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"I'm not sure I heard you correctly, Colonel."

John flinched slightly as Elizabeth spoke, and he didn't blame her. The whole idea was too far fetched for him to have invented it himself, but just crazy enough to cause her to doubt.

"The Council only recognizes the authority of the ruler if she's married," John explained again as she leaned back in her seat, clasping her fingers behind her head. Ronan kept his distance, standing near the doorway, looking as though he was about to run out.

John desperately wanted to trade places, but he knew Ronan would kick his ass for it later.

She closed her eyes, bringing a hand back around to rub the bridge of her nose. "And the Council thinks that you're my husband."

"Tharon, the prime minister, knows that we're not actually married," he slowly explained, licking his lips nervously, "but Teyla agreed that if we appear to be happily wed, then the locals would be more accepting of us."

"So it's basically just for show," Ronan simplified, more for himself than for anybody.

John turned to glare at him. He made a mental note to punch Ronan later and looked back to Elizabeth.

Her green eyes blinked in what John swore was amusement, but she shook her head resolutely as she stood up. "Well, for the sake of keeping the peace, I don't see why we can't play along for a few days. Give me a little time to pack, and I'll meet you at the 'Gate in, thirty minutes?"

Ronan grunted, then walked out and down the stairs at the back of the control room.

John watched him leave, and slowly he pivoted back towards Elizabeth. Her eyes met his hazel eyes, and she sighed as he moved around the chair, sitting on the edge of her desk. “You okay?”

She nodded. “Yeah.” As she began shutting down her computer, she gave him a little shrug. “It just seems a little strange.”

John blinked. “The culture? Or the fake marriage?” he asked slowly.

Elizabeth sighed, crossing her arms. “A little of both,” she admitted.

He nodded in understanding. There had been a few times in the past when Elizabeth had accompanied them off world and John usually came to her rescue after some local bastard would hit on her, trying to conscript her into becoming his umpteenth wife. McKay had tried to play the part once, when John was not available, and one guy had laughed at him, pushing him out of the way.

It stunned Rodney, but the idiot who tried to grab Elizabeth had gotten the worse end of the deal. She kicked him in the groin.

Thank God he was drunk and didn’t remember it afterwards. As amusing as it would have been to see Elizabeth explaining to the village guru why she had almost prevented his brother from having children, it wouldn’t have gone over very well.

“Well,” he told her gently, standing from the desk, “from what I heard and saw in the village, I think this trade will be very beneficial for us. Just a few days.”

Her brown waves bounced as she nodded assent. Raising an eyebrow at him suspiciously, she uncrossed her arms, putting her hands on her slim hips. “Tell me more about these espo beans.”

John grinned at her. “You’re gonna love them. I swear. They’re like candy!”

Her green eyes narrowed laughingly at him. “The prospect of fresh coffee is very persuasive, but I can’t let that be the main reason why we’re trading with them. Not only that, but to not have anything of use to offer them?” she mused aloud as they walked out of her office together.

“We’ll find something. And the beans aren’t the only thing they can offer. Their planet has a large expanse of unused land, and considering that the Wraith haven’t been there in ages, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a good hiding spot if we ever needed one.”

“I have no intention of taking control of their planet without their permission, John. That would make us no better than the Europeans invading the Americas, forcing the Native Americans out of their lands.”

“And I’m not saying we kick them out! But if we maintain good relations with them,” he pointed out as they reached the end of the stairs, heading for the transporter in the corridor heading off from the ‘Gate room, “then we’d at least have an option if the possibility arises.”

Elizabeth tilted her head. “True. And we can use all the allies we can get.”

“Exactly what Tharon said,” he told her, pointing his finger in the air. “See? You’ll get along just fine. Nothing to worry about.”

They stepped in the transporter and John tapped the screen behind them, directing the lift to the location nearest Elizabeth’s quarters. “You do realize that you’ll have to … act less opinionated when we go to 936?”

“Yeah, I know,” he replied with a shrug as he crossed his arms.

She turned to face him in the lift, glaring lightly at him. “Might be a good idea to start practicing now.”

It took John by surprise, until he recognized the humor in her green eyes below the order. He smirked at her as she faced forward again. “Yes, ma’am.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Elizabeth walked in front of John and Ronan as the wormhole deactivated behind them. Two men were standing near the DHD, arms crossed respectfully in front of them. “Doctor Weir. Prime Minister Tharon has asked us to escort your party to her chambers.”

She nodded at them in acknowledgement, but her hastily murmured “thank you” was lost to the wind as a sudden gust blew through the pathway.

She pulled her jacket tighter, zipping it up. The men glanced worriedly at the sky. “We should hurry, ma’am. The storms are not kind to those who remain in them.”

The five of them scurried along the path as they felt the electric charge in the air. A bolt of lightning struck somewhere in the distance, and she felt someone press a hand to her lower back, both pushing and comforting. She didn’t need to look next to her to see Ronan jogging along the dirt road to know that it was John.

She wondered if this was John getting in character to play the loyal husband, or if it was his natural protective nature.

As the gusts of wind increased, both in frequency and size, they broke into a run. She yelled a question at her guides. “How often do these storms come?!”

“Perhaps twice in a lunar cycle! If we are fortunate, they come while we are asleep!” the older man yelled back, ducking his head respectfully as he spoke.

Another crack of thunder, this one much closer, sent a shudder through Elizabeth. She ran harder, John’s hand still gripping her waist, and they made it into the town square just as the sky opened and sheets of rain began to fall.

With the heavy raindrops stinging her eyes, she barely had time to take in the architecture of the town. As they reached the overhang of a large hall, Elizabeth let out a sigh and reached up, pulling the strands of wet hair away from her eyes. Next to her, John shook his head like a dog, trying to force the rain water out. He mussed with his hair, eventually leaving it in a chaotic state, and his eyes met Elizabeth’s again as the rain poured around them.

She nodded in response to the question he hadn’t asked yet, and he responded in the same manner as the guides pushed the door open.

Inside, a large table sat in the center of the room. Plates of food were being placed on the surface, and she caught sight of Rodney McKay starting to grab for food. Teyla smacked him on the arm, then looked up and grinned as she saw Elizabeth. Rising from her seat, she made her way across the room as they dropped their gear.

“We heard the storm approaching. I hoped that you wouldn’t get caught in it,” Teyla greeted as she nodded to each member of the group.

“Just a little,” Elizabeth replied with a smile.

A woman approached her from the far end of the table. Teyla held out her hands in a introductory gesture. “Prime Minister Tharon, this is Doctor Elizabeth Weir.”

Tharon extended her hand, and Elizabeth followed suit. “It’s an honor to meet you.”

“And you as well. Would you mind horribly if I were to call you ‘Elizabeth’?”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened in pleasant surprise. “Not at all!”

Tharon smiled. “Please, have a seat. Although on second thought, you may wish to change clothes before joining in the meal. I can’t imagine those heavy garments are comfortable when wet.”

“Not really,” John answered.

Elizabeth gave him a chiding glare.

He swallowed. “Ma’am.”

Tharon tilted her head at the display. “I do not particularly trouble myself with such courtesy. If you forget to address me in that manner, I will not mind it much. But in any case, thank you, Colonel.”

Elizabeth glanced quickly at her. “It seems to me that your view on your society is much laxer than others. From what I have heard.”

Tharon shrugged as a door opened at the far end of the room. “Times are changing. If the prime minister cannot keep an open mind to such developments, I have no place being here.”

A dark haired man walked up to Tharon, a warm smile on his face. “Tharon. Who are our guests?”

Teyla raised an eyebrow, which made Elizabeth do the same. Apparently his openness with the prime minister was unexpected.

She took his outstretched arms, clasping her hands around his upper arms. Elizabeth assumed this was a customary greeting.

What she didn’t really expect was for Tharon to introduce the handsome man as her husband.

And judging from the looks on the others’ faces, neither did they.


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