Chapter 8

July 10th, 1975

When Ennis came home for lunch one day, he found Jack whistling to himself in the kitchen. "Hey, rodeo."

Jack turned and grinned. "Oh, hey. You're early...lunch ain't gonna be for a while." They moved close to each other and exchanged a kiss, happy to be back together even though it had just been a few hours. "But I'm glad yer here," he added as they moved apart. "Took the kids out while you was workin', an' I stopped by the post office. I had a look at the noticeboard, about properties, you know."

"Oh," Ennis replied as they sat down. "That's great. Did you find anythin'?"

"Yeah, found some places we can look at. I saw this mural, too. It's of these two guys, tendin' to sheep on a ranch. An' I swear, they look just like us."

Ennis nodded. "Yeah, I've seen it. Always made me think of' how much I wanted us to be on a ranch together." He took Jack's hand and squeezed it. "An' now we're gonna be."

"I ain't havin' no sheep, though," Jack told him, grinning slightly. "Seen enough of them to last me a lifetime. More trouble than they're worth."

"So a cow an' calf place, then? Like you used to say?"

"Yeah. Anyway..." Jack went into the living room and brought back a small pile of paper. Ennis looked at it curiously and he cleared his throat. "It's the stuff I found on the noticeboard, an' I saw one or two things in the paper we could look at." He handed them over to Ennis, who flicked through with interest.

"So you wanna look at these places?" he asked, and Jack nodded.

"Sure, don't you?" His brow furrowed, wondering if Ennis was having second thoughts. He had seemed okay up until now, looking forward to living in a real home together, but maybe now he was thinking twice, seeing how real it was becoming.

"I do, but...we don't know anythin' about these places, Jack. How do we know the ones that we're gonna like? We can't go spendin' days down in Colorado, goin' all over the place. An' we gotta think about money."

"We're gonna be usin' what L.D. gave me," Jack reminded him, and Ennis shrugged.

"Still. Don't wanna get careless."

"I know. So what are we gonna do? Guess we can't really do this on our own."

"I dunno, bud. Think we're gonna need some help."

"What about a realtor?" Jack suggested. "Someone who lives in the area an' knows it well. They can show us the good places, ones we can afford. We've got the money to pay 'em."

Ennis thought it was a good idea, to hire a professional, but he was wary. This person would probably figure out why they wanted to have a place together, and he wasn't sure that he was ready to open up to a stranger like that.

"What are you thinkin' over there?" Jack asked, looking puzzled. "You okay?"

"I guess. Just thinkin'...whoever we hire...they're gonna figure us out. We tell 'em we want a place together...kinda obvious."

Jack nodded and took his other hand, squeezing both tightly and looking into his partner's eyes. "I know it's scary, bud. An' I know that there's a lot of people out there who'd hate us just for bein' in love, even though they don't know us. But I gotta believe that not everybody's like that. Surely there's gotta be people that don't care. An' we'll find one. Someone who either don't care because they're okay with it, or don't care 'cos we'll be payin' 'em." He smiled. "Either way, we'll be fine. Worst comes to worst...we'll just do this ourselves. Get in touch with the owners on our own. An' I reckon we'll find us somewhere. A place we can finally call home. How's that sound?"

Ennis couldn't help but smile at Jack's words. This man had always had a knack for cheering him up, and now that they were together he was starting to believe that everything would work out. He couldn't deny that he was scared, but he was learning to not let it get to him.

"Sounds good, darlin'. You know I want us all to live somewhere proper, like a real home. An' I hope you know I ain't ashamed of lovin' you. Can't be ashamed of somethin' that makes me so damn happy. An' it ain't just us, either. Us bein' together is makin' the kids happy, 'cos we're a family now. We're makin' things stable for 'em, an' I know kids need that. We need it, too."

Jack nodded. "That's right," he said softly. "We all need a lovin' family, no matter how old we are. I love you, an' you love me. That's all we need to know." He leaned forward and captured Ennis's lips with his own, kissing him gently.

When they broke apart, Ennis helped Jack with lunch and the five of them sat down, talking about the properties in Colorado and their forthcoming move. The kids were becoming excited about it, after being reassured that they would be brought back to visit their mothers' graves whenever they wanted. That had been very important for both Ennis and Jack.

Jack thought about his own mother, and by extension his father. He wasn't sure if a reconciliation would ever occur, but he did want to see his mother. He wanted to introduce her to his partner and their children; his new family. Jack knew deep down that she would be happy for him, despite the gender of the person he loved.

After lunch, the kids returned to playing and Ennis returned to work with another kiss for Jack, and life resumed as normal. Their days were simple enough for now, but it was all that Jack had ever wanted. He was very happy here with Ennis and the kids, and he couldn't wait to find out what the future held for them.

Jack was busy making dinner, thinking about Ennis who would be home soon, when there was a knock on the door. He paused; nobody had ever come by the house while he'd been living here, but he figured that Ennis wouldn't mind if he answered.

Taking a deep breath, he headed to the door and opened it. On the other side was an unfamiliar woman, but she looked very similar to Alma, right down to the reddish-brown hair. He gulped as he realised that this must be the sister.

"Um, hi. Can I help you?" he asked, hoping that she didn't know who he was. She gave him a look.

"I'm lookin' for Ennis," she replied. "He here?"

"No, he's at work," Jack told her. "You, wanna come in?" She nodded and he led her inside. She then turned to him.

"I'm Alma's sister. An' I know who you are. Yer Ennis's queer lover, ain't ya?"

Jack tried to keep his temper in check. "Uh...yer gonna hafta talk to him 'bout that." He cast a nervous glance towards the hallway, where the kids were reading and drawing. She narrowed her eyes.

"I saw you in the park. He told me that a friend of his was comin' up an' I had my suspicions. Alma told me he was havin' an affair, an' now I know who with. Ain't you got no shame? Livin' in sin with him when his wife died here not long ago?"

"I ain't proud of us hurtin' Alma like that," he said. "But we're makin' the best of it. We're a family."

Amy snorted. "You call this a family? You an' yer boy, livin' here? A family needs a woman an' I think Ennis oughta find himself one."

Before Jack could reply, there was the sound of boots on the steps and the door opened. "Jack?"

"In here, bud," he called back, knowing that Amy was bracing herself for a fight. Ennis came in and froze when he saw her.

"Amy? What the hell are you doin' here?"

"I came to see you. Can I see you in private?"

Ennis shook his head. "Anythin' you wanna say to me...Jack stays an' hears it, too." She felt herself growing angry at how he was defending this man.

"Fine. I just wanna ask on earth can you do this to the girls? Alma ain't been dead long an' yer already replacin' her. Ain't you got no shame?"

"I'm always gonna regret that I hurt her, but there ain't nothin' I can do about that now. The girls need to be happy, an' so do I. Jack an' his son make us happy." In a brave move, he stepped forward and took Jack's hand, lacing their fingers together. "I ain't ashamed of bein' with him, Amy."

Her eyes were wide. "Ennis...I can't believe you'd turn your back on God like this. Alma told me you used to be a church-goin' man. At were before you went up on that mountain for that summer job. It's where you met him, ain't it?" She nodded at Jack, hatred in her eyes.

"Yeah, it is. I love him, Amy." Ennis always thought that if anybody questioned his relationship with Jack, he'd be too scared to defend it. Yet here he was, ire rising in him for how she was treating his partner. All he wanted to do was tell her to mind her own business.

"Love? That ain't right, Ennis. You oughta love a woman. You oughta get married again."

He stepped closer, grasping Jack's hand tightly. "I'll get married again when they make it legal." Jack felt his heart soar at these words; Ennis wanted to marry him. Maybe one day, they could have some kind of ceremony even if it wouldn't be legal.

Amy looked shocked. "" She shook her head. "I can't believe I'm hearin' disgust me."

Ennis simply glared her down, defiant in his relationship with Jack. They were standing here, together, and he wasn't backing down. "You finished now?"

She thought for a moment. "Just you wait...I'm gonna tell the courts. The whole town are gonna know what you'll never see the girls again."

These words reminded Ennis of his last argument with Alma, and then he remembered his threat. Giving Jack a reassuring nod, he turned to Amy as she was leaving. "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Amy."

She turned with her eyebrows raised. "An' why's that?"

"'Cos I know I ain't the only one who's been messin' around," he said quietly. "I know yer youngest ain't yer husband's."

The colour drained from her face. "How did you...?"

"Overheard Alma on the phone, talkin' to you. So don't you go tellin' me about sins. You ain't perfect. An' if you tell anyone 'bout me an' Jack, I'll be payin' yer husband a visit."

"How dare you threaten me," she whispered. "You wouldn't."

"I would, if you don't keep yer mouth shut," he growled at her. "But...if you keep quiet, I'll let you spend time with the girls. An' I won't say anythin'." He knew that she loved the girls, and he hated blackmailing her like this, but he had no choice if he was to keep himself and Jack safe.

She nodded, but her disdain of them was evident on her face. "Fine, Ennis. I'll keep quiet, in exchange for seein' the girls." She turned again and headed out of the apartment. When she was gone, Jack let out a breath.

"God...that was somethin', cowboy. You really gave it to her..."

Ennis shrugged and pulled Jack close, the tension leaving his body. "Didn't want her sayin' nothin'. Don't wanna put you at risk, darlin'." Jack squeezed him.

"I love you. An'...if they ever do make it legal...I promise I'll say yes." Ennis smiled and hugged him tightly, relieved and a little proud of himself for standing up to her and defending his love for Jack. Maybe things would be alright after all.

July 13th, 1975

On Sunday, Ennis and Jack had a meeting with a realtor Jack had found in the paper. She lived in Laramie, but knew Colorado well and seemed happy enough to help them out when Jack had called. They had decided to take the kids with them; Amy would be coming by later to pick them up for the night.

Both of them were looking forward to this. It would be their first night alone together since their last fishing trip, and Jack wanted to make it special for both of them. He had a feeling that Ennis might be ready to take the more submissive role; to let Jack top him for the first time. Tonight would be the perfect opportunity.

Ennis was a little nervous about meeting this woman. She would figure him and Jack out when they told her they wanted a place together, and he wasn't sure what her reaction might be. Standing up to Amy had been fairly easy, because he'd had blackmail material at his disposal, but he had nothing over this woman. He just hoped that she would be okay with them.

"You okay?" Jack asked, looking over at him as they drove south. Ennis nodded, trying to smile.

"Yeah, I'm okay." The kids were in the back, Junior reading and the other two chattering away together. Ennis was surprised at how quickly they seemed to have made up; kids were just fickle like that.

"Hey," Jack said gently, taking Ennis's hand and squeezing it. "It's gonna be okay. We'll be payin' this woman to help us, so she might not say anythin'. An' you never know...she might be okay with us."

"I know. Just...ain't easy to admit to people. You know I ain't ashamed, right?" he asked, looking worried, and Jack nodded.

"I know, cowboy."

They reached Sarah Green's office at two in the afternoon, and were told to take a seat to wait. Eventually, they were called in and were greeted by a woman with red hair and a bright smile. She could only be about thirty, they figured; a couple of years younger than them.

"Hi, I'm Sarah. You must be Ennis an' Jack." She noticed the kids. "And these would be...?"

"Um, my girls Alma Junior an' Jenny," Ennis replied, and she shook their hands with another smile.

"An' my boy Bobby," Jack introduced his son, and he was greeted in the same way.

"Well, welcome to all of you. Take a seat." The kids sat on the sofa while Ennis and Jack took the chairs in front of her desk, and she sat down. " you're lookin' for a ranch property in Colorado. Any preference at all?"

They looked at each other. "Not really, ma'am. Just somewhere round about the middle, I guess. The girls have got family in Wyomin' an' Bobby's got family in Texas," Jack told her. "We don't want 'em too far."

She nodded. "Okay. Any particular reason for movin'? I said you live in an apartment in Riverton, that right?"

"Yeah, above the Laundromat," Ennis said. "I, uh...I lived there with my girls an' their mama until she died, while Jack was livin' in Texas with his wife an' Bobby until she died."

"Oh...a run of bad luck, huh? I'm sorry."

"Thanks. So now...we're lookin' for a bigger place. The kids are growin' up...gonna want their own space. An' an' Jack have always wanted a ranch together." Jack looked at him, surprised by his honesty in front of a complete stranger. Ennis couldn't describe it, but he felt safe enough to tell her the truth; he knew that this woman wasn't the hateful type.

"I see," she replied, nodding. She was starting to get the picture now. "May I ask a personal question?" At their nod, she asked, "Are you two...?"

"Yeah, we're together," Jack said to her, head held high. "An' we wanna have a home together. We thought Colorado, not just 'cos it'll keep us fairly near to relatives, but also 'cos...nobody knows us there. We can start over with a cover story."

Sarah nodded. "Well, that's very wise. There's a lot of hate goin' around. So if anybody should ask me?"

"We're half-brothers, helpin' each other out. I was thinkin'...we could tell people it's only until one of us has the money to move out. We'd just...never get around to it, that's all. An' if people do eventually start wonderin' why we're both still there, hopefully things will have changed, an' they won't be so hateful when they find out the truth."

She smiled. "I gotta say...I admire your courage. I've seen gay men, in the cities, but they ain't quite like you. You're' you're brave an' honest. An' I'd be happy to help you find a new home."

Jack grinned at Ennis and took his hand, a gesture not missed by Sarah. She smiled a little and didn't see two men in love; she saw two souls in love, who just happened to be men. She had never been prejudiced, but had never really understood it, either. Now she did. She'd been in love before, and she could see how they felt for each other. It was the same as how she had felt in her life.

"Okay, then," she said to them, rifling through her papers. "I'm lookin' for ranches in the middle area of Colorado. Big enough for two adults an' three growin' kids. I'll see what I can find an' give you guys a call."

"Thanks, Sarah," Jack said to her, rising and shaking her hand. Ennis did the same and they bid goodbye to her, shepherding the kids out of the building and out into the sunlight.

"That went real well," Ennis commented as they started to head home. Jack nodded and thought back to how friendly Sarah had been. She hadn't been fazed at all, and he had to wonder if she was like them. He guessed that only time would tell.

A few hours after they returned, Amy came by to pick up the kids. Ennis and Jack were talking in the kitchen about their meeting with Sarah when they heard the knock.

"Christ, she's here," Ennis muttered, not looking forward to seeing her again. Jack rubbed his shoulder.

"Hey, it's okay. Things are gonna be fine. Between seein' the girls an' the threat you gave her...I think she'll keep quiet."

"I sure hope so," Ennis replied as he moved towards the front door. "Or I think we'll be movin' sooner than we thought." He opened the door to see Amy standing there, looking very guarded. "Amy."

"Ennis," she said quietly, hating the fact that he could ruin her marriage if she said one word to anybody about his sins.

"You wanna come in while we get the kids ready?" he asked, and she nodded. She wanted to see the girls, but she didn't like the fact that she would have to look after Jack's son, too. This boy was nothing to her but the girls had insisted on having their new "brother" with them.

Ennis led her inside and glanced at Jack, who looked nervous. Knowing that it wouldn't be fair to his partner to leave him alone with Amy, Ennis rethought his idea of getting the kids himself. "Jack, could you get the kids?" he asked, and Jack looked relieved. He nodded and left the room.

"You let him near your girls," Amy said, voice dripping with disdain. Ennis looked at her.

"He's a good father," he told her. "An' a good man."

"How can you say that?" she demanded. "After what he's done? He's led you into sin, made you go against your weddin' vows-"

"You can't tell me 'bout sin, Amy. Not after what you've been up to," he reminded her. "You ain't no saint, you know."

Her nostrils flared in anger but she kept quiet, hating this man before her and the one down the hall, near Alma's children. How could they do this?

Jack was very glad to be away from Amy. He'd sensed that Ennis had asked him to get the kids so he wouldn't have to be alone with Amy, and he was very grateful. He did not want to be alone with her; no matter what hatred she had for Ennis for mistreating her sister, he knew that it would be far worse for him.

Jack couldn't regret meeting Ennis and having a relationship with him. He'd tried, when the guilt had been particularly gnawing at him, but he couldn't. It was like Ennis had said; he couldn't regret something that made him so happy. But he did regret marrying Lureen when he knew he would never love her, and he regretted the fact that Alma had had to suffer for so long, knowing the truth. They were doing the best they could now under the circumstances, and he knew that things were improving all the time.

"Hey," he said as he entered the girls' room, where the three kids were gathered. "Your Aunt Amy's here, girls. Bobby, you ready?"

He nodded. "Is she okay with lookin' after me? She don't know me."

Jack smiled a little. "It's okay, bud. She's got her problems with me an' Ennis, but...she's gonna be nice to you. When you come back tomorrow, you can tell us if she was, okay?" Bobby nodded and the three kids hopped off the bed, bags in hand. Jack led them back into the living room and looked around. Amy was standing in the doorway with her arms folded and was glaring at Ennis, while he was sat in a chair and determinedly not looking at her. Jack cleared his throat.

Ennis looked relieved that Jack was back, and he got up. "Okay, girls, Bobby. Have a good time an' tell us all about it, okay? Love you." He kissed all three of them on top of their heads and Jack did the same. While the kids were getting their jackets on, Ennis turned to Amy. "Remember," he warned her. "This is only 'cos yer keepin' quiet. One word, an' that's it." She nodded and made sure to cast a nasty glance at Jack before leaving.

When the door was shut, Ennis locked it behind her and went back into the living room. Jack was standing there, grinning.

"Alone at last, cowboy," he said, moving forward with a gleam in his eye. Ennis smiled back and they moved into each other's arms, mouths meeting eagerly.

Ennis held Jack's face in his hand as he explored his mouth, running his tongue all around inside, kissing his lover thoroughly. Jack practically melted at the touch, going weak in the knees. He loved it when Ennis got romantic like this; it wasn't often but he always remembered it.

"Mmm," he moaned softly as they broke apart. "Damn, Ennis...what's got into you?"

"I was hopin' you," Ennis whispered into his ear. Jack paused.

"What?" he asked, hoping he had heard correctly. "What did you say?" Ennis pulled back to look at him.

"I...I was wonderin' could..." He bit his lip nervously, but Jack got the message.

"Are you sure?" he asked, stroking Ennis's arms. "I mean...I'd love to, but...if you ain't ready..."

"I am," Ennis told him, sure of that if nothing else. "I want you to..."

Jack saw how sincere he was, and he nodded. He'd wanted to do this for years, but had always thought that Ennis was holding back, and he knew why. Ennis had thought that giving himself over to another man like that, even Jack, would somehow make him less of a man. Jack had wondered if Ennis thought less of him for doing that, especially with other guys, but Ennis had reassured him that he didn't.

"Okay," he said softly, touching Ennis's face gently. "I'd love to, cowboy. Tell you what...let's get some dinner an' then turn in for the night, okay?" Ennis nodded and they set about eating, both looking forward to later.

Jack shut the door behind them and turned to Ennis, whom he knew was nervous. "Hey..." He moved closer. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Ennis replied, nodding. "Jack, know I ain't no good at lettin' someone else take over. Yer gonna hafta help me through this one." Jack smiled and pressed up close against him, planting a kiss on his lips.

"It'll be okay, Ennis. All you gotta do is trust me. You do, right?"

"You know I do, Jack," he replied. "I do..."

"Alright..." Jack kissed him again and went for his shirt buttons, trying to keep him relaxed. It would never work tonight if Ennis was tense. He pushed the shirt from Ennis's shoulders and to the floor, running his hands over his lover's chest as they kissed. He then removed his own shirt and Ennis couldn't help but touch him, drawn in by his body.

Jack gently pushed him down and onto the bed, indicating for him to take his jeans off. When they were both naked, eyes fixed together, Ennis shuffled up the bed and Jack followed, skin connecting and sending shockwaves through them both. They lay down on top of the covers and Jack leaned over Ennis.

"I love you," he murmured, stroking Ennis's cheek and making him smile a little.

"Love you too, bud." Jack kissed him and trailed a hand down his stomach, lightly teasing him. Ennis bucked upwards and he grinned.

"Guess yer pretty eager for this." He slowly slid on top of Ennis, looking down at him. They'd been in this position before, but usually to make out or when Jack went down on him. This was very different. Jack grabbed the lube and smeared it on his fingers, knowing he had to give Ennis some idea of what was coming. "Okay, just relax..."

He moved his hand around and gently pushed in one finger, watching Ennis's face. For Ennis, it was a feeling unlike any other. There was some initial discomfort, not being used to it, but it soon faded and he concentrated on how good it felt. Jack pushed in another finger and he hissed, biting his lip. "Jesus..."

"It's okay," Jack told him in that quiet, soothing voice. "Just relax, cowboy. I ain't gonna hurt you..." Ennis nodded and saw stars when Jack scissored his fingers, feeling very different from when he was the one in control.

After a few moments, Jack withdrew his fingers and kissed him. "You ready for more?" Ennis looked up into his calming eyes and he nodded, wanting to feel Jack inside him no matter how much it might hurt.

"Yeah..." Jack nodded and smeared the lube over his erection, and Ennis could see for himself how eager Jack was; he was starting to leak pre-come already.

"Alright, get yer legs up," Jack instructed, lifting them and wrapping them around his waist. "That's gonna make it easier..." They shifted closer until Jack was just touching his lover's entrance. "You ready? This is gonna hurt at first, but I promise it'll get better."

"Okay," Ennis breathed, knowing he had to stay calm if this was going to happen. He grasped Jack's forearms in anticipation and his eyes widened when he felt Jack start to penetrate him. He was pushing deep and Ennis felt like his head was splitting in two. For a fleeting moment, he thought that Jack might snap him in half with how hard he was pushing in. "Ouch...God, Jack..."

"You want me to stop?" Jack panted, already halfway inside. Ennis shook his head.

"No, keep goin'..."

Jack did so until he was all the way in and Ennis could feel the throbbing. He wasn't sure if that was Jack inside him or his pain back there. He was taking deep breaths and was grateful to Jack for allowing him time to get used to it. Jack waited patiently as Ennis started to relax, knowing he had to get past the pain if there was going to be pleasure.

At last, the pain faded and all Ennis could feel was the pressure of this wonderful man inside him, filling him up and...completing him. That was the word, he realised. He felt complete, in a way he never had quite before.

He opened his eyes to see Jack watching him, and he nodded. "Go on..." Jack leaned down and slowly moved a little out of him, and then back in again. He took it very slowly as he thrust inside his lover, and couldn't believe how good it felt. Ennis was so warm and welcoming that he wanted to stay inside him forever. He knew the feeling he was experiencing, even though he'd never done this before. There was something familiar about how he was feeling, but he couldn't remember it.

They made love slowly and gently, kissing and holding each other close. Ennis looked up at Jack, who had his eyes closed, and realised something. He'd thought for a long time that if he gave himself over to another man like this, even Jack, it would make him less of a man. But that wasn't true, he now knew as he felt Jack move inside him. He realised that he could only have gone along with this if he was secure in his sexuality, and if he accepted who he was. He had done that.

And knowing now that he was secure enough in himself to allow Jack to do this, and to like it, that could only mean one thing. He wasn't less of a man after all. He was more of a man. He could let Jack take him and still felt somehow powerful, and he knew one thing as he gazed up at his lover. He wasn't being taken at all; he was giving himself over to Jack, and showing him how much he loved him. That was surely something that only a real man could do.

They finished in a mix of gasps and jumbled thoughts, unable to speak coherently, and then collapsed together. Both of them felt like the final barrier had been broken down, and that they were closer than ever. As they held each other close and kissed drowsily, Jack suddenly recognised the feeling he'd had while making love to Ennis; it was home.