August 12th, 2012
On Sunday, Ennis and Jack had meetings with their lawyer and their doctor. They were both aware that they had to gather as much information as they could before doing anything.
As they sat in the waiting room of their lawyer's office, they were looking through the leaflet on artificial insemination and how it all worked. Jack hadn't said anything, but he was looking forward to helping Ennis donate sperm when the time came; he figured they could make it fun and enjoy themselves.
"You sure about us asking Lureen to do this?" Ennis suddenly asked, looking at him. "I mean...she'd have to give up her baby. I know we'll let her visit whenever she wants, but it'll still be hard for her."
Jack nodded. "I know, and I've been thinking about that. It's up to her if she's willing to do it, and we'll just have to remind her of that. Maybe when the kid's older, they can spend time with her over there."
"Yeah, that'd be good." Ennis thought for a moment. "Shame we live so far apart...if she lived here then she could move in with us or something. But she's got her own life over there."
"I know. I'm sure we'll figure it all out." Just as they squeezed their hands together, the receptionist told them they could go into the office.
Peter was waiting for them, smiling when they saw him. He had always been a good friend to Jack and his family, especially when Daniel Waters had been caught. "Hey, you two. How are you doing?"
"We're good," Jack replied as they sat down. "I was wondering if you could give us advice about something."
"I'll certainly try." At this, they explained to him what they wanted to do and that they had chosen to have Lureen as the mother of their baby.
"So basically, we need some legal advice for how it's all supposed to work."
Peter nodded. "Well, you could draw up a contract with my help; it's not as restrictive as it might sound. Basically, you would name your terms and you would have to give it to Lureen so that she can read it through and make sure it suits her. If it doesn't but only requires minor changes that you can resolve between yourselves, then that's fine. Given that she is such a close friend, I think it's safe to say that you can come up with an arrangement that suits all of you."
"What would that involve?" Jack asked, feeling a little out of his depth. He'd never understood law very well, at least not to this level.
"Well...for example the parental rights. Jack, you said you wanted to adopt the baby as your own. In this case, the contract would have to include something about Lureen giving up her parental rights to you after the birth so then you could adopt it. I know it sounds harsh for Lureen, but it's the only way. She has to be fully aware of what will be required for her, or it could be a mess."
"Is there anything we could put in there that might...I don't know...make things easier for her? Doesn't strike me as a very fair deal right now," Jack said, worrying slightly. Lureen had been such a good friend to him and he didn't want to hurt her.
"There could be. For example, when the child is older they could spend time with her in California. You could make sure she is involved in all the major decisions of the child's early life. Her lawyer would advise her to have terms of her own, so the three of you would need to come to an agreement. But the parental rights is the most important issue. The child would be living with you, and in the case of an emergency it wouldn't be wise to try calling her for her permission, like with surgery. You might not be able to reach her, and you wouldn't want to waste time. If the two of you have parental rights, you can make decisions in an emergency."
Ennis nodded, seeing the logic in this. "So we should make one of these contracts, and if she agrees then we give it to her to look through?"
"Yes. If everything is okay with her then she just has to sign it. If negotiations are needed until all three of you are happy with it, then fair enough. We can do that too. So...if you come into my office next week I can start drawing up a template for you. We can work things out then."
They nodded and shook his hand, glad that he was able to help them. They left his office and headed back out into the sunshine. Jack stretched and looked at his watch. "Well...we've got a couple of hours until our meeting with John. What d'you wanna do?" he asked, looking around.
"Maybe we could just...go for a walk?" Ennis suggested, nodding towards Central Park. Even though they lived down in Brooklyn Heights, the majority of their day was spent up here. Jack was no longer afraid of the park, mainly because it was where they had gotten married. He felt as if that one day had somehow erased years of fear, and he knew he owed it to Ennis. He took hold of his husband's hand as they walked, enjoying the beautiful weather and seeing one or two of their friends. Life was good here for both of them, and he hoped that it would all work out with Lureen.
They stopped at a bench and started kissing, lost in their own little world. Being in a fairly secluded area, they felt free to do this; even though they weren't doing anything illegal, they still didn't want an audience. Jack felt empowered by being here with Ennis, and he was truly grateful to have this man in his life; he didn't know what he'd do without him.
After a couple of hours, they headed for their doctor's office for their second meeting. They needed to know how much it would cost them to use this method and how much Lureen would need to be paid. This was the part that worried Ennis the most; he and Jack were getting by with their jobs but they weren't rich and didn't know anybody who could help them. They were doing their best to save up but he wondered if it would be enough.
He tried not to worry as they waited, holding onto Jack's hand and squeezing his fingers. Their earlier kissing in the park had calmed him down somewhat but now he was worrying again and he knew that Jack could sense it.
"Hey...try not to worry too much, okay?" Jack told him, and Ennis tried to nod in response. "I know it won't be cheap, but we'll think of something."
"What if we can't?" Ennis asked, looking at him. "My parents probably won't help, and your mom might not be able to spare enough cash. What if we're talking thousands here? I don't know if we can do that."
"Okay...worst case scenario? We put it off until we've got the money," Jack told him. "I know we want a kid, but if we can't afford it yet we'll just have to wait. Besides, maybe we won't have to pay it all at once; maybe we can do it in instalments, you know? I'm sure Lureen would be okay with that."
"Yeah, maybe." As with before, they were called into John's office and sat down.
"So, have you come to a decision?" he asked them, and Jack nodded.
"Yep. We've decided to go with artificial insemination. We're gonna ask a friend of ours to be the mother. So...we need to know how much this is gonna cost us."
"Okay. Well...in your case you're looking at around four thousand dollars, I'm afraid. It's standard." They looked at each other, aghast.
"What? I don't know if we can afford that," Ennis told him, feeling saddened. John paused before continuing.
"However...there is always a chance that your friend would be willing to take less, especially if she can support herself. If the process is done at home, then that would lower the cost. Ennis, you would provide sperm at home and then Lureen would have to inject it herself or with the help of a friend. That would keep the costs lower, but we're still looking at that kind of cost."
"Shit," Jack breathed, not knowing what to say. "Um...could she maybe take instalments?" he asked, feeling hopeful. John nodded.
"If you outline this in the contract and she agrees, then yes. Have you met with your lawyer yet?"
"We saw him this morning," Ennis replied. "He explained it all to us...didn't realise it would cost so much."
"I'm sorry about that," John told them. "But you shouldn't give up. There are ways around it and I'm sure you can work something out."
They nodded and decided that they needed to think. "Well...thanks, John. We'll let you know how it goes." He bid them goodbye and they left, holding hands again and leaving the building.
"I think we need to eat something right now," Jack said, feeling hungry. "Haven't eaten since breakfast and I think I'm a little bit in shock."
"Yeah, me too." They headed for the first café they spotted and sat down, wondering what to do.
"I think..." Jack started. "I think our best bet is that Lureen can take a lower payment or maybe in instalments. That's the only way we can do this now. If not, we'll just have to wait until we've got more money."
"Yeah...really wanna have a kid with you," Ennis replied, looking into his eyes. "But maybe that is the best solution. Maybe we don't have to pay anything until she's pregnant; then we've got nine months to pay it off if she'll take instalments. That might work."
"Probably." The waitress came over and took their orders; they had always liked sharing food in the coffee shop back in San Francisco and had continued this habit here. Jack remembered when they were younger and just starting out in their relationship; things had been easier then but he still wouldn't trade this for anything.
"What's with you?" Ennis asked when he caught Jack's smile. Jack shrugged.
"Just thinking about when we first got together...sitting in that coffee shop and meeting up for lunch. When we shared food as we talked about work...they were good days."
Ennis nodded, now also smiling as he remembered those days. "They sure were. After you told me what happened to you, I just wanted to make you happy."
"You do," Jack assured him, taking his hand and squeezing it. "You really do. And what I'm trying to say is...even though things were easier back then, I still wouldn't trade this for anything. I love being in a life with you, as my husband. I think about those few years when I travelled around after leaving college...living in dingy apartments and not having anybody to talk to about how I was feeling...nobody to be there for me. That was a dark time and I'm so glad that I don't have to go back to that. I've got you now, and we'll always have each other no matter how long it takes for us to have a kid."
Ennis cupped his cheek, wishing that he could make all the bad memories go away. "You're right. We'll be just fine no matter what happens." He leaned over and briefly kissed Jack on the lips, feeling Jack smile. "Love you, darlin'."
"Love you too, baby," Jack replied, grinning. He always loved it when Ennis kissed him, ever since their first kiss so many years ago. They'd been through so much together already and he hoped that there wasn't any more drama headed their way; it was the last thing they needed right now.
August 15th, 2012
On Wednesday, Jack was busy at work. He was currently giving a talk to other HIV sufferers about the kind of issues they faced. Some of them had been positive for longer than him, but were still in need of someone to talk to. Most had been infected more recently and referred to him by their doctors.
Jack liked doing this; it gave him a sense of purpose to help others as he knew what they were going through. Apart from group sessions, he also offered one-to-one counselling to anybody who wanted to talk in private. There was a young girl who had contracted the virus from a boyfriend who had messed around with drugs behind her back, which Jack found extremely unfair on her.
One person who was usually present at these talks was Sam Brookes, the other young man who had been attacked by Daniel Waters. Just like Jack, he felt a lot safer now that their attacker was behind bars, but he was still struggling to come to terms with having the virus. Soon after he and Ennis had moved here, Jack had sought Sam out and told him that he was welcome to talk at any time; they were good friends by now.
Jack thought that it was a mark of the strength of their relationship, that he and Ennis could have male friends without feeling threatened or jealous. They loved each other and wanted to be together, so that was just it. Besides, Jack thought of Sam as a younger brother more than anything else. They were connected by what had happened to them both, and Jack was glad that Sam had someone he could talk to.
"Anyway," Jack said to them halfway through the session. "There was something I wanted to tell you. My husband and myself are currently trying to find a way for us to have a baby. We're looking through our options and deciding what to do. I'm trying to say...that this virus doesn't have to ruin your life if you don't let it. I know that some of you are straight and some are gay, but either way it doesn't matter. There are still ways for you to have a normal life as much as possible without this being an issue. As you know, when I was infected I thought my life was over. I didn't see how anybody could love me with what I had. I was lucky enough to find my husband and I know that those of you who are single will find someone too."
He paused for a moment, seeing that someone had their hand up. "What if we're with someone and they can't handle us being positive, even if we're careful?"
"Well...I was nearly in that situation myself with my husband, before we were married. I told you about my hospital stay a few years ago; it was that which made him realise that he loved me too much to worry about the risks. He's willing to stay with me even if he gets infected, but I hope it never happens because I wouldn't wish this on anyone. All I can say is...if they can't handle it, then maybe you ought to think about if it's worth being with them. The person you choose to spend your life with should accept everything about you, even the flaws."
One thing that made Jack so popular here was how honest he was about his own experiences. He'd always felt it was the best approach when talking about this and people liked hearing what he had to say.
After the session ended, Sam came up to him and shook his hand. "Great speech...I wanted to say congratulations for you and Ennis, trying to have a family. That's a good thing to do."
Jack smiled at him. "Thanks, Sam. I reckon we ought to try and find ourselves some happiness wherever we can. That's why I'm so determined to make this work."
"Right. Anyway, what you just said about us all finding someone...thought you might wanna know I've got a date on Friday." He looked quite pleased with himself and Jack grinned.
"That's great, Sam. Let me know how it goes, alright?" Sam nodded and left, leaving Jack to pack up his things.
"Jack?" It was his boss Adam, who oversaw the running of the clinic. "Stirring speech as always," he said with a smile. "People really seem to enjoy listening to you, since you're always so honest."
Jack shrugged. "Reckon they deserve the truth. They've already been through so much and they should know that the virus doesn't have to control their lives."
Adam nodded. "You're right. Anyway, I have a little assignment for you, if you're interested. You noticed the young lady who comes to these sessions and sits at the back?" Jack nodded. "Well, her name's Claire and she's only eighteen. Did she ever say how she was infected?"
"She told me once; her boyfriend messed around with drugs and she caught it from him," Jack replied.
"That's right. The thing is, she's finding it hard to ask questions about it and I think she could do with more support. Her family haven't taken it well and she's living with an aunt. I just think she would benefit from one of your one-to-one sessions."
Jack nodded. "Okay, sure. I'll talk to her. Just tell her to come and see me whenever she wants." Adam shook his hand and left him alone, and Jack smiled to himself. He did like helping other sufferers come to terms with the huge change in their lives and he knew that Ennis was proud of him; Ennis had told him so.
He was to be meeting Ennis for lunch soon and couldn't wait; it was always good to meet up with his other half while they had a breather from work and it kept him going until later when they got home. Life was good for both of them.
That night, Ennis and Jack were in bed and kissing heavily, hands all over each other. Neither of them could describe it; sometimes they were just so full of lust for each other that they just had to go for it, eager to make their bodies connect.
Over dinner, Jack had told Ennis about how well it was going at work and Ennis had been proud of him, which was probably why he was attacking Jack's neck right now. Jack gave it right back, expert fingers trailing to all the right spots and drawing a moan out of his lover.
"Two can play at that game," he breathed, grinning. Ennis tore his mouth away and looked down at him.
"Oh yeah?" he challenged, coating his fingers with saliva and thrusting them into Jack without warning. Jack yelped and saw lights in front of his eyes, trembling with arousal and groaning.
"Oh God..." he groaned, head tilting back as Ennis explored him, moving his fingers around. He gritted his teeth. "Fine, you made your point."
Ennis kissed him on the lips, finding Jack's tongue with his own and continuing to move his fingers around. Jack broke away. "Ennis...this is good, but...I want you..."
"Tell me what you want," Ennis whispered, moving his face close to Jack's. He loved how they could tease each other. Jack groaned again as he felt Ennis extract his fingers.
"I want you...in me..." he managed to get out, breathing heavily. Ennis lightly brushed his hand over Jack's erection, making him buck.
"Say it," he commanded in a soft and lustful voice. Jack's eyes flew open; they were darker than normal and Ennis knew he'd gotten through to him.
"Fuck me," he ground out. Ennis grabbed the lube and slicked himself up while Jack tore into the condoms, putting one on himself and Ennis as they prepared to do this. "From the back," he said suddenly, putting a hand on Ennis's chest. Ennis's brow furrowed.
"You sure?" he asked cautiously. Jack nodded.
"Want it hard and fast...and that's the best way that won't hurt in the morning." Ennis nodded and flipped him over, nuzzling the back of his neck as he started to work his way in.
"Just relax, darlin'," he murmured in Jack's ear, knowing that Jack wasn't completely over what had happened to him. He trusted Ennis but it could still be difficult for him in this position.
When he was inside Jack and felt him relax, Ennis gently pushed him down for a better angle. "God, Ennis...I love you..." Jack whispered, keeping himself steady on his knees as he felt Ennis's warmth behind him. Ennis was covering his lower back and holding him in place with one arm, wrapping around him securely. Ennis's other arm was stroking his.
"You ready?" he asked, and Jack nodded his permission. He took it slowly at first as he allowed Jack to get used to it and remind himself of who it was back there, and when he felt Jack's hand cover his he knew the signal to speed up.
Soon enough, he was thrusting hard into Jack and trying not to leave bruises on his hips. He could barely think right now; his own hips were moving of their own accord and he felt Jack pushing back against him, taking in more and more and almost growling with lust.
"Fuck!" he gasped, head falling down to rest on the pillow and raising his hips. Now Ennis was mounted onto his body from behind, his free hand taking hold of Jack and sliding along, trying to get them both there at the same time.
"I love you...fucking love you," Ennis groaned into Jack's ear, starting to tremble and knowing that it wouldn't be long. He planted his knees and thrust a few more times until he felt himself coming, eliciting a low moan from Jack. He felt Jack jerk under his touch and the sounds he was making told Ennis that he too was climaxing.
They collapsed together, breathing heavily and unable to move. That had been one of their best times and certainly one that they weren't about to forget.
"Oh God," Jack breathed, feeling satisfied and worn out. "That was something else...you alright?"
"Yeah...just can't move right now," Ennis replied, stroking Jack's back. He could see a layer of sweat there and began lapping at it, liking the salty taste but not really knowing why; maybe it was because it came from Jack and he'd made him do that.
Jack squirmed. "Will you cut it out? You're like a cat with milk or something." Ennis chuckled and pulled out of him, kissing his ear.
"Can't help it...love every part of you. All the liquids you produce."
"Well...there's one you can't ever taste," Jack replied as they disentangled themselves. "Not a good idea to go down that road."
"Probably not." They didn't like talking about all the things they couldn't do because of the virus; it always put a dampener on their spirits. "Anyway...I'll get rid of these and grab a towel." Ennis removed the rubbers and went to dispose of them, coming back with a towel to clean up with. He used it first, knowing that it was the safest way, and when Jack was done he put it in the hamper, going to the bathroom while he was there.
When he came back, he found Jack curled up under the quilt with a smile on his face. "Wanna join me?" he asked, lifting up Ennis's side invitingly. Ennis smirked and got into bed, the warmth washing over him. He put an arm around Jack when he burrowed close, kissing his forehead.
"Night, baby," Jack replied, tucking his head into Ennis's collarbone. The patch of skin seemed to have been moulded just for him; they fit perfectly together.
The last thought that Ennis had before he fell asleep was how proud he was of Jack for not letting the virus ruin his life. He truly was an inspiration to everyone, not just to those who also had it. Ennis had learned much from him, too.
Jack woke up in the middle of the night with a sore throat, coughing a little. He'd been informed by their doctor that this could be a side effect from one of his meds and there wasn't too much concern. He slipped out of bed while trying not to disturb Ennis and headed for the bathroom down the hall, glancing at the clock as he passed; it was just after two in the morning.
As he drank some water and tried to clear his throat, he found himself thinking about everything that had happened today. He was being praised at the clinic for his honesty, but Jack had never considered doing the talks any other way. The companies that made the medication for HIV told people that the pills could guarantee a normal life, which was the kind of propaganda he had always hated. Once someone was infected with the virus, their life would never be normal, and nobody could guarantee them perfect health either.
Jack shook his head as he finished up, wondering why the media couldn't be more honest towards people. He realised that they had to make sales but surely they could do that while still being honest?
They could tell people that even though they can't guarantee perfect health, at least they'll be better off than without it, he thought to himself. The meds do help but I still have bad days when I feel sick because of them. And it doesn't make people forget what they have or what could happen to them.
Jack made his way back to bed and found that Ennis had rolled onto his other side, facing away. He smiled affectionately at how peaceful Ennis looked and he prayed that his husband would never suffer as he did; he hoped that he would never infect Ennis. He slipped back under the covers and grimaced as Ennis stirred; he hadn't wanted to wake him.
"Jack?" Ennis mumbled, looking over his shoulder. "Where'd you go?" Jack put a hand on his shoulder to stop him from turning. Ennis needed to sleep and Jack hated to deprive him of that.
"Shh...go back to sleep. I just needed some water; my throat was sore."
Ennis blinked. "You feel sick?" he asked, concern lacing his voice. He didn't like to think of Jack hurting while he was here sleeping. Jack rubbed his shoulder tenderly, hoping to soothe him.
"I'm fine, really. Don't feel sick. It's just past two; go back to sleep."
Ennis nodded, but didn't drop off right away. "Every time I wake up and you're not there...even if I know you're probably just in the bathroom...I keep wondering if you're being sick or something's wrong..." Jack sighed and kissed the back of his neck.
"I know you worry about me, baby...and I appreciate it. But I'm really okay. If I do start throwing up, I'll shout to you or start throwing things to wake you up. Alright?"
"Okay. Promise me you'll wake me up if something goes wrong," Ennis said to him, meeting his eyes. Jack smiled. He loved how they always cared so much about each other; how could two people be so perfect for each other? They were definitely soul mates; no two ways about it.
"I promise. Come on, bud...get some more sleep. Won't do you any good to lie here worrying."
"Mmm..." Ennis closed his eyes and was soon falling asleep again. Jack wrapped an arm around him and spooned up close, kissing his shoulder before settling down. He thought about those dark times when he was on his own, aimlessly moving across the country before he'd decided to join Lureen in San Francisco. What if he hadn't? What if he'd decided to stay put or go back to New York? He might never have met Ennis and would have continued to be miserable.
Chills went down his spine at the prospect of a life without ever meeting this man, and he sent up a prayer of thanks that things hadn't turned out this way. He had gone to the West Coast and in turn had been able to meet Ennis, and he was fully aware of how much happier he was now than if he hadn't.
Jack was well aware that things had never been smooth sailing for them, especially after their first scare when the condom had broken. But he was very certain now that Ennis wasn't going anywhere. Ennis had even told him that if he did become infected, he would stay put and they would work through it together. By Jack's bedside in the hospital, Ennis had promised to stay with him no matter what. Jack was grateful for this but he hoped that Ennis would never get the virus. It was just too awful to contemplate and he would feel incredibly guilty if it did happen.
All Jack could do was pray that it didn't. As he lay here, holding Ennis close and rubbing his stomach to help him sleep, Jack knew that he'd found the love of his life. Maybe it wouldn't be as bad as he thought if he did infect Ennis, because they would likely work things out. But he would still rather not find out.
Love you...please stay as you are, for me. I don't want you to know what this thing is like to live with. It's bad enough that you have to see me suffer...you're just too damn perfect and I want you to stay that way. You've been my rock for three years and I don't know if I've got the strength to help you if you get infected. I'm not as strong as you, never have been. We're so right for each other, and I'll never leave you but I don't want you to suffer. Please, God...keep him this way, for me.
Jack closed his eyes and shuffled closer, burying his nose in Ennis's curls and finally falling asleep, thoughts of his love flitting through his mind and helping him dream.