Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 12

The day of his deployment arrived too soon for either of them. The sun was bright and air unusually warm for that early in the day. Rusty had one arm resting across his steering wheel, his window down. Every now and then he would shoot her a wink or a crooked smile. He looked too relaxed, his demeanor radiating a calm strength. Nothing like how Peyton felt.

Her body trembled uncontrollably, almost as if she was chilling from a fever. She grasped Rusty's hand tighter, wishing he could transfer some of his relaxed energy. The blood had probably quit reaching his finger tips ten minutes ago, but he never flinched or complained. He continued rubbing small circles on the back of her hand. The gesture was meant to comfort her, but the only thing that would help her today was turning this truck around and climbing back into bed.

Her nerves were about shot by the time they made it through the entrance gate and to where they would say their final goodbyes. They had stayed up most of the night before, lying in each other's arms and talking about everything except today. It had been like a black cloud following them since he had told her.

"I'm scared," she blurted, causing Rusty to stop and drop his gear. "I don't think I can do this, Rusty."

"Don't be, baby. I'll be back before you know it," he promised, cupping her face in his palm. She leaned into his touch, closing her eyes.

That was one promise that she really hoped he kept. Although it had sounded sincere, she was still unconvinced, because how could he know?

Peyton's eyes scanned the crowd around them. There were dozens of other people, bidding their soldiers farewell. She saw a couple around their age, standing a few feet away. The woman turned to the side and Peyton's stomach dropped when she saw her protruding abdomen. She had to be at least six or seven months pregnant. Her heart broke at the thought of the young woman giving birth alone. Panic seized her as the couple turned into her and Rusty.

Her eyes darted to Rusty, who was nodding at a small cluster of men and women as they ambled by. The group returned the gesture, warmth flooding the two women's eyes. Peyton knew their team was a close knit group. She forced a smile, as well, when her eyes met with one of the women's. The dark skinned lady gave her a tight, sad smile. Sympathy shown bright in her almost black colored eyes.

Peyton turned her gaze to the concrete and released a shaky breath. She had no idea how these women did it deployment after deployment. The movies lied. There was nothing romantic about saying goodbye to your soldier.

"Peyton!" Ty's voice came from behind her and she turned just as he pulled her in for a hug. They stepped apart and he placed his hands on her shoulders. "Don't worry, mon cher, I'll bring him back to you."

"Do that, please," she begged, knowing her eyes spoke volumes more than her words, "Oh, and Ty? Stay safe." She hugged him again and placed a kiss on his check.

"Are you going to miss me?" Rusty teased after Ty had walked off. His grey eyes twinkled as he slipped his arms around her waist.

"How are you so flippant about this?" she cried, voice cracking while giving him an incredulous look. Tears welled up, burning her eyes.

Rusty raised an eyebrow, caught off guard by her outburst. His grip loosened a fraction. "Flippant? What are you talking about?"

"The whole morning! You've been Mr. Calm, Cool, and Collected!" she shrieked, her voice raising an octave.

"Calm down, Peyton," he responded, trying to soothe her. The sudden rise of her voice had caused more than a few heads to turn their way. He took her hands in his, ducking his head to force her to meet his eyes. "Listen, I'm anything but calm, cool, and collected. I'm trying to stay upbeat for you. This isn't easy for me, either. I don't know how to do this, to leave you. I've never done this before, so it's a first time for me, too."

Peyton remained silent, not knowing how to answer him. She had been too caught up in her own misery to even attempt to see it from his point of view. Rusty had never been in a serious relationship, so even though he had been through many deployments, this was the first time he was leaving someone behind. This was uncharted territory for both of them. The thought relaxed her just a tiny bit.

"It's killing me inside. Don't think for a second just because I'm not a wreck on the outside, that I'm not on the inside. My survival depends on keeping my emotions in check."

"I'm sorry," she whispered, suddenly embarrassed by her little tantrum.

"Don't be sorry," he argued, "Just promise me you'll think about me every day, and that you'll be right here when I get back."

"Of course, Rusty, I promise!" Peyton insisted fiercely, shaking her head at the absurdity of him even asking her that. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm in this."

"T-minus five minutes, boys!" Sarge shouted, causing the chatter of the crowd to dissipate. It immediately picked up as he walked away, rising to a dull roar as everyone frantically scrambled for the right words.

Peyton's eyes widened in fear as the moment drew closer. She was pulled in for a tight embrace. Her hands clutched Rusty's uniform, clinging to him for dear life. She wasn't ready to let go. He pushed her back, eyes skimming her face before pressing a rushed kiss to her lips.

"Take these," he urged, releasing her to remove his dog tags. He placed them into her palm, closing her fingers around them. "I'll get more."

"I won't take them off," she assured. Tears began flowing freely as she struggled to memorize every single detail of him.

"I love you. You're the strongest person I know, Peyton. You'll be fine." Rusty held her face between his hands. He placed a few brief kisses on her lips before letting go and slinging his bag back over his shoulder. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a plain envelope. "Read this when you get home. I'll write when I get the chance."

"Let's go!"

Rusty started backing away, leaving Peyton to mourn on her own. Her lips trembled as she tried to keep the remaining few pieces of her dignity intact. She wrapped her arms around her waist, choking back the sobs. He strolled away, back erect and strong, chin up. He was so handsome in his uniform. Her soldier.

"Does it get any easier?" she whimpered to the woman standing next to her. It turned out to be the black lady she had smiled at earlier.

"Honestly?" The woman met her pathetic gaze. Peyton nodded with a sniffle and the woman visibly deflated, unshed tears shining in her eyes. "No."


Don't look back. Don't look back. Don't look back.

Rusty repeated the mantra over and over in his head. He had already promised himself that he wouldn't, because he was sure if he did then he would run back to her and refuse to leave. However, right before he walked onto the ramp leading into the large aircraft, he had a moment of weakness and stopped to take one last look.

She was planted in the same spot, arms crossed around her waist. She looked devastatingly beautiful in her simple tank top and jean shorts, hair falling in loose waves. He took a mental snapshot, knowing he would need it on those long, lonely nights ahead. He made a mental note to ask for a picture when he wrote her.

Even from here he could see the tears rolling down her face. She gave him a small wave and then pressed her hand to her lips before blowing the kiss his way. He grinned and reached up to catch it, making a show of putting it in his pocket. Then, he turned and entered the plane, leaving his heart behind with the beautiful, blonde headed woman that bore sad blue eyes.

He only felt a little guilty for the white lie he had told her. No matter how many times he promised he would come back, in all honesty, he had no idea if he would. There was always the chance that he might not. He wouldn't have said it, though. That would've only made things worse. Besides, she knew it. There was no need to say it when it hung around like the elephant in the room.

What scared him more was the thought that she might get tired of waiting. She had promised to be right there when he got back, but he knew that was one of those things easier said than done. Very few women were cut out for this life. He had seen over and over how it had ended relationships, even marriages.

As if on cue, Ty took the spot next to Rusty and they nodded to one another in greeting. He had spent the past few days and nights at Peyton's house, wanting to spend every last second with her. Ty understood. Rusty gave him a half hearted smile when he nudged his shoulder.

Peyton had yet to make love to him or even tell him she loved him, but that was fine with him. He would wait until the end of time if he had to. Regardless, she had apologized profusely the night before, feeling guilty for not being able to give him that intimacy on their last night together. It hadn't bothered him, though.

As the plane took off, Rusty had never felt more torn than in that moment. The days or sometimes mere hours, depending on how soon they were notified, leading up to his deployments were always filled with an anxious anticipation. He was always ready to fight for his country. All he had ever wanted to be was this. This was his job, his passion. He had always loved it, but now, now he wasn't so sure anymore. He thought he may have found the one thing that he loved more.

How could one person make you rethink your whole life?

Rusty was contemplating that question when he noticed something sticking out of his pocket. He grabbed it and pulled, revealing a photograph. Rusty grinned from ear to ear when Peyton's smiling face stared back at him. She was riding one of her horses, turned in the saddle to look at him. Her lips were caught in the beginnings of a laugh, blue eyes shining bright. Her long locks flowed from beneath one of his ball caps. He brushed a thumb across her face, already feeling an ache in his heart from her absence.

Flipping the picture over, it held a simple note.

Come home to me. xoxo


I’m sitting on your back deck as I write this and there is already an ache from missing you. I know I’m not gone yet and I still have three more days with you, but the months ahead are going to be the hardest of my life.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be a Ranger. Anytime anyone asked that was exactly what I told them. And until now, being called one was what I loved the most. Before, I was always itching to go overseas. I lived for the missions I was sent on. Now, I am feeling torn. Being sent away still brings me the excitement, but now it also brings me pain. I’ve never had to worry about the one I left behind and I’m not sure how to handle that. The hurt that you’re going to feel kills me, because I know it’s my fault. I just hope you know I love you more than life itself.

I have never been one to believe in love at first sight, but the moment I laid eyes on you, I fell hard. I didn’t want to tell you that before, because I was scared it would run you off. The fact that you even gave me a chance still amazes me.

You’re too good for me, but I’ll continue to try to win your heart until the day I die. The moment our eyes met, I felt a connection I have never felt with anyone else. I knew I had to get to know you better. Every single day I wake up and thank God that I met you. I didn’t realize anything was missing out of my life until you came along.

I hope you know how beautiful and strong you are. A lot of women would spend the rest of their lives living in fear after what has happened to you. But the fact that you still get up every morning and put a smile on your face inspires me. It hasn’t molded you into a bitter person. You are the most loving and generous woman I have ever known.

Watching you work with the horses makes me smile. At first I thought you just had a knack for animals, but now I see the truth. You can relate to them. You have been where they have been and you help them overcome it, just like you did. Every single day you amaze me a little more. You’re special. Don’t ever forget that and don’t ever let anyone tell you any differently. I’m going to end this now, before I say too much and send you running. I love you.

With All My Heart,
♠ ♠ ♠
I know it has been a while, but I've been really busy with college and stuff. I'll update again as soon as I get the chance. Thanks to everyone for being patient! =)