Don't own it, any of it. Boo. Boo-hoo.AN:
Another Sam-and-Dawn-bonding-over-common-Jack-centered-drama-fic. Post-Abyss, after Jack is retrieved and brought home, still suffering withdrawal from the sarcophagus. Dawn is seventeen.
He’d been gone for weeks, months
, before, on missions that took him out of the Mountain, but he’d never come back like this, not since before they lost Charlie. Not since he’d come back, that first time, newly whole.
The haggard man who staggered through the door with an arm over Sam Carter’s shoulders was a far cry from the boisterous man who’d grumbled good-naturedly about the new guy over fruit loops a month and half ago.
Dawn jumped up from the kitchen table without thinking and put herself on his other side, pulling his arm over her own shoulders and helping Sam maneuver him onto the couch.
His face was pale, eyes shadowed with the bruises of lost sleep, and a faint sheen of sweat was showing on his forehead. She tucked herself close and hugged him, being careful of squeezing too tight. She’d only had snippets of news from Janet, nothing concrete because what he did was so damned secret, and apparently so were parts of his medical condition, but she knew she had to be gentle with him.
There wasn’t a mark on him, but Janet had given her the doctor-face and said, “He’s been through a lot, Dawn. Something was done to him that’ll affect his temper, his moods. He’s going to be a bit of bastard for a while.”
Dawn, in a mild kind of shock, had asked inanely, “How – how do you know?”
Janet had shaken her head – it was all classified, of course – but Dawn got an answer anyway. “I’ve seen a case of it before.”
And now here they were. Jack shook like a leaf, and Dawn put her forehead to his temple.
“I’m glad you’re home, Daddy,” she whispered.
He sighed then, and some kind of tension drained from him. He put one still faintly trembling arm around her shoulders.
“Me too, Pumpkin Belly.”
The nights were worst.
She could hear him shifting restlessly in his sleep, and longed to get in there, to comfort him. To offer a hug, hold his hand, anything
. But she couldn’t, because these weren’t the sort of dreams a person could be safely woken from.
He’d had them when he was Spec Ops, too. Dawn remembered when her mother had started making up the spare room for him, or the couch, so that he wouldn’t wake her by accident.
At seventeen, she realized it had been more serious than that. If woken too suddenly, Jack might have lashed out, without meaning to. Someone might have gotten hurt. It was why she and Charlie had been forbidden to go and greet him if he came home late, unless he was awake and came to see them first.
One of the hallway floorboards creaked, and she hoped for one wild moment that he’d woken up on his own and was just going to the bathroom, or the kitchen, or coming to see her, or something…
But it was only Sam, padding near-silently in from the guest room. They hadn’t trusted Jack to get through this with only his seventeen-year-old daughter to support him, and so now his second-in-command was bunking over for the next week and a half.
Dawn didn’t mind. She and Sam were friends. Both beleaguered military daughters, both jaded by close-to-home loses early in their lives, both having in some small way raised their fathers instead of the other way round, their commonalities had bound them together almost the moment they met. There were things, too – girl things – that she could discuss with Sam that she could never take to her father, or even Cassie. Sometimes she figured they were things her mother should’ve been talking to her about, but...
“Dawn, you awake?”
Sam’s voice was soft, and Dawn responded in kind.
“Yeah. Can’t sleep.”
She felt Sam perch on the edge of her bed. “Me too…”
They both listened for a few moments, to Jack thrashing and murmuring in his room, to the night going on around them. Somewhere over the back fence, a cat could be heard yowling. A car moving slowly down the road. In the kitchen, the fridge started to buzz softly to itself.
Half underneath Dawn’s bed, Xander snorted and kicked his hind legs, perhaps dreaming of chasing the rabbits up at the cabin. He woke a few seconds later and beat his tail on the floor when he discovered the girls were with him.
Dawn wished it could be the same for her dad.
Dawn sat up and crawled over to the older woman. They sat close, blinking in the dark. Then Sam put her arm around the girl’s shoulders, and Dawn thought she might fall apart. She fought it, but the tears started.
When the first wet hiccup wracked her chest, Sam put both arms around her, encasing her in warmth and pressed a kiss to her hair.
“Oh, sweetheart,” she said, soft and a little heart-broken.
Dawn would realize later that this was the first time Sam had called her by a nickname that wasn’t ‘Dawnie’, but right then, in that fragile moment, she was safe and held, and comforted, and nothing else really mattered.
They stayed curled together for a long time, Xander a warm lump at their feet.
Dawn thought she must have fallen asleep, because she woke with the morning sun coming in. The covered were tucked carefully around her, and her dog had snuck up on the bed, his nose huffing warm doggy-breath against her arms and stomach.
She lay and listened for a moment. There were birds bickering prettily outside her window, the buzz and growl of morning traffic, and if she lay very still she could just discern the soft, eerie whisper that she associated with sunlight. Down the hall, she could hear Sam and Jack talking. There was the clang and scrap of a cooked breakfast being put together, and muted laughter.
She heard footsteps, and her dad stuck his head around the door. He was haggard, his hair was a haphazard mess, but he was smiling and his eyes were full up with something that made them shine.
She smiled at him. “Hey, morning.”
“Hungry? Carter’s trying to make bacon and eggs…”
“Well, this is her second shot with the bacon…”
Dawn pressed a laugh into her pillow, and she could hear him chuckling. Rolling over, she gave Xander a friendly shove to get him moving then scrambled from her bed and went to hug her father.
He was still in the tee-shirt and track pants he slept in and so he still smelt of sleep and warmth and himself. It was the best thing in the world.
As she followed him out the door, she looked back at her room for moment, at the sunlight.
A flicker, a spark of green.
She smiled again.