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The Rules

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.  Lyrics are from "Draw the Line" by Aerosmith, also used without permission. 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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He sits beside her now.

The firelight casts flickering shadows across her face, the porcelain expanse bathed alternately in a warm red-gold and a dimness that is almost purple. Said shadows stretch in icicle-shaped extensions past the plunging neckline of her dress, but it is not that on which he focuses.

She looks at him. A questioning expression, and one well-deserved. The dampness in her eyes, he realizes, is much the same as the slick droplet, Chateau d’Yquem, which had tempted him mere minutes before. A tear hangs, suspended, from her spidery lashes, and he is struck by a sudden urge to catch it upon the tip of his tongue. He refrains.

She has broken all the rules, and he is sure she knows it.

Do not touch the glass. Do not approach the glass. If he attempts to pass you anything, do not accept it.

Though he had not heard Chilton instruct her on proper procedure before their initial meeting, Lecter is very aware of the preparatory lecture given to new visitors. She had ignored Chilton. That in itself was enough to add to the respect he already held for her.

This is how it has happened:

Her shoulder had briefly come into contact with the glass wall; he had appeared angry and she had appeared unafraid. The brandishing of her federal badge was enough to bring her near, step by hesitant step: Closer, please. He had given the Buffalo Bill case file, for only a second, their fingers had touched.

A second was all he needed.

Though he watches her still, it is with an empty gaze. He is busy with mind, rewinding to find that brief moment in time, when they had faced off in Baltimore. When he had been surprised by her quick eyes and quicker tongue. She had been eager, then. Eager, and perhaps naïve. As for the latter…now, it is not so.

He had unsettled her swiftly in Maryland. Most of what he had said was truth, with a few pieces of fiction, if to only heighten the effect of what

(well-scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste)

would strike a nerve. In that moment, she had been nearly as cannibalistic as he. She had choked on her own past, been forced to swallow the reality, leaving a charred flesh taste at the back of her tongue.

Quid pro quo. Evian skin cream, and L’Air du Temps. All of this, he remembers as vividly as if it had happened this very evening. She should have been gone long ago, and yet, she sits with calm elegance upon her chair.

He is struck suddenly by the color of her hair. The firelight has effortlessly shaded auburn highlights into being, and from his angle of vision, it is perhaps as vivid a crimson as the flame itself. A sweeping curtain across pale countenance. Blood over snow.

He waits now for the axe to fall. It does not. Instead, it dangles over them, an ever-present threat to sever their temporary contentment.

Every time we say goodbye, you’re frozen in my mind. The phrase rises, unbidden, to the front of his mind, and he nearly says it, but it is not something that he can voice without sounding ridiculous. He is silent.

“Your father left you, Clarice.”

“Yes.” It is barely a whisper, stumbling from her lips with difficulty. It hurts to say it. Lecter knows it as well as she.

“I will not.”

Her eyes cut to his face once again, and she raises a hand, cradling his cheek against her palm. The pad of her thumb memorizes the planes, the angles of his features. Brushing, feather-light, over the minute hollow below his eye, where the lashes settle in repose.

Tomorrow, he will be on a plane to Buenos Aires. Tomorrow, she will be with him.

There are times, Lecter supposes, when the usual rules don’t apply.

FIN

copyright 2004, by Axl

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