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copyright 2004, by The FantaC

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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Ardelia looked at Clint Pearsall, Clarice's former boss, with shock and slowly sank onto the vinyl seat of the chair in front of Pearsall's desk. Of course, the Bureau's budget doesn't extend to providing leather chairs for their employees, Ardelia mused then reprimanded herself, What a thing to be thinking about after what I just heard.

"Believe me. In spite of all the rumors, I'm not inclined to think that Starling just up and went with Lecter." Pearsall carefully observed the woman who would be the most likely person to know if there had been anything going on there.

"Clarice didn't really talk about Lecter. Even though we shared a duplex and were friends, she was a private person. She spent a lot of time alone and never went out on dates." Ardelia wondered why she mentioned that last fact.

"Do you think she had a personal agenda concerning Lecter?"

"Evidently, you've already made up your mind about what happened. He could have done something with her. Lecter seemed to be the one with a personal agenda."

Fixing his eyes on Ardelia, Pearsall sat quietly in thought then reached a decision. He would tell her about the incriminating circumstances surrounding Starling's disappearance.

"Given the fact that Starling went out of her way, in direct violation of her suspension, to rescue Lecter at Mason Verger's estate, I am more inclined to believe she went with him willingly."

He could sense Mapp's hesitation before she said, "I know she respected him. God knows how much time Starling spent going through the files and information about Lecter with the intent of capturing him. From what I heard, there were pigs trained to eat humans at Verger's and that Lecter was to be the main course. That was a crime in progress there."

"It would have been poetic justice, in a sense, considering how Lecter had Verger feed his face to his own dogs but I know that doesn't justify the crime." He thought about the numerous reports of injuries sustained by those attempting to capture and destroy the man-eating hogs. It was confirmed that what was left of the bodies found in the barn did not belong to either Starling or Lecter.

"Just because she may have gone to Verger's to rescue Lecter, doesn't mean she went off with him." Ardelia couldn't imagine anyone going off with a cannibalistic serial killer, especially someone as dedicated to the F.B.I. as Clarice. Though she had noticed that her friend was getting more and more disillusioned by the politics and corruption within the Bureau. She felt the same way about it herself.

"Krendler strongly believes Starling had a thing for Lecter."

"Last thing I heard from Starling concerning Krendler was that he was lewd and hitting on her. I'm not inclined to trust his judgment concerning this matter." Ardelia fumed just thinking about Krendler. There was talk that he had done more than that to a secretary who quickly left her job. Ardelia would have filed a harassment suit. She had as much regard for Krendler as the pigs at Verger's. That womanizing, chauvinistic pig! The phone interrupted her thoughts and Pearsall took the call while she waited for this long night to be over with.

"Mason's assistant, Cordell, said Starling was shot and that Lecter picked her up and carried her out of the barn. He also said that the pigs surrounded Lecter but didn't touch him; they just let him leave." Pearsall reported after he got off the phone a few minutes later.

"Now that confirms that Starling didn't leave with Lecter on her own. It sounds like he actually saved and rescued her. I hope that means he won't harm Clarice." Ardelia wondered what would Lecter do with her friend. She remembered what Lecter had done to Miggs after he had thrown semen at Clarice, convincing Miggs to swallow his own tongue. He also gave Clarice clues that led her to finding Raspail's head in a jar. A valentine. Ardelia shuddered at the thought of having a boyfriend like that!

"Oh no! I'm not going there!" Ardelia thought but it did make her wonder how Lecter felt about Clarice. In her opinion, that was the big question, not Clarice's feelings for Lecter.

"Perhaps there is nothing to the rumors but Lecter did come back to the U.S. in spite of the Verger threat and the possibility of being recaptured. He did rescue Starling so I'm sure if we find one, we'll find the other." Pearsall seemed to echo what Ardelia was thinking. She was glad she didn't have to say anything.

Quietly, he added, "The question is what would we find if we managed to locate them?"


Returning to the bed where Clarice lay recovering from the surgery he performed, Lecter watched her sleep. She would be regaining consciousness shortly.

Softly, his finger traced her face then moved to touch her lips. His gaze devoured her, red glowed in his maroon eyes as he felt her breath on his hand.

They were together in the same room, in close proximity with no bars or Plexiglas. His visits, in the past, to Special Agent Clarice Starling had not provided the time and opportunity such as this. Hannibal inhaled deeply. Her scent was intoxicating.

Under these circumstances, he couldn't do what he longed to do but Clarice would recover and they would have time to explore what began years ago. He could tell that Clarice had hit that "glass ceiling" at the F.B.I. numerous times. Was she ready to come out of the confines of her idealism and institutionalized thinking and enjoy a life lived to the fullest with him?

Violating his own self-preservation, possibly his freedom just to see her run because the sound of her voice, after all these years, when he was about to hang Pazzi on his own petard, had created such a hunger... Yes, he couldn't deny his desire any longer so he came back to the States because he needed and wanted so much more than what he had allowed all those years.

Watching, observing and waiting for the right time, he had made a decision. Would he get his prize? He understood her in so many ways but there were still elements of surprise when it came to his Clarice.

Xylographs hung on the wall behind the bed depicting scenes of hunters pursuing and capturing a large buck. Clarice had captured his heart years ago in Baltimore. The irony did not escape him when he thought of her searching for him when she had, in a sense, always had him.

Yet there had been so much time and distance apart from each other. Lecter closed his eyes briefly, then again resumed his vigilant watch. He had been free for years except for one thing... Clarice. Solitary confinement in the midst of freedom. Alone. Without her. Being nurtured by memories and articles that, once in a while, showed up in the tabloids. A meager diet.

Zante would be a good place to stay for awhile. He had the passports and identification ready for them both. Would it be the two of them or would he go there with only the new memories created these last few days?

A soft moan interrupted his thoughts and planning. Clarice stirred. Lecter went and sat in an upholstered chair beside the bed.

Bewildered by her surroundings and the haziness of her thoughts, Clarice stared at the elegant figure sitting in a chair only a few feet from where she was on a large four-poster bed. She didn't recognize where she was but she knew who sat watching her so intently.

Concern was on that most memorable face in spite of the slight alterations done to disguise himself. His maroon eyes, his sleek black hair, his strong wiry body... this was who she saw awake and sleeping: Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Despite everything she had read and knew about this man, Clarice felt safe. She felt like she had come home, that she was where she belonged. Funny how, in some ways, she was now thinking more clearly about certain issues. The biggest one sitting only a few feet from her.

Everything was being studied by the man who had been a renowned psychiatrist. Clarice wondered what he saw as he sat watching her. His insights and brilliant mind were things that had fascinated her from the very start.

Finally, she attempted to speak. Lecter held up a hand silencing her as he picked up a glass from the table beside the bed. One arm supported her from behind so she was able to sit up and drink from the glass being held to her mouth. The water felt good going down her parched throat.

"Good evening, Clarice," the doctor said.

"Hanni... " Clarice stopped aghast.

"I really don't mind the eschewal of formality. I find it rather enlightening."

"Just what I need! Once again, he demonstrates his high-powered perception." Clarice closed her eyes but knew that wouldn't prevent him from seeing everything. She was beginning to see a few things herself. Things she had denied for so long.

Knowledge that he probably saved her life jolted her thoughts. She remembered handing him a knife to cut the rest of the ropes that bound him to a forklift. A man who used a Harpy to kill and she handed him a knife with cool deliberation. The horrible sounds of the large hogs pounding against the stall door, wood splintering. His warning, the shooting, being shot. Falling. Looking at him before everything turned black. Briefly conscious, seeing Lecter behind the wheel of her car. Clarice looked at her shoulder and saw the neat, precise stitching done there. He had taken care of her injury.

Lecter enjoyed all the answers he was obtaining non-verbally. So his Starling thought of him, hmmmm. She was also remembering the events that occurred before he brought her here. The drugs were wearing off. Good.

"More water?"

"No, thank you."

"One thing, Clarice," Lecter said in a metallic voice she knew so well. It was the one she heard on a daily basis. She had definitely let Lecter into her head. Had she also done the same with her heart? No one else fascinated or interested her like Dr. Lecter... no, Hannibal. "I see you're experiencing an epiphany of sorts. Do tell."

Pleased with all the nuances he observed and what he was sensing as he continued to hold her and maintain eye contact, he smiled. Clarice found herself drawn not repelled by it. She was sure that there were others who were not comforted by a certain doctor's smile. Better to eat you with, came the thought.

Quickly suppressing a laugh at that and the warmth caused by its double meaning, Clarice said, "Surely you already know so why should I tell you."

"Really, Clarice, such prevarication! Still in denial, unwilling to face certain truths?"

"Such as?" Clarice countered.

"That's quite slippery of you, my dear." Lecter heard Clarice snicker at that. "I seemed to have amused you." He smiled when he saw her blush. "Having some salacious thoughts?" he added.

"Unbelievable! I don't even have to talk! You seem to have all the answers. Maybe you're psychic not a psycho!" Clarice retorted but the enjoyment of their verbal exchange was in her voice.

"Vocalization is an important step in self-realization," Lecter shot back with a satisfied gleam in his eyes.

"Whatever! What about you? Quid pro quo, Doctor." Their conversation had a rhythm to it that they both settled into with ease. Clarice's breathing was a bit quicker from their physical proximity but she didn't miss a beat with her verbal responses to him.

X-rays had nothing on this man! Clarice could feel his eyes bore into her, his focus and concentration seemed to penetrate her very core and being.

Zest exuded from him. Clarice never felt so alive and aware then when she was with him. The years apart had been an existence on a lower, dull plane which escalated to levels she hadn't experienced since she last saw or spoke with him. Sometimes, the mention of his name had her heart quicken, she realized.

A few minutes went by with each of them silently looking at the other. Clarice broke the silence first with a whispered, "I've been so confused, Dr. Lecter. About you, " she added when Lecter's head cocked slightly to the side.

Bending down so their lips were almost touching, Lecter quietly said, "Perhaps this will clear up some of that confusion or add to it." He proceeded to close the gap so their lips met and he began to gently explore her mouth with his own.

Clarice's lips were still at first then followed his lead. Passion took over and they both began to devour each other's mouth. Clarice wrapped her arms around him as Hannibal pressed her body to his.

Deepening the kiss, he maneuvered them down onto the bed and they began to explore, taking time to fully discover each newly exposed area as their clothes were removed. They easily found a sensual rhythm that inflamed and heightened their awareness of each other.

Emotions overwhelmed them as they reached and experienced pleasure and heights that shook them both. A breeze stirred the curtains, touching heated flesh as Clarice felt tears run down her face. Hannibal gently licked them and brushed her lips with his own. For a long while, they just lay close and held each other as their breathing and heartbeats calmed to a more normal rate. Lecter's had definitely been over 80 beats a minute. Clarice smiled at that realization.

Finally, Hannibal spoke and his breath stirred Clarice's hair as she lay against him with her head on his chest. "Clarification or confusion, Clarice?"

"Good God, you're alliterating!" Clarice burst out laughing and heard a raspy chuckle coming from Hannibal.

Hannibal became silent and Clarice knew she couldn't continue to avoid what needed to be said. Her fingers combed through the hair on his chest as she finally confronted her feelings and realized what she had been suppressing and denying for years. Some of their stars were indeed the same!

"I love you, Hannibal, " Clarice said with resolution and total conviction. She felt his arms tighten around her.

Jubilation filled Lecter and he closed his eyes savoring the moment. Every detail was committed to memory but he was glad that this time that would not be all he was left with. At last, he would enjoy the substance of truly having Clarice in his life.

Kissing the top of her head, he said, "I love you, Clarice." Then, with a playful note, added, "I have a meal prepared, very befitting under the circumstances." Clarice gave him a slightly wary look. She hadn't forgotten about Raspail's head and wondered if it were someone's heart served on a platter. The look Lecter gave her made her think that not only did he discern her thoughts but answered them with a mental, Only my own, my dear, as they made their way down the stairs.

Laughing when she saw the whole, roasted pig in the middle of an elegantly set table, Clarice murmured, "You have mine too." The pig was promptly abandoned for the appeasement of other appetites which lasted the rest of the night, forging a new life and love that they lived and experienced to the fullest... together.


copyright 2004, by The FantaC

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