Clarice knows now that she will never return to North America. It has been nearly a year since Argentina, and longer since that day in Chesapeake. Now they are in Europe; now they never stay in once place long. Naples, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin. Hannibal can speak many languages and he can blend in almost everywhere. He always has a flat already set up and sometimes, a job. Clarice doesn't worry about practical things any longer. She doesn't worry about money or bills. She doesn't worry about the life she has left behind. Hannibal goes to the market and she never asks what they are eating, anymore. He buys her elegant gowns with heavy linings and shoes with slender, delicate heels.
When they walk down the street, when they go to the opera or the theater, heads turn.
"This is what it feels like to be alive," Hannibal tells her.
"It's amazing," she says.
"You will always be the most beautiful woman in the room," he says. "How does that feel, Clarice?"
She doesn't know how to answer. She feels light headed and only his hand on her bare back keeps her anchored to the earth. She doesn't recognize the opera they see but she is learning to appreciate his high class lifestyle. It is her lifestyle now, too.
Clarice doesn't particularly like Paris but it's a nice enough city in the spring. Hannibal speaks the language so well that she doesn't have to say a word and most of the time she sits silently, observing. She never gets used to these big cities, cities that never sleep but it is easier to be anonymous in a bustling metropolis, she understands this. It's late, but he leads her into an open café. He pulls out her chair for her and orders the wine.
It had been hard, at first, to let the old ways go. To set down her gun, to turn off her cell phone, to leave it all behind. To give herself to Lecter. Even now, comfortable with him, she knows they will never, ever be normal. They will never get married; they will never buy a house. They will never settle.
"I am a drifter," Hannibal had explained. "Drift with me, Clarice,"
"Yes," she had said. This was her life now.
Hannibal is always watching. By the time their food comes, he has been looking past her at the bar for sometime. She doesn't need his constant attention and she thinks he likes that about her. She eats what he orders and drinks his wine and sleeps in his bed at night.
"There are Americans at the bar," he says, finally.
"It is the beginning of the tourist season," she says. She doesn't turn around to look. He will let her know when that is necessary.
"They aren't acting like tourist. They're trying hard to fit in. They're acting like undercover officers," he says. Now she lifts her glass to her lips and swivels her head to see. It takes her a minute but she sets the glass down.
"I know her," Clarice says. "She's an F.B.I. agent. So is he, I think,"
"Goodness," he says which is as flustered as she will ever see him.
"I hate Paris," she says, as if the city is to blame for this unfortunate collision. "We should leave,"
"It's too late," he says, folding his napkin and setting it gently on his plate. "She has been watching us in the mirror for some time," The mirrored bar reflects the light through the bottles and bottles of liquor as well as the restaurant and its patrons. Hannibal waves them over and Clarice feels tired and a little bit scared.
"Please, have a seat," Hannibal says but they don't.
"I thought you were dead, Agent Starling," she says. Clarice ought to stand or offer a hand to shake or even a hug because they had been friendly once.
"What are you running from, Agent Scully?" Clarice says, slowly. She isn't used to speaking to other people, or in English in this city.
"Are you Dr. Lecter?" The man says and Clarice can't remember his name, exactly. She recognizes him as the partner, the kook with all the outlandish theories. His question is not tactful or gentile and Clarice wonders idly if Hannibal wants to eat him. He has killed for so much less.
"It was nice to see you again, Starling," Scully says, taking her partner's elbow and giving it a firm tug. She is the brains of the operation; she is the one who can read the room. Hannibal looks interested, fascinated by Scully's red hair and white skin.
"Stay for a drink," Hannibal says, and the partner can't resist taking a seat. He leaves Scully to pull out her own chair which is another strike against him. Hannibal pours the wine and Scully looks stiff and uncomfortable. "Tell me, Ms. Scully, what else do you think about Clarice?"
"I can only imagine, Dr. Lecter, that you are aware of your place on the most wanted list due, in part, to the suspected murder of F.B.I. Agent Clarice Starling," she says, curtly.
"I am," Hannibal says, "But that wasn't what I asked."
"Are you here for me, Dana?" Clarice asks, suddenly exhausted. She wants to go back to the flat and to slide between the clean sheets. She wants to watch Hannibal undress with tired eyes in the half light. She resents this interruption from the old life. She resents Dana Scully's terse tone, her tall, unimpressive escort.
"No," the partner says, "Coincidence,"
"I can't remember your name," Clarice says to him, sharply.
"Fox Mulder," he says. "We've met before,"
"I feel," Hannibal says, "That we all have our secrets to keep,"
It is his way of asking for discretion, and Clarice knows that they all would be wise to stay silent. Hannibal, after all, had a way of making problems go away.
"I'm tired, Dr. Lecter," Clarice says. It is a little rude of her but Hannibal nods at her and waves the waiter over for their bill.
"It has been, I'm afraid, a late night," Hannibal says. In the morning, they will leave Paris. They will settle all their bills in cash and leave the country. They will stick to smaller cities off the beaten tourist trap for a while. Hannibal will speak of Tokyo, St. Petersburg, or Sydney. Nothing is far enough away. The world is so small.
In bed, he says,
"I will kill them, if that's what you want. I can see it clearly in my mind. I will eat her while he watches and then kill him,"
"Why not the other way around?" she asks, before she can help herself.
"Couldn't you tell, Clarice? Couldn't you tell that he needed her so much more?"
"I don't want you to eat her," Clarice says, jealously. "Just let them go,"
"Are you certain?" he says. He will do what she wants.
"Yes," she says. "But let's leave Paris. I hate Paris," He puts his hand between her legs and they don't talk about it anymore. But she can't sleep. She thinks of all of the things that could go wrong. Hannibal has requested discretion in return for discretion but it is just as easy to make an anonymous phone call as it is to keep silent. Perhaps if they knew she was alive, the manhunt for Hannibal would cool – perhaps his status would be downgraded from the top ten list.
But he wouldn't hear of it, of course. She thinks – she knows – that he prefers to be on the list. It is a compliment. She slips out of bed and down the dark hall. In another room there is a computer which turns on with a minimal of noise. Some churning, the whirring of a few internal fans but nothing loud enough to wake him. In the old days, she would go to the Bureau website and log on – the information she sought would be easy to find but now she must use public channels. A search engine, perhaps, or the website of the Washington Post. That's where she starts and though the details aren't at all specific, they are enough.
Ms. Scully and Mr. Mulder were also running from the law. Though not, as Clarice was, assumed dead. They were not snatched by 'Hannibal the Cannibal' like her self, they simply decided to walk away. A bold choice, in some ways, far bolder than her own. Much more of a public statement. Clarice sat and tried to think of all the times she had interacted with Special Agent Dana Scully. They had worked together only in the vaguest sense of the word, members of the same large team and never one on one. There were a few encounters in the hallways. Clarice remembered when she disappeared for a while and then turned up miraculously.
"What do you see in her, Clarice?" Hannibal startles her. He is standing in the darkened doorway. His hair is rumpled from sleep but his voice is steady, loud, and goading. "Do you see what I see?"
"What do you see, Doctor?" she asks. Even after all these years, she has not been able to loose the hint of drawl that wraps around the 'r's at the end of her words.
"She is lovely," he says.
"She is unhappy," Clarice says.
"Just like you," he says, and walks back to the bedroom. She shuts down the computer and sits in the darkness. He's doing this on purpose. He is playing the same game they always play. She isn't unhappy. She made the choice. Cut or run that day in Maryland and she went with him. She has never been one to second guess herself. There is a small part of her that wants to deny him the pleasure of her company for the rest of the night. To go to the kitchen and eat cold cereal standing over the sink – to sleep on the couch but she refuses to give him the satisfaction. Besides, they are leaving in the morning and travel is always better with solid rest. Instead, she slinks back into the room. He is not asleep. He is waiting for her. She lingers for a moment but he doesn't apologize. She upsets the covers by tossing them to the floor. She crawls over him.
"Goody," he says.
In the morning, she wears a beige dress to travel in. This is his real punishment. He prefers her in sturdy travel clothes, stiff and black to blend in. It is too early in the season for a light dress that is almost the color of her skin. She looks good in this dress and attracts attention when there should only be anonymity. He doesn't say anything but she can tell he has received the message. It's more fun this way, if she rebels in these little ways. For the most part, she follows his orders but this is why he does not abandon her in a train station somewhere; this is why she isn't sweetbreads. She bites back.
On the airplane, he takes the aisle seat and she the window. There is no one between them – there is a bag of food on the seat and his straw hat.
"Dana Scully wouldn't play your game," she says. He looks at her but does not speak. She can read his stare though. Maybe he's right, maybe Dana Scully has gotten under her skin, but it isn't stupid to be careful, to play it safe.
"What would Dana Scully do?" he asks.
"She would kill you or she would die trying," Clarice says.
"Would not her lumbering oaf of a lover try to save her?" Hannibal asks and for a brief moment Clarice wonders what they are eating for lunch – if they are having Fox Mulder's liver as they fly. But no, there wasn't time and precision takes time.
"He's smarter then you give him credit for," she says. He's crazy, perhaps, but then, what is crazy but a matter of perspective?
"Smart, maybe but tacky," he says, and turns away as if the subject is closed. It isn't. "You and Ms. Scully are similar and now you're nervous," he says.
"Dana Scully is to Clarice Starling as Fox Mulder is to Will Graham," she says softly.
"I loathe the past," he says and though his body language is unchanged, in his voice there is a warning. Nibble, nibble, she thinks.
When they land in St. Petersburg, Hannibal's Russian is flawless. He buys her a new dress, a fur muffler even though the worst of the snow has passed.
"Russia is built on ice," he says. Paris is over, she tells herself. A distant and fading memory. In the morning, it will feel like a dream and the morning after that she won't be able to recall it at all.
He has a job here, at a gallery or a restaurant or… she can't recall and doesn't care. In the hours he is out, she wanders their neighborhood and decides to cut her hair. It is too long and too heavy and she gets an angled bob that reveals her neck. When Hannibal returns, he likes it. She can tell. He smirks when he thinks she isn't looking and when he asks her about it, he refuses to tell her why.