I saw a stunning piece of fanart by a Tumblr user called starlinglamb, check them out, and was inspired to write this story. It's a role reversal of our two favourite characters in Silence of the Lambs, Clarice and Hannibal, in a series of poignant vignettes from the film. Imagine if Clarice were the cannibal psychiatrist, and Hannibal the FBI agent...
Quick note, this will likely just be a oneshot, not a full-length fic, unless I get some really good inspiration.
Special Agent Hannibal Lecter turned his head minutely, and put the dumbbells down gently. He turned to regard the caller coolly. The training instructor nodded stiffly before continuing.
"Mr Crawford wants to see you in his office." Hannibal raised an eyebrow briefly, a flicker of movement on an otherwise still face.
"Did he give a reason?" The instructor frowned.
"No, but if I was you I'd be quick about it. He sounded awful desperate."
"If I were you," Hannibal corrected softly, as he arranged the dumbbells neatly, and selected a clean towel from the rack.
"Excuse me?" He straightened, and turned his body completely to face the instructor, who looked a little irritated.
"If I were you, not if I was you." said Hannibal, letting the emphasis fall on the 'were'. The instructor's already ruddy cheeks coloured.
"Yes, well, be on your way, Lecter."
"Certainly." Lecter smiled on his way out of the gym. It was only then did he imagine what treat dear old Jack had in store for him. He had been awfully good recently.
The tone of his name in Jack Crawford's mouth was alltogether colder, the consonants clicking against his teeth. Hannibal found he enjoyed Jack's clear dislike, it made their interactions so much more fun.
"You wanted to see me." From Lecter, the question was a statement, and Jack sat down behind his large bureau.
"Yes, I need you to run an errand for me." Lecter raised both eyebrows in a gesture of polite surprise.
"Years of training and work, study and sleeplessness, to finally achieve an errand." His tone was polite, but his head was tilted patronisingly to the right to regard Jack's deepening discomfort.
"Fine, a highly important mission. I need you to visit an inmate of Dr. Chilton's, and get her to fill in this questionnaire. We need the insight for the Behavioural Sciences Unit."
"And who's the subject?"
"The psychiatrist, Clarice Starling." Hannibal let out a breath.
"Clarice the Cannibal," he murmured.
"Yes, but I'm told she hates that nickname, so don't use it around her unless you want to leave the asylum missing a few parts."
Hannibal nodded, and scooped up the necessary files and of course the questionnaire."
"Now, Hannibal, this is very important; do not tell her anything personal. Believe me, you do not want Clarice Starling in your head. Never forget what she is."
"And what is that, Mr Crawford?"
"Oh, she's a monster, pure psychopath. It's so rare, you see, to capture one alive. From a research standpoint, Starling is out most prized asset."
Hannibal nodded, wishing that this Frederick Chilton would close his mouth and lead him to the cells, where he could actually perform the task he came to do. To occupy time while the Doctor droned, Lecter spared a scathing glance at the décor. Drab, tasteless, and that medical disploma looked rather faked. It seemed Doctor Chilton was no more a doctor than Jack Crawford was without grey hairs. The man needed to learn how to dye his hair well.
"Thank you, Dr. Chilton. May I see the subject now?" Hannibal cut across Chilton's self-absorbed speech, which earned him a petulant look, like a child being told to share their toys.
"Yes, of course. This way."
Chilton led Hannibal down a confusing network of corridors, stairs, porticullises and rooms, and when they reached the final flight of stairs, he stopped abruptly, and pulled a small photograph from his inner blazer pocket. He handed it to Hannibal, who took it with no reaction.
"Here's why we insist on such precaution around Ms Starling. On the twelfth of September last year, she complained of severe abdominal cramps and was taken to a waiting room to see a doctor. When the nurse leaned over her, she did what you now see in that photogrpah." He paused, watching Lecter study the photo. "The doctors managed to re-set his jaw, and save one of her eyes. Her heart rate never went above 85, even when she ate his tongue."
"Clearly, you are wise to establish such strict security," Hannibal stated, "If you'll continue?" Chilton had expected more of a reaction from Lecter, indeed, wated it, but he remained cool and collected.
"Yes, yes, here we are."
"Thank you, Doctor. That will be all." Hannibal seemed to dismiss Chilton, who reddened and turned on his heel, making his way back up the steps, looking spurned. Hannibal wanted to laugh at his childishness, but he had a job to do.
A tall man came towards him, his dark skin in perfect contrast to the white of his uniform.
"Hi, I'm Barney. He told you 'don't go near the glass'?"
"Yes, he did, Hannibal Lecter." Hannibal extended his hand and Barney shook it warmly, before gesturing to the hooks on the left hand side wall.
"You can hang your coat up, if you like."
"Thank you, I will." Hannibal liked Barney. He had an ease to him, that made him seem gentler than the glowering man who sat at the desk behind him.
"She's to your left, the last cell. I've set out a chair for you."
"That's very kind of you, Barney, thank you."
"It's no problem, sir. Good luck, she responds well to courtesy. I'll be watching." Hannibal nodded his thanks as Barney slid the heavy gate to the warden's office shut, and flipped the lever to let the gates to the cells grind open, like teeth.
Hannibal stepped into the maw.
Her accent was unexpected. Pure West Virginia, the 'g' almost nonexistant in the 'morning'. Her voice was husky, like she had just woken up. Or maybe from disuse. But otherwise her tone was calm, polite, welcoming even. Dr Clarice Starling was dressed in a rather shapeless blue jumpsuit, the collar far to wide on her delicate collar-bones, the gentle dip of her clavicle exposed to the pale light. Her hair was of medium length, to her shoulders, with strands hiding parts of her forehead. Her eyes were a cold blue, like winter frost.
"Hello, Ms Starling. May I speak with you?"
"You may. What's your name?" So far her expression had not changed one iota, Hannibal reflected. Maybe a little upturn at the corner of her mouth, if that.
"Special Agent Hannibal Lecter."
"Long name," she remarked.
"No longer than yours, Doctor Clarice M. Starling MD." Hannibal almost smiled to see her eyebrow lift a degree.
"Touché. May I see your credentials?"
"Certainly." He showed her his badge.
"Closer, if you please." Hannibal extended his arm. Clarice tutted, a smile playing around her lips for the first time.
"Closer." She sang, and beckoned him with a finger. Her nails were smooth and short, her hands small and white. Hannibal obliged, his face a calm mask. Starling stepped closer herself, and inspected the badge, the photo, the dates.
"Thank you. Was it Mr Crawford that sent you?" Her cold eyes met his, and Hannibal resisted the urge to flinch at her stare.
"Yes, he wanted a questionnaire filled in, for the Behavioural Sciences Unit."
"The phrase is 'filled out', Agent Lecter." Clarice stated.
"Not for me, Dr Starling. I'm not American." Clarice's eyebrows raised almost an inch closer to her hairline.
"How interesting. Where are you from originally, then?"
"Lithuania, but I believe the person who should be answering questions is you, Dr Starling." Starling inclined her head with an intrigued smile, her eyes never leaving Hannibal's. He was beginning to feel distinctly different, in only five minutes of conversation with Dr Starling.
"Pass it through, if you would be so kind." Hannibal set the questionnaire in the food tray, and pushed it through into the cell. Starling took the folder, and flicked through it a little carelessly. She spared a glance upwards, and gestured.
"Sit, please. Don't stand on my account."
"Thank you," Hannibal said, and moved the folding chair a few inches closer to the glass.
A pause hung between them as Clarice read the questions, her eyes focused, flitting across the page. Her fingers stroked the edges of the paper. Finally she closed the questionnaire with a resigned chuckle.
"Oh, Agent Lecter, this is insulting at best."
"I'm afraid I didn't write it, and I cannot force you to fill it in, of course." Clarice's eyes hardened and she set the questionnaire aside to face him properly.
"No, you cannot. You don't have the power. I may the one in the cell, but you're truly impotent, aren't you? Your life is restricted to small movements, barely even ripples, little jobs, not trusted with the big roles. No one really gets you, do they, Agent Lecter? No one truly understands you for you. You're an anomaly, an outsider. I'll bet people are scared of you, like they're scared of me. They don't know your power, or your potential, so they keep you small and sedated with little errands and tasks. I reckon you live alone, and although you kid yourself that you like it that way, you desire deeper connections with your fellow man, a partner, a girlfriend, a lover. You're as lonely as I am, Agent Lecter, and you know it."
Her eyes were hungry for his reaction, staring emptily at his. Her mouth had fallen open a degree, and she breathed as if she had exerted herself. She looked excited, for the first time.
"Impressive, Clarice. Very impressive. How many men have you sent from this dungeon neutered by your cutting words? How many psychologists have been insulted and ignored, while you sit and smirk and enjoy your superior intelligence? Is this your only entertainment, your lot in life? I'm sure it is. Must be a dull life, the one you lead. Locked in a cell for twenty-four hours a day, no room to stretch or move. I'll bet you liked to run, I'll bet you still do, but you can't. I may be lonely, but I can change that. You cannot."
Clarice looked frozen, her cold eyes shining with emotion. This FBI agent had turned her own game against her, and snatched her only power out of her hands. For a brief moment, she was incandescent with rage, and her fingers pulsed with the need to wrap her fingers around something and squeeze.
Then she smiled. A match for her, she marvelled, and sat back as the realisation washed over her.
"You are equally as impressive, Hannibal, if I may call you by your given name," he nodded politely. They regarded each other carefully, both surprised at the odd feeling of companionship between them.
"May I ask that you fill in the questionnaire by tomorrow morning, 9 o' clock?" Clarice smiled crookedly, and watched as he rose fluidly.
"I look forward to it. Hannibal." She nodded her goodbye.
"Quid pro quo, Hannibal. Yes or no?" The question didn't sound like a question, it far more resembled a statement. Lecter didn't feel like he had a choice. He nodded, indicating to Dr Starling to begin. She smiled.
"What is your worst memory of childhood?" Hannibal swallowed, and let his eyes flutter shut for a brief moment.
"The death of my sister," he admitted, eyes still closed, "I was very young."
"How did she die?" Clarice was staring at him hungrily, swallowing every kernel of emotion Hannibal expressed. Her hands were curled, resting on her blue thighs.
"Four men were trying to survive the war, and had kidnapped the two of us. I was too skinny, too etiolated. Mischa still had her baby fat, and they could make use of me as a slave. She was barely more than a baby." He opened his eyes, but continued to look down at his hands. Clarice waited.
"They killed and cooked her. A few days later, they handed me a bowl of broth. I was far too traumatised to realise what I was eating, and far too hungry. It wasn't until years later that I underwent personal memory hypnosis in an attempt to remember, and realised the truth." His voice was flat, a rasp entering his tone.
Clarice wasn't truly sure how to react. On the one hand, she was desperate for emotion and reaction. She was starving for it. On the other hand, Hannibal's confession was incredibly traumatic, and she didn't want to drive him away with insensitivity.
"Do you miss her?" Hannibal finally looked up at her, and she marvelled at the veiled emotion in his face. Part of his lip was tucked under the upper palette, which he released quickly.
"Yes, but she is behind me now." Clarice tilted her head, contemplating, "May I ask why you believe he removes the victims' skins, Dr Starling?"
"The girls' skins? What do you believe, Hannibal?"
"A twisted certificate of accomplishment, perhaps... Most serial killers do keep some kind of trophy from their victims."
"I didn't." Stated Clarice, with a crooked smile. She licked her lips once, just to see his reaction.
"No, you ate yours." Hannibal mused, with no horror in his voice. He sounded matter-of-fact. Clarice was surprised, but pleasantly. He didn't rise to her bait, or maybe he truly wasn't scared.
"That reminds me," she rose, turning her back on Lecter, "I have your questionnaire, if indeed Jack wanted my answers in the first place." She settled the folder into the sliding tray, and shoved it through. Hannibal noticed the cuffs on her sleeves were rolled to her biceps, and he watched the muscle tense and bunch in exertion. She had a wiry, scrappy strength, much like his own, the cut of her arm shadowed dark in the harsh light of the cell.
"Thank you, Dr Starling. I will pass this on to Jack as soon as possible." He rose to leave.
"Agent Lecter?" Clarice called, as he was halfway down the corridor.
"Yes, Dr Starling?"
"Thank you." He nodded at her, lips drawn together tightly.
Hannibal sighed heavily at his graphite-stained fingertips. He really should learn to shade with proper shading pencils, but the desire to touch and feel his work was too strong, and he always ended up using his fingers to smudge and shade.
His most recent piece was giving him grief. It was Dr Starling, in her cell, eyes open hungrily, leaning forward as if seeking contact.
Below that was a still of her holding a scalpel in her delicate white hands, blood dripping to her wrists.
She was strangely inspirational to his drawings, with her sharp lines and hard eyes. He hadn't had the time to draw recently, but this case gave him more free time than he had expected, and his hands itched for a pencil.
The graphite was under the nails of his right hand, and his middle fingertip was flattened where he had held the pencil too tightly.
He took another look at the drawings, and sighed again.
I didn't want to completely flip the roles, and have them each say the opposites' lines. So I got a bit creative, and wrote how I imagine they would behave if their roles were truly reversed. This also (I believe) is my longest every one-shot. Review, if you please!