Word Count: 4000ish
Category: AU, Gen, Team fic
Link to Chapter 1
(thanks to trystings for pointing out the typos and errors!)
New Tricks Ch. 2
Shep was a four year old German Shepherd who entered the O'Neill family as a wriggling seven week old fluff ball, scooped up from a large cardboard box with a sign that read “Free Puppies”. When Jack O'Neill pulled into the town Wal-Mart with his wife and ten year old son Charlie, it had been a simple errand for toilet paper and milk. But suddenly, standing beside his giggling son and the small puppy who yipped happily at the child, Jack shared a strained look with his wife and mouthed “Told ya we should have gone to Target.”
Soon they were leaving Wal-Mart, arms loaded with Purina Puppy Chow, food and water bowls, a dog bed (that Jack knew would never be used), various toys in a wide range of colors and shapes, four rolls of toilet paper, and a gallon of milk. It was early in the day, so after a quick stop home to throw the milk in the fridge, they felt it necessary to take their newest family member to the vet for a check up and any of the appropriate shots that he should have. They argued along the way on what to name the pooch. Charlie was partial to Killer, which was immediately rejected by his mother before Jack could even voice his opinion on the matter. Jack wanted K-9, since he was a cop, and thought it was clever. It was also his favorite character from those old Doctor Who episodes, and who could seriously argue with the Doctor? That was also shot down quickly and efficiently by the matriarch of the household, though she was unable to come up with anything better.
The matter was settled unexpectedly by none other than an honest mistake and Jack's abysmal spelling. Standing at the Vet counter, filling out the appropriate information, his mind was more on the complete lack of dog adequate yard their two bedroom apartment possessed and less on the lines “Pet's Breed” and “Pet's Name”. Mixing up the two, he scribbled “Unavailable” on the breed, and “Sheppard” on the name. When they were finally taken back to one of the small exam rooms, the doctor confused all of them by repeatedly referring to the pup as “Shep”. More to save face than anything else, Jack played along, and by the end of the exam, the name had actually grown on him. Add to that the free collar and tag engraved “Sheppard” that the receptionist handed him (a gift to all new patients) and it was official.
The pup and child were soon inseparable. As Jack had predicted, the doggie bed proved to be a colossal waste of money as most nights found the dog curled up in a small brown and black ball on top of the covers beside Charlie. Jack's wife shot him with the old stink eye one night after tucking the child in bed but Jack stood firm in his refusal to enforce the 'no pets on the furniture' rule because “Puppy eyes from two sources? I don't think so.”
The O'Neill adults were sitting in the kitchen nursing steaming cups of coffee one morning two months later when Shep followed Charlie into his parents bedroom. The child fished a stolen key out of his pocket as Shep eyed a stray sock with suspicion before tackling said accessory and shaking it with all his puppy might. Charlie laughed at the small yips and playful growls before peering out the door for any sign of his parents. Their conversing tones floated down the hall to him from the kitchen, so with a wide grin he turned and ran to the walk-in closet. He knelt beside the small safe that was securely bolted to the floor. Inserting the pilfered key, he turned until he heard the lock click open and the door released. The small boy reached inside while whispering in a loud voice “Check this out Shep! I told Tommy it was just like the one that guy had in the movie!”
At the voice, Sheppard released the sock (it was looking kind of tattered anyway) and trotted towards the closet. “Bang! Bang!” Charlie was saying a little louder than before. Sheppard had just reached the door and was peaking in when a loud crack, like the loudest thunder clap ever pierced through his sensitive ears and Charlie fell down.
The small apartment erupted into chaos as Jack and his wife stumbled into the room. Jack cursed loudly and his wife screamed and at some point she kicked at the scared puppy huddled by the closet door. Shep scrambled out of the way as Jack began simultaneously yelling into a phone and at his wife at the same time about “keeping pressure on it” and words like “bleeding” and “dying”. Minutes later many more people flooded into the apartment, men and women with bags and equipment and something like a bed on wheels. There was a flurry of activity and more yelling, but still Charlie would not get up off the floor. Then someone yelled “We gotta go NOW!” and they strapped the small boy to the bed before rushing him from the room. The front door slammed sharply and, with its closing, plunged the apartment into silence. Then Shep was alone.
The puppy hung back from the bedroom door. He didn't like the strange smells coming from the room, sharp and metallic and wrong. He couldn't help but whimper in confusion as he backed up from the door and fled to Charlie's bedroom. The room was dark and empty, but the smells were comfortingly right as Shep wriggled his way under the bed and laid his head on his paws. There he waited for Charlie to come back.
It was a long, long time before someone came into the bedroom. Jack stood at the doorway for a long minute but left the light off when he finally entered the room. He cast a haunted gaze around the space, his eyes pausing on a baseball glove, a teddy bear, a racecar, a smiling photo of a ten year old boy and his puppy. Jack released a slow, shuddering sigh and his entire body seemed to slump as he finally knelt beside the bed and lifted the end of the covers. He managed a small smile at the soft eyes that watched him before he gently pulled the dog from under the bed. Sitting then on the floor with his back resting against the bed frame, he gathered the puppy into his arms. Shep was still and silent as Jack ruffled his ears and stroked the soft fur of his back. They sat like that a long time until Jack's voice, rough and barely recognizable, broke the silence.
“He's gone buddy...”
The marriage lasted twelve months after that, but all parties involved secretly knew that it had actually been dead for at least six. It was a slow decay, with frequently more days ending in yelling and the slamming of doors. Jack's wife began spending more and more time at her mother's house, a special portal of hell that Jack refused to enter. For his own part, Jack began taking weekends off and spending them upstate at his Chief's cabin fishing. He'd get off early on Fridays to avoid the traffic, pack his fishing rod and a change of clothes, usher Shep into his beat up old F-150, and off they'd go. Once there, he'd stock up on enough beer to keep him blissfully unable to think about anything of any real importance for the next forty-eight hours.
The fishing was rumored to be excellent in the lake which sprawled for more than fifteen miles in both directions from the cabin. Unfortunately for Jack though, Shep found the most pleasure in stretching his legs after the long drive in the shallow edges, splashing around to the point where any fish were reasonably warned away long before Jack could even get the first hook baited. Later, with Shep finally dozing beside his plastic lawn chair, Jack would set the rod aside and stare into the vast distance as the sun began to set over the water. In these times, he could finally feel the barest hints of the inner peace that he'd never really appreciated until it was ripped from him. By Sunday he felt he could finally return to the city without feeling like he was on the brink of screaming. In the end, these trips never were really about fishing.
One Sunday night he'd pulled up to the apartment well after midnight. He was a little surprised to see all of the lights on-- his wife had stopped waiting up for him months ago. He was a little less surprised to find her sitting at the dining room table, papers spread all over the surface. “What's all this?” he asked, dropping his bags by the door.
“Our joint assets.”
“Oh...” Jack tried to muster shock, or even a realistic alarm; but the sound that escaped him was laced with more apathy than surprise. After all, it wasn't really an ambush when you'd lived the last three months expecting it every day.
Jack refused to squabble over hand towels and tupperware, though he was mindful that bachelorhood was being thrown at him in a big way and he, having spent the last twelve years married, was woefully ill-equipped to face it. Still, he let her run the show mostly, only taking what he felt he needed. But there was no way in hell he was leaving without Shep. Since she'd be keeping the apartment until the lease was up (conveniently, no mention or concern was made from her as to where Jack now officially resided), she made only a half-hearted argument for keeping the dog, most of which focused on security. Jack told her to get a chihuahua, or better yet just move her mother in with her. At that point, Jack didn't really care what she did. But Sheppard, who felt like Jack's only real link to Charlie as well as his now constant companion, was his.
Finding himself suddenly freed of the confines of married life, Jack dipped into his savings for the down-payment on a small three room cabin close enough to the water to cast his fishing line from the front porch if he were so inclined, but not too far from the city for the daily commute. During their tour with the real estate agent, Shep found the splashing grounds to his liking and so by 5:00 Jack was signing the papers.
A few months later, Jack signed Shep up for the K-9 unit training program. While he'd knocked the idea around in his head a few times, it didn't really hit home until one Sunday when he'd invited the Chief up for fishing. After all the weekends Jack had spent hiding out at his lake, he felt it only right. The two ended up sitting by the lake, rods long ignored when the Chief brought up the usual issue the two had been butting heads about for the last year and a half-- Jack's inability to hold down a stable partnership with any other officer.
“Not now George,” Jack sighed. He'd been close friends with Chief Hammond for more than twenty-five years, had stood by the man through his own turbulent divorce ten years earlier. Charlie had played little league with George's grandkids.
“I'm serious Jack,” Hammond said settling back comfortably. “I can't have you out there alone, but, well let's just say that the term 'Jackass' has been tossed around the precinct recently and it's not all that hard to figure out who it's referring to.”
Jack hid a grin behind his beer can. Jackass...clever, but not too much thought put into it. Sounded like something Kowalski would come up with. When he caught Hammond's frown he dropped his hand. “Well, what do you want from me?”
“Well you could start by playing nice.”
Jack rubbed at his eyes tiredly with one hand while the other fell to his side, scratching behind soft ears. “No promises,” he muttered.
“Jack, have you given any thought into Shep joining the K-9 unit?” Hammond launched unexpectedly. “He's approaching the right age, and the unit might be a good fit for him, and for you.”
Jack turned his gaze down to the sleeping dog to avoid answering right away. He had thought about it, but always there were reasons not to. Now though, with the avenue opened up in front of him, he couldn't recall what even one of those negative reasons were.
“And God knows that dog is the only one who can stand to be around you right now...Jackass.”
Shep took to the training with more enthusiasm then Jack could ever have hoped for or expected. He excelled at almost every task set before him. There was a slight obedience problem, but since Jack had been wowing review boards with his own unique form of policing for years, it more or less seemed typical. Ten weeks later Shep was a fully recognized member of the K-9 unit and Jack finally had his new partner.
Jack and Shep floated through the different divisions for a full year before being assigned almost exclusively to the Organized Crimes Control Bureau. There they held a successful run, busting up fledgling gangs before drug trafficking and gang wars grew to unmanageable proportions. It was during these times that a new gang began whispering through the streets. It was a subtle invasion of neighborhoods-- a few new graffiti tags, a couple of tattoos unrecognized by any of the departments experts. But then, almost overnight, the underworld was taken over by the Wraith. Its influence was felt in almost every area of the city, from the lowest slums to the richest crystalline high rises, it seemed as though no neighborhood was untouched by the Wraith. Investigators credited them with the new street drug “Gift of Life”, a substance that had been baffling the police for months as little more than a rumor floating throughout the streets. No samples had been confiscated, so the department still did not know what they were actually looking for, its chemical composition, or even what effects it had on the user.
Although all departments agreed that “The Gift” was sweeping through the streets like a wildfire, without any evidence their hands were tied. The Wraith operated on an almost cult like level, impossible to track or trace and doing little to bring attention to itself until the sheer number of members began raising eyebrows. There were few arrests, and so little in the way of questioning and raids.
The best leads Jack and Shep were following were unsubstantiated reports of an outlying patch of known gang members on the fringes of society. There had been repeated reports of dog fighting trickling into the ASPCA for months, but while they wanted to move immediately for the sake of the animals involved, police officials stalled in hopes that this batch would lead to greater and more incriminating activities. They'd known for years that this group met annually for a tournament of sorts, but the location changed every year. Add to that false information that was frequently leaked and the police ended up chasing their own tails until it was too late to move.
Their break finally came one frosty November morning. With a positive place and time finally established, Shep and Jack soon were standing outside a rusty warehouse that had long been abandoned while the advanced team broke through the door and raided the building. Shep was free of any restraint, and he and Jack were waiting anxiously, ready to take down any suspect who broke free of the chilly shadows and made a run for it. The air was cold, but the unmistakable scent of dogs filled Shep's senses. Added to that was the muffled yelling now escaping the confines of the warehouse and every muscle in his body was tensed like a coiled spring, ready for release.
“Time to go buddy,” Jack said softly, taking a cue from the voice coming over his radio. Shep took the lead, winding around the various cars and uniformed men and climbing the chilled metal steps into the building. At the entrance he paused and waited for Jack, then together they entered the darker building and approached one of the men standing beside the makeshift ring. The scent was overpowering at first, sweat and blood, fear and rage, death. It all came from the ring and the rows of cages lining the back of the building where even now growls and barks were echoing off the high walls and discarded packing crates.
Shep scanned the building, but the lighting was bad, mostly spilling in through the open freight doors while hints managed to break through the dirty skylights. The room was a mesh of scents, nothing standing out in particular. Soon he and Jack began their sweep of the room and Shep tried to make out individual scents through the din of others. There was nothing until they approached a haphazardly stacked pile of crates, each one more precariously perched on the next. There was something...
“What is it boy?” Jack muttered, casting his flashlight beam on them while the other hand fell to the gun at his side. Sheppard ignored him, his eyes never leaving the crates. He took a slow step forward, but even as he did a shadow separated itself from the stacks and launched itself at him. Jack fell back with a shout, but Shep had no time to react before the big dog, Doberman, plowed into him, sharp fangs sinking into his fur.
“Whoa Whoa Whoa!! Wait a minute buddy! We're the good guys!!”
The Doberman answered by driving Sheppard down with the force of its attack, a low growl rumbling deep in its throat. Shep twisted his body at the last minute, and that plus an insane amount of sheer luck made the other dog bite more collar than neck, giving Sheppard precious millimeters of wiggle room under the weight of the other dog. He heard Jack yelling, and the footfalls of other officers running towards them, but at the moment he was a little more preoccupied by the glistening fangs bearing down on his jugular.
“I'm going to kill all of you...”
The voice was a rumble, echoing the strength and depth of the growl. Sheppard tried to twist away once more, but the jaws tightened and he unconsciously yelped. While his collar was still keeping the teeth from going too deep, it still hurt like hell and he stopped struggling long enough to try and reason with the other. “That's what I'm trying to say! We aren't Wraith, we're here to help! They put you in cages, but we're not going to do that. We're going to put them in cages.”
“...I don't believe you.”
“Well, that isn't going to matter in a second. You see that guy? That's Jack. In a second he's going to pull out something called a gun. It'll make a loud noise, and you'll fall down, and you won't get back up again. You know what a gun is?”
The voice was impassive, deep with almost no emotion behind it. But Shep wasn't lying about any of it. In fact, Jack had already pulled out his gun, was looking for a shot that would kill the other dog without hurting Shep. “Dammit!” Shep gritted out. He struggled to keep his feet under him as his front paws were beginning to slip in something on the floor, something he suspected was his own blood from the metallic twang reaching his nose. He pushed that out of his mind as he locked his legs under him and fought to raise his head. He felt something tear under the Doberman's fangs -- that can't be good-- but managed to twist both of them enough that he was blocking Jack's shot, a move the Doberman did not fail to notice. Sorry Jack, but this guy's a victim too, he thought when he heard the cop curse from the sidelines. “Look big guy, you don't have to fight anymore. We're here to help, but I need you to trust us so that we can.”
For a minute Shep thought the other dog didn't care, that he was just going to put all of his force into one bone crushing snap, and that would be it. But as he stood there, feeling his legs begin to quiver with the effort of keeping himself upright, he felt the jaws loosen their death grip on him and the larger dog take a step back. He made sure to still keep himself between the other dog and the growing crowd of officers, all of whom had weapons drawn.
“Um...well,” Sheppard tossed a surprised glance up at the Doberman's face, his bloodstained muzzle and suspicion filled eyes. He hadn't actually thought that far ahead... “Why don't you just sit there and try not to look so rabid for one thing? Damn, you look like Cujo.”
“Nevermind...” Sheppard stood still as Jack came warily forward and knelt down in front of him. He kept shooting the Doberman sideways glances until Shep told the other dog to lay down already before the cops opened fire. The black dog complied with little complaint, and though he did growl occasionally at the understandably wary police officers, he at least managed to do it low enough that only Shep could hear him.
“Dammit Shep,” Jack said, tilting his furry head into the light, “What a mess...”
“Is he going to be alright?” Another asked while passing a clean towel to him.
“I think so,” Jack replied as he accepted the clean cloth and gingerly pressing it against the injury. He made a hissing noise when he pulled it away a second later and saw the still free flowing blood. “It's pretty deep though, we need to go now.”
“What about him?” Jack didn't have to look behind him to know the other officer was gesturing at the blood stained Doberman. Blood stains from his dog.
“Hell if I know,” Jack bit out. “I'd put a bullet in his head if he wasn't state evidence.” He jerked back at the unexpected growl from Sheppard. “What?” He asked the dog incredulously, “You two friends now?”
Shep answered by tiredly laying down while he could still manage it on his own, but he made a point to lay between Jack and the Doberman, with his unguarded back towards the other dog.
“You are the weirdest dog,” Jack remarked, and it wasn't the first time he'd said that in the four years he'd been around Sheppard.
“Yeah I know...” Shep answered, laying his head on his paws and closing his eyes as the world began tilting. All Jack heard from the German Shepherd though was a plaintive snort.
I want to start by saying this chapter didn't really play out like I'd originally intended. I mean, it hit all the plot points... but I didn't really mean to have so much come from Jack's POV. In all honesty, Jack wasn't even a character in this story until I tried to think of a logical reason to name a German Shepherd "Sheppard" (which btw, is the hardest thing in the universe to try and keep straight when typing... ). After I came up with the vet scene, it just kind of hit me that it was kind of the sort of thing Jack would do. lol Jack also fit into the role of a police officer and also ZOMG canon weaving! With Jack added, Shep's back story ballooned into much more than it was originally, but once I started writing, it just seemed to flow better to explain the events through Jack's eyes. I swear this story is about the animals though!! lol
but all that being said, I apologize for Jack being abysmally out of character. It's been ages since I watched SG-1...
The current pace of the story is killing me. Is anyone else hating it? I'm jumping from puppy-dom to present day to show the lives, but it's making it very...choppy? I guess that kind of fits with "dog's eye view" but still... The pace will slow down to normal story mode soon though.
ASPCA stands for American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
by the way, the city in this story is New York City...in which I do not live. The internet is helping me fill in the details, but there's bound to be inaccuracies abounding. I'll just hide under the Alternate Universe umbrella on those cases lol
Give me two weeks to update this time, at least till the 14th, then you may commence throwing old boots at me to get my attention. This next chapter isn't quite planned as much as it should be, and I'm still not sure if I want to jump to Teyla and Rodney just yet or stick with Sheppard and Ronon for a while longer. Now that I actually have those two talking, they are pretty fun...