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copyright 2003, by Emily 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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Winter swirled around them as they faced each other across a field of pure white powder. It had taken seven years to come to this point, and now neither one could turn away. Clarice ignored the strands of hair that the wind had blown free of her ponytail and now whipped across her face. The light of the full moon illuminated them like ghosts on a battlefield. In her outstretched hands resided her trusty .45, kept even after all these years. A symbol of her own incorruptibility.

"Clarice, I donít think you want to do this!" his voice rang out, the end of the sentence being torn away by the relentless wind. Snow stung her cheeks as Clarice shook her head and shouted her reply.

"Maybe I donít, but you and I both know its come to this!" Her fingers were beginning to numb in the winter air, despite the well made leather gloves she wore. She blinked, squeezing her eyes tight for a long moment before opening them and looking back at her opponent.

"Clarice!" the plea in his voice was unmistakable. He shouldnít have followed her, he was the one who had driven her to this point. He was here to save her from the abyss he saw her standing on the brink of. Unfortunately for him, Clarice didnít want to be saved.

"I don't want to have to do this, but it's my only choice!" she called back into the night, lingering traces of West Virginia hills tainting her voice, betraying the emotions coursing below her solid veneer. "You should have left me be after the night on the Chesapeake!" her voice dropped and she added, almost to herself, but just strong enough for him to hear; "But you never wanted to leave me be."

If she could hear over the wind she would have heard a heavy sigh from him. She could see his shoulders hunch and his hands finally drop to his sides. "I only wanted what's best for you, Starling. That's all I ever tried to give you."

Bullshit was the first word to spring to her mind as he spoke, but she bit her lip, hard, and kept silent. She felt another person coming up behind her, boots pushing through ankle deep powder. She wanted desperately to turn, but she couldn't take her eyes from her opponent for even a moment. She knew the things this man was capable of. He was saying something again, and Clarice forced herself to focus.

"The FBI will be here any moment, Clarice. You have to make your decision. Do what's right, Clarice!"

He was bluffing. He was trying to grasp at lost straws, and somehow he hoped she would be foolish enough to believe him. She wasn't an innocent trainee in cheap shoes anymore. She couldnít be taken advantage of so easily anymore. Something else tickled in her mind through.

Do right, Clarice. Her father's voice boomed in her ears and her eyes burned with sudden tears. "Do right? By that you mean go with you? After all you've put me through." she sobbed and wiped angrily at her eyes with one gloved hand, the .45 still centered on him. "After all the lies you fed me, all the pain you put me through. You didnít even try to help me when all the shit in the world fell on me! And now, NOW you expect me to come simpering back to you since you say its 'right'?!" She gritted her teeth and felt a renewed sense of anger wash over her. "Fuck no! I told you to leave me alone, not to follow me anymore. I wanted to live my life in peace and now you want to take that from me?" The wind lessened in that moment and he could hear the hammer snap back as she cocked the .45. Sudden fear clenched his gut as he stared into the hellfire that burned within ex- Special Agent Clarice M. Starling.

"Fuck no." she stated glacially into the night.

"Clarice! Listen to me! Would you really kill me just to prove something to him?" he tried one last time, but she was too far gone to listen.

"I'm not doing this to prove anything! I'm doing this so I can live my life without you!" she called back, grip firming on the gun. His mind raced ahead, trying to find another end to this conflict, but he knew there would be only one possible outcome.

The gunshot was tremendous in the silent night. The pristine snow was suddenly and violently marked with blood as he fell, awash in moonlight. Clarice let the gun drop to her side as she dipped her head, breathing deeply as a shudder ran through her body. She looked up and across the field to her fallen opponent, a glimmer of sadness and pain in her eyes. Slowly she brought her hand up to look at it, wondering what she had just done with it.

The man who had come up behind her lifted the gun from the snow, steam coming off the barrel as he wiped it with a handkerchief. Silently, he placed it in his pocket, and laid a hand on Clarice's shoulder.

"You did what you had to do Clarice." he spoke softly, leaning close to her ear. She nodded and a sob escaped her.

"I had told him not to try to find me, that I had begun a new life. He just wouldnít listen. And now look, almost seventy and he came out here, in the middle of January, and found me."

"He got his reward." her companion replied, no emotion in his voice. She didnít respond and he stepped past her, crossing the clearing, his figure blurred by the intensity of the snowfall. In silence she watched as he carefully lifted the body in his arms and carried it back in her direction. As he passed she forced herself to look at the dead man's face. It looked gaunter than she had ever remembered. To think that she had liked him once.

"Where are you taking him?" she asked, falling into step next to her companion.

"To the barn, we'll take care of the rest in the morning. I think we've both had enough excitement for one evening, Clarice."

"But what if someoneÖ"

"Comes looking for him? I highly doubt they would. He has no relatives left, and even if he was to be reported missing, you can only stir up so much hype over a seventy year old man who's disappeared. Even if he is, or was, a former federal agent."

Clarice couldnít argue, he had a point. Hopefully Hannah wouldnít mind having company for the night. "Did you ever think it would come to this, Hannibal?"

Her companion watched as she tugged on the latch on the door. "Clarice, I'd be lying if I said that the scenario had never crossed my mind, but I had hoped that it would never have come down to this." He carried Jack Crawford inside and into a darkened corner. Further back in the barn a horse whinnied as wind shook the old building.

Clarice considered this, formulating her next question. "What did you expect the outcome to be?" she asked quietly. He straightened and turned, meeting her gaze with his own.

"I wasn't sure, Clarice. You have been with me for seven years now, and have shown nothing but devotion, but your morals have always been firm. It was a concern that if Jack ever confronted you that you'd return with him, if out of guilt than nothing else." he paused for a moment, "But you have proven otherwise tonight." He ushered her out of the barn, taking the time to put the door latch back into place.

"You thought I'd leave you?" she asked wonderingly as they headed back to the old farmhouse.

"It did cross my mind, Clarice." she chuckled lightly at that and he rewarded her with a half smile. "Do you find that funny?"

She shrugged and shook her head. "Maybe itís the adrenaline wearing off. If I've stayed with you for seven years, hasnít that proved my faithfulness?"

"It has."

"And not to make light of the situation, doesn't it prove a lot more when one kills for another." she stepped onto the back porch, the stair creaking as she did so. "I mean, you killed Miggs for me."

"I highly doubt that killing is what anyone has in mind when expressing affection for others. He opened the door into the large kitchen, warmth washing over him. He watched Clarice enter, then stepped inside himself and pulled the door shut behind him. Before he could step away Clarice was in front of him, blocking his path.

"Then what would you suggest, Dr. Lecter?" her blue eyes glowed with an impishness that he was glad to see. She was stripping her gloves off when he took her shoulders and pulled her towards him.

"Oh I can think of a few things." he murmured before capturing her lips with his. Her gloves dropped to the floor, forgotten as she responded to the kiss.

"I'm sure you can."


copyright 2003, by Emily Lecter

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