Hey guys :) I'm sad to say that this is the penultimate chapter, with the epilogue being posted tomorrow. My next big project will be an AU/AU story, and after that will be a fourth instalment. I want to thank all of my readers for reading along, and thank you to everybody who has helped me with this. Hope you've enjoyed this story :)
They sat there for what felt like an eternity, Ennis holding Jack and feeling his own tears pricking his eyes. They were still in shock over losing Becky, and from everything they'd just read in her letter. Becky had been Jack's sister, his closest relative apart from his mother. Ennis knew that Jack had always loved her like a sister, so this felt like a cruel irony to him. Jack had lost her and Ennis knew his grief would cut into him.
He felt Jack pulling away, still sniffing. His face was lowered and he was trembling. Ennis lifted his chin and made him meet his eyes. "Darlin'...it's okay...look at me..." Jack lifted his eyes, looking distressed.
"My little sister, Ennis...I never knew..."
"I know, I know. I dunno what to tell ya, Jack. Don't know if there's anythin' I can say..."
Jack shook his head. "There ain't, not right now. Dunno what to think...just..." He moved into Ennis's arms again and burrowed close, needing comfort. Ennis wrapped his arms around him again and held him tightly, rocking him slightly. He was immensely grateful that he had more or less recovered from his mental and physical scars, just in time to be here for Jack when he was needed. He had needed Jack to help him with trauma, and he had been there. Now their roles had been reversed, and he swore to be here for Jack.
After a few minutes, he started rubbing Jack's back, and he felt his trembling lessen. He pulled away again, finally gaining some control over himself. He sniffed and wiped his eyes.
"Just...can't believe this," he said shakily. "All those years, an' I never knew..."
Ennis nodded. "I know. Can't believe it myself, to be honest. I know you loved her like a sister, so..." He took Jack's hands. "I'm so sorry, bud. I know this was the last thing you needed right now, what with lookin' out for me an' all..." Jack's eyes were red and puffy and he was staring at Ennis's chest as Ennis held his hands.
"I know, Ennis. But...we knew this was comin'. We knew she was gonna die..."
"But we didn't know about all that," Ennis whispered, looking at the letter on the floor. "We didn't know she was yer sister, or all that 'bout yer daddy an' what he did. God...he hit her, Jack," he said softly. "She was just a baby, an'..."
"That's right," Rose said from the doorway, holding Lily in her arms. They both looked over at her. "He did hit her. He'd been drinkin', an'...Becky was cryin' about somethin'. I think she was teethin' or somethin', can't remember. She just kept cryin', an'...he lost it."
Jack's eyes screwed up and he leaned into Ennis again. "God...all that stuff he did to me growin' up...I hated him as it was. But with this..."
Rose came over and sat on Jack's other side. Jack shifted and ruffled Lily's hair. "Well...I can promise we're gonna look after this little one." Ennis nodded and rubbed his back again.
"Yeah, you bet." Rose smiled at them.
"I know you will, an' I promise to help ya. Especially since she's my granddaughter," she said softly, kissing the top of her head. Jack nodded.
"Yeah...God, mama...she was yer little girl..."
"She was. An' I loved her. I never wanted to give her away, you know. I never got on with Joe much, but I needed to do somethin'. I thought that if I gave her to him an' Maria, she'd still have the Twist name an'...I thought nobody would ever know, until I wanted 'em to."
Jack sniffed. "So...that's why the newspapers 'bout Earl said that she was Joe's daughter...they didn't know."
"That's right. I did it for Maria too, she always wanted kids, an'...she an' Joe..." She gave them a meaningful look and they nodded in understanding.
"Right. Mama...it musta been real hard for ya, all those years. Like when we was growin' up an' I brought her over to our house. An' you knew..."
Rose nodded. "Yeah. It tore me up to see her growin' up like that. Maria kept me up to date on how she was doin'. But even though it hurt me to see her growin' up without me, I still loved seein' her. I still got to see her plenty of times. An' that's thanks to you, Jack." She smiled at him. Jack nodded and started playing with Ennis's fingers absentmindedly.
"Right. Um..." He looked around. "So, did ya call someone?"
"Yeah. I called Rick an' Greg, told 'em what happened. Greg says he'll be here tomorrow to talk about her will. Rick's comin' by soon, with the guys from the undertaker's. They'll take her body an' we can arrange the funeral. Where are we buryin' her?"
Jack looked at Ennis. "Um...I thought maybe we could have her here, at the ranch. There's some real nice spots on the land. We know this willow tree, near the hill; that might be a good place."
Rose nodded and squeezed his shoulder. "That sounds real good, Jack. I'm sure she'd like that." Jack smiled at her, and then rubbed his eyes.
"Mama...if it's alright...could we get some sleep? Feelin' kinda drained."
"Sure, honey. I'll put Lily down too. Get some sleep, you two." She left the room and Jack flopped back on the bed, hands over his eyes. Ennis retrieved the letter and put it on Jack's nightstand, and then he took hold of Jack's hand, pulling him up from the bed.
"Come on, bud. Let's get under an' get some sleep, alright?" Jack let Ennis lead him into bed, kicking off their boots and removing their clothes. Ennis lay on his side and watched as Jack shuffled close to him, curling up against him. Ennis wrapped an arm around him and kissed his hair.
"Get some sleep, Jack. I'm right here." Jack made a small sigh and closed his eyes, glad that he had Ennis here to look after him.
The day after, Greg came by to talk to them about Becky's will. Shortly after their conversation yesterday, Rick had been by with people from the undertakers to take Becky's body to the morgue. The funeral was due to take place in two days, hopefully giving their aunt and uncle from Texas enough time to get there. They had raised Becky for almost all of her life and for many years, she had considered them her parents. They had a right to be here for her funeral, so long as their uncle was civil.
Jack was still struggling to get his head around the fact that Becky had been his sister all along. For so long he had thought of her as his cousin, and that had been fine. He had loved her like a sister. And he had always thought of Lily as his niece, so nothing had really changed. He didn't feel any different now that he knew the truth.
He was very angry about what their father had done to Becky as a baby, and for the first time he found himself wishing that his father was alive, just so that he could confront him about it. He felt hopeless about the whole thing and he wished that he could have helped her. But all he could do for her now was look after Lily, with Ennis and his mother's help. They would bring her up and help her to become a credit to her mother. That was the best thing they could do for Becky.
As they sat at the table that morning, waiting for Greg, Ennis and Jack held hands as they talked. Jack was running a finger over Ennis's wedding band, trying to draw comfort from this symbol of their connection. Their two blue heelers, Lucky and Smokey, were sat by Jack's feet.
"So, how are things gonna go at the funeral? Could we get a pastor or somethin'?" he asked, looking at the other two. "Would anybody wanna come here?"
Rose sighed. "I dunno, Jack. We could try to find one. But we gotta be careful, don't want you guys gettin' outed."
"Yeah. I bet we could find one if we ask around." There was a knock at the door. "Guess that's Greg."
Jack got up and went to the door; Greg was there with a briefcase and a sorrowful look on his face. "Jack, I'm so sorry. You know we all loved her and didn't want this to happen."
He nodded. "I know. Thanks, Greg, come on in." He led Greg inside and through to the kitchen, where Rose and Ennis both gave him small smiles.
"Hey, Greg." He sat down and Jack took his place next to Ennis, once more taking his hand.
"Like I said to Jack just now, I'm so sorry about all of this. None of us wanted this to happen."
Ennis nodded. "Yeah. So...what happens now?"
Greg opened up his briefcase and took out some documents. "This is Becky's will. This states that upon her death, you two are Lily's legal guardians."
"What about her father?" Jack asked in a low voice, despising the idea of him turning up and trying to lay a claim to her. He was the reason that Becky was dead.
Greg shook his head. "Becky told me the situation. How he wanted nothing to do with her when she was pregnant, and never once came to see Lily or offered any kind of child support."
"Not to mention that he's the reason Lily's gonna grow up without a mama," Jack muttered. Ennis squeezed his hand.
"Well...there's no definite proof of that, but...I understand how you feel. But don't worry, he may be her father, but he has no claims to her. You two will have legal rights to custody, and he won't be able to do a thing."
Jack nodded and felt relieved. "Thanks, Greg. We'll look after her, you know we will."
"I know. And...I'm guessing you read a letter from her?"
"Yeah, we did. About her bein' my sister. Did you know?"
Greg nodded. "I did. She told me when she was sorting out her will. I have to admit I was shocked. I never would have guessed it. I guess that since Becky was given to your uncle, it would throw you off, with her having the Twist name and everything..."
"Yeah. So...is there anything else she wanted us to know?"
"That was it. Her money came from the ranch, and she wanted all of her personal possessions to be given to Lily."
"Yeah, her letter said to pass on all her jewellery an' everythin'. We'll do that, no problem." Jack then sighed. "I just...can't believe all this. She was my little sister..." Ennis slipped an arm around his shoulders and squeezed him gently. "I...I'd miss her a whole lot anyway if she really was my cousin, but...I miss her even more..."
"I know, Jack. Um...I just need you to sign this. Ennis too; it's to confirm that you accept your new role as Lily's legal guardians." He handed over a document and they signed it, happy to be able to do this for Becky.
When they were finally done, Greg put all of the documents away and looked sympathetically at them. "Sorry you had to go through all of this. How are you doing, Ennis?"
Ennis nodded. "I'm fine. Gettin' better all the time. Just glad I got my head straightened out in time to help Jack with this." Jack smiled at him, feeling happy that he was here.
"Well...that's everything I needed to do. When's the funeral?"
"In a couple of days," Jack said, sniffing. "Our aunt an' uncle in Texas brought her up, an'...I know they'd wanna be here to say goodbye."
"Alright. Um...I'll see you in a couple of days, alright?" After more condolences, Greg left and they were left alone. Ennis held Jack as they sat on the sofa, trying to comfort him and help him through this. It was all he could do.
That afternoon, Ennis and Jack were sat on their hill, lying on a blanket and looking into each other's eyes. Ennis had suggested this as a way to get Jack to relax, and it seemed to be working. He could feel the tension in Jack's muscles lessening as he rubbed his back.
"You okay, darlin'? he whispered, looking over Jack's face. Jack sighed and closed his eyes.
"I dunno, Ennis...dunno what to think 'bout all this. I...I miss her so much already...an' she was my little sister an' all." Ennis could see a tear running from Jack's eye towards his ear, and he wiped it away.
"It's okay, Jack...you don't gotta feel bad 'bout it. Just let it all out...I'm here." He stroked Jack's cheek and watched his face.
Jack smiled and opened his eyes. "Thanks, Ennis. Love ya so much..." He shuffled forward and into Ennis's arms. Ennis kissed his hair and held him close.
"I love you, too, Jack. So glad I'm here to help you with all this...dunno what we woulda done if I was still all messed up..."
"I'm glad you ain't, Ennis, an' not just for this," Jack mumbled into his chest.
Ennis rubbed his back. "It's okay, Jack. You was there for me when I needed ya, so...now it's my turn. I'm right here, darlin'..."
Jack slipped an arm around Ennis, pulling him closer. "Thanks, cowboy. I, um..." He pulled his head up and looked into Ennis's eyes. "Can we, um...?" He bit his lip and Ennis understood what he was asking.
"Sure." He leaned in and kissed Jack, holding the back of his head and gently probing Jack's mouth with his tongue.
"Mmm..." Jack moaned softly, enjoying their closeness. "Ennis...want ya inside me..."
The words struck a chord in Ennis, and he realised that he wanted to do this for Jack; to comfort him and make him feel better, if only for a few minutes. He rose up and slid on top of Jack, pressing him down onto the blanket and tangling his hands in Jack's dark hair. Jack lifted his arms and wrapped them around Ennis's neck. They kissed deeply and Jack could feel himself getting hard.
He pulled his mouth away. "Ennis...come on...need ya..." Ennis nodded and they began to remove their clothes. Their shirts came away and they ran their hands over each other's muscles, feeling the warm skin. Their hands slipped down to each other's belt buckles and they undid them, pushing their jeans down as far as they could. They managed to kick their jeans off and held each other close again. Jack brought his legs up so that his knees were up near his chest and Ennis got into position over him, looking down into his eyes.
"Just relax, darlin'...it's alright..." Jack nodded, breathing deeply. With one hand between them, Ennis slowly pushed into him, filling him up and making him sigh in contentment.
"Ennis...love this...more than anythin'..."
"I know, Jack. I do too..." Ennis slid into him and laced their fingers together. "Come on..." They started to rock together, slowly and easily. Ennis thrust into Jack and buried his face in his neck, kissing and nibbling at it. Jack responded by lowering his hands down to Ennis's ass to pull him closer. He started to give little gasps as he started to tremble underneath Ennis.
"Love you too..." He changed his angle and hit the sweet spot, making Jack moan aloud in his ear. He felt his legs shaking as he spilled between them, feeling as Ennis followed him swiftly, holding onto him as they rode it out. Ennis collapsed onto Jack's chest and panted a little to get his breath back.
"Damn, that was good," he breathed. "Love you, Jack."
Jack wound his arms around Ennis's back, feeling happy and loved. "Love you too, cowboy. So glad I got you here with me...don't know what I'd do without ya."
"You ain't never gonna hafta worry about that. I'm always gonna be here."
"I almost lost ya, Ennis. You coulda...died out there, an'...even when ya got back, you was a mess. So glad we got ya sorted out before we lost Becky. I just...I really need ya here with me, an'...I'm glad yer here."
Ennis rose up and kissed him, hands on either side of his face. "I am too. I wanna help ya, Jack, an' I will." He leaned on his elbows and looked down into Jack's face. "Look...I know yer feelin' real bad about the whole thing, an'...I understand. I miss her too, but...we gotta pull together. We gotta look after Lily now, she needs us."
Jack nodded. "I know. An' we are. We're her guardians an' all now...we gotta take care of her."
"We will, darlin', I promise. We're gonna do whatever we can." They kissed again and held each other close.
After a while, they got dressed and got back on the horses, heading back towards the stables. They looked in on the cattle as they passed, seeing the hands working and making sure that everything was alright. They saw the willow tree that they had earmarked as the spot for Becky's grave. They would make sure that Lily grew up knowing her mother and who she'd been. Becky's spirit would never be forgotten and would always be there.
As Jack closed the stall door on Signal, he felt a pair of arms wrap around his waist. Ennis held him close just as he had done during their dozy embrace on Brokeback. He nuzzled their cheeks together and Jack gripped his arms, enjoying the warmth from his lover's presence.
"Mmm...love you, Ennis." He felt Ennis kiss his cheek.
"Love you too, Jack. It's gonna be okay, you hear me?"
Jack sighed and closed his eyes. "I know, I know." He felt Ennis rock him in his arms and hum in his ear, and he was very grateful that Ennis was here to comfort him and help him through this pain.
Two days later, they were holding Becky's funeral. Jack's aunt and uncle from Texas were staying at a nearby motel; Joe had been warned not to say anything derogatory about Ennis or Jack, and they knew that Maria would keep an eye on him. They were supposed to be here to bid Becky farewell, and that would be it.
The night before, Ennis had awoken to find that Jack was no longer in bed. He'd searched the house to find it empty. When he'd gone outside, he'd seen a light in the distance. Upon arriving there, he'd found Jack digging the grave by himself. Ennis hadn't said a word, just picked up another shovel and joined him. When they'd returned, Ennis had held Jack until he'd dropped off to sleep.
This morning, they were eating breakfast when there was a knock at the door. Jack answered it and was surprised by who was there. "Andy?"
The young cowboy smiled wearily. "Hey, Jack. Long time no see, huh?" Jack shook his head and held out his hand for him to shake.
"I'll say. What are ya doin' here?"
"Maria Twist tracked me down an' called me, told me what happened to Becky. She told me everythin', Jack. 'Bout Becky bein' yer sister..."
Jack's heart sank. "Oh...right. So...I'm guessin' yer here for the funeral, right?"
Andy nodded. "Yeah, if that's alright. Can I come in?"
"Uh, sure..." Jack let him in and they went through to the kitchen. Ennis looked surprised and Rose looked puzzled.
"Mama, this is Andy Buchanan, Becky's ex-boyfriend. Ennis, you remember him, right?" Greetings were exchanged and Andy sat down. He was handed a cup of coffee and he gripped it tightly.
"I couldn't believe it when I heard. Never woulda thought this'd happen. I just...can't believe she's gone."
"I know. I dunno why she didn't call ya when she found out. But...it was always up to her..."
"Yeah. Andy looked up and his eyes fell on Lily. "So...this is her little girl, huh?"
Rose patted Lily's hair, making her giggle. "Yeah. Her name's Lily."
Andy sighed. "I ain't proud of the way I reacted when I found out she was expectin'. Just came as a real shock. I was hopin' to have a family with her myself one day, when I had the money. That's why I came to visit her...so we could talk 'bout it. I, um...I was hopin' to propose to her. Had a ring an' everythin'." He pulled out a small box and opened it; it contained a beautiful diamond ring.
"Oh...that's a real nice ring, Andy. I'm sure she woulda said yes. Maybe, um...when her body gets here...you could..."
Andy looked down at the ring. "You sure?"
Jack nodded. "I'm sure she'd like to be buried with it. She always loved you, ya know. She only had a thing with that guy 'cos she was missin' you." Andy sighed and rubbed his forehead.
"I guess. I always loved her too. I ain't met anyone over in Kentucky yet, couldn't bear to be without her." They all fell silent and continued their breakfast.
An hour later, the undertakers came by with Becky's body. Ennis tightly held Jack's hand as they looked at her. Neither of them could believe that she'd actually gone. They had managed to find a pastor who was willing to carry out the service. They had been honest with him about their relationship, and nervously so, but he had told them that he believed God loved everyone, despite whatever sins they might commit. He also said that it wasn't in his nature to condemn anyone during a personal loss. They had been satisfied by this, so were happy to have him perform the funeral.
At noon, they were all stood around her coffin. Andy had placed his ring on her ring finger, kissing her cold hand as he did so. He promised to love her forever and always remember her.
All of their friends were here; they had all loved Becky and felt sorry for Ennis and Jack for losing her. It was a warm day and there was a slight breeze blowing.
"Friends, family, we are all here today to commemorate the life of Rebecca Twist. She was loved by many and a bright spark during hard times for those she loved. Her life was prematurely taken from her through no fault of her own and she has left a hole which cannot be filled. We stand here today to remember her and hope that she finds peace at last. Would anybody like to say a few words?"
Jack stepped forward and took a breath. "Ain't much I can say that she didn't already know. She was my little sister an' I loved her. When Ennis was away...I wouldn't have got through it if she hadn't been here, with our mama. Just...I hope that she's happier now. We'll never forget her an' we'll always love her." He stepped back and Ennis put his arm back around him.
Everybody else all gave their condolences and dropped roses onto the coffin as it was lowered. The pastor gave a final prayer and they all bid goodbye. The men all stepped forward and filled up the grave again. Jack wiped at his eyes and gave a smile.
"Love ya, Becky." He looked at her headstone; it was made of white stone and an inscription had been placed there by Kate at short notice.
July 10th 1944 - October 13th 1966
Beloved daughter, sister, mother and friend
Always loved, never forgotten
Jack sniffed and felt Ennis's arm around him again. He turned to him and leaned his head against him with his eyes closed. They all stood there in silence, thinking of Becky and hoping that she was at peace now. The breeze picked up a few leaves from the willow tree and they blew away, as if they were Becky's spirit. Ennis and Jack watched them, seeing them disappear into the deep blue sky, where Becky would now always be, watching over them.
That night, Ennis and Jack retired to their bed, feeling weary and needing sleep. It had been a long day and they needed to relax. After the service, Rose had put out some food for everybody and they had all sat around talking and eating. Their uncle had been civil enough to them, and Maria had loved seeing Lily for the first time. They had all talked about Becky and the truth surrounding her birth. Their friends had been shocked by the truth and offered their condolences to Jack for losing his little sister. Ennis was glad that they had their friends all around them; he knew that Jack needed a good support system to help him with this.
They had done their best to console Andy, and it had worked, to some extent. He'd seemed a little better once they had said goodbye to Becky, and he had left feeling a little lighter. All of their friends had bid them goodbye one by one and promised to call soon. They had talked to Kate about renewing their vows and she agreed to come by to discuss a new pair of rings with them once they were ready. They had at least agreed to wear a new pair alongside their existing ones. They had talked about having similar ones to what they had, but this time in gold. They figured they would complement their silver rings, and she agreed that they could get started on it as soon as they were ready. But right now, they had to concentrate on what was going on.
Afterwards, he had taken Jack up to their hill and they had sat there, watching the city and breathing in the fresh air. Ennis knew that it had relaxed him to be out here, just the two of them. Jack had laid his head on Ennis's shoulder and talked to him about everything. Ennis knew that it did him good to get it all out and he was happy to sit there and listen. When they had returned to the house, they had called Anna together to talk and she had offered them her condolences.
They had spent the rest of the day in the living room, watching TV and trying to inject some normality back into their lives. Jack had held Lily, his last tie to Becky, and that had seemed to relax him further. As he'd looked at Becky's coffin earlier, he'd silently sworn to her that he would look after Lily as best he could, and that he and Ennis would do everything they could for her.
After taking a shower together, with Ennis soaping his lover's back and easing the tension out of his muscles. He had done his best to get Jack to relax and it seemed to have worked. He had kissed him and held him close, whispering in his ear that everything would be alright. Jack had leaned against the shower stall with Ennis pressed up against him, letting him take over.
Right now, they were slipping into bed, under the warm sheets. Ennis could see that Jack was looking more relaxed than he had been, and he was glad that he was able to help him.
Once they were under the sheets, Ennis turned to face Jack, eyes raking over his glowing skin. He realised that he wanted to do more; he wanted to make love to Jack and make him forget everything for a few minutes. He wanted to make Jack feel better, just as he always had done.
He saw Jack turn his deep blue eyes to him, and he was struck by their intensity. He had always felt that if he looked into those eyes long enough, he could drown in them. That wouldn't be such a hardship, he figured. He sighed and lifted a hand to Jack's cheek.
"You doin' okay, darlin'?" he said softly, looking into his eyes. Jack smiled at him and nodded.
"Yeah, I guess. Was hard to say goodbye to her, but...it's gonna be okay. It ain't like we're gonna forget her. An' we'll make sure that Lily knows her, right?"
"Yeah, we sure will, Jack. She'll always be with us." He sighed and ran a hand down Jack's arm. "You want me to make ya feel better?"
Jack smiled and his eyes sparkled. "Sounds good to me." Within a few minutes, they were on their sides and Ennis was slowly moving inside Jack from behind, a hand gently holding onto his hip. Jack was making soft moaning noises and had his eyes closed. Every so often, he tilted his head back and they kissed, his hand holding the back of Ennis's head. He could feel Ennis kissing the back of his neck and he was in heaven. Ennis was being so gentle and tender with him and he was extremely thankful for it.
They made love very slowly and their release came slow and sweet, Ennis spilling into Jack and Jack releasing onto the sheets. Jack laid his head on his pillow and sighed.
"Thanks, Ennis," he said softly, turning his head back and meeting Ennis's lips. Ennis pulled him onto his back and held him in his arms, kissing his forehead.
"No problem, Jack. Just wanna help ya."
Jack smiled against Ennis's chest. "You've done that more than once over the last few weeks, Ennis. So glad we got ya sorted out before all this happened. Don't know what I'd do without ya." He wrapped an arm around Ennis's waist and squeezed him.
"Me neither, darlin'." He lifted Jack's chin and kissed him, feeling him smile against his lips. Jack's eyes were full of happiness and it was a sight that he loved. They settled down again with Jack's head against Ennis's chest and an arm around his waist. Ennis stroked his arm as he looked up at the ceiling, feeling that once more, a chapter of their lives was over, and they were heading towards the future, one that they would be facing together.