Chapter 27

October 22nd, 2009

Jack had been gone for three days now, and Ennis missed him more every day. He was relieved that Jack was willing to give things another go between them, but he wished that the days would pass quickly until Jack was ready to return.

His dream of Jack the night before had been very enjoyable, but he couldn't help wondering how things would go once Jack did come back. Would he be able to have sex right away, or would it take time for them to relax together? Ennis hoped that Jack wouldn't need too long; he missed being with Jack. It wasn't just the physical act and the satisfaction of needs, but it was more to do with the feeling in his heart when they lay together.

He sighed to himself as he started preparing lunch for himself in an empty apartment. Junior was with Amy, and he figured that Jessica had also gone home for lunch. They had told him that he was welcome to join them for as long as Jack was gone, but he decided he preferred to be alone. Jack's phone call had been the only sign of life and he was clinging onto it, trying to keep believing that everything was going to be okay.

As he worked, he spared a brief thought for Kevin. Despite his jealousy the other night, Ennis could now appreciate how difficult it must have been for him, to be caught up in their problems through no real fault of his own. It wasn't as if he'd come to Provincetown with the purpose of stealing Jack away; he was straight. And he'd even apologised for the way he'd treated Jack in college after he'd come out; that was more than a lot of straight guys would have done.

Ennis had considered finding him to apologise for his reaction, but he figured that Kevin would have left by now anyway.

The whole experience made him think; he and Jack were bound to make all kinds of friends in their lives, and some of them would be gay men; it was inevitable. He knew deep down that he could trust Jack, but he couldn't shake off the fear of losing him. The insecure part of him had often wondered what Jack had even seen in him to begin with, and he would never stop being afraid of Jack wondering the same thing. The chances of it happening were impossible, so he just had to have faith in that. Jack wouldn't leave him as long as he was good to him. Ennis knew he had to treat Jack right if they were going to remain together.

He nodded to himself and was considering calling his mother to ask her if Jack had visited her yet, when his phone rang on the worktop. A quick glance told him that it was Amy. "Hey, what's up?" he said to her, as if expecting her to invite him for lunch again.

"Ennis, you've gotta get over here," she replied, sounding panicky. He didn't like the sound of that.

"Why, what's wrong?"

"It's Junior; she...she can't breathe properly. She's struggling, Ennis!"

Ennis's face went white as a sheet and he wished more than ever that Jack could be here. "Shit...I'm on my way."

"Hurry up; we already called the ambulance. They're gonna take her to Cape Cod Hospital at Hyannis."

"Okay," he told her, remembering just how far away that was and hoping that the paramedics would get there soon. He knew that he would have to tell Jack what was going on but that would have to wait; he had to get to his little girl right now.

He cleared away his lunch despite having not eaten of it and grabbed a bag of chips on the way out, making sure he had his keys and cell phone. When he was ready, he hurried towards the girls' apartment and headed up; Jessica answered the door.

"Thank God," she said in relief, stepping back to allow him inside. "Amy's got her..." Ennis saw that Amy had Junior on the sofa, trying to help her to breathe. The little girl was in hysterics, which didn't help her condition.

"Hey, Junior," he said softly to her, and she buried herself into his chest. "Shh, it's okay...the ambulance is gonna be here soon." He rubbed her back and tried to calm her, even though he knew it wouldn't work. Her breathing was definitely worrying, coming out in gasps and sounding ragged.

They heard a siren in the distance, growing closer as the ambulance neared them. "They're here," Amy said, heading out of the apartment to meet them. Everything was a blur for Ennis as the paramedics entered the apartment and gave Junior an oxygen mask to help.

"Does she have any medical conditions?" asked one of them.

"Tonsillitis," Ennis replied, not liking it when the paramedic looked worried.

"Are you her father?" Ennis nodded and watched as Junior was picked up. "Can you come with us and sit with her in the back?"

"Yeah, sure." Ennis was about to follow them, but then looked back at the girls. "I'll call as soon as I know somethin'. If Jack calls you..."

"We'll tell him," Jessica replied immediately. "But I reckon he ought to hear it from you, Ennis." He nodded back at them and followed the paramedics downstairs, praying that Junior would be alright. He just couldn't lose her or Jack; his worst fear was seeing one of their names on a tombstone.

The ride to the hospital was far too long for his liking, and he cursed that there were no closer options. Still, he held Junior's hand tightly as she breathed into the mask, her eyes wide with fear. He knew that she wanted him to make everything better, and he wished that he could. But he could only think of one person who would make everything alright, and that person was in New York because of him.

As soon as they reached the hospital, Junior was wheeled off to the emergency room and Ennis had to sign the admission forms. He sat in the waiting room, trying not to panic as he attempted to fill out the forms. He had already informed them that Junior's stepfather was out of state, simply saying that it was a family emergency. Thankfully, Jack's lack of adoption where Junior was concerned meant that his signature was not needed for any surgery that might be required. At least Jack wouldn't feel forced to come back.

He received a text from Amy saying that she and Jessica would come down as soon as Jessica finished work, and he was grateful to her for that; he'd already called his own boss to inform them of the situation. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do without Jack here to help him, and he sorely wished that Jack could be here. He couldn't keep putting it off; Jack deserved to know what was going on with their family.

He handed the forms back and now just had to wait. He wondered if Darren would be made aware of this, considering that he was their doctor. Perhaps Darren might even have to come down here himself; he sure could do with seeing a friend right now.

He thought about Jack, who was somewhere in New York and had no idea what was going on. This wasn't how things were supposed to be, and he wanted things to go back to normal. At least then, he and Jack could have dealt with this together. He needed Jack by his side and could now see what an idiot he'd been to push Jack away so often; Jack had felt lonely because of all the attention he'd been focusing on Junior. Ennis knew now that he had to give them equal attention, especially since Jack's was a more psychological problem that preyed on his mind and insecurities. Ennis hated knowing that he was the reason that Jack was no longer here, but he hoped that they could make up when Jack returned.

Ennis sat in the grey chairs, hating the silence around him and not knowing how his little girl was faring. He couldn't stop worrying about how terrible her breathing had sounded and thought back to when she had first been diagnosed. Darren had told them that in the worst case, she would have to have her tonsils removed. That would be fine with him if it saved her life.

Please come home soon, Jack, he thought desperately, hoping that Jack could somehow hear him. We need you...

Ennis sighed and pulled out his cell phone, selecting Jack's number and praying that he could get through this without breaking down; Jack didn't need that right now. He had to try and remain strong despite the heartache he was feeling. He needed Jack like he needed air and water and food; Jack's love had gotten him through some hard times, especially after his father had disowned him back in college. Without Jack, he would have spent that Christmas alone in a dorm room. Instead, he'd been welcomed into Jack's family and they had grown even closer; they had ended up swapping commitment rings. That time at the house in West Virginia had been the start of so much happiness for them, and he hoped that one day they could have it back.

He squeezed his eyes shut when he heard Jack's voicemail; Jack never usually turned his phone off so he figured the battery must be dead. He didn't know if Jack had taken the charger with him, but decided to leave a message anyway.

"Jack, it's me. Somethin' happened about an hour ago...Junior was at the girls' apartment for lunch an'...she started havin' breathin' problems. Amy called me an' told me to get over there. I did, an'...she couldn't breathe, Jack." His voice shook as he tried to continue. "The paramedics gave her some oxygen, an' now we're at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. She's still bein' examined, I think...nobody's come out to talk to me yet. I'm thinkin' she might need surgery to have her tonsils removed. I just...I thought you had the right to know what's goin' on, an' I don't know if this is gonna change your plans or anythin', but I don't want you feelin' that you gotta come back if you ain't ready yet. I don't wanna force you, bud. Anyway, I better go. I dunno if your battery's dead an' if you've got your charger but I'll leave a message with Lureen anyway. Please call me when you get this. Bye."

He clicked off and stared into space, wondering if and when Jack would get the message. What if he hadn't taken his charger? Ennis decided to call Lureen even though he knew she would be at work; at least she could check her messages when she was finished and could inform Jack of what was going on.

"Lureen, it's me. Junior's havin' breathin' problems an' the paramedics took her to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. I don't know yet what's goin' on but I'm thinkin' she'll need surgery. I left a message on Jack's phone, but I don't know if the battery's dead an' if he's got his charger or not. If he has, tell him to charge it an' check his messages. Okay, bye."

With nothing more for him to do, he sat back down and hoped that one of them would check their messages soon. He had no idea where Jack might be right now, but he hoped that he could hear that wonderful voice again soon, telling him that everything was going to be alright. More than anything, he missed having Jack's strong arms around him, protecting him from everything. As much as he liked caring for his family and taking care of them, there were times when he himself needed to be held, and this was one of them.

Not long after he'd left messages for Jack and Lureen, Ennis spied a doctor coming out of the emergency room, looking around. He stood up and headed over, wondering what was going on.

"Mr Del Mar?" enquired the doctor, and he nodded. "I'm afraid your daughter's tonsillitis has worsened...she's going to need to have her tonsils removed."

"An' that'll help her?" he asked, willing to do whatever it took for Junior's health. The doctor nodded.

"Yes. We're still giving her oxygen until we deem her stable enough to undergo the surgery. It shouldn't take too long. I understand that her stepfather isn't here?"

"No, he's in New York. A family thing," he said evasively, and the doctor nodded.

"Well...if I may ask, does he have any plans to adopt her? Because if he were to, he would have to be present if something like this were to happen."

"We're still workin' on that," Ennis told him firmly. "They said they don't need his permission if I'm here."

"That's correct. But if it came to a point where she needed our help and you were the one out of town, I should warn you that he would have to be her adoptive father in order to give permission. Where children are involved, it's a good idea for same-sex couples to cover all their bases."

Ennis nodded, seeing that the doctor was just trying to give him advice. "Thanks, doc. Can I see her until you're ready?"

"Of course, come through." The doctor led him into the emergency area and through to a small room, where Junior was sitting up on a bed and holding an oxygen mask to her mouth.

"Daddy," he heard her say weakly through the mask, and he sat by the side of her bed.

"Hey, Junior. Don't worry, okay? The doctors are gonna look after you. When they think you're ready, they're gonna give you the surgery. You remember me tellin' you about your tonsils, an' how they're causin' you to be sick? The doctors are gonna remove them. That'll make you better, okay?"

Junior nodded, squeezing his hand. "Is Jack comin' back?" she asked, and he sighed.

"I don't know, darlin'. I tried to call him, but his phone ain't switched on. I left him a message an' I hope he gets it soon. But in the meantime, I'm here for you. I can't stay when they do the surgery, but I'll be right outside. I promise."

He heard shuffling feet and looked up to see Darren standing there, looking worried. "Darren, hey."

"How's she doing?" he asked, looking at Junior in concern. Ennis went to stand by him.

"Her tonsils...she couldn't breathe before an' they just told me she's gotta have them removed. It's the only thing they can do now."

"Have you got in touch with Jack?" Darren asked, and Ennis shook his head.

"His phone...the battery might be dead so I couldn't call him. But I left a message an' I hope he gets it soon. I dunno if he took his charger so I left a message with Lureen too."

"That's something. I'm sure he'll find out soon enough and he'll call. Have you heard from him since he left?"

"Yeah, he called yesterday. He said that he still needs more time, but he will come back an' he wants us to be together."

Darren smiled. "I'm glad to hear that, Ennis." He looked over at Junior. "Do you think...he'll be able to adopt her at some point?"

"I dunno," Ennis admitted, shrugging. The papers remained in the desk in their bedroom, having been untouched for months. While he did want Jack to sign them, he knew that he couldn't press the issue. Jack should only sign them because he wanted to, not because it was the right thing to do. "The doctor told me that if Jack had adopted her, we'd need his permission as well as mine before performin' surgery."

"In this case, I guess it's a good thing he hasn't signed them," Darren replied, and Ennis nodded.

"Yeah. But then they said that if somethin' happened to Junior an' I was the one out of town, he wouldn't be able to give permission without proof of adoption. It's a real mess."

"He should consider it at some point, then. When he's ready to, of course," Darren added. "It won't do any good to force him into it."

"I know. That's the last thing I wanna do...he oughta do it 'cos he wants to."

Junior coughed weakly and he immediately went back to her bedside, taking her hand. "'s okay, darlin'." He looked up at Darren. "You got here quickly..." he noted, remembering the long drive in the ambulance.

"I was just doing paperwork when they called me. Since I'm her doctor they had to inform me. So...that's it. I'll stick around if you want me to; I'm not on call or anything."

"Thanks...I could do with someone to talk to. Amy an' Jessica can't get away yet an' Jack..." He trailed off, not wanting to think about that right now. He wanted Jack here with him, but he didn't want Jack to feel forced into coming back. He prayed that Jack had taken his charger and would use it soon, or that Lureen would check her messages and tell him what was going on. He looked at his watch; there were still a couple of hours until Lureen would be at home.

A few minutes later, the doctor returned and informed Ennis that while Junior was ready for surgery, there was currently no staff available to perform it. They decided to keep her on the oxygen until they could fit her in; hopefully she would be seen by evening at the very latest.

Ennis continued to sit by her side, talking to her and telling her stories to keep her calm. He thought of Jack and hoped to hear from him soon; their family needed to remain together in times like this.

Amy and Jessica were able to get away by five, and were soon at the hospital to see how Ennis was faring. The hospital was still busy so Junior was still waiting for surgery; luckily the oxygen mask seemed to be tiding her over for now. But as the time wore on, Ennis became more worried for her. She was still so young and her body hadn't fully developed, so he didn't know how well she would be able to fight this thing without surgery.

He hadn't yet heard from Jack or Lureen, which made him worry even more. He had no idea where they were or when they might check their messages, so all he could do was wait.

His friends arrived while he was sat by Junior's bedside, holding her hand and trying to keep her calm. She seemed to be holding up fairly well in the circumstances, but he still wanted this to be over as soon as possible.

There was a knock on the door, and he looked up to see Amy and Jessica enter the room. "Hey..."

"Thank God," he sighed, standing up to hug them. He was very grateful to them for doing whatever they could for Junior earlier. "It ain't good..."

"What's going on?" Amy asked as they all sat by Junior's bed. "Hey, Junior..." She and Jessica squeezed the little girl's other hand in comfort.

"Tonsillitis," Ennis replied, looking down at his daughter. "The doctor says she needs to have her tonsils removed...but they're real busy right now an' can't fit her in."

"Poor thing," Jessica replied, shaking her head. "Any idea when she can be seen?"

"They reckon by evenin' at the latest."

"Have you heard from Jack?" asked Amy, and he lowered his eyes.

"No...I left him a message; his cell's turned off an' I reckon the battery might be dead. I dunno if he took his charger, so I left a message on Lureen's phone. I thought that she would've finished work by now, so..."

"I'm sure one of them will call soon," Amy tried to reassure him, and he nodded. He missed Jack now more than ever and just wanted everything to be normal again.

"Yeah.'s work? How're they doin' without Jack?"

Jessica shrugged. "We're pretty quiet. I know Jack was working with Emily and the veteran, but that's done with now. Emily hasn't finished reviewing his portfolio yet, but I'll keep an eye on that."

"Thanks," he replied, smiling over at her. "You know...when all of this is over, me an' Jack are gonna do somethin' for you. We'll help plan your weddin' or somethin'."

The girls smiled at him. "Thanks, Ennis. We're doing this because you're our, even. Who knows; one day we might all be a real family."

"Yeah, maybe," he agreed, thinking of their agreement to maybe have a child together and raise it. "That'd be good, when we're back on track." Just then, Junior started coughing next to him and he rubbed her back, soothing her. "It's alright, darlin'..."

"Can't they see her yet?" Amy asked, looking towards the door. "I'm gonna go see if they can..." She got up and purposefully marched towards the door, opening it and leaving the room. Ennis smirked at Jessica.

"Sure you wanna marry that one?" he asked her, and Jessica grinned.

"Pretty much...wouldn't have her any other way." They heard voices in the corridor and then Amy stepped back in, smiling sweetly.

"They're gonna find some staff to perform the surgery," she told them, looking very proud of herself. It was clear that she had accomplished her goal.

"Did you threaten to kick them in know?" Jessica asked, glancing at Junior. "You did that in the restaurant when the service was really bad. Nearly got us kicked out."

"Nope, not this time," Amy replied, sitting back down. "Just told them that there's a very sick little girl in here and that we're getting really worried about her; that she and her dad have been here for hours." She shrugged. "Seemed to work."

"Thanks, Amy," Ennis said to her in gratitude, and she nodded. A few minutes later, Darren appeared in the doorway and they all looked at him.

"She can go into surgery in about ten minutes; we found some staff." He nodded at their smiles and words of thanks, leaving them alone.

"We might as well head back home for now," Jessica said, both women standing up. "There's nothing we can do right now..."

"Yeah. Thanks for comin', though," Ennis said to them, standing up to hug them again; he was very happy that they had come by even though they couldn't really do anything. "I'll keep you informed, okay?"

"Sure. You want us to go by your place for anything?"

Ennis shook his head. "No, should be fine. But you've got the spare key, right? I'll let you know if I need anythin'."

They nodded. "Alright." They kissed Junior on the cheek and then left; Ennis sat back down by his daughter's side and took her hand again.

"Daddy?" she asked quietly, and he looked at her. "When will Jack call?"

"I dunno, darlin'," he admitted, wishing that he had an answer for her. "He might call when you're in surgery; I'll let him know what's goin' on." Darren returned soon after and told Ennis that they were ready for Junior to go into surgery.

After they had wheeled her off and Ennis promised her that he would be waiting for her, he returned to the waiting room and tried to get comfortable on the grey sofa; he didn't know how long the surgery might take. All he could do was sit and wait until something happened. He knew that Junior would be alright, but he was still worried because she meant so much to him. It occurred to him that he would have to tell Alma about what was going on, but that could wait until this was over; he didn't need any more stress right now.

Jack was eating dinner by himself when Lureen came in; she had been working late so he had decided to go ahead with dinner; he would make her something when she came in. His cell phone battery had died earlier in the day and he meant to charge it up but kept forgetting; he didn't think that he would miss anything urgent.

When Lureen left work, she switched her phone on to find a message from Ennis and pressed the phone to her ear, listening. She stopped in her tracks as the message played and sprinted to the apartment, knowing that she had to talk to Jack and make sure that he was aware of what had happened.

She opened the door and looked around for him, eyes wide. "Jack...have you got your phone on?" He looked at her, wondering why she seemed so panicky.

"The battery died and I'm gonna charge it...what's wrong?"

"Go and charge it up, and switch it on. You've got a message from Ennis...I got one too." Jack did as he was told and Lureen played her message, switching on the loudspeaker.

"Lureen, it's me. Junior's havin' breathin' problems an' the paramedics took her to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis. I don't know yet what's goin' on but I'm thinkin' she'll need surgery. I left a message on Jack's phone, but I don't know if the battery's dead an' if he's got his charger or not. If he has, tell him to charge it an' check his messages. Okay, bye."

"Shit," Jack breathed, his eyes widening. "She's gotta have surgery?" He picked his own phone up and listened to the message that Ennis had left him. "Oh fuck..." he said softly. "I shouldn't have left!"

"You had good reason," Lureen told him. "You wanted space."

"Yeah, and now he needs me...damn it!" He flicked through his phonebook until he got to Ennis's number and pressed the dial button. "Come on...pick up..."

"Jack?" came Ennis's voice, and he sighed.

"Ennis, I just got your message. You were right; my battery was dead and I forgot to charge it. Lureen was working late so she's only just got hers...what's going on?"

"Junior went into surgery about ten minutes ago," Ennis replied, sitting up and rubbing his forehead. "They reckon she'll be fine when it's over...she's gotta have her tonsils removed."

"Shit, are you okay?" Jack asked, looking fearful.

"Yeah, I...I'm okay. Glad to hear your voice, darlin'."

"Ennis, I...I'm coming home. As soon as I can." He didn't need any more space now; he had already decided that he wanted to work on things with Ennis, and now his husband needed him. He could do this.

"Jack...I don't want you to feel pressured if you can't yet. It's okay..."

"No, I'm fine. I'm ready to come home, and I want to. I...I miss you, baby. Wanna be back home with you and Junior. We need each other, Ennis; that's all there is to it. The rest doesn't matter. We can work through this together; I know that now."

"Are you sure?" Ennis asked. He hoped that Jack would be coming home soon, but he still didn't want to put any pressure on him.

"I am," Jack replied firmly. "The sooner I come home, the sooner we can get back on track. I know what we have to do now, and I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to keep us together. I'll try to get a flight as soon as I can, okay?"

"Alright, but don't overdo it. She's still in surgery, but it could take a while. If you wanna get some sleep first, it's okay."

"I'll have to see. Did you say you were in Hyannis?"

"Yep, there's an airport nearby. Maybe you could get a flight to there."

"I'll try. I love you, Ennis. I'll get there as soon as possible."

"I love you too, Jack. Safe flight," he replied, feeling a lump grow in his throat. Jack hung up and turned to Lureen.

"Could you try to find me a flight to Hyannis while I pack?" he asked her, and she nodded.

"Sure. Any preference for the airport you fly from? The nearest one's La Guardia."

"That'll be fine...I just need to get home as soon as I can," Jack told her, turning to leave the room. He paused when he felt her hand on his arm.

"I hope it all works out, Jack," she said to him, squeezing his arm. "You two are meant to be know that." He smiled at her.

"Yeah, I know." He headed to the spare room to pack, and Lureen switched the laptop on while she prepared herself some dinner. She was willing to help in whatever way she could; maybe Jack could get a flight out soon and be home to comfort Ennis.

Jack packed his things as quickly as he could, his mind racing. He had been glad of the space over the last few days, but now he was ready to go home and wanted to fix things. Junior would be okay, but that was irrelevant; Ennis still needed him. Even if the only thing he could do was hold Ennis and comfort him, Jack was willing to do it. He felt surer than ever that he would recover from his own illness in time, but right now he had to focus on his family; there was nothing like a sharp shock to make him realise a few things.

I love you, he thought to himself as a picture of Ennis floated through his mind. I love you with all my heart and we're gonna make it through this. I swear on my life that we're gonna be okay.

A voice tried to whisper doubts into his mind, but he pushed it away impatiently, trying to focus on his task. Those voices were not going to take anything else away from him anymore; he was going to get his life and his family back.