Infected Holiday Flash Fic – Throwaways
How does Holden spend the holiday, now that Roan has moved? Now you know.
Holden had been hoping global warming would eventually give Seattle a warm November, but no luck this year. He sunk deeper into his bomber jacket and felt like an idiot. He needed a more stylish warm weather jacket, but what was that? They probably existed, but he had no idea where to look for them. Once a peasant, always a peasant, he supposed. He wished gay boys were just born with a fashion guide in their hand, like some assholes seemed to think, but he supposed he and Roan – especially Roan – were living proof that this was not true.
The boulevard was as close to deserted as it ever got, because most people were home, dealing with the bullshit holiday that was Thanksgiving. Even before he got thrown out of the house by his pious, piece of shit parents, he wasn’t sure why Thanksgiving was a holiday. Wasn’t it gross to celebrate the virtual eradication of an indigenous race? He thought maybe they should rename it White People day, but boy, did his parents not like that at all.
Of course, if Holden was honest with himself – which he generally tried to avoid at all costs – he didn’t like holidays in general. He thought he found a kindred spirit in Roan, but Roan made a place for Halloween, which Holden just couldn’t get behind. Maybe because, for a long time, every day was Halloween for him. And he didn’t get why people didn’t dress up whenever the fuck they felt like it. Why wait for society to designate a time and place? Do what you fucking wanted to do.
Then again, he was a hooker vigilante. His moral code of conduct had died screaming on the floor some years ago.
He found a new kid on post, one he hadn’t seen before. He looked roughly thirteen, but Holden hoped he was sixteen at least. Actually, he hoped he was forty, ‘cause the young looking guys often got the biggest freaks. “Hey kid, wanna get out of here, get something to eat?”
The boy, all floppy brown hair and suspicious brown eyes, gave him a wary look. “You a cop?”
Holden held out his arms, trying not to be offended. “Do I really look like a cop? No, man, I’m Fox. Maybe you’ve heard of me.”
The kid eyed him suspiciously. It was quite possible he did everything suspiciously. “Not really. What you looking for?”
Holden shook his head. “Not looking to hire. Hasn’t Hel talked to you?” Hel was a street kid who had a tendency to look after other street kids, and was pretty well respected in these blocks. She was a woman not afraid to scrap, and she was very gender nonconforming, so a lot of people, at first glance, took her for a guy. She didn’t care. Maybe because it was just easier on the streets for men than for women. Holden figured she was probably queer, but she never said, so he wasn’t about to force it on her. Maybe she was just gender nonconforming because the binary was bullshit. Didn’t matter. Anyone who looked out for the kids out here was a fucking hero.
The kid backed up a step, not trusting him. Smart, if misplaced. “I don’t know a Hel.”
Holden tilted his head, not about to call bullshit on that – but totally preparing to – when the person in question rounded the corner. “Hey, Fox!”
“Hel!” Holden was not a hugger by nature, but Hel came in for one, and he let her have it.
She was dressed in her traditional garb of men’s clothes, most too big for her, especially the oversized olive drab jacket she wore over her many layers of t-shirts and flannels. She smelled mostly of industrial soap with a hint of body odor, but hey, who didn’t out here? He’d smelled worse in his life. Behind her, trailing behind like some lost conga line of the damned, were a couple of girls who looked like teenagers in mini-skirts, and a couple of boys who looked like larval stage Biebers. None of them looked older than sixteen, but Holden was hoping they were. There was a chance none of them were legal besides Hel.
Hel looked at the kid he’d been talking to, and said, “See you met Jaden here. Jade, this is Fox. That guy I mentioned?”
One of the Biebers, in a fake black leather jacket, said, “Weren’t you working with that lion guy?”
“What lion guy?” the white girl asked. She was fidgeting on heels that looked uncomfortable, and scratching at a scab on her arm. User? Probably. She wasn’t too deep into it yet, the drugs hadn’t sapped her youth or drained her dry yet. It would eventually. Few escaped it.
Not that Holden was judgmental about it. Wasn’t his thing, but he got it. He knew why people did drugs, especially on the street. Holden could chalk it up to self-discipline, but he knew really he was just lucky. He didn’t need drugs to kill the pain, and muddle through the day. He had a laser like focus on revenge. Drugs were probably healthier in the long run.
“You know, that guy who used to run around here fighting cats? I heard he could, like, turn into a big cat or some shit.”
Holden scoffed. “This isn’t a comic book universe. How would a guy turn into a big cat?” Of course he was lying, having see Roan in his fully transformed, and more disturbingly, partially transformed state. But let the shit hit the fan on that once Roan was dead, and didn’t have to deal with people wanting to vivisect him for science. Not that a street kid knowing the truth would make a difference one way or another, but it was the principal of the thing.
“But they do,” the vaguely Latino kid said. “Y’know, the ones with the cat virus.”
“Yes, but that takes hours, and they can’t think like humans, can they?” Holden countered. “Trust me, the press in this town are as much jokes as the cops are.” In his head, he was singing a little song about being a big fat liar, and trying not to smile. He never intended to take Roan’s secret to the grave, but he imagined he would. Roan was probably the only person who deserved that kind of loyalty. He’d certainly pay it back to you.
The kid shrugged, and let it go. He figured he would. Hel then took the moment of silence as an opportunity to introduce everyone. “Fox, this is Taina, Sugar, Nino, and Goldie.”
Holden nodded at them, wondering if any of these were real name. Probably Jaden, but no one else. Taina had an outside chance.
“Fox is treating us all to dinner,” Hel told floppy haired Jaden. “Wanna come with?”
Jaden eyed them all suspiciously – again – but seemed to save most of it for Holden. “Is this a religious thing?”
Holden snorted, and couldn’t help it. “Fuck no. I hate that shit. I’m just being nice. Take it or leave it.”
Judging from the face he made that wasn’t quite good enough for picky Jaden. Still, he had nothing else to do, since the street was pretty dead, and he followed their shambly group down the street. Holden was just taking them to Gracie’s, as it was open, and they allowed him to bring in a bunch of street kids, which some restaurants could get snobby about. “So if this isn’t a religious thing, why do it?” Jaden persisted.
Hel scoffed. “’Cause he used to be one of us, dude. It ain’t rocket science.”
“But why be with us if you could be somewhere better?”
Now Holden felt he had to tackle that one. “Why do you think I have some place better to be? My family threw me out a long time ago, and most of my friends aren’t the holiday type.”
“What’d they kick you out for?” Jaden asked. He was a smart ass deserving of a smack, so now Holden kind of liked him. His people were smart asses.
“Being gay. What’d you get kicked out for?”
Jaden was sullen silent, but the girl named Sugar piped up to fill it. “I’m actually bi, but since they caught me kissing a girl, my parents thought I was a lez and threw me out.”
“I ran away,” Taina the user said. “I just got tired of my dad doin’ shit to me.”
“My mom’s new boyfriend didn’t want me around,” the kid named Goldie said.
“It was either go to a religious camp or leave,” Nino said. “And since that priest was runnin’ it, no fuckin’ way was I goin’.” The way he said “that priest” spoke volumes. Two sexual abuse victims out of four of them. That was actually about the average, in Holden’s experience.
Or maybe three out of five. Jaden was still quiet, and hadn’t joined their share session. Hel didn’t share either, but she never did. She never talked about her past at all; she didn’t even give out her surname ever, and acted like she didn’t have one. Holden had figured she was an escapee from the foster care system, like Roan, but that was all he knew about her. She preferred being a mystery, and that was fair enough. Live whatever life you could eek out here. He was never going to judge.
Jaden still hadn’t spoken by the time they hit Gracie’s, which was doing a pretty good business. Still, there were two booths open, and Sugar, Taina, Nino, and Goldie took one, while Hel, Jaden, and him took the other. A waitress he knew, Pilar, was working, and he gestured at her that he should be given the check for both tables. She nodded, knowing the deal. “Order whatever you want,” Holden told them. “But pace yourselves. You don’t wanna end up barfing up the first decent meal you’ve had in a while.” He knew how that was. He almost envied people who didn’t know what that was like, but he decided to just hate them instead. It was easier.
Jaden looked at his laminated menu like it owed him money, and kept his eyes on it as he asked, “This make you feel less bad or somethin’ ?”
Hel kicked him under the table for that, and Jaden reacted to it, but Holden shook his head at her. He didn’t mind the question. “No. I have a hero complex, but it doesn’t manifest in this way. I just remember what it was like to be out here, wondering why putting up with religious bullshit was the only way to get out of the cold and get a meal. Seemed fucked up to me. So I told myself I’d do something to fix that someday, if I ever could. This is the start.”
“It make you feel less guilty?”
He couldn’t help but smile. Sure, he wanted to put him through a wall for being a snotty little brat, but it was kind of delightful it hadn’t been beaten out of him yet. “Boy, only those with shame have guilt, and I shed that a long time ago. I do it because I’m not a total piece of human garbage. Besides, we throwaways have to stick together, don’t we? If we don’t look out for each other, no one else will.”
That was the truth, and of course there was more. Holden was the only one who knew he was a vigilante, taking care of any of the scumbags who victimized kids like this whenever he came across them. But he was hardly a superhero in a spangly suit. Like Roan before him, he was considered a freak, something barely deserving of human status, although Roan had it so much worse. He was just an ex-hooker. Roan had a disease that changed him physically and mentally, and one too many people had caught the evidence of that on their camera phones.
No one knew who Holden was. He was just another bottom dweller, a grown up throwaway, someone’s reject deemed too flawed for mainstream consumption. Which was honestly fine as far as he was concerned.
The less people who knew of him, the more he could do his job. Holden couldn’t help but smirk. The world just never learned that no matter how well you tossed something away, it would always come back to haunt you.
Sometimes with a vengeance.