After about an hour of watching Nurse Jackie, Russell helped Theodore to his feet. An arm threaded through Russell’s, Theodore allowed the detective to walk him around the house. It was nice being without his cane to walk around, even if it was only possible because Russell was supporting his weight anytime he put far too much pressure on the injured hip.
“When… do you need to head home?” Theodore asked.
“Whenever you need me to.”
“That doesn’t help, you know.”
“I’m sorry. Umm… I don’t know. I can leave, if that’s what you want me to do.”
Theodore shook his head. “Two things. One, you have nothing to be sorry for. That was like, umm… ‘You’re a big help’. That’s all. And two, no, I don’t want you to leave right this second. I just wanna know how much more Nurse Jackie you and I can watch tonight while we cuddle on the couch.”
“As much as you want. But you have to wake up around, what, six-thirty?” Russell asked.
“Give or take.”
“How many hours of sleep do you prefer getting?”
“Prefer?” Theodore asked. He chuckled, though even he knew just how much humor the sound obviously lacked. “I don’t know. That’s not a question I’ve been asked before. Most of the time, when… Shane was here, I averaged four hours. Since I’ve gotten back from the hospital, I’ve managed much of the same, save for…”
“When… you’re here,” Theodore said quietly. “There’s a part of me that really hates letting you know that. But it’s true. You bring me… comfort, I guess. I don’t know if it’s because you’re not like him or because you’re a cop, but… but I feel a little safer when you’re here, and I guess it’s why I keep accidentally falling asleep when you’re here.”
Russell rubbed at his arm. “You need the sleep. Accidental or not, you need it,” he said. “For what it’s worth, I’m glad I can bring you some sense of safety or comfort. You deserve that.” He cleared his throat. “So… I ask again, how much sleep do you wanna get?”
“I could be rebellious and say five.”
“Five works. I’ll make sure you’re in bed by one-thirty, then. And I can either stay past that so you can sleep, or I can head home, and you can feel free to call if you need me. Okay?”
Theodore stayed silent for what felt like far too long. He didn’t want to lean on Russell. He didn’t want to count on Russell. But, dammit, it was so hard not to. “Okay,” he finally said.
Russell gave his forearm a light squeeze. “Good. Come on, then. Let’s get another good minute or two of walking before we go sit our lazy butts down on the couch again.”
Theodore chuckled. “Works for me.”
Russell was good at sticking to his word and following through with his promises. That was what Theodore had figured out when, just before one-thirty, Russell paused the episode of Nurse Jackie they were watching and helped Theodore back to his bedroom. Theodore sat down on the edge of the mattress, eyes focused on Russell’s gentle movements as he leaned the cane up against the nightstand.
Everything Russell did seemed to be that way–gentle, calm, easy. Theodore had only really seen him be in a hurry on the occasions where he thought Theodore could be in danger. Russell cared for him, about him.
“Do…? Would you like to sleep in here?” Theodore asked.
Russell’s gaze shifted to his face. “Are you sure that’s something you’re ready for?”
“We’ve cuddled on the couch for hours, slept on the couch for hours. A-and Shane’s never been in this bed. It’s new. S-so… so no bad memories.”
Russell nodded. “I want you to think about this question and your answer before you respond. Are you asking me to spend the night in here with you because you want me in here, or are you asking because you think you have to in order to… keep me around?”
“I’m not offering sex.”
“I know. That’s not what I’m asking about.”
Theodore let out a breath. “I don’t know. If you want me to… to tell you the truth, I don’t know why I’m asking. I feel like it’s because I want you in here. I like how safe you make me feel and how… how warm you are and how warm you make me, but… but I don’t know.”
“How about you give it another date or two, hmm? I just wanna make sure it’s something you’re actually comfortable with first. I’m not here to push you into anything. I want this all to be at your pace. Not mine, not society’s. Yours,” Russell said.
“Thank you,” Theodore whispered.
“No problem.” Russell leaned down and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I’ll be on the couch if you need anything. Or if you just need to know I’m there. Goodnight, Theo.”
Theodore woke up early, like he usually did. He couldn’t remember the last time he had managed to sleep in on a weekend. Vera usually didn’t wake up until at least eight or nine, but he still woke up around six-thirty like it was a weekday.
Theodore pushed himself off the bed and headed for the door, hesitating as his hand touched the door knob. Russell was probably still in the living room. It was a Sunday, so he probably didn’t work unless he was called to a scene. Would Russell care if Theodore walked out in his sweatpants and t-shirt instead of jeans and a button-up of some kind?
Probably not. Russell had already seen him in his pajamas at least once, and he had never thrown a fit like Shane would have. That probably boded well.
He walked out of the bedroom, phone tucked into the pocket of his sweats. He headed for the living room first, just to see if Russell was still there.
A smile crossed Theodore’s face. Russell was sound asleep on the couch, a leg and an arm hanging over the side. Carefully, Theodore grabbed his ankle and helped the leg back onto the couch. He waited a moment to see if Russell would react or wake up. When he didn’t, Theodore moved his hand back to the pillow shoved beneath his head.
Theodore ran his fingers through Russell’s hair, earning a little smile from the detective. Theodore couldn’t help the smile that came to his own face. Russell’s resting face was incredibly calm and peaceful. The corners of his mouth were turned up just enough to give him the idea of a smile. Theodore had assumed that was a conscious decision when he was awake, but it must’ve just been the way his lips naturally rested.
He was a gorgeous man, not to mention an incredibly kind and generous man. Russell was practically perfect, and Theodore was still working to convince himself that perfection wasn’t being used to hide something else, something more sinister, something more… Shane-like.
“You’re starin’ at me,” Russell mumbled.
“Absolutely am not.”
Russell smiled, his eyes still closed. “What time is it?”
“Early. Umm, little after six-thirty.”
“Mm.” Russell lifted a hand and rubbed at his eye. “Everything okay?”
“Oh, yeah. Yeah, everything’s fine. I just can’t sleep in very well.”
Russell chuckled. “Clearly.” He opened his eyes and sat up on the couch. “Hungry?”
“Are you gonna make me pancakes if I am?”
“Depends if you want pancakes or not.”
Theodore snorted, shaking his head. He lowered himself to the couch, holding his cane between his thighs. “Do you work today?”
“Nah. Not unless I get called in for a homicide, but that’s unlikely. I’ve only worked one case in the time I’ve been partnerless.”
“Superiors prefer when you’re out in the field in pairs. In case something happens,” Russell said.
“In case… something happens.”
Russell nodded, bowing his head as he scrubbed his hands over his face. “You know, shot, stabbed, attacked. Stuff like that.”
“Jesus,” Theodore whispered. “I never even thought of that. You could… be killed on the job.”
Again, Russell nodded. “Yeah. I mean, we know it’s a possibility. You go out and do your job, help a few people, hope that no one… has it out for you because you wear a badge. You just hope you, you know, make it home at the end of the day.”
“That’s terrifying, Russell. God, how do you even…? How do you even get up and go to work, knowing that’s a possibility?”
Russell shrugged. “Harder some days than others. It’s a lot harder after… you read a news story about a fellow brother or sister in blue getting hurt or killed. But you make d. You do your job, and you go in. Helping people get the justice they deserve is what I started doing this for. So even on the days where it’s difficult, that reason keeps me going.”
“I can’t even… imagine.”
“Good.” Russell laughed, shaking his head. “Good. I don’t want you to have to imagine what it’s like to know today has a possibility of being it. I never want you to have to experience that. I want things for you to be like they are at the bookstore. You’re happy there. You love all the books and the people. I don’t want you to ever have to experience anything scarier than that in regards to work.”
Theodore pressed a kiss to Russell’s shoulder, closing his eyes. “I don’t wanna think about you getting hurt.”
“Me, neither,” Russell said simply.
Theodore drew in a breath, resting his chin on Russell’s shoulder. “Let me teach you to make cinnamon rolls?”
“Umm, absolutely. Ready to stand up?” Russell asked. Theodore nodded. Russell rose to his feet and stuck out a hand. Theodore grabbed it, happily accepting the help to his feet. “Are we making cinnamon rolls from scratch?”
“Do you want to? Because I can get one of the premade ones from the fridge if you don’t–”
“I want to. Yeah. If that was your plan? One hundred percent.”
Theodore took a step away from Russell, grabbing his hands instead. “Russell… What…?”
“You can ask what you wanna ask. I won’t be mad, no matter what it is.”
“What are you hiding with the niceties?”
“Not a… Shane-like personality, that’s for sure.”
“Why do you…? Why are you so willing to go the extra mile for me? To make sure the thing we end up doing is exactly what I was initially thinking of, and not some slight variation of it?” Theodore asked.
Russell cleared his throat. “I… grew up with an abusive father. First ten years of my life. He was abusive toward my mom, primarily, and I know what it does to people, and I have a… faint idea of how to treat people that have been through it without making them feel like you’re patronizing them.”
“Christ,” Theodore whispered. “I-I’m so sorry, Russell.”
“Hey, it’s not like it’s your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I… I made you tell me.”
Russell’s mouth scrunched up at one corner as he shook his head. “You didn’t make me do anything, Theo. If I didn’t wanna tell you, I would’ve told you I didn’t want to talk about it today. I’m not… I don’t know how to phrase it. Umm, I’m okay telling people about that part of my life. I just don’t normally tell it as a date story.”
Theodore offered a little laugh. “Yeah, I probably wouldn’t tell it as a date story, either.” He let go of Russell’s hands, grabbing his cane instead. “I-if I… lean up and kiss your cheek, you’re not gonna move your head, right?”
“I’m not gonna move my head,” Russell promised.
Theodore leaned up and pressed a kiss to Russell’s cheek. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“My pleasure, Theo.” Russell held out a crooked arm. “Shall we go make some cinnamon rolls?”
Unable to fight the smile spreading across his face, Theodore slipped his arm through Russell’s. “We shall.”
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