This story is a Christmas present for Dawnie-7, the best reviewer a feedback-hungry writer could have. Love, gratitude and lots of raisin-free tapioca! Chapters 2 & 3 will appear over the next two nights--enjoy!

Bah, humbug! -- I don't own any of it!

Chapter One
June's Great Idea

A sizzling sound came from the ironing board in the little apartment's kitchen. On the nearby counter, sat a bowl of chicken noodle soup, steam rising from it. Sam carefully turned off the iron and set the grilled cheese sandwich on a plate next to the soup.

"Dinner's ready, Joon," he said, cheerfully carrying the plate and bowl into the living room.

His girlfriend leaned forward and moved aside the tv tray covered with glue and sequins and other craft supplies and pulled an empty tray in front of her, ready to receive her meal.

"Are you feeling any better?" asked Sam as he set down the food.

"A little," said Joon, sniffling. "But I'll feel better after I've had some sustanence, I'm sure. I've got to, it's Tuesday night."

"Tuesday night?"

"My support group," she reminded him hoarsely, with a bright smile. She took a small bite of the sandwich, chewed, but had some difficulty getting it to go down.

"If your throat still hurts, you should stay home and take care of yourself. Or let me take care of you." He smiled shyly at her.

"Oh, but Sam," she wheedled, "I was supposed to bring refreshments! I made everything while you were at work, it's in the fridge and ready to go. All I have to do is get dressed, and--" She started to cough.

"No, sweetheart," said Sam, more firmly than usual, because after all, this was her health at sake! What would he do if anything happened to her? "You stay here and keep warm and rest. I'll take your stuff over there and let them know you've got a bad cold."

"As opposed to a wonderful cold?" she said with another sniffle and the grin that always made his toes curl.

Although it had been a long day at the video store, Sam knew that unless he delivered Joon's goodies to the ladies of the Tuesday Night Alliance, his darling would be worried and upset, and might even have one of her episodes. She hadn't had a really bad spell in quite a while--if he could prevent one by running a simple errand, it was worth postponing a look at the old Cary Grant movie he'd borrowed from the video store. He put on his coat and his top hat and headed out the door with a shopping bag full of plastic containers, with a kiss blown toward Joon, who was dipping the grilled cheese sandwich into her soup to soften it.

Joon waited until the sound of the old car Benny had found for Sam died away, then she brushed off the crumbs from her sandwich, moved the tv tray aside, and wandered into the kitchen for a box of crackers. She popped one into her mouth and crunched on it, taking the rest back to the living room to accompany her soup.

"Sometimes, I really do have some great ideas," she said aloud. Her voice sounded much more normal than it had while talking to Sam. "When he sees those adorable puppies, he won't be able to resist bringing one home. That way it'll be his idea, not mine."

Juniper Pearl grinned and finished the sandwich, thinking of the five sweet little boxer puppies that her friend Micki was harboring. Joon had spent the last couple support group meetings sitting on the floor being licked and nibbled by the enthusiastic mob, and folding almost every hand because playing with the pups had been more fun than the card game. Playing sick so that Sam would have to go in her place was inspired. She did have a teeny little sniffle, but wasn't nearly as sick as Sam thought.

Hmm, poor Sam didn't know what really went on at those meetings--the Tuesday Night Alliance was mostly the same girls as her Thursday afternoon group therapy session at the hospital, but a few of them had gotten into the habit of getting coffee or sodas after the official meetings and one thing had led to another. Not that they played for money, heavens no! It was like the poker game her brother and his friends held, where you bet...stuff. (Although remembering the best losing hand she'd ever had made her smile.)

"Maybe I should have warned him," she thought. No, of course, Sam wouldn't let himself get talked into playing cards...heck, the girls probably wouldn't want a guy around listening to them tell stories about guys--which was mostly what it was. They had a rule about not ever repeating anything that was said there, especially in front of their therapist at the Thursday sessions.

"He must be having an awfully difficult time picking out a puppy," she yawned a couple hours later. Sam hadn't come home yet, and it was late enough that Joon could admit that she was tired and sleepy. After all, she really did have a cold, and she'd worked hard on the refreshments for the "meeting".

Only the light over the sink brightened the apartment when Sam finally came in, carrying a squirming bundle and several items more than he had when he left. He stumbled into the kitchen, and carefully set the wriggling blanket on the floor while he placed the other bags on the counter. He looked anxiously at the surprise underfoot as he unloaded the plastic containers in the sink. What was Joon going to think?

Leaving a mess in the sink overnight was foreign to Sam's neatnik nature. He hastily began rinsing out the empty containers, all the while glancing down constantly to make sure that nothing bad was going to happen.

The sound of running water and the opening and closing of cabinet doors awoke Joon to the fact that her beloved was home. Too excited to wait another minute, she climbed out of bed and dashed out of the room. Sam was standing in the kitchen, a sheepish expression on his face. His brown eyes went darted to the floor, and back to her, and she knew what that meant.

With a squeal of delight, she rushed into the kitchen, then stopped short. "Sam!" she exclaimed in horror, "You were supposed to bring home a puppy, not a baby!"