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Remains of the Lamb

copyright 2001, by clevergirl

Disclaimer:    The character Dr. Hannibal Lecter was created by Thomas Harris.  Anthony Hopkins is himself.  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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I suppose if one were to trace the path of events that led to the incident in the butler's pantry, one would have to lay the blame squarely on the planning of the staff rotation. It had been a challenging afternoon in many respects. Lord Darlington was hosting another gathering of guests at the Hall; a veritable Armada of the great and near-great for whom the affairs of the world were a daily responsibility, and although I was of course gratified to be able to serve in my humble capacity as head butler, the morning had revealed that another under-house parlourmaid had run off with yet another second footman and as a result the rotation had needed quick revising. The staff was all at sixes and sevens, working round the clock, and tempers in the kitchen were, I must confess, a bit high. So perhaps I may be forgiven for not thinking with my usual keen insight and clarity.  

The real trouble lay, I think, in that with the adjustment of the staff rotation I had not given due consideration to just what the shifting of responsibilities would mean in terms of an added burden to... her. This in itself was surprising, for I'd been finding my thoughts turning more and more frequently to her and to...our situation. For some reason the smell of silver polish with which I was by necessity in nearly daily contact always brought her to mind. 

After our hurried flight from Chesapeake Bay, I reasoned that the only way we might safely disappear from public cynosure would be to seek out a location and situation that no one who knew my particular tastes and proclivities would ever suspect. I'd remembered Darlington Hall from my single term at Balliol, and though it now had lost some of its earlier splendor, the Hall was and is still, of course, a remarkable place. It was a trivial matter to remove the aging butler and housekeeper, and the current Lord was delighted to have two people with such glowing references apply for the new openings. There is, naturally, a distinct advantage to writing one's references oneself, but I think I can safely say there was no exaggeration in the breadth and scope of my abilities. I knew as well that my traveling companion was nothing if not adaptable. No, the real difficulty lay in the fact that a total abnegation of our former...intimacy was essential, regardless of how painful it would be for us both. I believed quite adamantly that it was imperative to fully immerse ourselves into the roles we were forced by circumstance to play.  

What I had not expected was how well the life itself would suit me. After ten years of sloth and indolence, the quiet order and complexity of running the great house, the exquisite meditative pleasure to be found in as simple a task as ironing his Lordship's morning newspaper was, I admit, a bit of a revelation. In any case, before making the transition I made it abundantly clear to her that for our own safety and future happiness, under no circumstance could we overstep the bounds of propriety, or give the household any indication that we were anything other than fellow staff members. I wish to state here and now that prior to the aforementioned pantry incident, at no time during our three-month tenure at Darlington Hall had our relationship been anything other than what was proper between the butler of a great house and its housekeeper. For three months, two days, six hours and approximately fourteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds.  

But I digress.  

I had been taking a brief respite in my office, having a few precious moments to myself to read and reflect. It had been a trying afternoon, and I must concede that perhaps my eyes did close, however briefly, to muse upon a particularly weighty passage. A slight rustling in the hallway outside brought me back to full and ready awareness. There was a soft knock and my door opened; it was she.  

It had begun to grow dark, but a shaft of light from the hallway hit the dust motes and surrounded her slim figure like an aurora. I made a mental note to take her gently but firmly to task for not properly supervising the maid's daily cleaning of the hallway. But I must say the effect was, for the moment, not displeasing. 

I found my voice. "Ah, yes...Miss Kenton. What is it?" 

"Flowers, ...Mr. Stevens," she stated, a bit more loudly than was perhaps strictly necessary. "To brighten up the room." She looked back furtively into the hallway, then closed the door and stood there, her vase of flowers held in front of her like a talisman.  

"We have been over this repeatedly, Miss Kenton. This pantry is my place of work. I need--" 

"Yes, yes I know. All you need is a cot and a few sketches of the Duomo and you'd have all the comforts of home."

I gave her a warning look. "I am quite sure I don't know what you mean." 

She said nothing, but just stared at me and breathed heavily. For some reason it began to feel a bit warm in the room. I rose from the armchair; it was time to take the situation in hand. 

"If there is nothing more, Miss Kenton, I'll kindly ask you to--" 

"Stop calling me that." 

"I beg your pardon? That is your name." 

"For goddsake! Look, it's just you and me here. The servants are all downstairs. Darlington is off with his Neo-Nazi pals." She took a step into the room. "You and I need to talk." 

In spite of this last alarming statement I remained, of course, calm.  

"Ah. Hem.Yes. Well. I hardly think that this--" 

"I can't take this much longer. You said we'd only need to hide out here for a few weeks till things cooled down in the States. I'm going insane here in this fricking mausoleum. I could barely keep my side of the duplex from turning into a pigsty, and here I'm expected to keep 250 rooms clean??"  

This at last was the opening I'd been seeking. That alcove near the entry hall had been missed again today. "Yes. I'm glad you brought that up. A small matter really, quite trivial, but--" 

"But that isn't the worst thing. You know I'd go through hell for you. But goddamn it, when I agreed to do this, I didn't realize just how seriously you would take this...job. And how difficult it would be to...not...be with you." 

She took another step closer. At this juncture I must allow I was feeling more than slightly discomfited. I surmised it best to place some distance between us. Still holding my book, I strolled casually around my desk, finding something of immense interest there. I removed my spectacles, folded them and placed them carefully at an exact right angle to the edge of the blotter. A cigar and a small brandy sounded a siren call. 

"I'm really quite busy, and so I'll wish you a ...good eveninggguhhh." I looked up to find that instead of taking my clear indication that she should leave, she had somehow managed to come up right alongside me.  

"Don't you think of me?" Her voice was low and...husky. " At night? All alone? Just down the hall?" 

She was still holding the small vase of flowers. The scent of her hair, her essence mixed with the lavender and hyacinth she'd just picked. I searched for the appropriate response to her question. Ah.  

"You are...extremely...important... to this household. You know that. This household...would be quite lost without you." 

"Would it now?" 

"Yes. Of course. YES." I collected myself. "A...first rate housekeeper is essential in a great...house like this where great affairs are decided within these...great...walls...." 

A disquieting gleam came into her eye, and she raised one eyebrow.  

"I see." She looked down at the book I still held.

"What's that you're reading, 'Mr. Stevens'? Hmnnn?"  

The atmosphere in the room underwent some peculiar change and the air between us felt particularly charged. I wondered briefly if it presaged a thunderstorm, which would mean canceling the croquet party his Lordship had planned for tomorrow. If only I could get some air. Window. In back of me. Must open it. Couldn't breathe. 

"What am I rea--?? OH. This. Nothing. Just a book. Heh." 

"Dante, perhaps? Joy of Cooking? The Expert's Guide to Field Dressing?" 

"I hardly think that any of those titles would find themselves onto his Lordship's shelves." 

She placed the vase down on my desk. I desperately wanted to remove it before it left a water ring, but I found myself rooted in place like some antique plaster chinaman. 

"Come on now, what is it? Just show me and I'll leave you alone".  

She brought her hand up slowly, reaching for the slim novel I clutched tightly to my chest. I knew that I dared not look into her eyes, so I turned my head a bit even though it felt rather awkward. My chest felt strangely tight. And. There. A feather light touch caressed my hand. God. A jolt more powerful than Memphis. A single touch. It suddenly felt as though molten amber were coursing up my arm and through my veins. She knew it, too. If she'd pulled the book away I could have managed, could have taken a moment to restore my equilibrium and found the words necessary to make her go, but she simply traced a slow line around, yes I must acknowledge it, my now trembling white knuckles, then up along the buttons of my cardigan and over my open collar. The process seemed to take a very long time--throughout which I still managed to maintain my posture. Until, that is, her hand finally came to rest upon my shoulder. I inhaled deeply, catching the scent of Pear's soap... freesia...loam from near the garden...she'd been petting the small calico named Jem who lived in the stables...there was a bit of sweat, excitement, and something else... Almost of its own volition my head turned back towards her, our eyes locked, and I was lost. 

A small, knowing smile graced her lips. "Would it shock me, I wonder?"

I had backed completely into the corner now. In pulling away I'd leaned my right elbow up atop the file cabinet alongside, and my hand was now perilously close to her cheek. So easy...a tendril of her auburn hair had escaped from behind her ear, almost but not quite touching her mark of 'courage'. Her beautiful eyes, so full of desire, searched my face. And was there just a trace of fear? Breath came short. Time stopped, ran backwards, sideways and forward again. A single violin note somewhere in the distance held for five full measures. This. Was. The. Moment. Now. Seize the fucking day, you bloody fool. NOW. A hellish vision of it passing crossed my mind, of this chance passing, losing her, of never telling her, showing her, touching her---  

I raised my right hand slightly and...there....gently replaced the errant lock of hair back behind her delicate ear. Her sharp intake of breath elicited an even sharper physical response from my own body. 

I cleared my throat. "Do you really think---" 

"Yes?" She whispered softly. 

"Do you really think that the desk is the best place for that vase?" 

Her eyes widened in shock, and the look of avid intensity was replaced with confusion. Her hand fell away from my shoulder. 

"I'm...sorry?" 

"What I mean to say, my sweet Clarice, is that it takes up too much damned room."  

A low, feral growl escaped my lips. I violently swept aside the vase, spectacles and blotter with the book (which was, after all, only a rather foxed fourth edition of an E.M. Forster novel), sending them sailing against the wall opposite and crashing onto the floor. Stilling the voice in my head that shouted at me to clean up the water before it soaked through the rug, I pulled Clarice up hard against me and bared my teeth.  

"Miss me?" 

Before she could do more than gasp my name, I slid my hands down further along her exquisite curves and with one swift movement I turned and hoisted her up on the desk. Stopping her astonished laugh with my mouth, I fiercely claimed the kiss I'd been denying us both for so long. Clarice responded with a passion that I now remembered only too well, wrapping her legs tightly around my waist. I, for my part, felt like a man lost in the desert who'd suddenly landed face first in an oasis he'd discounted as a mirage.  

Ducks...geese...the arrival of Spring...glories of nature...I fervently promised her that all living creatures would be relevant to our discussion. Our hot hands impatiently divested each other of sweaters, shirts, skirts, blouses and other various accoutrements. I dimly recalled she was a hopeless seamstress and I hoped I'd be able to find all the buttons in the morning. But no matter. I sank my teeth into her white shoulder, eliciting a groan of pleasure from us both. And there on the wide mahogany I believe I may say with all due modesty that I settled our standing accounts quite admirably. 

As we paused to catch our breath and adjust our position to the nearby and vastly more comfortable davenport, my hands explored her peaks and valleys with all the delight of a traveler who'd been too long away. Clarice grinned devilishly and said, "My my, look at that smile on your face. Could it be that our good Doctor is flesh and blood after all?

I found I'd missed bantering with her almost as much as the other aspects of our relationship. "We really must do something with that wicked little mouth of yours, my dear Starling," I replied. " It is sure to get you in deep trouble." 

"Hmm. A number of possibilities spring to mind." Her hand snaked down to my nether regions and she began to lay soft, warm kisses down along my chest, my ribs, then lower...  

"Please," I murmured as I leaned back against the pillows, stroking her soft hair. "Thrill me with your acumen."  

I heard and felt her chuckle along my thigh (a delightful sensation), then I caught her eyes once more as she lifted her head to wink at me and smile. 

"That's my boy." 

*****

We left Darlington Hall late the next evening, taking the Daimler. I must state that his Lordship was unfortunately less than gracious about the situation. He'd finally seen our photos in the American press, ugly threats and accusations were made, and I'm afraid I was forced to clear the way for the next heir to the Darlington fortune. As a parting gesture, and to make sure his remaining guests were not left in the lurch, I excused his Lordship's absence to illness, dismissed the staff for the day and, with the help of Clarice, prepared one final meal. The entire affair went very smoothly, and I am proud to say that the main course was especially well received by his late Lordship's friends from the Rhine, a delightful creation of my own invention, 'Baeckeanoffe a l'Darlington." 

After all, I have always looked upon it a great privilege and honor to serve my fellow man. 

FIN

copyright 2001, by clevergirl

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