Theodore had still felt shaky and unsteady after his first shower. He’d still felt Shane’s hands on him after his second shower. He’d still cried during his third shower. Shower number four, however, had been… okay. He had been out of tears to cry, and his skin felt so raw that he wouldn’t be able to recognize Shane’s touch even if it actually was there.
Dressed in his pajamas, Theodore lowered himself to the edge of the bed and leaned his cane against the nightstand. A part of him, the Teddy part, wanted to text Russell and let him know he was okay. The much larger part knew he didn’t have it in him to bullshit any questions Russell asked afterward. Everyone he knew asked questions if they witnessed one of his events. What triggered it? What did it trigger? Did Shane do this? Did Shane do that?
He wasn’t ready to handle that from Russell too.
So instead, he lay down with a pillow hugged to his chest and prayed for sleep to come nightmare-free.
The night had not been nightmare-free. Theodore had tossed and turned for hours, watching Shane kill him a dozen different ways in his mind.
Theodore grabbed his phone and opened up his message thread with his mom.
Theo: Do you think you and Dad could watch Vera today?
Mom: Is everything okay sweetheart?
Theo: Yeah, everything’s fine. I didn’t sleep well, and I don’t want to risk taking that out on her. I’m already in pain. I just can’t.
Mom: Okay baby. I’ll send Dad over to pick her up. You let me know if you need anything today okay?
Theo: Okay. Thank you, Mom.
Mom: You’re welcome Theo. Dad’ll be there soon.
Theodore locked his phone screen and slid the device onto the nightstand. Closing his eyes, he rolled onto his back and hugged Russell’s pillow to his chest. He didn’t think he could handle seeing Russell anytime soon, but it didn’t mean he didn’t want to smell the man’s shampoo and conditioner. Thankfully, the pillow still smelled like that oh so familiar Russell scent.
Anything was better than the Shane scent embedded in his mind, but anything directly tied to Russell reminded him of safety and comfort. He needed it then more than he had in… quite some time.
Theodore lifted his head at the quiet knock on his bedroom door. “You up, bud?” his dad asked.
“Yeah. You, uh, you can come in.”
Jenner opened the door and cleared his throat. “Vera let me inside. Are you sure you want me to take her and go?”
“What… would the other option be?”
“I could babysit her here at the house. You know, in case you change your mind and decide you don’t wanna be on your own today.”
“I’m just tired, Dad. I didn’t sleep well.”
Jenner walked into the room. Hesitantly, he sat down on the edge of the bed and laid a hand on Theodore’s arm. “Theo, bud, I raised you. I know you’re not just tired. I knew as soon as your mom showed me your texts and asked if I could come get Vera. You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong if you don’t want to, but I don’t want you to feel like you have to sit here and suffer alone to protect us or to protect Vera.”
Theodore sat up in bed, Russell’s pillow still hugged to his chest. “Last night, Russell accidentally… triggered something. He touched my neck, and I could feel Shane’s hands around…” He swallowed. “I don’t know how to recover from that. I don’t know how to go back to our normal after that. He triggered it, saw the look in my eyes, heard the shake in my voice, saw me panic, saw me back away from him like I was scared of him. I don’t know what to do.”
Jenner dropped his hands to his lap. “I’m sorry you had to go through that, Theo. I’m sorry you feel some sort of shame that Russell saw it, too. I don’t know how much it helps you, but if anyone is going to understand what you’re going through, it’s Russell.”
“I know,” Theodore whispered. “I don’t even… think it’s shame I’m feeling. I just hate that he had to be the one to trigger it, that he had to see the fear in my eyes. I hate that, even for a second, he might’ve felt like I feared him.”
“I can understand that. You really like the guy. Of course you don’t want him to think you’re scared of him.”
“That makes sense to you?”
“Of course it does. You’re nowhere near as stupid and illogical as Shane tried to make you believe you were. You’re a very bright kid, Theo. You always have been. Marrying Shane didn’t invalidate that. You’re still just as smart as you’ve always been. Hell, probably even smarter now.”
“You think so?”
“Yes. You have more… life experience now. That adds on in intellect and wisdom.”
Theodore shifted and scooted close enough to lay his head on his father’s shoulder. “I’d like you to stay here to babysit Vera.”
“I can do that.”
Jenner wrapped an arm around his son’s shoulders and pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “You’re welcome, kiddo.”
After tucking Vera into bed that night, Jenner had brought a plate into the bedroom for Theodore and headed home. With food in his system, Theodore grabbed his phone and finally checked the message Russell had sent him earlier that afternoon.
Russell: We don’t have to TALK talk yet if you don’t want to, but I just want to know you’re okay, as long as you feel all right responding.
Theo: I’m okay. Dad came over and took care of Vera today, made sure I ate.
Russell: Good, good. I’m glad you’re okay. Glad your dad was there too
Theo: Are you okay?
Russell: I’m all right. Been worried about you, but I know what it’s like for someone you care about to trigger something. I didn’t wanna push you out of your comfort zone or anything. Just wanted to make sure you had time to exist without feeling crushed by me.
Theo: I appreciate it, Russ. Thank you.
Theo: Do you wanna meet up for lunch tomorrow? I can’t promise I’ll be in perfect me condition, but I don’t want to be in a Shane-funk forever.
Russell: Only if you’re sure. Because if you are, I’d love like hell to see you for lunch.
Theo: I’m sure.
Russell: Okay. Let me know if you change your mind, even if I’m already sitting outside the bookstore, okay?
Theodore tapped a finger to Russell’s name and called him instead. He pressed his phone to his ear and leaned back until he hit the mattress.
“Hey,” Theodore said quietly. “I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ in person. Or… over phone call. Voice-to-voice is harder to fake, and I wanted you to know I was being genuine.”
Russell chuckled that soft chuckle of his, a little flutter of butterflies erupting somewhere just left of Theodore’s heart. “I appreciate that. It’s good to hear your voice.”
“It’s good to hear yours too.” Theodore cleared his throat. “How’d your game launch go? Did I throw off your groove?”
“No, I used it to distract me from worrying about you too much. I wanted to text you all damn night and morning, but I didn’t wanna send it too soon. The game was a good distraction. Having Emey and Andrew talking in my ear for a couple hours was good too. Kept me away from anything unhealthy, which… if I had turned to that, it wouldn’t have been your fault. That runs in my blood.”
“Thank you for the clarification.”
“I’m glad having the game and your friends helped you stay away from anything unhealthy.”
“Me too,” Russell said softly. “You gettin’ ready for bed?”
“Yeah.” Theodore closed his eyes. “Do you wanna come be my big spoon?”
“Would love to. Be there in thirty, Teddy.”
Enjoying the story? Consider dropping a comment or a like down below!!
New update every Wednesday!
Love what I do and want to help support me? You can ‘buy me a coffee’ on Ko-fi!