Chapter 17

Jack settled himself on the bed and sighed, hands over his eyes as Ennis brought the bags in. He felt worn out and he was getting a headache. Ever since they'd arrived here in Texas it had been one thing after another, they'd barely had a reprieve. Their emotions had been thrown about all over the place, up and down. He was just glad he had Ennis, so that at least he had someone to hold him up and support him.

Ennis shut the door and looked at him with pity. Jack was a good person; he didn't deserve all the bad things he'd had to live through. All he could do for him was try to make sure that nothing but good things would happen to him from now on, or at least try.

He went over to the side of the bed where Jack was lying and sat at the edge, stroking his soft cheek. Jack's eyes had been closed but now they opened slowly, and Jack gave him a weary smile. He sighed, looking up into Ennis's caring face, feeling more thankful than ever that he'd seen him duck into the alleyway.

"I know." Ennis whispered.

"I'm just glad yer here." Jack whispered back, bringing his hand up to Ennis's shoulder.

"I'm always gonna be here, darlin'." Ennis said softly, leaning down to let their lips meet, engaging in a few soft, slow kisses, their tongues just touching. The passion began to rise as Jack lifted his head up, grabbing Ennis's hands and guiding them towards his own ass.

Ennis broke the kiss. "You sure? I ain't doin' it if yer hurtin'."

"I'm fine," Jack whispered truthfully. Indeed, his ribs weren't hurting, but he sure had his sexual appetite back. He kissed Ennis again and pulled him on top of him, encouraging Ennis to straddle him. Ennis tried to keep his chest and ribs lifted a few inches away from Jack's, just in case. They continued to kiss passionately as they unbuttoned each others' shirts and pulled them off. Ennis then ducked his head to kiss Jack's neck and make his mark as they removed their jeans, throwing them in a heap on the floor. His hands slid over Jack's already sweat-glistening body, along the arms and gently over the chest. Jack loved the feeling of Ennis's hands on his chest, softly massaging the injured area.

Ennis suddenly pulled back, to Jack's displeasure. "Damn, the lube's in the bag." He hissed as he climbed off Jack unwillingly and bent over in full view of him.

"Nice view." Jack commented, savouring the splendid sight before him. Ennis fixed him with a look, mouth turned up at the corner in a smirk as he continued to dig, eventually finding the tub.

"Come on back to bed, handsome." Jack sighed lustfully, blue eyes filled with that seductive look he was so good at. Ennis chuckled and slowly climbed over Jack again, rearing up on his thighs and preparing himself as Jack watched in anticipation.

"All yers, Ennis." Jack breathed, raising his legs so as to display the treasure between. Ennis practically shivered with longing and he took hold of Jack's legs, wrapping them around his own waist and shuffling closer. Until Jack's ribs were healed they couldn't press their upper bodies together like they normally would, or really hold each other. They had to join hands and whoever was on bottom had to allow the other to lean on his hands, even if they crushed each others' fingers to avoid collapsing.

Ennis slowly pressed himself forward and slid inside, making Jack sigh with contentment. Nothing felt quite like having his man inside him. He felt complete, whole, as if Ennis was his other half physically as well as emotionally and even spiritually. Their bodies naturally fit together. He couldn't wait to find out what they might discover when they started living together properly.

Ennis leaned down and kissed him full on the mouth as he slowly started thrusting, ever mindful of Jack's ribs. He was starting to see the benefits of going slowly, and not just for the fact it didn't hurt Jack. It felt so intimate, so romantic to go slow and tender, truly making love instead of having fast wild sex. Of course they would get ravenous from time to time, they were still only young, but slower sex like this brought it to a whole new level for both of them, they could savour the moment.

Jack pressed his feet tighter to Ennis's waist, trying to bring him in further. Ennis leaned in as far as he could without their chests touching, hands gripping tightly together as he continued to thrust in, kissing Jack all over his face and neck as Jack bucked underneath him.

Ennis searched for that sweet spot inside Jack as best he could, feeling his way, finally pressing on the area and thrusting into it. Jack's eyes flew open and he gasped in ecstasy, whispering his lover's name and egging him on with enthusiasm.

With a few more desperate thrusts, Ennis finally gave Jack everything inside him. Jack climaxed almost straight after, and without thinking, let go of Ennis's hands to grab at his back. When Ennis was finally finished, he couldn't avoid collapsing straight onto Jack's chest.

Jack gasped and felt pain shooting through him, seeing little white lights before his eyes. Ennis realised with alarm what had happened and immediately got off him as Jack clutched his chest, breathing heavily, eyes closed, and face screwed up in pain.

"Jack? You okay?" Ennis asked in a panicked voice, on his knees.

Jack took a few deep breaths and opened his eyes, seeing how frightened Ennis was. "I'm okay." He breathed, trying to smile.

"I'm so sorry, Jack. I couldn't help it." He helped Jack sit up, and Jack felt the pain slowly ebbing away.

Jack looked at him and curled an arm around his shoulders. "Not yer fault, friend. I let go of yer hands without thinkin'. My fault. Don't worry 'bout it."

Ennis nodded and sighed with relief that Jack was okay. "I sure am sorry, though."

"I know," replied Jack as he pulled Ennis into a hug. "I know."


Late that night, the two of them were settling down underneath the covers and curling around each other, Ennis spooning into Jack. They'd spent all day in the motel, talking about what had happened so far, trying to guess what secrets Becky might hold, and talking to her and Rose on the phone. They were going in circles; neither Rose nor Becky was inclined to talk about what was going on.

Ennis shuffled further back into Jack's body as sleep claimed them.

He ran at breakneck speed down the road, praying that he wasn't too late. He would never forget how much he'd hurt the love of his life, and he hoped with all his heart that he would get the chance to fix things.

He entered the fields and stopped, catching his breath, looking around, trying to find him. He took a few more steps; eyes peeled, then saw a figure on the horizon. Black hat, dark blue shirt, the figure was walking slowly through the field, head bowed. He tried to call his name but no sound came out.

To his horror, he saw three men run up behind the figure unnoticed, wielding tire irons, snarling like dogs as one of them hit the figure on his back, knocking him to the ground as his hat flew off.

Panic filled him and he tried to run over to pull them off, but while his legs moved, he wasn't getting any closer. He couldn't do anything...except watch helplessly. All three of them were on his other half, tire irons going up and down, blood spurting over the grass, the figure crying out with pain.

The men ran off towards the horizon and he could finally move again, running over to the still figure lying in the grass.

But he was too late. The blue eyes were half shut and the face was almost unrecognisable underneath the congealed blood. He frantically grabbed the wrist: no pulse. He felt his heart being torn open by pain as he surveyed the scene before him. He'd wanted to make amends, fix things after being no longer able to stand them. But now he would never get the chance.

Ennis woke abruptly, eyes flying open and breathing heavily. Jack could feel him shaking and rose up onto his elbow to look down at Ennis's face.

"Ennis? You okay?" he touched Ennis's shoulder as it shook. Ennis couldn't speak and he couldn't get the image of Jack's bloody face out of his mind, it seemed to swim before him in the darkness.

Jack sighed. He had his suspicions that Ennis's nightmares were more than they appeared; they were more distressing than he was letting on. He'd let Ennis build up the courage to tell him in his own time.

"Get yerself some water." Jack whispered in his ear. "Calm yerself down." Ennis nodded and reluctantly removed himself from Jack's warm embrace, staggering to the bathroom and trying to clear his head of that image. Jack watched him go with a sadness to see him like this. They were closer now than they had ever been and he wanted Ennis to tell him the truth about these nightmares, but had stood back out of respect.

After taking some water and trying to get his heart rate to return to normal, Ennis returned to the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed, leaning over the side with his head in his hands. He knew Jack wanted to know what he'd seen, and he wanted to tell him, but didn't know if he had the guts.

Jack sat himself up and kneeled behind Ennis, wrapping his arms around Ennis's stomach and nuzzling into his neck, feeling Ennis relax into his touch.

"You wanna tell me the truth about these nightmares?" Jack whispered. "I know they ain't flashbacks. I know what you saw in that ditch was pretty scary but...I don't think it'd affect ya like this, ya know? Please tell me, Ennis. Let me in. Even if I can't help...I wanna be there for ya."

Ennis sighed in resignation. "The nightmare in Signal," he started in a low voice. "It wasn't a flashback of seein' Earl. I was back at that ditch, but...when I looked, I didn't see him, I saw..." he hoped Jack would understand. He still couldn't bring himself to say the words.

Jack understood and squeezed his eyes shut, feeling his heart ache for Ennis and how badly he'd been affected. "It's okay," he murmured in Ennis's ear, holding him tight. "I get it."

"I couldn't tell ya then. Thought if I did...it'd come true." he whimpered, feeling Jack running his hands over his chest.

"S'alright...shh..."

Ennis took a few gulping breaths. "This one...I was runnin' through a field...tryin' to find ya. I think I'd argued with ya, said somethin' I shouldn't an' hurt ya. Wanted to tell ya I was sorry...but when I got to ya...there was three guys there. With...with tire irons." He choked out, unable to carry on.

Jack saw he was incapable of saying anything else and he didn't want to make Ennis suffer any more. It was a measure of how much Ennis loved him that he was having these horrible visions. That was all he needed to know.

He turned Ennis around to face him and pulled him close, rocking him back and forth, feeling the hot tears on his skin and hearing Ennis sob in his ear.

"S'alright...let it out..."

Gradually, Ennis got himself under control and pulled back, taking deep breaths. He slowly met Jack's eyes, his own filled with tears.

Jack was at a loss as to how he could help. "Tell me what you need me to do, cowboy. I wanna help, but I dunno how. You gotta meet me halfway."

"Could ya...maybe..." he sniffed. "Jack...please promise me...yer never gonna leave me. I'm gonna try to keep ya safe, but...don't go leavin' me fer someone else." His lip trembled.

"Oh Ennis..." Jack sighed. He brought Ennis's hand to his chest, over his heart as he had done back in Childress.

"Feel this? It belongs to you. It's only in this body to keep me alive. It don't belong to me no more. It's belonged to you since Brokeback. An' it always will, I swear." He stroked Ennis's cheek, wiping the tears away.

Ennis gave a weak smile and brought Jack's hand to his own heart. "Right back atcha, bud." He choked. Jack shuffled and lay back down in bed, and when Ennis followed Jack pulled him close once more, arm across him protectively. Nothing could come between them, not if he had anything to say about it.


The next day, Ennis had gone out to get them some food and supplies, figuring that it was a good idea for Jack to spend as much time as possible lying down so he could recover. Jack disliked being cooped up in a room all day, but he was touched that Ennis had taken it upon himself to take care of things so he could rest. That was what being in a relationship was about, he figured.

He found a way to spend the time. He knew Ennis's birthday was a week away and although Ennis never made a fuss, after nearly twenty years of thinking he didn't matter much, Jack wanted to do something to celebrate it. It would be the first birthday that they'd spent together for either of them, and it was a special occasion. He figured they could maybe go out for dinner, have a nice steak or something. Then when they got back, he'd give Ennis an even better celebration.

The main concern was the present. He'd never had much money before, so birthdays hadn't really been filled with presents, even as a kid. But now he had a little money and wanted to get Ennis something nice, something he'd like, but that was also practical. Something he didn't already have that he would use. But what? What would make a good present for Ennis?

Maybe a shirt? He had stolen the other after all, even though Ennis understood why. They'd agreed not to separate the shirts and wear them, or wash them. It was a reminder of what had happened to them and who they were together, it wouldn't be right to wash them or wear them. No, those shirts would be kept as a memento of what they'd shared and how far they'd come since that fight. So maybe he could buy Ennis a new one. He'd sure appreciate it.

But it didn't seem personal enough. He wanted something special to give to Ennis. He knew that Ennis would love whatever he bought because it would be from him, Jack. But that didn't mean he couldn't make the effort. He wanted to make it special and meaningful.

He thought back over the last few months, all the time he'd known, and for most of it, loved Ennis. He had fond memories of their first meeting, despite his own inner turmoil at the time. Ennis had been painfully shy, a world away from how he was now, at least with him. Hadn't said a word as they'd been briefed by Aguirre about the job, and those stupid rules he'd made them follow. Ennis's only real movement had been when Aguirre had thrown him the old watch.

That gave him pause for thought. Ennis didn't have a watch, and every time he'd wanted to know the time, he'd had to ask Jack, forgetting that Jack didn't wear a watch either. Maybe he could buy Ennis a watch for his birthday. He would use it, no doubt about that, and he figured he could find a nice one in town, hopefully not too expensive.

His thoughts were interrupted by Ennis returning, a few bags of food and other stuff in his hand. His normally blank face broke into a grin at the sight of Jack, who rose from the bed and padded over to him, barefoot.

Ennis put the bags down and turned towards Jack. "Miss me?" he rumbled, a smirk on his face.

"Like you wouldn't believe," Jack replied as he pulled Ennis close for a kiss. "So, whatcha get?" he asked, looking down at the bags.

"Got us some food, sandwiches an' stuff, ya know? An' some beers. Got some new blades for our razors, stuff like that."

"Great." Jack smiled. He got that pleased feeling that his man was taking care of things so he could get his strength back. He knew in his heart he would do the same if it were Ennis in his position.

"Oh an' I, uh...got us some more...ya know." Ennis said, blushing slightly and gesturing to the bed.

Jack grinned. "Gotcha."

"So whaddaya wanna do now?" Ennis asked, looking at him.

"Uh, well...I was kinda hopin'...we could talk fer a bit, ya know? In bed? Maybe get the beers and some food?" Jack asked.

"Sure, get back in." Ennis started rifling through the bags as Jack got back into bed and pulled the pillows up. Ennis joined him and handed him a sandwich and a beer, which he took gratefully.

"Hey," he murmured, looking at Ennis and holding out his beer, a smile on his face.

Ennis grinned and brought his own beer over to clink with Jack's. Jack had awakened so much in him; so much he hadn't even known existed. He was a completely different person to how he used to be, he was happier in himself than he'd ever been, and he couldn't thank Jack enough for it.

"So, whaddaya wanna talk about?" he asked as they started their little meal.

Jack swallowed and looked thoughtful. "Well...before ya got back, I was thinkin' 'bout yer birthday. We should celebrate."

Ennis shifted uncomfortably. "Jack...I ain't one fer celebratin' birthdays. Ya know me, don't want no fuss."

"Ennis...this is the first of either of our birthdays that we'll be spendin' together. Sorta special, doncha think? An' ya know...we celebrate our birthdays together...it means we're growin' old together..." Jack whispered, a loving smile on his lips.

Ennis hadn't thought of it like that, and Jack, with amusement, knew it.

"Well..." he mumbled. "When ya say it like that...I guess it is special. I wanna grow old with ya, Jack." He looked up into Jack's eyes, a smile playing on his own lips and his deep brown eyes alight with happiness, he always got that feeling when Jack said something particularly sweet to him. "So what were ya thinkin'?"

"Well...I thought maybe we'd go out, somewhere quiet, have a steak or somethin', ya know? Then when we get back here..." his eyes took on a seductive look. "You can unwrap yer present."

Ennis went slightly red. "I ain't gonna say no to that, darlin'."


The next day, Becky came down to Quanah to spend some time with them, and told them that while she and Andy were still hearing people talk about the attack on Jack, they were having no luck finding them, so they were now safe.

This came as a relief to Ennis. Jack needed to rest as his ribs healed and the last thing he needed were people trying to hunt him down and hurt him. That protective surge he'd felt back in Wyoming, that need to look after Jack was stronger than ever.

Becky's presence with them in Quanah gave Jack the opportunity to find Ennis a birthday present without him finding out. He knew Ennis would not have let him into town on his own so soon, and he didn't want Ennis to worry about him, so he invited Becky to come and help him find something. He'd pretty much decided on a watch, especially since he'd pointed out to Ennis that they would be growing old together. A watch would be a perfect way of symbolising this.

He and Becky were walking through town, looking through shop windows trying to find one that was nice but not overly expensive. Ennis, meanwhile, was back at the motel talking to Cecilia. K.E. had apparently been in touch with her and asked how Ennis was, which gave Ennis hope that maybe he and his brother could reconcile.

Becky was enjoying spending time with Jack, even if she couldn't get the truth out of her head. It screamed at her every time either of them mentioned their family. She tried to push it to the back of her mind.

Jack stopped outside a second hand shop and peered into the window. There were a few watches on display, inexpensive but seemingly in good condition. Becky walked up to him and looked over his shoulder.

"See anythin' you like?" she asked.

"Uh...well...they're all nice, but..." he trailed off. He wanted it to be something special...but to tell the truth, he wasn't sure was he looking for in this watch he wanted to buy Ennis.

"Well, let's keep lookin'." She started to move away, but then something caught Jack's eye.

"Hey, wait..." he turned back to peer into the window again. There was a watch on a shelf near the window, and he could just make out the image of a horse on its face.

"I think I found somethin'." he called to Becky, and they went into the dusty old shop, waiting for their eyes to adjust to the darkness that greeted them.

Jack went over to the corner where he'd seen the watch and he couldn't believe his eyes. It wasn't just a horse he could see on the face; it was the horse and rider, the trademark of the state of Wyoming. He didn't know how it had ended up here in Texas, but it was perfect. A reminder of their home, the place where they were both born and raised, but most importantly, the place where they had met. He knew straightaway it was what he wanted. He turned to see Becky smiling in a knowing way.

The owner walked over to them. "Can I help you, sir?"

"Uh, yeah...this watch..." Jack gestured. "That's the symbol of Wyomin', right? How'd it end up here?"

"It is indeed Wyoming's registered trademark, been here a few months now, came in with a bunch of things from someone travelling through, needed the money. Are you interested in buying it?"

"I sure am, birthday gift for my buddy." Surely there was nothing wrong with buying a gift for a friend?

"Very well. This watch costs $15, if you want it."

"Okay, I'll take it." Jack smiled. The assistant took the watch from the shelf and carried it over to the counter, placing it in a small wooden box and wrapping it up. Jack was thoroughly pleased with himself for finding such a perfect gift for his lover. Ennis would love this. Becky could see it in his face how happy he was, and she couldn't help but smile with affection.

Jack paid for the watch and they left the shop. Jack pulled the box out and opened it to admire the present. It was in very good condition, and he knew he'd found the perfect present.

"I bet he'll love it." Becky smiled, linking her arm through his as they continued to walk.

"Yeah, he will."

He and Becky took leave of each other and she started driving back to Childress, promising to call soon. Jack headed back to the motel and opened the door to see Ennis dozing on the bed. Jack's heart leapt at how peaceful and beautiful he looked, curled up, hugging the pillow with his hat and boots off.

He carefully put the bag within his own, trying not to make too much noise, and carefully sank onto the bed behind Ennis, trying not to disturb him. But it didn't work. Ennis stirred and turned onto his back.

"Jack...?" he said groggily. Jack smiled and snuggled close to him.

"Hey cowboy," he whispered. "Miss me?"

"Mmm..." Ennis turned to face Jack and they started kissing slowly and softly, enjoying the close physical presence of each other.

"You get what you wanted?" Ennis asked.

Jack smiled. "I sure did. How'd it go with Cecilia?"

Ennis's eyes lowered. "She's fine, but...K.E.'s been asking after me, an'...I think he might be comin' round. I mean...I don't think he'll ever accept it, but..."

"Yer still his brother," Jack said quietly. "No matter how much he might hate you bein' with me, he can't forget yer still family."

"Yeah...I don't care if he hates me. Nothin's gonna stop me wantin' to be with you." He gave a little smile. "Yer stuck with me, Jack."

Jack grinned. "Good. An' yer stuck with me. Fer good."

"I can live with that. How's Becky?"

"She seems alright...but she clams up whenever I mention my parents. I don't get it."

Ennis sighed. He disliked keeping things from Jack. "Listen...when she saw us off at the gas station, I asked her again what was up with her an' yer ma. She didn't say nothin' was wrong like she has been, but...she said she couldn't say."

"So somethin' is wrong, then." Jack looked puzzled.

Ennis nodded. "Dunno what though. An' neither of them are gonna say. I dunno what to do."

"Me neither...guess we're just gonna hafta wait an' see what happens."

"Guess so, darlin'. Now...where were we?" he asked, his eyes turning dark with desire. Jack could never resist that look. But then all thoughts were forgotten as they resumed their kissing.


Becky stood at the counter in her family's kitchen preparing lunch. Her father was in the living room and her mother was out shopping. She chopped the tomatoes and washed the lettuce, thinking about Ennis and Jack, and about what she knew. She so badly wanted to tell them but she wasn't sure how they would react, especially Jack. He would hate his father even more if he knew, and he would be shocked at how she connected to all of this.

The phone rang in the living room and she heard her father answer it. She wasn't prepared for what came.

"John? That you? What's goin' on?"

Becky paused, listening intently.

"Yeah Jack's down here, for the rodeo. At least, he was. Got attacked an' put in hospital, dunno where he is now. Why?"

He knows about Ennis, Becky suddenly realised. He's gonna tell him.

"Uh, I dunno, I think he was here with a friend from back home, didn't see him to be honest."

Becky grimaced, waiting for the inevitable.

"He what? Queer? What you talkin' about?"

Becky bit her lip. She had to warn them as soon as she could.

Her father was silent for a few minutes, clearly digesting the information. "Well..." he started. "It's like I said, I dunno where he is. I'll ask Becky, she might know." Becky's hand slipped, almost removing several of her fingers. "Okay." He hung up, and she could hear his footsteps heading towards the kitchen.

She kept her back turned away, bracing herself. Her father walked up to her. "Becky?"

She turned to face him, a big, fake smile on her face, playing her 'daddy's little girl' card. "Yes, Daddy?" she said sweetly.

"You know how yer cousin Jack's been down here for the rodeo? You said you'd seen him?"

She tried to look like she was thinking intensely. "Um, sure. Saw him at the diner the day before the barrel racin'. Why?"

"Was he with anybody? A guy?"

"Hmm...I dunno, Daddy. Maybe. I think he mighta been a friend from back home."

"Huh...they left though, didn't they? You know where they've gone?" he asked, peering into her face, trying to detect any lies.

"Uh, yeah I think they did. I think...I think they said somethin' 'bout Utah." It was the first place she could think of off the top of her head that wasn't somewhere they planned on going.

He bought it. "Utah...right."

"Why? What's wrong, Daddy?" she asked innocently.

"Well I guess you'll find out anyway...that guy and Jack...they're queer. That guy's Jack's queer boyfriend." He said darkly.

She tried to look shocked. "Oh my...really? But they just seemed friends. Never woulda guessed."

"Well there it is. An' that was Jack's father on the phone, my brother. He wants to know where they are. But I guess if they're goin' to Utah, we ain't gonna see 'em again."

"Guess not, Daddy."

He left the kitchen and she breathed a sigh of relief that she'd managed to keep them safe for a little longer. They would have to leave Texas soon. She knew they would be celebrating Ennis's birthday here tomorrow, and then she figured they would probably leave the day after. She had to at least warn them that her father was looking for them. This would also be her last chance for a while to tell them what she knew, and it was driving her mad. She just couldn't tell them. The memory of what had happened was undoubtedly painful for Jack's mother, her husband was alive but she had lost him a long time ago through no fault of her own.

She knew Ennis's ex-fiancée Alma would be feeling hurt, and that was an unfortunate side effect of Ennis and Jack's love. Just the same as her aunt's hurt was a product of Earl and Rich's love. Love was never smooth sailing, and in such circumstances people were bound to be hurt, families could get torn apart. Theirs had been.

She heard her father leave the house and immediately went to the phone, dialling the number Jack had given her.

Ennis picked up. "Hello?"

"Hey Ennis, it's Becky."

"Hey...everythin' okay?"

"Yeah, I uh...just wanted to wish ya happy birthday for tomorrow."

She could just picture him blushing. "Uh, well thanks."

"Jack tells me you're goin' out fer dinner." She tried to keep her voice pleasant and steady.

"Yeah...gonna get a steak or somethin', ya know? So how're you?"

She gulped. "I...I'm fine, thanks."

"Still not up to tellin' us what's wrong?" he kept his voice lowered.

She took a few breaths, so wanting to spill it out but not having the courage. "I'm sorry..." she whispered.

She heard Ennis sigh. "S'alright. In yer own time, okay? Must be pretty bad if it's making you clam up like this."

"Uh huh...well..."

"So...talk soon, okay? I reckon Jack'll want to talk to ya."

"Where is he?"

"He's right here, sleepin'." She heard the affection in his voice. He was probably looking at Jack as he said this. The thought of how close they were and how strong their love was warmed her heart.

"Okay. I'll talk to him soon."

"Sure 'nough."

She hung up and her head fell into her hands in despair. She didn't know how much longer she could keep this bottled up.

Ennis put the receiver back and settled back down next to Jack, who shuffled closer in his sleep, head tucked into the space between Ennis's neck and shoulder. Ennis smiled and pulled him close, arm around his back.

Jack had pointed out that the fact they would be celebrating birthdays together meant they would be growing old together. He had to admit he hadn't thought about that, but thinking of it now made his heart swell. Living with and loving Jack until the end of his days. That would be worth trying to work past his fears. That life would be worth whatever they had to go through to get it.