August 1st, 1963
The wind was screaming in their ears as they desperately tried to get their belongings out of harm's way. Ennis was fumbling with the tent, trying to get it to stay down as Jack ran around camp, shifting things.
As the weather got worse, they both realised it was a lost cause, and hurried into the tent.
"Them sheep'll drift if I don't get back up there tonight!" yelled Ennis as the hailstone fell heavily.
"You'll get pitched off your mount in a storm like this!" Jack shouted back as Ennis caught a piece of hailstone in his hat and held it up, before tossing it aside. "An' wished you hadn't tried!"
"Keep it closed!"
"Close it up!"
They managed to get the tent closed and the flaps tied together to try and keep the weather at bay, but they were freezing. The storm had snuck up on them without warning while they were eating their supper, and they'd been frantically trying to get things under control. Ennis was worried about the sheep; surely they'd wander off if he didn't get up there? Should he go anyway?
Part of him wanted to stay here, with Jack. Not that he'd ever admit it, of course, but it was true, and he chastised himself for not wanting to leave Jack on his own. The man was nineteen, same as him; surely he could look after himself? But Ennis simply didn't want to be away from him.
Jack was busy getting the bedroll ready, not speaking. They'd reached an unspoken agreement not to talk about what was going on; the fact that they were having sex most of the day and night by now for almost two months. Once they were in the tent at night, there was no speaking about what they were doing. That was their rule. If Jack had his way, they would cuddle and talk afterwards, but that was never likely to happen. Ennis hadn't spoken too much while they were still just friends, while everything was still normal. No way would he speak now that they were more than that.
They removed their jackets and huddled together, shivering as the wind crept into the tent. Jack met Ennis's eyes; already they were dark with lust. No matter what the kind of vibe Ennis might give, that this did nothing for him and he was only doing it because there was no real alternative, Jack could see it in his eyes that he wanted him and was happy to give himself over. What he wouldn't give for Ennis to learn to trust him enough to give himself over to him. But Jack had been too scared to broach the subject; like as not it would've earned him a right hook. But he'd learned to accept it...for the most part.
Ennis shuffled closer and slid a hand up to the back of Jack's neck, trying to meet his companion's eyes. Jack leaned in as Ennis kissed him, with surprising gentleness. Ennis's kisses were often hard and rough, but Jack longed to tell him that he preferred tenderness; something that would make it feel like they were making love.
That word. Jack had thought about it, often. He didn't know for sure if he loved Ennis, but he had a suspicion he did, and Jack knew in his heart of hearts that when summer ended, he did not want them to part ways. He wanted to stay with Ennis. Maybe he did love him after all.
They were kissing deeply now, Ennis's hands running under his shirt and fondling his chest. Jack had his own hands in Ennis's hair. He was helpless under Ennis's touch and hopelessly aroused by now. He gasped softly as Ennis pushed him back onto the bedroll and began to strip him. Jack returned in kind, responding to Ennis's kisses and letting their tongues curl around each other. If Ennis wasn't queer, as he'd claimed, then why was one hell of an erection pressing into Jack's hip? Jack didn't understand but he wasn't about to complain.
When they were both naked and under the sheets, Ennis continued to kiss him and hold him by the shoulders. Jack hoped beyond hope that tonight, maybe tonight, he wouldn't get flipped over. He had loved their first time face to face, but he suspected it had freaked Ennis out, with the reality of the fact he was fucking a guy on a daily, probably even hourly basis.
Just as Jack was starting to believe it wouldn't happen, it did. Ennis laid a hand on his side and flipped him over, pulling him up to his knees. Jack sighed inwardly but resigned himself to it. He enjoyed their couplings, but he couldn't fight off the resentment that Ennis would no longer enter him from the front.
They had managed to fashion something resembling lubrication, by the use of the grease left over from when Ennis had shot the elk. It had however been forgotten in their rush to get out of the wind, so Ennis was left with no choice but to spit into his hand. He wrapped an arm around Jack's waist and pushed in, none too gently. He didn't want to hurt Jack but he knew nothing of gentle lovemaking. This was all he knew.
Jack buried his face in the bedroll as Ennis thrust into him quickly and roughly, gasping for breath and thinking that his head was about to explode. Just as he was about to reach for himself, he felt Ennis's hand slip from his waist, beginning to jerk him off. Jack trembled all over at the sensations rippling through his body and spilled into Ennis's hand, then feeling as Ennis released inside him and collapsed onto his back. Jack was already weak in the knees after his own orgasm, and the pressure of Ennis's weight on his back made him collapse into the bedroll.
As usual, there were no words, and Jack was just thinking that Ennis was probably falling asleep, when he felt Ennis's hands reach for his own and lacing their fingers together. He felt a feather-light kiss on his neck before sleep finally claimed him.
It had started out as an ordinary day. The three of them were in their normal places for this hour of the morning, and if Ennis was daydreaming a little more than usual, the hands didn't seem to notice. He and Jack still hadn't quite come down from cloud nine just yet, even though that special night had been almost 48 hours ago. Becky was up at the house sleeping for a few hours before lunch, and Jack was checking up on Samuel Peterson, their client from Albany. He seemed to be impressed by their bull and they were making arrangements to have him shipped back.
Ennis was busy in the tack room when he heard raised voices from outside, along with Lucky barking. He frowned and went to see what was going on. Just outside, Michael was lying on the ground with a hand to his face, which had clearly just been punched. Pete, their hand that they had been having trouble with, was leering over him menacingly, hand curled into a fist. Lucky was standing between them, growling at Pete, and Dave was crouching by Michael, making sure he was alright. Pete looked up at Ennis, realised that he was in trouble and scarpered. He ran off across the land and around the house. The sound of screeching tires soon followed.
"Jesus," Ennis muttered, going over to Michael. He and Dave helped him get to his feet. "Get him to the house, Dave. I'll get Jack." Dave nodded and helped Michael, who was glowering, Lucky padding along beside them.
Ennis sprinted to the office and knocked. "Jack?"
Ennis stuck his head in. "Come on, bud. Somethin's happened." Jack looked immediately concerned and followed him to the house.
Becky was up by now and by the time Ennis and Jack got there, she had already wrapped some ice in a towel, and Michael was holding it to his bruising face.
"Christ, what happened?" asked Jack as they joined the other three at the table.
Dave sighed. "Michael an' Pete crossed paths by accident. I know we been keepin' 'em apart but...Michael left his gloves in the stable an' went back to get them so's he could go help with the fences. Pete was just comin' out an' Michael asked him, real nice-like, if he could come an' help with the fences."
"I was tryin' to build bridges with him," Michael muttered, gingerly touching his cheek. "Guess it didn't work."
"Pete lashed out at him. I heard the whole thing. Pete said he wasn't gonna take no orders from no...well. You can imagine what he called him."
"Shit," said Jack, running a hand through his hair. "Where's Pete?"
"He took off," said Ennis. "Ran off an' I heard his tires. Gone."
"Well...he's fired anyway after this," Jack said darkly. "But damn, we're one man short."
"Guess we'll hafta put an' ad out, bud."
"Yeah...an' if you guys know anybody lookin' fer work..."
"Alright. Dave, if you could get back to work..."
"Sure." Dave tipped his hat and left.
"Michael," Jack began. "You wanna get back to work or wanna rest a spell?"
"I'm gonna stay here for a bit, if that's alright. Be out after lunch, probably."
"Sure thing. Look after him, Becky."
Ennis and Jack left the kitchen and stood on the back porch, looking out at their land and contemplating what had happened. They were both worried. Pete had probably only tolerated their relationship because they had been paying his wages, but now...he would be free to stir up trouble for them, if he wanted.
Ennis looked over at Jack and saw him biting his lip in a worried way. He reached over and put an arm around Jack's waist, giving him a squeeze.
"You okay, darlin'?"
Jack sighed, wrapping his own arm across Ennis's waist. "I dunno. We've had us a mighty fine coupla days just now, an'...I dunno 'bout you, but...I kinda had my head in the clouds today."
Ennis smiled. "I know what ya mean. Been feelin' that way myself."
"So then...to have somethin' like this happen...really brought me back to Earth, with a real nasty bump. Reminds me that...it ain't all easy outside of us. I mean..." Jack paused, looking around at Ennis. "You know I'm happy with ya, an' I know yer happy too, but...comes at a price, I guess."
"But then again...is anywhere really safe right now? For guys like us? Guys like Michael? I ain't so sure that there's somewhere out there that's safe, where people really understand us an' accept us. Even in the bigger cities...like Denver...or hell, even New York. Maybe it ain't about tolerance, maybe it's more about the fact that people like us can slip under the radar. There's so many people livin' there that no-one takes no notice."
"Hmph," harrumphed Ennis. "Kinda makes me wish we was city boys. You know, so's we could move to one o' them big cities." He looked out at the land. "Then again...I ain't so sure I'd wanna trade in this. Workin' on land, with animals...that's more like us."
"Sure is. An' don't forget mountains," Jack said, smiling. "We owe all this to a mountain, in a way. An' to sheep, I guess."
Ennis smiled back and pulled Jack close, kissing his cheek. "I guess we do." His eyes roamed Jack's face. "Never thought I'd meet my future partner-fer-life while workin'." He leaned in close. "My future husband," he whispered in Jack's ear.
Jack shivered at Ennis's breath tickling his neck. He let those words wash over him. My future husband. Such words he'd never expected Ennis to say, not in a million years. Yet there they were.
He sighed and took Ennis's hand. "C'mere." He led him down to the steps, sitting on the top one and motioning for Ennis to sit on the one below him. He removed Ennis's hat so he could nuzzle their cheeks together. He planted his feet on either side of Ennis and wrapped his arms around him. They sat like that for a long time.
Over the next week, word was beginning to spread about the ranch. About the fact they had a bull from a very reputable supplier, which would hopefully reflect on the meat once it became available. The general consensus was that the ranch near Atlanta was owned by a very wealthy man with an ego to match his bank account, and people didn't like dealing with him. Moreover, they'd heard that his fees for breeding were astronomical, and his prices for meat weren't much better. People in these parts simply couldn't afford his prices and were looking for a cheaper alternative, yet at the same quality.
As a result, word had spread about the ranch near Sandersville, not even a year into operation. Nobody outside the ranch knew the truth about the relationship between its owners except for a few, mostly their doctor Rick, his sister Kate, their vet Paul and their solicitor, Greg. Fred Kane obviously knew but he hadn't told anyone, to their knowledge; just seemed happy to spit poison at them whenever he saw them.
Of course, Pete's departure could hold disastrous consequences. Michael was unwilling to press charges; Pete held the kind of information on Ennis and Jack that could ruin them and their business, maybe even get them hurt or killed. Michael figured that as long as they left Pete alone, he might not be tempted to cause trouble.
Since their meat would not be available until October, people were calling the ranch every day to place orders, sounding pleased about this cheaper alternative and busy complaining about Mr. Big Shot up near Albany. Jack could sympathise with them; he'd had to deal with the guy when purchasing the bull, and dreaded the day when he might need to buy another to keep up with demand. The guy had been reluctant to sell him an actual bull; had tried to persuade Jack to simply borrow him to impregnate the cows. But Jack was determined that he and Ennis were going to make a real go of it, and had shot him down. In his opinion, he'd paid more than he should have been charged, but Uncle Harold had left them a nice sum, after all, and they weren't even halfway through it yet.
With dairy products being the only produce available at this time, people had been coming by most every day to request their milk. Jack had mentioned to Ennis that perhaps they learn how to make cheese, just to have something else to bring in money. Their official Brokeback Ranch logo had long since been designed and registered, and now appeared on their bottles of milk. By the end of the week, they'd had a branding iron designed with the logo made by Kate, the woman who had made their rings. Jack knew that when the time came and their meat was ready for packaging, that also would have their brand on it.
Jack couldn't quite get over how well things were going. They were making some money from the sale of the milk and judging by the meat orders they were receiving that would bring in a fair amount come October. It didn't hurt that they had that cushion to fall back on.
Right now, he was in the office on the phone, taking in a large meat order from a woman in Savannah. She felt like the hundredth person he'd taken an order from just today, and the book was full of orders he and Becky had written down between them.
The order complete, Jack put down the phone and sighed with exhaustion, wishing Ennis was about to walk in. He could sure use a distraction. He left the office to get some fresh air and saw Ennis in the distance, tending to the cows, Lucky following him dutifully. Jack's heart burst with the love he felt for the man, the person he shared all this with, the man who made all the hard times worthwhile.
He saddled up Signal and went over to where Ennis was. Ennis looked up as he approached the fence and smiled, pushing the brim of his hat up to get a better look of Jack up on horseback.
Jack dismounted and leaned on the fence. "Hey there, cowboy."
Ennis went over to the fence and kissed him. "Hey yourself. Whatcha doin' out here at this time?"
Jack looked at him happily. "Just got off the phone with what felt like the millionth person wantin' meat. Needed some fresh air."
Ennis ran his hands up and down Jack's arms. "Well...real glad to see ya, darlin'. I gotta say...I'm surprised things are takin' off the way they are. So many people wantin' to do business with us..."
"Yeah. Things are lookin' up, huh? Speakin' of up..." His eyes wandered down to Ennis's groin. "Are you up?"
"Jack..." Blood rushed into Ennis's face. "Can't be doin' that here. Hands are around."
"Mmm...they sure are..." Jack whispered, snaking his hands around Ennis to cup his ass. Ennis squirmed.
"Goddammit, Jack." Jack grinned. He loved rendering Ennis helpless like this.
"Well...since I ain't gonna get none here, how's about you come follow me to somewhere a little more...private?" he murmured, looking into Ennis's eyes and watching him gulp.
"I'll be in the office," Jack breathed into his ear before licking it and making him shiver. He walked over to Signal, making sure to wiggle his ass as he went.
His teasing paid off. Ten minutes later Ennis burst into the office and locked the door behind him, eyes dark with desire. Jack's blood pressure went right up and he walked around the desk to face him, his own eyes dark. Simultaneously, they lunged at each other, kissing hard and ripping each others' clothes off, breathing heavily. They sank to the floor and within moments, Ennis was inside Jack and pushing deep. They rolled around the floor as Ennis thrust into Jack, trying to muffle their moans and realising that kissing was a good way of doing this.
Afterward, they lay on the floor side by side, panting and letting their senses come back to them.
"Damn," Ennis breathed.
June 23rd, 1964
It was a peaceful Tuesday morning and the three of them were sleeping. Or to be more precise, Becky was sleeping, with Lucky curled up at the end of her bed. Ennis and Jack however, had been engaging in some early morning fun for the last half an hour, kissing and holding each other close, fondling each other under the sheets and sighing into each others' mouths. Jack loved being close and intimate with Ennis; no holds barred, no holding back, no hiding. They completely opened themselves up to each other in this bed, talked about their feelings and thoughts, interspersed with whispered words of love, and often finishing with a warm release that made each other the only thing they were aware of, as if the world had melted away to leave just the two of them here.
"Mmm..." sighed Jack as their silent orgasm finished and their heartbeats returned to normal. "You make me so happy, cowboy."
Ennis smiled shyly. "Yeah?" He knew he didn't have to be so shy around Jack, and these days he was a lot more comfortable with compliments, and he knew that Jack would never judge him. He wasn't sure he would ever figure out why this beautiful man in his arms would find him sexually attractive, something to want and desire. But Jack had told him a number of times that he thought he was beautiful, and he knew in his heart that Jack wouldn't have said something like that just to make him feel better. Jack believed it. Ennis had long ago given up trying to figure out why Jack had wanted him, but simply tried to relax in the knowledge that he had and still did, even now they were settled and seeing each other every day in domesticity.
"Yeah," whispered Jack. "You do. I...I ain't got the words fer it, Ennis. Nothin' comes to mind that can do it justice, what I feel fer you."
Ennis smiled softly now and leaned back over for another kiss, sweet and light, their lips caressing each other. He stroked Jack's hair and felt Jack drawing circles on his back. They were happy and warm and didn't want to get out of bed, but daylight was burning and Ennis didn't like leaving everything to the hands while he lounged around.
Jack sighed. "Guess we better be gettin' up."
"Yeah. Rather stay here with you, though. Could lay in bed all day with you, bud." He ran a hand up and down Jack's back, caressing the skin he worshipped.
Jack smiled. "Wanna take a shower together?" he asked, a hand wandering down to rub Ennis's thigh. Ennis smirked and got up, leading Jack into the shower. Jack went in first and Ennis stepped in behind him. The water was switched on and Ennis washed Jack's back with plenty of soap, his hands running all over Jack's body. He brought Jack up against his hips, one hand wandering down between his legs. Jack gasped as Ennis stroked him, his own hard erection poking right between Jack's ass cheeks. He pushed Jack up against the wall and prepared himself with the soap.
"You ready, darlin'?" he murmured in Jack's ear. Jack could only nod and whimper. Ennis pushed in and moved slowly. Luckily, a little time into their residence here they'd had a bar installed into the shower stall for one of them to hold on to in such circumstances. Jack's knuckles were white with gripping as he gasped for breath. He craned his head around to kiss Ennis, who sucked his tongue into his mouth as their movement continued. Jack cried out and spilled into Ennis's hand, and with a few more thrusts Ennis was there himself, filling his lover with everything he had. After a few more slow kisses, they showered properly and dressed, minds still reeling and hands nipping at asses.
Their high spirits were dampened later at breakfast when the newspaper arrived. Jack was busy reading it and reading out little bits of articles. "Jesus Christ," he said suddenly.
"What? What is it?" asked Ennis, looking alarmed.
Jack's face darkened as he read it out. "Three civil rights workers have gone missin'. In Philadelphia, Mississippi."
"That's awful," said Becky, looking distressed. "What're their names?"
"Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, an' James Chaney. Don't know 'em, but..."
"Still ain't right. Where was they goin'?" asked Ennis in a low, threatening voice.
"Uh...shit. These Klansmen torched a church in Neshoba County, an' these three guys was headin' over there to check it out. The sheriff got 'em an' threw 'em in jail. Said it was suspected arson." Jack's hand was clenching; Ennis noticed it and covered it with his own, rubbing his thumb over it. "He let 'em go, but now they gone missin'. "Fuck, I bet those bastards got 'em." Jack sighed and rubbed his temple. "This is bad. Things are gettin' worse. Folks are too scared to stand up to 'em in case they become the next target."
The rest of breakfast was spent in respectful silence for the three workers, whatever had become of them, and Ennis and Jack hoped beyond hope that the Klan wouldn't get wind of the two gay ranchers in Georgia. That would make them a target, for sure.
Ennis hoped that Jack wouldn't get himself too worked up over the bad things that were happening in this state and its neighbours. They'd lived here for nearly a year now, and they'd had the chance to sell up and move somewhere else if it looked too dangerous. But they hadn't, they'd stayed. And apart from Fred Kane, who was little more than a drunken bigot, they hadn't had any trouble. But with Pete's recent behaviour, they were well aware of the fact that this could change. All they could do was carry on as they were; keep their heads down, concentrate on their business and hope for the best, but most of all rely on each other. That was all they could do.
A couple of days later, in the evening, Ennis, Jack and Becky were sitting in the living room. Becky was busy reading a book on pregnancy that Mary had given her, munching on Oreos, and Ennis and Jack were watching a film on TV, Jack with his legs tucked up into his side with his head on Ennis's shoulder.
Things had been quiet since Pete's departure; they'd neither seen nor heard anything of him, and they hoped to keep it that way. They had been tipped off about men wanting work; Dave had a nephew that was after a job and they'd told him to bring him along at some point. They needed all the help they could get, after all, especially during calving. Jack had privately decided to himself that in the worst case scenario, he would have to leave all the office work to Becky and go out full-time onto the land. But he didn't like to think on that; Becky was the only one of the three of them who could do housework and he didn't want her doing anything too strenuous. And he liked looking after the books. The other part of him liked the prospect of working outside all day with Ennis; no doubt they'd enjoy that.
Ennis had an arm around him and was running his hand down his arm absent-mindedly. Jack smiled to himself and snuggled closer, taking Ennis's other hand in his, lacing their fingers together. He felt Ennis's lips in his hair for a moment.
Becky suddenly yawned and closed her book. "I'm beat. Think I'm gonna have a drink an' go up."
"Yeah, we'll be up when this is done," replied Ennis.
Becky went into the kitchen and a few moments later she was calling their names in a panicked voice. They jumped up and found her standing at the back door, which she had clearly just opened, looking out.
"The barn's on fire!"
They ran out onto the porch. Sure enough, there were flames engulfing the structure and smoke rising up.
"Becky, call the fire department. An' Bill. Best call James too." James Goodman was the local sheriff, and since he had a gay brother, he was accepting of them and was keeping a protective eye on them.
Becky went back in as Ennis and Jack pulled on their boots and coats; no way would they let her near the smoke. Their horses were not their major priority; the stables were a good distance from the barn and the smoke wasn't travelling near it. The cows were out in the fields, an even further distance away.
Jack fired up the hose from the stable and started frantically spraying at the flames, Ennis doing a quick check of the horses before coming out and slapping wet feed bags to help him.
"The horses okay?"
"Yep. Don't get too close, Jack."
After a few minutes of them trying to put out the blaze, they heard Bill's truck pull up with a large empty bucket on the truck bed. He quickly filled it up at the water trough and gave them a hand.
"Christ, this is bad, boys. How the hell did this happen?"
All Jack could think of was Pete and Fred. He felt certain that one of them had done it, and the next time he saw them he would not hold back.
When the fire department arrived, James's cruiser coming up behind them, the fire had been almost completely doused, and the firemen put out what was left.
"Well," said Jack, lowering the hose. "Least we got that taken care of. Thank God it wasn't the stable."
The firemen were taking a look inside to try and find the source of the fire. James came up to Ennis and Jack; they could see Becky walking down towards them now it was safe.
"What happened, guys?"
"We was just gettin' ready to go to bed, an' Becky..."
"I was in the kitchen," she said. James turned to face her.
"What did ya see, ma'am?"
"I was gettin' a drink before I went up, an' I went to stand at the window an' I saw the flames in the dark. It was already quite bad."
"Good job she saw it, otherwise we wouldn't have known 'til mornin', an' there wouldn't be no barn."
"Do you have any idea who might have done this?"
Jack's eyes darkened. "I got two suspects. Pete Dawson an' Fred Kane. They both got bones to pick with us."
"Pete Dawson? Thought he was one of yer hands?"
"He was. Punched a co-worker. Had to fire him. Now that we ain't payin' his wages no more, he's free to do what he wants."
The sheriff was busy scribbling on his notebook. "And...Fred Kane?" They nodded, and he sighed. "Can't say as I'm surprised. Man likes no-one. You have trouble with him?"
"Yeah. When we been in town a few times, sometimes he sees us an' starts spittin' poison at us."
"Right. We'll hafta see what Mike says."
The chief, Mike Richards, came out just then. "Well boys, the fire was set fer sure. Found a used match in the corner nearest the door, an' hay strands from what musta been a whole heap of hay in the middle. Charrin' everywhere."
"We sure as hell didn't put it there," growled Ennis.
"Probably was Pete, then. He knows the stable, an' he musta known we'd be inside."
"Well, we'll bring him in," said James. "Fred too, just to be safe. You all best get some sleep, now."
The three of them bid farewell to Bill, the sheriff and fire department, before doing as they'd suggested and silently traipsing up the stairs. Becky went into her room, Lucky joining her, and Ennis and Jack went hand in hand down to their room.
After stripping and getting into bed, Ennis held Jack close, sensing that he needed to be held.
Jack let out a sigh. "Can't believe this."
"Just when things are lookin' up..."
"Hush now, rodeo. Best get some sleep, we can talk 'bout this in the mornin'."
"Yeah." Jack turned and spooned into Ennis, who held him tight and rubbed his stomach as he dropped off. Ennis soon joined him, hoping that this horrible event was just a one-off, and that the relative peace they'd found here wasn't about to be shattered.