Chapter 5

May 20th, 1963

It had been four days since Ennis had encountered the bear, and his wound had cleared up by now. He had eventually allowed Jack to tend to it for a little while by the fire, which had made him feel strange sensations inside him.

Jack was secretly very pleased that Ennis was opening up to him more and allowing contact, but he knew that he had to be careful. He would never force Ennis into anything, but if his colleague kept sending signals to him that he wanted to be more than friends, Jack would certainly go for it.

His first clue was that Ennis had ordered soup for him. Ennis had played it off as saying that it was just to keep him from complaining about the beans, but Jack had to wonder if there was more to it. He thought that if Ennis was truly trying to send him signals, it would certainly be in that kind of way; small acts of kindness to show him that he cared.

Jack smiled to himself as he rode back to camp for supper, looking forward to the elk that Ennis would be preparing for them. They had shot it the day after losing the food and it seemed to bring them a little closer. He had playfully pushed Ennis in his excitement and Ennis had responded in kind, making his heart flutter a little. He liked Ennis a lot and wondered if anything would come of their newfound friendship.

He entered camp and saw Ennis by the fire, sure enough cooking some the elk they had left. It would be enough to tide them over until they could get the next lot of supplies, and Jack couldn't help but grin at the sight of the other man. "Hey," he called as he drew closer.

Ennis looked up and could swear that his heart had skipped a beat. "Oh, hey...supper's gonna be ready soon."

"Great," Jack replied as he dismounted and walked over. "Any coffee left?" Ennis nodded and handed the pot over to him so he could pour some. "Least those damn coyotes ain't got no sheep yet. That's somethin'."

"Yeah." Ennis had been thinking about Jack a lot over the day. Part of him wanted to ask Jack to stay in the main tent with him tonight; what might happen if he did? He was still a virgin and was supposed to be saving himself for his wedding night, but what if?

Every time he thought about it, he remembered Earl and knew that he didn't want to end up with the same fate. He didn't want that to happen to Jack, either. But he couldn't deny that he was curious of his new friend and wondered what might happen if they both slept in the tent. He bit his lip and tried to concentrate on the food.

Jack sighed, oblivious to Ennis's dilemma but well aware of his own. "Think I got a crick in my neck," he groaned, stretching it. Ennis saw him rubbing at it and couldn't help but wish it was his hand.

"Here you go," he said, relieved when the food was done and he didn't have to look at Jack. His feelings were starting to scare him. Jack took the food gratefully and they started eating, enjoying the atmosphere of the day winding down into evening. The temperature was starting to drop and Jack was not looking forward to sleeping in that pup tent by himself. He wondered what Ennis would say if he asked to stay in the main tent with him; Ennis would probably see what he was really after and punch him.

"That was great," Jack sighed when he'd finished, feeling marginally better now. "Um...you want any whiskey?" he offered, holding up the bottle. Ennis shook his head; he didn't know what might happen if they started hitting the hard stuff. Jack nodded and stood up. "Alright. Reckon I'll go back up to the sheep now...see you in the mornin'."

Ennis watched him prepare to leave, desperate to say something that would bring a smile to Jack's face. He'd never had any real friends before and wanted to know more about how it felt. "Jack?" he asked, faltering as he realised he had no idea what to say. Jack turned and looked at him. "Um...you know, you don't hafta go right back up there after eatin'. I know you gotta before it gets real dark, but..." He hesitated. "If you wanna stay...could do with someone to talk to."

The effect was everything he'd hoped for. A grin spread across Jack's face as he took in what Ennis was saying to him. "I think you mean 'listen to' an' maybe 'grunt at', but I get what you mean," he replied, walking back over to Ennis, whose cheeks had reddened slightly. He sat down next to his friend and poured them some more coffee, feeling ridiculously happy that Ennis had asked him to stay a while. If he was braver and surer of Ennis's feelings, he would have taken Ennis's hand in response. Maybe they would reach that point someday if things carried on like this.

As Jack had predicted, he ended up doing most of the talking while Ennis listened and occasionally said something. It ended up being a very pleasant evening for both of them, but the sky soon started to grow dark and Jack knew he had to get back up to the sheep. He knew it was very dangerous to grow close to someone who was engaged, but he couldn't help his feelings. It was starting to become more than a physical attraction now, and he wondered if Ennis felt the same.

When Jack did eventually leave, Ennis felt very pleased with himself for making the effort to create a friendship between them. He had to push away his darker thoughts, though; the ones of him and Jack in the tent together that both terrified and excited him.