Chapter 20

January 2nd, 2010

The day after New Year's, Ennis and Jack were making the most of the time they had left. Ennis would have to return to work on Monday and Jack needed to start looking for another job. He wasn't short of cash, but he knew that his savings wouldn't last long without further income, and he didn't want to be living off Ennis, no matter how much he appreciated the offer.

As agreed between them, they would buy souvenirs for Alma and Lureen today, and then spend tomorrow at Long Island to talk with Jack's parents before leaving. Despite Jack being unwilling to talk to his father upon their arrival, he was now reluctant to leave. A part of him was worried that his father would die while he was on the other side of the country. Karen had reassured him that it wasn't likely, but he didn't like to think on it.

The two of them browsed through a marketplace, looking for gifts for the girls. They felt as if they were always buying jewellery for them, so were looking for something different. Jack stopped at a perfume stall, sniffing and liking the scent. He knew that Lureen liked perfume, and suspected that Alma did too. "Look at these."

Ennis turned and saw where Jack was looking. "Huh. Sure is different from all the other stuff we buy them. What kind of perfume does Lureen like?"

"As far as I know, she likes the heavy stuff, you know? The strong stuff that you can really smell when she's wearing it. What about Alma?"

"She likes lighter stuff. Like...I don't know...fruity stuff. Or...there was this aqua one she really liked." The two of them looked through the bottles, asking the merchant for advice and selecting their gifts.

When they were done, they decided to get some lunch. They stopped by a small café and sat down at a table in the corner, looking out the window at the busy street. They were close to an entrance of the park and Jack looked at it, thinking.

He was no longer scared of the area, thanks to what Ennis had done for him. He'd remained by Jack's side while walking through, and had managed to get him through sex from behind. That was something that he'd never expected to get through, and had told Ennis so a few months ago, when they'd first discussed sex. Yet they'd gotten through it, and he'd actually enjoyed it. Ennis made him feel like nothing on earth could hurt him. He always felt safe when he was in Ennis's arms.

His thoughts were interrupted by Ennis taking his hand across the table, squeezing his fingers. "You okay?" Jack nodded.

"Yeah. I know I wasn't completely happy about coming here, with my dad and Central Park and everything. But now...I'm a little sad to be leaving. I've actually enjoyed it."

Ennis smiled. "Good. I have too. Always wanted to come here. I love San Francisco, but...it's different here." He thought for a moment. "You know...I've been thinking about this summer. You still wanna come to my uncle's ranch?"

"Sure. I don't mind a little hard work. And I'd like to see a little more of your world. You've seen plenty of mine." He smiled back at Ennis and then a waitress came over.

"What can I get you boys?" she asked, smiling at them and not even blinking at the fact they were holding hands.

"Um..." They looked at the menu together and nodded at each other. "I think we'll split a tuna melt, and can we have some fries and side salad too?" She nodded and wrote the order down. When she'd gone, Ennis pulled out his cell phone.

"I'm gonna call my mom and see how she is," he said absent-mindedly, and Jack nodded. He knew that Ennis wanted to try and make things up with his parents, but that this could only happen if they accepted Jack and Ennis's relationship with him. It wouldn't be easy, but he had to try. Jack wondered if him repairing his relationship with his own father was making Ennis think about his parents.

"Alright, bud." He gave Ennis's hand a squeeze and looked out of the window once more as Ennis dialled.

"Hello?"

"Hey, mom. It's me."

"Hey, sweetie. How are you?"

"I'm alright. Still in New York with Jack, we're leaving the day after tomorrow."

"Right. You have a good time out there?"

"Yeah, it's been great." He looked over at his lover, smiling. "Rang in the New Year together...we even went to an AIDS hospice to talk to the people there."

His mother was quiet for a moment. "I see. Well, that was a real nice gesture. Is Jack okay?"

"He's fine. We both are. I've really enjoyed this. Um...hang on a moment." He put the phone under his chin. "Is it okay if I tell her about your dad?" Jack shrugged and nodded. "Thing is, mom...Jack's dad's ill at the moment. And...Jack's taking it hard. So I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help him out."

"That's a great thing of you to do, Ennis. Um...are you thinking of coming back up here to the house sometime?"

"Maybe. But only if you can be civil to Jack."

"I understand, Ennis. I've been talking to your dad...he's a little more open to it now. And when Jack's mom spoke to me...well, it opened my eyes. I reckon we might be okay to have Jack here. I'd like to get to know him."

Ennis smiled a little. "Well...I reckon we could come up sometime. Anyway...we'd better get back to lunch. It'll be here soon." He wanted to leave things for now and be alone with Jack.

"Sure enough, honey." They clicked off and Ennis squeezed Jack's hand again.

"Looks like things are picking up for us, darlin'," he said softly, smiling at Jack. "Things are getting better."

Jack nodded and kissed his hand, knowing exactly how he was feeling.


After another wonderful day walking around the city, Ennis and Jack went back to the hotel for dinner. It would be their last big meal here; dinner tomorrow would be at Jack's parents' house, and they would be leaving the next day. The snow was still thick on the ground, so they played in it once more until they were wet and cold, heading back to get warm.

As they were getting ready for dinner, Jack stripped and sneakily followed Ennis into the shower, making him jump.

"Jesus, Jack...scared the life out of me..." Jack just smiled, wrapping his arms around Ennis and kissing him lightly.

"Aw, sorry about that, baby...can I make it up to you?" His deep blue eyes sparkled and Ennis couldn't help but agree. Before he could say anything, Ennis was watching Jack sink to his knees there in the shower and going down on him. He braced himself against the tiles as well as he could and just enjoyed what was going on.

When they finally emerged from the bathroom, Jack had one arm around Ennis, both of them half-dressed. He kissed Ennis's damp neck and rubbed his other hand against Ennis's crotch. Upon feeling Ennis growing hard once more, he pulled his hand away and put his shirt on, laughing when Ennis called him a tease.

At last, they exited their room and walked along the hall to the elevator, hands linked between them. Neither of them cared about stares or whisperings; they weren't ashamed of who they were.

They found a table booth in the corner and sat together, still holding hands. As it was their last big meal here, they wanted to make it special. The pair of them split a large mixed platter, full of different kinds of meat and savouries. Jack knew he shouldn't eat too much red meat, so he left most of it for Ennis.

"So," Ennis started as they began to eat. "You decided on what kind of job you want yet?"

"Not really," Jack replied, shaking his head. "My major was business, so...I could choose from a lot. Maybe even just something in an office."

"Would you be happy with that?" Ennis asked, knowing deep down that Jack wouldn't be. Jack wasn't the type to be happy in an office all day; Ennis knew he needed more from a job.

"No, but...it's still money. I don't know what I wanna do...never had anything specific in mind. I mean..." He shifted. "You love animals, and that's why you wanted to work at a vet's, right?"

"Yeah. Always knew it was what I wanted."

"Right. I've never felt like that about any kind of job. I don't know what I want. And...what if I get a job, and they find out about the HIV? It'll just be the same thing all over again." Jack looked pained. "I don't think I could go through that again. Once was bad enough."

Ennis squeezed his hand. "It'll be alright, bud. I'll be right there, no matter what." He smiled at Jack, who returned it.

"Thanks, Ennis. Means a lot to me, that you'd stand by me like that. Never had that before I met you."

"You've got it now," Ennis told him softly, gazing into those deep eyes he loved so much. Jack's face was shining in the soft candlelight, and Ennis dropped his gaze to Jack's lips, wanting to bring them to his own. Not caring in the slightest who might be watching, he leaned in to kiss Jack, pressing their mouths together. Jack melted into the kiss, surprised by the gentleness of it. He felt as if his spirit had left his body and was now floating, weightless. One of Ennis's hands came up to tangle in his hair, massaging the back of his head and making him sigh into Ennis's mouth. It was one of the most romantic kisses Ennis had ever given him, and he could feel pure happiness flooding through him.

After what felt like several sunlit days, they broke apart, Ennis keeping their faces close together as they stared at each other in wonder.

"Wow," Jack breathed, heart pounding. Ennis smiled at him. "That was..."

"Yeah. Sure was something." He gently touched Jack's lower lip. "Feels so good...kissing you..."

Jack gulped with the emotion running through him. "Baby...everything feels good with you." They nuzzled noses and then returned to their food. A few other people had seen their affection, and all but one were happy to see such love in their midst. It was clear to anyone who saw them that they were head over heels for each other.

They each had a piece of chocolate cake for dessert, Jack fixing his eyes on Ennis's and licking the spoon seductively with every bite. Ennis tried not to stare and instead focused on his own dessert.

When they were finally done, they decided to have a drink in the hotel bar. Sat in another booth in a corner, they relaxed with Ennis's arm around Jack, half-listening to the music. Jack was lazily running his hand along Ennis's leg; not in a sexual way but more for comfort. He sighed and rested his head on Ennis's shoulder.

"I love you, Ennis," he murmured, out of the blue. Ennis looked down at him.

"You drunk already?" he asked in amusement, and Jack laughed.

"No...just wanted to say it. I'm just really happy...being here with you. Been the best Christmas I've ever had. Even beats the ones I had as a kid." He looked up at Ennis. "I make you happy, don't I?" he asked, as if he really needed to know the answer.

Ennis tilted Jack's chin up and kissed him again. "You sure do, darlin'. More than I could ever tell you. Never been this happy before..."

Jack smiled. "Me neither." They finished their drinks and stood up. "Well...ready to head on up?" he asked, a wicked grin playing around his lips. Ennis smirked and took his hand.

"You bet, bud."


January 4th, 2010

It was finally time for Ennis and Jack to leave New York and go home, back to the West Coast. They had enjoyed their time out here, but they were eager to get home and to their regular lives. Jack wanted to find himself a new job and get back to work, and Ennis wanted to get back to his own job. This was his last day of the vacation and it was Tuesday tomorrow.

One of the reasons why Jack was sad to leave was because of his father; now that he was working towards having some kind of relationship with him, and that he was ill, Jack wanted to spend more time with him.

Still, when he and Ennis had suggested spending the weekend in New York, Jack's parents had been thrilled. They were looking forward to seeing their son more often. The Knicks were playing in a few weekends at the Garden and John wanted to take Ennis and Jack, which they had agreed to. He had been very accepting towards Ennis and this let Jack know that he was trying.

The two of them were in their room, packing on either side of the bed and talking.

"You know...I'm sure we're taking back more than we came with," Jack commented, looking down at his suitcase with his hands on his hips. Ennis smiled in amusement.

"That's always the case. But...only a few things are gifts for the girls. The rest is stuff we bought for ourselves."

"Yeah. Not to mention all that candy we ended up buying," Jack replied, remembering the candy store they'd found and the cookie dough bites they'd ended up consuming the night before in front of the TV in their room. Last night had been a lot of fun, as they'd sat up in bed, wearing their pyjamas and laughing at the rerun of Saturday Night Live. Their amusement had soon turned to passion for each other as they'd rolled around in bed together.

"Last night was great," Jack reminisced, smiling. "A lot of fun, huh?"

"Sure was." Ennis then looked at Jack. "Did you take your meds this morning? I don't remember you doing it..."

Jack nodded reassuringly. "Yep. I took them when you were in the shower. Don't worry, okay?"

"It's my job to worry about you," Ennis told him, giving Jack a serious look. Jack paused from his packing and looked up.

"Ennis..." he sighed, walking around the bed. He slid his arms through Ennis's and placed them around his waist. "It's okay. I appreciate you worrying about me...lets me know how much you care about me."

"I do, darlin'," he replied, looking into Jack's eyes. "I care about you so much." He bit his lip, wondering if he could bring himself to admit his deepest fear. Jack saw something in his eyes and tilted his head.

"What's wrong?" He began to rub Ennis's back. "Something's bugging you...I can tell."

Ennis sighed and sat down the bed, bringing Jack down with him. "Thing is...I get scared for you, Jack. Every morning, I...I wake up and look over at you, to make sure...you're still..." He couldn't go on, but just looked down. Jack sighed and put his arms around Ennis.

"Baby...it's okay. I'm fine. My doctor's keeping a close eye on me, and the meds. He knows what he's doing. Honestly..."

"I know," Ennis sighed, leaning his head against Jack's. "I just get worried. I don't ever wanna lose you."

"You won't," Jack told him, kissing his cheek. "Now come on...we've gotta make that flight. You ready to move?" Ennis nodded and they kissed before getting up and continuing to pack. They finally got all of their luggage in their suitcases and headed out, locking the door behind them after making sure they had everything.

They had to be at the airport in an hour for check-in, so they had a little time to kill. Ennis called them a cab and they sat outside the hotel, waiting. The cab came soon enough and they headed for the airport, Jack sending a goodbye text message to his mother.

When they got to the airport they checked in and waited on the chairs, Jack lying back and resting his head on Ennis's leg. They talked and read a while until it was time for them to head on through to the boarding area. There was some more waiting, and then they could board. Jack was already thinking of them joining the Mile High Club once more, and kept giving Ennis that look. Ennis knew what it meant; Jack was after sex, and Ennis was more than willing to co-operate.

Once seated on the plane, Jack smiled at Ennis and kissed his cheek. "Can't wait to get back home. Whose place are we sleeping at?" he asked, twining his fingers through Ennis's.

"Um, you wanna come back to mine? You're welcome to stay there tomorrow while I'm out...look for work. In fact, I...I was thinking...what if we gave each other a key to our places? I mean...we're gonna move in together one day, right?"

Jack smiled wider and nodded. "I'd love that, Ennis. It's a first step. And...I'd like to stay at your place tomorrow. I'll make you something for lunch when you get home." He kissed Ennis and settled against him. "Looks like we're really moving forward, Ennis..."

"Yeah. I love you, Jack." He loved the idea of coming home to Jack; to find him ready and waiting. He would never think of Jack as a wife, and he knew that Jack was going to find another job of his own. That was okay; he figured that whoever got home first would make dinner, or they would take it in turns if they finished at the same time. The notion of setting up home with Jack was very appealing.

Halfway through the flight, Jack started whispering in Ennis's ear and kissed his cheek, heading for the bathroom. Ennis waited a few minutes, and then followed him.


They arrived home a few hours later, glad to be back. It was nearly seven by the time they got back to the city, so they decided to grab some take-out on the way home.

Once inside Ennis's apartment, they settled themselves on the sofa and stretched out, at either end with their feet loosely rubbing together. Ennis switched the TV to a random channel and they steadily ate their way through the Chinese food they'd picked up.

"So, are we really gonna swap keys?" Jack asked, remembering what Ennis had suggested on the plane. Ennis nodded.

"I'd sure like to, Jack. I mean...if we're gonna move in together like we said...makes a good first step. Could get used to coming home and seeing you there."

Jack smiled. "I'd like that too. So...how do we do it? Just go and get a copy made?"

"Guess so." They smiled at each other and carried on eating, half-listening to the TV. Then Ennis spoke again. "So are you gonna go and look for work tomorrow?"

"Yeah, don't know where, though. It's like I said before...I don't know what I wanna do. I never gave it much thought when I was younger, and I picked business as my major because I thought it'd be broad enough to cover a lot of ground. But after I was attacked...didn't have much hope for anything."

Ennis looked at him sadly and rubbed his foot against Jack's. "Sorry, bud. Didn't mean to do that to you."

Jack shook his head. "It's okay. I've more or less come to terms with it. Mostly thanks to you." He smiled at Ennis, who looked uncertain.

"Don't know if I did much, Jack..."

"Are you kidding? Ennis..." He put his food down and crawled over to Ennis, touching his cheek. "You've done so much for me. You helped me in the park, kept me calm when we were near that spot. You held me and told me that everything would be okay...and what you did for me that night...helping me to relax when taking it from behind..." He kissed Ennis's cheek. "I never thought I'd ever be able to do that again, but thanks to you...I did. And I don't regret a second of it. I trusted you to do the right thing and help me, and you did it."

He smiled up at Ennis, who felt his heart burst with everything he was feeling for this man; his wonderful Jack who was still so perfect in spite of what he'd been through. In fact, Ennis had often thought to himself that it was Jack's imperfections that made him perfect. That didn't make much sense, but he knew it was true. Jack was perfect to him.

"Love you, darlin'," he managed to get out, feeling choked up from the emotions inside him. Jack kissed his cheek again, a little longer this time. He then picked his food back up and carried on eating, relaxing against Ennis and settling down. Ennis kissed the top of Jack's head before returning to his own food.

When they were done, Jack cleared up and then gave Ennis the familiar look; unbridled lust mixed in with love. It was a look that told Ennis how much he meant to Jack; they'd been together for a few months now and were starting to make big commitments to one another. And maybe it was going a little faster than he'd expected, but all of it felt right.

He got up and brought Jack into his arms, kissing him lightly. "Ready to go to bed, bud?" Jack nodded, kissing his neck.

"Uh huh..." They slowly made their way to the bedroom, stopping now and then to kiss. Once inside, they moved close together and began to undress each other, kissing skin as it was exposed. Jack knew what he wanted there and then; he wanted Ennis inside him. He wanted to be held and made love to by the man who he knew for sure was his other half.

"What do you want, darlin'?" Ennis murmured, nuzzling his face in Jack's neck and hands roaming over his stomach.

"I want you inside me," Jack breathed, tilting his head to the side as Ennis kissed his neck.

"Yeah?" Ennis murmured, slowly pushing Jack to the bed. His arousal was evident between his legs and Jack noticed, grinning when he saw how much Ennis wanted him. "Think I can do that..."

They fell onto the bed, kissing and crawling up to the top, where Jack lay back and gazed up at Ennis, breathing deeply. Their coupling was slow and sweet, just the way they both liked it more than any other. When Ennis collapsed onto Jack and breathed in his scent, he felt as if he was on cloud nine, and that he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

A little later, Jack rolled on top of Ennis and straddled him, smiling. He wasn't after another round, but he just wanted to lie here with the man he loved.

"You know something...you've got beautiful eyes," he said softly, stroking Ennis's cheek. Ennis blushed.

"Don't know about that. They're brown, Jack. You know what else is brown?" He saw Jack laughing silently at him.

"I know, but...it's not the only thing. Chocolate's brown, and you know how much I love that stuff. And I've noticed that your eyes have a little green in them. Can't see it all the time, but...it's there. And sometimes, when you're looking at me, I could swear that your eyes are the same colour as honey. All warm and soft...I like it."

Ennis gulped. Nobody, not even Alma, had complimented him like this. While he'd been told that he had a good body, nobody had ever commented on his eyes before. He pulled Jack close to him and kissed him, hand tangling in his hair.

"Love you," he murmured, resting his forehead against Jack's.

"I love you too," Jack replied, kissing him once more.


The next day, during Ennis's lunch break, he and Jack met up with Alma and Lureen at the coffee place.

Jack had hung around Ennis's place for most of the morning, venturing out to make a copy of his apartment key and to get a change of clothes. They had agreed to swap keys that evening over dinner, and were looking forward to a romantic meal together.

The four of them were sat in the usual booth in the corner, the girls exclaiming over their gifts and thanking them.

"Oh, you guys!" said Lureen, after sniffing the perfume and finding that it was to her liking. "You didn't have to do this, it was your vacation."

Jack shrugged and smiled at her. "We wanted to. You're our friends and you've always been good to us. Just seemed fair that we buy you something." The girls thanked them again and Lureen got up to get them some coffee.

"So, how'd the rest of it go? You said something about the AIDS hospice."

"Yep. We went over there, talked to the guys that live there. They were really nice, and...it just felt good to be there. Made a donation to them."

"That was good of you guys. And, um...your dad...how is he? You said he's ill."

"Yeah, cancer," Jack replied in a low voice. "Said the docs can't do anything...he's got about six months."

"I'm sorry, Jack..." Lureen said, squeezing his hand. "After everything you've been through already..."

Jack shook his head. "It's okay. We've been talking, and...I think it's gonna be okay. We've decided that me and Ennis are gonna spend weekends over there, and stay in the house. We can go to games with my dad, and...you know?"

"Sure. Sounds like a good idea. And I'm glad you guys are working it out. I know it hasn't been easy for you..."

"It hasn't," Jack admitted. He then looked over at Ennis. "This one's been my rock through it all," he said softly, taking Ennis's hand. The girls smiled.

"That's good. And I'm glad you sorted out the thing with Central Park. I know that was like a black cloud hanging over you," Lureen said to him, and Jack nodded.

"It was...but Ennis really helped me. He stood by me and never left. He's been great." Jack kissed Ennis's hand and smiled at him.

Eventually, Lureen returned to her shift and Alma had to run an errand, leaving Ennis and Jack alone in their booth. Jack turned to his lover and rested against him, fingers lacing through Ennis's.

"I had a good time, Ennis. Can't wait to go back again."

"Me neither, darlin'. I love seeing you happy, bud. It's all I've ever wanted," Ennis said softly, nuzzling his nose in Jack's dark hair. Jack nodded.

"I know that, baby. I feel the same..." He looked up into Ennis's eyes. "I...I'm so much in love with you, Ennis. It's the strongest I've ever felt for anyone in my life."

"I know what you mean, Jack. You mean a whole lot to me, darlin'." He kissed Jack lightly and they sat there in silence, enjoying their time together.

Ennis went back to work afterwards, and Jack stuck around to browse through the paper for job adverts. Lureen kept filling his coffee mug and chatting to him now and then. He found a few potential jobs and circled them, knowing that it would fill his time until he had to meet up with Ennis for their romantic dinner.

Jack spent his day walking around the city, dropping off résumés and looking for more opportunities. He found a few that he might be good at, but none of them were particularly appealing. He remembered what Ennis had said; to think about what he liked most, what he had a passion for, and then use this to find a job he would like.

But truth be told, he didn't know what he had a passion for. Ennis loved animals, so a vet's assistant was an obvious choice for him. Maybe he would become a vet himself one day; his major at college certainly allowed for it.

He sighed to himself and continued to pound the streets, looking for work.

Jack handed out all the résumés he had with him and then checked his watch; Ennis would be done soon and ready to meet him. He waited at the edge of the park and looked around, shivering a little against the chill.

Ennis soon joined him and they headed back to his place. He then shooed Jack onto the sofa and got dinner ready. Jack kissed him and sat down, looking forward to what Ennis would cook for them. Ennis was a good cook and he knew exactly what Jack could and couldn't eat; Jack appreciated how much he cared about him.

When Ennis called him into the kitchen, Jack paused in his tracks. There were two plates on the table, full of what looked to be a succulent steak dinner, and candles all around. He smiled at the display. "Ennis...this looks great."

Ennis smiled and kissed him. "Come on, darlin'." They sat down and tucked in, Jack enjoying every single part of it.

Afterwards, they sat looking at each other, smiling and holding hands. "You ready?" Ennis asked, feeling a little nervous even though they had already discussed it. Jack nodded.

"You bet." They let go of each other and dug into their pockets, extracting the spare keys they had had made. "Well, here we go..."

"Yeah." They both extended the keys in their right hands, and took them with their left hands, smiling at each other.

"I love you, Ennis," Jack said to him, taking his hand. Ennis kissed his fingers, smiling back at him.

"I love you too."

Later, when they were lying in bed, Ennis held his lover close and kissed him fiercely, heart swelling with the blazing love he felt for him. He was happy with Jack and looking forward to the future they would be having together.