Chapter 15

October 11th, 2012

Ennis could feel his patience growing thin. Jack's birthday was tomorrow and he didn't seem too enthusiastic about it. They were both looking forward to a night together in front of the fire, but Jack didn't seem happy about it being his birthday. Under different circumstances, Ennis would have thought that it was because he was turning thirty, but he knew that this wasn't the case.

He was doing everything he could think of to put a smile on Jack's face, going out of his way to make him happy. He was enjoying doing all of this for Jack, but it saddened him when he noticed how Jack's smiles didn't reach his eyes. What kind of damage was all of this doing to him? Where was his sweet, loving partner who had stolen his heart in a little coffee shop? He was there somewhere; Ennis could see him behind those dull, sometimes lifeless blue eyes. The only way to get him back was to win this case.

"I just don't know what the hell to do," he was saying to Lureen on the phone during his lunch break; Jack had his routine check at the doctor's, so Ennis was at home making some lunch for himself. "I'd be pissed off at him if he didn't look so beaten. I can't get mad at him for it, not when it's not his fault. I just wanna see him happy, you know?"

"And the only way is for you guys to win the case," she finished for him. "Look, Ennis...when Jack started seeing you, I swear I'd never seen him so happy. Under normal circumstances, you guys are really happy together. I've seen it with my own eyes. You just have to try and get through this as best you can. He knows that you're there for him no matter what, so just keep reminding him of how much you love him. I know that none of this is easy, but you have to try."

"Yeah. I've been thinking of trying to call my parents again, get them to drop the charges. There's a few weeks until the trial and Jack's getting worse. If they drop it now he might avoid a breakdown. You think I should?"

"It's worth a shot," she agreed. "Look, I've gotta go now. But please let me know how things are going, and tell Jack happy birthday for me."

"Will do. Bye, Lureen." He hung up and sat down with his lunch, looking at his phone and contemplating the call he was about to make. He just didn't know what else to do; there was no other way right now and he didn't think that Jack would last the next few weeks. He would of course be there for Jack if he broke down, but he knew that he would rather avoid it happening altogether. Jack was usually a very strong person, but this court case was messing him up inside and Ennis hated that.

He kept glancing at his phone as he ate, thinking over what he was going to say. He'd already tried everything he could think of to try and deter them from what they were going to do, but he had to keep trying. He would do anything to protect Jack.

He eventually picked his phone up and dialled his parents' house, hoping to get through to them this time. He still couldn't believe what they were doing.

"Hello?" asked his mother when she picked it up.

"Mom, it's me," he said to her. "I wanted to talk to you."

"Oh?" she asked. Clearly unconcerned, as far as he could tell.

"We know that the court date's been set for November 14th. We heard from our lawyer a few days ago. Jack's freaking out, saying that he's only got a few more weeks until his life changed completely." He wanted her to know the damage they were doing.

"Well, we can't help that. This is the way things are going."

"Mom, why can't you just accept that I love him and want to be with him? Aren't parents supposed to support their kids and the decisions they make? Being with him is my decision."

"Ennis, we're just thinking of you. We just want the best for you."

"The best thing would be for you to drop it and leave us alone. I want to be with Jack."

His mother sighed. "Ennis...your father and I have been talking. We know that this is difficult for you right now and we are sorry about that. But we do have a suggestion for you, if we're going to drop this. Something for you to think about."

"And what's that?" he asked warily, wondering what on earth she was going to suggest.

"If you want us to drop this, and to leave you and Jack alone...then file for divorce."

Ennis nearly dropped the phone; how on earth could she say that? "What?" he whispered. He wasn't quite sure that he had heard her correctly.

"You heard me. Use the infection as grounds for divorce and leave him. If you do that, then we will drop the charges. It's the only way, Ennis. We don't want you with him."

"So you're giving me an ultimatum. Well, then we're just gonna have to fight this. Because there is no way I'm divorcing him. I swore that I would stand by him and that's what I'm gonna do. We're gonna win this case. And even if Jack is locked up, I'll do everything I can to get him out of there. Forget it, okay? I'm not leaving him, ever." He hung up before she could reply, fuming at what she had said.

He couldn't believe what she had suggested, but even now he couldn't bear to think about it. He wouldn't even consider the thought, let alone do it; the idea of leaving Jack made him feel physically sick, for they needed each other. He would just have to help Jack fight this.

When Ennis met up with Jack after work, Jack seemed to know that something was wrong. He only had to look at Ennis's face to know that he had something to tell him.

"You gonna tell me what's wrong?" he asked as they took the subway back home. "I know that something is..."

Ennis sighed. "Yeah, there is. I was talking to my mom earlier, during lunch. I asked her again to drop the charges, and she...well, I'll tell you during dinner. Promise."

Jack nodded and rested his head on Ennis's shoulder, wondering what Sarah had said and if it was really bad. There wasn't long left until the trial and he was worrying about it more and more every day. His entire future was hanging on this one trial, and he wasn't sure of the outcome even with Ennis's support.

They got back to the apartment and Ennis turned Jack to face him, kissing his cheek. "Tell you what, I'll make dinner tonight. What d'you want?"

"We got any of those chicken pies left?" Jack asked. "The ones with the vegetables and gravy in them?" Ennis nodded.

"Yeah, I think so. I'll put them in." He went to the kitchen and set about preparing dinner for them both. Even though he would never contemplate what his mother had suggested, he had a feeling that Jack might get upset when he heard about it. He could need calming down, along with some reassurance that Ennis wasn't leaving him. Ennis didn't want to upset Jack tonight.

Ennis was aware of Jack watching him as he set the table, going over in his mind how he was going to say it. He had to make sure that Jack knew he wasn't going anywhere.

All too soon, the food was ready and they were sitting down. Jack managed to get through dinner well enough, talking about other things and putting off the inevitable. He could sense that Ennis was figuring out how to tell him the news without upsetting him. Jack appreciated it but he hated feeling so fragile; Ennis's parents didn't seem to care what they were doing to him.

"Ennis?" he asked when they were finishing. "Can you please tell me what's going on? What did your mom say?"

Ennis sighed; he didn't want to do this but he had no choice; Jack deserved to know. "Alright. This won't be easy, but I know I should tell you. But please...try not to get upset, Jack."

"Just tell me," Jack replied softly, reaching across the table. Ennis covered Jack's hand with his own.

"Well...she said that if I want them to drop the charges...I should file for divorce. That I should use the infection as a reason for leaving you."

Jack felt his heart sink and he drew his hand away. "Oh?" he asked; was Ennis thinking about it?

"Jack," Ennis said to him. "Don't. I know what you're thinking. And I can tell you that I'm not thinking about it, at all. I was disgusted when she said it and there is no way I'm gonna do it."

"You mean that?" Jack asked him, looking up into his eyes. "It's the only way to stop this..."

Ennis got up and walked around the table, pulling Jack to his feet. "Jack, look at me. I don't care what she says. I am not leaving you, ever. Even if it is the only way for them to drop the charges, I don't care. I can't be without you, Jack; I just can't. I love you and don't wanna be without you."

Jack's lip trembled and he looked away. "I know, but...maybe it's the only way. Maybe we could...I dunno...pretend to file for divorce just to get them off our backs? Peter could help us with that."

"They'd find out and pick the charges back up. And even if we do divorce and then get back together after, the same thing will happen." Ennis sighed and gently pushed Jack down back into his chair, and then knelt down beside him. "Darlin'...please believe me. I can't leave you, no matter what the reason. I don't want to."

Jack smiled sadly down at him when Ennis cupped his cheeks. "Ennis...I don't know what we're gonna do. I believe you when you say you won't leave me, but...this is hard. I'm tired of this whole thing, tired of fighting...I don't like it."

"My parents are to blame," Ennis pointed out. "They're the ones doing this to us and all we can do is keep fighting.'s your birthday tomorrow and we should celebrate. We've both taken the day off for this and we should make the most of it. Alright?"

Jack nodded. "You're right, we should. I'm sorry that I keep getting like this, bud. I don't mean to just fall apart on you like this. I keep feeling sorry for myself, not even asking how you're coping with your parents doing this to you."

Ennis shrugged. "I hated it at first, still do. And yeah...I'm hurt that they would do this and that they just can't accept you. But now...I'm more concerned about taking care of you and keeping you out of jail. That's all that matters to me now. I don't want them in my life anymore, so now I'm focusing on my future with you."

Jack sniffed and leaned down, shakily pressing his lips to Ennis's. He was truly grateful that Ennis wasn't giving up on him, but he knew that he had to try and keep it together. "I love you," he replied when they broke apart.

"I love you too," Ennis murmured, nuzzling his nose. "Tell you what; you go and sit down. I'll do the dishes and then come join you. Alright?" Jack nodded and got up, grinning when Ennis hugged him.

"You're a good man," he whispered in Ennis's ear. "You know that, right?"

"I try to be, for you," Ennis replied, squeezing him tightly as if he never wanted to let go.

On Friday morning, Jack woke up to feel Ennis kissing his neck from the side. He smiled at the soft touch and turned to face his partner. "Morning to you too."

Ennis lifted his head to meet Jack's eyes. "Morning, darlin'. Happy Birthday." He leaned in to kiss Jack on the lips.

"Thanks," Jack replied, and he sighed. "I'm gonna try to enjoy today, Ennis. Really...I know you're just trying to make me happy."

Ennis nodded and kissed his cheek, wanting to lavish attention on him today. "Good. So...what d'you want for breakfast?"

"Surprise me," Jack said with a grin, happy that he was here with Ennis despite what was going on. Ennis truly wasn't going anywhere and he was very grateful for that. Ennis got out of bed and pulled his jeans on, giving Jack a wonderful view when he bent over. Jack started to move as well, but Ennis gently pushed him back down.

"Stay there; we'll have it in bed." Jack nodded and watched him leave, feeling happy for once. Today was just for the two of them.

Ennis thought about the day ahead as he cooked a full breakfast for them both, thinking about how they were going to spend it. He was happy to cook dinner as well, but he had hoped that Jack would want to venture outside for a while. But he understood how Jack wanted it to be just them all day, given how he was feeling right now. Maybe they could sit out on the balcony later.

He brought the breakfast into the bedroom and they ate together, occasionally reaching over for a kiss or to feed each other. It felt like how it was when they had first got together, and they were having fun. This was what they were fighting for; these little moments together that warmed their hearts and kept them together. They were still so much in love with each other and neither of them wanted to see it end.

"That was great," Jack sighed when they were finished, stretching. Ennis smiled at him.

"So what do you wanna do today? You sure you don't want to go out for a few hours?"

Jack looked at him. "Ennis...I know you like walking around the city, and I do too, but...I'm just not up to it. I'm sorry..." Ennis put an arm around him.

"It's okay; I know how you're feeling. No tears today, okay? Gonna make you smile." He kissed Jack's cheek and saw him blush slightly. "There we go."

" we still have that Twister game?" Jack asked. They had bought it some time ago, after realising how erotic it could be - especially when they played strip Twister. Ennis grinned.

"Yeah, we do. You wanna play it our special way? You up for starting something?"

Jack looked over his naked chest, smirking. "Maybe..." Ennis couldn't resist when Jack was looking at him like that.

"I'll go set it up," he said quickly, rushing out of bed and grabbing a shirt as he passed. The idea was to be fully dressed when they started, eventually stripping off completely and then going at each other.

Ten minutes later, they were on the mat and Jack was about to use the spinner. "You ready? Remember, clothing off after you move."

"Let's go," Ennis replied, grinning at him.

"Alright...left hand green." They moved each other around the mat until they were both only wearing their underwear, feeling heat in the air between them as their bodies drew closer. They always loved playing this game together.

"Where now?" Ennis asked, looking around. He was to Jack's right, with one leg in between Jack's from behind and both of them facing the mat.

"Um...left hand red." Ennis saw that the only red spot was on Jack's other side, which meant he would be leaning across him. He bit back a grin and moved his hand to the spot, removing his underwear with his other hand. Jack saw him being exposed and couldn't help but feel aroused at the sight.

Jack moved his left hand over to his right to get to a blue spot and removed his own underwear, but he could no longer hold himself up with the twisting around. He fell to the mat and groaned. "Alright, you win."

Ennis smiled and lay down on top of him, kissing his neck. Then he heard a beautiful sound from beneath him; Jack was laughing. "Hey..." He nuzzled Jack's cheek.

"Can't help it," Jack replied, turning over onto his back and smiling up at Ennis. His smile was reaching his eyes. "That was fun."

"Sure was," Ennis agreed, kissing him on the mouth. He felt Jack moan softly. "I love to see you laughing, darlin'. You've been really upset lately..."

Jack nodded and wrapped his arms around Ennis's neck. "Yeah. But you're doing everything you can to cheer me up. Least I can do is meet you halfway and try to cheer up. I appreciate it, I really do."

Ennis pulled him up into a sitting position and hugged him tightly. "I'm just trying to make things better, Jack. Don't like seeing you hurt, never have. And if I can't persuade my parents to drop this, then...I'll just have to focus on you and our fight. That's all we can do now..."

After a while, they got dressed again; they wanted to save it for later in front of the fire. They went out onto the balcony and sat in the same chair again, gazing out at their wonderful view of Manhattan and the water. They were very happy here and Ennis hoped that they weren't about to lose this; it just wouldn't be the same for him without Jack. He tugged his partner a little closer and sighed, feeling as if everything he needed was right here in his arms. Jack had soon become everything to him, the one person he couldn't live without, and he was terrified of losing that. Hopefully, he wouldn't.

When evening fell, they ate dinner together at the table and then Jack started looking towards the fireplace, thinking about the romantic night they had planned. He was very much looking forward to it and knew that Ennis was too; making love together was something that they had always cherished, right from the start.

"You wanna get things set up while I do the dishes?" Ennis asked him, seeing how he kept looking over there. Jack nodded and got up, smiling at him before heading to the bedroom. They had planned to bring their quilt and pillows out with them and sleep there afterwards when they were done.

While Ennis did the dishes, he heard Jack moving around and arranging their makeshift bed in front of the fireplace. He couldn't wait for them to lie down there together and just let things happen; he wanted to put a smile on Jack's face and make him feel loved, just how he deserved. It wasn't just about the physical act itself, but more about the emotions behind it and how much they loved each other; that was more important to him than just getting off. He knew that Jack felt the same way.

When he was done, he locked the front door and looked towards the fireplace; Jack had lit it and was now standing there waiting, looking slightly nervous. Ennis moved over to him and took his hands. "Just let me take over," he whispered, nuzzling his lover's nose. Jack nodded and closed his eyes when Ennis kissed him.

What happened next was slightly blurry in the firelight, but Jack was aware of each of his senses as it happened. He saw the look of pure love in Ennis's eyes as their clothes were removed, making him feel as if he were made of glass, precious to the touch. He felt how Ennis was holding onto him as they lay down, caressing his skin gently and sending shivers through his spine. He heard the whispers of adoration in his ear as Ennis told him how beautiful he was, yearning for each other as Ennis prepared himself.

Jack could taste familiarity as Ennis kissed him, a warm wet tongue pushing into his mouth as Ennis pushed between his legs, making him tremble with arousal. And when Ennis leaned down and started moving inside him, Jack could smell his heat and want. To know that someone could feel this way about him had always humbled Jack, and he knew in his heart that he felt exactly the same about Ennis.

"Oh God," he breathed when his brain finally caught up with him. "Ennis..."

"I love you," Ennis murmured as he rocked steadily into him. This feeling was incomparable as far as he was concerned; there was nothing like it. He heard the small whimpers escaping from Jack as he moved, knowing that he was doing everything that Jack loved. He enjoyed kissing Jack as their bodies connected, curling their tongues around each other. "Don't ever doubt that..."

He pulled Jack up slightly so that he could wrap his arms around him, still moving inside him and groaning. "I...I love you too," Jack managed to croak out, head tilting back to the pillow. "Ennis, I...oh God..."

Ennis trailed a hand down Jack's stomach and took hold of him, moving it along in time to his thrusts and hearing a low, guttural moan escape from Jack; that did it. He felt hot, sticky fluid hit his stomach in ribbons and thrust even harder as Jack bucked underneath him, until he too felt himself coming.

He collapsed onto Jack, breathing heavily. It had been even better than he'd hoped for, and Jack certainly seemed happy enough.

"Ennis...that was amazing," he breathed, grinning breathlessly when their eyes met. His hair was plastered to his forehead, his cheeks were flushed pink and his eyes were a little hazy, but Ennis loved the sight of him. He pulled out of Jack and settled himself down.

"You look beautiful, darlin'...even when you look like this." He kissed the tip of Jack's nose and ran his fingers through the dark locks. "I look really happy..."

Jack smiled up at him, love in his eyes. "That's because of you. God, make me really happy, you know. And times like this, like what we just did...I can't even describe it. It's like...when we're together like this, everything just makes sense, you know? Like this is how we're meant to be and this is what we're supposed to do."

Ennis nodded, stroking his cheek gently. "I know exactly what you mean. Did you enjoy today?"

"I did. I know we didn't do much, but it was perfect. I got to spend all day with you, and that makes me happy. I know that on normal days, it's okay for us to spend time apart while we work and stuff, but...I do miss you. I bet there are some couples who drive each other mad because they spend so much time together, but I can't see that happening with us. I love spending as much time as I can with you."

"Me too. There's some who say that spending so much time together is...unhealthy or whatever. But I don't feel that. But it's like you said...we do spend just enough time apart for us to look forward to seeing each other again. I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Me neither." Then Jack yawned and Ennis smiled at him. He looked very endearing when he did that.

"Come on, let's get under." They crawled underneath the quilt, lying on the sheets together and moving in close. This had been a very romantic night for both of them and they were happy with the end result. Jack curled up against Ennis, who held him close. "Night, darlin'."

"Night, baby," Jack murmured tiredly, closing his eyes. He was happy and warm and safe, and knew that he would remain so as long as Ennis was there.

A couple of hours later, Ennis woke up to see that the fire was dying out. He and Jack were already warm by now so he didn't see the need to get up. Jack was still in his arms but had now shifted to his other side, facing away from Ennis. With a smile, Ennis remembered that this was Jack's favourite sleeping position, especially when he was feeling vulnerable.

You're so beautiful, he thought as he watched Jack sleep. He felt his heart swell with love and settled back down, softly pressing a kiss to the back of Jack's neck.

He hadn't been asleep for long when Jack started having a nightmare. He groaned in his sleep and scrunched his eyes up as the visions swam before him.

"John C Twist Junior, you stand accused of attempted murder of your husband Ennis Del Mar, by transmission of the HIV virus..."

"It's not true! It was an accident," Jack pleaded when they didn't believe him. Ennis's parents were looking smug and triumphant. As for Ennis himself, he looked helpless and heartbroken; there was nothing they could do. "Please..."

"Have the jury come to a decision?" asked the judge, and a woman stood up.

"Yes, Your Honour," she replied.

"Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the charges?"

"Guilty," she replied. Jack felt his stomach clench; this couldn't be happening.

"No..." he breathed, looking to Ennis. His partner looked at him, both of them knowing that it was over.

"Very well," replied the judge. "John C Twist Junior, you have been found guilty of attempted murder via transmission of the HIV virus. The severity of this crime incurs a prison sentence of a minimum of eight years without parole. Case closed." The judge banged the gavel and Jack turned to look at Ennis, defeat in his eyes.

"I love you," he mouthed, and Ennis nodded back, tears in his own eyes. Then Jack found himself in a prison being led down the corridor, until they showed him to a room.

His breath left his body when he saw his cellmate. Dirty blonde hair that was all too familiar. The figure turned and Jack froze at the predatory grin on his face.

"Well, Jack Twist," said Daniel Waters, leering when the door shut. "No escaping for you this time." Then Jack felt the other man grab him.

Jack sat bolt upright, yelling out with fear. Ennis jerked awake and saw the state he was in. "Jack?" He too sat up when he saw how wide Jack's eyes were and that he sweating. But when he put a hand on Jack's shoulder, he jumped away and wrapped his arms around his knees. Ennis didn't know what to do when Jack started sobbing, shaking all over. "Jack?" he repeated softly, moving close but not touching him. "Darlin', talk to me."

"Nightmare," Jack choked out. "Day of the trial...they found me guilty. But then..."

"What?" Ennis asked, although he could already guess. There was only one person who could scare Jack like that.

"They led me to a prison cell. Daniel Waters was there. He...he grabbed me..." Jack trembled again and Ennis wished he could comfort him.

"Jack, look at me. Come on..." He tentatively placed his hand on Jack's shoulder again, relieved when Jack didn't flinch. Slowly, Jack turned to look at him. His eyes were bloodshot and so full of terror that it nearly broke Ennis's heart. If only his parents could see the damage they were doing.

"Ennis...I'm terrified," Jack whispered, still shaking. Very slowly, Ennis moved closer and coaxed Jack into his arms, making soothing sounds that he knew would help. Jack allowed himself to be held, feeling safe now that Ennis was here. "I..."

"I know, bud. I'm really sorry you had to go through that...but I'm gonna make sure that it never becomes real, okay? It's just a dream and that's how it's gonna stay."

"You don't know that," Jack replied, trying to calm down. "You can't guarantee that I won't be found guilty. There's every chance I could be, and then..." He sniffed and Ennis started rubbing his back.

"Shh...calm down, Jack. Won't do you any good to panic, you know. Try and calm wasn't real, and I'm here now. Shh..."

Eventually, Jack managed to stop shaking and he pulled his face away from Ennis's shoulder. "I got you all wet," he said, wiping Ennis's shoulder from where he'd been crying into it. Ennis shrugged.

"That's what I'm here for." He thumbed Jack's tears from his cheeks and eyes, kissing his face as he did so. Jack smiled in spite of himself, enjoying the soft touches. "You gonna be okay?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah, now that you're here. It was...really scary, Ennis. So real..."

"Well, it wasn't," Ennis assured him. "And I swear...I'm gonna do everything I can to make sure it never is. Alright?" Jack nodded again and Ennis nodded back down to the pillows. "You wanna try for some more sleep?"

"Yeah..." They lay back down facing each other, Ennis holding onto Jack tightly. He gently pressed his lips to Jack's, glad that he was finally still and no longer shaking. That kind of nightmare must have affected him badly, and Ennis was scared for him. What if he had more as the trial loomed closer? What if he had one where Daniel Waters actually did attack him again? He wasn't sure if he could help Jack recover from that one so quickly, but then he realised he didn't care; he would stay by Jack's side and soothe him, no matter how long it took.

When Jack fell asleep again, Ennis felt a protective surge rise up inside him. If he'd had it in him, he would have killed that bastard with his own hands for hurting Jack. But he knew he couldn't; he had to stay here and take care of Jack; he was needed and he knew he would do anything to take the pain away.