Chapter 14

Ennis opened his eyes to find himself lying on the cold, hard ground, staring up at a deep blue sky. His muscles felt stiff and he ached all over. His arm and chest felt like they'd been stomped on multiple times. He wasn't sure what had happened, but he could dimly remember a blast nearby, and he could remember a man's face as he lay dying. What had happened to him?

He let out a low groan and tried to move, but he was aching terribly. The deep blue of the sky reminded him of a pair of eyes. He could hear someone calling his name, but he was unable to sit up.

A pair of feet could be heard making their way towards him, and he prayed that it was someone coming to help him. He hoped it was someone in particular, but who? He couldn't quite remember. Who was that person with the deep blue eyes he kept having visions of?

"Ennis..." The voice rang out clear and he could almost recognise it. "Ennis..."

He felt a pair of hands shaking his shoulders, and he blearily opened his eyes. He beheld the most beautiful sight; that pair of deep blue eyes. Recognition hit him as he looked up at Jack.

"Jack..." He brought a shaking hand up to Jack's neck and held on. Jack was rubbing his shoulders.

"Ennis, you gotta wake up. You been hurt real bad an' you gotta wake up. Come on."

"Wanna...stay here...with you..."

Jack held his face in his hands. "You'll see me real soon, I promise, sweetheart. But you hafta wake up. Please..."

Ennis felt pain shoot through him again. "No...wanna...stay...let the pain...end..."

Jack's eyes were full of sorrow. "No, come on, cowboy. Please, you gotta wake up. Do it for me. For Becky. Please, baby...wake up..."

"Promise me you'll be there?" Ennis whispered.

"Yeah, Ennis. I swear. Everythin's gonna be okay. You just gotta wake up, an' you can come on home to me. I'll be there waitin', okay?"

Ennis believed every word, and he smiled up at Jack. "Alright, darlin'...I'll try..."

Jack nodded. "Okay. Now close yer eyes. When you open them up again, you'll hafta wait a while, an' then you can come on home, okay?" He leaned down so that their noses touched. "Just close yer eyes."

Ennis was vaguely aware of a pair of lips on his before he closed his eyes again.

He could now hear beeping and voices around him, and an unfamiliar voice talking to him.

"Private Del Mar, can you hear me?" It was a woman, but he couldn't place her voice. Everything seemed mixed up and his head felt like it was being split open.

"Uhhh..." He slowly opened his eyes to see a middle-aged blonde nurse looking down at him. She smiled when she saw that he was awakening.

"Hey there, good to see you awake. How you feelin'?"

"What...happened?" he managed, looking around in confusion. She laid a hand on his shoulder.

"You're back in Los Angeles. You got caught up in a bomb attack in the Viet Cong. You got shrapnel in yer chest an' yer arm got sprained badly as you fell. Your whole body suffered pretty badly, but those are the worst places."

"Gonna be okay?" The injuries sounded bad but not life-threatening, and this gave him hope.

She nodded. "You're gonna be fine. You been in surgery all day, it's nearly ten at night. You're gonna be quite weak for a while. We got all the shrapnel out an' got you stitched back up, you shouldn't need anythin' more. But you gotta stay here for a couple of weeks, okay? We'll be keepin' an eye on you."

"'Kay. Home?" His eyes were full of hope. Maybe this horrific event would be enough to send him home. It would be good compensation for his injuries.

She smiled. "Yeah. You got lucky, Ennis. Yer sergeant was in touch an' said yer injuries meant you can go home. You been too injured to return to service. Now then..." She consulted her notes. "Yer notes say that a Jack Twist of Sandersville, Georgia has yer power of attorney?"

"Yeah. Business partner." Even in his hazy state, he marvelled at how he was able to keep his cover.

"Okay. We'll contact him tomorrow to let him know what's happened an' that you can come home."

"Uh...Adam?" he asked, looking fearful. Her brow furrowed.

"Who?"

"Uh...Private Wilson."

"Oh...the other one who got caught up in that bomb. They said there was two of you. I'm sorry, Ennis, but...he died on the field. We couldn't save him."

"Body?" he asked fearfully. He hoped that Adam's body would be returned to Pete; he didn't think he could bear it if it wasn't. That would be adding insult to injury.

"It's bein' returned to...um...Pete Richards, is that right?"

"Yeah. They're business partners too. Power of attorney. Adam was my...brother-in-law's cousin. Good friend." He remembered that Adam and Pete had signed the agreement some time ago, and he felt marginally better that at least Adam's body would be returned to where he belonged. And he would be returning to Jack.

The nurse nodded. "Right. Don't worry, Ennis. You're gonna be okay. We'll be keepin' an eye on ya an' you should be able to go in a couple of weeks, if all goes well. I'm Sally, by the way. I'm in charge of you while yer here, so get some sleep, you hear me?"

He nodded and felt his eyes droop again. "'Kay. Thanks."

She smiled in a motherly way. "No problem, sweetie. We see this all the time, an' we're gonna look after ya real good. Night, Ennis."

He saw her move out of his line of vision, and his eyes closed fully, coaxing him into dreams of Jack, who welcomed him with open arms and a warm body underneath his. He lost himself in the dream, where his lover made everything alright as only he could.


Becky was getting worse, and Jack was no longer able to believe that she might make a spectacular recovery, as he once had. He'd hoped that Rick's friend would be able to find something that could cure her, but he had recently reported back that he'd been unsuccessful, and Jack's heart had plummeted at the news. She was sick almost every day by now, and Rose had taken full-time care of Lily. All four of them would sit in Becky's room, the other three on her bed where they would talk for a few hours.

Jack hoped that his letter would get to Ennis soon, so that he could be informed of how Becky was doing. He thought about Ennis often, and hoped that he was okay. He also hoped that the war would finish soon, so that he could return home, but that was a long shot and he knew it. The war wasn't likely to be over anytime soon; he'd been following as many news stories as he could on it and things just seemed to be getting worse, not better. There were bombs being dropped in the Viet Cong, where he knew Ennis was right now, and he had to admit that he was very nervous about this.

He longed for a phone call from Ennis, to tell him right now that he was alright, and he hated the fact that it couldn't happen right now. It could be years before he heard Ennis's voice again, except in a dream, and it was a very bleak prospect.

Right now, he was in their bedroom, looking at the shirts on the back of the bedroom door, gently running a finger across the bloodstains. Their second night together was on his mind, how Ennis had completely opened himself up to him and allowed him to explore his body. Jack had loved every minute of that night, and he had fallen deeply in love with Ennis as a result. After a night like that, Jack knew that there was no way on earth he could ever love someone else. This had been his first ever relationship, and this was it for him. He knew that no matter what happened, he would always love Ennis. He also knew that when Ennis returned, as he was sure he would, they would be together for the rest of their lives. Nothing would be able to tear them apart after this.

He sighed to himself as he looked over the familiar plaid and denim, remembering their time on Brokeback. He hoped that they could have times like that again, once all of this was over. By the time Ennis returned, they would have a lot to catch up on, a lot of missed birthdays and anniversaries to make up for. Jack hoped that Ennis would be able to come back home before Becky died; he knew that they would want to see each other and talk one last time.

He heard a door swing open, and a padding of feet along the hall. He left the bedroom in time to see Becky rush into the bathroom and he could hear her retching horribly. He winced inwardly and walked quickly along the hall to aid her.

She was kneeling on the floor in her nightgown; her temperature was always high these days. He didn't say anything, just crouched down behind her and held her hair in one hand, rubbing her back with the other.

"Shh...s'alright...get it all out." Under his hand, he could feel her shaking violently as she emptied her stomach.

"Oh God...Jack, I..." Her words were cut off by more retching.

"Don't talk, just get it out, okay? It's okay..." He continued to rub her back the way he had done when she was pregnant and had been suffering from morning sickness. He was still very protective of her and was trying to look after her the best he could. That was all he could do in the circumstances.

After a few more minutes of horrible sounds and more retching from Becky, it was finally over, at least for now. Her trembling lessened and she started gasping for breath. He quickly got up and got her some water before joining her on the floor again. He handed her the water.

"Here..." She took it gratefully and started to drink, now sat back in a proper sitting position. He sat facing her on the floor, looking at her sympathetically.

"How you feelin'?" he asked, seeing how pale she looked.

She gulped in a breath. "Like shit," she said bluntly, and it made him laugh in spite of himself.

"No offense, but ya look like it too." She swatted his arm in mock offense.

"Hey, asshole." She then smiled. "No matter how I'm feelin', I'm real happy that I got you an' Rose here. You guys have made it a little more bearable."

Jack ruffled her bed hair. "Ain't no trouble. Yer family an' we all look after each other. That's the way it goes, right? You, me, my mama, Ennis, an' Lily too. We're all a family. An' not just us, but everybody in Wyomin' an' Texas, an' Pete an' Adam too. We're all related in one way or another."

Becky nodded. "Yeah. You an' Ennis have made a family together. You brought us all together, right?" She took his hand and swung them a little.

"Yeah, I guess." Jack smiled to himself. "When we met...I never woulda thought that we'd end up here, or that we'd be a family. So glad I saw him duck into that alleyway that day in Signal. Changed everythin'."

"Yeah. Anyway..." She sighed and he helped her up. "I'm gonna try for some more sleep. The more I sleep, the less I throw up."

Jack grinned at her. "Good logic." He walked her to her bedroom with an arm around her and kissed her cheek. "Night, honey."

She smiled up at him widely, green eyes full of happiness that he was here with her. "Night, Jack."


June 27th, 1966

Ennis was lying in his bed, flicking through a copy of Hamley's Saddle Catalogue that had been found lying around, to his delight. He was allowed to sit up in bed, propped up against his pillows as fellow wounded soldiers and nurses walked around. He tried not to look at the more severely wounded casualties as they were tended to; he knew that he was very lucky to not have been injured any worse than this and he was profoundly grateful that he was going to be returning home soon. He missed Jack so much and wanted nothing more than to be back in his arms again.

He hadn't quite registered yet the fact that Adam had been killed in the attack, but he knew that it wouldn't be long before it truly hit him. Adam had been his best friend while they'd been out here. Until he'd made friends with Jim, Adam had been the only person who he could talk to about Jack. And Ennis knew that he was the only person here that Adam had been able to talk to about Pete. He wasn't sure what might happen back home when Pete was informed of Adam's passing, but he knew that he and Jack would be there to support him as needed.

He was half-listening to the conversation around him, hearing the occasional panicked yells of the nurses with a particularly nasty case as they rushed around. Nobody disturbed him, just let him be, so he was happy to just half-lie here and read.

After a little while, he could hear an army official moving around and handing out letters to soldiers, and his ears perked up.

"Del Mar..."

He looked up, trying to keep his grin to a minimum. "Yeah." The official turned to him and handed him the letter for him; he knew in his heart that it was from Jack.

He eagerly opened it up, wanting to hear the latest on Becky and how she was doing. He hoped that the higher dose of penicillin would have worked, and that her condition had improved since he'd last heard from Jack. He knew that there wasn't much point in writing back to Jack now, since he would be coming home soon. But he could get caught up as much as possible and find out the latest news from back home.

Dear Ennis,

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,

Jack

As he read Jack's letter, he became increasingly worried. He was glad that his last letter had given Jack some much-needed reassurance that he was okay, although he couldn't really say that now. But at least he was still alive.

His heart had sunk as he read the part where Jack described Becky's progress, or lack of. The stronger dose hadn't worked and now it looked like she would die before Christmas. He sent up a prayer of thanks that he would be home in time to see her again. He didn't want Jack to be alone when she died; he wanted to be there to hold him and make him feel better, to try and take the pain away as much as he could. That was the only thing about himself that he truly felt confident about; that he could usually make Jack feel better about things when he got upset. Jack had told him many times that he was good at it, and after nearly three years together, as a real couple anyway, he was starting to believe it.

He saw Jack telling him not to worry about them, but after everything else in the letter he thought it would be damn near impossible to do that. They were his family and it was his job to worry about them. And he would be doing that until he returned, when he could take charge and help them all through everything. And he knew that there were things he would have to work through that only Jack could help him with.


Jack was working out on the land, fixing the fences and being aided by a couple of hands. It was a pretty quiet day and not much was happening, which he was glad for. His mother was in the house with Lily and Becky was in bed again. She hadn't gotten any worse, as far as he could tell, but Rick had called earlier in the day to offer to come over every other day, to see how she was faring. Jack was very grateful for the sentiment, even if Rick couldn't actually do anything.

He wondered how Ennis was faring out in Vietnam, and once again was wondering how long it would be for his letter to get there. Hopefully soon, for he wanted Ennis to be kept informed of what was going on here. He wasn't yet aware of the horrific attack Ennis had suffered through, but that was about to change.

Their foreman Dave pushed up his hat and swiped at his brow, happening to glance up. "Jack."

Jack looked at him, and then turned to see what he was looking at. His mother was walking towards them, accompanied by a uniformed soldier who was looking grim. Jack's heart dropped to his stomach.

"Oh no..." He knew that whenever this happened to the family of a soldier, it was always bad news. Please God, no...don't let him be dead...please...

All of the hands around him had stopped whatever they were doing, silently anticipating what this might be about.

They stopped right in front of Jack. "This is Jack," his mother said quietly.

The soldier nodded. "Jack Twist? I've been asked to deliver this to you." He brought out a telegram and Jack's heart was pounding.

"Uh...okay...thanks." He reached out and took it with a trembling hand. The soldier nodded to him and started to walk away.

Jack looked down at the telegram in his hand; he wasn't sure he could bring himself to read it.

"Honey?" he mother asked softly, laying a hand on his arm.

"I, uh...I can't...mama, could you...?" He held it out, and she took it with a sympathetic look.

"Alright." Jack folded his arms in a defensive stance, hoping that he wasn't about to fall apart. Rose unfolded the telegram and started to read. The next few moments were agonizing for him.

"What's it say, mama?"

She sighed, and looked up at him. "He's alive."

Jack felt that the overwhelming relief flooding through him was enough to make him throw up, and he covered his face with his shaking hands. He could hear the others breathing sighs of relief.

"So...what happened?"

"He was told to check out this area of the Viet Cong, their commanders asked him to. He got caught up in a bomb attack with another soldier. The other one died, but Ennis lived." She looked a little shaky herself.

Jack's throat was dry. "How is he?"

She smiled slightly at him. "They brought him back to Los Angeles for recovery for two weeks, an' they'll fly him back to South Carolina for discharge." Her smile grew wider. "He's comin' home, sweetheart."

Jack's heart filled with happiness, but he was worried about the inevitable injuries. "How bad is he hurt?"

"It don't say, sweetie, I'm sorry. But at least he's alive an' they're lettin' him go." She moved forward and hugged him. He clung to her and was overwhelmed by the feeling his heart; he no longer felt sick. His cowboy was coming home, hurt but still alive. He remembered the promise he had made himself; whatever state Ennis might be in when he came home, he would help him through it.

The hands all gave their congratulations to him and returned to work, but he was far too antsy right now to think about anything but Ennis. He walked with his mother back to the house; Lily was upstairs and also sleeping. They sat down at the kitchen table and Jack was soon chattering away; Rose could tell that with Ennis's return on a visible horizon, a huge weight had been lifted off him and now he could start looking to the future again, now that he was sure there would be one. With Ennis by his side once more, Rose had a feeling that he would be able to cope a lot better with all the bad things that were going on.

The phone rang and Jack went to answer it. "Brokeback Ranch, Jack speakin'."

"Jack, it's Pete."

"Oh, hey bud. How are ya?"

"I..." Pete sounded choked up and Jack grew concerned.

"Pete? What's up?"

"I got a telegram...Adam's dead."

Jack's hand flew to his mouth. "Shit no...what the fuck happened?"

"He was in the Viet Cong...there was a bomb attack...he died on the spot."

My telegram said there was another soldier with Ennis when it happened...one who died...Adam...

"Oh my God...I just got a telegram tellin' me Ennis was caught in a bomb attack...he's alive, but it said he was with another soldier who died..." It clicked together and there was no way it could be coincidence.

"Guess we know who the other one was," Pete said, sounding very upset.

"Pete...I'm so sorry...what's happenin' now?"

"They're bringin' his body back here. I'm sure glad we signed those power of attorney documents so he can come home to me...is Ennis comin' home?"

Jack felt very guilty about sounding so happy when Pete was experiencing his own personal hell. "Yeah, he is. Pete, I'm so sorry. If there's anythin' you need..."

"I know. Thanks, Jack. I gotta go, I gotta make some calls. Say hi to Becky for me, okay?"

"Sure..." They hung up and Jack turned to lean against the wall, his hands over his face.

"What's happened?" asked his mother, looking at him and trying to see it in his face what had happened.

Jack just looked at her, wondering how the hell it was possible to go from feeling elated to depressed in such a short space of time.


That evening, Jack was sat on the back porch in one of the wicker chairs with a small glass of whiskey and a cigarette in his hand. He was doing a lot of thinking about the day's events, and what might happen over the coming months. He was worried about the effects on Ennis of the bomb attack, and seeing Adam die like that.

He'd pieced it together; it had been fairly easy. Ennis and Adam had been exploring an area of the Viet Cong together, and a bomb attack had started from the air. They had been hit and Adam had died while Ennis watched, unable to save him. He wondered if Ennis might feel guilty for that, feel like it was his fault. Jack knew he would have to work hard at making Ennis understand that it hadn't been his fault. He knew that Ennis had a tendency to take the blame whenever something happened, and he would just have to try and get through to him.

He sighed and rubbed his forehead. He hoped that the next two weeks would go by quickly, so that Ennis could come back home and they could take care of each other. He didn't know for sure if Ennis would be in the right frame of mind to help him through the problems here, at least not for a while, so he would have to take care of Ennis first. But that was alright; their relationship had always been about give and take, and taking it in turns to look after each other.

He was worried about Pete, and how he was coping in Ohio. He wondered if there would be a funeral for Adam, and if there was anything he and his mother could do to help him out with it. Would they travel up there? Would Ennis be up to it? There was so much to consider and Jack wasn't sure what they were going to do next. Everything seemed to hang on the kind of state Ennis might be in when he got back. He had three main priorities now; looking after Lily and making sure she was okay, looking after Becky through her illness, and now looking after Ennis and helping him through whatever trauma he might be suffering.

He looked out over their land, over at the stables and the barn in the distance. In the gathering darkness he could just make out the path that they took when they rode up to their hill. They had built all of this up together, and Jack could still remember the day they'd arrived here the first time. They had been full of awe at their first home together and how beautiful it was. When they'd gotten together and decided that they wanted a shot at living together, they hadn't expected to get anything like this. They had both grown up dirt poor and money had been tight when they'd gotten together, so they hadn't had much hope of a good life. But this place had been just the start of it. Now they were successful ranchers, had friends in the area who accepted them and they were more in love than ever. Life had been going well until Ennis had been drafted. After that, things had just gone downhill.

He'd told Becky the news about Ennis and Adam, and she had been quite worried about it, despite his insistence for her not to get too worked up. She had lain there in her bed and reminded him that Ennis was family to her too and she had a right to be worried about him. He had sheepishly admitted that she was right, and he was glad to see that she hadn't lost any of her spirit.

He drained the glass and stubbed out his cigarette, sighing a little. He got up and walked towards the top of the steps, the cool breeze playing with his hair. He squatted down and sat on the top step, arms leaning on his knees as he looked out into the darkness.

He heard the screen door shut behind him but didn't move. He figured it was just his mother, so he was quite surprised when both of them sat down on either side of him. They were both wrapped in dressing gowns and Becky was holding Lily in her arms. She looked pale but her eyes were alert and she looked happy. He kissed both of them on the cheek and they leaned against him. He knew that they, like himself, were thinking of Ennis and the coming months. The missing part of their family was coming home soon and then things would be alright again.

Jack heard Becky sigh. "Been quite a day, huh?" she said softly.

"Yeah. I'm real glad about Ennis comin' home, you know I am, but...I feel sorry fer Pete. He's lost his other half an' that must hurt like hell. I been worryin' 'bout it happenin' to me, but it ain't gonna. Ennis is on his way home. Pete's lost everythin' an' now he's sufferin'. An' I remember he ain't got no other family to turn to. His mama's dead, his daddy don't want nothin' to do with him. He's left on his own to deal with this."

Rose shook his shoulder. "He ain't alone, Jack. He's still got us, right? We can help him through this, I'm sure."

Jack smiled at her. "Yeah, mama. I guess. We all gotta help each other..."

"That's right, sweetie. When Ennis gets back, we're gonna take this one day at a time an' eventually we'll come out the other side. Everythin's gonna be okay."

She was right, and he could see the logic. If they took things slowly, they might be able to work through this. He had a feeling that things would be a lot better once Ennis got back; he always coped better with Ennis around. They would get through it, as long as they still had each other.