Parker liked to make a big deal out of Eliot’s family. He figured it was just because she didn’t really have one of her own. Of course, as far as existing family went that actually still talked to him, there was really only him and Lindsey these days, as he tried to explain. That didn’t matter to his new wife. Parker insisted they must have had parents and grandparents, a whole family tree, even if those people weren’t actually around anymore.
“Sweetheart, we got more family legends than you’ve got thief skills,” Lindsey told her from the armchair, taking a slug of his beer from the bottle, even as she snorted.
“No way!” Parker shook her head, curling further into Eliot’s side on the couch.
“She’s got a point, Linds,” he agreed. “There ain’t even a number for all the skills she’s got.”
Parker stuck her tongue out at her new brother-in-law for good measure, before looking up at her husband.
“You could still tell me your stories, about all your family,” she urged him. “I wanna hear,” she prodded, figuratively and literally at the same time.
A finger right in the ribs wasn’t exactly what Eliot needed when he was trying to drink. His beer almost came swilling from his lips as he shoved her off a little.
“Damnit, Parker,” he cursed, even as he tried not to laugh. “You wanna hear, we’ll tell you, but not right now,” he said, putting his bottle down on the table and then pulling her in close again. “It’s already late.”
“Jeez, Grandpa, when’d you turn into such a stick-in-the-mud.” Lindsey rolled his eyes. “Ain’t even eleven yet.”
Eliot did not like being called names by his brother, not now any more than when they were kids. He also knew that he was only being like this to get Parker her own way. It was a poor state of affairs when your brother and wife were so willing to gang up against you, sharing winks and smiles when they knew they were succeeding. Still, Eliot let it go. Anything to make Parker happy and keep the peace in their mini family unit of oddness.
“Fine, then you start,” he told Lindsey, getting comfortable amongst the cushions with Parker curled up close.
“Fine, I will.” His brother nodded once. “I’ll start on Momma’s side. Y’see, Parker, when I went out in the world it was with our Momma’s last name,” he explained, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket and soon producing a picture. “There you go, Elizabeth Mary McDonald,” he stated as Parker took the photo and studied it.
There was a nostalgic yet sad smile on Eliot’s lips that she completely missed as she stared at the middle aged lady in the picture, whilst Lindsey began to elaborate on their family tree.
“Her father, our Pops, he told us the tale of his own great grandfather. He was a brave man, part of a mutiny against a ship’s Captain that had murdered a good man. He and two friends, they set out for that dead man’s ranch, on a promise to take care of the land, and his widow. ‘Course some folks didn’t take too kindly to strangers messing up what they had planned. An assassin was brought in to town, by the name of Beau Dorn. He shot our great, great, great Granddaddy down, but J.T. Langston, he left a legacy behind him...”
Three men paced up and down the narrow porch of the ranch house, waiting nervously for news. None of them were the father of the baby that was supposed to be born any minute. In fact, only one man present was even a husband, and Rafe was married to the ever-supportive Anne, not poor Millie who was going through the most intense pain of her life right now.
The doctor was in there too, promising as much as he could that everything would be okay. The saloon girl who was about to be a mother was both strong and tough. She would come through child-birth just fine they were sure, and yet it didn’t stop the men on the porch from worrying. Rock was pretty sure he never smoked so much in his life as he had these past two hours together. Old Joe knew the Irishman was properly worried, after all, he hadn’t cracked a single joke in all that time!
All three were thinking in equal parts about the baby about to arrive and that same child’s father. John Thomas Langston. The young man that had died way too soon. He had been a loyal friend to all of them, an ally in a war he never should’ve been the victim of. He ought to have been stood here with them now, waiting on his son or daughter about to be born. There was no doubt in any of their minds that he would’ve made Millie his wife when he knew she was carrying. They could’ve been such a happy family.
A scream came from inside the house, and Rafe winced at the sound of it. He’d faced white men with guns, Indians with arrows and tomahawks, and he never flinched once. The sound of a poor young woman giving birth was that much worse somehow.
“How much longer, you reckon?” asked Rock, crushing another spent smoke beneath his boot.
“Could be any amount of...” Joe had barely started to answer when the front door swung open, grabbing the attention of all three men.
Anne stepped out into the daylight with a smile on her lips and sweat on her brow. It had all been very trying on the nerves, but it was over now, and besides, her suffering was nothing compared to Millie’s own.
“It’s a boy.” Anne smiled at her husband and at the other two waiting men. “A healthy baby boy.”
Tears sprung from her eyes as she went into Rafe’s arms and allowed him to hug her close. It was a moment of both happiness and joy. Both mother and baby had lived through their ordeal, but J.T.’s son would never know the brave and kind man that was his father.
“Didn’t she say if it was a boy...?” Joe began to ask, but didn’t need to finish the question as Rock nodded his head.
“She’d name him after his Da’,” he confirmed. “John Thomas Langston the second, so he shall be.” He smiled sadly. “May he be as good a friend and as good a man as his father before him.”
The others all silently agreed with that sentiment and prayer, no doubt about it.
Parker had tears in her eyes and a shake in her voice when Lindsey finished his story.
“I know what it’s like,” she sniffled. “To not know your parents. I guess, at least little J.T. had his mother, and he must’ve been okay. I mean, he got married and had at least one kid of his own, or you guys wouldn’t be here.”
“Didn’t grandpa say he marry Rafe Covington’s daughter?” asked Eliot, trying to recall the big family tree his Momma used to have hanging on the wall when they were kids.
“Yeah, er, Mary Ann, I think?” his brother tried to recall, thinking carefully about it, whilst Eliot hugged Parker closer and tried to stop her crying. “They would’ve been Great Grandma Rose’s parents. She had Grandpa Will, and him and Grandma Suzy had Momma,” he explained, quite proud of himself when he made it all the way down the branch to himself and his brother.
“I guess all families have their tragedies.” Eliot sighed then. “Ours is Lindsey.” He smirked, even as his brother picked up the nearest available object and shied it at his head.
The hitter might’ve been mad about it if he didn’t know he deserved it, or if the thing that hit him in the shoulder was more lethal than a balled up paper napkin.
“You should be nicer to your brother,” Parker reminded him, though it appeared she was too comfortable to move enough to poke him again.
“You should be on my side,” her new husband retorted, much to Lindsey’s amusement. “He can’t even tell a story properly. That family tree of ours went back further than J.T. Langston, remember?” he prompted.
“That Wheeler part was always sketchy.” His brother shook his head, but Parker’s eyes were wide open again with interest so he had to explain. “Okay, so supposedly J.T.’s mother was Caroline Wheeler, and her Daddy was Abe Wheeler, also known as High Wolf.”
“High Wolf?” Parker echoed, with a frown. “That’s not a name.”
“It’s a Cherokee name, darlin’,” Eliot explained. “He was half native American.”
His wife was looking at him practically upside down, and staring rather more than he would’ve been comfortable with if she were anyone else. Just when he was about to ask her what the hell she was doing, she told him anyway.
“I see it.” She smiled, looking at Lindsey then. “Yeah, you could be part Cherokee,” she decided.
Both brothers were a little amused by that. So many generations back, it was crazy to think Parker could see any sign, but then crazy was practically her middle name. It was one of many reasons why they both loved her in their different ways.
“Well, that’s just about it for Momma’s side,” Lindsey declared then, finishing off his beer. “’Cept for her sister, Aunt Annie, and she’s been gone a while now.”
“I guess our only living family on that side would be her son,” Eliot considered, “but I haven’t seen Ryan Roberts since we were all three feet tall,” he shook his head.
“Pretty sure I heard he got married a while back,” Lindsey said thoughtfully. “I could be wrong.”
Parker yawned loudly then, practically asleep beneath Eliot’s arm. He smiled at how oddly angelic she looked and then moved to pick her up into his arms.
“Time we were headed to bed,” he declared as he carried his wife off to their bedroom. “See you in the mornin’, Lindsey.”
“Yeah,” his brother barely answered, even though he was staring at the only people that he could really call family these days.
This whole family tree he could talk about, stretching back over two hundred years into the past, and yet here and now there was just his twin and the guy’s new wife that he really had to call his own. It might seem like a sad situation to anyone who heard about it, but for Lindsey it worked just fine. He’d been completely alone, and that was far worse. Maybe family wasn’t so bad after all.