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The Respite

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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The lambs were screaming.

Clarice Starling tossed in her sleep, plunging her face into the soaked pillow and kicking the offending sheets off her body. A thin sheath of sweat gleamed softly on the slashes of moonlit flesh on her back. Incoherent murmurs rose from the depths of the pillow, muffled and permeated with despair.

In the darkness, Doctor Lecter moved like a predatory feline. He used the shadows to his advantage as he slithered into her room, the blade at his side shining like a mirror as it passed before the wide window. He rested it on her dresser, appropriately over her badge and beside the empty Yaqui slide. Lecter paused. Her preferred Colt .45 must be resting inside her night table. Perhaps even under her pillow. The doctor smiled at that. Quite some time ago he'd promised her he wouldn't call on her. Either she expressed doubt about his intentions, or Clarice Starling was inordinately cautious. Lecter turned, his gleaming eyes focusing upon the moving form upon the small bed. His Clarice, still single ... Of course, this was not news to the doctor. He'd kept a close eye on his would-be protégé, hovering about like a blemish in her life as indelible as the powder mark upon her cheek.

He turned and approached the bed silently. His eyes shone like mercury orbs in the darkness. They took in the form of Clarice as she turned and twisted on the bed. Her smooth back was exposed, bones moving restlessly beneath the ivory flesh. Slowly, he squatted beside the bed until his head was level with hers. He watched her sleep for an untold time, his fingers steepled beneath his chin. His lips had pulled into a smile before long. "Good evening, Clarice," he said after a moment. The metallic rasp from years inside the Baltimore State Hospital's dungeon had left his voice, turning it soft and suggestive as it penetrated Clarice's slumbered mind in gentle waves.

She murmured again. "... so heavy," he thought he heard, and his eyes closed in almost orgasmic delight. It seems the lambs were not silent this cold autumn eve. "Clarice, I promised you I would not call on you, but it was stronger than I. You move me, Clarice," he said, his eyes now narrow slits as they appraised the young woman. "It's quite disconcerting. I've not been moved in long years." His hand reached out until he could barely feel the thin prickles of her hair against his fingers. He moved his hand down in a ghostly caress. "Are the lambs still screaming, Clarice?" he murmured. "They seem to be. I've waited for an answer, but it seems I was forced to seek it out myself. Have I not inspired you, Clarice?" he whispered softly, his head almost swaying with his own rhythmic words. "Perhaps I've demanded too much of you too soon." His hand retreated.

His only answer was a muffled groan.

He fished into his pocket and retrieved a syringe whose needle he plunged into a small, unmarked plastic bottle. When he'd pulled enough medication, he dropped the bottle back in his pocket and turned his gaze to her arm. It was holding her pillow, but he could still find enough surface to administer the drug. When it was done, he moved away from her and found a chair in the corner. He sat smoothly, his lips pursed in thought. He was a patient man. The drug would take some time before it affected her.

Clarice awoke with a start, patting blindly for her gun. She found it, nestled between the mattress and the headboard, and pointed it hysterically in front of her. Her vision blurred with unexplained tears, Clarice felt the gun tremble in her hands. An overpowering fear had griped her body, much like the fear she had experienced deep inside Jame Gumb's basement with no light to guide her through the maze of rooms and corridors. Split-second reflexes had been her only resource. But now, she could not explain her fear. She could not explain why her body trembled.

Lecter formed a prayer of thought with his hands, touching his two index fingers to his lips. He narrowed his eyes in the darkness, watching as Clarice struggled with herself. She would not see him until he wanted her to see him. He smiled at that.

"Special Agent Clarice Starling of the F. B. I.," he pronounced each letter with sardonic glee. "I've missed you."

The drug he'd administered was wonderful in its usage. Through the power of suggestion, he could easily manipulate her. The drug affected her senses and nervous system as well. He knew for a certainty she couldn't determine where he stood in the room. And this pleased him. It wouldn't do at all to have her shoot at him unprovoked.

"Doctor Lecter," she gasped out, and Hannibal cocked his head. No-one spoke his name as she did. Usually, it was with disgust or morbid glee. Rarely with respect. Indeed, Clarice respected the fact she was trapped. But regardless, Hannibal savoured also the faint southern accent which made the unique pronounciation of his name sound like "Do'tor Lector". He smiled again.

"I'd expected more enthusiasm, Clarice. I came all this way just to see you after all." He watched as the gun wavered left to right, saw the tight, concentrated purse of Starling's lips as she tried to divine his location. She hadn't dared leave her bed yet. He tired of the game rather quickly. "Clarice, I could slit your throat under one second of my decision. Please do me the courtesy of disposing your weapon. I thought we were passed this foolishness."

... don't ever forget what he is.

And what is that?

Chilton had called him a monster. She couldn't recall Crawford's reply. But he was more than a monster. He was a cunning beast who knew exactly how to get inside your head. Clarice blinked, trying to reestablish her vision to no avail. "Doctor Lecter, what have you done to me?"

"I see you haven't shed the lamentable vestiges of your poor white trash background, Clarice. Your accent has become more pronounced. Or is it because you fear me?" he asked, leaning forward. "The gun, Clarice," he added as an afterthought.

"All right, Doctor. I'm putting the gun down. Please do me the courtesy not to harm me," she asked softly, using his words, trying to forestall any gruesome fate the psychiatrist had planned for her.

The doctor's voice held sudden disappointment. "Tsk tsk tsk. I thought we've been through this before Clarice. You've done me ample courtesy in the past year already - keeping to yourself, avoiding the current search for my self by keeping busy with other, mundane cases. I truly do appreciate the thought," he grinned malevolently. "If anything, I disrespected you by coming here tonight and for that I apologize. But you see, I never did receive your correspondence. I'm *dying* to know the answer, Agent Clarice Starling."

The gun was now on the floor, next to the foot of the bed where she'd thrown it. Clarice had pressed herself against the headboard, living in a world of blurred shapes and distorted voices. Just when she convinced herself of the doctor's position, she heard him from another angle, closer, or farther. The only thing to remain constant was the wild beating of her heart. "What answer is that, Doctor Lecter?"

"Do they still scream, Clarice?"

An uncontrolled sob escaped her lips before she could stop it. "Doctor ..." she murmured.

"I came all this way, Clarice. We don't have our dear Doctor Chilton to interrupt our conversation this time," he said through his toothy grin.

She closed her eyes tightly. Despite the greasy, back-stabbing nature of the Baltimore State Hospital's director, Clarice had mourned Chilton's fate when she'd heard he'd been missing. "Was he good, Doctor?" she asked, her voice surprisingly steady despite her mounting anger. "Did you enjoy him with a nice glass of Chianti and fava beans?" she spat.

"M'fraid not," Lecter answered, unfazed. "I would never soil my palate with Chilton's unsavoury flesh. He was best left for the hounds after I did, indeed, treat him to dinner. The dogs appreciated the stuffing," Lecter said evenly. "Now Clarice, you still haven't answered my question ... I don't have the benefit of quid pro quo in this instance, though I do hold the advantage. I won't subject you to the ridicule of threats. I do believe you know me capable of numerous, unspeakable things."

"Why is it so important, Doctor?"

"My reasons are unimportant," Lecter replied casually. "The lambs, Clarice," he prompted. There was no impatience in his voice, though Clarice recognized that Lecter wouldn't wait around much longer.

"Yes," she hissed painfully. "Yes, the lambs still scream."

Lecter savoured, his fingers interlaced. As long as the lambs screamed, Lecter would be there to remind her of her undoing. Lecter, the impassive shepherd, holding a scythe rather than a staff. He took a moment to appreciate the imagery. "Poor Catherine's rescue did not silence them," he said softly. "What do you think it will take, Clarice, before your slumber is no longer plagued by the cries of the spring lambs as they are slaughtered?" Digging, driving the nail deeper, he bared his teeth in almost animalistic fashion. "What will it take for you to forget the blood, and the baying of those unfortunate creatures?"

"No matter what I do," she wailed, burying her face. "I can't stop them. They keep screaming, Doctor. Why won't they stop screaming?"

Lecter stood and left the shadows. Blind, dazed, confused, Clarice felt warm fingers lift her chin. She could not see his face, but she felt overwhelmed by the twin light sources within Lecter's eyes. Slowly, as though kissing with languid passion, Hannibal bent down and trailed his tongue from her chin to one of her cheeks, then the other, devouring her tears. She bowed her head, pressing the crown of her hair to his chest, wailing ... wailing ... wailing until her sobs matched the screaming of the lambs.

In the end, Hannibal Lecter gathered the sobbing Clarice into his arms, resting against the headboard of her single bed. "Thank you, Clarice," he whispered. Before long, his charge was sleeping, her cheeks stretched and hardened by the tears and Lecter's saliva which had permeated the flesh. Lecter would be gone in the morning, leaving no indication he'd ever been inside her house or that his presence had been anything other than a dream.

But the lambs had stopped screaming. At least for tonight, within Lecter's arms, the lambs were silent.


copyright 1999, by Lectergrrl

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