Do Quantum Universes Dream of Fictional Characters?
by Jennifer-Oksana (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fandom: Grey’s Anatomy/Silence of the Lambs
Disclaimer: Shonda Rimes, ABC, and various other legal entities are the copyright holders on the characters. As are Thomas Harris and all the Hannibal people. I just do the remixing in a fair-use-y kind of way.
Summary: This is who Erica was, and how much trust she has. Come on, you have to guess what this one is about.
Erica Hahn hates drama. Of course, that makes her a ginormous hypocrite, because Erica Hahn is not who she says she is. She has a secret identity, a past life, whatever the hell you want to call it. In her last life, Erica Hahn was the LORD of drama.
Here’s what happened: twenty years ago, Erica was kidnapped by a serial killer and stuck down a dry well. She screamed a lot and then was saved by a rookie FBI agent who was mentored by a cannibal.
Yes, that serial killer, that FBI agent, and that cannibal.
Survivor’s guilt is an extra-big bitch when you’re the one who lived, and everyone in the entire world knows you’re also the one who screamed like a little bitch while stuck down a well with a standard poodle standing guard. In fact, it redefines both suck and survivor’s guilt.
Right after the stupid freaking movie came out, Catherine Martin realized that she was already tired of being Catherine and that it was only going to get worse. So little Catherine called in all the favors she could for being Catherine Martin…
…and stopped being Catherine Martin.
One day she was Catherine Martin. The next day she was Erica Hahn. Erica moved out west, got rid of her accent, and became a doctor. Not just any doctor, but a surgeon. A really fucking good surgeon at that.
Nobody looks at her with pity now. Nobody stares at her and whispers, “hey, that’s the girl–” because Catherine never stopped being a girl, not even twenty years later — “from Silence of the Lambs. Not the agent, the one in the well.”
Nobody knows, and Erica likes it that way.
Okay, the shrinks know. It was one of the conditions her powerful friends set for her. Seems that people as traumatized as Catherine Martin was have a bad habit of turning into serial killers without professional care, and so Erica Hahn goes to a therapist twice a week, every week, until the day she dies.
Not that any of the shrinks buy it at first. It takes them about three sessions to look at her, really look at her, and mutter, “well, you do look like the actress in the movie…”
Erica met her once, too. Becky or Brooke something. Nice person. Erica thinks she’s on ER now or something.
Still, it’s a step in the therapist coming to believe that Erica Hahn, icy super-surgeon, was Catherine Martin, weepy super-victim. It’s something they have to say to accept that they are treating Buffalo Bill’s most famous non-victim.
Plus, they love that she’s a surgeon. Everyone asks her if she did it to become the anti-Bill.
Erica always shrugs.
If you’re going to be a Freudian about it, sure. Bill used his knife to end life, and Erica stitches life back together with hers.
She unbreaks hearts.
She saves lives.
And all of those are good things. Still. Erica doesn’t want her career, her choices, her everything to be about Bill.
That’s why she stopped being Catherine Martin. Catherine Martin was always doomed to be Bill’s victim, making choices because of him. Erica Hahn, on the other hand, is free and glad to be free. In permanent therapy, because being stuck down an oubliette with a nasty poodle for a friend permanently fucks you up, no matter if you’re the same person or not, but she’s not Catherine Martin and thank god for that.
The current shrink is pretty good, as these things go: the question she asks Erica, right before Grey busts in with whatever petty-crap problem she has, is, “why do you keep coming to therapy if you think you have all the answers you need?”
That’s a good question, one that would keep another woman awake at night. But Catherine Martin still lives in the corners of Erica Hahn’s psyche, and Catherine thinks getting all dramatic over spending too much time in therapy — or the way Callie keeps looking at her before running off with Sloan — or the way Erica is treating Yang — is ridiculous.
Erica has lived through worse. That’s always what Catherine thinks. She’s been through worse and dealt with it.
For example. For a very relevant example, the night after Catherine was pulled out of the hole, she cried for two hours, clung to her mother for another hour, and then slept like the dead for three days.
It is entirely possible to sleep during the worst days of your life if you have to.
Erica doesn’t have all the answers, but she has a lot of them, and she knows that she goes to therapy because it works for her. No therapist ever says no to the former Catherine, because come on. Catherine Martin? She’s a pop-culture icon of sorts. The entire gaggle of residents would probably adore Erica, bitchiness and all, if they knew she was Catherine. Everyone loves a victim, and everyone adores survivors of brutal tragedy.
Even if they think they’d scream less if it were them, trapped down a well getting told to put the lotion in the fucking basket.
Erica thinks she did quite well, successfully luring Precious down the hole. The FBI thought she did pretty good, come to that. The Director, in his big serious voice, said that she had probably kept herself alive long enough to be saved.
Yeah, well. Erica’s glad she’s not dead, but there really isn’t much to say to that.
Most of the time, Erica’s life is not about keeping her past walled off from her present. In fact, Erica’s life is mostly about Callie Torres right now. Because Callie is beautiful, and Callie is fun and pushy and won’t take no for an answer if Erica is scowly. It makes it harder to worry about Catherine giving up if Erica is too busy doing sunrise yoga or having drinks at Joe’s, or back-and-forthing with Yang and hearing Callie say, “seriously, she’s not that bad. And I heard that she was Burke’s hands for a while” and Erica rolling her eyes and saying, “she was more than his hands, if you know what I mean” and them laughing.
Then Callie kisses her in the parking lot and she’s really and truly Erica for a minute. There’s nothing else to her except being a surgeon with a beautiful woman who loves her enough to try girls for her. Erica loves it, every last hour of that feeling.
And then all that Catherine is comes crashing back in, because Erica is in love. She’s been in love before, but Callie is different. Callie is special, and Erica knows that every time she’s lost a woman before, it’s been about all those secrets that Erica doesn’t like to share.
So she asks the therapist about what to do.
“You want to tell your lover about your past?” the therapist asks, raising her eyebrows. “You’ve said in the past that Catherine Martin is better off gone. I also know you’ve said that you don’t want to be pitied.”
“I don’t want to be pitied,” Erica says tightly. “But I think that what happened to me is a part of me, and that not talking about it caused my exes to think I was holding something back.”
“So what’s different about this one?” the therapist asks shrewdly.
Callie is brave, that’s what’s different. Callie fell in love with a girl and didn’t toss what she felt because it made Callie uncomfortable. Callie wants to live life her way and sometimes she messes up in the process — Erica can’t believe Callie slept with Sloan for the stupid reasons Callie slept with Sloan — but she gets up and keeps going.
Callie Torres is basically the woman Catherine Martin wanted to be when she gave up being Catherine Martin, and that’s what Erica finds irresistible about her.
“She was honest with herself and me, even though it was hard,” Erica says. “I think she deserves honesty from me.”
“Does this put you in any danger?” the therapist asks.
“Not really,” Erica says. “I’m not formally in witness protection. And I…Catherine, anyway…was never very interesting to Lecter for herself alone. When he…reunited…with Agent Starling, I was more worried, but it’s been nearly a decade. I’m not part of the story anymore.”
Dr. Wyatt suddenly stops, as if remembering that yes, Agent Clarice Starling is real and that yes, she had run off with Hannibal Lecter. It’s not something Erica is ever going to forget. Or forgive, for that matter.
Anyone else, maybe, but not Agent Starling.
“Then I think if you think it’s best, there’s no reason not to tell Dr. Torres,” the therapist says, more questions than answers in her usual steady gaze.
Erica sees the little tremble in the woman’s hands when she puts the file away. That, too, she’s used to with therapists. There’s always a moment when it turns too real for them, where the mild dissociation Erica has between her past as Catherine Martin and her present as Erica Hahn suddenly turns into the facts of the case. Erica Hahn spent a good period of time screaming in a pit, begging a serial killer not to cut her skin off while Clarice Starling begged another serial killer to help her find Catherine.
How Callie’s going to react, Erica can’t even begin to know. She’s never even thought of telling anyone before, not seriously.
What happens is that Erica buys a bottle of scotch — a very evil part of her thinks of buying a nice Chianti, but then she wants to puke, and gets the Maker’s Mark instead. She tells Callie to come to her place for dinner — take-out from the Thai place they like.
And after dinner, Erica clears her throat and asks, “So, you’ve watched Silence of the Lambs, right?”
“Yeah,” Callie says, raising an eyebrow. “Great movie. Jodie Foster’s best. Why?”
“You know how they’re real people, right? All of ’em,” Erica says, feeling completely nervous. “It was based on a true story.”
“Yeah,” Callie says slowly, shuddering slightly. “Which is kind of creepy, knowing there’s a real Hannibal Lecter out there, who could eat you.”
“He’s not really like that,” says Erica. “As I understand it, Lecter has this really intense game-playing thing going on. He’s not going to pick Jane Doe off the street for dinner, unless she plays into his psychodrama.”
Callie pauses. “Big Silence of the Lambs fan?” she asks dryly.
“Not exactly,” says Erica, swallowing hard and just saying it. “Look, I’m…I was…the girl. Catherine Martin. The it of ‘it puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.’ I kind of freaked out, changed my identity and became a surgeon.”
As expected, Callie doesn’t say anything for a full minute. Three full minutes. And then she says, “You must hate the ten thousand parodies of that scene.”
“I might have stopped watching TV after the South Park version,” Erica admits.
Callie swallows. “Jesus. This is really screwed up,” she says. “You’re the girl from Silence of the Lambs.”
“Yeah,” Erica says. “I was, anyway.”
It occurs to Erica that Callie just…believes her. No banter about how she looks like the actress, no denial. Callie believes her.
Erica’s heart beats faster because God, there’s so much to Callie. There’s so much that Erica won’t know what to do if this drives them apart.
“Some guy was going to cut you up and make you into a woman-skin coat,” Callie says.
“Yeah,” Erica says.
“What happened to the dog?” Callie asks.
Erica frowns. “I kept it until it died one day,” she says vaguely. She doesn’t want to explain how she thinks her roommate let Precious wander out into traffic. That’s just one of the things that Erica doesn’t really think about except at therapy, and sometimes not even then.
“Your mom’s a senator,” says Callie.
“My mom was a senator. She died about eight, nine years ago,” Erica corrects meticulously. Once her mother had died, it was easier to cut every last tie to her former life. It would be hard to track Catherine Martin now. When Senator Martin died, Catherine had come home and burnt everything that connected her to Erica Hahn, taken her birth certificate and burnt Catherine’s passport.
Erica misses her mother. The Senator. They used to make jokes, Senator Mom and all the usual cheesy crap. And her mother had been so hurt when Catherine became Erica and never called or wrote and was this different person. In the end, Senator Mom had understood — when Starling quit the FBI to hang out with a cannibal, all the old publicity started up and her mother had gotten ill, watching the endless parodies of Catherine screaming in a pit — but never liked it.
“Do you think Hannibal the Cannibal will come for you someday?” Callie asks.
“No,” Erica admits. “I sometimes wonder if Clarice Starling will make the lambs stop screaming by tracking me down and bashing my head in, but Lecter does not care about me at all. Thank God.”
Callie stares at her, open-mouthed. “How can you not be freaking out right now?” she asks.
“I’m in serious therapy,” Erica says. “And it’s been almost twenty years. You’re the only person I’ve told, by the way. You and the therapist.”
Callie nods, still not quite able to close her mouth. “I think I need to like, go home and process the part where my girlfriend is secretly scary famous,” she says.
Erica bites her tongue, because the part of her that feels scared to death about telling anyone who’s not a psychiatric professional about her dark secret past wants to ask, “is Mark Sloan going to be part of that processing?” because Callie is just contrary enough to bring him aboard if Erica said that.
“Okay, that’s fair,” says Erica. “Just…don’t process alone for too long. It gives you nightmares.”
Except that of course, it’s not Callie who gets nightmares after she goes home to her couch and her life with no unexpected horror movie victim girlfriend. It’s Erica who dreams about what would happen if Lecter decided to come back and see whatever happened to little Catherine Martin.
Erica really can’t see it happening; Erica Hahn is not the nicest person in the world, but she’s a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon who isn’t too visible. But Catherine remembers her mother telling her all the terrible things Lecter said, and Erica remembers thinking Agent Starling would never…not even if she had to die first…so anything is possible.
Of course, it takes place in an OR; instead of finding a patient on the table, it’s Lecter, leering up at her. He looks more like Anthony Hopkins than not, because Erica’s not immune to pop culture, no matter how hard she tries to be.
“Doctor Hahn,” he purrs.
“Doctor Lecter,” Erica hears herself say.
“It’s really quite ingenuous. Instead of becoming an empty shell, chased by ghosts and haunted by the past, you became someone else and cast off the shadows,” Lecter says in that oily, lecherous tone that Hopkins had in the movie. “In short, you killed the past so that little Catherine Martin didn’t chase you around. I approve, Doctor. Quite an ingenuous transference, a death and rebirth into the light.”
“What do you want?” Erica asks, folding her arms. She has a scalpel in her pocket. She always has a scalpel in her pocket. If he lunges, she’s got almost enough time to open a vein.
“It occurred to me that a senator’s daughter with the wit to fend off death for just long enough should be prominent,” Lecter says, regarding her with a brimstone glint in his eye. “But Catherine Martin was as silent as the grave. Not even a wreck of a woman, demanding money from the vultures who made the film and profited from her exploitation and torture.”
“Not my style, Doctor,” Erica would say. “Am I walking out of this room alive?”
He would smile at her. “You do so much want to live, don’t you, Doctor?” he asks. “What would you do to live?”
“Nothing,” Erica says, because she decided this after Agent Starling disappeared with Lecter. If the choice is death or losing who she is, she’d rather die, just slice open an artery and bleed out to make sure Lecter doesn’t work his way into her head.
“Nothing,” Lecter echoes, tsk-tsking. “What about your friends, your colleagues? What about your lover? What would you do for them to live?”
And that’s when Erica wakes up and can’t go back to sleep for the rest of the night.
What would she do? What would she do?
Nothing. Erica would do nothing. She can almost hear her therapist asking, “why would you do nothing?”
But she couldn’t win, playing a game with Hannibal Lecter. That’s the whole point. When you’ve stared into the face of evil, the abyss, whatever you want to call it, Erica thinks, you know better. It’s their game and no matter what move you make, you’re playing their game and they win.
The only way to win against evil is not to play.
It’s that scene from No Country for Old Men when Chigur tells the girl to call the coin and she won’t — and it hits Erica that she’s using a made-up movie to make her point about real evil and real bad guys.
Irony. Beautiful, sleep-killing irony.
Callie is waiting for her in front of the hospital when Erica gets there, slurping on her coffee and wishing there was such a thing as a caffeine IV.
“Hey,” Callie says tersely. “We should maybe talk.”
“Can we do it semi-privately?” Erica asks. “Like I said, only you and my therapist know about this stuff.”
Callie nods. “Okay,” she says. “Okay.”
They go sit in Erica’s car, silent and fidgety and Erica wants to brush the hair out of Callie’s face and tell her that it’s all going to be okay, except maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s not.
“It doesn’t get any less weird,” Callie says. “I had a nightmare last night. I kept seeing you trapped down this well and I wanted to get you out and I couldn’t.”
Erica nods. “I’ve had that nightmare,” she says. “Usually it’s a patient of mine trapped down there. It sucks.”
Callie is very quiet, as though all of this is hard to process. Because, Erica realizes wryly, it is hard to process. “Do you ever dream about Hannibal Lecter?” she asks.
“Sometimes,” Erica says. “I never met him, you know.”
“No shit?” Callie asks. Erica nods vigorously. “That kind of blows.”
“No, really not,” Erica replies. “I am more than content to have Hannibal the Cannibal forget I ever existed. Forget that Catherine Martin ever existed.”
Callie puts her hand on top of Erica’s. It’s warm and Erica wants to cry. Erica never wants to cry, and Callie is bringing out the inner girlie-girl in her because it’s too much. Callie is too amazing for Erica Hahn and even though Erica’s doing so many things wrong, Callie gets more amazing every time.
“So you know, I’m a little freaked out,” Callie says. “But also, thank you.”
“Thank you?” Erica asks, confused.
“If I’m the only other person that knows about this besides your therapist…yes. Thank you. I don’t know how to explain,” Callie says, squeezing Erica’s hand. “You trust me that much.”
“I do,” Erica says, feeling her heart in her throat in a way she hasn’t felt in years. Maybe not since she stopped being Catherine Martin. “I can.”
It’s a question and the answer all at the same time. Erica isn’t sure what else she can say, but for now, it seems like it’s enough.