Chapter 16

October 15th, 2012

On Monday, Ennis and Jack were due to meet for lunch again in the city. Despite what else was going on in their lives, their lawyer had told them that it would be for the best if they tried to carry on with their day-to-day lives as normal. Ennis could see the sense in this and he hoped that Jack did too.

As it was, they were trying to continue with their adoption application. They had been working on it at every opportunity when Jack felt up to it, and things were coming together now. Jack's mother Karen had written a letter of recommendation for them; they had considered asking Lureen, but she lived out of state so they hadn't wanted to risk it. As it was, Karen had written them a wonderful letter that showed them in a good light. She seemed very confident that they would make great parents despite their HIV status.

Apart from the nightmare, Jack had enjoyed his birthday. He'd had fun with Ennis playing strip Twister, and the night of lovemaking in front of the fire had been wonderful. Ennis had made him momentarily forget everything that was going on, and he appreciated it greatly.

Jack walked down the street towards the café where they were going to meet. He always looked forward to this time of day, to see Ennis during a busy work day. As he rounded the corner, he spotted Ennis walking towards him and grinned. "Hey, you."

"Hey, darlin'..." They kissed when they met up outside the café, happy to see each other again. Sometimes it felt like days when they were apart. "Have a good morning?"

"Yeah, it was fine. The guys have all been really supportive, talking to me about the case. I didn't tell anybody about the nightmare, not even Sam. Couldn't do it." By now, Ennis had Jack in his arms, fingers locked at his back.

" least you're coping with it," Ennis pointed out, smiling at him. Jack had recovered over the weekend, to his relief. They'd managed to have sex last night and it had been very enjoyable for both of them. Ennis could remember having his head in between Jack's legs for a time before pushing into him. He grinned at the memory.

"You're thinking about last night, aren't you?" Jack asked when he saw Ennis grinning. There was no mistaking that look.

"Can't help it. Sure was good to be like that." He kissed Jack again and let go of him, taking his hand instead and leading him into the café. "Anyway, what d'you want for lunch?"

They sat down in a corner table, looking out of the window as they did so. This city was always so full of life and they loved it.

As they waited for their food, Ennis reached over and entwined his fingers with Jack's, smiling at him. "So, our adoption application. What did you think of your mom's letter?"

"Yeah, I liked it," Jack agreed. "I mean, Peter said that whoever wrote it could be as biased as they wanted, showing us in the best light possible. And she certainly did that, didn't she?"

"Sure did. Jack, I've been meaning to ask...are you okay with us carrying on with the application? With everything that's going on? It's like you said...there is a chance that you'll be found guilty and I know it'll be hard for us if we get our hopes up. If we're put on a waiting list...and then..."

Jack nodded. "I see what you mean, Ennis. I know it's hard, but maybe it's a good thing that we're carrying on with it. If we put it on hold now, and everything turns out okay, it could be a while before we get things started up again. At least this way, we're preparing for whatever could happen."

"And...if you are locked up?" Ennis asked, choosing his words carefully when he remembered Jack's nightmare. Jack sighed, looking down.

"Then that's it. When I'm released, I don't think they'd let me adopt a child with that kind of record. I'm sorry if that happens..."

Ennis shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I'd rather be with you and childless than without you and having even one kid." He smiled. "I love you too much to be without you."

Jack smiled back at him. "Well...let's just try to focus on our application for now. Looks like it's going well, with that letter. I'm glad my mom was able to do it for us."

"Me too. She did say that she wanted to help us however she could, so...I guess she gets something out of it too, you know?"

"I know she's looking forward to being a grandma," Jack pointed out. "But I'm guessing you won't want your parents having any contact?"

"No, not after this. I know they'd be grandparents but...they've ruined any chance they did have of having contact. If we have a kid, I don't want them telling him or her that one of their dads is a deranged murderer or something," Ennis replied bitterly. "Even if you're not charged, they were still willing to do it and...I hate them for it. As soon as this is over, I'm cutting them off for good. I'll tell them at the trial if I have to."

Jack could recall the years in which he had not spoken to his own father due to him hating how Jack was positive, and it pained him that Ennis was going through something similar. But this was still Ennis's choice and he respected that. He could be honest; he understood why Ennis felt like this.

"Fair enough," he agreed as they ate. "So...let's talk about something else. What d'you reckon about going over to Long Island sometime, to see my mom?"

"Yeah, I'd like that." And soon enough, they were talking about more pleasant things to take their minds off the trial. It was all they could do right now.

The day was uneventful, which Ennis and Jack both welcomed at the moment. With every new day, Jack was reminded of how the trial loomed ever closer. There was just over four weeks to go now and he was starting to get nervous, despite the numerous attempts from Ennis, Karen and even Lureen that everything would be okay.

Ennis was doing everything he could to try and take Jack's mind off the whole thing, even though he knew that he wasn't having much success. Jack wouldn't be able to truly relax until all of this was over, so they just had to wait it out. Ennis sometimes wondered if Jack's sanity would last that long, given how scared he was.

He'd spoken to Jack's mother and Lureen a few times for advice on what to do, and all they could suggest were the things he was already doing. Still, he knew that Jack appreciated how he was always there for him. In bed at night, he would hold Jack closer than ever in an attempt to make him feel safe. There hadn't been any more nightmares but Jack still had trouble falling asleep. He considered buying some lavender oil; Lureen swore by it when she couldn't sleep. Jack had seemed afraid to go to sleep, and Ennis knew he was scared of having more nightmares so was thus trying to stay awake. This wasn't healthy and he knew it; he had to do something to make Jack fall asleep if he wouldn't do it himself willingly. He didn't like to manipulate Jack but this was for his own good.

"You alright?" he asked Jack softly as they sat on the sofa after dinner, idly watching TV. Jack nodded, seeming to shake himself out of his reverie.

"Yeah, fine. Just...thinking. Four weeks left..." Jack sounded distant and Ennis knew how much he was worrying about it. He couldn't even imagine how terrifying it must have been for Jack that day in the park so many years ago, and how it was all coming back to him now.

"I know. But just remember, we've got a good defence and I reckon we can win this, you know? We just have to try and not panic."

Jack sighed, resting his head against Ennis's chest. "Can't help it. That nightmare, really shook me up badly. It was so real, like I was really there. And then seeing his face..." A shiver ran through him and Ennis felt it; he squeezed Jack gently to soothe him.

"'s alright. I know how much he scares you, after what he did. And I would rather break his legs than let him go after you again. But he's locked away and there's no guarantee that you will be too. The two cases are completely different. He preyed on two strangers because he's sick in the head, so he deserved to be locked up. You accidentally infected your partner. I consented to having sex with you that night, and I've always known about your HIV status. So it's just like Peter said; even if it had been on purpose, I would've given my permission to be infected. Which, in turn, makes my parents' claims false."

"You're right, and I know that," Jack agreed. "It's just this fear of being locked's messing me up and I hate it. And I'm sorry to say this, but...I hate your parents for doing this." He didn't like admitting this, but it was true. He felt more resentful towards them every time he broke down; this was all their fault.

"You're not the only one," Ennis told him, kissing the top of his head. "I do too. Tell you what...let's go to bed. You want a backrub?" If it helped Jack fall asleep, he was willing to do it; Jack needed some rest and Ennis would have to take matters into his own hands.

"Mmm...that sounds good," Jack agreed, nodding. They moved off the sofa and Ennis locked up while Jack went into the bedroom. He smiled when Ennis entered the room; there was nobody else that Jack trusted more than this man. He was sure that Ennis would never hurt him, certainly not on purpose. And Ennis would actively try and prevent hurting him by accident. Ennis still hadn't quite forgiven himself for their brief break-up and what it had taken to knock some sense into him.

"Come here," Ennis said softly, reaching for his buttons. He kissed Jack's neck as he removed the shirt, tossing it to the floor. Then they knelt down onto the bed and stretched out, Jack lying on his front with his head resting on his arms. Neither of them was after sex tonight; Ennis wanted to help Jack sleep. "Just relax, bud."

He grabbed the massage oil and warmed it between his hands, then straddled Jack and went to work. He slowly rubbed his hands over Jack's shoulders, hearing a sigh escape from him. "That's good..." Ennis always seemed to know what he needed, and he could feel himself succumbing to the fatigue that had plagued him over the past few days.

Ennis lavished attention all over the glowing skin, looking down at Jack lovingly as he did so. He worked out the tension in Jack's muscles, smoothing them out and seeing how Jack was relaxing underneath him. "You feel better?"

"Mmmhmm," came a mumble from Jack, his eyes closed. After another minute, Ennis heard the shift in Jack's breathing; he had fallen asleep, at long last.

Thank God, he thought to himself. Hopefully Jack wouldn't have any more nightmares tonight; that was definitely something to be happy about and they could make the most of such a reprieve.

He removed his own shirt and pulled the quilt over them both, hoping not to disturb Jack now that he was sleeping. He moved closer to his lover but didn't touch him; Jack needed this. Instead, he simply smiled and pressed a soft kiss to Jack's shoulder. "Night, darlin'," he whispered before closing his own eyes.

October 18th, 2012

On Thursday, Ennis and Jack both ended up with the afternoon off so decided to go home early. They always preferred it when they were alone together, and not just so they could have sex if the mood struck them. They were comfortable in each other's presence.

At the moment, they were sat at either end of the sofa with their socked feet meeting in the middle. Ennis was reading the newspaper and absent-mindedly playing footsie with Jack, who was trying to talk to Lureen on his laptop.

"So how're things over there?" he asked her. She looked well these days and he hoped that she was happy. If they weren't trying to adopt and he'd thought that Lureen wasn't happy over there, he would have considered asking her to move in with them; she had always been like a sister to him.

"I'm doing good. Making some money now and everything's fine. Not dating anyone right now, but I'm always looking."

Jack nodded. "I hope you find someone, Lu. I reckon you're a great catch; a guy would be lucky to have you. sure you're not into women? Just asking..."

She grinned. "No, I'm not. Might be easier if I was, but I'm into guys. Still, I guess that if I did fall for a woman it wouldn't be so scary. Things are changing all the time for gay people and you never know; that Proposition 8 could be repealed at any time."

"That's true," he agreed. "But I can't see us living in California ever again, even if it is. We've moved on, you know?"

"I know. And I never thought I'd see you living in New York ever again, but there you are. Looks like you've got yourself someone really special, Jack."

Jack looked up and saw that Ennis's cheeks had turned pink; he'd heard that. "I sure have," he replied, nudging Ennis's feet with his own.

"So, how have you been? Ennis told me about your nightmare and how you've not been sleeping."

Jack sighed. "I didn't know he'd told you that..."

"I had to," Ennis cut in, looking at him sadly. "I needed advice on what to do for you, and she's worried about you."

"He's right, Jack," Lureen added. "Don't be mad at him."

"I'm not," he replied truthfully, then gave a weary smile. "I'm glad I've got you guys."

"So...?" she prompted. "How are you feeling now?"

"Better," he assured her. "He tricked me the other night; gave me a backrub just to make me fall asleep."

"You weren't gonna do it on your own," Ennis replied, eyes scanning over the paper. Jack smiled.

"I know. You were just trying to do the right thing and I appreciate it." Lureen cleared her throat, trying to get his attention.

"Alright, you two lovebirds. As long as you're feeling okay now, Jack. I know that none of this is easy but you've just got to try and plough through it. You hear me?"

"Yes, ma'am," he replied, smirking at her; she'd always hated it when he called her that, saying that it made her feel old. He caught Ennis smirking too.

Lureen scowled at him, just as he'd predicted. "Don't call me that."

"Sorry. So we'll see you soon?"

"Hopefully, yeah. As soon as I can get some time off, I'll let you know. Bye, Jack. Bye, Ennis!" she said louder so he could hear her.

They said goodbye to her and Jack put the laptop on the coffee table, giving Ennis a look; his partner was still reading the paper. He crawled forward until he was up close to Ennis, grinning. Ennis met his eyes. "Can I help you?" he teased, putting his paper aside. He knew that look.

"Maybe," Jack replied, leaning in. They kissed for a few moments and Jack settled himself on Ennis's chest, his ear over Ennis's heart. "Just wanted to be near you."

Ennis wrapped his arms around him, kissing the top of his head. "Don't have to ask for that, Jack. You know I like having you right near me. Love holding you..."

"Mmm..." Jack closed his eyes, feeling warm and cosy here. He could fall asleep, which was probably a good thing. Ennis just felt so secure to him, like he would protect him from anything. It was a good feeling, one that he would never tire of as long as he lived. "I love you."

Ennis smiled down at him, looking over to the balcony doors when he realised that it had started to rain. He had always loved being inside and warm while it rained outside. Especially since he was here with Jack; a warm weight on his stomach that he never wanted to be rid of.

The rain pounded on the gravel of the balcony, but Jack didn't stir as he had indeed fallen asleep again; Ennis figured he was catching up with the sleep he'd deprived himself of. He gently stroked Jack's hair, thinking. He couldn't say for sure what would happen at the trial, but he did know that if Jack was sent to prison, it wouldn't be the end. Even if he couldn't get Jack out as soon as he would like, he would still be there when Jack was released. No matter what Jack might have been subjected to while inside, no matter how badly damaged he might be, Ennis knew he would still want to be with him. Jack could undergo therapy to help him with whatever he'd been through, and Ennis hoped that his unwavering love could help with the recovery. There were options, even if Jack was too scared to see them right now.

As he held Jack in his arms, Ennis briefly wished that he was the one facing the charges, so that Jack wouldn't suffer anymore. But then he realised that he didn't want Jack to be worrying as he was either. It was a vicious cycle and he didn't know where it might end.

Jack had been asleep for about half an hour, during which time Ennis had also fallen asleep. The rain soon stopped but it was still grey outside, and both of them were completely oblivious as they slept on. These were always Ennis's favourite days with Jack; when they could just forget the world and spend quiet time together.

There were no nightmares today; Jack was busy dreaming of Ennis and what it might be like for them to adopt a child. Hopefully, there would come a day when someone would call to tell them that there was a baby waiting to be taken home; that would be amazing. He was starting to get paternal feelings now and he hoped that they could be fulfilled.

Ennis was dimly aware of a ringing sound nearby, and he finally woke up in time to see Jack reaching for his phone on the coffee table. "Here you go," he said to Ennis with a smile. His eyes were starting to form sleep in the corners. "Didn't think you were gonna wake up in time."

"Thanks," he replied before putting the phone to his ear. "Hello?"

"Is this Ennis Del Mar or Jack Twist?" asked a female voice at the other end. Ennis cleared his throat while Jack lay back down, watching him. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, which Ennis found inexplicably endearing.

"Del Mar," he replied. "Who's calling?"

"Mr Del Mar, I'm Claire Simmons from the adoption agency. I understand that you and your husband Mr Twist made an application earlier this week?"

"Yeah, we did," he said to her, running a hand along Jack's back comfortably. He could have sworn that he heard Jack purr at the contact. "So what's this about?"

"I just wanted to let you know that your application is being processed and is awaiting approval. It shouldn't take long."

"Oh, okay. Do you have any idea how long?" he asked her. Jack looked up at him in confusion.

"We're aiming for the first week of November," she informed him. "If it all goes well, then I will be making a visit soon after to assess your living space and meet you in person. I hope this is okay."

"Yeah, that's fine," he replied, smiling down at Jack. "We look forward to it. Okay, bye." He hung up, exhaling.

"What was that about?" asked Jack, deep blue eyes fixed on him. Ennis smiled wider, putting his phone back and looking down at him.

"Woman from the adoption agency. She says our application is being processed and is awaiting approval."

"Really?" Jack asked, eyes now lighting up. "That's great!" He kissed Ennis on the lips. "So did she say how long it might be?"

"She said the first week of November, with her visiting soon after if it's alright." Jack's eyes lowered, seeming to deflate before his eyes. It didn't take a genius to figure out why.

"'d have to be before the fourteenth," he said quietly. "I might not be around after..."

Ennis sighed and pulled him back down. "Come on, Jack. Don't go thinking like that. You don't know what might happen. It might all work out for us."

Jack groaned. "I know, and that's what gets me. I know deep down that there's a good chance I'll be found not guilty. But every time I think about what could happen, it just makes me think that there's not much chance after all." He pulled away from Ennis and sat up, rubbing the back of his head. "I know it's completely irrational but I can't help it."

Ennis sat up too, sighing. "Jack...don't let it get to you. As far as I can see, you've got every reason to think like that. You're scared, and people do think the worst when they're scared. I bet that right now, you can't even picture them not finding you guilty, right?"

"Yeah...I can only see what I'm scared of," Jack admitted, seeing the sense that Ennis was making. "I'm a basket case, aren't I?" Ennis grasped his shoulder supportively, giving it a slight shake.

"No, you're just human. Which is more than I can say for my parents right now," he added bitterly, and Jack half-smiled.

"I guess." He turned to face his partner. "What would I do without you, huh?" Ennis smiled at him.

"You'll never have to worry about that," he promised, taking Jack's hand and kissing it. "I swear, Jack."

Jack smiled back and then looked away, staring at the empty fireplace. He had a flashback of his birthday, when they had made love right here and then fallen asleep. Ennis saw his eyes flicking over the space before them and realised what he was thinking about. "I know, darlin'. If everything goes well for us, we'll have more nights like that to celebrate."

"Sounds good to me," Jack sighed, stretching. That was something to look forward to. "You hungry? I could do with something."

Ennis looked at his watch; it was about time for dinner anyway. "Yeah, sure. What d'you want?"

"I'll make it," Jack offered. "Come on and tell me what you want." He got up and took Ennis's hand, pulling him up off the sofa and leading him to the kitchen. Another memory flashed before him, of himself and Ennis christening this kitchen soon after moving; the top of the washing machine to be precise. That was a good day; he still couldn't remember how many times they'd done it. Every time he brought it up, Ennis would blush and mumble something about it being too many times to count. They did have a lot of sex but each time left them wanting more, which they stored up for their next encounter.

They found something to eat and Jack started cooking while Ennis set the table; they always worked as a team and were confident by now that they would make good parents. All they needed now was a win at the trial, which was easier said than done.

That evening, Ennis was lying on his back in bed letting his mind go blank; Jack had his head between his legs and was busy at work. Ennis felt as if he had done most of the work during sex ever since this whole thing had started, but he was more than willing to let Jack take over if he was up to it. He knew that Jack had been feeling vulnerable, so was happy to feed Jack's confidence, as it were. Whatever made Jack happy, he was all for it.

He kept thinking back to their conversation earlier; Jack seemed to know that his thoughts about being locked up were irrational, but he still couldn't help feeling that way. Ennis felt sorry for him; Jack didn't deserve to be dealing with this after everything else that he had been through. But his thoughts were fading as he became more aroused, leaking into Jack's mouth.

"You're so good at this," he sighed, tilting his head to the side. Jack grinned around him. Ennis's new HIV status meant that they could do anything at all without protection; there were no more barriers now and he did like that. He liked how they could taste everything that the other had to give; he felt as if it had brought them closer than ever. Every cloud had a silver lining, and this was theirs.

"You taste good," he murmured, lowering his head again. He snaked his hands up to Ennis's stomach, running them over the hard muscles and smooth skin. He didn't know why, but he just felt the need to be in control tonight. He figured it might give him some self-confidence. He was already starting to leak onto the bed and didn't even need to touch himself to come.

Ennis felt his stomach tightening as his orgasm loomed closer, his breathing now coming in quick bursts. "Oh God!" he groaned and felt himself let go. Jack took it all, swallowing down the thick liquid he loved to taste; it was just so uniquely Ennis and maybe that was why he liked it so much. Nobody else knew what this was like and he liked that; they completely belonged to each other.

Jack shot onto the bed between his own legs and sighed, letting go of Ennis. He then kissed his way up Ennis's body, eventually reaching his mouth. They kissed deeply for a few moments and Jack settled down next to him. "You enjoy that?" he murmured, smiling over at his lover. Ennis nodded, eyes still closed. His chest was still heaving as he tried to catch his breath. It always amazed him how good Jack was at that.

"Sure did. You're in a good mood tonight. You feeling okay?" Jack had certainly seemed like his old self tonight, which gave Ennis some hope that he would be alright. He was still half-expecting Jack to have at least one more nightmare before this was over; it was almost inevitable and he knew it.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Jack replied. He stretched. "I really enjoyed today, Ennis. Lying with you on the sofa..." He had enjoyed being held like that; Ennis made him feel safe like nobody else ever could. He would sorely miss this if the trial didn't go their way, and he prayed that it would.

"Mmm, sure was good," Ennis agreed, opening his eyes. "I like it when it's raining outside, and we're in here all warm and cosy. It's really nice." From the high floor where they lived, it sometimes felt as if they were high above the world.

Jack curled up against him, resting his head on Ennis's chest. "Yeah. Helps me to forget everything for a moment, you know? I mean, it doesn't work for very long because of what's going on, but..." He trailed off, hoping that he'd made sense. Sometimes he felt as if his thoughts were so muddled that it helped to talk to Ennis about them; they could make sense of it all together. Ennis truly was his other half and Jack felt very lucky to have met him; it was one of the few good things to come out of being positive, for that had been the reason for his move to California.

"I know what you mean," Ennis replied, kissing the top of his head. Jack made a sigh of contentment, snuggling even closer to his warmth. "I'm just trying to make you happy, much as I can." This was the one thing that he wanted more than anything else.

"You do," Jack assured him, turning to face him. "You really do, Ennis. You make me laugh, you're always there as a shoulder to cry're really good to me, you know. When I was younger, and I first heard about what love was like, I never really knew it could be like this...every time we're together, I just..." He thought for a moment, trying to figure out what he wanted to say. But he realised that there were no words that would sufficiently describe what he felt. "I don't know...can't seem to say what I'm feeling..."

Ennis cupped his cheek. "It's okay, bud. I know what you mean. I feel the same way too. You know, I thought about it...the fact that we can't seem to say what we're feeling. Maybe it just means that our feelings are so strong that we just can't describe them."

"That's a good way of looking at it," Jack agreed, smiling. "Guess you're right." He settled down, sighing. "My feelings for you are really strong, Ennis...I'd be scared of them if they didn't make me so happy. I love you so much..."

Ennis wrapped Jack up in his arms, feeling as if his heart would burst with how happy he was. "Same to you, bud." He held Jack close until he fell asleep, hoping that tomorrow would be good for them too. Every day that Jack was happy was a good day for him.