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Seven Year Ache

copyright 2002, by Bella Firenze

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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“I will probably make Ireland my first stop in Europe,” Dr. Lecter said, sliding his dessert plate under hers and picking up his wine glass. He looked over the rim at Clarice’s reflection in the side of the silver coffee urn, watching her reaction intently. “I’ll leave for there after spending a few months in Buenos Aires for some minor appearance adjustments and a change of passports. I can’t return to Italy for some time, but Ireland has the best of both worlds – cities for anonymity and open spaces for solitude.”

Clarice studied the swirl inside her coffee cup as she stirred in the cream, externally quiet, internally in a turmoil. Her soufflé remained untouched on her plate; internally, she was more than occupied. The ongoing battle between Agent Starling and a free Clarice was in its final stages.

“How soon?” She kept her voice as neutral as possible.

“Are you concerned, my dear?”

“I just need to know how long I have to set up your cover story.” She attempted a laugh, but her real attention was on his eyes. Were they waiting for something, or was she imagining it? Afraid of what she might see, Clarice got lost for a while amidst the red and yellow flames of the crackling fireplace, gathering her thoughts.

Dr. Lecter observed her closely, noting for his memory palace that the firelight did not plumb the depths of her bodice as satisfactorily as the candlelight had done, but it was wonderful playing on the bones of her face. Ah, Mischa, my sweet [b]jaunesnioji sesuo[/b], he thought in sadness. My thoughts still live with you, still play with you, and will always seek out the purples in life to bring to you. But – his eyes rose back to Clarice’s lovely profile – please forgive me for the choice I am making, the choice I must make. For she is life to me now, and being without her in the world is no longer something I can even consider. Live on in my memory. Forgive me, little one.

A log suddenly popped and split, sending a glowing miniature avalanche out onto the hearth.

Clarice’s eyes strayed to the portrait of “Leda and the Swan,” so prominently displayed on the far wall. Dr. Lecter’s detailed sketch of Florence, old Florence as seen from the Belvedere, the best view possible of the city. Her memory traveled with him through Rome, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Istanbul – the myriad of places and memories she had gained second-hand via his travelogues. Two views of life appeared side-by-side in her mind’s eye: one, a continuation of the grey sameness of life in the Bureau as a pariah no one really wanted around, lonely and hungry for life, without even the doctor’s writing to give her respite; or two, a life with the only person she could truly call her ally, a life full of interest, full of variety – full of trust, deep, abiding affection, even love. One to live with now, one to go into the discard pile.

She couldn’t even call the process a “decision.” “Obvious as hell” fit much better.

“Please take me with you.”

Three simple words that spoke volumes.

Dr. Lecter had expected (hoped? longed?) that she would come to this conclusion. The urge to simply accept her declaration now and fly away with her was powerful. But the turmoil within had to be held back; they could never succeed together if there were any lingering doubts on either side. He needed to be sure in his own mind that the drugs were clear of her system, she was clearly in her own mind --that she was ready to make the call without any outside influence or pressure.

He held himself in check and turned serious eyes toward her. “Are you sure, Clarice?” One hand came up to restrain her as she started to rise, protesting. “You must be, because from now on, there will be no turning back. If you have any doubts at all, I strongly recommend you think very carefully before you commit yourself, my dear. Put aside any other influences for now.” He sat silent for a moment, watching her eyes. They stayed steady.

Lecter turned suddenly cold, his tone cruelly harsh. “Most of the world will despise you, Clarice, do you realize that? Not just because of me, but who you have become.” He rose and came toward her, gripping her shoulders, anger with the world driving his words. “You’ll be branded the Devil’s Whore, Lecter’s Slut, and worse. Whatever the tabloids have done to you so far will seem like a rehearsal compared with what is ahead. On the run, always having to stay alert, attentive, watching for anyone closing in. You will never again be able to fully trust anyone except me; you’ll never again have a permanent place to call home. You won’t even have a permanent name – you will change it as often as you change your clothes.” His eyes widened, burning into hers. “ARE YOU READY TO EMBRACE ALL THAT, CLARICE STARLING??"

Clarice remained very still under the force of his words. She put one hand over one of his that still gripped her shoulders, eyes calm, her voice level.

“Yes.”

Dr. Lecter took a deep breath, then smiled into her eyes as he slowly let it out, brushing her hair back from her eyes before he eased back into his chair. “My brave Clarice. We will see the world together, but we will always be living on its fringes. I cannot, should not, make this decision for you. You must make it for yourself. Any questions you have, please ask me now. There must be no doubt in your mind.” He stood up and walked closer to the fire, staring into it, not wanting her to feel any pressure from him.

He knew that what she decided, here and now, would have to be final. Now and forever. And forever without this magical being beside him, as his soul mate, his lover, his confidant, his friend -- seemed impossible For all the uncertainty he felt about partnership and sharing his life with another human being, he knew, when it came to Clarice, that he could accept the risk without hesitation. Forever was too vast a time to bear.

“I guess the ultimate question is…” She stopped and shook her head. Enough second-guessing head games, Clarice.

He stood silent, presenting her with an expressionless face, although she knew he was listening intently. Waiting, externally patient; internally, the tension was painful.

“The ultimate question is - if there’s going to be a grain of truth to what “they” will say… in the papers, I mean…” She met his eyes. “… it has to go both ways. A one-sided scandal doesn’t sell very many papers, does it?” Oh, hell, Starling, this isn’t coming out right. Do you have any idea what I’m trying to say, Doctor?

After a few seconds, with no external reaction from him, she dropped her eyes. Shit. She had screwed it up. Frickin‘ hell, this isn’t a goddam Disney movie, Starling, what did you expect? It’s just not his way of life; he’s not made like that. He’s used to being on his own, he likes it that way, and he sure doesn’t need you hanging all over him, slowing him down ---

The nerve signals were stuck in traffic behind her frightened thoughts and attempts to shore up the old defenses against the old fears, anticipated pain, and the terror of abandonment. It took about half a minute for her brain to recognize the gentle touch of his fingers on her face, in her hair, brushing it off her cheek, or to hear the quiet words couched in a sigh of relief that collapsed her carefully-built defenses for the last time.

“My lovely, courageous, stubborn, darling Clarice – what took you so long?”

Her eyes went wide and she met his gaze – had she heard right? “I was afraid you didn’t think that it was… a two-way street. I’m not doing a very good job saying this… I mean, I’m not used to…I …”

“Shhh.” His finger touched her lips, gently silencing her. “Neither am I, Clarice.” His smile warmed her. “You’ve known for a long time that I’m not exactly like other men, nor are you the typical woman. Did you think I was planning to bed you and leave you?” His deep eyes, usually so secretive and closed, openly showed understanding, something she hadn’t seen since childhood. The depth of endless night she had seen there all those years ago suddenly had a glow of sunrise deep within.

Had they finally built it, that connection? Had the trust that had grown over the years of frustration between them - searching for another part of themselves - had it finally brought the two halves of the arch together?

The tension was palpable, a violin string stretched to its limit, to the point of snapping. Could it be played anyway? Or would it break and end its existence in the scream of that one last, dying note? Whatever the outcome, they both knew that this was the time, here and now, that they had been reaching for when they touched so briefly on that rainy night in Memphis. The trust that was there that night was here now. The only bars between them now were those of their own making.

Clarice reached out to touch his hair with her fingertips, suddenly as shy as a young teenager meeting her first blind date - reaching, pulling back, and reaching again until she finally made contact. They both stood silent, unwilling to break the spell. It was the first time she had ever seen Dr. Hannibal Lecter, M.D., at a loss for words.

One deep breath. She finally drove herself over the last obstacle, and found the secret key that unlocked the self-imposed prison and set her free. She gracefully came to him and, in a gesture that wrenched Lecter’s heart, met his searching gaze with the answer in her blue-grey eyes, before laying her forehead against his shoulder, whispering, “Please...” He brought up one hand to stroke her glorious red mane, then took the index finger of the other and nudged her under the chin until she looked at him again.

“Have you ever noticed,” he whispered, “that neither one of us has to look up at the other? That we can look each other straight in the eye without one towering over the other?”

Suddenly her eyes were brimming, and she attempted to blink them clear, sending the tears tumbling down her face. “We should take that as a sign, don’t you think, Doctor?”

Lecter drew back from her, holding her at arm’s length, his head cocked to one side in that familiar gesture she had grown to love. “Doctor? Haven’t I taught you the proper pronunciation of “Hannibal” yet, madam?” His attempt at stern reprimand failed utterly.

“Hannibal.” His name emerged as a breathless sigh that raced down the good doctor’s nervous system and injected straight into his libido.

“Oh, Clarice, I’m afraid you’ve done it now,” he intoned in mock alarm. “I’m afraid I must respond immediately to such a gesture.”

“I’ve done it? How so?” Her voice trembled more than her body, anticipation sending a shiver throughout her.

“Let me show you.” One step brought her back against him; and his fingertips grazed lightly up her backbone, eliciting a tremor that threatened to make her knees give way. His head bent to inhale her arousal, his mouth nibbling the graceful arc of her left ear, gliding down her neck to her collarbone, nipping hard enough along the way to bring out sharp gasps -- but no withdrawal.

Clarice arched her head back as the tip of his tongue began its fiery trek, tracing an agonizing trail from her earlobe, down her jawbone, to the hollow of her throat, down to spring out the teeth to snatch up the hard little nubbin of her left breast, then her right. Her gasps shuddered into moans, until Lecter pulled back to gaze at her part in wonder, part in gentle amusement.

"Aren’t you frightened at all, little Starling? You seem to be enjoying yourself."

She shook her head. "I... I didn't know.... that I could … could feel…. would allow myself to feel anything this.... this..." She looked up at him, lips slightly parted, groping for the right word.

"....powerful?"

She nodded emphatically. She ran her fingers caressingly through his still-short salt-and-pepper hair to the downy nape of his neck, and Lecter’s eyes drifted half-closed as he let sensation run just ahead of their touch. “Mmmmmm…” he replied, “,,, just wanted to…. double-check - oh, you are a witch, Clarice…”

Clarice did a fluttering dance with the tip of her tongue back and forth across his collarbones, sending a powerful shiver down his spine. A soft groan rolled up from deep inside him and drifted its way to her ear, as it was delicately entrapped between the deadly teeth of, arguably, the most dangerous man in the world.

Then, her self-doubts, pushing back and trying to punch holes through her confidence, took one more shot at her… you’d better tell him……….!!

She stiffened, her face suddenly infused with warmth, and she knew she was… oh, no, oh SHIT, not now, not after we’ve come this far - he’s going to be [b]amused[/b] and I will dig a hole and bury myself in it! I will curl up and die right here, right now!

Her defenses were going back up, as she tried to produce sufficient external distraction to cover for herself, giving her time to think, to fight this. She reached out toward him again --

Lecter took both her hands in his and held her still, looking at her, seeing past her determined cloak to find out what was of real concern to her. “What’s wrong, domina?” A lofty title for important concerns. “Shyness has never been one of your obvious attributes.” He forced back his own doubts, his sudden, instinctive suspicion, and waited for her reply.

She buried her face in his chest, her fingers creeping beneath his tailored suit jacket and plucking at the silkiness of his shirt. “Well…. I thought I’d better… I just figured it was only fair to tell you in advance, in case you might want to know, you understand…. It’s like this… I… “

I can’t say it, dammit! Hell, I’m thirty-five fucking years old and I’m stammering like a kid getting her first kiss, for cryin' out loud! You’re trying to get the man into bed, not get him to read a bedtime story!

Lecter’s gaze slowly eased from alarm, to puzzlement, to “is it?” and then to sudden awareness. The laughter Clarice feared never came. She knew she should never have been afraid, as she saw the gentle sense of wonder in his eyes.

“Oh, Clarice… my exquisite girl,” he whispered, drawing her tightly to him and inhaling that fragrance which was purely Clarice. “You have never made love before, have you??”

She looked down and nodded quickly, suddenly shy, and abruptly became fascinated by his emerald cufflinks, watching them winking in the firelight. Her eyes slowly rose back to meet his. “Ain't never had sex b’fore, neither.” She teased him with her West Virginian and felt him chuckle deep in his chest, while seeing fleetingly in his eyes that he knew she saw a difference. “Isn’t that some sort of a crime these days?”

Dr. Lecter swept one arm downward behind her knees and gathered her up, cradling her against his chest like the treasure she was. “Why would you be afraid to tell me that you’re a virgin, Clarice? Silly girl – pardon me, woman –“ a teasing smile – “I’m honored you would want to give me… “ He drew her tighter against him. “ Oh, my dear, you should have snapped my head off when I started that business about sticky fumblings.“

Her eyes lost their cloud of worry. What an incredible sense of freedom he’d given her! It made her giddy -- the knowledge that she was safer with this “raving lunatic” – this “monster” -- than with anyone she had ever known gave her a sudden rush of adrenaline – and filling her with a sudden sense of -- [b]mischief.[/b]

“Hannibal.” His eyes lit up as she used his given name for the first time without prompting. She battled to keep her voice gravely serious, tamping down her impatient passions, which were now beginning to approach the boil. “There’s one more thing I have to tell you about.” Damn, that came out excessively melodramatic.

His trademark sardonic eyebrow arched up as he set her back on her feet and held her at arms length, fighting the twitching of his lips. As she should have expected, he didn’t believe it for a lousy minute, damn his hide! “And that is?”

She took a step or two backward to stand, trying to look casual, behind her chair, hopefully giving her a split second’s lead time. His eyes were watching her intently, trying to discern just what she was up to.

“I have this… uh… little known psychological condition. It’s called… mmm… “Red Sonja Syndrome”, are you familiar with it, doctor?” Dammit, her lips twitched.

He bit his quivering lower lip. This woman was unbelievable. “I think I may be, dear Clarice, but please enlighten me, I need confirmation. Is this the legendary woman warrior you are referring to? Does it involve multiple personalities, or just a general sense of obnoxiousness?”

She nodded gravely. “Yes…no… and yes.” She surreptitiously toed off her Gucci sandals behind the armchair. “Your repeated reference to me as a “warrior” brought it all back to me, you see. And I’m afraid I have a serious case of it.” She took another step back. “You must best me before I can… surrender myself, you see?”
       
His ominous expression was award-winning in its perfection, but it still didn’t totally veil the flickering heat in the back of his eyes as they darkened with passion – and something a little more basic. This incredible woman, he thought without a moment’s doubt, would never be dull or predictable.

“Therefore I must ---?“ he asked, waiting.

She smiled, slowly, seductively, and took a step closer, unbuttoning his jacket and drawing down off his shoulders…

A sudden feint to the right, then a leap around his other side got her out the open patio door a nanosecond before his arms shot out to catch her. She put some distance between them as he struggled the rest of the way out of his jacket before taking off in pursuit. Rebellious, wanton laughter rippled in her wake as she disappeared into the boathouse. “You have to catch me first!!!”

Lecter rumbled deep in his chest and shook his head. “Hiding will do you no good, my red-haired Atalanta. And you’ll find no golden apples in there.” He should have known his Clarice would totally catch him off-guard, that she would find the perfect final addition to rid them both of the shadowy remnants of the past. It seemed he would have to win his lovely virgin prize the very old-fashioned way – trial by conquest. He strode off in her wake. She shall have her game… but this shouldn’t take long.

He slipped his dress shoes off and silently moved around the lake side of the boathouse, across the sun deck, to find the lovely cream silk gown she had been wearing neatly hung up in the ladies’ dressing room. Now the warmth in his loins rose from warm to simmering level without conscious direction as a mental picture of her present state loomed up in his mind - proud, bustier-ed breasts, elegantly curved hips - a woman’s hips, not a skinny runway robot’s rump – and those long, lovely legs. Ah, the capture will be sweet… she should be just ahead…

Some time later …

“Alright, Clarice, for the very last time, I want you out here now, it’s doing you no good to hide.” He growled in frustration, going through the more out-of-the-way areas of the boathouse systematically, looking for the slightest movement. He was determined to be patient and grant her the game. Such a prize as hers, so lovingly offered as her gift to him alone, deserved such a dramatic salute. But he hadn’t suspected it would take this long --

“Hellooooo, down there! This the kind of thing you were thinking of, m’lord?”

He whirled around, following her voice upward.

Atop the lakeside diving board, sans bustier, sans stockings, sans everything, a breathtakingly naked Clarice stood poised, arms stretched straight overhead in a graceful diver’s stance. “Would you not agree, m’lord, that I should be properly good and wet for you, hmm?”

The good doctor stared, surprised yet again. His breath, suddenly drawn in and held at the sight of her, exploded from his lungs in a primal roar of approval. Life with her, as if he didn’t know it already, was going to be – is there a word for it - phenomenal will do for now!

Dr. Lecter’s carefully starched and pressed dinner attire was strewn all over the sun deck as he stripped it off and ran simultaneously, his body knifing into the water just as Clarice executed a very respectable swan dive and cleanly cut through the surface. She surfaced quickly, treading water, trying to pin down his location, when Lecter spear-launched himself up from the bottom like an attacking great white shark and swallowed her up in his arms with an explosion of swirling white water. Blazing maroon-and-cobalt met lusting sky-blue-and-grey before his lips captured hers as they sank back underwater.

Clarice quickly shot back to the surface, gasping for air, and kicked for the shore. Her cunning, persistent suitor caught her by surprise – and by the ankle - and pulled her relentlessly back underwater, meeting her frustration beneath the water with an evil, toothy grin. She squirmed free and made it to the surface again, churning her slender feet and legs in a blinding scissor kick, trying to put some distance between them. He silently surfaced a foot behind her, pinning her wrists behind her back before she knew he was there.

“You cheated!” she sputtered, the physical exertion of their battle making it harder to keep her desire in check. “No, the kissing stuff isn’t fair!” What a dumb thought, Starling! She bit her lip to hold back a squeal as he pinched her behind.

“Alas, fair Sonja-Clarice,” he enunciated as pompously as he could. “You must yield immediately or continue to be dunked mercilessly until you do.” He glared menacingly as he drew her, protesting, into shallower water. It was all over when he pinned her from behind between his well-muscled thighs, then arched her back against him, one hand tangled in her long, coppery hair. With the back of her head resting against his shoulder, he declared victory, demanding her immediate, unconditional surrender.

“And if I refuse?” Clarice declared in a hollow show of defiance.

His eyes glittered wickedly, evilly, as he put just a little more pull on her pinioned hair, leering down at her. Oh, hell, she thought, what’s coming now?

“My dearest mighty warrior,“ he pontificated, his eyebrows lowering into a threatening scowl, “have you ever been paddled on a wet butt?”

She went wide-eyed with alarm so quickly that Lecter roared with laughter. “Game, set, and MATCH!” He captured his lovely mermaid in his arms, carried her triumphantly out of the water, then back up the path and into the house.

Rebellion, as expected, rapidly faded into warmth as Lecter arrived at the foot of the stairway. Barely restrained intensity lit up his eyes as he descended deeper into the blue-grey pools of his beautiful Clarice-Sonja, as her eyes began to darken with her building desire. Shaken but unbowed, she matched him face-to-face, eye-to-eye. His pride in her deepened; he wouldn’t want it any other way.

This so-called “glorious but distant” woman made any battle, mock or otherwise, well worthwhile. One more thing you were wrong about, Freddie, he thought, mentally deriding the late, unlamented Frederick Chilton. You only got it half right. She is glorious.

He would have to tell Clarice about that conversation one of these days.

As he set his lady on her feet and offered his hand, the doctor enjoyed the sight of her eyes, still aglow from battle.

“Are you well and truly won, my exquisite rebel?” he asked.

“I am well and truly won. My innocence, sir, is yours - to do with as you will.”

He cleared his throat, her words causing a sudden inability to swallow. They also added to the demanding tumescence below his belt. “I suspect that submissive posture will last only until we get to the final stage of our little play this evening.”

“Your wisdom draws reverence from the stars.” Her still-wet head leaned against his shoulder, and his arm wrapped around her and drew her closer as they climbed the stairs.

Pulling a big, thick towel from the linen closet, Lecter wrapped it around Clarice’s shivering form and rubbed her damp body dry. Drawing her gently into the master bathroom, he took two towels from the warming rack. He wrapped her up in one, dried himself with the other, then sat her on the counter while he carefully combed out and blow-dried her hair. He turned back from hanging up the blow-dryer to find tears slowly trickling down Clarice’s face.

He gently nudged her chin up until she looked into his eyes. “Are you upset, little Starling? Tell me the truth, or I’ll know.”

“A little… but not at… “ She was trembling, and he drew her into his arms, stroking her hair and holding her closer. “It’s… “ Her eyes misted over. “It just amazes me how gentle you can be. The very same hands that can create such destruction, inflict such pain… make me feel like - a treasure. I should fear you terribly – and I don’t. Not even a little.”

Lecter’s breath caught in his throat, and he had to breathe in deep… deep…

“My beautiful, beautiful Clarice .” His words were a caress. He held her close, drew her closer, running his fingers through her cascading hair and down to the small of her back, pushing the enveloping towel away. Her arms slid around him and she cradled against him. Lecter held her to him a moment, then drew back just enough to lean his forehead against hers. “You are my greatest treasure, Clarice. You are magic - you have captured my soul, and you hold it with perfect trust…. You –“ His eyes bored into hers, finding the security there to make what for him was a difficult confession.

“You make me feel whole again."

Clarice drew in a ragged breath and looked up into his face. His eyes were very still, fixed on her as if he was waiting for confirmation. She buried her face in his chest and let the tears come. “As you make me,” she whispered. “As you make me.”

Lecter finally drew back very slightly; enough to take her hands and bring them to his lips. He gently kissed one, then the other, and dried her tears with the warm towel. He lifted her down from the counter, lacing his fingers through hers, and turned toward the door of the master bedroom. He opened the door, then stopped and turned to her, drawing
her in with him.

“Our minds have been together, gently and savagely, countless times, Clarice, from Baltimore, to Memphis, to here on the Chesapeake,” he said quietly. “Our closeness to each other has been infinitely closer than physical acts could ever bring us. You have allowed me into your mind, your dreams, and your soul, freely and without hesitation, and I you in return. I have never allowed anyone so far inside me before.”

He drew her closer. “We have only the physical realm left to explore together, for our own pleasure.” He gazed deeply, seriously, into her eyes. “We have no map, for this is uncharted territory for us; we have only our factual knowledge, our emotional instincts, and this magnetism that continues to draw us together, time and again, against all odds. Are you ready and willing to explore it with me, and trust me as I trust you?”

Clarice returned Hannibal’s penetrating, intent look with ever-deepening fascination for this amazing, unpredictable, terrifying man. “Yes,” she replied confidently, her voice clear and without hesitation. She smiled mischievously. “I have the feeling that, after seven years of foreplay, instinct might give us a little nudge in the right direction.”

The smoke behind Hannibal’s eyes flared into flame. “We can only hope.” A wickedly lustful smile slipped out from behind his polite words and refused to retreat. Pure passion hoarsened his voice. “Prepare to be deflowered, my lovely fallen angel.”

His words gave Clarice final release from the pent-up desire of all the frustrated longing, all the wildly passionate nights with this man, which she had experienced only in her dreams until now. Spinning around, she launched herself two steps and into the warm depths of Hannibal’s enormous feather bed. She whipped around to face him, on all fours, her chestnut hair falling down across her smoldering eyes.

The last remnants of Hannibal’s self-control were crumbling rapidly. His motion toward her was fluid, with a cat-like grace that brought a shudder from Clarice.

Hannibal Lecter had once again focused on his quarry, but with a much different outcome in mind.

He dropped down beside her, rolled over and pulled her into his arms. She moved shamelessly against him, and his smile suddenly grew frightfully wicked. “You might want to conserve some of that energy, Clarice. You are going to need it tonight.”

Her smile mirrored his. “Of course I will. I am, after all, the Devil’s --”

Lecter loomed over her, braced on one arm. The other hand slipped under her chin and pushed her chin up. The fire in his eyes was reflected in Clarice’s. As if either of them doubted it now, the waiting was over.

Hannibal claimed her lips with feverish intensity. She drew herself into his kiss, and then arched her head back, offering her throat to his plunder. Without hesitating, he struck with the speed of a cobra, his teeth just barely catching the tender flesh above her left collarbone, drawing a tiny trickle of blood. She was now completely his.

“Hannibal…” She tried to cry out, but his name emerged in a whisper. Lecter’s head rose from his pillaging and his eyes locked with hers, a smear of her blood on his mouth, and the sight pulled a low growl from deep in her throat. Playful and courting no more, he pulled her under him and sank into her, sheathing himself deeply, claiming her as his alone.

Her answering cry was primal in its intensity, from the most elemental part of her soul that knew that only this man, above all others, could bring her such intense joy, the only true joy she had ever felt. Her innocence given, and eagerly accepted, she blossomed into an ardent lover inside the darkness of her monster’s embrace.

They looted each other deep into the night, neither giving nor asking quarter, their mutual need too demanding for deferment or reprieve. With one deep breath, they plunged back down to each other again, diving deeper, then rising higher and higher, spinning so far together that the confinement of their senses would no longer hold back their shared cry of fulfillment, and the echo careened off the walls of their palatial memory palaces in tandem, recorded for all time.

Down.

Drifting slowly down, recognizing contact again with the now-drenched softness of the great bed, making a slow reunion with the conscious world. Their savage grip on each other eased slowly back, turning into slow, circular, feathery caresses as their need for air eased down, down, slower, easier, until breathing was a regular function again.

Hannibal gradually came back to full consciousness. Mmmmmmmm… warm… softness…and then…damn her running, she’s broken my ribs with those legs around me… incredible… what a challenge, my little Star –

He suddenly sat straight up, realizing his full weight was pressing Clarice’s slight form deep into the down and feather mattress. He leaned over her, taking in her stillness in alarm.

Panic receded as she breathed deeply, her eyes fluttered and opened drowsily. A deep blush still colored the softness of her cheeks, her lips still swollen from his passionate onslaught, and her eyes had an unfocused, dreamy quality, as if she was slowly awakening from something deeper than sleep. A small grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. So this is what they mean when they say a woman looks well and truly pleasured. She had already answered his question: are you pleased?

Clarice gradually came back to herself, and gazed up into her lover’s strange, dark eyes – satisfied, curious, nervous. She wondered - was he pleased? Part of her happiness about the night’s events, as she worried about her inexperience, depended upon his reaction. Does that sort-of-a-smile mean “yeah, baby, I want seconds!” or “she’ll get the hang of it one day”?

Seemingly in answer to her silent question, he drew her into the crook of his arm, and she laid her head on his chest.

“Do you remember,” he said finally, “when I first wrote you from Florence, and I told you that regardless of future events, I thought we would have a lot of fun?” He felt her nod against his shoulder.

“Somehow, at the time, I thought you meant “fun” as in ‘the thrill of the chase,’ as in me chasing you, not the other way around,” she chuckled. “As I remember it, my reaction to that letter was part shock, part lust.”

He grinned sideways at her flushed face, too exhausted to raise his head. “So the chase turned out to be our asylum. Only in this case, asylum has an entirely different meaning.”

She drew up slightly, eyebrows raised, so they could see eye to eye. “That is the first time I’ve ever heard a beautiful pun.” A roguish smile.

He drew her head back down onto his shoulder, cradling her body against him, relishing in the touch of skin to skin. “I’m immensely pleased that you like it.”

A few minutes later, Clarice sat up and reached across him for their glasses, and put the wine back on the ice.

Their glasses clinked.

“To us?” Her eyes questioned his, and felt his energy coming back at her, returning to him in an endless circle.

“To us, my dear,” in quiet contentment.

They both took a deep sip of the wine, and then sampled each other in a long, satisfying kiss.

‘Remind me of something tomorrow?” he asked drowsily as she curled up against him and he laid his head tiredly beside hers.

“Of what, love?”

“Remind me to take the trash out from the kitchen.”

As sleepy as she was, Clarice couldn’t hold back a short, satisfied laugh. What a horrible person she was.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wrapped up close in each other’s arms, they talked quietly about teacups and time, and the rule of disorder - about
everything except cabbages and kings. Slumber gradually claimed them again, just at the end of night.

Moments later, the sun began to rise of their first day as lovers, blushing above the horizon as it warmed the countryside around them.

As they say in Ireland, ‘twas going to be a fine spring day.


FIN

copyright 2002, by Bella Firenze

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