July 20th, 1964
The week passed quickly. The fact that they still couldn't identify the arsonist both saddened and infuriated the residents of Brokeback Ranch, as it meant there was no proof as to who had violated their property. Their suspects were still Fred Kane and Pete, who had completely disappeared, it seemed. They bought themselves another dog; another blue heeler who it turned out was just a few months older than Lucky. They named him Smokey and he took to the job like a duck to water. He and Lucky were a great team when helping Ennis to move the cows, and he liked to sleep in front of the dying fire at night, while Lucky mostly still slept on Becky's bed.
Becky's bump continued to grow and she couldn't wait to feel it starting to kick; she'd heard it was a wonderful feeling. She'd talked to her mother a few times since her arrival and kept her up-to-date on her progress, and her mother offered her advice and news from Texas. She asked if she could visit once the baby was born and Becky said it would be alright as long as her father stayed away.
Still, she was happy here in her new life. She thought about Andy from time to time, wondering if she would ever see him again. She had promised to wait for him until such time as he could afford to propose to her and look after her. Her pregnancy had dramatically altered her priorities. If she was honest with herself, she would probably still agree to marry Andy if he did ask her; she knew in her heart that she still loved him. But she didn't know how he might feel about her having another man's baby, even if she hadn't loved that man.
The phone ringing made her jump as she stood in the kitchen, and she quickly answered it.
"Brokeback Ranch, Becky speakin'."
"Andy? Is that you?"
"Hey, sweetheart. Long time no talk, huh?" Andy sounded a little choked up to hear her voice again after so long.
"Oh my God! Great to hear from you! How did you get this number?"
"Well, I got some money now, been rodeoin' here in Kentucky. Got a coupla thousand dollars, might be enough to convince yer dad..."
"Well...my daddy an' I don't talk no more. You don't hafta go to him first if you don't wanna."
"Well anyway...I was at the bar an' I overheard some guys talkin' 'bout their girlfriends. Got me thinkin' on you...again." She could hear the smile in his voice and blushed. "So...I called yer house in Texas an' yer mama said you'd moved 'round to the South. So I called around an' I heard 'bout a place called Brokeback Ranch. I remember Ennis an' Jack, an' how they met on Brokeback Mountain in Wyomin', an' I thought you might be there. I know they was lookin' to settle..."
"Well, you were right. I am on Ennis an' Jack's ranch. Had a...disagreement with my daddy an' left. I'm livin' here now. We're in Georgia."
"Right. So, um...I was wonderin'...would it be alright if I...came to visit you?"
Tell him. Tell him now. But she couldn't get her throat to work. "I'd love that," she managed. "I'm sure the guys would be fine with it."
"Great. I can't get away yet, I was thinkin' next month, maybe the 18th?"
"That'd be fine, I think. Ennis an' Jack won't be here, they're takin' a trip to Wyomin'. I'll be here, though. I'd...I'd like to see ya."
"Sure. So, you wanna give me directions?"
Becky did so, and after a few more awkward words they hung up. Becky wasn't sure how she felt about a visit. Her bump was plainly visible and she didn't want him to see it straightaway and freak out before she could explain.
She heard a noise outside and someone shouting Ennis's name. She ran outside and saw Dave and a couple of hands running over to where Ennis was lying in the grass, face up. Lightning was jumping about and Michael was trying to calm him; Ennis had clearly been thrown.
As she ran to the area, she saw Jack running from the office, having clearly heard the commotion. His face was pale and she could hear him murmuring.
"No no no no..." He dropped to his knees beside Ennis, who was already trying to sit up. Jack curled an arm around Ennis's back.
Ennis groaned. "Think I did somethin' to my ankle."
"Becky, call Rick," Jack instructed her. She ran inside as fast as she dared. Jack helped Ennis hobble to the house and got him on the sofa. Rick arrived soon enough and examined Ennis's ankle.
"Well Ennis, looks to me like you twisted it. Twisted it bad. 'Fraid you're gonna hafta take it easy for a bit. No ridin' just yet, just in case."
"Shit," Ennis muttered.
"Here." Rick pulled out some painkillers. "Take these if you need them. Get some rest. You'll be fine in a few days."
"Thanks, Rick," said Jack. He then crouched down to speak to Ennis softly. "You alright?"
"I'll be fine," said Ennis, cupping Jack's cheek.
"Scared me, ya know."
"Sorry," whispered Ennis, looking apologetic.
Jack shook his head. "Don't worry 'bout it." He then rose up to kiss Ennis, which was Rick and Becky's cue to slip out to give them some privacy.
"How are you doin'?" asked Rick.
Becky smiled. "Real good, actually. Hard to sleep, but I started usin' that lavender stuff you got me. Might help, I guess."
"No problem. Call me if you need anythin'. Take care, Becky."
"Thanks, Rick." She watched him go and then went back inside, where Jack was sitting on the floor beside Ennis. Their hands were loosely linked together.
"Um, Andy called. Said he wanted to visit next month. I told him it would be alright, but I wanna check with you first..."
"It's alright," smiled Jack. "I know you've missed him, an' he's welcome here."
Becky smiled back, wondering how things were going to turn out.
Ennis had to spend the rest of the week laid up on the sofa. He hated not being able to ride or spend time outside, and he was sometimes cranky. Jack and Becky quickly learned to ignore him when he got like that. It was all they could do, since Ennis did not take kindly to too much fussing in such circumstances.
But it wasn't all bad. Jack attended to him as much as he could. He would sit on the sofa in the evening and pull Ennis's legs up so he was stretching across his lap. That always felt good. And for the time being, he took charge of their lovemaking, as Ennis was unable to balance himself on his leg. Jack would take good care of his lover and try to make him feel better.
Jack also took over on the land, going straight out there after breakfast and letting Becky take over in the office in his absence. Ennis was saddened by the fact he was unable to contribute to the running of the ranch but Jack assured him it wasn't his fault. They hadn't been able to determine what had caused Lightning to rear up the way he had but all Jack cared about was Ennis getting better.
Becky discussed with them her fears over Andy's forthcoming visit. She wasn't sure how she should bring up the topic of her pregnancy, and voiced her hopes that he would figure it out himself. But that left the question of how he would react. She didn't like not being able to predict it.
She came into the house to use the bathroom and saw that Ennis was watching something on TV, looking thoroughly bored.
"Hey," she said to him. She could see he was nodding off.
He was shaken from his stupor. "Oh, hey."
"What're you watchin'?" she asked, hands on her hips, knowing that he probably wouldn't have a clue.
"I gotta be honest, I got no idea. Some movie." He rubbed his hands over his face. "Hate bein' laid up like this."
She smiled sympathetically. "I know."
"It's just...I wanna be out there, feel I should be. Like...I'm just wastin' time sat on my ass like this."
Becky considered for a moment, and then smiled, shaking her head. "You guys an' yer male pride."
Ennis looked at her quizzically. "What?"
"Ennis..." She crouched down near him. "I know why you're feelin' like this. You're a man, an' it's in you to work hard an' provide for yer family. It's a male pride thing. Okay, it ain't a traditional family, but..." She paused. "It's still in you."
"Guess that makes sense," he mumbled. "Just feel so useless. How's Jack doin' out there?"
"He's okay. He can manage 'til you get better. He just wants you to rest an' heal. It don't matter to him that you ain't pullin' yer weight."
"Still should be out there."
"You really are stubborn as a mule, ain't you?" asked Becky in amusement. "Ennis, it's okay. Nobody cares, an' you'll be back out there before you know it. Just give it time, okay? An' quit yer whinin'." She smirked.
"Thanks, Becky." His eyes twinkled at her. She really did feel like a sister to him.
Jack came in not long after, looking concerned. Becky had told him how Ennis was feeling about the whole thing and how useless he felt.
"Hey," he whispered, sitting with Ennis. He looked slightly miserable.
"Hey, bud." Ennis tried to smile but it didn't meet his brown eyes.
"Becky told me you feel useless bein' laid up here," said Jack, running a hand up Ennis's thigh, which under normal circumstances would rile Ennis up and make him give Jack a sexy glare, but right now Ennis was too miserable to even notice it.
Ennis fidgeted. "Well, I am. This here's our place an' our business, an' yer havin' to run it all by yerself. Ain't fair on you."
"Oh sweetheart..." Jack put an arm around his shoulders and made him meet his eyes. "Look, it really don't matter to me. It ain't as if you did this on purpose. Wasn't your fault. An' I don't hold it against ya fer not bein' out there. We're managin' an' you'll be alright soon."
Ennis sighed. "I know. Still..." He lowered his eyes. "Thing is...the thing I miss most...is workin' with you, or just...just bein' with you, you know? Really miss it. Like...when we're in the tack room or somethin'..."
Jack gave a smile and tilted his head up, pulling him in for a couple of soft kisses. "It's okay, cowboy. I miss you too, but what I want is fer you to get better, an' I don't want you strainin' yerself. Just...don't rush it, alright? Take it easy, an' try not to feel so bad about it. Okay?" He shook Ennis's shoulder.
Ennis sighed and gave a warm, genuine smile. "Okay, darlin'. I'll try. Sorry to be such a pain in the ass."
Jack smirked. "I like you bein' a pain in my ass," he murmured. His eyes raked up and down Ennis's body, the way he knew would get Ennis's blood up.
Ennis went red. "Didn't mean it like that..."
Jack giggled and pulled him close for another kiss. "Either way, you're forgiven." He traced a finger along Ennis's jawline. "Tell you what, tonight, how's about I dig out that can of whipped cream? Give ya a little treat?"
Ennis blushed and couldn't stop the grin on his face. "That sounds...pretty good, rodeo. 'Course, you get a treat too, you know, doin' that." He went even redder at his own words.
Jack grinned back. "Yep, I get another type of cream fer my efforts. The best kind." He winked at Ennis, gave him another deep kiss that made Ennis breathless and went back outside, leaving Ennis with his active imagination full of thoughts about Jack's offer. That sure would make him feel better about being laid up like this.
The next day, Ennis and the hands were working out on the land. Ennis's ankle was doing much better and he was happy to be working on the land again, where he felt he belonged. They were fixing fences when Michael approached Ennis, looking nervous and biting his lip.
Ennis straightened up, frowning. "What's up? You don't look so good there."
"Um...I, uh...it's these friends of mine..."
"What about 'em?" asked Ennis, feeling lost.
"Well...they...see, they're workin' for this guy down in Albany, an'...they wrote me yesterday. They said...the guy who owns the ranch they work on...he's..." Michael looked distressed.
"What is it?"
"He's...not payin' em, an'...treatin' 'em like dirt. He's got white folks workin' for him too, but he treats 'em better."
"That ain't right. Who is this guy?" Ennis asked in a growl.
Michael met his eyes. "They said...his name was...Samuel Peterson."
Ennis couldn't believe it. The man who had loaned their bull, praised their operation and had seemed like a decent guy, if a little egotistical, turned out to be a racist bigot. And they still had ties to him. He would have to talk to Jack about this; they couldn't keep this up.
"Jesus Christ," Ennis muttered.
"Sorry, boss." Michael looked downcast; he knew it was probably the last thing they wanted to hear, that a client could be like this about something they felt so strongly about.
"No, it's okay. You was right to tell us. Thanks, Michael." Ennis then got back up on Lightning and headed for the office, knowing that Jack wasn't going to like this.
He got there and went in to find Jack writing out the financials. Jack looked up and grinned. "Well, this is a nice surprise, cowboy. Come to see me?"
Ennis shut the door behind him and leaned on it, sighing. Jack's grin faded. "What's wrong?"
Ennis shook his head. "I just got some news from Michael, an' you ain't gonna like it."
"Oh God...what is it?"
Ennis sat in the chair on the other side of the desk. "Jack...Michael just told me...a few friends of his have been workin' down in Albany. They wrote to him yesterday, an'...they say the guy they're workin' fer don't treat 'em right an' don't pay 'em. They're slaves, Jack. That's how he's treatin' 'em."
Jack was stunned. "God...that...that just ain't right."
"S'what I said."
"So...who is the owner?"
"Here's the worst part, bud. It's Samuel Peterson." Ennis met Jack's eyes miserably.
"The...the guy who loaned the bull?" Jack asked in disbelief.
"But...I thought he was alright! Bit full of himself, but..."
"So did I..."
"I can't believe this." Jack rubbed a hand across his forehead. After a moment he started searching around the desk, full of determination.
"What you lookin' for?"
"The phonebook. Gonna get this guy told." Jack found it and flipped through until he found the number for the ranch in question.
"Hello? Yeah, can I speak to the owner please? Mr Peterson? Tell him it's Jack Twist from Brokeback Ranch. Thanks." They waited a few moments while Samuel was called to the phone.
Jack cleared his throat. "Hey Mr Peterson, Jack Twist here. How's things?" Ennis knew Jack well enough by now to know how he played with people who did something he felt was wrong. Get them buttered up and then lay into them. "Good. Yep, we're good here. Listen, a little bird tells me you got some coloured folks workin' fer ya?"
Ennis saw Jack's jaw suddenly clench and he knew the guy had made some nasty, bigoted remark, but Jack didn't react. "Huh. So, they good workers? Hmm...so why is it that I hear yer treatin' 'em like slaves?" All pretences shattered, Jack was now prepared to chew this guy out.
"The hell you ain't! I hear all about what yer doin'. Not payin' em, treatin' 'em bad. They're yer goddamn workers. You wouldn't have no ranch without 'em!" A pause. "I don't give a flyin' fuck that you inherited the place! I inherited this place too, but me an' Ennis don't treat our workers like that. Yeah, we've got a guy workin' here fer us. An' we treat him like the human bein' he is. What? How much do we want for him? Are you outta yer mind? He ain't a piece of stock!" Jack was becoming more annoyed by the minute. "Look, I just called to tell ya that...we don't wanna work with you again. We're breakin' ties an' want nothin' to do with ya. You have a nice day, now." He slammed the phone down and started breathing heavily.
Ennis got up and walked around to the back of his chair. He leaned over Jack and wrapped his arms around Jack's neck, kissing his cheek and then nuzzling it with his own.
"You did the right thing," Ennis whispered.
"I know. Gonna cost us business, though. Can't get around that."
"Mm. Still...I'd rather do what's right."
"Yeah. They don't deserve to be treated like that. We're all human here, an' it ain't like they can control it. It's who they are."
"Kinda like us," Ennis murmured.
"Yeah..." Jack moved his head so he could look at Ennis, who smiled and kissed him on the mouth warmly. They kissed for a few moments and then Ennis finally broke away. Jack pouted and gave him puppy dog eyes, wanting to continue.
"Gotta get back to work, I'm afraid, bud."
Jack sighed. "I know. Thanks fer tellin' me. An' tell Michael we got it sorted."
"Will do." Ennis went and found Michael, who was glad that they'd done the right thing but he couldn't help worrying about his friends. He wanted them to have the kind of life he was having, starting with kind and considerate bosses who understood some of what they were going through. He took his idea to Ennis and Jack, and they agreed that they would try to find a way of releasing his friends from the hellhole in which they were surely suffering.
A couple of days later, Becky was at the post office collecting mail for the ranch. They didn't usually get much, since the paper was always delivered, so it was usually bills.
Today, however, when she picked it up and leafed through it outside, she noticed a thick envelope in the pile. It was addressed to the ranch but there wasn't return address or any indication of who it was from. She frowned and then got back into Ennis's truck.
Back at the ranch, she sat down in the kitchen and proceeded to open it up. Ennis and Jack had given her permission to open their mail, since they had no secrets they were keeping from her. She opened it up and unfolded the letter.
The first thing she noticed was that it was not handwritten. The text had been made up of letters from newspaper clippings. But it was the message that shook her.
FuCk off quEerS. Go baCk whEre yoU camE frOm. NoBodY waNts yoU hErE aNd YoU wILL eNd uP in A ditCh. LEavE sOoN oR yOu wilL reGreT iT.
She shook as she read it, unable to believe what she was seeing. She had to tell Ennis and Jack, immediately. She rose from her chair and headed for the office where she knew Jack would be. She knocked and heard him invite her in.
"Oh, hey Becky. What's up?" he asked, smiling at her.
She walked to the desk on trembling legs and handed over the letter. "This came in the mail just now."
Jack read through it and blinked a few times, clearly thinking this over. "So they're threatenin' us...bet it's Fred. But we ain't got no proof. What if he was wearin' gloves this time, too?"
"I know, Jack, but we can't just let this lie. We gotta try an' do somethin'."
"Well...maybe I could go back to the post office, an' ask 'em if they remember who brought this in. They might have seen 'em."
"Yeah..." Jack still looked doubtful. "Well...it's worth a shot, I guess. You mind goin' right back out again?"
"No, it's okay. I wanna get this sorted too. It ain't fair on you guys. I'll be back soon, okay?"
"Alright. I'll call James." When Becky left Jack went out to the barn in search of Ennis, finding him brushing Lightning.
He turned and when he saw Jack, his smile lit up the room. Jack regretted the fact that this sadly wasn't just a pleasant visit. Ennis noticed his mood and came closer. "Jack? You okay?"
Jack sighed. "Becky came back with the mail. There was a letter in there addressed to us. Tellin' us to fuck off, that we ain't wanted here an' if we don't leave...we're gonna regret it. Ennis...it says...we're gonna end up...in a ditch." Jack knew all too well the effects of those words; the fact that Ennis could still see those images in his sleep.
Ennis came right up to Jack, putting his arms around him. Jack held him close and rubbed his back. "You know that's my worst fear, Jack. Seein' you...like Earl."
"I know, I know..." Jack stroked Ennis's hair and made shushing noises. "It's gonna be okay. Becky's gone back to the post office, to try an' find out if they might know who sent it. I was gonna call James, he's gotta know 'bout this."
"Yeah." Ennis broke away. His eyes were a little bright but he kept it under control. Now was not the time to be getting emotional. They had to stand and fight for themselves.
Jack went back inside and called the sheriff. He arrived a little later, by which time Becky had come back, shaking her head in despair.
James put the letter in a plastic bag and into his briefcase. "Well guys," he said. "Guess you really made an enemy for yourselves."
"My money's still on Fred Kane," Jack said darkly.
James smiled wryly. "I ain't sayin' I don't agree with you, I know what he's like. But I can't arrest him with no solid proof. What about your hand, Pete?"
"Gone," Ennis said simply. "Ain't seen him or heard from him since we left. Jack saw him on July 4th, though..."
"I thought I did, in town, but I wasn't sure. Whoever I saw, he was gone when I took a second look. But nothin' since."
"I see. Well, I'll get this to the station an' see if we can find anythin'. I might bring Fred back in for questionin'. I might get a search warrant; see if he's got anythin' in his home. Newspapers with letters cut out, flammable fluids, anythin' that points towards him bein' the one harassin' you."
"That might work. Then again, he coulda destroyed the evidence."
"True, but it's worth a shot."
"Sure is. All I know is that I'm gettin' sick of this. Been goin' on long enough now. We just want some peace an' quiet."
"Not to offend you, boys, but I think you gave that up by movin' an' livin' together."
"We know. Still..."
"Well...I'd best be gettin' back. See you guys later."
Becky walked outside with him, arms folded. She too was getting sick of this whole thing.
"Don't worry, Becky," said James, looking at her. He was very good-looking, and only a few years older than her and the guys.
"I'll be alright."
James nervously twisted his hat in his hands. "Listen, I, uh...I been thinkin'. Would you, uh...would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?"
Becky looked at him in surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah. I mean...just as a friend. But I guess like a date. Um..."
Becky couldn't help but smile at how flustered he was. He was asking her out and she was torn. She knew she would enjoy herself; he was a gentleman. Yet Andy was always at the back of her mind, especially now since he was coming to visit. But it was just dinner and she and Andy were technically not together anymore.
So she smiled up at him. "I'd like that."
The next evening, Ennis and Jack were up on their hill watching the sun set. Becky had gone out for dinner with James and it was just the two of them.
The fact that Becky was out with James surprised them both, seeing as Andy would be coming to visit and they knew that she was still in love with him. But she was an adult and was free to live her own life. All they could do for her was support her and pick up the pieces if it all fell apart.
They were glad to have some time alone to themselves. The night was cool and they were huddled together, Ennis's arm around Jack and their cheeks together. A deep feeling of contentment was running through them both.
Ennis felt Jack move his head and felt a pair of lips on his cheek. He turned, smiling and saw Jack looking at him the way he did when he wanted some attention. His eyes were raking Ennis's body and Ennis could already feel himself starting to harden. Making love under the stars was something they had always loved to do; they had done it often up on Brokeback.
Jack lay back onto the blanket and looked up at Ennis hopefully. Ennis turned and crawled on top of him, straddling him and gathering him into his arms. They kissed deeply, and soon enough Ennis rose up to pull his jacket and shirt off, before helping Jack shed his. They'd already taken their boots off and now they were undoing each others' buckles and shedding their belts, throwing them wherever.
They looked into each others' eyes as they slid their jeans down, before rubbing their bodies together, caressing warm skin with their hands. Jack retrieved the lube from his jeans and handed it to Ennis, a warm and trusting smile on his face. He trusted Ennis more than anyone else in the world.
Ennis smeared his fingers from the tube and reached down between Jack's legs, finding what he was looking for within seconds. He massaged the special, wonderful place inside Jack that could send him crazy with lust. Jack was making soft moans in his throat and was gripping at the blanket, unable to move. Ennis leaned down and kissed him, feeling him open his mouth as wide as it could go to admit him.
He removed his finger and replaced it with what he knew Jack really wanted. Jack gripped his forearms as he pushed in, sweat appearing on his brow. Ennis kissed it away as he slowly rocked into Jack, burying his face into Jack's neck and feeling Jack wrap his legs around his waist and his arms around his neck.
Jack moaned into his ear and was whispering words of encouragement, urging him on and faster. Within a few minutes Ennis was thrusting faster yet still so gently, kissing his face and feeling him tremble with his impending release. Jack finally cried out and spilled between them, shaking and gasping for breath. Ennis was led into his own orgasm and held on tight as he rode it out, before collapsing onto Jack's chest.
"I love you," Jack murmured sleepily, eyes closed.
"Love you too, darlin'."
They lay like that for some time, before the sound of a car door shutting drew their attention. Becky must be back, they thought. They got themselves dressed and rode the horses back to the stables to put them away for the night.
They went into the living room to find Becky watching TV, with Lucky and Smokey at her feet, curled up like a pair of feet warmers.
"Hey," said Jack, flopping onto the sofa, Ennis joining him and putting an arm around him.
"Hey guys," she smiled at them.
"How did it go?"
Becky nodded to herself. "Went okay. He's real nice, real gentleman."
Jack tilted his head. "So...?"
Becky sighed. "I don't think it's gonna go anywhere. I like him, but not in the way I probably should. Besides, Andy's comin' soon an'...I wanna try an' sort things out. I...I think I want us to get back together. We said we would when he had enough money to take care of me, but...that was before..." She gestured to her stomach.
"An' I got no idea how he's gonna react. How's he gonna feel about the girl he says he wants to marry carryin' another man's baby?" She shook her head. "I got no idea."
Jack didn't know what to say; neither of them did. The three of them fell into silence as they watched the TV, each lost in their own thoughts. None of them could predict how things would turn out, and Ennis and Jack both knew how scary it could be. Jack played with Ennis's fingers absentmindedly, thinking about what Becky might be able to say to Andy to prevent him freaking out, running away and breaking her heart. She would be crushed and he didn't want her to be getting upset in her condition.
"You wanna call him?" he murmured. Becky and Ennis both looked at him.
Jack cleared his throat. "You wanna call him? Tell him about yer baby, an' then let him decide fer himself if he still wants to come?"
"Oh, I dunno...what if...what if he starts yellin' 'bout me bein' unfaithful?"
Jack gave her a look. "You ain't been. You guys weren't together were ya?"
"No, but...I said I'd wait fer him."
"An' you tried. But you got needs an'...they had to be met. Besides, he might not even do that. Maybe it'll be okay an'...he'll want to look after you. Provide fer you an' yer baby."
Becky gave a sad smile. "I'd love it if that could happen, but...I don't think it will. I'm gonna go to bed, night guys." She got up and made her way upstairs, Lucky following. Smokey curled up instead at Jack's feet as they said goodnight to her. They looked at each other and Jack shrugged, not knowing what to say.