Russell woke up as Theodore slid out from under his arm and sat up in bed, legs hanging over the side of the mattress. Russell cleared his throat, scrubbing a hand over his face. “Morning.”
“Good morning.” Theodore’s voice was still quiet, but he sounded better than he had the night before. Russell figured he could chalk that up as a plus. “Sleep okay?” Theodore asked.
“Not too bad. How’d you sleep?”
“No nightmares.” Theodore smiled at him over his shoulder. “You musta scared them all away for me.”
“Ah, that’s what I’m here for.” Russell sat up behind him. “I… want to kiss your shoulder, but I don’t want to risk that being too much.”
“Shoulder should be safe.”
Russell leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Theodore’s shoulder. The shorter man lifted a hand, pushing his fingers into Russell’s dark hair. “Thank you for letting me come over last night.”
Theodore nodded. “Thanks for agreeing to come over. I was hoping having you here would help with the nightmares. Night before, I was riddled with them. I knew I couldn’t handle another night of that, especially not on my own.” He patted the side of Russell’s head, standing up as soon as Russell lifted his head. “Do… you mind taking me to work today?”
“Not at all. I’m more than happy to. Do you want me to take Vera to your parents’ place too?”
“If you’re okay with that.”
Russell nodded. “Totally okay with it. Her car seat’s in my car and everything.”
Theodore smiled. “Thank you.” He nodded toward the bathroom. “Shower’s yours if you’d like it. I’m gonna take a few to feed the fish and then start breakfast.”
“You sure you don’t need a morning piss?”
Fingers tightening around his cane, Theodore laughed. The sound was like music to Russell’s ears. Sure, it wasn’t nearly as loud as usual, but it was there. It was real. “I’m good. The biggest part of my brain and routine are still set to, uh, Shane’s… habits and routines. When I’ve had a heavily focused Shane day, that gets a little stronger. It was Shane’s bathroom until he left the house for work, no matter what. I-I’m a little stuck to that right now.”
“I won’t push you on it or force you outside of that comfort zone. You pee when you gotta and I won’t complain.” Russell leaned up on his knees, hands moving to Theodore’s face. “But for what it’s worth, on a day that’s less Shane-focused, I’ll never stop you from walking into the bathroom when I’m in there showering or shaving. My father was the same way. I get it. It’s a hard habit to break. But whenever you wanna break it, know that I’ve got your back.”
Theodore’s smile was soft and warm. “Thank you.” He touched the very tips of his fingers to Russell’s jaw and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “By the time you start showering, I’ll be in the kitchen. Holler if you need anything.”
“Okay, Teddy. Same goes for you.”
“Oh, really? Even if you’re in the shower?”
“You underestimate how many crime scenes I’ve attended with conditioner still in my hair.”
Theodore snorted. “Then I’ll holler if something requires assistance.” He stroked Russell’s cheek with his thumb, head cocked to the side. Russell would give anything to know what he was thinking, but he didn’t want to push him. On his good days, he found himself willing to ask once, just to see, but with Theodore still a little on the ‘bad day’ side of the scale, Russell knew it was best to keep any questions about where his mind was to himself. “Can I ask you something?”
“Even now… do you still have triggers from growing up with your father?” Theodore asked.
“Yes,” Russell said after a moment. “They’re not as easily triggered as they used to be, but I do still have them. Some of them used to be so… heavy that I could be set off by someone touching my shoulder or my back. Therapy eventually helped me settle those a little bit, which I’m thankful for.”
“I’m starting Vera in therapy next week. I, uh, I’ve considered trying to find a way to get myself in it, and I figured you might know more than, you know, my parents or Gina.”
“I love that you feel safe asking me,” Russell said. He turned his head to the side to press a kiss to Theodore’s palm. “There’s a therapist just outside of town that offers discounted or free appointments for people who genuinely need them. I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t qualify for that. As long as you’re comfortable accepting that form of help, I know you’ll qualify for it.”
“I don’t know that I’d be able to accept doing it for free. I think I’d feel… wrong for that. But I might be okay with the discounted rates.”
Russell smiled. “There you go. That’s a step in the right direction, Teddy, I promise.” He laid his hand over Theodore’s, curling his fingers beneath the other man’s. “We can schedule you an appointment online or over the phone. Hell, if you want, I can take you there so you can see the place first, and then we can schedule an appointment in person.”
“You’d… do that for me?”
“Absolutely. I know how hard all of this can be, how anxiety-inducing it can be to even think about getting help. If I can help make any part of it less stressful for you, I will.”
“Thank you,” Theodore whispered.
“No problem.” Russell pulled Theodore’s hand from his cheek and pressed a kiss to his fingertips. “I can take you on my lunch break. Today, tomorrow, a week from now. Whenever you want. We’ll go at your pace, just like always.”
“You’re too good to me, Russell.”
Russell shook his head. “No. You deserve any and all of the good that comes your way. If I’m some of that, great. You absolutely deserve it. I have no doubt in my mind about that.”
Theodore smiled before leaning in to kiss him. Russell kept his hands to himself, settling for giving Theodore’s hand a little squeeze as he kissed him back. Theodore broke away and patted Russell’s cheek. “Take your shower. I’ll let you know more on the therapist stuff when I figure it out myself.”
“Sure thing, Teddy. Be with you in a few.”
A text from Theodore had come in right as Russell was preparing to leave the station for lunch.
Theo: I’d like to wait until after Vera goes back to school, if that’s okay with you? I took a couple days off so I could spend them with her, and I already gave one up yesterday so I could have a breather. Ended up having to take today off for a mental health day anyway, so I’d like to spend it with her.
Russell: That’s fine with me Teddy. Like I said, I wanna take things at your pace. Not mine, not your mom’s or your dad’s, not Gina’s. Yours.
Theo: Thank you.
Theo: Do you still want to meet up for lunch? Vera and I are cooking now. Should probably be ready by the time you get here from the station.
A smile tugged at one corner of Russell’s mouth.
Russell: I’d love that. On my way.
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