Ennis didn't hear much from Jack over the next few days. His new friend texted him now and then to ask him what he was up to, and Ennis liked having someone new in his life. As Monday ended and Tuesday rolled by, he found himself yearning to see Jack's face again. They hadn't even been able to meet at the coffeehouse over lunch; Jack had sent an apologetic text to tell him he had an emergency. He didn't elaborate on this, but he did say that he would call soon.
He wasn't too sure what was happening to him. He'd never been this way with anybody before. Jack had strolled into his life without warning, turning him upside down. Ever since he'd moved away from home to attend college in the city, he'd thought of himself as worldly-wise and independent. He'd lived on his own for five years. But ever since meeting Jack, he'd found himself yearning for companionship. He wanted to spend more time with Jack.
As soon as he'd returned to the building on Monday, he'd told Alma about meeting Jack, confirming her thoughts. She was pleased to see him happy, even if it wouldn't be with her.
Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny, and Ennis was lying in bed, thinking of Jack. He hoped that his new friend might call soon about the weekend; that seemed to be the most popular time for a date. Maybe they could go to a movie and share a pizza or something. That sounded good for a pair of guys.
As he lay there, he thought about how things might go. He'd never been on a date with another guy, and had certainly never slept with one. Maybe Jack would be his first. But it was too soon to be thinking of that; he'd only met Jack once. But he had a good feeling about this.
His phone ringing made him jump, and he took it from the nightstand. His heart leapt when he saw that Jack was calling him. He flipped his phone open. "Hey."
"Morning, Ennis." Jack sounded cheery and alert. "How's it going?"
"Um, fine. Just...still in bed, actually."
"Well, there's a sight I'd like to see," Jack replied, curling his words flirtatiously. Ennis went red.
"Anyway, I'm sorry again that we haven't seen each other since Monday. Had a few things going on."
"It's okay. But I have to admit...I missed you." He felt shy about exposing his feelings like this, but he knew that Jack wouldn't judge him for it.
"Ennis..." Jack's voice was soft. "I missed you too, bud." He sighed. "Anyway, I was wondering...you up for a night out?"
"Sure. What've you got in mind?" Ennis's heart was beating a little faster.
"Dinner and a movie?" Jack suggested. "Or should I say, trashy movie and greasy food?" he amended with a slight laugh. Ennis smiled.
"Sounds great. When do you wanna go?"
"How about Friday? I don't work weekends, so...I don't have to be up early. We can...have ourselves a sleepover, if we want." Jack's voice was now seductive and purposeful, and Ennis could feel himself growing hard.
"Yeah, maybe. So, um...you working today, then? Got time for a coffee at lunch?"
Jack blew out air through his teeth, sad at having to disappoint Ennis like this. But he'd needed to have his meds adjusted this week, and that was taking up most of his lunch breaks since Monday. "I'm sorry, Ennis. I've still got a lot going on. You know I would, but..."
"It's okay, Jack..."
"Listen, I really am sorry. I wanna spend more time with you, because I really like you. I'd like to get to know you better. Bad week for us to meet, really. But...I promise, from next week onwards, we can spend more time together. Okay?"
Ennis didn't know how Jack did it, but he was capable of saying all the right things; the words that would make him feel better. Jack seemed to be a lot deeper than he'd first appeared; there was clearly more to him than met the eye. And Ennis couldn't wait to find out more about who he was.
"That sounds okay, Jack. I'm not mad or anything. I can't wait to see you."
"Me neither, Ennis. Anyway, I'd better get a move on. My boss likes me and I'd prefer to keep it that way."
"Sure enough. So, I'll see you on Friday then?"
"You bet. I'll probably call you before then, so we can arrange to meet. Bye, Ennis," he said softly, sounding warm and beckoning. Ennis swallowed.
"Yep, bye." He hung up and stared at his phone for a minute before deciding that he needed to get up, too. He took a quick shower and ate his breakfast one-handed, watching the morning news as he did every day. His usual daily ritual hadn't changed, but everything still felt different. Ever since meeting Jack, he felt as if he'd turned a corner. He was nearly thirty; he didn't want a stream of one night stands, multiple notches on his bedpost. He wanted something more substantial, and he knew in his heart that he might just be able to find it with Jack. He had a feeling that Jack wanted the same thing.
Still, there was one thing on his mind. He had a feeling that Jack was holding something back. There was something in Jack's eyes that he wasn't letting out; perhaps a secret about himself that he hadn't wanted to tell Ennis. He wondered what it might be. He didn't care too much if it turned out that Jack had slept around a lot; that kind of thing was always in the past, and he couldn't change it even if he wanted to. But Ennis had to wonder if he would ever know.
He shook his head and flipped off the TV, putting his bowl on the sideboard and gathering his things up. He was determined to just go to work, and attempt to not let his thoughts drift to Jack too much.
Ennis's plan to keep his thoughts away from Jack started off well enough, as he concentrated on his work. The vet's office was quite busy today and he found himself dealing with just about enough to distract him. He loved working here, had always enjoyed working with animals, and he hoped that maybe one day he could bring Jack here to show him what he did. He wanted Jack to be a part of everything in his life, and even though they barely knew each other, Ennis found that he didn't care too much. He liked Jack a lot and hoped to see a lot more of him. He couldn't wait until their date on Friday night.
During the last hour before lunch, the place quietened down and he found himself at his desk, his thoughts straying to Jack once more. He wondered how Jack was faring across the park, working in the electrical store. He'd last been in a few months ago, before Jack had arrived in the city and in his life.
He eventually gave up on trying to not think of Jack and just let his imagination run. He was alone in his office and nobody would disturb him. Images filled his head as he allowed himself to think about his new friend.
The first thing that came to mind was Jack's bright smile. His teeth weren't perfectly white, but Ennis actually liked it. He thought it looked wrong when people had that kind of Hollywood smile. Jack looked...normal. But he was still extremely attractive; Ennis couldn't deny that.
He also found that he liked Jack's hair, however strange that might sound. It was thick and dark, and Ennis found himself wondering what it felt like. He would love to run his hands through it, and blushed at his own thoughts. Maybe on Friday night, he would get to...
Ennis looked down and saw that he was starting to get hard. "Shit," he muttered, shifting around. He barely knew the guy and was already being aroused by thoughts of him. Jack would no doubt find it amusing; he was quite forward when it came to sex. He hadn't held back on the phone this morning, talking about how he would like to see Ennis in bed.
He'd never met anybody quite like Jack before, and he could see himself falling for his charms quite easily, if he hadn't done so already. But in spite of Jack's confident nature, Ennis could tell that he was far from shallow. If he was, he wouldn't have waited this long; he would have invited Ennis to his place there and then for a quickie, no doubt. Ennis could tell that was so much more, that he might even have a romantic side, and he couldn't wait to see for himself.
Friday night couldn't come soon enough.
Over in the Richmond District, Jack was also trying his best to concentrate on his work, but his thoughts kept wandering to his shy new friend. He didn't like the fact that they hadn't even seen each other since Monday, but it couldn't be helped. Despite everything, Jack knew that his health had to come first and he had to keep that as his number one priority. He wanted to be with Ennis, and the best thing he could do right now was keep himself healthy so that it was possible.
He wasn't too sure what Friday night might bring. After the pizza and the movie, then what? Would one of them go back to the other's place? Would they end up making out on the sofa? Would things progress to the bedroom? Jack certainly hoped so, but he was nervous. It was his duty to inform anybody he got intimate with of the truth, and Ennis would be no exception. If he kept quiet about it, and slept with Ennis anyway, what then? In spite of protection, there was always that slim chance that Ennis could become infected, and what if he did? He would soon figure it out, but by then it would be too late for Ennis. He had a right to know everything before things turned physical. Of course, there was always the chance that Ennis would run, like all the others, but he would have to deal with that.
Still, a part of him had a very strong feeling that things would be different this time. Ennis didn't look like the type to freak out and flee. He was so...together, and seemed to be calm. Jack could only hope that things would work out; he didn't just want to sleep with Ennis, although that was very tempting. He would like to get to know him, maybe have a real relationship with him. Honesty was the best policy, and if Ennis didn't run away despite knowing the truth...that would be wonderful. He would have finally found the man that his mother had spoken of; the one who would stand by him and never hurt him.
With this thought in his mind, Jack was able to focus on his hopes of a good outcome and go about his day. He had a doctor's appointment during his lunch break and he had to get to the gym afterwards, but he would definitely call Ennis later. He liked hearing Ennis's deep voice, dripping into his ear like honey. He couldn't wait until Ennis murmured in his ear for real, perhaps as he was inside him or maybe simply holding him close. Maybe on Friday night or Saturday morning he would.
Jack shook his head and looked around guiltily; he'd been standing in the stock room for far too long, holding a box containing a digital camera that a customer was after. He cleared his throat and stepped back out into the store, salesman smile on his face.
"Sorry about the wait. Took me a while to find the one you wanted," he said, trying not to sound too breathless and give himself away. He served the customer and rubbed his eyes, yearning to be with Ennis right now.
Friday night couldn't come soon enough.
Jack's lunch break arrived and he headed down the street to the doctor's office. His break was for an hour and a half, and he wasn't entirely sure that he would have any time left to himself. Maybe if he got out early he could meet up with Ennis, even if it was for just five minutes. It would just be good to see Ennis again.
As he waited in a very uncomfortable plastic chair, he let his thoughts drift; for a change, not to Ennis. He thought of his parents back in New York; it wasn't likely that his father would ever accept who he was, but his mother more or less had. And if things worked out between Ennis and himself, maybe they could go and pay his mother a visit. And maybe they could visit Ennis's parents, too. Ennis had told him that his parents accepted him, and even that he was welcome to bring someone to the house if he wanted.
His thoughts were interrupted by the nurse walking into the waiting room. "Jack? Dr Brown is ready to see you now." Jack nodded and got up, following her down the hall.
Richard Brown was a decent man. He was as straight as they come, had a wife and kids, but he was nice enough. Jack remembered their first appointment, only two months ago. He had explained about his sexuality and the situation, and Dr Brown was sympathetic. Jack wasn't the only man in the city that he was treating.
Jack arrived at his office; the door was open but he knocked anyway. Dr Brown looked up. "Jack, hey. Come on in." Jack stepped in and closed the door, seating himself across the desk from the doctor. Richard cleared up what he was working on and met Jack's eyes. "So, how are you doing?"
"Okay, I guess. Can't tell yet if the adjusted meds are having an effect yet. But...I'm feeling pretty okay." He shrugged. "Same as always, really. Just taking one day at a time."
"Good. You're a nice guy, Jack. It's important that you look after yourself. You still going to the gym?"
"As often as I can." Jack bit his lip. "Rick, I...I kind of...met someone."
"Yep, in the coffeehouse on the other side of the park. He's really nice, and we've got a date on Friday night. I'm really nervous..."
Richard nodded. "I can see why. But, Jack...we talked about trusting people. If you believe that this man will be different than all the others, then it's worth taking the chance. I'm sure it'll be fine. Just tell him the truth, and hope for the best. It's all you can do. When you tell him, hopefully he'll like you enough to be able to see past it."
Jack sighed. "Yeah, maybe."
They spent another fifteen minutes talking about the medication and Richard's recommendations for food and exercise techniques, and then Jack was free to go. He looked at his watch and couldn't believe it; he had forty-five minutes left. He dug out his cell phone and decided to call Ennis.
"Hey, Ennis. Listen, I got my appointment done early and I've got forty-five minutes left. You wanna meet somewhere?"
"Sure. I'm in the coffeehouse, but..."
"I haven't really got enough time to be walking up there...can we meet in the park?"
"How about Stow Lake? There's some benches there..."
"Alright. See you there." They hung up and both headed to the park, hearts fluttering in their chests.
Jack arrived first; he settled himself on a bench and watched people walking around. There were kids with remote-controlled boats by the lakeside, with their parents watching nearby. The sun was bright but not too hot; a perfect summer's day.
And then, Ennis appeared, right before his eyes and walking down the path towards him. Jack couldn't help but grin at the sight of him. They hadn't seen each other in two days. When Ennis walked up to him, Jack stood up. "Hey."
"Hey, Ennis." Damn, but he don't half look good today. "How you been?"
"Okay. Sure am glad to see you, though," Ennis replied, shifting his feet. Jack smiled and moved a little closer.
"Me too." He tentatively leaned in and pressed his hands to Ennis's chest, looking up into his eyes. Ennis's arms came around him and pulled him close, not caring who might see. Jack slid his hands up and around Ennis's neck, breathing in his scent. Neither of them really knew where this need for close contact had come from, but they didn't care. All they knew was that they wanted to feel each other.
They stood there for a few moments, swaying a little, and then Jack pulled away, smiling a little. "Um...you wanna sit down?"
"Sure." They reluctantly prised themselves away from each other and moved to the bench. Ennis pulled out a bag. "Um...after you called, I thought you might be hungry, having to do stuff during your lunch break. So, I...I got you some sandwiches." He was mumbling, but Jack was hanging on every word with a smile on his face.
"Thank you, that's real nice of you." He took the box and noticed that there were two sandwiches in there. "You want one?"
Ennis shook his head. "No, it's okay. I already ate." Jack nodded and began to eat, glancing at Ennis. He was truly touched by Ennis's kind gesture and he knew that he was already developing strong feelings for his new friend. He hoped that his news wouldn't drive Ennis away.
When their time was finally up, Ennis took the empty box and bag, stating that he would dispose of it. Jack nodded and leaned in, pressing his lips to Ennis's cheek. "Thanks for lunch," he murmured in Ennis's ear, seeing the curls fluttering under his breath. He stepped away to see Ennis blushing and smiled. "I'll call you later, okay?"
Ennis nodded and watched him leave, happiness unfurling in his stomach.
August 7th, 2009
At last, Friday arrived. Ennis and Jack both woke up that morning with smiles on their faces, anticipating the evening ahead. They had both decided to just get through their day as quickly as possible and just focus on their jobs until they could go.
The night before, Jack had called Ennis to make the final arrangements for their night out. For starters, they would go to a pizza place at the end of Filmore Street downtown, and then walk down to The Clay afterwards for their movie. Ennis was happy to let Jack decide on where they would go; he just wanted to spend time with him. He offered to pay for their tickets, and Jack agreed, stating that he would pay for the pizza and any snacks they wanted in the theatre.
Both of them were nervous, and Ennis was shifting his feet around as he stood outside his building, waiting for Jack to pick him up. With them both being guys, neither had been too sure about who should do the picking up, but Jack said that if things went well and they went on another date, Ennis could pick him up. A red Toyota turned the corner at the end of the street and Ennis couldn't help but smile; Jack had told him what he was driving so he knew it was him.
Jack drove right in front of Ennis and then stopped, stepping out and grinning at Ennis. "Evening," he said. Ennis smiled nervously and cleared his throat.
"Hey." Jack thought for a moment, and then stepped around the car to the passenger side, opening the door. Ennis blushed and got in, liking the gesture.
When they were both seated, Ennis boldly reached across and placed his hand over Jack's. "I missed you," he said softly, looking at his friend. Jack felt a lump grow in his throat.
"Me too. So, um...you ready to go?" Ennis nodded and removed his hand, allowing Jack to get the car going again.
The pizza place was a little crowded and noisy, so they chose a booth in the corner, wanting to be alone. They were sat opposite each other, and as they waited for their food they talked and looked into each other's eyes.
"So, our first date," Jack said, smiling. He saw Ennis's hand resting on the table, so covered it with his own, as Ennis had done in the car. Ennis nodded and moved his hand slightly, lacing their fingers together. Jack could feel him trembling a little. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just nervous," he admitted, gulping a little. Jack tilted his head.
"I really like you, Ennis. I know we haven't known each other long, and we've not seen much of each other, but...I really do."
"I...I like you too, Jack. Never met anybody like you before," he murmured, eyes roaming Jack's face. Jack dropped his gaze to Ennis's lips; he wanted to know what they tasted like.
"Ennis, I...is it okay if I...?" He cleared his throat. "I mean...I wanna kiss you, if that's okay." Ennis took a deep breath. He'd never been kissed by another guy before, but as he looked into Jack's deep blue eyes, he knew that he wanted to kiss Jack. He slowly nodded.
"Yeah..." Jack let go of Ennis's hand and slid around the booth, coming closer to his friend. He sat up close to Ennis, looking into his eyes. Ennis was unable to look away, and he didn't want to.
Jack lifted his hand and gently stroked Ennis's face, his heart beating very quickly. He leaned in and looked into Ennis's eyes as they drew closer. At last, Jack brought their lips together. He gently pressed his own to Ennis's, caressing them softly and waiting for Ennis to respond. Ennis was lost in Jack's touch and taste, until he remembered that he was supposed to be kissing back. He opened his mouth and responded in kind, moving his lips against Jack's and allowing Jack to push his tongue into his mouth. He made a soft moaning sound and lifted his hand to tangle in Jack's dark hair, pulling him closer.
When they finally pulled apart, they simply stared at each other. This was the first kiss of their lives that had felt like this, and if Ennis was a little braver, he would have told Jack there and then what was in his heart; those three little words that encompassed everything.
Instead, he simply smiled. "Um...that was..." Jack nodded, smiling.
"Sure was. Uh...food's gonna be here soon..." He pressed a quick kiss to Ennis's lips and started shuffling back to his seat, cheeks flushed.
They spent the rest of the meal talking about their lives so far, including college and, for Jack, what it had been like back in New York. Jack hadn't yet told Ennis the real reason why he'd left, but he knew he would have to soon. If he and Ennis did sleep together tonight, as he hoped, and Ennis knew the truth about him, Jack figured that he would have to tell Ennis the back story. It was only fair.
Afterwards, they walked down the street hand in hand towards the theatre, Jack occasionally lightly kissing Ennis's neck and making him squirm a little. They picked a movie at random and sat in the back with their snacks, feet up on the backs of the seats in front.
About halfway through, Jack turned to Ennis with a devilish look on his face. "Wanna make out?" he murmured. Ennis, emboldened by how well this evening had gone, nodded and leaned over. They kissed more passionately this time, but even so, Jack was ever mindful. He wanted to run his tongue all around Ennis's mouth, but that would have to wait, and he couldn't let Ennis do that either, not yet; he didn't have any sores or cuts in his mouth, but he wasn't sure about Ennis. Their earlier tongue action had been light and basically safe, but anything more than that would have to wait. They would have to wait until the truth was out there and Ennis could make an informed decision. Jack hoped that his news wouldn't drive Ennis away, not after what they'd already experienced together.
The date was a success so far, and the two young men were having a good time. They'd ended up making out for most of the movie, not paying any attention to much else. Ennis had quickly found that he loved kissing Jack, and the feeling was mutual.
After the movie, they walked a few streets away to a nearby park and sat down together. Jack laced their fingers together and rested his head on Ennis's shoulder, feeling warm and comfortable. Ennis liked the feeling of Jack's warm weight against him, and wondered if he would feel more of it tonight. He sure hoped so.
At half ten, Jack rose up and sighed. "Well...you ready to go?"
"Yeah." They stood up and started walking back to Jack's car, still holding hands. When they got to it, Jack turned to look into Ennis's eyes.
"Ennis...you, um...you wanna come back to my place?" The question was heavy with all the implications, and Ennis felt a tingling in his groin. When he gazed down into Jack's eyes, he knew what was in his heart. He wanted to go home with Jack.
He slowly nodded, squeezing Jack's hand. "That sounds...good. Yeah, I'd like that." Jack nodded back, anticipation flooding through him.
They got into the car and Jack drove them back to Richmond Heights, stopping on the street and looking over at Ennis. "Well...you sure you wanna do this?"
"I'm sure," Ennis murmured, looking back at him. He couldn't deny that he was nervous, but he knew what he wanted. Jack smiled at him and they got out of the car, heading up into the building.
Jack's apartment was on the third floor, and they decided to take the stairs. He wondered if Lureen was still up; he wouldn't put it past her to be lying in wait, eager for gossip about the date. But as they walked up through the building, there was no sign of her.
"Here we go," Jack stated when they got to his door. He risked a quick glance at Ennis and shakily opened the door, flicking the light on. "Make yourself at home. You want a beer?"
"Sure." Ennis sat down on the sofa and looked around while Jack got their drinks. It was quite a nice place and he could just picture Jack walking around, maybe half-dressed wearing just a pair of jeans. He shifted on the sofa, swallowing. Maybe he would get to see such a sight in the near future.
Jack came back in, carrying two beers. He'd taken his jacket off and was smiling nervously. "Here." He handed Ennis his beer and clinked them together, then sat down next to Ennis. They spent a few minutes drinking and commenting on little things. Ennis complimented Jack on his apartment and Jack thanked him. It was nice, but they both felt as if they were putting off the inevitable. Both of them knew why Jack had invited Ennis up, and why Ennis had agreed. Their eyes met and they simultaneously put their drinks down. Jack leaned in and pressed his lips to Ennis's, hand automatically coming up to stroke Ennis's cheek. They kissed for several moments, and then Jack pulled away. He was about to speak, but Ennis brought their lips together once more and they rose off the sofa, walking towards the bedroom.
Jack was trying to prise his lips away; to tell Ennis the truth before things went any further. "Wait, wait..." he murmured into Ennis's mouth, hands on his chest. They pulled apart and looked into each other's eyes. Ennis was breathing heavily and Jack could feel that he was hard already. "Ennis, before we do this...there's something you have to know."
He held Ennis's face in his hands, knowing that unless he said this now, before they gave into their lust for each other, he would end up regretting it. Ennis nodded, breathing deeply."
"What is it, Jack?"
"I..." Jack swallowed, hoping against hope that he wasn't about to see Ennis running for the door. "I'm...HIV positive."
Ennis blinked, and then a look of shock came into his eyes. Jack lowered his hands, waiting for Ennis to digest what he'd heard.
"Yeah. Got it back in New York; was one of the reasons I left. It's just...I knew I had to tell you before things went too far. You have the right to know before we cross that line." He looked up into Ennis's eyes, unsure of what the reaction might be. Ennis just stood there, taking it in. Fear was working its way into both of their hearts.
Finally, Ennis seemed to regain the power of speech. "Oh...well, um...this is a first. Are you, um...?"
"I'm not really sick," Jack replied. "My doctor says I'm pretty much okay. It's just...there." He sighed. "So where does this leave us?"
Ennis felt his heart sink. "I...I can't stay here tonight. I can't..." Jack nodded, chewing his lip.
"Okay. Nothing I haven't heard before; don't worry about it." Ennis unexpectedly lifted his hand to Jack's cheek.
"Jack...I'm not running out on you. I mean...I do wanna see you again. And maybe...I can get used to this. I just need a little time, okay?"
"Alright. Um...I'll drive you home, if you want." Ennis nodded and they made their way back to the car.
Outside Ennis's apartment, they looked at each other. Things had been going so well, and now it was over before it had begun. Jack wasn't entirely sure if Ennis could cope with this.
"Um...you wanna get a coffee tomorrow? We can talk some more." Ennis nodded and gave a small smile.
"That'd be good. I'd like to see you again, Jack. I know it won't be easy, but..." He took Jack's hand. "I like you too much to just leave things like this."
Jack smiled, his heart yearning for the man sat next to him. Ennis kissed his hand and opened the door. "Night, Jack."
"Night, Ennis." Jack watched Ennis leave into his building and sat back against his seat, wondering what might happen for them now.