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“Wayne, is it considered domestic abuse when you give Darry the beats, now that you guys are sweeties ‘nd all?”

Katy’s innocently posed question seemed to take them all by surprise. Darry’s brow furrowed as he sat up in his lawn chair, head snapping quickly to the side to look at where Wayne was sitting. He’d been halfway to bringing a fresh bottle of Puppers to his lips when a blank expression spread over his face, his mouth dropping open into a silent ‘oh’, completely oblivious to the way Dan’s head took to swiveling between the two of them, eyes wide with contemplation.

“No,” Darry said sharply after a moment, sitting back in his chair steadfastly as though he’d resolved the issue. He shook his head as he said it and looked off toward the road to spit. “No. No way.”

“Well, why not?” Katy asked. She crossed one of her legs over the other and stole a self-satisfied look at Wayne, who appeared for all the world to have completely lost his ability to speak. “You’re his sweetie now; a man gives his sweetie the beats, it’s considered abuse.”

“Well, ‘cept it’s not.” Darry’s voice was self-certain, but his face was still twisted up in confusion. It was evident that neither of them had considered the possibility before.

“Well put,” Katy said dryly. Sitting up to lean over the back corner of her lounge seat, she caught a look at her brother and had to suppress a small smile. “Wayne? Care to weigh in on this, big brother?”

She waited for a response, but his expression was still locked in mild shock. He hadn’t even set his Puppers down.

“But it’s not,” Darry said again, looking to Wayne for affirmation. His voice began to rise in pitch, a desperate franticness taking over his tone as he spoke when Wayne didn’t acknowledge him. “It’s not! It’s just- just wrasslin’. Boys being boys, you know; that kinda fuck-around shit.”

“I think it changes the definition a bit when those boys are sweet on each other,” Katy responded smoothly, enjoying the way Darry’s pale face heated up with embarrassment. He looked back towards the road and held his bottle of Puppers awkwardly between his knees.

“And, well, if I may adds my thoughts on this, Miss Katy?” Katy turned to look at Squirrely Dan as he finally found his place to chime in. She nodded, and he continued. “Now, Darry, Professor Tricia says that that’s a particularlies toxic ways of thinking.”

“What’s that?” Darry asked, looking even more confused than he had before.

“Oh, fuck,” Wayne finally muttered, lowering both his head and his Puppers.

“You’s said before it was just likes ‘boys bein’ boys’,” Dan elaborated, looking sagely in the shade of the produce stand. He had his hands tucked into the straps of his overalls, and was sat back comfortably in his seat. “But, Professor Tricia says that that’s a prime examples of toxic masculinities at plays and shouldn’t be relieds upon to excuse violent behaviours.”

“Now that’s well put,” Katy commented, and Dan smiled at her.

“You acknowledges my higher learnings, Miss Katy, and that’s what I appreciates about you.”

“Oh, is that what you appreciate about me?”

A silence stole over them as they both waited for Wayne to tell Dan to back off, but his low mutterings telling him to ‘take about 20% off her there, Squirrely Dan,’ never came. The discussion at hand was apparently weighing heavier on him than Katy had initially intended it to.

Not that she’d ever thought Wayne was abusing Darry, or that he was even capable of abusing anyone he declared to be his sweetie at all; he was far too kind to get mixed up in that kind of ugly, small town business. When she’d brought it up, she’d only thought that it’d be funny to poke at their relationship a little. It’d been a slow day at the stand, and their relationship was still fresh off the presses, after all, and for all the shit they’d given her for dating Jonesy and Reilly, Katy felt it was more than a little owed to pay them back for all the ways they’d used to tease her about them.

“Well, yeah,” Dan said awkwardly, unused to Wayne not intervening in order to cut off his advances. “I reckons it is.”

“Again, though, I say that it isn’t like that ‘tween Wayne and I,” Darry said after one long, contemplative moment in which they all enjoyed the warmth of the midday sun as it bore down upon them.

“You mean ‘Wayne and me’,” Katy corrected lackadaisically, closing her eyes and settling back into her lounge to stretch out her legs. “You gonna elaborate on why that is, big shoots, or are you just going to sit there and fuss the dirt with your toes again?”

Darry frowned self-consciously and spared a look at the ground he’d been messing with his feet. Small little grooves had sprung up near the tread of his rubber boots from where he’d been ribbing his heels into the dirt. “I say it can’t be domestic abuse, on the grounds that I’m a man,” he said, squaring his jaw definitively as he said it.

“Ho!”

Dan’s abrupt shout took them all by surprise, even prompting Wayne to look up from the blade of grass he’d been focusing all his thoughts on.

“Now you’re just being ignorants there, Darry,” Dan said heatedly, an uncharacteristically dark expression clouding over his gentle face. He sat up and leaned around to better look Darry in the eye in order to reprimand him. “Mens can be abused just as easilys and with the same amounts of frequencies that womens can by their respective sweeties. Professor Tricia says that lots of reports of abuse against mens don’t gets reported for that exact harmful lines of thinkings! ‘Because I’m a mans’; sort yourself out Daryl,” he muttered angrily, shaking his head in disappointment.

“Oh, bother,” Darry mumbled, slouching back in his chair, utterly defeated.

A small little smirk worked its way onto Katy’s face as they each fell into silence, listening to the occasional car or truck as it rumbled by the stand. She wanted to goad Wayne into speaking on the issue, but when he got that mixed up in his own thoughts it was often times better to just let him stew on them until he could get them out coherently on his own. Otherwise he’d just get frustrated and refuse to speak altogether, and this conversation deserved his spoken opinion.

“Well, d’ya wanna know what I think?”

All eyes turned to Wayne as he finally resolved to speak.

“Been waiting to hear it all day, big shoots,” Katy said as she sat up proper. “Pitter patter.”

His gaze was still fixed to the side, his eyes squinting at something he found worth focusing on. He crossed his arms across his chest and blinked.

“Now, it’s impolite to kiss and tell,” he started, speaking slowly and deliberately, halting after every couple of words to keep his resolve going, “but, as far as I know… it can’t be considered abuse if… the person what’s getting the beats… enjoys gettin’ beat.” His voice grew quieter and quieter with every word he spoke, losing its usual pitch and momentum until he eventually tapered off.

Katy’s mouth dropped open in delight, her eyebrows shooting up as she turned excitedly in her chair from looking at Wayne to Darry, who’d gone redder in the face than he had that time he’d forgotten to put on his ‘cologne’ before a long day working in the fields harvesting.

“Daryl!” she exclaimed scandalously, absolutely loving the sight of Daryl being so flustered he couldn’t speak. He swiftly put his bottle of Puppers to his lips and made quick work in downing it, but he didn’t refute any of what Wayne had said.

In his own seat at the other end of the produce stand, Wayne’s face was taking on a reddish hue of its own as he sat staring fixatedly at the ground. “Fuck,” he muttered, “it’s impolite to kiss and tell.”

“Oh,” Dan said, pulling his face into a thoughtful expression as he mulled over what Wayne’d said. “Well, yeah, iffin its ‘tween two adults whats doin’ and takin’ the beats consensuallys, then I don’t reckons it can be considereds domestic abuses. It’s fucking weird, Darry, and you’re fucking weird, but as long as its consensuals.”

With his beer downed and unable to reach for another one, Darry sat in his seat for one uncomfortable moment, enduring Katy’s jeering taunts and Dan’s words of encouragement before he stood up without warning and walked away, his face brighter and redder than the ripest tomato any of them had ever seen.

“It’s impolite to kiss and tell!” he ended up shouting back at them once he’d walked far enough away, his voice cracking humorously halfway through. “Fuck!”

“Back to chorin’,” Wayne declared abruptly soon after, unwilling to take the brunt of his friends’ teasing comments after Darry left him to them. He knocked over his still-full bottle of Puppers as he jerked upright and stiffly walked off after Darry, his face as red as the plaid button-up he was wearing.

Katy sat back in her lounge seat with a completely self-satisfied look on her face.

“Well, Dan, I’d say this was a productive day as any.”

“I’d says so, Miss Katy. You’s gots a real mind for debatins, and that’s what I appreciates about you.”

“Is that what you appreciate about me now?”