Infected Holiday Flash Fic – Hannukah 2: The Reckoning

Hanukkah 2: The Reckoning

(There is a story in the upcoming Infected Holiday Special entitled Hanukkah. So calling it #2 and giving it a nonsensical sub-tile felt appropriate.And minor spoilers if you haven’t read Infected: Epitaph yet. )

Roan had a feeling Dylan was up to something. He just had no idea he’d spring it on him at the gallery.

Dyl had a two week showing at the Lohmann-Chang Gallery, a small but apparently super hip place in downtown Vancouver. It struck them both that Dylan was an odd choice for the showing at the middle and end of December, but since when did any hipster place have a sense of sentimentality? So Dylan’s paintings of bleeding machines, colorful, geometric abstracts, and isolated, painted body parts – all Roan’s, whether the viewer knew it or not – would be on display for the entire holiday season. Happy Hannukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, everyone.

But Roan was happy Dyl had gotten a solid foothold in the Vancouver art scene. Yeah, some people knew he was that “cat guy”’s husband, but there wasn’t much they could do about that. Roan had never been an art guy, and he still didn’t get much of it, but Dyl’s work always made him feel something. His work was always beautiful, even when it was bloody and strange. In fact, sometimes he liked them because they were bloody and strange. Dyl knew what he was getting into when he married him.

As far as Roan knew, it was a regular gallery opening. Roan dressed typically, meaning in jeans, a leather jacket, and a Metz t-shirt, and while Dylan was no less casual, he still managed to look like he was in a higher tax bracket than schlubby old Roan. Good for him.

Roan hadn’t even suspected that Dyl was going to spring anything on him until they arrived at the gallery, which had a good sized crowd, and an art dealer friend of Dylan’s, Celeste, met them as they came in. She was a short, bespectacled Asian woman who always dressed like her wardrobe budget was unlimited and her taste was impeccable. The latter was probably true; he had no idea about the former. “Your guests are waiting in the back,” she told Dylan, briefly glancing at Roan. She always gave Roan a look that seemed to say ‘What the hell does he see in you’, which Roan couldn’t hate her for. It was a fair question.

“Guests?” Roan asked.

Dyl shrugged so nonchalantly, he instantly knew he was lying. “Just some friends I invited.”

“Uh huh. What kinda friends?”

He smiled in a knowing, slightly irritating way. “You’re about to see.”

Now he was really suspicious. “What have you done?”

Dylan didn’t reply, he just kept giving him that enigmatic smile, until he opened the door of the back room.

“Finally!” Fiona said. “Now we can drink.”

The room was full of familiar faces: Fi, Holden, Scott, Grey, Tank, and Randi. “Dee sends his regards,” Fi said, plucking a glass of champagne from a waiting tray. “But he was working, and also he wanted me to tell you fuck you and your fancy life.”

Roan smirked. That sounded like him.

“It’s the holidays,” Dylan said. “Why not have a holiday party?”

Roan gave him a suspicious glance. “Despite the fact that neither of us actually celebrate any holiday, beyond Halloween?”

He rolled his eyes. “Sure, if you want to be factual.” Dylan grabbed a drink from a tray, and shoved it in his hand. “Enjoy it, Scrooge.”

“Tiny Tim was a fucking idiot. And I don’t like champagne.”

“It isn’t champagne. It’s sparkling wine that tastes a lot like white grape juice.” At Roan’s sceptical look, he said, “You’ll have it and you’ll like it.”

“I just got an uncomfortable glimpse of your love life,” Scott said. Grey chuckled.

Roan pointed at him. “Don’t you start.” He took a sip of the drink, which burned against his sinuses like most alcohol – the trouble with being a legally identified bloodhound, he supposed – but Dylan was right, it wasn’t bad. He should have known by now that, while Dyl didn’t have super sense himself, he was very careful about choosing things he thought he might enjoy.

The “back room” was just another part of the gallery, although sectioned off for private viewings, and as such, there were a couple of Dylan’s works on the bright white walls. A couple of the bleeding hardware series that weren’t for sale, a rain streaked photo of a part of downtown Seattle shot through streaked glass that Roan liked enough to want to keep, and one of Roan’s painted torso with a feathers and flame motif, which revealed a bullet hole, his collarbone scar, and part of a tattoo that Dyl felt, in retrospect, were just too personal and identifiable to put in regular gallery rotation. Although it was a really nice piece of work, and didn’t deserve to be buried in a closet either. It was always weird looking at a blown up photo of a segment of his body, but equally weird was the fact that Roan quickly forgot he was the canvas. Covered with paint and symbols, framed just so, it was easy to forget there was a body under there, which was kind of the point of the whole endeavour. There was always blood beneath the art, in one form or another, but Dylan didn’t like to explicitly say that, because it sounded as pretentious as fuck. It was still true, in spite of that.

At least the gallery was kind enough to put snacks and some drinks back here, although the only places to sit were these weird alcoves that were part of the walls, although Tank had managed to seat himself in one. But then again, he was as flexible as Plastic Man, so he didn’t count.

As Roan sampled an hors d’oeuvres – some puff pastry thing that smelled like it had cheese and mushrooms inside – he asked Grey, “Don’t you guys have games?” Scott, Grey, and Tank all shook their heads. “Not ‘til Thursday,” Grey replied.

“I got one the day after tomorrow, but it’s in San Jose. Quick trip from here,” Tank said, before popping one of the brie appetizers into his mouth.

“Tomorrow night, but it’s in Toronto,” Scott said. “I show up in the morning and the coach’ll never know I was gone.”

“And the way the Leafs are playin’ this year, you could probably show up asleep and nobody’d be the wiser.” Grey said, and Tank snickered.

“That’d probably be a sick burn if I knew what the hell you guys were talking about,” Randi said.

“Rugby,” Grey lied with a smile. Randi rolled her eyes and shook her head, because she knew they were hockey players.

Holden had been studying the photo of Roan’s torso very closely, and finally he said, “Knew it! You don’t shave. I spot treasure trail.”

“Ooh, where?” Fi asked, coming over.

“Was there actually some doubt about that?” Dylan asked. Roan shot him a look that tacitly said not to encourage them, but Dyl just shrugged.

“Come on, let us see it in person,” Randi said, making a hand gesture that seemed to suggest lifting up his shirt.

Roan frowned at her. “You really think there’s any way I’d do that?”

“Oh, come on,” Holden said, smiling like the bastard he was. “It’s the holidays.”

“You show me yours, I’ll show you mine,” Scott said. He followed that up with a lascivious grin.

“We’ve already seen yours,” Tank said. “You did that nude photo shoot for Sports Illustrated.”

Scott shrugged. “Yeah, but they were pretty good at airbrushing hair and scars away. I looked like a hairless seal pup.”

Holden raised an eyebrow at that. “There’s a joke in there somewhere …”

Dylan put an end to the discussion by putting a hand over Roan’s midsection. “Back off, he’s mine.”

Scott frowned dramatically. “Does this mean that an open relationship is out of the question?”

Grey nudged him with an elbow. “No means no, Murray. Move on.”

“Damn it.”

Dylan moved his hand to his arm, and announced to the room, “If you don’t mind, I need to speak with the old ball and chain for a moment.”

“About me?” Scott asked.

Holden flicked him on the back of the head. “Down boy. Don’t make me start slipping saltpetre into your beer.”

“Do it,” Grey said. “It could only help.”

Dylan pulled him out of the room for a moment, where it sounded like Randi and Holden were both teasing Scott. Always a fun group activity. Grey and Tank were probably just waiting to pounce.

Dyl pulled him out in the hall, and Roan eyed him curiously. “Something else going on?”

“No, just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Roan shrugged. “I’m fine. Although you could’ve warned me they were coming up. I might have dressed less shabby.”

Dylan raised an eyebrow at that. “Would you?”

“No, probably not.” Roan almost asked him why he kept trying to make a holiday thing happen, since they both didn’t think much of them at all, and in fact had very bad memories associated with them. But he knew Dylan was trying to make better memories to attach to them, which was not only noble, but undoubtedly healthy.

Dylan probably knew what was going through his head, because he gently cupped his face, and said, “Thank you.”

That surprised Roan, mainly because he felt like he’d missed something. “What are you thanking me for?”

Dyl gave him the serious look, the one that made him look a very old soul. Which was probably true, because he had both seen and been through some shit. “I know giving up your old life wasn’t as easy as you like to pretend it was. So thank you for choosing me.”

This kind of floored him. “There was no choice at all. I was always going to pick you. You know that, right?” And Roan knew damn well if he hadn’t, he probably would’ve been long dead by now. His next partial shift could have been the one that set off the time bomb aneurysm in his brain, the one he couldn’t recover from. The fact that he recovered from his last one was a minor miracle. The virus, the lion, whatever it was, wanted to keep going, but despite being a chimera, flesh was still the fragile link in the chain. One day it would snap, and there would be nothing anyone – or anything – could do about it. Roan knew he’d been living on borrowed time way longer than he should have. He’d been insanely lucky, but luck always ran out.

Dylan gave him his bittersweet smile, and rested his forehead against his, gently stroking the back of his neck. “I know you miss it,” he said quietly. “But you’re always gonna be my hero. You know that, right?”

Roan felt something like tears threatening at the back of his eyes, but he blinked them away. “What did I ever do to deserve you?”

“You were you. The best person I know.” He gave him a soft kiss, which was very sweet. “Happy holidays, hon.”

Roan sniffed and stepped back, just to get his emotional bearings. “If you make me cry in front of them I’m never forgiving you.”

Dylan grinned, and held out his arm. “Shall we?”

Roan felt like he could hold it together. This was where being stoic and naturally gruff helped immensely. He put his arm through Dylan’s, and simply nodded.

In spite of everything, Roan felt like he was still a very lucky guy.

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