Stephen rolls over and pulls the covers up over his head again. He wants the dark, the quiet. Since yesterday his mood had taken a nose-dive - and now all he wants is to hide in bed, from all the change, all the things he has no control over. He's cried on and off for hours and now his face is puffy, his eyes sore from it.
Smiling to himself in the elevator as he makes his way up to the penthouse, Antony checks his watch. Everything settled, done, out of the way, he's in decent time for a nice long brunch and a lazy afternoon of movie-watching. He lets himself into the condo, his bag dropped by the door, and starts to call out when Logan rounds the corner, the expression on his face not one Antony likes at all. "What? Is Stephen okay?"
Fuck. Logan pretty much winces at the question. "He's in the bedroom," he says. "He started seeming kind of down after you guys talked yesterday, went for a nap, said he didn't want dinner and he hasn't come out since." And before Antony can ask, he points out, "I checked on him this morning but he told me to go away."
"Did something happen?" Antony asks.
"Not that I noticed," Logan says. "Seriously. We were talking, watching TV, you guys talked, he came back, we started another movie and then he said he was feeling tired and excused himself."
Antony's sure there has to be more to it than that. "Okay. Did you get something to eat? If you didn't, grab something and then you're on the door again."
He hears Antony's voice, Logan clearly telling Antony how he's been hiding out and Stephen braces himself when footsteps, sure and steady, can be heard in the hall outside of their bedroom. He doesn't move from where he's curled up on his side, huddled under sheets that probably need changing.
Antony quietly lets himself in, the room warm and heavy with the scent of sweat and too long spent closed up. He stands by the bed for a moment until his eyes adjust to the dark and then climbs on, curling up behind Stephen, his arm wrapped around him. "Hey, I'm home."
Stephen closes his eyes at that. He hadn't been aware how much he needed Antony until right this moment. "I'm sorry," he mumbles, his misery obvious.
"Don't be," Antony says, hugging Stephen in tight. "What happened?" Certain there has to be something that triggered this.
"I don't know," Stephen admits. "I kept myself busy when you left Thursday to yesterday lunchtime, but after you called... I don't know, my mood just dropped. I was getting more and more irritated at the movie we were watching, and my head started to pound so I came in here to lie down... and I just haven't been able to stop crying since. My ankles ache, I feel sick... I don't know what to do with myself." Stephen chokes up again, rubbing his eyes with the edge of the sheet.
Antony gives Stephen a squeeze. "It's okay. There's been a lot going on. A lot of changes, a lot of upset, you coming out, me being away. Just because it's good changes doesn't mean they're not stressful."
"This isn't normal though, is it?" Stephen shifts, trying to roll onto his back. "I thought... it was weeks ago now... and I thought I was doing better."
Antony loosens his hold on Stephen but keeps his arm right where it is. "It's totally normal as far as I'm concerned," he says with a small shrug. "I told you recovery wasn't linear. Mine certainly wasn't."
Stephen considers that for a moment. "I'm being too hard on myself again, aren't I?" he tips his head to look at Antony.
Antony nods. "Yeah, you are. Much too hard," he says with a smile. "It's like grieving, even as you think you're moving forward, past things, it just strikes you out of the blue sometimes. And mostly for no reason at all. Or no reason you can pinpoint."
"I didn't like it that you weren't here," Stephen admits quietly. "I had a couple of minor panics, which I handled, but they're exhausting... and then I get in a cycle of berating myself for being irrational." Pulling a hand from under the covers he scrubs at his face, his whiskers making a soft rasping sound against his palm.
"You didn't tell me," Antony points out. "I could've come home. Even just for a bit."
"I didn't want that." Sighing he lets his hand fall away. "I felt like I should be able to cope - I mean, in my own fucking home?"
"Maybe, but it's been two months since we've been apart," Antony says, wishing he could wave some magic wand for Stephen and let him skip over this whole part. Not that that would be wise or healthy. "I found it hard to be away from you, so why wouldn't you?"
"You did?" He'd thought that Antony would be distracted by the discussions, the deals he'd had to oversee, not struggling to handle the absence between them.
Antony nods. "I was doing what I needed to do but in the back of my mind, I just wanted out of there and home with you."
"What a needy pair of bastards we've become," Stephen observes with a wry grunt. "And then you get home to this. Well, welcome home husband." He seeks out Antony's hand and squeezes it tight.
"Thank you," Antony murmurs, planting a kiss on Stephen's stubbled cheek. "But now that I'm home, I'm going to make you get up and have a shower and get dressed while I change the bed and open some windows."
There's a moment that Stephen wants to push back, to tell Antony he wants to stay in bed, to stew in his own misery, but he fights it - knows that he'll only be subjecting them both to his shitty mood. "Okay, I'll shower, but I'm only putting pj's on," he concedes.
"And you'll eat something?" Antony asks, more than happy to negotiate. Hell, it's what he's been doing all weekend already.
"Don't push it," Stephen grumbles, though his tone suggests he's not as pissed at the suggestion as it appears. "I'll shower then we'll see."
"Well, I'm going to eat something," Antony says, reaching for the bedside light and flicking it on. "I'm starving. I skipped breakfast because we were supposed to be having brunch."
"Fine, order in, make it yourself, whatever, I'm going to shower." And with that Stephen pushes up out of bed to reveal he's wearing only dirty, crumpled boxers.
And even like that Stephen still steals Antony's breath away. He lies there for a moment, just staring.
"And turn the light off, there's daylight out there," Stephen throws over his shoulder as he disappears into the bathroom. He shaves before he steps under the water in the shower, turning the heat up until his skin reddens from it. Smothering himself in body wash Stephen scrubs from head to toe, rinsing off quickly, a towel pulled from the rail and draped around his shoulders when he steps out.
Antony opens up the curtains and windows, puts new linens on the bed, tossing the old in the washer, and turns off the light. He changes into a pair of worn jeans and a faded old tee and heads for the kitchen, opting to throw a can of cinnamon rolls in the oven while he fries up some bacon and slices some fruit to go with it.
Having dried off Stephen slips on some flannel pj bottoms and a long sleeve tee, he pulls the cuffs down to cover his wrists, capturing the fabric in his palm as he pads barefoot out into the main living area. He perches his butt on a stool at the island and watches, silently, as his husband moves about the kitchen.
"You want some coffee or juice?" Antony offers, cutting up some grapes, the bacon flipped and the rolls checked on.
"Coffee please," Stephen slides his arms forward, crossing them over before setting his chin on his forearms. "Is it really all done now?" he asks quietly.
Antony nods, setting a cup to brew. "All done," he says, stilling for a moment, meeting Stephen's gaze. "I'm out." The words settling in, making it real for him, relief flooding through. Fuck. Deep down he'd thought for sure the only way he'd go out was in a box.
"Are we safer now?" Stephen rubs at his nose with one cuff covered knuckle.
They've been safe since he took care of Janko and his men but Antony really doesn't want to mention them. Instead he nods again. "There's no reason for anyone to come after us now," he says. "I'm not competition for anyone anymore and there's no one else looking for revenge."
"How do you feel about it? Now it's done?" Stephen feels like they ought to be celebrating, and that he's bought the entire thing down with his mood swings.
Antony takes a minute to set the bacon on a plate and cover it. "I feel good," he says, realizing he really does. "I don't think I ever really believed I'd get out and not only have I done it, but I'm a fucking billionaire." He grins, eyes crinkling.
"And to think I only married you for this place, I sold myself short huh?" Stephen teases, pleased that Antony really doesn't seem to have any second thoughts at all.
Antony laughs. "Hey, it's your money too. We're billionaires," he says, setting Stephen's coffee in front of him. "Are you hungry?" The cinnamon rolls pulled from the oven.
Pushing up to sit straight Stephen pulls the mug toward himself and picks it up. "No, but I expect you want me to eat," he eyes the rolls, they're something he'd usually be all over, loving the comforting smell of cinnamon and freshly baked dough. But not today.
"Logan said you haven't eaten since lunch yesterday," Antony says, pulling a couple of plates from the cupboard. "So it would probably be a good idea."
"Ahh, do you remember the good old days when you could just order me to do shit?" Stephen eyes Antony over the rim of his mug, his tone dry. "Fruit, anything else I'll probably throw up."
"I'm your husband, not your keeper," Antony says with a small shrug, handing over a plate of fruit salad with a spoon before piling his own high with bacon, two cinnamon rolls and a more modest mound of fruit.
Stephen arches a brow at that, taking the spoon. "That was not the response I was expecting," he admits, poking at a raspberry as if it might bite.
"What do you want me to say?" Antony asks, taking a seat at the end of the island with his plate.
Setting the spoon back down, the fruit untouched, Stephen hunches his shoulders up a little. "It's not that I wanted you to say something specific. Just... I don't know. I was trying to joke... or something. I was trying, all right?"
Antony sits back. "I'm sorry. I didn't think you were joking," he says. "I thought you were..." fuck. It's been a long weekend and he's exhausted and it's definitely starting to show. "I thought you were either taunting me or spoiling for a fight."
"What?" Stephen's so shocked at that he knocks over his coffee by accident. "Oh shit! Shit!" He hops off the stool and grabs a towel mopping it up before it runs off the edge of the counter. "Crap," he sighs, righting the mug and tossing the now sodden fabric in the sink.
"Here," Antony says, using another tea towel to wipe up the rest of it as well as Stephen's mug. "I'll make you another cup."
"No, I can manage. Eat your breakfast," Stephen snaps, hurt at Antony's accusation. "I can't believe you thought I'd do that to you, about something so fucking sensitive." He drops the mug in the sink and rinses it out.
"I'm not a mind reader," Antony points out with a sigh, feeling utterly fucking defeated at this point. "I can barely suggest you do anything without you going out of your way to prove to me I don't control you, so what am I supposed to think?"
"That I'd be cruel like that? All I've been doing is trying to assert myself, to feel like I can claw back some control for myself. I can't move without some security shadow, I can't leave here without a minor anxiety attack. I can't even control my moods, or my temper... I don't know how to do this... any of it. And I hate it, I fucking hate it."
"I know, and I'm sorry," Antony says, because he really is. "I'm exhausted and not at my best either, and I mistook what you said."
Stephen turns away, makes himself a fresh coffee, anything to distract himself, and busy his hands while he breathes his way through a technique he uses to calm himself. "You might not control me anymore, but neither do I," he says quietly. "And I'm lost."
Antony moves behind Stephen. "Can I hold you?" he asks.
Stephen just nods, not trusting his voice right now. He's utterly exhausted from this emotional rollercoaster he's on, he just wants to go back to bed and sleep.
Antony wraps his arms around Stephen and brushes his mouth across the nape of his neck. "I'm sorry," he says again. "I would do anything to make this easier for you and I'm trying my best and I fucked up. I hate that you're struggling, that you're feeling lost. If I could take any of this on myself, I would. I'd take all of it for you."
"But you can't, Tony," Stephen leans back into Antony's embrace. "I just have to find my way through it."
Antony nods, hugging Stephen closer still. "I know. But if there's anything I can do to help, anything you need, I'm here."
"I think you should eat your breakfast, and then we should go to bed, get some sleep, because I don't know about you? But I'm so fucking done in."
"That sounds like a plan," Antony admits, brushing another kiss across Stephen's skin. "I could obviously use a nap."
"Go on, eat," Stephen urges. "Let me finish making this and I'll sit with you."
Antony hugs Stephen and takes his place at the island again, his stomach grumbling as he digs into his food. Stephen adds extra sugar to his coffee and then shuffles over to reclaim his seat, he sits, sipping it as Antony clears his plate, his own food ignored, the very idea making him feel nauseated.
Antony hates the idea Stephen hasn't eaten. He'd thought they'd moved past that. But one day, hell, even two, isn't going to kill him and any pressure is just going to make him get his back up. "I'm done," he announces, shoving the last bite of cinnamon roll into his mouth.
"C'mon then, bring your coffee," Stephen slides from his stool and offers Antony his hand. "Let's go to bed, just peace and quiet and us." And doesn't that sound perfect? No other interruptions, nothing else to worry about for the next day or so.
Antony dumps his plate in the dishwasher, grabs his coffee and takes Stephen's hand. "Want me in pjs?" he asks, nodding at his jeans and tee.
"No, it's fine. I'll keep mine on though," Stephen pulls his husband back to the bedroom; it smells so much fresher, thank god. He tugs the clean covers back while Antony strips off and sits. Antony naked almost always inspired lust in Stephen, but right now, all it does is make him yearn to be held, to feel that strong body wrapped around him, to fill his nose with his husband's musky scent.
Settled in, Antony opens his arms to Stephen.
Without hesitation, Stephen presses in, his arms sliding over Antony's abs, his head laying on his husband's chest. He lets out a long weary sigh. "You're becoming my safe place again, my anchor," he admits softly.
Thank god. After his earlier fuck-up Antony'd been worried he'd put them back some. "Good," he says, tucking Stephen in even closer. "Because I am. I'm your rock. I'm the one who will always be here. It doesn't matter where you are, what time it is, anything - if you need me, I will drop everything to be there for you."