Theodore, dressed as close to Mario as he could get, walked alongside Russell and Vera on the sidewalk. While Vera held onto his free hand, occasionally skipping at his side, Russell seemed okay with brushing his fingers against Theodore’s every now and then. Since it made Theodore’s heart flutter every single time, he didn’t much mind it, either.
“All right, baby. I’m gonna stay back here again, okay?” Theodore asked.
“Okay.” Vera let go of Theodore’s hand, skipping around him to grab Russell’s instead. “Come on, Luigi.”
“Lead the way, Toad.”
Theodore snorted, watching Russell and Vera walk up to the house before them. Truthfully, before that night, Theodore hadn’t known a man could look good in a pair of dark blue overalls thrown over a green long-sleeved shirt, but Christ, did Russell look good in them. It didn’t exactly make him want to jump his bones by any means, but seeing him in that Luigi hat made his heart stutter in his chest. Seeing him in those blue overalls made him feel all warm inside.
Seeing him hold Vera’s hand as she ran up to each house to ring a doorbell made him smile.
Russell and Vera came back to the sidewalk. “She had kit-kats, Daddy. She even let me take another for you!” Vera exclaimed.
“That’s awesome. Thank you for getting one for me.”
“Mmhmm! I’ll find it for you when we get home, promise.” Vera grabbed his hand, but she didn’t take any steps forward. “Daddy, my feet hurt.”
“Those shoes are a little thin. They don’t offer as much support as your tennis shoes,” Theodore said quietly.
Vera looked up at him with sad puppy dog eyes. “Does that mean we have to go home?”
“Not until you’ve gotten every house of treats you want,” Russell said. He squatted down in front of Vera. “Climb on up, sweetheart.”
With a giggle, Vera climbed onto his back. Russell stood up as she wrapped her arms around his neck, her candy bucket hanging at his chest. Russell turned, flashing a smile at Theodore. “Come on, Theo. We’ve got candy to find.”
Theodore couldn’t fight back his own smile as he grabbed Russell’s hand. Maybe it wasn’t the overalls and hat that made Theodore warm and fuzzy. Maybe it wasn’t the overalls and hat that made his heart skip a beat.
Maybe it was seeing Russell act like the second dad Vera never got to have.
Back home, while Theodore washed the dishes in the sink, Russell sat on the floor in the living room, helping Vera count out her candy. Russell had offered to do the dishes too, but Theodore needed something to do. His feelings for Russell were what one could call… complicated, and he needed a moment alone to simply think about them.
Theodore set the last dish in the dish drainer and shut off the water. Grabbing a towel, he washed his hands. After folding the towel and setting it back on the counter, he grabbed his cane and walked into the living room. He sat down on the couch behind Russell and laid a hand on his shoulder.
Russell tilted his head back, a smile on his face. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Theodore nodded toward the pile of candy on the floor. “How are we doing?”
“We’re at forty!” Vera said.
“Wow, that’s a lot, huh?”
“More than ever before.”
That much was certainly true. Theodore leaned forward and kissed Russell’s neck. “Are you staying tonight?”
“I promised Andrew and Emelia I’d go out for a drink. Just the one. I can come back after that if you’re cool with me staying,” Russell said.
“Of course I’m ‘cool’ with that.”
He chuckled. “Sorry, I wasn’t sure if the rules had changed now that the case is solved.”
“I think we’ll re-analyze that tomorrow,” Theodore said. “I-if that’s okay with you?”
The detective nodded. “Works for me, Theo.” He rubbed his hands together. “But for now, let’s count out the rest of this candy, huh?”
Theodore paused the YouTube video playing on the television as he heard a car pull up outside. The text on his phone let him know it was Russell. A hand wrapped around his cane, he pushed himself to his feet. He made it to the door before Russell could knock. The detective, dressed in his New York Law hoodie and a pair of Rustin Police Department sweatpants, smelled like his body wash. Despite showering at Russell’s house more than once, Theodore still didn’t know what scent it was. As it stood, he identified it as smelling like Russell, and that was more than enough for him.
“See? Only one drink,” Russell said. He held up the duffle bag in his hand. “I even brought my meds along with my clothes.”
“I’m so impressed.”
Russell grinned. “Thought you would be.”
Theodore took a step back, allowing Russell to come inside. He closed the door, eyes focused on the doorknob as Russell kicked off his shoes. His nervousness had been climbing inside of him ever since Russell had given Vera a piggyback ride for the last hour and a half of their trick-or-treating session, and seeing Russell had increased it ten-fold.
“So, I was thinking we could get an episode or two of Nurse Jackie in before we head to bed. If you aren’t too tired. I was thinking I could try and gently massage and stretch your hip too.” As soon as Russell grabbed his bag and straightened himself back out, Theodore pushed him back against the door. Before he could talk himself out of it, he leaned him and kissed the detective.
Russell let out a soft sound, dropping his bag to the floor before moving both hands to Theodore’s cheeks. His palms were warm, his lips soft. Theodore twisted Russell’s sweatshirt between his fingers, pulling Russell just a little closer. Russell’s tongue pressed against Theodore’s lips, seeking permission to take their kiss one little step further.
Theodore granted it, lips parting as he leaned into Russell, fingers tightening around his cane.
After a blissful eternity, Russell pulled away and leaned his head against Theodore’s, his breaths a little heavier than usual. “Christ, Theo,” he whispered.
“No,” Russell said through a laugh. “Just trying to figure out what I did to deserve it.”
Gently, Theodore pushed him back to look him in the eye. “Today, you were the second father figure that Vera never had. It made me feel a million different ways, and one of those feelings was how badly I felt like kissing you.”
“Getting to act like a father figure made me happy as hell. I-I’m just glad it didn’t bother you.”
Theodore smiled. “You dressed up as Luigi for my daughter, a kid you have no ties to, just because she wanted you to. No other reason. No ulterior motive. It was… just what you wanted to do.” He reached up, laying a hand on Russell’s cheek. “I’m glad it made you happy, too.”
“Kids are cool as hell, Theo. And like I told you, I’m more into settling down and having a family than anything else. Trick-or-treating with you guys was great.”
“So… count you in for next year, huh?”
If it was possible, Theodore could’ve sworn Russell’s smile brightened even further. “Definitely count me in for next year.”
Despite Theodore’s general fear about relationships, including the one with Russell, the sentence warmed his heart. Russell really did have every damn intention of sticking around. Theodore couldn’t even begin to express how that made him feel, how he felt at the very idea that he’d probably have Russell in his life for as long as he wanted him there.
So instead, he wrapped the taller man in a hug, closing his eyes as Russell hugged him back. It didn’t quite summarize everything about his budding relationship with Russell, but it came pretty damn close to giving the other man the appropriate cliff notes.
BOOK ONE: END
BOOK TWO: HASHTAGS AND HOMICIDE
Thank you so much for reading BOOKS AND BADGES, and I hope you enjoyed!! If you did, consider dropping a comment or a like down below! Book two, HASHTAGS AND HOMICIDE, will start being uploaded next Wednesday. No weeks of waiting or anything! Hopefully, I’ll see you there!
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