||[Aug. 24th, 2006|10:47 am]
|||||home sweet home||]|
|||||Love Me Like a Man, Bonnie Raitt Collection||]|
Ed and Hank
Part 6: Monday
The shirt off his back
Pairing: Ed & Hank
Length: ~2,600 words
Disclaimer: I know somewhere out there are a couple of guys named Ed and Hank who at some point in their lives met the amazing Ms. Proulx and told them their story. Well, at least Hank did. Jack and Ennis belong entirely to Ms. Proulx. Ed and Hank belong only to each other. Still makin' millions. Gonna buy Ed somethin’ real purty, whether he wants it or not.
Feedback: Always appreciated
Part 1: http://myeyesaintblue.livejournal.com/456.html
Part 2: http://myeyesaintblue.livejournal.com/698.html
Part 3: http://myeyesaintblue.livejournal.com/897.html
Part 4: http://myeyesaintblue.livejournal.com/1101.html
Part 5: http://myeyesaintblue.livejournal.com/1339.html
Part 6: you are there
Part 7: http://myeyesaintblue.livejournal.com/2157.html
Watcha writin’ bout’ now?
All yer sweet talk yesterday.”
“Shit.” Ed walked over and began reading over Hank’s shoulder, “How d’ya remember every word I said like tha’?” Ed started looking suspiciously around the room.
“Watcha lookin’ fer?”
“Got a tape recorder hidden ‘round here somewheres?”
“Nah. Gov'rment might. I don’ need one. Remember everythin’ ya ever said ta me, Cowboy. Didn’ use ta be tha’ hard. Gettin’ harder. Seems like yer talkin’ yer fool head off these days. Ever since I been writin’. Think maybe yer jus’ tryin’ ta impress the folks readin’ this?
“Folks are readin’ this? Shit. Never really thought ‘bout that before.” Ed shook his head, “Like I said before, all those stories jus’ make me think. Gettin’ older too. Known fact, jaw loosens up as ya get older, starts ta flap a lot more." Ed grinned, “If'n ya’d rather I shut up tha’ could be arranged.”
“No way. Was jus’ worried I were gonna have ta keep writin’ the rest a ma life jus’ ta keep ya talkin’.”
“Hey Ed, been meanin’ ta ask ya somethin’ since yesterday.” Hank hesitated, “Don’ know if'n we’ll ever be able ta make it legal-like, least-wise anytime soon.
Tha’s fer sure. Way things is goin’ we may be lucky they don’start handin’ out tire irons with communion in some a them churches.”
“So… d’ya ever think a gettin’ rings… or somethin’, y’know,” Hank was afraid to say it, “Like Jack ‘n Ennis in all them stories?”
“Nope. Ya wear a ring workin’ ‘round a ranch ‘n yer jus’ askin’ ta lose a finger.”
“What ‘bout a ring on a chain or somethin’? Could wear 'em ‘round our necks, tucked in our shirts so's we don't get our heads ripped clear off.”
“Ain’t wearin’ no necklace.”
“Then I guess an earring would be out a the question?”
“Tha’s wha’ I thought.” Hank wasn’t about to give up, “Wha’ ‘bout matchin’ watches?”
“Liable ta lose yer whole hand. Maybe even yer arm. Least from the elbow down.”
“Somehow saw tha' comin' too. Tattoos?”
Ed grinned at Hank, “If’n yer wantin’ me ta mark ya as ma own in some way I can do tha’ free a charge, someplace nice ‘n visible. Jus’ gotta redo it every now ‘n then. Tha’ way everyone will know yer mine ‘n they better lay off.”
“Yeah but jus’ think wha’ would happen ta me if'n I tried ta do the same to you.” Hank laughed, “Ya sure seem ta have a quick answer fer everythin’. Ya been thinkin’ on this some?
“Nah.... I dunno.... Maybe a little.”
“Well tha’ certainly clears things up.”
"Ya know Hank, those shirts always been enough fer me. But it migh’ be nice ta have somethin’ we can carry with us. Wha’ would ya think a maybe gettin’ pocket watches?”
Hank thought of those shirts, now hanging together in their closet, and smiled, “Pocket watches sound nice Ed. What would ya want ‘em ta say?”
“Ain’t never heard a talkin’ pocket watches.”
“Ya know damn well wha’ I mean, dumbass.” Hank laughed, “Think maybe we should put somethin’ like ‘Forever’s 'nough’ on ‘em.”
“Thought ya said yesterday that forever weren’t 'nough fer ya?”
“Beginin’ ta change ma mind.”
“Ouch.” Ed pretended to be shot through the heart with an arrow, then pulled it out.
“Maybe we could go pick ‘em out later ta day, Cowboy. If' yer wound heals.”
"Maybe… If ya quit callin’ me ‘dumbass’.”
“Okay. But don’ wan’ no Wal-Mart piece a crap. Wan’ somethin’ real nice. ‘N I wan’ somethin’ classy, y’know kinda plain. Not somethin’ with deer or what-not etched inta it.”
“Always liked them ones with the deer ‘n ‘what-not’. Turnin’ inta a yuppie on me now, Hank?”
“Maybe. Come back ‘n get me in an hour ‘n we’ll head inta town. We can do lunch ‘n shop. Ain’t tha’ wha’ yuppies do? Lunch and shop?”
Ed laughed and bent to kiss Hank. “Love ya, dumbass. See ya in an hour.”
“Love you too, dumbass. Don’ lose track a the time ‘cause I know I will.”
Those shirts. Yes, there were shirts, but wasn’t like the short story or the movie. Wasn’t any fight. Wasn’t any blood.
After reading that letter Hank didn’t go after Ed up that mountain. Knew better than that. Also knew Ed had no food up there so he had to come down sooner or later. Didn’t he?
But when Ed finally came down off that mountain it wasn’t food he wanted. It was Hank. He wanted Hank every way possible, everywhere possible, as often as humanly possible. Each time a little more desperate than the time before. Both trying to consume the other in a hopeless effort to ward off a lifetime of unbearable hunger. Both trying to capture every moment, every touch, every look and store them away somewhere safe. Both trying to take as much of the other with them as they could, yet knowing it would never be enough.
They hardly spoke that week. Never talked about that letter. What was there to say? Knew no words could stop that week from ending. Knew no words could undo what was already done.
Just once, Hank tried to talk to Ed in a futile attempt to shrink that lead weight still lodged firmly in his gut. He had only gotten as far as ‘maybe we could still see…’ before Ed had cut him off with a bruising kiss. Then kept kissing him until any thought of talk was driven from Hank’s head.
Lying in the tent that last night they were like two ghosts holding each other. Neither had gotten their fill of the other, both exhausted and drained, downright sore from their ceaseless attempts at trying. That night, every second raced by faster than time had ever passed before or since. Then it was almost sunrise. Given a choice, Hank would rather the world ended than face that particular sunrise.
Hank knew he had nothing to gain, but nothing to lose either, as he looked into Ed’s eyes and told him that he loved him. Just needed to say it out loud. Just wanted Ed to know. Still couldn’t help being hurt when Ed remained silent, but sure wasn’t surprised. Then Hank noticed a couple of tears making their way down Ed’s cheeks, illuminated by the first rays of sunlight streaming in through the open tent flap. Ed quickly brushed them away, but he wasn’t quick enough, Hank had seen them. Hank wanted to believe, tried to believe, those tears were telling him everything Ed was unable to put into words.
And then it was daylight. It was over. There was no more time. Hank stood rooted by that lead weight, unable to move, unable to breath, looking up at that mountain one last time, watching Ed walk towards him one last time, trying to memorize every detail of that man.
Suddenly, the other ranch hands arrived to help bring the sheep down. There were probably only five or six of them altogether, but seemed like a whole crowd. Their quiet mountain was shattered by boisterous talk and laughter. Only this time it wasn’t Ed’s voice or his own.
Then Ed was standing in front of Hank, telling him he thought some of their stuff had gotten mixed up and they needed to straighten it out. Hank swore under his breath. He had deliberately packed sloppily, mixing up some of their socks and t-shirts, trying to cover up Hank taking the shirt Ed had been wearing on their second night together to keep for his own. Then Hank put the shirt he’d been wearing that night in with Ed’s stuff so Ed would think it was just a mistake, or maybe, just maybe, he’d remember that shirt and think of that night. Hank had wanted something, anything, of Ed’s to keep with him. Now Hank had no choice but to switch those shirts back.
They both knelt down, their knapsacks between them, pulling clothes out, trying to sort out their meager belongings. Hank’s hands were shaking, his heart broken. Each piece of clothing reminding him of a time when it was… quickly… frantically… roughly… desperately… sometimes even tenderly… removed and tossed aside.
Almost everything was sorted when they found themselves kneeling across from each other, each holding the shirt belonging to the other in their hands. Hank reached out to take his shirt from Ed and met with unexpected resistance. He raised his eyes to meet Ed’s and froze. Everyone else seemed to disappear for a moment. It was only him and Ed and the memory of everything they had shared on that mountain.
“C’mon boys! Enough with the fashion show. Decide wha’ shirt belongs ta who ‘n let’s get goin’” The foreman’s voice jolted them back to the present.
Ed managed to speak first, his eyes still locked on Hank’s, his hands holding tightly onto Hank’s shirt, “Think this one’s mine. Know it’s mine.” His voice, sounded almost angry, revealing his true feelings only to Hank, “Love this shirt.” And then, this time in a gruff whisper just loud enough for only Hank to hear, “Always will….”
“Damn, tha’ mus’ be some shirt. C’mon. Time ta go!”
Hank’s heart soared. Ed had said it out loud. Said it in front of God and all these ranch hands. Sure none of them knew what he was talking about, probably not even God. But Hank knew. The man he loved more than life itself loved him back. And then, just like that, his heart was crushed again for the thousandth time that week. The man he loved more than life itself loved him back. And there was nothing either one of them could do about it.
Hank didn’t remember stuffing Ed’s shirt into his knapsack. He didn’t remember getting on his horse, or driving those sheep down that mountain. He did remember having a crazy fantasy of Ed running off with him at the last second. He did remember Ed getting into that car with Nora and her parents. Wished he didn’t.
They had been waiting there for Ed, probably been there for a few hours already. Once he saw them, Hank’s fantasy evaporated instantly in the hot, dry air. ‘Weren’t no way them folks were gonna let Ed get away.’ Grim-faced lot. Nobody smiling. Nobody talking. Just shoving Ed into that car like they were taking him hostage and driving off.
Hank was left standing there all alone, trying to take whatever comfort he could in knowing that Ed loved him. Ed loved him. But Ed was gone. But Ed loved him. And where there was love there was always hope. Maybe just the tiniest pinpoint of light in an overwhelming darkness, but still, it was there.
Hank turned away, unable to watch that car…
“Ya ready? Time ta head inta….” Ed stopped and looked at Hank more closely, “Y’ alrigh’ Hank?”
“I’m okay. Jus’ writin’ ‘bout them shirts. First time ya ever told me ya loved me. Thought it would be the last.”
“Yeah, me too, Hank. Glad I managed ta tell ya at least.” Ed walked over to Hank pulled him up off his chair and wrapped his arms around him. “Worried all this dredgin’ up a the past is gonna start ta get ta ya.”
“Hard sometimes. But always got you ta remind me how the story ends.” Hank smiled at Ed, “‘Sides, think it’s been good fer us. All this talkin’’n stuff.”
“Don’ know ‘bout the talkin’, but if ya mean wha’ I think ya mean by ‘stuff’, tha’s been great.”
Ed went in for a kiss, but Hank ducked, laughed and twisted away, “Ya ain’t gettin’ outta shoppin’ fer them watches tha’ easy. ‘Sides I’m hungry. Let’s go.”
Ed allowed himself to be pulled out of the room, down the stairs, outside and towards the truck.
“Nope, I’m drivin.”
“You drove las’ time.”
“Flip ya for it?”
“No way. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… Hey! Cut it out! Lemme down, Ed!”
“Can I drive?”
“Okay, okay. Jus’ put me down. But I get ta drive back.”
“You drove back last time.”
“Owww. Think I mighta pulled somethin’. Would’ya mind drivin', Hank?"
“Good dinner, Hank. Thanks. I’ll cook tomorrow. Ya wanna ‘nother beer?”
“Nah. ‘M okay. Tha’ was quicker than I thought, pickin’ out them watches. Really like the ones we found a lot. Nice tha’ we agreed righ’ off like tha’. Jus’ sorry we had ta leave ‘em there til we could figure out wha’ we wanted engraved on ‘em”
Hank went on, “Once we got there everythin’ we thought a seemed so sappy. Forever Ain’t Enough, Always, Love, blah, blah blah….”
“Kinda got a surprise fer ya.” Ed looked a little worried. “When we split up ta run errands I went back and told ‘em wha’ I wanted on them watches.”
Hank was genuinely shocked, “Ya went back by yerself? Ya hate doin’ stuff like tha.”
“Yeah. Cain’t stand it. But tha’ woman in the jewelry store were purty small. Didn’ think she could get a real good swing goin’ with a heavy ol’ tire iron. Thought if'n it came down to it I could prob’ly take her in a fight. Long as I fought dirty.”
“Tha’s some picture ya jus’ put in ma head.” Hank laughed.
“Prob’bly been easier ta have ta fight. Pretty embarrassing tellin’ tha’ woman what I wanted on them watches.”
Hank couldn’t help feeling the familiar hurt of knowing Ed was still embarrassed by their relationship, but he tried to shake it off. Ed had gotten a lot better about it as the years passed. And wasn’t it more than enough that he went back to that store on his own? Couldn’t really expect Ed to be comfortable doing something like that, could he?
“D’ya have ‘em?”
“Yeah. Woman who does it weren’t busy t’all. She got it done by the time we left town later.”
“That’s why ya kept stallin’. Gettin’ yer hair cut, back ta the hardware store, shoppin’ fer a present fer Iris, goin’ ta Dairy Queen, thought ya’d never finish tha’ sundae, was all but soup by the time you were done.. Guess tha’s why ya ditched me later too.”
“Well, do I get ta see ‘em.”
“Now ‘m worried. Mighta acted too quickly. Think ya migh’ not like ‘em.”
Hank didn’t want to admit it, but he was getting a little worried too, couldn’t imagine what Ed had come up with. “C’mon Ed, ya cain’t tell me ya got ‘em ‘n then not show ‘em ta me. Know I’ll love ‘em.” Hank hoped tha’ was true. He was a bad actor, at least when it involved fooling Ed about anything.
“Okay.” Ed went to get the bag they were in, brought it back and handed it to Hank, then sat down beside him on the couch.
“What, no gift wrap?”
“Asshole. Jus’ open ‘em. Nervous 'nough here. Wait… ya gotta open them in the right order. Lemme see.” Ed peaked at the watches and then handed one box to Hank.
Hank took out the first watch, then grinned. He quickly pulled out other one and laughed. “They’re perfect, Ed. Which one ya want?”
Ed grinned back, relieved, it was obvious from Hank’s face that he’d done the right thing, “Don’ matter ta me.”
“Here, I’ll mix ‘em up behind ma back. Okay. Pick a hand.”
Ed picked a watch, looked at it and read the inscription to Hank, “Love ya, dumbass”
Then Hank read his to Ed, “Love you too, dumbass”
Ed was still a little nervous, “Embarrassed ta tell tha woman ta put the word ‘dumbass’ on them nice watches. Make matters worse, didn’t rightly know how ta spell ‘dumbass’. If it should be one word or two or if it should have one a them hyphens or if it should be capit’lized. Had some debate over the ‘you’ ‘n the ‘ya’ too, woman who did it thought….”
Hank shut Ed up with a passionate kiss. Then kept kissing him until any thoughts of spelling, hyphens, you’s and ya’s were driven clean out of Ed’s head.