July 3rd, 1966
Jack was in the office, dialling the phone and tapping his fingers on the desk. He was calling Tom in Wyoming to talk to him about Adam's death. It wasn't a pleasant subject but he knew he had to do it. He would probably also call K.E. to tell him about Ennis. He and Cecilia didn't yet know what had happened and they had a right to, as his siblings. He'd only just found the time to call them, and he knew that these phone calls would be hard to make.
He listened to the rings and felt a lump in his throat as his sister-in-law (as he thought of her) answered. "Cecilia Wilson."
"Hey, Cecilia, it's Jack."
"Oh, hey Jack." She sounded happy to hear him. "What's up?"
"Well, uh...about a week ago, I got a telegram, from the army."
There were a few moments of silence on the line as she digested his words. "Oh...what happened?"
Jack sighed. "Ennis an' Adam was in the Viet Cong, explorin', you know? The commanders asked 'em to. They was walkin' through this jungle an' a bomb attack started from the air." His voice wavered at the last few words.
"Oh, Jack...that's awful...how bad was it?" She sounded shaky and Jack hated having to be the one to tell her.
"They tried to run, but it caught up to 'em. Ennis was badly hurt, don't know how much. But it was bad enough for him to be sent home." He was truly happy about this, but he couldn't deny how sorry he was for the loss of Adam. He had to be respectful of their feelings now.
"That's good. I know you been missin' him real bad. Now he can come back home where he belongs, right?"
"Yeah. I'm real happy 'bout it. But, Cecilia...there's somethin' you gotta know."
He took a deep breath. "Adam, he...he died on the field, in the attack. I'm so sorry, Cecilia."
"Oh my God...Jack...that's awful. Tom's gonna be so cut up..." He could hear the sorrow in her voice and he rubbed his forehead.
"I'm so sorry...I know this is probably the last thing you wanna hear..."
"Uh-huh. Oh...I bet Ennis is torn up over it, ain't he? Bein' there an' all...havin' to watch it..."
"I dunno, I ain't had chance to talk to him yet. I'm hopin' he'll call. But...I think he will be. I'm thinkin' that he's gonna be blamin' himself 'cos he couldn't save him..."
"It ain't his fault, Jack. I'm sure Adam didn't blame him when he was...you know..."
"Yeah. So, um...Adam's body's been taken back to Ohio, to where he lived with Pete. There's gonna be a funeral on Tuesday if you wanna go. I hafta stay here in case Ennis is discharged, but I thought you oughta know. Pete could do with some support right now."
"Sure, I'll call him. I'm sure we can make it. Thanks for lettin' me know, Jack. Have you called K.E. yet?"
"No, but I was gonna. Or do you wanna do it?"
"If you wouldn't mind, could you do it? I gotta tell Tom 'bout this an' then call Pete. We gotta make arrangements to get to Ohio. Will you call us again when Ennis is home?"
"I sure will, don't worry. I dunno if he'd be up to callin' yet but I'll be sure to tell you when he's back. An' I'll let him know that yer thinkin' on him."
"Thanks, Jack. I'll call ya later, okay?"
"Sure. Talk later. Bye." He hung up and thought for a moment. That had been hard for him to do and he wasn't looking forward to doing it again. K.E. hadn't known Adam quite as well as Cecilia and Tom but they were all still family. And he needed to tell him about Ennis's injuries, whatever they were.
He dialled K.E.'s number and his other sister-in-law answered.
"Sarah Del Mar."
"Hey, Sarah, it's Jack Twist. Ennis's partner."
"Oh, hey Jack. What's up?"
"Is K.E. there? I got some news 'bout Ennis."
"I'm sorry, Jack, he ain't here. Emergency at work an' he had to go in. All them heifers at the ranch decided to calve all at once. But I can pass it on, if that's alright."
"Sure, that's fine." He took a breath, and then relayed the events to her, hearing her gasp a little as he described Adam dying and Ennis being there to witness it.
"Oh, Jack...that's awful. How's Ennis doin'?"
"I dunno, the telegram don't say much 'bout his injuries, just that they're bad enough for him to be sent home. But Adam died, Sarah...an' Pete's lost everythin'. I can't go to the funeral in Ohio 'cos I wanna be here in case Ennis comes home. I called him an' I let him know that I'm here for him, but...wish there was more I could do."
"Jack...you've already done plenty. You've let Pete know that he's got friends backin' him up an' supportin' him. You can't do everythin', Jack. I'm sure he appreciates what you've done for him."
"I sure hope so. Anyway, the funeral's on Tuesday if you wanna go. You know the address, right?"
"I'm sure it's in the book, with everyone else's. But I'll call ya if I can't find it."
"Sure. Anyway, let me know if ya need anythin'. An' give my best to K.E. I'll call again when Ennis is home, okay?"
"Sure. Thanks, Jack."
"'Kay. Bye." He hung up again, relieved at having finished the dreaded phone calls. He had done all he could for now, and Sarah was right; he had done everything he could for Pete and now it was out of his hands. As much as he wanted to support Pete at Adam's funeral, his priority was Ennis, and since he wasn't sure exactly when he was coming home, he had to stay put for now. He had to make sure that Ennis got home okay and that nothing happened to shake him up; he had to look after him.
The next day was the Fourth of July, but none of them were particularly inclined to go into town. They didn't feel like celebrating and didn't feel like they had much to celebrate. Things were really bad right now and they were just concentrating on getting through it. They felt as if that was all they could do.
Jack wandered into the kitchen at lunchtime to find Rose making lunch and, to his surprise, Becky sat at the table. She was holding Lily and looked as pale and sick as ever, but at least she was on her feet and looking stable. He was glad for that.
"Hey, honey. You sleep good?" He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, making her smile up at him.
"Yeah, I guess. Comes an' goes, you know? Feelin' okay right now. An' I got my baby with me." She kissed the top of Lily's head.
"Mama!" she giggled, squirming. Becky smiled down at her; her speech had been improving rapidly with all the attention they gave her and all the time they spent with her. Jack knew that she was likely to grow up with the same spirit as her mother, and it comforted him to know that Becky would never be forgotten.
Jack sat down and Rose brought over their lunch; bowls of tomato soup with several rolls. They all dug in eagerly, even Lily who claimed one of the rolls and started dipping it in her mother's soup.
"I take it nobody feels like goin' into town today?" Jack asked, looking between them and half-knowing what the answer would be.
Becky shook her head. "I don't think so. I'm feelin' okay, but...I ain't up to goin' out. Sorry."
"S'alright. I know yer feelin' rough, don't worry 'bout it. Mama?"
"Sorry, honey. I don't really feel like it either. You can go if ya want..."
"Nah. Ain't no fun on yer own. Besides, I don't feel like celebratin' much. God knows we ain't got much to celebrate, huh?" They both nodded in agreement. "So...guess I'll spend the afternoon with the stock, maybe go for a ride. What are you guys gonna do?"
"Maybe sleep some more," Becky mumbled, rubbing her forehead. She held Lily close to her for comfort and Jack squeezed her shoulder.
"I could do some washin' or somethin'. Maybe I'll do some knittin' later, listen to the radio. I don't feel like doin' much."
Jack nodded and carried on with his soup and rolls, his appetite slowly diminishing. His heart often felt heavy these days with everything he had to deal with, and he felt as if he was slowly losing it. He was under a lot of stress right now and he wondered how things might be when Ennis got back. He hoped that having Ennis around would make things a little better, but at the back of his mind there was still the worry that things might be worse, at least at first. He knew that Ennis could be in a bad way after what had happened to him, and that he would have to help him through it. Would that have an adverse effect on his ability to deal with the other things he was going through here? Would Ennis be able to help him through it if he himself was going through a hard time? Jack wasn't sure of the answers to any of these questions, but he thought of the questions often. If he could only get the answers, he might feel a little better about everything.
After lunch, he helped his mother clean up while Becky took Lily upstairs and then went back to bed herself. He then went down to the stables and saddled up Signal, preparing to go for a ride. He gave Lightning a pat on his neck as he passed his stall. He knew that Lightning was Ennis's favourite horse and was thus the one he usually rode, so it felt that touching him was touching Ennis in some way, reminding him of his lover.
He mounted Signal and rode slowly across the land, heading for the path that lead to the hill. He thought about Ennis as he rode, far away yet on the path that led home. Jack had figured that it might even be less than a week before he came back. He would have to arrange for Ennis to be picked up, for he wanted their reunion to be more private. They had been apart for months and Jack wanted to greet him the way that he thought he should as Ennis's partner. He thought that Ennis might need holding once he was away from prying eyes and homophobic army people, and he was the person to do it. He could take Ennis in his arms at last and keep him safe where he belonged.
He got to the edge of the trees at the base of the hill and tied Signal to a tree, before heading up. The air was always a little breezy up here but not cold, and he had many pleasant memories of being up here with Ennis, so many that he had started having dreams about them up here. He figured that it was a sign of how much this spot meant to them; their own private space where they could make love under the wide open sky, just like on Brokeback. Maybe that was why they loved it so much; because it reminded them of that place, so long ago.
He sat down on his jacket and looked out towards Sandersville. The fireworks wouldn't be until the evening and he couldn't tell from this distance if anything was happening, but he figured there was probably a parade or something. He and Ennis had spent three of these days together, including two of them right here. There were so many memories of Ennis that he held in his mind and he hoped that they would have many more pleasant memories to come.
That afternoon, Jack was upstairs using the bathroom when he heard a groaning sound coming from Becky's bedroom. Alarmed, he rushed in to find her bent over double, clutching her stomach.
"Becky? What's wrong?" he asked, moving over to her and putting an arm around her.
"Feel sick again. Got up an' got this pain in my stomach. Dunno what happened."
"You gotta take it easy, honey. You know Rick said you can't overdo it."
"I know. I think I got up too quick an' I still feel sick..."
"Alright, come on." He led her out of her room and down the hall to the bathroom. He helped her down to the floor and rubbed her back. When she was finally done, he helped her back up again and was surprised when she burrowed into his arms. He hugged her back and waited for her to get her emotions under control; he knew that she needed this right now.
"Sorry, Jack, but I..." she mumbled into his shoulder.
"Shh...s'alright, Becky...I know how yer feelin'. It's okay, I'm here..." He kissed the side of her head. She sniffed and then eventually pulled away from him, wiping her eyes.
"Sorry 'bout that. Just...needed a hug."
He smiled at her, rubbing her arm. "Don't worry 'bout it. I know yer feelin' real bad an' I understand. If you ever need a hug again, you just gotta ask, okay?"
She smiled at him. "Thanks, Jack. I...I'm feelin' real bad now...feelin' sick all the time." Her smile had faded by now and she looked worried.
"Oh...what 'bout yer temperature?" He raised his hand and felt her forehead; it was a little warm but it didn't make him concerned. "Yer a little warm, but not too bad. You wanna try for some more sleep?"
She rubbed her eye of sleep. "I dunno. Feel kinda groggy with sleepin' all the time. But...I ain't really got the energy to be walkin' around."
Jack rubbed his chin. "Huh...you wanna come down an' lie on the sofa fer a bit?"
"Yeah, that might be alright. Is Lily awake?"
"Yep, she's downstairs with my mama. You wanna sit with her?"
Becky smiled at him again. "I'd really like that." He took her hand and squeezed it, leading her out of the bathroom and down the stairs. Rose was sat in her armchair with Lily, and she smiled when they appeared.
"Hey you two. How you feelin', Becky?"
"Just been throwin' up again, stood up too quick," she replied, looking sheepish. Jack marched her to the sofa and sat her down.
"Don't worry 'bout it, Becky. I'm gonna get ya some soup an' yer gonna eat it, then yer gonna rest, okay?"
She grinned up at him, glad he was taking charge of things. "Thanks, Jack."
"An' while I'm at it, I'm gonna call Rick an' see if he can come over. Maybe he can give ya somethin' fer those stomach cramps you get from all that throwin' up."
"Yeah, okay. Thanks." She and Rose smiled at each other as Jack went into the kitchen.
"He's always been so carin'," Rose said, letting Lily down so that she could walk towards her mother, who picked her up and placed her on her lap.
"He has. All the way through bein' pregnant, he an' Ennis were always there for me. They looked after me real well, an' I don't think I coulda got through it without 'em." She kissed the top of Lily's head.
"I know, sweetie. An' I can't tell you how it warms my heart to see him so happy, the way he was when Ennis was here. I never seen him so happy as when he's with Ennis. Yer daddy squashed him down so much while he was growin' up. I wish I coulda saved him from it like I did with you."
"I know, mama. But if you had, we might not ever have known each other. We still got to be best friends growin' up. An' even though we thought we was cousins, we still always spent all our time together, an' saw each other as brother an' sister."
"I know, honey. There was so many times in them years that I wanted to tell you the truth. But I knew you wasn't ready for it. So I had to let it lie."
"You don't gotta explain, mama. I understand." At that point, Jack came back in with a cup of chicken soup for Becky, so she was mindful to steer the conversation out of dangerous waters.
"Here you go, sweetie. An' I called Rick; he should be here in about an hour." He sat beside her and took Lily while Becky gratefully took the soup.
"Okay, thanks." She started drinking the soup and Jack started playing peek-a-boo with Lily, the way she loved. She was soon giggling uncontrollably and Jack couldn't help but laugh back. Becky and Rose were both smiling widely at them; he was undeniably good with Lily and Ennis was too. They all knew that if it had been possible, Ennis and Jack would have had at least one child of their own by now, if not more. They would make great fathers and Becky knew that when she died, Lily would be in good hands. They would look after her and nurture her into a strong woman of her own. She wasn't at all worried about leaving her, despite how much she wanted to see her grow up.
An hour later, Rick visited. He gave Becky some painkillers for her stomach cramps and told her, again, to take it easy. She told him she would and made a mental note to herself not to move too quickly when getting out of bed. He left and they all spent the evening in front of the TV, snacking on various things. They then all went up to bed for some much-needed sleep. They were still taking things as slowly as they could and were looking forward to Ennis's return.
July 10th, 1966
Ennis slowly made his way towards the phones so he could call Jack. He'd been laid up for about two weeks and they had finally told him that he could get up, that he'd recovered well enough. He was very glad to finally be able to hear Jack's voice again. He was still in Los Angeles, but tomorrow they would fly him back to South Carolina, and then he would be discharged formally. He would have to make his own travel arrangements from there, but that was okay; he knew that Jack would arrange it. He knew that he could depend on him.
He had been thinking a lot about what had happened out in Vietnam. Watching Adam die, and all the blood, had reminded him of seeing Earl's body in the ditch. He'd awoken from a nightmare comparing the two, in a cold sweat and desperately wanting Jack to be there to hold him. At least tomorrow he could return home, so Jack could hold him if it happened again. He couldn't wait to be back with his other half.
He was also quite worried about Becky, and how she was faring. He knew that Jack was pretty good at coping with things, especially family things, but still. He hoped that he would be able to help Jack as much as he could, but he wasn't sure.
He reached the phone and shakily dialled the number for the ranch; he couldn't quite believe that he was finally doing this. He held the receiver to his ear and waited.
Back at the ranch, Jack, Rose and Becky were all in the kitchen eating lunch. Jack was nearest the ringing phone so he got up.
"Brokeback Ranch, Jack speakin'."
Ennis closed his eyes for a second to digest the wonderful sound flowing into his ear. "Jack, it's me."
Realisation and shock hitting him, Jack collapsed back to the wall, leaning against it. "Ennis?" Rose and Becky both looked up at him, cautious optimism on their faces. "That really you?"
"Sure is, darlin'. Good to hear yer voice again." Ennis could feel a lump in his throat but he'd never been happier.
Jack couldn't stop the grin spreading across his face. "Oh God...good to hear yours too. We heard what happened, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'll live. Can't say the same for Adam though..."
"We know. Pete called us an' told us that Adam had died in a bomb attack, an' we knew that you got caught up in one. We pieced it together, cowboy. You was in the same attack, right?"
"Yeah...I hadta watch him die, Jack...was nothin' I could do." The lump in his throat grew.
Jack's heart ached for him, and the sorrow showed on his face. "Ennis...it's okay. Don't go blamin' yerself, you hear me? What 'bout you? The telegram didn't say nothin' 'bout yer injuries..."
"Shrapnel in the chest, had to have it taken out an' got stitched up. My arm got sprained but it's okay now. My whole body still feels a little stiff, to be honest."
"Aw, shit...sounds like you've been to hell an' back, cowboy. Where are ya?"
"Still in L.A. Gonna get flown back to Fort Jackson tomorrow so they can discharge me. Then I gotta make my own way home."
"Don't worry 'bout it. I'll get one of our friends to pick ya up. Any idea what time?"
"Dunno. Sometime in the mornin'. Before noon, I reckon."
Jack thought for a moment. "Alright. I'll make sure someone's there to get ya, okay?"
Ennis's heart swelled with love for him and he couldn't help but smile. Jack always had a way of making him feel better when he was down, and he was very grateful for it. "Thanks, darlin'. How are you guys? I got yer letter."
"Right. Becky's still real sick, has good days an' bad days, but...there still ain't nothin' Rick can do, Ennis...only one thing that can happen now..." They both knew what that was, but neither of them wanted to say it.
"Shit...I'm real sorry, Jack. How's yer mama, an' Lily?"
"My mama's been a real big help with all this, an' she's as good as can be expected, I guess. Lily's growin' so much, she's gettin' to be a real handful but you can't help but love her. She's so sweet, Ennis."
"Sounds great, bud..." He hesitated and asked the question he really wanted to. He loved the girls but Jack was his soulmate. "How are you, Jack?"
"I...I guess I'm okay. It's real hard, dealin' with all this, but...thinkin' on you helps a lot. I been holdin' our shirts in bed with me, seems to stop the nightmares."
"You don't still have nightmares, do ya?" Ennis asked, concern flooding through him.
"Nah, not so much. Thought I would once I heard 'bout ya gettin' hurt, but...no. Like I said, holdin' the shirts seems to help. God...can't wait to be holdin' you, Ennis..." He sounded wistful and Ennis knew the feeling.
"Me neither, darlin'. Been missin' ya real bad. More than I think I could ever tell ya. Can't even understand it myself."
"I know. I feel that way too, like someone ripped part of me away when you had to leave. When you get back...it'll probably feel like I'm the one bein' stitched up," he said with a grin.
"Yeah...so, um...I better go before they start yellin'. Say happy birthday to Becky fer me."
"I will, cowboy." He took a breath and could picture Ennis's face in his mind. "I love you, Ennis."
Ennis closed his eyes again and could feel life flowing into his body at those three little words that said so much. "I love you too, Jack. Bye."
"Bye, bud." They reluctantly hung up but lingered by their respective phones, praying that the day would pass swiftly so that they could be back in each other's arms again. They hoped that things were about to get a whole lot better than they had been lately.
It was the day after, the day that Ennis was due to return home, and Jack was very antsy. He'd spent most of the morning pacing, much to his mother's irritation. After Ennis's phone call yesterday, he'd called around their friends to find someone who could pick Ennis up from Fort Jackson. It turned out that Kate, their silversmith, was taking a day off, so she had agreed to pick him up. It was a good idea; it might throw any suspicions off if Ennis was seen being picked up by a woman. She had called Jack that morning to tell him that she was setting off, so it was out of his hands now. All he could do now was wait.
He went into the kitchen around ten, finding Rose and Becky sat at the table. They smiled up at him when they saw him.
"Hey, you finally finished yer pacin'?" Becky asked in amusement.
Jack rubbed the back of his neck. "I can't help it. I got no idea what time he's gonna get here or what state he's gonna be in...I ain't seen his face for six months an'..." He was starting to look hysterical and Rose waved him over.
"Come here, honey. Calm down." She got up to make him some coffee and he sat down, running a hand through his dark hair. Becky grasped his shoulder.
"Jack, I'm sure it's gonna be okay. He'll be here soon enough, an' we can work at sortin' things out. It'll be fine."
He tried his best to smile at her. "I know, but...I'm real anxious to see his face. It's been so long..."
"I know, Jack. I know you been missin' him real bad, an' he's missed you too. Just calm down, okay? Here..." She lifted Lily up and deposited her in Jack's arms to distract him. It worked a treat; he was soon playing with her and she was chattering away to him.
Rose watched the three of them affectionately as she made coffee, seeing the love between her two children. It would break her heart to see Becky die, but at least Jack and Ennis would find out the truth. Becky had written her letter to them, only to be opened after she'd gone. It was in her nightstand and Becky had asked her to give it to them if she didn't get the chance. She knew that Becky didn't want to see Jack's face when he found out exactly what their father had done, and what it had driven their mother to do. It would be a truly awful day when they found out.
They spent the next hour talking about anything to try and distract themselves. Jack felt that the minutes were passing like hours, making him very agitated.
At last, they could hear the sound of tires making their way towards the house, and they all looked at each other. Jack quickly gave Lily to her mother and nearly tripped over his own feet to get to the front door. He pulled it open in time to see Ennis emerge from Kate's truck.
Ennis had been nervous and excited all the way from Los Angeles, eager to see Jack's face and be close to him again. He'd been relieved to see Kate waiting for him, and the journey had been pleasant enough. His heart had been yearning all the way home. Back at the ranch, he got out of the truck just in time to see Jack emerge from the front door.
Their eyes met across the few yards separating them, and it was as if time stood still for a few moments. Blue eyes met brown, with equal looks of shock and happiness spreading across their faces.
Jack went to the top of the steps and waited for Ennis to make the first move; he wasn't exactly sure how Ennis might respond if he was overwhelmed. Kate stood by the truck, waiting and watching warily.
And then it happened, as they stared at each other. Ennis uttered one word as he looked at Jack's beloved face; that one word that had come to mean so much to Jack, the one that assured him of how much Ennis loved him, every time he said it.
That one word returned life to Jack's legs, and brought him to his senses. He staggered down the steps on shaky legs, just as Ennis started to move across the front lawn.
"Ennis..." All they cared about was getting to each other and holding each other, never letting go again.
They both sped up as they neared each other, eventually crashing into each other, their arms automatically locking around each other's body.
"Jack...God, Jack..." Ennis was clutching tightly at him and he could barely breathe, but he didn't care.
Jack lifted his head and looked at Kate, who smiled and nodded before going back to the truck; there would be plenty of time for talking.
"Jack...I missed you so much...so fuckin' much..."
"I missed you too, baby...so good to have you back..."
"I...I couldn't save him...an'...was so scared I'd never see ya again..." Ennis was starting to shake in Jack's arms and Jack held him tighter.
"It's okay, Ennis...it's okay..."
Without warning, Ennis sagged in his arms and Jack, taken by surprise, was unable to support his weight, and while Ennis gradually sank to the ground, he couldn't help but go down with him. They sank to the ground, Ennis still desperately holding onto Jack who tried to soothe him.
"Jack...missed you so much...I...I couldn't..." All of the emotions that he'd been feeling over the last couple of weeks came crashing down onto him as he remembered how it felt to be held by Jack. His heart had filled with love for the man holding him and this had opened the floodgates on his other feelings. He could no longer hold back, and just let go.
Jack held the back of his head with one hand. "Shh...it's alright, it's alright."