A Roan & Dylan short – Art, Interrupted

Just a brief, fluffy story, but I felt it’s the least I owe everyone.

**

Roan put his finger against the plastic fishbowl, wondering if the big goldfish inside would see it. He wasn’t going to tap it, because that seemed cruel, and non-humans had to stick together, right? Unless one was dinner, but that was another story. Besides, if Dyl had his way, he’d be the first vegetarian lion in existence. (Possibly also the last.)

Dylan pulled out one of the red leather stools and sat beside him. “We’re not so bored we’re taunting the fish, are we?”

For whatever reason, the goldfish and its habitat were planted on the bar of this art gallery/bar. It wasn’t a part of the exhibition; it was just the pet of the gallery. Or more specifically, this bar. “I’d never taunt the fish. I’m just trying to get its attention.”

“What for?”

For some reason, that was a stumper. “I’m not sure,” Roan admitted. He had no choice. He really didn’t know. “I just felt I should engage with it in some way.”

Dylan nodded, and slid an arm around his waist. “Is this your way of telling me you want to adopt a fish?”

“Now that you mention it, that’s not a bad idea,” he said, as the fish seemed to study Roan’s fingertip against the bowl. He never had a pet for the fear of one day getting out of his cage and accidentally eating it, but why not a fish? A fish was protected in a bowl, and if he did eat it … well, it was a fish. You could only get too attached to them. “Maybe not a goldfish though. Maybe one of those fancy fish. Like the kind you had as your laptop wallpaper.”

“A betta?” Dylan nodded. “That’s not actually a bad idea. I used to have one in college. They’re super easy to care for, and they do have a personality. Well, as much as a fish can.”

Wow. All this time, and it had never occurred to Roan he could possibly get away with having this kind of pet. It made him feel like an idiot. “Okay, let’s take the plunge. Let’s get a fish.”

Dylan squeezed him. “I’m domesticating the shit out of you, aren’t I?”

Roan chuckled at the very idea, although that probably was true. “Next thing you know, we’ll have an entire aquarium.”

Dylan kissed him on the forehead. “Dare to dream, hon.”

The bartender came over, looking at them curiously. “Can I get you guys something?”

“I’ll take a vodka and cranberry, light on the vodka,” Roan said, letting his hand fall from the fishbowl.

“I’ll just take an orange juice,” Dylan said. As soon as the bartender left to get their drinks, Roan cast a sidelong, questioning glance at Dylan. He caught it. “If I start drinking now, I’ll be wasted long before the show ends.”

It was a small gallery, despite also being a bar, and it was right next to a leather bar, so Roan wondered if any of the guys there might wander over out of curiosity. It wasn’t as ritzy as many of the other galleries Dyl had been displayed in, but Roan liked it a lot more. The reduced dimensions and exposed brickwork made it charming, and the leather bar neighbour seemed to make it quaint. There were only a few of Dyl’s works currently hanging on the walls, special pieces that he wanted to highlight, but a projector had been set up, and were showing other pieces that weren’t here on a screen high on the opposite wall. Currently there was no noise but people’s voices bouncing around the space, but Dylan had been threatening to start playing Tibetan throat singing, as he felt that was probably the best musical accompaniment. Roan was still pushing for an alternating blast of These Arms Are Snakes.

“You should get wasted,” Roan said, playing devil’s advocate. “Maybe you can be a mean drunk, start cursing people out and making it personal. Then you can throw them out and close down your own event by throwing a chair at someone. It’ll be fun. And be the rare gallery show that makes the crime blotter.”

“You just want that to happen so you feel at home.”

“Are you implying I thrive on chaos?”

“Nope. I’m outright stating it.” Dylan flashed him a smile that was not quite jovial, but in the same neighbourhood.

Roan rolled his eyes, and was glad the bartender came back with their drinks then. He supposed he was right, but he’d be damned if he’d admit it. Admitting it seemed wrong somehow. Would an agent of chaos ever do such a thing? Not unless chaos actually resulted. What would be the point otherwise?

There were a good handful of people in the gallery, walking around, nibbling on snacks, sipping drinks. Theoretically enjoying art, although, despite the many showings he’d been to with Dyl, Roan still didn’t know exactly what that appeared to be. People looking really hard seemed the best way to sum it up, but that didn’t quite capture it. Roan did recognize a couple of the regulars, who generally came to Dylan’s showings, and was surprised to find out artists could have the equivalent of groupies. Most didn’t want to sleep him, but some did, and some of these were women. No one was more surprised by that latter fact than Dylan, who had to turn down more het sex than he ever thought possible. Of course, one instance would be more than he ever expected.

Roan was in this exhibit, which was just one more reason for him to be here. Dylan had a couple of the pictures he took, using Roan’s body as a canvas, up on the wall. But since the deal he had with Dyl was he could never show his face in the photos, only people who knew his tattoos or were really good guessers ever figured it out. Roan wouldn’t volunteer the information either, even if someone asked about the man in the photos. He’d make stuff up, depending on his mood.

Dylan squeezed his shoulder. “If you’re bored, hon, you can go. I won’t be offended.”

“I’m not bored,” Roan said, although both he and Dylan knew he was lying. If he wasn’t making fun of something or someone, he wasn’t sure what to do with himself at a gallery. He could appreciate art, but after examining it for a few minutes, he appreciated it as much as possible. There was no more quantity of appreciation he could give a painting. Maybe if he was an artist like Dyl he could, but he had a Simpsons animation cel in his office. His artistic taste was always up for debate. “I just haven’t had enough to drink yet.”

Dylan raised an eyebrow at that, and was surely about to say something sarcastic, but Roan’s phone hummed in his pocket, and Dyl was close enough to hear it. Since ignoring it was now out of the question, he had no choice but to answer it. A quick glance at the screen told him it was Seb calling, and since he never made casual calls, Roan was suddenly glad he hadn’t had more to drink. “Yeah?”

“How close are you to downtown?” Seb asked, with no preamble.

“I’m on Capitol Hill. Where downtown do you mean?”

“Bottom of the hill, near Boone, which puts you in spitting distance. We got a cat running loose, another lion. SWAT’s almost ten minutes out.”

Roan sighed, and cast an apologetic glance at Dyl. He’d probably guessed the nature of the conversation, because he patted his arm and nodded. “Yeah, okay, I’m on my way.” He slipped his phone back in his pocket. “I guess you know.”

“Cat wrangling duty calls,” Dylan said, confirming he knew. He leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Be careful. Don’t get hurt.”

“Do I ever?” Roan gulped down the rest of his drink, recalling that yeah, he’d gotten some superficial injuries in the past. But they weren’t ever anything to worry about.

“You’re not indestructible.”

“Oh, I know.” Aware that he might have sounded disappointed by that, Roan gave him his best cocky smile. “I’m Batman, not Thor.”

Dylan grabbed him by the collar and pulled him in close. “You are neither. You are my husband, and I will get mad if you get hurt. Besides, you can’t leave me to raise a fish all by myself.”

“I’d never abandon you,” he promised, and he meant it. Or at least he meant it to the best of his ability. Getting life and his virus to agree to this as well was the hard part. “And if I come back bloody, just say I’m performance art.”

Dylan grimaced. “Oh, you’d love that, wouldn’t you? I’ll call you Anatomy of A Crime Fighter.”

“Hot damn, I always knew I could be art.” Roan gave Dylan a goodbye kiss, and started threading his way through the people in the front hall, headed out towards the night and the city outside.

When he took a moment to step back and think about it, Roan had a very strange life. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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