Coming for these visits has almost become routine. Spoilers through manga chapter 40.
Snow crunches under his boots as Breda makes his way up to the home. It's a nice place, nicer than he'd have thought the military would pay for -- he blames the colonel for that, quietly, and is grateful. He shifts the weight of the parcel under his arm, and reaches for the door.
The Silver Pines Convalescent Home smells faintly antiseptic inside, unsettling the way hospital smells always are. The nurses at the desk in the front lobby just smile and nod, used to his visits by now.
"Is he up and around?" Breda asks.
"Of course he is," one of them says, a pretty little brunette -- Betty, he thinks her name is. He's still not good at remembering all their names. "The hard part is getting him to rest /enough/."
Breda smiles fondly. "Sounds like him, all right." He nods to the girls and turns, heading down the first-floor hallway. The rooms here are almost like small apartments, not like the more closely-supervised wards upstairs; here, most of the patients are almost well enough to function on their own. They just need...a little help, while they recover.
He knocks at the door and doesn't really wait for the muffled, "Come in," before he's turning the knob and letting himself in.
Havoc is sitting by the window, looking out over the grounds at the fresh snowfall. He looks too thin, but that's nothing new, and at least today he looks reasonably well-rested. Some days when Breda comes in, Havoc has circles under his eyes so dark that it looks like he hasn't slept in a week.
"Morning," Breda says with a smile, setting his parcel down on the counter. "How's it going?"
"Eh, you know." Havoc turns his chair, wheels it toward the center of the room. He's getting good with it, and Breda has to believe that's just his refusal to be crap at anything, instead of resignation. He shrugs, with that little wry smile he's so good at. "Can't complain, right?"
Of course he could. Any reasonable man would, after the kind of luck Havoc's had. But he won't, because he's a better man than most people will ever even /meet/, much less be. "Glad to hear it," Breda says. "You mind if I use your stove? Always feels like there should be mulled cider when the weather turns snowy."
"Sure," Havoc says. He stops his chair by the little table as Breda searches through the cupboards for a decent-sized pot. "Should I set up the board?"
"Go for it," Breda grins. "Might be the day you finally beat me, after all."
Havoc smiles back, and it doesn't look desperate, for once, just honestly amused. "You never know."
For a few minutes, there's quiet, punctuated by the splash of spices dropped into the cider, and the click of the tiles as Havoc sets up the shogi board. It starts to smell right, sweet apple and cinnamon and clove, and Breda sighs contentedly. Drinking the cider isn't even really the point -- it's the way the room smells when it's mulling, warm and welcome like that.
Still, he brings two steaming mugs with him when he sits down across the table. "Careful," he says. "It's hot."
Havoc rolls his eyes with a little snort. "I'm not stupid."
Breda smiles, and nudges one of his pawns forward. "I know."
After the first few games they played, months ago, Breda offered to play handicapped, just until Havoc got more of a feel for the game. Havoc never let him start even down a lance. Breda still wins every time, but it's getting closer; now a single match can go on for most of an afternoon, if Havoc's concentrating.
They play quietly, sipping cider and moving tiles. Sometimes Havoc's fingers twitch like he's still wishing for a cigarette. Captured tiles rattle like dice in Breda's hand as he measures his advantages, thinks about where to drop one.
"How long are you going to keep doing this?" Havoc asks, nudging a silver general into a threatening position.
"What, beating your sorry ass?" Breda studies the board and tries to figure out whether there's a secondary attack planned behind the silver's move.
"All of this," Havoc says hoarsely. He waves a hand at the room around them. "Coming in here to see me when I'm a," he chokes, "a cripple."
The room feels very silent, delicate and brittle as ice on the bare branches of the trees outside. "As long as you're here, Jean," Breda says at last, softly. He reaches out for Havoc's hand, and he can feel what's left of the rifle calluses. "Until you're better. As long as it takes."
For a moment there are too many emotions on Havoc's face, and Breda can't read them all. Havoc closes his eyes and lets out a long, shaky breath, squeezing Breda's hand. His grip is still strong, still a soldier's. "Thank you."