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03 February 2008 @ 08:34 pm
Higher Education: Chapter 15  
Title: Higher Education
Fandom: BBM
Rating: NC-17
Summary: This is an AU!AU featuring Jack and Ennis in the higher education setting. Happy ending.
Disclaimer: Not my characters, and I make no money from them.
AN: Unbeta'd. This chapter is hot off the press, so let me know if there's a problem. Also, it's been a while since I've written in this universe so I hope my memory is doing ok.
Word Count: 2591
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Chapter 15

Jack's folks drove down during his winter break. It was a surprise, but not quite a welcome one. Still, it was best that they came now while Ennis was away. The boredom and long-ignored anger that Jack felt in his parents' presence could even be welcomed as a distraction from the loneliness that he found more acutely now, despite that he had seen Ennis recently and that the gulf of time until they were back together, back living together, was half as long as it had been the last time he'd said goodbye to Ennis. His parents were a distraction in much the same way a physics exam was a distraction, but hey, that'd got him through the last semester, so what the hell.

The visit passed quickly enough without any damage except from maybe Jack grinding his teeth too much. Jack showed them around campus, showed them where he worked. His father grumbled something about Jack getting an education to spread mustard, he didn't listen too hard, and then he proudly brought them back for dinner in his apartment. He even cooked it, though it was just some pasta with white sauce. His mother smiled to watch him doing for himself, but his dad grunted that in his day they didn't get sauce out of a jar. Jack shrugged it off. In his dad's day they also didn't use e-mail or have color TVs, so who the hell cared to go back to those ways of thinking?

"This is a nice little place for a student," Jack's mother remarked. Truth was, the apartment was about the size of the downstairs of their house at home, small as that was, and good size for any apartment anywhere near campus. As far as Jack knew, it was sheer luck Ennis had gotten it, though most of the spaciousness was in the living room and not in the one average-sized bedroom, the bathroom, or the smallish kitchen that was, still, big enough to put a table in and so nothing to complain about. He could see all sort of thoughts behind her eyes, but he couldn't read them. He wondered if she felt jealousy or loneliness or what. "How d'you afford such a nice place?"

Jack fumbled trying to muster up an explanation, since his parents knew exactly how much money they were sending him, and he'd already told him what crap he made at work. Teng, who had been introduced to Jack's parents that morning, hadn't been following Jack or his parents' conversations too closely, but he was typing away in the living room on something and turned towards the table on a dime.

"If you're worried that Jack isn't paying his share," Teng spoke up, "you don't have to. I mean, he's kind of my landlord, but Ennis pays some of his share."

Jack found his mouth was hanging open not unlike that of a fish found high and dry on the bottom of a boat. There was no way to signal to Teng, no way to put him off.

"Ennis?" Jack's dad grunted.

But Teng was a smart guy, and he seemed to notice Jack's little panic, because his cheeks had gone a little red and he answered, "Oh, he's the actual landlord."

"Actual?" Jack's father's eyes squinted.

"What I mean," Teng cleared his throat, "is that Ennis is subletting to us, but since he and Jack are friends, he gave Jack a discount. I'm just some guy they dragged in off the street to cover the other half," he laughed. Jack noticed that his chuckle was empty of any nervousness and didn't sound at all forced. Maybe because he really was just dragged in for that purpose?

"Well," Jack spoke up as he started to gather everyone's dirty dishes, not meeting anyone's eyes, "you're a friend now." He nodded resolutely, realizing, very suddenly, actually, that Teng was one of only a very few people who knew anything about what Jack and Ennis shared, and that, before and since Teng had put those pieces together, he'd acted just the same towards Jack. He was nothing but considerate, and he'd just pulled Jack out of a bind. At the end of Teng's time here in their apartment, he would have trouble thinking of the grad student as anything but a friend.

A little more tense conversation was exchanged that night over a pie Jack had bought at the grocery store. Teng suffered Jack's family, his eyes rolling a mile a minute at some of Jack's father's ignorant proclamations, but never where the old man could see them. To Jack, it felt nice having someone around who could see as well as he could what a jackass his father was. It was like a vindication, not that he'd doubted that his father was a jackass. Finally, Jack's parents said goodbye and drove back off again. That one day seemed to last a week, but now it was over. If that's how it was now, Jack couldn't imagine what kind of relationship he would have with his folks further down the road. When he imagined further down the road, though, everything became a blur. There was so much he hadn't decided on or didn't know about, it made him ill.

Ennis had called while Jack's parents were visiting after dinner, but Teng had answered and had had the good sense not to alert Jack's folks as to who was on the phone. Jack's heart raced as he heard Teng say, "he, uh, he has his family here, can I take a message?" all the while knowing who it was that Teng must be taking a message for. Now that the folks were gone, Teng seemed to knowingly relinquish the computer when Jack'd raced to his e-mail to drop a line:

"e, my folks were here, making my life a living hell. Sorry about missing your call. They just left thank God. i'm going to bed, call you tomorow-j"

The next day they spoke, neither long enough nor intimately enough, but it was what they had. Sometimes they would sit with silence on the line, just listening to each other's breathing. Once, Ennis had fallen asleep out in his lounge or wherever, and Jack had had to yell into the phone to wake him. Life relaxed into that steady, even pace. Teng was working hard on his research or whatever it was that grad students did-- Jack didn't really understand, while Jack was pulling winter-semester hours at the dining hall.

Those work hours were utter hell, too. Campus was plenty short of students over the winter. A variety of freshmen-level classes were offered, and students that needed or wanted could get ahead or try to catch up over winter break. A few of the dorms stayed open, but not many. More importantly for Jack, the one dining facility that serviced those open dorms was understaffed at these times, most of its workers home for Christmas and New Year's and the rest of the month of January. Those of them that were left behind-- and especially those like Jack who were not taking classes-- were scheduled up to triple shifts, opening and closing in a single day. More than once he dragged himself home through snow and wind and sleet at the end of the day only to fall asleep fully-dressed on the couch. Once, he even got up and went back to work without changing. Whatever, who cared? At least he'd make some money, even at the meager six dollars an hour they were paying him.

One Tuesday he got off of work unusually early at three in the afternoon and walked back to the apartment through a smattering of flurries at below-zero temps. Coming inside, he wondered what he should do with this extra time, and his eyes rested on his backpack from D.C. He hadn't unpacked, not really. He'd dug out the underwear, some pants, stuff he needed, but he'd been wearing mostly work shirts so all his nicer shirts were still packed along with his good pair of shoes. He wandered over to it and dumped the whole suitcase onto his bed to see what was in there, what needed to be thrown into his dirty clothes pile or whatever. Still, the work seemed daunting. He did it without much thought or care, stacking up a nice pile for laundry, but failing at actually getting the motivation to wash the clothes. No one was here to give a damn what he smelled like anyway.

Jack slouched into a sofa in the living room after booting his PlayStation, and let the thrill and automation of a First Person Shooter erase his concerns.

Some time later-- Jack couldn't say how much, though he did know how many levels it had been-- Teng came in looking tired and beat. "Your home early," he said, but his words didn't carry much bemusement; they seemed more a statement of fact.

Jack paused and leaned back further. "You got any dinner plans."

Teng grunted, and Jack smiled thinking about how like Ennis Teng could be when he was tired. Not the rest of the time, though. "What did you have in mind?"

"I dunno, order a pizza?"

"Sounds good."

It was the most roommate-like thing they'd done in their months together, ordering a delivery pizza and splitting the money for it. Jack plunked down in the love seat and Teng in the matching sofa, both worn hard and bought used by Ennis. The three larges were set on the coffee table-- just a cheap wooden thing. The pizza was enough to be meals well into the week, but they should probably divvy the slices first.

"Hey," Jack said, suddenly raising his head to Teng, "thanks for the way you handled my parents last week. Seemed... seemed close." Jack shrugged and swallowed an enormous bite of pepperoni.

Teng shrugged. "I got you into that pile, I thought it was the least I could do to get you out."

"You didn't quite get me in," Jack shook his head, answering with his mouth still full. he swallowed hard and reached for the can of Pepsi on the table in front of him. Teng watched him until he continued. "My parents don't know about my living situation, but they do know about how little I make with Dining Services," Jack laughed. "I was pretty stupid to think they'd never put the two together."

Teng laughed. "So, it's obvious they don't... know, you know? How many people do know about your 'living situation'?" Teng made quotes in the air to emphasize Jack's odd turn of phrase.

Jack shrugged and answered around a mouthful of crust. "There's you. One of the physics profs. My friend Randy. Well, ex-friend--"

"What happened there?"

"Not worth going into. And also, hey, does Ennis count."

"No," Teng answered, deadpan.

"Does your girlfriend know?"

Teng tilted back his head, thinking. "I... I'm not sure. I... maybe. I don't know. No, I don't think I've ever brought it up."

Jack nodded. "That makes three."

Teng laughed hard and suddenly. "You guys."

"What?" Jack felt he was being laughed at.

"I met Ennis for all of ten minutes, but with the way you two carry on-- the phone, the e-mails, the trip to D.C.-- I don't think you'll be breaking up so soon that you can keep it to three. People are going to figure out. Hell, people might have figured out for all you know. It's not like you came out and told me."

Jack didn't say anything, just looked down at his third slice of pizza, feeling suddenly disheartened though he couldn't put his finger on exactly why that was.

"If you're serious, you're going to have to have a plan."

"A plan?" Jack looked up, suddenly very conscious of the roughly eight years Teng had on him.

"Do you want people to find out, or do you want to tell them? Who do you want to be in the know, and who don't you want, stuff like that."

"Uh."

"Yeah." Teng smiled like he'd just played a marvelous practical joke, partitioned the pizza equally without saying a thing about it, and stood to take his box to the kitchen. He disappeared into the bedroom and didn't return.

Jack ate a couple more slices of pizza in an unusual, thoughtful silence. Normally he would have flipped on the TV, radio, something, but just now... Oh, there was the people on the bus trip, some of them knew, like Lureen. It nearly sounded like an excuse in Jack's head, holding up one gal he wasn't likely to see again as a shield against an onslaught of self-disappointment. He didn't think he could handle people knowing. Worse was the idea of telling them. let them think what they would, but the last thing in the world Jack wanted was to go around telling people that he wasn't normal like they all thought he was.

~~~~~
Ennis rested his head in his palm and stared at the computer screen in front of him. He tried to clear his head and think about the problem again. When he likewise couldn't think of a solution, he tried to think of it a different way-- and failed. His frustrations were mounting by the minute. He took a deep breath and sat up, subconsciously putting space between him and the screen.

"Liz?" His voice was quiet and he hated the way he sounded-- uncertain, inferior.

"What's the matter?" Ennis turned to see Liz's head popping out from behind her enormous monitor.

"Can I, uh, ask you somethin'? I mean, if you've got a minute."

"Sure." She walked over, acting as though Ennis hadn't imposed in the least. She was short and looked fragile, with a full head of light blonde hair cropped shoulder-length and tucked behind her ears. "What's up?" Also, she spoke with such an accent. She'd said she was Australian, and to Ennis it sounded lyrical. He could have listened a good while to her speak.

"I just... this program keeps crashing around here and I can't figure out why. I've looked and looked--"

"Sometimes you just need another eye to see what you overlook."

"That's what I mean," he trailed off. She smelled like oranges, leaning so close over his shoulder.

"Well, why don't you e-mail me the path name, and I'll give it a look."

"Sure, uh..." he had never e-mailed Liz before. "What's your e-mail again?" He felt he should know. Everyone in the lab knew everyone else's handles, and he knew he'd e-mailed her back when he first got here-- his first e-mail, in fact.

"Abeers."

He must have made a face of some sort, surprised as he was by the first letter. He'd expected an E or an L. She must have seen whatever look he made, because she laughed and said, "Elizabeth's not my first name."

"Oh."

"My first name is so old-fashioned and uncommon." He nose wrinkled.

He nodded. He understood something about uncommon first names. "What is it?" He wasn't sure why he cared, but the question seemed a natural place to go.

She laughed again, only this time it was more like a giggle-- the most girlish noise he'd ever heard her make. she stuck out a hand to her lab-mate she'd known for months now as if they were just being introduced. "Alma Elizabeth Beers. Nice to meet you, Ennis del Mar."



In addition to leaving feedback below, I would love it if you could leave some more general feedback here. You can comment on this post with concrit always always, but the link is for positive feedback, which will encourage me to keep the fics rolling in, I hope.
 
 
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judy_blue_catjudy_blue_cat on February 4th, 2008 03:10 am (UTC)
Darn. Alma would have to show up when Jack can't be there to defend his territory. Smelling of oranges and possessing a lyrical Australian accent that Ennis could listen to for a good while. Is this a little tribute to Heath?
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:10 am (UTC)
Um... well, it wasn't a conscious one if it was one, but it sounds good to me so let's say it was a subconscious one :)
redfeddex on February 4th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
I just hope this Alma doesn't come between Ennis and Jack. Hands off, he's taken lady!
Bloody Jack Flint: Sango Red Florals Hushrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:10 am (UTC)
Hehe. You all will have to wait and see. Only a few days, I think, I promise.
coffeecat33 on February 4th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC)
oh no oh no oh no!!! abeers! Get away!

happy you posted =)
string of hearts
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:15 am (UTC)
Haha. Gorgeous hearts!
samtyr: roadsamtyr on February 4th, 2008 03:30 am (UTC)
Oh darn! ::sigh:: Well, I suppose it was about time that Trouble showed in the form of Alma... feh. :/
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:16 am (UTC)
No need to assume she's trouble ;)
(Deleted comment)
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:23 am (UTC)
You're welcome! I promise there'll be plenty more this month.
bbmbeliever on February 4th, 2008 04:04 am (UTC)
Be interesting to see how E handles flirty Alma. I'm happy you are going to update this story a few times this month. I;ve missed it.
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading and all the encouragement!
cls_tweedy: jack/iantocls_tweedy on February 4th, 2008 04:33 am (UTC)
I've missed this story. I actually re-read it recently and was hoping for an update. Great fic! Thanks.
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:26 am (UTC)
You're welcome! Glad you like it.
bbmjack324 on February 4th, 2008 04:42 am (UTC)
I'm so happy to see another chapter. Whew, close call with Jack's parents, glad Teng helped, ug and yeck, Alma is on thecene. I felt Jack's frustration and loneliness. Hmmm, I don't remember a fight with Randy--guess I better go back nd re-read. Looking forward to more.
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)
I hope I remembered how stuff went with Randy correctly. Let me know if not! It's been a while for me and I don't really have the time to go back and reread :(
joetheonejoetheone on February 4th, 2008 05:10 am (UTC)
Nice to have friends
Teng turned out to be an ok guy and that is something needed in these situations. Yes, a man of few words and well just there to do his thing but also a person who is aware of things a man of few words but when spoken with meaning. I like that a lot in him. Jack's parents sound like a nerve racking experience to me. I'm glad they are gone but I know they are necessary. Now Alma what does she have planned? I know that most of Ennis's coleaugues know he is in love with someone else did she miss this or is she going to try and change the boy? Thanks for writing Joe
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
Re: Nice to have friends
Yeah, you really get Teng! he is observant, but he has his own stuff to worry about most of the time.

As for Liz, it was actually her that pointed out that Ennis was gay, so... we shall see ;)
(Deleted comment)
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
Thanks!
canteatnocakecanteatnocake on February 4th, 2008 05:58 am (UTC)
Glad to see more of this story, but worried that Alma has made her presence known. I hope Ennis can resist her "charms". Looking forward to Ennis's return to the USA, and who they will decide to tell about their relationship.
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:37 am (UTC)
I know, I can't wait for Ennis to get back to the States also, but there is so much damned plot between here and there :( Thanks for reading!
MadBottomsmadbottoms on February 4th, 2008 06:02 am (UTC)
Oh bloody hell! I was hoping that she wouldn't come into this one. I hope there is not too much heartache on the way.

Sandy
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:37 am (UTC)
Not too much. No worries :)
eandjeandj on February 4th, 2008 06:50 am (UTC)
Sooo happy to see an update of one of my favourites.
It always gives me a sting to read about Alma but they know each other a long time now and I hope there will be no "complications" for our boys.
Jack is lucky to have Teng as a room-mate. He's a decent guy.
I got no words for his parents, but I think they could be worse-gaaaah.
Thanks for this
Paula
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
It could always be worse, lol. Thanks for reading!
riverton44riverton44 on February 4th, 2008 07:19 am (UTC)
So happy you updated this story - I've missed it! Glad that Jack has real friend - Teng, but it looks like Ennis is about to make one as well... Can see trouble coming...
Thanks!
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)
You're welcome. I'm glad you like the story.
sweetjesweetje on February 4th, 2008 08:42 am (UTC)
I miss Ennis and Jack being together, and now I have the feeling the situation is going to get more complicated with the official introduction to Alma.
Thank you for this update. I've been looking forward to it.
I hope you update again soon. This is getting verrry interesting. ; )
Debra
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 5th, 2008 05:41 am (UTC)
Oooh, I miss them together too. It seems like it's been forever, even with that nice break in between. Thanks for reading!