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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memories

By Genevieve Darcy Granger

Humor / Other

Love Spans Time Despite The Chains of Immortality

Pietro lounged on Jane’s glorious California King sized bed, sheets and blankets tangled around his pale legs and smelling of their recent and extensive lovemaking activities. He was as content and as sated as a lazy housecat high on catnip as he watched his girlfriend Jane flit around the room looking for her discarded clothes so eagerly shed earlier. She was generally a very clean person, so, naturally, Pietro took great pride in creating messes with her. If he could get Jane to be down and dirty, then he was relaxing her enough so she could cut up and have some good fun with him. Caught up in her loveliness, he was surprised by the Pink Floyd boxers thrown at his face. “Hey!” He snatched them off indignantly with a cry of protest at such treatment of his clothes. These were his favorite underpants. And they were vintage. At least, he would tell you if you asked him about them.

Jane only laughs and tosses his matching shirt at him, too. “Are you gonna help me find my panties? They keep disappearing, and I hate always having to buy new ones only for them to go missing like a week later.” She had her suspicions that her underwear wasn’t disappearing in the laundry, but into her boyfriend’s pockets. Boys. Tossing her messy and tangled ebony black hair over one shoulder, she continues her search for her panties. They were damn expensive in a matching set of green lingerie and she wanted them back, dammit.

With a puff of breath expelled from his lungs most theatrically to show his displeasure of having to move out of his comfortable position, Pietro both simultaneously blew his hair out of his eyes and exasperatedly sighed, “Fiiiine.” His muscles loose and pleasantly sore, he rolled off the bed and onto the floor with a thump – right on his face. Thankfully, her silver duvet broke his fall. He groaned and turned his face to the right and spied a box underneath Jane’s bed. Curious.

Well, being the little thief he is, he snatched it out from under the bed where it was stowed with light and quick sticky fingers that knew familiarity in this age old practice of thievery since his early childhood. There was no lock on the box, which made his job that much easier, so he carefully pried the lid open all the way. The dust coating smudged on his fingers. Curiouser and curiouser.

Inside the box he saw… Pictures. Oh so many pictures, most of them of the black and white variety and some gone brown with age without ever being exposed to sunlight in God knows how many years. Some, when he picked them up, crumbled fragile-like between his fingers due to his natural body oil on his fingertips. Rummaging through the box where the pictures shuffled around his hands, making a noise like leaves in the wind, he randomly plucked one to examine closer. Upon this closer examination – he had to squint his eyes to see – but what he saw looked like his girlfriend Jane.

Somehow he knew it was her, despite the photo being taken from quite a distance and without the accuracy of today’s technology so many of the details of her lovely face were lost, regrettably. The picture was one of the numerous black and white, too, of course. That only made the rich black of her hair stand that much more stark against her pale skin, familiar in the photo and yet different. Her hair was so long, longer than it was now and even just staring at this photograph he longed to run his fingers through that inky black silk again.

From what he could glean, she was younger – obviously as this was no doubt taken in the early 1900s, but Jane does not age. Yet, in this picture her face shined with the youth of before puberty. Meaning, he could see she had not filled out into her womanly curves he was more familiar with, and maybe she had acne, but mercifully enough the picture could not capture such a thing. He couldn’t really imagine Jane with acne. She probably never had it. In this picture anyway, she looked too young to have it yet.

Her clothes were definitely not of this century. Sadly, there were not the finest either. Pietro remembers seeing pictures in his history textbook that looked very similar to hers; because the clothing looked like her Sunday Best if she were very poor, and at that her Sunday Best was dirty and even torn on the bottom of her dress, but no one sewed it back together. This must be from her childhood, before her freedom or the infamous Thief Guild she’d mention to him sometimes, in random passing.

Ah. So if this was her childhood that must mean that those other people were her family. Well, none of them looked particularly pleasant or very happy either. This was one of those photos where no one was smiling. Not even Jane and that was pity. Her smile is simply beauteous. There was a man, and another man. The men’s Sunday clothes must have been their work clothes with the least amount of dirt and stains and stink. One of them must be her father, but neither of them had that charming fatherly quality. However, they both looked the same from what little he could see of their beard covered faces. Must be brothers.

One young man – a boy mostly – was in the picture, too. With the wispiness of facial hair beginning around his chin and fuzzing up and down his jaw line and a tell-tale shadow on his upper lip, he had to be a preteen deep into the awkwardness of puberty, complete with the bad attitude to boot as there was a deep seated fury in his eyes that comes with the blossoming into a rebellious teenager. Even his hands were balled into fists at his side. His Sunday Best could be dubbed his Sunday Worst compared to Jane’s. If the two men were brothers, than the young man must be Jane’s cousin by that conclusion. Angsty little thing with a feral look about him that Pietro didn’t like.

None of those others mattered to him in the end, though. Jane was by far the prettiest in the picture, and quite possibly the most interesting. Well, to Pietro anyway. Definitely the most interesting. The infatuated boy touched her face using the fingers of his other hand, his dark eyes all the while roving all over to satisfy his insatiable curiosity.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing!” Pietro defensively answered as he cupped the picture in his hands and hunched over the opened box to hide what he found. Then he froze into place, his only defense against his girlfriend short of running away naked at the speed of sound to his own lonely (and filthy, if he were honest with himself) bedroom.

Before he could even think of doing that, though, Jane’s voice stopped him as it rang out loudly through the air, “What is THAT?” Needless to say, she sounded a little angry. Oh, he was in trouble.

Pietro’s eyes darted all over the picture in his hand before they settled on young Jane’s face. Gaining courage from the sight of her, he turned to her and said blithely, “I could ask you the same thing.” He held out the photograph he had examined towards her, looking up into her luminous emerald green eyes with as innocent a look he could possibly muster on such short notice at the present time.

Jane’s eyes glowed with her magic and her gaze snapped from his eyes to what he held out to her so casually. Instead of her anger melting away at his irresistible puppy-dog-eyed look, her heated blood ran cold at the sight of her father the abomination, and the rest of her awful family, including poor Victor, who showed her kindness then before his true colors revealed as he entered adulthood with his powers of immortality and healing. It was like a punch in the gut to see them all again. She gasped at herself in the picture, the miserable child that she was living with him. Taking a breath, she looked at Pietro, her eyes losing a bit of their brightness, as she flatly answered him, “Two photographs of my childhood in that big box, and you had to pick the one with my father in it.”

“I’m sorry.” Pietro apologized sincerely, and lowered the photograph, withdrawing it to his lap. “I was just curious. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just couldn’t really help myself. Please don’t be upset with me or sad, Janie baby.”

“I’m not upset with you, Pietro.”

Hope shone in his eyes like the stars that normally shine in hers.

“Well, not that much anyway.”

He ducked his head in his shame, silver hair falling like a curtain over his eyes as he tried to hide himself from her and avoid her sad gaze. “Well, it’s okay if you’re upset with me. You definitely have the right to be. But are you sad, too? Please don’t be.”

Jane was silent for a moment, before she lowered herself to gingerly sit on the silver duvet beside him on the floor, still naked. Pulling the sheets down from the bed, she draped them over her shoulder to cover herself before she spoke again. “Of course I’m a little sad, Pietro. That’s my father: abusive asshole extraordinaire.” There was an almost morbid, thoughtful look on her face before she deadpanned in black humor, “You’re lucky your father wasn’t there, if he is anything like the asshole my dad was.”

Pietro slowly wrapped an arm around Jane’s middle and hugged her to his side. He was silent for once as they both stared down at the photograph. Thinking of the proper words to say, all he could say was the truth, “Well, he’s dead and you’re not.”

Sharply looking up at her boyfriend, Jane had a look of absolute surprise on her face before she broke into bitter laughter. “That’s true.”

More silence before Pietro got an idea and voiced it to his girlfriend boldly. “Burn it.” He simply suggested. Seemed to be a good idea as any.

Jane looked at him, and he looked back, his face honest and open yet hardened with determination. She searched his eyes, and then nodded. Taking it from him, her hand shook. He touched her exposed knee gently; a reminder of his supporting presence, and that encouraged her to light her green flame in her hand. Together they watched it burn, until not even ashes remained. The photograph was good burning material, so its destruction didn’t last long. When it was over, her fire continued to burn brightly in her hand, the green light dancing across both of their pale faces. Then Pietro plucked another photograph. “Hey, who is this?”

Startled from her concentration on keeping the flame alive, it was extinguished in her surprise. Pietro practically shoved the photograph in her face in his eagerness, and she had to take it from him to see it properly. With a deep breath, she looked at the photograph and spied herself first.

She looked as she does now, except her long hair was piled on top of her head as the fashion dictated. Of course, her clothes were different – a dress of a woman on the edge of deep poverty. Her hands were folded in front of her stomach demurely, but she was smiling genuinely in contrast. Not a large toothy smile, but a very small one reminiscent of the Mona Lisa.

Behind her stood a young man on the edge of adulthood, in a three-piece suit that he scrounged every penny he could for, his silver hair grey in the picture and slicked backed in a handsome style. His grin was also genuine, and his eyes were familiar and exactly the same as they were now. Pietro… Well, Evan Taylor at the time.

It was like another punch to the gut, except this pain was a tight grip around her heart that simultaneously clutched at her throat. Hard pressed to breathe, let alone even answer her impatient boyfriend’s question, Jane fiercely held back tears. Physical pain was nothing to her. She never cried very easily either. Actually it has been a very long time since the last time she has shed tears. Emotional pain, however, was a bitch that tortured her frequently. Conquering all her emotions for now – something she has practiced yet hasn’t quite mastered in all her decades – she managed to finally answer his inquiry with only the slightest tremble in her voice.

“That’s me. And that’s you. Evan Taylor. Just before you were drafted into the First World War. Before that you were a paper-boy harking news of the Great War question and the battles of Europe in New York City. I met you because you worked the corner just outside of the apartment I had rented.” The words poured forward so easily now. “You shouted the headlines so loud that I couldn’t work on my art in peace. So I finally had to buy a newspaper from you. After that, we just clicked. You spent more time with me in my apartment than you did selling newspapers. We were going to marry, you know.”

Pietro Maximoff didn’t know. But Evan Taylor did. As did Zoe Jane Creed.

“You never exactly proposed – your draft papers came too quick before you could ever buy a ring. But we were courting, so we knew we would marry. After you were drafted you practically disappeared. Not a single letter. And none of mine could find you in those labyrinth French trenches.” Jane turned to him now, after staring into space numbly. “Why couldn’t you just shout to me across the Atlantic? I knew you could. Best voice in your entire business, yet you couldn’t be bothered to call to me.”

The memories were consuming her now. Oh, how they desperately kept track of every single issue in Washington, D.C. When the Lusitania sank, they clutched each other and cried in outrage. When news of the Zimmerman Telegram to Mexico was splashed across the front page, they were furious together at the audacity of it. It was only when Congress declared war and President Wilson failed to keep the country in peace, did they start fearing for the precious life they had together. Evan was of 29, and Jane was in her early thirties (and at the time, unaware that she wasn’t aging, only believing she had her healing ability and her claws); there was no doubt that he would be drafted. Instead of laughing at the ridiculousness of the advertisements pushing for enlistment, they were ripped out of the paper without a word. They never voiced their fear – maybe they should have – but when his papers came, there was no denying it any longer.

“So I,” Pietro hesitated to voice the word they both were thinking, “Disappeared?” That was a good a compromise as any.

“Yes.” Jane answered breathlessly.

Again, Pietro tried to make light of the situation. “Well, I dunno. I may have found a French broad.”

Jane didn’t smile at his poor choice in humor.

Trying a different tactic, he snatched the photo away and shoved it back in the box carelessly, not bothering to be gentle. Desperate for a distraction from her bleak thoughts – from his own bleak thoughts – he grabbed another random photo, and found himself again. At a loss, he showed it to her. “What about this one?”

Jane glanced at it, numb to the pain. “John Peterson. It was after World War Two. He skipped out on draft day, running away from home. So he spit-shined shoes in New York. But after the war and at the beginning of the 50s and the American Dream decade, we met. I was … old, but young. Around 60. By then, I knew there was no death of old age for me. You… John…was 28. It felt wrong to love you – John – but you – he – were just the same as before. Just like Evan Taylor. Besides after Cap,” At Pietro’s look of confusion, Jane amended, “Steve was dead to me – frozen in the ice – and you helped me through all that. I thought I was lucky to have you back, even if you were like greaser.” She attempted to tease, “But then you disappeared again.”

“How?” Pietro sounded just as stricken as Jane.

“You literally disappeared. Someone reported you as a communist. They also reported me, but the government is nothing to me as you know. I have my suspicions about what happened, but it was too risky to find you without leaving quite a trail of destruction. That didn’t stop me, though. I still looked for you. Until I find you again.”

“Really?” Pietro perked up quite a bit. “I knew you would. How did you find me?”

She looked Pietro, a look of pain flashing across her face and staying in her eyes as she answers him, “I found Aaron Johnson. 1973. He was 24. I was nearing on 90 then.” Pietro’s face dropped back into sadness. “Oh, Pietro, you were exactly how you are now. You hated Nixon and loved Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper and stole things. The only difference is that you worked at a gas station, bored to death.”

Pietro unexpectedly laughed at that. “What, no college for me?”

“You’d rather go to Woodstock. So you did, and your parents disowned you, you damn hippy.”

He laughed again, long and loud. All too soon, though, his laughter dissolved into a sober silence. “How did I … ‘disappear’ … this time?” Initially, he was too afraid to ask, but he had to know.

Jane frowned at him and his morose inquiry. Sullen, she mumbled an answer that he didn’t hear. He had to ask her to repeat it at least three times, before he finally heard her correctly.

“You WHAT?”

“I disappeared!” She snapped, irritated and clearly upset.

“But why?” Pietro sounded betrayed. Just how Jane imagined Aaron felt.

“Stryker.” Jane ground out between her clenched teeth.

Pietro’s face fell and he lapsed into a silence brimming with understanding. “Always something,” he quipped thoughtlessly.

There was a bark of laughter from his girlfriend. “Yeah. You can say that again.”

He flinched at the harsh sound of her laughter and winced at her implication. “Sorry.”

Jane just grabbed his hand in forgiveness, her grip firm but tender and loving. It was all too real what she was thinking and feeling.

Well, Pietro refused to allow her to sink into depression remembering the past like this. Using his super speed, he shoved all of the damned photographs back into the box and hid it deep within her closet on the highest shelf, where he knew she wouldn’t stumble upon it without doing her best to actively look for the damned thing. Once he returned, Jane jerked at the cool breeze, but he warmed her by wrapping her up like a burrito in the rest of her sheets. “No.” That was all he said before kissing her cheeks and squeezing her tight in a hug. “No.” He repeated. It was all he could say to her.

Jane turned her face and caught his lips with her own in a soft kiss meant to take away all their pain. She knew what he meant, and would have hugged him back, had her arms not been confined underneath the sheet wrapped around her bare-now-covered torso. “No.” She agreed with him.

This lifetime was different. And as they drowned their sorrows in each other, Jane vowed to herself that she would find a way to break this vicious cycle. They were both mutants now. So she could either make him immortal or give up her own. Whichever came first.

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