The banging on the door didn't sound like it was going to stop any time soon. The clock beside the bed told him it was just gone nine which, while reasonable by most people's standards, was much less so after a night shoot that had run long but not quite too long to stymie the promise of sex when the postponed sleep would be followed by a rare day off. Although it had been close.
Tony dragged himself out of bed and shrugged straight into the jeans he'd discarded the night before. Apparently someone hadn't got the memo about his getting some rest and underwear was a distinct second place to making whoever it was go away. End of the world aside, and how fucked up was his life that he had to actually consider that as a possible option, he had every intention of making whoever was trying to break down his door stop... and then going right back to bed for a few more hours shut-eye. Pulling the bedroom door closed behind him he grabbed the t-shirt that was precariously hanging over the back of the sofa without checking it. It was probably clean enough. It was probably his.
"What?" he demanded as he yanked the door open.
Amy gaped at him, arm still raised to bang on the no-longer-present wood.
"Is that..?" she began, then shook her head. "Never mind. In!"
She barged forward in a way that strongly suggested that she would be perfectly happy to go through him if he didn't get out of the way in time. Tony got although he did managed a brief protest, which he hoped was more dignified than it sounded to his own ears,
"Shouldn't you be at work?" he asked pointedly. The 'or anywhere but here' was pretty implicit but appeared to sail straight over Amy's head without disturbing a strand of magenta-black hair.
"I would if you answered your phone," she snapped back, looking around the room with her moue look of disapproval. Really, what was it with woman feeling the continual need to critique his decor (or lack thereof)? "C.B. sent me."
Tony's heart sank. Missing a call from the head of the Darkest Night studios ranked about equal with an appending apocalypse - but only if the apocalypse was close.
"Don't worry," Amy told him, clearly having caught his expression, "you aren't needed back at work. It was Kevin Groves trying to get in touch with you. He couldn't get you so he called C.B.. C.B. told Peter to see to it and Peter told Adam and Adam sent me as he needed everyone else for Mason's big scene."
Tony was clearly going to have a lot of coffees to buy the next day.
"What happened to..." he racked his memory for the name of the newest assistant but only came up with visions of cotton-candy pink.
"Quit," Amy said shortly. "Heard they were hiring on Erica."
Tony frowned, only half paying attention as he tried to remember where his mobile had ended up. "Are they?"
Amy's smile was not friendly. "I said she heard. What are you looking for?"
Amy rolled her eyes. "Why don't you just," she waggled her fingers in a gesture that was nothing like but was clearly intended to indicate magic. As much as Tony didn't want to admit it - she had a point and if he had been more awake he probably would have thought of it himself. He concentrated, just hoping that the handset hadn't made it too far. Luck (or possibly prior laziness) was with him - although how it had ended up between the sofa cushions when he hadn't gone near them the night before Tony wasn't sure he wanted to know. He had an unpleasant suspicion that he'd somehow imbued the area with an intrinsic come-to-me spell due to the many times he had cast it while being too comfortable to get up. Or it could just be a sofa-thing.
He scrolled through the missed calls quickly, feeling his eyebrows raise in surprise. Amy hadn't been kidding - there were ten from Kevin alone, one from Peter (Tony assumed he'd got his number from the office) and five from Amy. He flicked to the voicemail, listening through while Amy waited impatiently. most of them were some variation of 'call me', or 'call the office' in Peter's case. At least until he got to the messages from Amy which started out as 'call', became vaguely threatening and then got worse. They ended with 'I'm heading to yours and you better be in when I get there because I am not leaving until we've talked and I have better things to do than stand around on your doorstep Asshole!"
"Up to date now?" Amy asked sarcastically when he finally hung up.
Tony shrugged. "Apparently I'm supposed to call Kevin. And you're pissed at me."
Amy flapped her hands dismissively and made a rude pffft noise, then she frowned. "Wait - he didn't tell you?" For a moment she looked slightly disconcerted. That was possibly the most worrying thing yet - he'd seen Amy take on a tentacled hell-beast with nothing more than condiment holders and her shoe. She muttered something under her breath that did not bode well for Kevin. "It's about..."
"Tony - have you seen my..." Lee stopped abruptly as two pairs of eyes turned to looked at him. He hesitated in the bedroom doorway, clearly unsure as to whether he should brazen it out, beat a hasty retreat back out of the room or fake a sudden case of where-am-i-and-how-did-i-get-here. Amy's expression was hard to read as she took in the evidence before her. Tony hadn't appreciated quite how visible the love bite on Lee's left pectoral was. Wizard's might see what was there but it was nothing to seeing the same thing again through someone else's eyes - the dark bruise kissing the edge of cold-taut nipple in contrast to the sliver glint of the ring that threaded through it. He couldn't not remember taking the metal in his mouth, tugging, licking and playing with it until Lee had been begging him for something, anything, more. His eyes followed the memory of their last night-early morning's activity downwards. Down along the warm skin that had fluttered under his touch as Lee squirmed, laughing and encouraging him in equal measure. Further still and... crap... Lee's boxers were hanging low enough that a second bite was clearly peaking over the elastic where hip and abdomen merged.
Tony pulled his mind sharply back to the present. He supposed he should be thankful that Lee had, at least, bothered to put his boxers on and that both marks were clearly below the line of any outfit that James Taylor Grant normally wore. Not that he wasn't generally in favour of Lee in as few clothes as possible but the one, and only, time they'd had gotten a little carried away and misjudged (and in his defense he been pretty distracted at the time and also hadn't realised that the shoots had been switched and Grant was due to be kidnapped by Raymond Dark's arch nemesis du jour in a scuffle that would end with his clothing being artistically ripped) Wardrobe had thrown a fit. After peace had been restored, Everett had been called and worked his magic, and the the scene was in the can, it had been strongly suggested that, if it happened again, Lee would be sent in front of the cameras without the benefit of enough coverup to put on a Bergman retrospective and they'd let the fans could come up with their own explanations.
Amy's eyes narrowed and Tony felt himself panicking for a moment. Everyone on set knew of course, but they hadn't really told anyone and, even when they owed a lot to the threat of Amy-avec-stapler, there was knowing and seeing it half-naked in front of you. That was pretty much any plausible deniability they might have had destroyed right there. Which, admittedly, was not a lot. But, Tony thought with sudden horror, maybe that was what it would take for Lee to finally realise he was making a mistake and end this experiment.
"Wow," Amy said, "blushes really do go all the way down, don't they."
And everything was normal again.
"I'll just... clothes..." Lee mumbled.
"Don't bother on my account," Amy called after him as he fled. She grinned at Tony and gave him a double thumbs up. He did his best to roll his eyes and look disapproving at her childish behaviour but he could feel the goofy grin forcing its way out.
"God you're a sap," Amy accused but there was only amusement behind her words.
They were still grinning at each other when Lee returned, still a little flushed but now dressed in jeans and a Kyle XY t-shirt.
"Don't let CB seeing you advertising the opposition," Amy warned, bringing their moment of happy overshare to an end. "Although the wearing each others' clothes thing you have going on is really cute."
It was Tony's turn to flush and look down. Oh yeah. Ooops.
"I hadn't been planning on going out," Lee said with more dignity than Tony could have managed. Lee. Actor. Right. Tony really needed to wake up. No - Tony really needed to go back to sleep, or at least back to his warm bed with his warm and preferably naked boyfriend and start the day again.
"Why are you here?" Tony asked pointedly bringing the conversation back to Amy and something resembling relevance.
"I'll make tea," Lee murmured and headed across to the small kitchen area.
The kettle was new and all Lee - Tony still couldn't quite see why heating the water in the microwave was so wrong but if being able to boil water was what got Lee staying over then Tony wasn't about to argue. Especially if he wasn't forced to drink it. Lee on a health kick (which was pretty much always) meant strange herbal concoctions in unlikely sounding flavours that he insisted were good for you and Tony was sure were part of some evil plot he hadn't figured out yet.
"Coffee would be great," Amy said, "unless you have..." Tony caught her eye. "Never mind. You should hear this. C.B has been trying to get hold of you too."
Lee flicked the switch and turned back to them, leaning against the counter in a relaxed stance that explained, if any explanation was needed, why James Taylor Grant was routinely voted one of the sexiest TV characters in genre magazine polls and, therefore, why that statement hadn't bothered him like it had Tony. He crossed his arms and raised one eyebrow in a gesture that any regular viewer would recognise from many episodes as his 'I'm waiting for an explanation' pose. While Lee and the character he played had very little in common, although much to Tony's annoyance and the supernatural's inability to fuck off and leave them alone that amount had been increasing recently, the occasional mannerism slipped through. Tony wasn't sure if this one was originally Lee's or a hangover from the show. It looked better on Lee. A lot better. Lee caught his eye and gave him a little smile that suggested he knew exactly what Tony was thinking. Tony wet his lips. First he needed to get Amy to leave. Then he needed to see just how unhygienic Lee was willing to get in the kitchen.
First things, first: "Spill Amy. What's this all about?"
Amy looked between them unhappily but settled on talking to Lee. "Kevin got wind of a story about you that's in the works," she said seriously. "Wanted to give us the headsup before the publicity department had to start issuing denials."
"About... " Lee unhooked his arms and wiggled his fingers. And exactly when had that been decided on as the universal sign for magic?
Amy's eyes flicked to Tony. "Not that kind of story."
Lee looked over to him as well. "I'm not denying anything," he said hotly.
Tony resisted the urge to walk across the room and do something unforgivably saccharine. Because, yeah, they had sort of discussed this and, even beyond the set, they hadn't been exactly hiding but they hadn't been sending out press releases either.
"This you are," Amy countered, "unless you want to tell everyone that you like banging hookers."
The silence that met that declaration was only broken by the bubble-hiss of the kettle. If this was a movie, Tony thought, it would whistle now. One of those old-fashioned whistles which sounds like the water is screaming. The sort that only existed in people's memories of visiting grandparents or on TV shows because it was nicely portentous. But this was real life so the only thing that happened was three people staring at each other and trying to work out what to say next.
"Yeah, sorry," Amy muttered, "Could have phrased that slightly better."
Tony swallowed, trying to ease his suddenly dry throat. There was a joke wanting to be made about how everyone paid for sex but Tony couldn't get the words out. They'd laugh about this later. Probably.
"Tony," Lee started in a small voice, clearly misinterpreting and not liking whatever he saw in Tony's face, "you know it isn't..." he cleared his throat and tried again. "That I wouldn't..."
"Of course I know." Tony stopped him. Like Lee would have the time! A little voice in the back of his head reminded him just how quick such excursions could be but he ignored it. This was Lee. He just wouldn't. "Female or male..?" The words were out before he could stop them.
"For Christ's sake, does it matter?" Lee objected.
"I didn't mean..." Tony tried to back-pedal quickly and explain he hadn't actually thought what he had almost thought about Lee missing women but Amy cut across him before he could get his feet further down his throat.
"Male," she said distinctly. Something inside Tony loosened and he hated himself for it. "And they believe they have some kind of evidence. Which is why I'm here rather than everyone ignoring it - which is still more thought than that type of malicious crap deserves."
There were times when Tony really loved Amy. They pretty much coincided with the times that he was damn glad she was on their side.
"Is it too early for something stronger than tea?" Lee asked rhetorically. He sighed. "Do we know who has the story? And what the hell type of evidence they think they have given I've never so much as stopped at ask a prostitute for directions."
He probably believed that as well. Tony, however, had seen the receipts for a couple of the C.B. thrown industry parties.
"Kevin was going to try and find out - get back to us." Amy shrugged. "Until then neither of you should answer the phone or give any statements."
Which they had been doing perfectly well until Amy had disturbed them.
"Wait a minute," Tony said. "If we do that then how are you going to let us know what Kevin finds out?"
He knew the question was a mistake as soon as he asked it. You didn't need to be a wizard to use caller ID. Before he could retract it Amy stomped right into the opening he had left.
"I can swing by later," she said cheerfully. "Seven?"
"Eight," Lee countered.
Tony frowned at him as there went that last chance to stop this turning into a circus before it started but this was Lee's call more than his. He was just the boyfriend whereas Lee was the injured party.
"Sunset's at 7:45," Lee elaborated.
Tony knew that. He wasn't entirely sure how he felt about the fact that Lee did too. Or what it implied.
"You're okay with that?" He said carefully.
"He's going to find out anyway. Might as well make this a council of war and get it over with."
Tony winced. Lee had a point.
"Eight," he told Amy. "Bring drinks. We'll get pizza."
Amy nodded. "Eight." With more tact than Tony normally gave her credit for she continued, "right, I better go - the phones won't answer themselves and I think I left someone on hold."
Tony hoped she was joking. He still saw her out - it was the only way to be sure.
"Well that was fun," Lee said when he returned, not really looking at him. He'd put the kettle back on again and it grumbled gently behind him. "For let-not-do-that-again values of fun."
Tony didn't bother pointing out that the evening would only be worse. And probably the next few weeks. He still wasn't quite sure which he hated more - hell demons or gossip columnists. Or if there was an appreciable difference between the two. On the whole the latter had less potential for all out, world-ending destruction, but on the other hand they were also more numerous, constant and you couldn't banish them back to another dimension. Not without having a lot of questions asked anyway. He though he should probably say something but he wasn't sure what. Communication had never really been their strong suit - not when it came to things like this.
The kettle clicked off for what was probably the second time and Lee busied himself with finding cups and and all the other little details that went into producing drinkable coffee and weird-ass stewed weed mixture.
"I haven't been with anyone else." Lee said suddenly, not turning around. "Not since..."
"Leah," Tony filled in for him tonelessly. He wasn't exactly happy about Leah's little fuck-me trick, it smacked way too much of date-rape, but any issues he had were with her. Lee had been a free agent at the time. And even if he hadn't been he'd had just done what ninety percent of men would have done and Tony could hardly blame him for being a bit straight and not saying no to the undeniable.
"Yeah," Lee muttered. "But... just so you know."
"I know." It wasn't exactly the most erudite response. "Sometimes I think we should get the guys who come up with this crap writing on the show." His feet clearly liked being in his mouth.
"Horror episode," Lee agreed but it came out too flat. He turned around finally, mug cradled in his hands against his stomach. He looked too pale, hunched around his drink and not really meeting Tony's eyes. He looked... frightened. "You don't have to be part of this."
There'd been rumours, Tony remembered, back when he'd joined the Darkest Night. That Lee had been practically engaged but that his intended hadn't stuck around after stories that he was having an affair with his then leading lady. Literally - she'd skipped town rather than deal with the press making Lee look even more guilty. The break up had happened soon after. Tony had vague recollections of reading speculation about the supposed burgeoning relationship in a few of the less reputable trade papers and getting into a pointless debate with one of the girls who worked at the video store. She refused to believe it whereas he'd figured that it was most likely true. Having actually got to know Lee, he'd probably called that one wrong.
"Vampires, evil cross-dimensional warlords, demons..." Tony pointed out. "Not going anywhere."
That got him a smile. "You're sure?"
That was the time to walk over to the kitchen, take the mug from Lee's too-tight hands and kiss him. Hard.
Lee laughed a little shakily when Tony let him up for air. "Okay," he said. "That's good. That's good."
Tony stole his coffee from the sideboard and stepped back far enough to give himself room to drink. Undeterred by the slightly-too-hot-to-comfortably-drink temperature he took a long sip and waited for the caffeine and sugar to hit his system. His lips stung unpleasantly at the heat so rather than taking a second swallow he inhaled the rich, heavy smell.
"Addict," Lee accused lightly. He still looked a little drawn but the blood was coming back into his face and the tightness around his mouth had faded. Tony felt good about that.
"Jealous," Tony retorted, "I've know your coveting my caffeine."
The smile was almost there. "Or I could just like looking at you?"
"Yeah," Tony agreed, "especially when I'm drinking coffee. What did you do before I came along to satisfy your voyeuristic masochism?"
"Spent some very sad nights wondering about you," Lee said just as Tony risked a second mouthful. That one went down way too fast and within an inch of taking a wrong turning and coming back up through his nose.
"You thought about me?" Tony couldn't help the leer that crept into his voice because when you had your TV star boyfriend admit that he'd fantasised about you - that was something to grin about.
Lee looked unimpressed, just the sly twinkle in his eyes giving him away. "Are you going to claim you never jerked off thinking about me?"
"Half your viewers have jerked off thinking about you," Tony argued.
Lee pulled a face. "Eww." Okay, that did sort of kill the mood.
"Could be worse," Tony consoled remorselessly, "the other half were thinking about Mason."
Lee's expression went past 'eww' into 'pass the brain bleach' and as he grabbed for a mental lifesaver. "Raymond Dark," he corrected.
"You keep telling yourself that," Tony said without thinking.
Lee's gaze dropped away uncomfortably. "All that stuff they come up with with James Taylor Grant and Raymond Dark... do you think they spotted something..?"
Tony backtracked quickly. "That you are secretly lusting after Mason?" he scoffed. At Lee' horrified expression he continued "I think that if you have enough crackpots posting homoerotic fantasies and convinced everyone is gay then a few times they are going to be right. Stopped clock principle."
"My fanclub is not made up of crackpots..." Lee said stoutly, either Tony's point or his loyalty to his fans had done the trick. His lips quirked into one of his famous half-smiles that had women (and a fair number of men) buying every magazine it graced the pages of. "That's Mason's."
"You know that could be what all this is about - one of your fans wrote a smutty story and some wannabe hack got over-excited and thought it was real."
Lee snorted. "You're lucky that no one's identified you beyond 'and guest' yet. They'd either kill you off in the first paragraph to get you out of the way or you'd be right in there with me. Do you think you'd be the hooker or the john?"
"Errm," Tony said sickly. A slightly queasy feeling was taking up residence in the pit of his stomach.
"Although since I'm apparently the Richard Gere character in this little scenario I guess that makes you Julia Roberts." Lee struck an overly dramatic pose. "Tell me you aren't just using me for sex - I don't think I could afford the 3000 a week."
Another time Tony would have laughed... and then taken the piss about how well Lee apparently knew that movie. "Lee..." Lee's suspect taste in entertainment aside, Tony really didn't like the turn that his suspicions were taking.
"Of course," Lee joked, "given how badly CB pays..."
Fuck. He really didn't want to talk about this but Lee was right - there had been a few pictures with them both in. Him unnamed, but plainly visible and even more plainly connected with Lee. A few pictures with national circulation. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. All it would have taken was the wrong person to have recognised him and seen a way to make a bit of money.
The time when he said "Lee..." there was something in his voice that made Lee shut up. Shut up and waited silently as Tony took a steadying breath and forced himself to say, "my father kicked me out when I was fifteen..."
"Shit!" Lee looked shocked but so clearly confused that it was obvious that hadn't made the connection. "What did you do?"
"Decided I didn't like starving." It came out sharper than Tony had intended.
Lee blanched, a nauseating mixture of guilt and embarrassment as he finally understood what Tony was getting at.
"Lee?" Tony prompted. He wanted to step closer, to reassure himself that everything would be alright, but if this was going to go bad, and he knew it could go very bad, then he needed to be as far away from Lee as possible because it was going to fucking hurt. The impulse was still there to run back to Henry but he wouldn't. Whatever happened this would be his mistake to make. Strangely that made him feel better. "Lee?"
Lee blinked, suddenly looking more like himself. "Okay," he said.
"Okay?" Tony repeated in disbelief.
"Well not 'okay'," Lee agreed, dark brows drawn down angrily. "That's seriously fucked up. And, that does sort of explain why you never talk about your life back east."
"But that's it? You don't care?'
"Look, Tony." And Lee was the one stepping forwards, his hands warm and careful as he held Tony's arms through the thin fabric of his (Lee's) t-shirt; forcing Tony not to look away. "I care that you had to - I don't care that you did."
That was... Tony didn't want to think about what that was or what it meant. It was probably too much to hope that the tight feeling in his chest was an impending heart attack although if pushed he was ready to swear that the prickling behind his eyes was allergies.
"Well, this is bloody depressing," he said before he could make a total fool of himself. "Want to go back to bed and deal with it later?"
For a moment he thought Lee was going to push the issue but then masculine sensibilities and the realisation that he was dating another guy so they didn't have to talk about shit kicked in. At least he hoped it was that realisation kicking in rather than Lee re-evaluating their sex life in the light of his suddenly expanded history.
"Fuck, yes" Lee said emphatically.
"That," Tony drawled, "sounds like an even better idea."
He tried a smile and after a moment Lee smiled with him. Lee really was a better actor than most people gave him credit for - Tony almost believed it and almost believed that Lee believed him. The kiss that followed, however, was real and, right then, that was all that mattered.