Russell perched himself on the corner of Andrew’s desk, crossing his ankles.
Andrew glanced up at him. “Whatcha doin’?”
“I need an adult.”
Andrew snorted. “What do you want?”
“I’m making supper for someone tonight, hopefully making them feel better about some things. And returning this here travel mug,” Russell said, holding out Theodore’s mug. “I wanted to just bring supper over, but I was told I couldn’t spend a dime on him.”
“You can’t cook. At all.”
“That’s where you and Emey come in.”
“What do we come in for?” Emelia asked as she sat down at her desk, a fresh cup of coffee in her hand.
“Russell thinks we’re making supper for him and his date,” Andrew said, leaning back in his desk chair.
“No, no. Not my date. Just a guy and his daughter that I’m treating to supper. They could both use the mood booster,” Russell said.
Emilia raised a brow. “Why?”
“Why could they use the mood booster?”
“They’ve had a hard time this year.”
“Come on! You guys can cook. How is it fair or right to have the ability to cook but refuse to bless others with it?” Russell asked.
Andrew laughed. He held up a relatively thick folder. “How about because we’re detectives and have just been put on rotation for this cold case, and this is all the paperwork we need to go through in search of a lead?”
“Okay, okay. So how about I help go through paperwork, and you guys make supper for my friend–”
“Not a date, fuck off.”
Andrew hid a smile behind his coffee mug. Emilia only shook her head, leaning over to backhand her husband’s shoulder. “You had me at ‘help go through paperwork’. What do you, your friend, and friend’s daughter want for supper?”
“I don’t know. I’m not an expert in appropriate suppers. I either order in or have, like, cereal or ramen when it’s just me. I have no idea what you feed a guy and his daughter,” Russell said.
“Okay. So… you didn’t ask what either of them liked?”
“I did not.”
Emilia nodded. “So I would go ahead and text the guy and ask him if he has any preferences for food, and tell him that includes any preferences his daughter has. Come tell us when you know.”
Russell jumped down from his perch on Andrew’s desk. “Thanks, Emey.”
She smiled. “Of course, Russ. Tomorrow, bright and early, paperwork.”
Around noon, Theodore texted Russell back with a few things that he liked and a few things that his daughter, Vera, liked. Before Russell had a chance to respond, Theodore sent in a second message.
Theodore: If you don’t like any of the things she likes, you don’t have to make food. Vera and I will be okay with cereal again. Or something easy, in the microwave. Don’t strain yourself for me. I’m okay just getting my mug back if that’s the only thing you want to do.
Russell: Nonsense. I have no problem making two meals if I have to. It’s not a strain at all.
Russell: But if you don’t want me to make supper, let me know. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.
Theodore: I’m not uncomfortable. I’m just
Theodore: I don’t know. I guess I’m nervous. It feels like a date, and I don’t want to be dating anybody.
Russell: It’s not a date. It’s me making supper as a thank you for coffee
Russell: Ah, and a thank you for all of our great early morning conversations
Theodore: Really though?
Russell: Really. If it was a date, I would’ve asked you out on a date. I would’ve used the actual word. I don’t want to mislead you, Theo. You have enough to work through as is. I don’t want to add onto the world you’ve got resting on your shoulders.
Theodore: Yeah, my bad hip has a hard enough time supporting that weight as is
Russell snorted, rolling his eyes.
Theodore: Thank you. I appreciate that. The knowing and the respectfulness. Thank you.
Russell: No problem, Theodore. You let me know if something changes. Otherwise, I’ll see you tonight after I get off from work.
Theodore: Okay, see you then
Russell locked his screen and tucked his phone back into his pocket. He pushed his chair out from his desk and rolled his way over to the space between Andrew and Emilia’s desks. “So, the kid likes chicken nuggets. Like, she’ll eat just about anything–and I have a pretty good idea why–but her favorite is chicken nuggets. Theo says–”
“Theo?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah. Theo. That’s the friend,” Russell said.
Andrew nodded. “Okay. Continue.”
“He says that he’s also pretty used to eating whatever food he’s given, uh, but if I was making him pick a favorite, he’s a fan of, like, perfectly seasoned chicken breast,” Russell said.
“So which one do you wanna do?” Andrew asked.
Russell offered a smile. “I was thinking both. I-I know you guys… don’t know these two, but they both deserve it. They’ve been through hell and back, and that hell lasted for several years. They both deserve their favorite things. I’ll go through all that damn paperwork if you want me to. I’ll help with the food and with case stuff in whatever way I can.”
Andrew leaned back in his chair, eyes shifting over to his wife’s face. “Whaddya think, Em?”
“We’ve been eating out a lot recently. It wouldn’t kill us to make the food and make enough chicken for the both of us, too,” Emilia said. She looked over at Russell, a smile on her face. “We’ll make supper for you and your friend. And the kid. You’re not allowed to spend money on it, right?”
“Right. And thank you.”
“Of course.” Emilia pulled open one of the bottom drawers of her desk and opened her purse. A moment later, she handed her debit card over to him. “You still know the pincode?”
“Good. I’ll text you a recipe for the chicken breast. Get everything on the list. I’ll text you a few things to get as sides, too. Okay?”
“Are you sure?” Russell asked.
“Positive. You took a bullet for me, remember?” Emilia asked.
Russell snorted. “You also got shot that day.”
“Yeah, but you were first. Now get your ass outta here before I change my mind.”
“Ah, of course, Buchanan.” He rolled his chair back a good foot or two. “I’m gonna take my lunch break and run to the grocery store, then. Want me to grab you guys anything for lunch?”
“Arby’s? Fries and a… roast beef?” Andrew asked.
“Can do. Emey?”
“Ditto for me.”
“Awesome. Back in a bit. And thank you, again,” Russell said.
“Sure thing, Russ.”
Emilia handed three tupperware containers over to Russell before crossing her arms over her chest. “Everything’s separated so the sides don’t mix with the chicken breast or chicken nugget. A lot of kids won’t eat things if they touch, and some adults can be the same way.” She smiled. “Didn’t wanna take any risks.”
“You’re the best, Emey, thank you,” Russell said.
“Thanks, and you’re very welcome.”
“Do I look okay? I wanna look nice, but I don’t want to look too nice.”
“You don’t want it to look like you’re on a date,” Emelia said. Russell only nodded. Thankfully, she was a bit better with words than he was. “I think you look nice, Russ. The sweater is a nice middle ground on date-fancy and casual-fancy.”
Russell let out a relieved breath. “Thanks, Emey.”
“No problem.” Lightly, she punched his shoulder, a smile coming back to her face. “Have fun, okay? And then tomorrow, you’re stuck with Andrew and me on paperwork duty.”
He smiled. “Deal. Thank you, again.”
“Of course. Now get your ass outta here before you thank me again.”
His smile broadened as he took a step back. “Will do.” He lifted the tupperware containers. “See you tomorrow, Emey.”
“See you then, Russ.”
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