This chapter carries a warning for a character death. Proceed with caution.
June 7th, 1966
It was late, and Jack lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling. Today was the three-year anniversary of his and Ennis's first night together, and despite what was going on in their lives right now, he was determined to bring up some happy memories of that golden summer on the mountain.
Becky was still sick, and her health varied from day to day. Yesterday had been another bad day, with her spending most of it in bed and throwing up from time to time. Jack and Rose had looked in on her a few times and spent time with her. Jack was glad to see that her spirit hadn't quite broken yet, that she was still his sassy cousin with that wild streak he loved about her. He wondered if she had passed it onto Lily, if she would grow up to be like her.
He shook his head, trying to clear those thoughts away for now. They wouldn't help him sleep and he needed to keep his strength up, like everybody else.
To help bring up some memories, he turned over onto his front and closed his eyes, trying to remember exactly how that night had gone. He tried to imagine Ennis's hands on his hips, yanking his jeans down. He shuddered with pleasure at the memory. He rose himself onto his knees and tried to imagine Ennis behind him, getting ready to fuck him.
He took a deep breath and focused on the memory. If he concentrated hard enough, he could almost feel Ennis's body heat over him, and he grew even harder. He breathed into the pillow and tried to lose himself in the memory. He remembered Ennis's body leaning over his, rough yet warm.
He moaned into the pillow and remembered Ennis pushing himself into him. He had been very rough, considering it had been his first time, but Jack had loved it nonetheless. And he no longer had any issues with Ennis flipping him over on occasion; he knew that Ennis loved him and would never hurt him. Ennis was so good to him and knew how to take care of him.
With the memory of Ennis deep inside him and thrusting into him, he began to involuntarily buck into the mattress, unable to stop himself. He shut his eyes and remembered the dark tent, the cold seeping in from outside but the warmth of Ennis's body making it fade away. He started gasping and shaking slightly. He remembered how Ennis had grabbed a bunch of his shirt with one hand and held himself up with the other. He remembered how he had grabbed Ennis's hand with his own and kept them clasped together.
He could recall Ennis thrusting into him quickly and roughly, making him bury his face into the bedroll with ecstasy. He now buried his face into the pillow and groaned, hoping not to wake anyone. He continued to buck into the mattress and could feel his finish approaching, remembering everything he could about Ennis, all of his senses heightened in tune with Ennis; how he felt, smelt, sounded, looked and even tasted, but he hadn't known about that until the next night. Still, what he did remember from the first night was pretty good, and it made for good dream material.
He thrust faster and faster into the mattress, gasping for breath and lost in his memories of Ennis. He could almost feel his lover inside him, being part of him. It was a feeling like no other and Jack wanted to feel it all the time; something for him to hold on to. He never wanted to lose the feeling of having Ennis inside him.
Without warning, he suddenly spilled onto the sheets, groaning loudly and his face pushing into the pillow to try and muffle his moans. He could almost feel Ennis filling him up from behind him and holding tightly onto him. He collapsed onto the bed, still gasping and pouring with sweat. His whole body trembled in the wake and he had stars in front of his eyes.
"Fuck," he whispered to himself. "Ennis..." He felt a sense of elation; he'd never gotten off like this to just memories of Ennis, they had always been dreams. He'd been awake the whole time and he'd managed to have an orgasm to pure memories.
He turned onto his back and stretched out, smiling to himself. His chest was covered in sweat but he didn't care; in fact, he longed for Ennis to be there to lick it off the way he did. Jack loved it when he did that.
He sighed as he thought about all the things Ennis sometimes did to him that he loved. It still amazed him how Ennis knew exactly what to do with his body to drive him wild. In his opinion, Ennis was an amazing lover and Jack loved him even more for it.
He looked over at Ennis's side of the bed, wishing that his scent could still be there and the sheets hadn't been changed. He ran his hand over the clean, unused side, thinking about Ennis. He wondered what he might be doing right now. He knew that active service would have started by now and he hoped that Ennis was coping okay in such dangerous conditions. He'd heard horror stories of bombs and guns and snipers hiding in the jungle. He tried not to think too much about all the dangers, and just focus on his belief that Ennis had been trained well and knew what he was doing. He had to believe that Ennis would be okay.
He curled up on his side, facing the empty space next to him. He ran his hand along it again, thinking of Ennis. He closed his eyes and tried to relax into sleep, losing himself to dreams and more memories of Ennis. Even if they were only a temporary relief, he still welcomed them, for any reminder of Ennis was a good one.
Three days later, Ennis's letter finally arrived in the mail. Jack's heart leapt when he saw it at the post office, and he was eager to read it, so he sat in his truck and read it there, wanting to know what his cowboy had to say.
He read over the letter, at what Ennis was telling him about what it was like out there. He was happy that Ennis was doing alright, despite how dangerous it was out there. His heart swelled when he read Ennis's words of love for him and he couldn't help but smile.
But when he read the part where Ennis asked him how Becky was doing on the maximum dosage, he felt a pang of heartache. It would kill him to tell Ennis the latest on the situation. But he had to; Ennis would want to know and he had a right to.
He drove home to find Becky asleep on the sofa, on her back with Lily curled up against her. He smiled to himself and went silently into the kitchen, where his mother was making lunch.
She turned and smiled at him. "Hey, sweetie. You sure look happy."
He grinned. "Got a letter from Ennis," he said, holding it up.
Her face lit up. "Oh, that's great. You mind if I read it?"
"Sure." He held it out and kissed her cheek as she took it. He got himself a drink from the fridge and joined her at the table. He watched her smile as she read it, and when she finished, he could see her eyes sparkling.
"Sounds like he's doin' okay, don't it?"
Jack nodded. "Sure does. I've been real worried 'bout him, but...he knows how to take care of himself."
"He sure does, honey." She sighed. "But...you still gotta tell him about Becky. He don't know what's goin' on with her. You have to tell him, Jack."
"I know, an' I will. I was gonna go write back right now. You need me for anythin'?"
She shook her head. "No, honey. You go on. We're havin' a salad for lunch, so there ain't no rush. You go on an' write back. Becky still asleep?"
"Yeah, she's out like a light. Lily too. How long have they been like that?"
"About an hour. Becky said she wanted to sleep but was up to bein' down here, so I suggested she sleep on the sofa. Lily came up to her an' just curled up right next to her, so I let 'em be."
"Right. Well, at least she ain't doin' too bad yet. Only had a coupla bad days, ain't she?"
"Yeah...guess it comes an' goes, at least for now. Anyway..." Rose got up and handed the letter back to Jack. "I'm gonna get the salad wrapped up an' do some laundry. Let me know when you're hungry, okay?"
Jack got up. "Alright, mama. See ya in a bit." He kissed her cheek again and went out to the office. He got himself settled in the chair and began to write.
Just got your letter. Real good to hear from you, cowboy. I'm real glad that you're doing okay out there, because I've been worrying about how you're coping with how hard it must be out there. I needed that reassurance from you, so I have to thank you for that.
Ennis, I've got some bad news about Becky. She was put on the maximum dose, like I said, but a couple of days later we went back to see Rick, and he took another blood test. A few days later, he called us back, said he had the results. He said that the penicillin had no effect, despite how strong it is. He's got a friend in New York who's looking for something else, but it's not looking good.
He said that there's nothing else he can do, and it's likely she won't live to see Christmas. I don't know what to do, Ennis, and I really wish you were here. We've been trying to cope with it as best we can, and all our friends have been around to show their support. We've got some really good people on our side, cowboy. Having my mama here sure has made it a little easier, and Lily makes a good distraction. She's growing really fast, and it's great to see her developing into her own person. She's looking more and more like Becky all the time. I swear, if you looked away for even a second you'd be bound to miss something.
Anyway, we're just taking one day at a time. She's having good days and bad days. There's been a couple of days where she couldn't even leave her bed, except to throw up. It's really bad, and I don't want to admit it, but I think she's going to die. You know how much I love her and I don't want to lose her, especially since she hasn't been living with us that long. We're making the most of the time we have, and I hope that you can come home before it happens. I'm going to need you when it does.
But I don't want you to go telling them that you're gay, you hear me? We both know what they'll do if they find out, and I don't want you going through that. I love you too much to let you do that.
I don't want you to go worrying, Ennis. We'll be alright. And if you get hurt out there, so bad that they send you back, don't worry. I'll look after you until you get better, because we need to lean on each other. All of us will pull through this, Ennis, I promise.
Remember that I love you, sweetheart, and that I always will. I can't wait until you're back here where you belong, but don't go doing anything drastic to make that happen. We just have to wait it out.
Take care, Ennis, and don't worry.
I love you, always,
June 12th, 1966
Ennis was in the campsite, having been allowed a much-needed break. Adam was taking a nap under a tree and there weren't many others around.
He hadn't yet been approached by the young man who Adam had said was staring at him, but he had a suspicion that it wouldn't be long. He had decided that he would simply pretend to be straight, to deflect any rumours that might come about.
He exited the tent and looked around, rubbing the back of his neck. Adam was still asleep and there were some others a few feet away, playing cards. He saw the young man walking towards him, looking nervous, and he sighed to himself.
"Hey," he said, stopping just in front of Ennis.
"Hey. Jim, right?"
He nodded. "Yeah. You're Ennis, ain't you?"
"Yep. So, what's up?"
Jim took a breath. "I know the truth 'bout you."
Ennis's heart skipped a beat. "Huh?"
"I know the truth," he repeated. "Yer queer, ain't ya?"
Ennis was taking deep breaths to keep his temper under wraps. "Nope. Not me. I ain't like that." His insides burned with shame at denying who he was, but he pushed it away.
Jim came closer. "It's alright. I'm like that too, an' I could tell you are. You can tell me."
Ennis backed away. "Uh..."
He nodded. "It's okay, I'm just like you. I won't tell no-one, promise."
Feeling uncomfortable, Ennis looked around. "Alright. I know you been starin' at me. Adam told me. I was gonna deny it, but...I can't do that. Can't deny who I am. But...I ain't interested."
Jim nodded. "Alright. You with someone?"
"Yeah." Ennis pulled out his hidden photo of Jack. "This is my...partner, Jack. We live together in Georgia."
"He's pretty good-lookin'. You love him?"
Ennis nodded. "Yeah. He's everythin' to me." He put the photo away in case anyone else saw them.
Jim shifted his feet. "You feelin lonely, out here without him?"
"Uh...what do ya mean?"
He came closer, to his discomfort. "Just sayin'...gotta be hard without gettin' it regular. You need someone to take yer mind off it?" The look in his eyes was making Ennis very nervous.
"Um...not really. No offense."
Ennis stepped right back, putting some distance between them. Adam had woken up by now and was watching warily, in case Ennis needed any help.
"Look, Jim...I'm real flattered an' all, but...there ain't no way I'm ever gonna cheat on Jack."
"Not even a quick fuck that he won't never know about?" Jim asked in a low voice.
Ennis stood his ground. "No. I'd go back feelin' guilty, an' he'd know from just lookin' at me. It'd kill him, an' I could never do that. Sorry, but...it ain't gonna happen."
Jim finally seemed to get the message, and backed away a little. "Sorry, Ennis. Didn't mean to come on so strong."
He shook his head. "Don't matter. I know how it feels to have feelin's for someone an' wanna be close to 'em, wanna start somethin'. It was like that with me an' Jack when we met. Ain't yer fault."
Jim nodded. "Well...could we at least talk? I could do with someone to talk to. Got a bit of a problem."
"Uh, sure. What's up?"
"Well, uh...I been seein' someone. But...he's married. He's the boss of the ranch I worked on back home."
"Oh. Guess that's hard to deal with, huh?"
"Yeah. Just happened one day in the barn. I was in there alone, an' he came in. I had my shirt off 'cos I was hot. He said he wanted to help an' we started brushin' the horses together. We got up real close, an' next thing I know he's got me against the barn wall, hard as a rock an' pushin' up against me."
Ennis's eyes widened. "So he just come onto ya, just like that?"
"Yeah. He started kissin' me an' rubbin' up against me...next thing I know, we're in the back room, on the floor an' goin' at it."
"Huh. So...you said he's married?"
Jim's eyes lowered. "Yeah. Got himself a pretty little wife an' two kids. Never knew he was like us. We've been doin' stuff in secret for about six months, then I got the draft letter. I tried to talk to him 'bout it, but it's like he don't care. Like I'm just a quick fuck to him. Drives me mad that after everythin' we done, he don't care 'bout me."
Ennis thought it over for a moment, and came to a conclusion. "I'm sure he does, but...he's been thinkin' all his life that he ain't gay, an' you just come along an' change all that. Musta messed his head up. Maybe he don't wanna admit that he might be, so...he covers up what he's really feelin'."
Jim looked at him thoughtfully. "Huh...I never thought of it like that. You really think that might be it?"
He shrugged. "Dunno, but...makes sense to me. You never know, he might come around. Maybe he's missin' ya right now. Might be that when you get back, he'll have thought about what he really wants. You love him?"
"Yeah. He's everythin' to me." Jim smirked at him as he repeated his own words.
Ennis clapped him on the shoulder. "Wasn't really 'bout me, was it? You was just feelin' lonely, right?"
Jim had a sheepish look on his face. "Yeah. Sorry, Ennis."
"S'alright. Listen, if you ever need to talk again, you know where I am. Alright?"
"Sure. Thanks, Ennis." He nodded and then started walking away, clearly thinking about what Ennis had said.
After a few moments, Adam came up to Ennis. "So how'd it go?"
Ennis looked at him. "Wasn't 'bout me. He's in love with his boss an' was feelin' lonely. Don't know how his boss feels about him an' was feelin' a little hopeless. I think I gave him a little hope. Said he could talk whenever he wanted."
Adam nodded. "Yer a good man, Ennis. You handled that real well." They both looked out over the area, thinking about their other halves and their lives back home.
That night, Ennis dreamed of Jack once more. He'd had concerns about sleeping in the presence of the others, in case he accidentally called out Jack's name while someone was awake. But so far there had been no change in how he was treated, so he had to assume that he hadn't done anything.
Earlier in the day, he'd talked some more to Jim about his situation back home, telling him a few things about his childhood, including Earl and Rich, and how it had affected his relationship with Jack. He knew that Jim needed a little guidance right now and since he had some experience with being in love with another man he was happy to help him out. After a talk with Adam, he had introduced the two of them properly and now all three of them were aware of each other's situations.
As a result, the three of them had decided to look out for each other out in the dangerous territory. They would watch each other's backs and make sure that they were all safe. They had even swapped around so that the three of them slept in the same tent when they were in camp.
Right now, they were all settling in the tent to try and get some sleep, knowing that as the days passed, the work would probably get harder. That was a given in this world.
Ennis had worked out that his letter to Jack would have arrived by now, and he wondered what Jack might have to tell him when he replied. He was worried about Becky and had confided in Adam and now Jim all of his fears, especially where Jack was concerned.
Shaking off these thoughts, he wrapped himself up in his bedroll; the other two were already asleep. At least he didn't have to be scared of moaning Jack's name. He closed his eyes and was already looking forward to a dream of Jack.
He turned onto his back and stretched, the sunlight streaming through the window. He could hear the shower running and he smiled to himself, knowing where his lover would be. He got up and padded to the bathroom.
Sure enough, his dark-haired rodeo cowboy was in there; he could see his outline in the glass. He was busy soaping himself and Ennis could feel himself becoming aroused. He opened the door and closed it silently, slipping in behind Jack, who jumped when he felt Ennis's hands on his hips.
"Jesus, Ennis," he said, half-laughing. "You scared the shit outta me."
Ennis kissed his wet neck and held him close. "Well, I woke up an' heard you in here, thought I'd come an' join ya. Want me to wash yer back?"
Jack tilted his head back. "Mmm...sounds good, cowboy. Have at it."
Ennis grabbed the soap and began to wash Jack's back, running his hands over his back slowly, feeling every muscle under his large hands. Jack was gripping the bar at the back of the shower with his legs slightly apart, head now leaning forward as he let Ennis take over.
"Ennis...feels real good, cowboy..."
His lover responded by putting the soap back and slipping his hands down even lower, taking hold of Jack's hips. Jack drew in a breath as his hands crept around his front and down even lower.
Ennis leaned in and whispered into his ear. "You want me inside ya, rodeo?" Jack nodded.
"Uh-huh...come on..." Ennis gently pushed him to the side of the stall and pressed up against him. He spread Jack's cheeks apart and positioned himself, getting ready. He used the soap on himself and then started to kiss at Jack's neck, making him shiver.
"You ready darlin'?" he asked softly.
Ennis pushed himself into Jack, going slowly enough to drive Jack crazy with anticipation. He started to gently thrust into him, keeping one hand on Jack's hip and the other taking hold of Jack around the front. Jack's breathing was getting heavier and was punctuated with gasps.
"Ennis...oh God..." He was gritting his teeth and was unable to move, completely surrounded by Ennis. His lover stroked him in time to his thrusts and they moved together quickly in perfect rhythm.
"God, Jack...I love you..." Ennis ground out from between his clenched teeth.
"Love you too..." He felt Ennis speed up and thrust even quicker into him, their bodies as one. Suddenly, Jack felt himself tense up and he shot at the tiles, letting out a low groan. The shaking of his body affected Ennis, who swiftly followed with his own orgasm, gripping at Jack's hip so tightly he was afraid of leaving a bruise. He groaned and fell forward against Jack's back, both of them breathing heavily and trying to clear the stars from their eyes.
Jack sighed with contentment. "That was real good, Ennis."
"Mmm...sure was. Didn't hurt yer hip or nothin', did I?" Jack shook his head.
"Nah, I'm fine." He was touched by Ennis being so caring about his wellbeing. Every time they had sex, they would always ask if the other was okay. It was a great feeling to be so in tune with someone. He turned the shower off and turned to face Ennis. Two pairs of lips found each other, tongues gently probing.
They broke apart, their faces still close together. Jack smiled at Ennis, his eyes alight with happiness.
"Good way to start the mornin'," he said softly. Ennis nodded and their forehead collided, eyes closing.
"Sure was." They kissed again. "Let's go get some breakfast, huh?"
Jack hugged him tightly, making a contented moaning sound. "Sure thing, baby. Worked up quite an appetite in here." He felt Ennis laughing against him.
"Ain't complainin', are ya?"
"Hell no. Come on." He slapped Ennis on the ass and exited the stall, towelling himself off. They were soon dry and dressed, the process slowed down by numerous kisses and grabs, and they went downstairs hand in hand to start their day.
June 26th, 1966
They were exploring a new area today, as requested by their commanders. It was a thick jungle and they had to split up to explore it. Ennis and Adam were paired up, to their relief, and they set off in the thick undergrowth, eyes peeled and guns at the ready.
"Seems pretty quiet," Adam murmured, looking around.
Adam's eyes were narrowing. "Too quiet." He sounded very suspicious now, and Ennis turned to look at him.
"You think somethin's up?" he asked dubiously. Adam was biting his lip.
"Maybe." They moved forward cautiously, now feeling more than a little nervous. Ennis hoped that their stint here wasn't about to meet its abrupt end.
Ennis's heart was in his throat once again as they proceeded, and he had a faint image of Jack in his mind; hopefully he could hold onto that and it would give him courage. He was glad that he wasn't alone here.
They moved forward, and Ennis was filled with a great sense of foreboding. He kept having flashes of Jack in his head and he had to wonder if his life was about to flash before his eyes. At least he could think of Jack in his final moments.
Suddenly, Adam stopped in his tracks. Ennis looked at him.
Adam just shook his head. "Somethin' ain't right, Ennis. I think we should get outta here."
"We was asked to check this place out," Ennis reminded him. "We gotta do what they tell us."
"I know, but...I got a bad feelin' 'bout this..." They continued on for a few steps, and Ennis could see that Adam was growing even more nervous, and he was starting to agree that this could be a bad idea. Maybe they should head back; it wasn't worth it to stay here where they could get killed.
They went deeper into the jungle, and the silence was closed in and claustrophobic. The area was thick and Ennis didn't like it one bit.
All of a sudden, they heard a strange whooshing sound overhead, and they felt panic rise up inside them. They knew that there was enemy around and they had to be careful.
"What the hell is that?" Adam whispered, looking up and trying to see through the canopy of tree branches. The bright sunlight was making him squint and he couldn't see properly.
"Sounds like a-" Before Ennis could finish his response, they heard an almighty booming noise in the distance. Their enemies were dropping bombs.
"Shit!" They both stared at the direction of the noise, hoping that it was moving away from them. They waited with baited breath, praying silently. Jack's image was clear in Ennis's mind.
To their horror, a second bomb was dropped closer to them; the enemy was moving towards them. Adam looked at Ennis in panic, and Ennis wasn't feeling much better.
"What do we do?"
There was only one option that Ennis could think of; he'd promised Jack what he would do if he ran into trouble. "Run." They simultaneously turned tail and bolted through the trees, hoping that they could outrun the bombs and get to somewhere safe. They didn't care about looking out for human enemies on the ground; they just wanted to get away.
They ran as fast as they could, and they started to grow terrified as they heard the bombs being dropped nearer to them, following them.
"We gotta get outta here!" Adam yelled.
"I don't care, but away from here!" They finally broke through the trees into a clearing, but they didn't dare stop. They only ran faster, desperate to get away. They were both breathing heavily and Ennis had a stitch in his side.
A blast close to them knocked them both to the ground, and Ennis could hear Adam crying out in pain. He lay there, momentarily stunned, but then heard Adam making strange noises. He managed to sit up, a little dazed but otherwise unharmed. He turned to look at Adam and his stomach lurched. Adam was lying on his back and there was blood all over his chest. The attack had ripped his chest open.
"Oh God, no..." He crawled over to him, panicking. Adam was white and shaking.
"Jesus, you...shit..." Ennis was unable to fully comprehend what he was seeing; he was completely shocked. He put an arm under Adam's neck and brought him into a sitting position. He saw Adam wince but he wanted to help him.
"I'm gonna get ya outta here, an' we're gonna get ya to the doctor, okay?" He tried to lift him but Adam groaned out in pain again.
"No...ain't gonna work...it's..."
Ennis looked at him helplessly, sadness filling him up as he realised what was happening to his good friend; for a while the only one out here whom he could talk to about Jack.
Adam looked up at him. "Don't worry, Ennis...ain't yer fault. Shit happens an' we all know it. But...I'm real glad it's you here with me..."
"So I can ask ya...to tell Pete I love him...an' that I was lookin' forward to marryin' him. Wanted that more than anythin'."
"I know you did. I'll tell him, don't worry. I'll make sure he knows. I'll tell him how brave you was out here."
Adam smiled sadly. "Thanks, Ennis...hope you can get back to Jack in one piece."
"I'll sure try. An' we'll keep an eye on Pete for ya," Ennis promised.
"Ennis...I wanna go home..." Adam's eyes were filled with tears and Ennis could tell he was thinking of Pete.
He would never forget those words as long as he lived, and he knew that he would be haunted by this moment for the rest of his life. He could only hope that Jack would be able to help him through the trauma it might bring.
There was another whooshing sound, and he was dimly aware of another blast close by before pain ripped through him, and his thoughts were wiped clean as he passed out.