DISCLAIMER: These folks don't belong to me. I stole them from MGM's toybox without asking their mommies for permission. I promise to return them more or less unscathed.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know where it'll be.
WEBSITE: www.realmoftheshadow.com/geonn.htm

Sam was having a bad day. Bad week. She slammed her locker door and turned, bagging her stuff. A simple, routine meet-and-greet had turned into a trade negotiation turned into a screaming match. Now, six days after they started their mission, it was finally over. And it was February 13. She had absolutely no time to plan her special evening for Janet. O'Neill had even made the comment that it was lucky they didn't have to worry about the negotiations running over the holiday. She had bit her tongue to keep from snapping at him.

The plan had been a romantic candlelit dinner on the thirteenth (just like her parents had always done), followed by wine in front of the fireplace, an exchanging of gifts and then... well, wherever the night took them would've been fine with the blonde. The actual Valentine's Day was spent enjoying each other's company and an occasional red rose.

But now it was too late to plan anything. During her post-mission exam, Janet had leaned close and promised that she would understand if Sam didn't do anything special. She had said "I'll understand." Sam hated hearing 'I'll understand.' She remembered all too well the many times she had said it to Jonas Hansen. "I'll understand if you don't get me a present. I'll understand. I'll understand." She had promised to never let that tone enter her relationship with Janet. She gathered up her stuff and headed for the elevators. She would do *something*. That much was a given. What, however, was still a mystery.

Sam pulled up in front of Albertson's, eyes widening at the sight that greeted her. It seemed like hundreds of people were flowing in and out of the automatic sliding doors... nearly every spot was filled; Sam had lucked into finding one close to the door because someone had been pulling out as she was pulling in. Lucky, she thought. Probably the only luck she'd have tonight. She released her seatbelt and opened the door... slamming it into a shopping cart that someone was pushing between the parked vehicles. "Damn it!" Sam snapped.

The shopper scurried away, the large cart slowing her escape. Sam glared at the slight damage done to the inside of her car door. She slammed the door and muttered, "Great."

Inside the store was even worse. There weren't any carts available and, even if there was one, she would never have been able to navigate the sea of shoppers with one. She wove herself between clashing carts, ducked around frenzied shoppers, growled as carts bumped into her side and came very near to punching a little old lady when the bat's cart ran over her shoe. Finally, she made it to the greeting card area.

Or, more appropriately, she made it to an empty shelf with tatters of red and white streamers hanging off of it. "You've got to be kidding me," Sam said, desperately searching for something - anything - that had survived. There was a box of chocolates that had apparently been salvaged from the first Valentine's Day ever and a card that said, "I Bet Everyone Wishes They Had a Grandson Like You!"

No Valentines remained. She couldn't even find Sweethearts, the tasteless, heart-shaped, wafer-like candy with endearments printed on them. Nothing remained. Some people brushed by her and her scarf was almost pulled from her shoulders. She sighed and stormed down the aisle, keeping her eyes open for anything heart-shaped.

At the back of the store, she finally found something that could work. Construction paper. Lace. She grabbed two packages of each (making sure to get plenty of red and white) and moved towards the front of the store. As she passed the kitchen section, she paused and glanced at the display. Pausing for only a second, she grabbed a spatula and added it to her armful before diving back into the sea of people.

If shopping had been purgatory, check-out was the seventh circle of Hell. A kid that still had years to go before drinking legally was checking out as slow as possible, his eyes staring blindly at the cash register. Every few minutes he'd pull the help light for his manager. Sam wanted to scream, but she held it in, scanning the covers of the tabloids.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, she was checked out and was handed her bags. She hurried out of the store, hoping to find her car unscathed. As luck would have it, not a single scratch marred the car's beautiful surface (but the scratch on the inside of her door would haunt her for quite a while). Her foul mood was deepened, however, by the two SUVs that had taken up residence on either side of her, effectively keeping her blocked in. She growled and considered stomping her feet, but that wouldn't do any good. She scooted sideways between her car and one of the tanks, easing her key into the door and seeing how far it would open. 'Well,' she thought, 'maybe if I were an inch thin...'

Her car slightly nudged the SUV and, fitting with the rest of the day, it's alarm began to blare. Sam covered her ears and scooted to the front of her car, perching herself on the hood. She pulled her knees to her chest and cupped both of her ears. It was a bad, bad, bad day. Janet was going to get off in two hours and she had absolutely nothing waiting for her. On Valentine's Day, Janet was going to have to sit in a recliner and eat a TV dinner, just like every other Thursday. Sam wanted to cry...

Eventually, the SUV owner came out. He was suitably pissed that Sam had bumped his car (even without a mark). What pissed Sam off was the bag full of Valentine cards the man held. It was a veritable treasure trove. She tried to contain her seething and graciously waited for him to back out before climbing in her car. An hour. She had one hour to make Valentine's Day Eve special for her lover.

Sam parked in the street and hurried inside. The traffic had been terrible; Janet would be home in thirty minutes. Sam walked inside, dropped her bags in the hall and headed for the den. Cassandra was on the computer. "Cass," she said. "Hey, what're you doing?"

"Sending an e-valentine," she said.

Sam frowned. "You can do that?"

Cassandra nodded. "You want to send one to Mom?" she smiled.

"Yes, please... show me how." She sat down and sent Janet a some virtual chocolates, breathing a sigh of relief. At least Janet would have *something." She brushed Cassie's hair and said, "Thanks for the help. Do you have any glue sticks and scissors?"

Cassandra gave her the supplies and Sam went back to the hall for her bags. She pulled out her purchases... the spatula she laid on the entry table. The construction paper was tucked under her arm. The lace... the lace.... The bag was empty. Sam turned, looking for a second bag, but knew she had only been given one. "No," she said. "No, no, no, no..."

What was a Valentine without lace? Sam paced slowly, rubbing her temple as she tried to figure out where she'd lost the lace. It hit her suddenly; the idiot clerk at the store. He'd probably put it into a second bag and never given it to her. Sam kicked the air and muttered a few choice curses under her breath. Janet would be there in twenty minutes... Sam would never make it to the store and back in time, let alone have time to make a card.

She took off her jacket and tossed it aside, taking Cassie's scissors and deciding to make a Valentine card no matter how bad it looked. She headed into the living room and sat in front of the couch, tucking one foot under her knee and leaning forward. As she worked, her tongue poked out of her mouth and her brow furrowed. She picked up the scissors and carefully cut around the outline she'd drawn. The paper slipped a couple of times and her line was crooked. She muttered again and shook her head. When she finished, she held up two different-sized hearts, both of them looking like nothing more than kidneys.

She cursed and tossed them aside. Ten minutes. She had been wanting to write Janet a poem, but hadn't gotten around to it. She chided herself; waiting for the moron to come shut off his car alarm, that would've been good poem-writing time. She sighed and started her card over, trying to make sure it was the right shape this time. As she finished a curve, her finger slipped and she cut the tip with the scissors. She cursed loudly, dropping the scissors and the paper, cradling her hand.

"Ow, ow, ow! God, just great..." She made her way to the kitchen sink, running cold water over it. She wrapped a paper towel around the wound (just a cut, thank God. She knew someone who had cut off the tip of their finger while chopping vegetables for a salad) and was about to get back to her artistic endeavors when she heard a car in the driveway.

She leaned against the kitchen sink and, against her will, began to cry. Valentine's Day was officially ruined. The card, the dinner, the wine - oh, shit, she'd forgotten to even *buy* wine - and probably even the lovemaking if the bleeding on her finger didn't stop. She sobbed quietly as she listened to her lover come inside.

Janet paused in the entryway, no doubt checking mail and getting out of her jacket. Sam heard her walk through the living room, dropping her briefcase on the chair as she passed. "Sam?" she asked, surveying the remnants of the ill-conceived card and going into the kitchen.

"Right here," Sam managed, brushing her eyes.

Janet immediately saw the makeshift bandage on Sam's hand. The spatula was in the doctor's hand. "Honey... did you hurt yourself?"

"Yeah," Sam managed. "I had... had all these plans for Valentine's Day and-and-and they're all ruined and I wasn't able to do anything special for you and..." She closed her eyes. "I just wanted to show you how much I love you, damn it. Why was it so hard? Why was the entire damn world against me?"

"Mm," Janet said, tapping the spatula against her thigh. "You bought this for me?" she asked, holding up the utensil. Sam nodded and Janet grinned. "You were rushed today, I imagine. Running to the store on today of all days... in a hurry. Fighting a crowd." Again, Sam nodded, not seeing what the point was. "And you remembered that I needed a spatula. Because I like scrambled eggs in the morning and the handle on my spatula broke. You remembered that, Samantha Carter, and you bought me a spatula. God love you, you bought me a spatula." She embraced Sam, resting the blonde's head on her shoulder. Sam leaned on the smaller woman and Janet said, "That says more to me than every card in ever Hallmark factory in the world. Thank you, Sam."

"It's just a spatula," Sam argued.

Janet chuckled. "Not to me, it isn't." She kissed Sam and said, "I love you, sweetheart. Want some reheated chicken for dinner?"

Sam smiled and pressed her forehead to Janet's. She was going to develop a permanent stoop from kissing and hugging this woman, but it didn't matter. "I'd love some reheated chicken for dinner. And maybe... a bubble bath later?"

Janet grinned and said, "Happy Valentine's Day, my love."

Tears came to Sam's eyes as she embraced her lover. It hadn't been such a bad day after all...

The End

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