Lost & Found @theartofsuicide
Chapter 11

A violent churning in her belly paired with uncomfortable slick stickiness between her thighs rudely woke Lydia from the embrace of sleep. It took her a moment to fully come to and realize what had happened, but once her fingers returned painted bright crimson from between her legs, she flew to an upright position, horrified at the sight that met her.

Oh no.

Her period had come, and after so long without consistent, balanced nutrition, it came with a vengeance. The soft, beautiful pure white bedding she loved so much was tainted now. Dirty. A guilty bloodstain blossomed out on the covers from where she was leaking. With shaking hands, she dared peak beneath the blanket only to muffle a cry of anguish at the warzone down there.

She froze. Betelgeuse was still snoring beside her. Helpless tears pricked at her eyes while she trembled and panicked. He couldn't see this. She couldn't hide this. A cramp twisted her insides, pulling a pained groan up her throat, and the tears finally fell past her lashes, streaming fat and fast down her cheeks. She pulled her hair, biting her lip until skin broke, anything to distract and keep from crying out in anguish.

He was going to be so mad.

With his wife startling awake, Betelgeuse snorted and sat up to respond to the perceived threat, ready to fight off any attacker at a moment's notice.

"Wha‒? 'S wrong, kitten…?"

He reached out to rub her back, his mind still muddled with sleep and the rigor mortis that had begun to set in as he rested. It took him a long moment to realize exactly what had gone wrong. Blazing red against their soft white sheets, the evidence of her distress suddenly became clear to her sleepy husband and all traces of his rest disappeared. His eyes went wide, darting between the deep red bloodstain and his wife.

He had never seen so much blood come from a woman unless she was seriously, seriously ill. Was she hurt? Had he damaged her somehow in the course of their lovemaking? He was panicked, swiftly pulling her out of bed and across the room where he dropped to his knees to investigate.

"Fuck‒ Lyds, what happened? Yer bleedin'… Oh God, yer bleedin'… don't worry baby, I'll go get a doctor!"

She was clearly upset, and the sight of her pretty plush lip torn to shreds ‒ he assumed from biting back pain and nothing else‒ sent him into a frantic course of action. Get human-looking. Get a doctor. Pray to God his young, beautiful wife survived whatever was afflicting her.

Having expected fury or disgust from her wonderful husband, all this blustering worry was both a shock and relief to Lydia. Before she could blink, he had her on her feet, bare naked, holding her in place by her hips while he knelt and shoved his face close to the blood-soaked crux of her thighs.

Didn't he care about the soiled sheets on his beloved grandmother's bed? Wasn't she in trouble?

"I-I'm s-sorry," she stuttered through frazzled tears, squirming through his firm grip, unable to watch as he scrutinized her. "I didn't‒ didn't mean to‒ to‒ I just haven't had it in such a long time, I forgot about it and…"

Doctor? Did he say Doctor?

"Don't take me to the doctor!" She begged with sudden urgency, horrified at the prospect. "I'm fine! They can't do anything! It's just my period." Her voice shrunk with shame there. "I'll wash the sheets. I'm so sorry, Beej, please don't be upset!"

Upset? Why on earth or under it would he be upset with her? Did he say she'd experienced this before? How could she have? There was so much blood, he was sure she was going to pass out at any moment.

"What? Babes, fuck the sheets! Yer bleedin'! What kinda asshole ya take me for?"

Once satisfied that the flow of blood seemed to have stopped for the moment, he scooped her back into his arms and made for a warm bath.

"Ya said ya did this before… how'd ya make it stop? Whaddya need, Lyds? Just tell me n' I'll get it for ya!"

For once, he found himself woefully unprepared. He had never so much as heard a woman talk about their cycle, except maybe in passing. In his day, a woman would have taken to bed for a few days with a headache and then returned to the parlor for tea right as rain. He never even pondered the thought of so much….

"Does it hurt?"

"Uh-huh," she nodded up and down her pathetic concession to pain, sniffling and puffy-eyed like a child waiting for mommy to kiss their scraped knee. "Like knives in my belly. Like all my insides want out. Hurts bad."

Given permission to actually feel her suffering, Lydia indulged, humiliated by the dramatic display and hurting.

"I can't make it stop. It just does. The first day is the worst. Should be better tomorrow. Won't stop for a couple days. Maybe longer, or less. I don't know. I haven't had it in so long, I don't know what's going to happen…"

Modern women only had it marginally better than women from his time as far as societal shame went. This was the most Lydia had ever discussed her cycle with a male person before, much less someone she was intimately entangled with. It was surreal and mortifying.

"I'm sorry," she conceded before once more falling into sobs, hating that her body was forcing him into having this cringey, embarrassing conversation. This wasn't his problem. It was a woman's trouble, none of his business.

He scowled at her soft, sorrowful confession of pain, rubbing his hand down her leg from hip to knee before standing up to kiss her gently. He hated seeing her in pain that wasn't caused by him on purpose. When they had slowly worked her through her hunger pains when she was recovering from her, he spent hours holding and comforting her, and he was more than ready to do it again.

With a wave of his hand, the sheets were clean of the deep scarlet that had stained it, a set of soft flannel pajamas that he hoped would keep her comfortable waiting on the bed for her for whenever she was ready to get out of the bath. She was all that mattered. Their whole magnificent castle could crumble and as long as she was safe and healthy, he wouldn't give two shits.

"My love, what do you need… I... ya want a cloth or somethin' for the blood? Painkillers? Tea? Just say the word, baby girl…"


The answer came without thought, despite that Lydia had never used a tampon in her life. She was grown now, right? Adult. Who cared if she wasn't eighteen yet? Certainly not her husband. Tampons were what adult women with husbands and children and sex lives used. Besides, pads got gross so fast.

With the way he kept dominion over her body, aware of every little move it made… tampons were the more sensible choice.

"I guess it's a good thing I'm not pregnant."

Could she even? With him? Thinking about it made her head hurt along with her twisting abdomen.

Tampons. He could do that… there was a pharmacy in town. He would pop down and get them and come right back to make sure she was okay. What even were those? Surely, a pharmacist would know.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not pregnant.

He looked up, surprised that she would even mention the thought of having children. Was that something that was on her mind? He wouldn't complain, though he hadn't entertained the thought since before his untimely demise.

"The fuck does this… this bleedin' thing have to do with bein' pregnant? I mean… I guess it's the same bits, right?"

He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly.

"I ain't ever heard o' this shit before… sure yer okay? Ya aren't gonna collapse while I'm gone gettin' yer tampies or whatever the hell they are?"

A sinking sensation pooled in her gut as he carried on like someone who had never seen a wellness or sex education course in their life. He hadn't though, had he? From what little information Lydia had to garner about how things worked back when he was still breathing, the menstrual cycle was very much on the hush hush as far as polite conversation was concerned.

He didn't have any reason to know what tampons were, much less the correlation between her bleeding and whether or not she was pregnant.

"Tampons," she corrected lightly, staring at him with curiosity. For so long she had envisioned him as near-omnipotent‒ an all-knowing, all-powerful being not to be trifled with over petty matters. For him to be so ignorant to something so common was almost endearing.

"I'm okay. I just‒ the mess. And hurt. I thought you might be mad. I don't know, Beej." A vicious cramp twisted up her insides, pulling a pained whimper past her lips. She was far from equipped to teach him a lesson in sexual education.

"If I bleed, it means I'm not pregnant. If I don't, I am. That's just how it works. I don't have a better answer for you than that."

The wince seemed to send him reeling into action, scooping up Lydia from the tub and carrying her back to the newly cleaned bed to rest. In an instant, she was dried and dressed. He settled her in against the mound of pillows that seemed to have repopulated in the mere minutes that she was out of them.

"I see… make's sense."

It did not. He kissed her firmly and brushed a lock of long, soft hair away from her face. The pets seemed to sense their mistress' distress, whining at the edge of the bed. He happily pulled them up onto it, letting them cuddle in against Lydia while he psyched himself up.

With a quick promise that he would take care of everything, he vanished, reappearing in his long-favored mortal disguise to hurry into the pharmacy. A clerk was easily located, an older woman restocking shelves of canned food.

"Uh, Ma'am… can I ask ya a question?"

She looked up, her eyes narrowing at the sight of him. He quickly looked over himself to make sure his glamour was holding. It seemed to be. Maybe it was the accent, or that he was a stranger in a small foreign town. Yeah. Probably the accent.

"Whut c'n I help ya with, sir?"

He breathed a sigh of relief and wrung his hands. "Well, my… uh... My baby girl started her… Um… you know... this mornin' and I got no idea what to get her… She asked me for tampons, but she seems in pain and I dunno if I can give'r aspirin when she's bleedin' so bad…"

Oh, how absolutely precious. Yet another doting father out to help his daughter, though this one set himself apart from others. Mildred swooned at the way he spoke about his child, the extent that he was willing to go to ease her pain.

"Aren't you jus' the sweetest! I've had fathers ask me fer help before, but they're usually so cold n' embarassed about it. Don't you worry, sonny, we'll get your girl right as rain. Just follow me."

The charmed elderly lady proceeded to lead him to the feminine hygiene aisle and point out the most reputable brand.

"I'm guessin' she's a tiny thing, aye? You'll be wantin' these then." She indicated the proper size and best brand when he nodded the affirmative dumbly, then took the initiative to place it in his cart. The poor man seemed overwhelmed by all the options at his disposal.

"Aspirin or ibuprofen are just fine. Midol is also effective. A good cup o' coffee'll do the trick in a pinch. Caffeine is the chief ingredient in Midol, after all. Lots o' carbs and chocolates oughta dry those tears, too. Such a sweet father, you are. I wish me own Da could have been more like you."

"Father. Right. Uh… yeah. Guess ya could say my girl's adopted. I ain't dealt with this before…"

He took her advice and set about picking out every snack, candy, and painkiller that his wife could possibly want. He wanted her happy and healthy and to stop bleeding as soon as possible.

With his haul secured, he thanked the woman and left the shop only to zap himself right back home to Lydia. She was still where he left her, curled in on herself and laying on her side. Tia and Percy were cuddled in close against her stomach, a living and breathing sort of hot water bottle. He had picked up one of those, too, having been told it may help.

"I'm back, kitten… how ya holdin' up?"

He sat beside her and brushed her hair out of her face with a soft smile. Even suffering through the pain and discomfort as she was, she was gorgeous.

"Brought everythin' the lady at the pharmacy recommended. Don't know what all ya needed..."

"I'm okay," she pouted, sounding not at all okay, but was pleased to see him and the bounty both though it didn't quite read on her expression. A tiny, barely-there smile was braved for his benefit as he pet her so sweetly and comfortingly, gone just as quickly as her midsection panged.

"Thank you." He brought so many candies and treats, Lydia didn't know where to begin. Tampons could wait. While he was gone, she had bothered to drag herself to the bathroom to snag a towel to thrust between her legs, and that would do for now.

"I've never had a…" Embarrassed by the thought that almost slipped past, she quickly edited herself. "Barbara used to take care of me. Before. Adam and my Dad just kind of… pretended not to notice. Or didn't notice. One or the other, I couldn't really tell."

He scoffed. "How many times am I gonna have to tell ya that yer not with those dimwits anymore. Ya got a much better Daddy now, and he's gonna keep ya nice and comfy."

He smiled and kissed her cheek. He didn't like thinking about her father or Adam, and their wives weren't much better. Even with the four of them, they'd done an absolutely awful job of being her parents.

When he was a father, he would be much better. At least, he hoped so.

Wait… When?

He shook the thought off and pulled Lydia to sit on his knee, perching them both at the edge of the bed with a sigh.

"I'm sorry, kitten, I just love ya so much… yer too good for any man, let alone me. I'm just the lucky bastard who gets to keep ya to myself!"

"I don't want anyone else to keep me…"

No, she was good and hooked now. The unconditional love and care he afforded were addictive. There wasn't home or shelter out there that could possibly compare to what she had with him.

Still. Something rebellious inside of her recoiled at the way he spoke of her unfortunate, dearly departed parents. He didn't know them. They were only doing the best they could. Where did he get off?

This was a dangerous line of thinking. Lydia worked to smooth her face, fearful he might see her treasonous, distrustful thoughts.

"Come here babies," she distracted herself in her meowing, woofing children, pulling the furry little cramp deterrents up into her lap as she settled back cozily into her husband's. The furballs were very attached to each other and their odd parents.

"Mommy and Daddy love you so much. We'll love you forever and ever and ever and ever…"

Betel wasn't quite sure how to respond when the annoyance crossed her face. Surely, she could realize that she deserved better than a couple stiffs, a high-strung stepmother, and a father who ignored her! Hadn't he shown her how much she could and should have?

He watched her as she scooped up the little critters that shared their home, the furry monsters happily squirming in her hold. He was more than happy to wrap his arms around her waist and let Tia lick at his hand. She was a good dog… She was so young, and already she knew to ask outside when she needed it and came to her name. He scratched her ears gently.

"Ya know I just want ya to be happy here, right? I mean… I know I ain't yer real Dad or nothin'... but it's gotta be better here'n that hell hole with the Gallaghers."

"I am happy."

The severe stress that flashed across her countenance at the notion that she might possibly have displeased him disagreed. That frown‒ so wrong on such a pale, sweet face‒ only deepened at the mention of the dreaded foster home.

"I don't want to leave! I promise! It's so much better here than it was there! They hated me…"

Lydia lost count of how many times she found herself the target of the other kids. She was smaller, weaker, different. A prime subject for abuse.

"I tried for a while to make them like me. I cleaned, and tried to cook for everybody with what we had… but that just made them hate me more."

She snuggled the babies closer, hiding the pain of their violent rejection into black and chocolate furs.

"No pets. No food. No love. Nothing good. Always bad. Every day."

He pressed his lips to her neck, trying to coax her out of the ball she curled into. He hadn't meant to scare her really… Maybe a little. But their conversation brought to mind all the wonderful retribution he had in mind for her former foster family. He rubbed his hands over her thighs gently, still plying her neck with small kisses.

"Yer never gonna go back to that life, Lyds… You n' me are gonna live happily ever after for the rest of time. Promise."

He smiled and squeezed her gently.

"Hey… I got some errands to run. Might take me a couple o' days, but I'll be quick as I can. Can you be a good girl for me n' stay here? I won't leave till tomorrow, but I wanna know yer gonna be content here alone for a bit…."

He squeezed those big arms around his little family and they all conformed back into the shape of his embrace, each pet finding comfort in their savior's protection. Lydia's persistent frown stayed put at the announcement that he would be leaving.

"I'll be good."

The thought of ever possibly returning to that place had her despondent, wallowing in unpleasant memories. The cool, sweet kisses to her neck only helped so much, but she put on a brave face for him.

"I'll be okay. Read or play in the garden or go exploring…" He cut a look and immediately she rushed to reassure him, shaking her head in disagreement at the very thought. "Don't worry! I won't leave the castle. Promise."

He supposed he could accept the promise not to leave their home. He'd have to spend the rest of the day reminding her why she wanted to stay with him.

And he did just that. A picnic in the old churchyard, a long luxurious bath, and then a massage all before tucking her into bed and curling around her, kissing her cheek gently.

"Goodnight, beautiful. I'll see ya in the mornin' before I go, okay?"

They managed to sleep peacefully for a while, even Betel starting to doze in the warmth of their little family cuddle.

That is until Lydia started to whine in her sleep. The disturbed sound had him immediately sat upright, ready to comfort her.

The first week at the Ghallagers had been the worst. Still mourning parents whose cold, dead arms she had quite literally been ripped from, she spent every night weeping and in turn, was beaten mercilessly for it by the other girls who just wanted a good night's rest. It was a vicious cycle. Her pain reminded them of their own and was therefore intolerable.

By the end of her initiation, she learned how to crumble in the shadows without making a single sound.

She was dreaming of that first night now, of how scared she was, how confused and hurt; mentally, emotionally, physically. Tonya kicked her so hard she was sure she broke a rib, but then someone yanked back on her long hair to open her face up for attack and all the ugliness started to meld together.

"Please," Lydia sobbed to the invisible attacker in the night, putting up a pathetic fight with her heavy blankets and disturbing her sleeping loves in the process. "I'll be better… I can stop… please stop…"

Betel scowled at her muttered pleas, pulling the blankets that seemed to be bothering her away from her limbs and cuddling her into his arms with a kiss to her forehead. He had no idea what had her so upset, but he knew it had to be remedied immediately.

He held her tight and rocked slowly, wanting her to feel safe when she finally came out of whatever vision was currently haunting her. This was not her first nightmare in their time together. It would be impossible not to have them with all she had been through.

This one seemed particularly bad. He rubbed her back gently in slow, calm circles.

"Lyds… Come on, baby girl. Wake up for me… you're safe. Daddy's got ya… no one's gonna hurt ya…"

Suddenly, the blows weren't landing anymore. Something solid, cold, and soft had encapsulated her, blocking her fragile, battered form from any further abuse. It was long minutes before she came to and realized what had happened.

This wasn't the first time she had woken with him like this in the night. Her nightmares were becoming fewer and further between, but they still lingered. This one was intense, leaving her a weak, pathetic, hurting thing in his arms in the aftermath.

"Why did they hate me so much…?" She sobbed into his chest, lost in the throes of the bad memories. He would chase them away yet, but for now, they haunted.

"Please don't bring me back there, please please please please please don't bring me back there…"

"Never." He insisted emphatically.

His arms tightened around her small frame, cradling her close while she sobbed and shuddered. He hated seeing her like this. Perhaps his errand needed to come earlier than morning.

Remove the hive and the bees can't sting.

With a firm kiss to her temple, he lulled Lydia tumbling into a deep, calm sleep. He rubbed her back in slow circles for a moment before vanishing.

He returned several hours later and ran his hand through his hair, brushing a bit of ash off his shoulder before he wandered into the bathroom to shave. He didn't do it by hand often, only when he needed to think. And think he did, a cruel smirk stuck to his features as he thought through what people would say.

Did you hear? That foster family up the street… Yes, the whole house, right to the ground. It's strange, they don't know how the fire started… or how it burned hot enough to cremate the remains.

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