Infected: Revolution, part 12
12 – High and Dry
When Dylan got out of the shower and heard the doorbell, his stomach sank, as he feared it was the press again. Apparently you could say “No comment” or “Contact our lawyer” all you wanted, they never gave up. But when he glanced out the window and saw a couple of cars, he recognized one as looking very much like the car Fiona had rented. It could possibly be her.
So he pulled on a pair of loose yoga pants and went downstairs to see for himself. Glancing out the peephole, he didn’t see Fiona, he saw a broad torso swathed in a tight Kelly green t-shirt. Even though it was all he could see, there was really only one person that could belong to. He threw open the locks, and found it was indeed Grey, flanked by Fiona, Tank, and Scott.
Fiona moved in and bear hugged him, as the hockey players all squeezed into the house behind her. “How you holdin’ up, hon?” she asked.
Dylan didn’t know what to say. He’d hardly slept at all, and he popped more Tylenol PM than was probably recommended. Maybe he got three or four hours sleep altogether. He felt smashed flat, like he’d been run through an old time printing press. “Tired,” he finally said, deciding that was good enough. He was, even though he couldn’t sleep.
Not only had the guys closed the door, but Grey stood with his back to it, like an invading horde was on the other side of it. Best of luck to them getting through Grey.
As soon as Fi let him go, Scott stepped forward, and handed him a cup. “Chai tea with soy milk and honey.”
Tank then handed him a small brown paper bag. “Vegan breakfast burrito. The good shit, not the fast food crap.”
Dylan took them both, and still felt slightly dazed. “What’s this about?”
“We’re here to help you get into the hospital without being bothered by the press,” Scott said.
“We’ll sneak you in, cause a distraction, or both,” Grey said.
“We’re really good at distraction,” Fi agreed. She then looked at Tank, and said, “Wanna show him?”
He scowled at her, eyes suddenly full of menace in that Tank specific way. “Not now.”
Fiona crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh, so when I want to talk it’s not now? Typical.”
“Which means what?” Tank replied.
“You know damn well what it means,” she said, turning away.
“How the hell am I supposed to know what it means,” Tank said, voice rising. “I’m not a mind reader, you know. I ask what’s wrong, and you never tell me what’s wrong.”
She turned back sharply, giving him a frosty look. “You should know what’s wrong.”
He threw his arms out, as if appealing to the heavens. “Why are you women always like this?”
“Oh, so now I’m like every woman you’ve ever met, huh? Like that blonde slut I caught you with at Shane’s party?’
“We were just talking! What, do you own me now? Am I on a leash?”
“You should be on a leash, you lying piece of shit.”
“Me? Fuck you, you miserable cow.”
“Fuck me? Fuck you with a razor tipped dildo! I don’t know why we ever got engaged.” She then smiled, and said, “And scene.”
Tank chuckled, and Scott shoved him. “You fucking asshole, I thought you guys were really fighting.”
“Oh my God,” Grey exclaimed, looking at Fiona. “You’re perfect for him.”
“We have to keep ourselves entertained,” Fiona explained. “And this always guarantees people leave us alone at parties.”
Tank nodded. “We did it at the GM’s Christmas party, and we got a whole plate of baklava all to ourselves, ‘cause no one wanted to come near us to grab any.”
Dylan shook his head, and actually found himself smiling. Oh, Roan and his weirdo friends. It actually sounded like something Roan might talk him into, the fake fight. Might be fun, as long as it didn’t turn real at some point. “So you’ve adapted to life as a hockey girlfriend?”
She made a “so-so” gesture with her hand. “Well, they’re ninety five percent blonde, and two and a half of the average one will make one of me. This doesn’t even bring the whole former dominatrix thing into the mix.”
Tank slid an arm around her waist. “I don’t like stick figures. Or women who don’t own whips.”
“You may regret that eventually,” Scott said, and it sounded like he had some experience with that. But no one asked.
Dylan put the tea and burrito down on the kitchenette, although he yearned to drink the tea. It smelled good. (And how did Scott know his order? There’s no way Roan ever shared that with Holden.) “You guys don’t have to do this.”
Scott scoffed, and sat down on the couch as if he lived here. Well, he’d been here often enough to qualify. “Yeah, we kinda do.”
“We absolutely do,” Tank agreed.
Grey sat on the arm of the sofa, and yet, he was still fairly tall. “Friends help each other. Roan helped me when I needed help. I’m just paying it back.”
Dylan almost told him he’d already paid it back, but didn’t. Their expressions were so nakedly sincere he couldn’t make a joke about it. “This seems above and beyond, though.” He took a sip of the tea. Still a little too hot, but good.
“No such thing,” Grey said.
“He’s not just saying that,” Fiona said, pointing at Grey. “This nut drove from Philly to help us move. Drove.”
“If the coach had his way, I’d lift a couch every day,” Grey said, as if that explained everything.
So this was why Roan collected oddball friends. They never seemed to forget a kindness, and their loyalty was astounding. It was actually nice to see some of Roan’s faith in fellow oddballs rewarded.
“If you ever want it taken care of professionally, we know PR people who could issue a statement saying nothing in the most long winded way possible,” Scott said.
Grey nodded. “Anything you need, just ask.”
Dylan didn’t know why, but he just felt like he had to ask. “Really, anything?”
Grey didn’t blink. “Absolutely. If you need a professional bodyguard, another car, a place to crash, name it. I’ll make it happen.”
“We can make it happen, you glory hog,” Tank said, balling up a napkin and throwing it at him. Grey held up an arm, and it bounced off harmlessly, which it would have done even if it smashed him in the face.
Dylan sipped his tea, and decided to blame the fact that tears were starting to well up in his eyes on the hotness of the tea. He blinked them back as best he could. “I suppose you’d like to see Roan as well.”
“Only if he’s up to it,” Scott said. “If not, we can wait ‘til he’s out.”
Dylan liked the confidence with which he said that. Like the concept of if never came into it.
“Do you know what you’re gonna do yet?” Tank asked.
He wasn’t sure how to take that. “Pardon?”
“The fact that he’s a superhero can’t be hidden forever,” Grey said.
“I think it’s out of the bag now,” Scott added. “I mean, first there was Grant’s funeral, and now he took down fuckwit shooter guy by basically pouncing on him.”
Grey nodded. “Subtlety took a dirt nap a while ago.”
“So what happens next?” Fi asked.
That was a very good question. Dylan wished he knew how to answer it.
Equality had come a long way. Holden didn’t feel terribly proud though. A guy had hired him to investigate his husband, as he was petty sure he was cheating on him. He wanted to know with whom.
Holden had been adamant: he was not taking these cases. Not at all. But Roan was equally emphatic that if he wanted to make a living, he was going to have to accept these cases time to time. Spousal betrayal was the bread and butter of detective work. It didn’t help that he was kind of familiar with the guy who hired him. Rick Belesky used to run a coffee shop downtown, before the franchises forced him to close, and he had been nice to some of the street kids who hung out near his place. Holden had helped him out one or twice, running some of the more aggressive vagrants off, and stopping a fight. Rick hadn’t forgotten.
Rick’s husband was Steve Long, who worked as a teacher for the Seattle school system, and was currently holding down an art class (of course he was an art teacher …) at Chester A. Arthur Junior High. He was also a decade younger than Rick, which Holden privately felt was part of the problem. When you started to get into those kind of age differences, it really started to show the older the couple became. Not for every couple – you just needed to look at Roan and Dylan to see that age difference was the very least of their problems, and probably never came up since Dylan seemed to be prematurely old anyway – but enough that Holden thought it was kind of ridiculous. (Yes, Scott was younger than him. But that was the least of their problems too.)
According to Rick, Steve was working this week. But with one phone call, Holden confirmed that that wasn’t true at all. He’d taken the week off. But he was leaving at the same time every morning, following his usual morning routine. Holden hadn’t told Rick this, not yet, as he was curious. What was Steve hiding?
That’s why he had followed Steve as he left the house with his travel coffee mug, and followed him as he hit the freeway, driving in the opposite direction from the school. If he was having an affair, he was going out of his way to avoid anyone he knew seeing him.
They drove for quite a while, to the point where Holden had no honest idea where they were now. Redmond? Burien? Kent? You’d think he’d know, but after a while he lost track, and a strip mall just looked like a strip mall. Everyone had the same Supercuts, the same teriyaki joint, the same dollar store. If he was the type of person who got upset about such things, he would lament the relentless, dreary sameness of towns in America now. But he didn’t care.
Steve had finally stopped at a building that seemed to have different businesses on every floor, although several were now out of business and the signs needed to be updated. A couple of the top floors had been converted to artist’s lofts, and Holden figured out that Steve must have gone up to one of those. But which one, and how did he get up there without being spotted by Steve?
Holden had no answer for that, which was why he was sitting out in front of the building in his car, waiting for Steve to come out. If he came out with someone, he’d have some proof of an affair, but as it stood now, he wasn’t sure he was cheating on Rick. Unless he’d renovated his loft and moved a bed in there, it was no place for fooling around. Could he be hiding an art project from Rick? But why? That made no sense. Why sneak away to make art? That was fucking ridiculous.
And yet, he’d been here for over an hour, bored out of his skull, wondering what Roan would do in this situation. He then wondered how Roan was, and consulted his phone.
Scott had told him how he, Grey, Tank, and Fiona were planning to pay a visit to Dylan, see if they could help, and he promised to keep him updated on how Roan was doing. Holden didn’t go, because he had this case, and besides, there was absolutely nothing he could do for Roan or Dylan. Scott had texted him a couple of times, but only to let him know they were going, and that there had been no change. Holden wasn’t sure who he was supposed to feel bad for more, Dylan or Roan. In theory, Roan needed no sympathy, ’cause he did crazy shit like this even though he must have known it would hurt him. And yet, he was born infected and mutated. His actions were his responsibility, but the effects of that action weren’t, nor was the fact that he had abilities in the first place. Life, the universe, and everything were fucking unfair, and Roan knew that better than almost anyone else.
Roan had told him to keep copious notes and take pictures to “establish a timeline”, but Holden had learned early on in Roan’s detective crash course that he had little patience for these kinds of details. He’d bought a tiny recorder so he could make notes that way, and he’d soon discovered that he talked into the recorder whenever he got bored, which was a lot. “Make podcast for detectives on stakeouts,” Holden said into the recorder. “Making it either seriously boring shit no one has to pay any attention to, or really weird, stream of consciousness shit that will force everyone to pay attention. Maybe mix the two, keep people off balance.” He shut off the recorder, and picked up his phone, using its camera to take a snap of the building.
Holden had reached the limit of his patience, and was about to text Scott and drive off, when Steve came out of the building. He was alone, and didn’t look any different. Holden waited to see if someone came out a couple of minutes after him, as if trying to keep a “safe distance”, but no one came out. As it was, it didn’t seem to be a building that caught a lot of business.
Holden decided to follow this guy and see where he went next, but he made a mental note to come back to the building later. He’d been working on his lock picking skills, and maybe now was the time to see if they worked.
And if nothing came of this, he could always appeal to Roan for help, assuming he was conscious and functional.
Truth be told, he suspected he was a better vigilante than he was a detective. Too bad he couldn’t advertise that fact.
Roan found himself up to his thighs in snow.
Looking around, he seemed to be on a mountainside, with a pristine blanket of snow all around him, white as far as the eye could see. The sky was so pale, it almost left him feeling snowblind.
He had to literally pick up his leg to help move it through the snow, one after the other, the chill soaking into his bones. Where did he think he was going? He wasn’t absolutely sure, he just knew he had to move.
“Do you believe in karma?” Paris asked. Roan looked up, and saw Paris was sitting in a cabin besides a fire. How Roan could see this when he was still outside was up for debate, but clearly he was dreaming.
“No. I kind of wish it were true, although I of all people shouldn’t.” Suddenly he noticed he was standing in a grocery store aisle, although the coldness lingered on his legs.
Dylan was inexplicably shelving cans of tomatoes. “Sometimes you just have to let things go.”
This dream seemed more baffling than his usual kind. Was it painkillers? Wait – was he on painkillers? He tried to remember what he was doing before this, and it seemed to cause a deep pain in his mind … oh shit. Yes, the shooting, and that fucking migraine, that came out of nowhere like a sudden storm. Except … no, not a migraine. Hadn’t he been bleeding from the ears? Ah fuck. “This isn’t a regular dream, is it?”
Dylan looked down at the can he was holding, which was suddenly a coffee cup. “I have so much to do, and not enough time to do it.”
“Am I brain damaged? Delirious? That’s it, isn’t it? Or I’ve been pumped full of heavy duty narcotics.”
Suddenly he was standing in the precinct house, although it was empty save for him and Dylan. And one guy, sitting at a desk and playing solitaire. Bizarrely, it turned out to be Dee, wearing a cop jacket instead of his usual paramedic one. “I can’t make this work,” he said, throwing his cards down on the desk. It looked like all the cards showing were in red suits.
Roan nodded. His subconscious was in fine form, telling him everything he needed to know while sounding completely insane. “Okay, I get it. I’ve fucked up everything. Can I wake up now?”
No one paid any attention to him, and he didn’t wake up either. He wasn’t sure if that meant he was in a really bad way, or if even his subconscious was being a stubborn asshole. Well, it was a part of him, so that would make sense.
Roan turned, and suddenly he was in his living room. Doctor Rosenberg was sitting on the couch, and building some kind of Lego model on his coffee table. He couldn’t tell what it was, but it looked vaguely like a crumbling roller coaster. “You’re trying my patience,” she said, and it wasn’t clear if she was addressing him or the model.
Come to think of it, this whole thing was trying Roan’s patience as well. Now Roan knew how everybody in his life must have felt about him.