Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 19

Rusty stepped off the aircraft with his bag slung over his shoulder. He shielded his eyes, surprised at the brightness of the day. Words couldn't begin to express his excitement at being back home. Home. Funny how this had become his home. He hadn't planned on settling down for a long time, and even then Washington would've been the last place he thought he would end up. But this was Peyton's home and wherever she was, he wanted to be.

He couldn't wait to see her. Any second now she would be in his arms again. He could practically see her beautiful face. Rusty followed the rest of the men to where family and friends were crowded together, waiting for the chance to see their loved ones. His eyes quickly skimmed the crowd, searching for the gorgeous blonde woman awaiting his return. When he didn't seer her, he scanned the cluster of people again. Still not finding her, his eyes slowed to study each person individually. She wasn't there.

"Where's Peyton?" Ty asked, coming to stop beside Rusty. His eyes squinted out over the crowd, too.

"I don't know," he answered, puzzled. "I don't see her."

"I'm sure she's here somewhere," Ty encouraged, slapping his back. "Maybe she's hanging back away from the crowd."

Ty had a point. She could be waiting off somewhere, or maybe out in the parking lot. Rusty squeezed through the crowd. He greeted the people he knew and nodded at the ones he didn't. A few stopped him to offer him their words of thanks and a handshake. There was still no sign of Peyton, though by the time he reached the other side of the group. Turning around he looked at the group again, making sure he didn't somehow overlook her.

His heart started thumping and his stomach dropped as he made his to the parking lot. Frantically, he searched through the vehicles trying to spot her truck. It was nowhere to be found. After circling the parking lot a couple more times he started to panic. There was something off.

His mind flashed through the letters written back and forth. Nothing had seemed different. She still told him she loved him and missed him all the same. Letters could be tricky like that, though. You could take the same sentence and interpret it in many different ways. Without being able to read a person's expression, it was hard to gauge how someone really felt.

Maybe there was something wrong. Maybe he was just too busy thinking about himself that he didn't notice the changes in her. Now, he thought of a hundred different scenarios. He had to go see her. Right then.


Rusty's heart stopped as he parked next to a vaguely familiar truck. It was an old, beat up pick-up that had seen its better days. Rust was eating through the bed above the tires. He scanned his memory, trying to pinpoint when he had exactly seen the truck. Was it out on one of their dates? The license plate read from Texas. Frustrated, he rubbed his head, knowing he would've remembered the truck from its plates alone.

Peyton was sitting on the front porch swing, hair pulled into a loose ponytail. He felt bile work its way up as he noticed a man sitting next to her. She was turned slightly to face the man, face lit up as she laughed at something he said. The man's face was hidden beneath a shadow cast by his cowboy hat. It bobbed as he moved his head, spinning some sort of tale.

Rusty was in shock, frozen behind the wheel of his truck. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel, breathing ragged. His heartbeat thumped in his ears.

He quickly thought through his options. Leaving was the first thing to come to mind. He had never backed down from a fight, but he was also never much on starting them. This was different, too. He wasn't sure he could face Peyton with another man and not break down. His heart was already shattering.

Rusty gritted his teeth before deciding to confront them both. He deserved an answer, at least and he didn't want her to get away with this that easily. Shoving his door open, he stepped down and marched towards the house. His strides were long and determined as he held his fisted hands to his sides.

The man remained positioned with his back to him. His hat kept any discerning features from being revealed. Peyton turned and shot him a nervous smile, nibbling at her lip. When their eyes met, she sent him an almost apologetic look. If their candor hadn't already confirmed his suspicions, that certainly would have.

His steps faltered the closer he got and he swallowed down the lump forming in his throat. Rusty felt his world falling apart as each step took him closer to the couple. Peyton stood and smoothed down her light blue sun dress. Despite the pain strangling him, his eyes drank her in. It seemed she grew more beautiful every time he saw her.

She stepped lightly across the porch and down the steps, gliding to him with such grace. "I missed you so much!" she exclaimed when she got close enough to touch him.

Instinctively, Rusty jerked his arm back and took a step away from her. Hurt filled her eyes. She took another small step towards him, reaching out to him again. This time Rusty held steady. Cautiously, she placed her hand on his forearm. Her eyes pleaded for understanding, but Rusty only felt confusion. It had been a bad idea. He should've chosen to leave.

"Just take a second to hear me out," she begged, voice soft. "Please."

Rusty began shaking his head vigorously, tears welling up. The diamond ring was burning a hole in his pocket. It felt like a chunk of lead, threatening to pull him down. Another wave of pain crashed over him as he realized the piece of jewelry would never adorn this woman's finger.

"I come home, expecting my girlfriend to be happy to see me and she's nowhere to be found," he ground out, teeth clenched. "So, I come looking for her and find her snuggled up on the porch with another man!"

"Rusty," she started, but he quickly cut her off.

"I mean come on, Peyton! I thought things were fine!" he accused, not caring if she saw the hurt. "I understand you were upset, but I thought you said you could deal with this stuff! Why did you lead m-"

"Rusty," a gruff voice interrupted from the front porch.

Rusty's head snapped up to see the stranger standing at the edge of the porch, hand gripping the post. Except, he wasn't a stranger at all. Bending double, he sucked in a deep breath. He felt like he was going to be sick.

"No," he gasped, straightening to dart his gaze between the two. Rusty was sent back to years ago. Back when he had felt small and helpless, and prayed for the day he could get away. "W-what are you doing here?"

"I asked him to come," Peyton said quietly. Her voice was soothing, eyes cautious. They both watched him like a wild animal that might attack at any minute. "He wanted to see you, Rusty."

He stared at her, barely comprehending the words she was speaking. It felt like he was drowning, suffocating. His throat tightened as he stared at the woman he loved. The woman he was ready to propose to. The woman that had betrayed him.

"I want to make things right, son," his father offered, stepping off the porch. He approached him with small, but determined steps.

Rusty clenched his BDUs, teeth gritted as he fought back tears. Years of abuse and neglect threatened to pour out. How long had he wished for this very thing? To see this man standing before him, begging for a second chance? It was too late, though. Rusty had already wasted too much time waiting and he was tired of it.

"I sent you my address after I left," he bit out, "and you never bothered to reply. You've had eight years to try and make things right."

Wyatt stood tall and strong, but his eyes told his regret. "I was in a bad place then, but I'm ready now," he answered, a slight tremble in his voice.

Without saying a word Rusty slowly started backing up. He couldn't be here right now. This couldn't be happening. His father! She had called his father! How could she? She knew what he had been through! She knew how bad he had hurt him! The betrayal of this almost rivaled the thought of her cheating on him.

"Son," Wyatt pleaded, reaching out to him. He immediately let his hand drop at Rusty's wide eyes.

"Rusty, don't," Peyton whispered. Quiet tears trailed down her flushed cheeks. It tore at him to know she was hurting because of him, or maybe for him. He wasn't sure which. All he knew was that he couldn't stay a second longer.

He turned and jogged away. Hearing them calling his name, he ignored them and climbed back into his truck. No, there was no way he could face them. He had to go somewhere. Anywhere. He just couldn't stay here.


"She called your dad?" Ty gasped, sitting up from where he had been bench pressing. Sweat ran down his face, soaking his shirt. "How did she even find him?"

"I don't know," Rusty mumbled, jiggling his truck keys. The tinkling of them was unintentional, but his hands were shaking so bad he couldn't stop.

He glanced around the gym, receiving a few odd looks from the other patrons. He still hadn't made it around to changing from his uniform. He knew if Sarge was to catch him, then he would be toast, but at the moment he didn't care.

"What did he say?" Ty questioned, eyebrows raised.

"That he wanted to make things right," he sneered, rolling his eyes.

"Maybe he does," Ty offered with a shrug. He stood and took a few steps off to the side, so someone else could use the bench. Rusty stared at in disbelief. "Look, I'm sure she was just trying to help. She lost her parents. She probably doesn't want you to regret this some day."

Rusty scoffed, "I figured if anyone would be on my side it would be you."

Ty held up a hand, frowning. "Wait a minute, what are you talking about? There aren't any sides to pick. It's not about who is right or wrong."

Rusty tuned him out, looking around the open room. He absentmindedly nodded to a few people that caught his eye, but he was lost in his own head. Ty didn't understand. He had grown up in a perfect life with the perfect family. His parents had completely adored him.

A burly man approached with his hand stuck out. "Thanks for serving," his deep voice rumbled. Rusty took his hand and gave him a firm handshake. He gave him a nod of acknowledgement before the man continued walking.

Turning back to Ty with tired eyes, he said, "I thought you'd always have my back."

"That's not fair!" Ty retorted, face scrunched with anger. "That was such a dick thing to say!"

Rusty grunted in reply before turning and stalking out of the gym. Ty never called after him. At the moment he couldn't care less if his friend was pissed or not, because he sure was. It felt like everyone had turned against him.

Once at his old apartment, he took a quick shower, washing the grime away. Cursing at having moved all of his things to Peyton's, he dug through Ty's stuff until he found a shirt and ball shorts that almost fit. They were a tad snug, but would do. He only planned on hitting a corner bar. A firm believer in never turning to the bottle for salvation, he also firmly believed when your devastating past came to haunt you then it was fair game.

He hesitated at the bar, noticing a note lying next to his carelessly tossed keys.

If you stop by here, come back home. Please. I love you.

He let out a humorless laugh and wadded the note before tossing it at the trash. It missed. He didn't bother to pick it up. Instead, he headed to find solace in the bottom of a tall glass.
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I know, I'm horrible! It has been forever since I last updated, but a lot has happened. I got married and found out that we are having a boy! =) My puppy got hit by a truck and has a broke leg, so I've been playing nurse/babysitter to him. And I'm leaving next weekend to stay with my husband on the road. I'll have a lot more time to update once I get settled in with him. Thank you for being patient, though!