Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 17

"It's hotter than satan's balls out here!" Ty hollered up at the blazing sun. Sweat made dirty tracks in the grime coating his bare torso.

Rusty grinned before sitting up and taking another swig from his water bottle. He had to agree with his friend. It was fucking hot. The heat was almost suffocating, sapping your energy instantly. Things had been kind of slow during this deployment, and there wasn't much to do in the middle of the desert. Rusty tried to tell himself that that was a good thing. Especially after their last deployment, but he kept thinking all of this felt like a waste of time. He could be at home with Peyton.

Rusty laid back down, his shirt serving as a makeshift beach towel. He closed his eyes and let himself doze to Peyton's sweet face. Their relationship was stronger than ever, the sex solidifying it in ways neither imagined. Apparently, it was true that sex meant so much more when you shared it with someone you loved. He smiled at how tenacious she had become for it. He never would've guessed the tender hearted woman could be so dominant in bed.

"Hey, you two want to play some football?" Spenc asked, tossing the brown ball in the air. He glanced down at them, momentarily blocking the sun. Rusty squinted open one eye, irritated at being interrupted from his daydreaming.

"Fuck no!" Ty exclaimed, shooting the younger man a withering glare. Rusty grimaced as Spenc's face fell. Humiliation registered as he casted his eyes down. "It's too fucking hot. Get out of here you twat."

Spenc slumped off like a puppy with his tail tucked between his legs. For whatever reason, Ty partially blamed the man for Joker's death. He sure as hell wasn't shy about showing his dislike towards him either. Rusty felt sorry for the guy. It wasn't any more his fault than it was anyone else's. Funny how he could dish the advice, but not swallow it himself.

"It wasn't his fault, you know," Rusty stated, glancing towards Ty out of the corner of his eye.

"It wasn't yours either," he retorted.

Touché Rusty dropped his gaze, staring down at the millions of tiny grains of sand. He sifted through it, letting the pieces fall between his fingers. Leave it to Ty to peg his feelings right on the head. Sometimes it was scary how well the two knew one another.

Rusty observed as Spenc gathered up a few guys and they started tossing the pigskin around. He felt exhausted just watching them. "I'm going back in the tent," Rusty said as he stood. He grabbed his t-shirt and moped off to the makeshift bunkhouse.

"It's only about half a degree cooler than out here!" another boy from their unit shouted as he settled into Rusty's abandoned spot.

"Well, half a degree is still better!" Rusty yelled back as he ducked under the open tent flaps. It was thankfully void of anyone else.

He sat down on his cot and reached underneath to remove the metal box he kept stashed there. While most of the single men kept Playboy magazines, Rusty kept pictures and letters from Peyton. He removed a handful of snapshots and sifted through them while the memories of the moments assaulted him. The ache of missing her deepened with each photo. There was one more item he kept locked up in his box. He removed it now as he replaced the pictures.

"When did you get that?!" Ty demanded from over Rusty's shoulder.

Rusty jumped and almost dropped the black velvet box. He turned to see Ty staring in astonishment. The ring had been a secret until now. He knew it was too soon to propose, but he didn't want to wait any longer. Peyton had finally returned his declaration of love and they had been living together for a couple months. Now was as good a time as any, right?

"Well, you might as well go ahead and show me. I can't believe you didn't tell me about this, man." Rusty felt guilty at the hurt look on his best friend's face. He had planned on telling him, just not yet.

"I wasn't going to tell anyone yet," Rusty muttered, slightly annoyed, before opening the small box and holding it out to Ty.

He let out a low whistle and grinned at Rusty. "You did pretty good," he encouraged. "She'll love it."

"You think so?" Rusty asked, still uncertain of his choice. He wanted it to be perfect. He took the ring back and looked it over again. This had become a routine for him almost every time he was alone in the bunkhouse.

"Yea, man," he insisted, nodding in approval. "When you going to pop the question?"

"When I get home. I don't want to leave another time without her being mine. For good," Rusty answered, fingering the diamond ring.

"Are you sure y'all are ready for that? I mean, it's only been what? Six months?" Ty inquired, coming to sit next to Rusty.

"Almost ten," he answered with a shrug. He removed the ring to inspect it for the hundredth time. He really hoped she liked it. It was simple with a solitary round diamond protruding from the white gold band. "I'm as sure as I'll ever be. I've never met anyone like her. I thought I had my whole life together and then BAM! Now, she's got me rethinking everything."

Ty was doing a slow nod, his eyes staring off as if he was in another world. Rusty replaced the ring and snapped the box shut, causing Ty to jump. He cleared his throat and met Rusty's tight smile. He knew his friend had been in another time, with Liz.

"She's pretty special," Ty responded, ignoring the knowing gaze Rusty was shooting him. "I just want you to be sure. This is a huge de-"

Rusty interjected, "Yes, dad. I'm aware." He rolled his eyes and let out a scoff. Why couldn't his friend just be happy for him?

"I just don't want you to make the same mistake I did. That's all," Ty implored, diverting his gaze with a raise of his shoulders. Rusty instantly felt guilty for snapping at him.

The silence between them grew, as they both got lost in their thoughts. Rusty never could've imagined having someone play such a big part in his life. He never dreamed he would fall head over heels for someone like this. Now, he couldn't imagine living without her. How had he ever lived before meeting her? That felt like another lifetime. One thing he knew for certain, he didn't want to live another second longer than necessary without her as his wife. He just hoped and prayed that she felt the same.

"I'm sorry," he finally apologized before replacing the little black box back in the large metal container. He slid it back under the cot before facing his friend. Ty stretched his long legs out, staring down at his boots. "Do you think you'll ever settle down again?"

Ty's head snapped up, expression incredulous. Rusty couldn't stop the chuckle from coming. He looked like a deer in the headlights at the question.

"Nah, man. Once is enough for me," he replied, shaking his head. "Some people just aren't meant for marriage."

Rusty grew quiet, thinking about his next question. He didn't want to pry into something that so blatantly still hurt his best friend, but he was curious. Every time they had spoken about her, even when he was drunk, he acted as if he was holding something back. Rusty just had a nagging feeling that something else had happened between the couple. That maybe that was the secret to setting him free.

Rusty blew out a nervous breath before finding the courage to ask, "What really happened between you and Liz?"

He watched as Ty's eyes flashed with anger, narrowing into thin slits. He mentally braced for the onslaught sure to come, but he never blinked or looked away. To his surprise, the dark headed man unclenched his fists and closed his eyes, sighing in defeat. When his eyes opened, Rusty saw the years of sorrow and regret lying beneath the green orbs.

"She wa-" Ty began, but the sound of their team shuffling through the sand stopped him.

When Rusty turned his eyes back to him, the guard was back in place and his friend wore his signature crooked smile. This time, Rusty saw right through the mask.

"Is she still mad at me over the whole Olivia thing?" Ty asked, deftly changing the subject.

Rusty watched a few of his battle buddies meander around the tent. A couple laid on their cots, pulling their caps down to ward off the sun shining through slits in the fabric. Two others started up a game of cards. None seemed particularly interested in their conversation, but Rusty knew he shouldn't pursue it any further anyways. He would just have to find a more opportune time to wrestle the information from him.

"Sylvia," he elaborated in response to Ty's confused expression, "Her name is Sylvia."

"Right, right. That's what I meant," he laughed, brushing off the correction.

Rusty rolled his eyes and groaned in disgust as his friend. To get as many girls as he did, the guy could be a real dick sometimes. "She's still a little disappointed in you."

It was Ty's turn to roll his eyes. "That's something my mom would say," he whined. It was obvious that the comment bothered him.

"You didn't exactly make the best impression," Rusty argued. He began removing his boots to dump the sand out. That was an action he repeated hourly.

"Her expectations are too high," Ty replied as he held his arms out. "You know me. I'm not the guy Peyton seems to think I am."

Rusty scoffed before beating the bottom of his other boot. A significant pile of the tan substance came trickling out. Flexing his toes and rotating his ankles, he stretched his feet. They always were stiff and sore from being cramped in such tightly laced shoes. He threw the boots to the side before facing his friend again.

"She cares about you. She wants you to be happy," Rusty explained, "You are a good guy. Everyone sees it except you."

Ty grunted and chewed on the inside of his cheek. His brows were furrowed in deep concentration. "Peyton's a great girl and you're a lucky man. I mean it. Be thankful I didn't meet her first," Ty joked, mouth pulling into a smirk. Rusty glared at him. "Seriously, I'm happy for you two and I think if anyone can make it then it'll be you guys."

The fact that he didn't reply to his comment wasn't lost on him, but he decided to let it drop. Instead, he pulled in a deep breath and brought up something else that had been weighing on his mind for a while. Something that no one liked to talk about, but he felt like it needed to be done. "Listen, man, I need to ask you something."

Ty sat up straight and still at his serious tone, eyes suspicious. "Okay..." he tentatively said.

"If something happens to m-"

Ty quickly cut him off, a furious look on his face, "Don't you dare say shit like that."

"No, listen!" Rusty barked. "Nobody likes talking about this shit, but I need to say it." Ty's jaw clenched as he stared him down, but he remained quiet. Rusty took the cue to continue, "If something happens to me, promise you'll take care of her."

Ty's face softened and he ran an agitated hand through his hair. His eyes darted away as he processed the request. Rusty patiently waited for the answer he knew was coming. His best friend would never let him down and he would never let the woman he loved down either.

"Of course," he answered, voice soft. He gave him a weak smile before adding, "Don't plan on dying anytime soon, though."
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I'm super sorry it has been so long and this chapter is so short. I've had a lot going on. I found out I was pregnant and then my boyfriend took a job on the road, so I've been trying to spend as much time with him as I can and getting everything with our baby figured out. We're super excited, though! Thank you all so much for being so patient!! =)