June 23rd, 2009
Pride weekend was coming up, and Jack was looking forward to it. Every year since their first Pride event, he and Ennis had taken a weekend trip to Boston to join in the celebrations. Since their first, a few more states had legalised same-sex marriage, but he liked knowing that they lived in the first state to do so. It felt as if they were a part of history somehow.
However, things were different this year. He didn't know for sure if Ennis would want to go with Junior around. There was the chance that she was too young for something so loud and he didn't want her to get scared. Perhaps they could leave Junior with Amy and Jessica for the weekend; they needed to decide soon while the plane tickets were still reasonably priced.
He entered the apartment at lunch to find Ennis cooking for them. Jack knew that Ennis was okay with leaving Junior with their friend during the day so they could work, but he had to wonder if the same would apply to an entire weekend. All he could do was ask.
"Hey, bud," he greeted his husband, kissing Ennis on the cheek as he sidled up to him. Ennis smiled back.
"Hey yourself. Good mornin'?"
"Yeah, I'm really getting into that project. And Dr Green seems happy with what I'm doing, so..."
"That's great." Ennis kissed him and carried on chopping carrots for the salad. "Just called Amy; Junior's doin' okay."
Jack nodded, steeling himself for what he wanted to say. "Good. How's things at your work?"
"Pretty quiet." Ennis looked at him and could tell that something was on his mind. "Jack? You okay there? You look like you wanna say somethin'."
Jack swallowed and wondered where to start. "I do wanna talk to you about something, but it can wait until we're sat down." Ennis nodded and hoped that nothing was wrong.
The wait for lunch to be ready was unbearable; Jack was starting to fear that Ennis wouldn't want to go to Pride this year because of Junior. He tried not to feel resentful, but it was very difficult because Pride meant a lot to him. His own coming-out had been painful and he'd found himself a wonderful man in Ennis, so he wanted to celebrate that with people who might have a similar story.
They finally sat down and Jack took a few bites before starting. "Well...it's Pride this weekend, Ennis. Remember?"
"Oh...you're right," Ennis replied, finally remembering. Having Junior around had completely pushed it to the back of his mind. "So, um..."
"Are we going to Boston? We've got to decide soon because you know how expensive last-minute tickets are."
Ennis nodded. "Right. Um...Jack, I dunno. With Junior around an' all..."
"We could leave her with Amy and Jess," Jack told him, hoping that Ennis wouldn't get angry with him.
Ennis shook his head. "They always go to Pride in Boston, too. Just about everybody we know goes somewhere to celebrate it." He gently laid a hand over Jack's. "Darlin'...I know we go every year, but...things are different now."
Jack took his hand away, disappointment rising in him. "So things are gonna be different just because we've got a kid. Wait, scratch that," he added, feeling hurt. "You've got a kid."
The air became thick with tension and Ennis couldn't believe what Jack had just said. "Jack...there ain't no need for that. Junior's ours, 'cos we're married. Papers or not, she's yours too."
Jack bit his lip and looked down at his plate; he'd lost his appetite. "Ennis...I wanna go to Pride with you because it reminds me of everything we've achieved. Not just gay people in general, but us personally. You know how hard it was for me to come out, and then I found you...I like celebrating that on Pride because there's people there who understand it. And this was the first state to say that people like us can get married...that's a huge thing."
"I know, but...I don't wanna leave Junior for a whole weekend. An' she's too young for all that yet. It could scare her."
"What, the noisy crowds or the sight of two guys kissing?" Jack shot back, losing his temper. "Something tells me that there's more to this than you're letting on."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ennis asked, having no idea where this had come from. Jack leaned back in his seat, staring him down.
"You used to love going to Pride, celebrating all of this. And now there's a kid around...it's like you're better than that, right? So full of responsibilities and you've got no time to be running around with a bunch of queer guys." He used the word on purpose, knowing that Ennis hated it as it reminded him of his father.
"Jack, knock it off. I ain't ashamed, if that's what you're thinkin'. I'd be happy to run around Boston with you and hang around with other gay people. Hell, I'm one of 'em. But Junior's too young for all that noise an' fuss. An' I don't wanna leave her."
He looked into Jack's eyes, hoping that he would believe him. Ennis did genuinely fear that it would be too much for such a young child; Jack's accusations were way off.
Jack shook his head. "All I know is that we were happy before Alma turned up. Both at Amherst six years ago and now. History's repeating itself, Ennis."
"But we got through that when she came to campus," Ennis reminded him, and he sighed.
"Yeah. But...something tells me it'll be a lot more difficult this time around." He was hurt and needed to get away from Ennis right now. "I'm gonna go for a walk and then go back to work. I'll be back for dinner." He got up and headed for the door, Ennis following him.
"Jack, don't run away. We promised we weren't gonna run away anymore."
"I know...but that was when we were happy." He shut the door and left Ennis alone, wondering what the hell he was going to do now.
Jack was at his desk trying to work when Jessica came in, clearly on the warpath. "What the hell is wrong with you?" He jumped at this unexpected assault.
"Amy just called me, said that she'd talked to Ennis. He told her about you snapping at him because he doesn't want to go to Pride this year. In case you hadn't noticed, Jack, he has other things going on right now."
"Yeah, like his kid," Jack fired back, turning away from her. She moved around the desk and grabbed his chair, forcing him to face her.
"Jack, stop it. I know it must've hurt to hear that you can't go this year, but there's no need for this. You guys love each other and this is poison. Just because things are different now doesn't mean you have to go and make things more difficult." She folded her arms. "I can't believe you accused him of thinking he's all high and mighty now he's got a kid. That he's better than the guys who run around during Pride."
Jack shrugged, his anger ebbing away. He knew he was wrong to say those things, but his temper had gotten the better of him. "I just...wish that things could be the way they were."
She crouched down and looked up at him. "Jack...that's never gonna happen. You know that. I know you just reacted like that because you're scared. That maybe...he won't have time for you anymore with Junior around. But that's not the case. He loves you so much, and you know...Amy told me he was pretty torn up about what just happened."
Jack couldn't speak, but just nodded. He was terrified that their relationship would deteriorate; he'd heard it could happen to new parents due to stress. "I...I didn't mean what I said to him. I know he doesn't think he's better than the rest of us. But..."
"Look...remember how the gay pride symbol is the rainbow? Think about our community, Jack...all across the world. There's the guys who run around Pride in leather or drag, the tweaked-out club kids who get off with a different guy every night. And then there's couples like you two, and like me and Jess. The ones who would rather be with just one person and spend their evenings at home. And the ones who have kids," she added, squeezing his arm. "Every colour of the rainbow, remember? We're different from the other gay people in some ways, but we're still one family. And Ennis knows that; he doesn't think he's better than them. He's in love with a man, and that makes him one of us."
Jack looked at her, knowing that she was right. There were many different kinds of gay people in the world, and he and Ennis were in some ways no different from the guys at Pride. Just because they lived their lives differently didn't mean they weren't the same. He knew that Ennis had come to understand that in the last five years, having been to Pride every year.
Shame was creeping up on him now, and he wondered how on earth he could face Ennis after what he'd said to him. "God...I feel like an asshole now."
"You are one," Jessica told him. "But at least you know it. You shouldn't have said those things, but it doesn't matter now. You should call Ennis right now; let him know that you're sorry. This can't wait until you go home."
"What am I gonna say? He probably hates me now," Jack replied, feeling as though he deserved it. She sighed.
"No...he's just confused as to why someone he loves so much would say those things. Why you would accuse him of thinking like that when you know it isn't true."
Jack lowered his head, seeing that she was right. Despite the fact that they were in love, it was clear that they still needed a woman around to knock their heads together. He was glad that Lureen wasn't around; she probably would've slapped him for being so stupid.
"I'm gonna call him. I don't want him thinking that I hate him, either." She nodded and got up, seeing that he had learned his lesson.
"Alright. I'm gonna go back to work. Set it right, Jack...or you'll have even more problems." He nodded and watched her go, grateful to her for knocking some sense into him. He got out his cell phone and dialled Ennis's number; he knew that Ennis was likely to be doing paperwork at this time.
"Jack?" came the beloved voice, and he swallowed.
"Yeah. I'm sorry, Ennis. For everything I said back at home. I know you don't think you're better than those other guys at Pride. You've never thought that. And I understand that you've got to put Junior first now. I didn't mean to...assault you like that. I love you, Ennis...and you've gotta know how sorry I am."
Ennis sighed, happy to hear Jack's voice. "I love you too, bud. An' I'm sorry if I made you feel like I don't appreciate you right now. I really do...an' I'm sorry we can't go to Pride this year. I know you like goin' an' I do too."
"It's okay. Jess reamed me out about it just now, 'cos you told Amy. Good thing we've got those two, huh?"
"Yeah. Even though we're together, I'm glad we've got a pair of women around to sort us out."
"Are we okay, Ennis?" Jack asked tentatively, hoping that they would be. He knew he needed to make this up to Ennis and he was determined to do that. "I love you so much..."
"I love you too. An' we're gonna be fine, darlin'. Let's just get through the next few hours an' we can go home, with our kid."
Jack smiled, liking the sound of that. "Alright, cowboy. Looking forward to it."
"Bye." Jack hung up, very thankful that he hadn't screwed this up too badly. He didn't want to be without Ennis and knew that they had to work at this.
The next few hours dragged by and all Jack wanted to do was to go home and talk to Ennis; he had apologised but felt as if more was needed. If Ennis was prepared to forgive him, then he would count himself very lucky. He wasn't sure that he would have forgiven himself for what he'd said earlier.
Working with the veteran was interesting, and he even managed to get distracted from his inner thoughts while working on the case. Jack just hoped that he wouldn't end up needing counselling.
At last, he was free to go and started walking home, looking forward to being back. He was more determined than ever to make an effort with Junior, not least because he knew it was important to Ennis. He just had to try, and something told him that his efforts would be rewarded. He would never know if he didn't try, so there was only really one option available to him.
When he walked in, he immediately spotted Junior napping on the sofa and smiled to himself. It looked homely, like they all belonged here, and the thought was comforting. He then saw Ennis in the kitchen area, watching him. Jack sighed and walked straight over to him.
"I'm so sorry," he said softly, looking imploringly at Ennis and trying to read his expression. Ennis didn't look angry; he simply looked like he was waiting for Jack to get out everything he wanted to say. "I really am, Ennis. I understand if you wanna hit me, 'cos I probably deserve it..."
Ennis shook his head; he couldn't stay mad at Jack and the hurt had ebbed away by now. In a way, he could understand it. "I ain't gonna hit you, Jack. That don't solve nothin'. But...I accept yer apology, bud." He smiled when he saw Jack relax. "You gotta tell me, though...what brought that on? Was it just 'cos of the Pride thing?"
Jack shrugged and leaned against the counter. "Not just that. I...I feel like everything's changed since Junior came to live with us. I know that everything has, but...it's a lot to get used to." He sighed. "I know you're trying to keep the pressure off, saying that there's no rush for me to sign those documents. And I appreciate that. I don't know why that happened at lunch, Ennis...I'm just all over the place with this whole thing."
Ennis moved to stand next to him and took Jack's hand. "Darlin'...I know this ain't easy for you. I wouldn't expect it to be, you know? But I also know how strong you are, and what a good heart you've got. I know that if you just made the effort and had some time, you'd be a great dad to Junior. An' just 'cos she ain't ours together don't mean you can't love her like she is. We're gonna be raisin' her together."
"Yeah, I know. I just...I just need time, Ennis. That's pretty much all it is. The whole thing hit me funny and...I just need to get used to it. And I will." He smiled at the man he loved, finally starting to see clearly again. "And I'll make the effort with Junior, promise."
"Thanks," Ennis said softly, kissing him on the cheek before returning to the dinner he was making for them all. Jack gave it a few more moments before speaking again.
"You know...I don't wanna fight again, but...what are we gonna do about this weekend? If you don't wanna go, that's okay. I can live with it."
Ennis looked at him. "I do wanna, but...there's Junior. We've got a responsibility now, Jack."
"I know," Jack replied quickly, trying to keep things civil. "And Jessica had a real go at me for that. She told me about...how even though we've got a kid now, we're still not that different from the guys who run around at Pride. Not even the club kids, to some extent. We're still gay like them, so..."
"We just live it differently to them," Ennis replied, nodding. "We all have our own ways of living as gay guys; same for the girls, too. Some prefer to go to clubs every night an' fool around...an' some prefer this, like what we've got." It was one of the things that made them similar to straight people; everybody was different yet in some ways the same.
"Every colour of the rainbow, Jessica called it," Jack told him. "Makes sense when you think about it. We're all different, but we're all the same too. That's why...I know that you don't think you're better than them just because you've got a kid. I always knew that, I guess. I was just trying to find a way to justify what I was feeling. And that was pretty stupid of me."
Ennis pulled him into his arms, kissing him lightly. "Yeah, it was. But I see why you felt like that. An'...I'm sorry if I pushed you into feelin' like that." He sighed. "So...I was thinkin'...instead of goin' to Boston for Pride this weekend, we could take Junior out somewhere. Like a picnic or somethin'. Just the three of us, all day. That sound good?"
Jack nodded and smiled; it was a different way of celebrating Pride than usual. But they would still have fun as a family and everybody would be happy. That was the most important thing.
Junior woke up soon after and Jack sat with her while Ennis cooked, helping her with a book that had been delivered from Wyoming. They looked like a normal family and Jack hoped that things would settle down for them now. All he'd ever wanted since they'd gotten together was a family with Ennis, and this was the one that had been given to him. Ennis thought of him as being strong, and as having a good heart. He hoped that he could tap into that and rise to the occasion; having a family with the man he loved was worth it.
The evening passed pleasantly enough, given the events of the day. The three of them watched TV together and both men got Junior tucked into bed, since Jack wanted to be more involved. He liked the notion of being a father, and he figured that he could pick it up just from watching Ennis if nothing else.
At last, it was time for them to go to bed. This was their favourite time of day under normal circumstances, but tonight was special. It was the opportunity for some make-up sex and both were up for it.
They entered the bedroom together and Ennis locked the door before turning to Jack. Wordlessly, they moved to their respective sides of the bed and slowly undressed, watching each other carefully and feeling desire rise in them. Neither of them could think of any better way for them to reconcile after an argument, and they knew that a good night was ahead of them. When they were under the sheets, they turned to each other and Jack trailed a finger along Ennis's collarbone.
"Mmm...looking forward to this," he murmured, and Ennis nodded, kissing his wrist.
"Yeah. How d'you want it?" he asked, and Jack considered; there was only one way he could think of right now.
"I, um...I want you inside me," he whispered, his eyes meeting Ennis's. He needed to forget the things he'd said and his feelings, and just focus on them tonight. Only Ennis being inside him could do that right now.
Ennis nodded, seeing why Jack needed that from him. Jack needed some reassurance that they were okay. "Alright, bud. Just lie back..." He rose up over Jack, gently pushing him down and moving to lie between his legs. Ennis wanted to let Jack know that all was forgiven; that it barely even mattered now. They understood each other perfectly.
He leaned in and kissed Jack on the mouth, keeping it deep and warm how Jack liked it. He knew that Jack felt ashamed of himself for what he'd said, and he just wanted to make sure Jack knew he was forgiven. As he pressed kisses to Jack's mouth and face, he slid his hands under Jack's body and pulled him up, holding him close as they could feel themselves getting hard. Jack was in heaven; he loved it when Ennis held him like this in bed. In these moments, he felt as if nothing could ever hurt him.
"Ennis...come on..." he whispered in his lover's ear, bucking upwards as Ennis kissed his neck. "I want you..." Ennis took pity on him and pushed him back down again, reaching for the lube as Jack took deep breaths, a little hazy from those kisses. When he was ready, Ennis pulled Jack's legs up and around his waist where Jack locked his ankles together, ready to do this.
"Gonna be good, darlin'," Ennis told him with a smile, seeing the light in Jack's eyes. He could see how aroused Jack was and could feel the familiar ache in his lower stomach; he just had to have Jack right now.
He moved into position and slowly started to push in, the warmth surrounding him and the ache dulling as he slid into his version of paradise. Maybe it was a cliché, but Jack's body just felt like home to him. They fitted perfectly together and Ennis knew that this was meant to be. "Oh, Jack..." he breathed, eyes closing as he felt himself fully inside Jack, who could feel a sense of completion now. He didn't know how Ennis did it, but he could feel pure bliss even though they weren't moving yet.
Then Ennis took Jack's hands and laced their fingers together over his head, staring down into his eyes; there was only one thing left to do now. "You ready, bud?"
Jack nodded, biting his lip. "Yeah...come on..." Ennis kissed him deeply and started to move, sliding smoothly out and then back in, keeping it slow and steady because he knew they needed to savour this moment.
As they made love that night, Ennis kept kissing Jack everywhere he could reach, and eventually let go of Jack's hands so that he could hold him again. Jack just laid there and allowed Ennis to take control, thrusting in and out of his body in the way they both loved. "God, I love you," he breathed, head tilting to one side so that Ennis could kiss his neck.
"I love you too, baby," he whispered, and Jack shivered at the intimacy of the endearment. That was definitely the best word Ennis had ever directed at him; it told him so much that no other term could. "Don't worry about nothin', Jack...I ain't goin' nowhere an' we're gonna be okay."
Jack opened his eyes at this, knowing in his heart that Ennis was telling him the truth. They really would be okay no matter what happened, and he just had to hold onto that promise. "Ennis...come here..." He turned his head back so that they could kiss and their tongues wound around each other, making the night disappear into a haze of love and lust tied together into one. Everything just made sense when they were here together, carrying out this ultimate act of love.
Afterwards, Jack lay on Ennis's chest and was practically purring with contentment. He was feeling very satisfied and loved right now, and he felt like they were back on track after their slip-up. "Mmm...you were right, Ennis. That was good..."
"Told you," Ennis replied, stroking his back. Jack sighed and kissed his chest, unable to move. "I love you, Jack."
"I love you too...so much..." Jack trailed off as sleep finally caught up with him, and he was soon snoring softly. Ennis kissed the top of his head.
"Get some sleep, darlin'...everythin's gonna be fine. You, me...an' our kid. We're gonna be okay..." He too then closed his eyes, praying to whoever might be listening that his words were true.
On Thursday, Lureen had some free time at last and came to Provincetown to spend some time with them. They hadn't seen each other for over a month because she'd been so busy in New York, so they were all looking forward to it. Jack wanted to know her opinion on the situation with Junior; he had a feeling she would be able to give him some more advice.
Things had improved over the last couple of days. Ever since their long talk about everything, Jack was a lot calmer about things. They had agreed to take Junior out over the weekend, and he'd told Ennis about the zoo on the other side of the bay. Ennis had thought it was a good idea, so they were making their plans now. Since Lureen would be going home on Sunday, they figured they could ask her along if she wanted to.
Jack was very glad that he and Ennis were back on track now; he'd never liked arguing with him and preferred to talk things out. If they were going to make this marriage work, they had to talk. He wanted them to be together for the rest of their lives.
Lureen exited from the gate and looked around; Jack was there with a wide smile on his face. "Lu!"
"Jack!" She made her way to him and threw her arms around his neck; they were still quite close these days even though she didn't see him as often. She'd always been there for him and Ennis when they'd needed her, so Jack was happy that she would be around. "How's it goin'?"
"A lot's happened since we last saw you," he informed her as they made their way to baggage claim. "Ennis is at home...you'll see why when we get there."
"What's happened?" she asked, watching him closely. He sighed and proceeded to tell her about Alma and Junior. She was wide-eyed by the time he finished, at which point they were now heading for his car.
"So...I apologised to him and we made up. I know he doesn't think he's better than the guys who run around Pride just 'cos he's got a kid. I just didn't handle it very well."
"Clearly," she replied, shaking her head. "I'm glad you saw sense, Jack. I always hated it when you guys had problems, back at college. Didn't like seein' you like that..."
"Yeah. We haven't argued properly at all since we moved in together...not until the other day, anyway. But...it wasn't really an argument 'cos it was all one-sided. I just laid into him, Lureen...he didn't deserve that."
"You're right. So...what's Junior like, then?"
Jack smiled a little. "She's the sweetest little kid. Looks like Alma, but she's got his eyes and she acts just like him. I can see that Ennis loves her."
"What about you?" They were in the car by now and he was starting the ignition. "How do you feel?"
"I...I like her. And I can see that she trusts me and wants to know me. It's just hard to get there when I'm feeling so messed up."
Lureen sighed. "Jack...why do you feel like that?"
"I think...it's because I wanted to have a kid with Ennis somehow, and now he's got one that doesn't include me."
"You feel left out," she replied, nodding.
"Makes me sound like a dumb teenager, huh?"
"No...you're just feeling a little lost right now. You're only human, Jack. Does Ennis know that you wanted kids with him?"
"Yeah, I told him. Turns out that he wanted the same thing. So...we agreed to put that on the back burner for now...concentrate on Junior. And he says he'll pay more attention to us as well...to our marriage. I just hope it all works out."
"I'm sure it will," she assured him, squeezing his arm. "You guys were meant to be together, and I know it'll be okay." He gave her a small smile, hoping that she was right.
When they reached the apartment, Ennis greeted her warmly and introduced her to Junior, who was curious about this new person. Lureen's natural instincts shone through and she was soon playing with Junior while the men cooked side by side.
"Talked to her on the way over," Jack informed Ennis, looking at him. "She reckons we can pull through this."
"Do you think we can?" Ennis asked, searching Jack's face for answers. Jack smiled and kissed him.
"Yeah, I reckon so." Ennis nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't want to risk their relationship.
Dinner was soon served and the four of them took their places. Lureen watched how Ennis and Jack interacted with Junior; they were clearly at different points of confidence. Ennis was much more relaxed than Jack, but that was to be expected. She saw that Jack was trying to do well with her, but that it didn't come as easy as it did to Ennis.
She thought it was interesting that Alma had given Jack her parental rights so that he could adopt Ennis's daughter, and wondered if Jack would sign those documents. He'd told her that he wanted to, but that he couldn't do it until he'd sorted out his feelings about the entire thing. There was no telling when that might be, so all they had to do was wait it out.
Jack knew that Lureen was watching him and Junior, thinking about everything. To think that he was the one who had a Masters in Psychology, he'd often found that she was better than him at things like this. Maybe it was just for the fact that she was a woman, but he didn't know.
If the last few days had taught him anything, it was that he would do anything for Ennis to make him happy. He probably would sign those papers sometime soon, because he knew that Ennis wanted it. A marriage was about co-operation and making an effort, so that was what he had to do.