After the fighting was over, and the chaos afterwards, and after that the longer, slower process of establishing a semblance of order and calm, they finally got to the good part. Which was to say, the partying. Don't get him wrong, Havoc had loved being part of the coup, the secrecy, the high of closing a deal, talking someone round, being back in the game, making things happen. But months of plotting over the field telephone in the musty back room of his parents' store had left him feeling like a teenager, cramped and antsy. And just like much of the time when he was fifteen, he was grounded.
And when the big day finally came, after the rush of getting the supplies out, seeing the damn thing through, and – ha! - finally getting one over on the Colonel, suddenly his part was done. He had found himself sitting out the rest of the action by the silent phone in the same back room, with the radio tuned and all that adrenaline pinging uselessly round his body. In those hours, more than at any time before, he missed being able to run.
The celebrating, though; that was going to be something else. For a start, there was the chance to get away from his parents - don't get him wrong, he loved them, but they were driving him crazy, and nothing seemed to stop his mom from coddling him and bossing him as though he was sick. He wasn't sick. This was the rest of his life and, having spent three goddamn months relearning to use the bathroom on his own, he needed to be somewhere where no one was going to tell him off for locking the door.
There were his former comrades to catch up with, but, to tell the truth, Havoc wasn't entirely looking forward to seeing them. He was joyful and relieved to find most of them had made it through the catastrophe in one piece. But seeing them again was going to mean meeting them in his civvies, looking up their noses from his wheelchair getting a crick in his neck. It was going to be weird, really weird.
He was hoping that the awkwardness between them was going to be the temporary kind. He'd once had a schoolfriend who lost an eye because someone had been very, very bad at billiards. When his friend had appeared back at school wearing an eyepatch, at first, there was an atmosphere of intense, crackling discomfort around him, but then after a week or two it just seemed to disappear, and everything had gotten normal again. The pirate jokes had probably helped. But Havoc called things how he saw them, and this situation wasn’t that one. There was no point expecting things in his life to just slot back into place, because he was going to have a different life now. There was only going forwards. He just wasn't entirely sure where.
Then, more hearteningly, there was his getaway vehicle. He'd spent about half his generous, slush fund-filtered cheque from the new government on a new car that he really, really needed to show off. It was built for speed, it handled beautifully, the racing engine had a low, expensive hum that made him grin every time he heard it – and, crucial detail, he could actually drive it. During his time supplying the coup, Havoc had got good at knowing how to find the right people and talk them round. The talented mechanic who he’d got to rig up hidden machine-guns in the back of a fleet of taxis now had a big military contract, and was happy to thank Havoc by hooking him up with some pretty sweet custom hand controls.
Havoc had regained a little sensation in his legs, but no movement. This far down the line there was going to be no more improvement: this was it. His lame way of trying to force his brain to accept that was by bribing himself with a really, really cool car. He was never going to walk again, never going to wear a uniform - but hey, check out this car, the top goes down! He was shallow, but at least he knew it.
So far, the only people he'd taken for a spin in the car had been his mom ("Jean, is that seatbelt on properly?"), and a gang of eight year old boys from their neighborhood. The eight year old boys, at least, had been pretty impressed. Although it had been a bit disconcerting to hear them come out with some of his own opinions on the car, opinions he'd previously thought of as signs of his manly, sophisticated urban taste, like "it's red!" and "it's had extra controls put in special!" and "check it out, the top goes down!"
Last but certainly not least, victory celebrations meant the prospect of girls. Of course, girls were what had got him into this mess in the first place, but never let it be said that Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc (retired) was a man easily deterred. The girls, he was discovering, was the single, unexpected perk of the otherwise depressing and cruddy business of getting used to having legs that didn't work. When the girl thing had started, with his nurses, he'd still been in his initial reaction period of stormy misery, and so he'd wrongly assumed it was pity. Not that that had completely stopped him from encouraging them. But no, it turned out to be something else.
It wasn't that they had gotten any more forward; they just seemed to take his flirting better. Suddenly, they were reading him as charming and cute rather than as a dirty dog. He'd distracted himself from the mid-coup boredom and anxiety by working out the mystery out over a few shop-counter flirtations. Country girls were way easier to read, he’d missed that. Apparently, the way it worked was women had decided that losing your legs for your country meant that you were brave and noble and a little sad, and that this combination of things was kind of hot.
When did women come up with this stuff? Havoc guessed when they decided other mysterious girl things, like that cigarettes are sexy when you first meet a guy and smelly and annoying when you've been going out for two weeks. Maybe they had a war council and took votes. He should get Hawkeye to take some notes for him. No, he'd never get her to agree.
But the girls flirted, and they laughed at his jokes, and they leaned over the counter top and smelled nice and showed some cleavage - and that, right there, was another disadvantage of living with your parents. He had established, through diligent experimentation, that he was still going to be able to take joyful advantage of a young lady's virtue. Just not in Mrs Havoc's back bedroom. She wouldn't let him put a lock on the door there, either. Worse still, country girls tended to live with their parents right up the day they were married off, and even a tragically crippled war hero could expect to find himself staring down the barrel of a hunting gun wielded by an angry father before he had nobly and bravely rounded second base. As Havoc had recently discovered. Now that incident had really made him feel like a teenager again.
On his third pass around the drive of Central HQ, Havoc managed to spot Captain Hawkeye on her customary mid-morning walk with Hayate. He beeped the horn loudly and hit the brakes. She glanced around her in irritation, then spotted him and broke into a wide, lovely smile. "Havoc!" He leaned over, bracing himself with his right hand on the door hold, and opened the passenger door for her. She slipped in and squeezed his hand in greeting. Then Hayate leapt onto her lap, squashing her back against the seat. That mutt had got huge.
He grinned. "Want a ride?" Hawkeye was already looking round the little sports car in fascination. She ran a hand over the dashboard. "Is this walnut?" She examined the steering wheel. “Are those custom hand controls?” She looked over at Havoc. "How does it handle?"
"How does she handle?" he corrected her, then he pulled away smoothly and picked up a little speed.
Two days into his stay in Central, and so far things were going kind of okay. The car was a spectacular hit. Hawkeye loved it, Fuery gawped at it, Breda showed promising signs of envy. Falman had just said, “good car”, but coming from him that was crazy enthusiasm.
The weirdness itself wasn’t half as bad as Havoc had expected. The reasons for this were fairly straightforward. Hawkeye was decent and spookily observant and nothing rattled her, and she had spotted that he didn’t want to talk about the leg thing. As for the rest of his buddies, they were guys who dealt with these things the manly way: mix large amounts of beer with raucous banter, and don’t mention the elephant in the room.
Consequentially, Havoc had spent the last two evenings getting completely smashed. This meant he’d picked up a useful new city skill already: how to get served at a bar when you couldn't see above it. The secret, it seemed, was to push to the front - it is permissible to ride straight over people's feet if that’s what it takes, you’re in the city now, pal – then to take a twenty cen note from your wallet, and wave it over the bar. The bartender would lean over to see who this short, rude bastard was, spot you and feel bad about it, then promptly provide beer. If you tipped well, it worked way better the second time. And if you tipped well and it was a girl behind the bar, half the time she'd start bringing the beers right to the table.
However, he’d completely failed to benefit in other ways from this new technique for handling barmaids. The main reason for his failure to score is that both nights so far he’d been just too damn drunk. Three months in hospital and another six living with his mother had his alcohol tolerance shot. He was also discovering that these days, he was kind of a mean drunk. At a certain point, before he saw it coming, his mood would shift one hundred eighty from good-humoured backslapping guy to bleak, aggressive, vindictive asshole guy. The first night he’d almost punched Breda, and he couldn’t even remember what he’d been annoyed about. They’d written it off in the morning (“Don’t worry about it, man, we were all wasted”), but the next evening, the clock hit 2130 and he suddenly found the mood was hitting him again. This time, he’d just sulked in silence and headed home early.
By the next morning, he’d worked out where the mood came from. It wasn’t that hard. The thing he worked around and ignored in the daytime and back home just seemed to pop out at him at night in the city: he missed his whole damn life. This one thing had happened to him and now he was stuck back in the town he’d joined the army to get away from, doing the job he’d joined the army to get away from, bored and depressed and horny. Meanwhile his friends got to save the world and drink dark beer and score with hot, sophisticated city girls and order Xingese at 2am. Fuck it – he was a nice guy, but wasn’t it fair that he was kind of sore about that?
The party that night, the one which had formed the excuse for Havoc’s visit to town, wasn’t going to be at a bar. In fact, the venue was Mustang’s department at Central HQ. Now things had calmed down a little and there wasn’t going to be a civil war, Mustang had decided to thank his department for letting him work them like pit ponies, and the way he chose to thank them was by getting them all extremely drunk at the office. The plan was this: at 6:30pm on Friday, everyone was to down tools, troop off to get changed, reconvene back in the office in their civvies, and get stuck into some crates of wine, bottles of pretty decent beer, and a spread of bread, ham and cheese ordered in a token attempt to soak up the booze. The civvies part was a small but crucial detail, military code for “you’re off the clock, guys! What goes on at the thing stays at the thing.” Civvies also, incidentally, meant, army girls out of baggy trousers and boxy jackets, and into small, shiny frocks.
The office wasn’t their old one, which made things a bit less strange. These days, Mustang was a Brigadier-General running a big department. The old team had more than doubled in size, and so had the rooms they worked in. Some of the new guys in the crowd were familiar faces or voices, people who’d been involved with the coup or who’d worked for Hughes or Grumman – but many of them Havoc had never met.
Two beers in, though, and Havoc was having more fun than he thought he would. Along with everyone’s bitching about work and politics, there was increasing amounts of drunken flirting and telling of embarrassing tales. Havoc was proving pretty popular among the new guys because he had the dirt on everyone, and wasn’t afraid to share it. He was just about to go over and check just how amazingly wasted Fuery had gotten, when a low, familiar voice from his left said “Hey.”
He looked round and grinned at Mustang. His former commanding officer was out of uniform in a dark suit and open shirt, a glass of red in his hand. This was the first time he’d seen Mustang since he’d got back to the city. From what Havoc had heard, he was pretty much living in the office at the moment, trying to sort out the massive shitstorm of infighting that was currently the Amestrian military, and snag himself some General’s pips at the same time.
He smiled broadly back and took a seat at Havoc’s table. “Lieutenant Havoc. How’ve you been?”
“Well, you know, keeping busy. Running the store, hanging out, delivering a big bunch of armaments to some guy throwing a coup. Hey, have you seen my new car?”
“Mmm. Red, two seater, the top goes down?”
“You saw it already? I knew Breda copied my keys, the sneaky bastard.”
“Nah.” Mustang’s smile was broad and smug. “You just have very predictable tastes, Havoc.”
Havoc took the joshing in the spirit in which it was meant. “I like the simple things in life, sir. How’ve you been?”
“Busy. Very busy.” Mustang rubbed his eyes with a hand and knocked back some wine. He seemed in a pretty good mood, but now Havoc thought about it, he also looked tired, and kind of thinner in the face than he used to be. “Between the political situation and the military’s internal issues, I’ve been having to work everyone pretty hard. In fact, we’re rather understaffed.” Mustang fixed him with a familiar meaningful look. “Actually, I was hoping to talk to you about that.”
Havoc laughed easily. “I don’t know if you’d want me recruiting people for you, chief. I make a pretty crappy poster boy for serving in Team Mustang.”
For a moment, Mustang’s eyes widened and his jaw went tight, and Havoc realized he’d really, really misfired with that joke. Stupid brain. Not trusting himself to say anything that wouldn’t dig him further into the hole, he did what he usually did in these situations, and settled for grinning disarmingly around his cigarette.
Luckily, Mustang just returned Havoc’s smile and just moved on as if nothing had been said. “Actually, it’s me who was intending to do the recruiting. I have a job offer to run by you.”
Huh, thought Havoc, interesting.
“Officially, you would be an administrator dealing with outsourcing to civilian contractors. Unofficially, there are a lot of alliances, deals, useful associations which I need to be making, and I need them to happen off the record. In other words, I need a fixer. Dirty politics, I’m afraid, but that’s what happens when you’re trying to take over a country without causing a civil war. More importantly, our opponents” – Havoc noticed he said “our”, the cunning bastard – “are doing exactly the same thing, and I won’t be outmanoeuvred by them.”
“So …” Havoc tried to take it in. “You want me to be some kind of unofficial contact between your guys and whoever it is you want to do sketchy deals with?”
“No. I want you to make unofficial contacts for us. You did it for us in the coup, you’ve shown you’re good at it, and I want you to come on board and do it for us again. I’m afraid you’d be losing your freedom, though. You’d have to re-enlist. Of course, you’d be coming in at a higher rank, and the pay would be concomitant with –“
“Wait, what?” Havoc felt completely blindsided. “How do you expect me to re-enlist? You know this” – he slapped a hand down on the arm of his chair, harder than he’d meant to – “is permanent, right?”
Mustang gave him another peculiar, intense look. “Havoc – this is a desk job. Regulations would very easily allow you to take on this position if you –“
“Mustang.” Havoc had interrupted before he knew why, or even what he was going to say. A strange, irrational rage was thrashing around in his stomach. “Just stop. This isn’t going to work. I told you before I don’t want you carrying me along. You can’t just make up this job to give me something to do!” He was suddenly nearly shouting, angry and elated with the fact that he could say what he liked to Mustang now. He knew, although he didn’t know why, that he didn’t want this job, that it would be a disaster, and he wasn’t going to be humiliated by it. “Stop being sentimental, Mustang. It happened, and it was my own fault, and it sucks. This is how it is. You can’t fix it. And I have to deal with it every day, so you can just deal with it too. Okay?”
There was an uncomfortable silence. Mustang looked down and twisted his mouth, Havoc turned his head, tried to find something else interesting in the room to look at. Where the fuck had that come from? He didn’t understand his own brain sometimes.
He looked around the room. Somewhere over Mustang’s left shoulder, he could see Hawkeye talking to a tall brunette with lots of curly hair and a tremendous rack. He thought for a moment, then placed her - Lieutenant Rebecca Cata-something or other. He'd known her vaguely back in East City. More recently, they'd spoken on the phone a few times during the coup, when she'd helped him deliver a truck of munitions to Central. He definitely didn’t remember her being such a babe back in East City.
He turned back to Mustang, aware that his mind had kind of wandered away from the matter at hand. The Brigadier General was leaning forward now, pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand. The pose that was supposed to say, I am a very tolerant man, lucky for you. Then Mustang's head came up and he put his chin out. He said, coldly, "I'm not interested in babying you. If you change your mind about this, tell me in the next three days. After that, I'm going to fill the post." Then he stood up abruptly, his chair legs squeaking on the floor, and he turned on his heel and stalked off without another word.
Havoc thought, sulkily, oh hey, he’s doing that thing. The thing where he turns his back to show you he’s serious. I remember that one. He thought of how Mustang had tried to bully him out of retiring, all stubborn sincerity, as Havoc lay in his hospital bed. "I'll leave you here. So you'd better catch up!" Sentimental bastard. It had been kind of funny watching Mustang try to do the here's-my-back-hey-I-mean-business walk with a char-grilled hole in his side. He'd looked a bit like a crab. Havoc sighed and momentarily felt that bleak, stormy feeling rolling in again. Hey, would you look at that, his beer was empty. He pulled away and wheeled himself off to grab another.
Maybe it was the uniform, Havoc mused as he watched Rebecca Whatshername chatting to Hawkeye. They were drinking red wine out of coffee mugs. There was always something really hot about seeing army girls in their normal girl outfits when you were used to seeing them in the uniform. Havoc considered whether it was something to do with the revelation of their innate femininity, and then thought, nah, a lot of it was probably that those uniform jackets hid their boobs. Right now Rebecca was wearing a sleeveless dress made of that dark, shiny stuff that wrapped itself round girls' curves and whispered over their hips when they walked. Havoc had no idea what that stuff was, but he was very glad that someone had invented it. Hawkeye was wearing a long but flattering black dress, a little red jacket, shoes with a sort of heel, and, concealed discreetly about her person, at least three guns. If she scored tonight, the poor guy was going to get a few surprises when he unzipped her.
Oh, hell, he thought. He’d have plenty of time to be a miserable asshole after he got back home. He only had two nights left in the city now, and he wasn’t going to waste them. Tonight didn’t have to be a total bust. He wedged his new beer bottle between his knees and moved over to say hello. Hawkeye smiled at him in greeting. Rebecca looked him up and down, then smiled too.
Hawkeye found them a table as she said their hellos. It was a typical Hawkeye bit of sneaky kindness, letting him look at them from eye-level but not making a thing about it. Havoc wasn’t really in the mood for kindness but Hawkeye was good people, and he couldn’t bring himself to be an ass about it.
After a few minutes of chit-chat, Havoc offered to go and top up their drinks, and Hawkeye excused herself to go check if Fuery was still being sick in the fire bucket. Rebecca wandered over with him, saying she wanted to check out if there was any of the good wine left. There wasn’t. While he cracked his new beer open, he noticed Fuery over the other side of the room, looking hale and hearty. He couldn’t see Hawkeye anywhere.
“We lost our table!” Rebecca huffed. “That was ours, we were only gone for a second.” Then, pointedly loud. “Some people are so rude!”
“Hey, it’s one of the unspoken rules of drinking,” Havoc pointed out. “If your ass isn’t in the seat, it’s free for the taking. Um, I mean the seat is.”
“My ass isn’t that free. I’m actually a pretty discerning and picky woman.” She slurred on the word “discerning” a bit. As far as Havoc was concerned, it didn’t ruin the sophisticated effect one bit. City girls, I have missed you! he thought. Girls who drank like guys, and told off-colour jokes, and flirted without coyness, and acted like they knew what they wanted out of life. It went against everything Havoc had been told as a boy that a lady should be, but god damn it was hot.
“So, uh, how are you liking Central? You get lost on the metro yet?” Havoc had got lost on the metro about four times when he’d first moved there. Then his evil superpowered girlfriend had shown him how to read the weird metro map properly and he’d worked it out after that. Nice of her. Still, didn’t really make up for the stabbing thing.
“Actually, I haven’t really had the chance to explore much. Mustang’s been working us all like a slave driver. I mean, I know we’ve got to prevent a civil war, and rebuild half the city, and get the support of the brass so Mustang can edge out Hakuro and stage a takeover and whatever, but - four damn months in Central and I haven’t even been to the Orange Grove Ballrooms yet! Or the cabaret!” Girls cursing. Also hot.
She waved her coffee mug emphatically. “And there aren’t even any cute men in my office to look at when I’m stuck there working at stupid o’clock on a Saturday night.” Havoc really wished Mustang had been in earshot of that. “My love life is being sabotaged! I don’t know how we’re expected to work under these conditions. Wouldn’t it be reasonable for the Brigadier General show some compassion? Couldn't he let his loyal underlings out to go dancing once in a while?”
Havoc laughed. “Sorry, you’re doomed. Welcome to Team Mustang.” Rebecca groaned. “But hey, he’s throwing you guys this party, right? And it’s not just those ugly-ass office guys here.” Haha, in your face, buddies. “You can, uh, meet new people.”
“That’s true. You’ve got a point there.” Rebecca’s eyes glinted and she put a finger to her chin. “I’m meeting new people right now.”
“I’m new people? What about a few months back, when we were on the phone every day talking arms dealing?”
“True. But over the phone I forgot you were cute.” She crossed a lovely, tapered ankle in front of her other leg, pointing the toe of her shoe at the ground.
“What?” Havoc pretended to be offended. “You didn’t notice all this” – he winked – “back when we were working in East City?"
“Mmm. I don’t know why we didn’t bump into each other more often, being as I’m such good friends with Riza and everything.” She sounded a little huffy when she said Hawkeye’s name for some reason.
Rebecca shifted, crossing the other ankle instead. “Ow. I love these shoes, but they are just killing my feet. Right now I really hate those guys who took our table."
Havoc looked up at her and thought, hey, why not. Then he gave her his best roguish grin, gestured at his lap, and said, “Want to sit down for a moment?”
Rebecca looked kind of surprised. “I’m not going to hurt you?”
“Nah.” Another grin.
Her eyes widened a bit and she grinned back, and said “Okay.”
Rebecca came round in front of him and popped herself down onto his lap sideways. She was built curvy but small and trim, and she fit in there nicely. He could just about feel the pressure of her butt on his thighs, and sincerely wished he could feel more. She wiggled a bit, getting comfortable, and took a sip of wine from her mug. “You have really big arms.”
He could hear Hawkeye's eyes rolling at them from all the way across the room.
“You sure this isn’t hurting you?”
“Nah, seriously. I can feel pressure on my legs, but not much else. I’ve got sensation in my trunk, though.” Was that subtle enough? It was always difficult to get the message “the penis, it works!” into flirting without, you know, actually saying it. Maybe he should get Hawkeye to announce it at the Annual General Girl Meeting or something. Or maybe he shouldn’t.
Rebecca leaned back to look at him, gripping the arms of the chair, shamelessly catching his meaning. Havoc remembered how much he loved this moment, the moment when you both just knew you’d scored. City girls were awesome. She did a little shimmy with her butt on his lap. "Can you feel this?"
"Uh, yeah," he said, somewhat unnecessarily. Oh crap, he thought. Rebecca's eyes went wide and surprised. Buddy, he chided, I know times have been hard, but what are you trying to do to me there? Here we have a hot, sophisticated woman with great thighs and clearly lax moral standards, and then you go and blow it for me like this. Aren't we supposed to be a team here? And may I remind you that this whole thing was your fault anyhow? Whose idea was it to start banging a homunculus? Yours, pal, that's whose.
He braced himself and looked back at Rebecca. She was looking down. Then she looked up at him, turning her head closer to his face, and gave him a beautifully filthy grin.
There was a short pause in conversation. Then she said: "I snuck a bottle of wine into my bag. It's the good stuff, the one they're run out of. You wouldn't happen to have a corkscrew in your hotel room?"
"I've got one. I also have glasses. It's an extremely classy joint."
She sat in his lap and giggled, as he wheeled them both towards the door, leaning over to snag her bag with one hand as they passed it. She hopped out and opened the door for him. He pushed through it and then held it open for her. Okay, buddy, he thought, we're good here. Sorry I was out of line. Just don't let me down now, yeah? The honor of Team Havoc is at stake. Also, if either of us screws this up now, I think my balls are going to explode, and neither of us wants that.
Half an hour later, there were two half full glasses of wine on his bedside table, and he was sat up on the hotel bed's crisp cotton sheets with a warm, naked girl in his lap. They weren’t into the home stretch yet, but so far Team Havoc was playing a pretty decent game. He had one hand behind him grabbing the headboard to hold himself upright and push forward, the other tight around her small, firm waist. One of her hands was by his, grabbing the headboard. The other was alternately wandering over his chest and abs, and playing with herself, making sweet little noises. Her knees were either side of his chest, calves wrapping round his back as they thrusted together. She was really flexible, he thought incoherently. Maybe she did those weird Eastern exercises, the ones where you were supposed to put your legs behind your head. Then he thought, ah, ahfuck, and his brain turned into white noise. Then he kind of took a break from thinking for a while.
Two hours later, he woke, gently, in one of the more pleasant situations a man could ask for: lying in expensive, crisp hotel sheets, still feeling boneless and satisfied, with a lovely girl wrapped around him and, as of yet, no hangover. Rebecca was curled up sweetly on his chest, sleeping the sleep of the happy drunk. She was warm, and doing cute little whistly snores, and her lovely, full breasts were tucked up against his ribcage, moving gently against him as she breathed evenly. He always heard guys say they hated the thing where girls want you to cuddle after meaningless sex. Speaking personally, he was a fan.
Then out of nowhere, his mind seemed to spark into life and he thought with sudden determination, hey, you know what, I am gonna take that job. Havoc’s brain had apparently reconsidered - once again without letting him know in advance, the jerk.It was funny how quickly his mind could turn things around on him. Earlier that evening, the world had seemed hopeless and vindictive, that whether he went to Central or stayed back in the East, his future would be ruined, cruddy, unworkable, boring. But after some great sex, a cigarette, and with a pretty girl sleeping in his arms, the pieces of his life had somehow rearranged themselves into an order that looked vastly better.
So this new job wasn’t going to be a return to his old life. It would be a different thing; but he could see it working. Back when he was dealing arms for the coup, he’d come to love the adrenaline rush of closing a deal, getting someone on board. It made him feel like he was making the regular nice guy thing work for him, that he wasn’t just a likeable dumb-ass. And if he took the job he’d be getting back on that train again, following Mustang, serving with good people he gave a damn about, working hard for a goal that was worth it. And there’d be his buddies, and bars that opened late and served that dark beer you couldn’t get back east, and being able to order ten different kinds of take-out at 2am. And maybe when he got back to Central, he could give Rebecca a call. He could take her to the cabaret, show her how to read the metro map. And then, hey, maybe they could do this again too. That could work. Okay, so he was shallow. He was a shallow, shallow man; but he could live with that.