A/N: Belated Wednesday update. Sorry this one took so long to get out to you guys! This chapter just took forever to write for little reason outside of personal issues, lol. Enjoy!
Theodore hated that finding Russell’s scars had made him so quick to judge, so quick to assume Russell was an active addict. He hated how finding them had made him feel, how betrayed they had made him feel. Russell’s addiction, regardless of its time frame, wasn’t about him, no matter what Russell said.
He pulled his feet up onto the couch and leaned into Russell’s side, head falling to his shoulder. He had invited the detective over for supper as an apology for jumping to conclusions, for not asking him as soon as he saw them, for calling him a drug addict. Of course, he hadn’t told Russell it was an apology. Russell would have only smiled and told him an apology wasn’t necessary, and Theodore couldn’t help but believe that was bullshit.
Russell wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. “I love you,” he whispered.
Theodore couldn’t help but smile. He really did love hearing those three words falling from Russell’s lips. They had never sounded anywhere near as sweet as they did coming from Russell. “Someday, I’ll be able to say that back to you.”
Russell chuckled softly. “Take your time. I’ve got all the time and patience in the world, Teddy.”
Theodore glanced over at the television, where Vera was watching her favorite Minecraft YouTuber build a ship of some sort. The guy was incredibly family-friendly, so Theodore didn’t mind her preference for his videos over most shows aimed at kids her age. Of the ‘kid’s content’ available on the platform, she certainly could have chosen someone far worse to enjoy.
“Vera goes back to school on Wednesday. We can start looking at therapists or psychologist or… whatever after that. If that’s okay with you?” Theodore asked.
Russell nodded. “Yeah, should be. We can meet up on our lunch breaks and start researching the ones around here. We can narrow them down based on whatever criteria you’d like to.”
“Based on criteria?” Theodore asked.
“Of course. Male or female, location, specialities, interests… We’ll choose a therapist that you’re the most comfortable with, Teddy. You won’t get anywhere if you’re scared or nervous around them.”
“I don’t know how you manage to be so level-headed with all this, but I appreciate it. It… it means the world to me, Russell.”
Russell smiled. “I know what it’s like to be someone’s punching bag for years, andd I know what it’s like to need help afterward. You’ve got yourself an experienced man, Teddy.” Theodore raised a brow. “Hey, mind outta the gutter. I’m experienced in the way that matters.”
Theodore snorted. “Well, I’m glad to have you, then.”
Theodore shifted, laying the side of his head on Russell’s shoulder again. He reached out, gently skimming three fingers up Russell’s forearm. “When you went to therapy after… this, was it just for work?”
“Mostly,” Russell said after a moment. “I, uh, I was on the job for… a while before I was able to give up the drugs.”
“Jesus,” Theodore whispered. He pulled away from him so he could look the man in the eyes. “You were…?”
Russell nodded, gaze shifting over to Vera for a moment. “I shot up for almost a year after they let me get back to work, after I had ‘passed’ my mental health evaluation.”
“Did they know?”
“Not until I did it in the wrong place and got caught.” Russell cleared his throat, his free hand moving up to his throat. “I, uh… would like not to talk about this anymore today, if that’s all right.”
“God, of course. I’m sorry.”
Russell shook his head. “Don’t be. It’s good to talk about it. It’s good for you to know. I just…” Again, he shook his head. “It’s still an unfortunately recent scar in comparison to everything else, you know? I’m not as philosophical about this just yet.”
“Of course, Rusty. That makes sense. We can just cuddle and watch Minecraft. Deal?”
One corner of Russell’s mouth lifted. “Sounds absolutely perfect.”
Russell had ended up spending the night again, which wasn’t really out of the ordinary. Sunday nights were one of the more regular nights they spent with each other, and Theodore usually caught a ride with Russell on the way to work.
By the time Theodore awoke, Russell was already in the shower. It didn’t happen often, but it always managed to surprise him. When he had been married, any movement Shane made beside him immediately woke him up and threw his system into overdrive. But with Russell, on occasion, he managed to simply… sleep through it. He still couldn’t believe it.
Theodore barely managed to finish feeding the fish before Russell came out of the bathroom, dress pants pulled up and unbuttoned, his undone belt hanging from the loops on either side. “Good morning.”
Russell smiled, but it was a little duller than usual. “Good morning. Sleep okay?”
“Not too bad, considering. Still… recovering from the kitchen trigger, umm, issue.”
The detective nodded. “Yeah, I get that. Always takes me a while to fully come back from them.”
Theodore nodded as he tucked the fish food away beneath the table. A hand wrapped around his cane, he rose back to his feet. “How did you sleep?”
Russell scratched the side of his head before walking over to his overnight bag. “Okay.”
“I don’t know as much about your tells as I want to, but… I do know you’re lying to me. Should I be worried, or do you just not want me to know you had a shitty night?”
Russell dug through his bag as he said, “I don’t want you to think me not sleeping well is your fault.”
“Was it… heroin-related?”
He blew out a long breath and leaned back on his heels, white button-up in hand. “I don’t know, Teddy. I don’t remember much of what kept me up. Only really remember small bits and pieces. Most of what I remember was shit about Dad.” A pause. “About my father. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. They usually pick up at the beginning of January and fade out again in a week or so.”
“Do you know why?” Theodore asked.
“Do… you wanna talk about it?”
Russell stayed silent as he shrugged his shirt over his shoulders. “He was always gone at the end of December. Supposedly for business shit, but I always doubted that. Still do. He’d come back right at the beginning of January with a vengeance, make up for lost time, I guess.” He finished buttoning his shirt and pulled his tie from the bag. “I normally try to sleep through them, but I just stayed up after the second one. I didn’t wanna risk shouting or tossing too much, waking up you or Vera. I’ll probably stay at my place until it’s over. I can function on very little sleep, but I’m a bit testy when it’s because of nightmares.”
“I get it. I get that way too.” Theodore sat down on the edge of the bed, unwilling to risk infiltrating Russell’s personal space. “If you don’t want to come over because it worries you, I understand. I’m not going to push you on it. I already know you wouldn’t push me if the roles were reversed here.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.” Russell stood up, draping his tie around his neck. He walked over to the bed and leaned down to kiss Theodore. He let out a soft sound, lifting his hands to either end of Russell’s tie. Russell pulled back only enough to break the kiss. “I’ll come over for suppers and meet you for lunches, but I don’t feel comfortable sleeping here. Or… I know I would be able to sleep while I’m worried about waking you guys up at every hour of the night.”
Theodore nodded. “Of course. Just… just trying to take a page out of your book, Rusty.”
A little smile tugged at one corner of Russell’s mouth. “Well, you’re doing great.”
“Thank you.” Theodore smoothed his hands over Russell’s tie before working to tie it. “You take whatever time you need, Russ. Text me when you’re okay to. Call me when you’re okay to. Visit me when you’re okay to. I don’t want you pushing yourself for me.”
“Thank you. Again.” Russell pressed a kiss to Theodore’s forehead as he finished with his tie. “And thank you for that too.”
“You’re welcome. Or, no problem.” Theodore smiled. “Another page outta your book.”
“I love it. And I love you.”
Heat rose to Theodore’s cheeks. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Russell only smiled. “Bathroom’s all yours. I’ll be in the kitchen observing the options in the fridge. I promise I won’t touch any pans without my supervisor present.”
Theodore laughed. “Sounds good. I’ll be out in a few.”
Making breakfast with Russell had been easy, like it always was. Most things were easy with Russell. In comparison to how things had been with Shane, anyway. Compared to how things had been with other people before Shane, everything with Russell was like a challenge, like a hurdle he had to jump over every single time he came to it, no matter how many times they’d done the thing–like making breakfast together–before.
He wasn’t sure how long they’d have to be together before that went away. Based on how Russell talked about his own past, Theodore wasn’t sure it ever would be fully okay. He still hadn’t quite figured out he felt about that realization.
Theodore lifted his head as Russell stopped the car and shifted into park. He looked out at his parents’ house, clearing his throat. “Are you all right to head up by yourself, baby girl? Or do you want me to come with?” Theodore asked, leaning over to meet Vera’s gaze in the rear view mirror.
“I can do it. But don’t leave until I’m inside,” Vera said.
“Would never dream of it, sweetheart,” Russell said.
Vera smiled, looking down as she unbuckled her car seat. “I’ll see you tonight, Russ?”
“Yep. I’ll pick you and your Daddy up and drop you both off at home before I head over to my friend’s place.”
“Okie dokie. Love you, Daddy.”
Theodore reached back and squeezed her hand. “Love you too, baby girl.”
Vera cllimbed out of the car and ran up to the house. She knocked, and it wasn’t long before Theodore’s dad opened the door. After waving their goodbyes, Russell backed out of the driveway.
“So you won’t be home alone tonight?” Theodore asked.
“I haven’t decided yet. I just don’t want Vera to think I’m gonna starve tonight if I don’t come over to your place,” Russell said.
“I’m sorry I told her you don’t eat much when you’re not with us.”
“Pfft, no need to be. I’ve told you both that too. I just don’t want her worrying about me, is all. You’ve both been through too much to worry about me.”
“One could say the same about you, Rusty.”
Russell offered a soft smile. “Yeah, one probably could. Guess we both just like caring, huh?”
“Something like that.”
Russell reached over the center console and grabbed Theodore’s hand. He gave it a little squeeze before holding it on the console. “I’ll go over to Andy and Emey’s place tonight. They worry about me too much too, especially since I worked Vince’s homicide. They invite me over all the time, so… maybe I’ll finally go, give ‘em some peace of mind.”
“I like that idea. I feel better knowing you won’t be alone all night,” Theodore said.
“Me too,” Russell said quietly. “You and Vera gonna be okay tonight?”
“Oh, yeah. We’ll be okay, I promise. We both love having you at the house–maybe a little too much–but we can still manage on our own. You just worry about taking care of yourself tonight.”
Russell lifted Theodore’s hand long enough to press a kiss to the back of it. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, Teddy.”
“Well, you wouldn’t have had to explain your addictive past to someone throwing shit at you.”
“You weren’t throwing shit. You’re a father and a man recovering from an abusive relationship with a coke addict. You had and have every reason to be concerned about me hiding it from you.” Russell cleared his throat. “I would’ve had to explain it to you eventually. I planned to, and I wasn’t expecting it to be all rainbows and sunshine. I expected pushback. I expected doubt.”
Russell nodded. “Really. People are scared of addiction, even people who don’t know a single person who’s ever been addicted. And I can understand that. Addiction is scary. It’s terrifying. That shit runs in my veins, and it always will, even if I had never tasted alcohol or smoked pot or shot up. It’s scary, and people usually don’t know how to react. Figuring that part out is… difficult, and I try not to fault people for that, just like I hope people will do for me.”
“If you put understanding vibes out into the universe, the universe will give them back,” Theodore said.
Russell squeezed his hand. “Exactly. That’s how I try to live with it, anyway. If I try my best to understand people’s reactions when they find out–the quiet ones, the loud ones, the awkward ones–then I hope people will try to understand why it happened and that I’m not that person anymore.” He smiled at Theodore. “Like you did.”
“I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself if I’d thrown you away for your past. If you hadn’t known me from the case and the hospital, when you found out I was recovering from an abusive marriage, I wouldn’t have wanted you to throw me away. It’s only fair I do the same for you.”
“And that’s why I love you.”
Theodore couldn’t help but smile. “I hope you know how sweet you are, Russell.”
He chuckled, though it missed just a bit of his usual charm. “I think I’ve been told a time or two.” He gave Theodore’s hand another squeeze. “I’m gonna play today out by ear, if that’s all right. If I’m feeling like me by lunch time, I’ll text you and bring food. If I’m feeling… off, I’ll text you and let you know. Okay?”
Theodore nodded. “Of course. Take care of yourself and do what you need to do.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. How can you take care of everyone else if you ignore your own needs?”
After a moment, Russell nodded. “That’s probably the most effective way anyone has ever gotten that message across to me.”
“It still makes me a little nervous to admit, but I do pay attention to the things you consider most important. Family and taking care of that family are very, very important to you. And you… you have to take care of you if you want to take care of them.”
“Thank you, Theo. For… understanding.”
“No problem, Russ.”
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