He kissed her lightly upon their return and moved to the kitchen where he removed his coat and brushed away the debris from the stream which clung to the back. Clarice lingered in the doorway, her heart still pounding from the feel of his lips. In a leisurely fashion Lecter hung his jacket and then looked at her inquisitively.

'Yes, Clarice?'

She felt confused; the intensity of their embrace by the stream had convinced her that more of the same awaited her at the house. Now he seemed more concerned with valeting his suit.

'Um... '

He smiled wickedly and took her in his arms, bending towards her he kissed her again and she released her urgency. He allowed her to kiss him back for a moment and then pulled away. 'In good time Clarice, I've waited over a decade for this moment I'm not about to rush it now.' She let out a small moan, sometimes his gentlemanly elegance was nothing less than frustrating. 'The anticipation is half the fun, Clarice,' he teased. 'Why don't you go on upstairs to your room and pamper yourself a little, pick yourself a nice dress, take a bath.'

He was really enjoying himself, she could see it. Of course he could be sadistic, it was his nature, but there was something playful about him now. With a sigh she conceded.

'OK, pampering, bath, dress...'


'Dinner too?'

'Dinner,' he winked good-naturedly. 'We have all night Clarice.'

-- --

The bath had been a good idea she conceded. She had forgotten in her distraction how painful her body still was. Clarice lay back and smoothed the water over her stomach, scrutinizing the bruising which still surrounded the healing wounds. They were going to leave telling scars on her pale skin. As she looked down she traced a line between three separate bullet wounds, picturing Lecter's hands doing the same. Would he care if she was marked, she doubted it, it would probably please him; a physical representation of the scars within which had drawn him to her. He liked 'damaged.' Damaged was interesting to him, the hows and whys, the lasting effects. Normal bored him; it insulted his intelligence. Would he ever grow bored of her?

I've waited over a decade for this moment...

No, if he wasn't bored by now she supposed he never would be.

Why was he delaying her? She would have given herself to him by the stream if he had asked but she suspected he was giving her the chance to do exactly what she was doing now. To think it through. Above all he had been insistent that she make the decisions; that she was free to leave, that he 

would not coerce her. Did it matter so much to him that she came willingly; to him a man who could break her in a second should he chose to? And the expression on his face by the stream, what was that she had seen? The pieces began to slide into their pattern and she felt warm. She sensed she was at the start of the vast exploration which would ultimately reveal him to her.

They don't have a word for what he is...

The challenge excited her. So be it, she would play his game his way. She felt sure she would win. The balance of power was shifting and fear ebbed away with the perfumed bathwater. He had strength, intelligence, control and a battery of talents and knowledge upon which to call. She, apparently, had his heart.

-- --

The sight of him stripped her confidence and she struggled to remember how she had felt in her room, preparing for him. He stood over the table lighting candles with a taper, dressed in an immaculate dinner suit and freshly shaved. She could smell the cologne from where she stood, a subtle and alluring fragrance that made her want to bury her face in his neck.

'You look beautiful, Clarice,' he said and she started, suddenly aware she had been staring at the soft place under his jaw where her lips would fit so well. He glided over to her and secured her mouth with his, allowing her to spend the edge of her desire. His skin grazed lightly over her and he flickered his tongue against her lips. She wriggled against him, flattening herself against the length of his body and she felt his mouth curl into a smile. Suddenly embarrassed she pulled back only to be caught by his hands. It was all so strange. This surge of feeling went against so many of her beliefs.

Kindly he led her to the table where he poured her wine and served the meal. As the evening passed she became more aware of his skills as a psychiatrist. From the embarrassed uncertainty which had rendered her almost mute, he won her round so subtly she failed to notice before she was laughing openly and trading easy conversation. Was it merely his intellect or was there a connection which left her feeling safe and valued in his company? Tired of her inner struggle she opted for the latter and her concerns mellowed. Instead she watched his mouth as he talked, his soft precise voice washing over her, amusing and touching her in turns.

She stood by the fire again while he cleared; this time there was no urge to kneel by the flames. Her eyes instead fell on the mirror above the mantelpiece and her own dark reflection. In the firelight her auburn hair glowed softly and her eyes took on a magical gleam against the pale shade of her skin. Self consciously she adjusted the strap of her dress, the neckline plunging to reveal vulnerable flesh. She moistened her lips and tried a smile but it did not fit the image. This was another Clarice entirely and the reflection's eyes burned into her own. If she did this there would be no going back.

He appeared in the mirror behind her silently and she caught his eye before returning her gaze to her own. She hunted in their blue depths for the protest she expected to find there, but found none. Behind her he tilted her head as he watched, sensing that the pivotal moment in their relationship had come, and surprised at the anxiety it caused him, unaccustomed as he was to the feeling.

Clarice turned to him, the bare skin of her shoulders glowed with the firelight behind her. He held out his hand, and at last she took it. Lecter closed his eyes and bending, kissed her fingers before leading her from the room.

-- --

In the hallway between their rooms Lecter stopped, glancing between the two doors, inviting her to choose. Taking his cue she grasped the handle to his room and turned it, pushing the door open to reveal what lay beyond. Behind her he smiled in relief and pleasure and followed her inside.

It was dark and rich. A dresser nearby glinted with items; cufflinks, cologne. Several books were placed to one side, a lacquered trinket box and an opulent embroidered drape across the stool. The bed was at the centre, heavy and oaken, clothed in burgundy trimmed with gold. Her eyes fell upon the flower upon the pillow.

'Lotus,' she said, 'you left one in my room.'

'Yes I did,' he admitted. 'You are aware of its significance I suspect?'

She smiled; yes, she had figured it out. 'Rebirth.'

'Indeed,' he caught her hands and drew her to him, 'The pink lotus was originally found in Persia although other species appeared in Egyptian and Oriental myth. It is the symbol of death and resurrection, and perhaps more importantly enlightenment, and healing.

'A new start Clarice. Are you ready for that?'

'Yes,' the last word she needed to say.

His kiss this time was laced with tenderness and as she closed her eyes she felt herself swim in his embrace. His hands at her back slipped across her bare flesh and under the thin straps of her dress, carefully sliding them down her arms, following their progress with his lips. In turn she moved to remove his jacket, the material whispering along his shirt sleeves as it dropped away. Her fingers undid his bowtie and flicked open the buttons of his collar. Lecter smiled and led her backwards to the bed, laying her down carefully, slipping her dress down her body as she unhooked his shirt and opened it. Her fingers traced down the hair she found there and reached for his belt.

'Patience,' he whispered. She allowed he hand to move up his body once more and laid back into the soft covers of the bed as he kissed her neck, the soft place above her collarbone, the tops of her breasts. She helped him to free her from her dress and moaned as his lips explored further. He removed his shirt and pressed the warmth of his body against her, his regular breathing quickening at the touch. Languidly Clarice opened her eyes and dropped her hand to his head, touching the back of his neck softly until he rose and met her eyes. This time he made no attempt to stop her as she unbuckled his belt and pull away his remaining clothes and she smiled her courage as she allowed her gaze to wander across his body.

His strength was obvious, but so were his scars, her fingers grazed them and she looked down at her own belly, still mottled with injury. Lecter dropped his mouth to her stomach, were the flesh was tender, but his touch was gentle, like a flicker of silk against her skin.

He was controlled and kind in his touch and the time slid by unseen. Clarice felt her relaxation flow through her body only to be followed by the tingling of excitement. She was aware of the change in him too. As her own body heated, his breath shortened, his skin burned where she touched. Encouraging him upwards she reclaimed his mouth with a passion she had long forgotten and felt his rejoining hardness against her thigh. She pressed against him and he moaned as she parted her legs, the scent of her reaching his nostrils. He withdrew his kiss and placed it against her neck, reaching down between them, his fingers slick and expert. Clarice arched into him, begging permission and he cupped her buttocks, moving her leg over his and placing himself above her.

Lecter looked down at her, his pupils dilated with desire and she stroked back the hair at his temples, feeling the lines smile around his eyes. She felt him then, the length of him slide into her body and she caught her breath, her eyes closing momentarily as he filled her. She wrapped her arms across his back and held him to her.

In a moment ten years melted to nothing and the pain of her life faded. Although dimly aware of an ache in her wounds he was gentle enough in his movements for her to push it to one side. Lecter balanced his weight against the bed and used a free hand to caress her, touching the sensitive skin of her breast and thigh, holding him to her. She bit down on her lip before a small cry escaped her, to be welcomed by a smile at her neck. He nipped her playfully, his teeth grazing her skin and capturing her lips but it only served to heighten her desire.

He was moving faster now, his breath more ragged and the intensity of his desire set her mind spinning. She was here, alone in the house, in the bed, with Dr Hannibal Lecter and yet there was no fear, no pain, only his need for her and her aching for him. The world might as well not exist; there was only the feel and scent of him, the taste of his mouth on hers.

The feeling built until she thought she would break and her nails dug firmly into his back urging him on. A low groan from Lecter and a deep and urgent thrust sent her body crashing towards her climax, arching under and into him, unable to stop the sound which came from her throat. Lecter followed, for a moment his weight on her fully as he lost control, the sound of his pleasure filling her ears even as he shuddered his ending. He kissed her throat and pulled back, quick to take the weight from her wounds, before moving to her side and wrapping himself around her, his breathing heavy and harsh.

His chin resting on her head, she traced her fingers through the curls on his chest.

'Dr Lecter?'

A heavy but not unhappy sigh against her cheek. 'Clarice I really think given what just happened that you should address me by my given name.'

She bit back a smile, 'Hannibal,' it's sounded strange on her tongue.

'You'll get used to it,' he said softly, his hand running across her hair, smoothing it from her face.

'Yes I'm sure I will.'

His breathing became more regular and aligned with her own. Clarice's eyes threatened to flutter shut and then in a moment caught sight of the flower. He must have moved it during their love making because it lay now on the drape which elegantly covered the stool. The Lotus' light petals contrasted darkly with the material and she smiled as if waking from a dream.

But the dream would continue tomorrow.