Chapter 18

Friday, November 12th 2010

Dear Ennis,

I think of you every day, and I want to tell you that I'm so proud to be with someone who stands up for what he believes in. I couldn't believe it when you told me about Mike exposing you at the party, and then that whole thing with those guys in the corridor. It's hard to fathom the existence of people like that in this so-called modern world. Unfortunately, tolerance doesn't always mean acceptance. I bet that most of the ones who hate you are only keeping quiet because they don't want to risk their jobs, which I don't like to think about.

But at least Mike has been given his marching orders; that's something to be happy about, I guess. Even if he makes trouble for you between now and the next shore leave, at least that'll be it from him. I just wish there weren't more guys like him on the ship, harassing you like that just because of who you are.

I'm really glad that you take no notice when they say you're an abomination and don't deserve to be there; if you believed it then they would get their way. I'm glad that this isn't the case.

I can't wait to see what your apartment is like, Ennis. I think it would really help in making a decision about where we're going to live, since you've already seen my place. No matter what we decide and where we live, I can't wait until it happens. Even though we'll have work, we'll still be together every day and I'm looking forward to that. I know we can make each other happy, Ennis...we love each other and want to be together. I don't even care anymore about how little time we've spent together; I know what I want and we've technically been together for nearly two years. Every time I'm near you, I just feel so happy. I love being with you.

Ennis, I want you to know that even if you are asked to leave the Navy, for whatever reason, I will never think badly of you. Some might look down on you if you had to leave early, including your parents, but I never will. I'll always be here for you regardless of what happens, and I hope you believe me when I say that. I will never give up on you.

Keep your chin up, Ennis. One day none of this will matter and we'll be happy. Just keep that in your mind when things get too difficult, and you should be able to cope. Think about the life we're planning together, and just remember everything we've been through together. Remember how much I love you.

Take care, Ennis. Don't let the other guys get to you, and let me know when you have the dates of your next visit. I'm looking forward to seeing you again, especially if it's around our anniversary.

All my love, Jack xxx

Jack put his pen down and thought to himself for a moment. He still wasn't sure what to think about the men who had been harassing Ennis a few days ago, but he wished that he could have been there to see them off. But then again, it might have looked bad for Ennis for him to be there, like he couldn't fight his own battles. Jack knew that Ennis was strong and brave, and he would hate for others to get the wrong impression. He had to allow Ennis to go through this by himself, albeit with Richard's help. All he had to do was provide Ennis with his support and love.

His thoughts were interrupted by his phone ringing; he didn't recognise the number but picked it up. "Hello?"

"Is this Jack Twist?" asked a female voice, and he wondered who it was.

"Yeah, it is. Can I ask who this is?"

"I'm Sarah Del Mar, Ennis's mother. You're his partner in Jacksonville, aren't you?"

Jack couldn't believe it; he'd never had any correspondence with Ennis's parents before. "Yeah, I am. Pleased to meet you, even just over the phone, ma'am."

"Same to you, Jack. I just wanted to let you know that Ennis did indeed ask us for photos of his apartment to send to you."

"Yeah, he said so. You're on some kind of vacation until the New Year, right?"

"A cruise," she answered. "With Ennis away, we thought we'd take some time together. And when we get back, we'll take some photos and email them to you. Would that be alright? Ennis gave us your address."

Jack smiled. "That would be great, thank you. I want you to know that I love your son very much...and I know we'll be happy together."

"I have no doubt of that, Jack; neither does his father. Ennis speaks very highly of you. It doesn't matter where you decide to live; Keith and I will always be there for the two of you. And...we know about the trouble Ennis is dealing with right now. That man who exposed him...Ennis told us about it all. Jack, I didn't just call to talk about the photos. I also wanted to thank you for being there for Ennis during this time. You've been of great help and support to him and we would be very proud for you to be part of our family."

Jack was truly touched and taken aback by this, and he couldn't wait to tell Ennis. "Well...I don't know what to say. Thank you so much, ma'am."

"None of that, Jack. You can call me Sarah. My husband is a very proud man since his time in the army. But he loves Ennis and wants him to be happy; he's very accepting of Ennis's relationship with you."

"I'm glad to hear that...Sarah. Um, I need to go right that okay?" He wasn't sure if she would take offence at this.

"That's okay, Jack. Hope to talk to you again soon."

"Of course. Bye, then." He hung up and smiled to himself; things were looking up.

That evening, Jack was sitting on his sofa and watching TV with a beer when his phone rang again; this time it was his own mother. He smiled fondly as he thought about the call from Ennis's mother earlier.

"Hey, Mom."

"Hi, honey. Just wanted to know how you're getting on."

"I'm fine," he replied, turning the volume down. "Ennis is doing okay too, considering what's going on."

"I'm glad to hear that. You said that Mike guy got the sack?"

"That's what Ennis said. At first he just heard it as a rumour, but then Mike's friends confirmed it when they were having a go at him." He could feel his blood boil as he thought of those homophobic bigots hurting his partner, and so wished he could punch them.

"That's awful, Jack. Did Ennis report them?"

"No, and I don't think he will. He seems to think that every time he reports someone, they'll get the sack and there's gonna be more people to pick up where the others left off. So it might not do any good in the long run, you know?"

"I see what he means but...he shouldn't have to take this. Does he at least have any other friends besides Richard?"

"Yeah, actually. You know how he mentioned that group of quieter guys on the ship? The ones who never draw attention to themselves? Turns out that they're all gay, like he suspected. It's a kind of group that they formed to protect themselves; they can be completely honest with each other without fearing the repercussions. Ever since the party, he's been spending more time with them and they seem really nice."

"That's great, Jack. I don't mean to sound rude, do you feel about him spending so much time with other gay men?"

Jack smiled. "I trust him, Mom. I know he'll never cheat on me, and those guys don't want anything from him. Most of them are seeing someone and...even if they weren't, they know he's seeing me and they respect that. It's all gonna be fine."

"I'm glad to hear that. How's it going with the photos of Ennis's apartment? Did you get them yet?"

"Not yet, but that's because his parents are on a cruise until January. They'll email me the photos when they get back. Um...Ennis's mom called me earlier, you know?"

"Really? What did she say?"

"Well...she said they'll send the photos when they get back. But she also wanted to talk to me, since we've never met. She wanted to thank me for standing by Ennis while he's dealing with all of this stuff on the ship. She knows it's hard for him so she's happy that he's got me on his side. And I told her that I love him and that I'll do anything for him."

"Oh, Jack...that's great. What about his dad? Wasn't he in the army?"

"Yeah, but even so...he's very accepting of Ennis being with me and he wants his son to be happy. That's what she said, and she told me to call her Sarah since we're almost family. And you know what? She said that they'd be proud to have me in the family." His insides felt warm at the thought of being so welcomed by Ennis's family, and it meant a lot to him considering how unusual their relationship was right now; they didn't see each other for months and yet they were serious about each other. He was happy that both sets of parents were so accepting of it.

"Well, there's nothing I can really add to that. I'm proud of you, honey. And just less than twelve months, Ennis will be back with you."

"I know...I can't wait. We can forget about all that crap he has to put up with on the ship and leave it in the past. It'll be good for him to get away from all of that. And...that's probably why he looks forward to his shore leave visits. Not just to spend time with me because he loves me, but also so he can get away. He never has to pretend or lie with me, and I think that's a relief to him."

"You're probably right. I'm so happy for you've been together for nearly two years now."

"I know...sometimes I can't believe it," Jack admitted. "Feels like a lot less sometimes, doesn't really matter to us anymore. We love each other and want to be together, so that's all we care about. We'll be moving in together and then who knows what else? We could even get married one day."

"That would be wonderful, Jack...but you have to remember that it's not legal in this state. And there's no telling when, or if, it might be. So..."

"We would have to move," Jack concluded, feeling his heart sink slightly. He'd wanted to keep their options open, but this was the deal-breaker. "I know it's legal in Iowa, where he lives. But I think we're getting too far ahead right now, Mom. I mean, we're just talking about living together. Marriage is far off for us right now..."

"I know," his mother replied. "But you have to think about the future, Jack. It makes sense to plan for the long-term. He could move into your place, and then you decide to get married. Either way, you would have to move."

"Yeah...anyway, I'm starting to get tired. Can we talk another time?" he asked, needing to think things through.

"Sure, honey," she replied, seeming to know that he just wanted to escape the conversation. "Good night, and give our best to Ennis."

"Will do. Night, Mom." He hung up and sighed, not paying any attention to the TV anymore. He wasn't sure what to think; living together was one thing, but marriage was a huge step and he didn't know if they were ready for that just yet. But he dreaded telling Ennis this; he didn't want to break his heart.

November 28th, 2010

On Sunday, Jack was sat in the park by himself. He'd found the bench where he and Ennis usually sat when they were here together, which helped him to feel a little closer to his partner. He was willing to use whatever means he had to so that he could ease his loneliness.

He thought about the time next year when Ennis would finally come home, and he wondered what it would be like for them to spend every day together. He just knew that he would enjoy it, and at least they had the blessings of both sets of parents.

"So what do you think?" Jack asked after telling Ennis about the phone call from his mother. He would love to see the look on Ennis's face at this information.

"I don't know what to say," Ennis admitted, sounding stunned but happy. "I mean...I knew that they're okay with us being together but I never expected her to contact you like that. I guess it really means a lot to her that you make me happy."

"Of course it would; she's your mom and she loves you. Every decent mother wants their kid to be happy, right? You know...I really felt happy about her calling me like that. It's good to know that she accepts us being together."

"Jack...even if they didn't like it, I wouldn't care. I got together with you knowing that I wanted to be with you. I didn't even stop to consider how they might feel about it. Maybe that sounds mean,'s my life and they know it. I reckon both our parents had their misgivings about us being together, because of the long time we spend apart. least they're happy for us. They know we can make our own decisions."

"Yeah, I know. And it's not mean, Ennis. I feel the same, to be honest."

Jack sighed as he thought of the conversation. They were moving very fast, considering the little time they spent together. He wasn't too bothered by it anymore; he loved Ennis and wanted to spend the rest of his life with him. He just didn't know if he was ready for marriage right now, because he'd never thought about it before meeting Ennis. Since it wasn't legal in this state, where he had lived his entire life, he'd never thought as far ahead as that.

He wasn't sure what he could tell Ennis; what if he wanted to get married, within the next few years? Was it too soon? He loved Ennis so much and could see them getting married one day, but he didn't think he was ready for it right now.

I love him so much, he thought to himself, staring up at the sky. If he wants to get married after he comes back, I don't have the heart to turn him down. It could really hurt him and I don't want that. But on the other hand...what if he asks me and I suddenly feel like I want to say yes? Would that be getting caught up in the moment; a decision I'll regret later? I'm not sure...but maybe it would be okay.

Jack was more or less making his mind up about the possibility of Ennis proposing to him. He figured that it would be okay for him to say yes, as long as the engagement went on for long enough so that he could get used to the idea. Ennis would probably be okay with that, or so he hoped.

He sighed; why did it have to be so complicated? He longed for himself and Ennis to have a simple life, where they didn't have to worry about anything and could just be themselves together. Hopefully one day, they would have that and everything would work out.

Jack knew one thing; he did want to marry Ennis one day. He had no idea how things between them might be in a year's time; maybe by then he would be ready to hear a proposal and accept it with full conviction. He knew that Ennis would respect his need for time before the actual wedding if he asked for it, and that was okay. Ennis had always been so considerate of his feelings; that was why they hadn't slept together when they'd first met, despite their strong attraction to each other. He'd known that it wouldn't be fair to Jack to simply sleep with him one night and then be gone by the next morning, as so many sailors did on shore leave.

He wondered what it would be like for him and Ennis to spend the rest of their lives together, without having to worry or pine for each other. Spending every day together would be a dream come true for both of them and he was looking forward to that day.

His phone buzzed and he pulled it out of his jacket; there was a text from Ennis.

Love you, hope you're doing okay xxx

Jack smiled at this; he just loved it when Ennis texted him through the day like this, and was very happy that they could communicate during the months they spent apart. If this wasn't possible, Jack knew that it would be even harder for them to cope without each other if they weren't able to talk in any way. He texted back with his smile firmly in place, happy to talk to his partner.

I'm okay, despite you being far away. I love you too, with all my heart xxx

He stretched and decided to carry on walking now; he'd needed to clear his head and he figured that he'd achieved this with the fresh air around him. He was certainly decided on what he would do if Ennis proposed to him when he returned for good, and that eased his mind. He would probably accept, and all he needed then was time to get used to it before they reached the date. He knew that Ennis would be okay with this.

That night, Jack was fast asleep and once more dreaming of Ennis. He'd long suspected that his dreams were caused by him having Ennis's shirt to hold through the night, but this was okay; he loved having a piece of Ennis here with him. It would never be easy for him to be alone here during these six months, but at least he was able to sleep now that he had the shirt. Ennis had told him that having his shirt on the ship with him also seemed to be helping; Jack was pleased that they could do this for each other even when they couldn't be together.

He rolled over in his sleep and unconsciously draped his arm over Ennis's side of the bed, seeming to know that it was where his lover belonged and smiling to himself.

"I love you," Ennis murmured to him as they lay together on the bed, kissing softly and rubbing against each other. As much as they both loved it when they were actually making love, sometimes the foreplay was just as rewarding. Ennis kissed his neck and trailed a hand down Jack's front, whispering to him.

Jack smiled and turned his head to give Ennis better access. "Love you too, baby. This feels so good..." He sighed. "Wish you didn't keep having to go away..."

"Me too, bud..." Ennis replied, looking down at him. "But just think...soon I'll back with you for good and then it won't matter anymore. We'll forget about the pain we go through and we'll have each other."

Jack nodded and widened his legs. "Come on, me how you bang that headboard." Ennis grinned and reached for the lube, still nuzzling Jack's neck and drawing a sigh from him. He loved the noises that Jack made when they were together.

He coated himself and then worked his way inside Jack, careful not to go too quickly and cause him pain. Despite the numerous times they'd done this and how Jack was used to it, Ennis didn't want to hurt him at all. He watched Jack's face closely as he pressed tightly against him, looking for the sign that Jack was okay. "You alright?" he asked softly, and Jack opened his eyes; they were full of love and trust; it humbled him to know how much Jack trusted him with this intimate access.

"I'm just fine...make love to me," he whispered, kissing Ennis and gasping slightly when he felt his lover move inside him. Ennis kept the rhythm slow at first, knowing that it would tease Jack just enough to drive him crazy. He loved how they could have this effect on each other and he knew that he would never abuse the privilege that Jack gave him by allowing him to do this. He would rather jump off the ship into the cold water of the North Sea than hurt Jack.

"I've missed doing this with you," Ennis murmured in his ear, nibbling the lobe. Jack sighed and wrapped his arms around Ennis's neck.

"Me gets lonely without you and more than once...I've thought about trying to get on the ship just so that we can be together. I wish you could come back sooner, even if just for one night. That would be something special and it would tide me over until shore leave." He felt Ennis push deeper into him move faster, and he groaned, feeling his erection rub against Ennis's stomach. "Ennis...please touch me..."

Ennis smirked and touched his hand, wondering if he could make Jack beg him for mercy. He felt as if he could get away with that because there was always an undercurrent of trust even when they teased each other. "Not there, you idiot!" Jack moaned, raising his hips. "Ennis...please..."

He couldn't keep this up for much longer; he wanted to touch Jack too. He reached down between them and started jerking Jack off, keeping it in time to his thrusts and hoping that they would get there together; he loved it when that happened.

Sure enough, Jack's eyes flew open and he climaxed just as Ennis came inside him, and their eyes locked together as they shared this moment. It didn't happen like this often, but when it did they felt closer than ever. Ennis sank down onto Jack's heaving chest and sighed in contentment.

"Oh, Jack...that was..."

"I know," Jack replied, sighing too and pulling him close. He kissed Ennis's hair and nuzzled him. "You're amazing, you know that?"

"If I's because I'm with you," Ennis told him sincerely. "I never felt amazing before being with you, Jack. You...bring out the best in me."

Jack looked at him and watched as Ennis raised his head. "Ennis...nobody's ever told me that before," he choked out, feeling truly touched by the sweet words. "I can't believe it..."

Ennis smiled gently at him and stroked his cheek. "Well, it's true. You really do, Jack. Don't let anyone ever tell you that you're not worth anything, because you're worth so much. You're a good man."

Jack felt a lump forming in his throat, and he was aware that his emotions were right at the surface after his orgasm. "Ennis..." He felt Ennis roll off him and pull him into a sitting position, arm around him. "You mean that?"

"Of course I do," Ennis assured him, kissing his cheek. "I love you."

"I love you too," Jack replied, smiling and feeling happier than ever.

When Jack woke up a little later, he still had the smile on his face and thought about what a wonderful man he'd managed to find. His love life was sorted now; something which he'd previously feared might never happen because of how hard it could be to find someone that he'd wanted to spend time with. But he had Ennis now, and he couldn't be more grateful for that day when he'd decided to take that route through the city that had resulted in him bumping into a sailor.

December 4th, 2010

Christmas was approaching, which Jack was looking forward to. They didn't get much snow down here in Florida, and it wasn't a common occurrence anyway. But he did enjoy the atmosphere that came with the holiday, and he loved going shopping for presents because of it. As hectic as it always was, he still loved being out amongst people who were full of the Christmas spirit.

He just wished that he could spend the holidays with Ennis; Christmas was a romantic time for couples and whenever he saw two people kissing under mistletoe, he couldn't help but feel envious of them. He didn't like being away from Ennis for so long, even though he'd made his peace with it because he knew how important Ennis's job was to him. He wanted Ennis to have that before settling down, and would never ask him to give it up.

As far as Ennis had reported recently, there hadn't been many incidents on the ship lately. He spent his time with either Richard or the group of guys that he'd discovered, so at least he wasn't putting himself in the line of fire too often. But after some coaxing from Jack, Ennis had admitted that it hadn't been easy. Jack would never force Ennis into telling him something, but he had been able to sense that Ennis wanted to tell him anyway; he was just nervous about discussing it because he didn't want Jack to worry. Jack figured it was too late for that.

"I know you, Ennis. You're trying to keep something from me so that I won't worry about you. Come on; I need to hear it."

"Well...a lot of the guys are whispering about me behind their backs. I was in the toilets yesterday and this group came in, slagging me off because they didn't know I was there. And sometimes they'll cross to the other side of the deck to get away from me. I'm just glad that I've got some friends, or else it'd be really hard to cope."

Jack thought about this conversation as he decorated his apartment, wondering what he was going to do for Christmas dinner this year. He didn't know what his parents might be planning, or Lureen for that matter, but he hoped he wouldn't have to be alone. It was bad enough that the love of his life wouldn't be there.

He knew all too well that Ennis was worrying about how bad things might get on the ship, but was trying to hide his fears so that he wouldn't worry. But Jack figured it was his job to worry about Ennis, as his partner. They weren't simply lovers now, but so much more as well as that; they were planning a future together, after all. He hoped that one day they could have a simple life.

His phone buzzed and he looked at the screen; there was a text from Ennis and that was enough to lift his spirits.

Three weeks to go, bud. Wish I could find you under my tree this year xxx

Jack grinned as he thought of a dirty response that he knew Ennis would love; it kept the spark in their relationship when they flirted with each other like this. Jack knew it was very important for them to do that, and he loved doing it anyway.

I bet you'd like to unwrap me, right? Suck on my candy cane?

He carried on decorating until he heard another text alert and looked at Ennis's response. If he'd had food or drink in his mouth, he would have spat it out at the mental image that raced in his mind.

Or cover you in chocolate and lick it all off xxx

Jack laughed and sat down, having too much fun to concentrate on the decorating right now. He missed Ennis so much, but this was a fun way for them to communicate when they missed each other.

I'd get one of those mistletoe belts, wear it naked and ask you to kiss me under it :-)

He bit his lip, knowing how much Ennis would like that image; the man did seem to have a thing for giving him oral and Jack loved it when he did that. He did like the times when he was the one in control, however that might be, but some part of him preferred it when Ennis took over; he liked the feeling of someone taking care of him and making him feel good. But he knew that Ennis sometimes needed that too, and was more than happy to oblige when Ennis asked him for it.

Either way, he knew for sure that he loved Ennis and everything about him; maybe it wouldn't be so scary after all if Ennis proposed to him when he came home for good. He didn't know why he suspected that Ennis would, since he'd made no mention of it, but he knew that Ennis was a romantic and that it would be perfect in his mind. Jack knew that he wanted to marry Ennis, so perhaps he wouldn't be scared or pressured if Ennis got down on one knee for him.

That sounds good to me xxx

He smiled and realised that his battery was dying, so he quickly sent a reply explaining it to Ennis and resumed his decorating, thinking about the forthcoming holidays and what they might bring for him. He wished that Ennis would get away, even for just one night to make it special, but it wasn't going to happen. Ennis would be away for the next four months, and even though it hurt him to know this, he took a little comfort in the fact that Ennis's next shore leave would be around their anniversary. And not to mention that the next time he saw Ennis after that would be for good; they were getting so close now to their new life together and he couldn't wait for the time apart to be over.