Status: Complete 01/19/04
Series: Stand alone story
It's quiet now. 'Most too quiet.
Early mornin' light filters through the firs. The only sounds are the creakin' a' the saddles as we check them, straightenin' saddlebags and bedrolls, double-checkin' that we've got everythin', not that there's much left to be got.
Horses stamp and snort.
Spring may be comin', the pass may finally be open, but it's still frigid out. The horses' breath and ours, too, are clear in the still mountain air.
Off in the timber, standin' round this half-forgot trapper's cabin, tree branches creak and pop under the weight of snow and ice.
Mornin' sun reflects off the cabin roof, promise of spring held in the steady drip, drip, drip of the slow meltin' snow.
How I prayed for it that first month.
How I wish it had never come.
My fingers stumble and ache as I check my tack.
I drop the stirrup back down and lean against the saddle, watchin' him over it as he comes outta the cabin one last time an' I wonder what he went back for.
He's thinner now than he was when we come here. Honed down to skin and bones, nothing left but the raw essence of'im. So am I. Four long months, snowbound in a high mountain cabin'll do that ta you.
My hands spasm with wantin' ta reach out and touch him when I see what he's carryin'.
I thought we'd decided to leave it behind. It won't be needed down below. Low desert, even in the dead of winter, won't ever be cold enough to need it.
An' how can we ever divide it between us?
He looks up at me, meeting my eyes defiantly and I lower my head, refusing to watch as he carefully folds it into thirds before rolling it into a tight roll and tying it with his bedroll behind Chaucer's saddle.
Me'n him. Bound together. Made into one.
We practically lived on rabbits that first month or so, rabbit and the few supplies we had and what we found in the cabin.
Day after day, I set the snares and brought'em back and skinned'em out.
Day after day, he figured another way to cook'em. Roasted, boiled, broiled, baked and fried. Rabbit and dumplings, rabbit and potatoes, rabbit stew, rabbit, rabbit and more rabbit.
I started tannin' the hides just to have something to do in the long dark evenings when there was nothin' but the howl of the wind outside the cabin and faint glow of the fireplace within.
So much silence between us in that first month.
After the first few skins were cured, he started sewing them together. Bright silk threads and tight neat stitches. A couple of tread-bare old blankets he'd found in the cabin stitched between the layers to guide the shape. A double thickness of rabbit skins, soft and warm on both sides quilted together with bright silk threads. In the end he took one of his fancy silk brocaded vests and pulled the threads from it to have enough to finish the blanket.
It's more than twice as wide as the single bed in the cabin and longer too. Wide 'nough to wrap 'round us both as we lay on a pallet in front of the fireplace, tradin' lazy kisses and slow caresses and doin' things two fellas ain't supposed ta do together. Touches and kisses that grew more desperate with ever passin' night as it grew closer to winter's end, closer to time to go back ta the real world, closer to time to forget 'bout a snowbound cabin and the sweet taste of forbidden love.
I look back up at him. He leaning against Chaucer, staring back at the cabin, his face pensive.
The sunlight glints off a single tear, sliding silently down his cheek.
And just like that, I know that I been tryin' ta fool myself.
I thought we could just leave it behind.
Leave the blanket.
Leave the memories.
Leave the love.
But it ain't that easy.
I step away from Peso and with half a dozen quick strides I'm standin' next to him.
He hears the crunch of snow under my feet and turns with a puzzled look in his eyes. Then they widen as one'a my arms goes around his waist, my hand grippin' his hip and pulling him to me as the other circles his shoulders, the hand cupping his head, gloved fingers tangling in those beautiful auburn curls, grown long and untidy in our time here.
Then I'm kissin' him.
Ain't nothing hesitant in this kiss. Ain't nothing gentle.
Ain't like that first one. So soft and sweet and hesitant, pressed like a whisper to my shoulder when he thought I's sleeping in that tub a'hot water he'd fixed for me ta ease the achin' in my back from spendin' all day out in the cold to bring home one more measly rabbit.
Ain't like the second one neither. A bare whisper of a touch to my spine as he rubbed the last of the liniment that Nathan give me for my back into that cursed curve, sealin' it with the hot splash of a single tear fallin' on the spot he'd kissed.
Ain't like the third one either, when I turned over and reached for him and pulled him down, rolling him under me, tastin' that sweet mouth for the first time, tastin' that sweet submission for the first time, tastin' what had always been mine, for the first time.
Our hats hit the ground but we don't notice. I feel him pressing hard against me, feel his heat and need and passion, gloves and coats and shirts and jackets and two pairs of pants each, be damned.
The warmth of our love flows through me, melting the last of the ice in my heart, melting the last of my resolve that what happened here, stayed here.
That first gentle kiss had started the thaw, like the drip of melted snow from the roof of the cabin, but this, this was the crackin' up of fields of ice on a mountain lake, breaking away and sweepin' down stream. This, this was buds bursting out on trees and bushes, birds flying north, squabbling and singin'.
I pull back and I look at him.
I just look at him.
And those green eyes light.
And that gold tooth flashes.
And he knows.
This is winter's end.
For both of us, for both our hearts, from now on it's springtime.
"I ain't givin' up. I ain't givin' you up. I ain't givin' love up. Come whatever, we play out this hand..."
"...together," he finishes with me.
And that's how it's gonna be. Me'n him, finishin' this life, together.