As our Blogiversary Celebration month comes to a close, I can’t think of any group I’d rather spend the day with more than Roan, Dyl, Holden, Scott, Tank, Fiona, and Grey.
My gratitude to Andrea Speed for whipping up this little ficlet at literally a moment’s notice, and for offering to share it with all of us, especially those of us who love these characters beyond all reason 😀
Welcome to Andrea, and enjoy!
“What are we doing here again?”
“In theory, we’re supposed to be having a good time,” Dylan told Roan, sitting down beside him on the porch steps. His breath turned instantly to vapor in the chilly night air. Dylan held out a bottle of ginger ale for Roan, aware he didn’t want or need the beer or champagne punch being served inside.
Roan took it with a grateful nod, and twisted off the cap. It was too fucking cold out here, but he could only be in an enclosed space with so many people for so long before his sense of smell started overwhelming him. Mainly it was the scent spiral, where his mind would start unconsciously cataloging the minutiae of scents – no person smelled like one thing; they smelled like a thousand things, from what they ate, to what they washed their clothes in – and eventually they would fill his head and crowd out his other thoughts, and then he’d be unable to think of anything but that. Roan carried strong peppermints around for this very reason, because they could cause a hard reset of his bloodhound abilities – he’d found that peppermint was the olfactory equivalent of a neutron bomb – but if he deployed that too often in a short space of time, he could trigger a migraine. It wasn’t the only reason Roan avoided parties as a general rule, but it was a damn good excuse. Still, he made an effort tonight, and wasn’t that what counted?
“Hope you’re not ditching,” Grey said. Although the cold air was bracing, and did a nice scrub of his sense of smell, he knew Grey, Scott, and Holden had come out on the porch by scent alone, and left the front door open, so music leaked out with more clarity.
Dylan, rubbing Roan’s back, told them, “No, he just needed to take a break.”
“My senses go a little crazy around too many people and poor ventilation,” Roan said. What, was he worried they thought he had a panic disorder or something?
“Oh shit,” Scott exclaimed. “That didn’t even cross my mind. Dude, I’m so sorry.”
“World’s only legal human bloodhound,” Holden said. “Is that really so hard to forget?”
Fiona scoffed, as she and Tank joined the porch conclave. “I forget, and I work with him. It’s not like he talks about it all the time.”
“See, if I could do that, I totally would,” Tank said. “I’d drive people crazy by telling them what their best scent was.”
“Don’t cha kinda do that anyway?” Grey replied.
“Only when they smell bad or piss me off,” Tank said.
Roan nodded, because that sounded reasonable, especially with Tank.
Scott and Grey were holding their annual New Year’s party, and invited them, and Dylan, for the sheer hell of it, said yes. They said it would be a “small-ish” gathering of some hockey friends and cool people, and much like Roan anticipated, he didn’t know more than a handful, and vice versa. But those who knew who he was spread word about him very quickly, and he could tell what the strangers thought of him – or infecteds, or gays, or both – simply by the amount of horror or disgust in their eyes. Roan didn’t care about their opinion, but they must have known Scott – and by extension, Grey – wouldn’t like it, so they didn’t say a goddamn word. Friend or not, Grey could give you a look that could shut down an entire room, but that was only because everyone knew he could take them. Even if they attacked all at once, it was hard to imagine a scenario where Grey even broke a sweat pounding them into paste. Being professionally menacing had obvious perks.
Perhaps in an effort to make it easier for Roan to tolerate it, Scott had put together a playlist of punk music from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s that he discovered by jumping around to digital radio stations and music archives. The music was probably the least objectionable thing about all of this.
“Ooh, I like this song,” Fiona said. “What is it?”
“Uh …” Scott replied, clearly at a loss.
Roan saved him. “It’s Killing Joke. The song’s Love Like Blood. If it’s not their most known song, it’s probably their best one.”
“Look at you going old school radio DJ on us,” Fiona replied.
“He’s a music snob,” Holden said. Roan flashed him a middle finger over his shoulder, making Scott laugh.
“I bet you know why they’re called Killing Joke,” Fiona said.
Roan nodded. “They’re a British band. Named themselves after a Monty Python sketch.”
“Are all punks just nerds who tried way too hard to be cool?” Holden wondered.
“We’re not all nerds. But of course we tried too hard. We were teenagers, right? All teens do.”
“Hard to argue with that,” Fiona agreed.
“I don’t imagine you trying hard,” Dylan said, giving him a tiny smile. “I find it easier to imagine you not really giving a shit.”
Roan shrugged, a little conflicted at being caught. The teens were rough for him, but hell, every age was rough for him. Being a foster kid with a rare disease that almost no one understood could do that to you, and when he figured out he was gay, it got so much worse. He was like a walking bully orgasm sundae. But he figured out by his teens he could use his rage and his own tainted blood as a weapon, and suddenly the power shifted. He was toxic waste, sure, but he was determined to own it. Punk helped him, in a weird sort of way. But then again, everything having to do with him had weird attached to it, like a phantom limb. “Little from column A, little from column B. I was fighting the world.”
“I think you can chalk up a TKO,” Grey said. He sounded approving.
Roan sighed. “Goddamn, I’m old.”
“None of us are gettin’ any younger,” Scott said. Although coming from him, a young man, that was relatively funny.
“You don’t have to be out here humoring me,” Roan said. “You can go inside and have fun.”
“What if our fun is humoring you?” Holden asked. This was followed by a soft noise and an annoyed, “Ow!” Roan imagined Scott gave Holden a backhand slap on the shoulder for that.
“It’s kind of a dull party,” Grey said. “I haven’t had to physically throw someone out once.”
“You could choose someone at random and do it,” Holden said. “Tell ‘em you’re drunk tossing, the new fad.”
“That takes all the fun out of it,” Grey said. “I like the horror on their face as soon as they realize they’re getting comeuppance for being such a shitbird.”
Roan took a deep swig of his ginger ale, so he didn’t laugh. Hockey players seemed to have the best swears.
Dylan leaned in, and whispered, “We can go if you want.”
Roan considered it a moment, but he knew, as much as he could be a curmudgeon – hell, as much as he liked being a curmudgeon – Dylan had been kind of enjoying these weirdo friends of his. They were nothing like Dylan’s art friends – for good as well as for bad – and it wasn’t like Roan was invited to a lot of parties. Most people knew better than that. And while he could be his usual self, and point out how arbitrary this holiday was – indeed, most holidays had an arbitrariness to them that made Roan really hate how devoted some people were to their very idea – even he knew how pedantic and dour that made him sound. For Dyl’s sake, couldn’t he lighten up once? “Naw. We gotta stay for midnight, don’t we?” Roan turned, and glanced at the crowd on the porch, who were grouped up like he expected. Tank had an arm around Fiona, Scott was near the front, with Holden lurking in the doorway, and Grey casually leaning on the rail, like he might not bring it down with his size alone. “You guys planned anything for midnight?”
Scott glanced at Grey and shrugged. “Jell-O shots, and a few balloons filled with champagne.”
“Champagne balloons?” Fiona asked, looking to Tank. “Why the hell didn’t you lead with that?”
“’Cause we thought it would be funny, but it turned out lame,” Grey admitted. “It’s really hard to get champagne in a balloon, and it either won’t fill up, or the gases expand too rapidly and burst the balloon. So I think we got three with some dribbles of champagne in them. They look like weird used condoms.”
“Okay, gross. I’m now off that idea,” Fiona said.
“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m gonna start up a game of strip limbo. Who’s with me?” Tank said.
“No,” Scott insisted. “We’ve been over this. You can’t do that, ‘cause you’re a goalie, and you are really bendy, unlike the rest of us. You always win.”
“Yes. And your point is…?” Tank replied.
This sparked what appeared to be a friendly and common debate among Tank, Scott, and Grey, which Fiona seemed delighted to be in the middle of, while Holden just rolled his eyes at them. Roan got the impression that Holden found all the hockey guys kind of ridiculous, and yet, he and Scott clearly had a thing, no matter how Holden kept his distance.
Dylan leaned against him, shoulder to shoulder, and whispered, “You sure?”
Roan nodded, and leaned in to give him a quick kiss on the forehead. “No place I’d rather be.”
And weirdly enough? Roan meant it.