Rhett Butler gets a lot of action in many stories, and rarely are there any consequences for him. In this story there are consequences. I took a lot of literary freedom with the reality of syphilis. "Lord of the Flies" takes even more latitude with scientific reality, although to be fair this is a long ways away from being of the caliber as that work. I have to admit that it always bothered me that Piggy was near sighted, which is important to the story, but he can start a fire with diverging lenses. Anyway there is precedent for being fast and loose with science. I think I say here that Margaret Mitchell and her heirs own all the rights to "Gone With the Wind". If anyone wants to take this idea and run with it, be my guest. I have no pretensions of being a writer.

Butler paced his bordello of a parlor. Even with all the velvet curtains, he could occasionally hear the cries of his wife. Bonnie's birth and pregnancy had been so easy. This one had made him really look at his wife. It was her personality that made you think that she was indomitable. Once he really looked at her when she was sleeping, he realized how delicate she really was. She had worked the land of Tara not with muscle a and sinew, but with sheer force of will.

He had almost lost her the day he came home from London. He still couldn't quite believe the things he had said to the love of his life. That day had made him rethink his conviction that God didn't exist. Surely some demon must have possessed him to make him say those things. If demons existed, then perhaps God really did exist also. It was either extreme luck, or God's hand that allowed him to catch Scarlett before she fell down the stairs.

He was so relieved when he held her trembling form in his arms. A child. He was going to be a father again. His heart had soared. She kept repeating, "my baby, my precious baby, I could have lost you". He had whispered in her ear that he was a cad and she should hardly ever listen to him. Overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment, he had begged her forgiveness for what he said and that of course he wanted the child since he loved its mother so much. He had expected retribution after that had slipped out, but instead she had looked shyly at him with dewy eyes and whispered back, "oh Rhett I love you too. That is why I want this baby so much".

He had carried her to her room and laid her down. She had really looked pale. She had glowed when she carried Bonnie, but with this child she did not look well. He had lain next to her holding her hand until she fell asleep. He had sworn to be there whenever she needed him her entire pregnancy. While she slept he moved his things back into her, their, room. When she awoke, she had offered to clean out some drawers of her baubles so that he might have more room for his grooming supplies. He had wondered if she might make some comment about his capitulation, but she had only acknowledged the change with that one sentence.

His dreams flew with the eagles thinking of the future that day. It had been short lived. It was dread and worry that had replaced anticipation. She had only gotten paler. She tried to eat, but she always felt unwell. She was so thin, with just her abdomen protruding. She too knew what she looked like so she worried too, which only contributed to her inability to eat well. She was always exhausted. He made sure that she slept as much as she seemed to need while he looked after her business interests. He missed her though. He could lie next to her and hold her and touch her, but it wasn't like having her awake and in his arms and responding to his teasing. There was the rash too. It wasn't severe, but Dr. Meade's face when he saw it told him that it portended something. As much as he bullied the curmudgeonly doctor, he couldn't get any information from him.

It was almost over though he told himself through one length of the parlor and back again. He didn't hold out much hope that the child would survive, but at least he would have his wife back. She was a survivor. Hadn't he always told her that. He had always resented that attribute of hers a little if he was being honest.

He lifted his head from his hands where he had rested them on his knees when he had sat momentarily during his feline pacing. It was finally quiet. Moment after moment ticked by and it was still quiet. He breathed a sigh of relief. It was over. Just then a wail split the air. It was his wife and it was the sound of her soul being ripped from her body. The child hadn't survived.

He sprinted up the stairs and was met by Dr. Meade who had seemed to age years in just a few hours. There was fury in the old man's eyes.

"I did everything I could for Scarlett and the child, but their fate was determined by you long ago, and all I could do was try to make them comfortable", the grizzled practitioner told Rhett. "Do you want to see the child before. . . well before". Rhett steeled himself and walked into the bedroom followed by the doctor.

Scarlett was alive but looked almost like a corpse. She was holding a swaddled bundle and sobbing. Rhett sat on the bed and gently moved the edge of the blanket away. He quickly ran to the wash basin and lost the contents of his stomach. Where the child's eyes should have been were just empty sockets. After he was finally able to stand up, he had looked questionably at the doctor. The doctor understood and proceeded to explain.

Without preamble or dissemination, the good doctor explained, "Scarlett has syphilis. This is why she was so weak and tired and what made it so difficult for her to eat. She passed it on to the child. Blindness is a common result of syphilis in newborns. I had been wondering about the cause of her malaise, but with the onset of her rash, I was almost certain of the reason. There was nothing that could be done. Given who Scarlett is and who you are, the only explanation is that you contracted syphilis on one of your forays into the whore house. Your body is not stressed so you haven't shown any symptoms yet. You passed it on to Scarlett. Once her body also had to cope with a pregnancy, the extra strain allowed the disease to progress much more readily in her case. She was already so weak before the delivery, that the shock of this may make her succumb to the disease very quickly. Even if she physically recovers somewhat, the disease is rampant in her and you can expect for there to be mental implications soon. She will either die soon, or need to be sent to a sanitarium. You have murdered your wife and child Capt. Butler. Do you remember the line in your marriage vows? Do you remember swearing to worship her with your body and to forsake all others? It is to forestall this kind of tragedy that marriage is expected to come with fidelity. For Scarlett's sake I will do all I can for her and this household, but personally I think that you are the most heinous of men. If you desire medical treatment for yourself, you should likely find another physician. Your mental processes too may become suspect in the future although the timing is unpredictable. I would urge you to make arrangements now for the future care of Wade, Ella, and Bonnie while you still have your wits about you. Miss Melly will very likely be willing to raise the children." At the end of this oration, this man who had seen so much misery in his life, sagged just a little bit more.

Mammy and Miss Melly had been standing next to Scarlett and stroking her hair. Scarlett's sobbing was suddently quiet. In it's place Rhett heard "Oh my lam… my po' lam" in Mammy's textured alto and "Oh Scarlett my poor dear sister Scarlett" in Melly's pristine soprano one.

Rhett Butler was an educated man. He thought he was an intelligent man. He felt removed from time in that moment. He could see himself at his lessons as a child and young man in Charleston. "the wages of sin is death" he had heard. Why had he never asked whose death. If they had told him that the wages of his sins would be his child's and his love's death perhaps. . . . No he would have behaved the same because he was a selfish bastard who thought he knew better than anyone else.

He wanted to go downstairs into his study, take his pistol and put an end to this. Surviving would be his penance though. Although he had killed one child, he had to make sure the other three survived. The thought of Ashley Wilkes raising his Bonnie was almost unbearable, but this too he must bear. He had wondered about the odd fleeting thought that seemed like someone else's he had experienced the last few months. Dr. Meade was right, his days too were numbered. He swore he wouldn't be a burden to his family. He had to settle legal matters with Henry Hamilton and then he had to settle the score with Belle. She was complicit in Scarlett's death, nay murder. Had he really called her a good hearted whore? Maybe there was no such thing. She would get her wish of being with him. They would be in hell for eternity together. He would take her to Charleston with him and they would go sailing after the children were set. It would be his last voyage.

Scarlett felt so light. She turned her head and there was Charlie walking towards her. How much he looked like Wade. She had missed Charlie so much. They had played together as children. She knew she was dying, but if Charlie was here with her then there was no reason to be afraid.

"Rhett Rhett" he heard in a breathless whisper. He hurried quickly to her side. "Charlie?" she uttered in apparent surprise. "No Scarlett, stay with me. Please oh please stay with me. Charlie will get to spend eternity with you. Let me be with you right now" was his anguished plea. Scarlett's eyes focused momentarily on Rhett's face. She seemed to know her time was just in moments. "The children, Rhett, love them". Numbly he nodded yes. His voice was too choked to answer. Her voice even quieter, continued, "Be happy, I love you Rhett, I forgive you, oh please be happy". Her eyes fluttered shut and then she was well and truly gone. Rhett Butler could barely see through the tears streaking down his face.