Warnings: Mild swearing. Slash.
Written for: callmerizzo
John stared at himself in the mirror. He raked a nervous hand through his dark hair, then stepped back in disgust. It was hopeless.
Despite his best efforts, and those of Teyla, plus a liberal application of whatever hair gel type stuff she'd borrowed from their hosts, his hair still managed to stick up in what past girlfriends had called "rakish spikes", but which John himself called "a pain in the ass." Normally, when he wanted to control them, he could. It's just that he didn't often want to. He was career military, for Christ's sake, and despite outward appearances that, he freely admitted, perhaps pointed to the contrary, that meant he was used to things being done in fairly regimented ways, hair included. But today, his hair was just a symptom of how far his life had tumbled out of control.
Rodney, on the other hand, was an academic, and short of his being an artist or musician or something, that was about as un-military, un-regimented a life as John could think of. So you'd think Rodney would be calm as a cucumber under these circumstances. But no. Despite the wall between their rooms, John could hear Rodney's voice raised as he railed against something, and Teyla's calming tones – well, calm at first, but steadily rising as time went on – trying to placate him.
John could imagine what Rodney was going through. He was going through it himself.
He met the eyes of his reflection, and stood to attention.
This was nuts. What they were about to do was completely, utterly nuts. Crazy. Insane. Likely to get him drubbed from the military. Illegal in, like, forty eight states. And still…
John tugged at his black jacket.
He gave his reflection a weary smile.
Still they were doing it. Not like they had a choice. But for all their lack of choice, it wasn't like it didn't mean something. At least, it meant something to him.
And that's where John knew he was in trouble. Sure, they were being forced to go through a wedding ceremony here on P3X… something something something. And sure, in his mission report, he'd state that, so he'd be covered. But thing is, if anyone asked him – if anyone of his higher ups in the military asked him, they'd know in a heartbeat, just from the look in his eye.
John exhaled loudly, and turned for the door that joined his room to Rodney's.
He might be being forced to marry the man. Didn't mean he didn't love him.
"This is such a cliché!" Rodney shouted, eyes flashing from Teyla to Ronon as John entered the tiny bedroom. "It's like, I mean, come on," he spat, throwing his hands up in frustration. " 'Aliens made them do it?' It's like bad fan fiction or something."
"Fan fiction?" Ronon rumbled. He stood, crammed in a corner of the tiny room, arms crossed over his chest, looking deeply uncomfortable.
Teyla raised one wry eyebrow. "Are you saying that aliens made you and John…?"
"What?" Rodney said. He looked a bit shell shocked at the very idea, face going red above the formal clothing their hosts had provided. "No, no. Not that, no."
"Yeah, Rodney," John said, purposefully slowing his words to that drawl that he knew drove Rodney nuts. "It could be worse. All we have to do is get married. Not like we have to have sex." He slumped onto the bed – not that he had a choice if he wanted to sit down in the small space – and crossing his legs in an attempt at casual, leaned back against the headboard. When that got no response, John smoothed the jacket down over his torso. Then he looked up coyly, peering at Rodney through his bangs. "Not unless you…" he commented, leaving the rest unsaid.
"What? No," Rodney said, seeming nonplussed. "I don't."
"I know," John said. And he did. It's not like they had ever had that type of conversation – they were guys, so come on – but John knew. He'd seen Rodney date Katie Brown. Heck, Rodney had almost married her. Sort of.
John decided to cut the poor man some slack. "You look good," John said to Teyla, noting the jade green outfit she'd been given. It worked well on her, highlighting her honey toned skin. He didn't say anything to Ronon – the man was still wearing the leathers he normally wore, as their hosts hadn't had anything large enough to fit him. Lucky bastard.
John turned to Rodney, who looked pretty darn good in his own ensemble. "You look good, too," he added awkwardly.
"Well, thanks," Rodney said, pulling at the sleeves of his deep blue jacket. "It doesn't quite fit."
"Nah," John said, meaning it. "Looks good."
And at that, he saw the flicker of a smile cross Rodney's face. Their eyes held, just a moment, before Rodney seemed to shake himself awake. "Yeah, I thought, least I could do. Being our wedding and all."
Ronon gave a deep growl.
"We should make an effort to make a good show of it," Teyla said in his direction. She stepped to Rodney and straightened the collar of his jacket. "Its not as if this ceremony is in any way binding, if you don't choose it to be so."
"And we really need friends in this neck of the woods," John said to Rodney. "You yourself said they might have a ZPM."
"A ZPM that they won't let us see until we can prove we're a worthy trading partner and a stable society," Teyla noted.
"And by stable, they mean 'One that encourages the formation of families and children', rather than one that's militaristic like the stupid Geni," Rodney said, quoting one of the locals.
"Yup," Ronon said. "The Geni didn't make friends during their last visit here."
"And the fact that you are unmarried at your age…" Teyla said, looking at them both.
"I'm not that old," Rodney said in frustration. "I'm younger than him," he said, indicating John with the lift of a shoulder.
"Cultural differences," Ronon said with a shrug.
"Most people here are married by age twenty," Teyla explained patiently, repeating what they'd learned earlier. "They find it odd, and perhaps a bit threatening, that we appear to be so militaristic and –"
"I know, I know." Rodney sounded resigned, now, rather than anxious. "Still doesn't mean I…" He exhaled loudly.
Teyla looked at Rodney worriedly.
John knew that Teyla would have volunteered to marry one of them herself, but that she'd then actually consider herself married to them, under the norms of her culture. John, for one, couldn't make her do that; nor would he want to. And Ronon's culture was similar enough on that count that he didn't want to push the issue.
"The blue does bring out your eyes," Teyla said as she finished with Rodney. She smiled softly and, palms flat against his chest, said, "If ever you do marry, you should consider wearing something similar."
"Ha-ha," Rodney said, voice strained.
There was a knock at the door. John tensed, heart leaping to his throat.
Ronon, who was closest, reached out a hand and opened the door.
Their host, Sharon, the leader of the community, stood there in full formal dress. She smiled broadly. "It's time. If I could have Teyla and Ronon follow me first."
Teyla nodded and, with one last look at both Rodney and John, followed Ronon out of the room.
Rodney started speaking almost as soon as they left. "It's not that I don't want to get married," he said, staring forelornly at his reflection in the mirror.
"I know," John said, looking up from the bed. The tension he'd felt earlier was still with him, and it came out in his tone.
Rodney turned to face him. Looking down, he said, "It's just that this isn't quite what I'd pictured."
"So what about this isn't ideal?" John asked, trying for an amused smile. "The location? The 'being forced to do it'? Or, you know… the guy thing?" John asked, pointing to himself.
"Actually…" Rodney said with a self-conscious shrug. He sat down on the bed, right at John's feet. "That's not necessarily something I'd ruled out."
"Ah," John said, brows flying to his hairline, well and truly surprised. His gaydar had always sucked, but Rodney? He'd totally thought the man was straight. "What about Katie?" he asked, his voice coming out a bit hoarse. "I thought, you know, women…"
Rodney tilted his hand back and forth. "Either way. I always figured, if I found the right guy…" His voice faded, but his gaze was steady, as if he was testing John's response.
"Oh," John said, now seriously at a loss for words. He was almost grateful when Sharon returned.
"It's time," she said, brown eyes lit by her soft smile. She looked so very pleased that John couldn't help but smile back.
He stood without a word, and followed her down the corridor. He could feel Rodney beside him, quite close in the narrow hallway, but he kept his eyes forward.
He probably owed Rodney a response. Rodney had put himself out there, saying what he'd said. He owed the man something more than, "Oh." But what the hell could he say, even in the best of times? And with Sharon right there… He exhaled his tension.
They rounded a corner and his arm brushed Rodney's. Before he could even think about it, he reached out and touched Rodney's arm, then reached down, grasping his hand, squeezing briefly. He leaned toward him and said, "Me, too," before letting go.
He felt Rodney's step stutter a bit at that one, but he caught up just as they entered a room so packed it was amost impossible to focus on any one thing. The space was huge, filled with people – it was like the entire village was there, at least a couple hundred people. He could just make out Teyla and Ronon at the front, and he nodded to them as he approached. Candles lit the space, from floor to ceiling, and spicy incense trailed smoke through the candlelight. The candles made the windowless space glow. It really was beautiful.
As they reached the front of the room, the soft murmurs from their audience ceased. Sharon began her blessing, using a language that John had never heard. John kept his eyes firmly on her, his back ramrod straight. Not once did he look at the man standing beside him.
Sharon stopped speaking. There was dead silence.
Sharon looked at them expectantly. She leaned forward, her amusement clear in her eyes. "You're supposed to kiss now. It kind of seals the deal."
Those closest to them in the audience laughed softly, and John could feel his cheeks heat.
He turned to Rodney.
Rodney looked back at him, eyes wide. Rodney looked scared shitless, probably mirroring his own expression.
John leaned forward, one hand on Rodney's arm. "Okay?" he whispered, asking permission.
"Okay," Rodney answered.
With that, John kissed him. He let his eyes fall shut, enjoying the sensations: another man's lips against his own, the tension in the muscles under his hand, the feel of the material of Rodney's jacket as he trailed his other hand up Rodney's chest. After a moment, he felt the tension leave Rodney's body, and he let himself fall into the kiss, pulling Rodney closer.
They broke apart only when Sharon cleared her throat. She smiled at them, threw up her hands, and the crowd burst into applause.
They were immediately ushered into the next room; also huge, also candlelit, but this time packed with food and drink. The rest was a flurry of congratulations from people he'd never met, he and Rodney only having time for brief looks and complicated glances as they seemed to exchange either handshakes or kisses with half the village.
At a brief break in the reception line, Ronon sidled up to him with a drink and a murmured, "Nice kiss."
John took the glass with a grateful nod. "It needed to look real."
"Yeah," Ronon said. He raised one brow. "Right."
John was suddenly unsure of how much Ronon knew. He suspected Ronon knew it all.
His suspicions were realized when Ronon added, "DADT is a stupid policy."
John gave a tight half smile.
Ronon clapped him on the shoulder, and stared in his eyes. "You love who you love," he said matter-of-factly. Then he moved off.
John stood there, hand clenched around the glass. Ronon was a man of few words, but what words he used were usually important.
The rest of their night was spent with John and Rodney dancing with various partners while Teyla worked with Sharon on the trade deal, prelude to discussion on the ZPM. As the party wound down, Sharon approached him with a gleam in her eye. "That woman drives a hard bargain," she said, nodding back toward Teyla.
"We have more to discuss," Teyla said as she reached Sharon's side. "Ronon and I would like to stay here for the night, if that's acceptable."
"You and Rodney are welcome to stay as well," Sharon said with a sly smile. "But I can understand if you'd prefer to return home," she added, the look in her eyes implying things she wasn't saying.
"No," John said. He waved Rodney over from where he was dancing with yet another villager. "We'll stay, if that's all right?" These people had proven to be extremely peaceful so far, but he didn't want to take the risk.
"You are more than welcome," Sharon replied, seeming pleased. "Although it is the time when newlyweds must…" She made shooing motions with her hands. "Go and rescue your husband," she nodded toward Rodney, who was trying to extricate himself from yet another willing partner, "and we'll see you in the morning."
"Thank you," he said to Sharon. With a pointed look to Teyla that told her to be on watch, he moved off toward Rodney. When he reached his side, he grasped Rodney's arm with both hands and gave him a gentle tug. "Come on, husband," he said, more for their audience's benefit than their own. "Time to go."
A cry went up from the people nearest to them. "Oooh!"
John felt his cheeks heat and, refusing to meet Rodney's eye, he started walking, hoping Rodney would follow. Not that the man had much choice, with John's hand wrapped around his own.
As they wove their way through the crowd, toward the door and freedom, John's attention was caught, again and again, by the smiles of onlookers, their happy gazes and nods as he and Rodney passed. They were so obviously happy for them. Happy to see two people so much in love, willing to committ their lives to each other. Too bad it was all a lie.
Well, not quite a lie. He couldn't help but think about what Ronon had said, earlier. You love who you love. Even if it jeopardizes your career. Even if it might take you away from the one job you've ever been remotely successful at. Even so.
As they left the room, John tried not to think.
Neither he nor Rodney spoke as they walked the peaceful corridor, the only sounds their soft footfalls on the carpet.
He felt a tug at his hand, and Rodney stopped beside a window. Night had fallen sometime during the party, and the stars were bright specs in the dark sky.
After a moment, Rodney turned to him. "You're still holding my hand," he said, looking completely spent.
"Sorry," John said, releasing him. He winced. "Long day."
"Yeah. I…" Rodney hesitated. "Can you help me with this thing?" he asked, tugging at the top of his jacket, where it fastened in back.
John nodded. He stepped closer to Rodney, but rather than turn him around, he reached both hands around to the back of Rodney's neck and worked the clasp. They were standing close enough that he could actually feel Rodney's breath on his cheek. "There you go," said softly, looking into Rodney's eyes as he let his palms slide down Rodney's chest.
The moment froze, then stretched.
"John…" Rodney finally said.
"Rodney," John replied, reaching out a shaking hand to cup Rodney's cheek.
Rodney leaned down into it. He turned his head and kissed John's palm. Then he looked up hesitantly.
"This doesn't need to mean anything," John said.
"Unless we want it to," Rodney responded.
"Unless we want it to," John echoed.
"I know," Rodney replied. "I'd like…"
"Yeah," John said. "So would I. DADT makes things… complicated," he said softly.
"I know," Rodney said. "But I suspect it might be worth it."
John leaned closer. "You think?" he whispered.
"Oh, I do think," Rodney said. And this time, Rodney kissed him.
And oh, it was so worth it.
- End -