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Summary: A re-writing of the story "Keep Holding On (Cause We'll Make it Through)". I suggest reading this version in place of the original, as this version is, in truth, my editing of the first. The style is *very* different from the first, and the story itself should both make more sense and be a more interesting read. Again, all pairings are *background* except McShep.

"All this is getting fairly far from the point, as well, which is the story. I will try to relate it to you as best as my greatly superior memory serves, however I never took the time to apply myself to the waste of time my first – and subsequent – university classes laughingly called 'English.' As such, this will not be some great piece of literature but the truth as I see it..."

Updated: 25 Oct 2009; Published: 23 Oct 2009

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Author's Chapter Notes:
The introduction may give away plot details that have not yet been written, so those wishing to be surprised may wish to skip it in favor of the story itself, several paragraphs down ("Chapter One").


Therefore foresight, thought for the future, is always best: he must abide much of good and evil who lives for long in these woe-filled days in this dark world. -Beowulf, ll. 1059-1062


INTRODUCTION: Background

The following narrative was written by Dr. Meredith Rodney Sheppard-McKay three years after his introduction into the Stargate Program, otherwise known as the SGC. It was immediately filed in his personal records. Two years after the filing of this narrative (five years after joining the SGC), Dr. Sheppard-McKay left with his husband and many of his "pack" on a top-secret mission code named "The Atlantis Project." After two to four years of no contact (records on the date vary), the members of the Atlantis Project team were declared missing and presumed dead. Files and personal effects were sorted through, with many personal effects going into storage and unedited, incomplete theories and journal articles filed with completed, copyrighted material.

Dr. Sheppard-McKay's narrative circulated among the personnel of the base after his assumed death. It became the subject of speculation, and without any of the original pack members available to confirm details and questions, the basis of rumor. Other records were found concerning the "Canine Shifters," as scholars term them, including a biological study by Dr. Janet Fraiser and a historical study by Dr. Daniel Jackson. Some of the narrative can be confirmed via these sources, however many more were lost in the explosion that occurred in the Nevada desert, and were never recovered. As such, what is rumor and what is truth can no longer be reliably confirmed or denied beyond what is available from the two previously mentioned texts.

Following the declassification of several parts of the Stargate Program, Dr. Daniel Jackson received permission to edit and publish the narrative as a fiction novel under the name of Dr. McKay, who at the time had not yet returned from off-world. It is guessed that Dr. McKay had meant to edit the text, and that this version is merely an early draft. That this is not a final draft can be confirmed by occasional awkward shifts in tense, unusual details, and the lacking details it is assumed he would have filled in with his own research given the chance. The original intended audience is unknown, although various scholars have suggested that he was writing to his sister, hence the inclusion of the letter to her.

It is believed that some parts were not written by Dr. Sheppard-McKay, and it has been variously speculated that the additions were written by several different people, including Teyla Emmagen, Dr. John Sheppard-McKay, Laura Cadman, and Dr. Carson Beckett. It has also been speculated that Dr. Jackson placed in the narrative the chapter breaks and titles, edited for grammatical reasons, and made other minor changes to the overall organization of the text. None of these speculations can be confirmed.

The presence of an Atlantis base has been fervently denied by the military for the past several decades, despite the name of the mission Dr. Sheppard-McKay and his pack were a part of. As Dr. Melina Smith states, "we all knew that they had gone to Atlantis. Whether it was really the Atlantis or not no one knew, but we called it Atlantis nonetheless" (The Stargate Project, 2010). Other members of the SGC have commented on the fact that bases were often named after mythological places and figures, such as "Icarus Base," "Zion Base," and the ship "Prometheus." The relationship to the myths surrounding the names is usually clear, although sometimes superficial, and there are still many unknowns about the Stargate Program in general, and the Atlantis Project in particular.

What is known is that Dr. Meredith Sheppard-McKay has not officially published a paper since his induction into the Stargate Program fifty years ago, and has not been seen since the writing of this narrative. Some have speculated that the pack found a place off-world to live; others suggest that he was killed or lost to the go'a'uld early on; still others state that, if the narrative is to be believed on the lifespan of these so-called gifted, Meredith Rodney Sheppard-McKay and many of his pack may still be living and reading their own narratives in published anthologies. No theory has yet been confirmed.

Parts believed to be additions written later, possibly by others, are offered in italics in this version of the text.



CHAPTER ONE: The Bite

A lonely howl broke through the night air; the whole pack answered. It was nearing the time when the lone wolf's self-imposed exile would come to an end. His actions of late had approached the unforgivable, but he was still pack. They would not leave him. Kavanagh had not yet passed the gift on to another person, nor had he crossed that thin line between merely threatening others and hurting them. He had not yet killed - he was not that far from the pack.

But he had threatened, and he had
tried to hurt humans. He had been vicious towards his colleagues at the research center in his words and in his mannerisms. He envied his employer's bluntness and intelligence when compared with his own abilities, and to a lesser degree he felt the same towards his fellow employees. He never could stand the fact that someone was smarter than himself, and his patience with those who were grew worse as the days passed.

The pack was anxious. They would have welcomed Kavanagh back despite his misdeeds, but, as it was, he did not want to return. He preferred his loneliness, and that made him snappish, angry, and even more arrogant than he had been before his new assignment.

There was a hole in the pack with him gone. Kavanagh had been both smart and cautious. Not wise, perhaps, not like the small Czech wolf of Weir's pack. Kavanagh was only smart. The pack did not hate him for his failings, but Kavanagh felt them just the same.

The tension in the air seemed to thicken - worry filled the whines that followed the howls in the night sky. They feared what Kavanagh might do because of his anger and his resentment.

Ronon suddenly lifted his head from where he was dozing and growled. The Alpha stepped towards him, curious - Ronon had a very sensitive nose, even for one of the gifted - but stopped as he, too, recognized the scent the wind carried to him.

It was distant, but growing stronger. There was no hiding what it was. Blood.

Changed blood.

With a snarl, the Alpha jumped through the tree line and followed the freshly-spilled scent to its origin.

John Sheppard's pack ran behind him without question, graceful and silent as the wind blowing lazily through the trees, eager for justice.





Most people can tell you that I'm not exactly very nice. As I'm writing this, I can tell you that it isn't really intentional; I don't intend to cause tears or resentment, I simply hate failure.

If I need something done right, and most especially if I need that something done right now, I do it myself. I double-checked my associates' work because they are, many times, incompetent idiots who must have paid off their professors to get their degrees. Most times, they can't apply theory if they had a gun to their head, no matter how well they may be able to spout it. If I'm loud in pointing out their mistakes, it's to keep others from doing the same – and also, hello, for motivation. I don't get 'gentle.' Seriously, when has that ever worked? If I'm wrong, just tell me and don't mince words. Of course, I'm never wrong, but I digress.

On the day in question – the day that began the story you most insistently want to hear – I was feeling particularly sorry for the loss of that Czech scientist I can never remember the name of, who had taken the time off for vacation, of all things. He was the only one of the entire lot who could actually work – not that he had anywhere near the array of knowledge I held. He bounced around secret projects like he couldn't decide which side of the street to park on, and I couldn't decide if he was just that diplomatic or if he got passed around because no one could really understand him under that accent. It drove me nuts until I found out that he really only had one other "secret project," and that was vacationing with his girlfriend and the family.

Or, at least, that's what he told me.

Zelma didn't need the money or the job, or even the visa, but, like any good scientist, worked for the betterment of all mankind. It helped that he was almost as smart as I was, had the clearance to work on the actual projects and not just theory, and could take a few insults without crying. I'm vaguely certain he insulted me back as well, however my Czech is fairly nonexistent. I haven't had the time to learn a new language.

All this is getting fairly far from the point, as well, which is the story. I will try to relate it to you as best as my greatly superior memory serves, however I never took the time to apply myself to the waste of time my first – and subsequent – university classes laughingly called 'English.' As such, this will not be some great piece of literature but the truth as I see it and as has been relayed to me by other sources – Cadman, in particular, seems to have an almost perfect memory in the instance of anything verbal, and John was there for a good portion of, well, everything.

I remember clearly on that night shutting down two of the three laptops. The last was running a simulation that had begun as an offshoot of the Czech's work, and probably needed more refinement, but needed to run the night. To be completely honest, I would have preferred Zlenka to have been there over that fool Kavanagh, because then I wouldn't have been working late. Kavanagh, while having a doctorate and therefore supposedly 'intelligent,' was one of those men I mentioned before who were good – and by that I mean overly cautious and barely adequate – with theory, but not in practical application. The fight I'd had with him over that very thing was what had him leaving early and myself finishing his work for him.

I'm certain the numbers in my head weren't really dancing, but I am hypoglycemic, so it is a possibility due to medical distress.

It was 2:00 according to the clock on the wall, which was a nice digital display I had installed when we first set up the labs. My back was killing me from being hunched over the laptops for so long, doing both Kavanagh's work and my own, and I was hungry. The equations weren't adding up and I had to eat.

I should state up front that I have a severe citrus allergy. Oranges, limes, lemons – even on bad days apples can cause a reaction. Some people will blow this off because my reaction isn't considered 'severe;' it is, however, 'serious.' The level of reaction isn't as high as it could be, but because it is a food allergy, the reaction happens first and foremost in my throat. If I accidently ingest something, I have about fifteen to twenty minutes before I can no longer breathe.

Because that time isn't five to ten, some of my peers have been known to shrug it off. Good doctors won't, even if all they do is write it down.

Anyways, I had to be very careful what I ate due to that. You'd be surprised how many products have citric acid in them – which, yes, comes from citrus – and not all of them have a low enough quantity of it that they are safe to eat. Most, yes, are well enough. Not all. I remind everyone about my allergy nearly daily as it's easy to forget.

That could be why the sandwich shop that shares space with us started serving food on rye. The witch who ran it – an old hag who called herself 'Star' – claimed that it was healthier for everyone, and that it contained no citrus.

I hate rye. She knew that.

So I was hungry and hadn't brought food because, silly me, I hadn't expected the cracker-jack doctorate to bail on me. I was distracted, and perhaps that's why the howls disturbed me. I blame the shivers purely on hypoglycemic reactions. There had been stories of wolves terrorizing late-night walkers, but I doubted the validity of those. Wolves were animals, but they were at least sensible enough to stay in the woods where they belonged. Unlike their human counterparts.

It didn't take long to lock up the place and start walking to the house. I'd traded the car in for some new equipment and a temporary coding assistant – a mistake, since I'd needed to rewrite half the coding myself later – which meant I'd be walking until I saved up the money to buy a clunker, or something that was vaguely repairable. Usually it didn't bother me, since the doctors – all quacks – had told me that I needed some exercise every day in order to keep my body healthy. That night was chilly, though, near the start of the fall season, and I found myself wishing the town had a reliable bus system. I'd tried to find a workable lab as far from the town as I could in the hopes that I could safely run some higher-level experiments, or pull in different materials.

Turns out I needn't have bothered, but that comes later.

Everything seemed fine until I found myself face-down on the cement of the parking lot with no idea how that happened and a burning pain in my leg. I had thought, at first, that it was a mugger or even an assassin, but when I turned – and, okay, yeah, that hurt – I saw a wolf. A black wolf. Honestly, how often do you see those in populated areas?

Yeah, still slightly resentful of that.

My heart rate had skyrocketed, I'm certain, along with my blood pressure. The damn wolf was charging at me, and I was trying to stand on a leg the idiot had bruised, possibly already bitten, to attempt to get out of there. Of course, then the moron decided it was a good idea to grab my calf with his teeth and not let go. Smacking the muzzle didn't help, either, nor did hitting his ears.

I couldn't breathe enough to scream. I may be manly, but pain is pain and that grip really, really hurt. Also, though I didn't know it, what little brains he possessed had obviously abandoned him because he was injecting poison into my veins.

I guess I should mention that, at the time, I thought it was a rabid wolf. I was worried about rabies and infections and how I was going to get the dog off me and find a way to the hospital in the middle of the night without having to wait for an ambulance. It made absolutely no sense, since I knew no one could hear me anyways, but as soon as I found the breath I screamed. It was a very manly scream, I assure you. More like a shout, really.

Of course, the research labs were empty, and I had no illusions about being loud enough to reach the houses two blocks away, through the heavy walls of mobile home housing.

I absolutely did not cry, but there may have been something in my eyes as I tried once more to smash the mutt's nose with my keys. The hits loosened his grip enough for me to pull away, but the idiot gripped tighter before I could completely get free. His muzzle was bloody now, and it made him look mad – insane mad, not simply angry.

What was worse was that I could hardly feel my leg anymore. I thought dogs went for the throat, and at the time I didn't understand why he wasn't, but I wasn't going to complain when he was gripping a leg I could no longer feel.

I thought I was going to die one way or another, either from the dog or from whatever disease he was carrying. I didn't want to suffer the indignity of a bloody death, but it didn't look like I had much of a choice.

And then – then there were more of the damn things. Bigger and smaller; red, brown, black, even one that was slightly grey. There was variation in the coats and colors that in my less than ideal situation I didn't notice, but I know now that they were there.

I did notice the black blur removing the dog attached to my leg. John has told me since that night that it was Bates who so effectively removed the attached mutt – and that will make more sense when I get to a later part of the story. Or perhaps the next story, depending.

I heard the dogs fighting, but I was more concerned with the fact that I was free. In pain and possibly delirious with rabies, but free. I shifted onto my hands and knees, only to look straight into the eyes of another wolf.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I didn't know what was happening at the time. I didn't know that the wolf I was staring at would change my life, or that it had already been changed. It may have been my imagination, but I swear I looked into those brown-gold eyes and saw intelligence – and sorrow.

I may have been slightly delirious. Just maybe.

I noticed then that the animals were really more like dogs than wolves. They were less mangy, less wild – less thin and desperate for food. It looked like they had seen a flea bath recently, at least.

The scuffle ended, and I simply turned back around to sit and watch the black pair. My first attacker was laying on the ground with the other, not as dark wolf licking the smaller one's wounds – or, to make that simpler, Bates was cleaning the moron's scratches. There was a blonde wolf and a red wolf near them, almost cuddling the pair they were so close.

The one that was now behind me put his nose in my neck and sniffed. His breath was hot and moist, just like all those dogs that were loud and obnoxious in the pet stores. If I had turned my head, my nose would have brushed fur.

I tried talking to it, since talking to my cat occasionally brokered some results. I had once talked Newton down from the top of a bookshelf after some mutt dog had terrorized it. To be honest, I don't really remember what I said, but Cadman has since told me that this is an almost word-for-word relation, and Teyla has confirmed that it is approximately right:

"Look, I know you're probably just going to eat me or whatever, and it's been a really nice life, and I can't really blame you for being animals, but could you just get it over with? Not that you can understand me, but I'm not into pain, and my leg hurts like hell right now. I'm a scientist, I'm not meant to deal with wild animals, or injury, or even people, and I'm feeling somewhat sick, so you may not want to eat me anyway - and I didn't get to leave any notes for Zelenka! Not that he couldn't figure things out eventually, since he's almost as smart as I am, but who knows what could happen with all the trained monkeys that work with him, and I really am the smartest person around, even if I can't deal with people very well, and I might be panicking a bit, and I'm hungry, which you probably don't care about, but it's true, and - oh god that hurts!" I remember that; I had accidentally shifted my injured leg too much, dragging it painfully across the cement, and the pain had returned in spades.

The wolf beside me had cocked his ears forward, as if listening to me. I remember those eyes that seemed to glow slightly in the night.

John was slow as he stepped around me – the wolf, I mean. He was slow. He touched me all along my side and leg and arm as he did. He smelled the wound, smelled the infection, and simply began cleaning the blood and ripped denim away like his counterpart had with the other wolf. Using his tongue and teeth, he made certain that it would be okay, that it would heal.

His tail was in my face.

It was my hunger that made me pass out. I told you, I'm hypoglycemic.