Six improbable weddings (and one that was even more improbable)
Shortly after the Lantean First Contact Team becomes formally established, several of the Athosians take a two day trip back to Athos. When they return, their arms are full of small, freshly potted plants.
The tiny red fruit are not edible, Rodney learns. It's one of those Cultural things with a capital C: The rest of the refugees light up like Christmas trees, and Rodney is told to shut up about quarantine protocols. "We will use the seeds to grow some for every member of your expedition," Teyla promises and gives one pot each to Rodney, Elizabeth, Sheppard, Carson and Ford.
The botanists, initially on par with Rodney's scepticism, quickly give the plants the all-clear. Teyla insists that they will not take much work, that their new owners only need to give them a few drops of water each day. "In fact, it will be best if you simply sprinkle a few drops of whatever you happen to be drinking over it," she says, and demonstrates over the plant Halling brought her.
At first, Rodney wants to dismiss it. It's a plant, after all, he has oh-so many more important things to think about, and if he forgets about it and it dies while, oh, say, everyone else lives, who can blame him? But it's Teyla, and although he has barely known her for a few weeks, she has already become his friend.
As a disbelieving voice in his mind that sounds suspiciously like Samantha Carter clarifies, she has become his friend even after knowing him for a few weeks.
Which is why, in the following weeks and months, he mostly remembers to water it. Sometimes, when he's in a hurry, he just sort of drips over it after getting out of the shower, but that seems to be enough. He discovers that when he skips a few days because he's off-world with his team, simply too busy troubleshooting around Atlantis or working in the labs to go back to his room... A few drops of fruit-juice and once, after a dry-spell of almost two weeks, even coffee, seem to do wonders.
He has no idea what Ford does with his plant, but he sometimes catches Sheppard sprinkle his with both water and the remainders of his beer.
When Ronon joins the expedition, a seedling materializes in his quarters, too. "For the future," Teyla says when he asks her about it, and everyone tries to ignore the look that passes over the tough cave man's face.
Over the next few years, tending to the weed becomes an ingrained habit. Rodney takes the foot-high monstrosity with him when they are exiled to Earth, makes Radek bring it when the scientists make their way back. By the time seven years have passed and he and Major Colonel Sheppard John have become an item, Rodney hardly ever gives it any thought at all.
Then John gets all weird about weddings.
It starts with Dr. Corrigan stumbling across about a dozen files on Ancient wedding ceremonies in the data base.
"It's really quite interesting," he explains to Teyla, John and Ronon during lunch while Rodney is still wondering what the anthropologist is even doing at their table. "They would sequester themselves away for three days and meditate. During that time, they were not allowed food or beverages."
"That's nice," Rodney remarks, hoping to convey his utter lack of interest by the huge bite he takes of his sandwich. Teyla seems interested, though, so he keeps the rest of his thoughts to himself. Ronon's hand, inexplicably, drifts to the left pocket of his coat.
"They wear jewelery?"
"Apparently, a symbolic exchange of necklaces or rings was optional," Corrigan says. "The main element seems to have been the meditation part."
"Big surprise," John mutters. The tone in Teyla's quiet "Another prelude to Ascension?" shows how much faith she has lost in the Ancestors during the last years.
"Exactly," Corrigan says, then continues carefully, not at all oblivious to the nerve the conversation is hitting. "As we have long known, the exploration of ways to achieve Ascension pretty much defined their culture. In fact, at the end of their seclusion, each part of the new couple would vow to do everything in their power to help the other Ascend."
Which is just the kind of thing Rodney would have expected from the Ancients. He steals John's pudding in revenge for making him listen to Corrigan outside a staff meeting, but his spoon stops dead half-way to his mouth because, "Wait. Are you saying Daniel Jackson and Oma Desala are married?"
A week later, Rodney's team is back on Atlantis after a three-day mission. Kanaan, after cooking them the most delicious dinner, has left to put Torren to bed. Amelia, too, has retired to her quarters because someone – "'t was all Lorne," according to John – assigned her an early morning shift. Ever since she left, Ronon's hand has drifted to his pocket again and again.
The four of them are lounging on Rodney's newly acquired movie couch. Teyla is half asleep, Rodney feels ready to join her, and John seems reluctant to leave his place between Rodney's chest and arms in favor of another beer. They drift like that until Ronon makes a decisive sound and sits up.
"Got something to show you." Finally, he fishes whatever it is out of his pocket.
Leaning in over Ronon's outstretched hand, they all look down at one silver ring and two gold bands.
"Those are beautiful," Teyla marvels, wide awake now. Rodney has to agree. John's boyfriend or not, he quite rightly considers himself an expert on engagement and wedding rings by now.
"Amelia will love those, buddy," John says.
"Simple yet elegant," Ronon says in such a tone that marks the words as a quote. Not that Rodney'd paid much attention to Ronon's girlfriend at the time, but he guesses it's how Amelia described her preference when Jennifer had received her rather expensive ring.
"When are you going ask her?" he demands.
"On her next day off," Ronon says, shooting a menacing look at John. John brings up his arms in mock defense.
"Okay, okay, no matter what happens, it's a double shift for Chuck."
"What kind of ceremony will you have?" Teyla asks. Unlike the last time the team bent their heads over a set of rings, Rodney notes, there is no tension about the intended bride's answer or the intended bride herself.
"She doesn't have much family on Earth," Ronon shrugs. "I figured Woolsey could do it."
"He better," John says. "So... an American wedding?"
"No Satedan Elders around," Ronon says matter-of-factly. The hesitation before he speaks is barely perceptible at all.
"What part of a Satedan ceremony would be important to you?" Teyla asks delicately after a moment of silence.
Something about tattoos, Rodney imagines in the time it takes Ronon to think about it. He recalls that Ronon's graduation included some very specific kind of ink and rules about who was allowed to mix them. However,
"Jenet pel, ruak pèl, missèn péla," Ronon intones softly. At least, that's what the words sound like in Rodney's untrained ears. "Jenet pèl, ruak pel, missèn péla. Don't know much about the religious stuff. This is the part that stuck in my head when I married Melena."
"What's it mean?" John asks.
Touching his fingers to the tiny tattoo in the crook of his left elbow – Rodney knew there would be a tattoo somewhere, even though apparently it's not important enough for Ronon to want another one – Ronon replies, "She for you, you for her, bound together. He for you, you for him, bound together."
Teyla puts a hand on Ronon's arm. "Surely Amelia will not mind if you included those words in your ceremony," she says. "If you want, we could ask someone to come from the Satedan settlement to speak them, or alternatively teach them to Mr Woolsey."
"Yes," Rodney agrees, because it sounds right and because he means it. "There's no reason why you shouldn't have that."
"Jenet pèl, ruak pel, missèn péla," John repeats thoughtfully. "No, wait, for us it would be pèl both times, wouldn't it? Jenet pèl, ruak pèl, missèn péla."
Teyla frowns at John, wondering, like Rodney, why John is talking about Satedan pronouns. Ronon's face, however, loses some of its sadness when it erupts into a grin.
"Yeah, for you it would."
Rodney still has no idea what they are on about when John repeats the last words one more time – "Missèn péla." Then he goes hot and cold from shock when John looks straight at him and says, "Let's do that."
"I had not thought you capable of such ingenuity to enhance your credibility with the Alliance," Ladon Radim says. Rodney, wild-eyed, tries to catch Teyla's eye. Being an open and now-married secret is one thing, but this cover story is hare-brained, and John is crazy.
"Does that mean you'll show us?" John asks.
"Why, of course," Radim exclaims with a smile. "Our people are friends, after all!"
"This week," Colonel Lorne mutters. Rodney considers stepping on his foot – baiting Genii is fun but dangerous – but decides against it because not one of the assembled soldiers is doing anything to stop their CO. In fact, none even look remotely surprised.
With Major Teldy smiling like that, it must be safe to play.
"First, everyone puts on their finest clothes," Radim says.
Rodney stares at him impatiently. John looks down at his dress uniform - so this is why he's wearing it! - and shrugs.
"The first part of the ceremony is private," Radim concedes when none of them leaves the room to change. "It involves each of the partners telling the other a secret. The nature of the secret is of great importance, for their marriage will last as long as the recipient keeps it."
John and Rodney stare at one another. Rodney wonders if John is panicking at the prospect or if his mind, at this moment, is as blank as Rodney's own.
"Of course," Radim says smoothly, "if you were Genii, you would have spent many days thinking of a secret suitable for this purpose. I believe it may be acceptable for you to do this part later this evening, alone."
No-one would know if they didn't do it, then, but looking into John's face, Rodney knows they'll both come up with something. There is no way they're going to skip this.
"For the public part, the two of you stand in front of one another..." Radim guides them both forward until they're close enough that Rodney can feel John's breath against his cheek. "Now you both present your best weapon," Radim continues. "If your union has been considered beneficial to all Genii, you'll have been given new weapons the previous day."
"I could go get a nuke," Rodney murmurs in John's ear. "A drone. A hive-bomb."
"Here," a gruff voice comes from behind them. Rodney is captivated by John's smile as he curls his hand around the hilt of the knife Ronon presses into his hand.
"Present them to your partner," Radim instructs, "put your weapon's hand on the knife you'll be given – all four hands should be touching the knives – and repeat after me: I swear to use this weapon to defend you, the children that come of you, and to advance the Genii people."
The people around them gasp and Woolsey makes a noise as if to protest. John, however, glances at Radim, then looks Rodney in the eye and says: "I swear that I will use this knife to protect you and whoever happens to be with us, including your family. I swear to protect myself so that you won't be left without me, and I swear to wield it in the best interest of the Pegasus Alliance."
For a moment, Rodney wonders if the assembled Genii will make a fuss, but after a beat, Radim smiles and bows to John in mock salutation. "Well done, Colonel, well done."
After that, the fact that they haven't yet had an Athosian ceremony seems wrong. John waits until Ronon and Amelia have decided on a date for their wedding before he approaches Teyla about it. The smile on her face could rival the sun.
The night before the ceremony, Rodney and John are told to gently rip off all the leaves their meìna plants are currently spouting, and to lay them out to dry overnight. One night isn't actually enough time to dry them all that much - Teyla says to do it that way, though, so Rodney does.
The next morning, they each have to take one big and one small leaf and chop them up seperately. And just when Rodney thinks (hopes) they're done, Kanaan announces that all the other leaves have to be chopped up, as well. That's a lot of chopping, but as Teyla says, "If you are capable of holding a knife, you have no need to ask for help."
After a long hour, all the leaves have been shredded into tiny pieces. The next step is to prepare a cup of tea from the chopped-up pieces of the set-aside big leaf. Once their respective cups are ready, John and Rodney mix the bits from their set-aside small leaves and make a third cup of tea. Then, they mix both piles of their remaining leaves and make a lot of tea.
While this has been going on, about every Athosian alive has come through the 'gate from New New Athos. Teyla's people have invaded the kitchens, have lit the mess hall up with candles and assembled everyone.
Ronon, Kanaan and Halling help them carry the buckloads of tea to the mess hall. All the tables have been arranged in a circle, and Rodney finds himself in the literal center of attention with nearly five hundred people watching him and John.
At a sign from Halling, Rodney and John each take the single cup holding the tea from the other's plant. Rodney has no idea what to expect, taking the first sip, and is surprised – no, really, how exactly is that possible? – that the tea John made for him actually tastes a bit like John.
The two of them together, apparently, taste like a mixture of cheep beer, fruit juice, tomato sauce – what the hell? – coffee and cocoa.
The last step is to give the tea made from both their plants to every person they know. The cauldron is large and heavy, but while there are regrettably fewer Athosians than seven or even four years ago, there are a lot more Lanteans. The tea, consequently, barely tastes like tea at all, but Teyla instructs them to add as much water as necessary to provide for everyone. No-one complains, and every scientist, soldier or Athosian that gets handed a cup grins at them. A few, including Jennifer, even hug them both.
Apparently, it's the thought that counts.
The strange thing is, John's crazy scheme actually did strengthen their position within the Alliance. People from planets they have known for years are suddenly a lot more open to their requests and more receptive to their aid. A whisper has spread through the galaxy - the leaders of Atlantis use the ways of Pegasus as a legal foundation for their most personal relationship. Finally, they feel that both Rodney and John have given them something beyond technological value, beyond their work – namely, parts of themselves.
That does not mean everyone is equally receptive of John's way of asking.
"A silly question is all you call me for, Sheppard?" Larrin's voice crackles through the radio. Her crew diminished by one of Michael's leftover experiments, she sounds pissed off and not a little harried. Considering the state of her ship the last time they spoke, it's not exactly a surprise.
"Forgive the Colonel's curiosity, Ms. Larrin," Woolsey steps in smoothly, "Of course, we also contacted you for a more pressing reason, which is the successful manufacture of your spare parts."
"What he said," John says.
"I suppose that's alright then," Larrin grumbles after a beat. "Expect some of my people to come pick them up in two hours."
"Whenever is convenient to you," John drawls, which gets him warning looks from both Teyla and Woolsey. "Now about that other matter?"
"Two hours," Larrin repeats. Then she grudgingly explains to the people in the gate room that to get married the Traveller way, one has to take joint charge of the bridge for three consecutive shifts while the Captain and her second sit silently in a corner. "If the ship is not destroyed, you are deemed compatible, and that's all anyone needs to know," she says.
"That's it?" Ronon asks.
"That's all anyone needs to know," Larrin confirms.
"Uhm," is all Rodney's brain offers as a response.
John looks at him, around the command center, to the Jumper Bay, in the direction where the labs are. "...Yeah, we got that part down," he says. Rodney could swear that the lights are suddenly brighter.
"Thank you for your openness," Woolsey says, motioning to Amelia to shut down the gate. "We will be ready for your people in two hours."
By mutual spousal agreement, they decide to skip the ceremony from planet Harmony. "Seems all you'd need to do is humbly ask her Majesty the Queen to approve your union," Lorne reports when his team returns with two sacks of almost-coffee beans. "Then, whatever she has to say on the subject is regarded as binding."
"No way am I asking that girl for anything other than these," Rodney says, pointing at the coffee sacks.
"Yeah, no," John agrees. Which is good, because Rodney wouldn't even want to think about a divorce either way, but it's a relief to know his husband has some tiny amount of common sense left.
The next time they run into Todd, Rodney decides to pre-empt John. At this point, he's married the man five times. John even made Rodney go through with the Ancient ceremony, although they did it in three hours instead of days because they're both busy men, they both hate meditating, and Rodney is hypoglycemic.
And while being married is turning out to be nothing short of awesome, well... He's starting to become a little blasé about it all.
"You're all kind of hung up on your Queen, right?" he asks, unexpected enough that their so-called ally almost looks up from his coding. "Which means one of you or some of you or, hell, all of you likely will be married to her, or whatever you call it when you have a... thing." Todd continues typing, for all intents and purposes ignoring the irritating human, but Rodney wants to know now. "So... can there be any such thing as a gay Wraith?"
Whatever translation the 'gate scrambles out must be crude, judging by the way Todd's head snaps up. His narrowed eyes remind Rodney of why he never lets himself forget that Todd might actually eat him one day. It's a relief when the Wraith turns back to his modified computer screen without acknowledging John. Rodney's husband is leaning against the door with a tight grip on his P-90, looking alert but also very interested in the answer to the question.
"There is a thing called crra't mn'eert," Todd eventually volunteers. His complexion loses its green tinge entirely, which they have learned to associate with anger or shock. Rodney recalls that even within his own, queen-less Hive, there are next to no Wraith that Todd trusts.
"Is there any, I don't know, formal recognition if there is a pair of Kraa–"
"Crra't mn'eert," Todd repeats, sharply. "Of what use is this?"
"Just making conversation," Rodney says and decides then and there that with John's speech patterns bleeding into his, the time has come to call for a wedding moratorium.
Todd studiously ignores him for two cups of delicious John-meìna-tea and fifty-eight lines of coding. Thankfully, neither John nor any of the other guards present tries to butt in on the conversation. Rodney is about to give it up – he tried, and hello, what they are doing is so much more important anyway – when Todd says, "Your Teyla may never know."
"What? Why?" Rodney asks. He almost screws up his next line of coding.
"She may never know," Todd insists. Rodney sees John slice a finger across his throat, and suddenly he remembers – for all that it's generally ignored, in a way, Teyla is Todd's Hive's queen.
"Alright, alright, we won't tell her, I promise."
Todd shoots a menacing look around the room. Several of the marines shrink back. A lieutenant who will not be a part of Rodney's next guard detaileven covers his ears, not wanting to hear anything that might get beaten out of him during training.
"A crra't mn'eert never consists of Wraith who hatched at the same time," Todd begins.
"There's an automatic age difference!" Sgt. Haverton blurts out, making Rodney wonder if his bravery should put him on or off the roaster for their next mission.
"There is," Todd concedes, but the tone of his voice nevertheless makes the Sergeant blanch. On the roaster it is, then. "On a formal occasion, the Wraith who is younger or who has fed more recently will give his partner a great amount of his nn te'enn, what you call his life force." He extends his feeding hand, which results in all P-90's in the room except for John's pointed at him.
"Calm down!" Rodney calls, irritated, but still somewhat relieved when the guards wait until John nods that standing down is okay.
"When his nn te'enn is almost depleted, the rejuvenated partner will do the same, until their nn ten'enr are in perfect balance."
It's a show of trust, Rodney realizes, but across the room John looks horrified. "Todd," he says in an extremely strained voice, "Tell me we didn't get married breaking out of a Genii prison!"
Todd turns to look at him, and Rodney could swear he looks amused. "No, John Sheppard. It is like I told you, we became brothers." Which is certainly good to know – cross-species polygamy was so not on Rodney's agenda to sort out – but...
"If exchanging life force is such a rare thing, how would anyone know the difference?"
Todd bares his teeth. "Believe me, Dr. McKay, we know."
When General O'Neill waylays them after the obligatory series of debriefings and tells them that he plans to lend his property to the Canadian embassy for the next 48 hours, Rodney can only stare at him and ask, "Why would you do that?" But John, John sheds his confusion after a second, and when he smiles, his face lights up the Mountain.
It only takes 24 hours to organize the whole thing. The Hammond obligingly beams Jeannie, Madison and Kaleb into the United States, and someone sends a helicopter to Manhattan to collect David Sheppard.
Rodney doesn't ask how this suddenly became possible. As far as he knows – and he knows, because he pays attention to this – the atrocity that counts as an American law still hasn't changed. He has married John six and a half times by now. The half is curtsey of Queen Harmony who, when Ladon Radim told her about the ceremony he helped them perform, apparently scrunched up her tiny face and exclaimed, "He could do so much better, my Rodney! But if he must..."
Each and every one of those times has counted, but this, Richard Woolsey officiating in front of their friends and relatives on Earth, is the one thing that has been missing.
The ritual itself is very bureaucratic. John did the church wedding thing, once, but they are neither of them believers. They have done spiritual rites in abundance; this is not what this is about.
There aren't any vows, either, because they said all that could be said after the Genii ceremony and are not going to repeat it in public. Instead, Kanaan and Ronon serve as their best men, and each wearing a flower from Madison tucked into their button holes, they walk up to Woolsey side by side. Dr. Meredith Rodney I. McKay, PhD, PhD, the signatures read, and Colonel John Sheppard, USAF. A very excited Torren hands them the rings.
"Then I believe all that's left to say is that I pronounce you lawfully married," Woolsey says after the non-existent t's are crossed and the i's are dotted, "May I say, gentlemen, that it has been an honor to do this for you, and to wish you all the best for your shared future?"
"You may," Rodney says generously, causing Madison to laugh. Then it's all over and the General and SG-1 are shouting "Kiss! Kiss!" Lorne and Radek join in the chant, quickly followed by Ronon, Teyla, Jeannie, Madison and Kaleb. David Sheppard still looks completely bewildered, but Rodney swears he can see him mouthing the words. The only one silent is General Landry, but even he looks amused.
Never one to displease a cheerful, non-homicidal crowd, John kisses him.
Then Rodney has to kiss him back because this, finally, is the marking kiss of his wedding.
There is a lot of kissing.
When they part, eventually, the marines and scientists have formed an arch out of P-90s and bantos rods. Rodney would protest the cheesiness of it, but this is the least the SGC owes him, and it's even better than letting him publish to win the Nobel Prize. Feeling so happy he could explode, Rodney takes John's hand, unsurprised by his husband's strong grip. Together, they duck their heads and run through the arch, laughing and laughing and laughing.
Afterward, there is cake, and cake and more cake, and muffins and citrus-free fruit salads and enough turkey to make up for both Canadian and American Thanksgiving. There's champagne and punch and cranberry juice.
Next to these Jeannie-approved beverages, there is a large tea pot which is carefully avoided by all Lanteans. A little punch-drunk and curious, Rodney sniffs at it, and when he recognizes what it is, he calls for "John!" Their rings glinting in the sunlight, they fill enough cups for the guests from the SGC and both their relatives. Kaleb and Madison like it, Jeannie immediately wants to know what's in it, and David Sheppard does seem unable to shake the puzzled look from his face.
Later that night, after John has handed Madison's flowers to Amelia and told Ronon, "You're next, buddy," after the Hammond has scooped them both up and left them in Rodney's apartment, they lie in bed together as extremely married men.
"Is it enough, now?" Rodney asks.
John tightens his arms around him and murmurs, "Just about."