The next few months at the ranch were calm, which was warmly welcomed by its residents. As Ennis had said, the last few months had been hard on them all, so they were happy to finally get some peace. They were glad of some time to sit back and concentrate on themselves without the threat of people like Pete Dawson. Fred Kane was still around, but as much of a pain as he was, he never laid a finger on them so they could let it go.

Becky took to motherhood like a duck to water, and they were all surprised by how well she had adjusted to it. She got up several times a night if Lily needed her, despite her companions' offers to take a shift.

A few days after Lily's birth, they spent their first New Year as a family, and they reflected back on what the year had brought them; so many good things yet bad things too, but the latter had made them all stronger and closer. James came to them with the news that Aguirre had been arrested for his scare campaign and the fact that he had threatened a young pregnant woman. They had arrested him for a minimum of six months and he had a ban on leaving the state, meaning that he wouldn't be coming back.

In January, Maria Twist visited from Texas. She had promised Becky that she would visit without Joe and she had kept to the promise. The three women talked about motherhood and Becky told Maria that even though Rose was her birth mother, she would never forget the fact that she had brought her up, and that she would always love her.

In February, Ennis and Jack hunted around and managed to find a cabin in the Appalachian mountain range that ran through Georgia. It was a beautiful area with lush greenery that reminded them of home, but still couldn't hold a candle to Brokeback.

The cabin was spacious and comfortable, with a warm fire and a big bed for the two of them. They spent a lot of the Friday riding on the horses they'd brought with them; Lightning and Signal. They bagged a big elk and skinned it, and then spent some time walking with their hands clasped together and talking.

Saturday was spent with them playing cards and lying around the cabin, most of the time naked in front of the fire. It was wonderful for them to spend some alone time together like this, no ranch business, no problems to deal with; just the two of them, which was how they liked it best.

The Sunday, Valentine's, was pretty much the same. They lounged around the cabin sharing their love, both in bed and out of it. They spent an hour on the bed just making out, with one of them occasionally nudging the other's legs apart and gently pushing in for a few thrusts. They would come and then fall asleep for a while, before waking up and doing it all over again. They spent the day in a hazy cloud of love, not noticing the time pass until it grew dark outside. When they returned on the Monday they were fully refreshed and felt ready for whatever life threw at them next.

The ranch continued to do well, and their products made their way into shops over in Sandersville, where they were well received. They were soon taking several calls a day from people ordering from them. They were pleased with how well they were doing and Rose was very proud of them.

In March, it would have been John Twist's 42nd birthday, but while Rose quietly honoured the occasion herself, Jack was plagued by too many painful memories of his father, and he simply couldn't bring himself to honour his father in any way. Becky felt the same.

In April, however, they were eager to celebrate Rose's birthday. Becky bought her a new dress, and Ennis bought her some jewellery. Jack had a photo taken of himself, Ennis, Becky and Lily and had it framed for her, which she displayed proudly in her bedroom.

In May, Cecilia called them in a flurry of excitement to tell them that she was pregnant with her and Tom's third child. Ennis was thrilled by the news that he would be an uncle again and Cecilia told Jack that he should consider himself an uncle too, and Becky an aunt, while she also had them tell Rose that her two children saw her as a grandmother. She also told them that the month before, she had heard that Alma had married her friend Monroe the previous summer, and they were now expecting their first child. Ennis was happy that Alma had found herself someone to love her, who would always put her first. He still felt guilty from time to time about how he had just cast her aside, so it eased his mind that she was happy now. He knew what love felt like now and he wanted that for her.

In June, they were struck by tragedy. Becky found her way to Rich's house with Lily so he could see her, and when she knocked, nobody answered. She went around the one-storey and saw him asleep on his chair in the living room, but something didn't look right. She went inside through the back door and a quick touch of his hand told her that he was no longer living. A memorial service was held for him and they all attended, mourning the fact that they had only just found him and welcomed him into the family. Ennis was plagued by nightmares of seeing Earl in the ditch and it was all Jack could do to hold him and calm him down until he dropped off again.

Becky's 21st birthday rolled around again in July, and she loved having her first birthday as a mother. She was asked on a few dates, but she just wasn't interested. She still loved Andy, despite everything, and she would much rather prefer to spend her evenings at home with her daughter and family.

A very hot summer passed, which they spent a lot of outside. Becky, Ennis and Jack went for their race around the property, and while the two cowboys were very skilled at horse riding, Becky's barrel racing skills gave her the edge; she left them gaping after her.

Their daily routine was altered to give Becky time with her new baby. She would spend the mornings in the house as usual, and when she went out to take over in the office in the afternoons, Rose would then look after Lily, which she loved to do.

Ennis and Jack's wedding anniversary was spent at home with their family, with a small party attended by friends. It was simple yet wonderful and they loved it. And later on, the two of them gave each other a very private present.

September came with the anniversary of John's death, and Jack was having nightmares of his childhood trauma throughout the night. Ennis held him close and told him it was alright. They had to be there for each other through the good times and the bad; that was what a marriage was all about, after all.

Their 22nd birthdays in September and October passed and they became aware of the fact that they were maturing into adults, no longer the young kids that they had been. They were successful businessmen with an established business and a loving family around them.

Often, they would sit together, usually on their hill, and look out towards the city, reflecting on what they had. It was unbelievable to them how far they'd come in such a short space of time. They were still new to the business of ranching but they had struck lucky with Jack inheriting the ranch from his uncle. And it had been sealed with Jack wanting Ennis's name on the deed as his partner; they were complete equals.

They had had a good year, all things considered. They'd had problems, but they had come through them and were on the other side. Their bond was stronger now than it had ever been.

Something else happened around March. Ennis and Jack were rolling around on their bed one night, and Jack suddenly stopped. Ennis asked him what was wrong, and Jack said that he'd had a want for Ennis to take him from behind, but he was scared of his own feelings about it, and the problems it had brought when Ennis had flipped him over that one time.

With some coaxing, Ennis managed to help him through it. They talked through the night about Jack's feelings about being flipped over, and he told Ennis about how he'd felt up on Brokeback when Ennis had done it, time and time again. He'd felt like Ennis hadn't wanted to do it, had only done it because he had issues with sleeping with another man.

After a lot of talking, Jack told Ennis that he would like to try it again, so long as they still did it face to face most of the time. He'd been okay with Ennis bending him over the office desk or the table, and with them lying on their sides in bed with Ennis behind him. The only position he'd had problems with was on all fours.

They took it slowly. Ennis gave Jack a back massage with the oil to help him relax, which worked fairly well. He then kissed Jack down his back and legs and rubbed his large nicked hands over Jack's muscles to help them loosen up. Jack's face was buried in the pillow and he tried to relax under his lover's touch. He knew that Ennis would never hurt him on purpose and would stop if he asked him to.

Once Ennis was done with his massage, he slicked himself up and leaned over Jack, enveloping his body.

"You ready, darlin'?" he whispered softly.

Jack breathed deeply and nodded, his eyes closed. "Yeah."

Ennis lay his head next to Jack so that he could see his face. "Jack, open yer eyes, bud."

Jack did so and their eyes met in the light coming from the lamp, which was covered with Jack's red bandana. Ennis caressed the back of his head.

"You really sure you want me to do this?" he murmured. Jack's eyes bore into his and he swallowed.

"Yeah. I'm sure," he affirmed, looking sure yet nervous.

Ennis kissed his lips and then shifted back up. He straddled his hips and then snaked an arm under him, slowly pulling him up onto his knees. Jack raised himself up and braced himself on his elbows, breathing deeply. He tried to mentally remind himself that Ennis loved him and cared about him, more than anything in the world.

Ennis gently pulled his cheeks apart, terrified of hurting Jack but wanting to make him feel good. He very slowly slid in, inch by inch, feeling Jack pushing back to let him in, which he took as a good sign. At least Jack was responding positively.

When he was fully sheathed inside Jack, he leaned over Jack's back, kissing his smooth skin and holding him around his waist tightly.

"I love you, Jack," he murmured. "So much."

Jack breathed in and out, trying to calm himself. "I know, cowboy. I love you too." He placed his left hand over Ennis's where it held him, so that their rings clinked together. He gripped the bars of the headboard with his right, where it was covered with Ennis's, their fingers lacing.

Ennis slid out slowly, and then back in again, thrusting into Jack with as much tenderness as he could muster. He knew that if this was going to work he had to be gentle, so that Jack wouldn't be reminded of how rough he had been on Brokeback and freak out again. He had to remind Jack of his love.

"You okay, darlin'?" he breathed as he thrust into Jack again. Jack hissed as Ennis neared his prostate. He wouldn't last much longer, but it wasn't such a bad thing. He felt good.

"I'm okay. Keep goin'." Ennis pulled him closer and he felt himself overcome with warmth and love. He was struck by all the trouble Ennis was going to in order to avoid hurting him, and he was touched by Ennis's tenderness towards him.

"God, Ennis..." he groaned. Ennis paused, unsure of how Jack was feeling.

"Jack? You okay?" he asked fearfully.

Jack grasped his hand tighter. "Real damn good. Keep goin'."

Ennis smiled and kissed the back of his neck. He changed his angle and hit Jack's sweet spot, making Jack moan aloud into the pillow. They released simultaneously after a few more strokes and Ennis collapsed onto Jack's back, making Jack's knees buckle, and they both fell onto the bed.

Ennis pulled himself up and out and immediately rolled Jack onto his back. His eyes were closed and he was breathing deeply again. Ennis held Jack's face in both of his hands.

"Jack, come on bud, look at me. You okay?" His eyes raked Jack's face, looking for signs of how Jack was feeling.

Jack's bright blue eyes opened slowly, and he looked up at Ennis with love in his eyes.

"I'm just fine, cowboy," he said, smiling dreamily. "Love ya."

Ennis leaned down again, and just before they kissed, he responded in kind, brushing Jack's hair from out of his eyes and stroking his cheeks.

After that, Jack did better with being in that position after that. He knew that Ennis loved him and Ennis being so gentle with him helped him relax. He would always prefer it face to face, but he would no longer have a problem with being on all fours if the mood struck them.

This was just an example of the problems that they could overcome when they worked together. The song that Jack had heard in the bar when he'd met Rich kept coming back to him in his memory; one of the lines had been about how strong two hearts were when they were together, and Jack felt like the line could relate to himself and Ennis. Their hearts were strong together, no two ways about it.

They had had a number of problems over their time together so far, but they had got through them thanks to their strong love. When Jack thought about it, he and Ennis were like islands; they had roots in the earth as cowboys and ranchers, and as gay men they were in a sea, isolated and shunned by most of the world, but they could weather a storm no matter what its size. Their love was strong, like a force of nature, and they were looking forward to whatever life threw at them next. They knew that no matter what, they would be facing it together.