Chapter 22

Tuesday, May 3rd 2011

It's only been two weeks since I left, but it might as well be two years for how much I miss Jack already. I can't wait for us to be together every day, and I often wonder what it'll be like. Even just to hold him in bed every night would be something else, not to mention having sex regularly. The physical feeling itself is always amazing, but what gets me the most is how I feel inside. I look at him during sex and I realise how much I love him.

As it turns out, my last trip will be to Rota, in Spain. I've always wanted to go somewhere like that, and maybe I can even do some sunbathing. Hopefully I would still have a tan by the time I get back home, because I know that Jack will like that.

I'm very glad that Mike was taken back to Texas, and that I don't have to deal with him anymore. There was a time when I honestly thought I might have to go along with what he suggested, which would involve betraying Jack. Even if Jack had given me permission for it, to save my career, I would never have done it. I just can't hurt him like that.

At least I don't have to now. I'll just get through these next six months, and then we'll be together. I already talked to the captain; he's happy to meet Jack when we land back home and I know they'll get on. Richard also wants to see Jack again before the ship leaves for wherever they'll go next, which I appreciate.

Sometimes I get nervous about Jack meeting my parents, but my mom already seems to like him so it'll probably be okay. And they're really happy that I'll be moving back home, because I know they miss me. I really hope that Jack likes the apartment when he sees it for real.

One thing that I've been thinking about is the law in Iowa. I know that same-sex marriage is legal there, and I have to admit that the thought has crossed my mind. But while part of me really wants to ask Jack, another is telling me that it's too soon. We've been together for two years, and it'll be two and a half by the time I get back. Surely if we'd been together every day we probably would be married by now, or at least engaged. But I don't know how he would react if I proposed to him when I get back. I'll have to think about that.

Either way, we'll still be together and that makes me very happy. I know that we can make this work because we're so right for each other. There's nobody else I want to spend the rest of my life with. I love him and we're going to have a good future together, no matter what that involves. It's going to be great.

Ennis paused and thought for a moment, images forming in his mind of him proposing to Jack and being accepted. It really would be a wonderful thing but he didn't know if Jack was truly ready for something so big. He was asking Jack to move away from everything he'd ever known and that was a huge thing in itself. Jack should probably get used to that before anything else happened; Ennis didn't want him to feel forced into it just to make him happy.

He sighed and put his pen down, not knowing what else to write. He was very grateful to Jack for giving him this journal; it really had helped. He had never shown Jack what he had written, because he hadn't wanted Jack to worry too much during the time when he'd had Mike harassing him. Now that the whole thing was over, he figured it would be okay to show Jack his entries when he returned. He figured that Jack would like to read them and know his thoughts during their time apart.

There came a knock on the door and for the first time, he didn't feel uneasy as to who it might be. Without Mike around, he wasn't as scared as he used to be. He really had nothing to be scared of now. "Yeah? Come in."

Richard poked his head through the door. "Hey. Just wanted to let you know they're serving dinner soon. You wanna walk down together?"

"Sure. Let me just get this away," he replied, putting his journal in a safe place and looking around the room. He was actually a little fond of this cabin after sleeping in here for so long. "You know...sometimes I can't believe I've only got six months left. Well, less than that now."

"Yeah...we're all gonna miss you," Richard replied, smiling. "But you're doing it for love and I can't fault you for that. If you signed a new contract, you'd just go through the same thing again for another few years."

"I don't want that," Ennis told him simply. "I just can't do another long-distance thing with him; it gets too bad without him. I want us to be together every day, and we will be even with work." He couldn't wait for that to happen, even if he didn't really know what to expect. He liked not knowing right now; it was quite liberating.

"I'm happy for you guys, that everything worked out," Richard told him. "I really wish you all the best."

"Thanks. You know...I wanted to say thank you. For giving me support when I was alone and Mike was threatening me. It means a lot." Ennis hugged him, very happy that there were straight people in the world who understood them.

"You're welcome," Richard replied when they broke apart. "Come on, then. Let's get something to eat before the others scarf it all down." Ennis nodded and they left the cabin, talking about the upcoming visit to Spain.

That evening, Ennis was sitting on his bed and scrolling through his phone to his parents' house. He wanted to tell them the good news, about him and Jack coming to live in Iowa when his contract had finished. He knew that his parents missed him and he was looking forward to going back there; he wanted to have a good life with Jack.

He dialled the number and waited for someone to pick up. "Hello?"

"Mom, it's me," he said, smiling at hearing her voice.

"Ennis, honey! Good to hear from you. How are you doing?"

"I'm okay, looking forward to the end of my contract. Just six more months to go..."

"That's right. Have you and Jack made any plans, or...?" she asked, and he could hear the hope in her voice.

"We have. I miss being there, to be honest. I miss my apartment. So I asked Jack if he would move there with me, and he said yes. We're gonna be living at my place."

"Oh, Ennis. That's wonderful! Hang on, your dad's here. Keith?" Ennis waited for a moment while his dad came to the phone. "Ennis says that he and Jack will be moving to his place when the contract's over."

"That's great, son. So you two are really making a go of it, huh?"

"Yeah," he agreed, nodding. "I'm really sure about him. means a lot to me that you guys accept him, you know. I don't know what I'd do if you didn't."

"Oh,'ve never needed to worry about that. We love you just as you are and want you to be happy. We don't want to know about your private life, but we'd say that even if you were with a woman. There are just some things that parents and children can't share with each other."

"Well...I was thinking more about you, Dad," Ennis admitted sheepishly. "I mean, with you having been in the army. I hear all the time about the sons of military guys who are disowned when they come out. Dad, I...I know you said you were okay with it, but I wonder what it'll be like when you meet him."

" your mom just said, you don't need to worry. When I was in the army, I had a lot of friends there. In recent years, some of them gotten in touch to tell me that they're gay. And you know what? It doesn't change anything about how I feel about them. They were gay when I knew them and that hasn't changed, so why should I feel differently? I'm still friends with them."

Ennis smiled, very glad that his father was taking such a view. He wouldn't ask Jack to move in with him if he suspected that his father was in any way homophobic, and would change his mind about them living there if there might be problems. Fortunately, it looked as if everything was going to be okay. "Dad, I...don't know what to say. Thank you..."

"It's no problem, son. Besides, the world's got enough problems anyway. Famine, war...what's a pair of guys or girls being in love compared to that? I want to meet this young man; the one who's got you pining so bad."

Ennis couldn't believe the wave of support coming from them, and was very grateful for it. He couldn't wait to tell Jack about it.

"Well, anyway...I just wanted to let you know what's going on. I don't know when exactly we'll be moving. We might stay in Florida for a while after I get back but I know we'll move at some point before Christmas."

"That sounds great, honey. Let us know how things go, okay? We love you, and give our best to Jack."

"Will do. Bye..." He hung up and leaned against the headboard, thinking. He did miss his parents a lot and was very happy that he would be able to combine his old life and new life together in this way. All he really wanted was to be with Jack and that would soon happen.

He sighed and decided to send a text to Jack, hoping that he was doing okay during their time apart.

Hey, bud. Just spoke to parents, they're happy about us moving there xxx

Ennis did often think about proposing to Jack, but he didn't know yet if it might even be a good idea. What if he simply scared Jack off by taking things too far too soon? No; he would need to think some more about that if he didn't want to lose the man he loved. And he didn't want Jack to say yes out of pity or guilt; he wanted it to be for the right reasons.

Either way, he was certain that they would get married one day; it was surely the next logical step once they moved in together. Maybe even one day, they might have children in some way. That would be great, if they could do it. He wanted everything with Jack.

His phone buzzed and he saw the response from Jack.

Glad to hear it. Things are coming together for us. I can't wait to move in with you xxx

Ennis was very happy that Jack was completely on board with this; there had been a couple of days when he hadn't been too sure if Jack would agree, and he wanted Jack to know how grateful he was that things were going ahead.

Me neither. It'll be our place, together. We'll sign a new lease that says we're both tenants, how does that sound?

He bit his lip; he knew that if they wanted any kind of rights to each other, such as power of attorney if one of them was sick, then they would have to get married for that. He needed to do some thinking and try to figure out if Jack would be ready for it. He smiled when he saw the reply.

Sounds good to me xxx

May 12th, 2011

On Thursday, Ennis was taking a break from work when Richard came up to him. "Have you heard the news?" he asked as soon as he reached Ennis.

"No, what?" Ennis asked, feeling puzzled. He hadn't heard anything.

"There's a rumour starting to go around, back in the States. There's talk that the government's gonna repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Apparently it's really going well."

Ennis couldn't believe it; this would mean a huge change for him and his friends. Them especially since they still had a while to go on their contracts. Most of them had at least another year left. "Are you serious? How come?"

"They're saying it's unconstitutional; that everybody in the armed forces should be able to serve openly without having to lie about who they are. Isn't that great?"

"It sure is," he replied, grinning. "Can't believe's been nearly twenty years, right?"

"I think so; I'm sure it started in the nineties. There's been hundreds of guys who have to lie just to keep themselves safe and I've never thought that it was right. I always figured that if someone's in a war, they've got more important things to worry about than gay soldiers."

Ennis nodded. "Yeah, that's true. Anyway...I'm looking forward to getting out of here. I've got some good friends now, but I'm ready to move on and I wanna be with Jack. I couldn't take it if I had to go through another contract."

"I know. But at least everything worked out in time for you. And even though you'll have to deal with a trial about Mike, at least then it'll be over. What are they charging him for again?"

"Sexual harassment, blackmail and assault," Ennis replied. "All of them on me, actually," he added with a grim smile. "He did threaten Jack as well, though. The captain heard that one just before telling him that he was out. So I don't know if that's gonna come up. Maybe the captain would be a witness because of my complaints." Then he looked directly at Richard. "Um...would you...consider being a witness too?"

Richard stared at him. "Of course I would, Ennis. I'd do anything to help a friend. Did you ever write about Mike's threats and what he tried to do?" Ennis nodded. "Maybe you could photocopy those parts of the journal entries and your letters to Jack to use as evidence?"

Ennis thought for a moment, and then realised that this did make sense. "You know...that just might work. I mean, with a load of evidence and good statements, he might get sent down for longer. That means he won't be able to get near us for a long time. And we can get a restraining order for when he's released. He will never get near Jack," Ennis vowed. Richard nodded.

"It's good that you're so protective. I get the feeling that Jack can look after himself,'re always gonna worry about him, I guess. And I reckon that if your positions were reversed, Jack would be protective of you."

"Yeah, he would," Ennis agreed, smiling fondly. "I love him so much...and I'm really looking forward to living with him. I keep thinking about what we've got coming to us, apart from living together. I mean...what about getting married?"

"Ennis, we've been over this. I think you need to seriously consider what Jack's reaction might be like if you propose, before you start to get excited by the idea. You don't want him to say yes just to avoid hurting your feelings, do you?"

"No, I don't..." Ennis replied, looking out over the water. He thought about his relationship with Jack so far; they had been together for just over two years now, but in reality had spent just over a month in each other's company. He'd counted every day that he and Jack had spent together and it wasn't that long. But their agreed argument was where they would be now if they had spent every day of it together. If that had been the case, then they would likely be married by now or at least engaged. So Ennis figured it might be okay for him to propose to Jack when he returned.

He realised that there might be someone he could talk to about this; Lureen. He knew that Jack talked to her about everything and she might know his feelings about a possible proposal. If he talked to her, maybe it would give him some insight as to what Jack's reaction would be.

After Richard went away again, Ennis decided to give Lureen a quick call.

"What did you just say?" she asked, sounding stunned.

"I need to know how he feels about it. I don't want to ask him if he's not ready because he'll either say no and feel guilty, or say yes and not be ready for it. Has he ever talked about it?"

"Well...yes," she admitted. "Ennis...he's not sure about it, to be honest. I get the feeling that he does want to marry you some day, have to remember that you're already asking a lot of him. I honestly don't know how he would react if you ask him when you get back. Maybe he'll want to and will say yes without feeling pressured. But...I just don't know."

"Alright, then," he replied, rubbing his forehead. "Thanks anyway, Lureen. I figured that if anybody might know, it would be you. He tells you everything, right?"

"More or less. But that doesn't mean that he doesn't tell you most things too. When you guys move in together, soon enough you'll know everything about each other. I know he's looking forward to moving in with you."

"Same here," he agreed. "Anyway, thanks. I'll give it some more thought, and...could you not tell him I called? I don't want him over-thinking things when nothing's been decided yet."

"Alright. As long as you tell him yourself after you have proposed, whenever that is."

"Will do. Bye, Lureen."

That night, Ennis was lying in bed with Jack's shirt held tightly against him. They had new ones now that they purposefully hadn't washed after wearing, so they could smell each other when they were apart. Ennis knew that it helped both of them to sleep when they were so lonely and couldn't wait to have Jack in his arms again for real. He just wanted to hold the man, even to the point that their reunion sex could wait. Sometimes he wanted that more than sex.

"I love you," he said softly as he gazed up at Jack, who was in position and ready to start moving. Ennis could feel the throbbing inside him but it didn't hurt too much. He was used to it by now and he knew that Jack wouldn't hurt him. They trusted each other completely and Ennis felt very comfortable about being in this position of vulnerability. Jack would take care of him for sure.

"I love you too," Jack replied, caressing his face. "Just relax, okay?" Ennis nodded and bit his lip when Jack started moving, trying not to cry out in pain. He knew that it would soon pass as long as he allowed it to; they had discussed this long before. "Feel okay?"

"Yeah," Ennis managed to reply, his eyes sliding shut when the pain faded and all he could feel was Jack. There was a warm feeling in his stomach and he could hear Jack whispering in his ear how much he loved him. Ennis pulled him closer and felt kisses on his neck. "Jack..." he sighed, tilting his head to one side. Jack gently nipped at his skin and kissed the bruise that formed. Ennis knew he'd been branded and didn't really feel any cause for complaint. This was simply how they felt about each other and that was okay.

"You're beautiful," Jack told him in a soft voice, trailing his hand down Ennis's chest when he could tell that his lover was close. He wanted it to be as good as possible. "Never wanna stop doing this with you, Ennis. It's you and me, forever..."

Ennis groaned when Jack took hold of him, unable to reply once he felt Jack trying to bring him to the edge. It only took a few strokes before he felt his come hitting Jack's stomach and the tightening in his muscles, accompanied by feeling Jack spill into him. Jack was gritting his teeth as his hips bucked, until he was spent and sinking down onto Ennis's chest. "Oh God..."

"Yeah..." Ennis wrapped his arms around Jack and sighed happily. "Darlin'...that was amazing..."

"It really was...I love you so much..." Jack kissed the side of his face and smiled at him. "Never gets boring with you. I've heard that can happen when a couple have been together for a while. Eventually they get bored with sex because it gets predictable. But...I can't see that happening for us. How could we ever get bored with this?"

"I is pretty good when we do it," Ennis replied, grinning breathlessly. Jack laughed.

"I don't just mean the physical feeling, Ennis. I we feel inside. I can immediately tell how much you love me when it's you on top. What about you? What do you feel when it's me, like just now?"

Ennis stroked his hair and looked into those deep, searching eyes. "'s like you said. I can feel that you love me. But...I's also about just being there in that moment with you. Let's face it; orgasms are always great. But to share it with you, it's like...we're connecting, you know?"

Jack smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Like for a few minutes, we're almost one person. I see what you're saying, bud. And I agree...I really do feel like that, to be honest. Ennis, I...I like the feeling of being so connected to someone else. Especially someone like you. I just feel like I'm at my best when we're together. Before you, sex never really did anything for me. I've been with girls, but...that was never gonna work for me and I knew why."

"Yeah, same here. I thought to myself that if I ever did find a guy that I could fall in love with, it would be great. But I never knew...I honestly didn't see this coming. Never thought I'd meet someone like you, Jack."

Jack leaned down and kissed him gently, feeling sated and very happy. "We're so damn good together, aren't we? In bed and out of it. I reckon we're a perfect match."

"Yeah, I guess we are," Ennis replied, still smiling up at him. Jack was right; they really were perfect for each other and nobody could take that away from them. He had met his soul mate and he never wanted to lose him. "Jack...I don't know the let you know how much you mean to me..."

Jack shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Ennis. The fact that you can't find the words...that tells me everything. You love me so much that you can't describe it, and...that's really okay. I can see everything in your eyes." He sank down onto Ennis's chest again and hugged him tightly, feeling warm and comfortable. "Love you..."

"Love you too, Jack."

Ennis woke up soon after this, his stomach covered in fluid and a smile on his face. They were the best dreams of Jack, when they were simply together and enjoying each other. There was nothing quite like it, although the real thing was obviously far more satisfying. But while they were apart, it did the job fairly well and helped him to feel closer to Jack in some way. Ennis didn't know what he would do if he ever lost Jack, but he did know that he wouldn't let him go without a fight. He dreaded the day when Jack would inevitably die, but hopefully that was years away. He couldn't think of that right now.

June 1st, 2011

On Wednesday, Ennis heard that they were now halfway across the Pacific and well on their way to Spain. He was looking forward to seeing it and maybe getting a tan, and he also wanted to take some photos for Jack to add to their collection. Jack had printed off all of the photos that he'd sent so far and was in the process of creating an album for them. Ennis knew that one day he would love to take Jack to all of these places, and maybe one day he would be able to do that.

In the meantime, he was currently leaning against the railing on the deck and looking out over the ocean. As far as the eye could see, everywhere around them was simply water and sky, with the sun beating down. He thought of Iowa, where it snowed every winter, and marvelled at how the weather could be so different in two places. It hadn't even been snowing in Russia during their visit there, so he couldn't really remember the last time he'd been so cold. At the moment, he was happy to enjoy the good weather.

"Ennis," came a familiar voice, and he turned to see the captain standing there. He immediately saluted and the captain waved a hand. "No need for that; I'm simply here to talk and enjoy this lovely sun. How are you doing?"

"I'm okay," he replied, nodding. "Feel a lot better with knowing that Mike's probably gonna go to jail. At least he can't hurt us there. I'm more scared for Jack than for myself."

"That's because Jack being hurt would affect you far more than if it were you," the captain said sagely. "And I would bet that it's the other way around for him, right?"

"Yeah, definitely," Ennis agreed. "I guess that's just the way it is with relationships, huh?"

"Pretty much. Your partner becomes more important to you than anything else, even yourself.'ll be leaving us soon, won't you?"

"Yep, in October when we land back in Florida. I can't wait to be with him again..."

The captain nodded. "I can imagine. It'll pain me to let go of such a good worker, least you're doing it for a good reason. I know it hasn't been easy for you to be without him and your contract does end in October so I can't really stop you.'s all okay. You have been a very good sailor and I'm pleased with the way you handled Mike's treatment of you. Instead of giving in to him, you asked for help and didn't do anything to hurt your partner. I'm very impressed."

Ennis smiled a little, pleased that the captain thought so highly of him. "Thank you, sir. Did I tell you the news? Jack's gonna be living with me in Iowa. We're gonna move up there when I get back."

"That's wonderful, Ennis. Congratulations. I really wish you and Jack all the best, and don't forget that I want to meet him myself when we get back."

"Yeah, I told him. He said he's happy to meet you then." The captain nodded and they shook hands before he left, leaving Ennis to think over what had just happened. Before the business with Mike, he'd only ever seen and spoken to the captain in a professional way as was appropriate. But now he had seen a different side to the man and was happy to know that he was so accepting of people like him and Jack. He did truly have many friends who wanted the best for him and to be happy, and he was grateful for this. He just wished that it could have happened without him ever having to deal with Mike.

But still, that was over with now. All he had to do now was focus on his future with Jack and what they were going to do. Marriage was still on his mind but Lureen had been right; he had to think about it very carefully so as to avoid disaster. He didn't want Jack to say no, because he loved him and didn't know if they could recover from a rejection. But he didn't want Jack to say yes if it was out of pity. If they were going to get married one day, it simply had to be because they were both ready; otherwise it would only create problems for them and he sure didn't want that.

His phone buzzed and he saw a text from Jack.

Bored here at work, thinking of you. Wish you could take me into the stock room and do inventory with me ;-)

Ennis grinned at this; Jack did have a knack for saying innocent things and making them sound dirty. It was just one of the things that Ennis loved about him.

I'd press you up against the wall and give you a what for :-)

He bit his lip, knowing how much Jack liked to flirt via text with him. It certainly brought a smile to his face and made him feel less lonely. Jack really was perfect for him and Ennis was fully certain that they would have a long and happy life together.

Sounds good to me. Or maybe on a bucket or chair? That might be fun x

They continued in this way for quite some time until Jack had to get back to work, and they promised to pick this up another time. Ennis sighed as he realised that there were still four months to go until his return home. He did think of it as home even though he lived somewhere else; he believed that home is where the heart is and that was Jack. His home was where Jack was right now, because they had laid claims to each other's hearts and that was the thing that reassured them when they were lonely. Everything was going to be okay for both of them and that was just it.