Title: The Masks We Wear
Word Count: 925
Rating: PG-13 for language
Characters: Jean Havoc and his family, mentions of Roy Mustang.
Summary: He wondered why Mustang didn't let him die deep in the bowels of the third laboratory.
Warning: Chapter 38 Spoilers
There were nights that it ate at him, gnawing at the edges of his sanity like the rats that he sometimes found in the larders in the storage area underneath their store. Nights where he had- by some fucking miracle- rolled over at least partially in his sleep and had managed to pin one of his arms underneath his body. And now that it ached painfully and felt like it was being stabbed with a million needles- NOW that he was in a state of semi consciousness, he couldn't move himself to his former position of laying on his back.
He had spent so much time on his back, only able to count the spotted tiles on the ceiling of the hospital room and wonder why the fuck the Colonel hadn't let him bleed out so he wouldn't have to live like this- a shell of what he had once been.
Why did he have to live like this? He suffered the looks of compassion from the nurses that turned him because he couldn't do it himself. They didn't want him getting bedsores from resting in one place too long. And then there was the misplaced sympathy that the customers gave him when they came into Havoc Sundries to buy whatever it was that would let them get on with their perfectly normal lives.
It wasn't like he couldn't tell what they were thinking by the looks on their faces. Maybe he was an idiot- or at least a bit slower than most, but he was smart enough to feel their pity boring into his soul.
'Oh, poor man, I heard he was shot while on a mission for the military. Can you imagine? The military just chewed him up and spit him out.'
He had heard it all before.
'I can't imagine not being able to walk. It must be terrible.'
Did they not realize that his ears worked perfectly well? Perhaps too well. His military training, even after so many months, had not faded- it was like second nature to him. It had been drilled into his head to be ever alert, listening for danger, for the bullet that could kill him.
A bullet would hurt less.
Even his parents couldn't avoid from looking upon him as a charity case. When he couldn't reach a plate that resided in a higher cabinet than he could reach, his Ma would give him a soft look and give it to him without a word.
But she didn't need to say a thing. The thin fragility that was his stubborn pride- the thought that he could fucking do this, get through it and be a normal human being would shatter- and he would roll outside to have a cigarette or five. His parents hadn't even known that he smoked until she visited him in the hospital- the day he signed the papers to retire from the military.
It wasn't like he had a choice but to retire. After all, how was half a man going to help his Colonel- the man who he had trusted with his his life and followed like an overly eager puppy dog- going to help him to the top now? The military dog had been kicked, and there was no getting up from this.
He would never admit to anyone how much pain he was still in, even if he could only feel half of himself. It was easy to tell when it was going to rain because his joints would ache, and the scars and skin were pulled so tight over his wounds that if he stretched too far to try to reach something, stars would fill his vision and he would be reduced to a slightly curled ball of misery. It would either cease when he was able to get to his painkillers and they mercifully knocked him out- or he had to wait it out, until he was able to feel like he could breathe without his whole world crumbling around him.
And on the days when when he thought that he might have his emotions under control, a child would inevitably come in with their mother. The child was too young to know better, and too old to keep their thoughts to themselves. 'Mommy, why's that guy sitting down? Why's he using a pole to get that shirt? Can't he just get up and get it?'
He would politely check them out, with a smile plastered on his face the the whole time. After all, he had the name of Havoc to uphold. The family had owned this business for over 80 years- he wouldn't dare sully the name now.
Jean never understood how Colonel Mustang always had a smirk on his face. The man never gave away his emotions, never revealed what he was really thinking. But as the days running the store wore on, and the children came and went, it became ever clearer why and how the Colonel did what he did.
When the mother and child left, he would tell his Pa that he was going out for a smoke. His parents had warned him before he left for the military academy that he better not pick up any bad habits from big city life- like sex before marriage, or drinking, or smoking. But his Pa wasn't deaf either- despite his age- and he didn't begrudge his son when he slowly wheeled himself out the back door to smoke and hoped to hell that he could keep the tears inside.
He usually could.