"Are you sure it ain't too early to start decoratin'?" Becky asked as she walked through the door of the bedroom they were converting into a nursery.
"Nah," said Jack. "I'd like to get to it, it'll be fun. Besides, it's a Saturday, what else we gonna do but lounge 'round here all day? Might as well get somethin' done."
"Hmm. I think you've been livin' with Ennis too long. The Jack I knew was a lazy little bastard," she replied, smirking as she put the brushes she'd been carrying down.
Jack grinned. "Maybe. But I kinda like it." Ennis came in then and carried in the last two tins of paint they would need, grunting as he put them down. They had already scraped the old paint from this room, as much as they could.
"That's the last of it, bud. We ready to start, then?"
"Sure are. Right..." Jack opened up a paint tin of the soft cream colour they'd chosen for the nursery. Becky had wondered if they should wait until they knew the sex of the baby, but Jack had been very excited by the prospect of decorating the nursery and there'd been no stopping him. He reasoned that if the baby should be a boy, the cream colour would still work, because babies didn't seem to take much notice of their room colour until they were older. They could always redecorate in a few years. He dipped his brush in and went to the wall with the window that faced towards the front entrance of the house and painted a letter J on the wall. "I'll do this one..." He went to the wall where the door was and painted an E on there. "Ennis can do this one..." He finished by going to one of the remaining walls and painted a B there. "An' Becky can do this one. First to finish does the fourth. That alright with you two?"
"You're the boss, boss."
Jack looked at Becky. "Don't go overdoin' it, alright?"
Becky nodded. "I'll be fine." They got to work. The bedroom in question was right next to Becky's, and opposite the master. The furniture had been cleared out and they were ready to start. They had the radio on downstairs and had turned it up as loud as it would go so they could hear it.
Ennis could periodically feel something on the back of his neck, something wet. He kept looking up at the ceiling but there was no leak, nothing dripping. He frowned and went back to work.
There it was again. He put his fingers to his neck, drew them back and looked. Cream paint. He looked over at Jack, his first suspect. Jack seemed to be busy, painting around the window frame, but Ennis noticed that he was sneaking glances out of the corner of his eye. Ennis smirked and flicked his paintbrush at Jack, who jumped as the paint hit his neck.
They carried on like that for a while, flicking paint at each other and trying not to laugh, until Becky caught on and told them to grow up. They had meant to heed her words but couldn't stop. She sighed inwardly and picked up a spare brush, flicking both of them at the same time.
"You two gonna quit it now?" she asked, trying to hide her amused smirk and look irritated.
"Sorry." At least they had the grace to appear ashamed of themselves, even though they really weren't. Ennis liked playing around with Jack like this. It was a reminder of how things had been before their relationship had changed. Laughing, joking, a bit of teasing and yes, flirting in a way. But Ennis liked things so much better now; there was the undercurrent of knowledge that they were in love, they were together and this fooling around was just another part of their relationship.
With all of their fooling around, Becky finished her wall first and proceeded to the fourth, shaking her head at them. When they eventually finished they gave her a hand. Becky then went downstairs to start getting lunch ready as Ennis and Jack removed the old carpet and started rolling out the new one they'd bought. It too was cream, slightly darker than the paper, which set it off nicely. Together they got it down and nailed into place. The room looked fresh and new and would make a lovely nursery. The pair of them slung an arm around each others' shoulders.
"We did a good job, rodeo."
"Sure did. 'Cept fer that paint flickin'." Jack nudged Ennis.
"You started it. You ever gonna grow up, Twist?"
"Nope. I'm gonna stay exactly as I am," Jack replied, eyes sparkling at Ennis.
Ennis went red and pulled him close. "Thank God fer that," he murmured as he leaned in for a deep kiss.
"Guys! Lunch is ready!" Becky called up the stairs, the radio having been turned off.
"Mmm..." Jack moaned into Ennis's mouth and reluctantly pulled away. "Best get goin', cowboy. Really would like to take this further though."
"Me too," Ennis said, stroking Jack's cheek. "Who knows, if you play yer cards right, ya might get lucky later." Jack grinned and led the way downstairs. James had called earlier that day to say he had arrested both Fred and Pete on suspicion of arson and they were awaiting questioning.
Over lunch, they started talking about what they would need for the nursery. A crib and changing table were top of the list, and Becky had that sheep toy she'd bought, much to Jack's chagrin.
Becky pretended not to notice, but every time Ennis and Jack looked at each other while talking about something baby-related, she saw that twinge of sadness in their eyes that they couldn't have their own child. She felt sorry for them; she knew they'd be great fathers and it was unfair that they'd had to pay such a price for being happy. She thought of her upcoming scan, and her plans to ask them to be godfathers. That would be the next best thing, and she knew it might ease their pain a little bit.
The next day dawned bright and sunny, so the three of them went out into town to start looking at baby things. They went to the mother-and-baby store Jack and Becky had explored while Ennis had been to see Kate last month. Becky was taken with the tiny clothes on sale and hoped that the baby would be a girl, although there were some cute clothes for boys there too.
"Oh, look at these!" she exclaimed excitedly, rushing over to a display of western gear; cowboy and cowgirl boots and hats made for tiny heads and feet.
"Ohhh...when I know what I'm havin' I gotta buy some of this!"
Jack chuckled and put an arm around her. "Yer a real cowgirl at heart, ain't ya?"
Becky looked at him and smiled. "An' you can bet that once it's born, I'll be right up there on a horse again racin' around. I've missed it."
"I know. We'll have a race 'round, all three of us. Whaddaya say, cowboy?" he asked, looking back at Ennis, who gave a shy smile.
"Sure thing." He pulled Jack to one side. "Bud, I got an idea fer Becky's birthday present, but we gotta get outta here. I wanna go see Kate."
Jack gave him a smile. "Okay. Becky?" he called. "Me an' Ennis got somethin' to take care of. Think you'll be alright on yer own fer a bit?"
"Sure guys, I could stay here forever."
The two of them left her to it, melting at the sight of all the baby things, and took the truck out to Kate's workshop, Ennis explaining on the way what he had in mind. They found her in the back room.
"Ennis! Good to see ya." She smiled at him, and then noticed Jack.
"You too, Kate. This uh...this is Jack." He blushed as he introduced him.
"I thought as much. Hey there, Jack," she greeted, extending a hand.
"Howdy, ma'am. Jack Twist," he replied, sweeping off his hat. "Ennis tells me you been a real big help."
Kate smiled. "Well, I sure hope so. How did you like the rings?"
"Oh they're...they're really somethin'. Real pretty."
"Well, thank you. When did you say you were swapping them again?"
"August. Gonna go back to where we met in Wyomin'. Might drop in on relatives while we're there."
"That sounds great. So, can I do somethin' for ya, boys?"
"Actually, yeah. It's Becky's birthday on the tenth, an'...well I had somethin' in mind. I guess we could go to a jeweller's or somethin', but...well..." Ennis cleared his throat awkwardly. "I think she'd like to have somethin' you made."
"Okay, I'll do my best. What did you have in mind?"
"Uh, well...see Becky, she uh...she was a barrel racer, back in Texas, an' I know she's been missin' it somethin' awful, not bein' allowed to ride. So...I was thinkin' of a necklace, you know? With uh..." He shifted his feet. "With maybe a horseshoe or somethin'. You know what I mean?"
Kate smiled. "I sure do. That's a real nice gesture. I could make somethin' like that from silver, no problem."
"Uh, Kate?" Jack asked. "Could you uh...also do her a bracelet? Like a charm bracelet? That'll be from me."
"Sure. What charms do you want? I guess a horseshoe is pretty much a given." She smiled.
"Well...I dunno. Yer a girl, you probably know better than me what girls like." He rubbed the back of his neck.
"I'll come up with somethin'. Don't worry 'bout it."
"Oh, by the way," said Jack. "We're plannin' to have us a little party kinda thing on the day, if you wanna come. Yer a friend, right? We was gonna invite yer brother too. An' we got a few other friends here who we're gonna ask."
Kate smiled widely. "I'd love to. Thanks, guys."
They bid her goodbye and went back to where they'd left Becky. She was still there and had picked out the crib and changing table she liked, along with a mobile of farm animals for the ceiling. They paid for everything and arranged a delivery time for the next day.
Becky was excited. Her twelve-week scan was just less than a week away and she was looking forward to it. She was particularly looking forward to asking her companions to be godfathers and anticipated a fair bit of emotion on both sides. According to Rick, ultrasound technology was still in its early development and was still being investigated, but he had told her that he should be able to use it with her, and that he may even be able to bring up a picture for her. That would give her pause for thought, actually seeing the life growing inside her.
They went back to the ranch afterwards and Becky went for a nap while Ennis and Jack rode up to their hill. They lay on their backs on a blanket, Jack in Ennis's arms, wrapped up, safe and happy.
"You know, that was a mighty fine idea, that necklace," murmured Jack lazily.
Ennis shrugged. "Thought it might be nice for her, seein's as how she misses barrel racin'."
Jack smiled to himself. "Admit it cowboy, you did it 'cos ya like her. I know she sees us both as brothers now, said so herself."
"Well...I guess she kinda is like a sister, now she's so close an' everythin', an' we're helpin' her with the baby..."
"Nice, I guess. I mean...yeah, I got family in Wyomin', but...you guys are my family too, ya know?" He rubbed Jack's stomach.
"Right back atcha, bud."
Ennis then pushed Jack up off him, and rolled them both over so he was looking down into Jack's blue eyes; a perfect reflection of the sky. He leaned down and kissed Jack softly, massaging Jack's lips with his own, lacing their fingers together on either side of Jack's head. He could feel Jack breathing into his mouth and he couldn't deny it aroused him, so proceeded to show Jack just how much.
July 3rd, 1964
The three of them were sat at the breakfast table at the start of what appeared to be just another day at the ranch. They were expecting a delivery of baby things at noon, and would then be putting them up after dinner, and that was all they had been expecting. They had planned to go into town tomorrow, not only for Becky's twelve-week scan, but since it was also Independence Day, there would be celebrations in town and they could do with some fun. Maybe they would find some fireworks somewhere and stay for that. They just hoped they wouldn't run into Fred or Pete. Neither of them had admitted to torching the barn, but James was still suspicious and was still awaiting fingerprints on the match that had been found.
Jack was reading the paper again. He turned to a page, blinked and let out a whoop. "Whoo-wee, get a load of this!" He folded it back and turned it so Ennis and Becky could see. It was an article about President Johnson. He had signed something yesterday. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Just those words alone gave hope to them.
"You see what it says?" said Jack, grinning. "It abolishes racial segregation! Ain't that a step? Things are lookin' up."
"They sure are, bud. But, uh...still that Klan to worry about. They ain't been stopped. But yer right, it is a big step. Wonder if Michael's seen this?"
The big grin on Michael's face as he arrived later gave it away. He was happy for his family and his friends that such a thing had been done, something that worked in their favour. They couldn't abolish racism overnight, but it was a start. Jack could only hope that things like racism and homophobia would one day become illegal, and hoped that he and Ennis would live to see it.
However, the search for those missing civil rights workers was still going on, and they were convinced they had been killed, probably by that sheriff that caught them. There was still a long way to go, it seemed. And there would probably always be people like Fred and Pete in the world. Ignorance would never go away. He'd just been grateful that Ennis hadn't been so afraid as to give in to the fear and hadn't walked away from him a second time. It felt like that day in Signal had given Ennis a second chance to think about things and decide what to do, what he wanted. Jack couldn't wait to go back to Brokeback; not just for their wedding but also just to be there with Ennis again, the place where it had all begun a year ago. He felt as if he and Ennis had been together for years, they knew each other so well and had just slotted together perfectly.
He'd been busy thinking about what he wanted to say on the day, what vows he wanted to make. Should he go with something traditional, the whole sickness, health, honour and cherish thing, or should he say something more personal? Or both? He wasn't sure. He knew that the former was what was said at regular weddings, but he was leaning more towards the latter, saying what he felt. Vocalising what his heart wanted to say. He had no idea that Ennis was agonising over the same dilemma. Ennis desperately wanted to say something meaningful to Jack, but wasn't sure how. Jack had told him that he had improved at saying how he felt, but it still felt like a struggle to get out the right words. Jack deserved to hear those words, words that would seal everything along with the rings. He'd have to at least try.
The delivery came at noon and the three of them left Dave in charge while they set things up. He'd brought his nephew by and the boy seemed eager for work so they'd hired him and told Dave to teach him everything he could.
Upstairs, Jack was sat on the floor trying to make sense of the instructions for putting together the crib, Ennis was looking for a part of the changing table he'd lost and was muttering to himself, while Becky was putting up the mobile for over the crib. They looked like a family.
Jack finally understood what he was reading and started putting together the crib, soon with Becky's help. She'd chosen beautiful wood design for both items, finished and polished so they shone in the natural light from the window. The crib would go in one corner, under the window and the changing table opposite it. The rest they figured they would fill up with toys and the like.
Becky's stomach was starting to swell ever so slightly, and she'd been excited when she'd first noticed, even though there hadn't been any kicking yet. The swelling was a vivid sign that this was really happening, and she felt nervous and excited all at the same time. She couldn't wait for her scan. She was still allowed to drive, but she was driving Ennis's truck since it wouldn't jostle her. She sure did miss horses though. Maybe when her baby was older she could go to a rodeo, and enter the barrel racing for old times' sake. She knew that no way would Ennis want Jack bull riding, and Jack had grudgingly agreed that it wouldn't be a good idea, not after last year's fiasco. Jack knew it hurt Ennis whenever he got hurt, and was unwilling to put him through that again.
"There we go," said Jack when the crib was finally up. It looked wonderful underneath the window and the mobile hanging over it. He turned and helped Ennis put up the changing table at the opposite wall.
Becky had a watery smile on her face at it all coming together. They heard her sniff and walked up to her, both of them putting an arm around her.
The next day it was July 4th; Independence Day and the day of Becky's twelve-week scan. It was scheduled for 10am and then they would have the rest of the day to enjoy themselves in town. Becky was very excited about today, couldn't wait to see for herself.
At eight in the morning, she came downstairs to find Ennis and Jack already up, talking quietly to each other and eating their breakfast.
They looked over at her and smiled. "Mornin'. Big day today, huh?" asked Jack, grinning widely.
She smiled back nervously. "Sure is. Rick said he might be able to get a picture up. That'll be somethin'. Maybe we could get copies...I mean, they have machines that develop photographs, right?" The pictures that Jack had taken in Colorado Springs of himself and Ennis last September while they were travelling down to Texas were on the mantelpiece and now the office, save one. Jack had asked an older woman to take his and Ennis's picture, and Ennis had surprised him by agreeing to it. It was a simple, friendly posture, arms slung casually over each others' shoulders, Jack's lopsided grin firmly in place, Ennis smiling more shyly, but it was the only picture they had of themselves together. They kept meaning to get a camera and take some shots of the ranch and more of themselves. Maybe later this summer.
"Sure do. You never know, he might be able to."
Ennis went outside to quickly check on the horses before they left, and since the trouble with the barn being set alight, Jack went over to Bill's place and asked him to come over. Bill didn't care much for crowds and noise after the war, and he agreed to watch the house while they were out. At least Lucky would be there, and they were thinking of getting at least one more dog to add to security.
While the pair of them went outside, Becky washed the breakfast dishes. The phone rang and she picked up the receiver.
"Brokeback Ranch, Becky speakin'."
"Oh, hi Rose. How are you?"
"I'm good, thanks. It's uh...it's yer twelve-week scan today ain't it?"
Becky was touched that she remembered. "It sure is. Got an appointment at ten. We're headin' out soon."
"Well, hope it all goes well."
"Yeah, thanks. Um...you know, my doctor reckons he might be able to develop a picture of the scan, if uh..." She cleared her throat. "If you'd like a copy."
There was silence for a moment, and then Rose finally said, "I'd love that. Thanks, Becky."
"No problem. So...we best be gettin' on. Happy July 4th."
"Yeah, you too. Bye, Becky."
"Bye." She hung up and stared at the phone for a few seconds, her reverie broken by the sound of Ennis's heavy boots on the back steps.
Jack came back soon after, and they were out by quarter past nine. They arrived half an hour later and there was nothing left to do but wait until they were called. Becky was adamant that she wanted them both there, stating that her shirt would only be lifted up a small amount; nothing that should make them uncomfortable.
Finally, at almost ten, they were called. "Becky Twist?" called the receptionist. "Dr Hardeman's ready for you. He's in his office." The three of them got up and went to the room, greeted by the sight of a large machine by a hospital bed, Rick sitting at its side. It had what could only be described as an arm, and was clearly meant to be handheld. There were buttons all over the machine and they had to admit they were intrigued.
"Hey, guys," greeted Rick. Come on in. Bet you've been looking forward to this, huh?"
"Sure have," said Becky as she got herself comfortable on the bed. A large, bulky screen was next to the machine, connected by wires. Ennis and Jack sat in chairs on the other side, facing the contraption and eyeing it with interest.
"Right. I'm just gonna put some ultrasound gel on your bump, here, makes it easier to pick up the waves through the machine."
"Okay," Becky replied as she lifted her shirt up as much as necessary. At least her bra wasn't visible; that would probably have mortified her companions. The gel was cold and made her jump a little at first. Rick then took the arm from the machine and switched some buttons. They didn't know what the hell he was doing but were thankful he did. A very grainy image came up onto the screen, and Becky knew that at any moment now he would put that arm over her stomach and she would see.
Four pairs of eyes were glued to the screen as Rick slowly moved the arm over the bump, trying to get a picture. The image of her womb was dark and she could see shapes, but didn't really know what she was looking for.
And then, it happened. The grainy screen cleared and she could see it. A whitish shape against the black. They could all see, clear as day, the silhouette of a foetus. It was there, large as life. It obviously wasn't yet fully formed, but was well on its way.
Rick looked at them, smiling, seeing how they were all transfixed by the image. Becky felt a powerful rush of love for the tiny creature she could now see for herself, and tears fell down her cheeks as she let out a sob.
"Oh my God..." she whispered. Ennis and Jack didn't trust themselves to speak just yet, and couldn't remember exactly when they had reached for each other, but now their hands were gripping tight.
"You've got a healthy heartbeat in this little one," said Rick.
Jack managed to unclog his throat. "Sure is. Congratulations, honey." He gripped her shoulder with his free hand.
"Yeah, congratulations, Becky," murmured Ennis. In that moment, he was hit by the realisation of just how beautiful life could be.
"Would you like a development of the picture?" asked Rick in a gentle voice.
Becky nodded. "Can I have three copies, please?" Rick nodded, pressed a couple of buttons, and unfortunately, had to take the arm away to go and get the pictures, passing her a cloth to clean away the gel. They sighed as the image disappeared.
"Oh wow," said Becky, running her hands over her face. She cleaned her stomach and rolled her shirt back down, before looking at Ennis and Jack, a heart-warming smile on her face.
Eventually, they managed to get themselves away from Rick's office at around noon, wandering over to the main part of the city to see what might be going on. Becky couldn't stop staring at the photo. It was grainy, but she could see it clearly. Her baby. She would keep this one for the three of them, send one to her mother and the third to Rose.
When they got into town, there was a parade going on and stalls full of food and people selling their wares. They waved to Kate, who was displaying a number of silver items. They munched on hotdogs and drank soda as they wandered around, stopping to watch the parade for a while and looking at the stalls to see if there was anything they liked the look of. Ennis bought himself a new belt, which gave Jack fond memories of many a time when he'd slid Ennis's belt through its belt loops, thrown it on the floor, yanked Ennis's jeans down, and...
Shit, he thought to himself, looking down. Gonna get a hard-on if I keep this up. That would give a few people an eyeful for sure. He'd have to do something about his urges later; preferably something involving their bed, or the office desk, or the hill, or...
Gonna shoot right now if I keep this up! He looked around helplessly for a distraction, and for a moment thought he could see Pete some distance away, but when he blinked and looked again the figure had gone. He hoped there would be no confrontations today; it was the last thing they needed right now. He hoped James would have some idea soon of who might have set the fire, and bring them to justice.
Becky was talking to Kate and excitedly showing her the scan. The pair of them had become friends, being similar in age. Kate had always wanted to rodeo and Becky had plenty of stories to tell.
"Ain't it somethin'?" she gushed.
Kate smiled. "Sure is. When will ya know if it's a boy or girl?"
"Rick said in about six weeks, the 18-week scan." Becky frowned. "I hope it's before Ennis an' Jack go off to Wyomin'. Cuttin' it a bit fine an' I hope they can be there."
"I'm sure they will be. But I'll tell ya what; if they can't make it, call me an' I'll come with ya, how's that?"
Becky smiled. "Thanks, Kate. I'll keep that in mind."
The three of them went to their favourite diner for dinner of a good, hearty steak. The place was packed for the holiday, but not rowdy. People were used to seeing them around anyway, even if they didn't know what the two ranch owners were to each other.
When they'd finished, Becky cleared her throat. "Guys, I...I got somethin' to ask ya."
They looked at each other, and then back at her. "Okay," said Jack.
Becky twisted her hands together nervously, hoping she could get this right. "Well...I been thinkin' a lot about this, an'..." She looked up. "I know that...as happy as you are fer me, an' as much as yer willin' to help, I know it's hard on you, not bein' able to have kids of yer own. No, let me finish," she said as Jack opened his mouth, probably to tell her it was okay.
"Look, I...I been thinkin' on that, an' thinkin' on a way to thank you both fer everythin' yer doin' for me. I've decided what I wanna do. When the baby's born, I...I wanna have it christened, an'..." She took a breath. "I wanna ask you two to be godfathers," she said in a rush, before trusting herself to look up at them.
Their mouths were open in shock, looking like they were catching flies, and she would have laughed if it were a lighter moment. "So whaddaya say, guys?"
They came back to themselves, and looked at each other again. She could see the meaningful look passed between them, and knew she had just touched their hearts in a very profound way.
They looked back at her, and each of them took one of her hands. "We'd be proud to, honey," whispered Jack in a choked voice. Ennis nodded his agreement.
"I been wantin' to ask ya fer a while, thought I should do it today, with the scan an' all...thought I'd surprise ya." She smiled a watery smile.
"I think we'd both be honoured, Becky," said Ennis in a low voice, his eyes averted as they were when he was shy and unsure. Jack clapped him on the shoulder.
"We sure would."
That night, when the three of them were in bed, Ennis was holding Jack close, having just rolled off him, and was now waiting for his sense to catch up.
"Mmm..." purred Jack, nuzzling into Ennis's neck. "As good as ever, cowboy." He kissed Ennis's collarbone.
"Yeah, you bet." He planted a kiss on Jack's forehead.
They were silent for a few moments, before Jack spoke up again. "Been a real good day today."
"Sure has. Can't believe that image in Rick's office. It was there, large as life an' everythin'. Sure was somethin'."
"I know. Becky said it didn't really feel real until she saw that. Said she felt a real rush of love back there."
Ennis smiled. "Know that feelin'. Had it a few times when lookin' at you." Jack looked up at him mischievously, and Ennis rolled his eyes. "Not like that, ya dumbass. I mean up here." He brought Jack's hand up to his beating heart, and Jack smiled more sweetly, bringing Ennis's hand to his own. They looked deeply into each others' eyes for a long time in the darkness, their souls open to one another. Jack then smiled again and leaned up for a kiss, which Ennis was happy to give him. They then settled onto their sides, facing each other, wrapped up in each others' arms under the warm sheets. Jack had his head against Ennis's chest and Ennis had his head on top of Jack's. They settled down and let themselves drift off.