Chapter 15

December 31st, 2003

It was New Year's Eve, and the family were preparing for a house party. Jack's older female relatives were making a lot of food in the kitchen, the men were organising drinks and Ennis and Jack had been tasked with keeping an eye on the kids. They were in the living room and trying to entertain them by playing board games on the floor. Jack kept cheating on purpose and the kids were telling him off, which made Ennis look at him with affection. Maybe one day, they could somehow have children of their own. There were ways for gay couples to have families these days. But that would be way into the future; there was no need to worry himself over it yet.

At around one in the afternoon, they were relieved of their duties by Jack's aunt and retired up to their room for a couple of hours. They rolled around on their bed and stripped off until they were naked. To Jack's surprise, Ennis then rolled him over onto his front, and Jack thought that he was going to fuck him from behind. They'd never done it that way before.

But instead of doing that, Ennis just sank onto him and lay there, covering him with his warmth and nuzzling into the back of his neck. Jack was surprised by this, but it wasn't unwelcome. He loved to feel that weight on him, like a protective blanket. He closed his eyes and buried his face in his pillow. He could hear Ennis making low sounds in his throat as he gently kissed the back of his neck.

"You okay, Ennis?" he asked softly, and he felt a nod against his back.

"Mmmhmm. Just fine, darlin'..." He sighed low and placed his hands on the backs of Jack's shoulder blades. "Just...wanted to feel you."

Jack thought this over, but decided not to comment. Ennis occasionally got into a mood where he just wanted to hold him and feel his body, even if it didn't lead to sex. He brought his arms up to the pillow in front of his head and loosely folded them there. After a moment, Ennis too brought his arms up to cover his, linking their fingers together. Jack smiled at the sight of their rings side by side.

"This is real nice, Ennis," he whispered, and he felt a kiss at the back of his neck.

"Sure is..." Jack then felt Ennis growing hard against him, pushing against his ass, and he grinned.

"Hey...feels like you're up to starting something there, cowboy." Ennis made a low purring noise.

"Mmm, maybe..."

Jack felt Ennis shift on top of him, and he heard the lubricant being opened behind him. He shivered with anticipation and he felt Ennis get into position. He felt his cheeks being slowly pulled apart, and he felt Ennis rubbing his skin. He vaguely wondered if it would hurt in this position. Ennis seemed to sense his nerves.

"S'alright, Jack...I ain't gonna hurt ya..."

"I know, Ennis. careful, okay?" He felt Ennis slowly begin to push into him, and he spread his legs a little wider to help. Ennis slid into him and let out a low groan that went straight to Jack's groin. They rose up off the bed together and started to move together, Jack pushing back to meet his lover's thrusts and bracing his elbows on the bed. He put his head down and scrunched his eyes shut as they pushed towards each other. It was quick and rough but Jack loved it. He would always prefer it when they took it slowly and romantic, but this was good once in a while.

They climaxed simultaneously and then collapsed onto the bed together, panting for breath and relaxing as Ennis softly kissed Jack's neck.

"That was good," Jack gasped out, feeling satisfied and warm all over.

"Sure was..."

A few hours later, after they had had some sleep, they decided to take a shower and change for the party. Jack dressed in a deep blue denim shirt that brought out his eyes and Ennis chose a white plaid shirt. Jack smiled at him as he flattened his collar.

"You look really good, cowboy. Can't wait to get it off you later, though." Ennis grinned and they kissed.

"Same to you, darlin'." He sighed happily. "Let's go an' spend some time with the family, huh?"

"Yep." They kissed a couple of more times and then headed downstairs to join the others. Everybody was in smart yet casual clothes and were milling around, drinking wine and eating bits of food. The pair of them got a drink and some chips before walking around and talking to the members of the family. They ended up at the kitchen counter with Jessica, talking to her about college. She was planning to go herself next year, and they were happy to give her tips.

At quarter to midnight, they all went into the living room and gathered around the TV to watch the ball drop in Times Square. Ennis and Jack sat half-facing each other, getting ready for their midnight kiss.

"" everybody chanted at the same time, and when the New Year hit, everybody cheered and the couples kissed. Jack turned to Ennis, a heart-warming smile on his face.

"C'mere, cowboy..." He pulled Ennis towards him and into a kiss, their lips firmly pressing together and their tongues meeting. They kissed a few times and then broke apart a little.

"Happy New Year, Ennis," Jack murmured, looking into his eyes. Ennis touched his cheek.

"Happy New Year, Jack." They kissed again and spent a little longer with the family, giving greetings all around and stating that they would be sleeping in late. Ennis had a feeling that Jack was planning for them to do more than sleep tonight, and possibly tomorrow too.

Sure enough, Jack was all over him as soon as their door was shut, kissing him and running his hands everywhere. He responded in kind, pushing Jack back towards the bed and following him onto it and lying with him, slowly making love to him and mentally promising himself and Jack that even though the last few months had been wonderful, the year to come would be the best of their lives.

Later in the night, Jack was stirred from sleep by movement in the bed, and he turned onto his other side to see Ennis shifting restlessly, clearly having a nightmare.

"No, Dad! Leave him alone!" He tried to fight off his father's friend, but he was far too strong. All he could do was watch as his father approached Jack with a tire iron, a murderous look on his face. Jack backed away, looking terrified, but there was nowhere to run. Ennis strained against his captor, but it was no good. Jack backed up to the wall as Ennis's father came nearer, and he flicked his eyes to Ennis's face.

"You're gonna go to hell, boy," the older man spat, gripping his weapon tightly. Ennis's heart was racing and he desperately tried to break free. Jack looked straight into Ennis's eyes, trying to tell him that everything would be alright, but Ennis wanted to save him.

"Jack..." he choked out, tears gathering in his eyes.

"It's okay, Ennis..." Jack said softly. "It's all gonna be okay..." He then mouthed two words. "Love you."

Ennis kept trying to break himself free, but then his heart nearly stopped when his father reached Jack and swung. Jack clutched his stomach and fell to his knees, one hand on the ground.

"Jack!" He stared in horror as his father hit Jack on his back, knocking him down properly. Jack lay face down, completely still. All thoughts were wiped clean from Ennis's head when the dreaded tire iron made contact with Jack's head, and he thought that he would throw up right there. "Jack..."

His father spat on the ground, and then signalled to his friend, who released Ennis and followed him out of the barn. Ennis dropped to his knees beside Jack and turned him over, feeling relieved when he saw Jack's eyes open.


He cupped Jack's cheek. "Don't worry, Jack. I'm gonna call an ambulance." He got his phone out, but Jack weakly put a hand on his arm.

"Too late," he gasped out. "Hurts too head..."

"Jack, you can't go dyin' on me...we're supposed to spend the rest of our lives together, remember? You can't bail on me now; you promised," Ennis choked, tears spilling onto Jack's chest.

"Sorry, bud. I'm gonna have to break that promise. Don't wanna, but..." Jack brought his hand to Ennis's face. "I'm sorry. I'm...always gonna be with you. That's a promise I can keep." Ennis covered Jack's hand with his own.

"I love you, Jack...gonna miss you so much..."

"Love you too, Ennis. I'm gonna be waiting for you." He pulled Ennis down to him for a kiss, and by now they were both crying. When they pulled away, Jack smiled softly up at him and then his eyes fluttered shut, the pain ripping into Ennis's heart.

By now, Ennis was breathing heavily and looking very distressed, so Jack leaned over him and took hold of his shoulder, shaking him. "Ennis, wake up. Ennis, come on!" He shook him a couple of times and then Ennis's eyes flew open. Jack touched his face gently. "Ennis?"

Ennis looked at him, and then his eyes grew watery. He opened his mouth but could hardly speak. "Jack, I..." Sensing that something bad had happened in his dream, Jack put an arm under his neck and brought him into a sitting position. He lifted Ennis's chin.

"It's okay, I'm here. What happened?" Ennis shakily reached out to him, and his hand found Jack's heartbeat.

" was my dad..."

"What did he do?" Jack asked softly, and Ennis gulped.

"Cornered you...had a tire iron. His friend held me back so I couldn't do nothin'...I had to watch him...he got you on the head..." He covered his eyes with a shaky hand and Jack could see how badly it had scared him. He sighed and simply put his arms around Ennis, rubbing his back and making shushing noises to try and soothe him.

"It's alright,'s okay. It wasn't real...he didn't get me. Calm down..."

"It was horrible, were in pain...I couldn't do nothin'..."

"'s okay, Ennis. Come on, calm down..."

After a few minutes of shaking in Jack's arms, Ennis finally calmed down a little and pulled away. His face was tear-stained and Jack cupped his cheeks.

"Baby, it's okay," he whispered, the new endearment making its way past his lips. Ennis raised his eyes and sniffed.

"I ain't never lettin' him anywhere near you, Jack. Never...don't want him hurtin' you."

Jack gently kissed his lips and stroked his face. "That's fine, if it makes you feel better. Whatever you want. In the meantime, I'm gonna look after you. Come here..." He cupped Ennis's cheek and brought it to his cheek, then started to lie backwards onto the bed again, bringing Ennis with him. He put his arms back around Ennis and held him close as he buried his face in Jack's chest. He was still shaken up from the dream, and he slipped an arm around Jack, holding onto him desperately. Jack kept making soothing sounds and rubbed his back, not planning on letting go of him for the rest of the night.

His caring touch and words did the trick, for he felt Ennis calming down and eventually dropping off again. He pressed his lips to Ennis's hair and laid his head back onto his pillow, looking up at the ceiling and sighing to himself. This marked the first time that either of them had had a nightmare concerning their relationship, at least to his knowledge, and it was unsettling. He wasn't thinking about Ennis's father and what he could do if they ever did meet for real; he was more concerned with Ennis and how upset he'd been just now. Jack just wanted to hold him and never let go; protect him as much as he could and make sure that nothing bad happened to either of them. He couldn't guarantee this, but he could promise Ennis all the same. He had to let him know that he would always be here to take care of him.

The day after New Year's, Ennis and Jack were in their room, packing for their return to Amherst. The new semester would be starting in a few days and they had to get going soon.

Most of the day before had been spent in the room on their own, lying in bed as Jack held Ennis close. He'd quickly explained to his mother that they needed a little time on their own, and that Ennis had had an unsettling nightmare. She had understood and told him to take all the time they needed.

In bed, Ennis had burrowed close to Jack and told him a little more of how his father had been when he was growing up. He wasn't a particularly kind man, and his nightmare had made him feel worse. There was no way that he would ever let his father near Jack now, and Jack could understand this. If their positions were reversed, Jack knew that he would do the same thing.

They stood on either side of the bed now, folding their clothes and putting them into their suitcases. Jack kept glancing at Ennis, making sure that he was okay, and he seemed to be. He'd been fine today, spending time with Jack's sisters and looking in on the horses one last time. He seemed to have pushed the nightmare to the back of his mind for now, and Jack was happy for them to not mention it. He didn't want Ennis to relive it all over again if it had been as bad as he'd said.

He cleared his throat, searching for something to start a conversation. " Lureen called earlier. She said that she'd be back at college today. So...she'll be there when we get there."

Ennis looked up at him and nodded, smiling a little. "Right.'ll take us two days, right?"

"Yeah. We could stay in motels or something on the road."

"Um...I ain't got a lot of money, Jack." Ennis was looking uncomfortable, so Jack went around the bed and put his hands on his shoulders.

"Don't worry about it, I can cover it. No problem." He smiled encouragingly at Ennis, who nodded.

"Okay." He smiled back and dropped a quick kiss on Jack's mouth, making him grin. They went back to their suitcases and continued to pack.

A few minutes later, there was a knock on their door. "Come in," Jack called, and Jessica stepped in, dressed up against the cold outside.

"Hey, guys. Just wanted to say goodbye before we left." They smiled back at her and moved forward.

"Gonna miss you," said Jack as he hugged her, and she patted his back.

"I know, me too. Thank you, Jack. You really gave me the courage to admit who I am."

"I'm glad, honey. You take care, alright? And you can call whenever you want."

"I will." They broke apart and she turned to Ennis. "It was great to meet you, Ennis." She moved forward and hugged him.

"Yeah, you too. Hope you find someone special of your own," he told her, looking at Jack and smiling. She squeezed him tightly.

"Thank you. I know you guys have got something good, and I hope I can find that too."

"I reckon you will," said Jack, smiling back at Ennis. She let him go and sighed.

"Okay, I better go then. See you, guys." She kissed them both on the cheek and left the room. Jack looked at Ennis and smiled.

"She's right...we've got something good here, haven't we?" Ennis nodded and opened his arms, coaxing Jack into them.

"Yeah, we do." He leaned down and kissed Jack gently, bringing one hand to the back of Jack's neck and feeling him sigh into his mouth in contentment. The feeling always went straight to Ennis's heart - and his groin.

"Mmm..." Jack slid his hands up Ennis's chest and over his shoulders, letting them rest there and feeling Ennis's other arm slide around his waist. They explored each other's mouths with their tongues, feeling the familiar warmth and melting into the embrace. Jack hoped that Ennis's nightmare wouldn't be bothering him anymore, and that he could push his father to the back of his mind.

After a little while of making out, they finally finished packing and headed downstairs. Jack's parents were waiting for them in the kitchen. Karen smiled and hugged both of them.

"It was great to see you, Jack. We missed you, and we'll miss you all over again." She closed her eyes and hugged him tightly.

Jack smiled. "I know, ma. But I'll call you, and we'll be back for the summer, I'm sure."

"I know, sweetheart." She released him and hugged Ennis. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Ennis."

"You too, ma'am." They pulled apart and Richard stepped forward to shake his hand and hug Jack. With a few more goodbyes, Jack's parents walked with them to the front door.

"So...have a good semester, boys," said Karen, laying a hand on Jack's shoulder. "Good luck out there. And remember, you can come back at any time."

"We know, ma. guys take care, too." They said more goodbyes and then were out of the door, waving to his parents as they went. They loaded the suitcases into Jack's car, looked up at the house one last time and then got it. Jack turned to Ennis, taking his hand.

"Did you have a good time out here, Ennis?" he asked softly, and Ennis nodded.

"Yeah, really good. Thanks again, Jack...for invitin' me out here. Hope I can make it up to you." He looked at Jack, biting a hangnail.

Jack smiled. "That's okay, Ennis. I know you love me. And this pretty much sums it up," he replied, indicating his right hand. Ennis smiled and they leaned in for a kiss, their hands on each other's necks. They pulled apart and smiled, looking into each other's eyes.

"Ready to go?" Jack said softly, and Ennis nodded, pushing a few strands of hair out of Jack's eyes.

"Yep. Let's get goin'."

Two days later, they finally arrived back at campus. It was early afternoon by the time they arrived back and they were happy to see the familiar buildings again. Jack drove the car to the garage so that Ennis could retrieve his truck and drive it back to the dorms. They parked and got out, stretching and looking up at the building.

"Good to see this place again," said Jack, and Ennis nodded.

"Yeah. Kinda missed it. I mean..." He looked at Jack. "I loved bein' at your family's place, an' I had a good time. But...this place feels different. Feels like we've got more privacy here."

Jack nodded. "I know. We've got our own little space here, and nobody knows what we're up to. Well, apart from Lureen. But anyway...I'm glad to be back." He smiled over at Ennis. "I'm glad you enjoyed yourself, cowboy. That's all I wanted. And you seemed to win my parents' approval."

Ennis went a little red. "Well...they're real nice. I'm glad they were okay with us bein' together in your room. Don't think I coulda coped if I'd been on my own. Especially the other night..." He averted his eyes and Jack looked at him sympathetically.

"Right. wanna go on up?" Ennis nodded and they got their things out of the car, dragging their suitcases inside and towards the elevator. They went up to the third floor and went along the hallway. Jack knocked on Lureen's door but there was no response; maybe she was out. They continued down the hall and into their room, looking around in contentment at the familiar surroundings. They put their suitcases at the end of the beds and Jack looked at Ennis. His back was turned to him and his hands were covering his mouth.

"Ennis?" he asked cautiously, coming up to him and pressing his hands to his back. "Are you okay?"

After a few moments, Ennis turned to look at him. He looked tired and weary. "I guess. Just...can't stop thinkin' about that nightmare."

Jack sighed and put an arm around his waist, sitting them both down on Ennis's bed. "Come here..." They sat down and Ennis leaned his head on Jack's shoulder, closing his eyes.

"Was real bad, Jack...ain't never had no dream like that before..."

"I know, Ennis. Look..." He shifted. "We did a little bit about dreams in class last year. I think I know what your problem might be."

Ennis sat up and looked at him, eyes looking hopeful. "Really?"

"Yeah. We learnt that dreams can be a manifestation of our unconscious thoughts. During the day, we can push back any bad memories or fears we have, with enough effort. But at night we can't control it, so they just...sort of happen. You're scared that if your dad gets near me, he's gonna hurt me because of us. And...when you're asleep, that fear comes to the front of your mind. It appears as a dream that you can't control."

Ennis digested his words, seeing the logic behind them. "That makes sense, I guess. It's just...I love you somethin' fierce, Jack..." He looked into Jacks' eyes. "Scares me bad to think of somethin' happenin' to' with my dad bein' the way he is..."

"I know, cowboy," said Jack, smoothing a few curls away from his forehead. "But if you don't wanna go near him or the ranch...if it makes you feel better for us to stay away, then that's okay. We won't go near him."

"He ain't the only one who could hurt you, Jack," Ennis whispered fearfully, and Jack sighed.

"I know...what about you? Aren't you scared of yourself getting hurt?"

Ennis shrugged. "I dunno...yeah, I guess. But I'm always worryin' about you."

Jack had to smile. "I'm always worried about you. But I reckon we'll be fine. People out here are just different, I think. I mean...look at the law; it's changing for guys like us. One day we could probably get married and have all the same rights as straight couples. So...I think we'll be alright. No offense, bud, but...they're a little behind the times out West. Even Lureen said so last year."

Ennis nodded. "It's true. They ain't like this back home. They don't like nobody who ain't like everyone else. Make fools of 'em, beat 'em's real bad out there. I don't never wanna go back..."

"You don't have to," Jack said softly, kissing Ennis's temple. "If you really don't want to go back, you don't have to. I won't force you if you'd rather stay out here."

He felt Ennis nod against him. "Thanks, Jack. Don't know what I'd do without you..."

"You don't have to worry about that, cowboy. I promise." He held Ennis against him for a little while, and then sighed. "How about we get our things away and I go down to the diner for some of that chicken?"

Ennis sat up, his eyes alight with interest. "Sounds good to me." They unpacked their suitcases and shared a few slow kisses before Jack left the room to get them some food. Ennis flopped onto Jack's bed, staring up at the ceiling and thinking. He felt truly lucky to have someone like Jack by his side, standing by him no matter what.

They had only been together for three months, but it felt more like three years with how close they were. They had told each other of their love, they had spent a major holiday together with Jack's family, they were completely committed and had even swapped rings. It felt a little overwhelming, but Ennis wasn't scared. He'd never been this happy in his life, despite his father's reaction.

Jack came back in half an hour, smiling and bearing hot food. They sat on the bed together and talked as they ate, wondering where Lureen was and what their new classes might bring. Both of them knew that they would have to talk about the summer at some point, but there was no need to rush. They had all the time in the world.

That night, Ennis and Jack decided to spend some quality time together in bed, trying to forget about Ennis's nightmare and all of the bad things that had happened lately. Their new classes would be starting tomorrow and they wanted to make each other feel relaxed and prepared for the new semester. Having sex usually calmed them down when it was needed.

After both of them had cleaned their teeth in the bathroom, they stripped off and crawled into Ennis's bed, sighing and getting themselves comfortable. When they were settled, they turned onto their elbows and looked at each other.

"You okay, Ennis?" said Jack softly, running a hand along his arm. Ennis nodded, his eyes closing for a moment.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for that talk earlier, Jack...kinda made me feel better."

Jack smiled. "That's alright, Ennis. You know I'd do anything to make you feel better. I love you."

"Love you too, Jack...can we, um...?" He looked at Jack hopefully, and Jack smiled peacefully.

"Sure. How do you want it?"

Ennis thought for a moment. "Um...could we do it on our sides, with you behind me?" He needed some care and comfort tonight, and Jack could sense it. He planted a kiss on Ennis's cheek.

"Okay. You wanna roll over?" He saw Ennis smile at him and roll onto his other side, curling himself up for easier access. Jack reached back and grabbed the lube, preparing himself and hoping not to hurt Ennis right now. That was the last thing he needed.

Jack put the tube back and scooted up close to Ennis, one hand between them. He gently pulled the cheeks apart and got into position, taking it slowly. He slowly pushed himself in, feeling Ennis let out a low gasp as they connected.

"You okay?" Jack whispered, pausing to make sure he was alright. Ennis nodded.

"Yeah...keep goin'..." Jack kept pushing in until he was buried inside him, in his most favourite place in the world. Once settled, he slipped one arm around Ennis's stomach and held him tightly, while he let his other arm rest on the pillow. Ennis felt secure in Jack's embrace and he knew that he could trust him. "Feels real good, Jack..."

"Sure does. Just relax, alright?" Jack kissed the back of Ennis's neck and slowly began to move inside him, hoping to make him feel good. He heard Ennis sigh with contentment and smiled to himself. He could see the silvery moonlight from the window shining on Ennis's skin, and he couldn't help but nuzzle at it as he continued to move into him. He felt Ennis's hand reach back and touch his hip, holding onto it and pulling him closer. Jack kissed Ennis's neck again and felt him purr.

" you..."

"I love you too, sweetheart..." Jack thrust a little quicker and dipped his hand between Ennis's legs, taking hold of him and starting to move his hand up and down. Ennis let out a low moan and Jack grinned dozily at him.

"Feel good, cowboy?"

"Yeah...keep goin', Jack..." He moved against him, meeting his thrusts and shaking a little in his arms. Jack then felt him tense up and release under his hand. A few more thrusts into him and Jack was done, letting out a low groan and sighing. He pulled himself out and leaned up on his elbow.

"You alright?" he whispered, looking down at Ennis and touching his shoulder. Ennis turned to look at him, smiling with a loving look on his face.

"Just fine, darlin'. Let me roll on my back..." Jack did so and touched Ennis's face as they gazed into each other's eyes.

"Did that make you feel any better, baby?" he whispered, and Ennis smiled.

"Yeah. Thanks,' I kinda like that name for me." He grinned and Jack leaned down for a kiss. He gently probed Ennis's mouth with his tongue and cupped his cheek. After a couple of sweet kisses, he pulled away a little.

"That's what you are to me. You know that, Ennis. I love you so much..." Ennis smiled and pulled Jack into his arms. They embraced warmly and Jack twined his fingers in Ennis's curls.

"This is real nice, ain't it?" Ennis said softly, running a hand along Jack's back and staring up at the ceiling. Jack nodded and hugged him tightly.

"Sure is. Hope we have this for a long time...want that more than anything..."

"Me too, darlin'. Don't have much left, since I was disowned...only really got you now."

Jack rose up and looked at Ennis sadly. "Ennis...don't say that..."

Ennis just shrugged. "It's true. My parents don't wanna know me...ain't got no other family...can't go back home..." He sighed. "You're the biggest part of my life now."

" ain't just got me. You've got Lureen, you've got my more than you think, you know." He brushed a few curls from Ennis's forehead. "And it's like I always should be proud of yourself. Getting yourself a degree...breaking away from what you're expected to do. That takes a lot of guts, and you did it. I know it's been scary for you, especially after your dad found out about us...but you've done really well. You're adjusting, aren't you?"

Ennis nodded and laced their fingers together on his chest. "Yeah, I guess. Wouldn't have done it without you, though. You were there whenever I tried to call him an' he wouldn't listen. held me when I got upset. An' when he disowned took charge an' invited me to your home. You showed me what a family should be like, an' I'm real grateful. Had a real great time there."

Jack smiled and looked at their hands; he could see his ring shining on his finger, where it looked right. He kissed Ennis's hand and looked into his eyes.

"I know you did. Me too, cowboy. Listen, we better get some new classes tomorrow." Ennis nodded and they disentangled themselves so that they could settle down. Jack set the alarm clock and turned onto his side, feeling Ennis spoon around him and hold him close. All he ever wanted was to make Ennis feel good, and as he felt Ennis curl up against him, he knew that he was on the right track to making him happy.