They’re not first in line. They’re not even fifth in line. California may be ahead of this game by almost exactly two years, but there are those of her residents who have been waiting for marriage equality across the nation before taking their turn at the altar, and approximately nineteen couples are already lined out outside the Pasadena courthouse by the time Stuart and Raj get there.
“Holy cow,” Raj says, at least in part because as soon as they join the line another couple–two black women, both wearing white–dash around the corner from the parking lot and pull in behind them. Raj starts talking to them straight away; one of them has a tablet with CNN's livestream delivering the state of play from DC.
Stuart doesn’t have any words. His tongue feels like it’s stuck to the roof of his mouth. They’re engaged, sure, but only for a year (and five days, his brain reminds him, if you’re counting from the night you two wound up with henna in unmentionable places).
They’re not dressed up, Raj isn’t wearing the henna he’d intended, and the only reason they have rings is because they did eventually get around to an actual engagement with an announcement and a party and everything, including rings. They’re both nestled in Stuart’s jeans pocket, still warm from having been worn for months. His finger feels weird without it, even knowing he’ll be putting it back on soon.
“Are you sure about this?” he asks Raj, breaking into his conversation with the women behind them.
“Are you–Stuart, don’t tell me you’re bailing on me now.”
“I’m not. I’m just–this is so far from everything you ever talked about wanting for our wedding.” Stuart’s hand finds Raj’s, fingers twining together. "This is like the opposite of ceremony.“
"I think what matters is that we’re here. We can worry about ceremony later. This is a chance to be part of something huge.”
Stuart’s well aware of that. The amount of media surrounding Pasadena Courthouse might not be as big as that outside the Supreme Court right now, but it’s probably not far off. And yet…
“Did you tell any of the others?”
“They won’t mind, they’ll understand it was for–”
“Rajesh Ramayan Koothrappali, how dare you try to sneak this under our noses!”
Howard comes flying out of the flock of journalists like a tiny Jewish missile and hits Raj in a tackle-hug, right before smacking him upside the head. Bernadette’s right behind him; everyone else is right behind her, and the cameras swing instinctively toward Penny, who’s carrying a bouquet in each hand and grinning like she’s auditioning for a toothpaste commercial.
“We weren’t trying to sneak anything!” Raj protests.
“No texts? No calls? Not even a Facebook status?” Howard sounds eerily like his departed mother, and/or Molly Weasley. "You’re lucky these guys–“ he gestures at the assorted media ”–happened to point the cameras at you right when I was channel surfing.“
Raj doesn’t ask why Howard was channel surfing instead of on his way to work, so Stuart doesn’t raise it either. He knows their friends have been anxious about this decision as well. Not like them, not like anyone else standing in this line, but in their own ways.
Stuart sees Bernadette trying to fend off a reporter just by glaring at him; he catches the word "polygamy”, sees the way the guy is looking at Bernadette, Penny, and Amy, and lets go of Raj’s hand.
“…one of them are you three planning to marry?” the reporter enquires of Bernadette. “I’m not sure that’s what today’s landmark decision is all about.”
Bernadette’s gone apoplectic red and Stuart interposes himself between her and the journalist.
“This isn’t a case of polygamy, Mr… Bishop,” he reads off the man’s press pass. Not that the man needs to be wearing it here, but he’s the sort of arrogant little prick who probably wears it to bed, just in case a big story wakes him up in the middle of the night. “I’m here to marry my partner–” Raj waves; the cameras zoom “–and these people are friends of ours here to support us.”
“Do you intend to go ahead with this marriage–” Bishop says it like the word is dirt in his mouth; Stuart doesn’t know why he isn’t just waving a protest sign like the other cluster of people out here, the ones he’s been avoiding looking at “–even if the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t go in your favor?”
Stuart opens his mouth to answer, although he’s not sure what’s going to come out, and one of the women behind him shouts, “It’s happening, people! Y’all hush, ‘fore I jerk a knot in each and every one of you.”
Everyone does hush, but only long enough for the words, “With 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme–” to sound from her tablet before the entire line is screaming and hugging each other. Raj’s arms go around Stuart, just about crushing him. He sees a huge bear of a guy smacking a kiss on Sheldon’s cheek and hopes someone’s caught Sheldon’s facial expression on camera. The protesters all lift their signs and start chanting, but it’s too late. The courthouse doors open and the line starts shuffling forward.
“Are you sure about this?” Raj asks him in return, and Stuart nods against his shoulder.
It may not be a big ceremony, but it’s history, and it’s theirs.