Ennis and Jack were both lying in the tent, each of them thinking that the other was asleep. But neither could drop off tonight; they were both too wound up to switch off.
It was clear that time and disappointment were taking their toll, and both men got the sense that things were about to get even worse than they already were. Ennis still wasn't sure why Jack was acting so strange lately; he'd said that it wasn't because of the rejection following Ennis's divorce, so Ennis wasn't sure what it might be. He didn't even know if he believed Jack, if he was honest with himself.
Jack felt conflicted; he loved Ennis and wanted to spend whatever time they could together, but he was growing tired of them not moving anywhere. He wanted them to live together and be a couple for real, but he had lost the belief that it would happen. He would never stop hoping, but while he'd once believed that Ennis would come around, he didn't think that anymore.
He bit his lip and could feel Ennis's warmth behind him, and he wondered if Ennis was awake. He couldn't get to sleep right now, and he was yearning to be in Ennis's arms right now.
Slowly, he turned over onto his other side and his eyes met Ennis's in the dark. "Hey," he said softly, and Ennis touched his cheek.
"Hey yourself, bud," he replied, stroking gently. "How come you ain't asleep?"
"Could ask you the same thing," Jack pointed out, sighing. "Just...can't seem to settle down tonight."
"Anythin' wrong?" Ennis asked, wondering if Jack would ever tell him what was going on. Jack shook his head.
"No...just all wound up." He shuffled closer to Ennis and curled up against him, where Ennis immediately put an arm around him in comfort. "You know what might be good? Since we can't sleep?"
"What?" Ennis wondered if Jack was about to suggest sex, but he got a feeling that wasn't it.
"I was thinkin'...you know how we used to stay up all night talkin', when we was windin' down after doin' it?"
"Yeah, I remember," Ennis agreed, fondly recalling those moments when they used to talk through the night. When they were young up on Brokeback, it had been a good way to pass the time when they could tear themselves away from each other. "We could do that, if you want."
Jack looked up at him and smiled. "Okay. Um...how are things at the ranch?"
"You really wanna talk about work?" Ennis asked him with raised eyebrows. Jack nodded.
"Yeah. When you get talkin' about the horses...you get this kinda light in yer eyes. I can see you like talkin' about 'em."
Ennis thought about this; he'd never heard that from anyone before. Alma had never expressed any interest in hearing about his work, and Cassie was put off by the whole thing. His girls had always liked hearing about the horses, but that was different. This was Jack asking to hear his stories.
"Okay. Um...well, one of the mares is expectin'...she's doin' well. Gonna drop the foal soon, I reckon."
"What does she look like?" Jack asked, being soothed already by Ennis's calm voice.
"She's grey all over," Ennis told him, now rubbing his back. "Got a black mane, though. Real pretty one. Mated with one of the stallions. I always give her an extra sugar cube when I'm passin' through the horses in the stable."
Jack smiled; he could hear the affection in Ennis's voice as he spoke about the horse. He wished that Ennis could be talking about a horse on a ranch owned by the two of them, and he pushed down the heartache building up inside him.
"Wish she could be our horse," he commented without thinking, and Ennis stilled his hand. Jack then looked up at him, realising what he'd said. "Sorry...didn't think."
"It's okay," Ennis reassured him, stroking his skin again. "I know how yer thinkin' Jack. An' you gotta know I want it too..."
Just not enough to do it, though, Jack thought bitterly. We're worth the risk, Ennis...an' I'd risk a tire iron if it meant we could be together. At least I'd die happy...
"I know," he whispered, closing his eyes. "Wish things could change for us..."
"Me too..." Jack...please don't go thinkin' that I wouldn't do it even if things changed. I really would, darlin'...an' I don't like thinkin' that I'm hurtin' you by sayin' no. Hope you don't come to hate me, Jack...it'd kill me to know that yer out there an' don't want nothin' to do with me.
"I don't hate you, Ennis," Jack murmured, as if he'd read Ennis's mind. "You should know that. You know how I feel about you..." He leaned over and gently pressed their lips together, telling Ennis without words that he loved him. When they broke apart, he continued. "I know it ain't easy for you, none of this...but I appreciate that you keep agreein' to meet me anyway. I hate what this is doin' to us, an' I hate that we can't be together...but I've never hated you."
"Never hated you either," Ennis replied, stroking his face. "Not even when I was all messed up after that first night on Brokeback. Not even when we had to leave a month early an' I hit you. I never hated you, Jack."
Jack smiled and moved in close so that Ennis could hold him, closing his eyes and wrapping an arm around Ennis's middle. "Guess we just gotta keep goin', cowboy."
"Yep. I ain't sure what's gonna happen, Jack...but I don't wanna worry on it. I say we just take each trip at a time an' see how it goes."
"Right...night, Ennis," Jack replied with a yawn, and Ennis kissed the side of his face.
"Night, darlin'." He held Jack close to his body, feeling protective in the dark. Jack meant so much to him and he hoped that the tides would change for the better. It was the only way to get them together.