Author's Note:

I've been working on this particular piece of futurefic for quite awhile now. I can't really decide how I feel about it. If you've read Legacy this is in the same timeline. I feel pretty guilty for treating poor sweet Hannah this way, but then again, statistically speaking, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility. I also thought it was interesting from a story standpoint. If you've already suffered great loss, how do you manage the possibility of more loss? I think it is also interesting to consider what kind of parents the brothers would be - not just the oldest who've already been parenting for years, but the younger ones who were raised by their brothers.

I appreciate that this particular future might not fill everyone's hearts with joy, but the story sort of wrote itself, and although I was unsure about posting it, I decided to go ahead and put it up for readers to judge for themselves. Please accept my humble apologies if you find it in anyway too dark, or too far from the cannon. I worked hard to include all the essential elements of our boys - love, loyalty and occasional mischievousness.

I so appreciate your reviews.

This is dedicated to all those fighting and those who love them. No one fights alone.

Our Darkest Hours

Prologue

1982

I sit in the jeep as it idles. Behind me is the ranch and my brothers, ahead of me, Murphys and her. I know what I'm about to do. Well, sort of. I just know I want to be with her; every single day forever. Seven days with cows gives a man time to think, and I've spent just about every waking hour thinking about her.

This will change things. And maybe I should talk to them first, or at least explain things to her. I dunno though. My brothers aren't big on change - especially Brian. He's still reeling from our changing to a different feed company. I can't imagine what this will do to him. And my experience has been that explaining the reality of our lives at the ranch leads to me watching the back of someone walking away. I couldn't bear it this time. I'm in too deep.

I rev the engine in the jeep, I don't really care too much about them when I'm with her. I just can't stand to be away from her, which is ridiculous because two months ago, I'd never even seen her. I spent the entire round up in a daze wandering around like I was missing my arm.

"What's the matter with you?" Brian asked.

"Nothing. What?" I asked.

"Brother, you are out of it! You told Daniel he could go ahead and have another beer."

"I don't remember that." I say.

"Daniel does. Go tell him you weren't thinking when you answered. I'm tired of fighting with him."

I start to make my way over to tell him, but instead wander away from camp seeing a field of wildflowers thinking how nice it would be to bring them to her. Get a grip! I tell myself, but I can't. All I can think about is heading to town and seeing her smile.

I lean on the steering wheel and think suddenly What am I doing sitting here? She's twenty minutes away from me. In twenty minutes, I can be looking in her beautiful dark eyes. In twenty minutes, I can be kissing her soft lips. In twenty minutes I can have my arms around her. I shift into first and gun the engine, and drive like a rocket straight to town. I have a gold ring in my pocket - two actually; one for me and for her. I don't care about my brothers right now. I don't care about my father's ranch. I only care about this one thing.

Will she say yes?