Title: Just One Last Breath
Author: Kodiak Bear Country
Email: T
Genre: Action/Adventure, H/C
Warnings: None
Season/Spoilers: Up to Runner, season two
Summary: A trip to a world seeking a potential ally, turns into a dangerous situation for the team.
Archive: ask, SGAHC
Disclaimer: I don't own them. I'm not getting paid for this. Well, I wish I was. Because then I could make a living out of it – okay, okay, enough whining, on with the story –

AN: This is a response to the SGAHC "one last breath" challenge.

Just One Last Breath

A Kodiak Bear Country Production

One last breath…this was not how it was supposed to happen, damn itSheppard, breathe – Rodney listened for the rasp of an inhalation, held his face steady as stone over Sheppard's mouth, waiting – begging – for that soft waft of air that would tell him he'd taken another breath.

"I'm still -" Sheppard gurgled over the seeping blood, weeping out his mouth, and down his chin, "-here."

McKay's eyes burned. He knew his friend was in pain, so much damn pain, the arrow sticking straight through his chest ensured that, and he couldn't do a thing for him.

Carson had made him swear to leave the arrow alone.

"You're doing fine, Colonel," said McKay, forcing his words to stay calm, something to stay calm, because god knows, he wasn't calm at all.

"Mc-Kay." Sheppard's hand reached for Rodney's jacket, finding it, and latched on with the strength of a dying man. "Not," Sheppard wheezed, fighting for air, "your fault."

The panic down deep that McKay had tried to force into nothingness, had tried to force into that black hole where he had to keep those emotions, because they were so fucking crippling when something like this happened, wouldn't stay contained. The gravitational pull that was Sheppard was greater, and Rodney frantically sought Sheppard's hand, tacky with drying blood, and held it, not sure if it was a lifeline for John, or for himself.

"Don't," he whispered, cracking despite himself and all his vows. "Don't you fucking give up, Colonel, you hear me! You are not leaving me to explain this to Elizabeth, or Caldwell, or anyone else, you hear!" He was practically shouting now. "You take that last breath, and then you do it again, and you keep taking every damn last breath until I get you back to Carson-"

The frothy chuckle from Sheppard sent chills through McKay's veins. "It's" breathe "not" breathe "a" breathe "last" breathe "breath" breathe "if -"

McKay waited – but Sheppard didn't finish, and Sheppard wasn't breathing anymore.

"No, no no no, Sheppard, don't -"

"Doctor McKay, what is the status of Colonel Sheppard?"

Beckett. Atlantis. The rear of the jumper was falling open, and he could see the medical team running towards him. They'd made it? Time slows, events freeze, and blood thickens –

"Save him," croaked Rodney, still holding Sheppard's hand. The dried blood had sealed their skin together, blood brothers, like the game kids play, but this hadn't been a game –

OoO

"McKay," called John, looking at the figure hunched over the laptop. When seconds passed, and the figure remained still, Sheppard walked quietly till he was near the man, reaching for the large text that was on the table. He lifted it gently, and pulled it back, over open air, before letting it go.

The thick volume hit the floor with a resounding thunk that rattled even Sheppard's ears, and he'd been expecting it.

McKay jerked, a line of drool pulled taut between the corner of the computer and his face, as he straightened up slowly, looking around with a mild panic at the sudden noise. "Whazzit?"

Sheppard crossed his arms, trying to avoid the P90, and waited for the man to wake up fully.

Rodney's mind began to process events, and he wiped at the drool with minor amounts of self-consciousness, before smacking his head, "I'm late!"

"About twenty minutes."

"Oh god." McKay stumbled from his stool, and almost tripped, before righting himself. "Ow, ow, legs asleep." He reached for the table, and winced as his nerve endings began to wake up.

Sheppard's eyebrow rose in an amused arch. "You do realize you've got a bed for that kind of thing."

"If I was supposed to be doing 'that kind of thing', I would've gone to bed, Colonel," snapped McKay. "But seeing how I was supposed to be in the jumper bay, it stands to reason that falling asleep was not intentional."

"You know," started Sheppard, "One would almost think you've got two states; asleep, and smart ass."

"I'm sorry," said McKay. "Did I miss something, or was you're only point in coming down here to annoy me?"

Well, there was that – he could've sent Dex, or Teyla, or even that marine that was going along with them, but McKay had this special spot in his heart – the spot that needed to annoy, pester, bug – you get the idea.

"Never mind." McKay got the gist of Sheppard's silence. "I can see the steam coming from your ears. I'll be there in ten minutes." He waved Sheppard toward the door.

Sheppard went, but called out, "Five, and the only steam in this room is from your drool evaporating."

Whether McKay had a come back for that, or not, he didn't know, because he decided it was time to leave Rodney to the business of grabbing his gear and meeting them in the jumper bay. He'd give him the ten minutes, but no more. It was McKay time. Ten minutes equaled twenty, five equaled ten. The man had a doubling issue. At least he didn't work in exponential time. Then ten minutes would be one hundred, and well, that was over an hour and a half –

"Colonel, did you find Rodney?"

Sheppard tapped his earpiece. "I did, he's on his way."

"Good, make sure you give him the lecture on using tact. The Kenai people are touchy, and we wouldn't want any misunderstandings."

She was as good as saying that McKay's sometimes, okay, oftentimes, obnoxious politics, could land them in the dung pile, and he needed to keep his mouth shut this trip out. "Got it," he acknowledged.

He was in the jumper bay, and saw Dex leaning against the tail end of the ship. "Did you find the lost puppy?" Ronon questioned softly, smiling easily.

Dex had surprised Sheppard. The man was probably the most dangerous person in Atlantis, capable of taking any one of them down in a heartbeat, and yet, from the time he'd latched eyes on the upside down hanging McKay, he'd treated the hypochondriac physicist with something indefinable. A mixture of amused respect, protectiveness, and always watchful.

The protectiveness extended to all of them, Sheppard had noticed that. For some reason, Dex had this Chewbacca like loyalty, and John wasn't sure where that'd come from, or why, but he'd thought for sure McKay would irritate Dex. Kind of like when you rub a cats fur the wrong way. But Dex's claws hadn't come out yet, and Sheppard was beginning to believe, they never would, at least towards McKay or any of them.

"I'm here," called out McKay, rushing into the bay, dragging his bag. He moved rapidly by Dex and Sheppard, muttering as he went, "today, gentlemen, I'm on a timetable here."

Sheppard shared an amused look with Ronon, before heading towards the cockpit. "Then by all means, McKay, lets keep your timetable."

Teyla smiled at him in greeting, and the marine shot a nervous look at Dex, before settling in a seat towards the rear. Sheppard slid into his seat, and began bringing the systems online, already commanding the jumper to start up, and prepare to drop into the gateroom.

"Jumper one to Flight, we are ready to go," he said in his radio.

A feminine voice he didn't quite recognize yet answered, "Flight to Jumper one, you are cleared for travel, have a safe trip."

Sheppard grinned as the power of the ancient ship thrummed under his skin. "Thanks, Flight, see you tomorrow, Jumper one out."

They dropped, and shot forward through the event horizon. Their destination was M52-4X5, home of the Kenai, a fairly advanced race wanting to open negotiations for an alliance against the wraith. The two respective leaders, Weir and Klicktik, had arranged for Sheppard's team to spend twenty-four hours getting to know the Kenai people. To get a feel for how they live, work, and hopefully, fight. Sheppard was looking forward to it, but there was the problem of McKay's mouth – he'd have to keep it shut. If McKay could do that, nothing could go wrong. They'd meet the people, do some schmoozing, and go home. Nothing could go wrong –

TBC…