Chapter 9

Tuesday, January 5th 2010

Dear Jack,

Sometimes I can't believe how long it's been since we met. Nearly a whole year and I love you more than ever.

When we're apart, the time drags so much that I swear the clocks have been slowed down somehow. But when we're together it goes by way too fast for both of us and I hate that. I wish I could be with you more often, Jack. Talking on the phone is great and it helps with feeling lonely, but I want to hold you and kiss you more than anything.

We'll be arriving in Hong Kong today, which I'm looking forward to. I've been doing research and it looks like an interesting place. There are some things in particular I want to see, and I can take photos for you. I know you liked the one I gave you for your birthday.

While I'm there, I'm going to buy you something for our anniversary. I don't know what yet but I'm sure I'll find something you'll like there.

I can't believe that when I come back, it'll be a year since we got together. Feels like a lot less since we haven't spent that much time together, but that's okay. When we are together we make up for lost time and that means a lot to me. I know you feel the same about it.

I miss you, Jack. There was a party to ring in the New Year and it was more fun than the Halloween party. At least this time, the guys weren't trying to get me to do shots. I did have a few drinks, though, and watched the others as they got drunk and made themselves look stupid. A few of the female sailors on board managed to sneak in, so they were happy.

The girls were popular at midnight when the clock struck and there was a lot of kissing. That was when I missed you the most, because I so wanted to kiss you then. The phone call did help when I got back to the cabin, so thank you for that. It was good to talk to you, even if I couldn't be there.

Jack, every single day I worry about being caught. I keep thinking that someone's going to hear me talking to you or somehow break into my phone and read my messages. I keep it with me all the time just to keep it safe, but I still worry. I have no idea what would happen if someone found out. They would probably report me or worse yet, tell everybody else.

But I know I can't let it get to me because I'm doing everything I can to keep it safe. I'll be back soon enough and I'm looking forward to being with you again. I'd love to have dinner or go to a movie with you, so hopefully we will.

I love you, Jack. Take care of yourself, bud.

Love, Ennis.

He put his pen down and read over the letter, smiling to himself. He knew how much Jack appreciated the romantic gesture of him writing, so he kept on doing it because of that. He didn't care if the other guys didn't understand; all that mattered to him was that Jack did.

He remembered the phone call on New Year's Eve that he and Jack had shared; it had been so good to talk to him on that night, even though he missed Jack immensely.

"So how was the party?" Jack asked, and Ennis sighed.

"It was kind of fun after a while, but I was lonely. They had some of the female sailors there, which the other guys liked, and they were all kissing at midnight. I wanted to kiss you."

"I know, Ennis. I've been feeling the same tonight. But one day, we'll get that. We'll spend as much time together as we want, I promise." Ennis felt his heart soar; how amazing would it be to spend every single day with Jack, to wake up with him and go to bed with him every day? It would be a perfect life and he could think of nothing that would make him happier.

"I'm looking forward to that, Jack. I can't wait to do all the things that other couples do that we can't. One day I won't have to be scared of someone finding out, and I can't wait."

"That's right. But for now, we just have to concentrate on getting through this time apart. I miss you too but I know you'll be back soon. And it'll be our anniversary."

"Yeah, that's something to look forward to," Ennis agreed, smiling. He tried to picture Jack's smiling face and it warmed his heart. "I love you, Jack. Happy New Year, darlin'."

"Happy New Year, Ennis. I love you too."

Ennis smiled fondly at the memory, looking at a photo of Jack on his phone and remembering everything they had done together during his time on land. His dreams were a mixture of memory and fantasy, which surprised him. There was so much more he wanted to do with Jack, and not just in the bedroom. He wanted the big date, with dinner and a movie. He wanted a picnic in the park when the weather was good. He wanted to walk around holding Jack's hand without feeling scared of someone he knew seeing them.

He sometimes wondered if he should just quit the Navy now so that he could be with Jack for good when they got back. But he still had his contract to fulfil and he knew that Jack wouldn't want him to quit just like that. Apart from feeling lonely and sometimes getting annoyed by his co-workers, Ennis did enjoy this life because he got to see other countries that he wouldn't see otherwise. He could stick it out as long as Jack was in his life, and as long as he would be there when Ennis needed him.

They arrived at the port in Hong Kong and Ennis looked around him. He had a dictionary with him so that he could at least try to translate the signs around him, but he knew it wouldn't be easy. But he was up for the challenge.

He and the others had been told that they would have five days here, so he set about locating the main attractions he wanted to see. Since he would have to return to the ship every night, he didn't want to go too far into the area because he knew he would get lost if he did. He was currently at Victoria Harbour on the mainland, and the nearest attraction he wanted to see was the history museum on the south-eastern part of the area. He figured it was a good place to start, so he grabbed a leaflet from the tourist stand nearby and started to make his way there.

The weather was a lot warmer here than it probably was in Florida, and he didn't envy Jack having to walk through cold winds to get to work. He did hope that Jack was doing well back home, though, and part of him wished that he could share this with his lover.

Ennis looked at the exhibits in the museum with interest, half-listening to a museum guide talking to a group. He could barely understand the snatches of conversation from the locals but it didn't bother him too much; he had time to learn something while he was here. Maybe he could impress Jack with something romantic to say when he came back. He was surprised to learn that English was an official language of the country, as well as Chinese. Maybe he would get by after all if he found someone who he could talk to.

Ennis found his way to a street market, where he hoped to find something he could give to Jack for their anniversary. He came across a stall of handmade souvenirs of different shapes and sizes, with words in Chinese written on them. Ennis looked at them curiously, wondering if he could find one that Jack would like.

"You want something in particular?" asked a young Chinese woman who was minding the stall. He smiled at her.

"Do you have any that say 'love' on them? Or 'I love you'?" he asked her, and she nodded, pointing down to the hearts on one side.

"Those on the right say 'I love you'," she told him, and he looked closely at them. There was a light blue one that reminded him of Jack's eyes, and he smiled, picking it up. There were strange numerals on the price tag but she helped him with the correct number of dollars to pay with.

He set off walking again and found himself at the Kowloon Park, needing to take a break from the walking around. He sat on a bench and watched as people walked by, wondering what Jack might be doing right now.

As he looked around, Ennis wondered what was going to happen when he did leave the Navy. His parents were currently looking after his apartment in Knoxville, which he appreciated but he didn't know if Jack would want to move there or if he would rather stay where he was. Either way, if they wanted to be together then one of them would have to move; there was no way they could carry on with a long-distance relationship after all of this. The whole point of him leaving the Navy was for them to be together every day, so something would have to change.

He didn't know what was going to happen for he and Jack had never discussed it. Neither of them had ever wanted to talk too much about the future because they didn't want to get caught up in it. For now, they were just focusing on their relationship at this time.

After a while, he got up and carried on walking. This time, he headed out to the Island to see what there was and found more shops to explore. He was getting used to the area and could hear a few people speaking English around him, which made him more comfortable because he knew he stuck out like a sore thumb.

He strolled along the beach by himself, looking out over the water and taking in the warm weather that he'd missed recently. The ocean air could make things colder than normal when they were moving.

He walked around a little more and even tried the local food, but soon the sun was starting to set and he had to get back to the ship. There were a few others heading back after a long day, including some of his friends that he got on with. Despite having friends, Ennis was lonely and missed Jack so much. He couldn't even talk about Jack to anyone because he didn't know how they were going to react. Those friends could turn on him if they knew the truth and that scared him.

Lying on his bed that night, Ennis stared out of the window and wondered what Jack was doing. He continued to wonder what their future plans might be and he worried that neither of them would want to move when the time came to make these decisions. What if they just couldn't agree on who was going to move and they started arguing? That would ruin everything, and he was terrified by the thought of Jack leaving him.

Needing to reassure himself, he pulled out his phone and sent a quick text to Jack.

I love you xxx

He pressed his phone to his lips, praying that he wasn't going to lose Jack over something like that. Maybe they could reach a compromise and have both of them move to somewhere in between. Either way, he would do anything to keep Jack in his life. A buzzing made him look back at his phone.

I love you too xxx

January 10th, 2010

On Sunday, they were leaving Hong Kong at last and about to head home. Ennis had once again enjoyed seeing a new country, but his heart was yearning for Jack back in Florida and he was glad to be returning. He missed Jack every day and it never got easier, despite how often they talked.

He texted Jack every day, usually the last thing at night before he went to sleep. Their phone calls had to be less frequent because Ennis was so scared of someone overhearing him and finding out the truth. Every time he caught someone looking at him he wondered if they knew something, even though he knew there was no chance of that; he kept his phone close to him at all times and there was no way that someone could know the password.

Still, he was fairly happy with the way things were. Jack made him happy and he couldn't wait to be back. Maybe they could have a cinema date, as it would be dark in there and he didn't think that the others would be there anyway.

There was one thing that he and Jack hadn't done that was on his mind for next time; they hadn't taken a bath together. The thought had occurred to him and he was certain that they would fit in there; he figured it would be quite romantic if they had some candles and maybe wine.

He was sat in the communal room right now, half-watching the TV as they waited for the order to prepare for their departure. He kept picturing his return to Jack's apartment and remembered what Jack had told him; he'd said that Ennis could stay there instead of at the barracks while on shore leave, and Ennis had to admit that he was very humbled by the offer.

One night before arriving in Hong Kong, Ennis had tried calling Jack to thank him for his offer. Jack didn't answer, so Ennis had figured he'd been in the shower and left a message.

"Jack, I just wanted to say thank you again for your offer. It really means a lot to me that you want me to stay with you when I'm on shore leave. I'd love to stay at your place because I honestly don't like staying in the barracks. I'd be much happier at your place and I'm looking forward to it already. So...I love you, and I'll see you soon."

He smiled and thought of the day when he would be back with Jack; soon enough he would have his lover in his arms and everything would be alright again. Jack was the love of his life and Ennis wanted to tell him, but he wanted it to be when he could see Jack's reaction. He wanted to see Jack's eyes light up the way they did when he told him something sweet. He loved everything about Jack; nobody was perfect but he thought Jack was close enough. Even if Jack did have flaws, Ennis didn't care because there was nothing that would stop him from loving Jack. He sometimes considered asking Jack if there was anything he should know, but he didn't want to make Jack uncomfortable if there was a bad memory inside him.

He became distracted when one of his friends sat down next to him. This was Richard, who was one of the quieter guys that never caused him any trouble. "Hey, Ennis."

"Hey, what's up?"

"Been hearing a rumour about the next shore leave. They're saying it's only gonna be a few days this time."

Ennis felt his heart sink; just a few days with Jack, around their anniversary? That couldn't be right; he wanted more time with Jack and he hated how he couldn't influence that. "Shit...that's bad."

"Yeah. I heard you've been seeing someone when on shore leave. What's her name?"

Ennis seriously considered telling him the truth, for he was certain that he could trust him. But he didn't have the guts to do it, and silently apologised to his lover for doing this. "Jackie," he replied, managing a smile.

"Right. Been nearly a year, right?"

"Yeah. Twelve months in April. I can't wait to be with...her again," he replied, catching himself before he revealed anything. "I'm looking forward to it."

"I got a girl myself, but only since the last shore leave. Her name's Claire's going well, I reckon. I know the other guys aren't into long-term things..."

"Yeah, that's true. I'm a lot happier with what I've got," Ennis told him, nodding. "I'm in love, big time."

Richard smiled. "Well, I can agree with you on that one." They looked at the TV, neither of them really watching but thinking. Ennis wondered if he should tell the truth, and if his friend would be angry at being lied to. Hopefully he would understand why he hadn't been honest.

He couldn't worry about that now; Jack was waiting for him at the end of this journey and he was trying to focus on that for now. It was all that mattered to him and everything else was irrelevant right now.

When Richard got up to get a drink, Ennis sneaked a look at his phone and opened up a photo of Jack, smiling at that beloved face he missed so much. Soon enough, he would get to hold that face in his hands and kiss those lips like he used to. He figured that they would spend his entire first night back just getting re-acquainted with each other and rolling around in Jack's bed. The thought put a smile on his face; he was looking forward to that game Jack had suggested.

He sighed and put his phone away, hoping that Jack knew he was thinking of him. He was certain that Jack did; he seemed to think of Ennis all the time. Ennis knew he was loved and that was enough to help him through these long months at sea.

That night, Ennis was lying in his bed and staring out of the window, trying to get to sleep. He was half-asleep already, starting to doze off as he listened to the waves around him.

He took the stairs two at a time, eager to get up to the floor where Jack lived. It had been such a long time and he missed his lover so much that it ached. Just a few more seconds and he would see that face again.

With a flutter in his chest, he knocked on the door and waited as he heard footsteps. The door opened and he grinned; Jack was standing there waiting for him, as he'd hoped.

"Ennis!" he said, moving forward to wrap his arms around Ennis's neck and kissing him deeply. "Mmm..."

Ennis held him close and they managed to move inside, slamming the door behind them as they kissed. Jack broke away for air and Ennis cupped his cheeks.

"Now that's what I call a welcome," he breathed, nuzzling Jack's nose. Jack smiled and pressed their foreheads together, clearly a little dazed by his own assault on Ennis's mouth.

"Yeah. I was just so happy to see you...come here..." He kissed Ennis again, this time a little gentler. "I missed you so much..."

Without realising where they were going, they tumbled onto the sofa and Jack pulled Ennis down, kissing him fiercely and reaching for his buttons. Ennis helped him with that one, taking off his shirt and doing the same for Jack. He saw the lust in Jack's eyes and knew that Jack wanted him just as much as he wanted Jack. He didn't really understand why someone like Jack would be interested in him, but he could accept it. They loved each other deeply, after all.

"Jack," he whispered, starting to undo Jack's jeans. "I want you in my mouth...wanna suck you dry, you hear me?"

Jack grinned and nodded, allowing Ennis to carry on pulling his jeans down. "Alright, but you better get your pants off too. Not fair for you to ogle me when I can't do the same."

When they were both naked, Ennis moved down Jack's body while kissing his stomach, making him sigh. "Feel good?" he asked softly, nuzzling the dark patches of hair around Jack's navel.

"Oh yeah," Jack breathed, eyes closed as his head rested against the arm of the sofa. "You're so good at this...come on, suck me off..."

Ennis smiled and got into position, widening Jack's legs slightly so that he had full access. He went to work, wrapping his mouth around Jack's leaking erection and drawing a moan out of him. "Ennis..." he sighed, grinning when he felt Ennis's finger move between his legs. He loved it when Ennis did this when he was giving him oral. "I swear, you drive me crazy..."

His lover couldn't reply verbally, but Jack felt Ennis's finger push into him and he groaned. It didn't take long before he was coming and Ennis was taking it all, thankfully remembering to swallow so he didn't choke.

He collapsed onto the sofa, staring at the ceiling. "Oh God...that was amazing, Ennis. Welcome back..."

Ennis crawled back up to his face and smiled. "Good to be back. I missed you so much, Jack..." He stroked his lover's face and was rewarded with a purr. "You're so beautiful, Jack..."

He grabbed the afghan and draped it over them both, sinking down onto Jack's body and smiling. "Hey." They were both warm and cosy now after that.

"Hey yourself," Jack replied, nuzzling his nose. "I love you..."

"Love you too..."

Ennis woke up with a smile on his face; he loved dreaming of Jack and that had been wonderful. Their sex life was amazing, he could admit. But what he loved the most was just being with Jack and talking, or maybe kissing too. There was nothing better than when they were together.

He rubbed his tired face and realised he needed some water; his throat was dry and he wondered if it had anything to do with his dream. He silently got up and crept out of the room; the bathroom was just a few doors down and he wasn't likely to meet anyone along the way.

The corridors were silent as he walked along barefoot, and he splashed water on his face while he was in there. He looked up at himself in the mirror and noticed that his face was flushed. It was only now that he became aware of the stickiness in his boxers; his orgasm from his dream had been real. He blushed slightly even though he was alone and went to clean himself up.

Ennis often thought about what it might be like to meet Jack's parents. He already knew that they were accepting of the relationship even though Jack's mother sometimes worried for him. If he did meet them, Ennis would swear to them that he was going to look after Jack when he left the Navy. He would promise that he would never hurt Jack and knew that he could keep this kind of promise. He didn't think he could live with himself if he ever broke Jack's heart.

He knew that he would do anything to make Jack happy, even if that meant living away from his own family in Iowa. He just loved Jack too much to risk their relationship.

With a nod to himself, he headed back to bed and curled up again, smiling as he looked through the photos of Jack on his phone. He loved looking at Jack when they were apart, remembering how it felt to be with him.

Before he dropped off to sleep, his last thought was how it was going to be when he and Jack reunited. He knew that Jack would be very happy to see him and the feeling was mutual. Hopefully, the time between now and then would pass quickly and he would have Jack in his arms again.

January 20th, 2010

They were back out on the sea again, heading home at last. Ennis was looking forward to not only taking a break from work but also spending time with Jack. He thought of the rumour going around that they would only get a few days on land and he hoped that it wasn't true. He hated the thought that he would only spend a short time with Jack, and what if it was before or after their anniversary? They wouldn't get to spend it together and that thought made him miserable.

Ennis knew he should be grateful that he got to spend any time with Jack at all, and that nobody was demanding to know what he was up to. But it was hard to feel that way when all he wanted was to be with Jack all the time.

He left his cabin, having finished his work for the day and now changed, and decided to see if any of his friends were around. He didn't want to run into Mike again; the guy just irritated him even though he'd apologised for what happened at the Halloween party. He wondered if it might come to a point where they figured out that he was gay, and he dreaded that. But he knew that if he was sacked, he would have somewhere to go.

"Hey, Ennis," said a voice nearby as he walked along the corridor. It was Richard, who he got along with quite well. "I'm heading down to play cards with the guys. You wanna come?"

"Sure." He followed his friend through the corridors until they reached the room where a group of the others had gathered. After a while, he joined in with the card game and tried to distract himself from his loneliness.

"So,'ll be seeing your girlfriend when you get back, right?" someone asked.

"Yeah. Looking forward to it," he replied, smiling. At least that part was true.

"Isn't it your anniversary? Maybe we could have a party and we could meet her,"

Ennis started to panic; there was no way that could happen. "I don't know...we kind of wanted to spend it alone, you know?" he said, hoping that they would get the message. He knew that he could easily ask Lureen to pose as his girlfriend and that would shut them up, but it wouldn't be fair to Jack if he did that. It was better to just lie and give Jack a false name rather than try to pass off their friend as "Jackie".

"Ah, I see," the same guy said knowingly with a wink. "You'll be busy celebrating on your own, right? Fair enough. But could we meet her sometime? We wanna know what she looks like."

Ennis squirmed uncomfortably. "Guys...I don't wanna talk about this. I hate people prying into my private life, you know? No offense."

There was a moment of silence before Richard spoke up. "No, that's fine. You don't have to tell us anything, Ennis. Don't worry about it." He clapped Ennis on the back and they carried on playing, but Ennis barely had his head in the game.

He kept wondering if he should tell them the truth; surely it would be better than all of this lying in the long run? He didn't think they'd get angry that he'd initially lied; they would surely understand his reasons. And maybe at least one of them was gay as well and going through the same problem; then he would have someone to relate to.

Ennis knew he wouldn't do anything without speaking to Jack first; he needed to know what he thought. If Jack advised him that it was a bad idea, then Ennis would continue to remain silent. He made sure that there was no way someone could find out the truth on their own. For one thing, they would have to be suspicious and he figured that his story of having a girlfriend would prevent this. Even if someone did think otherwise, his journal was kept hidden when he wasn't writing in it and his phone had a password. There was surely no way that someone could find out that he was seeing a guy.

When he'd had enough of the game, he excused himself and decided to head up to the deck. It was sunset by now and he leaned against the railing, watching as the bright reds and oranges of the sun disappeared over the deep blue water. It was a beautiful sight and reminded him of the photo he'd given Jack for his birthday. He wondered where Jack had put it and figured it might be in his bedroom, since Jack was quite a romantic. Ennis liked that side of him so much and it was rubbing off on him. He wanted to be romantic with Jack.

He knew that soon it would be Valentine's Day, and while he hated how they couldn't be together he knew that Jack would be thinking of him. He would be sure to text Jack or even call him if he could; so that Jack still felt loved even though they were miles apart. He would make up for his absence as best he could on the first night back before they moved on to enjoying their time together. Even if it was just a few days and not during their anniversary, Ennis was sure that they would enjoy it.

I love you so much, Jack, he thought as he looked out over the water. I miss you every day and I can't wait to be with you again. One day, I'll be with you every day and all of this will be just a memory.

Ennis nodded to himself and headed back down into the ship, walking towards his cabin so that he could talk to Jack in privacy for a while. This daily correspondence was the only thing keeping him going when he missed Jack, and it was sure to hold them together even when apart.