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Behind Masks; Before Bars

Chapter Text

Starling drives slower than she should, listening to the monotonous voice playing from her phone's speakers as the GPS app tells her the route to take. Gravel crunches beneath the car's tires, clinking against the underside of the car. The sound helps clear Starling's thoughts as the house appears in the gaps between the branches of the oaks and pines lining the sides of the driveway leading up to the Doctor's house.

Though it is only a storey high, Starling would not consider the property a bungalow; the word seems too mundane, not grand enough to describe the home that Du Maurier purchased after her last encounter with Lecter. Its contemporary design, fairly similar to her previous residence, makes use of numerous window walls that would give the occupant a view to the outside, but Du Maurier has hung thick velvet curtains to obscure the interior of the residence from any prying eyes that may look in. Understandable, given how many times the police have been called out to escort a member of the press off the property.

Starling drives to the back of the house to the attached garage, pauses when she finds a vehicle already parked outside. She lets the engine idle as she checks her watch to ensure she is on time – she is – and wonders whether Du Maurier has forgotten their appointment time.

Gingerly, careful not to scrape against the SUV, a maroon Jeep Liberty, she pulls in to the driveway and parks, leaving a large enough gap that the other driver should be able to open their door without damaging the paintwork on the older model Ford Focus she borrowed from Quantico.

She waits a moment in the driver's seat, unsure of whether or not to walk around the front of the property and knock or wait until the other visitor leaves. Nerves rising, she checks her watch again – a few minutes have passed. Had she hurried to the front door rather than lingering in the car, she would have been on time.

The corner of her lip twists as she unbuckles her belt and reaches for her satchel, placed in the footwell of the passenger seat. She opens the door, determination breaking through the wall of uncertainty built in her mind, and makes her way to the front of the house, where a vaguely familiar figure stands in the open doorway, conversing easily with Du Maurier. Starling stops abruptly, eyeing the Doctor's guest.

Freddie Lounds turns to Starling. Her eyes widen fractionally as she takes in the sight of the young agent. A tense second passes before she smiles, amusedly, and turns back to Du Maurier. It is as though a well-guarded, private joke passes between the two as they say their goodbyes.

Starling waits for her to round the corner before turning back to Du Maurier.

“I apologize that you had to wait.” Du Maurier steps back, holds the door open with one hand. “Come inside, Agent Starling."