Chapter 4

June 21st, 1987

Ben and his parents were leaving again for Nashville, and this time it would be six days before Ben returned. Ennis and Jack knew that it hurt Lily every time they said goodbye, and they had talked about asking Ben to move into the ranch. It made more sense than him always driving between there and his parents' house every few days, and it would give him and Lily somewhere to stay in case they couldn't find a place of their own right after the wedding. And they knew it would cheer Lily up, since she felt lonely without him.

That morning, Ennis and Jack had breakfast with Lily and Rose, and Ben would be coming by later so that he and his parents could say goodbye. The two cowboys exchanged a glance and nodded at each other. "Lily?" asked Jack, and she looked up.

"Yeah?" He smiled at her.

"There's somethin' me an' Ennis wanna talk to you about. Somethin' that...we think is gonna make you happy."

"Uh...what's that?" she asked, and they looked at each other again.

"Well...we know how much you love Ben, an' we've seen how it tears you up whenever you gotta see him leave after a visit. An' hurts us to see you upset, honey." Lily lowered her eyes.

"Don't mean to hurt you, Uncle Jack. I do miss him a whole lot when he ain't here..."

"We know. an' Ennis have been talkin' about it, an' we've decided on somethin', if you an' Ben are interested. If he wants to, an' if his parents are okay with it...we'd like to ask him to move in with us. He can stay in your room with you, an' after the weddin' you can stay as long as you want until you get yourselves your own place."

Lily's eyes widened and a hand flew to her mouth. "You guys serious? I mean..." They both nodded at her.

"Yep, we are. We know it would make you happy, honey, an' I reckon Ben would be up to it. What do you say?"

She grinned widely and got up out of her chair, coming around the table and throwing her arms around Jack. "Oh, thank you, Uncle Jack! Thank you!" She kissed the side of his face and then gave Ennis a hug, thanking him too. They both smiled at her, glad to see her happy again. Rose watched them with pride, seeing the love they held for their niece and the amazing job they had done in bringing her up. She was very proud of both of them for all that they had accomplished, and that Becky would be very proud of her daughter. Lily sat back down and smiled at them. "I'm sure that Ben would be happy to move in. Thank you so much, guys..."

They both nodded at her. "No problem, honey. You know we'd do anythin' to make you happy." Ennis's hand found Jack's between them and held on tightly.

A little later, Ben and his parents came by to talk to them one last time before leaving for Nashville. Craig and Jennifer wanted to have a private word with Ennis and Jack, but reassured them that it was nothing bad. They all went out onto the porch and stood around. Jennifer turned to the cowboys, clasping her hands together. "Well, I've gotta two have really impressed us. I don't know what we was expectin' when we came out here, to be honest. We've always accepted Brian an' anyone he's ever been seein', but...we ain't never seen a gay couple in a home, with a life an' everythin'. But we can see that we had nothin' to worry about. You two are very nice guys, an' you've done a real good job bringin' Lily up. She's a real credit to you, guys."

Ennis and Jack looked at them in surprise, and then at each other. They'd wanted Ben's parents to like them, but they hadn't expected such a declaration from them. It wasn't often that a straight couple would be so comfortable around them, but yet here it was. They nodded back.

"Um...well, thank you. We've been real happy to have you guys around. An' I know it's done the kids some good to have us gettin' along. Listen, um...we've been thinkin'. If it's okay with you guys, we'd like to ask Ben to move here, to the ranch. He could stay in Lily's room, an' they can stay as long as they want until they find their own place. But we wanna know what you guys think, before we ask him."

Craig and Jennifer looked surprised, but then smiled. "Well...I guess we'll have to let our boy go sometime. An' we know you'll treat him good, like a proper son-in-law. An' we won't have the room at our place for 'em to move in after the weddin', so...they'd be better off livin' here, I guess." Jennifer then smiled. "I know they'd be happy with you guys,'s okay with us."

They smiled back and nodded, Jack extending a hand. "Well, that's great. We'd be happy to have them here with us. We told Lily that we'd ask you guys an' then him, if he wants to. I just know that it hurts both of 'em when Ben leaves after a visit. We just figured that it'd make 'em happy." Ben's parents nodded and smiled, knowing that they could trust Ennis and Jack.

Ben was thrilled at the prospect of moving in and being with Lily all of the time, and he thanked Ennis and Jack numerous times before they left. He needed to pack his things for the move and promised to return soon, telling Lily that he loved her.

They proudly watched Lily and Ben saying goodbye from the porch, Ennis's arms around Jack from behind in a comfortable embrace. "We did the right thing, rodeo. This'll make 'em both happy."

"I know, cowboy," Jack replied, smiling when Ennis kissed his cheek.

Over the next few days, the residents of the ranch decided to carry out some more preparations for the wedding. Jack had already called a local florist and asked them to come by with suggestions for arrangements, whatever Ben and Lily wanted. Ennis had spoken to his brother and sister, and they had confirmed that they would be attending, along with at least most of their children. They ultimately decided to send Amy and her family an invitation, just in case she gave birth before the wedding and was feeling up to travelling. Jack had reasoned that if they couldn't make it, they would devour the leftover food themselves.

Wednesday afternoon found all four of them at Kate Hardeman's store in town. Around ten years ago she had made enough money from her wares to buy her own premises, and she was doing very well. Ennis and Jack had been dropping her name into conversations with their buyers, as a way of thanking her for everything she had done for them. As a result, people from further afield were paying her visits to see her products.

Right now, Lily was looking at wedding bands. She had talked it over with Ben and they had decided on something silver, yet delicate. She knew that Ben would have been happy with a plain band, but she was hoping to find something a little nicer to look at, but still suitable for both of them. As she browsed through the displays, Ennis and Jack had noticed a pair of earrings. They were just like the ones that Kate had made Becky for her first birthday at the ranch, so many years ago. Ennis noticed the look on Jack's face as he remembered and sighed.

"You okay, bud?" he asked in a low voice, looking at Jack in concern. Jack's deep, piercing eyes turned to him and he shrugged.

"Dunno...just saw these an' they reminded me of the ones that Kate made for Becky that time...which birthday was it?"

"Twentieth," Ennis replied, thinking back. "She was born in forty-four, remember? Conceived only a couple months after you, but born real early."

Jack nodded. "Right. So...that was sixty-four. Christ, has it been that long since we took her in an' helped her out?" He looked at Ennis with a pained expression. "Twenty-three years...where'd that time go?"

"On Lily," Ennis said simply. "We was busy bringin' her up an' workin' on the ranch. I guess it just kinda flew by." Not caring about who else might be in the shop, he put an arm around Jack. "Don't go feelin' guilty, rodeo. You know Becky wouldn't want ya to."

"I know, it's just...I feel like I shoulda done more. Got in touch with doctors all over the country or somethin'. Hell, we coulda afforded it...shoulda done more to try an' help her."

" know Rick did everythin' he could. He got in touch with that doctor in New York, right? An' he gave her all that penicillin...if that couldn't work, I don't think anythin' could." He pulled Jack away a little. "Look...remember when I came back from Vietnam, an' was feelin' guilty about Adam dyin'?" Jack nodded. "If I learned anythin' from talkin' to Anna, an' from the whole thing, it's that we can't go feelin' guilty about stuff we had no control over in the first place. I didn't know that the attack was gonna happen, an' it coulda happened even if I hadn't been there. Same with this...Becky had that thing inside her before we took her in. She was always gonna get ill, even if we hadn't taken her in. You did the best you could for her, an' I reckon she died happy. She got to live a good life in the end, darlin', an' you gotta remember that."

He looked earnestly into Jack's eyes as he spoke, hoping that he was getting through to him. Becky dying hadn't been Jack's fault, just as Adam's death hadn't been his. Ennis believed in fate, and he knew that both Becky and Adam could have died just as easily with or without them around. He didn't want Jack blaming himself for not preventing his sister's death.

Jack didn't speak at first, but moved into Ennis's arms, sighing. "Thanks, Ennis...when did you get so smart, huh?" Ennis smiled and pulled him close.

"When you've lived with someone you love for over twenty years, an' you learn how to fix things instead of just standin' 'em, it just sorta comes natural. You know what they say, bud; older an' wiser. I just know that I can't stand seein' you feelin' bad. Tears me up somethin' awful, darlin'." Jack pulled his face away and smiled at Ennis.

"You're too good to me, Ennis. But I appreciate it." They looked around and exchanged a brief kiss before moving towards their niece, who seemed to have made up her mind.

"I really like these," she commented, pointing to a design in the brochure. "They're pretty much the same, but the woman's is more...feminine than the guy's. What do you think?" she asked, looking at Ennis and Jack. They looked at the rings on the page that she was looking at; there was great similarity between the two, but Lily was right. Her ring would look more feminine than Ben's, and would look beautiful next to her engagement ring. They smiled at her and nodded.

"That looks real nice, honey. They the ones you want?"

She nodded. "I think so, but I'd better show this to Ben first. Can I take this?" she asked Kate, who was standing by and smiling.

"Course you can, Lily. Just let me know what you guys decide. An' since you guys are such regular customers, you can count on a discount."

They smiled at her and the cowboys shook her hand in turn. "Thanks, Kate. We'll see ya soon, then." They left the store and Jack put his arm around Lily's shoulders, thinking about what Ennis had said to him.

June 26th, 1987

It was the twenty-first anniversary of Adam's death and the bomb attack, and at the moment Ennis was moving restlessly on his side of the bed. He hadn't had any real nightmares of the day over the years, but on every anniversary he would always have a jumble of memories, and when they crept up on him, like now, he couldn't sleep. It was still only early in the morning, and already he knew that today was going to be harrowing for him.

Jack felt his lover moving around behind him as he woke up, and he sighed as he remembered what day it was. Ennis would have woken up early and now he couldn't settle down. He turned over and could see Ennis's chest heaving, his face screwed up as though in pain. Jack looked at him in pity and leaned over him, a hand on his shoulder. "Ennis? Come on, wake up..."

With a few shakes of his shoulder, Ennis opened his eyes and stared up at Jack, breathing heavily. "Jack..." He rubbed his hand over his eyes. "Christ, did it happen again?"

Jack nodded, now cupping his cheek. "You was shiftin' wake up early again?"

"Yeah...couldn't get back to sleep. Just couldn't stop picturin' it." He looked up at the ceiling, feeling like he'd been hit by a Mack truck. "It's been years, an' I don't have nightmares no more, but...just these..."

"I know, baby. Remember, though...Anna said that might happen, even when the nightmares have stopped. An' it only happens on this day...are you alright?"

Ennis nodded. "I'll be okay. Just kinda shakes me up...glad you're here, Jack. Could you, um...?"

"What do you want, cowboy? Anythin' at all." Jack stroked his cheek, gazing down lovingly at him. When Ennis was vulnerable like this, Jack acknowledged that he was dependent on him, and Jack would do anything for Ennis in these moments.

"Um...would you" Jack suspected what Ennis was trying to ask for, but was struggling after his fright, so decided to help him along.

"Ennis...are you askin' me to...take your mind off it?" he offered in a soft voice, kissing his lover's hand, and Ennis nodded.

"Yeah...I...I want ya inside me, Jack...wanna feel you here..."

Jack understood then; Ennis needed comfort, and he was willing to give it to him. He nodded and slid on top of him, trying to be gentle. He looked down into Ennis's eyes and cupped his cheeks. "Just relax, know I won't hurt you..." Ennis nodded and their lips met, caressing softly. Jack tried his best to get Ennis to relax; only then would he be capable of having sex.

When Jack was sure that Ennis had relaxed, and he could feel his lover growing hard against him, he reached for the lube and smeared a little on his fingers, knowing that he would have to take things slowly. He reached in between Ennis's legs and gently pushed a finger in, their eyes glued together. "Easy,'s alright..." After a few seconds of gentle probing, Ennis nodded up at him and looked at him pleadingly.

"Need you, Jack..."

Jack smiled a little and withdrew his finger, preparing himself and then tossing the lube aside. He lifted Ennis's legs and wrapped them around his waist, pressing as close to Ennis as he could and fixing him with a penetrating gaze, piercing into Ennis's soul and drawing out all of the pain from his memories. Jack slowly pushed into his lover, letting Ennis get used to every inch until he was fully sheathed inside him. Ennis's head fell back to the pillow and he sighed as he felt Jack fill him up. Jack leaned in close and wrapped Ennis in his arms.

"You okay, cowboy? Ready?" Ennis nodded, barely managing to open his eyes, and Jack began to thrust into him, taking his lover in smooth strokes and trying to remind him without words how much he loved him and that he was here. With every thrust, Ennis felt Jack push in to his entire length and felt himself being taken all the way. When their relationship had started up on Brokeback, Ennis could never have imagined submitting to another man like this, yet here he was. Jack was deep inside him, making love to him, and Ennis was willing to surrender like this. He needed Jack to make him feel better right now, the way Jack did whenever he was shaken up.

He opened his eyes to see Jack looking down at him, and lifted his head to capture Jack's lips. They held on tightly to each other with their arms and Ennis's legs, and kissed as deeply as Jack was sinking. With a few more thrusts, Ennis let out a low groan and shot between them, his legs shaking and causing Jack to release into him, letting out everything he had to give. Jack collapsed onto Ennis and sighed. " okay?"

Ennis weaved his arms tightly around Jack's back, nuzzling into the dark hair. "Just fine, darlin'. Reckon I'm gonna be okay after that..." Jack rose up so that they could lock eyes.

"Really? Did that do the trick?"

"Yeah, it did. You sure made me feel better, rodeo...thanks."

Jack nuzzled their noses together, making Ennis smile. "You're welcome, cowboy. You know I'd do anythin' for you. Wanna try for more sleep, or you wanna get up?"

"Neither...just wanna lie here for a while." Jack nodded and sank back down onto him, letting him rest.

For the rest of the day, Ennis managed to distract himself from memories of the horrific event, and this was mostly due to Jack keeping him busy and showing him plenty of affection throughout the day. At dinner they said a prayer for Adam, and for Pete, knowing that they were lucky to be here, together. To Jack's relief, Ennis was a lot calmer by the time they went back up to bed, and he told Ennis how proud he was of him for getting himself back on track. Ennis just responded by holding Jack in his arms, showing him how he grateful he was that Jack had stood by him, no matter what.

The day after, Ben came back to the ranch, and they were all happy to see him again. Lily in particular was over the moon, and as Ennis and Jack watched her greet him with a wide grin, they knew that they had done the right thing. They were happy to have them stay for however long they wanted to after the wedding, knowing how good it felt to have a home full of love. Both of them knew that they would do anything for Lily, given how much they loved her, and they had always wanted to make her happy.

Since Ben had returned today, they had selected this day for their first dress and tuxedo fittings. Lily's friend from college and Ben's brother had come down as maid of honour and best man, and they were now in town at the tailor's. Ennis and Jack had insisted that it didn't matter how much the outfits would cost; they were willing to pay whatever what was required for the wedding.

At the moment, the men and the women were in separate rooms being fitted. Lily had selected her dress already from a magazine; delicate at the waist, with thin straps, and it fanned out at the bottom half, airy and light. The bodice was made of pure silk, and the skirt was silk with a lace covering in an intricate pattern. Rose and Maria gasped as she exited the dressing room, twirling and grinning from ear to ear. "Oh, look gorgeous," said Rose, moving forward and smoothing the dress. "That's perfect..."

"You think so?" she asked hopefully, her eyes shining. She looked down at herself; she'd only worn a dress a few times, since growing up on a ranch required different attire. Looking into the mirror, she smiled a little. "Looks real nice, don't it? What do you think, Maria?"

Maria nodded, smiling. "You look great, Lils. You should wear a dress more often, you know."

Lily smirked. "What, like when I'm muckin' out stalls? Great idea." All three of them laughed and Lily shook her head. "We should sort out your dresses..." The assistant came out and asked for Maria so they could start on her dress. She and Lily had already decided on a design and it had been made, so now only a fitting was required. When they left, Lily turned back to Rose. "You really think I look good?"

Her grandmother nodded and placed her hands on her shoulders. "You do, honey. In look just like your mama." She sighed, remembering. "She wore a lovely dress on the day of your christenin', a sort of cream colour. She was a real vision, an' seein' you...really reminds me of her."

At this, Lily folded her arms. "Hmm. I ain't sure what to do about one thing, though."

"What's that?"

"'s just...I'm happy for Ennis an' Jack to give me away, but...I keep thinkin' about my father. I know that he never wanted nothin' to do with me or my mama,'s usually the father's job to give his daughter away at her weddin'."

"What would you do if he showed up, wantin' to see you an' walk you down the aisle?" Rose asked, puzzled. She'd never heard Lily talk about her father before. Ever since they had told her everything they knew, she had done her best to shut out thoughts of him.

Lily shook her head. "He'd never walk me down the aisle; Ennis an' Jack have been my father figures all my life, so they're doin' it. But if he turned up...I dunno what I'd do. It ain't just that he was never there for me, but...he gave my mama the disease that killed her. He was irresponsible an' gave her that thing." She looked into Rose's eyes. "He's the reason my mama ain't here to share this with me..."

"I know, sweetie," Rose said softly, cupping her cheeks. "But he's still your father. Do you think you could ever make peace with him?"

Lily considered this. The mystery man was her father, but she felt no attachment to him whatsoever. She didn't know what to think about him. "I dunno, grandma. I can't ever forgive him, but...I dunno what I'd do if he came around, to be honest." She sighed. "I dunno. Still, I can't go dwellin' on that. I'm gettin' married in less than a year, to a wonderful guy, an' I've got a great family around me to help me. That's all that matters, right?"

"That's right, honey. Now come on; let's get you outta that before anythin' happens to it." They walked in to see Maria in a beautiful lavender dress; like Lily's but slim all the way down, and no lace. It was simple enough but worked well with her skin tone. Lily smiled at her friend and nodded.

"Looks great, Maria. How's the fit?" she asked, noticing that it looked a little tight from where she was.

Maria put her hands on her hips. "It's good. Ain't too tight or nothin'. I think this'll do well enough. What are you wearin', Rose?"

Rose smiled. "I've already decided on somethin' I wanna wear. Somethin' I've already got in the wardrobe. I wonder how the boys are doin'?"

Lily smiled back. "I bet it's a sight to see Ennis in a suit; Jack says he don't like 'em. But it's only one day, right? He'll be fine, I'm sure." They nodded and went back to admiring the dresses and talking about hairstyles. Lily wanted all of her hair up on her head, but with a few wisps hanging down by her cheeks. Maria's chestnut hair would likely be loose down her back; it looked striking against the lavender. The time flew by as they talked, and soon it was time to change and head back out. They had agreed to meet the men for lunch and talk about their day, and Lily knew that no matter what might happen with her father, she would always have the people here.

Across the hall, the four men of the group were having their suits fitted. Ennis and Jack were in one room, and Ben was in a different room with his brother Brian. Ennis had never liked wearing a suit, but he reminded himself that this was for Lily. He and Jack would do anything for her.

Brian had been very happy to meet them, and was fascinated that they had been together for so long. He and his partner had only been together for a couple of years, and as he'd talked to the cowboys about their life together, he'd found himself hoping for the same kind of happiness that they had. As far as he was concerned, they were living proof that two men could be just as committed to each other as a straight couple, and he told them that they were an inspiration to him.

As Ennis and Jack admired their suits in the mirror, they kept glancing at each other. Jack thought that Ennis looked incredibly handsome all dressed up like this, and he would have liked nothing more than to jump his bones and kiss him for all he was worth. That wasn't exactly advisable here, but it was a thought for later. He smiled at Ennis, walking closer to him.

"You look amazin', cowboy," he said, running a hand along Ennis's chest. "All handsome like this..." It was true; whenever he saw Ennis like this, it was enough to take his breath away. He couldn't wait to get Ennis home and into bed.

Ennis went a little red, looking down at himself. "Ain't never gonna get used to wearin' one of these...but I can stand it, for Lily. This is all for her, right?"

Jack nodded. "Yep. It's all worth it. She deserves whatever she wants; it's her day." He sighed, the palms of his hands lightly pressed against Ennis's chest. "You know...I keep thinkin'...what about her father? I know we're givin' her away, but...a part of me keeps wonderin' what it might be like if he was here."

"Darlin' was ready to kill him when Becky got ill. Where's this comin' from?" Ennis asked in concern, looking into his eyes. Jack shook his head, not entirely sure himself. All he knew was that he couldn't take his mind off these feelings.

"I dunno,'s just...Lily ain't got her mama, an' we don't even know where her father is. Just don't seem fair on her. She knows we love her, but..." He trailed off, not knowing what to say. Ennis sighed and kissed his forehead, combing his fingers through Jack's hair.

"Jack...don't let this stuff get to you. When you do, it makes you feel hopeless, an' you look all pained an' everythin'. You lookin' like that hurts me, darlin'. I don't like seein' you upset..." He'd never liked seeing Jack in this way, especially if it was caused by something beyond their control. He knew that Jack felt hopeless sometimes when he couldn't do anything, and all he wanted was to hold him until he felt better.

They looked into each other's eyes and embraced, holding onto each other tightly. Ennis tried his best to comfort Jack in these moments, and over the years he'd gotten better at it. He now found it a lot easier to put the smile back on Jack's face.

When they pulled apart, he cupped Jack's cheeks and gently pressed their lips together in the way that he knew Jack loved. He pulled his lips away and was relieved to see Jack's eyes sparkling at him. "You okay now, darlin'?" he asked softly, and Jack nodded.

"Yeah, I'll be alright. Thanks, Ennis..." He sighed. "Come on, let's go see how the guys are doin'." They walked into the next room to see Ben and Brian admiring their suits, and went over to them.

When the suits were deemed suitable for the wedding, they left and met up with the women at their favourite restaurant. As they ate, Lily gave no sign that her father was on her mind, but by now Ennis and Jack could read her well. They had a feeling that she was thinking about him, but didn't know what to think. They exchanged a few glances, but neither of them knew what to do. They asked her if she was okay, and she nodded, so they left it. Out of respect for her feelings, they steered the conversation to the ranch and their latest clients. Ennis and Jack were optimistic about the coming years, knowing that everything would be alright.

Lily was lost in her own thoughts. Whoever her father was, he was flesh and blood. But her mind was mixed up and she didn't know what to think.

He's my father.

But he never wanted me. Didn't give my mama nothin' while she was pregnant. No money, no time. An' he never tried to see me. Turned her away when she told him.

But he's my father.

An' he's the reason she ain't here. He gave her the thing that killed her. It's because of him that she won't be here on the most special day of your life. She should be here, an' it's his fault that she ain't.

I can't just forgive him, but...he should be here.

Lily shook the thought from her head. Her father didn't deserve any part of her life as far as she was concerned. It was his fault that her mother wasn't here to help her, and that she'd never known her mother. She had a wonderful fiancé, a loving grandmother, protective uncles and a variety of other family members that were here for her no matter what. She was very lucky to have so many people who cared about her, and she was doing her best to focus on that. There was so much for her to look forward to in her life, and there was no point in dwelling on the past anymore. That was done with, and it was time to look to the future.