There was some disagreement as to where Sam would sit on the plane.
("Stop calling her Sam," McKay had said while they were waiting to board, for the third time that morning. "It's weird.")
Ronon ruled himself out right off the bat—he knew he'd be too preoccupied with keeping an eye on the crowded cabin. Teyla felt equally ill at ease, but she was more interested in keeping their kid in her line of sight. McKay got anxious if Sam was out of reach for too long, but he had to get up and stretch pretty regularly. Which left John.
"Okay," John said, taking Sam from McKay. "I can do this." John was still a little nervous about holding her, Ronon could tell: he'd had the least experience with kids of all of them, before. But he did well, supporting her head and tucking her close to him on top of the curvy pillow they'd brought with them. Sam was sacked out; she snuffled her nose cutely and turned her head toward John's chest. McKay had given her some kind of medication earlier so her ears wouldn't hurt.
Ronon took his seat across the aisle from the rest of them, next to an older man and woman who seemed engrossed in rehashing their travel plans. After everybody got settled, the flight attendant started talking to them about what to do in an emergency, so Ronon fished the handout she was holding up out of his seat pocket and paid attention. This was his second time on an Earth aircraft, but they still unnerved him; on Sateda, nobody flew unless it was military business. He marked the exits, met Teyla's eyes on the way there and back. She and McKay and John were all in a row, with John closest to the window (the most defensible position) and Teyla by the aisle.
Once they were in the air, Ronon tried to make himself relax a little, blend in better. John said that these things were pretty safe, that the flights—there were two, Colorado Springs to Chicago, then Chicago to Vancouver—should be uneventful, people flew all the time. McKay had brought as many tiny containers of hand sanitizer as he could fit in his allotted plastic bag. And they mostly had permission to be off the SGC's Earth base, according to Carter.
("I wouldn't advertise that you and Teyla are planning on international travel," she'd said with a smile. "But Jack will get you papers. It's good that you're all going."
"I like Jeannie," Ronon had said, scratching the back of his neck. "She's got a kid, too. Think everybody else could use some pointers."
Carter had just smiled some more. She probably thought she was being tactful.)
"Are they your friends, dear?"
Ronon managed not to jump when the woman next to him touched his elbow. On Sateda, that kind of thing was rude. "Family," he said.
"Such a sweet little baby." She peered across the aisle. "How old?"
"Very little for a long plane ride," she said sternly. "Why are you traveling already?"
"Family." Ronon shrugged. "Don't get much time off."
"Ah, the father's military, I see," she said, craning her neck again. It took Ronon a moment to realize which one of them she meant, and John wasn't in uniform anyway. "But not the rest of you."
He tried to remember what John had said at his father's funeral. "Civilian contractors. Don't get much time off, either."
The man sitting by the window reached over and tapped his interrogator on the arm. "Dolores," he said. "Don't be so nosy."
Ronon gave them another look: greying hair, soft bodies, travel magazines. Threat level: low. "It's okay," he said, aiming for courteous.
"I'm Dolores," the woman next to him said, like he hadn't heard. "And this is my husband Harry. We're going to visit our new granddaughter in Bloomington. She's about the same age as your—?"
"Sam," he said. "She's a girl."
"How nice," she said. "Girls are so sweet."
Ronon had nothing to say to that. His sister Theoni would have been really amused by his compliance when they'd made him stow his blaster and all of his knives, for one thing.
"Yeah, I noticed," Ronon said. Teyla waved her hand to shush him; she always cared way too much about this stuff.
"It's probably for the best that you let most people think one of you guys and Teyla are her only parents; just be consistent. The Millers have all signed confidentiality agreements, so you can tell them whatever you want."
"We'll discuss it," Teyla said. "I agree that it is better to remain inconspicuous."
"You or John should take Sam," Ronon said. "I'll take point and one of you takes six. You can switch off."
Teyla nodded. "That sounds wise to me."
Carter's face had gone all soft. "Are you really calling her that?"
"Rodney prefers Sarah," Teyla said. "It is fitting that she has her own name, though. That is also traditional."
"Right." Carter was starting to look misty-eyed, which was pretty alarming.
"Her name's really long," Ronon said hastily. "Sam is better."
"Of course," Carter said, fumbling for the box of tissue on her desk. "Sorry, I have to blow my nose."
It was true, though. There were twelve syllables in Sam's name—Sarah Amanda Alani Kai Tagan McKay—too many to fit in a line of any of Sateda's metered poetry. Chuck, the Gate tech, said twelve would fit in a sonnet, but McKay told him to shut up and asked him when he'd gotten a degree in English. Ronon didn't know they gave out degrees in languages you already spoke, but okay, Earth was weird.
"Thank you for explaining Earth customs to us," Teyla said. She was using her extra-patient talking-to-crazy-villagers voice, which made Ronon feel a little better. "I feel more prepared for our visit."
"Did you talk to Jeannie?" John asked McKay while Teyla was switching out Sam's diaper in the restroom at the place where they stopped next, O'Hare. Ronon didn't like them alone in there, but they didn't let guys in the one for women. So he was sitting in the row of chairs behind John and McKay, facing the opposite direction, where he could keep an eye on the entrance to the restroom.
"Look, people read our mail, they tap our phone lines, you really think I'm going to tell her all this unless we're in a secure location?" McKay was stretching in his chair; he almost clocked Ronon in the head with his elbow. "I just—I said we were bringing a baby with us, I didn't explain. But I didn't tell Jeannie she was—just Teyla's and mine."
"So you're going to sweep the house for bugs?" John sounded skeptical. "Before you 'fess up?"
"I brought a thing," McKay said. "It's in the diaper bag, so keep an eye on that, okay?"
"Jesus," John said. "Really?"
"Really," McKay said.
Teyla came out of the bathroom then, Sam in her arms, face red, crying. "You hold her for a while," Teyla said. She looked frustrated. "I'll take point."
Ronon hadn't meant to switch off with them, too, but it made sense. He took Sam from Teyla, and she sat down on their right, closer to the hall full of people rushing to their gates.
Sam calmed down right away. Ronon rocked her a little and patted her on the back, and she stopped fussing. After three little sisters, Ronon had baby-handling down pat. You didn't let on that you were nervous and stressed, you listened to them, held them close. Not so hard. Since Sam was born, they'd fallen into a routine: she'd spend two or three nights with McKay and John, then Teyla would take over for a night, and they'd all pass her off to Ronon during the day. It wasn't like Ronon had much to do with the team grounded, aside from training and his morning run, so he was happy to take over bottle duty and nap supervision with the bonus of no middle-of-the-night feedings to recover from.
Another family sat down across from him and Teyla, three little kids and one harried mother, hair pulled back into a ponytail. "Celia, Juan, come here. Tomás, sit down." The older children dutifully clustered around their mother, climbing into the seats she pointed out, but the smallest toddled over toward him and Teyla. Boy, probably—people here had some strange ideas about gender and colors, and he was wearing a blue-and-orange striped shirt.
"Hi," he said, tugging on the knee of Ronon's pants. "Can I see your baby?"
Ronon looked at Teyla for guidance; she nodded. "You can look if you are quiet and don't touch," she said.
"Okay," the boy said. Ronon shifted Sam in his arms so he could see her face. "She's tiny."
"She's new," Ronon said. "She'll get bigger." He was filled with warm pride for a moment, and affection. Ronon wasn't too good at imagining the future, but he had to believe in a good one now, one where they wiped out the Wraith and the Replicators and he'd live long enough to teach Sam all the best places to stab people and how to outwit everyone in the game that John called "sardines." A future where they'd all live long enough to teach her and watch her grow tall and protect her until she could protect herself.
"I'm sorry," the boy's mother said, walking over. "Tomás." She took her son by the hand, then looked up at them and smiled. "So quiet in such a busy place! You're very lucky. Is she your first?"
"Yes," Ronon said.
"Such a good father already," she said, and to Teyla, she added. "You're lucky to have him, too!"
"Stop frowning," McKay said. He reached over and patted Ronon's hand, which was something new, strange but not unwelcome. "You look like you're going to murder someone."
"I don't like it here," he said, scuffing the side of his boot against the carpet. They were sitting on a bench in the baggage claim, Teyla a few feet away by where their luggage was going to show up.
"John will be back with the car in ten minutes."
"Fine," Ronon said. He tried not to frown. Mostly he ended up staring ahead at Teyla, who was trying to watch for their bags and the car seat while she kept him and McKay in her line of sight at the same time. He was pretty sure they could take anyone who tried to mess with McKay or Sam, but he didn't want to find out with Sam on him. She was awake again and getting fussy, so Ronon let her grab one of his fingers and squeeze.
Then Teyla found the bag with his knives, which helped.
Ronon didn't know how tired he was until he and John swept for bugs and secured the perimeter. The couch was so comfortable he felt like his bones were going to dissolve into the cushions, at least until Jeannie paused in the middle of the living room, narrowed her eyes, and put her hands on her hips.
"MEREDITH RODNEY MCKAY," she hissed. "Are you the mother of this baby?"
"Um," McKay said.
"RONON DEX," she said, turning her glare on Ronon. "Are you the father?"
"Uh, not in the sense you mean," Ronon said, sitting up straight. "But, yes."
"That's Teyla," John said. "What made you think…"
"That's how it always happens in… oh, never mind, you don't want to know." Jeannie shook her head. "Welcome to the family, Teyla."
"We're all…" Teyla looked unsure. Sam burped happily on her shoulder.
"We're all her parents," Ronon said, grinning: he couldn't help it, couldn't keep it in anymore. This was what he'd wanted without quite knowing from the day he'd joined their team and he had it, this thing he thought he'd never see in his lifetime. "She's ours."
Jeannie laughed and hugged McKay, tension broken. "Oh, Mer," she said. "Can I hold her now?"
Teyla held her out, and John passed her another one of those shoulder napkins. "Careful," he cautioned.
"Yes, I know," Jeannie said, holding Sam just right and patting her back gently. "I have a kid, too, in case you've forgotten." She dipped her head, brushing Sam's with her cheek. "Did you really name her after Sam Carter? I was expecting Leia Lovelace McKay, or something like that."
"They named her after all of her grandmothers," McKay said, aggrieved. "Yet they insist on calling her Sam."
"Awesome," Jeannie sounded like Ronon felt: satisfied. "Hey, I know way more about babies than you, Mer. I think this means I win."
"Yeah, right," McKay said. "Just wait and see. I bet my kid wins a Nobel before yours does."
"I think Madison wants to be a ballerina," Jeannie said, sitting down in the big chair in the corner. It was the most defensible position in the whole room. She was definitely better at this than McKay.
They were all clustered around her when Jeannie's husband came in, hands in big quilted mittens. "This is a sight I never thought I'd see," he said. "Family photo?"
"Really?" McKay said, but Jeannie was already gesturing Kaleb toward them.
It was pretty much the best day ever, at least until Madison asked McKay to explain how Sam came out of his belly the next morning.