Genere: Introspettivo, Drammatico.
Pairing: Nessuno.
Rating: G.
AVVERTIMENTI: Angst, Missing Moment, Death, H/C.
- When Mammy begs Melly to come home and help Rhett cope with the loss of his beloved child, Melly's not sure she'll manage to bring him the comfort he needs. Turns out, though, no one else could have.
Note: Mentre leggevo il pezzo in cui Melly va a tirare fuori Rhett dal suo stato di prostrazione, non potevo realmente credere che la Mitchell si rifiutasse di mostrarci cosa accadeva oltre la porta di fronte alla quale avevamo lasciato Mammy. E invece lei l'ha fatto davvero XD Ed io, presa dal sacro fuoco del missing moment, ho deciso di scrivere questa cosina. In inglese, ovviamente, perché in inglese ho letto il libro (e in inglese vedrò il film), e mi rifiuto di accettare l'esistenza di una qualsivoglia traduzione XD
All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Original characters and plots are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended.

Melanie’s eyes sting fiercely when she sets foot into the floodlit room. The air is thick with the smell of whiskey, melted wax and perspiration, and there’s something else, something she can’t quite grasp, something lingering in the background, a sweet, sorrowful, melancholic smell the nature of which at first she can’t even understand. Then, her eyes lay upon the lifeless body of the sweet child she loved as dearly as if she had been her own, and she understands. She’s where this smell comes from.

The moment she gets it, she has to look away. Her eyes filling with tears suddenly and quickly just as the first time she has heard of the accident, she brings her hand to her mouth and presses her fingers against her pale lips, twisted in a painful grimace, and she can’t help the small sob that escapes her throat.

She was expecting bursting into tears at the sight of sweet, dear Bonnie. She has never been strong, like Scarlett, she has never been brave. She’s always been weak and frightened like a child, and her heart’s always been so easy to break. She feels it crack, now, and she was expecting it to happen.

What she didn’t expect, what she could never expect, was for Rhett’s strong arms to close around her tiny shoulders the moment he saw her cry, and despite that, and despite how improper this is, that’s exactly what Rhett’s arms do when he sees her bring her hand to her mouth and sob uncontrollably. “Captain Butler,” she tries to say, but her voice, broken by sobs and gasps, is uncertain, and gets muffled against his chest when he puts a hand on her nape, pulling her close.

He’s crying silently, wearily, as if he had been doing it for hours without ever stopping. His eyes are red and so are his cheeks, wet with the traces of his tears. He doesn’t say a word for as long as tears keep streaming down his face, and she can do nothing but hold her breath, not daring to cry any louder because if Captain Butler, Bonnie’s father, is crying in silence, she has no right to be noisy about it, though her sore throat and racing heart sure seem to think otherwise, judging by the way they both throb painfully with every quiet sob shaking her small body.

She closes her eyes, rests her head against Rhett’s broad chest, where his strong hand is holding her close, and listens to the frantic beat of his heart, cradled by the sudden, yet strangely comforting jumps of his shoulders. She waits and waits as his sorrowful broken cry fades away, and only then she pushes her small gloved hands on his chest, silently asking him to let her go. He promptly complies, stepping back and passing a hand through his hair, as if suddenly aware of his own improper conditions. “I’m sorry, Miss Melly. You were the last person I wanted to see me like this.”

“Why— Captain Butler!” she cries in astonishment, flying towards him and clinging to his arm, looking at him with eyes again filled with tears, “After all that’s been between us, after what you did for Mr. Wilkes and me, after all the troubles you went through for our safety, I shall feel insulted if you think me lesser than a sister, to you!”

“I find myself completely at a loss of words,” Rhett answers with a small, apologetic smile, “For I hold you in such consideration, Miss Melly, that I’d never associate you with the likes of me. But I don’t want to insult you by saying you’re lesser than a sister, to me, because, in fact, you’re so much more.”

“Captain Butler,” Melly can’t help but blush furiously, her narrow chest inflating with every breath as embarrassment makes her heart beat faster, “Don’t talk like that, please. You’re tired.”

“I am,” Rhett nods, admitting it with honesty. His cold, far eyes move over Bonnie’s body, warming up a little to the sight of his beloved only child, “I so very much am, Miss Melly. I haven’t been sleeping. How could I, though? Look at her. Doesn’t she look pretty in her blue velvet dress? It’s her favorite. It’s torn and stained because she’s been refusing to use any other to ride, but she still looks so pretty in it. Doesn’t she, Miss Melly?”

“She looks lovely,” Melanie says, her voice breaking again as her eyes fill with tears one more time, “So peaceful.”

“Isn’t that true?” Rhett’s smile softens even more as he sits down on the edge of the bed, passing his elegant, long-fingered hands through Bonnie’s soft dark curls, “She’s never been so peaceful. In fact, Miss Melly, my daughter is a devil.”

“She’s not!”

“She is, indeed,” Rhett nods strongly, his fingers fondly combing the little girl’s hair away from the pale, bloodless skin of her forehead, “She never knew a moment of rest in her life. She kept kicking even in her sleep, kept calling for me, kept reaching out with her small, soft arms. ‘Daddy, daddy,’ she was always calling me. What wouldn’t I do to hear her voice again—”

“Captain Butler, please,” Melanie interrupts him, running towards him and sitting next to him, holding his hands between hers. She sees something change in his eyes, a threatening, vivid spark of anger, of annoyance at being kept away from his beloved daughter, and deep inside her shaking heart she knows he doesn’t push her away only because he wouldn’t dare to touch her with a finger. “You’re so very tired, and you need to rest. You need to eat, for you can’t think straight, right now.”

“How polite of you, Miss Melly,” Rhett says with an impudent yet guilty snicker, “I am utterly drunk. But you’re too genteel to say that to my face. Even though I deserve it. I deserve worse. You should slap me, Miss Melly, you should— Scarlett should have—”

“Captain Butler,” she says resolutely, shaking her head. Her heart’s beating fast and this man, this honorable, broken man, frightens her to death, for she sees him falling to pieces right in front of her and she’s not sure she can put him back together, but she feels the weight of responsibility on her shoulders, because Mammy told her only she could make it, and Captain Butler’s eyes, they’re asking for it. They’re begging her, silently begging her, mend my broken soul, Melly, you’re the only one I will let in. “I will hear no more of this nonsense. You don’t deserve nothing worse, and I won’t argue with you about your drunkenness. You believe what you want, Captain, but as long as I breathe and live I’ll always think of you as the kindest, the most considerate, the most honest, the bravest and most honorable man I’ve ever met— beside my Ashley, of course,” she adds, her cheeks turning a slightly brighter shade of pink when she realizes she may have gone too far with her praising.

Rhett’s distant smile shows a different kind of sadness, now, though Melanie wouldn’t really be able to tell where it’s coming from. She decides not to let herself be distracted by it, though, thinking it must be because of Bonnie too.

“You’re too kind, Miss Melly,” Rhett says in a whisper, “And I don’t—”

“If I hear you say you don’t deserve it, Captain Butler, I swear I will— I will— Oh!” she stands up, at a loss of convincing threats to use against the man. She breathes in and out slowly, trying to regain control over her racing heart, and then turns around, kneeling on the floor and taking Rhett’s hands with hers once again, “Please, Captain, do not be so,” she begs, “Do eat something. Rest a while.”

Rhett looks down at her hands, clinging so desperately to his own, and his gaze softens. It is with infinite kindness and weariness that he speaks afterwards, freeing one hand from Melly’s grasp only to brush her pale cheek with his rough thumb. “Well, Miss Melly, I’ll be damned if I have you kneeling on the floor like that for even another second,” he says in a resigned sigh, “You won. I can’t fight you. I can fight armies and I can fight Scarlett, who I strongly believe to be even more dangerous, but I can’t fight you.” He stands up, wrapping his strong, dark hands around her tiny shoulders and helping her to get on her feet too. “And, apparently, I can’t fight death either,” he adds in a broken whisper, his eyes lingering on Bonnie’s still, little body.

“Captain Butler—” Melly tries, placing a gentle hand on the man’s forearm as to placate him, but he smiles wearily at her, patting her hand with his own.

“Don’t try and soothe me, Miss Melly,” he says, “I’ve been in this room with her for far too long to be soothed by anybody in any way. I fear this might be too hard a challenge even for almost omnipotent you.”

Melly instantly blushes, a hand on her heart, as she backs off a couple of steps. “Oh, Captain, please, don’t be profane,” she says, shaking her head. “There, there,” she pats him on his shoulder, leading him to the other side of the bed, to make him turn his back to Bonnie’s body, if only to get her out of his sight for a few minutes, “Do sit down. I can feel you haven’t been eating properly. I will ask Mammy to get us some food and I’ll keep you company as you eat,” she decides, starting for the door and then almost falling flat on her bottom as Rhett closes his strong fingers around her slim wrist, keeping her still.

“Don’t go away,” he says, his shaky voice so deep it seems to resonates inside her chest, making her heart tremble.

“I won’t, Captain,” she reassures him with a soft smile, caressing the burning skin of his forehead with soothingly cool fingers, “I’ll be right here.”

He stares into her eyes for a very long time, before finally letting her soft, sincere smile convince him that she’s going to keep her word. Only then he lets her go, and Melanie rushes for the door, slightly opening it to ask Mammy for some strong coffee and a tray of sandwiches. She waits on the doorstep for the woman to run down the stairs and then up them again, bringing what she asked for, and she doesn’t miss Mammy’s disappointed eyes when, the moment she tries to set foot in the room, she keeps her back with an apologetic smile, taking the food in her own arms and almost closing the door on her face as swiftly as she had opened it just a few moments before.

She walks back to the bed, on the edge of which Captain Butler’s still sitting, his arms lazily swinging down his knees and his eyes stubbornly fixed on the floor. “The food’s here, Captain,” she says softly, pouring him a cup of coffee and then sitting next to him, offering it to him, “Please, drink.”

Rhett looks at the cup, and then up at her. “I’m lucid, now, Miss Melly,” he says, “I don’t need to—”

“Captain,” she interrupts him, frowning. She has seen Rhett acting like this once, in the past, during Scarlett’s illness. She knows that, whenever he’s hurting deeply, Captain Butler just gives up, letting his sorrow fill him up to the brim, turning him into a desperate child. And as a child she treats him, now, scolding him and looking at him with stern eyes, “I seem to recall you telling me I had won, and you couldn’t fight me. Then, please, don’t fight me. Drink.”

Rhett turns to look at her with wide, surprised eyes for an instant, and then the rigid, cold line of his lips melts into another sweet smile, as he gently takes the cup from her hands and drinks. “I can’t for the life of me imagine a luckier man than Mr. Wilkes, Miss Melly,” he says, utter respect vibrating in his deep voice, “With you by his side, he’s clearly never going to fall.”

“Stop talking such nonsense, Captain Butler,” Melanie shakes her head, reaching for the tray and offering him a sandwich, “You’ve got Scarlett by your side exactly the same way Mr. Wilkes had got me. You just can’t see it clearly, right now, but you will, after you eat something and get some sleep. Here,” she says with a small smile, “Eat.”

He obediently takes a sandwich and nibbles at it, his eyes locked on Melly, staring to the point of embarrassment. “I wish I was as sure as you are, Miss Melly,” he says.

“Well, if you aren’t, then you’re wrong, Captain,” Melly nods strongly, “I know Scarlett, and I know what her heart’s capable of. And I know she loves you, Captain, oh, she loves you so dearly, so much more than you both know. One day you’ll be able to see it, and she’ll be your greatest comfort.”

“I fear I might have missed that day already, Miss Melly,” Rhett answers in a resigned sigh, looking away and passing a hand over his weary, stinging eyes, red with tears and smoke and liquor.

“Hush, now,” Melanie says, standing up and putting both the tray and the cup away on the nightstand, her little hands pressing against Rhett’s broad shoulders, inviting him to lie down on the bed, “You’re tired, and you need to sleep.”

“I can’t sleep,” Rhett shakes his head, though he’s unable to resist the gentle push of Melanie’s hands, “I have to watch her— She’s so scared of the dark, Miss Melly.”

“I know, Captain,” she nods, grabbing his boots and taking them off him one after the other, “I know she is.”

“That’s why I have to watch her,” Rhett tries to sit up again, but Melly’s quick to put a hand back on his chest, pushing him down gently but sternly. He falls back against the pillows, casting her a desperate look. “What if the candles blow out?” he asks, “What if they blow out and she wakes up in the darkness? I couldn’t stand her frightened— not now.”

“Then, I shall watch over her,” Melanie nods, covering him with a blanket and gently brushing his hair, “I’ll make sure the candles don’t burn out. Do you trust me to take care of it, Captain?”

He looks at her with drowsy, heavy eyes, nodding slowly. She stands by his side, combing his hair tenderly until she hears his breath growing heavier and steadier, and when she understand he fell asleep she silently walks to the door to tell Mammy everything’s been taken care of. “Go tell Miss Scarlett that Captain Butler is quite willing for the funeral to take place tomorrow morning,” she says, and then asks for more coffee.

She made a promise, she intends to keep it.
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