Eilerson had experienced some really weird things over the course of his career. Or, well, some, at least. IPX did have a bit of a tendency to stick with sending him to investigate highly advanced alien civilizations that were, not to put too fine a word on it, deader than a doornail.
Still, he liked to think he'd been through quite a lot. Plenty of anecdotes to make for a very entertaining and interesting celebrity guest at any self-respecting talk-show.
"Married?" he repeated, just in case he'd misheard it the first three times.
"Indeed." Galen looked - well, no, he didn't actually look amused. A bit dismayed, actually, if Eilerson read him correctly, which was either interesting or not.
"You must be kidding." Eilerson glanced at Matheson, who seemed to be taking the entire thing much too lightly, then to Gideon, who appeared to be thinking. "Please tell me this all some elaborate joke."
"Mr. Eilerson, you're a linguist, are you not?"
So much for anything helpful from that quarter. "Yes, but I don't see what that - "
"You didn't hear, at any point in the proceedings, that you were agreeing to be bonded in wedlock to Lieutenant Matheson?"
"I was busy," Eilerson snapped. He'd assumed it was all some sort of happy-tree-hugging friendship ritual, truth be told - kind of like those IPX team-building group-hug sessions he never attended.
"Oh, I see," Gideon replied, his tone making it clear that he did, indeed, see and that he did not particularly like what he was seeing.
"Well, no use in crying over spilt milk," Galen said, apparently having decided to be cheerful about the whole thing after all. "After all, you were already having sex. Now that you're married, you can engage in such activities whenever and wherever you wish, without any fear for retributions."
"Excuse me?" Gideon said, and Eilerson spent a whole five seconds feeling gleeful about the fact tha Gideon hadn't known after all.
"Oh, don't be so prudish, Matthew. Mr. Eilerson has simply made an honest man out of your Lieutenant. Perhaps you should throw them a party once we get back to the ship."
"Any excuse is good enough for you, isn't it?" Eilerson found his imagination wasn't quite up to the job of picturing Galen at a party, other than standing quietly in a corner, looking out of place.
"You knew about this." Gideon glowered at Galen, who shrugged. "It didn't occur to you to maybe say something. Before we had a couple of newly-weds aboard my ship?"
"Need I remind you I repeatedly suggested that perhaps it should be you and I who went to visit the oh-so friendly locals?" Galen leaned back in his seat, face serene.
"Oh, and that would have accomplished what, exactly?"
Eilerson wondered if Gideon really was that dense, or if he was simply a very good actor. From what he'd seen of the man, either was possible. "They did make it pretty clear that if we didn't agree to the ritual, they wouldn't give us access to their collection of datacrystals."
"We could have sent Dureena."
"Oh, yes, clearly, theft is much more ethical than a wedding."
"Sir," Matheson said, "do correct me if I'm wrong, but given that this planet isn't a part of the Alliance, wouldn't that mean any civil contracts are null and void once we've left the planet's surface?"
"Details," Galen said airily.
"I think it does, actually." Gideon relaxed. "Good thinking, Lieutenant."
"Wait, so we're not married?" Not that Eilerson had liked the idea, but, well, it was always best to be absolutely clear in these sorts of things. Bigamy was a pretty serious crime, after all - it brought the kind of bad PR a company like IPX would neither forgive nor forget, no matter what kind of record you had.
"I think - " Galen started, shutting his mouth when Gideon raised his hand.
It really made Eilerson wonder what kind of relationship the two of them had. Not that it was any of his business, as such. Still, it never hurt to know something about someone you might one day need to ... persuade to do you some small favor.
"That's correct, Mr. Eilerson, you're not." Galen opened his mouth. "Of course, as Captain of the Excalibur, I have the authority to oversee certain civil ceremonies, weddings being one of them."
Eilerson stared at Gideon a bit uncertainly. He felt like something was being expected of him, but he was damned if he knew what. "Yes?" he tried.
Gideon frowned. Galen sighed. "Leads up to a wedding - well, most weddings. Starts with a P."
"Proposal," Eilerson said. "You want me to make a proposal."
"Today, if you please, Mr. Eilerson."
No pressure or anything. Right. Eilerson looked at Matheson, who looked back like he really didn't much care either way, which probably meant that, yes, this was sort of important to him.
The shuttle floor seemed reasonably clean. Eilerson hoped that meant it was clean. The pants he was wearing hadn't been cheap, exactly. "Lieutenant Matheson, will you marry me?"
"I ... " Matheson glanced at Gideon. "I guess so."
"Ah, romance," Galen said.
"I'll talk to the guys from the mess, see if they can scare up a cake or something," Gideon offered.
"Good thing I brought my best suit after all."