Hi! I had originally planned to post this on Valentine's Day, so that should tell you a thing or two about my work ethic as well as my relationship with deadlines. Anyway, here's another standalone...ish little story from the same universe as Uncharted territory. In other words:
Still locked in together.
Still full of inconsistencies.
Actually, this is set some time before UT so while I can't promise Rhett will come out of it completely unscathed, his arm will at least be in full working order when we begin. So without further ado:
"Giving up already? Is this really the same man who boldly stated that if he..." she goaded, scrunching her face into a grimace equally insulting to both, and added in an overly proud and threatening voice: "... wanted something bad enough, no lock would keep him out?"
One corner of his mouth went down with a huff as he observed her unflattering impersonation.
"Is this really the same woman who found my coarse company so 'disgusting' that she cast me out? Besides, you're not doing anything to assist me. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you're finding our current situation rather amusing."
"First of all, I did not find-" she began heatedly, before realizing her slip and collecting herself. "I mean, I do not find our current situation amusing."
"And second of all..?"
"Nothing." he smiled, teeth glimmering in the dim light.
Scarlett sniffed, and lifted her chin. "I'm in no hurry to get out of here, if that's what you're hinting at."
"That was as a matter of fact not what I was hinting at, my sweet ignoramus, but go on."
She knit her brows at the foreign sounding word, and muttered: "As I said, I'm in no hurry to return to the others and resume the exhausting little miss Goody Two-Shoes act. At least when I'm with you, I don't have to make an effort."
Rhett opened his mouth to reply, frowned, and closed it again. Scarlett revelled in the affronted silence that followed, and cast him a provocatively sweet and insincere smile. He returned her smile with an equally hollow of his own, tipped an invisible hat in honor of her dishonesty, and returned his attention to the door. Scarlett, who was perched on top of a wine crate, observed his dubious progress with a dull, faraway expression.
"You obviously didn't exaggerate." he commented after some time, as he wiped the perspiration from his forehead. At her nonplussed expression he nodded pointedly to her idle demeanor, and added: "About not making an effort. You know, I'm beginning to question the airs you give yourself about saving Tara. You're about as useless as-"
"Don't drag Ashley into this!" she growled warningly.
He paused to glance at her quickly, queerly, before resuming his attempts. "As useless as arrogance in battle, a conscious in business-" He shot her another quick side glance "- or fidelity in a marriage."
He did not raise his voice at the last words, nor emphasize them in any way, but Scarlett nevertheless felt her cheeks grow hot in unexpected shame. For while she had remained physically faithful to Rhett, her heart had always - would always - belong to another. She thought of the countless times she had lain in Rhett's arms and wished he was Ashley, and flinched.
Then again, he had some nerve dropping snide remarks about fidelity! For all she knew, he might have been openly consorting with Belle Watling for years! Not to mention parading around all evening in their home, in front of every dragon in the Old Guard, with Lorena on his arm. At least her and Ashley's love was beautiful and- and pure, and- Melly's sweet, trusting face appeared before her, and Scarlett swallowed uneasily.
"You seem to be doing just fine without me. Without my help." she corrected swiftly, and raised her chin to cover up the faux pas. "Besides, you'll knock down that door in no time. I can always count on you to get me out of whatever predicament I'm in- be it the fall of Atlanta or a mourning dress."
Rhett's eyebrows rose in surprise. "I'm feasting on crumbs tonight!" he declared. "What's the occasion?"
"Crumbs, fiddle-dee-dee!" Scarlett snapped irritably. "You make it sound like-"
"… you're luring me into a trap?" he supplied.
"… I'm coaxing a lonely prisoner into a proposal." Scarlett countered, unfazed. Rhett froze with his back turned to her, and Scarlett immediately regretted her words. They had never approached the subject of that afternoon before, except for the truce offering shortly after her second wedding. Scarlett found this silent agreement somewhat baffling, considering he had teased her - and she had berated him - about more or less everything else. But somehow, they instinctively knew her visit at the jail had been of no credit to either of them, and therefore better left unmentioned. Scarlett had been very pleased with this arrangement, so it was with a rare sense of self-reproach that she wondered what on earth had possessed her to say that. She felt the brittle and unexpected peace, that had somehow forged between them when the door slammed shut, cracking. Then Rhett slowly turned around to face her, leaned back against the wall with a blank, unreadable expression, and she held her breath in trepidation.
"That's what I said." he related with a lazy wave of his arm. "Did it work?"
Scarlett stared at him and blinked. "Whu- what?"
She grinned. It was back on. "Of course." she answered confidently with a lifted chin.
"Is that so?" A flicker of light returned to his eyes, and two black brows rose in surprise.
"Well…" Scarlett shrugged carelessly. "Eventually."
He tried not to smile at her cynical conclusion of their six year long courtship.
"Then again, you don't mind waiting, do you?" he countered. "I've never known such devotion - regardless of how misplaced it might be."
That jab was more like his old self she thought with annoyance, but decided to brush it off. She was not about to fly off the handle, not when he had just allowed her back into his good graces.
"I'll take that as a compliment!"
"Then you aren't a very good listener."
"And you aren't a very good complimenter!" she immediately shot back, riled.
"No? That's not what Lorena said. Then again, she is a good complimenter..."
The brittle peace she had fought so hard to keep a minute ago, cracked like a China bowl hurled against a marble mantelpiece. She stormed past him, all wounded pride and indignant air, and strode towards the door with long, purposeful steps.
"Get out of my way!" she cried, intending to forcefully shove him aside, but he barely faltered.
"What are you doing?" His eyes grew wide when he realised her intent. "You're a woman! You'll only end up dislocating your shoulder, or worse!"
"What is it to you?" she snarled.
"Well… Nothing. Except I don't want to be stuck in here all evening with some useless cripple!"
"Oh, you won't be. That's the entire point, you idiot."
"For heaven's sake, stop it! Before you rip your God-damn arm out of its socket!"
"I know how to knock down a door!"
"I thought you were more in the habit of locking them?"
"And I thought you wanted my assistance!"
"How is you obstinately maiming yourself of any assistance to me? Jesus Christ, be careful!" he added with a cry as she forcefully slammed into the door again, her bullheaded determination compensating for whatever she lacked in physical strength.
"I'm not some silly goose who's going to..," she sputtered, fumbling for the right words. "...sprain her ankle at the first sign of physical labour."
"No, but- Scarlett, I'm serious! Stop it!"
"Oh, please!" she laughed, preparing to fling herself at the door once more. "I told you- I'm not some stupid, frail- God's nightgown, that hurt!" she growled, clasping her shoulder. "My goodness!" she added, eyes watering as she massaged the sore spot. "I did not see that coming."
Rhett groaned and kneaded his forehead.
"What's the matter?" she managed through clenched teeth. "Do you have a headache?"
"I'm married to one."
"Please!" she scoffed. "So I'm the headache? Try sharing a bed with old ginger whiskers!"
"No thanks!" Rhett said, carelessly waving away her offer. "I never cared much for the marital bed. Although I suppose I could have made an exception for Frank…" he conceded slowly. "But everyone and their sister was apparently out to get him."
She glared defiantly at him with an angry, childish pout. "Don't make fun of me." she sulked.
"I wasn't making fun of you. I was reprimanding you for some of the horrible decisions you've made."
"I know it was stupid and, well, a bit heedless of me. Even though you're certainly to blame too, for putting me in that position in the first place. But I've paid the price for my recklessness. And I obviously wouldn't do it again, given the opportunity."
He took a stumbling step backwards, eyes gleaming with mockery. "Have you grown a conscience? I don't believe it!"
"What? No! My arm." she clarified testily. "I can barely move it."
He grinned, and leaned back against the wall with his hands in his pockets. "So? What do you want me to do about it? Marry a woman with sense the next time?"
"Any woman with sense wouldn't have you. You're way too much trouble." When his predatory grin only grew wider with each word, she added: "And you're not nearly as irresistible as you think you are!"
His dark eyes glittered with amusement as he considered her words. Then he leaned away from the wall, standing at full height, and slowly made his way over to her. He stopped in front of her, so close that she had to take a stumbling step back to look him in the eyes.
"My pet, if I ever bothered to use my charm on you, you wouldn't be able to stand for days." he said, the challenge in his eyes taking the edge off his words, filling them with self-deprecating humor rather than menace. To compensate for her involuntary stumble before, Scarlett straightened her back, raised her chin, and took a step closer.
"Ha! I doubt it." she proclaimed confidently, a smile wrinkling the corners of her eyes. "I've heard numerous tales of your alleged ways with women, but that's just it- they're all stories!"
His eyes narrowed as her insult hit home, a smile tugging at his lips.
"And you want evidence? Is that it?" he countered softly with a small, curious tilt of his head.
Scarlett's self-assurance wavered for a moment as her mind they still engaged in harmless banter, or had they unknowingly slipped into some new, unchartered territory? She vaguely recognized the flickering flame in the dark depths of his eyes,but its meaning was as lost to her now as it had always been. She only knew it made her feel discomfited, lightheaded and immensely self-aware, and that she had to put an end to this- this- well, whatever this was. She ought to push him away, physically remove him from her personal space so that she could think clearly again. She looked down at his chest, pictured her palms against it, caught herself staring, blinked, and looked up again.
"It seems only fair." she swallowed loudly as he grinned and leaned in even closer.
She felt his breath on her face, which caused a slight tremble in her hands, and could think of nothing to do but stand straight as a ramrod and stare dumbly at his moustache.
"Just ask Lorena." he suggested in a silky whisper. His complacent smile was rather short lived, however, as Scarlett pushed him away with a growl and slapped him across the cheek with all her might. This time he actually stumbled backwards, caught off guard by both the assault and the sheer force of it.
"Oh, would you look at that? I could move it, after all!" she said in mock astonishment, as she flexed the muscles in her fingers before her.
"Glad to be of assistance." Rhett muttered dryly, as he pressed his hand against the side of his face and winced. "Good God, woman! You still know how to throw a punch!"
Scarlett glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, and her lips curled into a satisfied smirk when she found a bright red silhouette of her hand garnishing his cheek. She tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to bite back a wider smile as she insincerely mumbled:
"I'm sorry I tarnished your pretty face."
He looked up quickly, eagerly. "You think I have a pretty face?"
In that instant, she wished she could have bitten her tongue. But there had been no mockery behind his inquiry, and Scarlett realized that she - miraculously - still held the upper hand. She pretended to consider his question for a moment, then scrunched up her nose and shook her head adamantly.
"No. You're not my type." she answered dismissively. "I prefer the blond variety."