Rebuilding Lives

Chapter Five: A Puppy

"Leon! Hurry up already! You're my tour guide, right? That means you should be in front of me!" Yuffie skipped about ten metres ahead of him, yelling out occasionally.

"If you didn't run I wouldn't have to hurry," Leon muttered under his breath, stalking along behind her.

"What's that?" She called cheerfully, apparently oblivious to his stone cold exterior. She wasn't exactly hyper, she was more… happy. Just happy to be there.

"I said-"he sighed, and decided to change tack. "You've seen everything in the First District- do you want to see the Second too? And Cid's house is in the Third District-"

He was cut off by a small whoop, and the little ninja sprinted back to him. "You mean it? That's about all I was interested in in the first place!" The gleeful girl-woman ran up to the steps of the old man's Accessory Store and waited at the door for the more controlled man to catch up. He deliberately took his time, ignoring her accusing glare and crossed arms when he finally reached her.

"So. Shouldn't you be moving already? If you want to see it all before dark, that is…" the Gunblade warrior left the thought hanging. It earnt him another accusing glare.

"Squ-eon… like I said before, you're my guide! That means you lead the way, y'know?" she indicated the broad expanse of cobbles they had just crossed from a tiny building tucked in between the World exit and the Third District portal, all the way up the steps to Cid's shop. "And you should have all there, too."

"So?" It was a simple question. "If you knew the way, why did you need me?"

"It's the principle of the thing, Squ-eon!" she wailed, stamping her foot in a ploy that he was sure was done just to see his reaction. He simply shook his head and walked off to the left of the shop, heavy leather boots making no sound on the stone.

The small girl hurriedly skipped off after him. "So we're going?" she asked, flushed face expectant.

"Yes, Yuffie- no wait! You don't go off down there-" with another exasperated sigh, he followed her off down a dead end alleyway to where she was examining a wooden fence with a gaping jagged hole in it.

She glanced up as he approached, dark eyes filled with curiosity. "What happened here?

He crouched beside her, allowing himself a tiny smile at the damage before answering. "You know the Keyblade Master, Sora? He and his friends Donald and Goofy had this strange trick called a Trinity. If there was a mark for it, they could perform certain Trinities. This one was red… so they got to break through this. Good thing Sora didn't weigh much then, or the whole wall would probably be down…"

Yuffie snickered, imagining her rather dorky friend barging through a wooden fence. "Sounds like him," she murmured fondly.

He glanced at her, blue eyes faintly curious and features set into a frown. "You know Sora?"

"No! No, I just meant- it sounds like what I've heard of him…" she blustered, coming to a stop.

"Funny." He said. "I always thought he was portrayed as the incredible and pure Keyblade wielder, not a clumsy kid…" his gaze was piercing, making her squirm uncomfortably.

She stood abruptly. "I'm going in," she said, gesturing decisively at the gaping black maw in front of them, and crouched and hurried in.

"It's not safe…" he trailed off, scowling after her. She doesn't know this place. She doesn't know about the river… he rushed in after the small ninja, silently cursing.

She stumbled to a stop, mouth a perfect 'o'. "This is big." She informed the air distractedly, looking out over the big river with a vague expression.

Leon emerged from the shadows behind her. "We just call it the Waterway here." He told Yuffie. She couldn't decipher the look on his face- he had his blank mask back on.

"But this whole place! This cavern is huge!" she gestured wildly at the glittering ceiling and walls of hewn stone and occasional human-made mosaics, awestruck. "It's all so beautiful!" A wondrous smile replaced the amazed expression as she wandered closer, peeking in every little nook and cranny between the water's rushing edge and the cave entrance she had emerged from. "But… how did this happen? The river just starts here. I didn't see any waterway in the First District…"

He nearly snorted at her frown. "Magic."

"Yup. Magic. Right." She scowled at him, hands on hips. "And I suppose you have a resident mage or something?"

He smirked outright at that, feeling superior. "Two, actually." He overrode her gasp of astonishment. "A wizard, Merlin, and the Fairy Godmother. They live in the cavern this river runs into."

"Really? So cool…"

"Ah… yes. So Merlin tapped into an underground basin here, so that the Waterway could become as large as it is. It was only tiny before, and not much of an attraction for the town- it was becoming stagnant."

She nodded at this explanation. "So it was done for munny… I get it." She said softly, gazing at the vast waters. She assumed there must be magic on the river too, as the waters had the appearance of near rapids, yet only a gentle rumble could be heard.

He frowned at the mention of munny, ready to object. The protest died on his lips as he realized she was right. The world revolves around munny, he thought, ironically and more than a little bitterly. No kindness, nothing's done for free anymore. That isn't the way the world should be…

His train of thought broke off as he glanced at the ninja girl again. She had suddenly gone stock still.

"What is it?"

Yuffie pointed in answer, to a small object out in the centre of the large river. "Can you tell what that is?" she murmured, frowning.

Try as he might, Leon could not strain his eyesight far enough to see it. There proved to be no need as the girl suddenly gasped in shock; "It's a puppy!"

She made as if to leap headlong into the rushing water; he grabbed her arm out of instinct. "Are you insane?"

She struggled vainly against his stronger grip. "If insanity is trying to help something that needs it, then yes!" the girl shouted, angry tears springing to her eyes. "Let me go!"

The swordsman brought his other arm up to restrain her, too. "And then you just jump into the water, and possibly get hurt? I can't just do that, you know. It's just a dog! An animal!"

The ebony hair swung over her face to conceal furious eyes. "It's a living thing, Squall! It shouldn't matter whether it's human or not! Or maybe it matters more, since it can't look after itself like we can!" Desperately, she yanked her small arm free of his bruising grip and kicked his leg, then flung herself into the water, not even bothering to remove her shurikens or her metal arm-guards.

He gave a cry of shock as she went under, heaving a sigh of relief when a small black head bobbed to the surface a few metres from the bank. "Yuffie!" he yelled, running alongside to keep up with the river's breakneck current. Why am I doing this? He asked himself mentally, cursing. More to the point, why is she doing this?

The struggling figure out in the river's rough grip was making small progress to the smaller and lighter bundle further out. Her energy was clearly almost drained. Only the efforts of the puppy enabled Yuffie to clasp the tiny form to her chest; then she let herself be taken by the river, exhausted.


No reply. Her head went under, then reappeared to the watcher's relief.


Pausing only to yank off his leather boots, Leon plunged into the Waterway with an exaasperated yell, feeling the current's pull almost immediately. Quick, powerful strokes brought him level with the bedraggled pair, and he hastily hooked an arm under the girl's bony shoulders before the numbing cold seeped into his joints and made it too hard to move. Floating with the current long enough to get a modicum of energy back, then took a deep shuddering breath and kicked hard for the shore.

Leon, muscles trembling, finally reached the grey pebbled underground shore, steep even at the water's edge, and with a huge effort, pulled himself and the freezing ninja up out of the swirling black water.

She lay there on her side, breath coming in shallow gasps, eyes closed. She held the shivering puppy close to her own small form.

She wasn't going to move, Leon realized with a mental sigh. He knelt down beside her and gently touched her arm. "Yuffie…"

For a faint detached moment he realized that she too was shaking uncontrollably, likely from a combination of fear, cold, exhaustion and shock. The dark-haired man shook his head. She's insane. I'd never have dived into the Waterway. Everyone knows that since it was started by Merlin it's either scalding hot or nearly frozen, and always dangerous since he made it a full-size river.

Yuffie mumbled a little, clutching the tiny Dalmatian puppy tighter to her until it whimpered and struggled weakly to get free. When Leon tried to move the canine, though, Yuffie held onto it with all her weak strength, not letting it out of her grasp. He gave up, not wanting to anger her or scare the puppy.

"What are we going to do now?" he murmured to himself, still crouched beside the prostrate girl and her bundle. She stirred slightly at the words.

"Where does the puppy live?" She rasped, barely coherent.

"Live?" The Gunblader scratched his head, glancing about- there wasn't much light now; it was nearly eight o'clock, and getting very dark. Merlin wouldn't have any lights down here- no one's generallymad enough to come here anyway. "Well, I'm pretty sure it-"



"It's a he."

"Oh. Whatever." He thought for a moment, then continued. This is weird. I'm arguing with a half-drowned girl. "I think he's with the family of Dalmatians in the Second District. There's one hundred and one of them-"

There was a gasp of shock. Yuffie's long eyelashes fluttered, then stilled again- the effort was too much. "A hundred and one?" she whispered.

"Two fully grown adult dogs, Pongo and Perdita, and a horde of puppies, all Dalmatians. It's a long story."

"Well then." The suddenly delicate-seeming ninja tried to push herself up; he had to help her, grabbing underneath her shoulders as she tottered and nearly fell. "We have to take it back." There was determination in her voice. Her body might be weak and lethargic, but the mind refused to give in.

I guess... I'll have to do it.

He raised himself up, and hoisted the girl into his arms after a moment. Then he started walking.

Pitiful blows rained down on his back. "What are you doing?" Came the hoarse cry. "Put me down!"

Leon smiled briefly and did so, placing Yuffie carefully on her feet. Down she went again with a cry of pain as her ankle attempted to support some weight, and failed. "Now do you know why I had to carry you?"

She hissed. "You could have warned me-"

"Whatever." He held a hand out to her, and she took it reluctantly.Helping the injured and lethargic girl to her feet, he pulled her small form into his arms again, and began walking again.

Ahem. Apologies. My muse ran off sometime through this- the chapter's fairly uninspired. I liked the general plot for it though...

Criticism accepted! XD Please read and review, I appreciate everything, I really do!

Tally. SilverAuthoress. Rikku. AngelKairi.