Lost & Found @theartofsuicide
Chapter 7

Back at the castle, Lydia was out in the orchard next to the greenhouse with Percy, introducing him to a patch of catnip she'd discovered growing wild beneath an apple tree. Irrationally, she worried that Betelgeuse would disappear for days again, but held on faith. He did tell her that he would let her know exactly how long he would be gone before taking off like that again, right?

Besides, she had everything she needed to live comfortably without his assistance. This wouldn't be a terrible life without him. A bit lonely, maybe. Still, the thought left a sour pang in her belly.

"I think you might just be the second most handsome boy in the world," Lydia praised the doped up kitten as he bumbled after a butterfly, stoned on catnip and clumsy. "Want to know who the first is?"

Betel just caught the conversation as he came wandering up the path, the little puppy tucked into the crook of his arm. The poor little girl was shaking like a leaf, whining softly when she saw the stranger.

"I'd like to know who the first is. Wouldn't you, Tia?"

He bounced the puppy gently and she wiggled in his hold until she could lick his face, making him wrinkle his nose.

"Yeah, yeah. Here. Let's meet yer brother."

He sat across from his wife with a smile, the tiny spaniel in his hold leaning over to sniff curiously at the kitten.

"Don't worry, babes. I took care of Liam."

Lydia sat up from where she was laying on her belly on the ground at his reappearance, puzzled by the strange sounds coming from his direction. Was that a...?


He sat down to join her, and the curious little bundle of chocolate fur hooked over his arm immediately wanted down to play and explore. Percy was just as equally excited and intrigued by the other baby animal, padding up close on caution black paws to touch noses with the foreign beast.

Tia licked. Percy jumped. They stared at each other in bewilderment for a tense beat, then scrambled off Betelgeuse's lap to tackle each other fiercely, roughhousing playfully as though they came from the same litter. Once his lap was free, Lydia took advantage of the opening, crawling over to wrap her arms around his neck and press rapid kisses to his cheek, heart full with affection.

"They're so cute! I love them so much! Look! They already know they're family..."

He happily accepted her into his lap, cradling her close to his chest as the two little beasts wrestled and growled, happily scampering across the garden only to return to where their saviors sat.

"I'm glad ya like her. I'm callin' her Hestia. Tia for short. Home ain't home without a dog." He smiled and kissed her cheek. "Liam had er. Didn't take time t'check her out really... but she seems fine."

He nuzzled into his wife. Family. Maybe that's what they were... or were becoming. A small, isolated family. Sighing dreamily, he closed his eyes, words at the tip of his tongue that he wasn't sure he could say to her.

Lydia didn't like thinking about the type of person it would take to want to burn a kitten alive, and so didn't respond to Betelgeuse when he told her where the puppy came from‒ only frowning slightly and watching the pup closer to make sure it wasn't exhibiting any symptoms of injury.

She appeared perfectly healthy, tongue lolling and tail wagging as she prepared to pounce her feline brother.

"Hestia..." she tested, trying it out on her tongue. "It's pretty. I like it."

Hestia and Percival were fancy names for a couple of furballs, but it didn't look like there was anyone around to judge.

"Do you want to see the pictures I took? You're in some of them."

He raised an eyebrow at the question. "What'd ya mean I'm in some of em? I'm a ghost, babes."

He rubbed slow circles onto her stomach with his thumb, pressing his lips to her hair. Not quite a kiss, just a closeness. This kind of intimacy was new and different to him.

Only a few minutes after they'd started, the little creatures tired themselves out. Percy climbed happily onto Lydia's chest, curling up with his tiny head under her chin, while Hestia whined until room was made for her between Lydia's legs, curled up on Betel's thigh.

He idly scratched her ears, smiling at their little pile of family.

"So?" Hadn't he been paying any attention? Lydia had been photographing ghosts since she picked up her first camera. "Look! It's you."

Careful not to agitate the sleepy babies, she moved the camera's screen until it was within his line of sight and she could begin scrolling through photos. There were some from the hotel, and some of the castle, but the most recent bundle were all snapped at the chapel and cemetery.

Just like she said he would be, Betelgeuse's spirit stuff was visible as a shroud of black smoke through the lens. None of his defining traits were discernible. If she didn't know it was him, she wouldn't know it was him.

"You have a really bad memory," she commented casually remembering that they already had pretty much this exact conversation after he gave her the camera, genuinely unaware of how insulting what she was saying really was. "Is it because you're so old?"

"Well, I didn't know ya meant I was in 'em like that!" He looked through the photos with her and hummed softly. "You should sell these. They're real good. Tell people I'm photoshopped in or somethin'."

He slid his hands slowly up her thighs toward her sides, smirking to himself.

"Oh... and one more thing..."

He dug his fingers in, mercilessly tickling. This caused an uproar, the kitten yowling as he was dislodged from his new mother's breast, Tia growling as her brother complained.

"Don't call me old!"


She was under attack! It wasn't fair!


Perhaps with ulterior motives guiding his actions, he never let her wriggle out of his lap all through the assault. Lydia screeched and laughed and writhed, never getting free no matter how much she fought his admittedly light grip.

He was holding back. How embarrassing. Somehow, she ended up draped over his lap with her tummy over his thigh, hind end presented appropriately. The lovely crimson cloak she wore before was splayed as a picnic blanket across the ground, providing a soft covering for the puppy, kitten, ghost, and girl to play.

"I'm sorry!" She begged, on the verge of losing her faculties. "I didn't mean it! Please no more! No! Uncle! Daddy! Stop!"

Oh, that was nice.

He chuckled and stopped his tickling attack. He ran his hand through her hair and pulled gently, bending her back until he could kiss at her neck, his other hand resting in the small of her back.

"What was that, my love? I don't think I quite heard you…"

He grinned and nipped at the shell of her ear, humming softly. He was half hard in his pants, but with all the shyness she exuded in the past, he didn't want to push anything too far.

He let his eyes rake down over her body, her lovely rump a soft bunching in her long dark skirt. He let his hand slip down to caress her there, squeezing gently.

The tickling ceased. Her bladder stopped panging unbearably for release. A cold fist entangled itself at the base of her braid, pulling her into an arch by that grip until equally cold lips could ply at the sensitive flesh along her throat. Gasping breaths stuttered, heart thrumming ever faster as his free palm molded over her ass.

Percy and Tia had grown bored of watching them and were frolicking through the nearby patch of catnip. Lydia made no moves to fight or withdraw from the submissive position she suddenly found herself in, trusting completely that he bore her no ill intent. After all, this was a man that saved puppies and kittens.

"Daddy," she repeated obediently, whimpering, bashful despite her imperfect faith in him. The filthy nickname had initially only come out as a last-ditch attempt to make him stop torturing her. It only half worked.

He groaned loudly when she sweetly, obediently repeated what she had said. He kissed her cheek firmly, bending her back to do so, but not far enough to hurt.

"You're a good girl, baby... do you wanna help daddy out here? Ya feel what ya do to me, don't ya?"

With her bent over his lap like she was, his hard cock pressed against her stomach through the lacing of her dress, straining his pants in a way that was getting uncomfortable.

"Sweet thing... I know you'll be good for me. You always are... c'mere."

He adjusted her slightly, releasing the hand in her hair to pull her into his lap properly, hiking her skirts up to the thigh.

Once more, Lydia was embarrassed by how quickly she found herself here, how easily she gave herself to him. Just seconds before everything had been so innocent. Now he had her wrapped around him like a blanket, coarse palms touching wherever they wanted to under her dress. As usual, the timid girl needed a moment to compose herself before they could proceed with anything further.

Focusing on the soothing scratch of his claws lightly dragging all along her thighs, she took several deep breaths into his shirt, face hidden beneath his jacket.

"I'll be good," she promised with a small voice, hardly aware of what he had in mind but confident that she would do her best for him.

"I didn't mean to‒ to‒" She swallowed, turning an even deeper shade of crimson. "Make it hard. You were tickling me."

He chuckled softly and kissed her flushed cheek, sliding his hands back to grip her hips. She was just so damn cute.

"I'll tell ya a secret, kitten. Ya always make it hard. Part o' my bein' hopelessly n' completely into ya." He chuckled softly and rubbed her soft skin under his thumbs. "You're so sweet, n' beautiful n' kind... how am I s'posed to not get turned on when yer wigglin' in my lap?"

He sighed and nuzzled his nose against hers gently. This was a struggle. Any other girl would have been on her back and buried deep by now. He reminded himself to be gentle and unthreatening.

"How ya wanna do this? Like before?"

Lydia was still satisfied from their morning romp where he'd gotten her off twice, explosively; first with his mouth, and then with his cock in a pantomime of real sex. For now, she was much more interested in making sure that he was seen too. After all, it was her careless wriggling and bouncing that had gotten them into this position.

"I don't... I don't need anything..."

She never did. It was always him kissing and squeezing and taking what he wanted from her with utmost care and patience. How patient was he, really? How long until he got fed up with their gentle, tentative play? Determined to show progress, she pressed a long, warm kiss to his jaw, then another lower on his neck, followed by a shy lick and nip.

"You're the one who... you need... uhm..."

He made it sound so easy when he rasped out his filthy little encouragements, whereas Lydia's lips and tongue refused to cooperate with her brain and produce a concrete sentence. Eventually, she just spit it out.

"What do you want me to do?"

He thought about it for a moment. There were many, many things he wanted to do with her. That being said, there was a lot that he didn't think she could do yet. She was still getting healthy. He kissed her forehead, tipping his head back to let her continue the small kisses she was pressing to his neck.

"Mmm... why don't we keep up that mouth busy, huh? I'll teach ya. Okay?"

He ran his hand down her back, patiently waiting for her answer. He knew that he could convince her even if she didn't really want to. But still, he liked to give her a sense of choice.

He didn't need to use any dirty words or lewd phrases to get his idea across. Blowjob. Fellatio. Oral sex. Cock sucking. She was excited and nervous and terrified all at once, fiddling gently with his tie to comfort herself while pressing those shy, almost nonexistent kisses to his meaty neck.

What if she sucked? And not in a good way. As talented as he was at servicing her with his mouth, Lydia cringed at the very real possibility that she would end up humiliating herself.

"I can," she gulped, "try."

As a gesture of good faith, one of her bony little hands trailed between them, just barely ghosting over where his erection burgeoned beneath his zipper.

"It's not that I don't want to," she gushed out quietly in explanation for her tangible nerves, worried he might see it as a rejection. "I just don't want to disappoint you..."

He tutted softly and pulled her back to look at him. "Sweetheart... you won't disappoint. You never have. Besides, ya can't judge by the first attempt."

He pulled her into a gentle kiss.

"Besides, I don't think you could be bad at this. Look at that pretty mouth..."

He grinned and pulled at her lower lip gently with his thumb. She really was a beauty... even by the standards of his time, here in Ireland, she was like a wet dream come true. He kissed her once more, just to put her at ease. "Why don't ya take it out and just explore for a bit, huh? I'll tell ya what feels the best."

He grinned, excited to get her on her knees.

With large, curious eyes and a rosy bottom lip caught trapped between her teeth, she very carefully ambled back and off of his lap until she was kneeling before him. Trying and failing to keep her hands from shaking, they drifted toward his crotch. Step by bumbling step, she unhooked her belt, unlatched the button of his slacks, and ever so attentively pulled the zipper down, wary of the metal teeth catching on sensitive flesh.

Without needing to be fished out, an impressive, violet-shaded rod of meat sprung forth, eager for attention. Lydia's eyes went impossibly larger. She knew he was a big guy, but this was her first time seeing his tool head-on rather than just feeling it out of sight.

"Wow," she whispered in a sort of awe, then immediately withdrew further into herself. That was a dumb thing to say. Gaze flickering rapidly between her husband and his exposed phallus, she dared to draw the soft backside of her hand slowly along his length just for the sensation, the way one might caress a passing stretch of eye-catching fabric.

Touches like that wouldn't do anything for him, though. She knew enough to know that. Bolder now, she wrapped her fingers around the base‒ or attempted to. They were too short. She had to introduce both hands to encircle him completely.

"Like‒ like this?"

He watched her shuffle down and pull him free, licking his lips as he watched her gently explore his length. The brush of her hand over him made his cock twitch excitedly. Her tiny hands could barely fit around him, having to work together to work him over. He groaned and tipped his head back against the tree behind them, sighing softly.

"Oh, yeah... just like that, baby girl... why don't ya give it a kiss. Bet that'd feel real nice."

He ran his hand through her hair, pulling gently in the way he discovered she liked, though he doubted she would admit it.

"Such a good girl..."

Extremely susceptible to suggestion at the moment, particularly his suggestions, there was little to no fight to be found as his gruff fingers found purchase in her hair, using those reigns to pull her closer to his groin. A kiss was easy enough, right?

Like a child with their first crush, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and brushed the purest and most angelic of kisses across the fat, mushroom tip of his length, gaze immediately darting up to check his reaction. He was still staring down at her, the intensity in his expression unwavering, though the softness he kept when dealing with her had not disappeared.

That pathetic little kiss wasn't enough and she knew it, so she did it again on the underside of the head this time. Then again in a different spot, letting her tongue flick out and taste a thick, dark vein. The fist in her hair tightened, and her lashes fluttered at the pleasant pull at the base of her skull.

"Like that? You like this?"

"It's good, kitten... real good..."

He watched her press the tiny, shy kisses over him for a while longer before stopping her by tightening the fist in her hair.

"Hey, ya ever eat one o' those rocket pops? Tha big ol' popsicles ya buy from the truck? Treat it like that."

A wiggle of his fingers aided this endeavor by changing the taste of the clear precum now dribbling from the tip of his cock. Gone was the musky, salty drip, replaced with something far sweeter and more pleasant.

"Come on, baby... drop that jaw for daddy and lemme in..."

Unlike the others, this order wasn't obeyed all at once. Taking her precious time, Lydia introduced herself and his cock to the idea of it being trapped behind her lips. Those little kisses became wider and wetter as her tongue came into play and she took longer to separate then come back for more.

Like a popsicle? Lydia liked popsicles. Finally, slick pink lips traipsed high enough to catch a taste of his enchanted cum, and she decided right then that he tasted much better than popsicles. Unnaturally so. She would have asked why, but that would have displeased him judging by how tight his fist was in her hair.

That flavor alone seduced her tight, distrustful jaw into relaxing, allowing him the in he needed. It was a tight fit. Even as her poor jaw strained to fit him, she worried that her molars might scrape and cause discomfort.

"Mm!" She whined, momentarily alarmed, though made no moves against his firm grip. She could trust him a little more. Try harder.

He kept up his tight grip on her hair, pushing her head down as soon as the head of his cock slipped past those tight, soft lips.

"That's it... fuck. That's perfect, baby girl..."

For her first time, he didn't want to push her too far, but her warm, wet mouth was almost too much for his delicate restraint. He wasn't a patient man on the best of days. Still, he was loath to scare her off when she was doing so well with her new task. So he gently guided her head just until he felt her start to gag before pulling her back and starting over.

"Breathe through yer nose, Lyds...that's it... feels so good, kitten..."

Distantly, she was aware of Percy and Tia scampering over her legs in a ploy for attention before coming to terms with that Mommy was busy and couldn't play. They were easily distracted elsewhere.

This was harder than it looked, and from what she had seen in porn it already looked pretty hard. She was barely breaching the midpoint and was already gagging on him, forcing down the reflex that wanted her to shake off his iron grip and gasp for air.

The praise helped, but it didn't stem the few tears that budded and crept down her cheeks. They weren't from sadness, but a visceral response to an unnatural stimulus. Still, she listened and breathed through her nose, trying desperately to avoid tensing up. It was worse when she tensed up. Better to go lax and let him guide her through it.

He wasn't going to last long, and that was probably wise. She seemed uncomfortable. He guided her just that little bit deeper, purposefully making her gag on his cock. It did the trick. He pulled her back as he moaned and rocked his hips, his release splattering onto her neck and chest. He couldn't help but thinking that it was a good look on her.

He collapsed back against the tree and groaned, pulling her up into his arms.

"Fuck yeah... that was perfect, baby. You did perfect..."

He caressed her cheek, gently rubbing his thumb over the smooth skin and smiled at her fondly. "Thanks, darlin'. You're really somethin' wonderful."

She was still gasping for breath and trying to find her bearings when he hauled her back up to a more familiar position. The dress was ruined. She would have to change. Just when she began to think bad words like gross and cheap, he came to the rescue, muttering praise that made her want to strip for a different reason.

There was a surprising amount of warmth in his gaze for someone so cold. She wanted to kiss him, but that would be gross, right? Then again, he had no problems kissing her after mouthing her holiest of unholies to kingdom come.

That settled it. Her lips were sweet and slick on his with the barest remnants of his own release, and it just felt right. Kissing was a simple task compared to what had just passed between them in the orchard.

"It's getting cold," the complaint was hushed against his lips. She knew he couldn't tell the difference one way or the other as the already bleak sky began to weaken. Percy and Tia were asleep huddled together at the edge of Lydia's discarded cloak, but they too shivered. She scooped them up as soon as she saw, the mess on her dress already having been magicked away.

"Take me to bed? I'm not sleepy yet, I just want to bathe and change and let the babies nap."

Her request was immediately and happily complied with, the whole little family transported back to Lydia's chambers in the palace. He kissed her cheek gently and pet her hair before slipping out of the bed to conjure the things Tia would need. She got a plush bed to lay beside the cat tree for Percy, though he doubted either perch would get much use. He had already failed to endorse a rule keeping the pets off the bed.

Humming as he worked, he glanced back at his wife with a smile. "Why don't you go on n' get in the tub, baby. I'll be through to help wash yer hair."

He scooped up Percy and set him at the very top of the cat tree, the cat immediately chewing on the corner of his perch, kicking at it as though he could kill it. Tia was already happily asleep at the foot of the bed.

Candelabras lit welcomingly upon her entrance, a powerful stream of hot water beginning to gush into a circular stone bathing pit tucked into a nook off in an enclosed corner. A large window carved into the thick wall sat just past the mini pool, but Lydia was too short to see what was on the other side from her vantage.

She wasted no time in shedding the chaste gown and slipping into the tub. The stones on the inside were smoother than the ones on the out. An easy to reach shelf stocked with scrubs, creams, and oils hung above a rack of towels and Lydia added a generous bit of rose oil to the water.

The window she coveted gazed down upon the glass roof of the greenhouse, as well as the orchard and part of the courtyard. As it was so deeply embedded in the stone wall, Lydia had to lean far over the edge to see it all, placing her belly flat on the window's ledge and her rear the first thing anyone would see if they so happened to walk in.

And happen in, he did. He had shed his jacket and shirt before every coming through the doorway, and being greeted by his wife's soft, plump rear made him smirk softly.

"What a view... n' the window's nice too. C'mon, darlin'. Into the tub with ya."

He grinned and pulled up a small wooden stool to the edge of the tub. A tray appeared, balanced just where she could reach with wine and fruit. Salivating practically, he licked his lips as he looked her over. He could happily spend days watching Lydia bathe, and if that made him some kind of pervert, so be it.

The sun was starting to set, painting his girl in pink and orange light, making her seem more angelic than she always did. He couldn't help but smile, a strange warmth spreading through his chest.

On the tray, there was a bowl of dark, sweet cherries, a bottle of wine that tasted just like them, and a jewel-encrusted goblet. Just one. He seemed happy enough with his bottleneck beer. Dying sunrays joined firelight in bouncing off pearlescent flesh. It was a strange, haunting effect only made possible by how pale and wet she was, as well as the conventional lighting.

In the future, Lydia would not question it when he insisted upon her taking her baths almost primarily at twilight. By the time she had eaten her fill of cherries, to the point her lips were stained dark red, and drank wine until her cheeks were flushed and head was fuzzy, she was ready to cash in on his offer.

"Help with my hair?" She murmured lazily, good and tipsy, head lolling back against the edge of the tub near where he was sitting. "You said you would… please?"

He was more than content to watch her enjoy herself, so much so that by the time she asked him to help, his cock was once again at full attention.

He smiled at her request, setting his beer aside to gently dip her back into the water and pull her back up, almost like a baptism.

"Always, my love. Here."

He took one of the bottles off the low shelf and poured the shampoo it contained into his hands, rubbing it through her long dark locks quite happily.

He waited, curious to see if she would call him out on his erection.

He was hard. Again.

It took her a moment to notice, but once she did, she couldn't not see it. Those claws of his just felt so good scratching against her scalp, massaging, manipulating her easily. Within seconds, she was a pile of mush in his hands.

Then she saw it; an unmistakable bulge demanding attention beneath his striped trousers. Seriously? So soon? He did say she always did this to him. Sympathetic to his plight, with a sense of guilt even, she reached up as he dipped her down again to rinse creamy suds from her hair and let her tired fingers mold around his cock.

"How can I make it stop?"

As though she pitied him, she asked him this, holding his gaze like there was nothing to be ashamed of, his cock was an aching thing, and she simply meant to heal it.

"You can't stop it, darling... it's gonna happen. You may as well get used to it."

He gently rinsed her hair, letting her caress him through his pants. Smiling once he was done, admiring her glossy cleaned hair, he took her hand away from his groin and brought it to his lips.

"Don't you worry about it tonight. I can see those pretty eyes closing." He bent to kiss her lips firmly. "Come on, you."

He pulled her up and wrapped her in a soft, oversized towel. It was easy to fall into step like this, carrying her in his arms as he headed back to her bed chambers.

"I'm gonna deal with this problem on my own. Though of course, if you wanna help... you could."

"I want to help."

Pliant as she was from the bath, Lydia was still eager to see what else he could teach her. She only felt safe and loved with him. Anything they did would make them both feel good. The area between her legs was already panging with want, her damp form cuddling him close despite that he could never warm her.

He thought she was beautiful, was so attracted to her that arousal plagued him constantly. Needless to say, Lydia was flattered. He tried to deposit her alone in the bed, but she didn't let him go. Instead, she wrapped thin arms around his thick neck to force him close and administer a somewhat messy, inexperienced, intoxicated kiss.

The towel dropped. Skinny legs wrapped around his waist. She was trying to seduce him.

It took everything in him not to just... take her when she offered herself up like that. She was so soft and warm, so mortal beneath him. But he couldn't... not yet. She was still too thin, too weak.

So he settled for kissing her back, leaning into her hungrily as she did her best to seduce him. It was almost cute in the way she seemed so eager to please despite her drowsy, tipsy state. He chuckled softly and let his magic remove the barriers between them. In a blink of an eye, he was pressed against her fully, skin to skin.

"You're so beautiful, darlin'... how did I get so lucky, hmm? Sure as hell don't deserve it..."

Abruptly, they were pressed naked together atop her bed, the sudden exposure of all that cold, ghostly flesh making her spine shudder. He must have had the deepest, scratchiest baritone she'd ever heard. Having it growl out such loving things so close to her ear had her ready to perish in a cataclysm of flames. Any discomfort from his temperature was quickly burned away.

"I change my mind."

All she wanted was for his hips to shift properly and push down against her just right, joining them as husband and wife.

"I do want to have sex."

He would take care of her. It would be amazing and beautiful and help his problem better than anything else she could do. What was she waiting for?

"With you. Now."

The universe hated him. That was the only explanation for his little wife to now be asking him to fuck her. His eyes shut tight and he worked to calm himself a moment, swallowing the immediate response of Sure, babes absolutely! as he ran his hand down her sides.

"Not yet, baby... I don't wanna hurt ya. We gotta get some meat on those bones first."

He smiled and opened his eyes, bending to kiss her firmly. He let a hand slide down to tease over her clit and down over the slit of her core, groaning softly.

"Besides, you're drunk. Don't wanna take advantage."

He kissed her cheek, letting his finger dip inside of her.

"Let's set a goal. For yer weight. When we hit it... then we can have sex. Hmm? How's that sound?"

Don't want to hurt you. Get some meat on those bones. You're drunk. Take advantage. Set a goal for your weight.

None of the reasons he was hissing out, nervously almost, made any goddamn sense to Lydia. Her previously calm, pulsating heart sunk into her stomach. Something was wrong. Somewhere along the way, she had misinterpreted something.

"Don't... don't you want me?"

She was so confused and hurt. Suddenly, she was acutely aware of her nudity rather than relishing it. Her arms trembled with the desire to come and cross over her chest but ultimately did not for fear of insulting him, making things worse. Didn't he think she was beautiful? Now she was too skinny for him?

Unable to meet his gaze even as he loomed over her, her chin tucked down, a short black fringe hiding her dangerously glassy eyes.

He cursed to himself and pressed his hips forward, letting his cock slide along her core. He let out a strangled growl, bending to force her chin up with a bruising kiss.

"You have no idea how hard yer makin' this for me, babes... o' course I want you. Ya can't tell? I been doin' a shit job as yer husband then."

He sat back on his knees, hauling her hips back into his lap roughly.

"You listen here, Lydia. Ya remember how I was before, right? I was a monster. You were scared o' me..."

A hand smoothed up her concave stomach. There was a little more there now than a few days ago, but not nearly enough to claim she was healthy enough for sex. He thumbed her clit gently, unable to help himself.

"I ain't about to go back t'that. Lil' healthy caution, maybe, but..."

He smirked and bent to kiss her again, nearly squishing her between his thighs and gut.

"I don' want ya thinkin' yer anything' less than a wet dream, but my number one priority right now is gettin' ya healthy and happy."

He nuzzled his nose against hers, perhaps holding her a little too tight.

"Aint ya happy, baby girl?"

His roughish treatment intimidated her out of debating it. It didn't make sense to her that if he wanted her so much he would wait for something so petty and insignificant to have sex. Lydia saw emaciated whores shagging it out in the damp crevices of Chicago and New York City all the time.

But then again, he was more than the average man; larger, more powerful, less restrained. It didn't help that she was contrarily smaller than the average woman, in both stature and strength. The implication that she wasn't well enough to handle something as basic as sex, however, still bothered her on an indignant level.

"I'm‒ I am‒"

She wanted to argue that she was healthy enough but knew that it wasn't true. She couldn't remember the last time she ate a fruit or vegetable before he took her. For that matter, when was her last period? Was she so malnourished that her body just stopped? Had she really just... not noticed? She recalled worrying once that it would come and she wouldn't have any sanitary products while she was at the Gallaghers, but then it was never an issue.

His rough mitt palmed firmly over her bony, empty middle, something inside of her lurched, and she wanted to cry. He was right. Why did he have to be right? How had she let herself get so low?

"I'm happy."

She choked on the words, and it wasn't clear whether it was from emotion or how tightly he was crushing her to him.

He sighed as she started to choke on her words, his hand coming up to cup her face in one large paw. He kissed her gentler now, rubbing her cheek.

"It's okay, babes. Don't get upset on me... ya been through some real tough shit lately. But yer here now... with me. We're gonna fix it, okay?"

He smiled weakly, not quite sure if he believed himself. She was so weak, so malnourished and small. It seemed that she was perhaps realizing this herself.

The moment was dead.

He rolled off of her, flat on his back and pulled her into his side.

"Hey, I know it's a lot but we're gonna get there, okay? We'll make sure yer feelin' real good before we consummate. I refuse t'hurt my girl, n' I know I ain't got that much self-control. It's me. Not you."

It was hard seeing herself as some sort of victim. After all, of all the hardships and obstacles she'd faced, she had come out alive and kicking, ready to face the next challenge; not unlike little Percy and Tia. They didn't know that they needed care and comfort and love. Someone had to show them they did, just like Betelgeuse was doing for her.

She calmed laying there pulled tight to his side, coming to terms with the facts of the case. This was not a rejection. It was a postponement. Because he cared about her. She could understand that.

"You never asked what happened to them."

He hadn't asked her much of anything at all. He just found her in the gutter like a tarnished coin, picked her up, polished her, and put her in his pocket. It didn't really matter to him, did it? He still got her at the end of the day.

"Who? Yer folks?"

He didn't know who else she could possibly mean. After all, it was their deaths that had put her in the position he found her in, and he couldn't help but be sour about that. The living were too fragile, and far too attached. One died and the whole family went to pieces.

"Ya wanna tell me, kitten? I didn't wanna upset ya by askin'. Could always ask Juno, but I kinda had my hands full."

He teasingly squeezed her ass, his other hand coming to smooth over the side of her breast. As teasing as the action was, his face was still stoic and somewhat calm. He wasn't trying to get a rise out of her, just wanted to lighten the mood.

"Do ya miss 'em? I could try to find out where they're at... say the word and it's yours, ya know that..."

"I know where they are."

Lydia had pointedly avoided the subject of her family during her time with him as she wasn't sure how he felt about them. She wasn't sure how she felt about them. Initially, she hadn't been in any position to demand he bring her to them, and now that she was, Lydia wasn't sure she wanted that.

"They're in Connecticut. Back... in the house."

She almost said "home." That wasn't her home anymore. This was. He hammered that point in further, squeezing and groping indulgently without any real aim. His lust never really went away, it seemed. It just took naps.

"Haunting it. With Adam and Barbara. They drowned in the same river. Swerved off the same bridge. My Dad was drunk. They didn't have a will, and nobody in their family wanted to take me. If I kept telling all the people I wanted to stay with my dead family, they would have had me locked up..."

He listened without interrupting, holding her tight against him as she spoke. It was clear to him that this was still a sensitive topic, so he didn't pipe in the scathing reviews he wanted to.

The same bridge? What the fuck was Chuck doing driving drunk when his kid was at home? For someone that concerned with their finances, how stupid was it to not have a will?

He sighed and pressed a kiss to her forehead firmly. "If you wanna go visit, let me know. And if ya don't that's fine too. Ya don't owe 'em anythin'. Not Chuck, Delilah, or the Dumbass Duo. Okay?"

He searched her face, trying to figure out the emotion that she was feeling. He sucked with emotions. One of the few things he was bad at.

"Is there anythin' still at the house ya want? I can get it for ya..."

"I don't think I could face them like this."

Clarification for what she meant went unspoken but remained clear; Neglected. Starved. Married.

"They wouldn't understand..."

A big part of her was furious with her father and Delia for leaving her behind so irresponsibly. Another part had already forgiven them.

"They would want me to leave you. I don't want to leave you. I don't know how to explain that in a way that would make sense to them."

Lydia hid from the weight of indecision beneath the blanket, curling it up over her head as she nestled into the crook of his neck so that she was thoroughly hidden away.

"All of my stuff‒ theirs too‒ went into a storage locker that I won't have access to until I'm eighteen. Same as my dad's money. Probably why none of his family wanted me. No financial incentive."

She had some good points, as much as he was loathed to admit it. They wouldn't understand. No one ever understood being in love at fifteen.

"Hey... yer birthday's next week. I could go round us up a good time. If ya know where the stuff is, I could probably get it out for ya, since we're happily wed n' all. Just need a good cover."

He patted the pile of feather comforter that made up her rear and smiled. Despite everything she'd been through, she maintained a childlike quality that he could appreciate. He'd grown up too fast... he wasn't going to let his wife.

"Come on. We'll change the subject. Whatcha wanna do for your birthday, kitten?"

Usually, Lydia's birthdays were a lowkey affair. She would get one to two expensive presents from her father and Delia, the number fluctuating depending on how abominable she had been to her stepmother that year. They would go out to eat at a restaurant of her choosing and then Lydia would get to go see a movie at the theater. They never came with her. They didn't have a stomach for the chilling, gory thrill-rides Lydia liked to choose.

That all seemed very tame and dull once Betelgeuse asked what she wanted. The sky was the limit. She was less concerned with what she actually wanted than making sure he wasn't bored for the special occasion. She was only going to turn sixteen once, and it was a devilish age.

"A party," she decided boldly, grinning with a mischievous gleam in her gaze. "There's a ballroom here, right? I want to put it to use. Streamers and balloons and punch and music and dancing and everything! A chocolate fountain with white chocolate‒ and raspberries! I've never been to a real party before. Not even school dances. No one ever asked me."

Something occurred to her, bringing a gloom down on her enthusiasm.

"But... I guess I don't really know anyone to invite. Can't have a party without guests..."

"Hey, leave guests to me babes. I know plenty of people who'd love to go to a ball."

He smiled and brushed his thumb over her cheek, glad that talk of celebration had pulled her out of her shell a bit. He could manage a ball. That wouldn't be a problem.

"Ya know, if we're gonna have a ball, you'll need a ball gown. Do ya trust me to pick one or do you wanna go shopping? Only a few days left if it's gonna get altered."

He hummed softly, his mind racing with preparations and plans. He could throw her a sweet sixteen the likes of which the world had never seen. He was already picturing silver tinsel spiderwebs and deep red velvet.

It would have to be perfect. Anything for his girl.

"You can pick one out for me."

He had excellent tastes. There was probably already something in that closet worthy of a shindig of this caliber. It was far too easy and comfortable for them to lie there in complete, mutual nudity while chit-chatting.

"Just nothing pink."

He wouldn't dare. Tia was whining down in her bed, waking Percy who had jumped down to snuggle her. She was just a baby and was therefore distressed by the revelation that she needed to relieve herself.

"You need to potty, baby?"

Lydia baby-talked the pup, already having crawled out of bed and his arms to don her robe. It was a long walk outside. Hopefully, Tia could make it.

He hadn't even thought about a puppy needing certain... things. Thank god Lydia was there to cover his shortfalls.

He pulled his own robe on and walked with her, humming to himself as he mentally built a guest list and layout for her big, blowout birthday.

"Hmm. Ya know maybe in a week or so, you'll be feeling better..."

This musing made it out of his mouth only because he was a few steps behind her, watching the silky material of her robe shift with her thin hips as he walked. A sweet sixteen was as good a time as any to consummate a marriage, right?

He thought so. Provided she kept eating well and seemed to be improving, she might be ready for the main act. It remained to be seen.

Percy was tucked into her pocket to come with them, refusing to be left alone once he saw the whole family was going. Lydia could feel eyes on her as she walked on just a few feet ahead of him and the intensity of her husband's gaze made her blush. He was practically burning through her thin robe. The blush darkened as she thought about what he must have been thinking about.

The closest route back outside was through the kitchens, past the greenhouse– as Lydia didn't want Tia using that area as a potty– and back out to the courtyard.

"We need to install a doggie door for you."

She was too tiny to be able to push one open with any effect. For the foreseeable future, they would be taking her on these little walks it seemed. It was good practice for taking care of a living thing that required a little more maintenance. While Tia did her business, Lydia retreated to her husband's arms in a fruitless attempt to escape the cold. Still, all the stars were out, the moon was bright, and the moment was a lovely repose to an eventful day.

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