Chapter 36

December 1979

The snow was falling thick around the tent, but it went unnoticed as Ennis and Jack silently kissed, holding each other close and just waking up.

"Mmm," Jack sighed, pulling his lips away and smiling. "Sure do like wakin' up this way."

Ennis nodded and ran his fingers through Jack's hair. "Me too, bud." Jack closed his eyes at the pleasure he felt when Ennis touched him. He had always loved it when Ennis gave him these touches; it made him feel like he was worth something after all, and that there was somebody who loved him just the way he was. He'd never had to try too hard with Ennis, for the other man had just accepted everything about him.

Still, he knew that he could never tell Ennis about what he got up to down in Texas; it might not mean anything to him but he knew that Ennis would hit the roof if he found out. Jack wanted to keep the peace between them, even if it meant secrets and lies. He would do anything to keep Ennis in his life.

"So," he started, pushing away these thoughts. "I was thinkin'...since it's nearly Christmas, what d'you say we swap our presents?"

Ennis nodded. "Sure, bud." He didn't have much money these days with the child support he had to pay, so he'd taken to making things. He'd always liked whittling wood, so that was what people usually got from him as gifts. "Um, hang on..." He started rummaging through his bags and Jack did the same, hoping that Ennis would like his gift.

They found what they were looking for and turned to each other. Ennis handed his over first, heart hammering in his chest. He wasn't sure why he got so nervous; Jack had always liked his gifts. "Here, Jack..."

Jack took it and unwrapped the plain brown paper; he felt slightly saddened to see just how little Ennis had these days and wished that they could be together. Ennis would never want for anything if they lived together, for Jack would be able to provide everything they needed. He uncovered a wood carving of a bull, something that took him back to his rodeo days, and he grinned. "Ennis...this is great. Thank you..."

"Sure it's okay?" Ennis asked unsurely. "I mean, I just made it myself an' I know that yer probably gonna get lots of flashy stuff down in Childress..." Jack put a hand over his mouth with a soft smile on his face.

"It's great, cowboy. An' yeah, I probably will get some things down there, but...that stuff don't mean much to me. This does, ' came from you. An' you made it for me, somethin' that I remember from the rodeo. Means more than a new jacket, I can tell ya."

Ennis smiled and looked down, cheeks reddening slightly. It was obvious that Jack loved him, and he wished that they could say the words. But it would only end in disaster so he had to avoid it. "Well...glad you like it, darlin'."

Jack kissed his cheek and handed over his own gift, knowing for sure now that Ennis would like it. It turned out to be a brand new whittling knife, and Ennis stared at it in wonder. "Jack...dunno what to say..."

"Thanks will do," he replied, knowing that Ennis was pleased with his gift; after all these years he could read Ennis very well. "I know you've had that one a long time...figured you might want a new one." Ennis looked up at him and their lips met, softly caressing as the unspoken words of love passed between them. They were so much in love and Jack held onto that thought when they were apart, especially now. He didn't allow thoughts of Childress to enter his mind when he was with Ennis.

"Well...guess that's that. What d'you wanna do now?" he asked Ennis as their hands found each other. Ennis shrugged.

"Dunno. Reckon we oughta get some breakfast, if it ain't completely frozen. An'...maybe we could go for a walk or somethin'," he suggested, and Jack nodded.

"Sounds good." They got dressed and headed outside the tent; the snow had stopped falling by now but the ground was covered in a thick white blanket, and it felt quite romantic. Jack helped Ennis get the food thawed out and managed to get a fire going with his lighter; he might bitch and moan about the cold but he knew one thing for sure. He would rather be here with Ennis than anywhere else right now. He didn't miss the large fireplace in the living room down in Texas, or his warm bed. This was where he belonged, for Ennis was here.

"Fuckin' freezin' out here," Ennis muttered, shivering slightly. Jack moved closer to him where they were sat on the log.

"Might wanna rethink that walk you had planned," he replied, looking around. "Reckon we oughta spend all day in the tent."

"Wouldn't be so bad," Ennis said, and then blushed at his own thoughts. Jack grinned and linked his arm through Ennis's, leaning on his shoulder.

"Sure wouldn' we could keep warm in there. Like our first night together up on Brokeback...remember?"

"I'd never forget that, Jack," Ennis told him, and it was true. That night would be etched into his memory forever, for it had been the start of a love that he would always be part of. Jack was the love of his life, and he would always treasure the nights they'd had together on the mountain in 1963.

"Me neither...won't forget that second night, either. Sure was good...yer a good kisser, ya know." He smiled up at Ennis, who raised his eyebrows.

"Oh yeah?" He kissed Jack a couple of times and poked the fire, pleased with the compliment. Nobody had ever told him that before. Not Jack, not Alma, and not even Cassie. These three people had loved him, and he was only able to love one of them back. If only things could be so much easier.