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"Betrothed?" Elizabeth repeated.

"Well, yes." John blushed. "Now that, don't ask, don't tell is no longer a issue I... err..."

"He decided to make an honest man out of me," Rodney finished, with the biggest grin Elizabeth ever saw on his face.

She looked at the two men in front of her. Incredulity had been her first reaction. 'They're pulling one on me,' she thought. An elaborate joke, yes, but she wouldn't put it past them. But then John looked at Rodney and smiled, a real smile, not a smirk or the charming version everyone got. This one was wide, sincere and reached his eyes.

Denial followed. John flirted with everything female, in and out Atlantis. But, until three weeks ago, anything else would have gotten him court-martialed, her treacherous brain provided. Her heart sank. She looked up to them. Gone were the smiles. They were nervous and wary.

"Ah.. well... when you plan on telling everybody?" She plastered a smile on her face.

"The invitations will be emailed in a couple of hours." John sounded relieved.

"Congratulations, then."

"Thank you, Liz." She accepted Rodney's hug, and congratulated herself when her hands didn't shake when John did the same.

After they left, she stood up silently, told the technician on duty that she'd be in her room if anyone needed her and walked firmly to her quarters, not giving in to the compulsion to run.

When the doors closed after her, she took out a framed photograph from the night stand. Peter had taken it their first Christmas party in Atlantis. John was in the middle, wearing a flopping Santa hat, with one arm over her shoulders and the other over Rodney's, who somewhat found himself with a Christmas garland around his neck.

Sitting on the bed, she caressed John's face in the photograph with her fingertips. When Peter gave her a copy of the photo, she realized that was the first genuine smile she'd seen on John's face. And the last one, until today. And that one... that one had been for Rodney.

Not for her.

Would never be for her. John was marrying Rodney.

Clutching the photo to her chest, she wept.

- END -