Game, Set, Match

by Azar


Website: http://azar.ink-and-quill.com/
Feedback: azarsuerte@hotmail.com

About Azar: Azar has been obsessed with Atlantis since she was ten years old, so naturally when Stargate Atlantis premiered she became an instant fan. She wants to be Elizabeth Weir when she grows up, but also adores pretty much every other character on the show. Other fascinations include time travel, telepathy, history, Arthurian Legend, romance (of the non-bodice-ripper variety) and collecting fandoms like some people collect spoons (she'snwritten fic for over twenty, and been involved in some small way with several more).
Disclaimers: They're not mine. *g*
Written for: Noelle for sg1flashfic2; she wanted McKay humor, Sheppard/Weir romance, or Sam/Teal'c--I think I managed the first two with a cameo by the third ;-)
Acknowledgements: Medie, for her encouragement, suggestions, and for being my "Canadian snark consultant," and Christina for her patience. *hugs*



Dr. Carson Beckett stared at his friend, the incredulity in his eyes echoed in his voice. "Rodney, I do believe you've finally gone daft."

McKay rolled his eyes expressively. "Oh, come on. It's perfectly logical."

"Logical?" Beckett shook his head, turning back to the aquarium that held his mice with the bowl full of pellets. He smiled as the little things scrambled over each other to get to the food. "You've a funny idea of logic. For one thing, Dr. Weir already has a boyfriend--"

"Whom her chances of ever seeing again are, oh say, slim to none, considering how spectacularly we've failed at getting home so far," the Canadian retorted, obliquely referring to the incident a couple years ago when they actually thought they'd made it home, only to discover it was all an illusion. "And even if we did make it back, who's to say after three years with no word that this fellow would even still be waiting? Besides, I respect Elizabeth. I want her to be happy, and there's not many women I can say that about."

This diatribe was spoken rapidly while he hopped off the bed and followed Carson over to the tank. He peered inside just in time to notice two of the mice getting frisky and turn away with an expression of distaste. "Ugh--I really didn't need to see that."

A smug, knowing smile crossed the Doctor's face. Rodney, probably the most unromantic man on the entire base--or at least the most closeted romantic--plotting to somehow pair off the city's civilian and military commanders. "You, playin' matchmaker. Now this I've got to see."

"Oh, nonononono. You can't just sit around and watch," McKay protested. "I need your help."

Carson snorted. "I imagine you do. Now, how exactly were you plannin' to pull this off?"

Rodney's face went blank, except for an uncharacteristically sheepish gleam in his eyes. He opened his mouth once or twice, then gave up and just smiled weakly.

The Scot sighed. "Aye, that's what I thought." Oh well. He might as well give in, since no doubt he would have no peace until he did. "First of all, you can't make two people fall in love--"

McKay waved a dismissive hand. "I know, I know. Just stick them in a room together and let nature take its course, yadda yadda yadda. I just hope this doesn't take too long--I do have other important work to finish."

"Or not," Beckett pointed out. "There might not be anything there in the first place."

Rodney just looked at him like he'd declared the moon to be made of green cheese or something equally archaic and ridiculous. "Carson...have you watched the two of them together? Ever?" He made a sweeping gesture with his hands, as if trying to scoop all the air in the room into his arms and then roll it up into a ball. "You'd have to be...I don't know, blind as a freaking *bat* to miss how they flirt with each other."

The doctor glared at him. "Well, seein' as you have such a high opinion of my observational skills, then I suppose you won't be needin' my help now after all, will you?" With that, he snapped the wire top back on the tank, almost clipping the other man's hands in the process, and stalked away.

"Hey, watch the fingers--those are delicate scientific instruments, thank you very much! Carson--" McKay called after him, but the doctor didn't turn around. Rodney was officially on his own.

Glaring at the mice as if this was somehow their fault, he let out a deep sigh. "Damn it!"

~~~~~

Dr. Elizabeth Weir stopped just inside the automatic doors of the conference room, a frown crossing her face. Major Sheppard was sitting at the table, deliberately twiddling his thumbs. Alone.

"Where's Dr. McKay?"

The Major leaned back in his seat and put his feet up. "I was just wondering the same thing."

Elizabeth stepped fully into the room, letting the doors close behind her. She took a seat across from Sheppard, folded her hands on the table in front of her, and sighed. "This is the third time in as many weeks he's 'forgotten' about a meeting he called us to that was a dire emergency five minutes earlier."

"Pretty fishy," John agreed. "His excuses are getting flimsier too. I'd say the good doctor is definitely up to something."

"Yeah, well, if he keeps crying wolf like this, he runs the risk of not getting our attention when there's a genuine emergency," Elizabeth retorted dryly. "I'm going to have to have a word with him."

She stood and moved two steps towards the door before the power suddenly died with a loud whine.

That got the Major's attention. He yanked his feet off the table and sat up ramrod straight for half a heartbeat before leaping to his feet with fluid grace. "What the hell?"

"Elizabeth?" McKay's nervous voice suddenly came over the comm system.

"Rodney, what's going on?" Weir demanded, her voice tinged with incredulity.

"Umm, sorry about that. The power should be back on in a couple of hours--"

"A couple of *hours*?" Sheppard interrupted, striding across the room to where Elizabeth was standing as if that would bring him into closer proximity with McKay, whom he looked about ready to strangle. "Why the hell did it go *off* in the first place?"

The scientist muttered something too rapidly and too indistinctly to discern. "Look, I'll get right on the problem. In the meantime...just...take advantage of the opportunity. Sit, chat, get to know each other a little better."

Get to know each other a little better? What on Earth? Elizabeth's eyes narrowed. "Rodney? This wouldn't happen to be the emergency you desperately needed to discuss with us, would it?"

There was a telling silence before McKay finally fumbled out. "Why, yes. Yes, it is, actually. Which is why I was running a little late. However, not to worry, I'll have everything fixed before you know it."

She exchanged a skeptical glance with John; McKay was never this optimistic unless he was hiding something. "Uh huh. All right, but Rodney? We don't have a couple of hours."

Now his voice sounded almost embarrassed. "Right. I'll see what I can do."

That was that, and the two stranded leaders looked at each other.

"So what do we do now?" Sheppard asked.

Elizabeth smiled ruefully. "Sit and chat, like he suggested? You can tell me how you're doing on War and Peace."

"Page sixty-eight." The Major's eyes narrowed. "You know what he's up to, don't you?"

She felt her cheeks warm a little in embarrassment under his scrutinizing gaze. "I might have an idea, but I'd rather not say--"

"--until you're sure? Understandable." He nodded, crossing back to the table and resuming his seat, feet up and all. Silence stretched awkwardly between them, then he sat up and snapped his fingers. "It's a mutiny, isn't it? He and Cavanaugh are staging some sort of uprising."

That was a frightening thought. "Dear God, I hope not."

~~~~~

The first time, it had been mildy annoying, but amusing nonetheless, Weir had to admit. The second time had been both confusing and frustrating, since whatever else he may be, Rodney McKay was usually not irresponsible when it came to overseeing the workings of the city. For that man to suddenly, conveniently neglect that responsibility every time it meant leaving her and Major Sheppard alone in a room together was not only suspicious and highly irregular, it was also downright dangerous.

This latest incident, in particular, was over the line. And she knew Rodney knew it, or she wouldn't be having such a hard time tracking him down.

After checking most of his usual haunts and questioning Dr. Zelenka, Lieutenant Ford and Teyla, Elizabeth gave up and decided that if there was one person remaining in the city who might know where he was hiding, it would be Dr. Beckett. And more importantly--although she felt guilty for even considering the idea of resorting to intimidation--it wouldn't be hard to get the skittish Scot to tell if he did know.

She firmly shoved to the back of her mind the niggling thought that the danger wasn't to Atlantis. Okay, so John was an attractive man; she had Simon and they both had responsibilities to this colony which didn't involve playing house. No matter how much Rodney might act like a Lost Boy, or John like Peter Pan, that didn't make her Wendy--sewing shadows back on in exchange for kisses.

The doors to the infirmary hissed open, and familiar voices immediately fell upon her hearing:

"--so what's got you even snippier than usual?" That was Beckett's voice, the amused tone one he usually reserved for--

"First of all, I am *not* 'snippy,'" McKay shot back snippily.

"Aye, and I'm the Stone of Scone."

"Huh. Had a lot of kings crowned on your ass, have you?" Rodney huffed and Elizabeth had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing out loud and giving herself away. "I had...something of a nightmare last night," he finally admitted.

"Oh? About what, may I ask?"

McKay mumbled a reply that she couldn't make out, but it made the doctor chuckle. "From how you've described Major Carter, I hardly think that a dream about her would be a nightmare."

"Yeah, well, normally in my dreams she's not trying to break it to me gently that she's decided to dump me for Teal'c," Rodney snapped.

"Ahhhhh," Carson exhaled wisely. "From that I take it your little pet project's not been goin' so well?"

"Ha ha, very funny. But of course you never have any sympathy for me when I'm *dying*, so why should I expect you to sympathize with my plight when I'm trying to help a friend? Which reminds me, there's something I need to take care of..."

Beckett sighed as McKay started to move off. "I don't want to know..."

Trying to help a friend. Oh he was trying all right--very trying sometimes! Seething quietly even though a very big part of her wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all, Elizabeth ducked into the shadows and waited until he'd stormed by, muttering to himself and not even seeing her there, before she slipped into the infirmary to confront Dr. Beckett.

She was almost one hundred percent certain that she was right about what McKay was up to, but that one percent of doubt had conspired with her annoyance to banish any qualms about pressing the doctor for that last little kernel of assurance.

"Carson."

He glanced up from a microscope to smile a little too brightly at her. "Good afternoon, Dr. Weir. What can I do for you?"

Weir smiled slyly. "Actually, I was looking for Dr. McKay. He's been behaving rather strangely lately, and I'm a bit worried about him."

"Is that so?" Beckett visibly fidgeted. "Actually, he just left. I'm surprised you didn't pass him on the way in."

"I did," was the dry response, "but I've decided he probably wouldn't tell me what I want to know."

"Oh?" he almost squeaked. "And what might that be?"

Satisfied that he'd walked straight into her trap, Elizabeth folded her arms across her chest and assumed her most authoritative pose, one that--she hoped--brooked no denials. "Carson, is Rodney trying to set me up with Major Sheppard?"

Beckett started to stammer, which as far as she was concerned was an affirmative answer, even though the words that came out were a denial. "W-why, w-where would you get such a-an idea?"

"Oh, I don't know," she answered breezily. "Maybe because the last three times Rodney has called Major Sheppard and I to meet him somewhere for an 'emergency' meeting, he's never shown up and neither has anyone else. Not to mention this last time, the power conveniently failed for a good forty-five minutes to an hour before we could get out of the room, and probably would've been longer if I hadn't almost threatened him."

Carson shook his head and turned away from her, muttering something under his breath about "no concept of subtlety."

"Carson?" she repeated.

He hedged. "Well...his heart's in the right place...you've got to give him credit for that much..."

A skeptical retort was on Elizabeth's lips when McKay's voice came over the PA system again: "Dr. Weir and Major Sheppard to the Control Room, please; Dr. Weir and Major Sheppard to the control room."

Weir shot an exasperated glance towards the doctor, who had his head bowed sheepishly, unable or unwilling to meet her eyes. "I swear, if the control room is vacant when I get there except for John Sheppard? I might very seriously consider handing Rodney over to the Genii."

~~~~~

"So what's the emergency?" That impatient voice belonged to Major Sheppard.

"How the hell should I know? Holling didn't say, he just said that you and Dr. Weir were needed to help sort things out." That irritable one was McKay's.

She had to hand it to him--for once, he'd come up with something a little more original than locking them in a room together. It wasn't exactly a short trip to the mainland by puddle jumper, and if they bought into Rodney's little ruse, they'd be spending it alone together. Still, John sounded about ready to jump down the scientist's throat, so she made her prescence known.

"What seems to be the problem here?"

The two men turned to look at her. "Apparently the Athosians desperately need our help with some *emergency*," the Major stated, his snide emphasis on "emergency" not going unnoticed. "But Dr. McKay conveniently forgot to ask what the emergency was."

"Hey, I'm just the messenger," McKay protested.

"And I'm tempted to shoot him. Again," Sheppard fired back.

"Major, Doctor--please." Then again, sometimes she did feel like Wendy, playing mother to her charges. She turned to Rodney, who looked relieved at her intervention. "Now, Rodney...are you *sure* Holling said he needed to speak to Major Sheppard and me?"

"Yes, Elizabeth, I'm sure. I'm sorry I didn't bother to ask for details--"

She held up a staying hand, cutting him off mid-whine. "It's all right." They'd just have to play along--at the very least, it would give her more than enough time to explain to the Major what was going on and come up with something to do about it. "We'll check it out. But in the future I think it would be best if you provided us with all the relevant information and let *us* decide whether or not it's an emergency, all right?"

Rodney looked dismayed, but nodded glumly in agreement.

Weir glanced over at Sheppard. He didn't look very happy about the arrangement, but she could tell by the change in his posture the minute he decided to go along with her compromise. "I'll go get Teyla."

"What? No! You can't!" McKay blurted out. "She's, um...she's already there. In fact, she's the one who called. Yeah."

Now that was a bald-faced lie, and all three of them knew it. Not only had Rodney been insisting for the past five minutes that he'd spoken to Holling, but Elizabeth had seen Teyla herself not five minutes ago, in Atlantis when she'd been trying to track him down. Beckett was right; the man really did have absolutely no concept of subtlety.

Before John could point this out, she laid a restraining hand on his shoulder. "All right," she agreed in a quiet, hopefully calming voice. "We'll take Jumper One."

~~~~~

"Okay, now I *know* you know what's going on," Sheppard pointed out wryly as he slid into the pilot's seat of the puddle-jumper and turned his sharp, perceptive eyes onto the woman next to him.

Elizabeth sighed deeply. "I do. And to be perfectly honest, that's why I agreed to this little charade, to give us a chance to figure out what to do about it."

He nodded almost eagerly. "So?"

Now that the moment had come, she balked, suddenly finding herself almost paralyzed by embarrassment. Shouldn't John have figured it out for himself by now? Surely if she had, he could have...unless he just wanted to hear her say it. Confirm it.

She felt the color rising in her face, warming her cheeks and ears until she had to look away from him. "Apparently..." Take a deep breath. Spit it out. "...Dr. McKay has gotten it into his head to play matchmaker."

"Matchmaker?" John's eyebrows both rose. "You mean...you and me?"

The flush deepened and she ducked her head under the pretense of answering his question with a nod.

The Major snorted softly. "Well, he's not very good at it."

"Well, subtlety never has been Rodney's strong suit," she admitted.

"No, really?"

That made Elizabeth smile in spite of herself. "So what do we do about it? Sit him down and try to talk him out of it when we get back to Atlantis?"

Sheppard's face screwed up into a look of concentration that was surprisingly adorable...and Elizabeth mentally slapped herself, horrified by the thought. Dear God, she *hoped* Rodney's pathetically obvious little scheme wasn't actually working. Simon, think about Simon--dear, sweet, faithful, understanding Simon...who was thousands of light years away and had no way of knowing if she was ever coming back.

If it wouldn't be a dead giveaway with the present company, she would've dropped her face in her hands and groaned.

John shook his head. "Nah, I don't think that'd work. Once McKay gets something into his head..."

True. Despite his sometimes wishy-washy facade, Rodney McKay could be surprisingly stubborn when he really got his mind or heart set on something. Like his persistant, insistent belief that there was something between him and Samantha Carter, despite the fact that everyone she'd ever spoken to who'd seen the two of them together insisted that the Lieutenant Colonel barely tolerated the poor man.

"I've got a better idea," the Major suggested. "Why don't we turn the tables on him? Mess with his head a little instead?"

"And how exactly do you propose we do that?" Weir asked dubiously.

"We just pretend it worked," he answered blithely.

That's what she'd been afraid of. "WHAT?"

John raised a defensive hand. "Now, just hear me out. For a couple of weeks, we pretend it worked, just long enough for him to get the urge out of his system. Then we have a big old knock-down, drag-out fight, spend three or four days not speaking to each other, then 'make up' and tell him we've decided that we're better off as friends, and so is Atlantis."

The plan was just crazy enough to work, but still..."Is that really necessary?"

He shrugged. "Well, maybe not knock-down, drag-out--a nice loud shouting match ought to have the same effect."

"I meant the whole plan, Major."

He raised a scolding finger to her. "Now, see? If this is going to work, the first thing you need to do is start calling me by my name, like you do with everyone else. And not just when you think I'm dying. It's John."

She took a deep breath and looked--really looked--at him. "You really think this will work?"

John shrugged. "What's the worst that could happen? We give the rumor mill something to talk about for a few days. It's worth a try, don't you think, Lizzie?"

Now *that* earned him her sharpest glare. "First of all, if you ever call me that again, your little knock-down, drag-out fight won't be an act. Elizabeth--my name is Elizabeth."

He just grinned cheekily and she got the sinking feeling she hadn't heard the last of this by a long shot. When they got back to Atlantis, brains of the operation or no, Rodney was a dead man.

Deliberately shelving her annoyance, she asked, "All right, so we're officially on a first name basis now. What else?"

"Well...we're going to have to make it look convincing..."

"You mean..." Oh no. He couldn't mean...Elizabeth's eyes widened in horror. "Oh no! Maj--John, even if we *were* really involved, I would never engage in...that kind of public displays of affection in front of the whole city!"

"Well, even McKay's gonna get suspicious if we only ever play it up around him," Sheppard pointed out with infuriating logic. "But I bet it would never even occur to him that we'd be faking it in front of everybody."

Oh God. She couldn't do this. There had to be a simpler, less potentially mortifying way to deal with this. "I think Rodney knows me well enough to know I would never do such a thing," she insisted.

"So tell him we decided it'd be good for morale, let everyone know it's okay to make new ties here instead of putting our lives on hold until we find a way back."

Damn him: that was not only a logical excuse, it was a logical argument too. "And our shouting match and not speaking to each other for three or four days--how is that going to boost morale?"

He shrugged. "So we wait until we're sure it won't negatively affect things too much."

It was a good plan. It was a very good plan, and the look on Rodney's face when and if he figured out what they were up to would almost be worth giving it a try all by itself. That still didn't reduce her apprehension.

Setting the puddle-jumper on the Ancient equivalent of cruise control, John turned to really look at her. "So. Convincing."

Elizabeth took a deep, shaking breath and let it out slowly. "Right."

"If we're going to pull this off, we can't be stiff or awkward with each other," he pointed out with that same damned irrefutable logic. "That'd be a dead giveaway."

Steeling herself, Weir nodded firmly, then squared her shoulders and raised her chin. "Agreed."

Rising from his seat, Sheppard closed the small distance between them and placed a hand on either side of her--one on the back of her chair, and on the console in front of her--so she was trapped in her seat and he was well within her personal space.

Oh God. He was going to kiss her. This was wrong--they shouldn't be doing this, and for *God's* sake, she shouldn't be this nervous about it!

The cheeky grin reappeared and John's eyes twinkled so close above hers that they were almost starting to blur. "If it helps any," he suggested in an equally cheeky tone, "just close your eyes and think of Atlantis."

Helplessly, her face blossomed into a smile at the sly joke, and it was that smile that he captured in a kiss.

For one minute, Elizabeth's heart just about stopped with the shock, then picked up again triple-time. Her head spun, and even if her mouth hadn't been otherwise occupied she had a feeling she'd be having trouble breathing.

John Sheppard was a damned good kisser!

When he finally released her, Weir gasped for breath, glad she was already sitting down.

He smiled at her again, more gently this time. "So how was that? Not too awkward?"

"I...I..." the woman who spoke seven languages and had a gift for making even the most stubborn enemies see a middle ground found herself struck almost speechless. "I'm...not sure. Maybe we should try again...just in case..."

Maybe this wouldn't be so hard after all. Elizabeth sent out a silent plea that Simon would forgive her as John promptly leaned in and followed orders.

~~~~~

"It worked!"

Beckett looked up, startled, as McKay almost bounced into the infirmary with a smug grin the size of a puddle-jumper eating up half his face. "What are you blatherin' on about, Rodney?"

"It worked," Rodney repeated slowly, enunciating every word. "Okay, so I also got yelled at over the fact that Holling had no idea what I was talking about, so next time I'll have to remember to get his cooperation first, but that's irrelevant. The point is..." He pointed gleefully in the direction of the 'Gate room and jumper bay. "...that Elizabeth and Major Sheppard stepped out of that jumper *holding hands* and have openly admitted that 'things have changed' since they left for the mainland." He bounced twice on the balls of his feet and grinned cockily at the doctor.

Carson shook his head in disbelief. They what? Surely Dr. Weir and the Major couldn't be so stupid as to fall for Rodney's little scheme, especially when he knew that Weir at least had him figured out...

"Are you sure they're not just foolin' with you?" he asked dubiously. "I mean, Dr. Weir strikes me as the kind of woman who'd be a wee bit more discreet than what you're describin'--look how long she kept it from all of us that she had someone back home."

McKay nodded impatiently. "Yes, yes. As a matter of fact, I asked her about that. She said they decided it would be good for morale, encourage others to loosen up a little and settle in for the long haul, since going back doesn't appear to be an option any time soon."

That made sense. For that matter, this whole bloody thing made a little too much sense, except for the part about Rodney's involvement. That was what made him suspicious.

"Still, I'd be careful about congratulatin' yourself too soon--" he started to caution his friend, but the other man brushed him off with a brusque 'pfft.'

"Face it--you just can't admit that I was right and that I didn't need your help after all."

Beckett shook his head as McKay stormed off in a huff. "Suit yourself," he sighed. "But I think you're givin' Dr. Weir and the Major far too little credit."

~~~~~

The fight was scheduled for today.

It had been a week since they'd put their plan into action, and so far it was working spectacularly. Rodney was ecstatic, walking around Atlantis more cocky than ever as if he'd just won a bull fight, and morale really *had* improved dramatically. She'd even been privy to witnessing a few other romances blossom that had been waiting in the wings for her blessing, whether tacit or explicit.

Truth be told, Elizabeth Weir was happier than she'd been in a very long time, and not just because of the whole scheme's affect on her people. For the past week, she'd been spending almost every free moment with John, and he'd gone out of his way to make those moments enjoyable, whether it was stealing a kiss where they knew someone would see, curling up together to watch his football game yet again, or falling asleep in each other's arms so a real midnight emergency wouldn't give away the game.

The best part, however, was that it meant she'd spent almost no time thinking and worrying about Simon, agonizing over whether or not he'd ever forgive her for deserting him.

She didn't want it to end.

Elizabeth strongly suspected her heart was laughing at her. All these years of guarding it so carefully, being stubbornly faithful to the man she had abandoned and ignoring the subtle whispers of sweet potential between herself and the man who shared the burden of leading this city, and in just a week she'd fallen into her own trap.

She'd fallen in love.

Before this week, she'd never realized--never allowed herself to realize--how heavily she relied on John in both the ordinary and extraordinary demands of leading a small human settlement in a faraway galaxy, or how much he trusted her judgment sometimes over his own despite his reputation as a maverick. They'd been each other's strength on the job for almost three years, but it took allowing herself to take comfort in that strength off the job as well to realize how badly she truly needed it.

Which left her with a dilemma. In just a few hours, they were supposed to dramatically and unequivocally throw that all away. And she didn't want to.

That was why she was nervously standing outside the door to John's quarters, trying to summon up the courage to tell him that and hoping beyond hope that he had succumbed to the illusion just as much as she had.

She'd raised her hand to ring the door chime yet again when the door swung open of its own accord and John startled her by appearing in the opening. His eyes widened in surprise. "Hey. I was just coming to look for you."

Elizabeth smiled sheepishly. "Great minds think alike." Great, now she was reduced to spouting tired old cliches. You really have got it bad, Elizabeth.

They just stood there, staring at each other awkwardly for a moment before he stepped aside, gesturing for her to enter. "Come on in."

Stepping past him into the room where she'd spent a good half of her nights this past week, she couldn't quite supress a shiver. As the door closed, she turned to face him. "John--"

"Look, Liz--" he started at the same time, then they both stopped awkwardly and let out an uneasy laugh. Well, at least she'd gotten him to give up 'Lizzie,' even if he did still sometimes insist on 'Liz,' which wasn't much better. "Sorry about that," he started to apologize with a wry smile. "You were saying--"

"You first," she cut him off a little more shortly than she'd intended. Let him say what he had to say first, then if he was determined to go through with the plan she'd do so without a word of protest.

John grimaced, but nodded. "Do you think we could maybe...I dunno, postpone this fight we're supposed to have? Coupla days, coupla weeks...hell, indefinitely?"

Elizabeth's heart flipped, and her voice came out surprisingly soft: "I was hoping you'd say that."

A glimmer of hope appeared in his eyes. "You were? You mean...?"

She nodded, a shy smile creeping onto her face. "I don't know who I should kill first--you, for suggesting this crazy scheme, or Rodney for getting the ball rolling in the first place."

John just grinned almost giddily at her, reaching for her face. "Well, if it makes you feel any better, I can't think of a way I'd rather go."

Her heart was doing its best imitation of a snare drum by now, but she forced her face to assume a scolding expression, even though the twinkle in her eyes belied it. "You do realize what this means, don't you? It means Rodney won."

His grin broadened about three sizes. "Nah. It means we won. Game, set and match."

Then, he kissed her. For real.