Title: Groveling

Setting: Post Legacy, Jack hunts out Daniel at the end of what has been a really, really bad day.

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

I should have known this would happen. Turned my back for a few seconds and Daniel's gone to earth somewhere, like a rabbit vanishing down a hole. Looks a bit like a rabbit as well at times our Daniel, all big blinking eyes with that look on his face, like he's trying to decide whether to freeze or run. Looks like today he went for running. Can't say I blame him.

Teal'c is on the mend already, Junior doing something-I-don't-want-to-think-too-deeply-about to fix him up, so I don't feel too bad in leaving his sickbed to track down our errant archaeologist and do some serious, high level, I-didn't-mean-to-have-you-committed and feel crap about it, groveling. Even with the groveling, and the tactical application of coffee and chocolate in copious quantities, I'm not sure how I'm going to make this one up to him.

Because, the fact is, I trust Daniel. I'd take and act on one of his hunches a hell of a lot quicker than most people's facts – same goes for Carter – and I've inwardly, and outwardly, seethed at anyone who has had the nerve to question or belittle *my* archaeologist.

And then I got him shipped off to the loony bin without so much as a backward glance.

Spectacular, Jack. Really, well done.

He looked so… small, so…broken, in that padded cell and to be honest, I was scared then. Not for him, but of him. Scared of those wild eyes and that brittle, pain filled laugh. I was so damn sure that the man that was my friend was gone, leaving me with a drug-addled shell to fill the hole he'd left behind. And in that moment, I hated him, and feared him in pretty equal measure.

Then all of a sudden, he was back, my Daniel, the talks-too-fast, arm waving, theorizing Daniel. Back at Teal'c's bedside like nothing was wrong. Talking to me in a way I didn't deserve, like nothing had happened and I hadn't been the one to send him off. And despite everything he must have been through, he didn't move once while we were all having a moment in isolation, in fact I'm pretty certain he offered to risk re-infection to help us. Offered to go back to what must rank pretty high on his list of personal hells, to help the traitor of a friend who should have trusted him in the first place.

My first port of call is the commissary, the second is his office, which as I suspect is overflowing with rocks, paper and other assorted rubbish but suspiciously devoid of archaeologist. Where would I go if I were Daniel? Not the right question. Where would I go if I'd just got out of a padded room? I head for the nearest elevator and make my way to the surface.

It's late afternoon in early autumn and there's a damp chill beginning to settle in the air as the sun sets. I shiver involuntarily, hoping that I'm right and I haven't traipsed all the way up here for nothing. And hoping that I'm wrong, that he's not here, so I can stall this conversation for a few hours until I've figured out what to…

"Hey, Jack."

Of course, he picks today of all days to be observant. For a moment I can't figure out where the voice comes from but then I spot him, sat almost out of sight behind a rock, knees drawn up to his chest, the same way he cowered in that room. He looks… shattered to be blunt. Too pale, eyes dropping with exhaustion and if this was any normal day I'd be hauling him back to the infirmary before he could even think about protesting. But…today is not a normal day, so instead I settle for handing him the rapidly cooling coffee I've been porting about the place for him before dropping to the ground beside him, doing my best to ignore the protest of my knee.

He turns his head to observe me, long fingers cradling the coffee cup gratefully and I find I'm missing that moptop of hair he used to peer out from, this short crop just doesn't feel like Daniel somehow.

"You okay?" he asks, sympathy in his voice.

I huff at him, resisting the urge to roll my eyes.

"I think I should be asking you that," I point out, "I'm not the one who looks like they're about to take a nap up here."

A flash of a smile crosses his face, interrupted by a yawn which only proves my point.

"I'm okay," he says after a long pause to take a deep drag his drink 'I just needed to be….outside for a bit. Thank you for the coffee."

I imagine McKenzie's ward was not big on the fresh air cure that my mom was so keen on implementing.

I nod.

"Listen Daniel, I – "

'Jack, I'm – "

As usual, at the first sign of any in depth conversation we inadvertently talk over each other, breaking off to grin slightly in understanding. Its so normal, so O'Neill and Jackson, that the guilt flares up again. How can I ever have thought he was gone?

"Daniel, I'm sorry," I blurt out, before he can wave off my apology, or set the conversation off at a tangent, "I should have listened to you more when you tried to tell me what was going on. I should have known that you hadn't suddenly gone off in the deep end without any of us noticing, I shouldn't have let them take you off to do whatever they wanted with you," I run out of steam, abruptly, "I should have believed you."

I feel rather than see his shrug.

"It's okay," he says softly after a long pause.

"Okay?! I send you off to McKenzie's Funny Farm without even listening to you and its "okay"?!"

It might be okay with Danny-Boy but it sure as hell isn't okay with me. He looks at me again with those big puppy-dog eyes, brimming with sympathy and understanding. I think I'd prefer it if he was mad with me.

"Well," he says carefully, "I was acting a little…wacko," his laugh sounds a little off, but at least its not the nutty cackle from the hospital, "Honestly? At the time it hurt that you didn't believe me Jack," he pauses when I wince, "but I konw you were looking out for me. And you came back when I asked to see you… you could have just…" he waves his hand, "left me."

I don't know whether to be relieved he isn't angry or upset that he thinks he doesn't matter enough to warrant my attention. I resist the urge to give him a hug or a swat and settle instead for a good natured shoulder barge.

"Not gonna happen," I tell him, stressing every word so he knows I mean it, "You're SG-1 remember? We need you."

He frowns, lines creasing the skin between his eyes into deep furrows. We've been here before he and I, he wants to believe me, but there's all the what-ifs in the way.

"What if I was…crazy?" he asks after a while, his voice small, 'What if I never got better? If that thing had stayed in me forever?"

"Well, that wouldn't happen," I use my best assertive Colonel voice, even though I don't really feel it, "it was after a Goa'uld, and there's nothing on this Earth, that would have stopped Carter, Teal'c and I visiting you, Danny, however long you were there. So it would have only been a matter of time. "

Hindsight gives me the courage of my convictions although the what if questions have been plaguing me all day too. Daniel doesn't need to know that right now though. He just needs to know that we'd always have his back.

"What if I was just….nuts?"

I don't know what to say to him. The truth is, that I don't know what would have happened in that instance, how the SGC would treat what amounts to a security risk like that, but I do know one thing; we wouldn't have left him, no matter how much it hurt to see him like that.

"Nothing on this Earth, Daniel," I tell him firmly, "only thing that would have stopped us from time to time would be those pesky off world problems; detainment by Goa'uld, being turned into robots, being stuck in 1969, you know the type…"

He nods. I can tell he's not entirely reassured, but then, when you've had your mind turned upside down courtesy of Machello its hard to really feel sure of anything. His frown has lessened though, and I start to feel a bit better, it'll take time, but I think we're all going to be okay.

He tries, and fails, to stifle another jaw-breaking yawn.

"Coming inside?" I ask, "I figure I owe you at least another coffee, maybe even a chocolate muffin."

He sits still and starting for a long moment before shaking his head.

"It's a nice night, I think I'll just…." He trails off but I know what he means.

"Mind if I…." I wave my hands vaguely, "with you?"

He smiles, a full, cheerful Daniel smile that I thought I'd never see again as he nods in answer. I shift into a more comfortable position and stare out over the Colorado landscape with him.

"It's good to have you back, Space-Monkey," getting a chuckle with my use of his old nickname that brings a smile to my lips.

"Thanks Jack."

In companionable silence, we watch the sun go down over the surrounding hills, and I'm grateful that, once again, we've all made it to the end of what has been a really, really crappy day.