Chapter 37

March 1980

Time was wearing on, and Jack felt increasingly guilty with each trip. Between this one and the last, he'd been to a cabin with the other man he was seeing down in Texas. It was owned by the guy's boss, and Jack had finally agreed to go there.

He'd been sure to let this man know how things were with them; that he was in love with his Wyoming fishing buddy, and this was purely something to pass the time when they were apart. He had made himself clear that it was nothing more than sex; he had to at least try and preserve his love for Ennis.

Jack tried not to focus on this as Ennis moved behind him, getting ready to enter him as they lay in the tent. Ennis was caressing his back and kissing his neck, and Jack normally enjoyed that. But right now, he was riddled with guilt and didn't know what to do. Part of him thought he should tell Ennis the truth, just to get it out if nothing else.

Ennis sensed that something was wrong, and he paused. "Jack? You okay?"

"Yeah, fine," he replied in a low voice that told Ennis he was far from fine. He furrowed his eyebrows.

"You don't sound'...yer a million miles away. You sure yer okay?" He put a gentle, caring hand on Jack's shoulder and Jack had to close his eyes against the emotion building up inside him. He would never forgive himself for what he'd done.

"I just..." He paused. "Can it from the front? I wanna see you..." He needed to see Ennis's face as they became one; to be sure that it was him and that it was okay to let himself go and enjoy the moment. With Ennis, it was so much more than physical pleasure and Jack would never forget that.

"Sure," Ennis replied, wondering what was going on in Jack's head. He was normally okay with being entered from behind, so it was unusual for Jack to request the regular position. And what was that about wanting to see his face?

Dunno what's goin' on in there, Ennis thought to himself sadly. Wish he could tell me...he's been actin' funny for a few years now. Ever since...he came up to Wyomin' after my divorce an' I had to turn him away. Is he still sufferin' from that? Did I hurt him that bad?

Now it was Ennis's turn to feel guilty, and he realised that he couldn't relax enough tonight to have sex. He sighed. "Can't do it, bud..."

"What? Why?" Jack asked, panicking slightly. Ennis shook his head.

"The way you been actin''ve got me feelin' guilty. You've been like this since my divorce when I had to send you away. I musta hurt you big time..."

Jack rolled over to face him, feeling even worse than he did before. "No, ain't that. Yeah, you hurt me, but...I'm over that now. Believe me, ain't that."

"Well...somethin's been eatin' at you for a few years now. What's goin' on?" Ennis asked, wondering if Jack would ever tell him or if he would always be guessing. Whatever it was, their relationship was being affected and the trips were becoming worse. Both of them felt spread thin, like they couldn't take much more of their situation. But they also knew that they didn't want to stop seeing each other just because things were difficult.

Jack shook his head. "It''s nothin'. I know I've been actin' weird, an'...I'm sorry if I made you feel guilty. Can we still...?"

Ennis lowered his eyes. "Don't reckon I can do it...ain't feelin' up to it now. Sorry, darlin'." The endearment shot into Jack's heart, and he swallowed.

"Okay..." He rolled back over and curled up, trying to ignore the stinging in his eyes. He didn't care that he was in his thirties; he didn't handle disappointment well, especially when Ennis was the one causing it. Ennis sensed his misery and wrapped an arm around him.

"Bud...I'm sorry. You know I don't like it when we're like this. Didn't mean to upset you..."

Jack was running a finger along the edge of the sheets. "I know...but you still did. Can't get mad at you, though...ain't got the energy." He pulled Ennis's arm tighter around himself and sighed. "Let's just get some sleep. Maybe we'll feel better tomorrow."

Ennis kissed the back of his neck and settled down, hoping that Jack was right. What on earth had happened to them?

Neither of them slept much that night; both were trying to shut down but memories and thoughts kept coming back to them. Both felt very guilty over their actions and Jack was wondering what was going to happen to them. He loved Ennis so much and yet he'd betrayed him, and he dreaded the moment when Ennis found out. He wouldn't mind a sucker punch; that was better than Ennis refusing to meet him anymore.

Ennis gently stroked Jack's stomach as he tried to drop off, thinking about everything they'd been through so far, and about the future. Maybe Jack was right; they would be better off if they got together. But his fears were ruling his heart right now; he couldn't guarantee that they would be able to live in peace.

Sure wish we could, darlin'. Then I could tell you how I'm feelin'. That...I love you. Reckon if I just told you that anyway, it'd make a difference. Then you'd know how much I wanna live with you. Please, Jack...keep comin' back until I figure out how to fix this. Don't wanna be without you, bud.

He finally closed his eyes, but their dreams were fitful and they kept waking up during the night. Jack ended up on his other side facing Ennis, and he silently watched his lover sleep with an expression of great sadness on his face. He just didn't see any light at the end of the tunnel just yet, and wondered if he ever would.