Chapter 12

Monday, April 19th 2010

Dear Jack,

I know it hasn't been long since I left but I wanted to write to you anyway. I miss you a lot already and I keep looking forward to the day when I'll be back with you. The only thing I want right now is to have you in my arms, comforting you because I know it hits you really hard when I leave. I think maybe my Navy training made me a little tougher but it still hurts me to leave you, especially after just four days when it's close to our anniversary.

There's something going on here, something really weird. When I got back to the ship I ran into Mike and at first I thought he was going to greet me because we get on alright now, but it was strange. He looked at me and I didn't like the look on his face. It's as though he knows something and is plotting to use it. The only thing I can think of is that he might know about us but that can't be true; we were so careful, even with our cinema date. I don't understand how he might have found out.

Anyway, I'm trying not to think about it. We're heading for Sydney, Australia this time, which should be interesting. I hear it's a beautiful area and I can't wait to see it. But it still looks like I'll be away for six months, which never gets any easier. I just feel like part of me is missing; the part I left in Florida with you. Call me an old romantic, or cheesy, but it feels like part of my heart's been left behind.

I've been thinking about what you said; about telling Richard the truth. You're right in thinking that he's a decent guy and I think he might be okay with it, but to be honest I'm very wary of giving any details about my private life. Even if he's okay with me being gay, he might not want to hear anything about it. The whole point of me telling someone is so that I can talk to them about you, but what if he doesn't want to know? So I haven't decided yet.

I enjoyed talking to you on our anniversary, but I still wish I could have been there to kiss you, and take you to bed so we could celebrate in the best way possible. Hopefully next year I'll be there for the actual day and we can do that.

Always remember that I love you, Jack. I know it's not easy for us to be apart but I want you to know that I love you more than anything else. You're the most important person in my life and that will never change. Take care of yourself, bud, and try to keep your chin up when we're apart. I'll be back one day, and I love you. Just remember that.

Love, Ennis xxx

Ennis sighed and put his pen down, thinking. He had to admit that he was worried. Every time he saw Mike, the latter would smirk at him as if he knew something that would get him into trouble. The only thing he could think of was if Mike knew about Jack, but that couldn't be possible. They had been so careful in public.

Maybe Mike had been following him, but for that he would have to be suspicious in the first place. Nobody but him knew about the journal and he kept his phone with him all the time, with a password in place. He didn't understand why Mike would follow him out of the blue like that, unless he'd just been curious about the mysterious "girlfriend" of Ennis's.

Ennis hoped that he was wrong; that Mike hadn't seen anything. What if Mike was planning to blackmail him for some reason? If they happened to be up for a promotion that only one of them could get, for example, then surely Mike would use whatever he had to force Ennis into backing out of it. In that case, Ennis wouldn't mind stepping back if it kept Mike's mouth shut. He would do anything to protect what he and Jack had.

He put the letter in the addressed envelope and sighed to himself, hoping that nothing bad was about to happen. He also hoped that if the truth got out, Jack wouldn't think that it was his fault. What if Jack thought that he blamed him, especially if he got the sack? He tried to reassure Jack that it wouldn't be like that but he knew how Jack thought. For all the confidence Jack tried to show, Ennis knew that he could be very vulnerable and sometimes needed taking care of. He loved knowing that Jack trusted him enough to let him in when he needed help, but he hated to see Jack hurting and hoped that he was never the cause of it.

He sat down on his bed and looked through the photos of Jack on his phone; it did help to know that he could look at Jack any time he wanted and that was certainly a good thing when he felt lonely. He'd sometimes considered asking Jack to have phone sex with him, but that would be very risky because someone could walk in on him in a compromising situation.

As for his dreams, he sometimes worried about calling out Jack's name in his sleep. But his cabin mate hadn't treated him any differently so he figured that even if he had, the other guy had been asleep too and hadn't heard a thing. He knew he was very lucky to be sharing a cabin with a heavy sleeper.

All Ennis could do was keep wary of Mike and just try to get through the next six months. Maybe the next time he would be able to get back for Jack's birthday and they could spend it together; that was something to feel optimistic about.

After he'd finished the letter, Ennis left his cabin and went to hand it in for posting. He kept hoping that nobody was going to see him with it, especially Mike because he was suspicious of what he might know. Ennis wasn't sure what to think about the way Mike looked at him, as if he was biding his time. He would rather get it out in the open already.

He often wondered if he really should tell Richard the truth about himself; he was the only person on the ship that Ennis felt he could trust right now. He knew that some of the guys would either hit him or make fun of him if he told them that he was gay, but he had a feeling that Richard wouldn't do that. He really needed to talk to someone about Jack and what they were going through; Richard said he was seeing someone in the city too so he was bound to understand how it felt, even though he was seeing a woman.

"I think it's probably for the best," Jack told him on the phone one night. "You obviously want to trust him with this and if you believe that you can..."

"I really do," Ennis replied. "God knows I need someone to talk to, like you've got Lureen..."

He sighed as he slowly walked along the corridor, thinking about what Jack had said. It was worth a try, after all. And the worst thing that could happen was that Richard simply didn't want anything more to do with him, he reckoned. At least he probably wouldn't go telling everyone.

He rounded a corner and spotted the man himself texting on his phone. "Richard!"

"Hey, Ennis," he replied, glancing up. "Just sending a message to Claire, letting her know I love her. Do you do that with Jackie?"

"Uh, yeah," Ennis told him, nodding. "Every day, actually. And we talk when we get the chance. Sometimes I reckon it's the only thing keeping us going."

"I know what you mean," Richard replied, putting his phone away. "Anyway...what's up?"

"There's something I need to talk to you about," Ennis said in a rush, deciding to throw caution to the wind. "Can we get out of sight?"

"Sure." They walked into an empty room and sat down. "What's going on?"

"I've...been lying to you," Ennis admitted, terrified of what was going to happen. "I'm not seeing a woman called Jackie."

Richard looked puzzled. "Okay...did you break up?"

"No, I never was seeing her; she doesn't exist. I made her up to cover the truth," Ennis explained.

"Which is...?"

"I'm seeing...a guy. His name's Jack. That's who I've been spending shore leave with since last year. We've just had our first anniversary."

Richard looked shocked; he didn't say anything for a moment, but then sighed. "Well, um...I wasn't expecting that, I've gotta admit. I mean, I never would have thought..."

"I know," Ennis replied, nodding. "I've known for a long time that I'm gay, but I've never really had a relationship with a guy before. I've been terrified to tell anyone because of that law."

"I can understand that," Richard told him. " you're gay. Fair enough..."

"You're not pissed at me?" Ennis asked, feeling confused. "I mean, not just for the lying, but..."

"You thought I'd kick off? Ennis...I'm not like that and you know it. I'd never do that just because of who someone is. My brother's gay."

"Oh," Ennis said, feeling as if he'd made a horrible judgement about this man who was clearly still his friend. "I didn't..."

Richard smirked. "And that's exactly why I didn't know that you're gay. We never asked each other. It's none of my business who you're sleeping with, so...I'm wondering why you're telling me now."

Ennis shrugged. "I miss Jack a lot, and I'm too scared to start talking about him in front of the others. We get on well so I thought I could trust you with it. He's got a female friend there that he talks to about me, and...I wanted that too. If you're not okay with talking about it, that's fine. I just..."

"Hang on," Richard cut him off, holding his hand up. "I never said that. It's a surprise,'re still who you were before. It's not like you've suddenly changed, after all. I'm still your friend, Ennis. I just don't wanna know about your sex life, but then I'd say that about anyone. It's a private thing. But I'm okay with hearing about this Jack guy in general. I know what it's like to miss someone."

Ennis finally managed to smile. "Well...thank you. I never thought I'd ever be able to talk about him. That damn law..."

"I know...that can't be easy. So...what's he like, then?"

"Well...he's the most dependable person I've ever met. And...he's just a great guy. It's going really well for us. He gave me a key to his place for when he's working while I'm around."

"Wow...that sounds like you're really moving forward. You said you've just had your first anniversary, but you haven't spent that much time together, have you?"

"Not really, but our thinking has always been about where we would be if we had spent every day together. We probably would be living together by now, maybe even...engaged," he added softly, and Richard smiled.

"Is that what you want?" he asked, and Ennis shrugged.

"One day, maybe. But I know it's not legal in Florida yet, might never be. But it is in Iowa where my apartment is."

"So if you get engaged, if you want it to be legal then Jack would have to move in with you," Richard pointed out. "That's a tall order, Ennis. You'd be asking a hell of a lot."

He sighed. "I know, and the thing is there's only eighteen months left in my contract. I'm leaving after that and nothing is certain. But I know one thing...I wanna be with him no matter what."

April 25th, 2010

On Sunday, Ennis was sat up on the deck during his break, enjoying the warm weather as they headed south. He was feeling great at the moment; he'd spoken to Jack on the phone last night, Richard knew the truth and was supportive of him, and he hadn't been approached by Mike for any reason. He had a nagging feeling that things were going too well right now, but he tried to shake it off. There was just no way that Mike could know about Jack; the corridor had been clear when he'd spoken to Richard and they would have heard footsteps if they'd been overheard.

He still missed Jack so much, even though talking about him did help a little. He would always wish that their time at sea didn't have to be so long, so that he could come back sooner and spend more time with Jack. He thought about his lover all the time and knew that Jack thought of him.

He was just thinking about texting Jack when he sensed someone near him; he turned to see Mike looking at him, arms folded. "I want a word with you." There was something about his demeanour that Ennis didn't like.

Ennis felt alarm bells going off in his head and he sat up; he'd been expecting an ambush for a while now but he wasn't really prepared for it. "Okay...what's going on?"

"You tell me. Or were you busy? Texting your boyfriend?" Mike asked, and Ennis's eyes widened. How the hell does he know?

"What...?" he asked, trying not to panic.

"Don't bother denying it. I know about you and that guy you've been seeing in Jacksonville. I hate it when people lie."

Ennis stood up, trying to stay calm. "How did you know?"

"I got suspicious as to why we never see any photos of your girlfriend, why you didn't say much. You said it was because you don't like people prying, but then I got to thinking. You seem really secretive, holed up in your cabin all the time, keeping your phone with you so that nobody can see what's on there. I wondered why you were doing that so I followed you on the last shore leave. I saw you with that guy at his front door. You were hugging him in a way that told me everything. Didn't take a genius to figure it out."

Ennis kept his fists clenched; he so wanted to punch this guy for doing this. He knew he had to try and resist; starting a fight would only get him into trouble and he didn't want that. "So what? It's none of your business."

"It is now," Mike told him, smirking. "I bet the other guys wouldn't like it if they knew you're that way. One of them beat up a gay guy and got away with it due to lack of evidence. He's real proud of it." Mike smirked in a horrible way.

Ennis started to become fearful, but he knew he couldn't let it show. That was probably exactly what Mike wanted, and he knew that Jack would want him to stand his ground. "What do you want from me? What's stopping you from telling them if you've known ever since the start of the month?"

Mike paused before speaking again. "I did think about telling them, but then I decided I could use this for myself."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, you ought to know it's not easy to be away for so long. Gets to a point where your balls are ready to burst. I've got girls in every port but it can get to be too much. And...sometimes I just wanna get off."

Ennis's brow furrowed; what was he getting at? "Why are you telling me this? What's that got to do with anything?"

Mike stepped closer, and Ennis backed away. "Here's the deal. I'll keep my mouth shut, if you do me a favour."

"What kind of favour?" Ennis asked warily.

"Think about what I just told you," Mike said in a dark tone, and Ennis's mouth fell open. Surely he couldn't mean what it sounded like.

"Are you crazy? I thought you were straight!"

"I'm not keen on labels. Besides, this is just about sex, nothing else. I get to a point where I don't care where I stick it." His eyes were dark and Ennis felt like a trapped animal. He had nowhere to run now; sooner or later he would find himself cornered and then what?

" can't be serious. I can't do that!"

"You can if you wanna keep your job. Put in some time with me and I won't say anything."

Ennis couldn't believe what he was hearing. If he agreed, that would mean cheating on Jack and breaking his heart; the one thing he'd sworn not to do. If he refused, Mike would out him to everyone and he would lose his job. He didn't know what to say. "I..."

"I'm a fair man," Mike went on. "I know you're probably thinking which is worse; cheating on your boyfriend or losing your job. I'm not expecting an answer right now. You know we're heading for Sydney next. You've got until the day we leave to decide. That's about three months away, right?"

Ennis nodded, not knowing at all what he was going to do. "Mike...don't make me do this. I promised Jack I'd never hurt him, and there's no way I could do what you're asking and not tell him." He would never forgive himself if he hurt Jack, even if Jack himself did. He'd promised never to hurt him.

Mike shrugged. "It's up to you, Ennis. Have an answer by the time we leave Sydney, or I'll tell everyone anyway." He walked away, and Ennis sank back down into the chair. He stared out at the ocean around him, his mind whirring and unable to settle on anything. Now he had no idea what to do.

After a while, Ennis left the deck and started walking through the corridors, not knowing at all what he was going to do. He didn't want to lose his job, but there was just no way he could cheat on Jack; he would always hate himself he did that just to keep his job.

He found himself walking in the direction of Richard's cabin, hoping that he was there. Richard had told him that he could come and talk to him at any time if he needed to, because he understood how important it was for Ennis to have a friend on board.

When he knocked on the door, Richard answered and immediately saw that something wasn't right. "What's going on?" he asked, seeing the look on Ennis's face. "What's happened?"

"Can we talk?" Ennis asked him, and he was allowed inside. He turned to Richard, folding his arms. "Mike knows about me and Jack."

Richard looked taken aback. "Mike, the annoying guy from the Halloween party?"

"Yep. He got suspicious as to why I never showed any photos of my girlfriend, and why I was so secretive. So on the last shore leave he followed me to Jack's apartment and saw us together."

"Shit," Richard breathed, and they both sat down. "So what's he saying to you? Is he gonna tell everyone?"

Ennis bit his lip. "He says he'll keep quiet, but only if...I..." He couldn't go on, but Richard got the message.

"Oh God...that's horrible. That's blackmail, that is. He can't be allowed to get away with that."

"I know, but I don't know what to do. Either I cheat on Jack or risk losing my job..."

"Are you seriously weighing up your options?" Richard asked in disbelief. "Your relationship is way more important than your job, Ennis. You can always find another job; will you ever find another Jack?"

Ennis stared at him and realised that he was right; there was no comparison. He could live without a job in the Navy, but he couldn't live without Jack. There was no question what he had to choose.

"You're right...I can't do what he's asking me to do. But you know what? I'm not gonna back down either and let him tell everyone. There has to be a way I can keep my job without cheating on Jack."

"Like what?"

"I don't know, but...I'll think of something. Maybe I can find something to blackmail him with; beat him at his own game."

Richard sighed. "I can understand the appeal...but do you really wanna stoop down to his level?"

Ennis bit his lip. "I don't know. I need to think about it." He stood up and made for the door.

"Ennis? There's something you definitely should do," Richard called after him, and he paused. "You should tell Jack what's going on."

Deep down, Ennis knew he was right; Jack deserved to know what was happening. He just hoped that Jack believed he wasn't tempted to give in. "What am I gonna say? It'll hurt him anyway...even if I reassure him that I won't do it, will he still doubt me?" He didn't want to think of Jack worrying whether or not he had done it; what would he see in Jack's eyes the next time they met? Disappointment, anger...but mostly hurt. He just couldn't do it.

"Not if he loves you enough," Richard told him, clapping him on the shoulder. "From what you've told me, you guys seem to have something really special. If he trusts you, then that's all you need to know. You have to tell him, Ennis; it's only fair."

"Yeah. Anyway, I'd better get going. I need to think about what I'm gonna say...see you later." He left the cabin and started heading down the corridor again, hand in his pocket where his phone was. He just didn't know what he could say to Jack that would reassure him of his faithfulness. Jack did trust him, but this was about his job. It was important to him and he wanted to keep doing it while still having Jack in his life.

Ennis returned to his own cabin and sat on his bed, thinking it over. There just had to be a way in which he could keep his job without hurting Jack, if only it would come to him. He wasn't above blackmailing someone himself if it meant keeping everything the way it was now; he didn't really want to stoop to Mike's level but maybe he had no choice. He just couldn't cheat on Jack, not even if Jack told him it was okay because Ennis would never believe him.

He wondered if the other guys knew about Mike's tendency to go after other guys when there were no women around; surely they would start thinking that Mike was gay and then what? Perhaps he would become a target instead. He could tell the other guys that Mike had approached him, of course leaving out the real reason. But Ennis realised that his heart wasn't in it; he just wasn't like that and there was no way he could do it. If he did, Mike would probably tell everyone anyway.

He knew he had to tell Jack, regardless of whatever else he decided to do. All he could do was reassure Jack that he wasn't going to give in and just hope that Jack believed him. He knew that he would be able to think better if he just talked to Jack about it and got some advice; Jack was the one person who could talk him down from doing anything stupid, to get him to think things through before doing anything.

Ennis lay down and stared at the wall, trying to go over in his mind what he was going to say. He knew that Jack would give him a chance to explain everything properly and he would hopefully have some advice; Ennis didn't know what he would do if that didn't work out.

May 10th, 2010

It was a Monday, and Ennis had realised that he could no longer put off his conversation with Jack. They would normally have spoken by now and he knew that Jack might be worrying as to why he hadn't called. Even just replying to Jack's texts had been hard enough to do; what would Jack think of this?

He was sat on his bed during his break when he saw another text from Jack, and his heart ached.

Are you okay? Tell me you are xxx

Ennis sighed and resigned himself to the inevitable; he didn't want Jack to worry about him. He called the number and waited.

"Ennis?" asked a hopeful voice, and a lump formed in his throat.

"Hey, darlin'. Sorry I haven't called sooner..."

"What's going on? Were you just busy?"

"No...something happened. You remember that guy Mike, from the Halloween party?"

"Yeah, what about him?"

" suspicious about me being so secretive, not showing photos of my girlfriend and stuff. So...on the last shore leave, he followed me to your apartment and saw us together. He knows about us, Jack."

"Oh God...has he approached you about it?" Jack asked, sounding fearful.

"Yeah. But that's not the worst thing, Jack...he's blackmailed me."

"What? How?"

"Shit,'re not gonna like it..."

"Ennis, please. Just tell me."

"Well..." Ennis started, feeling scared to death over how Jack would take it. "He said he'll keep quiet about it...if him favours."

"What kind of favours?" Jack asked, and Ennis wished that it didn't have to be true.

"Jack..." he said. "Doesn't take a genius to figure it out..."

"You mean...? Oh God, Ennis! He's asking you to...have...?"

"Yeah, he is. He said he's mostly into women but wouldn't turn down the opportunity to be with a man if there was no other option. I swear, he's...well, crazy."

"So...what did you say?" Jack asked, and Ennis could hear the fear in his voice.

"He said I've got until the time we leave Sydney to give an answer. But, Jack...I can't do it. I just can't cheat on matter what the reason."

"So if you tell him no, he'll tell everyone you're gay," Jack filled in for himself. "So it's me or your job. Shit, Ennis...I never wanted this. I never wanted you to choose between me and your career."

"I know, Jack. But there's no way I'm cheating on you. And you know...even if you say it's okay to do it so I can keep my job, I won't listen because I know your heart won't be in it and..."

"Ennis, calm down. I'm not gonna say it's okay, because we both know it's not. But we do need to think about what you're gonna do. Your options are to either go along with it and cheat on me, or refuse and risk losing your job, right?"

"Yeah. That's why I didn't call sooner; it was two weeks ago, Jack. I just didn't know what you were going to say. I thought...that even if I reassured you I wasn't going to do it, that you might doubt me. I thought that the next time we see each other, you'd wonder what I'd been up to. I couldn't live with myself if I hurt you, Jack."

"Ennis..." Jack sighed. "I trust you completely. I know you don't want to hurt me and if you say you're not gonna go through with it, I believe you. But what are you going to do?"

"I don't know. At first I thought about blackmailing him, telling the others about what he's up to. But...I don't think I could do it, to be honest."

"You're a better man than that, Ennis," Jack told him. "And I'm glad you're not gonna do that. But you know...there is another option that you might not have thought of."

"What's that?" Ennis asked; he couldn't think of anything else and wondered what Jack had in mind.

"Telling the captain," he said simply.

"Oh, Jack...I don't know...that might not do any good. That involves telling him I'm gay..."

"Well, if you say no to Mike he's gonna find out anyway," Jack reminded him. " least this way it's on your terms."

"Yeah, but what good would it do?" Ennis asked.

"Ennis, that's obvious. This isn't just blackmail; it's sexual harassment! He can't be allowed to get away with it and I'm sure the captain won't like it if he finds out. He's the only one who can do anything. You never know; he might be supportive of gay people or even gay himself. I'm sure that if you talk to him...he might be able to force Mike to keep his mouth shut."

The idea did make sense, but Ennis was wary of coming out to anyone right now. "I don't know,'s a huge thing and a lot to think about."

"Ennis, I don't think you have a choice. At least this way, you won't have to cheat and you could probably keep your job."

"But what about that law? Don't Ask, Don't Tell? If it gets out...what if I get sacked anyway?"

"Then I'll be here for you," Jack promised in a soothing voice. "No matter what happens, you will never be alone, I swear. I already told you; you can stay with me if you get kicked out and I'll take care of you while you adjust to it."

Ennis felt the lump in his throat growing and wondered how he'd managed to find someone like this. He just couldn't do something that would hurt Jack. "I love you, Jack."

"I love you too, Ennis. Give some thought about talking to the captain, and try not to worry. You said you're talking to Richard and that he's okay with you being gay, so talk to him too. You know where I am if you need me, baby."

Ennis smiled at this, vowing that he would at least try to sort this. "Okay. I'll call you again soon, I promise. Bye, Jack."

"Bye, Ennis."