Written by Mandi/Fics_At_Random
Ennis jumped away.
Jack’s eyebrows furrowed, but he didn’t wake up.
It burned where he’d been touched despite the layer a clothes that separated Jack’s hand from his skin. Ennis had t’remind himself t’close his mouth that was hangin open an slow the rush a thoughts floodin him.
The worst a which was… it didn’t upset him.
Not like it should a… he was upset in some kinda way that he didn’t have words for. The hell was Jack doin with his arms ‘round him, like they were…
He rushed outta the tent an into the frigid mornin air. Forgot how cold the mountains were, along with everythin else.
But Jack was… he was… they were…. An worse yet, there was a ragin reaction down south he couldn’t account for -- or didn’t want to.
A rush a emotion hit him hard, an questions that didn’t have no answers. Is he? Am I? Have we?
An overwhelmin sensation washed over him that all the answers were yes. Yes. Yes, Jack was. Yes, he was. Yes, they did… but jus’ exactly what, he couldn’t say. Wouldn’t say.
“Ennis?” The tent flap pushed aside, Jack was restin on his elbow leanin out, lookin confused. “Ennis, are you…”
“M’fine,” he replied sharply, not in the tone he wanted.
“… c’mon back in here.”
“Ennis…” Jack sighed heavily with a strange sorta defeat in his voice. “I think it’s time I told you who I really am.”
Ennis sat in stoney silence as Jack’s story played out. Their story. A story a two confused kids on a mountain side, a wooly named Belle, a bastard named Joe Aguirre an somethin that didn’t have a name.
“I didn’t come here on account a you bein hit upside the head,” Jack shook his head. “I came up here for other reasons. I, uh… was hopin we could work somethin out, jus’ you an me.”
“I ain’t queer,” he grumbled, the words feelin strange on his tongue, rough an gritty.
“I know.” Holdin you. Neither had the fortitude t’say it or admit what it meant t’both of ‘em. “Ennis… I came up here t’ask you a question.”
Ennis said nothin.
“We… we had somethin, you an me... an I know you feel it. I know you did, an I felt it, too… it never went away…”
“Jack…” Well, now that it was out in the open, there weren’t any denyin it. Ennis never was much of a liar no how, no sense startin now. “I got a wife an a kid…”
“An you got a wife…”
“Who deserves better’n me.”
He wondered for a moment if Alma deserved better, too. Couldn’t say that thought hadn’t crossed his mind before, but now… now it was there with a different meanin. Now it weren’t altruistic.
“I came up here,” Jack continued, “t’ask you if you… wanted t’start up a cow an calf operation somewhere.”
“A business deal?”
“I… yeah, in a way.”
“I couldn’t take Junior an Alma away from Riverton,” he said quickly, searchin for any valid reason. “Alma’s got family here an Junior’s got school…”
“Oh… I was thinkin… jus’ us.”
There was a flash of illumination in which Ennis saw himself happily workin alongside Jack, raisin beef cattle, standin straight t’stretch his back, wipin sweat off a his forehead, a kiss from a blurry somebody he couldn’t see for the sunset behind him…
An jus’ as fast, it was gone.
“Ain’t even thought on it.”
“Don’t hafta,” he shook his head, as if tryin t’shake somethin loose, some sorta sense that weren’t makin itself useful jus’ now. “Cain’t happen.”
Always full a questions. Questions that didn’t have answers. Questions Ennis would rather not think on.
“Two roughnecks shacked up together out in the middle a nowhere? I know folks that got killed for that, an maybe even less.”
“I’ll die for this,” Jack said fiercely. “If they want me so bad, let ‘em come, I’ll ….”
Ennis raised his hand, then put it to his forehead. “No.”
“Is it ‘cause you’re afraid t’die?”
“It’s ‘cause I ain’t queer!” He spat back.
Jack looked momentarily hurt an said nothin. “Did I waste my trip comin up here?”
“’Spose that all depends on whatcha came up here for,” Ennis grumbled, not wantin t’admit that everything in his life right now felt like a waste.
“I came up here t’see my friend,” he began, then stopped an laughed at himself a little. “Guess it ain’t no good lying to ya. I came up here all the way from some shithole in Texas t’tell you I love you an wanna be with you. This friends business is a load a shit, Ennis. You know that.”
I do, but I ain’t gonna say it or think on it. That kinda life don’t fit into how I was raised. But try as he might, he couldn’t deny the gravitational pull of a little ranch a his own with Jack Twist. Ain’t I always been savin twelve bucks in that old coffee can for a spread a my own? Is this my chance? Cain’t be! Why’s it gotta be with him?!
“I know that,” he said quietly, an stared at Jack in shock a his own words. “I know somethin ‘bout us ain’t right,” he corrected, but somethin still felt like it’d been let loose, somethin wild, somethin that couldn’t be bridled.
“What ain’t right?” Jack’s eyes were a smoldery blue, a shade Ennis had only seen before a storm.
“The way you feel ‘bout me.”
“You look me in the eye an tell me you don’t feel it, too.” It was a dare. A threat. Whatever it was, it weren’t friendly.
It weren’t a thought he was allowin, but it came anyway. Holdin that man felt more right than anythin had since the crash. In years. In his whole life. There was no denyin that this man was holdin a part a Ennis up in the palm a his hand; wouldn’t admit that that part was his achin, beatin heart.
But despite all a that, he looked Jack square in the eyes. “I don’t.”
Jack smiled in a sad sorta way an touched Ennis’ face, who did not -- could not -- pull away. “Y’always was a shitty liar.”
Ennis avoided Jack for a while that mornin, arguin he needed time t’think, an Jack, ever helpful, gave him the time. He kicked rocks along the stream, wonderin t’himself how things ever got t’be this way. Not with Jack, but most. The car wreck that left him unable t’remember shit, and worse, shit he wanted so bad t’remember.
I knew him, he finally admitted t’himself. I knew his body an he knew mine. He was holdin me there in the palm a his hand an that sonofabitch knew it. He knows things ‘bout me that I don’t… and, he thought with a yolk of guilt that he couldn’t get out from under, things that Alma don’t know.
He saw her face in his mind, misery sad. An Junior, lookin so like her mother, layin in bed an broken an here he was on a mountainside with….
He knew his voice, he knew his smell, he knew everythin ‘bout this man but… he was still as strange an foreign t’him as some country ‘cross the sea.
He headed back for camp. There was one thing left he had t’know for sure.
Jack knew the end was comin ‘fore it began. Ennis had left in a damned hurry, lookin awful scared.
Should be. You took what weren’t yours by no rights an now he knows. He knows what you are. What the two a you were… an it was like you thought… nothin.
He bit down bile; never could throw up without having a panic attack followin it, but now he wished more’n ever he could puke, but his insides were hollow.
Ennis’ words reverberated in his mind. Jack crouched down on his knees near the dyin embers a the fire an wondered what on earth gave him the idea t’come back t’this God forsaken mountain where all his best memories lived.
Was that really all he had?
“I wanna be buried out here,” said a voice that wasn’t his, but he knew instantly.
“You won’t die a amnesia, Ennis,” Jack wiped his nose on the back a his sleeve for no reason other’n somethin t’do.
“Meant when I’m…”
“You don’t gotta small talk me… you were always shit at that, too… Don’t know nobody else who’d make small talk outta funeral arrangements.”
There was a painful silence that lasted longer’n an eternity.
“I gotta know, Jack… did we ever…” He couldn’t even say the words. They swarmed in his head like angry hornets, stingin an killin him an him powerless t’stop any a it.
Jack didn’t speak. The hell do I do? Lie t’him?
“Jack…” Ennis’ words were punchin their way outta his mouth, one by painful one. “We… we’re more’n fishin buddies, ain’t we?”
It wasn’t a question.
“Everythin.” He knew what was comin, dreaded it, but knew an was as ready as he could be for the oncomin storm. “The whole way. I… we… It was a long time ago. But yes, Ennis… we did.”
He couldn’t speak for the want t’say he knew it ‘fore the words hit the roof a his mouth, but hearin it confirmed by the man who was there -- the man who remembered it -- crushed him. Crushed him beneath a weight a emotions that had no names, no words t’explain them, an no route t’get ‘em outta his body.
No way but one.
A single tear slid down Ennis Del Mar’s face.
Jack took it for regret; it weren’t.
It was relief.