A snippet of Infected: Paris ….

Just to prove I am indeed working on it. Keep in mind, this is unedited, so there may be errors. You’ll have to forgive me for them.

**

Roan was aware of a minor headache just starting to bloom when there was a knock at his door. He wasn’t expecting anyone, but he never expected anyone. He wasn’t much for entertaining.

Roan opened the door, hoping for the UPS guy (he wasn’t Paris hot, but he was pretty easy on the eyes as long as you didn’t look down at his knobby knees), but it was Dee, dressed down in civilian clothes for once, in jeans and a red plaid shirt. “I thought grunge was dead,” Roan said.

Dee frowned at him. “You’d know more about that than me. C’mon, get your coat, we’re going out.”

“You remember we broke up, right?”

Dee sighed and shoved him inside the house with a flattened palm. Roan let him, because while Dee was whip thin, he was generally stronger than he looked, which he attributed to his EMT job. Who needed to lift weights when you were lifting people all day? Dee came in, and shut the door behind him. “Look, smart ass, when was the last time you went out? And not on a case. The cops calling you for help doesn’t count either.”

He had him there. “I went shopping.”

“Don’t even try. There’s a new gay bar opening up and we should check it out.”

“I hate gay bars.”

“No shit, I hate ‘em too. But you and I are both in danger of becoming crusty, crazed loners … well, you more than me.”

Roan gave him a sickly smile. “May be too late for me.”

“Maybe, but I’m still going to drag you in front of the people like the bitter old cat queen you are. Now get a coat. Maybe one that doesn’t scream “leather daddy”.”

“This early? Goddamn it, man, it’s only –“ Roan glanced at the clock, and almost did a double take. “Six o’clock? Holy shit. How did it get that late?”

“Dare I ask what you’ve been doing all day?”

Roan was wondering the same thing himself. “Chasing my own tail. And no, that’s not a euphemism for jerking off. I can’t seem to figure out the Emma Wills case.”

Dee leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest. “Even more reason to go out. Get out of your own head for a while. It may help.”

Roan rubbed his eyes and groaned. Dee was right, which was probably the worst thing. “What’s bringing this on?”

“The opening of the new gay bar.”

“Nuh uh. Several gay bars have opened in this city, and you’ve never demanded we go gawk at the twinks. So why now?” He stared at him for a long moment, but Dee’s poker face never wavered. But still, he instantly understood. “Oh, fuck me. This is because of Paris, isn’t it?”

Dee shrugged, still trying to keep it all casual. “I’m sorry, Ro, but I told you he’s CTD, and I just know that has your hero complex all riled up. You really need to find a new focus.”

“He’s still alive.”

“Good for him. But how long do you think that lasts? He’s tiger strain. Those that live don’t live long.”

“You keep saying that like I don’t know it.”

“I’m sure you know it, but I don’t think you’re ready to believe it,” Dee said, and while it sounded like a statement, Roan knew it was an accusation. And not one completely out of line.

But Dee hadn’t talked to this guy. He didn’t know how strong willed he was. Although, admittedly, sometimes the will could go on much longer than the body ever could. Roan figured that was how he’d ultimately die. He’d want to keep going, but entropy and physics would rip his body out from under him. It could only take so much before something gave way, and as Dee would no doubt tell him, failing organs usually set off a domino effect, with one causing all the others to fail in turn. “I know he’s doomed, okay? I’m just not ready to write him off.”

“It’s not writing off, it’s being realistic,” Dee countered. “For a macho asshole, you certainly have a squishy soft interior.”

“I resent that. Although I’m not sure if I resent macho asshole or squishy more.”

“Resent it on your own time. C’mon get your coat and grab your keys.”

“Grab my keys?”

Dee shook his head. “Duh. We’re taking our own cars, so if one of us gets lucky, the other doesn’t have to call a cab.”

Well, that did make sense, except there was still one nagging issue. “You just assumed I’d go along with this?”

He chuckled. “No, I knew you’d give me shit. But two for one drinks, hot guys, a chance to get your mind off shit for an hour or two? I know you’re crazy, Ro but you ain’t that crazy.”

He tried to think of a point he could argue with, but couldn’t. He had no desire to club hop, but Dee had a point. He had to get his mind off the current problem if he wanted to solve it. Dee used to call it “vapor locking”, the way he’d focus in so tight on one thing that it was almost its own problem. He really did need to distract himself, as usually his best ideas came when he least expected them to. So he could stand bad music and watered down drinks for an hour. And taking his own car meant he could sneak away when Dee wasn’t looking, which was great. “Fine,” he sighed, as if this was a major concession. “Give me a minute.”

“And don’t think you’re sneaking away after five minutes either,” Dee called after him. Damn it. That really was the problem with having an ex as a friend. He knew your tricks. Still, he also knew Dee’s, so that leveled the field.

Roan went to the bathroom and popped a couple of Excedrin, in hopes of chasing away the tiny headache. He also looked at himself in the mirror, and was a little surprised by what he saw. He looked tired, and like he hadn’t combed his hair today. Also, he had tea dribbled on his shirt. No wonder Dee thought he should drag him out around other people. Roan was slowly losing his social skills. Not that he ever had many to begin with.

He changed into the first Murder City Devil’s shirt he grabbed out of his closet, and as a rebuke to Dee, grabbed a leather jacket too. He came down the stairs to Dee shaking his head. “You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?”

“Doing what?” he replied, even though he knew. Yes, he was.

On the way out, Roan asked, “So what’s this new place called, anyway?”

“Panic.”

Roan considered that a moment. “Panic as in gay panic? Or a Smiths song reference?”

“I assume the former, ’cause I didn’t know it was a Smiths song reference. How the hell do you know all this stuff? Is it a you thing or a white guy thing?”

“It’s a me thing. I don’t think all honkies know the Smiths.”

Dee laughed. “God, that’s what I miss about the ’70’s. The word honkies.”

“Me too. It’s so much more fun to say than Caucasian. ‘We have an APB out on a honkie who really needs to mellow the fuck out.’

Dee laughed hard at this, and leaned on his car for a moment. But as Roan went to his behemoth of a vehicle, he straightened up and said, “Don’t think your comedy act is gonna distract me. I’m gonna make you suffer through this with me, damn it.”

Roan wanted to protest he didn’t have a comedy act, but that wasn’t completely true. No, he didn’t have a thought out, written up act, but humor was one of his go to coping mechanisms. He’d discovered it early in life, with PBS repeats of Monty Python, and the knowledge that life was fucking absurd. To its core, life seemed to be a farce that ended in tragedy, or at least it seemed that way from his viewpoint. Maybe the viewpoint of a virus child wasn’t the most unbiased on this subject, but it seemed so plain, he had no idea how anyone could miss it. Yes, laughing or crying was a cliché, but really, it seemed like the only honest choice.

Roan followed Dee to the club, even though it did occur to him he could drive off at any point. Just the thought of how pissed off Dee would be at him if he did that kept him following along. The parking lot was full, so they both had to park around the corner and walk in, which seemed like added trouble.

Panic looked pretty nondescript on the outside, in a part of town that was just starting to slowly gentrify, very close to the traditionally gay part of Seattle. Inside it was colored gel lights and noise, house music thumping from hidden speakers, a cliché come to eardrum aching life. There were so many young twinks in the place Roan felt like he should start carding people, then he remembered he wasn’t a cop anymore. But he still felt like carding people.

Dee never believed him, but testosterone did have a smell. It was like aluminum, tainted with vinegar and a hint of copper, and this place was rife with it, along with the scent of self-tanner and hair products. There were a few blandly handsome guys, some who seemed way too pretty, and Roan knew instantly there wasn’t a single guy he was interested in here. His mind immediately went to Paris, and he all but physically moved it onto another track. Dee was at least right about that – no good would come from that path.

The bar appeared to be translucent plastic, and the bartenders were all hot and shirtless, although Roan thought they would have been hotter if they had a single chest hair between them. (Was waxing a law now?) Still, one of them came up to him and Dee as soon as they approached, a very youthful looking one with short blond hair and wide blue eyes. He was probably someone’s idea of hot, but he was too pale and too much like jailbait to ever appeal to Roan. “What can I get you guys?” he asked, flashing Roan his perfect white teeth.

“Get us a couple of appletinis,” Dee said.

Roan gave Dee an evil look. “I don’t want an appletini.”

“Yes you do,” Dee responded, deliberately being an ass. Probably to remind him needlessly that two could play that game.

“What would you like?” the bartender asked.

Roan looked around for a menu of any kind, but just saw a list of frou-frou drinks written on a piece of slate. “What do you recommend?”

The bartender seemed to chew it over for a few seconds, studying him. “You look like a guy who’d probably like a negroni.”

“Super sweet?” Roan asked.

“On the bitter side,” the bartender replied.

“Okay, I’ll try it.”

The bartender nodded and smiled at him before moving away to make the drinks.

Dee gave him a hard elbow in the arm that almost sent him falling. “You fucking son of a bitch.”

“What?” Roan said, rubbing his arm. “What did I do?”

“What did you – oh Jesus Christ, are you that stupid? That bartender was totally giving you the eye.”

“Jailbait?” Roan snorted. “No way. That’s part of the job. Flirt a bit, get a bigger tip. You know that.”

Dee still looked like he wanted to kill him, but he leaned in and lowered his voice. “I know the difference between fake flirting and the real thing. And I fucking hate it that you can turn heads as soon as you enter a room, and you’re the last person who knows it. How can you be so smart and so goddamn dumb at the same time?”

That was a very good question. Roan had asked himself that very question for the last five years of his life, and he still had no answer.

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