Mckay yawned loudly and tipped his waste into the commissary's trash. It was six in the morning and he was going to get a few hours sleep before he was summoned to avert another crisis.
Technically, it was now morning and theoretically that meant that Sheppard would have had a full nights bed rest so he decided to stop by his quarters on the way to his own.
Sheppard would have had time to think about yesterday, about the way he had been so rude to him, and cool down.
When he got to Sheppard's room he couldn't quite explain the unpleasant feeling he felt in his gut. Something just felt off and he couldn't help but remember what Teyla had said the night before about Sheppard.
He depressed the bell and waited for the door to open, tapping his feet impatiently. He checked his watch. Sheppard usually started his shifts at half five and ill or not he was generally up – even if he was in bed.
It was strange not to have the customary, "Go away!" or "You better have food with you!" response and that just served to make him feel even more nervous. Something was wrong.
Without a further thought, he bypassed the door controls and stepped into Sheppard's room.
His first scan of the bed showed the Colonel wasn't in it and he wondered whether Sheppard had stubbornly gone to work or for his morning run.
He sat down on Sheppard's bed and yawned again. Between running around the lab supervising his idiot minions and expending way too much energy worrying about Sheppard, he found that his weariness was catching up with him.
He was just about to get up and leave when something caught his attention. Two bare feet were poking out from beside the bed.
It was only when he investigated further did he find Sheppard lying on the floor.
Mckay was instantly assaulted by a feeling of guilt. How long had he been lying there?
Mckay knelt down beside him and gave him a shake.
He checked for a pulse with shaking hands and found one stuttering beneath his fingertips.
"Sheppard!" he shook him again, "Oh, what have you done this time!"
Sheppard's eyelids fluttered open briefly and he stared up at the ceiling with a dazed expression before turning to Mckay.
"Rodn-" he coughed and reached a hand up to his side, "Took you….long enough."
"What is it? Is it your ribs?"
Sheppard didn't answer. He was gasping for air.
Mckay activated his earpiece, "Carson!"
Sheppard took in a strained breath. Mckay did not like the look of this one bit. But then, why would he? His friend was lying on the floor choking to death. What was there to like exactly?
"Aye Rodney. What can I do for you?"
"I need a medical team to Sheppard's quarters now!"
"What's happened?" Beckett's tone quickly switched from indifference to worry.
"I don't know. I just found him on the floor and he doesn't look good."
"I'm on my way. What's his condition?"
"I don't know, he's……." Mckay scanned the area around Sheppard and saw the streaks of blood from his elbow, "Oh my god! He's bleeding."
Mckay managed to pull him out of his fugue long enough to realise that Sheppard was tugging on his sleeve and shaking his head.
"What is it?"
Sheppard managed to rotate his arm to show him the extent of the damage before clamping eyes shut and concentrating on staying alive.
"He's cut his elbow…….the blood's not….."
"Calm down Rodney. Is he breathing?"
"Kind of," Mckay felt utterly useless. This wasn't a situation he could take control of. It wasn't scientific. There were no numbers to crunch or simulations to run. This was Sheppard's life and there was no calculating how it was going to turn out. He didn't know that to do.
"Just get here quickly Carson!"
Sheppard had re-opened his eyes and was blinking slowly. His breathing was laboured, and his face pale and sweating. His hand was hovering over his side as if he were too afraid to touch it.
"How long have you been lying here?" Mckay asked as he looked over his shoulder to the door.
Sheppard weakly tried to move and Mckay pressed a hand down onto his shoulders to keep him immobile.
He didn't answer, just made eye contact with him, and pulled in an excruciatingly painful breath of air.
"What?!" a look of horror passed over Mckay's features as realisation dawned, "All night?"
Sheppard tried to move again, it was obvious that he was having trouble breathing.
"No, don't move."
"Can't….breathe," Sheppard managed to say as Mckay watched his hands ball into fists.
He coughed and Mckay felt nauseous when he saw blood colouring his lips.
Internal bleeding. Mckay swallowed thickly, the taste of fear acidic in his mouth. Sheppard was going to die and it was going to be all his fault.
"Jes-" Sheppard strangled out from his throat and squirmed weakly as his need for air grew and the pain in his chest swelled.
"You shouldn't move, just lie where you are."
Sheppard rolled his eyes and laughed feverishly, "I have…" he choked and tried to get up again, "All night."
"What happened?" Mckay asked and he tried to get Sheppard to look at him.
He needed to keep him talking. He needed for him to stay awake, long enough for Carson to reach them.
Sheppard's eyes were tracking him sluggishly as he replied, "Fell. Floor was wet."
Sheppard was clearly disorientated, his words coming out in a thick slur.
"Would you quit moving," Mckay held his hand down onto his chest and felt a pang of guilt.
Sheppard's eyes were drifting closed again with the mere effort of staying conscious.
"Oh no," Mckay reached out and placed a hand under his chin, "You have to stay awake."
"M' tired," Sheppard mumbled.
"Sheppard!" Mckay gave him a shake, "Sheppard! You have to stay awake."
He slapped the side of his face, "Open your eyes."
Sheppard was unresponsive.
Mckay ran over to the door and looked out in the hallway, "Come on Carson, where are you?"
He was pacing and wringing out his hands in a bid to try and diffuse any panic that was beginning to set in. Who was he kidding? Panic had set in the moment he had seen Sheppard passed out on the floor. This was now just a delayed, hysterical reaction to his situation. It wasn't helpful, but his own constant babbling was soothing in ways he couldn't put into words.
He turned back to where Sheppard was lying, his mind working overtime to guilt him. All night? He had been lying there all night? Why hadn't he just gone into Sheppard's room, then he would have found him and………..He shook his head. This was Carson's fault. If he hadn't told everyone to leave Sheppard alone then this would never have happened.
The rational part of his brain kicked in and reminded him that Carson couldn't have possibly known this would happen. How could he predict that Sheppard would slip on his own floor?
Mckay ran back over to Sheppard and felt for a pulse. Only this time, there was no flutter underneath his fingertips. He lowered his head onto Sheppard's chest and tried to listen for a heart beat, anything to confirm that he was still with him.
"No," Mckay tried to think.
CPR. He had to perform CPR. But did you perform CPR on someone who had obviously broken their ribs? What if Sheppard had punctured his lungs? Was that going to work?
He found himself staring at the blood on Sheppard's lips and his mind started to weigh up the risks of infection? Blood to saliva transmission and-
Mckay was beginning to feel hysterical.
"You can't die you idiot!"
Sheppard's lips were turning blue. Blue? What was that now? What did that mean? He felt Sheppard's forehead and the searing heat that it was emanating. He wasn't cold so why was he turning blue.
"Colonel!" Mckay tried to order him awake.
Ah, who was he kidding? Sheppard didn't follow his own militaries orders, why would he follow Rodney Mckay's?
He was wracking his brain and trying to recall the enforced medical lessons that all personnel had gone through. He had learned about chest compressions and what to do if someone was choking but…………….
The blood? Maybe…..
Mckay grabbed Sheppard by the shoulders and then tried to push him onto his side.
"Come on," Mckay muttered as he rolled him.
At first there was no response and Sheppard lay limply.
"Come on! Cough. It. Up!"
Mckay gave him a pat on the back, worried that any force would break something else.
The silence had been over-bearing, the tension unremitting but suddenly, Sheppard started to gag and he coughed up the blood that had been pouring into his throat. While he took in a few shallow ragged breaths and clawed at the ground, Mckay pushed his head onto his chest and was relieved to hear the strong beat of his heart.
"It's okay," Mckay said throwing a glance over his shoulder.
"Don't ever save me…again," Sheppard muttered weakly.
It wasn't exactly what Mckay had been expecting. A 'thank you' would have been nice.
"What?" Mckay couldn't believe that Sheppard was still holding a grudge when he was lying there dying.
It had felt like an eternity when Beckett rushed into the room with his medical staff trailing behind with a gurney.
Mckay continued to hold onto Sheppard, unable to let him go, "I uh…I rolled him, he was choking and I didn't know if I should do CPR and-"
Beckett placed a firm hand onto his arm and smiled quickly, "You did the right thing Rodney. Now take a step back and let my team get to him."
Mckay eyed the nurse who took over critically and then shuffled backwards to allow them more room to work, "Is he….is he going to be okay?"
Beckett was already taking control of the situation and busily started to look over the Colonel. He took out his penlight and checked Sheppard's pupil reactions, commented that they were sluggish and then moved on to check his superficial injuries. The cut to his elbow was deep, would require stitches, but wasn't life threatening. He had a bump on his head which was swollen and accounted for Sheppard's decreased reactions. After listening to Sheppard's chest he had a grim look on his face, "It sounds like his left lung has collapsed which means he's probably aspirating blood."
Mckay turned to one of the nurses for an explanation but she was securing an oxygen mask over Sheppard's face.
Beckett looked to one of his nurses, "I need you to go ahead of us and prep the surgery. We're going to need to put a chest tube in and intubate."
"Chest tube?" Mckay looked from one supposed medical professional to another and found an explanation came short, "Is he okay?"
As if to answer the question, Sheppard bucked under Beckett's hands as he choked again. He let out a low groan and twisted on the floor.
"Colonel," Sheppard couldn't quite focus even as Beckett gripped him either side of the face, "Colonel."
Sheppard met his eyes. The inside of the oxygen mask was steaming up with every quick successive breath.
"We're going to get you fixed up."
Sheppard coughed again and tried to pull out of Beckett's careful grasp.
"Uh.." He moaned pitifully.
"Your lung has collapsed and that's why you're having trouble breathing." The gurney was collapsed beside the Colonel, ready to take him away.
Sheppard's eyes were moving around the room and Mckay realised that his eyes stopped on his.
"You're going to be alrigh-" Mckay was starting to say, when Sheppard coughed again and the inside of the oxygen mask was sprayed with blood.
Beckett's eye widened and he moved Mckay out of the way, "Okay, we need to move him carefully."
Mckay watched helplessly.
Sheppard was clawing at the floor again – fighting with every dying breath.
"One, two, three." Sheppard was gently placed onto the gurney and secured with buckles.
Mckay continued to stay on his knees, his mind not quite able to take in what had happened. He found his eyes scanning the spot where Sheppard had been lying and he didn't take them off it until he heard the Sheppard had come out of surgery.
Beckett walked out of surgery, tossed his surgical gloves and gown into a nearby waste disposal unit and tiredly walked out in the waiting area.
He felt sick and guilt was warring with what he knew couldn't possibly be his fault. There was no way that he could have predicted that Sheppard would injure himself in his own room.
Maybe he should have kept him in the infirmary……….what? and risk exposing him to a virulent strain of flu which could have caused further complications?
He pulled himself out of his reverie and regarded his friends solemnly.
Mckay, Doctor Weir, Teyla and Ronon were all sitting side by side with matching grim expressions.
Mckay was the first to spot him and jumped out of his seat, "Is he okay?"
Beckett crossed his arms and leaned against the door jam, hoping that his exhaustion wasn't blatant, "He's stabilised."
"We were very worried," Teyla said exhaling a breath of relief.
Beckett held his hands up to quell their excitement. They had to be realistic. He had to let them know of the real risks involved. The envisaged technical hitches.
"He's not completely out of the woods."
Beckett cringed and he noted that Mckay did the same. Out of the woods! That's how it all started. "We put a chest tube in to drain any fluids out of his lungs, repaired the damaged lung and put him on the ventilator to assist him with his breathing. If he stays in bed and rests up, he should heal in no time."
Mckay dropped his head into his hands and gave his face a scrub, "Oh, thank god."
"I can't believe he lay there all night," Elizabeth said.
She wasn't the first or the last to feel bad. They were all feeling guilt in one way or another. Some were just slightly more pronounced.
"Aye, it's a good job Rodney found him when he did," Beckett noted grimly.
"Can I see him?" Mckay asked.
"The nurses are just getting him comfortable. I'm going to monitor his breathing and if it improves over the next few hours then I will be taking him off the ventilator."
"The Colonel can breathe fine on his own; the ventilator is just giving him a little extra oxygen at the moment."
Mckay walked into the infirmary just in time to see Beckett pulling the tube out of Sheppard's throat. Sheppard coughed, doubled over and proceeded to hit the bed railing with his fist until he'd stopped gagging and his eyes had ceased watering.
Beckett passed him some ice chips, patted him on the back and then gave Mckay a look that said 'don't keep him up too long' before leaving to dispose of the ventilating equipment.
Mckay leaned against the bed railing and clasped his hands together.
Sheppard was still gagging and flicking his tongue out in disgust.
"How are you doing?" Mckay asked, for want of something to fill the silence.
Sheppard turned to him and pointed at his throat, "Sore," he rasped.
He was still colourless and he looked older somehow.
Mckay nodded lamely. When had their conversations become so awkward? It had never been the case before.
Sheppard seemed to pick up on it too and he sat back, crossed his arms and then licked his lip. He was going to say something. It wasn't out of romantic interest that Mckay picked up on the lip lick. He just knew Sheppard enough by now to know his nuances and the lip lick meant he was about to speak.
"Ha!" Mckay crossed his arms over his chest and smiled smugly, "I knew it!"
Sheppard's eyebrows knitted together in confusion, "What?" he rasped like a man that had smoked an entire pack of lucky strikes.
"I knew you were going to speak," Mckay pointed at him. It was childish. It was puerile. But Sheppard was alive. He hadn't gone and died like he would have just despite Mckay.
Sheppard sighed and reached up to rub his sore throat, "Would you…..shut up…..about the lip thing?" he closed his eyes wearily and when he opened them, his look was resolute, his features hardened and his demeanour serious.
"Look," he said wincing and massaging his throat, "I was out of line…..before…with the-"
Mckay found his eyes widening and he held his hands up to stop Sheppard, "What kind of drugs are they giving you?"
Sheppard didn't do open. It had to be the drugs he was on. He always complained about them making him feel weird and talkative and if he was apologising to Mckay then he must be on some pretty good-
"Just shut up Rodney," Sheppard said with a little more force and looked to regret it instantly when it hurt his ravaged throat. Mckay had never been intubated before, but he figured it must hurt like a bitch going in and coming out.
"Rodney," Sheppard tried again, "I shouldn't have……snapped. The truth is…" Sheppard paused and looked down at his fingers. He was plucking at the covers uncomfortably, "You showed good…" he stumbled, "-reflexes and……"
Mckay felt his eyebrows rising in surprise. The words 'good reflexes' and 'Rodney Mckay' didn't tend to go together in the same sentence.
"Just…" Sheppard looked over to the far wall, not meeting Mckay's eyes, "..don't do it again."
"I won't," Mckay said before he could stop himself.
"Next time…..I'll take the fall," Sheppard cringed.
Mckay smiled, "And not literally." He sidled towards the end of the bed, "I'll never save you're life again. I promise."
Sheppard nodded and lay back stiffly and closed his eyes.
"You know," Mckay said, "It's not like I was even trying to save you."
Sheppard cracked one eye open.
"You were in my way and I pushed you so I could get away first….."
Sheppard opened his other eye and couldn't help but smile.
"So, it was selfish really. I mean," Mckay forced a laugh for their benefit, "Me save you? Nope. I'll leave the heroics to you."
Sheppard shook his head and closed his eyes again.
Sheppard pulled the covers up and rested his hands on his sore side, "We're good."
As Sheppard started to drift off, he could hear Beckett's voice getting farther and farther away.
"Rodney, leave the man alone now. He needs to sleep."
"Hey, I left him alone and look what happened to him! Who's to say he doesn't brain himself with a bedpan or choke on an ice chip?"
"Rodney, the man his fine."
"You know it's your fault! If you hadn't told him to bed rest then-"
"You pushed him down a hill!"
"No, he fell."
"After you pushed him and it's not my fault that……………Rodney, just leave."
"Fine. I'm going. But I'm coming back."
"Great, wonderful. Goodnight Rodney. Get some sleep."
Sheppard rolled over and felt a twinge in his side.
He'd always take the fall. For his friends. For Rodney. If only not to admit that he'd rather them lose him, than he lose them.