“Mother fucking shit fuck, fuck my life, goddamn,” Eddie groans as he steps inside his shared college dorm room. He chucks his bag off to the side somewhere, not even caring, and runs his hands through his currently too-long hair. He hears a grunt come from underneath a pile of clothes on his roommates side of their stupidly small living space.
Eddie walks over to his own bed, plopping down and resisting the urge to scream into his hands. Instead he settles for his pillow, but it’s still loud enough for his roommate to roll over and give him a blank look.
“Dude, I was sleeping.”
Eddie looks up at him, glaring, and throws the pillow to his left. “It’s five in the afternoon.”
“Naps are a thing, you know.”
“Yeah,” Eddie says irritably, “so is work. Try coming off a ten hour shift after dealing with customers hell-bent on personally offending you as they point their perfectly manicured fingers in your face and to top it off with a call from you’re paranoid mother saying she’s worried the college lifestyle is somehow going to make me even gayer and that I should move back in with her to quote ‘protect my innocence’ unquote.”
Richie stares at him for so long Eddie thinks he’s fallen back asleep with his eyes still open.
“Pretty sure I’m not going to remember any of that later,” he says eventually through a yawn.
Eddie closes his eyes and leans back onto the wall. He didn’t even mention the mountain of homework he needs to start on tonight; if he ever wants to score high distinctions and prove to his mother and everyone else that he can, in fact, make it on his own just fine. Sometimes, though, he wishes his living arrangements could be tweeked a little bit.
He’s been rooming with Richie Tozier for almost a year now, and the guy never seems to run on normal sleeping schedules. Eddie’s not sure he’s ever even seen the guy with textbooks open in front of him. Either he’s buying his way in or is just naturally smart enough to never put in any effort. Eddie resents both possibilities.
They weren’t best friends, or even friends, really. They were friendly with each other, kind of, but it was obvious to anyone that they fell into different crowds. Eddie often saw Richie hanging out with a girl with shockingly red hair who always engaged with everyone around her with admirable ease. Another guy, Stan, Eddie tries to recall, is sometimes hanging around their room when Eddie comes back from classes. He’s nice, and probably more Eddie’s type of roommate.
So alas, Eddie’s dream of wanting a roommate to share his ideals with fell flat, and he was left feeling vaguely alone since his best friends Bill and Mike went off to a different University. At least Richie didn’t have a problem with Eddie being openly gay – even in this day and age, it was almost a rarity.
Eyes still shut, he hears Richie groan as he, presumably, gets up and stretches.
“You need to loosen up,” Richie says, and Eddie assumes it’s not meant to be unkind, but it’s hard to not be offended anyway.
“Y’know, just-” there’s a rattle of pills as Richie pauses. “-relax, go out. Be gay, own that shit. Fuck what parents think.”
Eddie opens his eyes to watch Richie move about their room. He napped in his jeans, apparently, which is appalling to Eddie on so many levels. His hair is unruly, and yet so effortlessly gorgeous. Yet another thing that comes easy to Richie, it seems. He tucks a cig behind his ear and slips on his shoes, but stops at the door to turn back to Eddie.
“My friends are having a party in their dorm tonight. East building, second floor. You should come.”
And with that, he leaves Eddie to himself, but not before Eddie catches him singing a Beastie Boys song as he walks away down the hall.
Eddie sighs, his mind already going over the topics he needs to research tonight. There was no possible way he could make it out of here to relax, as Richie so plainly put it. Even less possible he could somehow pretend he could fit into the partying lifestyle.
But before he can even bring himself to open up his ridiculously overstuffed satchel, first: he needed coffee.
It was now nearing 11 o’clock and Eddie wasn’t even halfway done with his assignment.
And wasn’t that always the way? No matter how sure you are and how many time-plans you make, the words you wish would just appear on paper never seem to want to come out. It was a Friday night and the assignment wasn’t due until Monday morning, but Eddie knew how easily time crept up on unsuspecting college students – not to mention the other shift he has to work on Sunday.
Now on his third cup of coffee, Eddie unceremoniously downs the rest and immediately contemplates going out to buy a six-pack of Redbull in the hopes it might speed things along.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang coming from his dorm’s hallway, followed by a round of cheers from a – presumably – rowdy group of drunken idiots. Eddie resists rolling his eyes, instead putting his earphones in and hitting play on his Amy Winehouse playlist.
He’s pulled from his homework again when someone crashes into his door, causing him to jump slightly in his chair. He turns to glare at it, as if somehow being drunk could help the passerby’s to see his disapproval through the walls.
He pauses the playlist, drawing in a breath, and goes about his options.
Maybe Richie is right, he thinks with dread. Maybe he really did need to get out and let loose, even for one night. It was a completely healthy, natural thing people do, even if his whole life has engraved in him otherwise.
Mind made up, Eddie closes his books with finality and removes his reading glasses before going to check his appearance in the mirror. The button up shirt and jeans are fine, he reasons with a scowl, and picks up his rainbow bracelet before leaving the room. Friday nights in college are a daily thing, but Eddie is infinitely glad he seems to have been roomed in one of the few locations without too many party-driven students around him.
He receives a text from Mike as he’s walking down the hall, asking him if they’re still on for a dinner catch-up on Sunday. Eddie replies yes before turning the corner and making his way down the stairs to the second floor. He slinks past several groups all hanging about outside the dorm rooms, and Eddie tries his best to recognize any of them.
The tremor of bass reaches his feet the closer he gets to where he assumes this party is. All of this is new to him, pretty much. Should he have brought his own drinks? Snacks, maybe? He stops not too far away from the crowds, and with a deep breath slowly pushes his way past countless bodies bumping into him.
Something wet and sticky definitely falls onto his shoes and he can’t help but grimace, knowing it’s fruitless to try and find the culprit. How so many people can be this drunk so casually in a dorm room is beyond him.
The communal area, which is connected to several adjacent bedrooms, is packed out. There’s music playing that Eddie doesn’t recognize, and crushed chips all throughout the carpet floor. A makeshift dance floor centres the room and Eddie circles around it, feeling like a fish out of water as he avoids everyone’s eyes.
He stops to lean against a wall on the back corner of the room, and hardly any time passes before a girl bounds over to him with her lips curled in a grin.
“Hey,” she says, throwing him a wink. “You look like a frightened owl over here.”
Eddie opens his mouth and shuts it, reaching his hand up to rub at his neck, hoping she’ll see his bracelet and get the idea. If she notices, she doesn’t appear to care, and instead offers out a red cup to him.
“You want some?” she asks.
Eddie is about to say ‘no, thanks’ but stops himself. Just one step at a time, he reasons. “Um, thanks. Sure.”
She smiles, nodding as if her job were now complete. Eddie takes a sip and almost gags, ready to ask her what exactly is in this. But when he looks up she’s being dragged away into the crowd, leaving him alone once again.
Suddenly remembering how it is he ended up here in the first place, Eddie looks around the room in search of Richie. His roommate didn’t specify when exactly he’d even be here, worse case is he’s already left, and Eddie curses at himself for even bothering to turn up at all.
It’s while he’s stewing in his own trepidation when another figure walks over to him in his peripheral vision, and Eddie feels his nerves relax slightly when he sees it is, in fact, Richie.
He’s somehow wearing a different t-shirt than when Eddie last saw him, and a lit cigarette is now dangling from his mouth this time. Richie looks just as surprised to see him as Eddie feels to be here.
“Hey, didn’t think you’d come,” he says when they’re close enough.
“Yeah, well,” Eddie shrugs, throwing him a sarcastic look. “Someone told me to go out and be gay. So, now I’m here being gay and nothing much has changed except the state of my shoes.”
Richie quirks a brow before looking down to their feet curiously. Eddie busies himself by drinking again but can’t help making a face, wondering how in the fuck people can consume this shit. Richie must take notice because suddenly he’s grabbing Eddie’s drink and glancing into the cup like it’ll have all of the answers.
“This shit is nasty, you tryna get killed?” he says, dumping the cup on the windowsill and gesturing for Eddie to follow him. “I’ll get you something better, c’mon.”
Any reason to keep his mind occupied and away from the situation, Eddie walks behind him gratefully, like Richie was parting the Red Sea of drunk college kids for him.
They finally reach what looks to be a kitchen set up by toddlers. A microwave, blender and toaster all balance on top of a very small fridge that appears to have its own queue for the Gatorade stashed inside it. Richie waves about briefly and soon catches the eye of a guy who in turn disappears into a room before coming back out, two drinks in hand.
“Hey, who’s this?” the guy asks once he’s reached them.
“Ben, this is my roommate Eddie,” Richie waves quickly between them. “Eddie, Ben.”
Ben gives Eddie one of the two new drinks and taps their cups together ceremoniously.
“Nice to meet you, cheers,” says Ben before downing the entire thing in one go.
Eddie stares at him shamelessly. Richie ruffles Ben’s hair when he’s done.
“Ben here is our drinking champ,” says Richie, blowing some smoke over his shoulder. “Three years in a row. Bloody legend.”
“Only you would think that’s an accomplishment,” snorts Ben.
“What? I can’t be proud of my friends?”
“I swear, anything impresses you, Tozier,” a female voice pipes up, and then the girl with the bright-red hair saddles up next to Ben while still eyeing Richie. “Pretty sure you’d sleep with anyone here if they knew basic multiplications.”
“Don’t be kink shaming me, Marsh. I hear you and Ben sometimes, you know. You’re no saint.”
“Oh, I know,” she teases, and Ben has the decency to blush. “Hmm? Oh, hey, I think I know you,” she says, turning all of her attention onto Eddie now. Eddie resists shrinking away. “We both took sample Philosophy freshman year. You’re Eddie, right?”
Eddie blinks, completely surprised anyone here besides Richie would even know his name. “Yeah, uh. Sorry, I – I’m terrible with names, um…”
“No biggie, I’m Bev,” she introduces herself with a thrust out hand. Eddie shakes it, and he’s certain she notices his bracelet. She gives him a wink, but it’s somehow nice and makes Eddie smile in turn.
“Well boys,” Bev starts, and as if she were royalty herself a drink appears in her hand instantly, like goddamn magic, and using her free hand she cups her mouth to yell out, “Let’s get this party started, shall we?”
A round of cheers follows immediately, and the music switches over to a remix of Who Let The Dogs Out, of all songs.
A lingering of uneasiness still remains inside Eddie Kaspbrak’s tiny little body, but when he remembers his paper back in his dorm room the drink in his hand eventually wins him over. It tastes way better than whatever else is floating around this party, and as the night progresses he finally reaches a state of calm despite the increase in drunken behavior around him.
He settles down on the end of a couch while Ben checks on him regularly with more drinks. They chat as coherently as one can when drunk, and Eddie comes to enjoy Ben’s company. At some point he leaves to go and take Richie’s place with Bev on the dance floor, and it’s hardly a second later when a different girl latches onto Richie.
Eddie watches like a damn creeper from his place across the way. It’s hypnotic, he reasons, being drunk and watching others dance together as melody after melody plays.
Richie is easily the tallest person out there, so it’s hard to not notice him, really. His curly hair is sticking to parts of his forehead, while his skinny jeans leave nothing to the imagination as they sway up against the girl now attached to his front. Eddie follows Richie’s hands when they start at the girl’s hips before sliding around and down to her ass.
Eddie swallows dryly.
He can’t even remember the last time he’d done anything like that. Hardly attending any college parties was obviously the big reason why, but sneaking into clubs wasn’t exactly a change in scenery either.
Sure, if it were a gay club he wouldn’t be looking around the room and second guessing everything. But here, you never fucking knew if someone was actually gay or if they were just grinding on each other for the attention of their peers. Eddie likes to make his preferences obvious with his accessories, but even then people never seem to appear interested.
He sighs into his drink, still eyeing Richie as he whispers something to the girl, continuing to sway closely together with obvious intent.
God, Eddie just wants to make-out with someone, was that too much to ask?
With sudden determination he downs his drink and gets up in search of another.
Eddie’s not sure how many he’s had at this point.
He has no idea what time it is and has no idea what it is he’s drinking at the moment, only that this one is strong. But he pushes himself to talk to people, and it grows easier, especially when all he has to do is yell “What team?” and the room replies “WILDCATS!”
Now he’s the one spilling his drink all over people’s shoes, and at some point Bev finds him waiting in line for the toilet only to tell him it’s actually a closet. Eddie laughs at the irony.
When he sees Richie again, he’s sitting down, and that same girl from before is seated smugly in his lap as they passionately make-out to the lyrics of a Rihanna song Eddie is annoyed he doesn’t remember the name of. But he’s also pissed at seeing Richie with that girl, for vicarious reasons he supposes, and he finds Bev and drags her out onto the dance floor with him.
“Hey, sailor,” she shouts over the music. “How’re you doing? You good?”
“Great, I’m super great,” Eddie yells back, sounding not super great at all.
She eyes him carefully but dances with him anyway. Eddie lets himself go, literally trying to dance his troubles away, but to no avail. He imagines, pathetically, that someone is dancing behind him. He pictures hands roaming his body hungrily; pictures a hot mouth along his neck as waves of want, want, want consume him.
Dark curls and long fingers reluctantly come to mind, and Eddie can’t even bring it in himself to stop the image from forming together until it’s too late.
But then the real thing was right there, trying to talk to him with a concerned expression.
“Wahmn?” Eddie slurs, slapping helplessly at the body attempting to drag him away. “Rich… what?”
“I’m taking you home, okay?” Eddie thinks Richie is saying. “C’mon, work with me here.”
Eddie groans pitifully when Richie hauls him upright, pushing past still dancing bodies and exiting the party back out into the hallway.
Eddie thinks he’s going to throw up several times on their slow walk back to their room – especially when they came to the task of attempting to ascend the stairs. Either Richie is incredibly patient or he’s saving all of his anger for tomorrow morning. Eddie knows he needs to thank him later.
“Damn, I didn’t expect you to hit it this hard,” Richie grunts as he checks the time on his phone. “Or are you just a lightweight?”
Eddie frowns into Richie’s shoulder. “Stop… too many questions.”
“It was only one.”
“One too many.”
“Well, did you at least have fun?” Richie asks, and dammit, hasn’t he learned questions are no good right now? “Saw you dancing with Bev.”
Eddie frowns again, this time in thought. He tries to think back to only 10 minutes ago, which proves to be stupidly difficult thanks to his brain surrendering to the tsunami of alcohol in his system.
“The girl…” he mumbles, head still pounding. “She… lap… you and her…”
Richie sighs. “It’s fine. Don’t worry. I just want to get you home safely.”
Eddie falls silent for a moment, enjoying having Richie pressed along his side. He smells like ash, and some kind of aftershave. Eddie likes it, surprisingly.
“I want that,” he says, not really paying attention to his steps anymore.
Richie stumbles as he carries more of Eddie's weight. “What? For a girl to sit in your lap? Does drink number eleven somehow change your sexuality?”
“Pfff, no, that's stupid,” Eddie feels Richie manhandle him so he's leaning against the wall while a lock is clicked open. “I want… that feeling. Being with someone, just… kissing… and other... stuff…” he whispers ‘stuff’ as if it were a bad word.
Richie gives him a look before ushering Eddie inside their room. Eddie keeps talking, feeling bold, and turns back to focus on Richie as much as his vision will allow.
“Stuff, like, sex stuff,” he finishes.
“Yes, I did manage to get that even with your masterfully crafted code,” Richie says dryly, trying to settle Eddie down on his bed.
“I bet you don’t have that problem,” Eddie hiccups, letting Richie yank off his shoes. “Am I right? I mean, you are gorgeous, people have to be lining up for a chance with you…”
Richie doesn’t answer him right away, not until after he disappears and comes back with a glass of water and two pills for Eddie to take. Eddie does so without further prompting.
“I get along with others easily, I guess,” Richie says finally. “I just make my interest clear and accept what I get.”
Eddie peers up at him slowly. He can hear his heartbeat in his ears as his body begins to shut down.
“What about me?” Eddie asks.
Eddie nods. “Yeah. Um, would you ever… do you think I’m attractive? Most days I feel like I’m not, and it sucks, I dunno if there’s something wrong with me…” he trails off, looking at the floor with a pout.
Richie grows silent again. Eddie goes to lay down on his side, not even bothering to get under the covers as his eyes flutter shut.
“Yeah,” Richie says evenly, just as Eddie begins to feel himself drift off. “I think you’re an attractive guy. Why?”
Eddie’s mumbling now, but still hopes Richie understands what he’s trying to say. “Sex… would you want... with me…?”
If Richie answers him, Eddie doesn’t hear it, and it’s the last thing he says that night before his tired body falls into sleep.