John Sheppard was dying . . . and all he could feel was relief. Really, it was long overdue. He knew he should have died in the sands of Afghanistan but some cruel twist of fate had spared him. John turned his head and tried to spit the taste of salty penny from his mouth but couldn't get enough air to expel it. John ran his tongue across his teeth and grimaced.

Maybe he was spared so he could do this, this one redemptive act, John thought, trying not to fight for his breath but unable to stop himself. Not that this made up for Afghanistan – nothing could do that. But maybe keeping the Wraith busy long enough for the boys in blue to bomb him back to hell – or wherever these things came from – was enough.

John was okay with death. In fact, he welcomed it – had courted it from time to time. John was tired, tired down to his soul and the release death would grant him was like a warm lover beckoning him. As he stared up into the darkening sky, John smiled – or thought he did. He was cold but it was almost as if he could feel himself rising . . .rising into the sky to take flight once more time.

_________

Rodney McKay could see the plumes of black smoke on the horizon. It looked like something from a Stephen King Apocalyptic novel as it rose against the setting sun. Checking his watch again, Rodney bit his tongue to keep from badgering the pilot to go faster. He knew they were flying as fast as they could. Jennifer Keller squeezed his arm reassuringly as she said over her mike, "We'll get there in time . . ." Rodney didn't answer. This universe hadn't been as kind to John Sheppard as others and Rodney didn't want to get his hopes up that Sheppard's luck was going to change.

As the chopper set down gently next to the battered Camero, Rodney beat the medics out of the door, closely followed by Jennifer. Rodney anxiously looked around shouting, "Sheppard!" Running towards the car, Rodney could make out a form on the sand about 20 feet beyond. "Damn, damn, damn, damn," Rodney muttered as he skid to his knees beside John, immediately checking for a pulse. "He's not breathing," Rodney shouted behind him as he ripped John's shirt own to reveal the bullet wound high in John's chest along with a myriad of other cuts and abrasions. "Don't you die on me, Sheppard!" Rodney said through clenched teeth as the field medics jostled Rodney out of the way. An oxygen mask dropped over Sheppard's face and CPR was begun. Rodney stumbled back, running his hand worriedly over his face and said in a low voice, "You stubborn, suicidal, son of a bitch. You aren't done yet."