Get the tissues ready!
February 10th, 1984
It was almost time. Ennis had been unable to get out of bed that morning and was very weak. Jack had seen this coming and had watched his friend in the night, doing everything he could to help. He put more pillows under Ennis's head to make him more comfortable, and whispered in his ear that he was there. It seemed to calm him down and he slept soundly, or at least as much as he could under the circumstances.
Ennis had tossed and turned in the night, his breathing becoming raspier as the cancer started to take its hold on him. Jack could sense that he was agitated and he felt very sorry for it. He'd never wanted to see Ennis in pain and this was horrible for him.
With Ennis awake, Jack sat next to him and held his hand as time passed. He knew it wouldn't be long now. "It's okay," he soothed, stroking Ennis's hand gently. His lover gazed up at him, at the face he knew so well. That face had haunted his dreams for over twenty years.
"It hurts..." he ground out, wincing as he breathed. "God..."
Jack blinked back tears, the sight before him making him feel miserable. Ennis didn't deserve such pain even though it would bring them together in the end.
"I know, cowboy. But I'm right here...it's okay..."
"Jack...that ranch you wanted us to have...tell me 'bout it," Ennis asked him, wanting to know what Jack had dreamt of. "You musta had a picture in yer mind..."
Jack nodded. "Well...it varied sometimes but...mostly there was this house on a big stretch of land. Couple hundred acres, maybe more. The house had one of them wrap-around porches, like in the old movies. An' we had a barn, an' stables for horses with a paddock. It was real lush, you know? Lots of green land..."
Ennis smiled. "A little cow an' calf operation, huh? I'm sorry you didn't get that..." Jack shook his head.
"Don't matter now. We'll have somethin' else on the other side. A different kind of life, you know? An' there won't be nobody who can hurt us."
He stroked Ennis's cheek, looking into those deep brown eyes that he loved so much. "We're gonna be together forever, Ennis. That's what I wanted, no matter how it happened."
"When my girls die...one day...will I be able to see 'em?" Ennis asked. As much as he wanted to spend eternity with Jack, he also wanted to see his daughters.
Jack nodded. "You can see 'em whenever you want. You could even see your parents if you wanted. But the people who would hurt us won't be able to get near us."
"I thought that guys like you an' me went to Hell," Ennis breathed, wincing again. Jack shrugged.
"Well...turns out that's all wrong. We wasn't bad people, Ennis. We tried to do the right thing an' fallin' in love ain't a sin. The people who go to Hell are the ones who deserve it, like murderers an' those sick bastards who mess with kids. Not us, Ennis. I know what the Bible says, but...turns out it's not all true."
Ennis nodded. "I figured that when you turned up. Didn't wanna tell Alma 'bout you bein' here 'cos I know what she believes. Ain't fair to do that to her."
Jack smiled. "You're a good man, Ennis...just a little messed up 'cos of what yer daddy did. But I love you anyway, you know? We're both a little messed up."
They fell silent for a little while longer, during which Ennis could start to feel himself growing tired and weaker. He knew it wouldn't be much longer. "Jack...I'm scared," he whispered, looking up at his lover. Maybe he was imagining it, but he thought that Jack was a little warmer than usual; perhaps the gap between them was closing as he neared his own death.
Jack kissed his hand. "Shh...it's okay. I know it's scary but I'm right here. I won't let you die on yer own. Gonna be okay."
"Am I gonna see stuff?" Ennis asked unsurely. "You know...like a white light or somethin'?"
"I ain't allowed to tell you that, bud. One of the rules while I'm here. But it's gonna be okay, I promise." He pressed a kiss to Ennis's forehead and watched as his breathing became weaker. "Ennis...it's okay. You can let go now..."
Ennis could feel his eyelids drooping, and he could almost smell the familiar scent of pine from the mountain where he had found love. "Jack..." he breathed, remembering how Jack had laughed and sang, and how it had felt during those nights in the tent. He remembered those sweet lips and everything he had felt when he was with Jack.
At the painful look on Ennis's face, Jack stroked his cheek. "It's alright...it's alright. Don't fight it, Ennis...the pain's gonna be over soon..."
He bit his lip when Ennis groaned in pain, his chest heaving. "Jack...can't breathe..."
"I know, I know," Jack replied, taking both of Ennis's hands in his own and grasping them tightly to reassure him. "I'm here, cowboy. It's okay..."
Ennis looked into his eyes and tried to calm down, but he was terrified. "Jack..."
"Shh..." Jack shushed him gently, the sight tearing at his heart. "It's alright...it'll be over soon..."
Ennis's eyelids grew heavier and his chest tightened. He groaned and finally felt the pain slip away. He sank back down onto the bed, lifeless. Jack screwed his eyes shut; it hurt even though he knew they would be reunited soon. Certain things had to happen before Ennis would return to him; he had to see things first and understand.
He let go of Ennis's hands and kissed his forehead, sighing to himself. "I love you, Ennis," he whispered, smiling through his tears. It hadn't been easy to watch Ennis lose this battle, but in just a short amount of time everything would be okay. Soon, they would be together again.