Mark heard the sounds of his partner returning home and came to the living room to greet him.
“Hi, hon. How was your…?
The question died on his lips as he took in Connor’s dark expression and tense features.
“Don’t ask,” Connor muttered as he practically strode to the stairs and quickly disappeared to the second floor.
Mark hurt for his partner. He knew he’d been having a hard time at his job. He’d only been there a few months and had always been someone who’d done well wherever he worked, but he’d confessed a few times that the people he worked with seemed only able to criticize, never praise. Connor had gradually become very vulnerable lately and down on his ability to do anything well, and Mark knew the younger man dreaded to go to work each day.
Mark took a moment to hang up the coat that Connor had dropped uncaringly over the back of a chair and then went up to find his partner.
Connor was in the shower. Mark could hear the water running as he went in. He was surprised to hear the sounds of Connor’s quiet sobs, a noise he probably hoped the shower would hide, but which Mark was very attune to.
“Connor Love,” Mark said loud enough to be heard over the running water.
The sobs stopped abruptly, but Mark waited, knowing that his quiet presence would get more of a response from Connor than ordering him to talk.
A minute later the water was turned off. Mark held open an oversized towel for his husband as Connor stepped out. He wrapped him in the softness and started to dry the smaller man. Connor stood still, his head drooping and his gaze staring with defeat to the floor.
When he was dry, Mark dropped the towel over the bathroom hamper and wrapped Connor in his arms instead. Connor clung to him, not crying but trembling a little with stress and emotion.
“What happened, hon?” he finally asked after several minutes.
Connor’s grip got tighter. “I hate it there, Mark. I hate it! I tried to tell one of the manager’s today about how things felt to me. He listened, was even nice about it, but basically said ‘Yeah, you’re not doing as good a job as we expected’. He told me I don’t take criticism well.” Connor choked a little on that. “I don’t know what to say to that! I try to listen and do better, but I feel like all I get is criticism! I’ve never yelled at them, but I’ve tried to explain a few times that some mistakes that have happened have not been my doing. If that’s what they think isn’t taking criticism well, then I feel like they’re saying that I have no right to defend myself when I’ve done something right or when it’s not my mistake!”
Mark’s heart ached for his husband. Connor was not a quitter and the idea of getting fired or quitting for a reason that wasn’t a good enough one in his head would make him feel like he failed. Mark had no answers for him right then. This situation would take a bit more thought and consideration, but for now he held Connor tightly against him, giving him a place of safety, acceptance, and approval.