Chapter 22

September 10th, 1966

Ennis and Jack returned that afternoon, unaware of what had occurred in their absence. Becky had been struck down by pneumonia that morning, and the effects on her were made even worse by her syphilis. Rick had been by and had been forced to admit that she only had a month to live, which didn't do anything for her morale. Rose remembered when her brother Harold had been hit by it and he'd been admitted to hospital. Rick had agreed that Becky could die at home, for her own comfort. At least she could die with her family around.

When the two cowboys returned, they couldn't find Rose or Lily anywhere, and looked around unsurely. "Wonder where my mama is?" Jack mused. "I'll check the office. Could ya check upstairs?" he said to Ennis, putting a hand on his shoulder. Ennis nodded.

"Sure." Jack smiled and left; he was more confident about leaving Ennis on his own now after their trip. He hadn't had any nightmares since their visit to Adam's grave and he seemed different. He seemed calmer and less frightened about being outside. Jack was sure that Ennis was now on the mend and was working towards his recovery.

He checked in the office, but it was empty. He even went into the barn and stables, but the hands hadn't seen his mother, so he went back to the house. He went up the stairs to find Ennis in the hallway, looking agitated. "Ennis? You okay?"

Ennis looked at him sadly. "It's Becky, she..." Jack's heart skipped a beat.

"What?" He walked down the hall to Ennis, who put a hand on his shoulder. Jack looked into the room, where his mother was sat on Becky's bed, holding Lily. They walked in and Jack breathed a sigh of relief to see that Becky was still alive, but she looked awful. She was pale and kept coughing as she talked to Rose.

"Rick says it won't be long," Becky said quietly, holding onto Lily's hand. "'Cos of my body bein' all weak from the syphilis, it ain't so good at fightin' off infections, so..."

"I know, honey," said Rose sympathetically. "Wish there was somethin' I could do."

Becky shook her head. "Ain't yer fault." She then noticed Jack and Ennis by the door, and smiled. "Hey, guys."

Jack smiled and they moved forward into the room, holding hands. "Hey, Becky. You okay?"

She shook her head. "Caught pneumonia." Jack's heart sank, remembering how it had been when his Uncle Harold had caught it and died. It had given him this ranch, and a life he loved, but he wished that it hadn't cost his uncle his life. And now Becky had caught it, and was unable to fight it off due to her illness. They both moved forward and sat on the bed.

"Aw, Becky...I'm sorry...what did Rick say?"

"Said I've only got about a month to go," she said quietly. Ennis could see the effect this was having on Jack. He put his arm around him and squeezed him gently.

"Anyway..." she said, waving a hand. "How are you guys? How'd it go?"

Ennis nodded. "Alright. Think it did us some good. Think we're gonna be okay." Jack nodded in agreement.

"Yeah. But, Becky..." Jack took her other hand and held it tightly. "I'm sorry..."

She shook her head. "It's alright, Jack. Ain't yer fault." She then yawned. "Think I'm gonna get some more sleep, if that's alright." They nodded and pulled away.

"Sure, honey. You get as much sleep as ya need. We could do with some too," said Jack, looking at Ennis. They all kissed her on the forehead and left the room. Outside, they all turned to each other.

"Can't believe this," said Jack quietly, fiddling with Ennis's fingers in his hand.

"I know, Jack, but...there ain't nothin' we can do. All we can do is wait an' just make sure she's comfortable happens." Jack nodded.

"I know, mama. Anyway...we think this trip has done us some good, but...I think we could do with some shut-eye." She nodded.

"Okay. Let me know if ya get hungry." She went downstairs and they went along the hall to their room. Once inside, Ennis turned to Jack; his face was in his hands.

"Jack?" He moved forward and placed his hands on Jack's shoulders. Jack raised his head and looked into his eyes; his own were threatening to fill with tears.

"Gonna kill me to lose her, Ennis. I loved her to bits when we was growin' up back in Wyomin', but...since she came to live with us, I...I've loved her even more. She's like a sister to me..." He bit his lip and was unable to go on.

Ennis rubbed Jack's arm. "I know, bud. I feel the same 'bout her. We've been there for her through everythin', since she got pregnant, an'...havin' it all end like this..." Jack nodded and moved forward into Ennis's arms. They held onto each other tightly and were soon kissing softly, trying to find comfort in each other. Jack pulled away after a few moments, looking a little happier.

"How 'bout you, Ennis? How're you feelin' after goin' up there?"

He could see Ennis slowly nodding. "Alright, I guess. Feel a little better after seein' his grave. Like...he was there an' know..." His voice trailed off.

Jack nodded. "I know. An' I'm glad you told me what's really goin' on in yer head. I think it does ya some good to get it all out, what yer feelin'...keepin' it all bottled up can't be good for ya. I'm here an' I wanna help ya, okay?"

Their foreheads collided and they stared into each other's eyes, as if it was just the two of them in the whole world right there. Jack leaned up and kissed Ennis again, gently pressing their lips together and feeling Ennis wrap his arms fully around him. They got onto the bed and kicked their boots off, stretching and sighing after their day of travelling. Jack scooted up to Ennis, who put an arm around him as they looked up at the ceiling. Despite all of the problems they were having in their lives right now, both of them knew that there was no place on earth that they would rather be right now.

Four days later, they were lying in bed in the morning. Ennis's nightmares had stopped by now, and he was sleeping better, to Jack's delight. He'd done his best to help Ennis through the last couple of months, and something seemed to have worked, for Ennis seemed to be faring a good deal better than he had been. After their visit to Ohio, there seemed to be a change in him; he was more open to talking about what had happened. Jack could tell that Ennis was trying to have faith in his words from before; that none of it was his fault and nobody blamed him for it.

That morning, Jack rolled onto his back and groaned as he remembered what day it was. Exactly two years ago to this day, he and Ennis had been in Lightning Flat for his father's funeral. He'd been very torn up and confused over how he was supposed to feel about it, and Ennis had been there for him. He'd held his hand as they'd paid their respects and hadn't let go, despite the presence of several members of Jack's family. Ennis hadn't seemed to care about what they might say, especially Jack's uncle. And that night, he'd encouraged Jack to tell him everything he could remember about his father's abuse. He'd held his hand again and been there for him as he'd dredged up his worst memories. And when Jack was done, Ennis had held him close and comforted him as needed. Jack would never forget that.

He rubbed his hands over his face, staring up at the ceiling. He tried not to think about his father if he could help it; he knew that there would always be bad blood between them. Jack had lost any chance of reconciliation with him, and he would now always have to live with the fact that they could never repair their relationship. It was just a fact of life that he would have to live with.

After several moments, he looked over at Ennis; he was still asleep on his side, facing him. Jack loved to watch him sleep; he looked so peaceful and untroubled, especially now that his nightmares had stopped. Jack was happy that he was on the road to recovery. He was looking forward to being with him again physically, and he knew that when it happened it would be special and a moment he would always remember. But he was willing to wait until Ennis was ready for it, and he knew that it would be worth the wait.

Jack lay there for a while, just watching Ennis as he slept. He gingerly reached out and gently ran his fingers along Ennis's arm, lightly so as not to wake him. He sighed to himself, feeling his heart fill up with love for the man beside him. He and Ennis had been together for three years now, and had spent the majority of it in close proximity to each other. He'd heard about couples who spent all of their time together and got sick of each other because the other was always there. He was very happy that this wasn't the case for him and Ennis; they would never tire of each other.

After about ten minutes, Jack could see Ennis starting to wake, his eyelids fluttering and face muscles moving as he woke up. Jack smiled to himself as Ennis opened his eyes. Ennis met his eyes and he smiled back. "Hey."

Jack reached out and cupped his cheek, stroking with his thumb. "Mornin', cowboy. Sleep alright?" He saw Ennis nod and yawn, his eyes scrunching a little.

"Yeah. Ain't had no nightmares for a while now, right?" he said, looking at Jack. He smiled warmly at him and lay his head on the pillow.

"Yep. I gotta say, Ennis...yer doin' real well. You had me real worried when you got back...all torn up an' messed up...I gotta say, I wasn't sure if we could make it. I really wanted to, but...I was scared..." He bit his lip; he had been really scared that they wouldn't find a way to work through what had happened, and that something bad would happen.

"I know, Jack. I was too, but...I knew I'd be alright, 'cos...I had you," Ennis said simply. "I figured I'd get through it so long as I had you. An'...I was right. Wouldn't have been able to get through it without you, Jack." His deep brown eyes gazed at him, full of love and trust.

Jack smiled and leaned in close, shuffling towards him. Their lips met in soft kisses, hands in each other's hair. The only sounds in the room were their kissing and breathing as they lay there together. After a few minutes, they pulled apart. Jack rubbed Ennis's arm.

"Don't mean to go spoilin' this, know what day it is today, right?" he whispered. Ennis thought but nothing came to mind. He shook his head.

"What?" Jack sighed and picked at the sheet, eyes downcast.

"My dad's funeral, two years ago..." Ennis's eyes widened at this and his mouth opened in surprise.

" okay?" Jack shook his head, unsure of how to feel about it all.

"I dunno. Don't like thinkin' on him if I can help it. Anyway...I'm past it. Ain't gonna change nothin' now, he's gone. Always hated him an' nothin' coulda changed that." That was the truth as far as he was concerned. His father had lost all chance of making up with him, with all the abuse he had thrown at him over the years.

Ennis was watching him sadly, not knowing how to react to this. "Dunno what to say, gonna be alright?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah. I'll be fine. Just...gotta concentrate on you guys now. That's more important to me." He kissed Ennis again and they wrapped their arms around each other, feeling warm and contented. Everything would be alright as long as they held onto each other, never letting go.

The day after, Pete came by the ranch, having moved into an apartment in the city. He wanted to talk to Ennis and Jack properly about everything, something which Ennis wasn't sure about. He was doing better with his feelings about Adam's death, thanks to Jack's love and Anna's help, but he was about to face Pete for the first time. He still felt a little guilty over the whole thing, despite what he was told, but he had to try and swallow those feelings.

It was ten in the morning, and Pete was due to visit at noon, so they could all have lunch together. At the moment, Ennis and Jack were in the office, just talking and holding hands across the desk. Jack had his head leaning on his hand, his elbow on the desk as he looked at Ennis.

" you feelin' about today?" he asked softly, squeezing Ennis's hand. Ennis took a deep breath.

"Dunno. Ain't really sure what to expect, to be honest. Ain't seen him in ages, an'...after everythin' that happened..." He shook his head and Jack took his other hand.

"It's okay, know Pete don't blame ya for what happened, nobody don't got no reason to worry." Ennis nodded and sighed.

"I know..." He looked downcast and Jack wanted to comfort him. "I just..."

Jack got up and went around the desk, sitting in Ennis's lap and putting his arms around his neck. "Come here..." He held him and felt Ennis putting his own arms around his waist. "It's okay, Ennis." He kissed the top of his head.

"I know, Jack."

Two hours later, Pete had arrived and they were sitting down to lunch. Becky was unable to leave her bed now, and they hated leaving her on her own, but there was nothing they could do about it. She was asleep right now, and they had the baby monitors between them so that they would know if she needed them.

As they started eating, Pete turned to Ennis. "So how you doin'?" he asked, unsure of how to be around him. He knew from Jack that Ennis was still feeling guilty over everything, and that no matter how many times he was told that nobody blamed him, it was still very hard for him to get through his thoughts.

Ennis nodded, feeling nervous. "Okay. Doin' better since we got back from Ohio..." He looked at Jack, seeming to draw strength from his presence. "I, uh...used to have nightmares, but...they've stopped now."

Pete half-smiled in understanding. "Good. Ain't fair to you to hafta suffer like that. Never wanted that for ya."

"I know. gotta know somethin'. When me an' Adam was out in that jungle, he had the feelin' that somethin' bad was gonna happen, that we shouldn't be there. He said we should go back, but...I said we should keep on goin'. I was the one who said we should keep walkin'' if I hadn't..." His throat worked and Jack put a hand on his shoulder.


Pete shook his head. "It ain't yer fault, Ennis. Coulda happened anyway in a place like that. I sure as hell don't blame ya."

"I keep tellin' him that," Jack said quietly. Rose was silent as she watched them, helping Lily with her food.

Ennis looked unsure. "But, lost the love of yer life, an' I coulda stopped it if I hadn't..." He took a few breaths. "You had to give up yer business an' everythin' you built up with him...all 'cos of me..." He was becoming emotional and wasn't able to stop it. Jack saw it coming and stood up, whispering in Ennis's ear.

"C'mon, cowboy...out here..." Ennis allowed himself to be pulled up and led outside onto the back porch. He was soon in Jack's arms, being held tightly as he finally let out all of his feelings; all the despair he felt at being unable to save Adam, the feeling that he was responsible for his comrade's death, and the idea that everybody blamed him for it. He felt useless at being unable to help Jack through Becky's illness and with looking after the ranch. He had wanted to be here, when Jack had needed him, and he hadn't been.

"I'm so sorry, Jack," he mumbled into Jack's shoulder as he shook in his arms, unable to stop his tears. Jack just held him closer and rubbed his back.

"It's alright,'s don't gotta feel sorry for nothin'. Ain't none of this yer fault, you hear me?" He looked out over the land, knowing that this had been coming for a long time. It had surely only been a matter of time before Ennis had a breakdown. Jack was determined to try and make him feel better. "It's okay..."

After a few minutes, Ennis finally calmed down and Jack pulled away to see his face. His eyes were red and there were tear tracks on his cheeks. "Ennis..." He wiped his eyes with his thumbs and kissed him gently. "It's ain't got nothin' to apologise for, you hear me?" He lifted up Ennis's chin to meet his eyes. Ennis's eyes were full of sadness.

"Jack, I...I just..."

"Shh..." Jack whispered, holding Ennis's face in his hands. "It's okay. Don't go feelin' sorry, nobody blames ya for what happened. Come here..." He pulled Ennis into his arms again and they swayed slightly. What Ennis whispered into his ear next surprised him.

"Jack...tonight...can we, um..."

"What, baby?" he murmured, holding the back of his head. He felt Ennis take a deep breath against him.

"I...I'm ready..." Jack froze, unsure of what he had just heard. Did I hear him right? He's ready for...that?

"You sure?" he asked slowly, hoping that Ennis really was ready.

"Yeah. I...I need ya..." Then it hit Jack; he needed comfort, in the best and most effective way possible. He smiled to himself, happy to provide whatever Ennis needed.

"Okay, sweetheart. You got it."

Later that day, after Ennis had calmed down, he had decided that it was time to call his brother and sister, to update them on how he was doing. He hadn't spoken to them in so long and he wanted to hear their voices again.

After his breakdown, he'd spoken some more to Pete about everything, and Pete had tried once more to reassure him that he didn't blame him for any of it. He seemed to be able to tell that Ennis was feeling fragile at the moment, so after looking in on Becky he'd left. Jack had then spent half an hour on the sofa with Ennis, holding his hand and talking softly to him. He'd agreed that tonight they could try to have sex again for the first time in months, and he hoped that they would succeed. He wanted to be with Ennis again, and missed him. But he didn't want to push Ennis into anything.

Then again, Ennis had asked him outright, and said that he was ready. That had to be a good sign, he figured. Ennis had reached out to him and Jack thought that there was a good chance of them being able to make that connection again.

After a while, they went to the office to make the calls to Cecilia and K.E., and Jack had promised to be there for Ennis if he needed him. They sat on either side of the desk and Jack took Ennis's hand.

"I'm right here, remember," he said gently. "Ain't got nothin' to worry about, okay?" Ennis nodded and took the receiver, letting Jack dial with his free hand. After a few moments, Ennis heard his sister's voice.

"Cecilia Wilson."

"Hey sis, it's me," he said shakily, squeezing Jack's hand. He heard an intake of breath.

"Oh, are you? I've been worryin' about you."

"I know...sorry I didn't call sooner..."

"It's okay, sweetie. I know you've been through a lot over the last few months, an' it's okay that you needed time to sort your head out. How are you doin'?"

"Better than I was when I got back," he admitted. "Me an' Jack are seein' this counsellor at the hospital where our doctor works. She's real nice an' I think it's workin'."

"Oh, that's great. Have you talked to Pete?"

"Yeah, he was here earlier. Moved down to the city, lives in an apartment. He's kinda torn up right now...dunno how to talk to him, really."

"Ennis...I'm sure everythin'll be okay. You've got Jack, right? I know he loves you, an' he'll stand by you, I'm sure."

Ennis smiled to himself, looking up at Jack. "I know. I'm real lucky to have him." Jack smiled back. "How's Tom?"

Cecilia sighed. "He's copin'. Hurt him bad to lose Adam, they'd got real close since you an' Jack brought us all together."

"I know. Tell him we're thinkin' on him."

"I will. Anyway, I better go. I gotta pick the kids up from school soon. You take care, okay?"

"Yeah, will do, sis. You too."

"Bye, Ennis," she said softly.

"Bye, Cecilia." He hung up and took a deep breath, looking up at Jack. "Guess that wasn't so bad."

Jack nodded, playing with Ennis's fingers. "Yeah. Just one more an' that'll be it, cowboy. Then we can go for a walk, alright?" Ennis nodded and picked up the phone again, letting Jack dial for him.

"K.E. Del Mar."

"Hey, K.E. It's Ennis."

"Oh...hey little brother. How you doin'? Been a couple months since ya got back, right?"

"Yeah. Sorry I didn't call earlier...had a lot to deal with."

"It's okay, Ennis. I've been callin' Cecilia now an' then to talk about it all, an' we know how messed up yer feelin' right now. Don't worry about it, okay?"

Ennis nodded. "I know. Just wanted to call you guys. Been in therapy lately an' it seems to be workin'."

"That's good. Hope you get yerself back on track, Ennis. An' I'm sure Jack can help ya, right?"

"Yeah, he's been great." He felt Jack squeezing his hand again. "How are you guys?"

"Fine, everythin's okay. All been thinkin' about you. Just...concentrate on healin', alright?"

"Yeah...anyway, I'm gonna go. Need a walk."

"Sure. We'll talk soon. Bye, Ennis."

"Bye." He put the phone back and sighed, rubbing his forehead. Jack was soon tugging on his hand.

"C'mon, bud. Let's get outta here." He led him out of the office and they started walking, with no real destination in mind. They held hands as they walked together, enjoying the late summer sunshine and the fresh air. They nodded to the hands as they passed, knowing that they were okay to leave the ranch in their care. It took a great deal of pressure off them to know that they didn't have to worry about their business.

They kept walking and eventually found a spot of grass underneath a tall tree. They sat down in the shadow cast by the tree, leaning against the trunk. Jack shifted a little so that he was lying against Ennis's shoulder. He held Ennis's hand in both of his, running a finger along his lover's wedding ring.

"You doin' okay, Ennis?" he said softly.

Ennis kissed the back of his neck and squeezed him tightly. "Yeah. Thanks for everythin', Jack."

Jack smiled to himself. "No problem, Ennis. You still sure 'bout tonight?"

"Yeah. I'm ready, Jack. Been missin' ya real bad, an'...I'm thinkin' that I'd start feelin' better if know?"

"I know, Ennis. An' I'm happy to do it, you know I am. Just don't want ya feelin' no pressure that we gotta do it."

Ennis shook his head. "Ain't that, Jack. I know you'd never do that. I want ya to do it."

Jack turned his head to lean against Ennis's chest. "Alright, Ennis. Lookin' forward to it." They fell silent, now thinking about tonight and how great it would be for them to connect physically again after so long. They both knew that it would be a night to remember.

That night, after a quiet evening, they finally went upstairs to their bed. Jack had caught Ennis giving him one or two looks during the evening, looks that had a hint of lust in them. Jack had gulped and tried not to grin too widely. He mentally reminded himself not to go too far with Ennis; he didn't want Ennis to get scared, considering that sex for them always contained a mental and emotional connection. He wanted to be sure that Ennis was ready.

They went into their room and Jack turned to Ennis, running his hands up Ennis's arms. "So, do ya wanna do this? You just wanna get in an' let it happen as it does?"

Ennis nodded. "Yeah, sounds good." Maybe they would start off with just kissing and see how it progressed.

Jack lowered his hands to Ennis's shirt buttons, his eyes on Ennis's face as he slowly undid them. To his relief, he felt Ennis's hands reaching for his buttons too. They slowly took each other's shirts off, throwing them to the floor. Jack ran his hands along Ennis's chest; the stitches had healed by now, but as he ran his hands over the smooth chest and in the fine hair, he bit his lip.

"Hope I can make ya feel better, Ennis..." he whispered. Ennis put his arms around Jack's neck.

"Yer already doin' it, darlin'..." Jack raised his head and they smiled at each other. With a deep kiss, they turned to the bed and went to their respective sides, climbing in and getting under the warm sheets. They leaned on their elbows and Jack ran a finger along Ennis's shoulder.

"You ready?" he whispered, looking into Ennis's eyes. Ennis nodded.

"Yeah..." They leaned in and kissed again, finding each other's tongues and bringing their hands to each other's necks. They kissed for about a minute, and when the passion started to rise, they pulled apart. Jack could see that Ennis's eyes were dark with desire. He slowly slid his hand down Ennis's body, nervous about what might happen when he reached further down.

But to his relief, Ennis didn't tense up when Jack touched him. He closed his eyes and sighed. "Jack..."

Jack smiled softly. "This okay?" Ennis nodded.

"Yeah..." He tentatively reached out a hand to touch Jack, feeling his body properly for the first time in months. They felt each other's muscles and explored each other, remembering how this felt. They leaned in and kissed again as they touched each other, feeling as they grew hard in each other's hands. Ennis shuffled closer to Jack as they kissed even more passionately. "Mmm...Jack..."

Jack pressed in close too and soon he was rolling on top of him, slowly pushing him down onto his back. Ennis seemed to be confident in what he was doing, so he took that as a sign to continue. He straddled Ennis and continued to kiss him, probing his mouth with his tongue. Ennis weaved his arms around Jack's back and for several moments they kissed, until Jack finally pulled away again.

"You ready, cowboy?" he said softly, looking down into his eyes. Ennis took a deep breath and nodded.

"Yeah, Jack...please..."

Jack kissed him again. "Okay." He rose up onto his knees and grabbed the lube from the bedside table, unused after so long. He prepared himself and put it back, feeling Ennis's eyes on him, watching his every move. Jack leaned over him, his hands on either side of Ennis's head.

"Just relax, okay? I ain't gonna hurt ya, I promise. Remember, I'm here for ya, an' I love ya." He saw Ennis nod up at him, taking deep breaths. Jack took hold of his legs and gently slid them over his shoulders, running his hands along them as he looked down at Ennis; he looked very vulnerable and Jack just wanted to wrap him up and keep him safe.

He very slowly pushed in, inch by inch and giving Ennis time to get used to the feeling after so long. He watched Ennis's face as he tried to get used to the sensation. "Jack..."

"It's okay,'s okay..." he whispered, finally sliding in all the way. He breathed out a sigh of relief, remembering how it felt to be inside Ennis. All of his memories came flooding back as he felt Ennis around him. He looked down; Ennis too was clearly remembering how this felt. "Ennis, you okay?"

Ennis opened his eyes. "Yeah." He took hold of Jack's shoulders. "Jack, I...I need ya..."

Jack leaned in low and kissed him as he began to thrust into him, deep thrusts that took him in all the way and made him gasp a little. "God...Jack..."

"Feel good, baby?" Jack said softly, moving his lips down to Ennis's neck. Ennis locked his ankles around Jack's neck and pulled him even closer.

"Yeah...come on, darlin'..." Jack continued to thrust into him, and when he finally found the right spot, Ennis's eyes scrunched up and he gasped. "God, you..."

"Love you too, Ennis..." Jack thrust into him again and again, not enough to hurt him but enough to drive them both crazy. Ennis tried to find a way to pull him in even closer, and was moving along with him as Jack rocked into him. He let out a groan as he reached the edge, finally having his release between them and letting out all of his tension. Jack trembled and soon followed him, releasing into him and gasping for breath. He braced himself on his hands so that he wouldn't collapse onto Ennis's chest; he didn't want to cause any damage to him. He leaned over and collapsed onto his side of the bed.

He looked at Ennis, who was staring up at the ceiling. "Ennis, you alright?" Ennis turned to look at him, and Jack could see something new in his eyes, a light that he hadn't seen in months.

"Yeah, I'm okay. Thanks so much, Jack..." He smiled, and this time it reached his eyes. Jack shuffled up to him and curled up next to him, wrapping an arm around his chest. Ennis put an arm around him and they settled down, feeling warm and happy, just as they should be.