Work had been far stranger than Theodore had been prepared for. He couldn’t help but be worried about Russell, no matter how hard he tried to think about anything else. On top of his worry for Russell, the fear of how much he cared about Russell sat heavy on his mind.
He had cared about Shane more than anything, and that had come back to bite him in the ass rather quickly. Theodore couldn’t push down the fear that it would be the same with Russell, and his worry about the man’s safety only served as fuel to the fire.
A hand came down on the desk, gentle enough not to make much noise, but present enough to draw Theodore’s attention to Gina’s face. “Hey.”
Gina smiled. “Hey. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m good. Why?”
“You seem, umm… I don’t know. I guess you’re a bit more… withdrawn than usual.”
Theodore forced a smile onto his face. Thankfully, he had no doubts that it looked genuine. He had gotten damn good at them in his time with Shane. “I’m fine. I’m a little tired and a little sore, but that’s about it.”
Gina raised a nearly suggestive brow. “Your hip, or…?”
Theodore couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “You are a pervert. It’s my hip.”
“What can I say? I’m just making sure Russell’s treating you right.”
“Russell and I will continue to not have sex for… what I imagine is the foreseeable future,” Theodore whispered.
“That’s okay. Taking your time with it and making sure you’re ready for it is the right call. It’s the healthy call.”
Despite his worry for Russell that day, Theodore couldn’t help but want to talk about their relationship the same way he usually did. Hell, maybe that would help him focus on something other than the worry. “You think it’s the right call… for Russell? Or just for me?”
“Have you talked about it with Russell?”
“No. He hasn’t brought it up, either.”
“Think… maybe he doesn’t care if he’s getting laid?”
“I don’t know,” Theodore whispered. “It’s hard for me to admit that he’s not in this relationship just to…”
“Sleep with you?”
“Ah.” Gina nodded, crossing her arms over the counter. She looked around for a moment before leaning closer to Theodore. “Have you asked Russell what he’s into?”
“Because unless he’s… the greatest abuser I’ve ever seen, he’s not like Shane. A-and it’s okay for you to be scared that he is. It’s expected for you to be scared that he is. But I think it’s unlikely that he is. He showed genuine vulnerability to you. Hell, he showed that vulnerability to me when he came here looking for you. He has no problem with you having a day with Vera, with me, with your parents. He leaves you alone with other people. He doesn’t drop in unexpectedly like Shane used to. You remember that shit?”
After a moment, Theodore nodded. “Yeah, before he made me stop going out shopping with you and whatnot. He’d ‘accidentally’ end up at the same stores as us.”
“Yeah, a big coincidence, right?”
“Shane didn’t bide his time, Theo. He sunk his claws into you as soon as he could, and then he started separating you from everyone who could possibly tell you that he was toxic, that he was abusive, that you didn’t deserve it. If Russell starts cutting you off from people? Run. Run the hell away from that man. But right now, I don’t think he’s looking to dominate you, in or out of the bedroom.”
Theodore let out a breath. Despite the fact that the reassurance had only come from Gina–not Russell–he still felt comforted. Just like every other time he sought advice or reassurance from his only real friend, he felt comforted. Eventually, he knew he would have to take his concerns up with Russell if he wanted true relief, but for now, he couldn’t trust Russell’s word nearly as much as he could trust Gina’s.
“Thank you,” Theodore said.
She smiled, unfolding her arms to squeeze his hand. “I didn’t let Shane scare me away from you forever, and I’m sure as hell not going to let your rational worry scare me away, either.”
Theodore gave her hand a tight squeeze. “You’re a lifesaver, Gina.”
“I’m gonna let that go straight to my ego.”
He snorted. “Please do. Your ego deserves it.” He pulled his hand back to himself as his phone vibrated in his pocket. He shifted on his chair enough to grab the device.
“What’s that?” Gina asked.
“Text from Russell.” Theodore unlocked his screen and opened up the message.
Russell: We found it!! We found the fucking car! Forensics is on the way to check for prints. We. Found. It.
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