A little holiday treat – Merry Christmas, Roan

If you know anything about Roan, you probably know he’s not big on holidays. Which is probably why I’m putting together a collection of Infected shorts based around holidays. He may hate them, but he keeps running up against them again and again. This one concerns him and Dylan at Christmas, a holiday that neither particularly look forward to. But it’s good to have friends.

**

Merry Christmas, Roan

Roan was taking a long, hot bath, when he thought he heard voices downstairs.

Now Dylan was up, he knew that simply because he could smell his heavenly huevos rancheros cooking, and also he wasn’t in bed when he woke up. But Roan assumed Dylan was alone. It was technically Christmas Eve, though. Had his sister Sheba come over?

Dylan normally told him things like that, but maybe she just dropped by out of the blue. Although it was a holiday most people made a big deal about, Dylan and Sheba weren’t big on the holiday, since their father murdered their mother and himself on Christmas morning. That would bum anyone out about a holiday.

Roan was never huge on it, and being an atheist, that tracked. They did exchange gifts, because what were they, completely heartless bastards? But that was the extent of celebrating for them. Generally it was just a nice day off at home. Dylan got to bake and paint, and Roan got to read and take long baths. That might not sound great to other people, but to them it was a nice respite from the usual crazy of their lives.

Roan realized he was hearing male voices as well as female voices, and since it couldn’t just be Sheba and her husband, he finally called off his bath and got out of the tub. After hastily drying himself off, he threw on a Pansy Division t-shirt and a pair of NASA branded sweatpants he picked up in a thrift store, and went downstairs to see what was going on.

He was greeted by blinking strings of multicolored lights, strung up on the wall and tangled around the coat rack, like it was a denuded Christmas tree. Dylan was in the kitchen, and in the living room were Tank, Fiona, Scott, Holden, Grey, and Randi. “Grumpypuss is up!” Randi exclaimed, attempting to throw tinsel at him. It wasn’t very aerodynamic, and most of it drifted to the carpet.

“I’ll have you know I’m here under protest,” Holden said, crossing his arms over his chest. “This is such a bullshit holiday.”

Roan looked around, still not sure what to make of everything. “What’s going on?”

“Everybody decided to pull together and have a little Christmas thing for us,” Dylan announced, plating some eggs from the sizzling pan.

“Everybody?” Roan repeated suspiciously.

Scott pointed to himself, to Fiona and Tank, and then Dylan, like Roan suspected. “We know holidays aren’t your favorite things, so we thought we’d try and give you a good one.”

“Or at least a ridiculous one,” Fiona said, holding up a tiny package wrapped in bright paper. “We only got you gifts from Archie McPhee.”

“Who can say no to that?” Randi said.

“I think we got everything for our house there,” Tank said. Fiona nodded in agreement.

Roan wasn’t sure what to say. It was a nice gesture, but should they have bothered? “I feel bad not having anything to give to you guys.” They’d already given everybody their presents, which included a hand made card from Dylan. Dylan did that every year – he got blank cards and drew or painted original artworks for everyone, which varied from amusing doodles to elaborate watercolors. Roan asked for a card and got one every year, and he’d been hanging them up in his library or his office. They were beautiful and impressive.

There was some eye rolling and a groan or two. “Don’t worry about that, we can afford it,“ Grey said.

“Speak for yourself,” Randi said. “But I just got you the Dr. Freud Therapy Ball. I mean, if anyone needs it, it’s you.”

Roan frowned, and she smiled, as that’s exactly the impact she wanted to have.

“And we’re giving them a gift,” Dylan said. “They’re getting to eat one of my breakfasts.”

Roan had to concede that. “True.”

“So sit down, have some breakfast, and be grateful, you ungrateful bastard,” Fiona said.

There was no arguing with that, so he took a plate and sat down. They ate first, because Dylan’s eggs were amazing, and then, when Dylan finally got a chance to sit down, they opened presents.

Like they promised, the gifts were all small and ridiculous, including an atheist Christmas stocking, which Roan wore as a hat, to the amusement of everyone. Dylan also surprised him with an extra gift of stuffed reindeer antlers, which he wore since Roan’s head was taken up by the stocking. At least they could be ridiculous together. That was the hallmark of a good couple, right?

To be honest, Roan kept observing Dyl out of the corner of his eye, to make sure he was okay. As nice as this gesture was, the holidays were never going to mean that much to him. They had nothing but bad memories for Dylan, and he wanted to make sure this wasn’t too much.

After breakfast and gift opening, Roan had to ask why they weren’t home for the holidays. Grey said he was actually flying home in a few hours, as his mother would kill him if he didn’t show. Scott pointed out home was a short drive away for him (Burnaby being just over the border.) Holden just waived, as they knew his situation (family disowned him for being gay, so, fun. And now that he had been a hooker and a vigilante, there were such better things to disown him for. But alas, they pulled the trigger on him too early). Fiona’s family was just in Olympia. And Tank, as always, had the most interesting ramble. “Oh, my dad is snowed in, so we figured we’d just get together next time the team travels to Montreal. I think my sister’s traveling in from Shawinigan to see him, but only if she and her wife can get through. Otherwise he’s just gonna go ice fishing with his brother Edouard. My dad can take or leave holidays. And I can leave ice fishing. Have you ever done it?” Tank looked around at his fellow Canadian (Scott) and honorary Canadian (Grey), and they both shook their heads. “Oh my God, it is so boring! And cold, and the fish ain’t that good. Really it’s just an excuse to get blasted, and I don’t need an excuse. “

Fiona put a hand on his leg. “Doesn’t he make Quebec sound like a magical place full of cold drunks?”

“Well, that’s kind of what it is,” Scott said. Tank elbowed him, but not seriously.

“Please don’t tell me you ever hunted,” Dylan said. As a vegetarian Buddhist, that was a big no no.

“Animals?” Tank shook his head. “Naw, my dad never went in for that. Just fishing. Well, mostly just standing around near water. For all he likes it, he doesn’t seem very good at it.”

“I think it’s more of a Zen thing,” Dylan said, much to Roan’s surprise. Dylan’s greatest gift was his capacity for understanding. Well, that and endless patience. “A type of meditation for guys who think meditation is a waste of time. Or too fruity.”

Grey smirked at this, but Holden raised an eyebrow at Dylan. Holden and Dylan continued to hold each other at arm’s length, like aliens they didn’t dislike, just couldn’t understand. But didn’t that make sense? Dylan was measured, usually tackled things after he’d thought them out and examined them from every angle, while Holden was a reactor, hot and furious, a bomb waiting to go off. Although, ironically, it was Dylan who felt things very deeply, and Holden who could be colder than that iced over lake. Roan had no idea how that worked, but he knew he was of contradictory states too. It was just he could blame it on having a lion and leave it at that, even though he knew that was far too glib and simple to be the genuine answer. But it was easier, wasn’t it?

Randi must have thought Holden’s look was hostile – she had expressed her reservations about Holden in private, as she had never quite gotten a handle on him, and Holden was not the type of person to be nice to someone just because they were Roan’s friend – because she quickly said, “You know, I’m beginning to think half of your stories are made up, Tank. You could tell us anything and we’d probably buy it.”

This made Tank grin, and of course his former teammates piled on. “I’m pretty sure he’s some form of slumming Quebecois royalty having a laugh at us ignorant Yankee pig dogs,” Grey said.

“I think he’s really from Calgary,” Scott said. “His accent is so fake.”

Tank balled up a napkin and threw it at Scott, spitting out a rapid fire string of French curses. Roan, who understood very little French (but knew most of the curses, thanks to the Falcons), couldn’t quite make out any of it, but Grey snickered, and Scott batted the napkin back at Tank, who caught it and shoved it down the front of Scott’s shirt. That made Scott giggle, and Holden shook his head at the (mostly) straight boy roughhousing.
Roan was still quietly amazed that a good part of these jock boys – not all, not by far (some of the looks he got from some of the Falcons was far from accepting) – but more than he would have thought were comfortable with gays and accidental perceptions of homoeroticism. Maybe it was a generational thing, or maybe it was because Scott was secretly bi and Grey and Tank knew it (and Grey was … well, something. He wasn’t a hundred percent straight, that was for damn sure …) or some combination of the two, but he didn’t realize how cynical he was towards most straight guys until he met Grey and his teammates. He just assumed he’d get the same shit from them that he got when he joined the police force, but nope. Grey surprised him from day one, and kept surprising him. Roan was sure he wouldn’t ever understand him; he understood Holden more than he understood Grey, and he wasn’t sure if it was failure of imagination, or simply because he had more in common with Holden than he’d ever admit. Maybe a bit of both.

Soon, Grey had to leave for Sea-Tac, since he had a flight to catch, and that seemed the logical end point of the proceedings. After everyone had gone, Roan took the atheist stocking off his head, and cast a concerned glance at Dylan, who was standing by the door. Dylan grimaced and took off his stuffed antlers. “You keep giving me that look. Should I be worried?”

“I thought I was being subtle.” Roan replied.

“As subtle as roaring in a crowded theater. Can I ask why?”

“It’s just this holiday, you know? I don’t want … it’s okay. You don’t have to feel like you have to do something.”

“I don’t. I was just thinking maybe it was about time I have a decent memory to go along with all the bad ones associated with Christmas.” Dylan came back and collapsed on the sofa beside Roan, looking tired, but not in a bad way. He cupped Roan’s face, and his palm felt nicely warm against his cheek. “It’s never going to stop bringing up bad shit, but there’s no reason all my memories have to be miserable.”

This close, Roan could count the individual hairs of the stubble on Dylan’s jaw line. And he just knew, from the sadness in Dylan’s chocolate eyes, that he was thinking about the future. The future when he would be alone, without Roan anymore. It was one of those things Roan really didn’t like to think about, even though his aneurysm problem had guaranteed it would be something he’d have to deal with sooner rather than later. It was bad enough to think he would be dead. It was worse to think he’d be leaving Dylan behind to deal with it.

Roan caressed his jaw with his thumb. “Well, we have lots of time left in the day. We could make this day fantastic.”

Dylan gave him a sly smile. “Sounds good to me.” He gave him a passionate kiss, full of promise, before pulling away. “Want to go back upstairs?”

“I’ve been waiting for you to ask,” Roan said, draping a ribbon from an open present around Dylan’s neck.

It would be corny to say that Dylan was the only gift Roan needed right now. So he kept the thought to himself.

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