Hand in Hand

Author: Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Action/Adventure, Angst, H/C, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  6 (Danielized)
Spoilers:  The Light (very minor)
Size:  59kb
Written:  September 3-6, 9,11,13, 2003  Revised:  January 24, February 1, August 1, September 1, November 11,14, 18-20, 2005, January 1-2, 2006
Summary:  When Jack is injured and trapped inside an alien structure, it's up to Daniel to save them both.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fics, “Out of the Fire, Into Our Souls”
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  DebA, Mama Beast, Suzanna, Tove, Gail, Tamara, Arawa, Heather, Claudia, QuinGem, Linda!

Hand in Hand
by Orrymain

“Okay, Kids, let's get to it,” Jack ordered as he took in their surroundings while clutching his P-90 tightly to his chest.  “Carter and Teal'c, go east and see if that's where you can do your thing with your doohickeys.  Daniel and I will go west and see if there's anything more worth exploring in this place.”

“Doohickeys,” Sam muttered, bobbing her head up and down a few times as she looked off towards the right.

“What was that, Major?” Jack asked sharply, his gaze intently focused on his second-in-command.

“Nothing, Sir; yes, Sir,” Sam responded.  ~He's a colonel; if he wants to call them doohickeys, then they're doohickeys.  Be quiet, Samantha.~

Jack smiled as he thought, ~Sometimes it's so much fun to be a colonel in the United States Air Force.  Yeah!~

SG-1 had gated to PR2-987, a somewhat dry and desolate looking place with no trees and lots and lots of open plains and prairies as well as mountains of rocks in all shapes and sizes.  Still, they'd seen and been to worse.  They were exploring the planet because Sam had gotten readings from the UAV about possible naquadah deposits scattered in a region east of the Stargate.  The highly sought after product meant hours of testing, and since waiting wasn't big on Jack's 'fun list', he decided to leave Sam and Teal'c to the scientific exploration and take a stroll on the new world with his lover, especially since there was no indication of danger or any alien life.

As they set off, Jack made sure Daniel was in front of him so that he could have some quality Daniel-watching time.  He glanced back, seeing that Sam and Teal'c were just going out of sight as they moved behind a rock formation.  With a smile, the colonel again looked forward, cocking his head at his lover's delightful derriere.

“Jack, what you are doing?” Daniel asked suspiciously, stopping and turning around after they'd only gone several yards.

“Just watching your six, Daniel, that's all,” Jack casually responded with a smug expression.

“Jack!” Daniel warned.

“Daniel!” Jack smirked not-so-innocently, tapping twice on his weapon.

They stared at each other for about thirty seconds before they both started to laugh.

“Sorry, Love, couldn't resist,” Jack admitted lightheartedly.  “C'mon, let's check this place out for real.”

Jack moved forward past Daniel, breaking their rules and sneaking a quick kiss on the way.  He had no intention of letting his lover take point on a planet they knew little about.  No matter what, Jack would always protect Daniel; he just hadn't been able to resist a bit of momentary fun as they began their trek.

~He's incorrigible.~  Daniel shook his head as Jack took the lead, keeping a pace or two ahead of the younger man.  “Jack, we're alone here,” he said, walking with his head bowed slightly.  “You don't have to be so ... you know.”

“So what, Daniel?” Jack asked, his colonel tone used as he continuously scoped out their surroundings.

“Never mind,” Daniel sighed regretfully.  He knew it was a lost cause.  Until Jack was certain the planet was uninhabited and without danger, he'd be on guard.  ~I'm surprised he even kissed me,~ the younger man thought, automatically smiling at the remembrance.  Resigned to his fate, at least for now, Daniel decided to forego having a fruitless discussion about Jack's current formality and concentrate on the planet itself.  ~Maybe there'll be something fascinating to discover here,~ the archaeologist thought hopefully.

--

A few miles west of the Stargate, the two explorers found a long, yet amazingly narrow, river that kept what little tree and plant life there was on the planet alive.  As they followed it, each quietly observed that although the water was clear, there was no sign of any fish or marine life.

At one point, Daniel knelt down to inspect a colorful section of the riverbed. He started to put his hand in the water.

“What do you think you're doing?” Jack snapped as he reached out and put his hand on Daniel's shoulder, physically barring Daniel's forward movement.

“Jack!” Daniel complained.

“Daniel, let's walk on the side of caution,” the colonel urged.  “Note the location, and we can have Carter check it out with her doohickeys and then you can skinny dip here if you want.”

“They're probably just underwater rocks,” Daniel opined as he continued to kneel by the water, sure that his overprotective lover was being overly cautious.

“Key word there Daniel is 'probably'.  It's totally out of character from everything else we've seen.  C'mon, let's go,” Jack advised, tapping his soulmate's shoulder a couple of times and then starting to walk away.

Reluctantly, Daniel had to admit Jack was right.  He made a few quick observations about the area on his tape recorder and then jogged to catch up with Jack.

====

Jack and Daniel eventually veered away from the river, traveling in a northerly direction, heading up onto a rising plateau.  Upon reaching the edge of the arid highland, the two were surprised to see a large, metallic-looking structure in the distance.

“Geez, Danny, it looks like a Borg ship; you know one of those cube things,” Jack remarked.

“Jack, you really have been watching too much TV,” Daniel replied as he stood, watching the unusual and unexpected edifice.

“Yeah, well, look at it.  Out in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of tubes or pipes or something.  Must be the Borg,” Jack teased.

One of the things the younger man appreciated most about Jack, even if he didn't always admit it, was that the older man prevented Daniel from taking himself and his work too seriously.

Thus, as they made their way towards the massive building, Daniel shook his head, thinking, ~The Borg.  Gawd, I love him.~

From their vantage point on the plateau, the structure had looked to be an immense cube of dark metal, possibly twenty or twenty-five stories high and four city blocks long.  However, as they moved closer, they could see that the cube was actually comprised of large columns, intricately intermixed with thousands of cylinders of varying sizes.  The object was clearly out of place on the apparently devoid-of-life planet.

Jack and Daniel noted there were no other artificial objects at or around the construction's base.  The ground the cube was resting on was the same gravel-covered terrain that existed on the plateau, and there were no paths or roads leading up to the object.  It was almost as if it were a matte painting of just a solitary object in the middle of a desert.

====

“Very odd,” the colonel commented as he looked up through his sunglasses, arching his back to view the tall structure now that the lovers were standing in front of the cube-like building.  “What do you think this is?”

“I have no idea,” Daniel answered in awe.  “Uh, this material looks a little like trinium, but it's ... it's flexible,” he stated after touching one piece of the structure, seeing it retract under the pressure of his finger and then resume its original shape as soon as Daniel had pulled his finger back.  Glancing briefly at his lover, he asked, “Did you see that, Jack?”

“Yeah,” Jack answered.  ~I wish you'd stop touching things.~  Jack blinked, not surprised when his archaeologist moved closer to the building.  “Uh, Danny, where are you going?”

There was a gap in the otherwise solid columns that formed a kind of doorway, and as Daniel started to enter the opening, Jack's internal 'Daniel alarm' began blaring.  Jack had been examining the opening and couldn't  detect anything that would slide, move, or function like a door.

“We need to see what's inside, Jack,” the curious archaeologist announced, immediately taking a right turn and disappearing from Jack's sight.

“Daniel!” Jack called out anxiously as he took a few quick steps and made the same right turn Daniel had.  He sighed when he unexpectedly came face-to-face and chest-to-chest with his lover, who shocked his colonel by throwing his arms around him and kissing him soundly.

“You're so predictable, Babe,” Daniel chuckled, his hands still around Jack's neck, “and I wouldn't have you any other way.”

Jack growled, “You're going to give me a heart attack one of these days, Jackson.”

“I wasn't going anywhere ... Colonel,” Daniel intoned as he pulled away and began to inspect the interior of the structure.

“Sweet, only took you seven years to know my rank; nice of you to remember now,” Jack begrudgingly joked as he moved forward a couple of steps.

Daniel chuckled, “Don't worry, Love, you'll always be the colonel of my heart.”

“Okay, let's check this place out and get out of here.”  Jack clicked his radio, intending to inform their teammates about their find and current location.  “Carter, Teal'c.”  He waited a moment and then repeated his attempt, though it was also unsuccessful.  “This building must block the signal.”

“It could be the material,” Daniel speculated about the unusual construction.

“Yeah.”  Jack checked his watch, then nodded for Daniel to go ahead.  ~The sooner we get out of here, the better.~

====

For the next twenty minutes, the two wound their way deeper and deeper into the complex. The corridors were roughly eight-feet wide.  Oddly, except for the piping, there didn't appear to be any divisions between the floor and the top of the cube.  Looking up, the only things visible were more cylinders, though the nearest one looked to be at least twenty-feet high.

From the outside, the building-like design looked tall and wide, but not that deep.  However, Jack's internal sensors were getting louder and louder as he and Daniel went further into the maze, which suddenly seemed endless.

“Daniel, did this whatever-it-is look this big from the outside?” Jack asked.  Without waiting for a response, he commented, “It just didn't seem like there was that much to it, depth wise.”

“No, you're right,” Daniel agreed, adding, “This is, uh, like a maze.”

Jack was growing a bit nervous, beginning to wonder if they would be able to find their way out.  The tall cylinders that comprised the complex were identical with no change in color, depth, or texture.  The only difference Jack could ascertain was the height and angles of the various pieces, but since it was difficult to tell where one piece ended and another began, that didn't help much.

~Should have put up a locator beacon,~ the military man thought, regretting not doing it earlier.  Silently, he pulled out a beacon from his pack and activated it.  ~Crap!~

The beacon didn't work; obviously, whatever interfered with the radio signal also affected the beacon.  Jack sighed and hurried to catch up with his lover, almost losing sight of Daniel after the archaeologist had made a left turn.

====

Fifteen minutes later, the two explorers were even deeper inside the towering structure, and they still hadn't found any signs of life, nor any type of artifact or relic.  There were no writings or symbols visible anywhere; only the metallic cylinders that twisted mutely in all directions could be seen.

Jack tapped his P-90 a few times as he continued to look at something he silently thought was ~just as ugly as a Borg ship, too.~  Tiring of the maze, and with his unease continuing to grow, Jack impatiently prodded his teammate, asking, “Daniel, you see any reason for us to keep going?”

“No, I guess not, Jack, but it doesn't make any sense,” Daniel commented as he tried to come up with some meaning to the structure's existence.  “Why would someone build a place like this ... maze that doesn't have a ... a purpose?  I mean, it has to be here for a reason.  It has to do something.”

Jack took another look around, still tapping his P-90, and responded, “Maybe, but there's nothing here to answer those questions, right?”

Daniel gave a reluctant sigh.  He loved exploring and the process of discovery, but he had to admit they hadn't come across much that would give them answers, only more questions they couldn't find answers to.  The entire place was dry and monochrome, but still, he hated to give up.

“Ten more minutes, Jack.  The halls are getting narrower; maybe there's something up ahead,” Daniel stated hopefully.

Sure enough, the construction had changed a bit once they moved forward.  The corridors were now just six-feet wide, and the lowest hanging pipe from the ceiling was only fourteen-feet high.

More strange to Jack than the shifting size was that the pathways were twisting more.  He wondered what that could mean, silently thinking, ~I feel like a rat being taunted in a cage by a scientist.~

“Jack, we have time,” Daniel reminded.  “Ten more minutes,” he requested, his eyes begging his lover for the extension.

Still not comfortable in their surroundings, Jack's suspicions ran high as he thought, ~Definitely the rat, O'Neill, being relentlessly teased by the scientist with the sweetest six ever created.~

Jack debated the pros and cons of going further on inside the cube.  His internal sense of military logic and the sum of his experience, his 'colonel-self', warred with the lover inside him, who desired only to see a smile fleet across Daniel's face.

--

The colonel wanted to say 'no', but the lover saw the plea in the beautiful blue eyes and convinced the colonel to go along.

~After all, Colonel, you're in no rush, and there's no obvious threat.  Danny wants to go a little further.  Make him happy,~ the lover argued silently.

~Yeah, but that's always when things happen.  We should get out of here.  We can always have a team come back later and check it out or come back with Carter and Teal'c,~ the colonel rebutted in Jack's mind.
 
~Okay, Colonel, but those blue eyes and pouty lips are aimed your way.  You sure you can say no to those?~

~Dang you, Lover, you know I can't, not without something more concrete to be concerned about.~

~Knew I could count on you, Colonel,~ the lover said smugly in Jack's head.

--

“Jack?  Are you okay?” Daniel asked, walking a couple of steps back towards Jack, worried that his soulmate suddenly seemed far off and hadn't answered his calls.

His internal debate over, Jack answered, “Yes, I'm okay.  Let's go ahead, but only for another ten minutes, Daniel; then we get out of here.”

Daniel launched the smile that sailed Jack's heart to happiness and turned to venture forward into the dark edifice.

~Well done, Colonel,~ the lover acknowledged.  ~You'll be getting some tonight.~

~Oh, for crying out loud, I'd be getting some anyway; but, it'll be ....~  The older man shook his head.  ~Get a grip, O'Neill.  You're losing it with these silent conversations.  If you're not careful, they're going to send MacKenzie after you soon.~

--

“Jack, are you sure you're all right?”  Daniel had doubled back having realized that his lover hadn't followed him.  More concerned about his life partner than some strange locale, he suggested, “Maybe we should go out now.”

“No, Danny, really.  I'm just arguing with myself,” Jack admitted.  He grinned and motioned for Daniel to go on.  ~Even Danny thinks you're losing it, O'Neill.~

“You sure?” Daniel asked, believing his lover was unusually distracted.

“Move, Daniel,” Jack lightly commanded.

Daniel grinned and gave Jack a sloppy salute before continuing on.

====

The interior hallways continued to narrow slightly as Jack and Daniel went deeper into the maze, but nothing else had changed since they had stopped earlier.  All they could see were the round black tubes the structure was made of.

“Daniel, it's time to go.  There's nothing here,” Jack announced.

“Can't argue with you, Jack.  Maybe Sam could run some tests, find out more about this ... whatever it is,” Daniel suggested, still believing there had to be a reason for the unusual design's existence.

Daniel started to retrace their steps, but stopped, once again aware Jack hadn't followed.

“Danny, look at this,” Jack instructed as he pointed to one cylinder that had a picture of the maze on it.  He had noticed it just as he turned around to follow Daniel out.  This was the first and only piece of piping to have anything written or pictured on it.  The colonel observed, “It's raised, but the writing has been etched into it, and look at this.”

Jack's finger touched a blue dot at the center of the representation, the only sign of color the two had seen anywhere.

~What is that?~  As Daniel's mind processed the image, a chill ran down his back.  Anxiously, he called out, “Jack, don't!”  Alarmed, he charged over towards Jack, but it was too late.  The maze began to collapse, thousands of cylinders and pipe pieces falling everywhere.  Daniel looked up at the falling pipes, trying to shield his eyes and head from the collapsing parts.  Then he heard a chilling yell and an aching moan.  “Jack!”

Daniel's heart stopped with what he saw.  Large cylinders from the top of the edifice had landed on Jack, trapping him.  The thick black tubing was strewn across his chest and abdomen while smaller pieces of the cylinders had encircled Jack's legs, confining him even further.  Daniel tried to run to his lover, but was blocked by more of the fallen material.  Though he could see Jack, he couldn't reach him.

“Danny, get out of here,” Jack ordered sternly, struggling in vain to free himself from the strong ties that bound him to the floor.

“Hold on, Jack,” Daniel anxiously advised as he struggled to get to his lover.

“Daniel, that's an *order*.  Get out now!” Jack's raised voice commanded.

Pausing to try and find a path to his partner, Daniel let out a nervous laugh and responded with a gasped, “Try again, Jack.”

Jack started to respond, but another large pipe landed on the bigger piece across his chest, causing him to cry out in pain.

“Hold on, Jack,” Daniel called out, his body aching in sympathy for his lover's pain.

Daniel calmed himself as he took a careful look around at the collapsed maze.  He had somehow escaped being injured, except for being hit by a few of the falling pieces that would probably result in some bruising later.  

The maze had collapsed totally to the ground, leaving gaps in spacing that ranged from just inches to four-feet high.  The wide corridors were now more like small, twisting tunnels.  Hunched over and unable to stand up because of the collapsed structure barring his way, Daniel tried pushing at some of the pipes in his way.  Unfortunately, the flexibility of the material the pipes were constructed from meant they didn't move much.

Hoping to find an opening or something that would help him get to Jack, Daniel began checking out some of the new passageways the collapse created.  After carefully crawling through the tiny tunnels, searching for the way out for several minutes, he finally found one that didn't seem to finish in a dead end.  As he crawled, Daniel began desperately going over his options, but none of the scenarios that he could think of had particularly good endings.

His heart pounding with the intensity of his frustration and a feeling of helplessness, Daniel fought to stay calm.  Jack needed him, and it was up to Daniel to come through.

Realizing that this tunnel wasn't taking him closer to Jack, and in fact, was beginning to lead him further away, Daniel started to twist himself to turn around, only to find that the passageway had narrowed more than he realized.  He wasn't a small person, and in order to turn around, the archaeologist was forced to wedge his knees tightly against his chest, only succeeding due to the give in the material the pipes were made from.

Daniel was hoping that the flexibility of the material would help him free Jack, but all indications were showing that the piping wasn't that flexible.

~Great!  How can I rescue Jack if I end up having to be rescued myself?~

For a moment, the archaeologist feared that he was going to be stuck sideways in the small space.

~No!  You can't stay here; Jack is depending on you, now move it, Jackson!~

With sheer determination, Daniel managed to tug his arm forward, which gave him enough space to finish his turn.

~That's better,~ Daniel thought, finally able to take a full breath again.

Once he faced the direction he had just come, Daniel panicked for a moment, his heartbeat and pulse increasing, his eyes blinking several times.  As he remained motionless, he realized he wasn't all that sure that he had come from that direction.  Looking around, he observed that he actually had at least four choices of paths to take, each one of those took other turns quickly.  One wrong move, and he'd be totally lost, if he wasn't already.

“I hate it when this happens,” Daniel said aloud in a slightly hesitant voice.

Daniel's heart was still racing.  His mind was desperately trying to calculate the path he had just taken from where Jack was injured to where he was now.  He knew if he made the wrong choice, he might be crawling around looking for Jack for a very long time.  He considered calling out to his lover, but then he knew Jack's stubbornness and desire to protect Daniel would take over.  Jack wouldn't respond, hoping Daniel would find a way out.

~No, I can't call out to him.  I have to do this myself,~ Daniel decided, closing his eyes and again calming himself.  “Think Jackson.  Jack's counting on you, and this should be easy as his apple pie,” he told himself.

Using his highly-honed instincts, Daniel retraced his path in his mind, recalling left and right turns and reversing them as he went.

~I guess Jack would say I'm using 'the force'.  Well, okay, 'Force', guide me -- please.~

When he heard a groan and opened his eyes to see Jack a few yards ahead of him, Daniel's whole body trembled in relief.

As he made his way to his lover, Daniel realized that even if he managed to get out of the maze alive and get help, he would never find Jack inside again. He had tried to mark his path earlier, but strangely, the cylinders now repelled anything attached to them, and neither markers nor ink penetrated the surface at all.

~I don't understand this place at all,~ Daniel had thought at the time.

The archaeologist had considered leaving items behind to mark the way, but he didn't believe he had enough things to do that successfully due to the vast number of twists and turns inside the maze.  Marking the trail seemed an impossible task, so he had abandoned the idea.

“Jack, talk to me.  I can't get to you yet.  Where are you hurt?” Daniel asked anxiously.

“Dan...ny,” Jack whispered as he gasped for air.  ~He's so beautiful.~

“I'm here, Jack.  Don't worry; we'll get out of here soon.”  Daniel paused, then called out, “Jack, injuries?”

“Can't bre...athe,” Jack gasped, adding, “Can't mooo...ve my left arm; feet hurt.”

“It'll be okay, Jack,” Daniel assured as calmly as he could.  “I'm going to see if I can make contact with Sam and Teal'c.”

Daniel touched his radio, hoping the radio would work now, even though he remembered Jack's fruitless try at radioing Sam and Teal'c upon entering the structure.

“Sam, Teal'c, this is Daniel.”  Daniel lowered his head, praying for a response.  “Sam, Teal'c, please come in.”

Sadly, nothing but silence filled the airwaves, prompting Daniel to swear in Abydonian.

“Lan-gauge, Dan-iel,” Jack lovingly admonished.

Jack tried to laugh, recognizing Daniel's tone in the foreign words he spoke, but a cough came out instead.

“Just trying to be more like you, Love, that's all,” Daniel quipped, a brief teasing smile on his face as he looked around some more.

Daniel attempted a laugh, but didn't succeed.  He was worried about Jack's breathing and probable leg injuries.  He again tried to move the cylindrical objects keeping him from Jack, but they wouldn't budge.

Some of the smaller pipes gave a little when he touched them, but they acted like elastic, and once Daniel moved his hand, they would go back to their original position.  Adding to the problem, many of the fallen pieces had joined with other pieces, fusing together, sometimes instantly.

“It doesn't make any sense.  I ... I don't understand this, Jack,” Daniel ranted in a near-panic.  “How can these things trap you like that?  I mean, they, uh, give a little, but I ... I can't move them.  No sense to this -- reflexive but unmovable tubing.  They're ... flexi-permanent.  I ... I've never seen anything like it.”

Daniel was still trying to move the piping to reach Jack, but was frustrated by each failed attempt.  The uncooperative tubing was either completely unmovable or wouldn't flex enough to give him the access he needed in order to get through.  In addition, when he tried to hold a section open with his pack, the tubing went around it, making longer pieces.

The younger man was at a complete loss as he stopped and simply observed the oddness in front of him for a few minutes.

“It's ... growing,” Daniel commented quietly, watching in both terror and amazement.

“May...be it's alive, and it ... didn't ... like me ... get...ting so ... touchy ... feely ... with it,” Jack quipped, grimacing though his pain in breathing.

“Very funny, Jack, but right now, I'd say that's as good of a theory as anything else,” Daniel was forced to say in agreement.  “Uh, hello?  Hello!” Daniel called out to their unusual keeper.

“Dan...iel, what are ... you ... do...ing?” Jack asked in between labored breaths.

“Trying to talk to it,” Daniel answered.  “My name's Daniel Jackson.  This is Jack O'Neill.  We're from Earth, and we'd like to exchange information about our cultures.”

“Daniel, it's a frig...gin' building,” Jack whined.  ~Ow!~

“We don't know that,” Daniel argued.  “Please, we don't mean you any harm,” he called out again to the unknown.

“Give it up, Daniel,” Jack managed to say in one fast breath.

Shaking his head, Daniel continued his peaceful explorer pitch, not knowing what else to do.

====

With no response from the structure after several minutes of various attempts, not that he really expected one, Daniel's anxiety increased.  He had so many questions but no answers.  His genius wasn't getting him anywhere inside this tangled web of black piping.  His mind tried desperately to come up with some angle that would free his soulmate, but in the end, nothing worked or seemed feasible to try.

Daniel looked across at Jack's pale face.  Jack hadn't said anything in the last few minutes, and Daniel could see it was getting even harder for him to breathe.  He feared the cylinders pressing against Jack's chest might have broken ribs and possibly even punctured his lung.

To make matters worse, the cylinders at Jack's feet had fused with the ground, encasing Jack in the process.  The larger piece still covered most of Jack's abdomen and lower body.  There weren't any cuts that Daniel could see, but Jack was beginning to show signs of the bruising on the side of his face from having been impacted by the falling objects earlier.

Daniel was also sore in the places where the piping had hit him earlier, and his left knee was hurting; he wasn't sure why, but thought he might have twisted it a little earlier when he was first investigating the tunnels.

He knew Jack was in a lot of pain, and as a result, Daniel's anguish ran deep into his soul.  When Jack hurt, he hurt.  Sometimes, listening to Jack's shallow, gasping breaths, Daniel felt like he might not be able to take the next breath himself.  The younger man knew, though, that he had to stay in control.  It was up to him to save them both.

Unwilling to give up, the archaeologist kept trying to move the cylinders, to cut them, push them, bend them -- anything he could think of to free his injured lover.  Frustratingly, nothing worked.  He felt like he was in a cage, being taunted.

~Maybe I can cross over, climb to him somehow,~ Daniel thought as he studied the strange accumulation of piping.  Giving it a shot, Daniel winced when one piece of the cylinder went crashing down, barely missing him.  He also observed another piece beneath him give way.  ~Crap, I can't take the chance.~

Daniel climbed back down, afraid that if he attempted to put his full body weight on the tubing that it all crash in on his lover.

====

“Daniel,” Jack gasped softly hours later.  “You need ... to ... get ... he...lp.  Go.”

“I couldn't find my way back, Jack,” Daniel responded quietly.

“You ... could.  You're ... way ... smar...ter ... than ... me.  Have ... faith ... in you,” Jack said in a painful whisper.

Jack's words had taken much of his strength, labored breaths coming in between each word.  He closed his eyes as a wave of pain jolted his body.

“No, Jack.  I ... couldn't find my way out, either.  There are more passages now than there were before, and they're different.  I'd just get trapped alone somewhere else,” Daniel rationalized.  ~Not leaving you, no matter what you say.~

Jack tried again, encouraging his brave young lover by saying, “You ... could do ... it, Dan...ny.  Get ... us out ... of ... here.”

Daniel smiled at Jack, knowing full well that Jack was attempting to get him to leave by using faith in Daniel's ability to return to this same spot.  Jack's attempt would fail.  Daniel was convinced that while he might be able to find his way out, the maze was much too intricate now to risk leaving and not being able to find his way back to Jack.  There was no way in Netu that Daniel was going to leave Jack to die alone.

~If you die here, Jack, we both die here.~

If Daniel left, the two soulmates couldn't even stay in radio contact.  Jack was pinned, unable to move much, and couldn't reach his radio even if radio communication was possible, something that prior attempts had proven was futile.

Daniel opened his pack, pulling out a water bottle to give to his partner.  He tried to reach through the pile of piping to get to Jack again, but they just weren't close enough.

“Jack, you need to drink this,” Daniel urged as he carefully rolled the bottle toward Jack's right hand.

Jack reached for it gingerly with his right arm and was able to pick it up, but when he tried to raise his arm, he cried out in pain, and the water fell.

“JACK!  What's wrong?” Daniel called out with grave concern.

“Don't ... know.  Piercing ...” Jack stammered.

Daniel moved his position slightly, seeing one of the fallen cylinders that had landed near Jack had now fused with the ground and was encircling Jack's forearm much as the ones at the bottom were doing with Jack's feet.

“Try it again, Jack,” the younger man coaxed.

Jack reached for the bottle, and the same thing happened.  This time, the water rolled out of Jack's reach, and Jack's yell was even louder.

“Dan...ny, what's ... geez?” Jack moaned.

“When you move your arm, Jack, the tubes are constricting.  That's what is causing the pain,” Daniel explained from what he had just seen happen.  “I don't understand this.  None of that is happening to me.”

“Touch,” Jack said in a whisper.

“What?” a clueless Daniel asked.

Jack tried to laugh as he answered, “Al...ways tell...ing you ... not  to ... touch.  I ... touched that ... thing.”

Daniel remembered the one cylinder that was different from the rest.  Jack had placed his finger on the object, and that's when everything changed.

“That's it!” Daniel exclaimed.  “That's the answer,” he repeated, certain the that one cylinder was the cause of, and very likely the solution to, their situation.  The problem was that he had no clue how to resolve it now.  He didn't even think he could find that cylinder again.  ~It could be anywhere,~ he thought, though he figured the odds were that it was close to his lover and, therefore, out of his own reach.

====

More time passed.  The two men were tired, and Jack was getting weaker.  He had been sweating a lot and was nauseous.

Daniel had reluctantly eaten a few bites of a power bar earlier to appease his lover, but he had no appetite.  He was too worried about Jack, who didn't feel like he could even try to eat anything, considering the state of his stomach at this point.  Jack's breathing was more shallow, and it was harder for him to talk.

Out of desperation, Daniel clicked the radio one more time and reported, “Sam, Teal'c, I don't know if you can hear me.  Jack and I are ... we're trapped in some ... maze-like structure.  We were about five miles north from the mouth of the river.  The structure ... it was massive, towering ... maybe twenty-stories high, but it was like a big city.  We went inside and ...”

Daniel paused and looked at Jack.  He didn't know if anyone was listening or not, but he had to try, so he clicked the radio again.

The archaeologist continued, “It's all a bunch of cylinders in here, nothing but pipes, and I don't know what they are made of.  We went pretty far inside.  Nothing here to tell us anything about who built it or why.  Jack found the only cylinder that had anything on it, and it looked like a picture of the maze with a blue dot.  When ...”

Daniel stopped and looked at Jack once again.  He smiled sweetly, feeling so much love for the colonel of his heart.  He was beginning to believe that Sam and Teal'c were their only hope.  This radio transmission just had to go through.

Anxiously, Daniel advised, “When it was pressed, all of a sudden, the maze collapsed, creating hundreds of narrow passages.  It's impossible to find my way out.  Jack is ... badly injured.  I can't get to him.  I don't think you could find us even if you found the maze, but ... if you do, set up some kind of tracking device, or you'll get stuck in here, too.  Be careful.  Daniel out.”

“They ... can't hear ... you, Danny,” Jack said, his mournful eyes gazing into his lover's.

“I know,” Daniel acknowledged with a sad heart.

====

More time went by, long seconds turning into unceasing minutes that evolved into torturous hours.

Jack's remaining energy was about gone.  Daniel tried to distract him with stories and memories, but in the end, Jack looked into Daniel's eyes, speaking a truth that neither wanted to admit and yet couldn't ignore.  Still, they made a silent acknowledgement that they were only biding time.

“Go, Angel.  Bring a ... team back.  They ... they can res...rescue us,” Jack pleaded, his words just about zapping what remained of his strength.

“No way, Jack,” Daniel replied.  “You're only saying that to protect me, to get me to leave you.  I won't do it, not now, not ever.”

--

Finally, the two knew they were running out of time.  Jack realized Daniel wouldn't leave.  He didn't have to say the words; it was in his soulmates's expressive blue eyes, ones that were now full of eternal love, but also a mournful sadness.

“Love you, Danny, al...ways,” Jack said, barely got the words out before another wave of pain flooded his body.  He closed his eyes.  “Love ... you.”

The younger man feared Jack might never open his eyes again.  He felt like he was watching the precious life being drained from his lover, especially now that he could see a blue tinge around Jack's lips.

Daniel had never seen Jack's skin looking so colorless, and his heart was crying from the agony he knew Jack was in.  Time was about to expire.  His own head throbbed, a headache desperately trying to distract him into paying attention to his own pain, but he would have none of that.  He needed to be with Jack, no matter what the cost.  Jack was his soul, and being separated like this was like having the fabric of his being cut away, layer by layer.

~I need you more than anything,~ Daniel thought as he gazed at his dying Love.

Daniel pressed against the cylinders again, and as they had done before, they moved.  Seizing the moment, Daniel threw as much of his torso as he could through the dark piping, his need to be closer to Jack outweighing the certain injury to himself.

When he released the bars, unable to hold them any longer as he adjusted his body, the archaeologist winced in pain, the objects closing in on his  ribcage, causing him to cry out, though he tried to muffle it.

“Danny?” Jack cried out.  He had opened his eyes upon hearing Daniel's moan from the pain of the bars now pressing into his abdomen.  “Danny.”

“I'm okay, Jack,” Daniel lied.

“Dan...ny,” Jack sighed, well aware of the truth.  Inside, he screamed,  ~NOOOOOO!~

Jack was angry at himself for breaking his own 'don't touch' rule, and now it was costing him the most precious thing that ever existed -- Daniel's life.

“Jack, take my hand,” Daniel requested.

Daniel had managed to position his body so that he was lying on his right side.  He stretched his right arm out as far it could go.  His fingers wiggled, urging Jack to reach for them.  The two were so close, but Daniel couldn't reach Jack on his own.

“Danny,” Jack stated firmly, wanting his lover to back away.  He couldn't stand this.  Daniel had to be safe.  Jack's heart pounded, his lungs working overtime to survive the knowledge that Daniel was sacrificing himself to stay with him.  ~Save yourself.  Leave.  Danny.~

Daniel recognized the rest of the unspoken sentence that went with the tone Jack had used to speak his name.  He was tempted to be angry, except he loved the man too much to be angry with him right now.

“Don't say it, Jack.  You know I won't leave.  Now take my hand,” Daniel demanded again.

Jack heard the resolve in his Love's voice.  Daniel wouldn't leave him, not now, not ever.  Reluctantly accepting that he wouldn't be able to convince Daniel to go, Jack inched his hand slowly to his right until it settled in the outstretched palm of his lover.  Daniel clasped Jack's hand solidly in his, a simultaneous relief and pleasure jolting through both of them from the contact.

“Stay with me, Jack,” the younger man implored.  “We're ... connected.  Remember our pact, Jack.  What happens to one, happens to the other.  You want me to live, Jack?  Then you hold on.  Hold on to me, to us!”

Jack did want Daniel to live, but they'd made a deal, a vow, a pact, and in this instant, he saw Daniel's eyes reaffirming that their fate would be the same.  He didn't have a choice.  He had to keep his blood flowing and heart beating if he wanted Daniel's to do the same.  He squeezed his lover's hand, though he was so weakened that it was more of a slight pressure.  Still, in that moment, Jack grounded himself to Daniel, drawing strength and resolve from him.

====

Hours passed by slowly, Jack lapsing in and out of consciousness.  A weary Daniel continued to try and keep his soulmate's mind focused on him and their life together.  Jack always said Daniel was a talker, and Daniel knew he had to keep talking now.  Their lives depended on it, so he prattled on and on until his voice was hoarse.

The linguist had talked for hours, and Jack listened, not to Daniel's words, but to his eyes.  The words were superfluous, but the younger man's eyes spoke only of love, and that is what Jack had latched onto.

Finally, Daniel couldn't talk anymore.  His voice was almost gone, but he had one more thing he had to say, and when he did, the words were from the very depths of his soul.

“Love you, Jack, love you so much.  Forever and always, Jack,” Daniel spoke in a hush.

“Love ... you, Dan...ny, for...ev...er, Space Mon...key,” Jack whispered, using up what little energy there was in his weakened body.

The lovers exchanged a look and a smile, and then Daniel squeezed Jack's hand.  With their next breaths, Jack and Daniel closed their eyes.

====

~J'ck?~  Daniel blinked at the bright light beaming down at him.  He flinched, the brightness hurting his eyes.  “Jack?” he weakly called out.

“The colonel will be fine, Daniel; so will you,” a familiar and soft voice said gently as she put away her penlight.

It took Daniel a minute, but then he realized the voice belonged to Janet Fraiser, the SGC's version of Napoleon.

“Janet?  Jack?” Daniel queried in a cracked voice.

Calmly, Janet responded, “Daniel, he'll be fine.  He's right over there.”

Janet pointed to the bed to Daniel's left.  Jack was hooked up to a number of machines monitoring his heart and breathing, and Daniel could see the oxygen mask over Jack's nose.  He was either asleep or unconscious; Daniel could see his eyes were closed.

“Jack,” Daniel called out anxiously, immediately trying to get up and totally ignoring the morphine drip bag that was attached to his arm.

“Now, Daniel, you're as bad as Colonel O'Neill,” Janet said as she blocked Daniel's rise and then made sure the drip was still in place properly.  “He'll be asleep for a few more hours.  It looks worse than it is, Daniel,” Janet stated.  “He has a few fractured ribs and a torn ligament in his right ankle from where that device latched on to him; and he'll probably be sore from where that thing held him down, but his injuries are relatively minor, all things considered.”

“Are you sure?” Daniel asked softly, reluctantly settling back onto his hospital bed.

“I'm sure,” Janet promised.  “As for you, you also fractured a couple of ribs and are a bit dehydrated, but other than that, you're fine.”

“Janet, wha...” the archaeologist began, only to have his query cut off by another member of Janet's medical team.

“Doctor Frasier,” Casey Hemmings, a male nurse at the SGC called out.  “You have a phone call.”

“Thanks, Casey,” Janet said, looking over her shoulder.  Facing Daniel again, the physician smiled reassuringly as she spoke, “I promise you that both you and the colonel will make full recoveries.  I'll be back.”

As Janet headed for her office, Sam entered and greeted her teammate, “Daniel, hi.  You're looking better.”

“Sam, Jack?  Is he okay”  Daniel had been sure they were both going to die.  He just wasn't sure any of this was real.  ~Am I dreaming?~ he asked himself.

“Janet says he'll be fine,” Sam replied.  She leaned over closer to Daniel and added, “And I'm sure once the colonel sees that you're okay, he'll be up and about in no time.”

Daniel smiled weakly at the comment and, with curiosity getting the better of him, inquired, “How, Sam?  How'd you find us?  The maze ... it was so big.”

“We heard your radio transmission,” the major answered.  With surprise, she asked, “Couldn't you hear us?”

“No, just ... silence,” a confused Daniel reported, shaking his head slightly.

Sam cocked her head, saying, “That's odd, but, anyway, we were already searching for you when your message came through.  That maze was incredible, Daniel.  I've never seen anything like those cylinders were made of, and I still have no idea what makes them react the way they do.”

“Yeah, I know.  Strange,” the young man commented.

Sam continued, “It's a good thing you warned us, or we'd probably all be lost in there, but knowing what you said, we were prepared and were able to monitor our positions.”

“Jack was pinned.  I couldn't reach him, Sam,” Daniel said in a near-panicked tone, his mind taking him back to the crisis on the planet.

Daniel wanted to know what Sam was saying, but his mind was back on his lover and his inability to get him out.  He watched Jack breathing on the bed next to him and wanted desperately to touch him.

“You did reach him, Daniel.  You two were,” Sam looked around the infirmary to make sure no one was near and said softly, “you were still holding hands when I found you.  I thought I was going to have to blast your hands apart.”

“We thought ... I mean, we ...”

Daniel looked over towards Jack again and didn't finish his sentence.

“This can wait, Daniel,” Sam told him gently.  “You need to rest.  Teal'c had to kelno'reem, but he'll be back in a while.”

Seeing Daniel continuing to stare at Jack, Sam shook her head with a smile.  She might never understand how these two friends had fallen so much in love, but their bond made her envious of the love they shared, wishing one day she'd find someone to share that kind of emotional connection with, too.

“Daniel, I'll be back.  You get some sleep so you can ride herd over the colonel when he wakes up,” Sam said with a teasing smile.

Daniel finally looked back at Sam, a genuine smile on his face as he replied softly, “Sounds like fun.”

Sam kissed Daniel on the forehead as she gently whispered, “I'm glad you're okay.”

Daniel realized how emotional their friend was at the moment.  He soaked in her friendship as he replied simply, “Thanks, Sam ... for everything.”

====

“So, Carter, did you ever figure out what that killing zoo was?” Jack asked, finally feeling like himself again now that he was out of the infirmary.

Jack was sipping on a beer, seated in his favorite armchair in the home he shared with Daniel.  The lower part of his right leg was bandaged from the ligament tear and was propped up on an ottoman.  His body still showed some signs of the bruising from the cylinders, but he had been quite lucky not to be hurt even more from his ordeal.

“Actually, Sir, not really,” Sam admitted.  “We're running more tests on the cylinders, but so far, it's unlike anything we've ever seen.”  She paused, then added, “It's as strong as trinium, but we don't understand the flexible aspects of it, and we can't control it.”  She paused, hesitantly saying, “And it, uh, grows ... sometimes.”

“Grows?” Jack questioned, sipping more of his beer.

“Well, not really growing as we know it, but when you put two or more pieces together, they can latch on to each other and form new shapes.  To be honest, it's way beyond our technology,” the woman reluctantly admitted.

“It might be some kind of test or ... play area, even, for a culture we haven't met yet,” Daniel speculated.

Daniel was seated on the sofa, sipping a Pepsi.  His recovery had been quicker than Jack's, but Janet had kept him in the infirmary for a few days anyway, basically because she knew he'd only move into the chair by Jack's bedside if she released him.  She figured he'd rest better lying in an infirmary bed next to Jack than in one of the not very comfortable infirmary chairs.

The petite SGC doctor had given Daniel some painkillers to take at home, which, of course, he balked at taking, but relented seeing Janet's glare and threat of more infirmary time if he didn't go along with her orders.  Thus, as the days progressed, Daniel's pain from his injury subsided.  He now took Tylenol only occasionally when his ribs bothered him too much.  His twisted knee had actually just been slightly sprained and was already healed.

“A playground, Daniel?” Jack questioned, not sure he believed that theory.

“Well, it was a maze, Jack,” Daniel responded.

“And I've think I've met all I want to meet of their culture,” the colonel said with conviction.

“Well, as I was saying,” Daniel continued, ignoring Jack's comment, “there didn't seem to be any reason for it to be there.  Maybe it's something like the light that was at the pleasure palace that the Goa'uld used.  Maybe this was some type of game, or like I said, a testing ground for some ... something out there.  Maybe that picture with the blue dot on it was a finishing line, or something to take it to a new level, and that's why the structure changed when you ... when it was touched.”

“I just hate not knowing,” Sam said, feeling frustrated that her sophisticated machines hadn't revealed anything definitive about the cube.

“There's still so much we don't know, Sam,” Daniel remarked about the bigger picture.  “We're so caught up in our battle with the Goa'uld, I think maybe we forget it really is a big galaxy.  We make dangerous assumptions that we know everything.”

Jack chuckled, “The Nox.”

Nodding, Daniel commented, “In spite of all we know, in the scheme of the universe, we really are very young.  The Nox were right.”

“It's just so darn frustrating,” Sam remarked.  “We've run so many tests on that material, and still, we don't know what it is, or what it does.  It doesn't react to anything, and it doesn't change, except for when you press against it, and then it just bounces back.”

“I'm still surprised you were able to get us out,” Daniel stated.

“Well, a big Jaffa had a lot to do with that.  Boy, Teal'c can use those muscles when he wants to,” Sam said, grinning a bit more girlishly than was her norm.

“Why Major Carter, are you blushing about Teal'c's physique?” Jack asked coyly.

“No, Sir, of course not.”  Sam looked away, trying to hide a smile and figuring it was a good time to make her exit.  “I should be going.  Sir, Daniel, if you two need anything, let me know.”

Sam got up and began to head for the door.

“I'd get up, Carter, but ...” Jack flung his right arm out to indicate his leg.

“It's okay, Sir.  See you later,” Sam said, nodding and then continuing towards the door.

Daniel walked Sam to the door and gave her a big hug, saying, “Thanks again, Sam, and ... not just for helping out today with bringing Jack home, but ... for finding us.”

“Anytime,” the blonde replied warmly.  “Well, not really, I mean ... don't do that again, Daniel.”

They both laughed as Sam walked out onto the porch.

“Um, Sam, I wanted to ask you about something you said,” Daniel intoned a bit hesitantly.

“Sure, what?” the blonde asked, waiting calmly for the impending question.

His arms folded from nervousness, the archaeologist stated, “You said when you found Jack and me that ... well, I mean, that we ...”

Daniel looked down, simple English seeming to have escaped him.

Sam blushed a little as she spoke, “You mean that you were still um ...”

The blonde pointed to Daniel's hand.  It seemed her vocabulary was on the same level as Daniel's at the moment.

“Yeah.  Teal'c, was he ... I mean, did he ...” Daniel stuttered.

“No, he stayed outside while I went in,” Sam told him.  “You had talked about the passageways being narrow, so since I'm smaller, it made more sense for me to go in.  Also, it was a way to make sure the tracking devices worked.  The regular beacons didn't.  I had to jury-rig something fast.  Anyway, I, um, was able to reach through and sort of pried your hands apart just before he got there.”

“Just before?” Daniel queried.

Sam looked away for a moment, then looked back at her friend as she stated, “Daniel, you both looked ... I don't know ... I knew I couldn't do anything to help either of you until we got you out of there, and you were both breathing and alive.  The one thing that seemed to be ...” Sam paused, slightly embarrassed.  “I don't know, Daniel.  You were both unconscious and yet holding on to each other as if your lives depended on it, so okay, scientist or not, I thought ... well, I thought maybe it did, so I didn't want to sever that connection until the last minute.”

Sam gave Daniel another hug.  They never talked about this, Daniel's relationship with Jack.  The two men tried their best to protect their friend from seeing or hearing anything too much.  It was hard enough that she knew about them, given their careers and the team dynamic, without having to witness it.

“Thanks, Sam,” Daniel said quietly.

“Don't do that again, Daniel.  You two scared me,” the woman confided.

Sam's tone was very light, her voice soft.  She didn't like getting emotional.  She was military after all, but where Daniel was concerned, she seldom seemed able to hold back her emotions.

It had taken Teal'c a long time to figure out how to maneuver the cylinders just right so that Sam could pull Daniel, and then Jack, out of the maze's hold on them.  She hadn't been that scared in a long time.

“We'll try not to,” Daniel said, smiling.  “Goodnight.”

Daniel watched Sam get into her car and leave.  He returned to Jack in the living room, taking a seat on the sofa nearest to Jack's chair.

“What'd you two do, write a book?” Jack asked in consideration of the length of time Daniel had been away from him.

“Sorry, I was asking her about Teal'c,” the younger man answered.

“She have a thing for Teal'c?” Jack asked inquisitively.

“What?  Geez, Jack, I don't know, that's ... that's not what I asked her about,” Daniel responded.

Just about finishing off his beer, leaving only a final sip or two in the bottle, Jack replied, “Okay, what then?”

“Our hands,” the younger man answered shyly.

Jack hadn't heard about how they were found, so he was confused.

Daniel sat forward on the sofa, reached out to take Jack's hand in his, and explained, “Sam said when she found us, we were still holding hands, Jack.  She told me in the infirmary that she had a heck of a time getting us to let go of each other.”  Daniel was caressing Jack's hand with his fingers, and then he leaned in and kissed it.  “I just asked her if Teal'c saw, but she said no, that she pulled us apart just before he reached her.”

Jack hadn't said anything, just watched Daniel and listened, enjoying the feeling of the connection with his lover.  They hadn't talked about their last moments in the maze, or that Daniel had stayed behind when he could have tried to get out.  There would be no point to that.  Jack would have done the same thing, and they both knew it.

“Danny,” Jack beckoned with a smile that warmed Daniel's soul.

With their hands still joined, Daniel got up and moved closer to Jack's armchair, leaning over and kissing his lover.  It was a kiss that spoke of gratitude that they were still alive and together to have this moment.

Jack dropped his beer bottle, not caring that it would fall and stain the ivory carpet with the final remnants of the brew that were inside.  He reached out with his left hand to caress Daniel's right cheek, asking, “Do you know how much I love you?”

“I ... have an idea,” Daniel whispered.

“Forever and always, Danny,” Jack spoke solemnly.

Daniel knelt down and sat sideways in front of the chair on the carpet, still holding Jack's hand as he commented, “I could feel you, you know; I mean your life, in your hand.”

“You gave me strength, Danny.  Besides, I'm too stubborn to die,” Jack said with a bit of chuckle.

Daniel laughed and rested his head on Jack's thigh.

“A game, eh?” Jack asked, not happy about the possibility of having been used as a pawn.

“Or a test,” Daniel suggested.  “We'll probably never know for sure.”

“Did we pass?” Jack wondered.

“We're alive,” the younger man quickly answered.

“Hmm ... are you sure?” Jack asked playfully.

Daniel raised his head to look at Jack and saw the sparkle in the chocolate brown eyes he loved so much, and he noted the leer in Jack's voice.  Daniel got with the program instantly.

“Well, now, that's a good question, Colonel.  I'm not sure Janet did a thorough examination,” the archaeologist teased.

“I was wondering about that myself, Doctor Jackson.  What do you think about second opinions?” Jack asked.

“All for them, Colonel, Sir,” Daniel answered brightly.

“It's all in the interest of science, you understand,” Jack noted mockingly.

“Perfectly.  I mean, we do have to verify our results,” Daniel agreed.

Both men bore giant grins.  They were home, alive, and about to ground out any memory of that monstrosity, if only for a short while.

“C'mon, Danny, let's go to bed,” Jack coaxed.

Daniel rose and started to get the crutches, but Jack stopped him, saying, “Forget the crutches.  I don't need them for this.  I have you.”

Jack's expression was brimming with happiness, and Daniel laughed as he went to Jack's side.

“We are a matched set, fractured ribs and all,” Daniel chuckled.

“Somehow, Danny, I think maybe that's taking togetherness a bit too far,” the colonel responded.

Daniel gently helped his soulmate up, and they carefully inched their way up the stairs as they talked.

“Should I add this to my resume:  Archaeologist, Anthropologist, Linguist, Peaceful Explorer, Crutch?”

“No, no, no.  That's only for me,” Jack responded possessively.

“Oh, you think you get an exclusive?” Daniel challenged his lover.

“For the run of the show, and the show is forever, Danny,” Jack announced.

Daniel smiled.  He knew he should have some quick comeback, but his heart was just too happy and contented that he and Jack were both still alive.

--

In their bedroom, Daniel helped Jack change his clothes and get into bed.  Then Daniel changed and slid under the blankets.  They knew Jack wasn't strong enough to do what they had been flirting about doing downstairs, but it was enough to just be together now.

Daniel wasn't sure if he should snuggle with Jack like they normally did, especially since Jack let out a couple of grunts and groans while getting adjusted on the bed, but his body longed to be next to Jack's.  They normally slept so close, as if they were one, but he was afraid with Jack's leg and the other miscellaneous injuries that were still healing, that it might be too painful.

“Danny ...”

“Jack, maybe ...” Daniel began, wondering if they should just wait.

“Danny, touching gives us strength and life.  I think we just proved that,” Jack interjected firmly.

Convinced, Daniel moved closer to Jack and kissed him.  Jack raised his hands to Daniel's face, gently caressing and keeping him close.

“Love you so friggin' much, Danny,” Jack spoke tenderly.

“Love you, too, Jack,” Daniel happily sighed.

Daniel lay down in his customary position, his head snuggled into Jack's shoulder, one leg in between Jack's two, and his hand on Jack's chest.  Nothing was painful to Jack when he had his Daniel blanket atop him.  He felt warm and happy.

Jack brought his left hand to Daniel's back, caressing it.  Most of the time, his right hand was also on Daniel's back, securely holding Daniel to him, but tonight, Jack's hand went to Daniel's and held it, stroking it lovingly.

Within a few minutes, the two were asleep, their hands joined, fingers entwined, and when they awoke the next morning, they were still hand in hand, just as they would always be as they lived their lives together.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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Zales Jewelers
Zales Jewelers