Chapter Eight

“A little more,” Bo muttered, holding his fingers in the air to show the amount he wanted Oscar to add to the soup. The recipe wasn’t very complicated, but had a lot of ingredients that needed to be used, and it wasn’t centered around measurements.

It was one of Bo’s favorites, and his go-to whenever Lydia wasn’t doing her best.

Oscar let out a bit of a groan, “Why is it so un-specific?” He added the amount that Bo had told him to, before frowning and setting the glass container of seasoning on the countertop beside him. “I’m hopeless.”

Bo faltered before shaking his head, the noise of the glass and the countertop meeting jarred him more than he would admit. He sprinkles the thyme over the top of the chicken broth and gives it another stir. The chicken had already started to fall to pieces in the pot, and overall it was giving off a wonderful aroma. “You’re not hopeless, just, need to be taught just a bit more.”

Bradley had sat down for just a few minutes when he had first arrived, the strain from the walk had a negative effect on him, and to sit for just a moment was a comfort. Jessamine had quickly asked for his help in picking out the first movie of the night, it had been an easy decision (Mary Poppins) before she tucked herself in the corner of the couch beside Bo and pulled the blanket up to her chin.

Bo sat with her for a few minutes, the familiar Overture of the movie brought a reminiscent smile to the performers face. Once the face of Dick Van Dyke showed on screen he stood and made his way into the kitchen.

Oscar had insisted on helping with dinner, and at first Bo thought nothing of it. Perhaps it was just a man wanting to help his maybe partner in preparing dinner for his wonderful daughter. Or maybe it was that Oscar enjoyed cooking and wanted to help in the actual preparations.

Neither of this was true, and as the pair of them made their way into the kitchen, Bradley couldn’t help but notice that Oscar’s attention focused mainly on making sure that he didn’t fall or lose his balance throughout the time it would take to make dinner. Bo was grateful for the lack of questions, and found the overall domesticality of the situation rather touching.

It was not an environment that he had ever expected to be in, that is, making dinner for someone that he hoped would be his partner (and for the greatest little girl) and with no particular fear or concern about his amputee status.

They had spoken in depth about most of their situation, and Oscar was rather vocal about his opinions on things. He was quick to point out that if the pair of them delved into a relationship it would not be a fling, as Jessamine needs consistency, which is why Oscar had not tried dating in a long time. Bo was not worried when it came to asking the man questions about his life, though at times he could not-so-easily recognize that he had overstepped a boundary. Oscar was much more cautious about it, his questions were coordinated well with whatever the conversation was subjected about.

But on the topic of cooking, Oscar was not afraid to ask questions about the actual process of making the soup, and while Bradley had to disagree with his partners statement of the recipe being difficult, he did agree with the fact that it was rather un-specific, as there wasn’t a precise measurement for (almost) everything going into the soup.

“Right,” Bo said it with a smile, steadying himself on the edge of the countertop with an easy hand, the action comforting rather than a necessity, “now we add the parsley, salt, pepper, celery, and poultry seasoning.” Bradley was mostly saying it for his own benefit, as vocalizing whatever task he was going to complete was rather helpful for grounding himself in the moment.

Oscar nodded, turning around to look at all of the seasonings that Bo had laid out on the table from his own collection. Under most circumstances, he would not have brought his own.

Usually he cooks for Lydia, and she has most of the necessary substitutes, but based on the general feeling that he was getting from Oscar, Bo felt almost certain that Oscar would not have the seasonings that he required and therefore brought his own just to be sure. Which he was rather glad for, because most of the seasonings would not be a proper substitute for this particular soup.

“Wait,” At the sound of Oscar’s voice, Bo turned, looking at the man as he spoke, holding a hand out to accept the seasoning that Oscar was passing over in a dazed way, his mouth forming the question his mind wanted to ask. “Why are we adding poultry seasoning if there’s chicken already in the soup?”

Bo hummed, appreciating the question as he turned back to the soup pot and worked on sprinkling in the various seasonings that were still required of him. “Well, chicken obviously tastes like chicken, but given everything else that we added, overall the soup will taste a little less like chicken, so-”

Bo trailed off, looking over his shoulder and waiting for Oscar to finish the sentence.

“So we add this to make it taste more like chicken!” Oscar sounded very proud at his response, and Bradley just smiled and nodded, thinking past his own thoughts and instead focusing on how to make Oscar feel comfortable in a situation he wasn’t usually in.

“Fantastic darling.” Bo used the affectionate term without really thinking about it, his concentration more on staying on his own two feet rather than what he specifically called the man. His leg was starting to ache, the connecting (false) joint would move every time he turned, leading to a pulsing pain echoing up what was left of the actual joint.

Bo easily recognized the fact that he should take a break, the feeling all too familiar in his leg; he’d been on his feet for far too long, and if he didn’t pause for just a moment he would crash. But he was nearly finished with the soup, and he couldn’t help but feel the need to finish what he was doing.

Bradley turned, reaching for the bag of egg noodles just outside of his reach without recognizing the fact that Oscar was standing there able to grab it without him having to stretch. It was a simple action, and under normal circumstances, Bo would have been able to turn on his false heel and land on his left with no issue, simple pivot.

It also should have been a familiar movement, but when he leaned on the heel of his right foot, his stump shifted in its socket, bumping the back wall despite the sleeve that it sat in. The moment Bradley applied pressure, a flare of pain flashed up his entire body.

Bo hissed rather aggressively, making a grab for anything that could stop him from falling the entire distance to the hardwood floor, his hands catching on the other man in the room. Despite Oscar’s smaller stature, he was able to catch Bo with barely any stutter to the action.

Soft hands landing on his waist, pulling Bo close to Oscar’s chest as he leaned back into the countertop.

“Damn.” Bo muttered, head still spinning from the pain that continued to radiate up what was left of his leg. He looked up at Oscar, wrapping his hands around the man’s biceps as he smiled awkwardly. “Thank you.”

Oscar pulled slightly, helping Bo to stand, but not letting go of his waist. They stood with barely a breath between them. Oscar noticed how much taller the man was then him, leaning his head back and letting the softest of smiles grace his face. Bo looked dazed, and without meaning to, Oscar tightened the grip that he had on the man’s waist.

“You okay?” Oscar mumbled, his eyes focusing on Bo’s face and how he seemed to be dazed. There was a distinct tremor to the man’s voice when he finally spoke a few minutes later.

Bo took a deep breath, “I should take a break.” He took a step back, reaching for something other than Oscar to balance himself. His hands found the countertop behind Oscar, effectively, and accidentally, pinning the man in between him and the table. “Sorry.”

He was still out of it, the entire world appearing slightly off-kilter and warbled by an emotion that he couldn’t exactly figure out. Bo reacted without wanting to, his head falling from its upright position and onto the shorter man's shoulder. Bradley took a deep shaking breath, feeling much more overwhelmed than what he would have been given the circumstances.

“I’m sorry.” The need to apologize felt rather strong, his mind echoing that he was doing all of this wrong. That everything that made Oscar wonderful and whole was the opposite in him.

“Don’t apologize.” The words were firm, and yet, there was no aggression, no anger behind them. It was an unspoken promise that this was okay, an understanding that they were just a little more than okay in this moment and time. “This is okay. Take your time.”

And he did, and he will.

Minutes passed of them in the kitchen, the taller hunched over and finding strength through the connection they had newly formed. It was Oscar who finally prompted the taller man to move, though he didn’t try and have him stand to his full height, but rather helped to lower him to the floor. Giving Bo the sturdy backdrop to his thinking.

Bo opened his mouth to apologize again, his mind somewhere else, but he looked up and saw the softly smiling face of Oscar and stopped himself.

“You can stay there, I’ll finish this.”

Oscar asked questions, and Bo answered them, the measurements being rattled off with no issue, though his voice was flat and emotionless it still seemed to be useful to Oscar to hear it. The calmness of the scenario brought his mind back into his body, the episode over after minutes of blank staring and monotone words, Bo smiled on his own.

He couldn’t stand, what was left of his leg was not cooperating, and his cane was just out of his reach. Bradley looked up, his mind once again his, he felt in control once again.

“Thank you.” Bradley's voice startled Oscar just barely, the smaller man looking down with a faint smile on his face. “I’m sorry that I-” Bo trailed off the rest of the words not coming easily as he wasn’t sure exactly what to say. “Thank you.” He settled on extending his thanks, smiling in a way that reassured Oscar that he was much better.

Oscar just nodded, a bright smile on his face as he waited for something more from the man on the floor.

“I’m okay now.” It was voiced as a promise, and Oscar seemed to relax.

Bo felt the need to explain, to voice what he was that he had just gone through. How the combination of overstimulation and a tired mind led to an entire, yet temporary, shut down of his system, and now that he had entirely passed through the situation he could speak on it, or at least just a little bit.

Oscar held his hand down to Bo, bracing himself as he helped the taller man to his feet in an easy way. They stood in the kitchen, hand in hand as Bradley tried to think through the words, he spoke the moment Oscar let go of his hand, leaning against the island as he spoke half formed words.

“I get overwhelmed.” It was simple to him. “Not all the time, and not often, but today, to no fault of your own, was just barely too much for me.”

The sound of the eye of the stove clicking to a lower temperature drew Bo’s eyes. Oscar was looking at him now, a solemn look in his eyes as he waited for Bradley to continue.

Despite his dislike of the woman who claimed to be his therapist, she had some points that Bradley would share with any one of his patients. “I’m an amputee.” The words came quickly and suddenly, spilling across lips that were not prepared for them. “I mean, well, I’m missing my leg. My right leg is, from the middle of my thigh down and I never know how to tell people because there is always some form of dissimulation. They don’t associate this fact with me-”

Bradley cut himself off, his mouth clicking shut audibly in a way that was desperately forced.

A dozen micro-emotions flashed across Oscar’s face. A twitch of the corner of his eyes, his lips dipping at the edges and the smallest bit of sadness passing through his eyes. Stay Awake played the part of background music to their conversation, setting the tone as Oscar spoke oh so softly, “I’m so sorry.”

It was a common reaction for Bradley to give. The tendency to overshare about facts that were not important in moments were all he could concentrate on was what was spinning in his own mind rather than the other.

Oscar’s hands appeared in Bradley’s line of sight, open palmed and facing up. Bradley took it, all thoughts slipping from his mind as he used the man in front of him as a tether to the world surrounding him.

“Thank you for telling me.” It was spoken softly as Oscar took a step forward. “That’s why you were overwhelmed.”

It was phrased as a question in the way that it was up to Bradley on whether or not he would answer it as one, otherwise it could be determined as a statement of relative fact.

“Almost.” It was not a good enough response, and Bradley took a step closer to the man, looking down at the bridge of his nose as he formed the rest of the sentence internally. “Sometimes, everything turns into overstimulation. I am capable of verbally processing through a situation, but often it is much more difficult than most would assume. I cannot speak for everyone.”

Bo took a deep breath, nearly a sigh as he pushed to speak about himself rather than continuing to speak in general terms.

“I am a doctor. You know this.” It felt like too much to say on their third date, but it is so much different when dating a man with a child.

Oscar had already voiced his own concerns when it came to the pair of them. Jessamine was entirely aware of which way her father leaned, and the story of who Jessamine’s mother was was one that had been hard for the man to hear, but one that he was glad to know. Oscar had been open about the fact that if they became something, Jessamine would be aware, and that Bo couldn’t just leave if he felt like it.

Bradley had already come to terms with all of this, and in a record amount of time had already decided that he would like to spend a significant amount of his time with the smaller man in front of him.

“I am Autistic.” It was a different experience speaking it aloud, and for just a moment Bradley wondered if he was sharing too much, but the look on Oscar's face was a comforting one. Bo kept his eyes trained on the bridge of Oscar’s nose as he continued to speak. “It is obvious that it can affect my life, but I am still able to go about my day, it's just-” He paused.

“This is why you had a rough morning as well?” Oscar took the pause in Bo’s words as the moment to ask a question, and Bradley just nodded, having entirely forgotten that he had already informed him of his own rough start.

“I lost my leg nearly two years ago, and I am not allowed to practice until i have an official clean slate, and my medical doctor provided such, the therapist assigned to me has not.” Bradley rocked back and forth from his hips as he continued, “Earlier this week I made an appeal to Bellevue to request for a new therapist, and this morning I received the news that I was denied.”

Oscar just hums, reaching forward with careful hands that touched Bradley’s waist in a delicate way, the palms warm and the gesture was much appreciated. “I’m sorry that that happened, but I am grateful that you told me.” There was a pause, and Bo found his hands wandering along Oscar’s shoulders and arms, taking comfort in the apparent simplicity of the man in front of him. “I’m glad you decided to come today, you could have stayed home and existed alone, but I’m glad you’re here with Jessamine and I.”

Bradley did not have the words to express the same feelings, his mind seemed to want him to speak, his mouth would not comply.

Is dinner almost ready!” The voice of Jessamine was distinct and startling, Bo found himself reacting without wanting to, pulling from the comfortable hands of Oscar to instead take hold of the counter top behind him, his eyes wandering around the room to land on the full pot of completed chicken noodle soup.

“Yes Jessamine.” Bo was the one to reply, his voice carrying well through the apartment as Oscar seemed to continue processing the entire conversation that they had just had. The sofa creaked, and Bo threw a glance to Oscar, noticing the distracted look still in his eyes. “I’ll bring it to you!”

The sofa creaked once again, the little girl's voice echoing back an okay as she assumed the same position that she was in before.

“You alright darling?” Bo directed his question to Oscar, taking the spoon for the pot in hand and stirring the inhabitants of said pot before taking part in a taste test. The part of him that reminded him of the potential germs grabbed for a spare spoon sitting on the counter top before lifting a bite to his mouth.

A dry laugh came from behind him, “I should be asking you that Bowie.”

It was strange to hear an affectionate name fall from the lips of the smaller man, but Bradley smiled nonetheless.

“I’m okay,” A pause, then a much more enthusiastic, “I’m wonderful, thank you for sharing.”

The ‘thank you’ was not necessary, but Bradley nodded and inclined his head, watching as Oscar took a cautious step towards him. Steady hands extended out to him, and Bradley smiled, taking both of Oscars into his own and pulling the smaller man towards him. Oscar smiled up at him, the top of his head just barely reaching Bo’s chin.

“Can I kiss you Bowie?” It was different being asked, but Bo didn’t really have to consider. He nodded, his mind shouting for Oscar to touch him, to kiss him, but he didn’t want to initiate the contact.

Oscar stood on his toes, hands slipping from holding Bo’s hands to wrapping across his shoulder in a loose way. Bo opened his mouth to say something, and then Oscar is kissing him.

Oscar-Michael Torres is kissing him.

When their lips meet, it is delicate. Oscar takes the lead, hand curled softly around the back of Bo’s neck and just barely pulls him down to meet his lips. Bo isn’t sure what to do with his hands for just a moment, but with Oscar’s half instruction his hands land on the smaller man’s hips.

Bo smiles into the kiss, leaning forward ever so slightly and pulling Oscar closer by the hips as he fades into the touch. It was a peaceful experience, all soft lips and little breaths of air. Bo had not been kissed like this in a long time, and easily became pliable in the smaller man’s arms.

Bo leans into him, letting Oscar pull him forward so the pair leaned against the countertop behind the smaller man. Oscar pressed into Bo’s chest as their lips molded and pressed together.

Oscar is the one to pull away, the action punctuated by the ever so slight tap of his heels landing back on the ground. Bradley took a deep breath, his hands tightening around Oscar’s waist as he smiled down at him.

A part of him wanted to lean in for another kiss, his hands taking instead to reach up and pull Oscar’s hands from around his shoulders to hold between his hands.

Bo opened his mouth, feeling the need to say something, anything to fill the space. His mouth clicked shut audibly, the sound brought a smile to Oscar’s face.

“My kisses already making you speechless?” He said it with a flat face, and for just a moment Bradley wasn’t sure what emotion to associate the words with, but then the smaller man’s face broke into a smile. The way that his eyes lit up, such a simple addition to his features brought the brightest look into Oscar’s eyes, in such a way that made Bradley promise to himself that he would make the man smile whenever he could.

“You c-” Bo’s words were cut short, the unexpected voice interrupting his own was someone who would benefit much better from not hearing the supposedly vulgar coming from Bo’s mouth.

“I’m hungry.” The two men separated rather quickly, Oscar sidestepping out of Bo’s direct line with the counter top.

Bo smiled over at the little girl, “Sorry Jessie, we’ll bring it to you yeah?” It was said with a smile, and Jessamine nodded, turning away and making her way out of the direct line of sight of the two men.

Oscar and Bo looked at each other, the familiar strawberry pink decorating both of their cheeks. Bo smiled widely.

“I’d say you could kiss me again, but Jessamine comes first.” The words came from Bo, rather than Oscar. Bo turned, spooning an amount into a bowl from the cupboard and making a steady way out of the kitchen.

If he was still looking at Oscar, he would have seen the smile on the man's face. Bright and reaching his eyes, it was so specifically Oscar’s smile, and in that moment he reserved it especially for the new man in his life.

If Bo was still in the kitchen, Oscar would have kissed him again, wrapped his arms around his shoulders and pulled him down from the back of his neck to meet his lips in a soft kiss. Maybe even pulled himself onto the countertop so that the two were at an even height.

And when Bo came back, Oscar did just that.

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