Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 15

The day was beautiful and warm with no clouds in sight. Perfect weather for riding horses, and that was exactly what Rusty and Peyton were doing. It felt good to be back in the saddle, literally. Although he had helped Peyton with some of the rescue horses, none of them had been ready for a man's presence.

Today was his first time riding since leaving Texas eight years ago, but it all came back to him with ease. That was about the only thing his father had done right in raising him, teaching him to ride a horse. The memories of a less than ideal childhood clawed to the surface, but he shoved them back. What happened back then didn't matter anymore. He was a different person now. A better and stronger one.

It had been almost two weeks since Joker's funeral. The pain of losing his friend still weighed heavily on Rusty's mind. Not a day went by that he didn't think about that night. Wondering what he could've done differently or dissecting how it had all went downhill so fast. They had been so sure it would be an easy infiltration and extraction. In and out before the insurgents even knew they were there. They had a foolproof plan with surprise and the cover of darkness on their sides.

Obviously the plan hadn't been foolproof, though. The team had went in too arrogant, too reckless. Rusty saw that now. They had been too sure of themselves and Joker had paid the price. Rusty felt more than the typical gnawing guilt from it. He had been right next to his fallen comrade, after all. It was his job to have his back and he had failed. He had failed Joker and he had failed the man's family. Their shattered faces and ear piercing wails would forever hold a place in his mind.

Overwhelmed, he had come close to confessing some of his sorrow to Peyton, but the thought was always a fleeting one. Even if he legally could talk about it, he still probably wouldn't. What good would it do? Would she look at him the same? It would only prove to bring her more fear and apprehension. Lord knew she didn't need that. It was always lying in wait just beneath her infectious smile and loving gazes.

Rusty had been somewhat concerned when he had found Peyton standing in his kitchen by herself the night of Joker's burial. She had seemed fine albeit a little distracted, but it wasn't hard to figure out what had kept her up. The first death was always the hardest. You never exactly grew used to them, but you did learn to cope with them better. After the fourth one, you would assume one would be considered an expert, but the pain was just as real and raw as ever. The guilt still all encompassing.

Rusty involuntarily rubbed his fingers over the right side of his ribcage. He couldn't feel the permanent sketch beneath his t-shirt, but he knew it by heart. His eyes scanned it every day, multiple times. It was a pathetic, futile memorial to the brothers he had lost along his military career. Sometimes, Rusty wondered if it was actually for them, or for himself. Something to ease the throbbing of his conscience that all too often threatened to consume him. Each death, he replayed over and over, knowing the many steps he could have taken to prevent them. The many psychologists insisted that was bullshit, that none were his fault.

The thing about war though, was that it all came down to fate, not skills or brains. It didn't matter how seasoned or careful a soldier was, if given enough opportunities, death usually came knocking.

"You about ready to stop for lunch?" Peyton called from a few feet ahead, turning in the saddle to look at him. The sound of her musical voice roused Rusty from his dark musing.

Without even knowing, she had brought bright rays of sunshine through the cracks of his internal prison. She penetrated deep into his soul, making him feel more whole than he had felt in his entire life. Beautiful couldn't even begin to describe the way she looked on top of her horse. Her ponytail was beginning to fall down and one pant leg remained untucked from her boots. Her body swayed in rhythm with the horse, the two becoming one.

Shadows played on her expectant face as they passed through a cluster of trees. "About damn time. My stomach has only been growling for the past 30 minutes," he teasingly hollered back. Pulling his cap down, he attempted to hide the smirk on his face.

She wrinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out at him before lightly kicking her horse. They took off, leaving Rusty and DoDo in their dust. He laughed before kicking his horse. The large black animal barely picked up to a trot. Rusty had learned real quick that DoDo did not get in a hurry. It took two more tries before the horse begrudgingly followed suit and galloped after the two females.

They followed the trail that Peyton and Firefly had taken. The small path opened up into a meadow. It didn't take Rusty long to recognize it from the picture hanging in Peyton's living room. It was alive with brilliant shades of blues, yellows, oranges, and purples. It had to be one of the prettiest sights he had ever seen. Other than his girlfriend, of course. Rusty groaned in disgust at his own cheesiness.

Peyton had already laid out the blanket and food for their picnic by the time he got to her. “You can just let DoDo go. They won't wander far." She shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun as he slid from the saddle.

They ate in a comfortable silence, both reveling in the gorgeous day and their beautiful surroundings. Rusty couldn’t imagine having anyone else by his side. While sipping her outstanding sweet tea, he noticed the hint of sadness hiding in the way she looked at the field of wildflowers. This had to be bittersweet for her. He reached for her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. She turned to face him and the corners of her mouth turned up into a grateful smile.

He returned it before speaking reverently, “They would be proud of you.”

“I know,” she whispered. She turned her head and quickly wiped her eyes. It made him feel bad for bringing them up. “Tell me about your family. You have this peculiar habit of changing the subject when they're brought up." She sent him an accusing look. He bit his tongue against the urge to point out her own change of topic. It would've been just another defensive maneuver.

Rusty dropped her hand and rubbed his face, turning his head away from her. He didn’t like talking about his family. It wasn’t as painful as it was embarrassing. He was ashamed of the mother that was never there and the father who had coasted through raising him and had ultimately failed miserably. “There’s not much to say really. I mean, I didn’t have much of a family.”

“What about your mother?” she quizzed as she scooted closer and laid her head on his shoulder. His arm automatically went around her as he gently laid his head on top of hers.

“She left not long after I was born. She was a stripper that dad foolishly fell in love with, thinking he could make her stay,” Rusty admitted, glad she wasn't looking at him. He didn't want her to see the way his face flushed, and he certainly didn't want to see the pity her face held.

"And your dad?" she prodded after he grew silent. He tensed at the thought of the callous man.

Rusty let out a deep sigh. This really wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have, but she had opened up and told him her past. Even though it was obviously excruciating for her. He at least owed her the same. “My dad was an abusive alcoholic. Don’t get me wrong, he was the hardest worker I knew, but as soon as that sun went down then he would start drinking. After came the ranting about how my mom was nothing more than a dirty whore and how I reminded him of her," Rusty laughed bitterly. It was such a blatant lie from the bastard. He had looked so much like his father, it was uncanny. "When he tied enough under his belt, he would smack me around some before finally passing out. That was pretty much it until I enlisted in the Army.”

“That’s awful. I guess we're more alike than I thought,” she said softly, while drawing shapes on his arm. He hadn't ever thought of it that way. It depressed him at how casually she spoke of the topic. “Did you keep in touch?”

"Nah, I sent him my address when I got to basic," he replied, shrugging, "but he never wrote. I didn't try again."

Peyton sat up to try to look him in the eyes, determination shining bright. "Maybe you should," she suggested, grasping his bicep.

Rusty glanced at her, but rushed to look away again. She didn't understand. Her parents had loved her and wanted her. She didn't know what it felt like to be neglected and left to your own defenses. He immediately felt ashamed that he had even thought such. It might not have been her parents, but someone she had trusted completely had crushed her all the same. In more horrific ways than some measly cuts and bruises.

"Life's short. You need to at least offer forgiveness," she insisted, resting her chin on his shoulder. Rusty rolled his eyes and snorted. "Not for his sake, but for your own. You'll feel better, I promise."

"Do you?" he asked softly, feigning interest at the flowers between his feet. He batted at them while waiting for an answer.

"Forgive him?" she questioned, raising up once again. He nodded, his eyes flashing towards her. "I'm still working on it. I still see a psychiatrist sometimes."

They fell silent. There was something else they had in common. Rusty had a hard time believing she could ever forgive the monster that did those things to her. He knew he wouldn't. That he couldn't.

“I'm from Texas," he offered, wanting to let her into his past a little more. At least that wasn't a dark subject. "I grew up on a ranch."

“Hmm, that explains why you’re so good with horses. My very own real life cowboy slash soldier.” She leaned back to look up into his face, a playful smile spread across her face. He smiled back and bent to place a kiss on her lips. “It's such a pretty day, isn’t it?”

Rusty felt relieved that the conversation was over. He answered her with another kiss, this one setting a fire in his belly. He was caught off guard by the urgency in which her lips moved against his. Their tongues clashed, fighting for dominance. One hand remained at her waist while the other tangled itself in her long hair, forcing her closer. Her hand came up to rest on his stubbled cheek as she pressed flush against him.

She nudged him backwards and he didn’t resist as she climbed on top. He tried to keep his thoughts under control as his member grew hard underneath her weight. It was a lost cause though, as she sucked and bit lightly on his neck. The nibbling brought forth a deep moan. His hands involuntarily found their way to her butt and he firmly squeezed. He supressed another groan when her fingers brushed his waistband.

She stopped and sat up. His eyes were glued to hers. She sat there for so long that he knew she was going to stop. To his surprise, she slowly tugged her t-shirt over head. Her full breasts strained against the gray, lacy bra. Her blonde hair made her tanned skin appear a shade darker as she tugged it free from the elastic band. The sun was directly behind her, making it hard to see her face for the burning halo around it. If he thought she looked beautiful on the horse earlier, it was nothing compared to how she looked straddling him. His breathing hitched as he barely made out the desire in her eyes.

He sat up and jerked his shirt over his head before closing the space between them. He nipped her bottom lip, running his hands down her almost bare back. His fingers hesitated at the clasp of her bra, waiting for permission. She reached around to undo it herself. The straps slid down her extended arms as she leaned away from, letting his muscular arms bare her weight. Her head tilted back and she gripped his upper arms, allowing Rusty a full view of her ample chest.

He pulled her back down with him, her long locks tickling his face and chest as she hovered over him. Allowing one splayed hand to slide just into the rear of her jeans, he slid his other one to the back of her head. He forced her bare torso against his. The touch of her exposed chest made him shudder.

There was no hesitation when she boldly reached between them to undo his pants. Her eyes held his as she slithered down his body and slid them down his legs. Rusty's eyes shot open when she yanked at his underwear next. Before he could even protest, his fully hardened arousal was released, springing freely. The approval in her eyes made him flush in pleasure.

God, he had waited so long for this moment. His instincts were kicking in and he was trying his damndest to fight them. This was a critical moment in their relationship and he couldn’t fuck it up. If he was too rough or moved too fast then it would scare her. That didn’t seem like an issue though, as she stood to finish removing her clothes. Her eyes tried to stay focused on his, but kept flashing to his member.

A smirk spread across his face, but disappered as he was soon transfixed when she let her underwear fall down her legs. His breath caught at the sight of her in all of her natural glory. His eyes drank in her svelte frame as it was exposed to him for the first time. He craved to touch her, to taste every inch of her lean frame. Not being able to stand it any longer, he sat up and gripped her waist. He placed hurried kisses over her stomach and then her thighs. Her hands enclosed over his and he stared up into those mesmerizing blues.

“Are you sure?” was all he could manage to get out. His voice was strained from the sexual tension. He was dying to bury himself in her.

A quick nod was the only answer he received. He pulled her down to straddle his waist, letting his member rest against her sensitive core. Her eyes rounded and nose flared as her breaths shortened. He searched her eyes for any hesitation. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted anyone else, but he also loved her more than anyone else. If she still wasn’t ready then he could continue to wait. He only read passion in her desire clouded eyes.

Ever so gently, he pulled her onto him and they began to make love.
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I would really love some feedback on what everyone thinks.