Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 20

A muffled thump sounded, waking Peyton from her restless sleep. She rapidly blinked her eyes, chasing away the haze. She squinted around the room as she tried to pinpoint the noise. There was no moon to help her eyes to adjust, only pitch black. A hushed curse followed shortly after and she turned her head towards the noise. Uneven shuffling filled the silent bedroom.

Rusty. She flopped back, releasing a sigh of relief. He had come back. She chewed her lip and closed her eyes against the giddiness that overwhelmed her. After seeing his reaction, she had been terrified he was gone for good. The look of utter devastation had almost broken her heart in two. It had only taken a split second to realize that she had crossed a line and there was no turning back.

A second thud could be heard, followed by another slew of dirty words. Peyton had to cover her mouth to keep from giggling, knowing now was not the time for teasing. He was constantly stubbing his toes on the bedroom furniture. The familiarity made her heart bubble.

The bed moved as his weight sunk into it. She heard his clothes rustle as he removed them and then slid beneath the already warm sheets. A content sigh left his lips. She took that as a good sign. Tentatively, she reached a hand out to him, lightly brushing his bicep. He tensed a moment before rolling towards her and gathering her in his arms.

"Hi," he whispered, his breath tickling her lips. The smell of alcohol hung between them, but she chose to ignore it. She needed to pick her battles and this was not one.

"Hi," she replied, her voice equally as soft. Even in the pitch black, she could feel his smoke colored eyes gazing back at her.

Their lips met in a slow kiss. She melted into him as he lazily lapped at her mouth. His rough hand skimmed the bottom of her sleep shirt and disappeared beneath. Sex was the last thing on her mind, but she succumbed to his touch anyways. His hand stopped on her waist and he placed one last lingering kiss onto her lips before pulling away. His thumb rubbed against her soft skin.

"You got my note," she commented, knowing her guess had been right. Under the empowering smell of booze, she could smell his clean scent. He had showered at his old place.

"I'm sorry," he said, catching her off guard.

"For what?" Her surprise could be heard in her tone. She brushed his cheek, feeling slight stubble beneath her fingers. He had forgotten to shave. The thought caused her to smile. She secretly loved his facial hair. "I'm the one that should be apologizing."

"I shouldn't have left like I did," he pressed on, "I hope you understand why I felt like I needed to, though.

"I was mad at first," she admitted, feeling a little ashamed. "It took me half an hour or so to get over it, and your father. He helped."

His grip tightened briefly at the mention of his dad, before relaxing again. He remained quiet a moment before answering, "My initial thought was that you were cheating."

"Rusty!" she exclaimed, giving his arm a light slap. He grasped her hand and pressed a kiss into her palm.

"I know it was stupid, but I was gone four months and you didn't even meet me at base!" he argued. "To be honest, when I saw my d- him, I would've rather you had been cheating."

Gasping in shock, she sat up in bed. He followed suit and a click sounded before dim lighting spilled into the room. She squinted against the bedside lamp's glare to try to make out Rusty's expression. The man looked so small and childish, sitting with his shoulders slumped and eyes filled with sadness. He pressed the heels of his hands into them now, letting out a deep breath.

"I'm sorry," she whispered crawling to him. She scooted into his lap and laid her head in the crook of his neck. Gently, she kissed the curve just below his jawline. "I wanted to help. I can see how it still weighs on your mind. I just thought maybe you could get some sort of closure."

He bit out a humorless laugh. "How do you get closure from someone that beat you for 14 years of your life?"

A warm, wet sensation appeared on her cheek and she swiped at her eye. They were still dry. Pulling back just enough to see Rusty, she let out a small whimper when she saw the silent tears running down his cheeks. He stared ahead, but didn't turn away to hide them. At the sight of this strong man breaking down, she struggled to contain herself. A sniffle escaped her before her own water works emerged.

Kneeling, she kissed at his cheeks and rested her forehead against his. Their salty tears mingled and quiet sobs echoed as they remained tangled as one. Her heart and soul was connected with this man like she had never known possible. Every emotion he felt was her own. Her body shook from the vibration of his as he clung to her.

After his tears subsided, they stayed entwined, holding on to the peace they found with each other. "I think I need to talk to him," he eventually stated, catching her off guard.

Pulling back, she searched his eyes. They were still watery, but held a new resolve behind them. His usual determination had come back and the sight made her grin from ear to ear.

She pulled a serious face, pursing her lips. "In the morning, right?" He gave her a puzzled look, not figuring out where she was going with that. "I think we have some catching up to do tonight."

A slow grin spread across his mouth and he raised his eyebrows suggestively. "In the morning," he replied before crashing his lips into hers. He pulled her shirt up and over her head, then laid her down.


The next morning, Peyton awoke to an empty bed. She didn't think twice about it, for it was something she had grown accustomed to. He almost always woke with the sun. Some habits died hard. She was thankful most mornings, when she got that extra few hours of sleep. Some mornings, like this one, she wished he was still curled around her.

She reluctantly got out of bed and padded down the hallway and downstairs. The kitchen was empty, but there was coffee made. As she poured herself a cup, she heard muffled voices. Curious, she peered out the glass doors and found Rusty and Wyatt standing on the back deck. Serious looks held their faces, but she smiled. This was exactly what they needed. She stood a moment, spying on them. She couldn't make out their words, but there seemed to be no animosity betweent them. Wyatt stepped a little closer, laying a gentle hand on Rusty's shoulder.

Peyton moved back into the corner by the coffee pot, not wanting to be caught. Gracefully, she hopped up onto the counter and settled back against the cabinets. She sipped the hot liquid, a smug smile pulling her lips. Rusty hadn't even flinched when his father had touched him. A feat all on its own, she knew. How brave he was, to be standing in front of his source of pain, to be facing him without a hint of fear. It was inspiring, although Peyton knew she would never be able to do the same. She felt petrified by the mere thought of running into Brodie again.

Twenty minutes later, the doors opened and the two men entered. Rusty sent a tired smile at her before coming to where she was perched. After pressing a quick peck to her lips, he dropped his head onto her shoulder. She began rubbing his back while looking over him to meet his dad's eyes. Wyatt smiled and nodded ever so slightly before continuing on his way. The subtle gesture was all she needed. It confirmed that the father and son were on their way to finding healing and a new relationship.

"You want to go for a ride?" Rusty asked, bringing her attention back to him. There was a look in his eyes that she couldn't quite read.

"Yea, sure," she answered, a little hesitant by his serious face. He stepped back, allowing her room to slide back onto the floor.

They ended up in the field of wildflowers. Rusty reached to help her down from her horse. She could do it herself, but she liked the old chivalry about him. He took her hand in his as they walked through the waves of brightly colored plants. Peyton studied his profile. His eyes flickered around the land and on to the distant trees. She silently wondered what he was thinking so deeply about. It wasn't like him to be so quiet. Her stomach began to churn. Was he already being shipped out again? The thought terrified her.

"I'm not sure really what to even say or how to even go about this," he began while slowing to a stop and turning to her, "I love you, Peyt. God, I love you so much. I never knew I could feel this for someone. I have so many thoughts and feelings running through me, but no idea how to get them out."

Ever so slowly he knelt before her. Her hands came up to her mouth as her eyes widened. He brought a little velvet box the color of midnight out of his pocket. The ring it contained, nestled into the folds of the soft fabric, was absolutely stunning. It was so simple, yet so elegant at the same time. It was perfectm Warm tears made tracks down her cheeks as her eyed darted between the man that owned her heart and the gift he was offering her. Was this really happening? Was he really proposing? The moment felt surreal, as if it was happening to someone else.

"Marry me, Peyton, and I swear I will spend every day for the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you make me," he pressed on, eyes shining with such love and tenderness.

The tears kept coming and it seemed like no matter how hard she tried, they just wouldn't stop. She wasn't even able to squeak an answer out. She fanned her face, trying to at least slow the water works down. The look on Rusty's face gave away his insecurities. She felt bad for making him so anxious, but the moment was overwhelming. It was everything she had been hoping for.

He cleared his throat, eyebrows knitting together. Staring up at her, he shifted his weight slightly. When he spoke again, there was a slight tremble to his voice, "I understand we haven't known each other long, bu-."

Still unable to choke a word out, she opted for actions instead. Peyton yanked him up from his crouched position and flung herself into his arms. She squeezed him tightly around the neck, swinging her knees around his waist to cling to him. His chest vibrated with a chuckle. She pressed a few rapid kisses onto his lips before leaning back and nodding vigorously.

A wide grin spread across his face as he removed one hand from her butt. She bit her lip, eyes glowing, as she watched him slip the beautiful piece on her finger. Taking a second to admire it, she held out her hand and placed her cheek against Rusty's. They both stared at the physical symbol of their love. Her filled with so much joy she thought it would burst. He then gently turned her face back to his and engulfed her lips, lighting a fire deep within her.

She pulled back, breathless, still choking on the remaining tears of happiness. "I love you so much," she whispered, resting her forehead against his, "I want to spend forever with you."