This is a work of fanfiction. I do not own the characters of Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling or any other character mention that is named in the Thomas Harris books or the movies based on the books.

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 it 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 souped 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 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 in, 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 momento 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.

Lecter sat in his newly furnished apartment. He didn't have a lot, but the few things he troubled himself to purchase were quality. A leather sofa, loveseat and recliner, a coffee table, end table, entertainment unit, a large color TV, and stereo for the living room. One entire wall of the living room was nothing but windows looking out over the city and there was a stone hearth fireplace in the corner. His unit was an end unit, which pleased him to no end. A king size bed, dresser, bookcase and two lamps for the bedroom. The two spare bedrooms were complete, one as his office complete with medical books. Both bathrooms and the kitchen had been successfully accessorized. He stood from the couch, pouring himself a glass of Bushmill's in the kitchen before going to stand at his window, which offered an impressive view of downtown Chicago. If he used his binoculars he could catch a glimpse of Lake Michigan. He had thought about leaving the country, but after his meeting with Clarice was unable to put so much space between them. A thousand miles was nothing compared to an entire ocean.

Dressed in a light gray suit, a white shirt, and a dark gray paisley tie he decided to spend his day at the Art Institute, where Robert Billingsly had a membership as he did to most of the area museums that interested Lecter. It was a costly endeavor, but it was worth it to him to be able to come and go to the museums as he wished without having to wait in lines. The only alteration to his physical appearance he indulged in after the silicone implants were a pair of non-prescription brown contact lenses. His eyes stood out too easily; he wanted no one noticing a man with violet eyes walking around.

He left his apartment, locking the new dead bolt behind him. One only he had a key to. The locks had been changed before he moved in, but he didn't trust anyone. Taking the elevator down from the twentieth floor to the ground floor, he rode in silence with the other passenger exiting swiftly when the doors opened allowing him to leave the confined space of the elevator car. Catching a cab on Washington Street, he enjoyed the ride to the Art Institute paying the cabbie as he got close enough for Lecter to walk the rest of the way.

He spent the afternoon studying the Impressionists, a genre he never particularly cared for but there were fewer people in this section today. The hours went by too quickly for Lecter, as they always did when he was in a new museum. Stopping in the gift shop before he left he bought a small gift for Clarice and a postcard of Van Gogh's Starry Night to send to her as well. It wasn't his favorite, but somehow he thought even the smaller version print would bring Clarice some peace.

He spent a few weeks getting adjust to Chicago and the life it had to offer. Thanks to Dr. Billingsly's impeccable references and educational pedigree he landed a job at Rush Presbyterian Hospital as an Emergency Room physician. It had been years since Lecter had treated physical problems rather than psychological problems, but Lecter adapted easily to life in the E.R. as he did any other situation.

Never having explored Chicago or the Midwest before, Lecter found himself in a different type of life than he had grown accustomed to out east. Life was slower, almost surreal at times. People were friendly, much easier to accept the unknown. He found that Chicago had the culture he desired the museums, the theater, the ballet, the dining, and the ability to fulfill any desire a human being could need really. The nightlife was the first thing he explored. With his hair grown and died a rather dark brown, he didn't look his age of 50. He certainly couldn't pass him off as being any younger than his 40's, but he still didn't look bad for his age he had to admit.

At work, one of the doctors on the psychiatric floor took an interest in Lecter. It was obvious to her that he had some prior work in psychiatry, she could tell by his handling of the patients that came into the E.R. that were obviously somehow troubled. He handled them with relative ease, far above and beyond a typical E.R. doctor and soon whenever he was on duty and there was a psychiatric patient Lecter's services were sought for that patient until Psychiatric could send a consult down from their floor. It was of little surprise to Lecter when Dr. Susan Palmer invited him to dinner one evening after he had finished going over his chart notes with her of a juvenile male patient that he had seen earlier that day. Lecter accepted politely. Why not, he thought. It had been over nine years since he'd had a date, and he decided he could use the company. She was younger than he about 35 with just above the shoulder blonde hair and striking green eyes was. She always dressed nicely and was always well put together. He noticed she didn't have a wide selection in her wardrobe at least as far as work clothes went but everything she had was well made and fit her well.

It was early Friday evening in late June when he met her at a steak house she recommended near Wrigley Field. She had offered a day of it watching the Cubs play the Padres, but he declined the baseball game offer, sports not really being his cup of tea. She had told him to dress casual, so he dressed in a pair of khaki trousers, a blue Oxford button up shirt, a burgundy paisley tie with a navy sport coat. He really wasn't a casual man, and would have felt uncomfortable sporting a Polo shirt and risk being underdressed not certain what her version of casual was. At least with this he could remove the sport jacket and tie if he felt the need.

She spotted him as he entered from where she sat at the bar. He approached her confidently with a slight smile as he set his sunglasses in front of him as he took a seat next to her. "I see you found it all right, Dr. Billingsly." She smiled slightly taking the liberty of checking him out. She wondered if he knew what the word casual meant, but shrugged it off. Not everyone was comfortable in a pair of sweats and a tank top at home like she was. At 35, she had never married and had no children. She had dodged the bullet called marriage a couple of times in her twenties, realizing both times that she was simply not ready. She knew that she was appealing to most men, but also intimidating. She was a success without the aid of a man or parents for the most part. She had put herself through medical school, her father thinking her aspiration to become a psychiatrist foolish. She was attractive, intelligent, worked in a field that she loved, worked out daily and while not being a perfect specimen of a human being felt she looked all right. Other than an occasional drink socially, no pollutants were placed in her body. She smiled genuinely as Billingsly sat next to her. He ordered an expensive scotch she noticed; also she noticed his surprise that the bar in fact carried it.

Lecter nodded slightly at her greeting. "Indeed, Dr. Palmer. Your directions were quite easy to follow, even for a new comer to your fair city. Wherever did you find this place? It hardly seems your style." He gave the small restaurant the once over before returning his gaze to her. She was dressed for a date, he noticed. She wore a casual black cotton looking dress with some multi-colored striped forming an indecipherable pattern near her chest. The dress while not form fitting wasn't loose either, showing off the swell of her bosom rather well. In the darkness of the bar and with the way she sat, he was unable to view her legs but he had seen them at work a number of times and a better set he couldn't recall seeing on a woman in quite some time.

Susan looked at the restaurant realizing to a new comer what it must look like, a dive. She had been coming to this restaurant with her parents since she was a little girl. It was small and loud, certainly not the most romantic setting she could have chosen for a first date but somehow she got the impression from Billingsly that wasn't the way to go with him. The bar offered seating for about two dozen, there were six or seven small booths for people to sit at while waiting for tables in the restaurant or to eat at if they cared to. The restaurant consisted of two small rooms. The first was comprised of four rows of four booths with two narrow aisles; larger booths seating four people were against both walls and smaller booths seating two were along the center of the room. There were three round tables of six in this room and then the back room, which consisted of eight tables of four. The walls of the restaurant were decorated with various Chicago historical paraphernalia; the bar was decorated with sports paraphernalia. It was small, but Susan hadn't had a bad meal yet in this place.

They took their seat at one of the larger booths, taking their drinks from the bar with them. Lecter, ever the gentleman, ordered for them both and he couldn't help but notice that Susan was impressed with the way he ordered. Ever the perfectionist and the connoisseur that he was, he had a way of making you hungry just by describing how he wanted his steak cooked. He ordered a fair quality wine; far less expensive than what he enjoyed at home but for the quality of restaurant he assumed this place to be he was impressed. He found himself enjoying the company of this woman. It was hard for him at times to think of what to say as Robert Billingsly instead of Hannibal Lecter but he was quickly coming up with an identity and a personality of his own for Robert.

Susan sat and listened to Lecter throughout the meal. He was an interesting man, obviously well traveled and well read. He had a wide variety of tastes in music, theater, art, and food but it was obvious that he had exquisite taste in them. He was interesting to listen to; his voice was soothing and had an air about it that made her wonder if he was wealthy. She wondered also if he had been raised with money. She would have thought he'd have to have been with the kinds of tastes he had but she didn't know. He mentioned having moved to Chicago recently from Wichita. She laughed, understanding how a man like him might not find Wichita very culturally appealing.

She was disappointed after they'd finished dinner when he turned down her suggestion of a movie, but her mood improved when he suggested perhaps a walk along the lake. She found that she enjoyed his company; he was the first man in a long time that treated her like a woman not a doctor when they were out together and she appreciated that. They went to the Planetarium and stood by the landing there and though she would have enjoyed talking she sensed he wasn't in the mood. He seemed lost in the dark water of Lake Michigan, and she left him to his own thoughts.

Lecter was amazed at how nice the area was she had taken him, the view was rather breathtaking. He could just imagine what it looked like during the day with people all around. He would come back another day and capture the image for his memory palace. Yes, he realized, Chicago wasn't a bad choice. He accepted her invitation to return to her apartment, discovering that she didn't really live too far from him. He didn't tell her that, not wanting anyone to know where he lived. He preferred it that way. He followed her out of the elevator and to her apartment, looking at the empty hallway while she unlocked the door and turned on the lights.

She took his jacket from him and hung it in a small hall closet, watching him as he took in her apartment, which was modernly fashioned. Her living room consisted of a large black leather sectional, which was much more comfortable than it appeared, a TV, stereo, and a bookcase loaded with books. It was obvious no kids or pets lived in her apartment by the cleanliness of her bright white carpet. The pictures on her wall were antique floral prints that she had found at a flea market. She put the coffee on, leaving the lights on in the kitchen as she came back into the living room smiling when she saw that he had sat down of his own accord. She put a CD, Berlioz's "Symphony Fantastique" one of the few classical CDs she had and returned to the kitchen as the water kettle whistled. She returned with the coffee, handing him his mug sitting near him sliding her legs underneath her to get comfortable.

It had been so long since Lecter had been in this type of situation he was quite honestly not certain whether he was reading the woman correctly, but being a psychiatrist and being rather familiar with body language she was more than indicating casual receptiveness to him. He watched her contemplatively from over his coffee mug, and oddly really had no clue as to how to pursue the matter in this situation. Perhaps when he said good night. The music was appropriate though, he wondered if she realized how sensual Berlioz was. He finished his coffee and stood to leave. "I thank you for a truly enjoyable evening, Susan. The dinner was really surprisingly good; I wouldn't have looked at the restaurant twice from the street. I'll have to be sure and call on you again to familiarize myself with more places like that."

She set her mug on the glass table behind the couch unable to hide her disappointment that he was leaving so soon. She had hoped he'd stay for a while at any rate. She stood and walked with him to the door. "I hope you'll call on me without a reason, Robert. And thank you for your company. It was refreshing to go out with someone who knows how to treat a woman like a lady. That seems to be a lost art these days." Taking hold of his hands, she reached up and kissed him boldly on the lips. She had no idea why; she really had received no indications from him that his interest was more than friendly but she was attracted to the man and wanted him to know that.

Lecter was rather surprised, but responded more than willingly to the kiss. He released her hands and placed his instead at her waist bringing her towards him. Her lips were soft and very receptive to his kiss. She used Colgate toothpaste, Listerine mouthwash and Vaseline Intensive Care hand lotion he could smell it. Suddenly his thoughts went to Evian skin crème and suddenly he was no longer kissing this woman, but instead he was kissing Clarice. He could see her, smell her, and taste her on his lips. He had kissed her briefly at her house, and that memory was ingrained in his mind forever. Her lips had tasted faintly like Blistex; but that hadn't mattered to him they were delicious. He stopped kissing her and pulled away, surprised at the intensity of the image in his mind of Clarice. He knew his infatuation with her was perhaps out of hand, but he hadn't thought it was this bad.

Susan stood staring at him after he pulled away, he was in front of her physically but she could sense that he was no longer in the room with her. She had no idea why he had stopped kissing her; he had seemed so willing to reciprocate for a moment. She could tell by his instinct to pull her towards him that he wanted to respond, but he had stopped so suddenly and now he said nothing. "Are you all right?" she asked dumbly for lack of anything else to say.

Lecter stared at her calmly, brought from his thoughts. "Yes, my apologies, Susan, but I should go. I'd like to end the evening with your thinking I treated you like a lady. I can call on you again socially, can't I?"

She was shocked, taken aback. He was leaving because he was thinking of her. That didn't sound right, and had it not been for his other gentlemanly behaviors throughout the evening she would have thought he was lying. She smiled widely, she spent a lot of money on her smile and she enjoyed showing it off especially to men that she wanted to kiss again. "Of course, Robert. I would like that very much." She reached up and kissed him again, but the willingness on his part wasn't there this time. He wasn't cold or unresponsive, but there was a difference. She smiled once more as she withdrew from the kiss and opened the door for him. She waved as he got on the elevator and closed the door, locking and bolting it before going to the couch.

Lecter was surprised at how easily he was able to catch a cab to be taken back to his apartment. It was about a two-mile drive and upon entering his apartment he immediately put on some music; Schubert seemed like a good choice at the moment and poured himself a Bushmill's. The image of Clarice on his mind would not fade; the whiskey did little to help his attempt. Instead it made the image bolder and more real, and made his body react to her not being there when he craved her as he did. And that's exactly what it was, a craving. It was time to pay a visit to Agent Starling again, he decided. Working twelve hour shifts at the E.R. helped him when planning for a trip, he would request to have three days on in a row followed by four days off in a row. Getting off at seven o'clock in the morning on Tuesday he would have his bags already in the car, drive to O'Hare Airport and be in D.C. by noon. He wouldn't have to be back until Saturday afternoon for work. It would work; he just hoped that he wasn't taking a chance calling on her again so soon.

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 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? "Dr. Lecter?" Her voice sounded strange to her own ears, 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. Greatly. "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, and 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 violet 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 into 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 violet 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 peaked. "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.

Lecter woke before Clarice the following day; she was just as pleasing to the eye in the daylight as she slept as she had been the night before. He showered quickly and ordered breakfast for both of them to be sent to the room. The food arrived when Clarice was showering, Lecter signed the bill and brought the food into the room himself. "I didn't know what you liked to eat I'm afraid, so help yourself to whatever suits your tastes." He helped himself to some coffee and a bagel with lochs perusing the morning's paper while Clarice toweled off her hair and looked at her clothes from the day before with distaste. "Something for you to wear for the day should be arriving shortly. I took the liberty, I hope you'll indulge me."

She eyed the food at the table and realized she was hungry. Fastening the towel around her securely, feeling uncomfortable parading around in front of him in just a towel, she took a seat at the table and decided to eat some eggs. She looked up at him, noticing he wasn't eating his bagel. "You ordered all of this food and all you're eating is a bagel. Surely I'm not that difficult to buy breakfast for, Dr. Lecter."

Lecter raised a brow, diverting his attention from the newspaper he was reading to her briefly. "Judging by your figure, Clarice, I'd wager you were a relatively light eater but I didn't want to insult you by just ordering fruit and cereal." As if dismissing her, he returned his attention to the paper.

Clarice picked up a piece of toast and walked to the window, "it's a great view. I didn't really get to appreciate it last night." She coughed lightly, "you can see the FBI building from here." She glanced at him slightly in amusement; leave it to him to stay right under their noses.

"I wasn't overly choosey in my selection of hotels on the spur of the moment, Agent Starling." He glanced up at her until a knock on the door came. He folded the newspaper slowly, deliberately before rising from the chair and opening the door. He returned to where she could see him, holding up a pair of jeans, a blouse and a pair of shoes. "Your clothes for the afternoon, Clarice. We'll get you something for this evening while we're out."

She took the jeans and headed to the bathroom, returning a few minutes later surprised at how well they fit. What else does he know about me? "Doctor Lecter, as kind as this is, I can't let you buy me clothes. That I've agreed to go out with you at all is enough to get my fired, let alone accepting gifts."

"Call it a loan then, you can pay me back sometime." He chuckled lightly, knowing she knew full well he would never allow her to pay him back for anything.

"Just where are you taking me, anyway?"

"I thought a day at the Smithsonian would be nice. Have you ever been there for pleasure?"

"No, actually. I've not seen much that D.C. has to offer in the way of pleasure."

"Well, perhaps you'll indulge me and spend the rest of the week with me after all. I think you'd be surprised at the things I can show you, Agent Starling."

She raised a brow slightly, that comment could be construed as suggestive but she knew it wasn't. "I don't know that there's much you could do that would surprise me, Doctor."

They spent the late morning and part of the afternoon at the Smithsonian. Starling had been there before in a professional capacity to speak with experts, but she had never taken the time to realize how vast the displays were. It was truly awe-inspiring. Standing next to Lecter for hours at a time was awe-inspiring as well, and while he allowed her her personal space he did touch her gently on occasion. A hand placed effortlessly and comfortably at the small of her back as they walked from one display to another, a touch to her arm to point out something of interest he thought she had missed. What shocked Clarice was her reaction to his touch; they sent shocks of warmth throughout her body and made it so she didn't want him to stop touching her. Each time his hand moved away she had to shake her head to clear it of whatever spell he had cast over her for that brief moment. And they were brief moments, his hand never lingered. Ever the gentleman, she mused inwardly.

After the Smithsonian they went to a deli and got sandwiches and made their way to the Vietnam Wall Memorial. Clarice was startled with the ease in which Lecter allowed himself to be seen in public. He certainly wasn't hiding or taking extraordinary precautions. After lunch, they stopped and Lecter picked out a dress and shoes for her to wear for the evening. Back to his room where they showered and changed and they were ready for dinner. Oddly, Clarice hadn't once that day thought about leaving him or how she would get away. She was alone in his room while he showered and yet she made no effort to leave or to pick up the phone and call Jack or Ardelia. What the hell was wrong with her?

She stood at the window looking outside, dressed in the emerald green silk dress and matching shoes he'd bought her that afternoon she was a little nervous. This wasn't an afternoon at the Smithsonian; this was a dinner date with someone who should be behind bars. Someone who had the uncanny knack of getting under her skin and making her feel things that no man ever had. Someone who knew things about her that no one else knew, that she would never dare to tell anyone else. She was lost in thought, her hands clasped on her arms held over her chest.

Lecter emerged from the shower and was glad Clarice didn't seem to notice. It was one thing to dress for a casual day in a bathroom, but for an evening out he had no desire to dress in a humid bathroom. He quickly dressed in his charcoal gray pinstriped suit, a white shirt and a burgundy and navy striped tie. A pair of gold cufflinks and a matching gold tie tack completed his outfit. His long hair pulled back in a short ponytail, he presented a handsome picture when Clarice finally realized he was there and turned to look at him. "I clean up nice, don't I, Agent Starling?"

Clarice was shocked; the pictures she'd seen of him in eveningwear didn't do him justice. His hair worn long looked sexy, but pulled back like it was made her heart lurch. "Your eyes," she looked at him confused as she walked towards him.

"Contacts, Agent Starling. A curse God gave me my eyes that I try and disguise them whenever I can. Yet another thing you can add to the list of information you're compiling about me to add to your files."

"I wish you wouldn't call me that."

"And I wish you wouldn't call me doctor."

"Well, I'm not comfortable calling you anything else, Doctor Lecter. Believe it or not, I call you that out of respect. Whereas I get the distinct feeling when you address me as Agent Starling you're being sarcastic."

He smiled slightly, his sharp white teeth glistening slightly as he did. "You underestimate me, Clarice. I do it to tease you, but never as sarcasm." He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on his shoes. "Do I meet your requirements, Clarice?"

"For a dinner companion, Doctor? I'd say you'll do." She walked through the door he held open for her, waiting for him before walking to the elevators. "Just where are we going?"

"An Italian restaurant I think you'll like. It's been a number of years since I've actually had the pleasure of dining there, but from my understanding it's still reputable."

Dinner passed by too quickly for Lecter. He knew that Clarice was hoping he'd slip up and reveal where he had been since his escape, but he wasn't careless enough to do that. He listened to her tales of work, knowing she like him really had no one else to talk to. He wondered if she realized how similar their lives where when it came right down to it, but he knew even if she did she wasn't ready to recognize it yet. Once dinner was finished, he led her to the bar that was attached to the restaurant. A live band performed, too loudly for Lecter's tastes but he was doing whatever he could think of to prevent the night from ending too soon. When they played a slow song, something he recognized from the 70s that he knew he could dance to he took her hand and led her to the dance floor without waiting for her to refuse.

Clarice didn't know the last time she had heard the song by Kenny Rogers, but she knew she'd never again hear it again without thinking of Lecter. He danced well, and she felt like a bumbler in comparison. But he led easily and she followed, surprised when one song led into two. She had to laugh when the band went from Kenny Rogers to Chicago, but her laughter was cut short by Lecter's kiss. He caught her totally off guard, which she imagined was what he was trying to do. It wasn't a passionate kiss, but it wasn't just a peck either. "What was that for?"

He shrugged and led her from the bar and outside to his car, after unlocking her door he placed both hands on the top of the car trapping her. "Clarice," he met her gaze and kissed her again. He had no desire to take her home; he wanted her to come back with him. When he felt that she was not going to fight him, he moved his hands from the top of the car to around her waist. "Kiss me back," he said softly.

The first kiss had surprised her; this one surprised her even more though why she had no idea. His lips were inviting, tempting her to kiss him back. And then he spoke to her, asked her to kiss him back and somehow she found herself doing just that. That feeling that she had felt earlier in the day when he touched her was back as his hands caressed her back lightly as he kissed her. She pulled away slightly, certain that her lips were swollen from the attention they had just received. She didn't know what to say, she never knew what to say in these circumstances so she rested her head against his chin and waited for him.

Lecter sensed her confusion, her hesitancy and placed his finger under her chin. Lifting her face so she looked him in the eye. "Come back with me, Clarice. While I won't deny I have more than kissing you on my mind, I will leave what happens to your discretion."

"All right, Doctor. I'll come back with you. I have nothing to go home for anyway."

He kissed her again briefly before opening her door for her and going around to his side. Once at his hotel, he found himself oddly nervous. His normally calm heart was beating a little faster than normal as he dropped his hand in hers to walk through the lobby. It increased a bit more when she allowed her hand to remain intertwined with his as they rode up to his room on the elevator. He removed his suit coat and tie when they returned to the room and watched in silence as she walked to the window. After removing his shoes he walked up behind her, his arms going around her waist as his lips sought out the back of her neck.

Clarice was trying to hold back, trying not to respond to him but when she felt his teeth against her neck she jumped slightly. She laughed at herself when she realized that he was just doing what any normal person might do as part of foreplay, but somehow she had never really thought of Hannibal Lecter as a lover before now. Of course she had, but the images in her mind had never gone into details. Once over the initial shock she found it very easy to give herself to him when she felt his hand move from her stomach to the zipper on her dress she swallowed hard knowing there was no going back after this. She fought the urge to tell him no, she didn't want to tell him no damn it. Tonight at least she was going to be Clarice Starling, female, and put her career out of her mind. She turned to face him holding the dress clutched to her and stepped away from the window as she let the dress fall around her feet. She stepped out of her shoes, leaving the dress and shoes in a small pile of emerald green on the floor.

How exactly she ended up on the bed she couldn't remember, but it must have been of her own accord because he still stood by the window watching her. It was as if he was shocked by her behavior, was this just a trick to see what she'd allow him to do. If that is what this was, she was going to feel incredibly foolish. But then he unbuttoned his shirt and removed his trousers and joined her on the bed and she knew it was no trick. Unless she chickened out after tonight she would have slept with the enemy in the most dangerous sense of the phrase. She shivered instinctively as his hand ran up and down her arms and neck. A slight gasp escaped her lips when he took a breast in his hand, the palm of his hand was so warm against her skin. She closed her eyes and allowed her body to respond to him when she felt him take a nipple in between his thumb and index finger.

Lecter was waiting for her to say no, for her to slap him or do something. So when he touched her breast and she gasped he was pleased. Her nipples reacted so easily to his touch that he found himself getting more aroused than he already was. When he brought his mouth around a nipple and toyed with it with his tongue and teeth he was pleased that she brought her hands to rest on his shoulders. She was touching him of her own free will, even if it was instinctive. As his mouth focused on her breasts, his hand was busy trying to bring her pleasure. He was surprised at the way she reacted when he slid a finger within her, and he had all he could do not to take her at that very moment. But he wasn't a thoughtless lover, and he wasn't about to start now with Clarice. He was slow and deliberate with his movements, careful to gauge her reactions and make the slightest change if necessary to ensure she was being pleased. His mouth moved to her stomach where he nipped gently but hard enough to leave a mark on her when he felt her release was approaching.

Feeling him bite her pushed her over the edge, never had she imagined such a thing could be erotic but from him it was. She was embarrassed to look at him when she had finished; embarrassed that she had reacted so willingly and easily to him. Was she that easy or was he that good, or was it a little of both. She watched as he moved on top of her, closing her eyes as she felt him ease into her. It had been so long since she'd been with anyone that she imagined he would be surprised at how she felt around him.

Lecter opened his eyes quickly as he entered Clarice. Over nine years had gone by since he'd been with a woman, but it may as well have been never as tight as she was around him. Determining that he was not hurting her, he kissed her biting her upper lip gently once he was fully inside her. If it was possible to try and possess her with a kiss that's what he wanted to do. He wanted her lips on his, her tongue pressed against his. His tongue traced her lips and with a little pressure she opened her mouth instinctively and he let out a light groan of appreciation when their tongues finally met. His hand reached up behind her head, his fingers running through her auburn tresses as he moved within her. His lips moved from her mouth to her neck and her ears and then again to her breasts where he focused until he finished. He remained within her, not wanting to pull out or away from her until he had to. He kissed her again with less urgency, "tell me you're staying the night, Clarice."

She laughed lightly. "What a thing to ask, Doctor." She ran her hand across his face, her fingers taking in the feel of his skin under her fingertips. "I'll stay as long as you want me here," her eyes clearly stated that she was satisfied. She groaned slightly when he moved to her side, smiling to herself when he placed an arm around her waist.

Lecter kissed her shoulder and her upper arm, enjoying the feel of his arm resting against her bare stomach. He didn't know how to ask the question on his mind so he decided to be blunt. "Please tell me that wasn't your first time, Clarice." He saw her questioning look. "You gripped me like a glove. It's been a while I have to admit, but I don't remember it feeling quite like that."

She laughed lightly out of embarrassment. "Well, I guess I should take that as a compliment. No, it wasn't my first time, Doctor. But it has been a while; I don't make it a practice to have sex often. And even then, it was only once before. You need a boyfriend to do that, and I haven't had one of those for quite some time. And the one I did have, he got what he wanted and left once he had gotten it." She turned to look away from him wondering to herself if he would do the same thing. Maybe that's what she was so scared of, that he would leave her too.

"Well, he was a fool, Clarice. But his loss appears to be my gain, because I don't see you as the type to be unfaithful even to a boyfriend." He felt himself growing tired and pulled her closer to him. "Do I have permission to wake you up during the night in a similar manner or would you rather sleep through the night?"

"I guess you'll just have to take your chances, Doctor. Hannibal." She swallowed hard.

"Much better, Clarice." He kissed her lightly, "get some rest now Clarice. If you're planning on joining me for the extent of my stay you're going to need your rest while I allow you the luxury of getting it." He chuckled lightly.

Clarice placed her hand in his hand that rested at her stomach. Odd that she felt safe in his arms. Shouldn't she feel just the opposite lying in the arms of a serial killer? She was crazy. She was crazy to be here, she was crazy to have let him make love to her, and she was crazy to be sleeping with the man. What the hell was she thinking? She hated this, she finally did something to please herself and she felt guilty for it. And it wasn't because of what they did; it was because of who he is. Of all the people she could have fallen for, why did it have to be him?

"Stop worrying, Clarice and just go to sleep. What's done is done, you can't take it back and there's no use worrying about it. I don't think you'd take it back even if you could."

She turned slightly to look at him; she should have known he'd know exactly what she was thinking. "You're right, but this isn't having dinner with you."

"Stay the rest of the week with me, Clarice, and when I leave on Saturday if you don't want to see me again I'll do my best to honor your wishes. Just two more days and three more nights, Clarice. I assume you have vacation time you can take."

She sighed, clearly confused. "Yes, I do. I'm a fool for doing this, but all right. I'll stay. It's not as if I have any more appealing offers, Doctor. But I'm sure you already knew that."

"Ah but Clarice, there's so much more I want to know about you. For tonight, though I think we'll stick with the more carnal aspects of you." He chuckled lightly as he moved on top of her once more; a light smile came to his lips when she willingly moved her legs to accept him.

The remainder of the week passed in much the same fashion for the two of them. Their days were spent out of their hotel room; their nights were spent getting to know one another more intimately both physically and mentally. Lecter revealed little of himself, but he found Clarice had a desire to talk about things and he was a more than willing listener. She touched on her childhood, but mostly it was work she spoke about and her frustrations with Krendler and her assignments since the Buffalo Bill case. Friday they elected to eat at the hotel and stay in for the evening, Lecter having to leave before six o'clock the following morning in order to take Clarice home and get himself to the airport in time.

They were watching the late night movie, neither paying much attention to what the movie was about when Clarice brought up his leaving the next day. "You're really leaving, aren't you?" She sat up on her side, pulling the sheet around her body. She wasn't shy in front of him, for some reason she knew that she had nothing to be embarrassed about in front of him. But she wanted to talk, and she knew how easily she allowed herself to get distracted by him.

"Yes, Clarice, as much as I'd enjoy spending all my time with you it's not possible. For your well being as well as my own, you're no more suited to a life behind bars than I am."

"So, what was this then? Just something to satisfy your curiosities? To prove to yourself you could do it?" Her questions were pointed, she knew it, but she also knew she needed to know.

Lecter reached over and brushed her hair from her face, his thumb touching her lips lightly as he dropped his hand to the bed. "Hardly, Clarice." He scowled slightly, not knowing exactly where she was taking this. "Clarice, surely you realize there can be no 'happily ever after' for the two of us. If you were wondering whether or not you'd see me again, I would have to say yes unless something happens to me. You'd obviously be notified if I were incarcerated again, so unless I was to die, you would of course see me again."

"Die?" She looked at him with wide eyes, somehow she'd never really thought about Hannibal Lecter dying. Not that she ever fooled herself into thinking he was immortal, but the thought just never came to her. "You would rather die than face prison again, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, Clarice. I will die a free man. I will never live in a cell again. I hope you can understand that decision."

She nodded slightly. "Yes, I can. You're not the type that can be kept in a cell, and I respect that. I just don't like the thought of that. Krendler would probably not tell me just to spite me."

"Let's not think about that, Clarice. Why don't we instead think of where and when we'll see one another next? You took sick days this week, correct? Do you have any vacation time coming?"

"I have a few days, Hannibal," she smiled slightly at the use of his name. "But not many, I've only been there as an agent for a few months remember."

"Yes, of course, you're right. I'll figure out something. You'll have to begin buying the New York Times Sunday paper, Clarice. Or better yet, if you have Internet access, I'll give you my user name and password. You can check the personals there yourself."

"Yes, that'd be good. I have a computer at home, Ardelia uses it too, but she'd never suspect anything. I have every right to read whatever newspapers I want."

"Of course. I guess perhaps I should have prefaced that by asking whether or not you wanted to see me again. I was presumptuous and assumed."

"How could you even ask me that knowing you're only the second person I've made love to, Hannibal?"

"Speaking of, Agent Starling, wasn't the purpose of our staying indoors tonight so that we could enjoy one another all evening?" He kissed her as he wrapped his arms around her, bringing her on top of him. "Remind me again, won't you?" His hands fell to her hips, guiding her onto him for what he assumed would be the last time for quite a while.

Clarice lay on top of him sated, her fingertips tracing over the graying tuft of hair on his chest. She tried to think of how it would be tomorrow going back to her normal life, having to face Ardelia and lie to her. She chanced a glance at his face noticing he was watching her intently, she looked away. For once he seemed to understand her need for reflection and left her with her own thoughts. She had never considered herself much of a sexual person, her one experience before Lecter had been clumsy and full of pain - both during and afterward. But somehow he made her feel desired in a way that went way beyond sex. When he kissed her, when he made love to her, when he touched her it was almost as if he wanted to consumer her. She laughed lightly at the thought of Hannibal Lecter wanting to consume her, rather ironic she mused. But that's exactly how she felt with him, as if he couldn't get enough of her. Of course it could be because he realized that neither of them knew when they'd see one another again. It was fun to think about seeing him again, but realistically she wasn't going to get her hopes up. She would go back to her regular, boring existence, living in her drab half of the duplex she shared with Ardelia while Lecter would go back to his life doing whatever it is he does as an escaped felon. She hadn't learned where he was or what he was doing, and she expected as much from him. She had given no reason to trust him, yet at any rate. Maybe one day it would happen, but she knew not to expect it so soon. She touched his nipple lightly with her fingertip, evoking a response from him. "The woman you spoke of before. Are you going to see her again?"

"Mm, Clarice, I'm not sure what you're trying to do by touching me that way and asking me such a serious question at the same time." He chuckled lightly as he placed his hand on top of hers. "Are you jealous, Clarice? Or are you getting possessive of me? And you, no more dates for you? Is that what you're asking me?"

She blew her bangs from her eyes. "I don't know what I'm asking, Hannibal. I guess I'm just curious. All the women I've seen press footage of from your previous life were gorgeous, glamorous and rich. Things I'm not."

"Indeed, Clarice. Perhaps I view you through eyes different than you view yourself. Glamorous, no I'll give you that. But you certainly could be if you wanted to be, you've just never had the resources to be that way. Gorgeous, I find you very appealing, Clarice. I did the moment I first saw you in that tomb you first saw me in. Rich, you're rich in qualities that are important. You're a good person, honest, hard working, trusting, and have a big heart. As far as the female I mentioned, I imagine I will see her again yes. It's rather unavoidable in the life I have now, but I have no desire to see her socially. I didn't to begin with, but after nine plus years, I had to find out what I was missing. And being this close to you seemed farfetched, a fantasy at best."

She closed her eyes, "you have the wakeup call arranged?"

A low chuckle left his mouth. "Yes, Clarice. Get your beauty sleep." He ran his fingers through her hair and turned the TV onto some infomercial on cooking.

The morning went by too quickly, Lecter let Clarice off at the corner of her street neither wanting to risk Ardelia seeing him. He watched as she walked along the sidewalk until he could no longer see her. He touched his mouth instinctively, as if by touching it he could somehow seal in the warmth and wetness from her kiss.

The return flight to Midway seemed to take forever, Lecter wanted to get off the plane and get home. Home, he thought on that simple word wondering if he'd ever truly have a place to call home again. The drive from Midway went by quickly, having arrived mid-morning on a Saturday. He checked his mail, both postal and email, and threw his laundry in the washer while he started the shower. Later as he sat on the balcony overlooking the city he sipped a glass of Bushmill's wondering how he would see Clarice again. He faced a double-edged sword, and he wasn't sure how to pursue it. If he waited too long, she could begin to think he'd used her and rethink what had happened between them. She could then when he did contact her turn his correspondence over to Jack, though he didn't know how she could accomplish that without incriminating herself in the process. On the other hand, if he approached her again too soon he might scare her into pulling back. He finished his drink and went indoors, laying down for a nap before he had to go into work.

Clarice spent her day in bed as well, more to avoid Ardelia than for any other reason. She wasn't ready to answer her friend's questions, and so she remained in her room with the door closed until she heard Ardelia say she was leaving for the night. Clarice fastened her robe and padded out to the kitchen to get a Diet Coke and sat on the couch to watch the news. Same old, same old she mused as she flipped to TCM and decided to watch Hitchcock's The Birds.

Lecter spent the next month or so working and enjoying the sights Chicago offered. His hesitancy to invite anyone to his apartment meant many meals spent eating alone. He enjoyed the act of cooking too much to dine out often. His shifts at the hospital were something he looked forward to, he wondered if he was the only one who get a certain thrill from the blood and panic that came with Emergency Room medicine. Thoughts of Clarice passed through his mind, but he tried to push them away as quickly as they entered. There was no use dwelling on her, and the more he thought about her the more he realized there was a void in his life he wanted her to fill. He knew it was foolish for him to think like that. There would be no happily ever after for the two of them, it simply wasn't possible. Had he been smart, he would never have returned to D.C. to begin with. But he wasn't smart, at least when it came to Clarice. And now he had placed himself in her life intimately, and there was no taking that back. He missed her, and that fact bothered him. He had no time to miss someone. There was no room for someone special in his life. He was destined to a life on the run, moving places frequently and changing identities whenever necessary. What type of life was that to offer her? He avoided Susan Palmer, claiming to be busy writing an article, which she seemed to buy. It was a good thing Robert Billingsly was known for his professional writing. Even though Clarice would never know, he had no desire to see the woman socially.

He was startled when he logged on to The New York Times web site and searched the personals to find an ad he knew had to be from Clarice. It read, "A. Aapl Need to talk at the wall, two from tomorrow. I'll bring dinner. Lamb." It wasn't the names he had given her to use, but it was close enough, and so he made flight arrangements that evening to once again fly to Washington D.C. Though he doubted it was, if it was a trap, he would be prepared.

Clarice hated lying to Ardelia, and unfortunately she had spent the last six weeks doing nothing but lie. Thankfully she had been smart enough to tell a half truth to begin with when she led Ardelia to believe her mysterious friend she spent time with was a former boy friend. Her coworkers seemed to sense her need to be kept busy and obliged by giving her more paperwork than normal. Distractions. Everything about the last six weeks had been about distractions. Something to keep her mind off Doctor Lecter and what had transpired between them. She hadn't heard from him since he'd left, not that she really expected to but she had to admit it still bothered her.

She came into work the Monday after placing the ad for Lecter feeling a little embarrassed at having contacting him first. She swore she would wait until he contacted her, but she couldn't wait any longer. She wasn't sure what his reaction would be. Perhaps he had returned to his other life and forgotten about her, though she didn't think that was likely. He was a lot of things, but she didn't believe he was a liar. She hoped he would recognize the message as being from her, she had changed his codes a bit but she thought it was best it be done just in case any one was on the look out for them in all papers, not just the papers he had previously specified. She hoped he'd realize she was going there after work. With her luck, he'd show up during the day and think she stood him up. She was surprised when she got to her desk and there were a dozen white roses waiting for her. She felt herself blush from the looks she was receiving from the other agents in the office that morning. Surely this had to be a mistake; she had never received roses in her life. She read the card and it read simply "Until dinner." She stuck the card quickly in the pocket of her trousers and answered the ensuing questions vaguely. It was going to be a long day, but at least she knew now that he had received her message.

Lecter watched in the distance as Clarice went to the bench where they had eaten sandwiches before. Dressed casually as a tourist he was determined to make her wait for a while. After a quick surveillance of the area he determined she was indeed alone. He approached the bench where she sat, realizing by her body language that she was nervous. "It's a nice evening for dinner here, I'm glad the weather was able to cooperate with your plans."

"Doctor," she trailed off realizing what she had started to say. "Hannibal. I wasn't sure if you'd be able to make it. I'll pay you back for the plane ticket if it was too expensive."

"That's assuming I flew here, of course. But regardless, I wouldn't think of asking you to do that, Clarice. Surely you know me better than that."

"I do, but I wanted to offer anyway. I asked you to come here. That's a little different than coming here of your own accord." She glanced up at him appreciating his hair once more worn back in a ponytail. "I like your hair like that. But I imagine you know that and that's why you wear it like that when you're around me."

He chuckled lightly. "No, I really hadn't a clue. I always thought older men with long hair who wore these tiny ponytails looked foolish. But I must admit I like it."

"On you it looks good, distinguished. Though I can't imagine you looking any other way truthfully." She stood and walked from the bench. "Did you just get in today?"

"Yes, this morning and am leaving tomorrow. I have other commitments, unfortunately, or I'd have stayed longer. Is there something on your mind, Clarice, or were you just testing me?"

She looked at him sharply, "testing you?"

"Yes, to see if I'd gone off and forgotten about you. Or that I'd gotten what I wanted from you and moved on. I admit I was trying to err on the side of caution with how much time I let pass before we spoke again."

"Thank you for the roses. You certainly caused quite a stir at work, the gossip mill I'm sure is in full force. Ardelia thinks I'm hiding something from her." She brushed some wisps of hair that had blown into her face, "of course I am, but I don't like her suspecting that I am."

"Well, I figured you'd be apprehensive about having contacted me and whether or not I'd show up. So I thought I'd let you know that I was looking forward to seeing you."

Clarice walked with him along the sidewalk in front of the memorial like two tourists. "So what is it you do when you're away from me? Or aren't I allowed to ask such questions?"

Lecter paused as some people came near them, bringing his attention to the wall in front of them. Once the people had passed he turned to Clarice. "Well, I work believe it or not. Where I'm really not prepared to reveal that to you at the moment, Clarice. I work and I draw. It's really a rather lonely existence, I'm sorry you can't share in it with me and make it much less lonely."

"That's rather sad, isn't it, Doctor?" She looked at him and then looked away. For some reason she wasn't comfortable calling him by his first name here. "I mean, here we are both adults, well educated adults at that who are both at least remotely attractive and we lead rather boring and lonely lives."

"Except when we're together is that what you meant? Apart our lives are boring? Though I'd wager yours hasn't been so boring the last couple of months, trying to hide what you've done. And mine certainly isn't boring, life as a fugitive isn't boring. Mundane perhaps, but not boring. I always have to be on my toes and aware of my surroundings."

"Yes, that's sort of what I meant. I had more fun with you in those four days together than I have had in years. I work and read, I turn down dates because I have no desire to lead anyone on, and I can't cook so unlike yourself and Ardelia I can't cook my way out of boredom."

He kissed the top of her head, his thumb gently touching her cheek. "I'm sorry you think that, though I'm glad that I was able to show you a good time. That was my intention all along, whether our relationship took the turn it did or not."

"I know that was your intent." She pulled away from him and walked to a nearby bench, sitting as she watched him look at her curiously. When he walked towards the bench and sat next to her her back stiffened slightly.

"What's on your mind, Clarice? Obviously you didn't ask me to come here to look at this wall." He shifted slightly on the bench so he could watch her. She looked nervous, apprehensive and very unsure of herself. It upset him that he somehow made her feel that way, wishing he knew how to help her feel safe around him.

She looked at him then turned her gaze away from him, looking at the ground around her feet. "I'm pregnant." She slumped slightly with the admission. She hadn't said the words aloud yet, even after the doctor confirmed that was indeed what her trouble was. She was embarrassed, frightened, and excited all at the same time. She had never pictured herself as a mother, but she knew that she'd be a good one. Finally, she'd have something that would belong to her, something that would make her feel like she belonged.

Lecter inhaled sharply, held his breath a moment and exhaled slowly. He quite honestly hadn't even thought of this. Of course he knew, but everything had been so unexpected that his normally careful and controlled self hadn't been very careful. Obviously. "And you don't want to have it?" He looked at her sharply then turned his attention to his hands.

"No, I do. I don't know that there's much you can do, and I don't expect anything from you if that's what you're thinking. But I just thought you should know." She sighed and pushed back her hair from her forehead. Damn but this was hard. She stood wishing that she had brought a change of clothes with her; suddenly she was hot even though it wasn't too bad today.

He stood and walked with her. "I guess that would make you due the middle of March," he spoke as he calculated.

She nodded, "Yeah, that's what the doctor said, March 2. I mean it; I don't expect anything from you. I just wanted you to know. I think you can understand why I have to have it, why I have to keep it."

His voice was quiet when he spoke, sincere in his tone. "Yes, Clarice, I understand. You're truly a brave woman - bringing a child into this world knowing I'm his or her father takes courage. I will help you, of course, as much as I can. You have insurance, I assume. But whatever's not covered I'll pay for. I won't take any arguments on that, I don't run from my responsibilities." He chuckled lightly, "all right, most of them."

"I was hoping you wouldn't be upset with me, and I appreciate your generosity. I don't think I'm very brave. Now I'm going to have to make up some story about why the father of my baby is never around. And when it comes time for it to be born, I'll have to try and explain to Ardelia why I need her in the delivery room with me instead of you." She sighed, crossing her arms over her chest as she leaned against a tree. "This isn't exactly what I had planned for my life," she glanced at him.

"No, I imagine it's not." He shoved his hands in his pockets, "I don't know what you want me to say. Do you want me to ask you to come with me? I don't think you're ready for that, Clarice."

She looked at him with wide eyes, that hadn't even been something she'd thought of. Though his mentioning it meant he must have thought of it before now. "No, you're right. I don't have much of a life, but I'm not in a position to give it up quite yet. Ardelia would never forgive me if I just up and disappeared, and I owe Jack something for his commitment to me."

He walked with her in silence, sensing there was little more for him to say. He was almost 51 years old and about to become a father to a child he'd more than likely never be allowed to see. A child who would not be allowed to bear his name, not that he knew the first thing about being a father. He had never bothered with things that dealt with families; marriage had never been something he thought of. And children had been even more farfetched to him than marriage. "I don't know what I can offer you, Clarice, other than financial support and emotional support as best as I can give it under the circumstances. You'll need a way to get a hold of me, of course. And while I'm not in the position to give you an address, I'll give you an email address and a pager number. Is that acceptable for now?"

"Yes, Doctor, that's more than I expected honestly."

"I thought we were beyond this doctor business, Clarice."

"We were. We are. I mean, out here in the open I assumed it was better if I address you by doctor than by your name. There millions of doctors in the world, but I know of no one else with your given name."

"Good point, Clarice. You didn't bring dinner, I see. Can I treat you or do you have someplace to be?"

"I'd like that," she offered him a smile. "I'm not really dressed right, though."

"You're fine, Clarice. I'm a little too casual, but that's all right." He led her to where he had parked his rental car, opening the door for her before getting in himself. "We could always go back to my hotel room. The damage has already been done," he chuckled lightly.

She blushed, "I'd thought of that. I have nowhere to be until work in the morning. But I already told Jack I'd be late since you were going to be in town for the night. Well, you being the mystery man who sent me roses."

They ended up ordering room service to be delivered to his room, neither wanting to waste their time sitting at a table when they could be in his room in bed together. Hannibal had been surprised that Clarice agreed, but he was pleased. The idea of sitting across from her at a table having to feign politeness when he wanted to touch her was not pleasing. Though he realized when she had a bag with her containing clothes that she hadn't planned on going home that night either. After dinner, Hannibal broached a subject she had not touched on. "You mentioned my being upset with you. But I suppose the more appropriate question would be whether or not you're upset with me. It certainly wasn't intentional, but I would like to know how you feel."

"Well, I feel a lot of things: nervous, anxious, embarrassed, excited, scared. I'm going to be a mother, something I have no example of to base my mothering from. Embarrassed because as if I don't already get talked about enough at work as it is, now I'm going to be pregnant and unmarried with no boy friend in sight. There are already rumors that I don't like men, I can just imagine what will be said now. Excited because I have to admit that I look forward to the chance to be a mom, to have a child that I'm responsible for. Someone that's mine, someone that I belong to as much as they belong to me. Scared because I have no idea what's going to happen to me. I don't know the first thing about being pregnant or being a mother. I've never changed a diaper in my life." She blushed slightly and lowered her eyes; embarrassed she had spoken so freely about these things. But she had no one else to say these things to.

"I think you'll do a fine job as a mother. And as far as your embarrassment, what are you going to tell people anyway? What did you tell Ardelia about those days you spent with me?"

"That you were a boy friend from college who called me when you came into town. As far as what I'll tell them now, I have no idea. Either way I'll look like a fool, I can't tell them you/him is involved because then when the time comes for the baby to come they'll wonder where you are. And while I don't care what most of them think, I don't want to lie to Ardelia more than I have to. And Jack," she looked away wondering how Jack Crawford was going to feel about her condition. Lecter had hinted once that he thought Jack was fond of her, but she had taken it for one of Lecter's attempts at getting under her skin. But she had to wonder slightly if there wasn't some truth in his words. Why else would Crawford have selected her for the Buffalo Bill case? And why else would he defend her against Krendler and his cronies?

"Well, obviously it's not my place to say. And I'm not going to put undue stress on you by telling you should or shouldn't do something."

She stood from the bed and walked to the window. What was it when she was with him and her need to look out windows? "I know, Hannibal. And like I said, I just wanted you to know. I'd made my decision before I saw you, but you deserved to know."

"And what would you say if I asked you to come with me, Clarice?"

She turned to look at him, surprised by his question. "I don't know," she shook her head. "I honestly don't know. It's tempting, but I worked so hard to get into the FBI. I don't know that I can just turn my back on my career, not so early. I know things are going badly now with Krendler, but things could improve." She sat on the edge of the bed. "Is that an offer or just hypothetical?"

"It's an offer, Clarice. I didn't really expect you to say yes, and I honestly don't know that I'm ready to entrust you with that yet. But you think about it, and if you decide it's something you're interested in - a life with me - you let me know. But bear in mind once you leave there won't be any going back. I'd let you leave, of course, but if you leave you have to sever all ties, including Ardelia. And should you choose to leave me later, you'd never be able to find me again."

"I'd like to think about it, and I understand your cause for concern. It's genuine, you have no reason to trust me." She laughed lightly. "Ironic, isn't it? You're the fugitive and I'm the agent and it's you who has reason to distrust me."

"Well, if I weren't a fugitive trust would not be an issue."

"Of course not." She laughed a little sarcastically.

"I'm not sure I find this as amusing as you apparently do, Clarice. Believe it or not, I don't enjoy the thought that I'll have a child I may never get to see. Or if I do see him or her I can't tell them who I am."

"I've thought of that. Why don't you have any? Children I mean? You didn't get imprisoned until you were 41. Have you ever been married?"

"No, never married. And my generation, Clarice, it was usually marriage and then children. So no children either. I never took the time, I suppose. Between my career and my hobbies," he raised a brow at her look. "I had more than one hobby, Agent Starling. I never lacked for companionship, and it was enough to satisfy me. I wasn't of the mind to settle down, it'd be a little difficult to live the life I led with a wife and kids at my house."

"Yes, I can imagine it would be difficult to explain why it wasn't a leg of lamb in the refrigerator."

"Your attempt at humor is touching, Clarice. But I'd suggest you not quit your day job."

She leaned back against him, her head on his chest. "So there's no former Mrs. Hannibal Lecter." She traced her fingertips along the arm he placed around her. "I guess I knew that now that I think about it, some of the things in your dossier I've forgotten. I believe I wondered when I first discovered that was true whether or not it was because you couldn't find anyone to meet your strict standards."

He chuckled lightly. "Hardly, Clarice. I put myself through medical school and then started my career. You of all people can understand that, with a degree in psychology I'm sure you've looked at medical school as an alternative to the FBI."

"Yes, I did. And you're right; I had no desire to spend the next six years of my life in school. I wanted to work."

"Agent Starling?"

"Doctor Lecter?"

"Would you undress for me?"

"It's a little late for an office visit, isn't it Doctor?"

"Indeed, but I promise to be very thorough."

She was actually glad to shed her work clothes and help relieve him of his as well, which she did without being prompted. She offered him a slight smile in response to the smug grin he wore when she got to his underwear. She really didn't care whether or not they ended up having sex, though she had to wonder whether her being pregnant would effect his wanting her.

"I assume your doctor has said this type of activity is all right?"

"Midwife. And she didn't say otherwise, so I assume so."

He rolled her onto her back, lying on his side next to her moving his fingers lightly over her naked body. "Midwife? That's interesting," he stopped watching his hand and her body's reaction to his touches and looked at her face.

"Yes," she said before bringing his face to hers so she could kiss him. She wasn't used to being aggressive, and somehow knew that Lecter liked being the one in control, but his response to her kiss suggested he didn't mind her aggressiveness on this occasion. She felt her body respond to him as his hands stimulated her, it would be so easy to not get turned on by him if he wasn't so good at what he did. She inhaled sharply when he bit her upper lip, not hard but hard enough to cause her to react.

"Does that bother you, Clarice?"

"No," she said quickly. She released his hair from the rubber band and fanned it out with her fingertips. "It was just startling is all." He was kissing her neck now, she could feel his teeth nipping her neck as he moved down along her shoulders, collarbones and finally to her breasts causing her to groan instinctively. He teased her nipple with his tongue and as if that wasn't torture enough he lifted his mouth from her skin and blew on it lightly causing her to shiver and tingle at the same time. Like everything with him, he aroused conflicting feelings in her but obviously from the way her body reacted to him she enjoyed it. She welcomed him when he finally entered her, his response to being inside of her once more answering her question about whether or not he would find her being pregnant offensive.

Clarice lay sleeping beside him; he was finding sleep difficult to come by on this particular evening. Sometime during the four days they had been together two months ago he had managed to change his life in a way he had never thought possible until now. He had lied partially to Clarice about the children, he had been told over twenty-five years ago after a late in life bout with chicken pox that he very probably could not produce children. That was one of the reasons he never thought of marriage, the purpose to marriage in his opinion was to produce heirs. And if he stood little chance of accomplishing that he saw no point in committing himself to spending the rest of his life with anyone. His hand rested on her stomach, a look of amazement in his eyes at the thought that at that moment his child was growing. Had it been anyone but Clarice he might have doubted his being the father of the child, but he believed her when she had told him it had been years for her. And it was not as if she knew he was going to pay her a visit for her to plan on becoming pregnant.

The wakeup call came too early for both of them. Clarice showered and dressed for work and as much as he hated letting her do it, she took a cab to work after they shared breakfast in their room.

Clarice spent that day at work in a daze. Ardelia was full of questions about why she didn't bring her mystery man back to their duplex; Clarice told a partial truth stating that they wanted privacy. The fact that they needed privacy was something she left unsaid. The roses were still fresh on her desk, the two that had still been closed yesterday had opened over night causing Clarice to sadden a bit knowing that meant they wouldn't last much longer. After work, she did something she normally did not partake in; she joined some of her coworkers for a night out at an area bar. No one seemed to notice that her drink of choice that night was Diet Coke instead of a Killian's. When she got home that night her bed seemed unusually empty, and though she thought she wouldn't she slept well. She knew that sometime soon she would have to think of Hannibal's question to join him and an answer, but she was in no mood to do that yet. For that matter, she didn't know if he wouldn't get back to wherever he was and rethink it and renig on the offer.

Lecter spent the next day trying to sleep once he got home due to his having to work that night. Clarice living in Washington D.C. would not bode well for him if he wanted to keep this job and these hours, both of which suited him so well he hated to leave the job so soon. Susan Palmer would be someone to contend with, though he could easily dismiss her. He'd just have to do it politely, the last thing he needed was attention of any kind drawn to him. A baby. He'd like to think that it was foolish for him to actually be pleased with the idea of becoming a father at his age and under the circumstances, but he couldn't help but be pleased. If anything could have made Clarice think about joining him, this is the one thing he really hadn't considered that actually might work. He had given her an email address she could contact him with, the computer he used was registered to a Texas attorney who wouldn't know anything about the laptop should he be contacted about it. She had not provided him with an email address, not having one aside from her work email address to give him. For obvious reasons that would not work, and he realized that it was now up to her whether or not she contacted him.

Every day for two months Lecter checked his e-mail with no word from Clarice. He realized it was expecting a lot, he was a realist but that didn't mean he still didn't have hopes and get frustrated when they were dashed. But as the days turned into a week and the week turned into a month he grew increasingly worried. Perhaps something had happened to her. Perhaps she discovered she wasn't really pregnant and was afraid to tell him. He tried to keep himself busy immersing himself in his work, both at the hospital and articles at home. One article normally took him over a month to complete the proper research and assemble it together. In his effort to keep busy he managed to author two complete articles and start on a third. At the hospital, he was merciless in his work schedule taking on extra shifts when he could staying later than required at the end of each shift to update charts.

"Dr. Billingsly," Susan's voice came from behind him as he got his cup of cheap coffee from the staff lounge.

"Susan," he said calmly as he set the stir straw aside. "Please call me Robert." He met her gaze and held it, the brown contacts he wore were not nearly as effective as his God given eye color at capturing and retaining attention.

"Robert," she smiled slightly. "I've noticed you're keeping yourself busy these days. I hope it's not in an attempt to avoid me." An errant piece of hair landed in her mouth and she brushed it aside.

"Hardly, I've just been busy. And I'm afraid things have changed a bit in my life since that night." He tried to cool the coffee by blowing on it as well as give himself some time to think. He glanced up at her realizing that she was nervous. "There's someone I'm involved with and I thought for a while that there was no chance for us. But things have taken an interesting twist I'm pleased to say. I hope we can remain more than just colleagues who pass one another in the halls here."

"Don't be silly, of course we can. I'm glad you told me the truth. I wish you told me from the beginning. It would have saved me from feeling I'd done something to offend you. I thought perhaps I had been too forward."

A light chuckle left his mouth. "Hardly, Susan. It's just rather complicated, I can't say I understand it myself." He extended his hand to shake her hand. "I'd love to have dinner sometime."

She smiled slightly. "I'd like that. But wouldn't your girl friend get upset?" She took his hand, surprised by the firmness of his grip.

"No, I can't say she'd get upset. As I said things are rather complicated, and having dinner with you is certainly no violation of anything."

"I suppose not, perhaps some unspoken things. But at any rate I'm glad we got this settled." She released her hand from his. "Please don't work so hard, Robert. I don't need to see you as one of my patients because you worked yourself to exhaustion."

Lecter laughed lightly as she left the lounge finally letting him sit to enjoy his coffee.

Later that morning home from work he stood before his computer resisting the urge to turn it on he instead showered and went to sleep.

He woke mid-afternoon, made himself an omelet more for something to do then due to hunger. Out on his balcony he sipped a glass of wine enjoying the breathtaking view of Chicago's skyline his unit offered. The puffy clouds in the sky indicated rain may be in store for later, but they were so far apart that he doubted it would happen any time soon if at all. Chicago summers Lecter had learned were generally unpleasant, but were not unlivable. The days could prove uncomfortably hot, but there was always something to do to keep one's mind off the heat. Lecter found he lived closed to the zoo and went there quite often to sit and watch the various animals. His favorite was the lion, so proud and regal. Always carrying himself as if he truly felt they were better than all the other animals, even in captivity.

He stood before his computer his lunch settled, his wine finished and a night off from work. Why was he afraid to turn the machine on? Because he didn't want to be reminded that Clarice may have turned her back on him. He knew that answer. And as tempting as the thought of going to see her once more was, he couldn't do it again without hearing from her first. And a thought entered his mind. Obviously she didn't and couldn't have planned on their meeting and what happened between them. But maybe in some odd way he had fulfilled a need she had and now she had no more need for him. There were plenty of women out there who raised children on their own without giving the father a second thought. And while Clarice didn't strike him as the type to just go out and find a man to satisfy that need, she hadn't exactly told him to stop for fear of pregnancy either.

Running his fingers over his goatee he waited for his dialup connection to sign on so that he could check his mail. Amazing, when he was practicing he shied away from computers. Of course you couldn't do half the things with them then that you could do now, but he had left that up to his secretary and done everything on his end with pen and paper. Now he felt as if it was his lifeline, and in some ways it was. It was amusing, at best, to read about himself. People's hypotheses as to why he was what he was proved interesting at times though none had proven to be accurate. He checked his regular email sorting through the junk mail and wading through the professional inquiries from people asking for his theories on this or that. He then accessed the email account that was for Clarice, he chuckled lightly as he typed it in - OldHuntedBull. His father had told him the story of the old bull and the young bull when he was a boy and he thought the slight parody on it was amusing. He wondered if Clarice understood it, or if she was even familiar with the story.

His mind quickly pushed aside thoughts when he saw he had mail from a government address. His eyes widened as he clicked on the message, disappointed when it simply read: "Will email you later from personal address." Not that he could blame her for not wanting to email him from work, but still he hoped it wasn't indicative of anything to come. He checked the time, she of course would have no way of knowing what hours he worked. It was closing in on five o'clock, six her time. He'd go to the Planetarium for a while and perhaps by the time he returned she'd have contacted him again.

It was after ten o'clock by the time he returned to his unit. He hadn't planned on being gone for so long, but after leaving the planetarium he had gone for a walk. The first night he had been to this area had been with Susan, but he hadn't explored the other side of it until now. He walked a ways to an area along Lake Michigan, an indentation into the land that he wondered whether it had been a lock at one time. And if it had been where the canal had disappeared to. Obviously something he wouldn't be sticking around Chicago long enough to find out, so he pushed it from his mind as he sat on a bench. It was a warm night, but for the first time in over a week the humidity was gone and he obviously wasn't the only one who had the idea of sitting by the lake.

His attention was drawn from the sunset to a group of people in their twenties who seemed to be preparing for making a night of it here. When the fishing net came out he recognized what they were doing and chuckled, smelt fishing. He hadn't thought about smelt fishing in years, not that he had ever done it but he recognized that's what they were doing. Before he knew it more than ninety minutes had passed as he sat and watched the dozen or so people drink beer, grill hot dogs and hamburgers on a portable grill, talk and laugh and occasionally toss the net into the water hoping to catch some smelt. As far as he could tell, they'd caught nothing when he stood to leave but none of them seemed to notice. And if they did it certainly hadn't ruined their good mood.

Friendship. Hannibal had friends, of course, business associates. Men and women he could meet for a drink or have dinner with. But did he know anyone that he could just sit with? No, aside from Clarice, and at this point he didn't even know if he still had her. He had worked so hard, he realized, that he had forgotten what life itself was about. What did his doctorate degree do for him now? Basically nothing. Sure he was able to work as a doctor even as a fugitive, but it wasn't doing what he was good at. He had a knack for being a psychiatrist, Clarice wasn't the only person he could get to talk to him. And as much as he would like to work as one again, he knew it was an impossibility. That would set off too many red flags somewhere, he was sure of it. Somewhere in the FBI, probably because of something Clarice had inputted in a computer months ago, applications for psychiatric doctors would be red flagged by the FBI.

He flipped on the ten o'clock news and turned it off immediately. He didn't care about the Cubs losing streak, the Bears training camp, or about the heat index. He knew it was going to be hot enough tomorrow to require anyone with breathing problems to stay indoors. He didn't know anyone well enough to check on them even if they lived alone. Finding nothing else on he decided to turn the television off entirely and settled in his office. He clicked on his dial-up connection and went to the other room to pour a drink while it connected. He sat in his leather chair working the buttons on his shirt as he clicked on his mailbox. It was too hot to be sitting around his unit fully clothed, and it was not like he was going to get any visitors. Draping his shirt over the arm of the chair he sorted through his mail, most of it was garbage. He exhaled sharply as he started up his browser to check the email Clarice would know.

He clicked on the message with a chuckle, her chosen email address of BigGameHunter was amusing. The message was sent about an hour ago and asked him to call her on a number he didn't recognize that night. The area code and prefix indicated it was probably the same area as her number but as he looked at the screen he was honestly unsure of what to do. He could move again if it was a trap but he honestly didn't want to at least not for a while. He realized there was at least one way he could exercise caution and still call her. He copied down her number and then redressed.

He drove about ninety minutes north to Milwaukee. If it was a trap it would at least give him some time, some advance warning. If not, well, she could hardly blame him for being cautious. Finding a pay phone inside the local Greyhound bus terminal which was surprisingly on this night empty. He dialed the number and for a brief moment expected someone other than Clarice to answer the phone. When he heard her voice, he had to fight back the urge to express how worried he had been. "I got your message," he said simply.

"I see that," Clarice said just as simply. She lay on her bed staring at the ceiling. She had sent the email to him over two hours ago and had waited for him to call since that time. The number she had given him was a number only the phone company had, the FBI could have it if they really looked but Clarice had it installed as a computer line when she bought her new computer and she had requested it be unlisted. She resisted the urge to get caller ID on the line, she had to respect his need for anonymity. And she also had to realize that somebody, someday, somewhere might come across the caller ID unit when she wasn't here. She didn't want to be responsible for his being caught.

"A new phone number, Agent Starling?" He resisted the urge to set the phone down and wash his hands. He could feel the dirt and the grime on the receiver even for the brief amount of time he held it in his hand. Foolish it had been to come to such a public place, but he could think of no place else and this seemed to call to him.

He thought I was trying to trap him. Her heart sunk a little at the realization. Then again what else was he supposed to think when I took over two months to contact him? "Yes," she said simply unsure what else he would expect her to say. "I bought a computer. So that I wouldn't have to use my work computer and had a phone line installed for it. One the FBI doesn't have on my employment application. One that's unlisted," she added.

"I see," he said in an aloof voice. He wasn't sure if he wanted to trust her yet. Too much time had gone by since they had seen one another. She wouldn't be showing yet, only about three months along by this point. He was sure he'd notice the changes in her if he saw her without clothes. "And you took so long to contact me because?"

A long silence followed. What did he expect her to say? I was having second thoughts? That's probably what he did expect her to say. "Because I had to put things in order before I contacted you. I didn't like having things up in the air."

"What things, Clarice?"

"Decisions. My job. My life. Our baby."

He breathed in sharply. "You've reconsidered having the child then?"

Does he really think I'm that heartless? He must. Or is he just trying to prevent me from knowing how he feels. "No," she said adamantly. "Never. Not that." She paused, the silence was unbearable and so she blurted. "I turned in my notice today."

Normally calm, surprised at very little human beings do Hannibal Lecter almost dropped the receiver. "Excuse me. I don't think I heard you correctly, Clarice. You turned in your notice to whom, the FBI?" His voice was calm until he uttered those three letters with disdain and obvious disregard for the authority they were supposed to represent.

"I don't know who else I'd be turning a notice into. But yes the FBI. My job. In a month I will no longer be an FBI agent." She placed her hand on her stomach. There had been little choice for her when she found out she was pregnant. Despite who he was, what he did, Hannibal deserved to help raise his child. And Clarice honestly didn't know if she would know what to do. Better to have both of them together she reasoned. Her pregnancy was no secret any longer around the Bureau. She had tried for the first three months, but two days ago she had to have Ardelia take her to the hospital when she discovered she had bled. Luckily, her midwife assured her she and the baby were fine that she needed to rest for a while, take some time off from work. There was no lying about her need for bedrest. So she decided to turn in her notice at the same time, hoping Hannibal had been sincere in his offer of her coming to be with him. If not, she'd feel like a fool. "I have vacation time I'm using, then I'll be a civilian once again."

"Amazing," he said quite truly amazed. He never would have thought she'd leave the FBI behind for him. It had been a joke when he extended the offer for her to join him. "What were you planning on doing then, Clarice? Getting a job as a secretary?"

"Well, you had mentioned my being with you," she said softly wondering if he could even hear her. She'd feel like a fool if he hadn't been serious.

"Of course. The offer still stands. Are you sure that's what you want to do, though?"

"Yes. I've thought about it quite hard. That's why I haven't contacted you. I didn't want you in my mind influencing my decision. Not that you would do it intentionally. I know you wouldn't want me to come to you unless it was what I wanted. But still, I needed to think. And then my midwife put me on bedrest, so I decided to take my vacation time and put in my notice."

"Bedrest?" His ears perked up at that word. "What do you mean bedrest? And have you seen a real M.D., Clarice?"

"It's nothing, she told me I had just been working too hard. On my feet too much. I don't know how many female FBI agents there are who get pregnant, but I imagine there aren't many of them who are in the field. I'm fine."

"Very well. I trust you to be safe. I don't care about the baby. If you truly want to be with me there is plenty more where the child came from, but there's only one of you."

"I know. I know. I'm going to stay home. Ardelia has already promised to be my personal chef. So I'm set."

"I'd much prefer to be your chef, Clarice. It bothers me that you're there and I can't be."

"You could come get me," she offered. "Ardelia will still be working during the day. You told me I'd have to leave everything behind anyway. So what difference does it make if I leave a month from now or tomorrow without a good bye."

"And I should know this isn't a plan of Krendler's because …" he trailed off.

"Because I want my child to have a father, one he or she can touch."

He paused, he believed her. God help him if he was foolish to believe her but he did. "All right. I'll see what I can work out." He looked around the bus terminal, not really looking at the bus terminal but thinking about where he was. "I guess staying where I'm at is out of the question. I myself may be able to change enough to blend in, the two of us together I'm afraid would stick out like a sore thumb."

"Not if I'm in bed for the next month," she said quietly.

"If you're having problems, Clarice, the last place I need to be thinking about you being is in my bed. I hope it wasn't our last time together that brought this on. I realize that was a while ago, but still."

"No, it's not. It's not your fault at all. So are you going to come get me? I'm assuming you have pretty much everything, as far as a bed and so forth goes so all I'd need is my clothes."

"That's a safe assumption. Yes, I'll come. I don't know when. Ardelia you say works days?"

"Yes, days. You can call on my other number, I've taken the caller ID off it. I didn't want to take the chance you'd call."

"Well, I wouldn't have. Not without knowing what you were thinking."

"Yes, I'm sorry. It was never a question about you. I had to figure out what I wanted to do." She paused. "So you will come get me? Will you let me know when? Or will I be leaving everything behind. I just bought this computer."

"Welcome to my life, Clarice. You can bring the computer. Pack anything else of necessity you want to bring with you, store it in your closet. Otherwise, I'm afraid you'll have to leave the rest behind."

"All right. No hints on when you'll come?"

"No, I don't know." He paused, his mind working quickly. "You'll know. It won't be me coming for you. But you'll know. You do trust me, Clarice?"

"Yes, of course." She laughed at the irony of his question. "I know you would never hurt me."

"Very well. I'll see you soon. As soon as I've figured out what to do. Good night, Clarice."

"So soon?"

"It's late," he said softly unsure exactly why he felt the need to hang up.

"Yes, I suppose it is. I don't suppose you can tell me where you are?"


"All right. I won't ask again. I hope you'll tell me, though. I'd like to know what you did."

"I survive, Clarice. That's all I've been doing since my escape. Perhaps with you by my side I can start living."

"But you mentioned a woman."

He frowned slightly at the statement. "I did? I don't recall it."

"The first time you came to see me. You mentioned a woman warming your bed."

Hearty laughter followed her statement. "Jealous, Clarice?" He chuckled lightly. "I'm no saint, Clarice. If you're asking me if there's been anyone since our relationship took a more intimate turn, I can answer you truthfully no. I told you about the date I'd had, and that was the last contact I've had with someone of the opposite sex personally."

"No, I was just wondering who you were leaving behind."

"No one. It's only been a few months since Memphis, Clarice. You give me far too much credit if you think I can establish something so quickly."

She laughed. "I doubt that. You could charm a girl quite easily I'm sure."

"It seems I've charmed the one I wanted to catch so I have no need to look further."

"So it seems. Get a girl pregnant and it's amazing what she'll do."

"I didn't," he paused. "Clarice."

"I know it wasn't intentional. You need to learn to lighten up. It was a joke."

"Very well, Clarice. I'll see you soon."

"All right."

"Clarice?" He said softly. "Have you ever fished for smelt?"

She pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it for a moment. "No, I can't say that I have."

He laughed lightly. "Good night, Clarice."

"Good night," she was unwilling to say his name over the phone but she knew it didn't matter because he had already hung up.

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 well 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.

This is a work of fanfiction. I do not own the characters of Hannibal Lecter, Clarice Starling or any other character mention that is named in the Thomas Harris books or the movies based on the books.

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 to 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 to 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 her eyes 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's 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 naïve. 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.