A Christmas Story

Genre: BBM au

Pairing: Ennis and Jack

Warning: Mild rough language and fluff

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor seek payment for my stories.

A/N: See at the end of the story

Let us begin.

Aguirre snarled something unintelligible under his breath about "ranch stiffs ain't never no good." then he spat richly and kicked at a runty small dog whose mother had despaired of his survival and refused to nurture him further. Luckily for the pup's sake, the heavily booted foot missed by a quarter inch.

The dark haired boy witnessed the kick, and grabbed up the small dog, stuffing it inside his shirt for protection. His blond friend watched him with sorrowful, loving eyes; then staring at the hulking back of Aguirre, he offered low and menacing, "asshole."

Breaking the angry spell, he then said, "Come on, Jack."

After collecting their summer's meager wages, they climbed into Jack's dusty pick-up. The vehicle refused to respond to the normal ignition attempts till the driver released the hood latch, and Ennis hopped out to have a look and a tinker. Soon they were on their way, not saying another word about it.

Due to the insistant whimpering of the pup, and the rumbling stomachs of the two boys, they decided to stop to eat at a likely looking place in Morton. Facing each other across a shiny clean formica table in the little diner and waiting for their meal, Ennis finally addressed the fight. "Sorry about that punch, bud."

"I know. Sorry about busting your nose."

"I know. You're turning kinda purple there under your eye." He reached across the table to touch the left cheekbone of the person who had, in less than four months, become the light of his life. Realizing what he was doing, he dropped his hand down to the table top and fiddled with the cutlery laying there.

Looking for a safe topic, he asked, "You gonna keep that dog?"

"Shit. Daddy never did let me have no pet. Somethin' that don't earn it's keep can't stay. It's not like a cat; they keep the mice down, and take care o' themselves, but a dog? No way."

"It's mama was a working sheep dog, maybe he'd be a good herder?"

"We ain't got sheep, just cows."

"Still. I know you want to keep him."

Their food came then, and they began to eat. For the first time that day, they smiled at each other. A meal they hadn't cooked themselves, that was properly seasoned, and no part was burnt, was a treat beyond measure. Eventually, Ennis sopped up the last bit of gravy with a piece of biscuit, chewed, swallowed and sighed. That was a fine meal, and a cup of coffee and a cigarette would make it just about perfect he thought.

But that was before Mellie Ann told them that pie came with the meal. Jack confessed to having a puppy out in the truck, and wondered if she had something he could take with him; he had saved some of his meal, you see. Right quick she came back with a little paper plate, and he scraped the small amount of mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and hamburger steak he'd saved for Spot, or Sport or Billy. "I ain't decided what to call him yet." he said.

She took away their dinner plates, brought their pie and refilled their coffee cups. It now seemed to both of them that their time together was running out for sure. Just a few miles down the road was Kinnear, and then before they knew it, they'd be in Riverton where they were to part. Forever. Where Ennis' betrothed awaited.

Neither one could finish their pie. They looked glumly at each other and fidgeted for something to say. Nothing came to them.

At last, Jack looked hopefully into Ennis' eyes and said, "They ain't nobody expectin' us for another month or so."

"Your point?"

"Uh. We could maybe get some work, and make up that shortfall that asshole Aguirre left us with by bringin'em down early."

"Need a miracle for that, Jack. Jobs are hard to come by these days."

"You two lookin' for work?" asked Mellie Ann. She had overheard their talk as she filled her arms with their plates and cups. "Man and woman just posted a notice not more'n a half hour ago. Say they need help on their place. It's temporary, but you might want to have a look."

While Ennis paid their bill, Jack unpinned the note from the message board. They went out to feed the pup and talk over the idea. "It says the Carpenter place is down 26 a mile or so more, and then take a right on Bethlehem Road, 3 ΒΌ miles Look for their stable."

"What kinda work they got?"

"What's it matter? Between us we can do most anything, and it'll give us some time, Ennis. Come on."

"Okay, but let's stop over at that Marathon, and put a couple dollars worth a gas in the truck. You ain't gotta haul my ass to Riverton for free."

Jack smiled thinking how he'd haul that ass anywhere in the world, and then some if they could just work this thing out. "Sure thing, friend, but you already paid for my dinner."

"Least I could do."

They let the pup roam around and squat a few times; he'd enthusiastically eaten every scrap of food, licked the plate and then carried it around in his teeth, shaking it and growling as if he'd caught an alligator. They laughed at his puppy antics and enjoyed him awhile before tucking him into Jack's shirt again for the ride to the Carpenter place.

They found the road easily enough and saw the stable just at the distance it had said in the ad. They pulled up to the house to see if the jobs were still available.

Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter were uncommonly welcoming, and pleasant. It was almost like they were expecting them. They said the job was everything including helping in the house. "You'll need to be 'jacks of all trades' for this one." So they began that day, and the dog was welcome to stay.

They slept in the house while they built a bunk house to accommodate four to six men. Mr. Carpenter, being a carpenter, worked alongside them, but he was getting on in years and couldn't keep the pace that these young men set. He offered advice about the intricate details of dovetailing, joists, planing and such, and he had really fine tools. He noted with satisfaction how carefully the boys handled, cleaned and stored his tools; as if they were their own, or as if they were made of gold.

In two weeks' time, the bunkhouse was finished and Ennis and Jack could move in. The lady of the house supplied cooking pots, towels, sheets, even soap, everything they'd need for a day to day existence out there on their own.

This was their first moment of privacy since they'd left the mountain. They came together at a run, and clung, and bit and relished the taste of the other's skin and blood. The second time was tender and sweet and they made it last awhile. In the night, they awoke and the third time was strong and powerful showing their need for one another. In the morning when they awoke at dawn, the fourth time was playful, silly and so much fun. They could barely make it through that day, having wrung out everything within them. That night they slept.

Now that they had a place where they could again be together every night and wake together every morning, just like on the mountain, they were content with their lives. Nothing more was needed.

In early September they began work on the house. The roof was in bad shape, and the first thing they did was to replace it entirely. Remembering the lessons from Mr. Carpenter, they knew exactly how to set the joists at the best angle, prepare the boards, tar paper and shingles. It was a fine solid roof they made.

At dinner that day, Mr. Carpenter suggested that since they'd been there a month that they could call them by their given names instead of their surnames. "Well, sir, if that's what you both want, we'd be happy to oblige." said Jack.

Passing a basket of biscuits, Mrs. Carpenter said, "Ennis, Jack, my name is Mary." They both looked at her, nodded, and said "Mary."

Then, while scooping out a big helping of chicken and noodles, Mr. Carpenter said, "Boys, my name is Joseph. I'll be pleased to have you use it." They both smiled as if at a private joke, remembering the last supervisor they had was Joe or Joseph too. But this man was very different, and they honored him by saying "Thank you, Joseph."

The remainder of the meal was spent in discussion of the plans for the place, and the honest evaluation of how pleased they were to have such men to work with them. It seemed to Ennis and Jack that not one day went by, indeed perhaps not one meal, without hearing how special they were to Mary and Joseph. They were beginning to believe in the miracle that Ennis had mentioned.

The only animals on the Carpenter place were their mule, and three sheep. When asked, Joseph always said there was plenty of time to stock the pens and barns next Spring. Eventually, Ennis stopped asking.

Jack was never out of sight of Ennis for very long, nor of his growing pup. He had decided to call him Smokey. He was Jack's little shadow.

The staircase in the main house was old and rickety, and the men began to replace it as soon as the roof was complete. The new one was strong and shone with the grain of the oak planks. As the autumn turned toward winter both Ennis and Jack became concerned that the work in the house may be coming to an end, and they'd have to move on soon. It was understood from the beginning that the jobs were only temporary - that's what the ad had said.

Joseph asked them go to the stock sales and pick out four fine healthy looking horses for riding, and the saddles and tack needed for them. Their next purchase was for two cows and a fine strong bull. The Carpenters were really outfitting the place for a successful operation, admired the boys.

On Christmas Eve, during the noon day meal, Ennis asked if they'd be needed much longer. "Oh my stars, yes." replied Mary. "Of course," said Joseph, "we'll need you for a while yet. We both hope you can stay on."

Jack spoke heartily, "We'll stay as long as you need us." And Ennis added, "You bet!"

On Christmas morning when they went up to the house for breakfast, they found no one in the kitchen, but the lights were on, the meal was warming in the oven and the table was set, but only for two. The tree lights flickered merrily, and there was no answer to their calls about the house.

On the finely polished table in the hall were some papers. They looked at them to see if Mary and Joseph had left a note for them. But it was a Deed to the house and all the property in the names of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. There were more acres than they had realized.

They ascended the stairs to see if the Carpenters were up there, perhaps sleeping late, but they were alone in the house. There was nothing of a personal nature in the closets, nor in the bathroom; not even a scrap of soap, nor slip of paper in the waste basket.

On the bedside table was a note: "Dear Boys, we hope you don't mind being addressed that way, as we know you've both turned 20 this year, and are men full grown with all the skills to take care of yourselves. As you've no doubt seen, we have deeded everything to you; it was to be yours all along. We never intended to stay and run this place, as we must be about our son's business. Today is His birthday, and this is our way of celebrating Him.

You will have to work hard in your lives, but you are so capable and ready for the challenge.

Be happy, and secure in your blessings,

Mary and Joseph"

The mule was gone from the stable, but everything else was exactly as it had been the night before.

The Beginning

A/N: This little story was inspired by an e-card from a friend, she knows who she is! It showed a snowy dusk. A man is caring for the horses, and other animals - preparing them for the night. The scene backs off to see that someone is watching him through a window with a wreath in it - someone who loves him, and is waiting near the mistletoe.