Title: Taken In
Warnings: rated for language and implied sexuality.
Disclaimer: Annie Proulx owns the characters depicted herein.
"I'm drownin' in a whiskey (hic) river, bathin' my mem'ried mind in the wetness of its soul…feelin' the amber current flowin' from my (hic) mind…'n warm an empty heart you left so cold!" Trolled Jack Twist in his loud drunkard voice, waving his bottle of whiskey to and fro in time to his chant, with his badass black cowboy hat slanted so far to the left it was practically about to slip off his head.
Ennis could tell the other man's face was badly flushed, despite the flickering flames of the campfire being their only light source. He sat back and watched the amusing spectacle, somewhat tipsy himself, but nowhere near as wasted as his blue-eyed companion.
"Whiskey River take my mind…" a coyote howled on the horizon in response to Jack's song, "don't let her mem'ry torture me…Whiskey River don't run dry…you're all I've got, take care of me!" He finished, hiccupped, paused, and then took another long swig of his booze.
"You're drunk off your ass, Twist." Ennis asserted, chuckling, as he plucked a cigarette out of the pack stuffed in his shirt pocket and lit up.
Jack seemed oblivious to Ennis's presence, his blue eyes glazed over and his head drooping to the side.
"Where the fuck's my harmonica?" A very boozed up Jack spouted randomly, patting around all his pockets in an attempt to locate said cherished possession.
"Don't know." Ennis replied blowing a cloud of smoke that mixed with the fumes from the campfire and vanished as both rose up into space.
"The hell you don't, del Mar. Don't act like you ain't snatched it. Goddamn liar." Jack charged, continuing to grope along the ground, trying to find the accursed instrument.
"Ain't my fault you always losin' shit." Ennis held out his cigarette and tapped it, causing a bit of the ash on the end to fall off, as the smirk he'd been tending to all evening widened. Ennis just couldn't help but be delighted by Jack Twist's one-man circus drama.
"It's your fault if you done took it, sumbitch." Jack shot back without a moment's hesitation, before kicking a half-burnt twig back into the flames in feigned frustration muttering a "Goddamnit" quietly to himself.
"Ain't got no proof, Jack fuckin' Twist." Ennis faked his defensiveness. Inwardly, he was more entertained than offended at the drunken accusation.
"Don't need no 'proof,' Ennis fuckin' del Mar. Got intuition." Replied Jack with one side of his mouth curled up, shooting Ennis a distrustful look out of the corner of his eye, while simultaneously still feeling about for his forsaken harmonica.
Ennis scoffed, "You call it intuition, I call it bullshit." His comeback was ignored, of course. Jack sat back again and sighed, apparently giving up his search, for now. A period of brief silence passed between the two wranglers as Jack peered up at the twinkling stars strewn across the black night sky, contemplating.
"Well, I need a piss." Jack loudly announced out of the blue. Ennis was caught off guard.
"Ya hear that, world? Jack needs to piss!" Ennis teasingly called out into the unresponsive wilderness as if it were news for the whole planet, then sat back and held his cigarette to his lips, shooting the other man a smug look.
Jack struggled to get up, wobbled on his feet for a brief moment, gained his balance, and then retorted with a "Fuck you, Ennis del Mar," mimicking the other man's feigned ecstatic tone and provoking a grunt of laughter. Jack then staggered off past Ennis toward the nearby bushes.
"Aw, that's mighty sweet a you, Jack." Ennis shouted after him, receiving only a stuck-up middle finger in response.
Ennis heard Jack's pants unzip and then the pitter-patter sound of Jack's urine splattering on the dirt floor. Ennis took in another lung-full of smoke and exhaled through his nose, eyes occupied by the alluring sight of Jack's smooth, sweet ass, all snug in those taut blue jeans.
After Jack had finished and zipped up his pants, he stood there, hesitating. Ennis could see him sway with exhaustion.
"Sleepin' on your feet again, bud?" Ennis hollered, flicking his cigarette butt into the dying fire at his feet.
"Huh?" Jack subconsciously mumbled in reply, eyes remaining closed. Finally, Jack turned and stumbled back toward the campfire like a zombie, eyelids heavy.
"Time t'turn in, rodeo." Ennis leaned backwards and stretched every muscle in his body he could manage, feeling more than a few joints in his back pop as a result.
"Ain't sleepy." Jack sassed, dragging his feet back over to their dwindling campfire.
Ennis looked up at Jack, still stretched out, "Th'hell you ain't."
Once again, Ennis was ignored. Jack tottered beside him for a moment. Then the drunken man finally willed his knees to buckle and he landed flat on his backside and yawned, the alcohol acting as a perfect anesthetic for the impact between Jack's ass and the ground.
"You're gonna wake up tomorrow with a bruised ass. Not to mention a hangover the size a Texas." Ennis pointed out.
"Hell's your point, del Mar?" Jack rolled his eyes, only halfway open.
"M'point is you better not wake up sore 'n start blamin' me for it like you done th'other day." Alleged Ennis, recalling said event.
"Don't know what you're talkin' about, friend." Jack yawned again, rolled out backwards and stretched out on the ground.
"Like hell. You jus' won't admit it like a man."
Yet again, Jack made use of his unrivaled selective-hearing abilities and tuned Ennis out, preferring to doze off instead. The result was an unusually quiet and peaceful atmosphere, only the chirping of crickets and the distant howling of coyotes to keep Ennis company.
In that moment, Ennis realized he liked hearing Jack run his mouth all the time, even if it was just to bitch about that cat-piss tent and the like. Jack had a seemingly endless supply of things to babble on about and although Ennis would never admit it, he was nonetheless grateful for a talkative companion to help ward off that old mountain loneliness.
"C'mon, cowboy, it's time t'hit the sack. I mean it. I got a go." Ennis stood up slowly, then bent over Jack's zonked-out form and tried to rouse him.
"Mmmmmmph…" Jack stirred in his sleep, but gave no conscious response.
"Cain't leave you out here all stoned like this. Likely t'freeze your ass off without even realizin' it, boy." Ennis snatched Jack's wrists and pulled the partially-comatose body into an upright sitting position, letting Jack's black cowboy hat slip off his head and remain on the ground behind him. Ennis then hooked his right arm under Jack's legs and his left arm under Jack's torso, and hoisted him up almost effortlessly.
The slighter man's limbs hung like a rag doll's as Ennis carried him over to the tent and laid him down gingerly on the bedroll. He yanked Jack's boots off and tucked him into the blankets.
As Ennis turned to leave, a hand fisted around his middle and ring fingers stopped him. "Stay, Ennis," Jack murmured, pleading. There was a subtle tone of longing and desperation in his drained voice.
Ennis hesitated for a long moment, squatting beside Jack's barely half-conscious form.
"Goddamn…" he muttered, as temptation finally won him over. He kicked himself for betraying their employer and abandoning those damned sheep once again and sent up a silent prayer to the heavens for the coyotes not to be hungry tonight.
He saw Jack mouth the word "please" silently, still maintaining a light grip on his two fingers.
"A'right, rodeo." Ennis relented in a low tone, and then whispered, "Jus' lemme put out the fire." He backed out of the tent to smother the flames with some dirt and snatch Jack's cowboy hat off the ground, dust it off, and bring it back into the tent with him. Ennis pulled off his own boots, slipped his hat off, and crawled under the blankets.
Jack curled onto his side facing away from his lover, nonverbally begging Ennis to spoon him from behind.
Ennis complied, of course, cuddled up behind Jack, and pulled him close into an intimate embrace, interlocking their fingers and stroking the other man's wrist soothingly with his calloused thumb.
"G'night, li'l darlin'," breathed Ennis into Jack's ear in his low, husky voice, albeit Jack had already nodded off. And with legs and fingers entwined with his lover's, Ennis, too, fell asleep to the calming vibrations of Jack's heartbeat, falling in rhythm with his own, their physical unity seemingly blocking out the rest of the fucked-up, intolerant world that surrounded them, leaving the two of them alone together to dream about and be taken in by each other, though not forever as they wished, but for the time being.