title: Rescue
fandom: Free!
characters/pairings: Makoto/Haruka/Rin, Nagisa, Miho
rating: G
warnings: pairings only vaguely hinted at, puppy dog tails!
summary: A mistake leads to a family wanting to adopt Makoto.
notes: part of the Iwatobi Animal Shelter series, which is now officially a series, i guess. this is for the lovely and wonderful teicakes, for her birthday!! i hope you like it, and i hope you have a VERY happy birthday!!!

Miho bit her lip. Makoto certainly looked happy enough, his head being rolled around in the man's big hands. His tail was wagging cheerfully.

"What breed did you say he was?" the man asked.

"Oh..." Miho started, forcing a smile. "Ah... he's mostly golden retriever, but he's a bit mutt, too. I'm not sure what else is in his background."

The little girl edged closer and closer. "Can I... pet the puppy?" Her eyes were like saucers. Her little brother was behind her, clinging to her dress, his mouth a little 'o'.

"Go ahead, he's very good with children," Miho assured them.

The little girl edged closer, and put her hand out. She reached Makoto's shoulder, and closed her fist for a moment, grabbing his fur. She looked up at her father, delighted. "Fluffy!"

Her father laughed, and rubbed Makoto's head more, causing the dog to pant happily. "He sure is! He seems really good-natured, too!"

"Oh, he is," Miho leaned in and scratched Makoto's rump, causing his tail to thump on the ground. The children's faces lit up and they both moved closer to put their hands on Makoto. Miho frowned slightly. "He is an older dog, so he'll take a bit longer to train... are the children used to dogs?"

"They are, they're really good with animals," the father patted the boy's head as the boy tried to grab clumps of Makoto's fur.

Miho bit the inside of her lip. "Ah... and a dog Makoto's size would need a lot of exercise... and food. He wasn't trained with a crate when he was younger, so unfortunately he doesn't really take to being crated. I use it when necessary, but he's mostly free to roam about," she probed, watching the man's reaction.

"That's no problem at all," the man assured her. "My wife is home all the time anyway. And he'll have a nice yard... we'll take him for long walks, right kids?"

"Yeah!" the little girl responded, fascinated by Makoto's floppy ear.

Miho had a bad feeling.

"Mommy gonna let us dog?" the little boy looked up at his father in wonder.

Miho's eyes widened.

The man laughed heartily. "Of course, of course! My, uh, my wife will want to see the dog first, of course... and we need to... make some preparations at home." He smiled at Miho like the car salesman did when she asked about the mileage on the used car she was looking at... "Can we come back tomorrow afternoon?"

Miho's head dropped and she looked at Makoto's big green eyes. "Ah... of... of course, yes, that will be fine..."

"All right! C'mon, kids! Let's go tell mommy about the newest member of our family!" the dad stood up, stretching his arms over his head.

"Yay!" the kids cheered, mimicking their father.

Miho looked away, and saw Haru, rolled up in a ball with his back toward her, and Rin, curled next to Haru, glaring at them. Nagisa chirped and bounced from perch to perch, crying out, "Bad dog! Bad dog!" but they'd all tuned him out.

Miho felt wretched.

Rin jumped down from the window and stalked toward Makoto. "What the hell is wrong with you?!"

"What? What did I do?" Makoto asked, his head lowering. But his stupid tail was still wagging.

"Those people!" Rin growled.

"I got to play with kids!" Makoto beamed, swishing his tail back and forth.

Haru stood up, stretching out his back. He jumped down gracefully and took one more leap to land next to Makoto. He curled up next to the dog, fussily setting himself down. Makoto pressed his nose to the back of Haru's head. "Noisy," the black cat complained.

"Those people are going to take you away!" Rin complained, unable to understand why no one else was concerned about this.

"What? I don't think so. I live here, with you and Haru and Nagisa and Rei and the lady," Makoto's tail swished, swished, swished. He was sure of this.

"Idiot!" Rin snarled. "That's how it works! People come and they touch you and then they come back and they take you away! Look, you can't be so nice about this shit!"

Makoto's tail slowed down, and his head went to his paws on the floor. "But... I live here... with you and Haru and Nagisa and Rei and the lady..."

"Makoto is... our dog. My dog, really, it was the two of us first, but whatever," Haru shifted around, like all this talking was keeping him from a very important nap and he was not happy about it.

Makoto edged closer to surround Haru and comfort him.

"Bad dog! Get taken away! Bye-bye dog!" Nagisa crowed.

"Look!" Rin went right up and pressed his nose to Makoto's, looking him in the eye. "You can't be so nice and cuddly and let people take you away! Next time those people come, you gotta bite the little ones! People get really protective of the tiny ones!"

"I-I can't bite a person! That's what bad dogs do!" Makoto whined, horrified.

Haru's ear flicked in annoyance.

"You don't have to be too serious about it! Look, just a little warning bite, like this!" Rin bit Makoto's nose, just barely pressing his teeth down. "People freak out even if you aren't serious, as long as it's a little one. Got it?"

"I can't do that," Makoto moaned.

"Do you wanna be taken away?" Rin growled fiercely.

"He's not going anywhere," Haru hissed. "Leave him alone. Makoto is ours. Or, mine, really."

"What do you think happened to me 'n' Gou?" Rin snarled, baring his fangs. "Do you think we wanted to go? It just happened, just like with those people! First, they pet you and say nice things. Next thing you know, you're being taken away! And no one will bring Makoto back! He's too damned much of a pleaser. He's always making everyone around him happy."

Nagisa squawked and laughed. "Happy! Happy! Bad dog! Make Happy!"

Makoto whimpered. "That's not a bad thing..."

"Whose dog are you?" Rin asked him, his eyes narrowed and his ears flattened.

"I'm yours and Haru's and the lady's!" Makoto answered quickly.

"Then do as I say!" Rin demanded. "Bite the little one!"

Makoto covered his face with his paws.

"You don't have to bite anyone," Haru dismissed, coming up closer to Makoto's head to snuggle in. "But... you don't have to be nice, either. Don't wag your tail," Haru commanded.

"I don't do it on purpose," Makoto sighed. "It just does stuff on its own," he looked back at his tail balefully.

"You're going to be taken away and I'm going to be stuck here with the damned bird and Haru and I'll go crazy and eat the bird and it'll be all your fault for being so damned nice to people who wanted to steal you from us," Rin huffed, washing his paws angrily.

Makoto whimpered and pouted. That sounded awful! Every part of it! But dogs had to be nice! It wasn't like he was a kitty! He had no choice!

Was he really getting taken away?

Miho smiled, and turned. "Who wants bacon? Mm? Who wants it, who wants the bacon??"

Makoto fidgeted and panted and he definitely looked like he wanted to bark and his tail was sweeping the floor behind him vigorously. He woofed twice, but he kept his voice down.

He was such a sweet dog. Miho held up a piece of bacon, and Makoto put his paws on her hips, leaning up. He didn't take it, though, not until she held the piece right out in front of his nose. She rubbed behind his ears as he chewed happily.

Her heart was breaking.

"I... I didn't want to let you go. Those kids just went into the sun room without asking... and then they saw you... I wanted to tell them that you were my dog, and not for adopting. Is that what I should have done? But... It's a family, with two children... isn't that the sort of home that's supposed to be best for dogs? Makoto, what should I do?" Miho looked into Makoto's bright green eyes.

Makoto cocked his head to side.

Miho smiled sadly, and rubbed his ears more. "If I let you go... will Haru go back to how he was before you came? Where he wouldn't be near anyone else? Always hiding and hissing and refusing to interact... he used to be such a picky eater, too! He'd only eat that one cat food... now, he's so much more agreeable, and he takes his naps next to you all the time. And Rin...! Being separated from his sister is bad enough. He fights with Haru, even though they seem to like each other so much. Without you, will they start having nasty fights with no doggie to separate them?"

Makoto looked at her, confused.

"You probably just want more bacon, huh?" she laughed. She picked up another piece, and held it out to him. He happily chomped on it. "You'd like running around and playing with some kids in a nice yard, right? And sleeping on their bed... sitting with them when they were sick, going to baseball games, maybe, going to the beach and playing frisbee..." She sighed.

It was true, kids and dogs belonged together.

But what about her?

She put her arms around Makoto and hugged him.

"I wish those stupid brats hadn't gotten into the sun room," she groused.

Rin jumped down from the window and bit Makoto's tail. Before Makoto could even complain, Rin jumped onto his shoulders, and started to chew on his ear. "Those people are back! Now listen up! You damned well better bite the littlest one or you are in so much trouble...!"

"The lady will be mad at me if I bite a kid, Rin!" Makoto objected, whimpering.

"Bite the kid! Bite the kid!" Nagisa crowed.

"I can't!" Makoto hid behind his paws.

"Look, Makoto, this is it! They're going to steal you away! Bite the kid, and everything is fine!" Rin instructed.

"No, that will make things worse, I'm sure!" Makoto trembled.

"He doesn't need to bite a kid," Haru huffed. "All you have to do is hide. They can't take you if they can't find you."

"I am hiding!" Makoto cried.

"No, you idiot, you're just covering your eyes," Rin sighed, moving down to nip at Makoto's paws. Makoto whimpered, and shut his eyes more tightly.

"Under the table! Under the table!" Nagisa crowed out.

"Hey, the bird actually said something not stupid," Rin stared at Nagisa in wonder. "Go on! Get under the table!"

Makoto whimpered, and did as he was told. He hid with his face away from the door, and wrapped his tail around him. "I'm Haru and Rin and the lady's dog. The lady knows that!"

"Well, just hide, anyway," Rin huffed, licking his paws as he stood in front of Makoto. He'd protect the stupid dog!

"Bye-bye, bad dog! Bye-bye, bad dog!" Nagisa laughed.

Haru looked up and glared at the bird.

Miho laughed nervously. "H-he's never usually shy..."

The man waved the rawhide bone he'd brought. "C'mon, Mako-chan. C'mon, boy."

"You didn't say he was such a big dog," the wife said darkly, watching her husband and children trying to coax the yellow dog out from under the table.

Miho looked at her, alarmed. Warning bells were going off in her head.

"He's not that big," the man dismissed. "Once you look into his eyes, you'll love him," he assured his wife.

She didn't look convinced.

"I get puppy!" the little boy declared. He ducked under the table and reached down, grabbing Makoto's fluffy tail firmly. And then he started to pull with all his might.

His sister moved in to help him, and Miho surged under, quickly batting at their hands. "No, no, no!" she cried out. Rin was next to her, hissing. Miho bodily put herself between Makoto and the children, having to get to her knees to do so. "Never, ever pull an animal by the tail!"

"He's just a little kid, you shouldn't be scolding," the father said crossly.

Miho glared at him, but she went on to talk to the little boy. "An animal's tail is very, very sensitive. You wouldn't like it if someone kicked you or dragged you by your foot, right? Well, animals feel pain just like people do. It's just not nice."

"Want puppy. Want puppy!" the little boy cried, turning to his dad.

"Maybe we could just move the table..." the father suggested.

"Where in our tiny apartment do you think this dog is going to sleep? Where will keep all his food?" the mother asked the father testily.

He looked over his shoulder at her. "We'll figure it out!"

"Apartment?" Miho asked, looking from the man to the woman. "You said you had a yard for him to play in."

"There's a courtyard," the man shrugged. "And we're near the water, so..."

Miho shook her head and spread her arms out. That was it. "No. This isn't going to work. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"Thank god," the woman sighed, rolling her eyes.

"What?!" the man glared at Miho. "You already said we could adopt him! The kids are excited!"

"Yeah! He's ours!" the little girl glared, too.

"I can't do that," Miho said firmly. "My job is to get nice, safe, happy forever homes for these animals. I can't do that if the people coming to adopt lie to me. There are other animal shelters in the area. I suggest you go to one of those, and I suggest you tell them the complete truth, and be upfront with them." They should never have even come into the sun room to find Makoto! He was Miho's dog, damn it!

"This is outrageous! Just who do you think you are, arbitrating who can have dogs and who can't?! I've never heard anything so ridiculous in my life!" the man stormed. The little girl stood with him, putting her hands on her hips. The little boy clutched at his father's sleeve, sniffling and blubbering.

The wife rolled her eyes. "That's enough. Who wants ice cream?"

"I do!" both children immediately responded, abandoning their father to go to their mother.

"And maybe afterward, if you're both good, we'll go to Auntie's house and look at her rabbits again. And if you're awfully good there, and you don't upset Auntie, she might let us have a rabbit. Now how does that sound?" the mother asked.

The children cheered.

Miho's shoulders slumped in relief. "Rabbits are wonderful pets for people living in apartments. They're fairly clean, and soft and cuddly, and they don't make any noise."

"Oh, shut up," the man said.

"Let's go," the woman said to her husband as she took off with the children in tow.

With a sigh, he got up and trudged after her.

When Miho heard the door chime close, she turned and beamed at Makoto, who was looking at her sheepishly. "They're gone. Oh, thank goodness..."

Rin came out and stretched out, rubbing against her. He gave her a look that was half-contemptuous and half-grateful. Amused, Miho scritched behind his ears.

"We defended our Makoto from that nasty family, didn't we, Rin?"

Rin sniffed in disdain. Miho was fairly sure that Rin thought of Makoto as his dog. Haru, on the window sill, yawned, and gave them all a disparaging look.

Shaking her head in amusement, Miho reached out to pat Makoto's bum. "C'mon, Makoto. Who wants a treat? Who's a good doggie who wants a treat?"

Makoto quickly turned, his ears perking up, and he panted happily.

Miho scooted back and got to her feet, and Makoto quickly followed her.

Haru stretched out his limps elegantly, and then hopped down, climbing up onto Makoto's back. And then he curled up into a ball again. "I told you Makoto wasn't going anywhere."

Rin looked up from chewing on his little pink sock. "Idiot. You didn't do anything! It was up to me and the lady to save him!"

"Of course," Haru yawned. "Because Makoto is my dog and the lady is my lady."

"Right, and I guess I'm your cat?" Rin taunted.

"I don't need a cat," Haru said, putting his head down.

"Why you...!" Rin started.

"I don't think a person can belong to us," Makoto frowned, pausing in his chewing of his chew toy. "People are people. They're tall. They're the leaders. If it wasn't for the lady, I couldn't go for nice walks and eat nice bacon and other food and she even cleans up after me."

"Don't be stupid," Haru sighed. "You're my dog, right?"

"Well, yes, yours and the lady's and Rin's," Makoto agreed.

"Hmph," Rin smirked at Haru, who ignored him.

"So, you're my dog, and my lady takes care of you and feeds me and cleans up my litter box. Are you trying to say that someone who scoops my crap out of the sand is my leader?" Haru scoffed.

"You... make sense..." Makoto puzzled it over in his head.

"She scoops my shit, too," Rin sniffed, licking his pink sock. "She's my lady, too. And Makoto is my dog, too."

"Whatever," Haru yawned.

"How does Nagisa fit in?" Makoto wondered, looking at the bird.

"You're all mine! You're all mine!" Nagisa boasted.

"Maybe he'll be dinner sometime," Haru sneered.

"That, I agree with," Rin smirked.

"Don't eat Nagisa, Haru," Makoto pled. "What about Rei? Where does he fit in with the pack?"

"We're not a pack. This is a cat's house, and we were nice and let a dog in. And I think Nagisa ate Rei," Rin mused.

Haru agreed.

"But there's always another Rei," Makoto replied cheerfully.

"I don't think you really understand butterflies, but that's ok," Rin rubbed his nose into his pink sock. "It'd make you sad if you understood."

"Makoto is too nice," Haru yawned. "Sit more still."

"Yes, Haru," Makoto nodded.

Rin picked up his little sock and carried it closer, plopping himself and it down next to Makoto.

Makoto didn't like being still, but he liked having Haru and Rin so close, so he was a good dog and stayed very, very still.

Miho set the hammer down, and then picked up the little sign she'd gotten at the store. She hung it from the nail she'd put it, and then she got the second nail and secured the bottom of the sign. She smiled.

Now, the sun room had an Authorized Personnel Only sign up. Perfect.

She went inside, and found her animals a bit agitated from the hammering. "I'm sorry, boys. But I'm all done. And... since you are all now officially mine... Here!" She got out a blue patent collar, and put it around Haru's neck. Haru looked at her menacingly, but then he went back to grooming himself.

She went over to Rin, who tried to scramble away, but she caught him in time. "I know, I know, you don't like wearing a collar, but this is better, Rin! Now everyone will be able to see that you aren't a shelter cat. And if you get out, someone will find you and bring you back. Just... I even got you a nice tiger stripe one! Without a dangling tag! Just hold still!" Rin valiantly fought her off, but she got the collar on. He darted away, and then pawed at the collar, trying to get purchase on it. When he realized he couldn't get it off, he turned his back to her, his tail flicking back and forth in annoyance.

Smiling, she went over to Makoto. "Ok, I'm going to swap out your collar, sweetie. Got you a nice one, mm?" It had little green hearts stitched on it. Makoto patiently let her fix the collar, and she straightened it out so that the green heart-shaped tag with her name and phone number was hanging straight. "Looking good, Makoto!" Makoto woofed in agreement. Miho laughed, and rubbed his ears, pressing her forehead to his. "You guys aren't going anywhere, promise."

As if he understood, Makoto woofed again.

Nagisa jumped around in his cage. "All for me! All for me!"

Miho shook her head at the bird. "I've got to wonder, just who taught you all those words? Well, anyway. I've got an appointment with a family in a few. I'm going to close the door. Be good!" She ruffled the fur on the top of Makoto's head, and he woofed at her, his tail wagging happily.

Her family.