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Vide Cor Meum

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She woke with no idea of what day it was. White walls, white sheets, a man beside her, sleeping in a chair and holding her hand. He was very handsome, she saw, and he looked familiar. But how...?

As she stirred, so did he. But when she tried to speak, she discovered the tube down her throat and began to choke, then panicked even more when she found it taped in place, her neck completely bandaged. 

And that's when the memories came flooding back: Garrett, that morning in the kitchen, the cold knife against her throat, a gunshot, the sound of her blood splashing on the floor around her and then nothing... 

She gasped, clawing at the tube. Her heart pounded in her ears and her breath came quick as her eyes darted around and her hands clawed at the tube.

As he woke, he observed her reaction clinically - almost coldly. When he spoke, it was with the authority of a doctor and all the emotion of a robot: "You’ve suffered a deep wound to your carotid artery. The surgeons were able to repair the damage and you will make a full recovery."

A nurse came into the room to check on the commotion. His demeanor changed slightly; he seemed to care more as he looked into her eyes and said in a hushed, relaxing tone, “Sophie. Listen to me, focus on my voice: you are having a panic attack. I want you to breathe for me, okay? Breathe deeply in.. for one, two, three. And out for one, two, three... in..." 

He spoke slowly and in measured tones, forcing her to focus on his eyes and her breathing, and soon she felt her heart rate calm. His voice was so familiar, but she couldn't place it. All she felt was calm at the sound of his accent, elegant and smooth, and the sight of him.

His eyes were peaceful dark pools. His mouth was like a closed switchblade. He spoke now, quieter so that she needed to focus on him and him alone: "You are safe. Garrett Hobbs is dead." 

Her eyes widened - he was dead. My god, she thought, he was finally dead, and she was finally safe... 

The nurse interrupted to explain that she would remove the breathing tube now that she was awake, and in a few moments she was free to speak and alone with her visitor once again. 

She still couldn’t comprehend what was happening, but he seemed to care and that soothed her. "You'll learn all about what has happened in time, but for now your focus must remain on your health and recovery. Do you understand?" 

She nodded.

After a few moments of calm, she finally spoke for the first time since the incident. With a voice rusty from disuse, she managed one question: "Who are you?"

"My name is Doctor Hannibal Lecter. And I am here to help."

-

As it turned out, Doctor Lecter was indeed there to help her. That first day after she woke, he introduced himself formally and walked her through the chain of events that led her to her current position. 

After the FBI entered the kitchen and Garrett opened her throat, they shot him and saved her. Someone apparently held the wound on her neck closed while the ambulance arrived; that was how she had survived. But he couldn't tell her who had been her savior. No matter how many times she asked, or who she asked, no one knew - or would admit to - who had saved her. 

She found it interesting that Doctor Lecter held such an interest in her well being. He was a psychologist who worked with the FBI as a consultant on the hunt for Garrett Hobbs - or the Baltimore Shrike, as they'd named him in the press. For whatever the reason, Doctor Lecter had taken her mental recovery upon himself after being so closely enmeshed in the case. No matter his reasoning, she found after a few more visits that she rather enjoyed his company.

While she was to stay at the psychiatric ward of the hospital for the indefinite future, she also remained in Doctor Lecter's care with the occasional visit from Doctor Alana Bloom, also with the FBI. Where Doctor Lecter had no pretense, she couldn't read Doctor Bloom. Something in the way Bloom asked her questions led her to think that the good doctor was withholding information; specifically the fact that Sophie’s innocence was actually in question. 

Because she felt Doctor Bloom's skepticism in her innocence, Sophie preferred to speak with Doctor Lecter. He would hold their sessions at her bedside, in the room that they had decorated sparsely to disguise the fact that it was a room in a psychiatric hospital where they kept her, the former wife of a dead serial killer. 

His easy way with conversation and his charm belied the fact that he was a doctor. But after a few weeks of daily visits and hours upon hours of discussion, she realized that this man was much more than just a doctor. 

One day a little more than two weeks into my recovery, she woke with a start in the middle of the night after a terrible nightmare sent her into a panic. In the dream, she and Garrett were at dinner in a fancy restaurant when he suddenly turned on her and grabbed her by my hair like he had that morning, producing a knife from somewhere and bringing it to her neck. As the cold steel touched her skin, she woke, tangled in the sheets and sweating, heart pounding out of her chest. 

At his visit that day, she told Doctor Lecter about her nightmare. He listened with great interest. 

"Of course the nightmares are a normal part of the healing process," he began, his concern clear on his face. "But that doesn't make them any easier to handle."

She half-shrugged, "I just can't forget... the awful things they say he did, I don't know how... it's like I'm responsible for it."

Of course she knew the truth; Garrett had told her he would kill her if she ever left, and he instead took his violent fantasies out on women that looked like her. 

And he made Sophie lure them to him.

That power - as much as she didn’t want it, left her doubtful of her own innocence at times. So she fed Doctor Lecter safe half-truths that maintained her innocence while masking the truth; that she felt just as responsible for these girls' deaths as Garrett. She wasn’t about to reveal the whole truth to anyone, especially not with Dr. Bloom already fishing for reasons to damn her.

With Doctor Lecter at her bedside, she wrung her hands in her lap and explained that she was nervous about the nightmares coming back the next night. 

"Tonight, when you go to bed, I want you to do something for me," he began.

She nodded. 

"When you close your eyes, I want you to focus on your happy memories. Childhood recollections, holiday celebrations, whatever brings you happiness and joy, I want you to recreate those memories and examine each detail. Try to remember what you wore, how the food tasted, what the air smelled like, was it warm? Cold?”

“By occupying your mind with the details of these pleasant memories, you'll break the cycle of anxiety that leads to these dreams."

That night when she went to sleep, she focused on her pleasant memories as he'd instructed - and all of them involved Doctor Lecter, it seemed. She recalled him playing cards with her during a session the week before: how the scent of him coming in from the cold filled her nostrils, how his eyes sparkled when she bested him at chess and laughed triumphantly. She felt the warmth of the blanket on her lap against the chill in the air, remembered the way his smile curled at the corners and revealed his teeth - and how that smile only came out when he was with her. She felt herself drift off peacefully, and dreamt about how soft his lips would feel against hers.

She didn't have any nightmares that evening. But apparently she had feelings for Doctor Lecter.