A Better Idea
Pulling away from the parking lot where he'd left Jack just standing there next to his pickup, Ennis felt such sadness as he'd never experienced in his whole worthless life up to this point. Everything had turned to anger and bitterness in the blink of an eye, he thought.
He feared that this time, they would not be able to fix it.
They had such a fine week on the mountain; one of their best ever. Even the weather had cooperated for the most part. Of course it was a mite cold for Jack's tastes, but since he settled in Texas, Jack was more inclined to feel the chill – and to bitch about it.
Earlier in the week, they spent time getting re-acclimated to being away from their other lives and responsibilities, and to remember how to let it all go, and enjoy being with each other. Always a pleasure, yet it was not always an easy process. They worked on setting up camp and taking care to see that everything was secured and clean for its next use. They didn't say it, didn't need to, but they were each happiest when sharing the work with each other. Having the other in sight all day was the basis of their joy.
On the third day, they fished and caught a huge mess of trout, which they cleaned and ate, along with some potatoes that they baked in the coals. Their habit was to take an evening walk after supper and these excursions produced some magnificent views and a few delicious discoveries; wild onions, and a few blackberries for their next meal.
The last two days were especially fine, and the day before yesterday they rode up into a clearing where the meadow was dotted with Indian Paintbrush, they had let the horses loose to run and roll in the grass. While the horses relished the freedom, and drank from the small stream, Jack stretched out in the grass and did some creative cloud sculpture. That puffy white cloud over there looks like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, he mused while munching some sweet grass, now he's changed into the Michelin Man. Jack couldn't help but smile to himself over this lazy bit of fun on a sunny, perfect afternoon.
"Anything interestin' up there in heaven?" Ennis asked mischievously, remembering the night on the river bank in 1967 when they'd found each other again after four fucking, lonely years. "I was just sendin' up a prayer of thanks." Jack replied, getting into the act. "For what?" continued Ennis in the same old dialog. "For you, cowboy." Jack answered with finality.
Ennis smiled freely as he could do nowhere else on earth, and put down the sandwiches he was in the process of pulling out of the insulated pack. He walked to Jack's resting spot and lay down beside him, thigh to thigh, chest to chest, and kissed Jack fully and deeply. "Jack, I … um …. That goes both ways, bud." After a second, Ennis continued haltingly, "Jack? You know well enough how I feel after almost 20 years with you, don't you?".
Jack nodded, and grabbed Ennis by his shoulders and pulled him over on top of his own length. They undid each other's buttons while never losing contact with their warm, eager mouths, each enjoying the wetness inside. Ennis could feel Jack's kiss change as he smiled against his lips. "What?" Ennis managed to ask, because he knew something was up. He pulled away a bit and looked down into the blue depths of Jack's gaze.
They were naked by now, having accomplished the swift disrobing from practice and from need for each other. Ennis' brown eyes peered into Jack's face, his erection pressing into Jack's leg, and he repeated the question. "What's your goofy grin all about?". And Jack made his point. "Well, since you've overwhelmed me with all a your romantic words out here today, I thought I oughta tell you some a my own."
"Yeah?" Ennis queried.
"I love you, too, Ennis. Always have."
Ennis gulped a big breath of air into his lungs, got a little smirky smile on his face and blushed. The love-sick fool of a man, blushed. Jack laughed out loud at the pleased expression on Ennis' face, and from his vantage point, his cowboy looked about 19 years old again. Will you look a there, thought Jack. Maybe I shoulda told him years ago.
Ennis turned a serious and passionate face to Jack and said, "Well Jack, I guess that makes you mine, and I want what's mine right now." The picnic sandwiches, cold water, and wild onions were forgotten for a good long while, and they didn't heed the hours passing, nor hear the meadow larks serenading them from the low, shrubby bushes.
They ate a very late lunch, then in companionable silence, gathered up what they'd brought with them that morning. Soon, Jack whistled for the horses. Usually, Ennis was the first to tend to the horses; murmuring to them, gently slipping the bridle over their heads and feeling for cracks or sharp edges or anything that could chafe horseflesh. But this late afternoon, it was Jack, cinching, fastening, softly humming while checking all the straps and buckles.
He hadn't noticed Ennis' disappearance, but if he thought about it at all, he would have assumed that Ennis needed to water the grass. So when he did turn to look where Ennis might be, he got the shock of his life.
Ennis was calmly strolling toward Jack, in his hands a tiny bouquet of yellow and crimson flowers. "My mama" said Jack, "calls those Painted Cups. I think they are the Wyoming state flower, Ennis."
"In any case, here. Um. . .fer you, little darlin'.". Now it was Jack's turn to blush, as he took the blossoms from that man's strong hands.
They got silly again, they put the flowers in Jack's hair, and a couple behind Ennis' ears, both of them mugging for effect, and making light of the fact that Ennis had picked the flowers for Jack.
Ennis surprised Jack further by beginning to speak once again. "I'm not ready to let this good day end, Jack. Would you mind staying up here awhile longer so we can see the sun set this ev'nin'?".
Jack thought he must have died and gone to heaven, "I'd be proud to, cowboy." he proclaimed.
As the light gradually seeped away, and the vivid reds and oranges faded to gray, Jack sat nestled between Ennis' legs, his back against Ennis' chest and reveled in the two strong arms wrapped possessively around him.
"You know, it could be like this, just like this always." whispered Jack, not wanting to break the spell.
Ennis' arms involuntarily tightened around the man who brought peace and contentment to his heart and soul. He leaned down to Jack's ear to nibble once, kiss twice, and he said, "Don't start with me, asshole!".
Wrestling, laughing and snorting, they didn't yet notice the chill in the air. Finally, they mounted the horses, and turned their heads home. Before the descent, they looked over the scene where they'd spent one idyllic day, and each felt compelled to acknowledge that they could paw the white out of the moon.
With a slight nudge of a booted foot into the horse's sides, and a tug on the reins, the contented party headed back to camp, to their tent, and a welcome fire.
On their last day, they usually took it easy because each was aware of their time coming to a close. There was a sadness about them, yet they still carried the relaxed feelings of having shared the week with the person most important to them in the world. They ate leisurely meals, talked about the things they'd seen and done this week, made love whenever the mood struck them, and never got more than an arm's length away from each other.
Unbidden, a hand would reach out and touch a face, skim a forearm or pinch an ass, then a little chasing, kissing and laughing were in order.
On their final night, they sat on lawn chairs out by the river; Jack bundled up like he was in Alaska. They shared a bottle of that old rotgut whiskey that had been a tradition with them since Aguirre was the provider of all their food and supplies. It was a running joke with them, and it really wasn't too bad. They also passed a joint between them, Jack having figured it was time they tried it, and who was the safest person in the world to try something new with? He reasoned that if he turned into a dope fiend right there on the river bank, Ennis was capable of knocking him out till he came to his senses. And vice versa, of course.
As the night faded they talked about their week, and the world they had to return to that next morning. When the talk waned, Jack brought up an old sore subject, asking Ennis if after all this time had he still not found someone to marry. Ennis told Jack of his little thing with Cassie, but didn't call her by name if he remembered what it was. He was non-committal as usual, when this topic came up.
Jack talked about Lureen, how they had drifted so badly from each other, and instead he had a kind of a thing going with a rancher's wife nearby. Ennis understood that need, and teased Jack about it.
But Jack turned serious, and desperately confessed to Ennis that sometimes he missed him so bad he couldn't stand it. Knowing exactly what that feels like, Ennis merely glanced at Jack, nodded and said not a word. That night, as usual they slept snuggled close, but Ennis held Jack more tightly in his arms through the night, dreading the morning light when they must part.
Ennis dreaded something else as well; the news he must deliver to Jack about their August trip. Not wanting to ruin any of their time together on the mountain, Ennis had purposely left the worst bit of news for last.
End of Chapter One.