Infected: Revolution, Part 2

2- Aegis

Dee and Shep arrived about five minutes ahead of the cops, and eight ahead of the press. Since Roan had no idea who called an ambulance, he wondered who tipped them off. Probably Flores.

Roan had to wave them away, he didn’t need medical attention, all he needed was a couple of Vicodin, which he washed down with a bottle of water from the car. Some people did need help, mostly mourners who got flustered and overwhelmed after the shooting. Nothing major beyond an asthma attack and heart palpitations, but at least it kept Dee from bugging him. Dylan sat with him in the car for a long moment of quiet, watching as cops, media, protestors, mourners, and his security team jostled and milled about in pseudo-Brownian motion. In a weird bit of irony, Richie was having to hold Holden back from going medieval on someone’s ass. It was kind of nice to be watching it and not participating in it.

He also knew Agent Flores was still watching, but hadn’t gotten involved. Probably because she was here to keep an eye on him, not participate in a melee.

Finally, after many seconds of welcome silence, Dylan turned to him and said, “I’m not used to it. I knew I had to get used to people trying to kill you, but I can’t. How do I deal with this?”

“They might not have been shooting at me,” Roan offered.

Dylan glared at him, giving him that special “fuck you” stare that could only come from someone who had lived with you too long to just accept your bullshit. Roan had to shrug, and admit, ”Okay, they were probably aiming for me. But I knew they would be gunning for me, and I was prepared. They didn’t hurt me.”

“Really?”

“A bruise doesn’t count, no matter how bad it is.”

Dylan looked skeptical, but didn’t have enough ammunition at this moment to counter. Before he could think up something, Roan asked, “Could you tell them to break it up once I get their attention?”

He gave him a curious look. “What are you going to do?”

“Get their attention.” At Dylan’s death stare, he added, “In the most ill advised manner possible. But it’s safer than a gunshot.”

“Do you really think we can’t use something else?”

“Look at them,” he said, nodding towards the rearview mirror. “You think yelling “break it up” is really going to do it?”

He looked for a long moment before sighing. “I guess not.”

Roan popped open the door, and said, “Be as mean as you hafta.” He meant towards him as well as the crowd, but he just assumed Dyl knew that. He stood, eyes briefly closed, summoning up his rage at these idiots who were content to disrupt the funeral of a man they didn’t know to harass a family for having the gall to have an infected son, and he screamed. Except it wasn’t a scream, it was a roar, one ripped from the pit of his stomach and vomited towards the crowd, loud enough to make Roan’s ears hurt.

The melee did stop, as some screamed, some yelped, and one of the female protestors near the back fainted dead away on the lawn. Roan even noticed, out of the corner of his eye, Dylan involuntarily flinch, but that may have been due to the noise level alone.

Finished, Roan turned away, mainly to physically pop his jaw back in, as he’d somehow dislocated it during the roar. It clicked back into place, but fuck did it hurt, and on top of that he had to swallow back the blood welling in his mouth. Of course he ripped the shit out of his throat, and it hurt, but considering his vocal cords had to shift shape and he was trying to force it back again, there was no way it couldn’t hurt. He turned his back on them so they couldn’t see him wince.

“The funeral is over,” Dylan announced, in his sternest bartender voice. “Why don’t we all go home before the SWAT shows up and tear gases us all, huh? You’ve proven you’re dickfaces, which is what I assume your message was. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Unless you’re into handcuffs, then knock yourself out.” Dylan returned to the car, climbing in and slamming the door, and Roan waited until he was sure that there was no pain on his face as he slunk back into the passenger seat. In the rearview mirror, he saw stunned people slowly start to break up and drift away. Even through the cars natural buffering and the ringing in his ears, he heard someone say, “I didn’t think he could actually do that. I thought someone just dubbed that in later.”

Who would sweeten his You Tube videos? Did they think he was doing that? Why? He hated those fucking things. Roan felt his head throbbing like an open wound, and popped another pain pill, aware that it probably wouldn’t help much.

Dylan gave him a concerned look as he wiped the blood off his face. “You okay? That one sounded especially painful.”

“I think I misjudged my own level of anger,” he admitted. He could blame the drugs, but that wasn’t true, and Roan knew it. He thought he was prepared for this nonsense, he thought he took nothing personally or had at least resigned himself to the fact that these people were going to be horrible, but apparently that was harder than he thought.

Dylan rubbed his shoulder in a comforting manner. “If it’s anything, I’m a Buddhist, and I fucking hate every single one of them.”

“That does make me feel a little better.” He smiled weakly at him, and then leaned his head on Dylan’s shoulder as he started the car. What a terrible thing it was to be the anchor, the only person capable of keeping another’s feet on the ground. Roan was terribly sorry he had ever put him in that position.

**

When they got home, they found the machine was full of messages.

Roan meticulously started erasing them. He’d listen to the first couple of words, only confirming they were calls from haters – “Fucking faggot” and “Fucking cat” were the top two choices of the haters, not even bothering with “Hello” – before erasing them. One phone call was from Dee, pre-funeral, warning him not to “lion out” as people with cameras might find the burial plot (yeah, he knew that), and the rest haters, until he came to a weird, stumbling one. “Umm … yeah, hi … Roan. I don’t know if you remember me. Collin? Collin Deering? I was … um, I found that copy of Future Shock you were in, I came across it on the internet …. holy shit, guy, you haven’t aged that much, have you? And the freak t-shirt … you’re still punk rock after all this time. I don’t know how you managed that. I’m a little too soft for it now, I think. Umm … I don’t know if there was much of a point here. I guess I just wanted to say hi, and … um, if you ever wanted to go get beer, catch up, I’d be cool with that. I live in Queen Anne, although, since you’re a detective now, I guess you could find that out yourself. Umm … yeah. Glad you made it, dude. Feel free to call me or whatever. So … yeah. Bye.”

Dylan, who had been making tea, paused to give Roan a curious look. “He didn’t sound nervous.” At the look on Roan’s face, he raised an eyebrow. “Who the hell was that?”

The drugs had actually cushioned the shock, but some of it still got through. He had no choice now but to tell him, as he pulled out his laptop. He’d never Googled him, but now he was curious why he never had. “Remember how I said my first sexual experience was with a straight guy?”

“Yeah?” The moment stretched out, and he knew when Dylan got it, because the surprise registered on his face. “Holy shit, that was him?”

“Yeah.”

“You Googling him?”

“Yep.”

“You never did that before?”

“No. I don’t see the point in Googling people I’m not hired to find. If I wanted to know them, I’d know them.”

Dylan poured a cup of tea before answering. “I don’t know if that’s brilliantly zen or just antiquated.”

“Love you too, hon.” Google coughed up a couple of Collin Deering’s, but he found him pretty quickly. He did live in Queen Anne, and he worked there too, as he was a couple’s therapist now (ha! Went into the family business after all..). He also found an old wedding announcement, stating he got married to a Doctor (of course) Diana Edwards ten years ago. They had two kids.

Dylan joined him on the sofa and had a peek, taking a closer look at the photo. “I see what he means by getting soft,” Dylan said. “But he’s not bad looking. Was he hot as a teenager?”

Current Collin appeared to be a bit doughy and twenty pounds overweight, with a very conventional haircut (his hair just starting to thin), but there was some of the teen he was still visible, in his deep set, sleepy eyes and slightly cleft chin. “I never really thought of him that way. He was a friend, probably one of the few friends I had around that time of my life. He wasn’t ugly.”

“But you’ve never wondered about him since then? Ever?”

Roan wasn’t sure how to answer that and not seem like a total jackass. “I wasn’t sure he’d welcome any attention from me. I mean, we didn’t part in a bad way, but the whole thing was kind of weird. I mean, we’d been friends and he was straight, so … it kind of caught us both off guard.” He didn’t even think about it much, it was so strange. Frankly, if you told him it was a pot based hallucination, he would have been willing to buy that.

“Should we invite him to Quote/Unquote?” Dylan suggested, with a polite smile.

That was the name of a big art show at the Met about gay artists in and out of the closet, past and current, and Dylan managed to get a piece in a show that would be touring museums around the country. Admittedly, he wasn’t making much off the gig, but the weirdest thing about it was Dylan’s submission was one of the body painting portraits of him. Roan took comfort in the fact that you couldn’t see his face, and most people who hadn’t slept with him or been his doctor at some point would recognize his torso. Besides, it was mostly gay slurs painted on his skin, but they looked like blood or flayed skin, although Roan’s tattoos were still visible in the background, perhaps suggesting a deeper meaning. Roan thought it was still too direct and on the nose – Dyl was usually more abstract than that – but Dylan told him “The museum types eat this up. It makes them feel edgy.” Dylan’s cynicism was proven correct. But Roan had to admit the idea of a picture of his torso touring the country was fucking hilarious.

“Yeah, that would be awesome. Me loaded and trying very hard not to make a scene, while the guy who had one gay slip with me and his wife are not five feet away, also trying not to be awkward. That’ll be so much fun, I just might hang myself with a rope made of braided napkins.”

“Aww. Nice touch with the braid. Very gay.” Dylan told him, patting him on the back.

Roan looked at him with a frown. “No one likes a sarcastic bastard, Dyl.”

“Well, I do.” He paused briefly. “Obviously.”

Ouch. Before Roan could think up a good reply, his phone rang. He wasn’t going to answer, but a quick look confirmed it was Seb. With a sigh, he picked up the receiver. “Yeah, I know, I gotta give an official statement –“

“Fuck the statement,” Seb snapped, the tension in his voice underlined by the scream of a police siren in the background. “We’ve got multiple reports of a cat loose in the Briar Woods neighborhood, about five miles or so away from you, off Blackburn Road. We’re en route, as are SWAT, but you can probably beat us there.”

Oh yes. No matter that he felt he’d done his good deed for the day, the day wasn’t over yet. “Fine, yeah, I’ll get going. Anything else I should know?” There was too much tension in Seb’s voice for that to be all. There had to be something else making him sound like he was about to lose it.

“It was spotted outside a day care,” he replied.

”Oh, fuck me,” Roan exclaimed, standing up so quickly Dyl had to sit back on the couch to get out of the way. “I’m on my way.”

“Do what you have to do, just do it fast,” Seb said, before hanging up. No goodbyes were necessary here; it was just wasting time.

“What’s going on?” Dylan asked, alarmed.

“Big cat loose near a day care.” Getting up so fast tweaked his ribs, and he couldn’t help but hiss at the pain. Still, it was good – that pain could fuel his rage, bring out the lion. What a weird turn his life had taken. Now pain was finally of use to him.

Dylan gasped, his eyes full of horror. “Oh god. Go, get out of here.”

He didn’t need to tell him twice. Roan was glad he hadn’t yet taken off his coat, as that just saved him a couple of seconds. He went out to the garage and grabbed his bike, not only for speed but because he was sure he could illegally cut through a back pasture off Crescent Road, saving a couple of minutes of drive time. Impossible in a car, easy on a motorcycle.

The trip was just long enough to make him imagine terrible scenarios in his head, even though he knew the question wasn’t why this was happening, but why this hadn’t happened before. (It had in at least one other state that he knew of, an ugly scene in Alabama, but that was the only one he was aware of. There were probably more that had escaped his notice.)

Blackburn Road was a cul de sac, with five vaguely similar houses spread out in a mimic of a suburban neighborhood, but the overgrown and tree ridden lot at the end of the cul de sac betrayed its more rural roots. He knew from experience this little piece of woods went on for about a third of a mile, before ending at someone’s pasture. It was perfect for a cat who wanted to get out and stretch its legs.

And the house that also functioned as a day care center abutted the woods. Son of a bitch.

He hadn’t even pulled in front of the house before he smelled blood on the wind, and he was growling before he punted the kickstand and turned the engine off. He waited until he was standing before he roared a challenge, the act making his ribs ache fiercely, which in turn made his roar that much more challenging. It was a self-perpetuating cycle, and one he intended to make work for him.

If he wasn’t too late. And he had a gnawing feeling in his gut that he was.

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