***Part Nine***

Clarice stood at the stove preparing an omelet wondering when Hannibal would return home. She was worried. The roads were icy and she assumed he'd have been back by now, and she didn't trust that old pickup he insisted on driving. As if in response to her worrying the baby kicked her ribs severely. "Yes, I know I don't need to get all stressed out. You don't need to remind me." She patted her belly lightly and flipped the omelet over amused that she actually learned these things. She sat at the table eating when she heard the sound of tires driving on snow. Her hair normally worn at her shoulders had grown quite a bit over the past five months and it was for the time being raven black in color. The gunpowder mark that Hannibal had encouraged her to keep was still there, but was covered up with makeup whenever she left the house which wasn't often.

Clarice thought at first she would hate being stuck in the middle of nowhere, but she found quite honestly that she enjoyed it. She had read more books in the past few months than she had probably in her entire life. He really didn't care what she read as long as she read, so she chose to read a bit of everything which kept her from getting bored. He helped her work on her Spanish. Four years of high school class and two years in college to meet the foreign language requirement had resulted in her pretty much forgetting everything she had learned once she finished Spanish 202. But it was quick in coming back to her. She pushed aside her now empty plate and stood wondering what was taking Hannibal so long. It was too dark for him to do anything outside. They were set to leave the following day to start their lives together as Debra and Edward Bonnel in Miami, thus the Spanish requirement.

Hannibal came in the back door after having spent the day with the realtor signing paperwork in preparation to leave. He would be sorry to leave this place, things here had turned out far better than he had even possibly thought they might. His eyes went from the table and the empty plate to Clarice and he smiled, a smile that registered on his face completely. "Eating without me again, Clarice? If you weren't pregnant I might just accuse you of no longer enjoying my company."

"At least I'm spending time in the kitchen when you're not here. It's an improvement."

"Yes, it is," he laughed lightly as he ran his fingers through his hair a dusting of snow fell to the floor as a result. "We're all set to leave tomorrow. The truck is packed." He glanced at her now obviously pregnant midsection and raised a brow in question.

"I'll be fine. I've had no problems with my back at all you know that, and the doctor says I'm in perfect health. My blood pressure is normal. The swelling in my foot is gone now so it must have been something other than pregnancy causing that."

He placed his arm around her, one hand resting on her belly. "How are we today?"

"Active. We've been practicing our kicking again. If my ribs aren't broken by the time this child is born I'll be astonished."

"I hate to say this, Clarice, but it's normal."

"I know, I know. That doesn't mean it feels pleasant or that I have to pretend it does."

"Well, I couldn't say because I've never been in your predicament. And I have to say that I'm pleased about that."

"Just like a man," she quipped though she was clearly teasing. "I did my hair again this morning. Does it look all right?"

"It looks fine, Clarice. You were careful? That's all we need is our child deformed because you insisted on dying your hair."

"Yes, I was careful. And there are people who smoke who have normal babies, so I think I'm safe. Oh, and I have a surprise for you upstairs," she winked as she walked away from him, leaving the kitchen and walking through the living room, up the stairs to their room. She hadn't heard him follow her, didn't realize he was so close behind her until she felt his arms slip around her waist at the top of the stairs.

"Where's my surprise?" He pushed the hair away from her neck so he could nibble on it lightly as his hands caressed her stomach. "Or are you it?"

She elbowed him in the side lightly as she swatted at his head playfully. She didn't want him to stop his attentions to her neck. She had always looked at girls who came to school with hickeys with disdain, but now that she was in the position to get them she found she didn't mind them so much. There was something kind of exciting knowing that hers came from Hannibal. She had wondered after the first one he had given her months ago as she looked in the bathroom mirror what the difference was. How could he bite her purposely but refrain from taking it further than a love bite? She had quickly stopped pondering this because it caused her to feel depressed for a while afterward. She pointed wordlessly, feeling weak in the knees when he apparently was satisfied with his handiwork on her neck.

He looked in the direction that she pointed where their bed was. "I should have known," he chuckled lightly as he ran his fingertip over the fresh mark on her neck. He took in the wineglasses, the bottle of wine and the candles beside the bed. "Imbibing, Clarice?"

"I've been told a glass won't hurt anything."

He was about to unbutton her dress when he felt the baby kick causing him to pause. "I'd say the child agrees with you." He had only been able to feel the baby kick just recently, though Clarice had claimed to feel its movements a couple of months ago. Of course he knew why that was, but he still couldn't help but be amazed every time he had the pleasure of feeling the evidence that he had created a child.

"So are you going to stand at the head of the stairs for the rest of the day or come lay with me so I can get you drunk."

He released her from his arms, watching as she walked towards the bed. She wasn't far enough along yet so that her walking was effected and he still enjoyed watching her. Those who spoke of women being beautiful when they were pregnant obviously had Clarice in mind, because to him she was stunning. His eyes grew wide with interest as Clarice turned to face him and in the dim light of the setting sun undressed for him. How he had lucked out into being with a woman who didn't think her pregnant body was disgusting to look at he would never know. He had heard stories more than once through the years of wives who wouldn't let their husbands come into their room when they were undressing when they were in even earlier stages than Clarice was. "You take my breath away, madam."

Clarice glanced at him and smiled slightly. She looked from him to her belly. "At least I can still see my feet." At that moment she let the dress she was wearing drop around her ankles and stepped from it looking down at her feet then looked up at him with a smirk before lying down on the mattress. She positioned herself on her side, the only comfortable way for her to lie these days, and watched as Hannibal undressed. She ran her fingers over the mark on her neck he had just given her, he usually left them where no one could see them but this one would show. She wondered if that was intentional. Tomorrow they would be leaving the seclusion of this house. Was he marking her? She wasn't sure she liked that idea.

"What are you thinking about, Clarice?"

She had been so deep in thought she had even noticed he joined her on the bed. She looked into his eyes, grateful he wasn't wearing his contacts at the moment. She liked his maroon eyes. "Nothing really," she said softly, dropping her hand from her neck. "Was just thinking that it was going to be kind of sad to leave here tomorrow."

"You like living dangerously, Clarice? Even Miami is going to be dangerous enough."

"No, I know." She rested her head on his chest, her fingers running lightly across it. "That's not what I meant." She shrugged and kissed his arm.

"Having second thoughts? If you are, I'd understand and you can still leave if that's what you need to do, Clarice."

"No. I have nothing to go back to. Now that I've felt the baby kick and see how you are when you feel him kick, I could never leave you."

"Him? Is that your way of telling me our child is a boy?"

"I don't know. I just don't like saying it. Him seems logical. I had no interest in finding out what sex it was. You want a boy, don't you?"

"I've told you before I have no preference, Clarice. So long as it has ten fingers and toes and all the other necessary requirements I'll be happy."

"I've been assured it's healthy." Despite her desire to stay awake she felt herself drifting off to sleep. It was probably for the best anyway, she realized. She just hoped that Hannibal wasn't disappointed.

"Then I'll take whatever is given me."

Hannibal chuckled lightly as he felt her breathing change from her normal rate of breathing to the rate it normally was when she was sleeping. He smoothed down her hair and brought the blanket up around them so that she'd be warm. Unable to sleep himself he dressed first himself and then Clarice. He went through the house and made sure everything they were planning on bringing with them was gone from the house and that they weren't leaving anything behind that they shouldn't. Assured that they had been meticulous, he returned to the bedroom and took Clarice in his arms. He carried her down to the truck and placed her inside before getting in himself. He was wide awake, so they may as well leave tonight instead of in the morning. It made him no difference.

"Where are we?" came Clarice's sleepy voice from his leg.

Lecter had been surprised when she didn't wake up between the house and the truck and even more surprised that she hadn't when he started to drive. The pickup truck that she complained about at least had a suspension to cushion some of the ruts in the gravel driveway and roadway that led from their house to the main road. But she had slept through it other than managing to lie down and place her head against his thigh. "We're on Interstate 95 heading south. I couldn't sleep, so here we are."

She sat up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes adjusting to her surroundings. "I'm sorry, I fell asleep on you didn't I? I guess pregnancy puts sleep first even when I'm in the mood for other things."

He chuckled. "It's all right, Clarice, you need to get your rest while you can. And I have a feeling I'll reciprocate when we get to Miami. After close to a full day of driving sleep will be a necessity."

"We don't have to drive straight through, do we?"

"We'll stop outside of Savannah, Georgia if I feel the need, Clarice. It'll be about four in the morning about then."

She pulled her hair back letting it fall along her back and watched as the miles on the interstate flew by. She tried to stay awake, thinking it was rude of her to sleep while he stayed awake and drove. He had laughed at her yesterday at her suggestion she could help him drive. She knew why he had laughed now, she wasn't sure she would have fit behind the truck's steering wheel. He would never come out and tell her that, she knew, he was much too considerate to say anything that could be construed as rude.

Hannibal felt her head lay to rest against his leg once more before he realized she was going back to sleep. He placed his hand in her hair and ran his fingers through it lightly as she drifted off to sleep.

When they stopped just north of Savannah, Hannibal debated about stopping for the rest of the night but found that he still wasn't tired. So he drove on. They stopped for breakfast when they stopped to refuel sometime after eight in the morning and Hannibal drove on. It was dinnertime by the time they arrived in Miami and Lecter found the condominium complex where they would be living. He stopped in front of the security booth. "Are you ready then, Debra?"

Clarice woke up at the truck being put into park and let to idle. "Where are we?"

"Home," Lecter said simply.

She opened her eyes and glanced at the booth. "Do you want me to get behind the wheel, Edward?" She smiled slightly at the name.

"Do you think you can? Although I hate to think the security guard will find me ungentlemanly making my pregnant wife drive. So, no, I'll be fine." He took his Baltimore Orioles cap from out of the glove box and put it on. They were allowed entry with relative ease. Lecter felt sure that they would not be receiving any unwanted visitors after the thoroughness the guard on duty displayed.

Once everything had been brought into their unit overlooking Biscayne Bay, Lecter collapsed on the couch. He reached out for Clarice's hand and brought her to him. "Your Edward is tired, Debra."

Clarice smiled slightly at him. She couldn't believe this was really happening. That they were really here together as man and wife even if it wasn't a legal marriage. "I know, H," she said softly as she kissed his forehead. "Get some sleep." She moved from the couch and slowly sat down on the floor in front of the couch after getting herself a blanket. Their cable wasn't turned on yet, so she settled for quiet. Despite her sleeping most of the way from Baltimore to Miami, she found herself drifting back to sleep.

She spent the next day organizing things to the best of her abilities. Their unit was beautiful, nothing lavish but nice. Certainly nicer than anything she had ever dreamed she'd be living in. They had access to a pool, a golf course, a country club, tennis courts, a whirlpool, and a sauna. Not that she could use the hot tub or sauna in her present condition, but it was still nice. How Hannibal had arranged for everything to be there when they got there she didn't know. But the entire unit had been furnished, the only thing left for them to do was to buy groceries for the refrigerator. He was obviously good at this sort of thing. She walked into their bedroom and her vision was instantly drawn to the king size bed. The headboard and footboard were both brass and felt wonderful under her fingertips as she ran them over the metal. She had never seen anything so nice. She went to the walk-in closet and pulled the string on the overhead light to look at the clothes that hung there. There were plenty of clothes for her, most obviously for after the baby came. He had clothes of his own that weren't hung up yet so his side of the closet was rather bare. She walked to the window that looked out over the water leaning against the wall as she spotted a crane obviously fishing for his next meal.

She wasn't sure how long she had been standing there, but it had obviously been a while because Hannibal's arms went around her and his damp hair indicated he had just gotten out of the shower. She hadn't even heard the shower run. "It's beautiful here," she said as she rested her head against his chest.

He kissed the top of her head. "It is. I'm glad you think so. You slept on the floor I saw."

"Yeah, I didn't mean to. You were obviously so tired so I didn't want to make any noise so I just sat. I guess I fell asleep." She shrugged, her voice catching slightly when his hand move from her stomach to her breast and his mouth to the nape of her neck. "I take it you're not tired anymore," she said so softly she almost couldn't hear herself speak.

"Draw the blinds closed, Clarice," was his soft reply when he brought his mouth from the nape of her neck to her ear. He kissed her ear as his hands started working the hem of her nightshirt over her thighs. He held it with his left hand as his right hand caressed her thigh and backside before his fingers found their way inside her panties and between her legs. His breath was warm and even against her neck not giving away what he was feeling at the moment.

Both hands went to the top of her panties and peeled them down slowly over her thighs letting them drop to her ankles on the floor. "Move your legs, Clarice." He helped her along, coaching her wordlessly by the movement of his hands. He drew her nightshirt over her head letting it fall to the floor with her panties. He took a step back to look at her, from this position even at almost eight months pregnant you couldn't tell she was. Enough light escaped through the slits in the blinds to cascade an interesting pattern of light over her now nude body. And with her legs positioned as they were she made a very inviting picture. If she was nervous, he couldn't tell. He knew she trusted him, but normally their lovemaking was mutually beneficial with neither one of them in charge. She seemed to sense that was not the case now because when he spoke his next words she did as she was told without question, without looking at him. "Put your hands against the wall, Clarice," he dropped the towel from around his waist as he made the request.

Clarice wasn't sure what she expected but when she felt his hands go to her waist she guessed that this wasn't about her at all. And while he had made sure that she was ready for him, she still wasn't prepared for the way he entered her. He actually caused her to cry out with the animalistic way he thrust into her. She was about to tell him to stop. This wasn't what this was supposed to be about. This had nothing to do with love or even sex. This was him getting himself off using her as a means to an end. But something inside her told her to trust him. If this was some sort of test she didn't want to fail now. She couldn't fail now.

She knew when he had finished even though he didn't move from where he stood behind her. Instead she felt his hand move between her legs, fingers taking his place within her, his thumb working to bring her to her finish as well. She tried to fight it, tried to move her legs closer together to prevent him from doing this. She didn't want to give into him after what he had just done, but he prevented her from moving her legs from where they were.

Hannibal felt Clarice fight him and he grew more persistent with his efforts. He heard her cry out, knew that he very probably hurt her which wasn't what he was trying to do. And while walking away might have been the wisest thing to do, he felt that he had to stay and do this. He felt her body tense against him and he ran his free hand up along her waist lightly before laying it to rest on her stomach. He knew she was close despite her efforts when he brought his mouth to her shoulder. What started out as a kiss timed with her finishing turned into Hannibal biting her shoulder causing her to cry out once more. He pulled away when he knew she was done, his mark red on her shoulder. No blood he realized in relief. He took his towel from the floor and handed her her nightshirt. He said nothing, not knowing exactly what to say. Better to let her ask the questions she wanted answered than to put words to things she might not ask.

Clarice pulled her nightshirt over her head and suddenly felt as though it didn't cover enough of her. She placed a hesitant hand on her stomach trying to clear her mind. She wasn't sure what had startled her more, the sex or the fact that he bit her. An actual bite. She shivered now as she thought about it. What scared her most was that his bite had been timed perfectly and it almost added to her pleasure. She had cried out in surprise more than pain. Had he done that before to someone else? She shook her head. No, she was not going to think like that. She turned away from the wall finally unable to look at him so she focused on his feet. When she did look up further she could see that he himself was uncertain, making her realize that he hadn't planned on doing that.

Seeming to sense her thoughts, Hannibal opened his arms inviting her to step into them. He was more than pleased when she did just that. He smoothed down her hair. "You're all right?" he finally asked, needing to know he hadn't hurt her.

She shook her head resting against his chest. "Yes," she said simply. There was little more she could say, at least not until she had thought all of this through. "I think I'm going to lay down again, though."

He placed his finger under her chin and brought her face up to look at him. "Did I hurt you, Clarice?"

"A little," she admitted. "Nothing that I won't recover from easily enough. I somehow think in a few weeks I'll have forgotten about it when I'm in labor."

"You're too logical, Clarice. I'll let you get some rest then."

"You're going somewhere?"

"No. I just assumed that. Well, I didn't think you'd want me to join you."

"Oh no. Please. I need to know that you love me, Hannibal. That that's not all I am to you." She looked up at him her eyes pleading.

"One time in how many months and you question whether or not that's all you are to me?" He led her to the bed, the mattress still bare as neither of them had bothered to make it yet.

She closed her eyes tightly. "No. I mean, yes. What you did, I didn't need to be here for it. It was like you forgot I was there until it was too late and then you felt you needed to make it up to me."

"I would imagine even Casanova had his moments of weakness, Clarice. I'll make it up to you."

"You bit me," she said softly looking at him, trying to understand.

"I did," he said simply. "But not in the way you think. I admit it was harder than I normally do it, but there was nothing violent about it."

"Yeah well, for someone like me it's difficult to tell the difference."

He laughed lightly. "Clarice, you'd know the difference." He ran his finger over the bite mark in question. "Is this your way of telling me you don't trust me, Clarice? Are you going to be frightened of me if I do anything different?"

"If we had been in bed or you had been making love to me not what you were doing perhaps it would have been different. My reaction I mean." She closed her eyes, even though her back was to him and he couldn't see her. Suddenly she felt foolish for ever doubting him. There were times she had to admit to having the desire to do what he had done to her, to just have sex with him because she was in the mood for that and nothing more. Why did she think he'd be any different? Because he was Hannibal Lecter. Always in control. Always calm.

A sharp pain in her abdomen that was gone almost as quickly as it came disturbed her thoughts. She had been having what her doctor identified as Braxton Hicks contractions for the past two weeks, but this was different. She wondered if he had somehow harmed the baby, but she knew as soon as the thought entered her mind that that wasn't the case. The baby was better protected than she was more than likely. She closed her eyes, willing herself to go to sleep knowing that if she fell asleep she would be fine.

"Are you all right, Clarice?" Lecter had felt her body tense and then relax.

"Umm, yes, just one of those pains."

Less than fifteen minutes had passed before she felt another one, she squeezed her eyes shut hoping that she could make them stop by sheer willpower. This continued for two hours, they came about every fifteen minutes and increased in their sharpness. These weren't the Braxton Hicks, she realized. "Hannibal," she said softly.

"Yes, Clarice."

"I think you need to take me to the hospital." She still had her back to him, unable to look at him for some reason. She didn't want him to see her like this, frightened.

"What?" Realization dawned on him. "Are you in labor? But you're not due for another month."

"Tell that to the baby," she quipped obviously not amused.

He stood from the bed and dressed quickly cursing slightly when he realized he hadn't gotten to die his hair yet. Clarice indicated she liked the graying look, but he still felt safer with it the dark brown he had been dying it since his escape. He pulled it back into the rubber band he held in his hand, the style that Clarice said she liked. He then focused on getting her something to wear. He glanced at the clock, it was later than he realized. It would be dark soon. He wondered if the child would come tonight yet or if it would be stubborn and hold out to the early morning hours.

Thanks to the security guard, Lecter got the quickest directions to the hospital and they were soon there. It was rather odd, he realized, as they walked through the doors to be entering a hospital as the patient or with the patient rather than as the physician.

Eight hours later, Lecter sat by Clarice's side not sure who had the more difficult end of this ordeal. He had delivered a baby or two over the years, but it had been a long time and as a doctor your mind is occupied with other things not the comfort of the woman having the baby. She surprised him by not wanting pain medication or an epidural. Things they hadn't bothered to talk about yet both thinking they had a month or more to discuss them. The doctor had just left the room making his rounds assuring the both of them that things were progressing well. That wasn't very reassuring to Hannibal at the moment. He knew labor could take hours, days in some instances, but he wanted it done with now. He was frustrated because it was something he had no control over.

Clarice smiled slightly as Hannibal fed her some ice chips. She was starving, not having had more than an English muffin for breakfast and nothing for lunch. She wanted more than ice chips. He assured her he'd bring her some McDonald's in the morning. It was morning now, she tried to reason with him but he wouldn't budge. Damn doctors, she should have known better than to expect him to break the rules. "H," she said softly. "Is everything really all right?"

Hannibal looked at the fetal monitor that was on the other side of the bed and glanced at the baby's heart rate and watched as he saw a contraction coming on. Amazing that the machine could detect it before Clarice seemed to fully feel it. He waited until the contraction had subsided. "Yes, everything seems as it should be. I've never read one of these machines, mind you. They weren't in existence the last time I delivered a baby." He gave her some more ice chips. "Are you sure you don't want to reconsider the epidural?"

"Yes. It's not good for the baby. I've been so careful, I don't want to mess up anything."

"I understand," he wiped her brow with a cool, damp cloth. "I won't ask again, but if you change your mind you need to let me know."

It wasn't long after that the doctor returned and stayed, calling in the nursing staff that was going to assist. Lecter knew he had to stay by her side and help her through this, but he honestly didn't know if he had it in him to watch her go through this. He knew labor could be an immensely difficult thing for some women, and he hated thinking he was the cause of it.

The delivery went by almost too quickly for Hannibal, he wasn't quite sure Clarice felt the same. The baby seemed to want to come out as much as Clarice wanted to push, the two worked together and a little after two in the morning the head was soon followed by the shoulders and then the body and legs of their baby girl.

Clarice seemed relieved that the ordeal was done, but Hannibal realized quickly that it was in fact not done. The baby had yet to make a sound. He remained focused on Clarice, now was not the time to be the stereotypically idiotic doctor when they were the patient, as the doctors and nurses cleared the baby's nose and mouth. He felt him release a breath he didn't even realize he was holding when he finally heard the squalls that only a newborn baby can make. "They can do the rest without you for the time being, my dear. Close your eyes if you need to."

"No, I need to see her. Is she all right?"

"She's fine," he assured her. The umbilical cord was cut and his daughter was taken to the warmer on the other side of the room where the nurse cleaned her up. "You'll be able to see her as soon as they're done with her. They have to take her measurements and things."

She drifted off to sleep, not even making a sound as the doctor tended to her. About forty-five minutes later she woke up again. Hannibal wasn't next to the bed, but the nurse was holding a baby in her arms. Her baby, Clarice reminded herself. "Can I hold her now?" Her question was answered immediately as the nurse placed a tightly swaddled baby in her arms. "Thank you," Clarice said foolishly. As if she had to thank the nurse for giving her her daughter. She wondered where Hannibal went.

"Your husband just went to the bathroom, Mrs. Bonnel."

Clarice nodded with a slight smile as she peered at the baby in her arms. They hadn't even thought of names yet. She was startled when the baby startled nuzzling and rooting. She glanced up at the nurse who helped her position both herself and the baby so she could feed her. She hadn't thought of this part of it, but she knew that she should breastfeed for a little while. It was not as if she had to go back to work in six weeks. She hoped Hannibal wouldn't mind, another aspect of motherhood she hadn't thought of. She couldn't believe she was that na´ve. The nurse left the room apparently confident Clarice wasn't going to drop her daughter. She was startled when the door opened once more but smiled quickly when she saw Hannibal.

Hannibal chuckled lightly at the sight he intruded upon. And he did feel like an intruder. "Should I go?"

Clarice frowned slightly at his question. "Why on earth would I want you to go?"

"I, well, I don't know. I just assumed you might want privacy."

"As if I have anything you haven't seen before."

"Yes, well, this is a little different. But I'll stay." He held open his hand showing her the M&M's he had purchased from a vending machine. "Contraband," he chuckled lightly.

"So have you thought of a name for your daughter?"

"Shouldn't that be a joint decision?"

"Well, I was just wondering if you had any preference."

"I do have one, but I'm afraid it would be a little too obvious."

She smiled slightly. "I'm afraid you're right there. How about Laura?"

"Laura is nice. Not too common either. And a middle name?"

Clarice shrugged. "I don't know. Catherine?"

Hannibal nodded with a slight chuckle. "That sounds fine."

"Laura Catherine Bonnel. That has an all right ring to it I suppose."

Hannibal glanced at their daughter. "I think you need to move her, my dear."

Clarice glanced from Hannibal to their daughter who was now asleep with her little faced pressed against Clarice's breast. "Ah," she blushed ashamed she hadn't realized she had fallen asleep. "Don't you want to hold her?"

"I thought you'd never ask."

"I'm sorry."

"She was eating, that's a little more important I think."

"You don't mind?"

"Mind what? That she was eating?" He stood and took his daughter into his arms for the first time. He saw the look on Clarice's face and knew what she was asking him. "No, of course not. Why on earth would I mind? It's for the best. And it's not like you have a reason to bottle feed her if she'll breastfeed."

"I just thought. Well, it'll get in our way."

"And having her in general won't?" He chuckled lightly, the movement of his chest jostling her a bit. He ran his fingertip across her tiny forehead lightly, the soft spot on her head covered by the blanket. He had never actually held a newborn before and found himself rather curious about her. "You do what's best for you and our daughter." Even though his words were directed at Clarice he remained very focused on the baby in his arms, Laura.

Clarice was discharged the following evening. Both mother and daughter were fine. Getting her into the infant carseat was an entirely foreign process to both of them, but they managed. When Clarice stepped through the threshold of their new home she was suddenly overcome with nervousness. She didn't know the first thing about babies, and neither did Hannibal she knew. She watched as he struggled to release Laura from her infant seat.

Hannibal managed to get Laura out of her carseat and brought her into the bedroom that would serve as her nursery. He heard Clarice's gasp come from behind him. "Well, I had to do something while you were in the hospital," he said softly. "I have some wallpaper yet to put up, but otherwise I think you should have everything known to modern man that is required in the process of babyhood."

She chuckled and hugged him after he had placed Laura in her crib. She looked so tiny on the Winnie the Pooh sheets. Of course she would be, being almost four weeks premature. But still, Clarice couldn't imagine the baby growing that much inside of her over the next month to make that much of a difference. As it was she had been over six pounds when she was born. The doctor indicated that was about average, that had she carried to term Laura probably would have been around eight pounds or so. She was relieved to hear that. She took in everything in the room. A dresser, a changing table, a diaper pail, an infant bathtub, a mobile for above the crib, and even a matching lamp. "You're amazing," she said softly.

He kissed her lightly. "The fact that you can still say that after what you just went through proves to me that you are quite delirious, but I think you're pretty amazing too."

"I need a bath and then some food," she said with great conviction.

"I'll take care of the food part. I'd best stay away from you during the bathing process for a while."

"Yes, that would be wisest I think." She left the room, looking over her shoulder as Hannibal rested both his arms on the rail of the crib watching their daughter as she slept.

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