Chapter 13

The day of the barrel racing had dawned bright and sunny, and Ennis and Jack were eating a quick breakfast in the diner before heading to the grounds. They'd bumped into Becky again on their way in, whose nerves at her first real rodeo attempt showed clearly on her face. Jack had given her a hug and they'd both wished her good luck, promising to meet up with her afterwards.

Ennis liked Becky. True, he hadn't seen much of her up to now, she'd been running around preparing herself for the barrel racing, she was like a whirlwind. But he liked what he'd seen of her so far. Between what Jack had told him about her and what he'd seen, he had the impression that, while quite feisty, she had a good heart. Jack had said that she'd been his only friend before he'd met Ennis and that for about ten or eleven years after she'd left, he'd had nobody. He must have been incredibly lonely.

He ain't gonna be lonely no more, Ennis thought to himself. Never again.

His mind had wandered back to his thoughts about the possibility of him being queer. He needed to work it out. He knew he was attracted to Jack. That was obvious. So then the question was: what about girls, and what about other guys? If he wasn't attracted to girls, that might mean he was queer, but other guys...he'd never been attracted to another guy before Jack, and couldn't envision himself being attracted to other guys now. It would feel wrong, like if he looked at other guys he'd be cheating on Jack or something. It would make him feel awful.

But...would it be okay for him to at least look at girls and other guys, just to see? Just to gauge his reaction? To see if he did or didn't feel anything? It would be alright as long as he didn't touch, right? And if he found he liked looking at other guys, it was just enjoying the scenery right? He had the man he wanted, wouldn't dream of going after someone else. But he had to figure this out.

So the first logical step to take was to try and see if he could be attracted to girls. As horrible as it sounded, he'd never been attracted to Alma, not like he should have been, but he'd been so naive then. Things had changed, he had changed. It now required serious thought. And it occurred to him that maybe Becky would be able to help him, without her or Jack being any the wiser, at least not yet. Once he'd figured it out, whatever it turned out to be, he would be completely honest with Jack. He would have to stress why he'd done it, and hoped that Jack would understand.

The two of them made their way to the rodeo grounds, catching Becky's eye as they went up to the stands. She was just outside the arena on her horse and tried to smile, clearly nervous.

The two of them settled about halfway up the stand, munching and looking around with interest, taking care not to sit too close together. The food was good; they'd taken a liking to the buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks. Jack kept licking his fingers of the sauce which Ennis tried not to stare at. It was bad enough that they'd seen something called Cowboy Kisses on the menu, making them blush. The air was thick with excitement and the sun was climbing high in the sky.

They could hear the commentators talking into their microphones in the top box, announcing the barrel racing. A klaxon sounded and a rider shot into the arena at full speed. She was a brunette, dressed in red and cream with a red hat, leaning low over her horse's flanks, a gleaming chestnut. They could see her egging it on as she weaved between the barrels, clearly very skilled at this. She couldn't have been any older than themselves or Becky.

After completing the course she shot back out of the arena to tumultuous applause and high praise from the commentators.

"Ladies and gentleman, that was Lureen Newsome from right here in Childress, Texas! Give her a big hand! She finished second last year; I think she may have the edge this year!"

"She was good." Jack commented to Ennis as they clapped, and Ennis nodded in agreement. He found himself worrying again about Jack competing in the bull riding. That would be so much more dangerous.

"And now folks, here's another Childress gal waitin' to take names an' break hearts! This is her first time here at the rodeo, let's make her feel welcome! From Lightnin' Flat, Wyomin', now based right here in Childress, Texas, it's Miss Becky Twist!"

Jack grinned at Ennis and sat up, looking eagerly at the entrance to the stand. Becky shot into the arena like a dart, a riot of black and pink. Her green eyes were alive with concentration, completely focused on her target. Ennis and Jack watched in awe as she weaved between the barrels in the cloverleaf pattern. Her steed hugged close to the barrels, turning sharply to try and shave precious seconds off her time. Jack was full of pride as he watched her and Ennis was thoroughly impressed; he looked across at Jack, seeing his happiness in his blue eyes.

Becky completed the course with ease and Jack and Ennis both stood up with the crowd, clapping and whistling. She galloped out of the arena so fast her hat flew off, where it was picked up by a cowboy who was milling around outside.

"C'mon, let's go." Jack nudged Ennis. They made their way down the stands and out of the arena, where Becky had just dismounted her horse and handed it over to the handlers.

"Becky!" Jack called as they approached.

She turned and grinned. "Jack! Ennis! I did it!" She ran forward and somehow managed to catch both of them in a tight hug. They hugged her back, Ennis feeling happy to be included in this family moment. He had a feeling they could trust her with their secret.


As it turned out, Becky had finished in second place behind Lureen Newsome, eighteen seconds to Lureen's sixteen. She was happy and very proud of herself for her first attempt, earning herself a rodeo buckle and $400, which she promised to buy Ennis and Jack drinks with later that evening.

A number of hours later, Ennis and Jack were sat at the bar waiting for her, talking about the day and enjoying the music and atmosphere. Ennis was getting better at being relaxed in social situations like this, probably because Jack was there and his presence calmed him.

Becky slipped onto the stool next to Jack. "Hey guys!" she said brightly.

"Hey!" greeted Jack, giving her a one-armed hug. Ennis smiled and nodded. She ordered herself a drink and folded her arms on the bar top, yawning.

"You did real well today you know." Ennis said, earning himself a smile from both Twists. "Second place, an' it was yer first time."

"Yeah, I guess that trainin' paid off huh?" she replied as she was handed her drink. After a few seconds, she spoke up again. "So...how do you two know each other?"

Ennis and Jack looked at each other, bracing themselves. "Well...remember how in the spring when I was here, I told ya about that sheep-herdin' job I did last summer?"

"Yeah...Brokeback Mountain or somethin' wasn't it?"

Jack nodded. "Yeah. Anyway, this summer, I was up there again, an' that's how I met Ennis. He was workin' with me."

"Huh...so you was work buddies...you musta hit it off if you brought him down here. Guess yer close huh?"

Jack glanced at Ennis. "Yeah...thing is Becky, we...uh...me an' Ennis, we..." he looked into her eyes, silently reminding her of what had happened the last time he'd been here in Texas, and what it meant. She understood immediately.

"You guys are...together?" she whispered, mindful to keep her voice low.

"Yeah we are." Ennis said softly. "Have been since...well...we've been...um..." he looked helplessly at Jack, not at all knowing how to describe their relationship up on Brokeback, when they'd been sleeping together but not properly together.

Jack covered for him. "We started the job in May, became friends an' then about a month later we...ya know..." he said, giving her a meaningful look.

"Oh! Right." She replied, blushing slightly. "So you've been together since June?"

"Not quite...we were sleepin' together but...Ennis was engaged an' with people thinkin' what they do 'bout guys like us, we weren't really together. We were, uh...lovers from June to about the middle of August, an' then we was told to bring the sheep down."

"So how...?" she asked, waving a hand between them.

The pair of them looked at each other, and Becky could see a flash of regret and apology in their glance. "I wasn't ready to leave." Ennis mumbled. "I was torn up real bad. I'd fallen in love with a guy an'...everythin' was fallin' apart. Jack tried to cheer me up, but I...I punched him." Jack wished he could put a hand on Ennis's shoulder, tell him it was alright, but they had to be careful here.

"We was sayin' goodbye by his truck back in Signal...an' neither of us could come with a way, a solution, so I just...walked away. Got near an alleyway an' started pukin' my guts out. Felt real bad. Didn't wanna see him leave."

Jack cleared his throat. "So then, I...I saw him in the mirror goin' into the alleyway an' went straight back to see if he was okay. Ain't left him since." He said with a smile.

"Wow...that can't have been easy for you...good job you saw him, Jack."

"Yeah."

Becky took a sip of her drink. "So then...if that was the middle of August, what have you been up to for about a month?"

They told her everything. That tense day in Signal when Jack was driven mad by the mixed signals from Ennis, resulting in another night of passion. Ennis relayed his inner conflict the day after and how it resulted in him confessing to Jack how he felt. They spoke about the two guys who had been sniffing around town. With a look at Becky, Jack spoke about the 'Joel Smith' thing and how it caused problems, and how they had fixed it. They told her about K.E. and Aguirre, before telling her about finally being run out of Signal by the two guys.

They told her about Ennis calling off his wedding, knowing it was the right thing to do, then about their time in Casper with Cecilia, before travelling to Lightning Flat. Becky had already known about the abuse Jack had suffered, she'd comforted him many times while they'd grown up together. They told her about their work on the ranch, and how they were again forced to leave to save themselves.

They finished with their plans to move, possibly to Colorado, which had resulted in them finding out about the rodeo.

"...so then we came down here to try an' get some money an' that's when we saw yer a barrel racer." Jack finished.

Becky was at a loss for words. They certainly hadn't chosen the easy path, but then again, they'd chosen the path that would make them happy, they'd followed their hearts. She was very impressed by their determination to make it work and stick together no matter what, despite what most of society dictated about such relationships.

She was scared for them. Scared that something would happen, it was almost inevitable. They seemed capable of looking after themselves and each other, so they might be alright. It wasn't really her business anyway was it?

Or maybe it was. They'd just told her everything about their blossoming relationship, good and bad. They wanted to include her and they trusted her. The very least she could do for them was watch their backs while they were here. She knew Childress; she knew the types of people who liked to cause trouble. She could keep an eye on things for them. Keep her ears peeled for any threats that might arise. She had a horrible feeling something bad was about to happen.


The three of them were having a great time, Becky was telling them about her life in Childress and she and Jack reminisced about their childhood. Ennis liked hearing about what Jack had been like when he was younger, and from what he was hearing it sounded like he hadn't changed much. He'd always been friendly and full of life, quite an achievement considering the environment he'd grown up in. Becky warned them to keep away from her father, Jack's uncle, for he was just like his brother by all accounts. Ennis had wondered how Jack could have turned out such a good person with a father like his, but now he was also wondering the same about Becky. There was a striking similarity between them, behaviourally if not physically.

The band started up a new song and Becky's face lit up. "Hey! I love this one! C'mon, who wants to dance with me?" she asked, looking at them mischievously.

Ennis and Jack looked at each other with amusement. Neither of them were particularly good at dancing, but they owed her since she'd agreed to keep her silence about their relationship. They could give her one dance.

"Alright, I'll go." Ennis sighed with a small smile. "But I warn ya, I ain't much good."

"It's alright." Becky replied as she got up. "S'all good fun."

They went out onto the dancefloor and Ennis took Becky's hands, spinning her around and then in close to him. He figured that now would be a good time to put his plan into action, his idea to see if he could be attracted to a woman. He hoped he wouldn't be attracted to her, with her being Jack's cousin, that would be playing with fire.

She was smiling widely as they danced, and Ennis looked at her. She was attractive, he could acknowledge that. And that was fine. But...while he could appreciate her beauty, he didn't feel anything. He looked around; there were a number of girls on the floor, and it was the same story. They were attractive, but he just wasn't interested. But then he looked up and across to Jack at the bar, and he was clearly happy to see them getting along. His heart lifted when Jack grinned at him.

That's stage one, I guess, he thought to himself. I just ain't attracted to girls. He was halfway there. But it was the second half – other guys – that made him apprehensive. Fear of the unknown.

Becky turned to see what he was looking at, and smiled. "He really means a lot to you don't he?" she asked.

Ennis nodded. "Yeah, he does. A real lot. I'm sure glad yer okay with it. I think it means a lot to him."

Becky looked thoughtful. "I can't say I'm surprised 'bout him bein' gay...I always saw somethin' in his eyes when I caught him eyeballin' a few guys at school. An' I was his best friend growin' up, an' I don't think it was cos I'm his cousin."

"You think...you think queer guys tend to get on with women better?" Ennis asked.

"Well...I did hear that was true...he looked at guys but he didn't really have any guy friends. Yer the first one I've ever known about."

"Huh...well we was real good friends by the time we...ya know."

She looked at him. "Ennis...the Joel Smith thing..."

"It don't matter. It's all in the past."

She nodded. "Sure is. Ennis...look after him for me will ya? I know he seems like he can handle himself but...he can be real vulnerable."

"I know."

After the dance, Becky and Ennis returned to the bar, where it was now Jack's turn. He feigned a long-suffering sigh and complied, going to the dancefloor with her for a slower number. He held her to his chest, where they danced in comfortable silence. But it didn't last long.

"You didn't tell him did you?" she asked, looking at him knowingly.

Jack looked a little shamefaced. "No I didn't. An' I can't. He blew up at me over the Joel Smith thing, an' we only managed to fix it cos I came back at him over him messin' me around. He finds out about this...I ain't got no comeback."

"At least you didn't sleep with that guy, like you did with Joel. It ain't as bad is it?"

"I thought about that...I don't think it is but...we're doin' so well...we're gettin' stronger all the time, an' I don't want to do anythin' to screw it up. I can't lose him, Becky. Not now. I need him." Jack's eyes were fearful.

"Hey it's okay...I'm sure you ain't gonna lose him." She replied softly, squeezing his shoulder.

"He...he gave up everythin' he knew when he picked me. He's havin' to adjust to somethin' completely different to what he expected outta life an'...this is gonna send him over the edge, I just know it. It ain't gonna go down well at all. He's tryin' real hard...an' if he hears the stuff I've been up to...he's gonna think it ain't a big deal to me like it is to him. He's got no idea...no idea how hard it's been for me since last summer. You remember doncha, what I was like this spring? I was a real mess an' I know it wasn't over Joel. You remember what I said right?"

"I do." She sighed. "Did ya find what you was lookin' for?"

Jack smiled, then looked up at Ennis, who was heading towards the bathroom. "I sure did."

"An' to think...you didn't even know what you was lookin' for. Not till you found it huh?"

"Yeah...wasn't till it happened that I knew. You know right? You can see what I was lookin' for?"

Becky smiled. "I sure can. Guess you just hadta wait until it came to you." Her expression turned serious. "Jack...you gotta tell him. The longer you put it off, the worse it's gonna be when he finds out. You gotta be honest. Tell him what you just told me, an' you'll be fine."

Jack sighed. "I sure hope so."


Ennis was in the cubicle, not taking any notice when he heard two other guys walking into the bathroom. But like that day in Signal when he'd heard two other guys in the gas station talking about Jack, he froze as their conversation progressed.

"You seen who's here?"

"Who?"

"That pissant bull rider Jack Twist." Ennis's heart started beating fast.

"You gotta be kiddin' me. The one who was here in the spring?" his companion replied in disbelief.

"Yep."

"The one who..."

"You got it." The first speaker replied venomously.

"Jesus. Jimbo ain't here is he? Better warn him if he is."

"Nah, Jimbo's been ill, he ain't here."

"That's somethin'. At least Twist ain't gonna try it on again like he did before." Ennis felt his stomach do a backflip. Not another one, he thought in despair. He'd figured that Joel Smith and himself were the only guys Jack had shown an interest in, he'd never mentioned this. Ennis had had no reason to suspect that there might be more, Jack had given him no reason to suspect.

"Can't believe he's got the guts to show up again. It ain't as if Jimbo never told no-one. For God's sake, Twist followed him in here one night an' tried to kiss him! Claimed he'd been sendin' him signals all night. Seems to him that if a guy's nice to ya it means he wants to fuck. What the hell's his problem?"

"Fuck if I know. Hate queers, they need shootin'. Jimbo ain't here, but you can bet that if Twist sees someone he likes the look of, he'll go for it. Even if he's got a queer boyfriend he'll probably still go for it. Don't matter to him I s'pose. Just wants sex."

Ennis's heart was pounding in his chest; he could feel his world crashing down around him. After all they'd been through...

The two men left and he stood there, shaking, unable to move. His world had turned upside down up on Brokeback, and it had been extremely difficult for him to adjust to this change in their relationship; his memories of seeing Earl's mutilated body were always there in the back of his mind. He'd given up everything for Jack, his potential family with Alma, whatever job he might have settled into, a home. A normal life with no complications. He'd given it all up so he could be with Jack.

He didn't regret it. Both he and Jack knew that he was glad he had, because they were happy together. But he couldn't deny that it had been a hard decision to make. Jack had sworn to him that he wouldn't leave him, but he knew all too well that there were other ways in which he could lose Jack. That was what had frightened him most when trying to make a decision; the prospect of Jack being killed. It still scared him, always would. But he was trying his best to push the fear aside and embrace his and Jack's relationship. He was even trying to figure out himself, and whether or not he was queer. He was putting a lot of effort into this change in his life. But Jack...

He finally left the cubicle and looked at himself in the mirror. Here he was, making this effort and commitment to their relationship, casting away everything he knew for Jack despite his fears and...it was a huge deal to him, being with another man. But hearing about what Jack had been up to before they'd met...it was as if he didn't care, like it wasn't a big deal to him.

It probably wasn't a big deal to Jack. They both knew he was queer, so it shouldn't shock him that Jack had been with other guys or had propositioned other guys. He didn't know why he was reacting this way.

But then again, he did. Jack hadn't told him. They'd been completely honest with each other up until now when certain issues arose, save for this. Jack had had plenty of opportunities to tell him, but hadn't. All this effort from him, Ennis, and Jack had kept this from him.

In a sense, he could understand it. It wasn't as bad as the Joel Smith thing; at least he hadn't slept with this Jimbo guy. He'd either figured there was no point telling Ennis, because nothing had actually happened, or he'd been to scared to for fear of his reaction. It kind of made sense either way, but he was still hurt that Jack hadn't told him.

A horrible thought came to mind. Jack had worked with Joel up on Brokeback the previous summer, and a few weeks later made a successful pass at him. Only one night, but still. Then this spring he'd tried it on with this Jimbo. Then this summer he'd tried it with Ennis and had not only succeeded, but had got him to fall in love with him and give up his life for him!

The two men in Signal had suspected that Jack's behaviour was a regular thing, that he was always looking for a fling. Ennis realised with a twinge in his heart that he'd accused Jack of using him as a summer 'fuckbuddy'. Now he was scared that maybe he hadn't been that far off the mark after all. What if Jack was always on the lookout for 'fresh meat'? It just couldn't be true, because if it was, that meant that he, Ennis, had some kind of shelf life. Surely Jack wouldn't do that to him?

What if it was true? What if Jack grew bored with him, and traded him in for someone else? He'd told Jack he needed time to figure himself out, but what if Jack grew tired of waiting and found someone who could commit to him fully? He would be left with nothing if Jack left him.

It just couldn't be true. Jack was everything to him, and once again, their relationship was threatening to fall apart.


Ennis made it out of the bathroom, legs feeling like lead and his head spinning. Jack and Becky had returned to the bar and were laughing about something. Becky looked over when she saw Ennis approaching, and at the look on his face her grin immediately disappeared. Jack saw this and turned. Ennis's face looked stony, but there was hurt in his eyes.

"Uh...Ennis? You okay?" Jack asked warily. He had a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Ennis looked directly at Jack for a few seconds. "Who's Jimbo?" he whispered.

Jack and Becky looked at each other in alarm. Oh God, he knows. How the hell...?

"Uh...how do you...?"

"Heard two guys in the bathroom talkin' 'bout ya. Heard what you did. All of it." Ennis felt tears in his eyes and blinked them away furiously.

Jack's expression turned sorrowful, and he felt ashamed of himself for not saying anything sooner. He couldn't speak. Becky remained silent, knowing they would have to work through this by themselves.

"Why didn't you tell me, Jack?" Ennis's voice was devoid of emotion, yet his eyes were full of it.

"I...I dunno. After the Joel Smith thing, I...I didn't know if I should. I'm so sorry Ennis." Jack said, standing up to face him. He tried to place his hands on Ennis's shoulders but they were shoved off forcefully.

"Keep yer hands to yourself for a change, Twist." Ennis spat. He turned and headed for the door. Jack looked at Becky in alarm, and the pair of them quickly followed him out.

Ennis was taking quick strides down the road, heading back to the motel, not looking back.

"Ennis, wait!" Jack called after him. "Let me explain!"

"I don't wanna hear it Jack!" he shot back.

"I was drunk! I thought he was sendin' me signals left right an' centre! An' I-"

Ennis felt anger coursing through him. He spun around. "You was drunk huh? Well don't that sound familiar? Last summer, you get drunk an' sleep with that Joel. This spring you get drunk an' make a pass at someone in a bathroom. This summer you get drunk an' not only sleep with me, but ya get me to give up everythin' I had goin' for me! You an' alcohol don't mix!"

"Ennis yer gettin' this all wrong! Please hear me out!"

"Don't waste yer breath! Go an' use it on someone in the bar or somethin'. Go have some fun with a stranger, it's all ya want."

"What?"

Ennis couldn't bring himself to admit what was really troubling him, the horrible possibility that Jack saw their relationship as a fling that had a time limit. He knew deep down this wasn't necessarily true, but the alcohol was causing him to have these irrational thoughts and causing him to overreact.

Jack was trying to tell him the truth about his motives for behaving the way he had over the last year, and would gladly tell him if only Ennis gave him a chance. Now it seemed like their relationship was breaking beyond repair and Ennis was slipping away from him. That couldn't happen, he just couldn't lose Ennis. It felt like he was, and he had nobody to blame but himself.

"Ennis, what're you sayin'? I don;t wanna have no fun with a stranger, I'd never cheat on ya!"

"Well how about we break up right now, an' then ya can?"

Jack's blood ran cold and his heart pounded. He'd dreaded those words ever since they'd got together, and while the fear that it would happen had evaporated over time, he was still ever mindful of the possibility. Every time they argued he'd quickly tried to fix it before it went down that road. It just couldn't go down that road.

"Ennis...I don't wanna break up, an' I don't want no-one else! I love you!"

"I love you too but that don't seem to matter to ya! Maybe I shoulda been clearer when I said let's get together. I meant it would just be you an' me. No-one on the side!"

"I knew that! I ain't got no-one on the side an' I don't want no-one on the side! I only want you! Please listen to me, there's somethin' you gotta know."

"No, I don't wanna hear it!" Ennis cut him off, throwing up his hands and walking backwards, away from Jack.

"Last night you said we gotta talk 'bout stuff if you an' me is gonna work. You've had plenty of time to tell me about this but ya didn't. How do ya think that makes me feel? An' if we can't talk 'bout this stuff...if ya can't be honest with me then..." he paused, feeling his heart breaking. "Then maybe we call the whole thing off."

Jack's heart was pounding faster than ever, and tears were trickling down his cheeks. Behind him, Becky hadn't uttered a word, not wanting to intrude. She wished Ennis would give Jack a chance to explain, knowing that what he had to say might be able to save their relationship. She was devastated to see a love as strong as theirs break down like this.

"Ennis...please listen to him..." she said.

Ennis looked at her, trying to remain calm in spite of this carnage. "I...I'm sorry Becky. I really don't wanna hear him try an' make excuses."

Tears were flowing freely down Jack's cheeks. "Ennis...please..." he pleaded. "Please don't leave me..." Ennis shook his head and turned again, continuing to walk back to the motel.

"Ennis!" Jack yelled to no avail. He sank to his knees sobbing, hands over his mouth. He felt like his life was over, it would be if Ennis left him. What would he have to live for? He would have nothing left.

Becky crouched down beside him, hands on his shoulders. "Shh..." she whispered, squeezing his shoulders. "Calm down..."

"I can't lose him Becky, I just can't." He choked out.

"You ain't gonna."

He looked at her through bloodshot eyes. "How do ya know? He won't listen to me!"

"You tellin' me yer gonna give up on the best thing that ever happened to ya?" she asked, fixing him with a stern look. "Jack...you gotta fight for him. There's gotta be some way of showin' him what he means to ya."

Jack thought desperately for a way to do that, a way to convince Ennis of how much he loved him. But as he thought of their history, it seemed to him that he hadn't had much luck with that before.

Like up on Brokeback, when they'd been told to bring the sheep down early. Ennis had been distressed, and when he'd tried to cheer him up he'd accidentally hurt Ennis and received a punch, got blood all over their shirts...

A light clicked on his head. There's only one thing for it. I hadn't planned on this but...it's the only way. He raised his head and stared into the darkness that Ennis had disappeared into, determination in his eyes. Desperate times called for desperate measures.