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Until the Sky Clears

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The first time it’d happened was back at the Walsh ranch. Jack had collapsed in the field beneath a summer sun nearly three months after his traumatic incident. Ennis had run to him, finding his lover in the grass, pale and holding his head with tiny pants.

“It jus’ hurts,” is all he could manage, and Ennis had helped him up.

That had passed quickly, within the hour in fact. Jack had suggested that perhaps the heat had something to do with, or maybe he was working too strenuously too soon.

It hadn’t been a problem for a while after that.

The second time it’d happened, Jack had felt it coming on. The color had drained from his face a few weeks later on a drive, knuckles turning white on the wheel as he swerved. 

He’d pulled off the road, giving Ennis a quick glance with a pained expression that his lover would become increasingly familiar with. 

“Need you ta drive,” is all he said. 

It became a common occurrence after that, Jack was plagued with headaches that would sneak up on him at the most inopportune times. Some would last for minutes, others hours. Doctor’s said it was normal, said that it was something that often developed after even minor head injuries like a form of phantom pain.

Those same doctors were confident that this would subside with time, but of course, there’s always a chance it could be indefinite.

It makes Del Mar’s heart throb, knowing that Jack can’t escape that night like he wants to. This afternoon was no exception, in fact it’s probably the worst that Ennis had ever seen.

They’d been digging a fire pit in the backyard of their Amarillo home, building walls from the dirt to rise just above ground. Jack was laying flat stones, chattering away about the clouds that were rolling in, reminding Ennis to throw the tarp over the pit before they head inside.

“I always thought Texas was supposed ta be dry,” Jack says with minor amusement, and normally it is. However, Ennis had heard talks about a wet season that they were coming into, and when it rained in Texas, it poured.

“Think we could use a lil’ rain,” Ennis had mumbled.

“Yeah, well this town ain’t got no drainage system- everything’s gonna be flooded,” Jack grumbled. Ennis missed the rain though, missed the way it smelled on the pavement, and especially missed the cool air that came with it.

He glances at the clouds, almost hopeful, relishing in the gentle breeze.

And that’s when it happens. Jack’s going for another stone and slowly pauses before he can grab it. Ennis wouldn’t have noticed if it weren’t for the small hum that emitted from Jack’s throat. Umber eyes fall from where they were fixated on the sky, watching as Jack lifts a hand to his head.

“Goddamn it,” the brunette had muttered under his breath, eyes shut tightly and brows furrowed. Ennis is immediately crossing the pit, reaching to give his lover a hand.

“Hey-”

“No, I can keep goin’- it ain’t so bad,” Jack insists, waving Ennis off. Ennis sighs.

“You shouldn’t push yerself when this thing flares up,” he says, reaching once more for his partner. Jack shakes his head defiantly, though when he opens his eyes it’s a squint against the light of day.

This is any easy indicator that Jack’s in anguish, because the sun isn’t even out but any amount of light is like knives.

“See? It’s gettin’ bad, let’s go,” Ennis says sternly. In times like this, Jack needs to be pushed, because otherwise he’ll make it worse for himself.

Jack looks defeated, skin like a sheet of paper and a shaky breath escaping his lips. Droplets of rain start to fall, pattering against the greyish stones, bleeding into the fabric of their shirts.

“Startin’ ta rain anyway,” Jack grumbles, if only to make himself feel better. Though he still moves away, going for a folded blue tarp that sat beside the mounds of unused stones.

“Jack-” 

“I’m coverin’ the pit,” Jack snaps, and Ennis steps back, realizing that he needs to let Jack do things for himself sometimes. He only makes it about halfway before he drops, however, catching himself on the rocks with a steadying hand, fingers coming to pinch his eyes to protect them from the brightness of day.

“Okay-” Ennis huffs, he’s at Jack’s side again, holding tenderly on his arms to keep him from completely collapsing. “I’ll get it, jus’- let’s get you inside, alright?”

It would seem the fight in Jack was mute as he succumbs to the aching pain. Ennis can see the way his jaw tightens that he’s gritting his teeth, skin becoming clammy with a soft sheen as he trembles.

“Okay,” Jack strains, struggling even the smallest form of communication. Rain begins to fall in heavier drops around them, but still, Ennis has to coax Jack gently back to the house.

There’s a sliding glass door that leads into the kitchen from the backyard that he guides Jack through, heavy boots scuffing the tile as they make their way to the bedroom.

Jack’s resting a lot of weight onto Ennis, but it’s nothing the blonde can’t handle. He simply helps Jack onto the bed, keeping in mind to stay slow. The brunette crawls up to the pillows, burying his face with a soft groan.

With careful tugs, Ennis pulls off his lover’s boots, setting them down onto the hardwood floor with a quiet thud. His lips pull tight as he gazes with sympathetic eyes at the other man, unknowing the pain that pulsed against the right half of his skull.

It killed him knowing that the only other thing he could do for his partner was to grab some aspirin, but in times like these, all either of them could really do was let it pass.

He does move to the window, however, tugging the blinds closed and taking note of the heavy precipitation that was starting to fall. He could hear the pattering on the roof, wondering if the sound was more soothing to Jack than just ringing silence.

“‘Nnis?” comes the slur of his lover’s anguished voice. The blonde glances over to the still form of his counterpart, knitting his brows with question.

“It- The cool air?” Jack mumbles. Ennis connects the dots quickly, turning back to the window.

He reaches beneath the blinds, opening the glass just so. A breeze moves between the blinds softy, the sound of rain further fills the room. 

Ennis leans over the bed quickly. “Gonna grab some aspirin,” Ennis murmurs quickly. Jack’s only response to him with a small grunt and Ennis is gone. 

He maneuvers through the small house, acquiring a glass that he fills with water and a half empty bottle of aspirin from the medicine cabinet behind their bathroom mirror. 

He’d paused for a moment, glancing at the sink, gears turning behind his eyes. It might comfort Jack to have something cold against his skin, so Ennis wets a wash rag and wrings it out with his fist before he’s back in the bedroom. 

Jack’s in the same position he was left in with a white knuckled grip on the deep grey sheets. Ennis tightens his lips, setting the glass of water down in the end table, placing the rag beside it. He shakes the pill bottle for two tabs that fall into his palm, discarding the bottle and placing a soothing hand on the small of Jack’s back. 

“Darlin’?” He says quietly. Jack turns his head and looks up at Ennis miserably. 

“Here,” Ennis urges, voice soft against Jack’s ears- almost drowned out by the rain that beats against the roof. Jack accepts the medication, popping both tabs into his mouth before he pushes himself off the mattress just enough for Ennis to hand him the glass of water. 

With that, Jack hands back the glass, falling back against the pillows with a pained sigh. 

“S’been two years,” Jack says, voice tight. “Figured I would’a been done with this,” he huffs. Ennis can see him shaking and his chest tightens. 

He sits on the edge of the bed, reaching for the rag and watching Jack as he folds it long ways. 

“Jus’ gotta stand it,” Ennis mutters. Jack doesn’t seem very happy with that. 

“I don’t- I don’t wanna stand it,” he insists, baby blues hidden behind tightly shut eyelids. “I want it ta stop- it hurts.”

“I know,” Ennis says quietly, voice laden with sympathy as he carefully places the rag over Jack’s eyes. The brunette reaches up to adjust it, jaw tightening. Ennis breathes a soft sigh, his umber gaze lifting to the window where the curtains move with the breeze and the blinds tap against the window sill. 

It’s still raining pretty heavily, a soft rumble in the distance indicating a storm that was rolling through.

Ennis glances back down, seeing Jack with a hard grimace under the mask of his rag, muscles so tense he was trembling.

The blonde lays a soothing hand on his chest, rubbing tenderly to try and ease him. 

“You gotta relax, darlin’. Tensin’ up like that ain’t gonna help.”

Jack takes another shaky breath, letting his body go lax before he’s rigid again.

“I-It’s bad this time,” Jack whimpers, struggling to fight past the crushing pain that pushes against his skull. Ennis tightens his lips at that, eyes darting as he thinks. He turns suddenly, bending to pop off his boots. They fall unceremoniously to the floor and he turns, pushing against the mattress to sit against the headboard.

“Okay-” he breathes, reaching for his lover, tucking his arms under Jack’s to pull him into his lap. Ennis moves his legs apart so Jack can lie between them, letting the brunette’s head loll against his torso. Ennis shifts carefully, just a little to get more comfortable before he relaxes, letting his hands run soothingly through the soft locks of Jack's hair.

His touches are feather light and, from experience, he knows them to serve as a distraction for the brunette in times like these. 

Jack hums, relaxing against his partner’s lap. Ennis continues his ministrations, massaging Jack’s scalp with gentle fingers, letting the rain fill their silence as it steadies outside. 

He can feel the edge of Jack’s scar, tries not to linger there for too long but bitterness blossoms in his chest as that night comes back to him. Knowing Jack was still suffering from that blow fuels him with a dangerous fire that he can only let simmer. But this wasn’t about him, this wasn’t about the burning hatred he felt for the man responsible. This was about helping Jack through this, helping him recover because one day- Ennis just knows- this too will be nothing but memory.

His hands move, rubbing tender circles. “Gonna feel better once them meds kick in,” Ennis says quietly, bending so that he could be closer to his beloved. There seems to be a sense of calm that comes over Jack with this, like he finally lets his body go so that his headache can pass.

“Hope so,” Jack mutters. 

They fall into a comfortable silence after that, listening to the rain, waiting for it to pass. Jack is so quiet, so at ease that Ennis almost believes he fell asleep. 

Though he occasionally grits his teeth with a subtle movement in his jaw that indicates that there’s still a presence of discomfort. Ennis simply continues to stroke his hair, weaving his fingers in satin soft raven locks. 

It’s not until Jack lifts a hand to reach for the rag over his eyes, tugging it away to reveal blurry blue irises that Ennis feels relief blossoming in his chest. 

There’s still a squint to his eyes, but Jack offers a small smile before he reaches up to caress Del Mar’s cheek, discarding the washcloth on his chest. 

“Yer too good ta me,” Jack murmurs, the pounding in his head finally starting to dull. Ennis chuckles quietly. 

“I know. Yer spoiled. Completely rotten,” he teases. There’s a spread of warmth to Jack’s smile at that, lips stretched beautifully and hooded eyes flutter shut. 

“Rain’s stoppin’,” Jack mumbles, hand falling to hold Ennis’ forearm, thumb stroking softly. 

Ennis glances towards the window, noting the light that shimmers behind the curtains, indicating that the sky outside was clearing and that the sun was coming out. 

“Seems like it,” Ennis says, turning his attention back to the man in his lap. “How’s yer head?”

There’s a cheeky grin that spreads over Jack's face, eyes still closed. 

“No complaints so far,” he says. Ennis isn’t amused. 

“That ain’t what I meant, dumbass.”

Jack chuckles ever so lightly, batting his eyes open. “It’s better,” he assures. “Still hurtin’ but.. I’m okay.”

Ennis smiles warm heartedly. “Okay,” he whispers, smoothing back Jack’s hair to revel in the features of his face. 

There’s only a light drizzle outside now, quietly hitting against the glass. Jack’s eyes had fallen shut once again and even Ennis was starting to feel just a little drowsy. He’d leaned back against the headboard, still softly stroking his lover's hair. 

“Ennis?” Jack murmurs, voice soft against Del Mar’s ears. 

“Hm?”

“The tarp…” Ennis releases an exasperated sigh at that. 

“Shit.”  

Jack chuckles. “S’okay, sun’ll dry it up in no time,” the brunette assures. Ennis relaxes at that, petting Jack softly with eyes so adoring.

There’s a good chance they won’t make it back outside anyway. Staying here, in the quiet of their bedroom was much too appealing. Besides, he didn’t wanna throw Jack back into a workload so soon after a flare up. 

Weathered hands slide from feathery locks, tracing the line of Jack’s diamond cut jaw. Jack hums, grinning at the ghostly touch of Ennis’ fingertips. 

“Tickles,” he mumbles, head rolling over his lover’s abdomen. He peers up at the blonde, lips pulled in a lazy smile. Ennis has the sudden urge to capture those lips but their positioning makes it rather difficult. 

Instead, he gently pushed at his lover. Jack understands quickly, shifting so that Ennis can slide down the bed and Jack can settle over him, chest to chest. 

Ennis finally gets to pull him in, slow so their lips can mold together like they were made to do so. There’s a gentle push and pull to their kiss, Jack’s hand slides over the plains of Del Mar’s chest and Ennis cradles that back of his partner’s skull. 

Jack pulls away, a sheen over his lips. He looks at Ennis with doting eyes before he sighs, falling back against the other man’s chest and curling against him. 

“Could stay here forever,” Jack murmurs, nuzzling in with heavy lashes fluttering shut. Ennis curls an arm around his back, his other hand finding Jack’s over his chest. He rubs the brunette’s knuckles with the pad of his thumb, burying his nose in the soft tufts of hair atop Jack’s head. 

“Maybe jus’ fer a little while,” he mutters, sleepiness coming over him just the same. 

Slumber finds them both in the afterglow of Amarillo rain.