Chapter 1: My Mom's Specialty Is Cookies.
It is seven at night when Chris enters the apartment. It is quiet, but as far as he's concerned, silence is more than golden- silence is as valuable as fucking unicorn piss, cause when it's not silent, something is wrong.
Not like he'd ever tell me himself, though...
The brunet shrugs out of his coat and hangs it up in the closet. From here, he can smell something cooking in the kitchen- correction, something baking.
He must've had another episode...but if he's baking, I guess he must've pulled himself out of it.
With a silent sigh of relief, he slips out of his shoes, idly brushing them towards the other, smaller pair with his foot, and replaces them with his deep green house slippers. Whistling so as not to startle his friend/roommate/lover/partner/whatever-the-hell-he-is-now, he makes his way to the kitchen.
A head of blond hair tied into a neat ponytail swivels to face him. Zircon eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, and his cheeks are still faintly flushed. Chris smiles sadly.
"Did you see them again?" He keeps his voice steady and gentle, nonjudgmental, and waits with a patience that could only be described as saintly for the shorter man to answer.
Slowly, he nods. Chris hums and glances over to the counter, where there's a tray of freshly baked cookies. He grabs one and shoves the whole thing into his mouth, keeping himself from prying too much into this.
He'll tell me when he's ready. Though it isn't a cake this time, so...Kantera? No- then there'd be manju...
Chris swallows and listens as his patience bears fruit.
And now he takes a seat at the dining table, eager to listen- 'The Informant' had rarely been mentioned before, except as a vague, not quite ally but not really a villain kind of character.
He is silent, waiting.
"He was mocking me again. 'I love you' he said."
He slips on a pair of blue oven mitts- complementary to his pink apron- as the oven timer dings. Chrisgets up to clear a space on the counter for the incoming second tray of cookies.
"Then he told me he felt sorry that I- that we- never got the chance to do things kids would normally do with their parents- playing catch, reading stories-" he winced, "-hugging. 'Not even something so small as making cookies with our mom'."
Chris nods his head as the blond moved to set the tray down.
"...so you made cookies."
"Even if the Informant is only in my head, he's separate from me, too. But in a way, I kind of created him. So, even if I never got to bake treats with my mom..."
"You'd let him bake cookies with his mom- with you. Right?"
Chris rolls his shoulders back.
"Eh. Not the strangest thing I've heard," he remarks with a wave of his hand, taking in the way his friend's mouth quirks up into a slight smile.
"So! What sounds good for dinner, Russell?"
Chapter 2: Akumu
A broken scream wakes Chris up at approximately 3 in the morning, and it takes him a minute or two to realize it's coming from Russell, because he'd never ever ever heard him scream before, even when they were younger and the blond had even more reasons to scream than now.
But just as Chris comes to this realization and starts to get up to wake him, Russell's scream fades. Maybe anyone else would've stopped and fallen back to sleep, but Chris is not anyone else, and with only a second of hesitation, he crawls out of bed, exits his bedroom, and makes his way to Russell's just across the hall.
It’s cluttered and painted in a multitude of bright pastels and contrasting dark colors, and Chris wonders, not for the first time, if Russell's past- his home life and whatever happened after he turned himself in- has affected his color preferences, cause he could swear Russell never used to like too many colors in one place, and especially not bright teal on top of maroon.
But Russell is shaking and sobbing and from his parted and chapped lips, there's a repetitive muttering of "I'm sorry" and "Please don't", and Chris feels his chest tighten.
He clenches his jaw and kneels down at Russell's bedside.
"Hey...Russell, wake up- you're having a nightmare," he starts, idly running his fingers through his tangled blond hair. "Whatever it is can't hurt you anymore. Just wake up."
Abruptly, Russell falls silent. There is a moment of tense silence, and then...
The brunet lets out a breath of relief. "Yeah buddy?"
Russell is looking at him now, eyes red and puffy but awake.
"...I...I'm so...I'm sorry!"
And suddenly, Chris has an inkling as to what his friend was dreaming about.
"It..." he swallows. "It's ok. Ok? That was...that was years ago." He stands back up, not wanting to be there anymore.
"Just...go back to sleep."
He returns to his bed, not even checking to see if Russell's fallen back asleep, and pulls the covers to his chin. He closes his eyes and Gardenia- dear, sweet Gardenia- pops into his head. He sees her shining silver hair and her sparkling blue eyes.
He forces the image away.
That was years ago.
Chapter 3: Working Life
"Heey Chrissy! How's the hubby?"
Chris passes his coworker and sets his briefcase on his desk. As far as they know, Russell's his husband- cause that's easier than saying 'I invited my best friend to live with me cause he's a guilty mess who can barely function even with my help'.
It's an awfully convenient lie, but no one's ever looked into it- or if they have, no one's said anything- so he takes it.
But now's not the time to think about Russell. He has a meeting with a client in half an hour to settle a case of child abuse, and that needs his full attention.
He won't let anyone else end up like Russell if he can help it.