Antony's changed from his street clothes into dark green camo pants, a tight black t-shirt and well-worn combat boots. He's got a thigh rig housing a Glock, a shoulder holster with another semi-automatic, and one more gun on his hip. There's also several knives in his belt and tucked into his boots, ammo stashed everywhere, a couple of grenades and his preferred Colt M4 Commando.
He glances around the room, everyone pretty much outfitted in a similar fashion with only a few tweaks here and there for favourite weapons.
"How are you holding up?" Marcus asks quietly, stepping up beside him.
"I'm fine," Antony says, his words and tone clipped.
Marcus just looks at him.
"How do you think I am?" Antony says, shaking his head. Keeping his voice low, meant only for them. "They've got my husband, my boy, and they're threatening to kill him. They've obviously hurt him, he's scared shitless, and I fucking promised him he'd never be in this position."
"You couldn't have known," Marcus points out.
"Like fucking hell I couldn't have," Antony growls before quieting again. "You were right. He may not have made me weak but they saw him and figured he was my weakness. And he is. But only because I'm willing to fucking burn them and everything around them to the fucking ground if that's what it takes to get him back." He glances at Marcus. "They're going to pay. Every single one of them. And I'm saving Janko for last. Him, I'm going to take apart with my bare fucking hands."
Marcus nods. He wouldn't expect anything less of his boss.
"I need you to make sure Stephen's okay," Antony goes on. "Your first priority is to get him the hell out of there. If it comes to choosing between him and me at any point, you choose him. You understand me?"
Marcus starts to protest but quickly stops. There's no arguing with Antony and he knows it wouldn't work any other way. "I do. Stephen first."
Antony blows out a breath, running a hand over the back of his neck, his wedding band and tags left in place. "Tell Christos and the others. Their only goal is to get Stephen out. Whatever it takes."
Jasper had easily determined which warehouse they wanted, the first busy with trucks and crews obviously loading and unloading supplies while the other had nothing but a few vehicles and a couple guys out front, supposedly taking a smoke break, but obviously keeping eye. He'd also been able to pinpoint a weak point in the back of the warehouse. A single door, pretty much forgotten, out of camera range. Schematics for the building revealed it was secured but not linked to the main security system.
Pulling into the lot behind the warehouse, Antony fires up his laptop and quickly accesses the main system, relooping the cameras at the back of the building. The building they're parked behind has only one camera and it's easily relooped as well. "We're all good?" he murmurs, making a few more tweaks to the system, the room with two heat signatures and another two outside their best bet for Stephen's location. "They're going to call in fifteen so we need to be in that building and wreaking havoc before they do."
"Want me to take the door?" Logan offers. "I'm betting I can have us inside in five." And take some of the pressure off Antony.
Antony's first instinct is to say no but he knows when to delegate and Logan's good, really good, one of the best physical lock picks they have. "Okay. You've got five and then I'm taking over."
"Yes, sir," Logan says, everyone out of the SUV, the larger weapons pulled out of the back along with the rest of the ammo they've brought with them.
Christos uses the bolt cutters on the chain link fence dividing the two properties. Marcus takes point, heading for the corner of the building and waves them over one by one, starting with Logan who begins work on the lock and the alarm wired solely to it.
"Three minutes," Antony tells him when he joins the other four men, unable to help himself.
"I know, I know," Logan murmurs, smiling, clipping a few wires with a satisfied nod before pulling his kit out of his back pocket. "Almost there." He presses his ear to the door, listening to the tumbler as he quickly and quietly scrubs his pick back and forth until all the pins are set. And grins. "Booyah."
There hadn't been any heat signatures at the back of the warehouse the last time they looked but that doesn't mean things have stayed that way. Antony eases the door open as slow and gently as possible, the hinges quieted with a liberal coating of WD-40. A quick peek shows no one in sight and he gestures for his men to follow, hugging the wall as he heads to the right and down the long dark narrow hallway.
Stephen has closed his eyes and fallen silent for about ten minutes or so, not exactly dozing; he's in too much pain for that, but just taking a few to summon up some strength for what he knows is coming. Eventually, reluctantly, he takes as deep a breath as he dares and he opens his eyes. "Joseph?"
"Yes?" Joseph had been resting too, on alert for any change in the sounds coming from outside the room. He glances at his watch.
"I think I should get up, move around, just in case..." Stephen trails off. "For when I get out of here." He can't verbalise it now, 'when Antony comes in here and all hell breaks loose', it's all too real, too immediate.
Joseph nods. "Okay." They need something to occupy their time and it might as well be moving Stephen around the cell. He helps Stephen to his feet, offering his shoulder for the man to lean on.
For a moment Stephen is certain he's going to pass out, he's certain every fiber of his being is hurt, bruised, aching in some form. He leans heavily on Joseph as the room tilts and he has to wait until his head settles and his feet feel a little steadier under him. "Fuckfuckfuck..."
"Are you going to be able to stand on your own?" Joseph asks, frowning, really taking in all the damage Stephen's suffered. The maybe-broken-definitely-swollen nose, black eyes, open wounds on his wrists and ankles, the cut on his cheek and the huge bruise, goose egg, on his forehead. And that's not even counting any internal injuries apart from the cracked ribs. Fuck.
"I think so, that's why I wanted to get up and move around," Stephen pauses to swallow and shuffle forward half a step. "I need to know what I can do, how much of a problem I'm going to be."
Joseph winces. "You're not going to be able to move much," he says. "Certainly not get yourself out of here. It's like a warren, hallway after hallway. You'll have to be holding onto someone, like this, but at least they can have you stand for a few minutes if needed."
Stephen tries to straighten up, pushing through the pain, then he nudges Joseph away. "Let me try," he grinds out between teeth clenched in pain. Somehow he makes it across the small room, leaning against the wall for a moment before turning around and making his way back.
"I'm impressed," Joseph says with a tilt of his head.
Huffing out a noise that might be construed as a humourless laugh, Stephen leans back against Joseph. "Pain and I are old friends, I just need to focus, though I don't think I've got much more in me, so I fucking hope we don't have to wait much longer."
Joseph glances at his watch again. "Janko should be making the call any moment, and then Antony will have his window to make it to the rendezvous. It won't be far from there to here."
Peering around the next corner, Antony whips his head back, gesturing to the others they have two coming their way. The men step around the corner, laughing and joking, and Antony takes the first while Marcus takes the other, snapping their necks in unison. It would be better if they could hide the bodies but tucking them in against the wall is the best they can do. Down the hall they go, like a well-oiled machine, two more men dispatched the same way before the next guy steps out of one of the rooms at an inopportune moment, his strangled shout alerting the rest of Janko's crew. "Fuck," Antony growls, frustrated, but there's nothing to do be done for it. Wreak havoc indeed.
They both hear it at the same time, and Stephen's head comes up, his heart rate picking up speed in a moment. "Antony," and the name almost sounds like a prayer.
With their cover blown, Antony and his men open fire, taking down everyone in their path. Heading towards the front and eastern side of the building. The return fire is fierce, one of Janko's men tossing a grenade their way. They all hit the deck, their way back demolished. But thankfully his aim is poor, the action one of stupidity and panic rather than skill or thought. Ears ringing, covered with dust, they rise up again and charge forward, closer and closer to that one fucking room. Mowing down everything and everyone in their path. Well aware they're not only fighting the clock to retrieve Stephen but to get the hell out of here before the police arrive.
"Fuck!" Stephen actually ducks at the huge noise of what he assumes is an explosion, he's heard enough of them on set before, but this, this is real. Too real. He looks at Joseph who's only a few feet away. "He's coming..." he says needlessly. "He's coming for me."
"I know," Joseph nods, pulling a gun from the small of his back. "Get behind me," he says, aiming for the door. "If they can't kill him, they'll want to kill you. Do him as much damage as they can."
Without a word Stephen does as he's told, one arm out to brace himself against the wall, his breathing noisy and ragged. His gaze is locked on the door, each second drawn out until it feels like time has stood still.
One guard's struggling to unlock the door while the other's firing on them when Antony and his crew find the room. He pulls his Glock and puts one in each guard's head, the deep dark satisfaction he takes in the act and execution something he knows would terrify Stephen. He waves Christos, Logan and Kevin forward to meet Janko and his men. "I don't give a shit about the others but I want Janko alive." The keys grabbed from the guard's hand, Antony unlocks the door, trusting Marcus to have his back. He throws it open, gun in his hand, his heart in his throat as he takes in Stephen, standing behind another man with a gun, the look on his face something Antony doesn't think he'll ever forget. "Let him go." Itching to take this other guy out as well but not sure he can get a clear shot, not with the way Stephen's so fucking close to him.
There's a rattling at the door, then two, distinct, loud popping sounds, Stephen flinches with each and he swallows hard, still unable to look away from the door. Moments later the door swings open, and stood there, almost unrecognisable, is Antony. Covered in dust, his husband's expression is one he's never seen before, and one he's sure he never wants to see again. Implacable and enraged. At his husband's words however, Stephen holds up a hand, pushing Joseph aside. "It's okay, Antony, it's okay... put the gun down... please..."
Antony shakes his head, keeping his gun levelled at the man's temple. "He deserves to die," he says. "They all do." But he doesn't fire, not yet, something in his husband's tone holding him at bay.
"Not this man," Stephen winces as he tries to move closer. "Antony, let him go," his tone is firmer this time, belying the pain he's in. "I said put the fucking gun down." His patience is wearing out, and he's not sure how much longer he'll stay on his feet.
"I did what I could to help him," Joseph says quickly, his own gun set on the floor. "I stopped him from being raped."
Antony's gaze flickers from Stephen to the stranger and back again. Gauging the man's words - and Stephen's. Not this man. "We don't have time for this," he says, the sound of gunfire and return fire all around them. "Marcus?" He holsters his Glock and closes the distance between him and Stephen, tears in his eyes as he checks out his husband. His boy. Hurt but alive. "They blew up the back of the building. We have to go out through the front before the police get here. Can you walk?" The words not anything like the ones he wants to say.
"Barely." It's an honest answer, he's almost certain the adrenaline that's been keeping him on his feet in the last ten minutes or so is going to wear off real soon. "I've got broken ribs... and I think my breathing is getting worse..." He'd not said anything to Joseph, hadn't seen the point, but now, now all Stephen needs is to get out of here. "I need a hospital."
Antony nods, the noise behind him starting to die down. "Any hospital's going to ask questions," he says, "but there's a clinic - same deal as in L.A. They'll take care of you."
Logan sticks his head through the door. "We've got Janko, two of his guys. There's another three or four in the office but we can take care of them. Jasper's pulled his van up front and he went for the SUV."
Antony offers Stephen his shoulder, wrapping his arm lightly around his husband's waist. Trying not to hurt him even more. "Take the guys and the van back to the warehouse, along with this one," he says, nodding at Joseph. "He helped so... just - fucking hold him for now. Apart from the others. I'll take the SUV. Stephen needs medical care."
Logan nods a quick hello at Stephen. "Sounds good. Anyone going with you?"
"Marcus." The man already leading the way out of the room and down the hall, Joseph slightly behind him. "Christos is in charge until we get there."
"Yessir." Logan nods again. "Want us to take out the whole office?"
The first bodies Stephen sees are of the two men who had been guarding him, sprawled on the floor, their heads a bloody mess. It's beyond surreal, he's thankful he can't smell anything. "Oh my god," he murmurs, leaning into Antony, his husband's solidity just about the only thing that's keeping him upright. As they shuffle-walk along the maze of corridors there are more bodies, so much more blood, and before they reach the door that leads out to the vehicles Stephen is heaving again, whimpering in pain as his body convulses.
"It's okay," Antony says, rubbing a hand over Stephen's back, wishing he'd thought to blindfold his husband or at least tell him not to look. Christ. "You're safe, I've got you, we're going to get you taken care of."
Logan digs in his pocket for a clean cleaning rag and passes it to Antony who offers it to Stephen. "Forget the office," Antony murmurs. "Get some stuff from Jasper and take out the whole building."
Stephen can hear Antony's words, he can't ignore the devastation around him, or how these men defer to his husband. This was the part of Antony he had never wanted to see, had convinced himself didn't exist. The killer. The realisation brings him up short, he stumbles, nearly going down, bile spilling from his open mouth.
Antony crouches with Stephen, rubbing his back. "Let it all out," he urges, his heart aching for his husband. "We've all been there. It's okay." Working to calm Stephen also calming him. That is, until Kevin brings Janko forward to put him in the van and Antony can't help himself. He's on his feet in an instant, punching Janko in the face, the man slammed back into the brick wall behind him. "You fucking piece of shit! How dare you fucking pull this! He's mine. Fucking mine. Did you really fucking think I'd let you get away with taking him, with touching him. You fucking threaten my property - the man I love - and think you can get away with it?" He punches Janko again, feeling his nose break, his cheek give, before Christos is pulling off him, the sirens in the distance only now becoming clearer.
Stephen watches all this from where he's collapsed, the violence, the words barely registering. He turns his head to Marcus. "Help me up, get me out of here," he tells the tall blond man. "I need a fucking doctor, I can barely breath."
Marcus hands Joseph over to Kevin and helps Stephen to his feet. "That's us," he says, nodding at the SUV as Jasper pulls up in front, glancing over his shoulder to see Antony walking towards them. He doesn't wait though. Simply walks Stephen to the vehicle as he can, helping him into the back, with a quick, "You're driving," to Jasper who's handing over a block of semtex to Logan. "We're going to Neil's clinic. Back entrance."
"I'm here," Antony announces, feeling like shit. Going off on Janko didn't do a damn thing for the tension he's been carrying. Except put paid to his reputation for keeping his head. "Sorry about that. You take the front. I'll ride in the back with Stephen."
Stephen slumps in the back of the vehicle, he knows he's pretty much done, he watches what's going on around him with a detached disinterest, his breathing now shallow and rapid.
Antony turns to Stephen as they pull away from the curb. "You said your ribs were broken," he says, gently running his hands over Stephen's sides. "Someone wrapped them?"
Stephen flinches from the contact, partly to avoid any further pain, and partly because for the last however many hours pretty much all physical contact has been violent. "Yeah." He gives a half nod. "Joseph did... he got me cleaned up after..." he tails off, not wanting to dwell on what might have happened. What nearly happened.
Antony makes note of that. That someone in that hell hole took care of Stephen. "It's good he did that. He was probably trying to stop you from puncturing a lung, but this is old school. We don't do this anymore. It actually makes it harder to breathe and puts you at risk for pneumonia," he says. "Pull your shirt up and sit forward a bit. It'll hurt but it'll be easier to breathe."
"I can't pull my top up," Stephen snaps back. "I can't fucking lift my arms, everything fucking hurts," he looks at Antony, letting his husband see just how broken he is. "I've been beaten, kicked, cut, one of those fuckers tried to rape me... I can barely fucking move."
"I know, and I am so fucking sorry," Antony says, shame washing over him. He should have seen this coming, should have taken Janko out way back when. He failed his boy. "But I got you out of there and now I'm doing my best to take care of you and make sure you're not hurt even more. So if you'll let me, I'll reach under your shirt and unwrap your ribs. Try and give you some relief so you can breathe easier."
Stephen just wants to cry, but for some reason, he doesn't want Antony to see that. Not here, not now. He takes a moment to summon up the energy before he leans forward a little, gripping the seat in front to brace himself. "Just hurry up. Hurry up and get me to a fucking doctor," he bites out between clenched teeth.
"Jasper?" Antony prompts, reaching up under Stephen's shirt to quickly and carefully locate the butterfly clips and unwrap his ribs.
"On it, boss. ETA ten minutes," Jasper supplies helpfully, glancing at the rearview mirror just as there's a huge explosion and fire and smoke fills the sky behind them.
Antony glances through the back window. "Check on them," he tells Marcus.
Marcus quickly texts Christos. All clear? Holding his breath for a second until he gets a Clear in return, several police suddenly whizzing by them, sirens blaring.
Stephen doesn't turn around at the noise. "Did you do that?" he asks as he settles back in the seat, then, "Nevermind," he turns his face away to the window and wonders if the next ten minutes will feel as long as he fears they will. Only now can he start thinking about more than his immediate survival. "Is Connor dead?" he asks, his tone flat, dull. "He must be dead."
"He's still alive," Antony says, watching Stephen, wanting to touch him, hold him. Wanting to explain why he did that. That they can't have Stephen's fingerprints and DNA in a building with a bunch of dead men. He doesn't know if his husband's ever been fingerprinted and typed and he wasn't going to ask. Easier to simply erase the problem. But now's not the time to explain anything. "He's in the hospital, in critical condition, but he's still alive."
"Good," Stephen winces as they hit a pothole in the road and he wraps his arms around himself. "Good, I want to know how he's doing, keep me updated." Now he's safe, the adrenaline has worn off, and as a consequence, he can feel every single cut, every bruise, every injury. It's all he can do to bite back his pain noises. "How long now?"
"Not long. It's just down here," Antony says, gesturing ahead of them. "They're expecting us. We're going to pull around back and go in there." Keep everything as quiet as they can, although with Stephen's injuries there's no way his work isn't going to find out. Fuck. He'll have to have Christos call in, buy them some time.
It seems like forever before they pull up at the back of the clinic, a door swinging open and a nurse appearing with a wheelchair. He waits for Antony to climb out and come around to help him out. All he can think about is getting some pain relief, he's exhausted from pain, from shock, and lack of sleep.
Antony helps Stephen into the wheelchair, telling the nurse while he does that Dr. Sawyer's expecting them. She starts to say something about being well-aware when Neil comes through the door and Antony feels a sense of relief wash over him. "Hey," he says quietly, giving the other man a quick version of a guy hug, Neil slapping his back before pulling back to ask, "So, what do we have?" only to see his eyes widen at the sight of Stephen - both at the shape he's in and who he is.
"This is Stephen," Antony explains as the nurse wheels them inside. "My partner," he adds, even more quietly, not a hundred percent sure of the nurse. "Stephen, Dr. Sawyer. Neil." He nods at the nurse as she and an orderly help Stephen up onto a table. "They're safe?"
Neil nods. "Cit-affiliated. This whole back area's just for private patients, with special staff," he says, stepping up to Stephen. My partner still ringing in his ears. Christ. "Hi, Stephen. It's a pleasure to meet you. I wish it were under better circumstances."
Stephen shifts on the bed, unable to find a comfortable position. "Hi, you'll have to excuse me, I can't take much more, so can I please get some fucking pain relief?" Stephen looks up at the Doctor, "I've been like this for hours." He ignores Antony who's hovering at the side of the room.
"Soon," Neil promises, quick and gently touching Stephen's head, nose, cheek. "I need to do a quick exam and then we'll get you something for the pain while we run the rest of the tests." He keeps going, checking his ears, listening to his heart, hands warm and as gentle as possible as he checks his ribs and his abdomen. "Antony, what am I looking at?"
Antony blows out a breath. "Kidnapping. They were trying to get to me through him."
"Is that right?" Neil asks Stephen, while ordering test after test of the nurse beside him as well as pain medication.
"Don't ask him what the fuck happened, he doesn't know, he wasn't there," Stephen bites out the words, "I was grabbed in the street I don't know how long ago, punched in the face, I think my nose is broken, I've been kicked in the back, and my ribs, twice, and they're broken, this," he lifts his fingers to the lump on his forehead, "is from being slammed down on my face while bound," And then he holds up his wrists. "And my wrists and ankles are fucked up from cable ties," he pauses to take a breath. "I'm dehydrated, I've been vomiting repeatedly for several hours, and I can't fucking take any more." His voice breaks on the last few words. "Please, just give me something for the pain..."
The words are like a knife to Antony's chest and he looks away, tears stinging his eyes. Sick to his stomach with how he failed Stephen. His husband. His boy. But he catalogues every single bit of damage, every single hurt, filing it away for when he gets his hands on Janko again. He may not have been able to stop this from happening but he'll make sure it never happens again.
"It's on its way," Neil says, resisting the urge to glance at Antony and taking the outburst in stride. Christ. Kidnapping. "We're going to do a couple of scans and an ultrasound to make sure there's no internal bleeding. As well, we'll get your wrists and your ankles cleaned up and bandaged, get your nose looked at, and get our plastics guy - who is Cit-affiliated as well - in here to take care of your cheek. I'm going to give you an IV for liquids, something to help settle your stomach and, if you want it, I can give you something to make all of this a lot easier. It all depends on how clear-headed you want to be right now."
"What do you fucking think?" Stephen's eyes finally fill up. "I've been kidnapped, beaten and some bastard had his dick at my ass... you think I want to remember any of that shit?" the tears spill over and he tries to not let it overtake him, aware that crying, now, will only make his ribs even worse.
Neil does glance at Antony now but only for a second, the nurse coming back with pain meds he'd ordered. "Take these," he says softly, handing them over with small cup of water, "and we'll get the IV set up and something more into you. Give you some real rest."
Stephen takes the pills from the doctor and swallows them without a word. He'd hoped for something quicker, more direct, but even so, it's pain relief and that's all he wants right now. That done he hands the cup of water back. "Can I take these clothes off? Can I get a wash?" Inane, ridiculous requests, but suddenly both seem important, really important. "I need a wash."
Neil takes a good look at Stephen, quickly assessing his overall condition. "There's a bathroom and shower behind that door," he says, nodding at the other side of the room. "I can have the orderly help you, and when you come back out we'll do your IV and scans."
"I'll help him," Antony says, stepping forward.
Stephen wants to tell Antony to 'fuck off', that he doesn't get to try and make himself feel better by offering help now, but he's too tired to argue. So he simply ignores him, and slowly, carefully he sits up and swings his legs off the bed. The room swims for a moment, but then he steels himself and stands up.
Neil nods. He's not about to fight Antony on that front. "Okay. Just make it quick. I want to do that ultrasound and make sure there's nothing going on internally."
"Got it," Antony says, stepping in close so he can catch Stephen if he falls. He pulls the bathroom door open and stands back, giving Stephen enough room to enter, thanking the nurse for the towels and robe she hands him.
Stephen shuffles into the bathroom, it's simple, clean, a toilet, sink, shower unit one end, there's no privacy on offer as the shower space is open, unhindered by curtain or screen. Antony steps in behind him and the door snicks shut, they stand there in silence until Stephen, without looking at Antony, speaks. "I can't take this sweatshirt off, cut it off," he directs. "And the pants."
Antony pulls his knife from his belt and cuts through the neckline of the sweatshirt and down both arms, letting the fabric fall to the floor before he makes the same skilled work of the sweatpants, leaving his husband standing there, naked, bloodied and bruised. "I know you're angry with me and you have every right to be," he says. "But I need you to know how much I love you and how I fucking moved heaven and earth to get there and get you out of there as quickly as I could."
Stephen lets Antony talk, lets the words fall into the silence that follows them. He moves away to the shower and turns it on, waiting for the water to heat up, eager to wash, despite the stinging of every cut and graze. "Oh, well I guess that's okay then. That you raced to come recover your property," Stephen's tone is one he's never ever used with Antony before, sharp and dripping in sarcasm as he steps into the waterfall.
Antony knows it's Stephen's anger speaking but he can't help himself. "You really think that's why I came?" he says. "That I would have walked in and laid down my life if I'd had to? There's nothing in this world that means as much to me as you do. Not just as my husband, my lover or my boy. As you."
Stephen turns in the water to face his husband, he spreads his hands out, displaying himself. "And look at what your love for me did." The tears are back, washed away with the water spilling over his face. "I don't want to hear your attempts to make this right, this will never be right. Just help me wash it all off, I'm dirty, I stink of what they did to me."
Antony takes a good look, because he should. Because he fucked up and this is what happened. He allowed this to happen. Fuck. He hides the tears in his eyes, stripping off his t-shirt, and reaches into the shower, getting a handful of soap from the dispenser. He starts to clean Stephen, starting with his hair, his face, as gentle as he's ever been, working his way down.
He tries not to flinch, but even with the painkillers starting to work it still fucking hurts. Stephen's wrists are a mess, lacerated, the wounds reopened bleed sluggishly, the water spills away with a pink tinge, but even they are not nearly as raw and fucked up as his ankles. He reaches out to grip the bar fixed to the wall to steady himself as a fresh wave of nausea and dizziness overwhelms him. He tries to distract himself, however, "That guy, his name is Joseph. I don't want him hurt. I promised him money for his help, his kid is sick."
Antony cleans every inch of Stephen, hands moving quickly but thoroughly between his thighs and cheeks, every last bit of dirt, 'stink' as Stephen called it, washed from his skin. "How much?" he asks, reaching for more soap to finish the job.
"Two million," Stephen replies, his eyes closed as Antony's hands delve into intimate places and he's taken back to when he was face down and powerless, he gives himself a mental shake and turns his head, opening his eyes to reassure himself it is actually Antony who's touching him. "I'd be in a lot worse state than this if not for him."
It's a pittance, Antony thinks, so very carefully washing Stephen's ankles, the state of them, the pain they must be causing his husband, making him wince. "I'll see he gets it," he says. "More, if his kid needs it. I'll make sure he's kept safe."
"Thank you." Despite how deeply his trust has been shaken, he knows Antony will keep his word on this. "Fuck!" Stephen pulls away when Antony's fingers find a particularly tender spot just above the inside of his ankle. He looks down, shaking his head. "I'm a fucking mess."
"I know, but we'll get you taken care of, and Christos'll call you in sick to buy us some time," Antony says, moving on to finish with Stephen's feet.
For a brief moment Stephen almost laughs at that, Antony must be either delusional or in denial if he thinks he's going to be in any shape to do his job anytime soon. 'Buy them time' like he's going to miraculously recover in a few days. When Antony's done with his feet he turns the water off, feeling that he's at least washed away some of what he's endured.
Antony grabs a towel from where he placed them on the bench and starts to dry Stephen off just as gently as he washed him. "If you're given the choice, do you want to spend the night here or go home?" he asks, pretty sure Neil will want to admit Stephen, for observation if nothing else.
Stephen doesn't even have to think about it. "I'm staying here," he doesn't elaborate on that, explain that he's craving the oblivion that drugs will provide him with, drugs he can only get here. He also thinks Antony is underestimating how damaged he is, both mentally and physically. "Until I decide what I'm going to do."
Antony thinks about asking, scared that he knows, but he doesn't. He needs to give them both time to deal with what's happened. "I'll stay here with you," he says, helping Stephen into the hospital gown.
"Do I get a say in that?" Stephen asks before he can stop himself because right now, he's in no mood to defer to what Antony wants.
Fuck. Antony's hands still for a moment. "No, you don't," he says, quietly but firmly. "I need to know you're safe and the only way I'll feel confident of that right now is to be here with you."
Stephen steps forward, his hand to the door handle, he pushes it open as he turns his head. "Fuck you," he throws over his shoulder as he steps, slowly, painfully back into the hospital room.
It stings but Antony shakes it off, pulling his t-shirt on and following Stephen back into the other room. He watches as the nurse sets up the IV and hangs bags of saline and the sedative Neil mentioned. The orderly returns and he accompanies them to the various rooms while Stephen has his scans done, staying close but out of everyone's way.
Just minutes after the IV is up and running Stephen starts to feel himself grow drowsy, relaxed, the pain recedes and he starts to doze between being disturbed to endure scans and more prodding, but by now he hardly cares. He's safe, he's warm, clean and his pain is just an echo of what it has been for hours. Eventually, he's wheeled into his room and left to rest while his tests are analyzed. He's well aware of Antony, his husband has kept to his word, not once let him out of his sight, and Stephen has done his best to ignore him.
Antony sits in a chair provided for him, watching as the various nurses and doctors move in and out of the room, cleaning and wrapping Stephen's wrists and ankles, checking his nose and stitching the cut on his cheek. The plastics guy assures them there won't be a scar and that the nose is broken but not displaced so once the swelling goes down, no one should ever know it was broken at all. And Antony mentally catalogues everything - doctor names, procedures, medications, everything said and done so he can repeat it all back to Stephen if needed. Finally, Neil comes back in with the results of all the scans.
Barely able to keep his eyes open, Stephen had started to doze off again when the door opens once more, and a now familiar voice greets them both, he stirs, opens his eyes and turns his head to offer an attempt at a smile. "Hey Doc..." he slurs.
"Hey." Neil gives Stephen a smile. "I see everyone's been in to see you," he says, checking his chart. "And now we've got the results of all your scans. Your head CT came back clear. There's no evidence of fracture, swelling of the brain, bleeding or any of the things we'd be worried about. You've obviously been seriously banged about and there could be something we're not seeing on here but I'd rather keep you on observation than subject you to any more tests at the moment. The ultrasound showed no internal bleeding but your kidneys are bruised and the x-rays show you've fractured ribs three through nine on your left side."
"S'what we were expectin' right?" Stephen's words are imprecise but coherent enough. "What abou' infection?" He holds up his free wrist. "They were left uncleaned for hours..."
"We've cleaned and treated them. A nurse will check and change the dressings with each shift change and we're adding some antibiotics to what you're being given through the IV." Neil drops the chart to his side. "I'd like to keep you here for a couple of days for observation, for our plastics guy to take another look at your nose and he can also check your wrists and ankles and make sure they're healing correctly and without scarring. Are you okay with that?"
"Yeah," Stephen feels a sense of relief at that because it gives him some breathing space to decide what to do. "So long as I can just sleep, and keep getting these drugs," He licks his lips. "And maybe some pop, coke?" He's not hungry, but he is thirsty and he finds he's craving sugar.
Neil laughs. "I'm sure we can arrange for that." He nods and glances at Antony. "I understand you're here working. Nothing will come from this hospital but I assume you'll want Antony to arrange a cover story for the studio? You're going to need a good month, if not more, to recover completely."
Fuck.. Stephen sighs at that. "Yeah, we've not talked about that yet..." He knows there is no way he's going to be able to honor his contract for the film now. Just another consequence of this fuck up.
Antony nods. "We'll take care of it. Just keep everything locked down on your end." He gets to his feet, knowing Marcus is still outside and sticks his head out. "Can you bring Stephen a Coke? Thanks."
The moment Antony's back, Neil addresses both of them again. "Given what you told me," he says to Stephen. "I'd go with a mugging or a hit and run. Since your bodyguard was also hurt, the second might work best? It's consistent with your injuries, aside from your wrists and ankles, but you can keep those covered. You'd have to give a statement to the police but Antony has friends on the force."
Glancing at Antony Stephen feels his anger rising again. "More lies?" He turns his face away and closes his eyes, essentially dismissing both men. "I need to sleep."
"It's okay," Antony says quietly, guiding Neil towards the door. "It's me he's pissed off at. I got him into this mess. Thanks for your help."
Neil nods. "I'll be in to check on him later," he says. "I can have them bring you a cot?"
Antony gives a quick shake of his head. "Nah, I'm good with the chair." It doesn't feel like he'll be getting much sleep anyway.
When the door closes, Stephen speaks again, his words for Antony alone. "You should go." His voice is clear enough. "If you're going to stay here, I don't want to see you in those clothes." Clothes covered in dust, clothes until today Stephen had only seen Antony wear when he was being 'rewarded' with a scene, clothes he can now only associate with death, with this. "Marcus can watch me."
"Okay," Antony relents, blowing out a breath. He really doesn't want to leave at all but now that all the tests are back... "I'll touch base with Christos, let him know about Joseph, and I'll see if I can grab a change of clothes for Marcus and you for later as well."
Surprised at how easily Antony agrees Stephen opens his eyes. "Christos can visit," he says softly. "I'd like that." Then there's a knock at the door, Marcus's voice recognisable through the wood.
"Come in," Antony says, opening the door for Marcus. "You can sit in here with Stephen. He wants me to go change and I'm going to grab clothes for you and him as well. Give Christos an update and let him know he can visit."
Marcus nods, the he wants me to go change the only reason he can see Antony leaving Stephen's side. "Jasper said he's on call if you want a driver. He's waiting at the donut shop around the corner in case we need him."
"Probably be best," Antony says, well aware of what a mess he looks. He looks over his shoulder, and even though he's ready for another 'fuck you', tells Stephen, "I love you. I'll be back soon."
This time Stephen doesn't even bother to acknowledge the words, he wants Antony to leave, wants to punish him, but he doesn't want to be alone with his thoughts, or his dreams. So he's thankful when Marcus steps in the room. The tall blond man may not be many people's companion of choice, but to Stephen he is very welcome. "Marcus," he acknowledges Antony's right hand.
"Stephen." Marcus stands there awkwardly for a moment then offers, "I brought you your Coke."
"Thank you." He raises a hand to indicate the cabinet beside his bed. "There are straws I think." He's not able to do much more, and Marcus will have to move from where he's standing, looking rather uncomfortable. Stephen hopes, prays this is not pity he's seeing in his friend.
Marcus moves to the bed and searches the top drawer for a straw. Finding one, he pulls the paper free and sticks the straw in the cup. "Do you need some help?" he asks, willing to do whatever makes things easier for Stephen.
"A little," Stephen tries to push up to sit enough to drink, wincing as he does. "Fuck." He glances at Marcus's expression, "And can you fucking relax, I thought we were friends?"
"We are," Marcus says, waiting until Stephen's sitting up, Coke in hand, to pull the chair over beside him. "But I'm feeling guilty about what happened to you."
The coke tastes perfect, cold and sweet and Stephen takes a few moments to savour it, he looks up in surprise at Marcus's words, however. "Why do you feel guilty? It's not your fault, it's his. It was him they were after, not you."
"Only because he's the one who takes responsibility for all the decisions," Marcus says. "They know his face, his name, but I've been right there, at his side, helping him make them for years, and I helped him make the one where we decided Janko wasn't a threat." He sighs. "I'm sorry."
Stephen sips the coke as Marcus talks watching the other man, never having seen him like this, it's unsettling. "But you didn't promise me that you would keep me safe, that you would never let that shit come to our door," Stephen says bitterly. "He promised me twice, when he collared me and took responsibility for my safety, and when he married me. He promised me, repeatedly... and now, now it's all ruined, all of it."
"He was trying to get himself out," Marcus points out, then frowns. "He's been staying here, not taking jobs, not taking risks. All of that was because of the promises he made you." Not even sure what Stephen means by the last.
"Don't, don't fucking try to defend him," Stephen snaps out, he looks down into the cup of cola and finds the taste is now making him nauseous. "What they did, what they threatened me with, what I've seen today..." he tries to turn to set the cup down. "You may all be used to seeing..." he pauses, "to causing that..." He closes his eyes for a moment, the image of the two door guards burned into memory. "Is it true? He kills people for money?"
Marcus takes the cup from Stephen, setting it down on the cabinet. "It's some of what he does, but only people who need killing. He's not a terrorist. He's not out there killing random citizens. A lot of our jobs are stealing things, again, from people who weren't their rightful owners in the first place. Security. You know that part."
A thief and a murderer. Stephen mulls on that, trying to square it with the man he knows. "I feel like I'm in some fucked up nightmare, this can't be real, my whole fucking life is..." he trails off, and reaches up to wipe away tears.
Marcus looks around and sure enough, there's a box of tissues on the cabinet. He hands it to Stephen. "I'm sorry. He probably should have told you what we do from the start, but we're used to keeping secrets, and you knew some of it..." he says, feeling his way through things. "Antony said you didn't want to know the rest?"
"So that makes it my fault?" Stephen wipes at his eyes and stares up at the ceiling. "They mocked him you know? Called him a faggot, because he loves me," he's so confused, unable to really process what he's been through, able to only remember small snapshots. "I thought I was going to die in there, I've never been so fucking scared in my life, so helpless..."
"No, it's not your fault," Marcus quickly reassures Stephen, more out of his depth here, now, than he was in the warehouse. "Not one thing about this is your fault and I am so sorry. We're all so sorry. If we'd known - I wish we could go back," he says then stops. "It must have been terrifying. It would be terrifying for any of us even with what we know."
"How do I get through this? How do I process it? Just the thought of it makes me want to puke...." One damp tissue screwed up and discarded, Stephen plucks another from the box and dabs at his very tender nose. "How do I ever get back to normal?"
Marcus looks distinctly uncomfortable again, glancing around the room like someone's suddenly going to appear and rescue him. Why the hell did Antony have to leave? He should be the one answering the questions. Except... Stephen obviously doesn't want to talk to him, Marcus is the one here, and he has orders to help Stephen. Whatever it takes. "Time," he says after a long moment. "Time and talking to someone. A professional someone," he clarifies. "I'm not sure you ever get completely back to normal. You can't see what we see," or do what we do, "and not have it affect you. But you... adjust."
"Adjust..." Stephen repeats, and it occurs to him he will have to do so alone, that after more than a year of having someone to depend on, to rely on, to lean on... he is once more utterly alone. And this pain, this chasm that opens up deep in his chest hurts more than any other of the injuries he's endured in the last day or so. He lifts his hand to look at his wedding ring, its presence mocks him, the words engraved inside a mockery of what they have become. "He's going to want us to carry on, like before, isn't he?"
"He loves you. He's your husband. He knows you won't pick up like nothing happened but yes, of course, he'll want to be with you," Marcus says, not really sure what Stephen's asking and not really sure he's the one who should be answering. "I know you don't want me making excuses for him and I'm not, but I've never seen Antony the way he was today. If he hadn't had the skills to get you out, he would have walked in there and laid down his life for yours without a second thought."
Stephen thinks on that for a moment, well aware it's the truth. If anyone knows Antony nearly as well as he does, it's Marcus. "How can I trust him? How can I square what I saw today, with the man I thought I knew, the man I married." Stephen shakes his head, and immediately regrets it. "How can I ever call him Sir again?"
Marcus is quiet for a moment. "I can't answer that," he says finally, "because I don't really understand how that part of your relationship works. But," he continues, "I think you square it by realizing he is the man you thought you knew. He wouldn't have my loyalty or that of Christos or any of the others who have worked with him for years if he wasn't. Just because some of his actions are outside society's moral code doesn't mean he doesn't have his own. And his says you protect those who need and deserve to be protected at all costs and you do whatever needs to be done to stop those who would harm them."
And that? That makes sense, at least in regard to how he'd justified to himself what he knew of Antony's business dealings. He'd just never had cause to consider it in any rational way until now. He's seen how Antony treats his staff, how they respond to him, the loyalty he inspires from those he calls his own; some of whom know exactly what he is, what he does. Stephen tugs the bed covers up a little more and takes a careful breath. "I need sleep. Please, don't go anywhere? Even when he comes back? I need to know you're here too." The words have an element of pleading, of vulnerability.
"I won't," Marcus promises easily, after all, he's been ordered to take care of Stephen, to put him first, and as far as he's concerned, that's still in effect. "I'll be here when you wake up."
Antony has Jasper pick him up at the clinic and take him back to their warehouse where he gives his men an update on Stephen and lets Christos know his husband would happy to see him. He grabs a quick shower and changes into worn jeans and a dark green Henley, hesitating for a moment over whether to carry before placing the gun back in his locker. He and Christos talk to their contact in the NYPD and Christos volunteers to handle the studio and Stephen's people until Stephen feels able. Logan asks what he wants to do about Janko and Janko's men - who are all being kept in separate cells - but Antony couldn't give a shit about them right now. Let them rot as far as he's concerned. He does, however, stop in to talk to Joseph, who's been given clean clothes and food and a phone to call his wife. He thanks the man for taking care of Stephen and resists the urge to take it back when Joseph admits it was him who coordinated the actual kidnapping. It doesn't matter. Joseph kept Stephen from being hurt worse and made the right decision when it counted. He tells him he'll make sure he gets his money and they'll arrange for him to get home in a day or two.
All of that done, he has Jasper take him to the loft where he grabs an overnight bag for Stephen and fills it with a change of clothes, some pajama bottoms and t-shirts, slippers, shoes, socks, his toiletry kit, whatever might make a few days in the hospital more bearable. It's all done numbly, without thinking, because he can't let himself dwell on what's happened, on how much he's fucked up, on all he's likely lost. If he did, he'd probably lose it. Probably just stop right here, right now, and never move again. But he owes Stephen better than that and there's no room right now for his own fucking self-pity. Right now he keeps moving forward.
Back at the hospital, Antony quietly lets himself into Stephen's room, giving Marcus a nod and setting the bag down by the cabinet beside Stephen's bed. His husband's sleeping, which is really good, and Antony's voice is barely a whisper when he asks Marcus if he can get him anything.
"I'm good." Marcus starts to get up but Antony waves him back down, disappearing from the room again.
He brings another chair in from the hall and settles beside Marcus. "How's he been?" Antony asks, his heart aching at the sight of his husband.
"Sleeping for most of the time you were gone," Marcus says, shifting towards Antony. "He had a lot of questions for me. About how he can trust you again and whether you really kill people for money."
Fuck. Antony glances at Marcus. "What did you say?"
"I said you're still the man he thought he knew and yes."
Antony nods. He wouldn't expect Marcus to be anything less than honest. "He trusts you."
Marcus isn't sure how he's managed to maintain that trust but he assumes it's a good thing. "He wanted me to stay, be here even after you got back."
For what? Protection? A buffer? Christ. Antony blows out a breath.
"What about you? How are you doing?" Marcus asks.
Antony doesn't say anything for a minute and then finally... "Awful," he admits to the only person he can right now. "I got him out of there and I still might lose him," he says, giving voice to his worst fears.
And Marcus doesn't say anything to calm them. He can't. But he knows Antony knew this was a possibility from the moment Stephen was taken - and it still wouldn't have changed a damn thing. He still would have gone in there like he did. And he's still here, ready to face whatever happens. "We should have killed him."
"I know," Antony says, shaking his head. "I've been thinking that. But I was trying to do the right thing, give him a chance at living outside that family. I had no fucking clue he would do this."
"You couldn't have known," Marcus says, and he means it. Plus Antony's never been a fan of the school of thought that says when you take out an enemy, you take out everyone around them, no matter how young or how innocent.
The concrete floor is cold, dirty, and the smell of damp fills his nose as he fights for breath, panic has his heart pounding so hard he's sure it's going to burst from his chest, he struggles, the zip ties biting even harder into his skin, but all this is nothing, nothing to the feeling of absolute helplessness as he feels his shorts dragged down over his ass, a finger probing between his cheeks...
Stephen wakes with a start, the cries still fresh in his throat, his skin clammy and cold, disorientated he tries to sit, but the pain from his ribs, from all his bruises, brings him up short.
Antony's out of his chair in an instant, his arms wrapped around Stephen, hugging him close. "It's okay, I've got you, you're safe, you're in the hospital."
Stephen melts into familiar arms, a voice that soothes him, and just for a moment, he experiences the luxury of safety. Until the illusion is shattered as his memory kicks in, reminding why these arms are not safe, that that previously much-loved voice has uttered lie after lie.
He pulls away, pushing at Antony with his hand. "Let me go."
Antony sits back. "Do you want me to get the doctor?"
Relaxing back onto the pillows Stephen glances around the room, Marcus is still in the chair he'd been occupying when Stephen had fallen asleep, he looks down at himself, then back up to Antony. His husband's face is creased in concern, and Stephen notes he's in clean clothes, has washed. Washed the blood off his hands?.
"No, I don't think so." He licks his lips. "I'd like a drink though." Then, "How long did I sleep?"
Antony glances at his watch. Marcus said Stephen had slept most of the time he was gone and he hasn't woken up since Antony's been back. "Three hours? Do you want more Coke or water?"
"Neither," Stephen gives his head a little shake. "Something clean, like fruit juice, the coke made me feel sick."
"Okay," Antony nods.
"I'll get it," Marcus volunteers, getting to his feet.
Stephen watches Marcus leave the room, and once more he's alone with Antony.
"Did you check in with everyone? Are they all okay?" he asks quietly. "Not that I can even recall who was there."
Antony finds himself surprisingly grateful when Stephen lets Marcus get his juice. "They're all okay," he nods. "It was me, Marcus, Christos and two of Tommy's guys - Logan and Kevin. Logan got a bad cut to his arm but he's been bandaged up and he's fine. Connor's still in the ICU but they're hopeful he'll be stable enough to move in the next day or two. I also talked to Joseph and Christos is going to stop in later."
"Good." Glancing down at his hands, Stephen picks at the tape that secures his IV line. "I want to say thank you, to all of them, to Logan and Kevin?" It feels awkward, stilted, and that ache in Stephen's chest flares up again.
"In person?" Antony asks, wishing he could touch Stephen, take his hand... anything.
"Of course, I'm not about to drop them a fucking text 'thanks for putting your life on the line to rescue my ass.'" Stephen's words have an edge, one he'd have never used toward Antony before. Lifting a hand he rubs his palm over his face. "How did it all get so fucked up? How is it in the space of twenty-four hours do I not recognise my life anymore?"
"It got fucked up because I let someone go I shouldn't have," Antony says quietly, not at all surprised at the tone - at any of the shit he's getting from Stephen. "I fucked up. I thought he wasn't involved in his family's business and I didn't want to kill any more people than we had to." He shakes his head. "I am so sorry. And I know you don't want to hear that and I know you hate me right now and I broke my promise about keeping you safe but I couldn't have seen this coming and I did everything I could to get you out of there as quickly and safely as I could."
"Marcus says you kill people and that you're a thief," Stephen retorts. "I think I'd figured out the theft part, at least on some level. And I'd persuaded myself that the guns were because sometimes you had to rough people up, but I'd never thought... it’s one thing to know you'd killed people when you were a soldier, but this... how am I supposed to get square with that? How does that work with who we were?"
"It works with who we were because ever since you came into my life, I've been doing trying to do right by you. Be a better man, the man you make me want to be. I've been handing off the more unsavoury aspects of my business and playing up the legit ones. New headquarters, the gym, delegating to Marcus and the others. I was trying to get away from this shit," Antony says. "But killer or not, thief or not, I'm still the man you thought I was. I've never taken an innocent life outside service. Anyone I've harmed ended up in my sights because of choices they made."
Stephen's eyes fill with tears again. "And are you done now? Completely?" He presses down on the cannula in the back of his hand, anything to avoid looking at Antony.
Fuck. "I have Janko and two of his men in cells, but yes, if that's what it takes for you to even begin to forgive me, I'm done," Antony says. "I'll never take another life and I won't take a single job that isn't a hundred percent legit."
"The two men - describe them," Stephen stills at Antony's words. And he does look up now, his expression intense. His tone brooks no argument.
"Both in their late 30s, early 40s. One's really big. Six-five, buzzcut, looks like the missing link," Antony says, visualizing them both, "and the other's a little shorter, maybe six-three, thinner, dark hair, dark eyes, a scar across his cheek," he swipes a finger across his own showing the placement.
Stephen's hands curl into fists and his breath hitches. "Him. That second one. He's the one..." Stephen takes a breath. "He called me a faggot, said he didn't want to risk sticking his dick in my mouth, so he pushed me to the floor, I smacked my head hard, and he pulled my shorts down before I could resist, then he was kneeling, his cock touched my skin..." He visibly shivers. "I can't ever wash that off. I can't ever be clean of that."
Antony grits his teeth so hard his whole face aches. The thought of someone, anyone, touching Stephen and not only touching but forcing... "I wasn't going to let any of them live," he admits quietly. "But if I make you a promise, I'll keep it." He won't take another life if that's what Stephen wants, but Marcus, Christos, Logan... they could do it. Because there's not a chance in hell those men are walking out of that warehouse.
"That's all you have to say? All I could think, face down like that, exposed, vulnerable, was 'he won't want me after this...he won't be able to get past this...' and then, once it was over, when Joseph was helping me clean up, I got pissed, I got so fucking angry at you. Because it only happened because of you, and all I could think was how you'd not be able to touch me again... how fucked up is that?" Stephen's leaning in. "All I've seen... is you trying to justify what happened, and talk of revenge..." It may be a distortion, it may be unfair, but right now Stephen can't stop the anger, the fear, the utter misery spilling from his mouth.
"That's all you've seen?" Antony says, even though he knows Stephen's tired, drugged, traumatized... "You can't know me that little you think I would ever not want you. You may not have been raped but if you had, I would still want you. I want you. I want you no matter what. I've told you that over and over. I know how terrified you were. I know what that's like. I've been there," he says. "I was lucky, like you, but it didn't stop me from having nightmares about it. It didn't stop me from replaying it in my head. Playing out what might have happened. I am so fucking sorry. You're right. This is all my fault. I own that. But I would never ever not want you."
"But I can't trust you now. You promised me, every time I pushed you to reassure me, that you would never bring this to our door, that you would always keep me safe, this wasn't just a fuck up... my whole fucking life is ruined. Us, my job... everything." Stephen's crying in earnest now, both desperate to be held and frightened to allow Antony back in.
"You can trust me," Antony says, but he doesn't dare say more than that. "Please..." fuck "Let me hold you."
Stephen nods, reluctantly. As Antony draws him into his arms, as he tucks his face carefully into Antony's neck he asks, his voice breaking. "How can I hate you and still need you?"
"Because you're mine," Antony says softly, hugging Stephen tight. "And no matter what, I'll love you more than anything in this world forever."
"I can't see my way through this," Stephen hiccups, his fingers plucking at Antony's top. "I can't see past all this mess."
"I know, but I'll help you," Antony promises, so fucking relieved at Stephen letting him touch him. "Marcus will help you. Christos too. Whoever and whatever you need. You will get through this but it'll take time."
"I need you to make the film go away, I can't even think about that. Tell them whatever the hell you need to - but I need to know I don't have to think about it. Cancel everything..." Stephen pulls away a little, his body protesting at the angle he's leaning in.
Antony nods. He doesn't ask whether Stephen's sure or whether he wants to wait and see how he feels in a few days. "I'll get Christos on it."
"When I get out of here, I want to go home," Stephen adds, relieved Antony agreed to his demand without comment.
"To L.A.," Antony clarifies, a glance over his shoulder as Marcus returns with Stephen's juice, a straw already stuck in the cup.
Stephen nods. "Yeah, and I want Marcus with me too." He smiles his thanks when he takes the cup. This time he sips it slowly, not wanting a repeat of the nausea inducing cola incident.
Antony glances at Marcus again. "On the flight, you mean?"
Shaking his head he spits out the straw. "No... at home too. I need to feel safe."
"You want him to stay with us?" Antony says, taking everything one step at a time, anything he might feel about it shoved to the side for now.
"Yes!" Stephen huffs out his reply. "What if you sleep when I do? Who's going to keep watch then? They got through Connor, one person isn't enough."
"Okay." Antony nods. "Marcus, you okay with that?"
"Whatever you both need," Marcus says without hesitation. He likes his place, prefers being there, but he's good with whatever Antony and Stephen need right now.
"I'll put someone downstairs too," Antony says. "Maybe Logan'll be available. We can have him and Christos switch out."
"Thank you," Stephen offers his gratitude at Marcus then returns to his juice, draining the cup.
"I need a piss," he announces as Antony takes the empty container from him. He eyes up his IV with a certain amount of irritation.
"Here," Antony says, exhaustion starting to hit him. He shifts the tubes to one side, hooking them over and out of the way on the IV stand. "You can hold onto me," he adds, coming around to the other side of the bed.
It's a rather uncomfortable bathroom trip, Stephen may well have the benefit of painkillers, but his body is sore and will continue to be for days. He limps back to the bed with Antony's help and shuffles back in. "Can I get some more pain relief?" he asks as he tries to get comfortable. "I really need some more sleep..."
Antony pushes the call button for the nurse, giving her a smile when she comes out the door. "I think the pain meds are starting to wear off," he says. "Could you give him something more?"
She checks Stephen's chart and apparently Neil's already left instructions because she disappears for all of two seconds then is back with more pain medication which she administers through the IV. "This should make you a lot more comfortable," she says, smiling at Stephen.
Yawning Stephen tucks the bedsheets around himself. "You both need some sleep too," he points out. "No good to me if you're exhausted." He glances at both men. "I'm okay, better now I've more drugs."
The nurse looks back on her way out of the room. "Do you want me to have some cots brought in?"
"Just the one, but yeah, thanks," Antony says. "You should get some sleep," he tells Marcus.
"Not until you do," Marcus retorts. He grins at Stephen.
"I'm in for it, aren't I?" Antony says with an exaggerated sigh, his spirit lifting a little for the first time in hours.
"I don't care who sleeps when, so long as you both do," Stephen yawns again and turns his head into the pillow. With both men at his side Stephen can finally relax enough that his sleep is deep and real and peaceful.