Chapter 18

October 31st, 1987

It was Halloween, and the five of them were hosting a party at the ranch, for their friends in town. Jay had left a couple of days ago, promising to call sometime soon. Lily had to admit that she had been sad to see him leave, and she was looking forward to talking to him. It was clear to Ennis and Jack that they were growing closer; she no longer felt guilty about spending time with him and letting him be a part of her life. They could see that it was making her happy to see him, and decided to let it be. They'd only ever wanted the best for her, even if this meant swallowing down their personal feelings about her father.

To Jack's amusement, Ennis had agreed to throwing a costume party. He suspected that it was something to do with the wine he'd consumed just before he was asked, but he didn't care. They had thrown Halloween parties before, but this was the first costume party. Jack couldn't help but think about all the missed nights that kids had been trick-or-treating when they were younger, and that Ennis had never been allowed to join in, having too many chores to do. He figured that the forthcoming party would give Ennis some sense of belonging; just to do something normal on the holiday.

The pair of them were in their room, putting on their costumes. Jack had found himself a Persian Prince costume and was in the bathroom, adjusting the leather straps across his body. He was just glad that his body was still in good enough shape to show off his muscles. Despite his age, he was feeling like a kid again, remembering the Halloweens he had spent with Becky and the nights they had been trick-or-treating. He could hear Ennis grumbling in the bedroom.

"Can't believe I got roped into this," he was muttering. Jack paid him no mind; he knew that Ennis was secretly looking forward to this party, and that his bad mood wasn't to be heeded. He knew Ennis too well for that. He left the bathroom and bit back a laugh.

Ennis was dressed as the Joker from the latest Batman movie; Jack Nicholson's character. He was wearing an orange shirt, blue tie, purple jacket and plaid pants. Jack had to admit that he looked great. Lily would be helping them both with their makeup as soon as she was ready.

"Oh, look great," he said, coming over to Ennis and smoothing down the jacket. "You really suit that." Ennis shifted a little.

"You think so? I dunno about this..." He looked hopefully into Jack's eyes, searching for reassurance. Jack nodded.

"Yep, I do. Besides, God knows we need to have some fun. We've been through the ringer lately, what with Pete an' everythin'. An' everybody else is gonna be dressed up, too. Come on, it'll be fun." Ennis nodded, smiling at him a little. He then looked Jack up and down, noting the muscles on display.

"You look real good there, darlin'. All them muscles showin'..." Jack grinned.

"I'll let ya feel 'em up later, if you want."

There was a knock at the door and Lily came in, holding a makeup kit for them. She was dressed as a female vampire, complete with fangs and makeup with a black wig. She grinned at the sight of them. " two sure look different. What did you do to him, Jack?"

He shrugged, grinning. "Thought he'd look good. You gonna do the makeup?" She nodded.

"Yep. I've got the white an' red stuff for Ennis, an' I got some tan-like stuff for you. Makes it more authentic, you know?" She led them out of their room and down to hers. Jack sat on the bed as she coaxed Ennis into her vanity seat, facing the mirror.

Half an hour later, they were downstairs and people were arriving. They all exclaimed over each other's costumes and the atmosphere was full of life. Ben was dressed as a pirate and Rose was dressed as a fortune teller. Everybody mingled and drank cider and beer, while various music was played on the stereo. They had games out for the kids in the front room and there were Jack-O-Lanterns strung throughout the lower floor and the porch. Even Ennis had to admit that he was having a good time, and Jack could see it.

He found Jack on the back porch around eleven, looking out across the land and taking a quiet break. He seemed at peace, and Ennis couldn't help but slide his arms around Jack's waist, chin on his shoulder.

"You alright, darlin'?" he asked softly, and Jack nodded, smiling. He leaned back into Ennis's warm embrace.

"Yeah...just needed some quiet. You havin' a good time?" Ennis made an affirmative sound in his throat.

"Yeah, better than I thought. Been pretty fun. An' I like yer costume a whole lot..." Jack grinned.

"You like it 'cos you can see my muscles. I know you, cowboy. Face it, Ennis...yer gay." Ennis nodded, not even blinking at the word. He'd made his peace with it a long time ago, and he knew that it was true of himself and Jack. He could accept it now.

"Guess so. Like seein' you like this...gonna take you up on yer offer, you know."

"To feel me up later?" Jack asked slyly.


"Okay." Jack turned himself around in Ennis's arms. The makeup was a little strange, especially when Ennis smiled, but he could see Ennis's warm eyes staring at him. They leaned in and began to kiss for several moments. Their arms were wrapped around each other and they lost themselves in one another.

Half an hour later, they went inside to join the others, looking forward to midnight. Lily handed them both a cup of cider and smirked. "Hey, Jack?"


"You've got white makeup on yer face." She walked off, leaving them both blushing.

November 5th, 1987

Ennis and Jack were lying in bed one morning, their arms around each other and legs tangling together under the sheets as they lay facing each other. They were cooling down from their first lovemaking session of the day and were now just holding each other close, occasionally kissing softly. Jack's hand was running up and down Ennis's back, and he was so relaxed that he felt as if he could just melt where he was.

He looked into Ennis's sleepy eyes and smiled, lifting a hand to stroke Ennis's cheek. He saw his cowboy smile back at him. "Mmm..."

"Feel good, cowboy?" Jack murmured, and he nodded, kissing Jack's fingers as they neared his mouth. Before he'd met Jack, his mother was the only one who had shown him affection like this. Jack was the first person in his life who had truly listened to him and made him feel worth something. He knew that Jack felt the same about him.

"Yeah. Sure wish we didn't have to get up..."

Jack smirked. "Ranch ain't gonna run itself. An' even though we pay the workers, we can't stay in bed all day. We ain't that lazy." He stretched a little, yawning.

"I know. It's just...feels safe here. Just you an' me, in our nothin' can hurt us..." Jack's eyes lowered a little. He knew that Ennis was still worrying about Pete. They hadn't seen him at all in the last few days, and nobody had been spied on the property. Jack got the feeling that things with Pete weren't over yet, but there wasn't much they could do when James wasn't getting the opportunity to arrest him. He wondered if Pete was watching them whenever they were in town. He didn't want to share his suspicion with Ennis; they would never leave the ranch otherwise and Jack didn't want to cave in to fear.

"Ennis...I know yer worried about Pete an' everythin', but...we can't just stay here an' never go out. He's tryin' to scare us, an' if we stay away from town then he wins. We ain't never caved in to fear yet, an' I don't wanna start now. Think about it...most people in town probably know about us by now, right? Have they ever threatened us? No. Don't matter what they think of us an' say behind our backs, so long as they're civil to our faces. I reckon our good business has a lot to do with it; they probably don't wanna lose our products in the stores."

He saw Ennis sigh. "I know. But, thing is...I'm more scared for you, Jack. What if he...attacks you? Like...that." He swallowed and tried to get his throat to work. "It ain't just that he'd be hurtin' you an' everythin', but...what about us? You might not want me to come near you ever again. What if you won't wanna sleep with me no more? What if-" Jack's hand covered his mouth, eyes full of sorrow to see him like this.

"Shh...don't think like that. Let's say he does do that. Yeah, I'd be scared about sharin' a bed with you, but...I'd still love you as much as I do now. One way or another, we'd find a way back. We'd get through it 'cos we're in love. I know that you'd never hurt me, Ennis. Especially not that way.'ll be okay. Stop worryin', okay?"

Ennis gulped. "Can't help it, Jack. Don't want anythin' happenin' to you..." He linked their hands together between their chests, looking at Jack's rings on his finger. "Don't wanna lose you..." A lump grew in his throat and he couldn't meet Jack's eyes.

"You won't," Jack breathed as he leaned in close. "You won't ever lose me...I'm always gonna be yours. Don't matter what Pete does, my heart will always belong to you. It has ever since Brokeback. You know that. Nothin' can change how I feel about you, baby. We've been through so much an' we're too strong to fall apart now. Just's been over twenty-four years since that summer, an' we've been together ever since. That's over half our lives that we've been together. Nothin' can tear us apart now."

He looked into Ennis's warm eyes and saw the intense, blazing love that Ennis felt for him. Jack knew in his heart that he felt exactly the same. They were soulmates, lovers, partners, best friends; everything that a couple should be as far as he thought. He truly felt as if they were two halves of a whole, and it didn't matter what should happen to their bodies; their souls would always be one and pure. He leaned in further and their lips met gently, just caressing each other at first. Jack then pushed his tongue in to find Ennis's and he felt Ennis sigh into his mouth. Their fingers squeezed tighter together and soon enough Ennis was rolling on top of him, holding him in his arms. Jack wound his own arms around Ennis's neck, suspended in mid-air, and Ennis settled between his legs comfortably. They broke apart and looked at each other.

"Jack..." Ennis whispered. "Hope you know what you mean to me..." Jack smiled and played with his curls, looking up into his eyes and revelling in the fact that this wonderful, dedicated man was in bed with him; that they were together. He knew that everything would be okay as long as he had Ennis.

"Sure think so. I feel the same, cowboy." Their lips met again and Ennis grabbed the lube, preparing himself for Jack. Those deep blue eyes were boring into him and he leaned down, kissing Jack as he pushed in. He heard Jack moan a little and knew that he was lifting his hips to help. They connected as one and spent the next half hour lost in their love, not worrying about anything beyond their four walls for a moment. The world could have ended and they wouldn't have noticed; their world was complete.

That evening, Ben decided to take Lily out for dinner. He could tell that Ennis and Jack needed time alone, and that Rose would be spending the evening at a friend's in town. Besides, he liked taking her out and was looking forward to what their future marriage might bring. He couldn't wait for them to start building a real life together, and he knew that they both drew a lot of inspiration from Ennis and Jack; he hoped that in twenty years, their love would be at least half as strong.

They sat in the restaurant, looking at the menus. He could see that she was still thinking things over from her father's visit. He'd told her a few things about his life over the last twenty years, and had shown her pictures of his other children. For a number of years, he'd been working at a local farm equipment company; called Newsome's or something like that. He'd been a salesman and was very good at it. Ben could tell that Lily was feeling more relaxed about spending time with him, and he was happy as long as she was.

Their orders were taken and they linked hands across the table. Lily smiled at her fiancé and felt a twinge of sadness that Ennis and Jack might never be free to do this in public. She knew that they could be as affectionate as they wanted to in their own home, so that was something. Neither of them held back at home when it came to showing their love for each other, and Lily knew that it made up for all the times when they couldn't do so. She hoped that maybe one day, they would feel comfortable enough to do this in public.

She continued to smile at Ben. "So...ain't long now 'til the weddin'. Only about four months, right?" She laced their fingers together and her eyes were alight with happiness.

"Yep. Lookin' forward to it. Got most things sorted, right?"

"Yeah, I think so. Got the RSVP from Joe an' Maria; they wanna come. So we can order the food soon. An' we're gonna get that marquee, too. Everythin's comin' together now."

"Good. Um...are you gonna invite yer dad?" he asked her, eyeing her nervously.

She bit her lip. "I dunno. We've got the room, but...there's still a long way to go for us. He did real good at gettin' in our good books when he came here. An' I know that Ennis an' Jack are impressed by the work he did for 'em. I reckon they're startin' to accept him an' that he's makin' an effort. I guess it might be possible for him to come. But either way, Ennis an' Jack are givin' me away. They're the only father figures I've known, the only ones I've ever had. I mean...they raised me from a baby, took me to day care an' school when I was a kid...made me feel better on Mother's Day an' Father's Day when I was feelin' down. They paid for college...they gave me everythin' I ever wanted an' were always there for me."

Ben nodded. "I know. They mean a lot to you, an' I see why. I reckon you did a lot for them too. They musta wanted to have kids, but they didn't get the chance because they chose to be together. So...I think you gave them the chance to be fathers, a little bit. Maybe that's why they're so protective of you." Lily considered this; she knew that her uncles had done the very best they could with what they'd had.

"Yeah, probably. Makes sense when you think about how they didn't wanna trust my dad at first. They thought he might hurt me, like he was only after the money or somethin'. I dunno if I ever told you this, but...Ennis an' Jack have an inheritance put away for me. A pretty decent amount, an' it's for when we get a place of our own. They was probably worried that my dad might be after it once he got close to me." She sighed. "I was worried about it too, to be honest. But...I don't think he is. His place is real nice, an' he ain't exactly poor. So...he really might be tellin' the truth about what he wants. That he just wants to know me."

Ben squeezed her hand. "He probably does, sweetheart. Are you gonna go to Childress again before the weddin'?"

"I dunno. Maybe." She tilted her head and smiled at him. " time I go, you wanna come with me? I'd like you two to spend more time together. Get to know each other." It was true; she wanted her fiancé to know her father properly.

"I'd like that." Just then, their food came and they started to eat, using only one hand in the way that Ennis and Jack did. They continued to talk as they ate; talking about their wedding plans and where they might live once they were out on their own. They had already decided to accept the offer of staying on at the ranch until they found their own place, as it would just be easier to focus on the wedding right now, and turn their attention to a home once it was over with.

When the meal was over, they left and strolled down the street to Ben's truck. It was a cool evening and the street was quiet; they looked around but it was empty. Luckily, Pete was nowhere to be seen. Lily had been apprehensive about seeing him while they were out.

Upon their arrival at the house, they found the lower floor empty. It was clear that the other three were upstairs, but Lily reckoned that her grandmother was the only one sleeping. Ennis and Jack might still be awake, and they didn't want to disturb them. She looked at Ben and declared that it wasn't a bad idea, so she dragged him upstairs.

November 10th, 1987

Almost a week later, things were pretty much back to normal. They hadn't seen Pete in town and the wedding plans were going well. Lily called her father about twice a week to talk and catch up with what was going on in their lives, and everybody else could see that it was good for her. As Jack had told her, he and Ennis had grown up without the love of a father, so they wanted her to have everything they didn't. And if her father was willing to make an effort, then they could make their peace with it.

Ennis and Jack's relationship was as strong as ever, and they were very happy. Jack got a feeling that Lily and Ben were inspired by their strong bond, and he mentioned this to Ennis a couple of times, citing how it was good that they could still teach Lily something despite her age. He hoped that she and Ben would end up as happy as them. They had plenty of advice for making a marriage work, and knew that both of them would listen to every word.

The temperature was starting to drop now and they spent many cold mornings huddled together in bed, their arms and legs around each other. Jack said it was for warmth, but Ennis saw the twinkle in his eye and knew that other things were on his mind when they were in bed together. He sure didn't mind too much.

One afternoon, they noticed that some shingles on the barn roof were loose, so Ennis decided to take it upon himself to fix them. Jack was concerned about him being up there, but he'd done it before with no injuries incurred, so he had to trust that Ennis would be okay. They couldn't step too carefully around this place; ranch work wasn't for weaklings, after all. They had learned a long time ago that it would be hard sometimes, but that the hard work was worth the rewards it brought.

While Ennis was working and everybody else was outside somewhere, Jack went into the office and called around to see if he could find a marquee for the wedding. They hadn't had any luck in town and were thinking of going up to Atlanta, but Jack figured it couldn't hurt to call ahead and find out where they were for sale.

As he was calling various numbers, he kept looking at the picture on the desk. It was one of all five of them, taken during Lily and Ben's engagement party just after they'd graduated. He could see the look of pure happiness in Lily's eyes and wondered if he'd ever seen that look in Becky's eyes. The only time he could think of was at the hospital when Lily was born. Becky had been so happy that day and Jack knew that if she'd lived, there would have been many more moments in which she would have had that look in her eyes. Still, they had to be grateful for what they had. Becky had made the most of the time she'd had.

When he was finally off the phone and had noted down a few stores where they might find what they were looking for, he turned his attention to the books. He had gotten used to the computer now, but he could remember when they'd bought it. He and Ennis had been so fascinated by it and he could remember more than a few nights when they had stayed in here late into the night, just playing around with it.

As he was thinking about these fond memories, he heard a scream coming from outside; it sounded like Lily. He darted around the desk and came face to face with his niece. She looked terrified.

"Jack...he...he lost his footin'...he..." He saw the fear in her eyes and knew who she was talking about. He ran towards the barn and rounded a corner, his heart stopping at the same time as his feet. He felt his stomach clench up at the sight before him.

Ennis was lying there, face up, eyes closed. Jack saw that he had thankfully narrowly missed a rock, but he was still clearly unconscious.

"No, no, no..." He staggered forward and fell to his knees beside Ennis, hands on his shoulders. "Baby, please...wake up..." His hand found Ennis's heartbeat and he breathed out a sigh of relief. "Ennis, please..."

Lily came up behind him. "Grandma's callin' an ambulance an' she's gonna call Rick to meet us there. might wanna get your power of attorney documents. Just in case..."

Jack swallowed, feeling the lump in his throat. "Okay..." He leaned down and kissed Ennis's lips shakily. "Please be okay, cowboy...don't wanna live without you..." He sniffed and stayed by Ennis's side for what felt like an eternity. The ambulance finally arrived and they lifted Ennis into it, Jack insisting on riding with them. Before they left, he turned to his mother.

"Mama...if I lose him, I..." She took him in her arms.

" won't lose him, Jack. He's a tough one, you know that. It'll be okay, I promise." He nodded and got into the ambulance, taking Ennis's hand and looking into his face, never tearing his eyes away from his lover. He couldn't help but be reminded of when Ennis was drafted to Vietnam, and how he had been so scared of the possibility that he might never see him again. Ennis had become his whole world and Jack was terrified of losing him now; he was the one who helped him keep his head together when things became tough. He never would have gotten through things like Becky's death and bringing up Lily if it hadn't been for Ennis propping him up and holding him when he was feeling the stress. If he lost Ennis, he would be losing a vital part of who he was; the other half of his soul. That couldn't happen.

They reached the hospital and Ennis was wheeled into the emergency entrance, Jack right behind them with a panicked expression on his face. Their power of attorney documents were clutched in his hand and he saw Rick waiting for him.

"Don't worry, Jack. We'll get him sorted out. You just need to sign some forms so that we can run scans an' so on. Here." He handed Jack the forms and they were quickly signed. Rick clapped him on the shoulder. "Okay, follow me." He led Jack to where Ennis had been wheeled off to, and turned to him outside the surgery room. "You have to wait outside, I'm afraid. I'll be back as soon as I know somethin'." Jack nodded numbly and went down the wall to the chairs, sitting down and biting at a nail. He was trying not to panic about what might be going on with Ennis, and he prayed with all his heart that his cowboy would be alright.

He heard footsteps approaching and looked up to see Lily, Ben and his mother walking towards him. His mother enveloped him in an embrace and he leaned into her.

"What's goin' on?"

"Rick says they're gonna look him over...I signed the forms an' everythin'...just gotta wait. He said he'd come back when he knows somethin'." Jack pulled away and wiped at his eyes. "I hate waitin'...not knowin' if he's even alive..."

"You'd know if he wasn't, Jack. Apart from Rick comin' back to tell you, I reckon you'd know anyway. You'd feel it." Jack nodded and swallowed hard.

"Yeah, I know." He sat back in the chair and they all sat around him, thinking of Ennis.

About fifteen minutes later, Rick came down the hall towards them; Jack tried to read his expression. He stopped in front of them. "Rick? What's goin' on?"

"Well, we ran a few brain scans on him. There doesn't appear to be any lasting damage to him. You said he narrowly missed a rock when he fell; that was a lucky occurrence. As it is, he's gonna be fine. But...he does have quite a concussion. An' I'm afraid it might be a while before he wakes up."

Jack bit his lip and felt a lump growing in his throat. " what happens now?"

Rick sighed. "Ain't much we can do, I'm afraid. We've done everythin' we can, so now it's just a waitin' game. How are you doin', Jack?"

"I dunno, Rick. Just can't stop thinkin' that he might never wake up. I don't wanna live without him..."

"You won't, Jack. He'll be fine, I'm sure of it. Tell you what, we're movin' him to a private room while he's recoverin' an' while we're waitin'. When he's moved, you can come on in an' sit with him."

"Thanks, Rick. I will." He folded his arms in defence and Rick walked back down the hall. Lily put her arms around Jack and hugged him.

"It's okay,'ll be alright..." He held her close, thinking of how she reminded him of Becky. It was as if both of them were here with him.

When Ennis was moved to the private room, Jack walked up to the door and opened it up a little. Ennis was lying there in the bed, his eyes closed and his face pale. Jack felt the lump in his throat grow and he stepped forward. "Oh, cowboy..." He sat in the chair beside the bed and took Ennis's hand. "Can't believe this..."

He brought Ennis's hand up to his lips and kissed it, holding it there for a while. "Please wake up, baby...let me see those beautiful eyes of yours. I don't wanna hafta go back to the ranch without knowin' yer gonna be okay. Gonna be real lonely in our bed...ain't slept in it alone since you was in Vietnam. You've been by my side all these years, an' I already miss you so much. Even when yer just sat there, not sayin' anythin'...I still feel you. Yer always there."

Jack licked his lower lip, thinking. "Cowboy...I don't wanna be without you. That's why you've gotta wake up...we've got so much to the weddin' comin' up, got lots of work to do. I wanna grow old with you, Ennis. You''re my other half." He sniffed. "I'm gonna be waitin' for you when you wake up, I promise. I...I might not be right here, but I won't be far away. I swear, sweetheart."

There was a knock on the door, and Lily poked her head in. "Rick says we can come in, if it's okay." Jack nodded and waved them in.

"Sure, yer family too." They all sat around the bed and looked at Ennis; Jack didn't let go of his partner's hand.

"He's gonna be fine, Jack. Don't worry." Jack nodded.

"I know. But...I'm scared. I don't ever wanna lose him. He's...part of me, you know?"

"It'll be fine," Lily reassured him. "We've just gotta wait." Jack nodded and played with Ennis's fingers, looking into his cowboy's face. His head was bandaged, but that was the only sign of injury. Ennis had never been much of a talker in all their years together, but Jack yearned to hear his deep, gravelly voice. He missed it so much, and would give anything to see those eyes.

After a while, the others left the room and Jack stood up, still holding Ennis's hand. "I've gotta go now, cowboy, but...I'll be back tomorrow, okay? I'm gonna be right here. Can't wait to see those eyes of yours." He smiled wearily. "See ya soon, Ennis." He leaned down and gently kissed Ennis's lips, and then put his mouth near his partner's ear. "I love you, Ennis. So much. Can't wait 'til yer in my arms again." He then kissed Ennis's cheek and released his hand before heading for the door. He looked back just before he left, and swore to himself that he would try to remain strong while he was waiting. It was the only thing he could do.