A Love Born From Steel

Chapter 19

Jack smoothed the tomato sauce over the meatloaf with the back of a spoon, then laid three strips of bacon across the top. He checked the Joy of Cooking again for timing—350 degrees for 50 minutes, he read. He had been surprised that the recipe in the book didn't include the tomato sauce and bacon—in fact, the various variations they listed all sounded sort of bland. But he remembered his mother making it this way—she always used a small can of Hunt's tomato sauce—and he did the same thing.

He put the meatloaf into the refrigerator. "There," he thought to himself, "dinner is all set." He had the meatloaf ready to bake, a tossed salad all made, and four potatoes, peeled and sitting in a pan of water, ready to be boiled and mashed. He didn't know if Ennis liked meatloaf and mashed potatoes but suspected he did. After the week they had been through, Jack felt like a little old fashioned comfort food was in order.

He washed his hands at the sink and looked at the clock: 3 pm. When they had gotten back from taking Pete to the bus, they had had a quick lunch of sandwiches and Ennis decided to go upstairs and take a nap. Ennis rarely slept during the day so Jack took this as a sign of just how much the stress and emotional upheaval of the past week had gotten to him, too.

Jack went up the stairs, intending to go to the bathroom, but he stopped at the bedroom door and looked at sleeping Ennis. He smiled to himself. For Jack, taking a nap meant lying on the couch, with his boots off and maybe his belt loosened. Ennis, on the other hand, got completely undressed and under the covers—as if he was going to bed. Jack never knew about this little quirk—how would he? They never took naps on Brokeback and besides, they didn't have a bed.

Jack went down the hall and used the toilet and then came back, stopping at the bedroom door again. Temptation overcame him. He couldn't watch Ennis, lying there asleep, and not join him. He quickly undressed, then slid into the bed, the sheets feeling cool against his skin. He rubbed his hand along Ennis's side, stopping at the hip. "Lover," he whispered, "you asleep?"

Ennis stirred and stretched, then mumbled, "I was," he said, with a soft chuckle, turning towards Jack, "but I ain't anymore."

"Sorry," said Jack, "I didn't mean t'wake ya."

"Stop your lyin'," said Ennis, winking at Jack. "Ya did mean t'wake me and now yer gonna pay for it."

"I'm gonna pay for it?" said Jack, acting innocent.

Ennis nodded. "First, I need a kiss." He pulled Jack close to him, loving the feel of Jack's open mouth. Then he bent and kissed his favorite spot on Jack's collarbone. "Love ya, babe," he whispered.

"I love you too," said Jack softly.

Ennis pulled back and looked at Jack, his eyes still dozy but his mouth smiling in a mischievous way. "So, this is what I want ya to do." He paused. "First I want ya t'suck my cock…and finger my ass," he said softly.

"Suck yer cock and finger yer ass," Jack repeated, trying to sound dutiful. "How many fingers?"

"Two should do it," said Ennis, reaching towards the drawer of the bedside table. He handed Jack the tube of K-Y. "Yer gonna need this, I think."

Jack nodded, "Okay, so, suck cock, two fingers, then what?"

"Then," said Ennis, "when I'm just 'bout t'come, I want ya t'sit on it."

"Sit on what?" said Jack, his voice playful.

"My cock, ya asshole," said Ennis, with a laugh.

"I ain't an asshole, it's my asshole ya want on yer cock, I think," said Jack, starting to slide down in the bed.

"Whatever," said Ennis. "It's what I was dreamin' 'bout when ya woke me up, now I want ya t'make my dreams come true." He lay back on the pillow, then remembered one last request, lifting his head up to look at Jack. "When ya come, I want ya t'squirt all over me."

"Got it," said Jack, moving into the space between Ennis's thighs and taking hold of his cock with his right hand.

"Get t'work, cowboy," said Ennis, leaning back on the pillow, his eyes heavy-lidded, still drowsy from his nap.

Ennis lay back, surrendering himself to the pleasure of Jack, feeling the sensation of orgasm slowly build in his body. He felt a twitch in his arm and reached over and ran his fingers through Jack's hair, words of love and incoherent mumbles coming from his mouth. He sighed and let his body relax into the mattress, thinking nothing, just letting the feeling of electricity ripple throughout him. At the moment when he felt like a storm was building in his chest and running down his spine, about to explode out the end of his cock, Jack stopped. "Now, cowboy?" he heard his lover whisper and Ennis nodded, croaked out a mumbled yes. The hot, tight clutch of Jack's ass on his cock rendered Ennis unable to speak and he let the sensations of his body take over. His hips rose, his back arched, and he reached down and grabbed Jack's cock in his strong right hand, feeling the throbbing of Jack's heart transmitted through it. One, two, three thrusts and Ennis exploded, as did Jack, who shouted, "Oh, holy fuck!" as he collapsed on Ennis's chest.

They lay there panting, Ennis still unable to speak, waiting for their heart rhythms to return to normal. Ennis ran his hand down Jack's back and ass, at first urgently massaging the skin between his fingers, then slowly relaxing. As Ennis's cock softened, he repositioned himself, pulling Jack around to him and holding him close. They lay like that and then, finally, after many long minutes, Ennis turned his head a little bit, leaned in and kissed Jack near his ear. "Holy fuck is right, babe," he said. "Thanks…"

Jack pushed himself up a bit and looked at Ennis. "You really dream 'bout that?"

Ennis smiled at him. "Well, I have dreamed 'bout it, yes, but I wasn't dreamin' 'bout it at the 'xact minute when you woke me up…"

"You little shit," said Jack, pulling Ennis's chin up and giving him a kiss. "You bossin' me 'round and givin' me orders…"

"Ya mind, cowboy?" said Ennis, returning the kiss.

Jack shook his head, not bothering with a verbal response.

They lay together for many long minutes, enjoying the feeling of being together, their skin touching and sticky with Jack's spunk, warm and smooth. Ennis's hands absent-mindedly rubbed Jack's back and ass, neither of them speaking. Finally, Ennis roused himself, kissing Jack on the year. ""Scuse me for a minute, I'll be right back, lover," he whispered. Jack nodded, watching Ennis leave the room. He heard the sound of the toilet flushing, but then, unexpectedly, he heard the sound of water running in the bathtub.

Ennis came back in the bedroom, reaching out a hand. "C'mon, cowboy, I'm givin' you a bath," he said.

"A bath?" said Jack, with a funny smile.

Ennis nodded, smiling back. "Yup, You took care of me, now it's my turn t'take care of you." He pulled Jack up and led him down the hall.

Jack stepped into the tub, the water hot, feeling like fire on his still raw nerve endings. "Shit, Ennis," he said, with a smile "you tryin' t'cook me?"

Ennis smiled back. "It's okay, cowboy, ya ain't gonna get burned. I want it hot so it don't get cold too fast." He kneeled at the side of the tub and picked up the washcloth, rubbing it with the bar of soap. "Lemme start with your back," he said softly.

Jack let himself go limp, feeling like a rag doll as Ennis maneuvered the washcloth down his arms, across his chest, over his neck, and behind his ears. "Ya act like a pro at this," he mumbled, as Ennis picked up the handheld shower and wet his hair.

"I used t'wash Jenny and Junior," he said, massaging shampoo into Jack's scalp. "It was fun givin' them a bath," he said, he mind flitting back to the happy memory.

Jack smiled at him. "I hope ya weren't dressed like that," he said with a laugh, looking at naked Ennis kneeling next to him on the floor.

"I wasn't, but it would've made sense," he said. "I always ended up soaked." He picked up the handheld shower again. "Lean yer head back, I don't want t'get soap in yer eyes."

Jack looked up at Ennis. "Nobody's ever washed my hair before," he said.

"Nobody?" said Ennis, surprised.

"Well, nobody who's ever loved me," said Jack.

"Well then, babe," said Ennis, leaning in for a kiss. "I'm glad t'be the first." He finished rinsing Jack off and pulled the ball chain to release the rubber plug from the drain. He handed Jack a towel and pointed to the sink. "Go shave," he said. "Finish the job."

"Do I hafta?" said Jack, feigning a plaintive whine. "Can't I give you a bath?"

"I'll wash myself," said Ennis, smiling at Jack. "Take care of yer face."

Jack sighed. "Why do I hafta shave twice a day?"

"Don't ask me, ask yer mama or daddy," laughed Ennis. "They're the ones that made ya. Besides," he added, "ya don't shave twice a day every day…just on special occasions, like this."

Jack stood at the sink, rubbing shaving cream across his face. "Just my luck t'get stuck with a guy that don't like facial hair," he mumbled, giving Ennis a mischievous wink.

"Prob'ly 'cause I couldn't grow a beard if my life depended on it," said Ennis, who was now in the bathtub and vigorously lathering himself up. "You grow a beard, I'd get jealous."

Jack looked at him. "I could make you jealous?" he said.

"Sure could," said Ennis. "Mebbe not with a beard, but you go lookin' at another man…" He winked at Jack. "I'll tell ya true, Jack, I got a touch of that green-eyed monster in me."

Jack smiled at him, then turned back to the mirror. "Never knew that 'bout ya, Ennis, but don't worry…I got my hands full with you, I ain't lookin' at another guy."

Ennis finished in the tub, stood up and grabbed a towel from the rack. He walked over and kissed Jack behind the ear. "Glad we got that straight," he whispered, "'Cause I ain't lookin' at another guy, either."

The next morning, Jack stood at the sink, staring out the window, watching for Tom's car. He had a fresh pot of coffee brewing on the stove and a pitcher of orange juice in the refrigerator. Tom had said he'd bring donuts—"I'll make sure to have plenty of the sugared ones for Ennis," he had said. Jack smiled at the memory of the day in May when they sat on the porch and talked about the plans for the summer. It seemed so long ago…

For Ennis and Jack, their dinner conversation the evening before had been devoted to the pros and cons of buying the farm, in light of the financial reality they were facing. In the end, they decided that the number one priority was to go through with the purchase. They both admitted that they loved the house and farm, they were happy in Quanah, and even had a few friends. They had the money and if they could get Tom to agree to a smaller down payment, they'd have a bit more of a cushion to work from. Jack agreed with Ennis's idea to start slower than originally planned with the horse business. If push came to shove, Jack probably could find some sort of a job off the farm to generate a little extra income. And, once the farm and horse business were established, even if it was small, they might be in a better position to apply for a loan. "Not at Quanah Savings and Loan," Jack thought to himself, "but we could find something." It all seemed workable. Jack just hoped there wasn't something in Hal's will that would put the kibosh on everything.

Ennis came up behind him and slid his arms around Jack's waist. He smelled faintly of horses and sweat, a combination Jack loved. Ennis leaned in close to his ear. "It's gonna work," he said.

"What?" said Jack, turning to look at him.

Ennis smiled. "I can tell what yer thinkin'," he said. "We're gonna have a good conversation with Tom, and it's all gonna work out. Remember the philosophy…"

They heard the sound of a car and Ennis looked over Jack's head, out the window. "There's Tom," he said. "Mebbe we should just keep standin' here kissin', give 'im a little show when he walks in. That might put 'im in a good mood."

Jack laughed, gave Ennis a quick kiss, and then turned to the window. "I'm too nervous for a show," he said. "Let's go meet 'im on the porch."

Tom came walking up the steps, white bag in hand. "Just like I promised," he said. "Plenty of sugared ones for you, Ennis."

"Thanks, Tom," said Ennis, taking the bag. "I think Jack's made some coffee, and we have juice, too."

The three of them walked into the kitchen. Jack arranged the donuts on a plate while Ennis poured three mugs of coffee. "Milk and sugar, Tom?" asked Ennis.

Tom nodded, taking a bite of donut.

"So," Jack said, "how was yer day yesterday?"

Tom shrugged. "It was okay. I'm not much of a golfer, but Russell loves to play. I mostly use it as an excuse to walk around outside and drink beer."

Ennis laughed. "Is that what golfing is? An excuse t'drink beer? Mebbe I'll start playin'."

Tom smiled at him. "No offense, Ennis, but I can't see you on a golf course. You don't look like the type to wear those stupid pants and socks."

Jack chuckled at that. "Mebbe he could start a new trend—cowboy golfer." The three of them laughed together at the joke.

Tom took another bite of donut. "Ennis, that was really nice what you said in the church, by the way. I know it must've been hard for you."

Ennis shrugged. "Not too hard, actually," he said. "It came from the heart."

"I saw you leaving the cemetery with somebody. Who was that?" Tom asked.

"An old friend of Hal's," Jack replied. "As a matter of fact, you know him. Fella that worked here for a few summers…Pete."

Tom nodded. "I remember him. Nice guy…he worked here more than one summer?"

Jack nodded. "Yup, that's what he said…nine in all, from '54 to '63."

"Hm," said Tom, "what's he doing now?"

"Working on a spread near Amarillo," replied Jack, "but he's sort of a drifter. No real roots anywhere."

"Well, that's sort of sad," said Tom. "Never got married, never settled down?"

Jack shook his head. "He had a chance, but turned it down. Lived t'regret it, I think."

The three of them stood silently for a minute, then Jack picked up the coffee pot. "Little bit more?" he said.

Tom nodded, then said. "Well, we have some business to discuss. How about we sit in the living room?"

The three of them settled in, Jack and Ennis side-by-side on the couch, Tom across from them in the upholstered chair. Jack looked towards the window, watching the summer breeze flutter the curtain. "I love this place," he thought. "This is gonna be my home." He smiled at Tom. "I told ya 'bout the bank," he said, "but Ennis and I have talked and we want…"

Tom held up his hand. "Hold on a minute," he said. "Can I go first?"

"Sure," Jack said, a little surprised. He hoped he hadn't made some sort of mistake. Everything felt so tentative, and their future was in the balance.

Tom cleared his throat. "I'm not sure how to begin, so I'll just dive in," he said. "You provided a great comfort to Uncle Hal in the last weeks of his life—especially you, Ennis," he added, turning to look at him. "He appreciated your daily visits and spending time with him. He said to me, 'They don't need to do this, keep comin' 'round, but they do.' I sensed there was a very special bond there."

Jack and Ennis looked down. They knew what the bond was, but still didn't know how much Tom understood about his uncle, so they didn't say anything.

"You remember when I came up two weeks ago, for the emergency visit?" Jack and Ennis nodded. "Well, what Uncle Hal wanted to see me about was his will."

Jack and Ennis looked at Tom, anxiety on their faces. This was their worst fear, that there was something in Hal's will that would prevent them from buying the Lazy L.

"Uncle Hal wanted to make a major change. We did it at the nursing home, with a notary, and two of the nurses were witnesses, so everything was handled properly. It was very clear to me that Uncle Hal was not senile, just an old man dying of end stage cardiac disease."

Jack and Ennis both looked at Tom. Jack said, "I'm not sure what yer sayin', Tom."

Tom nodded. "My point is, there was nothing wrong with his thinking. He made a clear and informed decision, and I accept that." He paused, then continued, "At the time all this was happening, I talked to Darlene. She fully understands what is going on and also accepts Uncle Hal's decision."

Ennis and Jack nodded.

Tom continued. "I am completely confident that everything was handled properly and the only people who might contest this change—that would be my sister or me—won't. Uncle Hal's final wishes will be honored."

He stopped for a minute, looked at both of them, and then took a deep breath. "Ennis," Tom said, "Uncle Hal left the farm to you. He said he had a great affection for you, and wanted you to have it. He said that he knew that it would be in good hands."

Ennis felt the room begin to spin a little bit and he shook his head, wondering if he heard correctly. "The farm? Is mine? We don't hafta buy it?"

"Yes, Ennis, once all the legal paperwork is taken care of, you'll be the new owner of the Lazy L Farm—free and clear, without spending a penny."

Ennis was speechless and stunned. Just a few months before, he counted his valuable possessions as three guns, two horses, a prayer book, and a battered hat. Now he owned a house, a stable, a barn, and 120 acres of prime Texas farmland. "I…I…," he stammered. He turned to Jack. "Babe, I, uh…I, uh….." He suddenly put his hand to his mouth, stood up, and literally bolted to the kitchen.

Tom looked surprised. "I hope he's okay?" he said.

Jack nodded. "I think so, but it's been a little emotional 'round here the past few days. 'Scuse me for a minute, will ya?"

"Sure," said Tom. "Take your time."

Jack pointed to a pack of cigarettes on the table. "Help yerself to a smoke, if ya want."

He went into the kitchen. Ennis was standing next to the sink, his knuckles white where he was clutching the rim. He was taking large, gasping, heaving breaths. Jack walked up to him and started rubbing the back of his neck.

Ennis took another shuddering breath and managed to croak, "Jack, I think I'm gonna puke."

"It's okay," said Jack. "Puke if you need to." Jack continued to rub the back of Ennis's neck and his shoulders.

Ennis's breathing changed from gasping breaths to being shallow and fast. Jack was afraid that Ennis would make himself pass out. "Calm down, cowboy," said Jack. "Take a deep breath. Breathe through your mouth."

Ennis nodded and managed to take a few shuddering breaths. He felt his heart, racing in his chest, begin to regain a normal rhythm. "Oh, Jesus, Jack," he whispered, barely able to speak. "I felt like this one other time in my life."

"When was that, babe?" said Jack, softly.

"The day you drove away in Signal. I felt like someone was rippin' my fuckin' guts out. I feel that way now."

"But you were unhappy then, weren't you?"

Ennis nodded. "I was so fuckin' unhappy I thought I would die."

"And now?"

"I'm so fuckin' happy I think I'm gonna die. This can't be real Jack. This can't be happenin' t'me."

"It is real, lover. It is happenin'," said Jack. "Believe it."

At this point, Ennis burst into tears. He buried his face in his hands, saying, "Oh fuck, now I'm cryin'." He turned to Jack who put his arms around him and pulled him into a close embrace. Ennis buried his head in Jack's neck, mumbling, "I'm a fuckin' mess."

Jack chuckled at this. He could feel Ennis's tears, hot and wet on his shoulder. "Cowboy," he said, "under the circumstances, I think you have a right to be."

"A right to be what?" mumbled Ennis.

"A fuckin' mess." This finally got a laugh out of Ennis, who stood up, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. "Oh, God, Jack, d'ya have a handkerchief?"

Jack nodded and pulled one out of his pocket. "Here ya go, babe," he said.

Ennis wiped his eyes and blew his nose and took yet another deep shuddering breath. "Oh, Jesus, Jack, I can't go back in there, my face and nose all red and teary like this. Tom will think I'm an idiot."

"Ennis, of course he won't think that. He knows this has been an emotional time for both of us."

Ennis looked at him. "I own the fuckin' farm, Jack," he said. "He gave me the fuckin' farm."

Jack nodded. "I know."

Ennis persisted. "Do ya understand, Jack? He gave me the fuckin' farm."

Jack smiled. "Yes, Ennis, I understand."

"Oh Jesus, Jack, I wish Hal was here," he said, tears welling in his eyes anew. "I want t'say thank you."

"I think Hal knows yer thankin' him," Jack. "He's somewhere lookin' down at you right now."

Ennis gave him a shaky smile. "Y'know, Jack, he said he left the farm to me, but it's not just mine. It's ours, Jack. It's our farm."

"Technically, Ennis," said Jack, "it is yours. But I hope you'll let me stay."

"Oh fuck, don't say that—even kiddingly, Jack," said Ennis, suddenly looking serious. "Of course you'll stay. We're married."

Jack smiled at that. The way words had come out so naturally, so effortlessly from Ennis's mouth—we're married—filled Jack with an immense happiness. Jack pulled Ennis in for another hug. "Yes, we're married. I love you, cowboy." He kissed Ennis on the forehead. They stood there for a few more minutes, then Jack said, "Ya think ya can pull yerself together?" he said. "Tom's gonna wonder what happened t'us."

Ennis stood up straight, wiping his eyes and blowing his nose a second time. He took a deep breath. "Yup, I think I'm okay now," he said. "Let's go back t'the living room."

They walked back into the room and sat on the couch. Ennis reached over and held Jack's hand. He felt like he needed the human contact to maintain his composure, shaky as it was.

Tom smiled at him. "I hope those are tears of happiness, Ennis," he said.

Ennis nodded. "They are, Tom. I'm fuckin' overwhelmed." He paused. "Thank you, by the way."

"Thank Hal," he said. "It was his decision. I should probably add, that when Uncle Hal said the farm, he meant everything. All the furniture in the house, the equipment in the barn…basically, what you see is what you've got."

"Oh my God," said Ennis. "This gets more unbelievable by the minute." He paused and put the handkerchief to his eyes, trying not to cry again. In a shaky voice he said, "Is there anythin' you want, Tom?" he asked. "If there is any furniture or anythin' special, you can have it."

"No, there isn't. Actually, back in the spring, before Hal went to the nursing home, we took care of that. He had a family bible, and some jewelry from his parents—his father's pocket watch and some other stuff—I took that then. So, everything that is here, is yours."

Suddenly a thought came to Ennis, and he couldn't resist. He looked at Jack with a wink. "I'm givin' you the magazines," he said. Jack laughed.

Tom looked puzzled. "Magazines?"

"Sorry," said Ennis. "Private joke. Just somethin' we found in a box in the closet. Hal knew about it."

Tom shrugged. "Okay." He paused then looked at both of them. "Ready to continue?"

"Continue?" said Jack and Ennis in unison. "There's more?"

Tom nodded. "Yes, there's more. Like I said, Ennis, Uncle Hal left you the farm. But Jack, he liked you too, and wanted you to have something."

Jack could feel Ennis squeezing his hand as they both listened to Tom.

Tom looked at Jack. "He had a life insurance policy and made you the beneficiary."

"Life insurance?" said Jack, as if he didn't even know what this was.

"Yes," said Tom, "a $50,000 policy. Again, the estate needs to be settled and paperwork filed, but once that's done, you'll receive a check for the full amount from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. I know from the other stuff we were working on that your legal name is John C. Twist, Jr., and that's who the check will be made out to."

It was Jack's turn to feel the room spin. He could feel Ennis's hand squeezing his and Ennis was offering him the handkerchief. "Ya need this bud?" he was saying.

"No, I'm okay," he managed to whisper, and then looking at Tom said, "I can't believe this. Thank you."

Tom smiled at both of them. "I want to tell you, I am really happy to be able to give you this news," he said. "I want you to know that." Jack and Ennis smiled back at him. "Remember when I was here two weeks ago, Jack? You said I seemed fidgety and nervous?"

Jack nodded. "You didn't seem like yer usual self," he said.

"Well, this is why. I've never been good at keeping secrets, but Uncle Hal made me swear not to tell you. If I could've—the whole thing with the bank loan and that banker insulting you—you wouldn't have had to go through that. I'm sorry about that."

"No need t'apologize, Tom," said Jack. "Hal was a private guy, I can understand why he didn't want ya t'say anythin'. And he never knew anything about the sale plans, right?"

"Right," said Tom. "I never told him. So he died, knowing he was giving you this gift."

Ennis turned to Jack. "Oh Jesus, Jack," he said, "I am so glad we brought him home."

Jack nodded. "We knew it was a wonderful thing, En. But this makes me doubly glad we did it."

Tom looked at them. "I didn't know it then, but that turned out to be the last time I saw my uncle. I guess for a good bye, that was a good one."

Ennis nodded. "I think yer right, Tom."

They sat and looked at each other for a minute or two and then Jack said, "So is that it, Tom? No more surprises?"

"No more surprises," said Tom. "I think that was enough for one day, don't you?"

Jack looked down at his hands, twisting them in his lap, then looked back at Tom. "I've gotta say somethin', it's kinda hard for me t'say, but I've got t'ask ya this…"

Tom nodded. "Sure, go ahead, what?"

"If we bought the farm, you would've gotten the money. Or if you inherited it from Hal and sold it, you would've gotten money. Now, yer gettin' nothin'." He paused. "Is that okay?"

Tom smiled at him. "You're brave to ask that question," he said. "This may sound funny, coming from an economics professor, but money isn't everything. Sure, it might've been nice to get fifty or sixty grand, money to put in the bank. But I think I've gotten something more valuable."

"What's that?" asked Jack.

"I've got two new friends and the knowledge that my family's historic farm will stay a farm…I hope for generations to come. To me, that's more important than money."

"Thank you," said Jack softly. "That means a lot to me."

Tom stood up. "I feel like we should have some champagne or something…something to celebrate."

"We have a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator," said Jack. "If ya want…"

Tom looked at his watch. "It's 9:45 in the morning, probably a little early to start drinking. Although the sun must be over the yardarm somewhere in the world."

Ennis looked at him. "What?"

"Nothing," said Tom. "Just an expression, something my dad used to say." He paused. "Wait a minute, you said you had orange juice, right?"

Jack nodded. "Yup, a fresh pitcher, just made it this morning."

"Perfect. We can have mimosas." Tom started to walk into the kitchen, Jack and Ennis following.

Ennis whispered to Jack, "What's a mimosa?"

"Damned if I know," said Jack.

Tom took three glasses from the cupboard and pulled out the bottle of champagne and pitcher of juice from the refrigerator. He popped the cork and poured champagne into each of the glasses, then added generous splash of orange juice to each. He handed Jack and Ennis each a glass and lifted his own in a toast, "Congratulations, to the new owner of the Lazy L, and his loving partner."

Ennis blushed. "Thanks, Tom," he said, taking a sip of the drink. "Mmm, this is good. Try yours, Jack," he said.

Jack held his glass up in a toast. "Congratulations, babe. I love you," he said, then took a sip.

Ennis smiled at both of them. "Thank you," he said softly. "I'm really in shock." He took another sip and looked at Tom. "Y'know, Tom," he said, "the day I met Jack I had two bucks in my pocket. We said t'each other that we were savin' t'buy a place, but my savings never amounted to much more than a coupla hundred dollars. I can't believe my dream has finally come true. Thank you."

"No need to thank me," said Tom. "I'm just the messenger. Obviously, you shared your heart with Uncle Hal and he gave you this gift."

They stood there smiling at each other for a few minutes, finishing their drinks. Tom looked at his watch. "Well, I better be going. Janet is checking out of the motel and we have a long drive back to Austin," he said. "I'll be in touch as details develop with the will and the probate court. I'll probably have to come back in a week or two. But for you, I guess life goes on as it has been."

Jack smiled. "I guess it does…"

"It's the same, but different, I think," said Ennis with a smile.

They walked Tom to his car, each giving him a hug before he got in and drove away, Jack and Ennis watching his car disappear around the bend. Jack turned to Ennis. "Now what?"

Ennis shrugged. "Well, I guess we could do some work," he said. "Those fences still need fixin'…" He paused. "Or, we could make up some more o'those mimosas and do a little celebratin'…" He looked at Jack. "Which would you pick?"

He took Ennis's hand and walked towards the house. "Ya hafta ask?" he said with a smile. "Ownin' a farm must've addled yer brain. C'mon with me…how did Tom make those drinks?"

"Easy," said Ennis. "Champagne and orange juice…mostly champagne."