“Where do you want this box?” Morgan asked.
“Um, anywhere over there is fine.” Harlan gestured vaguely in the direction of the kitchen. He had no idea what was in the particular box they were holding, but he was feeling too flustered to check. He knew his ‘system’—or, rather, complete lack of one—would bite him on the ass later when he was actually trying to unpack and organize, but putting it off felt better than dealing with it at the moment.
“You know you don’t have to help with this part, right?” he told them. “Moving my stuff, not the business stuff? I mean, you didn’t really have to help with that, either. It’s not part of your job description—”
“Please. The ‘business stuff’ was like three boxes. And I write my own damn job description—unless you’ve come up with a written statement of what my duties entail?”
Wide-eyed, Harlan shook his head.
“Yeah, I didn’t think so,” they laughed, setting the box down on a pile.
Charles swooped in and glanced at it. “Mm-m, that’s a bathroom one.”
Morgan frowned at him.
“I’ll take it,” he assured them.
Harlan sighed. Of course Charles could keep track of everything.
Harlan knew it was stupid to move his business out of his apartment—all three boxes of it, as Morgan had just pointed out—immediately followed by moving in with Charles. But that was how the timing had worked out with renting an office and Charles’ lease on his old apartment running out. Technically there was no hurry on his end—Harlan’s apartment was his as long as he wanted it—but it had seemed silly for Charles to move all his things and get them all unpacked, only for Harlan to dump a fresh pile of boxes on some nebulous future date. Not that Harlan had that many personal possessions… At least he’d thought he didn’t, but there had been a surprising amount to pack up and load into the truck Charles had borrowed from a friend.
“Hey, does that mean I didn’t have to help, either?” Hamilton—now Harlan’s business partner at Laid to Rest Investigations—laughed.
Shit. Harlan swallowed hard. “Of course not. I’m sorry—”
“Hey.” Hamilton clapped him on the shoulder. “Sorry… I was just kidding. I’m happy to help you two out. Matthew would have been here, too, but he had to work.” He hurried back outside, probably to grab more boxes.
“Are you okay?” Charles asked, setting down the plastic tote he was holding.
Harlan noticed that Morgan was also giving him a concerned look. “Yeah. Sorry. I’m fine. It’s just—a lot.”
Charles nodded, giving Harlan a quick hug. “I know. But the end is in sight!” He turned in a slow circle, taking in the boxes covering every horizontal surface. “Well, the end of moving. Then it’ll just be unpacking—and we can go at our own pace.”
Yeah. As long as we don’t want to sit on the couch or find anything, Harlan thought.
He just nodded at Charles, doing his best to smile.
“I think it’s just a few more, then we can go for beer and pizza.”
Harlan nodded again. He turned to leave the apartment to at least get some air and pretend to be useful by carrying something back inside, but his path was blocked by Hamilton, who was carrying a stack of boxes.
“Did I hear beer and pizza?”
“You did,” Charles agreed. “As soon as the truck is empty.”
Hamilton set the stack haphazardly by the door. “Then it’s beer and pizza o’clock. These are the last boxes.”
Charles whooped, grinning at the room. “Good work, team! I thought it would take us at least a few more hours.”
Morgan snorted. “It would have gone a lot more quickly if you didn’t have so many BDSM toys.”
“Ha. Just be glad Harlan hasn’t really started collecting his own yet or there’d be twice as many.”
Harlan found that difficult to imagine. Charles already had one of every kind of whip, flogger, paddle and cane imaginable—if not multiples.
Charles mimed dusting his hands together. “All right, if that’s it, let’s get out of here. Why don’t you just take one car?”
Harlan’s stomach sank. He was already feeling really peopled out—which was sad, because these were the people he was closest to in the world—and there would only be more people at the restaurant. He’d been looking forward to at least driving over with just Charles.
“You guys go ahead. I’m gonna drop the truck off. Phil can give me a ride, and I’ll meet you there. Harlan, you can order for me, okay?” Charles gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze.
Great. Now he wouldn’t even have Charles in the car with him? And he would have to order not only for himself but also for Charles as well? Usually, it was the other way around. It made him feel like an immature jerk and a hot mess, but their system worked for them.
“Don’t worry.” Charles leaned over to kiss his cheek. “I wrote my order down for you.”
Well, that’s something, anyway.
Charles did that magical thing Harlan still couldn’t figure out how to do that sent something directly from his phone to Harlan’s.
“We can take my car,” Morgan offered. “Hamilton’s smells like thirty-year-old Tim Hortons.”
Harlan wrinkled his nose. They weren’t wrong.
Hamilton laughed. “Hey, I’ve spilled lots of other kinds of coffee in there! I don’t think the stuff at the precinct is even ‘no name’. It’s…somehow even sketchier than that. It’s probably not even real coffee.”
“Yeah, you probably shouldn’t be drinking that.” Morgan shook their head, laughing.
Harlan found himself swept out the door and into Morgan’s car. He barely had a chance to wave goodbye to Charles before he was gone.