Even Now Again, Forever
By S. Mark Gunther

He kept her picture on his wall,
went half-crazy now and then
He still loved her through it all,
hoping she'd come back again

Kept some letters by his bed
dated nineteen sixty-two
He had underlined in red
every single "I love you"

I went to see him just today,
oh but I didn't see no tears
All dressed up to go away
First time I'd seen him smile in years

He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they'll carry him away
He stopped loving her today...
--from "He Stopped Loving Her Today", originally written by George Jones [*]

---

It's funny how often I still think of her. Her smile, her smell, her touch. It's funny how often I think pine to be her man. Even in the arms of another, I still pine to be hers. Ain't love a bitch?

Still. Its better then the alternatives. Living alone and angry, wandering the world looking for something to soothe the pain, etc. The alternatives suck. So do the main choices. Everything sucks. Including and especially me. I suck worst of all.

I have a new apartment here in Houston, a wonderful life, a beautiful and surprisingly mature, caring lover and all I can think about is my life back in Bayville. My life with her. My life being shunned by her. You can never know what true love is until you've pined for another only to watch them pine for another that's not you. You can never get scared about obsession until you've felt those waves of feelings ebb and flow inside of you, crashing and foaming on the shores of your heart.

They say love is never the sweetest until you lose it. I didn't lose it; I didn't even have a chance to taste it directly. But indirectly, I knew. I knew the taste and I wanted it all. I wanted to crush it into fine powder, snort it into my nose and get high off the memory for years. I wanted to get so high I'd never have to come back down and face reality: I was a 17 year old, hormonally challenged mutant youth who did nothing but eat flies and spit green goo. And I had a hygiene issue to boot.

Yeah, I guess you can see why I didn't want to face reality. Love was my escape.

But love was also my vice. You see, loving her was the worst thing I had ever done for several reasons. First and foremost, no one would ever see the relationship in a good light. Not that I cared but we had both already seen more then our fair share of heartache and death. I didn't want our married life, if we had one, to be like that anymore.

Secondly, she was a broken woman. As much as I specialized in being the restorer of broken women, I just couldn't do it with her. She was too broken, too jaded, and too angry. I wanted to smother her in love when she really needed someone to slap her in the mouth sometimes to shut up the spew of self hatred that came out. And sometimes she needed someone to just hold her without fear of reciprocation. I did that for a long time, including the slapping, but eventually I just couldn't anymore. I had needs she both couldn't and wouldn't even begin to try to meet.

And that, thirdly, was the main reason why it wouldn't work. She was not ready to give to someone else what she took away. She was still a child, born of tragedy, matriculated in the salty brine of pity and disdain, well seasoned in the spice of self hatred. She could barely take care of herself sometimes, let alone hold me up when I needed it. And dammit, did I need it. I mean, come on, it's not everyday a young man in heat grows spikes out of his back and begins to stop speaking in human tones and start making croaking guttural noises. The woman I wanted to comfort me screamed and ran away, calling me a freak.

She dyed her head red and black, wore all that jewelry, liked to torture door to door salesman, and had the fucking nerve to call ME a freak. Funny.

But that's how love is: funny. It's the great gag reel. We often love that which would destroy us. We often desire that which would sully us. We often make gods and goddesses out of those who would be nothing more then chattel if found out to be otherwise. I mean, Scott has made Jean into his personal idol when in reality she's no better and certainly no worse then the rest of us. But that's what love does: it transforms the ugly into the beautiful, the disgusting into the delightful.

Too bad it didn't work well for me and her.

The kicker was when I saw her with my enemy, my rival, the very reason why I still cared about fighting those fucking X-Men. To watch her and her shitty brother defect then to see Wanda Maximoff in an embrace with Kurt Wagner...it was just too much to bear. I saw them looking so perfect together, freak and freak, and I nearly wanted to hang myself. But instead I left. I packed what few things I wanted to take with me, beat the shit out of Duncan Matthews once and for all after picking his pocket, left a passionate 4 page letter to Wanda with Kurt after bashing his teeth in and hit the road.

I daresay those two months on the road were the worst for me. I stayed where I could, spending little and traveling a lot. I walked much of the roads I traveled on. But I ran a lot as well. It's why I now can run a marathon in just under 3 hours. I began to run to exorcise the demons of the past, specifically one demonic woman and one blue furry demon. My traveling finally took me to Texas where and old housemate of mine and I reconnected. She had remade herself in the Texas heat and was different then when I had left her. Still blonde and bubbly, still defiant and whimsical, but with sadness and a determination in her eyes I had rarely seen in her, if ever.

She showed me around, got me settled in, got me kicked out of several bars in her hometown. The usual thing for her.

For the next 2 years I lived in West Texas. I lived through the dust storms, the heat and the punishing climate. I lived down the sneers and the jeers of the asshole jocks in town and won their respect both on the football field and the back of a pickup with a case of beer. I studied, ran a lot, got my diploma and made a lot of new friends and enemies. I dropped my slang and began to speak like I had read a book or two. I debated things in college and refined the fine art of whiskey drinking and bass guitar playing. My mutation finally calmed down and dates began to happen once I took a shower or two.

In short, I became a child again. My second youth was, in a word, wonderful. Then word came to me from Lance that Wanda and Kurt moved back to Europe. They had tied the knot and Wanda was swollen with the twins that now grace their family photo. That sadist ass, Bobby Drake, sent me a photo after wrangling my address out of Fred. He, always the mature fellow, scribbled that I was beaten by someone he only thought of as a teammate because he had to. Hearing that he's off the X-Men for insubordination and in the hospital now with a punctured lung makes me smile. Karma is a bitch.

But still. My desire for Wanda stays constant. It fades a lot now as time has gone by and new people fill my holes inside of me. My friend and I became lovers, and she's a lot more to me now then I ever thought she'd be. But on nights like tonight, I still think of her. I wonder what our kids would be like. I wonder what we'd be like as a married couple. I feel ashamed because of all the love that my darling has given me cannot erase the first love I carried in my heart. The love I still carry in my heart.

Perhaps that's a good thing. Not forgetting about Wanda is something to be treated with respect because it reminds me of what I did right...and what I did wrong. I smothered her when in reality all she needed to do was have someone assure her that she wouldn't fall if she tried to fly. I tried to milk love out of her when if I had been patient, it might have flowed to me like honey from the comb. I tried to press when patience would have been more prudent.

I dare not make the same mistakes now with Tabitha. The black ring box on the nightstand reminds me of this, as does her peaceful expression as she sleeps. I proposed to Tabitha. She accepted. A new chapter of my life is starting tomorrow but in reality it's time to start it all over again.

It's time to start another ride on the rollercoaster of love. This time, however, I'm a passenger with a willing partner and that makes all the difference. I yearn for the day when I realize my wife is someone I married and still know. I yearn for the day when everything becomes boring and mundane. That might not happen soon because of Magneto and his plans for mutant supremacy, or the second coming of Apocalypse, or some other bullshit happenings with President Kelly. But for now, I don't care.

I have the love that raises me to the highest skies. And the memories of past failures to keep me well grounded. I'm as balanced as I can hope for.

---

A/N: Wow. This one was interesting. Another stream of consciousness type of piece. it's weird the thoughts that happen when you're cold in your dorm room and all you can think about is your ex-girlfriend. Even if you love again, you never stop loving. I guess. *shrugs*

But consequently, this piece is dedicated to my girlfriend and hopeful future wife, Faye. I run the risk of jinxing myself by dedicating anything short of a wedding ring and a homestead to her. But I don't care. She may never read this...but if she does, thanks for giving me a reason to go on. And on. And on. Thanks darling.

I doubt I'll continue this. I might write another side from Tabitha's perspective...but that's doubtful. I just wanted to finish a thought. And so it goes. Review if you like, flame if you didn't. All will be treated with the same respect.

[*] I didn't attribute this song to anyone but the writer because both version of this song are lovely. I used the Johnny Cash version on the Unearthed box set but Jones's original version is also very good. Please listen to either one.