GENRE: a/u a/u

GENRE: a/u a/u

Pairing: Ennis and Jack

Disclaimer: I owe it all to Annie Proulx for creating Ennis and Jack. I've added a few original characters of my own. No money, fame or fortune is being made here.

Feedback: Yes, please. Just keep it light. Concrit welcome.

Author Note #E.1 Thank you, thank you, for all your reading and comments. This has been a fun story to write. I really appreciate your support, your encouragement and your magical sense of fun. You inspired me.

Author Note #E.2 This Epilogue should satisfy everyone that our boys built that sweet life together, and hopefully let you know what they did with it.

Links to all chapters: ohiomyown./15443.html

COLORS – Epilogue

Their first year as a couple was filled with many surprises, stresses and strains.

Neither Ennis nor Jack had ever lived with anyone, let alone another man. They looked ahead with excitement as well as trepidation. The two lived in Jack's house while the house they bought was being renovated. They split the cost of having the electrical done, and the updating on the plumbing, but everything else they did themselves. The work took up almost all of their nights and weekends.

They sanded woodwork till their hands were numb and raw, and they hoped never to see a baseboard or cove molding again. They patched walls, removed wallpaper borders, and stained molding. They pulled up decades old carpeting, sanded the newly exposed hardwood floors and stained them a chestnut color. It was discussed and decided that they would cover the beautifully stained floor with polyurethane instead of an oil based varnish that would need periodic renewal and much more careful living on it. They wanted to be able to live in their home; use it for meals, entertaining, as well as practicing their hobbies. They did not want to worry about scratches and scrapes. It had to withstand real life.

The house was a mess of saw dust, rags, stains, and used sand paper. But that was not important. They could begin to see the finished product in their minds' eye, so it was glorious to behold.

Most nights the pair barely made it home before falling into a dreamless sleep, side by side after a quick goodnight kiss. They turned together and wrapped arms around one another for awhile, then rolled away to face opposite for a time. Several times during the night, they cuddled, or spooned each other without conscious thought. At times no part of them touched, but they usually awoke with one of them having their head on the other's chest with an arm draped across the stomach or hips. The important thing was that they were in the same bed, every night, without fail.

Seemed the hardest part for the pair was choosing paint colors, but they were determined to do it themselves, instead of asking a woman friend, or relative. One day, at Home Depot they were looking at paint chips and Ennis started to laugh. "What's so funny there, Brown?" asked Jack.

"We've had the solution all along, we just didn't see it."

Confused, Jack just stood there, while Ennis pulled the color wheel around to juxtapose two strips of tones. One was shades of brown, the other shades of blue. "Here's our color scheme, darlin', what d'you think?"

Jack agreed and studied each little rectangle to see which two tones went together best. They left the store with brushes, rollers, paint thinner, miles and miles of blue painter's tape, and a five gallon bucket of the Cappuccino Mocha, and another of the Summer Sky.

When the painting was finished, they stood back to admire their handiwork, and were very pleased with themselves. In the front hall, they'd made alternating stripes of the two colors, with a light wash of cloudy white over the whole. It was different and strictly theirs.

Each room had some subtle combo of the two colors, no two rooms exactly alike.

The only thing left to do was finish tiling the kitchen and bathrooms. It was close enough to completion, that Jack sent in a thirty days' notice to his landlord that his lease was up, and he would be moving. They paid the last rent they ever would pay; 50 – 50 as Ennis insisted.

They moved into 1963 Sweet Life Lane on April 4th, Ennis' birthday. They would pour the driveway and the patio in the next couple of weeks if the weather held good, and plant the trees, shrubs and flowers. They already had a truckload or two of cedar chip mulch placed around the front and back yards in attractive beds.

They lived together, making a life where none had been before. It was not automatic, they had to work at some things, others just fell into place. They loved one another beyond what either of them ever expected to have. It was an amazing fit, all because Jack had been shorthanded on the dock that day.

Jack got that promotion to corporate. He told them all that he had a life partner, and he expected that to be respected. They never had any trouble, even if they sometimes caught people whispering, and turning away when they looked their way at company functions. Nothing bad or untoward ever happened to them because of their relationship.

Ennis got his promotion too, but it turned out not to be his cup of tea. He found that he did not like being the boss. He stood it for a couple of years, but he eventually got to talking to his mentor about it. They offered him the top job as the Director of Training and he jumped at it. Ennis loved teaching better methods, training new employees on problem solving and time saving procedures. He wrote up manuals and trained the upcoming Trainers. He was in his element, and he loved it.

On their fifth anniversary in the house, Ennis and Jack stood outside and watched a new neighbor move in across the road. They both stood with mouths open to see the most beautiful little girl they could have imagined. She had brown ringlets, and the bluest eyes that sparkled with mischief. She would become the most important woman in their life.

Her name was Meredith Aquirre. Her daddy was Joe and her mommy was Jo.

Cute, but very confusing to everyone. It was apparent where Meredith got her looks. Jo was a lively, interesting woman, quick with her warm laughter and welcoming ways, and pretty as a picture. Her personality shone such that it wouldn't have mattered if she was stump ugly. Before long, everyone in their area wondered what Jo ever saw in Joe. He was as surly as she was warm, and never had a good word to say about anyone.

Jo began to show up at the grocery store and the bank and the picnics with bruises here and there, or a limp she couldn't explain away. Both Ennis and Jack planned to take Joe aside, and teach him a few fundamentals about how to treat women, but before they could, Jo was taken into the hospital. She died the third day she was there. In spite of the fact that all the neighbors suspected Joe had a hand in it, the Medical Examiner certified that Jo had been suffering from a rare blood disease, and her doctor confirmed it. Her husband had never laid a hand on her.

Joe was distraught, losing Jo was beyond his ability to cope. He went down hill health-wise, and it worried Ennis and Jack. They took to going over there whenever they could to make sure Joe had some healthful food and had taken his medication. They looked in on Meredith, and often took her home with them for supper, playtime in their spacious back yard and then a bath and story before taking her home to her bed. Joe barely noticed whether she was there or not. He began to drink. Within six months after Jo's death, Joe was skipping work, unable to sleep and failing to keep up with his personal hygiene. Most days he was drunk, and out of his head.

Fearing the worst, Ennis and Jack began searching for relatives to alert to Joe's plight and Meredith's dangerous home situation. They stopped taking her home after her bath, and made a little bed for her in their extra room, next to theirs. Finding no one from the family, they sought out an attorney to file a request that Meredith be placed with them for safety's sake. Unfortunately, the attorney did not draw up paperwork first, she did a search of her own, and found that one of Jo's cousins was alive, and was quite willing to take Meredith. It crushed their hopes of having her for their own little girl, but knew it was the right thing. Family comes first.

The day that Penny came to pick up Meredith on a Temporary Custody Writ, Joe was unconscious and could not be awakened to say good-bye to his daughter. They left the paperwork on the kitchen counter for Joe to read when he came to. They hoped he would see it amongst the dirty coffee cups, bottles and cans.

Meredith wrapped her little arms around Ennis' neck and refused to look at "Aunt Penny". She wet his shirt front with her tears, and cried "Jack, Ennis, don't make me go!" Jack spoke softly to her, and got her buckled into the back seat of Penny's car. They each hugged her good-bye and told her they would visit her soon. It nearly broke their heart.

A week passed in which Ennis and Jack sorely missed their little friend and hoped that Meredith was adjusting to her new surroundings. When the guys came home from work that day, they saw a For Sale sign in the yard across the street. In answer to their knock, Joe answered the door. He was red eyed and unshaven, but he seemed to be sober. Clean patches in the kitchen were evidence that he was beginning to throw out trash, scrub and paint. He was serious about selling, he said. He was moving to Sandusky to be near his little girl.

Two weeks later, they couldn't wait another minute. Joe was having an Open House, and Ennis and Jack knew he'd be busy the entire weekend. They told him where they were going, and a freshly shaved, newly sober Joe sent Meredith's own pillow and blankie with them, with a message that "Daddy will see you soon." They packed an overnight bag and headed north to see Meredith. Penny had said they were welcome to stay at her house, but they'd found a bed 'n breakfast in near-by Huron, that suited their fancy, and where they could enjoy their privacy.

As the truck tires crunched on the gravel of Penny's drive, there came a screeching sound from the front porch. "They're Heeeere, they're heeeere!" Meredith came flying down the drive; she barely gave them time to stop the truck before she was leaping into their arms. Much hugging and kissing, and maybe a couple tears later they were just looking at each other with big, wide, happy smiles. "I can't believe you're really here!"

"We're really, truly, here darlin'! Should we go say hello to Aunt Penny now?"

While the celebration was happening in her front yard, Penny carried a tray

of lemonade and ice tea out to the wicker table next to the old metal glider.

All the porch furniture was vintage, and piled with fresh pillows covered in bright sailcloth. They weren't that far from the lake, and everything had a blue and white nautical theme.

Meredith grabbed one hand of each of her friends and pulled them up the sidewalk to her aunt. After the greetings, Penny indicated the glider, and Ennis and Jack sat down side by side. She took a wicker rocker facing them,

Meredith sat on one lap then the other, back and forth unwilling to make a final choice. She wanted them both.

They discussed the unusual weather, and then Joe's progress with himself, and the house. They brought Penny up to date on all that was going on with him. All at once, Penny's eyes seemed to fill with tears, and she nodded her head towards Meredith. Ennis looked down, and the little girl had her nose pressed into his chest, just breathing in his scent. She patted his arm, then kissed the back of his hand. She moved over to Jack's lap and did the same, pressing into him, and breathing deeply. For themselves, the men had clung to her, tightening their arms around her without giving it a thought . . they were so glad to be with Meredith, their lively little gal.

"Meredith, did you pick those flowers for Ennis and Jack, like you wanted to?" asked Penny. The girl jumped down, and ran around to the flower bed. As soon as she was out of earshot, Penny said, "She's not doing well. Cries herself to sleep every night. I didn't realize how bad it would be, how much she'd miss her mommy, and daddy and everyone. It breaks my heart."

Ennis reached down and hefted the paper sack he'd carried in with him. "Maybe we can do a little something about that."

Running with all her might, Meredith came up the porch steps two at a time and offered a fistful of flowers to her visitors. "My oh My, we'll need to do something with these, put'em in water, I guess. Thank you darlin' they're beautiful!" said Jack.

Ennis pulled her over and whispered in her ear, "Mery, Mery Quite Contrary, how does your garden grow?"

And she giggled out loud, "with silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row!" And she clapped her hands with glee.

They'd read so many bedtime stories and nursery rhymes that they each knew quite a few by heart.

Penny said, "let's go find us a vase for these pretty flowers." So they all went inside, to the bright sunny kitchen while Penny rummaged around for a

small vase to hold the treasures.

When the flowers were ensconsed in a tall pickle jar, Penny put it in the center of the table. "I hope you are hungry; someone's been up and waiting since the crack of dawn, so it's almost her nap time. Need to get a bite of lunch in her first."

"I for one am starved. How 'bout you, Mery" replied Jack helpfully.

They ate sandwiches, pickles and chips. They drank iced tea, Mery had milk. When the meal was over, Ennis asked if they could put her down for her nap, "It'd mean a lot, we've missed that." Penny nodded her assent.

"Will you show us your bedroom, Meredith?" asked Ennis. So she took them each by a finger, and led them upstairs to her room. Ennis carried the paper sack with his other hand. She indicated which was hers; it didn't inspire pride in her, it was too new. But it was okay, she had no complaints other than it wasn't "home".

Jack plopped her on the bed and began to unbuckle her shoes, and pull off her socks. Ennis said, "We have something you might like. Your daddy sent it to you." And he pulled out her blankie, and her pillow. Immediately, she was a little girl again, rubbing her face with her blankie, and pressing her nose into her familiar pillow. It smelled like home, and she snuggled down on the bed. Jack brought a sheet up over her, and said they'd see her when she woke up from her nap. "NO!" she wailed. No longer quiet, she was up on her feet. "Stay with me, please, don't go." So for Mery's sake and their own, they each sat on the floor and leaned back against her bed, holding one of her hands till she fell asleep.

An hour and ten minutes later, she came out on the porch rubbing her eyes and dragging her blankie behind her. She smiled when she saw that they were still here. Jack held out his arms, and she climbed onto his lap. "We have a little something for you, your aunt Penny said it's okay." And he brought out of the sack Ennis had been carrying all day, a small picture album they'd made especially for her.

"Mommy" she crooned, while rubbing her mother's picture. "Daddy" and she kissed the snapshot of Joe. All through the little album, Meredith smiled and crooned and kissed everyone she loved. There were several pictures of Ennis and Jack together, and she kissed each of their pictures. The last picture was one of Meredith with her mother, shortly before Jo got sick. She looked at it and said "little Mery's mommy." She kissed her mother's face, as well as her own.

She insisted that Ennis and Jack have a tea party with her like they always did, and so they sipped imaginary tea, and ate imaginary cakes along with some of her favorite stuffed animals.

It was time to go; they told her they'd be back in the morning at 9 o'clock. "Can you remember that?" "Nine o'clock!" she said jumping up and down. While Meredith napped, Penny had given her permission for them to take her to Cedar Point the next day.

"Hey Blue, this sky matches your eyes, you know that?" The boys were lying in a row boat in Sandusky Bay. They had rowed out to Marblehead, saw the lighthouse, and rowed back to the quiet of the bay. They had tickets for the 4 p.m. ferry out to Kelley's Island. Ennis had always wanted to see the glacier grooves. Jack was looking forward to the ferry ride itself, and then an evening on Put-in-Bay. It was a tourist trap, no denying that, but it would be fun. By the time they'd walked around in that crowd, and had a few beers, saw the sights, and shopped in the stalls, it was time to get back to Huron to their bed 'n breakfast. They were eager to get back to their bed, even if it was one they'd rented for the night only. The brisk lake breeze had done its work, they were two sleepy lovers, nuzzling and making love before falling into a deep, restful sleep.

The next morning, they had enough energy to do the job right; they made love thoroughly and noisily. They couldn't control the moans that came from their throats, and felt a bit bad about that. Within seven minutes though, there were more moans, coming from the other side of the wall! The people in the room next door must have been turned on, or inspired by their noises. They no longer felt bad, they felt proud of themselves instead.

The B&B staff had a breakfast buffet all ready for them when they'd showered and dressed for their day with Meredith. Delicious smells had been wafting up to their room for awhile, hurrying them along. It seemed the lake air was making them more hungry than usual, and they both ate a large meal. "There's light craft warnings out this morning." Their host announced. "Hope you're not planning on boating or fishing this morning."

Jack said they were planning to take a little friend to Cedar Point, and got a thoughtful look in response. "Well, will be spitting rain, and light showers all day. Pretty windy, too. Good luck to ya."

The guys looked through the brochures near the front door of their B&B for alternate ideas, things they could do indoors if the weather turned off bad.

Most of the things they'd hoped to see were out in the lake. They'd even contemplated crossing over to Canada, then stopping back on the Bass Islands, hoping to see Perry's Monument, back by Catawba Island and back into Port Clinton. Over their 3rd cup of coffee, they realized that these plans were all for the two of them. Meredith didn't need anything special, she just wanted to spend time with them. Happily they drove off to pick up their girl.

Meredith Joy Aguirre was, once again, ready and waiting for her gentlemen callers on the front porch. She spied Jack's truck before it even pulled into the drive. It took all Aunt Penny had to hold her back from running right out into its path. "Sugar, sugarjust wait for them to get here. Why don't you check your backpack, make sure you have everything you might need, okay?"

When Ennis and Jack reached the porch, she had all her belongings spread out on the porch floor. She had a light sweater, a plastic rain cap, a bottled juice, some gold fish crackers, and some raisins. And her blankie.

"All set there, I see." said Jack.

"Nope, something's missing. Do you know what it is?" Aunt Penny prodded. As none of them could come up with what else she might need, Penny held out a small tube of sunscreen, something she should never be without, living here.

"Oh right." sighed Ennis. "C'mere and let me daub you all up."

Meredith insisted that they needed to be protected from the sun's rays too, so they all got sunscreened before leaving the house.

Jack asked, "Do you have a hat? Just in case?" and so they added that to the backpack too.

Ennis said, "You're a pretty big girl now. I think we need to leave blankie at home, he can wait in your bed for you to come back."

Meredith grudgingly agreed, and then tromped up the stairs to put her old favorite friend under her pillow.

The day was filled with fun, sunshine, and intermittent showers. They rode the merry-go-round, and the ferris wheel, and a few other mild rides aimed at children her age. They ate cotton candy, carmel apples, and funnel cakes.

They went into the exhibits and souvenir shops when the showers came, and then right back out to enjoy the atmosphere of the amusement park.

When it was time for lunch, they found a shady table and ate quietly. They used Mery's backpack for a pillow for her. She rested thirty minutes or so, dozing on the table, and the guys dozed too, leaning against one another briefly. They all re-applied sunscreen before resuming their trek around the park.

They went into a booth to get their picture made, making funny faces, and kissing each other. They took two strips so Mery could keep one in her album, and they could keep one too. They went into an arcade when the sprinkles came back, and punched their names out letter by letter and the year, onto a metal disk as a keepsake. They put it on a chain for her, and she wore it proudly. They stayed till sundown so they could see the fireworks together. By this time, Meredith needed her little sweater, and once again, her backpack made a perfect pillow. They lay on the sand of the beach, watching the vividly colored lights sparkle across the sky, and they all yelled "Boom!" every time one shot off. They got to where they could tell which would boom, and which were duds. It was the best time they could remember; being out together, even if they hadn't been cuddling Meredith, and holding each other's hands – but they were doing both, so they were completely satisfied.

It was too late to head back home, so after dropping off Meredith, they called their B&B to see if their room was still available. It was not, so they got a small room at a motel in Port Clinton. No big deal. They were together. That's all that mattered. The following day, they made a short good-bye visit to their girl, and hugged her again and again. As they left, they told her what her daddy had said about coming up soon. They promised to come back again, and visit her. They gave her their phone number, wrote it in her picture album, with instructions to call them anytime she wanted.

Through the years, Ennis and Jack worked hard, loved much, hunted for classic cars, painted and traveled. They had a great time no matter what they did, as long as they were together. It became apparent that they were going up to Lake Erie frequently, so they bought a cabin on Catawba for weekends and vacations. The year they bought the cabin was the same year that Joe married Penny. Yeah, that was kind of inevitable. Meredith seemed to draw people, and she seemed to draw love to all her people.

She stayed with Ennis and Jack while Joe and Penny went on their honeymoon.

As Meredith grew up, she brought her friends over to the cabin too. She always had a key to both their houses. The year she brought Tommy to Ennis and Jack's cabin to meet them, they were all aware that something important was happening. A few years later, Mery and Tom married, and that was a special time too. Joe had died the summer before, so both Ennis and Jack walked her down the short aisle in the little chapel on the island.

The years rolled by, and our boys, now nearing retirement age had to decide where to live, whether to keep both houses, and what to do with their time. They decided to give the cabin to Meredith and Tom to enjoy with their three kids. They have two boys and one little girl. Ennis and Jack are grandparents, in every sense of the word, including having the kids named after them. The oldest boy is David Ennis and the younger one is Phillip Jack. The girl? Her name is Mery Jo. And she has Ennis and Jack wrapped securely around her little pinky.

Most family gatherings happen at the cabin, but some of Tom's relative's absent themselves if they know "those queers" are going to be there. It has strained Tom's relationship with a couple of his male cousins, because he won't back down. He claims both Ennis and Jack as fathers-in-law, loves them and looks up to them. He told Dale and Butch to 'go to hell' if they cannot accept his family. He's not holding his breath to see if they back down. It's too bad, they could learn a thing or two about relationships if they'd just be in the same room with these two men. Ennis and Jack make Tom strive to be the best husband he can be, because of the example they give, without even knowing that they're doing it.

The guys spend most of their time now back at 1963 Sweet Life Lane, and less time plying the waves of Lake Erie. Jack still refinishes classic cars, and Ennis loves driving the back roads with him in search of the next project.

Ennis still paints. His favorite model is Jack. He also still has his telescope trained on the night sky, looking for new stars and for eternity.

They frequently entertain the neighbors or old friends from work, or even their family members, though few and far between they are. Nothing fancy, they like to grill out, have a beer or a margarita, a few chips.

They still meet Jeff some Sunday nights for a Thai dinner, and even a movie if there's anything good showing. Or they go bowling with a bunch from Ennis' work. They golf with Jack's old work buddies.

The men are showing their age, gray hair, a few wrinkles, but it all looks good on them. Ask the man who loves him best.

Meredith and Tom celebrated their anniversary last month. They brought the three wild ones to stay with Grandpa Ennis and Grandad Jack for the weekend. "You guys be good, you hear me?" demanded Meredith, warning the children with her eyes, of dire consequences if they didn't behave.

Jack couldn't resist pulling her chain, "Okay, we'll try. But what about the kids?" Ennis laughed like he did every time he heard this joke.

Meredith grimaced at him. "Okay, granddad Jack. You guys behave, and the kids need to be good too."

"Have a wonderful time, sweetheart. You and Tommy don't worry about a thing. The kids'll be fine right here. Go on, git. Your weekend is flying by."

Ennis and Jack had furnished the bedrooms when the kids started coming for visits. They each had a bed if not a whole room to themselves. The boys had twin beds in the same room. M.J. had her own room with a canopy bed.

When it was time for bed, the kids were bathed, teeth brushed and hair dried. They were in their jammies demanding a bed time story. "Come on, granddad! Tell us again, about how you met grandpa!"

Baby Mery Jo chimed in, "Yeah, grandad brue, tell how grandpa brown fall down on his butt!"

The End