Chapter 19

September 11th, 2009

On Friday, Ennis and Jack had a date planned. Junior would be spending the night with Amy and Jessica, which gave the two men some much-needed quality time together. Ennis hoped that he would see a genuine smile on Jack's face tonight; maybe they would even be able to have sex later.

Ennis knew that Jack was nervous, given the thoughts that were running through his head right now, and he hoped that Jack was somehow learning to ignore them. As far as he could see, all he could do was try to support Jack in this effort.

I don't wanna lose him, Ennis thought to himself as he finished getting ready. He was scared that he was losing Jack one day at a time, and dreaded a moment in which Jack would tell him to leave, convinced that it was for his own good. He had to be strong and let Jack know that there was no way he was leaving.

When he was done, he went down the hall and into the bathroom to retrieve Jack. "Bud?" he asked, poking his head around the door frame. Jack looked up in the mirror and smiled at him.

"Hey, cowboy. Just finished." Ennis nodded his approval and came up behind him, wrapping his arms around Jack's waist. They smiled at each other in the mirror; both of them had always liked how they looked together. Even now, Jack had to admit that the image looked right, like it was meant to be.

"See?" Ennis murmured, as if he had read Jack's mind. "We look good together, darlin'." Jack nodded, knowing that Ennis was right.

"Yeah...well, you ready to go?"

"You bet." They reluctantly moved apart and headed to the living area, gathering up their keys and wallets. Jack wasn't sure what might happen when they got back, but he hoped that he would be able to have sex; it had been a few days since the last time and it felt like weeks to him.

They left the building and strolled down the street, heading for the front where their favourite seafood restaurant was located. They had always loved going there for their dates; it was very romantic at this time of day.

When they were seated, they had a little time before their food was ready; Ennis tentatively nudged Jack's foot with his own, hoping that Jack would respond. Jack smiled and started playing footsie with him, cheeks reddening slightly.

"You're in a good mood," he observed, and Ennis nodded.

"Yep. You're okay, Junior's gettin' better..." It was true; her fever had broken that morning and she appeared to be recovering. "Got a lot to be happy about."

"Yeah..." Jack took a deep breath and placed his hand over Ennis's, stroking with his thumb. "I know...that things haven't been easy lately. With me going all paranoid about everything. I just...I wanna say thank you for standing by me, Ennis. Wouldn't have gotten through it without you."

Ennis took Jack's hand in his. "S'alright, Jack. I swore that I would help you, an' that's what I'm tryin' to do." He kissed Jack's hand just as their dinner was being served, and they spent the remainder of the meal just looking at each other as they ate.

One thing about the restaurant was that sometimes they played music in a corner and allowed couples to dance together. Just as they had finished, a familiar song started playing through the restaurant and a few other couples got up. Ennis smiled at Jack. "You wanna dance with me, Jack?" he asked softly, feeling as if it would make Jack happy.

Jack looked at the other couples and then back at Ennis. He had his reservations but in his heart he wanted to do this. He nodded and allowed Ennis to lead him to the dance floor.

It's a little bit funny this feeling inside

I'm not one of those who can easily hide

Don't have much money but boy if I did

I'd buy a big house where we both could live

Ennis held him in his arms, pulling him close as gently as he could. They started moving slowly, looking into each other's eyes.

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no

Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show

I know it's not much but it's the best I can do

My gift is my song and this one's for you

Jack lowered his head to Ennis's shoulder, letting the words wash over him. He knew that Ennis was trying to tell him through this song that he was there, not going anywhere.

And you can tell everybody this is your song

It may be quite simple but now that it's done

I hope you don't mind

I hope you don't mind that I put down in words

How wonderful life is while you're in the world

While the instrumental played, Ennis kissed the side of Jack's face and whispered in his ear that he loved him. Life was wonderful to him because he had Jack; he was happy.

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss

Well a few of the verses well they've got me quite cross

But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song

It's for people like you that keep it turned on

Jack smiled up at Ennis, feeling better than he had before. "Thank you," he whispered, and Ennis nodded.

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do

You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue

Anyway the thing is what I really mean

Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen

They leaned in close as the song finished, finally kissing as it ended and ready to move on to the next part of the night; a make-out session in the cinema before returning home.

And you can tell everybody this is your song

It may be quite simple but now that it's done

I hope you don't mind

I hope you don't mind that I put down in words

How wonderful life is while you're in the world

I hope you don't mind

I hope you don't mind that I put down in words

How wonderful life is while you're in the world

They returned to the apartment a few hours later, having skipped most of the movie because they just weren't interested in it. Both of them would rather be at home in bed; it was just like happier times when they used to go on dates together.

Outside the apartment, Ennis cupped Jack's face with both hands, smiling down at him. "You have a good night, darlin'?" he asked softly, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah, I really did. It was great, Ennis. Thank you so much..." He planted a kiss on Ennis's lips and Ennis proceeded to open the door, eager to make the most of the night they had left.

Once inside, he locked up again and led Jack through the dark apartment to their bedroom, trying not to bump into anything on the way. Jack did want to do this, but he had to admit that he was very nervous. He kept reminding himself that Ennis thought of him as a wonderful person; not the monster that he had perceived himself to be a few days ago.

Ennis led the way into their bedroom and finally slowed down, turning towards him. "You sure you wanna do this?" he murmured, stroking Jack's arms. "You don't hafta if you can' pressure, bud."

Jack looked into his warm, caring eyes and nodded. "I'm sure. I want this...but I'm nervous..." Ennis squeezed his hands.

"Don't be...gonna make it good for you, darlin'." He drew Jack close to him and kissed him again, taking it slowly. Jack kissed back, appreciating the effort Ennis was making to help him. Slowly, Ennis pulled Jack towards the bed and sat them both down. He knew that they had to go at a pace that Jack was comfortable with, otherwise he could just tense up and nothing would happen.

They broke apart and Ennis placed his hand on Jack's shirt, a silent question in his eyes. Jack nodded and allowed it to be removed, Ennis's warm hands caressing his chest. "So beautiful," he murmured, kissing and stroking. Jack gulped and reached out to remove Ennis's shirt, feeling a little bolder.

They stripped each other in this slow fashion until there was nothing in the way anymore, their eyes travelling over each other's bodies in admiration. Jack could feel arousal fluttering in his stomach as Ennis touched him, looking forward to doing this. They crawled up the bed together and got under the sheets, Ennis covering Jack with his warm weight. "Let me take care of you tonight, Jack," he said softly, stroking Jack's cheek. "Reckon you need that."

Jack nodded, gazing up at him. Part of him was unsure about this, but the larger part knew that it was right. They loved each other and this was the best way to show it. "Ennis...make love to me. Slowly..." He swallowed, knowing that Ennis would help him. "Need you...inside me. Make me feel better..."

"I'd take all the pain away if I could, darlin'," Ennis told him. He grabbed the lube and smeared some on his fingers. "I'd even take it on myself so you wouldn't have to deal with it." He allowed Jack to widen his legs before manoeuvring his hand underneath, searching for the entrance. His finger slid inside easily, drawing a sigh from Jack.

"Ennis...oh God...forgot how good that feels."

"You're gonna remember everythin', darlin'," Ennis promised him as he inserted another finger. He moved them around a little until Jack was breathing heavily.

"Ennis...please...come on..." Sensing that Jack was ready, Ennis lifted his legs and Jack wrapped them around his waist, ready to have Ennis complete him at last.

As gently as he could, Ennis pushed into Jack and watched his face. He saw the initial discomfort and pain while Jack got used to the sensation, and then the relaxation as everything slid into place. Ennis leaned down and nuzzled him as he started to move, hoping that he could make Jack feel better.

"I love you," he breathed into Jack's ear, kissing his neck and using all the tricks he knew that might work. "Love you so much, darlin'..."

"Ennis," Jack gasped out, arms around his back and pulling him closer. "I missed I've been missing water or air..." They rocked together steadily, Ennis pushing his hips forwards and Jack bucking to meet the thrusts. It was everything that Jack remembered and more, as if nothing bad had ever happened to them.

"Darlin'," Ennis whispered, taking hold of Jack in between them. "Right here...ain't goin' nowhere..."

Jack bit his lip as Ennis kissed his neck, trying to believe the words that were being said to him. "Ennis...please...don't leave me. I know I might tell you to one day if things get hard, but I swear I don't mean it..."

"I know you don't," Ennis replied, stroking Jack with every thrust and feeling him start to shake with his impending orgasm. "Ain't ever leavin' you..." Jack gritted his teeth and groaned as he came, muscles clamping and triggering Ennis's own release. He held onto Jack tightly as he came inside him, feeling as if he had somehow branded Jack.

Damn if I'm gonna let him go without a fight, Ennis thought to himself as he saw stars. Can't live without him...can't be a father to Junior without him.

He rose up and pulled out, looking down at Jack. The other man looked happy with what they had just done but there was something about his eyes; they looked even more distant than ever. " okay?" Ennis asked, and Jack looked up at him.

"Don't know...feel weird now after that. I was good, but..." He looked away. "I don't know if it really worked in the long run. Can't say if I feel any better..." Ennis rolled off him and rested a hand on his chest; he tried not to feel too disappointed that Jack didn't appear to feel much better.

"Do you regret it?" he asked quietly, and Jack turned to him.

"Hell no, Ennis. It was great, but..." He shrugged, unable to say what he was thinking. Ennis simply nodded and drew him close, knowing that none of it was either his or Jack's fault.

September 14th, 2009

On Monday, Junior became ill again. This time, she woke up with a headache and a sore throat. Jack woke up that morning to find Ennis in her room, holding her as she cried into his chest.

"What's wrong?" Jack asked, looking at her. Ennis shook his head.

"Headache an' sore throat. Could you get her some water?" Jack nodded and went to get it, hoping that Junior wasn't seriously ill.

As he filled the cup, he thought about the past few days. Jack wasn't sure if there had been much improvement for them as far as he was concerned. After having sex on Friday night, he felt a little distant again. He had enjoyed it, but his old doubts were coming back to him. The latest one was the fear that Ennis had only fucked him because he was there, and if there had been a woman present...Jack didn't like to hold that thought in his mind.

He knew that his thoughts were completely ridiculous; Ennis had sex with him because he loved him and wanted to show him. Jack knew that in his heart, and it was a constant battle to keep his thoughts pushed down.

He came back with the water and Ennis smiled at him. "Thanks, bud." Jack sat down while Ennis helped her to drink it down, feeling the need to help.

"You want me to start breakfast?" he offered, and Ennis nodded.

"Sure, thanks Jack." He kissed Jack on the cheek as he got up, drawing a slight smile out of the other man. Jack got up and went headed to the kitchen; he'd already showered and dressed before seeking the other two.

He prepared breakfast for the three of them, thinking about everything. Ennis's birthday would be near the end of the month, with his shortly after. They would be twenty-six this year, and their thirties were drawing close. In one way, he couldn't wait for the year they turned thirty; it would be his and Ennis's ten-year anniversary of getting together. He hoped with all his heart that they would still be together by then, and that he wouldn't have driven Ennis away. That was his deepest fear now; that Ennis would tire of his paranoia and depression and leave him anyway.

Back in the bedroom, Ennis helped Junior get dressed and then to the bathroom, knowing that she couldn't go into kindergarten like this. He felt a little guilty; they had only just enrolled her and she had already missed some of it. But she couldn't help being ill, so he just had to deal with it.

When they emerged, Jack had almost finished with breakfast and smiled at them. "How're you feeling, Junior?" he asked her as she sat down. She shook her head.

"Don't feel good...feel sick." Jack brought over a plate with a few slices of dry toast, remembering how it had helped Ennis after their flight to Vermont.

"Thought so. This is dry toast, no butter. It'll help." Ennis felt a rush of gratitude towards him for being so thoughtful in the circumstances, despite his own issues.

"Thanks, Jack," he said to his husband, squeezing his hand. Jack nodded and went to retrieve the breakfast he'd prepared for them. He sat down and observed Junior eating the toast, seeing that it wasn't upsetting her stomach. Thinking that it would help her throat, Jack poured her a large glass of milk and nodded at her.

"It's okay. My mom used to give me this when I had a sore throat. It works." Junior took it and started gulping it down, leaving her fathers to smile at each other. Ennis couldn't believe how Jack had just taken charge like that; he'd been feeling lost as to what to do for her.

After breakfast, Ennis sidled up to Jack in the kitchen and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you for doin' that, Jack. I reckon it did her good."

"Well...when I saw her like that this morning...just wanted to help. She okay?" They looked over at Junior, who was sat on the sofa. Ennis nodded.

"I think so...but you know what? I think I'm gonna take her to the doctor. Just to be on the safe side; you can't be too careful with kids. I'll just call the clinic an' let 'em know that I can't come in today." Jack nodded in agreement while Ennis pulled out his cell phone and started placing the call. "Hey, it's Ennis. Listen, I can't come in today; my daughter's sick an' I'm gonna take her to the doctor's..."

Jack couldn't help but feel slighted; he was capable of taking care of Junior today and just because he had certain issues didn't mean he was irresponsible.

Ennis finished the call and looked at him. "Got the day off." Jack looked back at him.

"How come you didn't ask me to look after her?" he asked, eyes slightly narrowed. Ennis shook his head.

"It's more important for you to go in right now; you've got that portfolio to finish up." To his relief, a quick look through had told him that Jack really was up to date with it, and that it would be ready for October.

Jack didn't look away. "I could've missed a day. You not trust me with her now 'cos I'm going crazy?"

Ennis blinked and stepped forward. " ain't goin' crazy. An' of course I trust you with her. But...I think it's better if I take her."

"Right, her biological father," Jack replied in a low voice. He then looked at his watch. "I need to get moving." He sighed and looked up at Ennis, seeing that he was a little hurt. "I'm sorry, okay?" he said softly, moving closer and kissing him on the cheek. "I didn't mean that. Hope it goes okay at the doctor's." Ennis nodded, knowing that Jack truly was sorry about it. He watched Jack leave, hoping that things weren't about to get even worse.

Jack was trying to work, but all he could think about was the events of the morning. Things had started off well for him, helping to take care of Junior. But they had taken a nosedive very quickly, and now he felt terrible. If he had felt bad before, it was even worse now.

He hated how he'd left things with Ennis; he could see the logic in Ennis taking Junior to the doctor; it was just the more practical option. Dr Richards was very accepting of their relationship and would have recognised that he was Ennis's husband and Junior's guardian, but still. Jack just wished he could take back what he'd said to Ennis; it was terrible even for him.

Jack knew that Ennis trusted him with Junior, so he wasn't sure why he'd felt the opposite earlier. Maybe it was because he'd been the one to help her at breakfast and then Ennis had taken over; it had reminded him that Ennis would always be her biological father, her real father. Jack tried to block out these thoughts but they kept assaulting his mind. Ever since that day at the girls' apartment, things had just gotten worse and worse.

He wanted to text Ennis with an apology, but he didn't know if Ennis would respond. For one thing, he could still be busy at the doctor's, but for another he could be ignoring Jack completely. Jack knew that this wasn't the case; he had to at least try. He knew he would regret it if nothing was said between them; they had always known that they needed to talk through their problems so as to head them off before they grew.

He picked up his phone and debated what to say; he wasn't sure what he could say that would make up for his words. Eventually, he decided on something that encompassed everything he wanted to say to Ennis.

I love you, and I'm sorry xxx

That would have to do, he figured. It was all he could say. He put his phone back down, hoping for a result and praying that Ennis would forgive him.

At the doctor's, Junior was currently having a blood sample taken to try and determine what might be wrong. Alma had informed Ennis that she had had the major jabs done when she was younger, so that was something. But it didn't stop Junior from whimpering at the pain of the needle; he figured that she got that from him.

"S'alright," Ennis soothed her, stroking her hair. "Be over in a sec." The doctor placed a piece of cotton wool over the puncture and taped it in place. "There you go."

"You were very brave, Junior," Darren Richards told her, nodding. "Well, Ennis...should have the results in a few days; we're not busy at the moment. I'll call and let you know when we have something."

"Thanks, Darren," Ennis replied, shaking his hand. "Just hope it's nothin' serious. The last thing we need right now."

"I know, but try not to worry too much. Just make sure she eats properly, and gets some sleep. That's all I can really say right now. How's Jack doing? You said a little while ago that he's having problems...after your ex's visit." They left the room and went back out into the waiting area. Junior headed off to wait for Ennis in the kids' area.

"Yeah," Ennis sighed. "I told him to talk to Dr Green, the counsellor he's workin' with. But I dunno if he will. I'm worried about him...we had a little thing this mornin' about me not trustin' him to look after Junior. Asked me if it was 'cos he's goin' crazy." He didn't have many people that he could talk to about this, but he figured that a doctor was a safe bet.

" don't think he's crazy, do you?" Richard asked, but from what Ennis had told him he felt as if Jack really wasn't. Ennis shook his head.

"No...he's just havin' a rough time of it. Yeah, sometimes he has these thoughts. He keeps thinkin' bad things about himself 'cos of the whole thing with Alma, but he knows that they ain't true. That's the weird thing...he knows it ain't right an' that I don't think that about him. He just can't help it..."

Richard looked thoughtful. "He really should talk to Dr Green. I know her; she really knows her stuff and I bet she could help if someone talks to her about it. Do you think Jack will?"

"I don't know," Ennis sighed, watching as Junior had settled herself in the kids' corner. "Just...all I know is that it could get a whole lot worse if he really starts believin' all that stuff he's thinkin'. I hope he don't try to make me leave him; I'd hate to have to yell at him that I ain't budgin'."

"You could always knock him out if he tries it," Richard replied, trying to raise a smile. But Ennis shook his head.

"No...I ain't never hit him, an' I ain't startin' now." Richard nodded.

"I know. Just...trying to help you, Ennis. I like you guys and you're going through a lot of shit right now. Hope you can get it sorted."

"Thanks, Richard." Ennis's phone then buzzed in his pocket. "Oh, hang on..." He pulled it out and saw a message from Jack.

I love you, and I'm sorry xxx

Ennis smiled a little at the sight; Jack wasn't mad at him and he wasn't mad at Jack. They would be okay.

"See?" Richard encouraged when he saw the smile. "It'll work out." He clapped Ennis on the shoulder and walked off for his next patient; Ennis decided to text back and reassure Jack that everything was alright.

It's okay, bud. Not mad at you, love you too xxx

Satisfied with this, he collected Junior from the corner and they headed home, Ennis feeling a little more confident than before that things would work out.

The rest of the day was fairly normal, and the two men embraced in the kitchen when Jack got home. He apologised again for the morning's events and Ennis told him everything was okay between them. He just hoped that Jack hadn't been too affected by it.

They managed to have a normal evening with Junior, who was still feverish and had a sore throat. Ennis made them soup for dinner, thinking that she would be able to keep it down and that it was good comfort food for Jack.

Afterwards, they sat on the sofa together until it was Junior's bedtime. She didn't appear to be much better but Ennis knew that she needed to get some sleep. Jack locked up while Ennis got her into bed and then they returned to the sofa together.

"Been a long day," Ennis commented, placing his arm around Jack.

" I didn't help much," he replied, still feeling terrible about what he'd said. Ennis gave him a gentle shake.

"Hey...don't think on it, Jack. Water under the bridge now; it don't matter anymore."

Jack bit his lip. "But...the things I said to you...I know they're not true but I said them anyway. What kind of person does that make me?"

Ennis wouldn't hear Jack put himself down like this, so decided to distract him. He leaned in and kissed Jack on the cheek, silently telling him to stop talking. Jack got the message and looked at him, seeing that Ennis didn't care about it anymore. "Ennis?"

"Just shush, Jack. Ain't no big deal, okay?" Their eyes bore into each other, as if they were trying to read each other's minds. Jack then nodded.

"Okay..." Ennis leaned in again and this time caught his lips, pressing his own to them firmly yet gently. Jack kissed back and tried to forget his fears. He knew that Ennis loved him so he just couldn't understand why he was so bothered by everything lately. He was blowing things out of proportion but couldn't seem to stop himself.

They rose off the sofa together, still kissing. Ennis felt a familiar desire rear up inside him and broke away. " wanna?"

Jack looked down and saw that they were both aroused by now, and then met Ennis's eyes again. "Yeah," he replied, hoping that it would make him feel better. Ennis took his hands.

"Gonna make it okay if I can, darlin'," he said softly, starting to lead Jack to the bedroom. On their way, he kept kissing Jack and fondling him a little, trying to let Jack know that this wasn't just because there weren't any women in the vicinity. He was doing this because he loved Jack and wanted to show him.

They made it to their bedroom and Ennis held Jack's face in his hands; Jack had always loved that. He just wanted the old Jack back; the one who could be so sweet to him and be his best friend, but who could also make his toes curl and make him feel as if he was on fire. That Jack was still in there somewhere; Ennis could sense him and perhaps even see him when he looked into those blue eyes. He was trying to draw that person out again and somehow fix everything. The usual light in Jack's eyes had long since died.

Ennis sat Jack down on the edge of the bed and started to strip him, taking it slowly and looking into Jack's face. "Gonna be okay, bud," he murmured, pulling Jack's shirt off and throwing it to the corner. Jack nodded and gave a small smile.

"Yeah." He lifted his hips so that Ennis could pull his jeans off and then watched as Ennis removed his own clothes. Jack reached out to him and tugged at his wrists. "Come on..."

They crawled up the bed and Ennis leaned over Jack, watching him. Jack felt like glass right now; something that had to be handled carefully because it could easily break. He didn't want that to happen. "Reckon I know what'll work, darlin'," he said softly, and Jack raised his eyebrows. Ennis moved down his body and disappeared under the sheets, heading for his target. Jack gulped because he knew how good it was when Ennis went down on him, but also because he wondered if Ennis truly enjoyed it. Ennis had always told him so, but now he had to wonder.

Under the dark sheets, Ennis found what he was looking for and went to work. He began to slowly suck at Jack, caressing his lover's lower stomach as he did so and feeling Jack buck at his touch. Jack was grasping the bars of the headboard as Ennis lavished attention on him, feeling as if his head was about to split open. "Oh...God, Ennis..." he choked out, breathing heavily.

Ennis was jerking himself off as he tried to bring Jack to orgasm, feeling the familiar warmth in his stomach as pre-come leaked out of Jack. He lapped it up like a cat drinking milk and this made Jack even more aroused.

Just as Jack was mere seconds away from climaxing, they heard Junior calling for Ennis. He froze, knowing that Ennis had heard it and would respond. "Shit," he muttered, feeling disappointed. Ennis's head reappeared and he looked at Jack sorrowfully.

"I'm sorry," he murmured as he got up, pulling his jeans back on and trying to will his erection back down. "Sorry, darlin'..." He kissed Jack on the cheek and left the room to tend to his daughter.

Jack was painfully aroused by now and yearning for release. He staggered off the bed and went into the bathroom, jerking himself off weakly for the physical need if nothing else.

When Ennis came back from Junior's room, he found Jack curled up in bed and facing away from the door. Thinking that Jack was asleep, he got back in and decided to leave Jack to it. He didn't know that Jack was only pretending to sleep as tears hit his pillow.