Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Once again it was time for the FBI's Christmas Ball at Quantico. The theme this year was masquerade, and the masks ranged from simple to down right creepy. Ardelia had dragged Clarice to it saying she needed a break after what happened with Mason Verger and Paul Krendler that past summer.

"Besides, girl. This'll get your mind off Lecter for a while."

Clarice fidgeted in her dress. Ever since that night, she'd been worried that he'd come after her. Part of her soon realized after months of no sign of him that he was long gone. That still didn't stop her from looking over her looking her shoulder from time to time. Then again, she was in an FBI base surrounded by agents.

"Yeah. Even if he was after me, this is the last place he'd come to get me."

Ardelia smiled."That's the spirit. Now, I spy a cutie at 1:00."

Clarice looked in her direction and laughed."You can't even see his face."

"I won't need to."

Clarice watched her friend go."Good luck, Dee."

Just as Clarice finished of her glass of champagne, a tall masked man came into her view."May I have this dance?"

Clarice smiled;she knew that voice anywhere. She looked up at him from behind her own mask."I wasn't aware that country boys from Texas knew how to dance."

"I can't, but I promise to be a gentleman."

Clarice got up and took his hand. She didn't need to see his face to know that it was Cliff Barker. Along with her and Ardelia, Cliff had been in training as well. Being two southerners new to the FBI, they became good friends. He'd graduated before her and been sent to work in Washington D.C. Clarice hadn't seen him since. Cliff lead her to the dance floor and began to lead her around.

"So what have you been up to?"she asked after a while.

"A little this, a little that. Though, it's not nearly a grand as what you've been up to."

"Don't believe the papers. Half of it's made up."

"Even the part about you being found in a sexy black dress? I would have loved to see that."

Clarice laughed. Cliff was a shameless flirt. They'd tried dating, but it didn't work. Luckily, Cliff found a girl in Washington, and they were now engaged."Clifford, how could you? What would Mona say?"

"Aw shucks, Claire. What she don't know won't hurt me."

They shared a laugh and continued to glide until Clarice was tapped on the shoulder. The turned to see a man in all white including his Guy Fawkes mask."May I cut in?"

Clarice stopped dead. She also knew that voice all to well. Cliff, on the other hand, did not."Sure. I gotta call my girl anyway. It was good seeing you, Clarice. Take care of her, will you? She can be a handful."

"Believe me, I know,"Hannibal whispered after Cliff left. He then turned to Clarice and took her hands in his.

"What are you doing?"she whispered harshly."Are you insane?"

"Not really, no, but according to the state of Maryland I am. At the moment, however, I am enjoying dancing with a beautiful woman."To prove this, he spun her away from him before pulling her back even closer than before.

"You're on the ten most wanted list and in a room crawling with FBI agents. Does that sound sane to you?"

"If you are worried about my safety, I promise you I will be fine. Everyone here, including ourselves, is in masks. No one will recognize me."

"And what if I decide to rat you out? All I have to do is yell."

Surprisingly, he chuckled at her threat."If you were going to 'rat me out' as you say, you already would have run to your superiors and ole Jackie boy screaming. He looks terrible by they way. It really is a shame that he couldn't make it."

Clarice tensed up."What did you do to him?"

"I promise, I didn't harm him. I merely slipped a pill into the cheap wine he was drowning his holiday sorrows in as I 'borrowed' his invitation. Now please hush, Clarice. I'm trying to enjoy our dance while it lasts."

Clarice finally noticed that they had been dancing. His body was pressed to hers, but his hands were in their proper places. She then noticed that her right also rested easily on his shoulder. He was light on his feet, and even more surprising, she hadn't stepped on his toes. She turned her head, and she could see his eyes staring back at her from behind his mask. Hannibal saw her smile as they speed up to keep time with the music. They'd never danced together before, but somehow their movements matched perfectly. Hannibal heard her laugh over the music and smiled to himself.

Soon, the music changed, and it happened to be the pianist's rendition of the Goldberg Variations, the very same song he'd murdered the guards to in Memphis. Clarice heard Hannibal inhale. She held back a smiled and pulled her hand out of his grip. For a second, Hannibal thought that she might actually leave this time. Instead, she put both of her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. Clarice then felt his arms curl gently around her waist. She could hear his heartbeat through the expensive suit he was wearing and felt his breath tickle her ear.

No. There would be no games tonight. Hannibal didn't have it in him to break up this moment with her. Instead, he locked it in his memory palace behind the door marked Clarice along with so many others all of her. How easily they fit together, the way her finger gently traced the back of his neck, but most of all, how stunning she looked in the emerald dress she wore. Her scent had been the first thing to be placed in the room, and the real thing would be all over him and his clothes tomorrow.

"If I saw you every day forever, I would always remember this time,"he said low enough so that only she heard.

"You've said that before, Doctor. Running out of lines?"

"I know, and I have been truthful both times. You look lovely tonight. I had hoped to see you in the dress I'd gotten you."

"Thank you. It was confiscated, but I did get to keep the shoes. Though, I have the feeling my feet will be killing me tomorrow."

"I am glad that you could keep them, and if it were up to me, I would gladly massage your feet for you."

"Would you do my nails and serve me breakfast in bed too?"

He knew she'd been joking but replied honestly anyway."Well, I could trim your nails since I do mine often, but I'm not sure how painting them would go. As for breakfast, you need only to tell me what you want."

Clarice laughed. She couldn't tell whether or not he was joking, but the thought of Hannibal Lecter sitting there doing her nails was hilarious."You really are crazy."

"Only for you, Clarice."was his honest reply.

The continued to drift on the dance floor in a small circle. They paid no attention to the music or the other dancers. Both of their eyes fell shut, and they enjoyed the moment together silently wishing it would never end. Soon, it was well after 1:00 A.M., and the party was shutting down. The couple stopped dancing and headed towards the exit.

"It seems that Ms. Mapp has left without you,"Hannibal said.

"Damn. I know this sounds horrible but-"

"Yes, I will take you home. What kind of gentleman would I be to leave a lady in distress?"Clarice could almost see him smirking behind the mask

She looped her arm through his and twined their fingers together. He lead her through the dark lot with ease. The finally reached the end of the lot after minutes of walking. There was a black Jaguar parked in the darkness. Hannibal saw her eyes light up at the sight of it.

"Like it?"

"It's beautiful. How fast can it go?"

"I'm not sure. I've never pushed it that far, but I'm sure it would be faster than your average police car."

He opened her door first and made sure she was inside before getting behind the wheel and removing his mask. It was dark and he had tinted windows, so he was sure no one would see him."Planning on a high speed chase, Doctor?"

"I'd like to avoid that if possible. I already lost my Bentley and came close to losing this one."

Hannibal reached in the into the glove compartment and pulled out a small box.

"Consider it a late birthday present."

"How-Wait. I forgot who I was talking to."

He smiled and watched Clarice open the box. He saw her gasp at what was inside. It was a pair of small emerald stud earrings. The two gems sparkled when they hit the lights in the car.

"I-I don't know what to say, Doctor,"Clarice said, looking up at him for the first time."I can't accept these. I can't-"

Hannibal placed a finger to her lips to silence her."I want you to have them. They will go nicely with your dress."

Clarice sighed."Alright."

He smiled and started the car. She felt it roar to life beneath her and smiled to herself. It was just as powerful, if not more, as her Mustang. Clarice knew that a person's car told a lot about them. Her Mustang, like her, was sturdy on the outside and under the hood it wasn't something to play with. Like Dr. Lecter, the Jaguar was sleek and beautiful on the outside, but it could be beast if the need called for it. He obviously took good care of it. When she told him this, they soon began to converse over their tastes in cars, and Hannibal hoped that she didn't notice him taking the long way to her house.

Clarice did notice but didn't say a word. However, her eyelids began to droop, and Hannibal decided not to keep her up any longer. They arrived at her place quicker than Clarice expected, but she figured he wasn't too worried about a speeding ticket. She didn't even want to think about how he knew the way to her new house since she'd moved. Hannibal turned off the car and helped her out. She fumbled with her keys but soon got the door open before turning to him.

"I had a wonderful time, Clarice,"he said simply."I hope we will be able to do this again sometime."

For some reason, she giggled at his words."You sound like Cliff did after our date."

He smiled."I am not sure whether I should feel insulted or complemented."

"Complemented, definitely. Cliff was nothing but a gentleman to me that night even though we'd agreed to be friends. It didn't stop him from asking for a kiss goodnight at the door, though."

A sly smile crept across his lips."I have been nothing but a gentleman to you tonight, Clarice. Do I get one as well?"

"No. You don't get one at the door."She smirked back at him."You owe me a foot massage and breakfast for making me dance all night with and then you might earn a kiss and more."

Hannibal masked his surprise by smiling."Of course, Clarice."

Clarice pulled him to her by his tie, and he went in without a fuss.

FIN