Chapter 9

August 10th, 1987

Ennis and Jack were walking along the high street, heading back to the truck after visiting the restaurant. They had enjoyed a quiet lunch together and spoken to the owner. He was very impressed by their products and they appreciated his patronage. They'd had a good deal with him ever since they had started up the ranch, and it was going strong. They had lucked into this place and made it their own. Both of them knew that the strength of their business came from their love for one another; if their relationship ever ran into trouble, it would spell disaster for the ranch. Jack knew that they were very fortunate to still enjoy a healthy romantic and sexual relationship after all their years together.

As they walked, they occasionally bumped shoulders, smiling at each other. Both of them knew that it was good for their relationship that they were best friends as well as lovers. It allowed them to be familiar with each other and joke around. Jack knew in particular that it meant a lot to Ennis to have such a close friend, even before they had become lovers. He could remember the lazy days by the fire on Brokeback, when they had talked about their lives and their childhood. It had built a solid foundation which they had built up and turned into the best thing that ever happened to them.

When they were near the truck, they heard someone say, "Hey, queers!"

They both froze, recognising the voice. They hadn't heard it for over twenty years, and Jack wasn't entirely sure that they were prepared for this. Slowly, they turned around to face their assailant, their eyes meeting briefly. Jack could see a fierce, guarded look in Ennis's eyes and he knew that Ennis wouldn't let anything happen to him. When they turned, they saw the hated face that they had hoped to never see again. It was Pete Dawson.

"Well, been a long time. You two still takin' it up the ass an' bein' indecent?"

Jack folded his arms. "Look, Pete. Just let it go already. It's been way too long an' we ain't got the energy for this. We've been here for over twenty years an' ain't had no trouble since you left. Just get lost."

He nudged Ennis and started to turn back around, but Pete wasn't giving up. "I ain't finished with you yet, queerboy! Come an' face me like a man." Jack whirled around.

"I'm warnin' you, Pete. Leave us alone, or we'll get a restrainin' order. You've got a history of threatenin' us, so it'll be easy. The law's on our side, so don't even bother."

"The law won't do you no good when yer dead," Pete hissed, eyes blazing into Jack's.

This threat to Jack went straight to Ennis's nerve. He wasn't about to let someone like Pete hurt the love of his life. He stepped in between them, protecting Jack. "Get the fuck away from us," he said in his lowest, most dangerous voice. The alpha male in him was rising at this threat to his mate. "You lay one finger on him, yer gonna regret it."

Pete sneered. "Ain't that sweet? Yer boyfriend can't defend himself?"

"Course he can, but we protect each other. Now get lost." Ennis was standing his ground, and Jack was watching warily. Ennis was right; they didn't think of themselves when confronted with danger. They only thought of protecting each other. It made some sort of sense to Jack, given how closely connected they were. He gently laid a hand on Ennis's arm so he wouldn't get too angry. Ennis drew self-control from Jack's touch, and he managed to keep his temper in check. Pete eventually backed down under his steely glare, and he stepped back.

"This ain't over," he muttered darkly, giving Jack a look that sent shivers up both their spines. It was a completely unreadable look, but they didn't like it one bit. Pete drew away and walked off down the street, leaving the two cowboys alone. Jack looked at Ennis.

"Cowboy, you okay?" Ennis turned, his expression softening as he looked at Jack.

"Yeah, just pissed off at him threatenin' you like that. You alright?"

Jack nodded. "I'm fine. Sure didn't like that look he gave me just now...what the hell was that?"

"I dunno, bud. But whatever he's plannin', I ain't gonna let him hurt you. I swear, Jack..."

At this, Jack smiled. His heart was bursting with love for his partner. "I ain't gonna let him hurt you, neither. We've gotta look after each other, Ennis; that's the only way we can be sure of each other stayin' safe. I'm real glad we're together in this...dunno what I'd do if you wasn't here, an' I was goin' through this alone."

Ennis gave a quick glance around the empty street, and put his hands on Jack's shoulders. "You ain't ever gonna be alone, darlin'." They looked into each other's eyes for a long moment, and then Jack nodded. He knew enough about Ennis by now to know that when Ennis said things like this, he truly meant them. He was a man of his word.

"I know, Ennis. Come on, let's get home." They got into the truck and headed back to the ranch, hands entwined on the seat between them. When they got back, they headed straight upstairs and fell onto the bed, lying there and talking for a while before deciding to spend some quality time in bed.

Jack looked up into Ennis's deep, dark eyes as his strong cowboy gently pushed into him, taking him inch by inch. Ennis leaned down into his arms as they became one, eyes locking together as they silently reaffirmed their commitment to one another, and a promise to look after each other. Nothing on earth, not even the tire irons, could keep them apart. Their hearts would always be united as one, no matter what happened.

A week later, Ennis and Jack were setting off for their anniversary trip to California. They had decided to initially fly to San Francisco, and then maybe drive over to the beach while they were there. Both of them were looking forward to spending some time alone.

They hadn't run into Pete Dawson at all over the week, but they had seen him around town. They took extra care to stay away from him, as they were unwilling to have another confrontation with him. If Pete continued to threaten them, Jack wasn't entirely sure that he could keep holding Ennis back. He loved how Ennis was willing to protect him, but he wished that it wasn't needed. He hoped that maybe one day they would live in a world where people like them had nothing to fear.

The pair of them were in their bedroom, packing for their trip. Jack looked slyly at Ennis. "Hey, bud." Ennis looked up to see the look of mischief in Jack's eyes.


Jack grinned and held up a brand new tube of lubricant. "Bought it 'specially for our trip. An' I got a little one in case we wanna join the Mile High Club again." Ennis went a little red and returned to his suitcase.

When they were packed, Jack walked around the bed and slid his arms through Ennis's, locking in the small of his back. Ennis smiled and pulled Jack closer.

"This'll be good for us, Ennis," Jack said softly. "We need a break from here. All that stuff with Pete comin'' Lily's father turnin' up...we need to get away for a bit."

Ennis nodded. "I know. You sure it'll be okay to leave the place for a few days?"

"Yeah, it will. James already knows about Pete; he said he'll keep an eye on things."

"That's good. An' we've got everybody workin' here, so it'll be alright. But what about at night?"

"Don't worry; the guys know what they're doin'." Yesterday, they had called the workers together and' told them what was going on, and that they needed someone to keep an eye on the place at night while they were gone. They had worked out a system where two workers would patrol the land, rotating each night. Each pair would get the next day off to recuperate. Jack figured that if it worked out, they might arrange it as a long-term thing.

Ennis sighed. "I know, bud. Just wish we didn't have to worry so much." Jack moved in closer, resting his head against Ennis's chest.

"I know, baby. I do too, but...there ain't nothin' we can do about it. We've just gotta deal with it. One day at a time, cowboy. Okay?"

"Yeah." After a while, they disentangled themselves and headed downstairs with their luggage. Rose, Lily and Ben were waiting for them and the cab was due to arrive at any minute. They stood and faced the others, reminding them not to go out alone at night and to keep an eye out at all times.

"We know, guys. Just go an' have a good time, okay?" Lily said, smiling and waving her hands at them. "Go on, get outta here." Hugs and kisses were exchanged and then the two cowboys were heading out. They sat in the back of the cab, swapping quick glances that were full of love. They grinned shyly and pushed a foot towards each other; a small piece of physical contact but one that was well received.

The airport was another round of endless waiting, but after a while they were finally called to their gate. Jack was watching Ennis closely for signs of discomfort, but there weren't any yet. He considered asking Rick if there was anything Ennis could take for nerves; maybe he would ask him when they got back.

They got into their seats and Jack caught Ennis's eye. "Are you okay?" His cowboy nodded, but he looked very nervous.

"Yeah, I'll be fine." His hand grabbed Jack's for comfort, and Jack rubbed Ennis's hand with his thumb, trying to keep him calm.

"It's okay, Ennis," he said softly. "No need to panic, remember? They do this every day, an' we ain't goin' across no water or nothin'. We'll be fine." He continued to talk to Ennis in the soothing voice, looking into his eyes and trying to inject some calm into him.

Sure enough, Ennis finally calmed down when they were in the air, and Jack could have his hand back. They got some in-flight snacks and drinks, which seemed to distract Ennis well enough, and Jack kept him talking. He knew that he had to get Ennis to relax while they were up here, and he was determined to do it.

After about half an hour, Jack met his eyes and gave him a hopeful look. "Bathroom?" he murmured, and Ennis's mouth quirked.

"Yeah, reckon so. I'm feelin' better." Jack grinned and got up, boldly planting a quick kiss on Ennis's cheek.

"See ya in there, cowboy," he whispered, his eyes glittering.

Jack waited in the bathroom, anticipation running through him. He had the small bottle of lube in his pocket and he couldn't wait to open it up. After about five minutes, there was a knock on the door and he opened the door to let Ennis in. "Hey, cowboy. You lookin' for somethin'?"

Ennis closed the door behind him and his eyes glittered at Jack. "Yeah, you. Want you, Jack..."

They stared into each other's eyes and Jack gave a lopsided grin. "Come an' get me then, lover." Ennis pushed Jack against the wall and kissed him hard, just the way he liked. Jack moaned into Ennis's mouth, his legs turning to jelly. This strong cowboy knew exactly which buttons to push to render him helpless, and he loved it.

Time melted away as they stood there with their pants around their knees, trying not to make any noise. They were alone together, where they were at their best.

They arrived at the airport and collected their luggage, feeling jet-lagged. Jack had done his best to distract Ennis in the bathroom, and he'd had relative success. Ennis was a fair bit calmer by the end of the flight than he might have been, even though the nerves returned when they were landing. But Jack gently pressed his hand to Ennis's back as they left the plane and walked through the tunnel. It was the comforting touch that Ennis needed.

After collecting their luggage, they walked outside to see the cab Jack had pre-booked for them. Their hotel was one of the most expensive and luxurious, but Jack had reasoned that since it was their wedding anniversary trip, they could afford to splurge a little.

They headed up to their suite and Jack grinned as he looked around. "Damn, this is nice. Gonna have us some fun, cowboy," he said, giving Ennis a mischievous smirk. Ennis went red as the images of what he wanted to do with Jack filled his head. They set their bags down and Jack grabbed Ennis's hand, tugging him towards the bathroom. Both of them stopped in their tracks, and Jack nodded his approval. "I knew it." There was a large Jacuzzi tub, bigger than the one they had at home, and Jack couldn't wait to get Ennis in there.

"Looks great, Jack. Maybe, um...we could get some candles or somethin', you know?"

Jack smiled at him. "Sure, that's kinda romantic. Champagne or wine?" Ennis shrugged.

"Both? Switch over each night?" Jack's eyes lit up.

"So we're gettin' in here every night? Sounds good to me, cowboy." He kissed Ennis's hand. "Whaddaya say we get that flight off us an' go do some explorin'?" Ennis nodded and they busied themselves with the water and towels, rubbing each other's faces dry and kissing at wet spots.

They finally emerged from the room and headed out, wondering what they might find. In the hotel lobby, they found maps of the city and information of things to do and see. Jack suggested that they wander around for the rest of the day, what was left of it, and Ennis agreed. They walked along the many streets, looking in shop windows and marvelling at the tall buildings. They'd seen this sort of thing in Atlanta, but it seemed different here; maybe because they were away from home.

Jack kept his eyes peeled as they walked. He'd heard that the city was known for being gay-friendly, like a lot of cities. He hoped that they would end up seeing other gay couples here, maybe even holding hands. He wondered how Ennis might react to seeing others being open, and a part of him hoped that his partner would be inspired. It might be wishful thinking on his part, but stranger things had happened. Ennis had surprised him more than once over the years by doing things that he'd never thought he would.

They ate dinner together in a small restaurant, and Jack had requested a private booth, if possible. They were given one in the furthest corner of the place, hidden from other diners. Apart from it being less hassle than if they were in full view, Jack figured that it would be more romantic if they were alone. When he saw the peaceful look on Ennis's face as they settled in, Jack knew he'd done the right thing.

"Whaddaya want for dinner, bud? Looks like they got seafood here..." They looked through the menus. "Remember those stuffed clams we had in Florida?"

Ennis nodded. "Yeah, I do. Sure don't get food like that at home...they've got a seafood platter; that looks good."

They decided on sharing the platter once they were told how big it was and how much food it contained, and they both ordered beer. The food was fresh and delicious, the atmosphere was lively but not rowdy, and the company was very much welcome. Ennis felt relaxed because of Jack's presence, distracting him from the possibility of people watching them.

When they finished their meal, they carried on walking outside until they got a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Jack's eyes lit up and he ached to grab Ennis's hand. He wanted to share his wonder with him, and he knew that I was difficult for them to restrain themselves. "Ain't that somethin'?"

"Sure is..." They saw the sign for the park and decided to walk through, enjoying the crisp, evening air. After walking for a little while, they found a bench and sat down. Jack could tell that Ennis was relaxed, and he was happy even though they couldn't show affection out here.

Or so he thought. When they had been sitting there for about thirty seconds, they saw something that made Ennis's eyes widen. A pair of young men, about the age they had been when they'd met, were walking along in the distance. They were holding hands and leaving no observers in any doubt as to their relationship. Jack looked at Ennis, wondering what he might say.

Ennis watched the young men in interest. They had probably only been together for a short while, given their age, and they weren't hiding who they were. He'd never had that luxury with Jack; it was simply too risky back home for them to try that in public. But it had never stopped him from wanting to show everyone how much he loved Jack.

He looked back at Jack, who was watching him closely. "Well...that's somethin' you don't see often."

"I know..." Jack cautiously slid over to him a little, hoping for a kiss, and Ennis didn't pull back. Relieved, Jack put a hand on Ennis's thigh and leaned in. "Let's show those young 'uns how it's done, cowboy."

Ennis's heart was in his throat but Jack's soft lips on his held him in place and reminded him that it was alright. They kissed slowly and deeply, and pretty soon Ennis no longer cared about who might be watching them.

At the ranch, Lily walked into the living room to see her grandmother knitting in her chair. Ben was making a quick trip to Nashville to see his parents while Ennis and Jack were away, so it was just the two of them in the house. Two of the hands were patrolling the land outside; the rota was taped to the fridge so that they knew exactly who was out there.

"Hey, Grandma," she said, sitting down in her own chair and grabbing a magazine. Even though Ennis and Jack hadn't been gone for a full twenty-four hours, she already missed them immensely. It hadn't been easy for her when she was younger, and one of them had dropped her off at day care. It had gotten easier for her to be apart from them as she'd grown up, but it would never be completely easy; she loved them too much.

"Hey, sweetie," she replied, smiling at her. "Are you okay?"

Lily shrugged. "I dunno. Missin' Ennis an' Jack somethin' awful, though. I'm used to them bein' around all the time.

"I know, honey. But it is their anniversary, after all. They deserve to have some time alone, right?"

"Yeah, they are. Don't make it no easier, though." She bit at a hangnail; a habit she'd picked up from Ennis. "There's somethin' else botherin' me, Grandma..."

Rose put her knitting down. "What is it?"

"Well...I can't get my dad out of my head. Can't stop thinkin' about him. I thought I hated him for what he did, but...I ain't so sure I want him out of my life. I'll never forgive him for what he did, an' for what he didn't do, but...I..." She looked up into Rose's eyes. "I don't know if I can just shut him out. I'm curious about who he is...he really seemed like he regretted what he did to my mama, an' I think he really did wanna get to know me. Now I dunno what to do..."

"Honey...what brought this on? I thought you were scared that if you let him in, he'd try an' get money from you, an' that you hated him. You were so set on leavin' him in your past."

"I know..." Lily sighed and turned so that her legs were resting over the arm of the chair, and folded her arms. "I can't stop wonderin' what it might be like to have him in my life." She bit her lip. "Do you think I'm just missin' my mama, an' that's why I'm feelin' like this? Or that I'm missin' Ennis an' Jack an' gettin' mixed up?"

Rose thought for a moment. "I dunno, honey. But there is someone who might know. Anna Richardson, the counsellor at the hospital. She helped Ennis when he came back from Vietnam; she's good at what she does. Maybe you could talk to her about this, an' decide what to do."

Lily considered this for a few moments; it made a lot of sense. "I guess I could...I might talk to Ennis an' Jack when they get back, so they can give me advice. They know her, after all."

"That's right. But try not to worry about it right now, okay? Just put it to one side until they get back."

"I'll try. wanna do somethin' tomorrow? Get out of the house? I was thinkin' we'd go see a movie in town, at that theatre. You wanna do that?"

Rose smiled. "I'd love to, honey. Sounds good. When's Ben comin' back?"

"Day after tomorrow. I miss him too..." They fell into silence, thinking about the people missing from the house and hoping that they were having fun. Just then, the phone rang and Lily picked it up. "Brokeback Ranch, Lily speakin'."

"Hey Lily, it's Ennis's sister Cecilia. Is Ennis or Jack there?"

"No, they're in San Francisco for their anniversary."

"Oh...I know it's their anniversary on the nineteenth, but I didn't realise they'd gone away. Anyway, I just wanted to say that we've received our invitation, an' K.E. an' Sarah did too. Amy got hers, an' she says that dependin' on what's what by then, she might be able to come. She ain't sure yet."

"I know, it's okay. We'll keep three spots open for 'em just in case. How's everyone up there?"

"We're good, thanks. We heard about your rodeo victory, congratulations."

Lily smiled. "Thanks, Cecilia. I wanted to do it for my mama more than anythin', before I settle down an' everythin', you know?"

"I understand. So how long will they be gone?"

"A couple more days, I expect. They left early this mornin'."

"Okay. Just...tell them we all say hi, then. Good to talk to you, Lily."

"You too, Cecilia. I'll tell 'em you called." She hung up and then glanced out of the window; she could see the hands that were on patrol. She opened the doors and looked out. "Hey you everythin' okay?"

"We think so," the one named Jim replied. "But when we was puttin' the horses away an' left the stable, we thought we saw a figure runnin' along the side of the house. We went over there, an' saw them runnin' down the road towards down. No idea who it was."

Lily's brow furrowed. "Alright. I'll let Ennis an' Jack know when they get back. Could you come in an' put it in the report?" They nodded and came up the steps; Lily grabbed the report from the counter and handed it to them. They filed a report of the incident and then headed back out to continue the patrol. Lily went back into the living room to tell Rose what had happened. She agreed that Ennis and Jack should be told as soon as they got back, but told Lily not to worry. When they went to bed that night, both of them felt uneasy about the safety of the ranch and its residents. Ennis and Jack had built this up over twenty-four years, and they hoped that it wouldn't go up in flames.

The next day, Ennis and Jack decided to drive their rental car down to the beach; Jack was determined for them to get tans, and he wanted to see Ennis in a pair of swimming trunks. He would like for them to lie amongst the sand dunes together and give in to their desire for one another, but that wasn't likely to happen. Their sighting of the young gay couple had clearly made Ennis do some thinking, but Jack knew that it would be pushing him too far to suggest that they went at it on the beach, even at night when they were alone.

That said, he hadn't entirely expected that Ennis would ever go along with having sex on the plane, or even in a closet like they had at the hospital on the night of Lily's birth. Ennis had surprised him a number of times by pushing the boundaries and being adventurous with him. His cowboy was no longer shy when it came to lovemaking, and Jack loved it.

He'd heard that sex was supposed to be fun and about a connection between two people. When he was younger, he'd heard that it was supposed to be about procreation, and nothing more. Since he and Ennis weren't about to have any kids, he'd come to see the real reason they had sex; they loved each other and wanted to show their feelings to each other. Jack also knew that as time went on, they had explored new ways of pleasing each other and keeping things alive. It well and truly felt that every time they had sex, they were recharging their batteries until next time.

This thought ran through his head as they neared the parking lot by the beach. He looked across at Ennis; he looked relaxed and interested. Both of them could swim fairly well, having learnt when they were children and been in rivers together many times, and Jack wondered if Ennis might feel self-conscious out here in trunks, where other people were around.

They parked and Jack stretched. "You ready to hit the waves, cowboy? Should be fun."

Ennis nodded. "Yeah, I guess." He was feeling a little unsure of himself, knowing that he would be half-naked in front of people he didn't know, but Jack had reassured him that nobody would care; they were all doing the same anyway. Jack privately thought that he would love to see Ennis in trunks; his cowboy still had a good body, and when Ennis was naked Jack could see every muscle. The sight often drove him crazy with lust, so he hoped he would be able to restrain himself out here.

Walking along the beach, they found a small changing booth and changed into their swimming trunks, one after the other so as not to attract attention. They found a space on the sand and spread out their towels side by side. Ennis was nervous about them applying sunscreen to one another, but he knew that they had no other choice. So he allowed Jack to apply it to him and then returned the favour, boldly trailing a finger down Jack's spine before letting him go. Jack smiled at him and they lay down on their fronts, heads resting on their folded arms. They looked at each other.

"Ain't this good?" Jack asked softly. "We're surrounded by people, but...feels like it's just us."

"I's weird. Good, though. Like it when it's just us."

"Me too. You havin' a good time out here, Ennis?"

Ennis nodded, smiling a little. His face was completely relaxed, showing none of the barriers he usually put up when in public. Even in town back home, when they were walking around, he put up defences when others were near. Jack didn't usually mind; those walls fell down when they were back at the ranch, and Ennis felt free to show him affection again. His partner more than made up for the times when he couldn't show his love. Jack was willing to put up with short bursts of distance and professionalism in public, for he received Ennis's love and devotion every night, making him feel like a million bucks.

After a while, Jack rolled onto his back and stretched. "You wanna go for that swim now?" Ennis nodded and they ran into the waves, laughing like kids and splashing each other. Jack could see that Ennis's eyes were full of life and happiness, and he knew that this had been a good idea. Things hadn't been easy lately, since Pete Dawson had come back to town, so they sorely needed this. They swam around for a little while and then went back to their belongings to relax a little more.

When evening fell and they noticed the majority of people leaving, Jack tentatively leaned over to Ennis, hoping that Ennis wouldn't be too scared. To his relief, Ennis parted his lips and allowed the kiss, bringing his hand to Jack's neck. The only other people left on the beach were a good distance away and probably weren't even aware of their presence, so Jack rolled on top of Ennis and kissed him deeply, sliding their tongues together. He felt Ennis grow hard against him and knew that he was in the same situation. They were a good distance from the car and the need was burning inside them. They had no lube with them, so they simply stripped off their trunks and rubbed together, hoping that it would be enough to tide them over until they got back to the hotel.

Jack shuddered against Ennis as they came and then collapsed onto him. "We better get movin' soon...gotta drive back..."

"Mmm..." Ennis sighed and kissed Jack's ear. "In a minute, rodeo." They lay there for a few minutes, careful not to fall asleep. When they were ready, they gathered up their belongings and headed back to the car, looking forward to getting into a bed again. They were at their best when they were alone together, in a place where they could be who they truly were.