Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 11

It was a quiet, tense ride to the beach. The day was going nothing like Rusty had expected. He glanced at Peyton out of the corner of his eye, his dark sunglasses hiding the secretive look. It didn't matter, anyways, because her attention was elsewhere. She appeared deep in thought as she watched the scenery fly by. She had one foot up in the seat, arm wrapped around her knee while she chewed on the nails of her other hand.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he hesitantly questioned, breaking the silence. Her gnawing stopped and body stiffened, being the only things that let him know she had heard him. "It might make you feel better," he finished lamely.

"Not right now," she mumbled, her voice barely audible. Her head never turned.

Rusty fell quiet once again, fine with her answer. He had a lot on his mind, too. The only difference between him and her, though, was that he had to tell her. That was a conversation that filled him with dread. He had no idea how to even begin, because regardless of what he said, the news wasn't going to go over well.

He was relieved when they pulled into the beach access parking. He had been able to avoid the conversation for at least a few more minutes. He stepped down from his truck and walked around to open Peyton's door and help her out. She avoided eye contact and removed her hand from his as soon as her feet connected with the pavement. He blew out a frustrated breath and removed his ball cap, using it to scratch at an itch that wasn't there.

The sky was a brilliant blue with no clouds in sight and a small breeze was blowing. It was perfect weather for spending the day at the beach. The sand and salty sea air was exactly what he needed after their unexpected morning. He was still mentally beating himself up over letting things go so far. He wasn't sure if Peyton's silence was because she was upset with him or if she was upset with herself.

Either way, Rusty had been honest when he told her that he didn't care to wait. Patience was one of his better traits and it was proving to be just as useful in his personal life as it always had in his professional life. Peyton was well worth the wait. He just hoped that after today, she still thought he was worth it.

They spread their towels out on the hot sand. His eyes scanned the surrounding beach out of habit. Some parts of his job came home with him. There was only a light crowd, but it was still early in the day. He was momentarily distracted when Peyton started peeling her clothes off. He would be lying if he had said he wasn't looking forward to gawking at her all day.

Obviously, he wasn't the only one that felt that way. A small cluster of guys stood a few feet away, checking her out. Rusty removed his cap and sunglasses before tugging his shirt overhead and replacing them. The men were still staring, but Peyton was oblivious. He smirked triumphantly when he caught her eyes skimming his body.

He took a step towards her and placed his hands on her waist, praying that she wouldn't pull away. The strong sun had already warmed her skin. A sigh sounded from her lips as she sank into him. He visibly relaxed and slid his hands around to her lower back. Her hands brushed up his sides and across his chest before sliding around his neck. Their lips connected and he subtly moved a hand to give the group of gawkers his middle finger. Get you some of that.[\i]

After pulling back, Peyton laid her forehead against his chest. He took the moment to look past her. He was satisfied when he saw that the guys had moved elsewhere.

"I'm sorry," Peyton spoke quietly. Rusty leaned away to look into her face, taken aback by the apology. "About earlier. About not being able t-"

"I meant it when I said it didn't matter," Rusty interrupted, tilting her chin so she would look up at him. He took his sunglasses off and placed them on the top of his hat. He wanted her to be able to see his eyes when he told her this. "I'm not with you for that. Will I be excited as hell when you're ready? Damn right, but I'm content with us how we are. I love you, Peyton."

Her face gave away her astonishment as her eyes widened and her fingers covered her mouth. To be honest, he was even a little surprised by his confession.

"Rus-" He dropped a swift kiss onto her plump lips, silencing her.

"You don't have to say anything. I realize we've only known each other a few months," he insisted, linking his fingers through hers, "but it's true. That's how I feel."

Her eyes glassed over and face scrunched. Wordlessly, she wrapped her arms around his neck and squeezed him tightly. Secretly, he had hoped she would say it back, but he supposed this would do. Rusty returned the embrace, pulling her as close to him as he could. If only the next conversation could go as smoothly as that one.

"Listen, there's something you need to know," Rusty started, grasping her shoulders and taking a step back.

"Does this mean I'm your girlfriend?" she asked with a wry smile. Her blues eyes flashed, mischievousally.

He gave her a confused look, dropping his hands. "I thought you were already my girlfriend."

"Well, we never talked about it. I didn't want to just assume," she trailed off, suddenly shy.

The sudden change in her demeanor was endearing. Rusty always managed to feel like a lovesick fool around her. Everything she did and said was just adorable and perfect.

"Assuming is fine," he insisted, earning a giggle. She swatted at him, playfully. "Why don't we go for a swim?"

The conversation wasn't happening anytime soon. That was probably for the best. It would be a terrible way to follow up a profession of love. They might as well enjoy the day while they could.

The day passed rapidly as they alternated between lazing under the sun and cooling off in the ocean. All thoughts and tension from that morning had completely disappeared. Peyton was all smiles and laughs as Rusty teased and goofed off with her. It was a perfect day.

"Oh, I almost forgot," Peyton said, sitting up and spinning to face him. She had been lounged between his legs while they watched the many children chase the waves and build sand castles. "You said you needed to tell me something earlier, but I interrupted."

"Hmm?" Rusty mumbled. The warm sun was starting to make him sleepy.

"You know, after you told me that one thing?" she continued, poking his chest. She poked him again when he didn't answer. "Say it again."

His eyes remained close, but he smiled at her request, knowing exactly what she wanted to hear. "I love you," he murmered as he nuzzled her ear.

"I'll never get tired of hearing that," she whispered against his mouth before kissing him, lazily. He bit back a remark about how he wished he could hear it. "Now tell me what you were talking about."

The light, playful mood from the day quickly dissipated. Rusty's stomach knotted up as he realized he still hadn't told her. He pushed back from her, needing the extra space. His eyes searched the deep blue of the ocean, as if it held the answers he seeked. How did you tell someone something that could very well break their heart? He dropped his head, not wanting to look into those eyes that held so much trust for him.

"Rusty?" she prodded, voice tinted with concern.

"Peyton," he started, but faltered. He removed his cap and dropped it next to him. Rubbing his face, he blew out a breath and groaned.

"You're scaring me." She pried his hands from his face, voice strained. He chanced a look into her gorgeous, blue eyes. He gave her a half-hearted smile that he knew didn't quite meet his eyes. She nervously tucked hair behind her ear. "What is it?"

"I," he hesitated, but took a deep breath and ground out, "I'm being deployed."

She yanked her hands back so quickly it was almost as if his skin had caught fire and burned her. Her expression turned to one of disbelief. "W-what?"


I'm being deployed.

The words were like a kick to Peyton's gut, or rather her heart. She jerked her hands away and stared in disbelief. It felt like the world was slowing and speeding up all at the same time.

"W-what?" she gasped, that being the only coherent thing that would even form in her mind.

She barely registered the hurt that flashed through his smoky eyes. All she could think about was what he had said. Did he really say that? Was this just a bad dream? It had to be, right? That made sense. A lot of nightmares started out perfect and then ended in something horrible. Usually what a person was terrified of most. Rusty being deployed was definitely at the top of her list.

"Breathe, baby," Rusty soothed, taking her face in his large hands.

She sucked in a couple deep breaths, not having realized that she had been holding it. Their eyes connected, but she couldn't quite focus. She felt like a stranger looking in on this heartbreaking moment. Pushing up, she clambered to her feet and started stumbling away. The only place she could really go was the water. So, she started running, pumping the sand beneath her feet as she raced away from Rusty and his terrible words.

The water was icy against her hot skin and she dove underneath. If only it could wash away the pain like it did the sand. Gasping for air, she broke the surface and flipped over to float on her back. The water filled her ears, drowning out the sound of Rusty's deep voice calling her name. The world was momentarily quiet with only the ocean roaring in her ears.

Strong hands clasped her waist and she flailled her arms as she tried to break away. The salty water burned her eyes and she blinked rapidly. Her movements stilled when Rusty's handsome face came into focus. A frown pulled the corners of his mouth down. She caressed his cheek, wishing she could take away the sadness his grey eyes held.

"Let's go home," he murmered, kissing each cheek and sweeping her into his warm embrace.

She leaned into him, breathing in his masculine scent. There was barely a hint of his spicy aftershave clinging to his skin now. The smells of their long, joyful day had all but washed it away completely. The salt of his sweat mingled with the salt of the sea, bringing her small comfort. It let her know she was still alive even though her feelings had numbed.

She was vaguely aware of strolling past their things as Rusty made a straight beeline to his truck. She wanted to protest against leaving her favorite pair of shorts, but dropped her head back into the crook of his neck, too drained to even form the words. What did it really matter anyways?

Once in the truck, Rusty buckled her in and placed a gentle kiss on her temple before closing the door. Her head dropped against the cool window as the truck rumbled to life. Her soaking hair dripped salty drops onto her cheeks and she moved to wipe the wet strands away. She was surprised to find the damp tracks weren't caused by her hair, but were actually silent tears running down her face.

Peyton cried the rest of the way home.

Rusty carried her into the house, up the stairs, and gently laid her on her bed. The room was dark, the sun already having set. He helped her into a dry shirt before removing her damp top and handing her dry panties. Mechanically, she pulled them on and fell back into her soft bed. Her eyes already felt sensitive and swollen and her throat ached.

She was just dozing when Rusty pressed a kiss onto her forehead and whispered, "I'm going to head home. I'll be back in the morning. I love you."

Drowsily, she struggled to crack her eyes, feeling like they were weighted down. Her arm felt like lead as she reached for him. She got a loose hold on his forearm and weakly pulled. He turned back to her, but she couldn barely out his shape.

"Don't leave me," she pleaded, urgently.

The last thing she remembered was him curling his large frame around her and drifting off to sleep to the sound of his breathing.
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I just started a new story. I've been working on it for a while and was just too excited to wait. Check it out and let me know what you think, please. I will be finishing this one, though, so don't panic. =)