Night Before Tomorrow 9

She was comfortably nestled in his arms; her face streaked with tears that had dried in salty trails. And yet he had to break the silence. He needed to let her know how he felt. "Scarlett."

She sighed softly against his chest. "Mmmmm?" She sighed.

"Scarlett, I want you to look at me," he insisted.

She pulled away slightly so that she could see his face. "Yes?"

"Scarlett. I should have told you this years ago, I should have confessed my feelings when we were first married." He paused for a moment, staring into the brightness of her eyes. "I love you, Scarlett,"

Tears again glittered unshed in her eyes, as she tried to confirm that the words he was speaking were more than simply words, that she had not imagined it all as her mind had contorted the reality of the situation with Ashley. She looked deeply into his black eyes, trying to finally decipher those emotions that she had never succeeded at reading, trying to wake herself if this was no more than a dream, a beautiful glittering dream. "Do you? Are you certain?" She asked.

"Scarlett, I love you. I want to prove it to you. I should have told you this, perhaps even during the war when I first fell in love with you. I should have told you when Bonnie was born, I should have told you years ago, allowed you to forget the notion that I only wanted your body." He confirmed.

"How can I be certain?" There was fear in her voice, anxiety that was barely being held at bay. "You remarked once that since I no longer loved Ashley that it was likely that I did not love you. You claimed that you no longer loved me... how am I supposed to accept the depth of your feelings or the validity of them?" She wasn't baiting him. There was a hunger in her eyes, a longing for the confirmation of the veracity of his statements. "Do you really love me?"

He stared at her, as if for a moment he was unsure of himself. He gazed at her, soaking in the sight of her, taking his time to give the right words to reassure her. "I never stopped loving you, not really. But I didn't even realize that myself. It doesn't make it right, but I was so completely devastated by Bonnie's death that I couldn't feel anything at all. I became numb to everything."

"I'm sorry, Rhett." Scarlett told him softly, her eyes misty with tears.

"I'm sorry too, Scarlett. And it's only now that I've had the chance to get away from here and allow myself to do some soul searching that I could see what the truth was. All of my emotions had been buried deeply under the ashes of the disasters of a lifetime. I had to heal myself before I could even realize and see what the truth really was. And now that I've had that chance, I want to make things right. There has never been another woman who has done what you have done to me. We were made for each other."

"Then why do we do such terrible, hurtful things to each other?" Her mind focusing on the events that followed Bonnie's death, of the accusations that she had hurled at him.

"We've said some terrible things to each other, things that can't be forgotten. We've done things to each other that were most assuredly not born of love." He said.

Her voice grew shrill as she cried out defensively, "I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it when I said that you killed Bonnie. Rhett, I'm so sorry. I was just so hurt that I lashed out at you, as if hurting you would make me feel better. And it didn't, not that that would make what I did right."

"Scarlett, there have been many things said that no one should ever say. I don't know that I can ever forgive myself for what I said to you right before you fell down the stairs. I've replayed that over and over in my mind, certain that if I had done something differently I might have saved you and the baby."

They sat there quietly for a moment, the tension resurfacing from the painful events of their storied history suspended between them. The hurt of a thousand lifetimes surrounding them.

"I was so happy." Her voice was very soft, very unlike her usual confident bravado. "I lied then. I wanted that baby. I couldn't wait to tell you; I didn't know how to find you. And I missed Bonnie. I was so excited to see you both home. But you didn't want me, and I said things that I regret – that I will always regret. If I had just been kinder, if I hadn't had to fight back... it doesn't matter. Looking back helps nothing." But it was already too late, for the tears were spilling from her eyes in profusion, fast and heavy like a summer thunderstorm.

"I think we must look back, we must see the mistakes we have made. We have to know what was broken before it can be repaired." He reached out a hand and brushed away the tears, which were immediately replaced by more tears. "I was so jealous I couldn't see straight. Looking back now, knowing the truth, I should have realized that you were looking at me with love in your eyes, the very look I had wanted you to bestow upon me since the first time I met you. I don't know what possessed me, but your fall, was without a doubt my fault. And I'm so profoundly sorry, but words will never be enough to express it." He looked down into his hands, his shoulders slumped in guilt and regret and self-condemnation.

"Rhett, this is not all your fault, nor is it all mine. We both made mistakes. We can move past that, but what I need to know is if you really do love me, or if you are merely saying it to please me."

"Scarlett, I love you. I know that the words won't be enough. I know that you have suffered because of me, but I want you to let me prove my love to you. I want you to grow confident that my love will not fail again, that I will be there at your side for the rest of our lives. I want to love you as completely as I loved our daughter," he paused wistfully. And they stared at each other in silence, taking a moment to remember their loss. But then he grinned, "but I assure you, I want to love you in a much different way."

He leaned forward and placed a searing kiss on her waiting lips. "Scarlett, I love you, but, God, I want you."

She stared at him, still afraid of losing her tenuous hold on her emotions, but he didn't pull away. His lips were hungry and insistent. And as his kiss deepened, she could not help but respond. Hot tears prickled her eyes, as his hot, slow lips danced over hers. "Kiss me, Scarlett. Kiss me."

Softly, she sighed, and his tongue found its entrance. His tongue slowly caressed hers with infinite care until she responded in turn, dueling and dancing in a delirious dalliance. Her hands wound their way up his chest, until they were tightly wrapped around his neck, softly tugging on the short strands of hair at the nape of his neck.

Then Rhett felt the warm tears, trickling out, slipping steadily across her face and into her hair. "Don't cry, darling. Please don't cry." He crooned as his lips touched each tear in turn -the warm wetness glistening and clinging there. As if he was in that act taking each wound into himself, and freeing her from the torment.

"I never thought I'd get to have a moment like this. I thought I had done too many terrible things to have a moment like this. I'm still so afraid that I'm going to close my eyes, and you will disappear. Nothing that I have loved has ever lasted. Everything has always disappeared in time."

He lifted her hands to his lips, and placed soft kisses upon them, lingering kisses that caused the blood in her veins to boil. Then his dipped down and slowly brushed hot lips against the pale skin at the base of her neck, his tongue making slow circles in the hollow that lay there, sending shivers down her spine.

She moaned softly, for he was bringing to life a part of her that had only once been awakened, a memory of a moment that she had buried and repressed, to silence it from rearing its head and making her miss more about him. And yet now he was here, his arms around her, his breath warming her. She felt complete, and yet she was still needing something desperately – something that she knew that only he could give.

Suddenly he was gone, the warmth of his body, his weight pushing against her, his searing tongue and his singeing breath were instantly removed from her. She opened her eyes, her breathing quickening even more than his attentions had been causing, terrified that it had all been one exceptionally vivid dream, a beautiful dream of the life she hoped to have come true, one that would leave her with the makings of another nightmare to torture and torment her. "Rhett!" She cried out, panic rising and swirling in the air around them, as a child terrified when unable to find their parents.

But then his hands were lifting her, cradling her gently as it forced her to stand, and the cool air of the room dancing around them. "Shhhh, my Scarlett. I'm here. I just want to see you."

His hands slowly began unbuttoning the front of her thin nightgown as she shivered at the combination of his touch and the cold air. His lips softly caressing her as each button fell open, until the thin fabric was fully parted, inviting him to begin disrobing himself. "Rhett." she whispered shyly. "Let me." He looked into her eyes to find a longing that equaled his contained within the jade depths. Her face was flushed, her cheeks rosy with bright splotches of color gathered there. He dropped his hands to allow her this opportunity, watching in fascination as she resumed what he had begun.

Her small hands began, swiftly and yet precisely, loosening his cravat, allowing her hands to glide along the smooth length of the material. He watched her with darkened eyes as her hands dropped and began swiftly sliding buttons from their holes; her small hands sliding under the fabric – cool against his warm skin. The mere meeting of skin sent tremors to his toes, like lightning leaping from her skin to his. That ember that had seemed extinguished not very long ago, now blazed, an all consuming fire that devoured him, rendering him defenseless against the onslaught of her feelings for him and his for her. Her small hands slid the shirt off of his shoulders, and continued working on his undershirt until his chest was bare. Her hands roamed freely, cool and yet scorching at the same time. She leaned forward, placing her warm lips on his chest. He could feel the moisture of her lips and her warm, sweet breath as they collided with his body.

She was trembling as she loosened his pants, allowing them to fall to his feet. She looked up at him, more completely alive than he had ever seen anyone. And without another thought, he pulled her roughly against his body. And then he cradled her softly, trying to allow some of his strength to seep into her. She was afraid, afraid of rejection and more hurt to pile upon her wounds. "Don't be afraid, my love." But it was more than fear that caused her to tremble.

He led her to the bed, joining her, holding her, kissing her while running his fingers through her hair. Pulling it over him, as though they were one, allowing himself to be lost in this moment of ecstasy with her, the only woman who would ever capture his heart.

They lay there in the silence, not speaking. Not needing to speak. Feeling united for the first time, truly united in spirit. Rhett's hand played in her hair, gathering it between his fingers, and allowing it to drape over his hand, feeling the silky length of it, twirling it in slow circles. Scarlett's eyelids occasionally fluttered down, so peaceful and contented that it was difficult not to be lulled to sleep by his gentle touch, but she fought against it, wanting to remember this moment vividly. "Rhett." She spoke his name with a soft rasp, revealing the exhaustion of the past months. "Can we stay like this forever?"

He chuckled softly. "I don't think that it would be all that appropriate, my dear."

She smiled, sensing the teasing in his voice, noticing the subtle changes in his intonation. "Oh, you skunk. I mean the way we are now. It's so nice."

He drove his fingers deeper into her hair and turned her head to face him. "I hope it never changes." He offered before brushing her lips with his own. "If this is tomorrow, I'm glad to finally be here."

And Scarlett laid her head on his chest, listening to the beating of his heart. Her hair spilled over his chest, tumbling over him. And she closed her eyes and sighed. And she allowed the sleep to claim her, as Rhett stared into the stillness of the room, hoping that this would be how it was for the rest of his life. The past could not be changed, but tomorrow had all of the promise of greatness and perfection and beauty. And today would be the first day of their new life together. Today was all he needed.

The End