Chapter 9

June 4th, 1963

They were sat around camp, Jack drinking from the whiskey bottle and Ennis eating the beans. Both of them were trying to act normal, but it wasn't easy because they remembered their dreams of each other. Neither of them was entirely sure how to be around each other anymore, not when they were so hopelessly attracted to one another.

Jack had liked talking about rodeoing, even though Ennis clearly didn't care much for it. But he didn't want to talk about his father if he could help it. He knew that Ennis probably wondered why there was so much bad blood there, and if they were together then Jack would consider telling him. That was something he could only reveal to someone that he was very close to, and he didn't think that he and Ennis were ever likely to get that close.

Ennis had taken a few sips of the whiskey that Jack had given him and felt a little bolder. He started talking about his siblings and where they were right now. Jack felt very sorry for Ennis; at least his parents were still alive and he had a home. He listened carefully as Ennis described how he'd had to drop out of high school due to a lack of money, and could see that despite Ennis's stoic demeanour he seemed lonely. Jack wished he could reach over and squeeze his hand or something, but knew that Ennis wouldn't like that.

"An' that's how come, uh...me end up here," Ennis finished, drinking more of the whiskey. It occurred to Jack that he'd never heard Ennis say so much in one go before, and he grinned sidelong at his friend. He liked hearing Ennis speak; his voice was rough yet somehow smooth at the same time, and he wondered what it would be like to hear that voice close to his ear.

Ennis wondered if he'd said too much, and he looked over to see Jack smirking at him. "What?" He was very conscious of Jack's deep blue eyes staring at him, and he shifted slightly.

"Friend, that's more words than you spoke in the past two weeks," Jack told him, smiling. He was glad that Ennis was opening up more now, but still wondered if they could ever be more than friends.

Ennis couldn't really meet Jack's eyes; he kept averting his own every time they came into contact with Jack's. He wanted Jack more and more every day as they grew closer, and he knew that his resolve was weakening.

"Hell, that's the most I spoke in a year," he replied, managing to half-smile back. A snap of electricity passed between them, eyes lingering a little longer than they normally would. Eventually, Jack looked away, feeling slightly confused now. He'd thought that Ennis wasn't interested in him, but what if he'd been wrong about that?

"But my dad, he was a fine roper," Ennis continued, feeling his tongue loosen from the whiskey. "Didn't rodeo much though; he thought rodeo cowboys was all fuck-ups." He glanced at Jack, wondering how he would react.

"The hell they are," Jack replied, eyes narrowing and knowing what Ennis was doing. He was very pleased to see Ennis joking around at last. Maybe there was a chance after all.

"Well..." Ennis trailed off, looking at him. Jack got up and started jumping about, yelling and re-enacting how he used to ride the bulls in the rodeo. Ennis grinned and tried to warn him about the supplies stacked up next to him, but it was too late. Jack hit them and fell over, full of laughter. He looked up to see Ennis's wide grin directed at him, and felt his heart lift. Ennis was smiling fully at him for the very first time, and Jack knew then that he had to at least try to win the other man's heart. He was in love, and there was nothing else for it now.

"I think my dad was right," Ennis observed, making Jack laugh. Ennis settled back down again, feeling happy and more relaxed than before. He thought about his desire for Jack and how guilty he felt about Alma not knowing what was going on. He reasoned with himself that maybe they could just do this for the summer before going back to their lives. He couldn't fight his attraction much longer.

Jack eventually got up and sat back down near Ennis, the sound of his friend's laughter like music to his ears. He wanted to lean over and kiss Ennis, showing him exactly how he felt. Maybe they would keep kissing and eventually wander over to the tent together, and then what? Jack knew what he wanted, but he couldn't be sure that Ennis was ready for that even if he did feel the same. Ennis could be so closed up sometimes, and Jack worried that he might not even be able to do anything. What if Ennis felt too guilty?

"Well...I better get up to them sheep soon," Jack said, looking around. "We've gotta move 'em tomorrow, right?"

"Yep," Ennis replied, thinking of the next camp. He wasn't looking forward to sleeping alone again, wanted Jack with him all the time. In just two days they would switch over again, which meant they would still be sleeping alone. If he was a little braver, he would ask Jack to stay in the main tent with him, but couldn't seem to get the words out. What if Jack was repulsed by his desire? That would ruin everything.

Jack took longer to leave than he normally did, wishing that Ennis would ask him to stay. Ever since he'd glimpsed Ennis's body the other day, he'd wanted to know how it looked in its entirety, and he wanted to know how it would feel pressed against his. He wanted so much and didn't think he would have any of it. There was still plenty of time for something to happen, and he certainly hoped that something would.