The couple was kissing, seated on the swing of the front porch of the big old house.
Dogs were at rest all over the porch; the wooden boards were crowded with them.
The oldest and the largest, reclining like the patriarch that he was, suddenly raised his head. He peered intently out into the pitch blackness of the woods. His ears swiveled forward...
The others perked their ears to his cue. He was the alpha male; where he led, they would follow, unless the master forbade it. They awaited his slightest urging...
He focused sharply on the on the shadow out by the trees. Two red sparks stared back at him from the gloom of the night.
Sniffing the air, he caught a whiff of the testosterone, and the smell of the white-hot hatred that flared behind it.
He had smelled that smell before; it was when he had gotten a foreleg broken by a vicious beast in the woods. Whimpering a little, he absently gave the leg a little lick, remembering the pain, although it was long since gone.
He wouldn't play that sort of big-dog's game anymore. He was getting too old for it. Best to stay on the porch. If the creature came forth, he would deal with it then. He lay his head back on his paws, and the others dropped their interest too, and closed their eyes again.
The couple broke apart.
"Pilch...no...I just can't."
"Noble. I'm sorry, I..." Thoughts tickled her mind. This felt so wrong, like it was akin to...to adultery.
She examined that thought, and knew why. Her heart belonged to another, a forbidden other, and there was no escaping it. It was wrong for her to try to force it to be otherwise; she'd only be lying to Noble, and to herself. The kiss was already enough of an untruth.
She should never have come here, to this place. Damn Ardelia for talking her into it. Now she felt obliged, like she had to somehow pay for the time at the house by the water. But pay for it by violating the secret jewel of her soul - that she would not.
"Noble, I swear, it's just me. It's all me. You've done nothing wrong. But I cannot carry on with you. I have no feelings for you, none whatsoever. I got a little carried away, but I will not be false."
"Are you okay, Clarice?" Concern clouded the young man's face.
"As fine as I'll ever be, Noble." In the current circumstances.
"I'm sorry..." he whispered, the dumb animal hurt plain on his face.
"Don't be. I'm not deserving of your sorrow. Please, understand. I'm going to bed now, and I'll leave first thing in the morning. I don't want to impose on you anymore."
"You're not imposing, Clarice. Please stay. But, tell you what, don't decide now. Sleep on it. Here, take some of these guys with you. Come, boy, go in the house now. Go with Clarice, you guys."
The alpha male rose, and went with the woman as the master bade him. Four other dogs got to their feet and followed their respected leader. The rest sat quietly by, not sure why the master was brooding but wishing to be of service to him. They didn't get to see nearly enough of him, and wanted the time with him as well. Even with him as sullen as he was, once the woman was out of sight. They stuck by, as is a dog's lot in life.
Hannibal Lecter leered a wicked grin from his place among the trees.
He'd touched her mind again, and reminded her of the fact that she belonged to him, and only him. He would tolerate no infidelities; the kiss, that could slide by, but nothing else.
Never mind the fact that they were in a forced separation, just now. Their time would eventually come, that was a given.
Anything else was sheer folly, and it would be a pity to spill the poor dumb young man's blood, and that of the faithful dogs, over it.
But spill it he would, if it came to that. He would suffer no fools between himself and his property. The pack leader was a wise old dog, and his master would do well in following the dog's lead, and not engage his fury. Death would be quick to any who would.
He felt that the issue was settled, though, for the most part. Only poor dumb dogs would share her bed tonight. He could live with that. He knew that she liked animals, and indeed, that was a large part of what had brought their minds together. He recounted to himself her tale of the lambs and the horse.
Yes, the dogs could have the privilege, and with his blessing as well.
He slipped off into the night, his issue at rest, to seek his own repose elsewhere; at least, for his physical self.
His mind would not follow this night. His thoughts stayed with Clarice, and rested sweetly with her in the silence of the lambs.