Infected: Revolution, Part 6
6 – The Gloaming
Dylan hated to leave Roan in such a state, but once he’d called Holden, he went straight up to bed. Roan said he had a migraine coming on, and Dylan could almost believe it, except his face was pale, and his lips bloodlessly white. It wasn’t a migraine – those didn’t make him pale. It was pain, pure and simple, probably from his partial transformation. Why didn’t Roan want to admit that?
Maybe because he was a macho asshole, or maybe because he didn’t want him to worry, but of course it was too late for that. He was already worrying, and he didn’t leave for work. He just sat on the edge of the bed and put a hand on Roan’s forehead. He wasn’t concerned about waking him, because he took a handful of pain pills and knocked himself out. They might not work on the pain anymore, but they could work on his consciousness. Roan’s forehead was cold, and that was the final proof it wasn’t a migraine, as his skin would often flush and feel warm. His breathing was steady, but not quite as deep as it usually was when he was sleeping. He was comatose, not sleeping so much as passed out. How could he keep doing this to himself? How did he keep going? His body was amazing. Not in the sense that it looked good, although it did. It was amazing in the sense that it hadn’t completely broken down. That’s what killed most infecteds, wasn’t it? He’d read up. He’d read up as a way of trying to prepare himself for the inevitable, until he realized there was no preparing for it at all. He couldn’t imagine life without Roan, any more than he could he imagine what his life would have been like if he hadn’t felt bad for that sad and familiar looking guy at the grocery store years ago.
Infecteds generally died of organ failure. It was due to shock, their bodies finally unable to weather the rapid changes, the snapping bones and tearing skin, and then decreased blood flow would lead one organ to go critical. Usually it was the liver first, although sometimes it was the kidneys or the lungs. After that, it was dominoes falling: one by one, they’d all shut down, and the victim would die in an awkward in-between state, neither completely transformed nor completely human. Just reading the coldly clinical description of it on a medical website was enough to make him burst into tears. Just thinking about it seemed to make his throat close up.
What made it surprisingly worse was the knowledge that that was not how Roan was going to die.
It should have made it better. But it didn’t. Because an aneurysm was going to go off in his brain like a tiny bomb, or he’d be taken down in a hail of bullets, or a sudden stroke would drop him out of nowhere, and most likely Dylan wouldn’t be anywhere near him when it happened. He’d just come home one day and find his life had been destroyed. You didn’t prepare for that; you couldn’t. You just had to hope you wouldn’t die slow if it did. When it did.
He’d picked up the phone to call into work and take the night off when it went off in his hand. He was so startled he’d almost dropped it, but as soon as he realized it genuinely rang, and it hadn’t woken up Roan yet, he answered it. “Yeah?”
“Is the lion of the house around?” Holden replied.
Dylan sighed, and was as much relieved as annoyed. At least it wasn’t another case for Roan. Roan had a hard time saying no to anyone who needed his help. “He’s asleep. He’ll probably call you when he gets up.”
“So what’s the job? I could use the distraction right now.”
“It’s a shitty one. You couldn’t work your magic on the FBI at all, could you? Make them go away?”
“The Feds? Holy shit, Roan didn’t maul the wrong guy, did he?”
“Very funny.” Dylan rubbed his eyes, a little surprised to find some tears there. “No, that agent dropped by.”
“Ah, Dragon Lady. I noticed her scoping him out at the funeral. She’s aware he’s gay, right?”
“I’m not really in a laughing mood right now.”
“Is that why you’re whispering?” Holden was getting more and more cheerful as this conversation went on, and that was really irritating. Of course, Dylan couldn’t express this, because it would only make Holden cheerier. He and Roan were the contrary twins, happy to make other people crazy.
“Have you heard of a cat cult called Omega?”
“Can’t say I have, but they sound nicely apocalyptic.”
“You’re not wrong. Agent Flores wanted Roan to infiltrate them, because the FBI seems to think they’re preparing to do something violent on Virus Recognition day.”
Holden made a noise that could have been a lot of things: a scoff, a smothered laugh, a swallowed cough. “Of course they are. Attention whores always pick the best days to act up.I’ll do some reading on them. I take it Roan told what’s her nuts to go fuck herself?”
“Basically. He figures Omega will know who he is, and therefore probably kill him on sight.”
“And this basic logic eluded the Feds?”
“She was of the opinion that Roan is so much their ideal they’d overlook it.”
“Ha. ‘Cause religious zealots are known for their reasonableness,” Holden said, and Dylan could just about hear the eye roll in his voice. Dylan slid his hand down Roan’s face, which remained cooler than he liked, and he felt the rasp of stubble under his palm. Just hours ago, he saw Roan shaving as Dylan got dressed for the funeral. Never took long, did it? Not when he partially shifted.
“I wouldn’t let Roan do it even if he thought it was a good idea.”
“You think you could stop him?”
“Unless he’d like to spend the rest of his life celibate, yes.”
He recognized the noise Holden made as a small scoff. “Ah, gotta love relationships. See why I don’t really do them?”
“But aren’t you with Scott?”
Long pause, and Dylan knew he’d poked a sore point. Actually, it was kind of fun, because Holden didn’t have many obvious vulnerabilities. But Scott was one, and it made him so uncomfortable it was actually fun, in an evil way, to bring it up. “That’s not a relationship. That’s just a fuck buddy kind of thing.”
“Uh huh.” Dylan didn’t buy that for a minute. “How’s he doing?” Scott had gone back to the AHL during the NHL strike, although he ended up playing with the Canucks’ farm team rather than the Falcons. He got injured, as his shoulder got separated during a bad hit, and he’d undergone surgery to repair torn muscles. Scott was recuperating in Canada, but Vancouver wasn’t that far away.
“Well, I haven’t seen him lately,” Holden said, and while Dylan could never tell if Holden was lying or not, he knew protesting too much when he heard it. “But he’s finishing up physical therapy, which he bitches about a lot.”
“I’ve heard shoulder separations are painful.”
“He’s a hockey player. He’s had worse.” Just to show how rattled Holden was by this topic, he awkwardly shifted the subject. “How are you doing?”
Dylan decided to humor him. Why not? What else did he have to do but worry? “I’m tired of people trying to kill Roan.”
“I’m sure. But you know it’s not going to stop as long as he’s alive, right? He offends too many sensibilities to be allowed to live in peace.”
“What, just because he’s not caged all the time?”
“You’re missing the big picture. He’s gay, infected, and mouthy. Already he doesn’t know his place. But on top of this, he’s superhuman. No fucking way are they standing for that. If he won’t be the miserable sub-human he should be, they’ll kill him. But good fucking luck to that. These fucking morons haven’t yet figured out that nobody kills Roan but Roan.”
There was a lot of sad truth in that statement. “They don’t know he’s superhuman.”
“They suspect, and there’s enough hearsay floating around on the internet that they believe it. Haven’t you ever looked?”
“Good, don’t. As it is, it gets pretty nuts. I think they’ve ascribed stuff to Roan that was actually in the first Superman movie. Or was it the Spider-Man movie? Oh hell, I don’t know, it’s all strangely smooth guys in tights to me.Real superheroes would look a bit battle scarred, I bet. Hey, like Roan.”
Dylan had slid his hand down to Roan’s chest, where he could feel his heartbeat. It was strong, which was a relief. “Are you trying to make me feel better or feel worse?”
“Neither. I’ll read up on Omega, so when Roan calls, I’ll be ready. Why don’t you take a break, do some yoga, smoke a bowl, whatever you do to relax, huh? You can’t let this stuff get to you.”
Wow. Sometimes things were so strange he had no idea how he was supposed to react to them. Actually, that hadn’t happened until he got together with Roan, and from then on, it seemed to happen all the time. Oh, if only Roan had come with some kind of pamphlet: ‘Welcome To Crazytown‘. “Someone shot him.”
“Yes. But also no.”
“Meaning what? You think the fact that he was wearing a vest makes it any better?”
“Well, yeah, but also, Roan deliberately took the shot.”
Dylan looked at the receiver, just to make sure he hadn’t set the phone to “gibberish” accidentally. “Excuse me?”
“If he had time to draw his gun and shoot back, he had time to get out of the way,” Holden explained. “You’ve seen his reflexes, they’re fucking nuts. He made the decision to absorb it, probably because there were bystanders. I don’t know how such a cynical person can actually give a damn about people, but Roan seems to go out of his way to not make sense half the time.”
Oh holy shit. Now that Holden said it, yes, he got it. It seemed to happen in a blink of an eye to him, too fast for any movement at all, and yet, Roan had drawn his gun by the time the person in the car fired. Roan had his response ready before it actually happened. What seemed fast to them wasn’t fast to him, or at least, wasn’t faster than him. He remembered being at a Falcons’ warm up with Roan, and Scott and Grey were both shooting pucks at Tank at such a high speed Dylan could barely follow them, but Tank was catching or deflecting most of them. Dylan expressed wonder at that, and Roan just shrugged and said, “I can see them.” Yes, he could. Tank’s feat wasn’t so amazing to him, because he could do the same thing, or do it even better. It wasn’t that Dylan didn’t know that, it was just one of those things he didn’t want to know. He didn’t want to know that Roan made the conscious choice to sacrifice himself.
That was another pamphlet he needed: So You Married A Superhero.
“I’m not actually telling you something you didn’t know, am I?” Holden asked.
“No, I knew, I just didn’t want to think about it,” he admitted, looking down at Roan’s face. He was still out cold, but his eyes twitched beneath the thin skin of his lids, and Dylan wondered if his drug addled dreams were more relaxing than his typical dreams. Sometimes, Roan growled in his sleep; a deep, horrifying noise that woke Dylan up, thinking that somehow a monster had gotten loose in their bedroom. But even those weren’t as bad as the full throated snarls, the ones that sent him scrambling from the bed on the off chance that the lion would wake up hungry. It hadn’t happened yet, but he couldn’t afford to think that it never would. It made him wonder sometimes who was doing the dreaming, or if Roan and the lion could share dreams. He would have asked Doctor Rosenberg if he didn’t feel so foolish about it.
“It’s okay. I think I’m going to go take that break now.”
“You do that. Being with Roan probably qualifies you for a long one. Later.” And with that, Holden hung up. It took Dylan a moment to hang up, although he didn’t know why. Maybe because he was still fixated on the fact that Roan had decided to get shot. Of course he did it to protect others, Roan’s default reflex seemed to be protect, but Dylan couldn’t help but wish he’d be selfish for once and let everyone else take their chances.
What an awful thing to think. It wasn’t very Buddhist of him at all. But at what point did Roan give enough? When did he stop being a hero? He knew the answer to that, didn’t he? It probably stopped when Roan was dead. That was the kind of man he was. A macho asshole pill addict who threw himself around like he was indestructible, because it was better than thinking about the fact that he was doomed to lose to the virus one of these days. Roan didn’t take defeat well; it made him hit back twice as hard. And the fact that he could never hit hard enough to win must have gnawed at him like acid.
Dylan made up his mind, although it wasnt difficult. He called Rhett and got him to cover his shift for him at work, because he just couldn’t go in tonight. He knew he was probably asking to be fired at this point, but he didn’t much care. If the choice was his job or Roan, Roan was going to win every time. It wasn’t like he enjoyed bartending. It was a means to an end, a way to pay the bills, nothing more.
Just think – yesterday, they were at city hall, picking up a marriage license, now that gay marriage was finally legal in this state. Roan had told him, quite seriously, “It’s not too late to back out of this now. I’m nothing but trouble.” Of course, Dylan already knew that. Hadn’t he known that all along? There was nothing but trouble here. He knew it, and yet, he couldn’t leave.
He laid on the bed next to Roan, putting a head on his chest so he could listen to his heartbeat. He pulled a blanket over both of them, not really caring that neither of them were undressed. Their shoes were off, and that was enough for now. He was emotionally exhausted, not physically, but Roan was probably exhausted in every way possible, picking up the slack for him.
The hell with Buddhism. The next person who tried to kill Roan, Dylan was going to rip their dick off and shove it down their throat before they died. Nobody fucked with his husband or with him, not anymore.