Chapter 21

September 26th, 2009

Ennis's birthday fell on a Saturday this year, and he woke up to find himself alone in bed. Wondering where Jack had got to, he got out of bed and pulled his jeans on; a glance at the alarm clock told him that it was still early.

He looked in on Junior as he passed her room; she was still fast asleep. Following the sounds coming from the kitchen, Ennis walked through to find Jack making breakfast. "Jack?"

Jack jumped and turned to look at him. "Shit, I wanted to surprise you. Wanted to bring you breakfast in bed..." Ennis gave him a loving look and moved close to him.

"Darlin' didn't have to do that." Jack shook his head.

"I wanted to...especially after everything. I wanted us to have a normal morning..."

Seeing that it meant a lot to Jack, more than he was letting on, Ennis nodded. "Okay, then. I'll go back to bed an' wait for you. An' you can join me." Jack smiled and nodded back, kissing him quickly before turning back to the food.

He joined Ennis about ten minutes later with a laden tray, feeling slightly nervous. He'd wanted to do this for Ennis in the light of what was going on, and he was happy that Ennis was letting him do it despite now being awake. He got back into bed and they sat up together with the tray between them, looking forward to a quiet morning before they had to get up.

"This looks great," Ennis told him, squeezing his hand. "I appreciate it, Jack." They started eating, just enjoying the comfortable silence between them and thinking about the day before them.

"You still wanna go for dinner later?" Jack asked, looking at him. "You okay with leaving Junior with the girls?"

"Yeah, reckon so," Ennis replied. "She should start respondin' to them drugs soon, right?"

"That's what Darren said. But there's always the chance..." He trailed off, not wanting to remind Ennis of what could happen. Ennis nudged him gently.

"We'll deal with it," he told Jack. "Together." Jack nodded and they continued eating.

After they'd finished, Ennis put the tray on the floor and kissed Jack warmly, cupping his cheeks. "Thank you," he said softly, making Jack's cheeks redden.

"You're welcome," he replied, grinning hesitantly. "Are things gonna be okay, Ennis? I much has happened and now there's this with Junior...I know it's not easy..."

"It's not," Ennis agreed, now taking his hands. "But it's okay. We're gonna be fine, Jack." He kissed him again, drawing a sigh out of Jack as their tongues found each other. Kissing Jack had always felt like a privilege to him; that he was allowed to make contact with that mouth. He practically worshipped the ground that Jack walked on, and yet Jack still had doubts about his qualities as a person. All he could do was show Jack how he felt about him.

A little later, they left the bedroom and woke Junior up. She was tired and clearly still not feeling well, so they gave her some breakfast and told her she could stay in bed until that evening. They knew that the girls would take care of her and they were only a phone call away if needed, so Ennis felt okay about leaving her with them.

When Junior had gone back to bed, the two men sat on the sofa together to watch the movies that were scheduled. Jack brought a small package out of his pocket and looked shyly at Ennis. "I, um...happy birthday, bud," he managed to say, and Ennis took the package. Smiling at Jack, he opened it up to find a small snow globe. Inside were the figurines of two cowboys; one with blonde hair and a tan hat, the other with black hair and a black hat. To Ennis's mind, they looked just like him and Jack. There was a small tent next to the figures, who were clearly having a snowball fight.

"Where'd you get this?" he murmured, looking at it and marvelling at the detail. Jack smiled.

"At a little gift shop in town. I know we don't really have snow here, but..." Ennis kissed him on the cheek.

"I love it, Jack. Thank you...they look just like us."

"That's what I thought when I bought it. I know I've never been a cowboy like you, but still. If I was, I think I'd like a black hat just like that one. And we've had snowball fights before, so..."

"Yeah." Ennis shook it and then set it on the coffee table, watching the snow fall around the figures and smiling at it. "They look happy...just like us."

Jack rested his head on Ennis's shoulder, sighing. "Yeah. I mean, I know things are kinda messed up right now, and we've got a lot to deal with. But...there's still nowhere else in the world I'd rather be right now. I am happy with you, Ennis, even with everything..."

Ennis put an arm around Jack, squeezing him. "I know, darlin'. I'm happy too...swear to God I am." He kissed Jack's temple just as the first movie was starting, and they settled down to get comfortable.

As they sat together, they thought about what was going on in their lives right now. Jack had more than once contemplated talking to Ennis about couples' therapy; he knew that Ennis would agree to it if he asked, but that was just it. He didn't know if he could ask. He had told Ennis that he needed his help for recovery, but he wasn't sure how to go about actually getting help.

Still, he sat there with Ennis holding him protectively and thought about just how lucky he was to have this man in his life. He wouldn't trade this kind of life for anything and he knew that if he could just move past his thoughts and doubts, everything would be as good as it was before.

When they got back from dinner later that evening, Jack felt more aroused than he had for a while. He couldn't keep his lips away from Ennis's neck as they tried to get the door open, and Ennis kept fumbling with the key.

"Steady on, Jack. Can't get the door open." Jack let him go long enough to get them inside, but was soon on him again. He grinned when Ennis looked at him.

"Can't help it. Just feeling horny tonight." Ennis smirked and grabbed his ass in two handfuls.

"That so?" Turning serious for a moment, he brought his hands up to Jack's waist. "Bud, I wanna do it, but...I want you to be sure that you're up to it. You sure about this?"

Jack nodded, taking a deep breath. "Yeah, I am. Been a while, and...I wanna do it. Um...if it's okay, can I...?" He felt an inexplicable need to be inside Ennis; to make love to him and enjoy this good mood he was in while it lasted.

"Sure, if you can," Ennis replied, nodding. They kissed deeply and started walking towards the bedroom, both of them hard by now and ready to do this.

In their bedroom, Jack was busy removing Ennis's shirt, his fingers undoing the buttons as Ennis kissed his neck. "I want you," he murmured. "Wanna..."

Ennis shrugged his shirt off and did the same to Jack, throwing it to the floor. "Come on, Jack..." He took his husband's hand and led him to the bed. Even though Jack would be on top tonight, Ennis got the sense that he still needed some help with this. They managed to kick off their jeans and footwear, bare skin touching and sending a jolt through both of them. Ennis's legs slid against Jack's as sweat started to form. It had been a long time since Jack had been able to top him, certainly before Alma's visit.

He rolled over onto his back and pulled Jack over him, kissing him deeply and feeling the arousal flow through him. He didn't know how to say this, but sometimes he felt as if he needed to be taken care of in the way he took care of Jack. Sometimes he just needed to feel his lover inside him, and he'd missed the feeling.

Jack grabbed the lube and smoothed it over himself, dizzy with lust as he set about what he wanted to do. He pushed Ennis's legs apart and guided them around his waist, biting his lip and hoping that he could do this. He could tell that Ennis needed this, and he did too. He needed to feel some kind of control right now, and he was grateful to Ennis for allowing it.

He pushed in slowly, trying to bat away the negative thoughts that attacked his mind as he made contact. He knew that they were wrong; that he was a good person and not a monster. When he looked down into Ennis's eyes, warm and full of trust, he took a deep breath. "I..." He had told Ennis about these thoughts in his head, as if they were whispering to him. He was starting to wonder if he had schizophrenia after all. But he didn't think so; they were in his own voice, not others.

"It's okay, Jack," Ennis soothed him, grasping his arms. "Don't listen to them; look at me. Listen to me, Jack. You're a good' I love you. Come on." Jack nodded and batted the thoughts away, instead continuing to push inside Ennis until he was fully sheathed. "It's okay..."

Jack smiled down at him and started to move, taking it slowly so that he could enjoy this. Being inside Ennis again felt wonderful, and he sank down to let Ennis hold him close as they moved together, sighing. "I missed this...missed you..."

"Me too," Ennis replied, kissing Jack's face as they rocked together. "I love you, baby..." Jack picked up the pace and kept reminding himself of Ennis's love for him; it was enough to keep the thoughts at bay for now. Whatever happened after didn't matter right now; all he wanted to think about was this moment and this man.

"Ennis...I love're...everything I need...those voices don't know a damn thing," he whispered, almost defiantly. Ennis squeezed him, his erection rubbing against Jack's stomach and knowing that it wouldn't take long.

"They don't," he agreed, knowing how scary those voices could be for Jack. "They're just thoughts, Jack...they can't hurt you...I'm right here an'...I'd never let anythin' hurt you..." Jack trembled as he moved, both from emotion and arousal as he neared the edge.

He gave a few more hard thrusts and was there, shooting into Ennis deeply and groaning in his ear. He felt a lot better than he had in weeks and was dimly aware of fluid hitting his stomach; Ennis had climaxed too. Jack sank down onto Ennis's chest, breathing heavily.

"I...I..." he stammered, once more trying to keep a hold on himself. Ennis stroked his back.

"'s okay. That was damn good, Jack. You okay?" Jack rose up and managed to smile, the thoughts fading from his mind as he made eye contact with the man he loved.

"Yeah, I'm okay. Thanks, helped me a lot just now. Those thoughts...they scare me."

"I know. You sure you're not developing schizophrenia?" he asked, eyes roaming over Jack's face. Jack shook his head and pulled out.

"Don't think so. I even asked Emily. She says that if the thoughts and voices are my voice, and sound like me, then it's not. It's only that if the voices sound like other people, which they don't. She didn't say what it could be, though. Maybe some kind of paranoia. People do get diagnosed with that these days."

Ennis nodded. "Makes sense. But you've got nothin' to worry about, Jack. I ain't thinkin' of leavin' you, ever. Wouldn't be happy without you, bud." He brought Jack's face close to his and kissed him with all the love he could muster.

Two days later, Ennis and Jack both noticed that Junior's condition didn't seem to be improving. Full of concern, Ennis had decided to call Darren and book another appointment to take her in, thinking that she would need the stronger antibiotics after all.

He hoped that things would get better soon; Jack's cheery demeanour of the past had all but vanished lately. Ennis barely recognised him anymore but knew he had to try and help. He could sometimes see the old Jack there, and prayed that something would help Jack to snap out of what was going on in his head.

While Jack had been sleeping that morning, Ennis had gone onto the laptop and tried to look up Jack's symptoms, just to get an idea of what it could be. Emily had said that it wasn't schizophrenia, which was the disorder most people tended to associate with internal voices. Assuming that Jack had told him the truth about what she'd said, he tried to figure out alternatives. There was a lot he didn't understand given that this wasn't his field, but there was still a chance that he could help.

As he'd looked through the pages of results, he'd realised that he was no nearer to a conclusion than before. There were simply too many things it could be and he was no psychiatrist; Jack needed a professional who knew these things.

He tried not to worry too much as he sat in Darren's office with Junior, thinking of Jack who had decided to stay at home. He'd worried that Jack would hurt himself if left alone, so he had hidden away anything sharp or dangerous. He just couldn't risk it, even though Jack had never expressed such thoughts.

Darren entered the office and sat down on the other side of the desk, distracting him. "So, you think the drugs aren't working?"

"Doesn't look like it," Ennis replied, shaking his head. "She's still real sick an' she was complainin' about a headache this mornin'."

"Alright. Well, I'm certain that these ones will work for her, Ennis. The only thing is...these could take longer to have an effect. That might not make much sense, given their strength, see, Junior's system will have to get used to them before they can start to do their job. Considering her age, this could take a little while. What we don't want is for her system to reject them altogether. I'm thinking it could take close to a month before we see any results."

Ennis nodded, feeling sorry for his little girl but knowing that he was doing everything he could to help her. "Okay, then. We'll take the stronger ones."

"Right." Darren took out a prescription slip and wrote down the details. "Here you go; you can get them from the pharmacy like the others. Call me about once a week and let me know how it goes, okay? I wanted to's Jack doing?"

Ennis sighed. "Not too good. I put all the knives away before comin' out 'cos I know." Darren nodded. "He's...havin' those thoughts still. But now they're more like voices, he says. He said he talked to Emily an' she says it ain't schizophrenia, but I dunno if he's tellin' me the truth or not. Tried lookin' up his symptoms but...there's so much out there that it could be. I ain't no expert."

"He needs someone to diagnose him," Darren said, as gently as he could because he knew how sensitive a subject this was. "A psychiatrist, perhaps. Maybe Emily could refer him to one, but that can only happen if he allows it. If he refuses, it can only happen if he becomes a danger to himself or others. He'd have to be sectioned, Ennis. If this is a mental illness like you suspect...that's the only way he'll get help if he won't do it voluntarily."

The idea of Jack being put in a psychiatric ward scared Ennis; those places had always been portrayed as cold and unfeeling. To the doctors, Jack would just be a number, a file in their records. They wouldn't know how to make him feel better emotionally. To Ennis's mind, Jack needed help in a more friendly environment; namely amongst the people who knew and loved him. He prayed that Jack would seek help on his own, while still in the right mind to.

He thanked Darren for the advice and headed with Junior for the pharmacy, thinking about Jack. He wondered what he could say to try and convince Jack that he hadn't already tried.

"Daddy?" asked Junior as they walked down the street. "Is Jack sick, too?"

"He is, honey," Ennis sighed. "Somethin'...somethin' ain't right in his brain an' we're tryin' to help him. You see?" He wanted her to understand as much as she could, but also didn't want her to worry about things being bad.

Junior looked thoughtful. "His brain? Is he gonna be okay?"

"Hope so," Ennis told her, squeezing her hand. "Me an' the doctors are gonna try."

"Can't he take pills like me?" she asked, indicating the prescription slip.

Ennis thought about it; maybe there were drugs that Jack could take to help. There were antidepressants and anti-anxiety tablets around, for sure. Maybe they would work for him. But it all came back to Jack wanting help; nothing would happen if he didn't.

"I don't know, Junior. Maybe," he replied. "See...Jack's scared by what's happenin' to him, an' he's scared to ask for help. So we're tryin' to get him to talk to someone who can help him."

Junior nodded, satisfied with this answer. She liked Jack and didn't want to see him ill as well. She knew that she was happy here and that her dad was happy; Jack being ill would take that away and she didn't want that. She had to let Jack know that he needed to do what they were telling him to.

Jack sat alone on the sofa, feeling weary and lonely. Ennis had taken Junior to the doctor about an hour ago, and he'd tried to make something for lunch a little while ago. All of the knives from the kitchen had disappeared, indicating that Ennis had hidden them from him. He couldn't believe that Ennis thought he would hurt himself if left alone; the thought had never crossed his mind even for a brief moment. For one thing, he wanted to get rid of these feelings and move on from them. He wanted to have a long and happy life with Ennis.

He knew that this could only happen if he actively sought help, and he could only do that under his own steam. Emily had indeed ruled out schizophrenia when he'd gone to see her, but was still looking into what it might be. She had told him that she might refer him to a psychiatrist if she couldn't help, which didn't improve his mood.

Everybody seems to know what's good for me and what I should do, he thought bitterly. Like I can't make these decisions for myself. I know what's good for me; to spend time with Ennis. He's the only one who can make me feel better, but he's out taking care of his kid. Jack felt awful for thinking this, as if Junior was being an inconvenience to him, but the voices were nagging at him today. He knew from his studies that plenty of mental disorders featured auditory hallucinations, not just the obvious one. That was why Emily was having trouble figuring it out, he reckoned.

He'd been even more annoyed to go onto their shared laptop and find that Ennis had been researching mental disorders on the sly, and now Jack was thinking that Ennis was wondering what he'd let himself in for. He kept thinking that Ennis was going to realise it wasn't worth all the hassle after all.

He's going to leave you, whispered a voice. Jack kept his jaw tightened.

Shut up, he shot back. He said he won't, and I believe him. He loves me.

What if it gets worse? What if you become a danger to everybody around you, or to yourself? You'll be put away in the hospital and Ennis won't come to see you. He won't bring Junior to look at her crazy step-father. Not that you'll be married for much longer anyway.

"Shut up!" he ground out, forgetting that he was alone. He shook his head and took several deep breaths. He couldn't let them win.

The voices died down after a while and Jack was able to function normally. He ate something that didn't require a knife and watched TV until he heard footsteps outside. Having a bone to pick with Ennis and pissed off by the voices taunting him, Jack stood up with his eyes on the door.

"You hid the knives?" he shot at Ennis as soon as the other man came into view. Ennis murmured to Junior to go into her room and she scampered off.

"Look, Jack...I was worried about you. I didn't want you to get hurt..." he tried, moving forwards.

"You were looking up mental disorders on the internet," Jack reminded him, pointing to the laptop. Ennis nodded.

"Yeah. But I've got no idea what it could be. Don't get mad at me, Jack...I'm just worried about you..."

Jack didn't have the strength to fight; his shoulders slumped and he flopped back down to the sofa, sighing. "I'm sorry, Ennis..."

Ennis headed for him, sitting down and putting his arm around him. Jack had gone from angry to defeated in a matter of seconds. "Darlin'...what's wrong? Are you that pissed at me 'cos I hid the knives?"

"I was at first, but...not now. Don't have the strength to get mad at you. Um...a little while ago, I heard the voices again. They told me you were gonna leave me, and that you'll wonder why you're staying now. Then I got to thinking...about it getting worse for me. What if I become a danger to everybody, including myself? The voices'll have me put away, and won't come to see me. That you...won't wanna be married to me anymore..."

Jack broke down at this, seeing images of his worst fear flashing before his eyes. The thought of Ennis leaving him was like a deep wound in his heart that would never heal. Ennis pulled him close, stroking his hair. He was taken aback by this, seeing for himself just how frightening those voices could be.

"Shh...shh..." he soothed Jack, rocking him slightly. He wondered what was wrong with Jack. He had his moments where he could be angry and defiant, then he had moments where he was stricken with worry about various things...and then there was this; the moments where he just broke down in Ennis's arms. He'd never heard of any kind of disorder being so varied before.

"I'm scared, Ennis," Jack whispered, clinging to him. Ennis brought Jack's face up to meet his eyes.

"I know. But,'ll only get worse if you let it. If you get help, and soon, it won't come to hospital stays. And even if it does..." He cupped Jack's face in his hands. "I will come an' see you as much as I can. Junior too, if she's allowed. An' I certainly will still want to be married to you. Remember the vows, Jack? In sickness an' in health. I'm standing by that, darlin'. But you need to get help. You need to talk to a psychiatrist, Jack...someone who knows this stuff an' can help you. Okay?"

Jack nodded, breathing deeply. He was terrified of what could happen if things got worse; he didn't want to be put in hospital even if Ennis would come and see him. He knew that Ennis was right; he needed professional help and only he could arrange this; he needed to try and get his life back.

October 1st, 2009

By Thursday, things weren't much better. Ennis could tell that Jack's moods were changing faster than they had been, and it was starting to become unpredictable. Most of the time, Jack simply looked depressed and Ennis tried whatever he could to cheer him up. On the other hand, Jack could be known to snap at him without warning and this caused arguments. Ennis knew he shouldn't argue back because it wasn't as if Jack was doing it on purpose.

They hadn't had sex since the night of Ennis's birthday, and Jack had to admit that he felt lonely. To him, Ennis was spending more time worrying about Junior than helping him like he'd promised. He couldn't help feeling this way, even though he knew it was wrong of him. He missed Ennis and just wanted things to be the way they were.

When Ennis got home that evening, Jack was already back and sitting on the sofa. Junior was in her room drawing, clearly sensing that another fight was on the horizon. She didn't like it when they fought; she was scared that they would break up.

Ennis entered the apartment and looked around. "Hey, bud," he tried, looking over at Jack. The other man didn't respond, feeling angry and lonely. "Um...what're we havin' for dinner?" he asked, noticing that nothing was going on in the kitchen. Jack stood up and turned to face him.

"I was gonna cook something, but then I remembered that you don't trust me with the knives," he replied, arms folded. Ennis sighed; he hated it when Jack was like this even though he knew that Jack wasn't in his right mind.

"Jack...come on. I was just worried, an' I put 'em back. I know you wouldn't do nothin' like that."

"Do you?" Jack repeated, eyes narrowed. "The thing is, Ennis...I wouldn't. But I don't think you believe me."

Ennis sighed. "Look...we can order a pizza tonight, okay? An' we've gotta straighten this out."

"You'd love that, wouldn't you?" Jack snapped at him. "Being straight again so you don't have to put up with me."

"Jack...I've never been straight. You've made me see that I was always like this, just never knew it. Thought I was straight...turns out I wasn't." He shrugged. "I'm gay an' that's just it."

Jack sighed, hand over his eyes. "Ennis...I don't like fighting with you. I hate it because it makes me feel terrible. But...I just get really angry lately. Can't help it."

Ennis nodded. "I know, bud. It's down to...whatever it is you've got. I told you; you need to talk to someone."

"Yeah, I know," Jack replied, sitting back down. It was a few moments before he spoke again. "Now you've dealt with me, you wanna go see your kid?"

The last two words were slightly emphasised, making Ennis groan inwardly. Not this again. "Jack...what's wrong?" he asked, moving around the sofa so that he could look at Jack.

"Ennis...I'm lonely. Seems to me that you spend more time taking care of Junior than anything else. You promised you'd help me."

"She's ill, Jack," Ennis reminded him, hands on his hips. Jack glared at him.

"I'm aware of that," he retorted. "But she's not the only one who needs you. For all we know, there could be something seriously wrong with me, and you just..." He trailed off. "You promised to help me,'re not. You just keep telling me to talk to someone, and then that's it. You don't...spend time with me, just the two of us. We've hardly been out together, except your birthday. That was the last time we had sex, too."

"I thought you might not be up to it," Ennis told him, sitting on the chair facing Jack. "When we do it, I need to be sure you're okay with it. I don't want us to do it just because we're married or...because we're there together. It ought to be because we love each other, doesn't feel like that lately. I do still love you, Jack...but things ain't easy right now."

Jack said nothing for a moment, and then sighed. "You're getting tired of me already. I knew this would happen. I think I should be the judge of when I'm ready for sex, or anything else from you. Ennis, don't even touch me anymore when we're out of the bedroom. Used to be that we'd sneak little touches when Junior's out of sight and stuff like that. But...not anymore. Ennis, I'm tired. I just want things to get back to normal, but...I don't know how they can."

"You need to get help," Ennis told him firmly, now sitting on the sofa next to him. He tried to put a hand over Jack's, but it was shoved off. Jack stood up.

"I know," he replied, glaring at him. "But it's not just the professionals who I need support from, Ennis. Before I can talk to someone I need help from the person who means more to me than anything else. Only...he's not there for me like he said he would be."

"Junior's ill!" Ennis half-shouted, standing up to face him. "I've gotta take care of her."

"Right, 'cos you're her father," Jack shot back, his voice breaking with emotion. "Something that I'll never be. Who'd let a basket case adopt their daughter?"

Ennis grabbed Jack and pulled him close, rubbing his back. He knew that Jack didn't mean the angry words he was saying, but he silently vowed to try and be there for Jack more. Maybe he was neglecting him slightly, but he had to try and divide his time between the two of them. "You're not a basket case," he murmured, trying to comfort his husband.

Jack allowed Ennis to hold him for a few seconds, but then pulled away, looking pained. "I'm...I'm gonna go to the bathroom."

"I'll order the pizza," Ennis told him quietly, and Jack nodded without looking at him before fleeing from the room.