Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 21

The month following the proposal went by in the blink of an eye. Shortly after the proposal, the pair decided that they weren't interested in a long engagement. It might work for some, but they were more than ready to take the plunge. Peyton had insisted that a big wedding was something that she had never dreamed of. Something a little more quiet and simple was what she requested.

Things had been busy and chaotic since the day he slipped that diamond on her finger. After all, they were doing something in a month that normally took six months or longer. If Rusty wasn't on base running drills or out in the field then he was helping Peyton pick things out for the wedding.

Honestly, he could care less about even having a wedding. The day he proposed he had tried to persuade her with everything in him to go see the Justice of Peace and get it done that day. She, of course, had refused, saying she at least wanted a small wedding to share with their loved ones. He could've married her on the courthouse steps and been perfectly fine with it. As long as it was her, then he didn't care where they got married.

Peyton had been cranky and irritable lately. Less so since she had finally found her dress and someone to alter it in time. She was still seeming slightly off, almost on edge. Every little bump either made her cry or want to pick a fight. He did his best to just roll with the punches. Rusty chalked it up to being under so much stress from planning this on such short notice. Probably a little PMS, too, but he would never say that to her. He knew better than to bring that up.

Tonight he was taking her out with some of their friends, to help her relax a little. At first she had protested, but caved after a little pleading and a good roll in the sack. The girl loved her some sex. He sure as hell wasn't complaining either. What man in his right mind would?

"Peyt, we're gonna be late!" he hollered up the stairs at his future wife. He checked his watch, noting they only had ten minutes before needing to leave.

Rusty was rolling up the sleeves of his red checkered button down when Jimbo, who was lounging by the fireplace, perked up and let out a soft growl. The old dog hardly ever made a noise and definitely wasn't hostile in any way. The Border Collie padded warily towards the door, his fur bristled. About that time, hard rapping was heard. Rusty absentmindedly went to swing the door open while finishing up one sleeve.

A man stood on the other side, hands tucked into his dress pants. His face froze in surprise, as if he had been caught off guard. It was a stark contrast to his relaxed demeanor. Rusty paused fiddling with his second sleeve to give him a curious once over. The man seemed to be doing the same. Rusty was instantly on guard, not liking the way he was being sized up. He rested a hand on the edge of the door, ready to slam it in the man's face if need be.

"Can I help you?" he asked, just before hearing the click of Peyton's heels on the stairs. He glanced over his shoulder, immediately forgetting the stranger in front of him. Her mile long, tan legs appeared first, followed by her lean body clad in a tight black dress. That breathtaking smile broke out across her face when their eyes met.

"I'm finally ready, ba-," Peyton stopped midsentence, her gaze shifting to the man still on the porch. Her face turned white as snow and a barely audible gasp left her lips. "Brodie," she breathed, barely above a whisper.

"Hi, Peyton," he greeted her, eyes scanning her body. Obviously, Rusty wasn't the only one enjoying the view. Her arms crossed over herself and shoulders slumped, instinctively shrinking into herself.

Rusty's grip tightened on the door, his knuckles turning white under the intense pressure. His blood ran hot as it sank in who was standing before him. Fisting his free hand, he readied himself for a swing. One solid lick and he knew the guy would go down like a sack of potatoes. The guy had balls, he would give him that. Not too many would show their face again after everything that happened. He was apparently greatly lacking in the brains department.

Before he could make a move, he felt a soft touch on his clenched hand. He turned to meet Peyton's eyes. A steely resolve had replaced the fear from just moments ago. She soothingly rubbed his hand, forcing his fingers to relax. When they did, she slipped her delicate hand into his. She was purposefully displaying their relationship. The gesture caused his mouth to curl into a smirk, but his eyes remained dark.

"What are you doing here?" Her voice only held a slight quake. One that was barely noticeable, that he probably wouldn't have even caught if he didn't know her so well.

Rusty, who was being blatantly ignored now, wanted nothing more than to knock the guy's lights out. He was only refraining for Peyton's sake. He knew Brodie was trying to get under his skin and he was succeeding, much to Rusty's dismay. The way his eyes slithered up and down Peyton's svelte frame made Rusty's skin crawl. He dropped her hand and slipped his arm around her waist, stepping closer to shield her body somewhat.

He had wondered, on more than one occasion, what it would be like to come face to face with this guy. He never actually thought that he would have the, pleasure. Hatred boiled up inside him until he thought he would explode, but he kept his lips closed in a tight line. His nostrils flared under his restraint. He knew he could get rid of the man's body if need be. He had plenty of guys on his side, specifically Ty, who he was sure would have no problem with it.

"I've moved back. Last week actually. I've just been busy unpacking." He leaned against the door facing, nonchalantly in his khakis and baby blue polo. His entire appearance oozed prick, right down to his slick, perfectly placed hair. "I just now got the chance to come see you and I thought maybe we could go out to dinner, but seeing as you're otherwise occupied..." His eyes flashed to Rusty for a split second.

"Sergeant Rusty Balkins," Rusty inserted as soon as the douche trailed off. There was no way in hell he was going to let this man think he could waltz back into Peyton's life. Especially not after everything he had done to her. The longer the man stood on the porch, the more Rusty just wanted to throttle him and continue on with their evening. "Peyton's fiancé."

"Fiancé, huh?" Brodie asked, eyes widening in shock. Rusty could tell that he wasn't one to normally be caught off guard. He was probably the son of a high roller that everything had come easily to. He brushed at invisible lint and regained his composure. "And a soldier, too?"

The way he almost spat the word soldier made Rusty bristle. His grip tightened on Peyton. She laid a hand on his chest, patting it a couple times. She must've guessed how riled up the man had him.

"That's right," she agreed. Rusty turned to look at the beautiful blonde. Her hard eyes remained focused on her ex, almost challenging him. Her chin was tilted up in defiance. "We're getting married next week."

"You can't be serious," he insisted, tone almost patronising. He pushed off the door frame to stand tall. He shoved his hands back into his deep pockets, trying to elude to a relaxed demeanor. He toed the entryway, an invisible line separating him from them. Rusty silently prayed he would cross it. He was more than ready to knock him on his ass.

"You're looking to a soldier for stability? They don't know the meaning of the word. They come marching in, charm their way into a girl's pants, because they're heroes," he sneered, shooting a glare towards Rusty, "and then they march right back out as soon as they're ordered. No goodbyes, no commitments, and definitely no rings. The only person they're faithful to is Uncle Sam."

This was the last straw and Rusty was in his face before he could blink. "You have no fucking right to talk about the men and women that put their lives on the line for pieces of shit like you! You don't know the first thing about the military, and you will not disrespect me or my brothers!"

He was wound up, everything he had been holding back coming forth now. "These men are some of the most honorable, brave, loyal, and respectful men you will ever come across! I know you can't seem to wrap your head around any of those traits. Obviously, by the way you used to beat around my fianceé, but I'm here now and you will show me, my country, and my future wife some courtesy or I will gladly beat some into you!"

"You have about two seconds to back the fuck up or-"

"Or what?!" Rusty screamed, pushing in closer, breaking every rule of personal space. They would've been standing nose to nose if the man wasn't about half a foot shy of Rusty's tall frame. "You going to make me?! I can kill you in a hundred different ways and make every fucking single one of them look like an accident!"

Rusty had been thoroughly trained in all things reconnaissance, therefore he was an expert on reading people. He could decide three seconds after meeting someone if they were a threat or not, before the initial handshake was even over. Something as simple as an eye twitch could tell him whether an assault was imminent or not. If he didn't, he would be dead by this point.

For that reason alone, was how he knew the second Brodie was going in for an attack. He was ready, shoving him back while easily dodging the short jab thrown his way. While he struggled to find his footing, Rusty struck him with a swift right. It connected solidly, a loud crack splitting the ear. Peyton gasped as Brodie's nose started gushing warm, red liquid. He stepped in front of her, gently nudging her backwards and out of the line of fire.

Brodie stepped forwards, eyes watering uncontrollably as he swiped the air blindly. His awkward movements made him look ridiculous. Rusty put him out of his misery with a hard knee to the gut, making him bend double. Roughly shoving him, he fell off the porch and splayed out onto the front lawn. A small cloud of dust puffed up from his deadweight.

Brodie's hands moved, one to hold his spraying nose and the other to clutch his stomach. He moaned and groaned as if he was dying, but Rusty just rolled his eyes. He was hardly even out of breath. As he stepped down next to the injured man, he shook his hand, loosening up his aching knuckles.

"You could've put up a better fight," he muttered as he bent close to his face. His pretty little blue shirt was now stained crimson and his pressed khakis collected dirt. "It would've made things a little more exciting."

Brodie let out a loud gurgle as he pulled him up from the ground and swiftly to his silver convertible. What the hell had she seen in the dickhead city boy? He tripped repeatedly as he tried to keep up, but Rusty continued to half drag him before opening the door and tossing him into the driver's seat.

"I better not ever hear of you around her again. You'll have a nice cozy cot in ICU next time." He slammed the door and looked down at his shirt, swearing. "Fuck, now I have to change again."


An hour later, after Rusty had washed up and changed his clothes, the couple finally arrived at the bar. They immediately heard Ty's loud Louisiana accent and followed it to a high top table in the back. Crowded around the small square table were Ty, one other single guy, and two other married couples. The group greeted the pair as they walked up. Chairs were scooted as people crammed together to make room for them. Rusty ordered a beer while Peyton just asked for some water and lemon.

"Its about damn time y'all got here!" Ty hollered over the loud music. There were already three empty bottles in front of him. He was nursing a fourth between his hands.

"We got caught up!" Rusty yelled back which received knowing looks from around the table. The women broke into a fit of giggles and the men let out cat calls. Ty held up a hand for a high five, but Rusty brushed him off with a laugh. A smile split his face before explaining, "No, that ain't what I meant."

"Whatever you say, bud," Reece, the only other single guy joked, "Your personal life is your personal life."

"Happens all the time," Cole threw into the conversation, sliding an arm around his wife's shoulders. He earned himself a swat on the arm. "Well, it used to anyways.

The table burst out in laughter and Rusty grinned sheepishly at Peyton who had one eyebrow raised in mock scowl. He shrugged his shoulders in helplessness, to which she rolled her eyes. He leaned in for a quick kiss, hoping it would be a sort of peace offering. She kissed him back and laughed lightly before turning her gaze back to the group.

As Peyton picked up an easy conversation with the other two women, Rusty took a second to step back and survey the moment. He looked around the table, at the four men from his squad and two of their wives. Ty was standing with Reece on the opposite side of the table, holding him captive with one of his hilarious stories. Cole still had his arm around his wife, Holly, who in turn was admiring Peyton's ring. Archer and his wife, Cady, were arm wrestling over the last draft of beer.

Every person there had been chosen for a reason. Rusty had told Peyton he wanted to take her out for a night of fun and to relax before the big day came. That was true, to an extent. The other truth was that he wanted Peyton to bond with this group. He wanted them to become just as much her family as they were his.

Cady and Holly would take her under their wings. They would help her adjust to being an Army wife and help make deployments that much easier. Cady was comedic and spontaneous, always making every day things into an adventure. Holly was calm and realistic, but with a nurturing quality that made her almost motherly. Together, they formed a perfect pair for when Peyton's days were going by slow and her nights seemed impossibly long. She needed people that understand what she was going through and felt every emotion as deeply as she did.

Cole and Archer had went all through Ranger school with Rusty. Archer was even tempered and soft spoken. He never needed to be the center of attention, but was the first to stand up for someone. Some took his kindness as weakness, but he held himself with a quiet strength. Cole was as reckless and wild as they come, but he was loyal to a fault. No matter if you were wrong or right, he would stand by your side 'til the end.

Reece was the newest member of their chosen family. Ty had taken a particular liking to him after things grew serious between Rusty and Peyton. He was still getting to know the younger man, but he sensed his good nature. He was outspoken, but tender hearted. It bothered him fiercely if someone was upset with him. He was still naive in the sense of there is good in everyone, but he was not a doormat for anyone.

Then, of course, there was Ty. His very best friend. The man he trusted more than anyone else on this earth. Maybe even more so than Peyton. They had been through hell and back together, and he knew that no matter what the future brought, Ty would forever stand by him. He was also the only person Rusty would ever completely trust with Peyton. If, God forbid, something happened to him, he knew Ty would take care of her. No matter the cost, Ty would do everything in his power to protect her and help her heal.

This group was going to be Peyton's support system. The people she would need to lean on throughout deployments and even after. If Rusty didn't return someday, then these people would be the ones she would turn to and use as her crutch. He only hoped and prayed that she would never have to.
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This story is winding down. I'm not for sure on how many more chapters I have left, but it is almost to the end. Comments would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for sticking with it this far. =)