Chapter 20

Monday, February 14th 2011

It's Valentine's Day today, which has never been easy for me since I met Ennis. I miss him even more on this day and all I want is for him to be here with me. I want a romantic dinner and a walk in the park, or to see a movie with him. Lots of couples take this day for granted because they know they'll be together for it, but I'm always alone.

Lureen tries her best to cheer me up, and if I were straight and single we might even be together. But I love her like a sister and I know she sees me as a brother, so it's nice to spend time with a woman who doesn't have ulterior motives. Her friendship means a lot to me and I would be a lot lonelier without her.

But still, it's hard without Ennis on this day. We'll be talking on the phone later but it's never quite the same as when he's here. We've never had phone sex because he's too scared that someone will overhear him. I think he's a little shy about it too, which surprises me considering how he is when he really gets going. More than once I've woken up with a limp because of what we did the night before, but I never complain because I like the feeling of being branded by him.

He told me once that he knows I'm not his property, despite how he likes to claim me when we're in bed. I told him that I'm his, no matter what he says. He's mine too and we just belong together. I think it's okay to say that we belong to each other because there's always the love and respect we have for each other.

It's not easy to be without him for so long, but at least we'll be together soon. His parents sent me the photos of his apartment, and I have to admit I really like the look of it. The place seems to be slightly bigger than mine, but it looks very homely and I could see myself living there. Maybe we will, after all. It's a scary thought to leave here because I've only ever lived in this city, but what better reason for moving could there be than love? I would move to another country if it meant I could be with him, because I just can't imagine a life without him now.

He'll be coming home soon enough, and I know he wants to talk about our living arrangements. It'll be good for us to be back together and I'm looking forward to it. I hope he's back for our anniversary because I want to do something special for a change. We talked about going for dinner, which we can do now because it doesn't matter if someone sees us; they all know about him being gay and seeing me. I just hope that we don't have to deal with any more bigotry.

He put his pen down when he saw his phone buzzing; it was Lureen. "Hey."

"Hey, Jack. My shift just finished and I was wondering if you wanted to get some dinner. My treat, since we're both alone on this day. We might as well make the most of it, right?"

"Yeah, I guess so. I'll wait for you outside my building, okay?" he replied, closing his journal. He had more or less finished for today, and was looking forward to Ennis's phone call later on. He missed that voice every day that he didn't hear it. He liked how closely connected they were even when apart.

"Are you okay?" she asked. "You don't sound so good."

"Just lonely," he sighed, rubbing his forehead. "I hate this day at the moment, because I miss him so much and he's miles away. It's just...really difficult to be without him on a day that's all about love and couples...makes me a little jealous to see people so happy."

"I know. But at least you do still have someone. I'm still looking," she replied. "Anyway...I'll come by in about an hour and we'll go and do something. Keep your chin up, Jack."

"Yep." He hung up and stared at the wall for a few minutes, thinking. He had a feeling that when Ennis returned, they would have a serious talk about where they were going to live. He knew that Ennis loved his apartment in Knoxville and there was a high chance that he would ask him to move there. Jack wasn't strongly attached to his place, so it wouldn't be so painful to move. The only thing was that he had some good memories of being with Ennis here. He looked at the sofa and fondly remembered their times on there; not just sex but the numerous times they had curled up together to watch TV or just spend time with each other.

Jack knew that same-sex marriage was legal in Iowa, and that it wasn't here. That might be the deciding factor for where they lived, and he wondered if Ennis was going to propose to him when he got back. Jack wasn't sure how he might react if or when Ennis did; was he really ready to make such a huge step, despite how much he loved Ennis? He didn't know for sure because he knew it would be a lifetime thing. He wanted to spend his life with Ennis, but he didn't know if he was up to the task of being someone's husband.

It was his own insecurities making him feel like this, so he decided not to pay attention right now. All that mattered was that Ennis was coming home soon and he would focus on that. If Ennis asked him to move to Iowa, then Jack would simply reply with whatever he felt in that moment. But he had a feeling that he was going to agree; everything was pointing that way, after all.

That evening, Jack was on the sofa with his laptop when Ennis called. He was looking through the photos of Ennis's apartment again, grateful to Ennis's mother for sending them.

The apartment was on the sixth floor, which included a balcony. One photo had been taken from here and Jack loved the view it offered. He knew that Ennis had paid the rent before enlisting, and that his parents had taken over for now. Ennis didn't know what he wanted to do after leaving the Navy, but Jack was confident that he would find something.

Jack was just looking at a photo of the bedroom and smiling to himself when his phone rang. "Hey, you. Was wondering when you'd call."

"Sorry, I had some work to do. But I'm done now and alone in my cabin so we can talk. How've you been today?"

Jack sighed. "Lonely, without you. I hated this day when I was single and now...I hate it because we can't be together for it. I miss you so much..."

"I know, darlin'. But just remember I'll be home in a couple of months. Then we can make up for lost time, right?"

"Yeah," Jack agreed, smiling. "And I know we have some things to talk about." He didn't want to ask Ennis if he intended to propose; it might cause tension between them, especially if Jack had been wrong and Ennis started feeling like he had to propose now.

"I know we have to talk about where we're gonna live," Ennis replied. "But I just want you to know...I will love you wherever we decide to live."

Jack smiled and nodded, even though Ennis couldn't see him. "Same to you, bud. Um...I'm actually looking at the photos your mom sent to me. Your really is something else."

"You really like it?" Ennis asked, and Jack thought he could detect some hope in the question but let it go. Maybe Ennis was just seeking approval.

"I's a great place, and that view from the balcony is amazing. It looks...cosy, though. Like somewhere you could easily settle down. I mean...I really don't know how to choose now because I love both."

"That's okay, bud," Ennis assured him. "We've got plenty of time to think about that. I want you to be happy, whether that's in Florida or Iowa."

Jack bit his lip; Ennis must know full well that same-sex marriage was legal in Iowa but not here, and he had a feeling that Ennis would want to take that into consideration when deciding between the two. He hoped that Ennis wasn't purposefully lying to him here, and just avoiding the truth. He wondered if he should say anything.

"Jack, you there?" Ennis asked when he remained silent for too long.

"Uh, yeah. I just...that was really sweet, what you just said."

"Well, it's true. I love you so much, Jack...and I can't wait to spend my life with you."

Jack smiled in spite of his misgivings; he knew that this was true if nothing else. He could rely on the fact that Ennis loved him even if everything else was uncertain right now.

"I feel the same, bud. Wherever we live, I can't wait for our first night together as a real couple, sharing a life together. Can you imagine what it's gonna be like, spending every day together?" he asked, trying to fathom that.

"I don't know what it'll be like," Ennis admitted. "But I know we're gonna enjoy it. I want to be with you as much as possible, Jack. Even with working, we'll still be together most of the time and it's gonna be great. We can make each other happy, right?"

"Sure we can," Jack agreed, smiling wider now. "I can't imagine being with anyone else now. This is it for me, Ennis...for life. If we ever...broke up, I don't think I could be with someone else after. I'd just be reminded of you every day and I don't know if I'd be able to move on."

"To be neither. But I won't ask you to stay faithful to me if we break up or if I die, because that's not fair to you. I'd want you to have a life, Jack."

Jack sighed. "Ennis, don't do this. It may be the noble thing to say but I don't wanna hear it. I just can't talk about that right now, not when our life together is so close now. Can we just...focus on what we've got right now?"

"Course we can," Ennis replied, sensing that the subject was just too delicate for Jack right now. There would come a time to discuss things like that, but not now; it was too soon. "'s Lureen?"

"She's great, but still single. I feel sorry for her, being alone when I'm so happy with you. That's part of why I want to spend time with her; so she doesn't feel so alone. I know it's not a good substitute for a boyfriend, but..."

"You're doing what any decent friend would do," Ennis told him. "And I'm sure she appreciates it, Jack. Did you guys do anything today?"

"We went for dinner," Jack told him. "And it was fun. But the restaurant was full of these couples so we soon got bored of it; we went for a drink in the bar around the corner. That was actually more fun."

"I'm glad you could enjoy yourself," Ennis said.'s getting late now; I'd better get to bed. We'll talk soon, okay?"

"Yep," Jack agreed, stretching. "I love you, Ennis."

"Same to you, darlin'. Happy Valentine's Day."

"You too," Jack grinned. "Night, sailor."

"Night, bud." Ennis hung up and Jack sighed, wishing that the time difference wasn't so large. It was already one in the morning where Ennis was and Jack knew he would have to get up early. All he could do was focus on Ennis's next visit and their anniversary; that would help him get through this.

February 28th, 2011

On Monday, Jack was stocking the shelves in the store and thinking about Ennis's visit. He kept wondering how the conversation was going to go if Ennis wanted to talk about their living situation. He did like Ennis's apartment a lot, and he could honestly see himself living there with Ennis one day. But it would be a huge deal for him to leave behind everything he'd ever known, to a place where he knew nobody but Ennis.

He knew that if Ennis asked him to move to Iowa with him, he would probably say yes and not just to avoid hurting Ennis. But if he did say no...he wondered how Ennis might react. He was going in circles and didn't quite know what to do; he needed a woman's intuition right now.

Fortunately, Lureen arrived for her shift soon enough and walked over to him. "Hey, how's it going?" she asked, kissing his cheek. Jack shrugged.

"Not too bad, pretty quiet in here. Been thinking about Ennis all day, you know?"

She smiled. "What about this time? Rattling headboards or something else?"

Jack grinned. "Something else. I keep thinking about what's gonna happen when he comes back. I'm pretty sure he's gonna want to talk about where we're gonna live."

"And you can't decide?" she asked, and he nodded. "Okay...well, you've seen what his place is like. Which do you like better? Which one can you see the pair of you settling down in?"

"I don't know..." he admitted, sitting behind the cash register. "If I'm completely honest...I'm leaning more towards his place. But...I really don't know yet. I've lived in this state all my life, and in this city for so long..."

"Then maybe it's time for a change," Lureen told him softly, nodding. "And what better reason for moving than love? It's very romantic, you know."

"Hmm. I guess so. I know my parents won't try and stop me or anything, and his mom seems to like me. It would probably all work out. But there's one thing I can't stop thinking about with this whole thing."

"What's that?"

"Well...same-sex marriage is legal in Iowa, and not here. So is that gonna be the deal-breaker for us? If he wants me to move in with him, is that the reason? Is he gonna propose to me soon?" he asked, looking up at her, feeling very confused as to what he should do.

"Jack, calm down. You've got no idea what he might be planning, if anything at all. You two have spent so much time together here, so maybe it makes sense for you to live at his place when he comes back for good. Jack...look at where we are right now. We don't exactly have good prospects here, but you might find something better in Iowa. I mean, I might wanna move one day if I want something better, so I would say the same to you. It gets to a point where you just have to leave, for your future. You know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I think I do," he replied. She did make a lot of sense, and he was glad that he could talk to her. "Maybe it does make sense for me to move in with him. And just because it would be legal for us to get married there doesn't mean he's gonna pop the question the next time he's here, right?"

"It really doesn't. For all we know, Ennis is thinking about the long-term and the possibility of you getting married one day. So that when you are ready to do it, you can get married legally and won't have to worry about the moving later. Surely it's better to get this sorted out now?"

Jack smiled at her. "You're right, Lureen. I don't have any reason to freak out about anything; he's never hinted that I should expect a proposal soon. When we talk about getting married, it's always been a someday kind of conversation. I can see myself marrying him one day, but I don't think I'm quite ready for something so big yet."

"How come?" she asked, tilting her head.

"Until 2004, it wasn't legal for guys like us. So when I realised that I was gay, it never occurred to me that it might ever happen. I've never thought about it because there was a time when I never thought I could. So now...even though there are places where it's legal, I still didn' just didn't register in my mind."

"I can understand that. But I have a good feeling that you two will be very happy together," Lureen told him, smiling. "I'm sure it'll all work out, okay?" She went off to take over stocking shelves, leaving him to wonder about his future with Ennis. Maybe it would be a good idea to leave this place after all. Memories didn't live in an apartment or a city; they lived in his heart. He would always remember the times he'd shared with Ennis here no matter where they lived. And he might even get a decent job there; he didn't have many prospects here.

His phone buzzed in his pocket and he looked at the screen; there was a text from Ennis.

Will be back on anniversary, for six days. Looking forward to being with you again, bud xxx

"What are you smiling at?" Lureen asked as he read the text, and he showed it to her. She grinned, understanding why he was so happy. "Oh...he'll be back for your anniversary. That's great, Jack."

"It really is. I can't wait for him to be here again. Since the other guys all know that he's gay, he agreed that we can go for dinner one night. He's got nothing to be scared of anymore."

He eagerly texted back that he too was looking forward to it, and then decided that if Ennis asked him to move to Iowa, he would most likely say yes.

That night, Jack couldn't sleep. He just ended up tossing and turning without being able to switch off and he didn't know why. Not even holding Ennis's shirt close to his chest or lying on Ennis's side of the bed could help him, and he eventually decided to give up for a while. He'd heard that when unable to sleep, it was best to get up and do something until he was tired enough to try again.

He slipped out through the sliding doors and onto the balcony, looking out at the city before him. There was a bright moon in the sky tonight and everything was peaceful; it would be so much better if Ennis was here to share it with him.

Jack was so much looking forward to being reunited with his partner, especially now that the problem with Mike had been sorted. There was no way for him to hurt them now and Jack wanted to meet the captain personally so that he could thank him for the support he'd given Ennis.

"As it happens, he wants to meet you too," Ennis told him over the phone. "He wants to meet the guy who I'm going through all of this for; I said that you were worth it."

Jack smiled, feeling suddenly shy at this statement. "Don't know about that, Ennis. I mean...have you looked in a mirror lately? You could have anyone you wanted, and picked me."

"Because I couldn't help but fall in love with you," Ennis told him sincerely. "Even when we first met, bumping into each started right there for me. I felt something, you know?"

"So did I," Jack admitted. "Classic case of love at first sight, right? I never really believed in that before."

"Maybe it wasn't love at first sight," Ennis reasoned. "Maybe it was attraction, and the love came after, you know? When we got to know each other better, kissing on your sofa."

"Yeah, maybe you're right. Either way, I definitely love you now. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Ennis. No two ways about it."

Jack smiled fondly at this memory; they had lots of conversations over the phone where they just whispered sweet nothings to each other and not much else. But that was just fine; it made them both happier than before and it was a good way to pass the time. Jack couldn't wait to have Ennis's voice in his ear for real; it always sent shivers down his spine, especially when he was on his front with Ennis on top of him.

When Jack had realised that he was gay and started discovering the mechanics of sex, he'd initially been slightly put off by the all fours position; it had looked even more painful than the regular way. But with Ennis, it was different. It did hurt, but not too much; Ennis always knew how to make him feel comfortable and relaxed. He loved the feeling of Ennis enveloping him with his warmth from behind, protecting him even as they made love together. Nobody could hurt him as long as Ennis was there.

He sighed as he leaned on the balcony, looking out. There were a few cars driving around, perhaps people coming back from vacation or on a night shift. He thought about Ennis going to different countries and meeting people who had lived there all their lives; it amazed him to think that right now, somewhere in the world, there were other people in their own towns and living their own lives there, so far away. He was happy for Ennis, to be able to explore these new worlds, and maybe one day they could explore together.

He looked at his watch; it was almost two in the morning, but he didn't have to work tomorrow. Maybe he would go down to the beach for the day while it was fairly quiet. He wished he could go there with Ennis and run into the waves with him, rubbing suntan lotion on his back and enjoying a cold drink. Even if they did move further inland, to Iowa, they could still come back here for a vacation. There was so much that he wanted to do with Ennis and he was happy that they would be together soon. There were still eight more months until Ennis returned for good, and Jack was counting them down.

Eventually, he went back inside and decided to try for some more sleep; the fresh air might have helped. Sliding under the covers, he curled up with Ennis's shirt pressed to his chest. It still smelled of Ennis because he never washed it, and that was just fine with him. They had already agreed to wear a certain shirt often during their time apart so that they could switch over and wash the ones they already had. But Jack was perfectly happy with this one for now.

He drifted off eventually and found himself face to face with Ennis. It was always a good dream when this happened. He was dimly aware of Ennis moving inside him for a few minutes before it was suddenly over, and he turned in his sleep.

"Not long to go now," Ennis murmured to him, running a hand through his dark hair. Jack purred in contentment.

"Yeah. We'll be back together soon and have so much fun while you're here. And then...six months later..."

"Yeah...we'll move in together somewhere. Maybe one day...we'll get married..."

Jack jerked awake, eyes wide in the darkness. There it was again; another sign that a proposal was coming his way. It was too soon for him and he didn't want a proposal right now, when Ennis returned. He needed time to get used to the idea before Ennis asked him, so he hoped that Ennis could hold out until October at least. He was happy to consider moving into Ennis's place, though; that might actually be the best option for them and their future together.

March 6th, 2011

With just a few weeks left until Ennis's arrival, Jack was starting to get excited about the visit. He missed Ennis a lot when they were apart so it was great to spend time with him, even if it was only a few days. The fortnight they'd spent together had been amazing for both of them, but he knew it would be unrealistic to expect that this time. Still, it was better than no time at all, which would happen if Ennis was in the Army. He might get time off, but probably not every six months.

He was walking along the street, enjoying the warm sunshine that had started coming through with spring. He had a few things to get in order to prepare for Ennis's arrival and he liked planning for this special day, even more so because it would be their anniversary. Maybe they could spend an entire day in the bedroom again; that would be fun.

But he knew that they both wanted to have a romantic date together before Ennis left again, since it wouldn't matter now if someone saw them together. Ennis had support and friends, and the captain would sort out anyone who gave him grief.

After picking up some supplies for the bedroom, Jack made his way to his favourite restaurant and decided to make a booking for the pair of them; he'd seen couples here before when he'd been out with Lureen and had always envied them for being able to share it.

He walked in and approached the manager, who nodded in greeting. They knew each other fairly well. "Jack! How are you doing today?" she asked, smiling.

"I'm great. Listen, can I book a table for between the thirteenth and seventeenth?" he asked, and she consulted the book.

"Um...we can give you one for the sixteenth, at seven in the evening. Would that be okay?" He nodded and she looked up after writing it down. "For you and Lureen?"

"Actually, no," he replied, feeling nervous. "We're not actually together. I'm gay and she's my friend."

"Really? I never knew that. So who's the lucky guy?"

"A sailor that I've been seeing when he's on shore leave. We've agreed to have a romantic date."

"That's wonderful, Jack. I hope you have a good time," she told him, and he shook her hand. When he left, he looked around and decided to sit down for a minute.

He found a bench and pulled his phone out of his pocket, wanting to speak to Ennis. They had a rule that if Jack wanted to initiate a verbal conversation, he would text first to make sure that Ennis could talk; he didn't want to interrupt Ennis if he was working and cause him trouble.

Can you talk? Got some info for you xxx

He sent the message and waited, knowing that Ennis would just call if he could and text if he couldn't. Jack understood that Ennis's job had to come first during the months apart.

To his relief, his phone started ringing and he answered it. "Hey, bud."

"Hey, darlin'. What's going on?"

"I just booked us a table at this romantic restaurant. It's for the sixteenth at seven, how does that sound?"

"Sounds...perfect," Ennis replied. "I'm really looking forward to it. I take it that it's one of those classy places where you have to dress up smart?"

Jack grinned. "Afraid so, sailor. They'll throw us out if we turn up in jeans. I reckon we can endure it for one night. And just think of this; we'll be dressed up for just a couple of hours, and then when we get back we can undress each other. What do you say?" he asked slyly, knowing that he'd probably put a mental image in Ennis's head now.

"Um...yeah," Ennis replied, sounding a little flustered at the thought. "That sounds great. are you?"

"I'm okay, but I sure do miss you. Just over five weeks until you're back's gonna feel like five years."

"I know, Jack. But just remember; it'll be our anniversary when I get back. And we'll spend every day together, after all. I'll even meet you for lunch when you're working; we could do that when we live together properly, if you want."

"Yeah, that'd be great," Jack agreed. It would certainly feel like a nicer break between work hours if Ennis would be there. "I like the sound of that, Ennis. Um...I know we have to talk, about serious stuff. And that's okay. Even though we have a lot of fun together, I know that being in a relationship is about more than that. But I just worry that we might not be able to agree about things. It could hurt us if we can't decide things together."

"I know that," Ennis told him. "But I honestly don't think that'll happen. We love each other, so we wanna make it work. My parents came from different states and went through what we are right now, with my dad being in the Army. Neither of them could decide where they wanted to live, but they eventually came to a conclusion together. It'll only hurt if we don't talk about it, Jack. But if we can do that, then we're gonna be fine. I'm sure of it."

Jack felt a bit calmer now that he'd voiced his fears to Ennis, and was very glad that his partner was staying rational about it. "You're probably right. Anyway...I'll let you go for now. Speak to you soon, yeah?"

"Sure. Love you, Jack," Ennis said softly.

He smiled and felt warmth spreading through him. "I love you too, Ennis. Bye." When he hung up, he felt a lot better now that Ennis was coming home soon. They could finally relax without being scared of someone finding out about them, and they would both be safe from anyone who might wish to hurt them. Every day brought Ennis closer to him.