Chapter 21

November 30th, 1987

It was a cold winter morning, and the residents of the ranch were all still in bed, sleeping in the silent house. Even Storm was fast asleep in the living room, curled up in front of the still-warm fireplace.

Jack blearily opened his eyes and immediately felt how cold it was. He shivered a little and turned over, seeing the beautiful face that he loved to wake up to. Ennis was still asleep, his face smoothed out and relaxed for once, completely at peace. Jack smiled and shuffled closer to his man's warmth, hoping that it would be enough to tide him over until Ennis awoke.

When Ennis awoke, he saw that Jack was awake, shivering in the cold. He reached out and pulled Jack into his arms, lightly kissing his forehead. Jack made a soft purring sound.


"You cold, darlin'?" Ennis murmured, stroking Jack's hair. He nodded.

"Yeah. Freezin' in here." He shivered again.

"Want me to put the heatin' on?"

"Nah, knowin' me I'd probably get too warm. An' it might wake someone up; that ain't fair."

"Well..." There was only one other option that Ennis could think of. "How about I warm you up?"

Jack smiled sleepily. "Thought you'd never ask." His deep blue eyes opened and it was like Ennis was shot straight through the heart, just like he had been the first time he'd really gotten close to them. That had been their second night together on Brokeback, when he'd finally allowed himself to really look at Jack.

These days, he frequently looked. Jack was still as beautiful as he ever was, and the smile that graced his mouth right now was giving Ennis a funny feeling in his stomach. He leaned in and gently pressed their lips together, hoping to make this last a while so Jack would feel loved and appreciated. Jack kissed back, understanding the pace that Ennis wanted to set this morning. Their hands ran through each other's hair and then down their backs, careful not to head too far south just yet.

They continued to kiss; soft kisses on the lips punctuated with sighs and smiles. Their tongues occasionally met for a brief second, offering just a small taste of each other for now. Jack then laced their fingers together and squeezed.

" good, Ennis. Love kissin' you." Ennis smiled and kissed Jack's hand.

"Right back at you, bud." They kissed again and this time, Ennis let his hand rest on Jack's ass, rubbing a little. Their eyes met and they silently agreed. Jack rolled onto his back and Ennis lay on top of him, kissing his neck. With his face buried, he felt Jack relax as he closed his eyes in bliss.

"Oh...that feels good." He ran his hands up and down Ennis's back. "Come up here..." Ennis lifted his head and met Jack's deep kiss, their tongues connecting properly and running all around each other's mouth. Jack's hands were buried in the blonde curls he loved so much, and Ennis's hands were trailing down Jack's sides to his hips. He reached underneath and squeezed Jack's ass, making him squirm a little. Ennis had been having thoughts of flipping Jack over and just taking him, but he then remembered his silent promise to take this slowly. And just because Jack no longer had serious issues with that position didn't mean he wanted it that way all the time. They didn't do it that way too often, but Ennis had to keep in mind that their couplings had to be about love, not just sex. He loved doing it face to face, just as much as Jack. Sometimes when the primal instinct overcame him, he just had to have Jack from behind, but he would always be tender with Jack afterwards. That seemed to appease his lover and keep the peace. But Ennis knew that, this morning, they couldn't do it that way.

Instead, he lifted Jack's legs and wrapped them around his waist. When Ennis didn't reach for the lube like he normally did, Jack looked at him in alarm. " know I can't take it dry..."

Ennis shook his head and leaned down. "I ain't gonna fuck ya. Not like that. Just...wanna do that rubbin' thing. If that's alright..." Jack relaxed and smiled. He loved having sex with Ennis, but at his age there was no way he could do an exact repeat of their first night.

"Sure. Love doin' it that way first thing in the mornin'." He pulled his legs tighter around Ennis and wrapped his arms around his neck. "Ready when you are." Ennis pulled his arms around Jack and began to rock from side to side, making sure that their groins were locked together. Jack's eyes fell shut. "Oh God..."

Ennis buried his face in Jack's damp neck again, inhaling his man's scent as he continued to rub against him, feeling Jack trembling as he neared the edge. He gently bit and sucked at Jack's collarbone, now moving faster. Jack shook even more, eyes now open and wide as he looked up at the ceiling, gasping for breath and unable to speak. "En...Ennis...I...oh..." Words failed him as he hit the edge, moaning aloud as he shot between them, eyes screwing shut.

His shaking body triggered Ennis's own orgasm, following suit and then collapsing onto Jack. "Oh...darlin'..." They lay there together, their chests heaving and their breath coming in short gasps. Jack nuzzled into the darkened curls.

"Mmm...that was real nice, cowboy. Great way to start the day." He was feeling completely relaxed and well-loved.

"Sure was," came the low mumble from his neck. "Ain't sure I can get up now, though."

Jack laughed. "Come on, lazy bones. If you get up, I'll let ya shower with me, if you want." The words worked their magic, as they always did, and Ennis was soon rising off the bed, pulling Jack up with him.

"Come on then, rodeo. Daylight's burnin'." Jack just smiled and followed him into the bathroom.

A few hours later, everybody was going about their day. Rose was out at the community centre with Lily, and Ennis, Jack and Ben were out working on the ranch. Work never ended for them, but at least they were doing something they enjoyed.

Ennis and Jack were feeding the cows out in the pasture. Jack drove as Ennis threw out the feed, occasionally glancing in the rear-view mirror at his tall, strong cowboy. He had always been good on the ranch, and even though they had a number of hands working on the place, Ennis still got up early every day to do his share of the work. Jack admired him for that; he'd always been a bit on the lazy side. He was good with the numbers and keeping records of everything, so he and Ennis made a good team. They figured that there were two sides of running a business, and each of them covered one side sufficiently.

Despite how they had been thrown together without warning, Jack thought that they had adapted remarkably well. They had been lucky to receive the ranch and the money from his uncle, and Jack wondered where they might be if that hadn't happened. Would they still be together? Would they have a place of their own? Or would it have proven to be too much for them?

Jack shook these thoughts from his mind; it hadn't happened that way. Things had gone their way, to his immense relief. And as he looked at his cowboy in the mirror, he knew that they still had so much to look forward to.

When they finished the feeding, Jack stopped the truck and got out, seeing Ennis climb down off the truck bed. Jack walked up to him with a wide smile and threw his arms around his neck. "Hey, cowboy. You looked mighty fine on that truck bed. Saw them long legs of yours...kept thinkin' about how they look over my shoulders. Like when yer on yer back...waitin' for me to fuck ya..." His deep blue eyes were full of desire, and Ennis went red.

"Jack...don't go gettin' me riled up. Not out here..." Jack tilted his head back at the truck.

"We could always get in the back. Plenty of room." Ennis actually considered this; they hadn't had sex in a truck for a while.

"Huh...there's an idea. think someone's gonna come lookin' for us? Like the hands?" Jack shook his head.

"Don't reckon so. They know we're feedin' the cows today; they won't come out here." He trailed a hand down Ennis's chest, fingering his belt buckle. " wanna join me?" Ennis smirked and nodded.

"Sure thing." In five minutes, their naked bodies were writhing together on the back seat of the truck, Jack thrusting up against Ennis and moaning. They didn't have any lube, so contended themselves with rubbing against each other, kissing hard and deep.

Jack looked up into Ennis's eyes as they moved together. His cowboy was looking at him in a way he'd seen before in these moments; a mixture of lust and love, raw desire and tenderness. The look went straight through to Jack's heart, and he pulled Ennis's face to down to his for another kiss. They wrapped their arms tighter around each other and Jack shook as he felt himself release between them. Ennis followed suit and then collapsed onto him, breathing heavily. Jack smiled and sighed.

"Cowboy...been a while since we did that, huh? Sure was good." Ennis nodded against him.

"Yeah. Gonna have to clean the seat, though." Jack laughed.

"I know. We gonna get a move on soon?"

"In a bit." They lay there for a while before cleaning themselves up with the rag Jack kept in the truck. With a few more kisses, they got dressed and drove back to the house, hands clasped on the seat between them. They parked the truck on the driveway and headed inside, seeking lunch. The women weren't back yet and Ben was still outside so they had the house to themselves.

"What are we doin' for lunch?" Jack asked as they walked into the kitchen. Ennis shrugged and opened up the fridge.

" some tinned salmon in here. Wanna just put it in a bowl an' grab a couple forks?"

Jack nodded. "Sure. Know what? I remember that it's real nice with ketchup, once you mash it all in. Let's get to it, cowboy."

Ennis put the salmon into a bowl and mashed in the tomato sauce, while Jack got them both some orange juice. They sat down opposite each other and started picking at it with their forks, smiling at each other now and then.

As they ate, Jack started to talk. "So, we gonna make a start on the Christmas shoppin' soon? Know what yer gettin'?"

Ennis shrugged. "I figure some sorta girly thing for Lily. That always makes her happy. What does yer mama want?"

"Well, she does like gettin' a new book. I could take a look at what she's already got an' work somethin' out. I could ask Lily what Ben might want."

"Sounds good," Ennis replied. "What about sendin' up somethin' to Cecilia an' K.E.? Like...crates of wine or somethin'? They'd like that."

"Sure." They ate their way through the salmon, now and then picking bits up and feeding each other. Jack then smiled at Ennis. "Stick yer tongue out, bud." Ennis did so and Jack placed a piece of salmon on it, then leaned in and stuck his tongue in Ennis's mouth, fishing it out and into his own. "Mmm..."

"Taste good, darlin'?" Ennis asked, smiling at Jack. He nodded.

"Even better since I just had a taste of you. You're my favourite taste, Ennis." He saw his cowboy blush.

"Jack..." He shook his head in amusement and they carried on eating. When they were done, they washed up and headed back outside to work. It was a beautiful winter day and they were looking forward to the holiday season.

December 3rd, 1987

Jack was sat in the office, clicking his pen and staring out of the window. It was another beautiful winter day, but the temperature had dropped even further. They had done some Christmas shopping over the last few days, but there was more to go. The wine for Cecilia and K.E. still had to be sent as well.

As he sat there, he kept thinking about previous Christmases in his life. Most of them had been happy, since he'd spent them with people he loved, but not all of them. The ones for the first nineteen years of his life hadn't been particularly memorable. He knew why; ever since he'd been old enough to understand and appreciate the holiday, his father had already changed. Jack had been lucky to get a present at all. That was one of the reasons why they'd wanted to do everything they could for Lily; they hadn't had much as children and they never wanted for her to know what that was like.

Still, as he thought of his father, he couldn't help but feel that he wanted to go up to Lightning Flat. The ranch had been sold a few times over the last two decades, and he'd met the current family; they were nice enough. Part of the deed for the ranch stated that as a condition, each new owner must keep the family plot intact, so the graves were all still there. Jack remembered his father's grave and the funeral. Ennis had been there with him, in front of all his attending relatives, and had even pulled him close in a show of comfort. He smiled as he remembered how great Ennis had been, despite the following issues with the newspapers.

Jack could feel a tugging at his heart; part of him felt as if he wanted to go up there, up to the ranch to see the grave. He wasn't sure why he was feeling this now; in over twenty years he'd never felt the need to go there. His mother went up every year around their anniversary or on his father's birthday, and she'd always gone by plane, getting herself around well enough. If Jack had had any fleeting thoughts of forgiving his father, they were immediately squashed down by the memories of the abuse he'd suffered. Not just the physical, but the emotional bullying too. He could never forgive his father for what he'd done.

But as he thought about all these things, he remembered his advice to Lily about her father; that even if he and Ennis could never forgive their fathers, there might be a possibility for them to work past it and move on. Jack wasn't sure if he'd done that. Maybe a trip up north would do him some good. But he didn't want to go alone.

This decided, he left the office and went in search of his cowboy, finding him walking across the grass towards the barn. Jack whistled to catch his attention, and Ennis turned, smiling when he saw who it was. He drew Jack into his arms and kissed him on the lips; just a brief kiss that said they'd been thinking of each other and were glad to see each other.

"Mmm, hey darlin'," Ennis said when they broke apart, smiling. "How's it goin'? You get bored in there?"

"Well, I been thinkin' on somethin'. Can we take a walk?"

"Sure." He led Jack into the stables and they sat on the bench, hands laced together. "What's up?"

"Well...I just...I keep thinkin' about my dad. With Christmas comin' up an' everythin', I remember all them Christmases when I was a kid. Kept thinkin' of how I wasn't as happy as I am these days, an' that it was mainly 'cos of my dad. But...I dunno..."

Ennis looked at him, seeing how conflicted he was about the whole thing. "Jack...what are you sayin', bud? You got somethin' in mind that you wanna do?"

Jack looked at him. "I was thinkin' about Lily's dad, an' how I told her that even if she can't forgive him, she can still move past it an' look to the future, with him bein' part of her life. I said to her that if our dads were alive, we might have been able to do the same, even if we couldn't ever forgive 'em. An' went up to Sage an' paid yer respects. Did you feel any better about the whole thing?"

"I guess," Ennis replied, thinking about it. "There ain't no point in dwellin' on what happened, 'cos it didn't do no good in the end. If him showin' us Earl's body was his way of warnin' us not to turn out that way...well, it didn't work. I fell in love with another guy anyway." He smiled at Jack, and then his expression turned serious. "Bud...are you sayin' wanna go an' see yer dad's grave? Maybe try an' get some peace about the whole thing?"

Jack gazed up into his caring eyes, and then nodded. "Yeah, I think I do. I'm sure the family livin' there wouldn't mind. But...I don't wanna go alone, Ennis. Will ya come with me?"

Ennis looked down at him, seeing the need in his eyes. He saw that Jack really wanted him there, and might need him to provide comfort afterwards. He'd promised himself and Jack a long time ago that he would be there for him if needed. He nodded.

"'Course I will, bud. When do ya wanna go?"

"I was thinkin' the next couple of days. Don't wanna be away too long so close to Christmas."

"Alright. Just let me know when you wanna go. I'll be right there with you, darlin'." He pulled Jack close and planted a kiss in his hair. Jack nuzzled his face into Ennis's neck and smiled.

"Thanks, Ennis. Means a lot to me, you know. That you'd be there for me."

"I'd do anythin' for you, Jack," Ennis murmured, thinking of how hard this was going to be for him.

While they were out, Lily was sat in the living room, dialling the phone. She was due to call her father today; every time they spoke, they always arranged a date and time for the next call. As time passed, she found herself looking forward to the next call more and more.

She had to admit that she and her father were growing closer. It hadn't been easy at first, what with everything she had heard from Ennis and Jack. All her life, she'd heard nothing but bad things about him, so when he'd come around looking for her, it had been very difficult for her to trust him. But it had been four months since they'd met, and things had improved. He really had made an effort with her, and she could acknowledge it.

When she finished dialling, she put the phone to her ear and curled her legs up on the sofa, waiting for him to pick up.

"Hello, Jay Brookes."

"Hey, it's Lily." She had a feeling that he would be smiling at this. They did seem to enjoy talking to each other like this.

"Oh, hey. How are you doin'?"

"I'm good. Lookin' forward to the weddin'. Everythin's goin' great."

"Good." She knew that he was wondering if she was going to invite him, and to be honest, she didn't know if she had an answer for that one. Part of her wanted to, but she was still hesitant. To invite him to her wedding would, in her mind, cement her acceptance of him into her life. It would be the biggest gesture to show him that she wanted him around, and she wasn't quite sure if she was ready for that. "So, um...what's goin' on right now? How's Ennis?" She had told him about the accident, and was keeping him informed of what was going on in their lives. He was doing the same thing.

"He's fine now. Jack's been lookin' after him real well. But...we're still havin' some troubles. That Pete's been prowlin' around lately."

"He ain't been threatenin' you, has he?" Jay asked, and she could hear an unmistakeable undertone of protectiveness. She smiled a little; a few months ago, she would have snapped at him for acting like it was any of his business.

"Not really. Just Ennis an' Jack. We think...that he might have some kinda obsession with Jack. I mean...just a little while ago me an' Jack were at the store an' Pete was there. I caught him eyeballin' Jack's ass, if you can believe it."

"Wow...sure sounds like a creep to me. I reckon if Ennis had been there, he woulda knocked him down, right?" he asked in amusement.

Lily laughed. "Probably. But Pete didn't actually do anythin'. Didn't even come up to us."

"Guess that's somethin'. everythin' okay? In general?"

"Pretty much. Ranch is doin' fine, our friends are okay. Listen, I was thinkin'...I'd like to come to Childress again soon. Before Christmas, if that's okay."

"Oh. I think that'd be okay. I'm off work from the 14th, so..."

"Okay. I could fly over the day after. Um...will yer other kids be there?"

"Maybe. You wanna meet 'em?"

"I think so. They're my half-brothers, after all. What are they like? Would they be alright with my, um...livin' situation?"

"Dunno. They're nice guys, they mighta even met gay people at college, I dunno. Even if they don't like it...they know better than to cause trouble. They'd probably just shrug an' move on to somethin' else."

"Right. So...I guess I'd like to meet 'em. Have you told 'em about me?"

"Not yet. You want me to?"

Lily thought for a long moment, and then drew in a breath. "I guess. It was all a long time ago, an' things are different now. We're...sorta buildin' bridges. I wouldn't mind meetin' 'em."

"Alright then. I'll tell 'em. long do you wanna stay?"

"A few days. Wanna get back before Christmas Eve; we're havin' a party."

"Okay. Sounds good. Can't wait to see you."

"Yep." Another thought occurred to her. "Hey, um...I was wonderin' it okay if I bring Ben? We was talkin' before an' he said he wouldn't mind comin' if it's okay with you."

"Um, sure. That'd be good. He seems like a nice enough young man, an' I'd like to get to know him better. See if...he's good enough for you." She could hear a smile in his voice.

"Right. So I'll ask him if he still wants to come with me. An'...I'll let you know before the time."

"Sounds good. So, um...I'd better get goin'. Got some things to do."

"Yeah, me too. So we'll talk in the next few days, alright?"

"Sure. Bye, then."

"Bye..." They both hung up and Lily sighed, running a hand over her jaw. She still wasn't sure if she was ready to invite her father to the wedding, but things were going very well so far. She had met up with him a few times over the last four months, and she had to admit that she was enjoying herself.

She got up and headed in search of her uncles, wondering what had become of them. When she stepped out onto the back porch, she leaned on the railing and looked out; she could see a few hands wandering about and doing various tasks. There was no sign of Ennis and Jack, though. Maybe they were out on their hill or something.

Instead, she caught sight of her fiancé walking out of the barn, whistling. Their eyes met and he smiled at her. She walked down the steps and over to him, planting herself in his arms.

"I talked to him; he says it's okay for us to go to Childress. When do ya wanna go?"

"Maybe in about a week or so? Give him time to set up an' get us time to book a flight?"

"Sure." They walked into the barn together to sit down; unaware that Ennis and Jack were doing the same thing in the stables.

December 5th, 1987

Ennis and Jack were in their room, packing for their trip to Wyoming. They had already bought the wine for Cecilia and K.E. There were enough bottles in each case for both them and their children, and they knew that it would be much appreciated. Their initial plan had been for them to bring the wine with them, but Jack had expressed his doubts about them being allowed to take it on the plane, and they already had weight limitations for luggage. So they decided that they would look in on the others during their trip, and then send the wine a little later.

As they packed, Ennis watched Jack. He was quieter than usual, and Ennis could see that he was doing a lot of thinking about their trip. Even though he hadn't said much about his motivations for wanting to visit his father's grave, Ennis had worked it out himself. Both he and Lily had sort of made their peace with what their fathers had done and could move on from it, but Jack never really had. He'd been distraught at his father's funeral; not for losing his father but for the loss of a chance to understand. And with the fiasco surrounding the papers, Jack hadn't really had much of a chance to grieve.

So Ennis thought he understood; Jack could see how it had done both himself and Lily the world of good to let go of hostilities and leave the past where it belonged, and now he wanted to try and find that himself. Ennis was prepared to follow Jack to the ends of the earth if it meant him finding some kind of peace.

Jack zipped his case shut and sat down on the bed, hands running over his face. Ennis got onto the bed and moved up behind him, slipping his arms around Jack and planting his chin on his shoulder. Jack smiled and relaxed into the embrace.

"I..." Ennis hesitated, and then tried again. "I ain't gonna ask if yer okay, 'cos I know you ain't. There anythin' I can do?" Jack shook his head.

"No more than what yer doin' now. Got a lot goin' on in my head an' it ain't easy to think on all this. I just need someone to hold me up when it gets too much."

"I'm right here, darlin'. It's okay." Ennis pressed his lips to Jack's cheek and rubbed his stomach. "Whatever you need me to do...I'll do it."

"Thanks, Ennis," said Jack softly, hands clasping over his. "Sure am glad yer here with me, an' I don't just mean for this."

"We help each other, Jack. Always have, right? We take it in turns to look after each other, like a married couple should." Jack smiled at the word and closed his eyes.

"Yeah...old married couple, that's us."

"Who are you callin' old?" Ennis asked in mock outrage, squeezing Jack a little. "We sure wasn't old last night, way we was goin'."

"Guess not." Jack sighed and then rubbed Ennis's arm. "Come on, we don't wanna miss that flight." Ennis nodded and kissed his cheek once more before letting go of him. They got up and grabbed their luggage and on-flight bags, heading downstairs.

Lily, Ben and Rose all looked up when they approached and gave them supportive smiles. "You guys off, then?" Lily asked, and they nodded.

"Yep. We'll only be a couple days. Winter can get real bad up there; don't wanna get stranded, so we don't wanna stay too long. We'll be back the day after tomorrow."

Ennis looked around at them all. "Remember, we don't want no-one leavin' the ranch on their own. An' if you see Pete Dawson, try an' avoid him. If anythin' happens on the ranch, make sure to tell James. Don't want anyone gettin' hurt."

"We'll be fine," Rose assured him as she broke away from Jack, going in to hug him too. "Stop worryin', you've got enough to deal with." She knew how important this trip was to Jack, and she hoped that he could find what he was looking for.

"Say hi to yer brother an' sister for us," Lily said, embracing both of them. "Tell 'em we're lookin' forward to seein' 'em at the weddin'."

"We will. You two take care." Everybody broke apart and then stood around. "So...we'd better get movin', then. Got a lot of drivin' to do up to Atlanta." Ennis and Jack looked at each other and understanding passed between them. They both knew that their family would be alright while they sorted out their own issues. Jack, for one, had a lot of thinking and soul-searching to do.

On the drive up to Atlanta, Ennis drove one-handed, clasping Jack's with his other. Now and then he ran his thumb over Jack's hand, letting him know that he was there. While still on the empty roads, Jack rested his head on Ennis's shoulder, grateful for his love and support.

They parked the truck at a garage near the airport and headed inside. Neither of them were looking forward to the long wait, but had brought the day's newspaper with them to read while they waited. Ennis longed to put his arm around Jack, but he was apprehensive of what the people around them might do. He sure didn't want any trouble; that was the last thing Jack needed right now. He briefly wondered if Jack would be up for a joint trip to the bathroom on the plane, but he didn't mind too much if Jack wasn't. There would be plenty of opportunities when they came back.

On the plane, they read the paper some more and tried to watch the in-flight movie, but Jack was soon falling asleep, his head drooping. Ennis put the paper on the small surface in front of him and pulled Jack's head to his shoulder, letting him get comfortable. He didn't care if they got funny looks; Jack needed him right now, and that was all that mattered.