by Milady Hawke

He dreamed of Jack again last night, woke up rubbing the bleary sleep from his eyes along with the visions of a little ranch and the wide open nowhere, just the two of them herding in an endless summer under skies as clear as the springs below Brokeback.

Ennis half staggers, half spills out of bed, plucks an old shirt from off the floor that's been lying there only half a week, pulls it on. In the kitchen he turns on a gas burner so he can bend to the flame and light himself a smoke, while the crisp light of autumn shoots through the cracked blinds, bright and clear but lacking warmth. He dumps yesterday's coffee into a pan and slides the pan over the burner.

It's always the same dream, Ennis muses, because deep in his gut he always knew Jack was right. We could a had a good life, maybe down in Mexico, a real good life.

And those dreams have been more insistent lately.

He remembers how in a second's split hair the knowledge hit him like a sucker punch to his stomach, that last winter camping along the Hail Strew River, and it dropped him to his knees by the side of Jack's pickup. Couple a high-altitude fucks several times a year for about the past twenty, that was what Jack said, and it was Ennis's fault - his to cherish until he fixed the situation. And it was hard hearing Jack say how he couldn't barely stand it, how he wished he could have quit Ennis.

A real good life they could have had, like those biting cold nights on the slopes of Brokeback, toward the end of August when fall was almost breaking, the two of them plunking at empty cans with an old six shooter or whittling away sticks from the pile of firewood. Early frost and pale moonlight and nothing much but the two of them drowsing against each other while they swapped a bottle of liquor between them. Warmth deep and content in their bellies, growing, their mouths tonguing back and forth in front of the fire the sweet taste of whiskey and Jack. And it would always end in a bedroll, Jack pulled up on his hands and knees or lying on his side with Ennis curled up behind him, his hand gripping bruises into Jack's hip as he thrust.

But it wasn't the sex, it was never that. It was good, yeah, but Ennis would wake in the light before dawn with a mass of dark mountains looming chilly before him and the earth as snug as a real bed, not wanting to disentangle himself from Jack's warmth, and it was never just on account of the cold.

You wouldn't do it, Ennis...

An age later and he can still hear Jack's voice breaking years of unsaid things over him, can still see Jack's eyes fixing on him before he drove away that last time.

... so what we got now is Brokeback Mountain. Everything built on that. It's all we got, boy, fuckin all, so I hope you know that if you don't never know the rest.

The pan hisses steam, stale coffee boiling on the stove. Ennis tips the pan into a mug, blows on the coffee, and before taking a sip he allows the smell of those mornings with Jack to rise around him.

He sees Jack's face again next to him in the bedroll, smiling this time, and Ennis thinks to himself, he ain't afraid no more.

An old six shooter's hanging off his belt and there's a little ranch waiting.


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