Chapter 4

May 16th, 1963

Ennis urged the pack mule along, hoping to get back to camp soon. As a friendly gesture, he had decided to order soup for Jack even though he himself didn't like it. He tried to tell himself that it was only to keep Jack from complaining about beans again, but deep down he knew that it was because he wanted to be friends with the other man.

He hadn't liked the look on the Basque's face when he'd handed over the list, especially when he'd pointed out that Ennis didn't eat soup. It was as if he was trying to guess why Ennis was so determined to do something nice for Jack. Ennis wanted them to be friends and that was it, he told himself. There simply couldn't be anything else; that was what had gotten Earl killed and he didn't want that to happen to him. Besides, Alma was waiting for him at home and he had promised to marry her; he couldn't back out of that now.

As he neared the river, he turned to see a large bear fishing with its paws. He let out a low gasp and pulled on the horse's reins, trying to back away. The bear roared and frightened the horse, making it rear up, and Ennis fell to the ground.

With pain shooting through him, he looked up and managed to scramble away from the bear, after the horses. To his dismay, he saw that the mule had also gone; so was the food. He groaned and ran after the horse.

"Come back here!" he yelled, running through the trees. They just couldn't lose the food.

By nightfall, Jack was starting to worry. Ennis had taken a lot longer than he should at collecting this week's supplies, and he hoped that nothing had happened. At first he'd been pissed off to find nothing but beans in camp, but now he was concerned for Ennis's well-being. With nothing else to do, he drank his whiskey and waited.

When Ennis did finally appear, Jack was both angry and relieved to see him in one piece. A part of him felt like kissing Ennis to see that he was safe, and he tried to restrain himself. Something like that would not be welcome, he knew.

He handed the bottle to Ennis and removed his bandana, dipping it into the hot water and reaching to Ennis. He carefully started to dab at the blood but Ennis grabbed the material from him, their fingers touching as Jack let it go. He gulped and looked away, trying not to feel disappointed that Ennis wouldn't let him tend to the wound. He was just trying to help.

They debated about shooting a sheep, but Ennis was adamant that they couldn't do that. Jack sat down beside him, stating that he simply wouldn't stick with beans anymore.

He looked at the angry red wound on Ennis's face, wishing that Ennis would allow physical contact. "You alright?" he asked in a low voice.

Ennis nodded, still drinking from the bottle. He'd wanted Jack to tend to his wound, but he was so used to taking care of himself that he didn't know how to do that. He looked at the material in his hand; it was only now that he realised it was Jack's red bandana. Jack could have used any old rag lying around, but he'd taken a garment of his own clothing to help Ennis. He gulped and glanced over at Jack. "Um...thanks. For this."

Jack smiled at him, making strange things happen in his stomach. "No problem. Is it gettin' any better?" Ennis leaned over slightly so that Jack could inspect it for himself, biting his lip nervously. Jack gently prodded the area with his finger. "Well, it ain't swellin'. That's somethin'. You'll probably be fine tomorrow."

Ennis nodded and drew away, aware of Jack's scent close to him. "Um...I know this ain't no good to you right now, 'cos we lost most of the food, but...I ordered soup for next week."

Jack looked at him. "But...I thought you didn't eat it?"

"Don't. I got it to keep you from moanin'," Ennis replied, feeling bold enough to smirk at Jack. His friend grinned, eyes shining in the firelight at this gesture of friendship.

"Well...thanks. But what are we gonna do 'til then? Ain't got enough food to last us an'...I guess we can't shoot a sheep."

Ennis thought for a moment. "Well...maybe we could shoot an elk or somethin'."

Jack stared. "Ennis...that's against Forest rules. If Game an' Fish catch us..."

"Just gotta make sure they don't," he replied, looking at the bloodied bandana. "I'll...I'll wash this before givin' it back," he added, glancing over at Jack.

"It's okay, no rush. You sure about shootin' an elk?"

"Ain't got much choice," Ennis replied, shrugging and finally passing the whiskey back to Jack. "You don't like beans, we ain't got nothin' else, an' we can't shoot a sheep."

Jack nodded. "Alright. You'd better shoot it, then. I sure as hell can't shoot straight."

Ennis smiled a little. "Yeah. You not got that coyote yet?"

"No...keep missin' an' it gets away. Hope it don't take a sheep."

"Yeah." They both looked into the fire, thinking and passing the bottle between them. Every time Jack received it, he took a moment to press his lips to the rim, tasting Ennis's lips there. He wondered what they would feel like and taste like if he pressed his own to them. He shivered slightly at the thought, and Ennis noticed. "You cold?"

"No, I'm fine," Jack replied, wrapping his arms around himself. Ennis shuffled closer in an attempt to help, which made Jack's heart rate increase. They sat there with their arms pressed together, trying to keep warm before Jack had to go back up to the sheep. He didn't want to sleep alone tonight but knew that he had no choice. Even without Aguirre's rules, he was certain that his feelings were not reciprocated.