I own diddlysquat. The characters (with the exception of the children I made up) are entirely Margaret Mitchell's. This twist on the original storyline is mine. Some quotes/passages have been blatantly ripped off from the classic movie and book Gone With The Wind.

Scarlett pounded her clenched fists against the tall white pillar beside her, and wished that she were Samson, so that she could pull down all of Twelve Oaks and destroy every person in it. She'd make them sorry. She'd show them. She didn't see quite how she'd show them, but she'd do it all the same. She'd hurt them worse than they'd hurt her.

For the moment, Ashley as Ashley was forgotten. He was not the tall, drowsy boy she loved but part and parcel of the Wilkses, Twelve Oaks, the County- and she hated them all because they laughed. Vanity was stronger than love at sixteen and there was no room in her hot heart now for anything but hate.

'I won't go home,' she thought. 'I'll stay here and I'll make them sorry. And I'll never tell Mother. No, I'll never tell anybody.' She braced herself to go back in the house, to reclimb the stairs and go into another bedroom.

As she turned, she saw Stuart, grinning and laughing with excitement when he spotted her. "Scarlett!" He shouted, waving his arms and trying to get her attention. He ran across the foyer of Twelve Oaks, laughing and grinning. "See honey, I told you there'd be a war!"

"Oh bother the war!" Scarlett snapped. "Don't you think of anything else?"

"But Lincoln's called for soldiers honey!" Stu exclaimed, his eyes dancing. "We're all goin' off to enlist!" Suddenly he noticed how pale she was, and her brightly wild her eyes were. "Here honey, are you alright? Come here, to one of the benches." He took her hand and helped her sit gently. "You'll miss us, won't you sweetheart?" Stuart said suddenly, stroking her hair.

"Of course." She whispered, her mind a-whirl with sudden plans. 'Fairhill is a good plantation. If I married him right away, it would show Ashley that I didn't care a rap -that I was only flirting with him. And it would just kill India. Not to mention it would just drive Hetty wild!'

Stu lifted her hand and kissed it gently. "Honey I can't go without sayin' it again. I love you. Will you wait for me?"

"No...I-I don't want to wait." Her eyes locked on his with startling intensity. "I want to get married as soon as possible."

His eyes widened. "Really? You mean-" She nodded again. "Yeehoo!" He picked her up and spun her around. His smile only got wider. "I'll talk to your Pa right away." He leaned over and kissed her. "You've made me happier than ever in my life Scarlett." With that he dashed back inside in search of Scarlett's father.

Scarlett's eyes filled with tears but she blinked them away forcefully. "Damn you Ashley. I'll never let anyone hurt me like this again." She thought forcefully. "Never."

Within two weeks Scarlett O'Hara became a Tarleton. Though she spent the first days of her marriage in her husband's home at Fairhill, she returned to Tara as soon as he left. Life was dismal in the county, now that the boys were gone and she'd gotten herself married. "Married, me!" The thought filled her with more amazement every time it crossed her mind. Though the amazement was inevitably replaced with despair when she recalled it was not Ashley who's return she was waiting for, but Stu.

Nine months to the day from Stu's departure, she became a mother, twice. The day that Laurel and Amethyst Tarleton were born was grey and dreary, as Januarys in Georgia tend to be. But for all that it was the happiest day in the memories of both the O'Haras and the Tarletons. The oldest Tarleton son even found his way to Tara, to wish his nieces a fond welcome. Scarlett had the babies with so little fuss and recovered so quickly and thoroughly that Mammy declared it was wasn't 'fittin' for a lady to have a child and not stay in bedrest for at least a month.

Despite Gerald's wish for his first grandchild to be a boy, he was intensely pleased with and proud of his green-eyed granddaughters, and said so whenever anyone complimented either of them.

The first week of Motherhood was very odd for Scarlett, as she found herself responsible for the very existence of two tiny beings. In those first seven days, and the months to follow, Scarlett's character was forever changed. For exactly seven days after her birth, Laurel died in her sleep.

Ellen watched over the next few weeks as Scarlett grew listless, the loss of her child weighing heavily on her. She barely slept, spending her nights in Amethyst's room, watching the infant for any sign of illness. Finally, six weeks after the births of her grandchildren she consulted Dr. Fontaine. His reply did nothing to ease her fears however; warning her that Scarlett was on the road to an early grave herself, should she continue this self- destructive pattern.

It was then that Ellen began sending Scarlett away, first to Charleston to stay with her sisters there. But in less than a month her child and grandchild had returned, Scarlett thinner and paler than before. She tried sending her to the Tarleton's family in Augusta, and to her family in Savannah and Charleston, but Scarlett never stayed more than a few weeks and continued to return home in poorer health than she'd left.

It was with a heavy heart she wrote to Melanie Wilkes, she and her Aunt Pittypat had been writing for months, begging Scarlett to come stay with them in Atlanta. If Scarlett returned quickly, again weak and miserable, then...Ellen simply didn't know what to do, if that happened. But she was hopeful; a spark of life had entered her daughter's sad green eyes when she mentioned Atlanta and Melanie. Perhaps...yes, perhaps Atlanta was the best place for Ellen's oldest daughter.

Scarlett looked over her shoulder for the dozenth time since she'd stepped off the train platform. "You be careful with that baby!" She ordered once again.

Prissy nodded glumly. "Yas'm. Ah's got huh." She continued picking her way through the red mud, trying not to get her feet too dirty, while trying to see everything in Atlanta at once. She only had to stumble once before Scarlett snatched the baby from her arms and shoved her satchel at her instead. Finally Scarlett lost her patience with dirtying her shoes and sped up her pace, not caring if Prissy's shorter legs could keep up.

"Hurry up!" She snapped, looking over her shoulder again. She looked ahead and spotted Miss Pitty's coachman-she couldn't remember his name but they'd come to her wedding. She shook her head to clear the thought and approached.

"You's Miz Scarlett?" The frail-looking old darky asked, looking her up and down.

"I am." Scarlett dimpled. "You're Miss Pittypat's coachman, aren't you?"

"Ah sho is. Ah's Uncle Peter. Miz Pitty din' come. She an' Miz Melly in a state cuz dey din' come ter meet yo' train, but Ah said ter dem, de mud jus' get dey new dresses all covered in muck and den dey'd be runned fo' dey gets to war dem an'where. An' Ah tole dem Ah'll 'splain ter Miz Scarlett 'bout de mud an' tek her back home."

"That's all right Uncle Peter." Scarlett replied, inwardly annoyed that he hadn't done something so she didn't have to walk in the mud. She climbed up in the coach and glared at Prissy. "Get up here you fool!" She barked. The young slave started and clambered up next to Uncle Peter, trying to mimic the old man's dignified manner.

It seemed that during the drive back, they stopped at every house between the train and Miss Pittypat's home. Everyone was dying to see how much Ellen Robillard's oldest had changed since her marriage, and it seemed as though Miss Pitty had told the entire town that she was coming. Scarlett found herself propping Amethyst up every five minutes, telling everyone how old she was and hearing endless sympathy from those who knew about Laurel. She didn't mind the fawning, but the sympathy made her angry and irritated. She wanted to forget about it, couldn't they see that?

Despite the irritation that seemed to grow with every stop, Scarlett felt a deep thrill to be back in Atlanta. The little town had grown by leaps and bounds since the war began, and it seemed to be humming with vigor and excitement. Suddenly she felt a mad desire to jump up in the carriage, throw her arms in the air and shout for joy. However, she contented herself with smiling so dazzlingly that a well-clothed man across the street stopped and took notice of her. His eyes lit with recognition and he laughed aloud before continuing on his way to the train station-after all, he was a busy man. And knowing that particular young lady, he would see her again when he returned.

Over the next few weeks Scarlett's naturally robust health returned. The spirit and vivacity of the city brought a spark of life back to her heart. Despite being a member of two hospital committees and numerous sewing and knitting circles, Scarlett found herself enjoying life in Atlanta more and more as days went by. She spent four mornings a week at the hospital and most five afternoons in various knitting, sewing, and musical circles. There were parties every week. Though her enjoyment of them was dulled by the fact that she couldn't dance nearly as much as she wanted, instead being forced into the role of a stately matron. Frequently she cursed herself for marrying when there was a war going on, when she could have been the belle of Atlanta, surrounded by beaux from all over the south!

But still, by far it beat out the County, where she nearly went mad with boredom. And here there were so many people who hadn't seen Amethyst. There were enough compliments about her daughter to keep Scarlett happy, and enough people to take care of her that she rarely had to do anything. Melanie openly adored the infant and never failed to say so, even in Amy's worst screaming fits she would cry, "Oh you precious darling I wish you were mine!"

Overall, life seemed to go by in a pleasant blur, and before she knew it, Scarlett had been in Atlanta for over a month.

Every woman on either side of the war dreaded the arrival of a telegram. Union or Confederate, the all had someone, a son, a brother, a husband, a dear friend or a sweetheart at the front. Night and day they prayed for their men. Women who had never feared anything in their lives, and never had anything to fear, were terrified of losing the men they loved.

In the Hamilton household, three women stared at a telegram with fear in their eyes. Melanie held Scarlett's hand tightly and for once Pittypat found the situation too serious to swoon.

"I will read it." Scarlett said aloud, watching the telegram as if it were a snake poised to strike. She bit her lip and bravely opened the letter.

Coming home stop Brent and I wounded stop not bad stop arriving Thursday noon train stop Love Stu stop

"He's wounded. He's coming home." Scarlett said blankly, relief and dismay overpowering all other emotions. "He'll be here tomorrow." She smiled with a sudden childish delight. "He's coming home! He'll finally get to meet Amy!" Her face lit up and she started dancing around the room, already planning on showing off her brave soldier husband.

Scarlett paced anxiously in the parlor. "Sometimes Uncle Peter drives me insane!" She complained to Melanie. "I wanted to meet my husband's train, is that so terrible?"

"Uncle Peter just didn't want you to get ill in the rain Scarlett." Melanie soothed. "Now, I'll go wake Amethyst." She patted Scarlett's hand and ascended the stairs.

The door opened and Scarlett raced to the hall. "Stu! Brent!" She cried out, hugging Brent first then wrapping her arms around Stu and not letting go. "Oh I'm so glad you're alright!" She pulled back slightly and looked at them. "Good Lord, can't the army even feed you any more? You look half- starved!" She exclaimed. "Come on, into the parlor. Sit." She pulled them along and forced them onto the sofa and sat opposite them in a chair. "How are you? The wounds aren't serious are they? You'll be alright?" They barely had a chance to nod before she was off on a new line of questioning. "How are all the boys? You're still in the same regiment aren't you? Tell me all about everyone. The Calvert boys and the Munroes and the Fontaines. And Ashley too."

"Everyone's fine." Brent patted her hand. "Don't you worry Scarlett, we're the only ones fool enough to get injured." He laughed. "Ashley wanted us to send a message to Miss Melanie though."

"Oh?" Scarlett's tone chilled ever-so-slightly. "I'll fetch her so you can give it." She stood and went the parlor door. "Melly?" She called. "Come down."

Melanie appeared at the top of the stairs, Amy cooing happily in her arms. "I heard them come in, I didn't want to disturb you." She explained shyly.

"They've got a message from Ashley." Scarlett pursed her lips. "Bring Amy down too." She added. She turned and went back into the parlor, pushing down the ache that suddenly appeared in her heart crying 'Ashley!'.

"Mr. Tarleton, I'm pleased to see you again." Melanie greeted softly, carrying Amethyst to her parents. "And I'm certain you'll be pleased to meet your beautiful, beautiful daughter." Scarlett scooped the baby out of Melanie's arms and held her up for Stu's approval.

"So Stu, what do you think?" Scarlett asked, her eyes bright with pride.

Stu stared at the image in front of him. One he had never expected to see, despite all his bragging before the war. His wife, Scarlett O'Hara Tarleton was smiling at him and holding his baby. "Honey, I think the picture of you two is going to keep me going for the rest of the war." Stu declared; looking happier than his brothers had seen him since the war broke out. He leaned over and kissed her forehead before admiring Amethyst. "Why she's got your eyes Scarlett. And the Tarleton hair." He laughed, touching one of her tiny curls. "She looks just like Ma."

Scarlett's lips curved into a smile. "I hope she's as good a horsewoman too. Wouldn't that please Pa!" She giggled, planning out her child's future already.

Brent grinned across the couch at his sister-in-law while admiring his niece. "You know, it's awful good to see you again honey. How have you been? And how's everyone at Tara?"

"Oh, everything's fine Brent!" Scarlett replied merrily. "Of course, money is tight from the war but soon it'll all be over and everything will be as it was." She flashed a false smile with her lie. The boys exchanged looks and Stu smiled uneasily.

"Of course honey." He patted her hand and changed the subject back to his daughter. "She really is the sweetest baby ever born." He decreed. "Look Brent, you haven't got a good look at her."

The unmarried Tarleton twin grinned and leaned over. "She looks too much like Ma, I expect her to get out a riding crop and beat us any minute." He laughed.

Scarlett giggled. "And I'm sure you deserve it for something." She replied teasingly. "But you really like her?" Scarlett asked hopefully. "She's such a darling. She's very tired now, but once she's taken her nap I'm sure you'll all love her."

"We already love her honey." Stu replied, grinning. "I bet I'll have to keep a shotgun out when her beaux start coming around."

Scarlett laughed lightly. "Yes, she'll be the belle of the County and Atlanta. She'll have more beaux than any other girl in Georgia! Yes, my little Amethyst will be the most beautiful girl in the South." Scarlett's eyes danced at the thought. Two generations of O'Hara belles! Yes, Amy would make her very proud indeed.

"She most certainly will." Melanie smiled at the redheaded baby. "Everyone just adores her already."

Brent grinned. "I bet they do!" He started. "Oh, Miss Melanie, we clean forgot! Ashley sent a message for you."

Melanie's heart-shaped face lit up. "He's alright isn't he?" She asked anxiously. Worry landed in Scarlett's heart, draining the color from her face.

"Oh yes ma'am. He's better than we are at the moment!" Stu laughed. "He just wanted us to tell you he misses you, and he's applied for a furlough. Though who knows whether he'll get one, they're getting scarcer and scarcer all the time."

Melanie beamed. "He'll get one. I'm certain of it. And he'll come home to me, even if just for a few days."

To Scarlett it seemed as if all the joy had been sucked out of the day and all the color had drained into Melanie's shining face.

Scarlett tapped her feet behind the table and pouted, wishing desperately that Stu would stop talking to the other boys home from war and dance with her. After all, he hadn't danced with her in months-since before Amy was born even! 'Before Laurel died.' A cruel little voice added. She forcibly pushed that thought from her mind and smiled enticingly at the young men nearby.

"Buy a pillowcase?" She asked sweetly, holding one out. "For the Cause." The men-boys really- grinned shyly and bought two each. "How generous! I'm sure your mother or sweetheart will love them." They nodded bashfully and left with ears tinted pink.

Scarlett sighed and pouted again. "Oh won't he stop blabbing about the war?" She wondered aloud, glaring holes into her wounded husband's head. Melanie gave her an odd look and Scarlett wiped her unhappy expression away. "Never mind Melly." She said quickly, earning her another odd look but luckily no conversation. She really couldn't handle polite conversation with Ashley's wife when her own husband was ignoring her!

Then the music broke into the rollicking strains of "Johnny Booker, he'p dis Nigger!" and Scarlett thought she would scream. She wanted to dance. She looked across the floor and tapped her foot to the music and her green eyes blazed so eagerly that they fairly snapped. All the way across the floor, a man, newly come and standing in the doorway, saw them and watched closely the slanting eyes in the sulky, rebellious face. Then he grinned to himself as he recognized the invitation that any male could read.

He had an air of utter assurance, of displeasing insolence about him, and there was a twinkle of malice in his bold eyes as he stared at Scarlett, until finally, feeling his gaze, she looked toward him.

Somewhere in her mind, the bell of recognition rang, but for the moment she could not recall who he was. And as her husband was decidedly ignoring her and no one else had paid her any attention tonight, she threw him a gay smile. She made a little curtsy as he bowed, and then, as he straightened and started toward her with a peculiarly lithe Indian-like gait, her hand went to her mouth in horror, for she knew who he was.

Thunderstruck, she stood as if paralyzed while he made his way through the crowd. Then she turned blindly, bent on flight into the refreshment rooms, but her skirt caught on a nail of the booth. She jerked furiously at it, tearing it and, in an instant, he was beside her.

"Permit me," he said bending over and disentangling the flounce. "I hardly hoped that you would recall me, Miss O'Hara."

At the sound of his voice, Melanie turned and for the first time in her life Scarlett thanked God for the existence of Ashley's wife.

"Why-it's-it's Mr. Rhett Butler, isn't it?" said Melanie with a little smile, putting out her hand. "I met you-"

"On the happy occasion of the announcement of your betrothal," he finished, bending over her hand. "It is kind of you to recall me."

"And what are you doing so far from Charleston, Mr. Butler?"

"A boring matter of business, Mrs. Wilkes. I will be in and out of your town from now on. I find I must not only bring in goods but see to the disposal of them."

"Bring in--" began Melly, her brow wrinkling, and then she broke into a delighted smile. "Why, you--you must be the famous Captain Butler we've been hearing so much about--the blockade runner. Why, every girl here is wearing dresses you brought in. Scarlett, aren't you thrilled--what's the matter, dear? Are you faint? Do sit down."

Scarlett sank to the stool, her breath coming so rapidly she feared the lacings of her stays would burst. Oh, what a terrible thing to happen! She had never thought to meet this man again, this awful man who knew what she held in her heart.

"It is quite warm in here," he said. "No wonder Miss O'Hara is faint. May I lead you to a window?"

"No," said Scarlett, so rudely that Melly stared.

"She is not Miss O'Hara any longer," said Melly with one of her fond little glances. "She's Mrs. Tarleton. She's come to live with my aunt and I here in Atlanta. She's such a comfort to us now, she's so brave and with Charlie gone-" her voice broke. Scarlett bit her lip and patted Melanie's back. She looked at the impudent visitor, her eyes pleading with him to change the subject before Melanie started crying.

"Your husbands are here tonight, I trust, on this happy occasion? It would be a pleasure to renew acquaintances."

"My husband is in Virginia," said Melly with a proud lift of her head, forcing her brother's memory from her mind. "However, Mr. Tarleton is here." She raised her hand and gestured to the cluster of young soldiers.

Scarlett nodded, frowning in their general direction. "He and his brother were wounded, so they've come home."

"I hope the injuries were not serious, they'll surely be needed back at the front with the rest of our brave lads in gray." The words seemed polite and proper, but again something in his manner gave Scarlett the feel she was being made fun of.

"No, not serious. They'll be perfectly healthy soon enough. My husband was shot in the knee, and his brother got a minie ball through the shoulder. He was mentioned in the dispatches for bravery." She added proudly, pleased in an odd way. Once a man had been her beau she forever believed he belonged to her, and that all his good deeds reflected favorably upon her. A customer approached Melanie's booth and she scampered off with a smile.

"How remarkable." The Butler creature said pleasantly, his face placidly interested while his eyes mocked her. "You must be very proud to have such a gallant brother-in-law."

She checked her tongue and started straightening the pillowcases. "Why yes I am Captain Butler. We're all very proud of Brent." She replied sweetly, deliberately misinterpreting his jibe. He laughed aloud and leaned forward.

"Why don't you say what you really think?" He demanded, lowering his voice so that in the clatter and excitement of the collection, it came only to her ears. "Why don't you say I'm a damned rascal and no gentleman and that I must take myself off or you'll have that husband of yours call me out?"

"Because I can only assume that you already know all those things." Scarlett replied, looking up and grinning impishly. "And besides, even if you are a rascal, it's annoying all the girls to no end that you're standing here talking to me instead of dancing with them. That alone is worth at least a dozen more of your insults."

He laughed heartily and leaned against the counter. "You are a unique young woman Miss O'Hara!" He said admiringly. "And you're very, very Irish." He added, amusement lacing his words.

Scarlett giggled. "Ach, 'tis true." She said, aping her father's brogue. "Was me own Pa not come over from the green isle himself?"

"Oh yes, that thick-headed little Irishman was your father." He commented idly, watching her reaction. "I'd forgotten."

Scarlett's slanting green eyes flashed and she stopped smiling. "When I said it was good for another dozen insults, I meant against me. If you want to insult my Pa, you'd best leave because I'll have none of it."

"Of course Mrs. Tarleton." He raised an eyebrow and examined her expression. "I find myself apologizing, which I rarely do. Even a scamp like me should know not to insult the father of an obvious daddy's girl like you."

"Oh I wish you'd stop making comments like that!" complained Scarlett. "I can't figure out if you're insulting me, complimenting me or just plain stating a fact!"

"Perhaps a combination of all three?" He laughed at her childish anger and picked up a pillowcase. "Here, let me make amends." He gave her a handful of coins-much more than it was worth.

"Captain Butler, this is fifty dollars! In gold!" Scarlett said, gaping at the coins in her hand.

"Well aware of it Mrs. Tarleton. Perhaps seeing all these brave lads in gray brought out the patriot in me." He smirked at her.

"Well, I'm sure the hospital thanks you." replied Scarlett, a sarcastic smile twisting her face. "You're so very generous."

Once again he laughed at her, and tipping his hat went about his business, leaving Scarlett both confused and annoyed. She was further irritated a few minutes later when she had to give up her favorite necklace and earbobs to that little Zouave and his collection basket. For a moment she envied Melanie, who's mourning prevented her from wearing any jewelry to give.

However, what really made her angry, was Dr. Meade's auction for the leading of the reel. Once upon a time she would have led every one of those reels, and every unmarried man would be bidding for her. Instead she was an old matron, forced to sit behind a booth and enjoy nothing.

In summation, she was not happy.

She narrowed her eyes when Maybelle Merriwether was the first bid, and the prices began to rise. 'Why-they would have paid twice that much for me!' She thought indignantly. For a moment she imagined she was unmarried again, in an apple-green dress with dark green velvet ribbons, and all the young soldiers in Atlanta were bidding for her.

She scowled, realizing it would never happen again. She saw Rhett Butler standing just below the doctor and, before she could change the expression of her face, he saw her and one corner of his mouth went down and one eyebrow went up. She jerked her chin up and turned away from him and suddenly she heard her own name called-called in an unmistakable Charleston voice that rang out above the hubbub of other names.

"Mrs. Stuart Tarleton-one hundred and fifty dollars-in gold."

A sudden hush fell on the crowd both at the mention of the sum and at the name. Scarlett was so startled she could not even move. She remained sitting with her chin in her hands, her eyes wide with astonishment. Everybody turned to look at her-with the single exception of a redheaded young man who stared at the bidder, anger in his eyes. Dr. Meade leaned down and whispered something to Rhett Butler, most likely that she was married and could not lead the reel with anyone but her husband. Rhett shrugged lazily.

"Another of our belles perhaps?"

"No, Mrs. Tarleton."

"She will not-"

A voice rang out, which at first Scarlett did not recognize as her own. "Yes I will!" She exited the booth and hurried to Stu with an explanation on her tongue and a pout on her lips. "It's for the hospital you know, and we need money badly. And since you can't dance and I love it so...be good and let me?" She asked, widening her eyes innocently and tugging on his jacket.

Her husband scowled blackly at Captain Butler, but nodded. "Alright honey." He muttered. "Go on ahead." She hugged him and gave him a peck on the cheek.

"Thank you!" Scarlett hurried off and then she was on the floor and Rhett Butler was advancing toward her through the aisle of the crowd, that nasty mocking smile on his face. But she didn't care--didn't care if he were Abe Lincoln himself! She was going to dance again. She was going to lead the reel. She swept him a low curtsy and a dazzling smile and he bowed, one hand on his frilled bosom. Levi, horrified, was quick to cover the situation and bawled: "Choose yo' padners fo' de Ferginny reel!"

And the orchestra crashed into that best of all reel tunes, "Dixie."

"You've made me very conspicuous Captain Butler."

"My dear, you wanted to be conspicuous. I was merely doing my part to keep a fine matron like yourself happy."

"You're impossible." Scarlett laughed, unable to be angry while dancing, when it had been so long since she was able to dance with anyone who didn't step on her toes.

"Yes, I am." He smirked at her. "This is the last part of the reel isn't it?"

"Yes. I really must sit down now."

"Why, are you tired?"

"No, but..."

"Then dance the waltz with me."

"Everyone would talk! And Stu would get mad-see he's already upset with me." She tilted her head in her husband's direction.

"Do you really care what your husband thinks?"

"Of course I do!" But she danced the waltz with him, as well as the next reel. Many different young men claimed her for many other dances that night, to her husband's ire and Rhett Butler's amusement. And for the first time in months Scarlett truly enjoyed herself, heedless of the consequences.

To Be Continued....