Chapter 21

April 13th, 2011

Jack grinned and kissed him again, pulling him close. "I missed you so much," he murmured, nuzzling his lover's neck. Ennis kissed the side of his face and felt life flowing through him again.

"Oh, darlin'...feels good to hold you. Happy anniversary..."

"Same to you," Jack replied, pulling his face away to smile at Ennis. "Two years to the day since we met...I can't believe it."

"Me neither. I never thought I'd meet someone...who could make me so happy. And now...I've got you."

"You sure have," Jack agreed, leading him over to the sofa and sitting him down. "'s everything on the ship now? Better, I hope."

"Yeah, it is. I still hear people muttering under their breaths when I pass, but they don't say anything to me or do anything. They leave me alone well enough. And I saw Mike being led away by police when I was waiting to get on the bus. So I guess that's over now."

"Thank God," Jack sighed, leaning against him. "It was awful, thinking that you might get really hurt by them just because of who you are. With the captain making an example of him, I guess the others are too scared to do anything, right?"

"Pretty much. And you know something?" Ennis asked, looking at him and sitting up. "It made me realise how lucky I am to have you in my life. I just...can't be without you, Jack. I love you so much."

"I love you too, Ennis," Jack replied, taking his hand. "What's brought this on?"

"Well...when I thought I might have to cheat on you just to keep my job, even though I didn't want to, I knew how much I care about you. So when I didn't have to do that, I was so happy that I wasn't going to lose you." Now was the perfect time for him to ask Jack; he just hoped that Jack agreed to it. "Jack...I wanna ask you something."

Oh God, he's gonna propose, Jack thought, feeling nervous. As much as he wanted to marry Ennis, he wasn't ready for it yet. He needed to wrap his mind around the thought first. "Yeah?"

"Well, we've seen each other's apartments. And I know we agreed to talk it all out together and decide where to live together. But I've been feeling...homesick lately. I miss my place, and the life I had there. Jack...I think I want to move back there when I finish my contract, but I don't wanna do it without you. So I'm asking...if you'll come with me."

Jack breathed a sigh of relief, glad that he had more time to get used to the idea of marriage. But this was still a big request that Ennis was making of him, and he needed to think it over.

"Wow, be honest, after I saw those photos your parents sent me I had a feeling that this would happen. You clearly love that place and I can see why. And...we have spent a lot of time here together. But...I don't know yet," he admitted, hoping that Ennis wouldn't be hurt. "I just...I don't know what I want yet, in terms of where to live. I know that I wanna be with you," he added, taking Ennis's other hand in his. "And I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but you're asking a lot of me..."

"I know that," Ennis told him; he'd half-expected Jack to need time to think it over. It was only fair to give him that. "And if you feel like you honestly can't leave here, then that's absolutely fine. I would be perfectly happy for us to live here together."

"But, know as well as I do that if we ever wanted to get married, we'd have to move from here anyway..."

"Yeah. And that's probably gonna happen one day. I'd like to marry you, some point, when we're ready. But if you feel like you'd rather stay here, then don't feel like you have to agree just to avoid hurting me. I can take it," he said, smiling at Jack. "So...I'll leave it with you for now, and we just won't mention it again until you've made a decision. Not another word from me; I'm leaving it up to you because I know I'm asking a lot."

Jack nodded, grateful that Ennis was considering his feelings so much. "Thanks, Ennis. It means a lot to me, and...I can tell you that I'll have an answer before you have to leave. But for now, let's just enjoy being together."

"I agree," Ennis replied, nodding. They settled down again and he put his arm around Jack. "So...about that dinner in three days. You say it's a romantic place?"

"Seems to be. I've been there with Lureen a few times. And we've seen couples there that really seem to enjoy it. It sure looks nice if you're there as a couple. They even have a little dance floor when they have live bands. Maybe...we could...?"

Ennis smiled, fondly remembering the time when they had danced together here. "Yeah, maybe. And we can hold hands when we go walking, and don't have to hide away anymore. Sounds almost too good to be true."

"Well, it's real," Jack told him, turning so that he was facing Ennis. "You don't have to wear your uniform, so nobody will even know that you're a sailor. And if anyone you know sees you, they won't be able to do anything. It'll just be you and me, baby."

"Just the way I like it," Ennis replied, leaning in to kiss him. Jack sighed into his mouth and Ennis pulled him closer, wrapping his arm around Jack's waist. This was what he had missed during their time apart, and what he loved about being with Jack. This man was the love of his life and Ennis couldn't wait for the next six months to pass, so that they could finally be together.

Ennis watched eagerly as Jack undressed on his side of the bed, looking appreciatively at the body he'd missed for so long. "Are you trying to make me suffer by doing that slowly?" he asked, and Jack grinned. He did love to tease Ennis sometimes.

"Maybe," he replied, slowly lowering his underwear and tossing it to the floor. Ennis felt himself becoming aroused as Jack got into bed and shuffled close to him. "You wanna?"

"I think that's a daft question," Ennis said, pulling him close and kissing him deeply. "God, I missed you..."

"Missed you too, Ennis." He then placed a finger over Ennis's lips. "No deep words tonight. Let's just enjoy this, okay? I want you inside me," he whispered, smiling when Ennis's eyes lit up. "Come on..." He kissed Ennis again and tugged at his waist, wanting Ennis to cover him with his warmth. Ennis knew the sign by now and rolled on top of him, both of them sliding down in the bed until Jack's head was comfortable nestled in the pillow. After a few long moments of kissing, Ennis broke away and looked down at the beautiful creature before him.

"You're amazing," he said softly, and Jack grinned.

"Only when I'm with you." He watched as Ennis grabbed the lube and could feel anticipation running through him. He was waiting for that moment when the world would just melt away, and it would only be the two of them.

"You got a fresh bottle?" Ennis asked, smirking as he put it back. Jack grinned.

"Wanted everything to be perfect. I knew we'd be having a lot of sex during the next few days, so..." He shrugged and then his grin widened when he felt Ennis nudging his legs apart. He responded happily enough, widening them and allowing Ennis access to his body. "Let's show 'em how it's done."

Ennis smiled and slowly started to push himself inside Jack, always taking care to avoid hurting him. The last thing he wanted was to cause Jack too much pain or to make him bleed. That would put a dampener on his first night back and he would feel guilty about it.

When he was all the way in, he saw Jack biting his lip and shifting until he was comfortable. "Tell me when you're ready," he said softly, and Jack nodded.

"Takes some getting used to after six months," he replied, eventually doing so and feeling the pain ebb away. "There we go...come on, sailor."

Ennis smiled lovingly and made sure that Jack was holding on tightly to him. He started moving, taking it slowly at first because he knew that Jack loved it like this. He leaned down to kiss and nibble at his lover's neck, rocking steadily into Jack and hearing him moan softly in his ear. "Feel good?"

"Wonderful," Jack sighed, ankles locked together around Ennis's waist and whimpering when Ennis pushed deeper. "Oh God, I needed this..."

"Me too," Ennis murmured, feeling Jack's heart beating in his chest close to his own. He soon figured out that their hearts were beating in time right now; he'd never felt that before. It was almost as if the two hearts were one. "Jack...I love you..." he murmured, kissing Jack on the mouth and pushing his tongue in. Jack welcomed it eagerly, curling his own around it and crushing his lips to Ennis's. He could taste the wine that Ennis had drunk earlier, running his tongue all around his lover's teeth and in the roof of his mouth. Ennis groaned at this contact, moving faster inside Jack and trying to keep up with him.

They broke apart for air and Jack gasped when Ennis trailed a hand down his chest. "Oh God," he whispered, bucking upwards. Ennis grinned and took hold of Jack, slowly massaging the head until a bead of liquid appeared. "Oh, fuck..." Jack groaned. "Ennis, please...jerk me off..."

He didn't need encouraging; he moved his hand up and down while sliding into Jack and soon enough he was rewarded by a sticky feeling on his chest and Jack crying out with relief. He thrust a few more times until he filled Jack up with his own release, claiming Jack as his own and feeling the connection burning bright between them.

He slowly sank down onto Jack and into his arms, sighing and trying to get his breath back. "Oh, darlin'..."

"That was amazing," Jack replied, wincing when Ennis pulled out of him. "How did you get to be so amazing at this?"

"You know what they say...practice makes perfect. I know what you like, what feels I just wanna make you happy."

Jack smiled and kissed his damp hair. "You know I'll return the favour when it's my turn, bud. I know you like taking it as well as giving it."

"Gotta admit that I do," Ennis agreed, and then he rose up to look into Jack's eyes. "But...only with you, Jack. I don't know if I could trust anyone else..."

"I know you could if you were with someone else, Ennis. But I know you, and we're not gonna talk about this," Jack said firmly but gently. "Neither of us likes talking about what might have been if we weren't together. None of that now, okay?"

Ennis nodded and rested on Jack's chest, smiling when Jack wrapped his arms around him. "Don't think I can move now..."

"Then don't," Jack told him simply. "Stay right here if you want. You're not that heavy..." He grinned when Ennis pulled on his chest hair. "Ow!"

"You deserved that," Ennis said, closing his eyes and allowing Jack's warmth to wash over him. This was where he belonged, with Jack. Even if Jack couldn't move to Iowa with him, it wouldn't matter right now. They would probably have to wait before turning their thoughts to marriage, but for the moment everything was okay. He just wanted to be with Jack; he didn't care about anything else right now.

April 16th, 2011

On Saturday, Ennis and Jack went for a walk together in the park. They had missed being able to do this together, and it was made even better by the fact that they could hold hands this time. Now they didn't have to worry about Ennis's co-workers seeing them together, which was a welcome relief for both of them.

Jack had done a lot of thinking over the past few days, about Ennis's request for him to move to Knoxville with him. He did like the look of Ennis's place and knew that they could be very happy together, but he figured he was just scared of moving so far away for the first time.

On the other hand, maybe it would be alright. He would have Ennis there with him and could slowly get used to the area as long as he had help. And he did love Ennis with all his heart; he knew that Ennis was homesick and figured that it was about time he sacrificed something for Ennis; his lover had already given up any hope of staying under the radar while on the ship and everybody knew about them. That couldn't have been easy for Ennis to do.

He felt Ennis squeezing his hand as they walked and looked over at him. "Hmm?"

"You okay?" Ennis asked, peering at him closely. "You're miles away there."

"Oh...just thinking. Mostly about what you asked me. But I still need a little time," he added quickly, and Ennis nodded.

"Sure, bud. You know I'd never rush you or make you feel guilty, right?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah, I know." They reached their favourite bench and sat down together, happy that they could now show affection in public. They'd been through so much to get to this point and felt as though they deserved this.

When they were sat down, Ennis put his arm around Jack and smiled at him. "This is good, right?"

"Sure is," Jack agreed, leaning over to kiss him on the mouth. He sighed when he felt Ennis's tongue seeking entrance, knowing how much Ennis liked that kind of kissing. He obliged, opening his mouth and moaning softly when the kiss deepened. He would never know what it was that made Ennis so good at this, but he didn't care. Maybe it really was because they'd practiced so much together. Either way, he knew in his heart that this was the one person that he would do absolutely anything for. This man was everything to him and he hoped that Ennis knew that.

He pulled away when he realised this, suddenly seeing that his choice was clear. He wanted to move in with Ennis, and what better reason for moving so far away than for love? Lureen had been right; it did have a certain romance to it and he knew it would make them both happy if he agreed to move to Ennis's place. He wanted to live with Ennis, wherever that was.

Ennis didn't notice his sudden epiphany, and simply pulled Jack into his arms. Jack melted into the embrace, happier than he had ever been. He so wanted to do what Ennis had asked of him, but decided to wait before telling him. They would be going for dinner tonight and the opportunity would be perfect. Besides, he still wanted to get used to the idea even though he was going to say yes. Leaving this city and this state would be a huge deal for him and he knew that Ennis respected that.

"You okay?" Ennis asked softly, pulling away to look at him. He gently fingered the hair at the nape of Jack's neck, making Jack close his eyes in pleasure and purr softly.

"Mmm...just fine," he murmured, resting his head on Ennis's shoulder. Ennis smiled in bemusement and held him closer, sighing and rubbing Jack's back.

"You make me so happy," he said quietly, and he felt Jack's arms go around him.

"The feeling's mutual," he replied, savouring every moment because Ennis would be gone again too soon. He hated how they usually got only a few days before Ennis had to leave again, for six long months. But this time there was a silver lining; the next time he saw Ennis after this would be when he returned for good, and that made him happy.

"Just think...six more months..." he whispered, squeezing his lover tightly.

Ennis nodded and smiled widely, so much looking forward to that. "Yeah. I can't wait for that day."

"I'm gonna be there, Ennis. At the port when you get off the ship. I'll be right there to greet you." He wanted that and nobody was going to tell him otherwise; he wanted that moment more than anything.

"And I'm gonna kiss you silly," Ennis replied, kissing the side of Jack's face. "Don't give a damn what anyone says. I'll be too happy to care."

"Yeah. I still wanna meet your friends, and the captain," Jack informed him, sitting up to look into Ennis's eyes. He put his arms around Ennis's neck. "I'd love to meet them and thank them for everything they've done for you. I know it wouldn't have been easy if you hadn't had support. I mean...if it was just you and might know..." He gulped, unable to finish his thought.

Ennis lifted his chin. "Darlin'...I'd never do that to you. I know I never told you this, but...I'd rather jump off the ship and into the sea than hurt you, especially in that way. If I'd done what he was asking, even if you'd forgiven me...I would never forgive myself. You come first in my life, Jack. Then it's the job. I want to be with you for the rest of my life. The rest doesn't matter."

He kissed Jack deeply again and they embraced once more, very grateful that things had worked out so well for them. Neither of them wanted to contemplate how things might have gone.

They were finally on their way to the restaurant, slightly worried that they were going to miss the reservation now.

"It's your fault, you know," Jack pointed out, trying to be serious but still smirking. "You're the one who grabbed me and threw me onto the bed."

"You were half-naked; what was I supposed to do?" Ennis asked, also losing his resolve. "I acted on instinct."

"You mean you were horny," Jack replied, grinning at him. They reached their destination and got out, Ennis holding out his hand.

"Come on, darlin'. Let's show them we've got nothing to be ashamed of," he said with a smile, and Jack took his hand. Ennis's fingers laced through his own and he grinned to himself.

Inside was just as romantic as Jack had told him, and Ennis looked around appreciatively. "This is really nice," he said, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah. Thought it might be a good place for our first public date. The trips to the cinema were so secret, after all."

They were shown to their table and given menus; Jack peered at Ennis over his. As soon as the order was taken, he was going to tell Ennis that he wanted to live with him in Knoxville. He couldn't wait to tell him. Ennis had given him the gingerbread heart for their anniversary and he had given Ennis a new watch, which he was wearing proudly. This would be one more gift from him.

"What are you smirking at?" Ennis asked when the waiter had taken their orders. Jack shrugged.

"Nothing much. Just...really happy." He grinned and took both of Ennis's hands in his own, resting them on the table. "There's something I wanna tell you..."

A part of Ennis feared that Jack was going to gently turn down his request, but the smile on Jack's face didn't add up to that. "Okay..."

"You asked me to live in Knoxville with you when you leave the Navy. know that this is a huge deal for me, because I've never lived anywhere but in this state. And I would be away from everything I've ever known, except you. So I want you to understand how scary this is for me."

"You know I do," Ennis replied earnestly. "If you feel like you can't-"

"Let me finish," Jack cut him off gently, squeezing his hands. "The thing is...when I told Lureen about it she said something that I keep thinking about. She asked me...what better reason to move than for love? She said it was romantic and I can see what she meant now. So...Ennis, you know I love you. And you know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. So it wouldn't work if you came back and went to live in Knoxville and I stayed here. I don't want another long-distance relationship with you because this has been hard enough. I'm only coping with it because I know we've got no choice right now. But to live apart when we don't have to? That's crazy."

Ennis nodded. He wasn't sure where Jack was going with this, but a small part of him was thinking that Jack was about to say yes.

"Ennis, I...when we were in the park earlier I realised that I would do anything for you. And we've spent so much time at my place since we got together that maybe it's...time for a change."

"What are you saying?" Ennis asked, his heart rate quickening. Jack smiled widely at him.

"I'm saying...yes. I'll move to Knoxville with you when you come back."

Ennis leaned over the table to kiss him firmly on the mouth, not caring in the slightest who might be watching. When they pulled apart, he looked as if he was in shock. "Jack, I...I don't know what to say."

"Well...I know we wanna be together. And somehow...we'll make it work. I'm sure of that, Ennis. I really want to do this. Maybe it's time for me to leave this area now; I've lived here for so long and it might just be time for a change of scenery, you know?"

"You'll love it there," Ennis assured him, nodding. "I know we'll enjoy living there."

Jack smiled. "Well then...I guess it's settled. My mom's probably gonna cry but...I can't stay here forever. There might be better job opportunities there, right? And we'll be together every single day," he finished, kissing Ennis's hands.

The food arrived and Jack pressed his foot against Ennis's. "Wanna know something? When I move and me are gonna christen every room of the place." He smirked at Ennis, who grinned and felt his cheeks go red.

" can't go leaving stains all over the place." Jack raised his eyebrows.

"Who says the stains are all gonna be mine?" he asked in a soft voice, the implications heavy. Ennis bit his lip as he remembered what it was like when Jack was inside him. "Anyway..."

"You damn tease," Ennis breathed, shaking his head. Jack grinned.

"I'll make you a deal. If you finish off that big plate, you'll get the best sex you've ever had."

Ennis didn't need telling twice. He ate his dinner with as much dignity as he could muster while wanting the outing to be over. He didn't mind that Jack had this kind of hold on him. Jack was by no means manipulative and so it was fine; this was all in fun. Ennis thought of the dance floor that Jack had mentioned, but he realised that he wanted to get back as soon as possible.

"You ready to go?" Jack asked innocently when Ennis had paid. Ennis looked at him with a predatory gleam in his eye. Jack's offer had made him think in only one way now.

"Get that fine ass in gear," he said in a low voice, and Jack started moving with Ennis right behind him, wondering if they were even going to make it to the apartment before Ennis jumped him.

April 18th, 2011

On Monday, it was time for Ennis to leave again. Although he hated doing this just when he'd gotten used to being around Jack again, he took comfort in the knowledge that the next time he was here, it would be for good. Not only that, but Jack had agreed to move to Knoxville to be with him. He was truly grateful for this and wanted Jack to know that.

"Wish you didn't have to go," Jack said from the bed as he watched Ennis finish packing. "You've only been here six days."

"That's more than we've had before," Ennis reminded him gently, squeezing his shoulder. "And just time I won't be going away again. I'm staying put."

Jack smiled. "Yeah, that's true.'ll give me time to prepare for the move, right?"

"We don't have to move up there right away as soon as I get back," Ennis told him. "We can take whatever time we need to be ready. Are you gonna look at jobs?"

"Yeah, I will do. And maybe your parents can help me out with that." He stood up, putting his arms around Ennis' neck. "I really do want to do this, Ennis. It's time that I found out what it's like outside of this state, and I wanna be with you."

Ennis smiled and kissed him, feeling very happy that everything was coming together for them now. "I'm really glad you said yes, Jack. I would've been fine if you hadn't, but...I really hoped that you'd agree."

"You know what? It's like I said at dinner. When we were in the park I realised that I wanted to be with you for good, whatever that involved. If it meant moving to a different country, I would do it if we could be together." He shrugged. "That's what you mean to me, Ennis. I love you."

"I love you too," Ennis replied, kissing his cheek for a few lingering moments. "You know...I've got a good feeling about all this. We went through so much crap with that Mike guy and then the others threatening me. It feels like we're due a break, you know? I'm looking forward to moving back home, with you."

Jack nodded and sighed, stretching his legs from his sitting position and watching as Ennis packed. He wondered if Ennis had given any serious thought to a proposal, but decided not to say anything. He did want to marry Ennis one day, but didn't think he was in the right frame of mind just yet. He had never given thought to marriage before meeting Ennis, because of the law. So he wasn't sure if he was ready for that just yet. Hopefully Ennis could sense that and was deciding to wait.

"What's up?" Ennis asked when Jack had been silent for too long. He shook his head.

"Nothing, just thinking. Remember that night when we came back from dinner?" he asked with a grin, and Ennis nodded. That had been something special.

"It really was the best sex I've ever had. How many times did you come that night?"

"I stopped counting after about four or five," Jack admitted, grinning sheepishly. "God, when I think about what we did..."

"I'm never gonna look at whipped cream the same way again," Ennis replied, shaking his head as he packed up. "That was a fun night."

"It sure was. And just think..." Jack said, standing up and wrapping his arms around Ennis's stomach. "When we're living together, we could do it every night. Probably just once or maybe twice, depending on how tired we are. But still."

"Sounds good to me," Ennis replied, kissing his cheek again. He looked at his watch and felt his heart sink; he had to go soon. "Damn..."

"I know," Jack murmured, trying not to let the pain in his heart affect him too much. "But it's for the last time. We have to hold onto that thought, right? It was awful that first time, not much better on the second because we'd just slept together for the first time. But this is gonna be okay, Ennis. Just six more months and that's it."

"Thank God," Ennis sighed, resting his head against Jack's and wishing that this moment would never end.

All too soon, it was time to go. Jack walked Ennis to the front door, unwilling to let go of his hand but knowing he would have to. "Any idea where you're going next?"

"Not really. But I'll let you know. And you can look up the time difference so we can work out the best time to talk."

"Sure. Come here..." He put his arms around Ennis's waist and felt his lover pull him close. "I'm gonna miss you, every day."

"Me too, but I'm glad we can stay in touch. It'd be hell if we couldn't. And just six months to go."

"Yeah." Jack pulled his face away and squeezed gently. "You're the love of my life, you know that?"

"Reckon I do, because you're the love of mine," Ennis replied, and then his gaze dropped to Jack's lips. He leaned in and gently pressed his own against them, feeling Jack sigh at the contact. He would never tire of kissing and holding Jack; every time they did this he was always thinking about the next time.

Eventually, they pulled apart and Ennis rested his head against Jack's. "I love you," he said softly, and Jack smiled at him, blue eyes full of both happiness and sadness.

"I love you too, baby. Always." They kissed once more and Ennis reluctantly let go of him, knowing that he had to get moving soon. He picked up his bag and put his hat on, seeing the appreciative smile on Jack's face.

When Ennis left, Jack went over to the sofa and flopped down onto it, staring at the ceiling. The next six months would drag by, but they would eventually come to an end and bring Ennis back to him.