind. She knew it'd be the last she'd see of him for seven long years.

Doctor Lecter managed the abject act of sitting on a toilet bowl seem as though he were seated on a throne. It came naturally. His poise remained elegant despite his semi-privacy. He listened to the notes flow naturally from the cheap recorder chained to his desk, and he imagined himself in a wide, airy ballroom, dancing with Clarice Starling. He'd spent little more than two hours putting the finishing touches on his second drawing of her, simultaneously burning the image in his mind. With her residing in his memory palace, he was free to explore her in every capacity. He would know the experience of killing her. He would know the thrill of reviving her. He would know the exhilaration of making love to her. He would know the savage pleasure of fucking her.

And everything ... everything in between.

Seven long years would never abate her image. He knew without a doubt that he would see her again. And when he did, her presence would remain as familiar to him as it was now.

He blinked.

He looked at the gold pin in his hand.

But for now, other matters needed to be tended to. Only after he would allow himself to privately cherish the moments of adoration for his precious ... precious Clarice Starling.

Somewhere, he heard lambs scream their wail of lament.

I share your world now, Clarice. I shan't ever leave.


Story copyright 1999, by Lectergrrl

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