The Gift 
DISCLAIMERS:  There is no copyright infringement intended in any way, shape or form.  However, the characters in this story are from my own rather warped imagination and are mine, mine, mine!  Not that anyone would ever possibly want to but just to cover all bases, this story cannot be used or sold for profit in any way.

NOTES:  Special thanks to Arkonia, Inga, RG, SH, Slayer and U.

"There?" Sam asked, sweat beginning to drip from her bangs plastered forehead.


"Now?" came the breathless query not five seconds later.

"Just a little to the left and we're there," Kris replied, brushing stray locks of hair from her face.

"Anytime soon?"

"Almost! Don't stop!" urged Sam's partner, Kris.

"How close?" 

"Give me just a little more. Oh yeah, that's it! There!"

"Now?" the dark haired woman asked again.

"YES! Now! Do it now!" was the excited reply.

Arm extended to its limit, Sam's fingers felt the soft fur of her quarry and her hand clenched in relief.

Kris' green eyes widened, "Be careful!"

The warning came just a half a second too late as tiny teeth and claws fastened themselves on Sam's thumb and wrist and she jerked back in surprise bringing the furry captor along with her.

"No!" Kris cried as she watched her lover's body pull back and begin an inexorable slide down the shingles of the roof. Exploding into a sprint, she closed the distance to the house.

"Dammit!" Without even thinking, Sam brought the kitten to her chest and cradled it with one hand as the other frantically grasped for some purchase on the roof. Legs splayed, she dug her hiking boots in and winced as a shingle was knocked loose and threatened to slide right along with her.

Kris, not even contemplating what she might do if Sam were to fall on that spot, instantly realized that she could no longer see or hear her lover and backed up a step. Neck craned back, she closed her eyes in relief as she saw Sam's long legs bent against the gutter. "Are you okay?" she called up.

"Oh, just peachy," Sam replied, trying to catch her breath from the place it had run to. After a few seconds, she blew a breath of relieved air through her dark bangs as she glanced down at the ground. A plaintive cry from Sam's chest was punctuated by claws working through her shirt into the tender of skin of her chest and she simply shook her head as she looked at the tiny life she held in her hands. 

"Whose brilliant idea was this, Sam?" she muttered to herself and, by necessity, her feline companion. "You couldn't let Kris get up here, oh no. You had to play hero and end up with God knows what scraped on your rear end, a raw hand and a furball on your chest. A furball!" Her musing was interrupted by the voice of her lover wafting upwards.

"Honey, are you sure you're okay?" Kris took another half step back into the grass of the yard and looked anxiously at the state of affairs on the roof.

Sam looked downward and had to smile as Kris' anxiety was played out by her inability to stand still, as if were trying to find the right position to catch Sam if she fell. "Were you gonna catch me?" she queried.

Relieved by the smile, Kris teased, "Well, if you had to fall, I figured I could make it a soft landing."

"And I'd probably break my neck trying not to fall on her," Sam whispered to her bundle of fur and big blue eyes before redirecting her attention to Kris. "Okay, why don't I find the best way to get off here and get this bundle of trouble down on the ground so we can take off."

"Do you want me to move the ladder over here?" Kris called up.

Calmed, Sam blew out a deep breath and looked around. Noting a corner not too far away that would afford a better route, she replied, "That'd be great. How about over there." She indicated the location the ladder should go with a point of her finger and watched Kris trot off on her mission.

A fleeting thought of jumping down off the roof passed through Sam's mind. The coolness factor of showing off was quickly wiped out by the very good potential of a broken bone or two and, worse, how mad Kris would be at her. 'Ah well.'

Grasping the kitten with both hands, Sam brought the squirming body to eye level. "You realize I'm a mushball, right?" she asked it seriously. "One look from those green eyes and I'm just this puddle of goo that couldn't find a backbone if my life depended on it."

The kitten let loose a plaintive croak of a cry, almost, Sam thought as an eyebrow rose, as if in agreement. "I guess we should get you back to Mrs. Peterson, hm?" Sam asked the kitten, referring to its elderly owner who had knocked frantically on the door and told Kris about the kitten that had somehow climbed out a barely open window and, of course, had gotten itself into a very precarious position. 

"She's really worried about you, you know," she went on and then heard the noise of Kris returning with the ladder. Idly eyeing her lover's form with pleasure, Sam brought the kitten closer, turning it slightly and mumbling into its fur, "Look at her, I'm a lucky mushball, aren't I?"

Kris chose that moment to look up and laughed at the two pairs of blue eyes looking down at her. "You two forming a bond or something up there?"

Caught, Sam, glad of the distance and morning sun that would likely hide any blush she had, replied, "Something like that." 

"Do you want to drop the kitten down, so you have both hands? I can get a blanket or something from Mrs. Peterson."

It was likely a safer route for herself, Sam acknowledged. They could get a blanket for Kris to catch the kitten with and try to minimize any danger to it. 'Still, probably not as safe as me carrying it down,' she commented internally. "No, I'll tuck it in my shirt and try it that way."

"Are you sure?"

"Yep," Sam replied just as her attention was caught by a movement in the shadows of a rose bush and her eyes narrowed as she realized that she had another watcher. 

"Not enough dogs to torment, so you have to watch me break my neck?" Sam called out to the dark form resting under a rose bush as she tucked the kitten carefully inside her shirt and tried to position it where it would have the hardest time moving around.

Puzzled, Kris turned and had to chuckle as Cat's tail lazily flicked back and forth as the animal that Sam referred to as "Demon Spawn" watched the happenings with evident interest. Why on earth the cat had decided that home was with them was a mystery to them both but the relationship between her occasionally stormy partner and always mysterious feline was always entertaining to watch unfold.

"Do be careful, dear!" called up the newly arriving Mrs. Peterson.

Resisting the urge sigh deeply, Sam cautiously worked her way over to the corner of the roof under the watchful eye of Kris, who was waiting to hold the ladder steady.

"Didn't she get the kitten?" Mrs. Peterson asked Kris, obviously somewhat upset at that thought.

Kris turned her head and smiled at the older woman, "Don't worry, she's got the little guy safe. She's very good at rescues."

"Well, you would know, dear. You know," she continued, "I don't think I've seen Sam as much in the entire time she's been here as I have since you've come to live with her."

Although they didn't flaunt their relationship in front of the neighborhood, Kris had often wondered if many of them didn't realize that they were a couple. Sensing the older woman testing the waters, she decided to fire a little salvo in return. "Hmm, I confess that I've been working at it a little bit. She calls me her Social Director because I drag her into things."

"Well, I think that you're very good for her," Mrs. Peterson commented. "I'm glad you're here."

Kris looked over at her neighbor, noting the lines of care and laughter on her friendly face and smiled. "I am too," she answered and caught Mrs. Peterson's eyes for a moment, wanting her words to be truly understood. "She means the world to me."

There was a slight pause, as if the words were sinking in, and then a reply, "That's just as it should be. Just as it should be."

Kris let loose a slow breath and smiled. Another stretch of dangerous territory crossed and it felt very good to sense that Mrs. Peterson knew about them and had no problem with it. Not that it would matter, but having difficult neighbors could make things that much harder. 

That was one reason Kris had planned their long weekend away, keeping everything secret from Sam's very interesting attempts at getting the information from her. A smile creased Kris' face and she dipped her head as she scratched her nose idly, trying to keep the smile from becoming a grin at the thought of how most of those attempts ended up. 

Luckily, she had a very inventive lover and she'd already decided to definitely plan more secret trips. However, really, she wanted just time for the two of them. No potential for interruption, no chance of Sam being called on a case or Kris herself being called out on a story for the paper. No kittens needing rescuing. No angry father or, as much as she loved them, supportive family. No work around the house or getting involved in other people's problems.

Not that there was anything wrong between them, everything was about as good as Kris could possibly dream. It was just that with cases, stories, murderers, family and friends, they just needed some down time for them alone. It was time they needed badly, she mused to herself, watching in relief as Sam's feet touched the ground. 


Looking at her ridiculously wrapped hand, Sam began picking at the gauze as she gazed out the window. "I really can drive you know," she said for the third time since they'd begun the trip, twenty minutes before.

Shaking her head, Kris kept her eyes on the road and still managed to lightly slap away Sam's hands from pulling at the gauze. "And then I'd have to tell you where we're going, so nope! Plus, I didn't spend all the time wrapping your hand for nothing." Flashing a grin at her partner, she continued, "Check the glove box."

"The glove box?" Sam asked with some surprise, even as her good hand eagerly reached for the button and opened the compartment. 

The grin stayed on Kris' face as she peripherally watched Sam slowly reach into the glove box and pull out the wrapped package that had been left there before they started out. She waited for several moments as Sam examined the package from every angle, as if working on a ticking bomb. "It's not gonna blow up, you know," Kris teased.

"This is for me?" Sam queried, noting the name on the tag.

"Gosh, all those observational skills and you haven't made Captain yet?" Kris couldn't help the chuckle as she used one hand to tuck some errant strands of her blonde hair back behind an ear.

"What is it?

"Do you need me to pull over and show you how to open a present?" Kris asked, somewhat surprised at her lover's reticence at opening the box.

Looking over, Sam felt a little shamefaced. "No, it's just that I don't have anything on me for you. I mean, I have something but... well ..."

"You have something for me?" Kris perked up immediately.

"Well, of course," Sam replied, a little affronted. "It is Valentine's Day tomorrow. I mean, I wouldn't forget something like that. It's just that it's in the bag and I feel ..."

"...badly that I'm giving you something but you're not giving me anything right now?" Kris finished for her lover.

"No, I mean... "

"Come on, admit it. I won't tease you too badly about being a romantic," Kris glanced quickly over at her partner, a sparkle evident in her green eyes.

"Hmm, I guess that pretty much sums it up. Yes," Sam acquiesced. "What if I save it until we get there, so I can give you something?"

"I'm allowed to give you presents anytime I want, you know. And, in this case... it's very much needed right now. So, please open it."

"You sure?" Sam asked, even as her fingers worked at the paper.

Instead of replying, Kris recognized that Sam was already well on her way to opening the gift and wisely kept any further words to herself. It wasn't often that she got one up on her surprisingly romantic partner and it pleased her to no end when she did.

Sam looked at the gift, surprising herself by how excited she was. They were always picking up things for each other, little things like paperweights, stuffed animals, mouse pads, pens and so on. 

However, it was their first Valentine's together and although Kris had insisted she didn't need anything, Sam had gotten her a present. She'd even managed to sneak some flowers and a bottle of wine in one of the bags of groceries that Kris had come home with for the trip. Still, it occurred to her that she should've realized that Kris would've gotten her something anyway. 

Sam picked away the tape holding the improvised, obviously meant to disguise the contents, box together and finally got to what was being held inside. Sliding out the foam wrapped package, she took a deep breath, instinctively realizing what was inside. "I can't believe you did this!"

Laughing at the obvious surprise and pleasure in Sam's tone, Kris glanced over quickly and grinned widely. "It's loaded with some of your favorite stories and some really cool games I found. All charged up too, so start using it and we'll get there that much faster."

"You are just the most wonderful person in the world! When did did ..."

"You only showed me this model ten times in the past month or so! And, I knew how hard you'd been on your last PDA. The poor thing is so beaten up I'm surprised it still works. So, I figured it was about time. It's got email and is Bluetooth enabled, you can sync it with that neat cell you have and just go to town."

"Wow!" Sam exclaimed as she turned on the newest handheld out there and saw all the gorgeous colors begin to shine. "This is awesome." Then reality hit her with the force of a hammer. "Kris, this must've cost you a fortune, you ..."

"If you dare tell me I shouldn't have spent the money on you, I will be forced to pull over and have an argument with you. You will lose too, don't worry about that!"

Sam chuckled at Kris' fierce tone. They both knew how impossible it seemed to be to stay or even get annoyed at each other for more than a few minutes. "This is exactly what I wanted. I'll be sure to properly thank you for it as soon as possible. For now, though... " 

Sam reached over and caressed Kris' cheek with the back of her fingers, smiling as Kris leaned into the pressure, and then followed up with a press of her lips against the same spot. "I love you, Kris. Don't you ever forget it," she murmured against the warm, soft skin.

A sigh of contentment slipped from somewhere deep inside Kris. "I never will and you better stop that before I do something dangerous," she joked, mostly. Then, she watched in complete satisfaction as her partner's sometimes boundless energy was diverted and the light from the PDA lit up Sam's smiling face. 'Ah, the wonders of technology,' she grinned to herself as they drove on.


Sam cracked an eye open and then immediately closed it tightly with an almost soundless groan, as a sliver of sunlight that had slipped in through the blinds darted in her eye. 

It had been a long drive and Kris had done the whole thing, insisting that she wasn't going to even give Sam a hint about where they were going for their weekend. Therefore, Sam had every intention of letting the blonde sleep as long as she needed to. 

When they'd finally arrived at the beach house that had been the surprise that Kris had planned, it had been late afternoon and the sun was beginning to paint the horizon with the glorious swathes of vivid colors. Sam had laughed in pure pleasure as she gazed around at the sloping sand and breathed the deliciously sharp air. 

The ocean had always been a place of enormous enjoyment for Sam during her time at college. Renting a beach house to just be a beach bum for a few days had been something she'd wanted to do for so long since then but had just never found the time. 

With an amazing feel of remoteness, as the next visible house was far down the beach and it being too cool for most, they had broiled steaks for dinner. 

The flowers that Sam had brought had been given early and glasses of wine had been raised to toast Leo, Kris' boss, and his friend George Cary. George had offered his beach house for Kris' long weekend during a meeting at the paper.

Then they had sat out on a surprisingly warm covered porch putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a lighthouse that Kris had brought, much to Sam's amusement, and playing with Sam's new PDA, as well as just being with each other until the sandman had finally called. 

When they had finally fallen asleep, after Sam had taken great pains to make sure that Kris knew just how much she appreciated her thoughtfulness, it had been with the beat of the ocean thrumming through their veins 

As she lay in a half doze, Sam mused how she had spent a considerable amount of time trying to get the information about where they were going from Kris in many different ways but had been unable to crack her favorite journalist. 

However, the detective in the family had also realized some time ago that it didn't honestly matter where they went as long as they were together. Her mental mushball demons had besieged her about that for some time until she'd finally thrown up her mental hands and told them to shut up and deal. Of course, it had surprised her to no end that they did just that and she wasted no further thought on that aspect of her descent into mushdom.

Sam caught the chuckle that threatened to emerge at the thought of how much arguing she'd done with herself. Still, her slight movements caused the warm body sprawled over her to squirm and she lay still, trying not to wake Kris any further. 

She drew a sharp breath, however, when Kris' squirming caused a slide of skin against skin that did more to wake her up than the earlier sunlight had even a chance of doing. Especially when the squirming was punctuated by a nip in a very sensitive spot.

Chuckling slightly against Sam's chest, Kris removed her teeth from the pleasant place they'd been and she lazily looked up at her partner's somewhat outraged eyes. "Happy Valentine's Day'," she drawled with a burr of sleep still in her voice.

"Here I was trying to be good and not wake you up," Sam said to the adorably sleepy green eyes gazing at her.

"And why would you want to keep me sleeping on this gorgeous day, hmm?" Kris replied with a pinch in yet another sensitive spot.

"I'm gonna give you a gorgeous day!" Sam yelped. 

"Mmm, I wish you would," Kris responded, her mouth already closing in on a choice piece of prime real estate as she began to work her way up Sam's body. 

Sam's eyes slid shut and her neck arched against the pillow as she felt the wash of familiar passion ignite every cell in her body. She'd never been with someone who could make a bonfire of her senses with one touch, one look and even just one word. 

It was being out of control in the very best of ways and her last coherent thought for some time was that she was so lost to Kris that she couldn't imagine ever being without her and that was exactly the way it should be.


"Whoo hoo!"

As Sam glanced over to Kris, a dark eyebrow raised high up her brow. "What score?"

Kris beamed a wide smile at her lover and stood up from her seat, raising her arms above her head and jiggling very interesting parts of her anatomy. "Two hundred and two thousand, nine hundred and three!"

"Are you happy now you have all top five scores?" Sam asked, turning back to the counter and trying not to get distracted as she carefully readied a plate. 

Kris sat back down with the smile still in place. "You betcha!" 

Sam couldn't help but smile in return as she turned back to the table, plate in hand. Kris was so pleased with herself that Sam couldn't be anything else but the same. "Okay, here's a snack to get you through until the eggs are done," Sam declared as she placed a plate on the table in front of Kris and turned quickly back around. 

Kris looked up from playing with Sam's new PDA with her smile firmly intact and then blinked as she spotted the package centered perfectly on a bed of petals made from one of the Sterling Silver roses that Sam had surprised her with the night before. 

It was exactly this type of romantic gesture that Kris had decided some time ago would never allow her to ever get a complete understanding of her sometimes mercurial and occasionally dour partner. 

Kris gazed from the gift over to Sam, knowing that she'd be facing her partner's back. She studied the lanky form with quiet pleasure, her head tilting to the side as her eyes traveled the down the legs that had helped hold her up when Sam had carried her to bed the night before. 

Sucking in a breath at where that thought was leading, Kris sat up straight in her chair and tried to wrestle her thoughts back to safer ground. 

This was one of the reasons she'd refused to allow Sam to serve her breakfast in bed. The passion between them was, at times, simply all encompassing and Kris had made specific plans for the day. Plans that she had every intention of making sure they both kept for several reasons.

The blonde looked up again to find blue eyes gazing a little worriedly at her. And just that easily, all thoughts of plans went out the window as she stood up and walked over to Sam, who pushed away from the counter to meet her in some concern. 

Before Sam could say anything, Kris linked her hands behind the taller woman's neck and pulled her head down until their lips met in a rush of breath. After thoroughly exploring an obviously surprised Sam's lips and then pulling her head back, she laid her cheek against the chest in front of her and closed her eyes. Softly, she murmured as she held on tightly, "I love you so much." 

Sam held on to the body in her arms tightly, a hand unconsciously slipping to Kris' back and circling in a soothing motion. The other began a glide down the back of Kris' hair. Unsure if something she had done something that had caused this action, she asked quietly, "Are you okay?"

Breathing in the scent that was pure Sam, Kris smiled into her lover's chest before breaking away and looking up. "I am perfect. Just perfect." She took a deep breath. "Just wanted to do that. Got a problem with it?" she grinned.

"As if I would ever have a problem with you kissing me," Sam responded with a little laugh.

"Good answer, love. Good answer!" Kris pulled herself close for another hug, burrowing in when long arms tightened around her and relaxing for a few long moments against the soft body before reluctantly pulling back and attempting to get them back on track. 

Kris turned her hand around in Sam's grasp and looked over the other woman's palm. "You sure this is okay? Still looks a little red."

"It's fine, you know I heal fast. So, gonna open your present?" Sam asked, her hand moving to trace Kris' shoulder and arm as if not wanting to lose the contact. 

"Yes, I think I'll do just that. You didn't have to get me something," Kris reminded Sam as she almost danced her way back to the table.

"But you'll open it anyway?" Sam chuckled, not sure what had gotten into Kris but not complaining in the slightest bit.

Picking up the gift, Kris shook it lightly at Sam with a grin. "Hmm, no noise! But, bumpy!" Without further ado, she ripped off the paper to get to the prize inside. 

"Sam!" Kris squealed instantly. "I can't believe you did that!" she said as she flipped open her new cell phone and pressed the power button to turn it on, her eyes widening perceptibly as all the colors lit up on the display.

"It's got a camera built in and you can send email and stuff," Sam said, the bowl of eggs now in her hands. "It's also got some games and you can get some more."

Kris tore her eyes from her new toy. "This is even a newer model than the one I was looking at a last month. How did you get it so fast?"

"I happened to be at the phone place and..." 

"Just happened to be at the phone place and this dropped in your hand? Riiiigggghhhhtt," Kris joked as she moved back towards Sam. "Better put that bowl down," was the only warning she gave as she stepped in close and, for a few deliciously long minutes, thanked her lover for her thoughtful gift in her own special way.


"Thanks for coming with me. I know it's our weekend but I did promise to deliver the books to Leo's friend."

"Are you kidding, I want to thank this guy and find out if we can book the place again in the future!"

"You really want to come back?" Kris glanced over in surprise.

"Of course, this is awesome... a great choice, love."

Kris smiled in pure reaction to the endearment from her partner. Sam didn't often use endearments, but they were always heartfelt and made Kris feel even more special to Sam when they popped out. 

"I'm really glad you like it. I wanted to do something special," Kris said, her mind on the special pouch she'd slipped into her pocket just before they'd left, hoping for an opportunity to give its contents to her lover.

Sam took a hand from the wheel and placed it on Kris' thigh, squeezing gently. "Wherever you are is special enough for me."

"Turn right here and wow was that wonderfully mushy. I need to have you make scrambled eggs for me more often if this is what they do to you," Kris teased.

"Ooph, that was, wasn't it? No more eggs for me!" Sam concluded with a strong nod of her head.

"Ohhhh no, I think we need to have some chickens in the back yard! That way we can have them every day," Kris went on joking, trying to distract Sam so that she wouldn't notice where they were too quickly. A lost cause, as she was to discover.

"Wow, look at that bay! She's gorgeous. You didn't tell me they lived on a ranch!" Sam said in amazement as she pulled to a stop in one of the parking spaces. Natural curiosity made her glance around and something settled into her mind, telling her that perhaps her partner had been up to more than she'd initially thought. 

"They don't live on a ranch do they?" Sam looked over at an obviously pleased for herself Kris. 

Kris couldn't control the beaming grin that cracked her face wide open. "Happy Valentine's Day!" she declared as a stable hand led a beautiful palomino out of the stables and was now obviously waiting for the two of them to exit the car.

It hardly took any time at all for them to have their saddlebags loaded and be on their way. The only delay was the arbitrary safety discussion and their signing their lives away to take the horses for the afternoon. Of course, the good part was that they were also given maps of trails in the area and given advice on where to go. 

They spent a few hours exploring various trails, working their way through the gentle, tree covered hills until finally Sam really let her eyes roam the sun dappled scenery. 

The expanse of blue sky was broken only by the sharp lines of branches and needles from the occasional pines, which lent their heady scent to the experience.

Sam slowed down her horse a little to be knee to knee with her partner and reached out a hand, not surprised at all when Kris' hand immediately rose to greet it. "You are the most wonderful person that has ever been in my life. Thank you."

Swallowing a lump in her throat, Kris responded, "Just remember that the next time I try to help you build something, okay?"

Chuckling, Sam grinned as she remembered their last building endeavor and how Kris had almost beaned herself more than once. "I promise." Then she sobered a little again and smiled into the sparkling green eyes gazing at her. "I love you."

Kris squeezed the hand in hers tighter. "Then, as you say, I'm a very lucky woman." And then she almost jumped out of her saddle when her stomach made its presence known with a loud rumble.

Sam laughed and pulled out the map from an inner pocket. "And a very hungry one, apparently. If I'm reading this right, we're pretty close to the place the guy marked for us. Want to check it out?"

It was a little bit of an adventure to find the camp site, due to it being surrounded by thick trees and huge boulders, but eventually they did and started to unpack a thick blanket and picnic lunch that the ranch had provided. 

"Too bad they didn't include matches for a fire," Kris commented as she put both hands on her hips and glanced regretfully at the ring of stones that obviously marked a campfire location.

"Probably don't want to encourage people to make fires in places other than camp sites. Are you cold?"

"Not really. It just felt like I should be sharing a campfire with you too to make the day complete. Is that weird?" Kris wondered half to herself before she noticed that Sam had already begun to gather small branches and toss them in the ring of stones. "Sam, you don't have to do that and we don't have a way to light it anyway."

"After all you've done for me this weekend, if you want a campfire, you're damn well gonna get one," Sam declared as she stacked the ingredients for her attempt at a fire. "Plus, weren't you ever in the Brownies or Scouts or whatever?"

"Honey, we don't get put in the Scouts, for more reason than one, and no I wasn't. Were you?"

"Nope... but if a bunch of girls can figure it out, I sure can!" With that, and Kris' chuckle behind her, Sam set about lighting the campfire with a bit of ingenuity and a whole lot of luck.

It didn't take that long really, and only a few skinned knuckles before wisps of smoke curled tightly into the air and drifted upwards, spreading into interesting patterns against the gorgeous backdrop of the clear blue sky that only the promise of spring seems to bring.


Kris laughed at the look of childish glee on her partner's face. "You're wonderful! Thank you."

"Anything for you," Sam responded, reaching out an arm as if to display her handiwork to the world.

"Wait, wait. Let me try the camera on the phone and see if they've switched the number yet from the other phone so I can send it to my email." 

"They promised by two, it should be definitely on now. But, take a picture of the horses or something, not me. I'm a mess," Sam implored.

"No, I want one of you by our first campfire," Kris responded as she fiddled with the phone. "Ooh, look it is working. Stay still!"

As Kris worked out the details of emailing the picture to herself, Sam finished unpacking the lunch and soon they were both sitting on the comfortable blanket, enjoying the company of each other and nature's gifts.

As she took a bite out of her rather delicious sandwich, Sam noticed Kris grimace a little and immediately asked, "Are you all right?"

"Ugh. I'd forgotten just how much horse back riding makes your legs work, I'm not sure I'll be able to walk tomorrow," Kris grimaced as she tried to concentrate on her own sandwich.

Sam put down her lunch and began to move over to Kris.

"What are you doing?" Kris questioned.

"I'm going to give your legs a massage," Sam replied rather matter-of-factly.

"Nooooo, as much as I'd love that, I'd fall asleep or not want to get back on the horse. Later, please?"

"You sure? I can maybe work some stiffness out now," Sam commented, one hand on Kris' jean clad leg.

"Positive. You eat your lunch and I'll take you up on the offer later. Okay?"

"All right," Sam agreed amiably, moving back to pick up her sandwich and finish the lunch. The crackling fire caught her attention and she glanced over to it, immediately feeling the warmth on her face. She'd deliberately not made it very large but they were close enough to feel the effects and now that they were off the horses and only being warmed by the indirect sunlight, it definitely made a difference.

Sam turned back around to see Kris smiling at her and holding the camera up again, as if she'd just taken a picture. "You're going to break that thing if you keep taking pictures of me, you know."

"As if. All this beautiful scenery and the most gorgeous thing here is what I'm looking at." Kris was charmed when she caught the hint of blush on Sam's cheeks. The contents of the pouch in her pocket were starting to almost burn a hole through her jeans and she realized that she would need to make a move soon. "You really didn't have to get me anything you know."

"Yeah, yeah. Like I'm not going to get the love of my life a present on Valentine's Day."

Kris blinked back the instant tears that formed and one hand reached out to caress Sam's cheek. What she had planned for the rest of the day came into sharp focus with those words. "Do you mean that. I mean, really mean that?" 

Sam covered Kris' hand on her face and looped her fingers through the smaller ones, bringing Kris' palm to her lips and caressing it lightly before bringing both their hands to her chest. "With everything I am. Have I not made that very clear?"

'And there it is,' Kris thought to herself. 'Everything that you've ever wanted or needed in a package so beautiful it takes my breath away.'She wiped away a tear threatening to make its way down her face and just took one second to revel in the love in those sparkling sapphires before responding with conviction, "Every day, in every way. And, you know it's mutual, right? Completely and absolutely mutual."

"Yes, and I know that I'm a very, very lucky woman," Sam replied with eyes and heart utterly focused on the person that held her so completely.

"I..." Kris licked her lips as the nervousness inside exploded in a flurry of butterflies as large as sheep in her stomach. Trying to focus on something, she pulled Sam's hand closer to her own body and examined it for a few moments. 

Unfortunately, it didn't seem to help and she looked up just in time to be distracted by a few strands of dark hair that were being blown across a cheek lightly dusted by the sun's rays. 

Her eyes traced the face the strands moved across, from strong jaw to high cheekbones until, inevitably, her eyes fell into the pools of blue fire that danced only for her. 

As if shedding a skin, she felt the nervousness drop away and she was able to take a deep breath, and feel her rapid heartbeat begin to calm. It was a release of a profound kind.

And Kris knew that this moment, like so many other precious moments with the woman she loved, would be ingrained in her memory for the rest of her life. Yet another moment to catalog as something truly incredible in the book of their life together.

In those eyes, she felt the echoes of a love so deep, a bond so strong and a past and future filled with memories and promises that made her realize that death itself would find difficulty separating them for long. It was how it was meant to be and everything it could be ... Right here. Right now. 

Yet, somehow Kris knew that the future was a book that, although unwritten, would always be a story of two souls intertwined, and that the future went far beyond anything she could even imagine. It was... 


With that thought resounding through her mind like bells at a Sunday morning church service, she removed the pouch from her pocket, opened it and slipped an almost exact replica of the ring she wore on her own left hand onto Sam's ring finger with no hesitation or words.

None were needed as sapphires and diamonds, surrounded by platinum, winked in the afternoon sun and the Eternity ring snuggled into its home.

Both of Kris' hands still held tightly onto Sam's left hand, and it was with a shaky breath that she began to speak, "With this ring, I pledge everything I am and everything I will be to you, my love. My body, my life... my soul. Yours. Forever."

It wasn't until moments later that Kris realized the tears tracing meandering paths down her own cheeks were matched by those on the face opposite her. 

Every dream ... every moment ... every breath had a meaning to Sam in those seconds. It was more than a promise; it was, two halves sliding together as a whole. Yet, it was more. It was eternity envisioned in the form before her.

And never had Sam felt anything even remotely like it. Never even imagined a person could feel that way. After all the feelings that Kris had given to her, after how wonderful it had been ... this moment carried them away like a leaf on the wind. 

This... this was the true gift.

It wasn't until she was being held tightly against the Sam's chest that Kris realized their heartbeats were both racing in tune to a concert beyond their ken. 

"Yours, forever," Sam whispered and sealed that promise with a kiss that held every truth known between them. 

It was quite some time later that Kris' blonde and very disheveled head popped up and began to frantically look around. 

"What?" queried Sam as she too lifted her head from the blanket.

"Just how secluded do you think this place really is?"

"Do you really care right NOW?" Sam asked and dropped back to the blanket with a sigh.

With one more glance around Kris took a long look at the body waiting for her and shook her head, "They can be jealous on someone else's time!"

The dark head popped up again immediately. "What?! Who?!"

Kris simply giggled and pulled her partner back down to the blanket to enjoy what was left of their day in full measure.

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