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Morning seemed to come too quickly for Clarice. When she awoke, she realized that she was pressed against Hannibal with her head on his chest. She groaned and tilted her head up to look at him. He was still asleep, and her arms wrapped around his torso, holding him as if he were a giant stuffed animal. At first, she was shocked by their position, but the soft smile on his face told her that he didn't mind. Clarice then tried to move, but Hannibal's arm kept her pinned in place. She also heard him growl softly before burying his nose in her hair.
"He's like a lazy cat,"Clarice thought with a smile."A big cat, that is."
Despite his politeness, Clarice knew how Hannibal could be if provoked. Even in the dungeon, she saw something in his eyes that reminded her of a tiger in a zoo that had come from the wild. He hadn't wanted to be there and would gladly kill anyone to regain his freedom, but if treated with respect or just didn't bother him at all, the beast wouldn't bother you. She and Barney were both proof of that.
Now, she was sleeping next to and on the beast. He'd saved her life and watched over her even in sleep. The Tattler would kill for a picture of them now, and the FBI would want to arrest them both. She didn't care. He'd obviously hidden them well until she recovered. Clarice's instincts told her that wherever they were far away from the city and near water but that was all. They were safe for now.
Clarice settled back against him before her stomach growled. She hadn't eaten in over a day after all, but how to wake up her chef? A sly smile formed on her face when an idea came. Careful not to wake him, Clarice lifted her head from his chest and pressed her lips to his.
For a moment, Hannibal thought he was dreaming, but the feeling of someone's hands in his hair told him otherwise. His nose then inhaled a familiar scent. Clarice. On impulse, he pulled her closer and returned the kiss. It was only when she pulled away did he open his eyes.
"If this is what I get for saving your life, I shall have to do it more often."
"No way am I going through anything remotely close to this again. You're going to have to think of something else."
"Hmm. How about I prepare breakfast while you take a relaxing bath?"he offered, trailing his fingers down her spine."Afterward, we are free to do whatever you wish that does not involve leaving the house."
"That's more like it."was her reply before she kissed him again.
Now awake, Hannibal felt everything. The freshness of her scent, the softness of her skin, and the taste of her all sent his heart rate far above eighty-five. He knew that only she could do that. Only she could make his heart lurch and his palms sweat like a lovesick teenager. When they broke apart, both were grinning like mad.
"As much as I enjoy kissing you, Clarice, you should not do it again if you plan on leaving this bed."
Still smiling, Clarice cupped his face in her hand and ran her thumb across his lips."We are stuck here until the media hype dies down. We're going to have to find something to do."
His eyes fell closed as he nuzzled her hand."Hmm. That sounds wonderful. However, I suggest we eat first. I would hate for you to get tired too soon."
"Agreed. That bath you mentioned sounds like heaven."
"The bathroom is over there, and there are slippers by the bed. Are you sure you can stand?"
"No, but I've got to try sooner or later."
Hannibal nodded silently and moved to sit on the edge of the bed with Clarice beside him. The two rose together slowly, and he kept his hands on her shoulders to steady her. Once she was stable, he let her go and kissed her quickly before leaving her to relax.
Less than half an hour later, Clarice followed the delicious scents to the kitchen. Inside, she found Hannibal with his back to her making breakfast. Quietly, she came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. Hannibal smiled and felt her rest her head on his back. Clarice knew he'd sensed her the minute she stepped into the room and probably before that, but she spoke anyway.
"Have I ever told you what an amazing man you are?"
Clarice felt his chuckle rumble through him."Yes, you have. Though, every time you have said it before I was preparing food. I am beginning to notice a pattern."
"Darn. You've figured me out. I only want you for your cooking."
"I figured as much,"he replied woefully. Hannibal slid the last pancake onto the plate with the rest and turned in her arms to face her."and I don't care. I don't care what reason you have for wanting me, Clarice. As long you do, I will be content."
Clarice moved her arms to let them wrap around his neck."That's good to know, but it's not just your cooking that attracts me to you. I'm not sure what it is but something just draws me to you. After your visits, I always felt a little bit happier and couldn't wait for you to come back. I know it sounds crazy but, I felt closer to you than to the people I saw each day."
"I understand you perfectly, Clarice. No matter where I traveled you were always in my thoughts as well. You are the only person I can truly be myself around, and I couldn't imagine my life without you in it."
"Neither could I. That's why I came after you. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if Mason had killed you."
Hannibal hugged her tighter and rubbed her back softly."That's all in the past, love. Mason is dead, and we are free. We can go anywhere in the world once it is safe, but for now, we had better eat before our breakfast gets cold."
Clarice was not shocked that Mason was dead and sat down in the chair Hannibal pulled out for her. She eyed the breakfast spread he'd prepared for them both as he sat next to her and pushed the dark thoughts from her mind."Alright. Everything smells wonderful. I'm not sure where to start."
"Thank you. I made the pancakes with you in mind. They're chocolate chip."
Clarice smiled and took two. He'd remembered how much she loved them even though she'd told him about it nearly five years ago and hadn't brought it up since. He really was an amazing man, and he was all hers. There was no other man in the world like him and there would probably never be another. Beside her, Hannibal saw Clarice's smile as she ate and smiled to himself. He didn't know what exactly she was smiling about but he had a few ideas.
"There is a search going on for you as well."
She looked up, slightly surprised by his voice."Oh?"
"Yes. The FBI is sure that I took you after I killed Mason, but they do not know if you are alive or not."
"Hmm"was all she could say. Part of her felt bad for worrying Jack and Ardelia, but she knew it was for the best. She'd leave a letter for them once she and Hannibal left. She owed them both that much at least."How did you get to Mason anyway?"
"I didn't. Someone else did the deed for me. The FBI merely assumes I did it, and we both know what happens when one assumes."
She smiled at at the old adage."Yes, we do, but if you didn't kill Mason, who did?"
"Let's just say, Margot Verger is not as upset about her brother's death as the world believes."
Clarice froze. Margot killed Mason? Then again, she'd read the reports on what he'd done to his sister, so she wasn't completely surprised. All she had probably needed was a plan and the incentive, and Clarice knew that the man next to her had provided both."That's why you weren't worried in the barn."
"Margot's plan to kill her brother was only one of the reasons. The other was that I knew the pigs would not bite me. Animals can recognize predators by their scent, and mine seems to terrify most animals."
"That explains how you got out of the barn without a scratch."
Hannibal smiled warmly at her."It also explains something else."
"Animals are able to recognize predators by their scent, and I knew that you were a predator as soon I smelled it. The only difference between us is that you chose to protect the sheep while I preyed on them."He pause to chuckle to himself for a moment before continuing."However, I knew it would not be long before the FBI realized this as well. I knew they would condemn your for being yourself, something you have no control over. I, on the other hand, love you for it."
"That's why you kept coming back. You knew I was gong to fall one day, and you wanted to be there when it happened."
"Yes. I also found your company very refreshing. Your truthfulness is also one of the many things I love about you."
Clarice was silent as his confession soaked in. He loved her. Part of her had always known, but it was strange to hear him say it. No man had said that to her and meant it since her father. There was no doubt in her mind as to whether or not he meant it. He rarely lied, and he'd proven it time and time again. Hannibal Lecter loved her.
As she contemplated this, Hannibal quickly grew anxious. Had he said it too soon? Maybe she didn't feel the same way yet. However, his fears vanished quickly when Clarice pulled him to her and into a kiss. This kiss was nothing like the ones from earlier. Those had been sweet, almost like a teenager's first kiss. This kiss was fierce and demanding. It was her way of claiming him as her own, and he returned it wholeheartedly. The two did not break apart until the need for air became too great. When they separated, they quickly became lost in each others gaze.
"I love you, too."
Hannibal smiled harder than he'd ever thought possible after hearing those words and kissed her again.
"You do not know how happy I am to hear that, but there is still much to discuss, my love."
She nodded and ran her hands down his chest."I know. How about we discuss this upstairs?"
He laughed at this. He had the feeling they would probably end up doing very little talking, but he didn't mind one bit. In fact, part of him tingled with excitement at the thought of having her all to himself for the first time. Only in his dreams had this happened before.
"Of course, Clarice,"he replied, his voice dropping to a whisper."Allow me to put this away, and I will join you momentarily. Who knows how soon it will be before we are hungry again."
Clarice shivered at the sound and gave him a peck on the lips before getting up."Don't take to long, lover. I'll be waiting."
Not wanting to be rude and keep his lady waiting, Hannibal had the kitchen clean in record time.
2 Months Later-February 7th
Lounging on a beach in the Caribbean, a woman smiled to her self. If someone had told her years ago that she'd be married and thirty-three spending and her honeymoon in the Cayman Islands, she would have laughed. In less than a year, her life had changed for the better, and she had one man to thank for it all.
I owe you one, Jack.
In his attempt to use her as bait, he had introduced her to her future. Hannibal had taken her away from it all, and she doubted she would ever be able to fully thank him but trying would be fun. He knew her better than anyone else, and in turn, he'd told her everything about him. She'd been horrified by the tale but did not pity him. Instead, she'd hugged him to her before making love to him for hours just to remind him how loved he was. Clarice smiled at that particular memory before a shadow fell over her. Speak of the devil.
Opening her eyes, Clarice saw Hannibal dressed in white linen smiling down at her. In his hands were two champagne flutes, and he passed her one before stretching out on his side beside her. She took the flute and watched him raise his own.
"Nine years ago today I met the person that would alter my life forever. To us."
Clarice smiled at the toast and raised her own glass."To us."With their arms wound together, the couple downed the champagne before Hannibal pulled her in for a kiss.
She returned it happily, letting her empty glass fall onto the sand."This trip is a much better gift than the decapitated head you gave me nine years ago."
Her husband chuckled."As I recall, you put it to good use and came back to thank me afterward."
"That didn't stop me from being slightly terrified after finding it. What am I getting next year, a still beating heart on a platter?"
"If that is what you want, my love, I shall remember to fetch you a fresh one next year,"he said, patting her hand lightly.
"Very funny, Hannibal."She knew that he wasn't joking and would really go get a heart if she asked and smiled to herself at the thought. Then, without warning, she pushed him over and stole the white fedora off of his head."Besides, I already have one man's heart, and that's enough for me."
Hannibal got up smiling and brushed the sand from his hair."Indeed you do, Clarice. At the moment, however, you also have my hat."
Clarice laughed and placed said hat on her head. She'd gotten him the hat their first Christmas together, and he hadn't traveled without it since. "Yes, I do. What are you going to do about it?"
He lunged at her then only to miss and land in the sand again. He heard her laughter and smiled before taking off after her across the beach. With just over a mile of property to themselves, Clarice had plenty of room to run. She was fast, but he was faster. Eventually, he got close enough to grab her, and they both ended up tumbling around in the sand. They came to a stop with him pinning her down.
"Now, I believe you have something of mine."
"Your heart or the hat?"
"While you currently have both, I gave you my heart freely a long time ago, so I will settle for taking back my hat now."
Still smiling, Clarice grabbed the hat, which had landed on the sand beside her, and placed it back atop his head."Happy?"
Now smiling as well, he pressed his hips to hers, trapping her completely."Almost. There is one thing that could make this even better."
She let her arms wrap around his shoulders and pulled him down toward her."I wonder what that could be."
Hannibal then closed the gap between them and pressed his lips to hers once more. The waves lapped at their feet as they remained that way for what felt like an eternity and enjoyed every second of it. Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling would never be found no matter how hard anyone looked. With no ties to anyone but each other, the world was theirs to explore.
We must depart from them now while they are wrapped in each others embrace. Their devotion to each other knows no bounds, and both would go to any means necessary to preserve their new way of life and to protect each other. Years from now, Barney will make the wise choice to flee when he discovers them, and you should do the same should you ever discover them yourself.
After all, we can only learn so much and live.