Four months had passed since Lecter had escaped. He made it to Rio with the tour group he signed up for after stopping at the cabin where his passport and credentials were stored. The silicone implants he had administered himself did the job until he was able to spend the money to get them done professionally in Rio. He refused to alter his nose, not wanting to risk altering his keen sense of smell. But some to his cheeks, his eyebrows, and his lips made all the difference in the world. He didn't look like a completely different person, but with longer and darker hair, and a full beard he was fine.
He was on his second identity now, the one he utilized to get out of the States being reserved for emergencies. He had stored it away years ago in case he were to ever become a fugitive, and was one he didn't care to utilize unless he had to. He was back in the States to return the paperwork to its rightful place, and to pay a visit on Clarice Starling. He hadn't received word from her yet about the lambs, and he was curious whether or not she had an answer.
It wasn't difficult to find out where she lived. He sat outside Quantico one day and knew when the suped up Mustang pulled out from the security gates that it was Clarice before he saw the driver of the vehicle. He followed her at a distance, continuing on after she turned on to a street that ended in a cul de sac. After a few minutes, he turned around and drove along the dead end street spotting the same Mustang parked in front of a duplex. It appeared she was alone, visible light emitted from only one half of the duplex and no other vehicles were present. He drove away and after familiarizing himself with the area departed for the evening intent on coming back another day.
It was Friday of the same week as he watched the roommate leave and then finally as the lights dimmed until the house was dark. He entered the house easily and waited in the kitchen listening as she got ready for bed, then waited until she'd turned the lamp off and heard the sheet get pulled around her. He waited a while longer, giving her enough time to fall asleep before quietly entering her room. He shook his head in amusement as he thought of how easy it had been to not only find where she lived but to enter unnoticed. For FBI agents, she and her roommate weren't overly careful. He slowly made his way to her room and stood over her bed watching as she slept. He realized as he saw her auburn hair fanned out on the pillow that her head laid on that he could have stood in place for the rest of the evening watching her sleep and go away somewhat content. But he hadn't come there to watch her sleep tonight. Indeed, he wanted her to know that while he would not hurt her he was not gone from her life forever. The rhythm of her breathing suggested she wasn't sound asleep yet as he bent toward her, covering her mouth with his hand. His hand was smooth and his grasp over her mouth wasn't severe, but there was no denying its strength. "How wonderful to see you, Clarice. You got my gift I see." He gestured to the figurine he had bought for her in Rio of a shepherd holding a lamb in his arms. "Can I count on you not to scream? It would pain me so to have to leave without so much as a bit of a conversation with you."
Clarice's eyes snapped open as she felt the hand go over her mouth. Her instincts as an agent kicked in, and she struggled to escape, kicking her legs. When she saw whom her assailant was, her eyes widened. She opened her mouth to speak, but her words were muffled behind his hand. "Dr. Lecter," she mumbled the moonlight from the window causing her eyes to glimmer like twin oceans. "What are you doing here?"
"Tsk, tsk, Agent Starling. You didn't answer my question, but since you're not screaming I'll take that as a yes. But one word out of you above conversation level and I fear you will have no memory of this little visit." He removed his hand from her mouth fully, taking the opportunity of being so close to her to scan the part of her body she had made visible to him in her attempt at getting away from him. She was scared or nervous or possibly even excited as was evident by her breathing. "I came to see you, Clarice. I couldn't stay away any longer I'm afraid. Watching you this week while you've come and gone from the house on a daily basis in that muscle car of yours, I knew I couldn't leave without at least saying hello. That would have been most rude, don't you think? To be this close to you and not be courteous enough to pay you a visit. So here I am." He smiled slightly, the picture of calmness as he stood over her bed.
Clarice willed herself to calm down; taking deep breaths until her breathing went back to normal. He had told her after he escaped that he wouldn't harm her, didn't he? He had also said he wouldn't come to call on her, and here he was. "I thought you had no plans to call on me, Doctor," Clarice replied clearly, her voice calm. "I didn't see you as one to break promises, so I'll assume you aren't here to hurt me." She waited for him to respond trying to collect her thoughts.
"I could never hurt you, Clarice." He said quietly. He took a moment to store the vision of her lying on her bed in his memory palace, a picture that until now he only had fictional images of to call upon. "And I apologize for breaking my promise of not calling on you, but you left me no choice when you didn't answer my letters. I had to make sure you were getting them. I figured with this package you'd realize I had left it myself; so I took it upon myself to personally call on you to ensure you were receiving my correspondence. I assume all is well with you, Agent Starling. You are certainly looking well though I see that you've been drinking. Is there something on your mind?"
Clarice quietly moved her hand under her pillow, fingering the cold steel of her gun. She would have to hold Lecter at gunpoint and somehow call Crawford at the same time. What choice did she have? What kind of agent would she be if she let him get away? "I'm fine, Dr. Lecter. I know plenty of people who have a glass or two of wine with dinner." She pulled her blanket up around her suddenly feeling chilled.
"Of course you're right, myself included. You're cold, I'm sorry I've scared you. Why didn't you go out with your friend? It would have been much easier for me to watch you from across a crowded bar then to see you this way." He gestured to the camisole that was visible. "So here I am alone with you, and I'm not quite sure what to say or do after all this time."
"Ardelia is out on a date, Dr. Lecter. Surely you remember what those are, and how my presence probably wouldn't be appreciated." She spoke calmly, yet her mind was racing, trying desperately to formulate a plan. She wondered when Ardelia would be home. Sometimes when she had a really good date, she'd wake Clarice up to tell her about it. But with it as late as it was, she would probably just wait until she woke up the next day. She sighed slightly. "Dr. Lecter, what are you doing here? It's been months since your escape. You can't tell me you've been here in D.C. all this time. So something must have brought you here."
"Yes, I'm well aware of where she is. You should tell your friend she needs to screen her date selections more carefully. The man was all too willing to pocket $100 to take her to Arlington for dinner." He laughed lightly. "Business brought me here, Clarice. Some unfinished business I needed to tend to, and the temptation to see you was too much. I even delayed my return trip so that I might watch you from a closer proximity than the hills at the jogging trail which I notice you did not go to today." He paused slightly. "Are you trying to find out where I've been all these months, Clarice? A good effort I must say, slipping in that I haven't been here all along. But no such luck, I'm sorry. I plan to be a free man until I die, Agent Starling. No more bars, cells, or masks for me." He shrugged as if it was a common occurrence to have such a conversation.
"No, not at all," Clarice replied quickly, perhaps too quickly. She stared at him for a moment in silent disbelief. "You paid someone to take Ardelia out? Just so you could come here?" She toyed with her gun, careful to keep her movements hidden.
He stood slowly, walking to the other side of her bed. His movements were slow and deliberate his eyes never leaving her or the bed. "No, no, my dear Agent Starling. The date was real; I would never toy with a girl's heart like that. I just paid the lad to make sure she'd be gone for most of the night. But yes, the payment was so that I could know my comings and goings here would be uninterrupted." He laughed lightly. "He probably thinks I'm a dirty old man, but I'll take that. I've certainly been called much worse in my time. Did you like the figurine? I thought of you as soon as I saw it. I'm sure you can imagine why."
"Yes, it's very nice," she replied, her eyes moving to her dresser where she had placed the figurine before going to bed. "Who's the artist?" She was hoping for any clue, however slight, as to where he had been for the last few months. She tucked back a loose strand of hair, her other hand still resting on her gun.
"I'm glad you like it. I struggled between it and another. I'm really not sure who the artist is, Clarice. I saw it in a religious bookstore, and thought perhaps that it might serve as a comfort to you at times to see a lamb at peace." He smiled slightly; knowing it disturbed her to talk of the lambs. He changed the subject. "I understand Jack is close to retiring. That will leave you at the mercy of Mr. Krendler won't it?"
Clarice's eyes narrowed slightly at the mention of Krendler's name. "Yes," she replied simply. "Mr. Crawford's mandatory retirement isn't for another couple of years, but he's already being pressured into retiring, especially by Krendler. He's not giving it, though, and for that I'm glad."
"Yes, Jack has never been one to succumb to pressures from the higher ups. He's a good man, I was sorry to hear of his wife's passing." He moved to the foot of the bed and sat on the edge. "Do I scare you, Clarice? Unnerve you? I grew rather fond of you, and your shoes, during our visits. Perhaps it was just due to being in a cell not having seen a woman for quite some time and my skills were rusty, but I gathered towards the end there that the feeling was mutual. You wouldn't have divulged the things to me you did if you were frightened of me."
"No, I'm not scared of you. I think anyone would be scared for a few moments when woken out of a deep sleep with an unknown hand over his or her mouth. Don't you agree?" She paused, glancing over at him. "I didn't have much choice in telling you about my childhood, Dr. Lecter. If I remember correctly, I didn't have many options. Catherine had to be rescued, and Bill had to be stopped. I did what I had to do."
"Oh well, that's true I suppose. Though I have to wonder if it had been Dr. Chilton asking you the questions how responsive you would have been." He looked around her room further, his eyes ever observant storing things for his later retrieval. "I've always wondered how you lived. It's appropriate the color difference in skin between you and Agent Mapp, you're quite opposite in every way. But it suits you, your room." He pointed to an old music box on her dresser. "A memento from your youth, Agent Starling?"
"Yes," Clarice replied softly, her eyes growing wistful. "It was the last thing my father ever gave me. It was for my tenth birthday." Forgetting for a moment about the gun under her pillow and her plans for it, she rose from the bed, crossing over to her dresser to wind up the music box. A few moments later, the soft strains of Pachebel's Canon in D Minor wafted through the air. The crystal clear, bell-like tones brought a smile to Clarice's face.
He sat in silence, watching the transformation of her. He could almost picture her as a little girl receiving the gift. He stood slowly and walked towards her, his right hand settling on her shoulder gently. "I'm glad you have something to remember him by. I never pictured you as the type of little girl who liked music boxes, though. Or do I have you pegged wrong? I picture you more as being the type to climb trees."
"Oh, I was a tomboy, most definitely. I climbed trees, made mud pies, fought, you name it and if it was boyish I did it. That's why the music box was so special. It was the first grown up, lady-like present my father ever gave me." She gently traced the top of it with her finger, her eyes still dreamy and distant.
He closed his eyes, allowing the scent of her shampoo, soaps, and perfume to enter his mind. His face was inches from her ear when he spoke softly. "And I'm sure he'd be proud to see that you are very much a grown up woman now. It hasn't escaped my notice." He had to wonder about his logic in coming to see her, seeing her again so close without bars between them, it was enough to make him go mad. She probably thought he was mad anyway, well she probably thought that when she first met him at any rate. He was sure she quickly pushed that stereotype aside, but he wondered if she saw him as anything more than an escaped prisoner. He was brought out of his thoughts by a movement Clarice made; sensing the mood had been broken.
Clarice came back to reality, allowing the thoughts of her past and her father to fade away into the night. She still stared down at the music box, wondering what in hell she was going to do. He was standing so close to her, she could've touched him if she wanted to, something she had never done of her own accord. It wasn't a disturbing thought, and that in itself disturbed her. She needed to go to her bed, get the gun, tie him up with something, and call headquarters. That was her job, that was what she had worked so hard for for so long. What was the point of her dedication and hard work if she was unable to do her job when the time came? She was an agent first and foremost. She moved towards her bed, pulling the covers back over her as she leaned against her pillow. "If Ardelia comes home and finds you here, she'll kill you on the spot." She couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Are you concerned for me, Clarice? How very kind of you, but I assure you she would not find me here. Though admittedly coming here was perhaps not the brightest thing I've done since my unexpected furlough it's not the first time I've seen you. Do you want me to leave, Clarice? While I won't apologize for coming here, I will go if you tell me to. I mean you no harm, I think you know that. I just wondered how you were, really."
"You don't have to leave. I'm sure Ardelia won't be home for quite some time, and she never comes in here anyway." She gestured towards a chair near her bed, thinking quickly. If she could get him to keep talking, maybe she could get some clue as to where he had been living for the past few months.
He looked at the chair and instead sat once again at the foot of her bed. "As unsettling as it may be, Agent Starling, I'd much prefer to sit near you then in a chair. I was never allowed to be this close to you without bars or plastic between us." A slight sigh escaped his lips as he thought. He really had no idea what he was doing here, and the purpose of such a careless deed escaped him. "Why didn't you respond to my letters? Was it me?" He knew full well what her reasons were, but he wondered what her response might be.
"How did you expect me to respond, Dr. Lecter? I had no return address. I couldn't very well put an ad in any of the papers you told me to. The FBI would have seen it, and then they would assume I knew where you were and that I was hiding information. I would've lost not only my credibility, but my badge." She grew silent, wondering why she felt like she had to explain herself.
"Of course, and here you are on the verge of losing your badge anyway and your credibility is quite lost without my assistance. But I understand your predicament. Well, perhaps now that I have spoken with you you could find the time to put a personal in the New York Times on any given Sunday so that I might know that you're doing well. No one but you and I would know. I'm quite sure your room is not bugged in anticipation of a moonlight visit by me." He watched her, sensing her thoughts. He placed his right hand gently against her cheek as he let his hand push away some hair from her face. It was growing late, he knew he should depart soon but he was drawn to her. He had no doubt that she would lead to his demise if he continued to see her in any capacity. "Does it bother you, Clarice, when I told you I grew rather fond of you during our visits? Your wide-eyed innocence and your desire to do the right thing were such refreshing attributes. The only part I regret about my escape is that my contact with you had to cease. But it would have anyway once you'd caught Buffalo Bill. You would have had no reason to visit me again and I would have been stuck inside a cell tormented with thoughts of you with no release for them."
Clarice didn't know what to say. She felt a wave of defeat wash over her as she realized she couldn't go through with her plan. Even though most of the department would be overjoyed to have Lecter once again behind bars, there were the few who would wonder amongst themselves why he had been in her bedroom. No matter how many times she would explain that he came in unknown to her, people like Krendler would believe otherwise. She couldn't risk what that would bring to her, not now, not when Krendler already had it in for her. She would have to find him again of her own accord, with Mr. Crawford's permission. The realization that she would have to waste precious time tracking him down when he was only two feet from her right now was beyond frustrating. Her hands tightened on the blanket. She was so lost in thought she nearly jumped out of her skin when he touched her cheek. The gesture was so unexpected, so strange, that she didn't know how to react to it. Oddly it was comforting. "I might have visited with you again," she replied dumbly, her hands relaxing their death grip on the comforter. "You don't know for sure that I wouldn't have. Even after we caught Bill."
"But of course, Clarice," he chuckled lightly. "I can see it now. 'Excuse me, Mr. Crawford, might I have a day off so that I can go to Baltimore and visit with Dr. Lecter for old time's sake.' Somehow Clarice as much as I would like to believe that were true, it wouldn't have happened. And certainly not in such close proximity as you are to me now. I think I'm more inclined to prefer it this way." He pulled his hand away, letting it rest on her comforter. "Am I bothering you?"
"No. But you shouldn't assume things about people, Dr. Lecter. You don't know me half as well as you'd like to think you do. If I wanted to visit you, I would have visited you." She raised her chin, meeting his gaze squarely.
He laughed lightly. "I have little doubt of that, Agent Starling. You're a woman who does what she wants when she puts her mind to it, damn what anyone else thinks. You were the first person in years besides Barney who treated me as an intelligent human being and not an animal. I can't tell you how much that went towards my giving you any assistance at all in finding Bill. Have you talked to young Catharine or her mother since her safe return?"
"A few times. Catherine is fine, and Ruth Martin, as you probably already know, is running for re-election this year." She paused, glancing down before looking back at him. "I treated you like an intelligent human being, Doctor, because that is what you are. I've always respected your intellect, despite the things you have done."
"I know you saw that, Clarice, but you'd be surprised how many didn't. They saw the cell, the clothes, and for some reason that instantly discredited me and my rights as an intelligent human being were stripped. I'm glad to hear that Catherine is all right, she's a survivor and I'm sure when she gets to the point of becoming a wife and mother she will make a good one, though perhaps erring on the side of being overprotective due to what happened to her. And Krendler? He has vowed revenge against you for making him look bad? No one but you would have been able to figure out my clues, Clarice. No one but you would have found Catherine. You listened to me, it took you a while but you processed the information."
"Yes, Krendler definitely has it in for me. I think he's a major factor in why I get such crappy assignments, but I can't prove anything of course." She paused, her frustration evident. "I thought I had it made when I caught Bill. I thought the world was my oyster that I would easily move up the ladder at work. I couldn't have been more wrong." She knew she was probably babbling, but it was nice to finally be able to talk to someone about her problems at work. She couldn't talk to Ardelia about it or anyone else at work for that matter.
"You're a woman and you bested him, and you weren't even an agent at the time. You wounded the man's pride. But I don't think Krendler is entirely responsible for your downfall, Agent Starling. I think some of it comes from within you. I'm not criticizing you, Clarice, you're a strong person and you've gone through things that others who have not been orphaned could in no way comprehend. But I think that perhaps you've created some demons within yourself that you need to cast out in order to have a career. Krendler has come onto you, yes? And something tells me you did not respond affirmatively or you probably would have those better assignments you seek. But I commend you for that. A woman in the FBI, men don't want you there. It would have been easy to take the easy way out. And when Jack retires. What are you prepared to do then, Agent Starling?"
"I don't know," Clarice whispered in reply, staring down at the backs of her hands. "I just don't know. All I can do is keep doing what I'm doing. I'm not going to let a bastard like Krendler keep me from doing what I love to do." She wrapped her arms under her chest, realizing perhaps for the first time the imminent danger to her career that Mr. Crawford's retirement in a few years would bring her way. She remained once again lost in thought.
"Good." He said simply. He seemed to sense her thoughtfulness and left her to her thoughts as he perused her room further. He returned to her bedside and sat, touching her face again with the back of his hand as he looked at her face. "What happened to your cheek?" He rubbed the spot on her cheek with his thumb knowing before he did so that it would not come off.
Clarice pulled back slightly at his gentle touch. Her own hand moved to her cheek, briefly meeting his before he pulled it away. "This? It's nothing. Just some gunpowder. It's been there since I killed Jame Gumb. I haven't gotten around to getting it removed." She shrugged, bewildered by how strange she felt. His touch was so normal, so gentle. She knew if she closed her eyes she could easily forget just who he was, but she also knew that that was not possible. Never forget what he is Crawford had told her. "It's nothing," she whispered, more to herself than to him.
"Ah, a battle scar. It suits you actually; I wouldn't get it removed. One would think from afar that it's a beauty mark. I wonder, Clarice, if you let many get close enough to see what it truly is besides Ardelia and Jack. And now me." It was more of a statement than a question but he seemed curious to hear her response. She had pulled back from him but it wasn't a recoil, he wondered if he had misinterpreted her actions. Could she not have found his touch offensive?
Clarice's eyes narrowed slightly, her hand still pressed to her cheek. "I don't feel the need to tell everyone I meet about my personal history, Doctor." She hated how he could see right through her. Would she regret for the rest of her life what she had to do to find Buffalo Bill? Mr. Crawford had warned her not to ever let Hannibal Lecter inside her head. But what else could she have done? Catherine Martin would have died otherwise. Clarice sighed slightly, rubbing her head, which was starting to ache.
"I wasn't talking about talking, Clarice. It's not important never mind." He shifted slightly; adjusting the comforter suddenly concerned for her. "You're not feeling ill are you? Can I get you something? Some more of that wine? I'm sure I've rather shocked you this evening. Or would you rather I just go? This will be the last you hear from me for some time I'm sure, I don't know that I can take much more."
"Wine. Yes, wine would be nice. Would you like some?" She rose from the bed, tying her robe around her trim waist. She didn't know why she chose to don her robe; the boxers and camisole she wore weren't at all suggestive. But she felt more comfortable with the robe. She made her way to the kitchen, her hands trembling slightly as she poured two glasses of wine. She then went back into her room, the glasses and the bottle in tow. Handing one glass to Lecter, she downed her glass quickly, pouring herself another. It was halfway to her lips before she paused, gazing at him contemplatively. "What do you mean, you can't take much more? Is my company that offensive?" She laughed slightly, realizing just how strange this whole situation was.
He set the glass aside, he really didn't think she would poison or drug him. But he couldn't take the chance. He grimaced at her questions, "Hardly, Agent Starling. I find your company most desirable as I did before; it's just a lot more difficult to control myself when there are no bars separating us. I'm afraid if I were to return anytime soon that I'd be apt to forget I was a gentleman. Forgive me if that sounds rude, but you asked the questions. I felt compelled to speak my mind."
Clarice immediately noticed how he set his glass aside. "There's nothing in that. I wouldn't...." She let her voice trail off, taking the glass from him and drinking it to prove her point. She then set the bottle beside his empty glass, figuring he could pour himself some if he wanted it. She was silent after he had spoken, letting his words sink it. He couldn't possibly mean what he was saying, could he? If she understood him correctly, and she was pretty sure that she was, he felt more than just a passing friendly fondness for her. Was that really what he meant? Or was she reading too much into his words? And shouldn't she feel upset by such an idea? "Speaking the truth, speaking freely, is hardly rude, Dr. Lecter. I suppose it could be in certain situations, but I find lies much more offensive." Dear lord, she sounded like an after school special. What was wrong with her? Why did she feel so strange, like all her emotions were on a roller coaster ride? Even her thoughts felt jumbled and odd.
"I agree." He poured himself a glass of wine, taking a sip and palming the base of the glass in his right hand. He would have to send her some better wine. "Well, I guess my truths haven't offended you since you haven't directed me to leave." He laughed lightly. "I have to wonder how many other men you entertain with wine in your bedroom dressed as you are. Or is it just fugitives you save such comforts for?" He glanced at her robe, a hint of the camisole visible.
"Oh, definitely only fugitives. Why waste my time on good standing citizens? Us FBI agents have to be careful who we associate with." She took another sip of the wine, realizing that it had to taste awfully cheap to Lecter, who was a connoisseur, when it came to such things.
"Can't be too careful." He laughed. "It seems you're less scared of being in such close proximity to me then you are Agent Krendler. I wonder why that is? Certainly he can't pose more of a threat to you then I do. Although I think I can probably hold myself in check, whereas young Paul strikes me as the type to take without asking. He's never hurt you has he, Clarice?" The thought suddenly occurred to him, he had no idea why and the thought that someone would lift a finger to her in violence made him very angry. He pondered her face, her neck, and in his mind he was able to see what lay beneath the robe and camisole. Such torment he was subjecting himself to. Surely she'd offer him some relief for his thoughts.
"No, of course not. He wouldn't dare. He knows it would be the last thing he ever did." Clarice's eyes blazed at the thought of him even attempting to lay a finger on her. "He's a coward, Dr. Lecter, all talk and no action. I could see him threatening to do something, but he would never go through with it."
"No he just carries through with his threats where he knows it hurts you, by stripping you of your career. I wish there was something I could do for you." He laughed at the irony. "Aside from turning myself in, of course. I care for you, but I don't know that I'm willing to go that far for you. Not unless I got something awfully good out of the deal."
Clarice's eyebrows rose. "And I suppose you wouldn't consider a firm handshake awfully good." She had to laugh, wondering how she was going to find him again. She had to do it, though, for the sake of her career. "You could eat him for me, you know. Although, I'm sure he wouldn't taste very good." She laughed lightly, hoping he knew that she was joking.
"No, a handshake was not exactly what I had in mind at all. But if you're ever ready to make a deal, you put an ad in the New York Times on any given Sunday and I'll present you with my idea. I can assure you, my dear Clarice that it involves much more than my standing in your bedroom. I'm acting the role of gentleman, but my thoughts aren't necessarily in line with my actions. So bear that in mind before you approach me." He chuckled lightly. "Yes, well, I'm afraid I've really not come to solve your career problems for you. Besides you never know, you might get someone far worse in his place. And I just don't have the time these days to be at your beck and call. My schedule is just far too full for that."
"Oh, of course," Clarice replied, a note of sarcasm in her tone. "I guess I'll have to call one of my other cannibal acquaintances to take care of him for me." She smirked, her eyes shifting slightly so she was looking at the wall. "Krendler is not a problem, I like having him around. It keeps me on my toes. Besides, I know the best way to get to him. By being a success, even with him against me." And by capturing you on my own, she thought silently. That was what she had to do, wasn't it to save her career, to get back at the Justice Department? She really didn't like the thought of being the one to force him to live behind bars again, but she would just have to deal with it. 'Never forget what he is' were Mr. Crawford's exact words to her all those months ago before she had even known who Hannibal Lecter really was. So why did the thought of putting him away upset her? Sadly, she realized that she liked who Hannibal Lecter really was, apart from his crimes. She came back to reality dismissing such thoughts quickly. There was no other option but to capture him and she knew that if anyone was able to do it she was the one.
"And somehow I'm part of that equation, too. Aren't I, Agent Starling? Perhaps it was unwise of me to call on you after so long, now that you know I'm alive I suppose I've put the freedom I've grown quite fond of at risk." He narrowed his eyes slightly as he thought of something amusing. "Or perhaps you've missed me and our conversations. If that's the case, I can certainly arrange something so that you don't have to put me back in prison to see me. It's hard to impress a girl in prison clothes. I look far more fetching in street clothes, don't you think?"
"You look well, yes. I almost didn't recognize you at first, with that beard and with your face being different. Did you get plastic surgery?" She twirled her cup in her hand, still feeling strange, unable to think of anything to say.
He shrugged as he watched her. "Just implants, didn't want to alter too severely what I was given. And the beard and the hair are just in defiance to the rules I had to abide by while incarcerated. I'm sure I'll grow tired of the maintenance of them one day and get rid of them both." He leaned against the wall, looking at his feet a moment. "So are you going to try and follow me yourself when I leave here or are you going to call Jack and have the whole agency out looking for me? You will keep the figurine at least, won't you?"
"Of course I will," she replied, glancing at her dresser. "I wasn't lying when I said it was beautiful." She paused, staring down at her hands, then glancing back up at him. "Well, Doctor, what do you expect me to do? I can't very well pretend you didn't come here tonight, can I?"
"Well, that all depends, doesn't it? Who but you would know? But I understand your plight truly. I shouldn't have come. You're the only one who could find me, and I'm sure you realize this. But I doubt even you could unless I wanted you to that is. And so long it's as a fugitive you seek me I have no desire to allow that to happen. It's unfortunate that it's the way it has to be, I think you'd enjoy my company in all honesty."
Clarice stood, crossing her arms over her chest trying to be angry but suddenly interested in what he was saying. "Just what are you saying, Doctor?" She paused, regarding him silently, unable to fathom why he was here and what he wanted.
"I should think it's rather obvious, Clarice. I'm saying that unless it were for your own reasons instead of FBI related reasons you would never find me. But I don't think that will happen any time soon, so I'll not get my hopes up. Though I'd much rather it be you that warms my bed than who is there now." He met her eyes and held them.
Clarice's eyes widened slightly at his remark, but her face betrayed no other emotion or sign of how she was reacting. She sat back down abruptly, her hand once again inching towards her pillow. She was utterly speechless, unable to muster any kind of reply, not even a sarcastic one. He couldn't be serious, could he? He was just trying to get to her, to unnerve her. It was what he did best, after all. "Doctor, let's get something clear here. If I set out to find you, I will find you. Make no mistake about it." Her eyes shone with determination, though her thoughts were concentrating on the question of who exactly it was that was warming his bed. She couldn't help but wonder who the girl was. She had seen pictures of some of the women Lecter had been seen with over the years, all were beautiful and wealthy. This made her more curious, she wasn't beautiful or wealthy so what interest could he genuinely have in her?
"Yes, I see how well your efforts have rewarded you until this point. So well that I've been within eyesight of you for over a week and you weren't even aware I was in the same city. I take that as a no to my invitation then." He chuckled lightly. "Can't blame me for trying."
Clarice's eyes narrowed as her face flushed. "Well, forgive me, Doctor, for overestimating your intelligence. I didn't think you would be foolish enough to show your face here in D.C. Obviously I was mistaken." She moved closer to him, her gun hidden in the inside pocket of her robe where it could not be seen. "Don't think you have the upper hand here, Dr. Lecter. You are in my home, and I could easily make one phone call and have you placed behind bars for the rest of your natural life." She was a mere foot away from him now, her eyes blazing.
"I would never underestimate you, Agent Starling. Never." He pulled her to him. "I admit my foolishness, but what can I do? I needed to see you, and now that I've been able to see and touch you perhaps the need to see you will dissipate somewhat. At least for a little while. Though somehow I don't know that I have it in my power to stay away forever." He lowered his mouth as if to kiss her, something he had pictured doing for months but now that she was here standing in front of him he didn't think he could do it. He pulled back slightly, to look at her.
Clarice stared up at him, the anger slowly draining out of her face. "See that you don't," she replied softly, referring to his remark about never underestimating her. She stayed where she was for a moment, her face inches from his. Her indecision was evident as she took a step back, then another. Had he meant to kiss her? If so, what had stopped him? And why did she care that he had stopped? Was she going insane? She shook her head slightly, her hands nervously toying with the tie of her robe.
He dropped his eyes and followed her steps away from him sensing her indecision, and took hold of her hands as they toyed with her robe. He took a step towards her and brought her hands to his lips kissing them politely as his thumbs caressed the tops of her hands gently. "You have lovely hands, Clarice. One would never know that you do any sort of physical labor with them." Dropping her hands, his hands still on hers he found himself doing what just a moment before he didn't think he could do. His lips found hers; he was startled by the action not wanting to cross that line with her at least not yet. His grip on her hands tightened slightly, he was in no mood to walk away being slapped. Rejected he could take, but not physically rejected.
Clarice's eyes widened as his lips touched hers. She could not let this happen. She found herself wanting to return the kiss, and that wasn't an option. She stepped back quickly, her hands caught fast in his tight grip. "I think you better leave," she stated softly, her eyes on the floor, her hands trembling ever so slightly. Had he pushed her, she knew that she wouldn't make him leave but somehow she knew that Lecter was too much the gentleman to take no to mean yes.
"Of course, Clarice, if you think that's best. My humblest apologies for my apparently offensive behavior. The last thing I'd ever want to do is offend you." He drew her hands to his lips again, kissing them again. "I don't suppose I could interest you in giving me a ride to the airport." He chuckled lightly, though he had to wonder slightly about her reaction to such a question. He raised his eyes slightly.
"I'd be happy to give you a ride," Clarice replied, surprising even herself. She knew it wasn't what he expected her to say. She smiled, still flustered from the kiss that almost happened and also startled by the warmth that went through her body when his lips grazed her hands. She had never been treated this way, and she wasn't quite sure what to make of it or her reaction to it.
He chuckled. "I'm sure you would, but would it be as Clarice Starling woman or Agent Starling that you'd be doing me such a favor. I think it's in my best interest if I find my own way there. And perhaps yours as well, I don't know that you're ready to put woman ahead of agent where I'm concerned." He touched the spot on her cheek gently once more with his thumb. "Coming here was careless, but I'm not going to throw caution entirely to the wind just yet when it comes to you. Don't get that removed, Clarice. Don't change anything that makes you who you are." He kissed her forehead politely; more for the purpose of being able to take in her scent one last time. "Good bye, Clarice. Be well." He dropped his hand from her cheek and went out the backdoor, returning to the darkened house across the street. After enough time went by, he backed his nondescript car out of the garage, an old gray Chevy Caprice Classic and made his way to the Amtrak station to catch a train to Newark where his flight was leaving from the following morning.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com