Cerberus lifted his head and eyed the men that got into the back of the BearCat. He hadn’t gone with them and it had been hours since they’d left. They smelled, no, scrap that, they downright reeked. He looked on as they entered one by one. Uncle Jason was first. He was the Alpha of the pack. He was always loud, always sounded angry – in most instances he was, but Cerberus knew that it was with reason. Uncle Jason constantly got what he wanted and sometimes even more. But he cared for the pack. To Cerberus, that was the most important. The pack came first.
Cerberus took a whiff at Uncle Jason. He smelled like sweat, dirt, gunpowder, blood and fear. Cerberus cocked his head. Uncle Jason was never afraid. It made his hackles rise. Something had happened. He took a closer look at his uncle Jason. He didn’t see any blood, it meant that the injury was treated. At least that was sorted. He thumped his tail in greeting but remained where he was. He was still worried about the fear he smelled.
Next inside the confined space was Uncle Trent. Uncle Trent was the medic. He also treated Cerberus’ injuries. He never hurt him on purpose and made sure that he was comfortable after he got injured. But he was always quiet. Uncle Trent would sit and stare out into the darkness. Sometimes, Cerberus wondered what Uncle Trent thought about. On those occasions, he smelled sad. It pained him when Uncle Trent smelled sad. He made sure that he sat close to Uncle Trent to keep him company in times like that.
Uncle Trent smelled the same as Uncle Jason. Fear and blood coated his scent. He could smell both clearly. It was not only Uncle Jason’s blood on Uncle Trent. He managed not to whine when he smelled his dad’s blood. It was fainter than Uncle Jason’s, but it was there, and it worried him more. Cerberus watched as Uncle Trent moved deeper into the vehicle and took his seat right next to him. Cerberus shifted and rested his head on Uncle Trent’s knee. He looked up. Uncle Trent smiled at him, but it wasn’t a happy smile. This time he did whine and even when he felt the hand in his hair it didn’t make him relax.
With the hand in hair, Cerberus turned his head as the third man got into the armored vehicle. It was Uncle Ray. Uncle Ray was their pack’s 2IC. He was a strong beta. He was calm in the most stressful situations. He had the ability to even calm down the excitable Uncle Jason. Cerberus loved Uncle Ray’s smell. He smelled like pups. Cerberus loved playing with the pups. They never pulled his hair, gave him treats that made his dad frown, which he gobbled down quickly. Uncle Ray would take a brush and would groom him for hours on end. He always slept like a rock after that.
Cerberus shuffled forward as Uncle Ray stumbled inside. His uncle was held steady by Uncle Jason and Uncle Trent. Cerberus could see that Uncle Ray had a heavy limp and he wondered what had happened. Fear coated Uncle’s Ray’s scent. But there was another scent as well. One that he didn’t recognize. Cerberus became nervous when the vehicle rumbled beneath his feet. He whined out loud. His dad wasn’t there. Uncle Sonny and Clay were also missing. What was going on? He moved forward and a hand on his collar made him halt. He turned and looked at Uncle Trent. He needed to know what was going on.
“Easy, boy. Brock is coming.”
Cerberus cocked his head. His dad was on his way, but where was Uncle Sonny, where was their pack’s own pup. Where was Clay? He whimpered and pulled forward. He had to see what was going on. If they had lost Uncle Sonny and Clay, he would find them. He always found them. He tried to move forward again but was held back. Cerberus growled lowly. He knew he wasn’t allowed to make a scene, but they were part of his pack. He always thought that they never left a man behind. What was going on? Where were they? Where was his dad?
Cerberus glared at his uncle Trent, but he did as commanded and lowered his behind onto the cold metal floor. Not once did he break eye contact. Just before he wanted to growl again, he heard and smelled his dad at the same time. He broke position and stood on all four legs. He looked on as his dad climbed up into the BearCat. He was filthy. He was covered in what smelled like soot. He had a streak of dried blood down the side of his face. His shirt and pants were torn.
Cerberus didn’t give a damn. He broke the hold Uncle Trent had over him and wiggled past Uncle Jason and Uncle Ray to get to his dad. He managed to contain himself and not jump up on his hind legs, but he pressed himself hard against his dad and sniffed at him. He smelled like blood. He smelled like smoke and dirt and more blood. Clay’s blood. He also smelled of anger and of pure terror. It made Cerberus confused and he whimpered again. What was going on?
“I’ve got you, boy.”
Cerberus let his dad tuck at this collar and they moved back and took their places next to Uncle Trent. Without waiting for permission, Cerberus climbed on top of his dad. He had to know what was going on. His dad would tell him. He licked at his dad’s face. He hated the blood on his dad. His dad got hurt, and he wasn’t there to protect his dad. He wasn’t there to take out a big junk of the bad man’s arm for hurting his dad. For hurting his pack.
Cerberus ignored the order. He wasn’t going to back down. He had to know. Why weren’t they telling him what was going on? Where was Uncle Sonny, where was Clay? He whined and it turned into a howl. Cerberus felt the arms go around him and he pressed himself harder against his dad’s chest. Something bad had happened. He howled again. Where was Uncle Sonny, where was Clay?
Brock looked at Trent and nodded. Without releasing the hold he had on the dog, Brock leaned back against the steel side of the armor-plated vehicle and closed his eyes. They all knew.
--- SEAL TEAM ---
Two days later
Cerberus sneezed again and used his paw to cover his muzzle. He hated the smell of hospitals. Humans may think of it as clean, but he could still smell the blood and the death underneath that smell they called clean.
Movement to his left made him get up from the floor as he trotted over to the bed. He sat down on his haunches and looked on as Uncle Sonny moved restlessly around in the bed. Without hesitating for a second, Cerberus leaped upwards and landed with a soft thud right next to his uncle on the bed. He gently stepped closer and took care not to put any of his weight on Uncle Sonny’s body. His uncle was hurt, and Cerberus would make sure that he didn’t make his uncle’s pain any worse.
Cerberus sighed as Uncle Sonny found his head and raked his fingers across his short hair. His eyes wanted to roll over as Uncle Sonny found that one spot behind his left ear. Cerberus cocked his head as he made sure that he got scratched just there. It felt like heaven. He huffed when his uncle stopped but sat back when he saw the look on his uncle’s face. A look that all his uncle and his dad shared. One of despair. That’s the smell he smelt on all of them. The smell he took for mere fear, but it was more than that. He now knew the difference.
He nudged his uncle’s hand. It was going to be all right. He got rewarded for the nudge as his ears got scratched again.
“I’m worried, Cerb. I’m really worried.”
Cerberus licked at the arm that scratched him. It was going to be all right.
“It’s been two days.”
Indeed, two very long days.
Cerberus nipped at the skin.
“Sorry. No negative thoughts.”
Cerberus licked at the skin he pinched with his teeth. No negative thoughts.
“I don’t know.”
Sonny huffed. “Easy for you to say.”
Cerberus growled again.
“Yeah, I know.”
Cerberus sighed. He moved backwards and made himself comfortable next to his uncle on the bed. He rested his front paws and head on his uncle’s chest. He licked him once. It was going to be okay.
Sonny sighed. “It’s going to be okay.”
Cerberus managed not to roll his eyes. That’s what he said.
--- SEAL TEAM ---
One week later
He had to use every trick he’d ever learned to get pass those who refused him entry. He wasn’t the best K9 SEAL dog for nothing. Cerberus leopard crawled pass the nurses’ station until he reached the end. There he stayed flat on his stomach until he heard the squeak of the soles of the nurse on duty, sending her in the opposite direction before he quickly got to his paws, crossed the passage and with ease opened the door and sneaked in. He had to blink twice for his eyes to get used to the darkened interior, but even then, he didn’t hesitate to go where he wanted to be.
The railings of the bed didn’t hinder him as he cleared it in a single leap. He stayed at the foot end of the mattress. He stood and looked at the different machines behind Clay’s bed. He didn’t understand any of it, but Uncle Trent and even the rest of the pack, stared at those things for hours on end.
Cerberus then looked down at the pup. Clay was the pack’s pup. This human was still very young, in doggy years he wasn’t even more than three and a half years old. He had still a lot of growing up to do and a lot of training. He also knew that the pack was angry at Clay. He didn’t understand it all, but what he did understand made him want to growl and nip at their pup as well.
Clay was on point when they’d entered the single-story dwelling that was suspected to hold a hitman for one or another cartel. They’d cleared the first three rooms without a problem. It was the last room where their mission went to hell. The bomb was rigged with a movement sensor that was placed at such an angle in the room that it only went off when Clay, Sonny and Brock were already in the room. There was a delayed reaction that gave Clay enough time to shout out a warning as he managed to shove Sonny and Brock clear and slammed the door shut to keep the impact of the bomb to a minimum. He was still on the inside.
Cerberus wasn’t sure, but it seemed their hitman was supposedly a better sniper than a bombmaker as the explosives he’d used caused less damage than he had wanted to. Unfortunately, it caused more damage than what Bravo ever had expected.
Uncle Sonny had suffered from a broken left arm. Two fractured ribs on the right side, a concussion, bruises over his whole body and some minor burn wounds to the back of his legs.
Their pup had been buried under the rubble. It had taken Bravo team more than three hours to dig him out. His right leg and arm were broken. He had a hairline fracture in his pelvis. He had several fractured ribs. One had pierced his lung. There was something wrong with his head, but Cerberus didn’t understand that so well. All that he knew was that the doctors made Clay sleep and they didn’t want to let him wake up soon.
Now, it was a week later, and Cerberus really missed the pup. Clay would come and collect him from his dad’s place, and they would go and jog along the beach. Clay would play with him in the surf and would even dig holes in the sand until they could both disappear into the hole. They would curl up together in front of the fire pit and would moan together if dad or Uncle Jason ordered them to bed. He wanted Clay to wake up. He knew the team needed Clay to wake up.
Cerberus huffed, turned a few times around between Clay’s feet and then found the perfect spot to sleep. He curled up and closed his eyes. Clay would wake up. They would play together again.
--- SEAL TEAM ---
One month later
Cerberus stayed on his leash, although he did pull hard as he wanted his dad to walk faster. He wanted to walk next to Clay. Their pup was finally going home. He wagged his tail, barked and smiled as the pack looked at him. They all smelled of hope.
Cerberus pulled harder. Finally, he was next to Clay. Their pup was seated in a wheelchair. Uncle Sonny was pushing the thing. He tried to jump up, but a hard tug had him back on the floor.
Dad sounded angry and Cerberus lowered his head.
“He’s just excited.”
Cerberus lapped at Clay’s hand when their pup held it out to him.
“I don’t want him to injure you, Clay.”
Cerberus barked once in agreement. They finally emerged from the hospital and Cerb looked on as Clay placed his hands on the wheels and made Uncle Sonny stop the wheelchair.
“I want to walk.”
Cerberus watched as the rest of Bravo team stared at Clay. He knew they were talking to one another without saying anything out loud. They understood each other well. Uncle Ray handed Clay a set of crutches while both Uncle Jason and Uncle Trent moved closer to the wheelchair. Uncle Sonny held it steady and slowly Clay got to his feet.
“Don’t come crying to me if you fall on your ass.”
Cerberus growled at Uncle Sonny. The pup wouldn’t fall. They wouldn’t let him fall.
Clay laughed and shook his head. “I won’t.” He looked his shoulder at Sonny. “You wouldn’t let me.”
Cerberus sighed. That’s what he said. He looked at Clay and when the pup winked at him, he barked out loud. The team laughed. Everything was good. They had their pup back. Bravo team no longer smelled of despair. Now they smelled of hope and of strength. They were whole again.