I wondered about Sam during early season 1, and this is my take on his thoughts. It's based on stories I've been told and what I've read on the subject. I'm by no means an expert on the matter.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything other than an active imagination. Just borrowing the characters, I hope I've done them justice. The title is from a Golden Earring song.

With the utmost respect to those who've been there

He risked a glance up, skimming the rooftops before turning his attention back to the street in front of him. He dug his hands further into his pockets and pulled his shoulders up in an attempt to protect himself from the wind, willing himself to keep looking straight ahead. Another quick glance, this time to the side of the road, before he caught himself and, cursing under his breath, pulled his eyes away. There was no reason for him to be searching the rooftops for snipers or looking for roadside bombs, no reason to get ready to run for cover or pull his gun out at any moment. He was home now, safe. He had a different job, in a different city, different country even and the threat he had gotten so used to was gone. He knew that but couldn't help it, couldn't fight his instincts that had been instilled in him since he was, well, a kid really.

They had noticed, he was sure. Sam knew he couldn't fool the skilled negotiator that his sergeant was or his team leader, who had seen it all over the years, they just hadn't said anything about it yet, and he was grateful for that. He hoped the others hadn't figured it out though, told himself he could at least pull of the I'm perfectly fine act with the other members of his new team. And maybe if they bought the act, he would too, maybe he could finally convince himself that he was fine, that he was safe here.

He hadn't been home very long, hadn't had time to get accustomed to his new reality before he was thrown right back into the action. His dad had gotten him a spot on the SRU team, and even though Sam wasn't sure why exactly, he had expected his father to make him stay in the army, he was thankful. At least this kept him busy, kept his mind from wandering. It gave him a purpose too, he had a new team here that he had to prove himself to, that he could protect. Something he failed to do with his last team. The trust they had was destroyed, no matter how many times people told him that it wasn't his fault. He knew exactly what they thought, what they said behind his back, knew what he would've done if it had been one of the other guys. But it hadn't been one of the other guys, it had been him that pulled the trigger. He shook his head slightly, as if trying to clear the thought from his brain. He shouldn't go in that direction, self pity never got anyone anywhere. He was a different person now, he told himself, at least he could be.

Down the road there was a group of people, waiting for the bus. Sam saw them and tightened his grip on the gun that he wasn't holding. It took him a while to notice he was doing it, stopping himself the second he did. They were just people, they weren't threatening. He couldn't wait for the moment when he wouldn't even give those people a second thought, when he would walk straight past them, without being brought back to the desert and the things he'd seen and done there. He passed the group, without flinching or looking back at them and silently congratulated himself on a job well done. Nobody had gotten injured and he hadn't made a major fool out of himself in public.

When he thought the distance he'd covered was long enough he glanced back, it didn't seem as though anybody had noticed anything. Sam nodded to himself and turned his focus back on the road ahead, repeating the same mantra he had in the desert 'think happy thoughts Braddock'.

People had told, warned, him that the blow would follow later. He'd had a debriefing after coming home from each tour, he'd been asked whether he felt the need to talk about the things he'd lived through and how they'd made him feel. He'd laughed at the officer straight in the face, both times actually. He figured he didn't need anyone to talk to and he'd been proven right after that first time when they'd send him back. They would never have done such a thing if he'd been psychologically unstable, or whatever they would call it. He'd heard stories of soldiers who'd never entirely came home, parts of them having been left behind. That hadn't happened to him, he was still intact, body and soul. Being home would just take some adjusting, but he'd manage just fine by himself, he always had and always would. Having someone go poking around in his head and uncovering everything he'd hidden their behind layers and layers of funny stories, pranks and cocky grins, would be the very last thing he needed. Those memories were best of remaining buried, no need to dig them up.

And while it had taken him quite a few weeks before he'd been able to close his eyes and sleep through the night, eventually the morning had come he realized he hadn't woken up once. He'd considered it a personal victory when that happened, easily going over the fact that it had been pure exhaustion that had caused it. The nightmares were less frequent now, less vivid too and he was starting to learn how to deal with them. At least they didn't plague him while he was awake anymore, another sure sign he was indeed doing better and life would go back to the way it had been before he had gotten on that plane to the desert.

Sam imagined the looks on the faces of his new friends, his team members, when they found out about the things that he'd seen. He couldn't stand the pity in their eyes, even when they were just in his mind. It was the reason he'd pushed the away at first, but they'd wormed their ways into his heart, every single one of them. They were tearing at the walls he'd so carefully constricted, preparing to break through them eventually, and who knows, maybe someday he'd let them.

He reigned his thoughts back in as he opened the door and wished Winnie a good morning with his trademark grin on his face. Hide behind a cocky attitude and gear up, ready for another day of serving and protecting. An honest smile appeared on his face as the only female member of the team made her way towards him and gave him a friendly hug. No, life would never go back to the way it had been before his deployment. But he decided he liked this life much better.

The major deterrent to war is in a man's mind. - Arleigh Burke (1901-1996)

I hoped you liked it, please tell me your thoughts, even if you didn't.