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It's the quiet moments that Richard values the most.

Life with Alec is a never-ending exercise in unpredictability. Alec is changeable like no one Richard has ever known before, his moods mercurial and his temper quick. He's nothing like the regular denizens of Riverside, who are never even half so beautiful. Or so ugly. Alec isn't like anyone and Richard enjoys that about him, even when it causes trouble and ends in blood. He isn't particularly inclined to self-reflection, but if he were he'd admit that he enjoys that, too. If nothing else can be said, at least what they have between them is never boring.

But the quiet moments, when Alec is calm and still and languid in their bed, are better. They're something precious and rare, few and far between, and Richard commits each of them to memory because life is short and he knows that someday one of them will end up being the last. He doesn't expect to outlive Alec, but it's good to have those things, just in case.

"Richard." Alec's voice is like a blade dipped in honey - warm and slow and rich, danger lurking beneath the surface. "Why are you all the way over there? It's freezing."

Richard smiles slightly and turned his head to look at the lazy scholar lying diagonally across the bed, taking up as much space as humanly possible. "It's almost noon."

"So?" His hair is loose that morning, the tie on the floor somewhere. It's a thick brown curtain spilling across the pillows, the ends dangling over the edge of the bed, and Richard wants to touch it, just to feel the slick-cool slide of soft strands through his fingers. "It's Sunday. Everyone should have a lie-in on Sunday. It's a rule."

"It isn't," Richard protests mildly, though there's no strength behind it. He argues with Alec because that's what Alec wants him to do and it's the little things that count in life.

"Well, it should be." He pulls one arm out from under the quilt and motions. "If you're just going to sit around, you might as well do it here with me, Richard."

Alec says his name like it belongs to him. Like it's some sort of trophy or possession to be shown off and admired. Sometimes Richard reciprocates, but the way he says Alec just isn't quite the same. Nothing anyone does is quite the same.

But there isn't a real reason not to indulge Alec's whim, and it's nice to see him so content, smiling and almost happy, so Richard just shrugs and crosses the room to climb back in bed. Alec is on him immediately, pressing what feels like two blocks of solid ice against his leg.

"You need warmer socks."

"In bed?" Alec raises his eyebrows. "Why bother when I have you? Seems a bit silly, doesn't it?"

Richard sighs, but doesn't move away. "Are you sure you're still alive? How can anyone have feet this cold?"

Alec grabs Richard's wrist and presses his fingers against the side of his throat. "See for yourself."

Alec's throat is soft and pale and his pulse flutters like a bird against Richard's skin. Richard pulls out of the loose hold and gives in to temptation, sliding his fingers into that soft, heavy hair.

"You haven't left us yet," he murmurs, curling his hand loosely around the back of Alec's head.

When their lips meet, it's soft and light. Things aren't always gentle between them, which is fine, but sometimes it's nice to share something tender. Something approaching normal. Alec is hard to love, and Richard isn't much better. They're not the sort of people who whisper sweetly and spend hours every day curled around each other in bed, which makes those days when they do so all the more remarkable.

"You're warm," Alec whispers against his mouth.

"You're beautiful," Richard whispers back, even though Alec doesn't like it when he says things like that. Sometimes it's a risk worth taking and, after months of living together, Richard is usually a good judge of when it's least likely to upset him.

Alec just sighs and wraps one long leg around Richard's thigh, closing the last inch of space between them. He's warm from sleep and smells like old books and tea. Richard loves him, but doesn't even consider saying it. There are limits to Alec's calm and the day is going so well. He suspects it's something neither of them really has to say out loud, anyway.

"I want you." The way Alec says it is almost shy, head tilted down in a manner that from almost anyone else might have seemed coy. But Richard knows better - Alec is uncomfortable in the face of his own emotions and hiding from others is one of his many ways of hiding from himself. Richard knows that about him, accepts it, and lets it be. Some battles aren't worth fighting.

"I'm right here." He brings up his other hand to curl around the back of Alec's shoulder. The fine, high-bred bones seem fragile and easily broken. Alec is stronger than he looks, but there's a brittleness in him that never quite stops worrying Richard. A reed will bend in the face of a strong wind, but a rigid stick will only break and there's a part of Richard that's always standing aside, waiting for it to finally happen. "I'm here."

Alec shudders and presses his face into Richard's chest. It's a tense moment, the kind that could very easily go horribly wrong. It wouldn't be the first time Alec's good mood took a sudden downturn and ruined the whole day, leaving Richard to try to pick up the pieces and start again.

But then he looks up and his eyes are bright and clear. No alcohol, no drugs, no oppressive sorrow. It's the closest he ever gets to simple joy and Richard savors it, returning his smile.

Alec kisses him again and Richard, thinking that's the end of it, starts to move his hand towards Alec's narrow hip. He stills again at the sound of Alec's voice, low and hushed, just above a whisper.

"I'm so glad you're here."

Richard smiles and presses a kiss against the side of Alec's head. "So am I, Alec. So am I."