July 30th, 1975
As Ennis and Jack worked outside, trying to avoid John as much as possible, the kids were in the kitchen with Rose, watching her bake and helping her out. They had taken to her immediately, drawn in by her calm nature and the knowledge that Jack thought highly of her. Bobby trusted his father's judgement of other people, and the girls were starting to love him too, so they knew they could trust his mother.
Rose was thrilled at finally meeting her grandson, for he reminded her so much of his father at that age. Bobby was the very image of Jack, and she fondly recalled how Jack was always up to something, whether it be climbing in trees or chasing the chickens. She liked knowing that Bobby was having a good childhood, unlike his father. She'd tried her best to keep him safe and happy, but she knew his father blamed him for the fact they couldn't have more children.
"Grandma?" Bobby asked as he was stirring the cookie mix in the bowl. "This okay?" They were making chocolate chip cookies, and she had a feeling that when Jack found out, he would be all over them. He had always loved her baking.
She went over to him and peered into the bowl, nodding. "That's lookin' real good, Bobby. Keep goin' a little more, okay?" Turning to the girls, who were taking pieces of chocolate and breaking them up, she asked them how they were doing.
"Got a lot here," Jenny replied. She and Junior had been unsure of what to call Rose. Their father and Jack had told them that it was okay to call her Grandma, like Bobby did. They understood that Jack was kind of like their father's husband now, so that would make Rose their Grandma now. But it would take some getting used to.
"Reckon you've got enough now," she told them, nodding. When Bobby had finished, she took the bowl and they added the chocolate chips to the mixture. After some more stirring, she took out her cookie trays and showed them how to spoon the mixture into it. They carefully copied her and the trays were soon ready for the oven. When the cookies were starting to bake, she turned to see them licking the cookie dough from the spoons and she smiled to herself. Jack used to do the same thing when he was their age.
Speaking of which, the man himself appeared in the doorway, accompanied by Ennis. They were holding hands when they came in, discreetly moving apart when they saw they weren't alone. But Rose had seen it, and it warmed her heart to know that her son was finally happy, with the man he'd been in love with for so long. He'd waited for this for twelve years, and while she wished it were under better circumstances, she knew they would be okay. Jack had sworn to her that Ennis was good to him, and that they were taking care of each other.
"What are you guys up to?" Jack asked, looking around. "Hey...is that cookie dough?" Ennis rolled his eyes and Rose smiled.
"Sure is, honey. Just got the cookies in the oven, help yerself to the bowl."
"Don't mind if I do." Jack grabbed a spoon and sat down with the kids, diving in and looking like a kid on Christmas morning. Rose caught the affectionate look that Ennis was casting his way and couldn't keep the smile from her face. She could see that despite the fact they hadn't been properly together for long, it was still so new that they looked like a pair of newlyweds. It was the first time in their lives that they were able to show their love for one another in front of others, and she was happy for them.
"Yer as bad as the kids, Jack," Ennis told him, sitting next to him. Jack grinned.
"Can't help it, I love my mama's cookin'. You want a bit?" Ennis shrugged and Jack handed him the spoon, picking up another for himself. Rose looked at them; her son, his partner and their children. They looked like a happy family, and she was proud of them for being able to do this. She couldn't wait to visit them in their new home one day.
The happy family moment was interrupted by the front door banging shut. Jack almost choked on the dough he was chewing and looked up at the doorway. Ennis caught the look on his face and nudged him gently with his elbow. "It's okay," he mouthed, and Jack nodded. When Ennis had calmed him down yesterday, they had gone to the barn and gone up into the hayloft, away from the rest of the world. Ennis had held him for what felt like an eternity until he was ready to go back out. He had appreciated the love and support offered, and had thanked Ennis last night in the best possible way.
John came into the kitchen and saw how happy they all looked; a happy family moment that didn't include him. Ire rose inside him and he opened his mouth to say something nasty, but then saw the kids. Acknowledging that he couldn't say anything in front of them, he closed his mouth and went to get himself some coffee. Everybody else had fallen silent, even the kids. Their fathers had only told them that he wasn't a nice man to Jack when he was younger, and that was enough. They would only tell the kids the whole truth when they were much older, and even then only if they asked.
"You two gettin' back to work sometime today?" John asked, eyes fixed on Ennis and Jack. There was no mistaking the intense dislike on his face, and Jack only remained calm because of the leg pressed against his in reassurance.
"Yeah, in a second. Just wanted some time with our kids," he replied icily, and John nodded silently. He left the room and Jack sighed, putting down the spoon. The two of them left the room and exited the door, Ennis giving Jack's hand a brief squeeze.
They returned to the barn, where they were tidying it up of hay bales and straw. Both of them liked working together like this; for one thing, it reminded them of working together up on Brokeback, when they were just becoming friends. For another, it gave them a taste of what working on their own ranch would be like. Both of them were looking forward to it.
"Can't believe that," Jack was muttering. "He came in like the fuckin' Grim Reaper, drainin' all the life out of a room. Son of a bitch."
"Ignore him, bud," Ennis told him, wishing that he could take all the pain from Jack. "He ain't worth it."
"I know...I shouldn't let him get to me, but...you heard him yerself. He blames me for bein' his only kid, an' tells me what a disappointment I am. Hate the fucker."
Ennis sighed and put down the hay bale he'd been about to move. He walked up to Jack and turned him around so they were face to face. "Jack...don't think about it. Yer a good man an' he'll never understand how lucky he is to have you for a son."
Jack looked down, knowing that Ennis was right and that he had to let go. "I know. I just...I get so pissed off, an' I dunno how to get rid of it."
"Once we're settled, we don't have to see him ever again. Yer mama can come an' visit us...we don't have to come here no more." He kissed Jack and saw a smile spread across his face.
"Thanks, bud." They kissed again and Jack started to calm down, melting into his lover's embrace. Ennis could always make him feel better about everything, even with just a kiss.
Ennis felt Jack growl in frustration into his mouth and they pulled apart to see John there, looking revolted.
"What do you want?" Jack snapped, determined to stand his ground this time. He kept hold of Ennis by the hand, trying to tell him without words that he needed him. Don't go this time...stay here...can't do this without you.
"Came in to do some work," John replied. "The kind of thing you should be doin' instead of...that."
"For your information, Ennis kissed me to stop me feelin' so pissed off about you," Jack told him, looking equally as hateful. "He loves me an' wouldn't never hurt me, unlike you."
"Bullshit," John replied. "I overheard you sobbin' like a girl to yer mama after Brokeback in '63. That you was in love with this one an' didn't know what you was gonna do. He's already hurt you an' you keep on tellin' yerself he loves you."
Ennis stepped around Jack to face John himself, keeping hold of Jack's hand. "I do love Jack. I know I've hurt him, but at the time I thought I didn't have no choice. I believed it when people said it was wrong, what I feel for him. For a long time, I hurt him 'cos I didn't know what to do. Wasn't brave enough to live with him. When Alma died, I knew that if I didn't do somethin', I could end up losin' him too. So I asked him up here, with Bobby." He felt Jack's free hand on his shoulder, squeezing his thanks for the support. "We're a family."
John snorted. "Some fucked-up family. An' what makes you think he's interested in a family? I know what goes on in rodeos, on the circuit. An' he's queer. He told you about that?"
Jack winced; he and Ennis had barely spoken about that, preferring to leave the past where it belonged. But Ennis didn't seem to care.
"Yeah. he has. An' he told me why he did it. We've been through all that an' we're okay now." John shook his head.
"Guess you really are a queer. Goin' all soft like that. Guess it must be worth it, fuckin' each other in the ass all the time."
"Our sex life ain't none of yer business," Jack told him, trying to restrain himself. If Ennis didn't punch John soon, he would do it himself. "We do it 'cos we love each other."
"Good job you can't have kids," John said coldly. "They'd probably all end up dead before they was born."
Ennis turned around to restrain Jack, who was ready to lunge himself at the old bastard. He kept Jack back, looking directly at him. "Calm down, bud. Don't..." Jack looked at him and he nodded. "It's okay." He turned back to John and stepped forward.
"You can blame Jack for that all you want, but it don't make it his fault. Ain't nobody's fault that Rose suffered like that, just one of them things. You remind me of my own father, an' you know what? I hated the old son of a bitch. I nearly didn't have this with Jack 'cos of what he's done. Yer an old bastard who's just bitter about everythin', an' you had to take it all out on yer own son. He's told me everythin'. About how you beat on him, pissed on him, put him down all the time. We love our kids, an' wouldn't never do that to 'em."
Jack had his forehead pressed to Ennis's shoulder, truly grateful to have this man on his side. I love you, Ennis...love you so much...
Ennis sighed, unsure of what else to say. "You know somethin'? It's a damn miracle that Jack ain't like you. You said you wanted a son that was like you. If he had been, he'd be a cold-hearted son of a bitch like you. Thank God he ain't."
"What the hell gives you the right to talk to me like that?" John demanded, looking furious. Ennis squeezed Jack's hand and brought him around so that they were standing side by side.
"I love him, an' he loves me. That's somethin' you ain't never gonna understand, an' I'd do anythin' for him. You didn't ruin his life like you wanted...he's a good man an' we're gonna be just fine without you."
He walked past John defiantly, Jack in tow. Once they were outside, he took Jack in his arms and kissed him with all the love he could muster.
After Ennis had called John Twist out on his behaviour towards Jack, the rest of the day progressed quite pleasantly. They took the kids riding around the property and got them helping out with basic ranch chores. All the kids were willing to pitch in wherever they could and their fathers thought it was good practice for when they were in their new home.
Dinner was quiet, but not as uncomfortable as it had been. Jack kept shooting glances at Ennis, full of admiration for fighting his corner earlier. He'd really put the old goat in his place and Jack was extremely thankful. He wracked his brains trying to think of a way to thank Ennis for it. Sex was the obvious option, really good sex, but he wanted something different. He wanted to do something special for Ennis, and couldn't think what it might be.
The perfect idea came to him that evening. They were sat in the living room as a family, his father noticeably absent, and he caught sight of Ennis picking at a thread on his shirt. The shirt was very similar to the one he'd worn most times up on Brokeback, and Jack remembered with a jolt where it was. Up in his childhood closet, right at the back and entwined in his own.
Jack remembered when Ennis had changed his shirt and stormed off that day, after the fight. He just couldn't help but swipe it. Now that he and Ennis were together and he no longer had to yearn for him, Jack knew it was time for the truth.
He and Ennis got ready for bed, already looking forward to the night that was to come. Whenever the possibility of making love was present, they couldn't help but feel the anticipation, like electricity running through them. But Jack wanted to wait until he'd shown Ennis the shirts.
In their room, Ennis pulled Jack close again and kissed him, sliding his tongue between Jack's lips. Jack moaned softly but remembered his resolve, and broke away. "Mmm, hang on, bud..."
"What is it?" Ennis asked, concerned that something was wrong. Jack cupped his cheeks.
"Nothin', cowboy. Just...there's somethin' I wanna show you. Wait here." He left the room and Ennis stared after him, wondering what was going on. Clearly, it was very important to Jack that he see whatever this was, so he sat down on the end of the bed.
Jack returned a few moments later, with something behind his back. He looked nervous but determined to do this. "Alright...Ennis, I...you know I love you. Reckon I fell in love durin' our second night. An' I ain't never gonna forget it." He paused. "I just...I want you to know that I wasn't never pissed at you for any of it. Leavin' Brokeback in the first place an' goin' off away from each other...then the last twelve years. I knew why you was scared an' it's okay."
He bit his lip. "Ennis...I dunno if you've ever doubted what I feel for you. An' I bet that hearin' 'bout me an' guys on the circuit didn't help. So I wanna show you...what you mean to me. This is all I can think of to thank you for everythin', an' to show you how much I love you."
With a deep breath, Jack brought out the entwined shirts, holding them in front of Ennis. The other man looked at them curiously, until Jack saw the look of comprehension grow on his face. Ennis stood up and reached out with trembling fingers. He lifted the shirt sleeve, covered in his own blood from that day on the hill. Jack lifted up part of his denim shirt, revealing Ennis's plaid one.
"Jack..." Ennis breathed, unable to believe it. Jack had kept their bloody shirts together, all this time, to remember what they'd had on Brokeback. It felt like a time capsule, up here all this time despite everything else that had happened in their lives. Regardless of all the hardships they'd had, and the pain they had suffered through, these shirts had remained here together.
"Yeah, I took it," Jack admitted quietly. "Put it with my own. I didn't know if I was ever gonna see you again, so...I just took it. Wanted to have somethin' of yours so I could remember."
Ennis felt a lump growing in his throat and he looked up into Jack's eyes; those large doe eyes that had captured his heart so long ago. "Darlin'..." He gently touched Jack's cheek where he had hit him in a moment of pain and confusion; an act that he had immediately regretted and still did. But Jack had still loved him despite it.
"It's okay, Ennis," Jack whispered, touching his shoulder. "It's all in the past now."
"I never wanted to hurt you," Ennis said, sounding miserable at remembering the pain he'd caused Jack, and not just physically. "Never shoulda done that."
"I ain't never hated you for it," Jack told him, pressing his lips to Ennis's softly. "Never, baby."
"Ain't gonna hurt you again," Ennis murmured, leaning his forehead against Jack's. "Never...I'm...gonna try an'...make you happy."
Jack smiled and put his arms around Ennis, clutching the shirts. "You already do, cowboy." Ennis hugged him back and realised what he needed right now. He wanted Jack inside him, to comfort him and let him know that everything was okay. When Jack was the one in control, it felt very different and he wanted to experience it more. He didn't care what Jack's father might think of it; he needed this.
"Want me inside you?" Jack whispered into his ear, understanding what Ennis was trying to say. He felt a nod. "Alright..." He pulled back and they exchanged another kiss before Jack bundled up the shirts and put them in his bag.
"They comin' back with us?" Ennis asked, liking the thought of hanging them up somewhere. Something to point to when thinking about their love for each other.
Jack nodded and took his hand. "Yep. Where they belong."
Ennis gazed up at Jack as he lay on his back, completely blown away by this incredible man. Jack had kept his shirt as a memento of their time together on Brokeback, despite how much Ennis had hurt him. And the fact that Jack had still agreed to live with him in spite of the numerous rejections...all of it made Ennis feel like he didn't deserve this person.
Jack, who was preparing himself with the lube and watching Ennis's face, saw that his cowboy was doing some deep thinking. He knew that Ennis had an unfortunate habit of putting himself down, and he wished that Ennis wouldn't do that. He thought very highly of his partner, and he hoped that one day, Ennis would have more confidence.
"You okay?" he whispered as he leaned down, nuzzling Ennis with his nose. Ennis nodded and shakily spread his legs wider, opening himself up to Jack and the love he offered. He trusted this man with his life and knew it would be taken care of.
"Fine," he breathed, feeling Jack getting into position. With a hand between them, Jack slowly began to push into him, making sure Ennis was comfortable. Ennis was very grateful that Jack was so mindful of his needs and concerns. He let out a shuddering breath when he felt Jack sliding in, and bit his lip. Remembering what Jack had told him about breathing to calm himself down, he started to take deep breaths until the pain had subsided. "Jack..."
"I love you, Ennis," Jack told him softly, hands cupping his cheeks. "Love you with all my heart." Ennis smiled and pulled him further down onto him.
"I love you too, Jack," he replied, wrapping his legs around Jack's waist and locking his ankles together as Jack had taught him. "Come on, darlin'..."
Jack leaned down so that their chests were pressed together and he started to move, resting his head in the crook of Ennis's shoulder. Taking it slowly so as not to hurt Ennis, he tried to find that special place that would make all the pain worthwhile. The effort of doing so was always enjoyable, and he tried to draw out all the pleasure he could for both of them.
"Don't gotta worry 'bout the past, Ennis," he whispered into his lover's ear. "None of it. An' don't blame yerself for nothin'." He pushed in deeper and heard a soft moan. "I'm right here, an' I still love you even with everythin' that's happened. Always gonna love you, baby."
Ennis couldn't form coherent speech right now, but he heard and cherished every word coming from Jack, hearing what he'd longed to all these years. He hadn't lost any part of Jack's love, even with all the hurt, and realised just how lucky he was. Not many people would keep making the effort through eight years and still try no matter how many times they were rejected. But Jack had; he hadn't given up on his dream for them to live together. Ennis swore to himself that he wouldn't make Jack regret it.
He felt Jack change his angle and gasped softly, head falling back to the pillow. Jack kept going as he kissed every part of Ennis he could reach, hips moving steadily forward repeatedly and knees firmly planted as he thrust. He so wanted to show Ennis what he meant to him, and this was the best possible way. When it was just between them, they saw it as the ultimate act of love and every time they did it was special, especially these days.
"God, I love you," Jack choked out, lips on Ennis's neck. Ennis pulled him close and raised his hips in time to take in everything he could; every last inch of Jack that would fit until Jack was buried to the hilt inside him.
Fuck what people like his old man think, Ennis thought defiantly. Fuck them fire an' brimstone types. If this is what bein' queer is...bein' with the man I love, then I'm queer. Fuck my old man. Old bastard's dead an' he can't hurt us. I'd do anythin' to protect Jack, an' the kids too. Gotta protect family, no matter what. He's my home, an' I love him. God, Jack...I love you so much...
He pulled Jack away from his neck and to his lips, kissing him fiercely and leading one of Jack' hands to his crotch. Jack took his cue and started to jerk him off, pushing in further and stroking in time. He wasn't sure what had gotten Ennis's blood up like this, but he wasn't complaining. He wished they could do this forever.
"Oh, fuck," he groaned, feeling himself starting to come. He shot hard into Ennis, unable to stop himself. Ennis shook all over and exploded into Jack's hand, bucking hard and clutching desperately at him.
Jack collapsed onto Ennis and sighed, spent but happy. He pulled out and relaxed where he was, unable to move. Ennis wrapped his arms around Jack lovingly and kissed his temple.
"Pretty damn good, rodeo," he said quietly, feeling his energy waning and sleep creeping up on him.
"Sure was," Jack agreed. "Meant what I said before. Don't go thinkin' on the past. Ain't gonna do us no good. Gotta look to the future now."
"I know, darlin'. An' that's what we're gonna do. Get settled on that ranch...start buildin' up our business. Can't wait..."
"Mmm, me neither," Jack said with a drowsy smile. He lifted his head and lazily puckered his lips. Ennis smiled back and kissed him, both of them moaning softly and enjoying the taste of each other. His head then fell back to the pillow and Jack's dropped to his chest, both of them worn out by what they had just done. They lay there together, Jack splayed out on top of Ennis and completely exhausted, and Ennis with his arms around him and looking contented. They looked like two people who were on top of the world, and who were finally happy after so many years of pain and distress. They looked like they deserved the happiness they had finally found.
The next day was their last in Lightning Flat. All five of them were looking forward to going home, and packing for their move to Colorado. Jack in particular couldn't wait to get away from his father.
Since he'd shown Ennis the shirts, the pair of them felt closer than ever. If Ennis had still been harbouring doubts about how much Jack loved him, they were long gone now. He felt reassured that he was the only one for Jack now, and always had been. He promised himself that he would try to do right by Jack.
Rose noticed this shift in their behaviour. They had been fairly affectionate with each other all week, especially if they thought nobody was looking, but they were even more so now. There seemed to be a sense of permanence around them, like everything would be okay. And while she was very happy for them, she knew she needed to speak to them before they left.
When Ennis and Jack entered the house to check on the kids, she asked them into the living room to talk. They sat down opposite her with their hands entwined and she took a deep breath.
"Well...you two know how happy I am for you. I mean...God knows I only want what's best for my boy, an' if it happens that bein' with a man is what he needs...I can live with it."
"I'm surprised yer takin' this so well, mama," Jack admitted. "Yer a church-goin' woman..."
"True, but I'm a mama too. An' I love you an' want you to be happy." Her expression softened. "I know how miserable you was after Brokeback in '63, an' how much you missed Ennis. Broke my heart to see you like that, Jack. I wondered if you'd ever be happy again."
Ennis felt ashamed of himself for putting Jack through that, and vowed it would never happen again. "Sure am sorry 'bout all that...I never wanted to hurt him."
"I know you didn't, an' it's okay. You just did what you thought you had to, an' I understand that. But Ennis...I don't think you need me to tell you that I ain't happy with how you pushed Jack away so much. Always refusin' to give him more. Hang on," she added, seeing that he was about to apologise again. "It's okay. I know why you did, an' so does Jack. He'd tell me things when he came to visit after yer trips. He was hurt real bad, but tried not to show it. A part of me wanted to go down to Riverton an' tell you off, but I knew it wouldn't solve nothin'. So I just tried to wait it out an' hope you could figure it out yerselves."
"I always wanted this," Ennis told her, squeezing Jack's fingers. "I just didn't think I could..."
"An' now you have it, I sure hope you ain't gonna hurt my boy again," she said to him, looking imploringly at him. He shook his head.
"No way. I ain't never gonna put him through that again. I've already promised him that this time...it's gonna be for good. I love yer son, ma'am, an'...I just wanna make him happy."
Rose smiled, convinced that Ennis was finally ready to make a commitment to Jack, and that he wanted to do it. They were going to be alright. "Well, that's good. An' I reckon yer doin' it already. You two seem a little different than yesterday...did Jack show you the shirts?"
"Mama?" Jack asked in surprise. He hadn't known that she knew about them. "What...?"
She smiled at him. "Not long after you came home in '63, I was on my way upstairs an' saw yer bedroom door was open. You was sat on yer bed, in yer own little world. An' you was holdin' a pair of shirts, lookin' miserable. After what you'd told me about Ennis...didn't take a genius to figure it out."
The two of them looked at each other, both sorry for the bad times they'd been through and hopeful that they would remain happy from now on. Ennis nodded. "Guess not. But...I am gonna try an' make him happy. Gonna...do right by him from now on."
Rose looked content with this promise, and took their free hands in her own. "In that case...you two have my blessin'. I've never seen my boy this happy, an' if you're the one who makes him like this...then I accept who you both are an' what you mean to each other."
Jack felt himself becoming choked up and looked down, feeling happier than he had in a long time. Everything was coming together for them now. "Thanks, mama." Ennis nodded his own thanks, unable to speak.
She let them go and stood up. "Well...I'm gonna check on yer kids. They sure are a treasure to have around." At the doorway, she stopped and turned around. "Jack...don't pay no attention to what yer daddy says. What happened when I gave birth to you...it ain't yer fault. So if he wants to blame you...let him. 'Cos it ain't true an' he just...wanted someone to take it out on. He shouldn't have picked you, but...it's just the way it is. It ain't yer fault, an' yer the only child I was ever meant to have...I'm glad for it. I'm very proud of the man you've grown up to be, an' you oughta be, too."
After she'd left, Jack leaned against Ennis and closed his eyes, feeling drained but happy. His mother's words had done their job; the fact that he was their only child was not his fault, and she was grateful to have him as her son. She was proud of him. "You hear all that?" he asked softly, unable to believe it himself. Ennis smiled and put an arm around him.
"I did, rodeo. An' she's right...yer a good man. Don't matter none about yer dad...you've still got people who love you. Me included." Jack lifted his head and they smiled at each other, ready to move forward to the next stage of their new life together.