Chapter 20

November 17th, 1987

Today was Rose and John's wedding anniversary, and Jack could tell that his mother was a little quieter than usual. He asked her if she was okay, and she told him that she was fine; that she just needed time to think. Jack told her that he was there for her if she needed him, and kissed her cheek before going off to spend some time with Ennis. They had planned to spend a few hours on their hill together, just taking some private time.

Rose sat in her armchair, thinking. She could remember their wedding day; it truly had been the happiest day of her life. It had been only a couple of months later when she'd become pregnant with Jack. She remembered how proud John had been to hold his son for the first time, and she wondered many times what had happened to her loving husband. She knew what had happened, but she couldn't understand why he had taken it so badly.

"He looks just like you," Rose said, a smile on her face. John nodded, gazing down at his baby son.

"I guess. Look at those eyes. So bright. Ain't he somethin'?"

"Yeah. I bet he'll make us proud." She looked up at her husband, seeing how proud he looked of his son.

"He sure will," he affirmed.

Rose sighed to herself and started knitting, more memories running through her mind. They had thought that their family was complete, until Becky came along. By that time, Earl had already left with Rich, and John had become bitter and angry at everything, it seemed. But even at that point, he'd been kind to their baby daughter. It wasn't until the two older men had reappeared that he'd changed completely.

"She's perfect," John said as they watched Jack with his baby sister. He'd been excited to have a sister and Rose knew that he would love and protect her when they were older.

"Sure is." Rose could see that even though he looked at his children with love, there was still a dark cloud in his eyes these days. He would probably never forgive his father for what he'd done. She didn't really understand why Earl had gone off with another man; it went against everything she'd ever been taught, and she didn't know why he would be attracted to another man in the first place. She wouldn't understand for another twenty years.

Footsteps on the stairs drew her attention, and then a voice. "Hey, Grandma." Lily came in and sat down in her own chair, smiling at her. "Whatcha up to?"

"Just doin' some knittin'. Thinkin' about yer granddad." Lily nodded.

"Oh...guess you miss him, huh?"

"I do. I mean...I don't miss the way he changed, an' how he treated Jack an' yer mama. But I miss the man I married, always did once he changed." Lily looked at her.

"You think if...he'd lived, things mighta changed? Would he ever have been able to accept Ennis an' Jack? Would Jack an' my mama have ever forgiven him?"

"Honey...I've been askin' myself the same thing ever since he died, an' I know they have too. I know that when yer mama found out he'd died, one of the things that made her sad was that she would never know for sure if he ever loved her. Jack too. He never knew that his daddy came to see him ride down in Texas in '63, before he met Ennis. But he did. I told him one time, an' he was quite torn up about it. He really suffered in those years he was growin' up. Did Jack ever tell you what his father did?"

Lily nodded. "Yep. When I turned old enough to understand things, he an' Ennis told me a lot of stuff about their childhoods. Can't believe some of the things their fathers did to 'em. I've been thinkin' on it a lot lately, an' it made me realise how lucky I am to have a father who's willin' to spend time with me. He clearly loves me, an' he wants to be a part of my life. They never really had that, an' I know that's why they were okay about me makin' an effort with my dad. They wanted me to have what they never did."

"I know, honey. They're really proud of you for makin' an effort with yer daddy. An' you know they only ever wanted the best for you." Lily nodded and saw the expression on her grandmother's face; she was still thinking of her husband. She thought for a moment.

"Grandma? How about you tell me about yer weddin' day?" she asked with a smile. "I don't think you've ever told me about that. I'd like to hear it, with my weddin' comin' up an' all."

Rose smiled at her. "I'd love to." The two of them spent the next few hours talking about Rose's wedding and the forthcoming wedding. Lily was looking forward to her big day and had everything sorted out. She had her dress and veil, and was to wear her mother's jewellery that Ennis and Jack had given her. Her something old was the jewellery, her something new was the dress, her something borrowed was the veil; Cecilia had sent it to her for the wedding. She had also received a blue garter from K.E.'s wife Sarah for the big day; even though she wasn't a blood relative of theirs, they still thought of her as family through their brother's relationship with Jack.

Ennis and Jack came in for dinner; they'd been out on their hill for the last few hours. They found the two women in their lives talking and laughing together. Ennis stood behind Jack and slid his arms around his waist, chin on his shoulder. They just stood there, smiling and watching the women. Ennis pressed his lips to Jack's cheek.

"We're good, ain't we rodeo?" he asked softly. Jack nodded.

"We are. Everythin's gonna be fine, cowboy." He pulled Ennis closer and sighed, his smile widening.

While Rose and Lily had been talking, Ennis and Jack had been on their hill, lying together on a blanket and looking up at the sky, Jack tucked under Ennis's arm comfortably. All was right with the world for now, just like it had been up on Brokeback.

Since Ennis's accident, Jack worried more. He'd thought that the shingles coming loose had just been bad luck, but he couldn't help wondering. Maybe Pete had snuck onto the ranch, climbed up there and loosened them, hoping it would cause an accident for one of them. Pete had to remember that he and Ennis preferred to deal with things like that themselves.

Jack mentally shook his head at his thoughts. There was no proof that Pete had done it, and it was unlikely that he would have climbed up onto the barn roof undetected. They checked the cameras from the vicinity every morning, and so far nothing suspicious had happened. They'd seen the occasional animal, usually one of their own barn cats, but no human trespassers. Jack couldn't help but feel uneasy that it wasn't yet over with Pete.

These thoughts drifted to one side when he felt Ennis's lips in his hair, gently kissing the top of his head. "Mmm..."

"Like that, darlin'?" Ennis murmured, stroking his hand up and down Jack's arm. His right hand was lying on his chest, and Jack reached his left over to link fingers.

"Uh huh. So peaceful up here...just like Brokeback." Jack sighed and squeezed Ennis's fingers. Ennis smiled.

"Yeah." He looked down at Jack. "You okay, bud? Yer a bit quiet." Jack sighed and sat up, rubbing the back of his neck. Ennis sat up too.

"Well...I just keep thinkin' on yer accident," he admitted, and Ennis put a hand on his knee.

"Jack...ain't nothin' we can do about that now. Wasn't nobody's fault." Jack looked at him, blue eyes full of sorrow.

"But...what if it wasn't an accident? What if...Pete snuck onto our property an'...loosened them shingles himself?"

Ennis thought about this. "Jack, he couldn't have just climbed up there. He woulda been seen. An' we check them cameras every day; we ain't seen nothin'."

Jack brushed his hands over his face. "I know it don't make no sense, but...I can't help thinkin' that he ain't finished with us yet. I mean, he shot me. An' he could be responsible for yer accident. bad is it gonna get before he's had enough? An' what if he kills one of us? What then?" Ennis moved closer and put his arms around Jack, pulling his head to his shoulder.

"Shh..." he soothed, rubbing Jack's back. "It's okay. He ain't gonna do that, bud. We're gonna be fine."

"You don't know that," Jack mumbled, gripping Ennis's shirt in his hands and shaking a little.

"No, but...I gotta believe that everythin's gonna work out like it's supposed to. An' you know what? I learned that from you, darlin'. Yer the one who taught me to have faith." He rubbed Jack's back in comfort, nuzzling a little into Jack's hair. "I mean it, Jack. You know how it was when we met. Parents dead, brother an' sister off an' married. Headin' for a weddin' I sure didn't want but thought I should go through anyway. When we met that day, I didn't have much faith in nothin'. Thought that things would just happen an' there wasn't nothin' I could do about it. You made me realise I could make things happen for myself. Change things, you know? You did that."

Jack pulled away and looked into Ennis's eyes, his own full of wonder. In that moment, he realised just how much they had done for each other through their lives. Ennis was a changed man from the shy young cowboy he'd seen leaning against a dusty old trailer. He was confident, strong, protective and dependable, but he was also kind and loving, and he treated Jack right. Not just him, but the others too. Jack felt incredibly lucky to have shared a life with someone like him. "Ennis, I...I dunno what to say."

Ennis smiled and brushed Jack's hair away from his forehead. "Don't gotta say nothin', Jack. Just...come on back down here." He lay back again onto the blanket, bringing Jack down with him. But this time, he rolled on top of Jack and kissed him. "I reckon we can do somethin' else to show how we feel, huh?" he whispered, eyes glittering. Jack grinned, already fully aroused.

"Sounds good to me, lover." The word shot right through Ennis and down to his groin. He claimed Jack's lips, kissing him hard and grinding against him until he was moaning and begging Ennis to do it. Clothes went flying off and Jack willingly got onto his hands and knees, shaking his ass at Ennis. "Come on, cowboy. Ain't got all day. Have at it." Ennis needed no further prompting; he grabbed the lube and slicked himself up before pushing hard into Jack, making him buck. "Oh God..."

It was rough and fast, but exactly what Jack wanted in his state of arousal. Ennis grabbed his hips and pulled them back towards him with every thrust, practically growling in Jack's ear as he thrust hard. Jack struggled to stay on his knees and pushed back, loving how forceful Ennis was being. They bucked together several more times, and then Ennis shot into Jack, groaning loudly. Jack soon followed and then collapsed onto the blanket, Ennis lying on his back. He was turned over and then a pair of lips met his softly.

"You okay, darlin'?" Ennis asked, stroking his cheek. Jack smiled and wound his arms around Ennis's neck.

"Sure am, cowboy. You know I love it when you get like that. Reminds me of that first time, least now, I know you love me."

Ennis nodded and sank down onto his chest, nuzzling at his neck. "I do, Jack. More than I'll ever be able to tell you." Jack just smiled further and closed his eyes.

"Me too."

A couple of days later, Ennis settled himself on the sofa next to Jack, grabbing the phone and putting it between them. Jack smiled at him encouragingly. He dialled Cecilia's number first, knowing that at this time, she would be at home. K.E. would still be working for another hour.

"Hello, Cecilia Wilson."

"Hey sis, it's me."

"Ennis! How are you? Jack told us what happened." She sounded a little distraught and he felt his heart sink a little.

"I'm fine," he replied, searching for Jack's hand. "Healin' up real well. The doctor said I'm gonna be fine, just need to rest."

"Good. You be sure an' listen to him, you hear? I don't want no more of them kinda calls from Jack, okay? Been worried sick over here."

Ennis smiled and looked at Jack; he could hear every word. "I hear ya, sis. It was an accident, ain't gonna happen again. An' I've got Jack lookin' after me."

"I know. are things goin' otherwise? What about that Pete guy?"

They looked at each other. "Um...ain't had no trouble since Jack was shot. We ain't even seen him. He's been keepin' his distance."

"Good. That's the last thing you need right now. How's Lily?"

"She's great. Really lookin' forward to her weddin', an' she's buildin' bridges with her dad. Things are lookin' better for 'em."

"Glad to hear it. Not long to go now, right?"

"Yep. How's things over there? How's Amy doin'?"

"She's alright. They're hopin' to make the weddin'. Looks like they will."

"Well, that'll make Lily happy. Ain't too often that the kids get together, bein' so far apart. I know Lily misses yer kids an' K.E.'s kids."

"They miss her too. They're lookin' forward to the weddin'."

Ennis made an affirmative sound in his throat. "Okay. So...guess I'd better call K.E. too. Speak soon, okay?"

"Yep. See ya, Ennis." He hung up and looked at Jack again, squeezing his fingers. Jack smiled at him.

"You okay, cowboy?" he asked softly. Ennis nodded.

"Yeah. Just...ain't easy when things like this happen. People worry, an' you gotta reassure 'em yer okay. An' me an' them have gotten a lot closer since you an' me got together. Just one more thing I'm grateful for, from shackin' up with you."

Jack kissed his cheek. "Aw, cowboy. Ain't you a sweet talker?" Ennis went red.

"Well, it's true." He shifted. They spent some time talking about the wedding and the plans. Everything was sorted out and they couldn't wait. Half an hour later, Ennis decided to call K.E.

He dialled the number and put the phone between them once more, both of them settling again.

"K.E. Del Mar."

"Hey, K.E. It's Ennis."

"Oh, hey. How are you doin'? Jack told me what happened."

"I'm fine. Doin' good now. Our doctor says I'll be fine."

"Good to hear. How's everythin' else over there?"

"Fine. Ain't had no trouble from Pete lately. Been pretty quiet."

"That's good. You know, if yer still havin' trouble with that Pete guy when we come down, I'd happily shoot him for ya."

They smiled at each other. "Uh, you don't gotta do that, K.E. The sheriff's tryin' to sort it out."

"Fair enough. Anyway, how's Lily?"

"She's just fine. Lookin' forward to the weddin'. Ain't long now."

"I know. We're all lookin' forward to it too. So...I'd better grab some dinner before it gets cold."

"Yeah, we should too. Bye, K.E." He hung up again and turned to Jack, lifting his arm up and shuffling close. Jack was surprised but held onto him, smiling and squeezing his fingers again.

"You okay, cowboy?" he asked, looking down at his partner. Ennis nodded, his eyes closed.

"Yeah, just kinda tired." He sighed. "What are we doin' for dinner?"

" about I make us all some of that tomato soup? Do some bread to go with it? That'll warm everybody up, right?"

"Yeah, sounds good. Tell you what; I'll do the bread while you do the soup, alright? Let's get to it." They squeezed each other's fingers again and got up, heading for the kitchen hand in hand.

The pair of them worked side by side, Jack occasionally handing spoonfuls of soup to Ennis for him to taste. Ennis was nodding his approval.

"Mmm, not bad. Yer cookin's a lot better now than it was on Brokeback. Couldn't even open a can opener."

Jack laughed. "That was your fault. Strippin' off next to me like that. Couldn't concentrate with that sight next to me." Ennis smirked and bumped him with his hip.

"So you was starin' at me, huh?" Jack shook his head.

"Actually, no. Remember, I tried not to let things go that way again. Not after the year before. But I did notice when you was talkin' about that coyote. He ain't the only one who's got balls the size of apples." He smiled sweetly, and Ennis gulped a little.

"Um...well, yours ain't nothin' to sneeze at, neither. Sure do like 'em." He looked shyly at Jack, who grinned.

"Well, I like yours too, cowboy." They finished preparing the meal, by which time the others had joined them. Everybody sat around the table and were enjoying Jack's meal.

"Mmm, real good," said Lily as she broke off another piece of bread. "Perfect for this weather, Uncle Jack."

"Thanks, honey," he said with a smile. "Ennis was sayin' how my cookin's gotten better since Brokeback. I could barely open a can opener back then."

"You couldn't play the harmonica either," Ennis cut in, smirking at him.

"Oh, shut yer trap," Jack replied, giving him a light shove. Everyone laughed and returned to their meal. Jack wound his foot around Ennis's ankle and smiled at him, letting him know how much he loved him. Ennis smiled back and the remainder of the evening was spent in front of the TV, Ennis and Jack curled up on the sofa together. Their hands were loosely linked on Ennis's lap and for the moment, everything was alright.

The next day, Jack was headed for town to buy groceries for the house. True to his word, he accepted Lily's offer to come with him, knowing that Ennis wouldn't worry as much. At least he wouldn't be on his own. And they had already discovered that Lily could be just as fiercely protective as her mother had been.

The two of them were making their way through the aisles of the store, picking out what they needed and occasionally making a comment. Jack caught sight of a few of their friends and he nodded to them as their gazes met. When Lily was otherwise occupied with feminine items, he discreetly picked up a new tube of KY; he and Ennis frequently needed a new one. He smiled to himself as he thought of their sex life, and how it hadn't been affected by age. They were very lucky that they still wanted each other so much, despite how long it had been.

They rounded a corner and both of them stopped in their tracks. Pete Dawson was at the end of an aisle, looking at bottles of whiskey. Jack had considered buying one himself, but right now he couldn't move.

"What's he doin' here?" Lily hissed to him, looking around. "Why's he out in public?"

"I dunno," he whispered back. "Reckon one of us should go an' find a phone? Call James?"

She shook her head. "No way. We ain't splittin' up now. James said that none of us should be out alone. Let's just keep goin' an' hope he don't see us."

Jack nodded and they carried on down the next aisle, picking out some new shampoo for Lily. He stood waiting as she browsed through the choices, glancing back to where he'd seen Pete. He was still there, but Jack figured they hadn't been noticed yet. He looked back at Lily, who was putting a bottle into the basket, and he nodded. When he looked back, he saw Pete's cold eyes boring into his. His throat went dry. "Oh, shit."

Lily looked over and her eyes widened. "Just keep walkin'. He ain't gonna start nothin' in the middle of the store, in broad daylight." She pulled at his arm and he kept walking, feeling very vulnerable without Ennis.

His attention was drawn by a voice ahead of them. "Jack, Lily! Good to see you." It was Kate Hardeman, the silversmith. His face broke into a relieved grin.

"Hey, Kate. How's it goin'?"

"It's good," she said with a smile. "My daughter over in Alabama called yesterday, she's pregnant."

"Aw, that's great. Tell her congratulations from us." She nodded.

"Thanks. So...I take it Ennis is at home?" Kate asked, noticing that he wasn't around.

"Yeah, but I promised him I wouldn't leave the place on my own, so..."

"Just as well," Lily cut in. "Pete Dawson's here." Kate's mouth opened a little.

"He is?" She glanced around and her eyes fell on the man in question. He was a few aisles away, watching the group. " think he's gonna try somethin'?"

"Here? I hope not. But we'd better get a move on, Jack," replied Lily, nudging him. "Don't wanna give him an opportunity." Jack nodded, glancing at Pete again nervously.

"I know. Let's get goin'. We'll see ya later, Kate, okay?"

"Sure. See you soon, an' be careful." They nodded to her and continued walking, picking up the remaining items on the list. When they joined the line to pay, Jack felt eyes staring at the back of his head, and he turned. Pete was still amongst the aisles, watching him openly. He wasn't even trying to hide it. Jack didn't like the look on his face at all, but it confirmed their suspicions about him. As Jack watched, Pete's eyes travelled down his body and settled on his ass, making Jack's heart rate increase. Oh shit...I guess we was right about him. Ennis'll wanna kill him for this. Lily noticed him looking back and turned her head. She figured out where Pete was staring, and she made an indignant sound.

"That sick bastard, leerin' at ya like that. Want me to go slap him?" she asked, glaring at Pete.

"Nah, it's okay. We kinda suspected's what he's after." Jack turned his face away, knowing that Pete was still eyeballing him. He didn't like it one bit; Pete must know that he would never ever cheat on Ennis, so if he wanted him...he might try and take it anyway. He couldn't bear to hold the thought in his mind right now. He wanted to get back to Ennis, and soon.

They finally paid for their groceries and headed out to the truck, thankful to get out of there at last and leave Pete behind. Once in the truck, they both sighed in unison.

"Thank God that's over with," said Lily. "That was kinda scary, the way he was just starin' like that. Think we should tell James he was in there? Might give him an opportunity to arrest him in future."

"Yeah, probably. We'll stop by on the way home." Jack put the truck in gear and they headed back through town. They stopped by the station on the way and told James what had happened, and he was grateful for the lead.

When they got home, Lily offered to put away the groceries; Jack had put the KY in his pocket after paying for it to spare her blushes. He nodded and went in search of his cowboy, needing to be held and made to feel safe. Soon enough, he and Ennis were embracing in the stables, and Ennis was whispering to him that he was safe, and that he was there to look after him.

"Thanks, Ennis," he murmured, head buried in his shoulder. Ennis kissed the side of his head.

"Ain't no problem, darlin'. Just glad yer okay."

"Better now I'm with you," he replied, pulling him closer. "Always feel safer with you..."

Ennis didn't reply; he just held him.

November 23rd, 1987

Thanksgiving was just three days away, and the residents of the ranch were sat at breakfast, not sure of what to do for the holiday. This year, it was K.E.'s turn to host dinner for the three of them and their families, but Ennis was hesitant about going. He wanted to see his siblings and their kids and grandkids, but he didn't really want to leave the ranch empty.

He glanced around at the others as they ate, and cleared his throat. "So, um...what are we doin' for Thanksgivin'? Are we goin' up to K.E.'s or what?"

Jack shrugged. "I dunno. To be honest, I don't really wanna leave the ranch. Just...don't feel right while Pete's sniffin' around. What if he does somethin' while we're gone?"

Lily nodded. "Right. I mean...yer still convinced he loosened them shingles on the barn roof. What if he goes after the stock? The business is gonna suffer. Then what? Things are gonna get bad if that happens. You'll lose money."

Ennis and Jack looked at each other, seeing her point. "Well, there is that, I guess. We sure don't want Pete havin' free rein while we ain't here. An' it ain't fair to make the hands watch the place. They usually have the day off; we can't make 'em work."

"Yeah. So...I think the only thing to to stay here," Ennis replied, nodding. "We can't leave, not this year. Just ain't right."

The others nodded, seeing the logic behind this. "I guess you should call yer brother an' sister then," said Rose, looking at Ennis and seeing the sadness in his eyes. He'd grown close to his brother and sister, and this was the first year that he wouldn't be seeing them for the holiday since 1963. He and Jack had spent the holiday here, for their first major holiday in their new home.

"Yeah, I guess. Gonna hurt 'em, I reckon."

"Probably, but they'll understand," Jack reasoned, nudging him gently. "Don't worry about it, cowboy. They know we're havin' trouble right now." Ennis nodded and smiled gratefully at Jack.

"I know. Still...I'd like to see 'em. But..." He sighed and gave a smile. "We'll see 'em at the weddin' anyway. That's somethin' to look forward to."

"Yep." They finished their breakfast and the two cowboys offered to wash up afterwards. The others left and they were finally alone. Jack had his hands in the sink when he felt a light kiss on his neck. He turned to see Ennis smiling at him, drying a plate. "What's that for?"

"Just...bein' you. No matter what it is, you always know the right thing to say. Like with us not goin' up to Wyomin'. I was all set to feel real guilty about it, but you told me they'd understand. An' I believe it. Thanks, bud."

Jack smiled and removed his soapy hands from the sink, placing them up around Ennis's neck. "Aw, you sweet talker. Yer welcome, cowboy." He leaned in and pressed their lips together, tongue sliding against Ennis's. He moaned a little and then drew away. "If we keep this goin' we ain't never gonna finish the dishes." He kissed Ennis again and then brushed one hand over Ennis's top lip, leaving him a soapy moustache.

"Hey!" Ennis said indignantly. "What was that for?"

"Just for fun," Jack replied, grinning. Ennis wiped off the moustache and they returned to the dishes. When Jack was finished, he turned to Ennis. "Tell you what; I'll finish dryin' those, an' you can call yer brother an' sister. Go on." Ennis smiled at him gratefully.

"Thanks, bud." He handed Jack the dishtowel and moved to the phone, calling K.E.'s number. "Hey, K.E. It's Ennis."

"Oh, hey. Are you guys still comin' up for dinner?"

He closed his eyes for a moment. "I'm sorry, K.E. We can't. None of us want to leave the ranch for so long, not even a few days. Pete Dawson's still snoopin' around, an' we think that if we leave, he's gonna sneak on our property an' do somethin'. He could get the stock or somethin'."

"I see. Well, I can't say I'm kinda gutted that we won't see you guys, but I understand. I know things are real hard for you at the moment. It's okay."

"I'm real sorry, K.E. We wanted to see you guys too, an' Cecilia. It's just...we can't leave. We don't wanna leave the place empty, an' we always give the hands the day off. Sure am sorry..."

"No, it's okay. Don't worry about it, Ennis. We'll see you guys at the weddin', an' it ain't like we haven't seen you guys this year. We saw you just a couple months ago."

"I know, ain't the end of the world. An' we see each other often enough, considerin' how far apart we live. So...we'll see you at the weddin' then, if we don't see ya before."

"Yep. See ya, Ennis. Give our best to Jack an' the others."

"I will. Bye, K.E."


They hung up and Ennis turned to Jack, who had finished the dishes while listening to Ennis's side of the conversation. His partner was smiling at him, leaning against the counter.

"Told ya it'd be okay," he said, pushing himself off and walking towards Ennis. "I said he'd understand."

"Yeah, you were right. Gonna be okay." He pulled Jack into his arms and kissed him. " still taste like bacon."

"Hope that's a good thing," Jack murmured against his lips. Ennis smiled.

"You always taste good, darlin'. wanna...go get up to somethin'? Before we start workin'?" Jack grinned.

"Sure. The office is gonna be empty. That desk is real fine for a little workout. Let's go." They put on their boots and hats and headed outside, walking as quickly as possible towards the empty office building. Soon after, the door was locked and two sweaty bodies were bending over the desk, locked together. "This sure beats workin'," Jack gritted out, pushing back towards Ennis.

"You bet, darlin'."