The car had been slowing for the past quarter mile. He dreaded the empty house that awaited him at the end of the drive. He'd stayed at work for as long as he could, until the sheaths of paperwork all blended together in his mind and he'd known it was time to stop. He'd simply have to redo it all in the morning anyway.

He'd considered stopping somewhere on the way home for a bite to eat, just to delay the inevitable still further, but the thought of a restaurant filled with happy couples, bright holiday decorations festooning the walls and tables, was more than he knew he could bear. Better a late night at work, Hot Pockets at the kitchen counter, and early to bed.

Alone. On Valentine's Day. Again.

He pulled into his driveway, got out of his truck, and walked up to the darkened house. Unlocking the front door, he stepped inside and dropped his keys on the hall table. He had taken only one step towards the kitchen and the frozen excuse-for-a-meal which awaited him there before stopping. Instead, he turned and headed upstairs.

Still not bothering to turn on the lights, he passed through the master bedroom and out onto the small deck. He sat down next to the telescope positioned there. Looking through the view finder, he scanned the skies. He didn't have an exact location, but he knew the general area, and if he could just…

"Looking for something?"

He smiled into the telescope. "Nope." Then, glancing up towards the speaker, his smile spreading, he knew, uncontrollably across his face, he added, "I think I've found it."

She was standing in the doorway to the master bedroom, leaning in apparent nonchalance against the frame. Strands of hair had escaped the band they'd been pulled back with to fall across her cheeks, and her green flight suit looked like it could stand up on its own. But despite her obvious exhaustion, she was smiling, that glorious Sam Carter smile which lit up her face and half the outdoors and which he now knew was meant for him and him alone. Blue eyes dancing, she observed, "I'd hope so. I traveled a long way to get here."

He knew she wasn't talking about the trip back to Earth on the Hammond. "Me too." Then, leaving the telescope behind, he stood up and crossed the small space to her, stopping a hairsbreadth away from touching. "We're here now, though…" he observed.

Her smile grew almost impossibly brighter, and, unable to resist - having no reason to resist - he closed the final gap between them. His lips crashed down onto hers, drinking in her smile. Claiming it, and her, as his own.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Service dress and flight suit lay in a tangled heap on the floor. Temporarily sated, Colonel and General lay in a similar tangle upon the bed. Idly, Jack twisted the diamond ring on the left hand resting upon his chest. She smiled against his shoulder, watching him fiddle. Watching him be, simply Jack.

"Whatcha thinking?" she finally asked.

He chuckled, but there was more irony than humor in the sound. "Did you know this is the first Valentine's Day we've actually managed to spend together? Even partly? I mean, except the ones spent working together. Which don't count."

She tilted her head to smile up at him, her hands busy beneath the sheet as she did so. "Complaining, General?"

He glanced at her, his smile slowly spreading to match her own as he reacted to her touch. "No… Not now."

She chuckled. "Good." Shifting partly onto him, she trailed a line of small kisses up his jaw, pausing as she reached his ear. "Happy Valentine's Day, Jack," she whispered.

It was only much, much later that he finally answered back, "Happy Valentine's Day, Sam." But she never heard. She had already fallen asleep against his side. And it didn't matter anyway.

What was one day in a lifetime?