Chapter 23

26th September 1966

It was Ennis's birthday, and he and Jack were currently lying in bed and kissing slowly, enjoying the early morning quiet. He'd just opened his gift from Jack; a new pair of boots that he'd been admiring before he'd left.

Things had been going a lot better over the last couple of weeks, since they had finally had sex again. It had been a breakthrough in Ennis's recovery, to be intimate with Jack, and now he felt liberated, free. It was an incredible feeling and he knew that he had Jack to thank for it. He would be eternally grateful to him for this.

Jack pulled away, looking relaxed and happy. "Mmm..." he moaned softly. "Happy birthday, cowboy." Ennis lay his head on his pillow, looking into Jack's eyes.

"Thanks, darlin'. What are we doin' today?" Jack copied his position, one hand underneath his head.

"Well, we got some work to do, I'm afraid. But...I wanna clock off early an' take ya out for somethin' to eat, if that's okay." His eyes were wide and hopeful. Ennis smiled at this.

"Sounds great. need any help out there today?" He was feeling a lot stronger these days and he figured he could pull his weight on the ranch if needed.

Jack's face took on a surprised look. "Uh...dunno really. You sure yer up to it?" Ennis nodded.

"Yeah, I reckon so. Maybe spend some time with the horses or somethin'. Brush 'em down or somethin', you know?" Jack nodded at this.

"Sounds okay. But...promise me you won't overdo it, alright? Still gotta be careful with yer stitches."

"I will." They kissed again and then Jack sighed.

"Guess we better get a move on, get breakfast goin'. You wanna use the shower first or what?"

" mind if we take one together?" Ennis asked, looking at him hopefully. Jack grinned.

"Not at all, cowboy." Half an hour later, they made their way downstairs, happy and satisfied. They went into the kitchen to find Rose making breakfast already.

"Mornin', mama," said Jack cheerfully, kissing her on the cheek. She gave him an amused glance, knowing exactly how things had improved lately. She was very happy that Ennis was truly recovering now. If only Becky could do the same.

"Mornin', boys. Happy birthday, Ennis. You got any plans for today?"

Ennis smiled at her. "Thanks, Rose. Um...Jack says he wants to go for a meal in town later, but we're gonna go get some work done outside today."

She nodded. "Well, here you go. This is from me an' Becky, since she ain't had the energy to go shoppin'." She brought over a small package; it turned out to be a pair of belts, which he was grateful for since his was wearing thin.

"Thanks, Rose," he said, leaning over the table and kissing her cheek. "I'll go an' thank Becky, if she's awake." He left the room and Jack smiled at his mother.

"Real nice of ya, mama."

She smiled back. "I'm glad to see you boys back on track after so long. Make sure he takes it easy, won't you?" He nodded.

"I will, mama."

They spent the day outside, as planned. They tended to the horses and mucked out the stalls together, just the two of them. They had both missed this over the last few months, just working on their land together. It was a constant reminder of what they had and how much they loved their life together. The hands were pleased to have their bosses out here, and to see that Ennis was doing okay.

That evening, the two of them went out to their favourite restaurant in Sandersville, ordering large steaks and enjoying the cool air. It was a lovely evening and Jack couldn't have been happier.

As they ate, Jack watched Ennis. He too seemed relaxed and calm, a far cry from when they had been at the garage to get the truck fixed, and Ennis had reacted to a backfire. He had come a long way.

He took a breath. "You doin' okay, Ennis?" he asked, looking into his eyes. Ennis nodded.

"Yeah. Thanks to you," he said, looking at him shyly. Jack smiled.

"S'alright. Ain't no trouble when I love ya like I do." Ennis looked down, and then back up at him.

"Jack, I...I gotta've been so good to me over the last couple months. You didn't hafta coulda been too much for ya an' coulda left..."

Jack shook his head. "Maybe. But...I couldn't have done it, even if I'd wanted to. No way I coulda just left ya alone to deal with it. I'd never forgive myself." Ennis still looked troubled, so he carried on. With a glance around, he leaned in.

"Look...let's say for a moment that...there's this other universe out there, runnin' alongside this one. An'...there's these two guys, just like us. Livin' together. But...they live in a world where that's okay, an' nobody would hurt 'em for it, or say nasty things to 'em. An'...their life is all hearts an' roses, an' they ain't got no troubles. The only things they have to deal with is...I they spend their money or somethin', or the kinda car they drive or whatever. Thing is, Ennis...I don't wanna be those guys."

Ennis was staring at him. "You don't?"

"Nope. I want this. Us. We ain't got a perfect life, I know that.'s still a damn good one if you ask me. We're in love, an' we got a business an' everythin'. Ever since that first night on Brokeback, all I ever wanted was a life with you, an' I got that. Yeah, we got troubles, but...I ain't never been this happy. All I want is this," he said softly, looking into Ennis's eyes. " matter what happens, I ain't gonna walk away from the best thing that ever happened to me. I love you, cowboy." He smiled warmly at Ennis, who looked blown away by his words. There was really only one thing he could say back.

"I love you too, Jack."

A few days later, they were in another session with Anna at the hospital. Despite the fact that Ennis was doing a lot better than he had been, they thought it would be for the best to keep meeting with her until he was completely past it.

Unfortunately, they knew that time was running out for Becky. They were keeping a close eye on her just in case something happened, even though they were dreading it. Jack was glad that Ennis was recovering now; he knew that he would need him by his side when she died.

They held hands and talked in low voices as they waited for her, Jack smiling widely at Ennis as he looked into his eyes. He was more in love than ever now that Ennis was back to normal. They had done a few things over the last week or so, and Jack was happy that their sex life was almost back to normal. The only thing that hadn't happened was Ennis being inside him, but he was prepared to wait for that until Ennis was feeling up to it.

Anna came into the room, noting how they seemed different to when she'd first met them. Ennis seemed more relaxed and happier, which seemed to affect Jack too. She wondered what might have happened since their first visit to do this.

"Hey, guys," she said, walking around the desk and sitting in her chair. They smiled at her. "How are you guys doing?"

Jack nodded. "Real good, Anna. Since we got back from Ohio...things have got a lot better."

She smiled. "That's great. Ennis, have you been thinking about everything we discussed?"

He nodded, breathing deeply. "Yeah. Was hard at first, thinkin' that everybody blamed me, an' that it was my fault that Adam died. An' got me thinkin' about everythin' else that happened...can't deny that it was gettin' to me."

"I see. So...what did you decide?"

Ennis looked at Jack. "I...after everythin' Jack's been tellin'' talkin' to you...I'm thinkin'...none of it was my fault. I didn't have nothin' to do with Earl dyin'...that was my father, an' Jack's too. They did it, not us. We didn't do anythin'." Jack was smiling at Ennis as he spoke, seeing that he was finding closure at last.

"That's right, Ennis," encouraged Anna. "It wasn't your fault."

He carried on, feeling the need to get this out. "An'...with Adam..." He took a deep breath, feeling Jack's hand squeeze his. "That wasn't my fault either. Even if we had gone back like he still mighta happened. Like...they mighta seen us turnin' back an' attacked us anyway. So...he still coulda died."

"Yeah, bud," Jack said softly, playing with his fingers. "It still coulda happened even if you hadn't been there. It ain't like you made 'em attack' from what you said, they got him good. Ain't like you coulda saved him from somethin' like that."

"I know. Took me a while to believe that, no matter how many times people told me. An'...after visitin' his grave...Jack made me realise that it wasn't my fault, an' that nobody blamed me for it."

"That's right, Ennis," Anna said, looking between them and smiling. " do you feel, knowing all that?"

He ran his tongue along his bottom lip. "Better. Like...I've been carryin' this around with me for over ten years, since I saw Earl's' Jack's tried his best to help me with it all. He's been really great, but...talkin' to you helped a lot. An'...I think I'm gonna be okay." Jack breathed a sigh of relief.

Anna sat back, looking happy. "That's great, Ennis. I'm really glad you've sorted your head out. So...what happens now?"

"Um...I guess we just carry on with stuff. Lookin' after Becky an' all. Jack needs me now, an'...I'm gonna be there for him." He smiled at Jack, whose eyes were alight with happiness.

"Good. You have to stick together now, and I'm really glad you're getting better. you want to come back some time, or will you be okay?"

They looked at each other. "Uh...wouldn't hurt to talk once in a while, I guess," said Jack, and Ennis nodded. "Could do some good."

She nodded. "Alright. Just give me a call anytime you want, let me know if you want to talk. So...are you guys okay?"

"Yep. Uh...we gonna go, bud?" asked Jack, looking at Ennis, who nodded.

"Yeah, okay." They turned to Anna, who nodded.

"Okay. Take care, you two." They both got up and left, reluctantly letting go of each other as they reached the waiting room. They got back into Jack's truck and sighed in unison. Jack turned to Ennis.

"Hey, cowboy..." Ennis looked at him and Jack took his hand again. "I'm real proud of ya, you know. All that in realisin' that none of it was yer fault...I've been hopin' for a while that you'd start to believe it. I'm real glad to see ya doin' better."

Ennis smiled back, and then cleared his throat. "Jack...there's somethin' I wanna tell ya. A few weeks ago, I was in bed an'...I woke up...started to go downstairs an'...I heard you talkin' to yer mama." He looked meaningfully at Jack, who realised exactly what Ennis had heard.

"Oh...cowboy...I dunno what to say..." He turned fully to face Ennis, looking apologetic. "I just..."

Ennis shook his head. "It's okay, Jack. I know you've been feelin' bad an' I just...I hated the thought of you dealin' with all this shit on yer own, so...I decided to work harder at gettin' better. Make more of an effort, you know? I wanted to help ya, with Becky an' everythin'. Thought I'd have a better chance if I worked harder."

Jack shuffled over and into his arms, wrapping his own around him. "God, Ennis...we seem to be takin' it in turns to look after each other, don't we?"

Ennis kissed his hair. "Guess so. I reckon it's just 'cos we love each other, right?"

Jack nodded and breathed deeply. "Sure do, Ennis."

October 12th, 1966

It was now Jack's birthday, and he and Ennis were, to his delight, rolling around on their bed, pinning each other down and kissing deeply. It was actually the middle of the day, but since it was a special day, they had decided to spend it together. Jack couldn't believe how far they had come over the last few weeks, and how much happier they were now. He felt a great sense of peace overtake him at how Ennis was now.

Unfortunately, Becky was getting worse. Jack had awoken in the middle of the night more than once to hear her retching and coughing in her room. He'd been unable to sleep until she had stopped, and he'd often turned onto his side to see Ennis watching him, also listening to her. They felt awful at not being able to help her, despite the fact that she kept telling them not to worry about it. There was never anything that they could have done about it.

Ennis finally managed to get Jack on his back, eyes glittering in a way that Jack loved, that he had missed. They were dark with desire and Jack shuddered in anticipation. "Ennis...come on..." Ennis hadn't yet topped him, in spite of everything else they'd done, so he was looking forward to it. "You wanna...?"

He gazed up into Ennis's eyes, seeing the lust there. He could see it in Ennis's eyes that he was wanted, and he wanted Ennis very much himself. Ennis took a deep breath. "Yeah. But...don't wanna aggravate them stitches..." He looked down at Jack, looking nervous.

Jack thought for a moment, and then an idea came to mind. "Tell you what, you get on yer back an' I'll ride ya. How's that sound?" Ennis grinned at this notion; he had always loved this position whenever they did it like this.

"Sounds pretty damn good to me." He got off of Jack and rolled onto his side, on his back. Jack crawled on top of him and straddled him, getting comfortable.

"You ready?" he whispered softly, biting his lip. Ennis nodded, full of anticipation.

"Yeah. Come on, darlin'..." Jack grabbed the lube and slicked him up, feeling Ennis tremble slightly at his touch. Jack put the tub back and then got into position, spreading his cheeks and lowering himself onto Ennis, his mouth opening slightly as he remembered how this felt. Nothing could ever compare to this feeling as far as he knew.

"Oh God...Ennis..." he gasped out, feeling his lover fill him up. His heart swelled with love for the man below him and he looked down; Ennis was staring up at him, eyes fixed on his face. Once Ennis was fully inside him, Jack leaned over him, hands on either side of his head. They looked at each other, and then kissed again, their tongues finding each other and twining together. Ennis's arms weaved around Jack's back and pulled him closer. Their bodies tangled up and Ennis began to slowly thrust up into Jack, deep strokes that Jack loved and lived for.

"Jack...I love you..." Ennis whispered, burying his face in Jack's neck. "Love you so much..."

"I love you too, cowboy, always will..." Jack breathed into his ear before gently biting it. "Come on, baby..."

They rocked together for several moments, hearing the bed squeak but not caring. All that mattered was the two of them, right here in the moment. All of a sudden, as they were lost in their passion, they rolled over so that Ennis was on top. Jack pulled his mouth away and looked up at Ennis in alarm.

"Ennis...your shouldn't..." But Ennis shook his head.

"It's okay, Jack...I'm okay...I wanna..." He was feeling alright in his stomach and he wanted to feel Jack beneath him; he had missed that terribly. Jack could only nod and go along with it, trust in Ennis's assessment of his injuries. He was too far gone by now to protest.

He let Ennis thrust into him again and again, reaching that place inside him to make him go crazy. He was starting to shake at the familiar feeling, and when he pressed his lips to Ennis's neck, he felt Ennis thrusting even further. He gasped out loud and clung to Ennis with his legs. At last, with one last brush against that place, he gave an almighty shudder and erupted between them, the warmth spreading between their chests. Ennis wasn't far behind, spilling into him and groaning into his ear.

Jack took hold of his shoulders so that he wouldn't collapse onto him. "Easy, easy..." He brought Ennis into his arms and rolled him over onto his back; he was breathing deeply and looked peaceful. "Bud, you okay?" Jack asked softly, leaning over him and touching his cheek.

Ennis opened his eyes and looked up at him, smiling peacefully at him. "Just fine, rodeo," he whispered. "Happy birthday." Jack grinned and shuffled close to him, curling up next to his warmth and revelling in their love.

"Thanks, cowboy. You wanna go out for some dinner later or somethin'? Get us some of those steaks?" Ennis put an arm around him and kissed his hair.

"Yeah, okay." He then sighed. "Can we go for a walk in a bit? Wanna get some fresh air..."

" a minute," Jack said, stretching and kissing Ennis's neck. "Wanna stay here for a while...just gettin' comfy..."

Ennis smiled to himself. "Alright. Love ya Jack."

Jack kissed his chest and snuggled closer to him. "I love you too, Ennis."

After a while, they finally roused themselves and went for a walk up to their hill. They sat there for a while, holding each other and talking softly. They went for a wonderful meal at their favourite restaurant in town and finished the evening by spending it with Rose in front of the TV and then going back upstairs for more love. They then curled up in each other's arms, Jack knowing that everything would be okay.

The day after, Jack was walking along the hall to their bedroom to check on Ennis, who was just waking up after a nap. He got about halfway along when his mother came out of the room, looking distressed.

"What's wrong, mama?" he asked, looking concerned. Her lip trembled.

"It's Becky...I think she..." He saw it in her eyes and his heart sank, knowing that the worst was coming.

"Oh" He rushed into the room to find Becky holding Lily, looking full of sadness as she looked at her daughter. She was looking at her intently.

"I love you, baby...don't you ever forget that, okay? Jack an' Ennis will look after ya, I know that. But I'm always gonna look down on ya, okay? I'm always gonna be here, I promise." Her voice broke and Jack felt like there was a heavy weight in his stomach. Becky sniffed and hugged her daughter close to her, before starting to cough again. Rose rushed forward and took Lily from her.

"Honey...I don't know what to say..." Jack turned from the room to see Ennis walking towards him, looking confused. Without a word, Jack moved forward into his arms and let Ennis hold him.

"Ennis...she..." After a moment, they finally went back into Becky's room. She was struggling to breathe and all three of them sat on her bed. They hated having to watch her die like this, but there was nothing they could do.

Jack's lip trembled and he took her hand. "Becky...I love know that, right?"

She nodded and smiled. "I know, Jack. I love you guys too. You've given me so much...a home, a life...I owe you so much." She coughed again. "Look after Lily, okay?"

They both nodded. "We will, I promise. You've given us a lot too, Becky."

Becky gestured to her nightstand. "In there...there's a letter. For both of you..." Jack and Ennis looked at each other, and then Jack reached into the nightstand, pulling out the letter that Rose knew she'd written. It was the one that explained everything to them; about their father, and about how they were truly related. This letter could change everything. She didn't want to see Jack's face when he found out what his father had done. "Rose knows what it's for you..."

Jack looked at the letter in his hand. "Uh...what's this about?" he asked, confused.

"I wrote it...when I got sick. There's...some things you should know. Things I shoulda told ya a long time ago, but...I thought it'd be better for you if I didn't. Some bad things about...yer daddy, Jack..."

Jack exchanged a surprised glance with Ennis; he hadn't expected that. "My daddy? What about him?"

She waved a hand. "Just...some things that happened. Bad things that...I thought would be better for you if you didn't know. I'm sorry, Jack...I shoulda told ya before...but..." She started coughing again and she could feel a tightening in her chest. She couldn't talk anymore, and they all leaned over her in alarm, knowing that this was the moment.

"Becky, we love you...we ain't never gonna forget ya..." Jack promised, feeling Ennis's hand on his back. She smiled.

"I you..." She took a few ragged breaths, looking strained. Jack hated having to watch this, but he knew that she wanted them there, wanted to say goodbye.

"Love you too..." With a few final breaths and a look at them all, her eyelids fluttered, slowly closing and then falling closed. Her hand went limp in Jack's, and he felt like he'd been punched in the gut. His blood was pounding in his ears and he was in shock.

"Becky? Becky!" he cried out, looking at her in a panic. "Becky..." He could feel both of Ennis's hands on his shoulders, rubbing them gently.

"Jack...she's gone, bud..." he said softly. Jack's shoulders sagged as he looked at her, feeling defeated. He'd been unable to do anything to help her, and he felt useless.

"I...she..." He felt Ennis wrap his arms around him from behind, and he gripped them where they encircled his chest, trying to draw comfort from him. All they could do was sit and stare, unable to do anything but think about Becky and what they had just lost. They had all loved her and they felt that they had just lost an integral part of their family.

What they didn't know was that Becky had been having visions for the last few hours, which she had figured was a case of seeing her life flashing before her eyes. She could remember growing up on Lightning Flat, and spending time with Jack when she'd thought he was her cousin. She could remember meeting Ennis in Texas when Jack had brought him; he had been so full of love and she'd enjoyed seeing him so happy. And she had many memories of being here on the ranch. Ennis and Jack had been so great to her, looking after her when she'd been pregnant and then helping her to bring Lily up. She knew that she was leaving her daughter in very capable hands; they were sure to look after her and help her to have a good life.

There was one vision that recurred, both in her dreams and when she was awake. She had wondered if it was a memory, but she wasn't sure. It involved her father, their father, so she wasn't entirely sure what it was. If it was a memory, then it must have occurred before the fiasco surrounding their grandfather, before their father had changed.

You're my baby an' Jack are my pride an' joy. My two kids, you an' yer mama are everythin' to me. I'm always gonna love you an' won't never let ya down, I promise.

She knew that voice, but had always associated it with anger and hate, never love. But as she lay dying, she began to hear it again, in these visions and dreams. She could hear her father's voice.

After several minutes of silence, during which they tried to make sense of what had just happened, Rose finally roused the other two.

"I better call somebody...get the...the funeral arranged..."

Jack nodded, still gripping Ennis's arms where they held him. "Yeah, mama...uh..."

She looked at him sympathetically. " an' Ennis go on back to yer room. Read that letter, like she wanted." She shooed them out of the room and Ennis started to pull Jack away.

"Come on, bud...come on..." Jack let Ennis lead him out of the room and to their own. Ennis closed the door behind them and looked at Jack, who was now staring at the letter.

"Wonder what it says?" he said softly. "She was about my daddy...wonder what...?"

Ennis came over to him and put an arm around him. "Only one way to find wanna read it?" Jack took a deep breath.

"Musta been pretty bad...that she couldn't tell me before..." He looked up at Ennis. "I just...what if it makes me feel even worse? We've only just lost her..."

Ennis rubbed his shoulders. "I know...but...she wanted you to know this stuff...whatever it is. Must be important, right?"

After several moments, Jack nodded. "Yeah...will you read it with me, Ennis? It's for both of us, after all..."

"Yeah, okay." They sat down and Jack unfolded the mysterious letter. They shuffled closer together and began to read.

Dear Ennis and Jack,

If you're reading this, then that means I'm no longer with you, unfortunately. You have to know that by the time you read this, I'll be watching you and wishing that I was still with you. I love you both and I hope that this letter clears up anything you wanted to know.

You know by now that Earl was our grandfather, Jack, and that he was killed by several men, including Ennis's and yours. You know that when Earl and Rich tried to visit us in Lightning Flat, your father grew angry and turned them away. You should know that your mother did everything she could.

There is one final piece of the puzzle, the one that brings everything together. I had many thoughts over the years about telling you this, but I knew that if I did, it would make you hate your father even more. I didn't want to cause you that pain.

The truth is...your parents are my parents, Jack. I'm your little sister. I know that this may come as a shock to you, but I can explain everything. I know the dates don't exactly make much sense, but I was prematurely born the year after you. I was conceived in December 1943, and was two months early. They weren't sure that I would make it.

The year after, as you know, our grandfather tried to visit us with Rich, but he was turned away by our father. That was August 1945. What happened then was the worst part. Our father...became abusive, and aggressive. He began to drink and bully our mother. He took it out on us, too. He hit me, Jack. Across the cheek, and our mother was livid. I don't know if he ever hit you, you'd have to ask our mother. I know what he did to you when we were growing up, so it wouldn't surprise me if he did.

You probably remember that during the first few months of your relationship, when you had contact with me, that myself and our mother were uneasy when the other was mentioned. The day after my 18th birthday, when I was told the truth by our Aunt Maria, I called our mother to talk to her. I was angry that she stood by him even after everything he'd done, and our relationship was rocky back then. That's why things were shaky between me and her. But you should know that things have improved greatly. We made up and during the last couple of years, I honestly don't know what I would have done without her. Same goes for you and Ennis.

Please, Jack, don't be angry at her for not telling her. She asked me if I wanted her to and I said no, that I didn't want to cause you more pain. It was my decision. I'm telling you now, even though it hurts. I know you have Ennis with you to help you through this, and I know you need him. Just...lean on him, Jack. You two have been so amazing all the time I've known you, and I feel privileged to have been part of your life together.

Please look after Lily for me, and each other. I wish you all the success possible in the ranch, and I hope you have a wonderful life together. Remember that I love you both, and I'll always be with you.

Just do me one favour. In my jewellery box, you'll find the horseshoe earrings, necklace and bracelet that you two and Kate gave me for my 21st birthday. I want you to hold onto them, and give them to Lily when she gets married. I long to be there when it happens, so this is my way of making sure that I'm there. I want her to have them.

So...I love you, and will always be with you. Take good care of each other, and have a good life, like you deserve.

All my love,


Ennis finished and looked at Jack in shock; his eyes were wide. "Ennis, she...she was my little" The letter fell from his limp hands and he placed them over his mouth. "An'...our daddy...he..."

"I know, I know," Ennis whispered, putting his arms around Jack and pulling him close. "It's okay..." He bit his lip and didn't know what to say. Becky had been Jack's sister, and Rose's daughter. That would make Lily...Rose's granddaughter. He was at a loss of what to say to Jack; he could only hold him. Jack clung to him and started to sob into his shoulder, finally mourning their loss.