January 5th, 1966
Today was the day of Ennis's physical exam, to check that he was suitable and met the requirements of the System. He would be heading to Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where he would also eventually go for his training in just under a week. Rick had called him the day before to let him know what to expect from it. It would take the whole day and as much as he was dreading the time when he would have to leave properly, he knew he had to do it. He just had to get on with it.
He'd said goodbye to Jack in the early hours of the morning, promising to call as soon as he was done and on his way home. Ennis had kissed him softly and slowly in the shadows of the front porch; Becky would be driving him to Sandersville where he would catch the bus to the base.
He talked a little to other passengers on the bus, his potential fellow soldiers. They were alright, he guessed, but he missed Jack's bubbly personality, always managing to get people talking. He guessed that Adam would probably either at home or might even be at the exam today, given that he too was being sent here for training.
They reached the base and were directed to the building where the exams were taking place. There were around 50 or 60 guys here, Rick had told him, so he would be waiting for a while.
When he was finally called for his first exam, he went into the room. His first would be a blood test, and since he disliked needles he found it very unpleasant, but he didn't want them to think he was a coward so he gritted his teeth.
He had been nervous about the vision exam, given his eyesight problems. He had trouble focusing on some nearby objects, but it wasn't like he was blind; they would probably still accept him.
He got a break after that one, involving more waiting around. He had been warned that there would be a lot of this. He kept an eye out for Adam, but there was no sign of him. He wondered what Jack might be doing, hoping that he was coping okay. They were treating today as a practice for what it might be like when he left for real, and he hoped that they would be okay.
After a hearing test and a height and weight test, by which time a number of hours had passed, he was ready to go home and he hoped that he was nearly done. After a few more exams, including a background check that he'd been nervous about, but had apparently passed, he was then asked to wait while his results were evaluated. He ended up talking to a few other guys while he waited, all them nervous about what might be heading their way if they were approved.
Around five in the afternoon, he was approached and told that his results had been evaluated and approved. He would just have to sign some contracts and swear an oath, and then he could finally leave, go home to Jack and all that was familiar.
The papers were signed, his oath was sworn, and he was ready to collapse after a gruelling day. Just before he went to catch the bus home, he managed to find a phone, intending to call his other half.
"Brokeback Ranch, Jack speakin'," came the sweet voice. His heart leapt to hear that voice.
"Jack, it's me."
"Ennis? Hey, cowboy, how are ya? You done?" Jack sounded elated to hear him and he couldn't help but smile.
"I'm all done, bud. Just signed the papers an' they say I'm good to go. They're lettin' me in."
"Right..." Neither of them could really say if it was a good thing or a bad thing. "So...you comin' home?"
"Yep. Be home in about three hours or so. Gonna be late back, bud. Sorry..."
"S'alright, Ennis, we'll wait. I called Greg; he says he's happy to give ya a lift home, if you want."
"Yeah, that'd be good. Thanks. I...I really missed ya today, darlin'. Kept thinkin' 'bout ya."
"Me too, cowboy," Jack replied, smiling and shifting his feet. "I'll see ya soon, okay?"
"Sure, bud. See ya soon." He hung up and boarded the bus, his heart yearning towards Georgia and the other half of his heart. He almost fell asleep on the bus, but thoughts of Jack kept him going, they always did.
Greg was there, waiting for him and looking sympathetic. "Ready to go home? You must be drained."
Ennis smiled wearily. "You bet. Wanna get home to Jack."
"I know." He drove him through the final journey, the final half hour between him and Jack. The ranch finally came into view and his heart soared when he saw a very familiar shape on the front porch. Jack was waiting for him.
They met a few feet from the front steps, their bodies colliding. Jack held him close and ran his hands through the curls, the familiar warmth of each other washing over them both and pouring life into them.
Jack drew back and smiled into the face he loved so much. "Welcome home, cowboy. Rough day?"
"Yeah, a lot of waitin' around mostly. Glad to be home." They bid goodnight to Greg and went up the steps, hand in hand. They faced each other and finally kissed, breath and saliva mingling together like a life force.
Since it was getting late, they decided that Ennis could do with some rest, and he would tell them about his day the following morning. Jack led Ennis upstairs, giving him a whole body massage with their favourite oil, and then letting him lie on his side, spooning up around him and wondering if the real thing would be as hard to bear as today was. He sure would miss Ennis when he was gone, and he hoped that their connection would keep them strong.
The next day, Jack decided to call Pete, Adam's partner, to talk about what their other halves were being drawn into. They were all good friends and he and Pete would probably need someone to talk to, just like Ennis and Adam would have each other.
He sat in the office, dialling the number in Ohio that they had been given. Ennis and Becky were out with the hands and Rose was looking after Lily in the house. It was a quiet day and the perfect time to make this call.
"Hello, Pete Richards."
"Hey, Pete, it's Jack Twist from Brokeback Ranch. Ennis's other half."
"Oh, hey Jack. How are ya?"
Jack sighed. "Okay, I guess. You probably know why I'm makin' this call, huh?"
"Yeah. I figured you might be callin' sooner or later, once Adam told me that Ennis got drafted too. Sometimes people just need to talk."
"Where is Adam?"
"He's gone for his medical exams down in Fort Jackson. Be gone the whole day."
"Oh, Ennis had his yesterday. Yer right, it takes most of the day. Ennis left around six in the mornin' an' didn't get back 'til about eight at night. Missed him somethin' awful."
"Yeah. Adam sure knows how to talk, an' this mornin' I was glad for the quiet, but now I'm missin' him. Can't wait 'til he gets back. He said he'd call as soon as he was done an' on his way home."
Jack grinned. "Ennis did that. Made me grin like an idiot that he did that fer me. Love that man to bits."
"I know what ya mean, Jack. Can't wait for that call. So...can I ask ya somethin'?"
"How come Ennis got drafted an' you didn't?"
Jack shrugged. "They mighta seen my medical records, saw about my busted ribs an' my rodeoin' injuries or somethin'. Coulda been anythin'."
"But...what about Ennis? He was supposed to be gettin' married; maybe they found out that he didn't?"
"He did get married, Pete," Jack replied, an edge to his voice. "He married me, you know."
"Shit...I'm sorry Jack. You know I don't mean to make this harder on ya."
Jack rubbed a hand over his eyes. "No, it ain't yer fault, Pete. I didn't mean to snap at ya. Just...on edge an' all."
"I know. You know I think it's great that you guys made that commitment. It don't mean nothin' to them, but means everythin' to guys like us."
Jack smiled wryly. "Pete...you thinkin' of takin' a leaf outta our book?"
He could practically see Pete blushing. "Well...I been thinkin' on it. Ever since we got our power of attorney documents, I been thinkin' of...goin' a step further."
"That's great. Those documents mean a lot, but...it's a better gesture, I think...to make that commitment. More romantic, you know?"
"I know. I'd really like to do it. You guys went back to Brokeback, right?"
"Yep, where we met. Where did you guys meet again?"
"Back in Wyomin', we was both hands on a ranch near Laramie. Like a pair of magnets, I tell ya. We couldn't keep away from each other." He sounded wistful, like he was remembering something wonderful, and Jack suspected that he was.
"Well...maybe there's somewhere around there you can go. Someplace nice, ya know?"
"Yeah, I guess. I'll look into it. So, um...got any advice?"
"Actually, not really. Ennis organised it all, he proposed to me. But I can get him to call ya, if ya want."
"That'd be great...thanks, Jack."
"Sure. When are ya gonna do it?"
"Well...I was thinkin' of askin' him just before he leaves, give him somethin' to look forward to when he gets back, you know?"
"Aw, that sounds great. Maybe...me an' Ennis could renew our vows or somethin'. Have all our family an' friends here to see it. That'd be good."
"Sounds good, Jack. Guess we got some big plans ahead of us, huh?"
"Sure have. I'll run it by him later. God knows they'll need somethin' to get 'em through those nights when they ain't got the real us to turn to. Somethin' to motivate 'em, ya know?"
"I guess. So, anyway...I better get goin'. Got some things to do, an'..." He smiled. "I got a little proposal to organise."
"Yeah, guess so. Um...Jack?"
"If it's alright...can I visit down there sometime? Talk proper with ya? The bar should be fine, got people runnin' it for us. I'm gonna need someone who knows how it feels."
"Sure, Pete, come on over whenever. Yer more than welcome."
"Thanks, Jack. Talk to ya soon, okay?"
"Sure. Bye, Pete." He hung up and drummed his fingers on the desk, hoping that Ennis was about to walk in. He got up and left the office, looking around for his cowboy. Sure enough, he spied him talking to Dave at the entrance to the barn. He whistled to catch Ennis's attention, and he turned. He grinned slightly when he saw Jack waving him over and started walking over to him.
They went into the office, sharing a deep kiss as they came together. "So, rodeo...what can I do for ya?"
"Just somethin' I wanted to run by ya, cowboy. Sit down." They sat on opposite sides of the desk, and Jack took Ennis's hands.
"Just been talkin' to Pete, you know, Adam's fella."
"Right, how are they?"
"Okay. Adam's at his medical exams all day an' Pete's missin' him like crazy. Anyway...we got to talkin' about you guys, an'...he's thinkin' of proposin' to Adam, ya know? Like what you did."
Ennis smiled. "That's great. So what did you wanna run by me?"
"I got to thinkin' about us...Pete says he's gonna ask him just before he leaves, give him somethin' to look forward to. If we weren't already hitched, I'd be thinkin' of the same thing. So..."
Jack looked into his eyes. "Whaddaya say...that when you get back...you an' me renew our vows? We could have a party here at the ranch, invite all our friends an' family, whaddaya think?"
Ennis smiled fully. "That sounds...real good, bud. I'd really like that." He leaned over and kissed Jack again, love blazing in his heart.
January 10th, 1966
It was Ennis's final full day in Georgia, his last day with Jack. They had known that this day would come for two weeks, but nothing could have prepared them for the actual time. That morning, Ennis and Jack had held each other close in bed, face to face. They had kissed softly and stroked each other to orgasm, unwilling to part from each other.
The day was spent with them working out on the land, but they had let their hands take off early so that they could prepare for the evening. They had decided to have all of their friends over so that they could all say goodbye to Ennis and wish him luck. Ennis and Jack then planned to go up earlier than usual, make their last night together count. Ennis had already packed everything he was allowed to take with him, and the bag was waiting at the foot of their bed. He would be allowed to take his wedding ring to the base camp, but not on to Vietnam. He decided to leave it here with Jack, to keep it safe. His hand would feel wrong without it, but he knew it would be safe with Jack.
Jack had been taking the last two weeks one day at a time, just concentrating on ranch work and spending quality time with Ennis, sharing love between them and letting each other know that they were loved deeply and unconditionally. Ennis had been known to come up to him from behind and just hold him for a while, echoing their old dozy embrace by the fire on Brokeback. That had been about their connection, and so were these moments. Jack looked at the shirts often, remembering Ennis's words to him from when he had put them here.
"I know we can't stand like this all the time, I can't keep my arms around ya all the time, much as I'd like to. So...this is my way of showin' ya that somewhere, up here, I got my arms around ya all the time. Keepin' ya safe...I'm holdin' ya right here, rodeo. Always..."
He would have to hold on to this thought; that no matter where Ennis was, he was still holding him close, in his heart and in his arms. It was one of the most romantic things that Ennis had ever done for him, and it had warmed his heart. He had plenty of memories of Ennis to keep him warm through the lonely nights, and they would have to do. No way would he be cheating on Ennis, not even for a few moments of relief. When Ennis returned he would be feeling guilty and it would tear them apart. No; he would stay loyal and true, adhere to his vows. They had to keep their connection strong.
At three, their friends arrived, and they put out a spread in the kitchen. People were sat at the table and at the kitchen island, all in one room so they could talk properly.
"So...you got any idea how long you're gonna be out there?" asked Michael.
Ennis shook his head. "I dunno...could be months, maybe even...years." He glanced at Jack, seeing him wince at this, and his heart sank. How on earth would they be able to cope with this?
"Woah...gonna be rough, huh?"
"Sure is. But...it'll ease my mind some, knowin' that Jack has all you guys around him. Least I won't be worryin' about him, an' it'll make it easier for me. But...I know it ain't gonna be easy fer Jack." He looked at Jack again.
"We'll look after him," Rose promised, smiling at her son, who managed a half-smile back at her.
"Didn't you say you got a relative who's been drafted too?" Dave enquired.
Ennis nodded. "Yep. My brother-in-law's cousin. His name's Adam, he an' his fella live in Ohio, they're good friends of ours. He'll be at Fort Jackson too. They actually came here for a visit the year before last, you met 'em."
The hands that had been present at the time all nodded. "Yeah...they were nice fellas."
"They are. Anyway, you guys, we got a little announcement to make, now that yer all here," Ennis started, hoping to lift Jack's spirits. They all looked at him.
"Jack an' me...we've decided...that when I get back, we're gonna renew our vows. Here, at the ranch. If you wanna come, yer all more than welcome."
"Oh...that sounds great, guys," said Kate. Then she smiled. "If you need a new pair of rings you know where to find me." They both grinned at her.
"But...could still be years before it happens," Jack then said sadly, picking at the label on his beer bottle.
"But we're still gonna do it," Ennis said firmly, fixing him with those deep brown eyes that he loved so much. Jack smiled at him.
"Will you be able to call, or write?" asked Sam.
"Yeah. I'm gonna call Jack from Fort Jackson whenever I can, an' I'll write letters when I'm in Vietnam. Ain't gonna let him go on without news."
"I'll let all you guys know how he's doin'," Jack finished. "Whenever I get a new letter, I'll come by all you guys an' let you know what I know."
They all nodded. At six, they left the Del Mar/Twist family to their final night together. They watched TV for a while and finished the food, all four of them aware that time was running out, and that all too soon, things would be changing. Ennis noticed that Jack's grip on his arm as they sat on the sofa was a little clingier than usual, but he couldn't really blame him for that. He was holding Jack a little tighter than usual, after all.
At eight, they decided to go up. They would all get up early to see Ennis off. Jack wanted to say goodbye to him here, in the way he wanted, so Becky would drive him to Sandersville for the bus.
As Ennis and Jack walked upstairs hand in hand, they were both thinking of the coming night and how they could make it so special that it sealed their bond forever.
Ennis closed the door behind them and turned to look at Jack. Reflected in those deep blue eyes was his own sadness, both of them knowing what would come in the morning and what they might be able to do to lessen the pain.
With a sigh, Ennis approached Jack, gently wrapping his arms around his waist and locking his fingers together in the small of Jack's back. Jack slid his arms through Ennis's and up his back, just reaching the shoulders. With no words, they leaned into each other and let their lips meet, trying to imprint themselves on each other. They kissed very slowly, savouring the taste and feel of each other, unwilling to let it end.
They broke apart and gazed into each other's eyes. "Ennis..." Jack whispered. "How do you want it tonight? We gotta make it count, gotta remember..."
Ennis leaned forward so that their foreheads touched. "I had an idea, if it's okay with you..."
"I...I think...we should both take a turn tonight. Have a...a..."
"A part of each other inside us?" Jack finished for him, nuzzling their noses together.
Ennis let out a breath. "Yeah. So...can you, um..."
"You want me to go first?" Ennis nodded in response, and Jack smiled slightly. "You got it. Just don't let me fall asleep after, 'cos I want you too tonight."
"You got it." Ennis then took his hand and they walked around the bed, getting under the covers and sitting up as they undressed. They turned towards each other and got up close, Ennis wrapping one arm around Jack as they sat there, just trying to concentrate on each other. Their eyes met and they kissed again, Jack's hand coming up to the back of Ennis's head and moaning softly when their tongues met.
"Mmm...lie back, sweetheart," Jack mumbled as he broke away, a string of saliva connecting them still. Ennis willingly did so and lay back on his side, opening himself up to Jack and his love. Without discussing it, they both had become aware of how things would go tonight; they needed to see each other.
Jack slicked himself up and lay on top of Ennis, completely covering him with his warmth. They kissed some more as Jack guided Ennis's legs around his waist, which Ennis then used to pull him even closer.
When he was in, Jack filled him up with slow, steady strokes to let him know how much he was loved. He was doing it exactly how Ennis had wanted him to and Ennis was in heaven, heart swelling with love for the man inside him, making him feel complete. They both came with a series of silent shudders against each other, breathing heavily and then relaxing.
"Gimme a minute," Jack breathed into his ear. "Lemme just get my head right."
"Which head?" Ennis gasped back with a breathless grin, and he felt Jack laughing against him, his whole body shaking. Jack rose up, his eyes twinkling in the semi-darkness, and kissed the tip of Ennis's nose.
"I love you, you damn fool," he whispered. "Love you so much I can hardly stand it."
Ennis smiled, serious now. "I love you too, darlin'." He then kissed Jack firmly to make him feel dizzy, and soon their hands were roaming all over each other.
Finally Jack whispered, "I'm ready." Ennis rolled them both over and lay on top of Jack, his sweaty chest and come down below making, according to Jack, the perfect blanket. Nothing else felt like being here in this man's powerful, protective arms. He would miss this when Ennis was gone, but he would always have the memory.
It was Ennis's turn to use the lube, coating himself for Jack and nuzzling into his neck. When he rose up, he was struck by the intensity of Jack's gaze as he looked up at him.
"Make love to me, Ennis," he whispered. "Make me always remember this as long as I live."
Ennis swallowed, hoping that he could do this as perfectly as Jack had just done for him. Jack lifted his legs and wrapped them around Ennis's waist, mirroring their previous position. Ennis held Jack in his arms and Jack had his arms around Ennis's neck, eyes begging him to complete him. He slowly slid into Jack, who was more than ready for him, welcomed him warmly.
They lay there for a few moments, Jack feeling his lover inside him and trying to take a mental picture of the image before him. Ennis's curls were damp with sweat and his face was already flushed from their previous session, but Jack thought he was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Ennis thought that Jack looked like an angel, wide blue eyes and soft lips that were just for him.
He kissed Jack again as he began to thrust into him, also using slow, steady strokes to make this moment last as long as they could. Jack moaned into his mouth and held onto him even tighter, whispering indiscernible words of love to him.
Jack's whole body tensed up and he shot between them, crying out with joy and feeling Ennis join him over the edge. He removed his legs, which were feeling a little cramped, and he nuzzled his nose in Ennis's curls, feeling Ennis kiss his neck softly. Ennis pulled out of him gently and looked down at him. Jack was dizzy drunk on love and release, post-coital flush obvious on his young face. The blue eyes opened and he looked peacefully up at his cowboy, smiling softly.
Ennis stroked his face with one hand, giving him one final kiss on the lips before leaning back into him and letting him sleep. They had done what they'd set out to do; make this night one of their best ever so that they would always draw comfort from it when far apart. He would never ever forget Jack and he knew that Jack would never forget him. They were connected forever.
January 11th, 1966
It was here, the day of Ennis's departure. They had seen this coming but they all knew that nothing could have prepared them for the actual moment. Jack woke up in Ennis's embrace, the strong cowboy lying on top of him from the night before. He never wanted to leave this bed, and he never wanted Ennis to either. He'd looked at the man lying with him and he'd been unable to stop the tears. Ennis had awoken in time to catch this, and he'd done his best to soothe Jack and calm him down. Jack clinged to him and whispered over and over how much he loved him and always would. Ennis whispered back how he would always be thinking of him while he was gone.
Breakfast was a little on the subdued side. It was now five, and Ennis would have to leave for Sandersville in an hour for the bus. Becky would be driving him again as Jack wanted to have a private goodbye with him, the way he wanted. He didn't want their last precious moments together to be constricted by society and prying eyes.
After breakfast, Ennis took both Becky and Rose aside separately to talk to them. He told Rose how proud he was to know and be loved by Jack, as he was a fine young man, a credit to her. He thanked her for everything she'd ever done for them and all the help she'd given them. She in turn thanked him for making her son so happy, and told him that she was grateful to him for giving Jack the love and happy home he'd always wanted. She promised to look after Jack as best she could and Ennis promised to ask after her whenever he called or wrote to Jack.
He told Becky how grateful he was to her for keeping their relationship a safe secret during the time they'd been living separately, and for giving Jack a little more family support during their tough times. He said he loved her like a sister and was proud to be one of Lily's godfathers, and he hoped that she found herself someone to love, someone to make her as happy as he was. She too thanked him for making Jack happy and for taking her in when she'd needed help. She told him he was like a brother to her and that if anything happened to him out there, she would make sure that Lily grew up knowing what a fine man he'd been. She too promised to help Jack as much as she could through the times ahead, and voiced her confidence that everything would be alright. Ennis wished he could be that confident.
At last, it was time for Jack. Everything that they had truly wanted to say to each other had been said already, but there was never enough time for them, never enough. Becky and Rose went out to the porch to give them some privacy as they stood in the living room. Ennis's bag was already in the truck.
They wrapped their arms around each other and locked eyes, memorizing each other's features and trying to burn them into memory. Ennis ran a hand up and down Jack's back.
"Well...I guess this is it, cowboy," Jack said, sniffing and managing a watery smile.
"Yeah...nothin' coulda prepared me fer this, bud. Sayin' goodbye to you...I hate this."
"Me too. Ennis, I...I know we been together a while now, an'...I just wanna say...I'm still so much in love with you. So much stronger now than it ever was before." Jack's eyes were a little glassy but the tears didn't fall.
"God...me too, baby..." Their foreheads collided again.
"You got the pictures?" asked Jack. It had been decided that Ennis would secretly take with him a picture of Jack, one of him smiling widely that he'd always loved. He would also take along pictures of the women and Lily in case he was asked by others about his home life. He knew which one he'd hold close to his heart, though.
"I got 'em. The ones of the girls are in the bag, an'..." He smiled slightly. "Yours is somewhere safe." Jack grinned in spite of himself.
"Oh, here..." Ennis suddenly remembered. He reluctantly removed his wedding ring, his hand feeling naked without it. Jack gulped as he took it.
"Keep it safe, darlin'," Ennis whispered and Jack nodded.
"I will." The clock neared six and Ennis would have to get moving soon. Ennis pulled Jack into his arms for a good strong kiss, lips smashing together and tongues curling around their mate. The kiss then softened into smaller ones, just the lips.
"I love you," Jack said simply. "An' I always will. Yer my whole world an' I'll be countin' down the days until yer back here where you belong. Back...in my arms."
Ennis nodded. "I love you too, never loved anybody but you, an' I'll be countin' down those days too, bud." In an echo of something they had done before, they brought their hands to each other's hearts, feeling them beat in unison and locking eyes again, an unspoken promise of love and loyalty forever passing between them.
As they shared their last hug, Jack whispered, "Be careful out there. Don't try to be a hero if it puts you in danger. If you run, I won't ever judge you. Come home to me safely."
Ennis held the back of his head. "I will. Wait for me, Jack."
"I swear." The clock hit six and they prised themselves apart, sharing one last kiss of the lips before Ennis left the house, trying not to let his emotions get the better of him. He got into the truck with Becky, looking out at Jack and Rose on the porch. He raised a hand in farewell and met Jack's beloved eyes one last time, before he nodded at Becky to start the truck.
Jack's eyes followed the blonde head until the truck was no longer in sight. He folded his arms and sniffed, before looking up into the morning sky.
"Lord, I know I ain't one fer church, an' I know you probably think of us as sinners an' all, but...please, if yer listenin', keep him safe fer me. Send him home safe." He hoped that the love between them would help them find a way back to each other, where their hearts had found a home and now belonged.