-- Epilogue --

My nightmares were becoming fewer and farther between. One thing about this job was that we had no shortage of monsters chasing us in our dreams.

I had taken to wearing slippers around my house. The cold floors had caused me to experience graphic flashbacks of my period of captivity. I'm seriously considering having my kitchen and bathroom carpeted. Anything to prevent finding myself curled up against the dishwasher again, clutching my hand mixer like it's an M9. Maybe someday the association won't be so strong. But not today.

I took a deep breath and tried to relax. I pulled the blanket closer around my chin.

It was two full months before I was declared fit to rejoin SG-1 for missions. I ended up not having to see the dreaded Dr. MacKenzie after all. General Hammond had insisted – something about getting the proper paperwork – but I had refused. He ended up using my experience and the various other ordeals met by members of the SGC as an excuse to bring in an Air Force therapist who specialised in torture and its psychological effects.

The eminent traumatologist Dr. Kaplan was brilliant and kind. And she didn't immediately resort to medicating her patients. I was very happy to have her to talk to. Daniel was a compassionate listener, but I didn't want to burden him with the details of my captivity.

My first mission back had been calm and uneventful. For that, I was grateful. When it was time to go home, I insisted on dialling Earth myself. I entered my new IDC and strode boldly through the gate without waiting for anyone else. I really think I expected not to emerge from the other side. I imagined myself splatting on the inside of the iris, the SGC personnel never completely able to figure out what had happened.

But I didn't. I stepped through the wormhole and onto the ramp in the gate room. I remember stopping dead in my tracks just on the other side of the event horizon and being shocked at what I saw. Shocked at the normalcy of it – the SFs standing down, General Hammond and Walter Harriman watching from the control room. It was perfect. And I was blocking the ramp. Poor Daniel had run right into me.

"Are you okay?" he had asked quietly.

I had looked back at him, a slow smile spreading over my face. The truth was I suddenly felt more okay than I had in a very, very long time. "You know what? I think I really am," I had answered.

He had given me a look then, and I knew that he knew what I was talking about. Daniel was great that way. Most times, I didn't need to say anything...he just knew.

That trip through the gate had sealed it for me. I was definitely home.

My connection with Daniel had been close before all of this. I admit I had more than a little fear and distrust of everyone after my experience with Cronus. But once Dr. Kaplan helped me separate the simulated friends from my real ones, I found myself growing ever closer to everyone. Particularly to Daniel. He has been so patient with all of my craziness.

I'm so lucky to have Daniel's strength to rely on. With him, I can be myself. I can show weakness, and he understands. I can communicate complex emotions and thoughts with a single glance or gesture. I snuggled into my blanket and felt an arm tighten around my shoulder. See? He knows exactly what I need, and when I need it.

--

I looked down at Sam curled up next to me on my sofa. She had been unable to sleep again and came knocking on my door. She burrowed deeper into her blanket, and I gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

She seemed to be doing much better. I can't imagine going through what she did. I don't know if I've been any help. There wasn't much I could do besides be there for her, listening to her and holding her when she needed it.

Her Air Force training was helping her to mentally get over her experience. Janet's ministrations had helped her to physically heal. I know she had been seeing Dr. Kaplan for the emotional turmoil that she was still experiencing. She talks to me about it too, now and then.

She's been putting on a brave front for Jack and Teal'c. I think they both see through it though. I catch them casting concerned glances at her once in a while, although they have been less frequent lately. It's a good thing they don't know that she's been here nearly every night, unable to sleep alone.

I think it's her military background that makes her think that she needs to be so strong in front of them. I suppose I understand that. I've been guilty of the same thing in the past, though my excuse is the foster care system. I'm just glad that she's able to relax and drop the facade with me.

Her breathing changed, and I knew she had fallen asleep. I turned off the television, rested my head against the arm of my sofa and stroked her hair.

Things like this change people. I know that. But Sam is strong. She'll be okay. I won't let her not be.

THE END
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Author's notes: Thanks once again to everyone who helped me hammer out the details of Tortured Soul. In particular, my friend Sarah who helped to make Sam's psychological trauma realistic and my fabulous beta, Thraesja, who was patient-beyond-words as we polished this story. When all of our editing brought Tortured Soul to version 82million and one, I realised just how lucky I was to have met her. Yeah, I know. Sometimes, I'm a little slow. Thanks, Thrae!!

Lastly, while this story stands alone, the AU it creates is continued in Kindred Spirits. However, if you're only interested in Sam/Daniel friendship, I suggest you stop at this story, since Kindred Spirits contains a great deal of UST.