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copyright 2004, by Axl

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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Her car has stopped running, and she is in the middle of nowhere.

Well, no, that isn’t entirely true. She is a little over a mile from home, closer than not to a small cluster of homes nearly destroyed completely in a barn-fire some five years previous. The vehicle has been giving her trouble for several weeks now, but Starling had put it up to the Pinto’s obstinate nature. She had assumed that it would hold out until she could find a more skilled repair garage than the one she’d frequented in the past.

You assumed, Starling. Look here. If you assume when I send you on a job, Starling, you can make an ass out of u and me both.

Jack Crawford’s voice rings stonily in her ears. This is, admittedly, a much different type of assignment: she is not on any specific errand, and this is a matter of her car, not Benjamin Raspail’s. However, her superior’s statement could not so easily be erased from memory. She had been so eager and willing to please, when working under his orders. It is only natural that she would remember his precise words, years after he had uttered them. This is, of course, what she tells herself on a daily basis, whenever she recalls something so specific that he has said or done.

She sighs deeply, irritated, and climbs out of the driver’s seat. It is drizzling, and the light beads of rainwater drip occasionally on her hair. She will probably end up walking home, and her hair will be soaked by the time she arrives at her front door.

Starling leaves the headlights on, to cut through the darkness and help her stay on course. Everything about her attire advertises her occupation; she had requested permission to run the obstacle course with the trainees after work in the name of good exercise, and had donned Bureau-issue sweatpants and shirt for the occasion. She is glad for them now, the night air is chilly and damp, and she is blessedly warm, nestled in the fabric.

She sets off at a jog, then slows to a walk as the illumination the headlights provide wanes with distance. “I’ll call a mechanic from the house,” she murmurs aloud, to keep herself company with plans and idle chatter. “They’ll fix it up, at least temporarily. At least so I can get to work…”

“You should have known better, really.”

Starling flinches visibly, and when she turns her head, he is standing there, as rigid and aloof as he has ever been. She reaches instinctively for her gun, fumbling under the flap of her coat for the weapon holstered against her ribs, though she doesn’t draw it. The action is more to reassure her that it is, in fact, still there. Ready if the situation calls for an armed face-off.

“What, Doctor?”

“Do not say ‘what’. It makes you sound common, and I tend to think of that type, as beneath me.”

She sighs, and rephrases. “Pardon?”

“Very good.” He takes a step forward, in a manner that is almost too casual, and she backs up immediately, to keep the distance between them consistent. “I said, you should have known better.” Seeing her perplexed expression, he surges on. “Your vehicle, Clarice. A Pinto? As if people weren’t satisfied with unspeakably hideous models of transportation, they had to ask for a bumper made of flint. You could be incinerated, Clarice, by a simple rear-ending on a back road.” A low, disapproving noise is heard, emanating from the back of his throat. “And where would that leave me? Decidedly without the thrill of the chase.”

Her lips twist into a scowl. “You’ve got some goddamn nerve, Dr. Lecter. Bad enough that I’ve been detained ‘cause of car trouble—” She pauses for a moment to glare meaningfully past him to the banged-up Pinto, which somehow manages to look apologetic. “—but now I’ve got you to deal with. You and your insults. Isn’t that rude, Sir? Are you a hypocrite?” He does not answer, and this infuriates her even more than if he’d growled out some response. “Jesus,” she sighs, “I oughta just turn you in right now.”

She turns to collect herself, rubbing a hand over her forehead. Keep this up, Starling, warns her inner critic, and you’ll get those nasty little worry lines on your brow. You’ll be an old hag before long. She winces at the mocking tone, and shifts to face him again. In an instant, there is a faint tickle of steel against her skin. She doesn’t have to look down, to know how quickly events have progressed in a matter of seconds.

“You’re thinking of aiding in my re-capture, Clarice?” His voice is smooth now, and low in pitch. It reminds her of a scrap of velvet, sliding luxuriously over a polished mahogany banister. All soft elegance, though the words could easily be taken as a lead-in to a threat. “I’m afraid I cannot allow that. Eight years of incarceration…you have no idea, do you, how tedious it is? Monotonous.” He clears his throat. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.”

“Shakespeare,” Starling offers, doing her best to ignore the Harpy’s blade at her throat.

“Indeed. Macbeth. You are well-read, are you not?”

“I suppose so.”

“There is no supposing; this is not a complex question, Clarice. Yes or no?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you.”

It is only now that she dares make reference to her current compromised position. “Are you planning to kill me, Sir?”

“Not unless you run.”

“I won’t.”

He brings the knife away. Starling’s eyes are quick, but not quick enough to see where he stows it, and then he’s looking up again, holding her in place with merely a stare. “Primum non nocere. Are you familiar with the principle?”

“First do no harm.” She translates it easily. On the first day of training, her forensics instructor had chalked it across the blackboard. She could still remember her instant, albeit naïve, rush of glee: ‘If his motto is in a foreign, dead language, he is sure to be a skilled professor.’ He had proven to be worthy of the opportunity to guide young, eager minds, though after that moment, he had been severely lacking in Latin remarks.

He seems surprised at her knowledge, but recovers instantly. “Good, Clarice.”

Starling postulates – still refraining from using the dreaded word assume – that Lecter is claiming to live by that statement. It strikes her as hilarious. He is a murderer, and devourer, of many. He has harmed. It is undeniable.

“What do you want, Dr. Lecter?” She strongly hopes that he won’t ask her to reword her question again. He doesn’t seem to notice her informal phrasing. He also ignores her inquiry, and retorts with a request of his own.

“Tell me something you don’t want me to know.”

For a moment, Starling is consumed by the utter ridiculousness of it all. She is standing, amidst ash-dusted ruins, with light precipitation dampening her hair, and he is playing games with her. She should never have left the Pinto; it would have made far more sense for her to call a mechanic to come deal with the temperamental car. Too late, hon. The critic pipes up, yet again, much to her chagrin. He’s got you right where he wants you. In this moment, she hates the voice, lurking in the corners of her overworked mind, not because it is annoying, but because it is completely correct.

“I’m waiting, Clarice.” He seems impatient, stroking at the underside of his chin with the pad of his thumb. “And don’t bother lying, I can tell when you do.”

“I think you’re charming.” It is a feeble attempt at confession, and he knows it as well as she, though he graciously refuses to press the issue. She swallows hard, trying to work up some moisture to coat her tongue, which feels leaden and useless at the bottom of her mouth. “Quid pro quo, doctor. What don’t you want me to know?”

He is inches away from her now, and he has moved so quickly that she hadn’t had time to expect it. She tilts her chin up, eyes locking squarely with his. She has always known them to be dark crimson, more maroon than anything else, but they seem to hold the glow of the car’s headlights with more intensity than she’d ever remembered.

“Paul Krendler is not the only man tempted to look down your blouse, Clarice.”

She knows then, that he has followed her. How else would he have learned of the Deputy Assistant Inspector General – Jesus, she thinks fleetingly, what a goddamn pretentious title – and his sleazy efforts to catch more than just the passing glimpse of cleavage? It is an invasion of privacy, she realizes, and the familiar warmth of rage bubbles in the back of her throat, preparing to be unleashed.

In this moment, hung heavy with humidity and a combination of revulsion and lust, she finds that she hates him. He has, in essence, stolen from beneath her everything that she has ever held dear. Her job, most importantly. His escape has fallen on her shoulders. Although she had been assigned to work with the Buffalo Bill case, it was unspoken but expected that she would keep an eye on Lecter. He had slipped through her fingers, and it has not won her any praise. Because Krendler seems determined to ruin her career, she is already facing harsh glares from Jack Crawford, who has formerly played favorites with her. Call it paranoia, but Starling is quite sure that the big cheeses of the Bureau are discussing her impulsiveness with him, when she is safely out of earshot. If she is politely asked to resign, it will not only be her occupation going down the drain. She will have failed to follow her father’s footsteps, to pick up in law enforcement where he had left off. The prestige that goes along with federal agent status is unimportant, in her eyes. It is for her father’s sake that she forces herself to believe that this is what she was born to do.

There is the finest of boundaries between animosity and want. They have blurred, as the rain grows heavier.

Starling shoves her way through the small gap between them, and her teeth come down harshly on his lower lip. She wants to draw blood, to hurt him, but she feels weakened by the shocking revelation that she desires him in the most basic of ways. He shakes his mouth free from her grip before recapturing it again, this time with the full upper hand.

It is their first kiss, though it does not seem so. There is no readjustment of noses, the hesitant click of teeth, or the thrill of initial tongue to tongue contact. This is violent. She is still trying to bite him and failing, so she switches tactics, fingers raking at the cotton barrier that keeps her nails from reaching the skin of his shoulders. He pulls away, and his eyes are narrowed, now devoid of any light. It is frightening. She feels a distinct surge of panic, which only increases as he reverses their positions with seemingly no effort. She is pressed up against a stone surface, one of the few structures left after the fire’s destruction.

“I hate you,” she breathes.

“That’s alright.” He is calm as always, seemingly unnerved by her display of anger. His hands come to rest at her waist, thumbs hooking at the waistband of her sweatpants.

“Don’t…” The plea emerges as a whisper, and he ignores this, as well. Unconcerned with the notion of easing her into the idea of intimacy, Lecter tugs the garment down, past her hips. They slide down her legs to pool at her ankles, prevented from further movement by the presence of her sneakers.

Despite her protests, she does not hate this in the least, and the doctor knows it. Though the faint stirrings of wind bring various scents to distract him from his current task, it is not those smells on which he focuses.

“You’re wet, Clarice.”

“Damnit, you really do sound like Krendler...” She tries to speak with anger, with conviction, but fails miserably.

“Heaven forbid.” He mocks her subtly, lowering himself before her. His own pants are expensive, and will most likely be ruined by the wet grass beneath him, but this is unimportant.

Starling looks down to him and knows, in an instant, what he plans to do. She is overcome with a nauseating wave of humiliation: she considers this shameful, thinks of herself as unworthy, and is tempted to clamp her thighs shut. She attempts, but his palms insinuate themselves between her legs, parting them insistently. She refuses to look at him, her chin tilts upward. She strains to see the slice of moon through the thick layer of dark clouds, and fails.

He removes her underwear in the same method as he’d divested of her sweatpants. Slide, hook, yank. She is completely exposed from the waist down, and has never felt so vulnerable.

“Has anyone ever…?” Lecter trails off questioningly, sensing her embarrassment. He intends this as simply pleasurable. His teasing remarks are only incidental; she has invited them with her reluctance to comply.

“No.” The word comes out in a strangled sort of murmur, and her eyes briefly cut to his kneeling frame. She looks away again, almost immediately.

“I see. This will be a learning experience, then.”

Damnit. He knows her far too well, and her rational mind is screaming profanity in silence. For Starling, the chance to be taught triumphs over courtesy, on every occasion.

She is unable to protest now, and at the first flicker of his tongue over her heated flesh, she is reduced to a quivering mass of nerves. Her hands pass over his thinning hair, cradling the back of his head. Not even in her most uninhibited dreams, has this been so intensely good.

She has thought of him on many occasions. This act of intimacy, however, she has constantly overlooked, for whatever reason. With Lecter busying himself, and apparently enjoying his work, the tightly-strung knot of shame in her chest begins to gradually unwind.

It does not take long for her to reach climax, and when she does, it is not so much falling over the edge of self-restraint, as it is leaping off the cliff with both feet and an eager smile. She is not excessively vocal, but then again, the doctor never thought that she would be. Starling seems inexperienced and does not display any characteristics of a common whore; not in every-day life, not in carnal exploration.

She arches against him with a low moan and he rocks back on his heels, after placing a gentle nip to her inner thigh. She is flushed, panting, and occasional aftershocks cause shuddering.

When she bends to redress, her movements are slow. While an uneducated observer might assume it to be a fondness for being careful in actions, Dr. Lecter knows that she is drained. It is obvious to him now, as her scent had been. Her need.

“Take my car.” He murmurs it immediately after standing, to prevent any attempts at reciprocation. She pushes away from the wall with her elbows and arches again, to stretch out her back. She stares at him, and her eyes are surprisingly clear, though her pupils are dilated with the remaining traces of pleasure.

“Where?” It is all she can think of to say, her lips feel numb. This is far more of a rejection to her, than if he had pulled from her earlier, in disgust.

“Up the road from your Pinto.” The last word is coupled with an almost playful expression of disapproval.

She nods, but does not begin moving in the given direction. “Doctor…” She cannot bring herself to use his first name, despite his display of attraction. Perhaps her age and station have both advanced, but it would be awkward, and undoubtedly impolite.

“I would offer you one of those gold Add-a-Beads, Clarice, but I daresay you have enough for a necklace already.”

Starling is unsure as to his intent. She tries to remain outwardly unaffected, but a blush belies her calm exterior. He continues after a moment’s hesitation.

“Dinner, then.” At her expression, he hastens to mollify her. “Fear not, I plan on chicken and rice, with a decided lack of fava beans.”

She smiles unconsciously at that, and nods faintly. He reaches into the pocket of his coat, and withdraws the Harpy. Clasping the blade between his thumb and forefinger, he offers the handle to her. She accepts it, testing the knife’s weight against her palm, and deems it a pleasant weapon. “There you have it, Clarice. Rest assured, I will be paying you another visit. I cannot leave you with evidence of my existence, can I?”

The smile does not waver from her lips, and yet another nod is offered for his viewing. She waits briefly, until quite sure that he does not intend to speak again. It is only then that she turns for the road and moves off at a decent pace.

When she looks over her shoulder to the stone wall and her vehicle’s headlights, still shining, he is no longer there.


FIN

copyright 2004, by Axl

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