Chapter 7

That night, they decided to do some relaxing after the excitement of the rodeo. Rose went back to the hotel and Ben wanted to take Lily out to dinner, so that left Ennis and Jack on their own. Jack suggested that they go for a couple of drinks, and they settled at the bar, ordering whiskey and eating bar nuts. They were happiest when it was just the two of them, as much as they loved the others. It reminded them of Brokeback when they were alone and free to do whatever they wanted.

They sat there side by side, drinking the whiskey and talking about the day. They had enjoyed themselves and were very proud of Lily for what she had accomplished. Jack was especially proud of her, given that her mother had been such a great barrel racer, and he himself was a retired bull rider.

"So do you reckon she'll be happy now?" he asked Ennis, looking over at him. "I know she's been feelin' frustrated at not knowin' her mama, so...maybe this is what she needed."

"Yeah, maybe," Ennis agreed, his leg bumping into Jack's. It was a small gesture, but still appreciated. "She might feel closer to her now. I know she's been wantin' to have somethin' in common with her."

Jack nodded. "I know." Just then, someone approached the bar at the other end, requesting a beer. Jack half-recognised the voice, and he looked over. His eyes widened and his heart rate increased. Shit.

Ennis looked at him and saw how worked up he was. "Bud, you okay? You don't look so good." He glanced around and leaned in a little closer. "Jack, what's wrong?"

His partner looked helplessly at him, not knowing how to handle this. "You see that guy over there?" Ennis looked and nodded, wondering if he was one of the guys that had beaten Jack up last time they were here. He didn't recognise him, but at the time neither they nor Becky had paid much attention to his attackers; only to the state they had put him in.

"He ain't one of those guys that beat you up, is he?"

Jack shook his head and bit his lip. "No, he ain't. won't like this.'s Joel Smith." He looked terrified of what Ennis's reaction might be. "Please don't get mad, Ennis..."

Ennis just sighed. He knew in his heart that he didn't have anything to worry about; Jack loved him and they had been together for so long. He knew and trusted that Jack wouldn't mess around behind his back, not after everything they'd been through. "Jack...I ain't gettin' mad. Don't matter, bud. We've been together so long..." Jack nodded, thoroughly relieved.

"Right. I ain't thinkin' of doin' nothin', you know that. Just threw me for a loop, that's all. Never expected him to be here; surprised I even recognised him, to be honest." Ennis clapped a hand to his shoulder.

"Don't worry about it, Jack. All water under the bridge now. You worried he'll recognise you an' come over?"

Jack shrugged. "Dunno. Hopin' he won't, but...don't think there's anythin' I could say. It was one time, one night. He left the day after, an' I never saw him again. I'm just glad that things worked out different with you, cowboy. That we ended up where we are. Do you...think I should go an' apologise to him, for what I did?"

Ennis looked at him. "You didn't force him, did you?" he asked, trying to keep his voice even. Jack's eyes widened.

"Hell no!" he whispered. "I'd never do anythin' like that. He made it clear that he wanted it; I wouldn't have done it otherwise. was a mistake, can't deny that. You think he wants an apology?"

Ennis shook his head. "Don't think so, Jack. He's probably spent the last twenty-odd years tryin' to forget it an' deny it happened. If you go bringin' it up, it might make the whole thing worse." He looked over at Joel again. "I don't want you feelin' disappointed if he won't accept your apology. An' I really don't want him gettin' pissed an' settin' his friends on you. We don't need that right now. Wanna get us all home in one piece."

Jack nodded and concentrated on his whiskey, trailing his finger around the rim. "Thanks, Ennis. Dunno where I'd be without you..."

"Don't think about it, Jack. That ain't what happened, so there's no point dwellin' on it. We're together, an' we've had a damn good life over twenty years. I'd say that all the stuff from before we met, an' when we was just startin' out, don't matter none. It's all in the past now." He bumped Jack with his shoulder and was rewarded with a slight smile. He then thought for a moment, realising that Jack might be better off out of here. "Come on, let's finish these an' get outta here. I think we'd better go an' be alone."

Jack smiled gratefully at him and they drained their glasses. When they turned to leave, Jack thought he saw Joel looking at him, but when he looked back it was gone. Joel's eyes were now on his bottle. Jack shook his head and followed Ennis out, leaving the past where it belonged.

Back in their hotel room, Ennis led Jack into the bathroom and turned on the Jacuzzi, hoping to make Jack feel relaxed. "Come on, darlin'. Take yer clothes off an' get in." Jack nodded and stripped off, sinking into the tub and stretching. Ennis slid in behind him and started rubbing his back. Within a few moments Jack was making a contended purring noise.

"That feels real good, cowboy..." Ennis kissed the back of his neck and carried on with his massage.

"Good. Just relax..." They sat there for what felt like hours until their fingers started wrinkling up. Ennis towelled them both off and then led Jack to the bed, turning him on his side and spooning up around him. He rubbed Jack's stomach until he fell asleep, and then closed his eyes.

The next day, they set off for home. Lily was sad to leave the place where her mother had grown up, but she was eager to get home and continue with the wedding plans. As the date drew nearer, she and Ben became more excited about the big day. She felt more relaxed about it now, and since her barrel racing victory she felt somewhat closer to her mother than she had before. Hopefully now she could find peace and move on.

They all piled back into the rental car with their luggage, looking forward to getting home. Jack had suggested to Ennis that they repeat their encounter from the flight out, and Ennis had shyly agreed to it, provided that he was feeling alright once they were up in the air.

It was a case of waiting around for another few hours and trying to distract themselves, and Ennis and Jack read a paper together while they waited. At last, it was time to get to the gate and board the plane. They put their on-flight bags into the overhead luggage rack and got into their seats, Jack glancing at Ennis.

"You gonna be okay?" he asked, noticing that he was looking nervous. "Maybe you shoulda took somethin'..." Ennis shook his head.

"I don't do so good with pills, Jack. You know that. Just...need to sit a while." Jack nodded and took his hand, ready to defend them if someone should say something. Ennis needed his support and he didn't care what people thought.

When take-off started, Ennis screwed his eyes shut and held Jack's hand tighter, searching for his other. Jack brought his free hand over and held onto him, hoping to make him feel better. He would only suggest a rendezvous in the bathroom if Ennis was feeling up to it, and at the moment it was out of the question. All he cared about was getting Ennis to relax.

Once they were finally up in the air, Ennis started relaxing and was able to remove his seat belt. He smiled gratefully at Jack and released his hands. Jack's fingers were a little crushed but he didn't care. "You okay now?" he asked softly, and Ennis nodded.

"Yeah, much better. Thanks, darlin'." He looked around. "Ain't up to, uh...goin' to the bathroom yet, but...maybe in a bit. Need to calm down a bit first, you know?"

Jack nodded. "Sure, no problem. Don't worry about it." He sat back and looked out of the window, fascinated by the vast expanse of sky around them. He had always grown up wanting to explore and know things, and he had seen a lot over his years with Ennis. He hoped that one day they could see other countries, but he was happy with what he had right now. He and Ennis had had a wonderful life together and were still very much in love.

About halfway through the flight, Ennis looked over at Jack. He was over his initial nerves and was now looking for some action with his partner. He nudged Jack with his shoulder, and when Jack looked up he jerked his head towards the toilets. Jack grinned and nodded. Ennis slipped out of his seat and into the toilets, waiting for his lover to join him.

After a few minutes, Jack knocked on the door and Ennis let him in, smiling nervously. Jack squeezed into the stall and pushed himself up against Ennis, already getting hard. "Hey there, cowboy. You lonely in here? Let's see if I can do somethin' about that..."

He pushed Ennis against the wall and kissed him, immediately finding his lover's tongue and sliding it against his own. "Mmm..." Ennis's hands came around Jack's waist and pulled their hips together, feeling the need for Jack burning inside him. They fumbled with their jeans and Jack turned to face the wall, hands bracing himself. Ennis was about to spit into his hand, but Jack produced a tiny bottle of lube from his pocket. "I always come prepared, cowboy."

Ennis kissed the back of his neck and coated himself, hoping to make Jack feel good. He put the bottle into his own pocket and started to push in, taking it slowly. Jack bit his lip to stop himself from moaning aloud. Ennis thrust into him, making short yet deep movements into him. He hit Jack's prostate and Jack trembled. "Ennis...feels so good..." He moved his hand back and grabbed Ennis's, bringing it around his waist to hold him tightly. They moved quickly together and Jack leaned his head against Ennis's shoulder so that they could kiss. With a few more hard thrusts, Ennis released into Jack and heard Jack groan as he shot against the wall. Ennis collapsed against Jack's back and breathed heavily.

"You okay, darlin'? Didn't hurt you, did I?" he asked softly, and Jack shook his head. He was touched by the fact that Ennis was so concerned about his wellbeing after sex, making sure that he was alright.

"No, I'm fine. Are you okay now?"

"Mmm, sure am." They stood there for a while and then cleaned themselves up, including the wall where Jack had shot. They slipped out as surreptitiously as they could and returned to their seats. Jack caught Lily's eye and she smirked at him.

Back in their seats, Jack looked at Ennis and took his hand again. "Sure enjoyed our little adventure in there, Ennis. Can't wait to get back home, though. In our own bed an' all..." He smiled. "I enjoyed bein' out here, but...I really miss our place."

Ennis nodded. "Me too, darlin'. Don't miss the work, but...miss our friends, an' just..." He swallowed. "Miss sharin' all of it with you. It's our place, Jack...yours an' mine, that we built up together." Jack smiled at him.

"Yeah, bud. I miss that too." With a quick glance around, he kissed Ennis's cheek and sat back, just looking at him. They spent the remainder of the flight gazing at each other and holding hands.

A couple of days later, Ennis and Jack were in the office, still catching up on everything that had happened since their departure. Jack had the recent financial information in a book in front of him and was typing it into the computer as they talked, while Ennis was looking over a report from Dave; a few years ago they had encouraged him to keep a record on everything that happened whenever they spent time away, and it had been a good idea. It had been especially useful when calving had started during a business trip to Atlanta a while ago, as they could see which heifers had given birth and how the babies were doing.

"Looks like we're up to speed, cowboy," Jack said as he finished with the books. "All caught up now."

Ennis nodded and put the report down. "Yep. So...we got any work to do today or you wanna do somethin' different?"

Jack looked at him and considered. "You wanna go for a ride? We ain't really spent time with the horses since we got back." Ennis nodded and they got up, heading for the stables with a thumb in each other's belt loops.

They reached the stables and headed for Signal and Lightning, their oldest horses. They weren't in any shape for racing anymore, but could still be ridden well enough. Jack bent down to scratch the ears of a black and white barn cat that had appeared and it started purring at him.

"Aww, ain't it cute? Never seen this one before..." Ennis waited for him, shooting affectionate looks at him for how gentle he was. He didn't think he was as good at showing that side of himself, but Jack was always telling him that he was. He tried not to think about his own insecurities; he made Jack happy, and that was all that mattered.

"Male or female?" he asked, and Jack looked.

"Male. I heard somewhere that these ones are real good at catchin' mice. I'm happy to let him stick around, cowboy." Ennis nodded and they carried on to the horses, feeling peaceful near them. Both of them loved their horses, as they had had them for as long as they had been here. Jack especially loved Signal's name, as it was a reminder of where he and Ennis had met. That day by Aguirre's trailer had altered their lives forever, and nothing had ever been the same again. Every day, he was thankful that things had worked out for them, and that they were here together. He tried not to think about what could have been, for he knew that it would only cause him pain. Instead, he tried to focus on the fact that everything had worked out for the best.

They saddled up the horses and headed out across the land. They knew that Ben was helping the hands with ranch work, and that Rose was in the house, but they weren't sure where Lily was. Jack had noticed that Firefly wasn't in her stall, so he figured that Lily was out riding somewhere. He had a suspicion that she might have gone to visit her mother's grave, so he knew they couldn't head that way themselves.

The pair of them looked over the fields, eyes sweeping over the heifers and their babies to make sure that nothing was out of the ordinary. They could see Lily in the distance, indeed by the willow tree, so they carried on, heading for their hill. When they reached the base of the hill, they tied the horses to a tree and walked up, hand in hand. At the top of the hill, Ennis stood behind Jack and pulled him close, in an echo of their dozy embrace by the fire up on Brokeback. He did this now and then, just because he wanted to. Jack smiled and relaxed into the embrace, placing his own arms over Ennis's and leaning his head back to Ennis's shoulder. He felt Ennis kiss his temple and sighed. Nothing in his life felt as good as when Ennis was holding him close like this, protective and loving.

"This is real nice, cowboy...just the two of us."

"Mmm, sure is. You know I like bein' with yer mama an' Lily, an' even Ben too, but...sometimes it's better when it's just us."

"I know what you mean, Ennis. This is how it all started, after all...just you an' me, an' no-one else. I think...I think that was important. Like...we could find out all this stuff about each other an' fall in love without nobody distractin' us. Maybe we didn't work it all out by the time we had to leave, but...I think we worked out enough to know that we didn't wanna leave each other. You really surprised me, Ennis...gettin' me to stay, apologisin' for the punch, sleepin' with me...face to face, too. An' then tellin' me that you love me...gotta say, I never expected any of that..."

Ennis rubbed his stomach. "I know you didn't, darlin'. Surprised myself, to be honest...all through that summer, I knew I was in love with ya, even though I didn't wanna admit it. But...when I got ya to stay, an' saw what I was gonna lose by lettin' you go...I knew I had to do somethin'."

Jack squeezed his arms and nuzzled Ennis's cheek. "You did the right thing, baby. Sure am glad I saw you in the mirror that day. An' look at all what we've got here...I'd say it was well worth those few hours when we didn't know what to do; whether to go or stay together. This is worth all that bad stuff."

"Sure is. Come on; let's go lie down for a bit." They disentangled themselves and spread their jackets out; side by side into one. When they were lying down, Ennis put an arm around Jack and closed his eyes, feeling utterly content. They didn't talk or kiss; just stayed where they were in silence, thinking. They were at their happiest when they were alone together, and at this moment, all was right with the world.

A couple of days later, Ben and Lily were at the dining room table, going through a list of their family members and deciding who to invite to the wedding. They also had a list of Ennis's family with them.

"What are we doin' about Joe an' Maria?" Lily asked, her pen hovering over their names. Ben looked at her.

"It's up to you, honey. They brought yer mama up, right?" he asked, looking at her.

"Yeah, but...I don't really know 'em. I've seen pictures of them that Grandma showed me, but...I've never even met 'em. An' remember, Joe kicked my mama out when she got pregnant with me. God knows where I'd be if it hadn't been for Ennis an' mama would...still be dead, an' I probably would've grown up in an orphanage or somethin'. I was illegitimate."

Ben nodded. "I know. What do you wanna do?"

Lily thought for a moment. "Well...they did come for her funeral. An' they've been civil to Ennis an' Jack, I guess." She nodded and put a tick next to their names. "I guess I can at least invite them, even if Joe don't wanna come." This settled, they moved through the list. Lily and Jack didn't have any relatives that they were in regular touch with, so they moved over to Ben's family. His parents were most welcome, and he already had his brother listed as his best man anyway. He knew that a couple of his cousins were homophobic, so they wouldn't be invited.

This done, Lily extracted a list of their friends from town that were likely to come. The older ones were Ennis and Jack's friends from when they were just starting out here, and Lily had grown up with their children, so that boosted the numbers considerably. They were sure to check Ennis's brother and sister, as well as their children and families. They decided to invite Amy and her husband, just in case she gave birth early and was able to make the journey. They also checked Pete Richards, the widowed partner of Adam Wilson. He had been to the ranch a number of times over the years and was a good friend of Ennis and Jack's.

" total we've got fifty people, includin' the hands an' their families, people from town an' so that enough?"

Ben nodded. "Yeah, probably. We're just havin' it here, after all. Besides, it'll be with people we know an' love. Better than fillin' a church with people that we don't know, or even worse don't accept Ennis an' Jack." He smiled at her. "We still gettin' the marquee? An' we need to get a decorator. Somethin' tells me Ennis an' Jack ain't that kind of gay people."

Lily grinned. "No, they ain't. What about your brother an' his partner?" Ben shook his head.

"Not really. Shame we don't know any gay people like that; they're said to be really good at what they do. Still, I reckon that if we pull together, we'll do a good job. We've got yer Grandma, Kate, a few women in town that we know. Hell, we could recruit the wives of the hands if we wanted to."

"Yeah, I guess. Anyway, are we done here? Have we got the list?"

Ben nodded, looking over the various lists of people and seeing which ones they had checked. "Yeah, looks like it. I reckon we should clear it with Ennis an' Jack before we start writin' the invitations; it's their place, after all. They're the ones who'll have to clean up after everyone."

"Right. Where are they, anyway?" Lily smirked.

"They're out on their hill again; I saw 'em ridin' off a little while ago." They exchanged a grin and shook their heads. "Anyway, let's just leave these aside 'til they come back an' make lunch today. I think they'll appreciate that."

Ben pulled her close and kissed her. "I'm sure they appreciate havin' a niece like you, honey. They're real lucky to have you, an' I'm proud to know you."

As they were preparing the chicken salad for lunch, they heard two sets of boots on the back steps. Ennis and Jack came in, talking and laughing together. Jack had his arm around Ennis's shoulders and Lily caught the look of pure adoration on his face; it was the kind of look that Ben had directed at her numerous times. "Hey, guys. We're just doin' lunch."

Jack reluctantly took his arm back and nodded. "Great. Where's your Grandma?"

"The livin' room, I think. We've done with the guest list, an' we wanna talk it over with you both." They nodded and soon all five of them were sat around the table eating. Lily read out the names of the people they had put a check next to and Ennis and Jack were nodding their approval. They were surprised that she wanted to invite Joe and Maria, but it was her decision and they respected that.

"Seems okay. We can handle that many, no problem. You gonna get that marquee?"

"We wanted to, but...where would we get one from?" she asked, looking puzzled.

"I'm sure there's a place in town. If not, we'll go up to Atlanta. They have those party stores or whatever up there. Don't worry, we'll find one."

"Would we get one big enough for the weddin' an' the dinner too? Or should we have the reception somewhere else?" she asked, biting her lip.

Jack thought for a moment. "I reckon it'll fit. I told you, don't worry. We'll get it all sorted. Come on now, eat yer lunch an' quit worryin'."

She smiled at him gratefully, thankful that he and Ennis were willing to step up and take care of things like this. Despite not having a mother or a father, she felt incredibly lucky to have this. She had always been able to rely on them, and now they were giving her a good send-off into married life. She didn't need anything else.

That night, Ennis and Jack were getting into bed after showering together. They slid in under the cool sheets and sighed in unison. This was one of their favourite times of day, as it always meant they were about to do something before going to sleep. Both of them were full of anticipation every time they did this.

They lay down on their backs and got comfortable. Jack turned his head to look at Ennis; he was looking relaxed and content. He raised his hand and ran the back of it over Ennis's chest, looking over his body with appreciation. Despite being a lot older now in comparison to when they'd met, Ennis still had the kind of body that drove him crazy with lust. He knew that a lot of their strength as a couple came from their love for one another, but sex was just as important to keep their fire burning.

Ennis looked at him, lacing their fingers together on his chest. "You up to somethin' there, rodeo? You want somethin'?" He had a twinkle in his eye and Jack was struck by the look of love being directed his way. Over the years, Ennis had gotten better at talking about his deepest feelings, but what he felt for Jack had always been right there in his eyes.

"Maybe..." he replied, turning onto his side and shifting closer. He kissed Ennis's neck and started moving up to his jaw, pressing soft kisses along his skin. Ennis's hand freed itself from his and moved to his back, slowly running along his muscles and further down. Jack felt Ennis's hand squeezing his ass and grinned against Ennis's face. "Now who's startin' somethin'?" he murmured. "You wanna piece of that, cowboy?" Ennis thought for a moment, and then shook his head.

"Not yet. Want somethin' else first. Get on yer back..." Jack looked at him, and then did as he was asked. Ennis crawled on top of him and ran his tongue along his neck. Jack let out a low moan.

"God, Ennis...that's one hell of a tongue you've got there..." Ennis smiled to himself and moved further south, licking and nuzzling at Jack's chest and practically worshipping every part of him. Jack was in heaven and never wanted it to end. Ennis could feel Jack's erection brushing against him, but deliberately ignored it because he knew it drove Jack crazy. "Ennis, come on...suck me..."

Needing no further encouragement, Ennis settled between Jack's legs and pushed them up so that his feet were flat on the bed and his knees were bent. His mouth wrapped around Jack's length, licking at the end of it and flicking his tongue out. Jack bucked on the bed and gripped the headboard. "Oh, fuck..." Ennis took Jack in all the way and gave him what he wanted, sucking like he would at a straw and pushing Jack's ass upwards with his hands. Cracking one eye open, he could see Jack breathing heavily and sweating, eyes closed. He brought one hand to himself and stroked himself off in rhythm to his sucks, hoping that they would get there together. It always felt incredible when they reached the peak at the same time.

He did his best to make Jack feel good, and was soon rewarded by Jack shooting at the back of his throat, panting and groaning. Ennis took it all and soon released onto the bed between his legs. He let go of Jack and heard him sigh.

"Damn, cowboy. That was somethin''ve always been good at givin' me head..." Ennis looked up at him and crawled back up, lying on Jack's chest.

"I learnt from the master," he murmured, settling his hips against Jack's and straddling him. Jack grinned and opened his eyes.

"That so?" He kissed the top of Ennis's head, the only part he could reach without moving. "Hmm..." They lay there for a few moments, and then Ennis could feel Jack growing hard again. Without saying anything, he reared up onto his knees and looked down at Jack, seeing the confirmation in his eyes.

"You wanna go again, rodeo?" he whispered, and Jack nodded, lifting his legs up eagerly.

"Yeah, come on..." He ran his hands up and down Ennis's arms, giving what he hoped was a seductive look. "Fuck me, cowboy..."

Ennis claimed Jack's mouth, sliding their tongues together and burying his fingers in Jack's hair. Jack was breathing into his mouth and the feeling aroused him immensely. He grabbed the lube and slicked himself up before tossing it back. Jack's legs were wrapped around his waist and he started to push in, nudging slightly for an easier angle. Jack attempted to help by lifting his hips as much as he could, and Ennis pushed all the way through at last. Their fingers were laced together between them as Ennis began to rock into Jack, taking it slow and as tender as he could. Jack's eyes had fallen shut and his mouth was slightly open; he looked absolutely perfect to Ennis, like an angel. Ennis leaned in and softly kissed his mouth as they moved together, loving how he could make Jack feel like this. He sometimes doubted his ability to show Jack everything he was feeling, but moments like this showed him that he was doing a good job at showing Jack what he meant to him.

With each thrust, he pushed in deeper and Jack got closer, until he shuddered all over and shot in between them with another groan. A few more thrusts and Ennis was there himself, releasing into Jack and then collapsing onto his chest. Once more, they laid still as they attempted to get their breath back, and Jack pulled Ennis closer.

"I love you," he breathed, eyes shut as he felt sleep taking him in. Ennis pulled out and sank down onto him, losing himself in Jack's warm body.

"I love you too, darlin'. Night..."

Jack smiled as he felt Ennis's warmth surrounding him, protecting him. "Night, cowboy."