Hanni did not wait for his human to fall asleep before quietly slipping out of the house. If he did that every night, he would never find the time to hunt. Will Graham was a sweet-tempered insomniac with a looming deadline and a fifteen page editorial letter sitting on his desk demanding attention. No, if he waited for Will to go to bed, there would be no sleep for either of them tonight.
It worried Hanni; this constant workload, lack of sleep, and the pitiful diet Will subjected himself to day in and day out. Hanni owed Will his life after all, but beyond that, Will was special—a genuinely good and civil soul. It was rare to find those qualities among humans. Humans were rude, loud, and they smelled. Horribly!
But not Will. Will was purr-fect. If only there was more Hanni could do for him.
Maybe I'll bring him a nice fat heart, Hanni thought. Yes, that would do nicely. He would leave it tastefully by Will’s favorite coffee cup where he’d be sure to find his token of affection the next morning.
Now all he needed were the rats….
An hour later, Hanni had five kills to his name; however, none of the hearts were large enough to be exactly what he wanted. He turned his pink nose up in disgust at the disemboweled carcass at his feet, and caught a whiff of something he liked even less than his prey: rain.
Hanni ruffled his whiskers. He did not like rain. Rain brought mud, and it took forever to clean mud out of his sleek, white fur. He needed to get home before he got caught in it, but he kept thinking of Will—home alone and troubled.
I will try once more, he decided. Surely there was enough time.
He walked to the next alley following the sound of a faint snuffling, which he hoped was a very large rat.
Alas, it was not. It was worse than that, FAR worse.
It was a dog, and a puppy from the look of it, ugh. The puppy was one of those small, toy breeds and was likely smaller still beneath all those chocolate curls. Hanni hated puppies almost as much as he hated humans. He was about to turn around when he heard a faint whisper between all the snuffling.
The name drew Hanni’s interest. “Hannibal” was actually his full name, although Will preferred to call him Hanni on a day-to-day basis (unless Hanni was being scolded for some nonsense reason.) And what Will preferred, Hanni preferred too, so Hanni it was.
“Yes,” Hanni said bemused by the coincidence. “Can I help you?”
The puppy startled and didn't even bother to respond before darting into the nearest open box.
Hanni sat down and waited to see if the puppy would re-emerge, but he did not. How rude! Well, to the pound with him too.
He was just about to leave the mongrel to his fate when the first peel of thunder rolled across the sky. It was a low, aggressive rumble that rattled the wrought iron fire escapes in their brackets. Sometimes Hanni's reflexes were faster than his logic, and that is how he found himself seeking shelter in the same box as his quarrelsome companion.
The puppy shouldered him in the side trying to force him out of their box, but the nasty creature was more fluff than brawn. Hanni plopped down on his haunches and stiffened his shoulders into thick, rounded blades lest the puppy try again. “Stop that. There is enough room for the both of us!”
“Go away,” the dog said in a voice much too low and mature to belong to a puppy. That surprised Hanni though logically he knew it should not. Dogs were strange creatures and they came in too many sizes and shapes to feel comfortable around. Cats were more honest. One never mistook a kitten for a full-grown adult cat.
“I'm not any happier about this than you are,” Hanni said as the first raindrops splattered onto the concrete. “Let us conduct ourselves as adults. Heaven forbid we should become friendly.”
“That might require me to be sociable,” the dog said, but at least he had ceased his shoving.
“I am Hannibal, but you may call me Hanni. What is your name?”
“Will,” the dog said curtly.
Hanni scrunched his nose. Another Will? What a strange twist this story had taken, coincidence piled on top of coincidence. “That will not do. I already have a Will. I shall call you, William instead.”
“My name is Will,” the dog snapped. Actually snapped! The nerve of the wretched thing! But Hanni flinched involuntarily. Dogs still had teeth, even if they did all look like mongrels.
“Will or William—it matters not—what are you doing crying in an alley? Are you hurt? Lost?”
Will looked at Hanni with big, bright eyes and whined. “It wasn't my fault. I didn't want to run away. It just happened!”
“What are you talking about, William?”
Will laid down and rested his head on his front paws. “I sleepwalk sometimes. I didn't mean to run away! It was an accident! And now I'm lost. Lost! Oh, what if he never finds me!? What if I make him sad? He’s so good to me. I can't disappointment him. I can’t break his heart.”
“Hannibal, my human.”
Lightning flashed overhead for dramatic effect and made Hanni’s white fur shine like starlight for a brief second. Will jumped and pressed himself into the corner of the box, which had begun to leak. “Stop that. You’ll get wet,” Hanni scolded.
“I don’t like storms.”
Mischa hadn't either, and there was something similar about this dog’s blue eyes that reminded him of hers. “Then come here and lay beside me. It is warmer and dryer, and I promise you'll feel better.”
William hesitated, but when the next thunder clap arrived, he dove into Hanni's side with a bruising force.
“Ooof!” Hanni grunted.
William was too distressed to offer an apology (or too rude) but Hanni bore it with truly commendable forbearance. Mischa had become nonverbal too when her anxiety grew to certain levels.
It wasn't often that Hanni could think of her without pain, but today was different. Today he could only remember the best times. Her sweet mewing. Her warm nose. Her generosity. Was this William’s doing?
Hanni began to purr thinking of his beloved sister, and in due time, William relaxed and drifted into sleep.
When the rain stopped, Hanni roused his companion with a nudge.
“Come along, William. You will come home with me and my human will help us find your Hannibal,”
William didn't move. His nerves seemed to have subsided with the rain so that wasn’t the issue. The indifferent turn of his nose and narrowed gaze suggested genuine, old-fashioned mistrust—as if he couldn't conceive of good natured altruism.
As a fellow misanthrope, Hanni could relate. Until Will literally walked into his life, Hanni hadn't needed anyone in it other than Mischa. This dog, William, was the same sort of creature.
He is as alone as I was; how sad. I wonder what his human is like. Probably nothing like Will.
Through Will, Hanni had learned how to be civil and decent to others even if in his heart he felt otherwise. Inconvenient as compassion was, good things sometimes came from it. For instance, if Will had chosen to walk on by those ruffians who were tormenting him on the day that Mischa had died, Hanni might never have come to live with him. Compassion had saved his life. Maybe he could do the same for this kindred spirit.
“Are you coming?” Hanni snapped. His patience was not guaranteed. “We cannot be sure the rain is gone for good and I will NOT be caught outside in it a second time.”
“Where else would I go?” Will answered with a sigh and fell into step behind Hanni.
It was not the present Hanni had hoped to bring home, and Will had clearly worked all night on his latest manuscript. Hanni hoped he would not be too disappointed with the lack of hearts. He had abandoned his hunt after meeting William.
Getting Will’s attention took a bit of doing, but eventually, Hanni made Will understand he had something to show him on the front porch.
Will seemed delighted by their surprise houseguest and whisked him up in his arms. Hanni did his best not to feel jealous, but when his best was not good enough, he removed himself to his favorite spot by the window to sulk.
A phone call was made and William was given a large fluffy blanket to curl up on, plus two slices of sandwich meat to eat.
“Do you think he’s coming?” William asked anxiously from his spot on the floor.
“Of course he’s coming. My Will will take care of it. He can take anything!” Hanni said proudly.
“He seems nice.”
Hanni didn’t agree and said as much with a glare. “Nice” was for fresh tuna, sunny afternoons, and naps on Will’s chest. Will was so much more than “nice” and it annoyed Hanni that William did not see that. And yet Hanni, for some reason, did not enjoy feeling cross towards William, so he reasoned that the error was a result of the dog’s limited vocabulary instead. Hanni doubted that William’s human was in possession of as many fine books as Will, and he could hardly hold that against the poor creature. As a very famous author, Will had all sorts of wonderful books, and Hanni had read all of them. Even that Twilight nonsense.
“He is very nice and much more,” Hanni replied and laid down to nap.
A few hours later, the doorbell rang and all hell broke loose. One moment, Hanni was dreaming of a large, fat squirrel dinner, and the next he was jarred awake by William’s jubilant barking.
Will plucked the small dog from the floor before opening the door. “Hi there! I believe this is your...oh my god, it’s you!” Will squeaked. “I read his tag....I just didn't think...Christ, you’re that Hannibal Lecter.”
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance. Thank you for finding my dog. I hope he was not too much trouble. He suffers from some separation anxiety when I am not around, which I regret is rather often due to my shooting schedule.”
Hanni opened one eye, curious about the heavily accented voice on the other side of the door. Hannibal Lecter. The name sounded familiar although Hanni couldn't place it automatically.
“He was a perfect angel. Would...ah...would you like to come in? For coffee? I'm not some creepy stalker, I swear! I just thought you’d like to warm up. You’re soaked. I’m Will by the way.”
The man on the other side of the door chuckled. “Will? Now that is a coincidence.”
“Gets worse I’m afraid,” Will said and opened the door wide enough to allow Hanni a good look at their latest house guest. “That’s my cat, Hannibal, but I call him Hanni.”
Now that Hanni could see the stranger, he recognized him as that actor Will loved so much.
“It seems fate and circumstance have brought us together. I will gladly accept your offer.”
The two humans withdrew to the kitchen with William trailing at his master’s heels excitedly. Hanni joined the trio briefly, but when no one seemed interested in paying any attention to him, he returned to his window to sulk some more. So much for being a hero.
Hannibal stayed long enough to have several cups of coffee, and before leaving, promised to call on Will again when his schedule allowed.
Hanni watched forlornly as William followed his human out the door without even saying goodbye.
“Well they seemed nice,” Will said and came to scratch HannI behind his ears.
You’re nice, Hanni said to himself and nosed at Will’s hand smearing his scent all over his human. You’re nice and I don't need anyone else but you.
But from the way that Will stared wistfully at the empty driveway, Hanni suspected that his human did not feel exactly the same.