[ Redacted ]
Charlie's hand went gentle over his hip and side, though, light touches, reassuring. And finally he could lean in enough to really kiss Val.
He stretched under that light touch, twisting to meet Charlie for a proper kiss. slow, and exploring, and soft. A hand sliding up to cup his cheek.
After all that, it was still soft, sighing, with his hand still tracing a soothing path up and down Val's side.
He hummed into the kiss, smiling, goosebumps rising under Charlie's fingers as they slid along his side.
He didn't push Val into the wet spot, or let him fall; his hands were shaky, now, but he kept a grip on his waist, sighing into his mouth. "Good?"
Gravity was going to make the choice for them soon, if the tremble in both their limbs had anything to say about it. But Val flicked his tongue against that full mouth again, eyes cracking open to look up at Charlie's face. "Perfect."
He made a very quiet sound, cracked his eyes, and looked flustered by the comment. He sat back slowly, a hand still on Val's waist to steady him.
Fingers stroked gently over Charlie's cheek, reassuring, before he reached down to drag the towel in to clean himself off, leaning back against a strong chest. Then he tossed the towel away.
"Thirsty." He swallowed, thinking it over, then half-turned -- they had sodas here, somewhere. "You?"
"Yeah." Fingers stroked along Charlie's thigh before he rose up on his knees again to grab the arm of the couch, leaning against it so he could grab Charlie's soda, offering it back to him.
Charlie sat back, slowly, leaning against the arm of the couch so he could spread wings out over it -- just watching the way Val moved. "You dance, you said, right?"
He grabbed his tea, and crawled back towards Charlie, just kicking the sweats off the rest of the way, for now. "Yeah. It used to be my job, years ago. Before I started bartending."
It showed in how he moved. Charlie just watched him, huffing out a breath as he took the can. "What kind of dancing?"
"Exotic," he answered with a dip of his head, crawling in to kneel between Charlie's thighs. A hand coming up to smooth his hair back before he twisted off the top of his tea.
Charlie sprawled his legs out, a hand settling on Val's hip again. "What does that mean?"
He took a quick drink, then replaced the cap and set the bottle on the couch behind him. "It means I'd take my clothes off while I danced, and people would give me money." Dark eyes flicked up to Charlie's face, curious what he'd think of that.
"Oh." He blinked down at Val, licking his lower lip, like he was thinking it over. And then he took a long drink of the coke.
"That's the basic idea, anyways." He rolled one shoulder in a little shrug. "Sometimes it was more about dancing and less about taking anything off." The tip of his finger traced the rise of Charlie's hip bone.
"Okay." He didn't seem bothered by it, really; just accepted, shrugging a little. "Like a stripper."
"Yes, exactly that." He chuckled, shifting like he meant to lean in against Charlie's chest again but paused, looking up at him. "Would it put too much pressure on your back or wings if I leaned against you?"
"I'm okay right now." He tipped his head, adjusted so the arm of the couch was low on his back, wings spread over it. "This isn't terrible."
He watched him shift, waiting until he'd settled before turning to rest his back against that broad chest, humming at how warm he felt. "I bet I could find a stool like you mentioned before at a second hand store."
"It'd be better if I could just get rid of them." He tucked his face down, rubbing a thumb absently over a mark on Val's hip. "But my back would be fucked up."
"They're beautiful," he offered softly, head tipping up to rest his brow against Charlie's jaw. "But I can see how troublesome they could be." Not just as a matter of comfort, but in everything. "Give me a few days, and I'll make something that'll let you hide them without having to cover them up." Not as good as making them gone
, but it was something at least.
"That'd be nice." He licked his lips, looking down at val. "I think you'll have a bruise."
He blinked, head tipped to glance down at Charlie's hand. "Where?" Curious, rather than concerned at all.
He smoothed his thumb over Val's hipbone -- and then cocked his head a little, with a rumble, and touched a spot on his shoulder. And then his throat.
Val looked down at the blossoming bruise on his hip before going still as Charlie touched his shoulder and the side of his throat, a hand lifting after to stroke fingers along discolored skin. "Oh my, that's a lot." He giggled
, head falling back against Charlie's chest, grinning.
"I'm sorry. I'll be more careful, next time." He sounded genuine about it, fingers lingering against Val's throat.
His hand drifted up to touch fingertips to the underside of Charlie's chin. "I really don't mind."
He blinked up onto Val's face, and he did look slightly concerned, still. "Are you sure?"
"Mmhmm." He stroked his thumb along his jaw, feeling the soft rasp of stubble. "I'd have stopped you before if I wasn't okay with it."
"It's hard. It was easier when I wasn't quite so strong, but..." He had to swallow against some thought, there.
"I liked everything we did, and everything you did to me. It all felt amazing." Fingers drifted up to ghost along his cheek, trying to chase whatever that thought was away.
He wrapped both arms in around Val's waist, then to give him a little squeeze, holding on. "Okay."
His other hand rested on one of Charlie's, head settled back against the big man's chest. Content and comfortable and utterly relaxed.
He sighed as he relaxed back again, thinking -- quiet, for a moment -- "I'm terrified to go outside. Can you do something about that, too?"
He could definitely suggest something to help with the attached anxiety, but Charlie seemed entirely adverse to it. He stroked the tips of his fingers along the backs of Charlie's as he thought about what, if anything, he could do about the fear. "I'll see if I can come up with something that might help."
His arms were still loose around Val's waist. He tucked his head, watching the movement of fingers low on Val's shoulder. "I used to love going outside."
He was quiet for a moment, apparently already trying to brainstorm up something that might help. Then he moved his head to look up at Charlie. "What happened?"
He hesitated over his answer, giving it a thought - and eyes unfocused. "... I guess if you spend enough time in enclosed spaces.... I mean I hadn't been outside in a long time."
That would do it. "How long?" He almost hadn't asked, because it didn't seem like Charlie liked to talk about it at all, and he didn't want to push him, not after just getting away from all that. "Sorry. I know you don't want to have to keep thinking about it, I'm just trying to understand." He stroked his fingers over Charlie's again, reassuring and comforting.
He made a little sound, fingers tracing up over Val's ribs. "...well, Daniel and I broke out maybe...two years ago? But it didn't go well..."
There was a lot to unpack with that simple response. Val gave a thoughtful hum, fingertips sliding between big knuckles. "Have you been running this whole time, or..?"
"No." He blinked down at his hands, slowly. "We only ducked out for a day or so. He was just starting chemo."
"Oh." He wondered if Daniel had been the one that'd passed two months ago, or If Charlie had just been having an even rougher go of things. "I can't even imagine everything you've had to go through."
He shrugged a tiny bit, closing his eyes while he thought it over. "We didn't make it far at all."
Val looked up at him, touching his cheek softly. He didn't want to ask more questions that might dig deeper into painful memories, but he wouldn't try to stop Charlie from talking about it.
He didn't, though. Instead he pressed his face into the curve of Val's neck, all wrapped around him, wings twitching.
He combed dark hair back from Charlie's face, hand pressing the bigger man's arm tighter around him. "You're here now."
"For the time being, anyway." He tipped his head a little, considering. "I'm at least twelve hours ahead of last time."
Val gave an agreeing hum that could have gone with either of those statements, or both. He wasn't going to make Charlie leave, not when he had nothing and nowhere to go. Especially not now
He brushed his cheek against Val's shoulder, hiding behind the mess of his hair -- and brushed fingers in little circles against his stomach. Quiet, now.
He curled his hand around the back of Charlie's head, the other one of his arms just holding him close. Nails gliding softly along scalp and skin in soothing lines.
He made a tiny little sound, eyes still closed. "If you're trying to get me going again, I don't think it's going to happen."
"No, not that." He eased back on the nails, just a bit. "Trying for comforting, or just something that feels good."
He made a little tiny sound of agreement, and he did relax, just a little bit. "Okay."
His legs drew up as he hugged Charlie's arm around him, fingers combing through his hair still. "I don't think I have anything left anyways. Not tonight." He sounded distinctly satisfied about it though.
That made him shift, finally, to take another long gulp of his Coke -- reminded to hydrate, maybe. "When do you have to go somewhere?"
He'd need some water for that, but Val wasn't the paternal sort. Caring, but not terribly responsible. He took the loosened grip to grab his own tea, twisting it open to take a drink before answering. "Tomorrow evening, I have a bartending shift at nine." He tipped his head back to glance up at him.
"That's a ways off." He finished the coke off, then, quick, and leaned around Val to set the can down.
"Mmhmm." He waited for Charlie to set the can down before stretching a little, humming softly at skin moving against warm skin. "I can look into what I need for the charm tomorrow."
"Charm?" He settled, feathers twitching and adjusting, his eyes pressed closed again.
"Yeah, the magic that'll let you hide your wings. It'll be in a charm. Something to wear, and you'll be able to activate it when you want." He looked around for the book he'd had earlier, then gave up and extended a hand, fingers curling and wrist twisting, until it popped up from under a cushion and into his hand.
"Oh." Charlie didn't budge; he sat, quiet, wrapped around Val like a blanket. "That sounds nice."
It was an old book, leather bound and worn until the title was unreadable. He set it against his legs and opened it to the page he'd been on earlier, fingertips skimming the old parchment. "It can be a ring, or bracelet, or a necklace. Something like that."
Charlie didn't even look up -- just nodded, a tiny bit, against Val's shoulder. "Sure."
He moved his head just enough to sort of see Charlie's profile, and reached up to stroke his cheek softly.
He looked comfortable, there, quiet, with his eyes closed and his focus turned downward -- halfway to dozing, warm around Val. "Anything's okay."
It was nice, this. Val let his gaze linger on him a moment longer before dark eyes dropped down to the book in his lap, fingers gliding along Charlie's jaw.
He rumbled, but didn't say anything else. Much more of that and he might doze off, still wrapped around Val.
Back and forth along the short stubble, his head resting comfortably against Charlie's, gaze half lidded as he read through a few lines, reread them, and then gave up. Too worn out to be trying to do any sort of research. He closed the book and set it aside.
The movement made Charlie blink back into focus, waking up some. "....bed?"
"Probably should. If we stay like this much longer we'll both pass out and you'll wake up with a really sore back." It was half joking. His palm settled warm against Charlie's cheek.
Still. He didn't move, for the moment. "I do sleep very badly. I'm not just...making excuses."
He played his fingertips along the fine hairs at Charlie's temple, not making any move to pull away. "What does that mean?" Not incredulous, just curious. "Like, night terrors?"
"I have nightmares, sometimes." He flicked a look up to Val, and then shrugged just a tiny bit. "But mostly it's being woken up that's the problem."
"Wake up swinging?" He flicked his eyes up to Charlie's face again, what he could see of it, features relaxed.
He hesitated -- then shrugged, just the tiniest bit, which was maybe an agreement.
Fingers slid down to follow the line of his jaw down to his chin, turning his face so Val could steal a soft kiss.
He blinked, relaxing into it a smidge, his fingertips light on Val's stomach. "I'm just really strong."
"It's okay." Fingers lingered on Charlie's chin, soft and feather light. "The invitation is still there, you can come and cuddle for a bit and come back out here. Or stay out here, and I'll understand."
He mulled that over too, his hand going in slow circles. "I could do that, maybe."
Val couldn't help the pleased smile, soft that it was. "Shall we, then?" He tipped his head towards the hall.
He looked up and sighed a bit, but finally let go of Val, brushing at his hair.
He stole a ghost of a kiss against Charlie's chin before he could move too much, and before Val shifted to get to his feet, setting the book on the side table before bending to pick up his sweatpants.
Charlie lingered another moment, looking around them, and then levered himself up - grabbing his own pants.
Val waited at the hall, pants slung over a shoulder, and took just a moment to send the dirty towel back into the bathroom and into a hamper.
His eyes raked over Val as he approached, appreciative, and Charlie rubbed at the back of his head. "Could you...do something, to me? I mean, if I'd been.... violent, or something...."
His head cocked, looking up at him. "Could I defend myself from you if I'd needed to?" Just to be sure he understood the question.
"Yes." He blinked seriously down at Val, fingers shifting around his pants.
"Yes." It was just as serious, dark eyes focused on the bigger man's face.
"So you're not just.... trusting." He fumbled with the words, frowning a bit down at Val.
One small hand reached out to brush Charlie's hip. "A bit of both. Knowing I can defend myself if things get tricky affords me the luxury of giving people the benefit of the doubt."
"With the magic." He waved a hand a little, stiffly. "That stuff. You could get a knife or something."
"I could," he answered honestly. "But I wouldn't need to." Nothing so bloody as that.
He frowned again, a little, harder, really thinking about that. "... okay."
His free hand came up to smooth a finger between furrowed brows. "I'm not helpless or defenseless, I promise."
"Okay." He struggled to relax the expression but didn't quite get there.
He did it again, a subtle smile tugging at his lips before the hand on his hip took his hand instead, leading him down the hall towards his room.
He went along without hesitation, fingers sliding in with Val's. But just a hint if that frown lingers.
He didn't bother dragging the pants back on when they reached his room, he just tossed them on a chair in the corner before drawing Charlie towards the bed. Letting go only to drag the blankets down.
Charlie lingered, looking around the room again, curious - a hand on the back of his neck.
Big, a little cluttered, with a TV on the wall and a long dresser under the window made from dark wood. "I could put the tv on for background noise." He'd crawled up to sit on the edge of the bed.
"I can't believe you have two tvs." He looked back to Val. as he said it, and then started after with a sigh. "Both so big."
He looked up at him, remote in his hand, just turning it idly. "I kept falling asleep on the couch. It seemed like a good idea to put one in here, so I'd start using the bed. I like the noise," he clarified.
Slowly, Charlie sprawled out next to him, curled carefully on his side. "It's nice."
With a little hum of agreement Val slid down beside him, dragging sheets up over both their legs before rolling in close. "Is background noise okay?"
"Yeah. It's good." He wriggled a little so that he could turn his attention vaguely toward the TV.
He flicked it on, got a show going involving a British man and micro-expressions and knowing when people were lying. Val reached up to set it on the top of the headboard, within easy reach if Charlie wanted to change it. Then shifted, turning to tuck himself in against the bigger man's chest again.
It was awkward; Charlie's wings got in the way, made it hard to settle quite right. But he had enough experience to bend them into a position that'd be comfortable enough.
Val stayed loose, moving easily as Charlie shifted until it seemed like the bigger man had found a comfortable way to lay, and then relaxed against him. Eyes flicked up, briefly, to the tv before just closing.
Charlie carded fingers loosy through Val's hair, light, eyes narrowed to slits on the TV. He might doze a little, but he wasn't about to drift off. He'd linger until Val seemed well and truly asleep before working to detangle himself.
Fingers in his hair, the warmth of Charlie beside him, the sound of the TV, all the excitement from earlier... All of it combined meant Val didn't last very long before drifting off, and true to his word, once he was out he was out hard. As Charlie started to slip free he'd give a faint sound of protest, fingers curling loosely around one arm as it drew away. And then he sighed, settling into the sheets.
He could sleep. peacefully alone while Charlie exiled. himself to the other room, sprawled out under the blankets, down well into the morning.