Chapter 6

Two hours later, they finally arrived in Childress. Ennis and Jack hadn't been here for years, not since they'd picked Becky up in the middle of the night and brought her home. It was a lifetime ago, and yet here they were again to pay tribute to her. It felt right to them to be here to honour Becky.

When they got up and started leaving the plane, Ennis winced slightly. Jack had given him a hard ride in the bathroom and he was having trouble walking in straight line. Barely an hour later, they had been back in there and Ennis had been on his knees to bring Jack off with his mouth. They hoped that nobody noticed their flushed faces or rumpled hair, but if they did then no comments were made. For the remainder of the flight, they had just sat in their seats with their hands entwined, looking at each other and smiling. It seemed like every time they had sex, they felt closer than ever before, and Jack could see his happiness reflected in Ennis's eyes.

They emerged in the arrival section of Childress Municipal Airport, stretching and yawning. Even just a short flight like this one had tired them out. Jack had suggested their encounters in the bathroom for two reasons; because it had sounded like fun and he'd wanted them to do it, but also as a way to distract Ennis from his unease about flying. Judging by the look on Ennis's face, it had worked a treat. He'd been fine for most of the flight after that, except during the landing. Jack had held onto him tightly and told him with his eyes that it was okay and not to panic.

They went by baggage claim to collect their suitcases and then headed out. The rental car was ready for them outside, and soon enough they were headed for their hotel; an expensive one just outside of town. He'd managed to get them three adjoining suites, and while it hadn't been cheap he'd said that it was worth it. Rose's suite was in the middle, with Ennis and Jack's on the left and Ben and Lily's on the right. They all split off when they got to their suites and the two cowboys entered their room, looking around. Jack gave a whistle. "Not bad. Sure glad we ain't stuck with a crappy motel these days."

"I dunno," Ennis replied, putting his arm around Jack. "We've had a real great time in motels as far as I remember. A bed's a bed, right?"

Jack smiled at him. "I guess. But just 'cos they're still around don't mean we gotta settle for 'em no more. We can afford to splash out now an' then, right?"

"Yeah, guess so." Their lips met and they wrapped their arms around each other, hands roaming. Just as things were heating up, Jack pulled his mouth away.

"Hang on, wanna make sure nobody disturbs us." He went to the adjoining door and knocked. Ennis could hear him talking to his mother and telling her that they wanted to relax for a while before heading out. He then locked the door and grabbed a Do Not Disturb sign from the chest of drawers, winking at Ennis as he put it on the door handle and locked that door too. "There we go, cowboy...all ours."

Ennis smiled and brought Jack into his arms, kissing him softly and running his hands up and down Jack's back. "You ready to go again, rodeo? We were at it less than an hour ago." Jack grinned and played with his curls.

"I always want you, cowboy. Can't get enough, you know that." He pulled Ennis's lips to his again and they walked towards the bed, lost in each other and their love. Ennis squirmed a little underneath Jack.

"Bud...I ain't quite ready for you to be pokin' around on my ass yet. Sorry..." Jack kissed him and cupped his cheeks.

"It's alright, Ennis. I know neither of us can bottom twice in a row these days. We can do other stuff. You wanna poke around my ass or you just wanna kiss?"

"Mmm...this is good," Ennis replied in a soft voice, nuzzling their noses together. "Just this..." Jack started gently kissing at his neck as he lay on top of him, settled easily between his legs. He understood that Ennis couldn't be receptive twice in a row with not much of a break in between, and he couldn't either. They just weren't as full of energy in that respect as they used to be. Besides, neither of them wanted to cause any harm to each other.

"Alright then. I'm gonna kiss you all over, then. Make you moan an' feel like melted's that?" he asked with a smile. Ennis's eyes grew hazy.

"That'd be good, Jack..." His head fell back and Jack started his loving administrations. He kissed Ennis all over his face and around his neck, trying not to leave any hickeys on him. His lips touched Ennis all along his arms and chest, before he moved down and saw how turned on Ennis was by his kisses. "Jack..." he said in a contented sigh. Jack moved to the end of the bed and kissed his feet and legs, including his inner thighs because he knew it would make Ennis like putty in his hands.

When there was nowhere else left to go, Jack knelt between Ennis's legs and looked up at him. "Looks like I got ya riled up, cowboy. Want me to take care of it for ya?" A nod and an intake of breath was all he got in response, but Jack understood. He lowered his head and gave Ennis what he wanted, taking him in and making his head spin. Ennis bucked and trembled on the bed until he released into Jack's mouth, panting heavily. Jack crawled back up and kissed him. "Feel better, cowboy?" he asked in a silky voice. Ennis nodded, smiling at him.

"You bet, darlin'."

July 10th, 1987

Today would have been Becky's forty-third birthday, so the five of them decided to go out for dinner and make a toast to her for everything she had given them. Lily in particular wanted to pay tribute to her; it was why she had wanted to come here, after all.

As Ennis and Jack were getting ready, they heard a knock on the adjoining door. "Boys? they heard Rose calling. "When yer ready, come on through here. Lily says she wants to show us somethin'." They looked at each other and then at the door, wondering what was going on.

"Alright, mama." When they were done, they went through his mother's room and into Lily and Ben's, where the young couple were sat on the bed. Ben was holding Lily's hand and rubbing it with his thumb. "What's goin' on?"

Lily stood up and indicated a long black clothes bag; one that none of them had noticed before. "Somethin' I wanted to show you. It' outfit for the barrel racin'."

Everybody gathered around, not entirely sure why she was so eager to show them this. She went to the bag and unzipped it, drawing out the outfit by its hanger. Ennis heard Jack suck in a breath next to him. "Oh my God..."

They recognised the black fabric with the intricate pink embroidery pattern on the shirt and the black pants. From inside the wardrobe, Lily extracted a familiar pink cowboy hat; it was Becky's outfit from her barrel racing days. They hadn't seen it since 1963, when she had taken part in the barrel racing.

She took a deep breath. "When I was a little younger, I was lookin' through the wardrobe in my room, where my mama used to sleep. I saw this at the back, in the bag. Figured it was hers from when she used to rodeo. So...I washed it one day when everybody was out, an' took care of it. Never thought about wearin' it until I saw that advert in the paper. I've tried it on; it definitely fits. So...I wanted to wear it when I take part."

Ennis looked at Jack and saw how touched he was by her declaration; that she wanted to do whatever she could to honour Becky. "She musta put it in there when she moved in with us, an' just forgot about it. I always figured she got rid of it once she stopped rodeoin'."

"Well, it was in real good condition. You think I did the right thing?" she asked them hopefully, and they nodded. They could see that she had been looking for a way to pay tribute in whatever way she could, and it felt like a good idea for her to ride in her mother's outfit.

"Yeah, you did, honey. I'm sure yer mama would be real proud for you to wear her old outfit." Lily smiled and Ben put an arm around her, kissing her cheek proudly.

After a few more minutes of reminiscing, they all finished getting ready and were soon heading out, Jack driving the rental car into town. They settled on the diner that he and Ennis had frequented during their brief stay here, over twenty years ago. This was the spot where he and Becky had found each other twice; once for the first time in a number of years after growing up separately, and another when he'd been with Ennis. This was where Ennis and Becky had met for the first time, and neither of them would ever forget it. Becky had been such a whirlwind and full of life, completely unlike a lot of women they'd known back then. Lily had inherited this trait; they knew that much.

They went into the diner and slid into a booth, looking forward to their evening. Jack's leg brushed against Ennis's and they smiled at each other. Jack briefly felt a hand squeezing his leg; not a sexual move, but just for the sake of it. They often touched each other in a way that was comfortable and familiar; something that had just happened after all their years together. He nudged Ennis with his shoulder and they reached for the menus.

Ennis, Jack and Ben opted for the full steak grill with everything on the side, while Rose and Lily chose smaller meals. Despite having lived on a cattle ranch for so long, they had never developed the kind of appetite for beef that the cowboys had. They liked it well enough, but Ennis and Jack were real men when it came to meat. They also ordered a bottle of red wine and filled their glasses.

"Well, we all know why we're here," Jack started, looking around. "We're here to honour Becky Twist, our Becky. My mama's daughter, my sister, Ennis's sister-in-law an' friend, Lily's mama an' Ben's mama-in-law. She was always real good to me while we was growin' up, an' I missed her somethin' awful when she moved down here. I loved gettin' to know her again an' introducin' her to Ennis, 'cos she never judged us, accepted us right off the bat. We did our best for her when she was pregnant, an' then when she was ill, an' we'll never forget her. Me an' Ennis have tried to do right by Lily as best we can, an' we hope that Becky's happy, wherever she is."

They all smiled, and then Rose and Ennis gave their tributes. They talked about everything they could remember about her, and how grateful they were that she had been there for Jack when he'd needed someone. Ennis was especially grateful that she'd managed to help Jack just about keep things together when he'd been away.

Lily felt a pang in her heart as she realised that she had no clear memories of her mother, and she tried to ignore it. She would be making her own tribute in just a couple of days, in the best way she knew how.

The next night, Ennis and Jack were lying in bed together in their suite, just looking at each other. They'd already christened the Jacuzzi that they'd found in their bathroom, Jack sitting between Ennis's legs and cracking open a bottle of champagne. He was really enjoying their time here so far.

The five of them had spent the day walking around town and shopping, the two cowboys reminiscing fondly of the time when Jack had bought Ennis the watch for his birthday. It was a memory that reminded him of Becky, and of how close they had been. When they'd been planning for their trip, Jack had briefly worried about the men that had attacked him that night after the rodeo, but Ennis managed to reason with him that they were unlikely to have stuck around all this time. And even if they had, they would likely be married with children. Such behaviour as they had displayed that night wasn't likely to be repeated now. Jack hoped that Ennis was right.

After walking around all day, they had had dinner in the hotel restaurant and then retired upstairs for some rest. Even though the barrel racing wasn't for another three days, they were glad of the break. They always worked hard on the ranch and enjoyed taking time off now and then. Both Ennis and Jack knew it was important for them to take time out in favour of their relationship. It was what made them strong and kept them going when things became difficult.

Jack looked into Ennis's eyes and smiled. He loved being held in his man's strong arms, feeling protected and worshipped. And he knew that Ennis was feeling the same right now in his arms. Both being men, they could take care of each other and hold each other up when they were down. They would protect each other from unfriendly forces and not let anybody hurt each other.

He trailed his finger along Ennis's cheek, smiling when Ennis kissed it. "You havin' a good time, cowboy?"

"Yeah, real good. Um...I was wonderin' somethin' about the rodeo, Jack..."

"What's that?"

Ennis bit his lip, wondering what Jack might say. "Are you...thinkin' of bullridin'? I know it's been a long time..."

Jack looked at him in surprise. In all honesty, it had never crossed his mind. He hadn't got on a bull since the last time they were here, over twenty years ago. By the time he was recovering from his bruised ribs, he was set to settle down with Ennis in Georgia and make a life with him in their own home. He no longer felt the desire to get up there; it was a flurry of colour and sound that was over all too quickly, usually with the risk of injury. He knew for sure that he couldn't do it now; he was in good shape, but not good enough for that. And he really didn't want to land himself in hospital right now; not when they lived so far away. He and Ennis were needed on the ranch, and he knew that if he was forced to stay, Ennis would want to be here with him.

He sought Ennis's hand under the covers and shook his head. "I don't think so, Ennis. I ain't in that kinda shape no more, an' I ain't been trainin' or nothin' There's all these rules an' everythin' these days...Lily's already been cleared to do the barrel racin'. I wouldn't be able to take part even if I wanted to." He sighed. "Anyway, it don't matter. You an' me know all too well how dangerous it is, especially after last time. I don't wanna put you through all that again, cowboy. Besides, this is about Becky an' Lily, an' what they share. They're both damn good barrel racers, an' we're here to support Lily. I ain't all that interested in ridin' anyway. When I got into it, I was young, pushin' for more an' to be the best. These days, I've got somethin' much better."

"Yeah?" Ennis asked softly, smiling at him. Jack kissed his hand, looking into his eyes lovingly.

"Yep. I've got a life with you; settled down, workin' an' bein' together all the time. This is all I need these days." Jack sighed. "Anyway...I reckon that's enough talkin'. Whaddaya say we get up to somethin' else?" Ennis's smile grew at the prospect of making love with Jack; it was his most favourite thing to do in the world.

"Mmm...I think you might be able to persuade me..." They leaned in and started kissing, lips pressed gently together in sweet kisses. After a couple of heavenly minutes, they started to get hard and their bodies were drawn to each other like a pair of magnets. Ennis rolled on top of Jack and straddled him, hands on his face. Jack's arms came up around him, crossing over his neck as he relaxed under his lover's body, feeling safe and loved.

Ennis's hand reached for the lube and he slicked himself up, still attached to Jack's lips. When he was ready, Ennis looked into Jack's eyes as he pushed his knees apart. Jack bit his lower lip, grinning in anticipation. "Come on, me right..."

"Don't I always?" Ennis breathed as he pushed in, seeing Jack's face go slack with pleasure as they became one. Jack nodded with his eyes closed and Ennis leaned into him as they rocked together, his hips pushing against Jack as far as he could go. Within moments, he found the sweet spot and Jack was moaning, trying to keep it down so as not to disturb anyone on either side of them. They reached the edge together and collapsed, Jack's heaving chest raising Ennis up in rhythm. "You alright, darlin'?"

Jack made a contented sound and wrapped his arms around him. "Sure am, cowboy. You know I always like doin' this with you. Always feels good..."

"Sure does. Love you, Jack."

"Love you too, Ennis."

The next day, they all headed to the grounds to watch the rodeo. Today was the bull riding, and Jack was just happy to watch rather than put himself at risk. He certainly didn't want to put everybody through that. He caught sight of the rodeo clowns and briefly wondered if Jimbo would be there, in spite of how long it had been. He could have kicked himself for coming on to him all those years ago, and he thought it was very lucky that he hadn't been beaten up at the time. But while he'd wondered if he should apologise for it if he saw him, Jack reasoned with himself that it was too far in the past to worry about now. He had everything he'd wanted, with the man he loved and who loved him. There was no point in dredging up all of that now.

He bought them a big bucket of Buffalo wings and some chips to share, along with a large soda to pass around, and Ennis helped him carry it all to their seats. A couple of people recognised Jack as a former bull riding champion and hailed him, asking where he'd been all this time. Not feeling safe about exposing their relationship, he and Ennis had agreed to tell people that they were cousins and were running a ranch together in Georgia. But he did introduce Lily to everyone who stopped him, telling them about her mother and that they were here so that they could pay tribute. Becky had been quite famous as a barrel racer, and people had been puzzled as to why she had suddenly disappeared overnight, never appearing in another event since.

"I hope I can live up to how good she was," Lily said in a low voice as they looked out at the grounds. "You said she was real good..."

Jack clapped her on the shoulder. "Don't worry, honey. You'll be fine. Hell, we've seen you racin' on our place; you're real good." She smiled at him and turned back to face the grounds.

The bull riding started and the first rider was out, bucking and trying to hold on. Jack could recall the exhilaration and nerves of being out there, knowing that at any moment, the bull would have had enough and gotten the better of its rider. He had enjoyed doing it, and the money had been good, but he was happy to sit on the sidelines now. He'd had his time in the spotlight and done fairly well, but when he glanced at Ennis and felt his heart fill up with love at the mere sight of him, Jack realised that he wouldn't trade their life together for anything. He'd known that all along, but being here and recalling his old life brought it home for him and made him believe it. He bumped his knee against Ennis's and smiled at him.

Ennis saw Jack's smiling face and looked at him, puzzled. Jack flicked his eyes to the grounds, where the rider had been bucked after just five seconds, and then back to him, smiling wider. Ennis got what Jack was trying to say, and nodded. He understood that Jack was saying that while he'd enjoyed his time in rodeos, he was perfectly happy to be settled down with him and was much better off. He bumped Jack's knee and they turned back to the grounds, where another rider was just getting ready.

This one made it to eight seconds, and just as they were clapping, he was thrown to the ground and the bull promptly stomped on his arm before the rodeo clowns got there. Jack winced. "Damn, that looks bad. Probably broken there."

"I can't believe you used to do that, Uncle Jack. It's so dangerous!" said Lily, looking wide-eyed. "I sure hope the money's worth it..."

Jack nodded. "Sure gets you out of a tight spot, that's for sure. It did us some good when we was needin' to get to Georgia, an' needed a new truck. 'Course, yer mama helped a lot, too." He looked at Lily. "Don't worry, you'll be alright."

She smiled back at him and they continued to watch the event, clapping, groaning and cheering. When it was finally over, Lily said that she wanted to go to the admissions booth and make sure that everything was sorted for her place in the barrel racing. Ennis and Jack offered to go with her, so the three of them went over.

"Hi," she said to the man handling admissions. "I'm here to confirm my place in the barrel racin'. Name's Lily Twist." He checked his book and nodded.

"Right, Lily Twist. Twenty-two, from Sandersville, Georgia? Come a long way, didn't ya?"

"Well, I'm sort of here to pay tribute to someone. My mama, Becky Twist. You know that name?"

His eyes widened. "You don't say? Becky Twist is yer mama?"

"Was; she died over twenty years ago. Long illness," she replied, lowering her eyes a little. He looked sympathetic.

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Well, I bet you'll get some attention when we announce that, if you want." She nodded and smiled.

"That would be great...I want people to remember her. You know my uncle, Jack Twist?" she asked, indicating him. The man nodded.

"Yeah, bull rider. How are you doin', Jack? Been a long time since we heard your name. Both you an' Becky just disappeared."

Jack shrugged. "Just got caught up doin' other things. Inherited a ranch over in Georgia, runnin' it with my cousin Ennis here. Becky got pregnant with Lily an' we took her in."

"I take it you ain't ridin' no more?" Jack shook his head.

"Nah, stopped bull ridin' a long time ago." While the man was busy talking to Lily, he turned to whisper into Ennis's ear. "Took to ridin' a cowboy instead," he said quietly, a grin on his face. Ennis went red and shuffled his feet, images filling up his head and invoking good memories.

Two days later, it was time for the barrel racing, and they could all see the nerves in Lily's face. She'd never taken part in an event before, so she wasn't entirely sure what to expect. She had studied the rules inside out many times, and she knew what was expected of her. Ennis and Jack bought breakfast for all of them in an attempt to cheer her up. When they approached the grounds, Jack put his hands on her shoulders and looked down at her.

"You're gonna be fine. An' it don't matter where you finish; you're here to pay tribute to yer mama. Good luck, honey." He kissed her forehead and they left her at the entrance to the grounds to take their seats. Her rental horse was all ready for her, and she decided to spend her time getting to know him before she was called. The few memories that she had of her mother reared up in her mind as she prepared herself, hoping that she would do her mother proud.

Up in the stands, the other four were eating and watching, feeling excited about seeing Lily make her rodeo debut. Ben in particular was looking forward to seeing his fiancée out there. When he'd proposed to her, he'd promised to stand by her and support all of her decisions, and here he was.

"I think she's gonna be real good," said Jack, looking around. That morning, she had confessed to them about her late night races on the property for preparation, and they acknowledged that she'd just wanted to do well. It was no big deal to them; she lived at the ranch too and could do whatever she wanted, within reason.

"She'll be fine," Ennis assured him. "She's got it in her blood, Jack. You know her mama was one of the best barrel racers of her time; she got to be real famous before movin' in with us, remember. Don't go worryin' yerself, rodeo."

Jack nodded at him and smiled gratefully; Ennis always had a way of calming him down and reasoning with him. Just then, a klaxon sounded and the commentator welcomed them all to the event. He introduced the first rider and the young woman shot out in a flurry of blue and white. She was extremely skilled and clearly knew what she was doing. She made it through the course in just fifteen seconds, making Jack give a low whistle.

"Damn, that was pretty good. Hope Lily don't feel too intimidated..." he said in a worried voice. He knew that nerves could seriously impact performance.

Two more riders had their turn, and then it was Lily's. They caught her eye and waved, trying to encourage her. She was seated atop her horse, bright blue eyes alight with concentration and jaw set. She still looked nervous, but determined.

"Ladies an' gentlemen, we have a special rider here today. She's never done this before, but she's got a history! This is the daughter of Becky Twist, one of the finest riders to grace these grounds!" They could hear people exclaiming and murmuring excitedly at this; it appeared that Becky's name was still well known. "She's also the niece of Jack Twist, one of the best damn bull riders we ever had!" Jack went bright red and looked down, making Ennis smirk at him. "People, it appears that Becky Twist has passed over, an' this young lady is here to pay tribute to her, so give her a big hand! This is Lily Twist from Sandersville, Georgia!"

The name-dropping of Becky and Jack did the trick; people were already cheering and whistling for her. Lily met Jack's eyes and nodded at him. The klaxon sounded and she shot out like a dart. With her hair and her mother's outfit, it was as if Ennis and Jack were momentarily transported back twenty-four years to when they'd watched Becky in these very grounds. They knew that wherever Becky was, she was proud.

Lily wove her horse through the barrels, her mind focussing on the requirements and on doing it as quickly as possible. She hoped that her extensive practice would pay off. When she was finished and riding back through the gate, her companions all stood up and cheered for her, clapping and whistling.

Outside the arena, she slowed the horse to a stop and felt her heart pounding with the exhilaration. It had felt incredible to be out there and following in her mother's footsteps. She dismounted and handed the horse to the handler just as her family approached her. "Lily!" Turning, a megawatt smile like Jack's spread across her face. She flung herself into Jack's arms, feeling elated and excited.

"I did it! I can't believe it..." He hugged her tightly and she gave equal attention to the other three, squeezing them and kissing Ben thoroughly.

"You were amazin', Lily," said Rose proudly. "Yer mama would be real proud of you."

Lily smiled around at them all, feeling happy that she had done this. In some way, she felt a little bit closer to her mother than she had before. Maybe now she would be satisfied, and could move on.

After the event had finished, all riders were called over for the results while the others waited. Lily came back with a gleeful expression and an envelope stuffed with bills. "I got first prize, thirteen seconds!" she half-shouted, beaming. "I won six hundred!"

They congratulated her again and hugged her. "Guess you'll be buyin' drinks tonight, then?" Jack asked with a grin, and she swatted his arm.

"You can buy yer own for that," she replied, and Ennis started chuckling.

"She's got your number, rodeo. You asked for that." Jack rolled his eyes as they started walking. He was very proud of her for what she had accomplished, and hoped that she would now be at peace where her mother was concerned. Maybe now she could fully concentrate on her future, and leave the past where it belonged.