When Junior was brought home on Friday, it was clear that she was a lot better than before. She still needed some bed rest, but soon enough she was back on her feet. She returned to kindergarten the following Monday and soon caught up with her friends.
As for Ennis and Jack, they had started to repair their relationship. Jack went to see the psychiatrist friend of Darren's for a diagnosis. Within a few weeks, he was diagnosed with adjustment disorder including both mixed anxiety and depressed mood; it certainly seemed to make sense with everything that had happened.
Ennis was there for him as promised; they went to couples' therapy and talked through all of their issues without arguing. They listened to each other and took into account how they were both feeling.
One thing that helped was Jack signing the parental rights documents. He took them to Mark, their lawyer, and by the middle of November he had in his hand adoption papers for Junior, stating that with both his and Ennis' signatures he would officially be her adoptive father.
"Looks like it's official now," he said to Ennis as they looked over it. Ennis was holding him from behind, squeezing him gently. He was very happy that Jack was now Junior's adoptive father; it seemed to make Jack feel better about everything.
"You feel like her parent now, bud?" he asked softly, and Jack nodded.
"Yeah, I do. I've got a real standing in her life now. Feels good." Ennis kissed his cheek.
When they felt as if they were making good progress with their couples' therapy, Jack started seeing the psychiatrist, named Linda. He was prescribed anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants in case he needed them, and he also talked through his feelings while Ennis sat by him.
At her suggestion, Jack told Ennis all of his previous fears that had risen ever since Junior had first come to live with them. As patiently as he could, Ennis assured Jack that his fears would never come true. It wasn't always easy, and it could get very emotional during the sessions, but slowly Jack got better. The voices dimmed down and eventually went away just in time for the Christmas holidays.
Around that time, Emily had finished reviewing Jack's portfolio and he was offered a full-time paid role within the company due to his progress. Jack always fondly recalled the look on Ennis's face when he told him.
"I'm so proud of you, bud," Ennis said to him as they hugged tightly. Jack grinned and managed to hug him back.
"Thank you...I never really thought it'd work out, after everything..."
"Well, it has. An' we're gonna celebrate." He kissed Jack firmly on the mouth, showing him exactly how they were going to celebrate.
The pair of them loved decorating the apartment with Junior's help; it would be their first Christmas as a family and they were looking forward to it. While Ennis was putting the boxes away, Jack snuck up behind him.
"Ennis..." he called as sweetly as possible, and Ennis knew he was up to something. He turned to see Jack holding a sprig of mistletoe with a grin on his face.
"Where'd you get that?" he asked, eyebrows raised. Jack's grin widened.
"Bought it yesterday when I was getting presents. Come on, give me a kiss." He puckered his lips at Ennis, who simply couldn't resist. He pulled Jack close and kissed him, grinding his hips against Jack's enough to make him whimper. "You damn tease," Jack breathed when they broke apart. "Look what you've gone and done," he said, gesturing to his crotch. Ennis smirked.
"Reckon I'll have to do somethin' about that," he replied, taking Jack's hand and leading him to the bedroom. Their sex life was back to normal if not better, and they could truly enjoy each other once more.
One night, they were lying in bed together after making love, cooling down. Jack was lying on his chest, arms folded on the pillow as he looked over at Ennis.
"I'm so glad we've sorted things out," he murmured. "The voices have gone, I adopted Junior, we're better than ever...got a lot to celebrate this year."
"Yeah." Ennis smiled at him. "You're the love of my life, Jack. I'll be tellin' you every day for the rest of my life that I love you. Hope you won't get bored with that."
Jack shook his head. "I could never get bored with that, baby."
"You've been callin' me that more an' more lately," Ennis observed. "I...I quite like it."
Jack kissed his cheek. "Good, 'cos the name's stuck now. We're stuck with each other for life, Ennis. Might as well make the most of it," he said with a grin. Ennis smacked his ass.
"I'm glad to be stuck with you...even you do drive me crazy sometimes." Jack rolled onto his back and burrowed close to him, curling up like a cat.
"I'm crazy for you," he murmured, feeling like he could finally say that word without associating it with his mental health. They were past all of that now. Ennis put his arm around Jack and held him close.
"Same here, darlin'. You know, I've been thinkin'. You an' me oughta take another trip after what we've been through."
"Yeah?" Jack asked, looking up at him. "Anywhere you have in mind?"
"Well, I was thinkin' we could all go somewhere, as a family. What d'you think?"
Jack smiled. "Sounds great. But where?"
"How about we take Junior to Disneyland or somethin'? She'd love it, an' we could get a break."
"That sounds good. I know we could take some time away, Ennis. We do need a vacation. But when could we do it? The girls are getting married in March, remember?"
"Yeah. Either next month or February, or maybe after the weddin'. The weather could be better in the summer."
"We could make it an anniversary trip," Jack suggested, his eyes lighting up. "I'm feeling a lot better, Ennis."
"An' I'm glad," Ennis told him, drawing Jack's mouth up to his to show him just how much.
They spent the week between Christmas and New Year's at Jack's family home in West Virginia. Junior loved running through the trees on the property in the snow, being chased by her fathers. Jack's mother told him off for worrying everybody over the past few months and he assured her that he was fine now. Jack's father thanked Ennis for looking after his son during such a dark time, and told Ennis that he was proud to call him a son-in-law.
Both Ennis and Jack loved lying in a warm bed when it was snowing outside, and they made the most of their privacy while Jack's family entertained Junior. Ennis would often look at Jack and see that the light had returned to his eyes. For so long, it had been very dim and then had eventually gone by the night in the bar. Now it was back and Ennis never wanted to see it disappear ever again. He knew it was down to him to make sure that Jack remained happy, and so far they were doing great.
Ennis sometimes thought of his father, wondering if he would have ever come around to the fact that his son was with another man. Jack told him that there was no way of knowing, so he shouldn't let it bother him. This was simply how things were now, and they had to focus on the future. Now that they knew they would be okay, they could start to look forward.
"Remember, you've still got a lot of people who love you," Jack told him when they were lying in bed. Your mom, Junior, my family, me, our friends. You still have a family, Ennis, and we're all here for you." He leaned forward to kiss his husband, hoping to make him feel better. Sometimes, there was only one way to do that; this was just fine with him.
When they returned, they busied themselves by helping Amy and Jessica prepare for their wedding. All four of them knew how lucky they were to be able to marry legally in the state, so they had to make the most of it. Ennis and Jack were very grateful to the girls for everything they had done for them over the past few months, so they took on most of the responsibility for making sure that everything went to plan.
In the meantime, the pair of them spent a lot of time with Junior. On the weekends, they took her down to the beach so that she could run around and get some exercise. They watched her while sitting in their deck chairs, enjoying the sun and the company.
"This sure is the life," Jack sighed, stretching. Ennis nodded.
"Yep. Got everythin' we need here, I reckon," he replied, and Jack smiled at him.
"Yeah." He reached over and took Ennis's hand, squeezing his fingers. They had been through some very dark times, but now things were a lot better and they were happier than ever.
For Valentine's Day, Ennis took Jack back to the cabin in Vermont where they had spent their wedding anniversary. Once more, he surprised Jack with a large bouquet of red roses on the day and was very loving and attentive to him all weekend. Jack especially loved Ennis holding him in bed after some very emotional lovemaking.
"That was amazing, Ennis...I love you..."
Ennis kissed his forehead, feeling as if his heart would burst with happiness. "Right back at you, darlin'."
When they returned, it was clear to anybody who saw them that they were as happy as they used to be, if not more. They kissed when they thought that nobody was watching, not especially caring if anybody was. Jack was never tormented by the voices ever again.
At the end of February, Amy and Jessica were married in the local registry office, with Ennis and Jack as their witnesses. When the girls gave their speeches during the reception, they made a point to thank Ennis and Jack for being such good friends to them. They hadn't yet formally talked about raising a child together with all four of them as the parents, but there was plenty of time for that to be discussed. Ennis and Jack still had their hands full with Junior, who was still very young after all.
In March, Alma paid another visit to them. Jack was nervous about seeing her again after what had happened last time, but then he remembered everything that he and Ennis had achieved since then. He was in a much better position than last time.
Ennis made a point of not making Jack feel like the odd one out where Junior was concerned; he was after all her adoptive father now, and that meant a lot. He let Alma spend as much time with Junior as she wanted during her visit, while he kept a respectable distance and stayed by Jack's side. To their relief, Jack suffered no setback from the visit and even though he was clearly nervous, they got through it. Alma even told Jack how grateful she was to him for giving Junior two parents who would be there for her. They would never be friends, and they both knew that, but at least they could get on for Junior's sake.
"Wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," Jack mused one night, after Alma had left. He and Ennis were curled up on the sofa together with a bottle of wine, while Junior was fast asleep in her room. "Thought I might have a setback, you know?"
"Yeah, I was kinda worried," Ennis admitted, giving him a squeeze. "But we're okay, ain't we?" Jack smiled up at him.
"Yeah, we are. It's different this time. I've adopted Junior, for one. And we've been through so much since the last visit...we're in a good place now."
"We sure are. I know that Alma's last visit wasn't easy, because we were only just gettin' used to havin' Junior around. An' I know you were strugglin', Jack. Makes sense that you couldn't really adjust, an' then havin' to see me with her like that, like a family that didn't include you...I can understand why you developed that disorder."
"Yeah, me too in hindsight. I hope that I never slip into that ever again..." He sounded a little fearful that he would, but Ennis simply kissed him softly in response.
"You won't...'cos you've got me by your side. I trust you, an' I love you. I...I know you was scared of me leavin' you, but that ain't never gonna happen. Couldn't be happy without you, Jack." He nodded. "You're stuck with me."
Jack grinned and kissed him again. "Sounds good to me. Remember when we were just kids, roommates at college? I never thought we'd end up together, even...when we actually got together. I wasn't sure if it was gonna work because I thought it might be too good to be true. That I had fallen in love with someone who could love me back and make me happy...didn't think it would happen for me." He sighed. "I still remember that day in the locker room, when we nearly kissed. That was just...that was the start of it, right? If that hadn't happened, do you think we might have gotten together?"
Ennis thought about it for a moment. "Don't really know," he finally admitted. "I liked you, but with my dad an' everythin' I didn't think it could happen. If you hadn't chased after me an' tried to get me to talk about it, I don't know if I'd had the guts to chase after you."
"I'm sure it would have happened eventually," Jack said softly, nudging him. ""We're meant to be together, Ennis. That's just how it is. Some people are just supposed to be together, like soul mates. That's what we are and I don't have any doubts about that." He smiled. "We were attracted to each other, and we were young guys with plenty of hormones. Couldn't have kept it all bottled up for three years without something happening."
"Yeah, guess not. One of us would have jumped the other by Christmas, right?" Jack laughed, the image of it forming in his mind.
"Probably." They fell silent for a few more minutes, and then Jack noticed the time. "Hmm...reckon it's time to go to bed."
"Not to sleep though, right?" Ennis asked in amusement. Jack smirked at him.
"Not right away. If you fall asleep on me, I'm gonna kick you out of bed and onto the floor."
Ennis cupped his cheek. "I'd never do that to you, bud. I could never get tired of you." Jack smiled back at him and brought their lips together, eager to get Ennis into the bedroom and show him just how much he loved him.