Chapter 13

October 1971

It was the week before Jack's birthday, and he and Ennis were sleeping in the tent one night. Ennis was spooning up behind Jack, one arm wrapped around his stomach tightly. He liked holding Jack as they slept; this warm body was like a security blanket to him and gave him reassurance. Ennis felt as if everything would be alright as long as he had Jack in his arms.

Ennis's eyes opened slowly as he woke, wondering why he was now awake. There had been no sound and Jack hadn't moved; it was still clearly the middle of the night. He dismissed it and instead focused on the figure before him. They were both naked from their earlier tumble in the tent, which had been full of love and laughter; just the way he liked it.

For a while, he just watched Jack sleeping, seeing his body move slightly as he breathed. Ennis had never thought that he would meet someone who he would think of as perfect, yet he had. Maybe Jack did have some flaws, but they seemed small and insignificant. He loved the man anyway.

Wish you could hear me, bud, Ennis thought to himself, praying that Jack could hear his thoughts. Wish you could hear me thinkin' about you, an' that...I love you. I wanna tell you so much, but it just don't happen. Can't seem to get the words out, an' it's killin' me 'cos I wanna tell you. Even if you already know, I still wanna see yer face when you hear them words. He gently rubbed Jack's stomach, trying not to wake him. A lump grew in his throat as he thought about everything he wanted to say to Jack, and he squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. Jack deserved to hear that Ennis loved him and wanted to live with him, but Ennis just couldn't get the words out.

Unbeknownst to him, Jack was awake too. He sensed that Ennis was awake behind him but didn't move, thinking that it would spook Ennis into putting his walls back up. Jack knew that Ennis needed this time to think and feel, and he was willing to give him that. He felt Ennis rubbing his stomach and bit his lip, wondering if he should speak.

God, Ennis...I love you. Sure wish you could talk to me about this stuff, 'cos I know how it eats at you. I know you don't find it easy to talk 'bout what yer feelin', but I also know how you feel. I know you love me, an' even if you can't say it...you show me every day we're together. It's okay that you can't say it; I love you anyway.

Jack stayed still for a while, wondering what Ennis was thinking and if he should say anything. What would happen if he told Ennis that he loved him? Even if Ennis could only nod in agreement or say a few mumbled words of reciprocation, wouldn't that be something? It would still confirm for him that Ennis felt the same way. Maybe he ought to do it.

Just as he was thinking over this, he heard a sniff behind him. Ennis wasn't the type of man to get too emotional, and Jack knew that it only happened when Ennis couldn't keep it down anymore. He gently covered Ennis's hand with his own, making the other man start.

"Hey...it's okay. What's wrong?" he asked softly, and Ennis shook his head. He'd been feeling very emotional, but didn't want Jack to see.

"I'm alright," he replied in a thick voice, but Jack was far from fooled. "Go back to sleep."

Jack slowly turned until he was facing Ennis; his cowboy was looking the opposite of alright. "No you ain't. What is it?"

"Just..." Ennis swallowed and looked down, avoiding Jack's eyes. "Just...thinkin'. About us an' this...wish it could be...more..."

Jack sighed; he knew that Ennis wanted to live with him and would do it if he wasn't so frightened. There was currently no way for it to happen, and he hated what it was doing to them. "I know, bud. Me too." He shuffled closer and pressed a calming hand to Ennis's cheek. "It's okay. Come here..."

He drew Ennis into his arms and held him there, guiding his lover's head to his shoulder and cradling him as if he was made of glass. Ennis meant so much to him and Jack could feel his pain. He wished he could take Ennis's bad memories of Earl away; maybe then they would have a chance and Ennis wouldn't be so damaged. He didn't like to see this man hurting. "Shh..."

Ennis held onto him, not even caring if it made him weak. He needed this from Jack right now, and couldn't help but just lose himself in these strong arms. They had often been there for him, especially on that second night on Brokeback. While he loved holding Jack and being there for him, he sometimes still needed to be held. Even if he did love Alma the way he was supposed to, she could never do this for him. Only Jack could make him feel safe and truly loved.

Eventually, Ennis dropped off again but Jack didn't move. He held onto Ennis the whole night, even when he himself went back to sleep. He just knew what was on Ennis's mind even if it couldn't be said; Ennis loved him and it was causing him pain that society wouldn't let them be together. Since Ennis usually kept his feelings bottled up, they were bound to spill over when he just couldn't hold them in anymore.

The next morning, neither spoke about what had happened in the night, but Ennis was very grateful to Jack for taking care of him. He thanked Jack in the best way possible and the rest of the trip passed as normal, but they both knew that they were a little bit closer than before.