Note: Everything from canon leading up to the four year reunion and the reunion itself is intact in this story. I just pushed it all up. Instead of four years, it's two. Ennis has just one daughter, and I made Bobby older than Junior.
Ennis del Mar held his four-month-old daughter's small body close to his own. He breathed in deeply the smell of her curls, that smell of baby powder and Junior. He didn't know when he'd hold her next, when he'd again get that smell in his nose. He was leaving—had a bag packed and in the truck already, Alma's eyes red-rimmed and nose running. Jack was waiting for him in town.
"Ennis, I think you'd just better go," Alma choked out. He closed his eyes, squeezed that baby as tight as he dared without waking her up, and set her down. She kicked one leg sleepily. He planted one last kiss on her forehead, smoothed a lock off her cheek, and hunched his shoulders. He stopped just outside the apartment, doorknob still in hand. Turn around and walk back in and go to work and stay here, stay stay stay stay…
"Never meant to hurt you, Alma," he said softly. She didn't say anything. He swallowed hard and quietly shut the door. His jaw was clenched painfully tight, as were his fists, but he didn't allow any thoughts to flood his brain as he drove away from his small apartment over the Laundromat. He'd never thought of it as home, anyway.
His baby would never know her daddy. He wondered what Alma would tell Junior when she was old enough to ask after him. If she ever asked.
So much for not thinking about it.
When the endless drive was over and Ennis got to the motel and into the room he'd been sharing with Jack for the last two nights, he finally let those thoughts slide fully into his brain. He crumpled into Jack's arms and let himself be held, Jack stroking his cheek and whispering "It'll be alright, it'll all work out," into his hair.
In the two years since his sheep herding days up on Brokeback, Ennis del Mar had gotten married and had a daughter. He wasn't dying, so he figured he was pretty happy. His wife was a good woman, his daughter made him happy. So life wasn't bad.
The only time he felt he was dying was when his dreams turned to dimples and smoke and bleating sheep and that hard-muscled body and those eyes, those blue, blue eyes…
Then Ennis knew he wasn't happy. When that ache burned him, he knew he wasn't happy. When his stomach clenched and churned, he knew he wasn't happy. When he flipped Alma's soft little body to her stomach, he knew he wasn't happy. But he didn't see any way out of this misery, so he mainly tried to ignore it.
And then Jack had sent that postcard. Wanted to get together. And in that reunion, Ennis's life was flipped upside down.
Jack had come down off Brokeback, bruised (physically and emotionally) and tired, and headed straight for the rodeo circuit. He figured the only way to get around the trampling on his heart was to get a trampling on his body. And that was exactly what he got. He won a few times, earned himself one helluva belt buckle and even some money. And then he'd met Lureen. They'd taken things fast—got married fast, had a kid fast, hit a rough patch real fast.
Jack was miserable. He hated his life. Lureen had insisted he quit the rodeo when Bobby was born. Just another thing to add to his list of things he missed, along withEnnis.
Mama's cherry cake.
Finally, when he and Lureen were so alienated from each other as to sleep in separate rooms, he sent that postcard. He sent that postcard, redlined it all the way to Wyoming, spent a blissful three days wrapped up in Ennis, and then had to deal with his heart getting all ripped up again.
They'd spent the time wrestling, kissing, bickering, drinking, and mostly having sex. They did that a lot. Jack had tentatively mentioned a life together. Ennis shot it down, citing Earl and Rich and tire irons. Jack couldn't get him to change his mind. Too soon, it was the night before they had to leave. Both had "lives" to get back to. The tent was cold and they were wrapped into each other. For warmth, of course.
"Hmm…?" Ennis cracked an eye open. It was pitch dark.
"Can I ask you something?" Jack was sitting up, arms wrapped around bare knees. He was biting his lip.
"Uh…sure." What time was it? Why the hell was Jack up?
"Do you ever think about what life would be like if we had a life together?" Jack's voice was quiet. Ennis sagged. Not this again.
"Jack, I told you. Two guys—"
"I know, I know. 'No way.' But just tell me, do you ever think on it?" The look in Jack's eyes told Ennis that he'd better not do any bullshitting right now. He sighed.
"Maybe so…once in a while…" He shrugged, like it was no big deal, but Jack saw right through him.
"What do you think it'd be like?"
"Jack, it's probably better not to talk about it."
"Ennis, please?" Those eyes, that voice…Ennis sighed again.
"Okay. We'd have ourselves a nice ranch, lots of land. Coupla dogs, little pups for you 'cause you like 'em so much. Lots of horses. Good horses, not no nags. Full heada cattle. Maybe some chickens or something." He shrugged again. Bit at a hangnail. Jack just breathed for a minute.
"Wanna know what I think it'd be like?"
"Well, do you or don't you? I'm not telling you if you don't actually want to hear it." Jack knew he did, but he wanted Ennis to admit it. Ennis shifted so he was facing Jack.
"'Kay. Just like you said, we'd have good horses, a nice cow and calf operation. And the house'd be real big, for company and such. We'd have a big window in our room, so's we could look out and see what we got, everyday. And we'd have all kinds a trees. Apple trees, and willow trees, good for climbin." He was quiet for a minute. "But you know my favorite part?"
"The fences. We'd have white picket fences." Jack laughed a little. There was just a touch of bitterness. "Just like some damned woman, huh?"
Ennis shut his eyes. He could see green grass moving in the wind, those damn white picket fences looking real nice coming up the driveway. Maybe they'd have a sign? Before he could stop himself, Ennis breathed,
"Sure wouldn't mind that life." The dreamy spell was broken.
"Then why can't we have it, Ennis?" Jack was excited now, voice too loud for the still night.
"Jack, two men can't ranch up together. Just wouldn't work."
"Ennis, you want it as bad as me. I know you do." Jack crawled over to Ennis, let his hands rest on Ennis's back.
"Ennis, we could live real quiet like. No one'd have to know. We'd just tell people we ran the ranch together."
"They'd ask about wives."
"We could say they was both dead. Ennis, we could say our wives was sisters and they died and hell, we're practically brothers now, so we figured to start something up together! Say it was their dying wishes or some shit like that. People eat that up."
"Jack, who'd believe that?"
"Who gives a shit who believes it?"
"I'm sick of going 'round in circles over this." Ennis's voice was cold, final. Jack moved back over to the bedroll, away from Ennis, taking his warmth and his hope with him.
"Yeah. Yeah, guess you're right." He said dully. "Stupid idea anyway."
Now Ennis felt guilty. But, God, couldn't this man get it through his thick skull? It didn't matter how bad either of them wanted it—they couldn't do it. Just couldn't. He settled back down next to Jack, nestled the other man into his arms.
"Wish things was different, Rodeo. Swear to God I do." He planted a soft kiss on the side of Jack's head. Jack sighed.
"Let's just go back to sleep, Ennis. Got a long drive tomorrow and I don't wanna be bitching 'bout lack of sleep."
You'll just spend it bitching over everything else, Ennis wanted to say. But sometimes his silence had a good side.
A last desperate kiss, a pat on the back, and Ennis found himself in his truck, pulling away. He put on the radio to avoid listening to his thoughts. It hurt to let Jack leave again. Hurt worse than the first time because he knew the empty feeling he would get when he was away from Jack.
No, I can't forget this evening or your face as you were leaving. But I guess that's just the way the story goes. You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows, yes, it shows.
Ennis took a big gulping breath. Just a song. Don't put no stock to it. Almost against his will, he glanced in his rearview mirror to see Jack still just sitting there by his truck, head down, not moving.
Can't live if living is without you.
Jack swiped at a lone tear on his face.
I can't live, I can't give anymore.
His head came up, staring longingly after Ennis's truck.
I can't live if living is without you.
And suddenly Ennis was pulled to the side of the road and turning around so fast gravel flew under his tires and his poor old truck whined and he didn't care because Jack heard him coming back and got the hope back in his eyes and Ennis was out of the truck with the keys still in the ignition and Jack was in his arms and Ennis was whispering into that dark hair, "Oh darlin, oh darlin," and Jack was shaking and they were kissing and he thought No more tears. No more.
Lureen had taken Jack's leaving much easier than Alma had Ennis's. She'd frowned over the phone, asked if he was going to come home to pick up his things, and why couldn't he have left a year ago before she'd had that son of his? And while they were at it, what did Jack plan to do with that son of his? Lureen sure as hell weren't going to raise him on her own.
Jack, frustrated, had asked if she wanted him to take Bobby with him. She was quiet for a long minute.
"Well, that would be easier," she finally said. Jack was taken back for a minute, but when he thought on it, was not wholly surprised. Lureen wasn't real good with the baby and she bemoaned her lost social life almost every day.
Already, at a year old, Bobby looked like his father, and Lureen seemed to take personal offense to that. He didn't seem to have inherited one bit of her. From the minute he was old enough to care, his favorite shoes were those damned cowboy boots his daddy'd bought him. He wore that little cowboy hat constantly, and he adored that shiny belt buckle Jack wore nonstop. No one could really tell if that was because he admired Jack's rodeo days or just because Jack kept it so clean Bobby could see his reflection in it, but Jack liked to tell anyone who'd listen that Bobby was going to ride bulls, just like his daddy.
Jack wondered how Ennis would take it. He hoped Ennis'd be excited, but that man was just so damn unpredictable. Probably part of him would be happy to have a son and the other part would lash out about having another mouth to feed, another body to worry about. But Jack was pretty sure he'd be happy. Ennis had a soft spot for kids and animals that Jack found endearing.
Walking back to the truck, Jack couldn't keep the grin off his face. He even whistled. They were actually going to be a family. Sure, it was one fucked up family, what with two daddies and all, but he didn't care. The point was, he'd have his boy and his Ennis with him, both at once.
Sixteen Years Later
"Ready to meet your daddy?" The social worker asked Junior. Junior gave her a blank look and didn't answer. The woman kept that fake smile pasted on her face.
"I know it'll be hard, sweetie, especially since you just lost your mother. But try to think of it as a good life change." Junior wanted to throw up. This woman had just met Junior three days ago and suddenly she was "sweetie?"
Alma had never remarried. She had supported Junior on her own, living in the same apartment over the Laundromat for the last sixteen years. Ennis sent money once in a while. Alma wished she were too proud to use it. But in truth, she was too poor to be proud.
Junior didn't know any details about her father—just that his name was Ennis, he was a cowboy, and he'd left before she was even a year old to make a new family with someone else. She knew he had slanted, shaky handwriting, like he wasn't sure of his writing. He sent her a card and a present every Christmas and on all her birthdays. He'd sent a few letters that Junior hadn't opened, but her mother made her write thank-you notes for each present. All were the same—
To my father,
Thank you very much for the present. It was kind of you to send it.
Her mother's poor heart had finally given out, and Alma had died. Junior would rather have lived with her aunt, but the court sent her to her father—a man she couldn't remember in a town six hours away from home.
An old pickup pulled into the parking lot. A man with blondish hair curling around his ears rolled to a stop. He had a tan hat, worn jeans, and cowboy boots. He took off his hat and cleared his throat nervously.
She just stared at him. So this was her father? He chewed at a thumbnail. He fidgeted when the social worker stretched a hand to him. He murmured a "Pleasure to meet you, ma'am." with downcast eyes. Junior had always thought he would be strong and charming. He was just plain nervous.
"All set?" He asked her. She stood up wordlessly, endured a hug from the social worker stiffly, and picked up her one suitcase. Ennis quickly moved to take it from her, but she clutched it with white knuckles. His shoulders hunched and he nodded, just once.
Junior stared out the window the whole ride, even though the scenery stayed the same the whole time. Flatness and dust, that's all she saw. Ennis cleared his throat.
"So, uh, I sure am sorry 'bout your mama." He sounded sincere enough. Junior didn't say anything.
"She was a real good lady."
"Not good enough for you, apparently." She used her most biting tone. Ennis's jaw tightened, and they rode the rest of the way in silence.
A/N: The song Ennis hears in his truck that makes him turn around is "Can't Live (If Living Is Without You)" by Harry Nillson. It wasn't out in 1965--I don't think it was released until the 70s--but I plead creative liberty.