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Crasher [Charlie/Val]

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Offline Beejoux

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Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« on: September 05, 2020, 02:00:33 PM »
At two in the afternoon, the place was a ghost town, most likely: the cleaning lights on and the late night popular rush of the place quieted down to just the hum of electronics, the rattle of the ice machine -- And, somewhere in the distance, the sound of a door slamming shut and the breathless stillness that followed that kind of surprise.



No one else was supposed to be there, not until later. Hell, if it weren't for the fact that Val had been scheduled to take inventory that week he wouldn't have been there either. As it was, he was about a quarter of the way through, music blaring over a pair of earbuds loud enough that he didn't hear the door slam. Instead, in that stillness, the sound of glass clinking gently from the bar area itself, followed by the sound of a pen on paper and soft humming.



He'd be in trouble if people knew; the back door unlocked(now), and it meant that someone careful could sneak through a hall quietly, unheard under the sound of music, could be more careful with the bathroom door as they crept around, steering clear of the sound of music.


It was easy to avoid Val for a while, at least until he started moving around a few moments later, the muffled sound of music proceeding him from the bar and into the back as he started moving inventory around. Stocking up what needed stocking, and then storing the rest in the back. Louder now, as he walked back and forth outside the bathroom door.



The water was running -- and flicked off immediately at the sounds of passing footsteps, with that lingering, breathless silence following in its wake again.



He'd pass by a couple of more times before the sound of music and feet faded back towards the front. Gone, long enough to make it seem like he was finished moving shit around.

And then back all at once, the bathroom door was opening and Val walking in.



If he was quick, he'd catch a glimpse of movement in the mirror, but only if he was quick. Then he'd be in the bathroom apparently alone, with the sink wet with water and a couple drops of very red blood along one side.



A flicker of something pulled his attention up to the sink, but what held it was the blood and the water. Val hit a button on his headphones to pause the music before pulling them off to drape the cord over his shoulder. He hadn't been in here yet today, there was no reason for the sink to be wet, let alone bloodstained.

Alert now, he tipped his head to glance along the row of stalls, dark eyes landing on a door that hadn't quite stopped moving yet. "We're not open yet, you know," he drawled out, cocking his head to look under the wall. No feet, but that didn't really mean anything.



No feet, no response for a moment -- and then there was a little shifting, breathless, which might have been dismissable as something settling. Maybe. In either case, he wasn't about to come out.



He waited, relatively patient, before letting out an annoyed little huff. "You better not be bleeding all over everything in there." If there was nothing, then he was talking to himself, but since he was otherwise alone that was fine. He moved towards the stall in question, but stayed close to the wall. With a thoughtful hum he flicked his hand, the door opening on itself.



That got a real human sound of dismay -- a hand shooting out to stop the door before it opened. And a splash as he lost his balance and dropped a foot into the toilet.



Dark brows arched. "Is there really any point to hiding still? I know you're there." He did it again, the door pushing back against the hand stopping it. "Do I have to remove you myself?"



Another little moment of hesitation, then he fumbled his foot out of the toilet, finally cracking the door open to look out. He was young, but rough enough to look older, with dark hair loose and wild around his face. He'd be pretty, if he didn't have a black eye, swollen cheekbone, split lip, if he didn't look tired and a little bit lost, dressed in mint green hospital scrubs and a heavy leather jacket. And he was big. It'd probably be work to remove him. A lot of it. "I was just...using the sink."



Val knew someone was there, so he wasn't surprised to see a man standing on the toilet. What was surprising was everything about him. Tall, but young, cute, save for the sorry state of the side of his face. He blinked up at him, gaze dragging up over scrubs and jacket to land, finally, on the other man's face.

"Okay." He frowned, thinking it over. "Why don't you come down from there, and we can talk about why you're using the sink in a business that's closed for the day."



It got a guarded look, though, his eyes darting past Val toward the door, all of him still tense -- one foot still up on the toilet, looking about ready to run. "The door was open."



"My mistake." His head half turned to glance at the door, then back.  He knew he’d locked it.  "But that's still pretty brazen. Unless you're trying to hide from something. Like whatever did that to your face." He tipped his chin up, nodding towards the bruises.



His eyes flicked onto Val and then away again, and if he was dismayed or afraid -- it didn't show, right now. Instead, he just seemed ready. Waiting. And he didn't answer.



He clicked his tongue impatiently, huffing out a breath as he crossed his arms. "Look, if you wanna keep hiding in here fine, but you need to give me something." His shoulders hit the wall as he leaned back against it. Short, slender, not the least bit intimidating. "Otherwise you can go, cause I've got work to do."




"Give you something?" It was guarded, still, refocusing on Val with a single-minded kind of focus. His fingers shifted uncomfortable around the door, resettling the jacket on his shoulders. It didn't quite seem to fit right, sat crooked and pulled.



“Information?" His head tilted to one side, weight shifting from hip to hip. "Like what are you doing here? What happened?" He frowned, gaze lingering on the swollen eye. "Do you need help?"



He licked the swollen lip, cocking his head as his eyes flitted away to the door again, weighing it over. "...car accident."



The look Val gave him was dubious. "Uh huh." He didn't sound convinced, tongue pressing on the inside of his lip before he pushed away from the wall to walk towards the door. He didn't say anything else until he was reaching for the handle. "We should get some ice on that lip."



He reached up to touch it, quick and brief, and there were scrapes along his hand and arm, too. Again, his eyes flicked onto Val, wary. "Should we?"



"It'll take the swelling down." He glanced back, waiting. Expression somewhere between thoughtful and annoyed. "Either way, you're not just gonna stand there dripping water and blood all over."



He cocked his head, thumb still lingering against his mouth. Then he took one careful step toward Val. "You're not just going to call the cops?"



"Do I need to?" It sounded like he was honestly asking. "Are you planning to rob the place?"



"No." Another step, tentative; he didn't limp, but there was a stiff care to the way he walked.



"Are you going to hurt me?" He tapped fingertips on the handle, not opening it yet, just watching him and the way he was moving.



"Only if you call the cops." It was blunt and direct. He kept some space between them, very series.



"Sounds like it's best to avoid it, then." He opened the door then, held it open for the mystery stranger.



He still hesitated, skin crawling, standing inside. After a breath, he cleared his throat. "After you."



Val clicked his tongue again, lips pursing as he let out a sigh and turned to head out first. "Don't try anything." He'd lead the way out into the main bar, heading for the counter. He pointed to a stool as he passed. "Sit."



He looked around the place, quick and sharp, taking everything in with an intense kind of focus. His fingertips settled on the bar, carefully, and he paused just another breath before he sat down. Rolling his shoulders under the coat.



"Do you have a name?" He asked as he ducked back behind the counter, grabbing a little plastic bag from near the register so he could scoop ice into it.



"Charlie." He didn't waffle over that, as cagey as he was about everything else -- eyes lingering on the booths in the corner, flicking up to the lights.



Val watched him as he grabbed a clean rag to wrap around the ice. "There's no one else here this early." As he came to stand across the bar from him he offered over the towel and the ice, arm folding in the bar top. "I'm Val."



There was another moment's hesitation before he took the towel, and when he did, it came with a heavy kind of frown at Val. "When do people come?"



"Five." That's when the other bartenders were scheduled to arrive. He rested his chin in his now freed hand, gaze flicking to the clipboard he'd been writing on, then up again. "Doesn't it hurt the injuries, frowning like that?"



It made him blink, then lick his lip again, briefly, like he was testing it. "...I barely notice." But then he'd put the ice against it, as if reminded.



"Really?" It might have been impressed. "So, a car accident." He still didn't quite believe that, but he let it go. For now. "On your way to or from a shift at the hospital?"



"No." He blinked at Val, frowned again around the ice pack, and leaned in a bit to look in over the bar. Curious, for sure.



"So you just wear scrubs for the hell of it?" He pointed at the minty green he could see under the heavy jacket.



A hesitation, a breath, and then he turned that look on Val again, challenging now. "They're comfortable."



Val stared back at him, chewing on the inside of his lip. "Right." Fingertips drummed, then he straightened up. "Well, you're welcome to stick around for a bit, I guess." He went for his clipboard, picking it up to look over the last page he'd been working on.



His attention wandered down again, staring across the bar. Almost absently, his stomach rumbled, ice shifting against his face.



Dark eyes flicked up, head tipping to look back at the man sitting at the bar. "I have a granola bar, if you're hungry." He turned, hip cocked to rest against the back counter. "There's also fruit."



He mulled that over, shifting the ice in against his face. "Whatever you've got?"



"Stay there." He pointed the clipboard at him, giving a flash of a white tattoo at his inner wrist under the edge of his shirt. "Don't touch anything. I don't want to lose my place." dark eyes lingered on him as he walked out from behind the bar again to disappear into the back.



He didn't budge -- but he didn't sit, either. He stood, carefully, to lean against the bar instead, his fingers scraping through the back of his hair uneasily. Ready to run, if he needed to.



Val came back with the granola bar, an orange, and some pineapple rings in a glass. "We don't have much food around here that isn't used in a drink in some way." It was vaguely apologetic, chin tipping to look up at him curiously. "I also locked the door." Fixed the door.



He made just a tiny sound at that, still standing against the bar. "...why?"



"So no one else can just walk in off the street." he shrugged, setting the food on the bar close enough to grab, then ducking back behind it to get his clipboard again.



"But we can still get out." It was careful; Charlie probably didn't care all that much about Val, but the idea of being locked in made him go very tense.



"Of course." He snorted softly, drawing a pen from the clip and crouching down behind the bar to count bottles of sour mix.



He hesitated, just watching Val for another moment -- and then he gave up and went for the granola bar, tearing into it with the ice forgotten on the counter.



He didn't look up again until he heard the wrapper tearing open, and only a brief flick. "I hope that's a good enough snack to tide you over for a bit."



He shoved half of it into his mouth to start, a generous bite -- chewing absently as he shrugged at Val. He'd barely swallowed before he shoved the other half into his mouth.



He huffed out a breath as he watched him eat, then went back to counting. If he kept getting distracted he was never going to finish it on time.



He chewed slowly, swallowed, reaching for the pineapple -- still watching Val, now. "Do you have Coke back there?"



"Yeah." He set the clipboard on the ground and straightened up, reaching for a large glass to spill ice into. Then he paused, a sudden smile twisting up the corners of his lips. "Do you want rum in it?"



"No." It was sudden and decisive, came with a twitch like the start of a shudder.



A curious reaction. Val blinked up at him with coal lined eyes before he shrugged, bringing up the soda gun to press a button so he could fill the glass. "Suit yourself."



He chewed it over a little, carefully sitting again. "Drugs mess you up."



He grinned again, sudden and bright. "That's sort of the point, sweetheart." Then a crooked shrug, hands on the counter as he sank back down to get back to work. "But Liquor isn't drugs."



"Of course it is." His eyebrows twitched down -- Charlie turned the pineapple over, taking a careful bite. After a beat, he raised his eyebrows again, like it surprised him, and he took another. "How can you say it's not?"



"If you want to get super technical, sure. It's classified as a depressant." He rolled his eyes back up to watch Charlie eat, a hand resting on a bottle of bitters. "But it's definitely not viewed the same."



"It still fucks you up." talking about it made his shoulder hike up again, tight around his neck, uncomfortable.



He blinked up at him, smile still playing at the corners of his lips. "You sure did pick an ironic place to sneak into then."



"It was open." He shifted a little, slowly, shoving the rest of the pineapple into his mouth. "...and off the alley."



"Uh huh,” he hummed.  “Doesn't make it any less ironic," he pointed out, jotting down a number before moving onto the next thing on his list.



He licked pineapple from his fingers, thoughtfully, and it was thoughtlessly suggestive. His mouth was just too full to be anything else, especially swollen up. "It looked closed."



It got a double take, dark eyes narrowing back down on his list. "It is closed." Another number written down, and Val straightened back up.



He hooked feet around the stool, flicking another look to Val. "Not closed enough, I think."



"I guess not." He flipped through the pages, looking through what was done, what was left to do. "But if you snuck in here to get away from something, then maybe closed just enough." Pen between his teeth, he kicked a little step stool against the back wall and stepped up so he could go through the bottles in use.

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Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2020, 02:13:33 PM »
Charlie didn't follow. Instead he leaned in the hallway, scraping at his hair, awkward and hulking where he leaned against the wall. He'd still be there whenever Val came back, looking tired and a bit dazed, that mask slipping.



The first-aid kit Val came back with was big, bigger probably than a place like this would normally need. Of course, this wasn't a normal place. "Go, sit." He tipped his head towards the booth Charlie had been sleeping at.’



He blinked at Val uncomprehending for a moment before he grimaced, looking down at the first aid kit like an old enemy. But he went. And he sat.



Val huffed out impatiently as he followed. "You got a problem with avoiding infection?" He dropped the case down on the table as he sat, one leg folded under him, to face Charlie.



"Just the astringents, and the stitches, and the adhesive..." He made a vague gesture, familiar, leaning forward on his knees.



He snorted, eyes rolling as he reached up to touch the tips of his fingers to the edge of Charlie's jaw so he could get a better look at the injuries. "I don't think we'll need stitches."



He shrugged again, stilling at the touch -- head turned obediently, but he wouldn't meet Val's eyes. And almost absently, he tugged on the hem of his sleeves, covering his arms. "Some small good news, then."



All business at the moment, Val didn't really notice Charlie avoiding his gaze. He was focused on the cuts and scrapes, the bruises, tongue flicking thoughtfully against the roof of his mouth as he let go to dig out swabs and alcohol.



His eyes flicked sideways onto Val's face for just a moment, hands folding together between his knees. He was tense, quiet, but not panicking. "I'll be okay."



“Hush." He dipped a swap into the alcohol and lifted his hand again to touch the less injured side of his face.



A muscle in Charlie's jaw jumped, but he subsided, hands shifting together between his knees. He'd sit very still, remarkably unflinching from the alcohol.



With as still as the bigger man sat Val breezed through cleaning all the wounds he could find. Nothing terribly serious, the swelling and bruising was the worst of it. "Do you want some aspirin or anything? That looks painful."



He licked the injury on his lip again, brief, eyes flicking onto Val and then away again. "I'm okay. It's not that bad."



 He rolled his eyes and tipped Charlie's head down a little so he could slide his fingers through his hair on one side, checking for any more cuts that were hidden there. "It's not exactly great, either."



"All my organs are on the inside; it could be worse." It was a joke, maybe, except he didn't exactly say it like a joke. He sat very still under the touch; there was a goose egg, yes, but no cuts.



"You could have a concussion," he tossed back without missing a beat. Fingertips mapped out the goose egg delicately before he let his hands fall away with a sigh.



"I could," He agreed, but not like it really mattered. His eyes scanned Val's face again, quickly. "...but I don't really have any of the symptoms. Blurred vision, headache, dizziness, nausea..."



He flicked a quick look up at him. "That's good." Anything he hadn't used was put back carefully, and everything soiled was gathered up as he rolled back up to his feet.



Charlie stayed where he was, folding and unfolding his hands, a thumb dug into the meat of his palm. "I'm pretty sure I'd know if I had a concussion."


[/b]

"Usually," he agreed, scooping up the kit finally as he walked back towards the back room. "If you haven't got any symptoms by now you're probably in the clear."


[/b]

"I'm not saying everyone would just...I've..." He shrugged a tiny bit, sitting for another moment before he stood, tugging his jacket back down. "Experience."



Val paused in the hall to look back over his shoulder at him, dark gaze sliding up from his feet in thinly veiled appraisal. "Do you, now?" His lips twitched at the corners before he disappeared into the back room.



He blinked back at Val, somewhat uncomprehending, and just stood there -- letting his head settle, stomach grumbling idly, wishing he were still asleep.



While he was back there he took the time to text the next person in, let her know he was leaving when she got there. As expected she wasn't happy about it, but there wasn't much she could do about it. He had his phone in his hand as he walked back out.



Charlie was still standing just where he'd been, staring up at the ceiling, hair stuck against the side of his face. But his attention flicked immediately back down to Val as he approached, like assessing a threat. "What do you do here?"



Short, too pretty to be handsome, Val didn't really look very intimidating as he approached. "Mostly bartending." Tight jeans and a dark shirt artfully ripped from apparent wear.



That made Charlie's eyes flick to the bar, assessing, his head cocked to the side. "What kind of bar is this?"



He followed Charlie's line of sight, smiling to himself. "An expensive one, catering to unique clientele."



"It does look fancy." His eyes went up to the ceiling again, then, brief, before resettling onto Val. "Do I need to hide, now? You were calling someone."

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Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2020, 08:27:43 PM »
The ceilings were high, molding making curling designs around hanging lights. It was fancy, but with an edge. "Soon." He was looking at him curiously.



He went a little flustered under the force of that look, his cool indifference faded out. "What?"



Which in turn made Val smile just a little brighter. "How much do you see, Charlie?" He could have been more subtle about it, but the man had fucking wings.



He puzzled over that, and really, genuinely didn't seem to understand. "What do you mean?"



Not at all the response he was expecting and it showed in the widening of dark eyes. "Interesting..." And maybe he would have said more on the matter, explained, but a sound down the hall pulled his attention. "Go, hide." Calmly urgent. "Then go out the back, find the black Civic in the parking lot."



"What's....right. Okay." He started for the bathroom instead of arguing or asking whatever he'd been about to ask. Fighting off the limp.



Val resisted the urge to pat him on the back as he passed and just walked back towards the back room to wait. Not that it'd take long, voices in the hall a moment or two later announced the arrival of a woman, and she didn't sound exactly thrilled, though seemed to settle when she saw that everything was indeed finished and ready for the night.
Ten minutes, maybe, and Valerie let himself out the back, a long, light coat moving around his thighs as he walked towards his car.



He hadn't made his way all the way to the car. Instead, he was still huddled up against the building, arms wrapped around himself, somewhere sheltered. Still mostly in the alley.



Val slowed but didn't stop, expression gone curiously thoughtful again. "Come on."



He hesitated just a little, still clinging to the building -- and here, too, his eyes flicked upward, like the sky was a threat that could fall down on them any moment. "How far?"



"How..." It made him stop, finally, turning to really look at him, the way he was standing and where he was looking. He tipped his head up as well, scanned the sky, then walked back to reach for the sleeve of his jacket. "It's right over here."



 He hesitated another moment, still huddled up where he was. If Val tugged, though, he'd follow. Woodenly.



He led him along a row of cars, stealing glances up at the sky before he was nudging him towards the side of a shiny, black car. "In."



He sat and leaned forward on his knees, head in his hands and fingers shading his eyes -- and he drew in a few long deep gulps of air, like he was trying to catch his breath.



Val hit the locks as he sat down and started the car, but he didn't pull out yet, dark eyes on the man in the other seat. He recognized fear, with his connections he'd certainly seen it enough. He saw it now.

Licking his lips, he settled into his seat. "Are you going to tell me what you're hiding from?"



"No." He dug thumbs into his eyes, sucking in more panicked breaths, trying to calm the throb of his heartbeat. "Definitely not."



He rumbled under his breath, annoyed, huffing as he put the car in gear and pulled them out of the parking lot.



He stayed like that, the awkward shape of his shoulders still huddled under his jacket, elbows on his knees. He probably couldn't sit back properly if he wanted to, and he still struggled to gain control of his breathing. The car didn't actually help that much.



Val broke the silence first, uncomfortable with the quiet. "Are you from here, the city?"



"I don't...no." He brushed fingers up through his hair, shaky. It looked like the edge of a panic attack, which he struggled to tamp down on. "I don't know. I'm not from anywhere anymore."



This wasn't really the sort of situation Val was used to having to deal with, not from this side of it. He blinked at the other man a little uncomfortably, chewing at the inside of his cheek as he tried to think of something to do or say. "Okay. Um..." Shit. "We'll be at my place soon."



"Sorry." It came with another suck of air, shaky hands on the back of his neck. That ice might have helped, now. "I'm sorry."



"It's okay." It was immediate and reactive, Val flicking quick glances across the car at the other man helplessly. After a moment he reached out awkwardly, hesitating before laying his hand on the back of Charlie's head.



He twitched immediately, like Val had punched him instead of touching him, and his breath went still for just a moment before he sucked in a sharp breath. "Please just give me a minute."



He jerked his hand back hard enough to make the car shift in the lane. "Okay." With an unhappy frown he turned his attention fully on the road, wondering now if offering his couch had been a little hasty. "Take all the time you need," he said with a sigh.



He pinched the bridge of his nose, breathing in and out in a familiar sort of way until the worst of it subsided -- just leaving him shaky and weak with reaction. It wasn't going to be a chatty, friendly drive.



At least it wasn't a long drive. The place they pulled into looked industrial, not entirely welcoming. An old factory that had been converted into modern apartments. He pulled into his space beneath an awning and turned the car off.



Still, Charlie just sat there, leaned forward on his knees and attention turned downward. Thinking it out. "...it's the sky. Freaks me out."



He fiddled with his keys, not looking up. "The sky?" He wasn't following. Well, unless Charlie was running from dragons…



"It's just a lot more than I thought it'd...." He shook his head, forcing himself to sit up. "I can't sleep in your car, though."



More questions, not less. He made a helpless little nose before shaking his head and letting that particular puzzle go for now. "You don't have to. We're going in there." He pointed to the building in front of them.



"Yeah. I'm talking to myself. Trying to get my ass up and moving again." He risked a flicker of a look up then closed his eyes again, swaying like it gave him vertigo.



 "Oh." The keys slid into his pocket. Fingers tapping on the armrest on the door. The parking row was covered, at least, there'd be no immediate view of the early evening sky, not yet.



"Okay." He got the door, fumbling with it for a moment before he got it open and dragged himself out, with some effort. Knees still jelly.



Val followed him out, taking just a moment to stretch, shoulders rolling. And this time he didn't wait to see if Charlie would follow on his own, he walked around the car to hook fingers into one of his jacket pockets so he could use the heavy leather like a leash to lead him along.



Charlie made a sound, and stumbled, but then he followed -- a hand very light on Val's shoulder, taking support. It helped disguise the bit of a limp. "You live here?"



He slowed enough to make it easy for the bigger man to stay with him, but not by much. Sticking, as long as was possible, to the covered walk before cutting across to the entrance. "Yes I do." The inside was clean and modern and stylish with bricks and bare pipes. There was a door man that waved, and around the corner an elevator.



Charlie's eyes went up immediately as they came in, scoping out security systems -- video cameras -- anything that might be watching them, with a familiarity. "It didn't look like there'd be anything inside."



"Nope, but that's sort of the point." He looked up at him as he thumbed the button on the wall. "There's a gym, a pool, and...shit, I don't remember how many apartments. A lot."



"It looks nicer inside." He leaned sideways against the wall, scraping at the mess of his hair, pushing it back out of his face. He still looked pale. "I thought we'd be camping, outside."



He couldn't help but smile, pleased, but mention of camping got a disgusted noise. "God no. Never." Perish the fucking thought. As the doors opened Val straightened so Charlie could use his shoulder for support again as they stepped in.



He shrugged just a little bit, breathing out between his teeth. He didn't put his hand on Val this time, just followed, fidgety. "Are you from here?"



He tucked himself into the corner after he hit the button for the fourth floor, hands braced on the rail and ankles crossed. "Close by here. When I was sixteen I moved into the city."



"Why?" Charlie leaned into the corner, trying -- and failing -- to make himself small.



"I didn't want to be at my parent's home anymore." He shrugged, scuffing his toe against the floor. "My parents weren't exactly accepting of a fa--" He bit it back, looking up finally. "Me."



"Ah." It wasn't understanding, exactly, just -- acknowledging. He brushed a hand along the line of his jaw, slow. He'd come down some. Relaxed, just a hair. "At sixteen?"



"Yep." He'd gotten himself emancipated and taken off the first chance he'd gotten.



Charlie nodded, eyes sliding up to the numbers on the elevator while he considered that. "Is it better, now?"



"Definitely. I have everything I need, and the freedom to be myself." He said it confidently, happily, pushing away from the wall as the elevator started to slow.



He was quiet for another long moment, ticking off a count in his mind maybe, while he considered. "That's about when I left home."



"Why'd you leave?" As the doors opened he started forward, a hand fishing his keys out again.



"Money." It was simplistic, his eyes closing for a breath before he followed Val out of the elevator.



"That's a good motivator," he agreed. "People do a lot of different things for money." It came with a note of experience. With a hum he stopped in front of his door, fingertips resting on the frame and eyes closing as he inserted the key and turned it. Then he pushed the door open to usher Charlie inside.

It was a big place, spacious, with a kitchen that opened into a living room with a long, wrap around couch. A bit cluttered, there were odds and ends all over, but it wasn't dirty. Organized chaos. A side hall led deeper into the apartment. If he were sensitive to it, Charlie would feel a rush along his skin as he stepped through the doorway, but that was all.



It made him shiver just a tiny bit, and he brushed at his mouth briefly, uncertainly, as he took the place in. "This is big."



It was big. Bigger than he should have been able to afford as a bartender. He grinned as he shrugged out of his jacket and threw it on the back of a reclining chair. "Thanks. Ah, make yourself at home? I guess."



He rubbed at the back of his neck while he thought that over, and then looked up at Val again. "You have a bathroom?"



He toed his boots off. "Yeah, down the hall and to the right." He looked up at him, not entirely sure what to do at that point, and then thought of something. "Do you like tea?"



"Sweet tea?" He blinked back at Val, and it was almost hopeful.



"I don't know. I can check." He glanced into the kitchen, rubbing a hand along the back of his neck. "I was actually thinking something warm and herbal, calming."



A blink, a moment to register, and then he flushed again, starting away toward the bathroom. "If you'd like."



It was a cute look, minus the swelling and bruising. Val watched him as he walked down the hall, then moved to see what he had in the fridge. Charlie was in luck though, because there was a small bottle of sweet tea, if he liked peach tea. Val set it on the counter.



He'd linger in the bathroom -- take some time to wash down his face more, to probe at his mouth, to scrape his hair back. He came back out still in his leather jacket, but a smidge less messy. A smidge.



I found peach tea, if you like that," he offered as he heard Charlie coming back, head lifting from his phone a couple of seconds after, dark eyes lingering on the jacket as he worried at the inside of his lip.



He breathed in, and then out, blinking at Val. "Sweet tea, Coke, water, whatever you got."[/b]



He pointed at the bottle, finished off a text, and then set the phone down. "Didn't I hear your stomach growling again?"



He blinked at Val, a hand going to his stomach -- and limped over carefully to take the peach tea, turning it over in his hands. "It's okay. Unless you're eating..."



A thoughtful frown flit across his face before he wrinkled his nose. "I probably should. I skipped lunch."



Charlie shrugged, dragging himself over to the couch to sit, slowly, with the peach tea between his hands. "I'm alright."



Val watched him for a moment before opening the fridge again to look inside. "I have some left over Chinese I could heat up. It's more than I'd be able to finish on my own."



He hesitated again, leaning forward on his knees and cracking the tea carefully. "...I am hungry."



Thought so. "Are you okay with spicy?" He pulled the take out container out and set it on the counter, then another smaller one. "It's Szechuan beef."



"I don't know." It made him smile into his hands, humorlessly, toying with the lid to the tea.



It was easy enough to check, at least. Val grabbed a fork from the drying rack and speared a smallish piece of cold beef then cupped his hand under it as he carried it over to Charlie. "Here, try it."



He hesitated a moment before taking it, shoving it into his mouth, chewing. In the end, he was going to have to chase it somewhat desperately with iced tea. Hot.



"Too much?" He looked vaguely amused, hip leaning against the back of the couch.



He closed his eyes, leaning back carefully -- slouched so he wouldn't crush his back. "....no. I mean, maybe. A bit."



He grinned, head shaking a little. "There's rice, too. That's not hot at all." Charlie could have that, and Val would heat himself up a little of the beef, add a little of the rice to that, and call it good.



"Rice would be fine." He looked embarrassed again, eyes flashing up onto Val and then away again.



"Not everyone likes spice, it's fine." He lingered by the counter as the food warned in the microwave, then portioned it out and wandered back. He offered Charlie a large bowl of chicken fried rice, then sank down into the corner of the couch with his own, legs tucking up beside him.



He settled it between his knees, the tea already mostly gone -- apparently he liked that -- and set in to eating the rice. Like he was starving, honestly.



Val was considerably slower with his, and not just because he was distracted watching Charlie. He picked at it, pushing things around with his fork, taking small bites.



Charlie downed it all, and the rest of the tea, and even spent some time picking at the stray pieces of rice left behind. All he hadn't eaten was the carrots.



Val was only half done when Charlie had finished, a piece of beef on his fork. "Are you still hungry?" There were snacks, lots of snacks. He brought the bite up, chewing slowly as he glanced towards the kitchen again.

*

Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2020, 08:40:08 PM »
"Usually." He picked another piece of rice out and shrugged at Val. "I might be more tired, though."



He blinked, then unfolded from the couch and reached for Charlie's empty bowl. "Give me a minute, I'll go get some bedding for you."



Charlie's eyes followed him, slow and hesitant, handing him the bowl after just a moment. "You don't have to."



"I know." He set the bowls in the sink. "It's no trouble." He was pushing his sleeves back to his elbows as he walked past Charlie, the white lotus tattoo very visible on his wrist now as he went to grab a pillow and some blankets from the linen closet in the hall.



Charlie tipped his head a little to watch him go, carefully putting the lid back on his tea. Maybe his eyes lingered, a bit.



He had an arm load when he came back, a plush pillow, a sheet, and a couple of soft blankets. "The couch folds out into a pretty comfortable bed." He dropped the load onto the chair where his jacket and a couple of sweaters were draped.



"Folds out?" He looked down at it, slowly, and then hummed a bit. He stood, stumbling a tiny bit, to get out of the way. "How?"



He smiled, couldn't help it, as the bigger man gave the couch a curious look. It made him wonder where exactly he'd been, and what he'd been doing. He seemed...naïve, in a way. "Yeah. Let me move the coffee table and I'll show you."



He could do that, at least; was strong enough he just stepped in to haul it out of the way, though it made him grimace a bit, back achy.



"Thanks." Though he was looking at him thoughtfully, watching the way he moved before sweeping a hand back through his hair. "Okay, so the cushions come off." He grabbed oen and set it on its end against the side of the couch.



"Okay." He hesitated, then stepped in to help, carefully, setting the cushions very gently aside.



When they were all gone he pointed to a handle on Charlie's side, then grabbed the one on his own. "Give that a pull, and the bed pops right out."



He tipped his head to look, then leaned in to put his hand on the lever, waiting until Val moved to pull on his own. And he would be -- not amazed, but amused, by the process.



It unfolded smoothly, a fitted sheet with a high thread count already in place. Valerie smoothed his hands over it, flicking a glance across at Charlie, and smiled to himself. "Much more comfortable than just the couch."



 "It's huge." he sounded genuinely admiring, leaning back to look down at it, arms folded across his chest.



"If you think this is big, you should see my bed," he mused aloud, thoughtlessly, as he grabbed the sheet off the chair and fluffed it up so he could lay it out neatly.



Charlie blinked up at him at that, then looked off across the hall. "It looks really nice."



Another smile, pleased at the compliment. "Do you need another pillow, more blankets?" He spread the latter next, half crawling up to straighten a corner.



He shrugged a tiny bit, head cocked to just watch Val and the way he moved, fingers shifting against his arms. "I don't know."



He didn't notice, or didn't give away that he noticed. "I have an extra, I can grab it. It's nice having at least two."



He made a faint, agreeing sound, attention flashing back up as Val turned. "Okay. It does sound nice."



He eased back off the bed, a hand coming up to smooth his hair out of his face. "I'll be right back."



He blinked, shrugged just a tiny bit, and carefully stepped out of his shoes -- battered white nurse's shoes, no socks.



A hand on the wall, he paused in the hall to glance back. "I know you're tired, but you're welcome to use the shower." Then down the hall to fetch a pillow from his bed.



"I might...do that later." For now, he was sinking down to sit on the bed, slowly.



He had a pillow in his arms as he came back, walking around the foot of the bed so he could offer it down to Charlie. It wasn't one he used often, but it still smelled of his shampoo just faintly. "Do you need anything else?"



He took the pillow slowly, sprawling out on his stomach -- still dressed in his clothes, down to the leather jacket.



He blinked down at him, shifting from one foot to the other before reaching for the other pillow to set it beside him. "If that's a 'no' than I can leave you to get some rest." It was still early. Really early compared to what Val was used to.



"You don't have to worry." He scraped fingers up through the back of his hair, eyes closed. "I'm sure I've slept through worse than whatever you've got."



"Maybe." He gave an amused hum, moving through the room to get himself a glass of water. "But if you're not going to hope in the shower I think I will." It'd help him relax some, and there were little pills in his room that'd help him relax even more. "If you need anything just come find me, or call."



"I won't." He said it into his arm, head turned just a bit to look up at Val through his hair. "I appreciate this much."



He rolled his shoulders in a small shrug, flashing a smile down at him before he started for the hall. There'd be the small click of a door closing, and a few moments later the sound of running water.



While he was in there, Charlie wrapped himself up in the blankets -- still in his clothes under there, head ducked down, and thoroughly asleep. This time, he didn't start at Val's movements.



He was surprisingly quick, not that it mattered, and when he came out he was just in a towel. A quick peek showed Charlie was out for the count, and with a soft click of his tongue Val extended a hand and snapped his fingers, which in turn extinguished the overhead light in the living room so it'd be comfortably dark for him. Then he retreated to his room. To the pills. Sprawling out on his own bed to binge something on Netflix until he too could pass out.



Sometime after dark, finally, Charlie would move around in the house -- climbing out of bed to head to the bathroom, finally. Running water, as he took a shower, himself.



The TV was likely still on in Val's room, the door left open a few inches so in theory he'd hear if the other man called for him, but it'd take more than the sound of Charlie moving around, or the water, to drag him anywhere close to consciousness.



He'd peek in, with the door open -- curious, more than anything else, with a towel over his shoulders and most of his body out of sight. And his eyes raked over the TV, whatever Val had been watching.



Criminal minds, somewhere in the earlier seasons, when Gideon had still been on the team. Val had made it into a pair of soft pajama bottoms before he'd sprawled out on his stomach crookedly on the bed. He had one arm stretched out so his hand dangled off the edge of the bed, and the other curled under the pillow his head rested on. The phases of the moon spread in an arc across the back of his shoulders, and there was a line of writing down the line of his spine.



He lingered there, then, leaning against the wall while he worked a towel slowly through his hair, attention split between watching Val and watching the TV.



Without the eyeliner his features were softer, gentler. Pretty, in an androgynous way, with dark hair falling forward and sticking out wildly around the pillow. The sort of deep sleep that came with artificial assistance.



Eventually, he'd drag himself away -- explore the rest of the apartment thoroughly, invasive and unthinkingly. He wasn't going to steal anything, but he'd look at everything.



It'd be very telling, once he got into it. Especially when he looked through the living room. There were books on spell work, small charms and trinkets that were all thankfully benign or inactive. One of the ottomans opened to a well organized collection of scales, bags, small boxes, and a ledger that was quite impossible to open despite it having no lock or ties to hold it closed. There were clothes on the chair, one end of the couch. Mostly sweaters, but there was at least one pair of pants, and at the bottom of one pile something that looked a bit like a corset.



He pondered over it, curious, but didn't take anything -- didn't really move anything, just looked. Eventually, his focus would go to the kitchen, instead.



Lots of nice appliances that still looked relatively new, with the coffee maker being an obvious exception. There were a lot of snacks, small things someone could grab to eat on their way out the door. Not a whole lot of items that went into making actual meals. In one cupboard there were a number of open and unopened bottles of liquor, likewise in the freezer. The thin cupboard next to the sink held over the counter and prescription pill bottles, name brand cold medication, allergy pills, and half a bag of cough drops.



The snacks held his attention the most; he sat staring at chips especially, chewing on the corner of his mouth and trying to decide if it was okay to steal one. Eventually, he decided he was hungry enough it didn't matter, and sat on the couch to eat them. He'd fall asleep with the bag still in hand, wrapped up in blankets and a towel.



Val wasn't usually an early bird, his schedule really didn't allow it, but he also never really needed to get a full eight hours. Having gone to bed so damn early, the smaller man dragged himself out of bed a little before seven thirty. The sun wasn't even up yet as he padded almost silently down the hall and out into the living room. Pausing just inside as dark eyes landed on the bed and the man curled up on the couch. "Right." That had actually happened. Not just a really weird dream. He walked quietly around to look down at him as he slept, smiling at the bag of chips that were starting to slip from pale fingers. He reached out to catch the edge of the package to draw the bag slowly from his grip.



It was too close -- it made Charlie's eyes twitch open again, made him shift suddenly to catch Val's wrist, fingers too tight around his hand. Restraining, sharp, his attention immediately and almost dispassionately looking around them for a weapon. The movement shifted the blankets around him, and there was another fluttering glimpse of feathers beneath.



Val froze, breath hitched, as fingers closed around his wrist, letting the bag slip out of his hand as he looked down at the other man, the glimpse of feathers over his shoulders. Still shirtless, chest clear of any modifications aside from the barbells in either nipple. He licked his lips. "Charlie, you're hurting my wrist." Calm, at least for now.



He drew in a breath and then blew it out, letting go almost all at once -- scrambling to pull the blanket back in over him. Charlie'd lost his scrub tops somewhere along the way too, and it put his arms on display, a glimpse of shoulder which was heavily scarred, but...clinically so. Tidy little scars along joints. exploratory. He covered these up too, tightening the blanket in and blinking himself back into focus.



He flexed his fingers as Charlie let him go, straightening again and rubbing fingers along his wrist. Watching as Charlie collected himself, pulled the blankets in tighter, but not before Valerie had seen the scars. "Sorry." He took a small step back, bent to grab the dropped bag. "I don't mean to wake you up."



"I should have heard you coming." It was rough, ragged in his throat, like Charlie hadn't slept half the day away. He swallowed roughly, closing his eyes.



"I'm very light on my feet," he offered after a moment, turning to put the chips back in the kitchen. They were probably stale, oh well. Future Val's problem. "Do you want some coffee?"



As Val moved away he cracked his eyes again, watching him go - uneasily, this time. "I don't like coffee very much."



"Tea?" He had a rolling gait that was more obvious when he was wearing less. Like there was music playing in his head. He lifted a hand to try to tame hair that was impossibly fluffed from having slept on it wet.



Charlie swallowed again, rough and tense, before he answered. "Sweet?"



"I have sugar." He thought the milk was still good, too. "Easy enough to make it sweet." Not what he'd been asking for, Val didn't think, but if he didn't like it there was more Snapple in the fridge.



He nodded at that, sinking back down onto his stomach on the bed with the blankets all tangled around him, breathing in that careful way again.



Val futzed about in the kitchen, getting mugs down, adding tea leaves to a diffuser, getting cream and sugar for himself. He'd steal little glances back at Charlie as he moved around.



He didn't get up, but shuffled under the blankets -- in search of his shirt, maybe, and his jacket, already kicking himself for not putting it all back on while Val had been down for the count.



Maybe Val noticed, or maybe it was just already on his mind. "Do you want me to toss in a load of laundry for you, so you have clean clothes to get back into?" The tea was made, sweetened with sugar and milk. He walked back with that and another mug in his other hand.



He paused at that, still under the blankets, went still for a moment -- "I don't have any other clothes."



He lowered the mug down so he could grab it easily. "I might have some pants that'll fit you." It was thoughtful, head cocked to the side.



He stayed where he was another moment, then shifted, just poking his head up -- still all wrapped in the blankets. "If you have a shirt you don't care about and a pair of scissors, I can make that work, too."



"I'll look." He'd set the tea on the side table, fingers curling instead around his coffee as he walked back towards the hall. "But if you're covering up for my sake, you really don't need to."



He didn't come out, though, just stared bleakly at Val -- and it was obvious he had no idea what to say in response to that.



 It wasn't the sort of reaction he was used to getting for that sort of a comment and it made him stop short just before the hall, half turning to rest against the wall. "Sorry. I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable." He ran the tips of his fingers along warm ceramic. "But you don't have to hide. Here."



It was a moment before he moved, slowly, to take the mug Val left on the table -- his movements very careful. He wrapped both hands around the mug, hot or no. "I'm extremely uncomfortable, but it's not your fault."



"Physically, or...?" He knew the other man was more hurt than he was letting on, but wasn't sure to what extent.



"I'm just out of my depth." It was quiet and -- yes, uncomfortable, attention turned down.



Val nodded, gaze flicking down and away as he turned finally to go root through his dresser. He wasn't positive anything he came back with would actually fit. They didn't belong to Val, but had been left there by past lovers or clientele. Two pairs of pants, one denim and one drawstring. Four shirts, medium or large in size.



Charlie stayed where he was in the bed, scraping at his own hair, which had gone wild and scraggly from sleeping on it wet.



"I don't know if any of this will fit, but you can modify it however you want or need." He laid the items out one handed, went to dig into the junk drawer for a pair of scissors, then tucked himself into the plush chair to huddle around his coffee.



Charlie still sat on the bed, rubbing at his face and trying to gather his thoughts. "This is a lot to ask of you."



His shoulders rolled in a shrug, mug coming up for a small, cautious sip. Flavored cream, no sugar. "If someone hadn't done something like this for me I don't know where I'd have ended up."



He closed his eyes, his own tea largely forgotten, mulling it over. "I don't like what I'm going to owe you, though."



He looked at him over the edge of his mug. "What do you think you'll owe me?"



He shrugged crookedly, without opening his eyes. "It always comes back around."



His thumb stroked slowly along the ceramic handle, gaze flicked past Charlie and at the window. "You don't owe me anything." It was decisive.



"Uh huh." He didn't sound convinced, though; shifted fingers around his mug, sitting back slowly.



"I don't have any interest in taking from someone that has nothing to spare." He was still looking out the window, what little he could see through the thin gap in the curtains.

*

Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2020, 09:23:35 PM »
He sat for a moment, then wriggled around in the blankets again to grab one of the t-shirts and scissors, mug set aside.



Now his gaze flicked back to watch curiously, lips resting against the edge of his mug.



Maybe he felt Val's eyes on him. His own attention flicked up onto him, and he looked -- flustered. Self-conscious.



He met those pale eyes before looking away again, mug tipping up. Then all at once Val was rolling back to his feet. "Do you like oatmeal?"



"I hate oatmeal a lot." And he sounded certain of this, finally; something he knew. As Val's attention moved away, he set to cutting into the t-shirt. "But I'll eat it."



Quiet for a moment, halfway to the kitchen. "...what about eggs?" There wasn't much he could cook, but he could scramble an egg.



"Eggs are better than oatmeal." Not that that was a glowing endorsement either.



He set his mug on the counter, hands coming up to run through his hair and clasp at the back of his neck. "Poptarts?"



That made him hum, thoughtfully, made him look up from his work. "I haven't had poptarts in a really long time."



That was a better reaction. Val rose up on his toes, stretching to grab a box from the top shelf. "Frosted cherry?" He asked it as he peeked into the box to see how many were left.



"Sure." He looked up toward Val, watching as much as he could see -- then dropped his attention pointedly back down to the shirt, scissors snicking through cloth.



He'd pop three of them into the toaster, then the sound of nails on skin as he scratched under the waist of the pajama bottoms he was still wearing. Attention forward, to make things less uncomfortable.



Another glimpse up; then, behind Val came the hurried sounds of Charlie hauling on shirt and jacket again, wriggling out of the blankets to poke through the pants for something that might fit.



"You know you don't need that, right?" He said it without looking up, picking at something stuck to the top of the counter.



"Don't need what?" He scraped his hair back again, frustrated, and puffed out a little breath.



"The jacket," he clarified, reaching for the paper towel. "I guess if it's comfortable, but...I'm not sure how it would be."



He was quiet again at that, just standing next to the bed, arms folded across his chest. "You don't know."



"I know I've seen stranger than anything you've got underneath there," he said confidently, tugging off two sheets of paper towel as the toaster popped.



"I haven't." It was short, and direct. He picked one of the pairs of pants up, movement wooden.



Val finally turned, leaning back against the counter. He flicked his hand up, fingertips twitching, and the poptarts drifted up from the toaster and set themselves on the paper towels. With a rolling gesture he sent two, plus towel, to bump into Charlie's shoulder.



Charlie blinked at him a little, head cocked to the side. And his expression had a dazed kind of confusion to it, processing.



As he lowered his hand down to his side the poptarts came down with it until they settled on top of the pair of pants he'd been looking at. "Horns, tails, scales, claws, fangs, wings. I've seen it all."



He tipped his face away, worrying at his lower lip while he thought that over. "... I don't know."



Palms on the counter, Val hefted himself up to sit on it, ankles crossing. "One of my bosses is a literal demon."



"Is that what I am?" It was just a little sharp, maybe; not quite a joke but something like.



It got a blink, the corner of Val's mouth twitching up in the tiniest of smiles. "I don't know." Then it faded again. "Do you?"



"I don't." He sounded almost a bit lost saying it, shoulders hiked under his jacket.



Val blinked. He hadn't been expecting that honest of an answer, and it had him looking down at the floor past his feet as he licked his lips, his thumb stroking over the tattoo on his wrist. "Where are you running away from, Charlie?"



"Home, I guess." He swallowed, though, and finally moved to haul on the fresh pants, whether they fit or not.



"Is someone going to be looking for you?" His head tipped, glancing up briefly as Charlie pulled on the pants.[/b]



He hesitated over that, shivering a little, and shot a look up to Val. "...yes."



He'd figured as much, and nodded with the confirmation. "Okay. Well, no one's getting in here without my permission." He hoped down to cross over to the door, hand brushing over the frame. "See these marks?"



Charlie flicked a look over them, from a distance still, and then nodded.



"You can stay here for now, it'll be safe." It wasn't a great solution. Or a solution at all, really. He worried at the inside of his lip.



"It's probably not a good idea." He hesitated over his choice of words, head cocked. "It's not very safe for you."



"You don't need to worry about me." He smiled again, confident. "I know I don't look like much, but I can definitely take care of myself." Not to mention the added protection from The Lotus.



Charlie worried at that a bit, rolling his shoulders and trying to believe it. Again, he brushed at his hair. "...you've done this before?"



"More or less." Not specifically. "I've dealt with my fair share of dangerous individuals." He walked smoothly around the chair. "I can do a hell of a lot more than making poptarts float."



Charlie kept his head down a bit, and then finally smiled a little bit, tight. Rueful almost. "I maybe pissed people off, too."



Val's smile brightened up at him. "Bad people?" The people he was running from…



"Yeah." He hesitated again, his smile a bit...fragile. "Burned some things. Stole a car."



"Good," he said approvingly, chin tipping up. "Fuck those assholes."



Charlie dipped his head, though, face in his hands for a moment while he tried to shake something off. "God."



Dark eyes widened at that, the smile slipping away. "What's wrong?" He winced at himself as he realized how dumb a question that was.



Charlie shook his head, though, trying to shrug it off -- adjusting the jacket on his shoulders. Maybe it felt a bit silly to be wearing it now.



He looked down, sighing around a thoughtful frown. "Where did you leave your other clothes? I'll go get them in the wash."



He ducked down to grab the scrubs off the end of the bed, but then he hesitated. "I don't have any money at all, you know."



He held his arms out for them. "I kinda figured that." Thin shoulders rolled in a shrug.



He hesitated, then put them into Val's grasp. "I don't have anything."



He took them and tucked them up under his arm. "It's okay." As he turned he flicked his fingers at the poptarts on the fold out. "Go ahead and eat, I'll be right back."



He'd forgotten them, himself; looked up, uncertainly, then nodded and stepped away toward the kitchen. If Val wasn't quick, he'd probably eat all of them.



 If it did it would have been fine. Val took his time -- dropped the pants in without a second glance, but paused to give the scrub top a look.



There was blood along one side -- drops here and there, maybe the car accident wasn't bullshit -- but otherwise it was indistinctive. Mint green. Could have come from any hospital in the area.



He touched the edge of one of the blood spots, then trailed his fingers along the cuts in the back, measuring the lengths. Then he dropped that in as well and started it. As he walked back into the living room he was brushing his hair back from his face, back arching to stretch it out.



The cuts were -- small. Surprisingly small. Charlie was working on the second poptart, his eyes flashing up onto Val as he stretched -- and his look lingered, head cocked to the side.



He didn't seem to notice, distracted with trying to loosen up his shoulders, at least for a moment. Then dark eyes flicked up to meet that lingering gaze, holding it.



He blinked -- flushed -- and dragged his attention back down to the toaster oven. "These are good."



"Yeah?" Something just a little smug flickered across Val's face before delicate features were schooled to neutrality. "Do you want more? There's another packet." He walked over to lean on the counter, glancing to see if the third he'd made was still there.



It was there; Charlie was still working on the second. He shrugged, just a tiny bit, sidling a look onto Val again. "Maybe."



He reached for the paper towel it was sitting on to drag it over, bringing it up for a small bite. "I can get more, too." His head tipped, expression thoughtful.



He shrugged a tiny bit, still watching Val sideways. "Probably not what we should be eating...."



"Probably not," he agreed with a small shrug. "But I haven't been shopping for a while." Another small bite, and he tapped fingertips on the counter. "We could order something, though."



He cocked his head just a little bit, thinking that over. "Chinese food?"



"If you want. I like Chinese food." Another bite, and he moved to open the fridge, grabbing out a bottle of water and another bottle of peach tea. The latter he offered out to Charlie as he moved past him to drop down on the couch with the rest of his poptart.



Charlie made an agreeable noise, taking the tea slowly. "I've only had it a couple times."



Val sprawled out on the length of the couch beside the folded out bed, working through the poptart slowly. "Do you know what you like?"



He hesitated a tiny bit, still leaning in against the counter. "...I don't know. Some kind of rice thing..."



"Not the rice from last night?" He finished off the food in two quick bites, twisted to put his water on the ground, then pulled his phone from his pocket. "Would you know it if you saw a picture?"



"I don't know." He stayed where he was, still, polishing off the poptart himself. And he spoke around it. "There were carrots in it, but I picked them out."



That sounded very much like the rice from the night before and Val quirked a brow as he looked at him over the edge of his phone. "Not a fan of carrots?"



"Not really." He swiped at his mouth, licked jam absently from his thumb. "I like a cheeseburger a lot."



Val's turn to watch him, eyes following his hand up to his mouth before he looked back down at his phone, scrolling through a menu. "What else do you like?"



He thought about that, too, half-turning to grab the tea. "...Snickers bars?"



He smiled, crossing his ankles. "Anything else? Doesn't have to be food related."



"Ah." Again, he had to pause and think, like it was a much more complicated question. "Movies."



"Oh?" The phone lowered, and Val rolled up to look around on the couch, picking through the clothes and the pillows until he found a little black remote. "I've got lots of movies available." He turned the big tv on, pulling up a Roku menu.



That caught his attention -- dragged his focus over -- and Charlie came to look at the TV. "How many movies?"



"Fuck, I don't know," he said lightly, smiling. "A lot. There's a few different programs, and they've all got different things. Um..." He flicked through the menu before looking up at Charlie. "Name one."



"Re-Animator." He came to stand behind the couch, working his tea open.



"I don't think I know that one." But he was already looking. Pulling up Netflix first to do a quick search, and when that brought up nothing he moved to Hulu, and then Prime. "Ah. There it is."



"Just like that?" He came around then, slowly, to sit next to Val. "What about Saw?"



He backed up to the search, nimbly typing in the new title. "Yep, that's here too." He pulled his feet back to give Charlie more room. "Between Prime, Hulu, and Netflix there's hundreds of movies, shows, and documentaries to pick from."



He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees, the jacket pulling awkwardly across his back. "Hundreds?" And he sounded a bit stunned.



"Yeah. Do you want to watch one?" He looked from the screen to the man sitting beside him, eyes lingering the way the jacket rested on his shoulders.



He blinked up at Val, then, head cocked -- and immediately went flustered again, adjusting the jacket. But it was almost like he was considering losing it. "Do you?"



Arms looped loosely around his knees, a smile pulling at his lips. "Sure. Anything you want." It was close to what he'd have be doing anyways.



Charlie sipped at the tea, staring up at the screen. "....whatever you like? Something you like?"



"Something I like?" He chuckled, tipping his head to look up at the screen, his free hand coming up to brush hair off his temple. "I've been told I have depressing taste." His cheek lowered to rest on his knee as he flicked back and forth through the titles, thinking.



"I've spent most of the last five years escalating the horror I watch; I'm not sure that's your...preference." He licked his lips again, closed his eyes against some thought that made him tense up again.



"I think you'd be surprised." Apparently something came to him, because he flicked back to the search. "How about Hannibal. Have you seen it?"



"Silence of the Lambs?" He cracked his eyes, attention resettling on the TV.

*

Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2020, 09:48:35 PM »
Val's shoulder's moved in a lazy little shrug. "That or the second one. Both are good."



"I've seen Silence of the Lambs. I didn't know there was a second one." He was still folded in around his tea, quiet for a moment. "Is it good?"



He lifted his head to shoot Charlie a grin. "I think so. There's a third one, it’s a prequel. Then a fourth I haven’t actually seen." He queued up Hannibal, got it ready to play. 



He made just a tiny sound, intense and focused on the TV. Like a starved man looking at dinner.



Dark eyes lingered on Charlie's profile, expression gone thoughtful again as he hit play to start the movie.



Movies were, apparently, serious business: he didn't ask questions, or even really look away once it had started, focused. Even the tea mostly went forgotten; he just sat and watched, quiet and intense.



Val's attention remained split as the scene opened on the city of Florence. He was listening to the movie, spared the occasional glance towards the screen, but he kept looking back, watching Charlie as he watched. Cheek still resting on his knee.



Charlie was, clearly, a very intense human being. Watching the movie made him relax just a hair. It captured him, made him stop worrying.



After a bit Val lifted his head so he could lay back against the mound of pillows in the corner of the couch, hands folded over his stomach and the quest for more food forgotten. His attention would slowly shift back to the movie, after about forty minutes he'd roll onto his side, foot drifting out until it practically touched Charlie's leg.



He was a satisfying person to watch movies with, maybe; he held his breath during the tense moments and breathed out when things settled; he didn't flinch, but it was incredible just how engaged he was with it. Ignoring just about everything else.



Val didn't react much at all, but then he'd seen it before, numerous times probably. He was the type of overly comfortable person that didn't really have much by way of personal boundaries. Before the movie had reached the climax he'd certainly tucked the flat of his bare foot up against Charlie's thigh in a completely thoughtless sort of way. Not even aware of it.



As much as he'd flinched before, now he didn't seem to care -- or notice -- and almost thoughtlessly he draped his arm over Val's leg. The gesture was thoughtless and familiar, like he'd done it before.



It'd draw his attention off the action on the screen and back onto Charlie, gaze flicking from his face and down to the arm draped over his legs. For a moment it looked like he'd say something, draw attention to it in some way, but he licked his lips and turned back to the movie instead.



The tension, finally, made Charlie look over - and then start, all at once, pulling his hand back.



"I didn't mind," he said without moving. Just his eyes, rolling back up to Charlie's face. "Don't mind."



"I forgot -" The word stuck and he fumbled for an explanation. "I was thinking of someone else."



"Ah..." Dark eyes flicked back to the movie. "Well, I still don't mind." It was casual, but his foot was still warm against Charlie's thigh.



His tongue still seemed halfway stuck to his mouth; a muscle in Charlie's jaw gone tight.



When Charlie didn't say anything it pulled Val's attention back, and he drew his feet back a few inches so he wasn't quite invading the other man's space.



Charlie looked up at him again, that hint of a pout playing around his expression again; when he wasn't smothering it, he had soulful, sorrowful eyes. "Sorry."



"It's okay." He didn't seem put off or upset, just a little confused. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to."



"It's just been....really..." He spread his hands, peach tea still clutched in one. "It hasn't been that long, I guess."



His head tipped against the mound of pillows. "That long since what?" They'd hit the point in the movie where Dr Lector was frying up the guys brain and feeding it back to him, but Val wasn't watching it anymore.



Neither was Charlie. He ducked his head again, dug fingers into the corners of his eyes. "Well. He died. So."



He blinked, brows dipping, and after a moment Val sat up, arms looping around his legs again. "I'm sorry, that's..." Nothing really seemed appropriate to say, so he just trailed off.



"Sorry. It's been a bit anyway." He sat back again, adjusting the jacket like it felt tight now. "Five or six months, at least."



"That's not very long." Not where loss was concerned. At least Val did think so.



He shrugged, tugged at the jacket, and then huffed out an annoyed sound, shooting Val a look. "This is stupid, isn't it? I should take it off."



"I don't imagine it feels all that good wearing it constantly." He'd chosen his words carefully, but they were soft and honest.



One more little hesitation before he gave up and wriggled free, ripping it off roughly. Before he could change his mind. The wings beneath maybe weren't what Val would expect. They were small, much too small to use for flight, soft and downy but banded like a good red tailed hawk. They fluffed and fluttered gently at being free, and Charlie puffed out a breath of relief himself.



Val really couldn't hide his curiosity. his head tipped as the jacket came off, dark eyes sliding back to the delicate wings that'd been hidden beneath it. Smaller than he'd been expecting, but the patterning was familiar. "They look like hawk markings..."



He made a small sound, agreeing but self conscious, crumpling the jacket up between his hands. The wings were remarkable, but so was the scarring: surgical lines up and down both his arms, around the joints, down the backs of his hands.



"Does it feel better having them loose?" He lowered his cheek to his knee again, gaze sliding down his arm, tracing the scars before looking back up at Charlie's profile.



"They're sensitive." Feathers twitched and shifted to lay flat again, and Charlie looked a bit embarrassed. "I never wore anything over them."



"It was probably really annoying, having them covered." He really wanted to reach out and stroke his fingers along the smooth edge of one of the longer flight feathers. He curled his fingers around his own wrist to keep from doing it.



Charlie brushed at his hair and leaned back slowly. "I didn't realize it'd be like that."



"They look really soft..." He'd managed to stop himself from touching, but that was apparently as far as his self control extended.



"They feel squashed." Even talking about it made him flush again, struggling to relax - but he clutched at the jacket, hands curling.



His lips tugged up in the corner of one side. "Well, they have been." He looked down at Charlie's hands, how tightly he was balling the jacket between them. "I know it's dumb to ask, all things considered, but...are you okay? I've got things that can help take the edge off a little."



"No. No drugs." It was adamant again, certain, a breath sliding out of him. "I'm just not used to any of this."



"If you're sure." He shrugged, then glanced around for the Tea he'd made for Charlie earlier. It was probably cold by now though. "That's fair, though. It sounds like you've had a real rough go of things."



He brushed at his jaw, shrugging just a tiny bit. his wings twitched again, uneasily. "Yeah. Maybe."



With a hum Val rose up to slip gracefully over the back of the couch so he didn't have to make Charlie move or crawl over the bed. He picked up the cold tea on his way to the kitchen, emptied the mug in the sink, and then checked to see if the water in the kettle was still warm. "I have some chamomile, that's supposed to be relaxing."



"Okay." He risked a glance up at Val, still a bit embarrassed for some reason. He pointedly loosened his hands.



It didn't take long for the water to heat up again, and Val was pulling the diffuser from the mug after a moment or two to dump the spent leaves. He added a bit of sugar, tested it, added a little more, and then made an approving hum as he walked back over to offer it to Charlie over his shoulder. "Here, I think it's sweet enough, but we can add more."



He took it slowly, looking up at Val, and his expression was still open and a bit lost. "I'm a little....sheltered."



He held on long enough to make sure Charlie had it and wasn't going to accidentally spill on himself. "You mean more than just strict parents, I'm guessing."



"Yeah." He curled both hands around it, mindless of the heat again, fingers shifting slowly.



Hands free, he folded his arms along the back of the couch, leaning forward against it. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to."



He ducked his head, feathers fluffing up again just faintly, and his mouth turned down at the corners. "That'd be a change."



"A good one?" He leaned forward enough to see Charlie's face,


Charlie shrugged the tiniest bit, eyes flicking up to Val. "Not having people in control of every bit of my life? I'd say so."



"We'll have to find you some more clothes. Do those pants fit okay?" He lay his cheek on his arm, watching the other man's profile.



"They're a little short.” He frowned a bit, attention dragged away from Val and down. "Little tight, maybe."



"Next size up, and longer. Okay. Shirt fits okay?" He actually reached out like he'd check the tag, but stopped short before actually touching.



He twitched, too, and blushed for doing it, looking flustered. "Shirts never fit. It's fine."



He set his hand on the back of the couch between his shoulders instead, gaze on the upper curves of his wings. "I'll make a call later, have someone bring some clothes over."



They did look very soft - and very small - and very pointless, too. There was no way Charlie would be able to fly with them, not without a healthy dose of magic. Feathers twitched again, settled. "Someone will just bring you clothes?"



A finger twitched, brushing just the very edge of a feather before he straightened up so he could climb back over the couch. "Yeah, if I ask for them."



"Just because?" He puzzled over that, finally seemed to remember his tea enough to take a sip.



"Kinda, yeah." He settled into the corner again, legs drawn up.



He swallowed, considering, then gently set the tea down. Maybe it wasn't quite sweet enough - but he didn't complain. "Who?"



"A co-worker." He'd have to make it up to them later, but that wasn't a big deal.



"For free?" He shrugged again, licking his lip and shooting a look to Val.



 "Free enough." His turn to shrug, shoulders moving against the mound of cushions.



Charlie hesitated, though, head cocked to the side. "What does that mean?"



"It means it won't cost me more than a favor. Probably just have to pick up a shift, and then I'm making extra money anyways." He folded his arms across his stomach.



He frowned down at his hands, then, carefully stretching them - watching the way the scars shifted, maybe. "I can't help with that."



"You don't have to." Val watched the other man's hands as well before looking up at his face.



He grimaced a tiny bit, looking up at Val again, then. "I'm messing up your life a little, though."



Val flicked a hand to wave it away, unbothered. "Naw. If anything, you're making things more interesting."



Charlie looked serious, though, that soulful, concerned expression. "I'm eating all your food and you're trading favors for clothes."



A small frown tugged at Val's lips, and he sighed softly. "If it really bothers you, you can make it up to me somehow later when you get your feet under you, but I'm not going to turn you away when you've got nothing and I've got the space and means to help."



Charlie tipped his head down, then, frowning, and cracked his knuckles slowly. "....I guess."



"What's the alternative?" Leaving, fending for himself, running from whoever was after him? Didn't sound like much of an existence.



"I don't know." Just thinking about it, though, made him go pale again, not looking up at Val.



"So stay here, settle, figure out what you want to do. It's really not impacting me negatively." He sat forward so he could touch Charlie's arm, comforting.



The touch lingered a second or two, then he was pulling his hand back to tuck it up near his shoulder. "We never did order food."



Charlie reached up to touch the same spot Val had almost absently, like it was still sensitive. "No, and I missed the end of the movie."



"Oh shit, you did." He clicked his tongue as he reached for the remote, getting the movie on again, fast forwarding it to the point before they'd started talking. "You watch, I'll order."



Charlie blinked up at the TV as it raced forwards, fingers dragging up through the back of his hair. "...okay."



When it got to the right place he handed the remote over so he could slip over the back of the couch again, phone in hand, to walk into the kitchen. "Just hit play," he tossed back with a smile, dialing.



He took the remote slowly, and settled back onto the couch -- but it was easy to see, now, why he was awkward. He sat just so, so he didn't crush his wings up against the back, sideways and out of sorts as he punched play.



Val watched him out the corner of his eye as he ordered. Fried rice again, because he knew Charlie liked that, then sweet and sour chicken and rangoons.



Watching helped charlie, too; it relaxed his expression again, made him settle back in, all the tension breathed out as he went back into focus.



He lingered in the kitchen for a bit, watching Charlie as he watched the movie. Gaze dipping from full mouth down to his arms with appreciation.



His mouth had been split and angry yesterday; today, the injury had settled down to just a memory, a slight swelling around the lower lip. The scratches, odds and ends, seemed to have healed up too: whatever he'd been sporting had healed, more or less.



The accelerated healing just added to the long list of questions that Val wasn’t going to pursue at the moment. Tongue flicking along his lip, he wandered down the hall to fetch a vape pen from his room that had absolutely nothing to do with nicotine.

*

Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2020, 10:12:59 PM »
Charlie didn't seem to notice. Movies were, apparently, like meditation for him. Relaxing and thoroughly immersive. Val could just about have set a bomb off. Just about.



He was only gone long enough to retrieve the pen, then he was back, taking a long drag in the kitchen before setting the thing on the counter so he could reclaim his spot in the corner of the couch.



He got the briefest look; a flash of eyes up and then back and Charlie settled forward on his knees so that he could spread feathers out, just a bit.



Charlie was much more interesting to Val than a movie he'd already seen a number of times and the flutter of feathers easily grabbed and held his attention. And again, that urge to reach out and touch had him curling fingers along his own wrists to stop himself.



It was strange that a movie about a cannibal would be so soothing, maybe; the brain eating and all. But he leaned forward on his knees and watched quietly, sighing a bit as it ended.



The movie ending was Val's cue to stop staring, but his reaction time was a little delayed, and he was still imagining how terribly soft the feathers were where back and wing joined looked.



Charlie dragged fingers up through his hair, half-turned to look at Val -- and blinked at the focus of his stare. Feathers twitched again, and he went pink around the edges. "I can put the coat back on."



Val blinked, focus twitching up from wings to face and he didn't blush, but there was something abashed in his expression. "No. Sorry, shit." He brought his hands up, palms dragging down his face as he sank back against the pillows. "They look really soft, and you're cute, and me staring is like, the last thing you need right now."



That only darkened his flush, some, for a moment struck dumb -- just staring at Val and trying to figure out what to say. "....do you know anything about birds?"



He shrugged, head turned to watch the credits scrolling on the tv. "A little bit, I guess."



"A friend of mine was..." He hesitated a little, chewing it over. "He knew a lot about birds."



"The one that died...?" He frowned, eyes flicking up again.



"No, I think he's still alive. Somewhere." Thinking about it made him hesitate, eyebrows knitting down.



"Is he an ornithologist?" Val picked at a bit of fuzz on the leg of his pants, flicking it away.



"I don't know." Maybe Charlie didn't even know what that meant, exactly.



He was quiet for a moment, thoughtful. "Is he back where you left from?"



"No, I got him out a couple years ago." He shook his head a tiny bit at Val, attention sliding away. "He had a lot of thoughts about birds, though."



"Oh." The frown deepened, just a bit, before smoothing out again. "What kind of thoughts?"



"Group behaviors, diets, health." He stretched his hands, watching his fingers. "He used to groom them sometimes. I'm bad at that."



"Groom birds?" His head tipped, puzzled, and then dark eyes flicked up to the wings again. "Your wings?"



"Yeah, those." He shook his head -- shook it off -- leaning back a little bit again.



"Do..." He paused, chewing on the question for a moment before just asking. "Do they need grooming?"



"I don't know. Like I said, it was his thing." He grimaced just a little, attention still turned away.



"Right." He was just making things awkward. Val blew out a soft breath, picking idly at his nails. "I might have to leave for a little bit later. Just a couple of hours. But you'll be fine if you just stay inside."



Again, that little shiver, a light breath of panic. "Right. Yes." And then he paused again, thinking. "You live all alone?"



“If I can get out of it I will, but I figured I'd give you a heads up." He very much doubted he could get out of it. "But yeah, I live alone. No one else has a key to get in here."



"Okay." He brushed at a spot on his knee, then shrugged, attention turned up to Val again. "I'm not in the way here, right?"



"No, you're not in the way." He gave him another reassuring smile. Thought about patting his arm again, but decided against it. "If I was here alone I'd just be watching TV or movies anyways."



"Just all day?" He shifted a little where he sat, one shoulder hiked in a shrug.



He thought about it. "Actually, I'd probably still be sleeping, but I went to bed really early last night." Thin shoulders rolled in a shrug. "And yeah, kinda. I work nights, usually, so if I'm not having to do any running around I just hang out."



"Oh." He frowned down at his hands, chewing it over. "Do you have a gym?"



"There's one in the building, yeah. It's on the first floor, you need a code to get in, but I could write it down for you." Dark brows dipped. "But if you want to do that I should leave a key here for you so you can get back in here."



He was quiet, thinking it over, his chin tipped down -- and then, finally, he shook his head. "I won't go alone."



"I could go with you, if you'd rather." Strictly speaking, it didn't look like Val frequented the gym, slender as he was, but the offer was still there.



"I can manage here, really." He risked another look up at Val. "I never actually had a real gym."



He shrugged. "Whatever you want to do."



Weirdly, that made him flush again -- left him a bit ill at ease. "I don't know what to say to that."



Dark eyes widened a touch at the spread of color and, likewise, Val didn't really know what to do for a moment. "It's okay, um..." And he was saved from having to say anything else by a buzz at the intercom beside the door. "Food," he offered preemptively, a smile flicking across his lips as he got up to buzz the guy in.



"Yeah." Food, at least, he knew what to do with. Charlie moved immediately to pull a blanket around his shoulders, just in case.



Val didn't open the door very far, when he did. Just enough for him to lean into the opening, chatting up the delivery person jovially before giving him a tip and taking the food to set on the counter.



Charlie stayed hunkered on the couch for another moment, chewing on the inside of his cheek, before he levered himself up to come check out what Val had ordered.



He was pulling out take out containers as Charlie slid up to join him, and he looked up with a smile. "I don't have a clue what the rice dish you mentioned might be, but you liked the fried rice from last night so I got more if that." He pointed to another container. "And sweet and sour chicken, it’s not spicy at all, and these..." He touched a little bag. "Are crab rangoons, they're really good."



"I dunno about crabs." It came with a skeptical look; he'd start with the rice. Maybe some chicken.



Val grinned. "Crab and cream cheese, and you dip it in sweet and sour sauce." He got down a couple of bowls, having to rise up on tiptoe to reach, then grabbed some silverware. "But you don't have to eat anything you don't like."



"I just don't know if I'd like crab." And, of course, they looked like giant spiders. Charlie shook his head.



Val shrugged as he scooped some rice into his bowl, then moved on to the chicken, scooping that in on top with liberal sauce. "It's up to you."



There was a hesitation, as he piled food high in his own bowl, and when he spoke again it was wry, tinged with something self mocking. "It'll probably depend on how hungry I still am."



Rice and chicken were mixed together until everything in Val's bowl was pink, then he added a couple of rangoons to the top and grabbed himself a napkin and a fork. "Eat as much as you want, Lord knows I won't eat it all.”



Charlie watched him skeptically, carefully working to keep his own food separate. He'd also probably dig the onions and peas out of his rice.



No peas this time, but bean sprouts and lots of egg. Val glanced down at Charlie's bowl with an amused hum before taking his own back around to sink down on the couch again, balancing the bowl in the bend of his leg with practiced ease.



A hesitation and then he took all of the rice - sitting carefully at the other end of the couch to work on his own. Methodically. Just the bits he liked, with a focused determination.



Val ate slower, with a lot less enthusiasm -- pulling apart a rangoon to scoop up some rice with the edge of it. Most of his attention was on Charlie though, watching him work his way through his meal with a note of amusement.



He ate like he was starving; all the rice and all the meat and just the healthy scraps left behind. He'd hesitate a moment, looking to Val's plate and then the kitchen, debating.



Val looked between Charlie and his own plate before tipping his head towards the food still on the counter. "Go ahead, eat your fill."



He hummed a little, then gave up and went to get more -- rice and chicken and he still avoided the crab rangoon.



Val sat back, watching him. "How do you know you don't like it if you've never tried it?"



He hesitated over that, flicking a look across to Val as he shoveled more food down. "I don't...know. But I like the other stuff, so..."



Val grinned, poking at his food with his fork, one leg drawn up. "You might really like that, too." He shrugged though, brows arching as he settled back. "But it's up to you."



"But I know I like these things." He shook his head as he brought the plate back to the couch.



"How'd you figure out you liked them?" It was gently teasing, smile lingering on Val's lips as he took a bite of chicken.



"They were what I was given." He shrugged, his own light expression flattening out again as he said it.



Charlie's expression shifting was enough to take the teasing edge from Val's voice. "I guess you have plenty of time to try new things at your own pace."



"Or not," He said, around another mouthful of rice. "Just finally eat the things I like and only that."



Val shrugged and let it go, gaze dropping to his bowl as he chewed. It wasn't his place to insist Charlie broaden his world view, or even just his flavor palette, before he was ready to.



He hesitated, though, and then forced his tone a bit lighter between bites. "Just chocolate cake and ice cream all the time."



"God, if I did that it'd make me sick." He chuckled, tearing off another section of rangoon so he could scoop up more saucy rice with it.



Of course, now he was thinking about it -- "You don't have any ice cream do you?"



"I don't remember, actually." His head tipped as he thought it over, eyes on the freezer.



Charlie tilted his own head to follow the gaze, hesitating over the next mouthful.



"You can check if you want to." He knew he'd had some not that long ago, but had no memory of actually finishing it. Which...didn't mean anything, really.



He thought about it for one more long moment, then gave up and took another bite. He'd be good. Finish his meal first.



"There's definitely cookies somewhere, if there's not ice cream." He was sure about that, at least.



"Forgivable." He spoke around more food, worked at picking out more onions.



The grin was back. "Oreos, I think." He took a bite of rice, then smoothed his thumb along the corner of his mouth to catch a bit of sauce, licking it off.



If Charlie noticed, he didn't go flustered this time: just worked at his food, seriously, until all that was left was the bits and pieces.



Val actually finished his entire bowl this time before he was rolling up on his feet to rinse it out in the sink, putting it and the rest of the dishes in the dishwasher.



There was a moment before he straightened to follow and do the same -- carefully, mimicking Val.



Val looked up when Charlie was beside him, watching him at the sink for a moment or two before he added soap to the dishwasher so they could run it when they were done. Then slid over to the freezer, arm curled around his own waist as he opened the door to peer inside for ice cream.



Charlie methodically rinsed out his own dish, then stooped to put it very carefully in the dishwasher. All of it was obviously unfamiliar.



"I guess there is some left." He pulled out a carton of moose tracks and set it on the counter. "No cake, though." He slid the carton over to him, grinning.



Charlie took it slowly, puzzling over the words on the pint, before straightening -- to search for a spoon. "I haven't had ice cream in ages."



"First drawer, left of the sink." Val hefted himself up on the counter again, ankles crossed and shoulders resting against the upper cabinets. Just watching for now.



He straightened slowly -- those pants were definitely a bit too tight -- and shifted to poke through the drawer. When he opened the pint, his expression lit up. "Chocolate."



"And peanut butter." It was endearing, the way he lit up like that. Val couldn't help but smile as well, hands curling loosely over the edge of the counter.



"Hmm." He was maybe less sure how he felt about that. Peanut butter, though, was familiar enough that he'd give it a try, and then he went at the pint enthusiastically.



"It's good, right?" Val liked his flavors a little more complex. A little less simple. He reached over to help himself to another rangoon, popping the corner into his mouth and holding it there as he closed up the bag.



"Mostly we got vanilla." He spoke around the mouthful, shoulder hiked in a shrug. "The soft kind."



Something about that had Val smothering a sudden laugh against the back of his hand before he managed to rein it in. "Vanillas okay, if there's stuff in it. Do you like caramel? Turtle sundaes are really good."



He blinked at Val, eyebrows raised, digging out another bit of chocolate as he considered. "I don't think I'd eat turtle, either."



He shook his head, laughter bubbling up in his voice again. "There's no actual turtle in it, it's named after a confection with caramel, chocolate, and pecans."



Charlie flushed again, immediately, focusing down into the ice cream while he thought that over. "Oh. Maybe, then."

*

Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2020, 10:55:53 PM »
"I've never tried turtle," he added after he'd gotten himself under control again, with only the grin lingering. "I hear it's good, tho. Alligators good."



"No." Charlie was adamant about that much. "I've had alligator. It's not good."



"You didn't like it? I think it tastes like chicken." His heel tap-tapped against the cabinets, fingertips following the rhythm as he flicked a glance towards the vape pen just out of reach.



He hesitated just a little, then made a face, scooping out another mouthful of ice cream. "I had an uncle who went shooting things, he brought back alligator sometimes."



That pulled the smaller man's attention up again. "Down in Florida, or more towards Louisiana?"



"Here, on the coast." He flicked another look to Val, quick, and then away.



"Ah right, the swampy bits." He clicked his tongue a few times, thinking. Possibly mulling over whether to ask about the rest of Charlie's family now that he'd brought them up.



"Maybe it's the association I don't like, though." But he frowned saying it; maybe it wasn't just that.



"Could be," he agreed easily, shoulders rolling. "Or how it was prepared. The stuff I had was fried, and that makes everything taste good."



He shrugged again, shoving the ice cream into his mouth -- and then sighing again, slowly. "But also, why eat that when there's ice cream?"



"You wouldn't get sick of it if you ate it for every meal, everyday?" His head tilted to the side, dark eyes flicking up to him.



He mulled that over a little bit, then shook his head. "I don't think so. Maybe a cheeseburger and then ice cream."



"It's not very healthy. I don't think you'd stay looking like you do if that was all you ate." Young, fit, unfairly attractive.



"Oh. Well." He hesitated a moment, then flicked at himself with the spoon. "This is mostly boredom. Maybe getting fat would be nice."



Val blinked slowly at him before giving a soft sigh. "Shame." He said it softly, mostly to himself, but the kitchen was very quiet around them.



Charlie smiled at that, finally, just a brief flash across his face, and he shrugged. "I don't know what else to do with myself, though."



That little flicker of a smile had Val tipping his head back against the cabinets, eyes closed and expression pleased. "A guy your size, you could probably make a decent bouncer."



"Yeah, maybe." He knew what that was, at least, attention twitching up onto Val. "I can hold up okay in a fight."



"Underground boxing," he suggested as well, grin still lingering, relaxed and comfortable. "Personal protection. I mean, there's options. And that's not really taking interests or other skills into account yet."



He shrugged, at that, scraping at the bits left in the bottom of the ice cream. "I don't really have any other skills."



"Have you had much chance to really find out, though?" One eye opened to look down at him. "What about dancing, or putting things together?"



Another little shrug, crooked, eyes flicking up to Val and then back down. "I played baseball, when I was a kid. I was pretty good at that."



"I'll bet there's amateur leagues in a city this size." There'd been leagues back in his old town, and that was considerably smaller. "I was never good at sports."



Charlie hesitated over that, head tipped slightly to one side. "I don't think I could do it now."



"With the right kind of protections you could." The smile had dimmed from amused into confidence.



"No." He didn't look up this time; had to take a careful breath. "Maybe if it was inside."



Confidence faltered, crumbling away until he was left with just a puzzled frown and the worry he'd said the wrong thing again. "I don't know if that's...we could check."



He chewed it over, taking the last dribbles of ice cream and considering his words. "It's just a bit...big, outside."



Val looked down at his own legs, picking at a loose thread. "If not baseball, there's other indoor sports." But there wasn't quite as much enthusiasm in his tone now. More cautiously optimistic.



He shrugged again, carefully setting the pint down. He dragged a hand up the back of



The lack of a response pulled his gaze up in time to see broad shoulders shrugging, and he looked past them to the wings just briefly. "What about reading, or puzzles, or stuff like that?"



He shook his head a little bit, feathers shifting as he cracked his neck carefully. "I can read."



"Do you like to?" Val didn't have many books that were just for recreational reading, but he could get some pretty easily.



"Not really." He flicked eyes upward as he said it. "I'm not really very good at it."



Val nodded, scratching at the top of his thigh through the thin pants. "Do you like to build things? Models, or...?"



"I don't know." He rolled a shoulder, risking another look to Val. "I don't have much experience."



Another nod, but this time he didn't look up, just smiled wistfully. "Well, there's time enough to figure all that out."



"Maybe." It wasn't exactly disagreeing, just...hesitant. "I can break up fights okay, though. And hold my own."



"I could get you a job, maybe. Talk to my boss." He looked up then, watching Charlie's face. "If not at the place I work, or one like it, where you don't have to hide."



He hesitated over that, brushing at his neck again. "I might need to hide a...a bit, anyway."



He mulled that over a bit, chewing at the inside of his lip. "The people that are looking for you, are they human?"



He started to answer -- but then he paused again, flustered. "I don't know what you mean by that."



Val took in a deep breath and let it out all in a rush. "Humans. Born human, and remained it?" It was hard to tell if Charlie was sheltered to the point that the veil had never dropped for him, or he just lacked any sort of exposure. "With or without the manifestation of magical or psychic abilities."



But he shifted a tiny bit where he stood, still struggling with all that. "Am I human?"



That was a hard question, and Val struggled for a moment to find a way to answer it before he glanced up at the wings again. "Were you born with those?"



He fidgeted again, folding arms over his chest and fighting the urge to look back at them himself. "No."



"Does anyone else in your family have them?" There was a pause, before he added, "That you know of, anyways."



"No, they came in..." He hesitated a tiny bit, raised one shoulder awkwardly. "They came in when I was a teenager."



"Did they come in on their own, or did something happen to trigger their growth?" The questions were getting down right invasive at that point, But Val was trying to be gentle about it. Asking only what he needed to to answer Charlie's question.



"They just...came in. There were a few of us." He turned his attention away; self-conscious but not objecting, exactly.



Val frowned, his brows dipping as he chewed that over. "Were..." But he paused, sighing before starting over. "You said you left from someplace, right? Were you and the others already there when the wings came in? Or did you get those first, and then go to this place?"



He flicked Val another look at that, somewhat uncomfortably. "You can just ask."



He stiffened, gaze dropping down and away before he forced it back up. "I think you started human, and then someone did this, and now you're more." It wasn't a question.



"No one did anything to me. They just came in." He rubbed at his elbow, tense, chewing it over. "Mine just stopped, though. The others, they kept growing."



He wanted to ask if Charlie was sure, but he was watching the way he rubbed at his elbow, the tension he could see in the set of his shoulders, and he dropped his gaze to his hands. "Then I don't know. I've never met anyone else with wings quite like those." And the eyes. "My boss would probably know..." But he shrugged. Not sure about that, or maybe not positive what Charlie was saying was the truth. Not that he was lying, but maybe he didn't actually know for sure.



"Maybe." He looked up at Val, and pondered it over. "They studied it a lot. But no one told me anything."



He was picking at the edge of his nail, dark eyes flicking to the vape pen again before lifting back to Charlie. "If I knew more about them...it'd be easier to keep you hidden from them." His shoulders shifted in a small shrug. "It's hard to tell just how much you've been sheltered from in terms of nonhumans, and magic, and all of it."



He didn't flick a look away from Val, this time. Instead he chewed that over seriously, watching him. "....all of it."



That's what he'd suspected. Val nodded, chewing at his lip again as he forced himself to stop picking. "So if you don't know, is it because they also don't know, or did they just keep it from you. Because if I knew that then there are definitely places in the city they'd never be able to get into or even know about." It seemed like he was talking to himself as much as he was taking to Charlie, because how would the bigger man know that? With a sigh he tipped his head back against the cabinets again, eyes closing, and finally pointed at the pen. "Could you please hand me that?"



Charlie unfolded just enough to grab the pen and offer it, carefully, over to Val. "They're not in the city. But they'll know I am. Because of the car."



He took it, flipping it in his fingers rather than bring it up to his lips. "Even if they came here, there are places in this city that humans that aren't in the know can't access. A lot of places."



"They have a lot of money." He shrugged again, crookedly, uncomfortably.



"It's not always about money. If they can't see, they won't know who to ask or where to go. There's wards and charms for protection." He finally brought the pen up, inhaling deeply, then exhaled the vapor up and away. "But that's if they don't know. If they do then we have to be more creative."



Charlie watched it dissipate, a bit uncomfortably. "I mean, if someone sees a guy with wings, they'll say something."



"Oh, I can fix that." He tucked the pen behind his ear, legs crossing. "I can make it so the mundanes, or anyone else can’t see them at all."



He shifted, watching Val uncertainty. "Mundanes?"



"Anyone that can't see under the Veil." He frowned, thinking about how best to explain it all. "And the Veil is a layer of protection over the entire city that acts as like...a buffer, between magical and non magical."



"Oh." It didn't really seem like he understood, even if he nodded.



"It's a lot to take in," he conceded, folding his arms across the top of his legs and leaning against them.



He hesitated a tiny bit, chewing it over. "Yeah. I don't know. I am glad you brought me here, though."



"Good." Val smiled. "It will get easier. The more you see and experience, the more clear it'll all be." It came with the voice of experience.



"Mostly just because it's not too big here." He shrugged, dismissively, attention turned down.



"Ah." Val ducked his head. "Not a big fan of open spaces, huh?"



"It's just been too long, it's..." He had to swallow, just thinking about it. "What keeps us down?"



"What keeps us down?" It was such an odd question he had to make sure he heard it right. "Like, on the ground?"



"On the ground." Charlie said it very seriously. "I mean, gravity, but really."



He blinked at him, and the seriousness in Charlie's voice was enough to keep Val from laughing at how crazy that sounded to him, and he was just sort of lost on how to react for a moment. "Gravity isn't force enough?"



"You can't see gravity." He flushed a little anyway, maybe aware that Val was laughing at him a little.



“No, I guess you can't." He sat back, tapping his chin. "But you can't see wind or either, or my magic either."



"So, when you just....you step outside...you don't get that feeling at all?" He looked flustered.



"Not that, no." He cocked his head, considering. "But there are things I'm afraid of that other people don't understand. Fears are weird sometimes."



He shrugged the tiniest bit, arms folded over his chest again. "I can feel it."



"Do you think you could describe what it feels like?" At the very least, Val was trying to understand. Maybe he couldn't relate, but if he could wrap his head around it at all that might help.



"Like you're not....rooted down." He tucked his chin as he said it, flustered. "Could fly up at any moment."



"Have you ever tried meditation to make yourself feel more grounded?" He slipped off the counter, laying a gentle hand on Charlie's arm as he straightened.



He twitched, and it was hard to tell if it was the touch or the words. "I don't like medication."



"Meditation, not medication," he clarified patiently, letting his hand slip away again. "It's something you do, not something you take."



He frowned at that, shifting a little more. "Oh. I guess. Kind of. That's what working out is, isn't it?"



"I suppose it could be with the proper focuses, though that wasn't exactly what I was suggesting." The pen was drawn from behind his ear and brought up to his lips again, and Val closed his eyes as he inhaled, letting out a hum as he released it.



Charlie watched him do it, thoughtfully, considering the smell. He tapped fingers lightly against his arm. "I don't know, then."



It didn't smell like much, and definitely not what it was. Faintly fruity, if anything. He glanced back at Charlie, like maybe he felt him watching, brows arched. "Does it bother you? I can do it by a window."

*

Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2020, 12:22:24 PM »
He shrugged again, puzzling it over. "What is it?"



"It's a vape pen. Replaces smoke with water vaper so there's no second hand smoke, and your house and clothes don't stink." He turned it in his hands, leaning against the back of the couch. "So you could use it for nicotine, but I use it for cannabis. THC specifically."



"Oh." And still, though, none of that meant much to Charlie. He scratched at his arm. "It's okay."



Val probably could have left it at that, and he waffled over it for a moment before letting out a huff, head tipping to look up at him. "Cannabis is drugs. Well..." He wiggled his hand in the air. "Sort of. It's been legalized in a lot of places, just not in Georgia. Yet." Not that he really sweated legalities at all.



"Ah." He couldn't help that tiny touch of something disapproving. Charlie looked away.



The disapproval had been expected and still it had Val frowning down at the floor. If he didn't like that, he really wasn't going to like Val's other job. Wrinkling his nose, he tucked the pen into his pocket and padded quietly towards the hall to switch out the laundry.



Charlie looked up, brief, as he went -- set to cleaning off his spoon and throwing out the garbage, mostly for the sake of something to do.



He wasn't gone very long, but after tossing Charlie's things into the dryer he'd slipped into his room to put on a proper pair of pants. Tight, black denim with rips over the thighs.



Charlie was still standing in the exact same place, tapping at his arms again. He looked up, though, as Val came out.



He seemed a little surprised to see Charlie hadn't moved. "You can watch something else if you want." Val walked around to the pile of clothes laid over the arm of the couch, looking through them.



"I don't know how to work it. I just watched..." He gestured, vaguely, crookedly. "Movies. You know."



Val paused, letting the clothes fall back into place. "Want me to show you? Then you'll be able to work it on your own if I'm not here."



He hesitated, thinking it over, watching the way Val moved around. "You're going to just leave me here and go?"



His hand came up to smooth his hair back, fingers lingering at the back of his neck. "I didn't figure you'd be all that eager to jump back in the car for however long I'll be gone later."



“I just...you're okay with me just...being here?" His shrug this time was self-conscious, maybe.[/b]



"Yeah?" His hip shifted to lean against the side of the couch. "Unless there's a reason I shouldn't be?”



"I don't know." He straightened, finally, to come back to the couch, folding himself down on its corner.



Val watched him, a brow arched. "I figured you'd be much happier staying here and watching a movie, but if you're going to be poking around where you oughtn't be poking..." He said it was a smile, teasing and not at all serious.



Charlie blinked up at him, somewhat guilty -- maybe just realizing that he had been poking around a bit earlier. "I went through your cabinets."



"Yeah? Find anything interesting?" Val smiled down at him, almost like he knew, but how could he have? He'd definitely been asleep.



"Just the chips." Mostly he'd just been hungry. It was what it was.



"You can eat anything you want." He shrugged, made a move to flop down on the couch beside Charlie, fishing the remote out and offering it to him.



He took it slowly, considering all the buttons. After a moment, he looked up. "Your TV is so big."



"Yeah, it's pretty big." Bigger than most, for sure. "Okay, there's a few channels to pick from, but let's just start with Netflix. It has its own button." Val pointed to one of four on the bottom of the remote that said Netflix. "Go ahead and hit that."



Charlie frowned and then punched the button, turning his focus back up to the TV. "I know about Netflix." Kind of.



Val looked up at him. "We could skip to Hulu then, if you already know how to navigate Netflix."



He flushed immediately, avoiding Val's eyes. "I don't know how to navigate it. I just heard of it."



Val made a small, amused sound, smiling at the other man before looking back up at the screen. There were two accounts. "Make sure you have the one with the heart highlighted, then hit the blue button in the middle." It said Valentine beneath the picture.



Charlie hummed a little, though, hesitating. "But that's you, isn't it?"



He nodded. "Yeah, you can use mine for now. It's not a big deal."



He frowned a bit, unsure -- but he'd go through the motions, blinking slowly at the sheer array of things available.



Rows and rows of titles. Val leaned back , legs curling in along his side. "Okay, so. Top row is almost always new releases or whatever's trending, it'll say right above it on the left. Then, as you move down," he pointed as he talked. "You find ‘continue watching’, and then more specific things in the rows under that. Genre, or recommended, things like that. Horror and true crime things pop up a lot for me." Also an entire row of musicals.



He scrolled down slowly to the horror, awkward, his expression still baffled. "You can just watch all of these?"



"Mmhmm, there's a shit ton just in Netflix alone." He tipped his head against the back of the couch to grin at him. "It's a monthly subscription."



"How long does it take?" He risked a look to Val, quick.



Brows arched. "How long does what take?"



"For the movie to get here." It was guileless and serious, shrugging a little tiny bit at Val.



"It's instant." His smile brightened just a touch around the corners, endeared and amused. "You find something you want to watch, and then you hit the center button again, it'll bring you to an info screen, and if it's a show it'll have options for seasons and episodes, but you just hit play from there and it'll play."



He tipped his head a little, attention turned back to the TV, and maybe it was just a few too many options for him. He went back and forth, uncertainly.



Val looked between Charlie and the TV, apparently content to watch him scroll through things for a moment or two before speaking up again. "You can also do a more specific search, if you have a title in mind, or genre, or actor." He pointed towards the left side of the screen. "Go all the way left until the side bar pops up, then up to the magnifying glass."



Charlie waffled, though, uncomfortably. He went to the search bar, but just sat there. "I have no idea."



"Well, how about..." He hummed thoughtfully, trying to come up with something he thought the other man might like. "Why don't you try American Horror Story?" He looked over at him again. "It's a show, but you might like it."



“Okay." He just blinked up at Val, still frozen for a moment -- then handed back the remote.



He took it, smile turned gentle. "This will get easier too. I keep piling things on, when you're probably already overwhelmed."



"I'm just..." He rubbed at the back of his hands, head cocked to the side. "I've spent a lot of time in the same room."



Val nodded, letting the remote lower to his lap. "If it's too much you can tell me to slow down, I don't mind. I just...I don't have a frame of reference for that, so I don't realize when I'm over reaching."



He cracked his knuckles idly, shrugging at Val. "There's this feeling like something bad's about to happen, too."



"Considering what you've told me I think that's fair." He reached over then to touch the back of Charlie's arm. "I'm going to try really hard to make sure nothing bad happens, and that you're safe."



"You don't even know me." It was said very seriously, though, looking up at Val.



"I know enough. " He shrugged. "And I remember what it felt like to have nothing but fear, and when the only thing I had to depend on was the kindness of strangers."



Charlie was quiet for a moment, attention turned back down to his hands, poking at some of the lingering nicks and dings.



He gave his arm a soft pat before withdrawing and sitting back again, turning the remote in his hand.



He didn't look up again; he folded in a bit, trying to make himself smaller, maybe, quiet and uncomfortable. "I did crash the car."



"I believe you." Maybe he'd been a little doubtful on the specifics before, but not now.



"I just left it there..." His eyebrows pulled together, a bit uncertainly.



"I don't know what else you could have done with it." He frowned up at him. "Where did you crash?"



I don't know." He picked at his fingers, chewing at his lower lip. "I don't remember very much."



"It'll be gone by now." Towed away to where broken cars went to rot. "Why do you mention the car?"



"I don't know." He hesitated a tiny bit. "You thought I was lying, I guess."



"I didn't really know what to think at first. It made sense that a car had crashed and you were in it, but I wasn't sure if there'd been someone else driving it. You were scared, and cagey, and didn't want to tell me much last night." He didn't sound mad about it, just shrugged. "And I get it, it's not like you knew if you could trust me or not."



He shrugged a tiny bit, closing his eyes and leaning back again. Carefully. Still uncomfortable on the couch.



"You're probably still trying to figure out how much you can trust me, and that's fine too." Dark eyes stayed on Charlie another moment before flicking back to the screen as he started plugging letters into the search bar.



He breathed out a sigh. "It's not as complicated as that."



He flicked a quick look at him, then went back to the letters before the show popped up and he scrolled over to select it. "No?"



"I'm not very good at...talking." He shook his head, uncomfortably. "Or much of anything else."



"I don't know about that." He got the show started, then handed the remote back after pausing it. "I think you're easy to talk to."



He took the remote back slowly, somewhat nervously. "I don't know what to say to people."



"It might surprise you to learn that most people haven't got a clue what to say to each other." He gave his arm another pat as he got up.



He tipped his head to watch Val go, crookedly. "You don't seem to have that much trouble."



"I'm a bartender and a salesman, it's sort of my job to know." He winked, flashing the bigger man a grin as he walked around the couch.



"Huh." He was quiet again, smoothing fingers over the buttons on the TV while he thought that over. "I never went to a bar before."



"You should see it at night when we're open and there's people there," he tossed back as he rounded the corner into the hall. "The place comes alive."



He hesitated a little, less enthusiastic about it. "It seems like there'd be a lot of people, though."



"Yep, it gets packed." He sounded like he was in the bathroom, and there was the faint sound of small items moving about as he did whatever it was he was doing. "Busy is good for a bar."



He cocked his head, listening, but didn't follow. "Not as good for me, maybe."



"You don't like crowds much, huh?" It wasn't surprising. Not if Charlie had been living in relative seclusion for the last...however long.



"I guess not." He sounded quiet as he said it, absent. "I think not?"



"It's not for everyone." Not even Val liked being surrounded by people twenty-four seven. "What about music, or dancing?"



"I don't know." He hesitated just a little bit, thinking it over. "I'm not very good at dancing."



"But do you like it?" Val walked back out with his hair in order, black lining already dark eyes and just a touch of shadow smudged artfully at the corners. He went back to the pile of clothes he'd been looking through before he'd gotten distracted the last time.



Charlie blinked at him, watching the way he moved around. Distracted for a moment. "What?"



He rolled his eyes up to look across the couch at him, tugging a shirt free. "I asked if you liked dancing."



"Not...really." He cleared his throat, still turning the remote over in his hands.

*

Offline Beejoux

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Re: Crasher [Charlie/Val]
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2020, 12:31:24 PM »
"You might not like it, then." He straightened, pulling the shirt over his arms and then over his head. A rusty, burnt orange v-neck. "Unless you like to people watch."



He made a faintly agreeing sound, watching Val get dressed. "Are you going now?"



"Not just yet." He glanced out the window before looking for his phone. "Just getting ready." Last he'd had it he’d been sitting right where Charlie was sitting now. He clicked his tongue as he walked over to lean on the back of the couch beside him. "I think you might be sitting on my phone."



He stood up immediately, unhesitatingly. "Ah, sorry."



Val rolled his eyes up to Charlie's face as he reached for it. "No worries. It's my fault for leaving it around."



He stood and rubbed at the back of his neck, blinking down at Val. "How long do you go to work?"



"If I was working a shift at the bar I’d be gone until three or four in the morning, depending on if I have to close." He rested his chin in his hand, elbow on the back of the couch, eyes resting on Charlie's face. "But I don't have to bartend tonight. I just have to run a few errands."



"Oh." He looked back to the TV, to the remote still loosely clutched in his hand. "Is anyone going to come here?"



"They shouldn't. You can ignore any buzzing over the intercom in the unlikely event there is any." He looked down at his phone, scrolling through a few texts.



Charlie's eyes dropped, too, tracking his fingers over the phone. "Okay."



There were addresses, payment amounts and weights, and a lot of shorthand that wouldn't make any sense. "You think you can wait till I get back to eat dinner? I can bring back burgers or something." He still hadn't looked up, a slight crease to his brow, lips moving distractedly as he read.



"Okay." Charlie shrugged at him, but then he hesitated. "Can I eat more of the chips?"



"Of course." He straightened up then and walked around to the chair, flopping gracefully down on it before pulling the ottoman up to him.



Charlie stood for another moment, awkward, before he sank down to sit as well, slowly. "Thank you."



"You can have anything in the kitchen." He was still a little distracted, attention down as he pulled back the top of the ottoman so he could grab what he needed from inside. "That reminds me, actually." He looked up again finally as he closed it, body twisting so he could tuck something into his pocket. "I can stop at a store on my way home, is there anything you need?"



"Just some clothes, I guess." He cocked his head, watching Val steadily, now. Curious, in a distant sort of way.



"Already one of the stops I'm making." He smiled across at him. "but I meant like food or drinks or really anything."



"Anything, I guess." He shook his head just a tiny bit, rubbing at his elbows. "Brownies?"



"I can get brownies. How about tea? You liked that peach stuff, right? Or soda?" He folded back comfortably into the chair, feet kicked up.



"Coke?" That brightened him some, attention sliding onto Val.



"Sure, anything else?" His head tipped, lips curling up at the corners at the way Charlie perked up.



This time he chewed it over more seriously, staring down at the remote. "...popcorn?"



Any particular flavor?" He pulled his phone out, pulling up a note app to make a list.



The question gave him pause, puzzled. After a breath he sighed and gave up. "There are flavors of popcorn?"



"Oh yeah, there's a few. Classic butter, of course." He ticked up fingers as he listed. "Cheese, caramel, sea salt, and kettle corn, which is just a touch of sweet." He wasn’t going to list the flavor toppings, that was too much.



“Can you get them all?" It was hesitant, like he was a little embarrassed to ask -- but he asked anyway.



Val grinned, chuckling. "Yeah I can." He added to the list.



"I don't know what I like." He was blushing again, head dipped to brush hair out of his face. "I'd try all that, though."



He made a small sound as he caught a glimpse of rosy cheeks, and tipped his head towards the kitchen instead. "So, popcorn, Coke, brownies, and clothes?"



"That sounds good." He chewed it over a little more, debating. "....maybe some plastic bags, too?"



It was an odd enough request to bring his gaze back around to Charlie's face. "Plastic bags?"



"They take a long time to dry." Feathers fluttered as he said it, eyes twitching back up onto Val.



He blinked at the wings and comprehension dawned. "Oh." Val rolled up and walked into the kitchen to open the cupboard under the sink. "I Have some already. There's grocery bags, and then garbage bags if you want something with drawstrings."



"It's just nice to not have to sit in them all damp, you know." He cleared his throat, rolling up to stand and follow Val.



"Yeah, I'll bet." Once upon a Time his hair had been longer and he'd remembered how annoying it’d be when it was wet. "Grocery there, and then this box is garbage bags. Use whichever works better."



He crouched slowly to consider the bags, nodding at Val. "I think I'm okay for now, don't need to hop in again, but this would help."



He looked down at Charlie's wings as he crouched beside him, and this time didn't quite catch himself fast enough to keep from stroking the edge of one of the banded feathers.



The feather twitched and shuddered in reply and Charlie just about fell over, reaching out to catch a hold of the counter for support.



Eyes widening, Val pulled his hand back with a murmured apology, looking down right sheepish.


Sensitive, apparently. He flushed very dark, still holding on. "Sorry. Surprised me."



"No, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have touched." He offered a hand down to help Charlie up, not sure he'd even take it.



He made just a little sound, hesitating a breath -- but yes, he'd take it, slowly, to drag himself back up.



Val didn't have a lot of weight or strength to toss behind helping Charlie up, but he had balance enough to be a good brace for the other man to leverage against. His hand in Charlie's was soft before he let go.



He still looked flustered, pink, feathers folded in tight against his spine. Awkward and self-conscious.



He looked up at him with a soft frown, not sure what to say other than to apologize again. "I should probably go and get everything done and over with." Fingertips trailed up his opposite arm.



"Okay." He cleared his throat, slow and uncertain. "Sure."



He looked down, then over at the clock on the microwave. "It should only be a couple of hours."



"I'll be okay." Just the briefest flick of eyes up; feathers shifted again, resettled.



He brought a hand up to push his hair back, stepping around Charlie slowly to pick up his keys from where he'd set them on the end of the counter.



"Do you want me to..." He hesitated over words, trying to think. "To do something?"



"No, you can just hang out. Your clothes should be dry though, if you wanted to switch back to more comfortable pants." He looked up again, now, the awkward moment having apparently passed. "Kick back and relax and I'll be back in a bit with food and clothes."



"Okay." He risked a look up at Val again. "Thank you."



He was going for his jacket to shrug into it, but he smiled at Charlie. "No problem." Then he was letting himself out, closing the door behind him with a last look at Charlie.



It left Charlie to his own devices: puttering around the apartment for a few hours, eating some of Val's snacks, finally settling down to just watch episode after episode of American Horror Story.