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in the name of l̶o̶v̶e̶ law

Chapter Text

Henry wasn’t sure what Ted did with his day.

 

He knew Ted had applied for various jobs, here and there, but never seemed to get one. Any talk of the subject sent Ted into a state where he locked himself away, so Henry wasn’t keen to bring it up again anytime soon.

 

It wasn’t that it bothered him, not exactly - God knows he made enough money by himself for the both of them, their little house and what bills they had, what with his full time job as a police officer and his writing - it just… made him uneasy, he guessed. If Ted hadn’t appeared so distressed by it, maybe it would be fine, but that’s just the way it was. Ted had his private life, and Henry had his.

~

Things didn’t start out well that morning. As soon as Henry stepped into the police station, he was assaulted by the smug, nasally voice of the receptionist.

 

“Hidgens, boss wants to see you.”

 

He resisted the urge to pull a face at her, instead opting to aim a cheeky two fingered salute in her direction.

 

He walked into the commandant's office, blinking back the sight of the familiar grey-haired man sitting at his desk, a bottle of whisky standing half empty nearby. Of course, he was drunk. He was always drunk.

 

“Hidgens. Good morning.”

 

“Good morning, sir.”

 

“Take a seat,” the commandant said, gesturing towards a stool Henry knew from experience to be the most uncomfortable thing his ass had ever made contact with. Nevertheless, he sat down, pushing down a grimace.

 

“Now,” the commandant said, an air of drama around him, as per usual, “Where is your partner today? Ted, isn't it?”

 

Henry blinked. Of all the things the commandant would want to chat about, he hadn’t expected him to ask about his relationship. “Uh… I’m not sure. I can ring him if you want?”

 

“No, no. I was just wondering. Y’see, the CCTV picked up a suspicious looking dude right before the bank got robbed this morning and I thought I saw a resemblance. Here’s the pic.”

 

The commandant swung the monitor around, showing a blurry freeze-frame of a man, admittedly, about Ted’s height. Henry felt his pulse go up.

 

The commandant pressed play, watching Henry's face closely, maybe because he was seemingly unable to process what would be socially acceptable in his drunken state, maybe to see his reaction. Either way, Henry was certain - the man on CCTV was not Ted. His gait was different - he swung his arms as he walked, something Ted would never do - and in his left hand he held a gun, which, even if Ted had a gun, he wasn’t left-handed. The man’s face was hidden, a balaclava stretched down to his neck, a black hoodie - Ted didn’t own any black hoodies - and jeans completing his get-up.

 

Henry let out a sigh of relief. Okay, that was stupid, he berated himself. Why would you even think that Ted would rob a bank? Stop jumping to conclusions. The commander never can pick out a suspect from CCTV anyway - maybe if he stopped fucking drinking...

 

He shook his head to the commandant.

 

“That’s not him.”

 

“I’ll take your word for it. I have one question for you, however - you said you weren’t sure where Ted was. Do you not have even an idea?”

 

The knot that had released in Henry’s stomach only seconds earlier started to tighten again.

 

“He’s not a very… communicative person. He has his life, I have mine,” he said, the familiar words tumbling from his lips. “That’s just how we work.” A lie.

 

“Ah, I see,” the commandant said, clearly not seeing, as he still looked more than a little puzzled, maybe from the whisky. “Well, I’m sending you and a couple others out to look for this guy. There’s been a warrant issued for his arrest, so go wild. Take your gun, word is that he’s still armed. Last thing we saw of him, he was heading downtown. Let’s hope we catch him.”

 

Henry nodded, already standing up, eager to get off the awful stool and away from the perpetually drunken man in front of him. “Thanks, commandant. I’ll see you later.”

 

The commandant returned to his paperwork, barely sparing a glance as Henry left. “See you.”

~

The knot remained in his stomach as he gathered his things and jumped into his car. It was stupid, he knew, but if that wasn’t Ted, then what was Ted doing? He never mentioned anything about his day, no plans, nothing. It was his anxiety playing up, Henry thought, as he pulled out of the station. He’d ignore it and things would turn out fine.

 

Five minutes down the road, he stopped and pulled out his phone. He punched in Ted’s number and waited for him to pick up, enduring several loud rings before he heard Ted's voice on the other side of the line.

 

“Hey, Hen.”

 

“Hey, Ted, whatcha up to?”

 

“Oh, nothing.” Ted said, sounding slightly out of breath. “Why? What’s wrong?”

 

“Oh, nothing,” Henry said, echoing his boyfriend. “I just wanted to check up on you. You sound out of breath, are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I just chased that motherfucking dog from next door back down the drive. He won’t stop trying to dig through the trash can.” Ted sounded more than a little suspicious now, maybe even a touch concerned. “Seriously, Henry, what’s wrong? You never ring during the day.”

 

“Like I said, I just wanted to check up. I’m out looking for a dude who robbed a bank earlier. Commandant thought it was you, from looking at CCTV footage. I told him it wasn’t, since the only thing that was similar was your height.”

 

Henry heard Ted snort and a door slam shut. “You really think I’d rob a fucking bank? You think I’m insane?”

 

“Like I just said, I told him it wasn’t you-”

 

“Sounds like you’re not too sure.”

 

“Fuck off, Ted. I wanted to know you were okay. I just had a bad feeling.” Henry hated snapping at Ted, but sometimes he pushed it just a little too far.

 

Ted’s tone softened a little. “Alright, sorry. It just sounded like you’d thought I’d rob a bank, and you know I’d never.”

 

Henry sighed. “Yeah, I know. I’d better go. Criminals don’t catch themselves, unfortunately.”

 

Ted laughed weakly. “You’d be out of a job then, huh. Hope you get him! Be safe.”

 

Henry smiled. ‘Be safe’ was Ted’s way of saying ‘i love you’.

 

“Will do. See you once my shift’s over.”

 

“Okay. Bye.”

 

Ted hung up.

 

Henry let out a shaky sigh. He really wasn’t cut out for being a police officer, but seeing as it payed the bills, he'd stick with it. He dropped his phone onto the seat beside him, started the car up again, and went on his way.

~

A few hours later, a message came over the radio.

 

“Henry, you there?” a voice crackled.

 

“Yep. I’m just heading past Grasmere Street. What’s up?”

 

“He’s been spotted, just down the road from the gym. He’s on the run, but we’ve got an officer tracking him. Try to get down there ASAP, alright?”

 

“Alright.” Henry pulled over and did a U-turn. “On my way.”

 

Sure enough, once he turned onto North Street, he could see another police car parked on the side of the road, the dude who called him over radio standing by the passenger side door, ready for backup if needed.

 

“Walt’s just gone to ask around to see if anyone's spotted him. We’re planning to head down the street, do a sweep search. We reckon he’s gone up someone’s driveway,” said the dude, once Henry had pulled up and stepped out of the car.

 

“Makes sense. Is anyone on the other block if he runs straight through someone’s garden?”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Steph’s on it.”

 

Later, Henry remembered the next fifteen minutes as a blur. The group of officers headed down the street, knocking on every door. Surprisingly, everyone was co-operative, making quick work of the search.

 

It was beginning to get dark now, the sun beginning to sink downwards in the sky. The street lights flickered on, one by one, casting fluorescent light over the neighbourhood. It was quiet, besides the far off hum of occasional cars on the next road over and the quiet chatter of a barbeque a block or so away, the wind carrying the sound towards them. Tension hung heavy in the air, creating an almost tangible thick block of emotion between them. Henry distinctly remembered thinking, once again, that he really wasn’t cut out for this job.

 

They were down to the last house when a dark figure rushed across the road behind them, evidently trying to make a break for it, somewhat unwisely. Henry whirled around, the movements hammered into him from training happening freely. In a second, he had his gun out of his holster and up in the air, both hands holding it firmly.

 

“Stop in the name of the law! You’re under arrest!”

 

The figure seemed to hesitate, maybe weighing up his options. Henry tensed up.

 

“Get your hands up where I can see them!”

 

The figure plunged one hand into a pocket before Henry saw it re-emerging, holding a gun. Before the man could raise and aim, Henry had already shot him in the shoulder, causing him to cry out, but surprisingly still manage to keep the gun in his hand. He fired a shot into the ground near Henry’s feet, then set off sprinting again.

 

A quick blast of noise from his hand told Henry that in his moment of panic, he’d pulled the trigger again, before the figure had even dropped to the ground. The other officers rushed over, while Henry stood, eyes fixed on the ground.

 

He’d really just shot someone, a real human being.

 

He looked dead.

 

Oh dear God, please don’t let him be dead, he thought. I don’t want to be a murderer.

 

He watched in a detached manner as the other officers approached the still form of the man on the ground.

 

Minutes passed and he stood with his feet planted on the concrete, unable to move, until he felt Walt touch his shoulder.

 

“He’s gone, Henry. Don’t worry too much about it, he shot at you too. Go home, get some rest, okay? If you don’t wanna come in tomorrow, that’s fine, I’ll tell the boss everything that happened. I’ll send Ted a message and get him to make sure you’re alright, okay?”

 

Henry nodded.

 

Walt patted his shoulder again. “You alright to drive home? I’d take you, but we’ve gotta wrap this up. Like I said, I’ll text Ted or something.” Henry nodded again, throwing in a faint smile to try prove that he was okay. Walt patted his shoulder for the third time in a row, then held his hand out for Henry’s gun.

 

“I’ll take that back to the station.”

 

Henry pressed it into his hand without hesitation and muttered a goodbye.

 

Numbly, he walked back over to his car and let his body drop into the driver’s seat.

 

His phone, still resting on the passenger’s seat, vibrated and lit up. A text from Ted. Henry wearily picked it up and unlocked it.

 

I love you, king. Nothing you could ever do could make me stop loving you. I’m sorry.

 

The timestamp indicated it was sent ten minutes ago. Henry’s pulse went up. That was a very out of character text for Ted to send.

 

As fast as he could, he punched out a reply.

 

Are you okay? What happened?

 

No reply.

 

He waited five minutes, still nothing.

 

Henry figured he might as well drive home. Ted would be there. They’d figure it out. Whatever had happened, they’d sort it. They always did, in the end. Besides, it was probably just his anxiety and the shock of the shooting making him overreact. Maybe Ted had just broken another plate, texted a quick apology, then jumped in the shower and wasn’t out yet. Maybe… maybe he went through some of his papers? Henry knew he’d written in diary some of his doubts about Ted and his lack of a job, surely that was it, right? Maybe Ted had spiraled again and locked himself away.

 

With the wheel in one hand, his phone in the other, he texted Ted again.

 

Ted seriously, reply. You’re freaking me out. What happened?

 

He knew he shouldn’t have, texted and driven, being a police officer - a “role model for the community!” - and all, but Ted never sent anything like that. When he messed up, it was usually a I fucked up again and smashed a window but dw, i’ve taken care of it or a I’m fairly certain I ran over a cat whoops, typical me mistake huh, so I’m going to go buy the old lady another one. It was never genuine, always self-deprecating and never so forward. To be frank, it scared Henry.

 

As he pulled into his driveway, he noticed that all the lights in the house were off. That wasn’t good. He leapt out of the car, keys in hand and shakily unlocked the front door. He flicked the light switch, turning the shitty hallway light on.

 

“Ted? I’m home.”

 

No response. He half-ran, half-walked through to the kitchen.

 

“Ted? Where are you?”

 

Still nothing. He moved on to the lounge. He spotted a black duffel bag. That’s weird, he thought. Still, it wasn’t strange for Ted to come home with random bits and pieces from second-hand shops every now and then. He wasn’t in here.

 

The bathroom was empty, too. That he was glad of. He didn’t know what he’d have done if he’d found Ted there, cold body on the cold floor.

 

He made his way to the bedroom, heart thudding in every crevice of his body. This was the last room in the house, and if Ted wasn’t here, he had no idea where he was. He paused just before the doorway, taking a few deep breaths.

 

“Ted?” he said, softly this time. Still no reply. He edged his head around the corner.

 

Shit.

 

Tossed in the middle of the bed, crumpled into a ball, was a black hoodie, identical to the one he saw earlier on the CCTV footage. Next to it, a balaclava lay, as well as a box of bullets.

 

Shit.

 

His pocket vibrated. Hands shaking, Henry brought out his phone again.

 

Hey, Henry, Walt here. Tried to ring Ted to let him know you were coming home, kept hearing the ring come from the dude who got shot. Put two and two together. I’m sorry man, I really am. Let me know if you need anything, okay? We’ll sort this out. Must’ve been a mistake of some kind. Try get some rest, I’ll come over to yours in the morning.

 

The phone dropped from his hands, thudding on the carpet below. He felt his body drop shortly after.

 

His head hit the wall.

 

He didn't dream.

Chapter Text

Henry woke up, head spinning. He vaguely remembered some bullshit dream, something to do with Ted and a bank. It never failed to amaze him how ridiculous dreams could be.

Rubbing his eyes, he sat up. He’d fallen asleep in the hallway, who knows why. His phone was beside him, but from a quick tap of the home button, he could see it was dead. Reluctantly, he pulled himself up, causing what seemed like every bone in his body to click, and went into the bedroom for his charger.

He subconsciously scanned the room as he went to go in. He stopped dead in the door, having seen an object on his bed.

Ted’s hoodie. The one from what he thought was his dream. That meant Ted was-

He shoved the thought away and stumbled blindly towards the plugs beside the bed, ripping his phone charger out and leaving the room as fast as he could. The thought returned again, this time firmer. Ted is de-

Henry blocked it out again, setting his phone on the bench and plugging it in. Priorities; breakfast, clothes, work. He knew that he could have a day off, but he didn’t want to spend it alone in the house that now felt so empty.

He quickly put together a bowl of cereal, sat down and turned his phone back on. Texts, all from Walt, filled his screen. He closed the app and looked at the time. Shit, it was 11am already? Hurriedly, he grabbed his phone - minimal battery as it had- his coat and his keys, and headed out the door.

The drive there was relatively uneventful, your regular older citizens driving below the speed limit - better than over - and the odd person who forgot to turn their indicators on. Henry didn’t really pay attention, still stuck in his head, driving away his thoughts; Ted would never - but he did, how, why-

Before he knew it, he was pulling up to the station, a blue and white concrete building that seemingly hadn’t changed in 50 years. Surely, it was all a dream, he found himself thinking. He’d walk in, he’d find that the guy hadn’t been caught yet and-

He walked in the door, but stopped short when he didn’t hear the regular snooty greeting of the receptionist. That’s strange, he thought. Usually she didn’t miss an opportunity to throw verbal barbs at him, and seeing that he was the only one in the room, it would be easy pickings for her.

A quick glance around the corner proved that she was gone. I hope she won’t be gone for long, Henry thought. It’s not great to leave the reception unattended.
He made his way past the reception desk, entering a code into the locked door and continuing down the passage. The hallway was empty, even stranger.

How is a police station supposed to run if there’s nobody here to run it?

However, a couple seconds and a couple footsteps later, he heard chattering coming from the break room. He let out a sigh, feeling relieved that A. the station wasn’t abandoned and B. he wasn’t going crazy.

That relief disappeared when he stepped into the room and the chatter stopped. Feeling his pulse begin to rise, he carefully hung up his coat and tried to ignore the staring eyes he knew were fixed on him.

“Henry?” said a familiar voice - one of his coworkers, the name escaped his exhausted mind. “Shouldn’t you be at home? Walt just left to go check on you.”

Henry forced himself to smile wearily, hoping that he didn’t look insane. “No, I’m good. I’d rather be here.” He felt pressure beginning to build up in his ears, and prayed that nobody would try and bring it up further.

“Hen, honey, I know you usually push yourself,” said Charlotte, the Mom of the station, pouring a cup of coffee. “But this is ridiculous. Your partner just d-”

The pressure was too much. “I know!” Henry burst out, louder than he’d intended. “I know,” he said again, quieter. “But I couldn’t bear being home alone. I left almost as soon as I woke up.”

Charlotte let out a small, sad ‘oh’. She moved to beside him and patted his arm in her little way of saying ‘it’ll be alright’. “Here,” she said, handing him her mug of coffee. “Freshly made. I can make another pot, don’t worry.”

Henry could only watch, still mostly numb, as she pulled out a chair from the small table in the corner of the room and guided him to sit down. His other coworkers watched silently and gradually dispersed from the room, leaving them to talk.

Pulling out the other chair, she sighed and sat next to him. “You probably don’t want to talk about it.”

Henry shook his head. “No, I really don’t.”

“I’m sorry, honey, but you have to - as part of the investigation.” Charlotte patted Henry’s hand comfortingly. “Don’t worry too much, I think the commandant has enough sympathy to give you a couple days to recover a little.”

“I didn’t think he was ever sober enough to have sympathy,” Henry muttered. He wrapped his hands tighter around the mug, trying to still the tremor in his hands, feeling the warmth seep through them.

Charlotte gave him a sad little smile and nodded. “I think you judge him too harshly, sweetie. Just because he has a little… well, problem, doesn’t mean he’s incompetent. He’s the commandant for a reason.”

Henry grimaced. He knew what Charlotte was saying had some truth to it. He did judge the commandant a little too harshly, but after seeing his previous boss drink himself into the ground, he wasn’t exactly confident in the actions of those who drank as regularly as the commandant did.

Just then, Walt burst through the door. “Guys? Henry isn’t at his place and I don’t know where he could’ve gone, who knows whe-”

“Walt, it’s okay,” Henry said, twisting around slightly in his chair to face him. “I’m right here.”

Walt let out a sigh of relief. “Thank fuck. Dude, you haven’t answered my texts or anything and so I go to your place as soon as I can and you’re fucking gone?? Do you know how worried I was??”

Henry forced a tired smile to form on his face. “Yeah, sorry. My phone was dead when I woke up,” he said, moving to lean his elbow on the back of the chair. “I think I fell asleep in the hallway.”

Walt winced. “That can’t have been comfortable. You sure you’re like… alright? You know you could’ve stayed home today, right?”

Henry nodded. “I know. Like I said to Charlotte before, I’d rather be here than... there.”

Walt patted his shoulder awkwardly. “Yeah, true. I’m sorry, dude. Ted was a good guy. At least, from my impression of him. He cared about you a lot.”

“Yeah, well. Who knows how much of what he said and did was true,” Henry said, his voice tainted with bitterness. “For all I know, he lied about everything else as well.”

Charlotte reached out and touched his arm, an unusual firmness in her voice. “Hey. Don’t say that, I’m sure there’s a reason behind it. The Ted I know would never think of doing this, in his right mind. Something must’ve happened.”

“I guess you have a point. I’m sorry, you guys knew him too. I’ve been acting like I’m the only one who’s lost.”

Charlotte looked a little taken aback. “No, no, no. You knew him better than both of us combined, you were dating, for crying out loud. You’ve got every right to be.”

Walt nodded in agreement. “Yeah, Ted and I were friends, but I never really knew that much about him, y’know? I know we went to high school together and all but he never really… spoke about himself? He was always interested in what was happening rather than what had happened.”

Henry nodded, staring blankly at the floor. He’d noticed that, too. Ted was usually an optimist, in a twisted sort of way.

“That’s right,” Charlotte said. “When we dated-” Shit, Henry remembered, tuning out for a second. Ted and Charlotte were together 10 or so years ago. She must feel horrible.

“-and he didn’t spare a thought to how his legs would feel the day after.” Henry tuned back in time to hear Walt and Charlotte burst out laughing. All of a sudden, it was too much.

How can they laugh now?

Feeling sick to his stomach, Henry rushed out the door, leaving the mug behind. He heard Walt yell “Hey, Hen, where you going?” but chose to continue rather than answer.

The hallway was a blur of white, the front door a blob with a handle. He pushed it open, increasing his speed now. It was hard not to let loose and just run to his car, but he managed to keep to a fast walk.

Once in his car, he fumbled with his keys before sticking the right one in and turning the ignition. With a quick glance backwards to ensure nobody was in the way, he sped out the driveway and onto the road, accelerating to get as far away as he could.

It was only once he was out of sight of the station that he realised he didn’t know where he was going.

Swiftly, Henry pulled onto a side street and turned the car off. The uneasiness in his stomach was growing, creating an almost physical pain in his chest. Close to tears, he leant his head on the top of his steering wheel, silently wishing for it to all go away.

He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, but he came to his senses when a loud knock on the passenger side window made him jump. He took a deep breath, calmed his racing mind, and wound down the window.

Lo and behold, there was Ted fucking Richards himself.

At first, Henry blinked in shock, unable to process. Then he pinched himself, thinking it was a dream. It was only when Ted knocked on the window again that he accepted it. Either he was hallucinating or this was real. He hoped it was real.

“Unlock the door, would you? I’m not standing out in the street!” Ted hissed. “There’s people watching!”

In a daze, Henry unlocked the door. Ted got in, slamming the door behind him and hurriedly winding up the window again. That done, Ted settled back into the seat and sighed. “No doubt you’ll have questions.”

Henry laughed and winced internally at the hysterical tone. “Yeah, no shit! One second you’re fucking dead, the next you’re knocking at my window like this is a McDonald’s drive-through!?”

“I’m sorry,” Ted said plaintively. “I… I didn’t know you’d react like this.”

“What did you expect? For me to blow up some balloons, buy a pinata?? ‘Hey everyone, my boyfriend’s dead! Come party!’??”

Ted snorted. “Yeah, well… I didn’t expect you to be this upset, y’know? I thought you’d just cry a little and move on. I’m only one guy. Not like your whole family died.”

Henry straightened up and turned to face Ted fully. “Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?” he hissed, gripping his pants above the knee, balling the fabric into his fists. “Cry and then move on? Hold up, I’m just gonna summon up some tears to magically flush all the emotions I’ve had in the past 24 hours out of my system. I’ll be fine after that. No need to properly grieve my closest friend and partner, just gonna make some salty water and then it’ll all be okay.”

“Okay, okay, okay. Chill. I didn’t mean it like that and you know it. You’re obviously upset-”

“Yeah, obviously!!”

“- and that’s understandable. Just take a deep breath.” Ted reached out to hold Henry’s hand. “Please. You just gotta listen, I’ll explain.”

Breathing deeply, Henry calmed himself. Charlotte had been right. There had been a reason behind it all. He took another deep breath and looked at Ted.

“Alright,” he said, his tone sharp and harsh. He saw Ted visibly wince. “Go ahead and tell me the reason why you just faked your own fucking death.”

Ted took a deep breath. “Alright. Obviously, I’m not dead.” As he spoke, he unbuttoned part of his shirt and flashed the bandages at Henry. Somehow, in the midst of the hurricane of emotions Henry was feeling, he felt a smidgeon of guilt. “It hit me in the shoulder. They told you that I was dead so you’d get over me faster and move on. They said it’d be better for you. I escaped from hospital this morning.”

Henry checked his hands. They were shaking, and when he spoke, he detected a slight tremor in his voice. “So… Did you rob that bank?”

“Yes.”

“Why the fuck, would you, Ted Richards, a middle-class civilian, partner of a fucking cop, rob a bank? What the hell were you thinking?”

Ted sighed. “I hate… seeing you hurt. Your job isn’t exactly safe, and it piles tons of shit on you. You know that it makes you anxious and I… don’t want you to be.”

“And how would robbing a bank help? Do you know how much worse it is now?” Henry held up his shaking hands so Ted could see them. “I’d rather that I had a shitty job than I deal with the consequences of my boyfriend breaking the law.”

“We’re talking long term.”

“Oh? So you’re just gonna rob a bank, get done for it, and that solves… what, exactly?”

“We’re gonna run away.”

Henry looked at Ted as if Ted had told him they were gonna sprout wings and go live in the clouds.

“We’re going to run away,” he repeated in a mocking tone. “We, two adult men, living in the real, twenty-first century world, are just gonna… run away? That’s not possible in this day and age, Ted. Maybe if we were in a fantasy movie, then yeah.”

“Okay, okay, maybe I should’ve phrased that better.” Henry could see that Ted was beginning to sweat now, his palms slick. “We’re going to leave town, find a new home.”

“With the money you stole from people who are potentially worse off than us? Ted, you’re insane.”

“Look. Hen, I love you. You know that. I’d do anything for you.”

“You’ve well and truly proved that.”

“Then listen, please. I didn’t rob the entire fucking bank. I took just enough, and once we’re stable somewhere else, I’ll pay it back.”

Henry sighed, the tone a mix of frustration and worry. He returned to the fetal-esque position he’d been in a few minutes prior, head resting on the wheel. “Ted. There’s this thing. It’s called a loan. Ever heard of one?”

From Ted’s direction, he heard a snort. “Yeah, and they’re just gonna give me a loan so we can buy a whole new house?”

Henry stifled another sigh and muttered “I can’t even make this shit up.” Turning to Ted, he gave him a piercing glare. “Ted, you absolute fuckwad, what in the everloving fuck do you think a mortgage is?”

Ted, the dumbass, managed to look offended. “I don’t know! You’re the one that deals with that sort of thing!”

Henry shook his head. “I have no idea how I love you.”

Ted, sensing an opening, reached out and grasped Henry’s hand. “But you do anyway, huh?”

Henry let him hold his hand properly. “Somehow.”

Ted grinned. “I love you too.”

“We really need to do something about this. You can’t steal money, fuckface.”

Ted snorted. “Yeah well, what can I do? Waltz up to the bank and go ‘here you are, sorry, I made a mistake, didn’t know loans were a thing!’?”

“Well, I mean, yeah. For a start.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Ted. I’m not going to have this discussion. You cannot take someone else’s money, there’s no way you can pay it back. We’re going to sort this out, properly, and hope that whatever sentence you get, it isn’t too bad.” Henry reached over and locked the doors and turned the car on again. “Put your seatbelt on.”

“I thought you loved me.”

Henry felt like he’d been punched in the chest. Slowly, he turned to face Ted again. “What do you mean?”

“If you loved me, you’d come with me.”

“Ted, I just said that we can’t-”

Ted exploded.

“And why not? Tell me, besides morally, why can’t we? It’ll be better, for both of us. Who knows, maybe I could get a job? You could be the one staying at home.”

“Yeah, especially with the warrant out for your arrest. That’ll be real handy in your CV,” Henry sniped back.

“Look, I was just trying to help, okay?? I’ve got it all planned out.” Ted reached out for Henry’s arms and locked him in an awkward half hug. “Just trust me. Come with me. You love me, right? People who love each other support each other, no matter what.”

Despite the easy and casual tone in the words nearing the end of that sentence, Henry felt uneasy.

“It’s not right.”

Ted squeezed his shoulder. “Hen. I’m trying to help. Yeah, I fucked up a little, but I’ll make it up to you. I promise.” Here he gave a little smile. “I love you.”

He felt it in his gut that this was wrong. Their love wasn’t an excuse for his actions, but then again, who knew what lengths Ted would go to if he refused?

If this man holding him could rob a bank and feel no real guilt about it, what else would he do in the name of loving him?

He felt a tear escape and trickle down his face. Ted wiped it away.

“It’s all gonna be okay,” Ted said softly. He planted a kiss on Henry’s forehead. “Trust me.”

Henry took in a shaky breath and made an attempt at considering again, although his mind was already made up. He had no choice.

“Alright.” His mouth felt filthy for agreeing to something he knew was wrong.

“Ayy! That’s my Hen! C’mon, let’s go get our shit and go!” Ted said excitedly, pulling away from Henry and slapping him on the back.

Reluctantly, Henry turned his indicator on, pulled out and headed for home for the last time.

Chapter Text

The drive was one that Henry would have enjoyed, on any other occasion. The roads they travelled on were overshadowed by trees, creating the kind of safe and sheltered atmosphere that he enjoyed the most about road trips.

But this time, the persistent thought that he was doing something that was morally wrong kept creeping in, and an hour in, his hands were shaking so badly he could barely hold the wheel. That’s when Ted made him pull over and swap, which Henry had figured would happen anyway. Ted hadn’t said where they were heading, which still concerned him deeply.

Everything about this screamed kidnapping, but he trusted Ted. Right?

He had to.

He didn’t have a choice.

He leaned back in his seat, stuck his hands under his legs to still the shaking. Let whatever Ted was planning happen, even if it did feel like a terrible idea.

Ted, however, was the complete opposite of Henry. He was relaxing more and more the further they got away from the city, letting his shoulders slump further until they no longer held the physical signs of stress from before. He shot Henry looks from time to time to check if he was alright, but Henry carefully avoided his gaze. He wasn’t ready for another conversation, not just yet.

After several hours, Ted flicked the indicator on, then waited for a car to pass by before pulling into a long driveway. It was bumpy, and Henry had to take his hands out from under his legs to brace himself so he wasn’t flung into the door.

“First thing I’m gonna do is fix this driveway,” Ted muttered darkly, swerving to avoid a massive pothole.

Henry remained silent as they pulled up at a small wooden house surrounded by various trees and shrubs, windows misted up with condensation. Ted turned the car off, and neither of them moved.

“Please don’t say you’re mad at me.”

“I don’t know what to say to that, Ted.”

“Aw, c’mon Hen. This’ll be good for us. Don’t knock it before you try it.”

Henry got out of the car wordlessly, gesturing for Ted to open the boot, hoping he wouldn’t try and continue the conversation. Thankfully, he didn’t, and Henry grabbed his hastily-packed bag from the boot and shut it again. Ted had grabbed his stuff from the backseat and was unlocking the door, fumbling with the keys.

It took them only seconds to unpack the car, seeing as they hadn’t brought much with them. Henry had been too scatterbrained at the time and Ted had wanted to be quick as possible, so the result was only a backpack each and a shared suitcase.

The inside of the house was nice, at least by Henry's standards. It looked clean and smelled fresh, and with a jolt Henry realised this is probably where Ted had ran off to a week or so ago, under the guise of staying with an old high school friend.

He dragged himself through the hallway, checking for a bedroom. All he really wanted to do was collapse face down on a bed and try to dissolve out of reality, but for Ted's sake, he tried to look impressed with the rooms he peeked into.

"You like it?"

"Actually, yeah." A lie. It felt closed off and unstable, like any of the many trees surrounding the place could fall over at any time and collapse the roof. "Feels a lot like home."

"Good, because it is home now."

He smiled weakly and rolled the suitcase through to the bedroom.

“I wanna take a shower,” Ted said as he followed him through. He helped Henry lift the suitcase up onto the bed and unzip it and grabbed a towel and some toiletries. “You okay to unpack by yourself?”

Henry nodded, already lifting his backpack up onto the bed beside the suitcase. Ted nodded back and left the room. A couple seconds later Henry could hear the water running.
Putting his backpack aside, he let out a heavy sigh and flopped onto the bed, face-down.

What the hell do I do now?

He sat up again a minute or two later and rifled through his backpack, stopping when his fingers touched a familiar item. He took it out and clutched it tightly in his hand, surveying it.

It hadn’t been easy to make the decision to buy Ted a ring. He didn’t like jewelry much, if at all, and Henry knew it was unlikely that he’d ever wear a ring other than a wedding ring.

Fortunately - or perhaps unfortunately, now - this was a wedding ring.

He opened the box and fidgeted with the ring, putting it on and pulling it off again. Could he really get married to Ted, knowing what he did now? There would be no doubt that Ted wouldn’t accept, not after… everything, but it was clear that he wasn’t the person Henry thought he was.

He heard the water shut off in the other room and hurried to put the ring back in the box, shoving the box into the back of the bedside drawer. He stood up and unpacked the rest of his bag, feigning calmness. Ted came back in, hair wet and sticking up, and he shot him a quick smile.

“Is there food in the kitchen?”

“Yeah,” Ted said, throwing his wet towel into the laundry basket in the corner. “I stocked it up last week. What do you want for dinner?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I can go look and make something up, I guess.” This is what Henry said most nights. He preferred to make dinner, finding the methodical manner of cooking calming after a long day, and now wasn’t any different.

“Alright. I’ll unpack my stuff and then maybe while dinner’s cooking, I can show you around?”

“Sounds good.”

 

The kitchen was, indeed, stocked, almost overflowing with anything you’d ever need. Henry carefully pulled out a bag of pasta from a stack of various bagged goods and filled a pot of water, setting it on the stove to boil. Once the water was bubbling, he tipped roughly half the bag into the pot. Ted always loved pasta, so it was safer to make more than not enough.

As he was beginning to sort out the sauce and vegetables, he felt a familiar hand on his shoulder and leaned into Ted’s touch without thinking too much about it, regretting it a second later when he realised where they were and the guilt of the past day came rushing back to hit him in the gut. He couldn’t move now though - Ted was probably already worried about him, he didn’t need to be worried further - so instead he settled further in, letting Ted’s arms wrap around his waist and Ted’s head rest on his shoulder. They stood like that for a couple minutes, silent, before Henry had to extricate himself to drain the pasta. He quickly stirred in the sauce and vegetables, sprinkled a little cheese on top then put it in the oven to bake for a little while. He turned to Ted, the guilt still sitting heavy in his stomach and making him a little nauseous.

“Time for a tour?”

Henry nodded, wanting to ignore his unease.

“Alright!” Ted said, seemingly picking up on his discomfort and trying to distract him as always, mimicking the tone of a real estate agent. “Right now, you’re standing smack-bang in the middle of a lovely kitchen, a nice stone top on the bench, plenty of storage space, under-floor heating - speaking of the floor, a glorious lino, easy on the eyes and to clean!”

Henry snorted. “Is that voice really necessary?”

Ted swung around, a mock insulted look plastered on his face. “Absolutely! I can’t understand why you’d ask such a thing! Now, if you follow me, this here is the living room, complete with a brand new couch, big enough for two. Nice high ceiling, plenty of wall space, comfy carpet, what more could you want?”

“You really don’t have to sell it to me, Ted.”

“Don’t be silly! Come on now, dear, let’s go see the hallway. Ah yes, I almost forgot about this,” Ted clasped his hands in front of him in mock joy, surveying the blank hallway as if it were his first-born. “I say almost, because how could anyone forget about such a glorious carpet. Here, here, come, sit down on it.”

Between giggles, Henry managed to lower himself to the ground beside Ted, leaning back until his view consisted of the white painted ceiling. Ted reached for Henry’s hand and linked their fingers together. “Hey Henry,” he whispered.

“Yeah, Ted?” Henry whispered back.

“I’ve got a secret for you.” Ted rolled over until his mouth was so close to Henry’s ear that he had Henry squirming. “I love you.”

Henry let out a laugh. “That’s not a secret, buddy,” he said at a regular volume.

“Darn right it isn’t, and don’t you forget it.” Ted jumped up, pulling Henry with him and into the next room. “This is the bathroom, nice aqua blue wall tiles-”

“You’ve said ‘nice’ so many times.”

“It’s because it is nice! Like I was saying, nice wall tiles, nice floor tiles too, under-floor heating in here as well. Clean towels, clean toilet, slightly-used shower. You’ll notice I’ve stocked your favourite soap and shampoo…?”

“Thanks, Ted,” Henry said, squeezing Ted’s hand.

“And finally, the bedroom. Boom chicka wow wow, where the magic happens, all that jazz. The same glorious carpet as the hallway, walls that are,” Ted coughed and muttered “unfinished” under his breath, but quickly followed up with “an interior decorator’s dream, clean and fresh for wallpaper or a coat of paint! Luxurious closet space, not to mention the bed, oh, the bed.” He flopped down on the bed, ignoring the empty backpack that fell off from the sudden movement and stared at the ceiling, like in the hallway moments before. Henry joined him again, carefully nestling their bodies together in the middle of the king sized bed.

“We should get some of those like, glow-in-the-dark stars and stick them to the ceiling,” Ted said softly. “It would be nice.”

“Yeah,” Henry replied. “It would.”

“Do you like it here?” Ted asked. “I know I asked before but… you hadn’t seen the whole thing.”

“Yeah. I really do,” Henry said quietly, realising with a shock that he actually meant it this time. “I could live here for the rest of my life.”

Ted rolled over and Henry followed suit, pressing their noses and foreheads together.

“I love you, Hen,” Ted whispered.

“I love you too.”