Author's Note: A plotbunny (plotwolf?) that gnawed on my shin for a good long time. I don't know how well it came out, but it was an interesting perspective, and I don't think it's too awful. Plus, the wolf deserves some love.
A quick dictionary of Timber-to-English:
Trapjaw—bear trap, like the one that Timber was first found in
Young human—poor, hapless Kamakura
Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc., and I derive no profit from this. Please accept this in the spirit with which it is offered—as a work of respect and love, not an attempt to claim ownership or earn money from this intellectual property.
Sniff Sniff Growl
by Totenkinder Madchen
Sniff sniff sniff.
Left! Right! Rabbit in the bushes, big one, a big buck rabbit full of tasty confidence. Smell him, imagine his nose twitching. Head down to the ground, crouch, feel the ears twitch as a twig brushes them.
Rabbit can sniff sniff too. Nose twitches again. He smells me. Off! Into the bushes, bounding and bouncing, using little paths where I can't go. Too frightened now—no time for stalking. Leap and off I go! Bushes, tree, bramble, jump over the fallen log! The rabbit's on the run now, turning fluffy tasty tail and skittering, easy to find and easy to catch, no deer but plenty of sport. Coming right up behind him, so so so hungry-
A noise! I skid to a stop, concentrating. Yes, a noise, but more importantly, a smell. Sniff sniff sniff, snuffle in the undergrowth for the scent. There it is again.
Metal, cloth, oil, medicine, sweat, rubber. Dominant smell. Alpha smell. The Alpha is in my territory!
Never mind rabbits. Rabbits are tasty, but the Alpha feeds me much better food. I launch myself forward, leaving the silly buck rabbit to get his confidence back. I promise him I'll eat him someday—later in the fall, when he's fatter and slower. For now, I have to greet the Alpha. It's proper pack order.
I follow the trail up the mountain. There are tracks here—deep ruts in the mud, the kind left by humans and their big loud metal boxes. I bare my teeth, remembering the smell of those hunters and the bite of their metal trapjaw on my leg. The Alpha knows how to kill the metal trapjaws; that is why the Alpha is the Alpha. I let my tongue loll out, tasting the scents on the air. Yes! Just ahead, a mixture of scents. Wood smoke!
Now I break into a run. It feels good to run. One of my forepaws still hurts in the cold months, but I like being able to run. The Alpha helped me run. Sniff sniff sniff. Follow the trail.
On the edge of the clearing, I pause. The Alpha's den is just ahead, on a hilltop in the clearing, a den made of stacks of dead wood. My mouth begins to water. The Alpha has meat—hot meat, the kind that sizzles and flings little stinging drops in your eyes if you stick your snout in it before it's done. The Alpha doesn't like it when I do that; he made me sit outside last time, and I didn't get any hot meat. Alpha knows best. If there is hot meat, I will wait.
Voice! Voice now, just one. Sniff sniff sniff. Voice is familiar, but the ground confirms it: female, sweat and long strides and smelling like rubber and leather. The Alpha's mate, the one who scratches behind my ears and makes them prick up even though I don't want them to. She yelps when I jump on her or stick my nose in the Alpha's ear when they are trying to make puppies, but she smells strong and she is superior in the pack. I let my head dip a little, ceding dominance, as I lope into the clearing.
Instantly, the Alpha pounces. I rear back on my hind legs and growl, fighting to keep my balance. The Alpha plays like a pup himself sometimes, always trying to catch me off guard. Too bad I can sniff sniff smell him a mile away. But he's quick, and for a few heartbeats, it's touch-and-go. Finally he grabs the back of my neck and I go limp, showing submission.
"Good boy, Timber," the Alpha's female says. She settles onto her knees and begins to scratch under my chin. Oooh. Oooh, yeah. Right there. I let my tongue loll out, panting happily as the scratching travels up and settles behind my ears. R i g h t t h e r e . . . yeeeeahhhhh. My ears prick up again, and the female laughs.
"Snake, I think he's officially domesticated," she says. I recognize the 'snake' sound—it's the sound she makes when she's trying to get the Alpha's attention. The Alpha just shrugs and kneels down as well, snapping his fingers at me. I shake the female's hand off and sit up. The Alpha wants something.
He touches his fingers to his eyes and then points to the treeline. I know those motions. It means . . . there's somebody out there! Instantly, I whirl on my haunches, growling. Somebody is trying to invade the Alpha's territory—my territory, my pack's territory. The Alpha snaps his fingers again, giving me permission to hunt.
Leap! Run run run run run, pace myself not too much but eating up the ground with long leapstrides and lopes. Sniff sniff sniff, nose to the dirt. I smell . . . rabbit! Deer! Dog—urgh, dead dog, dead too long and never tasty even when it was alive. Another rabbit! And human.
Young human, too, older than pup but younger than Alpha and Alpha's female. I can smell sweat, leather, oil-for-metal, sweat, a little blood (just a little, a cut on a leg or a side, barely a scratch but enough to bring blood). Sniff sniff. Trail a mile wide. Sniff sniff sniff. Take a leap, land hard on a slope strewn with dead leaves, slide slide slide and JUMP-
-the human goes down hard, squealing and thrashing and making all kinds of noises. He tries to push me away, but I land hard on his chest and stick my nose in his face, hackles up, teeth bared. Try to break into my territory, huh? He freezes in place. Smells scared. Good. I growl a little more for good measure, wondering if I should tear out his throat. Would the Alpha be pleased? He rewarded me when I didn't kill the hunters I caught setting trapjaws . . .
Through the human's fear, I smell the female and the Alpha approaching. He takes hold of my scruff and gently tugs, signaling me to not eat the intruder. I want to eat him, but Alpha is Alpha. Growling, I shuffle backwards and lower my head, adopting a submissive posture again. Please, Alpha? Just a bite?
"Welcome to the Sierras, Sean," the Alpha's female says. The human shakes his head, just like I do when I have fleas, and looks at me. His posture says he is trying to be aggressive. His smell says he's close to marking territory in fear. I growl a little, which makes him flinch, and receive an approving pat from the female. Mmmmm. Scratch behind my ears, please? No?
"What the—what the hell-" the human says. "That's a wolf!"
"No, this is Timber." The female gives me the scratch that I want. The human is looking at the Alpha as if the Alpha had gnawed the human's leg off, which makes no sense to me. "He's around all the time. You'll get used to him."
The Alpha raises his hands and waves them, and the human's smell of fear increases. "What do you mean, 'training?'" He says. "I thought we were going to . . . practice, and climb trees, and . . . That's a wolf, serg—um, sensei."
Another gesture from the Alpha. The human still smells like fear, and it's making my mouth water. I shake off the female's hand, deciding that if the Alpha has no orders for me, there's a buck rabbit still hanging around in the bushes not too far away. Before I can go very far, though, the Alpha takes hold of my scruff again. I whine a little—I'm hungry!
The Alpha nods to the female, and the female takes hold of the new human's hand and holds it out to me. The human flinches again, which is only making me hungrier, but while his scent fills my nostrils the female scratches me behind the ears and under my chin. Mmmm. That feels nice.
"Friend," the female says, letting me get a good noseful of the human's scent. "Sean Collins. Friend."
" . . . he speaks English?" the young human says. Stop smelling like fear! Alpha will punish me if I eat you!
"No, he doesn't." The scratching continues, which eases my irritation somewhat. The female pushes his hand away, and as the smell decreases, she stops scratching my ears. I whine again, and she lets me smell his hand while she scratches again. "And he's not a dog, either, so don't expect him to play fetch. But if he learns that you smell like a friend, then he won't tear your throat out whenever you come up here."
"Ninjas really have pet wolves?" The Alpha signs something, and the human relaxes a little. I can smell the fear descreasing. "Oh, just you. Good. His name's—Timber?"
The Alpha nods. The female takes the young human's free hand and, moving very slowly, places it on my muzzle. I growl a little, not liking it, but she keeps up the scratching and I finally decide to let it pass. The Alpha isn't killing the young human, after all, which means something.
The humans continue communicating, but I'm getting much, much too hungry and the Alpha hasn't provided hot meat, or even any meat at all. I shake off both their hands and lope off into the brush, sticking my nose into the dirt and sniffing for the trail of the rabbit. As I do so, I hear the rustle of bushes as the humans start climbing up the hill towards the den made of dead wood.
"Does he sic wolves on all his apprentices?"
The female makes the approving sound. "No, just you."
" . . . why?"
"To see if you have what it takes."
"You didn't run screaming. It's a start."
"Um—what exactly have I got myself into, Sgt. Scarlett?"
Another approving noise. "Well, for starters, apprentices get wolf-feeding duty."
More fear smell! I growled again and burrowed deeper into the brush, hunting for the rabbit. If the Alpha didn't want the young human killed, he had better provide hot meat soon.