April 12th, 1964
Ennis and Jack drove the half-hour journey north-west to the Miller farm, to check out the equipment for sale and see if they could get a good deal. After some talking that morning, they had ultimately decided to give dairy farming a go, in addition to raising and breeding cattle like they were. They had been apprehensive at first; they knew they would need more workers for it to run smoothly, but the addition of Michael was a start. They had made a mental note to tell their workers on Monday to keep their ears peeled for anybody they knew who needed work, and they had planned to put a notice up in the feed store on the same day.
It was a little overwhelming for Ennis, to be the co-owner of what could turn out to be a large, multi-purpose farm, but he trusted Jack to make the right decisions on the business side of things. And he couldn't deny he was quite looking forward to this new venture, it would be good for the reputation of the farm, which, he had learnt quickly, was key to attracting more customers. Already, some of their neighbours were placing orders for meat, and word-of-mouth was a tried and tested way of getting business.
They arrived at the farm and were greeted by a sombre sight: Paul Miller, the owner, was standing around looking dejected, watching as ranchers from what appeared to be all over the state and maybe from beyond wandered around the fields surveying the equipment that he was practically being forced to sell.
They got out of the truck, and Ennis in particular was stricken to see this. He knew how it felt to lose a home and he looked at Jack with a pained expression.
Jack looked back at him. "You alright, cowboy?"
"Ain't right..." muttered Ennis, looking around. "This is his home..."
Jack ran his tongue along his bottom lip, thinking. He then prodded Ennis. "Come on, let's go talk to him."
They made their way over to Paul and stopped in front of him. "Hey, Mr Miller, right?" asked Jack.
"That's right," he replied in a sorrowful voice.
"I'm Jack Twist, this is Ennis Del Mar," Jack stated as they all shook hands. "We own the Brokeback Ranch near Sandersville. Been here six months now."
"Well, good luck to ya," Paul said with a weak smile. "Yer gonna need it."
A silent conversation passed between Ennis and Jack. "Listen, Paul...thing is, we're lookin' to go into dairy, an' we need equipment. We was told 'bout you, an', well..."
Paul nodded. "Yep. Got a letter yesterday. They're repossessin' the ranch. Gotta move out by Friday."
"Christ, sorry about that..." Jack answered, scratching the back of his head in sympathy. "You, uh...you think we could take a look at yer dairy equipment?"
"Sure, it's just over there. Help yerselves."
They walked in the direction he indicated and clapped eyes on the large machines. Jack's eyes widened. "Woah, I didn't realise how big all this stuff was gonna be."
"I know...we might hafta put up a new buildin' or somethin'..."
"Guess so...whaddaya reckon, cowboy?" asked Jack, looking at him.
Ennis chewed his lip thoughtfully for a moment. "Well...we got the money, the space...we can get more help soon enough, I reckon. An' he needs the money...I say let's do it. Let's give him a good price."
Jack smiled. "Sure 'nough."
They singled out a large milking machine that they liked the look of and went back to Paul, who seemed to look more depressed by the minute.
"Hey Paul," greeted Jack.
"Hey guys, find anythin' you like?"
"We sure do," said Ennis. "The one on the end there, near that tree."
"Okay, that's number four. The office is over there; my wife's handlin' the money."
They went over to the office, where they were greeted by Paul's wife Claire. "Hello boys, can I help ya?"
"I hope so, ma'am," said Ennis as they removed their hats, sitting where she indicated them to. "We was just lookin' at the milkin' machines, found one we liked."
"Okay," she replied, opening a large accounts book. "Which one is it?"
"Um, number four, yer husband said."
She found the details for number four and began copying them into the book. They noticed that while she was totally professional, she had large bags under her eyes.
Guess this whole thing's takin' its toll on them, Jack thought to himself sadly.
"Ma'am? How much do ya want fer it?" he asked.
Her eyes clouded slightly. "We'll take whatever we can get," she whispered.
Ennis and Jack looked at each other again. They had agreed on an offer while inspecting the machine, particularly affected by how desperate these people were to gather some money before having to leave.
"Well," said Jack, "We talked it over, an'...how does $1500 sound?"
Her head shot up, eyes wide with shock. "Are...are you sure?"
They both nodded. "We got the money, yer gonna need it, we want the equipment...only seems fair."
"Well, I uh...that's very generous. Thank you..."
"You take checks? I brought a check book with me," said Jack as he extracted it from his coat pocket.
"Um, yes, we do." She seemed quite flustered by this offer.
Jack leaned forward to lean on the desk as he wrote out the check, then ripped it out and handed it over. "There ya go."
She took it with trembling fingers and looked at it. "Brokeback Ranch...? Oh, yer the new ranchers, right?"
"That's right, from just outside Sandersville. Hope this makes things a little easier for ya."
She managed a smile. "Well, I'm very grateful, and I'm sure Paul will be over the moon. We gotta leave this place, but...this'll help us start over."
They both smiled back. "Great. Everybody deserves the chance to start over."
A little later, after Claire had shown the check to a beaming Paul, Ennis and Jack left an started up the truck again, heading back home.
"Wish I coulda done that fer you, ya know. When you had to leave yer parents' ranch."
Ennis smiled and squeezed Jack's hand. "I know, bud."
Since it was nearing lunchtime by the time they got back to Sandersville, they decided to pay a visit to their favourite diner and have some lunch. They spent most of the meal talking about what would be involved in venturing into dairy farming. They agreed to host the machine in the barn for now, and then ask around town for someone who could help them to erect a new building for it, and if it went well, maybe also for further equipment. They decided to stick with the one machine for now, see how it goes.
Jack sensed that Ennis was feeling a little overwhelmed by how fast their business seemed to be growing, and he told himself it would be worth it in the end. He didn't want Ennis to lose another home. He also thought, optimistically, that if this new venture took off, and they became successful multi-purpose ranchers, this would maybe deflect any hostility about their relationship that might be floating around. He knew that not everybody would accept them, this was true, but maybe at least they would be left alone, the 'live and let live' attitude.
After a quick word with the manager, who was expressing interest in their meat and wanted to arrange a meeting, they left the diner and headed back to the truck.
Their path was blocked by an older man, probably in his thirties, who Jack had seen sitting near them in the diner. He had brown hair and cold grey eyes. He was wearing rancher's gear (very much like the clothes John Twist wore, in fact) and a scowl on his face.
"Can we help you?" asked Ennis warily.
He didn't speak for a few moments, just looked between them angrily. He was close enough for them to smell his breath, and it soon became clear that he'd been drinking.
"You the pair runnin' the Brokeback Ranch?" he said in a voice filled with venom, spit flying out.
"Who wants to know?" asked Jack, crossing his arms across his chest in a defensive stance.
The man's eyes narrowed. "I hear stuff 'bout the pair at that place. Heard they's queer."
Jack took a sidelong glance at Ennis, who was clearly trying to keep his face impassive, and not let his temper fly.
"I don't see how it's yer business," stated Jack bluntly. "We don't know each other, so just get out of our way, if you don't mind."
"I knew it," he snarled. "Fuckin' queers, takin' over. Livin' out in the open like you got a right. Yer disgustin'."
Jack could practically feel the heat radiating from Ennis, and knew that unless they got away from there swiftly, there would be trouble. He sure didn't want Ennis to get arrested.
"C'mon. Let's go," he whispered, prodding Ennis in the back and trying to manoeuvre them both around the unwelcome stranger.
"I ain't finished with ya yet, queerboy!" The half-drunken yell rang through their ears, and by now Jack's temper was also rearing up.
Jack whirled around. "Listen, you. We came here fer a bit of peace an' quiet. We've dealt with more shit from people like you in the last year than we care to remember. We ain't caused no harm, an' we ain't done nothin' to personally offend you, s'far as I can see. We don't even know yer name, an' you don't know ours. We may be queer, but that don't mean we can't kick yer ass. An' we will if ya bother us again, got it?"
Ennis hadn't seen Jack snap like that without it being directed at him, and now he could appreciate just how strong Jack was. He'd stared the stranger directly in the eye without flinching and read him the riot act without backing down. Jack often called him the strong one, the one who could be leaned on, the one who could stand up for himself and those he loved. But as he watched Jack like this he realised that Jack was strong too, neither of them were weak. He'd had fears that Jack thought he was treated as a wife, or someone who couldn't fight his own battles. This just proved that Jack wasn't weaker than himself in any way; he was just less likely to fly off the handle, only snapping when an incident cut deep, like the hateful words from this man.
Jack's words worked a treat. The man glared for a moment, then slunk away, muttering to himself. Jack was breathing heavily like he'd just run a mile. Ennis hesitated, and then put a tentative hand on Jack's shoulder.
"Damn, that felt good." Jack turned to face him and gave a triumphant smile.
Ennis smiled back. "I know I said this yesterday, but...I'm proud o'you rodeo."
Jack shook his head, trying to clear out his angry thoughts, and rubbed his temple. "Shall we?"
Later, on a blanket on the heather-covered hilltop, Ennis sighed and looked at Jack. Their clothes were lying around at random; Jack's display of testosterone back in town had inexplicably aroused him immensely, and as soon as they were lying down, he'd pounced on a delighted Jack to show him how impressed he was.
"You was great back there, ya know," he murmured. Jack opened his eyes and looked back at him.
"Thanks. Felt real good, standin' up fer us like that. He was askin' fer it. The things he said to us back there...I guess I just snapped."
"Funny, I thought I would be the one to lose it with him. You beat me to the punch."
"You're okay with that, right? You don't mind that it was me? I mean...yer the tough one. I sure ain't."
Ennis stroked his arm. "It's okay, rodeo. I was thinkin' that you might think I treated ya like a wife, or like some sort of weaklin'. I'm glad it was you, 'cos it proved to me that yer strong too."
Jack smiled. "I never thought that. I mean, yeah, I take care of the bills an' the phone calls, I do the cookin' an' everythin', but...I never thought ya treated me like a wife. I know ya don't think of me like that. I didn't snap at that guy to prove a point or nothin', I did it 'cos I thought he deserved it, he was insultin' us an' I wasn't gonna take that. I know that what we got ain't wrong, so...I wanted to defend it. Defend us."
With that, he pulled Ennis close to him for a soft kiss, tangling his hand in Ennis's curls. When they broke apart he whispered, "This, right here, is one of the few things in the world that's right. We got love, cowboy, an' that can't be wrong, can it?"
Ennis looked deep into those blue eyes and smiled. "No, it sure ain't, darlin'. You an' me, that's what's right." He laid his head on Jack's chest as the sun caressed their skin.
On Monday, it was back to work, back to the comfortable routine they'd settled into. Jack was in the office, on the phone to someone, and Ennis was in the stables with the hands, mucking out stalls and brushing the horses. He loved this aspect of working on a ranch; being able to be hands-on with the animals and take care of them himself, it satisfied him immensely. He was truly grateful to Jack for giving him this opportunity, unaware of the fact that Jack thought he was the one who had made this happen. They were grateful to each other, and Ennis knew that this was why they hardly ever argued. What they had was too special to poison with angry words and fights. They always talked things out before their tempers rose too high.
Ennis noticed that Jack's stallion Signal was hovering more and more near Star, their filly. They certainly seemed to like each other and Ennis vaguely wondered if something was going to happen between them. Jack would be over the moon if they foaled; he had confessed to a love of baby animals. Ennis thought it was just another example of Jack's warm, caring heart, and he was utterly charmed by it.
Lucky was swiftly becoming a useful addition to the ranch. He was good at helping them move the cows and he was always on full alert. Ennis knew that blue heelers were good ranch dogs, and he knew that Jack loved Lucky. He still remembered the look on Jack's face when Lucky had jumped out of the box at him on his birthday last year. He loved to see Jack smile.
Calling for a break, he strode off towards the office to see what Jack was up to, while the workers took five minutes. He opened the door to hear Jack talking on the phone.
"Well, it's like I said, we ain't even got our own calves yet, we could be a mighty big risk fer all you know...well, yeah, that's true..." Jack looked up and grinned at Ennis as he entered and leaned against the door, thumbs in his belt loops.
"Well, if yer sure...okay then. When's a good day? May second? Yep, that's good fer us. 12? Sure, sounds good. Alright, we'll see ya then. Bye."
He hung up and sighed happily. Looking up at Ennis, he smiled. "Hey, cowboy."
"Hey," Ennis smiled back, standing up as Jack got up and walked around the desk into his arms.
"Nice of ya to visit me," Jack said, leaning in for a kiss.
Ennis went a little red. "Well," he started, "I called fer a break an' decided to see what my fella was up to." Jack gave a sideways grin and fiddled with his curls. "Who was that on the phone?"
"That, my friend, was a rancher from down near Albany. He's interested in a kind of partnership, see. He wants to come up here an' take a look at our bull. He wants to see if he's suitable fer loanin' to breed with his cows. Saw the flyer in the feed store an' wants to come see us on May the second."
"Really? Optimistic ain't he? We ain't got no proof yet that he's a good bull, we ain't got our own calves yet."
"That's what I was sayin' when ya walked in. He said he heard where we got our bull from, that big ranch up near Atlanta, an' he seemed real impressed. Said he hoped that, as a smaller ranch, we'd be easier to deal with than the guy up there. Wants to loan our bull, breed him with his cows an' fer every calf that meets his standard, he'll pay us good money. He was talkin' $500 fer each one, I'm gonna see if I can barter with him." Jack's eyes sparkled.
Ennis loved this authoritative side to Jack, the side that showed him as someone who was in control, who knew what to do and how to do it. He was overcome with an urge to have Jack inside him, show him a bit more of that side. He quickly whispered in Jack's ear what he wanted, making Jack grin slyly.
"Wait here a sec," he whispered, then ran out of the door and told the workers that the break was up, and that he and Ennis had something important to attend to. He missed the amused glances exchanged; they knew exactly what their bosses were up to.
Back in the office, Jack took Ennis by the hand and led him back towards the house and up the stairs. Before long, the clothes were off and they were falling on the bed together, Jack on top. He kissed his way down Ennis's body, making him shiver, and then took him in his mouth for a few sucks. Ennis grabbed his hair.
"Jack...c'mon Jack...ain't got all day..."
Jack relented and crawled back up, over his lover to lock eyes with him. He reared up onto his knees and prepared himself. He was very surprised when Ennis told him to flip him over. They didn't do that too often. Still, he did as Ennis requested, turning him onto his stomach and up onto all fours, where he shook with anticipation.
Jack grabbed his hips and slowly pushed in, ever mindful of Ennis's relative inexperience with penetration. Once fully sheathed, it didn't take long for him to get a rhythm going, skin lapping together.
"Fuck, Jack...harder!" Ennis growled, struggling to stay on his knees. Jack had his arms wrapped tightly around his stomach, and one wandered down to jerk Ennis off as he felt his orgasm about to erupt.
Jack thrust hard and fast at Ennis's request, feeling how tight he was and how amazing this felt. He was bent low over Ennis's back, buried deep inside him as they both shuddered and gasped for air. Ennis's hands were grabbing fistfuls of the bed sheets as Jack thrust into his prostate again and again.
His vision blurred as he erupted all over Jack's hand, the explosion triggering Jack's own finish behind him. He collapsed onto the bed and Jack followed him, collapsing onto Ennis's back, unable to move. They lay there gasping, a heap of sweaty flesh, a tangle of limbs.
"Is that what ya had in mind?" Jack breathed in his ear.
The next day at lunch, Jack walked into the kitchen to prepare some lunch for everybody, and he was greeted by the sound of a pitiful whimpering. He looked around, confused. What the hell...?
Following the sound into the living room, he saw Lucky lying down by the fire, curled up and shaking slightly. Jack immediately went to him, cautiously pressing a hand to him. The blue heeler was cold to the touch and Jack grew alarmed. He shot up and sprinted through the kitchen to the back door, yelling Ennis's name.
"Ennis! Where are ya, cowboy?"
Ennis was brushing down Lightning in the stable when he heard Jack's panicked voice. He started walking out of the stable to go and see what the matter was, and practically collided with Jack.
"Woah, steady on there, rodeo, what's goin' on?" He placed his hands on Jack's shoulders as he caught his breath back. Concern overcame him as to why Jack was in this state.
"Ennis, it's Lucky. Somethin's wrong with him, he's whimperin' an' he's cold."
Jack led Ennis back to the house and Ennis examined Lucky himself, before directing Jack to call their vet in Sandersville, Paul Smith. He was a decent man who knew and respected Ennis and Jack for the good people they were. He'd been out to the ranch many times to see and tend to their stock.
In half an hour, they were seated in the waiting room, waiting to be called. When they were, Paul laid Lucky on his examination table and started examining him, Jack scratching Lucky's ears to calm him.
"Well guys," he said eventually, "Seems to me like he's got a stomach bug. Ain't nothin' too bad. He'll live. Mighta caught it from all the dust an' stuff in the stables or barn or somethin'."
They both breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank God," said Jack. "I was gettin' real worried 'bout him. He's a good dog."
"Well, ain't no cause to worry, Jack." Paul turned and rummaged through his cabinets, extracting a small bottle of pills. "Put two of these in every one of his meals an' he'll be right as rain in a few days. Come back if he ain't improved by Friday."
"Sure, thanks Paul."
On the drive home, Ennis drove while Lucky curled up in Jack's lap. Paul had given him a shot to tide him over for now, but he would need the pills soon.
Ennis noticed Jack looking worried as he gazed down at Lucky. He took Jack's hand. "He'll be alright, darlin'."
Jack sighed. "I know. I just...he's part of the family. Our family. Gave me a scare."
Ennis squeezed Jack's hand at the word family. His heart ached for the fact that he and Jack couldn't get married legally, show their love for each other to the world and let people know they weren't ashamed. But he honestly couldn't see it ever happening, despite how much they might want it to.
A seed of an idea planted itself in his mind, something that he could do to show Jack his love and devotion. It wouldn't be a legally binding marriage ceremony, but it was surely the next best thing for two men in their situation. He didn't have a clue where to start, though. He'd have to ask someone for help.
Later that evening, Lucky had taken some medication with his food and was now curled up in front of the fire again, this time still and content.
Ennis and Jack were curled up too, on the sofa. Ennis had his feet on the floor but Jack had his up on the sofa, curled up into his body as he leaned his head on Ennis's shoulder. They were watching the first Bond film, Dr No, and were totally engrossed in the plot. They hadn't seen the movie before and were trying to work out the plot as Bond did, figuring out what was going on and who was to blame.
Jack jumped when the tarantula came up on screen. He had known for some time that he was arachnophobic (not that he had ever heard the word, but he knew that spiders made him antsy). Ennis smiled affectionately and placed an arm around Jack's shoulders. Jack snuggled closer to him and calmed down when the scene was over. His hand drifted and found Ennis's when the main characters kissed at the end, interlacing their fingers together. He could get used to this. He hoped that he could get Ennis to watch more romantic movies with him; it was the kind of thing that couples do, he figured.
The film finished and Ennis went to turn off the TV as Jack stretched and yawned. Ennis went back over to him and took his hands, pulling him up.
"I'm gonna get Lucky his food an' water. Meet ya upstairs?" he whispered.
Jack smiled. "You bet."
Ennis walked into the bedroom to find Jack wearing nothing but a smile. The sheets had been folded down to the end of the bed, leaving Jack in all his glory. Ennis gulped and immediately felt his jeans tighten.
"Hey there cowboy," greeted Jack, thoroughly enjoying the effect he was having on his lover. Ennis's eyes raked his body as he stripped on his side of the bed, eager to get to him. Once he was on the bed, he leaned over and kissed Jack deeply, one hand on his cheek, the other in his hair. Jack kissed back eagerly, loving the feel of their tongues sliding together, and the warm wetness inside. He placed his hands on Ennis's waist, pulling him over to lie on top of him as they continued to kiss.
Within minutes, Ennis was sliding slowly into him, sliding home where he belonged. They made love slowly and tenderly, both remembering how good it felt to spend time together, even if it was just watching a movie. It felt special to share it together. They wondered from time to time if it was humanly possible to be happier than they were right now, but with each new day, Jack felt more and more content with his life, he felt that he couldn't ask for more. And somewhere deep inside, he knew Ennis felt the same.
April 24th, 1964
Becky sat on the end of her bed, utterly terrified. She'd made a huge mistake and now she would have to deal with the consequences. She didn't know what on earth to do, but knew she must make a decision soon.
She hadn't meant to end up in the back of that guy's car two weeks ago, it had just happened. He was nice and she'd been missing Andy terribly. She was a young woman and had needs. The guy had been good to her, even driven her home afterwards, both of them unaware of what had just happened.
She'd missed her period a few days afterwards, and she would never forget how scared she was when she'd realised it was late. She prayed that it was just late this month, and that it didn't necessarily mean anything. A visit to her doctor last week proved her wrong. She was nearly two weeks gone and nobody except herself and her doctor knew. She'd had to come up with a creative reason as to why she wouldn't barrel race a few days ago, and why she wouldn't go for a drink afterwards. She knew she couldn't hide this forever. In just a few weeks she would start showing, and the cat would be out of the bag then.
She debated with herself what to do. She had very little money, and she knew that her father was likely to kick her out once he knew. That much was certain. All of her friends still lived with their parents, so that was no good. She was unmarried, so she knew that most of society would shun her, call her a variety of names, no doubt.
There was really only one option left to her – Ennis and Jack. They were the only ones she could think of who would understand, who would be willing to take her in. She hated to intrude on the privacy of their new life together, but she couldn't think what else to do. She sure as hell couldn't go up to Lightning Flat. She knew Rose would welcome her, but...she had vowed to herself that she would never live under the same roof as that man. Especially now, in the condition she was in.
She sighed, resigned to the fact that only her cousin (or cousins, as she affectionately thought of them both) could help her now. She pulled her trunk out of her closet and began packing up her clothes, intending to leave in the middle of the night when her parents were asleep, hopefully avoiding the confrontation that would likely ensue. She would send them a letter when she was far away, and let them decide if they wanted contact.
One thing she did know was that she was sure she could do this. She'd always had a maternal instinct, and she figured that with just a little help here and there she could manage this. She couldn't bring herself to have a termination.
She was packed within the hour and started turning her attention to how she would get to Georgia. She figured that she would have to call them; she could drive but was in no state of mind to, and she didn't have her own vehicle anyway.
She paid no attention when the phone rang downstairs and her father answered it.
"WHAT?" she heard her father yell, and froze. Shit.
Footsteps thundered up the stairs and towards her room. She braced herself, knowing that he knew.
He banged the door open. "You little slut!" he snarled.
"That was Dr Oberman on the phone, he was askin' how my girl's doin'. How she's copin' with her..." he couldn't say the word, didn't want to believe it of her. He knew she wasn't a virgin, but he had placed his hope in her brains that she would always use protection. As it was, they had, it simply hadn't been 100 per cent effective. She'd always been fine up to now, so simply hadn't thought that it might not work, until a week ago at least.
"I ain't havin' you in this house no more. You ain't my daughter no more."
The irony of that statement was not lost on her, and the impact of it blazed between their eyes. Her jaw set, she folded her arms. "Fine. But I ain't gettin' rid of it neither. I know where I can go. I'm already packed; I was plannin' to leave anyway."
"Get out," her father spat at her. "Get yer stuff then, an' get out. Don't come back."
"I ain't plannin' to," she shot back. She grabbed her trunk and pushed past him. Her mother was just outside the room. She didn't want to lose her daughter, but as a woman felt she should not argue with her husband nor disobey his orders.
"I'm sorry mama," Becky whispered as she passed her, tears gathering at her eyes. She missed Andy more than ever. She knew he would have supported her. She'd contacted the guy she slept with and told him, but his reaction wasn't much better than her father's. He'd called her a few choice names, clearly forgetting that there were two people there that night, and told her he wanted nothing more to do with her.
She managed to find her way to a motel, ironically enough the same one that Ennis and Jack had stayed in when they were here. She felt weird about taking the same room, even though it had been over six months, so she took the one next door. She dumped her stuff in a corner, before flopping onto the bed. She spent a good ten minutes crying before mustering the courage to call the people she considered her best friends. She was unable to tell Jack why her father had kicked her out, and the situation she was in, she was crying so much. He told her to calm down, and that he and Ennis were leaving straightaway to come and get her. She lay back down again to get some sleep, her thoughts fixed on her uncertain future, and the life growing inside her.