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End Game

copyright 2003, by Natasha Von Lecter

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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Seven years have passed, and yet it still feels like the first day. His hand on mine is enough to send me into a heady spiral of desire. The only drug that courses through my veins now is adrenaline, and that in no small supply. My mind is my own and yet, is his still. Seven years. I have changed the color of my hair, and the style. I have changed my public voice, although in the solitude of our bedroom I still excite him with my coalmine accent. I have feasted at his side and known no shame. Seven years, and it still feels like the first day.

~~~~~~


        The music is delicious. This new Soprano, I had my doubts, but she really is turning out to be quite divine. Buenos Ares has not disappointed. I wish I could stay here forever, I think, even as the hairs on the back of my neck begin to rise. There are fifteen, alone, in the audience. Who would have imagined they would have the good taste to wait, at least, until the intermission. Ah, My last opera. I consider the time I have left, whether it’s a matter of minuets or weeks, and wonder if it’s worth the effort to commit the performance to the recital hall of my memory palace. For the sake of art, I do.


~~~~~~


I can sense the change in him, and I feel myself go rigid. I still have not perfected his eerie powers of observation. I only sense they are there because his posture has signaled their presence to me. Time swerves off-kilter as he removes his gaze from the stage below our box, and joins his eyes to mine. I see seven years buried in the depths of his red storm eyes. The tenderness that a beast feels only for its mate. Across the velvet of my dress, his hand travels, seeking my own, finding it, and grasping it with the conviction of a man on his deathbed. He whispers quietly to me, and I strain to hear:

“You have been a joy to me, Clarice”.

If words existed to describe the feelings in my heart, I would surely speak them now. In a flash, he grabs me hard across the chest, and drags me from our box.


~~~~~~


I burst through draping velvet curtains, felling the first with a deft slice across the neck. He goes down and gurgles pink at the lips. I grip her close to my chest, sheltering her head from the bullets I suspect will be on their way. My back is to the wall, the avenue of attack stretching out in front of me. My back, at least, is safe. I feel her quivering against me, and am overcome with the desire to sink to the floor and rape her lips with my own. I allow myself no such luxury. If one of us is to make it out alive, it will depend on my actions now. My life is forfeit. Whether sentence will be pronounced by a bullet’s rupture, or a needles prick, there is no doubt that time, for me, is up. But what of my Clarice? There is no death for her except the slow death of a caged animal. One glimpse of the willingness in her eyes, and they’d be readying the cell. They must not see it. Better to play monster enough for us both. They are shouting orders with all the finesse of a boot camp drill sergeant. I lock eyes with the agent at the fore. I wink at him, and sink my teeth into her cheek.


~~~~~~


As we tear out into the foyer, I feel as if I’ve been punched hard in the stomach. I know what he is doing. I want to scream bloody murder to the assembled crowd, crying out my allegiance to the man who pins me hard against his chest. I hardly notice as a thin stream of blood from the falling man glances off my eyelash. The first tear that falls carries it down my cheek, leaving an ironic bloody trail over my skin. His back is up against the wall, and I know the end is not far away. They may allow me my life, but my life begins and ends with him. I fight back a wave of delirious laughter as I remember high school drama, Romeo’s lament at the empty bottle of poison at his beloved’s feet. His teeth have ventured over every inch of my body, but when they sink into my cheek it is the first time I cannot bear the pain. His warm baritone rubles through his chest:

“That’s from me, Clarice. You keep that one”.

I have never been more grateful for a scar. He whispers in my ear, and I absorb his commands.

“They’ll deprogram you. Give it four weeks, then break for them. Another three months in a psych ward, and you’ll be free and clear.”

I choke back a sob, and he pulls me tighter, in a grim parody of a hug. The gorier the better, I know he is thinking, as his rough tongue steals one last taste from my weeping cheek.


~~~~~~


My world shifts, as I know, with an utter certainty, that I would go to a cage for the woman, if that were the only way. But, luckily for me, it is not. I could grip her close and charge through the gunmen, falling in a bloody heap atop her. The image appeals to me. But can I be sure they will not miss and catch the delicate curve of my Clarice’s skull? I survey the outstretched gun of the agent before me. There is a tremble in his hand, and I dare not chance it. I know what must be done, and I steel myself as I inhale deeply at the curve of her neck. I am surprised to find that I still have a place for joy, in my heart, even now. I am truly changed, and unchanged. A heartbeat more, and I bid her farewell.

“Forgive me, Clarice”.

~~~~~~


He shoves me roughly from him, and I hit the ground what seems like an eternity later. My eyes, ever drawn to him, rise just in time to see twenty bullets rip through his all too human flesh. I would throw myself in front of his bullets, but I know he would never forgive me. He stays standing, and shifts his gaze to mine, a pink stain forming at the corner of his lip. And then that little smile that rips my heart from my chest and grinds it hard into the cold hard ground beside my father and my love. He winks, then gracefully sinks to his knees.

“That’s my girl”.

He is down on the ground before me. I touch my hands to his crimson riddled tuxedo, and press my lips to his cheek while my hair hides my last goodbye from onlooker’s view. I am dragged off him by the force of three men, and I still take a piece of white cotton dress shirt with my fingernails. They hoist me to my feet and hurry me into a waiting transport. It is of no matter. He will be with me always.


FIN

copyright 2003, by Natasha Von Lecter

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