***Part Eight***

Lecter spent the next three weeks getting what he could ready. He regretted having to leave but he couldn't stay in Chicago, as much as he would have liked to. Once the two weeks had passed and he was free to leave without having to worry, he wanted Robert Billingsley to leave with a good reference should he need to use this identity again at some point, he worked on getting Clarice an identity. Not wanting to be presumptuous he resisted the urge to have her be his wife. He'd have to fight his inner battle with the marriage issue at another time, for now he had to figure out how to get her out of Washington, D.C. without being caught. An idea coming to him he was finally content as he packed the early model Jeep he'd recently bought and headed to the east coast.

Once finding a suitable place a little north of Baltimore he decided it was time to call on Clarice. She had said she'd given notice for a month and it was closer to five weeks now. He drove along her cul de sac in his old pickup truck and watched from down the street as Ardelia left presumably for work. After waiting long enough to make sure she hadn't just run to the store he backed the pickup truck onto Clarice's driveway. Pulling on a beat up Baltimore Orioles baseball cap he got out of the truck and made his way to the back of the house to knock on the sliding glass door that led to her room. He smiled slightly at the shocked expression on her face.

"I told you I'd figure out something, Clarice. Are you ready?"

Clarice had just finished with her shower so he couldn't have timed it better. Even being on bedrest she couldn't resist getting out of bed every morning and having breakfast with Ardelia. She knew she couldn't say good bye, but she didn't want to just leave either. "Yes, I'm ready. All of my stuff is right here. I had to keep Ardelia out of my room for the past two weeks, which wasn't easy since she wanted to come in here every ten minutes to make sure I was all right. So I've spent most of my time lying on the couch when she's awake."

"Finish getting dressed while I bring these things out."

A little over an hour later the pickup was full of Clarice's sparse belongings. Lecter looked at the bed of the pickup truck and frowned slightly at the thought that she was leaving so much behind. But it was her choice, he had to reassure himself of that. He hadn't made her choose to come with him. A few boxes, a couple suitcases and that was it.

"The furniture, Clarice. Is any of this special to you?"

"No, it's all stuff I've picked up at flea markets and resale shops." She glanced from him to her shoes. "Pretty pathetic, isn't it?"

"Well, you're young yet Clarice. When you're my age and have nothing to call your own it'll be a bit more disturbing. You're sure you want this?"

"Yes. As if I'll ever go anywhere in the Bureau being pregnant for the next five or six months and that's if I manage to get off bedrest. And what the hell am I going to do with a child if I have to travel for work?" She touched his arm reassuringly. "I'm not mad at you. I'm just stating the facts. No husband, no baby I would have worked my ass off to have a future at the Bureau. But that's no life for a child. I'm not going to put my child at risk to have happen to it what happened to me."

He nodded simply, understanding the thoughts running through her mind. And the conflicting thoughts that had probably been running through her mind for the past three months. He realized that was probably one of the reasons she was coming with him, she didn't want her child to be without its father like she had been. "Well, let's go then, Clarice. The last thing I need is for your roommate or someone else to come through the door. There's a blanket for you in the cab of the pick up." He watched as she flipped the light switch and closed the blinds.

They rode in silence most of the way, both seeming to realize there was so much to talk about but neither knowing where to start. Clarice slept most of the way, which quite honestly pleased Hannibal. He was worried about her for one, and for two this way she wouldn't know exactly where they were. As much as he wanted to trust her without a doubt, she was the person that if Krendler was smart would be used to capture him. Though he doubted sleeping with him and getting pregnant would have been included in Krendler's plan.

He carried her inside with relative ease and laid her on the couch while he brought her things in from the pickup truck before moving it behind the shed at the back of the house. He stood in his large kitchen drinking a glass of water looking out over to the wooded area that made up his back yard. Five acres this place sat on and most of it was heavily wooded. It was nice and secluded, perfect until he and Clarice decided what they wanted to do from here. He thumbed through the envelope that held her paperwork for her new identity, Debra Bonnel. He'd have to get her passport together if they were to leave the country, the picture was all that needed to be added. He was actually startled when he saw her reflection in the window approaching him from behind. "You're awake," he said softly before he turned to look at her. His maroon eyes took her appearance in as he set the glass on the counter.

"Yeah. No matter how hard I try I just can't seem to sleep twenty-four hours a day." She laughed lightly. "This means I need to find a new doctor doesn't it? You don't have an OB license."

He laughed lightly. "I wouldn't want you as my patient, Clarice. You need an unbiased voice of reason to assure you I'm behaving rationally when I'm acting overprotective."

"You overprotective? I don't believe it." She smiled slightly indicating she did believe it full well.

"Yes, well, this is my first child and perhaps my only child. I don't plan on taking any chances with either the mother or the child."

"Only child? You only want one?"

"I hadn't planned on having even one, Clarice. So why don't we take it one child at a time. Raising one is going to be hard enough. We're going to have to find someplace to go, Clarice, where we'll be safe for quite some time. I don't mind moving from place to place, but I don't want that for a child. Never mind having to explain to him or her why we have to move so often."

"Somehow I would have thought you wanted a large family," she looked at him obviously. "That's the way with us isn't it, those of us who grow up with no family. We go one of two routes. We overcompensate by having a dozen kids of our own or go the other way and have none for fear we'll disappear on them like our parents did."

Hannibal chuckled lightly as he took her into his arms. "Well, I certainly can't say I complain too much about the process of making them with you, Clarice." He kissed her lightly and released her, his hand pushing back her bangs lightly. "Are you hungry? Need anything? I brought your things in. I took the liberty of buying some things for you as well. I can show you around the house and then start on dinner. I don't imagine you cook do you?"

She laughed. "Not unless you count macaroni and cheese."

"I'll teach you. It's quite simple really, you just need to start with something you like the taste of and go from there. A lot of cooking is by taste more than following a recipe. A recipe gives you the groundwork, but if you're making spaghetti sauce and you like garlic and onions and the recipe only calls for a pinch of garlic and a quarter cup of onions that's not going to be nearly enough for you. So you add to it, expand on it."

"Ardelia's tried, and failed."

"Then she wasn't a very good teacher or you weren't paying attention in class. Either way. We'll work on it."

She grew defensive for a moment. "You're not going to try and change me, Hannibal, are you?"

"By attempting to teach you to cook? Yes, I have this horribly corrupt plan to change you from an FBI agent into a caterer." He laughed lightly, though his eyes were quite serious. "Clarice, is it so wrong for me to hope you might enjoy something I do? If you don't like it then so be it. If we're going to be together, I imagine it won't be just cooking that we'll learn from one another."

Her eyes softened as did the rest of her at his words. She was reading too much into his statement. "Yes, of course you're right. I just get defensive about people trying to change me into something I'm not."

"Something you're not or just something you've never been in the position to be before now, Clarice? There is a difference. You do realize the things I like in life require a suit and tie or even more formal than that. That hasn't changed."

"Yes, I know. That's one reason up until recently I figured your interest in me was merely friendly at best. I'm not like the women I've seen pictures of with you. I'm not like them at all."

"No, you're not. But whom I take to the Opera and whom I choose to spend my time with in life are totally different things. If you go through your interviews of those women, Clarice, how many of them did I take out more than once or twice? And how many of them would I have risked my life to see?" He brushed the gunpowder mark on her cheek lightly with the pad of his thumb. "And I believe you can be just like them only better. I can actually talk to you about what we'd be seeing or hearing. You have a brain to go with everything else that I admire and covet. And your main concern isn't where your next diamond is going to come from."

"No, I can honestly tell you I've never seen a diamond up close. Well, that's not exactly the truth. I've never seen one on anyone I could ask to see it."

He chuckled lightly. "Let's get you the grand tour, shall we?" He dropped his arms from around her waist. "It's not very big, but the rooms are decent size and I like the woods."

The dining room was off the kitchen and stood rather empty at the moment save for a table and chairs. Both the dining room and kitchen looked out over the back yard and the woods. The living room was large with a vaulted ceiling and a fireplace where the wall to the dining room would have been. "I took the liberty of putting your things with mine," he said as they passed two spare bedrooms and a spare bath. A stairway in the hallway led them to an open loft upstairs that was his bedroom suite. "The shower's small up here, but the view is magnificent. And there's a full bath downstairs if you want to bathe."

"Up here is fine. I think I would have been hurt if you had presumed the other way."

He chuckled lightly. "I admit my own selfishness caused me to do it, I wasn't really thinking of you. I just couldn't stand to sleep another night alone."

She walked to the windows that overlooked the back yard. "It's beautiful," she said. "And the shower's there I take it," she gestured to the only walls that the room had.

"Yes, the doorway leads to the shower, dressing area, and closet. You could probably sleep in the closet if it came to that," he smiled as he watched her take in her surroundings.

She turned to face him. "This is really happening, isn't it?" She looked at her Timex watch, the watch she'd had since she turned sixteen and it showed by the scratches and dings on the face of it. "I can't turn back, I mean. Ardelia's home by now. She's found my note I'm sure."

"Do you want to go back, Clarice? I'll take you back if you want to go."

"No, the realization is just sinking in." She looked out the window once more. "This isn't a hotel room, we're not in D.C. This is your home."

"Our home, Clarice. I don't plan on spending much time here, but I chose it with you in mind."

"This isn't where you've been then?"

"No," he said simply. He'd tell her where he'd been one day, but now wasn't the time.

She apparently accepted his answer because she stepped away from the windows and walked to the doorway, which did indeed lead to the largest closet she'd ever seen. The shower was to her right and as he had indicated was quite small, a tile stall barely big enough for her to stand in let alone Hannibal and nothing else.

"When you're done gawking, Clarice, perhaps you'll come lay down," his voice was smooth with a hint of flirtation in it. "I don't want to be the cause of your disobeying doctor's orders."

She walked into the room and stood in front of him. "Why do I get the feeling resting is not at all on your mind?"

"I'll let you rest," he quipped. "I'll just be resting with you. Did your doctor suggest anything is off limits?"

She flushed slightly at his statement. "Midwife. No, she didn't. I didn't think to ask either. You weren't there for me to worry about such a thing."

"Well, she would have told you if that were the case. Doctors, midwives excuse me, like to cover their bases." He kicked off his shoes and lay on the bed.

She joined him placing her head against his chest without waiting for the invitation. "How long will we stay here?"

"Until I think you're ready. This goes a little above and beyond FBI training, Clarice. This is life, a new life that you have to know a new name, a new career, a new family, a new past."

"I know, Hannibal, I do. Whatever you need me to do, just tell me and I'll work on it."

"Good. Thank you. I was hoping you'd be agreeable. Your name by the way will cease to be Clarice soon. I chose Debra. She even has law enforcement credentials, so you could get a job doing something along the same lines if you wanted to."

"Won't that be suspicious?"

"I've been practicing as a doctor for the past few months and no one has caught me, Clarice. You just need to blend in, act as though you belong there and you'll be fine. Whether it's in a police uniform or at the Opera. It's the same."

"You make it sound so simple. Haven't you looked over your shoulder once since your escape?"

"Every day. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm sure every day for as long as I live I'll at least once glance over my shoulder. But I'm talking about fitting in. You can look over your shoulder and still fit in."

"Something I imagine you're good at."

"There's a question I should ask you, especially in light of there being a child involved soon."

She rolled onto her side, her hand resting against his chest and looked up into his eyes. "Yes?"

"What do you want to be?" He met her gaze and held it. "I mean, assuming you're going to share my bed isn't exactly a giant leap. Assuming you'd want to be entangled with me in this life together is jumping off a cliff. You may in a month decide this isn't the life for you and claim a momentary lapse of reason to Ardelia and the FBI."

"No, I already told you."

He placed his finger lightly against her lips. "I know what you told me, but you haven't begun to live this life yet. I'd like us to be a family. I think our child deserves that."

"Yes, I would have to agree with you."

"I can't marry you, at least not legally. I mean, nothing that would stand up in a court of law."

"I'm aware of that."

"But you're willing to settle for that? You deserve better."

"Settle for what? There are many who commit to one another only to lie and cheat and break those vows." She paused. "What does a marriage certificate mean? It's a piece of paper nothing more. It means no more and no less than the words written upon them. I'm not an overly religious person and I somehow doubt you are, so it makes me no difference if I've vowed before God to cherish and honor you. I can say that to Him just as easily here and now."

"How very true, Clarice. And you trust me? I mean, as you say, you think you're far different than the other women I've been seen with. You don't think I'm going to grow tired of your down to earth tomboyishness and seek out someone who you think fits the stereotype of glamorous?"

"And a marriage license would stop you from doing that?" She laughed, blowing her bangs from her eyes. "Is this your way of telling me you'd like to pose as husband and wife in this life we're embarking on together?"

"Very well said. And yes, that's what I'm saying."

"I agree then. All you had to do was ask."

"Well, a lot of women may not be overly anxious to agree to such a thing. Giving away the milk for free as it were."

"If that's what you had wanted, you wouldn't have come to D.C. when I asked you to the second time. I believe you want to be with me, Hannibal. Just as I know I want to be with you. It feels right. I don't know how else to explain it. It defies logic I know that much."

He kissed her fingertips lightly. "Everything involving you, Clarice, defies logic." He shifted slightly on the bed getting more comfortable while still holding her close. "Get some rest, Clarice. I can tell you're tired. Then I'll show you the patio."

"I'll bet it's nice," she said softly her eyes closing as she said the words. She could get used to this, she realized, and it felt right. Oddly, she felt safe in the one place she should feel most unsafe - in Hannibal Lecter's arms.

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