Chapter 20

Jack returned to the ranch and sat in the truck for a while, thinking over his conversation with Rick. He had a very bad feeling about sending Ennis off to a special hospital; he knew that those places were cold and impersonal. They wouldn't know about Ennis's past, about Earl and Rich, and he couldn't see Ennis being able to tell them. He wouldn't know them and wouldn't trust them, so it just wouldn't work. He knew that Ennis would be better of here, with people that he knew and loved. That was the key to his recovery, to be surrounded by love. They just needed a little help; that was all.

He sighed to himself and got out of the truck, wondering where everybody was by now. He went up the steps and walked into the living room, where his mother was with Lily.

"Hey, mama."

She turned and smiled at him. "Hey, Jack. How'd it go?"

"Well, uh...there was somethin' he suggested to me. A mental hospital."

"What did you say?" she asked, her eyes a little wide. He shook his head and went for the sofa, kissing the top of Lily's head as he passed.

"Told him no. Those people don't know what he's been through or how it affects him. They'd probably just tie him to a bed an' leave him there for all I know. I really think he's better off here with us, people he trusts." He looked at her earnestly. "You think I did the right thing?"

"Yeah, Jack. You were right. He's better off where he feels safe. What did Rick say?"

"He said alright, that he'll try an' find somethin' else, like drugs or somethin'. But he's gonna need some kinda therapy or somethin'. He said he'd call when he finds somethin'."

"Right. You gonna tell Ennis then?"

"Yeah. Gonna hafta make it clear that I ain't givin' up on him. That we're gonna get through this together. He can stay with us but get the help he needs. That'll be better for him, right?"

"It sure will, Jack." Their attention was drawn by Becky rushing down the stairs.

"Jack!" They both looked at her in alarm.

"What's up? What's wrong?"

She looked hysterical. "It's Ennis, the main bathroom...he..."

Whatever was wrong, Jack could tell it was very bad. He got up and ran up the stairs, leaving Becky to relay what had happened.

Jack rushed into the bathroom and froze in his tracks. "Ennis..."

He was sat on the toilet lid, staring at his forearms. There were several cuts on each one, bleeding. Jack could see one of their disposable razors in the sink. Shit. "Ennis?"

Ennis looked up at him. "I...I didn't mean to...I just..." There were tear tracks on his cheeks and he looked horrified by what he'd done. "Jack..."

Jack grabbed a towel and ran it under the sink, thoroughly wetting it and bringing it over. "Hold yer arms out..." he instructed. Ennis did so and Jack laid the wet towel across them, pressing them to his skin and making Ennis draw in a breath at the stinging. "Hold still, alright?"

Ennis nodded, unable to speak. Jack got the first aid kit from the corner and brought out the antibacterial cream. He sat on the floor at Ennis's feet and then removed the towel. "Alright..." He started to rub the cream into the cuts.

"I'm sorry, Jack..." He looked up into Ennis's eyes; they were full of sorrow. Jack shook his head; it didn't matter to him. All that mattered was helping him.

"It's okay..." He finished with the cream and tossed it back into the kit. "You'll be alright, they ain't deep. What happened?" he asked softly, gazing up at him.

"I...I had another nightmare, Jack. Woke up an' you weren't there, an'...I just lost it..." Tears were filling his eyes and Jack rose up onto his knees, placing his hands on Ennis's cheeks.

"It's okay, baby. Don't worry 'bout it. I know you're feelin' bad..." He wiped the tears with his thumbs. "It's okay, I'm here now." He leaned up and kissed Ennis gently.

"Jack...I'm so sorry..." he whispered, looking scared and lost.

"You don't got nothin' to be sorry for." Jack stood up and took Ennis's hands, leading him to their room. They sat on the end of the bed, Jack caressing Ennis's hands.

"Listen, I went to see Rick today. I been worried about you an' I asked him what he thought. Told him 'bout yer nightmares an' everythin'."

Ennis nodded. "Right. What did he say?"

"He talked 'bout this hospital up in Atlanta. know what them places are like. Cold, unfeelin'. I don't wanna put ya through that, cowboy. You're better off here, with what ya know. Rick's gonna try to find a way for ya to stay here but still get the help you need. An' I promise, I'm gonna be right here with ya."

Ennis's eyes were filling up again. "Jack...I just...I don't deserve you..."

Jack pulled him close. "Yeah, you deserve so much more than what yer goin' through. You didn't deserve to go through all that, an' Earl an' everythin''ve been through a lot of shit that you didn't deserve. deserve some help, as much as we can get ya. An' you do deserve me, you know I love ya. I'll do whatever I can, I promise." He kissed him again and pulled him into his arms. He felt Ennis weave his arms around his back and clutch at him.

"I love you, Jack...I need you so me..."

"I will, I need help an' I'm gonna do everythin' I can to give ya that. Ain't never gonna leave ya on yer own, Ennis." He hugged him tighter and rubbed his back. He had promised to stick by his vows and stand by Ennis as he needed him to. Ennis had given a cry for help and Jack swore to respond as best he could.

A couple of days later, Rick called to say that he had found an alternative solution for Ennis. He had sounded confident about it, so Jack had run it by Ennis, and now they were driving towards town, hoping that the solution would work.

Jack looked over at Ennis; he seemed relaxed right now, and they hadn't had any more fights over the last few days. He'd been freaked out over what had happened in the bathroom a few days ago. He'd never seen Ennis in that kind of state before and sincerely hoped that he never would again. He hadn't been able to think properly, had just concentrated on helping him. That was his utmost priority.

"You okay?" he said softly. Ennis looked at him and smiled slightly.

Yeah, bud." Their hands linked together across the seat. They reached the hospital and Jack parked the truck. He spent a few moments talking quietly to Ennis, letting him know that he loved him and would stand by him no matter what.

They went up and took their seats, wanting to hold hands again but knowing that they couldn't. After about ten minutes, they were finally called to Rick's office. They walked down the hall and went into his office. He smiled when he saw them.

"Hey, guys. Come on in." They sat down opposite him and were finally comfortable to hold hands again. "Glad you could come in so soon."

Jack shrugged. "Well, I figure the sooner we get this sorted, the better off we'll be. Listen, Rick...I'm sorry 'bout the other day, didn't mean to get short with ya. I just..."

Rick shook his head. "It's alright, Jack. I understand why you were like that. You're just worried about Ennis, an' that's okay. You should get a say in what happens."

Jack looked at Ennis. "I just want him to get better." Ennis looked at him gratefully.

"An' he will," Rick said firmly. "I think I've found somethin'. A solution that works for both of ya. Jack, you said that you wanted somethin' where Ennis can get the help he needs, but can still stay at home where you can be there for him."

"Right. I think it'd be the best for him." Ennis was nodding in agreement, holding tightly onto Jack's hand.

Rick smiled. "Well, I think I've found what you're lookin' for." Their eyes lit up.

"Really? What?"

Rick went into his desk and pulled out a file. He opened it up and they could see a picture of a woman with dark hair. He turned it around.

"This is Dr Anna Richardson. She works right here at the hospital as a counsellor. She's about twice your age and has some experience with war veterans. She's very good an' very nice. I think she's exactly what you need."

Jack was nodding as Rick spoke. " would it go? Would I be able to sit in?"

"Yeah. I know her an' I spoke to her about you two. She said she'd be happy to help if you're interested. If you are an' we arrange sessions, it will all be confidential. Both of you will be able to attend sessions together an' work through this with her. You can tell her how you're feelin' about things, get everythin' out there. She'll be able to help you make sense of it all an' get through it. How does that sound?"

Jack nodded; it seemed like a perfect solution. "Sounds good to me. Whaddaya think, bud?" he said to Ennis. He looked back at him and was starting to smile.

"Sounds okay. She sounds alright, an'...if you can sit in with us..."

Rick looked between them. "I guess that's a yes?" They both looked back at him.

"Sure is, Rick. Thanks a lot. When can we meet her?"

Rick looked at the clock. "Well, about right now? I could see if she's free. How's that?"

"Thanks, Rick. We ain't in no rush." Rick got up and left the room, and Jack looked back at Ennis.

"She sounds okay, don't she?" he said encouragingly. Ennis smiled at him.

"Yeah. An' Jack...I want ya there when I talk to her. Gonna need ya there, bud."

Jack squeezed his hand. "Don't worry none, Ennis. I'll be there, I promise." After about half an hour, they heard Rick coming back, followed by the sound of heels. Rick came in, followed by a middle-aged woman with red hair and the same calm face that they had seen in the picture. She looked like somebody they would want to talk to.

"Guys, this is Dr Anna Richardson. One of the top counsellors at the hospital. Anna, this is Ennis Del Mar an' Jack Twist."

She smiled and they got up to shake her hand. "Nice to meet ya, ma'am," Jack said, nodding at her. Ennis did the same.

"Likewise. Rick told me all about you guys. I just have to say, I admire what you're doing with your lives. It must have taken a lot of guts for you to decide to live together, and I've heard all about your ranch. Sounds like you're doing well."

They smiled at her. "Thank you, ma'am. We're doin' okay, but...apart from this..." Jack looked at Ennis dubiously.

"I know. Rick told me about your conversation a few days ago. You made a valid point, Jack. About certain hospitals. I happen to agree with you about how cold they are. I don't think that such a place is suitable for someone going through trauma, especially if there's someone at home that they trust. If Ennis is of the opinion that he needs you for his recovery, then that's fine with me. You are more than welcome to sit in on the sessions, in fact, I'd encourage it."

Jack put an arm around Ennis, shaking his shoulders. "Well...I'd do anythin' for him, so...I'd be more than happy to do whatever I can." Anna smiled at him and by the time they left, they felt more confident that everything was going to work out.

While Ennis and Jack were out, Becky and Rose talked about what was going on. Becky would never forget walking in on Ennis in the bathroom like that, but she was glad that Jack had taken care of it. But Jack had been forced to admit that they needed more help, from a professional. It was their only chance of making sure that Ennis got back on track.

Both she and Rose agreed with Jack; it wouldn't do any good to send him off to a special hospital. She'd heard about those places; they really were cold and unfeeling. Ennis needed to stay with people that he knew and trusted; people who knew what he had been through and how it was affecting him now. They knew that Ennis trusted Jack beyond anyone else and would need him if he could ever recover. It was just that Ennis would also need professional help.

Becky went downstairs to find Rose knitting in her chair while Lily played with her toys. "Hey, mama," she said wearily.

Rose looked up and smiled. "Hey, sweetie. You sleep okay?"

"Yeah, pretty good." She sat down in her chair and curled up, yawning. "They still out?"

"Yeah. I'm hopin' Rick can figure somethin' out for Ennis, it's gettin' out of control now. After what happened in the bathroom..."

"I know," Becky said quietly, images flashing in her mind of Ennis sat there with blood on his arms. "Ain't never gonna forget'd it even happen?"

"Jack just said that he had another nightmare an' lost it when he saw Jack wasn't there. Just...had a breakdown."

"Oh...what do you think they're gonna do? Jack told Rick he didn't wanna send Ennis off to of them hospitals..."

"An' he was right. You know 'bout them places, they ain't right for Ennis. He needs to stay here, where he feels safe."

Becky nodded. "Yeah, he does. But...mama, I'm scared."

"What of?" she asked, looking concerned. Becky bit her lip.

"Well...those mood swings he had...they could just come out of nowhere without warnin'. An'...what if he gets violent? I...what if he snaps, an' Lily..." She met her mother's eyes, and understanding passed between them.

"Oh, honey..." Rose got up and sat on the arm of Becky's chair. "I know how yer thinkin', but...I'm sure that won't happen."

"You don't know that, mama. I know he'd never hurt Lily in his right mind, but...that's just it. He ain't in his right mind. He could get violent, an' if she provokes him, cryin' or somethin'..."

"Becky," Rose said quietly. "You know he'd never do that." She put an arm around Becky. "He ain't your daddy, you know."

Becky folded her arms uncomfortably. "I know, but...I dunno. I just...seein' him snap like that...made me think of those years growin' up in Lightnin' Flat, an' seein' him. He was so mean to Jack, so to find out who he really was to me was bad enough, but...then to find out what he did to me..." Unbidden, tears welled up in her eyes and she wiped them away.

"Honey...don't go thinkin' on it. You know it won't do you no good. It happened a long time never made yer peace with him. He died knowin' that both his children hated him."

"An' now it's too late," Becky said helplessly. "He's dead, I'm followin' behind. Too late for Jack to make his peace too. He ain't never gonna forgive him, an'...can't say I blame him. gonna be worse when he finds out what he did."

Rose nodded and she fell silent, holding onto Becky and thinking about the day when she'd made her decision.

"How could you do this?" she hissed, trying to shush her wailing daughter. She gently pressed a cold rag to the angry welt on her baby's cheek.

John took another swig from the bottle. "Just happened. She's always cryin' an' I was sick of hearin' it."

"Babies cry all the time, it's what they do. You was never like this before, only after what happened with yer daddy."

"That old queer ain't nothin' to me," he snarled. "Can't you shut her up?"

"Be quiet, John." She walked around the kitchen with Becky, trying to calm her down. "It's okay, honey, it's okay...shh..."

Jack came downstairs, looking confused. "Mama? Why's Becky cryin'?" He looked up at her with his big blue eyes, looking at his sister.

"It's nothin', honey. She's okay. Just...ain't feelin' too well. She'll be fine. You wanna go play in the livin' room?" Jack nodded and left the room, leaving Rose to glare at her husband.

"I can't believe you did this, John. Hittin' yer own baby girl. You're the one who's an abomination, not yer daddy." She followed Jack into the living room, leaving her husband to stare angrily at the wall.

"Mama?" Becky said now, looking up at her with her bright green eyes. "Why did he do it? Was it really just 'cos of my grandfather an' everythin'?"

"Yeah, honey. He'd been drinkin' an' was when you started cryin'...he just lost it. I'm sorry I wasn't there to stop him..." She looked sorrowfully at her.

Becky shook her head. "It ain't yer fault. I know I was angry with ya at first, when I found all this out, but...I don't blame you for what happened. He was the one with a problem."

"Yeah...don't worry, though. Ennis ain't like that. Without all this war stuff, he's a good man. Jack says he's mellowed since they got together, an' wouldn't hurt a fly, let alone a baby. He ain't got no drinkin' problem an' they're settin' out to get him some help. Trust me, it'll be fine." She kissed the top of Becky's head and felt her relax. She had never forgiven John for what he'd done, and for the fact she'd felt forced to give up their daughter for her own safety. But what was done was done, and she now had to focus on the present.

September 1st, 1966

Today was their first scheduled appointment with Anna, to try and get Ennis on the road to recovery. After having met her, Jack was optimistic about their chances and a small part of him had the hope that she would be able to help.

Rick was around and nodded at them as he passed them in the corridor; he had prescribed medication to help Ennis sleep at night, and also antidepressants for good measure. They went into Anna's office and she smiled when she saw them.

"Hey, guys. Take a seat." They did so and Ennis nervously clasped Jack's hand. Jack squeezed back in response. She finished her paperwork and then turned to face them.

"Okay," she started. "As we said the other day, my purpose is to help you with the trauma you've been suffering since the attack. You rejected the idea of a special hospital, understandably. Fortunately, though, this route has options that are probably more suitable." They listened intently; she was the kind of person that drew you in.

"What like?" asked Jack.

"Well, as you know, Rick told me about what you're going through, with your consent. So I already have a good idea of what may work for you. There are two kinds of therapy I'd like to try with you. Ennis, these options are things that only you can do, but Jack is your support system, which is vital." They nodded back at her.

"So, the first is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy," she started, pulling out a file. "It's basically taking your thoughts about what happened and trying to change them." At their confused looks, she went on. "The thoughts you have of the attack are extremely negative, based on your thought that it was somehow your fault that your comrade died. CBT aims to change those thoughts and make you realise that this isn't the case."

Jack looked at Ennis; this certainly seemed like a viable option. Changing Ennis's thinking about the attack would probably make a difference in how he perceived it, and his role in it.

"What's the other one?"

"Well...the other is one that may or may not be appealing to you. It's called exposure therapy. Basically, it'll be me encouraging you to think about the bad events you've suffered through, and not just the attack. If there are traumatic childhood events in your past that are somehow affecting your ability to move on, then they need to be explored. You would basically be forced to think about your bad memories, Ennis,'s entirely up to you whether or not you want to do it. In my opinion, the ideal way to do this is desensitisation, in which you would first think about the less upsetting memories you hold, gradually building up to the worse ones."

"So..." Jack started. "He'd have to start with things that ain't that bad, then build up to his really bad memories?"

She nodded. "Yes. Personally, I think it would help you immensely. Considering what you've been through, I think it's important for you to get all of this out. Bad memories can fester inside us if not unleashed, and can eat away at us like poison. There is also flooding, which would be you remembering a lot of bad memories at once, but I wouldn't recommend that for someone in your situation."

Ennis was nodding as he thought about what she was saying. "Okay. How could Jack help with this?"

"Well, like I said, he can provide the love and support you need. If dredging up the bad memories overwhelms you, which it will at first, then he's here to help. As these sessions go on, you should eventually be able to look back on what happened, and not only accept that it happened, but also realise that it wasn't your fault, and you will be able to remember it without being as badly affected as you are now."

It sounded like a miracle solution, and they could hardly believe how much sense she was making. This was exactly what they had been looking for and if this would work, Jack knew that Anna would have his eternal gratitude. "Anna, that...that sounds great. Could that really work?"

She smiled. "It has worked. Rick told you I've worked with World War Two veterans. I helped them by using these methods and it's worked every time. I'm very optimistic about your chances of recovery, Ennis."

He looked up at her. "If it does work...I wouldn't be able to thank ya enough..."

"It's okay, Ennis. It's my job, and I like helping people, always have. In the meantime, keep taking the medication Rick prescribed, and just carry on as you are when you're at home. If at any time you find yourself thinking about your bad memories, and you start feeling overwhelmed, just try some simple breathing exercises. Just breathe steadily in and out for several seconds. Have a focal point if you need one, even if it's just a mark on the wall or something. Concentrate on that as you breathe."

They nodded and Jack squeezed Ennis's hand again. " often do we come in?"

"Well, I'd say that we need to get started on this as soon as possible. Once a week would be ideal, with both of you. As time goes on, you should start to see a difference in how you react to your memories."

"Alright. Thanks, Anna, you've been a real big help," said Jack earnestly. She smiled.

"Don't worry, guys. I'm sure everything will be okay. We can get started on this in a few days, if you like, since this was just the consultation. After that we can arrange weekly sessions to suit you. How does that sound?"

"Sounds great, Anna. So...a couple of days? The third okay?"

"Yes, that's fine. Same time. Take care of yourselves, okay?"

They stood up and shook her hand. "Will do. Thank ya, ma'am." They left the room, Jack squeezing Ennis's shoulder and whispering encouraging words in his ear.

A few hours later, they were both back home and seeking rest. They had decided to take it easy for the rest of the day, discussing with Rose and Becky what Anna had talked to them about. They both agreed that it sounded like the perfect solution to their problems, a way for Ennis to come to terms with what had happened to him. Jack was all for it if it meant he could have the Ennis he knew back. He still loved him, always would, but he felt as if Ennis was a different person right now; damaged and messed up inside. But that didn't matter to him; he was still in love with him and wanted to help him.

As for Becky, she was getting worse. She had developed a high fever and was now spending most of her time in bed. She was having more bad days than good days and Jack was growing worried about her. There wasn't much they could do for her right now. It was surely only a matter of time before she died, and Jack hoped that they could get Ennis back on track before it happened; he knew that he would be a mess when they lost her and he needed to keep his head together for Ennis.

Pete was due to arrive in Georgia soon, to find a place of his own, and Greg was keeping them up to date on his progress. Ennis hadn't spoken to Pete since that one phone call; he was still feeling guilty over the whole thing; something which Jack hadn't fully figured out. He couldn't understand why Ennis blamed himself so much for Adam's death, since the attack had been beyond his control.

But he tried not to think on it too much; he had faith in Anna's methods of therapy, since they sounded like everything they needed. Ennis seemed to be all for it, too, eager to give it a try. He'd started taking the medication that Rick had prescribed, and he was feeling drowsy a lot of the time so was also spending a lot of time in bed. Jack had lain with him a few times, mainly just to hold him until he drifted off.

He had to admit that everything was starting to get to him, and he felt overwhelmed by all of his responsibilities. He was doing his best to cope, and so far had done a good job, but he felt like he was being attacked from all sides.

That afternoon, he went downstairs to find his mother knitting in her chair. She took one look at his face and frowned. "Jack? What's wrong?"

He sighed and flopped onto the sofa. "Everythin', mama."

Ennis slowly woke up and rubbed his eyes. He hadn't had any nightmares, thankfully, but he was eager to find Jack now that he was awake. It was strange; whenever they were apart, they always yearned back to each other and wanted to be in the same space. He got dressed and headed out into the hall, looking in on a sleeping Becky as he did so. She seemed alright, so he carried on. As he neared the top of the stairs, he could hear Jack's distraught voice.

"I just dunno what to do, mama...I'm tryin' my best with it all, but..."

"'re doin' a real good job with everythin'. You've been so great at holdin' us all together. Becky an' Ennis depend on you to help them, an' they know you can. They got faith in you, Jack, an' so do I."

"But...I just...I miss the old days when nothin' bad was happenin' to us. When me an' Ennis was just startin' out here, an' buildin' the ranch up. Don't get me wrong, mama, I love havin' you an' Becky an' Lily here, but...I miss those old days somethin' awful."

"I know, Jack...but there ain't much you can do."

He could hear Jack sniffing. "I...most of all...I miss Ennis. I still love him, more than anythin', but...he's different right now. He's damaged, an'...he's all messed up. I just wanna help him, an''s all just kinda gettin' to me now. I dunno how to help him...I just want my husband back, best friend..." There were no more words, but he could hear Jack crying, probably into his mother's shoulder.

He leaned against the wall in shock, digesting what he had just heard. He'd been caught up in his own internal battle over what had happened, and to his horror he realised that he'd barely spared a thought for everything Jack was having to cope with. He sank to the floor, staring at the wall. He was suddenly struck by how much Jack was doing to try and help him, as well as looking after Becky and everything else. He had a lot on his plate and Ennis could tell that it was all starting to get to him now.

After several moments of thinking, he got up and went back to their room, sitting on the end of the bed and staring at the shirts on the back of the door. He thought back on his memories of their time together and how it compared to how they were now. He felt ashamed of himself as he thought about how little he was doing for his own recovery.

Jack...I'm so're doin' so much for' I ain't doin' nothin'...I'm so deserve more than' you're gonna get it.

This decided, he took a deep breath. He would do whatever Anna recommended, and find a way to heal from what had happened to him. Jack was also going through a lot right now, and he needed someone to hold him up and support him. He needed, no, wanted to be that person, be the man that Jack needed him to be. And he was determined to be that man; to learn to accept what had happened and move on. He could do that; for Jack, he'd do anything.