Author's Note: Hey, all. This is not my first fic but it is my first fic in the SotL/Hannibal fandom. I really wanted to write a really long story with this as the first chapter, but I kept running into writer's block. Then it started heading in a direction I didn't want at all so I just cut it off, tweaked some things, and decided to make it a one shot. I really hope that y'all enjoy this.
Special Agent Clarice Starling almost growled as she exited the conference room in the J. Edgar Hoover building. Those stuffy shirts back there always wanted to blame her for some FBI mishap or another. She didn't understand, she worked hard, brought down the bad guys, and solved endless cold case files. Whatever they threw at her, she beat it down, and they got angrier each time. So they tried to pin something, anything on her. She was tired of the political games they all played with her. She was tired of doing her job like they taught her at Quantico only to be told she was in the wrong.
Clarice needed out of there and fast. Good thing that they suggested she take her stored up paid vacation days, meaning if she didn't they would make her take them without pay. She continued to storm off down the hall and all the floors down till she finally made it out into the fresh air. People passed by unaware of the turmoil going on scantly three feet away as they made their way around DC.
Things not going so well at work, dear?
The mocking, metallic voice cut through her thoughts like his harpy. She completely ignored it like she usually did in public since that night in Memphis. She wouldn't even acknowledge or respond to the voice internally, not wanting to risk speaking out loud to him again. Clarice focused back on escaping. But where to? For how long? She slowly walked the two miles to the Smithsonian Mall where she parked her car as close as possible to. Clarice was deep in thought through the short trip. She let the flow of the light crowd move her along the sidewalk in the bright sunlight. When she got there, she found a nice bench to sit on as she thought. She took off her blazer in the warm, almost summer like, weather even though it was early May. She didn't really like dressing up in those blazers and skirts when she had to see the big wigs.
Maybe if you indulged yourself on your business skirts and blazers rather than sticking with a second rate purchase, you would feel a little more comfortable.
Clarice took a moment to bask in the warm sunshine and sighed feeling her anger and frustration ease out of her body a bit more. She wanted the weather to always be like this, a light breeze taking the hot, heavy edge off of the sun and making it fresh and light instead. So she wanted to go someplace refreshing and light but not overwhelmed with annoying tourists. It being May, the tourists would actually be lighter than usual already.
Florence is always nice.
Clarice smirked letting herself only acknowledge the voice in that little way. She knew that was one of his favorite spots in the entire world.
Then it hit her; Rome.
It was full of history, bright, fresh, warm, and beautiful. Why not? Clarice stood, put her blazer back on, and found her Mustang with new purpose guiding her feet. She decided she would leave in a week or so. That would give her plenty of time to pack, exchange money into euros, and formally announce her time off to all who needed or who she wanted to know.
On the drive back, she planned as best as she could. She would take an overnight plane over the Atlantic, continue across Europe, find the hotel that she would look over on the internet before her arrival, and just lazily do what she wanted. If she wanted to swim in the ocean, she would. If she didn't feel like going out, she wouldn't; simple as that. Clarice, the overworked and unappreciated agent, would just let it all go and relax.
Clarice hesitantly smiled and gripped her steering wheel a little tighter for a second in a rush of secret joy. She felt like a child who was doing something that they knew they shouldn't be and doing it anyway for the thrill. Ever since she could remember, Clarice never did anything without purpose. She learned her lesson at the orphanage. But this trip would allow her to do things just because she wanted to do them. Her strict Lutheran upbringing prevented her from fully letting go and to become uncaring just yet. This too would pass.
Before she knew it, Clarice was all packed up for two weeks in Athens, said goodbye to Ardelia, and without so much as a "by your leave" to the FBI, she was on the plane waiting for the other passengers to get on. She sighed in a relief, tiredness, and anxiety. Clarice decided to really splurge on this trip and booked first class all the way to Rome.
That's my girl.
She shifted in the big, comfy leather chair not sure if she was uncomfortable in this new environment or just anxious to get away. As she settled, the rest of the plane was boarded and the flight took off towards New York where she would switch planes for the long flight to Madrid. There she would switch again for a straight shot to Athens. Thankfully she didn't have any long layovers. The time gave her enough space to get to the next gate but not too long where she was sitting for long periods of time.
Before long, she was in New York. As she walked along to her next gate, Clarice gawked at the not so distant metropolis lit up like a cruise ship in the middle of the dark Atlantic on a moonless night. She had never seen NYC before in her little country life. DC was her first big city. But even that wasn't as intimidating as New York. DC sprawled out fairly far but its tallest structure wasn't even close to the average size of a skyscraper in the Big Apple.
Come now, Clarice. I thought you washed your hands of acting like a rube. Tsk tsk, my dear. This time the voice adopted an imitation of the West Virginian drawl that she so desperately tried to get rid of. Just like the real voice did in Baltimore.
Clarice snapped her head forward and clenched her jaw, determined to not let the voice get to her so early in her vacation that was meant for her to unwind and forget.
You could never forget me.
She huffed and rolled her suitcase to a stop in front of a seat near her next gate. She sat and stewed in her anger at a voice that was only in her head. Clarice knew she had a problem but she also knew enough that she couldn't share this information anyone. She could see herself now sitting in a psychiatrist's office.
"I guess the voice started right after Doctor Lecter escaped in Memphis."
"Why would that make the voice start," the psychiatrist would ask in a bored tone looking down as they wrote their notes.
"Because it's his voice I hear."
The psychiatrist would probably look up slowly and just stare in shock. It is bad enough hearing and talking back to voices in your head but if the voice is that of a renowned serial killer/cannibal, then you may as well book yourself a nice stay at the local asylum. Then the psychiatrist would have to mention it to her superiors, something of this caliber would have to surpass the doctor/patient confidentiality agreement, and that would put an end to her career faster than her daddy could spit out his chew.
Nope. She would rather suppress the voice when she could and when she couldn't, she reckoned that having a hallucination of him wherever she was at the moment wasn't too bad. It's not like it happened all the time, she reasoned with herself. Just when she was overwhelmed by something then the voice would become more prominent before he just suddenly appeared somewhere near her. The first time scared the bejessus out of her so bad that she found herself point a gun at the spot on her wall where he was "leaning" up against it.
He had asked in that polite yet patronizing tone of his, "Now really, Clarice. Would you shoot me after all that we've been through together?"
She let out a strangled laugh that sounded more like a yelp and just pretended like it wasn't happening. Two more incidents like that, one in public and the other at home again, and she started talking to him. Asking why he was there and how to get rid of him. He always answered elusively just like he would if it was actually the real Dr. Hannibal Lecter standing there. Soon she gave up trying to figure it out and used the hallucination as a way to work out things she couldn't discuss with anybody. It became a regular thing when she was home alone with Ardelia off on an assignment or staying at her boyfriend of the week's place. If it ever happened in public, which was a rare thing, she would just ignore him until he decided to go away on his own. Sometimes he would show up in his white asylum uniform, other times he would be dressed to the nines like when he would entertain guests before he was caught, and the other visits would vary between his different disguises that he had adopted in the past.
So when she saw him sit in the seat across from her in the slightly busy airport in a light tan suit with a blue shirt, a tie, and a fedora, she figured the nerves of leaving the country for the first time made his image appear before her. She looked straight into his eyes and turned her head away towards the window hoping he would go away and fast. No matter what he said, she wouldn't answer here in the middle of an airport. That's what she told herself and Clarice was determined to stick to it like she had before.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw both eyebrows flick up in surprise and he left without a word. Clarice sighed and couldn't believe her luck at his almost immediate exit. She saw it as a good sign. Maybe she was stronger now and able to fight off his image. Clarice smiled at this great sign of finally letting go. Sure it was small but it was a start. Her smile faltered however when she thought about never seeing or hearing Dr. Lecter again. Even if it was in her head, she found this odd kinship and comfort in him. She shook her head trying to clear that stressful line of thought and focus on gathering her things. Her gate called for the first class to board.
Clarice could have sworn she felt eyes on her but brushed it off as nerves as she entered the walkways connected to the plane. She got herself situated in her seat with a blanket, a pill, and a book she thought she would like for the long overnight flight to Madrid while the seat next to hers was thankfully empty. She loathed having to make small talk of any kind with a stranger let alone the thought of sleeping right next to someone else unsettled her. After liftoff, she made a go at the book but found her eyes drooping almost immediately and didn't try to fight it. Clarice leaned her seat back and was fast asleep in the blink of an eye.
Clarice was in the middle of a field full of thankfully silent, grazing lambs. Off in the distance, she could see a Border Collie sitting on the top of a hill watching the heard of lambs studiously. A farmer comes from the other side of the hill and pats the Collie on the head. Time passes as it does in a dream but before long a wolf with piercing red eyes comes out of the woods bordering the meadow. The farmer and Collie spot it immediately and he shouts in a somewhat familiar voice "Get after him!"
Without any hesitation, the dog shoots after the wolf that runs into the crowd of sheep, not hurting any, just evading the dog. The farmer just stands there yelling and waving his arms like a fool. Clarice can see the wolf and dog clear as day and laughs when she realizes that the wolf was just running in loops through the sheep that are kicking up a fuss. The wolf breaks out of the herd and runs across the open part of the meadow with the dog hot on his tail. Suddenly, the wolf stops and turns with a playful glint in his maroon eyes to face the surprised dog that barrels right into him. A wrestling match of sorts commences between the two; the wolf is obviously winning by not letting the dog scratch or bite him. It seems that the wolf sees the tussle as a game with a wolfy grin while the Border Collie is taking it quite seriously. Before Clarice realizes it, the farmer comes running with a shotgun. He stops about fifty feet away, aims and fires.
Clarice gasps as she hears a loud yelp. The wolf gets up and backs away from the whimpering, bleeding mass that he had just been tussling with. He stares at her in what would pass as concern on a wolf's face. Then he looks up to the farmer, who is stunned into silence before reloading, and growls before running off into the woods. As the wolf runs, so does Clarice towards the dog and she gathers the Border Collie in her arms before she starts sobbing. The Collie quits whimpering for a moment and looks Clarice straight in the eye and in that moment Clarice can feel her pain radiating from her clear blue eyes. The farmer tries to run after him a bit to get another shot off but ends up hitting a tree two feet away from the fleeing wolf instead. The farmer sighs, seemingly used to facing the wolf, and reloads again as he heads back to the dog who is now in extreme pain whimpering and bleeding on the soft grass in Clarice's arms.
He looks over the dog not seeing Clarice and says, "Well, I guess I'll have to put her down."
Clarice screams at him to stop but only the dog seems to be aware of Clarice's presence. BANG!
Clarice shot straight up with a hand on her mouth to keep her from screaming. Her eyes bugged out and she struggled a bit before she heard a soft voice whisper, "Was it the lambs again, Clarice?"
Clarice froze keeping her eyes shut, unbelieving that the owner of that voice was so real. It was like she could feel his breath on her neck and his hand on her mouth. This was no hallucination. Or was it a hallucination? Did the hallucinations become stronger because she was officially in uncharted territory? Never before had they been this close. They always kept Dr. Lecter's normal personal space from her. Close enough to be aware but not actually touching. But this time he was almost surrounding her. He was turned sideways in his seat right arm was holding her across the waist to his front to prevent any further struggles, his left hand was comfortably pressing into her mouth, comfortable for him, clamping it shut firmly yet gently, and his breath was right in her right ear doing crazy things to her body that she quickly beat down with practiced ease. She could feel him and yet something didn't feel right.
Whatever caring note that was in his voice before was now gone and replaced by his usual patronizing tone, "Special Agent Starling, it is very rude to not answer someone of a higher station than you when they ask you a question."
Clarice's shock and confusion quickly melted into a simmering anger. Her wide eyes turned into slits, her whole body clenched, and she let out a huff of air through her nose above his hand making her sound like a wild mare that had just been roped into a ring. She responded to his question with an almost imperceptible shake of her head. If it were anyone else, they wouldn't have detected the tight, brief move.
All that he let indicate his thoughts was a slight, "Hmmmm."
When Dr. Lecter trained his attention on her, even the fake one, the heat of his gaze as he dissected her brain, was very tangible. So, the moment that the attention left, Clarice's body relaxed whether she meant for it to or not. Clarice indeed felt her body relax as Dr. Lecter receded into his memory palace and outwardly left her alone. But sooner than she would like her body tensed up again as he focused back on her.
"Will you be a good girl and not scream if I remove my hand from your mouth?"
Clarice rolled her eyes.
He tapped the tip of her nose just hard enough with his pointer finger to get her attention, "I'll have none of that, my dear. Yes or no."
She started slightly and blinked once when he tapped her nose like a disobedient yet loveable child. Then she remembered that he asked her another question. Clarice nodded and he removed his hands, lingering just long enough at her waist to be considered more than friendly but short enough so as to not be considered fondling.
"I do apologize for my ungentlemanly behavior. But desperate times…." His voice with that playful drawl was still whispering in her ear, having not moved away despite the removal of his hands, leaving the expression hanging in the air with just a hint of other things left unsaid.
Clarice still faced away from him and just nodded her head unsure of what to do or say.
"You were having quite the night terror. If it wasn't the lambs then what was it?"
Clarice shrugged her shoulders.
Dr. Lecter gently tsk'd her, "What did I tell you all those years ago, Clarice? Don't lie to me or I'll know, even if it was just your body lying. Have you so easily forgotten over these past three years?"
Clarice whipped her head around to retort and finally made eye contact with him. She shouldn't have done that. Once his eyes captured hers, she was a goner. The maroon eyes, covered with blue contacts this time, pulled her in; making it hard to breath and even harder to think.
Dr. Lecter smirked, not letting her get away that easily. He demanded, "Tell me Clarice before I get really nasty."
The threat was delivered in a taunting tone, but like almost every other word he uttered his tone was just seconds from turning into a threatening one. Suddenly, like a bolt out of the blue, Clarice remembered something she figured out long ago; despite evidence suggesting otherwise, he would never actually hurt her. He was curious. That meant she had leverage over one of the FBI's Top Ten. Any leverage, even the tiniest sliver of it, was a foothold where she could pull herself up to even the playing field a little bit more.
The wide-eyed look vanished and a smirk with slightly hooded eyes took its place. She wasn't that eager-to-please trainee that he first encountered in the basement anymore. Three years can feel like twenty if they are filled with people opposing you from every angle no matter what you do. Special Agent Clarice Starling has seen things that no one should have to see on a daily basis and has gained a protective layer as the result.
Clarice eased back into her seat with a smirk on her face and half-lidded eyes, "You wouldn't go that far. You just like watching me squirm and fear you."
Internally, Dr. Lecter applauded Clarice's move but externally he asked, "Are you sure you want to venture down that path, Special Agent Starling?"
Without a moment of hesitation Clarice left that threat hanging and replied, "Quid pro quo, my dear Doctor. Tell me why you are on this plane."
Dr. Lecter made a humming noise of approval deep in his chest at the excitement of starting up with a wonderful tango yet again. Sure it had been a few years, but how could either of them forget such an excellent partner?
So it begins.
"I'm here because I need rich culture back in my life after three years away from my home continent. Enough time has passed that the authorities aren't on high alert for me so I thought I would get out while, oh what's the saying, 'the gettins good.'"
Clarice's eyebrows jumped slightly up. That was easy. Almost too easy. She internally, cringed waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The predatorial smile crossed his face as his eyes became half closed, "Tell me about your dream, Clarice."
"It had lambs in it," she sidestepped the question while answering to an extent.
"But it wasn't screaming lambs, was it?"
"Ah ah ah, Doctor. I believe it's my turn," she smirked as he bared his teeth playfully. "Where have you been for three years?"
"America." She may have gotten better but Dr. Lecter demanded full attention and concentration. If Clarice wanted to win, she was going to have to step it up a bit. "Why did you dismiss me at the airport?"
Clarice had no idea what the hell he was talking about, "What airport?"
Did she truly not remember, did she not see him as if she was in her own world, or did she think he wasn't real? Clarice's memory was excellent so that gets rid of that. She also wasn't one to let her mind wander; she was always on high alert of her surroundings. That just leaves the last and most interesting one. He'll let her work it this one on her own. More fun that way, don't you think?
Clarice knew what he was talking about but was still wary of his presence. If she was certain that he was just a hallucination, she would have already flat out told him that she didn't want to acknowledge or speak to him in such a public place. She bit her lip in concentration causing Lecter to flick his eyes down to it and lick his own quickly. Her brow furrowed when she saw that. She didn't know of his true feelings towards her therefore she thought her own feelings were stupid and unrequited. He would never in a thousand years be interested in her that way.
Clarice knew she wouldn't be able to Houdini her way out of this one. Instead of fighting it, she decided to try to minimize the damage, "I didn't think you were actually there."
"Tell me the rest of your dream, Clarice."
The change in topic threw her off kilter making any progress she had made almost disappear. It also made her even more compliant and yet resistant somehow. This dream had very deep meanings and she wasn't even sure she understood them all. But she was definitely sure she didn't want someone else to understand them all. Especially him.
"I was in a field with a bunch of lambs and could see a Border Collie watching over them. A wolf with blood red eyes appeared and the dog gave chase. A farmer shot at the two that were almost fighting but hit his own dog. The wolf ran off after a growl at the farmer and the farmer had to put the dog down even though her wound could have been healed over time."
Dr. Lecter's smirk remained, "What do you think this dream is about Clarice?"
She had dropped her eyes to the arm rest between them and thought about it. As he spoke she lifted her eyes to his calm collected ones.
"I'm not sure exactly," he could hear how lost she was in her voice no need to look at her eyes that were unconsciously begging him to save her. She was so unaware of her own lamb-like situation. "I suppose the dog was just another tool to the farmer which he saw as disposable."
"Very good, Special Agent Starling. Go on."
Her brow furrowed again. There's more? "The wolf didn't really want to fight?"
Dr. Lecter hadn't moved this entire time, "Think about this, little Starling. Maybe these animals represent people in your life?"
Her brow furrowed once again but before she could reply he added on, "I think you should sleep again, Clarice. It might open your eyes."
She sighed and wanted to protest but her eyes were drooping shut again. What was the harm in going back to sleep?
She is in the same field full of lambs as before. The Border Collie is on the hill with the farmer yet again. It's like none of the events from the first dream had ever happened. Only this time instead of alert and unmoving, the Bordie is only half watching the field and yawning every now and then. The farmer doesn't even notice it seems. Suddenly as if he heard some sort of calling, the wolf appears again with a wolfy smile on his face.
The farmer yells at the dog to get after him but she just looks up at him as if questioning why she should. Clarice jumps as the farmer kicks the poor dog. She runs towards the wolf at half speed that dives into the crowd of sheep. This time though the dog doesn't follow the wolf, she tries to cut him off here and there as if she too thought it were a game. She did look happy this time and Clarice smiled at the peace she felt radiating from the dog.
They break out of the flock into the open field with the dog purposefully knocking into the wolf that immediately pops back up to knock her down. She is pinned underneath of him on her back showing her white belly in a show of surrender and yet there is no fear in her eyes.
A shot rings out and the two mammals face the farmer who shot at them. Missing by inches.
"You damn mutt. I shoulda known you'd give into him. Shoulda shot you when I had the chance."
The farmer makes his way towards them reloading as they growl and hold their ground. Clarice runs to them and yells at them to flee. As she comes up on the farmer she notices something peculiar; the farmer is Jack Crawford. She stops and stares before the flash of black catches her eye as the Border Collie and the wolf run together off into the woods.
Clarice awoke gently this time with a sigh if content. Then a look of confusion crossed her face. Dr. Lecter was gone. She moved to the aisle seat and peered around at the other sleeping first class passengers. He was nowhere in sight.