Chapter 11

May 19th, 1966

Early that morning, they were due to travel to Vietnam, something which none of them were looking forward to. They would have to fly to Los Angeles first, and then they would fly on to Vietnam from there. Ennis was very worried about what might be happening back home, for Jack had told him that today Rick was thinking about putting Becky on the maximum dose of penicillin. He hoped that it would work, and that Jack would be okay. Ennis knew that Jack could take things hard and he hated not being there for him.

Fortunately, he and Adam were being assigned to the same platoon once they got there, so at least he would still have someone to talk to about what was going on back home. He knew that Adam was concerned for Becky's wellbeing as well as he was, and that all of their friends cared about them. He and Jack were very grateful for that.

He looked out of the helicopter as they flew over the country. He briefly caught a glimpse of Sandersville as they passed, and he saw Atlanta too. He thought of his family and hoped that they were okay.

As they flew over what he knew to be Wyoming, he saw the mountains, one of them being Brokeback. That was the place where his and Jack's relationship had begun, and now they had a life together. He didn't want to lose any of it, not now.

They landed in Los Angeles at a predetermined location for about an hour, and they stood around, smoking and talking.

"Ain't far now," Adam commented, looking around.

"Yeah. Hope things are okay back home," Ennis replied, looking down and shifting his feet.

Adam looked at him sympathetically, and was mindful to keep his voice low, even though they were stood a little apart from the others. "Didn't you say Rick wants to put Becky on the bigger dose?"

"Yeah. Maximum dose, hopin' it does somethin'. Jack's real worried about her an' I know it's hard on him. He ain't so good at copin' with things."

Adam nodded. "You guys are real close...you've hit a real bad patch, ain't ya?"

"Yeah. Things was fine six months ago, just happened all at once. First me havin' to leave, now Becky bein' ill...I dunno what happened. An'..." He voiced what was worrying him the most. "I'm scared that...Jack won't be able to handle it on his own. What if it becomes too much for him, an'...he breaks down or somethin'?" He bit his lip. "What if...somethin'..."

Adam laid a hand on Ennis's shoulder. "Calm down, Ennis. I'm sure it's gonna be fine. You told me what Rick's like, an' I'm sure he'll be able to help Becky. You said he's a good doctor, right?"

Ennis nodded. "Yeah, he's real good. He does know what he's doin'. I just...I get real worried about him when I ain't there to help him out." Adam sighed in response and before long, they were being barked at to return to the helicopters.

They flew over the ocean, something that Ennis had never seen before. It was a deep blue and there were little islands dotted all over it. He was fascinated by it all but he wished that Jack could be there to share it with him. They'd never taken a trip to the ocean before, and Ennis figured that maybe one day, when things were back to normal, they could do that. He would love to go away to somewhere like that, either just with Jack or with all of them, depending on whether or not Becky was still around. But he didn't like to think about that. He wanted to believe that she would be alright. He just wanted to get through this and one day get back to Jack, then everything would be alright.

They finally arrived at the coast of South Vietnam, which was teeming with soldiers amongst the trees. Some were drinking, some were playing chess and they were all talking loudly. Ennis hoped that there weren't any particularly loud characters here; he still wasn't one for large groups of people or too much noise. There were a couple of tents around and Ennis went a little red as he thought of all their nights on Brokeback; those long summer nights filled with love and a deep connection. If being here incurred some memories of him and Jack then maybe it would be okay.

He and Adam looked around with interest at everything. Despite the bad connotations of this place and what could happen here, they were quite intrigued by this new world. They were used to hard, flat plains, and here there was foliage everywhere; a deep jungle. They had been warned that enemy snipers could be lurking amongst the trees, so they had to keep their eyes open.

After a bit of walking, they caught sight of who could only be their lieutenant. He came out of a tent and lit up a cigarette. Ennis and Adam nodded to each other and walked towards him, feeling nervous and eager to get into his good books.

He looked at them. "You guys just flown in?" They both nodded. "I'm Lieutenant Dan Tyler. Welcome to the shithole, boys." He gave a wry grin and they smiled appreciatively. "Don't salute me here, there's snipers everywhere. Where you guys from?"

"Um, we're both originally from Wyomin', sir. But I live in Ohio an' he lives in Georgia," Adam replied. "We moved for family stuff." That was the easiest explanation.

"Right." They walked with him as he explained the general rules of being in the area, and then they were free for a little while to talk to their comrades. There were many people here, and they were all okay people, they figured. If they got along with each other early on it would make things easier later. They would be able to work together without getting on each other's nerves.


Meanwhile, Jack, Becky and Rose were on their way to Rick's office, anticipating their appointment. Rick was due to analyse effects of the penicillin and to see how Becky's body was responding. Rick was of the mind that she would likely be put on the maximum dosage today. He had warned her that the syphilis was very advanced and the penicillin may prove to be ineffective, but she knew that and she had prepared herself for that scenario.

Jack had been quiet all morning, and they both knew that it was because Ennis was travelling to Vietnam today. After Ennis's phone call, Jack had grown quieter throughout the day, and not even his mother could lift his spirits. Oddly enough, he'd taken to holding Lily a lot lately. He'd always been loving and caring with her, but it seemed like now he was holding her for comfort, like a blanket. Becky and Rose figured that since he didn't have Ennis to hold, his baby niece would do him a lot of good.

Rose held the same fear as Ennis; that it would all become too much for Jack and he would have a breakdown. She feared that this would happen while Ennis was still away; he wouldn't be there to help Jack when it became too much for him. She knew that when that usually happened, Ennis could take him aside, wrap him up in his arms and make him feel better like only he could. That was one of the main reasons why she loved Ennis so much; he made her son happy and feel loved no matter what.

They sat in the office, Jack biting at a hangnail like Ennis did and Becky reading a magazine. She hadn't improved at all over the last few days and they were growing increasingly worried about her. Jack had heard her retching in the bathroom last night and he'd been there, holding her hair back like he and Ennis used to do when she was pregnant. He remembered those times in the middle of the night when she'd awakened them and they'd been there for her. It seemed so long ago but Jack thought of it as the kind of thing that could bring people together; looking after each other when it was needed. And he was looking after Becky now, as best he could.

Finally, Rick called them in and they sat down, feeling nervous. They hoped that this would work. Jack thought of Ennis and hoped that he was okay. He knew how his cowboy felt about travelling, and this time he was leaving the country altogether. He sent out a thought for him and hoped he was okay.

Rick sighed and sat down opposite them. "How's it goin', guys?" he asked, looking between them.

Jack looked at Becky. "She ain't gettin' no better, Rick. I dunno what to do." Rose was rubbing her shoulders.

She coughed in response. "I feel like shit," she agreed. "Hope this bigger dose can do somethin'."

Rick nodded. "Well, we'll know soon enough. I can give you the injection today an' we should know in a few days whether or not it has any effect."

"Okay. Rick, um...what if, it..." She hesitated.

"Don't have any effect?" he finished for her. She nodded. "Well, I don't think I need to tell you what would happen if that's the case. You did prepare, right?"

"Yeah. I've got my will sorted an' Greg's gonna take care of it."

Rick nodded in approval. "Good. I know you don't like thinkin' on it, but you hafta be prepared."

"I know."

He then sighed again. "Well, there ain't much left to say, so...guess there's just one thing to do."

Becky nodded. "Alright. Just the injection, then?"

"Yeah. If you guys wanna stay, it's alright," he said to Jack and Rose. They nodded in response. Becky stood up and rolled her sleeve up. She already had a tiny pinprick mark in her upper arm from previous doses. Rick brought out the syringe full of penicillin; the maximum dose that Becky hoped would save her.

He came over to her and injected it, seeing her wince as it went in; Jack even heard her hiss slightly. He injected the full lot and then withdrew it. "There you go, Becky. It's the absolute best I can do, I'm afraid." He gave her a sympathetic look.

She nodded, pulling her sleeve back down. "Alright. So, um...a few days?"

"Yeah. Keep an eye on things an' come back in, give it a few days. Let me know how things go. You get some rest, Becky, okay?"

She nodded, smiling wryly. "I spend half my life in bed these days. Gotta say, I could get used to it." Jack loved how Becky could look on the bright side of things, like himself. Rose had noticed that a few times, and she could see how alike they were. A big brother and a baby sister; her two children. She had wanted them in one place for so many years and she dreaded the possibility of losing either of them.

They went home and Jack shooed Becky up to bed, telling her to listen to Rick's advice and get some sleep. He then took care of the horses and spent time with his mother and Lily. They talked about Ennis and how things might be going out there. Jack voiced his concerns over Ennis's abilities to cope in such a place, and Rose reassured him that he knew what he was doing. Jack tried to keep his faith that he would be okay but deep down he was still terrified of what might happen while Ennis was in such a dangerous place. He had a suspicion that Ennis was concerned that he would break down if things back here became too much for him to cope with. He hoped that it wouldn't happen; he needed to be strong for his family and hold things together as much as he could.


The next day, Ennis and the other troops were starting their second bout of RVN training. The difference was that it seemed a lot more real here, since this was the actual location of their mission. There was a small village near the base and they were using this as practice.

Ennis was doing his best not to worry about what might be happening back home, but he knew that by now Becky would have been placed on the maximum dosage of penicillin and he hoped that it did her some good. He hoped that Jack was doing okay, especially with the ranch. He knew that Jack was very good a keeping business for them, but he still worried about his capabilities when under stress. Not for the first time, he wished to be back home with everybody.

Lieutenant Dan was definitely a character. He'd told them a little about himself, and it turned out that in every single American war, a member of his family had served and died. He saw it as a great honour to follow in his ancestors' footsteps, and Ennis couldn't help but wonder if it was his own private mission to die in this war. But nevertheless, they enjoyed listening to his stories, even if he was short with them. He barked at them a lot, like their sergeants, but he was a good leader and had a very dry wit.

It was very hot out here, and before long they were longing to remove their jackets, but they weren't allowed to while out in the jungle; they had to stay camouflaged. They were allowed to remove them while in the base, but that was all. They spent some time playing chess and, to their delight, drinking beer. Ennis wasn't much of a drinker but it was a nice relief, and they could smoke too. Ennis figured that Jack would love this part of it; they'd always loved getting drunk together. After all, that was how their relationship had started. A quick drunken fumble in a tent that had soon blossomed into love.

At the end of the day, they were allowed to write their first letters to their loved ones back home. Ennis and Adam sat a little apart from the others so they could be open about what they said. They could at least address them to Jack and Pete, since they had powers of attorney with them. They were named as next of kin, so there shouldn't be any problems.

They settled down, back to back for support, and started writing their letters. Ennis had memories of when he'd written his Valentine's letter to Jack last year. He had a thought that Jack might be reading his letter once or twice during this time.

He took a deep breath and started writing.

Dear Jack,

Out here in the jungle now. Met the man in charge yesterday, Dan Tyler. He sure is a character, bud. You'd like him. He's harsh but got a good sense of humour. Adam's here with me, too. I sure am glad to have a friend here with me, so I can carry on talking about you without having to lie.

We haven't seen any enemies yet, but Dan says there's snipers everywhere. We couldn't even salute him because they'd want to take down someone in charge if they knew he was one. Don't worry, bud. They teach us how to be real careful out here and I know I'll be fine. You've got enough to worry about back home. Let me know how things go with Becky. I know you said Rick was going to put her on the maximum dose, and I sure hope it works. You know I love her like a sister, and I know she means a lot to you.

Not much has happened lately, just some more training. It is kind of interesting here, I guess. I sure miss things back home, though. I miss being with the horses and the cattle, and I even miss clearing out the stalls. It's all part of our life, and I miss all of it, because it's all you, bud.

I haven't got much else to say, except that I miss you, and I'll always be thinking about you. You take care of yourself, rodeo, and everything we have. Remember that I love you, and that I can't wait to be back with you. Look after Becky, and tell her I'm thinking about her. Tell her good luck from me.

Love you, bud. See you someday.

Ennis

He finished his letter and read it over, checking his spelling as best he could. He knew that Jack wouldn't care, but he was still self-conscious. He felt Adam nudge him.

"You done?"

"Yeah, just about. Hope it makes him feel a little better," Ennis replied, sighing a little and looking over it again.

"Yep." They got up and folded up their letters; they were to be given envelopes later so that they could be delivered. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be for another three or four weeks. By the time Jack had told him what was going on with Becky, something else could have happened. She might even had died by then, although he hoped that wasn't the case. Things would fall apart and he would be desperate to get back home.

That night, they slept in tents in the base. Memories of Jack were filling his head as he lay there. Adam was in there too and while he trusted that nothing would happen, he still longed for Jack to be there to take his mind off things. He dreamt of Jack, as usual, and wondered if he too was dreaming about them. Jack had told him that he'd dreamt of him every night since he'd left, and Ennis was secretly quite pleased by this. Jack really did love him with all his heart, just like he'd always said he did. That was a thought to hold on to.


That night, Jack was once more settling down into their bed, eager for some sleep and a dream of Ennis. He had the shirts with him in bed again; the nightmares had stopped since he'd started doing that, oddly enough. It was as if his connection with Ennis was protecting him from night terrors.

However, he was still concerned for Becky. He was keeping a close eye on her, like Rick had told them to, and it was too early to say whether or not the bigger dose was having any effect. He sure hoped that it would.

He was very much looking forward to his first letter from Ennis. He wanted to hear what it was like out there; he'd heard that it was a completely different world than what they were used to. He couldn't do anything about Ennis being out there, so as always, they had to make the best of it.

He snuggled down into the bed, holding the shirts close to his chest.

He awoke to the sight of canvas; their tent. He stretched and noticed that he was alone, but he could smell food cooking outside. He yawned and made his way out of the tent, looking around. There was a pan of bacon and eggs on the fire, but Ennis was nowhere in sight. He shrugged to himself and sat down on the log, serving himself some breakfast.

He smiled to himself when he felt a pair of warm arms wrap around his neck from behind and a cheek press against his.

"Good breakfast, rodeo?" came the low voice that he loved so much.

Jack turned his head and smiled at Ennis. "Sure is. Come an' join me." Ennis kissed his cheek and came around the log, sitting beside him and getting his own breakfast. They fed each other, giggling like kids and when Ennis had a bit of bacon fat running down his chin, Jack leaned in and licked it away, making them both grin.

"Mmm, real good, cowboy," Jack said as they finished up. Ennis smiled appreciatively.

"Thanks, darlin'. Let's go wash the dishes, an' then we can get back in the tent, yeah?"

Jack grinned. "Sounds good to me." They washed the dishes together, and before long they were kissing.

They stripped off in record time and staggered into the river, kissing heavily. Jack pulled back to breathe.

"Damn, cowboy. What's got into you?" he asked, his eyes dark with lust.

Ennis ran a hand through his hair. "Hopefully, you." Jack grinned again.

"Really? Think I can manage that." He buried his face in Ennis's neck and felt Ennis press himself closer. He hitched Ennis's legs up and felt Ennis cling to him as he wrapped his legs around him. Jack slid into him with ease, making him gasp slightly.

"Oh God, Jack...love it when ya do this..."

Jack kissed his neck. "I know." Using the water, Jack managed to thrust slowly up into him, making Ennis burrow closer to him and start whispering into his ear.

"God, Jack...I love you..."

Jack grabbed at his back. "I love you too...come on, baby...let it go..." He thrust quicker into his lover and felt the finish coming swiftly.

Ennis groaned. "Fuck, Jack...oh, God..." He suddenly trembled all over and shot between them, into the water where it flowed away. Jack shook all over too and let loose into him. They held onto each other tightly and when it was over, Jack felt Ennis trembling again with having been suspended in air for so long, and he felt his legs slide down from his waist. He took hold of Ennis's hips and helped him down to his feet.

"You okay?" he asked softly. Ennis drew back and smiled dizzily at him.

"Never better, darlin'. Wanna go lie down?"

Jack had to laugh. "Sure thing, cowboy. Tent or riverbank?"

"Tent. Warmer in there." They gathered their clothes and dried themselves off before walking back to the tent, naked. They lay down in each other's arms and Jack stroked Ennis's hair.

"Love bein' here with you, Ennis. Our place."

"Yeah, bud. Always feels good to be here, like nothin' can go wrong. Sure wish it could be like that all the time."

Jack kissed his hair. "I know, cowboy. I sure wish things was okay at home, with Becky an' everythin'. Worries me somethin' awful."

"I hope you can cope alright with everythin', darlin'. Wish I could be there with ya, an' help you out. I wanna be there to take care of ya, always. I know you ain't weak or nothin', but I like bein' there for ya. I know that when it gets too much for ya, you're gonna need someone. I know yer mama loves you, but..."

"It's alright, Ennis. Yeah, she loves me, but you can do things that nobody else can. You can hold me tightly an' whisper in my ear that everythin's gonna be alright. You can rub my back an' tell me you love me. Yer always there when I close my eyes an' you know how to make me feel better. Yer like no-one else, Ennis. I love you so much."

Ennis turned in his arms and kissed him, slowly pushing him down onto his back. He lay on top of him and kissed him deeply.

"I love you too, Jack. I love bein' able to help ya and take care of ya. Sure wish I could do it fer real."

Jack smiled up at him, his blue eyes full of love. "I know. But...this means a lot to me, too. This does help, you know. I wake up feelin' a little better about everythin'."

They continued to look at each other, love travelling between their eyes. They kissed and were soon making love again, burying their faces in each other's necks and letting the world fall away until it was just the two of them, together where they belonged. As long as they had each other, everything would be okay.


May 27th, 1966

It had been a week since Rick had given Becky the maximum dosage of penicillin, and a few days ago he'd taken another blood test to see how her body was responding. The day before, he'd called them to say that he had the results. Becky was very apprehensive and Jack could tell that she was very nervous about what Rick might have to say. Jack was too, but he tried not to let it show too much, for her sake.

He wondered how Ennis was, and what he was doing. He hoped that his letter would arrive soon, so he could tell him what was going on. He knew that Ennis was concerned for Becky too and that he would want to hear how she was.

Jack drove them to the hospital; Becky sat in the back with Rose, who put an arm around her protectively. Becky stayed close to her, laying her head on her shoulder. Jack looked at them now and then in the rear-view mirror, and he smiled at them. He sure was glad that Becky had Rose to comfort her.

They arrived at the hospital and waited in the comfy chairs near the reception desk. Jack's mind was on Ennis and what he might be doing right now. He wondered what they were doing out there today.

After around ten minutes, they were called in. Jack grew alarmed when he saw Rick's grim face, and he was filled with trepidation. They sat at the desk opposite him and both Jack and Rose put an arm around Becky.

"So, what's the verdict, Rick?" asked Jack. "You said you had the results?"

Rick nodded, and Jack still didn't like the look in his eyes. His heart started to beat a little faster.

"Yeah. I had that test analysed, an' the response is clear." Jack crossed his fingers.

"What is it?"

Rick took a deep breath. "Becky, I have bad news, I'm afraid." Jack felt his heart sink.

She looked back at him, trying to remain calm. "Yeah?"

"Becky...I'm afraid the penicillin hasn't worked. Not even the stronger dose. I'm afraid the syphilis is too advanced. You've had it too long an' it's gone too long without treatment. It's spread too far an' in time, your white blood cells won't be able to cope. It'll become too much for them an' eventually...they'll just shut down."

Becky had her hands over her mouth as he talked, and Jack felt sick. What the hell were they supposed to do now?

"Oh my God," Rose whispered, also looking ill. "Rick...are you sure?"

He nodded, looking very sorrowful. "I'm so sorry, Becky. There's nothin' I can do."

"So, what? Yer just gonna let her die?" asked Jack, looking thunderstruck. "There's gotta be somethin' you can do!"

"I'm so sorry, Jack. There's nothin'. It's way too advanced. An' it'll get worse as time goes on, I'm afraid. Your condition will deteriorate an'...eventually...you'll be...bedridden."

Becky let out a sob from behind her hands, and Jack saw tears gathering in her eyes. He leaned over and hugged her tightly to him.

"Shh...it's okay...it's okay..." He rubbed her back and she clinged to him as if her life depended on it.

"Is there anythin' we can do, Rick?" asked Rose, looking at them.

He sighed. "Not really. Just keep her comfortable. Becky, you have to keep yourself healthy as much as possible, okay? It won't keep you alive for long, but...it can only help. It might make you feel better."

She nodded, still holding on to Jack. "How long have I got, even with all that?"

Rick sighed. "At the rate it's already spread, considerin' how long you've had it...I'm afraid not long. I hate to tell you this, but...I don't see you livin' until Christmas. I'm really sorry, Becky."

She finally broke away from Jack, wiping her eyes. He looked at her sympathetically, stroking her hair. She sniffed several times and took several breaths. "Alright. It ain't yer fault, Rick. I just...I shoulda seen this comin' an' we all knew it could happen."

"Nothin' coulda prepared you for this," Rick said quietly. "I know that. It really pains me to be the one to tell you all this. I wish it didn't have to be me, bein' your friend, but..."

Becky nodded. "It's okay, Rick. It ain't all bad...I got my will sorted, an' I got things in place for Lily, she'll be okay. Just...with Ennis bein' away...we coulda done without this."

"I know. Don't worry, Becky. You've got a good family around you, people who love you. They can guarantee that...your last few months will be happy ones. They can make sure that when you...die...it won't be as hard as it could be."

Jack was rubbing Becky's shoulders. "We'll look after Becky," he said, smiling slightly at her. She tried to smile back, and he took her hand.

Rick nodded. "Well...that's all I can do for you. I sure am sorry, Becky. You need anythin', you call me, okay?"

Becky nodded back and sniffed. "Sure. Thanks, Rick." They left the office and the hospital and got back into the truck. Jack leaned on the steering wheel and they sat there, digesting what had just happened.

Jack heard Becky sniffing and he looked back in time to see her collapse into Rose's arms in tears. He screwed his eyes shut and prayed that Ennis could hear his heart calling out to him, calling him back for help. Becky was going to die, and Ennis was far away where he couldn't do anything. It would hurt Jack to write this down and send it to him.

They went home and all three of them sat on the sofa, holding each other and not letting go. Rose's heart ached for her two children and all she could do was hold them and let them know that everything was going to be alright, even if it wouldn't be. It was her job as a mother, and she was going to do her best to hold them together.