Six Kinds of Comfort

by Kass

Written for the "comfort" challenge at sga_flashfiction. Thanks to Sihaya and Lamardeuse for assistance and cheerleading.

com·fort Pronunciation: \ˈkəm(p)-fərt\

Function: transitive verb

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French cunforter, comforter, from Late Latin confortare to strengthen greatly, from Latin com- + fortis strong

"C'mon," Ronon says, at John's door. He's wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt and his dreads are tied back. "We're sparring."

It's not a question. John shrugs one shoulder and gets up to change. Ronon steps inside and lets the door slide shut behind him, waiting.

It's almost midnight; Rodney's asleep, and John should be asleep too but he isn't. He's also not in the mood for this, but he doesn't have the energy to try to talk Ronon out of it. So he yanks on shorts and a t-shirt and scuffs his feet into his sneakers without bothering to tie the laces. They'll fight barefoot anyway. Barefoot and bare-handed. Less chance of doing actual damage that way if somebody fucks up and forgets to pull his punches.

They don't say anything in the transporter, or while they're warming up. John walks onto the floor and Ronon throws a punch at him, out of nowhere. Like so many things in the Pegasus galaxy. John blocks, hard. He feels a kind of vicious pleasure in the way it makes his forearm ache.

They're not sparring for points, just keeping their bodies moving, trying to get past each others' guard. He almost manages to throw Ronon, once, but Ronon's balance is solid; he just grins at John, a flash of teeth before he whirls and throws a back-kick that could send John halfway across the room. If Ronon weren't being careful. And if John weren't good at getting the hell out of the way.

By the time they've been at it half an hour, John is getting loose and limber. They're both working up a sweat. There's no one else in the workout room, though Teyla's neat box of bantos sticks in the corner makes John feel like she's there too.

After a while John realizes he's not thinking. His body's just reacting. He's in the groove. It's a relief.

The second he figures that out, he's on his back on the floor, blinking hard. The impact knocked the breath out of him. Ronon kneels over him, offering a hand. He yanks John up to standing.

"Not your fault," Ronon says.

"I wasn't paying attention," John admits, but Ronon just gives him an exasperated look.

"None of us noticed it."

The bottom falls out of John's stomach: Ronon's not talking about the sparring, he's talking about Rodney. The parasite in his brain. The fact that nobody recognized a damn thing until it was too late.

"I should have."

"Why: because you're the team leader?" Ronon doesn't roll his eyes, but the tone is there. "I've been a team leader. That isn't your job."

Because I'm his friend, John thinks.

Because I pay too much attention to him, I watch him all the time -- his hands, his mouth, how he moves, his shoulders, his ass -- and I still didn't see the one thing that was actually wrong with him. Not in time to do anything about it. Not in time to save him.

"Thanks for the workout," he says, and leaves the floor. He doesn't feel better, exactly, but he feels stronger. Like maybe he can hold it together for a few more hours now.



Function: noun

Date: 13th century 1: strengthening aid: a: assistance, support < accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy > b: consolation in time of trouble or worry : solace 2 a: a feeling of relief or encouragement b: contented well-being < a life of ease and comfort > 3: a satisfying or enjoyable experience 4: one that gives or brings comfort < all the comforts of home >

Brain surgery with a battery-powered cordless drill. Afterwards, when it's all over, John can't believe he suggested that. He can't believe Keller went for it. He can't believe that the thing inched its nasty way out of the hole they'd provided, that Ronon obliterated it with a blast from his gun. He can't believe Rodney's okay.

He goes outside the cave and throws up, weak in the knees and vaguely horrified with himself. He can handle a snap roll in a stalled plane without getting queasy; what the hell is his problem? But he stands up straight and wipes his mouth and goes back in, and everybody pretends they didn't just hear him losing his lunch. For a second he hopes the waterfall drowned it out, but then Keller hands him a clean bandanna. Busted.

They get back to the city and Keller hustles Rodney into the infirmary. John briefs Woolsey, which takes about forty seconds. ("You did what?" "Hey, it worked.") And then he returns to his quarters to take the hottest shower he can stand. As if he could wash the day away.

He's sitting on the edge of his bed when the door chimes. "Yeah," he calls, and the door opens to reveal Teyla holding Torran.

"Hey," John says, and she comes in and sits beside him.

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine," John says hastily. "I just, ah, I think that ham didn't agree with me."

Teyla's eyes say she doesn't believe that for a second, but she doesn't press the point. "Ronon tells me Rodney has awoken."

Butterflies break out in John's stomach. "Oh," he says inanely. "I guess I should--" He should go. Obviously. But he's not moving. It feels like more than he can handle, somehow. All those people crowded around Rodney's bed. Is it weird that he wants to see Rodney by himself, so he doesn't have to share him?

"Actually," Teyla interrupts, "I was hoping you might be willing to go later." She extends Torran toward him. "Torran had a mild cold earlier this week; Jennifer tells me Rodney's immune system may still be compromised by his...adventures."

"You want me to babysit," John says, unaccountably pleased. "Sure, I'll look after him."

She places the burrito-wrapped sleeping baby in his arms. John's always surprised by how heavy he is. Babies are dense, Rodney would say. He can't help smiling down at Teyla's child, who is nestling in to his chest as though he belonged there.

"There is a bottle in the bag," she says, standing. "And a board book. And clean diapers."

"We're old friends," John murmurs. "We'll be fine."

"I do not doubt that you will," Teyla says, and rests a hand on his shoulder, and then she's gone.

John's right arm falls asleep after a while. It's around then that he remembers that Teyla has about a dozen babysitters who look after the kid while she's at work. Any one of them would probably have been thrilled to spend an extra hour with him.

Which means this was her nefarious plot to...distract him, or something. Make him feel better. Weird thing is, John can't work his way up to feeling annoyed about that. Not with Torran John Emmagen sleeping placidly in his arms.


comfort food

Function: noun

Date: 1977 : food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal

John swings by the infirmary around eleven. Keller's sitting at her desk in a pool of warm light.

"Hey," he says.

"Hey yourself." She smiles at him, weary but contented.

"Aren't you going to get some sleep?" he asks. "Big day today."

She makes a face. "Yeah. It's not every day I do field surgery."

John raises his hands, tensing. "Would you mind not--"

"Not reminding you, sorry," she says, looking sheepish.

"How is he?"

"Apparently fine," she says, shrugging one shoulder. "I'm keeping him here until tomorrow just on principle, but everything looks okay."

"Can I--" He gestures toward the door to the private room. "I won't wake him, I promise."

"Oh, he's up," Keller says, and grins. "Eating a second dinner."

"I can hear you, you know," Rodney calls, and John can't help the smile that breaks across his face.

"I'll just--" He gestures, and Keller nods, returning to her paperwork.

John turns the corner into what passes for a private room in Atlantis' infirmary. Rodney's sitting up in bed with a hospital tray across his lap, tucking into what looks like every "home cooking" side dish the mess hall offers: meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing with gravy, and -- Rodney's favorite -- macaroni and cheese as bright-orange as anything Kraft ever put in a box. It's not until John feels himself relax that he realizes he'd braced himself to see sick-Rodney again, vacant-Rodney. But this is the real thing.

"Oh my God," Rodney says, his mouth full, and gestures to the foot of his bed. "Sit, if you want. Oh, this is so good." He looks blissed-out.

"Keller give you the good painkillers, or what?" John sits on the edge of the bed.

Rodney gulps another bite. "Just Advil."

"Huh," John says.

"I just -- food has not tasted this good in weeks," Rodney says fervently. He pops another bite of macaroni and cheese in his mouth and closes his eyes, face relaxing into almost a parody of pleasure. "Ohh."

"Might want to lay off the porn noises," John says. He regrets the words as soon as they come out of his mouth; Rodney's eyes fly open and his gaze is a little too piercing. As though he's seeing more than John generally wants to admit. John hopes to God he isn't blushing.

"I think Keller can handle it," Rodney says, and hums with happiness as he takes another bite.

"Yeah, all right, enjoy your dinner," John says, and stands up hastily. The last thing in the world he needs is an inappropriate erection while he's sitting on the end of Rodney's hospital bed. It has been way the hell too overwhelming a day for him to be dealing with this now.

"I will," Rodney promises. "Hey -- John?"

John pauses in the doorway.


John has to swallow hard before he can answer "anytime."


comfort zone

Function: noun

Date: 1923 1 : the temperature range within which one is comfortable 2 : the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity

For the first few days after Rodney returns to work in the labs, John can't resist dropping by every few hours. He knows he's being annoying, but he can't help it. Somehow his feet keep carrying him back down the corridors to where Rodney and Zelenka and the science team work.

At first he manages to be nonchalant about it, or to come up with some plausible excuse to be in their neck of the city, but by day two it's getting absurd. John knows that. It's just that he almost lost Rodney. They almost lost Rodney. A little bit of workplace pestering is entirely reasonable.

This time Rodney throws a paper airplane at him the second he comes in the door. It's fairly elaborate; he's guessing it took at least ten minutes to make. John smirks at him and picks it up, sending it soaring back at Rodney's head.

"Okay, do you not actually have work to do anymore?" Rodney asks.

"Perhaps you could take your team on a mission," Zelenka suggests, smiling at Rodney with more fondness than he's usually willing to display. "Would be nice to have some time without Rodney again."

"Oh, ha ha," Rodney snaps, this time throwing the paper airplane at Zelenka.

"Actually, I was here to--" John gropes mentally for a way to end the sentence that won't invite further ridicule. "I'm here to issue an invitation to movie night."

"Oh?" Zelenka looks interested. "What are you screening?"

"Rodney's choice," John says grandly. "Given the circumstances."

"So that's what it takes to bump me up in the rotation," Rodney muses. "Interesting."

"In that case I will pass," Zelenka says.

"Just because I don't go for artsy foreign films," Rodney begins.

"Bear in mind that the definition of 'foreign' varies," Zelenka fires back.

They've had this argument before. "Tonight?" John asks, cutting them both off. "2100?"

"Yes, fine, I'll bring the dvds," Rodney says, already turning back to his monitor.

And that's great, that's satisfying enough that John manages to go the whole rest of the day without entering the lab. He ducks out of dinner early to carry an armload of beer to the mini-fridge in the room where they watch movies, which is at the far end of the city's northwest arm.

The heat's never been all that reliable at that end of the city, but something's on the fritz. It's really cold in there. John thinks "warmer," but he sits there for half an hour before anyone else arrives, and things don't really improve.

But it's where the good couches are, the two sectional sofas from Earth that Caldwell brought over on the Daedalus and a contingent of Marines carried all the way from the loading dock. The sofas are cushy and deep. And John just stocked the mini-fridge with good beer that he doesn't want to have to carry someplace else now. Plus all of their salty snacks are stashed in that cupboard. So no one really wants to move.

Instead Teyla sends Ronon to her quarters to bring back a pile of woven Athosian blankets, and everybody takes one to wrap up in. Rodney takes two, but he still winds up scooting close to John, so that instead of each having his own end of their spacious two-man couch, they're huddled together at one end.

"Jeez, Rodney," John mutters when he first feels Rodney's cold feet against his thigh.

"What? I'm cold," Rodney says imperiously, and grabs a handful of pretzels out of the bag John's holding.

"Shut up," Ronon says, and they do.

The entire rest of the movie goes right over John's head. He's too busy noticing how being so close to Rodney makes him run hot and cold all over, in a way that has nothing to do with physical temperature at all.


creature comfort

Function: noun

Date: 1652 : something (as food, warmth, or special accommodations) that gives bodily comfort

By the end of the movie, Rodney is asleep, snoring very softly. Being asleep removes at least five years from hs face, all of his usual worry and energy smoothed away. He's also pinning John's arm to the back of the couch, and leaning dangerously close to John's chest.

Teyla gets up and turns the movie off, and suddenly the room is very dark. It takes John's eyes a few minutes to adjust, but both of Atlantis' moons are waxing, which helps.

"I can help move him if you want," Ronon whispers.

"I'll be okay," John whispers back. If anyone else were in the room he wouldn't take even this risk, but Ronon and Teyla are family. They just nod and smile at him and tiptoe out the door, and then John's alone with Rodney, curled under a pile of blankets in a silent wing of the city where no one lives.

Barely breathing for fear of waking Rodney up, he tugs gently and Rodney slides the last couple of inches until he's resting on John's chest. John closes his eyes and just listens to Rodney's breathing, feels the pressure of his body against John's heart.

He doesn't mean to fall asleep. He doesn't realize he's fallen asleep until he wakes up. Because Rodney wakes up, and pushes himself back a little way, and John opens his eyes to Rodney staring at him in the moonlight. Rodney's still pressed up against him, John's whole left side warm from where their bodies are touching.

John's trying to figure out what to say when Rodney snakes a hand out from under the blanket and touches his face gently. He can't resist leaning in to the touch, even though it's probably giving away too much. Then again, he just fell asleep with Rodney practically in his arms; it's possible he left plausible deniability behind a while ago.

It's also possible he doesn't need to deny any more. Because Rodney's hand is tilting his face, and Rodney's moving to meet him, and then Rodney's lips are pressed against his. John closes his eyes and opens his mouth and lets Rodney in.

They kiss long and slow, old movie-star kisses. As though they have all the time in the world to curl up on this couch and neck. Rodney kisses as if he's testing hypotheses: tongue or no tongue, teeth or no teeth, trying to figure out what makes John quiver. The answer is pretty much "Rodney."

After a while something shifts and the kisses become urgent. John is hard and aching. Rodney mouths the side of his neck and John tips his head back, drunk on sensation. And then Rodney says, "can I suck you?" and John's breath stutters in his throat.

"Jesus," John manages. "Who says no to that?"

There's a flurry of movement and Rodney's laugh rings out as he squirms to the floor, tugging the blankets away and exposing John to the cold air. "You'd be surprised," he says, and John hisses an inbreath as Rodney's hands unfasten his BDUs and reach through his boxers and oh God touch his cock, which leaps into Rodney's fingers. When he feels Rodney's mouth John makes an embarrassing noise. He's so turned-on he can hardly breathe.

Hot and perfect and John feels compelled to say "I'm not going to last," because there's some kind of myth that a guy's supposed to have stamina but this feels so good he's going to come in about ten seconds.

Rodney pops off of his cock, holding the base firmly in his grip. "Good," he says, and John can hear the grin, "because I'd forgotten, this is hell on the jaw." The way he sucks John back in, making a happy little humming sound, totally undercuts the complaint. And then he tries something different -- harder suction? a different stroke? -- and John loses it.

He wants to close his eyes and tip his head back and just float on the high of it for a while. Except Rodney's climbing to his feet, John hears the pop as one of his knees creakily unbends, and suddenly it seems wrong that John let Rodney make him come first. He should be taking care of Rodney. John shoves his spent cock back inside his trousers, wincing a little at the rub of fabric. "Get up here," he murmurs, and grabs Rodney's wrist and yanks him onto the couch, pushing him onto his back along the long part of the sofa and climbing over him, knees spread on either side of Rodney's thighs.

Rodney's breathing hard, his trousers tented, and the sight of it makes John a little crazy. He bends and rubs his face along the hard ridge, and Rodney moans, pushing up a little.

"Anything," John says, roughly, mouthing him through the cotton. "You can fuck me, if you want," and Rodney gasps and his whole body goes stiff like he's trying to hold himself back, which is unbelievably hot. John's thrumming with excitement when he realizes, out loud, "wait, we don't have lube, I'm sorry, I can't--"

"Get up here," Rodney grits out, sounding exactly like he does when they're saving the city from some godawful disaster and he's snapping his fingers for John to hand him the seven-sixteenths wrench or a box of control crystals already. Before John can comply, Rodney hauls him bodily up to where they can kiss again. Rodney sighs into his mouth, erection poking John in the thigh. John grinds down and Rodney grinds up and then Rodney bites John's lip and convulses once, twice, jerking up into him and holding him tight.


Southern Comfort

Function: proper noun

a sweet bourbon style American spirit

"I can smell that stuff all the way down the pier," Ronon says, joining them at the city's edge. He sits at Rodney's other side, long legs dangling toward the water.

"Where'd you get it?" Rodney sniffs at his plastic glass warily.

"Lisa Hana gave it to me when I returned to the city after Torran's birth." Teyla considers the inch of alcohol in her glass. "I believe it is traditional among her people."

"So her people would be rednecks, then," Rodney snipes.

"Rodney!" John resists the urge to bap him in the back of the head, but only barely. "Thanks for saving it for us," he adds, passing a glass to Ronon.

"Of course." Teyla looks amused. "'A beverage shared is a beverage savored.'"

Ronon lifts his cup. "To your health," he says. It always comes out sounding oddly formal.

Rodney touches his cup to Ronon's, then turns to meet John's, then John clinks his with Teyla's.

"We are grateful that you are restored to us," Teyla adds, to Rodney.

"Yeah," John agrees.

"What -- is that all you've got? 'Yeah'?"

John shrugs, grinning. Rodney rolls his eyes and then tips his head back to drink his shot.

The stuff smells like it ought to burn going down, but it doesn't. A little sweet for John's taste, but he lets Rodney pour them all another round.

"It's good to be restored," Rodney says, contemplating his drink. John drinks his and then puts down his cup, leaning back to brace himself on his hands. If his left hand and Rodney's right hand are suspiciously close together on the pier, Ronon and Teyla don't notice. Or if they do, they don't say a word.

The End