Family Ways Part Two - Traditions
by Maygra

Rating: PG for themes, twisted and wrong.
Characters: Pa (Neal) Bender
Slight AU for The Benders

Note:  I was enabled. This however, is not for everyone. Uhm, continues just after Beau. his is an idea that 's been poking me in the head for awhile. Just a short spec.The little girl and the family as a whole in the Benders creeped me out. I would like them to stop, please.

(2,092 Words)

The characters and situations portrayed here are not mine, they belong to the WB. This is a fan authored work and no profit is being made. Please do not link to this story without appropriate warnings. Please do not archive this story without my permission.

Would surprise Neal if Missy changed her mind. He didn't really expect her to, but he needed a night to think about it. Worry on it some.

No man likes to think of another man touching his women folk, be it wife or daughter. But that was the way of things, and if he didn't give Missy what she wanted, what she'd been bending his ear about on and off for the past year, she'd find a way to take it herself. And might be she'd talk the boys into it, one or t'other.

He'd warned the boys, both of them, more'n once; since before Missy'd first started getting her cycles, before she'd first started looking less like a flat-chested boy and more like woman, that he'd make sure neither of them would never father children if they touched her. They'd both looked at him like he was crazy the first time he'd said it when Missy was ten years old. Long hair or not, she'd tied it up and braided it, kept up with them boys from the moment she could walk. They didn't think of her like that…

Until she started changing, getting curves where she'd had bones before. Lee especially, who didn't have the sense God gave fleas half the time. Neal had caught him peeking when Missy'd take her bath on Sundays. Fetching her more hot water if she wanted it.

Boy didn't even fetch hot water for himself. Neal had taken him out to the smoke house and whupped him bloody. Didn't matter none that Lee was a man full grown. The day he couldn't still put his boys on their knees, was they day he'd beg them to shoot and bury him.

"Don't you think I don't know what's in your mind when you look at her. But she's your sister, your own flesh and blood! You ever think to look at your Momma that way, boy? You ever think about doing the things you do to your women, them hussies and whores you like, to your own sister and I will tie you to the truck and drag you until you get some sense beaten into you. She's your family! She's the one cooks your food and washes your clothes. She ain't for you. You understand me, boy?"

Lee had. And Jarrod had known too. For good and proper.

But he wasn't a fool. Give Missy a couple of years and even his threats wouldn't make much difference. Hadn't for him. He hadn't been able to keep his hands off Lida, and she hadn't wanted him to. He thought their Pa was going to kill them both. Would have too if Neal hadn't been that much faster, that much younger.

He hadn't meant to kill his Daddy. Meant to stop him from killing Lida or him, but he hadn't meant to kill him. His momma had believed him, then she sat them both down, told them why Daddy'd been so mad.

Momma had been right, Daddy too. Lida'd lost more babies than had been born alive. And she'd wanted a lot of babies, wanted passel of kids like they grew up with, more hands to help. But she'd lost the first two. Then had come Jarrod. Wailing like a banshee, strong lungs, good heart. But Jarrod was a little off sometimes. Neal didn't know what it was. Just a little slow; he was a good boy though.

Momma had given them money, told them where to go, to find a place.

Made sense anyway. Too many already, mouths to feed. And they'd' all know, if he and Lida stayed. So he moved them both out a bit.

Hadn't been a year later when his younger brother Martin had stopped by to tell him Momma was dead too. Killed herself. Family was scattering.

He'd waited another year or two, gone back and found the old place abandoned.

But it was his. He was the eldest.

If Daddy'd told him, maybe, that there would be problems with the babies…but no. Too late by then. If he'd told him when he was younger, before Lida went and got all soft and curvy and with that wicked smile of hers. Maybe then.

He wasn’t going to make the same mistake with his boys, nor with Missy. It had been the babies that had killed Lida. The three that followed Missy. Lida'd gotten sicker after every one, a little crazier. He'd tried to stay away from her a bit. Let her recover, but then she'd call out for him…want him.

He never could say no to her. His sister had been a determined woman.

Had a hard time saying no to Missy as well.

But he could say no to the boys. Say it and make them understand.

But if Missy was like her Momma that way too, she'd find a way around them, around him. Beating the boys bloody wouldn't change that. Women…some women…they could make a man go crazy. Lida had been like that. Missy would be too.

He wasn't going to lose his little girl the way he'd lost his Lida with the blood too close and sick with bad, twisted babies.

And maybe those two idiots would know that if they wanted any part of what Neal owned to come to them, they'd better start raising families of their own, quit make such stupid choices in their women.

Different problem for a different day. If Missy had a baby to look after, she wouldn't be worrying too much about twisting her brothers around her fingers any more than she already did. Maybe she wouldn't be so sullen and out of sorts. Lida had always been happiest when she was either carrying a baby or raising one.

But this feller…he was a big man and Missy was a small girl -- woman. Lida hadn't been but a year or so older, though and not much bigger than Missy. He'd have to check this boy, didn't want Missy being hurt. If she'd really taken a shine to this boy…well, up to him and the boys to make sure it was good for her. Lida always told him the better the joining, the easier the carrying.

She'd used grease their first time. Her first time…and it had still been hard on her. She'd hurt some -- he could tell, but she came back at him like he hadn't left her bleeding. Missy was just as tough. She'd been kicked by the cows, bitten by dogs, gotten her foot caught in that old beaver trap and never a tear from her. So, he and the boys would make this as easy for her as they could; make it special.

Make sure that boy couldn't do nothing to hurt her.

Now, that could take some thinking, some planning. Couldn't leave him with his hands free, let him make a grab at his girl. Couldn't do it in the cage -- might be easier to handle him there, but if his little girl was going to get a baby from this feller, it was going to be nice for her. In a proper bed.

He reached back, felt for the iron of his own bedstead. It was still sturdy. He looked around. It was the biggest room, and Missy might like getting her baby on the same bed her momma had gotten her. He smiled at that. Lida had liked traditions. He could tell Missy that, let her come in here…maybe bring her own quilts, maybe her dolls. She talked to them like they were her kids anyway. She'd been practicing for this.

Let her look through her mother's chest. Lida had some pretty things she'd saved up. Always meant to give them to Missy, had packed them careful in cedar and mothballs.

He sat up, lit the lamp again. Needed to clean up some things, make sure there weren't no knives or guns...things that feller might use if he got loose.

No. No, no…couldn't chance that. Damn. Have to be in here with her, him or the boys…

Have to be the boys. Wasn't right for him to watch his girl with her beau. Weren't much more right for the boys to see it, but he couldn't leave her alone. Couldn't give her a knife either -- that feller was big, strong. Maybe he wasn't the kind to hurt girls or maybe he was. No way to know. No time to find out.

His eyes caught on the ragged curtains, moving in the night air. They were worn things but still blocked light…cast shadows on the open beams.

He chuckled to himself. Well, all right then. Lida had circled the bed with curtains in that old trailer they'd had first -- kept the flying bugs out of the bed. She'd seen it in a magazine. Done the same thing later with Jarrod's crib to keep the bugs and the rats out.

The boys could stay in the room then, and Missy could have her own little…her own…there was a word for it. A fancy word. Boudoir. Give Missy a fancy place…something pretty. Girls liked pretty. Missy didn't fuss much, but she liked the shiny barrettes Jarrod had given her for her thirteenth birthday. She liked to bring in flowers from the field, putting them right there in the kitchen when they worked. Got mad when they spattered blood on her flowers.

"Oh, Lida…wish you were here, darlin'," he said, kneeling down by her chest, rubbing his hands over the worn wood. "I think you'd want better for our girl…but it's getting harder. Harder to keep up the family…keep us away from the rest."

The chest squeaked a little when he opened it. He needed to grease the hinges. The scent of camphor was stronger than the smell of cedar, made his nose and throat burn a little. But he reached in, under the first layer of newspapers, felt the smooth soft cloths she'd kept there. He pushed the paper back carefully, found the box. Lee had made it. Was fine work, long and narrow, sanded smooth. Carved from a single thick trunk of ash. Hinged with leather and the fancy little brass tacking he'd found.

Missy's hair was just like her mother's, halfway between brown and gold, soft and curling. He'd loved Lida's hair, glad she never cut it. 'bout the only thing he'd ever been able to hold steady on Missy with, not cutting her hair. 'course she had six years or so ago; sweet-talked Jarrod into cutting it for her, told him it got in her way when she hunted.

He'd made Jarrod gather it all back up, bind it, and give it to him. He held up the longer hank of hair, Lida's hair, folded up sleek and soft in the box, Missy's shorter bundle next to it. Same color. Exact same color.

That feller's hair was a little darker. He was tall too. He smiled at that. Serve his boys right if their new nephew grew up to be taller than them.

Course it could be a girl. Neal wouldn't mind that either. House needed a woman. Every house needed a woman in it.

He stroked over the smooth wood. "If it's a boy, I'll ask Missy to name it after me. Maybe Daddy. Daddy should have his name remembered. But if it's a girl…we'll call her Lida. House don't feel the same without you, darlin'. Don't feel like a home really without a Lida in it," he said quietly. "I'm doing my best, here, girl. I'll do my best by our girl. I will."

He petted Lida's hair and put it back, set the box aside and reached deeper in, found the dresses wrapped in tissue paper, found the curtains. They felt frail in his hands, like Lida had before she died, but they didn't tear under his hands, not easy anyway.

Little flowers dotted the edges of them. Missy would like the flowers.

Maybe that feller would see that Missy was special. Maybe he'd…he'd want to see his baby raised.

He didn't think so, but he could hope for it. If it would make Missy happy, he'd do his best.

You take care of our girl, Neal. She's a special one, she is. She'll be the one to pull you and the boys through this all, you see if she don't. You do right by her. You promise me.

He'd promised. He could make it right for her. Make it good.

See if he didn't.


To part three: Courting


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