“But Teyla -” Kanaan begins, though it’s the plea of the already defeated.
“No buts,” she says in her special voice of honey-covered steel. She is packing a bag of baby things with the same efficiency as she handles explosives. “It will be good for you both.”
“But I do not -” he falters in the face of her raised eyebrow. Torren makes a happy gurgling sound in his crib. “Teyla, I do not know anyone in this place. I am not good at meeting new people.”
“Which is why you should spend some time with them. Then they will no longer be new people, and all will be well.”
“You do not understand,” he says desperately, as Teyla stuffs a ragdoll and a couple of nappies into the bag. “I am not like you, I do not know how to just... do you remember when we went to market that one time, and that blacksmith’s son asked me what my name was and I could not form a single word? What if that happens again? They will think me - I do not even know what they will think of me!”
She looks like she is trying very hard not to laugh. “You were twelve years old, Kanaan. It will not be like that now. Besides, these people have spent too much time with Rodney not to be charmed by shyness.”
“The blacksmith’s son was very kind; I still clamped up like an oyster,” Kanaan points out.
She glances at him out of the corner of her eye. “And what about that time when the Derrians came to our village while I was away? I seem to recall you handled yourself well enough that time. You brokered more trade agreements in a day than I had ever expected to get through in ten years with that stuffy old leader of theirs.”
He wrinkles his brow in confusion. “That was a matter of trade and diplomacy. I do not see what that has to do with any - ”
With a small sigh she puts down the toy that Kanaan has understood to be a miniature ‘airplane’ - a kind of lesser space ship, with a strange revolving fan in front - which is Torren’s favourite, much to Colonel Sheppard’s badly hidden smugness. In two strides she is close enough to put her calloused hands on his shoulders, looking up at him with warm brown eyes, a smile on her sharp, familiar face.
Kanaan is hopelessly lost, as he suspects he always will be. It is daunting, being loved by a woman who possesses both utter faith in him and the ability to take out any known creature in the galaxy given the motivation and a pair of Bantos rods. It would be very easy to start believing her, just a little.
“Kanaan, it is difficult for me to go on missions when I know you will be lonely and idle with only Torren for company. It will still be some time before other Athosians can join us here. There is a whole city right outside these doors. If you can not stay with our people, I believe it would be beneficial for you to find other contacts. You know much of our people’s history and the political situation in the galaxy - I am sure your knowledge would be greatly appreciated by many.”
“But how do I approach them?”
She tilts her head. “Ronon is staying behind today. I could ask him to show you around, introduce you to people.”
Kanaan hopes he does not pale noticeably. “Ronon, yes,” he says carefully.
“He is nowhere as scary as he appears,” she says, patting him kindly on the arm. Then she amends: “Once you get to know him.”
“It is nothing personal, but the way he looks like he can snap me in two like a twig has me intimidated.”
“He would do no such thing. He knows I would hunt him down to the end of the universe and kill him.” Teyla kisses him lightly and goes to finish packing the Torren-bag. Kanaan picks his son up from his crib, grateful for the familiar weight and feel and scent of him. Torren makes a happy snuffling sound into his ear.
“We are going to venture out into the unknown today, little man,” Kanaan tells him. “We have great adversity ahead of us, but I do believe we will, by courage and cunning, persevere. What do you think? Should we go explore the city of the Ancestors? Hm?”
When he rocks the boy gently in front of him he gets a cheery squeal and flailing of toddler limbs. He could not have felt more accomplished if he had single-handedly taken down the Genii government.
Teyla laughs at him. “My brave warriors,” she says. There is a knocking on the door.
“Hey, Teyla, we’re leaving soon,” Colonel Sheppard says from out in the hallway.
“I will be there shortly, John,” Teyla calls back.
Another voice adds: “Well, be sure to bring your long johns or whatever you guys wear in the winter because, guess what? With their usual level of practical thinking and foresight - which is to say, none whatsoever - the Ancients chose to hide whatever the hell is giving off that weird energy signature on a planet whose frozen hellscape of a surface is broken only by geysers emitting vast clouds of poisonous gasses!”
“You should feel right at home, then, Rodney,” Colonel Sheppard says.
“Yes, ahaha, because Canada is just a giant block of ice and I was actually raised in an igloo.”
“Igloo?” Kanaan mouths at Teyla. She presses her lips together and shakes her head, clearly indicating he is better off not asking.
“I will take this into account, Rodney,” she says, tucking the straps of the bag into their fastenings and handing it to Kanaan.
“Cheer up, we can have a snowball fight when we’re done with the boring part,” says Colonel Sheppard on the other side of the door.
“Usually the ‘boring part’ is the part right before something goes spectacularly to hell,” Dr. McKay says dismally. “I like the boring part. And snowball fights turn into snowball warfare when the marines get going. Hey, wait, can I have Teyla?” He sounds a great deal more enthused by that idea.
“If you get Teyla, I get to have Lorne.”
“Hah, in that case you’re all going to eat snow by the end of it. With my mind and her, you know, everything else, we will be unstoppable.”
“Only in the same way the Titanic was unsinkable, McKay. Yeah, okay. Teyla, just come when you’re ready.”
“Because I can totally build us a more structurally sound snow fortress than anything your gun-toting airheads can come up with, and Major Lorne probably never even saw snow for the first twenty five years of his life, so his uncanny aim might not apply to - ouch. Can you help me with this strap, it’s sort of twisted into my shoulder and... Thank you. Anyway...” Doctor McKay’s voice carries impressively, and Kanaan can hear him and the Colonel’s murmured responses from far down the hallway.
“So,” Kanaan says, hands full of baby.
“Yes, hm, have you seen my... with the... ah, thank you. Come with me to the gate room,” Teyla says, pulling on the pair of thick trousers he hands her. “Ronon should be there.”
“I thought you said he was not going,” Kanaan says.
“Which is why he will be in the gate room. He will try to stare Colonel Sheppard into submission. Can you give me my boots? Thank you.”
She kisses his cheek, and he smiles.
“No,” Colonel Sheppard says in tones of great serenity, checking a strap on his vest.
“It’s not up for discussion.”
“You can’t keep me cooped up here forever,” Ronon growls. Kanaan can’t help but be reminded of Gryaan and his teenage son back on Athos.
“Hey, if it was up to me... it’s Keller who wanted to keep you here for a couple more days to make sure you’re properly out of the woods. Listen to the nice woman who gets to play Operation with your insides on a regular basis.”
“So I’m stuck here playing guide?”
“Yes,” Teyla says. “You are.”
Ronon just scowls. Kanaan edges a couple of inches away.
Sheppard pats him on the arm, seemingly oblivious to how close he might be to losing a hand. “Hang in there, big guy. Next time.”
“Oh yeah, you miss the wacky adventures of the frostbite-inducing backwater planet probably inhabited by great big furry wolf monsters. How terrible for you,” Doctor McKay says. He’s wearing a floppy hat pulled so far down over his head that only his eyes are visible between its brim and the collar of his heavy coat. “I hear Hoth is lovely this time of year.”
Sheppard pats his shoulder. “If push comes to shove, we’ll use you as wampa bait, Rodney. Ready, everyone? Nice. Dial the gate.”
“Ronon,” Teyla says before she goes through the gate, “I trust you remember what we talked about.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be nice,” Ronon mumbles sullenly.
“Perfect.” Teyla beams at them. “I hope you have a pleasant day.”
“Be safe,” Kanaan says, and watches the rippling surface of the Ancestor’s ring flicker away after she passes through.
Ronon stands for another while just glaring into thin space, before transferring his gaze to Kanaan. “So. Where d’you want to go?”
“I...” Kanaan pushes Torren in his sling to rest a little better over his shoulder. “I do not... What do you usually do at this time of the day?”
Ronon shrugs. “Spar, mostly.”
“But Jennifer isn’t letting me do anything more taxing than tying my shoelaces lately, so.”
“Aha. Well.” Kanaan is at a loss.
Torren, uncaring of the adult discomfort around him, reaches out his stubby hand to pull at one of the beads in Ronon’s hair. After the first startle Ronon seems pacified. “Hey there, little guy,” he mutters, dangling the braid a little closer. “Hm. I guess we could go up and see what Jennifer’s doing. She said something about wanting to check up on Torren every other week. It’s an Earth thing or something. They run tests even on kids who don’t have anything wrong with them.”
“Certainly,” Kanaan says quickly, grateful that his son is already better at socializing than he is. “We can do that. The infirmary is, uh, this way, right?”
“Almost,” Ronon says, touching his shoulder lightly to steer him nearly a hundred and eighty degrees around.
“Oh,” Kanaan says. “How... how about you lead the way.”
Ronon is looking at him with a curious mix of the unimpressed expression he had worn when he first met Kanaan - flicking his gaze between Teyla and Kanaan’s stiff, hopeless smile as if trying to reconcile the picture in front of him - and something like indulgence.
“Right,” he says, and starts loping towards a doorway.
At least he had not been the one doling out vague but imagination-prodding threats just in case Kanaan was about to ever hurt Teyla in any way, after ‘that whole wraith-brainwashing resort stay’. Sometimes Doctor McKay was truly disconcerting, even more so than Sheppard, who had just appraised Kanaan quietly for an uncomfortably long time before smiling and shaking his hand.
Everybody respects Teyla too much to ever second-guess her choices, but, as McKay had so prudently pointed out, the city of the Ancestors has a lot of very long winding stairs, and it would be uncomfortably easy to... slip.
Not that any of them would do that.
“Aw, who’s becoming a big boy, huh? Huh? Oh, I think it’s you.” Doctor Keller tickles Torren’s small feet, eliciting a thrilled squeal.
Kanaan almost wishes he could use one of the expedition’s sound recorders to catch some of the truly hilarious baby talk he gets to be privy to as the father of a toddler. He supposes he could use it as blackmail material. It must be hard to lead a group of hard-faced armed men when they have heard you make crooning inane statements along the lines of “Wheeeeere’s the baby? There you are!”.
Not that he would do such a thing to Major Lorne, who has been nothing but courteous and helpful, but it is a thought.
“So everything is as it should be?” he asks, fiddling with a strap on Torren’s clothes.
“If he’s sleeping through the night now, like you say, everything seems to be tip-top, yes,” Doctor Keller confirms, tucking away her hearing instrument - a stethoscope, not unlike the hollow tract the healers on Athos would use. “To be honest I’m just being a little extra careful with this one, what with both of his parents carrying the wraith gene.”
She does not catch Kanaan’s uncomfortable wriggle at those words. It had felt better when they called it a ‘Gift’, however insincerely. Ronon, who is leaning back against a bench and watching Keller’s profile closely, gives a small grimace of sympathy.
Undisturbed, she continues: “I’m very interested in how he’ll develop, too, especially with regards to language. Rodney tried to explain to me once how the translation through the Stargate works, but, uh, I stopped listening after a while. Actually, I think that he doesn’t actually know either and just won’t admit it. All I took away from it was that, um, the more people speaking one particular language passes through the Gate, the better the translation? So the sample of Earth languages is really quite small, and I would like to know how that would affect verbal development at an early age. I haven’t really had the opportunity to study it closely in actual infants before, so… interesting all around!”
Kanaan nods carefully and bites his lip. “Will… will that prove a problem for him?”
Keller holds her hands up, flailing them around a bit. “No, no, I can’t imagine it would. You guys went through the Stargate and spoke to people from other worlds when you were growing up, right? You show no adverse effects from that, so it really shouldn’t affect him negatively in any way. It’s just... interesting.”
Kanaan tries to think if he has ever seen anything good following anyone in the Atlantis Expedition lighting up and saying “We don’t quite know how it works, but it’s certainly very interesting!”. Usually it ends in Doctor McKay screaming at someone.
“Hey, doc,” Ronon says, spotting a lull in the conversation in which he can pounce, “while I’m here -”
“Ronon, you’re not cleared to go on missions again until next week,” Keller says implacably. From Ronon’s face Kanaan thinks that he had hoped for Keller to be too overwhelmed by professional curiosity to really listen.
“Oh come on,” he groans.
“Ronon, you came through the gate with your insides on the outside two damn- uh, darn,” she amends, glancing down at Torren, “weeks ago. It would be irresponsible to let you throw yourself into harm’s way before I am sure you’re suffering no lasting ill effects.”
“I’m fine! I’m perfectly fine!” Ronon half-yells, holding his arms out from himself as if to invite inspection. The effect he must be going for is ruined somewhat by the look of madness around his eyes, though Keller does seem briefly distracted by other parts of his anatomy. “I’m perfectly fine, but if I don’t get something to do soon I am going to take one of Sheppard’s golf clubs and -”’
Keller narrows her eyes at him.
“...I get it, next week, yeah, right,” he mutters.
She softens a little and pats his elbow, which is the highest part of him she can reach without stretching. “Nice to hear we agree on this.” She taps the tips of her fingers together and suggests: “Conciliatory lunch?”
“...sure.” He rolls his shoulders and ducks his head, a rueful smile on his face.
“Great. Wanna join us?” Keller asks, turning to Kanaan.
“I, uh, I would be delighted to,” Kanaan says, holding on to Torren’s sling up in front of him like a shield against the world.
“Don’t get your hopes up, it’s salad day,” Ronon says darkly as Keller checks out of her lab.
“Woolsey is right about that, you know,” Keller says. “Some mandatory greens are doing wonders for the nutrition in this place. If they could choose half the scientist would have lived on Doritos and Coke.”
“It’s not food,” Ronon says.
Kanaan follows them through the many corridors that most people seem to navigate with ease but which still turns him around in circles at least twice a week.
“Torren,” Kanaan sighs, as his son gleefully rubs pinkish yoghurt into his own hair and then, with some thoughtfulness, all over Kanaan’s arm. He cackles with laughter when Kanaan uses a handkerchief to rub the worst of it out of his hair. “If your grandmother could have seen you now, young man…”
Well, it is hard to say what Teyla’s mother would have made of a grandchild. She had been an unyielding rock of a woman and - at least through Kanaan’s childhood eyes - vaguely terrifying, in the way of vast forests and ancient stone formations. On the other hand, considering her daughter’s various idiosyncrasies, it is not unthinkable that the great Tegan Emmagan would have turned out to have the softest grandmotherly heart in history. Maybe she would have spoiled him rotten and let him handle edged weapons before he could walk. It did seem in keeping with the rest of her character. Teyla never understood it when Kanaan said he had found Tegan intimidating, but as a young child he had once seen her skewer four people with a single arrow during an attack on their camp. It stuck in the mind.
He is not sure if he wants Torren to have inherited those genes or not.
Kanaan puts the handkerchief down and scoops up another spoonful of yoghurt. “Very well, Torren, I did not want to have to resort to this, but here it is - here comes the, uh… plane. Jumper. Whatever you prefer.” At Sheppard’s signature move, Torren dutifully closes his mouth around the spoon and slurps the yoghurt down. “Aaaand now here is one making a loop…”
“You’re good with him. I only hope I can take everything so calmly when I have kids,” Keller says wistfully, resting her chin in her hand.
“You want kids?” Ronon asks, fork halfway to his mouth, salad leaf dangling forlornly.
She blushes. “Sure,” she says, suddenly very absorbed by something on her plate. “I mean, not right now or anything, but… eventually. My dad would probably declare a national holiday if I told him he was going to be a grandfather. How about… you?”
“Huh. Yeah, uh, same. Kids’d be nice.” He shoves lettuce into his mouth hurriedly. “Eventually.”
“Agreed. Eventually. Definitely.”
Kanaan remembers Teyla as a child, always tall and strong for her age, tumbling around in the woods and laughing whenever she stumbled over roots or scraped an elbow. He had never seen her afraid until that time they had both felt the sharp, sinking cold in their bones while gathering berries, and he had never seen her cry the way she had when they reached the camp and found out what happened. Her father had been wounded and caught in a fever sleep for three days, and she had waited by his bedside every minute.
How did we ever dare to bring a child into all of this? Kanaan wonders, mopping yoghurt from the corner of Torren’s mouth. How arrogant are we to throw you into all this misery without knowing we can protect you from it?
Torren burps and all Kanaan can be sure of is that he loves him, loves this little bundle of life that he and Teyla have made together. Maybe that is as much of an answer as anyone ever gets. He kisses the top of Torren’s head.
Beside him Ronon slurps juice through his straw, too loud for the lull in the conversation. He and Keller exchange quick looks and then glance away, both sporting small blushing smiles. Kanaan, who tries to be a generous person, refrains from rolling his eyes. He is starting to get some sympathy for Halling, who had really been very patient dealing with Kanaan’s moping whenever Teyla went back to Atlantis.
Woolsey walks past their table with his tray of the blandest foods the buffet has to offer, stopping in front of Torren.
“Goochie goochie goo,” he says, in a deadpan yet well meaning kind of way, and then he turns to Kanaan. “Ah, there you are. I was wondering if you would be willing to come to my office after lunch - I would very much like to consult you on some matters.”
Kanaan feels a little bit like he had as a boy when Teyla had all but ordered other children to include him as they played, but he appreciates Woolsey’s gesture nevertheless. “If you think I could help, it would be my pleasure.”
“Excellent. Yes, very good. After lunch.” He stands stiffly for a few seconds, then nods his head decisively and moves away.
“I miss Weir sometimes,” Ronon says, spearing his salad like it is conspiring against him. “It’d be nice to have a boss with more charisma than wet cardboard again.”
Keller makes a high-pitched sound and slaps his wrist.
“It’s true!” Ronon says.
“Yes, but you can’t say that! He’s doing his best!”
Ronon mumbles something into his salad, and Keller slips up and giggles.
“Hm? Oh, yes, Kanaan. Excellent. Please, come in.”
Woolsey does not bat an eyelash at Torren resting in his sling against Kanaan’s hip - in fact a small box of toys half pushed under his desk shows that he has learned to expect a toddler whenever Teyla has a meeting. Kanaan is not sure how to appear polite to authority on Earth, so he refrains from sitting down until Woolsey prompts him to and folds his hands in his lap, meek and non-confrontational. “You wanted to ask me about something?”
“Indeed. Genii trouble, I’m afraid.”
Kanaan nods carefully. That makes sense. Half the trouble in the galaxy is Genii trouble, one way or another.
“Our informants have been quite cagey on the issue - I can’t make out if it’s because they don’t actually know, or if they’re afraid of something.” He peers down at his tablet, wrinkling his brow. “The new Genii government has established a few ultimatums. Outlandish new food prices, demands to ‘demilitarize’ several zones where we mostly have civilian research teams, exchange of weapons technology, that sort of thing. Ladon has been quite… colourful in his descriptions of the consequences if we don’t agree. We may have Ancient technology on our side, but the Genii do have the benefit of sheer numbers. I am not sure about how to react to this.”
“Ladon? As in Ladon Radim? Huh. That does not add up.”
Woolsey looks at him over the rim of his glasses. “How so?”
Kanaan shrugs. “Well, from my experience he may be a slimy, conniving little -” he remembers that he is not talking to Teyla and amends, “um, as you know, he is not always completely opaque in his dealings. But I have never known him to indulge in needless displays of aggression to establish dominance. In fact it would be very much in his best interest to limit the friction between his own government and Atlantis -- he has enough to deal with within his own group without aggravating the most technologically advanced faction in Pegasus again. And besides… excuse me, may I see what you have on file about the planet?”
After an expressionless moment Woolsey nods and slides his tablet across the table. Kanaan takes it, absently rocking Torren a little when he makes some grumbling sounds in his sleep. “Ah, yes, here it is. This planet is not actually under Genii control - it is technically within their territory, but the area has historically been a hotspot for wraith activity. Venturing there is considered very risky, though there are parts of the galactic black market that are based there from time to time. It would serve very well as an out-of-the-way place to set an ambush. Besides, there are rumors of the place being cursed, which would keep the more superstitious of your contacts from wanting to have anything to do with it. If I were you I would try to figure out who would be in a position to wish the Genii and Atlantis to begin another conflict.”
“How come none of our informants have told us this?” Woolsey asked, wrinkling his brow.
“Oh, well, this planet is… the part of the black market frequenting it is mostly geared towards those with a particular expertise in technology left behind by the Ancestors. Few people have enough knowledge and resources to take an interest in it, but since Teyla started to co-operate with the people of Atlantis…” Kanaan shrugged. “I thought I should keep my eyes open for opportunities.”
Woolsey steepled his fingers, a smile half-formed on his mouth. “I must say, you’re better informed than I had expected.”
You are not half as dim as I thought you were, Kanaan translates by dint of long practice, but he smiles back. “I am glad to hear that you think so.”
“Hm, definitely, definitely. Actually, I do have some other things pending, if you’re not too busy with…” He glances over at Torren in his sling.
“What do you need?” Kanaan asks. Atlantis is Teyla’s home now and it is shaping up to be Torren’s; nothing would be too much trouble to keep it safe.
Woolsey’s face brightens, a gleam appearing in his eyes. “Please, sit down. First, there is this trade agreement that the Litarans want to make, but I can’t quite make out what they would gain from it - which, I’m sure you agree, invites some suspicion…”
By the end of the afternoon Kanaan has a new title: he is now a special consultant, which means he will have to spend a lot more time in the city. Special consultant and, in Teyla’s estimation, the best damn nappy changer in the galaxy. He feels like he is moving up in the world.
When the expedition team returns they are covered head to toe in snow, slowly dripping onto the gate room floor. Teyla looks around until she finds Kanaan and Torren, then smiles broadly and hurries over.
“It is good to see you,” she says, standing up on tiptoes to kiss him. Her nose is cold and pink, and it is one of the sweetest things Kanaan has ever seen. He pulls her into a hug with the arm that is not holding Torren to his hip. She makes a pleased sound and hugs him back - to begin with he had been too shy to display affection like this in front of other people, but then he had decided that he wanted to, and it made her happy, and so he did it anyway.
“I trust you had a pleasant trip,” he says, still keeping his free arm around her waist when she lets go.
She snorts. “Well, someone has had a lot of fun, at least,” she says, nodding her head towards where Woolsey stares at McKay and Sheppard, who are gleefully playing with something that looks like very advanced versions of the model airplanes they fly out on the pier in good weather.
“Ancient spy drones,” McKay declares, opening his palm to show a small, rounded stone that glows as his plane moves. “That you can control with your mind.”
“Right,” Woolsey says. “Right. I don’t seem to remember this being what I sent you out for.”
“Check it out,” Sheppard says, making his plane do a series of intricate loops.
“Yes, but did you find what we were actually looking for?” Woolsey insists.
McKay deflates a little. “Well, not… as such, no. The glacier has moved and crushed the entrance completely. We’d need some serious explosives to even have a chance to get in.”
“But you have to admit that this is pretty cool too,” Sheppard argues, taking his little flying machine into a swoop that gets very close to administering an impromptu haircut to several marines. They don’t even cringe, as if from long experience.
“...I couldn’t say,” Woolsey says, in the tones of a man who knows he will have to put up with this for the rest of his professional life.
Sheppard and McKay grin at each other broadly, as they are wont to do. It is the same kind of bright, conspiratorial smile that Kanaan has seen on young couples making their first vows. He does not know what to make of that.
McKay’s drone hovers over Major Lorne’s head and then, with great gravitas, releases a pile of snow down on him from an opened latch. Lorne stiffens and makes a very interesting face.
“Oops,” McKay says disingenuously. “Sorry, sorry, I had no idea they could do that.”
Lorne shivers as he digs snow out from his collar. “Is this for that time I hit you in the face before?”
“With the snowball with pebbles in it, like the worst kind of cheater? No, no, of course, that was an accident. No hard feelings.”
“Some hard feelings,” Sheppard allows.
“Right,” Lorne says.
“I did warn you,” Sheppard says. “Like an elephant. Never forgives, never forgets.”
McKay, with some dignity, turns away and gives his attention to the drone again. “And look - they go invisible!”
Torren ‘oooh’s as Woolsey puts his face in his hands and sighs. Teyla gives a snicker beside Kanaan, too quietly to bring any attention to herself.
“So this is… ‘movie night’,” Kanaan mutters, eyeing the merry gaggle of scientists and soldiers getting settled in front of an enormous screen that McKay has just finished rigging up for the night. It’s a big room, with several rows of sofas set out to face the screen.
“One of the more bizarre Earth traditions,” Teyla agrees, settling next to him on the couch. “Rodney, are you joining us?”
“Depends. I’ve got a lot of important stuff I really should be... what are we watching?” Doctor McKay leans forward to look at the stack of plastic DVD covers, strategically ending up in proximity to the popcorn bowl in Colonel Sheppard’s lap. Sheppard swats his hand away without even looking up.
“I voted for ‘Jack and Jill’,” says Lieutenant Laura Cadman, a decidedly evil glint in her eyes.
Both Sheppard and McKay stop dead in their tracks, their previous battle over the popcorn bowl derailed.
“Adam Sandler is the most underrated director of our time,” Cadman adds in a deadpan drawl.
McKay looks speculatively at Sheppard. “If you take the chocolate and we run really fast -”
“Kidding,” Cadman says. “We were thinking ‘Shutter Island’. There are more explosions than in the book.”
“Ooooh,” McKay coos, immediately plonking himself down on the couch, where Sheppard makes room for him. “Jeannie put that on last time when I was at her place but I fell asleep half-way through. Then DiCaprio was standing there with a lit match or something and I’m not sure why.”
“The butler did it,” Sheppard says, flicking popcorn at McKay.
Kanaan, safely two couches away from them and their amicable bickering, puts his arm around Teyla’s shoulders, happy for her steady warmth and her feet tucked under his thigh.
“I will most likely not understand any of this,” he says in a low voice, kissing the top of her head.
She hums contentedly. “That is quite all right. That is not why we do this.”
He glances around the room, but no one is giving them any particular attention. Ronon and some of the scientists are dividing the chocolate bars into scrupulously equal parts while Cadman uses a controller to navigate the menus on the big screen.
For all of his life he has been different, subtly outside of the framework of social interaction. They used to call the ability to sense Wraith a gift, but it’s the kind of gift you can’t refuse and you can’t share with anyone.
Almost anyone, he reminds himself, shifting so that Teyla’s head rests more comfortably on his shoulder.
“Did you show Woolsey where we put the new nappies?” Teyla asks.
“I believe he made a spreadsheet of everything he could possibly need to care for a baby. Torren is in good hands. Though I do hope a detailed step by step guide to tracheotomy will not be necessary. He apparently likes to be prepared for everything.”
In this room no one is looking to him, neither in fear nor expectation, as if he should know what to do just because there is something dark and foreign in his blood.
Ronon is sitting cross-legged on the floor, leaning back against the couch and making slightly awkward passes at Doctor Keller, handing her her designated piece of chocolate without even nibbling on it first, which must mean he really likes her. Sheppard and McKay keep up a steady if rambling commentary, leaning together over a forgotten popcorn bowl like two boys around the campfire.
Kanaan smiles down into Teyla’s hair.
“What does ‘The butler did it’ mean?” he whispers.
“I have absolutely no idea,” she answers.