Chapter 17

December 23rd, 2009

The next day, Jack decided that it was time for him to venture into Central Park; to face his memories and his fear. With Ennis by his side, he knew that everything would be okay. Ennis would protect him and hold him if the memories became too much.

They stood at the entrance to the park; the same one that Jack had used on that fateful day. Ennis looked at Jack, holding his hand and waiting patiently for him to move. "Whenever you're ready, bud."

Jack nodded and stepped forward, heading through the entrance and retracing his footsteps. He tried to swallow down the bile in his throat and remember that he was safe; Ennis was here.

They walked along the path slowly, Ennis having all the time in the world for Jack to do this. He needed to do this. Jack started to speak.

"Well...this is where I was walking, trying to hurry to get to class. It was a real nice day and I thought that everything was gonna be alright." He had a brief flashback of walking along the path, but shook it away and carried on. Soon, they would reach the trees where it had happened.

When they did, Jack stopped and looked around, silent as he remembered. He had Ennis's hand in a tight grip, and Ennis was squeezing back. "This the place?" he asked softly, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah. Over there..." He pointed to the edge of the trees. "That's where I was dragged to by the guy...where it happened." He wondered vaguely if his blood might still be visible on the grass, and pushed the morbid thought from his mind.

Ennis sighed and released Jack's hand, putting an arm around him instead. "Darlin''s okay. I'm here..." Jack nodded and tentatively moved, walking towards the spot. He stopped and looked at the ground, almost seeing himself kneeling there in pain, being viciously attacked. He shook a little, so Ennis slowly came up behind him and pulled him close, arms around him. "Baby..."

Jack leaned into the embrace, feeling loved. It felt good, and he felt powerful to be here with Ennis, right at the spot where it had happened. He felt as if he'd won, in a way. The guy, whoever he was, hadn't beaten him. "I love you," he said softly, covering Ennis's arms with his own.

"I love you too, Jack." They stood there for a while, just looking at the spot and remembering everything they had together. Jack then turned his thoughts to Ennis and how he made him feel. Ennis had confessed to feeling helpless when it came to Jack's memories and how little he could do. But as they stood there, Jack realised that there was one thing he could do.

"Ennis?" he asked, and Ennis kissed his neck.

"Yeah, darlin'?"

"I was thinking...there's something I want you to do. Tonight, if you can."


"I...I want you to fuck me...from behind."

Ennis's eyes widened. "Uh...what? You mean...?"

"Yeah, all fours." He turned himself in Ennis's arms. "Look...ever since it happened, I've always associated that position with what happened here. And you notice...whenever we have sex, it's either from the front or on our sides. I've never felt brave enough to try it like that."

"So...why now?" Ennis asked, stroking Jack's face.

"Because...I don't want to associate that position with this anymore. I want to...associate it with you. I love you, Ennis...and you love me. That's what sex should be about. So I need to replace these memories with good ones, so that when I think about this position, it makes me think of you and not him."

Ennis nodded, seeing the logic in Jack's words. "Right. Well...if it'd make you happy, and if it'd help, I...I'd be happy to do whatever I can for you. I'd do anything for you, Jack."

Jack smiled. "Thank you. So...can we try it tonight?" Ennis smiled and pulled Jack into his arms.

"Whenever you want, bud. It's up to you." They stood there a little longer, arms around each other and basking in their untouchable love for each other. Jack wasn't scared about trying that position with Ennis; he didn't have anything to be scared of. Ennis would never hurt him and would do anything to make him feel good. He would be just fine to let Ennis do it.

They broke apart and kissed softly, hands on each other's faces. After a while, they linked hands again and walked down the remainder of the path and off into the park.

The pair of them ended up spending most of the day in the park; they strolled around the lake and visited the zoo for a few hours, enjoying the winter sunshine. Jack felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders at having been here with Ennis, pushing his dark past away and looking towards a bright future with the love of his life.

They sat on a bench in a secluded area and made out slowly, arms around each other.

"Mmm..." Jack purred when he pulled away, keeping his face close. "You're a good kisser."

Ennis's cheeks reddened. "Don't know about that...never was really one for kissing before I met you. Alma can tell you...I wasn't much for romance. Feel sorry for her...that she couldn't bring all that out in me, and you can."

"At least she's still your friend," Jack reminded him. "And she's been great to me. We've got two really great friends back home, bud. They're on our side."

"Yeah." Ennis leaned back in and kissed him again, deeply. It was enough to get Jack hard, and without thinking, he started humping himself against Ennis, who started laughing. "Easy there, bud..."

"Sorry," Jack replied with a sheepish grin. "Can't help myself when I'm with you. You drive me crazy."

Ennis rubbed their noses together. "Same here, darlin'. I'll take care of you, I promise."

Jack sighed and rested his head on Ennis's shoulder. "I know you will."

They spent the rest of the day exploring the city, taking a ferry tour to the Statue of Liberty and looking out across the water. Ennis unabashedly put his arm around Jack, pulling him close as they enjoyed their day. He'd long since stopped caring about people staring at him whenever he was affectionate with Jack; they weren't doing anything illegal and they were never inappropriate in public.

When they got back, Ennis was a little nervous. Jack had asked him to take him from behind, something which he had never expected. When they had first started dating, Jack had admitted that he had issues with such a position, and that it might never happen for them. So for Jack to actually request it...he was very surprised. Jack had actually requested for him to do it, and Ennis was determined to do his best for him.

Yet as he thought about it, he figured that it made sense. Jack wanted to replace his bad memories with good ones as much as he could, and if they could do this, it would help Jack immensely. Ennis was prepared to do anything to help Jack. He loved him very much and just wanted to make him happy.

They walked into their room and turned to each other, feeling nervous yet looking forward to the night ahead. Jack moved close to Ennis and kissed him, hands running up and down Ennis's stomach, feeling the strong muscles that he was so familiar with.

"Love you," he murmured, and Ennis smiled at him. The words came easier to them all the time, as their relationship continued to move forward. They felt as if the coming year would be a good one; things would continue to improve for them and they would have a lot to look forward to.

"I love you too." They slowly began to undress each other, nipping gently as skin was revealed. When they were naked, they linked hands and walked to the bed, Jack crawling in first and making room for Ennis, getting warm under the covers. They laid there for a while, just looking at each other, until they leaned in again and resumed their kissing.

When Jack felt he was ready, he looked at Ennis meaningfully and rolled onto his stomach, eyes full of need. Ennis nodded and gently climbed onto his back, trying not to spook him. Jack let out a sigh and relaxed. "Ennis..."

"I'm here, darlin''s alright..." He nuzzled the back of Jack's neck, kissing softly. "Tell me when you're ready." He prepared himself with a condom and some lube, plenty just in case. Jack had taken it completely dry on that day, and Ennis knew it must have hurt. He then covered Jack with a second condom. Not only did they have to protect Ennis, but this was a hotel bed; they had to be mindful of other people, even though the sheets were changed every day. Jack had always been conscious of protecting other people; the last thing he wanted was to infect others.

"I'm ready..." Jack whispered, breathing deeply. Ennis started to very slowly push into him, knowing that he had to take his time. The last thing he wanted was to hurt Jack or scare him. This was supposed to be about their love and respect for one another.

At last, Ennis was fully inside Jack, and he stayed still for a few moments, wanting Jack to get used to the feeling. Jack had his eyes closed and was repeating, over and over, it's's Ennis...he loves you and will never hurt you, in his mind. "Okay," he murmured, signalling for Ennis to move. He was ready for things to happen.

Ennis slowly thrust into Jack, reaching up to take his lover's hands in his own. Their fingers laced together as they moved, Jack pushing back to meet Ennis's thrusts and moaning softly. Visions of that day tried to assault his mind, but he focused on who it really was behind him, and the sensations pushed away the memories.

With a groan, he came into the rubber and shuddered all over. Ennis wasn't far behind, crossing the finish line and collapsing onto Jack's back, causing Jack to fall to the bed under his weight with a surprised sound.

They lay there for what felt like an eternity, until Ennis pulled out and rolled Jack onto his back again. "Darlin', you alright?"

Jack nodded and sighed. "Sure am." He opened his eyes and smiled at Ennis. "I'm just fine, baby." Ennis kissed him and rolled off, removing both condoms and going to dispose of them. When he came back, he saw Jack sprawled out, looking satisfied, and crawled back into the bed, moving up close to him.

"Hey, bud..." Jack opened his eyes and smiled at him.

"Hey. Thank you,'ve no idea what this means to me...what you did. I really appreciate it."

Ennis smiled and stroked Jack's hair, pushing it back from his forehead. "You're welcome, Jack. I'm so glad I could help you..." He pulled Jack into his arms and kissed his forehead. "You gonna be okay?"

"Yeah, I am. I love you so much, sweetheart.'re the best thing that ever happened to me, you know that?"

"Mmm...I feel the same, Jack." They held each other and talked softly, before finally dropping off to sleep.

Ennis awoke a little later, and looked around the room. He and Jack had moved away during the night for comfort so they could stretch out. He smiled as he saw Jack, lying there with his dark hair fanned across the white pillow. Jack looked beautiful in the moonlight falling across his face, and Ennis felt incredibly lucky to be with someone like him.

He sent up a prayer of thanks to whoever had brought Jack into his life. He was happier now than he ever had been in his life. Jack was a wonderful person and made him feel on top of the world whenever they were together.

December 24th, 2009

On Christmas Eve, Ennis and Jack spent a lot of the day lying in bed and spending some quality time together. Jack was still on cloud nine over what Ennis had done for him the night before and showed him just how much he loved him. Ennis would never look at whipped cream the same way again.

As for Jack's father, Jack was still on the outs. His mother had called earlier that morning to ask how he was and to try and get Jack to talk to him. But Jack just couldn't shake off the memory of what his father had said to him, no matter how badly he wanted an apology.

Still, as they got dressed in their room for the hotel's Christmas party, Jack was happy. He had the man he loved by his side, he was no longer at that awful store with the small-minded employees, he had two other great friends, and he had hope for the future. It was a lot more than he'd had this time last year, sleeping in a run-down apartment in South Dakota that had definitely seen better days, a lousy job that was going nowhere, no boyfriend and the only friend he'd had was miles away. Things had turned completely upside down ever since he'd moved to the coast and met Ennis, and he would never forget that.

Ennis came into the bathroom, smiling at Jack and wrapping his arms around him from behind. "Hey, darlin'."

" sure look good." Ennis was wearing a crisp white shirt with his jeans, and his curls were loose, just the way Jack loved them. Jack himself was wearing a denim shirt with his jeans and he'd given up on trying to get his hair to lie flat.

"You do too," Ennis replied, running a hand over Jack's stomach. "We...we look pretty good, don't we?"

"Yep." Jack splashed some cologne on and then turned himself in Ennis's arms. "You ready to go?" Ennis nodded and led the way out, holding Jack's hand as they made their way downstairs to the function room where the party was being held.

When they got there, Christmas party music was playing from somewhere and the room was full of guests. There was a dance floor at one end and a buffet at the other, with dozens of tables in between. Jack looked around with a grin on his face. "This looks great!"

"Sure does. What do you wanna do first?" Jack pointed to the food and they made their way over, grabbing plates and piling them high with food.

They found an empty table and sat down, looking around with interest. Jack was certain that he could see another gay couple just a few feet away, sitting close together and smiling at each other in the same way he smiled at Ennis. He turned back to his lover and kissed him on the cheek.

"What's that for?" asked Ennis in surprise, grinning. Jack just shrugged.

"Just because I love you...and that I'm really happy," he replied, smiling. They returned to their food, making small talk with a few other people that had joined their table.

After a while, the music started to slow and couple started appearing on the dance floor. When a particularly romantic song began playing, Jack turned to Ennis.

"Will you dance with me?" he asked hopefully, blue eyes imploring him. Ennis smiled and nodded, taking Jack's hand. He couldn't deny Jack the romantic pleasure of a dance on this night, and he wanted to dance with Jack. He wasn't much of a dancer but he had a feeling Jack wouldn't care.

On this day, snowy day

Let me thank you for the joy you're giving me...

I'm so happy...

I have snowflakes of love smiling down on me

Winter bliss when we kiss

Every wish my lips could see

I'm so happy...

I have snowflakes of love smiling down on me.

They reached the dance floor and put their arms around each other, Ennis taking Jack's hand in his own and placing them close to his heart. He held Jack close, almost protectively. This was his man, and he wanted everybody in the room to know how proud he was to be with Jack.

Snowy day

Would you please take me away

Away with you...

Hold me so closely

Like the moonlight lights the sky...

The two of them danced slowly, smiling at each other and oblivious to anybody else around them.

In my dreams of soft winter breeze

Eases my mind, but when I wake

There's nothing but leaves

Still, I'm happy...

I have snowflakes of love smiling down on me

Jack looked up into Ennis's loving gaze and felt his heart lift. He was so in love with this man and knew that the feeling was mutual. He knew that Ennis would take care of him.

Oh, how I imagine the day we met

And those tingles from those little butterflies...

Reminiscing, I get so happy

I just break down and cry

Ennis could remember those two months after Jack's arrival, when he had stared at him in the coffee place and hoped that one day they would meet. It felt like a lifetime ago, and he now had the very man in his arms, dancing on Christmas Eve.

Candlelight burning bright

Underneath a cool, starry night

You and me, endlessly, it's the greatest gift

That love could give to me

Their love was the greatest gift they had ever received in their lives; everything felt right when they were together.

On this day, snowy day

Let me thank you for the joy you've given to me...

I'm so happy...

To have snowflakes of love smiling down on me.

The song ended and they stopped dancing, exchanging a kiss. "I love you," Jack murmured, hands squeezing Ennis's.

"Love you too." They left the dance floor to rest for a while, thinking that this was the best Christmas they'd ever had.

When the party was over at midnight, Ennis and Jack did some kissing in a shadowy corner before making their tipsy way upstairs to their room. Jack nibbled at Ennis's neck as he tried to get the door open, eager to get onto the bed.

"Hang on, bud," he said with a grin. He finally got the door open and they staggered through into the room, the door banging shut behind them. Ennis turned to Jack and grabbed him, pulling him close into a kiss, mouths mashing together and tongues immediately finding each other.

"Mmm," Jack moaned as they fell onto the bed, tasting both wine and champagne in Ennis's mouth. He tasted so tantalising and Jack craved more. His hands worked at Ennis's buttons, rubbing over the hard muscles as they were revealed.

"C'mere," Ennis whispered, undoing Jack's buttons and pulling his shirt out of his jeans. "Oh God, Jack..." He pulled the shirt off Jack's shoulders and threw it to the floor, as his own was removed.

"Wanna be inside you," Jack moaned in his ear, nuzzling at him. Ennis felt his arousal increase and he lay back onto the bed, pulling Jack over him. They crawled up the bed to the pillows and Jack straddled Ennis, hands pawing at his jeans and getting them open. He eventually pulled them down and threw them to the floor along with Ennis's sneakers. Jack then removed his own jeans and footwear.

Their warm skin slid together, Jack kissing Ennis's neck and sighing. Ennis reached over to the nightstand and pulled out a condom and lube. He tossed them to the bed for Jack and pulled him in for another kiss. "Fuck me," he breathed, lost in his desire for the man above him. He was too far gone to protest; not that he wanted to.

Jack tore the wrapper off the condom and threw it to the nightstand, rolling the rubber on himself and covering it with lube. "Just hang on, baby..." He lifted up Ennis's legs and wrapped them around his waist, leaning forward and kissing Ennis deeply. He then started to push in, allowing Ennis to get used to the penetration.

When he was fully inside his lover, he started to move, taking it slowly. They were both a little drunk, but not so much that they didn't know what they were doing. At least he could still perform.

They moved together, kissing and letting their hands roam everywhere. At one point, Ennis let one hand trail down Jack's back and slipped a finger into him, making him buck and gasp into his ear. "Oh God..." He thrust even quicker into Ennis, until he was finally over the edge, shaking all over. He kept on moving for Ennis's benefit until he felt a warm wetness between them, Ennis moaning in his ear.

He collapsed onto Ennis, sighing and sinking down until they looked like one person, Jack's arms and legs on either side of Ennis and their chests together. " okay?"

"Yeah...that was...amazing..."

"Sure was. I love you so much, mean so much to me..." He rose up onto his elbows and looked down at Ennis, smiling. "This is the best Christmas I've ever had..."

"Me too, darlin'...I was really lonely last year. Wasn't with anyone, just spent some time with Alma. But it was weird. And...I didn't enjoy it that much. I've had a really great time here, with you. Coming here was a great idea."

Jack nodded. "Yeah, it was. And...I'm really grateful for what you Central Park. You were there for me when I needed you, and I appreciate it. You're a good man, Ennis. The best I've ever known."

Ennis's cheeks reddened. "Don't know about that, bud. I reckon you're the best man around. I love you...and...I don't always know how to tell you what you mean to me. I don't have the words..."

"It's alright..." Jack soothed, stroking his cheeks. "You don't have to recite poetry or anything to tell me how you feel. I've never wanted that from you. Just...say what's in here." He placed one hand over Ennis's heart, feeling it beat steadily under his fingers. Ennis nodded, hoping to get the words out.

"Well...I've never loved anyone the way I love you. You mean everything to me. I..." He felt a lump in his throat. "I don't know what I'd do without you..."

"You won't ever have to find out, baby. You won't ever lose me, you hear? I'm not going anywhere."

"You could," Ennis replied shakily. "We don't know what might happen to you. What if...the HIV turns into AIDS? It could kill you..."

"Shh..." Jack shushed him, rubbing his stomach. "It's alright. We don't know for sure that it could happen. You know..." he started, threading his hands through Ennis's damp curls. "I've heard of guys living with HIV, and they live for a long time without it turning into AIDS."

"Really?" Ennis asked hopefully. Jack nodded and then look down, realising he was still wearing the rubber. He pulled it off and tied it before tossing it to the nightstand. He then settled back down on top of Ennis.

"Yep. I did a lot of reading when I was diagnosed. My doctor at the time gave me all these pamphlets to read, and since then I've done lots of reading on the internet. I'll show you if you want sometime. Would that help?"

Ennis nodded. "Yeah, I guess. The more I know about all this...the better off I'll be. I wanna know all this stuff...especially if we move in together. I'll...I'll be your partner,'s only right that I know."

"Yeah. And...I like being with someone who's not scared. Someone I can talk to about this. That means so much to me. I love you, Ennis."

"Love you too, darlin'." Jack kissed him and then rolled off him onto his own side, sighing contentedly. They laid on their backs, gazing up at the ceiling and thinking as they dropped off to sleep.

December 25th, 2009

On Christmas morning, Ennis and Jack woke up together and grinned, happy to be spending this day together. The day before, when they had been preparing to go to the party, they had placed their gifts for each other in the corner, and now Jack was kissing Ennis all over his face, grinning.

"Merry Christmas, baby," he said, kissing Ennis's neck. Ennis returned the favour and kissed the top of his ear.

"Merry Christmas, darlin'. Can't believe I'm here with you."

"I know..." They kept kissing until Jack remembered the presents. "You wanna open presents?"

"Sure..." Jack reluctantly left the warm bed and walked over to retrieve the gifts, naked as the day he was born. Ennis enjoyed the view immensely, especially when Jack bent over. He came back and got under the warm quilt again.

"Here you go," he said, handing the wrapped jacket over. Ennis eagerly opened the wrapping up, his eyes shining when he saw the jacket.

"Oh, Jack..." He held it up and gazed at it in wonder. "This is..."

"You really like it?" Jack asked hopefully. Ennis nodded.

"Yeah, it''s beautiful. Where...?"

"At the Western store where I bought your boots. See the fur on the inside? That'll keep you warm..." Ennis smiled at Jack's thoughtfulness and leaned over, kissing him full on the mouth in thanks.

"Thank you," he murmured, looking down at the jacket and then back at Jack. "You gonna open yours?" Jack nodded and ripped open the wrapping, revealing the box. He looked at it curiously and then opened it, eyes widening when he saw the watch.

"Oh my...oh, Ennis..."

Ennis smiled at him. "You said you needed a new one. I was at this jewellery place buying something for the girls, and I saw the watches on my way to the counter. You like it?"

"Yeah...I can't believe it." He kissed Ennis and nuzzled at him. "Thank you..." They smiled at each other and admired their gifts. Ennis then remembered something Jack had said and half-smiled to himself.

"Hey...there was one thing you promised me..." Jack looked at him. "You said...I'd get you naked under the tree with a big red bow." Even just the thought of it aroused him right now.

Jack laughed. "Sorry, bud. The only trees around here are in public. But...I did pick something up..." He left the bed again and went to his bag, pulling out his surprise. It was a sprig of mistletoe. They'd kissed under some that was hanging downstairs, but this was different. The mistletoe was attached to a red belt, for some reason. Jack gave Ennis a look and tied the belt around his hips. Ennis looked at him in confusion, and then noticed that the mistletoe was now directly above Jack's crotch.

"What the...?" Jack smiled and crawled onto the bed, on his knees near Ennis.

"Wanna kiss me under the mistletoe now?" he asked, blue eyes seductive. Ennis gulped and then looked down, seeing that Jack was half-hard already. He leaned forward and nuzzled at the dark hair, hands coming around to cup Jack's ass. He did as requested, kissing down Jack's length and making him shudder. Before Jack could say anything more, he was flat on his back on the bed with Ennis's head between his legs.

A little later, when they were satisfied for now, they got up and took a shower together before going in search of breakfast. Most of the guests had gone out for the day by now, so they had the dining room more or less to themselves. Jack ran his foot up Ennis's leg, smiling at him innocently and remembering the mistletoe kissing from earlier. He would be keeping that belt; it had been some of the best oral sex Ennis had ever given him.

Just then, his phone buzzed in his pocket and he flipped it open to see a message from his mother. He'd half-expected her to send a message today; she had done so every Christmas for the last five years.

Merry Christmas to you and Ennis, honey xxx

He smiled and showed it to Ennis, and then sent a reply back. The two of them spent a few minutes texting Lureen and Alma. Ennis sent a message to his mother, not really sure if he'd get a reply. Jack didn't text his father; he'd deleted the number a long time ago.

When they were finished, they bundled up and ventured outside, braving the cold to see what might be going on. Jack had told Ennis that the city went all out on Christmas Day, with fairs and live shows all around. He had admittedly loved showing Ennis the city and where he used to spend his time.

The two of them explored for a while, and then decided to go and take a walk in Central Park. Jack was a lot more relaxed about being there after everything that he and Ennis had achieved together. They were closer than ever now and Jack knew that he could face anything as long as Ennis was by his side.

They walked slowly, gloved hands clasped together, talking and listening to the music that was playing from somewhere. Christmas had never really felt like a magical time for them since they were children, but felt like how all those carols and songs described it.

Without warning, Jack slipped his hand out of Ennis's and leaned down, gathering a handful of snow and shaping it into a ball, eyes sparkling. "You wanna?"

"You'll have to catch me first," Ennis replied, and then took off. Jack ran after him, lobbing snowballs at his back and getting a few in the face in return. Eventually he caught Ennis and they tumbled into the snow, laughing helplessly.

"I love you," Jack said breathlessly, hands squeezing Ennis's shoulders. Ennis stroked his cold cheeks with his warm gloved hands.

"I love you too." He leaned down and captured Jack's lips, then got up and started running again, Jack on his heels.