Chapter 6

May 23rd, 1963

Ennis had been quite pleased to see the soup amongst their new supplies when he'd collected them, along with the milk and potatoes that they had missed out on last week. He had known that Jack would be happy to eat something other than beans, since the elk wouldn't last them much longer now.

But when he was starting to prepare supper for them both, he could hear Jack muttering to himself as he rode into camp. It was clear that he was complaining about something else now, so Ennis just stayed quiet.

When Jack talked about him sleeping in the main camp, he had hoped that Ennis would take it to mean that they would share the tent. He had decided to test the waters a little and see if Ennis was catching on to his interest.

"I can't cook worth a damn," he warned when Ennis suggested switching places. He felt slightly disappointed that Ennis had read his signals wrong, but he was touched that Ennis had offered to take the very unpleasant role of herder.

"Can't be no worse than me, then," Ennis murmured, handing the food over to him. "Here you go." Jack put his coffee down and managed a smile.

"Thanks. Look...I'm sorry about always complainin'. Just...hate havin' to be out there. You'll get sick of it too if we switch."

Ennis shrugged and started eating. "Be alright. Maybe we could switch every couple weeks, so we both get a break from it."

Jack nodded. "Sure. That'll work." He looked over at Ennis. "Thanks."

"By the way, um..." Ennis started, feeling strangely nervous. "I got the supplies from the Basque earlier. Got you some soup like I said. An' some other things so you don't gotta eat beans."

Jack smiled widely at him, very touched by Ennis's gesture. "Thanks, Ennis. I know you don't mind 'em, but...I can't eat just them, you know? Gotta get somethin' else in me or I-" He suddenly clamped his mouth shut, realising the innuendo of what he'd just said. He prayed that Ennis wouldn't pick up on it; he didn't want to come on too strong when he wasn't even sure how Ennis felt.

But Ennis didn't seem to notice anything, just carried on eating. Jack ate in silence, mentally kicking himself for that slip of the tongue. But as he thought about it, he realised that it was the truth. He did want...that...from Ennis and couldn't really deny it. But there was still a long way to go before anything like that could happen. They were only just becoming friends and Jack didn't want to force Ennis into something that he would later regret. He had to take things very slowly given the circumstances, and he knew that sexual innuendos were not the way to have his feelings reciprocated.

They sat around camp for a while as the sun started to set, talking and drinking a little whiskey. Ennis still didn't talk much about back home, which Jack soon picked up on. Surely if Ennis was about to get married, he should be happy about it and wanting to talk about his fiancée at every opportunity. But Jack realised that he'd only heard about the girl once, which he found intriguing. Maybe Ennis wasn't completely happy with her.

A part of Jack felt terrible for going after Ennis when he knew about the engagement, and he thought that he should stop before anybody got hurt. But then he would look at Ennis and see the shy smile, or the deep brown eyes sparkle at him when Ennis was amused by something, and he knew he was done for. These feelings weren't just physical, he knew. For once, there was something going on above his waistline and he didn't know what to do about it.

Jack had never been in love before, and he still wasn't sure if he could apply that word here. The world didn't tolerate love between two men, and he knew that people would hurt him for it.

But those people ain't here, he thought to himself during a lull in the conversation. It's just me an' him up here...nobody needs to know.

But if I do...feel like that...then what happens when this summer's over? He'll go back to that girl even if somethin' happens up here. Could I live with that?

Ennis looked at Jack now and then, wondering what was on his mind. It was obvious that something was bothering him, and Ennis would like to ask what it was. He figured that friends did that kind of thing for each other. But he didn't like to intrude on other peoples' privacy, so decided to leave it unless Jack came to him first.

Eventually, Ennis saw that it was starting to grow dark and decided to head up to the sheep. He didn't mind letting Jack have the main camp for a week or two; it might do him some good to sleep out there and Jack could do with a warm tent to sleep in. More than anything, he liked to see Jack smiling and know that it was him who had done it.

Jack reluctantly watched as Ennis packed up. They had decided that they would switch places on the same day every week, to share the work more equally and still get a break from being the herder. Jack so wished that they could spend the night together in the tent, but that was very unlikely and he knew it.

"Won't get much sleep, tell you that," he said as Ennis mounted his horse. Ennis looked down at him briefly, suddenly sad to be leaving him behind.

"Oh yeah?" he muttered, urging the horse forward. "Come on." He didn't see Jack admiring him for a moment before turning away, or the look of longing in his eyes.

He could never tell Jack or anybody else about the dreams he'd had while sleeping, head filled with the image of deep blue eyes and dark hair.