The Bishra placed a high premium on kinship – on solidarity, responsibility, and sharing life's trials as well as joys. Which was why, John reasoned, it made complete sense that he and Rodney should pretend to be married, because hey, what said loyalty and sharing and all that stuff better than getting hitched? And this was their third time on the planet, time to take things that one step further, start treating the Bishra like friends, not just allies – time to man up and show they shared a value or three beyond those related to trade. Marriage was the way to go – three days, tops, of pretending to be ball and chain, and then they could go home with kalon crops, a story or two, and the goodwill of a whole people to speed them on their way.
Rodney sidled up to him, kicking up dust with his boots while they waited for their guides to arrive. "I, uh." He lifted his chin. "May have a slight problem with your plan."
John blinked at him lazily and made no other response, mostly because that tended to make Rodney nuts. Making Rodney nuts was his life's work, no point in pretending otherwise.
"I don't exactly know what you mean by . . . " Rodney waved a hand. "Pretending to be married."
"You agreed, already," John pointed out.
"Yes, yes, because I see the logic, but beyond an intellectual appreciation for the idea, I'm . . ."
John fished his sunglasses out of his pocket – the sun was getting high, and the local birds were singing up a storm – and slid them on. "It's no big deal. We just pretend we're . . ." He leaned toward Rodney, lowered his voice. "Married." He wiggled his eyebrows.
Rodney narrowed his eyes into a truly world-class look of scorn. "My problem is not with basic language comprehension, thank you, Colonel. My problem is . . ."
John sighed and decided on mockery. "Performance anxiety?"
Rodney spluttered. "What?"
John lifted a shoulder, let it drop. "Internalized self-hatred?"
Rodney squinted at him.
"Scared in case there's a couple of homophobic villagers?"
Rodney let out a long, forceful breath. "Amusing." He offered a withering smile. "And yet my problem is far more prosaic. I don't exactly have . . . " He looked over his shoulder, then off to his right. "Models," he murmured.
"Models," John repeated, flashing to a mental image of Ronon in a pair of speedos.
"My parents were . . . completely baffling, and I don't understand why anyone would partner with a vegetarian, so Jeannie's relationship is no help to me."
John shook his head, tried to focus. "Right. Those kind of models."
"When you were with Nancy," Rodney managed with some apparent difficulty. "How did you . . . what did you . . ."
John bit back a wince. "Well, we, uh." He scratched the back of his neck to buy a little time, marshaling his thoughts. "Both paid on the mortgage. Picked out a couch together." He paused. "Neither of us liked it."
"The couch. But that too."
Rodney nodded and scuffed his boot against the dirt by the DHD. "So my question is – how exactly do we . . . act as if we're . . ."
Okay, so maybe his plan had some flaws, John conceded. His own parents had inhabited separate bedrooms, and then separate wings of the house, and his mom's grandparents lived too far away to be much use to him. No one who first came through the stargate to Atlantis had been married – too much risk that the journey was a one-way ticket – and he'd been around a bunch of married people in Pegasus proper, but didn't pay it attention overmuch. He cleared his throat. "The Bishra, they – " He tried to think it through. "They hang out together."
Rodney nodded, suddenly animated. "They eat meals at the same time!"
"Share a house."
"Yeah, that." John chewed on his lip – it always helped him think. "They have jobs."
Rodney went back to squinting at him as if he were mentally deficient. "Even single people have a job."
"Well, yeah, okay, but – " John tried to find the words. "They support each other. Remember when Havneh bought that – "
"Ohhh, the Yassa jar."
"Yeah!" John pointed a finger at Rodney. "That."
"So they buy each other . . . presents?"
John supposed that was it. "Stuff the other person likes."
"Like an X-Box."
"Or the complete run of the first Battlestar Galactica on DVD," John said, hinting, trying to play it cool. His birthday was coming up. A guy could dream.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Since they can't see us in our domestic setting, perhaps we could . . ."
"Right." John thought a little more, things they could do away from Atlantis. "They touch a bunch."
"There's kissing," Rodney offered.
"Yeah. A lot."
Rodney hummed. "So . . . correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't it seem that they more or less promise to hang out with the person they like to make out with for . . ." He shrugged. "A really long time?"
"And that's . . ." John felt a little light-headed.
"Marriage." Rodney, on the other hand, was bright pink.
John coughed, staring at Rodney, at the tiny scar along his right cheekbone he'd gained in a fight on Hpa. "Are we . . ."
Rodney swallowed nervously. "I think we are."
John tried to let the thought sink in. "Cause I was pretty sure, after the Nancy thing, that – "
"And I'm petty, arrogant, and bad with people," Rodney blurted.
"But we – I mean . . . you got me that surfboard, and we – "
". . . you tend to make sure I have coffee." Rodney adjusted the clip on his P-90.
"You give pretty good head," John said airily.
Rodney grinned, perking up. "I really do."
"Oh, yes, yes, and you're an excellent lay."
"So – "
"So." Rodney looked at him, gaze darting between John's hair and his mouth.
John wet his suddenly dry lips. "So we're married already."
"It seems so," Rodney said weakly.
John stared some more.
Rodney stared back.
"I guess that means – " He offered up his hand.
Rodney did the same, crooking his little finger. They pinky swore.
"Cool," John murmured and stretched out an arm, hooked his hand behind Rodney's neck and reeled in the man he'd been married to for so long he couldn't remember exactly when it started. "Cool," he said again, and kissed Rodney sweetly, glad in some distant part of himself that this wasn't – had never been – pretense.
art by chkc!