Chapter 21

Two days later, they were starting their first real appointment with Anna. They had talked over her ideas for therapy and were both eager to get started on them. As they lay in bed that morning, Jack had reassured Ennis that he was there to support him and always would be no matter what. Ennis hadn't talked to him about his resolution to work harder at his recovery and try to learn to accept what had happened. He knew that as much as Jack would support him, only he could look inside his own head and sort out his thoughts, and that was what the therapy was supposed to help with.

They were a little early for their session, so they sat in her office, holding hands while they waited. Jack looked at Ennis. "You okay, bud?"

Ennis nodded. "Yeah. I think...I think this just might work, Jack. Sounds real good, all that stuff 'bout gettin' the bad stuff outta my head, talkin' 'bout it...gonna be hard, though. I know I've talked to yer mama an' Becky 'bout stuff, but...yer the only one who knows how bad it gets to me. Like when I have a nightmare..."

Jack squeezed his hand. "It's okay. Yer gonna hafta get it out to Anna too, if you wanna move on. But it's like I said, Ennis, just this mornin'. I'm always gonna be here for ya, okay? If it ever gets too much for ya, I'm right here." Ennis smiled in gratitude just as Anna walked in.

"Hey, guys. How are you both?" She went around the desk and sat down. They both took a breath and smiled nervously.

"Pretty good," Jack said. "Um...Ennis ain't really had any nightmares, have ya?" Ennis shook his head.

"No, been okay. Feelin' a little better."

Anna smiled. "That's great. we're starting your therapy. As I said two days ago, these methods aim to change your thinking about what happened to you, and to help you come to terms with it, as well as anything else that's happened to you. So, Ennis...the first step is for you to get out those bad memories, so that you can sort them out. Now, you're to start with the least painful ones, the ones that cause you the least distress. Can you think of anything that might fit that?"

Jack looked at Ennis, who started to search his memory for anything like that which he might not have made peace with yet. "Um...well...I dunno. There's a lot of bad stuff...dunno what you'd count as...not that bad..." He looked confused and Jack felt sorry for him; Ennis shouldn't have so many bad memories as far as he was concerned.

"Alright, let's try a different tactic," said Anna, looking sympathetically at him. "Think as far back as you can and work forward until the more recent memories." Jack had a funny feeling that he knew what might come first.

Ennis's eyes lowered as he started to tell Anna his memories. As Jack predicted, he started with seeing Earl's body in the ditch, moving through his parents' deaths and how hard it had been for him and his siblings while trying to find their places in the world. After that, his memories had mostly been good, thanks to his relationship with Jack. He ended up finishing with the attack in Vietnam. By the time he was done, Jack couldn't feel his fingers, but he hardly noticed.

"'ve been through a lot. But the first step is to get those memories out, and the second is to admit you need help. You've already done that, so you've taken a big step. Now, we have to explore your feelings about those memories. Let's take your memory of Earl. What are your feelings about it?"

"I...I had nightmares 'bout it for a long time. An'...when I met Jack, I nearly didn't have anythin' with him, 'cos I thought the same thing would happen to one of us. Thought if anybody found out about us..."

"But it's alright," Jack said quietly. "People know 'bout us, an' we're still here. Yeah, we've had trouble with Aguirre, an' those guys in Texas, an' even one of our own hands. But...we got through it, an'...we're okay."

"That's right, Jack. People found out about you, and the world didn't end. That proves that not everybody is like your fathers," Anna said gently. Ennis nodding, seeing the logic behind this. "And as for your parents' deaths...that was beyond your control. You were just a kid, and there was nothing you could do about it. And afterwards...things were bound to be tough for three kids without parents. That wasn't your fault, either."

Jack looked at Ennis and could see something in his eyes. Anna's method seemed to be working. He squeezed Ennis's fingers again. "I do I still feel bad about it all?"

"I don't know, Ennis. You obviously haven't let go of your past and that's what you need to do. You need to learn to accept that it happened. And remember, it hasn't affected you now, not really. You still managed to find love, and have a good life. You have a lot to be happy about and a lot to be proud of. Look at everything you've built up with Jack." The pair of them looked at each other, eyes full of love.

Anna smiled at them both. "As for what happened in Vietnam...that will be harder to tackle. It will take longer for you to get through that. It seems to me like you need to find some kind of closure."

"How do I do that?" he asked her.

"Your friend...he was buried in Ohio, right?" They nodded. "I want you to go up there, both of you. I'd like you to visit Adam's grave and explore your feelings. Talk about what happened. Ennis, if you feel the need to break down, don't be afraid to do so. It won't make you any less of a man if you need Jack to hold you up, alright?"

They both nodded. "So...when should we go?"

"As soon as you can, I'd say. And when you come back, come see me to talk about what you've learnt. Trust me, it will do you good."

Jack glanced at Ennis and smiled again. "Sure thing, Anna. Thanks."

Later that day, when they were back home, Becky took a turn for the worst. Her fever had skyrocketed and she barely had the energy to even move out of bed to use the bathroom. Jack had to place a bucket by the side of her bed in case she needed to throw up. He also called Rick for advice, and he was due to come by with something for the fever. Rose was taking care of Lily and Ennis and Jack were now lying on their own bed, talking softly.

They had decided to take the trip to Ohio as Anna had suggested. Jack could see the logic in it; Ennis would be able to have a focal point for his thoughts. He could get out everything he felt and Jack would be there to comfort him.

"So, when are we gonna go?" Jack asked, lying on his side and gazing at Ennis. His lover looked back at him unsurely. He was determined to keep to his vow of doing his part in his recovery.

"Dunno. Couple of days, I guess. Gotta make sure Becky's alright first. Can't believe this. She's gettin' worse..."

Jack's eyes lowered. "Yeah...I guess...she ain't got long left..."

Ennis raised his hand and touched Jack's cheek, stroking it softly. "S'okay, Jack...I'm sure she's been happy to have you helpin' her. You've been so great for her." Jack smiled at him. "I know how that feels..."

"Oh, cowboy..." Jack sighed, shuffling closer and feeling Ennis put an arm around him, holding him tightly. "I'm doin' my best for ya...hope I'm doin' somethin' right."

"You are, Jack...we're real lucky to have ya." Jack smiled and closed his eyes, snuggling closer to Ennis. They were warm and comfortable, and Jack was confident that Ennis wasn't about to have any nightmares, so he was happy to just lie here with him. The only sound in the room was their breathing and the house was quiet.

A little later, there was a knocking on their door, rousing them from their doze. "Ennis? Jack?" It was Rose. They looked around the room with bleary eyes and then sat up.

"Yeah, mama?" Jack called, managing to get off the bed and go to the door. She had Lily in her arms.

"Just so ya know, Rick's here. He's givin' Becky somethin' for her fever, thought you might wanna say hi."

Jack nodded. "Alright. We'll be right there." Rose smiled and walked back down the hall. Jack turned to Ennis. "Wanna go see Rick?"

"Sure." Jack pulled Ennis up by the hand and they walked down the hall to Becky's room. She was lying in bed with Rick, who was giving her medication. Rose was standing by the door.

"Hey, how's it goin'?" said Jack, putting an arm around Ennis's shoulders. Rick turned and smiled at them.

"Hey, guys. Just givin' Becky this for her fever. How are you guys?"

"Okay. Anna said we should take a trip to Ohio, you know?" Rick nodded in understanding.

"Right. When are you goin'?"

"Couple of days. We'll be about a week. She's been a real help already." Ennis nodded in agreement.

"Good. I'm glad things are workin' out. Anyway..." He finished with Becky and packed up his bag. "Just give her the medication every three hours to keep the fever down, alright?"

They nodded and Becky sighed. "Rick, tell long have I got left?"

He looked at her, full of sympathy. "I have to be honest, Becky...I don't think you've got long. You've been steadily gettin' worse, so's definitely gonna be soon. I'm thinkin' maybe a month or so."

Jack's heart sank. "A month...?" Ennis put his arm up and around Jack in comfort. "God..."

"I'm sorry, guys...she's really bad right now. Will you be okay?"

"Yeah," said Becky. "Got it all sorted with Greg. My will an' everythin'." Rick nodded.

"Alright. I better get goin', call me if you need anythin' an' take care of yourselves." He clapped Ennis on the shoulder and left the others to look at each other.

"Well...I guess that's that," Jack said quietly. "I'm sorry, Becky..."

She shook her head. "Ain't yer fault, Jack. Nothin' we can do now. At least Lily's gonna be okay." She smiled at her sleeping daughter.

Ennis and Jack looked at each other and left the room. They went back to their room and lay down again, facing each other and leaning on their elbows. Jack's blue eyes looked over Ennis's face.

"Can't believe all this," he whispered, running a finger along the quilt. Ennis covered Jack's hand with his own.

"I know. Been through a lot, huh?"

"Yeah...anyway...shouldn't Pete be arrivin' here soon? He said he was movin'..."

"Yeah, he did. We gonna talk to him once he's here?" Ennis asked, looking into his eyes.

"If you want. I'm sure he'd wanna talk to you," Jack said, rubbing his arm.

Ennis took a breath. "He really don't blame me, does he?"

Jack's eyes lit up; Ennis seemed to finally understand what he was being told, that nobody blamed him for what had happened to Adam, and that it wasn't his fault. The sooner that Ennis came to terms with everything that had happened to him, the better off he would be. He shuffled forward and their lips met softly, Jack gently kissing Ennis and running a hand through his curls. They drew apart after a few seconds and smiled at each other.

"You okay, baby?" Jack whispered as he nuzzled their noses together, making Ennis smile and make a contented noise.

"Yeah, Jack. Could we stay here a while?"

"Sure, we can stay as long as you want. You want me to hold ya or anythin'?" Jack offered.

"Yeah, thanks." Ennis smiled at him once more and then turned onto his other side, letting Jack spoon around him, rubbing his stomach.

"Gonna be okay, Ennis," Jack whispered. Ennis took a deep breath and closed his eyes, losing himself to Jack's loving embrace.

"I know, Jack."

Two days later, Ennis and Jack were preparing to leave for Ohio. They would be gone for about a week, and they were nervous about leaving Becky in the state she was in. If she really did have just a month left to live, they wanted to be around as much as possible. Ennis knew that Jack would never forgive himself if she died and they weren't there. But they would only be gone for about a week; they would most likely be back in time.

Jack went into their bedroom to find Ennis sitting on the bed, looking at the shirts. He sat next to him and put an arm around him, shaking him slightly.

"You alright?" he said softly. Ennis nodded and took a deep breath.

"Yeah. Hope this trip works. Where's he buried again?"

"Pete said the church on the outskirts of Mansfield, near where they lived. Quiet place, we ain't gonna be disturbed, I reckon. There's motels close by an' everythin'..." Jack's voice trailed off and he squeezed Ennis's side.

Ennis nodded again. "Okay. We all packed?"

Jack looked over their bed; they had a pair of bags packed with everything they would need and were due to leave in an hour. "Yep, all good to go. You wanna look in on Becky before we go?"

"Yeah. Jack, I...I'm sure nothin's gonna happen while we're gone. I'm sure she'll be okay." Their eyes met and they leaned in, letting their foreheads collide. They stayed that way for a while, with their eyes closed. They eventually roused themselves and got ready to leave, exchanging a brief kiss before grabbing their bags.

They went down the hall and into Becky's room; her eyes had been closed but they opened when they poked their heads around the door. "Hey, Becky. Just wanted to look in on ya before we go."

She smiled and tried to sit up, but they moved forward. "Hey, don't strain yourself. Sit back." They sat near her on the bed and took one of her hands. "We'll be back in a week, okay? So don't go overdoin' it, alright?" He looked at her seriously and smiled at little.

Becky nodded. "I won't. You guys gonna be okay up there?" She looked between them, squeezing their hands.

"Yeah, we'll be fine," said Jack. "I think this'll do us good, to go up there." He looked at Ennis; he smiled back at him. "Anyway...just look after yerself, okay?"

She squeezed their hands. "I'll be fine. You just go on up there an' do whatever you gotta do. I'll see ya in a week." They both kissed her forehead and got up, clasping their hands together and leaving her to sleep again. They made their way downstairs, where Rose was waiting with Lily.

"You guys off, then?" she said, looking sympathetically at them. They nodded and Jack ruffled Lily's hair; it was starting to grow properly by now, just like her mother's.

"Yep. Sooner we go, the sooner we can get back. We got Dave lookin' after the ranch an' everythin'll be okay." Jack was glad that they had such good friends that they could count on when they needed them.

"Yeah, we'll be fine. I can look after Becky an' Lily. Don't go worryin' about nothin'. Just concentrate on what you gotta do."

Jack smiled at her. "We will, mama. Well..." He looked around and swung their clasped hands a little. "Guess we better hit the road." They went out the front door and turned to Rose, kissing her cheek and then Lily's. They went down the steps and threw their bags in the back of the truck. They waved to Rose and got in the truck, Jack sighing a little and stretching.

"You ready, bud?" he said to Ennis, looking at him. Ennis looked back, seeming like he was looking forward to this; finding some sort of closure to what had happened to him. Jack had the feeling that this trip would be good for Ennis. Anna did seem to know what she was talking about and Jack trusted her judgement.

"Yeah. Lookin' forward to this. Where we stoppin' tonight?" He looked over at Jack.

Jack pulled out their map and spread it across the dashboard. "I figure we drive to Asheville, up in Tennessee, an' spend the night there. In the mornin', I figure we could do the rest in a whole day, go all the way up to Mansfield an' spend the night there. We can go to the...graveyard in the mornin'. That sound alright?"

Ennis nodded. "Sounds good." He was glad that Jack had everything planned out for their trip; he was just thinking about what would happen when they got there. "We gonna get goin'?"

Jack nodded and folded up the map, tossing it onto the seat between them. He started the truck and he felt Ennis's hand find his, their fingers lacing together. They backed out of the drive and headed north, wondering what they might find at the other end.

Rose watched them leave, thinking about what they had been through already and hoping that nothing else was about to happen. She loved them and wanted them to be happy, and she knew that since they had gotten together and Jack had brought Ennis home to Lightning Flat all that time ago, she'd never seen him as happy as he'd been then. She would always be grateful to Ennis for making her son happy, especially after everything his father had done to him. Jack was safe and loved now, as was Becky. They had a house full of love and Rose wasn't looking forward to the day when it would fall apart; when Becky died, it would take a long time for them to get through it. Hopefully, Ennis would be back to normal by then and could help Jack with his emotions. They would all need to be there for each other and Rose had a feeling that everything would be alright.

That night, they reached a motel just outside of Asheville, eager for some sleep and to stretch their legs a little. They got a room and stood outside for a few minutes, smoking and leaning against the wall. When they were done, they went inside; it wasn't the cleanest place they'd ever been in, but it was a place to sleep and be close. Jack turned to Ennis. "You wanna get a shower? You can go in first if ya want." Ennis's stitches had improved greatly by now and he was capable of taking a shower without aggravating them.

Ennis thought for a moment, and then shook his head. "Um...could you join me?" Jack raised his eyebrows in surprise. He hadn't expected that, given everything that they were going through at the moment. They hadn't had a great deal of intimacy since Ennis's arrival home and he was scared of taking things too far with him; what if they started doing something and Ennis pulled away, or Jack scared him? He would feel awful if he freaked Ennis out because of a lack of self-control.

"You sure?" Ennis nodded, twining his hands together.

"Yeah. Just a shower, though. No offense, bud..." Jack shook his head and moved forward, placing his hands on Ennis's shoulders and gripping them. He looked up into his eyes.

"S'alright. I said that we'd go at whatever pace you wanted, an' that's what we'll do. We don't gotta do nothin' you ain't ready for. Come on." He took Ennis's hand and they went into the bathroom, which was at least acceptable for them. They stripped and squeezed into the stall, Jack turning the shower on and grabbing the soap.

"Kay, cowboy, lemme wash yer back." Ennis turned and leaned against the stall, closing his eyes as Jack slowly washed him, running his hands along his back and gently kissing his skin as he was done. He could feel Ennis relax under his loving touch. He knew he'd made the right decision in not wanting to send Ennis to a mental hospital; Ennis was much better off here with him. He could look after him as needed and always seemed to know what Ennis needed.

"That feel good, sweetheart?" Jack whispered, nuzzling against the back of his neck. Ennis nodded, his head leaning forward.

"Yeah. Thanks, Jack..." He turned around and they kissed, hands on each others' faces. They washed and showered properly before the water ran cold. As they dried themselves off, Jack looked at Ennis; he seemed a little stronger than when he'd returned. Jack still felt very protective of him, but he had the feeling that Ennis was getting better. He hadn't had any nightmares for about a week now, and Jack didn't know whether it was the drugs or the presence of the shirts in their bed, but he was happy that Ennis was improving. Jack had asked him if they should take the shirts with them, but Ennis had declined, saying that he felt okay to sleep without them, as long as Jack was there.

They left the bathroom and crawled into bed; the sheets were thin and not particularly warm, but they could huddle together. They moved in close and Jack sighed as they leaned on their elbows so they could talk. His eyes raked over Ennis's face; he looked tired after their day of driving.

"We better get some sleep. Got a full day of drivin' tomorrow." Ennis nodded and picked at the sheet, his eyes lowered.

"Yeah." He then raised his eyes to Jack and slowly leaned in. Jack let himself be kissed, moaning softly as their tongues met. They just kissed and kept their hands to themselves; Jack was unwilling to push too far and scare Ennis.

After a few seconds of kissing, he could feel Ennis pushing close against him and wrap an arm around his back. "Mmm..." Their bodies pressed together and, to his horror, Jack could feel himself getting hard. A feeling in his leg told him that Ennis was feeling the same. Jack pulled away, starting to panic about taking things too far.

"Ennis, I..." He looked fearfully at him. Ennis's eyes were dark.

"Jack...I dunno..." Jack touched his cheek.

"It's okay...shoulda seen that comin', I guess. Bein' attracted to each other an' all. Was bound to happen eventually. Don't mean nothin' if you don't want it to." Ennis was looking hesistant and unsure of himself.

"I do wanna, Jack...want ya so much. But..." He trailed off.

"You ain't ready. I know that, an' it's okay." Jack kissed Ennis lightly and ran a hand through his curls. "I can wait. I want you too, but I don't wanna rush ya. Yer doin' so well with yer recovery, I don't wanna give ya a setback."

Ennis nodded. "Thanks, Jack. I think..." He took a breath. "I think it might not be that long before I can...feelin' real good right now."

Jack smiled. "Glad to hear it. Lookin' forward to bein' with ya, an' I don't mind waitin'. Just...let me know when yer ready, okay? Ain't no rush." They kissed again and settled down, facing each other. "You want me to hold ya or anythin'?" Ennis nodded and moved forward into his arms.

"Yeah. Thanks, Jack." He buried his face in Jack's chest, and Jack wrapped his arms around him, kissing his forehead.

"Yer welcome, Ennis. Get some sleep an' don't worry about nothin'. I'm right here an' I always will be." He held Ennis close and stared into the darkness, knowing that he would do everything he could to make it all okay for him. He would always be here for Ennis; he knew that Ennis had long since felt a duty to him, to do right by him no matter what, and Jack knew in his heart that he felt the same. He would do right by Ennis as he was on the road to recovery and make sure he was there when Ennis needed him.

Two days later, Ennis and Jack had arrived in Mansfield and were now on their way to the church where Adam was buried. Pete had told them where to find it; it was on the outskirts and they were unlikely to be disturbed. Jack had a feeling that Ennis might need to be comforted by the time they were done.

They arrived at the graveyard and parked the truck. Jack turned to Ennis. "You alright?" He saw his lover take a deep breath as he looked out of the windscreen.

"Yeah. Just need a minute." He sought Jack's hand and their fingers clasped together. Jack stroked Ennis's hand with his thumb while he gathered himself. When he was ready, he nodded to Jack. "I'm ready." Jack nodded back and they got out of the truck, breathing in the fresh air. They looked out across the graveyard; they had always given Jack the creeps.

They went through the gate and looked around; Pete had told them that Adam was buried under an elm tree that was impossible to miss. They thought they could see it in the distance so started walking. The place was empty, but Jack still didn't like it. But he reminded himself that he was here for Ennis, as promised.

They reached their destination and saw the grave; it was made from a soft grey stone. They looked down at it and Jack drew in a breath.

Adam Wilson

June 15th, 1942 - June 26th, 1966

Beloved friend, missed always

Jack looked at Ennis; his eyes were fixed on the grave and his arms folded across his chest in defence. Jack stuck his thumbs in his belt loops and waited patiently. After several moments, Ennis let out a breath.

"Can't believe it...right here...I..." He shook his head and Jack could see him getting emotional. With a quick glance around, he put his arm around him and squeezed him gently.

"It's okay...I'm here...if you wanna say anythin', now's yer chance."

Ennis nodded. "I just...I just hope he knows how sorry I am...for what happened...that I couldn't..."

Jack looked sympathetically at him. " couldn't save him, but that ain't yer fault. It ain't like you knew it was gonna happen. Wasn't nothin' you coulda done, baby." He gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and Ennis sighed.

"I know, but...I dunno..." His throat was painfully tight and Jack could tell that there was something troubling him. He turned Ennis to face him.

"What's wrong, cowboy? Ever since we started talkin' 'bout all this stuff, it's like...there's somethin' you ain't tellin' me. Somethin' deep down that's buggin' ya. Please tell me, Ennis. You know how bad things get when ya don't tell me stuff. Let me in, Ennis. I just wanna help ya get better, that's all I ever wanted." Ennis's eyes were lowered and full of sadness, so Jack placed his hands on Ennis's cheeks, trying to get him to meet his gaze.

"Jack, I...there is somethin'...somethin' that's botherin' me...I'm tryin' to tell ya...I just..." He shook his head and was unable to go on, so Jack looked around them; this clearly wasn't the best environment for Ennis to reveal his feelings.

"Alright, tell ya what. We'll go back to the motel, an' you can tell me there, okay? Come on." He put his arm around Ennis again and led him out of the graveyard. They got back in the truck and were back at the motel soon enough. They sat on the end of the bed and Jack took Ennis's hands, looking into his eyes.

"Okay. You ready to tell me now?" He waited a few moments, and then Ennis started to speak, unsurely and shakily.

"I...when we got to the area...the place where it happened...right away, Adam was havin' his doubts about it. Said it didn't feel right, that we should go back to somewhere safe. But...I just said it was our job, that we should keep goin'..."

Then it hit Jack; Ennis had been the one to keep them moving, back in that jungle. He'd told Adam that they should keep going and now he felt that it was his fault. He didn't just feel guilty about being unable to prevent Adam from dying, he actually felt responsible for the whole thing. Jack was at a loss for words.

" wasn't yer fault. It ain't like you knew it was gonna happen." He touched Ennis's cheek and stroked it softly, but it wasn't having much effect.

"But I..." Ennis's eyes were downcast again. "We knew it was gonna be dangerous out there an' I knew somethin' like this could happen. It's all my fault..." At this, Jack brought his hands up around Ennis's head and made him meet his eyes.

"No, baby, ain't your fault. You knew it was dangerous, an' it coulda happened at any time. Even if you guys hadn't been out there together, it still coulda happened. He coulda been out there on his own an' he still coulda been attacked. Listen to me," he said, bringing his face up to meet his. "It wasn't your fault. Please don't blame yerself, Ennis. Nobody blames you, an' I'm sure Adam didn't. You ain't responsible, you hear me?"

Ennis nodded and his eyes closed, trying to believe in Jack's words. "Jack...I...I'm tryin' not to feel guilty an' all, but..." Jack sighed and pulled him into his arms, rocking him slightly.

"It's alright, Ennis. I know it's gonna take a little while for ya to get over what happened, but it's gonna happen. I think this has done ya some good. You've told me what's wrong an' now we can fix it. It'll be okay." He felt Ennis cling to him, burying his face in his shoulder.

"Hope so, Jack...glad yer here..."

"I'm always gonna be here, Ennis," Jack promised, holding him close and rubbing his back. He could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel; an end to their misery and hope for the future.