Chapter 26

October 3rd, 2011

At long last, Ennis was about to arrive home for good. Jack had woken up that morning with a huge grin on his face, very happy that he would be seeing his future fiancé so soon. Sometimes he just couldn't believe it; he'd been crossing off the days on his calendar in anticipation.

He was currently waiting for Lureen to arrive; they would be going over to the port together because she wanted to be there too when Ennis arrived. Jack had to wonder if she wanted to find herself a sailor; Ennis had said that there were a few who were also finishing their contracts today. He wanted her to be as happy as he was.

"We're about two hours away from the port," Ennis told him, sounding breathless. "God, I can't wait..."

"Me neither," Jack replied as he got dressed. "I wanna kiss you so bad..."

He wanted to do more than that, of course, but a hug and a kiss were the only acceptable options in public. The rest could wait until tonight, when they were in his bed. That was where Ennis belonged; with him.

He sat on the arm of the sofa, chewing his lip nervously. He was very thankful that he didn't have to work today so that he could be here for Ennis's arrival. Jack looked at his watch; it wouldn't take them long to reach the port and Ennis was just an hour away now. He was starting to wonder where Lureen was and if they would make it in time.

The buzzer went off and he rushed to press the button. "Hello?"

"It's me; I've got a cab," came Lureen's voice, and he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Okay, I'm coming." He glanced around the room and grinned; Ennis would soon be here to make it complete. Locking the door behind him, he rushed down the stairs and met her by the cab. She smiled at him, knowing how important this day was for him. He would be getting engaged today, after all.

"He's gonna be here soon," she reminded him, squeezing his hand. Jack nodded and couldn't keep his own smile from his face.

"I know...come on..." They got into the cab together and Jack simply couldn't settle down. Two and a half years of waiting and pining; now Ennis would be here for good soon. He looked at his watch; less than an hour to go until he saw Ennis again. Why did the time have to drag by so much? He was half-convinced that the clocks were moving slowly on purpose, just to annoy him.

"Calm down," Lureen told him, squeezing his arm. "We'll be there soon and then he will'll kiss and he'll's gonna be fine."

He nodded. "Yeah, you're right. I just...still can't believe that we're at this point. It's one of those things that you want to happen, but never think it will..."

Soon enough, they were at the port with fifteen minutes to go; the ship was already in sight and making its way to land. Jack grinned as he thought about Ennis on there, waiting for them to arrive.

There were other people waiting here, and he felt like he was part of something; surely he couldn't be the only guy waiting for a lover, now that Don't Ask, Don't Tell had been repealed the month before. That had been a great day for him and Ennis.

When the ship drew closer, Jack peered closely at the front deck and wondered if Ennis was going to be there. He couldn't wait for the moment when they clapped eyes on each other at last.

Sure enough, he grinned when he spotted a familiar face searching the crowd. Their eyes met and Ennis smiled widely at him, looking happier than Jack had ever seen him. "He's there..." Jack said, unable to fully comprehend that Ennis was finally home. He'd waited for this for so long.

"Remember to act surprised, at least to start off with," Lureen reminded him. You can tell him the truth after."

Jack nodded and watched Ennis disappear into the ship, ready for landing. Very soon, they would be back together. "God, why does this have to take so long?" he groaned, feeling nervous and frustrated. "I just wanna hold him..."

Lureen shook her head in amusement and they continued to wait. Before they knew it, a plank was being lowered from the deck onto the port and people started cheering as sailors disembarked. Jack pushed his way to the front with Lureen just barely managing to hold on to him, and his eyes fixed on the deck where they were coming from.

A much-beloved face appeared again, making his heart soar. Ennis was there, in full uniform and Jack felt so proud of him for seeing it through despite the difficulties they had faced. It had been worth the wait.

Ennis half-ran down the plank to him, and before Jack could register anything he was being grabbed and pulled into a deep kiss, Ennis's arms firmly around him. He was dimly aware of people cheering before the world seemed to melt away, leaving just the two of them in their embrace.

When they finally broke apart, after what felt like hours, he was grinning. "Hello to you too," he said breathlessly, and Ennis cupped his cheeks, eyes scanning his face.

"God...we're finally here, Jack. Back together like we wanted...I love you so much..."

"I love you too," Jack replied, lip trembling slightly as he hugged Ennis tightly, feeling like a weight had finally been lifted from his shoulders. It was over now, and they were going to be together. He'd dreamed of this moment for months, but those dreams had been nothing compared to the real thing. He couldn't even describe how he felt right now; just happy.

Ennis squeezed him, and he knew there and then that he wanted to propose to Jack right away. It was time.

They broke apart, and Jack was still grinning. " said you had a surprise for me...what was it?" He knew what it was, but he still wanted to hear it. He had been looking forward to this.

Ennis took a deep breath and immediately launched into his speech. "Jack...there's a reason why I wanted us to move to Knoxville. More than just me being homesick, I mean."

"I figured that, but...what else was there?" Jack asked, trying to keep a straight face. He knew what Ennis was going to say, but he wanted Ennis to get through it.

" ought to know...same-sex marriage is legal up there. That's why I wanted you to live up there with me. So that...we could get engaged," Ennis said to him, trembling with nerves. Jack nodded.

"Right. So even though you've spent most of the last eighteen months at sea, with us spending a few days together at a time, you're now asking me to not only move hundreds of miles away to a state that I've never set foot in, but to also marry you and make this huge commitment. I've counted...we've spent just over a month actually together, Ennis. You're asking this of me in spite of that..."

Ennis could feel his heart sinking, convinced that Jack was about to say no. This was what he'd feared, and now he didn't know what he was going to do. To hear Jack say these did make some kind of sense. "Jack..."

"Let me finish," Jack said gently, squeezing his hands. "We haven't spent much time together, so people might tell us that it's completely crazy. But you know what?" he asked, looking into Ennis's eyes. "There is nothing in this world that would make me happier."

Ennis looked up at him, eyes wide. Had Jack just accepted? "What...?"

Jack nodded, grinning. "Ennis...I already knew that you were gonna propose to me. Lureen let it slip that you were thinking about it but weren't sure. I realised that I wanted to do it, so I got her to convince you it was the right thing to do. And I know you asked my dad for his blessing. My mom couldn't keep her excitement to herself."

Ennis was stunned. "You knew, all this time?"

"Yep.'re not mad at any of us, are you? This is a wonderful thing, and people can't always keep it to themselves."

"I'm not mad," Ennis replied, breathing a sigh of relief. "I wasn't sure about asking you because I didn't know if you'd it's a good thing that I knew for sure..." He gulped. "Are you saying yes, Jack?"

Jack smirked. "You'll have to ask me properly, bud. I wanted it done properly, you know?"

Ennis nodded, knowing exactly what he meant. "Alright," he replied, and then he got down on one knee. Jack glanced up and saw a group of sailors watching them, including Richard; the rest must be Ennis's friends. Everybody was watching them by now, and they were all smiling.

"Jack...I've never met anyone like you before. Male or're like nobody else. And...sometimes I wonder if you're even human because I think you're so unique. I...I look at you, and I want to make you happy. When I think about someone hurting you, like Mike, I want to drag you away and hold you until you're safe. Sometimes it scares me, how much I love you, but it's a good thing and I love this feeling." Ennis had tried to practice this speech beforehand, because he'd wanted Jack to know these things.

Jack glanced up at Lureen; she had tears in her eyes. He wasn't far behind himself.

"So...I want to spend every moment of my life making you happy," Ennis continued. "And...I can't think of a better way than this. It's something that we both want, after all. And I think we're actually ready for it. We've always asked ourselves where we would be by now if we'd spent every day of the last two years together. We probably would be married by now, so..."

"It does make sense," Jack agreed. He was smiling and blinking back tears; now that Ennis was actually asking him, he knew for certain that he did want this.

"Right. Now...I don't have a ring," Ennis admitted sheepishly. "Didn't get the opportunity to buy one. But I thought we could sort that out in our own time. But..." He cleared his throat. "Jack Twist...will you marry me?"

Jack grinned, already being able to see his future with Ennis. "Yeah, I will," he replied, and Ennis immediately stood up to hug him again. Jack buried his face in Ennis's shoulder, and they swayed together as they embraced. "I love you," he murmured, and Ennis squeezed him tighter.

"I love you too, much..." He pulled his face away and then pressed his lips to Jack's, their promise sealed.

"You guys..." came Lureen's voice when they broke apart. She was grinning widely and hugged them both. "Congratulations..."

"Thank you," Jack replied, hugging her. Then Ennis's friends came over to talk to them, and Jack was introduced to everyone.

"We're gonna talk to the captain about you guys coming to the wedding," Ennis informed them, and Jack nodded, having taken his hand and squeezing it. "Where is he, anyway?"

"I think he'll be coming down here soon," Richard replied, nodding over at the plank. "I know he said he wants to meet you, Jack."

"Right. Actually, Richard...could I talk to you for a second?" he asked, and they moved away from the group a little. "I, um...I wanted to thank you. For being such a good friend to Ennis while he was missing me and then that Mike thing. It really means a lot to me that he had a good friend."

Richard smiled. "No problem, Jack. I'm looking forward to that wedding, now. All the best for you guys." They shook hands, and Ennis watched them with a smile on his face.

Ennis's friends had to go soon after this, but they had given the betrothed couple their numbers so that they could be contacted about the details of the wedding. Now it was just them and Lureen, who was busy sidling up to sailors that looked single. Ennis had Jack in his arms as they waited for the captain to arrive, kissing softly.

"I can't believe we're engaged," Jack said, arms around Ennis's neck. "You're my fiancé now..."

"I know," Ennis replied, eyes scanning Jack's face. "This is amazing..." Then Ennis spotted the captain walking down to them and he smiled. "He's here..."

Jack turned and smiled too when the captain approached. "Hi..."

"Jack Twist? I'm Captain Martin Peterson. You must be the young man who's taking Ennis away from us," he said with a smile, shaking Jack's hand.

"Afraid so," Jack replied, grinning. "Thank you so much for supporting Ennis, when Mike was harassing him. He was scared really did a lot for him."

"It's no problem," the captain replied. "I hate the idea of someone being discriminated against just because of who they are. And Ennis seems to love you very much, from what he's said. Ennis, did you ask him...?"

Ennis nodded. "Yep, we're engaged," he replied, hugging Jack to him. The captain nodded.

"My congratulations, then. You wanted to know about shore leave in April, so that your friends can attend?"

"Yeah, if it's not too much trouble," Ennis told him.

"Well...I can tell you we're going to Rio de Janeiro next. Down in Brazil, you know? I think I might be able to arrange it so that the first two weeks of April are the next shore leave. Would that suit you?"

Ennis and Jack looked at each other; they hadn't really thought of a date. "Um...I don't know. I guess that works for us..." Jack said, trailing off. Ennis smiled at him.

"We could get married on the thirteenth, our anniversary," he said softly, and Jack's eyes lit up.

"Yeah...that's perfect," he replied, smiling and kissing his fiancé. "That sounds really great."

"Then it's settled," the captain said, nodding. "The first two weeks of April, including the thirteenth, will be the next shore leave. That gives your friends plenty of time to attend your wedding and still do what they normally do."

"Sounds great," Ennis said, and then he smiled. "Of're invited too. I'd like you to be there as well. Feel like I owe you that much after everything you've done for me."

Martin smiled wider. "I would like that very much, Ennis. I'll take you up on it. Goodbye for now, then. And all the best to you." He shook their hands again and nodded to them before returning to the ship. Ennis put his arm around Jack again.

"Right then," he said, picking up his bags once more. "Are we ready to go?"

Jack grinned at him; they were finally starting their new life together. "I think so. You reckon we should call our parents?"

"Yeah, sure. Let's go and find one of the buses first and we'll call on the way." Ennis took his hand and led him to the bus depot, hoping that there was still one left. The cab that Jack had taken here was long gone by now; he hadn't wanted to pay to keep it here for so long.

They managed to find one and boarded it, sitting at the back together since it was empty. They stretched out and both of them dialled the house numbers of their parents.

"Mom?" Jack asked, sounding happier than ever. "I've got something to tell you."

"I came back to shore today," Ennis informed his mother. "And I asked Jack to marry me..."

"Of course I said yes," Jack said, laughing. "I've wanted this for ages; ever since I found out he wanted to ask me."

"He said yes, so now we're engaged," Ennis told his mother happily. "We're getting married on our anniversary; the thirteenth of April." That was already a special day for them, and was to be even more of one now.

"All of Ennis's friends from the ship are gonna be there; the captain too. It's gonna be great."

They finished their phone calls and settled down together, Ennis's arm pulling Jack close to him. "Well, I guess our moms are beside themselves with excitement. They'll be after planning everything for us..."

"Yeah," Jack replied, grinning. "You know what? All of us should go for dinner sometime. So that they can get to know each other and I can meet your parents. We're getting married, Ennis...we should start to get to know each other's families. My mom suggested that, you know. Said we should invite some relatives of mine if we go to their house."

"That sounds great," Ennis agreed. "So...was that just out of the blue?"

"Well...the way she said it was as though they just wanted to celebrate us moving in together. But I soon figured out what it was really about, and she admitted that you'd asked my dad for permission." He smiled to himself; it seemed as though everyone was looking forward to this wedding.

Ennis laughed. "Looks like they got us all figured out, huh? Are we that obvious?"

"That we're crazy about each other? Probably," Jack replied, resting his head against Ennis's chest. "I don't really care. At least we've got friends and family who support us. Not all gay people have that..."

"I know. We're really lucky." He kissed the top of Jack's head. "I love you so much, darlin'...and I can't wait to marry you. We're gonna be so happy..."

Jack smiled up at him. "Yep. You know what? When we get back...we ought to celebrate." He smirked. "If you know what I mean..."

Ennis grinned and kissed him, sliding a hand up Jack's leg. They were so looking forward to their wedding and new life together; it was going to be everything they had hoped for and probably more.

Jack opened the door of the apartment and he grinned at Ennis. "Welcome home," he said softly, and Ennis kissed his cheek. He already felt at home here, mostly because it included Jack.

"It's good to be back," he replied, looking around the familiar space. "And this time I'm not going away again without you."

"Sounds good to me," Jack said as he led the way inside. He rubbed the back of his neck. "You want something to eat or drink?" he offered, not knowing how long it had been since Ennis had eaten. Now that they were engaged, Jack wanted these domestic moments; it felt good to him.

"No, I'm fine. Maybe later," Ennis told him. He tugged Jack's hand. "Come over here..." He led his partner over to the sofa and sat him down.

"What are you doing?" Jack asked in an amused voice as Ennis sat behind him, pulling him close. Ennis's arms slid around his stomach from behind and squeezed him.

A few moments later, Jack had his eyes closed as Ennis kissed his neck, purring in pleasure. "Mmm...that feels good..." he sighed, a smile of contentment on his face.

"I missed you," Ennis murmured to him. "Talking to you on the phone was good, but not quite the same as holding you, like this..." He kissed Jack's ear. "I wanted to hold you so much...and when I realised I wanted to propose to you it made the waiting even worse. Those few months felt like years..."

"I know...but it's over now," Jack replied, leaning back into him. "We're together at last, and we're getting married. I think we're gonna be just fine now."

"Yep. You know what? I was thinking...maybe we could start planning our wedding? At least in general?" Ennis suggested, and Jack nodded. They might as well make a start since it was just six months away.

"Okay. I guess the first thing is the venue," he replied. "We'll be living in Knoxville by then, so we could find somewhere up there. Or maybe even do it here, in the city where we met. I don't think we could do it abroad, not with your friends attending. We have to remember that they've only got two weeks and some might want to take trips home to wherever they live as well."

"Yeah. I know some that live in other states," Ennis pointed out. "And we have to think about our families too. Not just our parents, but anyone else. Neither of us has any siblings, so..."

"Aunts, uncles, got any grandparents still alive?" Jack asked. "My dad's folks are still alive, but that's it."

"All mine are gone. So there's just the other three of those, plus our parents. We need to do a head count at some point, I guess."

"We can do that when we send out invitations," Jack suggested. "Get a list together, send them out to everyone, and see who can come. That's the way to do it."

"Sounds easy enough. I can't wait to marry you," Ennis sighed, squeezing him tightly. "I was so nervous about asking you, even after Lureen told me that you wanted to do it. And you...plotting with her like that," he added, poking Jack in the ribs. Jack grinned.

"You needed a gentle push in the right direction," he pointed out. "You were too scared to ask in case I said no, or if I only said yes out of pity or guilt. That would have been us getting engaged for the wrong reasons, if I wasn't ready. But this...we've done it for the right ones. Because..." He turned his head to look at Ennis. "When she told me what you were planning, I realised that I did want to marry you. At first I wasn't sure because I hadn't given marriage much thought at all. I'd never thought that I could do it, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. She said as much when I talked to her afterwards. But you realised that you were ready?"

"Yeah. I gave it a lot of thought, and I knew deep down that I wanted it. And even if our parents had warned us that it was too soon and too crazy, I wouldn't have cared because...all that matters is what we think. If we're sure that we're ready to get married, then that's all we need to know."

"You're right," Ennis told him, allowing Jack to turn around so that they could kiss. "And it's really happening...we're getting married on our anniversary. We're going to make that date even more special than it is now."

"Definitely. And...I don't know how you feel about having kids, but..." Jack trailed off, biting his lip. Ennis shrugged.

"Never really gave it much thought before. But...I think I do want to be a father, and if you want it too...then I guess it's probably on the cards for us. We've got no idea what the future holds for us, so I think we should just wait and see. If it's meant to happen, then it will."

"Good thinking," Jack agreed, smiling at him. "I love you so much...can't believe that you're finally home for good..."

"Well, you'd better believe it. Because we're never gonna spend more than a few hours apart ever again. Even if, God help us, one of us ended up in hospital or something, we'd fight tooth and nail to stay together, wouldn't we?"

"Of course. And once we're married, we'll have rights. If you were unable to make a decision about surgery, I would be able to do it for you. And same for you if it were me. We can take care of each other, Ennis."

"That's true. I love you so much..." His stomach rumbled, making Jack laugh. "Is the offer of food still going?"

"Sure. Come on; I'll make you whatever you want." Jack stood up and led Ennis by the hand into their kitchen, ready to make a start on their new domestic life together.

They entered the bedroom together that night, looking at the bed in anticipation. This was to be their first time as a betrothed couple, which they both knew was a very special thing. They'd been looking forward to this all day, maybe even longer.

"You ready?" Ennis asked softly, squeezing Jack's hand as they stood at the foot of the bed. Jack nodded, smiling.

"Yeah, I am. Come fiancé."

Ennis grinned. "I could really get used to that, at least until you're my husband." He leaned in and kissed Jack softly, moulding their lips together in the familiar way they were used to. Jack moaned a little and they broke apart, understanding in their eyes. There was no real need for words; they both knew what this night would mean.

They kissed a few more times, starting to undress each other silently. Jack ran his hands over Ennis's strong muscled chest, very much appreciating how it felt. Ennis was giving his body just as much attention, eventually sliding his hands down to work on Jack's belt buckle. "Mmm..."

Before Jack was fully aware of it, they were half-lying on the bed and kicking their jeans off. Things were a little blurry in his haze of lust, but it was good. They managed to get up to the headboard, Ennis pressing Jack down to the mattress and nibbling his neck. Jack groaned when he felt his erection growing harder. "Ennis..."

"Tell me what you want," Ennis whispered to him, settling between Jack's legs. He was so close to pushing inside, which wasn't helping for Jack.

"Please...fuck me," he moaned, tilting his hips upwards. "I wanna feel you inside me,'re claiming me. I wanna feel that again..."

Ennis nodded and quickly smoothed the lubricant over himself before doing as Jack asked. He slid inside and watched as Jack finally relaxed. "Oh...that's it," he sighed, closing his eyes. He wrapped his legs around Ennis's waist; a clear sign for Ennis to move.

They were silent as they made love, except for whispering now and then. Jack could feel that something was different this time; it didn't feel as though they were on borrowed time anymore.

"Feels different," he gasped out as they rocked together. "Ennis...something's different than feel it?"

"'ve got all the time in the world now," Ennis replied, pushing deeper. "We're not rushing like we used to..."

"I know...oh God..." he groaned when Ennis trailed a hand down his chest. "This is amazing..."

"Yeah...Jack..." Ennis murmured, planting his lips on his lover's firmly as they moved together, holding Jack close to him. There was something different about this time, compared to how it used to be. But he loved it; he felt even closer to Jack than before.

It only took a few more thrusts before he felt himself coming into Jack, head buried in his lover's shoulder. Jack wasn't far behind, shooting in between them with a yell and then collapsing. Ennis sank down onto him, breathing deeply. "Darlin'...that was..."

"I know," Jack replied, wrapping his arms around Ennis and kissing his cheek. "I missed you, Ennis. Everything about you, and not just the sex. Although I did miss that a lot," he added, grinning. "I mean...being with you. Sitting on the sofa like earlier, eating together, talking...I missed all of it. And now we're gonna be doing that every day. Feels so surreal, you know?"

"Yeah, but we'll get used to it," Ennis pointed out, stroking his chest. "We'll get used to spending so much time together, I'm sure."

"You're right," Jack agreed, nodding as he looked up at the ceiling. " do realise that there's one more thing we have to get through, right? Mike's trial...remember?"

Ennis groaned and rose up, looking down at him; he hadn't really wanted to discuss this yet. "Yeah. I was told that the police in Texas will get in touch with me when they've got a court date decided, now that I'm back. Will you come with me? I don't wanna face it alone..."

"Of course I will," Jack replied, hands on Ennis's neck as he gazed up at his partner. "You don't even need to ask, Ennis. When you told me that it would go to court, I'd decided that I would go with you no matter what. You need moral support, and I can give you that. The captain's already made his statement, right? I know he won't make it back in time."

"Yeah, that's right. So it's up to us to make sure that Mike gets what he deserves. We'll do it, won't we?"

"Yep," Jack replied, smiling at him. "I won't ever let you deal with something like this by yourself, bud. We're engaged, after all. It's my job to be there for you, because I know you'd do the same for me."

"Of course I would," Ennis confirmed, and then he finally rolled off Jack to stretch out in what was now their bed. "It's what being a couple's all about, I reckon. When we make our vows at our wedding, it's gonna be about sickness and health, better and worse...all that stuff. Just because we're not married yet doesn't mean we can't start practicing that. We're still engaged, after all."

"We sure are," Jack replied, grinning and leaning in for a kiss. "And I can't wait for us to move. What are we doing about rings? Should we get a pair of engagement rings now and then have some made for our wedding bands?"

"Sure," Ennis agreed, and he gently touched Jack's cheek, eyes roaming Jack's face. "Two and a half here we are. It's been worth the wait, though, right?"

"It really has...because we're together now and that's just how it's gonna be for the rest of our lives," Jack replied, leaning in close to him. "We'll be really happy, Ennis...because we love each other."

"Yeah." Ennis pulled him into a warm embrace, thanking his lucky stars that everything had worked out for them at long last.