November 23rd, 2009
On Monday, Jack was nervous. He tried to go about his work as normal, but he knew that his workmates were whispering amongst themselves every time he passed by them. Ennis had told him to just try and ignore it and remain calm, and Jack was trying his best. But it did hurt when none of his work friends approached him throughout the day like they normally did. He felt very lonely.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Ennis was sending him texts whenever he could, giving words of support and love, which were sorely needed. Jack tried to concentrate on the fact that they would be together again soon.
By the time he walked into the coffeehouse at lunchtime, he was worn out and just wanted to lie down. Ennis wasn't here yet, so he took their booth and sat down, hand over his eyes.
"Hey," said a familiar voice, and he looked up to see Lureen, giving him a sympathetic look. "You alright?"
He shook his head. "No...everybody's shunning me and whispering when they think I can't hear them. I really hope Ennis gets here soon."
She nodded and poured him a coffee. "It'll be alright, Jack. What are you guys planning for Thanksgiving, anyway? Weren't you talking about going to Ennis's uncle's place?"
"No; when he called his aunt, she said his parents were going for dinner and that it'd be best if we didn't. I guess we kind of expected that." He suddenly remembered what he and Ennis had agreed on. "By the way, we wanted to ask you and Alma...do you wanna join us for dinner on Thursday?"
She smiled. "I'd love that. I don't feel like going home and I think Alma's folks are going on a trip the day before. So I think we'll both be there. I will, anyway."
"Great." He sipped his coffee and started to relax now that he was here with a friend. The doorbell tinkling caught his attention, and he looked up to see a welcome sight; Ennis looking around for him. Their eyes met and Ennis smiled, walking over to him.
"Hey, darlin'." He leaned down and Jack eagerly met his kiss.
"Hey yourself. Been missing you...but the texts helped." Ennis sat down and took his hand.
"Good. Thought you might want some support, with everything that's going on. So...how's work this morning?"
Jack shook his head. "Awful. Everybody's avoiding me, even those I thought were my friends. If they have to speak to me, it's always short and professional, and..." He sighed. "I'm sick of it already."
"Maybe you really should think about quitting," Ennis said softly. "Even if they're not outright telling you to leave because they don't like it, you can't go on like this. I hate to see you suffering..." Jack gulped and squeezed his hand.
"I know. I really am thinking about it. By the way, I asked Lureen to dinner on Thursday, and she said yes. You asked Alma yet?"
"Oh, yeah. Saw her on my way here; she said she'll be there. At least we still have someone, Jack. They're still on our side."
"Yeah, I know. Just wish...that things could be different. Like...people wouldn't be so paranoid about HIV. I know that AIDS can kill, even now, but...people seem to think that they can catch it just by being near a positive person."
"They need educating, then," Ennis replied. "Maybe you could...I dunno...find someone, a doctor or somebody, who knows about HIV and get them to visit your work, to reassure your workmates they're not at risk."
Jack shook his head slowly. "I don't think that's the problem. The thing is...there's still so much stigma about it. It's a taboo subject and people are never gonna be comfortable with knowing about it, so for me to be there every day...it's like shoving it in their face. I think the best thing is for me to quit and find something else. But...I'm gonna wait until I've got the Christmas bonus; that'll keep me going until I can find another job." He looked into Ennis's eyes. "I don't wanna live off you, bud. But if I ever do need help, with money...I'll take you up on it, okay?"
"Sounds fair. So is there anything else you wanna do?"
"Don't know. I'd like to work with animals, maybe, but it wouldn't be a good idea to get a job at the vets, not with people knowing. I could get a shift here, maybe..." Ennis nodded and Jack trailed off, thinking about the possibilities. There was plenty of work in the city, but if a potential employer found out about his HIV, it could result in a rejection. The injustice of it all made him want to scream; it wasn't his fault that he was positive, and people were just assuming the worst. He hated trying to second-guess how people might respond.
"Tell you what...try not to worry right now," Ennis told him, running his thumb over Jack's knuckles. "Let's just...think about Thursday. We're both cooking, right?"
"Yeah, and we could ask the girls to bring something, to pitch in."
"Bring what?" asked Lureen, making them both jump. She grinned at their reaction.
"Jesus, Lu...don't do that." Jack shook his head. "Anyway...maybe you could bring something on Thursday."
"Well...I'm pretty good at cranberry sauce," she answered, thinking. "Or maybe some dessert..."
"Whatever you want. Maybe you should talk to Alma; decide between you. We'll have the turkey and everything else covered, but sauce and dessert would be great," he said to her, smiling a little. She nodded and walked off to attend to another customer. Ennis was pleased to see Jack looking a little happier now that they had a plan in motion, even if it was just dinner. The main thing was, Jack was no longer miserable. Ennis knew that if Jack left his job, it would probably be the best thing for him, and he'd only ever wanted the best for Jack.
A few hours later, Ennis and Jack finally finished work and met up at Ennis's place. Jack was glad to be away from work, and alone with Ennis. He sat on the sofa with a beer while Ennis made dinner for them both.
He thought about their upcoming trip to New York, and wondered how he would cope when they went near the park. There were so many bad memories associated with the place, and he hoped that he wouldn't get sick or anything.
His phone ringing interrupted his thoughts. "Hey, mom."
"Hi, sweetie. How are you?"
He sighed. "Not so good. One of my workmates exposed my HIV to everybody in the store, including everybody I work with." A lump rose in his throat at the bad memory and he swallowed it down. Ennis heard him talking and looked at him sadly.
"Oh, Jack...I'm sorry. Did the manager do something?"
"Yeah, he fired the guy and told me he'd keep an eye on things. But...now the people I work with won't talk to me, or even look at me. It's horrible being there."
"Are you gonna quit?" she asked softly, and he bit his lip.
"I don't know...maybe. I'm thinking about it. I can't take much more of that place."
"What about money, if you do?" she asked. Jack looked over at Ennis.
"I'm gonna wait until I get the Christmas bonus," he said decisively. "But Ennis says he'll help me out if I need it."
"That's good," she replied. "I'm glad you've got him, honey. He sounds like a hell of a guy."
"He is," Jack replied, thoughts of Ennis warming his heart. "I'm really happy, mom." Ennis heard this and smiled to himself.
"Good. Are you really okay, Jack? Nobody's been threatening you, have they?"
He shook his head. "No, they haven't. I thought they might, but no." He smiled. "I bet Ennis would go after them if they did." He jumped a little when he felt a pair of familiar arms wrap around his neck warmly. "He's kind of protective like that."
"He's good to you, isn't he?" she said gently, and Jack put his free hand over Ennis's.
"He sure is, mom."
"That's good. Anyway, your dad's gonna be home soon. I'll talk to you later, alright?"
"Yep, bye mom." He hung up and sighed, craning his head back to look up into Ennis's face. "Hey, bud."
"Hey...you okay?" Jack nodded.
"I'll be alright. Dinner nearly ready?"
"Yeah, won't be long." Ennis leaned down and kissed Jack upside-down, making him grin against his lips. "I heard what you said...that you're happy. Sure am glad to hear that."
"Well, I am," Jack replied, looking sincere. "Even with being positive, and things at work, worrying about money...I've never been so happy as I am with you. I love you something fierce..."
Ennis smiled. "I love you too, darlin'. Everything's gonna be alright, I promise." He then patted Jack's shoulder. "Come on, up. Dinner's almost ready." Jack got up and followed Ennis into the kitchen.
"Mmm, what's that smell?" he asked in interest, sniffing. "That some kind of curry?"
"Yep, Thai Green Curry. I know you like that stuff. Got Naan bread, too. The whole works." Ennis looked around, hoping that Jack approved. "I remember what you said...about spicy stuff releasing toxins and...did you say something about cleansing?"
"Yeah, I did. It's good for you." Jack smiled. "Thanks, Ennis. This looks really good." Ennis went over to check it and Jack peered over his shoulder. "You used a lot of coconut milk, didn't you? It's really thick...looks great." Ennis smiled back and put the spoon into the curry, bringing some out and turning to Jack.
"Here..." Jack tasted it eagerly; it was sweet and not too hot, just how he liked it. Ennis knew him so well.
"Mmm, that's really good." He nodded his approval and Ennis was pleased with himself. "I'll get us another beer," he added, turning to dig in the fridge. Ennis poured the curry into two bowls and brought them to the table with the bread, and Jack turned the oven off before joining him. They sat down at the table and Jack looked around at their meal.
"Dig in, bud," Ennis said to him, seeing the light in his eyes. Jack grinned and they did so, him frequently making approving sounds in his throat. Throughout the meal, Ennis caught himself marvelling at how far they'd come in such a short time. It had only been just short of four months, but it felt more like four years sometimes. He loved Jack with all his heart, and knew that the feeling was mutual.
Jack's foot found his leg, rubbing up and down it gently. Ennis saw Jack smile at him and his eyes sparkle. "I love you, bud."
Ennis smiled back, eyes full of love. "I love you too, darlin'." They finished up and headed back into the living room, stretching out on the sofa and flicking on the TV, watching a rerun of Pyramid. Jack ended up with his feet in Ennis's lap, where his feet were rubbed and caressed, and he smiled.
"Hmm...that feels good." Ennis smiled back and continued to rub his feet, taking his time with them until Jack was almost purring. They watched the rest of the show and stood up, yawning. Jack pressed himself up to Ennis, eyes full of lust. Ennis was glad to see him so happy for once. "You wanna...?"
Ennis nodded, leaning in to kiss him. "Sure. I'll throw the bottles away and lock up; you go on in." Jack squeezed his crotch and walked off, removing his shirt as he did so and looking over his shoulder at Ennis seductively. Ennis shook his head in amusement and went to lock up; he couldn't wait to get back to Jack.
When he entered the bedroom, Jack was lying on his back, completely naked and legs spread wide. He didn't speak; simply removed his own clothes and joined him.
November 26th, 2009
On Thursday, Ennis and Jack got up early at Jack's place to make a start on the day's plans. They had decided to get everything ready for dinner, so they wouldn't have to spend too much time on it. Lureen was bringing cranberry sauce and Alma had been making chocolate pies for them, which certainly piqued Jack's interest.
The two of them worked side by side, chopping the vegetables and preparing the turkey. They knew it would take several hours to cook everything, and didn't want to spend the entire day in the kitchen.
As they worked, Jack was thinking about his plans to quit his job. He was going to wait until he had the Christmas bonus; that much was certain, unless he got fired before then. But he knew he would have to find another job as soon as he could, for he didn't like the idea of living off Ennis, no matter how much he appreciated the offer. He had to take care of this himself.
"Penny for your thoughts, bud," Ennis said, nudging him a little. Jack looked over at him.
"Oh, sorry...was just thinking. I'm definitely going to quit my job. But I was thinking about what I'll do for money."
"Well, I've been thinking on that, too. Did some research...if you can't get another job, there are benefits you could apply for. Like a disability allowance. HIV is classed as a disability and you'd be entitled to it if you're not working."
Jack nodded. "I guess. It's something if I can't find another job."
Ennis paused, wondering if he should go ahead with this. "You know...there is something else, but..."
"I...I could apply for a carer's allowance, to help look after you. But...we'd have to be living together for that one. I know we can't get married or anything, but they do let couples like us have domestic partnerships..." He trailed off, and Jack heard the unasked question; for them to live together. He didn't have the heart to tell Ennis that he wasn't quite ready for it.
He turned to his lover. "Ennis, I...I'd like to talk about this, but...can it wait? At least until dinner's over?" Ennis nodded and cleared his throat. "I know we have to hash out some things, but I'd like to get dinner over with first." He leaned in and kissed Ennis softly to cushion the blow. Ennis reminded himself that Jack loved him, and just because he might not yet be ready for them to live together, that didn't mean it would never happen.
"Sure, darlin'." They kissed again and the food was soon ready for cooking. They covered it all up and went into the living room, switching on the football game that always played on this day. As they sat together, Jack curled up against Ennis as he had a tendency to, feeling warm and comfortable.
"Ennis?" he asked after a while.
"If it were legal, would you marry me?" Ennis's breath caught in his throat; that was the last thing he'd been expecting. But he knew the answer as sure as he knew his own name.
"Would I marry you?" he repeated softly. Jack nodded, and Ennis kissed the top of his head. "Yeah, I would. I love you, Jack."
Jack smiled. "I love you, too." They fell silent, not needing to say anything more.
At around two, they started getting ready for dinner, putting the turkey in the oven and leaving it. There was a knock on the door, and Jack went to open it. Alma was standing there, holding a pair of cake tins with a bright smile on her face.
"Happy Thanksgiving," she said to him, and he let her in.
"Same to you, come on in. Are those done?"
"No, I didn't want them getting cold on my way over here...I was hoping to use your oven..."
"Sure, there's room." They went into the kitchen, where she greeted Ennis and put the pies in the oven. An hour later, Lureen arrived with the cranberry sauce and they all sat down at the table to talk.
"So how've you been?" Alma asked, looking at Jack. He shrugged.
"Not so good, people avoiding me...but I've decided I'm gonna quit, as soon as I get the Christmas bonus. Ennis was saying how I could apply for benefits if I can't find another job soon."
"Yeah, that's true. You, um...you been feeling okay?" He was surprised but touched by her concern.
"I'm alright. As long as my T-cell count's high and my viral load's low, I'll be okay. My doctor says I'm pretty healthy, considering."
"That's because you look after yourself," Lureen reminded him with a smile.
"And you have the love of a good man," Alma nodded, and smiled too. "I sure am glad things have worked out for you two. I want you to be happy, Ennis, even if it's not with me."
He smiled at her. "Thanks, Alma." A couple of hours later, dinner was ready and they all settled down again, plates heaping with turkey, potatoes and vegetables, with cranberry sauce and wine decorating the table.
"So, what are we all thankful for this year?" Lureen asked, looking around at them all. "I'm thankful that Jack moved here, because he's happy and I've made two new friends out of it."
"I'm thankful to also make two new friends, and that Ennis is happy," said Alma.
"I'm thankful to be here, and that I've met Ennis. And I'm thankful to at least have some friends who know what I have and don't run away from me," Jack continued, smiling. Ennis cleared his throat.
"I'm thankful I met Jack, and that I made a friend out of it." He nodded to Lureen. "And...I'm just thankful that we're all here."
"Hear, hear," said Jack, holding up his glass, and they all joined him. Afterwards, they all piled in front of the TV to watch a movie, feeling as though the bond between all four of them had been strengthened.
Alma and Lureen left around ten, with turkey leftovers and the remainder of the pies. Ennis and Jack decided to leave the dishes until the next morning, and finished off the wine before retiring to Jack's bedroom. This was their favourite time of day to be together; when they were about to make love in whichever way they chose to.
They stripped off, crawled into bed together and stretched, full of good food and wine. Ennis smiled over at Jack, marvelling at yet another wonderful day together. He was so much in love with Jack, and even when things weren't so good, like they hadn't been lately at Jack's work, Ennis knew that whenever they were together, there was nowhere else he would rather be. He belonged with Jack; that much was certain.
Jack smiled over at him. "Have a good day?" he asked softly, reaching out to stroke Ennis's cheek. Ennis nodded, liking the feeling of Jack's fingers on his face. He was in awe of the different ways that Jack could touch him, whether it be in the heat of their passion to drive him crazy, or gentle like this to make his heart flutter.
"Sure did. I think we did good with the dinner, and it was good to spend time with the girls. Feel like me and Alma do a lot better as friends than as a couple." It was true; they were on good terms now and she seemed to accept his relationship with Jack, and she had even stayed with him in the aftermath of what Darren had done. Ennis was truly grateful to her for that.
"I'm glad you're on good terms," Jack said to him. "Makes everything a lot easier." Then his eyes turned a little dark. "But I don't wanna talk about the girls right now..." He rolled onto his side, practically purring. "I wanna get with you for a while."
Ennis grinned and rolled to face him. "That so? Sounds good..." They leaned in and began to kiss softly, tongues probing and finding each other. Hand came up to tangle in hair and pull gently, making them both moan. Jack pushed Ennis over to lie on his back and straddled him, moving down the bed with a glint in his eyes. Ennis breathed deeply in anticipation, wanting to feel Jack's mouth on him. Jack was very skilled at oral sex, and Ennis loved it when they did this.
Jack reached his target and began to suck, taking it slowly and driving Ennis crazy with lust. "Oh, darlin'..." His hands came up to grip the bars of the headboard, holding on for dear life and trying not to choke Jack, who kept on going. Ennis bucked and groaned, head spinning as he felt Jack's tongue sliding up his erection, leaking like a fountain.
One of Jack's hands moved around his waist, finding the gap between his cheeks and probing gently, pushing Ennis even closer to the edge. He suddenly spurted deep into Jack's throat, biting back a yell and eyes screwing shut.
He collapsed onto the bed and sighed, going soft as Jack licked him clean. It took a while for the world to stop spinning around him, and he was dimly aware of Jack crawling back up and lying on top of him, smiling.
"Darlin'...that was..." He paused. "Your turn." He caught Jack off-guard, rolling them both over until he was on top, kissing Jack fiercely. He then grabbed a condom and slid his hand down Jack's body, taking him in hand and starting to jerk him off as they continued to kiss.
"Oh, baby..." Jack moaned, trembling and thrusting into Ennis's hand. "Oh God...don't stop..." Ennis had no intention of doing so. He pushed his tongue into Jack's mouth, hand moving up and down until Jack was panting, almost at the finish line. He quickly put the condom on Jack and finished him off, watching him erupt with an indescribable look on his face. Jack settled back and sighed, a smile spreading across his face. "Mmm..."
"You like that?" Ennis asked softly, stroking Jack's face.
"Uh huh..." Ennis rolled the condom off him and went to dispose of it. He came back and lay on top of Jack again, covering him with his warmth. Jack opened his eyes and smiled at him. "Hey..."
"Hey yourself, darlin'. You doing okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Had a real good day today...and we've got our trip coming up soon. We still need to book a flight..."
"We'll sort that soon," Ennis told him. "Don't worry; it'll be fine." He nuzzled his nose against Jack's, which made him smile. "We have to get you sorted out first...with your job. Are you definitely leaving?"
Jack thought for a moment. "Yeah, I am. I can't stay there much longer...not with the way people treat me. After what Darren did, they all shun me, and...I don't like working there anymore."
Ennis nodded. "I know. It's probably for the best that you leave. And don't worry about money, okay? I..."
"Ennis," Jack interrupted. "What you said before, about us living together..." Ennis shook his head.
"It's okay. I know we're not really ready for that...it wasn't right of me to put you on the spot like that. I just...I want to help you in any way I can."
"I don't need financial help from you," Jack replied in the gentlest voice he could muster. "What I need from you is exactly what you're already doing. You look after me really well, you know. Like...when you're there for me, cheering me up. It means more to me than you giving me money and paying for stuff. This is what I need you for."
Ennis nodded. "Okay. But my offer still stands; always will. I love you so much, Jack..." They kissed again and Ennis rolled off him, staying close.
"I love you too," Jack replied, nuzzling their faces together. They settled down and closed their eyes, moving in close before they fell asleep.
December 1st, 2009
The temperature dropped even further as the month changed and Christmas approached. Decorations started appearing all over the city and the holiday season began. Snow was predicted to fall any day now and people were starting to look for Christmas presents for their loved ones.
Early in the morning, Ennis and Jack were lying in bed together, warm and cosy. Their bodies were twined together, legs rubbing and nudging under the quilt. They weren't having sex; just kissing softly and holding each other to try and keep warm until they had to get up for work. Half-aroused, they explored each other thoroughly until they had to come up for air. They kissed and caressed until they came in unison, Jack thankfully remembering to put a rubber on so that his come didn't get anywhere near Ennis. He knew that transmission wasn't really possible in this way, but he didn't want to take any chances. Living with HIV was no easy feat, and he wouldn't wish it on anyone, especially not the man he loved.
"Damn, it's cold," Jack said, shivering a little. Ennis rubbed his back, trying to warm him up. He benefitted from this too; he could feel all of Jack's muscles, no doubt from his numerous gym sessions.
"I know, darlin'. Trying to keep you warm..." Jack smiled at him and nuzzled his face, touched by his concern.
"I appreciate it."
Ennis thought for a moment. "Um...Jack? How...how do you cope in cold weather?"
Jack shrugged. "Most of the time I'm alright, as long as I don't get too cold. Stay warm inside, wrap up outside. Pretty much all I need to do. I'll be okay," he reassured Ennis, who nodded. He was getting used to the various aspects of having a positive lover, and was adjusting to how things could change without a moment's notice. "Alright...you want some breakfast? I'll make something hot."
"Okay." They kissed once more and Jack got out of bed, pulling his pyjamas and robe on, heading out. He switched the heating on and walked into the kitchen, looking for eggs and bacon. Ennis soon followed him to make some coffee and switch the radio on, copping a feel of Jack's ass before leaving him alone to cook in peace.
They worked side by side in a comfortable silence, listening to the sounds of the traffic outside. It was yet another beautiful day and they were looking forward to Christmas. They had already spent one major holiday together, but this felt different; Christmas was a time for family, and they already felt that they were becoming some kind of family. Maybe even this time next year, they would be living together. They knew that it was definitely on the cards for them, and they were comfortable in the knowledge that they had a future together.
When the food was ready, they sat down and tucked in, Ennis once again complimenting Jack's culinary skills. They talked about various things, and then Jack looked up at Ennis.
"So, bud...what do you want for Christmas?" he asked, twirling his fork. Ennis thought.
"Don't know...you already got me some boots for when it snows. Maybe...a new jacket? Something warm?"
Jack nodded. "Okay. I think I can manage that."
"What about you?" Ennis asked.
"Well...I don't know. There's nothing I really need right now." Jack smiled. "Why don't you surprise me?" Ennis grinned.
"Alright. So...what about the girls? What are we getting them?"
"Lureen likes jewellery. Her birthstone's the garnet, for January. She loves anything with that in it. What's Alma's birthstone?" Jack asked, tilting his head.
"I'm not sure...her birthday's in March..." Jack nodded and tried to remember. He'd seen a list in a jewellery catalogue when trying to find out Lureen's birthstone.
"I think...that's the aquamarine. I'd have to check." He finished his breakfast and picked up his coffee. "Can't believe it's nearly Christmas already. How long have we been together?"
"Well...if we're counting from the day when you explained about the HIV and we agreed to take things slow and everything..." Jack nodded; this was their agreed date of when they had truly gotten together. "That was August 8th. So...almost four months." He was surprised at how short a time it had been.
Jack smiled. "Sometimes it feels like a lot longer, doesn't it?" Ennis reached over and took his hand.
"Yeah. Feels like we've known each other forever. I love you so much, Jack..."
"Love you too, sweetheart." Ennis blushed at the endearment and returned to his breakfast.
When they were done, they got dressed and wrapped themselves up warm, Ennis making sure that Jack was wearing enough layers. They headed out and walked out of the building into the bitter cold air, shivering. Regardless of whose apartment they were staying at, they always kissed each other goodbye at the entrance to the park. Last night, they had stayed at Jack's, so he walked Ennis to the park and turned to face him.
"Well...guess I'll see you at lunch, then," Jack said to him, rubbing his arm and unwilling to let him go so soon, even though they would see each other in a few hours. Ennis smiled and nodded.
"Yeah. Um...instead of the coffee place today...you wanna go somewhere else? Like a café?"
"Sure, sounds great. Why don't we meet here and decide from there?"
"Alright. Bye, then..." They leaned in and kissed warmly, Ennis raising one hand to Jack's neck and rubbing a little until they pulled away. Ennis started walking, looking back at Jack and feeling the loss of him. Jack smiled and walked off, knowing that they would both be counting down the hours until they could see each other again.
His happy demeanour changed when he entered the store, looking around warily. He caught a few of his workmates looking at him and shook his head, determined not to let them get to him. Just a few more weeks until the bonuses were handed out, and he would be free to go. He could hardly wait.