A/N: I really loved this film when I was younger, and though I've seen SOTL many times over, I only recently re-watched Hannibal. Afterwards, I felt the need to write a little something about the aftermath of the events in the film. While I much prefer the film ending(the book ending makes very little sense to me), one cannot deny that there is some sort of bizarre relationship between Clarice and Hannibal, be it romantic or something else entirely. After the events in Hannibal, I figured that Clarice would probably come to the same conclusion.

When she was a naïve youth dreaming beyond the walls of the Lutheran Orphanage in which she resided, Clarice Starling never dreamt that her life would turn out the way it had. She had always wanted to work for justice. In doing so, she had hoped that she would honor her father's memory. Now, she wasn't sure if he would be pleased or mortified at what his daughter had become. Of what she had accomplished. A decade ago, she had found herself in spotlight of the media. In recent years, she had instead been caught in the media's crosshairs. And now, after the events that had happened nights before, Clarice was bracing herself for whatever drastic turn her life would next take. Once again, she was in the center of a scandal. The papers were overflowing with headlines of Hannibal the Cannibal's return and subsequent disappearance. And where his name was her name was sure to follow. It had been that way for a decade. Every piece of Lecter related literature always featured her name in one way or another. The difference now was the way in which her name featured and the scandal that surrounded it. One article in the Times was titled, "Hannibal's Bride". Another local paper reported that "Hannibal invades America to liberate Imilce". The implications of these papers were not lost on Clarice.

The media, vicious and always on the hunt for a juicy new story, had convinced the world that Hannibal had held some twisted love for Clarice and had come out hiding in order to claim her. Some papers even had the gal to suggest that Clarice returned 's alleged feelings. For her own part, Clarice admitted that he feelings regarding the illustrious doctor were complicated. She knew that she did not love him, but at the same time she had to admit to herself that there was some sort of attraction. Though she did not feel it to be romantic in nature, Clarice could also not explain the cacophony of noises her heart made every time he was near. He excited her. As someone who had undergone extensive training in behavioral analysis, she could not help but be intrigued by his twisted mind. While the things he said often repulsed her, the reason behind his words fascinated her to no end. She was also afraid of him. She feared the truth in his words. She feared how much she had let him venture into her mind. The reward was worth it, in the end. A young girl had been saved and a serial killer had been apprehended. Still, even though it had been a decade since their quid pro quo sessions, Clarice knew that Hannibal Lecter would never truly leave her mind. He was always there, as a thought or a shadow. As a memory or a nightmare. Worse still, there was no one with whom Agent Starling could share this terrible burden. No one else had ever gotten as close to Lecter as she had. As a result, she sometimes felt like a different species of human entirely. No, Clarice Starling did not love Hannibal Lecter. And yet, somewhere between the excitement and fear lingered some unknown emotion. She used to try to identify it, but now she was too afraid of what she might find.

As for Lecter's feelings towards her, Clarice was not longer sure. Over the past few years and during every speech she ever gave about her involvement in the Buffalo Bill case, she had stalwartly denied any accusations of a one-sided romantic relationship.

" is considered a psychopath, and as such cannot love in the way that you're implying", she would often say. After a while, reporters stopped asking. Her responses became so mechanical and unvaried that the media gave up all fancies about reporting a twisted love story.

Now, amidst a scandal, Clarice found herself re-evaluating her trademark response. While it was definitely true that clinical psychopaths could not love as normal humans would, they were not completely incapable. And infact, no one really knew what was. While he had been labeled both a sociopath and a psychopath by various sources across the world, Clarice had never found him to cleanly fit either mold. Indeed, there was no one else quite like Hannibal the Cannibal. He was in a league of his own. But was it possible that the reports were true and that he, the figure lurking in her every dream, could harbor some twisted love for her?

"I came halfway around the world just to watch you run in the woods. Let me run..."

No, Clarice though adamantly. He is a murderous lunatic. He knows no love.

As she tried her best to convince herself of the reality she wanted, her mind drifted back to the chilling night days ago.

Her back impacted with the reinforced refrigerator door. With her senses impeded by whatever medication she'd been administered, Clarice found herself helpless against his terrible strength. She had always known he was strong. There were times during their first interviews that Clarice was sure he would break through the glass and devour her whole. She had seen the crime scene photos of his numerous victims. What most people could not do without complex machinery, Hannibal Lecter could do with his bare hands. There was an inhuman quality to his strength, one that was far beyond normal for a man of his advanced years. Usually, she may have had a better chance of fending him off. While the bureau had more women that it used to, Clarice was used to operating in a world dominated by men. She was used to their roving eyes and loose hands. She had broken quite a few unwanted fingers in her day, and as such had earned herself a fearsome reputation. However, the realistic part of Clarice knew that even if she had been in full health, physically she could never match Lecter's monstrous strength. No agent could. If she did not know that he would consider the idea beneath him, Clarice might have suspected steroids. His grip slackened, and he said,

"I came halfway around the world just to watch you run. Let me run…"

Seeing a small window of opportunity, she lunged for him again only to be pushed back once more and held strong by his powerful hands. This time, the good doctor wasn't taking anymore chances. He secured her ponytail between the refrigerator doors and snarled. She tried to keep her face as calm as possible, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of dining on her fear. She could feel intense heat radiating from his wiry frame. Distantly, she wondered if the warmth of his body was the last thing his victims had felt before their demise.

"Tell me Clarice", he cooed, leaning to meet her eyes. She could feel his breath on the nape of her neck and she fought the urge to squirm, "would you ever say to me, 'stop. If you loved me, you'd stop'?"

Without hesitation she replied, "not in a thousand years".

"Not in a thousand years?" Hannibal mused, drawing back for a moment to consider from a far. Softly, he smirked and said, "that's my girl".

In a second she was met with the feeling of his hard, moist mouth against hers. Immobilized by the fridge door, she had no choice but to sit still and let the situation play out. His mouth was pressed so harshly against hers that she thought she could feel the outline of his sharp teeth. Remembering the fate of the nurse whose face the same mouth that was kissing her tried to devour years ago cause her to involuntarily shudder. She was so swept up in confusion and fear that she almost forgot the pair of cold, metal handcuffs that lay hidden in her dress.

Clarice sharply came to attention, scaring herself out of her daydream. She had replayed that night countless times, and after every spell she promised herself that she wouldn't think of it again. And yet she did, everyday like clockwork. Her mind seemed determined not to forget, just as the media was determined not to forget. Presently, her job was in question. Though, it was not because the bureau felt the need to dismiss her but rather that she felt the need to dismiss herself. As per usual, there had been truth in Lecter's words that night. She had come to despise the bureau. What he did not know, or perhaps simply did not say, was that Clarice had also come to despise herself. She was not the person she dreamed of being. She was not the person she dreamed that her father would want her to be. The justice that she had thought she was fighting for seemed lost in a sea of injustice. The way she had been thrown under the buss in the Drumgo case was just one in many instances that had caused Clarice to become disillusioned with her career. But what else could she do? All of her life, law enforcement had been the only path on the horizon. Without her badge, who was she? After years of wearing a bullet proof vest like a second skin, how could she even hope to start anew? She had given up her chance to settle down and have a family. Though she was still young, in her heart Clarice knew that she would never be a fit mother now. She had killed too many mothers and fathers on the job to justify having a child of her own. She had seen enough of the great, dark world that surrounded her to know that to bring life into this world—with all that she had done—would be cruel. She had turned away many suitors over the years, refusing to allow herself into a committed relationship. Against her better judgement, Clarice turned her thoughts back to the question of 's alleged feelings.

He cannot love, she reaffirmed, though this time around her mind lit up with the memory of steel and blood. Out of all that had happened, that tense moment when her hand was cuffed to his and the cleaver came crashing down onto the counter had puzzled her the most. She could list textbook reasons as to why a being like Lecter could not love. And yet, his actions that night had changed everything. He could have easily killed her. She was drugged, subdued, and at his mercy. He could have severed her hand, thus ending her career in law enforcement and ensuring that she would not be able to pursue him. He could have feasted on her flesh while she lay sleeping. He could have acted in a manner befitting of his thick casefile, filled with a dozen failed attempts and behavioral profiles. To her constant confusion however, he did not act according to her expectations.

When the cleaver hit the countertop, Clarice was sure that her hand had been taken from her. After a few seconds of closed eyes, when she realized that she could still feel her hand, Clarice opened her eyes and glanced at the man standing next to her. For someone who had just severed his own hand, he appeared remarkably calm. Infact, it was eerie how normal he appeared. His posture was hardly altered, and his voice showed no indication of the intense pain she knew he must have been feeling. The sound of police sirens and helicopters sounded nearby. It wouldn't be long until help had arrived.

"I was right, I'm afraid. It did hurt quite a bit. Clarice, would you mind handing me the kitchen towel. Yes, that's it, to your right. It isn't the optimal tool that one would hope to use in such a situation, but circumstances being what they are I feel I shall have to compromise."

As his calm voice broke the silence, Clarice mechanically handed the towel to which was referring. She didn't know why she responded so easily to his commands. Perhaps it was the drugs. Or perhaps it was the stunned realization of the feat he had just performed. A feat performed for her. Blowing her a coy wink, left the scene, severed hand in tow, and left Clarice frantically trying to free her hair from its prison.

It could have been my hand, Clarice thought for the umpteenth time that day. So why wasn't it? What does it mean?

Let me run, he had said. Could it be that like Clarice, somewhere in the twisted maze of Hannibal Lecter's mind were feelings that belonged to no name? The same feelings, perhaps, that resided in the shadows Clarice's mind, between the excitement and trepidation? This thought disturbed her greatly. If it were true, it would mean that one some unknown level of existence, past the physical realm and beyond logic, there was a part of her that was inexorably connected to the mind of a madman. That there was, as the papers suggested, at least some semblance of a twisted attachment. Clarice let her eyes wander towards he living room windows. The curtains were drawn in order to shield her from the hungry eyes of the newsfolk who were lying in wait mere feet beyond her front door.

Let me run

The ceiling fan stirred up enough air to gently ruffle the edge of one of the lighter draperies. A small sliver of morning light danced across the floor and landed on a pair of bright sneakers. Running shoes. Clarice's mouth curved into a soft smile.

Let me run...

A/N: If you feel so obliged, please review! They make my day!