Later that evening, as promised, Russell had picked Theodore up from the bookstore at five. Now, they walked through the grocery store, picking out ingredients for the brownies with cookie dough frosting Theodore had found on Pinterest.
“For the record,” Theodore started, “if it wasn’t for one of your hands being busy with holding the basket and one of mine busy with the cane, I’d hold your hand.”
Russell chuckled. “I’d hold yours, too.” A pause. “We still could. You’d only have to let go to grab something.”
“Sold.” Theodore slipped his hand into Russell’s, a smile coming to his face as Russell threaded their fingers together. “This is… nice. Never in a million years would Shane have been caught dead holding hands with me.”
“I’d like to be caught alive holding your hand any day of the week.” Russell lifted Theodore’s hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it. “This is nice for me, too. I haven’t really had this since I came out, and before that, I always felt like something was off. I was hiding from a large piece of myself, and even before I knew knew, there was a part of me that was at least, umm, aware. But this feels damn good and damn right. Totally out in the open, I’m not hiding anything from myself, and the guy holding my hand is super cute.”
Heat rose to Theodore’s cheeks. “Thank you. You’re not too bad yourself, Russell.”
Russell chuckled. “Thank you.” He squeezed Theodore’s hand. “What’s the first ingredient on our list?”
“To the butter.”
Theodore snorted. “Yeah, to the butter. Lead the way, dork.”
After their trip to the grocery store, Russell drove out to Theodore’s parents’ place and parked in their driveway. “I’ll stay here while you go get Vera.”
“Are you sure? It might take a few to round up all her things.”
“I don’t mind waiting. I’m just… still in a headspace where I can’t risk your mom asking me if I’m an asshole. Like I said, that doesn’t bother me much, especially given the reason she asked. But my head can’t handle it right now.”
“Okay.” Theodore leaned over and pressed a kiss to Russell’s cheek. “Back in a few.”
Russell smilled. “I’ll be here.”
Theodore climbed out of the car, closing the door behind him. Adjusting his grip on his cane, he made his way up to the house. His mom opened the door before he even got to it. “Evening, Mom.”
“Evening, baby.” She nodded toward the car. “Gina in a new car, or Russell?”
“You feel safe enough around him to let him drive you around now?”
Theodore nodded. “He makes me feel safe. It’s… nice.”
Bonnie smiled. “That’s great, baby. He doesn’t wanna come in?”
“This case he’s working has been difficult for him. He doesn’t want to risk you interrogating him,” Theodore said. “He says that doesn’t bother him on a good day. He’s glad you want to make sure he’s a good guy, but his head isn’t in the right place to handle it right now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetheart. Do you want me to apologize to him?”
“I don’t think he wants you to. Like I said, he’s glad you want to make sure he’s a good guy, that he’s good to me. He just can’t bring himself to get past the idea it might happen right now.”
Bonnie nodded. “You be sure to let me know if I should apologize, okay? I don’t want to tear you two apart. He’s a very nice man.”
Theodore smiled. “I will, Mom.” He cleared his help. “Do you mind helping me get Vera’s stuff?”
“Not at all. Come on.”
Theodore put Vera’s things into the backseat of Russell’s car before helping her into the seat. “All right. All buckled in?”
Theodore couldn’t help the smile that came to his face. “All righty. Gonna close the door now,” Okay, Daddy.”
Theodore closed the door and made his way around to the passenger seat. Russell’s leaned across and pushed it open before he reached it. “Thank you.”
“No problem, Theo.”
Theodore slid into the passenger seat and closed the door. It wasn’t until after he buckled his seat belt that Russell started the car and backed out of the driveway. Tentatively, Theodore reached over and laid a hand on Russell’s thigh. Russell looked down at it before looking over at Theodore. Theodore offered a smile, which Russell thankfully returned.
The detective dropped a hand to cover Theodore’s, curling his fingers beneath Russell’s palm. “If we do this again, I’ll make sure to have a booster seat for her. Neither of us is heading to jail for it, but I’d feel more comfortable knowing she was safe from things outta my control.”
“I have one at the house from when I was still driving. If… I let you drive us anywhere again, I’ll make sure to set it up.”
Russell lifted Theodore’s hand only long enough to press a kiss to the back of it. Theodore’s heart fluttered, heat rushing to his cheeks. It would never cease to amaze him just how much Russell’s actions affected him. He had been deprived of true affection for so damn long that everything Russell did felt like the first time, and Theodore was always left feeling like a blushing virgin.
Not that he was complaining.
Russell asked him… something, but Theodore was too distracted by the slow caress of Russell’s thumb across his knuckles to pay close enough attention to the words.
“Sorry, uh… say that again?”
One corner of Russell’s mouth lifted. “Want me to help with supper when we get to your place?”
“I thought, umm… maybe we could go to your place?”
“Only if you’re okay with it. For starters, I’m certain you didn’t bring your meds with you.” Russell smiled, but he didn’t respond. “And outside of that, Vera and I enjoyed playing Mario with you. You and Vera could stay occupied with that while I warm up the leftovers Mom gave me.”
After a moment, Russell nodded. “All right. We’ll swing by your place, get some clothes for the both of you, and then head to mine.” He lifted his eyes to the rearview mirror. “That work for you, sweetheart?”
“Yeah. Daddy and I talked about it before we left Grandma and Grandpa’s.”
“Awesome.” Russell gave Theodore’s hand a tight squeeze, adjusting the grip of his other hand on the steering wheel. Theodore leaned back in his seat, trying to focus on this feeling being normal rather than new.
No matter what it was, he hoped he could get used to it for a long, long time.
A few hours after supper, Theodore tucked Vera into Russell’s bed and came back out to the living room. He stopped behind the couch, laying a hand on Russell’s chest.
Russell tilted his head back against the couch. “Hey. She go down okay?”
“Yeah. She likes that your bed is bigger than hers.”
Russell chuckled. “Glad to hear it.” He reached up, laying his hand over Theodore’s. “You gonna come sit over here so I can fix your shoulder?”
“You use the word ‘fix’, and that concerns me. You aren’t a chiropractor.”
He smiled. “No, but your shoulder isn’t out of place. It’s tense and overworked. You need a massage.”
“It’s not gonna turn into anything other than me rubbing your shoulder, Theo. Nothing sexual about it.”
“No ulterior motive?”
“If the ulterior motive is to help you feel better, then, yeah. If not, no.”
Theodore couldn’t help the little smile that tugged at one corner of his mouth. “Okay, you’ve won me over.” He patted Rusell’s chest and walked around the couch. After only a moment of hesitation, Theodore sat down between Russell’s legs.
The detective kicked out the footrest. “Tada.”
Theodore chuckled. “You’re a dork.”
“Yeah. I like it that way, though.”
Russell pressed a kiss to Theodore’s shoulder. “Shirt on or off?”
“Umm… does it matter?”
“No. I can try and massage out that knot either way. It just depends on which one makes you more comfortable, Theo.”
“Well, umm…” Theodore cleared his throat. “Shirt on.”
“Okie dokie.” Russell moved his hands to Theodore’s shoulders and, without bargaining for what he’d get in return, he set to work on the tense, tired muscles in Theodore’s shoulders and neck.
“That feels… amazing,” Theodore whispered.
“I’m glad. Ever had a massage before, Theo?”
“No. I’ve given a few, but I was always talked out of receiving them. Shane used them as bargaining chips in exchange for favors. Eventually, I’d say nevermind, he’d get pissed that I wasted his time, I’d apologize and tell him we can do the massage then, and then he’d say he didn’t feel like it anymore. But this…”
Russell stopped just long enough to press a kiss to Theodore’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Theo. Thank you for being comfortable enough to share that with me.”
“Thank you for making me feel comfortable enough to share it.”
“No problem, Theo.”
Theodore laid a hand over one of Russell’s, stilling the detective’s movements. “I want you to know that… the trust I have for you right now terrifies me. I’m still suspicious about many aspects of you, but I trust the majority of you, and you deserve to know just where that stands.”
“Thank you,” Russell whispered.
“No problem.” Theodore patted Russell’s hand before dropping his own back to his lap. Without missing a beat, Russell’s thumbs went back to working their magic.
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