Short during-game one-shot. Set during the sort of time when the group would be training up for the final difficult battles, travelling around to toughen themselves up.

Spoiler warning: there's a few hints of spoilers but not really any big details.

Dedication: the person this is for will, I'm sure, be able to work out it's for him by the end of the first paragraph :) I hope it makes him smile and that he doesn't mind that something he said inspired this fic.

Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of Symphonia. I'm an obsessed fan, I think it's great, but Namco own it I believe.

Out of all the places they'd traipsed through on the journey, Noishe thought, Triet was the one he liked the least. It was a close call, Flanoir could be cold in a way that bit through his fur as though he had none. Meltokio was full of women who smelled funny, their perfume got up his nose and made him sneeze. But neither of them was quite as bad as Triet because the desert place had something so horrible and unpleasant that it couldn't be matched anywhere else. The sand.

He hated the sand, it got into his coat and made him itch and was uncomfortably hot on his paw pads. It didn't help, of course, that he had a bunch of packs on his back that weighed him down and made it difficult to travel through the sand quickly. He wasn't going to shrug them off and run on ahead though, he was more loyal than some of the animals he'd talked to in the stables he'd stayed in when the group had spent the night at an inn.

He looked across at Lloyd who seemed to think as much of the sand as he did. The young swordsman had grabbed a snack out of his bag and was now complaining that, despite the name of the food, he really didn't think than sand was a good addition to a sandwich. He pulled a disgusted face and offered the rest of the snack to Noishe. The dog-like creature looked down his nose in a way that told Lloyd that if the brown haired boy wouldn't eat it he certainly wouldn't. He may look like a dog but he did have a sense of taste and he didn't like the way sand tasted. He'd had enough already, somehow some of the fine grains had even made their way into his mouth. He snorted and promised himself a nice long drink when they reached the town itself.

If he was lucky he might, he thought, even get a bit of a groom later. He padded across to where Colette was walking beside Lloyd and nudged her shoulder with his nose, giving a little whine. The blonde smiled at him and scratched him behind the ears, dislodging some of the grains of sand that had built up there. She noticed this and, to Noishe's delight, promised she'd groom him with his favourite brush to get all the sand out of his coat after dinner. Then she reached into her pocket and pulled out a biscuit. A sand free biscuit! Noishe practically inhaled it, wagging his tail happily. Amused by his reaction Colette offered him another.

"You're a softie and you spoil him," Lloyd laughed softly at her.

"But he's so kind, looking after us and carrying all our stuff, and us sometimes. It must be hard work, isn't it Noishe? It is isn't it?" Colette started cooing at the doglike creature, giving him more fuss and biscuits. Noishe pulled an expression that was his version of a grin then gave Lloyd another look, this time one that said 'ner ner ne ner ner, I'm getting a fuss and you're not'. Lloyd responded by sticking his tongue out. Noishe barked then leant his head over and licked Lloyd's cheek.

"Yuuuuuck," the young swordsman grimaced, wiping his face with a handkerchief. Colette giggled.

"Daft mutt," Lloyd grumbled good-naturedly, moving to scritch Noishe behind his ears while Colette gave him yet another biscuit.

Noishe wagged his tail enthusiastically. He didn't mind carrying stuff for those two, they appreciated it. He could do with less of the female mage's stuff though. She had a tendency to treat him as though he simply were a dog rather than the intelligent creature he was. He'd shown her though, one night when she'd not expected it he'd leapt up from beside the campfire, grabbed her staff and ran off with it, making her chase him until she was out of breath before he gave it back. That, he grinned, had been fun.

He thought for a moment and decided that, actually, he didn't mind carrying Raine's stuff after all. She could be amusing and she was a good healer. She looked after his friends when they were wounded and so by helping her he was helping his other friends.

He'd do anything for Lloyd. The young swordsman was, as far as Noishe was concerned, a pack member, family, as Lloyd would put it. It didn't matter that he was a different species, he was loyal, caring and shared food. That was good enough for Noishe. The same applied to Colette, although sometimes she seemed reluctant to ask for help. More than once he'd picked her up by her shirt collar and put her onto his back when she'd seemed just about ready to collapse from exhaustion but still hadn't said a word about being tired.

Noishe smiled at the couple. They'd turned their attention back to each other and the blonde had looped her arm around the brown haired boy's, holding his hand. Despite the fact that they were probably fed up of the walking and the battling and the sand they were still smiling, content to be with each other. Noishe was glad that Colette was back to normal, he liked her and she made Lloyd happy. Noishe liked it when Lloyd was happy. It was a shame Kratos wasn't here to see that the boy could be happy and content even when constantly surrounded by danger but Noishe had a feeling that everything would turn out alright in the end and that they'd be reunited. In the meantime he'd just have to do his best to look out for his pack, his family.

And, he thought as he sat down and scratched behind his ear, do his best to get rid of the evil itchy sand!