Chapter 8

September 10th, 2012

By Monday, things had slightly improved. Ennis had started taking medication at their doctor's advice, and he and Jack were working through this change in their relationship. Jack finally appeared to have stopped blaming himself so much for infecting Ennis, which meant that there were no more dark clouds hovering above them.

As for Lureen, she had resigned herself to the fact that she couldn't put off taking a pregnancy test anymore. It had been two days since the diagnosis and they needed to know if she was pregnant. If not, then this would mean a major change in their plans. They would then have to attempt to adopt, which had its own set of obstacles.

After Ennis and Jack had come home and talked things over the other night, the three of them had spent the next few hours talking. Lureen promised them that she would always be there to help them, even if she couldn't carry their child. She'd been there for them in the past as their best friend, and she would do the same now; she didn't want them to suffer.

She was sat on the sofa during Ennis and Jack's lunch break; they sometimes came home for lunch together, especially if they had a guest. Jack came over to her and sat down, nudging her. "Hey."

Lureen smiled at him and put her magazine down. " feeling okay?" He nodded.

"Yeah, I guess. You were right; I can't keep going around feeling sorry for myself anymore. It takes too much energy and it's not what he needs right now. I have to be there for him. So...thank you for telling me that the other day. I really don't know what we'd do without you," he said to her.

"Every gay man still needs a woman in his life," she pointed out. "Women make good best friends because we can talk and listen. You and Ennis love each other to bits, but you still need a female around to knock some sense into you."

Jack grinned. "True enough. Um...are you gonna take a test yet? It's been two days since he was diagnosed, and I don't wanna put pressure on you, but...we need to know what we're gonna do now."

Lureen sighed. "I know...I've been thinking about it. I bought one yesterday at the drugstore; keep looking at it but I couldn't pluck up the courage. What if it's negative? You guys won't be able to have a biological kid. How are you gonna react to that? You'll feel even worse than you did before, right? I know you,'ll feel guilty again, like you've deprived Ennis of the chance to have a child."

Jack would be a liar if he said that the thought hadn't crossed his mind; he had been concerned about how Ennis would feel about it. But he remembered the sweet words Ennis had said to him two days ago, and he felt certain that Ennis wouldn't be angry with him. "You know...before we got home that day, I might have felt like that. But after he spoke to me, which I know you were listening in on..." he added, smirking at her. "I reckon he wouldn't do that. He'd be disappointed, but...I think he'd come to terms with it. I don't think I've ever really seen him lose it. He's never lost his temper with me, ever. Never raised his voice or hit me, which you might expect 'cos we're both guys and we can get like that." He shrugged. "I don't think he'd get angry at me for it."

She nodded. "Alright. Guess I'd better go take the test and hope that you're right." She stood up, passing Ennis as she made her way to the bathroom. He wished her good luck and then went to sit with Jack, holding his hand.

"Hope this goes well," he said, and Jack nodded, resting his head on Ennis's shoulder. He was feeling better now but it wasn't always easy to stop blaming himself.

"Me too. It's gonna be hard for us to adopt. Would our HIV status be held against us?"

"I don't know. We'd have to be picked by someone who doesn't care about that; I reckon it would be in our file when we apply."

"Yeah..." Jack looked up at him, finally calm. "I love you." Ennis smiled and kissed him in response.

A few minutes passed, and they listened intently for anything that sounded like happiness on Lureen's part. But there was nothing and they knew it couldn't have taken much longer. They were just starting to worry when the door opened and she reappeared, looking disheartened.

"Guys...I'm so sorry," she said softly, holding the negative test in her hand. It was wrapped in a paper towel and she could barely look at it now. "I'm not pregnant..."

"Shit..." Jack stood up to hug her, whispering in her ear that it was alright. Ennis got up too and joined them. The three of them stood there in a group hug, trying to hold everything together and remain strong.

"What are we gonna do now?" Lureen asked quietly, wiping her eyes as they pulled apart. Ennis shook his head; they couldn't make decisions now while they were dealing with this latest setback.

"We'll talk about it later, after dinner. We'll decide something before you leave tomorrow." She nodded and went to sit on the sofa, leaving Ennis to embrace Jack. "I know what you're thinking, bud...but I'm not angry at you. I'm not going anywhere, I promise."

Jack held onto him, feeling guilty but knowing that Ennis didn't blame him. "I know, I really do...thanks, bud." Lureen was happy that they weren't going to fight about this, but she still felt as if she'd let them down. It was nobody's fault, just the way that the dice had rolled, and now they had to pick up the pieces and carry on. They would figure it all out, in time.

The day was fairly quiet for all three of them. Lureen decided to go out for some fresh air before dinner, which left Ennis and Jack alone. They ended up entwined in one of the armchairs, holding each other closely and whispering to each other. They weren't entirely sure what to do now.

" think we should see about adoption?" Jack asked, looking up into his husband's eyes. "I could take a long time."

"I know. But it's our only option," Ennis reasoned, stroking his hair. "And you never know...someone could pick us sooner. We need a good, strong application; something that will show people we can be good parents despite all of this. I'm sure there are plenty of people who have brains when it comes to gay people, especially those with HIV." He was adjusting fairly well, much better than Jack did when he had been infected. But Jack reasoned with himself that he had been much younger then, and he didn't have anyone to talk to. At least he understood what Ennis was going through, and could help him when he didn't feel too guilty.

"Yeah, I guess. I...I know you probably wanted a kid of your own, and I'm sorry I took that chance away from you..." he lamented, looking away. Ennis kissed his cheek.

"Jack, come on...we've been over this. It was an accident and there's nothing we can do about it now. We've just got to try and carry on as best we can." He leaned in and captured Jack's lips, hoping to make him feel better. Jack melted into the kiss, loving how they were so wrapped up in one another. One of Ennis's legs was hooked around his waist as they sat together, and he had to admit that he was very comfortable.

The kiss soon turned heated as their tongues slid against each other, hands wandering to buttons. They hadn't had sex since that night; Jack had been too scared and Ennis was always respectful of his feelings. Maybe now was the right time; they both needed it.

Ennis lowered his hand and dipped it between Jack's legs, giving him a squeeze and finding that he was hard. Jack broke away and scrambled out of the chair as if he'd been branded, hands over his mouth. "Oh God..."

"Jack?" Ennis asked, standing up and hovering close. "Bud, what's wrong?" Jack shook his head and turned to face him, looking pained and worried.

"I'm sorry...I just...when you touched me, it made me think of that night and how I..." He looked away. "I just panicked...didn't mean to." Ennis sighed and put his hands on Jack's shoulders, hoping not to spook him.

"Darlin'...I'm the one who should be sorry. Taking it so far when I know you're still feeling like this. Didn't mean to scare you." Jack looked into his eyes.

"I will be able to do it again, maybe soon. But right now, I...I can't." Ennis nodded and kissed his forehead.

"Alright. That's fine, bud. You wanna try that again? We don't have to do anything you're not ready for."

Jack nodded, trusting Ennis to be respectful of how far he could go; Ennis always had been. They got back into the chair and wrapped around each other again, faces just inches apart.

"We'll take it slow," Ennis murmured to him. "And not just this. The first time we have sex again, and the adoption...we'll take it all slowly so that we can get back on track, alright?"

"Okay," Jack replied, watching as Ennis dropped his gaze to his lips. He tensed slightly when their lips met, but he soon relaxed when he remembered that nothing had to happen if he didn't deem himself ready. Ennis was careful to keep his hands above Jack's waist, gently caressing his stomach instead. He wished he could put his hands on Jack's ass and pull him closer, but he figured that would be too much right now. "Mmm..." Jack moaned softly, enjoying the new slow pace and appreciating what Ennis was doing for him.

"Love you," Ennis whispered in his ear when they broke apart. He planted a kiss to Jack's neck. "So much, darlin'..." He felt Jack growing hard against him but he knew he couldn't touch him, not yet. He himself was starting to feel aroused and bit his lip, moving his head away from Jack. "Guess we should slow down a moment," he observed, and Jack nodded.

They rested their foreheads together and breathed deeply, willing their arousals to go down. But this was very difficult when they were so attracted to each other and were used to doing this. They did have some experience in making out without turning it into sex, usually when they didn't have time. When they were okay again, they kissed once more and Jack tucked his head under Ennis's chin.

"This is good," he said quietly. Ennis rubbed his back, trying to give him as much comfort as possible under the circumstances.

"Just don't like to see you hurting," he murmured, glad that Jack was allowing such close contact even if they couldn't take it further. "And try not to worry, bud. Things are gonna work out, I'm sure."

Jack closed his eyes, breathing in Ennis's comforting scent. "I know. And you're right; we should take the whole thing slowly. The adoption, sex...I think it's the right way to go." Ennis kissed the top of his head.

"I love you, Jack...don't ever doubt that, okay?" Jack smiled up at him.

"I never have...and I don't doubt it now. I love you too, baby." Ennis smiled at the endearment and tucked Jack's head back down, liking how he could take care of him in such a way. He might be the one going through a major life change, but Jack was the one who needed reassurance right now. He was worrying about everything and Ennis didn't want that; he just wanted to make all the pain go away.

September 11th, 2012

Today was when Lureen had to leave and return to the East Coast. Jack was concerned about her leaving on a plane today of all days, but she assured him that she would be fine.

"I promise I'll call as soon as I get back," she told him as he helped her with her luggage. She would be taking a taxi from the apartment to JFK, which meant she would have to say goodbye here; Ennis and Jack needed as much time alone as possible right now. She had a suspicion that they hadn't had sex since that night and she hoped that they would get back on track soon. Everything had changed so much.

"Alright," Jack agreed, nodding to her. Ennis was making her a sandwich for the plane, which she was very grateful for. "Just...don't worry about us too much. We'll be alright."

Lureen nodded. "Am I allowed to tell Alma what's going on, or...?" she asked, looking over at Ennis. He and his ex were on fairly good terms, but they were never going to be the best of friends after everything. Still, he knew she got on well with Lureen and just wanted the best for them.

"I guess so," he replied. "As long as she doesn't say anything to my folks. I dunno what I wanna do about that yet. Not sure if I want them to know." Jack looked at him; he knew that Ennis wasn't ashamed of it, but was more worried about how they would treat Jack because of it. He knew that he didn't have to let them near Jack ever again, but if he decided to go and see them to tell them the news, then Jack would insist on coming with him for moral support. There would be no way out of it if he went over there to tell them.

"Well...I'll let her know but I'm sure she won't anyway," Lureen assured him, and he nodded. "Anyway...I just want you guys to know that even though I can't carry your baby, I'm always gonna be here for you no matter what. If there's anything you need help with, just tell me and I'll do whatever I can. Alright?" she told them, looking at them both. Jack stepped forward and hugged her tightly.

"I can't thank you enough for everything you've done," he murmured to her. "I consider Ennis to be my best friend now, but you're a close second. Like a sister, you know?"

She hugged him back, sharing a smile with Ennis over his shoulder. "And you two are like my brothers. For what it's worth...we would have made a great family."

"Yeah, we would. But you know..." he said as they broke apart. "If we do adopt, the baby's gonna need a female influence. I know my mom will be there for us,'re always welcome to visit whenever you want. Like an aunt or something." Lureen grinned.

"That sounds great." Ennis brought the sandwich over and she thanked him, hugging him too. "Take care of yourself, and him," she said to him, and he nodded.

"I will, you know I will."

"He understands that you're going through this big change, and I'm sure he'll be there for you when you need him to be," she continued. "But right now, he's very vulnerable. Don't do anything that might hurt him, okay? That includes taking him to your parents."

"I won't, not until he's better," Ennis promised her, knowing that she was right. A string of verbal abuse from his parents was not what Jack needed right now. They had to get through this before they could do anything else.

She let go of him just as they heard a car horn outside; her taxi was here. "Guess I'd better go," she said, looking around. Ennis offered to help her with her luggage but she said she was fine; she wanted him to stay with Jack. He relented and they walked her to the door, watching as she walked along the corridor to the elevator.

"Gonna miss her a whole lot," Jack murmured, feeling comforted by Ennis's arms around his waist. Ennis kissed the back of his neck.

"I know, me too. Come on..." He led Jack back inside, where they immediately headed for the sofa. They flopped down together and Ennis put an arm around Jack as he flipped on the TV. "You feeling any better?"

Jack shrugged. "Don't really know...maybe, I guess. I'm glad we're taking things slowly...reckon I might be up for more than just kissing soon..." He smiled up at Ennis, who felt hopeful but knew not to press the issue.

"Alright. Just let me know, bud. We'll go at whatever pace you're okay with; no rush at all. I love you too much to push you into it." He kissed Jack on the cheek and they faced the TV, their hands finding each other and holding on. Jack liked the gentle pressure of Ennis's fingers entwined with his own; reminding him that Ennis was there for him. He knew he had to get himself back on track because Ennis would need his help, and he silently promised to do so.

"You okay?" Ennis asked when he felt Jack squeezing his hand. Jack nodded.

"Yeah...just glad you're here. Dunno what I'd do if you said you couldn't do this anymore..." Ennis pressed his lips to Jack's knuckles.

"Hush, don't go thinking like that. It's never gonna happen so you don't need to worry about it. We're so much stronger together, Jack...can't go messing that up now. We need each other, you know?"

Jack nodded and sighed in contentment, glad that he had Ennis by his side. Ennis was the only one who had never truly run from him, ever. There had been a brief break-up, but he understood now why that had happened. Ennis was sticking by his side and they were going to get through this, one way or another.

September 12th, 2012

On Wednesday, Ennis and Jack had both decided to take one of their sick days off together. Neither of them had ever skived off since starting work here, so their bosses were happy to give them the day. Both felt as if they needed to spend some alone time together due to the stress of what they were going through.

After breakfast, they took their meds together with Jack advising Ennis; they were both on antivirals but Jack was worried about Ennis taking Videx; that had been the one to land him in hospital. They would simply have to try and take care of each other.

The pair of them then went out onto their balcony for a while; it wasn't very large but they had enough room for a couple of chairs and a small table. They had a great view of Manhattan and the river from here.

"Glad we could take this day together," Jack murmured, looking up into the sky. Ennis nodded.

"Yeah, me too. I know we need this, Jack...just us on our own for a day. Things have kinda been full-on since the diagnosis. We can't let it take over, though." He took Jack's hand across the gap between their chairs. "Today it's just about us. There anything you wanna do?"

Jack shrugged, looking over the view. "I don't know...not really. I wanna stay here, if that's alright with you. Just...can't face leaving the apartment right now."

"Alright," Ennis agreed. Truth be told, he just wanted them to stay here too. He wanted to hold Jack in his arms for hours until he felt alright again. "Maybe we could watch a movie later or something?" he suggested, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah, that'd be good." Trying to act as though everything was going back to normal, Jack got up out of his chair and sat on the arm of Ennis's, looking down at him nervously. Ennis slid his arm around Jack's waist and squeezed him, giving him a reassuring smile. Feeling more confident, Jack slipped down and sat on Ennis's lap, in an echo of their position yesterday. "I, um...I've been thinking. Was thinking about it all night, actually."

Ennis held onto him, waiting patiently. Whatever Jack wanted or needed, he would give it to him.

"I...I think tonight, I might be ready know. Have sex," he said in a rush, his cheeks going pink. "Um...I mean, if you want..." Ennis kissed him on the cheek.

"I think that's fine, darlin'. You know I'd never turn you away, but...I wanna know that you're sure about it. Don't want you to go regretting it..."

Jack shook his head. "I don't think I will, really. I need you, Ennis. It's the only way I can think of to get rid of all this stress. It always worked before..." Ennis smiled at him.

"Yeah, it did. Okay, we can at least give it a shot. We'll have dinner, watch a movie, and then..." His voice trailed off, his smile meeting his eyes. Jack couldn't help but grin at the idea of sex with the man he loved, and he ducked his head. Ennis saw his smile and hugged him closer, glad that Jack seemed to be getting back to normal.

"There's just one thing I've gotta ask," Jack murmured into his shoulder. Ennis rubbed his back.

"Yeah, bud?"

"Could you be on top? I'm really not ready yet to do that myself...still too scared for that." He bit his lip and felt Ennis hold him tighter.

"Sure, darlin'. You know I don't mind that...and I sure as hell don't wanna see you suffer." He pulled away and kissed Jack gently on the mouth, practically feeling the tension melt away from his partner.

They were lost in their own little world, just focusing on each other. They had both always loved times like this, when they could ignore everything else. Ennis was more certain than ever now that Jack would be alright and that they would get through this.

After about an hour, they went back inside and chose to just watch TV all day; it was better than doing anything stressful right now. They ended up talking about their childhoods, and Ennis could just see Jack running around and giving his parents headaches as a youngster. Jack had been so innocent back then, completely unaware of how his life would turn out. He should have been able to believe that he would always be healthy; his attacker had taken that away from him.

"I'm sorry you've had to go through so much," Ennis told him, arm squeezing his partner. Jack smiled sadly at him.

"Not your didn't even know me then. of those things you have to get used to, I guess." He shook his head, knowing that he should be focusing on Ennis. "So, um...are you okay? I're you feeling?"

Ennis shrugged. "Don't feel sick. Guess it's just...there. I'm okay with what's happened, Jack. Really. We didn't see it coming and it was an accident. That's just how it is." Jack nodded and pressed his lips to Ennis's cheek.

"Alright. I am trying...and I'm sure we'll be alright."

They made dinner together, which resulted in them occasionally copping a feel as they passed each other. Jack was okay with Ennis touching him now, and he gave it right back as they attempted to cook together. Afterwards, they resumed their positions on the sofa to watch a romantic movie, throwing the afghan over themselves just to snuggle up. Jack felt warm and safe and happy, mainly because Ennis was right there with him and not going anywhere.

"I love you," he said quietly, squeezing Ennis's hand. His partner smiled down at him and planted a kiss in his hair, love coursing through his veins.

"Love you too, darlin'," he replied, sighing in contentment as he let Jack's scent wash over him. Everything would be just fine, especially after tonight when they finally connected again.

Jack was extremely nervous as they locked up the apartment and tidied away before going to bed. He really did want to have sex with Ennis but the other night was playing on his mind, worrying him. He knew deep down that he had nothing to worry about now; unprotected sex wasn't going to make things any worse for either of them.

"Look at it this way," Ennis told him as they stood at the end of the bed, holding hands. "No more barriers...nothing to separate us anymore. We can...really go at each other without fearing that the protection's gonna break. We can come inside each other without fear of you infecting me. Isn't that what we both wanted, deep down? I know we never really talked about it, but..."

Jack nodded in defeat, looking down. "Yeah, I guess. I'm just nervous..."

Ennis lifted his chin and kissed him, gauging his response when they broke apart. Jack looked at him for a moment before responding in kind, moaning softly when their tongues met. "Ennis..." he sighed, feeling arousal building up inside him. He needed this so much.

"Come on..." Ennis whispered, and they headed for their respective sides of the bed. They knew that they had to take things slowly right now, and he was all for that. They got under the covers and exchanged a glance before undressing; Ennis couldn't help but kiss Jack's neck when it was exposed, drawing a smile out of him.

" know that tickles," he grinned, and Ennis smiled back at him. They got the rest of their clothes off and turned to face each other, hearts beating quickly. "Well..."

"Can I touch you now?" Ennis asked softly, hand inches away from Jack's body. He saw Jack nod, trust in his eyes. At this permission, Ennis reached over and lightly brushed his fingers over Jack's erection, watching as Jack took a deep breath. "That feel good?"

"Yeah," Jack replied, nodding. It really did, and he appreciated how slowly Ennis was taking things. He shuffled over and looked deep into Ennis's eyes. "Kiss me..."

Ennis needed no further encouragement. He leaned over and captured Jack's mouth in a firm kiss, his desires quite clear. Jack moaned and moved his lips against Ennis's, tongues winding around each other. He had missed this as if he'd been deprived of oxygen for the past few days; he needed Ennis tonight.

When they had been kissing and touching each other for a few minutes, Ennis sensed that Jack might be ready for more. "You ready?" he whispered when they broke apart for air, gasping slightly. Jack nodded, his eyes lidded and heavy with lust. He was getting back on track.

"I sure as hell am," he replied, tugging at Ennis's waist. Ennis recognised the familiar gesture and rolled on top of him, careful not to crush him but settling between Jack's legs comfortably. Jack kissed him but yearned for closer contact. "Ennis...lie down on me...need to feel you..."

Ennis trusted that Jack was certain of this, so he did as he was asked. Jack sighed when he felt Ennis's body touching his, smiling up at him. "That feel better?" Ennis asked, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah..." He allowed Ennis to take hold of his hands as they kissed once more, growing harder as their bodies rubbed together. Ennis bit his lip; he would come soon and he wanted to be inside Jack when it happened.

"Jack, I...I wanna..." Jack nodded in understanding and spread his legs wider, eyes inviting Ennis in.

"It's okay...we can do this, Ennis. We need to..." Ennis grabbed the lube and smeared it over himself, feeling strange at the loss of a condom. He never thought he'd ever be doing it raw, but there was no reason not to now.

When he was ready, he positioned himself and slowly started to push in, watching Jack's face carefully. Seeing no pain beyond that which he expected, he kept going until they were tightly pressed together, looking down into Jack's eyes. In that moment, he knew that they were going to be alright.

He took it slowly, nuzzling Jack's neck as he moved inside him and hearing soft moans in his ear. He liked how he could make Jack feel like this, and he was happy to know that Jack was getting better. "Darlin' always feel so damn good..."

Jack sighed, wrapping his arms and legs around Ennis. "You make me feel good, Ennis...always have and always will..."

They rocked together slowly, murmuring words of love to each other as they neared their climaxes. Ennis let go of Jack's waist and moved his hand down, taking hold of Jack and stroking him. Instead of panicking like the day before, Jack felt relief as Ennis jerked him off, groaning in his ear. "God, Ennis...fuck me..."

Ennis gladly did so, pushing deeper and harder until he felt himself coming, filling Jack with his sperm at long last. He'd secretly wanted this for so long, and it felt incredible. He felt Jack shoot at his stomach and was liberated by how they no longer had to be careful.

They collapsed together on the bed, heads spinning as they tried to catch their breath. "Oh God..." Jack breathed, still wrapped around Ennis and unable to move. "That was..."

"I know..." Ennis replied, pulling out of Jack but otherwise staying where he was. He had never felt as free as he did tonight, knowing that there was nothing to worry about now whenever they had sex. "Oh, darlin'..." He kissed Jack all over his face and on his lips, resting their foreheads together. "I..."

"Shh..." Jack shushed him, smiling fondly. He felt so much better now, happily sated. It had felt strange to feel Ennis come inside him, but he could certainly get used to it. He kissed Ennis's forehead and tucked it down into the crook of his shoulder, where Ennis settled down and closed his eyes. No matter what happened, they both knew now that they would be just fine.