July 3rd, 2009
On Friday, Jack felt nervous as he approached Emily's office. Having done some research into PTSD, he'd come up with a potential method of treatment and he hoped that it was right. She was a lot more qualified than him to make that kind of judgement, but he hoped that one day he would be able to do that kind of thing himself. He wanted to help other people, but something told him he couldn't until he sorted out his own crisis.
He knocked on her door and waited, thinking about the other aspects of his life. His and Ennis's date earlier that week had gone very well after their walk on the sand. They'd ended up having a few drinks in the bar near their apartment and were suitably aroused by the time they got home. Jack fondly recalled how they had made good use of their bed for the remaining few hours until falling asleep, and he was on cloud nine after having such a good time.
They had agreed that they needed to try and get back into the habit of having date nights together, to keep things going well between them. Ennis had told him that he'd missed doing that and they had worked out that from next week, they could start going out on Saturday nights. Junior would be just fine with Amy and Jessica, or with any of their other friends if the girls also wanted to go out. Both he and Ennis trusted their friends, feeling a kind of bond with them already.
"Come in," called Emily, shaking Jack from his thoughts. He entered the room and smiled at her.
"Hey, hope I'm not too early." She shook her head and waved him in.
"Not at all, come in." He sat down opposite her and waited for her to speak, still feeling nervous. "So...I take it you've been doing that research?"
"Yeah, I have. Just hope it's what you're looking for," he replied, and she nodded.
"Don't worry about it, Jack. Just let me know what you think."
"Well...I looked up treatments for PTSD and...I'm thinking that psychotherapy could be the best one. We could get him to talk about what happened to him and to describe his feelings and everything. It might help him come to terms with it, you know?"
Emily was nodding. "You're right; that's the treatment that I was thinking of. I guess you really are cut out for this, Jack. So, is there anything else you'd like to ask me about the case? Or any suggestions?"
"Well..." Jack tried to recall what he'd read, and a few things came to mind. "If he's got family nearby...someone who could help him, then maybe they could sit in with us and give him moral support. And if he doesn't wanna talk, then there are other ways. Like...listening to music or something. It might help to calm him, you know?"
Emily smiled. "That's exactly it, Jack. You're doing very well with this and I think you can cope with patient therapy. With some more practice, of course. Now then...I know your portfolio isn't due in for months yet, but...how's it coming along?"
"It's taking shape," he told her, and it was true. Jack spent every moment he could at work on the portfolio, even if it was just a quick five minutes when he was in the office and had nothing else to do. He tried to do some at home but things were still uneasy there and he wanted to focus on Ennis and Junior when he was at home.
He knew that their anniversary trip was coming up and he hoped that they could still go ahead with it. Ennis had been reluctant to go to Boston for Pride for just a weekend; how might he feel about leaving Junior for a whole week in Vermont like they had planned out? Jack hoped that since things were better now than they had been, Ennis would be alright with it. All he could do was hope.
"So," Emily continued, looking at him over the desk. "How're things at home?"
He shrugged. "Okay, I guess. Better than they were. We went on that date and it was fun to be just us again. We sure made up for lost time." He grinned a little and looked down. "I really missed it. And I know that things have to be different now because of Junior, and that's okay. But we agreed that we need to focus on each other, too. We've arranged a date night every week from now on. Just me and him, out together. I think it'll help."
"Good," she told him, nodding. "As someone who has given marriage counselling in the past, I can tell you that it's very important to make time for yourselves. That's why a lot of new parents have problems; they focus on their child all the time and not enough on each other. The key is to find a balance and I hope that you two can." She thought for a moment and lowered her voice. "Look...if you and Ennis ever do need to talk to someone, or you want to talk alone...you know where to find me. I'd be happy to help you out if you need it."
Jack was touched by her offer but he hoped that he would never need it. "Thanks, Emily. I appreciate it...but I hope it doesn't come to that."
"I know. And...you'll probably be able to work it out yourselves. But I'm just saying that if you need me, I'm here."
"Right. Anyway, um...I'd better get back to my paperwork or I'll never get out of here for lunch. See you later, yeah?"
"Sure. Take care, Jack." They shook hands and he left the office, feeling a little better than he had before. His work was going well, he and Ennis were getting back on track and were even meeting for lunch, and everything seemed to be sorting itself out.
At the café where he and Jack had agreed to meet up, Ennis was dialling his mother's number as he waited. He hadn't yet told her about Junior coming to live with them, but he had to wonder if she already knew; she seemed to know a lot of things before he did.
He kept an eye out for Jack as he pressed the phone to his ear, hoping that he would show up soon. Things were going really well for them right now and he wanted it to stay that way. It was clear to him what Jack was so afraid of; that the whole situation would be too hard for him to deal with and that they would end up divorcing. The very idea made Ennis's blood run cold and he knew that he couldn't let it happen. Jack simply meant too much to him for that.
"Ennis?" came his mother's sweet, familiar voice. They'd become a lot closer since she had come to visit him and Jack on campus all those years ago, and she had been so accepting of their relationship. He wondered what it might have been like if his father hadn't died; would he have accepted it? Ennis didn't think so.
"Hey, mama," he replied, pushing away those dark thoughts of that man who would rather have seen him dead than gay. "I know it's been a while..."
"It sure has. Everythin' okay?" she asked, and he thought he could hear something in her voice that indicated that she knew.
"Um, well...a lot's happened. Do you...already know?"
"About Alma an' Junior? Yeah," she said with a sigh, and he nodded to himself.
"Okay. Did Alma talk to you?"
"Yeah. She called me when she was tryin' to decide what to do. I told her she ought to think about what would be best for Junior, an' that I'd be supportive no matter what. I hoped that she'd let you have her, considerin' that you're her daddy. How are you copin'?"
"I'm...doin' okay. Junior's a good kid an' I think she's happy here. But...Jack's taken it hard."
"Really? How come?"
"Mostly 'cos...he wanted to have kids with me somehow, an' then Junior came along. She's my kid but not really his an' I think it gets to him now an' then. An'...did Alma tell you about her parental rights?"
"Yeah, that she's signed them over to Jack," Ellen replied, remembering what Alma had said to her over the phone. "So he can adopt Junior."
"That's it. Thing is...I ain't too sure if he can do it. He's been havin' real trouble with the whole thing, an' we already had a fight 'cos I didn't think I could leave Junior so soon. He wanted us to go to Pride like we do every year, but I thought it was too soon to leave her."
"Ennis...I know it can't be easy for him, but at least you understand that. You know, before I met your daddy I was thinkin' of goin' to college myself. But then my daddy wanted to marry me off an' yer daddy was around...they couldn't get rid of me quick enough. They wanted me to give 'em grandkids, an' I was to be a wife an' mother no matter what. The point is...I learnt to deal with the disappointment that my life wasn't goin' the way I wanted. I learnt to adapt an' to find new ways of bein' happy. An' I reckon Jack's tryin' to find his way, too."
"What d'you mean?" he asked, hoping that Jack wasn't thinking of leaving him to be happy elsewhere. But Jack was equally scared of them breaking up, so it wasn't likely.
"He's been thinkin' that you two are gonna have a kid together somehow. An' now this has happened with Junior an' it ain't what he expected. He's just tryin' to adjust to this an' cope with the change in direction. I bet it wasn't easy for you, when you decided you wanted to be with him."
"No, it wasn't," he agreed, and she nodded to herself. "I thought I'd end up with a girl, even if it wasn't Alma. Never thought I'd fall for a guy."
But you adjusted," she reminded him. "Because you wanted to be with him, an' because you loved him. To you, it was worth changin' your thinkin'. An'...I reckon Jack knows how important it is for him to change his thinkin'. It's what he needs to do to make this work with you. He'd just tryin' to find a new way of bein' with you. As the stepfather of your daughter an' not just as your husband. All new parents go through that in their own way, especially if they didn't expect to be parents."
Ennis digested her words, seeing how true they were. Jack really was trying to get used to having Junior around, and they both knew that it was very important for him to do that. Ennis didn't want to rush him, so he knew that he had to simmer things down a little.
"You're right...he's just tryin' to adjust. An' I've told him there's no pressure to sign those papers. He don't have to do it until he's ready, an' he told me that he will be one day. I can wait for him, mama. Like you said...it'll be worth it."
"That's it, my boy. Listen, I gotta go now but I'll be in touch again. I'd like to see my granddaughter sometime."
"Yeah, that'd be good. So...see you then." They clicked off and Ennis spied Jack walking into the café, looking happy. "Hey."
"Hey yourself," Jack replied, surprised by the kiss that was planted on his lips. "What was that for?" he asked as he sat down.
"Just 'cos I love you," Ennis shrugged, smiling at him and knowing that he was very lucky to have someone like Jack in his life. He hadn't expected it, but sometimes the best outcomes were the unexpected ones.
Ennis let his head fall to one side as Jack attacked his neck, biting his lip to try and stay quiet. But it was very hard when Jack was doing that to him and rubbing against him at the same time. The lights were off apart from the bedside lamp and the door was locked; the perfect opportunity to get up to something.
"Jack," he breathed, his eyes falling closed as Jack's soft bites turned to kisses. Jack seemed determined to give him a hickey and he didn't particularly care. It just felt so good to be this passionate again, and he hoped that things would only get better for them.
"Mmm," Jack moaned against his skin, trailing a hand over Ennis's stomach and knowing how sensitive that area was right now. He knew all the buttons to press that would drive Ennis crazy and he always made full use of that knowledge. "Ennis...wanna be inside you...can I?" he whispered, nuzzling his lover's face.
"Yeah," Ennis replied, knowing that he needed it that way as much as Jack did. He no longer cared that another man was dominating him like that; he loved how Jack felt inside him. Jack knew how to make him feel good, too. "Go on...fuck me..."
Jack rose up and looked down at him, cheeks flushed and hair in disarray. He had a dark, lustful look in his eyes and Ennis gulped in anticipation. When Jack was heavily aroused like this, he knew he was in for a good night. Jack prepared himself with the lube and kept his eyes fixed on Ennis's, seeing that Ennis kept glancing at his erection and the fluid already leaking from it. "You want that, cowboy?" he whispered, advancing on him, and Ennis nodded.
"Yeah..." Jack smirked and flipped him over; that was the best way when they wanted it hard; doing it face to face would just be painful at the pace they were due to go as it strained their hips too much.
"This okay?" Jack breathed in Ennis's ear, remembering to make sure that Ennis was alright with this. Ennis nodded, resting on his knees and taking deep breaths.
"Uh huh." He shivered as he felt Jack behind him, knowing that he was about to be fucked hard and looking forward to it. Jack wrapped an arm around his waist and started to push in, trying not to hurt him even in his passion. He eased himself in until he was fully buried and he gently rubbed Ennis's back, letting him know that it was okay.
Jack pushed Ennis down slightly so that he could lean over him, reaching up with his hands to interlace their fingers; even when they went at it like this it was important to remember that they loved each other and that it was about more than just sex. "Tell me when you're ready," Jack murmured in Ennis's ear, and they shifted together until both were comfortable. Ennis then let out a sigh and told Jack that he was ready.
They moved slowly at first, finding their pace, and Jack kissed Ennis's back as he moved inside him, feeling his love for Ennis fill his heart and mind. He did love it when Ennis topped him, but he loved this too and was glad that they could be equals; it added up to a healthy sex life and a good relationship.
After a few minutes, Jack gripped Ennis's hips and picked up the pace, pulling out only a little before pushing back in, hard. Ennis groaned in both pain and pleasure as Jack tried to get even further inside him, fucking him hard and panting in his ear. "Fuck...Jack..."
"That's what I'm doing, bud," Jack replied with a gasp. "Fucking you hard, like I told you. Damn, Ennis...you feel so good..."
"So do...you," Ennis choked out, lowering his head to the pillow and raising his hips for Jack, who was pleased that he was making Ennis respond like this. There was some part of him that was very aroused by the fact that Ennis was at his mercy like this; he would never hurt Ennis or force him into anything but he liked how they could be like this. He knew that Ennis trusted him and that was why he felt okay about doing this. "God, I love you..."
"Love you too." Jack kept his strokes hard and fast, watching as he moved in and out of his lover and marvelling at how much Ennis could take. It was lucky that they were both tough guys who could take a good pounding and still enjoy it. "Love you so fucking much..."
He leaned right over Ennis's back and lowered one hand to Ennis's crotch, taking hold of him and jerking him off quickly in a way that he knew would make Ennis explode very soon. "Come on, come for me, baby," he breathed in his lover's ear, and that did it. Ennis shot hard onto the bed and bucked his hips, contracting his muscles and affecting Jack. A few more strokes into a trembling Ennis and Jack was done, coming deep inside him and trying not to pass out from exhaustion.
They collapsed together on the bed, Jack's cheek stuck to Ennis's back as they both tried to breathe again. "Damn," Ennis whispered, head spinning from what they'd just done. Jack pulled out and fell onto him again.
"Yeah. That was...so good. Are you okay?" he asked, rubbing Ennis's back. Ennis turned over and wrapped his arms around Jack, kissing his lips softly.
"I'm fine, darlin'. An' that was...well...ain't been like that for a while, have we?"
"No...I missed that." Jack smiled at him and they nuzzled their noses together, feeling happy and satisfied. There was nothing quite like this for either of them, and they both had the feeling that everything would be okay. All they had to do was hold on to each other and remember how they felt; hopefully that would be enough to keep them together.
The next day was Independence Day, so Ennis and Jack decided to take Junior out for the day. They knew that there would be fireworks later on, so that was something to look forward to. The main street of the town was usually blocked off for the parade and then the stalls afterwards, and there was plenty for them to do. Ennis and Jack usually enjoyed this day and hoped that Junior would too.
"What d'you wanna do first?" Ennis asked as they reached the main part of town, where crowds were milling about already.
"Don't know. The parade isn't until noon, but we can look through the shops," Jack replied, seeing the look of wonder on Junior's face. Things were going very well now and they were happy, having cleared everything up. And Jack knew he would never forget last night and what they'd done; that was a precious memory to him. He didn't top as much as Ennis did, only when he really felt the need for it or if Ennis felt that need, but he enjoyed it when they did it that way. He remembered their first time back in college and how nervous Ennis had been.
He could recall the look in Ennis's eyes as he'd first entered him, wide in shock at the initial pain but then relaxing as he got used to the feeling. And Ennis had gazed up at him the entire time until he had to close his eyes; Jack had been so happy to see how he was making Ennis feel.
The three of them wandered through the shops, seeing how everything was decorated with flags and lots of merchandise. Both of them remembered that they should call their parents later, which again made Ennis wonder if things might be different if his father was alive. He would now never know if his father could make peace with who he was and his decision to be with Jack.
"You okay?" Jack asked in a low voice as they walked, taking Ennis's free hand; his other was holding onto Junior. He gave a gentle squeeze as Ennis shrugged.
"Just...thinkin' about my dad. If he'd lived...would he be okay with us? With me bein' this way?"
"I don't know, bud," Jack sighed, knowing that this really got to Ennis whenever he thought about it. "But I know your mom accepts us; she was even at our wedding. I remember when she came to see us on campus; she seemed okay with it even then."
"Yeah. An' I'm glad I've still got her, but..."
"You'll never know if your dad might have changed his mind," Jack finished for him in a quiet voice, nodding. "I know..." He kissed Ennis's cheek as they walked on, just trying to make him feel better.
Just before the parade was due to start, they headed into a small café for lunch and watched the other patrons as they waited, seeing how the day was being celebrated in their community. Jack couldn't help but see some parallels with Pride; it was about celebrating freedom and community spirit, and everybody went all-out for it. He loved living here in this little corner of the world where nobody would hurt or discriminate against them. It was the safest place for them to live, and the safest for them to bring up Junior.
Ennis glanced at Jack now and then as they ate; he seemed a lot happier than he had been over the last few weeks. Now that they had finally talked and cleared the air about their feelings, it was as if everything was suddenly okay. He couldn't believe that everybody had been right, and that they had sorted this without a huge fight; he didn't like arguing with Jack and it was a waste of time anyway. He would much rather spend their time showing each other their love, and being happy together. Arguing would not achieve anything except the possibility of a breakup, which they both wanted to avoid at all costs. Ennis didn't think he could live without Jack in his life now, and hoped that he would never have to.
"We better get a move on if we wanna catch that parade," Jack was saying as he checked his watch, breaking into Ennis's chain of thought.
"Right," he agreed, finishing his lunch and helping Junior out of the booth. They headed back outside and found a good spot to watch it from; Ennis had Junior stand in front of them so that she could see, and he placed his hands on her shoulders protectively.
After the parade, which Junior had enjoyed, they walked along the street to the various stalls and looked at the hand-crafted items on display. While Ennis was preoccupied with Junior, Jack paused by a stall that was selling homemade candles; small ones that could be placed around the bathroom if he had a mind to. Smiling to himself, he picked up a case of the sandalwood scented ones and caught Ennis's eye.
"You'll see," he said innocently as Ennis wondered what he'd bought. He knew the look in Jack's eyes; he was planning something romantic and spontaneous for them. Ennis smiled and made sure he was holding onto Junior as they walked after Jack.
"Lookin' forward to them fireworks tonight," Ennis commented as Junior looked at the handmade toys. Jack nodded and leaned in.
"Yeah...and then the fireworks we'll be making when we're all alone," he whispered, and Ennis bit back a grin.
"That so?" he asked, trying to ignore the slight swelling he was experiencing at the thought.
"Yep. We're taking a bath tonight, bud. Just you and me." He kissed Ennis's cheek and moved forward to see what Junior had found. Ennis watched them affectionately and saw how good Jack could be with her; he didn't want Jack to feel rushed into signing those papers, but he knew that Jack would be a good father if he just gave himself the chance.
After an eventful day in town, the three of them returned to the apartment for another bite to eat before heading back out for the fireworks. They would be watching the fireworks from the park and were looking forward to it.
While Junior was taking a short nap, Ennis and Jack sat on the sofa together and took a breather. Ennis kissed Jack a couple of times before resting his head on Jack's shoulder.
"Had a good day today," he commented, and Jack nodded, kissing his forehead.
"Sure did. You know, I was thinking earlier...about how Fourth of July is kind of similar to Pride, in a way. I mean, it's about freedom and...well, pride. Don't you think?"
Ennis nodded, seeing the logic in Jack's words. "I guess." He looked up at Jack, taking his hand. "I promise...we can go to Pride in Boston next year. It was just too soon this time, with Junior comin' to live with us."
"I know," Jack replied, squeezing his hand. "And I can see that now. I guess I was...kind of selfish at the time. Wanting nothing to change even though everything had...it wasn't fair to you to have to put up with that...and I'm sorry."
"It's okay," Ennis told him in a soft voice, sitting up and kissing him again. "It really is, Jack. Doesn't matter now." He smiled and patted Jack's leg. "We better get a move on soon if we wanna catch those fireworks."
"Don't forget, cowboy...you and me have a bath date," Jack called after Ennis as he headed for Junior's bedroom. Ennis smirked.
"Like I'm gonna forget that." Jack grinned and got up, walking to the bathroom and goosing Ennis as he passed.
When all three of them were ready, they left the apartment once more and slowly made their way to the park, seeing that a lot of people were already heading in that direction.
"Ennis! Jack!" It was Jessica and Amy, who were a few feet behind them with smiles on their faces. "Hey, you guys. Hey, Junior."
"Hi," she replied shyly, standing close to Ennis. Jack smiled at their friends.
"We're heading for the park to watch the fireworks...you wanna join us?" The girls nodded and the group walked on, talking and enjoying the atmosphere around them. Jack thought about what it might have been like if he and Ennis didn't have Junior; if they would adopt a child or go via an egg donor and surrogate. They knew a few women who they thought would be willing to help them, such as Lureen and these two, and he wondered if it would ever happen.
They reached the area of the park where everybody seemed to be congregated and stood together. Ennis couldn't stop thinking about later tonight, when he and Jack would make use of their bathtub for once. There was no better way to take a bath as far as he was concerned; it was always interesting when they were in there together.
Jessica and Amy kept an eye on Junior while Ennis stood behind Jack and slid his arms around his waist, wanting to hold him and just breathe him in. He was still so much in love with Jack and he was grateful for every day they had together. Things would never be the exact same as before now that they had Junior, but they would simply be different. He was starting to believe that Jack could cope with this situation and would sign the papers soon.
"Mmm," he moaned softly, kissing Jack's neck. "I love you..."
"Have you been drinking?" Jack asked, grinning as Ennis squeezed him. "You're horny."
"No, I ain't been drinkin'," Ennis protested, rolling his eyes. "Just...can't a man tell his fella that he loves him?" Jack turned in his arms, a sincere look in his eyes.
"'Course he can, bud. I was just messing..." Ennis kissed him on the mouth and smirked.
"I know. But...I do love you, Jack. You oughta know that by now..." He sometimes worried that Jack wasn't aware of just how strong his feelings were. He knew that Jack knew he loved him very much, and that he was the love of Ennis's life, but Ennis didn't know what else he could say to describe his deepest feelings. The words would never come to him no matter how much he tried to find them. He just couldn't describe what he felt for this man.
"Are you okay?" Jack asked, seeing that Ennis looked like something was troubling him. Ennis shook his head.
"I just...I wish I could find the words to...let you know what I'm feelin', bud. I feel real strong on you, an' I don't know what to say except the obvious." He hung his head. "Wish I could...it gets to me that I can't...an' I keep thinkin' that you don't know how much I..."
Jack kissed him to shut him up, knowing what Ennis was trying to say. "It's okay, baby, It really is. You say all the right things when you have the right moment. And...I'm sure the right words for you will come in their own time. If it's important for you to find them, I'm sure you will. I know you love me, Ennis. And I know how much. You don't need to say those words for me, whatever they are. But if you want to say them for your benefit, then you'll figure out what they are. I know it."
The sound of a firework soaring upwards caught their attention and Jack turned back around, feeling warm and safe in Ennis's arms. As the five of them watched the display and thought about their lives, they all felt as if everything was falling into place for them.
Jack thought about Ennis's frustration at not being so great with words, but he had to admit that he'd never seen that himself. Ennis always seemed to know what to say to make him feel like nobody else ever could, and he hoped that Ennis could one day see it in himself.