Chapter 13

Thursday, May 20th 2010

It's been ten days now since Ennis called me with that horrible news. I still can't believe that someone would do that and I hope it gets cleared up soon. I know it must be hard for Ennis, feeling as though he's trapped and will lose something either way. I've never wanted him to choose between me and his job but this is exactly what will happen if he doesn't talk to the captain.

We spoke yesterday and he still hasn't decided what to do; he's running out of time and we both know it. They'll be in Sydney next month and then he will have to decide which to choose. If he doesn't, Mike will tell the other guys anyway and then what? I've heard horrible stories about what happens to gay men when they're found out in the armed forces; they certainly don't get a quiet dismissal. If only that law didn't exist.

I keep wondering whether or not to find out the phone number for his parents in Iowa, to ask them what they would do if Ennis was kicked out. I know his dad was in Vietnam so he might actually be ashamed if Ennis was dismissed, even though it's not his fault. But I don't want to do anything behind Ennis's back; that's not fair.

I trust him completely; I know he doesn't want to give in to Mike and I believe that he won't. He actually thought I would doubt his fidelity because of this, even if nothing had happened. But he assured me that there was no way he was going to cheat on me, and I believe him for that. I know we miss each other a whole lot when he's away, but that doesn't mean we can't control ourselves. I know he won't cheat on me; he loves me.

I'm glad he can talk to Richard about all of this, someone who understands what life is like on that ship and what they might be able to do to make Mike back off. I hope they come up with something, but I think it would be best for Ennis to talk to the captain about it. He's the only one who can do anything concrete and I hope Ennis realises that.

The other day, I told Lureen about all of this and she thinks the same as me; we both know that talking to the captain is the only way for Ennis to save his job without being unfaithful and that's what we both want. I'll keep trying to convince him of this until he agrees because I know it's the only way.

I hope everything works out okay; I couldn't bear to think what might happen if Ennis is forced to leave. He hates being away from me but I know he loves the job, so maybe there's a chance to keep things as they are. Either way, I'll be there for him no matter what.

Jack sighed and put his pen down, thinking over what he'd just written. He sometimes felt as if he was going in circles; Ennis didn't want to cheat but also didn't want to lose his job. Jack was convinced that the only way for this was for him to tell the captain what was going on; surely he was the only person who could decide on a solution. Maybe he could threaten Mike to keep his mouth shut or lose his own job. But Jack worried about the repercussions of that; what if Mike got angry and told everyone anyway?

There were still seventeen months left of Ennis's contract, and Jack knew that they would drag because of how much they missed each other. Jack knew that Ennis needed him right now and it hurt that he couldn't be there for the man he loved. He just didn't know what to do; Ennis wouldn't be back until October and that was a long time away.

He closed his journal and picked up his phone, thinking. He worried about how Ennis was coping and was glad that he at least had a friend on board; Jack wanted to meet Richard for himself and thank him for being Ennis's friend. He also wanted to meet Mike and perhaps give him a black eye for daring to do this to his lover, even though he knew that Ennis would probably hold him back so as to avoid trouble.

Jack started typing a text and wondered what Ennis was doing right now; it was almost lunchtime and he knew that Ennis would be on a break right now.

Love you, hope you're okay xxx

There wasn't much else he could say right now; he wanted Ennis to know that he was there for him if he needed to talk, but there was nothing else he could really do. He hated being unable to help Ennis properly from so many miles away and he wished he could do something. Ennis was a good man and didn't deserve to be going through this.

Jack had sometimes felt guilty for what was going on; if not for him then nobody on the ship would know that Ennis was gay. But he had tried to take the blame and Ennis had been having none of it.

"It's not your fault," Ennis said firmly. "I don't wanna hear you talking like that, Jack. I don't blame you for it. This is all Mike's doing and he's the one to blame. Jack...don't do this to yourself."

As a result, he had tried not to put the blame on himself. It was a constant struggle, especially when Ennis sounded so scared about what was going to happen, but he reminded himself that Ennis still needed him. He couldn't go having himself a pity party when Ennis needed him to be strong. If Ennis was sacked, he would have to be there for him. There was just no way he could break down now.

A little later, there was a knock at the door and he opened it to find Lureen. "Hey," she said with a smile, holding up a bag of bagels. "Thought you might be hungry so I picked these up after my shift just now."

Jack smiled back and let her in. "Thanks, Lureen. I'm sure glad to see you."

"Have you heard from Ennis lately?" she asked, removing her jacket. He nodded.

"Yeah, we spoke last night. He's still not sure whether or not to go to the captain."

"Why? It's surely the only way to deal with this..." she asked, folding her arms.

"It is, and deep down I think he knows that. But he's so scared of how the captain might react to it; this whole thing has really shaken him and he's terrified to tell anyone that he's gay."

Lureen sighed and brought the bagels to the kitchen area, helping herself to the cheese and cold cuts in the fridge. Jack was actually glad that she was looking after him; he hadn't eaten much in the past week because of his worrying. "In a way, I can understand him. He thought that if he kept his head down and just got on with his job, then everything would be okay and he could fulfil his contract before coming home to you. It always knocks people sideways when their plans are ruined because they usually didn't plan for it."

"I know...and I hate that Mike guy for what he's doing. I wish it didn't have to be like this, you know? It's that damn law..."

"Yeah..." She turned to face him. "If...he is asked to leave, what then? Will he move in with you or go back to his apartment?"

"That depends on his parents. They might be ashamed if he's given a dishonourable discharge," Jack pointed out. "And...if he is sacked it'll just break him. I'm the one who'll have to pick up the pieces of him afterwards and put him back on his feet while he adjusts. I love him so much, Lureen...and I hate the thought of him being forced to leave. We've got our own plans, you know? He'll fulfil his contract and then come back, like you just said. We haven't made any concrete plans for the future or anything..."

"Maybe not, but surely you know what you want?" she asked as they sat down with their lunch. He shrugged.

"Yeah...we're gonna move in together, maybe here or in Iowa at his place. And after that...I don't know. Same-sex marriage isn't legal here..."

"It is in Iowa," she told him with a smile. "I know it's not right that you would have to move states if you wanted to get married, but it's the only way right now while people are so backwards about it. I really hope you guys get married one day; you're a great match and I know you love each other."

Jack smiled at her. "Yeah, we do. It gets hard, being without him for so long. You know what I mean," he added when he caught her smirk. "I mean...I miss him all the time and everything here reminds me of him because of the time he's spent here. Listen, you can't say anything, but...I took one of his shirts the last time he was here."

"You did?" she asked in surprise, and he nodded.

"Yeah. I just...he went to the bathroom and it was our last night together, was an impulse. I just wanted to have something of his that I could hold on to. I've been sleeping with it," he admitted. "It does kind of help because it still smells of him and...I'm sure it helps me sleep."

Lureen sighed. "Sounds like you've really got it bad for him," she said, and he nodded.

"I really do. That's why I want him to go to the captain and tell him what's happening. It's the only way to fix this, but even then it could have repercussions. What if Mike decides to get revenge by telling everyone anyway?"

"Then we'll just have to wait and see what happens," Lureen replied, covering his hand with her own. "Jack...if Ennis is sacked he will need you more than ever. If his parents won't let him go back to his apartment except to get his stuff, then he'll have nowhere else to go if you don't step up. You have to be there for him, Jack."

"I know, and I don't mind that. Hell, I want to be there for him whenever he needs me. I know that if it were me going through what he is, there's no way he would let me deal with it on my own. He would be there for me, so that's what I have to do for him. I just hope...that it never gets to a point where I have to do that. I want things to go as we planned, so I hope that he goes to the captain before the time's up."

"Yeah. That guy surely can't be allowed to get away with this; it's not right. Not just blackmail, but sexual harassment too."

"That's what I said. There's no way the captain will stand for that on his ship and I'm sure he'll be okay with Ennis being gay. Deciding on whether someone stays or is sacked is up to him, so he'll find out anyway at some point. But you know what hurts me the most?" he asked, looking up at her. "It's that I can't be there for Ennis right now. I want to hold him and tell him that it's going to be alright. I want him to feel safe again because...both of us only feel truly safe when we're together." He felt a lump in his throat and looked down, only dimly aware of Lureen moving around the table to hug him. He wished that everything was going to be okay, but there was just no guarantee of that.

June 3rd, 2010

On Thursday, Jack was just making dinner for himself when his phone rang on the worktop; he'd gotten into the habit of keeping it close all the time just in case Ennis called him with news. He hoped that something had been sorted out and that it didn't involve Ennis giving in to Mike; Jack knew it would hurt a lot if Ennis was forced to cheat on him. What if it ruined their relationship as a result?

He picked his phone up and felt his heart skip a beat when he saw the name. "Ennis?"

"Hey, bud. Finally got some time by myself to talk to you. How're you doing?"

"I'm fine, but...what's going on over there? Have you decided on anything?"

"Not really. I talk to Richard about it but he doesn't have any ideas either, except one."

"What's that?" Jack asked, sitting at the table. He heard Ennis sigh.

"Talking to the captain, like you said," he replied in a low voice, and Jack nodded to himself.

"Well, maybe there's something in that. I honestly think it's the best thing you can do."

"I know, means coming out to someone else and the way I'm feeling right now..."

"Ennis," Jack sighed, leaning back in his chair. "I know that the whole thing has left you feeling shaken up, but that's no reason to hide away. What choice do you have? It's the only way to get this sorted and we both know it."

"Yeah, but...what if he has to sack me because of the law, knowing that I'm gay?" Ennis asked fearfully, and Jack sorely wished he could hug him.

"Even if it comes to least you'll know that you tried and you won't be left wondering what might have happened if you did. If you don't at least'll be kicking yourself afterwards."

"Alright...but what if I do it and he tells Mike to keep quiet, and then Mike gets pissed at me for grassing him up and tells everyone anyway?"

Jack sighed. "I'm not gonna lie to you,'s a possibility. But all I can say is that you won't be alone in this. I'll be here for you when you get back and I'll help you. Even if, God forbid, you get depression because of it, I'll be right there to help you get better, I promise."

"You'd do that for me?" Ennis asked, sounding taken aback.

"Of course I would. I'd do anything for you, Ennis. I just...I don't ever want to see you suffer. You'll never be alone in this, you hear me?"

"So if...I tell the captain and somehow I end up leaving sooner than I thought, you'll be there?" Ennis asked him, and Jack smiled.

"I will, I promise. I love you, Ennis."

"Shit, Jack...I don't know what to say except...I love you too. That you'd do all that just for me, it's just...nobody's ever loved me like that before. Unconditionally, no matter what. Would you still love me even if I were to give in to Mike?"

Jack bit his lip; this was a tricky one and he would prefer not to think about it, but Ennis probably needed to know anyway. " wouldn't be easy. But at least I would understand the circumstances. It's not as if you'd be messing around on purpose, behind my back. It would just be to keep your job. I reckon we'd make it anyway, Ennis. Just wouldn't be easy, you know?"

"Right. But I'm not gonna do it anyway. It would still hurt you and I swore never to do that to you. So that's just how it is."

"Good. But I still say you should talk to the captain, Ennis. I know it might backfire but you have to at least try. You never know, it might work out."

Ennis didn't reply for a moment but Jack could tell he was thinking it over, and waited patiently. "You know what?" he finally said. "You're right. I've got a lot to lose, least I know I won't lose you. That's the important thing, right?"

"Yep. I'm not going anywhere, Ennis. You'll always have a home as long you've got me, understand?"

"I do, Jack. Thank you for helping me out with this whole thing. I'll do something for you when I get back, something to pay you back for all of this support."

Jack smiled. "Well...I'm only doing what any decent partner would do, but you're welcome."

"Partner?" Ennis asked, sounding puzzled. "I thought that word only applied if the two people lived together? I mean, I only live with you for a few days before I'm off again..."

"It still counts, I reckon," Jack reasoned. "You'll be living with me when you leave anyway, wherever it is. So...we're more or less partners now, right?"

"Yeah, I guess we are," Ennis replied in a soft voice, and Jack could tell he was smiling. "'re right. I should talk to the captain and at least try to get this sorted. I know I'll regret it if I don't. And if it all backfires...I've still got you."

"Thank God," Jack breathed, pleased by Ennis's decision. "I'm glad to hear you agree to this, Ennis. I thought you wouldn't; that you'd just stand by and let Mike ruin your career."

"There's one thing you have to know, Jack. I know you don't want me to choose between you and your job, but if I had to...I'd choose you without thinking. I can find another job no problem, but I'll never find anyone like you."

Jack grinned and felt his heart soar; Ennis sure did know how to say the right thing when it was needed. "Well...that's good to know. Good luck with it, Ennis."

"Thanks, bud. Love you, and we'll speak soon."

"Yep, love you too. Bye." He clicked off and sighed in relief; at least Ennis was willing to try and get help from the captain. That was something to be happy about.

That night, Jack was in bed and trying to get to sleep. It wasn't easy at the moment, since he was so worried about Ennis, but he knew he had to keep his strength up because Ennis would probably need him soon. At least Ennis was fully aware that his plan could backfire; Jack hated to think what might have happened if it did and he hadn't warned Ennis beforehand. What if he ended up blaming Jack because he didn't tell him?

As it was, Jack was certain that no matter what happened, they would be okay. Ennis had told him that their relationship was the most stable thing in his life now; the only thing he could put his trust in. The thought made Jack realise that Ennis was counting on him to be there, and he had to step up because he loved Ennis.

He curled up, holding Ennis's shirt close to his chest. It still smelt of Ennis and it was a comforting thought; almost as if Ennis was here with him. It would certainly do until Ennis was here for real, which was still a long time away. Even if Ennis was asked to leave the Navy, he still wouldn't come back until the ship returned in October. Either way, it was still a long time.

Jack sighed to himself and breathed in the familiar scent from the shirt; he remembered it so well from Ennis's last visit. He could remember the times that Ennis's body had been pressed against his, either during sex or after, when they showed each other how they felt. There was just no better way.

He opened the door to see Ennis standing there, looking lost and forlorn. "They kicked me out," he said as soon Jack saw him. "Told me to leave...I...and my parents don't wanna know dad said not to show my face around there again..."

Jack sighed. "Oh, baby...come here..." He pulled Ennis inside and hugged him tightly, feeling how much he was trembling. "'s okay...I'm here..."

"I don't know what to do," Ennis choked out, holding onto him. "I...I've got nowhere else to go and I need you..."

"I'm right here," Jack repeated, rubbing his back. "Come on, calm down..." He pulled his face away and cupped Ennis's cheeks. "You'll be okay, Ennis. I'll never let you deal with this alone, you hear me? I'm here for you."

He kissed Ennis gently, intending for it to be just a kiss of comfort. But Ennis pulled him closer, and Jack could sense he was desperate. "Ennis?" he asked when he was finally let go. Ennis's eyes were a little glassy, which made his heart ache to make him feel better.

"Jack, I...I wanna...I mean..."

"You want me to make it better?" he asked softly, squeezing his lover's hands. Ennis nodded.

"Yeah. At least for a little while, as a distraction. Can we?" He looked into Jack's eyes, almost pleading with him. Jack nodded and smiled.

"Sure. Come on."

Within a few minutes they were in the bedroom and under the covers; Jack looked down at Ennis and stroked his cheek. "Are you sure? I mean...are you up to it? You don't look so good..." He didn't want to make Ennis think that they had to if he wasn't capable right now.

"Jack...I need to. When they sacked me I was alone and you weren't there and..." He gulped. "I missed you so much and...I want you to do this now."

Jack nodded and smeared some lube over himself before starting to push in, taking it slowly so as to not hurt Ennis too much. He understood that his lover was feeling vulnerable but at least Ennis wanted him to do this; he would never take advantage. He saw the look of pain briefly cross Ennis's face before he relaxed. "'s okay..."

Ennis managed to smile up at him and gave a nod; their familiar signal. Jack started moving inside him, taking it slowly and pressing gentle kisses to Ennis's neck. He knew how Ennis was feeling right now, so it was up to him to take the pain away, if only briefly. Ennis reached out for him and Jack held him close, whispering in his ear that everything was going to be okay.

Afterwards, Jack was lying on his chest and wiping the fresh tears from his eyes. "Didn't hurt you, did I?" he asked, and Ennis shook his head.

"No, it's not that...I just...I'm damn happy to have you with me, Jack. It's gonna be so hard to adjust now...never thought it would be."

"I know, baby," he replied, kissing him softly. "But I'm here, and I'm never going away. I promise,'ll always have me."

Jack woke up and shook his head, thinking over what he'd just dreamed. His worries about Ennis were crossing into his unconscious mind now and entering his dreams; that was surely a sign of how worried he was and he didn't like to think of it coming true. What if it did?

He thought about the dream; they'd never had comfort sex before, where it was just about making each other feel better like that. He could recall the emotion he'd felt while trying to show Ennis that he was there, and he wondered if it would become a reality. If Ennis was told to leave and his parents didn't want him around, he would certainly need something like what the dream had contained. Jack silently vowed that he would do absolutely anything that Ennis needed, even if it didn't really work to lift his mood.

Jack sighed and turned over, facing the spot that Ennis slept in. He reached his arm across the empty space, remembering what it had been like when Ennis was there. One day, they would spend every night in the same bed and would wake up together the next morning. That was the dream he clung on to when things got difficult; one day it would all be over and they would have their future together.

June 15th, 2010

On Tuesday, Jack was walking through the park by himself and thinking about his dream from the other night. It was clear to him that there was the possibility of it coming true, especially if Mike got angry about Ennis going to the captain. But maybe it would be alright; surely if the captain had a word with him then Mike would back down in order to keep his own job. Jack didn't see how it was worth it since Ennis would be leaving in just over a year; what would be the point of causing trouble for him?

He didn't understand how someone could be so heartless like this; Mike clearly didn't care about how much he and Ennis loved each other, or how it might affect Ennis if everyone else found out that he was gay. Jack still wanted to meet this guy and make him pay for doing this to Ennis; he was feeling fiercely protective of Ennis at the moment even though they were miles apart. He hated the thought of Ennis feeling vulnerable and open to such abuse; he shuddered every time he thought about what might have happened if Ennis had given in.

But he tried not to think about that; Ennis wasn't going to cheat on him and that eased his mind. But he still felt slightly guilty about being the reason behind all of this; Ennis could still be risking his job by going to the captain and he hoped that the dream he'd had wasn't going to be reality.

His phone buzzed in his pocket as he sat down on a bench and he looked at it; his mother was calling. "Hey, Mom."

"Hey, honey. I wanted to know how you are; you haven't called for a while."

"Yeah...I got kind of caught up in something," he replied; the situation with Ennis had driven everything else out of his mind. "Ennis is having a bit of trouble with one of his co-workers..."

"I hope it's nothing too bad," she said, and he sighed.

"It is. The guy knows about him being with me and he's threatening to tell everyone. Ennis is gonna go to the captain to see if he can get some support." He decided not to tell her about how Mike was blackmailing Ennis; she didn't need to know about that. It was hard enough for him to wrap his head around.

"That's terrible, Jack. I hope the captain has some sense about him."

"So do we. But there's the chance that this guy's gonna get annoyed by Ennis grassing him up. He could tell everyone anyway out of spite."

"If that's the case, he should be sacked," his mother replied. Jack grinned; he loved how his parents had accepted Ennis even though they had never met him. He also knew that Ennis's parents wanted to meet him one day, but that wasn't on the radar just yet because of how far away they were.

"Yeah, I agree with you on that one."

"Jack, we were wondering...Ennis is back in October, right?"

"Yep. Don't have the dates yet, though. He won't know until they leave Sydney and are on their way back. Why?"

"Well, your dad and I would like to meet him, if he has the time. I mean, it's been a year for you two now and you never day he could be our son-in-law."

Jack smiled; he did like the sound of that. Maybe one day they could get married, but he knew it would only be legal if they moved to a state that allowed it. That was something to think about when planning where to live. "Well, I know he wants to meet you guys too. I did hear once that shore leave can last up to two weeks, so maybe we'll get that this time. If we do then I'm sure we can arrange to have dinner or something."

"Sounds good, honey. So we'll either come to your place or you can bring Ennis to us. It's up to you two. But we would like to cook for you and him, you know. We can do a big roast or something."

Jack smiled. "I think we'd both enjoy that. You know...I'm really happy that you've accepted him, even though you've never met him. It means a lot to me and I know it wasn't easy at first because of the long distance..."

"Well, not really. I worry for you, Jack; I'm your mother so I always will. But you said you were certain about Ennis and we believe you. Maybe if we meet him it'll ease our minds. We know you love him, Jack."

"I really do, Mom. You know, we're gonna move in together when he leaves the Navy next year. Don't know where we're gonna live yet, but I might be moving. Depends on how things go. I told you about his apartment in Knoxville that his parents are looking after."

"Yeah, you did. And it's okay if you want to move, Jack. We're certainly not going to make you stay if you want to move; it's your life and your decision. You have to follow your heart, Jack."

He nodded to himself, knowing that she was making a lot of sense. He could always count on her to do that. "Yeah, I guess so. Anyway, the next time Ennis calls I'll tell him about your invitation. I bet it'll cheer him up."

"Good. Give our best to him as well. Bye, honey."

"Bye." He clicked off and sat back on the bench, looking up into the sky. He missed Ennis every moment of every day that they were apart, and he was trying to focus on how each month that passed brought them closer to being together for good. It was the only thing helping to cure his loneliness, at least for a while. Just another sixteen months, and Ennis would be back with him for good and they could start planning their new life together.