A/N: One of three stories written for Valenship 2010 on Gateworld, 13 Feb 2010. Come by and say 'Hi' if you've got the time.
"That your kid?"
Jack looked up from searching for something amidst the pile of stuff on the floor of his locker. Jack's schedule seemed to be just as unusual as Artie's own, which meant the two of them were often enough the only ones at the 24-hour gym near Artie's house in northern Virginia. They had started working out together almost by default.
He was pointing to one of the pictures the other man had stuck to the inside of his locker door, a sandy-blonde haired little boy with big ears and an even bigger grin underneath an oversized Cub's hat. "Yup. That's him," Jack said proudly.
Artie pointed at another picture, a blonde woman with her arms around the boy. They were standing together on what looked like a pier set out over a small pond. "That his mom?"
His bottle of shampoo now clutched firmly in his hand, Jack straightened up, looking at the picture. His smile grew still wider as he answered, "Yup. That's Sam."
Artie considered the empty rooms waiting for him at home. "You're a lucky man, Jack."
The other man stared at the pictures for a moment longer before answering, "Yeah… I really am."
"Bet you got her something really special for Valentine's Day today, too…"
Next to him, Jack froze in the act of slamming shut his locker door. "Oh… Crap."
Artie couldn't help chuckling to himself at the other man's predicament. Maybe his empty house really was preferable to the welcome awaiting his friend after all.
As it turned out, Artie was wrong. At least about one thing.
Jack had, of course, sent the traditional case of blue jello and attached card out to the Hammond weeks earlier. So he was covered as far as that went. And he probably had enough time to get home, dismiss the sitter, and send her out an email before the day was technically over.
Which was why he was in a bit of a hurry as he pulled into his driveway twenty minutes later. Stepping inside the darkened front hall, he called out quietly, not wanting to wake his sleeping son, "Amanda? I'm home. You can leave now…."
"I sent her home two hours ago."
He turned at the sound of her voice. She was standing in the living room doorway, the light of the fireplace in the room beyond casting a golden halo about her. She was….
The most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
Grinning stupidly and not caring at all, he cleverly observed: "Hey, Carter. You're home."
She laughed. At him, but he'd take it. Gladly. "Yeah. We got back early. I'd forgotten to send anything else for Valentine's Day, so I figured…" She shrugged dramatically, but her smile grew still broader as she added after a minute, "Complaining?"
He snorted. "Hardly."
"So… you gonna stand there in the hall all evening, or…?" She raised one eyebrow expectantly.
It was an easy choice. Jack took the 'or'. Several times, actually.
Because Artie had been right about one thing. Jack was - finally and against all odds - a very lucky man.