Chapter 23

Friday, June 10th 2011

Dear Ennis,

Just four months to go until you come back! I'm counting down the days like I always do, and sometimes I feel like the clocks are moving slowly on purpose. But I'm managing to get through each day without you, more or less. If it wasn't for our talks on the phone and your letters I don't think I could get through it. I just miss you so much and wish the time could move faster.

Still, I know we'll be together soon. And I can't wait for us to move to Knoxville together; I'm really looking forward to it. I'll start looking at jobs up there soon and try to find something that would suit me. I might even ask your parents if they can help me, since they're looking forward to us being there. I think it's going to be really great.

I couldn't believe it when you told me about those rumours, that DADT was going to be repealed. I honestly never thought that it was going to happen but I'm so happy that it is. I know it's not really relevant to you anymore since you'll be leaving soon, but it's still a great thing to happen. I'm happy for your friends on the ship who have to stay longer; at least they won't have to hide away anymore. People like us shouldn't have to hide away in fear just because of who we are and who we love, so it's wonderful that the rest of the world is changing their attitudes about us.

I keep thinking about when we met and how far we've come in the last couple of years. I know that most of our relationship has been conducted over a long distance, but in the end I know we can make this work. You already make me really happy and I know I do the same for you. I don't even care how little time we've actually spent together; I usually know when something feels right and this feels exactly how it should be. I want to go to bed with you every night, and wake up to your face every morning. Even if we're too tired to have sex every night, just being in the same bed as you would be great.

I've kept all of your letters, and maybe one day we can show each other our journals. We're going to be sharing so much together and I think sharing our journals would be a good way of doing this. If it's okay with you, I want to know your deepest thoughts because I think it would bring us even closer together. I hear all the time that the couples who last the longest connect in every way, including mentally and spiritually. I want that with you because I love you.

I hope you have a good time in Spain, and be sure to take photos for me. I love you, Ennis.

Love from Jack xxx

Jack finished his letter and then turned his attention to his phone, which was now buzzing on the table. He picked it up and saw a text from Lureen.

Can you come in? Loads of students wanting books and I'm feeling pressure.

He sighed to himself and gathered up his things so that he could help her. It did tend to get busy around this time, with the students like she had said. He walked through the streets until he reached the store, sure enough finding it packed. Lureen looked relieved when she saw him.

"Thank God...they're not rowdy but there's a lot of them. Could you...?"

"Sure, I'll take over the cash register. You can go and help them if they need it." Lureen kissed his cheek and started off, walking amongst the students and offering help.

As he worked, Jack couldn't help but think of Ennis. He wondered what kind of job he might have in Knoxville when they moved, and what Ennis would be doing. He didn't know what Ennis's career plans might be, if he had any, since he'd been in the Navy for so long. But Jack had every faith that it was all going to work out. Their love for each other would support them through any difficult times they might have with this move, and the thought made him sure that they could do this.

As Lureen had said, the students were calm and patient. He managed to get through most of the crowd who were paying for books and eventually the shop quietened down.

"I owe you one," Lureen said as she finished restocking shelves. "You really saved me today."

Jack smiled at her. "Anything for a friend. Besides, I think I owe you anyway. For listening to me complain so much about Ennis being away. I do appreciate being able to talk to someone."

She shrugged. "Wasn't really a chore. Anyone could see that you two are crazy for each other and I like that you're so happy. You don't really owe me for that..."

"Yeah, I do," Jack corrected her. "So we're even now, okay? And we'll go for a drink later, if you want."

"Sure, sounds great. Didn't you want to write to Ennis today?"

"I just finished it when you texted me. I'll post it tomorrow. So...what do you think about Don't Ask, Don't Tell being repealed? Quite a surprise, right?"

"Yeah, it is. I never saw that coming, considering how bigoted they can be in the armed forces. It really shouldn't matter if a soldier is into men or women, or the same for female soldiers. I just think it's completely irrelevant if they can do the job."

"Me too...and I'm happy that his friends won't have to hide away anymore. They can be honest about who they are. That's always a good sign that things are changing." He smiled and thought of Ennis's beloved face, knowing that soon enough they would be back together and could plan their future.

After he'd left Lureen in a now quieter shop, Jack started back for home and decided he'd take another look at the potential jobs that he might take when he moved to Knoxville. He figured it was as good a time as ever to at least see what was out there, and he always liked being prepared whenever he could be.

Jack did have a notion that he didn't want to work in retail, since the work could often be boring and repetitive. He had always liked the idea of working in some kind of business, though. Maybe he could start off as an assistant in an office or something, and work his way up.

He went up to his apartment and sighed as he thought about how lonely he was here without Ennis. At least when they moved in together, he could be sure of seeing Ennis in the mornings and evenings. Maybe they could even meet up for lunch; he would like that a lot because it would make a nice break from the workday.

Can't believe how much I miss him, he thought to himself as he started tidying up, heading for his breakfast dishes in the kitchen. He wondered what it would be like to be domesticated with Ennis. They had washed the dishes together once while Ennis had been here and he liked sharing the task with someone he loved. They would make a great couple once they lived together; he was sure of it.

When he'd finished, he sat down on the sofa with the laptop and started searching at the jobs available in Knoxville. He knew that there were plenty of office buildings there, with it being a city, so he figured he wouldn't have too much trouble finding something. If he got an interview, all he had to do was explain that he couldn't start right away. Hopefully, it would work out.

As he looked through, his mind turned once again to the possibility of Ennis proposing to him. He was unaware of the fact that Ennis had asked Lureen what he thought of the idea, so he didn't know what was going to happen when Ennis returned. All he could be sure of was that they were going to live happily together.

There were plenty of jobs that appealed to him, but he didn't know anything about the area or the companies involved. There were two people he could talk to about it, and they were just a phone call away. He decided to go for it.

"Mrs Del Mar? It's Jack Twist..."

"Hi, Jack. How are you?"

"I'm doing great. Looking forward to moving in with Ennis..."

"We're really happy for the two of you, Jack. You make our boy really happy, you know. And I know it's never been easy, but I admire how the two of you cope with it. this just a social call or do you need some help?"

"Actually, I could do with your help. I'm looking at jobs in the city for when I move, and...there's plenty online but I don't know anything about them. I just don't know the area and...I could do with some advice from someone who does."

"I see. Well, I know Ennis asked us the same thing a couple of days ago. He wants to do something to do with animals; what about you?"

"I'm more into stuff, you know? I'd be good at that. And I know there's loads of office buildings in the city, so..."

"I understand. Well, Keith and I do know some people that might be able to offer jobs. It helps to have contacts, you see."

"Guess so. Will you really help us?"

"Of course. Ennis is an only child, as you know, so he's always been precious to us. And you make him happy,'s only right that we help you as much as we can. Just leave it to us and we'll see what we can do."

"Thanks, Mrs Del Mar," he told her, feeling relieved.

" can call me Amanda, you know. It's really fine. Ennis calls your parents by their first names, right?"

"Yeah, that's true. Thanks, um...Amanda. I'm looking forward to living there, especially since I'll be with him every day. It'll take some getting used to, but I know we can do this. I love him very much..."

"And he loves you. Whatever the future brings the two of you...we're proud of you both."

Jack smiled. "Thanks. Anyway, um...I'll let you go now. Thanks for agreeing to help me out; I appreciate it."

"No problem, Jack. Talk to you soon."

"Yep, bye." Jack hung up and marvelled to himself at how well things were going for him and Ennis; he had hoped that they would but it was still quite humbling to know that Ennis's parents accepted him so readily. He had especially been wary of Ennis's father because of his own military history, but there had been no problems. Keith seemed to be very accepting of it, Ennis had reported.

He spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the sofa and watching TV, enjoying his day off now that Lureen would be okay on her own. He thought of Ennis and what he might be doing right now. Most of the time he was working but Jack knew he got time off now and then. He could at least send a text to Ennis.

Miss you xxx

He sighed as he waited for a response. This whole situation was never going to be easy for them and he knew it. Why couldn't they just be together every day already? It didn't seem fair to him but he knew he would have to stick it out; he'd coped with the separation for two years now, so a few more months were the final hurdle and he was certain that he could get through it. All he had to do was remember that Ennis loved him and he would be home soon.

June 16th, 2011

On Wednesday, Jack was eating lunch in his apartment and thinking things over. He and Ennis had arranged to talk on the phone today; it was simply easier this way because he knew that Ennis had to work. Ennis had told him that the captain had hired him on a part-time basis to do office work when he had nothing else to do, and Jack was happy for him because he knew that Ennis didn't really like the manual labour that came with his regular job.

He still kept wondering if Ennis was going to propose to him upon his return, but he had to admit that the idea did hold some appeal for him. He knew that they were likely to get married one day, and even if Ennis did ask him when he got back Jack knew that they wouldn't be getting married the following week. Ennis was bound to give him the time he needed.

The phone ringing shook him from his thoughts and he smiled when he saw Ennis's name on the screen. "Hey, sailor."

"Hey, darlin'. How're you doing?"

"I'm okay...still miss you every day, you know. It never gets any easier..."

"I know, Jack. But we'll be back together soon..."

"Yep. That makes me happy, Ennis. It'll be great when we move in to your place, and your parents are a big help on the job front. They've already given me tips about the best places to look for jobs."

" do you think you'll find something you like?"

"I guess so. Lureen was right; the prospects are a lot better up there, away from the coast. Seems to be more office buildings up there; it's mostly tourist stuff here and that's not what I'm into."

"I know, bud. Jack, I...I want you to know how much you mean to me. I hate being away from you for so long. The dreams and the phone calls...they help a lot but it's still not the same as when we're together. When we move in, I...I never wanna be without you again."

He's going to ask me, Jack thought, swallowing hard. Although he did want to, he had to admit that it was nerve-wracking. He loved Ennis with all his heart but it was a huge deal to get married and he wondered if he was ready for that; he still wasn't sure. "I know what you mean," he replied steadily, trying not to let his worry show in his voice. "I don't wanna be without you either..."

"Well...guess it won't come to that. I can't think of anything that could split us up, Jack. The most common way that couples break up is when one of them cheats, but I can't see that happening with us. We're just too happy together. And even if we do have an argument about something, we'll work it out, right?"

"Yeah, of course we will. Ennis...I know it won't always be easy, because relationships never are. They wouldn't be real if they were easy all the time. But...there's nobody else I'd rather do this with. You make me happy..."

"Same to you, Jack. And I promise...I'll do everything I can to keep you happy. I really would do anything for you. God, Jack...I'd even rob a bank if it made you happy."

Jack laughed; Ennis could be very sweet sometimes. "It won't come to that. I'd never ask you to do something like that, or worse. you, Ennis. That's all I really want, because I love you the way you are. You hear me?"

"Yeah, I do. But I'm just trying to show you...what you mean to me. You stuck by me through all of this stuff with Mike, were always patient even though I was so far away from you. I know it wasn't easy, because it wasn't for me either. But...we made it in the end and now we don't have long to go. I hope I get back before your birthday so that we can spend it together."

"That'd be great. Maybe we could...spend all day in the bedroom?" Jack asked lightly, smirking.

"Well, you never know. Or how about...the laundry room, on top of a washing machine?" Ennis asked, and Jack gulped.

"Ennis...other people use it. We don't wanna traumatise anyone..."

"We won't if we go down there in the middle of the night," Ennis replied, sounding as though he'd thought this through.

"A midnight fuck on a washing machine," Jack said, the images forming in his mind. That was something to consider, and he did like a bit of risk after all. "Well, if it's very late when everyone's asleep...might work."

"I think it would. It'd be a lot of fun, trying to keep as quiet as we can while still driving each other crazy. What d'you say?"

"Well...okay. But only if we get a little drunk first. Then we'll be a little braver."

"Yeah, probably. Anyway...I need to get going. I'm only on a lunch break..." Ennis said, sounding wistful. It was clear that he would prefer to carry on talking, but they both knew that they could only have snatches of conversation while so far apart.

"Me too. Keep your chin up, bud. You'll be back here soon. Enjoy Spain, okay? And let me know when you get there, and when you're coming back. Now that you're out to the rest of the crew, maybe I'll come over to the port and greet you when you land."

"Yeah...that sounds good. I'll look forward to that, darlin'. Give my best to Lureen and your folks, and take care. I love you, Jack."

"Love you too, Ennis. Bye." He hung up and smiled to himself; talking to Ennis always put him in a good mood, despite how lonely he still felt without the man he loved. Soon enough, Ennis would be back in his arms and they could finally look towards their future together. That was enough to keep his spirits up.

That evening, Jack invited Lureen over for dinner because he wanted to talk to her about the whole marriage thing. He wondered what she thought about it and could do with a neutral opinion. He had always trusted her advice in the past, trusting the female intuition that she always seemed to have.

As much as he missed Ennis, he was very glad that he didn't have to be alone all of the time. He had friends and his parents were just a phone call away. It did help to pass the time a little quicker.

She arrived at his apartment and he wasted no time. While they were waiting for dinner he sat her down on the sofa and decided to start immediately.

"I think Ennis is gonna propose to me," he said, and she blinked at him.

"Huh? What makes you think that?" she asked, a little nervous as she thought of Ennis having called her before.

"Well...a few things. For one, we'll be living in a state where it's legal. And we've been through a lot lately, with Mike harassing him and everything. And then there's the fact that he was so eager for me to talk to his parents..."

"Yeah, but...that doesn't always mean..." she tried, but he looked at her closely.

"You know something," he said quietly, seeing how she was avoiding his eyes. "Lureen...?"

"Well...Ennis called me a while ago. He asked me what you think about marriage. I promised him I wouldn't say anything to you and he said he'd tell you himself one day. But...Jack, don't be mad at him. He only did this because he doesn't want to frighten you by proposing if it's too soon."

"Does that mean he's planning to?" Jack asked, his eyes wide. "I mean...I wanna do it someday but it's a huge deal. For a long time I never thought that I would be able to get married. So..."

"You've never given it serious thought," she finished for him. "And I think Ennis knows that. He probably knows that you're concerned about it being too soon. Let me ask you something," she said, taking his hand. "If he did propose to you when he comes back, what would you say?"

"I would say yes," he replied, knowing that this was true. "Because I love him. But the fact remains that I would need time to get used to it."

"He would give you that time, Jack. And you know that. He loves you and doesn't want to lose you."

"I know," he agreed, nodding. He went to check on the dinner, which was ready by now. Lureen set the table and they were soon sitting down to eat.

"Would it really freak you out if he proposed?" she asked him, and he shook his head.

"It'd be a shock, but...I'd be happy because I love him and want to be with him. This is just about me not being used to the idea. I need time to get my head around the idea of getting married..." Then suddenly, everything became clear to him. He could see the whole puzzle fitting together in front of his eyes and couldn't believe it. "Oh my God..." He felt as though he'd been blind this whole time, and could now see everything.

"What?" Lureen asked, looking up at him. "I think you cooked it properly..."

"It's not that," he replied, feeling stunned. "I...I've just realised something."

"Which is...?"

"I keep talking about how I need time to get used to the idea, but...isn't that what engagements are for, besides planning the wedding? Isn't it about preparing yourself for the commitment?"

"Yeah, I guess so. Why?"

"Because...if we got engaged when he comes back, we would then be planning our move to Iowa. So we'd have a bit of time before the wedding, wouldn't we? If I asked him, he'd give me the time, like you said. So even if he does ask me, I would have plenty of time to get used to the idea." He grinned. "You know what? The more I think about it, the more I wanna do it."

Lureen smiled at him. "You'd be okay with a proposal?"

"I really think I would be. When Ennis asked you what I think about it, what did you say?"

"I said I wasn't too sure, which was the truth. Until just now, I didn't know how you feel about it."

"Okay," he replied, nodding and thinking. Maybe he could have a little fun of his own. "Alright. In about a month, you can call him and let it slip that I'm okay with the idea of getting married, as long as I have time to get used to it. That'll let him know that it's a good idea to propose to me."

"You sneaky little bastard," she replied, grinning. "Honestly..."

"I'm gonna tell him afterwards," he reassured her. "But I can have some fun first. He started it, anyway. Let him think that I'd be really happy with a proposal."

"Okay. But why in a month? Why not sooner?" she asked, looking puzzled at this strange part.

"Might look suspicious, since he only asked you last month. Give it a bit more time. I'll let you know when I think it's good."

"Alright. really want to marry him?" she asked, smiling widely. He nodded.

"Yeah, I do. I love him so much...and we're going to be together for the rest of our lives. Getting married is the next logical step after moving in together, and it'll be legal. It all fits, really. And...I know now that we both want the same things." He sighed, feeling as though a weight had been lifted from his chest. "Well...that's it, then. He'll think it's a good idea to propose, so he'll do it...and I'll say yes. It's all gonna work out."

"It sure is," Lureen agreed, raising her wine glass. "To you and Ennis."

He grinned and raised his own, clinking them. "To love."

June 30th, 2011

On Thursday evening, Jack was just getting home from work when he could hear his phone ringing, and he answered it without seeing who it was. "Hello?"

"Jack, it's me," Ennis replied, sounding a little tired. Jack grinned and could practically feel his face lighting up.

"Hey, baby. How's it going?"

"Well, we've just reached Rota. It's really warm here...what time is it there?"

"Just gone six in the evening...why?"

"We must be six hours ahead, then. It's just gone midnight. I'm gonna be sleeping on the ship and then tomorrow we'll be exploring."

"That sounds great," Jack said, looking through his freezer for something to eat. "You're gonna send me loads of photos, right?"

"Yeah, you bet. I can't wait to see everything...but I wish you could be here with me..."

Jack smiled sadly, putting the chicken pie he'd found into the oven. "I know, Ennis. But just remember how soon you'll be back. Just over three months to go."

"Yep. That sure is keeping me going...can't wait to be back with you."

Jack grinned when he thought about Ennis wanting to propose to him. Maybe it was a little crazy, considering how little time they had spent together over the last few years, but it also felt right. Things had happened for them very quickly, and this was mainly due to how little time they had. It did make some sort of sense for them to get engaged when Ennis returned; maybe they could get married around their anniversary next year, which would give them six months.

"Me neither, bud. It's not easy, but I know we'll be okay. Listen, um...I just wanted to ask...when are we planning on moving after you get back? Right away, or what?"

"Don't know...I didn't really think about it, to be honest. We could give it a week or so, I guess. I know it's a big thing for you, moving away from everything you know, so I'm gonna give you whatever time you need before we leave."

Jack smiled and knew he was right; Ennis would do anything to make him comfortable with these changes. Ennis was bound to do the same before their wedding so that he could get used to the idea. "Thanks, Ennis. You really mean a lot to me, and...I'm looking forward to spending my life with you. I just have this gut feeling that it's gonna work really well. I just know that we're gonna be happy." By now he was sat at the table and eating with one hand.

"I do too, Jack. And I'm really happy that our parents are so supportive. It'd be a lot harder for us if they weren't; I wouldn't even consider moving up there with you if I thought my parents might not be alright with it. But I'm glad to say that this isn't the case."

"I know. I thought your dad especially might not be okay with it, since he was in the army. But apparently he's completely accepting; I never expected that."

"Me neither. Anyway...any luck on the job front?"

"I keep looking, and your parents have been helpful. So I think I'll probably find something that works for me. What about you? Didn't you say you wanted to work with animals?"

"Yep. My mom said she knows a vet who's looking for an assistant, so that might work. I need something more relaxing after this kind of life. It's time for me to settle down, you know?"

"I get what you mean, Ennis. And who better to settle down with than someone you really love?" Jack asked, smiling softly. Ennis laughed.

"Couldn't have said it better myself, bud. I wish I could stay on the phone all night, talking to you. But I'm getting tired..."

"I know; you sure sound like it. You should get some sleep, Ennis; it'll do you good. We can talk some other time, I promise."

"Yeah, of course we can. I think we're gonna be here for a while so I'll probably call you again before we leave. Anyway...guess I'd better go..."

Jack could feel his heart sinking a little; there was never enough time for them. "Yeah. I hope you have a good time there, Ennis. I'm happy that you get to see those places, even though it means you being away from me. I'm coping pretty well."

"I'm glad to hear that. I'd feel guilty if you weren't; I'd probably quit right now, if I hadn't sooner."

"Ennis...that's really sweet. But you don't have to do that. It's been two years; we can cope with three more months. And after that, we'll be together every day. We'll be fine, bud."

"Yep. Anyway, I'd better get to bed. Everyone else seems to be already. I'm in the corridor so I don't wake the other guy."

"Get some sleep, Ennis," Jack told him firmly. "And enjoy yourself over there."

"Yep. Night, you."

"I love you too. Night, bud." He clicked off after a few seconds and smiled to himself; talking to Ennis so often did indeed help with the loneliness he felt. He often went onto online maps and would look at the distance between them, wherever Ennis was. It pained him to know just how much space there was between him and the man he loved, but he had to keep on going and just try to cope.

He finished his dinner and then retired to the sofa, needing to relax after a long day. Lureen had been ill that morning so he'd covered her shift, and was by now looking forward to a quiet evening. He would probably be dreaming of Ennis tonight and that was okay; he loved the dreams he had of his lover.

He thought about the proposal that was bound to happen when Ennis returned, and the thought of saying yes made him happy; he could do this as long as he had time before the wedding to get used to it. He knew that Ennis would give him that.