Indomitable Will, Tender Heart - 4
Rating: Strong R (language - this chapter)
Disclaimer: Don't own them, yadda yadda. See Chapter 1...
Author's Notes: The book referred to here, "1984"
George Orwell, is - in my humble opinion - one of the
of all time. If you've never read it, I urge you
to purchase a copy
or, at least, check it out at the library. It remains as timeless
and thought-provoking as ever....perhaps now even more-so than when
first released, 60 years ago. Oh, and thanks to Karen for letting her
kitty, Katarina, play as "Winston." :-)
Marie was just beginning to wonder if she should go check on Wolverine
when she finally heard him coming toward the kitchen. Glancing up
from the salad she was tossing, her brown eyes locked with his hazel
ones as he hesitated in the doorway and she could feel her face
beginning to flush.
He was wearing a snug, dark blue t-shirt that clung to his powerful
arms, accentuating his broad chest, and a pair of
worn black jeans that hugged his muscular thighs like a second
skin. His feet were still bare and his hair was almost completely
dry, curling slightly where it met his shoulders. Oh
My God....he looks good enough to eat. Forget the stew...he could
be the main course! She could feel her heart pounding
her chest and fought desperately to keep her face impassive. When
he gave her a wry look she almost thought she'd been found out.
Instead he held out one of her bath towels. The one he
covering his lap with....
"Uh....here's the other towel. I didn't know where ya wanted it."
Marie flushed. "Oh, thanks. Just, um, drape it over that
chair in the corner. I'll add it to the laundry after we eat."
He nodded and did as she directed, deeply sniffing the air while
watching her grate cheese into two bowls filled with lettuce and
tomatoes. "...'Smells good."
She pulled a face. "Yeah, well....hopefully you'll think it
tastes good too." That was a joke. To be honest, the
crockpot had never failed her when it came to her grandmother's beef
stew recipe, and she was confident that this time would be no
Surprised, she raised her eyebrows at him. "You know your way
around a kitchen?" I would've figured him for a Soup
Kitchen, maybe, but
not a real one. Boy, this guy is just full of surprises.
He shrugged one shoulder. "Maybe."
"Okay, Wolverine." Marie couldn't help grinning. "Why don't
you set the table for us? The plates and glasses are in that
over there, and the silverware and napkins are in the drawer behind
Knowing it would only make him more self-conscious if she watched him,
she grabbed a bottle out of the refrigerator and busied herself with
the bread while he slowly but surely went about his task. When
she turned back around, the small table in the corner had been set with
a clumsy efficiency. She rewarded him with a grateful
smile. Without realizing it, his chest puffed out a little, a
feeling settling there like he'd finally managed to help her out, to
give something back, even if it didn't amount to a helluva lot.
"Great, now we can eat! And I hope you've got a really big
appetite, because I usually make enough to feed an army, so don't be
afraid to dig in."
His stomach rumbled in response and he grimaced, not remembering when -
or what - his last solid meal had been. Marie was wondering the
thing as she handed him the bread basket and indicated for him to put
on the table. He was a big man and, although he was obviously in
physical shape, she had a feeling his recent meals had probably been
She set the filled salad bowls next to their plates, remembering at the
last minute to retrieve the dressings from the refrigerator, and then
brought the ceramic pot of beef stew to the table, centering it on the
trivet she'd placed there earlier. Wolverine was watching her in
anticipation, and she nodded at him.
"Can you pour the wine --" she put the bottle down in front of him "--
while I dish this out for us?"
He gave a little grunt and obliged, pouring the red liquid into both of
their glasses without spilling a drop while she spooned large portions
stew onto their plates. Finally she motioned for him to sit, but
something deep within him refused to do so until she had settled in
first. How unusual. I never would've figured him
upholding old-fashioned manners.
When they were both seated, Marie gave him an apologetic look.
"I, uh - I'm really not much of one for alcohol." She tipped her
head toward their glasses. "You're probably craving a beer - or
several - about now, but all I've got is wine. I hope that's
okay? Or there's coffee, milk, Pepsi, and orange juice if you'd
rather have one of those?"
Wolverine shook his head. "I think I usually drink beer, but wine
He thinks? "Okay." She took a deep breath and
for the bread basket, holding it out to him. "Then what're we
waiting for? Let's eat!"
Wolverine didn't waste any time obeying the urge to 'dig in', polishing
off two helpings of beef stew and two glasses of wine before she'd
completely finished her first. And while he was also enjoying the
crusty bread with butter, Marie noticed he didn't seem to be as
enamored with the salad, or the vegetables in the stew. He's
really quite the carnivore. I'm not surprised,
though......somehow, it fits him.
They ate in silence, and she was hesitant to ruin their relatively
comfortable rapport simply for the sake of making conversation.
Besides, what on earth could she talk to him about? She knew
nothing about him, and he
didn't seem too eager to enlighten her, so she figured the silence was
the best. That, and he was so intent on eating, she didn't think
be much of a conversationalist with his mouth consistently full.
She wondered, though, if the silence was making him
uncomfortable? While that didn't appear to be the case, he wore
the same unreadable expression most of the time, so it was a bit
difficult to tell. Still, perhaps she should break the ice
tell him something about her.....maybe then he'd feel more at ease
about himself? Marie considered that it was at least worth a
and his eating seemed to be slowing down a little as well. I
guess it's now or never... She took a deep breath --
-- and let it out in surprise as Wolverine jumped in his seat as if
stung, his eyes immediately darting warily to the floor. Just as
began laughing, somewhat apologetically.
"I think Winston likes you." At the raised eyebrow her guest gave
her, she laughed harder. "Hey, you should consider it an
He doesn't usually like the men I bring home."
As soon as the words left her mouth, she flushed. God,
sounded bad. "Uh, I mean - not that I bring men home
that often. Actually, I don't really bring them here at
all. In fact, you're the first guy who's been here since, um,
Bryan, and that was over a year ago....." She trailed off,
reaching for another piece of bread and avoiding his eyes.
She saw that he was leaning down, stroking the large black cat who was
now aggressively rubbing against his legs. Wow.
never seen Winston take to anyone like that before. Maybe he
senses a wild, kindred spirit....?
"Yeah. I found him out in the woods, not far from here, a little
over a year ago. I'm a big George Orwell fan, and I guess he just
looked like a 'Winston' to me."
Wolverine quirked an eyebrow again. "Who's George Orwell?"
He was still stroking the cat, who was purring loudly now. I
wonder if Winston knows that Wolverine purrs too?
"George Orwell was a writer. Winston Smith is the main character in a
novel that he wrote, called '1984'. It's one of my
favorites." Marie finished the bread and reached for her wine
glass, taking a sip. "Sorry about that. I guess I just
assumed that anyone who hangs out in a library the week after Christmas
is a literary geek with no life, like me!" She paused, suddenly
embarrassed. "Uh, no offense or anything....I mean
"I was only in there gettin' warm." He frowned, a thoughtful look
on his face, as if trying to pin-down an elusive memory. "That
sounds familiar, though....."
Marie felt her heart turn over in her chest and she swallowed
hard. He was only in the library trying to warm
Just how long has he been on the road anyway?
"Wolverine....." She hated the possibly of alienating her new
friend, but her natural curiosity - to say nothing of her ever-growing
concern for him - were rapidly winning out over the nagging feeling
that she should just keep her mouth shut. "I don't mean to pry
but.....are you, uh, having some trouble remembering things about
He'd been rubbing Winston behind the ears and his hand suddenly
stilled, his eyes averted from her questioning gaze. For a
moment, she thought she'd ruined everything Shit....me and
my big mouth! - but then he cleared his throat.
"Yeah." He glanced at her, the haunted look briefly in his eyes
again, before looking away with a frown. "...'Ain't no big deal,
though. I'm fine."
Marie looked chagrined. "Oh, of course! I didn't mean --"
Wolverine directed his attention back to the cat at his feet,
scratching it under the chin. "Can I give him some?" he asked,
pot of beef stew. Okay....so he apparently has some
That certainly explains a few things. And I'd probably be grouchy
if I couldn't remember anything about myself. She smiled at
gave the cat a disapproving look, although she was secretly glad for
diversion. Winston to the rescue!
"Winston is shameless. He'd like nothing better than for you to
think I starve him!" She got up from the table and grabbed a
small plate from
one of the cabinets, handing it to her guest. "Oh, and while
you're at it, make sure you get some more for yourself. I know
you're probably still hungry."
Wolverine smiled briefly back at her and she relaxed. Good.
If I can just keep making him feel comfortable, maybe he'll open
up more a little bit later?
While he fed the cat and served himself another helping of stew, Marie
poured the last of the wine in his glass and then began clearing the
table. She had most of the dishes scraped and rinsed by the time
both he and Winston had finished.
"Uh....I could do those --" he wiped his mouth on a napkin.
"I mean, since you cooked and everythin' --"
Her heart did another little flip - He sets a great table and
does dishes? Be still my heart! - but Marie simply smiled
over her shoulder, shaking her
"Oh, no, that's okay. Really! I'm not even gonna give them
thought until later." He started to object, but she asked, "So,
you sure you got enough to eat then?"
Wolverine nodded, a sheepish look on his face. "Yeah. I -
there ain't much left...."
She wiped her hands on a dishtowel and turned to face him.
"That's good. I usually make too much and then I wind up eating
it every day for a week!"
He favored her with a grateful smile and she felt her throat
constrict. There's just something so...vulnerable about
him. I don't know
how, or by who, but he's been hurt....badly. I don't think he's
to people doing for him, helping him out. It seems like he's not
what to make of it, doesn't know if he can trust it.
"That was...real good. Th-thanks."
"You're very welcome." Marie glanced down at the dishtowel in her
hands, deciding to go for broke. "Actually, I wanted to thank
you, too." At his
quizzical expression, she continued. "Um, it's just that - most
of the time it's only me and Winston, you know? So I'm really
glad you decided to come home with me, 'cause it was pretty nice to,
well....to have some human company for a change." She glanced
over at the large black cat, currently bathing his face with a
paw. "No offense, Winston." The feline glanced up at the
sound of his name before going back to his ministrations, nonplussed.
A skeptical look passed over Wolverine's face. "Dontcha have
Marie put the leftover food in storage containers and the last of the
dishes in the sink. "Oh, sure. Well, friends anyway.
I invite them
over once-in-awhile, of course, but they've all got jobs, spouses,
kids....you know." She shrugged "They have their own lives
and I don't like to intrude on that."
He fixed her with an odd look. Marie could almost hear the gears
turning as he carefully mulled over what he wanted to say. "Your
friends think you're intrudin'?"
She was taken aback at his introspection. "Uh, well....no, I'm
sure they don't. I mean...." She paused, momentarily
to explain. "I guess I just don't want to get in the way of, umm
their time spent together as a family."
He grunted, again thinking over what she'd told him.
"Hmmph. You wouldn't be in the way. You're nice, and you're
good at helpin' people. They probably like havin' ya around."
Marie blinked. That was the longest - and most complete -
sentence he'd spoken since she'd met him. "Um,
well.....yeah. They probably do. I hope they do! It's
just that I, uh, don't want to make them
feel responsible for me, I guess. You know, because I'm single
live alone. I mean, that's my choice. I just don't want
obligated to visit me, or include me or anything like that. Does
Wolverine fixed her with his intense gaze. "Why?"
She cocked her head. "Why what?"
"Why's it your choice?"
How did this conversation end up so far out-in-left-field?
"Uh....you mean, why do I live alone?" At his affirmative
nod, she shrugged.
"Well, I really don't mind being by myself, most of the time. To
honest, I even kinda prefer it that way. But, I suppose it's also
I haven't found the 'right' guy to spend my life - such as it is - with
he even exists."
She turned around then, face flushing, and began spooning coffee into a
filter, pouring cold water into the coffee maker and turning it
She heard Wolverine shift his position behind her and braced herself
another probing question. Instead, he murmured gruffly, "I - I
ya find him. You deserve somebody good."
Fighting back the tears that were building behind her eyelids, she
fought for a casual tone. "Well, thanks. I-I haven't
exactly been looking for anyone lately, though. I mean...."
God, I can't believe I'm telling him this! ".....my
last relationship ended badly and,
well -- I just kinda figured that dating could take a backseat for
awhile, you know?"
As she put the can of coffee away and got out the cream and sugar, she
noticed he was clenching his fists. "Did he hurt ya?"
Marie quickly shook her head. He's feeling protective
That is so sweet! "Oh, no.....I mean, yeah he did, but
that - not physically." She sighed and tapped her chest with a
finger. "He only hurt me here."
"Guys can be real bastards." The harsh tone was in contrast with
the softer look in his eyes.
Again the tears threatened. Damn, I really need to get
control of myself. He's gonna think I'm a complete basketcase!
they can be," she agreed, swallowing hard to force them back down,
for a playful tone. "But don't worry - I won't hold it against
Wolverine bit back the slightly risque comment on the tip of his
tongue Heh, I really wish you would, darlin'.
and simply chuckled instead. Down, bub....she's gonna
think you're some damned pervert. Marie smiled
back. The kitchen was suddenly filled with the rich, aromatic
smell of coffee. "Would you like some?" she asked him. He
shook his head.
"Nah. I usually only drink coffee in the morning." Shifting
his position again, he scratched his jaw, looking suddenly
apprehensive. She raised her eyebrows at him.
"Do ya, uh, got any more wine?"
Marie quirked a grin, but opened the refrigerator and reached into the
door for another bottle. "It's not the same kind as before, but
will this do?"
He took the bottle from her, not bothering to read the label, and
nodded. A sheepish look crossed his face. "I-I hope
ya don't.....I mean, uh, this must look --" Dammit,
go again, carin' about what
she thinks. What the hell's gotten into me?
She waved away his attempt to explain, spooning cream and sugar into
her coffee and stirring it briskly. "If you're wondering - do I
think you have a drinking problem? - no, I don't. But I gotta
warn you: there's only one more bottle in there, 'cause I really
only keep it around for company. After that's gone, you're stuck
with the kid-stuff!"
Wolverine quirked a grin at her then, showing a row of perfectly
straight, white teeth. She felt her heart do another little flip
in her chest. Wow, what a great smile....he really
dust it off and use it more often.
Carefully holding her steaming coffee mug, Marie turned the lights out
in the kitchen - all except the small one over the sink - and gestured
for him to follow her into the living room. Grasping the second
bottle of wine and the clean glass she offered him, he wordlessly
Posted April 2002