A/N: I know it's been done before, but here's my contribution to the world of post-Grace fics. This story is also my way of getting more Daniel-Sam friendship out of the later seasons. :D

Return from Grace

"Hey," Daniel greeted softly from the doorway.

"Hey yourself," Sam replied, gingerly pushing herself off the bed to sit upright and wincing when the movement sent stabs of pain through her head.

Holding out her arms and shooting Daniel an expectant look, Sam waited impatiently for him to cross the infirmary to her bedside. The instant he was within reach, she found herself wrapped up in one of the tightest hugs she'd ever gotten in her entire life. Sighing, she rested her head on his shoulder and savoured the simple fact that she was home. A little worse for the wear, for sure, but home nonetheless.

"You have got to stop doing this to us," Daniel murmured, rubbing big circles on her back.

"I know," she replied snuggling into his warm body. "But it's not like I book these things into my weekly schedule."

"I know. How's the head?" he asked, turning his face into her hair and pressing a kiss against the side of her head, careful to avoid the giant bump from where she'd hit it.

"Sore," she answered honestly. "The painkillers Janet has me on are taking the edge off, but only just."

"Do you want me to get someone in here?" Daniel asked, pulling back and studying her in concern. He knew how much pain she had to be in if she was bothering to mention it to anyone – usually it took an order from Jack and several minutes of fighting back and forth before she would admit that she was experiencing even the slightest amount of discomfort.

"No," she attempted to shake her head for emphasis but abandoned that idea as the pain spiked again, "Just stay with me?" she asked hopefully.

Daniel studied her silently for another few moments before deciding the pain probably wasn't anything she couldn't handle. Grasping her hand in his and twining their fingers together, he frowned at the death grip she immediately clamped around his hand. Rubbing his thumb back and forth over the back of her hand, he decided that there was definitely something going on with his friend. Although Sam was never afraid to touch her teammates, she didn't make a habit of being clingy.

"Is there anything you want to tell me?" he asked, giving her an opening.

"Can we not talk about it right now?" she replied, shooting him her best pleading look.

"Okay, but I'm here if you need to talk about it," Daniel reminded gently. "Do you need anything?"

"Can you hold me for a while?" she asked, using her best pleading look again. "Please?"

Without another word, Daniel released her hand and pulled her into a second hug in less than five minutes. This confirmed his suspicion – something was up. A clingy, asking to be held Sam was completely new territory for him. Even in the aftermath of her possession by Jolinar, she had never asked to be held, preferring to accept the spontaneous hugs offered by her teammates whenever she looked like she needed one. At the time and for years after, he'd been sure that was the lowest point he would ever see her at, but clearly he'd been wrong. Something had happened on the Prometheus that had shaken Sam even worse than Jolinar had and that was a scary thought. Knowing she would clam up if he pushed too hard, Daniel opted for silence and simply held her.

"I need to get out of here Daniel," she murmured long minutes later.

"Sam, Janet's keeping you in for at least a few days. That was a bad concussion that you ignored for four days. You're lucky to be sitting here right now," he retorted bluntly.

"I can't be here Daniel, please don't make me stay here tonight," she begged.

Even though he couldn't see her face, he could hear tears choking her voice. God, Sam, what happened on that ship? he wondered. A crying, begging Sam Carter was something that he was totally unprepared for, even after seven years of friendship and he wasn't sure he even wanted to know what could reduce her to such a state.

"Sam, you aren't ready to leave yet. You're still on some heavy duty painkillers and somebody needs to be watching you to make sure you don't get worse," he reasoned patiently.

"I can't wake up alone, Daniel," she whispered brokenly. "On the Prometheus I woke up alone so many times… Tomorrow morning when I wake up, I need to know that this was real. I need to know that I'm really home."

"I can't break you out of here, Sam. Janet would kill me, Jack would have a heart attack when he comes to check on you tomorrow morning and Teal'c… Well he'd raise an eyebrow and tell me it was a bad idea." It broke his heart to tell her "no", and he knew that she knew that if she asked many more times, he would give in. "I'll sit with you tonight holding your hand and when you wake up in the morning, I'll still be right here," he compromised.

"Please Daniel," she sniffed, pulling back to look at him. "Let me go to my quarters and stay there with me."

"How is that different from staying with you in the infirmary?" he questioned, genuinely confused.

"I don't need you to hold my hand, I need you to hold me, and I don't want everyone on base to see that," she finally confessed, studiously avoiding his worried gaze.

"What happened on the Prometheus, Sam?" Daniel asked, leaning forward to rest his forehead against her's. "Something's going on with you and I want to help, but I have no idea what you need from me."

"You can help by holding me," she retorted, side stepping his question. Seeing exasperation flash across his face, she relented. "I kept hallucinating that you and the Colonel and Teal'c and my dad were there. You were all talking to me and trying to help. Sometimes I'd wake up and one of you would be there… So many times I thought that you'd found me and that we were going home, but it always turned out that you weren't really there. I need you to hold me, so that when I wake up in the morning, I feel you and I know I'm not still on the ship. Daniel, please… Don't make me wake up alone."

"There's still something you're not telling me," Daniel stated, eyeing her carefully. "But for now, that's good enough. I'll be back in ten minutes to sneak you out of here. However, if anything happens to you because I let you talk me into this, so help me…" he rose, letting the threat trail off.

"Promise you'll come back?" Sam asked uncertainly, gripping his hand again.

This time, Daniel understood that her constant need for contact was a way of clinging to reality. She'd been hallucinating for days, constantly believing she'd been rescued only to realize she was still stranded in the middle of nowhere. Now that she was home, every time she awoke, she anticipated that disappointment all over again and the only way to ensure what she was seeing was real was through touch. Hallucinations couldn't touch her, but real flesh and blood people could and that was why she was so desperate for contact. In light of this, Daniel couldn't blame her for hanging off of him.

Giving her hand a tight squeeze, he dropped a kiss on the top of her head and murmured, "Cross my heart," before working his hand free and striding quickly out of the infirmary.

Sam spent every second that he was gone watching the clock across from her bed. Although it felt like forever, it was only eight minutes and forty-seven seconds later that Daniel returned. As soon as he came into sight, she reached out for his hand.

"I promised I'd be back, Sam," he reminded, seeing her obvious relief that he'd kept his word. Ignoring the hand seeking his out, he strode to her bedside and scooped her off the mattress in one easy move. "Before you argue, you have a massive concussion and you're lucky I'm helping you get out of here. This goes completely against my better judgement, however I'm doing it anyway because I think it really is best for you. But I absolutely draw the line at letting you walk and nothing you say or do is going to change my mind, so either I carry you or you stay here."

"Fine," Sam grudgingly acquiesced. Deciding to make the best of the situation, she cuddled up to Daniel as much as she could and relished the fact that he most certainly was real.

Cradling her close, Daniel quickly left the infirmary and walked briskly towards the elevator. It wasn't exactly a secret that Sam had been injured on the Prometheus, and most people on base knew that she was supposed to be in the infirmary for a few days. The last thing he needed was for someone to spot him essentially kidnapping Sam from Janet's care, particularly someone like Ferretti who would kick both of their asses back to the infirmary and have Jack on the phone in about two seconds flat.

"Janet really is going to kill me, you know," Daniel said softly as the elevator pinged open. He cringed at the noise in the otherwise silent corridor. Oh yes, Daniel thought to himself, this is definitely the dumbest thing I've done in a while. We are so going to get caught. Once inside, he punched the button for the level his quarters were on and frantically tapped the door close button, all the while precariously balancing Sam with one arm and his knee.

"You're safe – Hippocratic oath, remember?" Sam said with amusement.

"You're right," Daniel conceeded dejectedly. "She'll just put in a request with Jack and he'll kill me on her behalf. Then they'll put me in a sarcophagus and bring me back so Jack can have a turn for himself. You so owe me one,"

"Thank you," she said seriously. "I know you think this is the stupidest idea I've ever had, but I really do need this."

"I know you do," he replied as the doors opened with another loud ping that echoed through the corridor and made him wince. "That's why I'm doing this for you tonight. Tomorrow, however, I want you to tell me what else happened on board the Prometheus," he warned gently, hurrying down the hall to his quarters. At this point, he was really hoping all the security personnel on duty tonight were too distracted by something going on in another corridor to pay any attention to his attempts to slip past all the security cameras between the infirmary and his quarters.

"Tomorrow," Sam promised as they reached their destination.

Daniel was relieved he'd had the foresight to come down and open the door before bringing Sam down. He was absolutely positive that there was no way he could have balanced her and opened the door at the same time. Striding into the room, he deposited her gently on the bed and then hurried to shut the door, lest someone walk past and notice that a certain infirmary-ridden air force major was currently occupying the quarters of one totally whipped archaeologist.

"Uh, Daniel," Sam began uncertainly, "since when is there a double bed in here?"

"Since about fifteen minutes ago when I stole the mattresses from your quarters," he replied, turning out the overhead light so the room was bathed in the dim glow from the bedside lamp. "Do you have any idea how hard that was to pull off?"

"Why did you even try?" Sam asked, lying back.

"Because as much as I'm going to regret busting you out come morning, I'll regret it even more if you fall out of bed and bang your head on something else," Daniel explained, sitting on the edge of the bed and untying his boots.

"I'm sorry that you're going to get into trouble because of me," Sam said apologetically, watching him remove his glasses.

"Don't be, I could have said no," Daniel lied glibly, knowing that Sam knew he could never say no to her. Leaning over, he turned off the lamp, plunging the room into total darkness. He swung his legs up onto the bed and pulled the sheets up over both of them. Reaching out blindly, he mentally crossed his fingers that his hand would fall somewhere she wouldn't kick his ass for touching. He barely managed to stifle a sigh of relief when he made contact with her shoulder.

"I knew you wouldn't," she whispered confidently, rolling onto her side facing him and cuddling up against his side.

"Get some sleep now, Sam," he advised, curling his arm around her waist and pulling her tighter against his side. "We'll talk in the morning,"

"Okay… Love you," she murmured sleepily, unable to stay awake much longer anyway.

"I love you too," he responded, turning his head to plant a gentle kiss on her forehead.

Listening to the change in Sam's breathing as she drifted off, Daniel felt the remaining tension of yet another near miss drain away. Although it had been another close call, she'd still walked away from it somehow and that was what he forced himself to focus on. The quiet sounds of her breathing went a long way in calming his frayed nerves. Now that he wasn't being bombarded with images of Sam dead or dying every time he closed his eyes, he could give in to his body's demands for sleep and it wasn't long before he joined her in slumber.