Chapter 4

August 1968

It was five years to the day when the snow came on Brokeback, and when Ennis and Jack woke up together in the tent their eyes immediately met. Both of them remembered what day it was and neither of them really knew what to say.

"Well..." Jack started, looking around the tent. "Best start on breakfast." He was about to move, but then felt a hand on his arm. He turned back to see Ennis looking at him intensely. "Ennis?"

"I just..." He paused and then shakily brought a hand to Jack's cheek; to the part where he'd once hit the man he loved. "You gotta know how sorry I am about..." He swallowed and looked away. Jack put his own hand over Ennis's and squeezed it.

"It's okay," he said softly, knowing how much Ennis struggled with talking about his feelings. Jack found it endearing and it didn't really matter to him; Ennis showed him how he felt when they were in here at night. "I forgave you for that a long time ago. Don't matter now."

Ennis nodded and pulled his hand away, wishing that he could forgive himself for hitting that face. He just hadn't been able to handle the fact that he was in love with another man, and he had lashed out without thinking.

When they met up on these trips, Ennis was always relieved every time he saw that Jack had turned up. He always feared that Jack might have changed his mind; that it was no longer enough. As a result, he tried to make each trip special and to avoid arguments with Jack; he didn't want to lose him.

Jack kissed him on the cheek and got dressed, then headed out to start the breakfast. Ennis lay back onto the bedroll, staring up at the tent roof. He loved being out here with Jack and tried to ignore his guilt every time they were intimate. Up on Brokeback, he'd tried to convince himself that they only had sex because there weren't any women around and they had needs as young men. He'd almost believed it until that day when the snow came, and he found himself physically sick at the thought of leaving Jack. He knew now how he felt, but he didn't know if they could ever have more than this.

His thoughts whirled around his head until he couldn't take it anymore, and he decided to venture out. After pulling on his clothes he left the tent and spied Jack poking at the fire and cooking the food. Jack was into some money now and always brought lots of good food and whiskey for them, and Ennis appreciated how he took care of everything. He was a little resentful that he couldn't contribute as much on his low wages, but they needed to eat and Jack didn't seem to mind.

"How's it comin', bud?" he asked, sitting down next to Jack. His companion nodded.

"We're gettin' there. Anyway, you sleep okay last night?" he asked, nudging Ennis gently.

"Yeah, pretty much." 'Specially after what we did, he thought to himself, going red. For the first time since Brokeback, they had had a sixty-nine together and he'd seen stars afterwards for a good few minutes. He'd once struggled with giving oral sex, believing that he wasn't queer and it was not a manly thing to do. But once he'd done it for the first time, he'd found that he loved making Jack feel good like that. And when Jack did it to him, he knew he was in for a treat. "Slept real well after...that."

Jack grinned. "Good. Me too, you know. Was pretty good last night." Like Ennis, Jack tried to push his guilt to the back of his mind and just enjoy this. He didn't like cheating on Lureen and knew that she deserved a better husband than him, but he didn't know what else to do. He loved Ennis and couldn't bear the thought of never seeing him; a few months apart was unbearable as it was. To help with their guilt, they tried not to talk about their wives on these trips. They could talk about their kids; Jack had never begrudged Ennis staying for them. He did think that they could both be better fathers if they left and got together, and were happy, but he kept this to himself.

They ate breakfast together and then stretched out against the log, listening to the birds in the trees and feeling a cool breeze blowing around them. For Jack, who lived in a fairly large town, getting back to nature was like coming home. He would always long for this no matter where he was, and it was even better that he was sharing it with Ennis. If they did live together, he hoped it would be close to somewhere like this.

"Been five years since we left Brokeback," he mused, head resting against Ennis's shoulder. Ennis nodded, thinking of the teenager he'd been and how much he must have hurt Jack that day. He hoped that one day, he had the courage to say yes to Jack's sweet life; it would heal all their past hurts and help them to move forward.

"Yeah. Missed you durin' them four years, bud. Wondered where you was, if you were okay. Wonderin' if you was rodeoin' like you said, or even if the army got you." He shuddered at the thought of Jack being in such a dangerous environment; he wouldn't be able to stop himself from worrying if it had happened and he'd known about it.

"Too busted up for the army," Jack commented, like he had last September. "Was a relief, really. Can't see myself doin' all that."

"Sure am glad you didn't," Ennis told him. "I like it when yer all in one piece..." He swallowed, hoping that he hadn't just said something dumb, but Jack merely moved closer to him and linked their fingers together on his lap.