Chapter 22

October 3rd, 2009

On Saturday, the three of them would normally go out to the park together. But since Junior was ill and Jack wasn't feeling up to it, Ennis decided that they could all do with a day at home. He was hoping that he and Jack didn't start arguing again; he'd never liked doing that.

To his relief, Emily had referred Jack to a psychiatrist at the hospital in Hyannis, on the other side of the Cape. It wasn't a very long drive, and Ennis was willing to do whatever it took to get Jack the help he needed. But it was up to Jack to make an appointment; so far, he was resistant.

Try as he might, Ennis could no longer ignore the fact that there was tension between him and Jack. He just wanted to help, but Jack was keeping his distance. Even when Ennis had walked in on him in the bathroom the night before and Jack had clearly been crying, his attempts to comfort Jack were rebuffed. He didn't like standing to the side, unable to help the man he loved.

He entered the living area in search of Jack, knowing that Junior would sleep for a while. Maybe they would be able to talk without fighting. "Jack?" he asked carefully, eyes on the dark hair as Jack curled up in the chair. That alone made Ennis worry; Jack usually sat on the sofa in an invitation to join him. Jack turned to look at him.

"Hey," he said quietly, not moving when Ennis sat down near him. He felt tense, unable to relax. He couldn't even let Ennis comfort him the night before even though he'd been upset and Ennis had tried to help. "Um...look, last night..."

"Don't think about it," Ennis replied, shaking his head. "Did hurt, though...I was just tryin' to help."

"I know," Jack said softly, glancing at him. "Um...I appreciate you trying, Ennis. But...I can't..." He sighed. "Just...I can't let you do that at the moment."

"Why?" Ennis asked, looking sorrowfully at him. "I wanna...hold you, Jack. Might make you feel better..."

Jack shook his head. "Don't know that it would..." Seeing red, he added, "Besides, I...I reckon you ought to make sure Junior's okay. She needs you more right now."

"Jack, stop it," Ennis replied, fixing him with a look. "I care about both of you, an' you know that. I've gotta help both of you. I mean, yeah...I'm worried about Junior an' she needs me. But you do too, an' it's my job to help you 'cos we're married."

They looked at each other, Jack listening to the voices as they told him to continue picking a fight with Ennis. "Well, yeah. Guess you're right," he eventually said, trying not to take heed of those voices. Ennis nodded, but he didn't think that Jack believed him.

He doesn't care about you, a voice told Jack, whispering to him. He's only here because of a piece of paper and a ring on his finger. If it wasn't for that, he'd be long gone; perhaps he's even thinking of divorcing you right now.

"Knock it off!" he exclaimed, hand pressed against his head. Ennis jumped, staring at him. Sensing what was going on, he got up and knelt by the chair.

"Jack, look at me. Don't listen to's okay..." Jack looked at him, and then at the hand Ennis had rested on his knee. "It's alright, darlin'...don't listen to them..."

Jack took several deep breaths and lowered his hand, staring at Ennis. "I...they told me you're thinking of leaving me. That you don't really care about me..." As much as he tried to ignore those voices, it was becoming increasingly difficult to not believe what they were telling him.

Ennis grasped his hands. "Jack...that ain't true. You know I care about you, just as much as I care about Junior. You both mean the world to me, an' I sure as hell ain't thinkin' of a divorce. I'd never do that to you."

He squeezed Jack's hands, hoping that his soothing voice would drown out the ones in Jacks' head. He was starting to get scared that he was losing Jack to this illness, whatever it was. He could normally fight for Jack, but he felt powerless against something like this. He didn't understand it and didn't know how to keep hold of Jack so that he didn't slip into it.

Jack blinked a few times and removed his hands from Ennis's, breathing deeply. "Ennis, I...I think I need to sleep on the sofa tonight. Just until I can...focus again. I need to spend a night alone."

Ennis felt hurt, but part of him understood. It hurt Jack to be near him right now with the way he was feeling, and he was scared. "Okay. You...gotta do what you need to. But, can I ask you somethin'?" he asked, looking up at Jack.

"Sure," Jack replied. Ennis sighed.

"Am I...losin' you to this, whatever it is? I feels like you're gettin' further away from me all the time, even though you're right here. I can't lose you, Jack...but I don't know how to keep hold of you so that you don't...fall victim to it. You know?"

"Yeah," Jack said quietly, nodding. "I'll be honest, Ennis...I don't know what's gonna happen. I...I'm scared," he admitted, his deep blue eyes fearful. "It's fucking scary..."

Ennis wanted to pull Jack close and comfort him, but he knew now that Jack wasn't ready for it. "I know, bud. Wish I could hold you..."

Jack sighed. "Me too. But it hurts too much, Ennis. Makes me even more scared because...I can't stand the thought of losing you. I keep thinking that if I enjoy being with you too much, something's gonna happen to take that away. Can't explain it, and I know it's not true. But that's what I keep thinking. Those damn voices don't help..."

"We'll deal with it," Ennis promised him, nodding. "We'll get you the help you need and get rid of those voices. One day...we'll be able to enjoy each other again." He smiled, trying to show Jack that he was staying put no matter what.

Jack did sleep on the sofa that night, watching the dying flames in the hearth as he tried to drop off. There was just one problem; this was the time of day when the voices were at their worst. They whispered to him in the darkness, preying on his insecurities and making him worry.

He knew that it had hurt Ennis for him to sleep out here tonight, but it was the only thing he could think of. He dreaded the possibility of them telling him to hurt Ennis or Junior; he knew it was very likely and he didn't know what would happen if it did. What if he started sleepwalking and did it anyway, without being able to stop himself? If he hurt Junior, Ennis would never forgive him. If he were to hurt Ennis...he would likely go outside and step in front of a car willingly.

Jack tossed and turned, scared of falling sleep for what might happen when he did. Ennis was just feet away in their bedroom, most likely also awake. He wanted to be back in there where he belonged, but the fear was too great. He couldn't stand the thought of hurting Ennis, even accidentally.

Why are you still here? whispered a voice in his mind. Sooner or later, he's going to leave you. He won't put up with this forever, and you know that. Wouldn't it be better to leave now, while he's asleep? If he's awake when you try to leave, he'll try to stop you.

Because he loves me, Jack thought, secure in that knowledge if nothing else. He cares about me and wants me to get better.

Only so he won't have to do this anymore, the voice replied. Jack had tried to figure out if he recognised the voice; he'd heard that these voices tended to take the form of someone in his life who had caused him trauma. But he couldn't place any of them; they were just there.

That's not true, he thought determinedly. It's because he loves me and doesn't like to see me hurting. Just go away already; he told me I shouldn't listen to you.

That's because he doesn't want you to go anywhere. If you stop listening, you won't see the truth in front of you.

No, Jack thought. The truth is that he loves me. And I love him with all my heart. So just...knock it off. I'm not listening tonight.

He pulled out his phone and looked at the photo of himself and Ennis; the one that had been taken on their wedding day. Knowing the truth in his heart, he nodded to himself and closed his eyes, pushing the voices away and focusing on his thoughts of Ennis as they drifted through his mind.

Ennis gave up with tossing and turning, deciding that he needed to stretch his legs. He just couldn't sleep without Jack by his side; he felt as if he was missing a limb.

He crept down the short hallway and paused at the door frame, looking at the figure lying on the sofa. He couldn't tell if Jack was awake or not, and didn't want to startle him. He slowly walked towards the sofa, praying that he wouldn't scare the other man if he was awake. When he got closer, he saw that Jack's eyes were closed but that he was trembling slightly. Ennis sighed to himself; he yearned to take Jack into his arms and give him comfort, but he was respectful of Jack's feelings. He would only hold Jack when he was ready.

Instead, he grabbed the afghan from the back of the sofa and draped it over Jack's body, hoping to at least keep him warm. To his relief, Jack stopped trembling. He figured that if he couldn't hold Jack, at least he could make him comfortable.

"Sleep well, darlin'," he whispered, pressing a feather-light kiss to Jack's forehead before returning to bed.

Jack awoke about an hour later to find himself covered with the afghan, and he blinked. Did I put that there? he thought in puzzlement, and then realised that he hadn't. Ennis had done it, slipping into the room to cover him and then back out again quiet as a mouse. He appreciated that Ennis had tried not to wake him, but he wished that he could get to their bed to be with his husband. He couldn't remember the last time they had sex or even made out; it felt like so long ago. It had only been a week, but this felt like a lifetime to someone who was used to making love with his other half near enough every night. He hoped that one day they could get back to that; a time when they could just go at each other all night. It had been fun and passionate, and when Junior wasn't at home they could be as loud as they wanted. And they were; Ennis knew how to make him moan.

He smiled to himself at the memories, wishing that they could be reality once more. It wasn't just about the physical pleasure for them; making love had always been about their connection and how they felt about each other. He wished that he could exactly recall how Ennis made him feel in those moments, but he just couldn't remember. Even though it had only been a week since they'd last had sex, it had been a lot longer since the "good old days", as he thought of them. The last time he'd been truly happy was before Junior had come to live with them; he just couldn't adjust to this change in their lives.

I know I need help, he thought to himself, picking at the material covering him. And I know he's trying to make that happen. I just...I wish I could do my part a little better. I wish I could take my life back, but I don't know how. Jack sighed and closed his eyes again, trying to sleep and get this night over with.

October 5th, 2009

Jack spent a second night on the sofa, still scared about what would happen if he tried to share a bed with Ennis. Both of them were sorely missing each other and when Jack woke up on Monday morning he felt better. Nothing had happened even in his sleep and he kept pushing those voices away, so he felt as if he might be ready to come back to his rightful place.

He managed to get some work done that morning, despite his problems. Emily kept looking at him whenever he went near her, and he knew that she wanted to ask him if he was seeking help from the psychiatrist. Jack was yet to make an appointment; he wanted to get his relationship with Ennis back on track before seeking help for himself.

Ennis sent him a text to ask if he wanted to meet up in a café for lunch, since Junior was with Amy. He agreed and started to look forward to seeing Ennis again. He missed having Ennis's arms around him and felt as if he could handle it now. He wanted to burrow himself in those strong arms that would protect him from everything that would try to hurt him.

When he entered the café, he found Ennis waiting for him and smiled. "Hey."

"Hey, darlin'," Ennis replied, smiling back at him. Jack did look a little better after sleeping on the sofa for a couple of nights, even if it had hurt him. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Jack replied, sitting down and grabbing a menu. Ennis lightly placed a hand on his arm.

"Don't worry; I already ordered somethin'. One of those paninis you like; big enough to share." Jack smiled and nodded, putting the menu back.

"Look, Ennis...I wanted to talk to you. Um...I know we've had problems lately because of what's going on. And...I know you want me to see a psychiatrist. The thing is...I don't think I can do that yet until we're sorted. So I was thinking...ages ago, my mom suggested couples' therapy. I was wondering if you..."

"Okay," Ennis replied before he could finish, nodding. "You're right; we ain't been like ourselves for a while. Those voices tellin' you that I'm gonna leave...we can get rid of those with the proper help, but...I'm thinkin' that you're startin' to believe 'em an' that's gotta change."

"Right. So...we'll do that?" Jack asked, feeling hopeful.

"Yeah," Ennis agreed, and Jack took his hand. Ennis smiled at the familiar feeling; Jack's hand was warm and comforting, fitting perfectly against his. "Whatever it takes to fix this, Jack...I'll do it."

Jack smiled at him gratefully as the food arrived. They didn't say anything for a few more minutes, but then Ennis decided to ask the question that was on his mind. Maybe it was too soon for Jack, but he had to try.

"Jack? Um...I've got somethin' to ask you. look better now that you've had some time alone at night, an' I don't wanna pressure you, but...would you consider comin' back? I miss you, bud." He looked imploringly into Jack's eyes. "We don't have to do nothin' that you ain't ready for, but...I just miss you bein' there."

His husband regarded him for a few moments, and then slowly nodded. "I miss you too, Ennis. I...I was scared that I'd hurt you if I slept next to you. That the voices would tell me to..." He trailed off, unwilling to carry on. He shook his head. "I'm scared of hurting you, or Junior..."

"That won't happen," Ennis assured him, taking his hand again. "I'll hold you, if you'll let me. I'll...hold you through the night an' I won't ever let you go."

Jack gulped, feeling a lump growing in his throat. "Ennis...I miss you holding me. I remember it feeling so good, and I...I wanna feel it again. When we're in bed together," he added. "I don't think I can do more right now, but...I'd like you to hold me. I can come back to bed if you can promise me you'll be there for me."

Ennis nodded, smiling slightly. "I can do that, Jack. I'll take care of you." His eyes dropped to Jack's lips for a brief moment, but then he looked away. Jack saw the glance and thought for a moment.

"Ennis? You can...kiss me if you want. Now, I mean," he said softly, seeing Ennis look at him. "That's okay."

"Are you sure?" Ennis asked. With a nod from Jack, Ennis slowly leaned over the table, hoping that Jack wouldn't pull away. When their lips were almost touching, he paused for a moment to look up into the deep blue eyes before him. There was a certain kind of warmth in them that he hadn't seen for a while.

At last, he leaned in further and their lips connected. Jack felt love blazing in his heart once more, just as he had when they had first kissed all those years ago. He knew then that the voices were wrong; Ennis did love him, and that was why he hadn't given up on him.

Out of habit, Ennis's hand came up to cup Jack's cheek as they broke apart, lips momentarily still connected by a strand of saliva. This kiss had reminded him of their first, in a darkened dormitory room where it had been just the two of them. They had explored their feelings in full that night, and now Ennis was helping Jack to heal; they'd come a long way over the past few years and he knew he would do absolutely anything to help Jack get back to how he used to be.

"I love you," he whispered, stroking Jack's cheek with his thumb. Jack leaned into the touch, his smile reaching his eyes.

"I love you too," he replied, kissing the palm of Ennis's hand. They returned to their food with lighter hearts than before, finally feeling some kind of hope that everything would work out for them.

Ennis was feeling nervous as he brushed his teeth that night. He was very happy that Jack had agreed to come back to bed, and that they had kissed, but he was still uneasy. He wasn't entirely sure what Jack was ready for and what he wasn't; Jack didn't seem to know himself.

Still, he heard Jack walk past the bathroom towards their room and couldn't help but smile. Whether they had sex tonight or not, this was where Jack should be.

When he couldn't prolong it any more, he left the bathroom and cautiously made his way to the bedroom, wondering how Jack was. He needn't have worried; Jack was sitting up in bed and seemed fairly relaxed considering the situation.

"Hey," he said softly as he closed the door. Jack turned to look at him, smiling nervously.

"Hey, bud," he replied as Ennis got in. Ennis was wearing pyjama bottoms, not wanting to make Jack feel uneasy or pressured. A glance down as he got under the covers told him that Jack was wearing his own. When he was comfortable, he turned to Jack.

"You okay?" he asked, eyes roaming over Jack's face. Jack nodded, breathing deeply and evenly.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said, nodding. "Um..." He wasn't sure what to do here.

"Jack...we don't have to do nothin' you ain't ready for," Ennis told him as he did earlier in the café. "I'm just glad to have you here beside me."

Jack smiled at him. " can hold me now, if you want." He felt ready for that; he wanted Ennis's strong arms around him like he remembered.

Ennis nodded and shuffled closer, wrapping one arm around Jack's shoulders and gently pulling him in. Jack slowly leaned over until he was half-lying against Ennis, his head tucked into Ennis's shoulder. Ennis wrapped his other arm around Jack's waist and held him, giving a gentle squeeze. "Darlin'..."

"Mmm..." Jack slid his own arm around Ennis and returned the embrace, remembering how it used to make him feel to be taken care of like this. "Missed this...missed you..."

"Me too, darlin'," Ennis told him, kissing Jack's hair. "Feels good to have you here, where you belong." He felt Jack nod and they were silent for a few minutes.

After a while, Jack lifted his head and looked into Ennis's eyes, his expression calm and soft. "Ennis..." He bumped his nose against Ennis's, silently asking because he was unable to make the move on his own. Ennis understood and kissed him softly, cupping his cheek. He was careful to follow Jack's lead and take things at the pace Jack was comfortable with. The last thing he wanted was to upset Jack by going too far too soon.

They broke apart and Jack took a deep breath. "I, um...I..."

"What?" Ennis asked, stroking his face. "Tell me what you want, darlin'. Anythin'." He would do anything to make Jack feel better right now, even if it was something that he would normally loathe doing.

"You know that...thing we do when we...rub our hips together?" Jack asked tentatively. He wasn't ready for penetration just yet but he felt as if he could do this. Ennis looked at him, not knowing what to think.

"You sure?" he asked, wondering if Jack was. "I mean...really sure?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah. I miss being with you, Ennis. And...I'm not ready for the whole thing yet. But I can do this, if you'll help me. Just...lie on top of me know." He bit his lip, hoping that Ennis wouldn't refuse him.

To his relief, Ennis smiled. "Sure, bud. Lie down..." They let go of each other and shuffled down the bed, both feeling nervous now. Jack wanted this to happen and he knew he needed it.

When they were settled, Ennis turned and slowly slid on top of Jack, staring down into his eyes. "Jack? Do you wanna do it naked, or...?" Jack took a deep breath; he wanted to feel Ennis's skin against his and lose himself in the experience.

"Yeah, I do...hang on..." They managed to pull down their pyjama bottoms and Ennis threw them onto the quilt on his side. Jack's flesh was warm and familiar, and he couldn't help but run his hands over Jack's chest.

"Tell me if I go too far, bud," he said softly, seeing that Jack was enjoying this. "Let me know if you're okay..."

"I am," Jack replied, nodding. Ennis then pressed his full weight down, so that every inch of their bodies was touching. He could feel Jack's erection throbbing against his own but wasn't sure if he should touch Jack there right now. Instead, he started rubbing his hips against Jack's like he'd been asked to and heard Jack sigh. "That's good..."

Ennis kissed Jack's jaw, nuzzling at his skin as they moved together. Jack was holding onto him and Ennis could hear small sounds of pleasure escape from his mouth. Ennis smiled and kissed Jack's neck as he moved faster, now pushing against Jack and knowing that Jack was about to lose control.

It didn't take long; Jack soon exploded between them with a groan and pushed Ennis into his own orgasm, his yell muffled in Jack's shoulder. Ennis sank down onto him, feeling unable to move. "You okay?" he asked tiredly, but there was no response. Growing alarmed, he raised his head and was met with a beautiful sight; Jack was smiling widely at him, with his eyes shining at him. He looked happier than Ennis had seen him in a while.

"I love you," Jack told him, kissing the tip of Ennis's nose and hugging him tightly. Ennis didn't respond; he simply returned the embrace and thanked whoever might be listening that Jack was okay. He hoped that Jack wouldn't regret this in the morning, but he couldn't worry about that now. The man in his arms was happy and loved, and that made Ennis certain that he would get his husband back soon enough.

October 7th, 2009

Two days later, things seemed fairly okay for the family. Jack had been more or less as happy as he could be after the events of Monday night, and he had spent the night before in bed with Ennis. He'd received a much-appreciated massage from his other half, complete with oils and candles, and he'd then dozed off in Ennis's protective arms. He'd had a dreamless sleep and had woken up still being held; he'd loved waking up like that.

Ennis had loved giving Jack some attention, knowing that Jack needed it with the depressive episodes he had been experiencing. It seemed to him that the more time he spent being loving towards Jack, the less often Jack heard the voices. He'd learned quickly how to be able to tell when Jack was hearing them; his jaw would tighten and he would withdraw into himself as if trying to keep them out. Ennis knew the signs and was always there to either get Junior out of the way or help Jack deal with them.

Junior was still ill, and hadn't improved much yet. Ennis knew that Darren had said the stronger antibiotics would take longer to work because of Junior's young and still-developing immune system. She needed time to get used to them. But he wished that it could happen sooner; he hated to see her so scared and in pain. He wished that both of them could get better so that they could start to be a real family.

She slept most of the time, which meant that there was very little he could do for her. As a result, he had tried to pay more attention to Jack and to keep him happy. It was clear to him that Jack felt very fragile right now and he was determined to help. Jack had told him that he didn't feel as if he could get help until their relationship was back on track. Ennis didn't really understand the logic, but he didn't want to fight about it. He trusted Jack to know how he wanted things to be handled.

He was preparing a large pot of soup for dinner with plenty of bread. Junior could only really swallow soft or liquid food, and Jack needed something comforting and warm. This was the best solution for everybody and it was just easy to make something simple that they all liked.

"Jack? Could you give me a hand?" he called over to where Jack was watching TV. Jack got up and walked over, looking expectant. He felt calm today, only hearing the voices twice through the whole day. That was less than he'd expected, and both time had happened when Ennis wasn't there; maybe there was a connection.

"What's up?"

"Could you keep stirrin' this while I wake Junior up? It's nearly ready," Ennis asked. He knew he had to show Jack that he trusted him to handle this unsupervised. Jack nodded, seeing that Ennis meant it.

"Sure." Ennis kissed his cheek in thanks and headed off to rouse his daughter. Jack stirred the contents, thinking about the past few days. He had enjoyed being back in his own bed with Ennis, and the other night had been truly wonderful. Ennis had made him feel as if he could beat this thing, whatever it was. He knew that as long as Ennis was there to help him, he could get back on track.

Ennis returned a few minutes later, carrying his tired little girl over to the table. She perked up when she smelt the soup, sniffing in interest.

"That chicken soup?" she asked, deep brown eyes full of happiness. Jack nodded at her; he was trying his best to help Ennis with her; it wasn't her fault that she'd fallen ill at the same time as he had, albeit in different ways.

"Sure is, Junior. Hope you're hungry." She nodded and then looked at him.

"Jack? Daddy told're sick. There's somethin' gone wrong in...your brain..." Jack dropped the spoon he'd been stirring with and looked at Ennis.

"I talked to Darren when he put her on the stronger antibiotics; she was right there an' asked me if you were sick. I had to give her somethin', Jack," he said, hoping that Jack wasn't about to fly off the handle.

To his surprise and relief, Jack simply nodded. "Well...guess I can understand. Probably for the best, anyway. Let me talk to her." Ennis took over the stirring duties while Jack sat down near Junior. "Look, Junior...your daddy was right. There is something wrong up here, in my head. Not sure what it is, but I'm...trying to get help."

"Daddy said he was tryin' to get you to ask for help...that you didn't wanna do it," Junior replied in a confused voice. Jack sighed.

"Well...yeah. Kind of...I do wanna get help, but it's not easy for me right now. I've got some problems that I don't want you to worry about. Things that scare me, and I sure don't wanna scare you too." He thought for a moment. "But...just remember, Junior. I'm still gonna try and help your daddy take care of you. I know that you need to get better too. Okay?"

"Will we get better together?" Junior asked brightly, smiling up at him. Jack only wished it were that simple.

"I don't might take longer for me because it's something in my brain. It's not so easy for the doctors to put right. But...I'll try and get better anyway."

"Promise?" she asked, and Ennis had to look at Jack for his response. He knew that if Jack made a promise to Junior, he wouldn't dare to go back on it. Jack knew that Ennis was watching him, and it took him a moment to consider.

"Okay, promise," he replied, taking her tiny hand and shaking it, making her giggle. He smiled and ruffled her hair, happy that he'd managed to make her feel a little better. Truth be told, she had done the same for him.