John's hands shook as he ripped open Rodney's TAC vest and pressed his ear against Rodney's chest. The sound of his own blood racing in his ears was a white noise that drowned out anything else (or - please God no - the absence of anything else) and he cursed loudly, urging himself to calm down and focus.
Teyla's voice penetrated the white noise, sounding shaken and strangely small. “I can find no pulse,” she said, her fingers pressed against Rodney's carotid. “John, can you hear anything? Is his heart still beating? John?”
“No.” John shook his head, stripping off his own TAC vest which was sodden with the water from the river he'd just pulled Rodney out of. “No chest sounds. He's..” John didn't let himself finish that sentence. “CPR. Teyla, go to the gate and radio for help,” he turned to Ronon as Teyla set off at a run, “Ronon, give me your knife. I need to get his shirt off.”
This wasn't how John had imagined undressing Rodney.
John's hands moved outwards from Rodney's shoulders, trailing down strong arms and making Rodney shiver.
“John, you - -“
“Let me touch you, ok? Just, let me..”
John's hands continued their journey, mapping out every inch of Rodney's upper body, before they reached the hem of his blue science shirt. He stopped there, pausing with his fingers just tickling at the skin underneath.
Rodney swallowed in answer, lifting his arms above his head and John smiled, pushing the shirt up to reveal - -
Rodney's chest was still and impossibly pale as John cut the fabric of Rodney's shirt away. John placed his hands in the correct position and sent up a prayer to whoever was listening as Ronon positioned himself at Rodney's head. At Ronon's nod, John started chest compressions, counting them out through his teeth.
He almost lost the rhythm at the first sound of cracking ribs, his hands stuttering.
“It just means you're doing it right,” Ronon growled, keeping him on track. “Head in the game, Sheppard.”
It wasn't how John had imagined laying his hands on Rodney.
Rodney's chest was soft under his hands, the generous dusting of hair so much lighter and finer than his own. His thumbs found their way to Rodney's nipples, pulling a groan from Rodney that made John smile.
He loved the noises Rodney made.
Rodney’s chest rose and fell as John watched Ronon breathe for him. He waited for the noise of Rodney coughing up water, pulling in oxygen, cursing them out for letting him fall into the damn river in the first place but all there was was silence.
John resumed compressions, interspersing his counts with demands and pleas. “Don't do this” and “please, Rodney” and “fucking, breathe, McKay.”
After five rounds of compressions and rescue breaths, he switched places with Ronon, kneeling at the side of Rodney's head and counting the droplets of water that clung to Rodney's eyelashes while trying not to cringe at the force Ronon was exerting on Rodney's still chest.
Ronon finished his first round of compressions and John was ready, tilting Rodney’s jaw upwards, and breathing into his lungs.
It wasn't how John had imagined putting his mouth on Rodney for the first time.
Rodney led the kiss, pulling John close and slotting their mouths together in a way that fit perfectly, and, for once, John was content to follow.
Rodney tasted like coffee and caramel and John couldn't get enough.
Wouldn't ever get enough.
He was never letting Rodney go again.
“Damnit, Rodney! I'm not letting you go. Not like this.”
It felt like they'd been doing this for hours, trading off roles, trying to keep Rodney’s blood pumping and the oxygen flowing but it couldn't have been more than fifteen minutes.
They were the longest fifteen minutes of John's life.
Ronon swore as yet another round of CPR failed to keep Rodney's heart beating on its own, his dreads tickling against Rodney's chest as he let his head fall.
“No,” John snapped, pushing Ronon aside. “It's not over yet, it's not - “ he locked his arms straight and started to push at Rodney's chest again, beyond caring about the creak of Rodney's ribs. “Not like this. Not before I can - -“
John fell back on his knees as Rodney wheezed painfully, turned his head and coughed water all over the ground. He could feel Ronon clapping him on the shoulder, eyes crinkled as he laughed in relief, and he could hear the sounds of people running towards the riverbank.
John blinked and then saw Carson kneeling by Rodney, his stethoscope against Rodney's chest, listening intently. He started barking orders, calling for a gurney and speculating over the myriad of bacteria that could be setting up shop in Rodney's lungs as they waited but there was no fatality in any of it and John felt like he was the one whose heart had just started beating again.
It was all going to be OK. Choking back a sob, stunned to realise that the wetness on his cheeks was from tears rather than the river, John knew it was all going to be OK.
“Hey,” Rodney broke the kiss and wiped away the stray tear from John's cheek. “You saved me. I'm here. And I'm not going anywhere ever again.”
John nodded, resting his forehead against Rodney's and breathing deep. Rodney was right. They were here. Together. Alive.
“Now, quit your crying and kiss me some more.”
Demanding and perfect; it was just how John had imagined it.