Rating: PG-13 for mild language
Summary: One-shot. A few months after Jack’s death, Ennis wakes up in the middle of the night after dreaming about Jack. Based mostly on the short story, but was probably influenced by the movie as well.
Word count: approx. 1200
Original post date: March 2006 on ff.net
A/N: I wrote this fic almost two years ago, right after I read the short story and saw the film for the first time. I was going to do a bunch of editing before I posted it to my journal, but after rereading it I decided that I'd just let it be. So here it is in all of its melodramatic, unbetaed glory. Concrit is welcome.
December in Signal, Wyoming was a damn cold month, and the trailer didn’t have a heater, not even the cheap plug-in kind with the bright orange coils that looked nothing like a real fire. The thermometer outside read 28 degrees, and it couldn’t have been much warmer inside, even with a flannel blanket and a pair of thick cotton socks. Ennis del Mar was curled up in a ball in the center of the tiny pull out bed, snoring and shivering so loudly that it was a wonder he didn’t wake himself up.
At about three o’clock in in the morning, a ferocious gust of wind from the north gathered strength from the end of the dirt road and barreled towards the rickety trailer, slamming against the door with the force of a freight train and knocking a dirty dish off of the counter and onto the linoleum floor. Ennis jerked awake, drenched in a thick layer of sweat and tears, the boundaries between dream and reality deliciously blurred.
Ennis rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, and the dream came racing back without any effort, pushing the interior of the trailer out of focus and flooding his vision with images of Jack’s face and arms and shoulders, bare and peaceful, illuminated by a patch of purple-tinted moonlight that had gained entrance through a crack between the tent flaps. For a moment, Ennis felt something like sandpaper push firmly against the insides of his fingers, and too late he realized that he wasn’t really touching the back of Jack’s neck, pressing his fingers against the close-shaved hairs slick with sweat. Too late because for a second, maybe two, Ennis had thought that Jack was really lying there beside him, and he was happy.
But Jack wasn’t and Ennis wasn’t. He had little more than half an instant to whisper “fuck” before he felt tears pricking the back of his eyes, blurring his vision even further and causing the half-pleasant pressure in his chest to bubble over into something like grief. He lay there for a few minutes, staring up at the ceiling and reaching up every once in a while to wipe the moisture off of his cheeks, but couldn’t decide whether it was best to think about the dream or just let it go. Every fiber of muscle in his body cried out for Jack to reach over and touch him, and the dream satisfied some tiny piece of that need, but it wasn’t enough, wouldn’t ever be enough.
The dreams had been going on for a couple of months, starting not long after he’d returned from Jack’s parents’ house in Lightning Flat. They were almost never about sex, though they might as well have been judging by the number of times he had to wash his sheets every month. Sometimes they would be about Jack telling some story from his rodeo days about getting his foot trampled by a chocolate brown Angus mix with nostrils the size of his fist or about breaking 90 on a blonde Brahman that he insisted weighed over twenty-five hundred pounds, even after Ennis called him a goddamn liar. Other times, the dreams were about washing clothes together in the river or pushing a can of beans around in the pot just after daybreak or singing hymns from Jack’s mama’s church back in Lightning Flat. Most of the time, they were about the two of them sitting around the campfire, looking up at the stars and passing a bottle of whiskey back and forth, not a word spoken between ‘em.
Ennis clenched his eyes shut and flung his forearm over his chest, pushing against his heart in an effort to relieve the pressure that was building. Outside, the wind sharpened, whined as loudly as a coyote. Ennis lay there for a long time taking deep, steady breaths, skirting the edges of the dream with the edges of his mind, pushing it away and then pulling it back again, violently. He knew he should sleep. Stoutamire would feed him to the cattle if he got to work late, and Ennis needed that job to carry him through to the next summer, at least until June when Alma got married. Finally -- after how long, he didn’t know -- he pushed the remnants of the dream aside for good and pulled the blanket up under his arms. He felt his eyelids growing heavy, and he settled back into the pillow, arm still splayed over his chest. And then…
…Jack leaned back from the fire, settling back onto the log next to Ennis’s. He took a long swig from the whiskey bottle in his right hand, then offered it to Ennis. Ennis reached out, grasped the flannel blanket balled up next to the wall, and took a deep sip of cold December air. Jack smiled goofily, half drunk. “You sing hymns in the Methodist Church?” he asked lazily.
Jack let out a low belch. “Bet you ain’t never sang no hymns like the ones my mama sang.” He glanced over at Ennis. “I’m gonna sing one for ya, alright?”
Ennis nodded again, swallowed the lump in his throat.
Jack grinned--an easy, child-like grin that caused Ennis’s stomach to contract painfully--and tipped his head back, holding his arms out, sloshing a few drops of whiskey onto the dirt below. “I know I shall meet you on that final day…”
Ennis kept his eyes trained on Jack’s face, drinking in the ruddy cheeks and the large teeth, their ivory tips barely visible in the light of the campfire. Ennis felt a strain of anguish coil itself around his stomach, squeezing harder and harder as Jack sang, badly. His strong, careless voice shouted the last lines, “Water walking Jesus, take me away!” and Ennis felt something inside of him break.
He turned his head away and blinked a few times, his eyelids fluttering rapidly in the swift confusion. He curled his fingers into a fist around a clump of flannel beside his thigh and took a ragged breath, stumbling around inside of himself in search of something that he couldn’t find and couldn’t name. And, not for the first time since Jack’s death, he prayed.
“Water walking Jesus…” he whispered. “Take me away.”
After a few minutes, he looked up again, and his eyes settled on the trailer window, which was covered in a set of ruffled yellow curtains that his daughter had bought for him. The sun was rising, casting soft bands of blue light on the faded plaid just above his knee. He glanced over at the floor beside the kitchen counter, remembered the broken plate that had woken him up in the first place, and pulled the flannel quilt away from his legs. Ennis stood from the tiny pull-out bed and walked over to the sink, careful to avoid the shards of blue and white ceramic, and pulled out the filters so that he could make himself a pot of coffee.