Blood is Thicker than Water ... Love is Thicker than Time

Chapter 14

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Ennis pulled up to his apartment at three in the afternoon on Sunday. He shut off the engine and looked over at the cooler on the seat next to him, the cooler Jack bought him, the cooler filled with ice to keep the two trout he caught fresh. He smiled, remembering the relaxation of the past few days. With their future together planned, in a general way, and their true feelings expressed in words, he and Jack hadn't felt the need to wring every last moment of pleasure from their week together, and had actually fished for the first time in four years of "fishing trips." They discovered that Jack sucked at it, and, predictably, Ennis excelled, mostly because of his quiet, patient nature.

His smile grew wider remembering their goodbye a few hours ago. Unlike his usual hasty retreats to avoid the pain of watching Jack leave him, Ennis had been especially reluctant to leave Jack this time, and they had stood outside in the sunshine together far longer than they ever had on a Sunday morning.

Jack pressed Ennis against his truck and kissed him firmly yet gently. The kisses were slow and deep and full of meaning, and Ennis drank them up to store the memories for later.

"So I'll see you in January?" Jack asked, moving to kiss along Ennis' jaw. "I miss you already."

"Four months, bud," Ennis replied. "It's not that long."

"It'll feel longer this time, I think."

"You might be right," Ennis murmured. "You goin' to Lightnin' Flat like you usually do?"

"For about a week, yeah. Gotta help the old man when I can."

"Doesn't sound like he deserves havin' you for a son," Ennis commented, his lips trailing down Jack's neck. "Hmm, you taste so good, Jack."

"Could say the same thing about you," Jack countered, sighing at the tenderness in Ennis' touch. They stayed like that for another ten minutes until Jack spoke again. "Ennis, are you mad at me for bein' with other guys?"

"Not as mad as I thought I'd be. If it'd been four years ago you told me, well, I'd have socked you one and kicked you to the curb, but now… I guess it don't matter so much anymore. You've only been with me for years now, and that's the important thing." He stopped speaking to kiss Jack again a few times before continuing again.

"We both been with our wives when we shoulda been with each other, so I can't say anything against that. And you didn't know if you'd see me again, so you needed some relief. I don't like it, but I understand it, 'specially if you're queer after all. Let's try an' let the past go, darlin'. Let's move forward, ok? I made you a promise this week, and I mean to keep it. Three years from now, we'll be together all the time."

"Ennis…"

They made love in the field, a gentle coming together that held the desire and potential for a joint future. Ennis kissed Jack's closed eyelids before he moved to gather his clothing. Jack, his chest heaving and sweat pouring off him, just smiled. "I love you," he said for the second time that week.

"I know, darlin'," Ennis whispered as he knelt beside Jack and draped Jack's shirt over his chest so he wouldn't get chilled. "I can't say it all that often, but I feel it, too. Hope you know that."

Jack opened brilliant blue eyes that rivaled the sky above them. "I'll never doubt it," he told Ennis. "Just try an' tell me when you can." Ennis nodded silently and kissed him.

"I'll send you a card about January," Ennis said, rising. Jack struggled to his feet to give Ennis one last passionate kiss.

Remembering that last kiss, Ennis sighed. He touched his lips, as if a lingering sensation still remained there. He got out of the truck, gathered his things and the cooler, and squared his shoulders before entering his apartment. Alma would be home with the girls, and it wouldn't do for him to be sighing like a lovesick schoolgirl.

"Daddy!" Junior screamed happily, running to hug him as soon as he walked in the front door. He set the cooler on the kitchen table and gathered her in his arms.

"Hey there, little darlin', looks like you missed me," he said with a smile.

"I did, Daddy. I made you some pictures! Come see them." She tugged on his hand to drag him in the direction of her room.

Alma, distracted from folding the laundry by the noise, came into the room. She frowned, seeing Ennis' dirty clothes and how Junior clung to him, the dirt transferring to Junior's dress. Francine followed her and ran over to her father, demanding a hug.

"What's this?" she asked in a clipped tone, tapping the cooler.

"It's a cooler," Ennis answered, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Girls, you wanna see the presents I brought you?"

"Yes!" they shrieked.

Ennis grinned in a way Alma had rarely seen and opened the cooler, pulling out a large trout. "I got two of 'em," he explained, holding it up. "One for each a you."

"Yay!" the girls shouted, jumping up and down in excitement.

"You actually fished," Alma whispered, not quite believing it, accepting the trout from him. She examined it carefully, noting that it wasn't professionally gutted like she'd see at the grocery store. "This isn't our cooler," she muttered, louder, needing to find fault with something. "We can't afford this."

"Ah, no. Jack an' me switched, 'cause he only caught a small one," Ennis explained, though he didn't tell her it took all of Jack's concentration for an entire afternoon and the promise of a blow job if he caught a fish successfully. "I'll give it back to him next time we get together," Ennis continued.

"Well, it'll be good to have fish for a change, won't it, girls?" Alma asked. They agreed, and Alma moved to start preparing the fish for dinner.

"Daddy, you've gotta come see my pictures," Junior whined.

"All right, darlin', I'm comin'," Ennis said. He followed her to her room and settled on the floor next to her while she pulled a pile of paper out of one of her books.

"This is you an' Mr. Twist," Junior said, giving him her seven year old's version of a picture of two men fishing by a stream. "This is you an' Mr. Twist ridin' the horses. This is me an' Francie an' you an' Mr. Twist," she continued, giving him a third picture. The Ennis and Jack figures were holding hands. "And I made a picture for Mr. Twist, too, Daddy. Can you give it to him next time you go fishin', if he doesn't come here?"

"Uh, yeah, darlin', I can make sure he gets it," Ennis said in a tight voice, his eyes focused on the last picture. The two men were standing in front of a house, holding hands, with a pair of horses, the two girls, and a smaller male figure that Junior had labeled 'Bobby.'

"I was gonna put a dog in that picture, but I wasn't sure if Mr. Twist liked dogs."

"We had a couple a heelers when we herded sheep," Ennis said, barely blinking as he stared at the picture and the clasped hands of the men. "He carried the puppy in his coat at the beginnin' a the summer. He likes dogs."

"OK, I'll put one in," Junior said, taking the picture and grabbing her crayons. "What color's a heeler, Daddy?"

"Grey and brown." He watched in silence as she added a dog to the picture. "Uh, where's your momma in the pictures?" Ennis finally asked. He accepted the picture and put it at the bottom of the pile.

Junior looked away. "Promise you won't get mad?" she asked.

"I promise," Ennis said solemnly.

"Momma don't like Mr. Twist, so I didn't want her in the pictures. I'd have to make her frowny, an' that woulda ruined it. But you an' Mr. Twist smiled a lot the other day, and me an' Francie was laughin' a lot, so I made us all smilin'."

"You added his boy, Bobby," Ennis commented.

"Well, it wouldn't be a real family if Mr. Twist didn't have his baby with him," Junior told him matter-of-factly.

"A real family," Ennis echoed, a vague, misty dream forming behind his eyes. "A real family," he repeated.