Title: Into the Dark; The Last Summer
Genre: Hannibal Fanfiction
Timescale: Set after Hannibal the movie (alternate ending – i.e. Hannibal escapes with his hand!)
Rating: NC-17/M for violence and possible sexual content.
Date of Creation: April 2008
Summary: It's one year on since Hannibal's escape and he has once again disappeared into obscurity but for Clarice Starling her life has changed beyond measure. Should she put her faith in Lecter or will following her heart lead her into darkness?
Distribution: DodgyObsession, otherwise just ask.
Disclaimer: I don't own Hannibal or Clarice, they belong to the talented Mr Harris, I'm just borrowing them ;-)
It started the same way, the same way it started every night, the memory of the last summer. But the atmosphere was subtly changed and he sensed even as he slept that the ending this time would be altered. Every night he had watched her die but perhaps this time would be different.
In the dream he watched his prepubescent self live a carefree existence. He watched the servants sweep the courtyard and the saddle being removed from his favourite horse in the stable. The maids as they laughed and chatted in the sun; peeling vegetables over buckets and gossiping behind their hands. Though the building behind him loomed large it lacked menace; he was home.
Hannibal sat on the bottom step of the ancient stone stairway to the castle interior, the sun warm on his forearms as he set off the wooden spinning top on the floor. He, at the grand age of six, was already setting aside such childish things, but he knew that she loved to watch it caper across the flagstones so he obligingly whipped back the string and sent it flying towards her.
Mischa giggled delightedly and clapped her hands, toddling after it in its wake, her hair fluttering in the faint summer breeze and Hannibal, the kindness of his childhood still in his eyes, laughed with her before reaching to steady her with a gentle hand.
The stableboy caught his eye and, smiling encouragement, beckoned them towards him. Catching Mischa's fingers Hannibal heard himself speak in an untroubled voice he now barely recognised.
'Come Mischa, she's here for you!'
The pair passed into the shadow of the stable and his little sister toddled quickly ahead before coming to a surprised and wary halt when she saw what lay in the far bay.
'Don't be afraid,' Hannibal caught her up and crouched by her side, 'She doesn't bite.' He took her hand again in his and stretched it out towards the creature upon which her blue eyes were utterly fixated. 'Father had her brought from the fields for you, a new friend. Here touch her, she's soft.'
The lamb tottered towards them and Mischa's wariness left her in a rush. Her small mouth broke out in an easy smile as her fingers came into contact with the animal's soft wool.
''Amb,' she said happily, unable to curl her tongue around the word. She glanced at her brother, her eyes sparkling.
'Yes, your Lamb, Mischa,' he replied watching her face as she touched it. A surge of protectiveness ran through his body and he trembled a little at the memory of the emotion. In his sleep his breath caught once and then resumed its steady rhythm.
The scene began to flicker and grow dark and Hannibal fought to stay in this place. Before him Mischa's image became distorted and she moved away from him in slow unnatural movements, she seemed to grow and change and for a moment the atmosphere grew more sinister. The air was heavy and thick with an odour which clawed at his throat, a scent he recognised as death. In the distance he heard the voice of his childhood speak to her but she seemed so far away.
'What will you call her, Mischa?'
The figure, now utterly changed, began to turn towards him, the shadows and pale shredded sunlight falling across her face from the stables ceiling beams. The woman's head tilted slightly to one side as she regarded him softly and the air began to clear. The scent lifted and changed, a light perfume filled the stable.
The voice was his sister's but the face was another. It sent a curious mixture of warmth and warning through his sleeping frame.
'I think I'll call her...'
But the dream was over. Hannibal opened his eyes slowly. The summer heat lay heavy in the air of his bedchamber, the curtains flickering by the window doing nothing to lift the feeling of choking heat. He lay still for a moment, his body precisely laid out on his back, his arms by his sides; it was a position he had adopted while incarcerated, a position of control, ready to spring awake if needs be, and the habit was hard to leave behind.
A trace of the dream's perfume lingered in his nostrils and he inhaled shallowly, holding it with him. Watching the ceiling, unblinking, his other senses searched his environment for threat before he rose smoothly from the sheets and crossed the room.
No trace of surprise or concern passed over his features as he looked down into the street. Merely a hint of recognition. After a beat a thin smile crossed his lips but it did not reach his eyes.
The Mustang was parked opposite his building, the interior dark but not dark enough to entirely obscure its occupant. He caught a glimpse of her hair, loose over her shoulders and the pale shape of
her jaw beneath the visor, but he needed no more from which to identify her; her features were fresh from his dream.
'Clarice,' he breathed.
The smell of brewing coffee and baking croissants followed him from the kitchen to where he stood now. He had watched the sun rise slowly over the street, entranced as its golden rays fell across her face. The world aside was till quiet, hushed with sleep, and along empty pavements litter fluttered in the breeze. It was still unbearably warm, the air heavy with unspent thunder, and in her car he could see her shift uncomfortably from her long night's vigil. Should he indicate that he was aware of her presence? She had spent quite long enough cooped up in the Mustang and it felt inhospitable of him to leave her there. But the risks were high and despite his instincts he knew there was every possibility that she had not come alone.
He had seen no others but had been aware of being watched. Was it just her or did her colleagues lurk in the alleyways across the road? No, he would have to wait for her to come to him, as always. Reluctantly he pulled away from the curtain and returned to the kitchen.
He always ended up somewhere beautiful. It was the one thing she could say was predictable about Hannibal Lecter. Clarice's tired eyes wandered over the architecture of the street and across the high windows of his new residence. She could predict the interior, opulent and distinctive, rich materials, fine art, perfumed with flowers and the lingering scent of a cigar.
It had taken a long time to track him although she had begun almost immediately after their last meeting. She fought the urge for all of two weeks before making the decision to find him again, unable to sleep undisturbed, unable to shake his voice from her mind. She would wake to the taste of his kiss on her lips and struggle to focus on much else, but she had struggled nonetheless.
'Never forget what he is,' Crawford had told her some ten years before.
'And what is he?' she had asked.
A dozen theories surrounded the doctor. Psychopath, sociopath, a monster. Those who had assessed him had been horrified and repulsed in turn, the nature of his killings among the worst ever documented and he delighted in their response. He played with them, pressing on their weaknesses, occasionally offering them a titbit delivered with underplayed melodrama, never losing his control of the situation even while behind bars.
He had told her more than most and she had built her career on her early encounters with him in the dungeons of an asylum in Baltimore. Something of a celebrity special agent her reputation had preceded her wherever she went and she became sought after, her career spiralling upwards. But it
had fallen just as fast. Lecter had given her her 'big break' but he had also instilled in her a gem of doubt. Always so certain of the line that lay between good and bad he had demonstrated to her grey areas and doubt, and her doubts had grown and grown. Doubts in herself for the most part; in her true motivation. Crawford had warned her not to give away any of herself to the man, but she had traded in order to save a life. Well Catherine Martin was safe, married and successful in Memphis, but the damage Clarice had taken for her continued to grow with each passing day. Dr Lecter was in her head now, she was drawn to him, his image obliterating all else.
Initially indignant when she had been reassigned to his case she had slowly grown to enjoy the work again. Secluded in her dark office with the audio tapes of their interviews she would listen to his voice over and over, unable to repress a smile as the memories surfaced. If nothing else he had always been the gentleman and his humour amused her. At a time when her world was at its darkest she took refuge in his words. Despite herself she knew that no-one had ever come as close to understanding her as he had, and laying aside her concerns she had to admit that he eased her loneliness.
His casefile lay on the passenger seat beside her and she flicked open the cover to where his photograph lay paperclipped to the front page. Taken in the prison, he was dressed in regulation boiler suit and slicked back hair, but it was his eyes that drew her. Unfathomable but familiar.
She had let him go. He had taken neither her gun nor her cuffs from her, leaving them available outside her bedroom door. He had not restrained her, instead he had removed the bullet she took for him from her shoulder and allowed her to sleep off the morphine. She had connected the phone and called for help but out of duty and habit more than desire, and made her way to him downstairs safe in the knowledge that she could not fall too far in the ten minutes it would take for the FBI to arrive. Deep down she knew that any longer and he would control her entirely.
She had not expected what he had done to Paul and it had thrown her, the true nature of the beast revealed in all its horrific splendour, but once alone in the kitchen she was relatively powerless. He anticipated her every move, pinning her against the fridge with sudden force and then taking a step backward. She could have struggled. For weeks she question why she didn't.
'Would you ever say to me 'stop, if you loved me you'd stop?'' he had asked.
'Not in a thousand years.'
Not in a thousand years could she stop him, change him. Not in a thousand years would she try. He was what he was and somewhere inside her she accepted it. She let him go; she let him take his freedom.
She had answered his question and her own.
Clarice shut the casefile and glanced again towards the windows. He was waiting there, unseen. He would have sensed her presence, spotted her in her ineffectual hiding place. She had almost hoped he would approach her first but she knew she would have to make the first move. She realised suddenly that both hands gripped hard at the steering wheel, the knuckles white. She had to do this, months of tracking him for this moment. With a less than decisive movement she unhooked her seatbelt and removed her keys, stepping from her car stiffly after hours of watchful stillness. Before
she had even emerged fully from her chrysalis she heard the click of the front door opposite her and watched as it swung open slowly. Inside it was dark.
The house was perfectly silent, a rich scent of breakfast and fresh cut flowers in the air around her. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom she made out she shapes of heavy set furniture and drapes, the walls in the hallway were adorned with art. The passage led directly to the back of the building, narrow and unlit, shafts of tepid light falling from open doorways to the left and right. She sensed he was waiting for her at the end of the corridor, but she took her time, her hand poised over the firearm strapped to her hip.
Long ago she had crept along the darkened passages beneath the house Jame Gumb had occupied. It was the greatest terror she had ever experienced, trapped in the dark, alone, inexperienced, knowing that just beyond her reach a killer lay waiting. Her breath had come in ragged bursts, her heart pounding in her chest. The air there had been stale and cold.
The clink of china brought her sharply from her memories and she followed the sound. The kitchen door was ajar like the others, a stronger light coming now from its east facing windows so that her eyes were dazzled. She crept around the door and halted. He was in front of her.
Still with his back to her she took in the shape of him, the powerful presence she had anticipated was not dimmed. He wore linen and her eyes followed the outline of his shoulders as he worked at the counter. There was a knife to his left. On a table behind him breakfast was set out with precision and elegance and now he poured fresh coffee into a second cup, adding sugar and cream.
'Good morning, Clarice,' he said over his shoulder. His voice cut through the room like a siren through a dream. She swallowed and clasped the grip of her gun.
'Please,' he turned, 'take a seat.'
His eyes locked with hers with a flicker of unreadable emotion. He smiled courteously.
'You've had a long night Clarice, I've made you some coffee.'
'Thank you,' she said without thinking, her voice rough. She swallowed again to try and clear it before stepping cautiously forward to where he gestured for her to be seated.
His glance dipped to her revolver.
'You won't be needed that Clarice I assure you, please relax,' she hesitated and he continued, 'You can put it on the table if it makes you feel safer but try not to disturb the place settings.'
Before she realised she had done it she was sitting, her gun to one side of her by her cutlery. Lecter moved smoothly around the table and lent over her, placing her coffee before her before moving back to his place. Her skin tingled with the presence of him so near.
He sat and stirred his coffee with a delicate silver spoon, all the while regarding her coolly.
'Long time no see, Clarice, though admittedly not as long as last time.' The spoon clinked in the saucer and he gestured at the warm croissants between them. 'Please, eat.'
Automatically she reached for the food, his spell was well and truly on her and she moved like an automaton. The setting didn't seem real. He smiled appreciatively.
'You did well to find me Clarice, I always did admire your ingenuity.'
'You took a lot of finding, Dr.'
'I try not to make the same mistake twice,' he caught her eye, 'Did I ever thank you... for letting me go?' he asked.
'No,' she managed.
His smile widened into a gentle curve, 'Thank you,' he said softly, 'but do I need to worry now you are here, is my year of freedom about to be terminated? Did you have second thoughts Clarice? You could have stopped me the first time, if you had tried.'
'I know,' she conceded.
'So..?' Lecter prompted her.
'I'm not her to capture you Dr.'
'And you are here, alone?' he tested.
His eyes dropped again to her weapon. 'That isn't a standard issue gun Clarice,' he remarked.
He was sharp; it had taken him seconds to guess.
'When did you part company?' he asked.
'Because of me?' there was a faint tinge of pride to his voice but it was laced with something else she could not distinguish.
'Partly... mainly,' she corrected, 'In one way or another. They were going to dismiss me but I quit.'
'In order to pre-empt them and reduce your shame?' he queried.
'No. I've always accepted the consequences of what I do.'
'Then why?' he knew the answer already, she could hear it in his voice, but she humoured him.
'I quit because it wasn't for me anymore, I'd changed.'
Lecter let out a short breath and settled back in his chair.
'I've changed,' she repeated, 'You changed me.'
'No Clarice, I was merely the catalyst. But that doesn't tell me why you are here. No longer an official agent, not here to capture me, sell me back to the FBI so you can reclaim your former glory and impress your way back into their good books..?'
'No, you cannot build your entire career around me,' he jested and Clarice flinched. 'So then,' he pressed her, 'Why? Or shall I guess for you, if you are so uncertain.'
Something in Clarice had never anticipated that her plan would ever get this far. She wouldn't be able to find him, the bureaux would discover what she was trying to do and stop her, Lecter himself would discover her tracking him and be intolerant to her presence. She never thought she would reach the point when he would be asking 'why?' She half believed she had lost her chance when she let him go, that she was no longer safe in his vicinity, that her immunity to harm had expired. Would he harm her now, she didn't think so but she was far from certain and in the meantime the silence hung between them like fog. Why was she here, what was it she needed to say so badly?
She racked her mind for an answer to his question, his eyes heavy on her face. The truth was she did not really know why she had sought him out, except to say she had nothing else to seek.
'Feeling shy?' he mocked. 'Well let me speak for you then. With the FBI out of the picture you lose not only your job but your surrogate family, your status, your position and identity. All that you once were, all that success you once prided yourself upon is gone. And what is left if we lose all of these things? Hmm? No? Then I'll tell you... we are left with ourselves and with our memory. Your memories aren't good ones Clarice, I know that from our little chats. You have lost all you have worked for and you are drifting. Part of you blames me.'
'I am responsible for my own actions Dr Lecter,' Clarice said even as the words felt empty on her tongue, 'You didn't get me expelled from the FBI.'
'No, I didn't make any phonecalls or sign any papers, you did that, what I did was to open your eyes,' he finished softly. 'So how do things feel now that yourself is all that is left, how do you feel now that you know who you really are?'
'I don't know,' she admitted.
'You're not trying.'
'I don't know who I am now,' she persisted. 'I don't know where to start anymore.'
'You're here,' he commented. 'You were drawn here, you obviously felt an impulse to reach me... to start with me... so what do you say we start talking?'
He had never witnessed her this way before. Her courage had always pleased him, her unbending integrity and strength. The woman before him now was inherently the same but trapped beneath confusion amidst a changing world. In joining the FBI she had fled her childhood and the memories
that came with it, now wither career gone she was hurled back into those memories and he knew she heard the lambs screaming again.
They moved from the kitchen to the gloom of the front room and slowly she began to talk. About her job, her father, he loneliness; the confusion which had descended over her when they had parted that last summer. Hannibal Lecter listened to it all although he had guessed much already from the mere sight of her. The hours passed quickly and calmly, and slowly she raised her eyes more often to meet his. He wondered what she saw there.
The conversation petered out and silence descended over the room. Lecter rose and fetched two glasses, pouring wine and offering it to her casually.
'I trust you will accept it this time,' he said.
The memory of Paul Krendler, drugged and bloodied at the table where the Doctor poured white wine, flashed across her mind. Dismissing the thought her hand closed around the glass and brushed his, 'Yes, thank you.' Lecter resumed his seat, aware of her eyes moving over him, assessing him.
'I know why I'm here,' she said after a moment. Lecter raised one eyebrow. Clarice took a breath and faced him. 'I need to find out what you are.'
'I need to find out because...because you are always with me... and...' she faltered.
The silence fell again, awkwardly. She was on the verge of a confession. He let the words float in the air a while longer before coming to her aid.
'You need to know what I am because it reflects on yourself,' he finished for her, 'can you live with yourself, can you accept what it makes you if your feelings for me are real?'
Clarice looked up at him sharply. It was time, he felt, to sweep away these pretences of civility and distance. They had reached at last the crux of her confusion.
'You have said yourself that you are drawn to me Clarice, and I to you. I know what it is that draws me but you remain in the dark.'
'Yes,' she said a little more certainly, the strength returning to her voice.
'You want to prove to yourself somehow that I am not a monster,' his tone was teasing.
'No,' she said, 'Not that.'
'You want to save me then? Like one of your lambs? Give me therapy and find the good within so you can justify your emotions?'
Lecter's brows knit in the faintest of frowns.
'Then what?' he cajoled.
'I want to know everything,' she said, 'I want to know if I can live with it, with what you are.'
Something about the tone of her voice touched him. He held her gaze for a moment before releasing her and took a sip of his wine. In all his years in incarceration he had revealed to the probing psychologists nothing of his life, his motives, his soul, his memories. He kept them distant and perplexed, allowing them to believe whatever vague conclusions they could draw from his limited behaviours. Even in the darkest times he had felt no urge to divulge what he held within. Did he now? A tickle at his heart made him suspect he did and he clamped down almost immediately on the rising urge to give her what she sought.
He had once been vulnerable, half a century ago, but that vulnerability had soon been dispelled. There was no benefit to be had from it and he had moved through the rest of his life with unerring confidence and resilience. He was untouchable, even imprisoned; retreating into his mind and locking himself there until the time came to escape. With the objective eye of the observer he cast his thoughts back over his memories, of the things he had done and no remorse struck him. Each death, each manipulation and action had been justified in his eyes. No, there were no regrets. No regrets, but one, the first and only.
He glanced across at Clarice where she sat waiting for his response. Her posture indicated to him that her self-assurance was growing, that she had found the purpose she looked for.
'You have seen the things I have done, the way that I live, I have neither hidden it from you or lied to preserve your feelings' he said, 'Trust in your own judgement, Clarice.' He caught a flicker of concentration crossing her face as she absorbed his words. 'It is not for me to convince you one way or the other,' he concluded. 'I am, to you, exactly what you think I am.'
'That's what I thought,' she said softly and looked down into the body of her wine.
He sent her to bed, exhausted from following him, from the emotions of her revelations, from the wine. Closing the door behind him he crossed to his room, leaving her alone with her thoughts. He was in no hurry for the decision she was making, he had some thinking of his own at hand.
Lecter stood for a moment in the centre of his bedchamber and allowed old memories to wash through his mind, releasing them from the locked room in which his private life was stored. He allowed himself but a few minutes for the faces of family to pass before him, the memory of the revenge he took for them out of fierce love, and then he closed the door again. He resented the idea that childhood trauma had made him what he was, but the evidence before him told that he had not been born a monster. The dream of the previous night came back to him. Some people believed in dreams, that they were communications filled with meaning, open to interpretation. But not where he was concerned, mere chemicals in the brain, a processing of memories and daily events.
So why then did she haunt him? Why did Mischa appear each night? Of all the people in his life she was the only one he allowed himself to remember fondly and with sadness. She came to him as a reminder that he could still feel.
Hannibal Lecter moved to the mantle above a wrought iron fireplace and took down a small lacquered casket; his mother's, salvaged from the safes in the castle and stored for years in unidentifiable bank vaults across the world. Unlatching the clasp he slowly sorted through the few items within. The tickling sensation in his chest returned as it had been during his conversation with Clarice.
The sound of the door alerted him too late, he had been lost in thought. Without closing the box in his hands he turned to find her already on the threshold.
'Insomnia?' he asked lightly.
'Something like that.'
'Did curiosity get the better of you Clarice?'
She ignored him and crossed to where he stood, looking down into the casket, her eyes resting on the photograph he held between the fingers of one hand. With unprecedented insight she considered for a beat and then said, 'Your lamb?'
An involuntary smile flickered across Lecter's lips as he followed her eye line to the picture. 'Yes, Clarice, Misha is 'my lamb.' My sister. Does that tell you what you need to know?'
Her fingers dipped into the box and lifted a golden locket from the shallow depths of it. A cautionary glance at Lecter revealed that he was making no move to stop her but rather regarding her evenly, the merest trace of interest in his features. She opened the clasp and touched the locks of hair entwined within, pressing her lips together thoughtfully.
'No but it tells me enough.'
With a quick movement he removed the box and its contents from her hands and snapping the lid down replaced it on the mantle. Ruffled he chided himself for a slip in his composure. Lecter turned his back and moved away a few paces but she could feel the growing menace. For the first time since her arrival she remembered clearly what he was capable of. Clarice tensed considering her options.
And then she closed her eyes.
The room was warm; the air still heavier than it had been even that morning. The storm was brewing, waiting to break outside and the streets were quiet. She tried to empty her mind, breathing in the scents of the bedchamber, the flowers, the faint breeze from the windows, the smell of his cologne, of him. There was no sound in the room except for her own blood in her ears and then, in the silence of her own thoughts she heard a noise. A breath, and that alone, no more or less. A single outgoing breath from the other side of the room.
Clarice opened her eyes and looked at him, his back to her, leaning slightly on the mahogany desk by the window, the window from which he had watched her the night before. Knowing she took a risk she came behind him and placed one hand on his arm.
He moved so fast she almost toppled and the fear flared in her chest. Grasping her arm he drove her backwards until she collided with the post of his bed. The wind knocked from her she struggled against him.
'Not in a thousand years, Clarice,' he said lowly, his breath hitting her face, 'Not in a thousand years and yet within one you are here seeking me out,' he allowed her to feel the pain of his grip on her wrist and watched as she winced. 'Is this what you want Clarice? Is this how you thought it would be?' He slammed her again against the bed post and hauled her upright as her knees buckled with the pain. 'Well?' he pushed.
A tear escaped her eyes and trickled across her cheek.
'You won't hurt me,' she managed.
'I beg to differ Clarice,' and he twisted her wrist again to emphasise his remark.
'You won't' she repeated. With a jagged motion he spun and released her so that she collided with the desk. Clarice staggered forward grasping at the back of a chair to support herself. She raised her eyes to meet his, only too aware of the danger that burned there.
'I'm not asking you to change, I'm not asking you to stop,' she said, 'But I know you can't hurt me, I believe you can't.'
'You don't sound very convincing,' his voice had the light sing song tone it held only when he was at his most dangerous.
'You've had your chance before now, you could have done anything you wanted to me and you didn't,' she said pointedly, 'I was alone in a house with you, unconscious, injured, and all you did was suture my wound. Not in a thousand years could you hurt me and you know it.'
His expression changed to one of playfulness. 'Dangerous ground Clarice, I like your style.' He advanced towards where she still stood gripping the back of the chair. Releasing her arms from it he grasped both wrists again, hard enough to make her realise his strength and no more.
'You couldn't,' she said quietly, 'Any more than I could you.' His grip slackened and she felt his eyes move over her face. 'That's why I'm here,' she continued, 'Because as much as it doesn't make any sense...'
'You feel safe,' he concluded, 'How ironic,' but the menace, the result of his own anger at letting her near, had relented.
Lecter smiled and allowed it to travel to his eyes. Softly he brushed the hair from her face and allowed his hand to trace it down her back. 'Yes,' he repeated in a whisper, it's a long time since anyone has felt that.'
'But she did,' Clarice responded. 'I do.'
In the dark recesses of his memory he felt the door to his past unlock and the darkness receded somewhat. Behind the door, in the sunshine of that last summer, Mischa played with her lamb.
Clarice watched as the emotions played across his face openly for the first time and slipped her hand to his jaw. He traced the outline of her mouth with one finger and watched her response. There was no lie in her eyes, she had made her decision.
Leaning forward he touched her lips gently with his.
Lecter's embrace was tight and his kisses deep. In a moment she was transported back to the first kiss they had shared. She had longed for it then and fought it in equal measures. The fight now was gone, her body relaxed and pushed against his, her arms snaking up his back to rest on his shoulders, fingers playing with the collar of his shirt. For years she had been alone and defensive. Using her strength to keep others at bay, now she used it to bring him nearer. As she felt herself fall into the rich eiderdown of her bedclothes she knew in her heart that she was not submitting but conquering; not him but her own fears.
From the first moment she had seen him he had haunted her, and now she was here, dispelling ghosts for reality. He moved above her, slipping the shirt from her arms, planting kisses in the vulnerable pockets above her cheekbones; powerful, warm. She shifted to allow him to distribute his weight, felt him nibble playfully at her lip, move his hands across her body.
She was dimly aware of the first peel of thunder as the storm finally broke.