Infected: Revolution, Part 11
11 – Love Is The Devil
When Shep first called him and told him that Roan had been shot, Dylan’s stomach just plummeted, and it felt like it never stopped falling. But there was so much noise in the background of Shep’s call that on the way to the hospital, he decided to listen to a news radio station, and that’s when the details were filled in, and peace slowly overcame him.
So Roan got shot stopping some crazy asshole with a gun? Okay. That wasn’t his self-destructive impulses taking over, that was just Roan being Roan. What Dylan had learned was, it was a type. The people who ran into burning buildings to rescue people, who ran into collapsing buildings … you couldn’t really be taught to fight your own natural instincts like that. You could be trained to ignore them, but that was different. To do it instinctually, you had to have within you a counter instinct, one that made you risk yourself to save strangers, and maybe die in the process. Roan had that, and Dylan couldn’t ask him to not stop a crazy bastard with a gun, because that would be like asking a fish not to swim. And there was little doubt he saved lives, so … okay. Dylan couldn’t be mad at him, no matter how many times he’d been shot. Although Shep had said it was three times.
Three times! He’d taken three bullets. Shep said none of them looked too serious, but Shep had that way of understating things so no one panicked. Dylan wished his wife luck, because that had to be infuriating at times.
He had to park far from the hospital, as it was busy, and that figured. So he had a long walk to mentally kick himself for marrying a superhero. He knew what he was getting into. He had no one but himself to blame. The wind was coming up cold, so he tightened his scarf around his neck, and pondered strangling himself with it, just for the hell of it.
He was so caught up in his thoughts, the first reporter surprised him. “You’re McKichan’s husband, aren’t you?” She asked, and a light from a camera nearly blinded him as it was shoved in his face. Suddenly a whole bunch of cameras were shoved in his face, and he had to push his way through them, barking “No comment” like a guilty politician.
They attempted to follow him into the waiting room, but that’s where a burley orderly and a nurse who would put Ratched to shame told them, “Uh uh, no cameras in here. Turn them off and get the hell out.”
There was some argument, but Shep appeared and escorted him back into a hospital corridor, where they were soon out of view of the crowd. “How the hell did they know I was Roan’s husband?” Dylan asked, still surprised and blinking back afterimages.
“I dunno. You got pictures of you together anywhere on the web? Maybe a Facebook page?” As they got in the elevator, Dylan couldn’t help but notice that Shep hit the button that would take them up to the infected ward.
“Hell no. Roan will apparently join Facebook when he learns to love country music.”
“What about friends of yours?”
Dylan shook his head. “Roan seems to be of the opinion that advertising that you know him is asking for trouble, so he’s asked that all pictures to be shared or posted have him cropped out. Most people agree with him.”
“Even your friends?”
“They usually don’t include him in pictures to begin with.” Dylan pondered it, trying to remember the last time any photos were taken of them, and then he suddenly realized, “The gallery. Oh holy shit.”
“I had a showing a couple of weeks ago. They took a picture to commemorate the show, and I’m sure I pulled Roan into it. But it was a group shot. I figured we’d be lost in the crowd.”
“Does Roan ever get lost in a crowd?”
That was a fantastic point. Dylan realized some part of him was simply jaded and accustomed to the madness. “But Akira has a green Mohawk, and Kyle this really elaborate mustache and an penchant for dressing in old timey garb. I just assumed they’d pull focus.”
“Short of Godzilla, nothing pulls focus from Roan.” The elevator doors opened, and Shep led the way out. He was right, of course, and they both knew it. You’d think it was his unusual hair color that made you look at him, or his bottle green eyes, but it was a combination of the two, and something else. Something very difficult to put into words. It was like he had a slightly heavier gravity than everyone else, and somehow you could feel it even in a still. Maybe it was just enough of the lion bleeding through that something in you felt you had to keep your eyes on him at all times, lest he suddenly decided to rip your throat out.
“How is he? Really?” Dylan asked. Despite the ward being fairly busy, no one looked at them twice. They’d both been here so often, they were almost wallpaper.
There were a couple of hard plastic chairs in the corridor, and Holden was slumped in one, talking to someone on his phone, a can of Coke in his other hand. As soon as he saw them, he got off his phone. “So, how has your day been?” Holden asked in mock brightness.
“I’ll go see if I can find someone official,” Shep said, giving him a supportive pat on the back before continuing down the hall.
Dylan eased himself down in the empty chair next to Holden, wondering how many times the two of them had done this. Too damn many. “I suppose you were there.”
Holden took a swig from his soda. “After the fact. Did you know he can parkour now?”
“I thought he always could.”
“Yeah, but now it’s like ten thousand times worse. Somehow he got up to the roof of a building and traveled that way, like he was fucking Batman or something. I have no fucking idea how ‘cause I think he’d have to defy gravity to get up that first building. I had to stick to streets, and even with the occasional shortcut, I got there once it was over. And almost hyperventilated. I think I need to hit the gym.”
“Just get Scott to coach you.” Dylan knew mentioning Scott would probably piss Holden off, but fuck it. Their mild antagonism was just something they’d both grown accustomed to, like an annoying nickname.
Holden briefly frowned, but then shrugged and seemed to let it roll off his back. Again, it was a tug of war as old as time. “Yeah. I could do about twenty minutes of what he does, have a heart attack, and drop dead.”
Dylan sighed and slumped against the chair. It was nice that they made these chairs so uncomfortable that you couldn’t stay in them for long. It discouraged stragglers, and encouraged sadists. “How was he, when you got there?” He didn’t have to add “be honest”, because, for all his faults, Holden rarely sugar coated things for him. He lied like a rug, but usually not in the name of kindness.
“He hardly noticed he’d been shot. Mainly due to his migraine.”
“Migraine?” That news made him sit up.
“Yeah. While we were talking, before the shooting, he was acting like he had a headache. Nice to know physical pain doesn’t stop him from being a big ass hero.”
Oh shit. Roan hadn’t had another aneurysm, had he? There’s no way he could have stayed on his feet if he was having one. Attacking a gunman? That was out of the question. Or so you’d think. But the fact that Roan kept going was about eighty percent will anyways. He could force himself to do a lot of things, no matter how impossible. “Unconsciousness and death is pretty much the only thing that will stop him playing hero.”
Holden gave him a strange sidelong glance. “That doesn’t sound ominous at all.”
Dylan shrugged. “It’s the truth. Can’t change it.”
Shep returned, this time with a doctor in tow. Dylan stood up, and so did Holden, after taking a few seconds to put his phone away.
The Doctor was a tall man with a reedy build, and a hairline that had receded until there was nothing but fringes of white crowning his scalp. He looked out at the world through small wire rimmed glasses. “You’re Mr. McKichan’s husband?” he asked, as if Shep hadn’t told him exactly that.
Dylan nodded. He saw the Doctor glance uncomfortably at Holden, so he said, “It’s okay to talk in front of him. He’s his work husband.”
“Pardon me?” Holden replied, giving Dylan a frosty look. He just hated the implication of something as heteronormative as marriage, didn’t he? But it was true, and pretty much everyone knew it, even if Holden himself was loathe to admit it.
The Doctor didn’t appear to understand, but he soldiered on like a good hetero who didn’t want to seem like a bigot. “The bullets did remarkably little damage. He’s very lucky. Speaking of which … it’s strange to say being shot may have saved his life, but it may have.”
“How so?” Holden asked before Dylan could.
“Roan was undergoing a cerebral hemorrhage at the time of the incident.”
Dylan felt like the floor had been yanked out from underneath him. He wanted to swoon like an old time Southern woman, but nope, couldn’t. He wasn’t getting out of it that easy. “Has it … is he going to be okay?”
“We have stopped the bleeding. We’re optimistic there’s been no long term damage.”
“Was this another aneurysm?” Dylan asked. He felt slightly disconnected from himself, as if he was actually standing about ten feet down the hall.
“It seems likely. I realize he has a history of them.”
“But didn’t he recover from one once?” Holden asked. “While it was actually happening?”
The Doctor shook his head and took off his glasses to rub his eyes. “That must have been an error. That can’t happen.”
Dylan and Holden exchanged a look. A look that pretty much said, “He could.” Because Roan could. This Doctor clearly was unaware of Roan’s catalog of impossibilities, but that was probably for the best. Still, why hadn’t he adapted to this aneurysm in progress? The answer occurred to Dylan almost simultaneously with the thought: because he was partially shifted at the time. Something about the shift, about the in-between state, left Roan vulnerable. It made sense. Once he was back in phase, so to speak, he needed a truckload of pain pills simply to move, and sometimes could empty the fridge because his metabolism was so out of whack. The shift could make him powerful on the outside, but leave him vulnerable on the inside. There was a sort of natural poetry to it. Roan would hate that.
“Can I see him?” Dylan asked.
“He’s unconscious, and we don’t expect him to wake up until tomorrow.”
“I’d still like to see him.”
The doctor looked a little baffled, but Shep said, “I’ll talk to Maria, see what I can arrange,” and left with the Doctor.
As soon as they were gone, Holden said, “Well, I guess that settles that.”
“Newt left to join that apocalyptic cat cult. Now I don’t have to break it to Roan, ’cause he’s not conscious enough to care.”
Dylan had a million questions, but decided to set them all aside. He didn’t care. Roan wasn’t going, and that was all he cared about. Newt was probably one of Holden’s street friends, meaning he could probably take care of himself better than most. Finally, he said, “Thank you.”
Holden gave him a surprised look. Under the hospital’s unforgiving lights, Dylan could see Holden’s hair was darker now, closer to what must have been his natural shade of brown, with lighter brunette hues randomly scattered about. It softened him in an unexpected way, but there was still a predatory sharpness to his eyes that should have been all the warning flags anyone ever needed. “For what?”
“For finding someone to go in his place. I was afraid that might be an argument in our future.”
Holden shook his head. “Nah. Even Roan’s hero complex couldn’t overcome the built in stupidity of the Feds request. The cult knows him, and they know me. Showing up on their doorstep was an invitation to get killed. Using a proxy was the only way in, no matter how much Roan didn’t want to admit it.”
“And you used to be a hooker, right?”
Holden smiled. It was weirdly genuine. “We’re a clever species. Well, some of us. Those of us not drug addled or working out our daddy issues.”
Dylan knew he shouldn’t say it, but he had to. “You’re not working out daddy issues?”
“Cute. Oh, and fuck you.”
“Hey, you just walked right into that.”
He shrugged, glancing down the hall. “I thought you were a good Buddhist and wouldn’t go for it.”
“I’m not that good.”
Shep reappeared, looking tired. It had probably been a long day for him. Dylan couldn’t imagine being a paramedic and dealing with so much drama on a daily basis. Dylan figured he’d find that more exhausting than the blood. Still, with his mussed up hair and naturally sleepy eyes, Shep kind of always looked tired. “You can see Roan for a couple of minutes, then you have to come back at visiting hours tomorrow. Okay?”
“Great. Thanks, Shep.”
“Not a problem. I just wish I didn’t hafta see Roan so much on the job. Tell him to take it easy, okay? A day off wouldn’t kill him.” Pain caused creases in the corners of his eyes, and Dylan realized the three of them were all here because they loved Roan in their own ways, and they knew, with painful clarity, he was doomed. Roan was born damned, and seemed to be getting more damned by the day. It was impossible, but Roan was the impossible man.
As soon as Shep said his goodbyes, Dylan closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths, centering himself, pushing down any anger or sorrow that came up. Tonight he would be calm and cool. Tonight he would be zen.
He’d just about convinced himself of this when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. He opened his eyes and sighed, and wondered if it was someone he could yell at in a case of terribly misdirected anger. As it turned out, no, it was Rosenberg, and if he was angry at her, she could more than give it back tenfold, with the most colorful language this side of Roan. Yeah, he didn’t want to get in an argument with her.
As soon as he answered, she said, “I just heard the news. If that putz is dead, I’m gonna kill him.”
Under normal circumstances, Dylan would have found that funny. But right now, he shared that opinion. “The Doctor seems to think he’s going to be okay, even though it appears he had another aneurysm.”
She exhaled as if she’d been punched in the gut. “Son of a bitch. That stupid fucker.”
“To be fair to him, he saved lives today.”
“Yeah, yeah. But he should worry more about his own. He knows he’s pushing it. Has he talked to you about it yet?”
Dylan loved these moments when it felt like a frame had been taken out of his life when he blinked. He couldn’t help but ruminate on the fact that these mainly happened after he became involved with Roan. “About what?”
She held the phone away from her face as she cursed, so he couldn’t make out what it was, but it sounded like it had more than three syllables in it. When she came back on, she insisted, “He should tell you. I shouldn’t tell you.”
“He’s unconscious. And as his husband and acting legal advocate at the moment, you know I’m going to insist.”
“Yeah, yeah. He told me he was gonna talk to you about it.”
“I’m sure it was on his to-do list. But other things pushed it back.”
“Like meshugginah assholes with guns.”
“Exactly.” Also, the possibility that Roan never intended to talk to him about his latest medical issue, because Roan was still a macho asshole, and hated to admit he couldn’t do the things he wanted to do. But that was implicit, as they both knew what a stubborn bastard he could be. The only thing that gave Dylan any hope that Roan would win the battle against his lion was the fact that Roan was far more obstinate than the lion could ever be.
“I’m on my way. I should be there in fifteen minutes.” She paused briefly. “Give or take an hour, depending on traffic.”
“I’ll be here,” he told her, then hung up. He had no choice but to be here. To his surprise, Holden was still here, standing quietly off to the side, listening and pretending not to, although just barely. His eyes kept scanning the halls, as if they might come under attack soon. If they did, Holden would see them long before they could do anything. Actually, come to think of it, Roan did that too, but in a different way. He slowly scanned everything, as if taking a mental picture of all the surroundings, and then didn’t look again, unless some movement or anomaly cropped up in his peripheral vision. Dylan suddenly realized it was probably how a big cat looked at things. Holden scoped things out like a human, and Roan scoped it out like a cat. Made sense.
Holden’s gaze finally settled on him, with an air of cool detachment that he probably used on clients. “More problems?”
“Possibly. I don’t know.” He did, but he didn’t want to let Holden in on this one, at least not yet. “Is there a back way out of this place?”
Holden raised an eyebrow at that. But Holden would know, as he knew all the angles. “Yeah. Why?”
“The press know who I am.”
“Fuck. Yeah, want me to show you?”
Dylan nodded. “That’d help a lot.” It was nice Holden didn’t press for details. Maybe he knew the media would eventually figure it out. Buddha knew the people that hated Roan seemed to figure it out a while ago.
Dylan was pretty sure he could hold it together until Doctor Rosenberg showed up, and maybe even afterwards. But when Roan woke up? They were going to have a talk that Dylan was fairly sure Roan didn’t want to have. But tough luck.
They were finally going to hash this out. Dylan could only hope there were some pieces left to pick up when it was all done.