Written by Mandi/Fics-At-Random
Rated: PG to NC-17 in parts, this one is PG-13.
"You wanna go on a fishin trip?" Alma asked, almost incredulously, starin at her husband with a puzzled look.
"It, uh..." It beats sittin 'round here bein miserable. But he didn't say that, it would a got him killed. "It might help."
"How would a fishin trip help?"
"I dunno," he shrugged. "M'hopin for anythin that might help."
Alma folded her arms, unfolded 'em, an folded 'em again. I need you here with our daughter that... you don't fully remember. Maybe Ennis gettin out ain’t such a bad thing… if I didn’t trust him t’not forget his way home.
“What if you… don’t remember the way home?” Alma asked, an would later laugh in a bitter irony of what she had said t’him that day.
“Uh… Jack’s goin,” he offered half heartedly, feelin that somehow that wouldn’t soothe her none.
“Oh,” her face brightened a little. “Well, that’s a little better, but… I don’t think it’s a good idea. When were you plannin on goin?”
“Tomorrow mornin,” he shuffled his feet.
“Tomorrow mornin?!” She cried. “Oh, no… No, no, no, that is not a good idea, Ennis!”
“It’s just for a few days…”
“You ain’t well yet!”
“I might never be.”
She bit down the urge t’cry, wonderin if maybe that weren’t the truth of it. Maybe he’d never fully remember her, their family, their past… What future have we got if he don’t remember what we had?
Ennis caught the sad, worried expression on his wife’s face an shrugged. “I guess I’ll stay here, if that’s what you want.”
“I want what you want,” she said plainly, even though she meant it. “I want whatever’s gonna make you better, an if a fishin trip is it, then go fishin with Jack.”
The packin a the truck was very quiet; Alma didn’t have no cause t’keep Ennis at home, but somethin in the back a her mind wouldn’t rest ‘bout this matter. What if he never comes back? What if he cain’t It would take her years t’understand the full truth a that, when she was remarried with a new baby on the way.
“Have fun, you two,” she smiled, though she didn’t entirely feel like doin it.
“M’am,” Jack tipped his hat, feelin sick in his gut for what he was doin.
Ennis hugged an kissed Alma, mostly outta duty, promisin he’d bring home lotsa fish, ‘cause Junior an Alma loved trout whenever he brought some home. Wished there was more t’that goodbye hug an kiss, but he figured it was jus’ on account that he didn’t remember her so good, so he swallowed down the feelin an hopped into Jack’s truck, (his was newer an not so beat up as Ennis’), an headed out for Signal.
“What d’you remember ‘bout Brokeback?” Jack asked, when they were a few good miles down the road.
“Uh, not much,” Ennis shrugged.
He didn’t tell Jack what he did remember; a punch in the face ‘fore comin down. Figured it was best not t’bring that up, or the reason why he’d done it in the first place. Why did I go doin’ that shit anyhow?
“We, uh… Wrangled woolies up there in sixty-three,” Jack filled in. “Worked for a guy named…”
“Joe Aguirre,” Ennis said quickly, an Jack looked over at him, surprised.
“So you do remember?”
“No,” he shook his head, wonderin why he found that particular name in his mouth. “I, uh… I don’t, not really.”
“Well, it was for Joe Aguirre, biggest bastard I ever knew…. ‘sides my father-in-law, mind you.”
“Tell me ‘bout your wife,” Ennis prodded, not knowin why he was so curious ‘bout her all of a sudden. “Do I know her?”
“Uh, no,” Jhe shook his head, wishin all of a sudden that Lureen hadn’t come up an swelled the guilt up in his throat again. “We met in Texas.”
“How’d you get to Texas?”
“Rodeo,” he answered flatly.
Somethin in Ennis’ sould stirred at the words. “Rodeo… you do that, I know that, but… didn’t I used t’call you that?”
Jack smiled. “You did.”
Didn’t say how the pet name bothered him; why would he give one t’Jack? Ain’t even gave one t’Alma or Junior, short a “darlin.” But he called his horses that, too, so it weren’t even a real special term of endearment. He squirmed in his seat. “An you called me Cowboy, didn’tcha?”
Jack nodded slowly, smile fadin slightly. “I did.”
“Seems you remember more than…” He stopped himself. This weren’t the time or place t’ bring up… that. Still had no clue how t’tell Ennis how close they’d been… how well an closely he’d known him. Wasn’t so damned sure that it weren’t all a dalliance t’him, either. There was sometimes no way t’tell with that man. What if the amnesia was also some convenient way t’forget? T’wipe the slate clean like it never happened… not ‘cause a the hit on the head, but worse, by conscious choice.
Truth was, Ennis did remember. His body remembered an felt like it was achin jus’ t’be near this fella that he must a known for an age an been good friends with. More than good friends, but he didn’t know that. Didn’t wanna know that.
“I’m hopin this trip brings back some a your memory,” Jack said. Didn’t mention why he wanted Ennis t’remember… His last postcard arrived with the harsh reality Jack had finally accepted; he was gonna be with Ennis. Leave Lureen an take up with Ennis, like it should a been since day one, no bullshit. He had steeled himself for a let down that never fully came. He was still waitin for that other shoe t’drop.
They led their rented horses outta the trailer; Jack, ever the daredevil, chose another low startle point mare, determined t’break her in. Ennis took up a fat quarter horse the farm had called “Couch,” ‘cause ridin him was awful similar t’ridin on living room furniture. But that was the kind a horse Ennis liked; the steady, predictable kind. He smiled t’himself as Jack fought with that damned mare, rememberin some far off day when he saw this younger man battlin with another horse a the same caliber.
“Don’t see why y’had t’have that one,” he shook his head, mountin Couch with a swiftness he’d forgotten he had.
“I like a challenge.”
Seemed quite appropriate for Jack, or at least the one he’d met over the past few days. Seemed he enjoyed a good “problem animal.” Little did he know.
The trail up the side a the mountain didn’t bring back the flood a memories Ennis had been hopin for…. but there was somethin in the air that cleared his head, that removed all the cluttered debris of worryin over a paralyzed daughter an a wife he didn’t quite remember…. Made him sick that he didn’t even remember his own kid like should. Pretended that he came up here t’give her some time away from her errant brained daddy, but that wasn’t the real case.
Why did I come up here?
He knew it had t’be somethin ‘bout Jack Twist that convinced him t’come up this godforsaken mountain on a fishin trip they could a done at the local creek runnin jus’ north a town. No, he needed time; alone time, that was. It still didn’t sit so right with him that he wanted all this private time with Jack, but he couldn’t really say why. Weren’t for lack a the wantin, he couldn’t figure out what it was about this man that made him feel the need t’be alone with him.
Jack led the way, since he knew how t’get t’the creek that ran down the mountain an into a little basin where he said there was decent fish. For a good three minutes, Ennis didn’t catch himself starin at the well muscled back a the fella in front a him -- how’d he get that way? Ridin?
His stomach rumbled a little even though they’d stopped an had breakfast ‘fore gettin here. But it weren’t a hunger pang, it was… well, a different sorta hunger… a flop over. His stomach did some sorta move that made him feel like it was gonna introduce itself t’his throat. Would rodeo ridin really give someone a body like that?
The view from behind was nothin like the view straight on. Goddammit, I ain’t seen a color blue like that in my life, was his first thoughts on lookin the stranger friend in the eye. Full lips, high cheek bones, dimples an two birth marks behind his ear…
Once he did realize what he was doin, he was horrified; lookin at Jack like he was… like he would a good lookin woman! He was grateful for the uncomfortable saddle that made any physical evidence a his thoughts visible, but he couldn’t shake that feelin that he’d been lookin at a man that way… an worse, a man that was probably a lifelong friend who would be twice as horrified as Ennis if he knew what was going on.
This is all a side effect a the amnesia, Ennis told himself, an gave Couch a swift clip in the side so he was ridin alongside Jack Twist instead a watchin longingly from behind him.
“Here,” said Jack with no particular air of authority, dismountin his horse quickly an unpackin things ‘fore Ennis could fully realize where they were.
It looked like Heaven oughta look; impossibly tall, leafy green trees hidin a small basin a water where the creek emptied itself with a quiet whoosh. He wondered if he’d been here before, an lamented the fact that if he had, nothing sprung t’memory when he saw it again.
Squirrels jumped from tree t’tree, examinin the intruders with alerted interest ‘fore goin back t’whatever it was that squirrels do with their time.
“Ennis?” Jack was lookin at him funny. Must a been thinkin too hard, or searchin his memory for any remains a this place for too long that he’d worried the other fella.
“We been here before?”
“A few times,” he said casually, though he didn’t wanna say in what context they’d benn here, an his heart was sick for it.
“Feels like I should remember,” he sighed sadly. “Shame I don’t, it’s, uh… real nice place.”
“No worries if ya don’t,” Jack was assemblin the line a his fishin pole, cussin as his fingers slipped. “Always been a goddamned klutz, you know that? I, uh… d’you remember?”
“I think so,” he squinted his eyes shut, lookin hard for any memory a Jack doin anythin.
And then, there it was.
”That’s flat,” Ennis grumbled good naturedly as he peeled outta his dirty shirt, throwin it aside for a good washin in the creek later.
“That filly flattened it,” Jack replied, his had tipped over his eyes, breathin evenly into the broken harmonica.
“Had t’have that goddamned horse,” he laughed t’himself. “Cain’t say as I ain’t grateful for it. Maybe that horse’ll show her worth after all.”
Jack stood up, grin lopsided, an put the instrument into his breast pocket. “M’goin t’look for coyotes.”
Ennis nodded, feelin the unspoken closeness that got even more personal as Jack took a step into him an kissed him goodbye…
Ennis’ eyes shot open.
“You remember somethin?”
It was a long moment ‘fore Ennis could speak again.
“Yeah… I think I do.”
Never did talk on what he remembered, but they didn’t have to. The memory a Jack’s goodbye kiss poisoned the casual intimacy that had built up between ‘em since that day in the hospital. They could both feel it an wanted t’scream for talkin ‘bout it, each sittin tight an willin the other t’bring it up.
No one did.
The fish weren’t bitin like Jack bragged they always did. Maybe they felt the tension, too. Maybe they didn’t wanna be pulled outta their safe, comfortable world an hauled up into this one where everythin was so goddamned confusin. Neither Ennis nor Jack could blame ‘em.
“So,” Jack finally began, sick a the silence, “you never did tell me what you… were rememberin. What was it?”
Ennis had been jus’ as careful as Jack t’not bring that up, so the segway into the conversation startled him, his pole jitterin from between his knees.
“Uh… did you have a harmonica?”
“It got broke somehow, didn’t’ it?”
“My filly sat on it.”
Ennis allowed himself a nervous smile. “From what I was rememberin, I was grateful for that.”
Relief spread visibly over his features. He remembered my harmonica? THAT’S what was? He could have roared with laughter at the absurdity of it all. He remembers that goddamned hunk a metal!
“What was I playin?”
“Strawberry Roan,” he replied without a moment’s hesitation. “Sounded like shit.”
The relief Jack had felt instantly came rushin right back outta his body. Strawberry Roan weren’t a song he knew or cared for that much, an he remembered only one time he’d played it.
I kissed him. I kissed him, goddammit, Ennis, couldn’t you have remembered ANYTHING other’n THAT moment?!
“Is that… all you remember?”
“No,” his breath shook as it rushed from his body.
They didn’t speak for another two hours.
The tent was set up, the silence long since broken over arguin the right way t’set up a tent that, thank God, didn’t smell like cat piss. Ennis grumbled somethin ‘bout a tent that he remembered that stunk t’high heaven. Slowly, it seemed, Brokeback was bringin Ennis Del Mar back.
But back t’what?
Jack bit his lip unconsciously wonderin what it was gonna mean when he came t’the conclusion, if he hadn’t already, that they’d been lovers. Was that even the right word? It seemed like so much more than that… More intricate, more involved… more complicated for sure…
The horses had oddly found love; they were nuzzlin each other an standin close together. Looked so strange, a take it slow Couch next to this wild eyed filly whose name Ennis could not recall. It looked so outta place, those two animals, who were so damned different that it defied logic that they could even exist in the same space.
Jack an Ennis sat ‘round a roarin fire, passin a bottle a whiskey back an forth, swappin stories ‘bout their lives, or at least the parts Ennis remembered. Jack laughed when he talked ‘bout his awful father-in-law, L.D. Newsome, an how he thought Jack Twist was “beneath” his rodeo princess daughter.
“Ain’t right,” Ennis grumbled suddenly.
“Well, it’s what he thinks an he’s got so much money that it’s practically shootin outta his ass, so I guess that makes him right.”
“No, it doesn’t.” Don’t you see how good you are for that girl?
An why, exactly, that thought pained him, he couldn’t say.
Jack merely shook his head. “She ain’t the one.”
He took a long swig ‘fore continuing. “Well, there was someone else.”
“Why didn’t you marry her?”
Jack ignored the question. “Lureen’s a great woman… she’d make anyone happy.”
“Anyone but you?”
He sighed. “Guess the thing is, ‘sides Lureen, there ain’t no other girl for me… an I ain’t even sure ‘bout her.”
Hadn’t lied, not really. There wasn’t another girl for him, but… he looked up at Ennis, who looked so sweetly confused… Goddammit, it burned t’see him sittin there, mind so broken an twisted up, wantin badly t’tell him the truth but havin no words t’do it with.
“You’ll find someone,” said Ennis, reachin for the bottle.
An he hadn’t lied, either.
“I’m gonna sleep out here,” Ennis said firmly, havin been arguin with Jack ‘bout sharin a pitifully small tent that could barely hold one full grown man, let alone two. It was only Ennis who was thinkin the bringin a only one tent was an accident. Jack kicked the dust, wonderin if his plan was completely ruined.
“Room enough for two,” he said almost sadly.
“Ain’t room for one,” Ennis shrugged. “Don’t matter, I don’t mind. I’ll lay in front a the fire…”
He was feelin a little euphoric drunk, wonderin if drink had always affected him this way.
“That fire’s gonna go out.”
“I’ll be fine.”
We’re in the mountains, you stubborn mule! Jack wanted to shout. You think you’re gonna be warm enough out here?!
“Okay,” was all he said.
Ennis’ teeth chattered loud enough t’wake Jack outta the sleep he hadn’t been in. He’d been starin at the ceilin a the tent for several hours, thinkin on whether he should go out there an join Ennis by the fire or take him into the tent by force.
Ennis grumbled something in his sleep an kept right on shiverin.
“Ennis… goddammit, get in here! You’ll freeze your ass off!”
It was all the invitation he needed, rushin into the tent with his sleepin bag, squishin himself up beside Jack.
The electricity was palpable in that little tent that weren’t built t’hold two grown men an the unspoken charge between ‘em. Jack laid perfectly still as Ennis squirmed, searchin for space an ground, settlin finally with a long sigh that led way into soft snorin.
Ennis awoke the next mornin, slightly hung over, eyes squintin in the pale lavender of the mornin. He stretched as his fingers searched out an itch on his chest…
His fingers found a hand that wasn’t his restin on his chest, Jack Twist curled up against his back.
He didn’t even wake up.