Author's notes

I feel I should warn you; this chapter turns into a tearjerker about halfway through. Have tissues handy!

Kathryn


Chapter 27

February 19th, 2010

The next day, things started off normal. Jack was busy planning his proposal to Ennis, and also thinking about what to make for dinner so that it was romantic. Ennis wasn't yet aware of his lover's plans, but he knew that he was happy. They'd talked about living together so many times and he knew it would happen soon. But he was starting to wonder when.

While they were at work, they sent texts to each other whenever they had a break, and Jack revealed to Ennis that he was planning a romantic evening for them, making Ennis wonder what he'd done to deserve such an incredible guy.

When they finally finished, Jack was waiting at the entrance to the park for Ennis, looking forward to the night ahead. He had planned this carefully; their flight to New York tomorrow was quite early. Normally they flew over on Fridays after dinner, but he wanted them to have this night to themselves. He had a feeling they would be celebrating.

Ennis finally appeared and Jack's heart soared at the sight of him. Those blonde curls, the deep brown eyes, the dimples whenever he smiled...Jack was head over heels for that man, and he knew he'd met his soul mate.

"Hey," Ennis said to him when he came closer, pulling Jack close. He went willingly, meeting the warm kiss that greeted him and smiling against Ennis's lips.

"Hey yourself," he replied, eyes sparkling as he looked up at him. "You ready for tonight?"

"Sure." They linked hands and started walking towards Jack's building. "So what's the occasion?"

"You'll see," Jack replied with a grin. "Got something special for tonight." They reached the building and headed up, bumping into Lureen who was off on a date with her boyfriend. She knew what Jack was planning and winked at them as they passed, making Jack roll his eyes.

Once inside, Jack sat Ennis down on the sofa and kissed him, just as Ennis had done the day before. "Stay here, bud. You're gonna like this." Ennis nodded and sat back, wondering what was going on. Jack didn't normally plan surprises like this, so he wasn't too sure what he was planning this time. But he trusted Jack enough to know that it would be a good surprise.

The smell of chilli, his favourite dish without a doubt, filled the air. Jack had clearly prepared it with some thought in mind. Ennis could hear his stomach rumbling already and fought the urge to go in there.

"Alright, we're ready," Jack called from the doorway half an hour later. Ennis went in and stopped, looking around. The main light was off, but there were several candles set out, casting shadows on the walls. He'd been right; this was a very romantic dinner that Jack had been planning.

"What...?" he started, a little taken aback and very touched. Jack smiled softly and took his hand.

"I wanted tonight to be special...you'll see in a little while. Come on, sit down." Ennis did so and looked at Jack in wonder as he poured them both wine and bowls of chilli. The whole setting was very cosy and intimate, like a private world just for the two of them. Jack hoped he'd done well with this gesture, and the look on Ennis's face as they ate told him that his efforts had been well-received.

When dinner was finally over, Jack took the bowls to the counter and sat back down, taking both of Ennis's hands. "You're probably wondering what this is all about, huh?"

"Sure am. What's going on?" Ennis asked, seeing the nervousness on Jack's face.

"Well...the thing is...we've talked a lot about living together, right? But we never set an exact date or made any concrete plans. And I don't know about you, but...I'm starting to wonder what we're waiting for."

"Yeah, me too," Ennis confessed, feeling Jack rubbing his thumb over his hand.

"Well, um...with everything that's happened lately...the trial and everything...I know you've always been there for me when I needed you. And I hope you know what you mean to me, Ennis. And...I want to be there for you, too. Whenever you need it. So...to that end...I wanna ask you something. Properly."

Ennis nodded, seeing where this was going; Jack was about to ask him formally to move in, and he couldn't wait to say yes. "What is it, darlin'?"

Jack met his eyes, everything he felt for Ennis right there in his gaze. "I'd like to ask you...formally...to move in with me. Will you...will you live with me? Here?" He was feeling a little shaky but he wanted to get through this.

A wide smile crossed Ennis's face, and he nodded. "I sure will, Jack. You know that...nothing would make me happier than to live with you."

"So you'll be my partner?" Jack asked, grinning back at him.

"You bet," Ennis replied simply, lifting Jack's hands and kissing them. "I love you, darlin'."

"I love you too," Jack said happily, getting up and moving around the table. Ennis stood up and they embraced, sharing a deep kiss. "Thank you, Ennis..."

"No problem, baby..." They kissed again and held each other in their arms, feeling like yet another corner had been turned for them. "So...when are we doing it?"

"I figured we could wait until after this weekend before you start packing your stuff," Jack suggested. "That okay?"

"Yeah, sounds good," Ennis said to him, stroking his face. "Tell you what...you wanna go celebrate?" Jack grinned wickedly.

"Sure...what've you got in mind?"

"Little of this...little of that," Ennis replied nonchalantly, trailing a hand down Jack's front to rub him through his jeans. They broke apart and set to work, Jack blowing out the candles and Ennis clearing the table in record time. He then took Jack's hand and led him to what would be their bedroom, eager to connect with Jack in the best way possible and seal the promises they had made to each other.


The two of them headed to New York that weekend, eager to tell Jack's parents about them finally moving in together. Ennis hadn't packed any of his things yet, but he was looking forward to it. They decided between them that he would start doing so when they got back on Monday, after work, and that they would be living together by the end of the week. Neither of them could wait until their first night together as partners, and they knew it would be very special.

"You're moving in?" Karen asked with a huge smile as they stood in front of her, hands clasping tightly. "Well, it's about time. Congratulations!" She hugged them warmly and John stood up.

"Uh...well done, you two," he managed, shaking Jack's hand and then Ennis's. "You be sure to look after my boy, you hear?" Ennis nodded, knowing that he would even without being asked.

"I will, don't worry. I'll be real good to him." John nodded his approval and put an arm around his wife.

They all went to a restaurant in the city to celebrate the good news, and then Ennis and Jack went to a late movie together, choosing one at random and making out at the back, completely lost in each other.

"Can't believe it's really happening," Jack murmured, stroking Ennis's face. Ennis gazed into his eyes, heart full of love for this man.

"Me neither, darlin'," he replied, nuzzling their noses together. "I can't wait to move in with you."

On Sunday, John took the two of them to a Knicks game as a gift for them moving in together, Jack fully appreciating the effort he was making. He sensed that his father didn't have much time left, so he was willing to put the past behind him and focus on what was going on. He was finding that he liked spending time with his father; they were closer now than they had ever been. They talked more and John listened to him instead of dismissing his views, like he had when Jack was younger. He treated his son with respect as an adult in his own right, and Ennis could tell how much it meant to Jack.

That evening over dinner, Karen handed them a small package. "It's just a little housewarming gift," she explained, smiling at them. "But I hope you like it." They looked at each other and Jack opened it, grinning when he saw what it was. A small picture frame was in his hands, perfect for a photo of himself and Ennis.

"Aw, thanks, mom," he said to her, leaning over to peck her cheek. "This is real nice..."

"I figured you could put it up in your apartment...once Ennis is all moved in," she told them, smiling. "I bought it a while back, when you first told us that you were thinking of living together. So I waited until it was official."

Jack smiled at her. "Thank you."

"Yeah, thanks Mrs Twist," Ennis added, giving his own shy smile. She waved a hand.

"Oh honey, call me Karen. We're family now, right?" she asked with a wink, and he blushed. Turning serious for a moment, she looked at him thoughtfully. "Ennis, can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"I hope I'm not putting you on the spot too much with this, but...if it were still legal for you two to get married in California, would you do it?"

"Would I marry Jack?" he asked, looking surprised that she had even asked. It was one of things that required no thought whatsoever; he knew in his heart what the answer would always be. "Of course I would," he continued, looking over at Jack. He was smiling and looking down at his food, cheeks a little red. "I love him...and I'd do it without a second thought."

Karen nodded, seeming happy with this response, and they carried on eating. Jack smiled at Ennis and rubbed his foot against his leg, in a small gesture of love and thanks. Ennis understood and nodded at him, not needing any words.

After dinner, the two of them went out onto the back porch for a small nightcap and a quiet talk. Curled up in the same wicker chair, Jack rested his head on Ennis's chest and let his legs dangle next to Ennis's. Neither of them was entirely sure how they had managed this position, but weren't complaining.

"I like what you said earlier...about marrying me," Jack murmured, sighing deeply. "You really mean that?"

"You know I did," Ennis said softly, rubbing his back. "I really would do it, Jack...sure wish we could." Jack opened his eyes, his heart feeling heavy at the fact that the state they lived in said they couldn't have that one thing. A government whom they didn't even know much about said that they didn't have the right to show the world their love for one another. People they had never met said that their love was wrong, without even knowing them. Jack hated how people could judge like that, based on fear and what was written in a book that was thousands of years old.

But he knew that slowly but surely, the world was changing for people like them. And they still had rights back home, even if they couldn't get married. He and Ennis would have benefits to being a cohabiting couple, and they would be taking full advantage of them over the next few months.

"I wish we could, too," he said quietly, closing his eyes once more. Ennis looked down at him, at the beautiful creature in his arms, and he felt a surge of love for his Jack. He knew that he would follow up on his promise to take care of Jack, and to make sure he was healthy and happy. Having Jack's love made life worth living, brought him happiness, and secured his future. He sincerely hoped that he would never lose Jack; he didn't know what he'd do if he did.


January 22nd, 2010

On Monday, things seemed to be going well for Ennis and Jack. Ennis had started to pack up some of his things and was due to start moving them soon.

Work was going well for both of them, and Jack was starting to make some good money at the clinic. He thought he had the best job in the world; he got to jerk off while thinking about the man he loved, and he was being paid for it. And while they didn't have a perfect life and never would, they were still very happy together and looking forward to sharing a home.

Ennis's parents had been discussed a few times, and it was ultimately decided that they would pay a visit one day after work during the week. Jack was nervous about going back there, but he knew that Ennis needed to see them; they were still his parents and they still loved him. Jack had to give them credit for trying.

At lunch on Monday, they finally got to meet Lureen's new boyfriend and spent some time with him. He was pleasant enough and didn't even blink when Ennis and Jack held hands right in front of him; clearly, Lureen had told him beforehand how it was with them.

After work, Jack helped Ennis to bring some of his boxes over, excitement brewing at how official all of this was. They decided not to unpack just yet until they had more time, and left the boxes in the corner of the living room.

"So," Jack started with a smile, moving into Ennis's arms. "You looking forward to this?"

"You bet," Ennis replied, nuzzling their noses together before leaning in to kiss Jack. It didn't matter how many times they'd kissed; every single one took their breath away and made them melt. Jack moaned softly and ran his hands up and down Ennis's back, snaking them under his shirt and feeling the warm skin.

They broke apart and Ennis kissed the mole above Jack's mouth. "Later, darlin'. Wanna get some dinner first?" Jack nodded reluctantly and broke away, heading for the kitchen. They had wordlessly decided between them that Ennis would be spending the night here from now on, despite a lot of his stuff being at his own place. He planned to bring more over every day with Jack's help, until his apartment was empty, and he had already told his landlord that they were in the process of moving him into Jack's place. He told Ennis to take as much time as he needed to get moved over.

Dinner was simply pizza that Jack dug out of the freezer, neither of them particularly hungry. After disposing of the leftovers, Jack turned to Ennis with a gleam in his eye.

"You wanna?" he asked, eyes travelling down his lover's body. Ennis took his hand and nodded. They entered the bedroom (their bedroom now) and began to kiss slowly, hands roaming and clothes being shed.

They tumbled onto the bed and moved up, still stripping off and kissing heavily. Jack, lost in desire, gazed down at Ennis. "Can I?" he whispered, stroking his cheek. Ennis nodded.

"Uh huh." Jack quickly prepared himself and slid in, sighing at the warmth that welcomed him. They'd found a home in each other, and neither of them wanted to lose it.

He moved slowly at first, gradually picking up the pace until he was throbbing hard and getting close. He heard Ennis moaning beneath him, and then felt something go wrong. The condom broke.

"Shit shit shit..." he breathed, freezing where he was. Ennis felt him stop and looked up.

"What's wrong?" he asked, seeing how Jack was clearly panicking. "Jack?"

"I...I think the condom just broke," he replied, eyes wide. Ennis drew in a breath, his heart starting to pound.

"What?" he whispered, and he felt Jack pulling out of him. "You didn't come, did you?"

"No, it's okay," Jack replied. He rolled onto his side of the bed and looked down at himself. Sure enough, it had burst. "Fuck." He took it off and threw it to the nightstand, rubbing his forehead. "Sorry about that..."

He turned back to Ennis and paused. Ennis's face was full of fear, and he was looking at Jack strangely. "Ennis?"

"I..." Ennis didn't know how to verbalise what he was feeling. Jack could have infected him if he hadn't been aware of the condom breaking. He'd almost caught the deadly virus. Having sex with Jack was a huge risk, and only now was the reality of that brought home to him. "I..."

Jack tried to put a hand on Ennis's shoulder, but Ennis flinched and jumped off the bed, hands over his mouth. He couldn't help it; he was terrified of being near Jack. At this, Jack also got up and looked at him, hurt that he'd shied away. "Ennis? What's wrong? It didn't happen...I didn't infect you..."

He moved around the bed, and Ennis bolted out of the room. Jack heard the bathroom door shut and sat down on the bed in shock. What the hell? It's not like I came inside him and infected him...

Maybe he's realising for the first time what a risk it is to be with you, a voice in his head told him. Maybe he's only just seeing how dangerous it is to sleep with you, even if the condom doesn't break. He won't want to risk that again.

Jack held his head in his hands, unaware that Ennis was doing the same thing in the bathroom.

I can't do this anymore, Ennis thought, still scared of what had happened. I love him, but...it's so risky. Why didn't I realise this before? He's the love of my life...can I really walk away from him? After everything we've been through? I was gonna move in...but what if this happens again?

Both of them sat where they were, staring into space and neither of them knowing how to fix this.


Jack was sat on the sofa by the time Ennis emerged from the bathroom, both of them now fully dressed. He was nursing a cup of coffee and looked up at Ennis entered the room. He no longer looked fearful, but there was something in his eyes that Jack didn't like. There was determination, but Jack saw none of the loving familiarity that he was used to seeing in those brown eyes.

"Ennis?" he asked, standing up. Ennis didn't come any closer, keeping his distance. "I'm sorry about before...are you okay?"

"Better than I was," he said quietly, hating himself for what he was about to do. He needed to be by himself for a while, to figure out what to do. He knew it would break Jack's heart, and his own, but he couldn't see any other way. He just couldn't carry on like this, not without figuring out some things. "I know you didn't do it on purpose..."

Jack nodded. "Good. Can we talk? I know you're scared..." He gestured to the armchair and Ennis sat down, not looking at him but at the floor. He did not want to do this. "Tell me what you're thinking, Ennis...you're scaring me..."

Ennis paused before starting to speak. "What happened earlier...it made me realise what a big risk this is. And maybe I should've thought about that before letting myself fall in love with you, but I really liked you and didn't want to lose you. And...I honestly thought I could handle it. But the thing is...I can handle you being positive, because it's just how it is. But...I don't think I can handle the fact that...that being with you puts me at risk."

Jack's heart sank and he blinked back tears, knowing what Ennis was saying. "I don't know what to say...I'm sorry..."

"Yeah..." He then met Jack's eyes, knowing it was too late to take these words back now. "I think...I need to be by myself for a while. I need to think properly about this and not let my feelings for you distract me. I...I have to ask myself if I can really be with someone who's a risk." He felt a lump in his throat but carried on. "I'm sorry if that sounds bad, Jack...but I can't help it. I can't stay here with you...and I can't move in without figuring this out."

They stared at each other, their minds screaming at them not to give up, to stay together. They had been so strong, and now they were falling apart. Both of them were in shock at how quickly things had deteriorated.

"I see," Jack whispered, feeling just as miserable as he had several months ago when he'd first arrived in the city. He'd said that if the time came when he would have to give Ennis up for his own good, he would be okay with it. But now that the time had come, he was far from okay. He hadn't expected to fall so deeply in love with Ennis. "God, Ennis...I never saw this coming."

"Me neither," Ennis admitted. "I thought we'd be together forever no matter what, like in a movie or something. Like all those love songs we listened to together, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember," Jack reminisced with a slight smile. "We used to stay up late at night sometimes, just listening to the radio and all those old songs..." A lump was growing in his own throat at remembering those good times he'd shared with Ennis. There would be no more of those. "So...you're definitely leaving me?"

"Reckon so," Ennis murmured, hating the prospect. "I'll try to figure out a way to deal with it, but...I don't know if I can. I don't wanna leave you, Jack...but I can't do this right now. I need to be on my own."

"I understand," Jack replied, holding his head up and trying to put on a brave face. "You need to put yourself first. I wouldn't want you to feel like you have to stay with me when it's such a struggle. I've only ever wanted you to be happy...and I still do." Jack knew there and then that if he were to see Ennis with someone else, he would be packing up and going back to New York. He just couldn't bear that.

"I want you to be happy too," Ennis told him sincerely, thinking that he would be leaving if he saw Jack with someone else. They were half-lying through their teeth, but they had to make the best of this bad situation. "So, um...about my things..."

"You don't have to get them out tonight," Jack said, shaking his head. "Just keep the key until you get chance to move them. Tell you what...I'll have lunch at the coffee place tomorrow and be out of the way. You can shift your stuff then if you want."

Ennis nodded. "Thanks. So, um...you gonna be okay?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine." They stood up and Ennis sighed, heart heavy.

"I'm sorry about this, Jack..." he said earnestly, seeing for himself how hurt his lover was.

"I'm sorry, too..." Jack replied, and Ennis finally crossed the gap between them. He took Jack into his arms for a desperate embrace, burying his nose in Jack's hair and never wanting to let go of him. Jack blinked back tears and closed his eyes. "I love you, Ennis..."

"I love you too. So, um...what now?"

"I'll walk you down to your car," Jack told him, wanting to get as much out of these last few moments as he could. "Wanna say goodbye..."

Ennis nodded and pulled back, looking down at him. Not caring that it would make it even harder to say goodbye to Jack, he leaned in and kissed him, long and slow. Jack kissed back with everything he had, trying to tell Ennis without words how much he loved him and would miss him. It was all over, without warning, and now they had to find a way to carry on without each other.


The pair of them were reluctant to let go of each other, but eventually did, knowing that it wouldn't change anything. This was how the dice had rolled, and now they had to deal with it, even if it meant they never recovered from the pain of letting each other go.

Ennis cupped Jack's cheek after breaking from the kiss, seeing the despair in Jack's eyes and hating himself for putting it there. He swallowed and stepped back, unsure of what to do now.

"Well...better get going..."

Jack nodded. "Right..." He followed Ennis out of the apartment, choking down the urge to tell him to stay. He knew that if this was what Ennis wanted, he would let him have it. He couldn't deny Ennis the chance to back out if he thought it was for the best; he loved Ennis too much to force him to stay.

They walked down through the building, both of them with their heads down and their hearts heavy. When they left the building and crossed the road to Ennis's car, Lureen caught sight of them from her apartment and watched them, wondering what was going on. As far as she knew, they were supposed to be spending nights here, what with Ennis moving in.

She watched as Jack turned to Ennis, rubbing his arm. "So, um...you take care, okay?"

"Yeah, you too," Ennis replied, hoping that he really was doing the right thing. "I, uh...I guess I'll see you around..." Jack nodded and his lip trembled.

"Gonna miss you," he choked out, not caring if he sounded weak. Ennis took him in his arms for one last embrace, and they clutched at each other tightly. Lureen frowned, wondering why they weren't spending the night in the same place. They'd done that every night since getting together.

Ennis and Jack prised themselves away, and looked at each other. "I'm sorry about this, Jack..."

He shook his head, trying to appear brave. "Don't be. I told you right from the start, Ennis...that if there ever came a time when it was too much for you, and you wanted out...that I would let you go. No apologies and no hard feelings, okay?"

"I remember," Ennis said quietly. "I just hoped it wouldn't happen."

"Me too..." Ennis opened his car door and sighed, looking over Jack one last time. This was the man who he would always see in his dreams, even if he never saw him in his waking moments ever again.

"Take care, bud."

"You too." Jack watched helplessly as Ennis got in, fighting the urge to drag him out of the car and back upstairs. Lureen could sense that something was very wrong right now, and she left her apartment.

She got outside in time to see Ennis driving off, leaving Jack to stare after him. When Ennis rounded the corner and disappeared from sight, Jack turned to see her watching him. She walked up to him and saw his lip was trembling. "Jack?"

"He left me," Jack said quietly, voice shaky.

"Why?" She couldn't believe it; things had been going so well for them and it didn't make sense.

"We...we were having sex and...the condom broke..." he admitted, not caring about the graphical details right now. "He freaked out and decided that he needed to leave, be on his own to figure out if he could really do this." He sniffed and coughed, looking back at where Ennis had driven off.

"Oh, Jack..." she sighed, seeing him wipe his eyes. "Come on inside..." She led him back up to his apartment, sitting him down on the sofa and sitting next to him. "I can't believe it...you just let him go?"

"He was scared," Jack told her. "He said he's only just realising what a risk it is to be with me, and...that he needs to figure out if he's prepared to take that risk, before we move in together. But...I don't think we ever will. Not after this..."

Lureen sighed and put an arm around him. "I honestly thought you two were gonna make it, no matter what. You've been through so much already...and you were so strong. And you came so close to living together. I know you made each other happy..."

"Yeah, we did," Jack admitted, thinking of how he felt whenever Ennis smiled at him, or whispered sweet words in his ear, or held him close like he was the most precious thing in the world. All of that was gone now, and Jack didn't think he would find a love like that ever again. Ennis just couldn't be replaced in his heart, and never would be, even if it meant he never loved again. "I love him so much, Lu...and now he's gone..."

"So that's it?" she asked softly. "There's definitely no way back for you guys?"

"I don't think so," he replied, head falling into his hands.

Ennis entered his silent apartment and felt his heart sink even further. This would be the first night in months that he and Jack hadn't spent together, and he wasn't looking forward to going to bed alone. He simply locked the door and headed to his bedroom, feeling like he'd left a piece of his heart behind.

He sat down on the edge of the bed and started at the wall, wondering what to do now. On the one hand, he truly did feel like he needed some space, to think over what had happened. But on the other, he felt terrible and would never forget the heartbroken look on Jack's face as he'd left.

Neither of them got much sleep that night, awaking now and then to reach out for one another and finding nothing but an empty bed. Both ended up moving over to try and catch the scent that might be there; a reminder of the one they loved, and would always love even if they never saw each other again. Their hearts had been united forever and that was the one thing that could never be taken from them.