Status: Complete.

I Want You to Live

Chapter 24

"I just don't have a good feeling, that's all," Peyton whispered as the tears finally spilled down her cheeks.

The wind was chilly that morning, causing her to pull her cardigan tighter around her. Even through the thick fabric, it still sliced through her, chilling her to the bone. Rusty stood in front of her, his duffelbag hanging from his shoulder. He had stopped abruptly at her soft spoken confession. His concerned face turned down towards her.

Apparently his guess had been right. He was being deployed just a few weeks after their late night conversation. Just a mere three weeks after the loss of their unborn baby. It couldn't have come at the worst possible time. Peyton was still hurting emotionally and the couple were still mourning the tragedy.

"What are you talking about, baby?" he asked while dropping his bag. Gently, he reached his hand up to caress her face. His knuckles brushed her cheek, drying her tears.

"I don't know, I can't explain it. I've just been having these awful dreams..." she trailed off as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and wrapped her arms tightly around herself, "Like something bad is going to happen. I just know it."

He gave her a gentle smile that irritated her. She knew that she sounded crazy, but she couldn't shake the fear. The nightmares had grown increasingly more frequent and the details so vivid. She hadn't had a full nights sleep since her miscarriage. Her nights had turned into a constant source of torture instead.

They weren't just normal nightmares either. They were real, so real. The same thing played over and over. And the feeling of the terror, the pain, stayed with her every single day. No matter what she did, she just couldn't get rid of it. Every time she looked at Rusty, she saw his lifeless eyes and face splattered in his own blood. It was terrifying and agonizing. She felt like the walking dead, with her permanent dark circles and bloodshot eyes.

"Peyt, it'll be okay. I'll be back before you know it," he insisted, holding her face between his hands. He placed a soft kiss to her forehead. "I've come back every other time, haven't I?" She nodded with a sniffle as he stepped back.

Rusty searched her face and smiled again before bending down and picking his bag back up. He checked his watch. She knew she was running out of time, but what could she do? How could she possibly ask him not to go? She still had a lot to learn about the military and how they ran things, but even she knew that going against command was one of the fastest ways to get court-martialed, and most likely dishonorably discharged. Not going was not an option.

Peyton sighed in resignation, knowing it was out of her hands. Besides, she wouldn't have asked him to stay anyways, even without the legal repercussions. This was what he believed in, and she was proud of him for that. She was proud to be an Army wife. The life had never exactly enticed her before, but now she couldn't imagine marrying anyone but a soldier. Although, she would've said that no matter what Rusty had been, because she knew that he was the man made just for her.

Putting on a brave smile, she quickly wiped the few straggling tears and wrapped her arms around the man's neck. She knew her moping would only make him feel guilty. Once again he dropped his bag, letting his arms close in tight around her slim frame. She rested her head against his chest, hearing the faint beating of his heart. The heart that he had told her numerous times only beat for her. The heart that she would pray for every night, that it continued to keep beating.

She nuzzled the side of his neck and opened her eyes, looking over his shoulder. Other huddles similar to theirs littered the asphalt. Some were made of larger families with children and others were just a man and a woman, like them. She even saw one man knelt down before a black lab, his arms wrapped around the animal's furry body.

A flag flew high above them against a crystal clear, blue morning sky. The breeze caused ripples to play in the red, white, and blue fabric. The scene was like something you found in a magazine. Like something an artist would paint a picture of. It was beautiful and perfect and made her heart bubble with such pride. A lump formed in her throat.

"I think I'm finally starting to see why you do this," she whispered into his ear. Her emotions threatened to boil over.

He pulled back slightly, cocking his head and studying her. All she did was nod her head in the direction she had been looking. Leaving one arm around her waist, he turned to stand beside her. His eyes slowly scanned the area, a broad grin forming on his handsome face. His chest puffed out, making her breathe a giggle.

"You're getting there," he teased with a twinkle in his eye.

They hadn't talked anymore about whether he would stay in the Army or leave once his last months of service were over. As far as she was concerned, she didn't think they needed to. The choice was obvious. This was where he belonged. And this morning confirmed it, even amidst her negative feelings. This was as natural to him as her horses were to her. It came to her how selfish and unfair it would be to take that from him, just because she didn't want to be alone or worry about him anymore.

"Keep him safe for me!" she hollered to Ty as he strolled by. He stopped midstride and grinned while giving her a thumbs up. He wore dark shades, but she knew his emerald colored eyes twinkled beneath them.

"I always do, mon cher. We'll be back before you even miss us," he teased as he walked backwards, arms out wide.

"Doubt it," she mumbled, pulling a face. It caused Rusty to let out a deep sigh and chuckle.

He yanked his bag back off the ground, popping it over his shoulder. Peyton tilted her head up for one last kiss, already missing her husband. After pressing a lingering one and two smaller ones, he backed away and turned to filter in with the rest of the group. She watched the sea of uniforms enter the plane.

No, this was where he belonged. And her? Well, she belonged anywhere that he did.


Rusty laid awake, staring at the ceiling of the cramped and hot tent. Around him various snores and puffs of air sounded from the other soldiers. He should be asleep, too, but another dream had pulled him from his slumber. He blamed Peyton. She had been ranting about some nightmare when he had left and continued to do so in her letters. Now, even he was getting anxious.

What was it about dreams that could rattle a person so badly? Half of them didn't even make sense and there was no way they could come true. But then you have one that is so real that you could almost touch the people in it, and then you're shaken to the core by it. It plagues your days and haunts your nights. Like they had been doing him.

His thoughts immediately turned to Peyton, like they often did in his waking hours. He wondered what she was doing at that exact moment. This was something he did at various times. He would picture her doing little every day things, because it helped him get through. She was probably working with the new horse she had picked up, and that made him smile. The horses were her life, that was obvious to anyone. He always enjoyed watching her with them. The way she seemed to connect with them.

Sighing, he kicked the thin blanket off and stood. He felt for his socks and boots, before pulling them on and stepping out into the night. The crisp air was refreshing compared to the stifling tent. He breathed in deeply, allowing the fresh air to circulate throughout his lungs. The night was clear and the stars shone brightly. It reminded him of home.

He would've given anything to be standing on the back deck with Peyton. His thoughts turned dark as their recent tragedy came to mind. He would've been a dad. A dad! The idea was both terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. He didn't think he was ready to care for a tiny person, but now that the choice was ripped away from him, he was crushed.

He plopped into the sand not far from the tent. Their makeshift camp was a few miles from where al-Shishani was supposedly hiding. The location of the team was undisclosed due to safety precautions, but they still had to be careful. That meant no large fires, no loud noises, and no wandering from the group. Tomorrow, they would launch another attack, hopefully bagging him this time.

Rusty's shoulders slumped over his weary body. Everything that had happened lately was really starting to gnaw on him. He was feeling emotionally drained and defeated. The only thing he wanted anymore was to be at home with Peyton. He was growing increasingly tired of the endless chasing of insurgents.

He twitched and discreetly turned at the sound of sand being kicked up. Instinctively, he reached for the knife that stayed strapped to his side. His fingers grazed the handle as he waited for the person to approach. He strained to hear over the pounding of his heart.

"What the fuck are you doing out here?" Rusty relaxed, dropping his hand when he heard Ty's voice hissing from the darkness. "What? Were you going to cut me?"

"I might still," he answered, only half smiling. He rested his forearms on his knees. "I couldn't sleep. I needed some fresh air."

"That tent will suffocate you," Ty agreed before glancing around him. "Walk with me. I'm on watch."

Rusty pushed to his feet and followed behind. They made slow progress around the imaginary perimeter. Their feet shuffled through the sand, sending it flying with a muffled hiss. The air was chillier out there, away from the body warmth of a dozen men. It was exactly what Rusty needed to clear his head.

He shot Ty a few sideways looks, opening and closing his mouth to speak. He finally settled on the truth. "I'm getting out."

"Huh?" Ty responded, distracted as his eyes scanned the area for any dangers.

"I'm not re-enlisting," he answered simply. He rubbed the back of his neck, unsure of his friend would take the news.

Ty's steps came to an abrupt halt. Spinning to face Rusty, he cradled his rifle and studied him. Bewilderment shone brightly in his eyes and he seemed to struggle for words. He looked down with lips clamped together tightly.

"Okay," he finally answered. His eyebrows rose high as he slowly brought his gaze back up to meet Rusty's.

They stood silently for a few minutes, neither knowing what to say next. He was surprised at how easily he seemed to accept the news. No questions asked. Just one more reason why he was his best friend. Rusty battled internally. Peyton hadn't wanted to share their loss with anyone else, and he didn't feel like discussing it either. He felt like he owed Ty, though. It was part of the reason he was leaving the Army.

"Peyton had a miscarriage," he told his best friend. His voice sounded flat, emotionless despite the gaping hole it had left inside him.

Ty's face fell. "I didn't know she was pregnant."

"We didn't either," he responded, kicking at the sand. "It made me realize how much I want that. A family. A normal family."

Ty did a slow nod of understanding. He chewed the inside of his cheek as he thought it over. "I understand," he answered.

He clapped Rusty on the shoulder, letting his hand linger. His eyes held empathy. Rusty nodded once and they resumed their walking. The conversation was over. Simple as that.
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The end is so close I can taste it! Thank you to everyone that has stayed with me and waited patiently for my sporadic chapters! Anyone have any ideas how it will end?