Plot bunny grown out of control. Like I needed another fic to work on, right? Anyway, I hope you all enjoy!
[Edit May 4, 2020: I edited a line in the first chapter. Despite it being the sole voice and thoughts of the character and meant to be insulting, it still read as ignorant and insensitive in a way that I'm no longer comfortable with having in the text. Thank you!]
A Dog's Life
Chapter 1. Stray Dog.
The thought had crossed his mind that this stupid mission would follow him into the grave, but Sanzo had no idea it could be so damn true. Sanzo sneezed as a dust cloud hit him in the face. That stupid cart had no respect for those waiting for a certain damned jeep to make an appearance. He huffed air and dirt out of his nose and plopped down on the ground to stare into the horizon. According to that hag his so called friends should be passing him on their continued way west any time now. It was a shame her definition of 'any time now' was over a day's time of waiting. He needed a cigarette or some booze. Actually, either would do nicely.
"What a cute doggy!"
Sanzo growled as the little girl approached him. It was more aimed at the so called 'Merciful Goddess' than anything else, but that was beside the point. He glared when she stooped on her knees to get a closer look. Her skirt brushed his paws and he barely restrained himself from snapping at her in frustration. She was the fifth person to bother him today!
"Sweetie, don't touch the dog. You don't know where he's been." A mother grabbed the hand of the small pig tailed child and dragged her past the brooding Golden Retriever. "We'll look at puppies in town."
Sanzo rolled his eyes and fell down on the ground from his newly inherited pawed feet and watched the dust fly up from under him. Setting his head down on his furred front paws he recalled how he had gotten into this mess in the first place. It was all that damn water sprite's fault. Sanzo snarled yet again before letting out a puppy's sigh. He couldn't blame Gojyo, it's not his fault that the chain snapped from the force of the fall.
He had never seen it coming, really, it was all so quick. Sanzo could remember turning around to see the blast coming straight for him. That demon's chi attack could have given Hakkai quite the run for his money. It did it's job and threw him right over the edge of the cliff, and he remembered being lucky it didn't blast a hole through his stomach. As he was falling, he remembered the sharp pain in his arm as the Shakujou's chain wrapped tightly around it in a desperate attempt to catch him. The smirking demon saw it and sent a second blast straight into Sanzo's chest in midair. He briefly heard the monkey screaming in his head just before the chain shattered and everything went black.
He licked his lips absently and wondered if there was a dignified way to scratch his nose without resorting to rubbing his muzzle on the ground. He just gave up and rubbed his face into the side of his leg and willed it to stop itching. Gods above, he missed having hands. Curse that stupid hag of a goddess!
That's right, this shit is all her fault. The moment everything went black, he was blinded by light and was staring face to face with that wretched hag. She actually had a serious look on her face and was staring at him intently. It occurred to Sanzo in that instant that he was dead, and the thought scared him, as much as he'd hate to admit.
"You really do like causing me trouble, don't you Konzen Douji." Her forlorn expression slowly turned into a warmer smile. "But that's okay, it makes things more interesting, doesn't it?"
"I'm dead? Right?" Sanzo looked down at himself and saw his bloodied robes. He stopped to stare at what looked like a hole in his chest. He restrained himself from sticking his hand through it and attempted to regain his composure. The hag ignored him and he wondered why that pissed him off.
"Yup, but you're not supposed to be dead, you're supposed to be doing your job stopping Gyumaoh!" She smiled and waved a finger to 'tsk' at him.
"You've got to be kidding me." Sanzo nearly snarled forgetting the gaping hole in his chest. "You think I wanted to die before I got master's scripture back?"
"Nope!" A cat's grin split her face. "Which is why you get a second chance, you're a lucky boy being such a high servant of the gods and all."
"What are you talking about?" Sanzo nearly let the confusion leak into his eyes.
"I mean, I grabbed you before you got thrown back into the reincarnation cycle." The goddess fell into her chair and crossed her legs. "I'm sending you back, Konzen."
"Are you serious?"
Sanzo straightened his back and crossed his arms. "What's the catch?"
"Ah, knew you'd ask." Kanzeon Bosatsu smiled. "You won't be human."
"I'll be a demon?" Sanzo's eyes grew about two sizes. He'd been called a demon since he was a child, but he'd never actually considered being one for real.
"Oh, no, no." She waved that single finger again. "A dog."
"A dog?" Sanzo could feel the twitch developing in the corner of his eye. "Why on earth a dog?"
"Because you hate cats and they like to fetch things like good little pets should."
"I should kill you."
"Immortal, darling." She winked. "But don't fly off the handle yet. There's some good news."
"And what might that be?"
"If you can get your friends to recognize you in any status, in this case a dog, you'll be restored to your human form. Granted, if one figures it out they can't tell the others, but it's better than being reincarnated as a bug, don't you think?"
"All three of them have to figure out that a mutt is me?" Sanzo lifted an eyebrow. "Joy."
"Knew you'd think so, but it'll all turn out fine. You've got a job to do so think of this as a little side-track-style adventure."
"Do I have a time limit?" Sanzo considered how much work it was going to be to make this crazy idea work. He could see Hakkai figuring it out, but he was as good as stuck if he expected that idiot water sprite and monkey to figure out anything.
"Only your life. If you die again as a dog you don't get another chance at this." Kanzeon set her head on her hand. "And dogs don't live very long naturally, let alone all the other hazards. So don't take your time and don't screw up my generosity!"
"Oh just shut up and do it already."
"As you wish."
And that's where he ended up, a full grown Golden Retriever with an unusual glint of purple that flashes once in a while in his black eyes if the light is just right. The hag had told him his dog body was about a year old so he should be in good shape for at least fourteen years. She assured him that his human body would be his normal twenty-three year old self regardless of what age he ended up as a dog. Her only other advice was tipping him off as to where the jeep should be passing by. Apparently, the least his friends could do after burying him was to retrieve his master's sutra and get revenge on Gyumaoh. The thought they could move on without him was comforting and painful to think about at the same time. He briefly wondered which one of them was carrying his Maten Sutra.
Goku, it was probably the monkey who had it. That wouldn't surprise Sanzo in the slightest. He hit the ground with his tail as his thoughts dissolved into boredom. He'd been waiting nearly two days for them to round the corner, but there was still no luck. He was tired, hungry, and still working out the kinks of four legs. All in all, the mission to be human was experiencing one hell of a lousy start. His eyes nearly shut in exhaustion when he heard the familiar humming of an engine.
His head shot up from his legs and he pushed himself up as quickly as he could. There coming over the horizon was a very familiar front bumper. His tail wagged on its own accord before he could stop it. He could see Hakkai's monocle glistening in the sunlight and flowing red hair streaming in the light next to the man turned demon. In the back, the sun glinted off of Goku's golden coronet. It was about time they showed up!
The thought entered his mind before he could stop it and his tail stopped wagging. How on earth was he going to get them to stop and pick him up? He doubted they'd just pick up a stray mongrel they saw on the side of the road. He hadn't seen himself yet, but he knew he was dirty just from all the cart dust that's been blown at him. The jeep was quickly approaching and Sanzo needed to think quick before it passed him completely and he lost his chance. He got an idea suddenly, but it was stupid. Really stupid.
Hakkai was driving, but he didn't really pay attention to what he was doing. It was if all motivation had been driven out of his person. He remembered he had wanted to take care of Kanan's remains, but he never realized how much worse it felt when you actually did it. It made them truly, honestly dead and killed any notions of them somehow having survived. He could still see Sanzo's face as they threw dirt over it and watched the chakra on his forehead disappear behind a sea of loose soil. They buried him for the sake of time, if they had to watch his body burn away into nothing he didn't think they'd be able to go on. That would be too much to bear and they didn't have time to make a proper funeral pyre. They had to get away from that place as soon as possible. Even now, the burden of losing him weighed them all down like an invisible chain. Sanzo didn't believe in religion anyway, so he doubted he cared how he was buried. Hakkai was sure of that. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he forced himself to calm. He had cried with Gojyo already when they had finished the burial. He wouldn't do it again.
Gojyo watched Hakkai's hands tighten and loosen again. Gojyo didn't know what he'd do if Hakkai broke down again. He lit a Hi-Lite and inhaled it deeply. He never thought he'd cry over the droopy eyed monk, but watching Hakkai break down and the monkey go into shock was more than he could take. Everything just hurt from missing the monk to watching the other two suffer. "You okay, Hakkai."
"Yes, Gojyo." Hakkai raised his mouth slightly. He just couldn't bring himself to fully smile. "I'm fine. Did you need something?"
"No," Gojyo blew a smoke ring. "Just making small talk, it's too damn quiet."
"Yes, it really is." Hakkai looked in the rearview mirror. "Goku?"
"Don't worry, Hakkai." Goku looked up. "I'm okay, I'm even starting to feel hungry again."
"That's good to hear, you really haven't eaten anything decent since, well." Hakkai trailed off.
"You can say it you know." Goku matched Hakkai's eyes in the mirror. "I don't want to forget him."
"That is true, here it is a week after we bury him and we're afraid to mention it." Hakkai sighed.
"It's not your fault, Hakkai." Gojyo replied between drags on his cigarette. "It hurts for all of us the same, so no need to tip-toe around it."
"That's true." Hakkai laughed softly. "He'd probably shoot us all for being so depressed, as it is."
Goku laughed and felt his eyes watering. "Ain't that the truth."
"Yeah. Oh shit! Hakkai watch it!" Gojyo held on to the dashboard for the maneuvering he knew was coming.
"Oh!" Hakkai spun the wheel of jeep as hard as he could to turn left. The jeep skidded to a stop and Gojyo slammed into the dash. "Jeep, are you okay?"
"What the hell was that?" Goku rubbed his head and sat up.
"It's a dog." Hakkai blinked at the lanky animal that panting to the side of the jeep. If Hakkai hadn't swerved the left in time he would have smacked into the poor thing.
"That damn mutt almost killed us!" Gojyo stood up in the jeep to glare at the mutt. "As if we didn't have enough problems!"
"It's just an animal, Gojyo." Hakkai sighed. "It doesn't know any better."
Sanzo caught his breath and stood there for a few moments. Hakkai had gotten pretty close and he almost thought he was road kill. He swallowed and realized his little 'jump in front of the jeep' plan had accomplished his goal and gotten them to stop. Now if only his heart would stop pounding through his chest.
Goku stared down at the dusty dog and tilted his head. The thing was a mess from head to tail. His fur was slightly matted and was covered in soil and dirt. It was skinny as a twig and he felt sorry for the thing when he noticed the ribs peaking out from the fur. He was surprised when it wandered closer to the jeep and sniffed at it. He jumped up at the side and barked and Goku sat back a bit. "Easy."
"Hakkai, start driving again before this mutt tries to jump in the car." Gojyo settled down into his seat. That stupid dog was something they didn't need to deal with right now.
Hakkai watched as the, what he believed to be a Golden Retriever under all that dirt, paw at the side of his dragon. "He looks hungry, doesn't he?"
"Who cares, Hakkai." Gojyo tried to salvage the cigarette he had dropped into the seat. "It's not our problem."
Goku looked at those pleading eyes and realized how much it sucked to be that hungry. "We can't just leave it like that."
"I agree, Goku." Hakkai turned towards the back. "There should be some food in that pack behind you, why don't you give him a few bites."
Sanzo watched Goku rummage through the pack and tried to think quickly. As much as he'd appreciate food right now, what he needed was to get in the jeep and go with them.
"Here ya' go." Goku leaned over the side and held out a strip of bacon for the dog. To his delight the dog sniffed at it before taking it and gulping it down. He smiled a little bit at the sight before coming back to the eyes. For a few moments there was something familiar about them, but the thought that surfaced immediately after was smothered in his head after the wave of pain hit his heart thinking about it. "You like that don't you?"
Sanzo did indeed, but again, it wasn't the answer to his problem. He looked at the glare Gojyo was giving and the satisfied look on Hakkai's face. He wasn't getting any help from them. Gojyo didn't care and Hakkai felt his good Samaritan obligation had been filled. Go for the monkey then. Sanzo swallowed his pride and jumped up to rest his paws on the door. He did something he never thought he'd do in his life: beg.
Goku was startled by the dog jumping up but he was kind of cute whining like that and stretching his head trying to reach. "Sorry, pup. I don't have any more for you."
Sanzo groaned in his head and tried to climb into the seat, but the door was just too damn high when closed. He whimpered when Gojyo swatted at him and he hit the ground, again. Stupid water sprite.
"Hey! Knock it off, Gojyo!" Goku looked down at the dog. "You could have hurt it!"
"I did no such thing." Gojyo sunk into his seat.
Goku glared but stopped when the dog jumped up again and continued the whining. He smiled a little bit and carefully patted the dog on the head. It stopped whimpering and leaned into the touch. "Don't mind the water sprite, he's just grumpy. We all have been as of late, really."
Sanzo was near disgusted with himself for enjoying the patting, but it meant he was one step closer to getting Goku to take him with them. He licked Goku's fingers to ice the cake.
"Hey, you're a nice guy, aren't you?" Goku laughed a little when the dog started to lick him. "But we gotta' go now."
Sanzo felt himself get gently shoved back onto the ground and heard the key in the ignition. No! He needed to get into the damn jeep, and he needed to do it now. He heard Gojyo shout a "good riddens" over Goku's "Good-bye!" and did the only thing that felt natural. He ran after the jeep best he could on an near-empty stomach. Bacon was nice, but it didn't have nearly enough calories for him to keep up with the jeep.
Goku watched the dog from the back of the jeep. It had been following them best it could for near two miles now. He felt bad for the thing all alone and it was probably still hungry. Two things Goku was very familiar with and never wanted to experience again like he had in the past.
Sanzo could feel himself breaking down from the pace. The jeep just moved too quickly and he didn't have enough energy to keep up with it. Damn it all! Damn it!
"Is that mutt still following us?" Gojyo turned around to sit on his knees in the seat. He leaned his head on his arms.
"It appears that way, Gojyo." Hakkai watched it in the mirror and sighed. It was tough to watch, but there was no way they could take care of a dog.
"Hey!" Goku jumped up on his own knees. "It collapsed!"
Shit. Sanzo hit the ground hard and tried desperately to get back on his feet. All the running had exhausted him fully and it hurt to move. His limbs were stiff and he felt a little nauseous from over exerting himself. His heart was beating a hundred times faster than he thought capable and his vision was blurring. Maybe running after the jeep hadn't been the brightest of ideas.
"Good, maybe it'll stop following us now." Gojyo sat back down and nursed his smokes.
"Oh, dear." Hakkai felt the urge to stop the jeep but he hesitated.
"Hakkai!" Goku turned around. "Stop the jeep!"
"But Goku," Hakkai sighed, "We really can't afford…"
"Nonsense!" Goku interrupted. "We're not leaving it like that!"
One look at those golden eyes and Hakkai knew he wasn't winning this argument and slowed the jeep to a stop. He noticed Goku had leaped out long before the jeep had fully stopped and smiled a bit. Maybe the dog would be good for him.
"This is so stupid." Gojyo rolled his eyes. "Like we need another free loader."
"It's not like you pay for anything either. Last time I checked we are still using Sanzo's credit card." Hakkai smiled briefly.
"The bastard owed us anyway." Gojyo averted his eyes to watch the kid run to the dog. "Least he could do for leaving us."
"Yeah, yeah." The red-head flicked the ashes of his smoke over the side of the jeep. He licked his dry lips and slid into the seat much like butter melts into bread. "I know."
Sanzo felt dizzy when he was lifted off the ground. He could feel an arm or something underneath his two back legs and under his front two. He rested his head in the crook of an arm and briefly thought this being carried thing wasn't too bad. He looked up and realized it was the monkey carrying him. It figured he told himself, but he didn't get much farther than that brief thought before he feel asleep. He was too old for this shit.
Goku walked with the dog in his arms and shifted it a little. It was a large dog, but it was light as hell and that worried him. Dogs shouldn't be this easy to lift, no matter how strong the person doing the lifting was.
"What do you think you're doing?" Gojyo looked at Goku as he climbed into the car with the dog.
"We're taking the dog with us and I'm not arguing about it." Goku placed the dog next to him on the seat and let its head rest in his lap. "Drive."
"Alright." Hakkai answered before Gojyo even had a chance to give a response. He started the car and tried to ignore Gojyo's growing pout at losing before an argument had even begun. He watched Goku stare out of the side of the car and lean on his hand, elbow resting neatly on the door. He smiled when he realized his other hand was absently petting the dog. He reaffirmed that the dog might be a very good thing for Goku indeed.