Books & Badges – Chapter Twenty-Nine

NOT EDITED

Theodore wasn’t sure when he and Russell had successfully fallen asleep, but he awoke on his good hip, his back pressed to Russell’s front. The detective’s arm was draped over his side, the face of his watch peeking out from under the sleeve of his sweatshirt. Theodore threaded his fingers through Russell’s and closed his eyes.

One of the best things about sleeping in the same bed as Russell was how damn warm the detective was. But despite how much he loved it, he unfortunately needed to get up and get ready for work.

Forcing his eyes open again, he slid out from under Russell’s arm and sat up. Behind him, Russell cleared his throat as he pulled his hand back to himself. Theodore pushed himself to his feet, carefully made his side of the bed, and combed his fingers through Russell’s hair. “Russell?”

“Mm?”

“I hate to do this to you, but you need to get up if you wanna take a shower and have time for breakfast before you leave.”

“Mmhmm.” Eyes still closed, Russell patted Theodore’s arm. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Theodore cleared his throat. “I, uh, I need to pee, and then the bathroom’s all yours.”

“Okay,” Russell said, his voice rough. Thankfully, Theodore was certain the roughness was from sleep rather than sadness. He reached back and squeezed Russell’s arm before pushing himself to his feet.

After he was done in the bathroom–including a quick wash of his face–he came back out to find Russell still on his stomach on the bed. “Russ?”

“Mm?”

“Bathroom’s all yours.”

“Mmhmm.”

Tentatively, Theo sat down on the bed. He twisted around just enough to lay a hand on Russell’s shoulder. “What happens if you go in late?”

“I’m on-call till I get there. Detective. Don’t even have to go into the station if I don’t wanna.” Russell cleared his throat. “But I’ve got shit to do.”

“I know you do. Do… do you want help getting up?”

“I can manage.” Russell drew in a long breath. “I… don’t know if I can manage. Guess that’d be more honest, I guess.”

“Will you let me help you up?” Theodore asked.

“Maybe. How’s your hip?”

“I carry my daughter to bed when she falls asleep on the couch. I’ll only be helping you sit up, maybe stand. My hip’s totally fine for that.”

“I think I’d like the help, then,” Russell said, his voice quiet.

Theodore pushed himself to his feet. “Scoot your butt over to this side.” Russell drew in a breath before rolling onto his side and scooting closer to Theodore. He grabbed Russell’s hands and, with little resistance from the detective, pulled him up so he was sitting. Theodore released one of his hands, reaching up to push Russell’s hair from his forehead instead. “You look like hell, Russ.”

Russell offered a smile. “Feel like it, too.”

“Maybe… maybe you should sleep in for a bit, see if that helps.”

“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be okay. The sooner I figure out who killed Vince… the sooner things can go back to normal. Close to it as possible, anyway.” Russell sighed. “I just need to solve the case. If I stay here to sleep in, I’m losing hours I could be–and should be–spending on the case.”

“Okay,” Theodore said softly. He wasn’t in any place to argue with him on that. Not only was the idea of arguing absolutely terrifying, but they weren’t exactly close enough that Theodore knew better than Russell how Russell handled things best. Grabbing both of Russell’s hands again, he tugged the detective to his feet. “Are you coming over tonight? Or is that… also hours you should be spending on the case?”

“I gotta have at least some sort of routine if I don’t wanna completely lose myself. I’ll be over tonight, I just don’t know what time. If… I’m not here by seven, call me?” Russell asked.

“If there’s been no sign of you by seven o’clock sharp, I’ll call you.”

Russell smiled. “Thank you.” He leaned up and pressed a kiss to Theodore’s forehead. “I’m gonna take a shower. I’ll leave the door unlocked, just in case you need anything else from in there. All right?”

“Okay. S-same goes for you. If you need anything… Let me know.”

“I will. Thank you.” Russell gave his hands a tight squeeze before releasing them and heading for the bathroom. He closed the door most of the way, leaving it unlatched.

Theodore let out a breath and grabbed his cane. He walked over to his computer desk, which still lacked a computer, and fed his goldfish. He missed having a computer set up there, but he missed having a large fish tank filled with little aquatic friends even more. Shane had taken both from him, killing hundreds of dollars worth of fish with a single swing of a baseball bat.

He heard the shower turn on, pulling him to thoughts of Russell rather than Shane. Theodore let out a heavy sigh, stepping away from the desk. He needed to worry about breakfast before he continued worrying about Russell.

He made his way to the kitchen and turned on the coffee pot before heading back to Vera’s room. “Baby girl? Are you awake?”

“Yeah.”

“How’re you feeling this morning?”

“Better.”

“Dizzy? Warm?” Theodore asked.

Vera shook her head. “I feel better.” She sat up, dropping her hands to her lap. “Does Russell feel better?”

“Russell’s fine, sweetheart.”

“Really? He was in the kitchen today. On the phone, I think? He sounded sad.”

Theodore crossed the room and sat down on the edge of her bed. “Russell’s a detective. You remember that?”

“Yeah. He fights bad guys with his shield.”

Theodore smiled. “Right. He fights bad guys for work. The bad guy that he’s fighting right now… hurt someone that he loves. It’s a little hard for him right now because when he goes to work… he’s only reminded about the person he loves being hurt, and he has to try and push through that feeling so he can fight the bad guy. So he’s a little sad, but he’s… he’s strong. He’ll be okay.”

“Is he just sad?” Vera asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Is he… is he mad?”

“No, not at you or me.” Theodore reached back and laid a hand on Vera’s knee. “If I ever believe that Russell is a danger to either of us, I will not let him back into this house. You will never have to live through anything like Shane ever again.”

“Promise?” Vera asked.

“I promise. You and I will not ever accept life under the thumb of another person like that again.”

Vera smiled. “Okay, Daddy.” She dropped a hand to cover his. “Can I help you make breakfast?”

One corner of Theodore’s mouth lifted. “Absolutely. Get changed outta your PJs, okay? I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”

“Okay.”

Theodore patted her knee before pushing himself to his feet. Out in the kitchen, he shifted his weight over to his cane to balance himself as he leaned up and grabbed the pancake mix from the cupboard. He’d have to ask Gina to take him to the grocery store after work so he could restock on pancake mix and syrup. Maybe he’d even pick up a container of fresh strawberries, just to add a bit of variety to their usual morning diet.

There had never been much variety allowed in any sense when Shane had been around. He had liked to keep things consistent. He wanted things done exactly the way he liked them, and that generally revolved around order and pattern.

Yeah, variety was definitely worth adding.


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