by Judi Milling
It was late when they arrived back at Four Corners. Jenny had gone to bed after feeding Aaron. Both were sound asleep. No one had said a word to Vin about the baby. He kept asking how Jenny was and how she took it when she thought he was dead. He regretted so much that she went through so much pain. God, he would make it up to her, somehow. But he was so confused. He had basically loved two women, both caring, both loving.
Ezra decided to open the saloon so they could all get a drink. They needed one. This had really been a very interesting week. With Chris nodding to Ezra, Ezra pulled Vin aside. "My friend, let us retire upstairs. I have something to show you." Both walked quietly. Vin wanted to see Jenny so badly, but Ezra suggested he wait until the morning, giving her plenty of rest. She needed it. Vin gave Ezra a questioning look. Ezra put his fingers to his lips and they eased into Jenny's room. He was beginning to wonder about Ezra and what his relationship was with Jenny. He knew Ezra had really cared to Jenny.
First Vin saw Jenny. She was sleeping soundly, her auburn hair spread across her pillow. He wanted to go over to her and touch her, but Ezra pointed him in another direction. Walking over to it, Ezra whispered, "Meet your son, the Honorable Aaron Standish Tanner, who came into this world on a Sunday afternoon, right under a tree near the lake."
Vin was stunned. He leaned closer, and watched the sleeping baby. His baby. He didn't know. She had not told him. He started to get angry at the fact she had not said a word to him. He turned around and walked out with Ezra following. "I'll talk with her in the morning. I want to know why the hell she didn't tell me." Ezra could only stand there, shocked. She hadn't done it on purpose. What was the matter with him.
The next morning, found Ezra at the bar waiting for Jenny. He thought he had better be there. After all Vin was so angry last night. And he knew Jenny's temper. All hell could break loose, and they might need a referee. Chris, Buck, and Vin were all at a corner table not too far from the bar. Vin stretched out in the chair, hat pulled slightly over his eyes.
Jenny had not even seen them when she came downstairs. She had promised herself that as soon as Ezra had returned from his trip, she would talk with him. She had finally decided what to do. Seeing him at the bar, brought a smile to her lips. "Ezra, you're back." She reached him, wrapped her arms around him, and kissed him. His reaction was strange, kind of nervous. She went to where the milk was kept chilled, poured herself a glass, and came over to where Ezra was standing. She grabbed his arm, and turned to walk towards the table. "I did a lot of thinking while you were gone. I do need closure. I loved Vin with all my heart and soul. His son was also created from that love. But he is gone and I'm still here. I need to go on. Go on for our son. If your offer of marriage still stands, then I accept."
"Maybe you could at least wait until I'm REALLY cold in the ground before you up and marry someone."
Vin still had his hat tipped. He slowly looked up. At the sound of that voice, Jenny stopped dead in her tracks. The milk she was holding, slipped from her hand, crashing to the floor, milk and glass, spreading everywhere. Her hand went to her mouth to stifle a cry. "Vin, Vin, oh my God, it's you. You're not dead? How? Where? Oh, my God." Tears started to flow and she bounded across the floor as he stood up and flung herself into his arms sobbing. He had been angry at her, but right now, as his arms wrapped around her body, her pain and shock melted his heart, if but not for a moment.
He pushed her slightly back, took both hands and cupped her face. "Miss me?" and kissed her. With that, the others left them. Only Ezra held back slightly, saddened at what might have been, but glad he could help Jenny. Now it would be up to them to work things out. And it wouldn't be easy. Both of them had a lot of guilt to get rid of first.
They hadn't realized that everyone had left. Ezra had locked the saloon so no one could come in. As far as he was concerned, it was closed today. Well, maybe for a short while. After all they had a business to run.
"Jenny, you and I need to talk. Especially about that little feller upstairs." Jenny sensed a difference in Vin. Apparently he had been told about Aaron.
"Vin, I wanted to tell you, meant to tell you, but the time, it wasn't right and I wasn't sure how to tell you. I didn't know how you would take to having being told you were going to be a papa. Have you seen him? He's beautiful. He looks like you." She grabbed his hand and pulled him upstairs.
Aaron was just waking up when they walked in. Jenny carefully picked up the baby. "Aaron, this is Vin Tanner, your papa. Vin, meet your son, Aaron Standish Tanner!" Aaron gazed at this strange man, then started getting fussy. "Feeding time, for my little man." Jenny sat down, unhooked her dress. Aaron hungrily attached himself. "He knows what he wants, just like his father. He's strong and healthy and......., Vin, what's wrong?"
Vin had been watching Jenny. He wanted to hold her and make love to her. But then he remembered why he was angry. Maybe that anger had come from not only the fact she kept her pregnancy from him before he left, or that he had spent the last year in the arms of another woman, making love to her, and thinking only of her.
"How long did you know you were pregnant before I left?" Jenny knew him well enough to know his anger was rising.
"Vin, I knew for several months, but I wasn't sure how you would react. Even now, you haven't even attempted to hold your son."
Vin ignored her comment. He was angry at her and angry at himself. "What's this about marrying Ezra? And you named our son after Ezra?" You can't wait to jump in bed with another man, after having a baby by another one?" He knew he had overstepped his bounds. He hadn't meant to say it that way. Aaron had finished nursing, so Jenny put him in his crib and walked out the door.
Vin followed her to his old room. As Jenny shut the door, she turned to Vin, intense anger flashing in those golden eyes. "Who do HELL do you think you are? You've been gone for almost a year. Were you here for me to finally tell you about us having a baby? I admit I was wrong about not telling you as soon as I found out, but I didn't know how. We never really discussed anything about a permanent relationship. You always shied away from that subject. I didn't want to push you. And as far as Ezra goes, he has been wonderful to me and Aaron. He helped deliver your son, all by himself. He has watched over us. And if it hadn't been for him, you wouldn't have been here either. He has been a perfect, yes a perfect gentleman. Maybe I should have or maybe I did go to bed with him."
Vin felt his anger rising at the hot headed little woman who faced him. Before he could think about what he said, he just let it go. "At least, Emily, was a solid rock in providing a home for me, wanting me and needing me. When we made love at night, all she wanted was me and not think about anything else."
Jenny's face turned white. Vin realized that he had gone too far. Both of them hurt so badly that they had said things they didn't mean to say, stupid things that didn't need to be said yet. They were said in the heat of anger. Then Jenny's face drained of anger. All of a sudden she was tired, really tired. "I don't want you here. Please go away. Leave me and Aaron to ourselves. No one is keeping you here. With that, she walked passed him, through the door and slammed it shut. She went to her room where Aaron was cooing, and picked him up. "I don't need this anymore. Tomorrow morning, we're leaving Aaron. Leaving for good."
Vin wanted to take everything back he had said. Both of them had feelings all tangled up. Shock had wrangled its way in to cause confusion and anger. He had wanted to tell her about Emily, a different way and at a better time. But he had been so mad at her about the baby. He remembered then that he had talked to Chris about women things. They had made love so many times. But he had not said anything to Jenny about it, thinking that he would have time later to talk with her, after he got back from Tuscosa. He was too set in his ways, too much of a loner to think about a relationship anyway and be a family man to boot. Besides, he had had a bounty on his head and didn't have a right to expect her to live like that. But now he was free. And what did it get him. He left a woman who loved him crying, and a woman who he loved had born his child.
He needed a drink and some time to clear his mind, and figure out how to let Jenny know he loved her. He needed to explain to her about Emily, who he had grown fond of. Hell, his life was a mess. Vin went back downstairs, grabbed a drink, got on Peso and left. He had to see Emily and tell her about Jenny. He owed it to her. By then, Jenny would have calmed down and he could apologize.
The next morning, Jenny quickly packed her things. No one was around so Jenny left a note for Ezra. She told him that things just didn't work out, and she was leaving. She gave him full authority to make any decisions concerning the upkeep of the saloon. She would keep in touch, and she would send him a telegram letting him know where to send the rest of her things. She thanked him for all he had done, for everything all of them had done. But she especially wanted to thank him for making her life here good and for his love.
At the bottom, Jenny finished the note by saying, "I thank you so much Ezra for giving my son life. I wish I could have given you the love you deserved. I'll always hold that special place in my heart for you. Please do me one last favor. Give this to Vin, and tell him that now his heart belongs to him." Inside the envelope she placed a small gold heart on a chain. With that, Jenny took Aaron over to the livery, rented a buggy, tied Cody to the back, and left town. She would go to the way station and wait for the stage to take her anywhere, anywhere away from Four Corners.
Vin had gone back to the farm where he had spent close to a year of his life. Emily greeted him with a sad smile. They talked about what had gone on between them and told her about Jenny. She knew he was lost to her, by the love he expressed for Jenny. When he got ready to leave, she put her hand on his arm. "Jackson, I mean Vin, tell your lady that I'm sorry. Sorry for keeping you here, but not sorry for loving you." They both understood what had passed between them, and both knew that the right choice had been made. Vin rode off not looking back.
Vin was anxious to get back to town and straighten things out with Jenny. It weren't gonna to be easy. Damn, he really made a mess of things, but she didn't help matters either. But he knew what he wanted and what Jenny needed. And Aaron. A son. He felt a pride growing, knowing that the Tanner name was going to be carried on. And he was a cute little feller.
He arrived back in Four Corners three days after he had originally left. Riding up, Ezra was walking out the saloon. "Jenny inside?"
"Mr. Tanner, whatever went on between you two is between you both. But whatever it was, Jenny decided she couldn't bear to inhabit this place of residence. She's gone and I don't know where."
Vin ran up to her room to find all her things packed. Ezra, seeing his face when he came back down, handed him the letter. When Vin opened it, the heart shaped locket and chain fell inside his hand. "Of course Mr. Tanner, she will be sending me an address as to where to send her personals to. Might they be delivered personally?" The grim line on Vin's face was replaced with a small smile. He had told her once before, she would never out wit him. And she wouldn't this time either.
Jenny had settled in a new place far enough from Four Corners to make her feel at ease. It had been over a month. She had telegraphed Ezra about sending her items. She had brought enough with her to get Aaron and her by for a while. She picked up a job in the local saloon. It was fairly nice, and everyone seemed delighted by her singing.
One evening she put on her emerald green dress. She remembered the first night she had worn it in Four Corners. It had matched Ezra's eyes and she had wanted to make a Mr. Vin Tanner squirm. Well it hadn't worked. And she really didn't need to think about her life in Four Corners. She looked at herself in the mirror and gave herself a compliment. She did look devastatingly stunning in it. She needed to be perked up.
After Aaron went to sleep, she went downstairs to start her night of singing. She put on her best smile. On the outside, she was gorgeous. On the inside, she still felt the pain of separation and deception from Vin. She and Aaron were going to start a new life. She would stay here a little while, then maybe leave for Europe. Except for Aaron, she had made a mistake coming back to the states. This time, she would leave for good. Leave everything behind her.
The bar was fairly crowded that night. She passed by everyone, smiling, saying hi. She was getting ready to sing when several men walked in through the door. One was Ezra and one was Buck. She didn't want to admit it, but they were a sight for sore eyes. She ran over to them, hugged and kissed them both.
Sitting down at a table, she asked about them, the town, the saloon. They asked about Aaron.
Ezra carefully looked at Jenny. "Jenny, aren't you going to ask me about Mr. Tanner's state of health."
Jenny had ached to ask them but her stubborn pride would not let her. "Mr. Tanner's state of health means nothing to me."
"Well, my health is FINE thank you. And you look quite healthy yourself, Miss McNeill." There was no mistaking that voice.
Jenny turned and stood up to face the man with the voice. "Mr. Tanner, how NICE to see you here. I take it you three are here on business?" Buck and Ezra had also stood up and spaced themselves away from Vin and Jenny.
"Jenny, I came here to get you and our son, and take you both back to Four Corners, where you both belong." Vin's voice was steady and straight to the point.
Jenny faced Vin, smouldering. "Mr. Tanner I have no reason or care to go anywhere with you, and especially with MY son."
"Jenny if you won't come on your own accord, then you will be made to come." Several people in the saloon had started to notice the two.
"Vin, please keep your voice down. I told you that we are not leaving. You don't own me."
"Yes Jenny but I do have a responsibility for our son. Now either come peacefully or I'll throw you over my shoulder and carry you out of here."
Jenny was furious. "How dare you think you can just come in here and forcefully make me come with you. I'll not have it."
Vin decided that was enough. He leaned over, catching Jenny off guard and threw her over his shoulder. She was kicking and screaming. A man started to stand up at the table Ezra was near. Ezra quickly pulled his gun and suggested that the gentleman not intervene with a lovers spat. The man quickly sat down.
Vin walked out with Jenny over his shoulder kicking, screaming and pounding on him. He walked out, planted her roughly on his horse and got up behind her. "I told you once before that if you didn't get up on your horse, that I would put you on mine to make sure you got back to town. Well, you'll stay on my horse, until we get back to Four Corners unless you behave yourself."
Before Jenny could say a word, he pulled her head back slightly and kissed her. She started to fight, but her passion for him took over and she kissed him back. The feel his lips on her lips sent her head in a spin. It had been so long since she had felt like this. So long to feel his kiss, his hands. He broke off the kiss, spurred Peso through town to a quiet place that they could talk.
Meanwhile, Buck was holding his hands up. "Nothing to worry about folks. You know, lovers spat. Have to talk it out. Yeah. The little lady and her friend needed some private time. The man has to, you know, set things straight."
Ezra cleared his throat. "Buck, let's go find Aaron and get him ready to travel." With that comment from Ezra, both men questioned the bar keep on where Jenny stayed with Aaron. They went to take care of him, knowing the other two would be gone for a while.
Vin had found secluded spot, slid off his horse, and pulled Jenny down. "You and I need to talk." Jenny's head ached. She was so confused. She had been so mad at Vin, but seeing him tonight, feeling his arms around her, his lips pressed to hers, made her forget everything.
There was a full moon and it lit the sky. Vin could see her face, looking up at him, that same face he looked into so long ago at the lake when he thought she had been bitten by a snake. "You left something in Four Corners. This." He pulled from his pocket, the gold locket and hooked it around her neck. "And me." With that, he pulled her chin up, and leaned down to kiss her lightly on the lips.
Jenny murmured, "Butterfly wings. Your kisses remind me of butterfly wings on my lips." He smiled that wonderful slanted smile and kissed her more deeply.
His arms went around her, moving, and pressing her to him. His hands moved up and down her back, centering on the clasps of her dress. Slowly he released each one until his hands could push her dress down off of her.
He eased her body down to the ground, never breaking contact. It had been so long, that they needed to abandon themselves. Later, they lay in each others arms, bodies still molded to each other.
They didn't speak for a while. Finally, Vin looked up with a grin. "Come home with me. I want you. I want you to be with me. Be my lover, my mate, my wife."
"And what about our son, Vin?" Those golden brown eyes looked deeply into blue ones.
Vin smiled and looked into Jenny's eyes. "We have OUR son and he's a Tanner. And we'll make more Jenny. Maybe we've made one already."
After that night, they would talk about all that went on that year, listening, learning, but not judging. They would become a family and quite a family. Years later, Aaron and three sets of twins would make up the Tanner family. A total of four boys and three girls. And Vin would always tell the kids to remember that they were Tanners and be proud of it.