Written for RepliCartertje's prompt list on GW. Wanted to write a tag to The Shroud but this sparked the idea.

Prompt: Nightmares
Pairing: S/J
Rating: T
Spoilers: Season 10, 8, and 4. Specifically The Shroud and Abyss
Warnings: Mentions of torture.
Disclaimer: Not mine.

The pain, the lights, the endlessness of the situation, the hopelessness. He couldn't fight it anymore. There was nothing he could do about it. He was helpless.

Something was drawing him out of it, a calming presence. He was going to survive. He was going to escape.

With a restrained gasp he opened his eyes and in the dim light from the streetlight outside he could see the outline of her face, her hair falling forward. He felt her hand on his chest, warm and comforting.

"I'm here." She never asked him if he was ok, and he was grateful for that.

"Me too." Relief. It was only a nightmare

Sam lay down next to him pulling the covers over them both. He felt her arm snake around his waist, holding him close, her head resting on his shoulder. He willed his heart to slow it's intense beating so she wouldn't notice how much his nightmares bothered him. As her breathing slowed indicating she was falling asleep again he stared stubbornly at the ceiling not quite ready to fall back into the abyss that was sleep.

She had never asked him about them but she knew what they were about. Years ago the nightmares had been more vivid, more terrifying, more realistic. In the infirmary he lived in that world of horror every time he closed his eyes. Doc Frasier had noticed, tried to get him to talk, but he refused instead choosing to fight it himself, alone. He managed to cover up how terrorizing the dreams were just enough to be allowed out of the infirmary. He had been not permitted to leave the base until Frasier had been convinced he was well on the road to recovery.

That had been easy. He'd been hiding himself for years. No more practice was necessary and within no time he had disguised what the effects of his nightmares had each night. It had only lasted so long.

On overnight missions he carefully assigned watches making sure that he was awake when his tent-mate was asleep and vice-versa. By now he could contain himself enough so that no one noticed if he woke sweating, heart pounding, and panicked. He knew from experience that the dreams would fade, become less persistent but never less terrorizing. They would haunt him until he died.

Until one particular mundane mission getting Daniel back into the swing of things. Daniel had been the one to wake him up for his watch and had done so in the midst of an unusually bad nightmare. Jack had been thankful he hadn't been coherent otherwise the punch might've met it's imagined target. Nothing had been said until the following morning when Daniel had inquired about it. He knew that Daniel had read the mission reports from when he had been gone but after talking to Sam had not pursued the subject with Jack. He had been mildly surprised thinking, almost expecting Daniel to come talk to him, make sure he was ok. Whatever that meant.

Jack told him briefly what he could remember, leaving out many details of the torture he suffered. To be true to himself most of the specifics had fallen by the wayside as time dragged on in Ba'al's re-creation of Hell and he never wanted to explore the dark corners of his mind where the information had to be stored. He knew Daniel had not been satisfied with the half-assed answer but he accepted it for now.

During his last year at the SGC he had forced the memories deep down, along with the bile in his throat and met an holographic image of the cause of his suffering. The nightmares persisted, becoming more frequent and still he said not a word.

The bastard wouldn't go away over the next two years, cloning himself, finding a niche on Earth, and invading his home planet. He was everywhere in reality and the corners of Jack's subconscious mind, lurking until the blockade that was in place while he was awake crumbled slightly.

But now there was Sam. His lifeline, his sunshine, his salvation. The light she shed filled the dark corners of his mind, easing but not erasing the sorrow and pain that was stored deep inside. As their lives became more entwined than he ever thought possible she discovered little by little what he had kept from his team during the years.

He remembered the first time he woke her up, mumbling and twitching in his sleep. She had woken him, calmed him, but she did not push the issue. Despite his instincts screaming at him to keep it to himself he began to bleed some of the memories out, making a comment or two after each nightmare. At first he didn't even realise what that small gesture was doing to him but surely enough the nightmares lessened in their frequency. They became less intense, and while still they scared him they did not leave him too wired to sleep for the rest of the night.

Tonight was different. He could not sleep, staring at the ceiling, nerves tingling, muscles wanting a fight. He slowly eased out of the bed careful not to wake her. He smirked as he tucked the covers around her as she could always wake for his nightmares but at other times was comatose. Nonetheless he stealthily snuck out of their bedroom heading downstairs. He opened the fridge, stared until his toes started to get cold, and closed it. He wanted beer but at the same time knew he wouldn't be able to drink it. At times like these he wished he still smoked but to say Sam would be displeased would be an understatement. Instead he settled on the couch, feet on the coffee table and flicked the tv on.

He knew as soon as the words left Daniel's mouth that the dreams would return. What he hadn't known was that Daniel knew about the visits to his chamber of recuperation in between the never ending torture sessions. Not a word had been mentioned over the years other than what Daniel knew from the mission reports and what Jack had told him.

He spoke the truth to Daniel as they had sat alone in that room, Daniel restrained, yelling at each other. He really didn't need to be reminded of Ba'al. His nightmares took care of that quite efficiently.

Jack shuddered as he recalled the pale and scarred face of his friend trying to convince him to go with his plan. The big flaw was that Jack couldn't be sure who was talking to him: Daniel, Merlin or a Prior. He didn't blame Daniel for the comment as he would probably have thrown out some hurtful comment at that point too. Daniel had apologized in the infirmary but Jack had waved him off. He was not going to dwell on it. It happened and was in the past.

Frustrated he stood and paced eventually stopping in front of the window overlooking the back yard still deep in thought. He did not hear her come up behind him but felt her arms slowly and lovingly wrap around his waist from behind. Content he stayed where he was revelling in the warmth she provided to his soul. Eventually he turned and kissed her showing his appreciation for her gesture in a way he knew she loved.

Gently she took his hand and led him to the couch, curling up beside him. Her body craved the restful sleep that she couldn't get on the base and she could see in his eyes and the way his shoulders drooped occasionally, that he needed the rejuvenation that a dreamless sleep could provide.

She hadn't fallen back into a deep sleep guessing that tonight would be hard on him. She hadn't known about what Daniel had said until he admitted it to her in the infirmary. Jack as always had said nothing but she understood that. Once he had the memory carefully stored away he would make a comment here and there and she was fine with that. It was his way of dealing with it and all she wanted was to be there for him like he had for her. No words were necessary.

When he hadn't returned she went to him, concerned as to the severity of the nightmare. It had been the first one in several months, a drastic improvement from a year ago when they had been a weekly occurrence. If he wanted to stay downstairs she would. It wouldn't be the first time.

She nudged his shoulder gently prompting him to wrap his arm around her giving her the opportunity to curl up in his embrace. Placing her head on his shoulder she closed her eyes, lulled to sleep by the gentle circles his fingers were tracing on her back.

Trying to erase the last shadows of the nightmare from the forefront of his mind he ran over the list of things he wanted to get done tomorrow. They had a rare few days off together before he headed back to D.C. and Sam had mentioned wanting to finally do something with their back yard. He grinned as he remembered when they had bought the house and Sam had spent several hours talking about what they could do to the garden. The light in her eyes had illuminated his passion more than he thought possible and he loved finding new ways to do that.

He looked down at his wife's beautiful face, her peaceful expression making him smile. Thinking back, it hadn't been that bad. Some good had come out of the entire fiasco. They had Daniel back, their Daniel not an ancient or a Prior. No more talking about eliminating a potential threat that was his friend.

"I love you." He kissed her forehead again, held her a little closer and allowed himself to fall into what he knew would be a dreamless sleep.

AN: What d'ya think?