Hey guys! Unfortunately, this is the last chapter of the story. An epilogue will be posted later on today, and when I post it there will be some additional information about what's coming up next, so stay tuned!
March 5th, 1988
Everybody on the ranch woke early to prepare for the wedding in the afternoon. Ennis and Jack were to complete the day's chores while Lily was to start getting ready. It would take her several hours, and she had a full schedule.
While she was in town with the other women to get their hair done, Ennis and Jack did the chores in record time, soon racing upstairs to spend some time alone.
"Hope nobody needs us while we're up here," Jack said breathlessly as he flung his shirt to the corner of the room, looking down at Ennis. His cowboy was already naked and hard, waiting for him.
"Guess they'll have to take a number an' wait," he replied, watching with hungry eyes as Jack undressed.
Jack grinned and kicked off his jeans, giving a yelp of surprise when Ennis grabbed his hand and yanked him down onto the bed.
Several minutes later, they lay panting and spent, at least for now. No matter how much they liked to go slow and savour every second, there was something about a quickie in the middle of the day that set them on fire. It was rushed and heated, full of passion, and was a reminder that even though they were older now, the sight of their naked bodies could still drive each other crazy. Jack knew that Ennis especially liked this reassurance, not being the most confident person about his looks. He was only too happy to show Ennis how attractive he found him.
When they finally made it out of the bedroom, they found that the girls were still out and there was a flurry of activity outside as the hands were starting to raise the marquee. The two of them paused on the back steps as they watched, appreciating how much their hands wanted to help today when they didn't have to. They had all been invited to the wedding, but here they were helping to set it up. Jack checked his watch; it was almost noon.
"Guess I'll make a start on lunch, then," he commented, looking up at Ennis. His cowboy nodded and they exchanged a quick kiss before he went back inside. Ennis then went down the steps to help the hands.
While Jack was preparing lunch, the phone rang. He stopped what he was doing and turned to answer it. None of them noticed the dark rain clouds heading their way.
Jack spent a few minutes on the phone with a potential buyer who was interested in their beef, and by the time he finished Ennis was walking back in, smiling at the sight of him.
"Hey, darlin'," he greeted, walking up behind Jack to kiss his cheek. Jack grinned.
"Hey yourself, cowboy. Everythin' alright out there?"
"Yeah, they're fine. Got the marquee up an' we're about to put the tables an' chairs in. What you makin'?"
"Just doin' some sandwiches, since we're havin' that dinner later. The guy from the restaurant should be arrivin' soon with the food they was holdin' for us. Everythin' seems okay."
"Good." Just as Ennis was looking at Jack's neck, contemplating a quick nibble at it, he heard the front door open and the sound of voices. He prised himself away from Jack and in walked Lily, Rose and Sarah. Their hair was done and they all looked beautiful. Ennis and Jack smiled at them. "You girls look great," Ennis said to them.
Lily smiled and patted her strawberry blonde locks, curled to perfection. "Thanks. I'm gonna go get dressed." Just then, their hands all traipsed inside, looking dejected. Jack frowned.
"What's wrong?" A clap of thunder was heard and they all jumped. "Shit!" Jack peered out of the window and saw the dark clouds descending over them. "What the-" He opened the back door and stepped out onto the porch, Ennis right behind him. Sheets of rain started to fall, no chance of letting up anytime soon. He looked at Ennis helplessly. "What are we gonna do?"
Ennis grabbed their outerwear and passed Jack his coat and hat. "First off, we're gonna get that marquee down before somethin' happens to it." He and Jack rushed down the steps and into the rain, followed by the hands.
Back in the house, Lily had her hands over her mouth, her dream of a perfect spring wedding falling to pieces around her. "What are we gonna do?" she asked, her voice shaky. Rose put an arm around her.
"We'll think of somethin'," she assured her granddaughter. There was a knock at the front door and Sarah went to answer it, seeing Ben standing there.
"Where's Lily? I know it's bad luck to see her, but..."
"She's right through here." Ben came into the kitchen and put a hand on Lily's back.
"Honey?" Lily turned and folded herself into his arms, terrified of what was going to happen to their big day.
Several minutes later, Ennis and Jack came back in with the hands, completely drenched, holding the marquee between them. It was a little beaten but not broken. But the rain lashed down continuously, and Lily was losing hope. Jack looked at Ennis; both of them were heartbroken for her. She had been looking forward to this day for so long, and now it was in tatters.
"Don't worry, Lily," Jack said to her. "This is yer weddin' day, an' we'll do whatever we can to make it happen, alright?" Lily sniffed and nodded, and Ben took her through to the living room. The hands sat around the table with Rose and Lily, leaving Ennis and Jack by the countertops.
"What are we gonna do?" Jack asked, looking at Ennis for help. Ennis shook his head and put his arms around Jack.
"I dunno, bud. I really don't."
In the living room, Ben was holding Lily and stroking her hair. He considered suggesting that they postpone the wedding until another day, but it looked as if the weather might be like this for a while. A silence ran throughout the house as they listened to the heavens opening around them.
At half past twelve, the rain still hadn't let up. The back lawn was in no shape for a wedding and nobody knew what to do. A few of their guests that were staying at the hotel had called, wondering what was going to happen. Jack, who was in charge of answering the phone, simply told them that he didn't know, but would call as soon as something was decided. If it turned out that they had to postpone the wedding, this would mean wasted money and travelling time for their guests, and he knew that many of them had work to get back to.
When he wasn't answering frantic phone calls, he was sat next to Ennis at the kitchen island, elbow propping up his head. Ennis's hand was rubbing along his thigh in support and comfort, and he appreciated the gesture.
In the living room, Lily and Ben were still on the sofa, talking softly. Lily was just resigning herself to the fact that they might have to put off their wedding when there was a knock at the door. She got up and opened it, her face filling with surprise. Her father and half-brothers were standing there, soaking.
She stood back to let them in. "What are you guys doin' here?"
"Well...we was talkin' an' we realised that with the rain an' all...that you might be feelin' down. So we just..." Jay cleared his throat. "We just...wanted to be here for ya."
Lily's lip trembled, and what happened next shocked everybody in the room, including Ennis and Jack who had just walked through from the kitchen. She flung her arms around Jay's neck and started shaking, sobbing a little into his shoulder. He froze for a moment, and then wrapped his arms around her, hugging her back. For the first time since he'd met her, he truly felt like he was her father. He soon found his feet with this new development, rubbing her back and making shushing noises to calm her down. "It's okay, it's okay..."
Jack exhaled. "Well, didn't see that one comin'," he commented. "Guess bad weather's good for some things, huh?" Ennis slung an arm around his shoulders and nodded.
"Guess so, bud."
When Lily eventually broke away and pulled out her handkerchief, she sniffed. "Sorry," she mumbled. "Good thing I ain't got my makeup on yet, huh?"
Jay ran a hand along her arm, smiling a little. "Yeah. What about yer hair, though? Got kinda squashed there."
"I've got some hairspray with me," Sarah replied from the kitchen doorway. "That'll sort it out."
Lily wiped her eyes and sniffed a few more times before clearing her throat. She met her father's eyes. "Thank you...for bein' here." He nodded and she turned to embrace her half-brothers, albeit a bit more happily. She then led them into the kitchen so they could get drinks. Everybody was still half-heartedly picking at the sandwiches Jack had made earlier.
At quarter to one, everybody was restless, and finally starting to accept that the wedding wasn't likely to happen. Jay was peering out of the kitchen window, clearly thinking. Now they were all in the room, talking and waiting for someone to make a final decision.
As Jack was about to speak, Jay turned to face them all. "Guys?" he asked, looking at Ennis and Jack. "How long would it take you to clean out that barn of yours?"
Puzzled by the question, Jack exchanged a glance with his partner before asking. "About half an hour, why?"
He shrugged. "I know it ain't exactly romantic, but...why not just have the weddin' in there? It's big enough, I reckon. An' it's dry, right? Beats the hell outta puttin' it off an' makin' things worse than they are."
Lily's heart soared and she choked back a sob. She couldn't believe what she was hearing, and knew that she'd done the right thing in inviting him here. She looked at Ennis and Jack. "Can you do it?" she asked. They looked at each other again. If they roped in the hands, it wouldn't take them long to clear everything up, putting the hay in the stables or even in one of the side rooms. The barn was indeed big enough for both the ceremony and the reception. It wasn't impossible.
Jack smiled. "Guess we might be able to make it work. It's worth a try. Sure you don't mind gettin' married in a drafty old barn?"
She shook her head. "I grew up 'round all of this. Sure don't bother me. Ben?"
He took her hand and kissed it. "We could be left with nothin' but an old shack that's fallin' down, an' I'd still wanna marry you."
They all looked around at each other. "Guess we'd better get a move on, then," said Ennis, clapping Jack on the shoulder and standing up. The men all started to get their coats and boots back on, Jay included.
Just as they were about to leave, Lily turned from where she'd been leaving the kitchen to go upstairs, and looked directly at Jay. "Dad?" she said shakily, testing the new word on her tongue.
Once again, everybody froze, and Jay looked up at her, wide-eyed. "Uh...yeah?"
She smiled; the first true, genuine smile she had ever directed his way. It lit up her face and made him smile too. "Thank you. I'm...I'm real happy that yer here."
He nodded slowly, glad that he had made the effort to get to know his daughter, and that she had welcomed him into her life. The moment when she had called him that word would remain in his memory forever, and he vowed to himself that he would never let her down again. "I'm happy to be here, Lily." She nodded and led the way upstairs with the other women, while the men headed outside to take care of the barn.
Jack held Ennis back until they were alone and kissed him quickly. "What was that for?" Ennis asked with a bemused smile.
"'Cos we did damn good, cowboy," Jack replied, smiling back with love and warmth.
With a little over an hour until the wedding was due to start, there was once more a flurry of activity. Jack was putting down planks of wood between the house and the barn so people could avoid the mud as much as possible, Ennis was helping the hands to clean out the barn and get out the decorations, and Ben was busy calling to let the guests know that the wedding was still on. He called his parents and gave them the room numbers of the other guests so that they could spread the news.
Jack finished with the planks of wood and surveyed his work. They had plenty of spare boots at the ready for when people arrived and wanted to get to the house. The rain was coming down as hard as ever, but their spirits couldn't quite be squashed right now.
He headed into the barn and admired the rate at which preparations were underway. The arbour was up at the far side and the chairs were being put out, while the reception tables and chairs were also being set up. He spied Ennis decorating the wooden beams with the white bows they had bought and walked up to him, tapping him on the shoulder. "Hey."
Ennis turned and smiled at him. "Hey, bud. How's it lookin'?"
"Pretty good. I got the wood in place outside, should be okay. How much have we got to do?"
"Um...not a lot. Everythin's pretty much good to go. We should think 'bout gettin' ready." Jack nodded and led the way outside, back to the house.
They walked along the hallway to their bedroom, seeing that the door to Lily and Ben's room was shut tight. They hadn't seen Lily in full dress and makeup yet, but they knew that she would look beautiful.
In their room, there wasn't a lot of time for them to get up to anything, but they had a quick mutual hand job in the shower before getting dressed in their tuxedos. Jack whispered in Ennis's ear that he would help him out of it later, and this did nothing to help Ennis's arousal.
Their guests were all there by quarter to two, later than they had planned but circumstances had thrown everything off balance. Everybody fussed over Amy's new baby and greetings were exchanged all around. The pastor was there talking to Ben and everybody was soon taking their seats.
Ennis and Jack waited on the back porch for Lily, looking out. The rain had let up a little bit, but not by much, and they had a blanket with them to hold over Lily during the walk over. They talked a little as they waited, expressing their gratitude for Jay's idea and noting that Lily had called him as her father for the first time, which had come as a shock to everybody.
"Oh my God," Jack said suddenly, his voice shaky as he looked back to the kitchen. Lily had emerged from her room with Sarah behind her. She was wearing her dress, cinched in at the waist and billowing at the bottom. Her veil was over her eyes, but they could still see the sparkle in them, and her hair had been repaired by the hairspray. Ennis and Jack looked at her with pride, both of them smiling. "You look beautiful, honey," Jack said to her, squeezing her hand. "You ready?"
She nodded and they opened up the blanket, holding it over her head as they slowly started walking towards the barn. As they neared it, the hand who was keeping watch signalled to the string quartet who started to play the song that Lily had chosen for this part. It was an instrumental of the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere", which she had always loved. As she walked down the aisle with Ennis and Jack by her side, everybody who watched her could agree that she was positively glowing, and Ben thought that in this moment, he was the luckiest man in the world.
Lily's heart was racing but she'd never been as happy as she was now. She barely even registered the rain pounding on the roof right now; there was only this moment. Jack caught Ennis's eye and squeezed his fingers where they were interlaced between them. They left her at the front and Jack lifted her veil, kissing her cheek. Ennis did the same and then they took their seats, side by side.
The pastor smiled. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join Benjamin Slater and Lily Twist in the bonds of holy matrimony..."
As the service progressed, Jack could feel Ennis's thumb running over his hand, and he smiled at him, hoping that one day they could have a legal wedding. But even if they didn't, they knew that what they had was very special, and that it meant the world to them. Lily and Ben recited their vows, promising to love and cherish one another, and Jack remembered their wedding up on Brokeback when he and Ennis had made their promises to each other. It was so many years ago, but he could remember it as though it was yesterday.
"Ben and Lily have recited their vows and exchanged their rings, sealing their bond forever. By the power vested in me by the State of Georgia, I can now happily pronounce them husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride." Ben leaned in and Lily drew him to her, sharing a deep, loving kiss. With everybody's attention distracted, Jack kissed Ennis's cheek and smiled at him before standing up to congratulate the happy couple. He, Ennis and Jay shook Ben's hand and Lily hugged her brothers and Rose. All of their friends from town and beyond gave their congratulations, and the two cowboys surveyed it all with serene smiles on their faces.
"Looks like we did pretty well, darlin'," Ennis said softly, holding onto Jack's hand. "All these people, all friends an' family...she wouldn't have all this if it wasn't for us."
Jack nodded. "Yeah. We did right by her in the end." He smiled at Ennis and kissed him full on the mouth, thinking of nothing but how much he loved this man.
When the ceremony was over and the register had been signed, everybody moved over to the other side of the barn for the reception. The string quartet had left and the regular band was setting up for after the dinner. At the head table, on Lily's left side, sat Jack and Ennis, looking very proud. Rose was on Ennis's other side, with Sarah next to her. Ben's parents and his brother were sat next to him. Jay and her brothers were sat at the table closest to theirs.
After everybody was seated, Jack stood up and clinked a fork against his glass. "Well, folks, reckon there ain't much I can say that you don't already know. But I wanna say...me an' Ennis are real proud of these two young 'uns. Most of you know the story of how we got custody of Lily, an' that it wasn't easy for two young guys like we was to bring up a kid, even with my mama to help." He drew a breath. "But to see Lily like she is today...we're real proud to see the woman she's become. An' we know that we don't gotta worry 'bout her, with her havin' someone like Ben." He raised his glass. "To Lily an' Ben."
Everybody raised their glasses and murmured the same. The next person to speak was Ben's father. He spoke of how proud he was of Ben for making something of his life and finding a grounded young woman like Lily, and he voiced his confidence that their relationship would last.
Ennis then stood up and placed a hand on Jack's shoulder. "Well, Jack said most of what I'm thinkin', but I got somethin' to say. When me an' Jack got together, we knew we wasn't gonna have no kids. An' it wasn't easy for us for choosin' to be together, knowin' that. But 'cos of Lily, we got to find out what it's like to be parents, an' it's somethin' real special." He smiled and raised his glass. "To Lily an' Ben." Everybody copied him, and then Brian and Sarah gave their own tributes.
Ben made his own speech about how happy he was today, and thankful to everybody for pulling through and helping them to make this day happen against the odds.
Lily stood up last, smiling. "Well, there's a couple of things I wanna say. First off, thank you all for bein' here, an' like Ben said, for makin' this possible. I wanna thank Ennis an' Jack for always bein' there for me no matter what. I know that things wasn't always easy, but we made it. It'll be hard for me to leave the ranch once me an' Ben get our own place, but I know I'll always have a home here."
She turned her eyes to her father and brothers. "I wanna thank my father an' my brothers for bein' here, comin' all the way from Texas just 'cos I wanted 'em here. There's been some tough times these last few months, but we're gonna be okay, I reckon. I'm real glad to have 'em in my life." She then raised her eyes to the roof, where there was a skylight looking towards the heavens.
"I also wanna thank my mama for havin' the sense to call Ennis an' Jack when she had nowhere else to go while she was expectin' me. They brought her here an' looked after her, an' me. When she died, they was left to bring me up, an' I wouldn't be the woman I am today if it wasn't for them." She smiled down at them both. "Thank you both, for doin' right by me an' gettin' me here today." She faced the room and held up her glass. "I know this day is for me an' Ben, but it wouldn't have happened if not for Ennis an' Jack. So...I'd like to raise a toast to them. To Ennis an' Jack."
Everybody raised their glasses and copied her, and Jack felt Ennis take his hand under the table, smiling at him.
After dinner, the band started up and Lily and Ben took their first dance together as husband and wife. Ben's parents soon joined them and Jack gave Ennis a look.
"Wanna dance, cowboy?" he asked, smiling. Ennis took a deep breath and nodded. Everybody here was a friend, and accepting of their relationship. He had nothing to be afraid of.
"Sure, darlin'." Jack grabbed his hand and headed to the dance floor. He put on arm around Ennis's back and Ennis put one arm around his waist. Their remaining hands were clasped to Ennis's chest, and they had eyes only for each other. "I love you, rodeo."
Jack smiled and his eyes lit up. "Well, ain't that handy. I love you too, cowboy. That's a good thing, right? Guess I got lucky there." Ennis laughed and pulled Jack closer, the sound warming Jack's heart.
"You're crazy, rodeo. But that's why I love ya."
"I'm crazy for you," Jack replied, smiling further and closing his eyes, melting into his lover's embrace. "Always have been, always will be."
"Right back at you, darlin'," Ennis murmured, resting his head against Jack's. They danced to the slow song being performed by the band. They didn't pay much attention to the words, but simply moved slowly together in a circle, lost in each other.
As Ennis held Jack close and moved with him, he found himself looking back over his life. When he remembered arriving in Signal in 1963, he could never have imagined that he would meet the person who would change his life forever. And yet here they were, nearly twenty-five years later. Through his relationship with Jack, he had learned that the way he thought his life was going had never happened, and in its place there had been something unexpected, but better. He pressed his lips to Jack's hair and sent up a prayer of thanks to whoever had driven Jack into his life that summer day so many years ago.
"That was a real nice weddin'," Jack commented as he and Ennis walked along the hall to their bedroom. It was late evening and everything was cleaned up from the reception. Their guests were all back at the hotel, and they knew that Lily and Ben were occupied with their wedding night in their room.
"Sure was," Ennis agreed as he walked behind Jack, hands roaming his partner's back as they entered their room. He could tell that he had Jack's attention. "An' they're gonna have a real nice honeymoon, thanks to her dad."
"Yeah, that was a surprise." Jack took off his jacket and put it on the chair, his eyes drawing to Ennis, as they always did when they were alone in here. Ennis removed his own jacket and put it with Jack's, drawing his lover into his arms. He locked his fingers together in the small of Jack's back and smiled softly down at him. Jack gazed up at him and then his eyes fell shut when Ennis kissed him, sliding his tongue between Jack's teeth and finding his own. Jack's arms came up Ennis's chest to wrap around his neck and he immediately felt himself growing hard. "Mmm..."
They kept kissing but removed their hands to undress each other. When their shirts were unbuttoned, their hands ran over each other's smooth chests, revelling in the hard muscles that they found. There were certain perks to being with another man, and one of them was knowing exactly what to do with each other's bodies, as they had all the same parts. They both knew what they liked, and had found that they had favourites in common when it came to lovemaking.
Ennis gently grasped Jack's shoulders and steered him backwards towards the bed, pushing him down onto it. Their lips finally parted and their eyes met. "I want you," he breathed into Jack's ear. "I wanna be inside ya, darlin'." Jack's eyes closed again as the words washed over him, shivering with anticipation.
"I need ya, cowboy," he murmured, laying back onto the bed and crawling up, seeing Ennis follow him like a moth to a flame. Ennis covered him with his warmth and lay down on top of him, kissing everywhere he could reach without moving. Jack's arms wound around Ennis's neck and he sighed with pleasure.
Ennis grabbed the lube and prepared himself eagerly, face still buried in Jack's neck. "Hurry, Ennis..." Jack whispered. "Ain't gonna last much longer..."
"Hang on, darlin'..." Ennis put the tube back and nudged Jack's legs wider apart, pushing himself in slowly and steadily. Jack's head fell back to the pillow, loving how complete his man was making him feel. When Ennis was fully inside him, he took Jack's hands and laced their fingers together, placing them over Jack's head and gazing down at him. Jack wrapped his legs around Ennis's waist and got himself settled.
"Ready when you are..." Ennis nodded and leaned back down, moving slowly into Jack. Using just his knees to keep himself in place, he thrust as gently yet as surely as he could, wanting to make this last for his lover. Jack kept his eyes closed as Ennis moved inside him, searching for that special place that would make the world melt away until it was just the two of them.
As they moved in slow unison, they found themselves seeing flashes of memories before their eyes; their lives together so far. Meeting, growing close on Brokeback, their nights in the tent, Jack seeing Ennis in the mirror, confessing their love for each other and driving off together...
Ennis thought his heart would burst with how much love he felt for Jack; when he held him close, like now, he never wanted to let him go for how right it felt. He knew that there were people who frowned upon a relationship like theirs, saying it was wrong. But if what he and Jack shared was wrong, then maybe he didn't really know what right was anymore. And he'd long since decided that he didn't care; all he knew was that he loved Jack more than his own life, and he held onto that with both hands, knowing that Jack felt exactly the same.
Jack tried to pull Ennis in deeper, wanting to feel all of him. If it were possible, he would pull Ennis completely inside of himself so that they could never be parted. He felt so safe and loved when Ennis was with him, even if they weren't touching, but always more so when they were. His strong, dependable cowboy that he knew would do anything for him. He loved Ennis with all of his heart and always had, in spite of any and all obstacles that they had faced so far or might face in the future. Regardless of what lay ahead for them, Jack knew one thing; that he would always love Ennis. That could never be broken.
They climaxed together and Ennis sank down onto Jack's body, sighing as he slipped out and relaxed. "I love you, Jack Twist." His voice was soft and light, and Jack could sense everything that Ennis was feeling. He smiled and kissed Ennis's lips gently.
"I love you too, Ennis Del Mar. Now an' forever." He nuzzled their noses together and pulled Ennis's head back to his shoulder, holding him close. They lay there like that for the remainder of the night, occasionally kissing or caressing each other. Both of them felt like the luckiest person in the world for having found someone who made them feel like this. As time had gone on, they had come to believe that they were meant to have ended up together, as if it was written in the stars ever since before they were even born.
And it had all happened because of a simple glance in a rear-view mirror, at a lone figure on a dusty, silent road. Love had caused that glance, and love had kept two souls together for a lifetime, finding a way for them to merge into one forever.