Chapter 9

September 15th, 2012

On Saturday, Ennis and Jack had an appointment with their doctor to discuss their options, now that things had changed. They were both aware that their only real choice now was to try and adopt a child. Although this would take a long time, they were willing to do whatever it took.

Jack had more or less snapped out of his low mood, which Ennis had noticed. He was very glad for this, for it meant that Jack could now help him cope with this huge change. He needed any advice that Jack could give him.

As they sat in the waiting area, they half-listened to the TV and held hands. "Look..." Jack started, turning to Ennis. "I know that things haven't been easy for us, and I know it was mostly me being all depressed. The thing's all gonna change now. I'm better than I was before and I wanna help you."

Ennis smiled over at him. "I appreciate it, know that. I don't have a clue what I'm supposed to be doing, so I could do with whatever you can give me."

Jack squeezed his fingers. "I'll help you, Ennis...with whatever you need. The most important thing is to take care of your body, and learn to figure out when it's trying to tell you if anything goes wrong with it."

"Alright," Ennis replied, storing this thought away in his brain. "So...I know all about the right food for me to eat; learned all that from cooking for you."

"Yep. Maybe we could talk to a nutrition expert," Jack suggested. "That might be useful, right?"

"Guess so." They were called into their doctor's office and found him waiting for them. John smiled at them.

"Hey, you two. How're things going since the diagnosis?"

"We're coping," Ennis told him as they sat down. "Wasn't easy at first...Jack took it harder than me..."

"I did kinda freak out about it," Jack admitted, looking down at his free hand; his other still hadn't let go of Ennis's. "Hated myself for what happened. But I know now that it wasn't my fault...just an accident. I don't blame myself anymore." He exchanged a smile with Ennis, and John nodded.

"That's great. So, you probably want to know what to do next. Since you can't have a biological child, your only option would be to adopt. Now, I said before that this is a long process and can be quite stressful, but I'm sure that you're ready for it. You two have already proved yourselves to be quite a team."

John reached into his desk and pulled out a file, which they could see contained several papers. "Well, here is everything you really need to know. First off, you would get into contact with a local adoption agency, one that has space on their list. Then someone you know, perhaps a parent themselves, will have to write a letter of recommendation to testify that you would be good parents to a child." He looked between them. "If that goes well, then at some point someone from the agency would have to come to your apartment to make sure that it is a good environment to raise a child in, especially given your HIV status."

"So that would come into account?" Jack asked, feeling unsure. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. John nodded.

"Afraid so. It shouldn't work against you; there are a lot of forward-thinking agencies in the city and I'm sure you'll find one. If the adoption worker deems your place acceptable, and they say you would make good parents, you will be on the official waiting list."

"So anybody could pick us, at any time? It's not like...we have to wait until everybody else on the list before us has been picked?" Ennis asked, fearing just how long this would take.

"At any time. Say that you were on the list. Someone who wants to give up their child for adoption could get in touch with the same agency that you're with, and they would be presented with a list of who is waiting, including just about everything they need to know about each one. However, names would remain anonymous for the time being."

"And what if they pick us?" Jack asked. John leafed through the papers.

"Well, then they might request to get in touch with you, meet with you and learn your names. Especially if we're talking about a pregnant woman who doesn't want the baby but still wants the best for it. If the meeting goes well and they choose you, then the paperwork will be drawn up and everybody would sign it."

"What if we're talking about a child that's in Social Services?" Jack asked. "One that's already been born?"

"Things would be different...but we can go into that another time, if you wish. For now, you should be putting together your file and seeking someone to write the recommendation letter. Here..." He handed them the file. "Everything you need to know is in here. Take a look and work through it together. Trust me, it'll help."

"Thanks," Ennis said to him, taking the file. He couldn't wait to work on this with Jack; it felt more equal to him than their previous plan. Jack could be part of this. "We'll look over this when we get back home."

Jack smiled and nodded his agreement. "Right. So...shall we go?"

"I think you've got plenty to be going on with," John said to them, nodding. "Feel free to call me if you have any questions, but I think you'll be fine." They stood up and shook his hand before leaving the office.

When they left the building, Jack gave Ennis a wide smile and kissed him. Ennis looked stunned for a moment. "Where'd that come from?"

Jack shrugged. "Just...happy. I like this, Ennis. I know it could take a while, but...doing all this will take our minds off the bad stuff." Ennis nodded, glad that they were getting back on track.

Ennis and Jack headed to a nearby café for lunch, knowing that there was a lot to talk about. Both of them were warming to the idea of adopting a child despite its problems, and they thought that as long as they took it slowly, it would be fine.

When they walked into the café, they were about to take a centre table when they heard someone calling to them.

"Ennis! Jack!" It was Jack's mother Karen, sat in a window seat and waving them over.

"Mom?" Jack asked, and they headed over to her. "You never told us you would be in the city today," he said to her as they kissed her on the cheek.

"Just decided today to get out of the house," she replied when they sat down. "What've you got there?"

Jack looked at Ennis; they hadn't yet told her about the infection but knew they would have to. "Um, mom...something happened a couple of weeks ago. It was a complete accident and now we're having to change all our plans."

"What is it?" she asked. Ennis and Jack paused to place their orders for lunch and then Jack continued.

"I...I infected Ennis by accident," Jack said in a low voice. She looked shocked.

"Oh God...are you two okay?"

"Yeah, we're fine. Wasn't easy at first, 'cos I was so mad at myself for it. But we're getting through it and we're gonna be okay." Jack smiled and took her hand across the table. "We're really okay, Mom. Not fighting, not angry at each other...nothing like that."

"Well, that's something. Are you taking care of yourself, Ennis?" Karen asked him, fixing him with a very beady eye. He knew that she cared about him like a son.

"Yeah. I'm on meds, like Jack. And he's been giving me advice now we're doing okay again. We can support each other through this and hold each other up when we need to. We can take care of each other," he replied, smiling at Jack. She nodded her approval.

"Good. So what's this?" she asked, pointing to the file.

"Well...Lureen didn't get pregnant and we obviously can't try again, so we're looking into adoption. We met with our doctor this morning, and he gave us all this and explained what to do now. I've gotta doesn't look too bad now," Jack told her. He slid the file over to her so that she could see for herself.

While she thumbed through it, their lunch came and they distracted themselves while waiting for what she had to say. Despite his age, Jack was aware that his mother's opinion mattered a great deal to him. He still liked hearing her advice on things.

Eventually, she smiled up at their expectant faces. "Well...this looks like it won't be easy, but I'm sure you can do it. I'll help in any way I can, I promise."

"Thanks, Mom..." Jack cleared his throat. "S'cuse me a second," he added, getting up to head for the restroom. He kissed Ennis's cheek on his way past, making him blush.

Karen looked at him, pausing before speaking. "So...are you gonna tell your parents?" she asked Ennis, and he shrugged.

"I don't know. I've thought about it, a lot. But I've really no idea what to do. When we were planning to have a kid with Lureen, Jack said I should tell them. He said...he didn't want me to regret anything about them. His dad could've died without them building bridges and he would've regretted that. He doesn't want me to go through the same thing, and I can understand that. But now...I'm not sure. I might regret telling them that I'm positive."

"I know," Karen told him, covering his hand where it lay on the table. Ennis liked having her close by, being estranged from his own parents. He, like Jack, needed a mother figure around and she was the best he had. He had a feeling that she knew that. "But, Ennis...Jack's right. Everybody needs their parents, no matter how old they are. I don't want you to regret anything either. You're afraid of what they'll say, aren't you?"

He shook his head. "I don't care what they say to me; I can take it. But...I can't stand there and watch them hurl abuse at Jack; he doesn't deserve it. They've already done it twice and I told him that I never wanted to see them again. I was happy to just leave it." He thought for a moment. "I don't know what I wanna do." He then spotted Jack coming back. "But I know I'll do whatever I have to in order to protect him...even if that means never speaking to my parents again."

Ennis managed to smile when Jack got closer, enjoying the brush across the shoulders that Jack gave him. "Hey, bud."

"What're you talking about here?" Jack asked as he sat down. Ennis squeezed his hand.

"I'll tell you later. Nothing bad, I promise. Just stuff." Jack nodded; he was used to this part of their relationship. Ennis would tell him when he was ready.

Lunch carried on as normal, with the talk turning to how Karen was spending time volunteering at the local animal shelter. She was fairly wealthy, mainly from how Jack's father had done so well with his business when alive. She technically didn't need to work, but she liked getting involved with good causes. Ennis could see where Jack got his good heart from.

When they were done and bid goodbye to Karen, she told them to keep in touch if they needed anything or just wanted to talk. Jack did feel better at living fairly close to her now and he knew that it eased Ennis's mind that he felt comfortable living here.

They took a long stroll through the park together, enjoying the rest of the day and talking about the adoption process. There was a hill to climb, but they could get there together.

September 18th, 2012

On Tuesday, Ennis and Jack had decided to make the most of the good weather while it lasted. They went down to Manhattan Beach together, where there were a lot of other couples enjoying the sunshine. Jack liked strolling down the sand with his partner during a day off; they could do just about anything in this city.

Ennis kept thinking over his conversation with Karen the other day, and whether or not he should tell his parents what was going on. Technically, they did have a right to know in case something happened, but they had been estranged for a few months now and he had previously decided that he didn't want to talk to them at all. They hadn't even attended the wedding.

Jack could tell that something was on Ennis's mind, but he said nothing as they found a spot to sunbathe in. Clearly, Ennis would tell him in his own time. They spread out their beach towels and stripped off their T-shirts, wearing just their swimming trunks. Both kept glancing at each other as they lay down, admiring the glowing skin and strong muscles. They would never get tired of looking at each other.

They took it in turns to rub suntan lotion on each other's backs, Jack making sure to try and work out the tension from Ennis. He just wanted his husband to relax; he had a feeling that Ennis was thinking about his parents and he wasn't sure what else to do.

"Mmm," he sighed when he felt Ennis rubbing the lotion into his back. "Always love having your hands on me..." Ennis smiled affectionately at him, grateful that he still had one person he could rely on.

"Love touching you, Jack..." He planted a kiss between Jack's shoulder blades and climbed off him, laying down at his side as they listened to the waves. "This is good..."

"Sure is," Jack agreed, opening his eyes and smiling. "We can just forget everything down here..." He peered closely at Ennis, knowing that he was thinking deeply again. "Bud, are you okay?"

Ennis looked at him and turned onto his side; Jack copied his movement and rested on his elbow. "There's something I keep thinking about. When you were in the bathroom the other day, at the café, your mom was talking to me about telling my parents. She said that you were right; maybe I ought to do something before it's too late. Your dad died and you nearly didn't fix things with him before it happened. You would've regretted that...and you said you didn't want me feeling the same."

"I really don't," Jack told him, rubbing his arm. "But you know that it's your choice, and I'll stick by you no matter what."

Ennis nodded. "I think...I do wanna at least tell them that things have changed now. That we're gonna adopt. They'll wanna know why, so then I could tell them. But what if they act just like the other times we went to see them?"

Jack sighed; this conversation kept going in circles. "Look...I know that you're worried. But they're your parents; they're supposed to love you no matter what. I never thought I'd ever make up with my dad after the things he said to me. I mean, he said that I'd got what I deserved for being gay; I never thought I'd forgive him for that. But he had his reasons for saying it and he apologised. Your parents must have their reasons too; they're just worried about you. And maybe they will apologise one day."

"I don't know...I think I do wanna talk to them. Just really nervous about doing it. I can't do it over the phone; I'd have to go over there."

"Do you want me to come with you?" Jack offered, his voice soft. Ennis took his hand.

"I really do...but what if they start on you again?"

"Then we'll just leave like we did before. I can take it, Ennis. I'm a lot better now than when you were diagnosed and I know that I should be by your side when you tell them. You think you can do it?"

Ennis looked deep into Jack's eyes; they were the same shade of blue as the ocean nearby and they always pierced into his soul. "Maybe...but I think I need you there. And you're right; if they start we'll just leave. But what if they tell me that they never wanna see me again now that I'm positive?"

"You'll always have me," Jack murmured, running his fingers through Ennis's curls. "I'm not going anywhere. And we've got my mom nearby; she'll never abandon us. You know she sees you as a second son now."

"I know," Ennis replied, managing to smile at him. "Come here..." He leaned forward and kissed Jack firmly, needing some reassurance. If the beach had been less busy, Jack would have loved to lie down on top of Ennis and give him what they both wanted. But a kiss and an embrace would have to do. They held each other close as they explored one another, tongues sliding together between their lips. It was heaven to be here together, doing this.

When they broke apart, Jack nuzzled Ennis's nose. "Feel any better?" Ennis nodded, trying to breathe after a kiss like that.

"Yeah...that was good. I love you so much, darlin'...really glad I've got you with me." He felt his fingers slide through Jack's, his wedding ring feeling strangely cold against Jack's warm skin. "God...wish I had the words to tell you how much I..." He trailed off, sighing. Jack stroked his cheek.

"It's okay," he said softly. "I know how you feel...I see it every time I look in your eyes. I feel it right here." He pressed his hand to Ennis's chest, over his heart. "This tells me how you feel." He pulled Ennis close for another kiss, finally getting him to relax and just forget about everything else.

Jack figured that the fresh air had gone straight to Ennis's head; it was the only reason he could come up with as to why Ennis was pounding him through the mattress in the middle of the afternoon. Not that he was complaining, but he had to wonder.

They had come back to the apartment about an hour ago and had decided to make dinner early. Now it was in the oven and Ennis had been all over him, kissing his neck and trailing his hands down. Jack loved it when Ennis pounced on him like this; it proved that despite being comfortably married, they were still so attracted to each other that they sometimes couldn't help themselves. Ennis had felt him up for less than a minute before he'd decided to just go for it.

Now he was on his knees and gripping the headboard, groaning in both pain and pleasure while Ennis practically lay on his back, fucking him hard. Jack thought his head would split open with the rushing in his blood, leaking onto the bed and every fibre of his body screaming for release. "Oh God..." he groaned, his arms and head lowering to the pillow. Now only his hips were in the air, with Ennis buried deep inside him and thrusting quickly.

"I fucking love you," Ennis growled in his ear, biting it. Jack was painfully hard and thought he would lose his mind if he didn't shoot soon.

"Ennis...touch me, please!" he called out, shaking all over. Ennis could sense that Jack's erection was starting to become painful, so he did as he was asked. He took hold of Jack with one hand and started jerking him off, still thrusting deep into him. Jack was pushing back with every thrust, completely at his mercy. Ennis could feel the sweat on Jack's back as they moved together and he started licking at it, knowing how ticklish Jack was.

Jack trembled a few times and finally came, shooting at the headboard with a loud yell. Ennis thrust a few more times until he too crossed the finish line, filling Jack up with everything he had to give and then collapsing onto him. Jack's knees were weak from his own orgasm, so he fell to the bed under Ennis's weight. "Oh my God," he gasped, trying to focus. "Ennis..."

Ennis sighed, feeling his love for Jack blazing in his heart. He ran a hand over Jack's back and pulled out of him, kissing his lover's shoulder. "Darlin'...that was damn good..."

"I know...where the hell did that come from?" Jack asked him, managing to turn over underneath him. His cheeks were flushed and his hair was plastered to his forehead with sweat. To Ennis, he looked beautiful. Ennis shrugged, smirking.

"Just...felt like giving you a good seeing-to. Don't mind, do you?" Jack shook his head, still trying to get his breath back.

"Hell no. Took me by surprise, but damn...been a while since we went at it so hard." He was very pleased that Ennis was still so turned on by him to just grab him like that; he'd never doubted Ennis's attraction to him but it was nice to be reminded.

"I know...we've kind of had a lot on lately." Ennis looked down for a moment. "Didn't hurt you, did I? You're not bleeding?" Together they examined themselves, but they didn't see any blood.

"No, I think I'm okay. My hips and my ass are gonna be sore for a while though," Jack grinned. Ennis smiled weakly.

"Sorry, darlin'..." he tried to apologise, but Jack covered his mouth.

"Don't be," he said gently, smiling when Ennis kissed his palm. "I'm not...that was amazing, bud." Ennis was between his legs again, but neither of them had the energy to go again despite their slight arousals. They were just comfortable now, basking in the afterglow. "I'm serious...if it's possible, I love you even more than I already did. You're just...amazing. You're my best friend and we can talk about know how to make me feel better when I'm upset. You're always there for me and you help me see how to be there for you." He ran his hands through Ennis's hair. "But on the other really know how to make my toes curl. You can push all the right buttons to make me feel good, and I think I've learned how to do the same for you, over the past few years."

Ennis nodded at him. "We're there for each other, Jack. If that's really what you think about me, then...I've gotta say that I feel the same about you." He kissed Jack on the tip of his nose, making him giggle unexpectedly. Ennis smiled. "I love hearing you laugh, seeing you happy."

"You make me happy," Jack told him, kissing his cheek warmly. He felt Ennis's hands searching for his and they held on to each other, squeezing gently. "Mmm...this is nice."

"Sure is." Ennis checked the alarm clock; they had about twenty minutes before dinner would be ready. "I've decided...I wanna go to see my parents and tell them what's happened. And...I'd like you to be there with me."

Jack nodded. "Whatever you need, bud. I'm there for you."

"But if they start insulting us?" Ennis asked, brow creasing slightly.

"We'll leave," Jack said simply, gazing up into his eyes. It intrigued him how he could feel so secure to be laying underneath someone and know that he could completely trust them. Ennis would never hurt him and Jack knew he'd never hurt Ennis; they needed each other in their lives and did everything they could to make their relationship work. They didn't need to do too much; they simply loved each other enough to keep them together. But he did like making an effort for Ennis's happiness; it felt as though he was doing something right. As he looked up into his soul mate's eyes, Jack knew there was nothing that they couldn't overcome.

September 20th, 2012

On Thursday morning, Jack woke up early and groaned when he remembered the date. It had been eight years to the day since he'd been attacked and infected, and he sadly remembered every detail of that morning. He looked over; Ennis was still asleep. Trying not to disturb him, Jack slid out of bed and exited the room, knowing that he needed to stretch his legs and try to keep hold of himself.

As he entered the main room, he was hit with a flashback of Central Park. He stopped in his tracks, trying to hold it together. He hated how they still came to him and how he could remember every detail.

Keep it together, Jack told himself, breathing deeply. The memories will only hurt you if you let them. He shook his head and walked into the bathroom, and suddenly felt phantom pain on the back of his head where he had been hit. He groaned and splashed cold water on his face, gripping the sink.

He walked along the path, groaning out in pain when he felt something hit him. He fell to the ground and felt someone drag him off the path. He tried to fight them off but was too disoriented.

Ennis woke up to find himself alone and he wondered where Jack had got to. Then he remembered what day it was and he sighed; the anniversary of the attack. "Jack..." he murmured, hoping that his partner was okay.

Jack had his head lowered, trying to fight off the memories but they were too strong for him. He tried to take deep breaths as his doctor had instructed him to, but he'd never had any success with this.

He felt his attacker pulling his jeans down and shoving in without mercy. Jack screamed in pain and hoped that someone would hear him and help. His body was burning inside and he was terrified of what it would do to him.

It was over soon enough and he was left alone, breathing deeply. He was shaking all over and knew he had to get to hospital; he needed help.

Jack was on his knees by the toilet by now, throwing up and gasping for breath. "Ennis!" he managed to call out before retching again, praying that Ennis would hear him. He didn't care if it made him weak; he needed his partner to hold him and make everything alright again.

Ennis heard his yell and shot out of bed, scrambling out of the room and following the sounds of Jack throwing up. He sighed when he saw his beloved Jack on the floor, completely broken down. He sank to his knees beside Jack, rubbing his back.

"It's okay, I'm here," he soothed, knowing that it would be over soon. "It's's not real. He's behind bars and he can't hurt you again...I'm right here, darlin'."

Jack heard Ennis's soothing voice and immediately started to calm down, taking deep breaths. Ennis left his side for just a few moments to draw a glass of water for him, helping him to gulp it down. "It's alright..." Jack had stopped throwing up but he was shaking; the memories always did this to him and he hated it.

When he had finished the water, Jack looked into Ennis's eyes and his own filled with tears, shaking his head. "I don't...they just do this to me..." He gulped. "Ennis...I can't stop remembering..."

"Baby," Ennis whispered, cupping his cheeks gently. "It's alright. I know what those memories do to you, and I hate to see you like this. But I'm right here and nothing's gonna hurt you." Jack sniffed and Ennis wiped the tears from his eyes. "Shh..."

He gently pulled Jack into his arms and held him close, rubbing his back and rocking him slightly. He knew by now exactly what would make Jack feel better and he was glad that he could do this for his partner. He was also glad that Jack had infected him, because he didn't think that Jack would have the strength to do this for him.

Jack sighed, feeling himself calm down after his fright. "Ennis...thank you. always know what to do. I love you so much..."

"I love you too, darlin'." Ennis held him until Jack felt better, prising himself away to look into Ennis's eyes.

"Ennis...take me back to bed. I...I want you to hold me until I fall asleep again..." he murmured, needing that more than anything else. Ennis nodded; he would do anything that Jack asked him.

He took Jack's hands and helped him stand up; Jack was a little wobbly so they took the walk slowly. It was still very early yet and they didn't have to get up for work for another few hours, so Ennis was happy to let Jack sleep in for a while.

They got back into bed and Ennis turned Jack onto his side, spooning up behind him and wrapping an arm over his stomach. He planted a soft kiss on Jack's shoulder. "Get some sleep, darlin'. Nothing's gonna happen to you as long as I'm here."

"I'" Jack whispered. Under normal circumstances, he knew this but things were different at this moment. Ennis squeezed him, rubbing his stomach.

"Yeah, you are. The door's locked; nobody can get in and I'd never let anything happen to you. Just close your eyes and get some sleep." Jack relaxed at the warmth behind him, doing as Ennis instructed. It took him a while to fall asleep again, but he didn't stir and Ennis was confident that he would sleep until the alarm went off.

Some part of him knew that while Jack was more or less over what had happened, his body would never forget it. Like it or not, Jack had been branded and the flashbacks were bound to be part of his life. Still, it was just one day and always in the morning; Ennis would always be there to look after him when it happened.