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Needed Adventure: Part Twelve


by tdyans

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Enzo and the other pets who had gotten wet saving Usul huddled around a little fire beside the river. Enzo had watched with surprise as Scorchio created the little blaze and then invited everyone-- even Usul-- to partake of its warmth with him. How much things had changed in a few short months....

     In spite of soaking fur and scales, spirits were high among the wild pets after the rescue, and they grunted jovially and patted each others' shoulders with a camaraderie that Enzo and Whooter had heretofore not witnessed among them.

     It was some time before they quieted, and then Scorchio turned to Enzo. "How you do that? Save Usul?"

     "How I...?" Enzo's brow furrowed. He didn't quite understand the question, but the other wild pets all looked at him expectantly. "Well, I... I mean, we all did it. It just took a little teamwork."

     Now it was their turn to look confused. Each pet turned to his neighbor and they muttered together, obviously asking if anyone understood. Finally, Scorchio spoke up again. "Er, what is this... teem-wurk?"

     Enzo searched for words that they might understand. "It means... working together-- helping each other. Like we all did just now, when we rescued Usul. No one could have saved her on his own, but together we could. It means... looking out for more than just yourself."

     The pitch and volume of their chattering increased as he finished his explanation. Enzo couldn't understand their language, but the emotion behind it was clear. They were intrigued... perhaps even excited by this new concept of "teamwork."

     "Where you learn this?" Scorchio asked.

     "The junkyard." Enzo was somehow surprised at the swiftness with which this answer left his mouth. "That's where I grew up-- in the city; the place beyond the trees." The others quieted at this, and their enthusiasm seemed to wane. Their mistrust of the "place beyond the trees" and the strange creatures who lived there had been passed down from generation to generation, beginning with those pets who had first left civilization all those years ago to escape whatever hurts and memories of it had haunted them. Enzo frowned.

     "I know it frightens you. But it doesn't have to be a bad place-- not if you're not on your own in it. That's where my parents are. My dad-- he's the one who taught me about teamwork. He and lots of other pets all live together-- just like all of you, except they work together and help each other, too. And it's wonderful, you know, being part of something bigger than yourself, having other pets who you care about... and who care about you." The wild pets were still quiet, but now they were leaning forward with interest again, enthralled by his words. But Enzo hardly noticed-- he was lost in the words, and the memories that they conjured up, himself.

     "And then-- when they're ready-- he helps everyone find owners. Those are humans, humans who'll take care of them-- and who they can take care of, too. So the humans won't be on their own either. That's what my dad does-- that's what the junkyard's for. It's so no one has to be on their own."

     He paused, drifting slowly back to the present and gazing at the pets around him, who still stared at him. "It's a good place," he said softly, slowly. "A very special place."

     Silence fell over the group for several long moments, while the river roared on at their backs and a beekadoodle warbled gently above their heads. Scorchio shuffled his feet, looking uncertain. Finally, he spoke. "We go there-- special place?"

     "What?" Enzo had not thought to expect such a reaction. He had been speaking more to himself than anything else-- reminding himself of what he already knew but had taken for granted, rather than trying to convince them of it. He shook his surprise away. "Well, yes, of course! Of course you can go there, if you like. Any Neopet is welcome."

     Instantly, the wild pets all burst into cheers, and then went running off, back through the woods, toward the "place beyond the trees," content to launch themselves into the unknown with no more security than Enzo's word about it.

     Enzo found himself taken aback for the second time in so many minutes as they all rushed past him. "Hey, wait a minute!" he called after them, but they thundered on, unable to hear him. He stared after them, laughing. "Hey, what's the big hurry?"

     Whooter settled on his shoulder. "Well, that was quite a stirring little speech you gave, Enzo," he said.

     Enzo looked at him. "Whooter?"

     "Yes?"

     The Gelert smiled. "Let's go home."

     "I thought you'd never ask."

     ***

     Cambry sat atop the little hill outside the junkyard, doggedly ignoring the pitying glances of the other homeless pets who were making their way back after a long day's work. Cambry did her best to be a help as well, of course. Tessa was teaching her the things that needed to be done around the junkyard while the others were away during the day: keeping track of the food and supplies they had stored away, making note of any needs and planning for the next day's assignment of duties, and watching after any pets who were injured or sick.

     But whenever these things were done for the day, Tessa always took it upon herself to welcome the others into the junkyard and make sure they all arrived safely. Cambry offered to help, but Tessa always simply ushered her off with a smile. It was a kindness that Cambry didn't take for granted. It reminded her of how she had encountered the same kindness in Tessa's son.

     She sighed. Every evening she kept her watch, but every evening she turned away disappointed once there was no longer anything to watch but darkness. And as the sun began to sink behind the hills, it seemed as though this evening would be no different. The junkyard was as wonderful a place as she had been told-- she was accepted there, loved even-- but she could not be completely content until the one who had told her about it was there to enjoy it, too.

     But with each day that she waited to see him walking toward the junkyard, the less she expected it to actually happen.

     So it was that, when a shadow Gelert with a familiar white patch of fur on his chest came trotting over a hill in the distance, she stared, disbelieving her own eyes, for several moments before she reacted. She shook her head and blinked, but he was still there-- a bit shaggier and dirtier than she had last seen him, but it was most certainly Enzo, with Whooter flying along just above him.

     Cambry opened her mouth, but no sound escaped it. She turned and went running down the hill, toward the entrance to the junkyard. As Tessa turned to her with a look of questioning concern, she finally found her voice. "He's coming!" she shouted. "I saw him, he's on his way."

     Tessa gasped, then, as if she feared she might be misunderstanding, she asked, "Enzo?"

     "Yes!" Cambry cried. "Come and see!"

     They both rushed back up the hill, and the pets who had just been arriving at the junkyard when Cambry's news came went trailing after them. Several of them were escapees from the laboratory as well, and though they hadn't kept up Cambry's dedicated vigil, they were still anxious to be able to finally thank their rescuer.

     But when they crested the hill, they were met with a sight even more unexpected than that of the returning prodigal son. Now that he had come over the distant hill, there were dozens of pets to be seen following behind him-- pets of all shapes, colors and sizes that gazed about curiously at their surroundings and grunted and chattered loudly as they came.

     Enzo looked up at that moment and saw his mother and Cambry and the other pets watching him come. They could just make out the smile that moved across his muzzle then, and he broke into a joyful run, with the other strange pets galloping after him and Whooter flapping his wings as fast as he could to keep up.

     By the time Enzo arrived, the news of his return had spread through the junkyard and every pet had gathered on and around the little hilltop to welcome him home. He made his way through to nuzzle his mother, then turned to Cambry and gave her a shy "hello." She laughed at that and rubbed her nose against his cheek. He was sure he was blushing even through his dark fur as he looked around. Everyone was there. There was just one pet who seemed to be missing....

     But he was hardly given a chance to dwell on that, as the crowd nearly engulfed him with pats on the shoulder and hugs and questions. Gradually they all made their way down and through the gate into the junkyard, where the large group would not be quite so conspicuous, while Enzo explained to them as best he could about the wild pets. Once his explanation was over, the other pets pushed in once more, each coming up to give their "thanks" or "welcome home" or simply to satisfy their curiosity by getting a look at him.

     At one point a rough voice seemed to come from out of nowhere. "I see ya finally made it, lad."

     Enzo laughed. "It's good to 'see' you again, too, Jonas."

     A few minutes later it was a familiar Draik and Krawk who approached. "Orla, Zinny, you made it," said Enzo.

     "Yes, and looking much better for it, I'd guess," Zinneus said with a grin. It was true. The pair were no longer gaunt and tired-looking. Their scales were shining, they appeared well-fed, and most notably they simply looked happy-- truly happy.

     "You won't be seeing much more of us, though, I'm afraid," Orla said. Enzo's brow furrowed. "Your father's found a new owner for us, you see, and Owner Day's tomorrow."

     "Oh," Enzo said, his face falling a little. He turned to Cambry, who stood nearby. "I guess... you'll be leaving tomorrow, too, then?"

     Cambry opened her mouth to reply, but another voice interrupted. "Of course not."

     "Dad," Enzo whispered in surprise as Dantam emerged from the center of the junkyard and walked toward them.

     "She's stubborn," Dantam continued, "just like your mother." He smirked a little at Tessa.

     But as he reached Enzo, his expression became inscrutable and he hesitated. Enzo did as well, feeling caught between the desire to rush into his father's embrace and his memories of how they'd parted almost a year ago... and how he'd acted then. An uncomfortable silence fell over the group.

     Dantam was the one to finally break it. "Did you... find what you were looking for?"

     There was no scorn or scolding in the question, but that only made Enzo feel more ashamed. He bowed his head, avoiding his father's eyes. "Dad... I'm sorry. I didn't understand before-- how important it is what you do-- but you were right; it is a big responsibility. Aw, Dad, there are so many pets out there who need help, and I was so selfish; all I cared about was running around and acting like some sort of stupid hero...."

     He ran out of words, but kept his face turned downward, so that he was surprised when suddenly a familiar paw settled on his shoulder. He looked up into his father's eyes to see Dantam smiling down at him. He stared back in confusion.

     "Enzo, look around." Dantam's voice was laced with laughter. "There are more pets in the junkyard than there've ever been-- pets who never would have found their way here if it wasn't for you. I guess what I'm trying to say is... we do have a big responsibility. But maybe we could use a little adventure, too." Enzo grinned from ear to long, curling ear. "As long as you handle that side of the 'family business,' that is," Dantam said with a wink. "I'm getting a bit old for that sort of thing."

     Enzo laughed. "Sure thing, Dad." He turned to look over his shoulder. "You hear that, Whooter?"

     "I heard it all right," the whoot said with decidedly less enthusiasm, glaring daggers at Dantam, who just laughed in response. "And of course I'll have to go along to keep an eye on him again. You know, Dantam, it just took me close to a year to convince him to come back here, and now you're giving him permission to go galloping off again!"

     "Oh yes, well, that's another condition I forgot to mention," Dantam said, turning to his son again. "That you come home at the end of the day, when the adventures are over." He coughed. "Your mother really missed you, you see."

     Enzo smirked. "No problem."

     "Good," Dantam said. "And no setting off on your next adventure right away either; tonight we need to celebrate! Come on, son."

     He led Enzo forward, through the piles of garbage, toward the encampment that lay in the center, the others trailing after them, one by one.

     ***

     The makeshift festivities lasted long into the night. There were bonfires and food and songs. The younger pets played wide-ranging games of tag. The older ones told stories; the ones about Enzo's escapes from Jason's house and from the laboratory were repeated more than once.

     Enzo enjoyed it all, but after a while he found himself sitting back a bit from it all, feeling contemplative amidst all of the gaiety.

     He realized, as he gazed quietly at the pets all around him, that he felt for the first time that he truly belonged-- not just in a place, but in lives, in these lives. His father's earlier question came back to mind: Did you find what you were looking for? And he realized, not without some surprise, that in all his yearning for "adventure," perhaps this was really what he had been searching for all along, what he had thought that adventure would bring him. He chuckled a bit to himself. Funny that the search had led him right back to where he'd started. But then, it wasn't quite where he'd started, after all. He was different, and so this place was too, though he struggled to find the words for the way he felt about it, even in his own mind.

     He looked up suddenly, almost as if someone had called his name. And there was his father, looking at him with a quiet smile and understanding in his eyes.

     "Welcome home, Enzo."

     "Thanks, Dad."

The End

Author's Note: I'd like to thank everyone who's ever written to me about the "Needed" stories. Without your interest and encouragement, this final installment would never have been completed.

 
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Other Episodes


» Needed Adventure: Part One
» Needed Adventure: Part Two
» Needed Adventure: Part Three
» Needed Adventure: Part Four
» Needed Adventure: Part Five
» Needed Adventure: Part Six
» Needed Adventure: Part Seven
» Needed Adventure: Part Eight
» Needed Adventure: Part Nine
» Needed Adventure: Part Ten
» Needed Adventure: Part Eleven



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