Life soon settled down for the Del Mar/Twist family, and they were able to get back to normal. Jason Marcus's trial was set for November, and in the meantime they were able to enjoy Jack and Junior's birthdays. Both were very happy with the presents that Ennis had bought them, even though the circumstances hadn't ended well. Jack had felt guilty about the fact that Ennis had been shopping at the time, but Ennis had told him that it wasn't his fault; Marcus could have attacked him elsewhere.

"I can't believe it," Jack said when he saw the photo of himself on the bull; he remembered the rodeo in question and how much he'd missed Ennis at the time. "I remember this...the year after we met..."

"Yep. When I saw it, thought you might wanna have it," Ennis told him, a shy smile on his face. Jack kissed his cheek, pleased by the thoughtful gift from his partner; the other half of his soul.

"Thanks, cowboy."

Ennis started recovering slowly but surely, and his spirits were kept up by his partner and children. Jack took the three kids trick-or-treating on Halloween and helped them with their costumes. Jenny went as a witch and Junior as a vampire, with Bobby as a ghost.

After the attack, word got out that Ennis and Jack had planned to move away. Their front step was bombarded with people from town, who were shocked by the torrent of abuse aimed at them by Jason Marcus. It turned out that nobody else in town really wanted to hurt them; people were just unsure about them because of prejudices handed down by their parents. They told Ennis and Jack that they didn't want them to go and instead wanted to get to know them.

"Didn't see that comin'," Ennis commented when they'd seen off a couple that had been to ask them to stay. Jack shook his head.

"Me neither. What d'you think?"

"I dunno. We was right, Jack...most of 'em never wanted to hurt us. Maybe...if they got to know us, they'd be more comfortable around us."

"Yeah, maybe," Jack agreed, nodding. "Worth a shot."

Ennis and Jack agreed to at least give it a try, and they were glad that they did. As the months passed, they found themselves making more friends. People could see how normal they were and it helped. Orders for their beef were put in place and life started looking up for them.

In November, they attended Jason Marcus's trial. He was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder and was thus given a minimum of twenty years without parole. When he was released, there would be a restraining order in place to protect both men and the kids. Ennis and Jack were pleased with this result and celebrated that night when they were alone.

"All over with now," Jack breathed into Ennis's ear as they cooled down. "He can't hurt us no more."

"He sure can't, darlin'," Ennis replied, pulling him close and breathing in his scent. "That bastard ain't gettin' nowhere near us."

As time passed, their sex life slowly returned to normal. In early November, Jack found that he was able to enter Ennis without hurting him, and even though it was very slow, it was very welcome because they'd missed each other. A little later, he was able to go down on Ennis while keeping his hips still.

"Oh God, darlin'," Ennis breathed when he was done, staring up at the ceiling. "God...I missed you."

"Me too," Jack replied, crawling back up and collapsing on the bed. "I sure as hell love you, Del Mar." Their hands found each other and squeezed.

In December, they celebrated Bobby's 9th birthday as a family. Jack also let him go down to Texas for a week to see his grandparents, smirking when he saw L.D. and knowing that the old bastard couldn't do anything to him. The threat was still in place and L.D. knew what would happen if he tried to do anything to Jack. Both he and Ennis would do anything to protect themselves.

"I guess people always get what's comin' to 'em," he commented to Ennis when he got back from dropping his son off.

"Reckon so," Ennis replied, squeezing his hand.

One thing that they noticed was how permanent things seemed to be now. Since they had agreed to stay put, it was as if they could truly relax here and put down roots. They were no longer living in fear and ready to fly.

At the end of November, Ennis and Jack left the kids with their neighbours and went up to Wyoming together. They looked in on Jack's mother (while his father was out) and then went up on Brokeback for a week of hunting. They rented a cabin and were very glad that they didn't have to sleep on the ground. Jack especially liked the large bed they found, and they put it to good use.

"A man could get used to this," he sighed one morning while tucked up close against Ennis. He was so warm and cosy here that he didn't want to leave Ennis's embrace.

"Sure could," Ennis replied, nuzzling his nose in Jack's hair. He was healing very well by now, and by the time December came he was able to be on top, as long as he took it slowly. They were lucky that they liked to make love in this way, and they savoured every moment they had together.

Back at home, they started decorating for Christmas and talking about what they could buy for the kids. Jenny and Bobby would be easy enough, but Junior would be trickier since she was older.

During the cold mornings before they had to get up, Ennis and Jack would huddle close together under the quilt and talk, like Jack had always wanted them to. He remembered back on Brokeback when Ennis could barely talk to him about anything, or even look him in the eye. He'd been very shy and couldn't be more different now, and Jack knew he was incredibly lucky to have this man.

"I love you," he murmured one morning, watching their fingers playing together. "An' I can't wait to marry you..."

"Mmm," Ennis replied, kissing his fingers. "Me neither, darlin'. I'm just glad I plucked up the guts to ask you..."

Jack smiled at him. "You did fine, Ennis. It was perfect. An'...I'm really lookin' forward to it. Just want you to know that."

Ennis rolled himself over on top of Jack with a gleam in his eye. "Reckon we oughta start practicin' the weddin' night, huh?" he asked in a throaty voice that went straight to Jack's groin.

"Maybe...better make sure we get it right." He laughed a little, and then Ennis swiftly shut him up with his lips.

They went Christmas shopping together, talking about their previous Christmases and how it had been when they were kids. Neither of them had had particularly good experiences, but they agreed that they wanted the kids to have a good day. They had only ever wanted the best for the kids ever since they got together, and Christmas was the perfect time to put smiles on their faces. Their children deserved to have good childhoods and they were determined to give that to them.

The looks on the kids' faces on Christmas morning told Ennis and Jack that their efforts were well-received. All three of them were very happy with their gifts and they played games with their fathers all day. When they were alone that night, Ennis turned to Jack with a soft gaze.

"Bud...got a little somethin' else here. Hope you like 'em." He handed Jack a small black box, made of felt, and Jack wondered what it might be. He had a feeling, deep down.

"What's this?"

"You'll see...open it, darlin'." Jack did so and his breath caught in his throat.

"Oh my God..." Inside was a pair of rings, silver bands cut into strands of rope. They were beautiful, and it was obvious what they were. "Are these...?"

"Yeah, bud," Ennis said quietly. After the people of the town had extended friendship to them, he'd plucked up the courage to ask at the jeweller's if they could make the rings for him, and they had agreed. "You like 'em?"

Jack looked up at him, eyes shining in the firelight. "Yeah, I do. They're somethin' else, Ennis...an' I can't wait to wear mine." He leaned in to capture Ennis's lips and they kissed for a few moments. Jack then closed the box and smiled at him before suggesting they go upstairs, which Ennis heartily agreed to. Technically, they were engaged now, and Jack loved the idea.

They ended up hosting a New Year's Eve party at the ranch, inviting their friends and neighbours. Rose even made it down from Lightning Flat, and the kids were thrilled to see their grandmother again. Jack fondly recalled telling her about Ennis's proposal to him.

"My boy's got himself a good one," she'd said, squeezing his hand. "I'm real happy for you, honey."

"Thanks, mama." While Jack had always had hope that he and Ennis would end up living together, he'd never expected a proposal from the man. Now that he'd had one, he was determined to make this work. He'd never expected to be this happy.

In early January, they saw that the ranch would be expanding soon when the cows gave birth, so hired some more help. Luckily, they hired people who were okay with their relationship, and who were comfortable around Jamie and Sam. That was very important to both of them.

The weather was still cold as January passed, but Ennis and Jack found some good ways of keeping warm, including spooning as they slept. They would take it in turns and both of them liked being held, feeling secure and safe with each other.

Their kids started making more friends at school, thanks to the parents being friendlier towards Ennis and Jack, but they kept their distance from Jessica Marcus. What her father had done would never be forgotten by any of them, and they simply didn't want to mix with her. But the girls found themselves being invited to sleepovers and Bobby started to grow in confidence; people no longer laughed at him if he got a word wrong in class.

"They sure are doin' better," Jack said as he and Ennis walked through the school on Parents' Evening. Now that people in town accepted them, they were free to walk around and both appear as the parents of all three kids.

"Yep. Especially now they ain't gettin' picked on. Glad that's over with."

In the first week of February, they celebrated Jenny's 10th birthday with a restaurant meal, and then she went to a sleepover afterwards. Ennis and Jack were very glad that things had settled down now, and that their children were making friends. If they could have some kind of normality here, then it would be beneficial to the kids; they needed stability.

For Valentine's, Ennis and Jack rented a cabin up in the Big Horn Mountains, and were very glad to be away from work for a while. They stayed a few days, during which time they swapped their rings and made their promises to each other. Ennis was nervous all the way through, but his desire to do this helped him and they got married, as best as they could. Both of them hoped that the law would change at some point in their lives, but they both also knew that it wasn't guaranteed. They simply had to consider themselves as married, and the fact that they had power of attorney helped with this. They were tied together as much as they could be, and their love helped them to believe that.

That night, after some wonderful lovemaking in the bed of the cabin, Jack looked over at a sleeping Ennis and smiled to himself. He recalled the shy cowboy that had avoided his gaze outside Aguirre's trailer; the man who could barely string a sentence together out of sheer nerves. He found it hard to believe that this was the same man; the one who held him close and whispered sweet words in his ear. The man who had put a ring on his finger. Yet it was true; this was the same man but different. Ennis had changed so much for the better, and Jack was very glad for it. Their guilt over how they'd treated their wives had lessened lately, as they focused on doing right by their kids, and they were building a future together. Maybe if their wives had lived, and the two of them had simply left to be together, they could have reached some kind of peace with Alma and Lureen. Maybe one day they would have been forgiven. But as Ennis kept saying, if you couldn't fix it, you just had to stand it.

Spring passed quickly enough, with the ranch looking towards the birth of the new calves and people having orders for meat in place. Both men were wondering if their hard work was going to pay off, and they hoped that they could produce what people had asked for.

In bed one night, the two of them were kissing lazily and Jack was draped over Ennis. "Mmm...sure am glad that you've healed up now." Ennis's stitches were healing and he was no longer on the blood-thinning drugs. The doctors were pleased with how he was doing and in a few weeks he might be able to ride again. He was looking forward to that, and also to the time when they could have sex rough and fast. He wanted to just flip Jack over and give him what for.

"So am I. Missed you somethin' awful when we couldn't do it. Especially when...I couldn't...top."

"I know. But we made it through, like I said we would. An' you know...missin' you for so long made it better when we could do it. Just like in between our trips. That first time after a few months was always so damn good."

"Yeah. Just wanted to have you right away...felt like jumpin' yer bones." Ennis blushed at his own words and Jack grinned at him in amusement.

"Aww...yer cute when you blush." In retaliation to this, Ennis flipped him onto his back and rolled over him, determined to show him who was boss.

The cows gave birth in June, and the result was worth all the effort they'd put through. Their customers were pleased with the meat and the money started to come in at last. Ennis and Jack truly felt like ranch owners now, and were starting to reap the benefits of their work.

As the month passed, life continued as normal and everybody was happy. And the two owners of Brokeback Ranch wouldn't have it any other way.