A Second Chance III
Life Must Go On

Chapter 24

By Tickie

©Tickie
Editor and Co-Author: Radio Rancher

A few more days passed; Julie's cottage was finally finished and all the family pitched in and moved her stored belongings from the barn and those items from the main house into the cute little house she would call her own. She was so excited at seeing it furnished that she just stood in the living room with tears in her eyes, as Mike, Andrew, Colt, Matt, Earl, and Jack watched with smiles on their faces. Yes my god yes, there were smiles on everyone's faces this day, except for Julie who again had tears in her eyes, but from being so overwhelmingly happy.

Colt said, "Julie, from what I see, you seem so happy, why the tears hon." He was still smiling, but looked directly at her, then walked up to her, giving her a big loving hug, and she returned it as she started to smile.

Julie simply replied, "I am just so happy Colt, so very happy."

The rest of the family all gathered around her and began a group hug that about took her breath away. Then she said, "You all have a seat wherever you can find a spot. I have made a large pot of coffee, and I have some cookies too." She headed for the kitchen to get the cookies and coffee, when Colt and Jack got up and told her they would help, and they did just that, making her sit in the living room while they served the snacks.

Later, when everyone's dinner was over, in the main house, Julie said, "I hope you all don't mind me leaving for home. God it seems so wonderful to be able to say home, again. I kind of want to start settling down in my new place. And again, I want to thank all of you, for everything you have done for me." She went over and hugged each of the boys, then hugged Mike and Andrew, continuing to say, "Most especially you guys." Gesturing at the Andersens, then she continued, "you have given me a home, a very real home, and I love all of you so very much." Then she put on her coat, and left.

Mike said, "I don't know what we would have done without her, over these trying times." He was glancing around the room as he spoke, with a warm loving smile.

Colt and Matt, almost in unison, said, "You can sure say that again, Pop!" Both of them had a slight smile on there loving faces.

The rest of the bunch mumbled their agreement, before everyone headed off to bed for the night. Again, all the Andersens wanted to do with each other that night was cuddle and be together, they all showered together, for the first time since their loss, they enjoyed each other, including Andrew, who was becoming closer to Colt and Matt, all the time, but he wasn't JC, of course, nor did he or the boys ever think he would take his place. Nevertheless, the boys were becoming more loving of him, all the time. That night, it happened.

Andrew, as they all dried off and headed for the big bed, said, "Colt, you and Matt have always been close to me in my heart, but I know that I can never take JC's place, nor do I want to. I just want to tell you this. I love you both as much as if you were my own sons, or younger brothers. All I ask is that you please, just give me a chance to show you my love. That's all I can ask of either of you." He then hugged each of the boys, one at a time. Then he got into bed behind Mike, who was in the middle of the bed, Colt got in behind Andrew, Matt got in behind Mike. Colt kissed Andrew on the back of his neck, and Matt did the same to Mike.

Matt said after he turned out the lights, "Andrew, you love Mike, right? Colt and I love Mike, too; that makes you our pop, too, kinda, in some way, as for us accepting you, that way, we will try hard to make it real. We are very glad you are here, and your being here has helped Mike get through the tragedy. For that reason alone we love you."

Then Colt whispered into Andrew's ear, "Andrew, You have a great start already, now go to sleep." He chuckled. Then they all drifted off into a wonderful peaceful sleep without our help.

Thanksgiving was fast approaching, and the guys from the lodge were planning on coming down for the holiday. Plans were made to pick them up in Ottawa using either Cowboy or Buckaroo. The big planes were both at the ranch and ready to fly at a moment's notice, for whatever reason anyone knew. James and I knew why, but there was still a glimmer of hope in everyone's minds. Even though we kept sending them comforting thoughts whenever we noticed a let down in anyone's emotions.

Joel, Aaron, Kevin, and Jerry were getting excited about the upcoming trip to the Lazy L. For Joel and Aaron, it would be their first time visiting the ranch that they had been told so much about by Kevin and Jerry; they almost felt they had already been there.

Colt decided that he and Matt would take Cowboy, and pick up the guys from the lodge in Ottawa the next day. There was some apprehension on Mike's part, about having the two boys going together, after what had happened to JC and Richard. He was worried he might loose his two sons. He wanted them to split up when flying, Colt and Earl in one plane and Matt and Jack in the other one. This discussion went on back and forth for most of the day, but Mike didn't win. Colt was finally the one that put his foot down and said, "Pop, I know it would likely kill you, to loose us now, this close to losing JC and Richard. However, pop, it would definitely kill me, to lose Matt, the love of my life. If we go, we want to go together, and that's how Matt feels too, right Matt?" Looking at Matt for conformation, with a loving sweet smile.

"You got that right, my love." Matt said, with the cutest sweetest smile anyone had seen in a very long time.

"I can not speak for Earl or Jack, but you can ask them, I feel they may feel the same way." Colt then said to his poppa Mike.

Jack agreed with Colt by saying, "Yes Colt, we do agree, and thank you for stepping in and saying so. We both were worried that your pop would win. And we would never go against your directions, but we would have let you know how we felt." You could tell both he and Earl were relieved at the decision that was made by Colt.

Colt was now in the driver's seat with the company, more so because of his personality than that of Matt's. Moreover, Matt wanted it that way; of course, Colt and Matt were equal partners in both the company and in life. The company attorney had read the will and as JC told them many times, both Colt and Matt were equal partners in the company; Mike was given enough shares, and pretty much anything he needed, to run the ranch as he saw fit. The ranch was evenly divided between Mike, Colt, and Matt, so no one would be left out in the cold so to speak, JC made sure of that.

Mike simply said, "Okay, I know when I've been beat. And I also know my son you have the final say in company business. I guess I was just being selfish, for I don't ever want to lose either one of you, but to lose you both at the same time would just kill me. So damn-it!, don't go doing anything stupid, please!!" He looked directly at Colt, with a worried smile, then at the other three boys, who were now staring at him, with little grins on their faces, for they had just won their first little battle with Mike.

Colt and Matt excused themselves and headed out to Cowboy, doing their pre-flight inspection as the rest of the crew arrived from town. Once they were happy with the condition of Cowboy and the others were on board. Colt turned around and said, "Guys we will be back this afternoon, so have dinner ready!" He smiled, then they left for Ottawa to pick up Joel and his party. Mike, Andrew, Earl, and Jack were standing at the hanger watching them leave.

James and I heard Mike saying his little prayer, under his breath, for his sons as they left the ground, in Cowboy. 'God, please keep them safe, don't let anything happen to them for they are the love of my life; protect them for me, I know I am selfish, but I need them more than they need me. Amen!' We both sent Mike comforting thoughts for we knew he was not comfortable having them in the same plane, with what had just happened with JC and Richard.

As Cowboy flew out of sight, Mike, Andrew, Earl, and Jack headed back to the house where Julie was waiting with more hot coffee, for it was winter in Wyoming and that means cold outside.

Meanwhile in Cowboy...

Colt and Matt were watching the sky, for any signs of bad weather, the two of them were very aware of it now, not wanting to take it for granted anymore. It wasn't too long before they were flying over Lake Superior again. When Colt looked over at Matt with tears in his eyes, he saw Matt looking back at him, wiping tears from his own eyes. Matt reached out and set the autopilot, they both got up and hugged each other, lovingly, and let the tears flow freely, as they thought about JC and Richard. Both of them knowing that somewhere below, lay the bodies of two of the most wonderful people they had ever known, resting in peace. They still hoped that someday they would find them, so they could take them to Casper Mountain and spread their ashes with their other guardian angels. As soon as they were back over land again, in Canada, they returned to their seats, both wiping tears from their eyes. Landing in Ottawa was a snap, and as soon as they were at the terminal, Colt and Matt deplaned and went inside the building to find Joel and the rest of their friends. They found them all waiting in the lounge.

Colt went up to Joel and said, "God, Joel, I am so happy to see you guys." You could tell Colt and Matt had been crying, by their puffy eyes, nevertheless, both of them had smiles on their faces.

"My God, I don't know how or what to say to either of you. I guess all I can say, is I am so very sorry about your Dad and Richard. I just wish I'd had more time to have got to know them both better." Joel said, with a solemn expression on his face, and a subdued grin.

Aaron looked at the pair and just said, "I am just so very sorry about the loss, I know how much you guys really loved both of them." He too had a subdued smile, because Colt and Matt were both still smiling with what you could tell was a forced smile.

Kevin and Jerry were just standing there, not knowing what to do, for they really didn't know any of the Andersens all that well, but they were very emotional over the loss of JC and Richard. Almost to the point of breaking down again in front of Colt and Matt. Kevin being the outspoken one said, "I really wanted to see both JC and Richard again; they both were so nice to Jerry and me. But you have both of our sympathy." Jerry just nodded in agreement with a tear on his cheek.

John, on Cowboy, had prepared a scrumptious lunch for everyone, so Colt told all in the lounge to follow him and Matt to the plane. Both he and Matt helped them, along with their belongings, over to Cowboy's storage compartment, then they loaded their luggage, after which they all went up the stairs into the lounge of Cowboy.

As Joel, Aaron, Kevin, and Jerry all entered the lounge, Joel noticed the painting of James on the bulkhead, saying, "That's a painting of JC when he was younger, right?" He was looking at Colt, when he said that. The other's all fixed their eyes on the painting as well, for this was also the first time on Cowboy, for Kevin and Jerry as well.

Colt just smiled and said, "No, actually, that's a painting of my Great Uncle James. That was JC's Uncle, that was killed by a drunk driver, in San Francisco many years ago. But they do look alike, don't they?" Matt was also smiling at the interest of the guys in the painting of James.

Kevin just shook his head and said, "My God, they could have been twins!"

Aaron and Jerry both said, almost in unison, "It's un-canny how much they look alike." They too were now smiling.

Matt just said, "Time to eat, fellas! I'm starving!" He turned and headed into the conference room where John had the lunch on the table, where a hungry bunch of young men devoured the wonderful food and drink.

After everyone had finished their meal, Colt said, "I'm sure glad you all came. Now if you will all go into the lounge and get buckled up, Matt and I will fly you to our ranch." He was acting like a little boy again, showing off for his friends, but it was so nice to see him and his brother beginning to come out of their depression, we hoped.

It wasn't long before they were airborne again and over Lake Superior, where a repeat reaction was taking place on the flight deck, and in the lounge, as they passed over the spot where Little Colt had gone down. Again, Matt switched on the autopilot and stood up, pulling Colt up with him and said, "let's go into the cabin." The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, and no wind to speak of, so they both felt safe in doing that. Once they entered the cabin all the guys looked at them with shock.

Kevin said in shock, "Who's flying this plane?" He wasn't at all looking too excited about seeing both pilots standing in front of him.

Colt laughed and said, "This plane is so good it can fly itself!" Matt broke into laughter, along with Joel. But the rest didn't think it was so funny.

Matt said quickly, "We have it on auto pilot, actually, so don't worry, and the weather is great." Still laughing at Colt's remarks.

Colt yelled for the rest of the flight crew to come forward to the lounge, and said, "I would like to inform you all; we are over the spot where Little Colt went down with JC and Richard. Would you all join us in a silent prayer for our Dad and our Mentor. They all bowed their heads and there were several prayers heard by James and I. They were all wonderful and sincere by everyone. And the ones by Colt and Matt would have brought tears from everyone, but only the two boys cried, as they said their goodbyes. They both knew that their wishes for the recovery of JC and Richard, more then likely would never happen, but of course, there was always hope.

When everyone looked up, they all noticed the tears on everyone's faces. They all knew that the two men that had passed on were now in the hands of the almighty, and they were safe and sound. The healing and recovery was now beginning to settle in and this last act of love shown by everyone there, was a giant step in that process. We knew that JC and Richard heard the heartfelt prayers that were given. It would still take time for things to return to normal for the people left behind, but the process of healing had not only begun, but it was moving somewhat faster then even we ever imagined. The bonds that were being established between Colt and Matt, and Joel and Aaron along with Andrew, of course, eased the pain to some degree, but more time would be needed to bring the boys back to some semblance of normalcy. Everyone joined together for a group hug, and kisses were exchanged all around. Soon everyone found a seat, Colt, and Matt returned to the flight deck and the rest of the flight back to the Lazy L was uneventful.

As Cowboy landed, with the tiniest of a bump, Mike and Andrew were outside in the barn, working on the overdue books, as they say the work's never done until the paper work is done. Well, with all that had happened, over the past several weeks, bookkeeping was the least of anyone's worries. But they stopped what they were doing when they heard Cowboy fly over on a sight-seeing pass, over the ranch. Both of them went out into the cold, to watch him land, and like always, it was a perfect landing.

Colt pulled the plane up to the hanger and shut down the engines, then the ground crew rolled up the stairs for everyone to deplane.

Mike was standing next to the stairs and said, under his breath, 'Thank you God, for bringing them home safe, to me.' Then said, "Welcome home, Sons," as Colt and Matt came down the stairs. Then he said, "Welcome to the Lazy L," to Joel and Aaron, as they too came down the stairs. Then he said to Kevin and Jerry, "Welcome back, home, now let the ground crew take care of off loading the plane. Let's get you all inside, where it's a hell of a lot warmer than it is out here." This brought chuckles and laughs from everyone, as they all headed toward the house. That's where Julie, the smart one, was waiting for them all to return for a wonderful dinner. Like always, she had out done herself again, knowing she was going to meet Joel and Aaron for the first time, she wanted to make a good impression on them, as if she needed to.

James and I were so very happy for all of them, for they were well on the way to recovery. Not saying that tomorrow, Thanksgiving day, wasn't going to be hard on all of them, if Mike and the boys continued their round the table tradition, of each person telling what they were thankful for. We could only hope that what transpired the next afternoon would be more of a healing process than one of sorrow.

Julie had prepared a perfect Prime Rib dinner, with a wonderful cheesecake dessert. And everyone thoroughly enjoyed the scrumptious meal. She received so many complements that she was blushing during most of the meal. It was funny too, for about the time she looked normal again, someone would complement her about something else, and she would turn one or more pretty shades of pink to a few of luscious red, depending on the complement.

Mike asked Colt, "Have you all figured out where everyone's going to sleep yet?" He was joking, of course, and had a great big grin on his face. Which was wonderful to see by all.

Colt shook his head, then looked at Matt, saying, "That's his job." Then he poked Matt in the side with a loving poke of the elbow, and gave him an evil little 'Colt grin'.

"Oww! That's not fair; you two are picking on me now!" Matt blurted out, as he grinned back at Colt.

Everyone else at the table was chuckling at the antics of the Andersen family. They all could tell that things were starting to get back to normal, if normal was the right terminology to use for them. Who knew what in the world normal was, or was not; certainly not James or me, that's for sure. Maybe when the other two were finished with their time with the almighty, we would find out.

Matt, thinking for a few, said, "Well, let see, Joel, you and Aaron take the old master bedroom, and Kevin, you and Jerry take the guest room, the one you guys stayed in the last time you were here. Now see Colt, that wasn't so damn hard, now was it?" He poked Colt in the side with his elbow, and laughed.

"Oww! You turd, that hurt, I didn't poke you that hard." He then turned and pulled Matt into a hug and kissed him on the lips, smiling all the time. Everyone oooed and awwwed and shouted cat calls at the pair. It was really funny, what they were doing and everyone enjoyed it.

Do to the fact that the boys all got home so late in the afternoon, there wasn't a lot of the ranch the boys from the lodge got to see, that day. But that evening, they talked late into the night. Julie excused herself early, because she had planned a grand Thanksgiving dinner, which she had already finished the desserts for, and the Jell-O salads. She gave everyone a stern warning to only eat the apple pies, if they wanted a late night snack. Everyone just grinned, knowing there would be hell to pay if they touched anything she wanted saved for the big meal tomorrow.

Earl and Jack were the first ones to break away from the crowd, excusing themselves and heading off to their room for a night of loving, which they had not done very much of, over the past couple of weeks. Tonight though, they felt lighthearted, and wanted to show each other how much they were still in love with each other, and that they did, in fact, they did many times that night.

Kevin and Jerry did the same thing a few minutes later, and headed for the guest bedroom. Once there, they too began to show each other how much they were still in love, and there were noises of love from that part of the house, for quite some time. Not that anyone else could hear them, of course, but of course, James and I could see and hear them, perfectly, so we sent our love to them, as well.

Joel and Aaron were the last of the visitors to excuse themselves, as Matt showed them the way to their room. Yes, it was strange for Matt to enter the old master bedroom. He hadn't gone in there since they had moved out into the new wing. Also, of course, it was the room that Richard had last slept in. But Matt managed to hold it together for their guests, showing them the huge private bath and Jacuzzi. All their luggage had been brought in by one of the ground crew right after Cowboy had landed, so everyone had their belongings in their respective rooms already.

As Matt was leaving Joel and Aaron in their bedroom, he saw Mike and Andrew heading down through the other wing, toward their bedroom, he just said, "You guys off to bed now?" He smiled at them with a cute sexy smile.

"Sure am, Colt is locking up now." Mike grinned back, as Andrew just nodded yes as the pair headed down the hall.

Matt went out to find Colt, as he was just starting toward the hallway. They met and embraced one another, Matt said, "God, you are so handsome, love, you hunk of a man." Then kissed him with passion.

"Your not such a slouch either, my love." Colt muttered back, through the kiss, as the pair headed off to bed arm in arm.

Everyone in the Andersen bedroom headed for the Jacuzzi that was already filling with hot bubbly water. They all got in and enjoyed the relaxing effect it had on them. Strange as it seems, there was no sex that night, for there was still a lingering feeling of great loss, for all of them. They just wanted the loving comfort of each other's bodies curled up together in a sweet loving manner.

Andrew said as he drifted toward sleep, "Thank you all, for loving me, and accepting me as a member of your family." He had tears in his eyes, as he continued to fall asleep.

Colt moaned, "Go to sleep, or we'll kick you out of bed."

"Shut up Colt, he was serious, and you are welcome in our family and our hearts Andrew, even if Colt is a turd wad sometimes." Matt was laughing as he spoke.

Mike said, "All right now let's go to sleep. Oh yes Andrew you are welcome love. Now goodnight all." He rolled onto his side and Andrew curled up behind him.

"Silly," Colt giggled, "Of course we love you. You are part of this family, and you always will be, if for no other reason then the fact the Poppa Mike loves you so damned much. That alone would stand you in very good stead here, but you are much more than that. You are a wonderfully loving person, and someone we all admire. You have strengths that this family needs as well, and to top it off, we can tell that you love all of us too. Now shut up and go to sleep. " He was giggling under his breath.

Slowly but surely everyone drifted into sleep.

Everyone in the Andersen's home that night slept well, and they all got up to a great Thanksgiving Day, with a great hearty breakfast, and the companionship of a loving family and wonderful friends.

After breakfast, Colt and Matt took everyone that wanted to come, on a quick short tour of the ranch that was available close to the house. For there was heavy snow over most of the ranch in November. And they didn't have a lot of snowmobiles, on site, so they decided that they would have plenty of time after Thanksgiving to see the bigger part of the Lazy L.

Joel and Aaron were so shocked to see Colt, Matt, Earl, and Jack talking to Star and the other horses, both of them saw Colt and Matt do that up at the lodge, but for Earl and Jack to also be able to do that was a huge surprise for them. Needless to say, Joel and Aaron were surprised at the vastness of the Lazy L, as they had seen much of it from the air as they arrived the day before. And now, to see the bunkhouse and it's kitchen and dining areas, the barn and the office area. It was truly impressive to them both. And they said so, many times, as they moved from one location to another. The morning tour of the ranch finished, just at the right time, for Julie was once again outside ringing the damn old triangle, notifying everyone that the Thanksgiving meal was ready to serve.

Mike looked over at the gang and said, "Boys, I think it's time we headed in, Julie has our meal ready." He was smiling at everyone.

Colt and Matt agreed and started running for the house, saying, "Come on, guys, the last one in has to say grace!" They entered the house first, followed by Earl, Kevin, Jack, Jerry, Aaron, Andrew, Joel, and the last one in was Mike. Of course, that was as planned by Mike, since he wanted to say grace in the first place, but he was thinking, 'I'm still going to give Colt a bad time.'

They all headed off in different directions to wash up for dinner. The first ones back were Colt and Jack who told Julie earlier that they would help her serve, and she was grateful for that.

Everyone entered the dining room and was seated as Colt brought out the huge turkey, followed by Jack, who carried several other dishes. Julie entered with the Jell-O salad and was welcomed with a huge standing ovation of applause for what looked like a grand meal, now all laid out in beautiful splendor, in front of them. Once everything was in place, and everyone was seated, including Julie, of course, Mike looked over at Colt and said, "Now, just for that little stunt outside a little while ago, I think you should be the one to say grace." He was grinning at Colt. Then broke into a laugh, followed by everyone else at the table.

Colt just said, "Not fair, just cause I was smart enough to trick you all!" He was frowning, as Matt poked him in the side again, then giggled at him.

"Oww, will you stop doing that, Matt, you turd, you don't know your own strength! But I still love you, I hope you know that?" He chuckled.

"I do!" Matt replied with a cute little blushing grin.

"Okay everyone, I'll say grace!" Mike said, as he glanced around the table at all who were present, and thought to himself. 'God, my love, I wish you were here with us, how I miss you, and you too Richard.' With tears starting to flow, Mike wiped his eyes and began.........

Editor's Note:

Well, it looks as if there is beginning to be some healing going on. Julie has her own place again, and now Joel and Aaron are at the ranch, along with Kevin and Jerry. I have a good feeling about how thanksgiving is going to go. I am sure that life will continue to get easier for the family, what with all the help they are receiving from everyone. There is plenty more to come, I am sure that things will continue to change in the lives of the Andersen family. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

Darryl

AKA The Radio Rancher

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