Summary: A stranger in the woods behind Calvin's house could be a poacher after Hobbes! When they attempt to apprehend the villain, though, they realize they may have misinterpreted the situation…
Disclaimer: All of the characters from the original Calvin and Hobbes strip are the creations of Bill Watterson, and are used with the utmost respect (if not permission). This was written for fun, not profit.
Author's Notes: This is my first C&H fic. Calvin's a little older in this than in the strip, but he hasn't changed much, don't worry! Enjoy.
It was a glorious morning. The sun was out and the skies were blue, and if it was a little cloudy out, they were the huge, benign cottony kind. There was a brisk wind blowing, cool enough to make a cautious person consider a jacket, but it was only a matter of time before the day heated to proper summertime temperatures.
In a quiet neighborhood bordering a spacious track of beautiful forest, a screen door banged open, shattering the morning stillness. A woman's cries, irritated and loud, could be heard, chasing a boy and a tiger out of the house and into the morning. The boy was tall for his nine years, with spiky blond hair and slender limbs already tanned by the summer sun. The tiger was taller, though not by much, not anymore, and far more graceful in his sudden ejection from his house.
"And don't come back until lunch!" the woman yelled, chucking a handful of granola bars out after the boy and what she thought was a stuffed tiger.
Laughing wickedly, the boy gathered the snacks and stuffed them in his pockets. With these, he'd probably be able to stay out until half-way to dinner (as long as Hobbes didn't hog them all). He'd gotten the sense that his mother probably wouldn't mind if he was gone that long.
"Did you have to start so early, Calvin?" Hobbes asked him, torn between irritation of his own and amusement. "We barely got to finish breakfast!"
"Barely, but we did, so stop complaining," Calvin said, completely unrepentant. "Come on!"
"Where are we going?"
They didn't have a specific destination in mind, so Calvin and Hobbes went into the woods. They walked—their wagon was new, a barely used Christmas present, and Mom and Dad had implied that dire consequences would result if it got banged up too quickly—and if they didn't know what they wanted to do yet, they knew the forest would inspire them.
They picked a direction arbitrarily set off, and it wasn't long before they were so absorbed in picking their way through that they didn't feel the need to consciously find something to occupy them.
"Hey Hobbes," Calvin called, bending to pick up a pinecone from beneath a half-rotted log. "Think fast!" He pulled back and tossed it. It sailed wide, but the audacity of throwing something—anything—at Hobbes was enough to have the tiger after him. The chase ended in a tackle and a wrestling match that didn't break apart until they tumbled into a tiny creek.
"Aw, look what you've gone and done, you stripey fleabag," Calvin groused, extracting himself from the water and vainly trying to brush the mud from his clothes. Hobbes had taken the brunt of it, and rose from the stream bed, covered in sticky goo.
"What I've done?!" he exclaimed. "This is all your fault!"
"My fault?!" Calvin was affronted. "You're the one who rolled us into the water!"
"Hmph! Only because you maliciously assaulted me! I was fighting for my life!"
"Your life?! It was a pinecone!" Calvin flicked the mud off his fingers and stomped out of the stream. "It's not my fault years of living in the comfort of civilization have dulled your predator's reflexes!"
"What? Well I never!" Hobbes drew himself up indignantly, but there was a look in his eye, and Calvin could tell he wasn't really mad. Neither was he, for that matter, but the fighting gave them something incredibly entertaining to do.
"Think fast!" Calvin shouted once again, gleefully. This time it was a granola bar that went spinning towards the tiger. His aim was better, but Hobbes caught it.
"See? Sharp as I've ever been!" Hobbes shook the water out of his whiskers and brandished the granola. "I should make you pay for that insult!"
"Make me pay," Calvin warned, "and Mom and Dad will probably throw you out of the house!"
"Hah! They'll reward me!" Hobbes shook the last of the water free and walked over to Calvin, poking the boy in the chest. "I'll be up to my neck in the salmon of heroes!"
"'The salmon of heroes'?" Calvin repeated incredulously. "You dope."
"You just don't want to believe the true depth of your parents' loathing for you," Hobbes said, turning up his nose with a disdainful sniff and beginning to open the granola bar. He took a bite and looked contemplative.
"Come on," Calvin said, taking a few idle steps away, "let's go find somewhere sunny to dry out."
"An excellent idea."
'Somewhere sunny' turned out to be a particularly large meadow they'd only been to a few times. It was carpeted in vibrant green grass, and had a tumble of boulders that were alternately a warm spot to bask in the sun and an excellent place to hunt for snakes.
They wouldn't get a chance to do either today, because there was someone there already. Hobbes was the first person to see him, and it took Calvin a minute to make out the dark shape hunched at the foot of a tree, at an oblique angle across the field from them, after the stranger was pointed out.
"Who's that?" Calvin asked, squinting and leaning forward, trying to see. He wished he'd remembered to bring his binoculars.
"I don't know," Hobbes admitted with a shrug.
"Maybe it's a poacher," Calvin suggested brightly, "or an escaped convict!" His mind was already straying ahead, to the accolades he would receive for apprehending the dangerous criminal. (Hobbes would help, but he would be the hero, of course!)
"A poacher?!" Hobbes repeated. "He could be after me!"
"Tigers are an endangered species around here, you know."
"You're right! We have to stop him!" Calvin hissed. They retreated into the woods, out of the sight of the stranger.
"How?" Hobbes asked, even as they began to creep around the edge of the meadow in the stranger's direction.
"Easy," Calvin said. "We'll sneak up behind him and then you can bite his head off."
Hobbes grimaced, and didn't look too pleased with the idea. "Why do I have to eat his head?"
"Because you're the vicious, man-eating tiger, that's why!" Calvin said, almost forgetting to keep his voice low in his exasperation. "Now come on, and keep quiet!"
"You keep quiet, boulder-feet," Hobbes grumbled, but he did so silently. He certainly wasn't going to be responsible for bringing the poacher down on them. He padded behind Calvin, silent in the undergrowth, and refrained from making a sarcastic crack about all the crunching and crackling going on under Calvin's tread.
Hiding behind a tree, Calvin tried to get a look at their quarry. All he could see, though, was a backpack propped against the tree, and occasionally an elbow or the tip of a shoe as the poacher shifted positions. He was mumbling to himself.
"Can you hear what he's saying?" he asked Hobbes.
Hobbes leaned around the tree and listened, the expression on his face intent. "Not really," he said finally.
"Hmph. Some tiger you are. It's amazing he's bothering to hunt you at all!" Before Hobbes could respond to the insult, though, Calvin had leaned around the tree again. "When I say go, we go."
"What are you going to do? I'm the one doing all the real work!"
"I'm going to get his backpack, of course!" Calvin exclaimed. "There might be incriminating evidence inside, elephant ivory or bald eagle feathers or a map to his secret lair of illegally acquired merchandise!"
"Oh, of course," Hobbes said, rolling his eyes. Calvin waved impatiently at him and he crouched on the ground, bracing his feet and getting ready to sprint for the poacher.
"All right, ready?" Calvin hissed.
"Ready," Hobbes hissed back.
Hobbes took off, covering the distance between the two trees in a few seconds. He curved around and leapt, tackling the poacher into the ground.
The poacher shrieked. Very unmanly, Hobbes thought; least he could do was go down silently. Then the tiger realized that the poacher was not actually a man (or anything like) at all. She flailed her arms at him and snapped, "What the hell?! Getoffame!"
"Hey, you're not a poacher," Calvin said, coming around the tree. "You're just a kid like me!"
"I am not a kid," she protested. "Get your tiger off me."
Hobbes didn't need Calvin's touch on his shoulder; he was already halfway off her. While perfectly willing to defend himself against a poacher, Hobbes wasn't willing to fight a girl, especially not a real fight with one he didn't know.
She rolled over and looked around, picking up a notebook and brushing it off frantically. She glared at Calvin. "What's wrong with you, huh? You scared the hel—heck out of me!" She picked up a pair of binoculars and brandished them. "I could have broken these! Do you have any idea what my parents would do to me if I did?! And what are you doing with my backpack?!" She scrambled over to him and snatched it out of his hands.
"You're just lucky my tiger didn't kill you by accident," Calvin informed her, obviously (to Hobbes' eyes) flustered and trying to recover his poise. She shot a glance at the tiger and looked back at Calvin.
"Yeah, he's a ferocious beast," he said. "You're lucky he realized you weren't dangerous and pulled his claws."
"Blood's so hard to get out of my fur," Hobbes said, with a sagacious expression on his face. Calvin snickered, and the girl looked confused.
"Why was he attacking me in the first place?" she asked, looking straight at Calvin, even as her hands gathered and neatened her things and began packing them away into her backpack.
"Because Calvin told me to!"
"Because he thought you were a poacher," Calvin said smugly. "It was a preemptive strike."
"Well, I'm not one," she said irritably.
"How can we know that?" Calvin demanded. "Maybe you're hiding mink skins in your backpack!"
"Oh yes, that's me, mink hunter extraordinaire." She jerked a thumb over her shoulder at Hobbes. "I think he'd have a better shot at poaching weasels than me."
"Ew," Hobbes muttered. "Poached weasel wouldn't taste too good, I think. Poached eggs are much better."
"And easier to prepare!" Calvin said. She looked at him funny. "What?"
She shook her head and zipped the backpack, settling the binoculars around her neck by the strap. She looked out over the meadow, and groaned. Calvin and Hobbes both followed her line of sight, in time to see a huge brown bird rise out of the grass, flapping heavily. She jammed the binoculars to her eyes and focused quickly. "A snake," she whispered.
She stood up and swung her backpack on her back. She was a head taller than Calvin and a little shorter than Hobbes, with shaggy, short auburn hair and brown eyes. "Thanks a lot," she snapped, glancing at him quickly and looking away, bringing up the binoculars again. "I've been watching her for, like, two hours, and you made me miss it. Thanks a frikkin' lot."
"Why would you spend two hours watching a bird?" Calvin asked, looking up at her. She was staring across the meadow, the binoculars moving in little jerks as she followed the hawk's flight. It wasn't until the bird disappeared from sight that she answered him.
"Because she's beautiful," she said shortly, letting the binoculars drop again. She grinned, showing a lot of teeth. "Because she's fierce. Because she's the closest I'll ever get to seeing a dromaeosaur in action." She smiled down at him and began to walk away.
Calvin exchanged a glance with Hobbes, who shrugged. "Girls are weird," Calvin muttered.
"It's their feminine mystique," Hobbes informed him, watching her stomp away. "I wonder who she is."
Author's Notes: So that's the first chapter of Birdwatcher, which as you now know is my take on the "new girl in the neighborhood" plot. I hope I'm not too predictable, and a little bit different from all the other stories like this.
The next chapter is already completed and should be up in about a week. All feedback is welcomed; let me know what you thought! Thank you!