Rhett was in the sitting room holding Reese watching as Geraldine was being measured for new dresses. Scarlett was busy supervising the fitting process and paid little attention to Rhett as he stood and left the room.
He was walking up the stairs to put Reese down for his nap when he felt a pair of arms go around his leg. They were too high up to be Geraldine's and Rhett knew Scarlett wouldn't have let Geraldine get out of the sitting room that easily. And unfortunately for Rhett, Geraldine seemed to enjoy being fitted for new dresses even more than her mother did. He looked down with a smile at Robert. "Are you going to help me with Reese? I think he's ready for a nap."
Robert shook his head from side to side quickly. "No nap."
Rhett laughed heartily. "No. No nap for you, Robert. I said Reese. But you can come up with me. Or would you rather stay downstairs and watch Geraldine try on her dresses?"
That was a good way to get the wanted response out of him, make mention of him spending the time in a room full of girls alone would get him to do whatever task you had wanted done in the first place. He had no patience to stand still for his own fittings let alone watch someone else get fitted for things. He bolted up the stairs ahead of Rhett into the nursery where he held open the door for Rhett with a devilish smile.
"You're welcome," he said with a hint of teasing in his voice.
Rhett couldn't help but chuckle. Not only at Robert's words but also at the thought that Belle would scold him to no end if she knew that Rhett wasn't diligently duplicating her efforts to make sure that Robert was polite.
"Thank you, Robert," Rhett said softly as he held his index finger up to his mouth to shush Robert. Rhett walked to the crib and set Reese within, pulling the blankets around him leaving his hand on his son for a moment to make sure he didn't wake up. He almost tripped over Robert who was trying not to be obvious about peering through the slats in the crib.
"Are all babies like that?"
"Well, at this age, yes. They pretty much eat and sleep. He smiles a little bit now. And soon he'll be rolling over. He's already trying to and getting close. But they're pretty boring. He's only a little over two months old, Robert. Look at Geraldine. She's over two years old. So obviously they grow and learn pretty quickly."
"Was I that small?" Robert peered at Rhett curiously his eyes revealing that he believed Rhett held all the answers.
Rhett placed his hand on Robert's head and walked with him out of the room, closing the door quietly behind them. "Yes, you were. It was a long time ago, Robert. You're going to be eight pretty soon. I can hardly remember Geraldine being this small, but I know that she was."
This seemed to satisfy Robert's curiosity as indicated by his nodding seemingly in understanding. "You're leaving soon, aren't you?"
"Yes," Rhett said quietly as he and Robert walked in the hallway. "We're going to Charleston to visit my parents. We probably won't be back until your birthday."
"That long?" Robert stared at Rhett with wide eyes.
This was only his third visit to Tara and his first over night visit. But he was already taking to life outside of Atlanta and away from his mom's home. He was afraid that Rhett's daughter wouldn't like Robert and Rhett would stop bringing him to Tara to visit. His lower lip quivered lightly though he tried to hide it. His mom didn't seem to mind when he cried, but somehow Robert didn't think Rhett would want to see him cry like a baby.
"My father's not been very well, Robert. So, yes, I'm afraid it has to be that long. He wants to see his new grandson." He ruffled Robert's hair lightly. "You like Tara, huh?"
"Yes," Robert said simply afraid to say more for fear Rhett would tell his mom.
"Well, that's good. Because Scarlett and I would like you to come back when we get back. As long as it's okay with your mom. But I don't think she'll mind. We'll leave your things her, and your bed will stay in the nursery so when you come back you'll know exactly where to go and have something to wear."
"I have to keep sleeping with the babies?" Robert looked at Rhett obviously not sure he liked that idea.
"Until we can work something else out, yes." Rhett sat on the top step and invited Robert to sit next to him. "I wasn't sure you'd like staying here, so we had the bed put in the nursery. But now that we know you like it we'll figure something out. There's plenty of room. We'll get you settled, okay?"
Robert shook his head in agreement. "Okay. So you're taking me home now?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so. I promised your mom I'd have you home before lunch."
Robert stood and ran down the stairs. "We're taking Apollo?"
Rhett chuckled lightly at the ease with which he was amused. "Yes. Why don't you run along and say good bye to Mammy and be sure and thank Dilcey for all the good food."
Rhett walked down the stairs and stood with his shoulder against the sitting room door watching as Scarlett fussed with the seamstress over the last minute alterations that needed to be done that afternoon. Rhett at last count saw a dozen new frocks for Geraldine with matching bonnets for at least half of them. He shook his head slightly when he spotted six pairs of shoes. As if anyone was going to see her shoes with the exception of maybe his parents.
"Mrs. Butler, if I might have a word with you before I go."
Scarlett glanced up at him, not even realizing he had left the room. She hadn't noticed it was time for him to take Robert back. After giving some last minute instructions to the seamstress she followed Rhett into the library. "What is it, Rhett?"
"I just wanted to tell you I was leaving. Let you know that Reese is in his crib sleeping. And that I'll be back for dinner. Is there anything you need from town?"
"No, nothing that I can think of. Did Robert have fun? I've been so busy yesterday and today with Geraldine and her clothes I really hadn't noticed."
"Yes, I think he had a good time. He said he'd like to come back."
"You need to talk to him, Rhett. You can't keep bringing him here and not tell him the truth. He'll resent you for it if you take too long."
"And you think I should tell him now? I don't know, Scarlett." He placed his hand at her mouth lightly stopping her from talking before he was through.
"Just hear me out for a minute. So I tell him on the way back to Atlanta. That I'm his father. Meanwhile, he knows that we're going to Charleston to see my parents because my father's not well and wants to see his grandchildren. He's been standing here watching Geraldine try on more new dresses today than his own mother has gotten in the past six months. I'm not complaining about the clothes. You know I like seeing Geraldine in her pretty little duds just as much as you do. But I don't want him resenting you, Geraldine, Reese, my parents or myself. And like it or not, he will never meet my parents. Your accepting him is one thing."
Scarlett bit her lip lightly as she thought over what Rhett had said. He was right. She hated to admit it. She just wanted this done with. This was Robert's third visit to Tara and things seemed to be going well. If anyone guessed as to who Robert was to Rhett no one said a word. But she didn't want the boy resenting her or Geraldine either. She sighed slightly.
"No, you're right. Are you going to say anything to his mother? I mean that you plan on telling him?" Scarlett refused to call Belle by her name, referring to her as little as necessary and even then only as Robert's mother.
"No," Rhett shook his head as he took a cigarette out of his case. "Anyway, I'll let you get back to Geraldine and her dresses. Perhaps you could say good bye to him before we leave. He likes you, Scarlett."
"I will say good bye to him, Rhett. And I thank you for not saying anything about my making myself scarce today."
She felt as though there was something more to say, but she didn't know what it was. Instead she kissed him on the cheek and left the room, the swish of her skirts disappearing as she closed the door behind her leaving Rhett alone.
They arrived in Charleston less than a week later. Rhett was more than shocked when his father himself met their train. They shook hands, Rhett placing his hand against his father's forearm as if sensing he needed the support.
"You're looking well, Father. Certainly better than you looked when I saw you last."
His father coughed hoarsely in response. "I'm glad you think so," he said finally. He then turned his attentions to Geraldine who stood next to Rhett dressed in a coral colored dress, the lace of her dainty petticoat showing just below the hem of her dress and a coat and hat dyed to match the dress.
"And who is this young lady? Certainly not my granddaughter, why the last time I saw you you were barely walking. And now look at you."
"Father Butler," came Scarlett's voice as she walked up to greet him after seeing that their trunks were taken care of properly. Dressed in a dark yellow velvet frock that was for Scarlett quite plain with a white linen collar as its only adornment. She extended her hand as best she could with the baby in her arms and was pleased when Roger took it without faltering. Reese was snuggled quite comfortably against his mother's breast.
"Scarlett, I can't tell who is more beautiful. You or my granddaughter. Come, the coach is waiting. Your luggage will be brought to the house later." He turned without waiting for a response obviously accustomed to being the one in charge.
Rhett knew better than to try and help his father into the coach. He handed Geraldine in first who instantly went to sit by her grandfather. He then took Reese from Scarlett and handed her in before giving Reese back to her and boarding himself. He was intrigued with his father's reaction to Geraldine and the fact that so far the man hadn't even acknowledged Reese.
Rhett went upstairs with Scarlett and the children to help Geraldine get reacquainted with her room. She had Rosemary's room while Ross's room had been made into Reese's nursery. When Reese was finally down for a much needed nap, Rhett made his way to the bedroom he shared with Scarlett. His childhood room. He lay down on the bed without removing more than his shoes. He watched Scarlett as she removed her bonnet and the pins from her hair. Truthfully, he could lie on the bed and watch her all day and never grow tired of it.
"Come here, Mrs. Butler," he patted the spot next to him on the bed with the palm of his hand.
"Rhett, I need to put away some things or they'll never get done to my liking. And if I lay down with you I'll never get up again. You'd think after days on a train I'd be well rested but for some reason I'm very tired."
Rhett stood slowly from the bed and went to her, his arms going around her waist as he kissed her ear lightly. "You just had a baby, Scarlett. It's been a couple of months, yes, but still. I'd say you're perfectly entitled to fatigue now and then."
He dropped his hands to her stomach now showing little effects from pregnancy let alone a second one. Her waist was larger than it was before Geraldine, he knew, but after two children that was to be expected. And a larger waist on Scarlett was still smaller than some women ever had even as girls.
"Come to bed with me, Scarlett. I promise to behave like a gentleman," he whispered as he kissed her ear.
She laughed lightly and turned to face him. "The most humorous thing about that statement, Mr. Butler, is that coming from you I'd be more apt to believe you could behave like a gentleman in a bedroom than any other place."
He raised a brow clearly amused by this observation. "Why is that, Mrs. Butler?"
"Because you almost always put me first and I can't imagine you were ever any different." She glanced up at him. They had never really talked of his past. She knew or at least assumed there had been plenty more besides Belle to fall into bed with her husband. She imagined there was more than one in Charleston, including Constance.
She frowned as she thought of Constance and the conversation Scarlett had overheard at Mrs. Talbot's shop over a year ago. Did Rhett still have feelings for her? She looked at him wondering. Did he have feelings for any of the other women he'd been with? Her green eyes grew distant and cold at the thought. She tried to assure herself she wasn't jealous. What was there to be jealous about after all? He married her not any of them. But would her needing him to stay at Tara eventually cause him to stray?
They really weren't needed at Tara any longer. Perhaps she should bring up moving to Atlanta and having a home of their own. But something told her that wouldn't make him particularly happy either. Rhett would only be happy, truly happy, if he had the road, rails or sea under his feet. Geraldine was two and little Reese was two months old; they could travel and hire a tutor when it came time for the children to go to school. She would miss Tara, of course, but there was nothing saying she couldn't return whenever she wanted to. She imagined Rhett might even return with her, she knew he had grown fond of Tara too. Who wouldn't when their blood, sweat and tears had gone into the rebuilding of it?
"Rhett if you hadn't married me where would you be right now?"
He turned her to face him, his hands still at her waist. "I really don't know, Scarlett. Why such a question? I certainly wouldn't be here in Charleston staying in my father's home I can assure you of that."
She bit her lower lip lightly and looked into his eyes, her green eyes sincere. "I was thinking that maybe it was time we left Tara. You've been so good to us, and Will and Big Sam are certainly capable of running everything without you there. We had enough of a cotton and corn crop this year we should be able to hire more workers for the winter."
"And go where? Buy a house in Atlanta? I'd rather remain at Tara, Scarlett."
"No, I was thinking we could travel. You have business that takes you overseas and around the country. Geraldine won't be school aged for another three years and if we like traveling we can hire a tutor to accompany us."
"Why would you want to do this, Scarlett? Is there something you're not telling me? Did something happen at Tara?"
"No, I just realized I haven't been very fair to you. You've done everything in the world for me I needed and I've kept taking and taking. I guess I realized that this isn't the life you wanted, you're leading it for me."
"Well, I never wanted to get married either, are you offering me a divorce too?"
Scarlett's face blanched at the question. "Of course not, Rhett. Why would you even say such a thing?"
He smiled widely with a wink. "I was just teasing you, my pet. And you're serious about this?"
"Yes," she said softly. "I would like to start trying to make you happy, Rhett. And living at Tara with my family is not making you happy. It may temporarily, but in the long run I know it won't."
"You're probably right, but it was the choice I made. You didn't force me to."
"No, I didn't force you to, but for some reason, Rhett Butler regardless of your claims not to be a gentleman with me you always have been. And you would never have left me knowingly destitute."
He raised a brow. "As I recall I pushed the gentlemanly boundary that night you fixed my arm."
"Yes, but you stopped before your actions grew overly improper, Rhett."
"I did. I was pretty stupid, but I did. But we probably wouldn't be here now with our two children if I had continued further so I guess there's something to be said for my developing a conscious from time to time."
She smiled slightly and reached up to kiss him, her lips moving from his mouth to his ear before pulling away. "So should I have our things sent for?"
"You're serious, aren't you? I don't believe it. If I didn't know better I'd say there's something more at work here. This isn't an attempt to keep me away from Robert, is it Scarlett?"
"Bring him along for all I care. No, this isn't about Robert or keeping you away from anything. This is about me wanting to give you something back for once, to give you back at least part of the life you had before you married me to work the fields of an Atlanta plantation."
"All right then, yes go ahead and send for our things. Where do you want to go first? Up north again? London? Paris? Spain? Ireland perhaps?"
She shook her head with a light laugh. "Ireland would be wonderful, Rhett. Would you really take me there?"
"I would and I will. Europe is really a better place for me to be business wise," he lowered his mouth kissing her ear lightly and whispered softly, "it's where all my money is after all." He chuckled lightly at the look on her face.
"There you go teasing me again with that talk of all your money. You know as nice as it is to know I don't ever have to worry about starving again, I'd be just as happy with you if you had to work a real job. In fact," she said softly as she sat on the bed. "I would loved to have seen you twenty years ago working those ships."
He chuckled lightly. "And why is that, Mrs. Butler?"
"You're a fine specimen of a man, Rhett Butler, but I can just imagine what you might have looked like then. Loading, lifting and unloading cargo, pulling and rigging lines, and working out in the sun all day."
"Is that right, Mrs. Butler?"
"A girl in every port, I imagine." She smiled wickedly. "And I wasn't even born yet. What a shame I had to miss you in your prime."
"Past my prime," he raised a brow in question. "Mrs. Butler, I spent those twenty years building myself up so that I could keep up with you when I found you. I would have died if I had been a man of but twenty encountering you."
"Why is that," she asked genuinely curious.
"Because I lost my heart to you the moment I met you, Scarlett. I was made to wander, Scarlett. I had to do it, had to get it out of my blood. And had I met you twenty years ago I wouldn't have been good for you. I would have had to give up you or the wandering and at that time the wandering would have won."
"You're probably right and then I wouldn't have had the opportunity to realize I love you."
"Say that again, Mrs. Butler. I don't believe I heard correctly."
"You did, Rhett. I think I have all along, I just didn't realize it until I found myself getting insanely jealous over Constance and the other former belles you've dated here in Charleston. And I realize that there are probably a number of them my age who only know your reputation as a cad and not the story that goes with the reputation and that they would more than likely enjoy the opportunity to get a piece of you, too."
"You jealous? I don't believe it."
"Who wouldn't be, Rhett? You were jealous of Ashley in your own way. And you knew he was the only one. Just imagine how I feel going places with you wondering who has and who hasn't been kissed by you."
"Did you really wonder that? Why didn't you just ask me?"
"Because I think I'd rather not know. I have a feeling you might have kissed more than I give even you credit for."
"Ah," he said softly as he crossed over to her. "I think I'd like to hear you say those words again, Scarlett."
"That I love you? I do, Rhett." She pulled him to her by the lapels of his jacket and kissed him. "I love you and our children very much, and I'd like nothing more than to work on making all four of us happy instead of just me all the time.
"And I love you, Scarlett."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com