Chapter 18

July 18th, 1963

Ever since Jack topped Ennis for the first time, things had been different for them. While they were both fully aware that this couldn't continue after the summer, Ennis worried less about what they were doing. It would be very hard for him to say goodbye to Jack, especially now, but he just tried not to think about that.

He couldn't deny that he had enjoyed the feeling of having Jack inside him and part of him wanted it to happen again soon, but sometimes he thought about Earl and wondered if he might be heading down the same path. That just couldn't happen, and he reasoned with himself that it wouldn't if nobody found out. Only he and Jack knew about this, and they wouldn't tell anybody.

One morning, he awoke next to Jack in the main tent. He was supposed to take the role of herder today and he wasn't looking forward to being out there by himself. But if he was honest with himself, he didn't want Jack to be sleeping out in the cold either; he would prefer it if Jack was warm and could get a good night's sleep.

He let his eyes adjust to the morning light and then looked over at his companion. Jack was lying on his side facing him, one hand tucked under his head and the other resting on the material of the bedroll. He looked so peaceful there and Ennis didn't want to wake him, but they had to get moving soon.

Ennis leaned over slightly and caught Jack's scent, letting it wash over him. He could smell pine from the area where they worked, but he could also detect whiskey and cigarettes. These smells shouldn't appeal to him yet they did because they were part of Jack; he didn't understand it. He tried to do what Jack kept saying; to just focus on the here and now, not worrying about anything else.

He shuffled closer and wrapped an arm around Jack, pulling him close. Jack didn't wake up but he curled up in his sleep, head nestling in Ennis's collarbone. Ennis smiled at the sight and kissed the top of his head, wishing that they could stay here forever.

As he laid there, thinking and wondering, he felt Jack beginning to stir. He thought about moving away but realised that Jack would probably like waking up to this; he did seem to like it when they held each other. Ennis could only admit that he did too.

Jack woke up and was immediately aware of a strong arm wrapped around his middle; Ennis had been holding him. He smiled and opened his eyes. "Mornin'..." he said softly, and Ennis pulled his head away to look into Jack's eyes.

"Mornin' bud," he replied, smiling nervously. "Um...was thinkin' about makin' breakfast soon. But...if you wanna stay here for a while..." Truth be told, he would rather spend all day with Jack in the tent, work be damned.

Jack smiled and rose up to kiss him. "Well...maybe a few minutes, I guess. Sheep ain't goin' nowhere." He kissed Ennis a few more times before reaching for his hand, lacing their fingers together. "I like wakin' up with you," he murmured, wishing that this could be permanent. Ennis knew what he was saying but was sick of bringing it up; he didn't want to fight with Jack over this. There was nothing that they could do about the situation, so they simply had to enjoy what they could have together.

To cover his silence, Ennis squeezed Jack's fingers and started playing with them, running his own along them and seeing that their hands fit perfectly together. It was a very intimate moment, far removed from the way they used to be when they were just friends. The sex could be very emotional and make him feel so close to Jack, but this was different. This was more about love and he knew it, even if he could never say it. He also knew that he would never love Alma the way he loved Jack, but there was nothing he could do about it.

Jack seemed to know that Ennis was worrying again, and sighed inwardly. He couldn't seem to just let things happen, always fretting about the implications, and Jack wished he could just let go. But the four days in which they had stayed away from each other had felt like four years, and he didn't wish to repeat that.

"Ennis, look at me," he said softly, and Ennis slowly met his eyes. "Stop worryin'. You was right...this is how it's gotta be for us. I know that, an'...we'll just hafta deal with it." Part of him hoped that the longer they spent together and the more they explored each other, then perhaps Ennis would change his mind and decide to stick with this. He did feel sorry for Alma but had realised that maybe Ennis didn't love her after all. She didn't deserve a loveless marriage; he'd seen it with his own parents and wouldn't wish it on anybody.

"I know," Ennis murmured, nodding. "I just...ain't gonna be easy. I...I'll miss you, bud. As my friend, an'..." He trailed off, unable to describe Jack as anything more than a friend. It would just make things even harder. "Um..."

"It's okay," Jack soothed, cupping his cheek. "I know what you're tryin' to say. An' I'm gonna miss you too. Let's just not think on that right now, alright? Come here..." He brought Ennis's lips back to his and tried to calm him down, allowing Ennis to roll on top of him and bury his face in his neck. It was clear that their impending separation was affecting Ennis more than he let on, but Jack had no idea what to do. He knew that if he suggested staying together, Ennis would only tell him why they couldn't; it was a vicious circle that was bound to break both their hearts in the end.