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Retribution

copyright 2001, by Hannah

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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Act 1

She had been absolved of wrong-doing during the inquiry but convicted several times over in the press. The Tattler was most particularly harsh, but then she had come to expect that. Dr. Lecter had disappeared once again – and any chance of her reinstatement in the Bureau along with him.

Clarice Starling had declined any number of offers from publishers interested in her memoirs, preferring instead to live quietly and in relative obscurity after the media frenzy had finally died down. For the past three and a half years, she had been working in Atlanta with a private security firm.

It had taken her almost two years to admit that she wanted to find him, and now that she had, the old misgivings had returned. So much time after her dismissal and she was still trying to sort out her feelings about her disastrous FBI career, and more importantly about Hannibal Lecter.

“Never forget what he is.” That was the warning that Jack Crawford had given her before her first meeting with the Doctor. And yet... he had cut off his own hand rather than harm her.

Even in those initial interviews, she had found it impossible not to...

She had always been uneasy with the knowledge that she actually liked Dr. Lecter. Barney had said that the Doctor found her charming. She had been charmed as well, though she was reluctant to admit it. Even now, a decade later, she couldn’t comfortably acknowledge that she caught herself wondering from time to time what might have been possible had they met under different circumstances.

There was a time when she could always manage to drive those thoughts from her mind before they ever coalesced completely. Lecter was a monster, she would remind herself. He was incapable of what she was considering. But was he? Obviously not, in light of his decision to spare her at his own expense. If she had known beforehand, would she have put him in the position to make that choice? In her most brutally honest moments, she understood that she would not. It was that realization that had brought her to this moment.

For years she had kept her feelings for him at bay. It was ironic that they should become impossible to ignore only after she had abandoned them to her sense of duty. And just how would they be received, after all that had passed between them?

“There’s only one way to find out,” she murmured to herself.

Unsure of the wisdom of her actions, she approached the café. He was seated at a table outdoors with his back to her, but she was aware that she could not hope to take him by surprise. He turned his face toward her when she was still several yards away, and she stopped for a moment, caught in his familiar stare. A shiver passed through her, but it was far to late to turn back now. She squared her shoulders and continued on as he stood to greet her.

“Join me, former Special Agent Starling.”

She tried to read the tone of his voice, but it was a pointless exercise.

“Doctor...”

“Please, sit.”

The smile did not reach his eyes. She offered a tentative smile of her own as she moved into the chair he held for her.

“I trust you’re traveling alone, Clarice... and in an unofficial capacity?”

“Yes.”

“You’re quite a resourceful girl. It’s a pity that the Bureau didn’t see fit to hold onto you. I am assuming that this is not a chance meeting?” He paused, tilting his head slightly.

“No, Dr. Lecter, it’s not. It took quite a bit to find you actually.”

“But you always seem to manage.” This time his tone was unmistakable, the sarcasm far from subtle.

Why had she come?

“I always thought I had such good luck because you made it easier for me.”

She smiled at him then. Good Lord! Was she actually making an attempt at flirtation? And a bad one at that.

“Now why would I do that, Clarice?” He was closed, giving her nothing.

“I guess I don’t really know, Doctor. I was under the impression that you might like me just a little.”

The lack of amusement in his eyes chilled her, but she held her ground, waiting for him to fill the oppressive silence that loomed between them.

“What brings you here, Clarice? Now that you’ve found me, what is it that you believe you need to do?”

She drew in a deep breath. She should have known that he wouldn’t make this easy for her. She had to admit that she certainly didn’t deserve it. She met his implacable gaze and continued.

“My life hasn’t gone as I would have liked, Doctor, but I’ve had surprisingly few regrets about the choices I’ve made to get here.” She paused but he offered nothing, and so she pushed on. “I regret my choices at our last meeting, Dr. Lecter. I regret the choice I left for you.”

“And so you’ve sought me out to ease your conscience?” There was no humor in the brief bark of a laugh that reached her ears. “I’m quite well, Clarice, I assure you. If some sense of guilt has brought you here, you may abandon it.”

“It’s not guilt, Doctor.”

“What then?”

Her gaze fell to the table top, and her voice became a barely audible whisper.

“Loss,” she murmured. Even now, the admission cost her almost more than she could bear. She wanted desperately to look up, to see what was in his eyes, but she found it impossible to meet his gaze.

He allowed the silence to stretch out. Not since her father’s death had she felt so helpless. She had sacrificed much to come here, and now it was completely out of her hands.

“Look at me, Clarice.”

She brought her head up to meet his eyes and saw... what? Amusement? Or was it pleasure?

“What would you have me do?” he asked softly.

Was he toying with her? It was impossible to tell, but she understood that she would have to be very clear about what she wanted from this exchange. He would give her nothing that she wasn’t prepared to work for.

Could she do this? Yes, she told herself firmly, it was high time she was honest with herself... and with him.

“You wanted me once...” she began quietly, “do you still? Or have I made that impossible for you now?”

“You’re still very direct, aren’t you, Clarice?”

“No, Doctor. There’s nothing direct about this. I’ve been dodging it for years... and it’s cost us both.”

She met his gaze steadily, but still he offered nothing. A wild desperation began to rise up in her then, along with the knowledge that she was finally prepared to turn her back on all that was sacred to her. Please, it can’t be too late!

“Impossible to want you? No, Clarice.” She realized that she had been holding her breath as she registered a sigh of relief. “ But I am just a bit unclear as to how you envision this unfolding...”

The playful note that she remembered was back in his voice and she smiled. If he was determined to make her pay for every inch, then so be it. She was making a bargain with the devil... no use haggling over the price.

“Well,” she offered, “I had assumed the setting might be a bit more intimate.”

His chuckle was a rich sound that somehow managed to produce both heat and a slight chill. He dropped a bill onto the table and stood, offering his arm.

“Shall we, My Dear?”

Act 2

His home was lovely and secluded. She was mildly surprised at her lack of fear at being so completely alone with Hannibal Lecter, but given her behavior of late, it was one of the lesser surprises she had offered herself.

He had poured wine and they had spent hours in front of a lovely fire, discussing the course that their lives had taken over the past several years. She had found herself confessing things to him that she had been utterly unaware of, things that should seem shameful to her but that obviously pleased him. Only once did she question her decision to join him here.

“Perhaps I was mistaken, Clarice... your nobility simply has a higher price than most.”

That had frightened her, but she was able to write it off to her own sense of dissonance regarding her recent moral collapse and quickly turned to less threatening matters of discussion. Hadn’t she known on some level that he would demand penance?

The evening had passed pleasantly for the most part, and she had given him all that he demanded of her. She wasn’t certain at what point she had finally realized that she had a sense of coming home, in addition to a sense of sadness at the price she had paid for the privilege.

And now she found herself on his bed. He came toward her with an evil gleam in his eyes.

“You have a fondness for handcuffs, do you not?”

An alarm sounded in her head, but she ignored it.

“If that’s what you want,” she whispered, a trace of fear slipping into her tone.

“Oh, it is, Clarice.” The briefest pause. “It is very much what I want.”

He sat beside her and she lifted her arms to grasp the headboard as he threaded the cuffs through the slats and closed them around her wrists. She heard the metallic click as she was caught, and immediately felt a flash of panic. Lecter avidly drank in the apprehension in her eyes, smiling unpleasantly as he did so.

“I don’t believe you trust me, Clarice.”

Still teasing her... wasn’t he?

She was spared having to answer him. His mouth descended on hers, roughly forcing her lips open with his tongue. She hesitated only for a moment before allowing herself to respond. And now that she had finally surrendered, the hunger that she had managed somehow to keep in check over the past decade came crashing to the surface. She was desperate for him, far beyond thought or any semblance of control. She strained against her bonds in an attempt to bring her body into contact with his. She felt his lips curl into a smile as he pulled back from the kiss.

“Patience, Clarice,” He purred. “We have all the time in the world.”

“Hannibal...” she gasped. Some small remaining shred of control tried to stop her before she could beg, but she brushed it aside as she heard his whisper.

“Do you want me so desperately, Clarice?”

“Yes... please”

“Mmmm...”

He brought his mouth down once again. She released a small moan as he bent toward her, expecting to feel his lips cover hers. A sharp yelp of pain and surprise quickly followed when she felt his teeth close brutally over her mouth. When he drew back this time, she saw her blood on his lips and a coldness in his eyes that terrified her.

She flattened herself against the mattress all the while trying to slide out from under him.

He straightened up again and looked down at her as she moved as far away from him as the handcuffs would allow. His tongue flicked out to lick the blood from his lips before he spoke.

“Having some trouble making up your mind, My Dear? A minute ago, you couldn’t get close enough to me, and now it seems you can’t get far enough away. Which is it, Clarice?”

“Dr. Lecter...”

“Ah, back to the formalities, I see. I suppose that answers my question.”

“I thought...” she stammered.

“You thought you were safe with me? You were years ago... but as I recall that wasn’t what you wanted.” He paused. “I’m not a man who offers second chances, Clarice.”

She had moved into an awkward sitting position and was pressed against the headboard. She shook her head, and kicked at him when she felt his hand close around her ankle. He jerked down roughly on her leg, pulling her down along the bed until she was stretched out again and then pinning her under his weight.

It was then that she registered the knife. He trailed it’s point along the side of her cheek, barely grazing the skin. She searched his eyes but all she saw was pleasure at her predicament. Was it possible that he was only trying to frighten her? She didn’t think so. He regarded her for a moment as he allowed the knife to explore the base of her throat, finally speaking softly as he held her eyes with his.

“Ironic, is it not, former Special Agent Starling, that you should build your life around your principles only to abandon them when it comes time for you to die?”

His voice turned her blood to ice, and his eyes held nothing but a striking cruelty.

“Please...” she croaked. “Don’t do this.”

“What would Daddy think, Clarice, if he could see you now? Would he be ashamed to see his little girl come to such a bad end?”

She flinched as if he had hit her, several tears escaping to trail down along her cheeks. His gaze never left her face as he cut through the fabric of her dress, exposing the scar along her left shoulder. That was where he made the first cut, his lips curling into something like a smile when the pain forced her to lock her jaw to avoid crying out.

He brought his mouth to the wound, tongue trailing through the blood, and then ran his tongue across her lips before biting the side of her neck.

“Please, Hannibal,” she whispered. “Stop... if you loved me, you’d stop.”

He drew back and brought his face up to meet her eyes. She understood immediately that she had made a mistake – not that it mattered now. She felt the the blade slicing through her skin as his voice reached her ears.

“Not in a thousand years, Clarice.”

FIN

copyright 2001, by Hannah

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