Chapter 23

October 10th, 2009

On Saturday, Ennis was thinking about Jack's birthday. It was just two days away and he had already bought Jack a present; he just wasn't sure what they would be doing. With things so fragile at the moment he didn't know what Jack was up for.

They were continuing to sleep in their bed together, to his relief. He had feared that their intimacy had been too much for Jack, but he seemed quite content to share a bed again. They had even been able to reach out to each other; Ennis had performed oral on Jack just the night before, and he had loved the sounds coming from Jack's mouth as he did so. When he asked Jack afterwards if he was okay, Jack had given a positive response.

Ennis was glad that he and Jack were still able to have some kind of intimacy despite their issues; at least Jack didn't seem to regret it afterwards. He thought about this while he made lunch for the three of them; Junior was asleep in her room and Jack was on the laptop, talking to Lureen via webcam.

"Yeah. Ennis is making lunch," Jack was saying to her, nodding over at him. Ennis moved into view and could see Lureen waving at him.

"Hey, Lureen," he said to her, and he saw her smile.

"Good to see you, Ennis. How's Junior doing?"

"We're still waiting for the antibiotics to kick in," he replied, and Jack nodded.

"Right. Well, I just wanted to wish Jack a happy birthday for Monday. I'll be really busy over the next few days and I might not get the chance to talk to you guys."

"Thanks, Lu," Jack said to her while Ennis returned to the kitchen. "Speak soon, okay?"

"Yep, bye." They disconnected and Jack stretched. Ennis couldn't help but watch as Jack's bare forearms moved, showing his muscles. He shook his head and tried to concentrate, but it was hard when such a beautiful creature was so near to him.

Jack came over to him and sat at the island, sniffing in interest. "What are you making?" he asked.

"Stew," Ennis replied. "Throwin' everythin' in an' there's plenty of bread." Jack nodded and fell silent, content to just sit and watch. Ennis looked at him. "Um...speakin' of yer birthday, there anythin' you wanna do?"

"You mean...dinner?" Jack asked, and he nodded. "Sure, that'd be great." The question hung in the air between them, which was so thick it could almost be cut with a knife. "Um..."

"We don't have to," Ennis said softly, remembering his promise not to put pressure on Jack to do something he wasn't ready for. "It's fine if you don't wanna."

"I do, though," Jack replied, placing his hand on Ennis's arm. "We haven't...properly...for a while now. You...haven't been...inside me for what feels like a lifetime. I miss it, Ennis...and I know I can do it. I really want to...I'm just nervous."

Ennis nodded, seeing the truth in Jack's eyes. "Okay, if you're sure. I miss it too, Jack...but not so much that I wanna put pressure on you. That's the last thing I wanna do."

Jack smiled at him, grateful for his support. "Thanks, bud. Having you there next to makes things a little easier. The voices...they're not as clear when I'm with you. I can ignore them when I've got you with me."

Ennis tried to smile back, but he wasn't sure how to talk to Jack about his problem. He wasn't the one who had studied Psychology and he didn't know much about the workings of the brain, not as much as Jack probably did. He wished he could know more, so that maybe he could talk to Jack about it.

"What's wrong?" Jack asked when he saw how hesitant Ennis looked. Ennis shrugged.

"Dunno. Just...sometimes I wish I understood this more, then maybe I might know how to talk to you about it. hurts me that I don't always know what I can do to help you." He looked down and bit his lip, making Jack sigh. He got up and walked around to Ennis, placing a hand on his shoulder.

"'s okay. It doesn't matter if you don't really understand. I'm not sure I do, to be honest. Look...if I learnt anything from my studies, it's that the most important part of recovery is a strong support system. I've got you and guys are here for me and I know you want to help me get better. It's gonna take a while, but...we'll be alright. I know I can do it if I've got you." Ennis looked at him, into the deep blue eyes he could drown in.

"Darlin'..." he sighed, turning to coax Jack into his arms. They held each other tightly for a few minutes, Ennis stroking the back of Jack's head and nuzzling him. "I swear, Jack...I'm gonna do everythin' I can to help you. I'd do anythin' for you...I'd even move to another country if it was what we needed to get help for you."

Jack smiled. "I don't think it'll come to that...but I hear what you're saying. And...thank you, Ennis. It means a whole lot to me that you're on my side and not...sending me off to some kind of institution. I'd die in a place like that, Ennis...maybe not physically, but...definitely mentally. Maybe they would cure me, wouldn't recognise me afterwards. I'm so much better off here, with you. This is where I belong, you know?"

"Yeah, it is. And...I'll try to keep you here with me, Jack." He squeezed the man in his arms and rubbed his back, feeling how warm Jack was and how good it was. Jack didn't speak, but he pressed soft kisses to Ennis's neck in thanks, feeling more certain than before that he could do something with Ennis on the night of his birthday. He was looking forward to it now, and knew that Ennis would take care of him.

The day was largely uneventful, but Ennis did enjoy some time with Jack on the sofa watching TV. They checked on Junior regularly, but she seemed to be okay. At least she wasn't getting any worse; that would make Ennis worry.

When they went to bed that night, Jack told Ennis that he wasn't feeling up to doing anything. Ennis simply held him close from behind and rubbed his stomach, knowing that Jack needed sleep more than anything else right now.

About halfway through the night, Jack's dreams turned into a nightmare.

He was sitting at home, rifling through the mail he'd picked up when he came to a large brown envelope at the bottom of the pile; it had his name on it. Opening it up, his heart skipped a beat. Inside was a pile of divorce papers with his and Ennis's names on them. Ennis was leaving him.

No, he thought to himself. He can't...he said he wouldn't. The dream was so real that Jack started trembling in his sleep, unable to wake up.

He continued to stare at the papers and looked up when Ennis walked in, their eyes meeting. "What's this?" he asked in a quiet voice, and Ennis looked down.

"I know I said I could do this," he replied, not looking at Jack. "I tried, Jack. I really did. But I can''s too hard to cope with. I'm not happy' you need the kind of help that I can't give you." He bit his lip. "I can't do it anymore, Jack...I filed for divorce."

"Ennis, don't do this," he pleaded, standing up with tears in his eyes. "Please...I love you..."

"I love you too...that's why I'm doin' it. I can't give you what you need." He turned away, not seeing the look of heartbreak on Jack's face.

Jack's shaking had woken Ennis up by now, and he was trying to rouse the other man before it got too bad. "Jack...wake up, bud..."

"No...Ennis..." Jack murmured in his sleep. "Please...don't leave me..."

"Jack," Ennis repeated, shaking his shoulder. Jack jerked awake, breathing heavily. Ennis looked down at him. "Jack?"

Jack turned to face him, his blue eyes full of terror. All Ennis wanted to do was to hold him close and make the pain go away. "Ennis...I..."

"What was it?" Ennis asked softly, stroking his cheek. "You were askin' me to...not leave you..."

"Nightmare," Jack choked out, turning onto his back so that he could look at Ennis properly. "I...I was going through the mail and found divorce papers. You came in and...said you were leaving me. That it...was for my own good because you...couldn't do it anymore..." He bit his lip, real tears gathering in his eyes. "Is that what's gonna happen, Ennis? Are you gonna do that when you get too tired of this?"

"Darlin'..." Ennis tried to soothe him, rubbing his stomach. "No...I'd never do that to you. I told you before...I'm stickin' with you no matter what."

"I remember you saying that, but...this nightmare..." He looked into Ennis's eyes. "It scared the hell out of me..."

"I know, bud," Ennis replied, wanting so much to comfort Jack and convince him that nothing was going to happen. "It wasn't real,' it's never gonna be. You hear? I ain't goin' nowhere. You just dreamt that 'cos you're scared, an' don't need to be, okay?"

Jack nodded and burrowed close to Ennis, needing to be held. Ennis took his cue and wrapped his arms around Jack, kissing his forehead. "I love you, Ennis...couldn't stand the thought of being without you..."

"I'm not goin' anywhere," Ennis promised him, rocking him gently. "Stayin' right here. I know it ain't easy for us right now, but...I still don't wanna be alone. I could never leave you, Jack...I don't want you to deal with this on your own, an'...I don't wanna live without you, either. I swore I was gonna be there for you, so...that's that. I'm here." He felt Jack's shaking start to lessen and was relieved; the nightmare had clearly scared Jack and Ennis wished he could take it away. "Wish you could get better, Jack. Maybe we should make a start on that couples' therapy...then you might be able to get to that psychiatrist."

Jack nodded, knowing that Ennis was right. "Yeah. I do wanna get's just not easy. Keep thinking that it's not gonna work..." That was his worst fear; that treatment wouldn't be enough to help him. He wasn't even sure what kind of treatment would be administered.

"You never know unless you try," Ennis said softly, rubbing his back. "It's worth it, right?" All he wanted was for Jack to get better by any means possible; it hurt him to see Jack like this.

"Yeah..." Jack closed his eyes and tried to drop off again. "Keep holding me, Ennis...don't want another nightmare..." It wasn't the most comfortable sleeping position, but he didn't care. He was more concerned about keeping his nightmares away.

"Ain't goin' nowhere, Jack," Ennis whispered to him. "Get some sleep, darlin'..." Jack settled into Ennis's protective embrace, feeling warm and loved. He just knew that he would be okay as long as Ennis was there.

Ennis stayed awake for longer than Jack; he was thinking about the nightmare. Jack seemed so terrified of him leaving that it was starting to give him nightmares, and Ennis didn't know what to do for him. It broke his heart to see how Jack was suffering, and all he could do was just try to be there when Jack needed him until he was stronger. Jack was right; he did need to feel the stability of their relationship before seeking help for himself. He needed the support system to be firmly in place in his own mind first. Ennis could understand it now; Jack just needed him to be there, so there he would be until Jack got better and then they could move on together. That was all he could hope for now.

October 12th, 2009

It was the day of Jack's birthday, and Ennis was hoping that they would have a good day. The pair of them would be going out for dinner later, and then he wasn't sure. Jack certainly seemed a lot calmer now after his nightmare the other night. True to his word, Ennis had continued to hold him as they'd slept, waking Jack up the next morning with gentle kisses to his face. Jack had woken up smiling at him and told Ennis how grateful he was.

The nightmare had scared Ennis too, but he couldn't tell Jack. He was starting to worry that Jack would believe his dreams, and unconsciously create a situation where they came true. He'd heard about self-fulfilling prophecies and how Jack was worried about them forming, so he hoped that it wouldn't happen.

They had to work through the day, but then Ennis took Junior over to Amy and Jessica for the evening. They were both doing well and making their wedding plans, but they were becoming increasingly worried about Jack. Ennis assured them that he was working on getting Jack the help he needed, so all they could do was hope.

When he returned to their apartment, he headed for the bedroom and spied Jack putting on a deep red shirt, looking into the mirror as he did so. Ennis smiled and moved closer. "You look good there, darlin'."

Jack turned to him, grinning nervously. "Thanks. Sure hope tonight goes well..."

Ennis nodded, stepping up close to him. "It will, bud. Gonna have a good're gonna get your present, an' then we'll come home an'..." He trailed off, the remainder of his sentence hanging in the air between them. Jack looked into his eyes.

"Yeah. Maybe we can..." He then looked away, feeling unsure of himself. " gonna get ready?"

"Yep." Ennis stepped away, sensing that Jack needed to gather himself. His ability to have sex seemed to differ every day, depending on the kind of mood he was in. Ennis felt sorry for him; he knew how much Jack used to enjoy sex with him and could tell that their semi-dry spell was getting to him.

When Ennis was ready, they headed out for their favourite restaurant on the front once more and sat together in a booth. Ennis put his arm around Jack and squeezed him. "You feelin' okay?" he asked softly, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah, I'm okay. So...we're both twenty-six now. Getting on, aren't we?" he asked, smiling slightly. Ennis nodded.

"Yep. Be thirty in a few years. An''ll be ten years since we got together."

"Special anniversary," Jack replied, leaning against him. "Hope we're still together by then..."

"Jack, don't," Ennis said to him, making Jack look into his eyes. "Don't think like that, okay? I ain't goin' nowhere an' neither are you. We're stickin' together through this, okay?" At Jack's nod, he kissed his forehead. "You want yer present now?"

"Sure." Jack sat up while Ennis retrieved it from his pocket. He ripped through the wrapping paper until he revealed a brand new watch. "Ennis..."

"You got me one for our anniversary, remember?" Ennis told him, and Jack nodded. "I know yours is actin' up an' the new batteries ain't workin', so..." He was cut off by Jack's mouth on his, being kissed in thanks for the gift.

"Thank you," Jack replied when they broke apart. "I love it..." Ennis put it on him, squeezing Jack's hand when he was done and exchanging a smile.

Their food came shortly after and the talk turned to their friends, who were busy with wedding plans. "About time those two tied the knot," Ennis was saying. "We've all got the right; we should take advantage of it. There are still plenty of states that don't even allow civil unions."

"Do any of them still have that sodomy law?" Jack asked, feeling sickened by the very thought. He would never understand whose business it was what people got up to in private. Ennis shrugged.

"I don't know...maybe not. But there are still people who think we're sick in the head..." he lamented, thinking of his late father.

"It was removed from the official list of mental disorders years ago," Jack replied, as he remembered reading about that. "I know the churches don't like us, but still..."

The pair of them could spend hours doing this, and they had been known to. But they both could appreciate how lucky they were at how well they were treated in their home state. They had everything here; they had rights and nobody hurled abuse at them. Jack was allowed to adopt Junior if he so wished and Ennis hoped that he would.

When they were done with their meal, they left the restaurant and slowly walked down the front, hands linked between them. It was a crisp evening, chilly due to the time of year. Ennis recalled the summer months when the sun would beat down on them and there was hardly any breeze. Those had been good days; when he and Jack were completely happy and there was nothing bothering them. He hoped that one day they could get back to that, maybe even next summer if they were lucky.

They reached a bench and sat down together, deciding to watch the moon shine down on the water. Everything was still and peaceful, and it felt so romantic that Ennis put his arm around Jack once more, glad that his husband seemed to be doing okay.

"I love you, Jack," he murmured, nuzzling his nose in Jack's dark hair. He felt more than heard Jack purr softly.

"Love you too," he replied, sliding his arms around Ennis's waist. "Can we go back home? I...I wanna be alone with you..." Ennis felt arousal stirring up within him and nodded.

"Sure. Come on, bud." They got up and linked hands again, heading for their apartment and looking forward to what the rest of the night would bring.

They returned home and entered the apartment, kissing in the semi-darkness and holding onto each other. Ennis was becoming very aroused now and he wanted Jack; he hoped that they would be able to do this. There was no guarantee these days that Jack was feeling up to it.

"Ennis," Jack breathed, tilting his head as Ennis kissed his neck. "Come on..." They removed their jackets and kissed once more, heading for the bedroom. Once inside, Ennis held Jack's face in his hands and kissed him gently; Jack had always loved it when he did that. It was a simple and tender gesture that reminded him how much he was loved.

"Jack...wanna be inside you, if it's okay..." he whispered. Jack gulped and nodded. There were no more words as they stripped each other and sat down on the bed, kissing heavily and letting their hands roam over each other's bodies. Jack had missed this and hoped he could do it. Even now, he was trying to ignore a little voice in his head that was niggling at him.

Ennis laid Jack down against the pillows, gazing into his eyes. "Darlin'...let me take care of you tonight..." Jack nodded mutely, batting away the voices. They taunted him and tried to convince him that Ennis wasn't doing this out of love; only need. Ennis could tell what was going on just from the look in Jack's eyes. "Don't listen to them, Jack. Just concentrate on us...what we're gonna do. I love you."

With a shaky nod from Jack, Ennis reached over and grabbed the lube, hoping that he could distract Jack from those horrible voices in his head. He coated himself liberally, not wanting to cause Jack any other kind of pain. He was going through enough right now and Ennis was supposed to be helping him.

He slowly entered Jack, lifting his legs up and guiding them around himself. He could see how vulnerable Jack felt right now and hoped he could drive the fear from Jack's eyes. Jack gripped Ennis's forearms and bit his lip. "Ennis...I'm nervous..."

"I know," Ennis soothed, stroking his cheeks. "Don't worry...just...relax, darlin'..." Ennis leaned down and kissed Jack as he started to move, taking it slowly at first. All he wanted was to see Jack happy again, and knew it was his job to help.

Ennis did his best to make Jack feel good, using every trick he could to distract Jack well enough. He kissed everywhere he could reach and ran his hands over Jack's smooth skin, eventually taking him in hand to help him orgasm. Jack came with what could only be described as a whimper, and Ennis didn't notice until he himself had finished. When he registered what sound Jack had made, he raised his head and looked into Jack's face. To his dismay, he saw tears gathering in Jack's eyes. "Jack?" he asked, and Jack shook his head.

"I...I don't..." Ennis pulled out of him and cupped his face. "I don't know why..." he breathed, feeling confused and upset. He didn't know why he felt like this.

"Shh..." Ennis soothed, allowing Jack to roll onto his side. Ennis sank down next to him, looking into his eyes. "What's wrong? Do you regret it now?" he asked, his heart sinking. That was the last thing he'd wanted; Jack had told him that he'd wanted to do it.

"Not really," Jack replied, trembling even under Ennis's touch. "Just...those voices. They told me you weren't doing it out of love...only so you could get off." Deep down, Jack knew it wasn't true; they had only ever had sex because of their love for each other, even the first time. He knew that Ennis loved him, and that this was usually the best way for them to show each other.

"Jack," Ennis breathed, unable to believe just how vicious these voices could be. He wished he could reach inside Jack's head and silence them himself. If they were real people taunting Jack, Ennis would have knocked them out at least once by now for daring to hurt this man. His protective instinct was rising up now; he had promised Jack to take care of him no matter what. "What can I do for you, darlin'? I don't know what to do..."

"Nothing you can do," Jack whispered, tears sliding down his cheek and landing on the pillow. "They won't leave me alone..." He trembled again, wishing that they would stop and starting to fear that they never would.

"You need help," Ennis told him. "We'll get that couples therapy arranged an' then maybe you can talk to the psychiatrist. Okay?"

"Will it help?" Jack asked him, and Ennis wished he could say for sure. He just wanted Jack to be happy again.

"I sure hope so," he replied, rubbing Jack's back. He wiped the tears from Jack's eyes, kissing his cheeks as he did so. "Don't get upset, darlin'...I'm here..."

Jack sniffed and tried to calm down, but it was hard when the voices were still whispering to him. "Ennis...I just want them to shut up, but...they won't leave me alone," he repeated, and fresh tears gathered in his eyes.

Ennis felt his heart grow heavy as he saw how distraught Jack was. "Wish I could make them go away, Jack...swear to God I do..." He didn't know what else to say. Jack burrowed closer to him and closed his eyes. Ennis sensed that Jack wanted to sleep, so wrapped him up in his arms. "Go to sleep, Jack...everythin' will be better tomorrow." Jack didn't respond, but Ennis knew he had been heard.

You mean the world to me, Jack. I love Junior,'s you I can't live without. Scares the hell out of me to think I'm losin' you...all I want is to make it go away...

He tried to get some sleep himself, but he kept thinking about Jack's fears. He didn't know how to make the pain go away and wasn't entirely sure how to help.

October 15th, 2009

Jack had finished his portfolio for work, much to Ennis's relief. He was glad that Jack had still been able to finish it despite what was going on. Jack's state the other night had worried him, but he didn't know what to do. Jack had been fine the night before; it seemed to come and go without warning.

They had spoken at length about organising couples' therapy for them, in an attempt to make Jack feel secure in the knowledge that Ennis was staying put to help him. Ennis could see the logic in doing this before Jack tried help for himself; he needed the stability first.

Ennis was waiting for him in a café down the street from the clinic, drinking coffee just to have something to do with his hands. He hoped that Jack would be open to the help that was being offered to him, and that he wouldn't shy away from it. He had to try and get better.

The door opened and Ennis smiled as Jack came into view, looking around for him. Even though it had only been a couple of hours since they had last seen each other, it felt like a lot longer. "Hey, darlin'."

"Hey," Jack replied, kissing him before sitting opposite. "I gave it to her...just gotta wait and see what she says now. Hopefully, she'll think it's good."

"I'm sure it is," Ennis assured him, taking Jack's hand across the table. "I know I haven't seen you workin', but I reckon you're good at what you do. They wouldn't have done this otherwise."

Jack smiled at the compliment, cheeks reddening slightly. "Thanks...and there was something else I wanted to tell you." He took a steadying breath. "I, um...I talked to her about couples' therapy. It turns out that she can do it, if that's alright with you."

Ennis nodded, pleased by Jack's initiative and how he had made that crucial first step. "Okay. When d'you wanna go?"

"Well, she's really busy at the moment. The only slot we could get is on Sunday, when the clinic's quiet."

"That's fine," Ennis replied. "The girls can take Junior. There's nothin' I can do for her right I'm gonna focus on you." Jack smiled again and nodded. He was certainly a lot calmer than the other night now. At first, he'd fretted because he'd thought he'd ruined his birthday and that Ennis was sick of him. Ennis had done everything he could to reassure Jack that nothing was wrong, and it seemed to have worked.

The food arrived and Ennis looked at Jack. "So...this therapy. What would we be doin'?"

"Well, um...Emily says we'd talk about everything that's happened. With Alma and Junior. I'd share my feelings about it all, and then you'd do the same. Then I'd have to talk fears and what it's doing to me. We'd have to try and find a way of sorting it out together."

Ennis thought this over. "Sounds easy'll probably work."

"I hope were right, Ennis. I'm starting to believe those voices," Jack replied, keeping his voice low. "I know in my heart that you love me and want to help, but these voices are growing stronger all the time. It's getting harder to ignore them." He looked down at his food, trying to will himself to eat. "And the other night...that was horrible."

"I know," Ennis told him, squeezing his hand. "It hurt me to see you like that, Jack. You were so upset..."

Jack nodded. "I still don't know why, not really. really emotional. I'm sick of it...crying all the time. You must be, too." He was now fearing that Ennis thought him too emotional to bother with anymore, as if he was beyond all help.

"You've probably got some kind of depression," Ennis reasoned with him. "It's normal for you to feel like this when you consider that. Don't put yourself down,'s makin' you feel worse than you already do."

He gazed into Jack's eyes, hoping to make him see sense. He didn't think any less of Jack for getting upset about what was happening to him. Ennis actually thought he was being very strong; he didn't think that he could deal with something like this half as well as Jack was. He didn't care how hard it might become to help Jack; he was standing by the man he loved because he had to. He wanted to, and he hoped that Jack knew that. He tried to show him every day.

Finally, Jack nodded. "You're right, is making it worse. I just don't know how to stop it. Wish I did."

"Me too. An' we'll find a way together. I promise." He lifted Jack's hand and kissed it, making Jack smile slightly with the attention. Jack had always loved tender touches and Ennis had always been happy to provide them. "Not goin' anywhere, darlin'."

They resumed their lunch, each of them thinking about this situation and wondering what Sunday's session would bring. Jack would have to talk about his fears and he dreaded the heartbroken look on Ennis's face that he knew was going to form. Ennis said that the sight of him hurting made him feel pain within himself, and Jack hated causing Ennis any kind of pain. But they would have to do this if he was going to recover; he couldn't try to get help for himself until things were secure between them; he would need Ennis's support and would need convincing that Ennis was sticking to him.

Ennis, for his part, was already praying that the therapy would do them some good. He hoped that it wouldn't cause them to argue; he could hold Jack when he was upset but he stood no chance against Jack's anger; the man could be vicious when he wanted and they could exchange words too painful to take back. If they started fighting during the session, Ennis wasn't sure if their relationship could survive.