Storm woke up, muttered a few curse words, and pulled the blanket over his ears. He had just been in the middle of a rather relaxing dream when that damned wolf just had to open its mouth and howl.
Snake was still asleep, his breathing soft and slow. Of course he didn't hear the wolf - he didn't possess the Ear that Sees. Squeezing his eyes shut, Storm cupped his hands over his ears and tried to fall back asleep.
Another long, mournful howl. Storm ground his teeth together silently and eyed his folded uniform in the corner of the room. After a second of contemplation, he pulled back the blankets as quietly as he could and slowly sat up, not wishing to disturb his brother.
No luck. Snake-Eyes lifted his head and turned around, blinking sleepily.
"Earplugs," Tommy whispered, pointing to his ears in emphasis.
Content with his brother's answer, the blond rolled back over and closed his eyes. Storm glanced at him before walking over to his uniform and digging into one of its numerous pockets. His fingers found something smooth and squishy, and he smiled in triumph. Removing the package, he tore through the small plastic bag and shook two orange-colored, industrial-strength earplugs into his hand.
The wolf howled again. Now fully awake and alert, Storm Shadow tilted his head and frowned. Wasn't there supposed to be more than just one wolf howling? Howling was a form of communication; howling alone with no responses or accompaniment was like talking to a wall.
Years of training had taught Tommy to be suspicious of everything, and a lone wolf was pretty suspicious. Any wolf packs that lived the area must be quite some ways away, if they couldn't hear the single wolf's howls. But then why would it continue howling if it got no response?
... Single wolf. He only knew one lone wolf in the area.
Closing his eyes, Storm listened carefully, but couldn't hear Timber's heartbeat anywhere. Strange. Usually the wolf was somewhere nearby.
He snuck a glance at his resting brother. Timber was Snake's responsibility - he was, after all, his pet - but waking the ninja up and saying, "I think there's something wrong with your wolf. Can you go out and check on him while I stay in this warm cabin?" was just rude.
Snake-Eyes raised his head again at the sound of rustling clothes and sat up. The moonlight reflected off of Tommy's white uniform, making him stand out clearly against the darkness. After snapping his fingers to get the Japanese man's attention, Snake held his hand up. [Tommy?]
"I'm going out. You go back to sleep. I should be back by dawn." Storm slid his gloves and mask on. His face, neck, and hands warmed almost instantly. "If I'm not, come and get me."
Snake nodded once and watched him disappear out the door before going back to sleep.
It was much colder outside than it was inside the cabin. The coldness seeped through Storm's clothes and stuck to his skin. Exhaling slowly, he waited - until he heard the howl again. Gotcha, he thought as he headed in the sound's direction. As he stepped into the woods, he drew a small dagger and made a small, thin, straight cut on a nearby tree.
Timber continued howling, his confusion growing by the minute. Why was Alpha not coming? Did he not hear him? Maybe if he was a little louder...
He paused in his howling to test the walls of his surroundings again. They hadn't changed. Paws scrabbling, he dug furiously at the walls, but all he managed to do was create a small indent. Giving up, he paced in a restless circle. There was no food or water down here. How was he to live? Oh, the mean, teethy things had really managed to trap him this time. He wasn't even aware that they could make a hole as big as this!
Whimpering, he laid down and rested his head between his paws. He couldn't get out, and Alpha didn't hear his calls. He was stuck, and tired.
He might have fallen asleep at some point, because he was suddenly jolted awake by the sound of...
Timber raised his head, ears perked. Two heavy paws... Two, two, two... Only humans had two paws. Wait - not paws... feet!
Springing to his paws, Timber began barking with enthusiasm. Someone has come! He sincerely hoped they had meat with them, but he didn't smell any meat...
Instead, he smelled...
He immediately stopped barking. The intruder! He smelled the intruder! This was not good. Intruder was not good. He constantly challenges Alpha but Alpha doesn't do anything about it.
Timber did not want the intruder to find him.
Nearby, Storm Shadow made yet another slit on a tree as he continued on his way. He had almost thought he'd lost the wolf when the beast stopped howling and fell silent. But the short barking session had helped pinpoint his location.
Looking around, Tommy clucked his tongue in disappointment. The area was filled with hunting traps, many of them barely concealed. Amateurs. Most animals weren't stupid enough to step into something as conspicuous and easy to see as those traps.
A soft growl from his right caught his attention, emerging from a pitfall. Walking over, Storm could see broken twigs and leaves. At least this trap had been decently disguised.
He carefully peered over the edge, and the growl grew in volume. "Timber?" Storm stared at the trapped timber wolf at the bottom of the pit.
Timber showed him his teeth.
"Yep. It's you, alright." Grinning, Tommy sat down at the edge. "Not so tough now, are ya, big guy?"
Irritated, Timber flicked one of his ears. It was no use trying to scare the intruder away. He was outside and he was... in... here. How he wished Alpha were here!
"You know," the man continued, "for a ninja's pet, you aren't very good at avoiding traps. What if this was a Cobra trap and Snake was here? You would've contributed to his capture, and that's not good."
Timber barked at him.
"Bad wolf. Very bad wolf, not watching where you're stepping," Storm scolded, enjoying the situation before him. "You should have known better."
A snarl on his lips, Timber stared up at the intruder. What was he doing? Was he there to help him out or not? If he wasn't, Timber was going to have to resume his howling until his beloved Alpha came.
"You know..." Tommy looked thoughtful. "If I leave you right here, I won't have to deal with you until when I have to leave. On the other hand, if I help you get out, then maybe you'll finally stop giving me dirty looks."
The wolf started to whine, impatient to get away from the trap he was in.
"Whaddya say, buddy?" Standing up, Storm looked around and was pleased to see a sturdy branch more or less over the pit. "Want to get out?" Not waiting for an answer, he unbuckled his utility belt and set it on the ground nearby. Intrigued by the human's actions, Timber quieted and stared at him.
Pulling back his outer-coat, Tommy unbuckled another belt underneath and pulled it out. The wolf blinked, confused. Alpha only did that when he was getting ready to get on that big, squishy rock he always slept on. But there was no big squishy rock anywhere near here.
"I'm not stripping, if that's what you're wondering." With deft fingers, Storm untied the small knot near the buckle and gave the end a hard yank. Fifty feet of white paracord came undone in his hands. Setting the pile of rope aside, he dug through a small pack on his back and pulled out a foldable grappling hook. A push of a button, and it extended with a soft click.
Timber jumped, yelping in surprise, when the grappling hook suddenly appeared on the branch above. He stared for a few seconds of dumbfounded silence then promptly started growling at it with all his might. "You never quit, do you," Tommy sighed as he tied one end of the paracord to a small weighted dart and tossed it through the grappling hook. He didn't want to wear the paracord out on the branch.
While the wolf was busy growling at and pawing the dart, Storm tied the other end of the paracord to a tree and slid down into the pit. Suddenly aware of the ninja behind him, Timber whipped around and continued growling, teeth exposed and ears pointing back.
"Easy... easy..." Tommy whispered as he squatted to look less intimidating. "I am not here to harm you." Careful not to make direct eye contact, he slowly pulled a glove off. "Listen, Timber - the sooner I get you out, the sooner I can go back to the cabin, and the sooner I get back to the cabin, the sooner Snake-Eyes can cancel his search for me at dawn. I really don't want my brother thinking that I got lost, so... truce?" He offered his hand, palm upwards.
At the familiar sound of, 'Snake-Eyes,' Timber's ears swiveled forward. Looking at the extended hand warily, he took a step forward and sniffed it. There was no reason for the intruder to purposely trap himself here... unless he wanted to challenge him. But the human wasn't making any challenging gestures. Then again, humans were unpredictable. But he had said Alpha's name. Maybe... Alpha sent him?
Did he trust the intruder? No. Did he trust Alpha? Yes. Does Alpha trust the intruder? Well, he does have his scent all over him...
Alpha knows best. Alpha wouldn't have this intruder around for no good reason. Therefore, intruder must be useful somehow.
Storm's eyebrows rose when the wolf's tongue darted out to lick his fingers. "That was fast." He cautiously stroked Timber's head. "Alright. On to business."
After picking up the dart, he took the paracord and began fashioning a harness, looping the rope and tossing it through the grappling hook overhead several times for more strength and comfort. "Okay, buddy," he said once he was finished. "C'mere." He beckoned.
Somewhat reluctantly, Timber walked over to him. Gently, as if afraid of startling the wolf, Tommy nudged a paw up and placed it through a loop. Then the next paw. It took a bit of coaxing to get the makeshift harness over Timber's head and under his belly, but he managed.
Finished, Storm Shadow stepped back and double-checked everything. "Looks nice. Stay calm. I'll be right back. " Whipping out a pair of kunai knives, he dug a blade deep into the pitfall wall and gave it a test pull. It was secure.
Timber whined as he watched the white ninja climb. Where was he going? Wasn't he going to stay and help him out? His whines turned more pathetic when Tommy disappeared from view but stopped when the man looked back into the pit. "You ready?"
There was a yank, and the wolf suddenly found himself airborne. Utterly confounded by the lack of solid ground beneath his paws, he moved his legs back and forth in a broken sort of run. He was flying!
Bracing himself, Storm continued pulling Timber out of the pit. As soon as the wolf's paws touched dirt near the top, he started scrambling at the edge, kicking dirt and twigs up. "Shhhh... Not yet. Not yet..." Tommy muttered as he gave one final pull, and Timber was out of the pit.
Excited, the wolf tried to run. Freedom! He was finally free! But the ninja grabbed him by his scruff and lifted him up; his two front paws waved uselessly in the air and his back paws pushed futilely against the ground.
"Wait a moment. I need my rope back." Still holding the wolf up, Storm took the harness off of his chest and body. "There you go." He set him back down.
Immediately, Timber shot off into the woods.
"You're welcome, you ungrateful mutt," Storm called out after him as he dislodged his grappling hook from the tree and folded his paracord. He was going to have to weave it back into a belt when he returned to the cabin.
After folding the grappling hook, he looked around and frowned. Where was his utility belt? He could've sworn it was right there...
A short bark caught his attention. He looked; Timber was standing about twenty feet away, holding something white and long in his mouth...
"Hey, no. No. That's not a toy, Timber - that's my belt. Drop it."
Timber watched the man carefully approach. He blinked... and took off, belt dangling from his jaws.
"Goddammit, Timber!" Storm Shadow ran after him.
Eyes still closed, Snake-Eyes felt the cold, unoccupied pillow next to him and sighed. Looks like his brother got lost, or hurt. Most likely lost, since he was unfamiliar with these woods.
Getting up, he did a quick stretch and reached for his mask. But as soon as his fingers touched the black fabric, he heard-
A small smile spread across his lips. He could hear the familiar paw-steps and panting of his best animal friend followed closely by the cursing voice of his best human friend.
"Drop it, Timber! DROP. IT. NOW."
As the sounds approached closer and closer, Snake walked over to the door and opened it; one timber wolf and one irritated ninja ran into the cabin. Timber's tail wagged furiously as he ran around the interior, keeping what appeared to be Tommy's utility belt out of the man's reach.
Snake-Eyes snapped his fingers. Timber stopped and looked at him, panting happily. When Snake patted the side of his leg, the wolf walked over to him and deposited the drool-covered belt in his hand. [I'm assuming this belongs to you,] he signed as he held the belt out.
Storm snatched it from him. "How did you know, genius?" he grumbled as he inspected it. Timber thankfully did not drag any part on the ground, so the belt was still in good condition save for the drool and teethmarks.
[What happened? I was about to go out and look for you.]
"Your oh-so-skilled wolf decided that it would be fun to fall into a pitfall trap and wake up the nearest guy with the Ear that Sees by howling his head off." Storm sat down on the bed, removed the bundle of paracord looped around his shoulder, and started to weave it back into a belt. "Then afterwards, he ran off with his savior's belt."
Snake placed a hand on his brother's shoulder. [Thank you for saving him. I appreciate it.]
Tommy shrugged, but Snake could see a slight smile on his face. "Someone needed to do it, and I preferred it not to be you." He looked at the sitting wolf. "I also hoped that if I helped him, he would finally stop growling at me."
[He will, I'm sure of it.] Snake lifted his hand. [What do you want for breakfast? Eggs? Toast? Tea?]
"All of the above, please."
Amused, Snake nodded and headed for the small kitchen. Along the way, he passed by Timber, who got to his feet and looked expectantly at his master. The ninja merely stroked his head before continuing on his way.
Storm collapsed on the bed, mumbling in contentment. He had only had a few hours of sleep, and a quick snooze didn't seem like a bad idea. Closing his eyes, he began to drift off to sleep.
He didn't notice Timber until it was too late. The wolf did, after all, wander around the cabin as he pleased, but Tommy's mind somehow decided not to process the observation that the animal was heading in his direction.
A big, wet, warm tongue slid across his face. Repeatedly.
Tommy's eyes flew open. He tried to lift his head, but found that he couldn't. One of Timber's large front paws was in his hair, holding him down while he continued his assault of affection.
"SNAKE-EYEEES!" Storm called out, only for Timber's tongue to accidentally swipe across his lips. He wiped his mouth, disgusted. "Snake-Eyes, your wolf is trying to drown me in his drool! GODDAMMIT, SNAKE! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!"
In the kitchen, Snake's shoulders shook in silent laughter as he poured boiling water into a teapot.
A/N: ... Yeah. Story is done. ^-^