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Love In the Time of Drought

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Ennis had loved Jack for half of his life. But then…it was over. Well, they weren’t meeting up no more. They weren’t lovin’ each other once or twice a year no more. He hadn’t seen Jack in years. It was for the best, he was sure…but he wasn’t gonna fret over it. He couldn’t, or he’d never climb outta that bottle sitting on his shelf. So, he worked, he saw Junior and Jenny every now and then when they could afford a little time in their busy lives for him. It was enough.

Work had been particularly hard that day, long and tough, and his boss wasn’t warming up to that tall blond cowboy with time. Not that he’d thought the man might. He was all fire and brimstone, and looked on his weather-hardened ranch hand like one might look on shit on their shoes. So, he wasn’t particularly in the right frame of mind to smile when he saw that package…from Childress, Texas.

Jack Fuckin’ Twist. God damn that man.

He went inside, the slim package tucked under his arm, dropped it on the table, and went to wash the day’s work off his calloused hands. The hell was Jack sending him now? The hell was he doin’ intruding on his quiet life now that Ennis had finally convinced himself he didn’t need the man no more? Fuckin’ Twist.

Muttering swear words that woulda made his daddy blush under his breath, he tore the package open and blinked. The….The fuck?

“Love Letters for the Man I Always Loved” By Jack Twist.

Huh?

He flipped open the pretty, worn, leather-bound journal and read the first of many yellowed, stained, ripped here and there, pages.

“Dear Ennis, If you’re reading this, there’s two possibilities. Either I am dead and we lived together the life I had hoped…or we finally gave up. I started this journal back on Brokeback Mountain, herding sheep and…learnin’ each other in a special way. Those days, you burrowed deep inside me in more ways than one, Ennis. You broke into my soul, my heart. You’ve filled my mind with dreams and want. And, since you’re such a dipshit, I wasn’t able to tell you all these words to your face. But I wanted to tell you…someday, some way. And this was the only way I could find where you’d let me say my peace. So, here we go.

Love, Jack Twist.”


 

Ennis had a beer, his stained old recliner, the TV on low, and the elephant in the room sitting heavily on his lap. A god damn journal. That blue-eyed man of his and his words. Well, he wasn’t his man no more, and Ennis wasn’t sure he ever had been. But, those thoughts were just him not wanting to crack open that book again. Every time he looked at it, his stupid, patched up heart started beating too fast again.

Fuck. He was all wrought up over that dumbass all over again. No lie, god damn Jack Twist. If he ever saw that beautiful bastard again, he was gonna wring his skinny neck. His neck that Ennis had lined with his mark more than once.

He shook his head and took a swig of his Bud again. Time to face the music, Jack had a right to his say after all this time.

“August 1963.

Me and Ennis have actually been getting on pretty good. He talks more, instead of just grunting at me whenever I ask a question. Although, I gotta say, I was starting to interpret those grunts pretty well. Now that I know the man has some words in him, I’ve been trying to get him to talk every now and then. Sometimes he even sings. For such a quiet fucker, he’s got a real nice voice. He’ll sing hymns and songs he heard his momma sing, or picked up over the years. A lot of them are old campfire songs you’d hear any old cowboy sing in the quiet of the night. But, I’m beginning to think he’s not just any old cowboy…

I guess it ain’t no surprise that I’ve been lookin’ on him more than I should. He’s a nice tall drink of water, ya know? I knew that the second I saw him standing outside Aguirre’s office. Blond and skinny, with the softest brown eyes I ever seen. Not that he shows them off too often. He’s as shy with them pretty eyes as he is with his words.

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I…I think he’s been lookin’ on me differently too. I keep catching him watching me, but maybe he just thinks I’m funny lookin’. Or maybe that’s just his damn negativity rubbing off on me. Mmm, rubbing off…”

Ennis couldn’t help the snort of near laughter at that. Jack’s mind was a damn insane asylum. But…he remembered those early days, that long-but-too-damn-short summer he spent with that crazy boy in the cold, beautiful mountains. They’d both done a lot of staring, a lot of furtive glances stolen as swiftly as they could be, but just looks had never quenched that curiosity in their young, hot blood. Ennis had nearly worn his dick off that summer. Him and his hand had never been so well-acquainted as they were that first month.

He’d never imagined how hard it must’ve been for Jack, waiting on him to get a fuckin’ clue. Jack, who knew who he was, and accepted it. Waiting on his stupid ass to get the hint of what them blue eyes were trying to get across. He couldn’t help but smile, just slightly, at the memory of the fire dancing in Jack’s blue eyes, a smile lighting up that young, mischievous face, hair askew as he ran his hand through it. The flash of white teeth when he grumbled something that made Jack laugh. The sound of his voice calling out a farewell as he got on his horse and went up to watch over the sheep. His stomach jumped, and his chest ached for what could’ve been…and for what had been, once upon a time.

It’d been almost twenty years since that summer…so why was Jack dredging all this up again? They'd quit each other, hadn’t they? What the fuck did Jack want to do to him?

He dropped the journal to the floor with a dull thud, drained his beer, and dropped his head back against the back of his old chair, and stared at the water spot on his ceiling. Slowly, he shook his head and closed his eyes.

Jack Fuckin’ Twist.

Chapter Text

Ennis dreamed of Brokeback. It'd happened once or twice before, but never so vividly. It was like nineteen year old Jack Twist was standing right there in front of him, grinning like a fool and trying to make him laugh or smile or even twitch. But...it was like he was outside his body, watching as he resisted every advance, every tease and taunt, every plea in those big blue eyes. For some reason, he'd always wished he'd never met Jack. Like it might make his life easier somehow. But...deep down, in his heart of hearts, he knew that wasn't true. So, he screamed at dream-Ennis, voice going hoarse as he begged him to let Jack in, let him see that man hidden beneath the coldness and bitterness and unhinged fury. He screamed and screamed until he woke up, panting and sweating bullets, the cold air from the open window chilling him down to his bones. 

 

This was life without Jack, he realized. Looking around his small home, he realized how very empty and hollow it was, he was. Although he'd never admitted it out loud, Jack was the life inside him. It's why things with the bar girl didn't work out, why he and Alma hadn't worked no matter how hard he tried. It's why, despite all his fears, he'd quit jobs and quit his family to meet Jack a few times a year. It wasn't the fucking, or the need for that feeling of a man on his skin...it was that Jack reached inside him and lit him up in a way no woman ever had or could. Jack held some control over him, let the man he could've been shine through. He wasn't living without that crazy dumbass in his life. 

 

Getting up with creaky, stiff joints and a sore back, he wandered in to take a piss. On the way back to his lumpy little mattress, he stubbed his toe on some stick of furniture, and cursed Jack Twist for turning him into this man who got up in the middle of the night, pining like a damn woman. Instead of heading back to his bed like a level-headed man who had to be up early the next day, he flipped on the light and grabbed that journal he'd been avoiding. He was good at avoiding, but...he'd decided that Jack had a right to his say, and it wouldn't do him no good to ignore that nagging Jack-voice in his head. 

 

"August 1963.

 

On a freezing cold night on Brokeback Mountain, Ennis Del Mar fucked the hell out of Jack Twist. There. I said it. Finally. Because ya know, Ennis would probably explode into a billion little pieces if I said it to him. The look he gave me this morning could've killed a weaker man. Fuckin' hell. What am I gonna do? The damn man hates my guts. It wasn't like I lured him into the tent with the purpose of seducing him! It just...happened. And it was so damn good. He's a god in the sack, even if he don't make no noise besides a few harsh grunts-"

 

Ennis snapped the journal shut, cheeks bright red and cock hard. That first time hadn't been their best, but...fuck, it was hot reading about it from Jack's point of view. They'd both been so worked up, and waking up to his hand on Jack's hard cock...He shook his head. And reopened the journal. He was forty years old, he could control himself better than this, even if it was just to be that one extra fuck-you to Jack Twist for making him relive this.

 

"Can you tell I'm all over the place? Pfft. Who am I talking to? Myself? Has that idiot cowboy finally twisted me all up into a crazy man who talks to himself through written word? Shit. It ain't like he's ever gonna speak to me again, or look at me, or come within fifteen feet of me. But...there's more to him than I first thought. There's some dreams under all that fear. There's a hard-working man with a gentle way with horses. He could probably gentle that damn filly I've been riding in fifteen minutes. There's pride and a desire to do better than sitting up here with a bunch of woolies and my stupid ass. And I don't just want to get fucked by that man. I want more, god damn it! 

 

Christ Almighty, Ennis. What am I gonna do if you don't never speak to me again? Curiosity killed the cat, ya know. And I ain't aiming to go out like some fuckin' kitten. I'll fix this. I can do it. My momma always said I could charm the last dollar out of a homeless man, and I'll charm you back into liking me. Jack Twist don't give up so easily, boy."

 

Jack Twist hadn't given up...for another two decades. And knowing that man was giving up on him, that was far worse than his divorce had been. There was so much history between them, so much bitterness he could taste it even now, heavy like blood on his tongue. The way he'd broken down over Jack Twist...the way he'd cried for that man. And he'd given up on them. Or maybe they both had. He'd gotten lazy about his man, stopped giving him what he needed. But it weren't all his fault. Jack had gone to Mexico, not him. Jack had given up on them before he had. Jack had given away what he'd believed was his alone. 

 

He sighed, sitting on his bed with the well-worn little journal in his hands, head bowed. What the fuck did Jack want from him? Was this just him getting in the last word? Was he supposed to believe Jack was giving him a second chance by pouring out his damn soul like this? Love letters, his ass. This was a drought in love, and he didn't see no rain in sight. His heart couldn't take no more of this, of wanting what he couldn't have. Jack Twist was an addiction, and it was time loving him was a habit to kick. 


 

 Jack Twist was nothing if not stubborn. More stubborn than stupid cowboys from Wyoming and pretty barrel racers from Texas. And that journal he'd written for Ennis for twenty god damn years, well, that was just the proof of it. He wasn't sure what in the ever loving hell had possessed him to write it. He wasn't sure why he'd started writing about Ennis up there in that lonely mountain. All he knew was that he'd seen something in that man that screamed to him, pulled his heart right out of his chest and melded it with Ennis Del Mar's dark, lonely heart. Those big brown doe eyes and that tiny, repressed smile seduced him before he could put a stop to it. Some things you just didn't have no control over. 

 

And he certainly didn't have any control over Ennis. But that wouldn't stop him. Ennis had been a balm for his soul, a dream and a nightmare, an addiction he'd never figured out how to quit. That man drove him up the fuckin' wall, but he'd never really been able to give up on him. Which was why he'd sent that journal, why he'd told him at the very end to meet him up on Brokeback. It'd seemed poetic, to start again where it had all began. It was a second chance at this thing between them, even if Ennis had told him it was a oneshot thing. It had never been just once, it'd been once more, just one more time with the man I love before I go back to the sheep, or the woman I married, or the kids I refuse to leave behind. It'd been them putting the pause on life for a few days every year to heal that pain boiling inside them. It'd been something to soothe that ache they refused to name, out of fear, or confusion, or just plain ignorance. That saying, ignorance is bliss? No shit.

 

He'd needed Ennis to hear his side of the story, their story. He'd needed him to see his dreams as well as his fear as well as his courage as well as his cowardice. He'd needed Ennis to shut up and listen to him, just this once. For how little that man spoke, he could say a lot with a look that only lasted a few seconds. More than once, he'd shut Jack up with those damn brown eyes. But this...all he'd written in that journal had to be said before they could officially divorce each other. 

 

Ennis hadn’t never known true love, not from his momma and daddy, his big brother and sister, his wife…maybe his kids, but even they took their old, soft as the summer breeze daddy for granted. He could see it in how Ennis spoke on himself, ain’t no one ever loved him like Jack could, and would, if he’d give him this one last chance. This hail-mary he was asking for. And Jack knew, in his heart of hearts, Ennis wanted it too.

 

So, he’d done it. He’d sent the journal, and prayed to a god he wasn’t sure he believed in, that just maybe Ennis wouldn’t throw it in the trash. Maybe he’d read it, and listen to what he was saying…and give them the chance they deserved. Anything was possible, right?


 

 "November, 1963.

 

Some nights, it’s so lonely without you, Ennis. (When the hell I started writing this to you, I don’t even fuckin’ know). I swear sometimes my chest hurts for wanting you by my side. You got me so torn up, boy, I can’t even see straight. Driving away from you up in Signal, that was the damned hardest thing I’ve ever done. Ain’t nothin’ right when you’re so god damn far away. Probably married to your gal, now, ain’t even thinking on me. That hurts, Ennis. It hurts something fierce.

 

I thought I could do it, ya know. Thought I could get that stubborn cowboy to run away with me. Silly, I know. But, you made me silly on love. Yeah, love. I said it. And maybe it’s all the whiskey I been drinking tonight, but I swear I mean it. I love you, Ennis Del Mar. You fuckin’ asshole cowboy. You’re the air in my lungs, the beat of my heart, the light in the dark. You’re all that keeps me going sometimes, and you ain’t even here.

 

I keep hoping that I’ll wake up, and you’ll be here in this stupid truck with me, sleeping by my side, just as drunk as I am, holding my hand here in the dark. You never did that up on Brokeback, too sure you weren’t queer. I think we were both liars, sayin’ that. I know I was, and you sure seem like a liar to me, too. I’m gonna find you one day, boy, and make an honest man out of you. One day, Del Mar.

 

Fuck, I’m in love with a dumbass cowboy."

Chapter Text

1967.

Fuck. Four fuckin’ years, and here he lays beside me. Four fuckin’ years apart, and I’m lookin’ down on that blond hair like he was never gone. I never thought this day would come, driving away up there in Signal, Wyoming, I thought I wouldn’t never see Ennis Del Mar again. But, here we are in some shitty one-horse town, in some pay-by-the-hour motel in Wyoming.

It took some doin’, but I finally found out where he was, sent him a postcard, and…he responded. Even getting so far as finding out where he was living with his new wife, I wasn’t too sure I’d get any response. Our parting up on Brokeback wasn’t too pretty, me with a bruise on my cheek and him a bloody nose…I didn’t know how he felt no more.

But the way he burst through that door above the Laundromat in Riverton…that hug…the kiss that made my legs turn to cooked noodles. I know now. I know a lot of things I never knew about you, Ennis. And I know that fear that kept us apart after Brokeback, it ain’t gone. It’s still burrowed deep inside your core, and it ain’t goin’ nowhere. You got your family now, no matter how you might feel about me, and you ain’t gonna change nothin’. Ain’t nothing ever going to change with you, my roots-deep Wyoming man.

But, we are gonna see each other again. We’re goin’ fishing while I’m here, all the way from fuckin’ Childress, Texas, for fuck’s sake. I know this can work, Ennis, if you’d just give me a chance. I drove all the god damn way across the country for you, you dumbass. Stupid fuckin’ Rodeo, just like L.D. says. Course, he don’t think much of me no how, and he has no clue I’m banging the cowboy from my days before Lureen. Cheating on her, in a way. I wonder what he’d do if he knew?

Let’s never find out, and live in the never-dream world of Ennis Del Mar.


 

1967.

Driving away from him was even harder this time. Days together, such short days, way out in the middle of nowhere, no chance of running into a soul. We didn’t fish for even a second, just drank by the fire and ate some jerky we picked up from a store on the way. Having him by my side in that truck, it was the closest thing to right I’ll ever feel. Home. Shelter. A haven.

He told me the story of his father showing him a man who’d lived with another man when he was a child. A man killed brutally, dragged by his dick till it tore off. What must that have done to his view of the world? Especially with those words, ‘for all I know, he did the deed himself.’ Nine years old, and my Ennis was shut off from me for good.

Shit, Ennis, do you even know what you make me dream of? What you make me want? You say it’s all my fault you’re this way, I know you think I’m the cause of all your desires that you think you can’t have…but do you even know how badly you got me tore up over you? I can’t think of nothing else somedays. Nothing but you and me and that dream-ranch that’ll never come to be.

Most men have fantasies of women with giant tits and perfect asses and cunts made for their dick. You wanna know what my fantasy is? You and me and that ranch, running cattle and working hard together, every day. Sharing a bed and a life, free from all this…all this responsibility that sits so heavy on your shoulders. I didn’t want Lureen to get pregnant, didn’t want to be saddled with that baby. What was I thinking, Ennis? Driving away from you, letting you walk away to that girl you had in Wyoming?

I guess that’s why when we open our mouths to talk up there in those hidden away places where we share ourselves, we don’t talk about our wives and kids and jobs…we talk about those old times, those days upon days we had up in Brokeback, why you always get mad at me if I ask you to run away with me and start up that always-gonna-be-a-dream-ranch.

But I can’t let it go. It might do me more harm than good, might wittle me away to nothing more than a stub…but I can’t let it go. I can’t let you go.


 

June 1963.

Ennis was way up on the mountain with the sheep, still. But Jack was down in the camp, all his chores done, laying in the grass and staring up at the clouds floating past in the blue sky. His mind was alive with what would happen after this shitty time up here on this desolate mountain. Wasn’t nobody up here but him and Ennis and the sheep. It wasn’t all bad, despite Aguirre making them break the rules, one of them sleeping up there in the cold with the sheep. Ennis had taken over night duty with the sheep not too long ago, and he couldn’t deny he preferred it that way. Them long nights didn’t suit him like they did Ennis.

He closed his eyes, letting himself float away into dreamland, imagining their small cattle-ranch, running it with his Wyoming man, fixing fences and wrestling all the time, pulling each other down in the dirt and…well, some things were better in reality than in imagination, although his dick sure wasn’t complaining.

He jolted when a hard-toed boot connected lightly with his ribs. He blinked awake with a snort of surprise, blinking up at a grinning blond, brown-eyed cowboy. “Fuck, Ennis, you scared the shit outta me.” He complained, pretty sure he saw the man nearly roll his eyes in an uncharacteristic display of sass.

“Where’s breakfast? ‘M starvin’, here.” Ennis rumbled, striding off, that smile gone as quickly as it’d came, the one bad side of Ennis’ smiles…so short-lived.

“Sittin’ on the fire, like it always is.” He sat up, yawning, watching Ennis pour himself coffee, before huddling on their little log-bench, looking sleepy and alluring and all kindsa pretty words he didn’t even know. Soon they’d be in that tent, doing things that would make most people blush. Things that made Ennis blush, if Jack ever spoke on them outside the tent. “Y’know, someday, I’m gonna have my own spread.” He murmured, like he had before. Ennis only grunted. “Think you’d come work for me?” He grinned, that same jackal grin he always got when he was teasing his crotchety Wyoming cowboy.

Ennis looked up with fire in his eyes and the smallest of smiles on his lips.


 

1986.

Ennis looked down on the journal, a feeling of loss strong and heavy in his chest. He’d always regretted things with Jack, for different reasons on any given night steeped in any given liquor. But he’d never really regretted dismissing Jack’s dreams. Jack was a blue-eyed dreamer, head always stuck in the clouds, and Ennis had believed he was anchoring his feet to firm grounded reality. And, unsurprisingly, he’d been wrong. All these fuckin’ years, and it didn’t hit him till Jack sent him this damned journal. Trust Jack Twist to get his say in the end, come hell or high water or hundreds of miles of distance.

For just a moment, Ennis let himself dream as Jack must’ve dreamed. A small cattle ranch way out in the middle of nowhere, a little ramshackle house with one bedroom they’d both share, work they’d do side-by-side, nights where they’d eat together and watch the news in their chairs, maybe sharing a cigarette or two before bed. It all came together in his head like puzzle pieces slotting together. The life they should’ve lived, if Ennis had been able to get his head out of the dirt.

Suddenly, Ennis was struck by all that he’d deprived them of, all he’d deprived Jack of. This perfect life, and they could’ve had it if he hadn’t been such a coward. It sat on his chest like a damn anvil, a weight not cowed by alcohol or nicotine, leaving him feeling…hollowed out, a husk of a man he’d thought he was merely five minutes before.

And what could he do now? There was no changing the past. It’d been twenty-three years since Jack had dreamed up on Brokeback, and nineteen since he’d dreamed in that no-name motel outside of Riverton. Jack had roots in Childress, a son, friends, family. Ennis had his girls. How could they be so selfish as to uproot all that for a pipedream from two decades past? How could he go about asking Jack for something so big, when he hadn’t even been willing to do more for him during that last big fight, when Jack had asked him to give a little more than Brokeback.

His chances were over.


 

1972.

Ennis, you're a pig-headed son of a bitch. Divorced, finally, and there still ain't no changing your mind. I'm getting so tired, Ennis. Tired of these long drives, the so little time with you, the begging you don't never listen to. I'm real tired of missing you, of this ache in my chest I can't get rid of even when we're together. Cause...it ain't real. It's just a dream once or twice a year. Lureen is starting to ask more questions, askin' me why I don't want her anymore. Maybe I should just give up on you, Del Mar, find happiness wherever I can get it, since you sure as hell won't let me have it, have you. You won't let me be happy, Ennis. And I'm not sure how much longer I can be miserable with you.

You don't hardly smile no more, and I don't know if it's cause of that little house you live in, or you and Alma breaking up, or the next-to-no time you have with your girls. Or maybe...maybe you miss me as much as I miss you. That thought is all that keeps me coming back to you, most days, Ennis. That someday, you'll crack, that you'll say yes when I ask you to let us have something other than this damn miserable life. I can't go on like this much longer..

I sometimes think death would be better than this."


 

1986.

Jack Twist sat in his chair at his father-in-law's company, staring out the window at big vehicles that hadn't brought pride to his chest when he sold them for the big bucks, using his charm and his words to sway people on this or that. Not much had made him proud, even the belt buckle he'd shown off to Ennis all those years ago. He was proud of his son, proud of the love he had for some dipshit cowboy he hadn't seen in nigh on two years, and...that was about it. He wasn't proud of his cheating on Lureen, even if there wasn't no other way to live, to survive in this world. He wasn't proud of his 'patience' with L.D. Newsome. He wasn't proud of all those times he'd driven back to Wyoming to chase after something that wasn't likely to ever turn into nothin' more than a dream.

His daddy had always scorned him for having his head stuck in the clouds, and Ennis had too. But, he was a dreamer, always had been and always would be. And his dreaming had gotten him stuck in a bitch of an unsatisfactory situation, just like he'd told Ennis two years ago in the middle of fuckin' nowhere, angry and frustrated, and at the damn end of his rope. Some times, he regretted saying all that to his cowboy, especially when he remembered those shamed tears on his man's face. 

But...then he thought back on all those sleepless nights, the ones when his eyes wouldn't close because his stomach hurt with need, with hunger, with desperation for more than this dull life he was living. Lureen loved him, Bobby needed him...but none of it was right so long as Ennis wasn't part of his life for more than a few unsatisfactory weeks a year, if they were lucky. And on those nights, he was proud of himself for standing up. For telling Ennis he couldn't do it no more. He couldn't stand being parted from him no more, and if Ennis wouldn't change it, he would.

His eyes strayed to his pickup, clothes and supplies already stowed away for his trip up to the mountains of Wyoming, back to where it had all begun. His chest constricted with a bastardized version of hope, something ugly that had gnawed away at him for two fuckin' decades. And these past three weeks since he sent that journal on up to Riverton, it had reared it's head something fierce, flaring up so sharp he hadn't been able to take it some days. 

Like those days full of pain, he told himself there wasn't nothing to do but put his head down and move through this storm, and to pray that he found shelter on the other side. So, after dark, when Newsome finally let him leave, he got in his truck, started the engine and turned on those headlights. They'd guide him till he found his beacon of light, which he hoped would be waiting for him on that damned mountain where it all began.