January 14, 2001

He hugged his friend close, trying to lessen the pain that was etched into the face in front of him.

"It'll be all right you know," he said. "It'll take a while, but it will be ok. You can survive this. And I'll be there to help you."

The hug tightened, until the two bodies were so close, not even a sheet of paper would have fitted between them. A light, chaste kiss was placed onto a furrowed forehead, and a thumb reached up to smooth away the tears running down the face. Another kiss, this time on the lips. Then he stood away, looking into the other's face. Eyes met, and locked.

/You will survive/ one tried to bore the message into the other. The red-rimmed, tear-stained eyes in front of him seemed to belie that message, so this time he repeated it aloud.

"You will survive," he said it forcefully, as if by merely saying it, he could will it to be so. "Death isn't the end," he said, "merely a new beginning." It was a message he'd heard repeated what seemed like a thousand times. At funerals and memorial services of so many different religions, in different words, but basically the message was the same. Even as he said it, he wondered if he was convincing himself.

But right now, that didn't matter. What did matter was convincing the friend in front of him that it was true. His hands gripped the shoulders of his friend, trying to transmit strength from himself and into them. He was rewarded by a small smile, as his friend acknowledged what he was doing and saying, and the hidden message within the words. They were saying /I will be here for you, comforting you, for as long as you need me to, however and whatever it takes/ and suddenly it was enough.

Daniel and Jack smiled at each other, hugging again. Both knew that they would survive this, their friendship would see them through. And that was all that mattered.


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