A/N: Timber attempts to put Storm in his place... Proceed/Read with caution. No offense was meant with this chapter.
Two pieces of wood went flying. Storm Shadow paused to wipe the sweat from his brow.
Two more pieces joined the growing pile of firewood. After a moment of counting, he nodded to himself in approval. He kneeled and set the axe on the chopping stump, with the cutting edge closest to him, and began sharpening the blade.
His ears picked up the heartbeat of his brother a while after he had finished touching up the axe. Tommy stood up and waved at Snake when he emerged from the surrounding trees. "I see your hunt was successful." He eyed the two rabbits in Snake's hand. "You know, I could have done the hunting. I would have loved to, even."
[You don't know the geography well enough,] Snake signed with one hand. [Magical ear or not, I don't want you getting lost. Then I would have to get Timber to find you, and you don't want that.]
Storm snorted. "Liar. You just wanted to show off your hunting skills."
[That could also be true.] Snake's mask creased as he smiled.
"Every man has his ego bubble." With a casual toss, he embedded the axe in the tree stump. "Speaking of ego bubbles, I'm still indecisive as to whether I should compliment your cabin or nitpick it to bits."
[Compliments would be nice. It wasn't easy to build.] Snake produced a knife from nowhere and began skinning the rabbits.
Storm grabbed a nearby towel and began drying his torso off. "It's impressive, considering that you gathered the materials and built it yourself. It's a pretty good cabin, too. Tough, made to last, and in good condition. There are no leaks, and I didn't feel a draft inside."
His sword brother gave a nonchalant shrug, but Storm could still see his smile.
"It's a bit small, though."
[Big deal. I made it to house one person - me.]
"Always the loner, aren't you?" Storm caught the twig Snake threw at him.
[I didn't want company at the time.] Snake paused before signing, [When did you get that?]
"Hm? Get what? And you're changing the subject."
[That.] He ignored the comment and pointed at a small scar on Storm's arm. [I don't think I gave you that.]
Tommy frowned and stared at it. "... I don't know." He lightly ran his thumb across it. "Looks like a knife made it." His eyebrows furrowed. "I can't remember..."
The loud snapping of fingers drew his attention back to his brother. Snake-Eyes shook his head and made a tossing away motion with his hand.
"My mind is stable." Storm's voice was sour. "I'll survive looking into the past."
Snake only shook his head harder. No. Too soon. Wait a little longer. Thanks to the Brainwave Scanner, a few of Storm's memories of being in Cobra were in bits and pieces. The commando knew that facing the unknown and acknowledging the past could be sources of strength, but he preferred that his brother not strain his mind so.
It was foolish thinking, but he wanted Tommy's unpleasant memories to fade with time, never to be remembered again. Wounds don't hurt until they are acknowledged, and as far as he was concerned, he didn't want his closest friend to look back at the wrongs done to him.
Storm's voice broke Snake out of his thoughts. The Arashikage heir pointed at the rabbits. "You're done."
Snake looked down. Sure enough, the rabbit skins were set aside, with their paws cut off. Organs were set where Timber couldn't reach them. All that was left was the meat and bones.
"Never mind me and my psyche." Storm slipped his shirt on and walked over. "What about you?"
[I'm fine. Just a little worried about you.]
"Well gee, thanks, mother." He rolled his eyes and punched Snake lightly on the shoulder. "Cut it out, gaijin. My mother's been long since dead, and I haven't needed one since."
Snake returned the gesture, leaving a bloody print on his guest's sleeve. Storm made an indignant noise and started protesting, only to be cut off when Snake-Eyes picked up a rabbit and indicated for him to take the second one.
Somewhere in the woods, Timber sniffed diligently at the ground, in the middle of tracking a squirrel, when he picked up a different scent. His ears perked and he lifted his nose to the air. Yep. That was definitely a meaty scent. A delicious, mouth-watering meaty scent that could only come from one place.
He made the connection. Food! Hot food! Yummy food! Alpha has found food! Ooh, delicious, delicious FOOD.
He broke into a run, tongue hanging out. Maybe he would get lucky this time and Alpha would let him eat with him! After all, he can't eat with the intruder. As Omega, the intruder will have to eat last.
Which meant he will get more food! The fact that he ate well for a wild animal didn't register in his food-oriented mind.
Small animals scattered as soon as they felt him approaching, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw a squirrel scurry away. No matter. No hunting today, because there's already food available.
As he approached, he picked up more scents. Rabbit blood. The Alpha caught rabbits! But that wasn't all. He could smell the intruder, and the way his scent mixed and mingled with the rabbit's.
He gave a low growl. Nobody. Nobody of lower rank was supposed to eat before him. The intruder had overstepped his boundaries. Alpha may turn a blind eye, but Timber wasn't about to let some newcomer outrank him.
"Do you hear that?" Tommy shifted from the lotus position to a more comfortable sitting arrangement.
[No. What is it?]
A groan. "Wolf. Coming this way fast."
Snake kept an eye on the fire below the small smokehouse. He always preserved meat whenever he visited his cabin. After all, there is no telling what could happen, be it extreme weather, surprise Cobra attack, or a reason to stay a few days during winter. Dinner will still be the trout he had caught. The rabbits were to be preserved in case of emergencies.
That was probably not what Timber was thinking at the moment.
The leaves of a bush stirred as a gray figure trotted past and continued on its path without so much as a sniff in Snake's direction. The ninja shrugged. For once, food was apparently not on the wolf's mind. He acknowledged Timber's presence with a glance, and redirected his attention to the fire.
Storm resisted the urge to climb up a nearby tree again at the sight of a large timberwolf headed straight for him. Running was surely a sign of submission, and he didn't want that. Besides, with his 'Alpha' so close by, Timber wouldn't dare maul him. Hopefully.
He gave the wolf his best glare as he stood his ground - or sat his ground, for that matter. "Scram!"
Timber jumped onto the flat rock, almost knocking Storm off of it. "No, no, no. This? This here is my rock." He pushed back. "Find your own. I got here first."
[Behave back there, boys,] Snake signed casually over his shoulder.
"Easy for you to say. You're not the one having his seat stolen." With a final shove, Storm pushed Timber back to the ground. The wolf circled him slowly, growling. "Grrr to you too. You can't order me around."
He heard the quickening of pawsteps too late. A hundred and twenty pounds of muscle and fur slammed into him, knocking him to the ground. As a reflex, Tommy reached for a knife only to stop when he heard low growling and felt hot air on his neck. He didn't need to look to know the wolf's teeth were bared.
So he stayed very, very still. He briefly considered slipping into the Sleeping Phoenix, then decided against it. Timber might decide that he was okay to eat, since he 'died', and he didn't want that at all.
He remained perfectly still even when the wolf stood up and his teeth weren't so close to his neck anymore. His chest and shoulder ached a little from the fall, and his already bad impression of Timber was worsening. Although Snake would probably kill him if he found out, Storm couldn't think of anything better at the moment than to turn around and choke the life out of Timber. Oh, yes. Murdering the animal sounded really good right now.
Then, he felt it. Tommy blinked. There, he felt it again, along with the sound of quiet snarling. A good ten seconds passed until his mind finally clicked.
Needless to say, his exasperated groan lasted for quite a while. "Snake-Eyes, your wolf is trying to rape me."
Snake-Eyes paused in his poking of the fire as an indication that he had heard him. He turned his face completely away, but Storm still caught the infinitesimal shaking of his shoulders. "Hebi no Me, THIS IS NOT FUNNY. I'm being humped to death here!"
[No, it's not funny; it's hilarious. And humping is not the same thing as raping.]
"Whatever! Just get your wolf off of me!" Storm Shadow was making a very visible effort not to kick the... ah... 'overenthusiastic' Timber.
[He's showing dominance over you.]
"Dominance? Over me? Bullshit." Tommy looked at the preoccupied wolf at his leg. "And you. Fuck you."
[I thought he was already doing that to you.]
Storm make a strangled-sounding noise. "You have a twisted sense of humor when Shana is not around, brother." He slowly tried to free his leg, only for Timber to expose his teeth again. "How do I escape?"
[Wow, Tommy. You can escape high-security prisons but you can't escape a mere wolf?] Snake shook his head, disappointed.
"Do you want a dead wolf or not?"
[I like my wolves alive, thank you.]
"That's what I thought. So what's going to happen once I free myself? Will he attack?" Storm stared at Timber calculatingly.
[Maybe. If he does, just keep yourself higher than him and don't break eye contact.] Snake added another log to the fire.
"Right. And how close to dead can I make him?"
The silent man's glare was more than answer enough. Oddly, the wolf seemed to bristle at the comment too.
Just what he needed, a sword brother with a claim to being a wolf whisperer. He tensed in preparation, careful to keep his breathing calm. He'd have to figure out just how attentive the canine was to human body language, but for now he wasn't taking unnecessary chances.
With no more warning, Storm thrust his foot against the wolf's ribcage much more gently than he would have liked, sending the beast tumbling back a few steps. The ninja was on his feet in an instant, but his wild adversary was nearly as fast. He charged at the man, snarling.
Timber was insulted! The intruder wants my place? Let him try. He'll pay for his insubordination. The wolf lunged, snapping his jaws closed on-
He whirled. The white coward might just as well have turned tail and run. There he was, teeth bared, standing as if he'd won. The wolf's lips would have curled in disgust were he not already snarling. He dropped into a hunting crouch. This human was lower than prey; not even a permitted sport. He turned like a goose's neck, graceful but wary, as Timber began to circle. Their locked eyes never once parted as the hunter made a quarter-circle, then lunged again, sending dirt flying behind his claws.
Two enormous, muddy paws and a slobbery mouth bristling with teeth shot toward the ninja like a very furry missile. He leaned slightly to the side, dodging the wolf a second time. At the last moment, he brought his shoulder up sharply with enough force to crack a grown man's spine. The grey-furred beast went tumbling to the ground with a yelp, and rolled once before coming to a stop.
Storm Shadow had never fought a wolf before, but he was quickly adapting his strategies. The damned thing had the restraint of a two-year-old but the strength of a man, and the non-human shape was throwing off his leverage and accuracy.
Meanwhile, Snake-Eyes removed the two smoked rabbits from the smokehouse and turned to watch the fight with mild interest.
It was ironic how his best human friend and his best animal friend couldn't get along.
A/N: ... What. Have you been around dogs or wolves? They do that as a sign of dominance. Hell, even bunnies do it. It's something Timber is likely to do to Storm, especially if they don't like each other.
Thanks to Greentigerr for her extra help on this chapter.