Books & Badges – Chapter Twenty

NOT EDITED

For the fifth time in the last week, Russell sat on the couch in Theodore’s house, a plate on his lap and Theodore at his side. That night, the dessert they’d made had been macadamia nut cookies. To say Russell loved them was still an understatement.

“Hey, umm… question,” Theodore said, his voice quiet.

“What’s up?”

“This is weird for me to even… offer, but, umm, Halloween is next Monday, and Vera wants you to be there. She really likes you, and she wants to know if you wanna go trick-or-treating with us.”

“Do you want me to?”

“You answer before I do.”

Russell nodded. “I’d be… honored to go trick-or-treating with you two,” he said. “Your turn.”

“Asking you to come with is… nerve-wracking for me. I mean, it shows that I have some sort of trust for you, and it scares me. What might happen after you realize that trust? What might happen when you decide to find ways to turn it against me?”

Russell shifted on the couch, keeping his hands to himself as he turned to face the man. He’d love to hold Theodore’s hand or touch his cheek, but he didn’t want Theodore to feel like he was trying to control the situation with comforting touches. “I understand why it’s nerve-wracking to you. I understand why it’s hard for you. If you don’t want me there–”

“I do want you there. It’s just scary… to ask you to be there, scary to think about what might happen once you are,” Theodore said.

Russell nodded. “Of course. My mistake.” He offered a smile, giving himself time to think through the little stutter of his heart and flip of his stomach. Theodore wanted him to go with. That was so much more than Russell had been expecting to come of the evening. “If you’re scared of what will happen if I go with, I won’t. You can tell Vera I have to work that day. Which, I mean, for all intents and purposes, is the truth. I do work, uh, seven to six that Monday. If you’re scared, I don’t want to push you. Hell, I don’t wanna push you even if you aren’t scared. But if you don’t want to have to worry about me being there, I’ll take the fall from Vera.”

Theodore stared at him for several silent seconds, searching his face. Finally, he nodded. “Give me… until tomorrow?”

“Works for me.”

“Great,” Theodore whispered. He leaned into Russell’s side, dropping his head to his shoulder. “Thank you for, umm… Well, thank you for being you.”

Russell smiled, resting his head against Theodore’s. “No problem, Theo. No problem at all.”

***

Halfway through their second episode of Nurse Jackie, Rusell’s phone rang. He cleared his throat, lifting himself enough to pull the device from his back pocket.

“Do you need to take that?” Theodore asked.

“Uh… I’ll leave that up to you. It’s work, so it’s a homicide. If I don’t answer, they’ll call one of the other detectives.”

“Take it.”

“Are you sure?”

Theodore nodded. “You said you haven’t gotten a ton of cases since you’ve been partnerless. Take it.”

“Thank you.” Russell accepted the call and pressed his phone to his ear. “Steele.”

“Hey, Russell. This is Officer Beckard. We got called out for a disturbance, but it definitely appears that that disturbance is a homicide. You want it?”

“Yeah. Text me the address and I’ll be there soon?”

“Sure thing. We’re already setting up barricades to keep people out. You want us to do anything else in the meantime?”

“If there are people out and about, do me a favor and question them about what they saw, what they heard. I’ll be there soon,” Russell said.

“Will do, Russell. See you in a bit.”

Russell ended the call and pushed himself to his feet, tucking his phone into his pocket. “I’m sorry to cut Nurse Jackie short, but the next time you want me over, I’ll be here.”

Theodore nodded. “It’s okay. And… sounds like a plan.”

Russell leaned down and pressed a kiss to Theodore’s forehead, closing his eyes as the shorter man laid a hand on his cheek. “Night, Theo.”

“Night. Good luck.”

“Thank you.”

“A-and… and stay safe.”

Russell nodded. “I will. I’ll even text you every… half hour to let you know I’m okay.”

Theodore smiled. “Half an hour. I’ll hold you to it.” He reached out and squeezed Russell’s hand. “Talk soon.”

***

Russell pulled up a few feet from the yellow crime scene tape and shifted his car into park. He grabbed his phone from the cupholder and sent a quick text to Theodore to let him know he had arrived safe and sound at the scene.

He cut the engine and pulled the key from the ignition. Though he’d prefer to be at Theodore’s, watching Nurse Jackie, he was still glad to have a case. A case meant he was useful at the station, even without a partner. That would always be a plus in the grand scheme of things, even if it cut his time with Theodore short.

Russell figured he could make up for it later on, maybe after Halloween.

For now, he had a crime scene to work.

Climbing out of the car, he stuffed his keys and phone back into his pocket. He was still in his jeans and a New York Law hoodie, but dressiness and clothing professionalism didn’t matter much at nearly midnight. Hell, Officer Beckford had straight up seen him work a crime scene in his pajamas before. Jeans instead of sweats with cinched ankles was certainly a step up.

Russell ducked under the yellow crime scene tape and made his way down the sidewalk, toward the four officers standing closer to where the body must’ve been. “Beckford. What do we got?”

Kurt Beckford lifted his head. Hands tucked into the pockets of his uniform pants, he stepped away from the group. “Dead man. White, maybe in his seventies. We haven’t moved him. He was found on his back, but the caller found him on his stomach and rolled him over to see if he was alive. He’s been shot six times in the chest.”

“Overkill,” Russell mumbled. If nothing else, it was a good indicator that this particular homicide hadn’t been just a random attack. It had, at the very least, been a crime of passion. Whether it was pre-planned or not, Russell couldn’t be sure, but six bullets to the chest was generally too excessive for a robbery gone wrong.

Russell stepped closer to the body, a hand moving up to his mouth. “Oh, my God,” he whispered.

“Do you know him?”

The detective nodded. “He, umm, he’s one of ours. He was the detective that taught me the ropes when I was promoted. He’s been retired for the last two years or so, but…” He cleared his throat. “Do you have an ETA on forensics?”

“They should be here in about ten minutes,” Kurt said.

“Good. He… he deserves a hell of a lot better than this.” Russell shook his head, taking a step back. “I-I need a few. If I’m not back here when forensics shows up, call me?”

“Are you sure? I can call a different detective, Russell. There’s no need to put yourself through some kind of hell just so–”

“I’m okay,” Russell assured with a nod. “I just need a moment.”

“All right, man. I’ll let you know when they’re here.”

Russell nodded and headed back for his car. He leaned back against the hood and pulled his phone from his pocket. After unlocking it, he selected Theodore’s number from his contact list. He didn’t want to unload on Theodore by any means, but he did want to talk to someone calming, and Theodore was incredibly calming to every damn fiber in his being.

“Russell?” Theodore asked after the third ring.

“Yeah, hey.”

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Umm, yeah, I’m good. Just waiting on forensics, so… thought I’d give my favorite man a call, let him know everything was going okay.”

Theodore chuckled softly. “Flattered.” He cleared his throat. “Are you sure everything’s okay? That… you’re okay? You just sound different than usual.”

“Oh, I-I’m okay. It’s just, you know, even after working homicide for a while, you still never really get used to seeing what people are capable of doing to their fellow human,” Russell said. If nothing else, that part was at least the truth. He always found himself surprised at what humans were capable of doing to one another. This time was just a little… different, was all, a little more personal, a little closer to home.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Theodore asked.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.” Russell cleared his throat. “All good.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, you don’t sound okay, or good.”

“Aww, thanks. Also, is that you caring about little old me?”

“It is. So don’t be an asshole and keep lying to me,” Theodore said.

“Some… cases are more difficult than others. This one’s more difficult.”

“Do you wanna talk about it?”

Russell looked down, grinding the toe of his tennis shoe into the gravel. “Not right now. Right now, I’ve gotta… stay on the case, you know? Not let my head wander too much. But… maybe later?”

“ ‘Maybe later’ works for me. Until then… good luck.”

“Thanks,” Russell whispered. “I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”

“Okay. Umm… when you’re done at the crime scene, are you going into the station?”

“Probably not. I wasn’t scheduled to work this Monday, so once I’m done questioning anyone that might be awake around here, I’ll probably get a couple hours of sleep before I head in and see what forensics has turned up, go from there.” Russell closed his eyes, scrubbing a hand over one side of his face. “Why?”

“J-just… If you want to, you can come back here, grab some sleep. In a bed.”

Russell opened his eyes. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Positive,” Theodore said. “I mean, the worst possible outcome is that it turns out I can’t handle sleeping in bed with someone yet, and one of us sleeps on the couch. And then I’d apologize and… we could make breakfast together.”

“Well, that does sound pretty damn appealing,” Russell said. “I really only need to talk to the gal who called this in, and then there are a few open places of business on this street. I need to talk to people inside, see if they heard or saw anything. After that, I can come on over. Maybe two hours? Three?”

“Works for me. I’ll see you soon, Russell.”

“See you soon, Theo.” Russell ended the call and tucked his phone into his pocket. With a sigh, he pushed himself away from his car and started back toward the crime scene. It certainly wasn’t what he wanted that morning, but what he ‘wanted’ didn’t change the description of his job, and regardless of the body waiting for him at the crime scene, he had signed up for that, so he didn’t have too much room to mope or complain. “Time to get back to work,” Russell whispered.


A/N: 😟

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