Tomorrow Never Knows by flotternz

My response to the sgaflashfic challenge Cake or Death challenge.

When it happens, it doesn't happen the way he'd expected it to.

Truthfully, John wasn't too sure what he'd expected -– for it to begin slowly, with flirting and dating and maybe a picnic, which was ridiculously and sickeningly romantic and would be openly mocked or scorned; or one of those insane scenarios that popped into his head as he drifted off to sleep: trapped alone in a cave or on a jumper, one of those oh-god-we're about-to-die type declarations followed by confessions and remorse and consolation. But this... just wasn't what he'd imagined at all.

Later, he will scoff at the irony of it all, when he has time to sit down and process it all. Because when he thought of Rodney and almost dying, or Rodney almost dying, it was always off-world, always with some sort of mission-gone-awry angry alien kind of scenario, or the more dramatic everyone-destroyed-by-the-Wraith scenario, which although that didn't really count because it involved everyone dying and not just Rodney.

And he certainly never entertained the thought of Rodney dying in one of those places where he should be the safest -- his lab, his quarters, the mess hall -- his comfort zone.

Only he isn't safe, something that Sheppard's forgotten until he steps in to Rodney's lab to a crash and the dull thump of a body -- Rodney's body -- hitting the ground.

In the moments it takes him to race to Rodney's side he becomes aware of several things -- it's 2am and they are alone in the labs, the transporter is three doors down and the labs two levels below the infirmary, and there was cake served in the mess hall tonight. He remembers the sweetsharp bite of orange when he bit into the cake, and hastily warning Rodney not to eat it. But there's a slice on the floor, inches from Rodney's lax fingers, a bite taken out of it, and he wants to throttle whoever left the cake in easy reach of him, and to throttle Rodney for getting so absorbed in whatever he was doing to not pay any attention to what he was shovelling into his mouth. And then he's on his knees next to Rodney, the fingers of one hand fumbling down Rodney's trousers, searching his pockets for an EpiPen, the other tapping at his comm and barking at the MO on duty.

His search comes up empty, and Rodney is lying frighteningly still and silent, his face red and tears leaking from the corners of his closed eyelids and John frantically presses two fingers to his neck to feel the too-fast thrumthrumthrum of Rodney's pulse and hears the rasp as he sucks in a breath, then stops.

He doesn't take another breath, and John remembers Carson explaining to him what could happen if Rodney ever went into anaphylactic shock. He decides right then that since Rodney seems to have zero self-preservation skills, no matter how much he preaches that he does, he's going to carry an EpiPen with him 24 hours a fucking day, because who knows when Rodney'll be foolish enough to eat something without paying attention to it again, and he'll be damned if he's going to give Rodney mouth-to-mouth more than once in his lifetime.

"Goddamn it, Rodney," he mutters as he tilts Rodney's head back to clear the airway, "this is not what I had in mind."

He does it automatically -- just like he'd practised on those horrid plastic dolls -- taking a breath, forcing it into Rodney's lungs, and focusing on the chest as it rises and falls, not as much as he'd like, but enough to let him know that some air is getting through. His hand is shaking slightly on Rodney's chin, the blood rushing in his ears to the steady pounding of his heart against his chest, and he keeps doing it, breathing for Rodney, as he hears the footsteps racing down the corridor, the clattering of a gurney and dull thud of bags being dropped. A hand falls on his shoulder, gently pulling him away.

It all seems like a blur, as he settles back on his heels and lets the medical team take over. He's vaguely aware of the orders they're issuing, answering their questions dully -- orange in the cake, I found him like this, no EpiPen. He hears the MO barking orders and running commentary -- Respiratory arrest. Epinephrine, stat. -- and tunes them out. Reaching out he takes Rodney's hand, lying close to him, pushed up and out of the medics way, and grips it tightly in his own, trying his best to keep out of their way, but not wanting to let go all the same because his heart is still pounding its steady pounding staccato in his chest and he knows that if he lets go now he'll make that slide into full-fledged panic that the touch seems to be keeping at bay.

His eyes are on Rodney's face, still too red, his body too still and too quiet. And it's not right, because Rodney might be an insufferably arrogant bastard, but that's just Rodney. He's a force of nature -- can't sit still, can't stop talking, can't stop thinking and hypothesising and saving their asses -- and a force of nature shouldn't be stopped, especially by something a stupid as cake.

Then the tension in the room seems to ease and the MO settles back on her haunches as Rodney draws a great rasping breath and exhales, and it doesn't sound smooth, but it's still him breathing on his own and John breathes himself for the first time since he heard Rodney collapse and closes his eyes for relief for a moment before opening them and meeting Rodney's panicked gaze.

John eases slightly closer, a tight smile on his face, fingers twitching as he almost but doesn't quite reach out to cup Rodney's cheek, he settles for squeezing Rodney's hand gently and not letting go. "Hey buddy," he murmurs, and god he wants to say so much more, "didn't I tell you not to eat that cake at dinner? 'Cause I vividly remember telling you not to eat it."

Rodney's eyes roll, then widen and he opens his mouth. John hastily presses a finger to his lips. "No talking. Focus on breathing, okay, because a minute ago you weren't, and we both know you have trouble with the whole shutting up thing and I am not giving you mouth-to-mouth twice in one night because you forgot to do something as important as breathing."

His eyes roll again with what can only be mock-annoyance and John can see that he's itching to speak so he increases the pressure of his fingers slightly and tries not to think of how soft they are under his fingertips, before pulling them away altogether with a slightly guilty glance towards the medical team. They're paying him no attention though, bustling around their bags and checking Rodney's vitals and lowering the gurney.

He leans in closer to Rodney and lowers his voice, "You really scared me there, buddy, and when you get out of the Infirmary we're going to have a good long talk about your apparent lack of self-preservation so you never do this to me again. Because the next time my lips are on yours? I want you to be conscious." His free hand twitches towards Rodney, itching to stroke his cheek, and he quickly ruffles his hair before pulling away completely.

Rodney's eyes widen even more, showing white all the way around, and John is pretty certain he's managed to throw Rodney completely for a loop, because for the first time since he's woken his mouth opens and falls closed again, and it's obvious that Rodney is completely lost for words. He quirks a grin, slow and lazy and just a little bit flirtatious, raises an eyebrow and squeezes Rodney's hand once more before letting it go. "You rest up, and we'll have that chat later, when you're feeling better."

John can see the medics in his periphery, getting ready to move Rodney onto the gurney and get him to the infirmary. John steps back, out of the medical team's way, and shoves his hands into his pockets. With a last grin at Rodney as he's being shifted on to the gurney, he turns and leaves the lab.

And while he knows that it hasn't gone the way he expected it to, though he still doesn't know what he expected, he's pretty sure it's all going to work out pretty well in the end.