Name: Winter at Tara

Fandom: GWTW

Pairing: Friendship fic. (Hints of Melly/Ashley and Scarlett/Ashley.)

Rating: G

A/N: I don't have a copy of the book handy. It is set during the winter, though I am not sure if Melly and Scarlet actually spent a winter at Tara without Ashley. Also I'm not sure if winter gets so bitter in the southern states.

Summary: The night is bitterly cold. Melanie speaks words of strength to Scarlett, and Scarlett ponders on what to reply. Friendship fic.

The night is cold, cold enough that they are using some of the precious hoarded firewood, chopped by hands too small, and delicate, praying that tomorrow does not bring with it the same distress it brings now. Melanie is blue lipped, shivering, but she valiantly hides it, as she sits tucked beneath the old quilt, fairly swamped in its folds. Scarlett thanks God for the hours of work put into the old quilts by slaves hands, and the delicate embroidery around the edges done by Ellen. The blankets had been deemed too old to be of any use, but Mammy with thrifty providence back in the times of plenty, had seen fit to stow them away in a linen cupboard in the attic, where they emerged now smelling faintly of camphor.

Melanie's face is thin and white with cold and suffering, pinched from lack of food, but kindness still gleams in her eyes, and her fingers are busy as she works on the sewing in her hands. Scarlett is huddled by the fire, and she wishes fiercely that she hadn't put on another log. The other occupants of the house have been driven to bed by the cold, but Melanie has elected to wait with Scarlett until sleep takes them both. Her eyes are worried as she looks at Scarlett who is poring over her own work, eyes tired and raw, red from tears she would deny in an instant if Melanie spoke of them. The cold nights have driven them to share a bedroom, curling up like small animals away from the fierce winter, finding comfort in the meagre body warmth of the other.

Scarlett fumbles and scratches her finger. Melanie is instantly there, petting the wounded hand, bathing it, and tearing a rag to make it a bandage. Scarlett restrains herself from snapping at the thoughtfulness. She would just have let it go. Her hands has suffered far worse in recent weeks. A burn on one side is still visible, a small white scar, and they are callused and rough. You can always judge a lady by her hands. Smiling bitterly, she looks at them. They are small and tough and fierce. Fighters hands. Melanie is still kneeling beside her. "Darling," she says softly. "I'm worried about you."

Scarlett bites back the obvious retort. Worry about yourself, and your baby. Beau was small and sickly, a weak puling brat who drove Scarlett mad when he cried. She admits grudgingly to herself that he is not a bad baby, and he cries very little. It is the look in his eyes that drives her mad. The accepting look in his eyes. When Wade had been a baby, he had been fussed and dandled and loved, and in his eyes had shone health, happiness and contentment in the knowledge that he was wanted. In little Beau's eyes, was a simple realisation that the world was not a good place to be. She saw the same look in Wade's eyes now, the same in Pork's, even in Mammy's. She saw it in the way Suellen moved, the way Carreen cried into her pillow at night when she thought no-one could hear, small choking sobs, bitten back with all the bravery her small soul could muster.

She turns now more often to Melanie, because that look is not in Melanie's eyes. They are fierce and proud, and her chin is raised in silent battle with the world. Her will drives her on, forces her to take on work a grown man would shudder at, and wins her grudging admiration from Scarlett. She reassures Melanie. "I'm fine," she whispers. Without question or comment, Melanie takes Scarlett's thin body into her arms, holds her as a mother would a child. Scarlett is ready to scream in frustration. She does not need to be embraced, and comforted. Her body says otherwise. It yields to the soft embrace, accepting the intention and the warmth. In silent mortification she feels tears prickles her eyes, and with every ounce of will she thrusts them back. Melanie tilts her face up. In her gaze is so much admiration, so much love and courage that Scarlett feels strengthened by it obscurely. There is hope for them still.

"Don't cry honey," murmurs Melanie. Scarlett shakes her head, a fierce denial of such an emotion. Melanie smiles at her, and strokes her hair. "You are our strength," she whispers to Scarlett. "You lead us where no one else could, and where I could not follow anyone else. You saved my life and my babies life. Anything I have is yours, my loving friendship will always be in your possession."

Scarlett looks at the wide eyes, the innocent childlike face, and feels the words tumble to her lips. Now is the time to tell her. Now. This charade cannot continue, she thinks. I must tell you now before I loose my nerve. But the words which would once have sprung so readily to the hot tempered sixteen year olds lips, are bitten back. No. There are some things that are not worth sacrificing to love. Like innocence, and honour. There is bitterness in Scarlett's heart, and ashes in her mouth. Perhaps she is scared of what Melanie would do. What Melanie will give.

Melanie is ice cold, and Scarlett tuts, as she wraps the blanket around her. "We'll stay here tonight," she said curtly. She rubs Melanie's feet with swift, efficent hands, making sure the circulation is working, and then she wraps them together in the blanket, placing Beau between them, so he will be comforted by their warmth. "Good night," she says quietly. Melanie's reply is sleepy, and her hand is warm in Scarlett's.

There are some things you can do in the name of love. There are some things you can do in the name of friendship. They do not coincide.

A little vignette. Life at Tara. Sorry about the odd tense I used, and hope you enjoyed. Pure friendship fic. All fluffy and cute.

Please review.