It was the last night of one of their fishing trips, and Jack and Ennis were lounging against a log near the shore of a tarn, sharing a cigaret. Jack blew a ring of smoke up to the sky and watched it drift apart. "Ennis, I been thinkin'."

Ennis made a small sound of acknowledgment and Jack continued. "This whole thing we got, I figured out what it is."

"Yeah?" Ennis took his turn with the cigaret.

Jack nodded and took a deep, steadying breath. "I love you, have all along too damnit. An' you, I think, least I'd sure like to think-"

"Jack..." Ennis sounded exasperated and more than a little tired. "You know-"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, I know," Jack stood and paced a few steps toward the gleaming water of the tarn. "I know what yer gonna say. 'We can't, two guys, won't work,' I heard you say it a hundred times before." He turned and looked back at Ennis. "I'm sick of it, I dun wanta hear it any more."

Ennis started to say something but Jack cut him off again. "We gotta act on this, Ennis. You're at least half right and, well, we dunno when somethin' could happen to either a us." He had paced back to the log now and knelt down next to his friend. "I couldn't stand that or fix it, bud."

Ennis sighed but remained silent, clearly uncomfortable.

Jack resisted the urge to sigh, or to punch Ennis. He knew that wouldn't do any good. "Look me in the eye and tell me you don't love me, and I swear I'll never bring it up again."

Ennis looked down, picking habitually at a hangnail Jack wasn't sure existed anymore, the fire throwing harsh shadows across his face. After a long moment, he said, "I can't do that."


"I can't tell you, that, I don't-" He broke off.

"And why not?"

Ennis looked up sharply. "Damnit, Jack, you know why."

"Do I?" Jack asked feigning ignorance almost mockingly.

"Don't make me say it." Ennis seemed desperate, just barely not begging.

"I'd sure as hell like to hear it."

At that Ennis kissed Jack hard. It was hot, passionate, full of emotion, and didn't end till neither man could breathe.

Ennis took a long breath. "How 'bout we take the long way back to Riverton and I tell you when we get there."

Jack nodded. "Alright."

Jack leaned lazily against Ennis's truck. He watched as his friend stood uncomfortably in a phone booth and explained to Alma that it'd be a few more days til he was home. He pulled a cigaret out of his pocket and lit it.

Ennis hung up and stalked over to Jack. He pulled out a cigaret of his own and Jack handed him his lighter. He took it

"She not take it well?"

Ennis blew an irritated cloud of smoke. "She don't take nothin' well." He half sighed and added as an after thought, "Least not any more."

"Mm." Jack gave a single nod. "I know what that's like, cowboy."

Ennis shrugged and got in the truck.

They checked into a cheap motel just off the highway later that night. The curly haired, redheaded woman behind the desk was too drunk off of some unidentifiable liquid she had in a thermos next to her to even see straight, let alone register that two men were checking into a room that only had one bed. Jack was pretty sure she only charged him half what the room cost but he didn't care.

As they walked back out to the truck, Ennis grumbled under his breath. "Did you have to check us into a room with one bed?"

Jack shrugged. "It was cheaper."

"She undercharged you anyway."

"She's too drunk to remember any a this in the mornin'. 'Sides, if were were in a room with two beds and the maid came in tomorrow and found one of 'em still made, that'd look pretty damn suspicious, wouldn't it?"

Ennis huffed.

"Relax and shut up, will you?"

Jack and Ennis each brought up a change of clothes to the room. They left everything else in the back of the truck. They figured that no one was stupid enough to steal some old fishing gear in the middle of a big, flat, dry plain, and if anyone was, well, they hadn't exactly used it much.

Within moments of locking the door, Jack was mostly naked, on his back in bed, Ennis over him, kissing his neck. He reached up, tangled his fingers in the other man's hair, and pulled his head up. Their mouths met.

In the small hours of the morning, Ennis lay awake. Jack, who had long since fallen asleep, was curled up against him like a child. Ennis nuzzled his face into Jack's soft hair and closed his eyes. Jack smelled like sweat and smoke and sunlight and fresh air. Truth be told, he smelled like what Ennis felt home ought to feel like.

Jack woke to find himself in Ennis's protective embrace.

Almost a week later, the two men pulled into the gravel lot next to Ennis's apartment. Ennis shut off the engine but made no move to get out. Jack turned in his seat to look at him. "Well?"

There were several more moments of silence then Ennis said, so soft Jack could barely hear him, "I love you," and got out.

Jack stepped out of Ennis's truck after him and leaned against his own red one next to it. He looked up to see Ennis and Alma standing on the landing, Francine on Alma's hip. They went inside and Jack looked down. He watched a tired looking beetle fight its way across the gravel for a while as he both wondered what was going on inside and tried his damnedest not to think about it.

Suddenly the apartment door flew open, spooking Jack as if he were a skittish horse. Alma came running down the stairs in her houseshoes. She marched right up to Jack, smacked him full in the face, spat at his feet with a vicious passion, and cursed at him worse than he'd ever heard a woman curse before in his life. Worse than he thought a woman could curse.

She was crying hard, angry, betrayed, heartbroken tears spilling down her cheeks. Jack wanted to feel bad, to be sorry, but all he was was pissed off. What did this woman know, less than he did, that was for sure. She didn't understand Ennis. She probably didn't know half of what Ennis had told Jack.

He snarled low, the hairs on his neck standing on end. "Well how d'you think I feel about you?"

She was suddenly silent though the tears kept falling. Jack was vaguely aware of Ennis standing anxiously on the landing and a teenaged boy across the street who'd stopped sweeping the sidewalk of the shop where he worked to watch the commotion.

Alma pointed a shaking, accusatory finger at Jack before turning and storming back up the stairs. He heard her shriek, "Jack Twist? Jack Nasty!" before the door slammed shut.

The boy went back inside, having apparently decided the show was over. The tired looking beetle was gone. Jack was fuzzily worried that Alma had stepped on it when he noticed it making its way up the pole of the little swing set it had been heading toward. Then he wondered why the hell he even cared.

A moment later, the older girl, Junior, ran out on the landing and hugged Ennis's legs. He picked her up and brought her back inside only to reappear almost instantly with a duffel bag in his hands and a half bewildered look on his face. He came down the stairs silently, exuding a palpable aura of resigned yet stubborn gloom, and dropped the bag in the back of Jack's truck. He met Jack's eyes for a split second before turning back to retrieve the rest of his belongings.

By the time the sun had set, the bed of Jack's truck was filled with Ennis's things stuffed carelessly into bags and boxes, if packed at all, and Junior had floated hesitantly down to stand by the front wheel of her daddy's truck. She looked a good deal like a kicked puppy and was staring up at Jack with big, questioning, sorrowful, knowing eyes the same clear, soft brown as Ennis's. She couldn't have been more than six.

Finally she spoke. "You're why Mama's crying."

It wasn't a question and it hit Jack in the heart. She was right and he knew it. What right did he have to take away this little girl's father, to break up her family? He looked away and muttered an apology.

Ennis came back down the stairs again, dropped one last bag in Jack's truck, ruffled Junior's hair gently, and told her to go inside.

Once she had vanished, Ennis dragged Jack back behind a sad, decrepit little shed and hugged him tight. Jack was a bit startled to feel hot tears on his neck. He hugged Ennis and rubbed his back, wanting to tell him it was okay.

A/N: WTF am I doing, I still have two unfinished fics up! Well, one of them is almost done and I had this idea. My first AU fic, I hope it doesn't suck. For anyone who is reading either of my other fics, no, none of the OCs from them appear here. Ever.

Also, if you're wishing I had actually written out the love scene, let me know. I might actually write the rest, or at least write future ones in more detail.