Jimmy sat around the fire watching the flames lick around the recently added branch with ravenous appetite. He sat in silence and brooded. When he embarked on this run he had actually been looking forward to it but it had turned into the longest ride in memory for him and he greatly looked forward to returning to Sweetwater tomorrow. He wasn't alone on this trip but as things went on, he found himself wishing he were. This was a special run and Teaspoon had wanted two riders. Ike quickly volunteered which didn't surprise Jimmy. Ike volunteered for a lot, as if he felt he had more to prove than the others. Jimmy guessed he had spent so much of his life feeling less than others that he thought he needed to show everyone-maybe himself included-that he was as good as the next man. It was too bad because Ike was a good guy; he worked hard and was as good in a fight as any other man. Jimmy wished that Ike didn't still feel like that much of an outsider.

For his part, Jimmy had opted to join Ike because Teaspoon was so set on having two riders for this special run to St. Joe and out of the guys not regularly scheduled to ride out the next day; Jimmy was the only one aside from Ike who hadn't just gotten back from a run. It made sense and seemed the most fair. Now he was wishing there had been another option. He had thought this would be a nice ride. He didn't really understand Ike's signing but he was trying to learn bits of it and somehow they had always seemed able to communicate. And Jimmy liked the quiet so he thought a run with Ike would be far preferable to a ride with say, Cody. Now there was a man he'd like to see struck mute if only temporarily to give that man the same introspective and thoughtful quality as the one currently across the campfire from him.

Finally Jimmy just couldn't stand it anymore.

"Dammit Ike, what's eating you?"

Ike raised his eyebrows as if to say, 'Who me?'

"Don't even try to give me that. If looks could kill I'd've been a dead man less than halfway to St. Joe. I thought we were friends."

Suddenly Ike was a flurry of animated motion. Jimmy wasn't good at all at understanding Ike but he doubted even Buck could have kept up with this.

"Ike slow down, I don't understand."

Ike stopped and pointed at Jimmy and nodded sadly.

"I know I don't understand your signing very well…"

Ike shook his head violently and began signing again but Jimmy was lost two words in.

"I think…I can't get the rest…"

Ike sat down and grabbed a stick and started writing in the dirt next to the fire.

"Ike, that's not going to help."

Ike looked up baffled.

"I can't read, Ike."

This just seemed to make Ike madder.

"Now I really don't get you. You're mad at me because I'm dumb."

Ike kept signing but slower and more deliberately and some of his signing wasn't really signing so much as a pantomime and finally Jimmy got it.

"You're mad because you think that I think YOU'RE dumb?"

Ike nodded and made another gesture to indicate something being stuck.

"I got stuck with you? Is that how you think we look at you?"

Ike made no movements and just shot a steely glare into Jimmy.

"You want to know how I see you? I was looking forward to this ride. We don't know each other that well yet and I thought it'd give me a chance to try to learn a little more signing. You wouldn't expect me to talk all the time. You know when you aren't trying to prove things that don't need proving, you're a really easy person to be around. You are so busy thinking that we look down on you because of the one thing you can't do that you don't give us credit for seeing all you can do."

Ike's anger was softening but wasn't washed completely away.

'I could have done this alone.'

Jimmy looked for a moment and then figured out what had been said.

"No you couldn't because Teaspoon wanted two for this one. If I had volunteered first, we still would have been together on this. I don't know why, I think one could've handled it but maybe he thought we'd need the company."

Ike looked down sheepishly.

"No, you haven't been very good company but I'm probably not all the time either."

A smile spread across Ike's face and he pantomimed a quick draw.

"Now that's not fair Ike. I do not shoot everyone. But I would've thought you'd understand how I am."

Ike did nothing to hide his puzzlement.

"You're so used to people judging you, thinking you're something you're not, just because of the one thing they know of you. You sort of judge others before you get to know them. It's like you're always expecting the fight whether it's really coming or not. And I guess I'm the same way."

The two stared off into the stars for a while before Ike reached out and touched Jimmy's shoulder to get his attention. The sign he made was very deliberate.


"I thought we were, Ike. I thought we already were"

Email JennaLynn