Chapter 9

July 20th, 1975

Ennis and Jack were down in Colorado with Sarah, looking at ranch properties she'd found and trying to decide where they would move to. Before they'd left Wyoming, Sarah had spread out a map of Colorado in her office and marked the places where she'd found potential properties, and they were looking at it as they drove towards their first destination.

They were just outside Colorado Springs, and the two men figured it would be a good place to bring the kids one day. Right now, they were with Amy. After their first night at her house since the changes in their lives, Bobby had reported back that she had been fairly nice to him, but had been a lot friendlier to the girls. He'd thought that it was because she already knew them, but Jack had to wonder if it was because of whose son he was.

Either way, she had been quite civil to Ennis when he'd gone to pick them up, and she was taking them again today while their fathers searched for a place to live.

Jack stopped the truck when he reached the place marked on the map; they were just a few miles from Colorado Springs, in a beautiful lush area. Unlike Wyoming, it was fairly warm. Jack had told Ennis that it wouldn't be a good idea to go too far south; Texas had unbearable heat during the summer and they could all become miserable quite quickly if they lived there.

They got out and saw the house she'd found for them. Jack whistled. "Not bad." It was a two-storey, painted white so that it glowed in the sun on one side, and it had a wraparound porch that they could see themselves sitting on during the evening, maybe in chairs.

"This is about ten years old," Sarah informed them. "Everythin' is intact, all original. The last guy who owned it died a few years ago an' never had kids, so it was put on the market."

She led them inside and showed them the rooms. It was fairly spacious inside, and Jack could almost see them and their kids sitting around, enjoying a new life in a new home. But if he was truthful, he wasn't quite feeling it. There was something missing.

Sarah showed them as much of the ranch as she could on foot, including the barn and stables. They weren't very big, and both men weren't sure if this could be their new home. They would have to talk about that.

After seeing a few more properties, they headed back to Laramie with her and sat down in her office. "So, did you see any places in particular that you liked?" she asked. They looked at each other.

"Um...well, they're all great places, but...we ain't seen nothin' that we really want. We wanna make sure that it's good for all of us, includin' the kids. I dunno if they'd like any of those places. An' if we're gonna set up a ranch, it's gotta be a certain size."

She nodded. "Okay. I'll do some more lookin' around an' see if I can find somethin' bigger." She smiled. " are you guys doin'? How are yer kids? If you don't mind me askin'," she added, and they shrugged.

"We don't mind. The kids are doin' great, an' so are we. But...there's one thing." Ennis sighed. "My ex sister-in-law is...makin' some noise about me bein' with Jack. Says it ain't good for the girls, talkin' about sins...but she ain't one to talk."

Sarah nodded. "I see. Ain't easy to always know how to deal with someone bein' like that."

Jack decided to ask her what he'd been thinking about since their last meeting, hoping that she wouldn't take offence. " mind me askin'? Are you...?"

"No, I ain't," she told them. " ex-husband is." At their looks of surprise, she sighed. "We married about ten years ago, an' he told me about five years ago. At first I was shocked, an' hurt 'cos he'd been seein' a work friend of his. We got divorced, an' I got custody of our kids. But then...he came by the house to see 'em, with his new fella, an'...somethin' happened."

After a pause, she started again. "He looked...happy. A lot more than he ever was with me. An' I was ready to hate him for what he did to me, but the kids were happy to see him, an' they seemed to like his new partner. An' we all sat down. He apologised to me for what had happened, an'...I realised somethin'. I clearly wasn't the one for him. If he was born that way, then...we never had a chance to begin with. He was always gonna be unhappy with me. An' his new partner was so nice to me that I just couldn't hate either of 'em."

She sighed. "So...I was able to let go of my anger at him. If he's like that, then no woman woulda been able to keep him. An' it wasn't a problem with me that turned him queer, it was just who he was. There wasn't nothin' wrong with me, like I thought at first. So that was it. I stopped holdin' a grudge, an' started thinkin' about how we could at least be friends, for the kids if nothin' else. So we went back to the judge an' I said I wanted to give him weekends with his kids. They gave us that, an' that's why you ain't met 'em. They're with their dad up in Montana."

Ennis and Jack realised why she had been so accepting of them, and thought it was a great thing how she had managed to forgive her ex-husband. Maybe if Lureen and Alma had lived, and they had simply divorced them to get together, they could have reached an understanding one day. But there was no way to know now, and they were having to live with that. They were making the best of it.

They got back to Wyoming and picked up the kids from Amy's place, and then returned home. They had a lot to think about. Apart from the houses they had looked at, which they had discussed with the kids after arriving home, they were also thinking of their new friend.

Sarah's tale of her marriage breakup and the reasons behind it had made them think that perhaps they had an ally here; someone they could turn to if they needed help. She accepted them and understood them, and that was someone they needed. Jack had pointed out to Ennis that while it was a good idea to keep things as private as they could to the people living around them, it was also important for them to have friends.

"We need someone lookin' out for us," Jack said as he made hamburgers for dinner. Ennis was leaning on the doorframe watching him. As much as he liked and was starting to trust Sarah, he was still wary of others finding out. Unfortunately, not everybody was like Sarah.

"I know, bud. But we can't guarantee that everyone who finds out about us is gonna react like her. If her husband hadn't turned out to be like us, she could be like Amy. She coulda had us thrown out of her office. Not everybody understands us, Jack."

Jack turned to face him, knowing why Ennis was so guarded about others knowing. He was still scared of someone hurting them. "'s okay. Sarah knows Colorado better than we do. She's bound to find us somewhere that ain't full of hateful people. Like...near Denver or somethin'. Things are always different in cities, you know that. They might not like us, but I don't think they'd do anythin'. They'd probably just turn away an' pretend it ain't true."

"Better than 'em warmin' up the tire irons," Ennis said quietly, and Jack sighed, moving closer to him. Whenever Ennis thought of Earl, and his fears for Jack, he always got a certain look on his face, and Jack hated to see him this way.

"Ennis...I know yer scared of somethin' happenin' to me, or the kids, or even yerself. It scares me, too. But...we can't live in fear. It'll eat us up an' we'll be lookin' over our shoulders every time we leave the ranch. Besides..." He put his hands on Ennis's shoulders and looked up into his eyes. "You an' nearly didn't happen 'cos you was scared. We nearly lost each other 'cos of fear. Think about it...if we was still goin' on fishin' trips, away from each other most of the year, where d'you think we'd be in like...ten years? We woulda started fightin', I know it."

"Hate fightin' with you," Ennis told him, covering Jack's hands with his own. He had never liked arguing with Jack; had always seen it as a waste of time when he could be showing Jack how much he loved him. Since Jack had topped him for the first time, he felt more in love than ever. It had been one of the best nights of his life.

"I know. But it woulda happened if we wasn't together now. So...if we'd given in to fear, an' only met up in the mountains...I don't wanna think about what woulda happened. What we got now...we coulda ended up without it. So we can't give in to fear now, an' we can't let it ruin our lives."

"But don't it bother you?" Ennis asked, searching his face. "We can't even act like we're together out in public. I can't even...hold yer hand or somebody's gonna say somethin'. I know you like it when I do that, Jack. I do,"

Jack shook his head. "It's okay, bud. Yeah, I like it when we can act like a couple. Holdin' hands...sittin' together on the sofa. I love doin' that with you, 'cos it feels right, like we're supposed to do that. But I ain't stupid. I know we can't do it in front of other people except our kids, an' now Sarah. I wanna keep us safe, too. So it don't matter if we can't do that in public. We make up for it when we're alone."

He leaned in and pressed his lips against Ennis's, the gentle pressure calming the other man and making him relax. He slid his hands up to Jack's face, holding it there; Jack had always liked it when he did that. Jack wrapped his arms around Ennis's neck and leaned into him, now pushing his tongue in and being greeted by Ennis's. They kissed slowly and deeply, no rushing and no urgency. This kind of kiss was very different to the kind when they were about to have sex; it was calmer and more intimate, like they were exploring each other and savouring the taste of one another.

Eventually, they pulled apart and Jack nuzzled their noses together, smiling. "See what I mean?" he asked softly. "Can't do that outside, but...I'd rather do it here, anyway. Least that way, nobody can see me fillin' my jeans when you kiss me." They looked down; sure enough, both of them were visibly aroused. Ennis remembered the same thing happening after being reunited with Jack four years after Brokeback; that kiss on the staircase that had rendered him incapable of thinking properly. All he'd been able to think about was getting Jack to the nearest motel and getting on a bed with him.

"Jesus, Jack," Ennis said, half-laughing. "Better get rid of these before the kids see us." Jack's eyes lit up.

"Um...I've got somethin' in the bedroom I wanna check. You wanna give me a hand?" he asked seductively, and Ennis grabbed his hand.

"Sure, rodeo. How about we give each other a good seein' to?" Jack grinned; hardening even more at the thought.

Before they knew it, they were on their bed and in a sixty-nine position, thoroughly taking care of each other. When the feeling grabbed them like this, everything else could take a number and wait.

After dinner with their kids and talking over the ranches they'd looked at, Ennis and Jack retired to their bedroom. They liked how things were going; their kids were happy and life was moving forward. But most of all, they liked how their relationship had improved over the last month. They talked more and never ran away from serious conversations. Whenever Jack asked Ennis his opinion on something, Ennis never turned away and mumbled something; he responded properly because he knew that Jack valued what he had to say.

Jack thought more and more about the possibility of them making a real commitment to each other, even if it was just swapping rings and making their promises. He knew that Ennis would never go for a big ceremony, not even in front of friends, but that was fine. He would like for them to do something.

But that could wait. Right now, he was being pressed against the bedroom door and Ennis was all over him, face buried in his neck and hands going for his buckle. He smiled and closed his eyes, running his hands over his lover's body. "Mmm..."

"Love you," Ennis murmured, kissing his neck. "Swear to God I do..."

"I know, cowboy," Jack replied, nuzzling him. "I love you too..." Their lips met and they walked towards the bed, Jack pushing Ennis down and crawling on top of him. They pulled their shirts off and Jack yanked off Ennis's jeans, a gleam in his eye. He removed his own and they crawled up, spreading out on the bed.

Jack kissed Ennis once more and then started to kiss his chest, yearning for the man beneath him. "Ennis?"

"Mmm?" Ennis had his eyes closed, revelling in the feeling of Jack's lips on his skin.

"I wanna try somethin' with you. We ain't never done it before, but...I've been thinkin' on it." There was something about Jack's tone of voice; he sounded a little hesitant, like he thought that Ennis wouldn't like what he wanted to do, but at the same time he wanted to try it. Ennis looked down at him.

"What is it, bud? We done a lot of stuff..."

Jack nodded. "Yeah, but...I dunno if you'd like it..." He crawled back up and pressed his mouth to Ennis's ear, whispering what he wanted to try with him. His perception of Ennis's reaction was way off; Ennis could feel himself growing harder at the thought.

" right, we ain't never done that..." Jack bit his lip.

"I dunno if there's a name for it, but...I been thinkin' on it. A lot. I ain't sure if you'd wanna..." Ennis touched his cheek.

"I wanna. Sounds a little strange, but...sounds good, too." He smiled and Jack grinned.

"Okay, then. You'd hafta roll over, then..." Ennis nodded and did so, anticipation building inside him and heart beating quickly. He thought about what it might feel like and could feel the pressure building inside him. Jack lifted him up to all fours so as to give him room to breathe, as it were. "Okay...just relax..."

He started at Ennis's neck, kissing and then sticking out his tongue. He slowly dragged it down Ennis's spine, hearing the gasp emerging from his lover as new sensations rippled through his body. Ennis had never felt like this before, and his hardness was starting to become painful. He scrunched up fistfuls of the quilt beneath him as Jack went even lower, to where he'd wanted to go.

Jack cast a glance up at him as he moved lower, reaching the entrance to his own kind of heaven and penetrating slowly. A groan escaped from Ennis; a guttural sound that told Jack he was in a different place entirely with what he was doing. "God, Jack..."

As Ennis trembled and tried not to yell out, Jack continued to probe with his tongue and reached a hand around, taking hold of Ennis and jerking him off. It only took a few strokes and Ennis was shooting onto the bed, almost growling with his release. Jack then jerked himself off and followed suit, forehead sticking to Ennis's back as they both panted.

Ennis collapsed onto the bed and Jack fell onto him, breathing deeply. Both hearts were beating rapidly and neither of them could talk. Ennis couldn't believe the wonderful idea that Jack had had, and why on earth Jack had thought that he wouldn't like it. If there was one aspect of their relationship where Ennis had never been shy, apart from at the beginning, it was the sexual side.

"Damn, Jack," he breathed, starting to relax. "Where...?"

"Dunno," Jack admitted, nuzzling his back. "Just been thinkin' on it a long while." Ennis was silent, suddenly worried, and Jack sensed why. He crawled up as best he could so as to reach Ennis's ear. "Hey...I never done that with no-one else. I swear, Ennis."

"'ve always known yer queer, Jack. You know what you like, an'..."

"Shh..." Jack soothed, rubbing the back of his neck. "I told you...all them other guys...they was just a quick ten minutes at best. It was always just a quick fuck with them, an' it wasn't always that good, anyway. Yer the only one that could ever make me feel like this." He lay down next to Ennis and their eyes met. "Of all the guys I ever did it with, yer the only one I've ever felt somethin' for. The only one who's ever got me here." He pointed to his heart and nodded.

Ennis leaned over and kissed him, knowing he was worrying over nothing. Jack had told him this before, and he believed it. Jack loved him, and the feeling was very mutual. Jack pulled him into his arms and held him there, knowing he needed a little comfort to banish those bad mental images he must be having. "Love you, cowboy."

"Love you too, rodeo." Ennis let Jack hold him, reminding himself that Jack's heart had always belonged to him no matter what. It was all he needed to know.

July 23rd, 1975

On Wednesday, Ennis came home for lunch to find Jack on the sofa, looking worried. He frowned and looked around; the kids were clearly elsewhere and he could smell something good in the kitchen, but Jack seemed very distracted. "Jack?"

Jack blinked and looked around, shaken from his reverie. He smiled when he saw Ennis and stood up, greeting him with their usual kiss. "Hey, bud. How's work?"

"Alright, I guess. What's goin' on? You look miles away..." He took Jack's hand and squeezed it, hoping that Jack would tell him. Jack sighed.

"I gotta tell you somethin', Ennis...come here." They sat down and he took a deep breath. "Bobby's been askin' about visitin' his grandparents sometime."

Ennis gave him a confused look. They had agreed that if the kids wanted to visit their other family members, especially after the move, then they would allow it. Jack didn't seem too happy about the idea. " that a bad thing? I thought everythin' was okay."

Jack chewed his lip. "I dunno. L.D. never thought I was good enough for his little girl. Always tryin' to pay me to leave her. What if...Bobby tells him about us?"

"I don't think he'll tell L.D. everythin', bud. He knows the cover story, right?"

"He's just a kid, Ennis. I dunno if he really gets how dangerous it is for people to know, especially L.D. An' if he finds out...he could make trouble for us. Demand to have the money back or he'll expose us...somethin'. Christ, Ennis...we could lose everythin'."

Ennis rubbed Jack's back. "You know, I thought the same about Amy. But I got her to keep quiet by threatenin' to expose her little secret. could do the same thing? You worked for the guy, Jack. Did you ever see somethin' dodgy goin' on? Somethin' you can hold over him if he threatens us?"

Jack wracked his brains and thought back to when he'd been working for L.D. As far as he knew, there was nothing. L.D. might not have been a fair man, but he'd always seemed to obey the law. Then something came back to him. "Hang on...there was these workers...these Mexican guys L.D. had doin' the hard labour. Buildin' the equipment."

"Did he pay 'em or mistreat 'em?" Ennis asked, seeing where Jack might be going with this.

"I dunno...but I know someone who would know. Can I use the phone?" Ennis nodded.

"Sure, Jack. You live here too, remember?" Jack gave a sheepish grin and headed to the phone in the kitchen, grabbing his old address book from Texas that Lureen had made him keep. He flicked through until he found the number for a man named Charlie Richards.

"That's him. He worked with me at Newsome's for a while. If L.D. was doin' anythin' dodgy, he'll know."

"You was friends with this guy?" Ennis asked, wary. Jack gave him a look.

"Just friends, Ennis. It's alright, bud." He kissed Ennis's cheek for good measure and started pressing buttons. After a few moments of waiting, the phone was picked up. "Hey, Charlie. It's Jack Twist, remember me? I'm alright, thanks. Listen, I need to ask you somethin'."

"What's up, bud? I heard you an' Bobby are up livin' in Wyomin' now."

"Yeah, I'm with my cousin. Listen, I need some help. You've worked for L.D. longer than me, right? You remember those Mexican guys he had workin' for him? Buildin' the tractors in that factory of his?"

"Sure do. They're still around. Don't speak a lot of English. I don't see 'em much. Why?"

"I need to know...does L.D. pay 'em?"

"Couldn't tell you, Jack. I got no idea. I know L.D. ain't exactly a nice guy...but slavery was outlawed like...over a hundred years ago. You think he'd break the law like that? It ain't like he can't afford to pay 'em."

"But you know what he's like about foreigners, Charlie. He ain't never liked 'em. Would you mind...tryin' to find somethin' on him for me?"

"I dunno, Jack. Spyin' on the boss an' how he runs things. I could ask the workers themselves, but...I dunno if they'd understand me."

"It's worth a try. I need yer help, bud."

Charlie sighed. "Alright. I'll see if I can find anythin' on him. But it could take a while. Few weeks, maybe."

"That'd be fine. Thanks." Jack was just glad that Charlie was agreeing to this; it was very risky.

"Alright. See ya, Jack."

"Bye." Jack hung up and smiled at Ennis. "He says he'll give it a shot."

"You think it'll work?" Ennis asked, hoping for Jack's sake that it would. Jack nodded.

"Yeah. You know that slavery was outlawed in 1865, right?"

Ennis nodded. "Yeah. Wasn't that the year that Lincoln was shot?"

"That's the one. Anyway...if it turns out that L.D. has unpaid workers...that's illegal."

"So...if he finds out about us..."

"I've got somethin' to blackmail him with to keep him quiet," Jack finished, grinning. "I don't like blackmailin' people,'s like you said about Amy. We've gotta do whatever we can to protect our family. An' if it means threatenin' people into keepin' their mouths shut..." He shrugged. "It's worth it."

He wrapped his arms around Ennis's neck and hugged him, relieved that there might just be a way to keep L.D.'s mouth shut. If something fishy was going on, Charlie was bound to find it. He had a knack for that.

Jack pulled back and smiled at Ennis, happiness in his eyes. "Love you."

"Love you too, darlin'." Ennis leaned in and kissed him fiercely, proud of Jack for handling the situation and being so resourceful in fixing the problem. Neither of them had panicked about being exposed, but had thought rationally and come up with a solution to keep people quiet. It was true that they didn't like blackmailing anyone, but this was necessary for them to stay safe. They had to take care of themselves and each other, no matter what that might involve.

After dinner, Ennis and Jack were doing the dishes when Jack cleared his throat. "Ennis?"

"Yeah, bud?"

"I been thinkin'..." At the look on Ennis's face, he smiled. "Don't worry, ain't nothin' bad. Least...I don't think so."

"What is it?" Ennis asked warily.

"Well...I was thinkin'...maybe we could take the kids to Lightnin' Flat sometime."

This was the last thing that Ennis had been expecting to hear; Jack had been so against it the last time it had come up, because of his father. Ennis hadn't pushed the issue, preferring to let Jack decide for himself if he could go back up there. It was completely up to Jack whether or not they would go, especially with the kids.

"You think so? You hated the idea the last time we talked 'bout it."

"I know, but...I reckon Bobby oughta know his Grandma. She'd love him an' I've told her so much about him. I never brought him up there 'cos...I had other things on my mind whenever I came up to Wyomin'." He smiled. "But now we're together...I don't have to worry so much 'bout that."

Ennis nodded. "So you want 'em to meet?"

"Yeah. An' I reckon she'll love the girls."

"Sure will. My mama ain't around, an' Alma's died a few years ago. I know they miss havin' that. The girls would probably like her."

"Right. An'..." Jack stepped closer. "I want her to meet you. I know she worries about me bein' happy. Guess she could always tell that I wasn't durin' those fishin' years. An' now I am happy...I want her to see why. I wanna introduce her to the man I love...the one I wanna spend the rest of my life with." He smiled and cupped Ennis's cheeks with his soapy hands. "I'm proud of us bein' together, Ennis. I want her to see that."

"Think she'll be okay with it?" Ennis asked, sliding his arms around Jack's waist.

"Yeah. I, uh...after Brokeback, I went back there an' I was so miserable. Got kinda upset about leavin' you. I ended up tellin' her everythin', Ennis..."

Ennis was surprised that Jack had told his mother about his sexual relationship with another man while he was supposed to be working, but clearly nothing bad had come of it.

Guess she really is okay with us, he thought to himself. "You did? You was that torn up?" He felt a pang in his heart that he had caused Jack that pain, all because he'd been too scared to go after what he'd truly wanted.

"Yeah. I didn't know what to do. There was a few days I couldn't even get out of bed. I don't wanna make you feel bad, Ennis...but it's how it was. I just...I missed you so much."

"I'm sorry, Jack..." Ennis looked torn up himself at knowing what he'd done. "I'm so sorry, darlin'..." They embraced and held on tightly, regretting those lost years and all the pain that they had caused. Not just to each other, but to Alma and Lureen too. They knew now that getting married had been a mistake, even though it had brought them their children. They wished that they could have gotten together sooner; at least then, less pain would have been dished out.

When they pulled away, they kissed and returned to their task, their hearts slowly healing from all the suffering they had been through.

"So," Ennis started as they resumed washing dishes. "You said yer mama would be okay with this. What about yer dad?"

Jack sighed. "He ain't never gonna accept it. But...I can't go on fearin' him. I'm in my thirties, Ennis...can't let him get to me no more." Ennis nodded.

"That's the spirit, bud. An' if he says anythin' to you, ignore him. Or at least tell me." Jack smiled.

"I'll be fine. Can we talk 'bout somethin' else now? What about that place near Loveland that Sarah found us?" Sarah had found a beautiful ranch a few miles from the town in question, and had shown them photos of it. They were due to go and see it this weekend.

"Yeah, that looks real nice. Reckon there ain't no harm takin' a look."

"Hope we find a place soon...wanna get the kids settled in before school starts."

"I know. The sooner they make friends, the better off they'll be when they hafta go in."

When they had finished, they sat down on the sofa and watched over their children, who were glued to the evening movie. Ennis's hand found Jack's and their fingers laced together between them, squeezing gently. Jack smiled at his partner and vowed to see through his plan to go to Lightning Flat. Maybe his father would think of him as a failure, but that didn't matter. Here were four people who loved him, who didn't think he was a failure. That was all that mattered to him, and he was determined to do his best by all of them.

They got the kids into bed and returned to the sofa, this time with Jack leaning back against Ennis's chest and sighing as he was wrapped up in those strong arms. "Mmm...feels good, cowboy."

"Sure does," Ennis replied quietly, nuzzling his nose into Jack's hair. "Love you so much, rodeo." He was now saying the words daily, as if he was reminding Jack how he felt. Jack knew why; they had gone for twelve years of feeling this way and being unable to say it. Ennis was making up for lost time and Jack appreciated it. He didn't doubt Ennis's love for him, but it was always nice to remember that he was loved for who he was. He'd never had to prove anything with Ennis; they had always accepted each other for who they were right from the start, and it had built a solid foundation of friendship between them. They loved each other and were best friends; this was a combination that would keep them together no matter what happened.