Author's Note: Loosely based on Eminem's song "Love The Way You Lie".

I can't tell you what it really is

I can only tell you what it feels like…

The afternoon light slanted through the windows, golden and heavy. Dust motes swam lazily in the air. The saloon was quiet at this hour. Nobody there but the bartender and the few silent men who'd started their drinking early. Kid looked up groggily from his own glass to the half-empty bottle beside it. In another minute, one more sip went burning down his throat.

He glanced out the window. The light was fading quickly, the golden haze dissipating into a gray and gloomy dusk. They would be done packing her things now, probably had already left; he could go home anytime. There would be so little to return to without her there.

He had lost before, a score of people he'd loved and needed, simply slipped out of his hands: Jed, their mother, Doritha. So when he put that ring on Lou's finger he'd known he'd have to hold on tighter than he ever had before, had to keep her close to him, because another loss would be one too many. She felt the same, he knew she did. She said as much in the long nights when even in her sleep she clung to him, and the way she fiercely scolded him for stepping into harm's way. They had loved without boundaries and the hurt now came in equal measure.

He took another drink, barely even noticing the burn. He caught sight of his unfamiliar reflection in the bottle. He hadn't shaved today, and the stubble on his face made it look like he needed a good scrubbing. His hair was beginning to gray. The glass distorted his face, narrowed it, twisted it. Looking at it he couldn't imagine a time when she would have wanted him; she'd only grown more beautiful as he aged into something unrecognizable. Something squeezed at his heart until it seemed to stop beating, and his breath stuck in his throat. He'd done everything right, held on tightly, and still she'd fallen through the cracks. They'd fought the night before and the night before that. Her patience must have finally worn thin and then worn out.

Maybe our relationship isn't as crazy as it seems

Maybe that's what happens when a tornado meets a volcano

All I know is I love you too much to walk away though

They'd fought since the beginning. They fought over Jimmy, about what to have for dinner, where to settle, and the war back East. He knew she needed her space, knew their marriage wasn't going to be a fairy-tale. He wasn't looking for a cook and housemaid, keeping to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. He'd wanted the whole complicated mess of her and he'd gotten it, but he held on too tight. If his jealousy had been irritating before, now with his ring on her finger it was frightening. He had high expectations, for her, for himself, and he was destined to be disappointed.

But your temper's just as bad as mine is

You're the same as me

She wasn't blameless. He'd made the mistake of asking why she still wore pants now that folks knew she was a girl and been slapped for his trouble. Anytime he tried to show her a kindness she took it as an insult. She had to prove to herself that she was still free and she pushed at the boundaries of their relationship to do it. And just lately, the fights were outnumbering the good times. He could feel her slipping away from him and the fear of losing her had panicked him.

You swore you'd never hit 'em; never do nothing to hurt 'em

Now you're in each other's face spewing venom in your words when you spit them

It was no excuse for what he'd done. The thing he said he'd never do, the person he said he'd never be, in an instant all the years he'd spent shaping himself into the man he wanted to be were lost. The feel of her jaw against his knuckles had made his stomach heave.

With a grunt his swept his arm across the table, letting the bottle crash to the ground with a shatter and a splash. The bartender turned around to glare at him. "Guess you've had enough," he said grumpily. Kid pulled a large bill from his pocket and slammed it onto the bar. "That's worth more than twice the bottle." He stood up and felt himself waver in the air as his legs decided whether or not they could bear his weight. Outside the light grew darker still and he stumbled his way out the door and into the street.

She'd been surprised more than anything, he could see that in the big eyes that looked at him without tears or fright. Immediately his anger was forgotten, all he felt was regret. He'd helped her up, apologized. She'd yelled at first, called him every name in the book, ranted and raved, but eventually her temper cooled. She forgave him, or so she said, and repentant he accepted it, meek and mild, keeping his distance. But he knew, when at last all was said and done and the lights blown out, he knew as they lay side by side in bed, not sleeping, and she flinched when their shoulders accidentally touched, he knew he'd lost her.

In the morning, when he woke, she was already up and Jimmy was there. They stood on the porch talking, their voices low and tense. Kid got up and got dressed as always, planned to start his chores like always. Somehow, he'd thought, they would ride through this; they'd been down tougher roads. He didn't try to listen in to the conversation on the porch. Through the window Jimmy watched him warily. At last Jimmy came inside. Kid stood up and braced himself for the worst. Jimmy exercised restraint in asking him to leave them be until her things were packed, and they'd left. It was obvious to Kid that his former friend would have preferred to shoot him where he stood, and Kid wished he had.

It was night now, and the darkness suited him as he finally made it home. Stumbling on the front step, and catching his shin on her rocking chair once inside. She'd stripped the bed, emptied the dresser of her clothes. One plain white handkerchief had fallen behind, and he picked it up and collapsed onto the bare straw tick of their bed. He didn't know what it was that kept him from falling asleep, whether it was love or hate or rage or hurt or everything together, but it felt like the end of him.

Author's Note: Thanks to Karen for being a patient beta while my computer was on the fritz!

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