Disclaimer: Still the same as chapter one.
Author's Note: Yes. It has been an unforgivably long time since I posted anything. But I can promise at least one more chapter within a week. :) And Chapter Six is currently under construction. I just wanted y'all to know that I haven't forgotten you; I've just had a very healthy dose of Life thrown at me. And if you happen to read my other stories, look for them to get some updates, as well, this summer.
A very BIG thank you to all of you who have stuck with me.
The small monitor showed differing shades of gray as the transducer moved through the cold gel on Starling's belly. She watched the screen intently for any sign of the life growing within her. Slowly, a lighter shape appeared in the upper area of the view, a mere two and a half inches long. Clarice's eyes grew bright and teared up as she gazed at the small image.
"There it is, Clarice," Dr. Lewis said softly, smiling at the reclining woman. "All of the major organs have formed and simply need time to grow." The tall brunette watched as Starling's eyes followed the fluttering movements of the tiny fetus. "Let's see what we can find." She moved the ultrasonic transducer over Clarice's slightly bulging abdomen, pointing out the various parts—eyes, and fingers and toes—that were beginning to take shape.
A delighted whisper slipped past the redhead's lips. "Oh my God. That's my baby…. It's really happening." She shook her head in amazement. "I can't believe it." She looked back to the doctor as the image blurred, worried when she saw the frown. "What is it? Is something wrong?" Her voice was shaky, edged with a frantic quaver.
Lewis tilted her head to the side as she moved the probe again. "No, nothing's wrong." She hesitated a moment more, scrutinizing the image in front of her. A smile slowly crept over her features and she announced brightly, "Clarice, I do believe you're going to have twins."
"What?" The new professor's eyes widened in disbelief. "No…. It can't be possible. I mean…." She trailed off then looked back at the woman beside her. "Twins?" she squeaked. "Really?"
"Yes, really." Dr. Lewis pointed to a light area on the screen. "See that? That's baby number one. And this," she began, moving the probe once more, "is baby number two. Both look just fine and are well positioned. There are two sacs, so they're more likely to be fraternal, not identical." She grinned at her dumbfounded patient. "Better start preparing to double everything."
"Sonvabitch," Starling muttered. "The sneaky bastard got me pregnant with twins," she said, a laugh bubbling up in her at the absurdity of it. She smothered her giggles and sat up as Lewis finished wiping off the rest of the gel. "I'm sorry, Doctor. I'm just a bit overwhelmed. Thank you for everything." She slid off the examining table and began to dress. "When's my next appointment?"
The doctor smirked in response to Clarice's outburst. "One month. In the meantime, ease up on any strenuous exercises and start trying to sleep on your sides if you tend to sleep on your back. It will help with the amount to blood flow and oxygen that get to the babies. Other than that, same as before."
"No problem, Doc." She grinned and took the video and pictures of her sonogram. "See you next month." Clarice walked unhurriedly to her car, her thoughts chasing around in her head. If I thought it was gonna be hard to tell Hannibal that I'm pregnant, how the hell will I tell him I'm having twins? I still can't believe it…. Twins! She still had the idiotic grin on her face when she went to bed that night.
The air stirring on the back porch was warm, still tepid in early October. The newspaper rustled on the low wicker table as the breeze picked up. A delicate china cup was placed back in its saucer, the paper picked up in its stead. Pale blue eyes quickly found and read the passage of interest. Sin, he mused to himself. Quite interesting. I'm not surprised she would see herself in that particular role.
Hannibal Lecter lightly tapped the folded paper on the arm of his chair. I wonder how she sees me in this context. Am I her father? Her lover? A little of both, perhaps? He pursed his lips as he considered the possibilities. Of the two, I prefer to be her lover. Though I admit that in the past my role has been more of a guiding and parental one. However, the mention of paradise seems to confirm her actions are being led by a desire to have a more physically intimate relationship.
Standing, he collected his cup and paper, going back inside the large, modern ranch house. He closed the French doors behind him with a light click, moving to the writing desk situated in a well-lit corner of the study. His hand moved across the fresh page he had placed on the desktop. In a few short minutes, his letter was penned, ink slowly drying as he proofed the paragraphs for any unlikely mistakes.
My dearest Clarice,
I feel I must compliment you on your clever use of John Milton's prose—an insightful interpretation to say the least. I trust this letter will find its way to you through a box acquired under a pseudonym. That was very thoughtful of you, making my contacting you an easier feat. It would be unfortunate, indeed, should your former employers discover our correspondence in your regular mail.
Yes, I know about the little scene you caused in the FBI a few weeks ago. Well done, my dear. It is heartening to see that you have finally broken out of your chains and declared yourself free of their clutches. However, I am concerned that you still feel yourself locked in an unwanted position. Tell me truly, Clarice, is it your own set of morals holding you in place, or rather, are you now bound by the intense scrutiny of the media and the prying eyes of political opportunists likened to Paul Krendler? Speaking of the boorish upstart, don't you think that he would make a wonderfully effective scarecrow?
On to more pressing matters. I have obtained a spacious and comfortable ranch that will easily suit our needs. Not to worry, Clarice, no sheep or slaughter horses here, merely common cattle. It is a holding I have had for a time but never taken the occasion to enjoy. At the moment, it is a most appropriate place for us to rest and become better acquainted while the authorities continue their futile search for me and, very shortly, you. In that vein, it would be best if you settle any unfinished business and prepare for departure from your current life. Just a short while, and I will be arriving to collect you and anything you deem necessary.
With that instruction in mind, I leave you to make what preparations you desire. When you next hear from me, it shall be in the form of a personal appearance. Until that moment,
Lecter smiled to himself as he sealed the envelope and readied it for mailing. The anticipation of their next meeting was causing his stomach to tighten just a bit. As he began to arrange things for his trip, he hummed a little, a light spring in his step as he moved from room to room in the airy Texas home.
The last strains of a rather loud Aerosmith song reverberated through Starling's side of the duplex, seeping into Ardelia's half on occasion. Clarice wasn't worried about it as she relaxed into her chair and munched on some crackers. Her friend was at work while she was able to stay home and kick back. She had a large pile of papers in front of her, some graded, others not. The one she held wasn't half bad and had suffered very few bright green marks in the margins. She was firmly resolved to make that the last psych paper she'd read before she started grading the criminology tests.
Fifteen minutes later and she was almost finished with the short stack of exams. Leaning forward in her chair, she kept one hand on the papers in her lap as the other reached for her glass. Starling took a few sips of the raspberry tea and popped a green olive into her mouth before moving backwards again.
"Good afternoon, Clarice," a rich voice greeted her from behind.
She screeched in surprise and jumped at the sudden sound, tests sliding out of her grasp and onto the floor. Her head whipped around to confirm what her ears had registered. Standing in her living room was Hannibal Lecter himself, a slight grin creasing his face as he looked down at her. She took in his khaki slacks and light brown sweater, noting absently how the simple but neat clothes suited him. "Thanks for knocking," she commented sarcastically then graced him with a smile.
"Ah, but that would have spoiled the fun of seeing you so flustered," he replied smoothly, his eyes shining with amusement.
"Hmm. Well, now that you've had your fun, be a gentleman and help me pick up the papers I've dropped." She carefully held what remained of her stack, leaning over to the side to begin gathering the tests that had escaped her. When she looked up from her bent position, she found Lecter squatting beside the chair, papers in hand. Her eyes locked with his as his head came up. It was only a matter of stretching her neck a few inches to brush a kiss across his warm lips. Her eyelids fluttered shut, lips capturing his once more, feeling the light tug as she moved back. Clarice finally opened her eyes, finding him in the same spot, watching her, an unreadable expression on his face. "I missed you," she murmured quietly, a bare smile reaching her eyes.
A slow grin spread across his features at her statement. His free hand came up to cup her cheek, thumb stroking over the soft skin. "I had hoped as much," came the quiet reply. After a few more seconds like that, he withdrew a bit, holding out the tests he had retrieved. "I believe you wanted these." The smile still played at the corners of his red mouth.
"Thank you." She took them from him, fingers brushing his briefly. She stacked all of the tests back on the table, not sure of where to go from there. Her eyes moved rapidly around the room, wondering what to do or say next. He was there; that's what she had wanted. So now what do I do? she thought.
He was silent for a while, watching her, seeing her uncertainty grow with each passing second. "Ironic that you would be teaching others to uphold the principles that you have cast aside, Clarice. I'm sure your students enjoy the idea of being instructed by a celebrity."
She chuckled lightly, tilting her head to one side. "Oh, they enjoy it much more than I do. For me, it's mainly a steady income. Plus, I like imparting my knowledge to others." Her smile was amused as she looked up at him when he stood.
He held out his hand to her, smiling back. "Come. We need to gather your things and leave." Her hand reached out to him, and he pulled her to her feet, gaze sweeping over her form. He paused his assessment at her slightly swollen belly, curious eyes moving up to meet hers.
Her eyes shifted from his intense gaze, nervous and unsure of his reaction. "I found out at the follow-up for my shoulder. They're perfectly healthy," she reassured, not knowing what else to say.
An eyebrow shot up sharply, the only indication of surprise on Hannibal's face. "They?" he questioned.
Clarice looked up then, finally making eye contact with him. "We're having twins," she replied, barely audible. She squirmed in the silence after her statement, agonizing over his response.
"This is an unexpected turn of events," he said softly, watching her chew on her bottom lip and finding it utterly adorable. Finally, he decided to set her mind at ease. "I suppose it's a good thing that the house I have for us has plenty of rooms." His amusement found its way to the surface as Starling's eyes grew wide and her mouth opened slightly. Her expression was priceless, and he swiftly committed it to his memory palace, not wanting to forget that particular look.
"You don't mind?" she asked tentatively, still reeling after his easy acceptance of the situation. "You're not upset?"
"Not at all. On the contrary, I must admit to being more than a little pleased. I had, on occasion, considered the idea of having children. However, circumstances had never allowed such attachments." He lifted a hand, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "And while this is happening much sooner than I had thought, I could not ask for a better partner to start a new life with."
She smiled back at him, a huge burden lifted off of her shoulders, odd considering that she was preparing to embark on a life with a convicted serial killer. Placing her hands on his shoulders, she leaned in to kiss him softly, getting lost in the feel of his lips on hers. Her hands slid up the sides of his neck to hold his face close to hers, thoroughly exploring his delicious mouth before pulling back reluctantly. Taking firm grasp of his hand, she led him to the bedroom to help finish getting her things ready.