A/N: Old!fic, ftw. Guess I can post it here.
Ennis knows that it's not going to be easy to deny that Jack is dead anymore. He knows that they were doomed to be nothing from the start, never to go around in freedom except for that shitsplat camp in Brokeback Mountain.
Of course they hadn't known it at the time, kissing desperately behind the cream canvas tent while they were tucked up in the middle of nowhere.
But Ennis knows that it was easier when he could say goodnight and go. He would always leave Jack behind to clean up everything and purge everything in the icy mountain creek, as if they were never there.
It was easier before Jack wanted something Ennis couldn't give him. It was easier before he died because he couldn't deny that want.
He's never been in touch with himself the way Jack was. Jack knew his own soul like the paths up at Brokeback, winding into dirt-lined mazes. But Ennis can't find his way around whatever he feels, if he feels anything at all. They had always been like that, even when they were too quiet in the parking lot that first summer in '63.
Jack had always felt for the both of them. And he had since the beginning, when he pushed Ennis towards him, hot and desperate and wanting something Ennis wasn't sure he wanted. He had given in only because he, too, had been desperate on a level he wouldn't admit. He ended up promising Jack sometime later that it would be a one-shot deal, no strings attached.
Ennis had wanted it to be a memory he could pick up sometime later and frown at, like a childhood photograph he wasn't too fond of but couldn't get rid of.
But Jack had caused all the problems by not being ashamed. Jack had kept the memory close to him, treasuring it like the first time his father said, "I'm proud of you," only to never repeat the phrase again.
If Jack had just been content with his little rodeo queen Lureen and his Bobby down in Texas, nothing would have ever happened.
He might have stayed down in Mexico, tanning while drunk on tequila and pretending any pretty chico he found would really love him the way Ennis didn't.
It's what Ennis is telling himself because it's always been easier to lie.
But one day he decides that he's not going to lie anymore. It's about ten years after Jack has died, burnt to ashes and divided as if he was gold in a treasure chest, a material possession to ship and cart all across the Midwest. The postcards will be enough for Ennis to keep to himself, posted like a messy collage in his dresser. But Jack wanted his ashes flying in Brokeback Mountain, stretching from the tops of the bulleted-blue Wyoming sky to the dark deeps of the shining sapphire lakes.
Despite the fact that he hasn't been on that road that led to ecstatic sin for years, he remembers the route too well, pretending that Jack is still next to him when only his shirt and jacket rest on his seat. In his dreams he's seen Jack again, blowing cigarette smoke out the window and playing that damn harmonica, singing like the rodeo fool he was. He can feel his ghost still there, strong arms wrapped around him, soothing his sorrows away with promises that it would be okay.
He urges his mare forward on their sheepherding path about an hour later. He is led through streams and up hills, reaching to scrape against the sun. Nobody has herded here a long time and the mountain has been deemed unsafe for nature-loving campers, what with the bears and coyotes still hanging around like scars on a pretty woman's face.
Ennis is alone now and he knows that Jack would be whooping like he did so long ago if he was here.
He'd be quite the odd sight, screaming and laughing and falling down with that same, familiar energy that's gone now.
He enters the old camp near sundown, with a Better Most beans can rusting its way to oblivion and the same familiar paths beaten down with cowboy boots. The fire comes as soon as it can, pushed forward by wind and dryness, the shirt falling informally into the flames. The smell of Jack burns along with it and the incense climbs up to Heaven, an offering for God and perhaps Jack, too, if his sins were forgiven.
The fire dies down in the late evening as the cold sets in and the sun turns its back on the mountain to burn in someone else's sky. Ennis gathers all of the ashes in his open palms, tainting his skin a dead, dull gray. They hold the weight of the world within their dust and it takes Ennis forever to stop his crying and to simply move. He wades out into the water, ruining his boots and his jeans, but he doesn't care about either of those now. There is only Jack and the firelit memories he has of him, now burnt down to only ashes and dust.
At last, he throws his hands up to the sky, and leaves the ashes to find their way home.