Running Happily Ever After

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, but I do enjoy playing with them. I'll give them back, I swear. Anyway, here is my story, please read and review. GN

It had been a long day of paperwork for Clarice. It seemed that since Clarice had 'let' Dr. Lecter escape from Chesapeake that fateful night, because of their 'personal' relationship, they had punished her with drone work. There had been an official inquiry into the incident or disaster as Clarice liked to refer to it. She had been put on administrative duty until further notice after that. It had been 2 years since then. There were days when it exhausted her, the mental fight she constantly went through, justifying the job to herself and sticking it out with the FBI. It was even more difficult to deal with the whispers that haunted the halls of the FBI building and her basement or "Hannibal's Haunt" as she had heard it called. Other days Clarice would come home so mad that she was ready to spit fire and that night she just happened to be in one of her more irate moods.

Clarice stepped into her house, she couldn't really call it a home as there wasn't anything homely about it; she felt some of the tension ease but not enough for her to relax. She raced up the steps to her bedroom and pulled out a t-shirt and some running pants. Clarice changed quickly, hanging up her suit, before sitting down on the bed she never used to put her running shoes on. Of the four rooms in the upstairs level of her house, Clarice rarely used the downstairs area of the house. Her sanctuary was her office. The master bedroom was there for her clothes, the third was a spare room which she placed her punching bag and a stereo, and the fourth was the master bath.

Once Clarice was properly dressed for exercise, she raced back down the stairs and out the door, only stopping long enough to lock the door behind her. She started out at a nice jog to warm up and then she picked up the pace until she was running full tilt. She never noticed the solitary figure slip out of the shadows and up to her front porch and then disappear inside the door with a few wiggles and twists of a lock pick.

Clarice returned home a little over an hour later. She found the door locked, just as she had left it, so she wasn't suspicious when she entered. Clarice dropped her keys into the basket by the door and locked it behind her. Her skin felt cold from her run but entering the house felt like walking into a blast furnace. Clarice went to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. She perused her choices for dinner and was thankful that she wasn't hungry at that time as there wasn't anything to eat. She made a mental note to go to the grocery store in the morning. Clarice took her water upstairs to the spare room. Running hadn't alleviated her tension, it had just given her time to think and that was not what she wanted to do. She did enough thinking as it was with all her time spent on paperwork. Clarice still felt the need to pound something and the bag was a convenient target. She turned on the stereo and paged through the CD's until she found the one that she was looking for. Pushing play, Clarice turned to grab her gloves as the hard beat and clear voice of Evanescence filled the room. As she strapped on the gloves, she rolled her shoulders and bounced a few times before attacking the bag furiously.

The intruder cringed at the music. It was not what he had expected Clarice to listen to. He watched from the doorway behind her. As far as Clarice was concerned, a herd of elephants could have paraded in front of her and she wouldn't have noticed. After a moment he moved around to face Clarice, silently waiting to be noticed. It took her a full minute to realize that someone was in the room with her. When she did notice, Clarice just about jumped out of her skin.

"Jesus Christ." Clarice said, startled.

"Good evening Clarice." Dr. Lecter said from his position across the room. Clarice reached back and took a wild stab and managed to turn off the stereo, with her gloves still on.

"Thank you." Dr. Lecter said visibly relaxing once the music stopped. "That's an interesting music choice. It's horrible." Clarice merely raised an eyebrow.

"What are you doing here, Dr. Lecter? It certainly isn't to discuss my music choices." Clarice asked.

"Why visiting a friend of course." He smiled gently with a sparkle in his amazing blue eyes. Clarice stared at him for a moment.

"I'm glad that you came then. I think we need to discuss something."

"Really? And what might that be?" He asked with a look of genuine surprise on his face, and hope.

"Our last meeting at Chesapeake." Clarice answered.

"And what would you like to discuss about our previous encounter?"

"You asked me a question that I answered without thinking. It took me a year to come to terms with the things you said to me. I realized that the FBI used me and that they don't deserve my loyalty. But I had already given you my answer and you were gone. So here I am, still with the FBI and regretting it. I've become a paper-pusher, something I never wanted to be. I swore I would stay a field agent until I died in the line of duty or was forced into retirement." Clarice paused for a moment. Dr. Lecter wanted to question her, just to get her to keep talking but he forced himself to stay silent and wait for her to continue. "You asked me if I would ever say to you 'Stop, if you loved me, you would stop'. My answer is this: If you loved me, you would never stop." Clarice studied his face and waited for his response.

Hannibal stood there for a full five minutes before he responded. Clarice began to fidget. She stripped off her gloves and tossed them back onto the table holding the stereo. This brought the doctor out of his reverie. He grinned.

"Say it, Clarice." Hannibal ordered quietly.

"I love you, Hannibal." Clarice responded. He smiled a gentle smile full of adoration at her and moved closer to her. She stood her ground and when he was close enough to reach out too; Clarice moved the last few steps toward him. Their lips met in a second kiss, this time mutual and passion filled.

"Will you come away with me?" He asked when they broke apart.

"Yes, if I can shower first." Clarice said looking down at her current state of dress with distaste. He laughed and she smiled in return hearing for the first time his laugh. It was sound she cherished.

"Of course. Is there anything that you want to pack?"

"Yeah. I finally painstakingly updated my wardrobe. I'm not about to leave it behind. I'll pack after I get out of the shower." With that Clarice dashed off to a shower. She made it quick and packed her toiletry bag while she was in there. She came out fifteen minutes later to find Hannibal gazing out the French doors which led to a balcony. He turned after a second and blushed slightly at Clarice. She was only wearing a towel. She grinned, unable to resist teasing him.

"So the great Hannibal Lecter blushes. Who would have thought?" Clarice moved to her large walk in closet and shut the door behind her just as she heard him laugh again. She paused for a moment. Oh how she loved that sound. At that moment Clarice made a vow to herself to make him laugh as much as possible. With that thought, she started dressing. She pulled on her panties and bra before picking out a pair of worn and comfortable jeans and a t-shirt, then a hooded sweat shirt. Clarice took a moment to pull her hair back into her customary pony tail before returning to the bedroom. Reaching under her bed, she pulled out a large garment bag and a medium sized suitcase. Her suits, dresses and pants were packed into the garment bag, the rest of her clothes, which weren't that numerous were packed into her suitcase and her few pairs of shoes packed in it as well. Clarice put her few books and CD's into a small box with the knickknacks that she had collected over the years. With one last look around as she and Hannibal gathered her possessions and made their way downstairs. She left the keys to the house with a note for the land lady and instructions to give a similarly address envelope to her one true friend Ardelia. She also left the keys to her mustang. Clarice gave the house one last look from the front porch before joining Hannibal in his Jag. He took her hand as they drove off to start a new life and hopefully live happily ever after.