Infected: Revolution, Part 8
8 – When It Happens
Correction: block the vague glow coming from the cloud patch where the sun was hiding. It had been sunny when they started, but true to the Seattle cliché, the sun was covered by clouds within ten minutes, and now the wind was picking up and getting chillier. In fact, Roan was now kind of cold, and wishing he could put his shirt on. But Dyl was taking pictures of isolated and close up body parts for an art project he was working on. Roan had to be shirtless, because he’d taken pictures of his shoulder blade, his back, and at least one of his torso tattoos. “Can we wrap this up before it rains?” Roan asked, as Dylan snapped away with his digital camera.
“We’ll have to. This camera isn’t waterproof.”
“Also, you probably want my nipples hard enough to cut glass, you bastard.”
Dylan chuckled, and kept snapping away. “You have cute nipples. You can put your hand down now.”
Roan was glad to. Dylan was still pointing the camera at him, and he had an urge to make an ugly face, but he had no idea what Dyl was focusing on. “What the hell does that mean? No one has cute nipples. Nipples are nipples.”
Dyl just smiled, refocusing his lens. “Everybody has different aesthetics.”
“Oh, it’s just like you to pull out a five dollar word. Knock it off.”
Dyl continued to chuckle. Roan knew his grumpy old man act was amusing him, which was why he kept doing it. He really was a failed comedian at heart. “Oh sure. You don’t ever use multisyllabic words.”
“Again with the words! Stop showing off, Merriam-Webster.” As Dylan continued chuckling, Roan bent his arm, and said, “Here, here, I gotta great elbow. You don’t want to miss out on that.”
Dylan seemed to take a picture of it, and said, “You know, most people would be flattered if their husband thought they were a work of art.”
“But you don’t. You think I’m a good canvas. There’s a difference.”
“Not really. You can’t build on a shitty base.”
Roan had no comeback for that, so he decided to switch subjects entirely. This seemed as good a time as any. “So, what would you think if I retired?”
Dylan lowered his camera, looking at him with some skepticism. “You want to retire?”
“Well, I’m thinking about it. I mean, I can’t have too much time left. I’ve had two aneurysms … well, one and a half, I have this weird tumor thing, and I should have died fifteen years ago or so. I’m thinking I should take a break before there are no more breaks to take. What do you think?”
Dylan was shaking his head before he even finished the question. “Uh uh. No way am I falling for that.”
“Hon, I will go with whatever decision you make. But you make the decision alone. Because if I agree with you, you’ll resent me if you hate it. If I disagree with you, and you hate it, you will resent me. So you’re on your own.”
“Wow. You may have just proven you’re too smart for me.”
Dylan checked the screen of the camera, looking through his pictures, but continued shaking his head. “Nope, I just know how these things go. I won’t fall into that trap.”
“It wasn’t a trap,” Roan protested. “It was an honest question.”
Dylan slipped his camera back in its case, and asked, “What did Doctor Rosenberg tell you? Have your tumors come back?”
“No. Well, technically they never left, as they didn’t get them all in the last operation. But that’s neither here nor there. I’m just thinking about my mortality, you know.”
Dylan smirked before turning away. “That one gray pubic hair is really getting to you, isn’t it?”
“No! It’s just … well, okay, yeah, maybe.” Better than telling him the entire truth, Roan supposed. He wasn’t quite up to that yet.
Roan followed Dylan into the warm house, and retrieved his t-shirt from the back of the sofa, where he’d left it before they headed outside. As he pulled it on, Dylan asked, “Want some tea?”
“No thanks. I’ll stick to good old slow poison soda. It’s not like I have anything to lose at this point.”
“Knock it off,” Dyl replied, with a weary sigh. Dylan put his camera on the kitchen counter, well out of the way of the stove, where he retrieved the still steaming kettle and filled a mug for his own cup of tea. Roan watched all of this as he collapsed on the sofa, wondering if he’d needlessly scared him. He didn’t want to do that, but in retrospect, how else would asking about retirement sound? “How bad was your appointment with Doctor Rosenberg?”
Damn it. He was afraid he’d ask that. “It wasn’t bad.” Dylan clicked his tongue. “Really, it wasn’t, it was the same old shit. She wants me to take better care of myself, stop being a hero all the time – ”
“Oh, you mean the stuff I tell you?”
“Now, that was uncalled for,” Roan complained, but it was a fair point. He just wasn’t sure he wanted to give in that easy. He glanced at the clock, and the time made him sigh. “Guess I oughta get going, finish up the Snodgrass paperwork.”
“No being late tonight,” Dylan reminded him. “We have the hockey team and Fiona coming to dinner. And I am not corralling that crew all by myself.”
It wasn’t actually all the Falcons, just the former crew of Scott, Grey, and Tank, with Jeff and Richie as well. Roan was kind of surprised Holden wasn’t tagging along with Scott, but Holden probably wasn’t up to that level of openness yet. And maybe Scott wasn’t either – Jeff and Richie didn’t know he was bi, did they? Oh, so complicated. He was glad he wasn’t in the closet.
“I’ll be back. It’s just paperwork, and on a cheating husband case at that.” Roan levered himself up, sorry to be back on his feet. For some reason, he was really tired today, but he didn’t want to let on too much, as Dyl might worry. And he put him through enough hell for two or three lifetimes already. “You know, if I never hafta do paperwork again, I won’t miss it.”
“That’s looking on the bright side.”
“But if I wasn’t a detective anymore, what could I do? I’m not cut out for much else.”
“Oh, what bullshit,” Dyl replied, taking a seat at the breakfast nook. “You could always write your biography.”
That made him genuinely chuckle. “Oh yeah, that’d be riveting.”
“Actually, it would. You’re one of a kind, hon, or have you forgotten that? You have a perspective on being an infected that no one else has. And your story is …”
“Horrifying? Not fit for man or beast?”
Dylan scowled at him over his mug. “Compelling. Even though you are an incredible smartass.”
“I’m going to pretend that sentence ended at incredible,” he said, retrieving his jacket. He supposed he should change, he was just in sweatpants and a Police Teeth t-shirt, but he was just doing paperwork. He had no clients scheduled to come in, and if he did, it’d serve them right to see how he usually dressed. They’d just be lucky he didn’t smell like a wet cat and had blood dripping off his chin.
“You just insist on making things worse for yourself, don’t you?”
“It’s what I do best,” Roan replied, shrugging on his jacket. And the worst part was, that wasn’t even a joke.
It wasn’t raining so much as it was drizzling, a cool sprinkle that left everything damp and gray. In other words, another beautiful Puget Sound day. The parking lot wasn’t crowded, giving him ample places to park, and, at least for today, his office hadn’t been vandalized. The drizzle probably kept them in.
He decided to sit at Fiona’s desk to the paperwork, because why not, and he got distracted with his own thoughts. Namely, could he walk away from here, and live without it? It was just an office like any other office, but it had been his for years, and at one time represented a desperate bid for independence. He really thought his life might be over after he was kicked off the force. Little did he know that getting away was never going to be that easy, even though they technically fired him. The cops were a clingy ex who never quite let go.
And then there was Paris, of course, but there was always Paris. And while there were memories here, like there were memories at the house, the memories were really in his head. Wherever he went, they went with him. They weren’t tied to locations, no matter how much it seemed that way.
The funny thing was, it was the places that bothered him the most. Not the people, as he could always keep in touch with friends, who were the only family he had to speak of. No, it was places and what they signified that would be the hardest to leave behind. But if he did retire, he’d have to move, that was a given. The cops would always come to him for help with cat cases, until he was well out of reach. And could he blame them? If you had a super-human (or a sub-human, depending on how you looked at it), you had to put him in the game. It was an idiot who owned a Tesla death ray and never deployed it in a battle. No matter the fact that you destroyed the weapon a little bit when you used it. It had never stopped him, had it? And it probably never would, until it was too late to matter.
He was still lost in thought, letting the stones tumble in his mind, when his office door opened, and someone peeked their head inside. Roan caught the eyes of the person looking in – too androgynous to call male or female, but oh so young; just a kid, maybe sixteen at the oldest – and while they looked surprised, they didn’t look alarmed. So probably not a vandal. After a very long moment, the kid said, “You’re him, aren’t you?”
Roan supposed he understood the meaning, but it was best not to take anything for granted. “Define ‘him’.”
The kid nudged the door open and came inside. Now that Roan could smell them, he realized the kid was a girl, but you’d never know that by first or second glance. Her black hair was short and spiky, her face was devoid of make up and her body was pretty much devoid of curves. She wore hiking boots, men’s jeans, a loose t-shirt, and a brown canvas jacket. She was a tomboy, or a butch, or maybe even a transsexual who hadn’t reached the pre-op stage yet, he didn’t have enough information to say. Maybe she just liked tweaking gender norms, but if she actually bound her breasts, which he suspected (either that, or she was really small breasted and wore a super flattening sports bra), that went beyond casual gender queering. “The cat cop, McKichan. You were a foster kid, right?”
She almost pronounced his name right, but missed. He appreciated the effort, though. “McKichan – the c and h sound weird, for some goddamn Scottish reason. And yeah, I am a foster kid. You?” No one ever brought that up as even the fifth thing about him, so the fact that she put it at the top meant it was important to her.
She nodded, hands in her pocket, staying near the door. She just bristled with anxiety, and she had a rabbit brightness in her eyes that suggested she’d run at the first unexpected loud noise. Was she afraid of him, or was she always this way around strange people? He could sympathize. “You, um, you look for people, right?”
“Sometimes. Why don’t you take a seat?”
“I’d rather stand, if that’s okay.”
Super nervous. So much for trying to put her at ease. Still, he’d have to take this gently. “Fine. You have a name?”
She scratched her cheek, and thought about it for a moment. “Elena.”
Fifty-fifty odds that was her real name. “Okay, Elena, who are you looking for?”
“My sister, Louisa. We were split up and put into separate homes, and they won’t tell me where she is.”
That was sadly common. In theory, they liked to keep siblings together whenever possible, but it was almost never possible, especially if there was a sizable age gap. “Louisa what? I’ll need a full name and birth date if I’m gonna hit up my contacts. Date taken into foster care would be a big help too.”
She inched closer. “Um, Louisa Evangelina Acosta, born July 23rd, 2008. We were taken into foster care three years ago, May 19th, 2012.”
Roan did the math in his head. “So she was almost four when you went into foster care?” Elena nodded eagerly. Now that she was closer, Roan could tell she didn’t smell great. That, combined with the dark smudges beneath her eyes, suggested she was living rough. “How old were you?”
This made her pause. “What?”
“How old were you when you went into foster care?”
Super long pause, and her jaw seemed to stiffen. She did not want to talk about this. “Fifteen.”
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “Oh, hell no. No way you’re eighteen. Look, I’m not going to turn you in. I just need you to be honest with me.”
Now she crossed her arms over her chest. “Why would you turn me in?”
“For running away. You did, didn’t you?” Her posture stiffened dangerously, and he was pretty sure she was getting ready to bolt. “Don’t worry, I did that once too. Only once, ‘cause they put out a full bore APB for me.”
That surprised her. “Really? Why?”
“’Cause I was infected. That made it priority one for them to cage me, even though it wasn’t anywhere near my time of the month. I was hazardous waste that had to be dealt with immediately.” And hey, he still was in many circles. Some things just didn’t change. “You got a place to stay?”
She nodded. “I gotta place.”
She was lying. “I know a former street kid or two who’d be willing to put you up. You’d just have to follow their rules, okay?”
“I ain’t goin’ to a shelter.”
“I don’t blame you. I’m not talking about a shelter. Now, will you have a seat, and tell me when’s the last time you saw your sister?”
She seemed very reluctant to trust him, but she’d gone this far, so what was there to lose? She edged towards an empty chair, and once she sat down, still tensed, she told him a truncated version of her story.
Her father was an alcoholic dick who abandoned her and her mother when her mother was pregnant with Louisa. After that, her mom found it hard to make ends meet, and eventually drifted into alcoholism herself. She started getting into other stuff too, which probably led to her arrest as an accomplice in a pharmacy robbery (she allegedly drove the getaway car). Since Elena’s maternal grandmother was in an assisted living home, and the paternal grandparents were out of state (and not interested in the kids on top of that), Elena and Louisa ended up in foster care. They were split up soon after, and Elena hadn’t seen her sister since. Once she called her, but that was a year and a half ago. They’d gone into foster care in Seattle, which didn’t exactly narrow things down, but this was something to go on.
After a while, she shifted nervously, and asked, “How much will it cost? I got some money, but –“
He dismissed that with a wave of his hand. “Gratis. It’s free. Well, as long as you take me up on my shelter offer. Us foster kids oughta stick together. ”
She rolled her eyes, like a proper teenager. “I don’t see why you think I don’t have a place to stay. Just ‘cause I ran away –“
“And because it smells like you haven’t showered in days?” He tapped the side of his nose. “Virus child, remember? I got the better than average sense of smell superpower out of the deal.”
Her nose wrinkled in disgust. “Ick.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” he replied, agreeing with her. “Especially in a public toilet.”
“Gross,” she said, but was trying not to smile.
Roan knew he shouldn’t do this, especially not now, and especially since harboring her would technically be a violation. (While hardly an arrestable offense, harboring a kid you knew was a runaway from a foster home or a group home was not kosher, especially if you were or used to be a cop.)
So who could he rope into bending a few laws with him? Decisions, decisions.