His superiors weren't pleased with his last minute request for four days in a row off, but the offer of working the entire weekend and working four days on when he returned persuaded them to let him go. It was late Tuesday afternoon by the time he pulled into Clarice's neighborhood in his rental car. He sighed at what the rental agency considered a mid-sized vehicle. Had he not needed to blend in he would have gone for something nicer, but the brick red Chevrolet Corsica worked well for his purposes. At least he allowed himself the luxury of a four-star hotel during his stay. Being in Washington, D.C. really got his adrenaline going, to be so close to the people who were looking for him. He knew he was still on the FBI's Most Wanted list, he would remain there forever. He had been pleased that Clarice apparently hadn't told anyone about his visit, or if she had she hadn't told them of the changes he'd made to his appearance. It was still his old face looking back at him the last time he had taken the time to check. He had no desire to ever be held captive again; he would kill himself first. He knew that with a second incarceration he would not get the opportunity he had gotten with the first one to escape. The duplex across from Clarice was still vacant he was pleased to note. He would wait until after dark as he did the last time to go there so that he could watch her house. In the meantime, he had preparations to make.
It was after midnight before he was confident there was no further movement on either side of the duplex. Ardelia had gone to sleep a couple of hours ago while Clarice had taken longer. He found himself wondering if she wasn't sleeping well, and this thought concerned him. Hopefully a few days with him would rectify that problem. He made his way out of the house and around the back walking the short distance to Clarice's duplex and to the sliding glass door located off her bedroom, luckily there was no patio furniture to trip over in the dark. He wondered if Clarice had anything permanent in her life other than her bedroom furniture. If that was even permanent. He highly doubted it, which brought a bit of sadness to him. He had reasons to have to just pick up and leave his belongings behind, but for Clarice it was entirely different. She had a stable life and yet she had little. He realized she probably didn't give it much thought, but he imagined that when she did it weighed heavy on her. She probably had friends her age that had things, some probably married with children. The idea of Clarice married having children disturbed him, not that that would stop him from calling on her. He would continue to call on her until the day he died, but if she were married that would close out the aspect of their relationship he'd like for it to turn to eventually.
He shook his head as he discovered the sliding door was unlocked. She probably went out on the small patio before bed. He would have to caution her to be more careful, surely she should know better than to make it so easy for him to gain access to her. He'd like to think that she was making it easy for him, but he knew she had simply been careless and nothing else. He heard her shift on the bed and gave a pause to let his eyes adjust to the dimness of the room. She was lying on the bed on top of the quilt, having fallen asleep in her clothes. He sighed softly, wishing that he could be here to take care of her. He would never allow her to fall asleep in her clothes. But he'd forgive her the indiscretion this one time since it made it far easier for him to complete his task. Taking the baggie from his pocket that held a chloroform covered cloth he removed the cloth as he walked slowly towards her sleeping figure. Covering her mouth and nose swiftly, she stirred for a moment before the chloroform took effect. He picked her up easily, and left with her out the way he'd come. Returning to the duplex he watched hers from was a little more difficult than walking to hers had been. He made it back without being seen, at least as far as he knew. There was always the chance, but as he set her in the backseat of the car and pulled the blanket around her he wasn't too concerned about it.
He arrived at the hotel without incident, taking her still wrapped in the blanket from the car. His wish that she not wake up until they got up to his room was answered, though when he struggled with the passkey to get into his room he would have very much liked to have the freedom of both hands. Damn technology, he missed old-fashioned keys he muttered to himself as he set her on the king size bed. He looked around his room wondering now that he had her here what exactly he was going to do with her. He knew what he'd like to do he mused as he watched her lay so still on the bed. He looked at his watch, less than an hour had transpired since they'd left her house. She should be coming to soon. He bound her wrists and ankles, not enough to cause any pain or discomfort but enough so that when she came to she would not be able to flee. Sitting in a chair by the bed, he turned on the TV and waited for her to come to.
Clarice came to slowly; she felt groggy and opened her eyes slowly. She didn't remember leaving the lights on. Hearing the low sound of the TV she figured she must have fallen asleep on the couch again. Trying to reach up she realized her hands were bound together. Her eyes flew open and her mind quickly registered that she was not at home. She looked at her surroundings, quietly trying to figure out who had taken her and why. Not to mention how they had managed to do it with Ardelia at home. Her eyes settled on the figure sitting in the chair and it took her a moment for recognition to register. She felt relief wash over her once she realized whom it was, until she tried to move once again. Why had he bound her? They weren't tight. She probably could have worked them loose had she had the time and ambition to do so. Obviously his intention wasn't to hurt her, but why had he taken her? And where were they?
Her voice sounded strange to her own ears, not quite slurred but not fully coherent. She wondered briefly if he had drugged her. She didn't think he'd do that, though when she breathed in her lungs reacted and she coughed. The odor of chloroform was present. She looked at him, her blue eyes wide with questioning.
"Ah, Agent Starling. Welcome back. I was growing worried actually. I had no idea you reacted to chloroform so severely, or I would have used less of it." He turned the television down and stood from the chair slowly making his way bedside where he sat. "It's nice to see you again, Clarice."
"I think I'd be more apt to say the same, Dr. Lecter if I hadn't been taken out of my house while I slept and had my legs and hands bound. What am I doing here?"
She turned her face so she no longer had to look at him. She felt his eyes bearing into her deeply, as always she felt like he could see right into her soul. He was mad, that had to be the reason behind his behavior. No sane man would break into the house of the federal agent who was trying to put him back behind bars. But she knew there was nothing mad about Hannibal Lecter, maddening perhaps but he was not mad. She refused to think about the other alternatives there were for his actions.
"Why that should be rather apparent, Clarice. I needed to see you again. I'm afraid my last visit left me only wanting more rather than leaving me satisfied. And obviously I can't see you at your home, so logically I brought you to me." He brushed a strand of hair that had fallen into her eyes, his thumb grazing against the gunpowder on her cheek. "I'll unbind you now, Clarice, if you promise not to attempt to get away from me."
"No, Doctor, I trust that you haven't brought me here to hurt me."
She couldn't help but wonder what he meant by his last visit not leaving him satisfied. She had a difficult time believing someone like Doctor Lecter found someone like her attractive. She had seen photos and read articles about him and the women he went out with, had read the transcripts from women from the trial. They were all eye catchingly beautiful, something Clarice herself knew she was not. She rubbed her wrists lightly once they were free and took in her surroundings.
"This is a nice room, Doctor. I guess I should know better than to expect any less from you. I suppose I shouldn't ask how you paid for it."
Truthfully, she was trying to find out if he was working somewhere. Did he have an income or was he living off money he had stashed away? She knew someone like Lecter would be smart enough to prepare for an unexpected release like the one he was currently enjoying the benefits of.
"I paid for it quite honestly if that's what you're getting at, Clarice. I did make a decent living you know, and I'd be a liar if I said that I don't have enough left to live comfortably off of for quite some time."
"I don't think you should be telling me that, Doctor."
She paused to look at him; he'd shaved the full beard from the last time he visited her. She liked him better with the goatee anyway. His hair was still longer, and it looked good on him though she found herself thinking that he shouldn't die it. He looked very distinguished with his graying hair, and she thought even longer that it would still look nice that way.
"Is there something you wanted with me, Doctor, that you had to take me from my bed in the middle of the night?"
He laughed as he sat on the side of the bed watching her. He could tell that she wasn't frightened, apprehensive might be the word to describe what he observed. He knew he should find it odd that she wasn't frightened of him, because in truth she frightened him.
"Well, I couldn't very well call on you in the middle of the day now could I? And I don't think you would have responded to an invitation to join me here of your own accord, at least not without being accompanied by several other agents to arrest me. So, I took the only option open to me."
"That makes sense, I suppose."
She had to wonder how exactly she would have responded to an invitation from Lecter to meet him somewhere. There was a part of her that knew she should call Crawford and report the contact, but she knew that she wouldn't do that. Who was she kidding? She couldn't do that. She liked Lecter. Despite what he had done - and probably continued to do - she couldn't help but think that wherever he was and whatever he was doing the people who knew him were better off with him. The few patients they had been able to track down and talk to spoke very highly of him as both a doctor and a man.
"And binding me was part of that option?"
"Well, I couldn't risk falling asleep and having you wake up and get away. Not that I'm of the mind to keep you captive, mind you. I just couldn't risk your calling Jack. Are you suggesting that you would have come willingly?" He made a tsking sound. "You must not build up the hopes of an old man such as myself."
"You're not so incredibly old, Doctor. And I'm not building up anything. I don't imagine I would have come willingly, but I didn't call Mr. Crawford after you left my house a few months ago either. So, I guess I really don't have an answer for you."
She regretted the words as soon as they had been spoken. But it was true; she hadn't even told Ardelia of his visit. She wasn't sure why exactly, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. She knew Ardelia would think she was mad not to call Crawford the second Lecter had left the house. Instead, Clarice had found herself sitting on the bed with her arms wrapped tightly around her knees pressed against her chest thinking of the look in Lecter's eye when he had kissed her. A twinge of regret had fallen over her for telling him to leave. She knew that if he had pressed it that she wouldn't have made him leave but, ever the gentleman, he had left. So instead of calling Jack she had finished the bottle of wine remaining by her bed and fallen asleep with the vision of those maroon eyes gazing at her. Eyes that when she looked at them she could forget for a moment what the man they belonged to was capable of.
"I appreciate that, Clarice. And it's because I figured that you hadn't mentioned my visit to anyone that I returned. I admit to wondering why you didn't, but I expect you don't know the answer any better than I do."
She leaned on her side to look at him closely. "No, I can't say that I do. My personal feelings conflict with my professional feelings, and it would seem that my personal feelings won out." She shrugged. "Just how long do you plan on keeping me here? Ardelia's going to realize I'm gone in the morning."
"Of course she will, until you call her and tell her you that you received a phone call from a friend who was in town."
She raised an eyebrow at him, not knowing whether or not to believe his audacity. "Is that what I'm going to do?"
"That depends entirely upon you of course, Clarice. If you wish to go home, I'm not going to force you to stay here. I did arrange to be here for a few days, so it would be nice to spend some time with you. I'm afraid I no longer have anyone but you in the area to call upon." He shrugged and stood, walking to the minibar. "Do you want something?"
"A beer I suppose." She watched him closely as he opened the beer for her setting it on the nightstand by the bed. He took a seat in the chair. "I don't suppose you do have anyone here. Though nothing about you would surprise me. I wouldn't be surprised if you had a wife and kids here or something."
He laughed heartily. "No, none of those. But you knew that already, I'm sure. You probably know more about me than anyone else in the FBI, aside from Will Graham perhaps. But he's not FBI, so my statement stands correct."
"What makes you so sure of that, Doctor Lecter? Believe it or not, I have had cases to work on besides yours."
"Of course you have, but I somehow doubt you have the personal ties in your other cases that you do in mine."
She blushed slightly, unsure of how to respond to his statement. He was right and that made her uneasy. Much to Ardelia's chagrin, Clarice had spent more than her fair share of off time studying Lecter's file. Trying to find any clue as to where he might be or whom he might contact if he were to contact anyone. Unfortunately, she was the only person he had contacted since his escape or no others had come forward if he'd contacted them. She never did tell anyone about the shepherd figurine that he had given her. They would have made her relinquish it and she didn't want to give it up. One thing about Lecter, he knew what made her tick and that figurine had brought her comfort more times than she could count after waking from her nightmares. It was almost as if Lecter himself was standing guard over her as she slept. How many times had she taken hold of the figurine and run her fingers along it hoping somehow to get some vibe off of it connecting her to him. But the fact that he had picked it out for her, had handled it brought her a calmness she found a bit unnerving. Still, there was no denying that there was a connection between the two of them. She just wished she could use it, expose his Achilles heel and bring him in.
She took a sip of the beer and watched him. For some reason she couldn't get over how different he looked. She had never seen pictures of him casually dressed. It was either dressed for extravagant events or his prison clothes. Truthfully, she could understand how beautiful women flocked to him, which made her suddenly feel self-conscious. Why her? Why had he chosen her of all the women there were in the world? And to what lengths was he willing to go to get her? If she gave in to him would he then decide it was the thrill of the chase and not her he was attracted to? She couldn't deny the thought of the type of life he had to offer had its appeal. Her career with the FBI was obviously going nowhere, she had her bright moment with the Buffalo Bill case and now the "powers that be" were determined to put her in her place and keep her there. It's what she had dreamed about and lived for for so long she really never stopped to think what else in life there was for her. But a life of anonymity, of travel, of seeing exotic things she'd never have the opportunity to see otherwise did have its appeal. She shook her head trying to clear these thoughts from her head. What in the devil was she doing thinking like this? She had worked too hard, too long to get where she was. She couldn't allow herself to be taken in by this man, any man. She was married to the FBI and that's how it would stay.
"I'll take your silence as agreement."
He stood and walked to the window, looking at his watch before raking his fingers through his hair. He had her here, but now he had no idea exactly what he wanted to do with her. The little voice in the back of his mind that he had long since learned to ignore told him he should just return her to her rightful spot on her side of the duplex she shared with Agent Mapp. But a part of him believed her rightful place was with him, he just wasn't sure how to go about convincing her of that. Or himself for that matter he mused. He couldn't help but realizing how careless coming here was so soon after not only his escape but also his prior visit to Clarice. He should have allowed more time to elapse, but though that was the logical approach where Clarice was concerned he knew logic wasn't always easy to rein in.
"A penny for your thoughts, Doctor Lecter." She stood from the bed, setting the beer on the nightstand and walked towards him. She looked out the window then turned to look up at him. "Though I suppose in this day and age it would be much more costly than a penny anymore." She smiled wryly, not sure what exactly brought her to him but something had almost of its own accord.
"I was just realizing how careless I'm being. It's when I grew careless that Will Graham was able to catch me." He turned to look at her, his maroon eyes intense as they looked into her blues. "And though I know it, knew it when I made arrangements to come here again, for some reason like a moth drawn to a flame I'm drawn to you." He brushed her face with his hand, resting his palm against her cheek. He drew her face to his, sensing somehow that she would give in. He kissed her lightly, his lips barely brushing over hers his uncertainty more than apparent. It was his way of telling her wordlessly that he awaited her answer.
She felt his hand press against her face and closed her eyes, unable to believe that she had allowed herself to be in this situation not once but for a second time. She was close enough to feel his breath on her, to smell him, and she took a moment to breathe in softly. He smelled of wine, cologne, faintly of cigarettes though she didn't think he smoked, and of fabric softener. She wondered briefly who washed his clothes. But then his lips brushed hers and she wondered why she cared who washed his clothes. She sensed his uncertainty, his questioning in the kiss and while she didn't pull or push him away she didn't return the kiss either.
She smiled hesitantly when he pulled away, "I'm sorry, Doctor Lecter. I just don't know that I'm ready for that." Yet she added to herself. Truthfully, she was a little scared of kissing him, scared to let herself go like that. She always prided herself on being able to remain in control, always with the exception of her dealings with the man standing before her. "You put a lot on a girl, especially considering we haven't even had a date." She laughed lightly, hoping he would appreciate her attempt at humor.
He sighed heavily, but understood how she felt. "Well, then I guess I shouldn't tell you what exactly it was that brought me here to begin with this trip."
She raised her eyebrows slightly, her curiosity definitely piqued. "No, please do tell, Doctor. Any insight as to how your mind works would be most helpful."
He chuckled lightly. "Well, you see I had a date and I found when I went to kiss her good night unable to do so without picturing you. I have a feeling the woman wanted more than a good night kiss out of me, but I left her apartment. I'm capable of a lot of things, but I've never made love to one woman with another on my brain and I'm not about to start that now."
She tried not to hide her amusement, but a laugh escaped her lips anyway. "Yes, I suppose that would present a problem. Though most men wouldn't let it stop them." She tried to push the image out of her mind, of him with another woman. She walked away from him towards his suitcase letting her fingers trace over it. As with everything about him, his luggage was exquisite. She looked up at him with a smile. "I don't quite know what to say in response to that, Doctor. I'm sorry doesn't seem quite suitable. I'm flattered, but that still doesn't seem appropriate." She dropped her gaze from him back to the suitcase.
Picking up on her seemingly lighter mood he continued. "Well, you mentioned our not having a date. I'd very much like to spend the day with you tomorrow, Clarice. I guess since you're already here in my room it can't really be classified as a date per se, but I would certainly do my best to make it one if you gave me the chance. A museum, dinner, and maybe even some dancing."
"Why do I get the feeling saying yes is the best option for me at this point?" She met his gaze again. I'm not quite sure about that actually, she thought. Her instincts told her to flee, to stay away from him. Not because she was scared of him, it was herself she was scared of. She thought back to all the men who had asked her out, who she'd gone out with. None of them intrigued her as Lecter did; none of them knew her as well as Lecter did. It was disconcerting at times and she wasn't sure she wanted to spend an entire day with him. That would result ultimately in his having more ammunition to use against her. "Just one day, Doctor? What will you do with the rest of your stay?"
"Well, I'm hoping to convince you to spend the entire time with me. But in lieu of spending it with you, I'm not quite sure what I'll do. So you'll spend the day with me tomorrow?"
"Yes, Doctor, I'll spend the day with you tomorrow. But if you're talking dinner and dancing, I'm afraid what I'm wearing isn't appropriate nor do I have anything at home I imagine that would meet your standards."
"Of course, I had already planned on that actually." He walked to and sat on the bed. "You're going to have to share a bed with me. I'd do a lot of things for you, but I'm not sure that sleeping on the floor is one of them. I assure you I will behave myself."
"I hope so, Doctor. I'd hate to hear you talk with a voice an octave higher than the one you're using now." She sat on the other side of the bed, unbelieving she was agreeing to this as Lecter laughed. "You think I'm kidding, Doctor. I'm not altogether defenseless."
"Of course you're not, Agent Starling. I assure you I will remain a gentleman." Lying on the bed he watched as she lay down next to him. "Good night, Clarice."
"Good night, Doctor." Clarice fell asleep easily surprising herself. She thought for sure that sleep would be difficult to come by knowing whom it was sharing the bed with her. She had never before actually slept with a man, sleeping in the same bed without sex being part of the equation.
Lecter himself found sleep relatively difficult to come by. The sound of her breathing so nearby was enough to drive him mad. He spent hours lying on his side quietly watching as she slept, and found it unnerving that he was so contented in just doing that. When he finally felt his eyes growing heavy, he pulled the blanket around her and drifted to sleep wondering what tomorrow would bring.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com