Books & Badges – Chapter Forty-Three

NOT EDITED

Theodore awoke in the darkness of Russell’s living room. He glanced around for a moment, his brow furrowed. He didn’t feel Russell behind him, nor was the man’s arm still wrapped around him. He sat up, reaching out to grab his cane from where Russell had leaned it against the end table.

Pushing himself to his feet, Theodore rubbed at his eye with his free hand. After a little bit of walking around, Theodore made his way back to Russell’s office. He cracked open the door, eyes landing on Russell. He sat in the middle of the floor, papers spread out all around him.

“Russ?”

Russell lifted his head, though he didn’t turn around.

Theodore cleared his throat. “Russell?”

This time, he turned to look at him. “Hey. What’re you doing up?”

“I could ask you the same question, Russ.”

“Just… working through it all.”

“You need to sleep, Russ.”

“Yeah… I know. I’ll get there.”

Theodore walked into the room, stopping at Russell’s side. Tentatively, he laid a hand on the back of Russell’s head, burying his fingers in the detective’s dark hair. Russell let out a long breath, dropping his head to rest on Theodore’s leg. “Do you wanna talk about it, Russ?”

“I miss him,” Russell whispered.

“I know you do.”

“I just need this to all be over with. Christ, I keep hoping I’ll wake up and have a text from him, asking if we’re still meeting for coffee.”

“Of course you do. He was like a dad to you. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like if I lost my dad, and I spent a long time unrightfully angry at him because of Shane.”

Russell sniffled, tilting his head back to look at Theodore. “I have to see their faces every single day. Knowing that I have to look at them and pretend like I don’t think they murdered my partner and my fucking dad is…” He shook his head. “I don’t know if I can do it. That’s why I’m awake.”

“I know you can do it. You’re strong, Russell, and you’re tough as hell.”

“You think so?”

“I know so.”

Russell offered a small smile, patting Theodore’s thigh before dropping his hand to the floor again. “I have a phone number for this cop that Vince knew. Police chief in L.A.. I-I think they were poker buddies or something, but Vince always said that if I needed something that I couldn’t get through the station, I should call this guy, tell him I’m Vince’s boy. I’m considering… using that number. Picked up the phone a few times already. That’s, umm, that’s another reason I’m awake.”

“What would you use it for?” Theodore asked.

“I don’t want Andrew to look for what these guys did or why they did it. It’s dangerous, and I-I can’t get him killed. But this guy… He could find that information for me.”

Theodore cleared his throat. “And Vince trusted this guy?”

“Yeah. A lot.”

“Well… for what it’s worth, based on what I know about you, I trust Vince’s judgment on him. And if you want to call this guy, I’m on your side.”

“You’re on my side,” Russell repeated. He chuckled, pulling away from Theodore. The chuckle quickly devolved into a sob. Theodore lowered himself to the floor, setting his cane aside as he pulled Russell to his chest with his free hand. Russell wrapped a hand around his arm, fingers biting into Theodore’s skin.

“It’s gonna be okay,” Theodore whispered, smoothing a hand over Russell’s hair. “It’s… it’s all gonna be okay.”

***

Theodore walked into the living room and held out a water bottle. Russell grabbed it, holding it to his chest as he whispered, “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Theodore leaned down and pressed a kiss to the top of Russell’s head. He rounded the couch and sat down beside the man, holding his cane between his knees. “Feeling better?”

“Yeah. Guess I just needed to break for a little bit.” He offered a smile. “Sorry I broke after you told me you were on my side. I just… I’ve got Andrew and Emelia, but I haven’t had anyone blatantly say that kind of thing to me in so long. It’s weird to, uh, to feel cared for, I guess. I gotta take care of my mom and my brother, help make sure my sister’s bills get paid…” He shook his head. “I don’t know. I-I just need you to know you didn’t say anything wrong. You just made me feel really fuckin’ nice.”

“You deserve to feel cared for, Russell. All you’ve done since we saw each other again at the bookstore is care for me, made me feel cared for. What kind of monster would I be if I didn’t return that favor for my boyfriend?”

One corner of Russell’s mouth lifted. “That sounds real nice coming outta your mouth. Boyfriend.”

“Yeah?” Theodore asked. Russell nodded. “It makes me nervous to say it, but I love the way it makes me feel when I think about it. All fluttery in my chest, y’know?”

“Yeah, that’s how I feel every time I think about you.”

Heat rose to Theodore’s cheeks. “You do?”

“Theo, thinkin’ about you makes me feel like I’m fawning over my first crush. You do all kinds of crazy fluttery things to me.”

“Good fluttery things?”

Russell snorted. “Yeah, very good.”

Theodore, despite being the one who had brought up the matter of feelings, desperately needed a change in topic. Shane had never been one for sharing anything, especially good things about the way being with Theodore felt. He wanted to be comfortable with it when it came to Russell, but he knew it would take much more time to get there.

He cleared his throat. “What’s your plan now? It’s almost four in the morning.”

“Yeah,” Russell said quietly. “I don’t know. If I can make progress today–good progress–then I can make tomorrow just for us and Vera, just for Halloween. And I want that so damn badly.”

“Do you know that guy’s number?”

“It’s in my office.”

Theodore nodded. “Then let’s go make some progress.”


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2 thoughts on “Books & Badges – Chapter Forty-Three

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