"When I said I'd help out, I didn't mean I'd clean your whole freakin' house." Ray stomps his boots on the welcome mat, 'cause he's not gonna mop the floor again, and rubs his hands together.
"The house needed to be clean," Charlie says from his La-Z-Boy — the irony isn't lost on Ray one bit over that — with his bum leg propped up on the footstool. He holds up a hot steaming mug of somethin' that better be coffee. "Thirsty?"
"Of course I'm thirsty. I've been workin' my butt off over here."
Ray crosses into the room and makes a grab for the mug. It is coffee. It's not bad coffee, but Charlie puts too much sugar in it and some flavored creamer that clings to Ray's tongue like he's drinking a milkshake. He wants to sit next to Charlie, but he takes the love seat. It's better this way anyway — the two of 'em on separate couches.
"So," Ray says after a couple of careful sips. He stares down into the mug, words drying up like the sweat on the back of his neck.
"Problem with the coffee?"
Ray glances up, about to say no, shake his head, do those nice, polite people things, but he slides the mug onto the table. "Too much sugar and creamer. I like two packets of sugar. Nothin' fancy."
By the look on Charlie's face, Ray believes it. Charlie's gonna remember for next time. Not that Ray wants there to be another cleaning session any time soon. The house doesn't look that big 'til you're cleaning the base boards. Midway through that thought, Ray realizes he's rambling in his head, and Charlie's staring as he nurses his own cup of coffee. Ray wonders — not that he really cares or anything — how Charlie takes his coffee.
"So," Ray says again and leans back, gets comfortable, "I was thinking. Maybe there ain't going back. For us or anyone." He meets Charlie's eyes and lifts his shoulder in a take-it-or-leave-it sort of shrug. "So how about we keep moving forward instead?"
Charlie stares at Ray for so long that Ray's starting to get a little antsy, and he's about to throw up his hands, shrug the whole thing off, and dump his coffee in the kitchen sink, just walk out the door and head back to the halfway house. When he shifts forward, legs spread to brace his weight, Charlie moves, too, feet dropping to the floor, hand curling loose around Ray's shoulder to keep him where he is.
The quirk of a smile on Charlie's face is an answer all its own, and Ray feels like he can relax again.
"So how long did it take you to come up with that one?" Charlie asks, squeezing Ray's shoulder.
They both settle back in their seats, and Ray offers Charlie his own grin. "A whole three hours. While I was scrubbin' the kitchen cabinets." He can feel his smile slip when he meets Charlie's eyes. "So what d'you think?"
Charlie looks at his leg and then glances at the cane propped against his chair. At least he keeps the damn thing close now, but by the thin, tight shape of Charlie's mouth, Ray knows Charlie still doesn't like it.
"You got away from the desk," Ray says, words soft and as matter-of-fact as he can deliver 'em as he props his elbows on his knees. But Charlie's staring at the cane and not sayin' a word. "Come on, Charlie. A bum ticker didn't stop you." Ray gives Charlie a once-over, not perverted or anything, just an up-down sweep of his eyes. "Way I see it, it still hasn't."
It takes a while, but Charlie eventually nods. "We've got a saying in the Marines."
Ray can't help but snort. "Bet you have a lot of those." Charlie shoots him a hard look, and Ray laughs, holding up his hands. "Hey, didn't mean to interrupt. What words of wisdom are you gonna give our moment here?"
Charlie shakes his head, but there's no hiding the grin tugging on the corners of his lips. "Improvise, adapt, overcome."
"Smart," Ray says. "So are you gonna start taking that to heart any time soon?"
Charlie laughs, then, and if his mugs weren't so nice, Ray's pretty sure one would be flyin' at his head right about now. All that's aimed his way, though, is Charlie's gaze, expression warmer than it was earlier as he says, "I took you, didn't I?"
It's a loaded statement, and it makes Ray's head buzz, tightens up his throat so all he can do for a moment is nod. He tries to shrug it off with a chuckled, "Yeah," but the word is rough when it comes out.
Charlie either doesn't notice or he's giving Ray an out here.
"So," Charlie says, and grins when Ray looks up at him. "Are you going to get back to work?"
Ray stares at Charlie, and this time his laugh is more genuine and a whole lot of I can't freakin' believe you. "You gonna start paying me overtime?"
"That depends on how well you've cleaned the house."
"I'm not accepting anything less than time and a half."
The look that comes over Charlie's face next has Ray losing his breath, mouth going dry and each thud of his pulse sending his blood in a straight dive south.
"You sure about that?" Charlie asks.
Ray shifts, but the hard on that he's sporting right now is pretty freaking obvious at this point. "You got somethin' else in mind?"
"Maybe." Charlie's gaze slides to the cane, and Ray doesn't get it — figures Charlie's teasing him at this point — until Charlie's eyes are on him. "If the job you do passes muster, we'll talk."
Ray wants to talk right freaking now, even though he can't draw in enough air, because his heart's too busy hurlin' itself against his ribcage.
"Everything needs to be done by the time Marisol gets home. I want her to walk into a clean house."
"It's already freakin' spotless," Ray says, 'cause he has to say something. He doesn't want to look as desperate as he feels right now. That's a set up for disappointment.
"You don't get to decide that, Ray."
"Then neither do you." Ray stands and palms his cock. Charlie can already see the bulge, so there's no point in bein' uncomfortable when he can do a quick adjust. "Let Marisol decide, then we'll talk."
Ray grins and answers with a shrug. "I'm just sayin', I ought to get something out of all of this work I'm doing."
"You want me to buy you a steak dinner, Ray?"
"Maybe," Ray says slowly, 'cause a steak dinner would be nice once in a while. "But come on, Charlie. You know what I want."
"Not if you don't ask."
"The cane," Ray says in one rush. "I do a good enough job, and Marisol approves, you give me the cane." And, Ray wants to add, but he tightens his jaw against it 'cause he doesn't want to push his luck here. Charlie'll never admit it, but he still gets weird about the paddles and floggers, still stops just short of what Ray really needs. They're workin' on it.
"I'll think about it."
Point proven. It's not an outright no, though — Charlie's new to this, so he's allowed to be skittish about Ray's requests — so Ray takes their mugs and nods. "Sure, Charlie." Then he gets back to work.