Chapter 18

July 20th, 1966

One afternoon, Jack was making his way back downstairs from the bathroom, finding Ennis sat on the sofa and looking dejected. Jack made his way over to him.

"Hey, bud," he said softly, sitting down next to him and putting an arm around him "You okay?"

Ennis shook his head. "Not really. Somethin' I been thinkin' about."


He looked at Jack, eyes full of sorrow. "Just...can't stop thinkin' 'bout that day. When Adam..." He had a lump in his throat.

"Hey..." Jack whispered. "Don't think on it, cowboy. Ain't gonna do ya no good."

"I know, but...there's somethin' buggin' me."

"What is it?"

"I...we was both in that attack. Adam died, but...I didn't. An'...Pete's lost everythin'. It don't seem fair. Why'd he have to die? We both had that risk..."

Jack shook his shoulder. "'s okay. Things just happened that way. Ain't yer fault. Don't be blamin' yerself, cowboy..."

Ennis shook his head again, still looking down. "Can't help it. He didn't deserve to die, Jack. He was only 'bout our age, had his whole life ahead of him. He an' Pete was gonna get hitched, like we did...they had their bar an' all. Had so much to look forward to, an'...he had it all taken away from him. Pete too."

Jack listened to him in silence, sensing that Ennis needed to get this off his chest. He'd heard about survivor guilt in war veterans, and it seemed that Ennis was experiencing this. Just another thing to help him out with, he figured. Just hope I can. Hope I can help him get through this.

"So...whenever I start feelin' happy that I'm back home an' back with you...start feelin' guilty all over again. Don't seem fair that we can get back to normal, an' Pete never can. He's always gonna be torn up over Adam, but..."

"Ennis..." Jack wasn't sure what he could say to him to make him feel better, so just held him. He allowed Ennis to lean into him for comfort, kissing the top of his head.

"Can't stop feelin' guilty, Jack. We can get our lives back, one day. Pete's always gonna have this hangin' over him. It ain't fair."

Jack rubbed his back and buried his nose in Ennis's hair. "I know, baby. I know. Yer right, it ain't fair. Adam didn't deserve to die, Pete didn't deserve to lose him...but ya know what? Neither of ya deserved to hafta go out there. You shouldn't have been there. You both shoulda been at home, where ya belong. Me an' Pete talked a lot over the phone, over those months. We both missed ya real bad an' wanted nothin' more than to have ya back. None of this was fair, on any of us. Or anyone else who got called up. We've had it real bad, cowboy."

He could hear Ennis sniffing. "Yeah...wish it hadn't happened, Jack. Missed ya so much an'...I was scared all the time. Of gettin' hurt, gettin' killed an' leavin' you on yer own. Hated the thought of what it might be like fer you if I was killed out there."

"Woulda torn me up," Jack admitted. "Don't know what I woulda done. Probably woulda fallen apart."

Ennis sat up and looked at him. "Jack...ain't no way you could fall apart. Yer always so...together. You get pissed about things an' you can get scared too, always manage to cope. Like when I got the letter. You freaked out at first but you calmed down an' admitted there wasn't nothin' we could do. Same thing when you found out Becky was ill. You pulled everythin' together. Always admired ya for bein' able to do that."

Jack smiled at him. "Well...I dunno 'bout that. Just...always wanted to be there for you guys. I love you all, an'..." He thought for a moment. "You know how it was with my dad, an' between Becky leavin' an' Brokeback, I only had my mama to love me. So...I always wanted a family around me, a house full of love. An' I figure you musta felt the same, huh?" He saw Ennis nodding. "So...I got it now. I got everythin' I ever wanted, cowboy. Can't just sit back an' watch it all fall apart. I gotta do everythin' I can to keep it all together. That's my focus now."

He continued to rub Ennis's shoulders as he spoke, trying to inject some comfort to him. He loved his family and it was like he said; he didn't want to lose any of them, so he was doing everything he could to prevent that. It might be too late for him to save Becky, but he at least wanted to make her happy during the time she had left. And there was still so much to concentrate on; helping his mother as she approached old age, bringing up Lily, and enjoying his life with Ennis; the life he never thought he would have.

After a while, Ennis looked up at him, half-smiling and looking quite emotional. "Thanks, bud. Don't know what I'd do without ya."

Jack cupped Ennis's cheek. "You won't never hafta worry 'bout that, okay? Yer always gonna have me, you hear? I ain't goin' nowhere, I promise." He leaned forward and they kissed softly, feeling their bond between them. They drew apart and Jack played with Ennis's curls.

"Gonna be okay, sweetheart? It ain't yer fault, you know it ain't..."

Ennis took a deep breath and nodded, his forehead colliding with Jack's. "I know...but I can't help it. Just feel so guilty all the time. Ain't fair..."

Jack pulled him back into his arms. "I know, I know. Don't go blamin' yerself, alright? Nobody else does, I promise. We all love ya an' just want ya to get better." He kissed Ennis's hair. "Love ya."

"Love ya too, darlin'." Jack held him close and hoped that he'd gotten through to him. He didn't know how long it might be before Ennis got his head sorted out, but as he held him and heard him breathing deeply against him, he realised that he didn't care.

A little later, after some encouragement from Jack, Ennis decided to call Pete to talk about what happened. He knew that he would have to eventually, given what Pete had lost and how it connected them. He was still feeling very guilty for having survived the attack when Adam didn't, but he'd tried to listen to Jack's assurances that nobody blamed him or held him responsible for what had happened. He knew that Jack wasn't just saying it to make him feel better; he truly believed it. Jack had never told him anything just to make him feel better.

They were sat on the sofa, where they had been earlier. Rose was in town with Lily and Becky was sleeping upstairs, so it was the perfect opportunity. Ennis was sat next to the phone and Jack had hold of his hand, fingers laced together.

"You okay?" he asked softly. "If you ain't ready yet, I'm sure Pete'll understand."

Ennis took a deep breath and nodded. "I'm okay. Gotta do it sometime. You'll stay with me?" he asked, looking at Jack, who smiled and pressed his lips to his cheek.

"You know it. I'm right here, cowboy." Ennis smiled back and reached for the phone, bringing the phone between them, and they put their heads together.

"Pete Richards." The voice was weak and he sounded like he had a cold.

"Hey, Pete. It's Ennis an' Jack. From Brokeback Ranch."

"Oh, hey guys. How are ya?" He didn't sound at all surprised that they were on the phone together.

"We're okay," Jack said softly, squeezing Ennis's fingers.

"Yeah. How are ya holdin' up, Pete?" Ennis asked, looking nervous.

They heard him sigh. "Alright, I guess. I decided to sell the bar. Can't bear to keep it, it was ours..."

"Aw, shit...ain't ya gonna keep it goin'?" Jack asked, looking crestfallen.

"Don't think so. I can't..." Pete sounded choked up. "Can't do it without him."

Jack knew how that felt; if he had lost Ennis, he wasn't sure if he would be able to keep the ranch going either. "Oh...well...what are ya gonna do now?"

"I, uh...I thought 'bout sellin' the house an' movin. Can't go back home, my daddy don't want me an' my mama's gone. Brothers an' sisters all got their own lives."

"So where you gonna go?"

"Thought 'bout movin' down to Georgia, if it's alright with you guys. You live out near Sandersville, right?"

"Yeah, we do. should know we got a full house. Can't put ya up here, bud."

"It's okay, Jack. You don't gotta do that fer me. Already done enough. I could find my own place in town. Get a job somewhere..."

"Well, you got ranchin' experience, doncha?" Jack asked, an idea forming in his head.

"Yeah, worked on my daddy's ranch some, an' I worked on some since. How I met Adam..." He trailed off.

"Yeah, I remember ya sayin'. So...if ya do come down here, why don't ya get a job with us? We can always use the staff, an' you could do with work."

"Oh, Jack...that's real nice of ya. Are ya sure you don't mind?"

"'Course not. Yer a friend an' you need some help. Don't worry 'bout it. You still wanna come?"

"Well...might be a good idea. Ain't really got nowhere else to go. I guess I could move down there. I'll have to think on it."

"Sure, ain't no rush. You need time to think on it. If you need any advice, we could talk to our lawyer, Greg. He handled the whole thing with signin' the ranch over to me when we got down here. I'm sure he'd help ya."

"That'd be great. Thanks, Jack. How are you doin', Ennis?"

Ennis swallowed. "Uh...okay, I guess. Pete, I...I'm sorry."

"What for?"

" an' Adam was both there, in that attack. I lived an'...he died. It don't seem fair on you. Me an' Jack can get back to how we was, lost Adam. Yer thinkin' of sellin' yer business an' movin'. You've lost all that..."

"'s okay. I...I don't blame you or nothin'. You know that, right?"

"I've been tellin' him that," Jack replied.

"You sure? I just..."

"I'm sure. It wasn't yer fault, Ennis. Just happened. Things do an' we can't always stop 'em."

Ennis sighed. He wasn't exactly sure yet if he could believe it himself, even if others did. "Alright. Just...wanted to say sorry anyway. Take care, yeah?"

"Yep, you too."

"Let us know how you go on with sellin' up, an' we'll talk to Greg," Jack said into the receiver.

"Will do. Thanks, guys."

"No problem, bud. Bye." They put the phone back and Jack nudged Ennis's shoulder. "You okay?"

"I guess. Just...findin' it hard to believe...that you don't blame me fer what happened. I couldn't save him..." He looked down at his hands, twisting them together nervously.

Jack looked at him, full of sympathy. He looked so lost and scared and he just wanted to hold him so close that nothing could hurt him ever again. He wondered how many times over the last few years Ennis had wanted to do that for him.

He shuffled closer and put an arm around him. "C'mere..." He pulled Ennis into his arms and laid them both down so that Ennis was gazing up at him.

"It wasn't your fault," Jack whispered, his hands gripping Ennis's shoulders. "Nobody blames you..."

Ennis searched his face for reassurance, chewing his lip. "I just...dunno how to stop feelin' like this. Can't help it."

"I know, baby. It's alright. You won't always feel like this, I promise. Eventually you'll realise it wasn't yer fault, an' you'll stop feelin' guilty. Might take a while, but...I promise I'm gonna be there for ya. Alright?"

Ennis nodded, sniffing a little. "Thanks, Jack. Dunno what I'd do without ya." He smiled a little.

Jack buried his face in Ennis's neck. "You ain't never gonna hafta find out. Ain't ever gonna be without me." He felt Ennis's arms wrap around his back and they lay there, breathing in unison and basking in the comfortable silence.

August 1st, 1966

Jack was working in the office one afternoon, sorting out the books and trying to take his mind off things. He'd been reluctant to leave Ennis at the house, but Ennis needed some rest and Jack needed to work. Unbeknownst to Ennis, Jack had hidden one of the baby monitors in their bedroom, keeping the other with him. If Ennis got distressed in his sleep, Jack would hear. Rose had Lily in the living room and Becky was also sleeping. It was a quiet day, perfect for getting some work done.

His mind kept wandering, slowing the process down considerably. He was worried about Ennis, and Becky too. He wasn't entirely sure what was going to happen. It still looked like Becky was going to die, for although Rick was working to find a cure for her, he hadn't had any luck. Jack had tried to tell him not to worry about it, that it wasn't his fault. A lot of things had happened over the last six months that were beyond their control, and they all knew that they would just have to deal with it, one day at a time.

The phone ringing shook him from his thoughts. "Brokeback Ranch, Jack speakin'."

"Hey, Jack. It's Greg."

"Oh, hey. How's it goin'?"

"Alright. I called your friend Pete, about him wanting to sell. You were right, he sounded a little choked up. How's he doing?"

Jack sighed. "Ain't doin' too well. Misses Adam somethin' awful an'...I know he didn't wanna sell. He loved havin' a business but...he says he can't deal with it on his own. I know how that feels; if it had been Ennis, I'd feel the same. Ain't sure I could run this place on my own."

"I see. How is Ennis, Jack? How's he coping with everything?"

"Not much better than Pete. Thinks it's all his fault that Adam died an' he didn't, just 'cos they was both in the attack."

"Survivor guilt, Jack. Happens to a lot of war veterans."

"I know. Bill warned me 'bout that. I tried tellin' him it ain't his fault, but...I dunno if I got through to him."

"I'm sure you did, Jack. You know he listens to you, and he trusts you."

Jack fiddled with his jeans. "I know,, hell, I dunno. He's really down. Been havin' nightmares an' his stomach's all stitched up...he's been to hell an' back. I just wanna help him, but...I dunno how. What more can I do?"

"Jack...I'm sure you're doing enough for him. You're his partner, and you're doing everything you can to help him, like you should. You look after him, make sure he knows it wasn't his fault. What do you do when he has nightmares?"

"Uh...well, I get him awake proper, an' get him to tell me what happened. Rick says it's important for him to get it out. Then, um...I hold him 'til he calms down, an' then he goes back to sleep."

"Well, there you go. You're doing so much for him, Jack. You're so dedicated and devoted to him and I'm sure he appreciates it greatly. You know he loves you."

Jack smiled to himself. "I know. Thanks, Greg. I'm doin' everythin' I can. Just tryin' to get through one day at a time, ya know?"

"I know, Jack. I'm sure you're doing a great job. You know that everybody's thinking about you guys. How's Becky?"

"Still sick. Rick reckons she ain't got long left..." Jack trailed off, biting his lip. "Ain't nothin' we can do for her but make her happy while she's still here."

"I'm sure she is, Jack. Like you said, you just have to get through it one day at a time. It'll be fine, Jack. I'm sure everything will work out. Becky...will probably die, like you said, and it could be a while before Ennis gets his head sorted out, but...they've got you. They know that you can look after them and help them get through it. That's the best you can do for them, Jack."

"I guess. Anyway, I better get back to work or the books ain't never gonna get done. Will ya let me know how things go with Pete?"

"Will do. Let me know if you need anything."

"Okay. Bye, Greg."

"Bye, Jack." They hung up and Jack went back to his work, thinking about what Greg had said to him; that he was doing all that could be expected of him and more for Ennis and Becky, making sure that they were okay. He hoped that it was true, but he would always look for more ways to look after them. He just figured that he would continue to work at it until it was over, if it ever was.

After about half an hour, he heard a strange sound coming from within the room. He looked around; it sounded like an injured animal. He briefly wondered if one of the barn cats had gotten in, but then his eyes fell on the baby monitor; the sound was coming from there.

Ennis. He's up there...

Jack was up and out of his seat and out the door in record time. He ran at breakneck speed to the house and up the stairs, passing his bewildered mother. He tried not to wake Becky as he passed, and he was soon in their bedroom, waking Ennis up properly and holding him.

"'s okay,'s okay..."

Ennis clung to him and buried his face in Jack's chest. "Jack...I..."

Jack rubbed his back and made shushing noises. "'s alright. I'm here an' I ain't ever goin' away. Yer gonna be okay."

He felt Ennis sniff and slowly calm down. By the time he was asleep again, Jack was emotionally drained, but happy that he was sleeping again, at least for a little while. He sat on the bed and watched him sleep, lightly tracing a hand over his chest so as not to wake him. Despite the nightmares, Jack figured that sleep was good for Ennis; he could recuperate and get his energy back. That was the most crucial part for him to be able to heal.

A couple of nights later, Ennis and Jack were getting into bed after another long day. They had been in the office together, Jack filling Ennis in on everything that was going on with the ranch. Luckily, everything was running smoothly, so that was one less thing to worry about. They were still making good money and getting good business, so they could at least concentrate on themselves. The less they had to worry about, the better.

They got in and stretched until they were comfortable. As far as intimacy went, they had only hugged and kissed a little while before settling down to sleep. Jack knew that Ennis probably wasn't ready for any more yet, and that was fine by him. He respected Ennis and his feelings, especially now.

Jack looked over at Ennis; he hadn't had any more nightmares since the other day, and seemed okay otherwise. That was always a good thing as far as he was concerned. "Hey," he said softly. Ennis looked back at him.


"You okay?"

Ennis nodded. "Yeah." He then leaned over a little and their lips met, kissing softly until Jack brought a hand to Ennis's head. He was about to pull back, but then Ennis raised his own hand and held him there. Jack was surprised but stayed where he was. If this was what Ennis needed, he was happy to give.

After a moment, they pulled apart. Jack could see that Ennis was full of need, but also that it was too soon for them to do anything. "Ennis, you okay?"

He was breathing deeply, looking down at the bed between them. "Jack...I need ya, but...I can't..." His breath hitched.

Jack ran a hand through Ennis's curls. "I know, baby. It's okay. I told you, there ain't no rush. We don't gotta do nothin' until yer ready. There anythin' else I can do to make ya feel better? Whatever ya want."

Ennis thought for a moment. "I dunno..." He looked up at Jack. "I dunno what I want..."

" just wanna kiss for a while? Promise I won't take it too far," Jack replied softly, stroking his cheek. The deep brown eyes bore into him.

"Yeah, that'd be good." With no more words, they leaned back in and kissed again, hands coming around to each other's backs. They held onto each other as they let their tongues find each other at last; they had missed this. Maybe it was too soon for Jack to give Ennis what he truly needed right now, but he could at least give him this; the most precious part of their connection. He tried to convey his love through their slow kisses, reminding Ennis that he was here and wasn't ever going to leave him to deal with his issues on his own.

After several more minutes of leisurely kisses, they pulled apart again. Jack was pleased to see that Ennis's eyes were sparkling at him in the light coming from the lampshade. This was probably the happiest he'd seen Ennis since his return. Maybe he had found another way to help Ennis, on top of everything else he was doing for him. His mother had always said that love was one of the best medicines for pain, and she had been right.

"Baby..." Jack whispered, playing with Ennis's curls. "You look kinda happy," he said with a smile. Ennis's smile widened.

"Thanks to you," he replied. "You always made me happy when I needed it. Like...whenever I need somethin', you always seem to know what, even if I don't. You know me better than anyone, Jack."

"I love you," Jack said, looking over his face. "I wanna help ya whenever ya need it. After how long we been together, I guess it's only right that I know ya. You know me real well too, ya know. Guess we're a good match, huh?"

Ennis nodded, shuffling further towards him and letting their cheeks nuzzle together; a feeling that always gave him comfort. "Yeah.'re everythin' I need, Jack." The words came out quickly, like an exhalation, and Jack could see how emotional he was getting. He pulled Ennis into his arms and rubbed his back, feeling how he was shaking slightly.

"Back atcha, bud. I promise to be all ya need, an'...I promise I'll help ya get through this. You've always done right by me, an' now it's my turn. me, sweetheart. You'll be okay."

He felt Ennis nodding against him, his own arms coming around his back. "I trust ya, Jack. Please...promise me you'll be there, that you won't never leave me..."

"I swear. I know it's gonna be hard, but...just remember one thing. When we met, you was already kinda messed up. But I picked you anyway, didn't I? Hell, I shacked up with ya, an' married ya, as best I could. We're here, together. We've come too far together for me to just give up now. Gonna be real hard for us to get through this, but I promise we will. Ain't never leavin' ya, cowboy..." He kissed the top of Ennis's head and continued to rub his back.

Ennis pulled out of his embrace and smiled at him, lifting up his left hand. "Least we got these..." He indicated his wedding ring and Jack smiled back, lifting up his own hand.

"Yep. These remind us of what we got, what we're always gonna have. Love you."

"Love you too, Jack." They kissed again for a few seconds, and then Ennis rolled over onto his other side. Jack spooned up around him and slipped an arm around his stomach, mindful not to touch the stitches. Hopefully they would heal soon, but he knew that the mental scars would last a lot longer. He gently pressed his lips to the back of Ennis's neck and settled down, hoping against hope that his lover wouldn't have any nightmares tonight. He didn't want to see him hurting anymore; it caused him pain too.

Sometime in the night, Ennis was plagued by another nightmare. It was pretty much the same as the previous ones. It started off back in the jungle, where he had to watch Adam die all over again, and his body turned into Earl's, before finally turning into Jack's. By the time this happened, he was somewhere between sleeping and waking, and starting to shake. He wasn't fully awake so was unable to control himself.

This time, it took Jack a little longer than normal to wake up, and by the time he did, Ennis was moaning loudly and starting to move around, straining in his arms. Jack shook himself into wakefulness and leaned up on his elbow.

"Ennis...Ennis, wake up..." he urged him, knowing that if he didn't get Ennis awake soon, there could be real damage.

Ennis groaned and started shifting around even more restlessly. Jack managed to get him on his back before he started thrashing too much. He took hold of Ennis's shoulders and tried to shake him awake. "Ennis, wake up! Come on..."

"No, don't...leave him...Jack..."

Jack had no idea what was going on, but he had to get Ennis awake. He straddled him and pinned his hands down. He didn't want Ennis to cause any harm to himself. "Ennis, wake up!"

Without warning, one of Ennis's hands broke free of his grip and whacked him on his cheek as he started to thrash. "Jack!"

Jack winced at the pain on his face but carried on, shaking Ennis to try and wake him. "Ennis!"

At last, he managed to shake him awake, and he lay there, panting for breath and staring up into Jack's face. His eyes were wide with fear and Jack figured that Ennis looked as terrified as he felt.

"Ennis, you okay? Talk to me..." He searched Ennis's face for signs of recognition. Something changed in Ennis's eyes and he sucked in a breath.

"Jack..." His eyes filled with tears and Jack cupped his cheeks.

"Hey, what's wrong? What happened?"

"Had that nightmare again," he choked out, starting to tremble again. "But...turned into that dream I used to have, of you in the field..." He didn't have to elaborate; Jack knew exactly what he was referring to and how much it scared him. He was nearly in tears himself.

"'s alright. I'm okay. Here..." He brought Ennis's hand to his beating heart, hoping that it would calm him down. It seemed to work; his shaking was starting to subside.

"Jack...there was blood everywhere..."

"I know, baby, it's okay. It wasn't real, don't worry...shh..." He leaned in and gently kissed him on the lips, and when he pulled away, he wiped the tears from Ennis's eyes. "You gonna be okay?"

"I dunno, Jack. Thought I would be after earlier, but...I..." He could barely think straight right now and was completely dependent on Jack.

"It's okay. Just a setback, that's all. Yer gonna be alright, I promise."

Ennis nodded, and then his brow furrowed. "Jack...yer cheek..."

Jack knew he had to head him off before he started feeling guilty about it. "Don't worry 'bout it, Ennis. Was an accident. It's okay."

Panic overtook Ennis's features. "Did I do that? I hit you? I..."

"Ennis, listen to me. It's okay. You was asleep an' you didn't know what you was doin'."

"I swore I wouldn't never hit ya again, not after Brokeback..." His eyes were wider than ever and Jack was starting to fear that he might not be able to calm him down.

"Baby, it's okay. I know you didn't mean it, it was an accident. You ain't never hit me in yer right mind an' that's okay. You was still asleep an' havin' a nightmare, wasn't yer fault."

Ennis looked up into his eyes, searching for the reassurance he needed. He'd been horrified to realise that he'd hit Jack, the one thing that he had sworn never to do ever again. "Jack...I'm so sorry..."

"'s okay...please, cowboy, don't worry 'bout it. You didn't mean it, was an accident. Please, don't go feelin' guilty."

As they stared at each other, Ennis finally seemed to calm down, and his arms came up around Jack's back. "I didn't do it on purpose?" he asked, looking up at him hopefully.

"No, cowboy, you didn't. It's okay. You had a nightmare..." He leaned down to press their foreheads together. Ennis's eyes closed and he started breathing deeply.

"Jack...I'm real sorry..." he said, eyes screwing up, looking pained.

"Don't worry 'bout it. It's alright. I'm here an' I ain't ever goin' away. You wanna try for some more sleep?"

Ennis looked doubtful. "I dunno...what if it happens again?" he asked fearfully, touching Jack's cheek.

Jack ran his tongue along his bottom lip, thinking. Then an idea came to mind. "Hang on." He got out of bed and retrieved the reversed shirts from the bedroom door, running a finger across the bloodstains. He had always marvelled at how much these shirts meant to them and what they represented.

"These always stopped the nightmares for me, maybe they could help you. 'Specially since I switched 'em. Whaddaya think?" he asked, looking over at Ennis.

Ennis nodded, feeling tired once more. "Worth a shot..." Jack brought the shirts back to bed with him and settled down next to Ennis. He bundled the shirts up and handed them to Ennis.

"Here..." Ennis took them gratefully and rolled back onto his side. Jack spooned up around him once more and Ennis held the shirts to his chest, clutching them tightly as if his life depended on it.

"Thanks, Jack. Sorry 'bout yer cheek..."

Jack leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Don't worry 'bout it. Just get some sleep. I'm right here an' I always will be. Night, baby."

"Night, darlin'." They settled down again and Jack hoped that the presence of the shirts would prevent Ennis from having nightmares. Ennis was right; it was worth a shot. Anything to help him with his healing was worth a try.