June 20th, 2009
On Saturday, Ennis and Jack took Junior to the park together. The day before, Ennis had returned to work and left Junior with Amy as agreed. He was very grateful to her for helping them and hoped that everything would be alright.
Also, Jack had started work on his big project. The veteran had come in yesterday to start his counselling, and Jack was currently just observing how Dr Green worked with him and was taking notes. He knew that a promotion practically hung on his performance during this project, and he was determined to do well despite his personal problems.
Ennis noticed that Jack was struggling to get used to this whole situation, and the thought saddened him. He loved both of them very much and just wanted them to be a family. Junior's things would probably arrive next week and it would seem more permanent than ever, and he hoped that Jack would be prepared for it.
As they took Junior around the various rides, they could see how much fun she was having. They were getting used to having a child around, as strange as the experience was to both of them. Jack's brother in New York had recently had a baby with his girlfriend, and they'd visited a few times since. But this was different and Jack knew it. This was Ennis's child and not his, and a part of him felt like signing on a dotted line wouldn't change that. All he could do was hope that he'd get used to it.
"Jack?" Ennis asked after a couple of hours. "I need to use the bathroom, could you watch her?"
"Sure," Jack replied, picking her up and allowing her to rest against him. "We'll be okay." Ennis nodded and smiled at the sight of them before heading off. When he was gone, Jack looked down at the little girl in his arms. Here she was, trusting and loving, and he was doubting whether he could do this. He wanted to get to know her, to love her and be her father. But he got a strange feeling whenever the three of them were together.
Jack could appreciate that Ennis wasn't trying to put any pressure on him, and that he was giving him space and time to figure things out for himself. He hadn't yet been able to sign the papers and didn't know if he ever would.
He sat down on a nearby bench with her and kissed the top of her head, sighing a little. "Looks like we're in a bad situation, huh?" Junior just blinked up at him and curled up, leaning into his body and closing her eyes. Jack smiled and held her close, feeling protective. He did like taking care of her like this, despite his thoughts, and he knew that Ennis liked to see it. "It's not your fault, after all...you didn't ask for things to be like this...none of us did. Just the way it is."
Ennis emerged from the toilets in time to see Jack rubbing Junior's back, clearly bonding with her. He smiled and watched them for a few moments, liking how much they looked like father and daughter. He was happy for Jack to adopt her, and hoped that it would happen. All they needed was a little time and maybe some legal advice.
He moved around the bench and caught Jack's eye, and they smiled at each other. "Hey, bud."
"Hey," Jack replied, looking nervous now. "Um...so what d'you wanna do now?" he asked, looking around. Ennis shrugged and scooped Junior up when she came to him.
"Guess we could get somethin' to eat," he suggested, and Jack nodded. They headed to the café and spent some time eating with her, seeing a few of their friends in the process. Ennis kept having to tell them how Junior came to live with him and Jack, and every time he could see how Jack shrank back. He wished that things didn't have to be so hard for them, and he could see that he was hurting Jack with every time he mentioned Alma.
Jack kept thinking about how he'd wanted to talk to Ennis about them having a child in some way, and he wondered if he could ever bring it up now. They had a child, no matter what the circumstances, and he figured that might be it. He knew he needed to talk to Ennis anyway, to get this out in the open if nothing else. They needed to at least settle the issue so he knew where things stood on that front.
He was quiet after the meal, and sort of tagged along when Ennis took Junior to see the animals. It was clear that she was enjoying herself and he was glad to see that, but he was too distracted now to feel it himself.
They sat down on a bench together while Junior played on the slide with other kids, and Ennis put an arm around Jack. "You okay there?" he asked, squeezing Jack's waist. Jack shrugged, unsure of how he felt right now.
"Yeah, I'll be okay. Just...it's not easy. I am trying, Ennis...you've got to know that. And I do want to do this."
Ennis nodded, kissing his cheek. "I know, darlin'. I can see it ain't easy, but I know yer tryin'. An' I appreciate it a lot, bud. Just...do whatever yer comfortable with. I don't expect too much from you right now." He took Jack's hand and laced their fingers together. "Gonna be okay, you know."
"Yeah. And...she's a real nice kid to be around. She's a credit to you, Ennis...and to Alma." He swallowed past a lump in his throat. "I, um...I know I can't change things, but...I can cope with what's happened. And...we'll be okay." He leaned in and kissed Ennis warmly, knowing that Ennis appreciated the effort he was making. He loved Ennis with all his heart and that would never change.
Afterwards, the three of them went to the beach and Junior started building a sandcastle, clearly in her element here. She already loved it here and even though she missed her mother, Alma had called the night before to say goodnight to her. Ennis thought it was important for the two of them to keep in touch, and at least he and Alma could be on speaking terms. She had told him that she was sending along a DNA test that proved he was Junior's father, for legal reasons. Ennis hadn't doubted her but he was glad to have the proof.
He could tell that something was wrong with Jack, though. He'd been quiet for a lot of the day, and Ennis wasn't sure what was going on. Maybe Jack was just worn out with looking after a child; he could understand the feeling. Having a kid around did take it out of him; even though she wasn't demanding she was still a bit of a whirlwind to be around.
They sat together on a beach towel they'd brought with them, watching Junior as she played nearby and enjoying the sun. There were a lot of couples here today, as there usually was at the weekend. They also spotted one or two of their friends here today. Some of them had kids and the two men felt like a lot had changed for them. They were entering a new stage of their life together.
While Junior was preoccupied, Ennis put his arm around Jack and gave him a squeeze. "Wanna talk to you, bud." Jack looked at him, wondering what was going on. "I, um...I noticed that yer kinda down at the moment. Just wonderin' if everythin's okay." He hoped that Jack wasn't too down about what was going on right now; they had to pull together if they were going to get through this.
Jack sighed and realised that he couldn't hold it in any longer. "Alright. Something's been bothering me for the last couple of days. You remember when I came home on Wednesday and I found Junior with you at home? Well...when I came home, I was thinking about talking to you about something. I, um..." He lowered his head and sighed. "I wanted to talk to you about...us having kids. You and me...some way." He shrugged. "But with everything that happened, I figured it wasn't a good time to bring it up."
Ennis couldn't believe it; Jack had been in the same place as him when it came to having kids. He'd wanted to talk about it and was ready for them to move forward. He wished he'd known about this beforehand, so they could have talked about it sooner.
"Jack..." he sighed, pulling his husband closer. "I didn't know...I sure am sorry about that. You know...I'd wanted to talk to you too before Alma arrived with Junior. I just wasn't sure if you were there, you know? An' I didn't wanna pressure you about it."
They looked at each other and thought about their marriage so far. It had been wonderful and they were very happy, and Jack knew that they couldn't let something like a child from a previous relationship taint what they had now. None of it was Junior's fault, or even Alma's; this was just the way that things had worked out. Jack was determined to see this through and do what Ennis needed him to.
"Well," Ennis started, looking over to where Junior was playing. "It ain't totally out of the question, Jack. Folk are allowed to have more than one kid. An'...I know I want a kid with you. Maybe it could still happen for us. But...could we put it off for a while? I wanna concentrate on Junior first, if it's okay."
Jack nodded, understanding what Ennis was asking of him. "Sure, that's okay. It's probably a good idea. There's a lot to consider with us having a kid ourselves, a lot to go through...so I reckon we should wait. I just wanted you to know how I'm feeling right now. We've gotta talk about these things, Ennis...we're married."
"Yep. An'...I know it's been hard on you these past few days. With tryin' to get Junior settled in an' the whole thing...I know you've had a bad time of it. An' I just want you to know that...things are gonna get better for us. I'll try an' pay you more attention from now on, you know? Do things to make you happy. We can go on a date sometime, if you want. I know you like that."
Jack smiled at him, pleased by the gesture. "I'd like that, Ennis. I'm not saying that you have to pay more attention to me...I know Junior's important to you too. And...I want us to be a family, Ennis. I do like Junior...and...she's your daughter so it's only right that I make the effort." He rested his head on Ennis's shoulder, sighing. "I'm not ready to sign those papers yet, but...I'm getting there. Promise."
"That's good," Ennis told him softly. "I told you...there ain't no rush for it. It's really okay." He kissed the side of Jack's face and then saw Junior headed for them.
"Daddy, can I get an ice cream?" she asked, her wide brown eyes pleading. Jack smirked at how much she reminded him of Ennis. She was so like him and Jack loved Ennis, so maybe he would come to love her too.
"Sure can, Junior. Come on."
"I'll get it for her," Jack offered, feeling nervous but sure. Ennis looked at him and nodded.
"Sure, bud." Jack stood up and took Junior's hand, leading her to the ice cream truck parked on the road. Ennis watched them walk off, feeling happy that Jack was trying with her. He decided that he would try and pay equal attention to both of the people he loved. He needed to be both a husband and father, and he had to find a balance that would suit everybody.
They got Junior home and she fell asleep as soon as Ennis got her on her bed. He decided to let her nap and chose to spend a little time with Jack on the sofa; they needed this.
He got them both a drink and sat down next to his husband, glad to be home after such and eventful day. He had enjoyed taking Junior out but he had to admit that it wasn't easy to keep up with her. She was so full of life and energy and could run circles around him and Jack.
"Feels good to be home," he sighed as they settled on the sofa with the TV on a low volume. "I'm beat."
"God, me too," Jack replied, leaning against Ennis and stretching. "She's something else, isn't she?"
"Yeah. I'd say we're doin' pretty well, considerin'," he commented, thinking that they were doing something right where Junior was concerned. They had been thrown into this and were adjusting fairly well. "It was good of you to get her the ice cream, Jack...I think she appreciated that."
Jack smiled, remembering the smile on the little girl's face when he'd bought her the large cone. She'd had a happy, messy time with it and he'd loved seeing her like that. "Yeah...reckon she did. I was glad to do it, Ennis. I wanna be more involved like that." Ennis put an arm around Jack, resting it on his upper chest.
"Good. 'Cos Junior needs both of us here for her. We're her parents now...even Alma said so."
"I know," Jack said quietly, and he placed his drink on the coffee table, turning towards Ennis. "Hmm..." He leaned in and kissed Ennis on the cheek, a smile playing around his lips. Ennis smirked back at him and put his own drink down, knowing that they couldn't go too far right now. Junior could wake up at any moment, and even though their bedroom door had a lock there was no way they could go at it now. But the offer was tempting, he had to admit.
He covered Jack's mouth with his own, tongue finding his lover's almost immediately. They'd done this so many times that it was second nature by now. He could remember those nights in the dorm room when they'd had to be quiet as they'd explored each other. That had been during the very early days of their love when they were still trying to find out what this was between them. A part of him had known even then what he felt for Jack, but it was Alma's visit that had driven him to finally admit it. Now he was happy and more in love than ever.
After a few long, slow kisses, Ennis forgot about everything else and started pushing Jack backwards to lie down, settling between his legs and sliding his hands up Jack's shirt. The skin was warm and firm like he knew it, and he felt Jack's hands on his back.
"Darlin'," he sighed, nuzzling Jack's neck and hearing a soft moan; he knew exactly how to tease his lover and drive him mad with lust. "God, I love you."
"Mmm," Jack moaned, running his hands over Ennis's bare skin. "Love you too, baby...come here..." He pulled Ennis's lips back to his and could feel himself getting hard. When he felt Ennis's own erection pressing into his leg he knew they were going further than they had anticipated, but it was too late to turn back now. He wanted Ennis to fuck him on this sofa, right now.
The sound of a door being opened made them spring apart, and Jack was reminded of their almost-first kiss in the locker room so many years ago. "Shit, he muttered, adjusting himself and placing a cushion over his lap. Ennis put the paper over his own crotch and pretended to be watching the TV just as Junior came into the room. He knew that they looked like a pair of teenagers on prom night but there was nothing he could do about that right now.
"Daddy?" she asked sleepily. Ennis motioned her over; his arousal was going down by now, to his disappointment.
"What's up, Junior?" he asked her as she sat next to him. She rested her head on his arm.
"Just wanted to sit with you...can I watch somethin' on TV?" Ennis nodded and flicked over to the cartoons, eager to keep the peace right now.
"Sure...wasn't really watchin' it anyway." Jack looked at him and got up, heading for the bathroom and trying not to feel too disappointed. He'd been looking forward to that and hoped that they could do it later. Ennis felt guilty about taking things so far when he knew that Junior could wake up. He felt a little irresponsible and didn't like that he'd gotten Jack's hopes up like that. He'd known that Jack wanted it there and then, so to take it away was like a punch in the gut to him. He would have to make it up to Jack later.
With this idea in mind, he left Junior watching TV and called Amy, hoping that she could help him out. He wanted to create a romantic night for Jack, but needed some supplies. They were out of everything except lube, and tonight would need more in light of their failed coupling on the sofa.
He met her outside the building while a confused Jack kept an eye on Junior, taking the bag and thanking her. "I reckon I need to make it up to him," he told her, and she nodded.
"I understand, Ennis. And I think you're on the right track with this stuff. Have fun," she added with a wink and he smiled at her, heading back upstairs.
With the supplies safely away in the bedroom, Ennis returned to the sofa and kissed Jack on the cheek as he sat down, knowing that Jack would appreciate what was in store for him.
The next day was a Sunday, so Ennis planned for them to have a big dinner as a family. He and Jack usually did this for themselves, so he wanted to share this with his daughter. Jack agreed that it was important for Junior to be a part of this and to have some kind of stability.
After they'd got back the day before, a letter had arrived from Alma. It had a copy of a DNA test that proved Ennis was Junior's biological father; he hadn't doubted it considering how much Junior looked like him and that she had his eyes, but it was good for them to have it.
Ennis had done his best to make it up to Jack the night before, with the candles and massage oil he'd asked Amy to get him. He just hadn't known what else to do, but Jack had appreciated the effort and they'd had a good night together. Ennis had massaged his back and then slowly made love to him, whispering in his ear how much he loved him and that he was glad they were together. Jack had felt so safe and loved in Ennis's arms and he'd never wanted it to end. He knew that Ennis was just trying to do the right thing for everybody right now, and he promised to try and help his husband. Ennis needed him as they went through this change in their lives.
"You okay over there?" Ennis asked, causing Jack to snap out of his reverie. They were preparing dinner while Junior was napping in her room, and it was quiet. The radio was on low and both of them were looking forward to dinner.
"Oh, yeah," Jack replied, nodding. "Just thinking about this whole thing. You, me, Junior...been thinking about it a lot." He thought about it most of the time, trying to make sense of it all and figure out what his feelings were. They were very mixed at the moment.
"What about it?" Ennis was hoping that Jack was okay with their new situation. It had only been four days, after all, and the whole thing had been so unexpected for both of them.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Jack assured him. He sighed and turned to face Ennis, knowing that he needed to elaborate. "Look...I won't lie to you and say that this is easy, because it isn't. But...I'm your husband, Ennis. We're supposed to support each other no matter what. And..." He stepped closer to Ennis, placing his hands on Ennis's shoulders. "I want you to know that I'm here. I'm gonna do my best to be here and do whatever you need me to. I like Junior and I want us to be a family. I did want a family with you, and I still do. It'd be a shit thing for me to do if I started complaining about Junior being here. She's family to you, so she's family to me too. Even without me signing those forms, I'm still her stepfather. So...that's it." He smiled softly, hoping that he could believe his own words. He wanted to; more than anything.
Ennis sighed, wrapping his arms around Jack's waist. "Darlin'...I dunno what to say. I don't wanna put no pressure on you, bud. But I believe you...and I'm grateful. Thanks, Jack." They kissed and returned to their work side by side, feeling as though things were getting better every day. Jack was determined to at least try with Junior, and Ennis appreciated the effort.
When the food was almost ready, Jack offered to go and wake Junior up, which Ennis agreed to. He trusted Jack with his own life, as well as that of his daughter's. He knew that the three of them would be very happy if they got through this.
Jack slowly entered Junior's bedroom and saw her sleeping on top of the covers, clutching the bear that Ennis had bought for her. He smiled at the sight and sat down beside her, gently shaking her shoulder. "Junior?" he asked softly, hoping that he wouldn't scare her. "Junior, wake up..."
Her eyelids flickered and the deep brown eyes appeared; she looked just like Ennis when he woke up. "Jack?" she asked sleepily, blinking at him. She trusted him and wanted to get to know him, but he was still quite distant to her.
"Dinner's ready, honey," he said to her, using an endearment for the first time since she'd come to live with them. "You wanna come on out and get ready?"
She nodded and sat up, rubbing her eyes. "Okay." Jack got up and she took his hand, holding it tightly in her sleepy state. He swallowed and led her out into the main room where Ennis was finishing setting the table. Ennis smiled at the sight of them together.
"Hey, Junior," he said to his daughter, kissing the top of her head as she sat down. He and Jack then started getting the food onto the plates. Both of them were good cooks by now, and they could tell that Junior agreed with that. She always seemed to finish off whatever was put in front of her and she wasn't fussy. They were lucky on that front; Jack could remember his younger cousins being very picky about food when he was growing up.
As they ate, the talk turned to education. Junior would be starting kindergarten in the fall, and there were good schools down by the harbour that they could send her to. Since he and Jack were her guardians, Ennis felt as if they should do everything properly and give her the kind of opportunities they had. He would be very proud if she ended up going to college like them, but that would be her decision. He'd found the love of his life at college; maybe the same would happen for her. All he knew was that he wanted Junior to be happy and he would do anything to make that happen.
After dinner, Jack's mother rang him wanting to know how things were, so he headed out into the hall for some privacy. "Hey, mom."
"How's everything over there?" she asked, unaware of what had happened to them. He sighed.
"Something big...happened. And...I'm not sure how to feel about it." He leaned against the wall, hoping that Ennis couldn't hear him. He would get the wrong end of the stick and accuse Jack of lying to him.
"What is it, honey?" she asked, now concerned.
"Well, you remember the year that Ennis and I got together? And how Alma turned up wanting to get back together with him?"
"Yeah, you told me. What about it?"
"Well...it seems that about a week before he left Wyoming for Amherst, Ennis got her pregnant. Before we even met."
"Does that mean...?"
"Yeah, the kid's with us. Alma came by here a few days ago with Junior, saying that she wants us to take Junior in as her guardians. She's given us custody."
"Why?" Karen asked, unsure of this.
"Alma's getting married and her fiancé's family don't approve of Junior being around, since she was born out of wedlock and she's not the fiancé's daughter. So...that's why Junior's with us. And I just don't know how to feel about it." He sighed. "I don't suppose you've got any advice?"
"Well...I don't know, Jack. I've never seen this kind of situation before. How's Ennis taking it?"
"He's adjusting really well," Jack informed her, knowing that it was true. "And I admire him for it. He's a great dad, mom...and I wish I could say the same about me."
"Oh, Jack...I'm sure you're trying your best. I know it can't be easy."
"Yeah...Alma signed her parental rights over to me. I can adopt Junior if I want to."
"Are you going to?" she asked him. He bit his lip.
"I don't know. I know it's what Ennis wants, but he's told me that there's no pressure. I'm her stepfather and we're legally married, so I've got some rights anyway. But this would finish it off and make everything legal. To be honest...I want to do it. But I'm not ready to yet. It's been just four days and I'm still getting used to having her around. She's a real sweet kid, mom. She's got Alma's red hair but she looks just like Ennis, even got his eyes."
"She sounds wonderful, Jack. And I'm sure it'll be fine. You just need some time, I think. Get used to her, spend time with her, and make sure that you and Ennis get some alone time as well. That's important for any parent. You'll be okay, I'm sure."
He smiled a little, thankful that his mother could always make him feel better. She always knew what to say and he didn't know what he would do without her. "Yeah, maybe. I mean...we've spent some time together already. Like at the beach and stuff. I think she likes living here with us."
"That's good, Jack. You're already making progress with her, I'm sure. So stop focusing on your doubts and fears, and concentrate instead on how you can make things better. Focus on what you're doing right and lean on Ennis from time to time. I'm sure he needs you more than ever now."
"Yeah, probably. Earlier, when we were making dinner, I told him that while this isn't easy, I know he needs me. I told him that I'm here no matter what, because we're married."
"Good," she told him. "Make sure you follow through on that, Jack. Stick together and you'll be fine."
"Okay. But I've gotta admit...this is a lot harder than I thought it would be. He knows I wanted kids with him, and he wanted the same thing. We've decided to put that on hold right now, while we're raising Junior. Adopting a kid together would put us through a lot and we don't need that right now. We've got to put her first."
"I agree, honey. Ennis loves you, Jack. We all know that. And he's good to you. That's all you need to know...it should be enough to hold you together through this."
"I love him too, mom," Jack said shakily, trying to calm his nerves. "I wanna help him with Junior, and...I will. I'll be okay."
"Alright, then. I'd better let you go. Talk to you soon, okay?"
"Yeah, sure. Love you, mom."
"Love you too." They clicked off and Jack stared at the wall for a few moments before plucking up the courage to go back in.
He found Ennis with Junior in the living area, helping her to copy pictures from her books onto paper. He smiled and sat down on Junior's other side, trying to be a part of this. Ennis nodded at him and smiled back at him, and Jack felt peaceful for once. He knew deep down that one day he would be able to sign those papers given to him, and then everything would be complete. He and Ennis would be Junior's parents and they would be a real family. This was what he'd wanted for a while now, and he hoped that he would stop caring that she was Alma's daughter too.
"What're you drawing, Junior?" he asked her, and she pointed at the picture of the elephant. That gave him an idea; there was a large zoo down by South Yarmouth on the opposite side of the bay. Perhaps they could take Junior there sometime. He would have to talk to Ennis about it and hoped that his husband would see the effort he was making. His mother was right; he had to focus on making Junior part of their family and to try and ignore his doubts and worries. They would likely come to nothing anyway, for there was no reason why things would turn sour for them now. They were building a family together and that was everything that Jack had wanted with the man he loved.