She watched the telltale tendril curl up into the sky, declaring his location as clearly as a neon sign. So it was to be in the backyard, if it was to be at all. Which was probably a good thing. She could remember all to clearly the last time she had sat in his driveway, wanting - no, needing - it was time to start being honest with herself - to be with him. Only now she knew with certainty what she had only started to understand back then. Alien devices and machinations weren't nearly as dangerous as her own damn fears and foolishness.

And death wasn't the only path to loss.

He was dying. Slowly, to be sure, but that damned Ancient download made his eventual death almost inevitable. Absolutely nothing else could have brought her to his house at this time of the morning. It had only been sheer willpower which had kept her from coming hours earlier, but it would be hard enough to explain her arrival now. There could have been no rationale for arriving in the middle of the night.

Not that she needed a rationale, of course. Because there was absolutely nothing wrong with dropping by to check on a sick friend - or a sick commanding officer. A sick comrade-in-arms. Which was all she was doing. Because someone had to, and why couldn't it be her?

And yet, of course, she knew the reasons it shouldn't be her; knew all the reasons she should not be sitting in Colonel Jack O'Neill's driveway at 0630. Ever. Not even now. Maybe especially not now. Yet here she was. Because despite the fact that she now had Pete and didn't need Jack anymore, and despite the fact that she was pretty sure most of the time the colonel didn't even remember there was a Samantha Carter who existed beyond the astrophysicist Air Force officer, and despite the regulations which forbade her from even caring that he didn't care anymore, she couldn't help herself.

She had to be with him. It was stupid, and it was foolish, and it made no sense. There was every rational reason for her to back up and drive away, and not one for her getting out of her car and knocking on his door. And she was nothing if not rational.

Sam opened the car door. She stepped out of the car, walked up to Colonel O'Neill's front door, and knocked.

Only this visit was harder because she didn't even have the excuse of coming to check on him to explain her presence; she knew exactly why she was there, and exactly what she had to say.

And she'd never been so scared before in her life.