V-DAY

Rating: Teen

Category: Angst, Humor, Romance

Season: Season 9 or later

Featured: Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson, Cameron Mitchell, Teal'c, Cassandra Fraiser, Caroline Lam, Ishta

Summary: ANGST ALERT! Daniel's Valentine's Day bash is missing a certain General. Samantha copes with her disappointment in a surprising way.

A/N: Belated Valen-Ship day for The Sam/Jack Shipper Family. In 2006. Oops. Well, it just kept going, and going... An excuse to be really silly and fluffy so be warned. Oh, and not beta'd, so please forgive my literary transgressions!

I. Daniel's Valentine's Day Bash

Daniel Jackson rushed to answer his door. The others had arrived promptly, and at last the final couple was here! Almost giddy with his own clever matchmaking, he pulled the door open, allowing the hubbub of voices to escape around him and onto the porch.

"Hey, Sam...Um," Daniel greeted her with a huge smile. The familiar blue eyes of his colleague gazed back at him warmly. He peered around her looking for someone.

----

"Hi, Daniel! Sounds like everyone's here," Samantha Carter said, leaning to give him a kiss on the cheek. She quickly stepped past him, but he stopped her after closing the door. Sam willed him: Don't ask. Her own question was answered the moment he saw her alone. That meant Daniel hadn't heard from him, either. Well, so much for a surprise.

----

"W-Well, not everyone. Sam-" Daniel uttered, at a loss. This couldn't be! But Sam was here; probably hoping he had come, or will. So far he hadn't. Daniel saw a flicker of emotion in the familiar blue eyes. Oh, damn you, Jack, of all times...

"Sam! It's about time!" Cassandra Fraiser's voice rang above the conversation. A pause while all eyes in the room turned to them. Cassie skipped over to give her aunt a hug, then stopped. Puzzled, she looked at the closed door, then at Daniel who shrugged helplessly.

----

"Hi, sweetheart! Let's get inside," Sam replied. She smiled and moved away to avoid the awkward Question on their lips. "Cam, hey!"

"Sammy! What you say!" Cameron Mitchell, the exuberant new member of SG-1 said cheerfully. He exchanged a quick hug and his bright smile. "C'mon in! Danny's got some goodies in here guaranteed to make you kick any diet through a wormhole!" He gushed, taking her hand and pulling her toward the tables.

Sam laughed, grateful that the Question wouldn't be asked. Then she noted the others.

Dr. Caroline Lam from the SGC waved one hand as she nibbled something in the other. Another dark haired woman near her smiled at her as well. Chris, Cassie's friend (at least for now; they'd been at odds lately) grinned, too.

"Samantha Carter, I am pleased that you were able to come. Daniel Jackson has made interesting plans for this gathering," Teal'c said graciously. Only a flicker of his eyes betrayed his expectation.

"You look well, Samantha Carter," Ishta said from his side. Dressed in ice-blue sweats and Nikes, she would have looked very earthlike except for the forehead tattoo, which Sam knew she hid beneath her bangs. Teal'c simply wore a skullcap with a team logo on it.

"Thanks, Ishta, you're looking stylish," Sam replied. She shook the Jaffa woman's hand in the manner she was taught on their early meeting. "I'm glad you could make it. Teal'c tells me you are considering establishing stronger diplomatic ties with earth. Love to talk about it," Sam said confidentially. She had deeply respected the leader of the fierce female rebel group.

"Indeed, Samantha Carter. I have longed to discuss that and other matters with you. Perhaps you will favor me with a visit when you are free?" Ishta surprised Sam with the invitation.

"I would be honored to escort you, whenever you wish to go," Teal'c bowed. Sam noted the tiniest frown on his handsome face but he refrained from commenting.

"Daniel, let's get started! I finished my questionnaire!" Caroline called out, waving a sheet of paper in the air. Sam had to smile at the usually solemn doctor new to the SGC. She looked so relaxed in denims and green top that it was almost hard to connect her to the "chamber of horrors" as Daniel and Jack . . . called the infirmary. Ignoring the glitch in her recently erected gaiety, Sam prepared to implement her even more recently concocted Plan B.

"Yes, Daniel, time to get all the responses and start this party! Pass them to me!" Sam announced. She moved around them, collecting the slips of paper from everyone. She just grinned at the shock on Daniel, Teal'c and Cassie's faces. Cam surrendered his after pretending to twice change his answers until Sam simply snatched if from the irrepressible prankster. Caroline's friend was Barbara Morgan, also a doctor at the SGC. Cam was teasing her by calling her Barbie.

Doing a quick count, Sam realized that if she hadn't come, the pairings would be even. Go figure, she thought, briefly off track. At least it was fortunate that Daniel had asked her to help with the party plans.

She was singularly suited to this task, it seemed. Oh, get a grip! Sam scolded.

"Ok, Mistress of Ceremonies, what's the deal? This isn't some kind of IQ test, 'cause that would be plain wrong!" Cam called.

"Your arrested development secret is safe, Cam," Sam said, to more laughter. Cam fell back as if he had been hit. "Now, what Daniel and I decided was to see what your preferences are and then we're going to put the results into a computer, and then..." Sam replied, eyeing them playfully, "we'll match you with your perfect mate!"

----

"What! And you're not in it? No fair!" Daniel said. Seeing Sam this playful always tickled him; her eyes were full of mischief and it was infectious. If only he didn't know her so well; it was a fragile front. Daniel hoped Jack wasn't being a total fool with Sam. Well, he would help her through this as the friend he was. So he stood, hands on hips to egg her on. "Saa-am?"

----

"Yeah, we don't exclude any hot babes!" Cam crowed, seconded by Chris. Both were heckled down by the other ladies present. Sam winked at them.

"Ah, now we always need an impartial eye. Besides, I know all the parameters. So you are out of luck, Daa-anny. Or should I say, in luck?" The ladies hooted this time.

"I do not understand. What if we already came with a mate?" Ishta asked with a frown. Teal'c regarded her silently, and if Sam didn't know better, a little possessively if not proudly.

"Well, it's only for here and now," Daniel explained. "And well, maybe you'll find a better mate," he added, winking at her. They grinned at her startled look. Cam and Chris made whooping sounds as they looked at Teal'c. Teal'c raised an eyebrow at Daniel, and Daniel lifted his glasses to attempt to raise one of his.

"Uh-uh! No challenges," Sam warned. Then grinned, "Not yet. Daniel, you have the other game, get started while I input these," she said. Daniel had his laptop set up on the kitchen table, where Sam easily sat to work. Work; how soothing that sounded about now. But she put that thought aside and concentrated. It was kind of a challenge, really, to concoct this silly game of probabilities. Sam would never have applied her skills to something like this!

----

"Ok, just read whatever it says on the card, then answer. You're first, Cassie," Daniel explained, holding out a box with index cards. They were all sitting on the rug, drinks and snacks handy. Daniel again thought of the missing general, and all the wasted planning; this game was just what he hoped would…Ah, well. He turned his attention back to the moment.

"Ok," Cassie said. She reached in and drew a card. "Who is Cupid?" She read. She pouted. "I'm supposed to know that?"

"Ladies get to ask help from the guys, and vice versa. If you ask for help you have to pay for it, though. Sure you don't know, Cassie?" Daniel asked, wagging his eyebrows behind his glasses.

"Pay?"

"Oh, let me answer that, Cassie, my lovely," Cam said sweetly. He pretended to twirl a mustache.

"Don't trust him, Cassie!" Caroline warned. She fixed a fake scowl at him.

"You can trust me, girlie." Cam grinned back at her, and blew a kiss.

"Chris, don't you know?" Cassie asked him, pleading. Chris frowned in mock concentration.

"He's a libertine, Chris! Are you going to let her be beholden to the likes of him?" Barbara added, wagging a once bitten celery stalk.

"Oh, you're next, Barbie. So, my pretty, is it Cam to the rescue, eh?" Cam said, rising to his knees and ambling toward her.

Ishta watched. When Cassie appealed to Daniel, he shook his head, declaring that as the 'dealer' he already knew the answer. Finally she looked at Cam.

"Perhaps you will need a weapon, Cassandra Fraiser," Ishta said, reaching into a pocket. The room burst into laughter. She was surprised, especially when Teal'c gripped her wrist to stop her.

"Yes, maybe I will," Cassie said, sticking her tongue at Cam. "Ok, genius, you can answer. Who is Cupid? Hey, what if he gets it wrong?"

"He'll owe you a favor."

"Cupid," Cam began, eyeing Cassie in a devilish leer until she giggled. "He's that pudgy little guy with wings, and uses his bow and arrows to shoot people through their hearts to make them fall in love."

Everyone looked at Daniel. He adjusted his glasses, took them off, examined them for dust and diddled until everyone howled for an answer.

"Oh, oh," Daniel said as if surprised. He grinned as a balled up paper napkin hit him. "Cam's right." Daniel laughed at Cam's exaggerated expression of villainy. Cassie played along as the scared innocent. "What does poor defenseless Cassie owe you for that?"

"Gee, thanks, Daniel!" Cassie retorted. Taking one look at the advancing Cam, she jumped up and hid behind Chris.

Daniel was anticipating switching with Cam so that he could play (and steal kisses) too. Your loss, Jack, he thought without sympathy.

----

Sam paused. She smiled as she listened to the playful shrieks and laugher coming from the living room. Finally finished entering the last pairing, Sam contemplated the results in gleeful mischief. Well, it was all in good fun. And she was going to have fun if it broke her jaw to keep a smile on her face for the next — she glanced at her watch — three eternal hours.

Ok, she'd been on tougher missions, right? Showtime.

Spirits were high when Sam returned to the living room. The word game had ended its fourth run, but Teal'c was questioning Daniel on one of the entries. Ishta listened intently with him.

"And the small being who is allowed to shoot arrows into the hearts of men and women, this is to bring them together?" Teal'c asked. The room became attentive to him. Daniel nodded slowly, unsure of what to expect. "Is not such a slaughter self defeating?"

Sam giggled as Daniel tried not to laugh. The others were trying, too, but then -

"Perhaps they are meant to be together in the afterlife," Ishta said thoughtfully. The group couldn't contain themselves any longer.

"No, no, it's like this, Teal'c, Ishta," Cam said after he got himself under control. "They each get shot through the heart, then Cupid, that's the - ahem - small being's name, but his arrows have lines attached like a fishing rod. So Cupid pulls their hearts out- What?" He paused as if irritated by the ladies' squeals, "and meshes them into one big heart, and-Hey!"

"That's disgusting, Mitchell! My god!" Caroline cried, slamming one of the throw pillows over his head. Barbara picked up another and the bashing began.

"Whoa, hold it, hold it!" Cam yelled, rolling and tumbling out of their way. He scrambled behind Daniel. "Danny, I'm not feeling the love here!"

"Then it's time to go to the next activity, everyone!" Sam called. She was used to Cam's antics but still he could make her laugh as he did now. Maybe his off world clowning around didn't always tickle her; this was the perfect setting for him. Caroline and Barbara retreated after hurling the pillows at Cam, and hitting Daniel. "So. Ladies to my right, gentlemen to my left. Let's go!" Sam directed, waving her hands to shoo them along. "Ishta, you qualify to the right," Sam said, pointing for the reluctant off-worlder. "Daniel? Not sure what side to go to?"

---

"Sam!" Daniel groaned and slid over to the men's side. Cam and Chris eyed him closely. "Funny, guys." Daniel griped, but he couldn't help the smile at Sam's quip. She was holding up better than even he would have thought. Well, this was Sam, after all. Even In adversity she was radiant; a strange observation but true. He decided to trust her and relax. He hadn't expected to enjoy his party as a participant; and now, eyeing the lovely Caroline and Barbara, well, he was glad to pair off, too.

----

"Now, I want you all to know, these pairings are the results of a very sophisticated calculations program, derived from but not exclusive to the methodology of the Ancients. And also, evidence shows there is some influence from the Asgard, especially in the astrological computations based on the stars approximate positions of fifty million..."

"AAGH!" Cam fell on his knees, covering his ears. Daniel made slashing motions across his throat. Caroline slid to the floor and began to snore. Cassie made "speed it up" motions. Teal'c and Ishta had identically raised eyebrows.

"Well, since no one appreciates my genius..."

"Or understands it," Chris called out. That earned him a high five from Cam.

"Primitives. Ok, then, making it simple. I have here the names of the new couples on these cards. Everyone, here we are," Sam replied. "But don't tell until everyone gets theirs. Caroline," she continued, passing out the little cards. She laughed as the ladies moaned and squealed with glee or horror. "Gentleman, or whatever," Sam turned to the men and found Daniel as the first. She ducked as he swatted at her with his card. The guys had a different reaction, as they jumped up and down and hooted. "Ok, everyone, find your new mates!"

They all milled around for a moment, then the mad dash to catch partners. Barbara tackled Chris while Cassie had to chase Daniel. Ishta stood still as Cam swaggered up to her and took her arm, grinning. Teal'c bowed to Caroline and she giggled.

"Ok, is everybody happy?" Sam called out.

"Yeah, man!" Cam shouted, patting the hand of the still confused Ishta.

"Well...ow, yeah, I guess," Daniel said, held to Cassie's side by her tight grip on his arm. She grinned at Sam.

"Indeed," Teal'c said, smiling at Caroline, who fairly bounced with excitement.

"Um, heck yeah!" Barbara yelled, holding Chris in a friendly headlock. He grinned.

"Good! As mistress of ceremonies, I now pronounce you..."

"Wait!"

It was Ishta. She looked at Teal'c and Caroline (who winked, saucily) then at Sam. Expecting this, Sam tried to act surprised. She turned to face her.

"Ishta, you have a question?"

"If we preferred another, how can we..."

"Get a divorce? Nice going, Cam!" Daniel laughed.

"Wait, Ishta, honey, let me…Uh, somebody help me on this," Cam appealed to the group. The suggestions they called were hardly flattering or helpful. Ishta listened, then turned to Sam again.

"Well, now that you ask, look at your cards again," Sam directed. Everyone did so. "Notice some words there, they're quotes. All you have to do, if you want to switch mates, is read it to your current mate, and to the mate you REALLY want."

"A challenge? Will we engage in combat now?" Ishta asked. The group applauded. She looked at Sam again. Sam grinned mischievously.

"Only intellectual ones. Your current mate can accept the challenge and give his own quote, and the preferred mate has to offer something better." Sam explained. "Here's an example: Let's say my computer chosen mate is, oh, Cam," she said, grinning as he played the martyr to the group's heckling. Using an extra card, she read, "'My love is like a red, red rose.' Now Cam, says something like, 'I love you for you red, red nose,'" Sam offered. She ducked Cam as he lunged at her. "Pretty limp, right? So the mate I want might be, oh, Chris, and he says, 'She walks in beauty like the night of starry climes,'" Sam quoted. "So I'd chose – "

"Oh, Cam would be so toast," Barbara laughed.

"Now I'm put down by a Barbie. Does it get any better, Sam, soon?"

"Ya better hope, 'cause you're up now. Ishta, read your quote. Cam, if you want to fight for Ishta, come up with a line, quote, anything," Sam replied, winking at him. "No pressure, though."

Ishta pondered her card, then looked at Cam. A slight smile appeared, as if she was feeling the real levity of the evening at last. Cam leveled a pleading glance at her.

"Cameron Mitchell, I make this challenge for both of us," Ishta said, patting him on the shoulder kindly. Cam hung his head. Ishta raised her card and read, "'A hundred hearts would be too few, to carry all my love for you.'"

Everyone waited. Cam raised his card to read, then turned to Sam. She waved a card at him.

"Can I try my own quote?"

"Oh, by all means, originality counts with me," Sam replied. All eyes turned to her. "Oh, didn't I say that I have the last word on the mate swapping?" She said, noticing the shocked looks. "Oh, that didn't come out right. I mean the challenges." Sam felt her cheeks heat. "Um, Cam? Want to give a response?"

"Um, nothing your grandmother said, Cam. Just a word to the wise," Daniel warned.

"Nice, Danny. Now, here's my line: 'Love is all you need.'" He held out his arms invitingly. Ishta looked at him, then turned to Sam. Sam thought a moment. Everyone waited.

"Ok, I like it. Ishta remains your mate," Sam pronounced after a moment. The room erupted in an uproar.

"That was SO flat!"

"Should have quoted me, why don't you!"

"That's cornball! Foul!"

"HEY!" Sam shouted in her command voice. That stunned them into silence. Sam giggled; she'd probably never used her field voice except around Daniel and Teal'c, in battle conditions no less. Cassie's eyes were rounder than plates, and Chris and the doctors gawked. "Ok, I sense some disagreement here, so" she waited as they grumbled again, "I have more quotes! Ishta, if that REALLY didn't move you, ask your preferred mate to reply." Sam grinned, as if she didn't know whom Ishta would pick. But, wait. . . The woman was taking too long; Sam nearly lost it when Ishta turned to.. .Daniel!

"Why me? I mean, uh . . . " Daniel looked at Teal'c. Teal'c merely looked at him from lowered eyelids. "What if I'm ok with...um," Daniel stalled, wincing as Cassie slapped his arm playfully. "Oh yeah, Cassie?"

"Be a man, Danny," Chris piped up.

"Die like a man, you mean," Cam jibed.

"Daniel Jackson is a brave warrior," Teal'c said solemnly. He looked directly at Daniel with his most stoic face. "I am sure he will expire honorably in battle," Teal'c said.

To which Caroline chimed in that she liked her "mate" just fine, and why should she give him up? And when Barbara wanted to know if she could challenge for Teal'c, Cam wanted to challenge for Cassie, and Daniel wanted someone to challenge for him, the real mate "swapping" began. Sam was instrumental in stymieing and promoting exact or opposite matches, handing out new cards when needed.

There were spirited chases and many stolen kisses. Sam had to be 'rescued' by the ladies when Cam declared no woman could remain 'kiss-less' on Valentine's Day. He and the others were cowed when Caroline called for Ishta's weapon. But not before Teal'c stunned Sam and the others by sneaking a juicy kiss on her cheek.

"Hey, no fair!" Cam said, advancing on the two. "What about us?"

"I believe I have satisfied the condition you referred to, Cameron Mitchell. There are no longer any kiss-less females present," Teal'c said with a bow and a wicked twinkle. Sam hooted.

"And satisfying it was, Teal'c! No, sorry. No one can top that!" Sam laughed and stuck her tongue at the guys.

Sam even stepped in to challenge at times.

"'Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love'," Sam faced Ishta as she returned her challenge, now for Daniel who had "won" her this round.

"Oh, no, science poetry? Only you, Sam!" Cam gawked. Cassie, who had "won" him, crowned him with a pillow. "Ow! Love hurts!"

"'Where there is honor and truth, there will you find love,'" Ishta returned. The room oohed and aahed. Daniel preened.

"Good one. 'Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it,'" Sam said, smiling. The ladies cooed their approval and waited for Ishta.

"'What love has joined together, let no one take apart,'" Ishta said, looking at Teal'c. He gazed back at her, and everyone could see how soft his gaze became. Sam, however, didn't need to look at him; she saw it in Ishta's eyes. She pretended to consider.

"Ok, that works. Danny's yours," Sam grinned, bowing. Ishta smiled back and placed her hand on Daniel's shoulder. When Sam noted Teal'c bowing over his new mate, Barbara, she said in a stage whisper, "Nice knowing you, pal."

"Cold, Sam!" Daniel laughed as Teal'c stepped to the center of the room. Daniel made a show of standing behind Ishta.

"Is this where he says some famous last words?" Chris called. He and Cassie whooped at his pun.

"Daniel Jackson, I offer my challenge for the hand of Ishta," Teal'c said with a brief bow at him. "'To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.'" Teal'c completed, to more approval. Daniel cleared his throat and stepped around Ishta.

"Um, Lao Tzu, good choice. Ahem. 'I have spread my wings under your feet; tread softly because you tread on my dreams,'" Daniel said, ending with his hands clasped in supplication to Ishta. She was smiling with pleasure. Teal'c bowed.

"'And think not you can guide the course of love. For love, if it finds you worthy, shall guide your course,'" Teal'c offered promptly. Daniel gawked. Ishta barely took her eyes from him as Sam slipped her another card. She now faced Teal'c directly.

"'If I know what love is, it is because of you,'" Ishta whispered to him. Daniel discreetly stepped aside, remembering to act the rejected suitor. Not that the two noticed.

Sam realized something other than a game was afoot now; she could feel the air charge with expectation around the two.

"'He who love touches, walks not in darkness,'" Teal'c said tenderly. Then he shocked the room silent when he went down on one knee. Ishta was taken off guard and moved to help him up.

"No, Ishta, just. . .just wait," Sam prompted softly, her heart skipping rhythm. Oh, my god, Teal'c was going to...

"'My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep; the more I give to you, the more I have, for both are infinite,' " Teal'c recited, taking her left hand in his. He looked up at her so tenderly Sam wanted to look away. She managed to keep the moisture in her eyes at bay as she readied the card she would slip to Ishta; one that now seemed so very appropriate. "I would have you by my side always, Ishta, in love, honor and duty. Will you have me?"

Ishta was shocked but not in the way earth women were. To Sam it seemed she had already given herself to him and wondered what he was doing. The female warrior looked to Sam.

"I am unsure, Samantha Carter," Ishta asked, holding onto Teal'c's hand.

"Well, if you like what he said, you can respond, maybe with something like this," Sam replied, passing her the little card. Ishta read it, and her eyes seemed to glisten. She nodded.

"'My love for you is a journey, starting at forever and ending at never,'" Ishta said to the man kneeling at her feet. She lowered herself to him and gazed into his eyes.

"Oh, and then say, yes," Sam prompted.

"Yes, Teal'c, I want you at my side always, as well," Ishta replied. Then Teal'c placed a lanyard made of gold strands around her wrist. From it dangled a glyph he sported on his forehead. At her inquiring look, he raised his left wrist to hand her the same but with her glyph. She fastened it on him, and Teal'c raised her hand to his lips.

"'I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we will sparkle in the heavens forever,'" Sam read softly in the awed silence. Daniel stepped over to her and put his arm around her shoulder. Sam didn't comment on the moisture in his eyes when the couple embraced. She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed.

Well, there was a surprise today after all, Sam thought. She ignored a little ache in the vicinity of her heart. She was happy for them. She was.

Teal'c rose, assisting Ishta and keeping his arm around her waist as the others crowded and congratulated them. Over their heads, Teal'c eyes sought Sam, and she read a depth of peace and fondness that nearly undid her. But she only smiled back, her moment of envy dispelled.

"Wow, Cupid sure hit them dead on," Cam said quietly later, as the party began to break up. "I'm running Caroline and Barbie back to the SGC; the ladies are a little the worst for wear." Cam informed Daniel and Sam. Daniel skipped over to speak with Barbara before she departed. "Well, pudgy may have hit in the vicinity of a certain archeologist's thumper." They both looked at the two doctors standing comfortably close as they chatted. "Sammy! All play and no work looks good on you, you party animal, you!" Cam said, reeling her into a great bear hug. And a kiss on her cheek! "Aha!"

"Oomph! I learned from a master, Mr. Cut-up! Really glad you were here, Cam." Sam replied, returning his hug. "See you at the base," she said, then he went off to round up the two passengers. Caroline seemed to be leaning on Cam more than necessary; Sam smiled at that.

Ishta came over and also embraced Sam. She looked more relaxed than Sam recalled ever seeing her. She held one of the red roses Daniel gave everyone at the end of the last game.

"Samantha Carter, I was unsure of Teal'c's declaration. I believe it is to advise our close friends of our relationship? It was quite moving, for Teal'c is not one to dither so with words, much like your Jack O'Neill."

"Oh, Teal'c has a much better way with words, believe me! At least he speaks!" Sam sighed; 'Your Jack O'Neill.' Not likely. They remained, arms linked in companionable contact. "It's a quirky custom on earth, to ask a woman to marry in front of witnesses."

"Ah," Ishta responded. They watched Teal'c bidding goodbye to the others. "I liked that; he was courageous to ask in front of so many. I might have refused him," Ishta said thoughtfully. Then she looked at Sam's expression and they burst out laughing in female camaraderie. "That of course would not have happened. I believe I would like a ceremony on my home world or Teal'c may wish to do this on Dakara. Would you attend me, Samantha Carter?"

"I would. Just say when and we'll be there, Ishta. I really wish you both the best," Sam answered. Teal'c walked over then, and with the briefest exchange of expressions between them, Ishta went to say goodbye to the others. Sam almost dreaded looking into her dear friend and teammate's eyes, but she did. And of course there was only his affection and concern. She smiled and accepted yet another hug. "Congratulations, Teal'c. I think Ishta was more surprised than we were!"

"Indeed. I believed it would demonstrate the Tau'ri tradition of Valentine's Day in a more tangible manner," Teal'c replied, smiling at her. "I am pleased that Ishta decided to participate."

"She mentioned having the ceremony on her home world, or Dakara if you wanted."

"It would mean more to her to be joined on her home world. Besides, it is still too unsettled on Dakara politically." Teal'c regarded her seriously, and Sam wanted to stop him. Too late, however. "It appears Gen. O'Neill was detained, for he did express his intentions to be present. I apologize for his absence. It could only have been something of great import for him to disappoint you." Sam was sure Teal'c had also tried calling O'Neill, with no success either.

"Oh, Teal'c, don't apologize for him. How many phone numbers does he have to call us? It's ok, really. I had such a great time today I barely had time to think about...Well, let's just say the company was fine as it was," Sam answered. He bowed his head in acceptance.

Finally it was just her and Daniel. Already sleepy eyed from his binge of one and a half beers, he approached her with a smile. At the door, they regarded each other, neither wanting to be the first to broach the subject of the missing general.

"Daniel, I know you want to apologize for him, but-"

"Whoa! Not! I'd like to open every medal on his chest and jam them in his thick hide!" Daniel exclaimed. Sam erupted in laughter, and he reluctantly joined her. "Ok, a little blood thirsty, but, he should have been here, Sam. He told you he would." Daniel sounded as disappointed as she. "I thought, well, I know you and he…"

"---Are friends, Daniel. Nothing more," Sam said firmly but kindly. Nothing more. Daniel's eyes moistened. Oh, no, if he did- Then he shook himself. A smile of pure Daniel kindness and admiration blossomed. This boy really can't drink, Sam thought but was unable to restrain a smile in response.

"But I've got to say you are one hoot of a hostess. You were great, Sam. Thanks. If a certain brick headed general can't see that, I hope his fish bite him in the ---"

"Enough! Thank YOU for letting me do my silly thing. It felt kind of good to get it out of my system," she said. Leaning over to give him a gentle kiss, she stepped out.

Sam locked her door and leaned against it. The house was hushed. Even the drive home hadn't completely erased the past hours of gaiety; her ears still rang a little from the loud laughter and witticisms thrown around in the small space. And of course, the happy kisses tossed about, too. Here, shadows. And no blinking light on her answering machine. Sam was glad that she left Daniel's rose in the car, with tonight's cheery echoes.

"Ok, a shower, cussing, bed, tears, sleep…whatever," Sam mumbled aloud as she made her way in without turning on lights.

TBC

A/N: Aw, Trust me, it's not over! Upcoming: The Challenge.