Just before midnight, Theodore fell asleep on the couch, his head on Russell’s chest. Russell paused Nurse Jackie and set the remote on the end table. He shut off the lamp and wrapped an arm around Theodore. He wasn’t sure how sleep would go for him that night, but he hoped he could manage more than an hour or so. If he ever wanted to find the bastard that had killed Vincent–not to mention Lauren–he would need sleep. He needed even just one day of being well-rested and hangover headache free.
Tomorrow was a Saturday, but that wouldn’t stop him from working. He hoped Saturday would be that well-rested day he needed to gain some traction on the case. As he closed his eyes, he crossed his fingers for a good Saturday.
Unsurprisingly, when Russell’s alarm went off, Theodore was already awake and off the couch. Russell pressed the button on the side of his watch, silencing the alarm. Before he could even sit up and open the drawer of the end table, Theodore walked into the room, a water bottle in his hand.
Russell smiled faintly, grabbing the bottle from him. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Theodore sat down beside him, hands wrapped around his cane. “Working today?”
Russell tossed the orange prescription bottle back into the drawer as he swallowed the pill. “From home, yeah. Just little things here and there, I guess. But overall, nothing I can’t do from here. Why?”
“I was thinking Vera and I could stay for a while. I mean… if you wanted.”
“I’d love that.”
Theodore smiled. Hesitantly, he patted Russell’s thigh before drawing his hand back to himself. “Umm… I scheduled a playdate for Vera today at noon with Gina’s son. Do you mind if I give her your address so she can come pick us up?”
“Not at all.”
“No problem.” Russell cleared his throat, pulling a leg to his chest. He rested his chin on his knee for a moment before turning to face Theodore, cheek falling to his knee instead. “Can I ask you something?”
“If Shane’s the only person you ever slept with, is Vera the result of a surrogate?”
“Yeah. Umm…” Theodore cleared his throat. “Gina’s son is Vera’s twin. Uh… Gina and I both wanted kids, we were both single, and we both worked to accumulate the funds for IVF. After two tries and an extra nine months, Vera and Boyd were born.”
“So you have a son, too?”
“Well… technically. For the purpose of logistics, I’m his uncle, just like Gina is Vera’s aunt.” Theodore met his gaze. “Does that bother you?”
“God, no. I was just curious. I’ve been curious about it the whole time.” Russell reached out and squeezed his arm. “So Vera and Boyd don’t know this, either?”
“No. Initially, we had planned on telling them once they were old enough to understand the concept of it, but Shane kept me from hanging out with Gina, and that kept Vera away from Boyd. We still want to tell them, but we’d like to wait until they’re not strangers anymore.” A pause. “They go to school together, but they aren’t best friends or anything. We just want it to be a bit of knowledge that doesn’t harm them in any way.”
Russell rubbed a hand down Theodore’s arm. “You’ll do great. And the kids, I bet they’ll take it great. I don’t know about Boyd, but Vera’s smart, and she loves the heck outta you. She’ll understand why that information had to wait, and it won’t harm her. She’s got you for a daddy, Theo. She’s got the best support system she could ask for, Theo. It’ll be okay.”
Theodore smiled, leaning into Russell briefly. “Thank you.”
“You wanna help me make breakfast? Won’t be too long before Vera gets up.”
“I would love to.”
“Awesome,” Theodore whispered. In his usual hesitant way, he laid a hand on Russell’s back. Russell loved the warmth of Theodore’s hand between his shoulders, even though it didn’t happen often. Theodore still had plenty of issues when it came to physical touch, and Russell expected it to be that way for quite some time. But it didn’t change how much he loved his touch in the meantime.
“Do you need a moment? Or are you good?”
“I’m good. Good as I can be.” Rusell offered a smile. “Thanks for checkin’.”
Theodore nodded, patting Russell on the back before he rose to his feet. One hand on his cane, he stuck out his free hand. Russell slapped his hand into Theodore’s, happily accepting the help to his feet. “Thank you for massaging my shoulder last night, Russ. I can finally walk without it hurting every time I move the cane.”
“My pleasure. I hated seeing you in even more pain than usual,” Russell said. “Have you ever considered massaging your hip, too? It’s called massage therapy for a reason, you know.”
“Yeah, my mom suggested that, too. Attending physical therapy in the beginning was hard enough. People…”
“Make you nervous,” Russell finished for him.
Theodore nodded. “Even women make me nervous. My physical therapist was a woman, and I was still…”
“That’s okay. After you’ve been subjected to the darker parts of humanity, it’s hard to trust anyone. It’s hard not to be nervous around others. They don’t have to remind you of your abuser. They just have to be capable of reminding you of that darkness. Anyone’s capable of that.”
“Thank you for being the first person to explain that in a way that doesn’t make me feel crazy.”
Russell smiled. “I hated when I was in your shoes, when people would talk down to me or pity me, when people would try to explain what I was feeling with these long, deepy analogies and metaphors. I don’t wanna be that person. I wanna be the person I wished I had when I was in your shoes.”
“I think you’re doing a great job of it. I mean, if the person you wished you had was simply… incredible,” Theodore said.
Russell laid his hands on Theodore’s cheeks and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “It was, and thank you.” Theodore only nodded. “If you ever want to, I can try massaging your hip. I’m more versed in shoulders and backs, but I’m sure a couple chats with my sister and a few trips through Google would help me get the gist of it.”
Theodore chuckled. “Tempting. I’ll consider it, thank you.” He cocked his head to the side. “Chats with your sister?”
“Yeah, she used to be a massage therapist. I still have issues pop up from that, uh, car accident sometimes, so she walks me through some of the massages I can do myself. I’ve also picked up a thing or two for other people’s shoulders and backs.”
“Now, that, I was aware of.”
Russell smiled. “Enough about me, huh? Come on. Let’s go make some breakfast. Most important meal of the day, right?”
“Right.” Theodore grabbed his hand. “Let’s go make some breakfast then.”
Russell sat in his little home office, one of the only rooms he had appropriately ‘decorated’ in his house. It was where he kept his family photos, his high school diploma, his college degree. He had never had an office in any of the places he had stayed when his family had bounced around from place to place. He figured that gave him a sense of security when it came to making the room appear less cold and a bit more homey.
He’d been alone in the house for nearly half an hour. As planned, Gina had picked up Theodore and Vera for their playdate around noon. Since Theodore and Vera’s usual Friday chat had been replaced by time at Russell’s, they planned on spending most of the day together. Russell took no issue with that, despite Theodore’s vocal fears that he would despise the very idea of it.
Russell let out a breath, flipping open his in-progress case file for Vince’s murder. The day before, during his conversation with Marilyn Briggs, he had discovered some details about the missing car that concerned him, to put it gently. For instance, Marilyn had a security camera outside the house, pointed at the driveway. She had given that footage to the police, and as far as she knew, nothing important had come from it.
Or, at least, the detectives had never followed up with her on the security footage, either.
He had requested access to the file for the missing car, but he’d yet to gain permission for it. It was a robbery case rather than homicide. It needed to run through a separate approval system before being handed off to him, as though a homicide officer glancing at the damn thing would jeopardize the case no one had remotely tried to make progress in since it began.
Outside of the chain of command protocol, Marilyn had promised to find the original file of the security footage and send a copy to him. Though he was still waiting for that, he felt reasonably confident in the fact that she would send it. There was no chain of command or approval system. There was only a woman who still wanted her damn car back.
Russell looked down as his phone dinged with a text message from Theodore.
Theo: Do you want us to join you for supper tonight? By which I mean, would you like us to bring supper so you’ll eat food tonight?
A little smile tugged at one corner of Russell’s mouth. It’d been so damn long since he’d been in a meaningful relationship, but even the simplest texts from Theodore made him feel that the wait had been worth it.
Russell: I’ll be fine if you wanna spend the evening with Vera and/or Gina
Theo: Are you sure?
Russell: Yeah I’ll manage. Have fun with your BFF, Theo. You deserve that.
Theo: We’ll bring you something after. Do you like Chinese food?
Russell: I do.
Theo: Perfect. My place or yours?
Russell: Which do you prefer?
Theo: I don’t know.
Theo: I like that your house isn’t filled with… Shane, but your house is also very, uh
Russell: Empty as hell?
Theo: A bit.
Russell: We could sit in my office. That’s not empty.
Theo: A grand idea.
Theo: You have an office?
Russell: Yeah down the hall from my room. There’s also a whole master bedroom/closet/bathroom on the other side of the kitchen. Empty except the laundry room though
Theo: Okay, definitely your place, because I need to see this secret section of your house.
Russell cleared his throat, shifting in his chair. He tended to avoid the master bedroom section of the house, but it wouldn’t kill him to show Theodore around just this once.
Russell: Sounds like a plan to me, Theo. I’ll see you then.
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