Fandom: X-Men (movie)
Summary: A WWII soldier's wife is notified of his death in combat.
Category: Wolverine fic, pre-movie, character death
Disclaimer: Not mine. But this chick isn't theirs, either. Wolvie is.
Dedication: To Gowdie, who explained to me how Canadian Army dogtags work, and pointed out the fact that, if Wolvie's tag is to be believed, then he once died in combat. Or was believed to be dead, at least. Thanks, Gowdie. <snerk> I cried openly while writing this damn thing, and that doesn't bode well for the rest of you.
Eternal Thanks: To Nacey. :) You know why.
Notes/Warning: There is no Rogue here. None. But there is ANGST!! There is ANGST here!! <waving arms> Angst that has NOTHING to do with Roguey! This is entirely Wolvie's past.
She heard the car pulling up the drive, and her fingers clenched around the dishtowel she held.
She'd been waiting for that sound.
Sometimes, she thought she might never hear it. Maybe the young lieutenants in their crisp brown uniforms would never have reason to call on her, small yellow envelope clutched in a nervous, sweat-slicked hand. Maybe they would never stare at her with vulnerable, guilty eyes, hoping she could put on a brave front until they'd once again cleared the end of the drive and begun the trip to their next destination. Their next notification.
Or maybe, if they came at all, they'd come to the factory, which was almost worse. Then, the waiting became torture; just waiting, listening to the military boots tapping softly in the thunderous silence, wondering if they'd stop in front of you, or a friend. Work always paused, and then the guilt came, because it was always secondary to the relief and joy. And she thought that she maybe understood what was in those men's eyes when they delivered those cursed telegrams.
They were glad that no one was standing at their front doors, or visiting their wives at work.
They were glad they were still alive, and guilty...because another soldier wasn't.
Still... She'd always thought that maybe, just maybe, they would never have to come to her.
But the engine was too well-tuned to belong to her brother's truck, and she knew no one else who might be stopping by on a clear Thursday afternoon. So she dried the last dish as her eyes filled with helpless tears, and moved to cut the radio off.
She didn't want Glenn Miller's orchestra playing a gay rendition of "Little Brown Jug" in the background when she found out that her husband was dead.
She finally looked up through the wide window that graced the front door. A black Army truck was churning dust in the driveway, dust that hung heavily in the air, following the vehicle like a funeral procession.
She leaned against the foyer wall, hands shaking. Then, biting back a choked sob, she opened the door. It squeaked lightly against the hardwood floor because the bottom of the door needed to be planed or trimmed or something. It was one of the things her husband had promised to do when he returned home.
He'd left a list of things he needed to do on the icebox door. She'd laughed and told him that she could handle most of the jobs, like mending the screen door and fixing the leaky faucet in the upstairs bathroom. He'd merely shaken his head and dropped a gentle kiss to her forehead, telling her softly that he would take care of it all...when he got home.
The torn screen snagged her dress as she stepped slowly out onto the porch and waited for the truck to stop. The breeze rustled her hair, and it felt so much like a caress that her eyelids dropped, and she thought she might falter.
Instead, she stood tall. He would have wanted her to be strong.
The afternoon sun reflected a glare off the truck's windshield, backlighting the men moving toward her, and she could almost imagine that one of them was her husband, and that he was coming home... Then they moved into the shade, and she saw that neither man had hazel eyes bordered by thick lashes and strong eyebrows. Neither man had lush brown hair that stood out crazily if allowed to grow too long.
She closed her eyes again.
At the young, hesitant voice, she opened her eyes, and there it was, the envelope, mocking her with its bright, sunny color. The young man said her name and she nodded and he held out a shaking arm.
"For you, ma'am."
"Thank you," she responded automatically, taking the envelope and turning away. These two soldiers didn't need to see her devastation. Their jobs were difficult enough.
She moved back inside the house, the screen door slamming behind her, and she was oblivious to the sound of the retreating vehicle. The sound no longer meant anything to her, because the yellow papers in her hand held everything she needed to know and never wanted to.
She didn't open the envelope, and she didn't cry.
She walked slowly and steadily into the kitchen. It was early for dinner, but it would occupy her mind, push out thoughts of loss and pain and--Oh God, did he suffer? Did it hurt? Did he lie, broken and bleeding, while--
No. Dinner. She gathered and mixed and chopped and lit the burner on the stove, barely feeling the usually wilting heat that filled the kitchen as she began to cook. Her actions were automatic, and it wasn't until she'd set two places at the table that she realized she'd cooked his favorite dishes.
The food went straight from the table into the icebox, untouched. She snagged the envelope from the counter on her way upstairs. She trailed her fingers along the gleaming banister, and she remembered the day he'd finally finished sanding and varnishing it.
The slick feel of the wood beneath her fingers made her head ache.
She halted in the bedroom, falling to sit on the cedar trunk at the foot of the bed, the trunk that had been a wedding gift from her parents. She slid a fingernail under the edge of the envelope's flap, watched it disappear beneath yellow then reappear as the paper ripped.
Canadian National Telegram. The words swam before her eyes, and she blinked furiously before reading.
...REGRET DEEPLY...OFFICIALLY REPORTED TO HAVE DIED OF WOUNDS SIXTEENTH JUNE 1944...RECEIVE FURTHER DETAILS BY MAIL...
Her dresser was mere steps away, and she walked to it, bracing her hands on the wood, yellow paper crinkling under her fingers. Her eyes fell on the pearl earrings that lay in her painted ceramic jewelry dish.
He'd told her that the anniversary of a first meeting was worth celebrating so extravagantly, and she'd laughed. She remembered that now. She had laughed.
The armoire beckoned, and she pulled the metal handles firmly outward. The doors swung open, and his scent washed over her. Shirts, slacks, ties...All hung in neat little rows, reaching out to her in black and white.
She passed them by, dragging out his favorite flannel shirt instead, the one he only wore around the house. Cradling the multicolored fabric to her chest, she sighed softly, and her slow steps carried her to the bed.
She sat down, then fell over, curling into a ball, fists tangled in fabric that smelled of him, that reminded her of being enveloped in strong, loving arms. Of being held by gentle eyes and soft, secret words.
Her eyes landed on the photograph on her night table, and the first tears escaped her, burning her throat with their rushing intensity. She choked on them, not quite ready to accept what her tears meant.
They meant he was gone.
She buried her face in the shirt and in her pillow, her entire body shaking. The house was so full now. For so many months, it had felt so empty, but now... Everywhere she looked, he was there.
Only he wasn't, and she wanted to scream.
Across the room, a crumpled piece of paper proclaimed that he was never coming back, that he'd died in combat, spilling his blood on foreign soil for the good of his country. Their country. Her mouth opened against the fabric and she cried out his name. It was small consolation, that he'd been an honorable, patriotic man, because now he was an honorable, patriotic, dead man.
She curled up tighter on the quilt, too deeply entrenched in grief to regret her thoughts, to be ashamed of them. All she wanted was her husband back.