Hey guys, again :) Here's the epilogue. As of now, Hearts Intertwined is finished. Thank you to everybody who has been reading along, and I hope you've enjoyed it. Next week I'll be posting some drabbles for this universe, so keep an eye out for them. And on April 1st, I'll be posting the first chapter of a brand new story, Lessons In Love. It's an AU/AU story set in modern times, with Ennis and Jack as college roommates. The fourth instalment of the current series will be posted after that one finishes, later this summer.
Over the next few days, they slowly adjusted to life without Becky. It was very hard at first, and more than once Jack awoke in the middle of the night, having had a nightmare of Becky dying all over again. It was all Ennis could do to hold him and rub his back, or occasionally his stomach. He told him that it was okay and tried to make him feel better, and in time the nightmares stopped. They talked to Anna a few times about the whole thing, and Jack gradually came to terms with Becky's death.
Becky's death marked a change in the lives of the residents of Brokeback Ranch. It hit them, for certain this time, that nothing was permanent, and could be taken away at any moment. They realised that they had to make the most of each day and live life to the full.
As a result, they strived to make each day special, reminding each other every day that they were loved. Ennis and Jack, in particular, went out of their way to show each other they cared.
The following spring, they renewed their wedding vows, as they had planned. They invited all of their friends and family from across the various areas of the country, and stood up in front of them to re-establish their everlasting bond and confirm for all to hear that this was how it was going to be. Kate made them rings in gold, identical to the ones they had, and they wore them with their silver rings with pride. They knew in their hearts that they would be together forever.
That night, they kissed and made out until they were hard, and then made love long into the night, holding each other close and enjoying the haze of love.
"Love you, Ennis," Jack murmured. "More than anythin'." He looked down at his rings, and then at Ennis's. The gold and silver looked striking next to each other. Ennis looked down into his deep blue eyes and smiled, his heart swelling with love for the man in his arms.
"Right back atcha, bud."
The ranch steadily made good money, and by the end of 1967 they were well known throughout the state as reliable ranchers. If anybody had suspicions about their relationship, they kept it to themselves and it didn't hurt their business. They were left well enough alone and that was how they liked it.
As for Lily, she grew under their watchful eyes into a lively young lady, very reminiscent of her mother. As soon as she was old enough to understand about death, Ennis, Jack and Rose sat her down and explained to her where her mother was. They showed her Becky's grave and every Sunday from then on, as well as Becky's birthday, Lily would go to the grave and lay fresh flowers for her. She talked to her and seemed to draw comfort from being near to her mother.
By 1970, things were pretty much back to normal. They were having a good life here in Georgia and knew that they were very lucky to be so happy. None of them ever took it for granted. They sent Lily to a good school in the city, where she proved to be very bright, and they were proud of her.
The following year, Pete Dawson's jail term ended, and he was ordered to stay away from the ranch and its inhabitants. He seemed to have learnt his lesson, so for the most part they were able to relax. The last thing they needed when trying to bring up a child was someone threatening them.
They always spent their wedding anniversary on Brokeback, just the two of them, but they spent each anniversary of being together by doing something as a family. In 1973, for their ten year anniversary, they took Rose and Lily to Disneyland, Florida. They spent a week walking around, and oddly enough, they didn't receive any stares. Maybe things were just different out here.
As the years passed, Ennis and Jack made some changes. The year they turned 30, they decided to stop smoking, and were quite dependent on each other to help them get through it. They managed it together and celebrated by buying themselves a Jacuzzi for their bathroom, which they christened the very day they bought it.
Back in Wyoming, Cecilia and K.E. went through their own lives. They each had two more kids over the next 22 years, and even had a couple of grandchildren from their firstborn. Every Thanksgiving was hosted by one of them on a rotation; they took it in turns with Ennis and Jack to host and it was always a wonderful occasion when they got together. Jack could see it in Ennis's eyes that he loved being close to his brother and sister again, after drifting apart following their parents' deaths.
Another thing that changed over the years was attitudes to homosexuality. As the years passed, they started noticing that people didn't just tolerate gay people, they started to accept them. The events of Stonewall seemed to make people sit up and take notice that people like Ennis and Jack weren't about to go away, no matter how much prejudice they faced. There was still a hate crime now and then, but that was to be expected. Not everybody would be inclined to show acceptance towards a certain group, especially one that the church spoke out against.
Still, as they watched, they began to notice things changing. It would be a long time before they would have the same kinds of rights that straight, legally married couples had, but it was a start. There were more and more stories in the news about people fighting for gay rights all the time, and over the years, things improved. They both knew that if it ever became possible for them to marry legally, they would do it in a heartbeat, but they had long since gotten around that by being business partners. They had at least most of the benefits that other gay couples were not permitted, so they were happy with what they had. And they didn't feel a need to go around telling people about their relationship; they had a close circle of friends here who knew and accepted them.
In 1975, the Vietnam War finally ended, giving peace at last to those who had fought. Jack noticed that Ennis seemed a lot more at ease to hear this, and he was glad that Ennis had been returned home before things became worse than they had been.
By 1980, they had seen many changes in the world around them, including moon landings, science breakthroughs, civil rights movements, the beginnings and ends of wars, new presidents and scandals to go with them. They heard about natural disasters and assassinations, and they watched the world with interest.
In the early 80s, they bought themselves a very early computer and all of the books were now done on there. For many a night they had stayed up late, utterly fascinated by all of it and remembering fondly when everything was done on paper. Jack, for one, was glad for the change.
However, the 80s also brought them an event that made them think; the AIDS pandemic. They knew that if anything would increase the stigma towards people like themselves, this would be it. Concerned about all the unprotected sex they'd had over the years, they asked to be tested. Rick Hardeman agreed, and their results came back negative. Jack had been more concerned, having been with one other person besides Ennis, but Rick had assured him that it had been too long ago for him to have become infected. The pair of them talked it over, and admitted that they didn't want to make any changes to their activities. They read up on all the possible causes of HIV and AIDs, apart from sexual transfusion, and they were determined to make sure that they looked after themselves. They figured that as long as they stayed faithful to each other, they would be alright. And they were particularly careful whenever blood was involved.
But during the day-to-day running of the ranch and their lives, nothing much changed. They were very successful and even though they were interested in the world around them, they were happy to stay out of it and just get on with their life together. What they had here was all they'd ever wanted, and they were determined to hold onto it. They were more in love than ever, after everything they'd been through, and their bond grew stronger with each passing year.
As they grew older, they learnt not to let themselves get too caught up in things that were beyond their control. Ennis had long since accepted that Adam's death wasn't his fault, and he knew that it was thanks to Jack and his support that he had managed to move past it. Jack had been so great to him and he would always be thankful for it. The pair of them went for a ride a few times a week up to their hill, talking softly and looking out towards Sandersville.
In 1983, they celebrated their fortieth birthdays by taking a trip to Las Vegas and enjoying themselves. They loved the vibrant nightlife and the energy of the area, as it was so different from what they knew. And Jack particularly loved the large bed in their suite; he and Ennis had a lot of fun there.
One night, Jack walked into the bathroom to find Ennis, buck naked and waiting for him in the Jacuzzi, and he immediately felt himself getting hard. "Well now, ain't that a fine sight?" Ennis opened his eyes and smiled at him, looking very inviting.
"Would be better if you was here, darlin'." He glanced down at the space between his legs and then back up at Jack. "Wanna join me?"
Jack grinned and swiftly undressed, eager to join him. He slid into the tub in front of Ennis, who wrapped his arms around him. "This is real nice," he murmured against Jack's ear, and Jack sighed in contentment. According to him, this was the best feeling in the world; to be held by Ennis and made to feel loved.
In September of that year, Lily went off to college in Nashville, Tennessee, studying Art. She wanted to take over the ranch one day, or maybe pass it on to a child of her own, so Ennis and Jack were very proud of her. The day she was accepted into the university was a momentous day for all of them. Ennis and Jack had always wanted the very best for her.
"Congratulations, honey," Jack said as he hugged her tightly, grinning from ear to ear. "We're all real proud of ya." He knew that wherever Becky was, she would be smiling down on her daughter.
Lily smiled and hugged him back. "Thanks, Uncle Jack." She went off to college, taking a room on campus and coming home during vacations. Rose taught her how to do her own laundry and how to cook, and she swiftly became very independent. She was very much missed when she was away, but they had twenty years of memories to keep them going. She emailed them every other day and called them every week, keeping them updated on her progress. They loved to hear from her and knew that they had done a good job in bringing her up.
In her second year, she met a young man named Ben Slater who lived in the same dorm building; he was from Nashville. They started to see each other and soon Lily was calling her uncles in a frenzy, telling them excitedly about her new boyfriend and how great he was. They invited him to come and visit the ranch whenever they wanted. That summer, she brought him to the ranch, where he was warmly welcomed. He hadn't been troubled at all by the relationship between Ennis and Jack, for his brother was gay and he was living with a partner of his own. He spent a week at the ranch, helping out with the work and getting into their good books. By the time he left, he had Ennis and Jack's full approval, which made Lily very happy.
In their spring of their fourth year, Ennis and Jack received a surprise visit from Ben asking for Lily's hand in marriage. Jack had looked gleefully at Ennis and when Ben produced the ring that was it. They agreed that he could marry Lily, but not until they had graduated. They would need to concentrate on their studies first, and Ben agreed to this. He could at least propose to her and they would be engaged. Jack knew all too well how great it felt to be engaged to somebody you loved.
When he left, Jack turned to Ennis and grinned. "Our little girl's gettin' married, Ennis...I can't believe it..." Ennis smiled and coaxed Jack into his arms, locking his fingers in the small of Jack's back.
"I know. Her mama would be real proud of her. An' I know we are too." They kissed softly and then broke apart, Jack's eyes sparkling.
"Can you believe we've been together nearly 24 years, Ennis?" Jack murmured, looking up into the familiar brown eyes that he'd become accustomed to over so many years. He found it incredible that they had been together for so long. He could still remember that fateful day in Signal when he had started to drive away from the love of his life, only to see him break down. And he had gone back to make sure that he was alright, and look what had happened. They had gotten together and declared their love for each other. They had managed to find a home of their own, and had started up a successful business. They had merged their families together into one and brought them together. Jack couldn't believe how lucky he was.
"I know, darlin'. I gotta say...I never thought I'd be this happy. Just...lookin' at all we got...can't believe it's all ours. An'...we got everythin' we ever wanted outta life, right?" He looked down into Jack's eyes; those blue eyes that he loved so much.
Jack nodded, running his hands up and down Ennis's back. "Sure did. Got all I need right here." He leaned up and kissed Ennis again, their tongues curling around each other. They stood there kissing for what could have been several sunlit days, totally oblivious to the world around them. All that mattered right now was the two of them, happy in their home and knowing that they still had so much more to look forward to from the coming years. Everything had come full circle for them and this was how it was supposed to be, and how it always would be.