"My legs... I can't feel them. I'm sorry. I must retire."
And suddenly, she found herself wondering if it was possible to feel mutual pain.
It tore Riza to see him like this; lying back against his pillows with his legs propped up to help blood flow. She could literally see his fingers twitching for the cigarette the nurses wouldn't let him have; to combat this, he rubbed his hand through his hair and across his face, accentuating the fine lines that were slowly becoming more and more obvious on a face so young. He had been forced into retirement and he was in the hospital for another night, which was melancholy in itself.
"I'm going home tomorrow."
Jean's voice broke through the silence and Riza's eyes immediately met his. Was it possible for a person to be caught between hopeful determination and utter hopelessness? She wanted to hold him, but this was not the place. So instead, she forced a smile and grasped his hand for the briefest of moments.
"Yes. You're going home."
Ambulance transportation. Havoc already felt like a corpse.
"The Retirement Department said they would be around again today with more papers for you to sign, Jean," his mother was hovering behind him anxiously with one had on his shoulder, as if she was afraid he was going to slip right out the bottom of the stretcher and fall down a conveniently placed open manhole.
"... although I'm not quite sure that the doors are wide enough for your wheelchair... Jean, are you listening to me?"
He had to admit that he wasn't, because Hawkeye was standing beside the ambulance with her hands crossed over her chest. When she noticed them approach she moved to stand in front of him, and offered him her hand.
"Lieutenant Hawkeye?" he asked, acutely aware of his mother's bemused gaze.
"Get up, Lieutenant Havoc."
"Miss, in case you didn't notice, my son is now disabled!" Jean was quite torn between thinking Riza was mad and that his mother was treating him like a toddler, but Riza (in a way that was so like her) replied with, "Mrs. Havoc, can I count on your assistance here? Your son needs to get from this stretcher to the ambulance, and he'll have to be supported by the both of us."
His mother looked set to protest again, so Havoc did the thing he thought would shut her up and grabbed Riza's hand, like she had with his the night before. Hawkeye looked momentarily surprised and he smiled at this, happy to have caught her off guard for once. He had no doubt that this would be the only time.
"You'll have to take this step eventually, so you might as well do it now."
It was a hard step to take, but with the help of his mother and the First Lieutenant, he was transferred from the wheeled stretcher to the flat table-like bed in the back of the ambulance. Both his mother and Riza had narrowly managed to squeeze in on either side of him, and he closed his eyes and smiled.
'Yes, I'll have to be supported by both of them.'
The store was easily the biggest part of their house; the rest was so small and filled up with merchandise that he'd eventually moved all of his belongings to the old shed standing out the back of the house, after he'd cleaned out all the old farming equipment left by the former resident. And now that Riza seemed fixed on staying with him, he was glad he'd been rebellious enough to propose the move as a teen. It was relatively bare; his bed, a dresser with some of his old clothes, a simple wooden chair.
His mother had helped them move all the things they'd bought from the hospital to ‘help him adjust to his new lifestyle' and hovered around for a bit, as if daring Riza to mistreat him in the slightest. His father then came to tell his mother that they needed assistance in the shop, and she left very unwillingly.
"Hah, she's afraid you'll brutally bash and rape me and leave me for dead," Havoc laughed as Riza sighed and sat down on the little space left on his pillow, so close that her thigh was brushing lightly against his cheek.
"She's just concerned for you," Riza replied, unconsciously reaching down to place her hand on Havoc's other cheek, gently running the tips of her fingers across his skin; he caught her fingers between his teeth and traced his tongue down the fine line of the bone. It was at this point that she froze, and Havoc craned his neck to meet her eyes.
"I'm concerned for you too," she said that so simply, but her words carried the weight of the world to him, and so he smiled and wrapped his arm around her waist.
She stayed the night, eventually dozing off on his shoulder, still in uniform. The next morning she was gone before he awoke, and his mother explained she'd had to return to Central following a call from Mustang.
"She's a nice woman, actually," his mother said whilst fluffing his pillows for the seventh time, "Really down to earth and secure, not like the other women you used to bring home, young man..."
Havoc laughed and replied, "You don't have to put it in such an indignant tone, you know."
"Oh, yes I do. The amount of times you brought home girls from the towns around here, and they were usually carrying guns or some other weapon... I'm glad you've settled down a bit, Jean," she asserted, placing the sort of kiss only a mother could give upon his cheek and leaving to return to the store.
Havoc resisted the urge to laugh until he figured she was a fair way away, and then laughed and found himself very glad that his mother was yet to meet Riza Hawkeye the markswoman.
She retuned late that afternoon, with a suitcase barely filled with clothes and Black Hayate at her heel.
"Hayate barely managed to escape your mother's fussing," Riza smiled, placed the case neatly in the corner and bent over to unzip it and retrieve the dog's water bowl.
"She does that. Trust me, twenty-four years of life with the woman has taught me that. But she means well."
"I would assume she's already planning the wedding day," Riza said lightly, reaching down to pat Hayate's head, and his tail thumping violently against her leg was the reply. "Do you have any water here?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to go to the house for that, Riza. If my mother harasses you again you have my permission to beat her off with some form of blunt object."
"Somehow, I don't think that'd stop her," Riza replied, and Jean laughed; the way she was familiar with, deep in his throat and husky from the cigarettes he smoked.
"You're probably right," she smiled in return, and opened the wooden door. Hayate immediately jumped to heel but Riza gave him a stern look and he sat down on his haunches as quick as lightning. "Stay here with the Lieutenant, boy. I trust him with you now, but..." she paused and her gaze flickered back towards Jean, "... you just don't know how many other people around here eat dog."
"I've been trying to put my finger on it all day, and I just realized..." Riza trailed off to place a delicate sliver of potato in her mouth. Jean looked up from dismembering the piece of red meat on his plate (he wasn't quite sure what sort of meat it was, but seeing that the dog had received the same thing he didn't have supreme confidence) and waited until she finished chewing; her jaw worked against the soft texture of the food, she swallowed and let loose a soft breath.
"I just realized why you've looked so... unlike you lately."
"Oh?" he didn't look up from his dinner (and possibly the toughest piece of meat ever to grace an Amestrian plate in history).
"It's because you haven't smoked once."
"Aah... there's actually a reason behind that," at that point, he tried to skewer the steak, but it slipped from his plate and Black Hayate snatched it gleefully, and retreated under the bed to enjoy his prize. Jean looked bemused and Riza sighed (in a way that reminded him of the office; her ‘I'm surrounded by idiots' sigh, Breda called it) and replaced his now empty plate with hers, which still contained half of the mystery meat and the potato she hadn't finished.
"I should have known better than to think that you'd gone through a miraculous health reform."
"We've all got to go sometime; might as well enjoy what we have," Havoc shrugged and Hawkeye revelled in the irony, considering what he'd been like at the hospital. "But the honest truth is that my parents don't know that I smoke."
"That's good," she replied, her tone flat, "You'll be needing to watch your health from now on."
Not another word was spoken after that, and Riza watched Jean finish what had remained of her food in silence.
Like a sudden flashback to younger years, both Hawkeye and Havoc realized that this was as good a time as any to experiment.
"What do you mean ‘I didn't ask them'?" Riza questioned; she was perched on Jean's upper thighs, legs straddled either side of him and lips pressed into the soft flesh just under his earlobe.
"What was I supposed to ask? ‘Hello there, Miss Cute Redhead Nurse; just wondering whether everything ‘down there will still work. Aww, c'mon, you know what I mean..."
"Very funny, Casanova."
"Aww, but you think I'm sexy."
"Don't flatter yourself," Riza hissed, and pulled him into a searing kiss. Her tongue dipped across his lips and she squirmed deliciously in his lap.
Jean couldn't feel the change, the stirring, but Riza could. She broke away and smiled that slow, warm smile he had become accustomed to seeing on her face at these times.
"Well, now that that question has been taken care of, shall we?"
Havoc wasted no time and reached to work on Hawkeye's crisply-buttoned white shirt.
"Looking at me like that in this place is dangerous."
"Then why do you do it?"
"Oh, I'm not quite sure..." his breath was hot against her bare shoulder and his arms were tight and protective around her torso.
"The next time you tell me to come to the dorms to give you 'medical assistance', remind me to ignore you."
"Well, the next time I tell you to take the day off work with me, you should listen."
She sighed and leaned down to kiss the gentle curve at his elbow, and he grinned and pressed his lips against her hair. Riza Hawkeye stands steady on a score in the millions, and Jean Havoc finally gets off the mark.
"You know..." she whispered, hips keeping the rhythm and nipples perked under the pads of his thumbs as she spoke, "It'd be interesting if your mother walked in on us like this."
"Bloody Hell," he murmured, leaning down to place a kiss between her breasts, "Anyone would think you were trying to make me impotent."
"No such luck."
Riza opened her mouth to respond, but Havoc's mouth found the milky rise of her breast and nipped, and she found herself rendered delightfully speechless.
"I think I just scored again," his voice was growing hoarse just like it always did when he was close to the edge, even though he could no longer feel the sensation quite as well as he wanted. She wanted him to know that she could feel for both of them, and her pace fell to a quick rhythm with the kisses she left across his neck and shoulders matching this swiftness.
"I'm still winning." A sharp breath and snap of the hips as he reached between them and brushed across her clitoris with a rough fingertip.
He comes, and his brain registered the sensation but he couldn't feel the warmth of her around him, couldn't jerk his hips to meet her as her mouth forms that perfect 'O' and she came with a tiny tremble that started in abdomen and ran down her legs. He satisfied himself with pressing his face into her neck and holding her tight, and suddenly she felt wonderfully secure.
"Please don't ever leave," he whispered, lips still pressed against the sweet dip in her throat.
The next day was the first time he'd ventured into the outside since his accident. Riza had insisted upon it, and had received the assistance of his father in lugging Jean into his wheelchair, despite how much the man in question looked pouty.
If Jean's mother was the most talkative person she'd ever met, his father was certainly the most silent, but reminded her of her lover in a way that was far beyond any similarities he had with his mother.
When he'd said his hometown was small, he'd made a gross overstatement in the fact that the town actually had a population just topping one hundred; his family's store was the third-biggest building in town after the hospital and the bank.
Eventually, she found what was apparently the town's idea of a park; a piece of grass three meters square with a bench planted perfectly in the middle. She pushed his chair next to the bench, but reconsidered and sat comfortably on his lap, leaning her head back to rest against his shoulder. He rested his cheek against hers and she never objected to the raw stubble that was now growing where his skin was once smooth.
"I meant what I said last night, you know."
Riza started to absently play with his hair and Jean laughed and pressed a soft kiss against her cheek.
This was Riza Hawkeye, who was willing to teach him to live again.