Where Bluebirds Sing

Where Bluebirds Sing
Part One
With gratitude to Annie, Heath and Jake, and the miracle they created.

Brokeback Mountain, summer 1963

He’d never thought about the sky being the color of someone’s eyes.

--Well, they weren’t always blue. No, true enough. When the day faded, and the two of them were close by the fire, or in the tent of golden shadows, the sky faded too, and the great eyes seemed to have no color but black. It was the same in the gray light before dawn. It bothered him a little that he was here, lying close with Jack, rather than there, sleeping with the damn sheep, but it had stopped bothering him enough for him to pay any real attention to what was rapidly becoming gross dereliction of duty. Rules were lifeless things. Jack was anything but lifeless. And Aguirre was nowhere near.

He lay on his side, watching Jack sleep. Not something he had set out to do, not at all, but finding himself awake, and Jack not, he found the long, luminous figure beside him drawing his eyes back again and again. It was a really warm night, likely a thunderstorm before dawn, probably the reason he had awakened. Jack must finally have been comfortable, for he hadn’t made any effort to cover his nakedness after that last wrestling match. Ennis wondered idly how many times it had been today, but the answer eluded him. Several, certainly. Several was a good number.

Ennis didn’t know how hungrily he studied the sleeping man for whom he had no other word than friend. He didn’t realize either that it was the first time he had ever really dared to look at Jack for more than a handful of seconds at a time. Looking into Jack's face did strange things inside him, things that made him uneasy, even angry sometimes. He had made do with a lot of short looks, stealing a few longer ones when Jack turned away, especially when Jack hadn’t a stitch on and was pissing, or washing, or just wandering around in the altogether and his hat and boots, which he had a damned annoying way of doing just when Ennis needed to stop getting hard and playing around and get back up to the sheep. His mouth quirked up ruefully. He’d tried to embarrass Jack once, stop him doing it, saying in the direction of Jack's rather distracting backside “One a these times, you go prancin around like that, gone a get cold and dick’s gone a shrink right on up and disappear.” Jack had straightened up, slowly, and turned, and Ennis had known right away he’d said too much, shouldn’t have called attention to it. Jack had pulled at his hat brim, looked down. “Don’t worry, Ennis. Don’t matter how small it gets. It’ll get bigger again.” And then, those eyes meeting his, that slow grin, and there the damn thing went, stretching out, standing, getting stiff, shameless fuckin son bitch… Ennis frowned at the way his belly fluttered, and pushed the distraction away.

The first thing he noticed was how different Jack looked with his eyes closed. It was like someone had turned the lights out in a room just as it was going dusk. Ennis had never noticed eyes, particularly; but then, he didn’t really notice people at all much. Just for a moment, an image very different from the one before him flashed into his mind, an image at once half-forgotten and unforgettable, and Ennis flinched. No, he didn’t tend to notice people. It was safer that way. You might find yourself looking at the wrong one the wrong way. And Ennis had never been told what kind of look was a queer look. He only knew, as he had known for ten years, that you couldn’t go wrong if you didn’t look at all.

But it was impossible not to see, not to notice Jack Twist. He remembered when Jack had introduced himself, standing one step above him outside Aguirre’s trailer. Ennis had already sneaked a glance at him in the trailer, just one, noticing not so much the man as the colors--denims many washes newer than his own, black hat, blue shirt, black hair. Simple, strong, quiet colors, and not many of them. That was good, though Ennis never knew he found the composition pleasing; reassuring even. And then had come the moment, outside, the moment when Ennis could no longer avoid meeting the other man’s eyes, when they had to exchange names and acknowledge each other’s existence; the moment when Jack, having lit his cigarette while Ennis messed with the watch, turned to him abruptly, stuck out his hand, and said “Jack Twist.” And the frank, friendly eyes were blue, too, blue like the shirt and the jeans, under black brows—black like the hair, and the hat. It was inevitable, and it was right, and it was pleasing, and something like a little shock from a short wire zipped through his belly. He had been so unprepared for that giving regard that he had said only “Ennis,” like he was five years old, and that made him feel so stupid he just clammed up. And then the man with the blue shirt and blue eyes and black hat and black brows had teased him for the rest, grinned as though it were the biggest fun in the world, nothing mean in it at all, and the best he could do was mutter “Del Mar,” not looking into that face again in case he felt another funny tingle in his belly, as Jack stood there grinning down at him like…like…unaccustomed to the exercise of his imagination, Ennis failed to find words, but he had a sudden image of a male bluebird, his deep blue plumage an outrageous excess of pure color, singing his heart out on a weatherbeaten fence post separating a dusty tan road from a dusty brown field. Yeah. A bluebird. Jack was a bluebird. Unnoticed, one corner of Ennis' mouth twitched upward momentarily. Bluebirds were big showoffs, so it worked that way, too.

“Nice to know you, Ennis Del Mar.” It was funny how often the words came back to him, those first days, the words and his first memory of those strange wide eyes that really had looked glad to meet him as he had turned away in confusion. Jack looked at him a lot, not shy, making no secret of it, and Ennis liked to see his friend laughing back at him. He liked it too, even if he pretended not to notice, when Jack looked at him in another way, usually when Ennis didn’t have much on, or he wanted Ennis not to have much on. And when the world shrank down in darkness to the fire and the tent and two friends who had found a deeper kind of pleasure in each other, the great eyes could sear with their kindness, and their understanding, and the silent promise that what Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist did here was secret, and private, and nobody’s business but theirs. Sometimes when the dark brows pinched together, and the eyes went gentle, Ennis felt like he was suffocating, every breath his last, and he didn’t even mind. It just grabbed hold of him, this thing Jack did with his eyes, and shook him to his bones, and he surrendered, lost and found.

But sometimes it wasn’t desire but fury that shook him, a shudder of pure rage at the weakness that brought him to Jack again and again, a rage that turned his eyes black and flat, that turned his need into an explosive release of male power that shamed him when he was spent and Jack lay gasping beneath him. Though Jack laughed off the bruises. As for the rest, well, Jack wasn’t so meek or helpless as all that, and Ennis collected a few bruises and wrenches of his own. But Jack never minded how rough Ennis got, and sometimes that made Ennis shake, too, not knowing if anger, or wanting, was uppermost.

Jack sighed a little, making Ennis flush, thinking he’d been caught. He quickly looked away, but as surely as a hooked fish, his gaze was drawn back, and he was struck afresh at just how exotic was the face still relaxed in sleep. Ennis had never seen anyone like Jack Twist before. Men just didn’t look like this. Boys were either tall and skinny—like him--or short and skinny, a few kind of handsome, but always raw and unfinished-looking, while grown men had the heavy lines and dull skin and wary eyes that come with a lifetime of smoking and drinking and spending all their days outside in raw weather one step ahead of unemployment. He studied the face of his bedmate with something like wonder. Not a square face, not a bony face, all angles and squint, but a long, smoothly oval face that could turn in a moment from arresting to ridiculous, or the reverse--Ennis had seen both. And where in the hell did a man get eyebrows like that, dark and masculine to be sure, but so perfect they seemed unreal? Only now did Ennis notice, too, really notice, the almost feminine delicacy of Jack's coloring. It seemed to go with the eyelashes, nearly as long as a woman’s, and with the eyes, and with what they showed sometimes.

That was another thing. Jack showed everything. You never had to guess what was going on with him. Ennis wasn’t used to a man who talked, either. At first, he had almost revolted from all the chatter, all the questions. Funny, though, how quickly he’d gotten to miss the sound of Jack's voice when they were apart. The thing was, Jack seemed to mind about him. Ennis hadn’t forgotten the quick sympathy Jack had offered that first morning, nor the simple question, two weeks later--“Your brother and sister do right by you?”--that for some reason had made Ennis tell Jack more about his life than he had ever told anyone else. He didn’t know why it was so easy to talk to Jack. It just happened.

Thinking about Jack talking brought Ennis' gaze naturally to Jack's mouth. His breathing quickened a bit. Even when Jack wasn’t talking, his mouth was eloquent. Ennis licked his lips, studying the perfectly drawn curves, made for kissing and…and things. He flushed. The damn mole, placed just so on the left side of Jack's upper lip, didn’t help. It seemed to draw attention, irresistibly, to a mouth that needed no help attracting notice. Like the other mole, the one high on Jack's left cheek. As though anyone could fail to notice those eyes. No, Ennis had never seen anyone, man or woman, who looked like this, and all at once, a word he had never had any occasion ever to use before drifted into his mind: beautiful. Jack Twist was beautiful.

In a world of dust and shit and mud, every tiny spot of color leaps out. In a life where color cannot be afforded, where clothes and gear and towels and sheets are worn until they are all gray, the only color comes from the skies and the wild things and what grows in the little forgotten corners not required for something else. And Mama had one word for them all, birds, sunsets, rainbows or flowers, a word inflected with wistful awe and longing and hunger for something precious that would be gone all too soon.

“Isn’t that beautiful, baby?” she would say, drawing his attention to whatever it was that had made her heart lift, and Ennis had learned that “beautiful” was the highest accolade of all, attached to things you could never own, that slipped through your fingers and were gone. They were not loved less, but more, for only appearing occasionally, and not always when they were needed most. But then, the unpredictable appearance of something beautiful was part of what made it beautiful. It was a gift, shared briefly and then put away someplace safe and secret so that no harm could come to it. And here in the quiet and shadows of their refuge on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis Del Mar looked down at Jack Twist and knew that he was beautiful.

He frowned, and shook his head. Beautiful! As quickly as it came, the word was scorned. It was a woman’s word. A word women used, a word used to describe a woman. And while Jack might not have been square-jawed and narrow-eyed, no one would ever mistake him for a woman. No. Ennis' eyes drifted over the heavy beard, implicit in strong shadow, and down, down, slipping over the broad shoulders and well-defined arms to sweep over the strong chest, noting its dusting of dark hair, following the enticing sable trace to the flat, muscled belly, where it swirled idly, casually, momentarily slowing the shy, greedy gaze, and then a little further, just a little further…no, there was no question anywhere along that well-travelled road, especially not at its conclusion, that the arrestingly well-made creature beside him was anything but male. Ennis' breathing quickened again. He had no words to describe, or understand, the sensuality of that he looked upon, for the erotic power in the smoothly turned, graceful lines of the long body, a composition that drew the eye finally and inevitably, over and over, to the juncture of belly and thighs, the tangle of dark thatch and the promise teasingly implicit in the fullness even at rest of the cock and balls. He didn’t know either that he coveted to the point of pain the startling face and the healthy, sleek, muscular body that shone silver in the dim light of the waxing moon. But somewhere deep inside, he did hear the single word he did know echoing softly with the ring of truth: beautiful. Precious, unexpected, unpredictable… His face pinched as his chest tightened. And soon gone. When the snows came, Jack would be gone. Of course he would. He would have to be. One shot thing anyway. Ennis Del Mar wasn’t no queer, no he was not. It was okay, what they did—all right, better than okay, a whole lot better. Okay, yeah, fuckin great, even. He sure didn’t mind getting off half a dozen times a day, who would, but a course it was just makin do. Stood to reason. And if it was this good with Jack, well, just wait till November, when he and Alma.… Ennis' head jerked back. For no reason, he flushed. It wasn’t respectful, he told himself, thinking about Alma like that, not here. Him and Jack had nothing to do with that anyway. Damn, it was true enough that Jack could do things to him, things like nothing he had ever dreamed of, but that was just Jack. So he’d better enjoy it now, because Jack would be gone and only Alma would be left. In his confusion Ennis didn’t see how he looked on this picture, and on that. He knew only that he didn’t like thinking about Alma all that much right now, and he didn’t like thinking about September at all. But it wasn’t September yet, of course. They still had weeks and weeks. And anyway, Jack wasn’t gone. Of course not. He was right here. The tight breathlessness faded, his breathing slowed. Jack was right here beside him.

It was the first time, he realized suddenly, since that first dawn, that he had found himself the one awake. When did Jack sleep, anyway? Not when they were together, that was for damn sure. No, it was always Jack who woke first, early and often. Ennis felt his face heating up. Jack would wake first, and then he would wake Ennis. And he had ways of doing that…Ennis shook his head, but he was already reaching, reaching, unable to defer his desire for one more minute. Long fingers, callused and cut up, but surprisingly graceful, reaching, and ah, finding and curling around a staff swelling stiffly for him, index finger hooking over the big knob, thumb squeezing and pushing, the tears oozing out to help slick shaft and fingers both. Damn! So hard, so sudden! Ennis bit his lip to keep back a moan that would have awakened his sleeping bedmate, but he could do nothing about the breath now hissing harshly. Yes, Jack was a damn devil, the son of a bitch, Ennis coming awake like a fish hauled to the bank, mouth open and gasping to find a big hand not his own steady at work pulling, twisting. Or Ennis would be drowning in hungry, breathy kisses that only waited for him to wake to go deep and devouring as a hard surging body urged itself against him until he grew impatient and angry and flung Jack over to do what he had to, even better if Jack fought him and they rolled around growling and hissing and yeah, laughing. But Ennis was always stronger, always. And so he hauled Jack up, did the bare necessary to help himself, and surrendered to the white heat and the shoving and found it went even better if he reached around and made Jack beg him to keep thrusting and jerking roughly until everything went dark and silent except for the roaring in his ears and the hoarse “Uh, uh, uuuh, uuugh, oh fuuhck” that he hardly realized came from himself. Afterward they would get it all over them, what Jack had spurted onto the blankets, and the tent by now had a haze of harsh musk Ennis would carry with him for the rest of his life.

Ennis had a sudden sharp yearning for the other way Jack liked to wake him up, their favorite way, though Ennis always pretended, or tried to, that it made him angry, that it wasn’t decent. Those great eyes, shameless and full of laughter, looking up at him from under the dark brows, all the while, the mouth hungry tugging at him, coaxing him to come…

Ennis was pulling hard and steadily now as he watched the sleeping face. Jack shifted, a frown washed his face, and Ennis found his gaze drawn instinctively downward, though he couldn’t have said why. What he saw made him bite his lip again as desire shuddered sweet and liquid through him. Jack was no longer asleep, at least not all of him. His handsome big tool that had been lying pleasingly enough nestled on his balls was flopped up onto his belly and growing. And all at once Ennis wanted something else. Frowning, he watched, breathing fast, as Jack's manhood stretched out full, and knew he wanted, knew he had wanted for some time, to taste it as Jack had so often tasted him. For a moment he hesitated. Was it queer? He shook his head impatiently. It was Jack. Once again, Ennis saw not the man who lay before him, but the one who had reached out to him, not the first but the second night, with a face so gentle it made Ennis hurt all over. He had never seen eyes like that, eyes that said so many things without any words needing to be spoken. It had been all right, then, to slip into Jack's embrace as though coming home. It was all right now to give, as Jack had given to him. It couldn’t be wrong. Nothing was wrong, not here, not now. It was Jack. They were alone, just the two of them. Ennis was lightheaded, drowsy, deeply aroused. Without another thought he swung round and hung suspended above Jack just for a moment, and then, pushed Jack's legs apart and let his tongue slide up the hard shaft.

It rose to meet his advance, and Jack moaned, a half-formed, still-asleep sound that made Ennis' cock jerk in his hand. He hadn’t expected the heat of it, though he’d had it in his hand often enough. Nor had he expected the scent, so much heavier and more intense at the source, making his nostrils flare to draw it in. Just as easily as that, his lips parted further and he tasted heat, and salt, as his tongue drew in the big knob.

Jack did wake then. “Jesus!” he gasped, hooked and landed as abruptly as Ennis ever had been. “Jesus! Ennis! Oh, fuck!” His head fell back on the pillow, his hips arched up, offering, and his long fingers tangled in the wheat-colored curls. “Oh, fuck! Ennis! Ennis!” He was laughing now, joyful. “Oh, God!”

He didn’t last long. It might have been Ennis' first time, but he’d been on the receiving end of this little slice of Heaven quite a number of times now, and he proved himself a retentive student. Jack had gotten very, very good at this, and now reaped the benefits of hours of patient experiment. Indeed, just the fact that Ennis was doing it was nearly enough. Seeing him there, curly head moving steadily, hearing the soft, erotic sound of suck, feeling the awkward caress grow confident, and eager, Jack felt the pull, the tightening, the awareness that the ground was falling away and he was flying, flying…

“Ennis. Ennis. Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, Ennis…oh, Ennis, Ennis, I got a…I…oh! Oh, Ennis, fuck, I’m comin, I’m comin, I’m comin…” He convulsed, too far gone to feel Ennis spattering his thighs, and Ennis once again tasted salt. And it was good.

* * *

Whistling loudly, if not very tunefully, Jack Twist carried the laundry down to the creek and dropped it beside him with a “whump.” Hooking his fingers into the placket of his shirt, he whipped his arms apart in an exaggerated motion, popping every button on his shirt with one mighty yank. “Superman!” he laughed, and whipping the tails of the shirt clear of his jeans, popped the arm snaps as well and dropped the shirt on the pile. In less of a hurry, he shucked the rest of his clothes and stood naked on the bank, running his hands through his dark hair. The sky above him mirrored his eyes, promising another warm day like the last, and though it was still cool, the sun warmed his body, urging him to lace his fingers together, hoist his arms high above his head, and stretch mightily. It felt good. He felt good, deeply tired and deeply happy, and he held the pose as he stared, smiling, eyes unfocused, at the broken peaks and the sky above him. The sun poured off his perfect young body like water sheeting over marble until he broke the pose, abruptly, with a huge yawn that ended in a laugh.

“Damn!” The word was not a curse, but a deeply felt expression of reverent pleasure. “Oh, Ennis.” Jack stretched again, arms wide, embracing empty air, and laughed again, throwing his head back in sheer glee. “Oh, damn, Ennis. Who-wee! Just no knowin with you!” He had hoped, had prayed, had done a good bit of that praying with a hard tool standing stiff in his hand, that Ennis would do exactly what he had done first thing this morning. “I knew it would be good--but it was better!” The last word was a bark of laughter. “Uh!” He relaxed and dropped to a crouch to do the washing.

God. Yeah, he’d wanted it bad. He knew Ennis really liked him doing it, for all his frowning, for all that he would never directly meet Jack's eyes when he was getting it, for all his mock protests of “don’t you be doin that, damn it” and the like, and shit, he had wanted some too. But he knew Ennis was kind of shy, still, about what they did, shy in some ways anyway, and Jack knew in a way he couldn’t explain that he’d better not ask for it. It wasn’t as though he was going without that badly. Ennis had gotten awfully good with his hands. “Mmm.” Yeah. Awful damn fuckin good. But sometimes, lookin at that soft mouth, thinkin about the way Ennis kissed, yeah, he’d sure wished it would kiss down, and down… And then, at last, this morning, he’d woke up, if you could call it that, more like he’d exploded from the inside out, damn near come—and there was Ennis, crouched between his legs, and…his cock stirred as the memory washed through him. “Oh, yeah.” Never reluctant, Jack reached for it, but he’d gotten a pretty good going over in that first hour they were awake, as the blanket could attest, and it sighed back to sleep in his hand. Jack just grinned and got to work on the washing.

It was full afternoon when he awoke with a start, sighing and stretching. Good thing he’d gotten the wood and the water taken care of before falling half-dead onto the remaining blanket. It was a damn shame, but Ennis had taken the pup tent with him, a sure sign he was going to be where he was supposed to tonight. Damn shame. After this morning, too. Desire tickled his belly, and meant it this time. Shit, that had been good. So damn good. Jack's hand slipped quite unnoticed down his belly, flipped up his shirttails, and reached for the big tool stiffening quickly, glad he’d stripped off his jeans before sleeping. He pushed out of the tent, feeling a quick whim to just stand there in front of the tent and pull it off.

A movement to his left caught his eye, startling him. For a moment he thought it was Ennis, but it wasn’t. It was only Ennis' shirt, the one he had washed that morning, stirring in the breeze, along with his. Something about the picture caught at his attention, and Jack found himself drawn across the camp clearing to where the wash hung, his need fading.

The blanket hung on the rack in the normal way, but after noticing that the clothes took a long time to dry, Jack had employed an idea of his mother’s, and made hangers out of green branches and pieces of rope picked apart to make heavy twine. These he had tied here and there to low tree branches so that the ever-present wind could dry the whole garment at once. It looked a little odd, and the horses had spooked a little at first, his especially, but the clothes dried faster, and it was funny how when you knew you had something clean to put on, you wanted to put it on right away. Ennis had been surprised, he remembered, and had been so obviously impressed that Jack had not been able to bring himself to admit it was not his own idea. Not that it really mattered. And he had really liked seeing the warm approval in his friend’s eyes.

Now the shirts hung, side by side, his blue one and Ennis' almost-white one with the light plaiding. Jack liked this one a lot better than the other. The bold orange plaid was too loud for Ennis. This one looked better on him. He lifted the sleeve briefly. Ennis had been wearing this shirt when they met. He had also been wearing it not the first time, but the second, when Jack had been lying in the tent with his own shirt off, mouth dry, heart pounding, trying to seem relaxed but knowing that if Ennis didn’t pass in front of that fire and come under the tent roof with him it was going to be a really bad night, and a very long summer. But he had. And that made all the difference.

The shirts stirred in the breeze again, and the nearly dry sleeves of Ennis' shirt stirred and brushed against the denim of his own, as though Ennis' shirt was reaching for his. Jack put a quick hand to his stomach as something moved strangely inside him. It was this, he realized, that had he had noticed from across the clearing--the two shirts touching, sometimes playfully, sometimes uncertainly, as though their owners were still in them. Suddenly and very intensely, he wished that Ennis was there. His eyes dark and serious, he caught Ennis' sleeve and drew it around the shoulders of his own shirt, holding it that way for a moment before he let it drop. They spent a lot of time together now, it was true, and a lot that old Aguirre sure wouldn’t like to know they were spending, but it was never enough. On a day like this, it seemed like they still had all the time in the world, but Jack knew better. The days would shorten, the snows would come, and it would end.

But did it have to?

In a blaze of light, the idea came all at once into his mind. He remembered Ennis talking about that girl what’s-her-name, Alice or Annie or whatever—no, it was Alma. They were getting married, he’d said, when Ennis returned from the mountain. But later he’d said November. Jack stood very still. September this job would end. What was to stop them taking a job together on some big old ranch for a couple months? What at all? Riding together over the land, fixing fences in a lonely field, rainy afternoons in the hayloft… Hell, maybe he could just move in nearby. --Tell you what, come to think, Ennis never even talked about that girl.

There was a funny tight feeling in his chest as he stood looking at the two shirts, swaying and brushing against each other. But would Ennis do something like that? Unbidden, and unwelcome, the memories trampled on his wonderful idea: Ennis galloping off after that first time, like he wasn’t coming back. “You know I ain’t queer.” And “one shot thing we got going on here.” Jack shook his head, frowning. He hadn’t known at the time if Ennis even meant anything would ever happen again, and the words had nearly crushed him. But you couldn’t let the fear stop you. You couldn’t. So that night he’d lain on that bedroll hoping his bare chest was sending a message Ennis would hear, scared to death Ennis would just roll up outside again. But he hadn’t…

He stared at the shirts, not seeing them anymore. There were two Ennises, almost. Ennis who was the only real friend Jack Twist had ever had. Ennis so gentle with those big hands, Ennis who joked and teased, Ennis with his dark, sweet, hungry eyes, Ennis who could set him on fire with a touch, or a kiss. Jack closed his eyes, shaking his head. Jesus, but he could kiss. Oh, shit.

And then there was the other one. Jack's guts moved again, but this was a less pleasant feeling. Yeah. The other one. Ennis who wasn’t queer, who wouldn’t ever look at him for more than a moment, who’d shot him that look that made him feel sick and scared, and a little bit dirty, before tearing off after that first night like he couldn’t get away fast enough. This was the Ennis whose dark eyes blazed sometimes like he hated Jack, just before he took him like a beast in heat.

The funny thing was, well, that he didn’t mind Ennis being angry, not really. Ennis didn’t hate him. He knew that. Not that the anger wasn’t real. Oh, yeah it was. He knew real anger when he saw it. And yeah, it scared him. Ennis was a big strong man. And they’d wrestled enough that Jack knew he hadn’t a hope if Ennis really wanted to hurt him. But the shot of fear didn’t stay with him. It never had. You couldn’t get on a bull more than once if you went around worrying about it. When the ground blindsided him, and he ran for the fence, and spent the next three days cradling his ribs, he’d wonder why he did it, getting himself busted up again and again. And then he’d smell the animal, and feel its anger and power through the skin as he wrapped his legs around it, and he knew. He’d never really thought about it, but the thing was, it almost excited him, getting on a bull. He smiled a little. Ennis was a lot like a bull in some ways. Powerful. Dangerous. Unpredictable. He thought about what Ennis had between his legs, and the smile grew teeth. Yeah. Ennis had that in common with a bull, too. He stared down at the shirt, seeing, in flashes, the owner inside it: the face with its hard angles and soft mouth and secret dark eyes that said so much more than Ennis wanted them to, the lean, rangy build that was so damn male, and yeah, the big jutting dick. Damn, he liked all of that, but the longer he thought about it, the greater the certainty grew: it was the danger too. Jack liked it that Ennis didn’t like wanting him sometimes. It was part of what made him want Ennis so much. It was the eight-second ride. And tell you what, it was always one hell of a ride.

He reached out and stroked Ennis' shirt again. “Just don’t be scared a it, buddy,” he said softly, though in that moment, he wasn’t quite sure what “it” was. All at once, he tired of his contemplation. It was time to get dressed. He’d been alone long enough.

Where Bluebirds Sing concludes in Part 2

(no subject)

Where Bluebirds Sing
Part Two

With gratitude to Annie, Heath and Jake, whose creation these characters are

With beating heart he approached the sheep, able to hear—and smell—them long before he saw them. His heart spiked as he spotted Ennis' horse, but it took him a good minute to spot the man lying asleep on the blanket near a clump of bushes he was using for shade. A slow grin grew on Jack's face and he dismounted quietly, unsaddled his horse, and then crept over to Ennis. Ennis, sleeping with his hat over his eyes, never moved. Jack's grin faded as he stared down at his friend. Ennis, he thought, and his chest tightened. Ennis. Jesus. There must be some way… And then other ideas, more familiar ones, crowded out the soft cry in his mind, and Jack dropped to his knees and whipped the hat away, bringing Ennis jolting awake with a noise that could have been “huh,” or maybe “whut?”

“Hey,” Jack said softly as his friend stared up into his eyes, never knowing that Ennis saw not only the blue eyes but the blue sky beyond, wide and clear, summer without end. “Thought you could maybe use some company.” He leaned over and found Ennis' mouth with his own.

There was the moment of resistance. There always was. Jack didn’t rush him, though he did plant his elbows on either side of Ennis' shoulders and cradle his face in both hands, letting Ennis know that he was prepared to hang on the whole eight, tempting and coaxing with soft touches and brushes of his parted lips, until Ennis was ready to join him.

On this occasion, though, the resistance was only a token one. Perhaps Ennis had been dreaming of his friend and lover, the earth blending with the sky, seeming to be two distinct realms but in truth shading imperceptibly from one to the other, forever inseparable, dreaming each of the endless sky embracing the earth, the strength of the earth holding up the sky… Ennis' fingers slipped into Jack's hair, flipping the hat away to land unremarked somewhere, and pulled him down.

There was the soft catch of breath, life to life, as the mouths met, locked. Jack needed no more invitation than that to be astride, needing only a moment to pull one shirt, and then the other, open, freeing to each other the deep body heat between them. Ennis moaned in the kiss, protesting, as his big tool surged erect, as his lips opened to free a darting tongue, as his right leg hooked over Jack's left, as his left arm wound around Jack's body, binding them together. Both Jack's hands twined in his hair, even as Jack's sleek body surged against his like wind-lashed rain, again and again, forcing delicious frustrating contact that roused Ennis to madness.

But it was a laughing delirium this time, under the summer sky, as a horse jingled its bridle, as sheep grazed mindless and heedless, as a bluebird somewhere not too far away sought to claim a mate for its own and two hungry souls slipped earthly bounds to claim each other. In the mountain fastness, among the guardian peaks, in a cold, hard, poor place deemed fit only to be cheap graze for animals, there was sanctuary for something utterly unexpected to begin and grow, daring and dangerous, sending its roots deep against the wind and frost and all that would assault it, even as it revealed its first glory. They thought it was just fun, the two who created it between them, just friends, just fuckin. All too soon, they would find it was great, and terrible, inescapable and untameable, merciless…and priceless.

With a mighty heave, Ennis flung Jack off him, but in the next instant slammed him into the blanket so hard Jack saw stars. While he was still gasping for breath, Ennis fell on him, like a coyote on a sheep, heavy, purposeful and certain. For just a moment, their gazes locked, Jack startled and vulnerable, Ennis triumphant and lustful. Then Ennis deliberately shoved his belly into Jack's, grabbed two fistfuls of dark hair, and kissed him.

Jack did not so much accept his lover’s kiss as reach up and greedily claim it, slipping one big hand into the honey-colored curls and pulling their faces together, his mouth opening under Ennis', curved lips parting to share the hunger that no amount of eager tasting could ever appease. Even as Ennis' body fitted itself to his, inevitably, their mouths locked again, and Jack felt as much as heard his partner’s deep-bellied moan as Jack's eager tongue darted quicksilver against, and around, and finally through Ennis' own luscious soft lips.

Like leaves on the wind they were swept away. They were two, and thus separate, different, but the differences were of degree, not kind. Each felt stubble as they kissed, each felt a flat chest sliding against his, each clung to a body that surged with power rather than yielding, and as they forced the beautiful young bodies together, over and over, the dark one and the fair one groaned each to feel the hard heat of manhood yearning against his aching own.

There was nothing subtle about what coursed through Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar there on that seedy old blanket in the dappled shade under the sky in the secret place that belonged only to them. They were in all the first flush of their full young strength hardly more than vessels for something far greater than either, a life-force, a force of nature, a growing bond whose name they might deny with their minds, but whose truth would be no less than both the light and the darkness that would define their entire lives.

On that summer afternoon, though, they knew nothing more than the need that rolled like a river in flood through them both. It looked like wrestling, what they were doing, but there was no more play in them now. Ennis got his hand between them, ripping at his belt, and there was Jack doing the same, even as the mouths devoured. The need to mate tangled their bodies, and abruptly the denims gave way, almost in the same moment, freeing thrusting, oozing cocks that shoved belly to belly and rubbed and slid against each other in a delicious agony.

In their desperate thrashing they had freed each other of boots, and now the denims were wrestled off, drawing growls of frustration from both as each yanked at his own and his partner’s clothes, Jack's freed leg nearly clocking Ennis before Ennis hauled him up even as Jack turned away.

Panting with exertion and lust, it was nonetheless a sight that gave Ennis a moment’s pause: Jack still had his shirt and undershirt on, but below that… Ennis pushed them up and pulled Jack's enticing tight ass to him. Jack groaned as he felt it, hands squeezing and caressing, hot hard shaft rubbing, big knob bumping in the cleft, everything growing slick with Ennis, any moment now…

…and then it happened, Ennis impatient and aching and ready, his rearing manhood pushing and shoving, needing only a quick steadying hand to guide it…and Jack was his, again.

It took a little work, as it always did, but Ennis never grudged that, rocking steadily forward without any volition of his own, panting with each push, eyes wide at nothing, Jack's face screwed up not exactly in pain, reaching back for his lover’s strong right hand and finding it, drawing it to his oozing staff, “Oh, Jesus” as the fingers curled and began pulling, sliding over the slippery knob and down the full shaft, short and sharp, it was already so close as Ennis sank into joy on earth, so close, so clinging, so right, so hard…so fucking hard…

“Oh, fuck,” Jack gasped. “Oh, fuck, Ennis…oh, Jesus, fuck me, come on, oh, come on…”

“Uh. Uh. Uh…oh fuck,” Ennis groaned. His head went back, his mouth falling open, his hips surging with power now, giving all.

“Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Harder. Oh, fuck.” Jack hardly even knew what he was saying, what he was doing. “Oh, God, Ennis. Oh, my fuckin God.” They had found their rhythm, bucking hard together, just right, so fucking right…

And Ennis lost the battle for sanity, with a choked-off cry and a long, drawn out “oh, fuuuuuhck!”

“Ennis!” Jack felt, Jesus how he felt, the hard, tight, jerking surges that brought him rapidly to his own climax. “Oh! Ennis! Ennis! I’m off! I’m off! Oh, shit! Ennis!” And he fell slowly to the blanket, still stroking the last bit out, as Ennis pulled away and collapsed beside him.

* * *
“Ennis.” Ennis made no reply to the soft entreaty, hoping if Jack thought he was still asleep, he’d get left alone.

“Ennis.” Apparently not. Ennis grunted a little, discouragingly. Jack, of course, was undeterred. “Look, Ennis, moon’s out.”

Ennis let out a heavy sigh. “Yeah?” He didn’t open his eyes. He didn’t want to open his eyes. He was very damn comfortable where he was, fingers laced across his chest, head on Jack's belly just below his ribs.

“Don’t you ever wonder why the moon comes out in the daytime? Sun don’t come up at night.”

“’F it did, it’d be daytime. Huh?” Ennis still didn’t open his eyes, so he didn’t see Jack smile, but the fingers combing through his curls tugged briefly.

“Think about it,” Jack added, when Ennis thought he was done. “You know, in four, five years, there’s gone a be an American walkin around up there on that moon.”

Ennis made no response beyond another sigh that said, “Can’t we just enjoy this fine afternoon lying buck nekkid together and not talk?”

“I wish it was gone a be me,” Jack added softly. “Yeah.”

Now he had Ennis' attention at last. “Huh?”

“Yeah,” Jack repeated. “Sure would like to be the first man to walk on the moon. ‘Course, I can’t. You got a been a college graduate, test pilot, stuff. But damn. Wouldn’t that be somethin?”

Ennis cranked his head around, peered curiously at his friend. “What the hell you want a walk on the moon for? Ain’t nothin there. No air.”

“You mean you ain’t never thought about bein a astronaut.”

“Nope.” Ennis rolled back to his comfortable spot and closed his eyes, willing the long fingers to start combing through his hair again. After a moment, to his great satisfaction, they did.

“Can’t believe that. You know we got a beat the Commies. Wouldn’t you like to a been the guy that does that?”

“Ain’t no Commies around here,” Ennis yawned. “Just sheep, dogs, wind, coyotes, and this one damn guy won’t stop talkin long enough for me to get me a nap.”

“Think about it, Ennis!” Jack was afire now. “First man a walk on the moon! Shit! Think about ol’ Christopher Columbus! We still got a learn about him in school, and that was hundreds a years ago. First man a walk on another planet? A thousand years from now, people will still know the guy’s name.”

Ennis studied him again. “That what you want, Jack Twist? People know your name in a thousand years? What you gone care then, huh? Be long gone.”

The wide skies fixed him, serious. “I do care. I want a be somebody. Somebody a lot more than Jack fuckin Twist from Lightning fuckin Flat, with two lines in itty-bitty type on the last page of the Crook County Register when I croak: ‘J. C. Twist, poor dumb shit-kicker, 102, survived by dried-up ole wife and 27 fuckin kids and grandkids.’ Man’s born ignorant, but he don’t got a die that way. I want a mean something. I want someone to remember me when I’m gone.”

“I’ll remember you.” The words came instantly into Ennis Del Mar’s heart, but not into his mouth. They were there in his eyes, though, in the instant before Ennis looked away, a strange feeling fluttering lightly in his belly. And Jack saw them, and flushed, though he did not know why.

“First man on the fuckin moon,” Jack said after the brief, awkward silence. “Yeah, Ennis. Think about it, friend—you wouldn’t never have to buy a single nother thing in your whole life. People give you trucks, houses, free stuff--televisions, everything. Swimming pools. You could be president. King. Statues everywhere. Picture on the damn money. Wouldn’t that be great?”

“No,” Ennis said with decision. “Be like the Dionne quints. People knockin on your window while you’re tryin a sleep sayin they’re your second cousin from Cheyenne once removed, and give em a lend a hundred dollars. People wantin you in Life magazine or somethin. Never leave you alone.”

“Yeah,” Jack said dreamily. “Like Joe DiMaggio. Or John Wayne. Fuckin great.”

“You go on ahead to the moon, Jack Twist Shepard,” Ennis yawned. “I’m stayin here on the Earth and get me some sleep.”

* * *

The shadows were long when Jack woke next. The first thing he saw was Ennis' hat, lying upside down a few feet away. At the same time, he was aware that his front was cold, but his back was not, and knew that he and Ennis were lying back to back on the blanket. But it was not that which sent a strange little electrical zip through him, one that Ennis would have recognized. He could feel that their feet were hooked together, and they were holding hands.

Jack didn’t know he would remember that moment for the rest of his life, but he felt its power even then. Everything stood in sharp relief, a relief not entirely caused by the low sun, which still had two or three hours to go before it would cast shadows like knives. There was Ennis' hat, the inside stained with sweat, the brim bearing gray smudges of fingerprints old and new, the lining torn in one place and crudely stitched. Beyond that lay a pile of denim. Whose they were Jack didn’t know offhand. He could see a part of a boot, one of his, and a sock, ditto, beyond the edge of the ragged, dirty blanket that bumped up here and was pulled in towards them a little lower. An ant marched up a blade of grass. The dirt where it showed was green in some places with moss, and just brown in others. He could see a few flowers. It was a scene remarkable for its unremarkableness, the only thing memorable about it that it happened to be in front of Jack Twist’s eyes as he realized he and Ennis Del Mar had been holding hands in their sleep.

How long he could have remained still, trying to make sense of what surged through him, he would never know. As though he sensed Jack's agitation, Ennis stirred then, and Jack felt him draw away, unhurriedly, probably still asleep.

Jack sagged, letting out breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. That was Ennis all over. What was going on here anyway? Jack wasn’t stupid. “Nobody’s business but ours” was, yeah, maybe a little more hopeful than true. He understood why Ennis would be worried about somebody knowing. It wasn’t an accident that Jack hadn’t told him the truth about just when Aguirre had rolled into camp that time, or about the funny way Aguirre had looked at him. And yeah, every cattle guy was ready with his stories about sheep guys fucking the sheep, and yeah, each other. Hell, probably the sheep guys said the same thing about the cattle guys. But it was the main reason he hadn’t told anyone but his mama and daddy exactly what he was doing on his Farm and Ranch job, not this summer or last summer neither. He’d taken more than enough crap already from guys he knew about his eyes and shit. Nobody messed too much with a bull rider, but he still got some stuff. Jack knew well enough what was said, and what was thought, about what they had been doing every chance they got.

Holding hands. Ennis would never have done that awake. He just didn’t do that kind of thing. Not after, anyway. A contradictory kaleidoscope of Ennis wheeled before him, much as it had that morning. There was some stuff that Ennis would do, and some he would not, and some times he would do it, and others not, and Jack never knew quite which was which. He did know that it was up to Ennis to decide, especially if he wanted Ennis to keep doing it. And he knew it was always disappointing that Ennis would never curl around him, or allow Jack to do the same to him, when they drifted off to sleep. Ennis just didn’t seem to know that sometimes it was just good to hold onto somebody else. And Jack knew, the way he knew they just didn’t talk about what they did, ever, unless they were in the middle of doing it, that this was another of those things it would be a bad idea to bring up.

He turned over. There was nothing more to be gained lying turned away from Ennis, not while he was asleep, and besides, he was getting cold. If Ennis would wake up, he might feel like warming both of them up again.

Ennis lay in a partial slant of sunlight, mostly on his stomach, turned away. Jack propped himself up on one elbow. He never minded looking at Ennis asleep. You had to take it where you could get it. His eyes swept along the broad shoulders and down the wide back, lingering over the rounded, muscular white cheeks. Jack felt the heat in his belly. He had damn good reason to know just how much muscle Ennis had at his command. He was a hell of a rider. And he had a hell of a body. Just what a man’s body should be, lean and long and rangy, not a hint of roundness or softness anywhere--except there, and in the curves of his arms…and his kissable, kissable lips.

Enjoying the hunger growing in him, Jack let his eyes be drawn back up. How was it that he had ever thought of Ennis' mouth as hard and unyielding? He had sure learned better, from the moment Ennis had started to relax, and talk, and smile even, when he’d started meeting Jack's eyes, even a little. Jack had found himself thinking about Ennis' mouth quite a lot after that, but it had taken him a couple more weeks to find out why. And then he thought about it even more.

Ennis asleep was so different. It had taken Jack a while to figure out what it was, but he knew now, and there it was again, as Ennis lay flung out on the blanket, oblivious to the fact that he was a feast for the eyes: he was relaxed. Even the frown that lived between his sandy brows was gone. He was at rest, and at peace. It was a face Jack saw only in flashes, when Ennis was awake.

I’d like to make that frown go away, and never come back. If you wasn’t gone a marry that Alma, bet I could do it, too. What you want a get married for anyways? Can’t do nothing when you’re married. Got a wife naggin at you all a time, squallin kids, shit, like bein in prison but you never get out. Wouldn’t be like prison with you, though. It’d be like this…

Here Jack's thoughts stopped. But it couldn’t be like this. Could it? He stared down into the profile of the man sleeping beside him. The unruly wheat-colored curls had become a golden crown in the slanting sun, and for once the softer aspects of the arresting face were ascendant. Jack thought suddenly of a picture he had seen framed in his church. It was, though he didn’t know it, a reproduction of a Baroque painting, showing an angel asleep. He smiled at the idea, but it was a crooked smile, not a Jack Twist smile at all. The hair was not very clean, and no angel ever had a beard shadow, or a line of dirt behind the ear, or a splash of small freckles on the cheek either, but there was a grace, and a strength, and yes, a beauty that seemed not quite of this world in the lines of Ennis Del Mar’s sleeping face.

Damn. Damn, Ennis. He reached out, the gesture strangely hesitant.

And then Ennis turned over, and woke, to find Jack Twist staring down at him, great eyes dark and serious, something showing in them that made his heart turn over.

For just an instant, Jack saw it, the eyes widening, the response, the mirror of his own soul, and then the shutters closed and the face with them. Ennis sat up, turned away, and reached for his clothes. “Bout time for some damn supper, huh?”

Sore and heartsick, Jack rebelled, tired of Ennis pulling back every fucking time.

“Got all I need to eat right here,” he said softly, and with the daring of the bull rider, ran a hand from Ennis' shoulder down his arm.

Ennis froze for just a moment, and then the shirts were pulled on as though Jack hadn’t spoken, or acted. And then he stood to step into his jeans, turning sideways, accidentally, or not, and Jack caught his breath in surprise, for the big beautiful cock was strongly extended, and made quite a handsome show before being made to disappear, not without apparent protest, into Ennis' trousers.

“Save you some for dessert, huh?” So hard was it for the startled Jack to tear his eyes away that he nearly missed the sideways flash of the dark eyes, and the knowing curl of a grin, that accompanied the words. He was still trying to catch his breath as Ennis pulled on socks and boots, and came around him to lift his hat on. Several minutes later, Jack halted in the act of swinging up into his saddle, his heart leaping: Ennis was strapping the pup tent back onto his saddle.

“What you doin, Ennis?”

Ennis shrugged, mounted, and rode up to him. “Don’t want no Forest Service seein it before I come back tomorrow.” And when Jack could make no answer beyond a stare, he added,

“Thought you could maybe use some company.” The dark eyes flashed again, and he was gone down the trail.
Just no knowin…

* * *

Two figures lie close beside the campfire. Beyond the influence of firelight the darkness is complete, the moon still hours below the jagged horizon of broken peaks. The cold creek with no name rushes by, but they do not hear it now. Their world is no larger than each other. It was playful, at first, Ennis knocking Jack's hat off as he has done before, and will again, Jack retaliating, both laughing, lust and whisky surging in their blood, shoving them down to the half-unrolled blanket Jack had dropped casually on the ground an hour before. They like doing it by the fire. They like what the firelight does to their bodies. Each revels in the other’s masculine beauty and power, and neither has any idea of his own. “Dessert,” Ennis says. “Yeah. Peaches and cream,” Jack laughs, mischief in his eyes, and Ennis rolls him onto his back and kisses him to stop him saying such things.

Playful, but it doesn’t stay playful, as they stop the rolling around that reassures Ennis it’s just horseplay, mostly, and lock together. It never has been playful for these two, who have cut fence but good. They laugh, and they snort, and they throw each other around, but it is not only lust that drives them into each other’s arms, and it is the other hunger, the one with no name, that has their eyes alight and their hearts beating fast for each other. It is sacred ground they are treading, beyond the fence, and it is also, for them, forbidden.

Jack, at least, would be willing to accept the truth. Ennis can’t. But he feels it, there between them, as they fumble with each other’s clothes, kissing, groping, feeling what is so shockingly the same, and yet different, wild with the scent of each other, with the joy of hands on warm bare skin, with the way each rouses to the other’s secret touching. And then the dark beast takes him, the fear and fury and the ineradicable memory of a mutilated man in a ditch, and he knows, for a terrible terrifying moment, he KNOWS…

Jack felt the change at once. They were tangled with each other, Ennis half on top of him, shirts pulled open, denims too, but no more, so abruptly had it taken them, and as they lay each with his head against the other’s shoulder and neck, each had captured for his own a big, stiff tool to tease and stroke. And then Ennis went stiff in a different way, and shuddered, but not like he did sometimes when he came, more of a wrench, and made a noise in his throat that was not pleasure.

They were too involved with each other for it to stop, they needed each other, and this, too much for it to even slow them down much. But for Ennis it was now a battle, neither the first nor the last, between love and hate, and Jack did as he always would do: his best, to help.

He turned his head slightly, pushing his forehead against Ennis' neck, a silent, instinctive signal that meant to reassure. Ennis may or may not have understood it, trapped in his own private hell of needing to touch and kiss and fuck another man, but the violence he felt tonight did not seek to make a target of Jack. It was himself he loathed.

There was nothing he could do, somehow, but go on. Jack was so close. They were giving each other more heat that the fire a few feet away. Jack smelled so good, raw and sharply male, and felt so good, strong and vital and alive, and damn that big cock felt so good in his hand, hot and heavy and slippery and standing stiff just for him, and oh, fuck, Jack's hand slipping and sliding and tugging and teasing just where he needed it most…oh…no…

Ennis moaned, but it was not a sound his friend had ever heard him make before. It was almost like Ennis was hurt, and trying not to cry, and in a way, Jack did understand. Ennis needed him, needed his help. He understood that. And he held on, and what had been lust and passion became something else as they moved together, each caressing, each bound to the other’s exquisite healing touch.

Ennis couldn’t stop the harsh, broken sounds that seemed to tear out of him. He was mostly on top of Jack now, his face hidden against his friend and lover’s neck, Jack's beard scratching his forehead, and every breath that escaped him was a hoarse cry of agony. Sometimes he seemed to be trying to say, or not say, something, but no clear word, or syllable even, made itself intelligible to his partner, who wrapped one big hand around Ennis' head and with the other did his best to help his friend end the hurting.

“Uh…ghh…unnnh…unnnh…nhh…nhh…” Ennis was thrusting into Jack's hand now, and then, all at once, his head jerked back, and it was torn from him in ropy white spurts that spattered Jack's hand and Ennis' and his cock and Jack's and Jack's shirt and belly and his own.

But that didn’t seem to have ended it, for Ennis was still making the noises, still wracked with his torment. Jack realized suddenly that Ennis was crying, even though he felt no tears on his skin, and he turned his head to kiss his face. In the same moment, Ennis turned to him, and their mouths blundered into each other.

Jack…please…Jack… Ennis heard a roaring in his ears, his own life’s blood beating in a primal tattoo against his eardrums. There was no teasing, no sensuality in this kiss. It was simply need, and it devoured them even as they devoured each other.

Ennis fell back, taking Jack with him. Now Jack knew exactly what to do, and he did it. Pushing up Ennis' undershirt, he tore away from the soft lips and stabbing tongue and began to kiss his way down Ennis' body.

Ennis moaned, and this time it was a sound of pleasure, of relief almost, and his back arched as Jack paused long enough to bite one nipple lightly and swirl a quick tongue around the other. Then it was soft, lingering kisses that left a hot, wet line that cooled like ice in the chill night air, even as big hands spread wide, pushing the shirt further up.

For a moment Ennis covered the hands with his own, squeezing, hard, and then his fingers slipped into the dark hair, clenching and unclenching.

It was no surprise, what Jack found when he had kissed his way unhurriedly down the ribs and the flat stomach,but it was a delight all the same. Most of what Ennis had spent had fallen on him, but a little had gotten Ennis as well, and Jack lingered to sweep it up with his tongue.

“Oh, fuck,” Ennis breathed, as that very educated tongue teased ever so close to the hard staff, Jack's head even bumped it aside, making him shiver with anticipation. “Come on, Jack.”

It was the first time he had ever exhorted Jack to do anything. The simple words were a hot stab in the belly, and Jack responded the only way he could—he pushed up and swallowed Ennis down as deep as he could.

“Fuck. Oh, fuck,” Ennis panted. “Come on, Jack. Oh, Jesus.” Again he was in agony, but it was a sweet agony this time. Jack was exacting a delicious revenge, if you could call it that. Ennis didn’t call it anything. He just surrendered to it, long endless minutes of tugging and sucking with one hand keeping him skinned as the other worked him good. Even with his last climax fresh on him, there was no way any man could have resisted that urgent, intimate entreaty for very long, and Ennis didn’t even try. With a hoarse cry, his hips shoving upward, he shook and shook as Jack, having skimmed off the cream, swallowed the milk. As he fell back, shattered, he felt Jack's release spatter him, not quite burning but luxuriously hot, before Jack collapsed on top of him. This time, Ennis did not check what was in him, and wrapped his arms around the man who had given him joy.

At some point during that night they stumble into the tent and sleep a while, but what is growing in both of them is too strong for sleep, and as the moon rises, they waken and turn to each other, naturally and easily. It is silent this time, no laughing, no anger either, and not a single word, just harsh breaths, and at the end a soft, painful moan from Ennis that does not express pain.
Neither has any way to understand what happened earlier, by the fire, when the demon had hold of Ennis, but Ennis knows Jack helped him, cared for him, just as he is always trying to. And in reply he gives Jack the night. There is no sleeping after that, just touching and dozing and reaching for each other again that is hardly slowed by the soft gray of dawn. They wash by the creek, but the sun gives glory to their nakedness and wakes them to each other again, and it is very good that time, cold water and hot need together. They must have eaten something, sometime, but now they understand, in a new way, how it can be, and the meal soon becomes Ennis tasting Jack again in the full daylight by the fire before once again joining with his body as he has already joined with his heart.

* * *

Ennis was about to put his foot in the stirrup when he caught sight of the tall, lean figure standing at the fire. The day had chilled, and Jack had his coat on again. Likely it would rain soon. For a moment he didn’t understand what it was about Jack standing there, unmoving, that caught his attention, and then he realized it was the very fact that even though he was leaving, and going up to spend the night with the sheep, Jack wasn’t talking, teasing, tempting, or even looking at him. He was, simply, asleep on his feet.

Something welled up in Ennis then, as he stared, slow with exhausted contentment, at the broad-shouldered figure standing so still, all alone there by the fire. He didn’t like Jack silent and unresponsive and not looking at him. Suddenly he found he couldn’t just go, leaving Jack alone like that, not Jack, his friend, his best and only friend…

Coming up behind Jack, he slipped one arm between Jack's left arm and his body, and the other around Jack's neck. Catching the collar of the wool-and-sheepskin coat, he pulled his friend close…

…and time held its breath.

Jack felt the arms go around him and relaxed back into the embrace as a deep, silent ecstasy bloomed inside him in gentle slow motion. You came back. You came back. Oh, Ennis, you ain’t afraid a it no more. You’ll see, it’ll be all right. It’ll be okay. I’ll take care a you. We’ll find us a ranch somewheres, nobody’ll know nothin, just you and me, just you and me, buddy… They weren’t words, really, in his mind, just feelings, and some part of them kind of thought as he stood there rocking silently in that sleepy embrace that he dreamed them, and Ennis dreamed them too…and they drifted, Ennis feeling the warmth of Jack through his coat, feeling a peace he had never known before, knowing dumbly that he needed nothing else from the world, never would, that nothing could ever be wrong with simply holding Jack Twist close to him. Neither of them really heard the soft lullabye he was humming, but they both felt it, as they stood rocking gently together, not marking time, with all the time in the world…Jack's lips brushed the back of Ennis' hand…just like this…always…

…and the silken strand parted. “You’re sleepin on your feet like a horse,” Ennis murmured, and Jack didn’t deny it as Ennis drew away and went to his horse, even as Jack turned, still bound to him, eyes soft and following.

“See you tomorrow,” Ennis added. He didn’t look back. He didn’t need to. He went in no particular hurry, seeing nothing before him, for his whole mind, his whole heart and soul were behind him.

And Jack Twist stood watching him go.



These characters are not mine. With eternal gratitude to Annie Proulx for characters from "Brokeback Mountain," and to NBC for regular and guest characters from "Cold Case: Forever Blue."

With special thanks to amdaz and City Girl.

“Hey, Daddy,” Junior smiled, putting the pizza down just in time to keep from dropping it as her father swept her into a great bear hug. She surrendered to it like a child, rejoicing as she always did that her father never coyed his affection when he felt like showing it, undemonstrative though he usually was. Even though it had only been a week since the last time he’d seen her, he hugged her as wholeheartedly as though it had been a year.

“Hey, darlin,” he murmured in her ear, the endearment shy, private, like the man himself. That much had never changed. He talked more than she remembered from her youth, but his words of love were still sparing and never delivered to her face.

“Brought you pepperoni and sausage,” she told him, moving into the modest kitchen of his small house.

“Not that hot stuff, I hope.” Her father, with the ease of long practice, set about getting out the TV trays and table settings. “Gives me gas.”

Alma laughed at his unselfconscious frankness. “The sweet kind, Daddy.”

“Never could stand that hot stuff,” Ennis added, the additional words showing how pleased he was that she remembered.

They watched the news as they ate. “Man’s born ignorant, but he don’t have to die that way,” Ennis said sometimes, and Alma saw his reading glasses were sitting on top of a different book than they had been the week before. It still deeply gratified her that he had taken to reading so late in life, but not nearly so much as the fact that he’d even consented to have his eyes examined in the first place. It was almost fifteen years ago now, about the time he’d quit smoking, one day, just like that, after Jenny, who had always been good at math, came to him with a paper on which she had estimated how much money he spent on cigarettes in a year. Ennis had said nothing at the time, but he’d peered at the paper through his new glasses for a good little while, and the next time he had come to Jenny’s for Friday dinner, he had no cigarettes with him. He was like that. Like a rock. Like a mountain. He made up his mind, and that was the way it was going to be. Alma knew very well how hard it was to quit, but Ennis had never given any indication that he missed a habit of more than thirty years’ standing. The glasses had been like that too: she had subscribed to the newspaper for him, only to have him give her back the first two weeks’ worth of papers, all carefully preserved, when she next visited.

“No use to me,” he said, more sullen than she had seen him in a long time. “Didn’t want you to be out no money.” Alma knew he didn’t read books, but she’d never thought about why. She’d always figured it was because he didn’t think it was something cowboys did. Ennis could be very stiff-necked that way. Neither she nor Jenny had ever gotten anywhere with the sunglasses.

It came to her now, belatedly, that she didn’t think she’d ever seen him read anything. He looked at farm and ranch catalogs, but…“Daddy, I know you can read,” she said, a little hesitantly.

“I ain’t illiterate!” he said crossly, catching her drift. “Just can’t read worth nothing. Damn words blur on me.”

“You mean you need glasses?”

“Don’t need no glasses. Ain’t no damn banker. Don’t keep no store.”

Alma showed some of her father’s granite. “You mean all my whole life, you haven’t read anything just because you needed glasses? And you’re the one always used to tell us, ‘man’s born ignorant, but he don’t have to die that way’ when we didn’t want to do our homework! There’s a whole world to read out there, Daddy! Just cause you didn’t graduate school doesn’t mean you got a stop learnin.” Ennis had stopped frowning then, and studied her intently for a moment, walked away and gotten himself another beer, and then nodded.

“No. It don’t.” And so the glasses had been gotten.

“So what are we gone a watch?” she teased. That was another thing that had never changed. Ennis had always watched westerns and cop shows. And sometimes, Nature or The Crocodile Hunter. He had, startlingly, developed a liking for Deep Space Nine, which his grandson had insisted on watching when babysat, but that was a complete anomaly.

“Cold Case,” he replied. He picked up the TV section of the paper, adjusted his glasses, and read off “’Forever Blue.’ 1968: Rogue cop found shot in his squad car.” He looked at her to see if she would comment because he’d pronounced “rogue” correctly. Wisely, Junior made no notice of it. One book that was always on the side table was a dictionary that she and Jenny had given him for his birthday after he’d gotten the glasses. When Ennis Del Mar set his mind to doing something, he didn’t do it halfway.

The show began, in black and white, with a closeup of a candle being lit. A date was superimposed on the bottom left hand corner of the screen:

July 7, 1968.
Scene: a Catholic baptismal ceremony. A young man, dark and handsome in a rather sensual way, and his wife, a pretty blonde, wait with their baby and children at the altar with their priest and an older man in a police uniform. They are awaiting another participant. The mother sarcastically wonders if “he’ll” show.

Ennis' gaze lingered on the face of the young father. Dark hair, large, clear eyes, sweeping brows…the resemblance was superficial, yes, but it was there. Unseen by his daughter, Ennis' eyes softened. He had no picture of Jack Twist, and even the image graven on his heart had blurred with the passage of time, but even if he turned off the TV now, he would be happier for a few hours, simply because he had seen tonight someone who reminded him, even a little, of the one he loved and had lost, ever so long ago. Once, there had never been enough time. But now, though the years passed much faster than Ennis remembered from those old days, it seemed as though there was, often, far too much of it. Of course, there was nothing anymore to make the hours and minutes mean anything to him. Except when his girls, or their children, were near him. It was not the same, of course. No. It was not the same, and it never would be … Ennis veered sharply away from this unproductive line of thought and gave his attention back to the show.

A small commotion arises in back of the church as “he” arrives, at first obscured by blinding light from the open door. “He” resolves into another young man, moving almost at a run, tucking in his shirt. The older man smiles indulgently, and he and the other young man suggest to each other that the new arrival has been tomcatting. As he arrives at the altar, the men are all very comfortable and genial with each other, but though “Sean” tells the new mother she looks lovely, she seems cool toward him.

“Hey, Daddy,” Alma said all at once. “You know, the guy that just came in, he looks kind of like you, don’t he? I mean when you were younger.”

Ennis shrugged, indifferent. He didn’t think so, really. But then, he had never been one for looking in mirrors. If he ever had looked anything like that, it had been a long time ago. Thirty, forty years at least. He shook his head.

The ceremony begins, and Sean Cooper and his partner Jimmy Bruno have a sotto voce conversation:
Jimmy: Think he’ll be a cop?
Coop: No choice. It’s in his genes. “Forever blue.”
Jimmy: Someone’s gotta break out, live a better kind of life.
Coop: Yeah—what else can guys like us do?
Jimmy suggests: Sales?
Coop thinks this is funny: Sales. Yeah. That’s good.
Eileen shushes them, and they subside. Coop and Eileen exchange another, longer look. It is evident that there is a strain between them.

The scene changes, panning up over the hood of a police car. The window has a shotgun hole in it. Inside, Sean Cooper sits, bloody and dead. In his lifeless hand he still holds his radio transceiver.

:108, are you there?

The scene changes again. Two men are putting away several file boxes. Their manner is resigned. The boxes all bear the name “Sean Cooper.” One man rubs a box with his fist before they both turn away.

Another scene change, to the present day and into color. Lt. John Stillman and Det. Lily Rush are talking as they enter the state pen.
Had a call, Agent Kahn, says he got a tip about a murdered cop, Sean Cooper, killed in ‘68.
Rush: ’68? You worked patrol then, John?
Stillman: On the street, 12th District.
Rush: So you knew him.
Stillman: Met him at the Academy. Kind of guy you wouldn’t forget. Real cowboy, the kind modern regulations don’t allow anymore…
They meet with a lifer who is bargaining to go home to die with his daughter. At first he isn’t very cooperative, but opens up, in bits and pieces when he sees the tough act isn’t getting anywhere.
I found him, in the car, before the police got there…brick of heroin on the front seat…Saw him lying there dead, radio in his hand, eyes wide open. A black harp stamped on the brick.
Stillman, to Rush: Teddy Burke’s gang. Owned the North Philly heroin trade.
Rush to Con: You saying Cooper was dirty?
Con: Parked under a bridge, with a whole lotta dope in the car. Nasty laugh. He don’t look like a hero now, does he? Laughs more.

Scene: Lily Rush, John Stillman, and Scotty Valens are in squad room, examining Cooper’s case files.
Original theory—Cooper was killed on patrol in a bad neighborhood.
Stillman, looking at files: They worked this case to death!
Rush: Revenge theory? Gang hits? Jealous boyfriend? Apparently Cooper was quite the ladies’ man.

The scene changes. On a warehouse loading dock, Dets. Will Jeffries and Kat Miller are questioning the retired officer who found Cooper’s body. They ask him about Teddy Burke:
Cooper shaking him down?
Murphy, incredulous: Cooper? You’re kidding, right? He hated Burke. Came down on him real hard. You shoulda seen this guy. Let’s just say he…didn’t shy away from confrontation. Cooper was all about the law. There’s no way he got corrupted.

The scene changes again to 1968. Teddy Burke, leaning against the trunk of his car, is selling smack to an anxious young woman when Coop and Jimmy Bruno drive up, siren going. Murphy is watching, surreptitiously, from another parked car. Coop and Jimmy exchange fake, sarcastic pleasantries with Burke, and then Coop hits Burke, hard, in the shin with his truncheon. Jimmy looks in Burke’s car and comes out with a brick of heroin with a black harp stamped on it.
Burke, panting with pain:
There’s ways of getting a piece, officer. That ain’t one.
Jimmy cuffs him and they lead him to the squad car. The angry Burke tells them,
Mark my words—I’ll last a lot longer on these streets than you will.
The officers are laughing as Coop shoves him into the car.

The scene changes back to the loading dock, where Jeffries says skeptically to Murphy:
So this run-in just…slipped your mind when Coop ends up dead a few months later.
Murphy: I had my own reasons for keeping mum…

Now we are back in the present day Lieutenant’s office, where Lt. John Stillman and Det. Lily Rush are questioning a handsome silver-haired man.
Why do you think your partner was killed?
The man shifts. Flashback: he’s Jimmy Bruno.
Jimmy, reminiscently:
He was fearless. Used to go looking for bad guys. I always figured one finally got revenge.
Stillman: Tell us about Teddy Burke.
Jimmy: Well, he sure hated Coop!
Rush: Were you protecting Burke?
Jimmy: No. Guy was in Atlantic City that night. I checked it personally.
Rush: Still—no mention of this bust in the logs.
Jimmy, simply: Because mentioning Burke woulda cost me my job. Burke had a lotta money, connections…
Rush: What’d he spend his money on?
Jimmy, pointedly: Making sure he stayed outta jail.
Stillman: He paid off cops?
Jimmy shrugs it off: It was ’68. Money was around.
Stillman: How high did it go?
Jimmy: All the way to the top…

1968: Lieutenant McCree gives Coop and Jimmy hell for collaring Burke. Jimmy gets the drift quickly:
We’ll get clearance for politically sensitive cases.
Coop is disgusted: Jimmy and I have been together for a year. We’ve had more busts, more convictions than any other team. The captain appreciates our work. --You think he knows you’re such pals with Teddy Burke?
McCree: Do not try to go over my head, Coop. You’ll regret it.
And Teddy Burke trots down the stairs smirking and waving at the fuming Coop.

In the present day, John asks the older Jimmy
Were you on the payroll?
Jimmy: You know how it was back then, John.
Rush: What was Coop doing under that bridge, Jimmy?
Jimmy doesn’t understand—it’s obvious to him: Responding to a dispatch.
Rush: No record of a dispatch in his patrol log.
Stillman: Who sent him out there?
Jimmy, still confused: Radio always sent all the dispatches—made by cops!
Stillman, thoughtfully, to Rush: Lot of cops with McCree.
Rush: McCree needed to get Coop under control—maybe he was set up.
Stillman, finishing her thought: By his own lieutenant.
Next we see Lt. Stillman and Det. Jeffries entering a bar.
I’ve got Kat looking for the dispatch.

An older man doing a crossword is flashbacked: it is Lieutenant McCree. Greets his contemporary, John Stillman, warmly. At first, he professes not to remember Teddy Burke, but as the other two point out the glaring fact that Burke was never arrested, McCree opens up, saying frankly to his old acquaintance,
You get rid of one scumbag, another pops up. Might as well just tax him.
Stillman: You take care of your men.
McCree: Damn right I did.
Jeffries: How’d you take care of Coop? --We heard he was responding to a dispatch.
McCree, flatly: Then you heard a lie. He was a real playboy type, Cooper. Ain’t surprised he got shot.
Jeffries: Jealous boyfriend.
McCree: Husband…

1968—party at the Bruno house, after the christening. McCree opens the door into the kitchen in time to hear Coop say to Eileen Bruno:
I know it’s wrong.
Eileen: How could you do this to me, Coop? To us?
Coop: What do you want from me?
They see McCree and Eileen leaves hastily.
Looky what we got here. How long’s it been going on? Jimmy know?
Coop: No.
McCree: What would your old man say? His own son, banging another cop’s wife?
Coop: Leave Sarge out of it.
McCree Oh, you don’t tell me what to do. Not ever again…You end it, understand?
Coop, short: Yeah. I understand.
McCree: You crossed the line.
Back in the bar, the investigators digest this.
McCree, amused:
Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?

In the same church where the baby was being christened, Dets. Scotty Valens and Lily Rush find Eileen Bruno lighting novena candles.
Rush suggests:
Coop was handsome. Brave. Back from the war.
Valens: By all accounts, an exciting guy.
Eileen: I suppose he was, yes.
Rush: You were married, with kids, maybe looking for some excitement yourself…
Eileen, incredulously: You think I was having an affair with Coop? You don’t know what you’re talking about.
Valens: You angry when Coop broke it off? Breaks your heart.
Eileen, firm: It wasn’t like that.
Valens: What was it like…Eileen?
Eileen: You two…so young, so certain. My heart got broke, yes. But not how you think.

One summer night in 1968, a very pregnant Eileen comes into the kitchen. She makes for the refrigerator, but is distracted by the voices of Jimmy and Coop coming from the back yard. She goes to the kitchen window, which is open. In the back yard, Jimmy and Coop are sprawled back in a pair of chairs at a table, passing a bottle of whisky back and forth, a little drunk:
Why not take money from Burke?
Coop: Are you afraid of that scumbag?
Jimmy: It’s not about fear. You know it ain’t.
Coop: What’s it about, Jimmy?
Jimmy: It’s about my job. I ain’t gone against McCree.
Coop: So that makes it all right to be on the take?
Jimmy, irritated: Everything’s all black and white with you. You don’t know anything.
Coop: We’re cops! That’s all I need to know!
Jimmy, getting angry: I got three kids. Don’t talk to me about taking 50 bucks a week from a piece of crap.
Coop, contemptuously: Then you are just like McCree.
Jimmy: Get off your soapbox, Coop! You go out there and bust shins cause it’s just another good time for you.
Coop: I bust shins because I’m enforcing the law.
Jimmy smiles sarcastically: You and your John Wayne act.
Coop, almost shouting: We’re the law! We’re here to put the scumbags away! It ain’t fun and games.
Jimmy: Sure it is! Just like the fun you had slaughtering Viet Cong! You miss that free pass to kill, don’t you?
Coop backhands him, knocks him off the chair. Punches him, and catches hold of him as though he means to do it again. He growls: You’re right. That was fun. I enjoyed it.
Jimmy uses his arm as a ladder, goes for him. They grapple briefly, turning, neither able to get control, and then, they break apart. Their eyes meet.
Suddenly, Coop grabs Jimmy’s face, kisses Jimmy, hard.

Sitting near his older daughter on the sofa, Ennis Del Mar gave a small cry, little more than a gasp, just the barest breath of a moan, but it was more than enough to tear Junior’s attention from the riveting turn in the drama unfolding on the screen. Ennis, flung more than forty years back into the dark night of his soul, never noticed her as he stared at the television in total shock.

Jimmy pulls away from the kiss immediately, stares at his best friend and partner. At first his face is shocked, then it changes as Coop stares back, tense.

It had been so long. So long. A struggle, a kiss, a punch—Ennis was suddenly drowning in memories that until moments ago had been a quiet stream that wove in somber peace through his life like a creek through an autumn forest. Great blue eyes staring shocked into secretive shy wells of dark brown—Jack Twist had looked at him just that way once, just that way, after Ennis had lost his battle with love and need and pushed him into a wall.

Then, Jimmy moves closer, takes Coop’s head deliberately in both hands, and kisses him, passionately.

“Jesus…oh, Jesus,” Ennis whispered. He had no idea that the words escaped him. The taste of Jack's mouth, the metallic salt of his own bleeding lip, a soul blazing back to life like a great jagged mountain against the sky after four years choking on the dust of the flat dead plain… Two strong young bodies together again, in joy and desperation and pure masculine fury, it was so right, I missed you, I love you, I always loved you, Jack goddamn fuckin Twist…

Eileen has seen the whole thing.
Rush, subdued:
I see what you mean. They leave Eileen still lighting candles.

Back in the squadroom, Valens and Rush fill in Will Jeffries and Nick Vera as they come out of the elevator.
Vera snickers:
Two male cops hittin it? Whoa.
Rush: Recipe for disaster.
Jeffries: Remember Ray Walsh, worked narcotics?
Vera: Yeah, big Sixers fan, retired to Vegas?
Jeffries: I heard he’s living with a guy.
Vera stops dead as Rush scoffs: So what?
Vera, worried: Ray Walsh took me to a couple Sixers games.
Rush: Did you…?
Vera shakes his head, thinking hard about it: Tickets were free…doesn’t mean anything.
The other two can’t see what he’s so upset about. Rush shrugs: Live and let live.
Jeffries adds: Don’t ask, don’t tell—works just fine today too…

Neither Ennis nor Junior heard any of this. Ennis could see nothing but the past, random moments tumbling loose about his head, crashing into him, the outside frozen, inside all in wild motion. Alma Stockton stared at her father, thrown into her own confusion. For so many years she had wondered. Parents fighting, cold and angry, Mama angry, Daddy angry, little girls trying so hard to be good so Mama and Daddy wouldn’t fight anymore, but it didn’t work, nothing worked, because they never had any money, and Daddy had quit his job again to go fishing with his old buddy…his old buddy…the name would not come. Mama hated those fishing trips. Hated that old buddy. And the marriage had ended, but the fishing trips went on. And Daddy had never remarried.

And one time, just one time, that old buddy had come by one day, and hugged Daddy real hard, and then looked in the truck…

With his great blue eyes and dark brows. Alma sat very still, a very odd, scared little feeling growing in her gut. And he’d been all smiles one minute, and then something had happened, and Daddy hung his head and the buddy drove away.

And the eleven-year-old Alma, not knowing what woke her that night, had followed the shouts down the hall, thinking her mama was there, wanting them to be back together, wanting to stop the fighting some way. But she didn’t hear her mama. What she heard, when she pushed the bedroom door open, was strange hoarse broken sounds, almost like someone choking. --No. Not choking, she knew at once--crying. She knew what crying sounded like. Her daddy was crying. She took one step toward him, reaching out in her too-old way, when he shouted “Stupid fuckin bastard, you let him go!” and flung the pillow at the wall.

You let him go. Not her. Him.

--And then, all at once, the name: Jack. Girls, this my buddy Jack… Jack. Jack Twist. Why didn’t Daddy bring home any fish, Mama? –Why don’t you ask Jack Twist? --Oh, hey--you ever see Jack Twist anymore, Daddy? How could she have forgotten the pure shock in his face, even after twenty years? And the answer, that almost didn’t come: –He died. Long time ago. Before you was married. Jack Twist. --He won’t walk across the street to take care of his family, but he’ll quit every job God sends to go fishin with that damn Jack Twist…

In Stillman’s office, Stillman and Valens have another talk with Jimmy Bruno.
Well, we had a long talk with Eileen.
Valens: She said your marriage finally broke up—clears throat—because of the way you and Coop were.
Jimmy is startled.
She saw you in the back yard, Jimmy.
Jimmy, stunned, absorbs this, goes into denial. He chuckles ruefully: Eileen’s still bitter about the divorce.
Stillman: I just want to find out who killed your partner.
Jimmy is defiant: You got the wrong info on us!
Stillman: Maybe someone else got the wrong impression too.

1968: It’s shift change in the police locker room. Jimmy, a big bruise under his left eye, stands next to Coop. Both are subdued, and the sexual tension between them is palpable. They are tense and scared of what is now between them.
Murphy comes in, laughing, making crude anti-gay remarks. Not meaning anything, he starts teasing Coop about getting it on with Viet Cong soldiers:
Didn’t know you played on their team!
Jimmy: Shut up, Murph.
Murphy, still in fun: Aw, you too, Jimmy? You a fairy queen, or what? –Oh, I get it: Jimmy and Coop, The Dynamic Duo. –You know, they say Batman and Robin are homos.
Coop goes for him, slams him into a locker.
Coop, low and mean:
What if I was?
Murphy has no idea: Was what?
Coop: A homo. A queer.
Jimmy, scared: Coop, easy.
Coop: You too, Murphy? That your problem, fairy boy?
Murphy, angry, shoves Coop away. I ain’t no queer. You get that straight…
In the present, Jimmy tells Stillman:
To a guy like Murphy, those were fightin words.
Valens is thoughtful: He was first on the scene.
Jimmy starts to leave, turns back, hesitates. Coop wasn’t…like that. Whatever you wanna call it. Neither was I. He leaves.
Stillman and Valens look at each other.

Ennis, a fist at his mouth, closed his eyes, bowed his head.

Next scene: Lily Rush and Will Jeffries have Murphy in an interview room.
Heard you had a problem with pansies on the force, Owen. We know Coop humiliated you in front of your boys.
Jeffries: Maybe you got even under the Bridge.
Murphy laughs: it’s absurd: Look—the guy was into freak, okay? But killing another cop? No way.
Rush: We’re not just gonna take your word. Doesn’t work like that.
Murphy deflates: Coop shoulda just let it go.
Jeffries: Let what go?
Murphy: What he and Jimmy were doing. Momentary flashback to younger self: Thing like that can kill you…

With a soft whine, Ennis wrapped his other arm around his gut. Alma wanted to go to him, tried to go to him, but she was frozen in her place, just as she had been that long-ago night. Between her and her agonized father a gulf had opened, and she had no better idea how to bridge it than she had at eleven. What he was going through was so intense, had him so fiercely and utterly in its grip that he seemed not to belong to the same world she did.

1968, the squad car lot: Murphy slides down the seat of his car so that Coop and Jimmy won’t see him as they face each other between two other cars.
I can’t go on like this, Jimmy. Makin plans day to day, not knowing when I’m gonna see you.
Jimmy doesn’t like this: You see me every day.
Coop: That’s not what I mean. –We got something here. And it ain’t gonna go away.
Jimmy doesn’t want to deal with it I got a family.
Coop: You think Eileen wants to be married to a stranger? You think if she knew, she’d want to keep living a lie? Remember what you were talking about, living a different kind of life? This is our shot!
Jimmy: That was just talk. We’re cursed with this thing!

“Thing.” Ennis' voice, just a breath, was flat, hoarse. “This thing. Grabs hold a us. We’re dead.” Alma’s head jerked around, yanked back again from the drama on the screen in front of her to the real-life drama only a few feet from her on the sofa. Ennis could not have failed to see such a sharp movement, had he not been bound heart and soul to the conflict playing out before him, his own life being lost all over again. And it was going to be lost, wasn’t it? Because Coop had been murdered. And there was no doubt in Ennis' mind why.

It’s a slap in the face. Coop is hurt, rallies: My folks, been married forever, right? Whatever they had, died years ago. Now I look around, see everyone like that—staying together because it’s expected. Because they got nowhere else to go. Cursed? We’re the lucky ones, Jimmy.

His eyes closing, Ennis nodded, rocking slightly in his own embrace. He hardly noticed that the fingers now spread over his mouth, and his side, dug hard into the skin. Every breath hurt. Every part of his body hurt. But the real pain had no locus in his body. It could be like this, Ennis, just like this. But you didn’t want it. It’s nobody’s business but ours. What we got, ain’t wrong. We ain’t hurtin nobody. It’s a bad word cause somebody decided it was. But you didn’t want it, Ennis.

Jimmy is agonized, shakes his head: I don’t know. He moves a little closer to Coop.
Coop’s voice is soft: You sure about that?
They move a little closer together.
Guess I have no choice.
Longing for each other, they move close enough that just the backs of their hands can brush, then they part.
Owen Murphy just stares, shocked.

Art Is A Mirror will continue in Part Two…



These characters are not mine. Those from "Brokeback Mountain" are the creation of Annie Proulx, those from "Cold Case: Forever Blue" are the property of NBC.

Jeffries: You think to share this with anyone else?
Murphy: I told his dad, Sarge. The only person Coop would ever listen to. I figured Sarge’d…sort him out!

Next scene: John Stillman is leaving for the day when Kat Miller rushes in, excited: McCree lied about no dispatch card! Found it in the radio room files!
Stillman: So a dispatch definitely went out.
Miller: Yeah. And written on every card? Badge number of who sent out the call. She is amazed: Belonged to Coop’s father.
Stillman, in disbelief:
Miller: None other.
Stillman: So he sent his own son to his death?

Once again, Ennis nodded, feeling the large hand close around his nine-year-old neck, the callused fingers scritching at tender young skin. “Look a that,” the voice in his mind said. “You boys take a good look a that.”

Scotty Valens and Nick Vera confront Sarge Cooper on a park bench.
We know about Coop and Jimmy, Sarge. You knew, too.
Sarge: My boy was a ladies’ man! He’s proud: Picked ‘em like cherries!
Vera: You work in the radio room the night your son was killed?
Sarge shrugs: Yeah. He doesn’t care.
Vera pulls out the dispatch card: This your badge number?
Sarge stares, and he crumbles.
You sent Coop to the Bridge, didn’t you?
Sarge, sad and firm: I didn’t kill my boy. I loved him. From the day he was born. He was a man. Not that…
Valens, coldly: Never that.
Sarge, plaintively: He had a reputation.
Vera: Cop’s reputation is all he has.
Sarge, sad: Coop was going to destroy all that.

1968, the day of the Bruno christening. Sarge and Coop are behind the altar after the ceremony.
Sarge, trying to be amused:
You won’t believe the crap Owen Murphy just told me. He said that you and Jimmy are…uh… Long pause. Coop gives him no help. Uh, forget about it. Ain’t worth discussing. He looks for reassurance: He’s crazy. Right, son?
Coop returns his gaze with a steady, serious stare: You really wanna talk about this, Pop?
Sarge is stunned, but immediately lays down the law: You just find a new partner.
Coop is calm, doesn’t give an inch: Jimmy’s good.
Sarge begins to lose it: Jimmy’s a sick, disgusting son of a bitch.
Coop, still calm: No, he’s not.
Sarge is trying to rationalize it: You were led astray.
Coop is amused: No one leads me. You of all people should know that, Pop.
Sarge, desperate: You’re my son. You can’t be…can’t be…uh… Struggles. We raised you right! He is near tears.
Coop: It has nothing to do with you, Pop.
Sarge, furious and frustrated: You are not going to disgrace our family. The Force.
Coop: Quit looking at me like that, Pop. Please.
Sarge: I thought you were a man.
Coop, soft: I am.
Sarge: No you’re not. And you’re not my son, neither. He turns on his heel and leaves his devastated son.

But in his mind, it was a different voice Ennis Del Mar heard, cold and sneering. “He thought he was too god-damned special to be buried in the family plot. I know where Brokeback Mountain is. Tell you what, we got a family plot and he’s gone in it. ‘Ennis Del Mar,’ he used a say… This spring, he’s got another fella…” The words had been brutal. They had been intended to be brutal.

Indifference and contempt and cruelty for his queer son, aimed at his son’s queer lover.

In the present day, Sarge is dazed: I didn’t know what I was saying.

This brought Ennis' head up. “Yeah you did,” he told the old man, his words clearly audible for the first time. “Oh, yeah.” It was not grief, this time, that made his voice shake, or his eyes flat. It was not grief that had curled his hands into fists.

Valens: Tell us about the dispatch, Sarge.
Sarge, numbly: McCree told me, send him to the Bridge.
Vera: McCree knew?
Sarge: I told him. I thought they were gonna send some guys, rough him up. Long pause. Then I heard Coop was dead.
Valens: Wanna tell us the real reason Jimmy wasn’t with him?
Sarge is not really there: The two didn’t never split up. Not on the job. They never had before. Flashback to his younger self: I don’t care what Coop was. Present: Not anymore. Pathetically, he adds: I just want my boy back.

Ennis' shoulders slumped, the old, old anger bleeding out white in the face of a man’s understanding that had come, as it had to him, too late. “Just want my boy back.” The words hardly even had breath behind them. “Just want…my boy…back.” He hid his face in a large hand, a scarred and callused hand, a man’s strong hand that shook with the grief of a strong man.

And Alma sat beside her father like a statue, tears making silent trails of silver empathy down her cheeks.

Cut to Lt. John Stillman and McCree in an interview room.
I don’t know what I would have done in your shoes. Firmly: You can’t have those types around the Precinct!
McCree: Time was we had standards.
Stillman, agreeing: And they were upheld.
McCree: See? You understand.
Stillman: Lieutenant—not a job for the weak.
McCree, one old-schooler to another: Ah, I see weak Lieutenants all the time. They can’t handle problems by themselves—they’re afraid of…waves his hand suggestively…discipline.
Stillman: So what about the guys you sent to do Coop and Jimmy?
McCree is confused: What do you mean?
Stillman: All due respect, it wasn’t discipline. Guys went to scare em and end up shooting Coop. That’s the definition of a mess.

In another interview room Lily Rush is talking to Jimmy Bruno.
Jimmy is insistent:
I was training a rookie, that’s why I wasn’t with him that night!
Rush: What’s the real reason, Jimmy?
Jimmy: I told you a million times!
Rush: But Sarge knew about you and Coop.
It’s obvious Jimmy didn’t know this. Rush adds: He told your Lieutenant. That’s why Coop was sent out to the Bridge that night.
Jimmy is speechless.
Lily sits down
: Truth time, Jimmy. You owe him that.
Jimmy, hoarse: If I’d been with him in the car that night…he woulda had a chance.
Rush: But you let him go on his own. Insists: Why?
Jimmy can hardly talk: Because if I got in that car…the whole world was gonna know.
Rush, softly: Know what, Jimmy?
Jimmy, finally: What I was…

Back in the other room, Stillman is berating McCree for failing to control his men:
In a strong Precinct, that would never have happened, Tommy! Undisciplined cops not following their Lt.’s orders!
McCree resents this: I didn’t have undisciplined cops! My men followed orders!
Stillman: Not on the night Coop was killed!
McCree, loathing: Coop! There was no word for what he was! And what do you care?
Stillman: He was a cop!
McCree loses his temper: He was a joke! His type was unnatural!
Stillman goes along: You had to clean house.
McCree You’re damn right I did!
Stillman pushes hard: So what did you do?
McCree snaps, flashback to younger self as he shouts: I shot that queer! Present: And I’d do it again!
And Stillman just looks at him.

Ennis made a low sound in his throat. The drama continued, giving the impotent fury he’d carried for twenty years no time to build, but his daughter saw the hate blaze in his eyes as McCree shouted his guilt, and she shrank from it.

In the other room, Lily Rush and Jimmy Bruno regard each other with shimmering eyes.
The world back then didn’t understand. You believed it was wrong. But that kind of thing comes around once in a lifetime…

Arms now wrapped around himself, Ennis nodded, rocking.

Her voice is close to breaking: And you, you got to hold on, or you’ll lose it. Jimmy stares hungrily at her, hearing an understanding voice for the first time in his life. –Coop was right—you were the lucky ones, Jimmy.
Jimmy, simply: I miss him.
Rush: I know.

Ennis Del Mar would never know that he stared at the woman on the screen with the same hunger Jimmy Bruno did, still yearning for words of kindness and understanding, still yearning to be allowed a time and a place where it was all right for him to love a long, lean, laughing cowboy with caring eyes as wide as the wild sky. Her words were an absolution, but they were as bitter as they were sweet. Sean Cooper wasn’t coming back, and neither was Jack Twist. I know. I know. I miss him. I know. I know exactly how bad it gets.

In the squad car lot, McCree brushes by Jimmy, goes to Coop, who stands a little distance away.
You two stick close tonight. I’m getting armed robbery calls from under the Bridge.
Coop, jokes: Send in the bad guys!
McCree: Try and scare some up for you. He leaves.
Coming the other way, Owen Murphy passes Jimmy, and as he does, he sneers: Keep an eye on the bathhouses, Jimmy. And the shocked Jimmy knows Murphy has found out about them. He panics. Meanwhile, Coop has missed this exchange.
Coop, beside the car:
You getting in or what?
Jimmy, trying to be nonchalant: Think I’m gonna take out a rookie.
Coop’s smile takes a hit: Serious?
Jimmy: Yeah.
Coop tries to rally: I’ll pick up some beer, meet you after.
Jimmy does what he thinks he has to do: I can’t make it tonight.
Coop: Why not?
Jimmy, feeling the pressure: Maybe it’s time for a change here.
Coop doesn’t like this at all: What kind of a change?
Jimmy is troubled but determined: I haven’t been right…for a long time.
Coop tries to help: What’s wrong, Jimmy?
Jimmy says it: I’m not gonna make it over your place anymore. So get a new partner.
Coop’s voice is low: You afraid?
Jimmy bristles: It’s got nothing to do with that.
Coop, gently: I’m afraid too.
Jimmy wants out: Look, I gotta get goin.
Coop is desperate: Jimmy. Don’t go. Please.
Jimmy turns, half-willing, half in denial. Coop tries to buck him up, and says the wrong thing: We’re the lucky ones, remember?
Jimmy makes his choice: I think you got it wrong there. This visibly hurts his lover. Jimmy persists, intense: I ain’t queer. He walks away, in turmoil.

“Fuck,” Ennis moaned. “Oh, fuck.” Both hands covered his face, and his shoulders began to shake. “Oh, fuck.” Ain’t gone a be that way. Not now, not ever. Because you didn’t want it, Ennis. In his mind were all the faces of parting, silent and accusing, but none so cruel as the last face, the last face of Jack Twist he would ever see in this life, drawn and worn with twenty years’ longing and disappointment, brows pinched, great eyes brimming with suffering and despair as Ennis pushed him away for the last time. I wish I knew how to quit you, you son of a whoreson bitch. Ain’t gone a be that way. No matter what. It ain’t never, never gone a be that way. I miss you so much I can hardly stand it. I miss you so much. Always.

Time had done much to dull the grief, but it was powerless to ever, ever ease the regrets.

Coop starts the patrol car, starts to drive off, and Jimmy changes his mind:
But it’s too late. Coop is gone.
A short while later, the deeply conflicted Jimmy is staring out the window while the rookie drives. The radio crackles into life with a message about a robbery suspect fleeing on foot in the vicinity of the Bridge.

: Cooper responding.

Ennis lifted his head, sensing the denouement, his face a mask, tears running down freely, getting his breath in loud sniffs.

Jimmy tenses, concerned now because Coop is alone.
Under the Bridge, Coop parks, looks around, reaches for the door handle.
McCree appears in front of the car, though Coop never sees him, and with cold deliberation, shoots him twice.

And on the couch, Ennis Del Mar jerked, wailed in a high, thin voice, “No…noooooo…” Drowned in his own blood. Pulled him around by his dick till it come off. Broke his nose and jaw. Threw him on his back. Flies rising in clouds, buzzing. A face like you don’t never want to see. And then, at last, the name, in agony, punching its way out of a grief now two decades old: “Jack. Oh, Jack.” By the time somebody found him, he’d drowned in his own blood. He was only thirty-nine years old. You boys take a good look. His type was unnatural. That’s what happens to queers. Two men living together? No way. He never had a chance. Because I wasn’t with him. I did want it, Jack. You’ll never know how bad I wanted it. But I just couldn’t do it. And you died.

And I still can’t stand it.

Or fix it.

Neither Ennis nor his daughter ever remembered afterward exactly how he came to be in her embrace, but when his heart-cry finally shattered the impasse between them, she wound her arms around her stricken father as though he, and not she, were the child, and they cried together, for love, and for loss.

The radio crackles again
:Officer down…East end of the Bridge…I been hit… Jimmy is aghast. Been shot…outta nowhere.
Jimmy: That’s Coop! Move it! He is clearly terrified for Coop.
Coop, bleeding from numerous small wounds, makes an effort: …Jimmy? …You out there?
Jimmy is distraught: I’m here, man, hang on! –Coop!
Coop is weaker: Jimmy…?
Jimmy, panicked: Keep talking! We’re almost there! A beat. You hear me? --Coop?
The voice comes over the radio: We’re the lucky ones. Don’t forget that.
Jimmy: Coop!
There is no answer. Coop is dead. The camera pans the squad car as it did in the opening scene, showing Coop fallen back against the seat, blood everywhere, his eyes open. On the radio, it’s Sarge: 108, are you there? –108, are you there?
Fade to black.

The Bob Dylan song “Younger Than That Now,” covered by the Byrds, begins to play over the closing montage:
McCree and Sarge, shown both in present and flashback, pass each other, staring, in the squad room as each is led away in cuffs.

Lily Rush, putting away the file boxes for Sean Cooper, the word “closed” now written on each, pauses to look with bittersweet admiration at a picture of Coop in Vietnam. After a long moment, she puts the picture in the box, and the box on the shelf with the others, and leaves. In the cop bar, Stillman and Jeffries, the older members of the homicide task force, raise glasses to the official picture of Coop that hangs behind the bar.

In the darkness, Jimmy Bruno comes to the former squad car lot, now a fenced-off alley, where he last parted from Coop nearly forty years ago. As he enters the alley almost timidly, in his imagination he sees Coop standing there beside the squad car just as he did that last night, smiling at him. As they gaze at one another, the eternally young Coop and the older Bruno, Jimmy begins to smile too. He walks slowly forward and becomes his younger self, and the younger men come into color for the first time in the episode. Jimmy comes to the car, where Coop leans casually against it, and deliberately places his hand over Coop’s. They are allowed to stand that way for a moment, and then Coop and the car fade slowly away, leaving the older Jimmy to slip his hands in his pockets, turn, and slowly walk away.

“Yes my guard stood hard
When abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define those terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.”

As the story faded to black, Ennis faced his daughter at last, but the words out of his mouth were the last she would have expected—not a denial, or a justification, or even a question as to what she knew, or guessed.

“Why didn’t she give him the picture?” For the first time Alma could remember, her father looked, not older, but old. More than that, he looked like Coop’s father: defeated, almost pathetic. Unchecked, the tears ran down his sparely handsome face, a face weathered, like the soul behind it, by a lot of hard years and a lifetime of loneliness. For the first time in her life, the daughter saw the father will all the walls down, broken open by the hideous unfairness of it all. “She should a given it to him! She should a given him Coop’s picture! Why didn’t she give it to him?”

“I don’t know, Daddy. She should have.” Alma had raised three children of her own. There is a time to get to the bottom of things, and there is a time just to hold your child and be mommy. But then, perhaps forgetting for a moment that this was, after all, her father, Ennis Del Mar, she tried to wipe some of the tears away, and Ennis sat back, pulled away from her, and dragged a worn sleeve across his eyes.

“Stop fussing with me, girl,” he muttered. “I can wipe my own damn snot.”

It was a relief, really, her Daddy acting like Daddy again, but as they returned to their familiar roles, both were aware of the TV still on beside them, symbol of something important that was now changed between them. Neither knew what to say, Ennis certainly. Three years after Jack's death, after Junior had asked her idle question about the old friend, and passed the answer on to her mother, Ennis and his ex-wife had made their peace on that soft June night when he had been babysitting in Junior’s back yard. He had never said anything to Alma about telling, or not telling, his children, but he knew that she had respected his privacy and said nothing. He wished suddenly that she were here, for if ever there were something better told by a mother than a father, this was it. But Alma had been lying in the Riverton churchyard for more than ten years, so he would have to find a way himself.

He reached for the TV control, and then they faced each other for a moment, loving and awkward. Hesitantly, Alma reached out to touch her father’s face. He caught her hand, but not to pull it away. His fingers closed on hers, and brought the hand, so much smaller than his, to his lips.

“I wondered, Daddy,” she said, bringing his eyes to hers. “I mean, I never sat around thinkin about it, but I guess I had questions.”

“Now I guess you got some answers.” Ennis shrugged, uncomfortable. “I’m sorry.” Sorry for what, he wasn’t sure. But where his children were concerned, there were plenty of things to be sorry for.

Alma didn’t really notice the apology. There were so many things she could say, could ask, but she didn’t know what was all right to say, what she wanted to say, what would not be proper for a daughter to say. But it seemed only natural, for a father who had spent a lifetime hiding this, to say something to reassure him.

“It wasn’t like I would have guessed it, really, Daddy,” she offered. “I was glad you didn’t marry Cassie, I guess, but that was just cause I didn’t like you bein with somebody besides Mama. I was just a kid then, and guess I got…jealous, or something. Me and Jenny would a been happy for you to find somebody else. We used a talk about it. I must a wondered sometimes, a little, cause you’re a good-lookin man” Ennis shrugged dismissively “and women always liked you, but I never really…well, I mean, you don’t look…” she flushed, realizing too late that she had veered from reassurance into insult.

Ennis' gaze was level. “Don’t look what, Junior? Huh? Don’t look like no queer? That what you mean?”

“I wasn’t…”

“Cause that’s what I am,” he continued, his voice quiet and matter of fact. “I’m a queer, and I always been a queer. You want to know what a…homo-sexual looks like, you lookin at one.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” she said gently.

Ennis shook his head. “Nope. Used a think it was. Spent half my damn life thinkin it was. But Jack” he choked a little “Jack knew better. Thirty years ago--more, he done told me it was only a bad word cause somebody decided it was. And you know somethin? He was right. But a lot a people got a have somethin to hate—he done said that, too, and he was right. And I…darlin, when I was nine years old my daddy showed me and my brother a man been killed and flung in a ditch cause he was livin with another man. And my daddy thought that was good, he been beaten up and pulled around behind a truck and left by the side a the road to rot.”

Alma shuddered. “Jesus Almighty Christ, Daddy. And you were a little kid? And he showed that to you? He wanted you to see that?”

Ennis' voice was bitter. “Guess he didn’t want no queers in his family. I used a think…” Ennis hesitated to tell her, then remembered Mathew Shepard “I always wondered how my daddy knew old Earl was there, before the sheriff or anybody. I pretty much decided, he done it himself. Or helped, anyway.”

Junior’s face lost color. “God, Daddy, are you serious?” Her hands went to her mouth.

“Dead serious.” There was a touch, just a touch, of gallows humor in his eyes.

“What a thing to live with.” And then she remembered something else. “--God! And that…is that…did that happen to…”

Ennis stood up, and held out a hand to her. “Come ere, darlin. I’m gone a show you somethin, and then I’m gone a tell you some things. And then you’ll know.”

Art is a Mirror continues in Part Three…



These characters are not mine. With gratitude to Annie Proulx, always, and Tom Pettit and NBC/Cold Case.

Ennis and his daughter stood at the foot of his wrought-iron bed with the blue and red plaid cover, looking at the two ancient shirts that hung on a simple nail over it.

“And he kept your two shirts hanging just like that for twenty years,” Junior said, tears stinging her eyes again.
“One inside the other. Like they were holdin each other.” She shivered at the beauty, and the wretched sadness, of the gesture.

“Mine inside a his,” Ennis corrected her, letting go her hand and going to the shirts to caress the right sleeves. “When I found em, it was mine inside his. But when I hung em up again,” he shrugged one shoulder “only seemed right I should be holdin him.” He rejoined her.

It was a simple story, as her Daddy told it: two desperately poor kids, meeting by chance in 1963 on a Farm and Ranch job, sent up a mountain with a thousand sheep for a summer. And lightning had struck. Though of course Ennis Del Mar didn’t put it quite that way. “We got a be friends,” he said. “That was first. Don’t guess I’d ever really had a friend. After Earl, I didn’t hardly look at nobody for three, four years, then Mama and Daddy died, I had a go to work—didn’t have time for no friends. Didn’t want no friends, really. Then I met your Mama. She was the first person I knew since they died who wanted a be good to me. Gave a damn. She was so sweet, and pretty. Course I thought I loved her. Damn it, Junior, I did love her.” Ennis shook his head. “Just wasn’t…it just wasn’t that kind a lovin. Like it should a been. But I didn’t know. So then I met Jack, and…and…just seemed like I could talk to him.” Ennis considered this, and added, “Thing was, I wanted to talk to him. I wasn’t shy with him like I was with your Mama. Or somethin. We was just two rag-ass guys takin care of some sheep, and just…likin to be with each other. And he cared about me, too.” Across the years, Ennis felt a wet bandana gently blot the dried blood on his face. “And I was happy. I hardly knew what that was, I guess. But I was. And I…I just liked him.” He rubbed the top of his thigh. “And then it was more than that.” He looked away, seeing in the privacy of his mind a thousand shifting images of just what “more than that” had been. He could focus on nothing, it was all blended and hazy with the passage of time, but behind his dark eyes the beautiful past drifted and swirled and danced like smoke in shafts of sunlight. His shoulders lifted, dropped. “Jack Twist loved me, Junior. And I loved him.” Ennis took his daughter’s hand, met her eyes. “But it was wrong, you hear me? That was all we knew. Jack, he didn’t mind. He was just like that Coop. But me…I was just like Jimmy. Scared.” Ennis shook his head as Junior squeezed his hand. “Yeah, I loved him. But in twenty damn years, I never said it to him. I knew it, but I couldn’t say it. We didn’t have no ‘relationship.’ We wasn’t ‘lovers.’ We was ‘friends.’ We was ‘buddies.’ We just had this…this ‘thing.’ Cause I couldn’t never say to myself one time that I was in love with another man.” Ennis sighed, and shivered. “Til he was gone.”

There was a long silence as father and daughter sat in silent communion, Ennis miles and years away with Jack, Alma recasting her understanding of her youth and a man who had only seemed to be in complete control of his own life. Ennis was not the only Del Mar who could be comfortable with silence, but, uncharacteristically, it was he who finally broke it.

“--Your Mama hated Jack. Can’t blame her for that. Way she saw it, Jack took me away from her.”

Alma was startled out of her reverie. “Mama knew?”

Ennis let out a breath, awkward again. “Yeah. See, when you was just a little un, Jack come to see me.” He got up from the bed, went to the bureau, and came back with a small packet that proved to be a stack of postcards about an inch and a half high. Memory sparked. She had seen them before, at least some of them. They had arrived a few times a year throughout her childhood.

Ennis now handed her the one on the top, of a red and white inselberg in New Mexico named Signal Peak. Alma did not fail to notice that he did so with some reluctance, but as she took it, and read the simple note with its childish misspelling, she had no way of knowing, no reason to think about the fact that hers was the first hand, other than her father’s, that had touched this small memento in almost forty years.

“Jack come to see me in ’67. We hadn’t seen each other in four years. I wasn’t too sure what was gone a happen, but, well, I guess I knew what I wanted to happen.” Ennis let out a breath, uneasy telling this to his child. “What happened is, I kissed Jack, and he kissed me, right there in the street at the bottom of the stairs, and your Mama looked out the door and saw it.” In making this simple recitation, Ennis skated over a maelstrom of memories powerful and turbulent, memories that swirled around him, and surged within him, with a force he hadn’t felt in a very long time. “But I never knew that. Not until that night she come to visit, when Lizbeth was a baby, and I was sittin. And she told me she knew.” Another missing piece of the old puzzle dropped into place. “And God help me…” once again Ennis had to pause “she forgave me.” He bowed his head, glanced at his daughter from under his brows, still feeling that he had never deserved that. “Your mama had a lovin heart, darlin.”

Too many new things to think about, too much to absorb. Her heart was overwhelmed, left her mind to the work of simply filling in the blanks in her childhood. “And that was when you started…goin away with him.”


“For twenty years.”

“Just about.”

Alma did not look up, but sat staring at the card. “Friend, this is long overdue…” She had been three years old, almost to the day, when her Daddy had read this message the first time. It was such an insignificant thing to look at, worn, yellowed, obviously much handled. It gave her a curious feeling, suddenly, this homely bit of writing, still bearing its few pennies of postage, a sense of much greater weight than any scale would show. Her father had handed it to her as though it were a treasure, but, like most hidden treasures, it had also carried a curse. It had changed the course his life, and Jack Twist’s, forever, and put them into collision with their families and the whole of their world. Alma just shook her head as Ennis gently reclaimed the postcard, stroking it with a thumb before replacing it on top of the stack.

A question came to her, all at once. “And didn’t you never think about makin a life together, like Coop wanted with Jimmy?”

Ennis closed his eyes, looked away, his lips tightening, and she knew the answer before he could tell her.

“You were scared to. Like Jimmy was.”

Ennis nodded.

“Did he ask you to?”

“’What if you and me, we had a little ranch somewheres, little cow and calf operation? Could be a sweet life.’” The words he now repeated almost reverently were a whisper that had been part of Ennis Del Mar’s soul since a September night in 1967, a beautiful and terrifying idea, an unattainable dream forever beyond his reach. “Jack said that the first time I ever went away with him, when he come to see me that time. And then I told him about Earl and Rich, and I told him it wasn’t gone a be that way. But Jack, sweet Jack…he never stopped hopin.” Ennis' eyes grew dim again.

“Until, maybe, that last time. May a ‘83.” His gaze focused on two men he could see clearly in the past, angry and distraught and cursing each other for half a lifetime of hurt they couldn’t help inflicting on each other. “And I had to tell him I couldn’t come out on another trip till November, when I’d done said August. Too stupid, too afraid to tell him right off, waited and waited for a better time, till there wasn’t no more time, it was time to go, and told him…and that did it.” Until now, Ennis had been quiet, calm, sketching out the bare bones of two ruined lives and a great love destroyed with no hint of the forces that had wracked him all over again as he watched “Forever Blue.” But these were the memories with which he had never been able to make peace, not then, not when he had sobbed them out to Alma a few years later, and not now. The memory of the threat he had made to the one he loved best in all the world, the memory of Jack's bitter fury, the devastating admission he had all but flaunted at Ennis, the drawn disillusionment that would be Ennis' last memory of Jack Twist’s beautiful face—even more than two decades later, he had not been able to lay these ghosts.

“Jack got real upset, like he did a couple times before when I had a change things, one time I couldn’t make it at all, and…and we both said…some real hard things. Bad things.” He sat still beside his daughter, but inside Ennis Del Mar was lost, lost in time, falling helplessly, failing that one last test one more time.

“But he’d a still gone with me then, if only I would have.” The words were a hoarse whisper, accusation as much as declaration. He shook his head, and the hot tears slipped down. “But I never would. Cause I wasn’t no queer. What’d that guy Jimmy say? If he’d got in the car, everybody would a known? Well, if I’d lived with Jack…” Ennis broke off and shook his head, unable to finish the sentence, hands twisted together and trembling in his lap.

“Anyways.” He sniffed loudly and dragged his sleeve across his face again. “I left him standin there, starin after me in my mirror. –Oh, Jack.” All the regret in the world cried out of those two small words, but even as Junior closed her hand in his, Ennis was pushing on, on to his doom. “And four months later I send him a card, not knowin if he’ll even answer.” Slowly, Ennis drew the bottom card, the plain one, the one in his own hand, from the stack. He didn’t look at it as he passed it to his daughter. He never looked at this one card with that one last word red as blood stamped carelessly across it as though it had hardly been worth the effort to give the sender the message. It burned him even to touch it, but he could no more have thrown it away, or destroyed it, than he could have the man whose name was on the other side, the man who had never read it. Alma Stockton drew in her breath as the word that had haunted Ennis Del Mar since October of 1983 leapt off the card at her.

“Well, he didn’t answer.”

And then, more slowly and much more haltingly than before, as he slipped the end of his younger life back to the bottom of the pitiful little record of twenty years’ mutual devotion, Ennis told Alma Junior about his phone call to the widow Twist, and his one visit to the Twist ranch, and the precious bloodstained things he had found in kept that small secret place of undying memory. He did not tell her about the “other fella.” He had told Alma, but he would not sully Jack's memory to anyone else. But he did tell her, as he had told himself so many times since then, that when he found the shirts, he knew Jack had not only loved him, always loved him, but had never stopped loving him. Ennis found now that he needed her to know that. More than that, though, was nobody’s business but his, and Jack’s.

He had forgotten, though, that Alma had learned that Jack's death wasn’t an accident, and now, sorting through the bewildering mass of what she had learned that night, Alma came back to the one thing her father had said nothing about, which now seemed to make little sense.

“But Daddy…Daddy—in the show, Coop was murdered. Like that man your Daddy showed you. For bein gay. So I thought that was how Jack Twist died. But you said Miz Twist said it was an accident. And it was in Childress. You wasn’t there. So why do you think he was killed?”

“He was killed. He was cut down like a dog.” The words were flat, certain.

“But how do you know that?”

The words were soft, but they were not gentle. “I know.” The eyes, too, were flat, and in them now rose the same old and impotent rage Alma Junior had seen when Lt. McCree had all but gloried in his guilt. His arms folded across his body, Ennis turned that dark anger to her, and she shrank again from it; not in fear, she had never feared her father, but in dismay at the fury he still carried that would never be brought home to anyone.

“I don’t understand,” she began.

“You don’t got a understand.” Abruptly, Ennis shoved to his feet and returned the postcards to their small box in the top drawer of the bureau. “I know.” Turning to her, he added, “Bout time you got goin. Kurt be callin here any minute.”

It was obvious she had crossed some kind of line. “Daddy, I didn’t mean…”

“It’s all right.” Ennis started for the bedroom door, turned back when she didn’t move. “Come on, girl, your man gone a be worried about you.”

“I want to stay here tonight.”


“I don’t want you to be alone.”

Ennis actually managed a rusty noise that might have been mistaken for a laugh. “I been alone a long time, darlin. One more night ain’t gone make no difference.” It was the first time Alma had ever heard it from her father, but there was no mistaking the bitterness in his words. He was still punishing himself, and her heart bled for him. She went to him and put her hand on his arm.

“I don’t want you to be lyin here, in the dark, thinkin about…” she glanced at the shirts. “Cause I know you’re gone to. I’m…Daddy, I’d be worried about you.”

Ennis looked into her face suspiciously. “Worried about what?”

She didn’t know how to say it delicately, so she just said it. She was a Del Mar, after all, and was well able to speak bluntly. “You ain’t a young man. You been through a lot tonight. I don’t want somethin to happen to you.”

Ennis faced her squarely. “Junior, if I was gone a die from losin my Jack, I’d a died in the middle a the road outside the Riverton PO in October a ’83. God knows I wanted to. And if I believed in Heaven, I’d a found a way to Jack a long time ago. But I don’t believe. You die, you just dead. It’s over. Jack's gone. He’s been gone a long time. Cept in here.” He touched his chest. “And up there.” His large hand indicated the shirts. “I don’t got no picture, I don’t got no ring, no grave I can tend. But as long as I’m still here, there’s maybe a little bit a him still here too. So I ain’t plannin on gone nowhere tonight.”

“And what about what you don’t plan?” Alma insisted. “You could have a heart attack or somethin same as anybody else.”

“Then it’d be over, wouldn’t it? And I wouldn’t have to miss him no more.” Ennis' eyes were like stone.

Alma burst into tears, her hands darting to his chest. “Don’t say things like that! I don’t want you to die! I love you, Daddy! And Lizbeth loves you, and Kurt-Ennis, and Jenny, and…”

“Aw, shit,” Ennis muttered. “Stop fussin, lil darlin. C’mere.” He took her into his arms, held her, rocked her, kissed the top of her head. “Can’t stand my women cryin.” When the tears had subsided, and she drew back, he wiped her face with his thumbs, drawing a watery smile.

“Don’t you worry about me, Junior,” he said softly. “I couldn’t never do nothin to hurt my girls. Now you take it easy, and go on home and let your old dad be. I’ll be okay.”

There was no swaying Ennis Del Mar once he’d made up his mind, and Alma bowed her head in resignation, hearing the voice of decision she knew so well. She looked up, though, surprised, when her Daddy stooped and kissed her cheek.

“I’m kinda glad…you know, now,” he added, surprising her even more. “I always kinda figured, you’d see our shirts one day, ask me about ‘em. I never knowed exactly what I was gone a say, but I guess I always figured on tellin you. Reckon I owe you and Jenny that, seein how bad things was when you was kids.”

“Do you want me to tell her?” Alma stood holding his hand, swinging it a little the way she did when she was small.

Ennis shrugged. “Might be best. Don’t think I could stand a watch that TV show again,” he replied, making her laugh a little. “I don’t know if I could do it twice. Maybe you should. But I’ll show her…” and he gestured vaguely at the wall. “If she wants.”

They moved together through the other room. “You call me if you need anything,” Alma said, more because she really didn’t want to leave than because she would ever believe he would.

“Sure, darlin.” And that was that, except that as he hugged his daughter fiercely, Ennis whispered the words into her ear, just as he always did. It had startled her the first time, the day she’d gotten married, but she’d heard them, as Jenny had, many times in the years since. Only now, as he said them again, she knew why.

“I love you, darlin.”

And her eyes stung with tears all over again. If Jack Twist had hurt her family, he had also given them a gift.

* * *

Jack came to him that night, of course. Ennis always hoped, but Jack didn’t come to him all that often anymore, not that he remembered, anyway. But he did tonight.

He found himself in the cabin, naturally, the snug little place they’d built on the Brokeback in his heart. They’d been here countless times over the years, even if he never remembered it when he was awake. And as Ennis became aware of his surroundings, and felt the joy rising, he felt also the presence of his beloved. He turned, and there he was, Jack fuckin Twist, nineteen and beautiful and full of the life he had left behind somewhere on a back road in Childress, Texas. No disappointment, no bitterness marred the perfect features, the smiling face alight from within as he came into Ennis' strong arms, arms no longer stiffened with long hard years and a life of privations. The shock was great. It always was, to feel that vital young body against his again, to know that Jack was his for the taking, just as he was Jack's, and always would be. Their mouths met so easily, so naturally, not so much joining as rejoining, blending, reuniting the two halves of the one soul with a power that had defeated even death. They moved together, in each other’s arms, half dancing, half wrestling, knowing it was not a contest but a celebration, moving to the handbuilt bed with the double ring quilt all in shades of blue. And once they were on the bed, the clothes seemed to come away without effort, and then it was all power and passion and the life-force, and Ennis crying “I love you, Jack” and Jack saying “I know, I know, Ennis, Ennis, oh Ennis…” until Ennis found himself awake again, and alone, with the half-light of gray dawn outside the window and grief on the pillowcase and love on the sheets as it always was. And he sighed, and slept again.

* * *

It was a good while before Ennis saw his older daughter again, but Jenny came to Sunday TV night the next week, and he showed her the shirts, almost timidly, but not the postcards. Nearly two years younger than her sister, she had missed much of her mother’s anger against Jack Twist, and Alma had never told her sister about the night she’d heard her father crying, so the truth was a great shock to her, but she accepted it more easily.

But it was almost three weeks before Alma returned, and then she did so unexpectedly, one Saturday afternoon, with her sister in tow, both brimming with a suppressed excitement that Ennis did not fail to miss, but also, of course, took no obvious notice of. He couldn’t remember the last time they had both visited together. He wondered if Kurt had got that big job he was supposed to be up for. Maybe Junior was moving away—it had been discussed—and they thought they could soften the blow this way. Ennis gave a mental shrug. Well, they couldn’t. But best not to borrow trouble. It came ready enough. Whatever it was, they would tell him when they were ready.

They didn’t keep him wondering long. “I brought you something, Daddy,” Junior said as they sat down on the couch, one on each side, and she handed him a flat parcel wrapped in brown paper.

“What’s this? Ain’t my birthday.” His daughters shared a laugh with each other in that happy, nervous way of someone who knows they’ve managed a good surprise. “Nother picture of Lizbeth’s lil squirrel?” He glanced behind him at the collection of family pictures on the table. “Big one.” It was at least an 8x10, maybe 11x14.
“Might not have room…” And then he got the paper off and stared down into the face of the twenty-one-year old Jack Twist.

Alma Stockton and Jenny Betts never forgot the way their father’s face twisted, as if in pain, nor the high, whining cry that tore from him as he stared down into the smiling face. For long moments, all Ennis Del Mar could do was stare and catch his breath in short gasps, his head trying to shake in disbelief but only managing uncoordinated little jerks from side to side.

“My God,” he blurted at last. “God. God. Jack. Oh, Jack!” And he collapsed, slowly, over and around the picture, embracing it with his whole body as Alma sat with eyes closed, nodding, crying. Jenny, who until now had only half-believed her sister’s description of the night they had watched “Forever Blue,” just stared, open-mouthed and blinking rapidly, as her father became someone she could hardly believed existed.

“Where you get this?” he cried at last, eyes wild, lifting only his head, still folded over the priceless gift.

Alma wiped her eyes and managed a crooked grin. “Where you think, Daddy?” she laughed, her voice breaking. “From Lureen Twist, of course!” And she wrapped herself around her astonished father and his overflowing heart.

Art is a Mirror concludes in Part Four…



These characters are not mine. Those from Brokeback Mountain are the creation of E. Annie Proulx, those from Cold Case/Forever Blue belong to NBC.

She had taken some finding.

Once Alma had learned, unsurprisingly, that a man dead twenty years produced no hits on the Internet, she had tried calling rodeo associations. After the fourth call, she knew that wasn’t going to work either. Each time she explained she was looking for a picture of a man who had been a bull-rider in the ‘60s, she was given a variation of “back in them days, it wasn’t regulated like it is now, place to look be the local papers.” But Junior knew the best place to find a good picture of Jack Twist would be in the possession of the woman who had been married to him. And so she had taken her vacation time and driven to Childress.

It was a place with pretensions--or, to be more charitable, aspirations--which for the most part remained just that. Though its population was, at 6700, nearly three times Riverton’s, it was still very much a small town, with one main street that even when prosperous looked as though it was never far from withering on the vine. It was, as she had expected, flatland, though not as dry as she had imagined. She had smiled driving over the bridge that proudly announced the “Prairie Dog Town Fork” of the Red River, the name so in excess of the importance of the small brown waterway. Rather like the city itself, proclaimed by a very large sign shaped like the state of Texas that blazoned “Welcome to/City of Childress/County Seat of Childress County/Est. 1884/ Pop. 6708”.

But as she stood stretching stiffly beside her car, Alma Stockton was not smiling. She shook her head, not for the first time, thinking about the drive she had just made. Eight hundred miles. Hour after hour after tedious hour, listening to one radio station after another spit and buzz and fade out, eating sandwiches from gas stations, bored and tired and sore all over, wondering if she would ever get there. And Jack Twist had driven these same roads, there and back again, two and three times a year, just to spend a few days with her father. For seventeen years. Alma had always been proud that her own marriage was strong, and had weathered a dozen years of long separations as Kurt had traveled from one oil-field to another in his way up through the company—but she knew now that this paled beside the simple testimony written in every mile that Jack Twist had navigated to close the distance between himself and Ennis Del Mar. Junior’s feelings about the love that had riven her family were still very mixed, but she had been brought up to all but revere a capacity for hard work, perseverance, determination and endurance. What Twist had done humbled her. No, she admitted; it awed her.

Her quest didn’t get far at first. Her first stop, the next morning, was the Childress County Examiner, where she learned that a 1990 fire had destroyed the paper’s morgue prior to 1975. Lureen Twist was now her only real hope. The 20-something girl who waited on her was friendly enough, but neither bright nor interested. She did give Alma a name: Benny Rulo. “Family been here since the Mexicans owned the place,” the girl said. “He’s retired now, though.” When pressed, she made an enormous effort and asked someone for his phone number.

Like most old men with nothing much to do, Rulo was glad to talk, and invited her to stop by, as he lived only a block from the paper. He proved to be a short, solid man with a face straight off a piece of pre-Columbian pottery who could have been anywhere between fifty and eighty. His wife served iced tea while Benny tested Alma’s patience a little with yarns from almost fifty years at the paper.

Finally, Alma was able to bring the subject around to Lureen Twist.

“Lureen Twist. Can’t say as I recall anybody by that name.” He didn’t seem too worried about it. “Sure it ain’t Lorraine? Know a passel a wimmen named Lorraine.” He winked suggestively, mightily pleased with his own humor.

Alma wasn’t all that sure, she realized. But the name her Daddy had said hadn’t sounded like Lorraine. “Don’t think so, Mister Rulo. I don’t really know much about her, except she married a bull-rider named Jack Twist, back in the late 60s.”

The name, floated hopefully, produced nothing. “Lots a rodeo boys through here in them years,” Rulo volunteered.

Then Junior remembered something else. “And her daddy sold tractors and things.”

The old man’s attention sharpened. “Tractors? You mean like farm tractors, big stuff?”

Junior nodded.

“You ain’t talkin about old L. D. Newsome’s daughter?” Memory stirred. “Yeah--Lureen Newsome! Goodness, that was a long time ago.” He pursed his lips. “She was a barrel racer, I’m thinkin. Real pretty, too.” He nodded, gave it a little more thought. “Know somethin? Think she did marry a rodeo cowboy. Big article in the paper. Was a picture of them at this rodeo where they met, along with the wedding one. Good lookin couple. He was from a long ways off. Colorado, Montana, maybe. --Dint he die, long time ago, maybe a car accident? Seems to me.” Serious now, the old man searched a memory that in those years had been very good indeed as Junior sat very still on the wicker seat, willing him to remember more. All at once, Rulo let out a breath. “You know, I don’t think she lives around here no more.”

Alma’s joy collapsed like a flag falling back to the mast, but Rulo was scratching under his chin reflectively.

“Don’t rightly recollect her name, understand, but I’m thinkin she remarried and moved off. Long time ago. She sold the business, see. Maybe fifteen years ago. Newsome Combine and Tractor. Some place down south. Maybe Dallas, or Houston, even. There’s still an office here in Childress, though. Old L. D., he didn’t choose Childress by accident. Land was cheap, lots of it, not a dust bowl like some parts, and it’s real well located for sellin farm equipment all over the place. Called Amalgamated Combine now, or it used to be. Things change names ever five minutes, these days.”

Alma headed off a long grumble about how things wasn’t like they used a be by asking where she could find Amalgamated Combine.

“Oh, it’s on Commerce Street, honey. Childress ain’t that big a place yet. Everythin you want, on Commerce Street.”

* * *

Alma would have driven right past it except that there were several combines and tractors, and a couple bulldozers and back-hoes, behind a high chain-link fence. Rulo was right: things did change names every five minutes: the sign read “AmCoM/A Division of Farm-Tek Southwest.”

“How kin Ah help yew, ma’am?” The accent was pure Texas.

“I’m trying to locate the woman who used to own Newsome Combine and Tractor.”

The man’s face screwed up. “Woman? Ahdn think so, ‘oney.”

“Yes. Her maiden name was Lureen Newsome. She sold the business maybe fifteen years ago?”

“Oh, thass a long tahm go, ‘oney. We isn’t even based year, y’know. Headquarters in For’Worth. Ah bin’ere eight years, guess thass long’s anybody.” Seeing Alma’s deep disappointment, he offered, “Whatcha need is, call a For’Worth offs. Might be they got summn there, members her.”

* * *

“Am I speakin to Miz Stockton?” The voice was deep, loud and friendly a day and a half later. “You’re looking for Lureen Mason?” And it was that simple.

“I got a copy of the contract right here,” he told her. “I helped broker the deal. She was a real good businesswoman. Knew what she had all right, and didn’t mind the brass knucks, neither.” He chuckled. “Nice little retirement income, even for Texas! Husband and co-signer, Rudolph Mason, MD. They was about to move, I member. Not sure where, though, but I think it was Amarillo. Coulda been Abilene, though.”

* * *

As Alma pulled her Wagoneer into the driveway of an expensive suburb of Abilene two mornings later, she couldn’t help feeling more than a little like the country mouse.

The Mason residence was nothing less than a junior mansion, with a fountain—and a gold Jaguar--in the front, done in a buff adobe-meets-Quattro-centro style that worked surprisingly well. The yard and plantings had the sort of intensely manicured look that said not only money, but a good-sized team of Mexican yard men, had done a lot here. Alma was not easily intimidated, but as she approached the leaded-glass front door, she might have quailed with any less motivation than had brought her so far already.

Somehow, though, in her concern with exactly what she would say, it had never occurred to Alma to wonder much about the woman who had been Jack Twist’s wife, and she had, not unnaturally, conjured up a mental image of a woman not unlike her mother. Later, she realized that had probably been wishful thinking. Nor had she made any special note of Ralph Cordell’s remark about Lureen Mason not minding “the brass knucks, neither,” but when the door opened, she wished she had, for if the house had made her feel the small-town girl she was, when Mrs. Mason answered the door, she felt like the country mouse’s tobaccy-chawin bare-foot cousin.

Her first thought was, time had been kind to the former Mrs. Twist. And then at second glance, Alma realized that the march of time had likely been sandbagged with a little help from plastic surgery. The woman who studied her with a certain amount of suspicion was tall, absolutely towering over Alma standing on the stoop, with great dark eyes and blonde hair so artlessly cut and coiffed that even the relatively unsophisticated Junior guessed she spent a lot of money at the beauty salon. Her clothes, simple and perfectly cut to enhance a still-notable figure, were in cool pastels, and gold shone everywhere on her. There was also a hint of perfume.

And she was tough. Hard as cut glass. Intelligence was obvious in her face. Kindness was not.

“Yes?” she prompted when Alma failed to speak at once.

“My name is Alma Stockton.” Alma began a well-rehearsed speech, wondering now if it was going to do.

“I’m sorry.” The door began to close. “No, thank…”

“I’m not selling anything.” Alma had correctly anticipated this at least. As Lureen hesitated, she added, “You don’t know me, but I wonder if you ever heard of my father. His name is…Ennis Del Mar.”

For a moment there was no recognition in the dark eyes, nothing but a puzzled frown. And then the eyes flew open, and anger flashed, and the door swung, faster this time.

“Wait! I just want a picture!” Junior cried desperately.

“What?” The word was a whip crack of angry incredulity.

Junior flung her carefully rehearsed speech into oblivion. “My daddy loved your husband,” she began.

“My first husband.”

“My daddy’s been alone for twenty years, and he doesn’t even have a picture.” The words tumbled out of the rattled woman. “I just want…”

“Isn’t that sweet.” Lureen took a step down to stand on the porch with Alma, hands on hips. “Ain’t that precious. And aren’t you just the most dutiful daughter, to do this for your poor old gay daddy.”

Alma’s lips tightened. “I didn’t come to cause trouble.”

Lureen laughed. It was not a pleasant sound. “Course you didn’t! Just thought you’d roll up, knock on the door like it was Trick or Treat and ask for a family snapshot. Figured I’d just pat you on the head and go ‘here you are, sweetie, oh, and say hi to your dear old dad for me, never mind that he helped my husband cheat on me for damn near two decades!’” Her voice rose to a shout.

Alma’s spine stiffened. “My daddy didn’t mean…”

“I don’t give a fuck what he didn’t mean,” Lureen shot back. “You hear me, honey? I don’t give a flyin fuck. You got some damn nerve. Do you have any idea what you’re askin? Do you? Do you have any idea what it’s like to fall in love at first sight with the handsomest man you’ve ever seen, or ever will? And do you have any idea what it’s like to realize, somewhere along the line, that he started slippin away from you just about the moment he put that ring on your finger? No. You don’t, Ennis Del Mar’s daughter. You have no idea what it’s like to wake up one day and realize you’re married to a bitter alcoholic with a lot of secrets who don’t care about nothing in the whole world except his next drink, and goin fishin with his old buddy in Wy-omin. --Oh, yeah--and some damn place he goes on and on about whenever he gets just the right shade of drunk. Some damn place called Brokeback Mountain. ‘Favorite place in the whole world. Most beautiful place there is. Place where you can lie there all day listenin to the wind and countin the clouds. Sky that goes on forever. Peaks glowin orange in the sunset. Air smells like Christmas trees.’ If I had a dollar for every time I heard that speech, I’d be twice as rich as I am. And honey, that’s rich.”

Alma tried desperately to stem the tide of bitterness, but Lureen shut her up with a stabbing finger.

“No. You just listen. You wanna come poking dogs with a stick, you’re gone a listen. Because you need to know, honey, what it means, you come knockin on my door, asking for a god-damn picture of Jack for his ‘old buddy’ Ennis. Because you need to know I spent a lot a years wonderin why a man who hated the cold got so het up about gone fishin eight hundred miles away in the damn mountains in April, November, whatever. And after a while, I got to wonderin, too, what that husband of mine was doin on all them business trips he took. Since he pretty much hated the business. Well, I got to noticin he always took plenty a cash. So I started lookin for lipstick marks, perfume—I figured he must be touchin somebody, cause he sure as hell stopped touchin me. But you know, all I ever found was a couple business cards for masseurs. And some gas station receipts from Juarez, in Mexico. Long way from here, Juarez. It took a long time, but eventually, I started to get another idea. Maybe you can guess what it might have been. And then, long about the end a ’82, Jack starts to get real friendly with these new neighbors, husband workin for a rancher nearby. Even started gone fishin with him. Imagine that.”

Alma froze. Lureen smirked. “What’s the matter, sweetie? You mean your old Dad didn’t know he wasn’t the only one whose lap Jack liked to go fishin in?” But Alma hardly heard her. In her mind, she heard the exchange again:

So why do you think he was killed?
He was killed. He was cut down like a dog.
I don’t understand.
You don’t got a understand. I know.

And then she remembered something else: We said some real hard things. Bad things. Junior knew she was unlikely ever to know the whole story. But one thing was clear: her daddy had known, or guessed, something. And he had been right.

Lureen was staring off into the distance now, still bitter, but aiming her anger now at one who was beyond her reach.

“And then one day, the sheriff comes by, says he’s got some bad news. And he tells me Jack had a tire blow up on him. And he tells me he’s identified the body, I shouldn’t look, I should ‘try to remember him as he was.’ And that made me so damn mad I looked anyway. And then I got sick. And then I kept thinking it looked like a lot more happened to him than they said. --Funny thing, that same week, that ranch foreman quits, and him and his bubble-head wife are gone, just like that. Wonder why?” Her voice was soft, sarcastic.

“So a few months go by, it’s October of ’83, and I’m just starting to put things back together, tryin real hard not to think about all those things I couldn’t help thinkin about, and then, I get this phone call.” She saw the awareness in Alma’s face. “Oh, told you about that, did he? Out of the blue, there’s this man with a deep, husky voice on the other end of the phone, sayin he’s Ennis Del Mar, ‘old buddy of Jack’s.’ How he found out, I have no idea. Musta got one a his little postcards back.” Alma nodded, seeing the word DECEASED leaping off the card at her. “—Uh, huh. That’s what I figured. And I told him what they told me happened, tryin not to remember what was left of my husband’s face, tryin not to remember a couple a funny looks I caught on those deputies’ faces, and he asked me if Jack's buried in Childress. And I told him I sent half his ashes to his folks, up in that godforsaken place called Lightning Flat, sounds like something out a some crappy novel, because Jack wanted his ashes scattered on Brokeback Mountain. But told him I didn’t think there really was such a place. Cause between us? Long time since, I figured he just made it up because it was a place he could get away from me, in his head.

“And then that deep voice says, ‘no ma’am, we was herdin sheep up on Brokeback one summer, back in ’63.’’ For the first time, Lureen’s voice lost its edge. “And then I knew. All those things I didn’t want to know, all those years. I knew all of em. My gorgeous husband had married me for my money, and then spent half his life slippin off to be with another man.” She looked away, her lips tightening, and silence settled heavy and dark over the two women on the stoop.

Alma spoke softly at last. “You’re right, ma’am. I don’t know about any of that. All I know is growin up with my mama and daddy yelling at each other all the time about how Daddy never has a good job, because he’s always quittin to go off with his buddy. And about my mama cryin and angry all the time when he would go away. And askin my mama one time why didn’t Daddy bring some fish home, and thinking she was gone a hit me, and she snaps ‘why don’t you ask Jack Twist?’ And one day she gets me and my little sis together and says ‘Mama and Daddy can’t live together any more,’ and we cried because we thought they was punishing us for being bad. And then, for a couple years, I only saw my daddy a half-dozen weekends a year, if that, until one time he comes to Thanksgiving with us in our new house with Mama’s new husband, and we’re watchin TV after dinner and all of a sudden they’re in the kitchen shoutin at each other again, and Daddy storms out, and my sis and I didn’t see him for almost two years, cause Mama wouldn’t let us. And then one day, late in 1983, I go to see him, tell him I’m engaged, ask him to come to the wedding, and he says yes, but when I drive away, even though I’m happy, I keep thinkin he looks so much older all of a sudden. Old, and sad. But I never knew why. Until a few weeks ago, when we watched a show where these two policemen fall in love back in 1968, and one of them gets murdered when their boss finds out. And my daddy, who you could just about run over with a truck and he wouldn’t make a sound, just fell apart, crying and cussin and makin these awful little noises like he was gone a die.” Alma made no attempt to stop the tears that came at the memory.

“He has these two shirts hangin over his bed, Miz Mason. They used a belong to him and Jack, from when they was herdin the sheep. Jack got a hold a his somehow and kept it, and when Daddy went to see Jack's parents, like you said, his daddy wouldn’t let him have the ashes, but his mama sent him up to look at Jack's room, and he found the shirts hidden in the closet. Jack put Daddy’s inside his, sleeves inside each other, and left them there, all those years. Now Daddy has them over his bed, with his on the outside.” Meeting Lureen’s eyes again, Alma found Jack Twist’s widow regarding her with a frown, still, but it no longer seemed to be an angry one.

“It was a long time ago. Daddy hurt all of us, and so did Jack Twist. I don’t care. He loves us, and we love him, and he’s a good man. And he doesn’t have a picture.” She spoke heavily, sick with the sense of failure.

“My husband’s golfing,” Lureen said abruptly, bringing Junior’s attention back to her. She looked at her watch. “He usually comes back in about a half hour. If I can find a picture for you before then, you can have it. If I don’t, you leave, and you don’t come back. Understand?”

Alma nodded. “Thank you,” she managed.

Lureen’s mouth twisted. “Don’t thank me yet. Now come on. Let’s go up to the attic.”

* * *

“The attic” proved to be a large walk-in storeroom with deep floor-to ceiling shelves on two sides, filled with the usual detritus of people’s lives—out-of-season clothes, sports equipment, a couple floor fans, carpet and wallpaper remnants, luggage, extra bedding, and numerous bulging cardboard boxes containing all those things that everyone means to sort through one of these days. Lureen went to these and started pulling them down. Alma flirted with the idea of offering to help, but thought better of it, and remained silent, polite, and very tense, near the door.

Lureen offered no commentary, so Alma had no idea what she was looking for or if she were making progress finding it. All at once, however, Lureen moved to another part of the attic to continue the search. Tension knotted deep in Junior’s gut. More than ten minutes had passed, and Lureen’s first search had obviously been a dead end.

“Thirteen years. My memory must be slipping.” Lureen reached deep into a corner obscured from Alma’s view and drew out a small trunk. “Whatever I still got, it’s in here.”

Cautiously, Junior drew closer as Lureen put the trunk on top of an old desk. “Used to be at the foot of my bed when I was a girl,” she added. “My hope chest.” She shook her head, but there was no bitterness in her voice now.

Though she wanted to, something inside Junior kept her from approaching too closely. She wasn’t afraid of Lureen, exactly; the woman seemed to have spent her anger—but all the same, Alma was uneasy as Lureen reached into the past, very much aware of being an intruder. Would Lureen find what she so badly wanted before time and her patience ran out? It could go either way.

And then Lureen straightened up, and a thrill of apprehension shot through the waiting Alma. Lureen was holding a large framed picture, studying it expressionlessly.

“I was pretty then,” she said softly. “You forget. Maybe, you want to.” She handed the picture to Junior. “Here you are.”

And there he was, thirty years after the only time she had ever seen him. Alma didn’t even notice, at first, the lovely dark-haired and dark-eyed girl standing beside him. She had eyes only for her father’s beloved, looking as he must have looked when Ennis Del Mar had first lost his heart to him, all those decades ago on the cold wild mountain among the pines and the sheep. It was a portrait shot, and both Jack and Lureen were holding what were obviously rodeo trophies. Lureen was leaning toward him, flirtatious even as she smiled for the photographer, but Jack just faced the camera, grinning proudly, and his face was just as Alma remembered it—all great eyes and dark brows.

“You were beautiful,” she breathed, giving credit where it was due to the man who had destroyed her family.

“Thank you,” said Lureen quietly. Sensibly, Junior did not correct her mistake, though she reddened a little as she handed the picture back.

Lureen shook her head, refusing it. “No. I meant that. It’s yours. I guess you’ll want to have it blown up.” Seeing Alma didn’t understand, she added wryly, “Get me out of it.” When Alma looked away, embarrassed at the shrewdness of her thinking, she added, “I don’t know why I even kept it. Maybe just because that was the day we met. I don’t know. Nobody ever accused me of being sentimental.” She shrugged. “Jack was the sentimental one, I guess. You wouldn’t believe the junk I found in a locked drawer in his desk after he was gone. An empty can, some old weeds or something in a bandana, rifle casings, some of those old postcards” Alma lifted her head “—no, honey, they’re long gone.”

Alma flushed. “Daddy has all the postcards Jack ever sent him.” She didn’t in fact know this for certain, but she was sure of it.

“You know, I didn’t cry when he died,” Lureen said thoughtfully. “I suppose I’d done all my grieving long before. But I cried after your daddy called. I don’t even know why. Maybe it was anger. Maybe it was jealousy.” She made a face. “And I have no idea why I’m telling you all this. I never told Rudy. --But you were right. It was a long time ago.” After a moment, she added, “I’m sorry I went off at you like that. I didn’t even know I was still angry about it. Anyway, it wasn’t your fault.”

Alma hesitated. “I don’t know, any more, if it was really anybody’s fault, Miz Mason.” When Lureen didn’t seem to take this amiss, she added, “I had a lot of time to think, coming down here. I don’t really know how I feel about your late husband, sometimes I remember how much my mama got hurt, and how much I missed my daddy for so long, and I get pretty upset. But then I remember Daddy watching that show and crying, and the way he talked about Jack when he told me, and those two shirts…” She shook her head. “You know, none a that would have happened if they didn’t have to lie and hide their whole lives. I spent a lot of time thinking about what my life would be like, if I could only see my husband in secret, a couple weeks a year. I don’t guess they wanted to love each other. But they did. I don’t know. I may not ever really be happy about what them lovin each other did to me and my family, but one thing I can’t do is hate your Jack for lovin my daddy. Because he really did. I know that. And Daddy loved him.”

Lureen’s lips pressed together, and she made another decision. “Here. You might as well take this, too. I gave most of Jack's things to our son, but I kept this. Why, I don’t know. But your daddy would probably like to have
it. And now you got a be goin.”

She surprised Alma by walking her to the car. As Alma was about to get in, Lureen surprised her again.

“Miz Stockton. You got a picture of your daddy?”

Not sure what to make of it, half afraid Lureen would shriek and tear it to bits, Junior went into her wallet and pulled out the only picture she had of her father in his youth—a small copy of his wedding picture.

Lureen studied it for several long seconds, then handed it back. “Just curious. So that’s the face that went with the voice. Handsome man.” She gave Alma a sideways smile, and suddenly, Junior saw the girl in the photograph. “I mighta liked him myself. For all the good that would a done me!” And then she was the cool and collected older woman again. “Have a safe trip home, honey. And, don’t come back.”

“I don’t think I will, ma’am. Thank you.”

* * *

“…and then she gave me this,” Alma said, and handed Ennis the yellowed box.

Ennis opened it almost as though he were afraid to. As he saw what was inside, he caught his breath again, and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, the tears were plain.

“Never thought I’d see this again,” he said huskily, and carefully lifted out of the box the black hat Jack Twist had worn on Brokeback Mountain.

“She said Jack wore it on a lot of his trips with you,” Alma said, her voice unsteady. He had also been wearing it in the picture, and she suspected…

“He was wearin it when I met him,” Ennis said quietly, never taking his eyes from the hat as he turned it in his hands, stroking it crown and brim. “And the last time I ever saw him.”

Alma’s hand went to her mouth. She had been right in thinking it was the only hat Jack had had in those early years, but this turn of events she had not anticipated.

It was a long time before Ennis spoke again, and his daughters let the silence stretch out without grudging it, just sitting quietly by as their father wandered for a little through a world at once unattainable and a part of his every breath.

“I don’t believe you did this.” The sound of his voice after so long made Junior jump a little, and brought Jenny’s head up. “After what I…what Jack and I…done to you girls, and your mama.” The dark eyes were sad, and wondering.

“We love you, Daddy,” Junior said simply, and Jenny slipped her arm though his in silent agreement. “That’s really all that matters anymore.” And that was true enough, for him, and for now.

Ennis shook his head. “I hope you know…” but his heart was too full to allow him to tell her what all hoped she knew. He had to trust that she would figure it out. He needn’t have worried. It was all there, in the dark eyes full of gratitude, and love.

“There’s one other thing, Daddy.” Jenny spoke at last.

Ennis looked at her almost incredulously. “Other thing?” He was still holding to himself the photograph, which was, as Lureen had guessed it would be, an enlargement of Jack alone. He couldn’t imagine what more there could be. He had a picture of Jack, and his hat. What more could he need? Only Jack, and Jack was dead and gone. What more could he want?

They had given much thought as to what they would tell him all at once. Alma had edited her visit to Lureen quite a lot, and did not see any reason to ever tell him about the ranch neighbor, or Lureen’s thoughts about Jack's dead body, though at some future time she would certainly tell him that Jack had kept some mementos of Ennis other than the shirts. This one thing, though, they wanted to tell him now.

“I called the coroner’s office in Crook County about ten days ago,” Jenny told her father, watching his face to see if he remembered whose home had once been there. The quick frown told her that he did. “See, I was wonderin if Miz Twist was still alive, she sounded like she liked you, we thought maybe she might let us have his ashes. Let you, I mean.” She blushed a little. “But she’s passed. But Daddy, the man remembered her. Because when Mr. Twist passed, he said ‘91, Miz Twist asked the coroner’s office if the funeral home could exhume her son’s ashes while they were burying her husband. That’s why he remembered it, it was such an unusual request. And they did, and gave them to her. But he didn’t know what happened to them after, since his responsibility ended once the ashes had been exhumed. So she might have took them, Daddy. She might have took them to Brokeback for you.”

Ennis Del Mar sat very still. He remembered a sad, worn woman with kind eyes, and he remembered, ever after, the slight push, little more than a pat on the shoulder, but just a little more, that had sent him up into the stark and silent room in which Jack had kept his heart safe and secret for half his short life. It had taken a long time before Ennis had thought about anything in that visit but John Twist’s cruelty, and her gentleness, and the discovery he had made, but he had eventually realized that it could not have been by accident that the closet door had been open, inviting him to enter. From that time on, Ennis had been sure Mrs. Twist had sent him deliberately into the little room, by the time he saw it less a reminder of bygone youth than a sterile museum in which everything had its one immutable spot and nothing was a half-inch out of place—save for that door, which stood open. There was no reason for a room no one used to have the closet open. No reason save one: so that the room’s one visitor could find what he had been meant to find.

Ennis bowed his head over the picture and the hat again, nodding. She had reclaimed the ashes. There was no doubt in his mind what she had done with them. No doubt at all. He looked up at Jenny, and Alma, and surprised them both with his one-sided smile.

“That’s all right, then,” Ennis Del Mar said, and for a little while he was close to all three he had ever loved best.

* * *

It was early in the afternoon when they finished checking stock, and Jack, preferring warmth as he always did, led the way into the snug cabin of Ennis Del Mar’s dreams. He said something about taking a nap, but when Ennis had hung up his coat and hat next to Jack's and run fingers through his curly hair, he turned to find Jack lying naked on the blue double-ring quilt, fingers laced behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. Ennis stopped dead, utterly bewildered as he always was, always had been, always would be, at the lean, supple beauty being displayed for him, and him alone.

“What’re you doin?” he asked stupidly.

“Nothin.” Jack turned his head, looked Ennis up and down boldly. “That could change, though.”

Ennis quirked a bit of a smile. “Wondered why you was in such a hurry to get inside. Ain’t that cold.” Disdaining his usual orderliness, he shed his clothes in little less time than it had taken his lover and put his knee on the bed.

“Gonna be warmer in a minute,” Jack suggested, reaching for him, but Ennis had his own ideas, and pushed him down. Jack, of course, was nothing loath, but the laughter and anticipation in his eyes turned to puzzlement when Ennis turned him away and snaked sinewy arms around his body, pulling him close.

“C’mere, cowboy,” Ennis muttered in his ear. “You need some cuddlin time. Huh?”

“Ennis!” Jack whined. “Not right now!”

Ennis merely grunted and wound himself more firmly around his beloved.

“Ennis!” Jack was well aware of how unreasonable Ennis was in this mood. “Can’t hardly breathe!” Ennis relaxed his hold. Slightly. “Now come on. Lemme go.”

“Uh, uh.”

“What if I got a go?”

There was a silence. Ennis didn’t really want to talk. He wanted to hold Jack close. “Uh…mmm.” He was having trouble thinking. Jack was so warm and alive, and he smelled so good…

“What if I had a go?” This was Jack the agitator, as Ennis well knew.

“Then I’d have to go with you,” he muttered, and bit Jack's earlobe, flicked it with his tongue. “Huh? Now stop fussin.”

Jack squirmed and pretended to resist, and it got more than a little hard for Ennis to hang on to his self-control, but in the end Jack settled with a sigh and both luxuriated in the peace and completeness between them. There was silence for a while as they listened to the fire crackling across the room, and then Jack allowed,

“Tell you what, you cuddle pretty good.” Ennis couldn’t see the smile spread wide across Jack Twist’s face, but he could hear it.

“It’s cause you’re snuggly,” he said into Jack's hair. This brought a small laugh. “Yep. Snuggly.” He had felt this way before—after their second night together, the whole night they had spent loving after four dreary years apart, the morning after their ten-year anniversary, that remarkable Christmas the same year: it was the slightly dizzy, effervescent feeling of getting away with it, of everything being just as it should be, of not being afraid to love Jack Twist. Well, he wasn’t. Not anymore. Never again.

“Snuggly,” he said again, his voice muffled in the black hair he was happily scenting. “You just the snuggliest…I don’t know what.”

“You best not call me no cuddlebunny,” Jack warned him.

“Will if I want to.” Ennis nosed behind his ear. “Cuddlebunny.” Jack squirmed again, hugging his arms happily, and Ennis felt the deep need warming his belly.

“Uh, oh,” Jack was laughing, softly. “Feels like Ennis don’t want to cuddle no more.”

“Who says?” Ennis was now slipping his hands over strong lines that stirred, stretched, arched under his caress. “What, man can’t cuddle and have some lovin at the same time?”

Jack turned in his arms. “Show me,” he breathed, great eyes huge and dark. “Show me right now.”

Their mouths met, inevitable, unstoppable, a silent cry of joy and hunger that pulled them together with a gasp, bodies seeking the joining the souls had made long, long ago. They did not tire of this, they did not rush it, no matter how great the need. Very soon Jack was on his back, inviting Ennis to fit their bodies together, and then the long lines were blending, shifting, teasing, all slow, natural and sensual, hands seeking, nothing forbidden, loving and admiring with every possessive caress. The need to mate was a slow, deep heat between them, and Ennis groaned to feel Jack's big hand slide between them and capture him, even as a shameless tease of a tongue darted over soft lips, following their sweet shape before slipping between, taking and giving. Jack's head went back, breaking the kiss, as Ennis caught a prize of his own to stroke and squeeze. The heady musk was thick in the air and Ennis seemed to hear a slow, sweet song, like a waltz, weaving its way around and between and inside them.

“Ennis,” Jack moaned. “Love me, Ennis.”

“I love you.” The words were soft, but they were sure, and Jack opened his eyes, dark and hazed with the relentless need, to see the words reflected in deep wells that no longer broke from his. “I love you, Jack.”

“Show me,” were the words of Jack's reply. “I know,” was the answer in the eyes, no anger, no frustration, no pleading, no disillusionment—nothing but the love he had always given, full-hearted and unafraid, blue skies wide and cloudless, forever summer.

It was so easy, then, for Ennis to have what they both wanted him to, and his deep-bellied groan vibrated through both their bodies as he found his way into the heat of joining, as the slip-sliding rhythm of desire shifted into the slow, deep ebb and surge of the love-tide.

And through it all, the music, dream and meditation, a song Ennis had heard once when he was missing his Jack, but now there was no more loneliness, only the love, no more denying, only the truth, no more pain, only the joy.

They knew each other so well now, after so long, both knew when the soaring eagles had to fall, and fall, and fall, they were ready for each other, ready to rise, and come together, all but one as they gave it all up, the words just as they always had been, irrelevant, of the body, but for those other three words, “Ennis, Ennis, I’m comin, I’m comin, I love you, I love you, Ennis,” and the hoarse cries of “Jack, Jesus, Jack, oh, fuck, Jack I love you” and then, only the fire and the breathing slowing to calm.

“Now you gone a let me cuddle you? Huh?” Ennis murmured as he drew Jack close, pulled the quilt over them.

“Long as you like,” Jack sighed, nestling into his embrace. “Rest a my life.”

“Rest a your life,” Ennis echoed. “Rest a your life, Jack. I ain’t lettin you go again.”

“Guess I’m in luck, then,” Jack smiled, but his eyes were serious as he ran gentle fingers along his beloved’s face.

“Guess we both are,” Ennis answered him, smiling too, but there were tears in his eyes. “We’re the lucky ones, Jack. You hear me? We’re the lucky ones.”

Ennis Del Mar smiled in his sleep even as he cried a little, two shirts on the wall over his head, a picture on the bed beside him, two hats on the bedposts at his feet, and in his dreams it was morning again in the mountains, with Jack Twist always smiling, smiling, smiling into his heart.

Thanks to amdaz and City Girl.



These characters are not mine. They are the creation of Annie Proulx, for which I thank whatever Deity may be listening, and bear no intentional resemblance to persons living or dead.

This is one of the erotic ones. Rated X.

July 1969.
This was the part that never got any easier. Ennis always believed that it would be so much better if they could just load up the horses, sling the gear into their trucks, and head out without so much as looking at each other. This, though, he knew well, was as much a fantasy as Jack’s longing for them to live together. This was, what, their seventh trip in two years, and all of them ended the same way—Ennis trying as hard as he could to shorten the agony of goodbye, and Jack doing everything he could to prolong it.

Ennis had no idea why Jack had tried so many times to do everything from keeping him talking to seducing him—and this last had worked a couple times—it didn’t change the inevitable. They had to part. That was bad. Why make it worse? Ennis knew that once the high of having been with Jack had worn off, the following weeks would be miserable as he slipped back into the home routine and tried not to think how long it was going to be before he and Jack would once again be naked on the blankets, hands and mouths and bodies slipping and sliding, finding and taking. No, Ennis Del Mar tried not to think about any of that while he was in Riverton, though sometimes, at odd moments, it would seize him so hard he would shake, and then he would get angry to be in the grip of something he couldn’t control. He knew there was a word for what he felt. There was also a word for men who felt that way, actually there were several words, and Earl had taught him to hate and fear them all. But Ennis Del Mar was a very practical man who knew that pretending wasn’t going to make anything change, even if his girls still thought it would. And he knew, sometimes, in the dark, or driving along a lonely road in the truck, or mending a fence in some distant field, that all of the words belonged to him. And sometimes it made him think—why was it wrong? Why was it evil? How could it be wicked to look into those eyes and feel the things he felt, to kiss that sweet mouth and want to fling that laughing cowboy down and fuck him with all the need in his body? I don’t want to let him go. Not now. Not ever. But I gotta.

And here was Jack, making it worse, the door of his truck already open, but him not getting in, just standing there, looking at Ennis with those sweet eyes sad, those sweeping black brows pinched in, that perfect mouth still and straight without a hint of smile in it. Ennis found he just couldn’t stand that, damn it. Damn him.

“’s’ wrong, Jack, huh?” Like I don’t know.

Jack frowned more, shook his head. “I hate this, Ennis.”

“Yeah, well, I ain’t crazy bout it.” Ennis kicked the grass. “’s the way it is, Jack.”

Jack hung his head. “’s always like this, Ennis. Every fuckin time.” He lifted sad, pleading eyes to the man he loved. “Shit. I blink, I miss it. I mean, we had ten days this time. And it’s over. It seems like it ain’t never gonna end, and then it’s over. Jesus--November. Seems like a damn year from now. I hate this, Ennis. I don’t want to say goodbye.” His voice wavered.

“Aw, shit, Jack. You ain’t gonna cry on my ass?” Once, frustrated and grieving, Ennis had punched his friend. It was something he still remembered with shame. Like life wasn’t hard enough on them, without him doing some damn stupid thing like that. So now, when he saw Jack dissolving before his eyes, it was not anger, or contempt, that he felt, or acted upon.

“Jack, don’t you cry on my ass,” he said hoarsely, and his hands of their own accord cradled Jack Twist’s face. “I mean it.” Their faces were only inches apart. “Don’t you fuckin cry.”

That, of course, only made the tears escape. “I’ll cry if I fuckin want to,” Jack muttered, avoiding his lover’s eyes. “I feel like shit, I don’t wanna go, I just…”

Ennis knew Jack, once started, would go on complaining, and crying, for as long as he was let. So Ennis didn’t let him. He might not be able to stop the tears, but he could definitely stop the complaining.

“Aw, Jack,” he growled, and pulled their faces together.

But Jack resisted, really resisted. It was just plain cruel of Ennis to kiss him, to set match to tinder when he had no intention of starting a fire. Ennis knew how hungry Jack Twist always was to kiss, it was just the way he was made, he would be happy to kiss Ennis Del Mar all day long and had just about managed it from time to time. Start with the mouth, of course, that soft, curved mouth that quickly shed its grim cast under Jack’s patient, eager encouragement, and when he’d tasted and devoured for a while, move on, coming back every now and then to make sure everything was still all right as he kissed his way from here to there—closed eyes; earlobe; soft spot behind the ear; maybe a nuzzle of the neck; collarbone; nipples, maybe linger a bit here; flat belly; belly button, maybe tickle a little with the tongue there; and then, inevitably…

Jack groaned as Ennis shifted his stance, pushing him into the truck. He felt Ennis’s cock rising, swelling against his as Ennis quested for the deeper kiss Jack was denying him. With a thrill like a bolt of lightning, he realized Ennis wasn’t teasing, wasn’t fooling, and his own cock thrust against his trousers to make a hard, proud stand against its partner. Both Jack and Ennis caught a sharp indrawn breath, and then Jack had Ennis’ face in his hands and was kissing him.

The world shrank to the compass of their embrace. In his joy, the kiss Jack Twist gave his lover was not the soft or the sensual caress he usually preferred, but the savage, devouring, union of two into one that was both conquest and surrender, the kind of kiss a man could only give another man. It was a kiss in which both parting and rejoining were implicit, for despair lay at the back of it, the knowledge that there were only so many kisses allowed before they had to stop. Ennis and Jack had never kissed like this on Brokeback, though they had come close sometimes. But four years later, after Ennis had pushed Jack into the wall, Jack had all but flung him against the opposite one, taking his mouth with a savagery that had made them both into animals. It was the first time they had kissed that way. That night, as they fucked each other to the point of exhaustion over and over, all their kisses had either begun or ended in the same madness. And they both knew. Neither knew how to say it in words, and Ennis would never find a way, but from then on, it was there in every touch, and every kiss, and neither would ever pretend it was not.

Jack felt his hat being pulled off. Moaning and crooning in the kiss, he let his mouth shift a little, his tongue darting and teasing and sliding along his lover’s parted lips before he slid his long fingers into Ennis’ hair, knocking his hat off as well, and locked their mouths together again. Ennis responded with a growl, thrusting Jack harder into against the side of the truck, forcing the hard ridge in his worn denims against its aching mate. Jack tore free of the kiss to groan, but Ennis allowed him no escape, capturing the soft, perfect mouth again at once, needing to possess it as he needed to possess Jack: completely and utterly.

But Jack was not so compliant in this as his nurturing ways or his delight in being fucked hard would suggest. He fought Ennis’ natural dominance, making Ennis win him, reminding Ennis yet again that while he might be tamed, he, too, was a bull and not a steer. It was with a man’s strength that he wound his arms around Ennis Del Mar’s body, and with a man’s force that his hips bucked and surged against the need in every lean, powerful line, making their two belt buckles clink and scratch.

Ennis broke the kiss at last, gasping, dizzy with lust, taking great breaths but keeping his lover pinned hard to the truck even as Jack clung to him, a handful of jacket and shirt in each fist.

“I’mna make you feel better, Jack Twist,” he said hoarsely into Jack’s ear. “’s ‘elp me, I’m gonna make you smile ‘f it’s the last thing I ever do.”

“You’ll have to fuck me first,” Jack gasped, his head flung back. “Fuck me, Ennis. Ram it in hard. Make me scream.”

“Maybe,” Ennis allowed, his hard cock jerking delightedly, and delightfully, against his trousers. “Maybe I will.” His hand slipped between them, and worked at freeing Jack from his clothes. Jack didn’t need telling twice, and in a moment he was at the same good work, helping Ennis make up his mind. It didn’t take long for them to make things a lot easier for each other, but somehow in the process, each managed to let his hand roam quite a lot, caressing and squeezing and letting fingers rediscover all the private details of size and shape, even as the mouths came together again, as right and natural as breathing, lips and tongues caressing and promising eagerly, mouths locking and shifting.

And then Jack broke the kiss with a groan, his head going back and his eyes closing. Ennis had gotten his hand around both rigid tools, and was stroking them together, making him whimper.

“What’s a matter, Jack?” Ennis’ dark voice was like warm honey. “Don’t you want me to kiss you no more?”

“Course I do,” Jack managed.

“That’s good,” Ennis nodded, his lips close to Jack’s ear. “Where you want me to kiss you next?”

Jack was startled out of his daze. “What?”

“Guess I wasn’t clear enough.” The words were distinct. “Where would you like me to kiss you next?”

“You askin me?” Jack could hardly think, let alone speak. Ennis had let go his stroking, allowing them to slide against each other, unfettered, and the heat and intimacy between them was nearly unbearable.

“You see anyone else here name a Jack Twist? You gone tell me” Ennis stuck his tongue into Jack’s ear “or you just rather get fucked right now?”

“My cock!” Jack blurted. “I want you to kiss my cock!”

“Your cock?” Ennis growled low in his ear. with this he slid both big hands under Jack’s shirttails and pushed up shirt and undershirt. “My goodness gracious, Jack Twist wants me to kiss his cock. Hmm. Well, I could maybe do that. That all you want me to do?” Ennis knew it wasn’t. “Just kiss your cock?” He liked to hear Jack say it, wanted to make him say it.

“Suck it!” Jack begged. “Suck my cock, Ennis. Please.”

“Mm, mm, mm,” Ennis clucked. “Suck your cock.” Jack’s whole body jerked at the notes in his lover’s voice. “Mmm. Don’t know. Gone have to think about that.” And Ennis began to kiss his way down.

Jack was panting so hard he was near hyperventilating, eyes wide and staring at nothing, trembling with anticipation. He felt Ennis’ lips, and his tongue, leave a trail of fire down the center of his chest. The kissing wandered a bit after that, lips planted slowly, thoughtfully, here and there, even as Ennis’ big, calloused hands wandered over bared skin. His fingers combing spasmodically through Ennis’ curly hair, Jack had a curious sense of time slowing, and stopping, and the world itself was starting to get dark and grainy.

“Hey,” Ennis said softly, as if to himself. “What’s this, huh?” His breath was warm on Jack’s straining manhood. Jack gritted his teeth, so aroused he was near tears. “Looks mighty uncomfortable.”

Jack didn’t have to be hit over the head to get it. “It hurts,” he whined. Which was nothing less than the truth. “Ennis, it hurts.”

“See if I can make it feel better.” And Ennis planted a soft, wet kiss on Jack’s handsome, flushed cockhead. Jack’s body jerked again, and a fresh love-tear oozed out of the tiny opening. It seemed only right to Ennis to taste it, making Jack groan from deep in his belly,

“Oh, Ennis.”

And that was when Ennis dropped the playacting. As Jack sank back against the truck with a cry almost of despair, Ennis sent his tongue slithering all over and around the gorgeous big bell-end of Jack Twist’s aching cock even as his mouth opened wide and softly captured the prize for his own.

“Ennis. Ennis. Oh, damn. Damn.” Ennis slowly took him down almost to the crisp black whiskers, then pulled back to lavish his attentions where they would do the most good. Almost as an afterthought, one large hand spread itself over Jack’s belly, fingers and thumb on either side of the full shaft, while the other worked at giving Ennis some relief.

“Oh, Ennis.” Jack hardly knew he was speaking. Little inarticulate cries worked themselves out of his throat as he surrendered to Ennis’ hunger. “Unh. Unh. Unh. Oh, Ennis. Ennis. Oh, that’s so good. Oh, damn, that’s so good. You’re gone make me come. Unh. Oh, Ennis. Oh, Ennis. Oh, you’re so good at this. You’re so greedy. You’re so damn greedy.” His long fingers clenched and unclenched in the ragged hair. “Oh, shit. Oh, Ennis, suck my cock. I need to come.”

But Ennis needed no prompting, no guiding from the hands almost pulling his hair as they urged him on. He was deliriously out of control, swamped in sensation, reveling in the heavy scent of male musk and the taste and texture of the male spear he was devouring. Jack was trembling continuously now, taut with his nearness to release, and Ennis was more than willing to help.

“Ennis. Ennis. Ennis, oh, Ennis. Ohhh, Ennis. Ohhh, Ennis. Ennis. Ennis.” It was this Ennis had been waiting for. It was this, Jack chanting his name over and over like a stream tumbling over the cobbles in its bed, that moved Ennis again and again when they were apart to find a place to hide and wring it out something hard. This was the sound of Jack Twist ready to come. Now, only now, did Ennis slide that other busy hand between Jack’s legs, and two fingers inside, and caressing, even as he set his tongue to flicking and fluttering at the magic spot where velvety head joined jutting shaft.

The reaction was immediate. Jack’s back arched and his head flung back so hard it banged the side of the truck. He hardly noticed. With a cry of “Oh, Ennis!” he went into release, hips jerking, giving Ennis the salty mouthful he had worked so hard for. It seemed to go on quite a while, but then Jack was always generous, and Ennis didn’t hurry him, didn’t want any of that sticky stuff to go to waste, made sure he milked out every last salty drop.

When Jack was done, Ennis hauled himself to his feet, licking his lips, dark eyes blazing into bewildered blue ones. With an authority that would not be brooked, he spun his lover around, pulled him to one side, bent him over the high seat of the truck, and took him, hard.

“Jack. Jack. Oh, fuck. Oh, Jack, I gotta come.” Ennis gave no quarter, shoving and thrusting even as he entered, bucking worse than any horse Jack had ever broken to the saddle. It lasted longer than he would have thought possible, but nature would have her due, and all too soon, the maddened Ennis gasped out “Uh. Uh. Oh, fuck. Oh, Jack. Oh, Jack!”

With a half-dozen violent strokes, he convulsed, with a hoarse, guttural cry as his need for Jack Twist was wrenched from him yet again. He was dimly aware of Jack groaning under him, of Jack having a second orgasm, and then they collapsed together.

It was a good little time before Ennis drew back and slapped Jack across the buttocks. “Now, cowboy, you better get your ass in that truck.”

Jack straightened, and turned. “I don’t think so.”

“What?” Ennis demanded.

“Pull my pants up and drive off with you leakin out of me? You big idiot.” Jack clouted his shoulder and then hung on to it as he bent over to pull off one boot, and then the other, to free himself from his jeans as Ennis watched incredulously. “Now come on. Get your ass down to that creek with me and let’s get clean.”

Ennis couldn’t argue with his logic, but where Jack was concerned, he was always inclined to be suspicious. “Long’s that’s all we gone do, is get clean.”

Jack made a face. “Scout’s honor.” It was only a good deal later, when Ennis called him on it, that Jack reminded him that he’d never been a Scout…

As Ennis resigned himself to the inevitable, he soothed his conscience with the thought that the important thing was that Jack Twist was smiling.

And as for Ennis Del Mar, by the time Jack was done with him, he was positively grinning.

Never Enough Sleep, Part 1

Never Enough Sleep, Part 1

It's Ennis and Jack's tenth anniversary. Poor Ennis just wants some sleep, but bad boy Jack just won't leave him alone…
Rated X-tra Juicy.
These remarkable characters are not mine. They are the creation of Annie Proulx. And they are fun to play with.

June, 1973.

Jack Twist, awakening, made several delightful discoveries at about the same moment. The first was that he was lying against Ennis Del Mar, was in fact wrapped around him from behind. He let out a happy little whiffle of breath against the place where Ennis’ neck and shoulders met and kissed the spot softly for good measure.

The second discovery he made was that they were naked. This was especially pleasing. It wasn’t often warm enough for them to sleep this way during their mountain getaways, but the nights had been mild since their arrival three days before. Ennis, ever the pessimist, predicted a frost, but that hadn’t stopped him taking full advantage of the opportunity to sleep skin to skin with Jack.

Next, Jack became aware that at some point while they both slept, Ennis’ right hand had found his, or vice versa, and Ennis was now holding their two hands, fingers laced, against his chest. Quick tears stung Jack’s eyes. Ennis, if not given to talking about his feelings, was in his quiet way very affectionate, but to find Ennis embracing their twined hands even in sleep… His throat closed up, and he kissed Ennis’ shoulder again.

And then he realized that it was raining. It was probably what had awakened him. Jack’s lips parted in a wide, toothy, and distinctly wolfish grin. It was raining. That meant he and Ennis wouldn’t be riding anywhere today…except right here in the tent. And that was when Jack made his last discovery—the obvious one, really. But at that moment, it became a lot more obvious.

“Hey, Ennis,” he said softly, laying his face against Ennis’ shoulder. When this produced no response, he squeezed the hand that was linked with his. “Hey, Ennis,” he crooned again, nuzzling warm skin with a scratchy face.

Ennis groaned. It was not a groan of pleasure, or desire, but of annoyance:

“Aw, shit.”

“It’s rainin, Ennis,” Jack announced, with quiet glee. “Know what that means?”

A brief silence, then: “Fuck.”

“Yeah,” Jack grinned, licking his lips. “Exactly.”

Ennis made a sound like a grumpy bear being prodded with a stick. “Damn it, Jack, I need some fuckin sleep,” he muttered.

“Too late.” Jack moved against him, intimately and suggestively. “I’m up already.”

“Wonderful. I ain’t.” Ennis pulled Jack’s hand closer to his chest, or tried to, but Jack slipped his fingers loose, and slid them down.

“Yeah, you are too,” he announced a moment later, propping himself up on one elbow.

Ennis let out a breath. “You grab it, it’s gone do that.” But though he didn’t sound less irritated, he sounded a whole lot less sleepy.

“Got news for you. It was already doin that.” Jack was encouraging it, too, to go right on doing it.

Ennis tried to pull his hand away, but somehow his own hand only ended up riding Jack’s as it continued a slow, and very damned nice, tease. “Jack, you got to quit that. I ain’t kiddin.” Ennis made a sharp movement that failed to dislodge the warm, strong hand curled possessively around his stiff manhood. “I need me some damn sleep.”

“Well, I need me some seein to.” This was soft, in his ear, followed by a light nip of his earlobe that made Ennis shiver all the way down.

“Seein to? You need seein off,” Ennis told him a little breathlessly. “You’re just a damn rabbit, is what you are.” Giving up, he turned over and faced his beautiful tormenter.

It was a shock, as it always was. There was Jack, smiling mischievously like every fevered dream Ennis had ever had of him, come true. The dark hair was tousled, and the heavy stubble combined with the black brushstroke brows and the fair skin to accentuate the arresting eyes almost ridiculously. And there was a look in those eyes, a look Ennis knew was for him alone, the blue skies dark and cloudy with lust and a terrible need that went far, far beyond lust. Some part of Ennis, as it always did, failed to understand: Why me, Jack? I’m as plain as the hind end of a mule. You coulda had anybody. Why me?

He didn’t know, as he stared back into that blue soul-gaze, what Jack saw: intense, serious, compelling eyes that at one moment were nearly black, at another dark amber, set in a fascinating face whose lines blended an almost granitic masculinity with an unexpected leavening of vulnerable softness, especially around the mouth, a mouth that when relaxed, as it was now, was nearly as kissable and tempting as Jack’s own.

And it was a temptation Jack rarely resisted. As Ennis lay temporarily paralyzed, Jack acted, pushing him onto his back and coming down hungry, mouth finding mouth with eager assurance. Ennis groaned again, and his body arched up to meet his lover’s, as Jack’s quick tongue slid sensually all over his lips before darting between them to taste and plunder. Ennis surrendered, with a harsh indrawn breath, and their mouths locked, passion igniting between them.

Abruptly, the earth moved. At least, that’s what it felt like to the startled Jack, but when his eyes flew open, and he saw both the tent and Ennis above him, he realized that it wasn’t the earth that had moved, but Ennis, which in terms of raw power was often much the same thing. Ennis had turned the tables with his usual decisiveveness, and was now staring down at him with hooded eyes.

“Don’t think you can just bother me any old how you like, Jack fuckin Twist,” Ennis said softly. “We gone do this my way.”

Jack licked his lips. “Make me,” he whispered.

The next thing he knew, his hands were pinned over his head. “Gotcha now, Jack-rabbit.” There was a quiet amusement in the voice that made Jack shiver, washed the laughing defiance right off his face, and parted his lips.

“Ennis,” he whispered.

Ennis dropped on him then, gentle, inevitable, a thistledown alighting on a leaf, his mouth settling with care only after the rest of his body had fitted itself exactly to Jack’s, skin to skin, the long, lean lines sliding together like coming home, surging into sync, rippling together with liquid tension. He still had Jack’s hands pinned over his head, but in truth they surrendered to each other, as they always did. Ennis didn’t hurry, he didn’t like to be rushed ever, and his free hand found Jack’s face, cradled it, as his tongue met Jack’s quicksilver eagerness with deliberate, passionate earnestness, dart met with thrust, quick taste met with a slow licking of the open lips as his thumb slid under the bottom lip. The only sounds were of harsh breathing and half-muffled cries of protest and desire, Jack moaning and whimpering, Ennis growling and purring in his deeper voice as the mouths and bodies slid together in the ancient dance.

Ennis dropped his head beside Jack’s abruptly, chest heaving against his lover’s.

“Christ Jesus, Ennis,” Jack gasped, his body surging involuntarily. “Christ, you can kiss.”

Ennis’ lips brushed his ear. His head swam; he had difficulty getting the words out: “I had a good teacher.” His hoarse voice made it two words: tee-chur.

Jack’s eyes closed, he caught his breath; his arms, freed, wound around Ennis’ head and back.

“I never knew what a kiss was, before I kissed you the first time,” he breathed. For a moment they just held each other.
Then Jack butted his nose against the side of his only friend’s face, making Ennis look at him.

“Ten years ago,” Jack told him deliberately. “Give or take a day.”

He saw the shock in Ennis’ eyes, saw him fall back in time to that night that had begun with fear, and reassurance, and grown into passion, and completion. Expressions, muted as they always were on that face, chased themselves from surprise to remembrance to acceptance, and then they were gone, and Ennis’ eyes narrowed.

“’Bout time you got it right, then,” he said, and took Jack’s mouth again, hard this time, no fooling. Now the hands were in play along with the powerful masculine bodies, roaming over flesh, muscle, and bone, calluses scratching lightly, a feeling familiar and beloved to both as large, strong hands explored and claimed. It was Ennis, as it often was, who first got a hand between them. His aching cock had been bumping and sliding against Jack, and Jack’s stiff tool, in a very stimulating but unsatisfactory way, and he needed more than that. His big hand curled around both proudly substantial weapons and began stroking them together, slicking them with the love-tears both were unashamedly shedding. He was dimly aware of Jack’s fingernails digging into his arm, the other hand combing through his hair. It would be easy, it would be damned easy, to just keep going this way, just keep going…

But Ennis had more in mind than that. Suddenly, he pulled away, coming to his knees. Jack, not unnaturally, misunderstood, and started to turn away.

“Uh, uh, cowboy,” Ennis said, though it cost him more than Jack was allowed to know not to just take what Jack was offering here and now. “Outside.”

Bewildered, Jack stared, motion arrested. “It’s raining.”

“Yeah. You done told me.” It was a real effort to talk, with Jack staring up at him, great eyes wide, graceful lines all bare, big, handsome cock at full staff. Ennis shook his head to clear it.

Jack was having his own problems, staring at Ennis’ broad chest, flat muscular belly and rigid manhood, even larger than Jack’s, with its prominent veins and plum-sized knob. He licked his lips. “Why we gotta go out?” The words were complaining and seductive at the same time. He fell back to his elbows.

“Cause I can’t stand up in here,” Ennis told him simply.

Jack was outside almost before he got the door fully unzipped, shivering in the cold rain. He fell to his knees as Ennis, scorning to hurry, joined him, but Ennis lifted him by the chin and made him stand again. For a moment, their eyes met in a gaze that seared them both, and then the two were one again, kissing, the rain unregarded, time falling away.

And then Jack was kissing his way down, enjoying it. He would do this as often as Ennis would let him, which was often. Ennis had never quite decided whether he liked fucking or being cocksucked better. The best thing was probably to just keep trying both, and maybe eventually he would know.

The rain was steady now, and Ennis’ belly was slippery, with that and with trails of salty, musky tears. The rain muted the heavy, heady scent somewhat with its own sweet fragrance, but it was still unmistakably Ennis Del Mar, and Jack, shivering a little, found himself rubbing his face against the flat belly, tickling and scratching Ennis with his beard. Inevitably he rubbed against something even harder, with a heat of its own that defied the chill of the rain, and this he began caressing with lips and tongue. With a groan, Ennis curled one hand around the base of his stiff pride and slipped the other into Jack’s dark hair, bringing flushed cockhead and soft mouth into close proximity, rubbing the silky plum against parted lips and the quick questing tongue.

And then the curved lips parted further, and the suddenly impatient Ennis made a rather abrupt entry into a place that if it wasn’t Heaven was close enough for the moment. With a guttural noise, he closed his fist in Jack’s hair, got hold of his shoulder, and spurred him on.

It seemed like Jack made it a point of honor to take Ennis a little deeper every time. Ennis was too big for him to get as close as Ennis could for him, but he never stopped trying, and Ennis’ moans of gratitude told him the effort was appreciated.

“Jack. Jack. Oh, fuck…Jesus H fuckin Twist.” Ennis shook his head again, but was helpless before Jack Twist at his most determined. “Don’t you suck me like that. I ain’t ready. Don’t you do that,” he groaned, pulling Jack’s head closer, encouraging the noisy, eager suck with both hands now in the dark, wet hair. It was so good. Jesus, it was so fucking good.

And then Ennis pulled back, found his resolve again. It had to finish with a fuck. Jack, torn, gave up his capture reluctantly.

“Said we was gone do this my way,” Ennis reminded him shortly, and dropped smoothly to his knees. Jack, hair in his eyes, was shivering, but Ennis, dark eyes now dominant as the wet curls were plastered to his head, heated him as he made him turn and shoved him down.

The sight made Ennis growl, and he lurched forward, sliding his full erection against the tight buttocks that cushioned his pushing and shoving just right. Jack was swaying, enticing, ready, panting, but Ennis, head buzzing with fatigue, hadn’t forgotten that all this had started because Jack wouldn’t let him have a few more hours of badly needed sleep, and suddenly, even as he rubbed his big tool teasingly in the cleft, he gave his inconsiderate lover a hard slap.

Jack shied like a startled horse as Ennis slapped his arse again, hard.

“Wake me up when I need me some sleep,” Ennis muttered, bending over his back. “You a bad boy, Jack. Real bad.” Another slap.

Jack groaned, and reached for his cock. Ennis knocked his hand away. “Uh, uh. No playin. Not when you gettin your punishment.” Another slap.

“Oh, fuck,” Jack panted. “Oh, Ennis.” He was weeping in his excitement, and his shivering now had nothing to do with cold. “Oh, Ennis. Don’t spank me. I didn’t mean it.”

“Hell you didn’t. You always wantin a fuck, don’t care nothin bout anythin else. You ain’t natural, boy. Time you learned.”

With an especially hard slap, Ennis mounted, and took what he wanted.

It was relief that made him groan this time, and relief that tore an answering cry from Jack as the two again made themselves one. Every other moment together was tension, all other moments led to this one, the union that was so powerful in itself that climax was only a matter of degree. Once it had gotten this far, there was almost never any controlling what followed, for either of them. It was too intimate, too intense, and too precious. Ennis, spanking reflexively, thrust with an authority that spurred Jack to madness.

“Ennis. Ennis. Oh, Ennis. Damn…oh damn, oh, damn…Ennis…Ennis…Ennis, oh, Ennis…” It was the river in flow, and it was more than Ennis could bear. His balls, slapping against Jack, tightened exquisitely. He bent over Jack, reached around, and closed his hand over Jack’s jerking fist.

“Come, Jack,” he said hoarsely. “I gotta come. Come now. Now. Now.” His body began to convulse.

“Ennis! Ennis! Oh, Ennis! I’m comin! I’m comin!”

“Jack! Jack! Oh, fuck!” And they went into rictus together.

When Ennis finally pulled away, both were shivering uncontrollably. Jack’s teeth were chattering.

“Fuck this,” Ennis gasped, and they all but flung themselves into the tent and closed it up behind them. Once inside, rather than get the bedroll all wet, they set to drying each other with the bath towels. Both were so cold they were clumsy, and the process was a rather rough one.

Unfortunately for poor Ennis, it was also rather stimulating, and rapidly escalated to the point where it became obvious that he still wasn’t going to be allowed to sleep.

Eventually, however, the two, being one, became two again, and Ennis, having ridden Jack hard about the whole matter, collapsed on top of his beloved, and slept.

For a little while, anyway.

"Never Enough Sleep" continues in Part Two…

Never Enough Sleep, Part 2

Never Enough Sleep, Part 2

Rated X
These characters are not mine. They are the divinely inspired creations of Annie Proulx. I'm just, ah, playing with them.

Late in the afternoon, after a breakfast so late it was really lunch, the sky cleared and they packed up, saddled the horses and followed the stream course. It was just something they had gotten in the habit of doing over the years on their longer trips—moving every few days to a new camp a few miles on, and then working their way back. Neither even knew why it had started, just Jack saying on their second trip “let’s move somewhere else today, Ennis,” and Ennis agreeing without giving it any thought. In truth, had they thought about it, they would have realized that moving from here to there, and the work of setting up and striking camp especially, gave them a sweet echo of the Brokeback days. Just riding along together, in no great hurry, with no special destination in mind, seemed to put them outside of time and the world again, and brought them together with a special intensity whenever they stopped.

They’d been wending their way along a fairly narrow edge for nearly two hours, and had seen nothing better than a few little gravel bars or tiny clearings not nearly big enough. And then, they rounded a bend and there it was.

The place might have been made for them. There was good graze on both sides of the creek, which here was shallow enough to cross easily, while the spot itself offered a gorgeous southwestern view of craggy peaks in the near and middle distance. As for the clearing itself, it was like something almost out of a fairyland. Trees pressed in close on three sides, but they were mostly aspen and beech, and not the dank firs that smelled so good but were always so dark. The clearing itself was only about twenty yards across, meadow grasses mixing freely with lupine and columbine. At the back of the clearing lay a great boulder from some forgotten ice age, covered with several centuries’ splashes of lichens in yellow and orange. But beyond that, the clearing had something else: an intimate, private quality that seemed to beckon, and welcome, the two who must always hide from the world who they really were and what they felt for each other. Ennis looked at Jack, and Jack at him, in the same moment, and both felt the belly-tickle of desire. They dismounted without needing to say a word. This was the place. Both also knew they would not move from it until it was time to leave.

They worked in silence setting up the camp. The labor had become a ritual, a slow tease for them both, one they had grown to appreciate and anticipate, each watching the other out of the corner of the eyes, enjoying the displays of supple body and masculine strength. It was a given that it wouldn’t be long, in warmer weather, before Jack would very deliberately unbutton his shirt enough to pull it and the undershirt off together, and maybe stretch a bit, ostentatiously, perhaps running his hands down his body as if to call attention to its graceful lines as Ennis watched with narrowed eyes. Ennis usually turned his back to accomplish the same operation, without haste, perhaps folding the shirt with some care and laying it aside, all the while knowing, needing to know, that when he turned he would find Jack watching him hungrily. The work of pitching the tent, gathering firewood, and setting up the fire ring and grill would continue then, along with lingering and much more direct stares. Getting everything set up comfortably was essential, and even Jack showed remarkable restraint, as a rule. But all the while, his cock would be swelling, stiffening, and displaying itself boldly against his jeans as his eyes wandered over his friend, and he never made any effort to hide it. Ennis, though not as blatant about it as Jack, had been known to let his eyes drift down and linger over special areas of interest pretty openly as he worked, with results that Ennis didn’t hide either.

The last thing they did, when the nights were as mild as this, was to lay an eight-foot square of oilcloth near the fire and then spread out a couple plaid blankets and their pillows. They had gotten lucky here, too, and there was already in place a large old broken log that would serve equally well as fireside seat and headboard.

Ennis, having given the blankets a final twitch, straightened up. Jack was staring at him, making no pretense of doing anything else, feet planted apart, hands on waist, eyes glittering.

“What you lookin at, Jack Twist?” Ennis asked softly.

“Only thing here worth lookin at,” Jack told him. He came around the foot of the blankets. “And the way I figure, I’ve been just lookin long enough.”

They seemed to blend together like the spirals of smoke from their fire, winding around each other so naturally, so easily. In every kiss Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar ever shared was the memory of that first kiss, so long ago on Brokeback, and that other kiss, when they had shoved each other into the walls below Ennis’ Riverton apartment. They came together gladly, as they always had since that night ten years before, and the primal power of what was theirs alone, theirs and no one else’s, shivered through them.

His feet planted apart, Jack had Ennis’ face in both hands. Ennis for his part had wrapped himself around his lover, cradling him, rocking him, as they swayed together. Jack had long ago stopped wondering why it was so wild with Ennis always. He just leaned in and devoured his greedy share, crooning and moaning in the kiss as arousal surged through his body like a river in first thaw.

Ennis didn’t wonder either. When he was in Riverton, he worried about the intensity of his feelings for another man. Right now, though, he rejoiced in them. He was where he needed to be, in the arms of his other half, they were alone, and nothing else mattered.

With a groan from deep inside, Ennis slipped his fingers into Jack’s hair, pulling his face closer as their mouths locked. It was just so right. It was so damn right. It was Jack, and that was right, broad shoulders and hairy chest and big hands that could close so hard they left marks, or caress like a breeze whispering over his skin. And that perfect, kissable mouth, curved and soft and oh, so good at everything wonderful…

You’re mine. You’re mine. I want you. I need you. But Jack was teasing him, tongue sliding over his lips, darting between in delighted contest with his, flicking, stabbing, aggravating Ennis, who wanted everything, who wanted Jack to moan and cry for him. His breath hissing deeply, he pulled Jack just a little closer, no daylight between them now, and took uncontested possession of Jack’s mouth. Kiss me. Kiss me, Jack. And that was when Jack hooked Ennis’ legs with his heel and flung them together onto the blankets.

The fall knocked the breath out of both, and then they were rolling together, laughing and wrestling, Jack on top first, then Ennis, no clear winner, long legs flailing, wiry arms grasping and slipping. It was desperate, and very aggressive, each reveling in his own unchecked strength and that of his lover. Both would get bruised, and scratched, and sometimes a muscle got overstrained here or there. Neither minded, ever. It was right, and natural to embrace the animal madness within them. It felt so damn good.

Ennis pinned Jack at last, as he always did, always the stronger, wanting to be dominant, but in truth Jack wanted it as much as he did. He scissored Jack’s legs with his knees, surging against him, sliding his rigid manhood against its hard, yearning mate. The lovers fitted together, belly to belly, aware of the love-heat between them, slightly sweated, deeply aroused and deeply relaxed.

Ennis wrapped his arms around Jack’s head, and, slipping his fingers into Jack’s hair, pulled his head back suddenly, making Jack’s eyes widen and his lips part.

“What is it with you, huh?” Ennis growled softly, nuzzling his neck. “Can’t even set up a camp without you starin at me and all.” Jack moved under him eagerly, and Ennis pushed back, hard, making Jack moan softly. “Don’t like it,” Ennis added sternly. “Get me all uncomfortable, make me all hot.” He ran a wet tongue along the underside of Jack’s jaw to his earlobe, making Jack moan in protest. “You impossible, Jack Twist. Thought I’d learned you this morning, but you still a bad boy.”

“Oh, you learned me, all right,” Jack breathed, his hands going to Ennis’ face, spreading wide. “You learned me good. Just want you to learn me again, is all.” He licked his parted lips, slowly, brazenly, his eyes dark with languid invitation.

“Bad.” Ennis shook his head. “Naughty.” He closed the little distance that remained between them.

His mouth found Jack’s with soft abruptness, a little inward catch of breath at contact, and both felt the hot, liquid, electric pulse deep in the belly that made them surge together yearningly. Jack’s fingers wound themselves into Ennis’ curly hair and he gave himself with joy into the kiss, surrendering and conquering both as his lover devoured what he had taken.

It was Ennis who broke the kiss, as Jack reached between them.

“Uh, uh.” He pulled Jack’s hand away. “Now you gone lie there and be good. Got to do me some checkin.”

“Checkin?” Jack frowned, prepared at a moment’s notice to complain.

Ennis shook his head. “Fell on you pretty hard. Mighta hurt you.” He came to his knees, crouched low over Jack. “Then you was wrasslin around, tryin a get away. Got to check you good.” He ran his hands meditatively along the line of Jack’s shoulders. “Any stockman worth his pay gone take good care of his little bull calf. Huh?”

Jack shivered, and settled. “That what I am? Thought I was a jackrabbit.”

Ennis frowned. “You a damn nuisance, is what you are. Run off, get in trouble, just a bad little bull calf won’t stop runnin away from his mama.” The deep voice made the words a caress. “Always havin to fuss with you, make sure you ain’t killed yourself.” Large hands slid down Jack’s muscular arms, admiring the sleek, wiry lines.

“Gone take care of me, ain’t ya?” Jack asked softly, great eyes searching his lover’s face.

“Got to,” Ennis muttered, never meeting the serious gaze. He bent, his lips grazing Jack's collarbone “You worth too much.”

Jack caught his breath, his eyes closing. “Ennis,” he whispered. “Ennis.”

“Shh. And stop wigglin. You a fussy little thing.” Ennis breathed. But Jack couldn’t have held still to save his life. Ennis seemed determined to run his large, callused hands over every inch of Jack’s body, slow and careful and following hands with mouth, slow, soft kisses over breast and nipples and ribs and down the center line of the belly, and Jack writhed and squirmed longingly under his touch, the heat building unbearably.

All at once Ennis’ hands checked. “Huh,” he announced. “Found somethin.”

Jack’s breathing was quick and shallow. “Yeah you have,” he panted.

Knowing fingers searched, explored, rubbed the hard shape straining against denim, slid over the slick spot. “Need to have a look at this,” Ennis decided.

“Please,” Jack gasped. “Hurts somethin terrible.” He bit his lip as Ennis undid his buckle, and then the button, and then eased the zip down to let him spring free at last.

But he couldn’t stifle a cry when a strong hand curled around his heavy shaft and began stroking. “Ennis! Oh, shit. Oh, shit.”

“Feel better when I do that?” Ennis asked with apparently clinical interest.

“Oh, fuck. Oh, fuckin Jesus, Ennis,” Jack moaned, arching into the caress. Strong fingers stroked, slid over the slickened head, rubbed the small opening. Then the other hand joined the play, and rubbed the hairy balls before slipping downward and finding that other caress that by itself could bring a man to madness.

“Ennis! Ennis!” Jack cried. “Fuck me! Fuck me, Ennis! Fuck me!”

Ennis let go abruptly and stood up. With swift economy of motion, he shed boots, socks and jeans, revealing a big, jutting erection, plum all but purple with his need. Jack’s face went slack with lust at the sight, and his eyes followed it as Ennis dropped to his knees and with the same controlled impatience, divested Jack of the remainder of his clothing. Only now did Ennis lean off to one side and make quick use of the stuff in the jar he’d once told Alma kept the lines from tangling. And then he was on Jack, pushing his legs up against his body and mounting on him, sinking into the heat with a groan torn from his belly that was answered in Jack’s tenor cry.

“Fuck me,” Jack moaned in time with the powerful thrusts that rocked him forward and back in a deep, strong rythym. “Come on. Come on, Ennis, fuck me. Fuck me hard. I want it hard. Damn…oh, damn, you’re so big…you’re so fuckin big…oh, shit, oh shit, you gotta fuck me so hard, come on, Ennis…come on…hurt me, fuck me hard, harder, harder…Ennis …Ennis…Ennis…Ennis…”

“Oh, fuck,” Ennis gasped. “Oh, fuck. Oh. Oh. Uhhh. Uhhh. Jack. Jack, I’m comin, I’m comin. Uhhh. Uhhh…Jack. Jaaack. Uhhhh.” His body convulsed into violent spasm even as Jack’s hand went between them and with a half-dozen strokes, brought his own pent-up need bursting from him as he went into climax with his beloved.

* * *

When Jack returned to their alfresco bed, he found that Ennis had gotten there first, lit the fire to heat coffee, and was waiting for him with one of the blankets. Ennis didn’t need it himself, but Jack chilled easily always, especially after almost ten years in Childress. Dropping to his knees and lying down on his side, Jack smiled as a strong arm hooked him around the waist and pulled him close even as Ennis drew the blanket over him. He sighed as they settled into a snug pair of spoons. Ennis’ lips brushed his ear, tickling.

“Come ‘ere, cuddlebunny.”

Jack laughed. “’Cuddlebunny!’ Where’d you get that, Ennis?” His voice was laced with fond amusement.

“What’s a matter? You don’t like it?” Ennis sounded affronted.

Jack laughed again, nestling back against the lean naked body of Ennis Del Mar, reveling in the contact. “No, I like it fine. It’s kinda silly, is all. Just don’t sound like you. Kinda cute, though. ‘Cuddlebunny.’” He snickered.

Ennis rubbed his face against Jack’s shoulder. “My mama used to call me that, when I was real little.”

Jack went still. “She used a say, ‘you’re just a little cuddlebunny,’” Ennis added quietly. “Don’t know why. Guess I…just…I mean, I know I liked her a hold me a lot. –When I was little,” he added defensively.

Jack turned to face him. “Course you did! She was your mama.” His voice was fiercely compassionate, his face serious, black brows drawn tightly together as he ran a knuckle down the side of Ennis’ face. But Ennis was withdrawn now, and Jack realized he looked very much as he had one long ago night when he had still been afraid of what was between them. “I still like havin my mama hold me,” he added stoutly. “Course she don’t get to, much, not with Daddy always tellin her to leave me be or somethin,” he added. “But you bet I do hold her a few times and good when I’m there no matter what, Ennis. Cause she needs it too, I’m thinkin.” His voice became reflective, his gaze drifted off to one side. “Tell you what, I think sometimes she needs it even more than I do.” He lifted Ennis’ chin with a crooked finger and thumb, to make his lover look at him. “Cause you know, she ain’t got no Ennis to hold her. Just me.” But Ennis turned his head away, and Jack knew he was retreating further. It was time to change the subject.
“Maybe your mama thought you looked like a bunny,” he suggested lightly.

Ennis’ lips twitched. “K. E., he said I looked like a bull. Always had this forelock, and I used a kick the ground when I was standin around, like a bull pawin. And you know, bright light, always makes me kinda squint. K. E. said I always looked like I was mad.”

“Bet you was cute,” Jack teased.

Ennis met his eyes for a brief, amused moment. “Me? Huh uh. I was just a little snot-nose. Never was cute.” His eyes skated over Jack’s face. “Bet you
was, though. Huh?”

This time it was Jack whose gaze dropped. He wasn’t used to compliments from Ennis, and he knew he had just been paid one. Still, he laughed. “Hell no, I wasn’t cute! I was tall and skinny and had these big eyes. They used to stick out.” He made a goofy face at Ennis. “Other kids called me ‘bug eyes.’ And ‘fish face.’” His mouth quirked.

Ennis frowned. “I’da been there, I’da busted them kids one.”

Jack’s laugh this time was full-hearted and full of affection. “Hell you would have. You’da been callin me names right along with ‘em,” he said without heat, stroking Ennis’ face with his knuckles. “Kids is cruel. That’s the way they is. –Besides. It’s easier, just be funny. Lot less painful, too.”

They reflected on this for a moment, and then Jack looked up in surprise as Ennis’ fingers laced through his own. “That why you such a fool, Jack Twist?” Ennis’ eyes were gentle.

Again Jack had to look away. “Been that anyway, I expect,” he shrugged, mouth quirking, but his fingers tightened in Ennis’.

“Yeah, I reckon,” Ennis agreed. But he was frowning, and his mouth was working, and suddenly, just when Jack was thinking he needed kissing, Ennis sat up abruptly.

“Ain’t right,” he muttered. “Just ain’t right, Jack.” He flung the blanket aside, and stood up.

“Ain’t right, Jack,” he repeated, loudly, walking toward the fast-flowing creek. Jack, sitting up, watched him, nervous, not at all sure what it was Ennis didn’t think was right. Then Ennis turned, and flung his hands out.

“What? I don’t get it, Jack. I think about it, and I think about it, and I just don’t get it!” Ennis had no idea how arresting a sight he was in his nudity, but just for once, frowning uncertainly up at him, Jack hardly noticed.

“Why’s it wrong, Jack? Why’s it wrong, what we got? Why we gotta be way the fuck out here, hind end a nowhere, just to talk bout our mamas huggin us and them mean kids you knew?”

Jack was up off the blanket and beside him in three steps.

“I mean, why’s it matter if we want a fuck each other?” Ennis demanded. “Why we gotta be afraid a that? Huh? I mean, I could fuck ten women beside my wife, and every guy in town’d be snickerin at what a big stud bull I am, wishin they got so lucky. But they find out I fuck you, they kill me. I don’t know why. Why’s it wrong?” There were tears now, in the dark eyes. “ I just want you, Jack. I mean, that feels right to me. Why’s it wrong?”

Jack’s eyes were angry, but his anger was not at Ennis. “It ain’t wrong, Ennis,” he said in a low voice. “Listen to me, Ennis Del Mar. What we got, ain’t wrong.”

“Bible says it is,” Ennis shot back.

“That a fact?” Jack’s eyes were hot. “Bible says a lot of things. You know what? Used to know this kid, had the whole thing memorized, time he was fifteen. We used to make him tell us the dirty parts. ‘Song a Solomon,’ kind a stuff. One time he tells us, Lot done fucked his own daughters. Yeah. I looked it up. He did. You know that? And that was okay. Lot was the one, wife got turned into a pillar of salt, just cause she didn’t want to leave her house when God done destroyed Gomorrah. But it was okay with God, he fucked his kids. Tell you what. You go home, fuck your girls, then try telling the sheriff you only done it cause Lot did. See how far that get you. Bible got some good things in it, but it’s full a shit, too.”

Ennis had his own doubts, but he wasn’t ready to go quite that far, and he didn’t like Jack talking about his girls that way, either. “It’s against the law, Jack. What we do.”

“So’s speedin,” Jack shot back. “So’s drinkin before you’re sixteen. But we both done that, too. What you gone do? Everything’s against the fuckin law, Ennis. You ever had one them preachers in your church, tell you you gone go to Hell, no matter what? Yell at everybody they’s sinners, and gonna burn, and maybe they’s eighty-year-ole grammas?” Ennis nodded. “Same fuckin thing, I reckon. My mama ain’t gone to Hell, tell you that. Ain’t no way. Just some people in this world ain’t happy less everybody else is scared of their own shadow. They had their way, it’d be like Hitler. So I like lettin you stick your dick up my ass. What the fuck? We ain’t hurtin nobody.” Jack reflected for a moment, realized maybe that wasn’t quite true. “Least ways, we wouldn’t be hurtin nobody, they didn’t make us pretend we don’t want this. You know somethin? I guess I am a queer, Ennis.” Jack’s chin lifted defiantly. “I like havin your dick up my ass, so I guess that makes me a queer. Who gives a shit? It’s a bad word cause somebody decided it was. Fuck them.” Jack turned to stare out over the magnificent vista spread before him, but all his attention was on the ugliness that he and Ennis had to live with every day of their lives.

Ennis for his part didn’t know what to say. In secret, into the most private recesses of his heart, these same conclusions had crept, over the years, and would not be dislodged, but they were frightening ideas, and it distressed him desperately to hear Jack admit proudly to them. He was almost afraid for Jack, as though the very trees and rocks were listening and would betray them. It was not in him to beg Jack to be still, but he stood frowning beside his lover, silently begging him to hush, hush, they had too much to lose.

“Guess that means I’m gone to Hell,” Jack added sarcastically, nodding. “Jack Twist, rather fuck Ennis Del Mar than his wife. That’s awful, that is. Way worse than napalmin babies in Vietnam so the Commies can’t have em.” He rounded on Ennis again. “Tell you what, friend:” a long finger stabbed toward Ennis “them devils, they’re too late for me. I got me plenty of Hell right here on earth. Every damn day I’m not with you. That’s what hell is.” Jack flung his hands out. “Couldn’t be worse, less I never saw you again. You want evil? What I do with Lureen—that’s evil. She’s the most beautiful woman I ever saw, and I don’t give a shit. I married her to get out the poor house. She don’t look right, she don’t feel right, she don’t smell right and I don’t want her. I want you. But I fuck her anyway, when I need it. Sure I do. Don’t last long, and it don’t do much. Fuckin one person when you’re wantin somebody else--that’s evil. I ain’t the best man ever been born. Never said I was no saint. I drink too much, cuss too much, complain too much, and I’m lazy. I know that. But I done one thing right in my life, and that’s got you in that tent with me that night. The rest don’t mean nothing. And it ain’t nobody’s business but ours. Not then, not now, not ever.” The amazing blue eyes were full of tears.

Ennis looked away, and back. “I don’t think you cuss too much.”

Jack blinked. “What?”

Ennis shook his head. “Don’t think you cuss too much. Maybe, just about right.”

In spite of himself, Jack had to laugh, a gasping, choked-off laugh. He knew Ennis was teasing him, was trying to change the subject, uncomfortable as ever over the deeper water. Looking into the dark eyes, eyes still warm and bright, he also knew Ennis was agreeing with him.

“But you think I’m lazy.”

Ennis shrugged with his lips. “Don’t think nothin. ‘S a fact.”

“Yeah? Who’s the one, always wore out? ‘Need me some fuckin sleep?’” Jack did a creditable imitation of Ennis.

“That’s cause you make me do all the work.” But there was a gleam in the dark eyes now.

“Make you. That’s good. Ain’t never been able to ‘make you’ do nothin.”

It was Ennis’ turn to laugh. Stooping suddenly, he caught the surprised Jack up in a fireman’s carry. For several seconds he staggered perilously, Jack whooping, but at last, with a grunt he settled the load and carried Jack to the blankets, where they more or less fell together onto them in a tangle of arms and legs, laughing with the pure joy of simply being foolish together.

“Now,” Ennis murmured, pulling Jack back into his arms in front of him. “You gone let me cuddle you some, and I’m gone get me some fuckin sleep.”

Jack yawned.

“Heard that.”

Jack caught Ennis’ hand, laced their fingers together, and drew their hands to his chest. “You’re just gettin lucky,” he yawned. “I’m lettin you off real easy this time.”

“Huh. You just ain’t got nothin left.”

Jack kissed their laced fingers. “Just you wait. Cuddlebunny.”



“Knock it off, Jack,” Ennis sighed, hugging him.

And they both slept. For a while, anyway.

"Never Enough Sleep" concludes in Part Three.

Never Enough Sleep, Part 3

Never Enough Sleep, Part 3
Rated X
These characters are not mine; they are the creation of Annie Proulx.
Still with me? Read on…

After supper, Jack reclined against the log, sipping and smoking, watching Ennis wash up as the last rays of the sun painted selected distant peaks with alpenglow. Jack hardly noticed. It wasn’t that he indifferent to the changing play of light or the humbling panorama before them. It was just that he found Ennis, even dressed, of greater interest.

So pleasant was this pastime that it was not until Ennis returned to the fire and placed the empty can of peaches on one of the stones between them and the fire that Jack realized he had been rinsing it out along with the pots and plates. He had no idea why Ennis hadn’t burned the can, but he was too happy and relaxed to care. It came as a complete surprise, then, when Ennis hove into view with a fistful of lupine, which he dropped into the can with deliberate carelessness as he shot a somewhat defiant look at Jack.

Jack felt his chest tighten, but he knew better than to show any sign of the painful tenderness that lanced him at Ennis’ completely unprecedented gesture. You sweet-hearted son of a bitch. Just when I think I got you all figured, you just about kill me. He nodded as Ennis dropped to the blankets beside him and adjusted his pillow so that he too could lean back against the log. Ennis got a cigarette going and passed back the offered bottle. A few minutes passed before he nudged a foot toward the peach can.

“Always liked them blue ones. Don’t know what they called.”

“Yeah. They’s nice.” Jack gave no sign he knew why Ennis had collected the flowers. “But you need the other ones too. The Dutchman trousers.” And he rolled off the blankets to collect some, both the red and the yellow. Arranging them untidily in the can among the lupine, he stood back to survey his work in the firelight. “Pretty. They was growin in that meadow where you punched me that time.” Happy anniversary to you, too. He slipped back to Ennis’ side.

“You sure?” Ennis was pretty good, too, at elaborately casual.

“Yep.” As he had lain clutching his head and moaning, a clump of stepped-on red columbine had been in Jack’s field of view. The pain, the shock, and the flowers were his memory of those moments.

“It hurt?”

Jack snugged his shoulder up against his friend. “Couldn’t hardly touch it for a week.” He slipped his large hand to Ennis’ thigh, where Ennis’ right hand covered his. “Daddy slapped it.” He hadn’t meant to say it, the words just slipped out.

Ennis stared at him, frowning. “Slapped where I hit you? Why?”

Jack shrugged, avoiding his eyes, wishing he hadn’t brought it up. He hadn’t thought about it in years, but he couldn’t remember the punch without remembering that, too. “Thought I was sassin’ him. I wasn’t.” Remembered resentment colored his voice.

Soft lips touched his face, exactly where the blow had landed, and they rested there together, head to head. And then the words, so soft that for a moment Jack wasn’t sure he’d heard them correctly:

“I’m sorry.”

Jack was so surprised that he broke his cardinal rule for this man with the exceedingly low startle point: he turned, wide-eyed, lips parting, and then cursed himself for being so obvious. But Ennis wasn’t turning away, or frowning, or getting up. He was staring back, his face serious, his dark eyes direct and unflinching and suspiciously bright as Ennis Del Mar studied his lover’s face in the gathering gloom,

Jack’s heart began to race as he saw the serious gaze change, saw the lines of the face shift, soften. He held perfectly still, his breathing going shallow, his lips parting.

His hand going to the back of Jack’s head, Ennis drew their faces together. “Kiss me, Jack,” he breathed, and as Jack was about to do just that, Ennis fell back and pulled Jack on top of him.

Desire exploded white-hot in Jack Twist’s belly, sweet and painful at the same time, as he found himself on top of Ennis Del Mar. It was rare, it was awfully rare, but he knew he had just been given an invitation. He stared down into the dark eyes, eyes others usually found hooded and unrevealing, and met a gaze that only here, in the sacred and secret mountains, and only with him, the other half, revealed the heart, unashamed and unafraid. Jack Twist leaned over his lover and accepted the invitation.

His soft mouth brushed, feathered against curved lips already parted for him. Pulse after pulse of desire washed through him as he hovered there, tasting delicately, his tongue slipping and sliding over the open lips, tracing their shape, letting the deep hunger build. And then Ennis moaned, a deep, animal sound, and Jack wound himself around his beloved, and took his mouth.

Ennis was bewildered by the force of his desire as Jack’s mouth came down on his. He had called Jack his teacher, but in truth he had needed little more than the right encouragement to release a sensuality easily the match of Jack’s. And he knew Jack had spoken truth: it wasn’t wrong. It was only bad because someone had decided it was. There was no way it could be wrong, when they both wanted it so much, and it felt so good. So right. He wound his arms around Jack, and pulled him down.

One heart, two bodies. Two bodies, one soul. And, in that moment, no lying, and no hiding. Only need. And love.

It was always like this. The fire met the fuel, consumed it and was consumed in the doing. Jack’s mouth was quick and
greedy, his tongue teasing and eager, impatient, devouring, and it had its answer in Ennis’ unchecked passion, a hunger no kiss could ever satisfy, tender and untamable, a raw life-force. Jack could pull back again and again, questing, but the need to deepen the kiss, to surrender utterly, was irresistible. So had it been ten years before. So it would always be. His mouth locked at last on Ennis’, and they kissed as though starved for the taste of each other.

Somewhere in the forceful, fluid shifting of long bodies against each other, the hands found their own way, and by the time Jack broke the kiss with a cry, shirts had been pulled loose and quite a lot of buttons had been dismissed from their daily work of holding things together. Jack, coming to his knees to pull off shirt and undershirt, found that Ennis came with him, not letting him get away for an instant, snatching quick kisses even as the two men wrestled out of sleeves and helped each other get quit of what was in the way. Chests bared at last, they swayed together, fingers laced, kissing, Jack’s hard manhood nuzzling boldly against its rigid partner. And then Ennis was standing, and pulling Jack with him to his feet.
Again their eyes met, now with the blaze of real desire incandescent between them. Firelight limned them from the side, and they were transported back in time, to the night when they had first seen each other this way. Jack might have been a young love-god, luminously beautiful in a way not often granted to mortal men, while Ennis, as the chains loosed themselves from his shuttered soul, was revealed in his own more subtle beauty, a more martial sort perhaps, a face that in youth could sometimes seem callow and almost plain, but which as it matured would become both striking and memorable in its utter masculinity. Standing there together, they knew what they had in each other, and were glad.

“Ten years, huh?” Ennis said, his dark voice like honey.

“Give or take,” was all the spellbound Jack could muster in answer. Ennis did not often look at him as he was looking now.

Ennis nodded. “Think I’ll take.” And he knelt in front of Jack.

Jack closed his eyes and licked his lips. He had thought…but he was not about to deny Ennis if Ennis was in this mood, either. Kissing was not all Ennis did well with his mouth.

Careful and capable hands found him, and Jack bit his lip as strong fingers rubbed the aching ridge and slid slowly over the slick spot. He knew Ennis felt it when his painfully confined manhood jerked against the firm caress.

“Oh, Ennis.” His long fingers slipped into the ragged curls.

Then, at last, the belt was clinking as it was unbuckled, and the button, and zipper, were giving in that abrupt way known to every man when his cock is ready to force its way out. And even as Jack’s denims were slipping, Ennis’ hands, and
mouth, were moving over his belly, and down.

“Mmm,” Ennis murmured. “’S nice. Nice, soft skin, Jack.” He was kissing, and nuzzling, muttering against the skin, and they could both feel Jack’s belly flutter in response. “Soft skin and hard muscle. Like that.” Jack’s eyes closed and his lips parted as the big hands played over breast and ribs and abdomen before sliding down to the thighs.

Ennis drew back now to admire what he had bared. In the firelight, Jack’s whole athletic body was gilded, and the effect was breathtaking. Jack was not as whipcord lean as he had been at nineteen, but the view was still one to draw, and fill, the eyes. Ennis’ eyes drank in the view, the most beautiful thing by far nature had ever made, until at last his gaze wandered down the centerline of the strong young body to the place where the dark line of hair suddenly, and excitingly, dived into a tangled patch just above the hardest muscle of all, thrust up rude and unashamed and begging for his attention.

“Nice, Jack,” Ennis murmured, and Jack could feel the warm breath close. “Real, real nice.”

“Ain’t as big as yours.” Jack’s voice was breathless with anticipation.

Ennis acknowledged this with a warm swipe of his tongue that slid up the rigid tool. Jack gasped.

“Nope. But it’s still real nice,” Ennis growled softly, and then, with a swirl of tongue around the large, handsome bell-end, he wrapped his big hands around Jack’s tight buttocks and swallowed him down nearly to the whiskers.

“Oh, Ennis,” Jack groaned, almost protestingly, as he was captured and swallowed and devoured. “Oh, shit. Oh, shit.”

The taste, the texture, the scent, were maddening. Ennis’ fingers dug in, spurring Jack forward even as he drew back to give suck where it was so badly needed. Feet planted apart, Jack wrapped one arm around his head and hung on for dear life to Ennis’ shoulder with the other as he rocked tightly back and forth.

“Oh, my God,” he groaned. “Ennis. Ennis. Easy…easy, Ennis…easy. Oh, shit…oh, shit. Oh, God, that’s so good. Oh, damn, Ennis. Oh, damn, you’re just gonna make me come doing that!” Ennis knew what Jack liked: he was pulling down with one hand after the other, hard, only down, always down, while at the same time giving relentless suck.

“Oh sweet Jesus,” Jack gasped. “It’s like you’re sucklin on me. Go on. Go on and suck. I know you’re hungry. You’re so hungry. Just suck my cock, Ennis. Oh, damn…you’re so fuckin greedy. You gonna make me come. --Ennis! Easy, Ennis! Don’t hurt me, Ennis! Please! Please don’t hurt me.” Ennis was using his teeth now, nipping just so, something he’d done by accident once, but on purpose since, sometimes, since that first time it had made the startled Jack go off like a Fourth of July firework. Ennis was always a little unpredictable, and sometimes it did hurt. Jack felt it all the way down, a jolt of stinging adrenaline iced around the edges with fear, and in that moment, Jack Twist was utterly and all the way alive.

And then Ennis did something else, fingers slipping between and inside, and with a cry torn from deep inside, Jack was
sent hurtling into space.

“Ennis! Ennis! Oh, Ennis! Ennis! Oh, my God! Oh! Ohhhh! Ohhhh, shit! Ohhhh, Ennis!” His head was flung back as his body began to convulse.

He had hardly begun to get his breath back before Ennis was on his feet confronting him, eyes almost feral in their intensity, big hands spreading over his face, kissing him all over, quick and soft and hungry over flushed cheeks and high cheekbones and closed eyes, lips touching the mole over his upper lip before taking the gasping mouth again and then pulling back abruptly.

“Get down,” Ennis said hoarsely, and in two crisp movements had his jeans pulled open.

Dazed, Jack went to his knees, the euphoria of release singing in his blood. His hands, and lips, did their own exploration,
moving over the hard golden body, seeking, as Ennis had sought, the rucked lines of scars old and new, the bone under the muscle, the hard nipples, the small dimple of navel, but down, always down, until they found it, hard and hot and hugely extended, rearing proudly from the jeans, scorning the confines of clothing, longing for other confinement.
Jack felt dizzy as he drew in the heavy musk and followed it, like a bee to the nectar, to the source. Instinct took over and his lips parted, tasting salt.

Ennis groaned as he felt his rigid cock slide slowly into a soft, coaxing suck. The first time Jack had kissed and licked his way down, on that night they were now celebrating, Ennis hadn’t been quite sure…until Jack’s mouth had enclosed him, just like this, and they both had discovered just exactly what joy was. Ennis had let Jack get his fly open for a taste so many times in the days that followed that there were times he really wished he could just go naked. It was a wonder the zipper had held. Even now, sometimes, Ennis wondered, because Jack had never lost his taste for this particular act of worship. And he sent up another prayer of thanks for that.

“Oh, damn, Jack. You got to stop that. Stop doin that all the damn time,” Ennis groaned, his hard buttocks flexing, pushing. Now it was Jack’s turn to be greedy, and noisy, giving a deep, rough suck to the anxious cock working itself in and out of his hungry mouth.

“Oh, fuck!” It was too good. Ennis was quite capable of making it last an hour, but never with Jack. Not like this. “Oh, fuck. It ain’t right, Jack. Ain’t right. You gotta stop.” Jack knew damn well the last thing on earth Ennis wanted him to do was stop. He’d done it one time, pulled away, just to tease, and Ennis had cuffed him in the side of the head, and not very gently either, eyes fathomless and blazing. Ennis could take teasing sometimes, but not these times. Ennis always tried to hold back, to protest, when he felt his control slipping, and Jack knew it. Long careful fingers rubbed the balls, even as Jack’s educated tongue flicked and speared all around the big cockhead, over the tiny opening, and at last, batted again and again at the place, the place, the sweet secret spot where spearhead joined shaft… And Ennis lost the battle. Again.
“Jack. Jack! Oh, fuck. Don’t stop. I need…need…need…uhhh…uhhh…oh, fuck…ohhhh, fuck!” Ennis’ eyes flew open as his whole existence shrank to a pinpoint of exquisite pain, and then blew apart.

They fell together to the blankets, tangling into a clumsy embrace. Both were still strangely on edge, quivering with the depth of release, but unrelaxed, unsatisfied. In a moment they were rolling around, but not playfully, each trying to get the upper hand as they freed themselves from their remaining clothes. For several minutes the only sounds to be heard were harsh breathing and grunts from Ennis and Jack’s soft whining. To the surprise of both, it was, again, Jack who ended up on top, and as their long bodies writhed together, their mutual movements had an almost desperate quality. Jack found with a dreamy sort of inevitability that he was hard again, which at nineteen had been normal for him, but ten years on was damn near miraculous. Ennis, too, was coming erect again. Somehow, on this night, it didn’t seem strange.

And then Ennis pulled away from the kiss, and let go one word:


It was the same invitation he had given once already, and both knew that this was why they were still needful, still nearly frantic for each other.

Without haste or hesitation either, Jack reached for the small jar, spun the top off, and dug two fingers in. It had been a long day, and he was, finally, nearly as tired as Ennis, but his strength rallied this one last time, his focus, indeed his whole world, narrowing to this one thing he absolutely had to do.

Surging over Ennis, he pushed his lover’s legs up and had entry. It was a slow and dreamy fall, Ennis wide-eyed, tense but trusting, and wanting, Jack sated enough to be patient and loving until the joining was complete and they were one. Now there was no sound except for the crackle and spit of the fire, burning low now, bodies not so much gilded as glowing softly, and the kind of deep breathing that is never the same as the breathing of rest. They were wrapped around each other, Jack giving himself utterly to the man he loved, Ennis’ guard stripped away, allowing him just for a little while to be totally defenseless, the greatest gift he could give the one he cared for most in all the world. Their loving this time was a slow, powerful tidal surge, deep and ceaseless as they clung to each other against the world’s hate and brutality.

It seemed to last forever, and perhaps in a way it did, for each moment while it did last was the only moment that mattered, or ever would. But at last Ennis began to gasp, and Jack to thrust harder, and faster, and Jack got a hand between them to cover Ennis’as they found deep and complete release with each other once more.

For a little time they lay motionless, shattered. Ennis felt Jack’s hot tears on his shoulder, mingling with those slipping slowly down the sides of his face. Jack stirred slightly, wanting to make a remark, but he was simply too drained to waste breath on speech. Gradually their breathing slowed, and they became aware of a universe beyond themselves, the soft stirring of the night wind, the tentative “whoo-who” of an early owl, the acrid smoke of the dying fire. Neither wanted to move, neither wanted to end this rare moment of complete peace, but the night was becoming chill, and at last Jack shivered, and pulled away. They stumbled first to the stream and then, pillows and blankets in arm, to the tent. Deeply relaxed and sleepy, they fell into each other’s embrace, Jack wrapping around Ennis and nuzzling his neck.

“That was fuckin amazing, Ennis,” Jack sighed into his friend’s ear. “Actually, you’re fuckin amazing.”

Ennis, fading fast, hugged the arms Jack had wrapped around his waist. “I’m fuckin half dead, is what I am,” he growled. “Can I get me some fuckin sleep now?”

Jack laughed softly. “You can sleep when you go home, Ennis!”

There was a small silence, and then, quietly:

“I am home.”

And it was then, his living breath stirring his lover’s hair, that Jack said, very softly, the words which he did sometimes dare to say, at moments like this, in a voice so soft that only someone very close would hear it, and even then, might not. Unless he were listening, half-hoping, for those words to be said.

And after that, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist finally got some fuckin sleep.

Good Night.