Chapter 24

October 18th, 2009

On Sunday, Ennis and Jack attended their first couples' therapy session. Neither of them was too sure what to expect from it, but Ennis knew he was willing to try anything to help Jack. All he wanted was to see a genuine, heartfelt smile on that beloved face once more.

Amy and Jessica were taking care of Junior at their request, and Ennis thoroughly appreciated everything the girls had done for them over the past few months. He made a mental note to himself to repay them in whichever way he could once all of this was over.

He and Jack sat in Emily's office as they waited for her, their hands linked loosely between them. "Gonna be okay," Ennis told him. "Emily knows you, an' she's spoken to me. She won't judge you for nothin', you know."

"I know," Jack sighed, picking at his jeans. "Still not sure what to do here, though." Ennis squeezed his fingers just as Emily walked in.

"Hello, you two," she greeted them, walking around to sit at the desk. "Glad to see you're finally taking these steps, Jack. I think it's about time."

Jack nodded. "I know. Hasn't been easy, but...I wanna get better. And this is the only way..."

"Well...I assume you know how it goes. Each of you will get the chance to share your feelings and thoughts about your problems without the other interrupting, and then we'll go from there." They nodded at her, willing to try this. "So...Jack, do you want to go first?"

Jack took a deep breath and started talking. He described how it had been a huge shock for him to find them with the custody of Ennis's daughter without warning, and how he'd struggled to get used to the idea. He talked about his feelings of jealousy in that he could never give Ennis a biological child, which in turn changed into his fears of Ennis leaving him for a woman. Then he talked about how this had become a fear that Ennis would leave him anyway out of annoyance.

"Anyway, things were going great after our trip together. We were happy again...and then I saw him with Alma and Junior, looking like a family."

Ennis held his tongue, knowing he had to wait his turn. He'd told Jack many times that he was his family, but it seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

"And...then I started hearing the voices, telling me things that I know aren't true. They're...playing on my fears and making me believe them. I get paranoid, angry...sometimes depressed. It's driving me crazy and I have to wonder if he's getting sick of it." Having run out of words to say, he shook his head. "I'm just going in circles."

"Alright," Emily replied, having taken notes as he'd spoken. "Ennis?"

"Jack...I keep tellin' you that you've got nothin' to be scared about. I ain't goin' nowhere, an' I've told you that a million times. I have to look after Junior 'cos she's sick, but that don't mean that I don't love you. I keep tellin' you what you mean to me,'s like you don't listen."

"I do listen," Jack replied, ignoring the look he got from Emily. "I know you love me, but...sometimes it's hard to hold onto the belief that you'll stand by me no matter what. I don't know if you realise what that entails."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ennis replied, hating that they were arguing already. Jack looked at him.

"What if I do have to be put in hospital? Will you stand by me then? When people ask you if you're married, will you tell them that your crazy husband's been put away for his own safety?"

"It won't come to that," Ennis told him firmly. "But even if it did...I wouldn't tell nobody nothin' 'cos it ain't their business."

"So you're ashamed of me," Jack concluded, and Ennis groaned.

"No. I never said that." They looked at each other and then away, not wanting this to escalate into a fight. Emily saw her cue.

"Okay, you two. It seems to me that you're both convinced that you're right. And I can see that even though you've tried to sort this by yourselves, your efforts aren't really going anywhere. Jack, look at me." He did as he was told, eyes glaring. "Ennis has tried to tell you that he loves you and wants to stand by you. I get the feeling that those voices are telling you otherwise. And perhaps you're starting to believe them. So what I can say to you is...try to remain focused on Ennis's voice. Every time you hear those others, just think about Ennis telling you how much he loves you. Try to block them; a psychiatrist would tell you the same thing."

Jack nodded despite himself, trying to calm down. He didn't like fighting with Ennis and he'd gone and done it.

"You two have to try and find a way of dealing with Jack's illness together. Ennis, keep reminding Jack every day of how you feel, and always be there when he need you. Stick close to him as much as you can and don't let him listen to those voices for too long."

"I've started learnin' how to recognise when he's hearin' 'em," Ennis told her, and she nodded, glad to hear this.

"Good. And Jack...try to let him in. He's a good man who wants to help you, and you need him. His love and support is crucial to your recovery; you should know by now that you can't do it without him."

"I do," Jack said quietly, still feeling slightly wary of the man sat next to him. "I's harder than I thought it would be."

"I know," she told him, watching as Ennis reached out and gently touched his shoulder. Jack leaned his head into the touch, allowing Ennis to stroke his cheek. It was a small gesture, but Emily could see it meant a lot to both of them. Maybe they would be able to work this out after all.

By the time they got home, Ennis could tell that Jack was full of tension from their talk. He hadn't meant for them to snap at each other, but maybe it couldn't be helped under the circumstances. He just hoped that it wouldn't last long.

"You want a drink?" he asked as they entered the apartment. Jack didn't look at him.

"I'll get it," he replied, walking over to the fridge and pulling out two beers. He wordlessly handed one to Ennis and they kept their distance, knowing that they would have to talk about what happened and both dreading it.

"Look, Jack..." Ennis started, hoping that he could fix this. Jack shook his head.

"There's nothing to say. You're ashamed of me and you can't even admit it." The voices egged him on and he could no longer help but to listen to them. Ennis groaned inwardly.

"Jack...I told you. I ain't ashamed. All I wanna do is help you."

"Sure," Jack said under his breath, but Ennis heard it. "Ennis...did we even achieve anything today?"

"We know that we have to work together on this," Ennis told him, hoping that they could. "We need each other, Jack."

Jack laughed bitterly. "You need me? What do you need a crazy husband for? Maybe you needed me once, but've got the confidence to start over for yourself. It wouldn't surprise me if you'd planned all of this."

"What the fuck?" Ennis asked, staring at him. "What are you talkin' about?" Jack slammed his beer onto the counter, making him flinch.

"Maybe you got Alma to give us custody, knowing that it would make it difficult for me to adjust. Then as soon as you have what you want, you literally drive me insane so that they'll lock me away and you don't have to deal with me anymore."

Ennis couldn't believe what he was hearing; Jack thought he'd planned all of this? Nothing could be further from the truth. "Jack, knock it off. You know that ain't true."

"Do I?" Jack asked in a low voice that scared Ennis. It was a voice of quiet anger, and Ennis would have preferred to be yelled at. "I don't know anything anymore, thanks to you."

"Jack, I love you. I want you to get better so that we can be happy again. I miss you, Jack...I miss the man I married."

"It's your fault that he's gone," Jack shot back, sitting at the island and fuming. " did this. Even if you didn't plan're still to blame. Playing happy families with your ex...maybe that's what you really miss."

Ennis was trying to keep a lid on his temper, but Jack was getting on his nerves now. They were both very stubborn and could easily hurt each other with just words if they chose to. "Jack...I don't miss that. Not in the slightest. You're the one I love."

Jack couldn't look at him right now; somewhere in his heart he knew that none of this was true, but the voices were strong and he couldn't fight off what they were telling him.

"What happened to us?" he finally said, in a soft and defeated voice. "We were so happy, Ennis...everything was going so well."

"It was Alma comin' here to spend time with Junior that did it," Ennis acknowledged. "We were doin' okay before that, thanks to our trip to Vermont."

" she's come between us again. Just like that year..." Jack rubbed his forehead. "I'm tired of fighting, and of going around in circles."

"Are you suggestin' we...divorce?" Ennis asked, trying to remain calm. Jack looked up at him. He thought about the option, but felt sick at the very idea. No; they couldn't do that. He was still so much in love with Ennis that it just wouldn't help. They would both feel worse if they had to go through something like that.

"No," he said decisively. "I'm not even suggesting a break. I just...I want things to be the way they were before. I hate fighting with you."

"Me too," Ennis replied, feeling safe to sit near Jack now that his temper had simmered down. At least Jack didn't want them to break up. "Damn near breaks my heart every time we do it...'cos what if we end up sayin' things we can't never take back?"

"Yeah." Jack looked around and sighed. "I...I need to get out of here, Ennis. I...I'm gonna go for a walk. Maybe see if any of our friends are in town."

Ennis nodded, feeling hurt that Jack hadn't invited him. " need some space. I...I get that. I'm sorry about all of this, Jack." He looked into the blue eyes that usually showed him so much love, but which now looked deadened and unemotional. "Take your phone, just in case."

"Yeah." Jack stood up and Ennis also rose, wanting to hug him goodbye but not knowing if it would be welcome. Jack sensed his unease and walked around the island to him. "Ennis..."

He didn't embrace Ennis, but he kissed his cheek lightly and moved away without looking at him. Ennis stood still as he heard Jack leave the apartment and shut the door behind him. He walked over to the sofa with his beer, feeling numb and very lonely. Jack was out and would probably have fun with their friends if he found any, and here he was. Alone because he had scared Jack and lost his trust.

Jack had once told him that he knew he would never hurt him, and Ennis had been humbled by those words. He'd promised to never hurt Jack, but that was exactly what he'd gone and done without meaning to. A small part of him wondered if a breakup was the best option after all, but he beat it down. He didn't want that and knew that Jack didn't either. Still, he wasn't sure what they were supposed to do now; he felt as if he was truly losing Jack after all.

Ennis sat there for a while, staring into space and wishing that Jack would return. They weren't going to fix this if one them ran away and he wanted Jack close to him. He knew that Jack would be safe out there; nobody here would hurt them and they had plenty of friends.

As evening drew near, he knew he had to sort out Junior. They had only planned for her to stay with the girls for a couple of hours, and since Jack was gone he figured he might as well go and pick her up.

It was with a heavy heart that he knocked on their door, knowing that they would be full of questions. Amy answered, smiling when she saw him. She hoped that the session had gone well for them; they needed the help.

"Hey, Ennis. Come on in...where's Jack?"

"He went out," Ennis replied evasively, looking around. "Where's Junior?" Amy looked at him with narrowed eyes, knowing that he was keeping something from her.

"She's asleep. What d'you mean, he went out?"

"The session didn't go so well," Ennis sighed, turning to her. By now, Jessica had joined them, looking puzzled by the tension radiating from the other two.

"Why not?"

"We...started snipin' at each other. I don't think he even trusts me anymore...he's convinced that I'm gonna leave him over this. I've told him a million times that I'm goin' nowhere, but...he don't seem to listen."

Amy sighed, hearing the pain in his voice. "I'm sorry about all of guys don't deserve what's going on. Is there anything we can do? Maybe slap him upside the head?"

Ennis tried to smile, but it didn't work. "Don't think it'd do any good, to be honest." He sat down, sighing. "We got back, an' he's thinkin' it's all my fault. He actually accused me of settin' the whole thing up with Alma; makin' her give us custody just to give him a hard time. An' he thinks that I don't need him anymore, which...he knows ain't true," he finished, rubbing his forehead. "He said he doesn't want a divorce, an' that he doesn't even want a break. An' I believe him, but...what if he decides that he does after all? All the times I've tried to help him, it hasn't worked. I don't know how to fight for him if he decides we should break up."

The girls looked at each other, completely unsure of what to say that might help. " know that Jack isn't in his right mind at the moment. I bet that some part of him knows that you didn't plan any of it, and that you love him. I'm sure he didn't mean what he said. What if it was the voices that egged him on to say those things? He'd never say them in his right mind and you know that. He loves you too much to hurt you."

Ennis looked at them, knowing that they were right. "Yeah, I know that. But...what am I supposed to do? I'm losin' him already...he's slippin' away from me."

They sat down near him, Jessica squeezing his shoulder. "Ennis, look at us." He did so, seeing the concern in their eyes. They had always been here for him and Jack ever since they'd met. Despite being gay, Ennis knew that they still needed women in their lives to be their friends. He figured that women were just better with talking and emotions, and he'd learned a lot from them. He would pay them back someday; he had to sort out his own issues first.

"You know...I'm real grateful to you guys," he told them, and they smiled. "Jack's always had Lureen, ever since I met him. I've never known women that I can just talk to as friends apart from her. Lureen's great, but...she's more Jack's friend. I just wanna say thank you for puttin' up with us."

Jessica laughed. "You kidding? You guys keep us busy...we'd be bored otherwise."

"And we love Junior as if she were a niece or something," Amy added, nodding. "Don't ever feel like you're taking advantage of us by leaving her with us. We love having her here, and it helps you guys to take some time alone." They both knew that Ennis and Jack had a lot to discuss over their situation and they hoped that it could be done without fighting.

Ennis nodded, wondering what he was going to do now. He wanted to find Jack and bring him home, but he wasn't sure if Jack would come with him. He might want Ennis to keep away from him right now. "What am I gonna do?"

"You're gonna go home, get something to eat and then put together an overnight bag for Junior," Amy began decisively.

"Then you're gonna find Jack and tell him that you love him and will do anything to win back his trust," Jessica added. "Because, really...we all know it's true."

"And then you'll take him home...and that's as far as we're gonna go," Amy said with a grin. Ennis had to laugh at how they could cheer him up like this.

"Maybe you're right," he said quietly, pulling out his cell phone and looking at the wallpaper; the photo of his wedding day with his man. It had been the happiest day of his life, and he couldn't believe it was only last year. "I can't afford to lose him. If he leaves me over this, then that illness of his wins. Those voices...they're tryin' to drive us apart and make his life a living hell. I can't just...stand by. I've gotta find him."

He stood up and they rose with him, hands on his arm. "Remember; food first. You look like you need it. Then get the bag and bring it here, then go find Jack." Ennis nodded and they both kissed him on the cheek before he left, hoping that he could find Jack before a decision was made to tear them apart.

Jack was still fuming as he entered the bar, looking around for anybody he knew. As much as he hated arguing with Ennis, he didn't feel like he could be near the man right now. He knew that he'd been completely wrong about the things he'd said, and he wished he could take them all back.

Maybe it really is too late for us, he thought sadly as he sat at the bar. The voices encouraged his thoughts, telling him that his marriage was over. He sighed and ordered a drink, wanting to just forget their fight for a while.

As he sat there, he thought about the past year. Things had started off so well and now they were going downhill so quickly that he felt as if his life with Ennis was slipping through his fingers. He felt powerless to stop it and didn't know what to do.

"Jack?" asked a voice that he vaguely remembered. He turned and almost choked on his drink. Standing there was Kevin Jones; his old roommate before Ennis and the very first guy he'd ever had a crush on.

"Kevin," he replied, still in shock. "What...?"

"Long time no see," Kevin said to him, sitting beside him and ordering a drink. "Never thought I'd ever see you again."

"What are you doing here? You realise that the majority of people here are gay, right?" Jack asked him, remembering how vicious the other man had been when he came out.

Kevin sighed. "Jack...I'm sorry about that. I was just a dumb kid back dad was always homophobic so I just picked it up from him. And you were my friend; I never should've treated you like that."

Jack nodded. "You're damn right you shouldn't." As he lifted his glass, Kevin noticed the band on his finger.

"You married?" he asked, mindful that same-sex marriage was legal here. Jack nodded slowly.

"Yeah. His name's Ennis. Um...he was my roommate after you left. Things happened quickly...we got together in the fall of that year, been together ever since. Got married last year."

Kevin looked at him. "You sure don't seem happy, though," he observed. Jack bit his lip, wondering how much to share with the man who had hurt him so much.

"We're...having problems," he started, choosing his words carefully. "His ex-girlfriend turned up in the summer, handed over his daughter that he didn't know about and gave us custody. I've been struggling with it and our's starting to break."

He shook his head, not wanting to elaborate any further. He certainly didn't want to divulge the nature of the illness he was suffering from, whatever it may be. "We were...but things aren't easy. We've tried couples' therapy...had our first session today but we just ended up arguing."

Kevin was silent; he had considered Jack his friend before he'd come out and was truly sorry for what had happened. He wanted to help Jack now however he could.

"Look...I really am sorry about the way I treated you," he told Jack, clapping him on the shoulder. "And I'm sorry about your problems now. I never hated you, Jack. Just couldn't deal with you being my roommate and having a crush on me. I reacted badly and I don't expect you to forgive me for that."

Jack shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I forgot all of that a long time ago. I had to let go of the past, Kevin. allowed me to be happy with Ennis, at least then. Not sure about right now," he added quietly.

The pair of them retreated to the corner, happy to see each other again despite their past issues. "So what're you doing here?" Jack asked. "Not exactly your kind of place, unless there's something you're not telling me."

"I was visiting a friend who lives here," Kevin told him. "My ex, actually. She's a lesbian and we've stayed friends. I told her about you and she advised me to seek you out; seems that she's heard of you."

"Oh," Jack replied, nodding. "Well...thank you for apologising. I appreciate it. What are you up to these days?"

"Working in Boston; I'm in real estate. Just started seeing another woman back there. Where's Lureen these days?"

"She's making it big as a dancer in New York," Jack told him, feeling proud of his friend. "She's doing really well."

"Good. Remember when she threatened to tear my balls off if I ever said anything nasty to you?"

Jack laughed. "She was very protective. I remember how Ennis-" He paused, the name of his husband making him feel strange. "Well...I don't know what we're gonna do there."

"You love him, Jack?" Kevin asked, and he nodded. "And he loves you?" Jack paused but then nodded again; he knew in his heart that Ennis loved him with all of his. "And...under normal circumstances, he's good to you and makes you happy?"

"Yeah," Jack replied, sighing. He saw what Kevin was trying to tell him; that no matter what problems they were having, at the end of the day he and Ennis were meant to be together.

"Jack...I'm sorry for you that I couldn't be what you wanted, back then. I just want you to be happy now, okay?" Jack swallowed past a lump in his throat and tears sprang to his eyes.

"I just...I keep feeling depressed and I'm convinced that he's gonna leave me," he managed to say, breathing shakily. "I can't lose him...I just can't."

"Jack, come here." Kevin hugged him, purely in a friendly manner. He did want Jack to be happy, partly out of guilt for the way he'd treated him and also because he'd seen for himself that there really were all kinds of love. He now felt like he didn't have the right to judge anybody.

While he was trying to calm Jack down, he was unaware of the blonde man who had just entered the bar, his deep brown eyes narrowed at the pair of them.

Ennis hurried down the street to the next bar, hoping to find Jack somewhere around here. None of their friends that he'd found had seen him, so he hoped that Jack was okay. He was ready to apologise and do as the girls had suggested; confirm his unwavering love to Jack and maybe try to fix this. At the end of the day, he wanted to be with Jack and wanted to help him. That was all that mattered now.

He entered the bar, looking around. When his eyes fell on the two figures in the corner, he felt as if he'd been stabbed in the heart. Jack was hugging an unfamiliar man, and they looked cosy.

Can't say I blame him, with the way I treat him, Ennis lamented, and then grew angry. That stranger was still holding his Jack and his eyes narrowed. He strode over to them and slammed his hands on the table, making them both jump and break apart. "What the fuck is goin' on?" he hissed, and Jack sighed. He'd had a feeling that Ennis was going to follow him tonight, and he should have seen this coming.

" my husband Ennis," he said in a dry voice completely devoid of emotion. There was no love in the words he spoke, much to Ennis's dismay. "Ennis, this is Kevin. My old roommate." His eyes were fixed on Ennis, knowing that the other man would be working it out.

"You mean...the guy you...?" he asked, unable to say the words. Jack had his jaw set as he glared at Ennis. He was starting to see how Ennis had misinterpreted such an innocent situation, and realised what it meant.

"Yeah, the guy I used to have a crush on. What of it?"

"Did you invite him here?" Ennis asked, and Kevin was ready to crumble under that steely gaze. Jack looked incredulous.

"Ennis, he lives in Boston. I've only been out for about an hour or so. There's no way he could've made it here by now. Are you insane?"

"What's he doin' here?" Ennis asked, still glaring. Jack sighed.

"He's visiting his ex, who's a lesbian. He told her about me and she knows me, so she encouraged him to find me. He apologised for how he reacted back then. And I accepted his apology. He was being my friend, Ennis."

"Huggin' you?" Ennis hissed. "Knowin' how you felt about him an' considerin' where you are right now? I ain't stupid, Jack. What's goin' on?"

Jack stood up, facing him down. "He was hugging me because I got talking about you, idiot! I got upset because I'm convinced that we're heading for a divorce. So there; now you know how I'm feeling."

Ennis stared at him, shocked by the words. Jack was certain that a breakup was on the horizon. "You really think that?" he asked in a quieter voice, and Jack nodded, folding his arms.

"Do I have any reason not to?" he said softly, and Kevin looked between them. He'd seen married couples arguing before, but nothing like this. How could they love each other when they were being so vicious?

"You know you do," Ennis told him, grasping his left hand so that their rings clinked together. "We're married, Jack. I love you an' I know you love me despite everythin'. We're supposed to be together; everybody we know feels the same." Jack pulled his hand away, looking pained.

"I do love you, Ennis. But I have to wonder if this is worth it."

"It is," Ennis pleaded, hoping that he wasn't going to lose Jack. "Please, can we just talk?"

"Like we were supposed to earlier?" Jack shot back. "Yeah, that went really well. If I learned anything, it's that you're ashamed of me."

"For God's sake, Jack!" Ennis yelled, and a few people were staring at them by now. Most of those present knew them, so they were very surprised to be witnessing this. "How many times? I ain't ashamed of you."

"Liar," Jack hissed venomously. "You don't like having to keep an eye on someone who's going crazy. You heard that right," he directed at Kevin, who was wondering what he'd gotten himself into. He'd only wanted a drink. "I'm ill, okay? There's something gone wrong in my brain and now Ennis, my dear husband, doesn't want to deal with it anymore. He's probably packed my bags by now, wanting to cart me off to the loony bin."

Ennis couldn't believe what Jack was saying. All of this was untrue but Jack clearly believed it. He saw something in Jack's eyes; something that told him Jack was hearing the voices. They were egging him on, pushing him into saying these things. He knew Jack well enough by now to know that he would never say these things if he was of sound mind.

"Jack," he said quietly so that nobody else could hear. "Stop. I know this ain't you talkin''s them. Don't listen to them, look at me."

Jack backed away, glaring. He knew that the voices were goading him, but he could see plain as day that Ennis didn't trust him; he could see that even without their input. He'd flipped out when he'd seen him hugging Kevin, automatically thinking the worst. Even if it turned out that Kevin was gay and interested in him, Jack still would never have cheated on Ennis. Their relationship meant too much to him for that but he was still very angry.

"I think we'd better settle this at home," he finally said, clapping Kevin on the shoulder. "See you some other time, yeah?"

"Sure, Jack," Kevin replied, not knowing what to make of the scene. Clearly, it was a lot worse than Jack had initially described. Jack walked past Ennis without looking at him, and Ennis followed with one last glance at Kevin. Now he was certain that their relationship might not last much longer. Everything was falling apart and he didn't know what to do anymore.