title: Iwatobi Animal Shelter
fandom: Free!
characters/pairings: Makoto/Haruka/Rin... ish, Nagisa/Rei-ish, Gou, Miho
rating: G
warnings: fluffiness... really fluffy fluffyness
summary: Rin comes back, but he's not the same.
notes: i've had this image in my head for a long, long time... but i've been recently kicked in the pants by this fanart... and then this fanart, which was inspired by the first, is basically the last scene. so it was definitely time to get it out there!! also, this fulfills a square for trope-bingo card... weakly, i'm doing the center "Free Space" first. this will be "AU: other."

Haru was sleeping soundly. He was so cute, all curled up. Makoto really wanted to give him a great big lick, but the last time he did that, Haru got mad at him, and Makoto hated it when Haru got mad. Still, he happily watched Haru sleeping... wanting to lick him...

Nagisa squawked and rattled around, restless. Makoto smiled widely at him, but Nagisa wasn't paying attention. So, Makoto went back to watching Haru.

The bell rang, and the Miss started, and then could be heard to move around. Makoto stood up and went to the door, curious and a bit anxious. What if it was a bad person? Makoto really hated that the door was closed. He wanted to be with the Miss when she opened the door. He sniffed and sniffed, his ears flat.

Suddenly, he got very excited. He recognized that smell! He knew who it was! He went over to Haru, and headbutted him. Haru looked up at him, baring a fang.

"Haru! Haru, it's Rin! Rin's here! He's at the door!" Makoto wagged his tail powerfully.

Haru sniffed disdainfully and readjusted himself. "Rin is gone. He was taken away by people. He can't come back."

Makoto's big, fluffy, golden tail swept the floor. "It is Rin, Rin is back!"

Nagisa's squawk sounded a lot like a laugh. "Maybe the people didn't like 'im! Didn't like him!"

"That's not nice," Makoto huffed. "It doesn't really matter, does it? Rin is back!"

Haru sighed, and turned around, curling his little black body in a tighter wee furry knot.

Amused, Makoto butted his nose against Haru, nudging him, but that just annoyed Haru. Before Haru could hiss at him or before Nagisa could squawk again or before Makoto could nudge Haru more, the door opened. Makoto stood on all fours and wagged his tail mightily. The Miss came in, carrying a red kitty in her arms.

Barking, Makoto came up to the Miss. "Rin! Rin, you're back!"

The Miss laughed, and set the red kitty down. "Now, now, Makoto, behave! Give RinRin some space. He's had a tough time." She scritched behind Rin's ear, but Rin pulled away and turned his face away from her. "Oh, dear. Rin and Haru always fought over food, didn't they? I'd better get out the other bowl, then..." The Miss sighed, and wandered off to find the bowl.

Makoto ambled over to Rin, his tail hanging low. "Rin! Rin, you're back, that's amazing! I've never known anyone to come back... What was it like? Were the people nice? What was the house you lived in like?"

Rin snarled at Makoto, baring his fangs. Haru's ears flattened, and he watched Rin closely. "Damn, you're as loud and annoying as that damned black lory up there!"

"Hey!" Nagisa squawked, puffing out his feathers in annoyance. "I'm a penguin!"

"Are you ok? Your fur is a bit matted," Makoto noticed, so he leaned down to lick Rin's back. Rin scooted away, raising the fur along his spine.

Haru got up and stretched out, pushing his claws out.

"Hey, Rin... where's Gou?" Makoto looked around, suddenly realizing... Rin was back, but his cute little sister wasn't...?

Rin froze, and then he turned his back to Makoto, grooming his paws diffidently. "Like I should know. I guess she got left behind. It's none of my business anymore."

Makoto's tail dropped and his ears drooped. Left... behind...? But... she was Rin's little sister!

Even Haru and Nagisa were quiet, just watching Rin.

The Miss came back. "Found it! Had to wash it up, it had gotten dusty in the past six months... You always liked the chicken flavor, right, RinRin? Here, have a little to eat... You're back home now, baby. We'll take care of you."

"RinRin! RinRin!" Nagisa repeated happily, flapping his wings.

Rin raised his nose and exhaled loudly.

Makoto scooted down to his belly. Rin... wasn't happy to be back, was he?

Days and days and days passed, or maybe just days, but Makoto had slept many times, and Haru almost got the fish out of the bowl before the Miss picked him up and tossed him down, and Nagisa made three new songs, and Rin...

Rin still wasn't talking to anyone. Rin wouldn't play with them and he fought with Haru, but it wasn't like before, like they were littermates and they couldn't stop chewing on each other's ears and it was really cute. He kept swiping at Haru and Makoto with his claws and hissing and promising to eat Nagisa.

It made Makoto sad.

"Stop sulking," Haru told Makoto. "And stop squirming, I'm trying to nap."

Makoto took a deep breath, and nearly made Haru fall off his belly. "But... Rin is all by himself. He's all... different!"

"I don't see what's so different about him," Haru sniffed. "He's always been a selfish jerk. He's just a more annoying selfish jerk."

Makoto whimpered.

"Stop that," Haru grumbled, kneading Makoto. Haru's claws needed to be clipped. The Miss was always slow about doing that. She was afraid of hurting the cats.

Makoto couldn't help whimpering, though. "I just wish there was something we could do for Rin. He's not himself!"

"Rei-chan wants to know who RinRin is now, then?" Nagisa chirped.

Haru's ear twitched. "Who... is Rei?" Haru yawned.

"Rei is the butterfly," Makoto looked over at the birdcage. Nagisa was jumping from perch to perch, chasing the purple and black butterfly. It was cute, but Makoto didn't really speak butterfly, so he wasn't sure how Rei felt about it.

Haru looked over at the cage for a second, and then put his head back down. "Don't birds eat bugs?"

"Rei-chan isn't a bug!" Nagisa protested. "And penguins eat fish, like kitties!"

"You eat seeds," Haru shot back.

Nagisa just squawked.

"You know what it is? It's Gou! Rin really misses Gou!" Makoto suggested. He... he knew how Rin felt. He had little siblings, too. Ran and Ren, they were littermates. But, they went to a family in the country with children. Makoto... would probably never see them again.

"Rin said he didn't care the last time you asked. He's just a jerk," Haru yawned.

Makoto thought more and more about Ran and Ren running around in some... some big green field with cute little peoples following them, laughing and maybe the little peoples would share peanut butter and flowers with them and... He missed them, a lot. So much. All the time. But... they were in a nice place! And Makoto loved Haru and Nagisa and Nagisa's butterfly Rei and Rin and the Miss. So, he didn't want to leave the Miss' place. That didn't mean he didn't miss Ran and Ren, though. And Rin was so protective of Gou. When the people came to take Rin and Gou, Makoto was really, really sad, but the people smelled good so he figured they were going to be ok.


Rin came back... alone... and... What kind of people brought a kitty back? And... why wasn't Gou with him? So...


Makoto sat up, his ears pointed straight up. Haru growled as he fell off Makoto's belly. "Oh! That really is it! Rin misses Gou! He's sad, he's not a jerk!"

"He can be a sad jerk," Haru protested, glaring at Makoto.

"I'll go find Gou! And then Rin will be happy!" Makoto's tail swished and swished and swished.

Haru's ears were flattened against his head. He shook his head, and then started to clean himself up. "How? Gou hasn't lived here in ages. Even with your nose, you can't find her if you don't have her scent."

Makoto's eyes widened, and his ears drooped. Oh... that was...

"RinRin's scent! Follow RinRin's scent! He lived there not too long ago!" Nagisa suggested, nearly flattening the butterfly against the wall, but fortunately the butterfly got away.

Makoto got on all fours and wagged his tail powerfully. "That's right! That's totally right! Rin's scent still has to be where the people who took him are! Thanks, Nagisa!"

"You still can't get out," Haru huffed, irritated. He slinked away from Makoto and then jumped up on the chair, eyeing the fishbowl on the table.

"Haru, don't bother the fish. And I go out to go to the bathroom! I just need to slip away," Makoto beamed.

"The lady will worry," Haru told Makoto, his tail swishing back and forth.

He was going to bother the fish, Makoto knew it. "Sometimes, she just forgets that I'm out in the yard. I'll be really fast!"

"You don't even know how far away they lived," Haru sniffed. "Maybe they were out in the country like..." Haru stopped talking. Makoto knew he was thinking of Ran and Ren, though, and he cut himself off because he was worried about Makoto's feelings. Haru was kind. "It could be dangerous. Just accept that Rin is a jerk now."

"I don't want to!" Makoto huffed. "I'll be careful and not go around cars... or chase them..." Makoto's tail swished. And swished. No, chasing cars was bad... Makoto knew that... but... "Anyway, I'll be on a mission!"

Haru leapt from the chair to the table, and stalked the fish. "Rin will still be a jerk. You can't steal Gou and bring her back. The lady will know." He lifted his paws and peered down into the bowl.

"Haru, leave the fish alone. I'll just talk to Gou and find out what happened and then come back and everything will be fine!" Makoto asserted. His tail swished back and forth and back and forth. And he would not chase a car. Nope, he wasn't going to do that. He had restraint. He was a good dog.

"You'll get hit by a car!" Nagisa squealed.

Haru swatted at the water. "Don't say that! And... don't go! It's... it's not good out there, outside the house. It's bad enough that you have to go to the bathroom out there. You should just use my litter box. When you go outside the house, you come back a jerk like Rin. That's just how it is."

"I have to try this. Because he's our friend!" Makoto insisted.

"He's not my friend," Haru retorted.

"He's your friend," Makoto insisted.

"Haru and Rin like to snuggle!" Nagisa laughed.

"Shut up, penguin!" Haru snapped.

Makoto laughed, his tail swishing swishing swishing. "He's our friend and I'm going to help him."

"Stupid dog," Haru scoffed. And then his paw shot into the water, and he nearly caught the fish, who then jetted behind the strange little round diving man thingy.

"Haru, stop that!" the Miss ordered, scooping Haru into her arms. She cuddled him to her soft bosoms. Haru squirmed, trying to get away. "Silly kitty! The fish is your friend! He's not food. Ok, Makoto, it's time to go out! Follow me. Haru, hold still," she snuggled him closer.

Haru looked down at Makoto who was really, really excited. He bumped against the Miss and wagged his tail.

"You really have to go, huh?" the Miss laughed. She opened the door, and Makoto ran out into the backyard. Haru was looking worried in the Miss' arms, but Makoto just barked cheerfully to reassure him. When he looked back at the house, he saw Rin in the window from the upstairs bedroom. He looked gloomy... but Makoto was going to make it better!

The Miss went back inside to put Haru down, and Makoto galloped over to the corner, where the stones of the fence were worn and there was a hole. He had to dig a bit, but he was able to get under the stones and squirm out.

Success! Now... he just had to find Rin's scent and follow it!

He went down the alley and down the steps and he got to the water, and then it was hard to smell because everything smelled like ocean. He looked out into the waves. Haru said the ocean was where all the fish were and it was magical and the happiest animals lived there, but the ocean was always crashing into the sand and then pulling back. Makoto liked running around in the surf as much as any dog, but... there was just... so much ocean...

Makoto shook his head, really flopping his ears around. Ok, he had to find Rin's scent! He thought he found it when he got into a garden, and he dug up a dirty rag doll. That wasn't Rin's. He went back out of the garden and trotted past a school. Lots and little people were in there... he... he wanted to go play with the little people, but...

Rin! He had to find Rin's scent!

But... wait, could he smell Rin at all? Oh, no... that wasn't good... He went up to the top of the hill and sniffed and sniffed. Ah! That was it, wasn't it! That was Rin's scent!! He galloped off in the direction, going past an old lady and a big, big tree that smelled like a lot of dogs, and he went past a cute little white kitty that was so cute and little and he wanted to play but he definitely, definitely had Rin's scent and...!

He went into the small garden of a little house. It definitely, definitely smelled like Rin here... didn't it? Or did he had the wrong scent? He sniffed around the house, looking for... well... anything...


Makoto's head shot up and his ears were rigid. And...! That was...! "Gou!" he trotted over to the window where Gou was sitting. The window was open a bit, not enough for Gou to get out, but at least they could talk.

"It is you! But, what are you doing here? Did you get lost?" Gou asked.

Makoto sat down in front of the window and beamed at Gou, his tail swishing happily. "No! I'm a very good dog! I wanted to find you to ask you about Rin!"

"My brother?" she moved, putting her nose to the crack in the window. Makoto edged closer, sniffing her, too. "So, they did take him back to the nice lady's place. That's good. I was a bit worried about him."

"What happened? He's so sad and he misses you tons and tons," Makoto licked Gou's nose.

She wiped her nose with her paw, but she didn't move away from him. "It wasn't his fault. The family here has three little ones, including a little little one. That one, the boy, he's too young to be trained well. He likes petting my fur, but he's not gentle. Rin always ran away from the little ones, but I didn't mind it so much. Unfortunately, the little little boy ended up pulling my tail and I screamed... so Rin jumped down and scratched him and hissed. The peoples, they overreacted. They thought he was a mean kitty. Rin isn't a mean kitty. He's just... well, you know. He's Rin."

"Oooh, that's why they brought him back. I was really happy to see him... but... he misses you so much," Makoto sighed.

"I miss him, too," Gou sighed. "Oh, one moment... don't go away, ok? Stay, Makoto."

She jumped off the window and Makoto couldn't see her anymore. He felt anxious, but she said stay and he was a good dog. After a really, really, really long time (or at least it felt that way), she came back with something in her mouth. She put it down and the pushed it out the window with her paws.

Curious, Makoto went to retrieve what Gou dropped.

"When we first got here, Rin really liked it. I think he missed you guys, but... he liked it here. And they let him play with that all the time. He slept with it and everything. I think he'll be happy to get it," Gou told him.

Makoto picked up the little pink sock in his mouth. "Got it!" he told her, muffled by the sock. "You're ok?"

"Yeah, the little little one hasn't pulled my tail since. Tell my brother that I'm ok, and I won't ever forget him," Gou reassured him.

Makoto thought about Ran and Ren... they were so cute and fluffy. Of course siblings never forgot each other! "'Kay, I'll tell him! And I'll give this to him! Thanks, Gou!"

"They're calling me Kou now," she told him. "Don't chase any cars, Makoto."

"I'm a good dog," he told her. He knew not to chase cars. Definitely, definitely not to chase cars... chasing cars was... it was bad...

He left the little garden, and headed down to the ocean, which was easy to find because it was so smelly. He dropped the little sock twice, but he he got it back right away. The sock smelled a bit like Rin, but to find home, Makoto thought of Haru's scent, too. He ran from the ocean back to the house and to the corner where the stones were worn down and there was a hole and the squirmed and wiggled his way back into the house and then he remembered that he hadn't gone to the bathroom yet so he went to the tall grasses and peed and then he went to the door and scratched and scratched and scratched.

After forevers, the Miss opened the door. "Makoto! Did I forget to let you back in? Well, come on, come on!" He trotted back inside and she petted his back, so he raised his back so she would scratch him more and he moved a bit so maybe she'd scratch his head.

He went back into their room, and found Haru and Nagisa, but then Rin jumped on his back.

"Makoto! What were you thinking, running off like that!? You're not supposed to leave the garden! You know that! Bad dog! Bad dog!" Rin bit Makoto's ear and dug his claws into Makoto's skin.

Makoto's ears flattened and his tail went between his legs."I'm a good dog! I got this for you!" He dropped the pink sock.

Haru came over and sniffed the sock, making a face.

Rin jumped down and pushed Haru away. "Hey! That's... that's my...!"

"Gou said that the little little human doesn't pull her tail anymore and she misses you and this is your sock and you slept with it and also she's called Kou now for some reason," Makoto told Rin in a rush.

"RinRin sleeps with a sock! RinRin sleeps with a sock!" Nagisa squawked, jumping toward the butterfly. "Rei is laughing! Laughing!"

"Sh-shut up, I don't sleep with a sock!" Rin hissed, his ears flat. But he was putting his body on top of his precious, precious sock. "Tell Rei I'm going to eat him!"

Makoto leaned down and licked Rin's face. Rin swatted at him, but his claws weren't out. "I'm sorry you're not in that nice little house with those little people and the regular people and Gou or Kou, but... I'm glad you're here with us."

"Who wants to be with you?" Rin sniffled, rubbing his chin on his sock. "This sock smells like dog now!" he complained.

"Sorry, I carried it in my mouth," Makoto slumped a bit. He'd made Rin's sock dirty. That wasn't what good dogs did.

"It's just a sock," Haru yawned. "It's a stupid sock, too. Anyway, Makoto doesn't smell like a normal dog. It's fine."

"Wh-whatever," Rin raised his lip, showing off his fang to Haru. And then he curled around his sock, rubbing his face against it.

That was cute! Rin was being cute again! Happy, Makoto got down onto the floor, and curled himself around Rin. Rin pushed at him with his paws, claws out, but he only pushed a few times, getting himself more room.

"RinRin loves a sock, RinRin loves a sock," Nagisa sang.

Haru went back to trying to get the fish out of the bowl.

"Right this way," Miho led the nice older couple into the room. Nagisa squawked, and... was that a butterfly in there? She really needed to clean out his cage... "This is where my longest and oldest residents are. In human terms, these guys are all... adolescents. Nearly adults."

"Oh, my, it looks like we're interrupting nap time!" the sweet lady said to her husband. He had his hand on her waist, and he smiled at her little joke.

A golden dog was laying in the middle of the floor, with a red cat and a black cat nestled together against his belly. The two cats formed a big furry lump, like a red and black yin yang symbol. The dog was curled around them protectively.

"The golden retriever's name is Makoto, ah, but he's a boy. In fact... oddly, all these are boys but for some reason, they have girl names. The black cat is Haruka, and the red cat is Rin. Rin's recently been returned from another family, and separated from his sister, so... I think it would be better if he were able to stay with at least one of those two, Haruka or Makoto. Oh, and the black lory is Nagisa, and he's a very sweet and cheerful bird, if you like birds."

"He certainly looks so," the woman smiled. She then knelt down a bit, getting closer to the cats and dog. "Just look at them, though... like a little family. The big dog taking care of the two kitties... it would be such a shame to separate any of them, wouldn't it, Shigure-san?"

"Now, now, Touko, I don't think we have room in our house for three animals..." he cautioned his wife.

"Ah, I know," she sighed. Gently, she reached out, petting Makoto's flank. His tail wagged sleepily in unconscious response. "But they just look so... sweet, the three of them. Oh, I don't know..."

Miho smiled. Personally, she'd rather just keep these three. In fact, she might stop showing them to people. "Well, I do have some very well-behaved young kittens, about a year or two old. Would you like to see them?"

"Maybe that would be better," she smiled up at her husband, who offered her a hand to help her up.

Maybe Miho could finally get someone to take that big round cat! He scared some of the little kids who came with their parents to find a new pet!