Chapter 2

June 7th, 1987

It was the twenty-fourth anniversary of their first night together, and the pair of them were lying on their hill on a blanket. They were completely naked and basking in the sun as they kissed, their skin shining in the light. Ennis was leaning over Jack on one side and had a hand in his hair, slowly kissing him and feeling love course through his veins. Jack was rubbing Ennis's arm as he lay under him, completely relaxed and happy. He felt safe in Ennis's arms, always had, and he trusted Ennis beyond anyone else.

Ennis pulled his lips away and smiled down at Jack. Despite the fact that they were now in their forties, Ennis thought that Jack was still as beautiful as he had been the day they'd met. His hair was still thick and jet-black, and his body was hard and strong; probably a result of all the work he'd done on the ranch over the years. And his eyes were still bright and clear, capable of seeing right into Ennis's soul.

Meanwhile, Jack was gazing up at Ennis. His curls weren't quite as defined as they used to be, but they were still there, and still the soft blonde colour that he'd always liked. His body was still as strong and masculine as it had ever been, enough to drive Jack crazy. And he felt as if he could lose himself in his deep brown eyes, with that fleck of green. With the way Ennis was gazing at him lovingly right now, Jack had never felt more alive.

"You look amazin' naked," Jack observed with a smile, and grinned when Ennis went red. "It's true...yer body's still in great shape. You look mighty fine there."

"Dunno about that, Jack," Ennis replied, and then he raked his eyes over Jack's body. "You look pretty damn good these days. Ain't got no fat on you or nothin'." He smoothed his hands over Jack's flat stomach, which made Jack squirm a little.

"Thanks, cowboy." Jack laced their fingers together on his stomach. "Can you believe it's been twenty-four years since that night?"

"I know...can still remember it like it was just last night." He kissed Jack again. "Wanna do it that way?" Jack's eyes lit up.

"Okay, but use the lube. You know I can't really take it dry no more." It was true; these days it hurt too much without an appropriate product. Ennis nodded and reached for their handy tube, his eyes sparkling. Jack rolled onto his stomach and then rose up onto his elbows and knees. He looked behind him and wiggled his ass at Ennis. "Come on, cowboy. What's the holdup?"

Ennis, who had been mesmerised by Jack's ass as soon as it had appeared, shook his head. "Ain't no holdup." He smoothed the lube over himself and then got into position behind Jack, lowering him down slightly to get a good angle. Jack shifted underneath Ennis as he felt him start to push in, and sighed.

"That's it..." Ennis kissed his back as he slowly pushed in, feeling Jack's warmth surround him. He then remembered Jack's old issues about this position, so leaned over him.

"I love you, Jack," he whispered in Jack's ear. "Love you so much...just relax..."

Jack nodded, his heart pounding in his chest with need. "Love you too...come on..." He pushed back and felt Ennis push in all the way. "Oh..." He leaned low and felt Ennis cover him with his hard, strong body. Ennis took hold of him with one hand and rested his other on Jack's hip.

"You ready, darlin'?" he asked, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah...go ahead, cowboy." Ennis shifted a little and began to slowly thrust into Jack, hoping to make him feel loved and appreciated. When he got a good rhythm going, he moved his hand, stroking Jack in time to his thrusts and making him moan out loud. "God,'re amazin'..."

Ennis smiled, kissing Jack's sweaty skin. "Only 'cos of you..." They moved together in their perfect rhythm and Jack was soon shooting onto the blanket with a low groan. Ennis then came inside him and collapsed onto his back. Jack was weak in the knees after his orgasm and Ennis's weight on his back made him collapse too. They lay there, panting and sighing a little. "Damn," Ennis breathed into Jack's ear. "That was good..."

"Mmm...sure was. Love doin' it like that first night." He smiled a little. "I remember how skittish you was the night after, too. When you came to me in the tent, hat in yer were so nervous, an' I just wanted to hold you an' make everythin' alright."

"You did," Ennis whispered, hands coming up to meet his, their fingers lacing together. "I know I wasn't much for words back then, made it all okay. You were great, Jack...ain't never gonna forget that night."

"Me neither. Remember the time I asked you when you fell in love with me, an' you said it was that night? It was the same for me."

"I remember you sayin' that, bud. Was a real special night, huh?" Ennis said softly, squeezing Jack's fingers. "An' yeah, I was scared. But...I knew that if I didn't go in the tent, I'd regret it. I wanted to be with you that night, Jack. More than anythin'."

Jack smiled. "I wanted it too. When I saw you, against the firelight, that's when I knew. You was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Still are, you know."

"Dunno about that, Jack. You're the one who's beautiful, rodeo..." Ennis's whispered words made Jack's heart soar, and he smiled.

"'re good to me, you know. Let me turn over." Ennis did so and their lips met firmly, Jack's hands in his curls. He ran his hand over Jack's chest as they kissed, fondling him a little. Jack moaned into his mouth and they pulled apart. "God, I love you."

"Right back at you, darlin'," Ennis replied, smiling into his lover's face.

While Ennis and Jack had been on their hill, Lily had been working in the office on the computer, updating the books for them. She had the radio playing and was just thinking about her wedding dress, when there was a knock at the door. "Come in."

Ben came in and smiled at her. "Hey, Lily. Mind if I join you?"

"Hey, sweetie! Come on in." He leaned over the desk and kissed her before sitting down at the opposite side of the desk. "What's up?"

"I was just wonderin' think we should get started on the guest lists soon? Jack was right; we don't wanna run out of food."

She nodded. "Yeah, I guess. We could always check things with your parents when they arrive, so we don't go invitin' anyone that would have a problem with Ennis an' Jack."

"I know. Do you reckon your great aunt an' uncle are gonna come?" he asked her, and she looked doubtful.

"Joe an' Maria? I dunno...I know they brought my mama up, but...Jack says that Joe ain't never been comfortable around him an' Ennis. An' he threw my mama out when she got pregnant with me, so..."

Ben took her hand across the desk. "I know, baby. It's up to you." He looked into her eyes; she looked a little distant. "You okay?"

She shook her head. "It's matter how many guests we have...people from here, Ennis's brother an' sister an' their families...even Joe an' Maria, an' then your family...there's always gonna be someone missin' who should be here." She lowered her eyes. "My mama should be here..."

"Yeah..." Ben stroked her hand with his thumb and she paused, trying to get her thoughts in order. Voicing her feelings about her mother had never been easy, because she had precious few memories of her.

"It's just...Ennis an' Jack told me bits an' pieces when I was old enough to understand, until I knew the whole story, includin' their history an' how my mama was a part of it. But...I know the name, I know the history an' the story, an'...I've seen pictures of her. But I don't feel like I know her. I've been to her grave more times than I can count, an' I've tried to get a sense of who she was, ain't really worked. I can't really remember anythin' from when I was a baby. All I remember is a woman with strawberry blonde hair like mine, but I've seen pictures of her anyway, so..." She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "I don't even know her voice because I can't remember. I've got a general sound in my memory that might be her, but it's so vague."

Ben's eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean?"

"Well...Ennis an' Jack told me that just before she died, she held me in front of her an' spoke to me, tellin' me that she'd always be with me an' that she loved me. I swear I've had a few dreams like that, but I can't really remember it. The more I try to remember, the harder it gets. I just wanna know who she was as a person, but..." She bit her lip. "Ennis an' Jack brought me up, an' they did a pretty good job, I reckon. But I remember all those Mothers Days growin' up, an' all the stuff in shop windows, an' makin' cards at school. I always went along with it 'cos I didn't wanna draw attention, but...I would get home, see Ennis an' Jack an' just fall apart. I cried a lot on those days an' they would just sit with me on the sofa until I calmed down."

At this point, her throat became a little clogged with emotion, and she reached for her glass of water. Ben sighed. " ain't never told me about all this stuff should've. I love you an' wanna make you feel better about that stuff."

She smiled. "I know. But the truth is...I ain't hardly ever been able to talk about this. Even Ennis an' Jack don't know how much I wanna know her. They probably remember all those times I got upset. When I was younger, on those days they took me to her grave so I could talk to her an' take her flowers, an' when I was old enough I went by myself. It helped a little, to be close to her, but..." She sighed. "Ain't never gonna be enough, an' I've just gotta live with it."

Ben came around the desk and rubbed her shoulders. "I know that yer hurtin','ll be okay. She's probably lookin' down on you an' smilin'. She'd be proud to see the woman you are now, but also that yer still her baby girl."

She twisted a little and smiled up at him. "Thanks, honey." They kissed and he put his arms around her, pressing their cheeks together and thinking. After a short while, Ben spoke again.

"You reckon Ennis an' Jack are done on the hill yet? Should we call 'em in for lunch?"

Lily shook her head, a smirk on her face. "No way. It's a known rule of the ranch that if they go up to the hill together, they ain't to be disturbed."

"You mean...?" She nodded.

"Yep. Everybody knows, even the hands. An' if you ever wanna go into the tack room, don't linger, especially if they're outside together. I'm tellin' you, it just grabs 'em like a force of nature. Can't help themselves." She smiled. "I think it's great that they're still like that, even after all these years. I used to think it was gross; not 'cos they're gay but 'cos they're like my parents. Let's face it; nobody wants to think of their parents doin' it. But...they're actually quite inspirin'. Been twenty-four years today since it all started. I hope..." She looked at him. "I hope we have somethin' like what they've got."

Ben smiled, squeezing her a little. "Me too, honey."

The next day, Ben was going back home to his parents' house in Nashville, and Lily was saddened to see him go. Every time he came to visit, they ended up growing closer than ever before. Lily didn't know if it was because of their wedding drawing nearer or because of Ennis and Jack's love having an influence on them, but it didn't matter. She was very happy with Ben and couldn't wait for them to settle down together. They had agreed that in the fall they would start to figure out where they would live after the wedding. Ennis and Jack had told them that they always had a room at the house until they found their own place, and both of them were very grateful.

Unbeknownst to Lily, Ben had spoken privately to Ennis and Jack the evening before, telling them of Lily's feelings of despair concerning her mother. He had told them that she felt hopeless at never knowing who her mother had been, but both of them were at a loss as to what to do. They had told her everything about Becky that they could remember, and had shown her all of their family photos with Becky in them, and there wasn't much else that they could do.

The morning after, Ennis and Jack were lying in bed face to face, talking about what Ben had said to them. Jack sighed and stroked Ennis's curls absentmindedly. "I dunno what we can do for her, Ennis...I knew that she's always wanted to know who Becky was, but...I didn't know it was that bad..."

"Well..." Ennis replied, stroking Jack's face. "I remember when she was in school, an' she was always in a state on those Mother's Days when she got home. Felt real bad for her, havin' to go through that."

"I know...I remember when Becky found out that she had syphilis, an' that she could die. God, Ennis...she was heartbroken about not bein' able to see Lily grow up. An' now...Lily's all torn up about not havin' her mama here with her. Just goes in circles..."

"I tried to talk to her, remember?" Ennis asked, looking into Jack's eyes. "I told her 'bout my parents dyin', an' not growin' up with a mama. But...Lily don't have no memories of Becky at all, 'cept in her dreams. She just wants to know who her mama was, an'...I dunno if there's anythin' we can do that we ain't tried already..."

Jack sighed and closed his eyes. "I know...we've done our best for her so far, Ennis. We brought her up, like Becky wanted, an' we've done right by her as best we can. Just wish we could fix this for her too..."

Ennis leaned in and softly kissed Jack on the lips. "Darlin'...we're only human. Can't fix everythin' that goes wrong, even though we wanna. It ain't right that she grew up without her mama, but...that wasn't our fault. We did the best with what we had, an'...I'd say she's grown up pretty well."

Jack smiled at him and nodded. "Yeah, she has. We did a pretty good job, I reckon. Anyway..." He looked over Ennis at the clock. "We better get up an' get breakfast goin'. Ben's leavin' today an' Lily's gonna be miserable."

"Yep. Come on..." They exchanged another kiss and got out of bed, heading into the bathroom together. In the shower, Ennis soaped Jack's back and then they stroked each other off, mouths glued together. Jack smiled up into Ennis's face and held his face in his hands.

"I love you, cowboy." Ennis smiled back, affectionately running his hand through Jack's wet hair.

"Love you too, rodeo." They stepped out and towelled each other off before getting dressed, Jack goosing Ennis's ass before he got his jeans on and making him squirm. Ennis then responded by grinding his hips against Jack's until he whimpered, and then pulled away, smirking.

"Damn tease!" Jack called after him as he left the bathroom. He made his way downstairs after Ennis and they started to make breakfast together. Jack occasionally bumped his hip against Ennis's, smiling at him and giving him a loving look. Ennis smiled back and kissed him a few times before turning back to the eggs.

They all ate breakfast together as a family, and Ennis and Jack could see that Lily was a little quiet this morning. They surmised that it was a mixture of missing her mother and knowing that Ben was leaving today, and felt sorry for her. Jack cleared his throat. "So, Ben...did your parents make reservations at the hotel?"

Ben nodded. "Yeah, they did. My mama told me to thank you for puttin' her onto it. They're lookin' forward to comin' here, an' talkin' about the weddin'." He looked at Lily. "She's got somethin' she wants to give you to wear. Somethin' blue, I think." Lily nodded at this.

After breakfast, they all gathered on the porch and Ben turned to them. "Well...guess this is it for a few days. I'll be back soon enough..."

Lily nodded and gave a watery smile. It always pained her to say goodbye to him, and she knew that she had found the kind of love that Ennis and Jack shared. She saw the look on their faces whenever they were apart, even if they were both still on the land. Before she'd met Ben, she'd found it sweetly amusing. But now, she knew exactly how it felt, and it wasn't a pleasant feeling. "I'll miss you..."

"I'll miss you too, honey." They kissed and hugged tightly, and he looked over her shoulder at the others. "So I'll see you in about a week, okay?"

They nodded and Jack smiled at Lily. "Honey, you gonna let him go?" She finally did and Ben kissed her hand before turning to the steps with a wave. He got into his truck and drove off, leaving Lily looking forlorn. Jack looked at her sympathetically and came up behind her, arms around her shoulders. "Don't worry, honey. He'll be back before you know it."

She nodded and smiled. "I know."

June 12th, 1987

The four of them entered the graveyard and started walking amongst the headstones, Lily holding a bouquet of flowers in her arms. They were all dressed in black and respectfully silent as they walked through, Ennis and Jack walking with one arm around each other. It had been a long time since that day, when Becky had tried to visit Rich only to find that he was no longer with them, and they had all been saddened to learn of his death. Every year since, they had visited his grave and paid their respects to him.

Just as they passed a willow tree, they saw the marble headstone that Ennis and Jack had paid for themselves. They read the weather-worn words on the stone and sighed in unison.

Rich Sommers

September 20th 1893 - June 12th, 1965

Father, husband, lover and friend

May he finally find peace at last

Ennis and Jack had decided on the words between them, based on what they'd known. It hadn't been easy for them to say goodbye to Rich, considering that they'd only just found him and gotten to know him. Becky had even asked him to be a great-grandfather figure to Lily shortly after her birth, and they had all known that he had been humbled by her request. They all saw it as a great shame that he hadn't been around for much longer after that.

They gathered around the headstone and Lily placed the flowers down, picking off twigs from the words and brushing it clean with her hand. "Been a long time, huh?" she said in a soft voice, and Jack cleared his throat.

"Sure has...we oughta come here more often. The least we can do for him, after what he did for us..." He looked at Ennis, thinking of that Thanksgiving when he'd discovered the newspapers and the dark secrets they held, resulting in his flight from the house. Rich had made him realise that what he had with Ennis was stronger than any outer force, and that nothing could truly tear them apart. As a result, their relationship had been saved and they had moved on from that dark time. Jack would never forget what Rich had done for them.

"I know...I wish I could remember him," Lily replied, standing up and taking her place next to Rose. "My mama must've liked him, to ask him to be like a great-grandfather to me."

"She did," Rose said softly to her, putting an arm around her. "Your mama knew that he didn't have no-one, but that he'd always wanted to know her an' Jack, same as Earl. She just...wanted him to feel like part of the family, the way Earl would've wanted." Jack nodded as his mother spoke, his hand linked with Ennis's. Their eyes met for a moment and Ennis kissed Jack's temple.

"I hope...that they're takin' care of each other up there," Lily whispered, tears pricking at her eyes. She withdrew a handkerchief and wiped her eyes. "I wish I'd known him properly..."

Jack exchanged another glance with Ennis, thinking of what Ben had told them. He wished that there was some way in which they could show Lily what her mother had been liked, but there was nothing. They should have made some kind of recording of Becky, either visual or audio, so that Lily could see her and feel like she knew her. But it was too late, and now Lily was suffering for it. Ennis and Jack had been able to give her everything she'd wanted while growing up, but they couldn't give her the one thing that she truly needed; her mother.

After a while of sharing memories of Rich, they finally headed back to the truck. Ennis could tell that it hurt Jack to not be able to help Lily cope with not having a mother, and he was determined to try and make him feel better. He held Jack's hand in the truck as he drove, and when they returned to the house, he took him straight upstairs to their room. Jack took his hat, jacket and boots off before flopping onto the end of the bed, thoroughly drained by the day's events. Ennis removed his outer clothes and lay down next to him, gently running a hand along his stomach.

"You okay, darlin'?" he asked softly, and Jack shrugged, not knowing right now how he felt about everything.

"Not really. Ever since she was born an' we saw her for the first time, all I wanted was to make sure she was happy, an' that she had everythin' she wanted. An' even though I didn't know about her bein' my niece at the time, we was still her godfathers, an' wanted the best for her, right? But now...I can't give her what she really wants." He looked at Ennis sadly.

Ennis sighed and pulled Jack into his arms, kissing the top of his head. "I know it hurts you somethin' awful, Jack, but...ain't nothin' we can do. We've just gotta help her prepare for the weddin' as best we can. That's what she needs us to do. We can't bring her mama back or make her stop hurtin', so we've just gotta do the things we can."

"I know," Jack sighed, squeezing Ennis. "We just gotta do right by her an' make sure she knows we love her. It's what Becky would've wanted, right?"

"Yeah. She wanted us to look after Lily an' make her happy. We've done that, Jack..." Ennis pressed his lips into Jack's hair and held him closer. Jack fell silent and just let himself be held, lost in his thoughts. Ennis was right; they had done everything they could to bring Lily up well and make her happy, and for the most part they had done a good job. She had grown up to be a strong, confident young woman, and Jack knew in his heart that wherever Becky was, she was grateful to them.

After a while, Ennis pulled Jack up from the bed and went downstairs with him to prepare dinner for everybody. He knew that giving Jack something to do would distract him from his thoughts, and he was right. Jack was soon talking away to him as they worked, wondering what their friends in town might be doing right now and whether or not they could get the time off for the wedding. They figured that their friends would be able to make it, and they were looking forward to everybody being in the same space again.

At dinner, Ben called to make sure that everything was sorted out for his parents' visit. Everything was confirmed and Lily was smiling serenely by the end of it. Jack was pleased to see her happy, and he tried not to let the loss of Becky get to him. He kept reminding himself that her death hadn't been their fault, and that they'd done the best they could by Lily.

Lily offered to wash the dishes, so Ennis and Jack decided to go for an evening ride up to their hill for a few hours. They made their way up to the hill and dismounted at the base, tying the horses to a tree and walking up, hand in hand. Ennis could see that Jack was relaxing now, and he was happy to see this. All he'd ever wanted since that day in Signal was for Jack to be safe and happy, and as time had gone on, he'd seen that he'd done a good job. Jack had told him a number of times that he was happy with him, and that he was all he needed.

They reached the top of the hill and took their jackets off, sitting down on them and huddling close together. Ennis put his arm around Jack protectively and held him close, letting Jack rest his head on his shoulder. Neither of them spoke for a few moments, and then Jack cleared his throat.

"Thanks, Ennis," he murmured. "I've kinda been all over the place these last few days. Just hate seein' Lily upset an' missin' her mama. Wish we coulda done somethin' to save Becky..."

"It wasn't our fault," Ennis reminded him gently. "It ain't like we're the ones who gave her that thing. It was that guy..."

"I know, but..." Jack lifted his head and looked up at Ennis. "Thing is...if it hadn't been for him, she wouldn't have had Lily either. So...he gave her life, but he also gave her death, you know? I just...ever since she got ill an' figured out that it was 'cos of him, I never knew how to feel about it. I remember when Lily was born, an' the look on Becky's face when she held her for the first time. She was real happy, an' even though we just thought that the guy was an asshole for not bein' there, we was all still grateful to him for givin' her Lily. But when she got ill...I just wanted to track him down an' shoot him."

Ennis kissed Jack softly on the lips. "I know you did, baby. But that wouldn't have done no good, an' you know it. I trainin', an' I needed you to keep things together while I was gone. You did a hell of a job, Jack..."

Jack smiled up at him. "Dunno about that. It got real hard sometimes...I missed you so much an' just wanted you to come home an' hold me. I tried to stay strong for everyone, but...I nearly snapped a few times. The only thing that kept me goin' was thinkin' of you, an' that you was dependin' on me to keep things together. Wasn't easy without you, cowboy..."

"Don't think on it, Jack. Ain't gonna do no good now; it's been years, an' everythin's alright now. I came back, we got things sorted, an' ended up on the other side. I mean...I wish we hadn't lost Becky, ain't like we ever forgot her. Look at Lily; she's the image of her, an' we're always thinkin' about her, right?"

"Yeah, I guess. Just wish we hadn't lost her...miss her a whole lot..." Jack's head dropped back to Ennis's shoulder and he sighed. Ennis could only think of one way to cheer him up, and he shifted a little, tilting Jack's face up to his. Jack's eyes were full of sorrow, and Ennis hated it whenever Jack was upset. He leaned in and gently kissed him, one hand on his cheek and the other still around his waist. Jack leaned back onto his jacket, pulling Ennis down with him and moaning a little into his mouth. Ennis straddled him and held his face in both of his hands now, needing to make him feel better.

Ennis pulled his lips away and looked into Jack's eyes. "It's alright, Jack...I'm here..." Jack nodded and smiled a little.

"Come on, Ennis..." They kissed again and started removing their clothes, tossing them to the side and wrapping each other up in their arms. Ennis rubbed his hips against Jack's, their groins locked together tightly and their mouths on each other's necks. Jack started to moan as Ennis thrust against him and then his muscles locked as he released between them. With a few more thrusts, Ennis joined him in bliss and collapsed onto his chest. They lay there for a moment and then Ennis heard Jack sigh. "Thanks, cowboy...I needed that."

Ennis kissed Jack's neck. "I know, rodeo. You wanna go back an' go to bed?"

"Yeah, in a minute...can't move right now." They embraced each other closer and just lay there, thinking and listening to the distant sounds of the city. Their life here had never been easy, but it had been worth all of the bad times to be here together in the now. The hard years were behind them now, and life was just as sweet for them as it ever was.