Chapter 19

That evening, Jack was sat in one of the wicker chairs on the back porch, looking out across the land. It was still fairly light but cool, and a soft breeze was playing with his hair. He had a small glass of whiskey in his hand and his mind was a number of miles away, at the hospital where his other half was. He hoped that Ennis wouldn't wake up alone; scared and confused as to what was going on.

He remembered rounding the corner of the barn and seeing Ennis lying there, stock still. A shiver ran up his spine as he thought of the rock and how close Ennis had come to hitting his head on it. Jack knew that if he had, things would be a lot worse than they were. At least Rick was on the night shift too; he had promised to call as soon as something happened. Jack just hoped that it would be news of Ennis waking up. The alternative just didn't bear thinking about.

He heard a sound at his feet and looked down to see their blue heeler, Storm. They'd had her for about five or six years now, as both Lucky and Smokey had died at the start of the decade. Jack had been heartbroken at losing them both, especially Lucky. He'd been Ennis's first ever birthday gift to him, so he had meant a lot to Jack. But Storm was a wonderful addition to their family. She was just as good at helping them with the cattle as the other two had been, and she was very close to Lily. Her deep brown eyes gazed up at him, as if she knew what was troubling him.

"Hey, girl," he murmured, scratching her behind the ears. She lay down at his feet and settled there. He sighed and looked out across the gathering darkness again, thinking of Ennis, lying there in the hospital without him. He would have stayed all night if it was allowed.

What if somethin' goes wrong? he asked himself. Could I really run this place without him? He knows the outside stuff better than anyone, an' he's the one who really makes this place work. Apart from that, would I be able to? Bein' without him, every day, for the rest of my life...I've probably got another forty years in me, yet. Could I spend them without him?

Jack closed his eyes; he didn't have any answers. He didn't want to spend the rest of his life without Ennis, but that could easily happen. He knew that he would have to do his best to remain strong for everyone, but he wasn't sure if he would be able to cope without his partner. If Ennis died, a part of him would die too. Jack prayed with all his heart that Ennis would wake up soon.

After sitting outside for a while, he came back in with Storm at his heels, and joined the others in the living room. Lily asked him if he was okay, and he nodded. She could tell how worried he was, but decided not to push. He would only truly be okay once Ennis was awake and back in his arms.

They all finally went to bed, Jack unable to sit there anymore. He hugged his mother for a few moments and then went down the hall to their bedroom; it looked empty and lifeless without the presence of the one he shared it with. He had no idea how he was going to sleep tonight, without those arms around him protectively.

When he had brushed his teeth and put on his pyjama bottoms, his eyes fell on the shirts at the back of the door. A little while after Becky's funeral, Ennis had switched them back so that his was on the outside, holding Jack's. Without talking about it, both of them knew it was a sign; that Ennis was truly healing from the traumatic events he had suffered through, and was ready to finally look to the future again. He was ready to be strong for Jack once more. And the shirts had remained this way ever since; Jack had no desire to switch them now.

Without thinking twice about it, Jack crossed the room and took them from the hanger, bringing them to the bed with him. He lay on his side, facing Ennis's side of the bed. It looked vast and empty without the warm body lying there. Jack didn't even miss the sex right now; he missed Ennis holding him in his arms and telling him that everything would be alright. His cowboy was so strong, so dependable, so unmovable, that Jack had always felt safe with him. Even before their relationship had changed up on Brokeback, Jack always got the feeling that Ennis would make a good friend, if nothing else. Someone to look out for him in a way that nobody really had before. He was just glad that their relationship had grown in the way it had, because he honestly didn't know what he would be doing now if it hadn't. He wasn't even sure where he might be. Maybe still in Lightning Flat, but he would have probably moved to get away from his father.

Jack clutched the shirts closer to his chest; he didn't want to think of his father right now. He was hoping to have a dream of Ennis tonight; not a nightmare, but one that would make him feel good. He felt so lonely in this bed on his own, and he hoped that Ennis would be back here soon. He had always hated sleeping alone.

He looked at the clock; there were around nine hours until visiting was allowed at the hospital, and he wanted to get there first thing in case Ennis woke up. Sighing a little, he settled under the covers and gazed at Ennis's side of the bed until he fell asleep, dreaming of his cowboy.

November 13th, 1987

Three days later, Jack was sat in the hospital by Ennis's bed. The nurses checked his vitals periodically, and they were all looking good. But he still hadn't woken up, and Jack was running on fumes. He'd barely eaten in the last few days and he was throwing himself into work to distract himself. Everybody on the ranch could see that Ennis not waking up was taking its toll on Jack, and there was nothing they could do for him right now.

Jack sat there, both hands holding Ennis's left. He occasionally stroked his thumb over Ennis's rings, looking into his lover's face. For the last few nights, he hadn't slept well at all, and he missed Ennis so much. It was like he could feel his heart heavy in his chest, full of pain and longing.

He sighed and closed his eyes, pressing Ennis's hand to his cheek. "Ennis...I miss you so much. I ain't been functionin' properly for the last few days, an' there ain't much I can do about it. I just want you to wake up, baby...need to see those eyes of yours. I wanna hear yer voice, too...that voice that makes me melt inside." He sighed and fell silent, letting their hands drop so that his left was holding Ennis's. He squeezed it and kept his eyes closed.

After a few minutes, he felt his hand being squeezed in return. He thought he'd imagined it, so didn't react; he figured it was just his mind playing tricks on him. But then he heard the sweetest voice; the one that he'd been missing for the last few days, and the one that went straight to his heart every time he heard it.

"Jack?" It was soft, but Jack heard it, and his eyes flew open. Ennis was awake, and his deep brown eyes were looking at him.

"Ennis? Oh my God!" A smile spread across his face and he leaned forward, cupping Ennis's cheek. " are you doin'?"

His cowboy seemed a little disoriented. "What happened?"

"You fell off the barn roof when you was fixin' them shingles. Fell right to the ground. You've been out of it for three days."

"Three days?" he repeated, looking confused. "Oh..." He coughed; his throat was a little scratchy from disuse. Jack gave him some ice chips.

"Here you go,'ll be alright." He helped Ennis take them and then linked their fingers together. "Rick says you're gonna be alright, an' that you can come home soon. That's good, right?"

"Mmm..." Ennis smiled a little, and the sight made Jack's heart soar. "Glad yer here, darlin'."

"I've hardly left yer side since we brought you in. When you was unconscious, I spoke to you a lot. I told ya that I would be here when you woke up. An' here I am." Jack smiled back and caressed Ennis's cheek. "You feelin' okay?"

"Yeah. Just a little groggy."

"Okay. I'm just gonna go find Rick an' let him know yer awake, okay? I'll be right back, I promise." He stood up, but he felt Ennis tugging his hand and looked back. Ennis was looking a bit more lively now. "Huh?"

"C'mere, Jack..." He smiled and tugged at Jack again. Jack moved closer to him and leaned down, understanding what Ennis was after. He stroked Ennis's cheek and they kissed softly; their first kiss in what felt like so long. It felt good to feel this again, and Jack felt his heart lift.

They pulled apart and smiled at each other, their eyes sparkling at each other. Jack then finally pulled away. "I'll be right back." He squeezed Ennis's hand and left the room, looking for Rick.

He found the doctor down the hall in the waiting room, looking over a clipboard. "Rick!" He turned to see Jack's grinning face.

"Jack? What's up?"

"Ennis is awake," he said, his face lit up with happiness. Rick nodded and followed him back down the hall into the room. Ennis's eyes were closed, but they opened again when Jack took his hand. "Baby, I'm back." Ennis smiled and then noticed Rick.

"Hey," he said croakily. Rick smiled at him.

"Hey, Ennis. Good to see you with us again. How are you feelin'?"

"Alright. Groggy some. Jack says I've been out of it for three days, that right?"

"I'm afraid so. Are you in pain anywhere? Especially your head?"

Ennis shook his head. " pain nowhere. Just a know?"

Rick nodded. "Okay, good. Well, I'd like to keep you here overnight, just to be on the safe side. But I think you can go home tomorrow, if all goes well." Jack smiled and squeezed Ennis's hand again.

"Good. I bet Jack's been goin' stir crazy, huh?" He looked at his partner knowingly and Jack smirked.

"He sure has. He ain't hardly left your side since you was brought in. Yer gonna be just fine, Ennis. Make sure to get some rest, okay?" Ennis nodded and Rick left the room. Jack sat back down in his chair and kissed Ennis's hand.

"Good to have you back, cowboy. I missed you somethin' awful, you know." Ennis looked at him.

"You ain't been eatin' properly, have you? Or sleepin', neither." Jack lowered his eyes.

"Not really. Been too worried. But now yer awake...I can function again." He smiled. "Yer gonna be comin' home with me tomorrow, an' I can't wait. You'll be in my arms again, where you belong." His smile widened and he leaned in close, pressing his lips to Ennis's and sighing a little. He'd missed kissing Ennis.

They spent the next few hours talking, and Jack filled Ennis in on everything that was going on, although he had to admit that he hadn't been paying much attention. He did mention that Pete hadn't been seen lately, but that James still hadn't managed to catch him. He voiced his hope that Pete would be caught soon; they had enough to deal with right now.

That night, Jack went to bed alone for what he hoped was the last time. Ennis would be coming home tomorrow, and he couldn't wait for that moment. He would have stayed at the hospital overnight if they'd let him, but Ennis had told him to go home and get some rest anyway. He didn't want Jack suffering while waiting for him to come home. Jack saw the logic of this; he wanted to be fully rested for Ennis's first night back, even if they didn't do anything. It would satisfy him to just hold Ennis in his arms for now.

They hadn't done much for the rest of the day. Jack spent some time in the office, calling Cecilia and K.E. to tell them what had happened, but that Ennis would be okay. They gave him their condolences and he told them that he would get Ennis to call as soon as he was feeling up to it. True to his promise to Ennis, he hadn't left the ranch the whole day.

He crawled into bed once more, again holding the shirts to him. After a while, he put them on Ennis's side of the bed and just looked at them, remembering the moment when Ennis's beautiful eyes had opened and looked at him. His panic had subsided and his heart had lifted at the sight. It was one of those moments where he'd truly realised just how much he loved Ennis, and what the cowboy meant to him. He had those moments now and then, and they always warmed his heart.

Sighing, he rolled onto his back and closed his eyes, hoping to dream of his lover. Sure enough, a dream came to him.

He was on his front in bed, and he could feel practiced hands pulling down his pyjama bottoms, sliding them down over his ass and down his legs. As his skin was exposed, he felt soft kisses along his legs and sighed. "Ennis..."

"I'm here, darlin'," came the whisper, soft and caring. "Just relax..."

"Mmm..." Jack smiled into the pillow as he felt Ennis running his hands up and down his back in an impromptu massage. He sighed and felt as if he could melt into the bed. Ennis then gently ran one finger down Jack's spine, making him shiver with pleasure. "Ennis..."

"Shh..." He reached across and grabbed the lube from the nightstand, smearing a couple of fingers with it and reaching down. Jack moaned quietly as he felt a finger push into him, looking for his prostate.

"Oh..." Ennis pushed another finger in and moved them a little, and Jack pushed back, signalling that he was ready. Ennis removed his fingers and slicked himself up, gazing down at Jack's muscular back. He pushed slowly into Jack, pulling him up by the hips as he worked his way inside. Jack bit his lip in anticipation as he felt Ennis complete him.

They began to move together in their usual rhythm, Jack pushing back with every thrust. Ennis then placed a hand on Jack's back, pushing him down. "Lie back down, darlin'. Let me do all the work." Jack sank back down again and tried to keep still as Ennis moved inside him, kissing his back and neck and making him tremble all over. He moved his face to the side and Ennis kissed him, sliding their tongues together and continuing to push into him time and time again. Jack was moaning again and was heading for the edge.

Ennis let go of his lips and moved his own back to Jack's skin. He snaked a hand underneath Jack and took hold of him, jerking him off in time to his thrusts. Jack rose up onto his knees to give Ennis better access and started moving again, completely at Ennis's mercy. His eyes were clenched shut and his mouth open, panting as he felt his orgasm drawing near. "Uhhh..."

"Come on, darlin', come on...come for me..." Ennis stroked him a few more times and that sent him over the edge, groaning loudly as he shot right at the wall between the bars of the headboard. His shaking limbs triggered Ennis's own finish, and he came deep inside Jack, filling him up with everything he had. They rode it out together and then Ennis collapsed onto Jack's back, which caused Jack to fall to the mattress below him. He felt Ennis pull out of him and then relax on top of him. He sighed and stretched his arms out.

"Mmm...that was amazin', cowboy." Ennis arms came around him to link their fingers together as he lay on Jack's back. He was straddling Jack, but was no longer hard. They lay there, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking. This part was just as satisfying as what came before.

"Sure was. You alright?"

"Never better. I love you, Ennis." His eyes closed and he sighed happily.

"Love you too, rodeo." Jack felt a feather-light kiss on the back of his neck and then Ennis rolled off him, onto his own side. Jack rolled to face him and Ennis pulled him close, stroking his back and kissing the top of his head. The sheets were pulled up over them and they relaxed under the cosy heat, Jack pressing his face against Ennis's chest. He slipped his free arm around Ennis's waist and they pulled each other closer.

Jack's eyes opened and he looked up at the ceiling, breathing heavily. He looked down under the covers to see his hand around himself and sticky fluid on his stomach. He smiled at the sight and wiped himself off with the sheets before turning back onto his side to look at the shirts beside him. He lightly ran his fingers across the material, thinking of how he couldn't wait for Ennis to be back with him.

"Love you so much, cowboy," he whispered, and then he closed his eyes once more. Just a few short hours, and they would be together again.

The next day, Jack was noticeably happier than he had been in the past few days. Ennis would be coming home just after lunch, and he couldn't wait. He could be heard whistling as he made breakfast for everybody, and they were happy that he was back to his old self. The loose shingles on the barn ceiling had been fixed, and everything was now back to normal. Jack worked all morning to pass the time, talking to the hands and making sure that they would be able to keep things going while he went out to collect Ennis.

Just after they had finished lunch, the phone rang. "Brokeback Ranch, Jack speakin'."

"Hey, Jack. It's Rick. Just to let you know, we're lettin' Ennis go in about an hour. I know it's a half-hour drive, so I thought you'd wanna get a head start."

Jack grinned and everybody else saw it. "Okay, thanks Rick. I'll be right over." He hung up and turned to the others. "Rick says they're gonna let Ennis go in about an hour. I've gotta get over there. Are you guys comin'?"

They looked at each other and shook their heads, smiling. "You should go, Jack. I reckon Ennis needs you the most. We'll be here when you get back," Lily told him. Jack smiled at them, came over and kissed the top of Lily's head.

"Alright, honey." He bid them all goodbye and headed out to the truck, looking forward to seeing his cowboy again.

On the drive to the hospital, he heard several songs on the radio that buoyed his spirits even more than they already were. He couldn't wait for Ennis to be home. Even though he had promised not to leave the ranch on his own, he figured he would be perfectly safe to drive to the hospital. Pete hadn't been seen around town lately, so Jack reasoned with himself that everything would be fine.

He parked and got out, whistling as he walked into the hospital. Rick was there when he walked into the lobby. "Rick!"

"Hey, Jack. You ready to bring yer fella home?" he asked with a smile. Jack grinned and shuffled his feet.

"You bet." Rick led him up to Ennis's room and they saw him lying in bed, awake. His eyes lit up at the sight of Jack, who came straight over to him. "Hey, cowboy," he said, kissing him on the lips warmly. Ennis was smiling back.

"Hey yerself, darlin'. Rick says I can come home."

"I know, ain't it great?" Jack replied, taking his hand. Rick cleared his throat.

"Well, I'm gonna go an' sign the release forms. Ennis, you can get up outta bed an' get dressed now." They nodded at him and he left. Jack turned to his partner and sighed.

"Okay, cowboy. Let's get you outta here. Come on." Jack pulled the sheets back and outstretched his hands. Ennis's legs were a little stiff from being laid up for so long, and he gladly took hold of Jack's hands. Jack lifted him out of bed and onto his feet, steadying him when he lost his balance. "Easy, cowboy. I've got you."

Ennis regained his balance and smiled at Jack. "Thanks, bud. Gonna get dressed, an' then we can get on home." Jack nodded and stood back as Ennis pulled on his clothes. The ones he'd been wearing were dirty from the fall, so Jack had brought him some clean ones in preparation for his release. He smiled as he saw Ennis's naked back and wolf whistled.

"You look great, cowboy. Can't wait to get you home." Ennis turned and looked at him.

"You gettin' ideas already, Jack Twist? Gonna have to wait 'til we get home." Jack smiled at him and walked over, slipping his arms around Ennis's waist.

"I can wait. Just wanted to hold you more than anythin'. Missed you so much." Ennis covered Jack's arms with his own.

"I know, darlin'. Missed you too."

At last, the hour was up, and Rick came back to find them sat on the bed, holding hands and talking. He smiled at them. "Okay, Ennis. You're free to go. Take care of yourself an' don't overdo it. Look after him, Jack."

"I will. You ready to go, cowboy?" Ennis nodded and they got up, Jack grabbing Ennis's bag for him. They reluctantly let go of each other while they walked through the hospital and bid goodbye to Rick.

"Jack...did you come here on yer own?" Ennis asked as they headed for the truck. He was looking nervously at him. Jack sighed.

"Ennis...I asked the others if any of 'em wanted to come with me, but they said I should come alone, that you needed me most of all. I figured it would be alright, an' you know we ain't seen Pete around for a while. Don't go worryin' yerself, cowboy. Let's just get on home, alright?"

"Okay," Ennis relented and they got into the truck. Ennis settled in and they looked at each other, smiling a little. Jack took Ennis's hand and squeezed it.

"You ready to go home?"

"You bet." Jack put the truck in gear and they headed for home, hands clasped between them.

Ennis was relieved to see the ranch again, but he was feeling tired from the painkillers. He just wanted to lie on the sofa, and told Jack so.

"No problem, cowboy. You can lie down all you want when we get inside. I know you need yer rest." Ennis smiled in thanks and they got out, looking up at their house together.

Rose, Lily and Ben were happy to see Ennis again and were relieved that he would be okay. Hugs and greetings were exchanged and then they allowed Ennis to rest on the sofa. Jack sat with him for a while and held his hand, stroking it and talking to him. This was what he'd missed the most during their time apart, and now everything was going to be okay.

That night, after what felt like a long, taxing day, everybody finally went to bed. Jack wasn't sure if Ennis would be up to much more than lying down and resting together, but that would be okay. He could wait until Ennis was ready.

He and Ennis walked down the hallway together, hand in hand towards their room. Jack felt complete for the first time in nearly a week, and he sent up a prayer of thanks that Ennis would be alright. He didn't know what he would have done otherwise.

They entered their bedroom and Ennis looked around, truly feeling at home now. That morning, Jack had put the shirts back on the hanger, knowing that his cowboy was coming home. He shut the door behind them and turned to Ennis.

" wanna brush yer teeth an' stuff first, or you just wanna go straight to bed?" he asked, stroking Ennis's arm.

"Gonna go in the bathroom first, I reckon." Jack nodded and they went in together, looking at each other in the mirror as they cleaned their teeth. They then came back out and went to their respective sides of the bed, sighing in unison as they lay down on their backs. Jack looked at Ennis.

"I missed this," he said quietly, eyes full of peace. "Missed you bein' here with me."

"Me too, darlin'." Ennis turned onto his side and leaned forward, nuzzling his nose into Jack's neck. Jack could feel himself becoming aroused.

"Ennis...we don't gotta if you ain't up to it. Ain't no rush..." Ennis pulled away to look into Jack's eyes.

"I am, Jack. I been missin' this too long. Can we...?" Jack smiled and turned onto his side too, brushing their lips together but not quite kissing.

"Sure. How you want it?"

"Um...well, I'm a little sore, so..."

"You want me on top?" Jack whispered between soft kisses. "Want me to do all the work?"

"If you don't mind..." Ennis replied, looking at him almost shyly. "I ain't really up to bein' in control right now."

"I get it. S'alright, cowboy..." They kissed a little deeper, Jack pushing his tongue into Ennis's mouth and drawing out a moan. He ran his hand along Ennis's hipbone and down to his ass, making him squirm a little.

"Jack...come on..." Jack moved in and rolled on top of him, looking down into his lust-filled eyes. They kissed again for several moments and buried their fingers in each other's hair, gripping and twisting. Ennis then pulled away to catch his breath. "Jack...please..."

"Okay, sweetheart...just hang on." Jack grabbed the lube and smeared it over a couple of fingers. He guided them to his target and watched Ennis's eyes close with pleasure, his mouth hanging open. "Feel good?"

"Uh huh," Ennis managed to breathe. "Oh..." Jack withdrew his fingers and prepared himself, tossing the tube back. He lifted Ennis's legs over his shoulders and moved to his destination.

"You ready?" he whispered, and Ennis nodded. "Okay..." Jack slowly began to push into him, letting him get used to every inch, one at a time until he was fully sheathed. He then laced their fingers together and settled in place. Ennis opened his eyes and nodded at Jack; his cue to start moving.

Jack began to thrust into him, taking it as slowly and as tenderly as he could, knowing that Ennis needed the comfort right now. Truth be told, he felt as if he needed it too. Ennis lay there and let Jack take over, feeling how Jack was being as gentle as he could be. "Jack..."

"Feel good, cowboy?" Jack whispered as he leaned down to kiss him, then started kissing his neck. Ennis nodded and they continued to rock together. Jack freed one of his hands and took hold of Ennis, stroking him in time to his thrusts. Ennis moaned aloud and Jack kissed him thoroughly, tongue swirling all around his mouth as if he was counting his teeth. After a few minutes of thrusting, kissing and stroking, Ennis felt his muscles tensing as he shot between them with a groan in Jack's ear. The feeling of Ennis shaking around him sent Jack over the edge too, spilling into him and panting for breath.

Jack pulled out and moved off of him before he could collapse. They both lay on their backs, breathing hard and staring up at the ceiling. Ennis heard Jack sigh in contentment.

"That was okay, Ennis?" he asked, turning to face him. Ennis smiled hazily.

"Yeah, better than I've been in days. I love you, Jack. So much..." Jack turned onto his side and shuffled over, resting one leg between Ennis's and slipping an arm around his stomach.

"I love you too, cowboy. These past few days...felt like I was missin' an arm or somethin'. A part of me. In a way, I was. You've been part of me since we was nineteen, Ennis. That ain't never changed, an' it never will. I missed you so much an' I couldn't help but worry that you might not ever wake up..." A lump grew in his throat and Ennis heard his voice break with emotion. He turned his face and kissed Jack softly on the lips.

"I'm here, rodeo. I'm okay. You don't gotta worry no more. It's alright..."

Hearing the words that he usually said in these moments come from Ennis did the trick. Jack relaxed and closed his eyes, feeling the lump disappear. "Cowboy...what did I do to deserve you?"

"You were you," Ennis said simply, combing his fingers through Jack's hair. "You was already perfect to me, even if I couldn't say it at first. You don't gotta put on an act when we're alone, an' neither do I."

"I know," Jack replied, smiling a little. "We love each other for who we are, an' that's just how it is." He sighed. "Wanna get some sleep now?" he asked tiredly. Ennis nodded and kissed him one more time.

"Yeah. Night, darlin'."

"Night, cowboy."