Written by Fics_At_Random/Mandi
He fidgeted with the pen in his pocket that he’d used t’write in Junior’s gate an flight.
Runnin late… goddammit.
He put the pen away. Leave it up t’the one flight he’d ever cared about t’be late. He stared at the runway, vacant of his daughter, an wished for a moment that maybe none a this would a happened.
Don’t think like that. Jus’ ‘cause this is hard don’t mean it ain’t the right thing t’do. You’re doin the right thing. It was Jack’s voice that said it in his head.
Jack was sittin at home, waitin. Waitin t’tell her the planned out lie a “I’m a renter, nice t’meet you,” an whatever other bullshit he’d have t’spout out t’keep his life, as written by Alma, a reality.
He’d worn his nicest suit today, after all, he was a businessman. Or at least that’s what Alma said. In reality, it was Jack that put on the fancy clothes in their relationship an went an dealt with business affairs while Ennis happily wore his worn out jeans an flannel shirt, muckin out stables. It was jus’ the way things worked; but here he was, standin in this goddamned monkey suit that pinched him in all the wrong places, (some of which were still sore from his last night with Jack), an he couldn’t help but think he looked ridiculous.
Why did I even dress up for this? He wondered, in his own voice, this time. It’s jus’ Junior… she ain’t gonna care if her daddy shows up wearin farm clothes... Alma’s the one who’d care, an as far as I know, she ain’t comin…
His eyes widened; the gate was open an people were millin about, comin off a the plane. Junior’s plane! Ennis momentarily panicked that she wouldn’t recognize him; or worse, he wouldn’t recognize her! His fears were put t’rest when a scrawny little girl with long auburn hair and his exact face stepped into the lobby, lookin around excitedly.
“DADDY!” She suddenly shrieked, an dropped her bags, runnin for him. It came so natural t’kneel down an accept her into his arms, smellin her clean, familiar scent as if they’d never spent a day apart; soulmates, he decided. They must be soulmates t’know each other like this.
“Hey, Darlin,” he whispered, tryin t’ignore how choked up he was. He’d meant t’be a stronger daddy for her than this. Junior didn’t seem to notice as they pulled back. “Wow, look at you…”
“I’m so glad t’see you,” she lisped a little, but to him, she was perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect!
They waited at luggage claim for her small pink suitcase, the same one she’d had the last time he’d seen her when she was eight years old. He offered t’buy her a new one, a better one, but she looked a little taken aback.
“You gave me this,” she explained simply. “I don’t want a new one. There isn’t a better one than this.”
“Uh, that’s real nice a you, Junior.”
They shuffled into the car, Ennis optin t’take the little sedan instead a the truck so he didn’t look “too country.” He wasn’t sure what kinda image his little girl had a him, but readin through Alma’s “prompting” letters, he was of a higher class than… well… a higher class was all he was willin t’think of it as.
Junior chattered happily all the way home, graciously not makin Ennis say much. He’d have felt comfortable at home with his “cue cards” and “renter.” While she told him ‘bout the play she was in at the community rec center, he wondered for a moment if he was doin the right thing.
“You were in a play, then?” He repeated, hopin t’encourage her t’say more.
“I told you about it in my last letter,” she said, but was amiable enough t’go on an explain it t’him anyway. Charolette’s Web, she played Fern. All the girls who tried out had wanted t’be Fern because she had a pretty name an got a big speakin part, but Junior got it. She was quite pleased with herself an stared at Ennis, waitin for his response.
“Wish I could a seen it.”
“We ain’t done it yet,” she corrected him. “You could come… if you wanted. It’s in July.”
“I, uh… Yeah, I’d love to come,” he quickly bit his lip, caught himself, an corrected, “if I’m not away on business…”
“Oh,” she sounded only slightly disappointed.
“I’ll try my best,” he reassured her, an wondered if he weren’t tryin his best now…
“Junior,” he said slowly, like he was testin the waters a the ocean with his toe. “I, uh… d’you know ‘bout the fella that rents from me?”
“Oh,” he pretend t’be very interested in the vast stretch a unoccupied road ahead a him like he was stuck in traffic that time Jack dragged him to Los Angeles for a convention. Reminded him a why he was damned satisfied t’stay home an let Jack handle the “business” end a ranchin. “Well, I rent to a fella who lives with me…”
“Oh,” she replied simply, as if this were perfectly normal.
“He’s, uh… a friend a mine.”
“Didn’t your momma tell you anythin ‘bout him?”
She shook her head, an finally looked curious. “Why?”
“You’ll meet him when you get home, he lives in the upstairs bedroom ‘cross from mine…”
“Oh, okay,” she nodded, not seemin the least bit shocked that her daddy was livin with another man. He jus’ about opened his mouth t’tell her who Jack Twist really was, but she was back t’talkin on her Charlotte’s Web play, an Ennis jus’ closed his mouth an listened.
Jack paced nervously across the wooden kitchen floor, wonderin now why he gave up cigarettes two years ago… ‘cause Ennis had harped at him t’stop, that’s why, and refused t’have anything t’do with him, sexually speakin, ‘til he quit.
Jack had misjudged Ennis’ intelligence, however. He hid a pack under the hood a the sedan he had nagged Ennis into gettin, an would smoke every now an then when the urge got too strong t’fight.
Thing was, Ennis found the smokes under the hood when he stopped at the gas station an put oil in the car; he rarely drove the sedan, but Jack had the truck pickin up a steer from someplace or another an stuck Ennis with the “family mobile,” as he called it.
Well, wouldn’tcha know, Ennis Del Mar headed to a little joke shop outside a town and bought himself some little plastic explosives; the little kind that make a sharp snap when they explode, an stuffed ‘em in a few a Jack’s cigarettes so fine that the the Marlboro Man himself wouldn’t a known someone had toyed with his smokes.
So Jack, one day, pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and BAM! Blew up right in his face. Harmless, really, but scared the ever lovin shit outta him so bad he wanted another cigarette, but didn’t dare. He knew right away who put ‘em there, an knew he couldn’t complain t’Ennis or chew him out for doin it ‘cause supposedly, “Jack had quit.” So he smoked carefully, gettin a blown up cigarette in the face one or two more times, (Ennis was extremely cruel an didn’t put a plastic explosive in EVERY cigarette; jus’ a few. He’d made it a total crap shoot an the rigged cigs left Jack cravin smokes worse than ever until one day he’d had enough a that game an Ennis never found a pack under the hood again.)
Jack smiled t’himself at the memory an wondered if Ennis had found his new hidin place yet.
The front door creaked open, the soft, peelin sound of a little girl’s laughter filled the room. Jack felt his stomach fall practically on the floor; she sounded perfect, he knew right away she was Ennis’ jus’ by the appealin way she laughed.
“So where’s your renter?” He heard her ask, an he almost ran for his cigarette hidin spot in the unused calf pen on the left in the barn. Almost.
“I’m right here,” he found himself callin down the hallway, makin himself available for Junior’s inspection.
“Oh!” She gasped, startled by his sudden appearance, but not in the least displeased. Her father had a good eye for renters; he had strong features, canyon deep dimples an eyes so blue it made you wanna slap your mother. “Hi!”
“You must be Miss Del Mar,” he tipped his hat before he forgot he wasn’t wearin one.
“Alma Junior,” she nodded, an giggled a little.
Jack smiled. Might just be a little easier than he thought; she weren’t completely put off by him. He wondered briefly what she had been told ‘bout him.
“I heard you got horses,” she said rather abruptly; Ennis weren’t used t’these quick changes a subjects. “Can we ride?”
“Why don’t we get you unpacked first?” Jack suggested, an eyed Ennis meaningfully.
It took Junior less than a handful a minutes t’get herself ready t’go ridin. She came boundin down the stairs, havin put her long hair up in a braid that slapped against her back as she ran; Ennis couldn’t help but wonder if that hurt.
“You ready?” She asked no one in particular.
“Yup,” Ennis nodded, leanin down t’tug up the boots he always wore for ridin.
“Are you?” Junior turned expectantly t’Jack, who had sat down t’read the mornin paper he’d been too nervous t’read earlier that mornin after Ennis left t’go get her.
“You… want me t’come with you?” He was a little taken aback; wasn’t sure he’d be pulled into her world as fast as this.
“Yeah,” she looked at him like he had a third arm growin somewhere outta his body. “Don’t you wanna come ride with us?” She looked a little hurt.
“Would love to,” he smiled, an tugged on his boots.
“This is my favorite ridin spot,” Jack said t’Junior from behind the pack, ridin his startle-y little mare that Ennis groused about him always havin t’have. Foxy knickered her disapproval at bein ridden; she was still bein, as Jack liked t’say, “broken in.”
“Gonna break your ass breakin her in,” Ennis always grumbled, an made a point t’say it again in front a Junior today, who giggled ‘cause her daddy used a curse word she weren’t allowed t’use.
“It’s beautiful,” Junior agreed, drinkin in the meadow where they’d ridden to. Far off, a deer flitted into the nearby borderin trees an outta sight.
“Didja see that?” Ennis pointed, but Junior shook her head.
“I wish we had horses back home,” she sighed, an touched her horse’s ear. Ennis had set her up on the fat quarter horse, Couch, ‘cause he was the laziest horse he knew an probably couldn’t throw Junior even if he wanted to.
“You can come here an visit us an ride our horses.”
Ennis winced. Our.
“Sure,” Ennis cut in, tryin t’salvage what he could from the wreck. “The horses need little girls t’ride ‘em. Gives ‘em somethin t’do.”
The ride home was oddly still, oddly quiet, like somethin irreversible had happened. Been said, Ennis knew. Junior weren’t stupid. He was sweatin bullets, too, wonderin if she was gonna ask some question he weren’t prepared for.
“Dinner’s ready,” Jack shouted from the kitchen, interruptin Ennis an Junior’s game a checkers.
“Since when d’you cook?” Ennis teased, an wondered momentarily if that weren’t a stupid thing t’say.
“Always liked cookin,” he smiled. “I done most a the cookin on Brokeback.”
The conversation went chillingly cold; both men could feel it grab them ‘round the belly an yank hard.
“What’s Brokeback?” She repeated.
“That’s, uh,” Jack began slowly, pullin out the chair for Junior t’sit down, pushin her up to the table.
“S’where I met up with Jack,” Ennis said uncertainly. “We were, uh… herdin woolies up there on that mountain. Uh, Brokeback Mountain.”
“Sheep,” Jack explained.
Junior grinned. “Daddy, you never told me you herded sheep!”
“Uh, yeah, that’s how I ran across my friend Jack, here.” My friend. The words felt so unbearably raw and wrong. He wanted so badly to correct himself; my man. My partner. My lover. Whatever you wanna call him… My Jack.
But he didn’t.
Their dinner went on in silence. Junior asked a few questions ‘bout Brokeback, gettin her answers in rough pieces. Somethin seemed unsaid, an Ennis knew Junior sensed it. Sometimes, jus’ sometimes, he wished she weren’t as sharp as she was.