February 12th, 1966
It was a Saturday and the three of them were eating breakfast in the kitchen, talking about what they would do today. The last two weeks had passed slowly and not much had happened. Jack was still missing Ennis terribly but was able to keep his emotions in check; he couldn't just lose it all the time. If he told Ennis how upset he was it would only worry him, and he wouldn't be able to concentrate. Jack hated keeping it from Ennis after they'd promised to always tell each other how they were feeling, but at least Ennis could focus on his job and hopefully get through it as quickly as possible.
Jack knew that Cecilia was due to give birth soon and he hoped that it would be before Ennis's next call so he could tell him. He was also hoping that Ennis would call before Valentine's Day; he wasn't looking forward to spending it alone. For the last one, in preparation for their trip to their rented cabin, Jack had suggested that as a present they could write each other letters to tell each other how they felt and to reflect on everything that had happened so far. Ennis had been concerned that he wouldn't be able to conjure up the words to describe how he felt, but Jack had simply told him to write from the heart. Ennis had done so and Jack had loved every word. Their letters were in each other's nightstands where they could easily find them and look at them whenever they wished. Jack knew he would be digging out Ennis's letter to him in two days.
According to Ennis, training was the same as ever, although he suspected that the sergeants were pushing them a little harder now, and infantry would start next month. Ennis had told him that in about three months, he would have to leave for Vietnam. Jack hadn't realised that training would take so long, and he dreaded the prospect of being alone on their anniversaries, especially in August. That would hurt, he was sure of it.
The phone ringing caught his attention, and he got up to answer it. "Brokeback Ranch, Jack speakin'."
"Hey, Jack. It's Tom, Cecilia's husband."
"Oh, hey Tom. How are ya?"
"We're great. Cecilia gave birth this mornin'." He sounded very excitable and Jack couldn't help but grin.
"Aw, congratulations. Boy or girl?" This question caught Rose and Becky's attention, and they smiled at each other.
"Girl. We've named her Katie. Got my hair an' Cecilia's eyes. She's gorgeous."
"That's great, Tom. I bet yer other kids are happy. Havin' a little sister, huh?"
"Oh, yeah. Amy can't stop chatterin' about her to anyone who'll listen. They're both real happy."
"Glad to hear it. I'll be sure to pass the news on to Ennis."
"Thanks. An' listen, Jack...don't go feelin' guilty or nothin' 'cos yer the only one he calls. We know it's a lot harder fer you an' you need those calls, right?"
Jack swallowed. "Yeah, I do. I sure am sorry, though. He's Cecilia's brother, an'..."
"Don't worry about it," Tom repeated. "In fact, Pete asks Adam how Ennis is doin' when they talk, an' you tell us how he's doin'. Nobody misses out, see?"
"Yeah, I guess. I'm hopin' he'll call before Valentine's, ya know? Special day an' all..."
"I know. I'm sure he will."
"I hope so. Anyway...tell Cecilia congratulations from all of us, an' I'll tell Ennis 'bout his new niece. Talk to ya soon, okay?"
"Yep. Bye, Jack."
"See ya." Jack hung up and returned to the table.
"So Cecilia gave birth, then?" asked Becky. Jack nodded.
"Yep. Had a little girl an' named her Katie."
"Aww, that's a lovely name," Becky replied, smiling. "They both okay?"
"Yeah, seem so."
"What were you talkin' about? What was you apologisin' for?" asked Rose, looking concerned.
Jack lowered his eyes. "About me bein' the only one Ennis calls. Tom told me not to worry 'cos I always tell 'em how he is, but...he's Cecilia's brother an'...he should call her."
"Jack, he gets one phone call a week. Try to imagine how you'd feel if you had to go two weeks without a call. You'd go crazy an' you'd drive us crazy. An' if Tom insists it ain't a problem, then let it go. You know you need to hear Ennis's voice. It'll be bad enough when he leaves an' all you'll get is letters. Take everythin' you can get while it's there," his mother said to him, covering his hand with her own.
He sniffed. "I know, mama. You know I don't drive ya crazy on purpose. I just..."
"You miss him," she said simply. "An' that's okay. You love him so it's only natural that this messes you up. Add on how worried you are, an'...well..."
"Yeah." He sighed, and then got up. "Think I'm gonna head on out. Get started on somethin' to distract me." He put his plate and glass in the sink and headed out, pulling on his boots just outside the screen door.
When he was gone, Rose and Becky looked at each other.
"I wonder how long he'll be able to handle all this?" Becky said, looking saddened.
"I don't know, sweetie. Could be he never gets over it 'til Ennis is back home. I don't think he'll be able to relax until Ennis is here, safe an' sound. It's the only thing that'll calm him down, I reckon."
"I sure feel sorry fer him," Becky said quietly, running a finger along the rim of her glass.
"Me too. You two mean so much to me, an' it kills me to see either of you upset. Always did."
Becky smiled slightly. "For what it's worth...yer a great mama. Despite everythin' our daddy did, you always tried to protect Jack, an' now you an' me are close. You've done a real great job, mama."
Rose smiled back, love for her daughter filling her heart. "Thank you, sweetie."
Training was pretty much the same as usual, but they were being pushed a little harder. Ennis was coping well with the increasing workload, he figured, but it was gruelling, he had to admit. He missed Jack too, and the others back home.
He hoped that Jack was okay. His phone calls had been pleasant enough, but Ennis couldn't help but wonder if he was hiding how he was truly feeling. Ennis hoped that wasn't the case; he couldn't bear it when Jack was upset, especially if he wouldn't let him in. He wanted to help Jack whenever he was upset, and it pained him to think that Jack might be upset right now, when he wasn't around to help him.
He knew that Adam was coping as best he could do under the circumstances, like himself. He knew he was missing Pete pretty badly, and he understood. Both of them wanted to go home to their other halves, and they hoped with all their hearts that they would, someday.
But there was one thing he was glad for; Valentine's was just two days away and they had been told that they could phone people back home on the day. He would be able to call Jack on the most romantic day of the year. It would have to do for now, and he hoped that he would also be able to call on or around their anniversary too; it would be hard enough for them to be separate on that day as it was.
Right now, they were having a practice at performing proper first aid. Ennis was glad that he had some prior knowledge of this, because it was meticulous work and it had to be performed properly, or there could be drastic consequences.
Despite how hard it was to be away from Jack and their home, and how difficult the work could be, he had to grudgingly admit that it wasn't all bad, at least for now. While they were still here in America, they were safe, and it was interesting enough to keep him motivated. And the others were alright, he figured. They were nice guys and had some stories to tell. But he and Adam still had to be careful around them; they couldn't openly discuss Jack or Pete when the others were around.
"So anyway," Adam said as they worked together on minor cuts, learning how to clean them properly and dress them. "I guess you could say that the bar's doin' okay. We're makin' some money now an' we're thinkin' of takin' a trip somewhere when I get back, ya know?"
"Sounds good. Where was ya thinkin'?"
Adam shrugged. "I thought about goin' to the coast, maybe to California or somethin', somewhere where we can see the sea. I'm thinkin' I'll need that after I get outta here."
"Yeah," Ennis agreed, fiddling with a bandage. "Good idea. Maybe me an' Jack'll do somethin' like that."
"Yep. Hey," Adam suddenly said, looking up and smiling. "Maybe the four of us could go together. Take a trip. Sounds good, right?"
Ennis smiled back. "That sounds like a mighty fine idea. I think Jack would be up to that. I'll run it by him when I call."
Adam nodded. "Speakin' of which, you lookin' forward to that? It'll be Valentine's, after all..."
Ennis blushed slightly and nodded. "Yeah, you bet. I know Jack's lookin' forward to it. I wish I could call him in private, you know? Make it count."
His friend grinned. "I know what ya mean. Sure wish fer that myself. You, um...you guys ever done that before? Over the phone?"
He blushed even deeper and glanced around. "Yeah. A couple months after we moved to Georgia, he went back up to Lightnin' Flat to pick his mama up fer a visit. He was stayin' in motels all the way, an' he called me every night. I, um...well..."
Adam grinned again. "Nice. Me an' Pete ain't never had the chance yet. Hopin' to have the chance someday."
"Maybe one of you could take a night away sometime, just to give it a try," Ennis suggested, smirking. Adam was tempted to throw something at him.
"Christ, Ennis. You kiss Jack with that mouth?" Ennis nodded.
"Sure do. Every chance I get." His light spirits then sank. "Sure miss it." Adam's face scrunched up.
"Shit...I know, Ennis. It's real hard, copin' without 'em. But we gotta keep faith that we'll be home soon. The only thing to keep us goin'."
"I know. I miss Jack somethin' awful," Ennis admitted, biting at a hangnail. "Wish I could be there in two days. It's a special day an' all an' I wanna be there, with him."
"Yeah. I miss Pete too, an' I wanna be there too."
They fell into silence, knowing that they were going in circles with this conversation. It was always the same; they missed their other lives and their other halves immensely, and there was no way out of it, at least not now.
That night, Ennis woke up hard as a rock, his head filled of thoughts of Jack. He looked down; there would be no way for him to sleep tonight unless he took care of it. He puffed out a breath. They were allowed to jerk off in the bathroom as long as they didn't make any noise. His picture of Jack was in his sock and he intended to take it to the bathroom with him. The only problem was that it was a black and white photo, so it didn't show Jack's beautiful blue eyes, but the wide grin and dimples should be enough to conjure up some memories.
In the bathroom, he locked himself in a stall and went to work, trying to focus on Jack and a time when they'd had sex, remembering their Valentine's trip to the rented cabin in the mountains. It had been a day full of love and it was a special memory. Hopefully they would have more in the future.
Two days later, it was the most romantic day of the year at last. To their delight, they were allowed to make their phone calls alone, so that meant they could make the call count. Ennis was looking forward to it and he good-naturedly jibed Adam a little for the fact that he and Pete could finally do it over the phone.
His slot was at 3pm; better than nothing. He sat in the chair by the phone, knowing that he wasn't about to be interrupted. But he'd asked Adam to stand outside the door just in case, and he would return the favour later.
Jack was in the office when he called, and he grinned when he heard Ennis's voice.
"Hey, cowboy," he said slyly, fingers itching to unbuckle his belt and get started.
"Happy Valentine's Day, darlin'," Ennis replied, smiling.
"Right back atcha. How long you got?" he asked, getting ready for some action.
"Fifteen minutes, so we better get crackin'."
Jack grinned. "Before we start, you oughta know somethin'. Cecilia gave birth, had a little girl named Katie. They're all okay."
Ennis paused in the unbuckling of his belt. "Really? That's great. I'd love to talk more 'bout that, bud, but...could you tell Cecilia congratulations from me?"
"I sure will. Now then, cowboy," Jack purred, undoing his belt and pulling the zipper down. "We gotta make these fifteen minutes count."
Ennis was starting to blush. "Yep. So, um..." He cleared his throat; it was always difficult to start, and Jack could tell. He sure didn't mind helping him out.
"I'll start. You got yer pants undone?"
"You bet yer sweet ass I have, Mr Del Mar. Sure wish it was yer hand I had on me." He was stroking himself now, eager to hear Ennis's low, sexy rumble.
"Mm...me too, bud...wish I could be there with ya..."
"What would ya do to me if ya was?" Jack breathed.
"Well...I'd throw ya down on our bed, an' pull yer top off," he started, visions forming in his mind.
"Hmm...I'd climb on top of ya, an' push ya down on the bed. Then, um..."
"What about my pants?" Jack asked, picking up the pace on himself and knowing that Ennis was doing the same.
"I'd pull those off, too. Throw 'em in the corner."
"Then you'd lie on top of me?" Jack whispered, hearing that Ennis was starting to breathed heavily into his ear.
"Yep. I'd kiss those lips of yers, those...real soft lips. I'd hold yer face in both my hands 'cos I know ya like that."
"I sure do, cowboy. You know I love that. Then would ya slick yerself up real good?"
"Uh huh. Put yer legs over my shoulders, stroke 'em some, an' then..." He didn't have to go on; they both knew what would happen next. Ennis would enter Jack and that would be it; they would unite as one, rock together and kiss, trying to get to that place together.
"Ennis...keep talkin'. Gettin' real close..."
"Uhh...I...I'd...kiss ya an' hold ya close...maybe let one hand go south, take hold of ya."
"Oh, God...you'd jerk me off, huh?" he breathed.
"Sure would. Run my hand up an' down it...in time..." He heard Jack give a soft moan and that was what Ennis needed to be a little bolder.
"I'd fuck ya real good, Jack...make ya see stars, darlin'."
"Mmm...oh God, Ennis...I'm real close..."
"Come on, darlin'...come on..."
"God, Jack..." They stroked themselves off furiously, breathing heavily and letting out a string of swear words and mixed noises. They finished at the same time, groaning and yelling out. They both sat back in their respective chairs, panting and wiping the sweat off their brows.
"Goddamn," Ennis breathed, staring around and trying to clear his vision. "That was damn good, darlin'."
"Sure was, cowboy. Loved that...always love it when you talk dirty to me, you know that." Jack was grinning by now, trying to get his breath back.
"Mmm...really enjoyed that, rodeo. Think I have to go soon, so...I just wanna say...I love you."
Jack smiled. "I love you too, Ennis. You know I do. Love you so much, an' I miss you too. Ennis, I...I gotta confess somethin'."
"I, um...I kinda lost it a bit ago. Bill an' Mary came over to see how we are, an'...we got talkin' bout you, an'...I just lost it. Couldn't take it, talkin' 'bout how much I miss ya, an' how I..."
"Jack? Come on, darlin'..."
"How I want ya back home," he finally choked out, tears pricking his eyes.
Ennis heart sank. "Jack...are ya really sure you don't want me to find some way outta this? You know I'll do anythin'..."
Jack shook his head. "No, Ennis. There's only one way fer ya to leave, an'...I don't want ya outin' yerself. It ain't gonna be pretty if they find out. I don't want ya to go through that, sweetheart..."
Ennis sighed. "Alright. But...you know how it pains me when yer upset, darlin'. I hate to think of you back home, upset an' me not bein' able to help you..."
Jack sniffed. "S'alright. My mama an' Becky are great, but...yeah...I wish you could be here, more than anythin'. But that don't mean I want ya in trouble with 'em. Don't ever want that for ya. You might not be able to cope with it, neither of us probably could."
"I know, darlin'. An' I guess yer right. Just...I wish there was a way outta this mess."
"Me too. But...remember, Ennis...I love ya. Always."
"You too, bud. I better get goin'. Love ya."
Jack smiled. "Love ya too. Happy Valentine's Day, cowboy."
"You too. Night, Jack."
"Night." Jack hung up, mixed emotions running through him. The phone sex had been wonderful, and Ennis's loving words were always good. Deep down, they would always be disheartened about being separated like this, but they were finding ways to cope; that was important and it would hopefully see them through this.
March 9th, 1966
It was time for a new part of training; infantry. This involved all of them engaging in combat and learning how to fight properly.
Ennis was nervous about this; he didn't like fighting, never did. He'd only ever hit Jack once, and had sworn to never do it again, and he hadn't been looking forward to this. Fortunately, he was paired with Adam for this. He trusted Adam. Not as much as he trusted Jack, but that was different.
They were standing in an open area in their pairs, waiting for the command for them to start. He and Adam were standing a few feet apart, sizing each other up. They'd talked this morning about this, and had agreed to at least try and go easy on each other. They didn't want to hurt each other, but they figured that if they did, at least they'd already learnt first aid. They could still look after each other if a need occurred.
At least the punches they received would be short and planned, so there theoretically wouldn't be any mishaps.
Ennis had thought about Jack a lot over the last few weeks. The phone call on Valentine's had been great fun, but his spirits had been dampened by Jack's confession about losing it in front of their friends. Once again, he'd offered to find some way of getting out of the army and return home, but once again, Jack had shot him down, citing what would happen if he did. Deep down, he knew that Jack was right, but it still pained him to think of Jack being upset and missing him. He wanted to be at home more than anything, missed Jack so much.
Another thing he was worried about concerning Jack was that in a few days it would have been John Twist's 43rd birthday, and he knew that Jack would be in a bad way as a result. He just hoped that he would be able to call soon after to take the weight and the pain off him, as much as he could. It was one of the things he was best at doing according to Jack; taking pain away from him and making him feel better. He hoped that Jack would be alright without him for a few days.
The sergeant gave them the instruction to start, and the pairs moved closer together. He looked at Adam, understanding in their eyes, and they followed the instructions given, how to throw a punch properly so as not to hit their comrade too fiercely and how to block punches too. It was the kind of work that required strategy and keeping your head on straight in order to concentrate.
They had also been warned against sneaking out of camp, seeking fights in bars to get in some practice. Ennis had a suspicion that a few would disobey, but he wasn't likely to. He didn't like fighting. And he knew that if Jack heard about him breaking the rules, he would chew him out for sure. Jack could have a temper on him for sure.
The whole thing got him thinking. If he hadn't gotten together with Jack, what might have been different in terms of fighting? Would he be out in bars, getting into fights just to have a way of getting out his frustration? Would he be getting locked up for getting into trouble? It was a scary prospect and he was very glad that his life had taken the turn it had. He was no longer quick to anger and no longer prone to using his fists to solve problems. He'd learnt to use other ways to solve problems, and Jack, with his unwavering love, had taught him how. Jack had taught him a lot of things.
Adam threw a punch and he blocked it with his own hand, requiring good hand-eye co-ordination. Adam grinned and let his hand down. Ennis then made his own punch, and he pushed away the bad memories of the time he'd punched Jack. Adam blocked the punch and they continued on for a good hour before getting a lunch break.
They flopped onto a pair of chairs at a table and started on their food. Adam stabbed at his food, an expression of distaste on his face.
"I gotta tell ya, Ennis...I hate it here," he said quietly. "Hate the rules, hate bein' cooped up, an' I hate missin' Pete." He sounded very downcast to Ennis.
"I thought that was a good thing," Ennis asked, confused. Adam shook his head.
"You know what I mean, Ennis. I know it's just a sign of how much I love him, but...I hate wakin' up every mornin' an' realisin' he ain't there. Hits me real hard."
Ennis nodded. "I know. I feel the same. I hate knowin' that it could be years before I see Jack's face again. Hurts somethin' awful an' I wish it could be sooner." He glanced around. "I, um...I asked Jack if I should find some way to get outta here. Get back to him."
"Like what?" Adam asked, brow furrowed.
Ennis shifted. "I...I asked him if I should tell 'em that I'm gay."
Adam's eyes widened. "Shit...what did he say?"
Ennis shrugged. "He told me no. Told me I shouldn't have to resort to that just to get back to him. I told him I didn't care 'bout what they say or do to me, so long as I can get back to him. But he just told me no."
"He loves you, Ennis...he don't want you to suffer just to get back home. He knows it ain't fair on you. He'll probably think it's selfish of him to want that."
Ennis nodded. "Yeah, he can be like that..." He then smiled. "Just one of the reasons why I love him."
Adam smiled and they returned to their food, not looking forward to their return to training but knowing that there wasn't anything they could do.
March 15th, 1966
Jack woke up and stretched, already aware of the empty bed beside him, and he let out a groan as he remembered the dream from last night. He and Ennis on their blanket on the hill, making love and then talking. Always a good dream.
He turned onto his front, and then moaned again when he realised what day it was; his father's birthday. He'd tried to push it out of his mind as much as he could, but now the day was here and he was currently alone. He wished for Ennis's comfort more than anything right now, but maybe he would be able to call today or soon. Ennis always could make him feel better when he was upset.
After a while of trying to get some more sleep, he decided that it was time for him to get up and get working. He just hoped that he wouldn't be in a foul mood when he got out there. He wondered how his mother would fare today and hoped that she would be alright. He knew he would need her today, for she could always hold him up when he fell. If Ennis couldn't be here to look after him, then his mother would hopefully be able to.
After a shower and a ritual look at the shirts on the bedroom door, he finally emerged, already feeling low. He found his mother and Becky in the kitchen, eating breakfast. They both looked up as he entered, and Lily's face lit up.
"Hey, sweetie," said Rose, looking wary. "Are you okay?"
He shrugged as he sat down and got himself some food. "I dunno, mama. I ain't really thought 'bout it much, or at least I try not to. Dunno how I feel. It's like how it was when he died, I just...don't know." He rubbed his forehead and started to eat.
Becky and Rose looked at each other. Before Jack had emerged, they had been talking about today. Becky was in the same state as Jack. She wasn't sure how she felt about their father either, how he had been, especially towards Jack. She herself had only spoken to him once, during that disastrous phone call. When she and Jack had been growing up on Lightning Flat, she had briefly said hello to their parents upon their first meeting, but Jack had later warned her about their father, that he wasn't friendly.
Out on the land, the hands noticed that Jack was distancing himself more than usual, but they didn't approach him. It was well known that while Ennis was the one who most were intimidated by, Jack was by no means a pushover and it wasn't wise to cross him either.
Rose came into the office while he was in there, trying to concentrate on his work but being far too distracted.
"How are you, sweetie? Really?" she asked, sitting down opposite him.
He sighed. "I gotta say, mama...I'm all mixed up. In some way, I...I think I miss him. 'Cos he was my daddy an' all, but...when I think on that, I remember all the things he did, an' all the things he didn't do...just messes me up."
"I know, honey. I know how he messed you up, an' I know how you feel 'bout him. He was yer daddy, an' I know how that is. Jack, you gotta know...he never hated you."
Jack looked up at her. "Really?"
"Really. It was all 'cos of Earl an' what happened. The thing in those papers. That messed him up an' he just...took it out on you." He'd taken it out on Becky, too, but she had promised her daughter not to tell until she was ready.
Jack now looked miserable. "So how did he feel 'bout me?"
She looked at him sympathetically. "He loved you, Jack. I know you won't let yourself believe that, but...it's true. He did love you. You should have heard him when you was born, Jack. He was so proud of his baby boy." She could see tears pricking in her son's eyes, but he needed to know this. "He showed you off to anybody who'd listen."
"But it all changed when my grandfather tried to come an' see me," he replied quietly.
"Yeah...but before that happened, he was a good daddy. Loved you so much. He was always talkin' 'bout you to his friends, sayin' how you looked just like him an' that you was gonna be a bullrider when you grew up, just like him."
"'Cept...he never came to see me ride." Jack's voice was hollow, and he remembered saying the same thing to Ennis.
Rose bit her lip. "Jack...he did."
He looked up, startled. "What?"
She nodded. "Remember how I told you that Rich came to visit me while you was down in Texas for that rodeo, March '63?" He nodded. "Well...yer daddy wasn't on business. He went down to Texas to see you at yer first ride. He made me promise never to tell you, I don't know why. I said you'd want to know, that it would make you happy. But...he just told me not to. I'm so sorry, honey." She covered his hand with her own.
He stood up, rubbing his chin. "But...why didn't you tell me when he died?"
"I thought you were already cut up enough over all that, an' then there was the mess with Ennis an' the papers...I didn't want you hurtin' any more than you already was."
He shook his head. "It's alright, mama. I just...wish I'd known. Wish that...just once, I'd known fer sure that he loved me...was proud of me."
She stood up and put her arms around him. "Jack...you have people now, who do love you an' are proud of you."
"I know, mama...just wish I'd known 'bout him." They stood there embracing, Jack laying his head on his shoulder and wishing for Ennis to walk in and make it all better, in the way that only he could.