AN: Happy late anniversary to the Shadow Children series! Here's some hurt/comfort stuff to celebrate. This glorious but small fandom needs more content, so here we are!
NOTE: this chapter is set in a JDD world (an AU world where Jen Doesn't Die) but the next chapter (this will likely become a two-shot) won't be.

Disclaimer: If I owned the Shadow Children series, I wouldn't have killed off Jen (I'm still kinda salty)

His head had hardly touched his pillow, yet Luke slept restfully, a smile gracing him as memories flashed through his mind—Jen wearing white, her eyes shimmering with happiness, the wind whispering through leaves, the flash of pictures.

The wedding day's happiness had lingered, recently, replacing nightmares of the population police with blurry replays of holding Jen's hands, her silver ring matching his. The hazy joy had kept the bad memories at bay, sealing them away for a while.

Until tonight.

A stir awoke him. Blinking, his foggy mind struggled to piece together what was happening. Shadows filled the room around him, too deep for morning, draping the walls with darkness, and as much as he strained, he couldn't piece together what'd woken him.

A faint groan broke through his tired thoughts, and he pushed himself to a sitting position, looking for its source.

Jen lay curled up beside him, hands clutching her head and digging into her hair, the blanket twisted around her from obvious thrashing. She'd folded in on herself, and the sight was horribly familiar—Luke had seen it before, when things got bad, when the memories became overwhelming.

"Jen," he whispered. "Jen, wake up."

He touched her shoulder, merely brushing her chill skin, and he hesitated between pressing hard enough to wake her up or being gentle enough her self defense wouldn't kick in.

She only curled tighter and groaned again, the pain in her voice clear. Luke's stomach went cold. It hurt, having to watch her relive her worst memories, and the sting grew stronger each time he saw her traumatized by them all over again.

"Jen, please." His voice was sharper now, insistent.

"No, stop, stop hurting them," came the response, quietly muttered, her tone laced with anxious disparity even as it was drowsed with sleep-induced haze. "It was my idea . . . stop shooting . . ."

It wasn't hard to figure out which memory tortured her tonight.


She jerked upwards with a yell, stilling his tongue. Her eyes, now open, were wild, glazed over with scenes of the past.

Jen panted, breathing fast, and raised a shaky hand to her face, pressing it against her eyes as though the pressure could relieve her from her thoughts.

As the cool air brushed her skin, she pulled her legs close, and Luke inched closer, reaching for her. "Jen, it's okay, I'm here, we're here, you're safe." He touched her, but she didn't react, contrary to the attack he'd prepared himself for—she didn't seem to have even noticed him yet. Her skin was cold against his, but slick with sweat. "Jen, it was just a nightmare, you're here, it's fine."

After a moment of silence, she lowered her hands, and finally seemed to notice him through her clouded gaze. As though a hug could take all the demons away, she leaned into his touch, shaking, and he wrapped his arms around her, encasing her in a safe-hold. She clutched at him, he clutched at her. Her head pressed against his chest, and he could hear her breathing as it slowly returned to a normal rate, their intimate proximity allowing him to feel as her panic fled, to sense the empty calm that replaced it.

"You're safe," Luke said. The weight of those words seemed to strike a cord, and her hold on him loosened, her breath even again at last.

"Luke," she murmured. The roughness in her voice made him hold her tighter.

When she shifted, he moved his arms just enough to allow her to raise her head, meeting her gaze with equal exhaustion, and he sensed the ache that dimmed her eyes. In this light, they looked dark, hardly reflecting the moonlight that spilled through their bedroom window.

"Jen," he said, tone edged with a silent question.

As though all her energy had fled, she heaved an exhausted sigh, squeezing her eyes shut, and rested her head on his chest again. "This month was a nice break from the nightmares, but I . . . I can't stop thinking about them, and the way the gunshots filled the air . . ."

No need to ask who "them" was. Every single person who'd stood on that ground for the rally, everyone who hadn't survived—everyone but her.

"I don't know how I'm supposed to make up for all of that . . ." Her voice hitched in the middle. "I don't know how I'm supposed to handle being here when it's my fault so many kids here aren't with us, aren't able to celebrate freedom . . . they didn't even know what freedom is."

Before she could say anything else, he smoothed her messy hair with one hand and closed his eyes, kissing her head softly, and she pressed her head harder into his chest, his shirt wrinkling as her grip tightened. He didn't mind.

He gripped her just as tight, determined to reassure her. "You've already made up for it. Without you there wouldn't be any freedom to celebrate. And we . . . we can handle it together."

A moment of quiet enveloped them, the only sound a slight hum of air conditioning, and the earthy smell that always permeated their home began to cut through the tang of cold sweat. The reminder of nature, as always, calmed him.

"You dork," Jen breathed. "Since when did you become so optimistic?"

He smiled a little and held her close, letting her soft scent, of parchment and cookie dough, roll over him, mixing with the earthy aroma. "Since I met the bravest optimist I've ever known." Her warmth chased away that cold he'd felt when he saw her pain, and her presence once again became as much a comfort to him as his was to her.

Since I met you.

AN: Hope you enjoyed! Luen is super cute and no one can tell me otherwise—my thirteen year old sister seconded that earlier today. 0.o Review and follow/favorite to inspire me :'D and if you're new to this fandom then hello! Feel free to message me, I'm quite willing to discuss this series ahh.