Title: Night Terrors
Spoilers: Set after 'Abyss' season 6.
Category: Hurt/Comfort. S/J
Summary: Sam seeks out the source of a mysterious, late-night noise inside the SGC.
Disclaimer: Clearly not mine, I'm just borrowing them for a little while.
Notes: Forgive any inconsistencies, I didn't rewatch the episode before this poured out through my fingers! Also my first SG-1 fic - hope you enjoy.
The first time she hears it, Samantha Carter is in the elevator on her way down to the commissary for more coffee. It's a low keening sound like a wounded animal, eventually trailing off into nothing.
She glances around, trying to localise the source, but the sound doesn't repeat. The elevator doors slide open and Sam shrugs as she moves to stroll towards the kitchen, almost ready to discount the mystery noise as nothing more than a mere figment of her already over-caffeinated imagination.
It's late – very late. Some of the base lights are dimmed and the SGC is operating a night shift of only those essential personnel required to ensure operations remain running smoothly until the sun rises again on the mountain above.
Fresh coffee firmly in hand, Sam glances at her watch and mentally reminds herself yet again to cut back on the all-nighters.
About to step back into the lift, the elusive sound again pierces the silence, louder now, harder to discount as mere caffeine-induced hallucination.
Her curiosity piqued as the lift whooshes upwards towards her lab, Sam considers the options. Ignoring the sound is no longer a possibility, but the source is difficult to place in the maze-like underground complex. On a hunch she punches level 21, ignoring the heavy doors as they glide open on 19.
A short time later Sam finds herself outside the infirmary, her hunch confirmed. The sound is loudest here, and as she pushes through the door, she realises its origins are human.
At such close range, Sam realises the low keen is actually punctuated by disjointed words. Desperate, tortured words that instantly shatter her heart into a million tiny fragments, because now she knows the source.
Jack has been a patient here for the several days since his escape from Ba'al's clutches. Fortunately there were no major physical injuries to worry about, despite what he had been subjected to over and over again, but there was the issue of withdrawal symptoms from the sarcophagus, and until he was fully weaned Jack O'Neill was the unwilling prisoner of Dr Fraiser.
As Sam ventures further into the darkened infirmary, the night nurse is at a desk writing notes. She glances up in surprise as Sam approaches, her eyes darting involuntarily towards the wall clock.
'Is everything alright, Major?' She queries in a low voice.
Jack suddenly falls quiet, and the relative silence weighs heavily on the room, underscored only by the faint hum of medical monitors.
'How is he?' Sam's voice mimics the nurse's low tones as she glances towards the solitary occupied bed.
'Physically he's fine.' The nurse's gaze follows the same path.
Sam can plainly hear the unspoken word. 'But?
A sigh. 'At the moment Dr Fraiser is more concerned about the psychological trauma the Colonel may have sustained as a result of the repeated torture. He denies it, of course, but the nightmares tell a very different story.'
'Has it been like this every night?'
'Every night.' She confirms. 'We've tried sedatives, but it doesn't seem to make any difference.'
Sam grimaces. The debilitating physical effects of sarcophagus withdrawal aside, Jack had done his best to give the impression of being his usual irreverent self on each of the occasions she had visited during daylight hours.
Nobody else, however, seemed to see the transient dark shadow that had appeared in his deep brown eyes, and Sam had almost managed to convince herself that she was imagining ghosts where there were none.
She doesn't feel vindicated in having her fears confirmed.
'Sit with him if you like,' the nurse encourages. 'A familiar voice might help. I'll be right outside if you need me.'
Sam hesitates for a single heartbeat, then moves to take a seat at Jack's bedside. The scene is both familiar and foreign all at once. Familiar, because over the years all the members of SG-1 have been treated in the beds of this infirmary more times than she cares to remember. Foreign, because Sam generally doesn't make a habit of sitting at her commander's bedside in the early hours of the morning watching him sleep.
If this could be called sleep.
And although she has sat awake during countless nights on alien planets, dutifully taking her turn to keep watch while Jack sleeps soundly and safely at her side, there's something different about this. This feels almost voyeuristic, bearing witness to these private nighttime terrors. A vulnerability she isn't supposed to see, in the strongest man she knows.
Just as she's about to rise from her chair and quietly leave Jack to endure his demons without the indignity of an audience, his lips part and a chilling cry escapes his throat. Instinctively and without thought, Sam reaches for a hand that grasps frantically at the thin blanket. She absently wonders what scene his mind is recalling from those horror days as Ba'al's plaything.
Gently caressing Jack's hand in what she hopes is a soothing fashion, Sam registers that his skin is rough and she can feel his decades of weapons training evidenced in various calluses.
The agitated hand stills, relaxing into her grasp. Emboldened by the success of such a simple gesture, Sam reaches up with her remaining free hand to rest it against the side of Jack's face, the patient still moaning and muttering incomprehensibly in his restless sleep.
The move fails to provide the comfort she had hoped for, and the keening sound breaks loose from his lips once again, as his mind subjects him to yet another of the horrors catalogued indelibly in his memory.
Without releasing the now limp hand that is still captured within hers, Sam shuffles her chair closer to the bed and reaches back up to Jack's damp face.
Smoothing her hand over a forehead that is furrowed by nocturnal anxiety, she adds her voice to the attempt at comfort. 'Sir, it's alright ... You're safe ... He can't touch you again.' She's unsure what to say and feels uncharacteristically foolish.
The moans falter and soften, the tension in his body ebbing slightly, but he does not silence or relax entirely.
'Shhhh, Sir ...' Sam feels utterly ridiculous observing the use of the honorific at a time like this, in the dead of night, the nurse outside the room, even O'Neill himself unconscious and in the grip of an intense nightmare.
'Jack ...' Her voice, already at its lowest setting, fades away to nothing in her hesitation at using his name. This was a line she had never dared cross.
'Jack,' she tries again, with more conviction this time. 'It's alright ... I'm here, you can rest now ...'
And suddenly, like flicking a switch, there is stillness and silence.
Sam allows herself a brief second to breathe a sigh of relief, until she realises that Jack's head has turned and he's gazing at her through chocolate brown eyes made black in the night time shadows.
She freezes, waiting to gauge his reaction. She hadn't counted on him waking and catching her out, still trespassing on the wrong side of that line.
There's no reprimand in Jack's eyes at the uninvited use of his name. Only slight surprise mingled with something else, something much more elusive that makes Sam's heart skip a beat, though her mind hasn't yet caught up.
Sam realises that in this moment there is no line. There's no Air Force and Jack isn't her CO. He's just a vulnerable and slightly damaged man, and she's just a woman able to soothe and comfort.
She knows that none of it will last. Morning will come and that impenetrable line will re-emerge from is hiding place in the shadows. And they'd better not still be on the wrong side of it when that happens.
But it's not morning yet.
'Your nightmares ...' Once the words are spoken, Sam realises she has no idea what she's supposed to say, or where she's going with the sentence.
Jack shakes his head fractionally. 'They'll pass,' he whispers.
'Let me help.'
He doesn't answer but there's that look in his eyes again, and Sam's heart, split apart by the sound of Jack's suffering, begins to mend and heal, warmth spreading out through her chest.
Before she has a chance to over-think the action, Sam rises from her chair and leans across, lips hovering above lips for several seconds. In the end she's not sure who kisses who, and the only coherent thought in her head is of how good it feels to finally be kissing Jack O'Neill.
Seconds, minutes, hours later, their lips part and time resumes its normal course. There are no words to be said. They both know that this is a stolen moment that will cease to exist in the morning.
They gaze at each other, exchanging a lifetime of conversation through their eyes. A thousand words in a single look. There are no ghosts shadowing Jack's eyes now.
Eventually Sam breaks the eye contact. 'You should rest. Sleep.' She runs her fingers down his cheek, enjoying the sensation of his stubble against her skin.
'Stay here 'til morning?' Jack queries. The casual tone is deliberate, but Sam can hear the underlying edge. The demons that haunt the darker recesses of his mind may pass on their own in time, but tonight she can give him the gift of a few welcome hours of peace.
'Of course. I'll be here.'
Jack's eyes flicker closed. Sam waits until his breathing becomes even and regular. So far so good. She promises herself she'll leave the infirmary before the base wakes for the day, but in the meantime sleep is sounding extremely appealing.
Hands still linked with Jack's, she leans forward to rest her head on the edge of the bed. The ghosts won't bother him while she stands guard.
Several hours later, Dr Janet Fraiser arrives at the SGC early to check on her patient. The night terrors have been a source of constant concern for her, particularly in light of Jack's reluctance to participate in anything even resembling psychological treatment.
The night nurse gives Janet an unreadable look as they discuss the handover in Janet's office, but the doctor doesn't have time to consider its meaning.
Janet is reading over Jack's chart as she walks into the infirmary itself, which is why she doesn't notice the scene in front of her until she's standing right by Jack's bedside.
Jack O'Neill is sleeping soundly with no sign of the demons that have plagued his rest, Samantha Carter is by his side and sleeping with her head pillowed on her arms, fingers still intertwined with Jack's.
Janet looks at the pair with a sad smile. Like Jack and Sam hours earlier, she knows this fleeting moment of intimacy will be little more than a distant memory as soon as they wake. The barriers will go back up, the rules will hold sway once more. She glances at her watch. It's still early.
She'll let them sleep a little longer.
Now get over here
And put up a fight
Just give me a sign
Stop haunting your hallways
Come haunt mine
A ghost in the night won't scare me
No, I just want to bring you back to life
- 'Ghost' lyrics by Danielle Spencer -