copyright 2003, by
Natasha Von Lecter
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
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It starts with a thrumming in her ears, a sound very much like the thick, coursing current of a river swelling its’ banks. Gradually she becomes aware that the frantic pulse is not water, but blood rushing through her veins, echoing in the pitch black cavern of her inner ear. A bead of sweat forms in the crevice of a worry line that strains her forehead, and trickles past the indentation of her temple. Her sweat reeks of fear, panic. Even across the room, he can smell it. It is a perfume that both excites him and gives him pause. He does not rise, but instead continues to watch the frenzy of her flickering eyelids, moving with the same jerky desperation of a rabbit caught in the jaws of a fox.
The deafening thunder grows louder, terror wrapping it’s icy fingers around her pounding heart until she fears she may drown in her own blood. Louder, and fiercer, it doubles, and triples in intensity. Abruptly, all falls silent. Still entombed in sleep, she gasps. Shivers. She rides out the frigid silence. And then it starts. A scream pierces her to the core. And then another. Another. She clutches at her crisp cotton shroud, hands draining white as she clenches the fabric.
Beside her, he feels the arctic breath of fear against his own cheek, as the sacrificial scream of a child tears at the walls of his memory palace. Hannibal Lecter stares fear down, and it slips quietly away, seeking more likely quarry. His attention returns to the shivering figure on the bed. He draws closer mere inches from her face, now. Just below her chin, her jugular is clearly demarcated by the rapid flutter of her elevated pulse. With effortless grace he extends his index finger and slides it gently over the creamy skin of her neck. She jolts awake, eyes flashing open, greeted by two bloody pools hovering in her view.
“Are they screaming still, Clarice?”
Before she can dart for her gun, she finds herself caught, both wrists neatly held above her head in his iron grip. She tears her eyes away from him, glancing at the top drawer of her shabby night table.
“I’ve taken the precaution of removing your firearm. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Where is it, Dr. Lecter?”
Her voice sounds sharp and harsh, an impressive feat for a woman so thoroughly incapacitated. He smiles wryly at her, and winks.
“Safe. You’ll find it easily after I’m gone.”
He slightly eases his hold on her wrists, enjoying the indentations left by his thumbs on her pristine skin.
“I’d like to let you go, Clarice. Will you give me your word that you’ll stay seated until I ask otherwise?”
His voice is hypnotic.
He releases her, and cold air blasts her in his absence, drying the fear-sweat that still clings to her body. She looks down reproachfully at her sleeveless cotton nightgown, her bare arms, and silently chastises herself for forgoing sweats and a t-shirt. She always feels naked in his presence, and being nearly so makes her feel even more vulnerable.
He settles back into his chair, putting his feet up on the worn ottoman, and steeples his fingers. She raises her head and meets his gaze defyently. He does not deign to notice. The silence stretches out between them. She breaks first.
“Why are you here, Dr. Lecter?”
He knits his eyebrows, purses his lips.
“All business, even now, Clarice?”
Her voice sounds small and lost and he breaks in.
“I’ve been worried about you, since they turned you loose.”
A deep-south drawl seeps into his words, the smooth inflection cutting into her like a knife.
“Thoroughbreds don’t take well to Pasture, my dear. I’ve been here several nights, Clarice. They’re screaming louder than ever, aren’t they?”
Cutting and soothing in one breath. The sweet voice that has insinuated itself into her daily thoughts now issues forth from between the lips that hide two gleaming rows of deadly teeth. The panic from her dream has subsided now, retreating to darker recesses of her mind. The man beside her bed stirs many feelings in her. It comes as only a small surprise to her that fear is not foremost among them.
“Yes. And why do you think that IS Clarice?”
They fall into the steady rhythm of conversation they’ve shared before, his sable voice prying into her mind, sleekly dissecting each thought.
“I don’t know.”
“Postulate for me then.”
“I no longer have the opportunity to serve and protect.”
His features wrinkle slightly in distaste.
“Come now, Clarice. Leaving the FBI has nothing to do with your ability to guard the flock. There are a million different ways you can save the stragglers. Women’s Shelters. Social Work. You could even take up post as a night watchman.”
The biting again. Inwardly she flinches. He sees, gauges her reaction, and continues.
“No, Clarice, the screams may have driven you into the arms of the FBI but what you don’t see is that they drove you from their arms as well. Could you truly expect the lambs to be content with raids in fish markets? Do you think they bleated contentedly when you cut me loose from that make shift cross Mason hung me upon?”
“I don’t follow you, Doctor.”
His deep red eyes glint with amusement in the darkened room.
“I wish you would, Clarice. We could have some fun.”
The humor fades from his voice laced by a low and somber tone.
“Are you familiar with the works of Aristotle, Clarice?”
“No. I remember some vaguely from High School.”
“Aristotle introduced western thought to the idea of Catharsis. He believed that the reason audiences clamored for tragedies was that they received a sort of relief from watching painful events play out before them.”
“I’ve seen my fair share, Doctor.”
“And still you bathe in a fear-sweat every night. I ask you again, why do you think that is, Clarice?”
“Because watching it again and again is not enough.”
His eyes flutter closed, and he breaths in deeply, like a man lost in the enjoyment of a fine wine.
“Precisely. You need release.”
“I’m fine, Dr. Lecter.”
“Oh, no Clarice, you’re very far from fine. Get up.”
She startles slightly at the change in his tone, from conversation to command in the space of a second. She shrugs the sheets from her legs and rises.
Opening her closet, he pulls a clean white t-shirt and neat khakis from their hangers. He smiles as his hands slip over the silky black fabric of a familiar dress.
“I’m relived to see you kept it, Clarice. The thought of such a becoming garment hidden away in an evidence locker would displease me immensely.”
Stepping to her he gently sets the pants and shirt in her arms, his hands coming to rest at her elbows. The moment lasts forever, much longer than the constraints of time and physics allow. He guides her towards her bathroom, and gives her am a little squeeze before drawing back.
“Get dressed, and relieve yourself. We may be awhile.”
“Just where are we going, Dr. Lecter?”
“I think it would be better if you didn’t know just yet, Clarice. I promise to return you unharmed before the sun rises. I believe that’s fair.”
“And if I don’t?”
He pulls back the fold of his impeccable suit jacket, revealing the graceful curve of a folded Harpy.
“I could compel your cooperation, if you’d like?”
His smile both chills and enflames her. He smoothes his suit jacket back into place as she retreats into the bathroom.
Emerging, dressed and freshened from the bathroom, she finds herself alone. For a fleeting moment the thought of escape steals across her consciousness. She realizes how inexpressibly rude he would find such behavior and decides against it. She leaves her room, again finding herself alone in the hall. Down the stairs she finds him reclining on her worn couch. In the back of her head it occurs to her that she should find this situation more disturbing that she does, but she shrugs it off and crosses to him. Rising, he is suddenly very close, and the heat of him against her is dizzying. He sniffs he air about her, nostrils flared.
“Your taste has improved, Clarice. Do I detect a note of amber under the almond in your skin cream?”
She attempts to answer, but her voice is thick; it sticks to her throat.
“We best be on our way, then.”
In a heartbeat he is across the room, opening the front door. Taking one last look at her humble house, she follows him out the door.
Parked across the street, waits a white late model Ford Taurus. He strides to the passenger door and draws it open for her. He joins her inside and the engine sparks to life.
“Please forgive the fretfully pedestrian vehicle, Clarice. I needed a car that could be disposed of quickly.”
Fastening her seat belt, Clarice glances down at her hands, then across to his.
“Your hand seems to have healed nicely.”
“They were only minor fractures, Clarice.”
Grasping her hand, he pins it against the steering wheel. His finger trails the path of the delicate bones framing the top of her hand. She shudders half in fear, half in desire.
“Here, you see…and here. All is takes is one hard rap, and they allow the hand to fold in on itself.”
He relinquishes the pressure on her hand and she lays it in her lap, feeling the burning caress still trailing over her flesh. He smells the quickening in her and chuckles low in his throat. It is a sound that has stricken fear into the hearts of many. She merely smiles gently and watches the road ahead.
The lateness of the hour begins to tell on her features, and Clarice slumps slightly in her chair. Glancing at her, he reaches over to brush a stray tendril of rich copper behind her ear. Inwardly he savors the fact that she does not recoil from his touch.
“There’s a blanket in the back if you’d like. It seems spring has not yet managed to melt the chill.”
She reaches back and drapes it over her shoulders. In a moment she is lost to sleep.
The car squeals to a stop on a rough gravel road. Clarice opens her eyes, wondering how long she has slept. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she gazes out the window on the weathered red walls of a massive barn. Fear tightens in the pit of her stomach.
“We’ve reached our destination, Clarice.”
“I’d like to go home.”
“Yes, I suspect you would, Clarice.”
The color drains from her face, as he gets out and comes round to her door. He opens the door but she remains fast in her seat.
She wills her feet to move, but finds them stuck o the floor. He reaches in and grasps her upper arm, roughly pulling her out of the car. She stumbles, but quickly gains her feet, steadied by the length of him pressed firmly to hear back. In a heartbeat, his arm circles her chest, grasping the opposite shoulder and pinning her against him. She feels his smooth cheek brush her own, his voice hissing in her ear.
“Do you see them, Clarice, just over the hillock, and to the right.”
Her tongue thick and sluggish, she nods her reply. He can feel the hammering of her heart fighting like a caged bird to escape it’s bony prison.
“Any minute the rancher will here Clarice, a slice their pretty little necks, flay them from top to tail and hang the carcasses from the rafters. ”
She follows his gaze to a farmhouse on the crest of the hill.
She shudders, and a spasm racks his own body as he feels one of her tears, salty and warm, slide over the grooved skin of his hand. She chokes on a sob.
“You can’t save them all Clarice, but maybe this time you can save just one.”
“Why did you bring me here, Dr. Lecter.”
“Because you need to be brought here, Clarice.”
Roughly he pushes her from him, and she spins on her heels anger and terror distorting her features. Her eyes grow even wider as she sees the porch light of the farmhouse flick on.
“I don’t think you have time to argue with me, Clarice.
Wheeling, she speeds off to the paddock, her legs pumping under her with lightning speed. The edges of her vision blur, her heart races, and her field of vision narrows until all she can see is the small wooden pen.
Skidding to a stop, she yanks open the gate greeted by the gentle bleating of three dozen spring lambs. Without thinking she gathers one up into her arms and sprints back. She can feel the lambs thundering heartbeat matching time with her own as she sees the farmhouse door swing open. She is vaguely aware of the sound of a car starting as time careens around her. She slams into the seat of the Taurus and the car spins out before she can even draw the door shut.
They drive in silence, as she looks with wonder on the soft, wooly newness that lies quietly in her lap. As the adrenaline subsides, her attention shifts back to her get away driver. Suddenly she feels tears of gratitude welling up in her throat.
“Dr. Lecter, I…”
“Hush, Clarice. Tend to your lamb.”
A few moments later they stop once more and Clarice looks up from the snowy mass in her arms. She stifles a laugh as he comes round to her side and opens her door. This time she exits without pause, burying her head once more in the lamb’s silky fleece before handing it over to her benefactor. Deftly picking the lock on the front gate, Hannibal slips inside and out in less than five minutes. She settles back in the car and smiles as they drive off from the Mother Goose Petting Zoo.
Reaching out her hand, he grasps it and places a kiss on her knuckles.
“I will be most surprised if your sleep is anything less than restful from now on, Clarice.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
“Sleep now, Clarice.”
As much as she wants to stay awake beside him and soak up this time together, she obeys. In the coming days she will vaguely remember waking in his arms as he carried her up the stairs, and she thinks, a soft kiss placed on her forehead before he slips back into the darkness again. She will remember falling back into the embrace of sleep, and she will remember the first blessed silence she has experienced since childhood.
copyright 2003, by
Natasha Von Lecter
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