He leaned back on his pick-up truck, glancing around, bored. It had been like this for years - get a job wherever he could, wait for the summer to end, head back to Florida... He wished there was something a bit more stable, but... at least he got out of his hometown. Got away from where everyone knew him. After a while he'd find himself craving to be lonely again, wishing he could hide his face from the world... and so he came to the mountain. He'd spoken with the owner before; knew about the sheep, where they grazed, where he'd have to set up camp... Knew there'd be another guy up there with him. Heck, maybe he could make a friend. Maybe it'd be someone else to leave behind.

Checking his watch, he glanced up at the shack, wondering when the owner would turn up. He was early, of course; wanting to make a good first impression. As the sun began to beat down he undid the top popper button of his blue shirt, straightened his collar, tipped his cowboy-esque hat down to shelter his eyes from the glare. Looking in his wing-mirror, he scoffed and stroked his stubble, edging out slowly, browny-black shadows leaving him rather ragged-looking. Grabbing a razor, he cleaned himself up in silence, hardly even noticing when the blade nicked on his skin, before wiping his face clean with a mucky towel he'd slung in the back.

In the distance an engine whirred. A few mundane minutes later, another truck pulled up, and the brunette leaned up, ready to greet the owner... but instead a blonde-haired bronco stepped out, equally hiding beneath his ochre hat, but in the second he glanced up his eyes flashed a crystalline blue. Under the black rim, he could have sworn he saw the other man nod, give a slight smile... stepping up to the door of the shack, peering through the blinds, and then standing aside, leaning back, arms and legs crossed.

"Hey there, friend," the brunette called out at last, sidling over, one hand in his jean pocket, the other held out to him. "Here for the job?"

"Yeah," the other man replied, clearly looking over him now, a hint of distrust in his eyes, but he smiled all the same, shook his hand firmly. Funny, he thought, how the shorter man's voice was almost an octave deeper than his; he had to give a chuckle. "I'm Felix."

"Hi," the other greeted again, and repeated, "Felix. They stop at first names where you're from?"

Felix smiled, and added, "Felix Kjellberg. And you?"

"Ryan Terry."

They nodded politely to each other, and then the silence fell around them again. They waited wordlessly.

When the owner finally turned up, screeching in beside them, slamming the door of his car, he didn't even look at them, before he was inside his shack and slumped down behind his desk, rifling through scraps of paper and important random numbers. Felix went ahead, straight to the point, asking about sheparding the sheep. Ryan agreed, saying he was there for the same thing.

The man looked over them, tugged his hat off and set it on the desk. Glancing between them half-suspiciously; but who wasn't cautious these days? "You trained with guns?" he asked, monotone.

Both of them nodded, before Felix spoke up, "I brought my own rifle. I like to go hunting every now and then back at home."

No one asked where home was, just nodded, and turned to Ryan. "Alright then. He stays down with the flock, you watch from above. No fires at night. Keep the horses with you at all times. Beans will be supplied once a fortnight, so order up by the bridge. And if any of the wolves get my sheep..."

He trailed off in threat. The men nodded in understanding.

And so work started. The trek up the mountain lumbered and idled, the horses stomping along as grass became rock, jagged cliffs cutting into forests, until after an hour or so they reached the riverside. The brook bubbled over the stones, flooding down it's track, the valley lining a perfect view of the flock even from all the way up here. The area seemed cleared out for them, and so they set to work building up a fire for cooking, pegging in the fabric tent, tying it down and tossing in a few blankets. They didn't talk, just set about their job.

Ryan glanced over at him, curiously. He'd always been a talkative kind of guy, yet Felix seemed rather reserved. He decided to keep quiet from now. They were only here to work anyhow, not to make friends. Even so, with just the two of them up here... the least they could do was chat, lest they get lonely. Still, he didn't know where to start; the guy was already gazing out across the horizon, watching the sun sinking over the mountain.

"Should probably head down there and set up," Felix muttered at last, slinging the reins back over his steed, but looking back to Ryan for a reaction.

Striking a match, he looked round. "Don't you wanna eat?" he asked, dropping the fire, and watching the flames flicker up.

"Pfft, beans?" Felix scoffed. "Had 'em for breakfast, bro. I'll pass for tonight."

And with that, he pulled himself into the stirrups, and trotted away back down the slopes.

Ryan watched him go, blinking. Strange guy.

But as it turned out, he burnt the beans that night anyway. Ah well, it was only the first day.

In the morning, birdsong woke him, and smiling he stepped out into the sunshine. Peace. The river trickled on, and a breeze stirred the evergreens. Blankets dragging behind him, he watched ashes flutter away from the night before, before setting the bedding back into the tent, and re-lighting the fire, catching his thumb and cursing himself quietly. Thing was, he couldn't remember the last time he was this relaxed.

Tugging off his shirt and t-shirt and dropping his jeans, he strode into the river, splashing his face, stroking his own cheeks, and once again gazing out into the distance. The sheep were white specks down there, but squinting without his glasses he could just make out a smudge. Felix's horse cantered around the field, herding them all into one place, counting them, twice. None were lost that night.

The blonde sighed, lifted off his hat, wiped his brow with his sleeve, and stared back up at the mountain. Time to head back. He kicked in his heels, and headed off.

By the time he arrived, the beans were bubbling in their pot, the fire crackling into the cool morning, and Ryan pacing around, shirt loosely unbuttoned, a smile on his face. Felix couldn't resist smiling back; Ryan was just that kind of guy.

"Everything alright down there?"

"Sheep," was all he could reply, and shrugged a little. As he settled down on a log around the fire, he frowned at the stacks of tins. "Just beans? That's all we get?"

"Yep, unless you wanna prove your hunting skills."

Felix chuckled a little, tipped his hat down. "Challenge accepted," he replied. "But first, gimme some beans, woman."

Ryan looked round, eyes wide, the tease suddenly hitting him and he laughed, his half-manic chuckle resounded by nature itself. He knelt down by the fire, stirring the watered-down ketchup with his wooden spoon, tasting it briefly, before carefully taking the pot off of the fire, pouring roughly half into another bowl, and handing it over, tossing him a proper spoon as well.

They ate in silence again, watching birds flitter back and forth with twigs in their beaks, preparing themselves for something you can never be ready for - starting a family.

Ryan again was intrigued, so he had to ask.

"You got a lady back at home?"

Felix snickered a little. "Yeah, something like that. Marzia. We've been engaged for a while now; the money I make up here is for our wedding."

"Sweet, man! Your idea?"

He almost rolled his eyes, and didn't answer. "And you?"

Ryan shrugged. "I'm all over the place most of the time... Settling down isn't so easy for me."

"Who said I'm settling down?" Felix mocked, tipping his head and smirking.

That was the extent of their talking that day.

Felix went out to try and hunt something, said he'd come close to a doe, but no such luck. He blamed the horses whinnying. Of course... They had some more beans before nightfall, and as Ryan was putting out the fire, Felix glanced back from the saddle.

"You warm enough without the fire?" he asked cautiously.

Ryan just looked round, almost surprised that he would actually care to ask. "Yeah, sure. Better than drawing in the wolves, I guess."

He smiled.

And then he was gone.

Day 3 was much the same; he'd wash, admire the world, make beans for Felix, and then he'd try to hunt; by the end of the first week, he'd managed to catch a deer, but then without Marzia around had no idea how to cook it. Ryan set about skinning it, drying out the hide on a make-shift rack, hacking the muscle up and cooking it with what little sprinkling of salt they'd been given. Every night Felix tirelessly tracked down to the herd, watching over them through the darkness, rifle in the crook of his arm, snuggled down in his blankets; and his thoughts would begin to drift. Thining about home. Marzia. Money problems. Family. His sister. He would sigh, to remember all the pressures of life on flat land. Up here on the plateau, in the mountains... it was quiet. Well, besides Ryan.

As soon as he thought about him, he smiled a little bit.

True American, that guy; he could have almost mistaken him for a bit of a redneck at times. The way he'd carved up that deer really said it all. Plus, Felix had arrived to see him tying some knots one time, and not just like scouts or anything. The guy had to be into rodeos, or something like that.

Felix's father had always warned him about the cowboys...

He chuckled, thinking he must've been right.

Even still, he glanced up the slopes of the mountain, up towards the camp.

After a fortnight, the beans were running low, and on his way back that morning Felix swung round his horse and headed off for the bridge. As the hoof beats slowed he swung off, leaning on the wooden fence, squinting down the path, till he saw a few horses lumbering along, slung over with bags and extra rugs. The courier said they were from the boss, seeing how the nights were getting colder; and with that, a reminded to keep the fires dead at night. Felix nodded with a roll of his eyes, recalling the nights he'd already spent in the tree line shivering half to death. As if he needed reminding. Looking through the bags, he saw beans, beans, beans, and guess what else? Beans. He didn't complain, but did ask the guy if there was by chance any more salt, or cooking oil, or something.

"Nah, not this time. But I can put in an order."

"Great. Thanks, bro."

"It'll be docked out of your pay, of course."

Felix paused and let his shoulders drop. He needed all the money he could get back at home. With a wave of his hand, though, the order was taken back to the boss. He knew what little salt they could get would raise Ryan's spirits considerably.

As he hauled the bags and set off, he found himself smiling too. As soon as he told Ryan, the guy nodded, doffed his hat in thanks. But Felix didn't mention the money.

He would mention one thing, though.

"You into rodeos?" he asked through a mouthful of barely-burnt beans.

Ryan looked round as though Felix had said something completely different, his eyes wide and looking rather nervous as he lied, "God no." Twirling a piece of rope. "Okay maybe. Gotta problem, sir?"

Felix beamed. "I knew it! You're just the type. Next thing I know you'll be playing the harmonica and yelling "giddy up" and all that crap, heh..." As he glanced over, he saw the harmonica shimmering in the campfire light next to Ryan. He just raised his eyebrows. "Oh God..."

He grabbed it, jumping up, and drawing it to his lips as he began to screech out a tune, leaping about and throwing up his arm briefly, twirling his rope in the air, cheering like a true cowboy, "YEE-HAW!" Before blushing brightly and playing an awkward little ditty and sitting down again, leaning back on the log, chuckling again.

The sun was beginning to set over the Brokeback mountains, and looking around they both felt like they could do with having some fun tonight. Y'know, sitting around, annoying Felix with the harmonica, and chatting about life. Heck, they still had 3 months or so until the job would be over, and they still knew hardly anything about each other. It would have been nice just to talk really, but as night drew closer, Felix was looking up at the sky, knowing he had a job to do.

"I'm sure the flock'll be fine for one night," Ryan prompted, looking hopeful. But Felix shook his head, hauled himself up onto his horse, and waited for Ryan to hand him his rifle.

"What, getting lonely? I should call you Cry with how much of a pussy you're being," he teased, and Ryan rolled his eyes, slapping the barrel of the gun into his hand, watching him ride off again.

He put out the fire, but didn't turn in right away. As the last hues of daylight slipped away, he saw the horse ride out onto the plain, and felt reassured.

It was almost stupid, how he felt like a housewife for this guy. He'd have to offer to take the night-shift sometime.

The next morning, when he asked to swap for a while, Felix made the argument that he couldn't cook for his life. And that evening, Felix rode off again.

By the time the second load of goods was to come in, Ryan had managed to persuade Felix to take one night off, and so in the morning Ryan was the one riding up onto the bridge, swinging off of his horse, and stepping over, a brief scribbled list of items in his hand, which he passed to the guy.

He glanced over it briefly, eyes narrowed. "You sure you wanna buy all this?" he asked. "This is more than your damned wage!" He laughed hoarsely as Ryan frowned.

"I didn't realise it was us paying," he answered, "especially since I'm just asking for a few things that basic human rights would probably demand we had up there. We are employees, right? Not Goddamned slaves."

The delivery guy shrugged, backed off a little. "Hey, whoa, partner; just the messenger. Take your damned beans and thank me, a'ight?"

Ryan spat as he bade him farewell, hoisting the bags up onto his horse, climbing up into the saddle, and riding off, still glaring at nobody even when he entered the camp, ranted about it to his friend.

"Whoa, Cry, calm your tits, bro!" Felix laughed, waving at him dismissively. "We're doing fine with the beans."

"I'm sick of the damned beans, Felix!" Ryan complained angrily, slumping down onto a log. "You'd think they'd at least care to check we're not dying up here..."

"Don't even worry about it, alright?" Felix reassured him, patting his shoulder. "You're just cranky because you didn't sleep last night, right? Let me watch the flock tonight. It takes some getting used to."

He didn't mention it, but in his mind it was all the more apt for the name Cry. He smirked a little, thinking that nickname sure you stick.

He rung out his wet shirt and pulled it back on over his muscular arms, cringing at how it was still cold. He would have dried it in front of the fire, but as it was getting dark and stormy already that afternoon, he figured he should head down early before the track was too slippery for the horse. The sky rumbled in discontent; as did Ryan.

"You're really gonna go down there?" Cry checked with him dubiously. "Just sleep up here tonight."

Felix patted his horse, glanced around again, up at the canopies, and across the valley. The sheep were all starting to huddle together, and he hadn't heard a single howl since they'd been up here anyway... The clouds were grey and moody, but didn't look like rain all that much.

"Hm," he grunted, squeezing the wrists of his shirt, watching it drip steadily, before unbuttoning it again, Ryan watching him with a slight smile, glad for his company for a bit longer. "I'll stay up here till my shirt's dry, then head down, alright?"

Cry nodded happily as Felix hung up his shirt, sat down right beside him, swiping his harmonica, and screaming out something akin to music.

They laughed and joked and talked until his shirt crinkled, and the winds began to kick up, and the darkness settled in around them, fog lurking over the treetops till they could hardly see the sheep when they finally looked round.

"Ah, shit..." Felix cursed, jumping up and grabbing his shirt, scrunching it in his fist before pulling it back on over his t-shirt. "I've gotta go..."

"Dude, it's already dark," Ryan pointed out, standing and stepping over to him, but still he rushed to his rifle, loading a couple of bullets, just in case. He watched him hurry around. "I'm sure they'll be fine! You said yourself, there's really no reason for us being here to watch them; nothing's gonna get them."

Felix finally saw sense, looked round at him.

"C'mon, you can sleep by the fire. I'll give you some blankets."

Felix smiled. "Thanks, bro. But I'll have to head down first thing in the morning."

"After your beans, I hope, sir."

He chuckled, and took off his hat, set it on the long beside him.

The fire crackled long towards midnight, before it began to spit and gutter, and finally died with the incoming storm. Felix woke up groggy, shivering in the sheets, and trying not to grumble as his teeth chattered. Ryan heard him all the same; staring up at the canvas of the tent, he sighed, wondering if the nickname suited Felix better, after all that... He leaned out, pushed open the fabric door, calling, "Quit your whining and get in here, will ya?"

Felix looked up, uncomfortable with sharing such a small tent, but it was either that or stay out here and freeze. He bundled up his covers, and stumbled over, Ryan shifting to give him some space before he practically collapsed inside, snickering a little, thanking him quietly, before turning his back to him, and shutting his eyes, snuggling into the warmth and settling down to sleep.

Ryan glanced over his shoulder at him, smiled, and too drifted off.

Felix wasn't a sound sleeper. Or rather, he was. His less-than-soft snoring woke Ryan abruptly, and he turned round onto his back, leaning on his elbows and half-glaring at him. Without his hat his locks were pure gold, strands waving across his cheek, and even in his dreams he seemed to smile gently. He had rolled over till he was facing Ryan's back, and as he settled down again, Ryan figured: why not mess with him a little? They'd become good friends. Besides, Ryan loved to tease him a bit.

Laid down in front of him, he reached back, fumbled for Felix's arm, tugging it over his shoulder, leaving Felix holding him as he slept, and the blonde snored once more, and pulled him closer, before his eyes slammed open.

"What the hell are you doing?" he asked harshly, blinking sleep from his eyes, annoyed to his his dreams interrupted like this. He sat up, glaring down on Ryan.

And then Ryan sat up too, leaving Felix awkwardly leaning round him, watching him, unthinking as Cry began to pop the buttons on his shirt, pulling it off of himself. Felix narrowed his eyes all the more, suddenly and irrationally... aroused. Ryan's short chuckle was the final touch as he reached forward, hooked his fingers into Felix's buttons too, then changed his mind and went to his belt, leather slapping together as he unbuckled him, and then himself. Felix tried to shove him away, but even he didn't want that now, finishing undoing his own belt, and slamming his hand to Ryan's chest, his shoulder, twisting him round and shoving him back into the covers as he shuffled down his own jeans, Ryan half-stunned as Felix tugged his jeans away too, leaving him to breathe out raggedly and try to struggle round, but again Felix held him, shifting up to him, grabbing his bare hips, hitching him up on instinct alone and-

Ryan groaned loudly and grit his teeth, breaking a sweat as the pain spurred through him all of a sudden. He struggled to grip at something, hands slapping across Felix's before he found the covers, balled his hands into a fist, cringing and hissing through his teeth again as Felix drove deeper, all too quickly, without even hesitating.

"Ahh-hnn-"

He began to moan, his howls echoing through the camp, as he realised he didn't want to struggle or stop him, trying not to whimper and yelp, hearing Felix grunting through his clenched jaw, pushing and rocking and beginning to pant himself, and every hint of touch and friction driving them both to the verge of insanity with how damned good it all felt and-

In the morning, they woke up in exactly the position Cry had teased them into, but with much less clothing. Felix was finally not snoring, and Ryan was too worn out to even notice if he had been. The sheets needed cleaning, and both of them needed to wash, and Felix needed to check on the sheep, but Ryan didn't want to wake him yet. Didn't want to lose this moment.

He knew that as soon as he realised that had actually happened, the doubts would start. The panic, the fear. He wasn't queer. Neither was Felix; he had a Goddamned wife-to-be, for God's sake…

And as soon as Felix did wake up, he shoved him away, like it was nothing at all. Ryan couldn't think of it that way, and so as Felix stormed out into the camp, dragging a bundle of their clothes with him, Ryan tried to stand up, the remnant agony bolting through him as he stumbled and clenched his teeth all over again.

"Felix…" he managed, but then ran out of words to say. Felix dropped the covers from around him, waded into the waters, as if the river would just wash it away. He payed the other man no attention as he scrubbed himself. "Felix."

Not even a sideways glance, until he stepped out of the river, covering himself with his hands as he swiped his boxers up, and pulled them on, uttering, "I'm not bloody gay. You're gay." Then he did look round, realising his mocking was… far too ironic.

"I'm not," Ryan half-snarled. "Listen, I don't know what that was, but it happened, alright? And we need to talk about…" He looked around hopelessly, and opened his arms, as if he was asking the universe. "This."

"What we need to do," Felix corrected, tugging on his shirt, the one he'd waited to dry so fatally, and stomping over to his horse, "is forget this ever happened." He swung himself up into the stirrups, glared down the forest path, and then briefly looked back. "If anyone finds out about "this"…"

He trailed off, and then headed away.

Ryan watched the leaves drifting for a long time, grinding his teeth like the gears of his mind as he tried to… think, feel, anything.

Felix spent the day with the flock. Minus one. He was screwed. Wolves must've gotten the thing, because it wasn't a sheep anymore, just tatters and shreds of flesh, strewn over the edge of the field. He clenched his finger round the trigger in anguish.

Was this what his father had been warning him about?

He spat on the ground, and spurred on his horse.

He stayed out there all night, eyes wide open, twitching. Even the vague cries of birds seemed to be harassing him. He lit up a cigarette he'd kept in his pocket all this time, just in case. Well, no time was better than now. As he watched the smoke curl, he felt like he was being watched, and glared round everywhere, but he was alone.

So alone.

He sighed, and rested his head in his hands.

Ryan sat up on one of the logs, facing over the edge, watching the sheep stirring and plodding around, just as bored as always; unlike for him, their lives were just the same, day in, day out.

They'd need shearing soon.

Ryan almost scoffed, imagining that he and Felix would have to work together. That'd work…

He slumped back into the tent, and fell onto his face. After all, it hurt less.

The next day, Felix still didn't return. Ryan watched from the cliff side, knowing he had to be hungry… He smiled slantedly to think he'd shoot and eat one of the sheep. God, the boss would kill him… probably kill them both, if he found out about "this"…

Felix was right. This was putting them in danger. Just one night, huh? One night to change everything…

3 days later, he finally returned, unshaven and eyes dark from lack of sleep, looking rough, and not just physically. He clambered off his horse without a word that morning, stepped over to the campfire, sat down, deadpan. Ryan looked over at him, unsure what he was expecting.

And then he cleared his throat.

"Goddammit, woman… where are my beans?"

He smiled. And just like that, everything was back to normal. They'd chat and complain about the damned beans, and burn them all the same, and every night Felix would ride off, smiling back at him, only now… it was like he meant it. Like his previous reserved attitude had been painted over with this new kind of… happiness. Ryan tried not to flatter himself in thinking it was him.

But… it did seem that way.

It was one morning when he wasn't sure whether to get up that confirmed it. He was lying there, untangled in his bedcovers, listening to the rain pattering on the roof of the tent, the odd drip catching him unaware as if splattered to his forehead. There was no point in moving, really; the fire wouldn't start in this weather, so he couldn't cook the beans. What point was there in getting out of this warmth? He could watch Felix ride in. That was the only reason he'd have for getting up.

But instead he just lay there.

What was the point anyway? Nothing would come of this… this feeling that was growing in him. These emotions that played on his mind, day in, day out, watching him come and go, time and time again, and every time he arrived, he just knew he'd leave again. Go back to his… wife. Marzia. God, what was he doing, thinking that-

Hooves clattered on the rock, and his ears perked up, sat up in his cocoon of covers, a vague smile that he knew wasn't good for him… but he couldn't help it.

The fabricated door inched open, and then his bright blue eyes shone through in the gloomy daylight, his flickering smile just as glistening as he slipped inside, kneeling over him cautiously, and Ryan just watched him, unsure what he was doing… until he traced his fingertips across his cheek, brushing back a lock of his chocolate hair, tucking it behind his ear, leaning closer to him, reaching for his hand and touching it with trepidation before shutting his eyes, unsure of himself. Ryan sat up more, took his hand, held it warmly, and he flickered his eyelashes at him without a word. He held the back of his neck as he edged closer to him and…

As soon as their lips brushed, his shoulders relaxed, and he pressed closer, kissing him properly, firmly and passionately, unsure whether to- Ryan hummed and eased his lips apart, Felix uncertainly following and flickering his eyes open to see his partner's closed before his tongue started to tingle at every slight touch, and with a soft sigh he let his mind slip away. As Ryan's tongue pressed against him over and over, he found himself unable to resist a murmur of pleasure, feeling himself-

He drew back almost urgently, and Cry tipped his head inquisitively, before glancing down him, blushing.

"S-sorry, friend…"

Felix just looked at him for a moment, as if trying to decide on something, and then whispering, "Liar…"

Well, that was one way to pass the day. By night Felix was ready to set off again, slipping out of the tent while still holding his hand, sighing and smiling before he headed off, climbing onto his horse, riding off.

They'd shear the sheep the next day. Riding out together felt right somehow, and they teased and shoved each other as they went, chuckling and laughing like true friends, if not more. Down on the fields they herded them up not-quite-perfectly-in-sync but hey, they got the job done; grabbing and shearing them was something else. Ryan hadn't grown up on a farm, whereas Felix knew what he was doing, so he kept glancing over, snickering and snorting while Ryan told him to shut up and get on with shearing the sheep. They shoved the wool into the bags, rubbing shoulders as they did, before looking for their next sheep, even helping each other to grab the next one, glancing up at each other and smiling under the rims of their hats.

They decided to walk back, leading the horses behind them. They stumbled up the cliff sides and reached for each other's support, leaning on one another and laughing again and again. Ryan swiped Felix's hat, just to see his golden hair again without the shadows in the way, setting it on top of his own and snickering. They didn't talk all the way; they didn't really need to. But when they did talk it was about their lives, beyond the Brokeback, back at home… Felix wasn't so keen to talk about it now. Mentioning Marzia seemed to be a toll on his mind, and he'd look away, almost guiltily. Ryan was almost giddy to talk about the rodeos, how many belts he'd won… To demonstrate he twirled his rope over his head, watching it spin, spin, spin, before swinging it forward, looping it right over Felix's body, tugging tight around his arms. Felix just raised his eyebrows, but no, Ryan dismissed that he had a thing for bondage… But Felix would have to see him ride sometime. He'd have to show him, someday, he promised with a wink. Felix just elbowed him, still… unsure of this. Here, up on the mountain, far away from everyone, everything… but back there?

"What's wrong?" Ryan asked at last, almost exasperated. "I-I mean I thought we had something, but…"

"Hey, hey, hey, Cry." He jumped up in front of him, put his hand on his shoulder, looking worried, needing to reassure him. "I… Where I come from… two men don't live together. Just…"

"What are you talking about?"

Suddenly, Felix's eyes stopped shimmering. He looked away, distant, stopped walking. He shut his eyes, like tasting a bad memory. "When I was a kid… there were two men, living in a house outside of town. And then one day… they killed one of them. Ganged up on him, punched the life out of him… and…" He looked up, dead into his eyes. "They dragged him around by his dick till it ripped off, left him in a ditch for everyone to see. And my dad… he made sure I saw that too. I told you; he… warned me." He dropped his head and clenched his fists. "If only I'd fucking listened…"

"Hey," Cry interrupted, almost angrily. "That's not gonna happen. Alright?"

He put his hand on the taller man's shoulder, squeezing, trying anything to help him, so convince that this… this. There was nothing else to say. But he… he felt for him. Couldn't say it, but…

"Yeah, well…" Felix huffed, walking off ahead again, and saying back depressively, "I can't risk you."

Too heartbroken to catch up, Ryan stood alone, as once again the skies clouded over.

Meanwhile, their boss lowered his binoculars, frowning deeply, before spurring on his horse and riding away.

The month passed far too quickly, before the summer was over, and their job was done here. Felix refused to say goodbye. Ryan asked him if… if he'd be back next year. Felix just said maybe, and swung into his truck, and was gone.

As always, Ryan watched him go, but this time the wheels screeched and spun away, dirt kicking up behind the tires, leaving him to vanish into the dust.

Florida didn't seem the same after that. He hung around in bars, travelling back and forth across the south, taking part in rodeos, but it felt like he just couldn't hold on like he used to. He met a girl, a real sweetheart… Sara, that was her name. A real country girl, the kind that would ride up on the saddle with him, and wear his hat, and laugh and smile and please his family, when he told them they were engaged. It was like Felix had been right. As a joke he asked what his father would've said if he'd… if he'd liked a man.

He said he'd have shot him right between the eyes, to put him out of his insanity.

That was that, then.

Ryan looked out to the west every day. Waiting for the next summer, sure Felix would be back, sure they could go up on the Brokeback again, relive everything they could never have.

When the days got longer and the sun began to shine, he drove across the country, pulled into that same old shack, this time beaming, looking around for him… No sign of him yet, but he'd be here. He knew it. He had to be…

The boss pulled in not long after, giving him a pointed stare as he stumbled past, calling back, "You here for the summer?"

Ryan smiled, relieved, thinking maybe things would be the same. "Yes, sir."
He turned the key in the lock of his shack, pushed the door open, and Ryan followed behind, heart pounding, half-expecting Felix to be sat behind the desk… No luck there, huh? He snickered at himself and-

"Anyone but you," the managed hissed, slumping back, his beer-belly sloshing. "You and that… blonde. You were hired to look after the sheep, not each other."

Ryan almost staggered back, but held his ground. "Wh-what?" he whispered.

"I rode up to check up on you. Saw you… fooling around. I ain't an idiot. And I don't want Goddamned queers working for me, you understand?"

Ryan gulped, straining to remain calm, when his thoughts raged, needing to explain, needing to punch his bloody lights out but… "Perfectly… s-sir."

He turned, and was about to let himself out, when suddenly he looked back. He had to ask. "Y-you haven't heard from Felix, have you?"

The man lit up a cigar, and snarled at him, before answering, "Nah. Thank God."

He said no more, but Ryan knew what he was thinking. He expected if they were anywhere near each other they'd just- he clenched his fists, his jaw, and walked out into the searing sun, tipping down his hat, and walking away.

Ryan and Sara got married later that month. He picked up jobs here and there; started selling tractors, riding them like bulls, trying just to think of the good times, like his golden-plated belts and… his home. They didn't do badly. Nice house, lovely wife… not long after, she was pregnant, and they had a kid, a little boy… and so the years passed.

Nothing every really changed, though.

Day after day, he thought about Felix. Regretted that… that what? That Felix had been right? The no one would have accepted if they'd…

No. It hadn't happened. Wouldn't happen.

But somehow he couldn't stop himself from hoping.

Felix tried to forget it all, returned to his wife, married her in a heartbeat, convinced this would all just pass. But it didn't. They had a kid. A daughter. And another, a few years after… he still struggled for money, taking whatever work he could find, but adamant not to return to the mountain. He couldn't. It was painful to even think about. He'd find himself getting furious, angry that he hadn't done something, changed something, but what choice did he have? He couldn't… couldn't risk it.

He remembered that man in the ditch.

Still bleeding.

Eyes still open.

Blue eyes, just like Ryan's… but by then they'd been crusted over with sand and murky with dead and-

He couldn't bear to think about it. It made him strike out, the rage too much, until he'd lose it, punch something, anything, until his fists were bloodied and stinging, but it was nowhere near as bad as the hurt in his head. He'd swear out, and curse, and get drunk, and threaten Marzia, even…

Until one day.

The postcard came through the door one lazy Saturday, when he was lounging on the couch, a beer in his hand. Marzia picked it up, and she was reading it as she stepped into the room, the picture tipped up so that it seemed to glisten in the light.

He recognised that mountain instantly. Tried not to lurch as he sat up.

"What is it, honey?" he asked, a tremble in his voice.

"Someone named… Ryan? You know them, Feliz?" she asked, foreign accent hinged on a vague suspicion.

"Y-yeah…" he stammered, grappling for a lie. "He was… my old fishing buddy. Ten years ago…"

Had it really been that long?

"How did he get my address?" he whispered without thinking.

"You got a stalker?" Marzia teased, and handed it over to him.

He read it twice. Three times. Four.

"Dear Felix,

I was in the area and managed to get hold of your address… hope you don't think this is too forward. Just thinking it's been a while… my address is just over there so drop me a line if you want to. I'd love to hear from you.

Ryan

PS: you better remember me. :]"

He did remember him. Of course he did. He even found himself trailing his fingertips along his writing, as if he was indirectly holding his hand already… then he caught himself, stood up, strode into the next room.

"Marzia? Have we got a postcard anywhere?"

"Dear Ryan,

Thanks so much for getting in contact with me after all these years. I really think it's time we met up to talk and catch up. How does next summer sound? Bring your fishing stuff, we'll make a week of it.

Felix

PS: trust me, I remember."

"Dear Felix,

Sounds great, friend. But is September 21st alright with you? I'll be coming through town on business is all. Makes it a lot easier to get around my wife.

Ryan"

Wife. He felt his heart clench as he read it, but at least Marzia wasn't expecting anything. Wife. Of course he was married… it had been ten Goddamned years, after all. Ten years too long… He sighed, put pen to paper.

"Dear Ryan,

Anytime. I can introduce you to my kids. I'm sure they'll love you. I look forward to our little rendezvous.

Felix"

That was the last letter that was sent between them. He checked the date every day, counting it down, waiting by the front door, as if today was the day every single day… Marzia thought he was crazy, kept teasing him about it, but he really couldn't help himself. He excused it in saying that he really wanted to show Ryan how much better he was at fishing now. Said the guy was a competitive bastard. Chuckled. She believed that, of course she did. And every morning before work, Felix would kiss her on the cheek as always, hug his daughters, and head off. Roll the windows down and light a cigarette.

It all felt wrong now.

Ryan Terry. God, the name brought back… feelings. Emotions that nothing could rival. But he'd drive on through his day, put the past behind him… Ryan had a wife, as did he. He had kids, and so probably did Ryan.

Did that matter, though?

As September rolled in, he stopped looking at the date, and started counting down the hours.

Started living out of the bottle to calm his nerves, stop him from pacing in front of the window, glancing out like a terrier waiting for its owner to return. Life carried on, his thoughts churned, his stomach clenched at the idea that… things may have changed. What if Ryan didn't care about him anymore? Ten years was a long time… even Felix found it unlikely that he'd clung on this long. But… life had just rolled on, and on, and there never was point in wishing for a past that could not be relived.

But now, the future seemed maybe just as promising.

September 20th. He skipped work that day. Kissed Marzia's cheek, hugged his girls, set out in his car, and just kept driving, on and on, straight past his work, and on and on, until the clouds above narrowed and shifted, and he swore he saw a mountain's peak.

He parked up. Sat there, sighing, dragging on his smoke. Tipped off his hat, lay it in his lap, folded his arms, exhaled through toxic gasses that filtered up and fogged over his eyes.

And then he drove all the way back to a house he no longer felt he could call home.

Ryan bloody Terry… Why did he have to come back now, just when he was starting to… forget? Forget about everything that had happened, about that night, about his kiss, about how he'd felt when he'd looked in his wing-mirror and watched him vanish in a veil of dust.

"Feliz? Isn't your fishing buddy coming tomorrow?" Marzia asked, just as he slumped past, opened up their crappy little fridge, popped the lid off another bottle.

He took a swig with red eyes, and nodded, before slanting away.

She watched him go, and paused. It wasn't the first time she'd thought something was wrong but… she just hoped this Ryan guy would be able to bring back some of her Felix.

He checked his scrap of paper over and over, still wondering how he'd managed to write it down with his hands trembling so much. Laughing a little, disbelief overcoming him in that he was finally here, back here, after so, so long… and it felt just like it always had. Like he could see him, riding in to their mountain-top paradise, smiling just to see him again, only this time, he was the one riding in. The engine whirred underneath him, and he spurred it on giddily as the street came into sight. This was it.

This was it.

He gulped, scratched his stubble anxiously, pulled his truck back into the drive, glancing back at the white-stroked house with trepidation.

This was it.

He took a shaky breath, gave a laugh, and pulled on the door handle.

Felix was there at the window in an instant, bottles dumped aside, and eyes shining just as they once had, hands reaching out, touching the glass, before he rounded off, flung open the front door and charged down the porch. Ryan adjusted his black cowboy hat, the same one as before, of course the same one, and then tilted it back up again and beamed wider than he had in at least ten years.

Before either of them could stop themselves their arms wrapped around each other, patting each other on that back, embracing all that they had missed for a decade and inhaling each other's breaths and essences and- and then it wasn't enough. Felix leaned back, and just a second's eye-contact into those tranquil blues, and he held his shoulder, glancing back over his own, checking no one else was looking, and tugging him back into the next stairwell, pushing him back to the wall heavy-handedly and kissing him just as urgently. Years of waiting, finally fulfilled by each other's lips, sighing and murmuring, clutching, fumbling for one another desperately, Ryan struggling against him, and he yielded, letting himself be pushed back against the other side, letting himself be kissed, drawn out, over and over and-

She'd heard him run out, and wanted to meet this fishing friend, suspecting nothing else… until she saw them out there. Trying to hide, but they hadn't thought she'd see, hadn't… thought.

Felix. Her Felix…

She stepped away, and tried to wipe away her tears.

Ryan pulled back, smiling so warmly that he was out of words that had dried out in his throat, and he sighed and laughed and- and wanted to say something but no words came, only another short, fleeting kiss, and a clutch at his hand, and a gaze into his washed-out eyes. The time hadn't treated him well. He wished he'd had the guts to contact him sooner, but…

Felix beamed as if telling him not to worry about it and then led him up to the house, pushed open the door casually.

"Marzia?" he called out, and she sniffed from inside the kitchen, before pacing out to them, faking a smile. "This is Ryan Terry, my fishing buddy from way back. Ryan, this is my wife, Marzia."

"Hi."

"Hi."

They didn't shake hands, but smiled pleasantly.

"Well, uh…" Felix continued. "We really need to catch up, y'know, been a long, long time, so don't wait up, okay?"

Marzia nodded, and said no more.

They stumbled into the nearest motel, clutching at each other's shirts, tugging at belts, kissing frantically through each muffled moan and short plea, kicking shut the door and staggering against each other over to the bed, tripping as they kicked off their shoes, dragging on one another till jeans dragged away and chests pressed together, tongues mingled with their sighs and needing to make the most of this night, their night, after so long, so many years, hats tossed aside landing together on the stained carpets and shirts falling open to their trailing kisses and trembling hands and rocking hips and-

Ryan leaned his head on his chest, eyes loosely shut, Felix pulling on his cigarette, nerves still lingering.

Yeah, this was their night, but it wouldn't last.

"I swear, I… I didn't know we'd be getting into this again," Ryan chuckled, rubbing his hand over Felix's chest and sighing, before he correcting himself, "Hell, of course I did… Red-lined it all the way down here… couldn't get here fast enough…"

Felix said nothing, but gave a small, uncertain smile, flicked ash from his cigarette.

Cry knew something was wrong, but… what could he even say? He had dreamt of this, hoped for this, for Felix, but…

"What do we do now?" Ryan murmured at last, tipping his eyelashes up to him, anxious.

Felix was silent for a long time. And then he uttered, "I go back home, and so do you."

And then it was Cry's turn to think quietly, before he whispered, "I'm guessing you don't mean together."

"There is no home for… us. You know what I saw…"

"What, twenty years ago?" Ryan argued, leaning up on his elbow. "Felix, that was… your dad, being a douchebag. This is different."

"How is it any different, Cry?!" Felix shot back. "Two men, together. My dad was only warning us; don't tell me your father wouldn't've done the same."

"No, he wouldn't," Ryan almost hissed. "Y'know why, Felix? Because he left us, when I was two years old. I don't remember him. And after hearing what sick ideas yours gave you, I'm happy I didn't know mine."

Felix blinked, half-hurt, half-stunned. Ryan had never been aggressive, ever. He waited quietly until Ryan added, "I just hope I don't set the same crappy example for my kid. And you should wanna do the same. You want your girls growing up thinking they can't be who they are, just because of fucking other people?"

"Fucking other people is exactly the problem here," Felix growled. And then he shut his eyes, stumped out his cigarette in the ashtray next to the bed, still ashen and singed from the last stubs. He stared at it blankly, and then sighed, and turned back round to him. "Ryan, I…

"I've missed you."

"I've missed you too, you ass."

They chuckled a little, and the smiles soon flickered back.

The following morning they returned to Felix's house, told Marzia they were heading off to the lake to do some fishing for a week. She didn't turn round, just kept scrubbing the dishes in the same old circles, round and round and clenching her jaw as she nodded, hummed socially, let him kiss her cheek, before hearing the door slam, and turning to stare blankly at what had been her husband, now bundling himself into his truck, and driving off.

She didn't care where they were going.

The kids walked in and she faked a smile.

They parked up, up in the mountain they had once fallen in love on. Pitched up a tent, set up a fire, just like old times… Waded into the river with their trousers rolled up, washing their faces and smiling at each other. And then they'd sit and talk, leaning on each other, holding hands, catching up on so many lost years…

And the week would pass in a heartbeat. They'd kiss before they left this place, agreeing to meet again, same time next year.

"There's never enough time, is there?" Ryan murmured, tipping off his black hat, smiling back, and then climbing into his truck, starting up the engine.

And every year, they'd drive up into the Brokeback, and neglect their fishing poles, telling their wives they ate all the fish up there, and for one week a year, everything would seem perfect, them together, no one else to look in, to spy, to tell them they were wrong. For one week in September, they'd be the best couple the world had ever known, gender irrelevant, bodies and lips pressed together, sealed with passion and love, until the week would be over again, and the year would stretch out, waiting for their month, their week…

They'd sit round the fire at night, watching the flames flicker and glow over each other's cheeks, lying back, gazing into the stars, as if the universe was theirs, after so long…

"Anything interesting up in heaven?" Ryan teased.

Felix looked round, and for the first time ever, really, he looked content. His lips held a smile, and as he sighed, for once it wasn't in regret, anguish, or loneliness. "Just sending up a prayer of thanks," he replied sweetly, taking his hand on the log.

Cry beamed lovingly as he took it, squeezed their fingers together, whispering, "For what?"

Felix chuckled, kissed him on the cheek gently, and then mocked, "For you forgetting to bring that damned harmonica."

Marzia would watch him return each year, and debate herself. Question everything. She had loved this man too, but did he seem to care anymore? Felix never took time for her; either working, drinking, or "fishing".

Just when he seemed to have everything, he'd walk into the kitchen, his hat tilted from where Ryan had left it, smiling, and she'd say…

"It's been four years, and you've never brought back a single fish."

That was how the conversation started, that would end his marriage. She confronted him, cursing this damned Ryan Terry outright, until Felix flipped and shoved her away, yelling that she could never know, never understand… and a month later, they stood apart in court, their girls in between them both, glancing back and forth, knowing everything was changing.

He was kicked out of his house. Took up refuge in his trailer, towed it up the road, to be closer to the state division, but not daring to go any nearer to him. Didn't even write Ryan a letter, so afraid that it would be intercepted, read, and… and then the danger would start.

When Cry drove down that year, he almost sped right past the trailer, and then skidded to a halt, spun round the wheel, parked up in a lay-by. He slammed the door as he stepped out, concern furrowing his brow.

"Felix?" he called out.

The blonde turned round, and once again, he seemed haggard, let down, hurt. But on seeing his blue-eyed friend, he gave a soft smile. He wanted to hug him so badly, to hold him and explain… what? Did it change anything for them? Still too scared to risk them being together, still trapped here…

He stepped over to his door, opened it up, and led Ryan inside. His two girls – one 15 years old, the other nearly 9, looked round curiously, magazines rested in their laps. Ryan almost felt startled to see their bright eyes, just like Felix's had been, when he had been happy.

"Ryan Terry, these are my girls – Maya and Jen. Maya, Jen, this is my… fishing partner, Ryan."

"Hi."

"Hi."

"Hey, girls. I've heard a lot about you."

They looked dubious, but smiled in welcome all the same. The elder sister, Maya, glanced to her father, unsure of what she was even thinking. But she had heard her parents arguing and…

Felix shifted awkwardly, sensing she knew something, and leading Ryan back outside rather hurriedly, holding his shoulder.

"What happened, Felix?" Ryan asked, hushed. "I thought you and Marzia-"

"Divorced."

He tried not to look excited. Tried not to let his hopes get raised, but they did all the same. His eyes sparkled, and Felix felt all the more guilty, as he said he couldn't go up the mountain this year.

Maybe next year.

"Maybe?" Cry echoed.

But Felix had already turned away.

Ryan gulped harshly, trying not to let himself feel again, but… he clenched his fists so tight his nails dented his palms, before he turned his back, and strode away, not daring to look over his shoulder.

If he had, he would have seen the tears in his partner's eyes, trying to fight his beliefs and fears, pitted up against this undying love that he could make no sense of. He tugged off his dusty hat, and tossed it to the ground.

The world seemed to lose its colour as he drove away. The skies white-washed grey, the tarmac just a deeper shade of heartache, crushed under his tires as they carried him further and further from-

Ryan clenched his jaw, cut the engine dead, leaving the truck to screech round off the road, skidding into the splintered sands that glared into his teary eyes. He sighed and sighed again, heard cars whizzing past without a care and- and he knew, one step into the road, one hit and- and he'd be gone. All of this.

But he couldn't do that. Couldn't leave Felix, not for anything…

He slammed his fist on the steering wheel, shoved his head back into the headrest, and started up the engine again.

Next year.

Next year…

He arrived early, next year. Heart entangled with all the emotions he'd been left with as he drove away, mind still teetering on losing it, giving it up… The river babbled away, smoothly carrying on, just as it always had…

The birds sung quietly, almost mournfully, the fall falling in around them, the leaves crinkling as they were painted oranges and reds, shades of fire…

His harmonica waited in his pocket. Just in case things were alright this time.

But he knew it wouldn't be.

He could feel it in the air, something in the breeze that told him… that told him something was about to go horribly wrong.

And then Felix's truck pulled up.

He smiled, feebly, as he turned, lowered his hat, holding it over his chest.

And Felix strode right up to him, but said nothing. His eyes weren't as soft as they'd once been, worn down by years of endless hope and panic and-

"Ryan…" he whispered. "I… I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what, friend?" Cry asked, hesitantly. This was the start. He knew it…

"For not coming last year," Felix answered. "It's just… I can't bear being so close and yet…"

"A-and yet… what?" Ryan prompted, closing the space between them, touching his cheek lightly.

But Felix turned away. Ryan stared at his back for a long time, waiting for… something. The birds had stopped singing now, as if they too felt the tension. He stepped towards him, wanting to- needing to- he put his arms slowly round his waist, held him there. Heard him blinking away tears and sniffing.

And then he heard him murmur, "We've got to stop this…"

Everything seemed to stop, and he let go, stood away. "W-what?"

"All these years, Ryan! And I still can't…"

"Can't or won't, Felix? I- I've given you every opportunity and…" He trailed off. Swallowed, took a deep breath. His voice dropped, gravely. "We could have had a good life together, all this time… A fucking really good life, with a place of our own and… each other. But you didn't want it, Felix, so now all we've got is the Brokeback Mountain. Everything's built on that. That's all we've got." He strode over to the edge of the river, stared down, down… "If- if you were to look back at the last twenty years, and see the few times we've actually been together, and how short a fucking leash you keep me on… you'll know this is all you, Felix. All your fault… And I'll tell you what: sometimes I miss you so fucking much I can hardly stand it. You… you have no idea how bad it gets."

Felix wanted to step forward, but… he had to stick to his resolution. This had to be over, it had to be…

But Ryan turned and glared right at him, eyes red and black and tearful, jaw set as he hissed, "And then I drive all the way over, and you flat-out reject me? And all I get is a fucking apology and you telling me it's not working?! I gave up everything for you! And I'm not you, I can't just stop, I can't make it by on a couple of high-altitude fucks once or twice a year; I'd live right here on the mountain if you'd drop by just once."

And he turned away again, seeming to curse to the mountain itself, "You… you're too much for me, Felix, you… you son-of-a-bitch… I… I wish I knew how to quit you…"

Ryan had never insulted him before, never had a bad word to his name… now he felt himself stagger back, heart wrenched, hard.

He clenched his jaw, feeling sick to reply, "W-well why don't you? Why don't you just… go? It's because of you that I'm like this! I'm… nothing… nowhere…"

And for a second, he seemed to get it. Seemed to bloody understand. Cry found himself tremblingly reaching out for him again, brushing his fingertips over his prickly stubble and-

"Get the fuck off of me…" Felix murmured, and turned away again, stepping back over to his truck, opening the door. "I can't stand being like this anymore, Cry…"

"Felix, I-"

His words were drowned out by the screech of his wheels.

And once again, Ryan watched him ride out.

He slammed the door on his crappy little trailer and watched the room shake, the world seeming to shatter around him and collapse down into his misery. He kicked solid objects, and felt no pain, even when his feet, his fists, swelled up and were red and bloodied. His tears stained his cheeks far beyond that first night, alone once again, no wife, no kids, no Ryan. But at least he'd be safe now. No one would ever know. No way he'd end up in a ditch…

He travelled around. Too let down to bother with getting a job. Too caught in his misery to end it all. Too guilty, too resentful, to go back to him. He'd visit his girls, every now and then, his ex-wife… She would never speak to him, except to say hello, maybe. And his children would watch him through his moods, Maya more and more aware of his decline; his stubble grew out, his hair grew shaggy, and his eyes lost their lustre. He was left as just some other old man, waiting for the day he'd grow ill and die. But he'd never say it. Hardly spoke at all, these days…

Until one day, the phone call came in.

Machinery accident, they said.

Couldn't stop the bleeding, they said.

His eyes clouded over that day, and the gloomy skies never passed.

Felix made his way across to Florida, where he met his mother. She did the best she could, and he tried the best he could not to cry.

"He used to say, "Felix Kjellberg," he used to say; "I'm gonna bring him up here one of these days, and we'll lick this damn ranch into shape." He had some half-baked notion the two of you were gonna move up here. Build a cabin, help run the place."

Felix just nodded, and swallowed.

"You want to see his room? I left it just how he did."

"I'd like that…" Felix replied quietly, and she led him upstairs.

Telling him, "He always said he wanted his ashes scattered across the Brokeback Mountain. Said it was the happiest he ever was…"

She left him alone, up there. Everything was perfectly organised. Harmonica on the bedside table. Bed freshly made, as if he'd come back any day now…

He opened up the wardrobe, let his fingertips brush on his cottons. Saw that old black hat laid down on a box, and shuddered a sigh. And then his hand fell on that blue shirt with the popper buttons, the one he'd been wearing the night they'd…

He stepped closer, drew himself into it, bundled it into his arms, inhaled his scent, and let the tears fall down his cheek, as if he'd had a chance to stop them. It was him. It was him…

He carried the shirt and hat downstairs with him, held close to his chest.

"If Ryan's father had been here, he'd have stopped you… didn't appreciate… that sort. But… you take them, honey. I know. I know…"

No one could ever know what he felt.

He knew this was his fault. If only he'd been there, been there to fight back, or to die at his side, or to at least spend some time together before… He knew it was no accident. Whether he'd intended it, or some other homophobic bastard… it didn't matter now.

He was dead.

Ryan fucking Terry…

He drove his trailer up to the border, and watched the clouds drift over the mountain's peak, day after day, watching himself grow old in the window's reflection. Cut himself off from everything; everything he didn't care about, everything Ryan couldn't see any more. Everything except Maya.

The nineteen-year-old would stop by one day, and tell her father… that she was getting married. She'd smile, as if she… knew. He'd look up, and try to return the gesture, but he hadn't smiled in a few years now…

"Does he love you?" Felix uttered, looking up at her. It was the only point he cared about these days.

"Yeah, daddy; he does. Will you… can you come to the wedding? It's on September 21st…"

He sighed deeply, and no one could ever appreciate how deeply. He hadn't left the trailer in so long… and on that date…

"Daddy, please?" Maya pleaded of him.

And the way she held his hand, just like Ryan used to, fingers interlaced…

"Sure, honey," he answered quietly, and her beam was enough to bring a real smile from him. He kissed her forehead, and watched her drive away.

On the peg next to him, a black cowboy hat hung.

He paced over to his wardrobe, pushed it open, sifted through his clothes boredly… and then over to the blue shirt, tucked inside his own. Traced his fingertips up it, fastened the top button slowly.

Cried, a little bit, thinking of the irony…

"Ryan, I swear…" he whispered, and stared into the bright blue skies that lingered above the Brokeback Mountain, the perfect crystal azure of the photograph on the front of the postcard, and the writing that began,

"Dear Felix."