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It's starting to wear on him. Maybe he should have expected it, with his jumping into a relationship with a teenager without actually considering what that would be like. But--he had considered  what it would be like, for months, every time they spoke to each other.

But maybe that's the problem. They don't really talk anymore.

Although he's not sure he can be surprised that a teenager is constantly horny.

Richard is over at his house, again, sitting forward on his couch as Danny does his best to spark a conversation. An argument, even, at this point--he just wants to speak to him.

But he can tell Richard is already somewhere else, gaze chronically wandering down past Danny's eyes--and his waistband. And while he won't deny the interested twitch that look inspires, it's his heart that needs attention right now.

Richard leans over as Danny's sentence trails off and kisses him, wasting no time in crawling into his lap and pulling him closer. He's gotten...alarmingly proficient at this in a very small amount of time, and the just-outside-of-gentle bite at his lip and tug of his hair nearly makes his complaints vanish into thin air.

But they are--after that brief leap of his heart--still there, weighing on him. So as much as it pains him, he pushes Richard back, gentle but insistent.

Richard frowns at him, confused and not a little bit irritated.

“Can we talk?” Danny asks. The irritation on Richard's face shows clearer now.

“If you don't want to, just say so,” he says, moving off of him. His voice shrinks into a mumble. “Don't have to be so dramatic...”

“No, I--” Danny insists, leaning towards him, “It's not that." Not at all. Far from it. "I just think...” He sighs, gathering his thoughts. “I feel like we don't spend time together except when we're sleeping together. It was fun, at first, but that's not why I fell in love with you.” Richard's eyes go wide at that word, and his face tinges pink as he looks away. Danny reaches over, slowly, taking his hand in his. It's exciting, in its own way. They haven't ever done this before. “I just want to be here. With you.”

Richard doesn't look at him. He's practically frozen--is he even breathing?--except for the barest twitch of his hand.

His fingers slide between Danny's, slowly, timidly.

Then, all at once, he stands up and walks across the room, disappearing into the kitchen.

Danny blinks, startled, and gets up to follow him--though he pauses, the thought occurring that perhaps Richard needs to be alone for a moment. But he can't handle that. He needs to go after him.

He steps into the kitchen, carefully. Richard is facing away from him, standing in a corner with his arms crossed tightly against his chest as he sways, agitated, from side to side.

“Richard...?” he tries. “Are you alright...?”

“Yes,” he lies, blatantly. Danny steps over, placing a hand on his shoulder--but he pulls away, turning away from him again.

Danny steps back, heart tight. He can't imagine a reason the things he said would provoke this reaction, and that confusion is terrifying. What is he not seeing, here?

He doesn't know what to do. So he waits. He takes another step away and leans against the counter, attentive and curious but as patient as he can muster.

And he waits. And waits.

Until there's a crack in Richard's composure. A deep sigh turns into a shuddering breath and a sniffle, and Danny's heart aches in sympathy. “Richard,” he tries again, “Darling...”

“Don't,” he says, pitifully. Then, with a little more conviction and a half-turn towards him, still not meeting his eyes; “This isn't right.”

His heart aches with a little more than sympathy now. “What do you mean?” He dearly hopes he doesn't already know the answer to that. “ What isn't right?”

This ,” he says, finally turning to face him, eyes determined through the tears he's holding back. “If we're just--” the determination fades as quickly as it appeared, giving way to something lost and confused. “Just...I--I know I'm not supposed to be sleeping with you, you're...just--so many reasons, but, we--you know, teenagers get in trouble, we...we piss people off and it's fun and it's all--it's just what people do, isn't it? But this isn't. It...”

He can't hold back the tears now, dripping down his face as he searches frantically for the words to continue. Danny would usually try to be patient--but his half-understanding of Richard's scattered thoughts are painting a dark picture.

“Is that--all this is?” he asks, cautiously. “You getting into trouble?” He doesn't want to believe it. But something in Richard's broken expression tells him he may not have to.

“I don't know ,” he manages, before covering his face and dissolving into stammering breaths in an attempt to hold his misery back.

Danny can't keep himself from reaching out and placing a hand on Richard's back, aching to console him--and this time, he doesn't pull away. He shudders, and folds into him, pressing his face against his shoulder. Danny wraps his arms around him, holding him close and rocking gently back and forth as he cries, pressing his face into his hair.

He wants to say something, to reassure him, but he's too lost. Too worried of making this--whatever it is--worse. He will have to settle for this.

It's helping, at least. Richard starts breathing steadier, and finally relaxes, arms sliding around Danny's back.

Danny takes a deep breath.

“Did I say something?” he ventures, quietly.

“Mm-mn,” Richard mumbles in a way that he hopes means 'no.’ “I'm just...”

He pulls away from Danny, and wipes at his eyes, stubbornly. “This is...confusing.”

Danny frowns. It all seems pretty simple, to him. Basic. The cornerstone of humanity. What could be confusing about love?

Richard waves his hands, trying to communicate some thought he doesn't have words for yet. Then he stills, his face flushing. “I've...looked at other guys before,” he mumbles. Ashamed. Danny's heart is open and sympathetic. He knows this feeling too well. “And I always...knew I shouldn't, but it was fun. You know, there's...there's a part of it that's more fun because you're not supposed to. But this is--” The words catch in his throat, eyes shining again. He whispers; “I don't want this to be wrong.”

“Oh!” says Danny, finally hopeful. It's--a bit of a complex statement, sure. But he's the kind of man who sees the glass half full. He reaches up and wipes the tears from under Richard's eyes. “Richard,” he says, gently. “Do you think this is wrong?”

He gives it due thought, gaze drifting away. “ is,” he says, though with not as much certainty as the phrase implies. “According to. The law.”

Danny huffs, amused, despite himself. He pats Richard's face, and it's a carefree enough motion that Richard briefly shares his smile. “Laws can change ,” he responds. “Laws do change. All the time.”

Richard frowns at him, mulling his point over. It's a rare treat to be so thoroughly listened to. Usually Richard is so quick to debunk his ideas and present his own. He must very badly want to be wrong about this.

He must really care about him.

“You can say that for any law, though,” he decides, eventually. “You can't just say that murder is fine because the law about it could change.”

“Well,” Danny starts, uncertainly. “Murder is different. Murder actually hurts people.” He drops his hands, taking Richard's in his, carefully. Richard seems wary of this, but he doesn't pull away. “That's what I'm getting at, I think. Laws are made to keep people from hurting each other. And maybe people think that...that this is harmful. But...I think they're wrong.” He tilts his head in gentle question. “What do you think, Richard?”

Richard stares at their hands, breath steady, but tense. He shakes his head, slightly, turning to the floor.

Danny waits for him. But, when he doesn't say anything, he prods just a little more. “Am I hurting you?”

Richard thinks, for a moment, and then shakes his head, clearer this time.

“You're not hurting me, either.” He squeezes his hands, gently. “So maybe when it's just the two of us, we can forget about everyone else. Maybe we can decide what's okay or not.”

Richard sniffles. And then leans forward, slowly, until his face drops onto Danny's shoulder and he curls up against him. Danny smiles, happy to oblige in wrapping his arms around him again, stroking his hair slowly.

They stand like that for as long as Richard needs to feel safe again, a tune stirring up in Danny's head, some marriage of joy and a dark sense of nostalgia, before Richard shifts away and finds something to wipe his face with, sighing deeply.

“I should probably get home,” he mumbles. “My parents will start to wonder...”

“Alright,” Danny says, keeping his disappointment to himself. He wants to hold him and kiss him until that sorrow disappears from his face--but if he needs time, he'll have to give that to him.

Richard nods. And then stands there, apparently as reluctant as Danny is. But Danny manages the restraint to not press on that reluctance, keeping quiet until Richard shuffles over to the front door.

But, he can’t keep completely quiet.

“...see you soon?”

Richard nods. “Yeah,” he says, opening the door. Then, just barely loud enough to be heard, “ you.”

The leap of Danny’s heart is met with the slamming of the door as Richard runs from his confession.

He can't find it in himself to be upset.