The wind howled over the desolate landscape and the silent buildings, carrying with it a cold and bitter hint of forthcoming winter. It picked up an empty feed bag and carried it down the street, depositing it underneath a black pickup truck that had definitely seen better days, going unnoticed by the two young men leaning against it. The air between them was thick with tension, and hanging in it were the words they were saying, and the words they were not saying.
Finally, after an uncomfortable silence, unwilling to meet his companion's eyes, Ennis spoke again.
"So I guess I'll see you around, huh?" He finally met Jack's eyes, trying to ignore the bruise on his cheek.
"Right." replied Jack distractedly, nodding. See you around? That's it? That's all I get after everything that happened up there?
Of course it is, you dumbass. You knew he was engaged, he told you himself, but that didn't stop you did it? You were too busy fallin' for him to notice. You started this knowin' full well it couldn't last. You agreed it was a one-shot thing.
I thought it would be. I never expected it to hurt so much when it was all over.
It took a great effort for Ennis to move away from the truck and set off walking. A dull ache had started in his gut, and as he watched Jack drive further and further away from him, the pain suddenly ripped through. He clutched at his stomach, pain blurring his vision, and he staggered into the alleyway.
Jack's eyes had been gradually filling with tears as he started off, and he wiped them away furiously, hating himself for feeling being so weak.
You should have seen it comin', he scolded himself.
He looked back into the mirror where he'd been watching Ennis walk, where he had sneaked a few glances that first day outside Aguirre's trailer while shaving, highly intrigued by this silent, mysterious stranger.
As he continued to watch Ennis, he saw, to his surprise, Ennis stop walking, clutch his stomach and stagger into the alleyway. Jack debated with himself. He wanted to make sure Ennis was okay, but since their fight on the hill that he still bore scars of, he was unsure how Ennis might respond to a caring touch.
Ah, fuck it, he thought. I gotta make sure he ain't passin' out or nothin'. He turned the truck back around and started driving back.
Ennis sank to his knees, pressing his hands to the wall, retching and gasping for breath. His stomach was in knots and his head was swimming. He didn't know what had caused this, for he had never felt this bad in his life, but felt he could make a pretty good guess.
He heard tires and hurried footsteps, and then those hands, those warm, firm hands that had held him and soothed him so many times, rubbing his shoulders and neck. Then that voice, that voice that was music to his ears.
"Hey," whispered Jack, sounding calm and terrified all at the same time. "You okay?" He crouched down beside Ennis, rubbing at his back. Ennis, unable to speak, shook his head.
"Take a deep breath, you'll be okay." Jack soothed, and through the hand on Ennis's neck, he felt his heart rate return to normal. What the hell's goin' on?
Ennis allowed Jack to slowly pull him to his feet, took a deep gulping breath and met his eyes. Deep pools of brilliant blue full of concern, the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen, eyes to haunt dreams.
Before Jack could react, Ennis had buried himself in his arms, clutching at Jack's back. Jack blinked several times in surprise before returning the embrace. Ennis rarely let his guard down like this, and Jack didn't know what to make of it.
Ennis finally calmed down and pulled himself away, blinking back tears. He opened his mouth. "Jack, I..."
"What is it? Jack asked softly, waiting patiently. He knew Ennis had trouble voicing his feelings, but he would have waited however long it took for Ennis to get the words out.
I'd do anything for this man, he thought to himself, an' I gotta show him best I can.
"It's just..." his throat felt constricted and his voice was thick with emotion. "Can ya just..."
"What? Whatever ya need me to do, just tell me. I hate to see ya like this." He squeezed Ennis's shoulders.
"Can ya...stay?" he mumbled. "I mean, we don't gotta go home yet right? Can ya..." He trailed off and met Jack's eyes, and in that look Jack saw what he was trying to say.
"You don't want me to go yet? That it? You wanna stay a while?" He had to acknowledge his surprise that Ennis was suggesting this, yet he felt his heart lift. Ennis nodded and exhaled, relieved that Jack had understood.
Jack nodded and smiled. He wants to spend more time with me, he thought happily. I guess that's somethin', an' I'll take what I can get.
He led Ennis, who was still shaking, over to the truck before climbing in himself, hastily shoving his bag off the passenger seat onto the floor before Ennis could see what was in it.
He don't need to know, he told himself as he drove the truck down the road.
Joe moved away from the window and sat down at his desk, exhaling with relief. Finally, they'd gone. Fucking queers, he was glad to be finally rid of them, hoping he had seen the back of them. If they ever did turn up to darken his doorway again, he would send them straight back out again, no matter how desperate he got for help.
It was because of their unnatural behaviour that half the sheep they'd come back down with weren't even his, and the number had been nothing close to what he'd been expecting. He had of course seen the bruise on Twist's cheek and vaguely wondered if Del Mar had done it, he sure seemed capable, but didn't need to wonder why he might have done it.
He was sitting in his office, smoking and thinking of calling his wife, when he heard a sharp knocking on the door.
Joel Smith stepped inside. He was the other hand that Joe had hired alongside young Jack Twist. Like Jack, Joel came from near the Montana border, Lovell or somewhere like that. Joe knew both their fathers, and with both of them having turned eighteen he had agreed to give them the summer job up on Brokeback.
Joe stared as Joel stepped into the trailer. He looked nervous and unwilling to meet Jack's eyes, turning his hat over and over in his hands.
"The hell you doin' here, Smith? Should be up on Brokeback, s'only been two weeks."
Joel looked a good deal more subdued than the last time Joe had seen him. "Sorry Mr Aguirre, but I gotta quit, gotta go home. Got altitude sickness real bad, can't stand it no more."
Joe looked at him suspiciously, narrowing his eyes. His father had never mentioned anything of Joel being susceptible to altitude sickness, surely would have mentioned it when asking Joe to hire him.
"An' what about Twist? Gonna leave him to look after a thousand sheep on his own? He ain't no older'n you, you know."
Joel had averted his eyes upon hearing Jack's name. He swallowed and tried to choke out a few more words, but felt unable to do so. He would not, under any circumstances, tell anyone what had happened the night before, felt a burning shame whenever he thought about it.
Joe decided that Joel wasn't going to give him a satisfactory answer. He got up and handed Joel several notes. "That's yer two weeks, now get the hell outta here." Joel didn't need telling twice.
He sat down again and picked up the phone, dialling Joel's father.
"Jim? It's Joe Aguirre."
"Hey Joe, how's my boy doin' up there? Good worker ain't he?" Jim's pride in his son was evident in his voice, a world away from how John Twist had ever spoken about Jack.
"Ain't never gonna know, Jim. Your boy's just been back at my trailer, sayin' he's gotta go home, somethin' about altitude sickness. You could've told me."
"Altitude sickness? The hell, Joe? The boy's never had that in his life! Used to take him an' his brothers hiking in the mountains all the time, they never once got sick. Why would he now?"
Jim was right, it didn't add up. Joe couldn't think what to say to this revelation, so decided to let it drop and simply ended up telling him that Joel had been paid his two weeks and was heading home.
When Twist came down at the end of the summer, he'd looked worn out and had also been reluctant to make eye contact. That storm had killed forty-two sheep and he simply hadn't been able to cope on his own.
He wouldn't have been on his own if he'd been normal, Joe thought to himself now.
He remembered how Twist's mother had called him to tell her son about his uncle being in hospital. So he had gone up there. He'd used his binoculars to locate them, and no amount of warning could have prepared him for what he'd seen.
Del Mar and Twist were half-naked, running around, pants undone. He shuddered at the thought. He'd seen them wrestling, falling to the ground, kissing. Out there in broad daylight, in front of God.
For a while after the previous summer he'd wondered why Joel had really left, but it wasn't until he'd seen Twist with Del Mar that he'd understood. Looking back, Joe had to wonder at how Twist had had the guts to show up again, despite his lack of skill and unnatural urges. Then he'd seen Del Mar, tough, silent and definitely not the type for that.
Or so he'd thought, until he'd spied them that day. Del Mar had responded where Smith hadn't. He'd let it happen. So what about the bruise? Had he finally come to his senses?
He remembered there was a Del Mar living here in Signal, went by the name K.E., most likely his brother. Joe felt that the family ought to hear the truth about their relative, what he was. He didn't have a number or address, but figured the post office would know. He got up and headed outside.
He drove quickly through town, not paying any notice to his surroundings. If he had, he would have seen the old black pickup truck parked outside the dingy old bar.
The two of them sat side by side at the bar, drinking beer like before, as if nothing had changed. Except, of course, everything had changed. The uncomfortable silence between them was enough to prove that.
Jack was confused, and rightly so. Ennis had asked him to stay, had been in a real state, yet since they'd sat down he hadn't uttered a word.
My dad would be callin' the paper if he saw me this quiet, he thought wryly. Then again, if he could see what I've been up to he'd be diggin' out the shotgun.
What the hell am I supposed to do?
Ennis cleared his throat, shaking Jack from his thoughts.
"Uh...Jack?" he mumbled, as he always did when reluctant to speak up.
"Yeah? What's up?" Jack turned to face Ennis, who had his eyes fixed on his bottle, picking at the label.
"I guess yer wonderin'...what's goin' on?" he asked, still not looking up.
There wasn't much point in lying, so Jack simply sighed and nodded. "I did wonder what happened back there. You were in such a state."
"Yeah...it's just..." he hesitated, trying to find the words to describe the gut-wrenching pain he had felt to watch Jack drive away, not fully knowing if he would ever see him again.
He cleared his throat. "When I saw you drivin' off, knowin' you was leavin', it just tore me up, you know? Like my guts were bein' ripped out or somethin'. Hurt like hell."
"I thought we'd be up there for another month, so when you said we'd been told to bring the sheep down...I couldn't handle it, that's why I flew off the handle." He trailed off.
Jack had a lump in his throat. He hadn't expected Ennis to be so forthright with his feelings, so open. He remembered the day they'd sat by the campfire, when Ennis had, according to Jack, spoken more words than he had in the past two weeks, and Ennis had replied that it had been the most he'd spoken in a year.
Jack, despite the thoughts running through his head, hadn't said anything, quickly covered it up with his rodeo antics. He had been attracted to Ennis for a while by then, so he'd figured that since Ennis was opening up to him more, it might soon be time to make a move, the whiskey merely gave him the "drunken mistake" excuse if anything went wrong. He wasn't proud of himself for going after Ennis when he knew he was engaged, but his feelings had been too strong to ignore, and when they ended up in the bedroll together, Jack saw his chance. Both a blessing and a curse.
He was brought back to the present when Ennis spoke again.
"Jack...I'm real sorry."
"Huh? For what?"
Ennis finally met Jack's eyes, hesitation and sorrow clouding his own. "For that," he whispered, flicking his eyes to Jack's face, and the bruise.
Jack sighed, a smile of understanding on his face. "Don't worry about it."
"You didn't deserve it," Ennis muttered. "You was just tryin' to cheer me up."
"I said don't worry about it."
Ennis seemed to accept this and relaxed.
Jack wanted to ask Ennis what they were going to do tonight. Hell, he wanted to ask what they were going to do for the rest of their lives. Deep in his heart, a fantasy had emerged, of him and Ennis running off and living on their own ranch, maybe a cow and calf operation, living a real sweet life.
Yeah, don't push it, Twist.
They left the bar quite late and slowly made their way to the truck.
"Wait a sec," Jack had realised. "We can't drive in this state, we'll go off the road." He looked at Ennis, who was giving Jack the strangest look, having apparently not taken in much of what he'd said. Ennis broke off his gaze and looked around, trying to focus.
"What about there?" he half-slurred, pointing.
Jack turned to see what Ennis was pointing at. It was a motel. His stomach did a backflip.
A motel? A room? A...bed? But that means...his mind was racing. He'd been wondering about their plans for the night, but he had assumed that they would be sleeping in the truck. Ever since Ennis had thrown him that punch, he had been extremely cautious about any kind of physical contact. Even when he'd pulled Ennis to his feet in the alleyway he'd been half-expecting another slugging. He knew damn well the associations of a motel room bed.
He wanted to, so very much, but his confusion was increasing rapidly. Just what was going on in their relationship, if it could be called that? He sure as hell didn't know, felt he was going in circles.
Still, Ennis had suggested it, so it couldn't be totally out of the question, could it? Jack thought back to his earlier thoughts when Ennis had asked him to stay.
I'll take what I can get.
He looked back at Ennis, who had a strange light in his eyes. Jack could practically feel the electricity crackling between them, raging hormones flying about. He swallowed his doubts and pushed away his feverish thoughts before nodding.
When he looked back, Jack would never know how he had gathered the state of mind to walk into the owner's office and rent a room, or how he had managed to form coherent sentences with his mind reeling from shock. He felt like his legs were on casters.
They walked into the room in complete silence. Jack went in first and saw the big bed, so warm and inviting. Mere seconds after Ennis shut the door he placed his hands on Jack's waist from behind, pulling his hips to him, then wrapping his arms fully around him. He started to slowly place soft kisses down his neck, pressing ever closer and running his hands all over Jack's chest, under his jacket and shirt, feeling the cool skin.
Jack shivered and immediately felt his arousal grow and his pants tighten. God that felt good, but he was still wary of reacting, not at all sure what might or might not happen in the morning. But god that felt good...so good.
Ennis loosened his grip on Jack's chest and turned him around, eyes locking together, boring into each other. Jack's mind went blank and his legs turned to jelly. Those deep brown eyes, he was sure they could see into his very soul. He was rendered incapable of thought when Ennis moved in and kissed him, long and deep, pushing his tongue into Jack's mouth.
Jack's brain and his doubts switched off and allowed him to kiss back, arms going up Ennis's chest and around his neck as Ennis pulled him close again, hands travelling down to Jack's ass. He could feel Ennis steering him blindly backwards towards the bed.
Ennis's fingers were busily working on the furry jacket, pulling the sleeves down off Jack's shoulders and throwing it randomly onto the floor, then started fiddling with the shirt buttons. Jack, meanwhile, was busy doing exactly the same with Ennis's jacket and then his buttons. Shirts were shed and hands travelled down to belt buckles as their kisses became quicker and more urgent.
As Jack's legs hit the bed, they both managed to kick their pants off and sink down onto the bed. Jack moved up to the head, never letting go of Ennis's lips as he followed him there, after him and then over him, hands all over Jack's body, Jack's hands all over his. The only sound in the room was their heavy breathing and wet kisses.
Ennis finally let go of Jack's lips and gazed into his eyes. Jack felt a shiver run through him again at the look in those eyes. But he barely had time to register it before Ennis was rising up and pushing Jack's knees apart. Jack's eyes widened in anticipation. They'd only ever done it face to face once, and Jack suspected that the first time had scared Ennis, for it shattered any illusions that he wasn't having sex with a man, so they'd never done it that way again. Jack knew this was part of Ennis's "I ain't queer" insistence that he couldn't admit to having sex with a man. This annoyed Jack, since he knew damn well Ennis enjoyed it as much as he did, but he had resigned himself to it. At least Ennis hadn't rejected him altogether.
So then, what was happening now? Was it the alcohol talking? Was it supposed to be happening this way?
He had no time to think on this, for Ennis was looking straight into Jack's eyes as he slowly yet deliberately entered him, hitching Jack's legs up, which Jack wrapped around Ennis's waist as he was claimed. They started to move together, slowly at first, and sweat soon started to form on their foreheads, their breaths coming sharp and fast and their eyes blazing into each other.
Ennis slipped a hand to the back of Jack's head and kissed him firmly. Jack had loved this aspect of doing it face to face, being able to kiss like this and see each other's faces, see how they were making each other feel.
"Jack..." Ennis whispered, the first word he'd spoken since they'd entered the room. He kept kissing Jack, kisses to make Jack dizzy, feeling the end was close for both of them. He sped up, thrusting harder and faster, causing Jack to moan helplessly. He dipped a hand between them and took hold of Jack with one hand, the other still on his neck.
"Ennis..."he croaked. Nearer and nearer, faster and faster and oh god here it comes...he cried out as his vision swam and his muscles locked as he had his release. This led Ennis into his own as his fingers dug into Jack's shoulders, shuddering and gasping for breath, then relaxing. He rolled himself off Jack and they both collapsed with exhaustion.
Jack woke several hours later, nature urgently calling. He looked over at Ennis, fast asleep on his back. Jack smiled at how peaceful he looked, a look that he'd only seen precious few times, the first being that second night in the tent as Ennis had finally given himself over to Jack and to his own desires.
He quietly rose off the bed and padded to the bathroom. As he stood there, he thought back to what had happened that night. They'd actually done it face to face, only the second time they'd done so, on account of Ennis's trouble with getting his head around the fact that he was sleeping with a man.
This reminded Jack of his favourite memory from Brokeback. He'd been standing by the fire, steadily falling asleep, head on his chest. Ennis had slipped up behind him and pulled him close, humming to him and swaying him from side to side. Jack knew he hadn't turned him around because he didn't want to admit he was holding a man, but it had been wonderful. He'd felt safe, loved and protected, as if nothing could hurt him while Ennis was there, and as he'd watched Ennis ride away Jack knew he would never feel more in love than he did then.
He crept out of the bathroom and got under the covers, shivering after sleeping naked for so long. He thought about waking Ennis up so he too could get under and keep warm, but he took another look at the peace on his face and decided to leave him be.
He thought back to the day they'd met outside Aguirre's trailer. He'd only just made it in the damn truck before the engine died, and when he'd got out his attention (and his boot) had been totally focused on it. Until he'd felt a pair of eyes watching him.
He would never forget the first time he'd seen Ennis. He was quiet and shy, and Jack was completely fascinated, eager to get to know him and find out what he was like, feeling an attraction growing in spite of himself.
After what happened last summer, he'd sworn to himself that he'd behave himself this time, keep his hands to himself no matter what. Only that hadn't worked had it? He hadn't been able to stop himself, had thrown himself in the deep end. Ennis had been sending him signals all over the place, had admitted he "ain't yet had the opportunity" to sin, which Jack had taken as a green light to make a move. So when Ennis had ridden away without a word the next morning, Jack had been confused...and terrified that once again, he'd made a big mistake and was being left to look after the sheep on his own again.
But Ennis had come back. He had come back and shown Jack he needed him, and Jack had done his best to get Ennis to relax that night, holding him, kissing him...
It was a one-shot thing, he thought to himself miserably. Soon enough, too soon, it'll all be over, a summer of memories to get me through the cold, lonely nights.
Brokeback Mountain's all I got.