Two Blood / ATF Universe
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: Kudos to Joe Lawson for the amazing AU. Thanks to Kerry for the very speedy beta work. This story makes reference to the fic Moon and Rain
The annual county show and rodeo had arrived, and the Denver Pack were having a day out, mixing business with pleasure. Chris was showing his stallion in competition, if he did well he would get a good price for the mares he covered that winter. Vin and JD were both competing in the amateur rodeo, in the calf roping, and as a roping team. The stallion had come second in his class on the first day and was safely back at the ranch. It was Vin's turn in the heats of the calf roping. He had warned them he was out of practice and not to expect much, he was only doing it to keep Peso occupied - or so he claimed. There were heats and the final in the afternoon, JD had been one of the first to race. Since the heat order was drawn up alphabetically, Vin was one of the last to ride. The men took their places on the open bench seating. Peso was new to this game, but Vin had been training him at the ranch, having borrowed a few calves from a neighbour's cattle ranch for him and JD to practice on.
"Next up, from the Bar L ranch, Vincent Tanner on Peso." In response to the tannoy announcement the men all sat up, eyes glued on the far end of the arena. First Vin rode in and took his place, then all eyes were glued on the chute from which the calf would be released. There was a countdown and then the race was on, Peso - who always wanted to lead, took of enthusiastically after the small brown calf. Vin, reins in one hand, started to swing his rope as the distance closed, he threw and almost before he had even registered that, the loop was over the calf's head.
In the end JD missed out on the final by one place, a margin of only three tenths of a second. He was disappointed but the others assured him for his first ever rodeo it was a very good result.
"So Junior, you all ready for your big final?" Buck asked as Vin strolled up to them.
"Ain't gonna be in any final," Vin drawled and he sat himself down and picked up a leg of fried chicken.
"What are you talking about?" JD asked. "You came second, you had a great time, you're in the final."
"I was in the final, until that mule of mine decided to pick a fight with a fence, dumb ass horse's cut his left hind and picked up a heavy bruise, he's lame."
Vin gave them a rueful smile before he bit into his chicken.
"Do you want me to take a look at him?" Nathan asked.
"Thanks fer the offer Nate but there's a vet in the barn, he took care of him for me."
"Trust Peso to screw up his own fun," JD commented.
"Well if we are no longer to cheer Mr Tanner on to victory, there is no reason for us to stay here," Ezra pointed out.
"Oh come on Ez, we're here now, let's just enjoy the rest of the day," Buck announced. "I'm staying - what about you guys?"
Everyone wanted to stay and thus, feeling the strong pull of the pack, Ezra also agreed to stay. They wandered among the different displays and show classes. These included a dog show; Ezra picked up a flyer that was being handed out.
GOOD K9 CITIZENSHIP
Is your pet a good citizen? Enter him or her in the open challenge obedience class, any animal may enter so long as it has never competed in a KCA recognised obedience class before. The winner will receive $50 and the chance to compete against the show obedience champion for a prize of $200.
Money always got Ezra's attention. He handed the paper to Buck.
"What do you think?" he asked.
Buck scanned the paper. "What do I think about what?"
"Well I know a certain wolf that could run rings around any dog in one of those classes."
Buck shook his head and handed back the flyer. "No way Slick. No. Way!"
"Oh come on $125 each, not to be sneezed at and besides I am sure I can find some sporting individuals in the crowed who might make the remuneration more lucrative."
"Read my lips Ezra - No!"
"No what?" JD asked.
By the time Standish had explained it, JD was all for the plan.
Buck's loud protests got the others attention.
"It would be kind of fun," Vin commented.
"No it wouldn't."
"Diverting," Josiah agreed.
"No, nada, no way Jose, nope." Buck protested, he looked at Chris for support.
"You do know who won the obedience championship this year, who won it every year for the last five years?" Chris asked.
"No and I don't care."
Buck froze where he was, running his hand absent mindedly over the still livid scar on his arm, the memories of hanging, for hours on end, trapped by his shattered arm, in the cruel trap Flintoff had set, were fresh in his memory and still haunted his nightmares.
"He's damn proud of those Doberman's of his. If he got beat by an amateur and a wolf, you do know that perceived wisdom is that wolves - even tame ones - are untrainable, it would make him a laughing stock in the kennel club. He's chairman of the local branch."
Buck was wavering. To get one over on the miserable bully in public was very tempting. The others waited in silence.
"What do I have to do?" the Two Blood finally asked.
If anyone had been watching closely they would have seen a tall dark man climb into a black Dodge Ram from the passenger side, and some time later a huge silver grey wolf was let out of the driver's side by a tall blond man.
Chris held up a newly acquired collar and leash. Buck growled.
"Don't start with me, we do not need to start a panic here, apart from Rachel no one knows about you around here, so quite bitching and let me put this on."
Buck gave the lupine equivalent of rolling his eyes, then dropped his head.
While Buck was making the change, Ezra entered Mr Larabee's pet 'Wolf' in the open contest, where he would be handled by Mr Dunne - Chris having refused to appear in the ring himself. As the time of the contest approached the competitors gathered, there were a variety of breeds and quite a few mongrels. JD fidgeted nervously as he waited for Chris to arrive with Buck. The contest was due to start at three, it was almost that now and no sign of Chris. The judge, an elderly lady who reminded JD of a somewhat heavier Nettie, came up to him.
"You do have a dog young man - don't you?" she asked.
"Oh yes ma'am, Wolf, he's coming," he assured, still scanning the crowed, suddenly catching sight of Chris' old Indiana State cap. "He's here."
With that, JD jogged over to the rope boundary and collected Buck from Chris. "Just remember, Buck, youre a dumb old wolf, not Scooby Doo," Chris growled as he handed over the leash.
As JD strolled out toward the line of competitors the crowd went silent. The judge and two other officials came running to intercept him.
"Sir stop!" she commanded.
"What?" JD feigned surprise.
"That is a wolf - isn't it?"
JD looked down at Buck who looked up at him, then both looked at the officials. "Yes - so?"
"What do you mean so? You can't enter a wolf, this is a dog class "
"Actually it's a canine class and you took our application in good faith," JD pointed out. He tapped the clipboard of the registration clerk.
The judge turned to the man with the clipboard. "Well Malcolm?"
The application form had a line where you had to fill in 'breed' and another below were you filled in 'name'. Ezra had filled in 'Wolf' between the two lines.
"Um, well, they have put 'wolf' I thought it was the dog's name and it was a mongrel," Malcolm admitted.
"Wolf is his name. Not very imaginative I know, but what can you do? Old Man Larabee's not the imaginative type - look at his son." He gestured to the man in black scowling at them from the crowd. "So were do I stand? Over there?" JD pointed to the line of competitors and started walking before anyone could say anything more.
The officials looked at each other and shrugged. After all, what chance did an inexperienced young man and a wolf have? The KCA official jogged after JD and handed him an adhesive patch with a number on it.
"Ok sir you're in, here, put this on your right upper arm," he instructed.
JD looked at the patch. "Number 7 - perfect!" Buck yipped and wagged his tail, while JD's enthusiastic waving of the number patch got a chorus of whistles and cheers from the other five in the crowd.
Buck did just enough to win. They had decided early that 'tipping their hand' early wasn't a smart move.
Finally the result was announced. "And the winner is JD Dunne and Wolf." The crowed erupted in cheers. "They will now meet reigning obedience champion, five times winner Kurt Flintoff and Satan."
There was just half an hour to before the big contest, little enough time for Ezra to circulate in the crowd and place various friendly wagers. Ezra enthusiastically talked up the performance of 'Wolf' while glossing over his various errors in the first contest. The discerning spectators, including the beaten contestants, were happy to take his bet, having seen Flintoff and his dog in action many times. He was still taking bets and making deals as JD strolled out into the arena with Buck loping along beside him, no longer on the leash.
"Hi there," JD greeted breezily as he approached his opponent.
Kurt Flintoff was an average sized man with a barrel chest and a potbelly; he covered his bald head with a battered cap, which proclaimed that 'God helps those who help themselves'. He turned his rather dull grey eyes on the young man and his wolf with disdain.
"You just keep that thing away from me and my dog," he warned. "Can't abide wolves, don't know what they were thinking, letting the damn thing compete in the first place, " he muttered, more to himself than to anyone else.
"So, is this like the other competition?" JD asked, totally ignoring his opponent's foul mood.
"No, not exactly," Flintoff sneered back.
JD turned to look down at Buck. "Hear that boy? This one is different, you make sure you listen and pay attention."
Buck gave him a snort in acknowledgement and then turned his attention to Satan, the sleek Doberman, sitting beside Flintoff with his cropped ears raised and staring at the wolf. Satan was an alpha, in his pack only his master ranked higher, and he asserted his dominance over every hapless dog he encountered. Buck wasn't having that. He was bigger, stronger and far more dominant than any domestic dog, and he was going to make sure poor Satan got the message. No human, how ever 'tuned in' to canine behaviour would have been able to pick up the subtle signals Buck was sending out, but to Satan it was loud and clear. 'I'm bigger and badder than you, back off!' it said.
"Gentlemen, are we ready?" the official asked as he came over to the two men. Receiving conformation that they were, he continued. "This is the heel test, since advanced dogs quickly learn the figure of eight in this, turns will be called to you randomly. Kurt you'll go first."
JD watched with the official as Flintoff and Satan walked together. The dog pressed himself against his master's hip, gazing up at him as they walked.
"Why does he do that?" JD asked.
"You can't give the dog err wolf, instructions or hand singles, so he has to get his cue to turn from your body."
"Does he have to do it?"
The official smiled. "No one expects you to win young man, just do your best."
"No, will we lose points if he isn't doing all that " He waved his hand at the man currently walking about the arena with a large black and tan dog practically glued to his hip.
"Well technically he just has to turn at the exact moment that you do, but you can't "
"Give him instructions I know."
Flintoff and Satan got 19 points out of 20.
"Think you can match that?" he sneered as he passed.
"Yes." With that JD strolled toward the judge with Buck walking beside him in perfect time.
The test was ridiculously easy. The judge called out the turns and they both turned, in time, perfectly synchronised. Buck wasn't pressed against JD; he walked confidently beside him, turning as soon as the judge called the direction. The final turn brought them back to the judge. Having watched the others in the preliminary rounds Buck sat himself neatly at JD's side.
"Well?" Dunne asked.
"That was... it was... um... you got 20 out of 20... err... well done."
As they strolled back Buck's tail was up, his head held up high; JD was grinning like a loon. "Told you we could do better," he commented as he resumed his position beside the stunned rancher and his dog.
Just then the score was announced and the crowed cheered, drowning out any remark Flintoff might have made. The next test was the scent retrieval. Eleven cloths were placed in a circle, then a twelfth was rubbed in the hands of the judge. All this time Flintoff stood with his back to the circle on the ground, keeping his dog from seeing what was happening. Once the scented cloth was placed in the ring the judge came over to Flintoff and passed him a second cloth she had rubbed in her hands. Satan then dutifully searched the ring of cloths until he found the correct one.
Buck and JD had a different approach. Flintoff had held the scented cloth over his dog's nose; JD just held it for Buck to give a cursory sniff at. All the time he had his eyes on Vin, who was watching the judge, once the target cloth was down he held up nine fingers.
"Nine o'clock," JD whispered to Buck, as he stood and waited to get the all clear to start the test.
It wasn't that Buck couldn't have found it the old fashioned way, but this just looked better, as he walked calmly to the ninth cloth in the ring, picked it up and returned it to JD.
"Hey, that was a fluke!" Flintoff protested. "He didn't even check."
"No such thing, he can do that every time." JD turned to the judge. "We'll go again if you want, no problem."
In the end Buck had to do it three times, at first there had been an uneasy murmur in the crowd, but by the third retrieval they were cheering.
"Still say it's a fluke or a cheat," Flintoff groused.
Both he and Satan scored 20 out of 20 for the scent test. Next came the jumping. Six fences - like small versions of show jumps - were placed in a large ring.
"To make things more difficult," the judge announced. "Instead of just jumping all six and then returning, you will both be given two jumps to miss out. This will test your distance control over your dog - wolf - when he is doing something we hope he is enjoying."
Flintoff was already seriously pissed off. Now they were changing the game on him. He agreed to this for the money, and the chance to show off. He hadn't banked on some cocky kid and a damn wolf showing him up and taking all his limelight.
"That isn't a standard test, I've never done that before - this isn't fair," he fumed.
"I'm happy," JD piped up. "It's all new to me."
The judge - who was no fan of Flintoff or his training methods - smiled at the man. "Exactly, this will make it a more even contest. Mr Flintoff, you're first."
Still muttering and grumbling he walked Satan to the start. The dog was exited, he loved to run and jump, normally he was just sent off to run and jump each fence as it appeared in front of him, he knew what to do and couldn't wait to do it.
"Stay!" the portly rancher commanded as he walked into the middle of the circle.
Once he was there he sent Satan to the first jump, the trouble was he was meant to miss out two and four, so the very instant the dog cleared the first fence, and was tearing toward the next he was bellowing at it to come to him. Poor Satan was confused. Wasn't he meant to jump the fence? He always jumped the fence. His master wanted him to jump the fence - didn't he? But his master was calling him. All this time his long strides were eating up the relatively short distance between the fences. At the last minute he heeded the call and turned to run to his master, but he wasn't fast enough to make the turn and collided with the jump's upright causing the top rail to fall. Once he jumped the third fence, he responded more readily to the command to 'come' but it still took a lot of desperate shouting on Flintoff's part to make it happen.
"Kurt Flintoff and Satan score 15 out of 20 in that round," the judge announced.
"Interesting shade of red ol' Kurt turned there," Vin commented gleefully.
"Reckon he might just have a coronary if this goes on much longer," Chris added.
"Well he can count me out if he does, I ain't gonna help the man." Chris looked around to see a hard set to Nathan's jaw, and for the first time ever he thought the tall medic might actually mean it.
"Fate and divine justice, they will right all wrongs, if we just give them time," Josiah commended. "And looks like his just ran out. Where's' Ezra?"
All three men looked around to find there debonair southern friend was missing.
"Well he can't be taking more bets. He'd not even get evens on Buck right now," Vin pointed out.
"Oh he'll turn up - smelling like roses no doubt." Nathan reminded them. "Very expensive roses too."
"Indeed brother, he probably will - look - it's Buck's turn."
All four turned their attention back to the ring.
"Right, young man," the judge began, "just do your best, I'd like you to skip two and five, okay?"
"Sure thing ma'am." JD beamed, then he looked down at Buck. "Hear that?" Buck cocked his head on one side. "Miss out jumps two and five." Buck gave an affirming yip. "Can we start now?"
"Yes in your own time, begin."
She might have been speaking to JD but it was Buck who took off. He relished the chance to stretch his legs, to show what a real wolf could do. Easily covering the ground in huge ground eating bounds he was at the first fence, taking off he cleared it easily. Even as he was in the air he turned, landing slightly to the side of his take off point, enabling him to pass fence two in a graceful arch, never breaking stride. He sailed over the next two, before deftly passing fence five. As he cleared fence six, the roar of the crowed was deafening.
As he landed, he slowed his pace to come to a graceful stop beside JD. The judge and the official both stood there, dumb struck.
"How did you get him to do that?" the judge finally asked.
JD frowned and looked from her to Buck and back, feigning confusion. "Well I told him which ones to miss - that was what you wanted us to do, wasn't it?
"Yes but but how? How did you make him miss out the ones you wanted?" she persisted.
"I told him? So " JD turned on his smile. "how did we do?" He craned his head to look at the clipboard to try and make out their score."
"Um, well, 20 out of 20."
"Cool! What's next?"
The fourth and final test was the stay test. The official explained the test to both of the handlers. "The 'dogs' have to be sent away to drop and stay in that circle." He pointed to a circle marked on the ground, at the far end of the arena. "The handler then has to step out of the ring for ten minutes, only when you return and call them can they move. If they leave the circle you fail the test, every time they stand or sit you lose points."
Buck loped over to the circle side by side with Satan. They both dropped, but while Satan stared at his master, and when he was gone - at the point in the crowd were he disappeared, Buck just put his head down and relaxed - or so it seemed to the onlookers. Almost as soon as they were together, Buck started to exert his dominance over poor Satan. He growled at him, a low quiet growl, too low for human ears. His posture - while looking unremarkable to the watching One Bloods - was aggressive, at least to another canine. He moved slowly and deliberately to make eye contact with dog beside him. The message was clear - 'Move it!'.
Satan was well trained. He wanted to obey his master - his alpha - but he wanted to live as well and in the end the instinct for self-preservation won. He moved. In fact he set off at a run to find his master and get away from the very dominant, very big wolf.
The crowed gasped. The announcer sadly pointed out that Satan was disqualified. Waiting with the Kennel Club official, Flintoff's head shot up.
"What?" But he didn't need an explanation, because there beside him was a cringing Satan, head down, ears back. If he'd still had his tail it would have be between his legs. "What the hell are you doing here?" Satan just whined. Kurt turned his attention to the official. "This is because of that damn wolf, it should never have been allowed in the competition, this is a farce!"
The official smiled wanly. "You didn't have to compete, it was your choice, now excuse me I have a check to present."
The crowed went wild as it was announced that JD Dunne and Wolf had scored 80 out of 80, a 100% score, something almost unheard of. Flintoff refused to partake in the presentation ceremony, heading directly for his truck.
"Leaving already Kurt?" Chris asked, coming up behind him.
"That your wolf Larabee?" Flintoff asked, without slowing his pace.
"Nope, he belongs to my father, I'm just minding him for a bit."
"How long? If that thing comes near my cattle, I'll shoot it, I got a right."
"He won't come near your cattle - he is after all, very well trained, isn't he?"
Turning around, Flintoff was ready to hit Chris, but seeing the look in his neighbour's eyes he thought better of it. "Bastard," he snarled.
"Takes one to know one." Chris suddenly reached out and grabbed the man by the shirtfront. "If that wolf gets so much as a scratch while he's here - whenever he's here - I'm coming after you, you hear me Kurt?"
If the older man thought of retaliating he thought better of it and just pulled away from Chris and continued on his way.
"Gentlemen," Ezra announced as he returned with a huge wad of bills in his hand. " we did very well. Where is our Two Blood?" He scanned the men before him. "Not to mention Mr Dunne and Mr Larabee?"
"JD and Buck went to the Ram, should be back soon, don't know were Chris went," Vin explained. "So how much we make?"
"Not counting the $250 prize money, around $200 - each!"
"Holy shit!" Nathan exclaimed.
"The Lord helps those who help themselves. Might I suggest that the prize money is divided between JD and Buck - they did all the hard work after all," Josiah suggested.
Ezra was about to object; it had taken him some time to adjust to the idea that as a Pack, rather than a team, they now shared everything. Now that he had, he was being asked to give up his share. But seeing the others nodding their agreement he capitulated.
"Hi guys," Buck greeted as he and JD jogged back to them.
"Mr Wilmington "
"Sorry, Buck, may I congratulate you on an exemplary performance."
"Well thank you."
"Don't thank him," Vin cut in, "he missed most of it - where the hell were you?" Vin turned to Ezra.
"I was doing something, very " He seemed to think for a bit. "Very childish, but most satisfying."
"Ezra?" Josiah asked, with clear warning his voice. "What have you done?"
Ezra just smirked.
"He let the air out of Flintoff's tires." Chris strolled up from behind them. "He's spitting blood."
The others turned their attention back to Standish. "Well," he explained. " he wouldn't take my bet, so I wanted some other way to 'relieve' him of some cash - it'll cost him a fortune to get someone out all the way out here to re-inflate all five tires."
"Five?" JD asked.
"Oh I did the spare as well. If you're gonna do something, you might as well do it right - right?"
"Right!" Buck agreed, clapping an arm over Ezra's shoulders. "Now I need a drink, my winnings and a hot bath - in that order." He looked up at his pack. "Come on guys, let's collect those horses and go home."
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