Two days before their housing deadline, Sam came wheeling out of the physical therapy room with a big grin on his face. Which was a first, considering that it was pretty much medieval torture in there for him still.
“What happened,” Dean chuckled, and leaned closer. “Fall face first into those spectacular knockers finally?”
Sam shook his head. “Sadly, no. But this will last longer-- she gave me a lead on an apartment. Handicapped accessible, rent-controlled and pets-allowed. She called already and talked the landlord into holding it for us until we can go over and take a look.”
Dean's eyebrows rose. “I know what she does for you, but damn, Sam-- what have you done for her to rate that?”
“I dunno,” Sam shrugged and popped a wheelie as they went down the hall to the elevator. “Irresistible charm under pressure, maybe?” He gave Dean a wink.
Dean trusted runs of good luck far less than he trusted runs of bad, but he wasn't about to question this streak too closely. Wasn't like they weren't long over-due for their fair share of decent fortune. Maybe the cosmic tide had turned for them. Maybe leaving the life was what they were supposed to do-- even if they had to be pushed out of it, literally thrashing and screaming.
The apartment was better than they'd hoped, old and furnished with equally worn and shabby furniture but clean, and spacious as most pre-war spaces were. Rent-controlled was the part that had them signing on the dotted line, though, and they probably would have even if it had been some cat-piss perfumed roach motel for that price. George marched through the apartment the day they moved, growling with his fluffy hackles up, checking out every corner and cranny. Dean rushed ahead of him, checking all those nooks and crannies for mouse traps, mothballs, rat poison, or anything else left behind that might get the pooch in trouble.
Once they were pretty sure the place was puppy-proof, they let him alone. George dragged a section of a month old Tribune into the bathroom onto the tile and squatted. He was praised lavishly for his genius and rewarded with liver bits.
Life settled into a routine for them, then. He went to work, Sam went to therapy. George got a semi-official wink and nudge as a 'therapy dog in training' so he was a constant passenger in Sam's wheelchair and then learned quickly where his best spot was, when Sam graduated to a walker. Shortly after that, Sam found a job too, ghost-writing for web-sites. The irony of that job title wasn't lost on either of them.
“Damn it, George!” Sam removed the pup's paws from the keyboard for what felt like the tenth time in as many minutes. “Go lay down!”
George gave him full-bore wounded eyes instead, then reached out a tentative paw and inserted cxxxxxxxxvxcv into Sam's document.
Undo. Save. Sam sighed, and gave in to the inevitable. He opened a blank file. “Look, mutt. You want to type? We'll type.”
He plopped George onto his little rump in his lap, and took the pup's fore-paws. One toe at at time got gently pressed to type 'Sam loves George,' as he spelled it out and then read it back to the dog. “There? Happy now?”
As soon as his paws were released, George hopped down and went about his own business. Sam closed the file and went back to his.
The noise of ripping paper didn't register until Dean came in from work. “Dude! Your dog is shredding my porn!”
George came barreling around the ottoman, a section of a torn page clamped in his teeth, one printed with a large red M and part of a silicone-enhanced breast. He made a break for Sam's bedroom. Dean was in hot pursuit. It was Dean who let out a yelp, though.
“What the heck--” Sam heaved himself up and clumped his way with his walker across the apartment.
Dean was staring down at George. “Sam-- your dog can spell.”
George dropped the fragment with the M. It landed at the end of a ransom-note rumba line of other scraps wobbling over the carpet.
G E O R G E L O V E S S A M
“I know you've been teaching him tricks, but... whoa. This is... way beyond stupid pet tricks. This is at circus-act level,” Dean said. “But did you have to teach him to rip apart the anniversary issue of Busty to do it?”
Sam shook his head. “Dean, I didn't teach him this. Come, sit, shake, roll over and speak is as far as we've gotten.”
George looked up at them both, tongue lolling, tail wagging, obviously pleased and expecting lavish praise and probably generous offerings of liver-bits. Dean pivoted and flung the closet door open. He dug through one of the duffels and came out with the EMF detector. He pointed it at George. It screamed like a banshee, the lights solid and the needle pegged.
Sam dropped onto the bed and groaned. “Oh no. George, what are you?”
Dean snatched up George by the nape of the neck. “We're sure as hell gonna find out.”
George let out a frightened yip and squirmed, but Dean didn't let him go. He grabbed up the duffel with his other hand and headed for the bathroom.
“Dean, don't hurt him!” Sam followed as fast as he was able. He got into the hall in time to see Dean drop George none too gently into the bathtub.
“I'm sorry, Sam,” Dean told him, as George scrabbled against the porcelain behind him. “I know I brought this thing in, and you've gotten attached to it. Hell, I'm attached to him too-- but whatever he is, he's no dog.”
“That doesn't mean he's dangerous!”
Dean gave him a scathingly skeptical glare and turned back to George. He flung a splash of holy water over the dog. George sneezed and shook his fur but he didn't smoke or burst into flames.
George obviously didn't like the taste of the salt Dean forced into his mouth then, but there was nothing at all supernatural about his reaction to it touching his tongue.
“Enough!” Sam roared when Dean drew his silver-plated knife.
“I wasn't going to cut him. Much.”
Sam squeezed by him, the walker making a pretty effective barricade. He scooped up George. “How about not cutting him at all? Here, give me the damn thing!”
Dean handed the knife over. Sam stroked George, crooning to the little... whatever... until George stopped shivering. He laid the flat of the knife against the patch of bare skin on George's belly. There was no reaction whatsoever.
He handed the knife back without comment. Dean slid it into the sheath. “So, whatever he is, it's nothing we've encountered before.”
“Right. And there's no reason to jump to the conclusion that he's something ferocious in disguise,” Sam gritted. “Dammit, Dean, he's slept in my bed for weeks now and been with me almost every waking minute!”
Dean reached out to George. He wasn't surprised that George growled and showed his teeth, but he was surprised, and maybe a little guilty, that George whimpered when he kept petting him, and pushed against his hand, as if trying to say he was sorry.
“Tell me again where you got him?” Sam asked.
“From some young Asian guy. Japanese, maybe. He was sitting on a stoop and he had a box of these puppies, giving them away. There was nothing that set off my weirdometer. I figured they were just mutts, y'know, the result of an ambitious neighbor dog getting through their fence or something. Maybe a chow or a husky, some mix like that with something smaller, since he said George would only hit about twenty pounds.” Dean shook his head. “I'm gonna go see if I can find the dude. You... keep that thing locked in the bathroom till we find out what it is. Would you at least do that, please?”
“Sure.” Sam waited until Dean left, then made his way slowly back to his computer, George trailing in his wake, his curly little tail unwound and tucked up between his hinds. Sam dropped into his chair and George whimpered again, looking up at him with doleful eyes.
“Come on up. I still trust you.”
George bounced up into his lap, careful as always of the sore spots. He grumbled doggily and curled up in Sam's lap.
“I've always thought you looked too refined to be a mutt,” Sam murmured. He brought up Google and on a hunch, typed in 'dog breeds Japan.' “Hey, there's only six,” he informed a sleepy George. Out of those six, one he eliminated right away as it was a mastiff type that looked more like one of those wrinkled dogs from China. Three of the others turned out to be too big, and another was eliminated because they were always white. But one was a perfect match. Some of the puppy pictures could easily have been of George himself.
“Well, squirt, you're a Shiba-inu,” Sam reported. George yawned. Old news to him, Sam supposed. “But there's not one word about Shibas being literate or setting off EMF detectors. Anything you want to share, boy-- just between you and me?”
George tucked his nose up under a paw and went to sleep. “Guess I'm on my own, then.”
Sam typed in 'dog supernatural Japan.' As he scanned the first few pages listed on the engine, he shook his head. “Fastest solve ever. But I still don't know what we need to do about you....”
When all else fails, sleep on it. Sam gathered up George and made it over to the couch. He stretched out, and George snuggled in beside him. Sam was asleep almost as fast as he was.
“Why am I not surprised?” Dean muttered when he walked back in and saw George curled beside Sam on the couch. George lifted his head and gave one short bark, then hopped down, stretched and came over begging for a scratch behind the ears just as he'd always gotten when Dean came home.
Before he thought better of it, Dean obliged. “Hey! You found anything?”
Sam snorted and roused up. “Yeah, I did. Did you find our mystery monster-pusher?”
“Vanished into thin air, him and his live-in girlfriend, right after we got George. Left no forwarding address or clues to where they were headed.”
“Oh.” Sam glanced down at George. “Eww.”
“Eww? Why eww?” Dean stepped around the little dog as if George had suddenly turned into George-waste-product.
“Take a look at those pages I printed out.”
Dean grabbed them out of the printer and dropped into his chair. He read, his face drawing up with every page. “Oh this is just nasty! You're thinking he's half-human?”
“It fits best,” Sam nodded. “Though I don't know if he's technically half-human. It sounds more like some sort of supernatural embryo transfer.”
“Oh, like that's any prettier,” Dean scoffed, dropping the sheets like they were fouled. “Holy shit, can you imagine what that poor girl must have gone through? Giving birth to puppies?”
“She had to know. It says the eldest daughter of every inugami-suji-- the bloodlines possessed by an inugami-- would give birth to a litter of inugamis on her first pregnancy, instead of a human child. Even today, in some parts of Japan, families will search a potential bride's heritage to make certain she's not inugami-suji.”
“But she might not have known. I mean, how much do most people walking the streets know about their heritage? Regardless I doubt popping out puppies is an event that makes the family newsletter. Either way, man, it's disgustingly creepy and sick.” He eyed George with more distaste than before. “How do we dump this little freak?”
George deserted him to scamper up onto the couch and wedge himself in behind the shelter of Sam's back.
Sam felt pretty uneasy, and even he wasn't sure how that uncomfortable feeling was portioned out over this spectrum of unpleasant concepts. “I don't think we have any reason to.” He felt his shoulders draw up closer to his ears. “Or even if we can.”
“What?” Dean leaned forward, and his expression never boded well for anything that came after. “Are you telling me we're stuck taking care of some... dog-spirit-demi-god whatever for the rest of our lives?”
“George's life,” Sam put in quickly. “I don't find anything that indicates inugami live much longer than normal dogs. But yeah, we may be stuck with him. It's said that they're very intelligent...”
“Obviously. The dog freakin' reads.”
“And loyal, and protective. They bring prosperity to their owners.”
“Oh crap. Our jobs. This apartment. Figures that was too much good luck to be chance. Ok, hit me with the b-side.”
“B-side is, they were originally created as deliverers of vengeance. Once they destroy the target they're sent after, or if they're angered or mistreated by their owners-- they can possess their owner.”
“Oh, that's just friggin' great! Haven't we been down that road enough for ten or twelve lifetimes already?”
“True. But there's an upside even to that. It doesn't sound like the inugami takes total control like a demon does. In fact, it grants the person it's inhabiting fast healing and perfect health.”
“With the low, low price tag of?”
“Acting like a dog. Sometimes.”
Dean dragged his hand over his face. “I don't know whether to laugh, cry or throw up.”
“How about we both take a breath and think this through,” Sam offered. “Look, we're not going to send George to rip out somebody's throat, so the vengeance caveat is off the table. We're certainly not going to mistreat the little guy, and unless you start slinging him into the bathtub and shoving salt down his throat on a regular basis, I think we can rule out pissing him off to epic proportions. So, he probably will never feel the need to possess either of us.”
“You're saying it's all A-side for us?”
“Looks that way to me, yeah.”
George poked his nose out from behind Sam's back. Dean glared at him and George retreated back into his makeshift cave. “Ok, there is one other aspect to this we-- well, you, especially-- need to think long and hard about.”
Sam tilted his head with a puzzled frown. “What?”
“If I'm reading the lore right,” Dean tapped the discarded pages, “Then owning an inugami automatically makes you inugami-mochi-- which means, when you marry and have kids, you've also set up a cozy little inugami-suji to keep the species perkin' along. Right?”
Sam nodded. He'd thought through this too. Didn't mean he was any more comfortable discussing it-- or even thinking about it.
“Now, how are you-- or I-- supposed to explain to some unsuspecting woman that if she hooks up with us, she might well have grand-dogs instead of grand-babies some day?”
“I'm twenty-nine, and permanently disabled. You're thirty-three and have had what, one relationship that lasted more than a month? I don't think that's a scenario we're gonna have to deal with.”
“If that thing--”
“Whatever. If George keeps bringing us luck, Sammy, I wouldn't count on the whole monastic future plan working out for you.”
“True, but he doesn't officially belong to me.”
George slid out from behind Sam and slithered down off the couch and across the floor as if on a ninja raid. He eased himself up onto Dean's chair and inserted himself between thigh and chair arm, just as he'd done every evening.
“You sure about that?” Sam smiled.
“Shut up.” Dean kicked the pages off the ottoman onto the floor.
Right as he dropped his head back and closed his eyes, Sam dropped the last bomb. “We do have one other, more immediate concern.”
“What's that?” Dean groaned, barely slitting his eyes.
“You said there were what, two other puppies in that box?”
“Three.” Dean's head came up so fast, it probably bordered on whiplash. “Oh no. Oh hell no. Yes, we ought to round 'em up, but we are not keeping them.”
The puppy eyes he got then didn't come from George.
“Sam, we're NOT.”