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24 February 2008 @ 04:29 pm
Higher Education Chapter 19  
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.
Word Count: 2515
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Chapter 19

The change wasn't huge, not heralded by fanfare. It didn't involve anything life-changing, buying each other presents, or flying anywhere. Still, Jack noticed it all the same. He and Ennis used to exchange e-mails once a day, short and mundane. Now those little electronic ties between the two of them were flying back and forth. Every detail of their days was shared, jokes stockpiled for typing. Jack knew the weather in Munich and Ennis knew the page numbers of Jack's homework assignments. Inside jokes piled up, floating from e-mail to e-mail and disappearing before popping up several weeks later to make a cameo. Jack didn't think two people so far apart physically could be that close together in every other respect. Phone calls decreased in frequency and were now mostly Ennis calling Jack late at night-- early in the morning, for Ennis-- to repeat that public lounge activity that Jack was sure Ennis would rather do in private. Ennis didn't have much choice as to where the phone was located, and wasn't about to go without. Jack, on the other hand, had a phone in the bedroom, though he didn't think he fooled Teng much when he took his calls in there. Jack never made any real attempt to silence his own noises,. Teng didn't need a fancy education to know what was going on.

An on-going contention that remained between Jack and Ennis was Jack's foot-dragging about talking to the professor he'd met in D.C. Eventually Jack ran out of reasons not to-- or really, he ran up against all the pride he was losing to Ennis as Ennis thought him more and more of a coward, in Jack's own head, anyway-- and he wrote an e-mail to a different recipient: Dr. Andy Shepela.

Jack clung tightly to the folder on his lap and nodded in earnest at Dr. Shepela. It supposedly wasn't an interview. He'd e-mailed on the pretense of learning more about the professor's research, and he'd arrived with a slate of well-prepared questions. Nevertheless, Jack knew just as well as Dr. Shepela did that this was the game, the dance of the undergraduate student trying to attract a research adviser. Jack worked his plumage hard as shit; he went for the tough questions and took plenty of notes. When he ran out of questions, he thanked Dr. Shepela for his time.

"Call me Andy."

Jack nodded, trying not to let his emotions play across his face. The invitation was hardly different from being told he'd got the job, before it was even offered.

Jack waited while Andy continued expectedly. "I happen to have some money for an undergraduate research assistant."

"Oh really? I'm very interested in the position." Jack was fully aware that he hadn't been asked how interested he was. "Brown dwarfs are a real important link between planets and stars, and it's really cool what implications they might have for solar system formation." Jack figured that proving his interest in the subject couldn't hurt.

Andy nodded slowly. "There's not a project there yet. We have new data coming in-- I think I told you about it at the AAS?-- but until then, there's plenty of stuff to do."

Jack honestly wasn't sure at this point whether he was being offered a job or not. They were talking about specific tasks, so he was pretty sure... but if he acted sure, was he going to sound cocky?

"We're accumulating a huge database of all known data on brown dwarfs, for one," Andy continued. "That involves some programming. We want to make it accessible on-line to our collaborators and maybe eventually to other people in the field. And then once we get this new data, which will be before this time next year-- I forget the dates of our observations-- there'll be plenty of fields to do photometry in. We're getting the same field with Hubble and the Palomar 60-inch. I'm going to have to send some students out to Palomar to get the data when our time comes up. Who knows? Maybe you'll get to go." Andy's smile was tense, and Jack's hesitant, even though the idea of being on an actual observing trip out to California made him want to fuckin' shout for joy. Besides, Andy was pretty much confirming that he was hiring Jack on, right? Jack cleared his throat.

"Uh, can I ask, how much is usual for an undergraduate research assistant to make per hour?"

Andy relaxed a bit at the distraction of logistics. "Student usually start at $7.45 an hour. How many hours a week do you think is reasonable from you, working around your classes?"

Jack was currently holding down seven hours a week at the dining hall, more when he could work overtime. "Ten?"

"Sounds good! If you ever need to cut back or anything, that's fine. You'll be hourly, so it doesn't hurt me," Andy laughed. "Come on, let me show you around."

"Around" turned out to be a quiet, lonely room with one desk and computer, where Jack would be sitting. Still, it was his own space, and in the astronomy building, near to all his classes. Andy wrote down who to see about getting which keys, showed him how the payroll system worked, told him who to see about getting schooled in which aspects of his future work here, and introduced Jack to the other people involved in the brown dwarf project: one other undergraduate student (a senior), and two graduate students. The undergrad, a smiling young woman with curly black hair named Nuncy, had been working with Andy a couple years. The grads-- a bubbly Indian guy, Dheeraj; and an aloof, short woman with curly brown hair, Fae-- took a little time, surprising Jack, to let him know more about the project. Or rather, Dheeraj told him about the project while Fae stood by, her face host to an expression he decided to interpret as a muted smile, though it could have probably been anything. At last, when it'd all grown a bit too tedious for Jack, he made some pitiful excuse about having homework to do and bowed out of the building. Stepping back into the surprising warmth of the early spring sunshine, everything seemed exactly the same as when he'd entered the building, but he'd entered not even sure if he was looking at a real job opening or how this would go, and he'd come out an Undergraduate Research Assistant. A wicked smile spread across his face and, though he really did have more than his share of homework to do tonight. He turned his feet towards the nearest computer lab. Getting home would take twenty, twenty-five minutes, and this just could not wait.

Ennis woke up the next morning and had a class first thing after breakfast. From there he had a one-hour break until his next class, but he figured as lousy as it was to have such little time, he could get something done in one hour. Only when he sat down at his computer and checked his e-mail-- which, if he was honest with himself, had plenty to do with his idea of coming into work for so little time-- did Ennis discover Jack's excitement from the day before. He was sorry he'd been asleep to miss it. He typed a response: short, inadequate, silly from how he saw it, but he couldn't very well not say anything, so... Finally, he tried to turn his attention back to the new code he was writing, just a code to plot the results of his major code. Coding calmed him, made him focus. A man could lose a lot of time at the helm of a program, focusing on its detailedintricacies.

Once Jack was working part-time with the small research group instead of in the stinky dining hall, the semester flew by even faster. He popped in to work (and e-mail with Ennis!) in between classes. Occasionally he managed to suck Ennis into an entire e-mail conversation. He was doing computer programming and learning SQL to boot to get this collaboration-wide internet database thing going. Coding had to be one of Jack's least favorite things. It was about as tedious as you could get, and he spent more than one day scouring his code for a single misspelling. That was torture. Still, it made the time go fast, and you could rack up a lot of legitimate work time that way-- looking for the missing semi-colon. Jack could not see what Ennis saw in this particular thankless task.

Jack's classes were no less thankless, though far more grueling. He often found himself putting off his homework in order to spend more time catching up on his work, and his grades slipped in tandem with that shift in priorities. When he tried to shift back, Jack fell mercilessly behind on his project for the research group. Andy didn't say a word, and didn't even follow Jack's progress much, but Fae seemed to always be... looming. It was aggravating, but not excessively so. He'd actually found Fae kind of nice, just somehow socially inept. That hardly made her unique among scientists. She was never mean or disparaging when Jack hadn't made the amount of progress she'd expected, but her innocent check-ins always left Jack feeling inadequate and behind.

When Jack put the question to Ennis in an e-mail, Ennis's answer was that grad schools wouldn't care about a student's grades, they care about research. Jack went back to putting his research first, and dissolved any sense of guilt, shame, or worry over his grades. By the time the end of the semester was rolling around, it was clear those letters had slipped further towards the end of the alphabet from his previous Ennis-less semester, but he shrugged it off. Researchy stuff was good for the mind, soul, and career, so statistical thermodynamics could go fuck itself.

And, suddenly, Jack stepped from the confines of his last tragically-bad final exam of the semester into the full sun of a summer coming into its being at last only to realize that he only had ten days now until Ennis's return. Somehow he'd managed to simply not see that, blinded by exams, all-day study sessions locked in his office or the physics student lounge when it wasn't full of poorly-flirting and clueless straight baby-scientists making a lot of racket. But now... now that was all past. Teng was moving out this week, and then... Jack felt blinded again, but not this time by the dread of finals' week. He was unable to wrap his mind around having Ennis back in his life. It was all just too damned good to be true.

When Teng needed help moving out, Jack called on his physics buds to come and load the stuff into the van Teng had rented. When the time came to get Ennis's meager belongings out of the closets and drawers they were stuffed into to make room for Teng, Jack called, instead, Sara and Dawn. Jack had continued going to Spectrum meetings all semester. Mostly he sat quietly in the back, not participating. He didn't want to go on the AIDS walk. He didn't want to go to their party alone. He didn't want to give up his weekends to them. But a night or two a month to sit and listen to what was up with the club, he could justify. Butmore so, he'd got to be friends with Sara and Dawn.

Sara was, he eventually found out, born in Jamaica. She'd moved tot he U.S. before she'd even turned one, but she still had family there, and she and her mom flew down to Jamaica every summer for a couple weeks. She told stories of bathing with her cousins in a tub of unheated water, of chickens running underfoot. Jack held his tongue, for, the poverty she described so far away in Jamaica was not so different from what he'd grown up with in Wyoming, not so distant at all. They didn't have chickens in their house, no, but couple oftimes his daddy had insisted on using the hot water himself-- said it was a man's privilege for a man's day of work-- and Jack took his share of ice-cold baths growing up. And they sure had chickens. The only thing underfoot in their house was mice, and some barn cats when they got bad enough to bring the cats into the house. Jack remembered waking up once to find a bat circling around the ceiling of his room. The barn cats took care of that rodent, too.

Dawn came out of her shell more and more throughout the semester, and Jack learned more about both of them, just as he told them more about himself. By the time Ennis was days away from arriving and the three of them were sharing pizza-- despite the strong protest Dawn had put up-- around the couch, Jack had learned that Sara was what she called "bisexual", that Jack took to mean she liked sex with anyone. She actually had a boyfriend right now! That surprised Jack, though. "Does he know you're the president of Spectrum."

She giggled and smiled at Jack around her pizza. "Yeees."

"He's ok with that?"

She giggled again, in answer.

"Well, just seems like a lot of guys wouldn't be."

"It's different with girls," Dawn said with indignation. "A lot of guys think two girls together is hot, but guys together is gross." Shebared her large, brown eyes hard at Jack in some kind of challenge.

"Hey, don't look at me," Jack shrugged and took a bite, then continued. "I never really gave two girls together much thought, I guess, but I'll agree with you that two guys together is most definitely not gross. As long as I'm one of them."

This got a laugh from Dawn, and Jack was happy to see her relax a bit.

"And Ennis is the other," Jack finished, softly.

When next Jack looked up, he found the two girls sitting staring at him with warmth in their eyes. "What?"

"It's just really cute," Sara answered.

"What is?"

"You're in love," Dawn grinned and winked, causing Jack to chuckle. "You can't say you're not..." Dawn stared him down again.

"I wouldn't think of it."

"Good," Dawn nodded, then sighed, "But I still have an exam tomorrow."

"Yeah, what in?" Jack asked. Sara tilted her head to catch Dawn's answer as well. "Latin."

Three noses wrinkled. "Shit." "Yuck." "It's stupid, but I better be going."

Dawn stood and saw herself out the door, Sara following behind her since they were friends and lived in the same dorm. Jack waved as they left, and only then did he wonder... Was it going to be the last time he saw them? Would Ennis be ok with those gals in Jack's life? In Ennis's life? Here in their apartment? What about Teng? Only time could tell.
Current Location: University of Minnesota
Current Mood: goodgood
elena_62elena_62 on February 24th, 2008 11:10 pm (UTC)
Nice chapter! I'm happy they got things straight (;-) sorry, I can't find a synonym) between them. Nice the thing with the phone calls...

I'm glad Ennis is coming back. I think it would be good for him to go to a Spectrum party with Jack.

Thank you for writing!


PS: Is this sentence really ok or it's only me not being mother tongue:
**When the to get** Ennis's meager belongings out of the closets and drawers they were stuffed into to make room for Teng, Jack called, instead, Sara and Dawn.
Bloody Jack Flint: MirKag B&W Hushrhye on February 24th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
Oh thank you, I left a word out of that sentence! "time". Thanks, and I'm glad you liked the chapter. Next chapter will have a beautiful-- and dangerous-- reunion kiss :)
★Mella★: BBM - loveschlopki on February 24th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
YAY i'm so happy to see another update so soon =)

Jack didn't think two people so far apart physically could be that close together in every other respect.

♥ loved this line

Getting home would take twenty, twenty-five minutes, and this just could not wait.

and this!!

Coding calmed him, made him focus.

sudoku has this same effect on me LOL

"And Ennis is the other," Jack finished, softly.

yeah...only time will tell...i cant wait for ennis to be back, too..i wonder how he will be thinking about that..if he will go to the meetings with jack etc =)

thanks again ♥
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 25th, 2008 05:17 am (UTC)
You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed the chapter :)
trekfantrekfan on February 24th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
YAY I am glad you updated. Jack is certainly burning the candle on both ends. I hope he does well on the exams.

Ennis is finally coming HOME! YAY! I can't wait for their reunion (and I bet it won't be long before they are doing the horizontal tango)

more please
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 25th, 2008 05:19 am (UTC)
Hahaha. Jack doesn't know how much free time he has. I look back with so much fondness on the days when classes and research and personal life were the only things I had to miraculously balance... Grad school is a horror of balancing, but eventually you just give up... Thanks for the comment!
midget_sizemidget_size on February 25th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC)
That first part about their emails and inside jokes had me smiling so big. I love them! I love that Ennis is getting back soon enough that it's down to days now. I'm really hoping Ennis learned from his whole crazy episode and knows that Jack can have other friends and they can know about him and Jack together and it's not the end of the world...but then again, it's Ennis, so who knows?
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 25th, 2008 05:20 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad! And now I remember I owe you a WPF feedback. I've been so busy it's hard to go back and remember to give feedback. You'll just have to wait and see :)
Teritmn1966 on February 25th, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)
I'm so glad to see this update! I've been missing this story (and yes, I know you've been regularly updating, but I do love it so much). I loved the e-mails they exchange, knowing all the little details of the other's life. And the phone calls . . . I'm so glad Ennis couldn't do without. I'm so glad that Jack continued to go to the meetings.

Ahhhhh, I can't wait until Ennis gets home.

Thanks for this!

Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 25th, 2008 05:22 am (UTC)
Thank you, knowing that the regular updates still don't satisfy appetites is a real encouragement to keep writing. I'm planning to work more full-time on getting LOTTD at come March so this regularity will stop. In the meantime I want to get as much done as I can manage :)
bmshirtsbmshirts on February 25th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
Higher Education Chapter 19
I'm so glad Ennis is coming home at last. I hope he's unbended enough to attend a Spectrum party with Jack, and to be attentive to Jack now, not hiding his gayness (is that even a word?).
I'm a little suspicious about Jack's new job. I don't quite know what to make of his boss, Andy. And I have a bad feeling about 'quiet' Fae. I think she's looking at Jack like he's a pork chop and she's starving! I hope Jack keeps clear of her and doesn't get too frienndly in a way that she could interpret as interest.
Thanks. Carole
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 25th, 2008 05:24 am (UTC)
Re: Higher Education Chapter 19
I wonder what makes you suspicious about Jack's job? It's a pretty typical set-up. As for Ennis, only time will tell. Thanks for reading!
lolitaraylolitaray on February 25th, 2008 02:58 am (UTC)
Wow, Jack is certainly doing a ton of work and then some. I can't wait for Ennis to come back...

"I never really gave two girls together much thought, I guess, but I'll agree with you that two guys together is most definitely not gross. As long as I'm one of them."

This got a laugh from Dawn, and Jack was happy to see her relax a bit.

"And Ennis is the other," Jack finished, softly.

That is just beautiful.
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 25th, 2008 05:27 am (UTC)
Thank you. I... it means a lot to me that you found it beautiful. I don't know why.
ennis4me on February 25th, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
Higher Education, Chapter 19
Wow!! So glad to see another update! And I'm even happier that Ennis is FINALLY coming home.....

Loved this:

**"And Ennis is the other," Jack finished, softly.

When next Jack looked up, he found the two girls sitting staring at him with warmth in their eyes. "What?"

"It's just really cute," Sara answered.

"What is?"

"You're in love," Dawn grinned and winked, causing Jack to chuckle. "You can't say you're not..." Dawn stared him down again.**

Hee-yah - that reunion is going to be GOOD!!!

Thanks so much.....Adrianne
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 25th, 2008 05:29 am (UTC)
Re: Higher Education, Chapter 19
:) I'll make it as good as I can. That's all I can promise.
rosietrosiet on February 25th, 2008 04:43 am (UTC)
I love the place they are at with each other now, how they can really communicate with each other. I wonder how it will be when Ennis returns. I wonder if Ennis will go with Jack to the club...hmmm. Right now though I adore how they are together, and can't wait for Ennis' return!

Thank you!
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on February 25th, 2008 05:30 am (UTC)
I don't even know exactly how Ennis is going to feel when he gets home, about Spectrum and Jack and all of that. I'll be feeling my way right along with him. Thanks for reading!
thelastaeriethelastaerie on February 25th, 2008 10:04 am (UTC)
I am so happy for Jack... getting his life straightened (haha... ) and reaching an understanding with Ennis, it's like they've finally found a right rhythm to maintain the long distance relationship - and better now that Ennis is coming home!!! omg!!!

I love reading all those lives of the undergrades stuff... and good that Ennis can give Jack some useful advice. I guess we have a different system in UK, cos we can't fail any subject in the exam, even if you got good grades with your research/dissertation, you'd have to re-take the subject you failed (assignments included) until you passed.

but screw exams, Ennis is coming home!!
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on March 5th, 2008 05:29 am (UTC)
Oh, we can both fail the course AND have to take it again, but you can only retake it a certain number of times before you're kicked out of your major. But I know I failed once course in the final exam, and by only a couple points :( I did have to retake that class. I managed to get the first time wiped from my record because I argued that it was my first semester and I was overwhelmed, which was basically true. My undergraduate University had a one-semester amnesty like that for your first semester.

Thanks for commenting! It's neat to learn how things are done elsewhere.
K: jakeanony_mouse19 on February 25th, 2008 03:38 pm (UTC)
oh yay everything's going fine.well almost everything :P
Ennis is almost back.
**"And Ennis is the other," Jack finished, softly.** this was just cutecutecute.
i read the updates will stop soon ;_; after the reunion chapter?or after this one?please give us the reunion!!

typo maybe :** Here in there apartment?** their?

thank you :]
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on March 5th, 2008 05:32 am (UTC)
Ack, thanks for finding my typo! And for reading and commenting, of course!
sweetjesweetje on February 25th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad Ennis is coming home again. Jack has missed him so much, and I'm sure he will make Ennis feel right back at home.
I'm looking forward to your next chapter. : )
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on March 5th, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
Thank you, I hope you enjoyed the following chapter.
acquaaltaacquaalta on February 25th, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC)
Wow, nearly back together!!!
You covered a lot of time really quickly, but yet not hurried. Looking forward to their reunion. Can't wait.
Thank you for the update.
All the best, B.
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on March 5th, 2008 05:36 am (UTC)
Thank you for the observation on the time scale in the writing. It gives me something to think about. I don't sit back and evaluate or think about my writing after I've finished it, too often.
eandjeandj on February 25th, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC)
Finally- Ennis is coming home to Jack
Love the emails and the phonecalls
I also think it's good Jack made new friends and hope Ennis will perhaps go with him to the meetings of spectrum.
But the most important now-Ennis is coming home
looking forward to the next update
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on March 5th, 2008 05:38 am (UTC)
Thanks for the comment, I hope you liked the following chapters!
ramona4jakeramona4jake on February 25th, 2008 09:23 pm (UTC)
Nice to see Jack and Ennis' relationship getting stronger, even through e-mails ! And Jack becoming an undergrade researcher, good for him ! And now Ennis is coming home, yay !!! Cannot wait ! I think that, after getting over the initial shock, he will like the girls !
Thank you so much, cannot wait for the next up-date !
Bloody Jack Flintrhye on March 5th, 2008 05:40 am (UTC)
Yes, I think Ennis will like the girls, at least t some degree, because they don't threaten him at all. In canon, Ennis was generally pretty gentle and timid and even protective around women as long as they were non-threatening.