Chapter 15

October 2nd, 1987

The five of them were sat around the kitchen table, going over plans for the wedding. There was still a lot to sort out, and they wanted to get things in place as soon as possible. They still had to order a cake, find a marquee, organise food for the reception, think about music, and Lily wanted a colour scheme for decorations that they would have to apply to everything. The bridesmaids' dresses were lavender, so that would be worked in, and she also wanted a cream colour, remembering what her grandmother had told her about her christening; that her mother had worn a cream dress that day.

They had set aside the next day to go up to Atlanta and order the cake from a well-known store, and to find a marquee. They figured that the sooner they got their plans in place, the more time they would allow themselves for alterations.

"What are we doin' for music?" Lily asked, rifling through the various sheets of paper on the table.

Jack smirked. "I could play my harmonica, if you want."

"Good idea, bud. I'll be handin' out earplugs," Ennis replied matter-of-factly. Lily giggled as Jack hit him on the arm.

"Asshole." He then caught the look on his mother's face. "Sorry, mama."

"Um...what about one of those string quartets for the ceremony? You know, when yer walkin' down the aisle?" Ben suggested, looking at Lily. Her eyes lit up.

"Oh, honey...that's a great idea! Could we find one to play for us?" she asked the table at large.

Jack shrugged. "Bet we could. I'll make some calls. What about the reception? You want a band for that or what? An' don't worry 'bout money, okay? Me an' Ennis never thought we'd get to throw a weddin', so we're gonna go all out for ya."

She smiled. "Thanks. I ain't sayin' a want somethin' really big or fancy, but...I think we both want it to be memorable."

"It will be," he reassured her. "We'll make sure of it. decided what kinda cake you want? One of those really tall ones like in the window?"

"Yeah, I reckon so. Might as well go with tradition."

"I could make a cherry cake for the reception," Rose offered, smiling at her son. He grinned.

"Sounds good, mama. Thanks. So, um..." He looked down at the page of notes before him. "Have we got replies from all the invitations yet?"

Lily consulted her list. "Almost. Joe an' Maria from Texas haven't replied yet. Dunno if they will, to be honest."

"They'd better get to it soon, before we start orderin' food. Um..." He looked at her nervously. "What about yer dad?"

She lowered her eyes. The trip to Childress had been good, if a little weird. When they'd said goodbye, they had said that they would keep in touch. He had called her just the other day, but something was still holding her back from letting him into her heart. Whenever he made her smile and feel happy, she immediately felt guilty, like she was betraying her mother, and she couldn't shake off the feeling.

"I dunno," she said quietly. "I ain't sure what to do about him just yet. I figured I'd wait an' see, dependin' on how things go."

"I thought things went well in Childress?" Ennis asked, looking puzzled. She shrugged.

"They kinda did, but...I dunno. It's just...every time he did somethin' to make me smile, or to make me feel like he was my dad, I started feelin' guilty. lettin' him in I'm betrayin' my mama. You told me how torn up she was when she learned she might never see me grow up, an' that she hated him for what he did. I keep thinkin' that I'm lettin' her down by givin' him a chance."

Ennis and Jack exchanged a glance. "Lily...that ain't the case at all. Just 'cos yer givin' him a chance don't mean yer lettin' yer mama down. Yeah, she hated him for what he did,'s like I said before, that don't mean you can't let him in yer life. I'm sure she'd understand."

Lily was chewing her lip, thinking over Jack's words. "I dunno. I think I just need some time to get used to him bein' around. Let him prove himself some more before I can let him in my life properly. That includes the weddin'. He needs to prove that he's serious about bein' part of my life before I can trust him."

They nodded. "Alright. That's fair, I guess." They returned to their plans, talking through what they wanted and finalising the list for the next day when they went out. When the other three left the room, Ennis came up behind Jack and kissed his cheek.

"You okay, rodeo?" he asked softly, and Jack nodded, sighing a little.

"Yeah, I guess. Just...feelin' real sorry for Lily. I bet she really wants him to be part of her life, 'cos she's never had a father. But she don't trust him...can't be easy for her."

"I know. But she'll figure it out for herself." He lowered his hands, squeezed and nuzzled into Jack's neck, making him hard. "You wanna go an'...get up to somethin' in our room?"

Jack smiled widely, feeling Ennis's crotch pressing against his ass. He then turned around and kissed Ennis deeply, wrapping his arms around Ennis's neck. "Sounds good to me, cowboy." They linked hands and hurried upstairs, firmly locking their door behind them.

They rolled around on the bed, stripping each other and kissing at flesh as it was exposed. Ennis was soon on his back with Jack's head between his legs, thrusting helplessly into Jack's mouth. "Oh God, darlin'...don't stop..."

He looked down in time to see Jack's piercing blue eyes looking up at him, and the sight sent him into orbit. For the next couple of hours, they made the most of each other's company and gave in to their insatiable desires for one another.

Lily was sat in her chair, curled up and thinking. She had heard Ennis and Jack talking a few times about the situation with her father, and she knew what they thought of him. They didn't like him for what he'd done to her mother, and probably never would, but they understood that it was her decision. She was grateful that they were stepping back and letting her decide for herself. But that didn't mean she didn't want their advice; they had a lot more life experience than her and had always been there to help her in the past. But she couldn't talk to them right this moment; they had headed upstairs hand in hand a little while ago and she was unwilling to disturb them. She knew exactly what they were doing up there.

As she sat there, she thought about her father. She knew that he had tried to make an effort with her and part of her was grateful for it. But she felt so conflicted about letting him in her life after everything he had done. He was the reason that her mother was dead, but at the same time, she wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. She wasn't entirely sure what to do, or whose side to pick.

She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't hear footsteps on the stairs. She snapped out of her reverie when she heard a voice nearby.

"Hey." It was Ennis; he was dressed in a loose shirt and jeans, but was barefoot and hatless. He looked like he'd just got up. And had recently been having sex.

"Oh, hey...where's Jack?"

"He, um...he's asleep," Ennis replied, blushing a little. Lily smiled.

"You tire him out, then?" she asked with a grin, and he rubbed the back of his neck before sitting down on the sofa.

" alright?"

She sighed. "I dunno. Just...thinkin' on my dad. Can't really decide what to do..."

Ennis chewed at his lower lip. He'd never been too good at giving advice on his own; Jack had usually been there to do most of the work, and he would chip in whenever he had a thought. But Jack was still out of it after their afternoon romp, so he'd decided to come downstairs for a while.

"" He thought about what Jack might do in this situation. "Uh...tell you what, come over here." She looked at him and went over, sitting next to him. He curled an arm around her like he would do with a daughter. "I know...I know yer feelin' all messed up about it. But it's like what Jack keeps sayin'. Even if you can't forgive him, you can still spend time with him an' let him be part of yer life.

"I know, ain't easy. I keep thinkin' that by spendin' time with him, I'm betrayin' my mama..."

Ennis sighed. "I don't think you are. None of us do. I dunno how to stop you feelin' like this..."

"Yeah...maybe I could go an' see my mama's grave. Talk to her some...that might help."

"Yep, it could. hungry? I was gonna get some chips or somethin'. We a movie."

She smiled up at him. "Yeah, that sounds good. Ennis...I know you don't think yer any good at givin' advice, but that's alright. You still know how to make me feel better. Jack's good at advice,'re still good for some things." She kissed his cheek and got up, going into the kitchen for chips and drinks. He settled back and flicked on the TV, feeling happy that he could still be there for Lily, even if he didn't really know what to say.

They sat together, watching a comedy and eating from a large bag of chips. Jack crept down the stairs when he heard them laughing, and saw them on the sofa like that. He leaned against the railing and smiled, happy to see them interacting like this. He knew that Ennis and Lily loved each other like a real uncle and niece, but they didn't spend a lot of time alone together like this. There were usually other people around and they spent time together in a group. He liked seeing them when nobody else was around; he could see the gentle, loving side of his cowboy that few others got to see.

He felt a pang in his heart that they hadn't been able to have children, in some way. He thought that maybe one day in the future, same-sex couples could adopt or have children via surrogates, but by the time that happened they might be too old to be able to cope with children of their own. They were looking forward to Lily having children of her own, but still.

He stood there watching them for a while, and when the movie was finishing he walked down the rest of the stairs. "Hey, you two."

They looked up and smiled at him. "Hey, bud," Ennis replied. "Movie's just finishin'. Um...we've been eatin', wanna get somethin'?"

Jack shrugged and stood near them, thumbs in his belt loops. "Nah, it's okay. We could wait a couple hours an' order a pizza." They nodded and set about clearing their trash. Lily went into the kitchen and Jack slid his arms around Ennis's waist. "I was watchin' you guys for a bit before I came down, you know. You looked like a real uncle an' niece down here. I ain't really ever seen you two on yer own like that before..."

Ennis went a little read and smiled. "Yeah? Well...I always thought of Becky like a sister, an' I think of Lily like a niece. She was sat down here, thinkin' on her dad, an' I didn't know what to say to make her feel better, so...I suggested we just watch a movie. Seemed to cheer her up." Jack kissed him warmly.

"You're a good man, Ennis Del Mar. I love you..." Ennis smiled at him.

"Love you too, Jack."

That night, Ennis and Jack were drifting off after a long, luxurious hour of lovemaking. The sweat on their skin was cooling off and their bodies were in need of rest. Ennis was spooned up around Jack and rubbing his stomach, making him smile as he fell asleep.

He was atop Signal, riding across the grass towards the willow tree. Ennis was back at the house with Rose and Lily, and he was on his own. He approached the tree and knelt down by his sister's grave.

"Hey, Becky," he said softly, brushing a few twigs off the headstone. "Hope yer doin' okay. Lily's doin' real well...she's happy. But she's havin' some trouble with her dad. She don't know what to do...feels guilty about spendin' time with him. An' it's not just that...she misses you a whole lot. She wants to have some kinda connection to you...but she don't know how. I dunno what to do for her, sis. I love her a whole lot...just want her to be happy..."

He sighed and laid the flowers down, looking at the engraved words on the headstone. After a while, he got up and turned away to return to the horse.

He froze when he heard her voice. "Jack."

Jack spun around, recognising the voice, and his eyes widened. "Becky?"

She stood there, as young and beautiful as she had been in life. Her strawberry blonde hair was flowing down her back, and she was dressed in her jeans and a loose beige shirt. A warm smile was on her face. "Hey, Jack."

He couldn't move; he was in shock at seeing her face for the first time in years. "What...what are you doin' here?"

The smile on her face widened. "I never left. I've always been with you guys, you know that. I've been lookin' down on you ever since I died. I know the troubles Lily's havin' with her daddy. I know it ain't easy on her."

Jack nodded. "Yeah. Me an' Ennis don't know what to do for her."

Becky stepped forward and put her hands on his shoulders. To his surprise, she was warm to the touch. Her deep green eyes met his blue ones. "You should give her that jewellery box, Jack. The one with the silver pieces that I asked you to pass on for her weddin'. I want you to give the box to her. Open it up with her, okay? There's somethin' I put in there that all of you need to find."

He looked confused. "What do you mean? Is there a letter?"

"No, it's somethin' else. Trust me, all of you need to find it, an' I promise it'll make things easier on her. She'll be just fine, okay? Just go through the box with her."

Jack nodded again. "Okay. What do we do about her dad? She feels real guilty about spendin' time with him, thinks she's betrayin' you by lettin' him in."

"I ain't gonna lie to you, Jack. I ended up hatin' that guy for givin' me the thing that killed me. But at the same time, he gave me somethin' that made me happy; he gave me a child. Havin' Lily was the best thing I ever did, an' I've never regretted it. I understand that she feels guilty about spendin' time with him, but it's okay."

"It is?"

"Yeah. She has a father that's willin' to spend time with her, who wants to be part of her life. You an' me never really had that. Our dad wasn't the kind we needed. I want her to have what we never did, an' I ain't hurt about her wantin' to spend time with him. You can tell her from me that it's okay to let him into her life, even if she can't forgive him. Alright?"

Jack smiled at her. "Okay. We'll show her the box, an' I'll tell her what you said. I sure am glad to see ya, sis. Been missin' ya somethin' awful."

Becky moved forward and they embraced, happy that they were back together, even if it was only temporary. Jack felt a weight lift from his heart; the one that had been there ever since Becky died.

They broke apart and smiled at each other. "I love ya, sis."

"Love you too, big brother."

Jack jerked awake and stared into the darkness, his breathing shallow. He couldn't believe it; he'd never dreamed of Becky, in all the years since her death. A little smile spread across his face and he cleared his throat, tilting his head back. "Ennis?"

There was no answer, so he shifted over onto his other side, facing Ennis. "Cowboy, wake up." He gently shook Ennis until he was awake.

"Hmm? What's up?" he asked, eyes bleary with sleep. "What is it, bud?"

Jack smiled. "I just had this dream...I was talkin' to Becky." Ennis's eyes were now alight with interest.

"Really? What happened?"

So Jack told him, telling him what Becky had said to him about the box and about Lily's father. By the time he was done, Ennis was smiling back at him.

"Well...ain't that somethin'? Bet it was good to see her again an' hear her voice," he said softly.

"Sure was. I missed her a whole lot. I can't believe it, Ennis." Jack was grinning by now, and Ennis couldn't help but stroke his cheek, eyes roaming over his face.

"Darlin'..." He leaned in and kissed Jack warmly, sliding his tongue between Jack's teeth and running his hand along Jack's chest. He felt Jack moan into his mouth, surprised by the advance. Within moments Ennis had rolled on top of him and was kissing his way down Jack's stomach, making him buck upwards as he reached the lower regions. Jack moaned and sighed as Ennis took him in his mouth, taking his time and making his head spin. There would be time to reflect on his dream, but right now he had more pressing matters at hand.

The next day, Ennis and Jack talked it over, and decided to tell Lily about the jewellery after lunch. They knew that she sometimes liked to go for an afternoon nap in her room, so they figured they would go up there with her and talk to her. Jack had already told her about his dream, and what Becky had said to him. She was very intrigued by what else might be in the box.

At lunch, they told her that they wanted to talk to her about something, and she nodded. Ben and Rose both went into town and they went up. Lily was puzzled as to what they wanted to talk to her about.

Upstairs, they sat on her bed, Jack holding the jewellery box. They were on either side of her and she looked confused.

"What's goin' on?" she asked, eyeing the box. Jack exchanged a glance with Ennis, and then spoke.

" know how when yer mama died, she'd written a letter to us, explainin' everythin'. At the end of it, she told us about this box. There's some jewellery in here that she wanted you to have. The first birthday that she spent here with us, the two of us an' Kate gave her three pieces of jewellery. A necklace, bracelet an' some earrings. Kate made them all for us. Yer mama wanted you to have 'em."

He opened the box and revealed the silver jewellery, making Lily's eyes widen. Ennis and Jack could remember Becky's birthday, when they had given her the pieces. Jack handed her the box and she took out the pieces one by one, smiling at them and imagining her mother wearing them. "Oh...they're beautiful. She really wore these?"

"Yep, she did," Jack replied, putting an arm around her. "She really loved them too. It was her first birthday here with us, an' she hadn't been livin' with us too long. Only a couple months, right Ennis?"

"Yeah. She was settlin' in real well. She, um...I hadn't really seen her smilin' a lot since she moved in, an' that was probably the first time I saw her real happy. I really started to see her as a sister that day, you know." Jack smiled at him.

Lily nodded. ", um...what else is in here?"

"I dunno..." After a little probing, they discovered that the box was in layers, and the jewellery was nestled in the top layer. They pulled it away to reveal the rest. Lying there was a small cassette tape. Lily's brow furrowed as she took it out, handing it to Jack for a moment.

"What is this?" she asked, turning it over. It was unmarked, but Jack already had a suspicion what it might be. Considering his dream, he'd kind of expected this.

"I don't know...let's go an' find that cassette player." They all headed downstairs; the house was still empty. Ennis and Lily sat on the sofa while Jack retrieved their small cassette player, bringing it over to them and popping in the tape. He pressed play and waited. Becky's voice soon filled the room.

"Hey guys. If you found this tape, I guess I means Ennis an' Jack read my letter an' waited to give Lily the jewellery until she was engaged. I sure hope that's the case. As I'm recordin' this in the office, everybody else is out. I wanted to do this in secret just in case I make it after all. But if you're listenin' to it now, I guess I didn't."

There was a pause while they all looked at each other, not knowing what to say. "First off, I wanna say thank you to Ennis an' Jack. You guys have given me so much an' I dunno where I'd be without you. I know you've probably looked after Lily real well, so thank you for that. I love you both, an' I hope you're havin' a sweet life together."

Jack smiled at Ennis, tears gathering a little in his eyes. Ennis put an arm around him, squeezing him tightly.

"Second of all...Lily, I dunno if yer daddy will ever try to make amends for not bein' there, an' for givin' me this. But if it wasn't for him, I never woulda had you. An' you was the best thing I ever had. I love you so much an' I was heartbroken to find out that I might not live to see you grow up. But it's okay, because I know that by the time you hear this, you'll be grown up an' yer uncles woulda done right by you. Listen to me, Lily. If yer daddy wants to be part of yer life, an' he's sorry for not bein' there, you have my blessin' to welcome him into yer life an' yer heart. Don't feel guilty, because I don't want you to. I never knew for sure if my daddy loved me, an' neither does Jack. I know that neither of us would wish that on you. Family is very important, an' I want you to have that."

Lily was crying openly, wiping at her eyes. Ennis put his free arm around her and pulled them both close while blinking back his own tears.

"I love you all, an' I want you to be happy. Whatever that involves. Good luck on yer weddin' day, Lily. I'll be smilin' down on you, I promise. I've never left you, an' I ain't gonna. I'm always gonna be here. Take care, all of you. Jack, tell our mama that I love her too, an' that I'll always remember what she did for me. Bye."

The tape stopped and they were silent, except for Lily's sobs. But as they looked at her, they could see that she was smiling.

Lily looked at them, smiling through her tears. "She never left, did she?"

Jack shook his head. "Nope, guess not. Are you okay?" She nodded, wiping her eyes.

"I really am. I think I'm gonna be just fine now."

They sat there for a while, and then Lily sighed. "I think I'm gonna go for a ride. Maybe go visit my mama's grave. You guys okay here?"

"Yeah, we're fine," Jack replied, smiling at her. "You go on." She left out the back door and Jack looked at Ennis. He leaned in close and Ennis took him in his arms. They shuffled until they were both half-lying down, Ennis resting against the arm and holding Jack close. He rubbed Jack's stomach and kissed the top of his head. "Darlin', you alright?"

Jack sighed a little. "I guess. Been a weird couple days...seein' Becky in a dream, talkin' to her an' everythin', an' then hearin' that tape with her speakin' to's just weird. Been missin' her real bad, an' it was good to see her again."

"I bet. Good to hear her voice too. An' I think it did Lily some good too. She was feelin' guilty about spendin' time with her dad, an' to hear her mama say that she shouldn't feel guilty, an' that she has her blessin' to let him be part of her life...I bet that lifted a weight off her. Maybe now she can spend time with him an' be happy about it."

"Yeah." Jack shifted until he was on his knees, facing Ennis. He sank down onto Ennis's chest and looked up at him. "Thanks, Ennis..."

"What for?" he asked softly, stroking Jack's cheek. Jack leaned into the touch and closed his eyes, smiling a little.

"For bein' here like this for us. I held us both when it got too much for us. You made us feel better. That's what a man should do...look after people when they need it. God knows we've taken turns at lookin' after each other over the years..."

"Yep. You was there for me when I got back from Vietnam an' didn't know what to do with myself. I was a real mess, an' you looked after me real good. I never woulda got through it without you, darlin'. Holdin' me when I had nightmares, always tryin' to make me see that Adam's death wasn't my fault. You came with me to the therapy, an' even when I had those mood swings, you never gave up on me. I know I hurt yer feelin's when I snapped at ya, but you didn't make a big deal of it. You knew that it wasn't really about you, but just my head bein' messed up.

Jack smiled at him, kissing the tip of his nose. "Aw, cowboy...yer always sayin' that you ain't no good with words, but...there's been times, like just now, when you've said real nice things to me. I appreciate it, you know. It don't matter that you can't always find the words to say what you wanna; when you do find ''s real special. Yer one of those guys who means everythin' he says, especially the sweet stuff. I know that every word to say to mean it."

Ennis went a little red. "Uh...I guess. I try to find the words, Jack...even if I can't. I sure am glad you get it anyway. Guess I'm doin' somethin' right, huh?"

"You sure are, cowboy. An' I remember how you used to be, up on Brokeback. So closed up, hardly sayin' a wasn't always easy to read you. That time by the fire when we was talkin' an' laughin'...that was a good time. After things changed...there was a time when I wondered if I'd ruined it by changin' things between us. We was doin' real well as friends, an' I was a little worried if I'd made a mistake, 'cos you went further into that shell. Felt like we'd gone back a few steps. Don't get me wrong, the sex was great, but...I dunno. I felt like we wasn't really good friends anymore, just sleepin' together."

Ennis continued to stroke his face, looking into his eyes. "I tried to keep things as they were between us, before it all changed. But I was all confused inside, didn't know what to do. I'm sorry I got you wonderin' if it was a mistake, darlin'. We know better now, don't we?"

"Sure do. I don't wonder about that no more. Stopped wonderin' about that when we got together in Signal. I ain't never looked back, cowboy."

"Me neither, rodeo." They leaned in and started to kiss, their tongues sliding together between their mouths. Jack pressed in close to Ennis, his hands wandering. Ennis pulled away. "We can't do this here, Jack...someone could walk in."

"Yer right, let's go upstairs," Jack replied with a twinkle in his eyes. They got up and headed up the stairs, hand in hand.

At Becky's graveside, Lily sat on the ground and brushed off the headstone. She smiled a little. "Mama...I want you to know that I'm always gonna love you, an' that I won't never forget everythin' you've done for me. I heard yer tape, an' I'm real grateful that I've got yer blessin' to spend time with my dad." She sighed. "I wanna get to know him proper, mama. I don't know if I'll ever forgive him for what he's done, but...I want him in my life. Maybe even at the weddin', we'll see how it goes. I'll be okay, mama. You don't need to worry about me, okay? I'll still come an' see you all the time an' talk to you, but...I feel lighter now."

The willow tree moved in the wind, and a breeze played with her hair. For a moment, she imagined that she felt a hand brush her cheek, but it was gone almost immediately. She smiled. "I love you, mama." She pressed a kiss to her first and middle finger, and then pressed them to her mother's name on the headstone. "I'll see ya soon."

With a sigh, she got up and headed back to her horse, looking forward to the future and making peace with the past.