Actions

Work Header

dreamboat

Chapter Text

Write what you know.

Write what you know.

Write what you know?

As Eddie Kaspbrak sits at his dorm room desk, laptop settled on his lap and chair lifted off its two front feet, he thinks about the phrase: write what you know. It is the same phrase that has been repeated throughout history, mentioned during his studies of creative writing, something each writer has worked hard to embroider into the back of their mind, yet Eddie still doesn’t get it. The thesis due in six months has absolutely no guidelines, but yesterday, Eddie’s teacher, Professor Flynn, passed around a sheet of paper with WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW written across the top, the only thing on the whole piece of paper. Write what I know? Eddie thinks, Well what if I don’t know anything?

He is twenty-one years old, has never been to a party, has never smoked a blunt; he has never had the feeling of nicotine running through his system. Eddie Kaspbrak knows absolutely nothing. It has been nearly four complete years of studying creative writing, and brainstorming plots, nevertheless plots Eddie actually enjoys, is the biggest challenge Eddie has faced. It is especially discouraging that Eddie’s roommate, Bill Denbrough, finds brainstorming ideas easier than breathing. Eddie envies Bill, truly, inevitably.

Eddie groans, closing his laptop and exhaling deeply. Gazing out his dorm room window, he admires the view of Boston. Originally from Derry, Maine, this view never quite gets tiring for Eddie. If only the view helped with Eddie’s lack of ideas. There is a knock at the door, and Eddie immediately rolls his eyes. Then comes Bill’s low stutter, “E-Eddie, you in there? I f-f-forgot my keys again.” At least Eddie is better than Bill at one thing: remembering his keys.

“Yeah, I’m here,” Eddie replies, pulling himself to his feet. He walks to the door and pulls it open, slapping a fake grin on his face. “Hey, Bill.”

“Wow,” Bill breathes. “You look miserable.”

“Gee, thanks,” Eddie says, returning to his seat at his desk. “Ugh.” He hears Bill move around their room behind him, and Eddie closes his eyes in attempt to stop from getting so annoyed at himself. “Bill? What do you do when you don’t have ideas for stories?”

“T-There’s lots you can do,” Bill states. Eddie hears Bill come closer and opens his eyes to find Bill leaning on Eddie’s desk, pondering. “Watch a m-movie, l-listen to music. Uh…”

“That’s two things,” Eddie points out.

“Have y-you tried going to another w-w-workspace? Sometimes t-that helps me.” Bill shrugs. “There’s that n-new coffee place on the c-corner. Go there. And bring me a c-c-coffee on your way back.”

“Are you only suggesting that because you need caffeine?” Eddie asks.

“M-maybe.” Bill grins.

“Do you have an idea for your thesis?” Eddie knows he shouldn’t ask; he’ll only feel disheartened, but the question slips out anyway. And inevitably, Bill’s reply of, “Yeah,” comes out, too. “Great. I bet I’m the last one to start.”

“It’s only t-the second day,” Bill says, confused. “D-Don’t you have one of y-your previous stories? R-Revamp one of those, or s-something…”

“All my other stories are trash, Bill,” Eddie says. “I need something new. Fresh. And fast. I’m already running out of time. I can feel it. I’m gonna fail. Oh, God. I’m doomed.” Slapping a hand over his face, Eddie knows he is being dramatic, but he can’t help what he’s feeling.

“Your stories a-aren’t trash. S-Stop being s-so stupid.”

“And what the hell is Professor Flynn even talking about with this ‘write what you know’ bullshit. Nobody even says that anymore. I’m pretty sure it’s been proven to be terrible advice.”

“I-I think it’s what you m-m-m-make of it,” Bill says. “D-don’t take it so literally, Ed.”

“You’re no help at all.” Eddie stands up, Bill’s eyes following him as he does. Eddie looks at Bill pointedly, face scrunched. “Well, what kind of coffee do you want?” As an excited smile spreads across Bill’s face and he happily tells Eddie his order, Eddie packs up his laptop into his backpack and slips it over his shoulder. There is no need for a jacket, because the spring weather is warm and welcoming, and Eddie is not traveling so far. “Okay. I’ll be back whenever. Text me when you’re getting dinner.”

“Sure,” Bill replies. “I’ll p-pay you back.”

Eddie raises his hand in a ‘stop’ position. “No need. I can manage a five buck caramel macchiato.” He leaves his room shortly, checking the time on his phone to see it is one in the afternoon, which means he has plenty of time to sit around a coffee shop and brainstorm ideas. Maybe it’ll do him some good, like Bill suggested, but then again, Eddie’s creativity has been put on pause for what feels like years. It’ll take a lot more than a really good espresso to pull me out of this slump, Eddie thinks as he exits his housing building. The walk to the coffee place only takes about a minute, and Eddie admires the cute decorations hung up outside. There’s a small sign hung around the doorknob that says ‘grand opening!’ and ‘WE ARE OPEN’ printed across it. Next to the door stands a chalkboard-like sign, with presumably the shop’s name written in fancy cursive, along with a coffee of the day. The shop’s name: Brewed Awakening. Ha!

As he enters the shop, Eddie is pleased to find it moderately empty. What with being new and all, there aren’t many customers to be expected, only a few people sat at the counter to the left of the entrance and a couple paired off on one of three of the nearby tables. Eddie approaches the counter and swipes his eyes over to the menu draped at the back of the small store.

“Welcome to Brewed Awakening,” the man at the counter says. Eddie looks at him. He is a man of regular height, with light curly hair and brown eyes. He looks overall disinterested in Eddie’s presence, or being a part of the franchise at all. Curious, Eddie searches the man’s nametag and sees his name is Stanley. “Can I get you anything?”

“Uh, yeah,” Eddie replies, quickly scanning the menu once again. “Can I just get an iced latte, please?”

“Sure,” Stanley says, and then he punches something into the cash register. Out pops the cash drawer, and Stanley gazes at Eddie expectantly. “That’ll be three seventy-five. Is that to stay or to go and would you like your receipt?”

Eddie tilts his backpack off his shoulder and rummages through the front pocket for his wallet. As fast as he can manage, he grabs four bucks and hands it over to Stanley.

“To stay. No receipt is fine, thanks.”

“Okay.” Stanley puts the money into the machine and gives Eddie his remaining twenty-five cents. “I’ll bring it over to your table when it’s ready.”

“Oh, thanks,” Eddie says, eyes a bit wide. He turns around and goes over to one of the empty tables, the one closest to the windows and furthest from the counter. It is a more secluded area, and Eddie finds comfort in having a bit of privacy when he is writing. Taking out his laptop, Eddie opens up a new doc and stares at the blankness of the page. “All right,” he mutters to himself without thinking. “Let’s do this.”

And he stares.

And stares.

Eventually Stanley comes over with his iced latte, and Eddie begins to switch off between staring at his computer screen and taking little sips of his beverage. Eddie doesn’t mean to be rude, but the latte is pretty bad. Like, terrible. Worse than when Bill tries to make coffee, somehow. But Eddie hopes it doesn’t show on his face. He just drinks it normally. Caffeine is caffeine. Or maybe the shop is just now learning how to use the equipment, or Stanley doesn’t know how to make coffee. The shop is understaffed; it could just be that they haven’t hired someone to work back there yet. He shrugs.

Sitting at the table is nearly the same as sitting at his desk. But at least here it smells like coffee, debatably one of Eddie’s favorite scents.

Eddie spends three hours at Brewed Awakening.

He only writes fifteen words.

He isn’t quite sure when he turned into the world’s worst writer, but he feels so annoyed with himself he wishes he could go into hibernation. With a silent groan, Eddie rises to his feet and packs up his things. Everybody that was previously here has already left, although Stanley has not moved from his position behind the counter, so that leads Eddie to believe they are still hours away from closing time. Before he leaves, Eddie remembers he needs to buy Bill a drink, so he goes back over to Stanley and orders a caramel macchiato. After paying, he waits over by the display cases and eyes the baked goods. They look… okay. Nothing spectacular. They appear a little plastic looking, mediocre, at best.

There is no way this shop is staying in business. Good luck, Stanley.

“Here’s your order,” Stanley says, holding the drink out for Eddie.

“Thanks. Have a good night,” Eddie says politely. He leaves and goes straight to his dorm to find Bill lying face down in his bed, snoozing away. “You’re so frustrating, Bill. You know that?” Eddie asks quietly, knowing full-well Bill cannot hear one thing he is saying. “Why can’t you just be bad at writing? It would make me feel so much better if we were both struggling? But nooooo.” Eddie leaves Bill’s coffee on Bill’s desk and decides to get some of his other homework out of the way. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better writing day.

 

 

For some ungodly reason, Eddie goes back to Brewed Awakening the next day at around seven PM. When he enters, he meets Stanley’s angered gaze and he smiles kindly. Stanley seems to be in a worse mood than the day before. Suddenly there is a loud clash from behind the counter, and Eddie’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. He watches as Stanley takes a deep breath and slowly turns around to meet the cause of the ruckus.

“Can you be quiet for ten minutes?” Stanley snaps to whomever. Cautiously, Eddie walks up to the counter. “Hey again,” Stanley says as he turns his attention to Eddie. Eddie smiles his hello and tries to look casual about his peering over the counter. Who the hell was making all that noise? “Surprised to see the terrible coffee didn’t scare you away. We got new supply today, better stuff or whatever. And someone who actually knows how to make coffee is working today.” Ah, so I was right about them being understaffed.

“Just need caffeine,” Eddie decides to say. “Can I get an iced latte?”

“Sure,” Stanley says. “Three seventy-five.” As Eddie pulls out his wallet, Stanley yells to the person working in the back of the shop.

“Richie! Iced latte!”

And out stumbles… an extremely attractive man. Richie, Eddie thinks. The man, or ‘Richie’ as Stanley referred to him, is at least six feet and wears a terribly coordinated outfit of layered flannels and Hawaiian shirts. Eddie wonders if the point of the style is to not match. Richie’s hair is a reckless bush of untamed curls, each spiraling in a different direction and none quite like any other. The thick brimmed glasses that sit on the bridge of his nose are oddly attractive on him, though they’re too blocky for his thin, freckled face. They make him look a bit childish.

“Oh wow,” Richie says, grinning widely at the sight of Eddie. “You’re a sight for sore eyes, sugar.”

“Shut up, Richie,” Stanley says, rolling his eyes and taking Eddie’s money. “Sorry about him. I shouldn’t have let him off his leash.”

“Ouch,” Richie says to Stanley, but he doesn’t even feign hurt, he still looks bubbly, happily gangly. “Iced latte, coming right up,” Richie says to Eddie, winking at him before he turns to the espresso machine. Eddie blinks; the last thing he expected was to be hit on in a coffee shop called Brewed Awakening. “Here ya go,” Richie says as he hands Eddie his drink over the display cases. Eddie stares at Richie, still a bit startled by his shockingly good looks and smooth wink.

“Thanks,” Eddie replies slowly, accepting the drink. He takes a quick sip, expecting it to be nearly inedible, but it is a sweet brew that inspires a burst of flavor to dance along Eddie’s tongue. Eddie is shocked. Did Richie make this? How does anybody know how to make a latte this amazing? He does not look back at Richie (though he aches to) and instead goes over to the same table he sat at the previous day. Eddie takes out his laptop and returns to the empty doc. He does a few writing exercises, simple, little things to get his creative gears going, though it doesn’t seem to do much. He tries writing about random objects around the coffee shop, just insignificant things to attempt to write poetically, descriptively, but it’s so much harder in actuality than in theory. The hours begin to pass, and before Eddie knows it, Stanley is telling him it is closing time and that he has to leave.

“We close at nine,” he explains, shrugging. “We open at seven, close at nine.”

“Stop by tomorrow for a latte on the house!” Richie shouts from the back, though he is not within Eddie’s line of sight.

“It’s not on the house,” Stanley says to Eddie, looking unamused. Eddie smiles crookedly and slips all his belongings into his bag.

“I figured as much. Have a good night.”

 

 

Two weeks. Two weeks of Richie mindlessly flirting with Eddie but never asking for Eddie’s name, or pursuing a conversation further than calling him “sugar” or “cutie”. Eddie wishes he didn’t mind, but it’s so hard not to. Generally, Brewed Awakening seems to be doing quite well financially. Everyday there are new customers. Eddie thinks it’s because of Richie’s coffee brewing and pastry making talents. While the man is obnoxiously loud and terribly rambunctious, he sure does know how to make a cup of coffee. Eddie alternates times of when he goes to the shop, but he mostly goes at night and stays until closing, just because with his school schedule and hanging out with Bill, that is the most convenient.

It is also two weeks since Eddie got his thesis assignment. Which means Eddie has less than six months to write a spectacular fifty-page story. While that may be plenty of time for most writers, Eddie still is at a loss for what to write about. If only something could just come to him, like ideas come to Bill.

“Closing time,” comes Richie’s raspy voice. He comes over to Eddie’s table and grins at him, gripping the extra chair across from Eddie. Richie quickly glances at the counter, supposedly sees Stanley is nowhere in sight, and slides the spare seat right next to where Eddie sits. Richie pulls the chair backwards and swings his legs over it, leaning his front on the back of the chair as he gazes at Eddie. “Hey, man, I gotta ask—what're you always doing here? What’s your deal? Do you have a home?”

Obnoxious.

“Mind your own business,” Eddie says to Richie, though he hopes with his entire being Richie absolutely does not.

“Aw, sugar,” Richie whines with a grin. “That’s not very nice. I make your coffee everyday, you better be nice to me or I’ll hock a loogie right into your drink.”

Eddie’s face puckers in disgust. “That is so gross. Don’t even joke about that or I’ll tell your coworker you’re harassing customers.”

“Oh, Stan? He’ll just tell me to fuck off, like he always does. I do have to correct you, though.” Richie runs a hand through his messy hair, watching as Eddie opens his backpack and piles his laptop inside. “I don’t harass all customers. Just you.”

“Gee, thanks,” Eddie says unenthusiastically.

“Don’t sound so flattered,” Richie jokes. “So, what do you do here all day?”

“If you must know, I sit here and try to write. Keyword: try. I fail. Repeatedly. Inevitably.”

“You’ve got a writer’s vocabulary, that’s for sure,” Richie says. “Why fail?” Eddie says nothing, just stares at Richie. Why does he want to know my business? Why do I want to tell him my business? “Cool it, sugar! I’m just wondering. You don’t have to tell me anything, anyways.” He stands up and eyes Richie as he stays seated, his head splayed out across his arms, which rest atop the metal wiring of the chair. “So… a writer.”

“Yeah,” Eddie speaks finally.

“You go to school around here or something?” Richie asks. Eddie says nothing, just peers down at Richie and shifts his weight from one foot to his other. “Oh! Stranger danger, I get it.” After rising to his feet, Richie holds out his hand for Eddie to shake. “Richie Tozier’s the name, making various coffee beverages is my game. Nice to meet your acquaintance.” Though Eddie sighs, the look Richie wears is sincere, so he’ll play along.

“Eddie. Eddie Kaspbrak.” He shakes Richie’s hand. It is heavily calloused and rough, yet Eddie likes it.

“Now that we’re not strangers—why do you fail? Repeatedly and inevitably?”

“I can’t write. Like, actually can’t. I sit here for hours on end because my roommate Bill told me a change of scenery would help with my creativity or some bullshit, but it hasn’t done anything. I can’t write no matter how hard I try. And I need an idea soon. Really soon. Not to mention my professor is going on and on about ‘write what you know’ when I don’t even know what that means! And what if I don’t even know anything?” Eddie groans, pressing his hand to his forehead. “And I’m so stressed I apparently tell people I barely know my business.”

“A writer that can’t write.” Thoughtful, Richie clicks his tongue. “That’s quite the predicament.”

“No kidding,” Eddie replies, tone as flat as left out soda. “And yeah, I go to school right up the block.”

“Huh,” Richie says, eyeing Eddie in an unfamiliar manner; it is a way nobody has ever eyed him. “You study writing… and you can’t write.”

“That’s what I said,” Eddie replies blandly.

“Well, what inspires you?” Richie asks, as if it is that easy. Furrowing his brows, Eddie bites his lip and puts some thought into his answer. In theory, inspiration seems so easy. But in reality, Eddie can barely manage. He doesn’t know. “So you’re supposed to write what you know,” Richie continues to sort his thoughts out loud. Eddie is confused by how involved Richie is acting, as if he truly cares about Eddie’s struggle and is trying to offer any advice he can. “And you say you don’t know anything… there’s gotta be something you know. Like a memory you look back on, that’s inspiring, or fun. Something you did that makes you feel inspired.”

A memory? A memory like what?

Eddie thinks about Bill, because he has known Bill since he was six years old, and Bill is a wonderful writer, always inspired. Then suddenly Eddie remembers when he and Bill were young, when they would babysit Bill’s little brother, Georgie, and how they would make paper sailboats and release them on rainy days, watch them run down the stream, chase them with careless shouts of enjoyment. Eddie smiles subconsciously, reminiscing.

“You thought of something,” Richie comments, a grin slapped on his face. He looks giddy, almost.

“It’s kinda stupid,” Eddie defends, rubbing his arm, uncomfortable sharing a memory with someone he just met. Still Richie looks to Eddie expectantly. “My friend Bill and I used to make paper boats on rainy days, before we were in middle school.”

“Okay, so, use that,” Richie says as if it is the simplest thing in the world, and for a split second Eddie thinks it might be. “Write about paper boats.”

“That’s not how writing works,” Eddie states. He has come to the conclusion Richie Tozier is full of shit. “I can’t just—“

Then comes Stanley’s loud yell: “Richie you were supposed to kick him out! Not flirt with him!” There is a brief moment of silence. To Eddie it seems painfully awkward, but he isn’t sure how Richie views it.

“I should get going,” Eddie says before Richie has to ask him to leave again.

“Guess you should. See you tomorrow,” Richie says, smiling.

 

 

Eddie hopes Richie will talk to him. Yes, yesterday was annoying, and Richie is loud and rowdy, he picks too many fights with Stanley and flirts with Eddie shamelessly, but… for some reason Eddie’s chest still tightens at the thought of him. But Richie isn’t working today, or Eddie hasn’t seen him today, at least. He didn’t make Eddie’s drink, Stanley did, so Eddie’s latte tasted like actual dirt. Going about his normal routine, Eddie waits at his table, goes over a writing exercise, then tilts back too far on his chair in attempt to see what’s going on behind the counter. Nothing. It is beyond quiet, nothing but the low hums of Stanley’s spotify playlist echoing throughout the building.

It is closing time before Eddie knows it, and he still has yet to do any real, beneficial work. As he is saving his word doc (not that there is much work to save), Eddie hears the familiar clatter of dishes in the back. It steals his attention, and then there is Richie. He is covered in flour, foolishly, but wears the same smile Eddie has yet to see him without. Richie stumbles out from the back, lifts the counter, and comes over to Eddie’s table. By the looks of it, Eddie guesses Richie was cooking all day.

“Morning, Eddie,” Richie says. Eddie pretends he is not charmed, because why is he?

“It’s nine at night,” is Eddie’s reply, zipping up his backpack. “Why are you covered in flour?” Eddie asks, but what he is really asking is why weren’t you working the counter today? Each curl popping from Richie’s head is coated in white dust. He looks like a child who got into their mom’s cooking cupboard.

“Stan says I’m too loud and scare away customers.” Richie shrugs. “So he made me prepare the food all day. But don’t worry, sugar, I’ll be back to my usual position tomorrow now that all the pastries for the week have been prepared. Just have to throw ‘em in the oven when I get to work in the morning.”

“Stanley is right.” Eddie crosses his arms.

“You don’t seem too afraid,” Richie teases. “You’re not quivering or anything.”

“I am on the inside,” Eddie claims, a light grin tracing his lips.

“Oh yeah!” Richie yells, as if he just remembered something. He pats his jeans all over, searching and spreading more flour across his clothes, but he doesn’t seem to mind. “Where did I put it...? You’re gonna love this. Just one sec.” Eddie watches as Richie scrambles to find whatever he is looking for. Finally Richie has his hand dug in the front pocket of his apron, and retrieves a piece of paper that’s crumpled all over. “Here!” he says excitedly. He is even bouncing on the balls of his feet. Eddie acts like the sight isn’t amusing, cute, even. “I made a fun list of things you can do, you know, to get your creative juices flowing, or whatever. Since you can’t write.” Handing the list over, Eddie is both stumped and flattered. Scanning over the list, Eddie’s eyebrows furrow. “I even used big fancy words in the title, since you’re a writer and all.”

 

[

RICHIE’S EXCITABLE, SUPERB, ENJOYABLE LIST OF FUN THINGS

  1. BACKFLIP OFF A TRAMPOLINE
  2. GO SKYDIVING
  3. GET A TATTOO
  4. RIDE IN A HELICOPTER
  5. MEET UP WITH YOUR NUMBER NEIGHBOR
  6. CRASH A PARTY
  7. GET ARRESTED
  8. STREAK
  9. LEARN TO SURF
  10. TRUST A STRANGER

]

 

“What are you? A third grader? What the fuck is this?” Eddie asks. He looks at Richie, confused.

“A list of fun stuff to do, duh. Can’t you read? I thought you were studying creative writing.” Eddie glares at Richie, who raises his hands in surrender as he chuckles. “Okay, okay. Hear me out. Your professor tells you to write what you know, and you said you don’t know anything. Well, sugar, here’s your opportunity to learn something about yourself.”

Dumbfounded, Eddie cannot tear his eyes away from Richie, his mouth agape. “You’re insane,” Eddie says.

“And proud,” Richie replies, cheeky. Eddie rolls his eyes, but skims over the list once more, revisiting all ten numbers and what activity correlates to them. He sighs.

“Backflip off a trampoline? Go skydiving? Streak? Richie, I can’t do any of this stuff.”

“Maybe the real reason you don’t know what to write is because you refuse to go out of your comfort zone,” Richie says, tilting his head to the side as he mirrors Eddie’s look. Eddie bites his lip, annoyed.

“That’s so not true,” Eddie states, but he knows it is. But who is Richie, a mere stranger, to dictate how he lives his life?

“So prove it,” Richie says, arms crossed. The look on his face is testing, and Eddie knows he shouldn’t feed into Richie’s ridiculous games, but it is not in Eddie’s stubborn nature to turn down a challenge.

“Fine. I will,” Eddie says, lips pressed into a firm line.

“Good.”

“Great.”

“So, I’ll see you tomorrow after closing for…” Richie says and reads over the list as Eddie holds it, familiarizing himself with the content again, “Number three.”

“Number three?” Eddie goes to number three on the list.

GET A TATTOO.

“Get a tattoo?!” Eddie says loudly, worriedly; while it is one of the tamer activities on the list, that does not mean Eddie is less than nervous. But he said he would do it… he quickly wipes the panic off his face as best he can.

“Don’t worry. I’ll pick out something real nice,” Richie says. Suddenly Eddie is panicked again. His eyebrows shoot up at Richie’s words.

“You’ll what?” Eddie questions. This is not going to happen. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I barely know you.” Richie puts a hand on Eddie’s shoulder casually, bringing his finger over to the list, gesturing to number ten.

“Look at number ten,” he says.

TRUST A STRANGER.

“Unless you’re too chicken,” Richie quickly adds. As Eddie continues to gaze at Richie, heavily disturbed, Richie begins to quietly make chicken noises. Eddie has never been so embarrassed, annoyed, and charmed by someone in his whole life. Before today, he wasn’t even sure feeling all three of those emotions at once was possible.

“No way.” Eddie shakes Richie’s hand off his shoulder as Richie stops with the chicken noises. “Tomorrow. Nine. I’ll be there.” A large grin breaks out across Richie’s face, and Eddie wishes he were as excited, but in fact he’s dreading it. Why he feels the need to prove himself to a stranger is beyond him.

“Hell yeah! See you then, Eds.”

That’s a new nickname. Somehow it’s worse than sugar.

Don’t call me Eds.”

 

 

The next day is painfully slow, and each second that passes is another second where Eddie’s skin is clean, not ruined by colorful ink or a permanent design, another second where he doesn’t allow a total stranger (and a completely insane one) pick out his first tattoo. Eddie is anxious about it, naturally. But deep down inside, part of him is excited. The thought of hanging out with Richie beyond his workplace, on Richie’s terms, is nice… Eddie shakes his head. He needs to stop thinking of Richie like that; this will probably head nowhere. It’s just two guys, who aren’t even friends, going to a tattoo parlor to get a tattoo. Eddie hasn’t even thought of telling his mother. He thinks he’ll keep the tattoo a secret for the rest of his life. He hasn’t even told Bill his plans for tonight. Bill has been so busy with his thesis and meeting with Professor Flynn that he has not even had so much time for Eddie. Eddie wishes that didn’t bother him.

It is a few minutes before Eddie will leave to meet Richie, and he hasn’t gone to Brewed Awakening all day. He’s too nervous for coffee, too nervous to see Richie and think about how Richie will see him cry his eyes out like an absolute wuss as he’s getting his tattoo done.

Bill is sitting at his desk as Eddie puts on a light jacket. It gets chilly at night.

“How’s your thesis c-coming?” Bill asks, looking at Eddie.

“It’s not,” Eddie states. “I’m hoping something will hit me soon. I’m running out of time.”

“Y-You still have plenty of time.”

“Easy for you to say. What page are you on?”

“C-Calm down. I’m s-s-still story p-planning. Haven’t even w-written anything.” Bill seems to notice Eddie’s attire. “Where a-are you going?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” Eddie says, chuckling half-heartedly. His palms are sweaty and he can’t believe he’s doing this. Bill raises his eyebrows in question. “I’m going to get a tattoo.”

“N-No shit.” Bill wears an amused grin. “Of what?”

“I don’t know.” Eddie lets out somewhat of a hysterical laugh, and drops his head into his hands. “I think all this stress is getting to my head and I’m officially losing it, Bill. I’m letting some hot guy I barely know pick out a tattoo for me all because he said I didn’t have the guts to get one. Is that stupid?” Eddie rambles on. “Don’t answer that. I know it’s stupid. Oh, God.”

“What h-hot guy?” is the only thing Bill asks.

“A guy from that coffee shop.”

“T-The cute cashier?” Bill asks with a strange tone.

“No. The one who makes the coffee. He’s just been flirting with me forever, Bill, and I just want to see him outside the shop without his stupid uniform. So I agreed to getting a tattoo. And he said he’d pick it out for me. And I’m too stubborn to back out.”

“Well, a h-hot guy is a hot guy. G-Go for it. Show m-me when you get back.”

“You really don’t think I’m being an idiot?”

“Oh no, you’re b-being a complete idiot.” Bill smiles. “H-Have fun.”

“Thanks, see you in a few hours.” Eddie leaves and goes down to Brewed Awakening. He doesn’t even need to go inside to meet Richie; Richie is standing outside, gangly form and all, wearing dark jeans, a flannel shirt, and a jean jacket. An outfit much too warm for the weather outside. He looks beautiful, and Eddie thinks his heart skips a few beats.

Then Richie takes out a pack of cigarettes.

Oh.

Richie lights one and takes a quick drag. His phone does not busy him; he is just standing there, smoking, looking at all his surroundings. His gaze falls to Eddie and he shoves his cigarette into the corner of his mouth, grinning widely. He says, “Eds!” And Eddie walks up to him looking mildly disgusted. Eddie does not like smoking, has never tried it, and has never wanted to. Having a father that died of lung cancer makes the drug especially undesirable. “Why the long look?”

“You smoke?” Eddie asks. Richie immediately removes the cigarette from his mouth and holds it loosely between his fingers. Eddie doesn’t know how he couldn’t smell the smoke off Richie before, because now he’s coated with it. Perhaps inside Brewed Awakening Richie smells too much like scones and coffee to reek of his terrible habit.

“Not if you don’t want me to, sugar,” Richie says, lowering his hand to the ground in offer of tossing it out. Eddie crosses his arms. He doesn’t want to seem like he’s of such high maintenance, so he just shakes his head hesitantly.

“No. It’s okay,” Eddie says, even though it isn’t. Richie doesn’t push it, and takes another drag.

“So,” Richie starts, licking his lips. “Ready?”

“Sure,” Eddie says, his nerves terribly visible.

“Don’t worry. A good friend of mine is gonna do it. She’ll do a mighty fine job,” Richie says, slinging his arm around Eddie’s shoulders, guiding him across the street. They walk at a relatively slow pace, Richie’s long legs causing him to laze around Eddie’s short figure.

“It’s not that I’m worried about.”

“Oh, it’s me, then? I’ve got a really good design. You’ll love it.”

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Eddie mutters.

“Well believe it, sugar! Stop here. We gotta catch the T.”

The T?

Eddie freezes outside the train entrance.

“What is it?” Richie asks, taking his arm off from around Eddie. He puckers his lips around his cigarette for one final drag, then flicks it to the floor swiftly and steps it out. “You never taken the T before?”

“No, I have.” I just hate it. It makes me anxious. It’s so disgustingly dirty that I can barely stand to be on it for more than five minutes.

“I was gonna say. You’ve been in Boston for… how old are you?”

“Twenty-one.”

“Hey! Me too. Small world. Anyways, you’ve been here for all of college, and you’ve ridden the T before so what’s the issue? Oh, do you not have a card? You can just swipe in using mine, no biggie—“

“I have a card,” Eddie says, frustrated. He knows he must be a little red in the face. Why is he so embarrassing all the time? Here Richie is practically babying him. “Let’s just go.” Eddie wonders for how long he can hold his breath. They head inside, swipe into the subway, and start to wait for the train. Richie can definitely sense Eddie’s hesitance, and talks to distract him. Eddie doesn’t really know what Richie’s talking about, but he’ll take any distraction. When Eddie tunes back into his surroundings, he hears Richie’s voice chatting about Stanley.

“I’ve known Stan for a couple years. We both used to work over at a different location. More uptown. Our boss is a real nice guy, too, but he’s never around because he’s got a lot of different stores to manage. That’s why Stan’s the manager.” Eddie wants to say something to let Richie know he’s listening, but Richie doesn’t pause long enough for Eddie to form a coherent response. “At first I was pissed that I didn’t get promoted, but Stan is way more responsible than me, so I get it. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t been fired yet. Stan threatens to fire me all the time, but he never does. I know deep down he likes my company, so.”

“You talk a lot,” Eddie says, not knowing what else to say.

“Sure do,” Richie says with a smile. “It’s part of my charm. My friends call me Trashmouth. Kinda endearing.”

“Sounds more like an insult to me,” Eddie replies.

“I think they mean it to be, but I like it. I’m always making up nicknames for other people, so having one for myself makes me feel kinda special.”

“You’re weird.”

“So they tell me.” Richie hums. As the train pulls into the lane, Eddie watches Richie’s curls go flying all over due to the wind. They step on and find two seats close to the door they entered from. “It’s only a few stops. You nervous?”

“Yeah, a little,” Eddie admits. “Do you have any tattoos?”

“A few,” Richie says. “It doesn’t hurt that bad. Just make sure you take good care of it afterwards. You don’t want it getting all ruined or infected.” With all Richie’s talking, Eddie forgets all about actually being on the T. He only remembers when they step off, and then suddenly he is desperate to get outside and inhale some clean air. When they exit the station, he takes a deep breath, quietly, and follows Richie up the street and to the left. “It’s just up here. Yowza! I’m so excited for you, Eds.”

“Yowza?” Eddie questions. “And will you quit calling me Eds? I hate it.”

“I think you liked it.”

“Well you thought wrong.”

They enter the tattoo parlor, and it is scary. There are designs hung up all over, the walls painted a deep red, the floor coated with red and black-checkered plates. There are only two people working, some girl in the back who Eddie can only vaguely make out, and the person working the counter. The person working the counter has bright orange hair down to her shoulders, and she is extremely pale. As Richie and Eddie approach the counter, Eddie sinks back a little, afraid to be without Richie’s presence. Richie oddly fits in with the atmosphere of the shop, and due to his relaxed and at home nature, Eddie assumes Richie spends a lot of time here.

“Hey, Bev!” Richie shouts, hitting the counter with his fist. The person working the counter (who’s nametag says Kimmy) glares at Richie as she smacks on a piece of bright pink bubblegum and turns the page of her magazine. The girl in the back of the shop turns to look at Richie and grins at him, though she says nothing. She’s got her hands steadied on a tattoo gun, which is steadied on another person, and Eddie thinks he might faint.

“You just got here and you’re already annoying me,” Kimmy says to Richie.

“You’re looking awfully beautiful tonight,” Richie says, completely ignoring her insult. She stares at him with empty eyes before moving her gaze onto Eddie. “This is my friend, Eddie. He’s getting his first tattoo.”

“He sure is,” Kimmy says, and Eddie doesn’t know what to make of that. “I’m Kimmy. You two can just head in back. Beverly’s almost done with her appointment.” With that, Richie makes his way to the back of the parlor, Eddie following closely behind at a loss of what to do.

“Bevvy, Beverly,” Richie sings. The girl working in the back (Beverly?) glances at him before carefully raising the gun off her customer’s skin and holding it firmly with her left hand, flipping Richie off with her right.

“I’m working, Rich,” Beverly says. Eddie can’t help but admire her fiery red hair, and how her curls are tighter than Richie’s, more contained and taken care of. “Stop it with the noise until I’m done.”

Richie smiles at her and goes over to one of the open chairs. He sits down and sinks into it completely, relaxing. Eddie goes over to him slowly and leans against the back of his chair.

“Bev’s an artist,” Richie says. “She’s the best. You’ll love her. Everyone does.” Fifteen minutes must pass of Richie joking around with Eddie, having a one sided conversation with Beverly, and occasionally letting out a few impatient groans. When Beverly is finally done doing the tattoo of her customer, the customer gets up, inspects her work with a pleased grin, and goes to pay upfront with Kimmy.

“Hiya!” Beverly says, coming over to Eddie. She’s smiling real wide, and eyes Eddie up and down before saying, “You are a real cutie, Richie wasn’t lying. What can I do for ya, Eddie?” If there is one thing Eddie can deduct from this brief conversation, it’s that Beverly smokes, and a lot. She’s practically wearing the smoke as a perfume. But she is awfully sweet, and her kind grin never falters, not even at Richie’s continuous teasing.

“I picked out his tattoo,” Richie says, standing up and pulling a slip of paper from his pocket. He leans close to Beverly and they both inspect the paper. “It’s real sweet, huh? Thought of it myself.”

“It’s really nice,” Beverly agrees. “Where do you want it, Eddie?”

Richie answers instead: “I was thinking on his hand, or if that’s too public—his ankle. He probably wants it somewhere he can hide it away, huh, Eds?”

“Uh,” Eddie sputters. “I don’t know. It would probably be easier to decide where it should go if I knew what it was.

“Quit complaining. You’ll love it, I swear.”

“How could you possibly have any idea of what I love and don’t love?”

“Number ten: trust a stranger. So just chill.” Richie holds his hands out to Eddie in a calming motion. “Just trust me.”

“I think it’s cute and I’d like it as a tattoo,” Beverly says. “Honestly.” Eddie sighs and nods his head.

“Let’s put it on his hand,” Richie decides. “It’s small, delicate. That’s a good place for it.”

“Sure thing,” Beverly says. “Let me just grab the paperwork and then we’ll get this show on the road.”

“And I’ve got a front row seat! Lucky me.” Richie grins. “Take a seat, sugar. Relax a bit. I can see the tightness in your shoulders from here.” Ignoring Richie’s comment about his shoulders, Eddie goes to sit down in the seat of the previous customer, assuming that is where Beverly will be doing her work anyway. Richie comes over to lean over the back of Eddie’s chair, and apparently that’s not all; Eddie feels Richie put his hands on his shoulders and start working out kinks. “See, so tight.”

Heat rises to Eddie’s cheeks. He knows he’s blushing profusely. There’s no way he isn’t. Having Richie’s hands on him is one thing, but having Richie comment on how tight Eddie is? That’s too much. Eddie tries to keep his mind out of the gutter, but it’s proving to be difficult.

“You’re so stressed, huh?” Richie asks, his hands still on Eddie, inappropriate thoughts still on Eddie’s mind. “With all your school stuff. Take a break every once in a while. It would do you some good.” With one final clap to Eddie’s back, Richie steps off. Eddie buries his face in the tips of his jacket sleeves, not wanting anyone to get a good look at his face before he starts to cool off. Thankfully, Beverly comes over with the paperwork to distract Eddie. He quickly fills everything out, taking out his ID and handing it over to Beverly.

“I’ll just give this to Kimmy to look over and then I’ll get started!” Beverly says, awfully cheery. She drops off the paperwork at Kimmy’s desk and returns to her workspace, where she cleans her tattoo gun and gets all the ink ready. “Just black, right?” she asks Richie. He nods.

“Plain and simple. Nothing but the best for this one.”

As Beverly continues to prepare the gun for Eddie’s tattoo, Eddie looks to Richie and wonders how in fuck he got roped into doing this. If all it takes is one cute boy, then Eddie is fucked. The smile on Richie’s lips is full of excitement; there is no doubt written across his features at all. He is one hundred percent sure Eddie will like the tattoo.

“You can’t just tell me what I’m getting now?” Eddie asks, breaking the silence.

“Nope,” Richie says.

“…Did I mention I hate surprises?”

“Calm down. This is gonna be a great story to tell: ‘When I was in college, I let a complete rando pick out my tattoo design, and you know what? I loved it.’”

“That’s totally not gonna happen, but sure.” Rolling his eyes, Eddie immediately grows nervous as Beverly turns to him and sits down in her chair, tattoo gun in her hand, resting on her worktable. “Fuck. Now?”

“Whenever you’re ready, baby,” Beverly replies. So Eddie nods. She gets started.

And it hurts like a bitch.

Eddie doesn’t cry, but he whines and bites his bottom lip so hard he thinks he draws blood. Beverly tells him it’ll only take a few minutes, that it’s small and Richie did good, but Eddie can’t help the profanities that leave his lips in an angry rush. Since Richie wants Eddie to be surprised, he makes Eddie sit with his head turned away from Beverly.

“I swear if you picked out something shitty, Richie, I swear—FUCK!”

“Sorry, Eddie,” Beverly says sheepishly. “Only a few more lines.”

Richie laughs at Eddie, and Eddie glares at him. “I’m gonna fucking kill you, Richie.”

“You’ll love it.”

“There! Done!” Beverly puts the gun down on the table and admires her handiwork. Eddie has yet to see it. He’s so nervous. “Take a look.” Eddie slowly drops his gaze to the space on his hand that is now crested with a simple design. He blinks once, and then brings the tattoo closer to his face, examining it. It’s simple, but the lines are neat and thick and Eddie thinks he’s in love.

The tattoo is a small paperboat.

“What the…” he murmurs, in awe. “I love it. Thank you.”

“No problem,” Beverly says. “No need to pay upfront. Consider it a gift. And let me get you some of the aftercare stuff.”

“Seriously, thank you so much. Wow.” Eddie stands up, his eyes still glued to his tattoo. Richie leans close to Eddie, getting a good look at the small paper boat.

“See? Told you I wasn’t gonna fuck around and put something ugly on your skin forever,” Richie says.

“How did you manage to pick out something I don’t hate?” Eddie asks, meeting Richie’s gaze. They are suddenly close, much closer than they have been before.

“I remember you told me that thing about you and your friend. And figured a paper boat was small and cute, like you, so… perfect match.”

Eddie blushes. “Shut up.”

“Now whenever you need to be inspired you can just look down at that, right?” Richie grins.

Beverly approaches the both of them, keys in hand and jacket now thrown around her shoulders. “We’re closing up early. It’s slower around this time. Right, Kimmy?” Kimmy says something incoherent in reply. “So, where are you boys off to?”

“Dunno. Sugar, where we headed? Drinks with the boys?” Richie asks Eddie. Eddie has no idea who ‘the boys’ are, so he just ignores him. “We’ll roll with you, Bevvy. Wherever you’re going.”

We will? Eddie wants to ask, but he’s worried he might come across as lame, and Richie is smiling at him like they really should spend more time together, so…

“I was gonna head up to a bar to meet Mike and Ben, if you wanna tag along,” Beverly says.

Oh. Drinks with ‘the boys,’ I guess.

“That good with you, Eddie?” she asks, because Richie has yet to ask Eddie his opinion on anything at all. Eddie blinks at her, startled, but nods his head anyway.

“Yeah. That’s good,” Eddie says. Who doesn’t love getting drunk after their first tattoo? The spot does burn a little; maybe the alcohol would help numb the pain. “Who’re Mike and Ben?”

“Some friends of mine,” is all Beverly says.

“They’re cool.” Richie hums. “Real sweethearts.”

“Bev, I’m heading out,” comes Kimmy’s unenthusiastic voice. She throws the three of them a look before taking a pair of keys off the counter. “Not in the mood for drinks tonight. Say hey to Mike for me.”

“Sure,” Beverly says. “Have a good night! Text me when you’re home.”

As Kimmy leaves, Beverly states that they should leave, too, because the bar is a few blocks away and it’s getting chillier as it gets later. Slipping his phone out of his pocket, Eddie checks the time to see it’s just now quarter to ten. Eddie doesn’t remember the last time he was out this late. He’s usually studying or writing, but lately he hasn’t been doing much of either. His eyes find Richie, subconsciously putting the blame on him for Eddie’s sudden lack of involvement in school. Richie notices Eddie’s gaze, and Eddie’s hand on his cell phone, so Richie reaches his hand out.

“Gimme your phone,” he says, and Eddie hands over his phone hesitantly, watching over Richie’s shoulder as Richie taps his contact information in. “There’s my number. Text me, okay?” He looks to Eddie for agreement, so Eddie nods slowly, a little awestruck. After handing Eddie’s phone back, Richie and Beverly walk toward the front of the shop and wave Eddie over. Eddie only has a split second to see what Richie put as his contact name: honeybun.

Honeybun?

“You coming, sugar?” Richie asks, and Eddie puts his phone away, walking over to Richie and Beverly. Beverly locks up as Eddie is rethinking the contact name honeybun. Why’d Richie set it as that? What’s with this guy and sweets related nicknames? “Can’t wait for a drink,” Richie states. “Let’s get piss drunk.” They begin walking down the street in the direction of whatever bar they’re going to. Eddie’s palms are sticky with sweat due to his nerves, but he hopes he’s playing everything off coolly. Though somehow he doubts that.

“I’ve got classes tomorrow in the morning,” Eddie admits. “I’ll probably only stay for one drink.”

“One drink?” Richie asks in disdain. “Come on.

“He’s being responsible,” Beverly comments. “Let the kid breath.”

“So when did you guys meet?” Eddie asks, curious. Richie breaks out into a grin and pulls Beverly tight to his chest, an endearing embrace. Beverly just groans.

“Like, three years ago? This idiot never had any money for the T, so I would flirt with the MBTA employee to distract them. Then Rich would jump over the railing and get a free ride.” Beverly shrugs. “He’s since purchased a card, so my life is way fucking easier.”

“She’s my knight in shining armor,” Richie sings, perhaps already a little drunk on happiness. He is cheery usually, but seeing him around Beverly is quite the sight. Eddie wonders if there’s something more here, if they’re involved or interested or waiting. Biting his tongue, there’s no way Eddie would ever bring himself to ask.

“What about you? How’d Richie rope you into the mess of his life?” Beverly asks.

“I go to school near where he works,” Eddie says. “He makes my coffee everyday.”

“Ah,” Beverly breathes. “Brewed Awakening has the best coffee. Except when Stan makes it. He always manages to make it taste like dirt.”

“You know Stanley?” Eddie asks. They’re like one big friend group.

“Yeah. I met him through Richie.” They turn a corner and Beverly stops in front of a bar. “Here we are. I texted Mike and Ben a while ago, they’re waiting at the counter.” Pulling the door open, she makes room for Richie and Eddie to slide by. “After you, gentlemen.” As Eddie enters, he feels his anxiety rage over him. Just one drink, he thinks. One drink and enough time to see Richie drunk dance, then I’ll leave. “Ben!” Beverly shouts suddenly. She is right behind Eddie, with Richie right in front of him.

Ben is tall, with broad shoulders and soft eyes, overall handsome and very kind looking. He grins and says hello to Richie quickly, but his eyes search for Beverly. Upon finding her, he gets up off his seat and picks her up in a loving hug. Eddie half expects them to kiss, but they don’t. It seems as though they haven’t seen each other in a while, and maybe they haven’t. What Beverly says next is proof of that, “I missed you, new kid.”

“I miss you always, Beverly,” Ben says. When they let go, Ben’s eyes fall to Eddie, and they smile politely at each other. “Hey, I don’t think we’ve met before.”

“No, we haven’t. I’m Eddie.”

“Nice to meet you, Eddie. I’m Ben.”

“And I need a drink!” Richie says loudly, slamming a hand onto the counter. “Hey, where’s Mikey?”

“He went to the bathroom a few minutes ago,” Ben explains. “Should be back soon.”

“Ah,” Richie says. “All right. Who wants what?” Everyone answers with their beverage of choice, and Richie calls the bartender over to place their order. The drinks arrive shortly, the same time a man approaches their group. By now Beverly, Richie, Eddie, and Ben are all sat lined up at the counter. “Mike Hanlon!” Richie yells, grinning from ear to ear. Eddie wonders if there is ever a time Richie is not smiling. Mike mirrors Richie’s expression and they both go in for a brief hug. “It’s been too long, man. We need to catch up—oh! This is Eddie, my friend. Eddie, this is Mike.”

“Hey,” Eddie says simply.

“Hey, Eddie. Nice to meet you,” Mike says, and he seems as though he will try to make small talk, but Beverly steals his attention.

“Mike, hey,” she says, and if Eddie weren’t gay, her tone would have sent his heart soaring. There is definitely something here.

“Bev,” Mike replies. He drags his eyes over to Ben, and smiles a close-mouthed kind of grin, the kind of grin you offer to someone who you don’t really get along with. “Hi, Ben. How are you?”

“I’m fine. Just got back from a couple shows out of town,” Ben says. “You?”

“Been good, good. Work’s busy. So your art is going well?”

“Yeah. Pretty well.”

Oh, so Ben’s an artist.

Watching the exchange, Eddie feels mildly uncomfortable. So he takes a swig of his beer and turns his head slightly only to find Richie already looking at him. Richie nods his head to the right, away from their group, and slips out of his seat at the counter. Eddie gazes back at Mike, Ben, and Beverly before following Richie toward the back of the bar. They stop near the bathrooms, which seem to be overcrowded with people. And before Eddie can ask what Richie is doing, Richie leans in close to him and says over the music and chatter, “They both like her. It’s uncomfortable to watch them try and be civil.”

“They don’t get along?” Eddie asks, equally as loud and as close.

“No, they do. But like… it must be hard for Ben. He has to play nice while Mikey’s out there fucking the love of his life,” Richie states. He leans back and takes a sip of whatever he has in his hand. When he comes back into Eddie’s personal space, his burning breath smells like vodka. “Kinda makes you feel for him. Anyway, what time you gotta get back?”

“Dunno. Soon, I guess,” Eddie replies, dropping his gaze down to his phone as he slides it out of his pocket. There are several mixed texts from Bill. Unlocking his phone, Eddie scans the messages. “Fuck,” he curses.

 

[10:01] from billy: what time will u b back?

[10:04] from billy: ok fine dont reply

[10:20] from billy: JUS LET ME KNO UR OK

[10:24] from billy: fuck you ed

 

“I should go now,” Eddie answers, squinting down at his phone. It is too low for him to focus, so he types back a messy reply to Bill.

 

[10:32] to billy: SPRRY BILL wen ouf for a drinl

[10:32] to billy: deink

[10:32] to billy: DRINK

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” Eddie says, putting his phone away.

“I’ll walk you back to your dorm,” Richie replies. “Gotta make sure you get home safe.” Rolling his eyes, Eddie scoffs, but he nods anyway, and the two of them head back over to the others to say goodbye. “Sorry we stayed so short. Eddie’s a college boy,” Richie tells them. “We’ll all go out together again soon, right, Eds? And I’ll give Stanley a call to make sure he comes, too.”

When they leave, Richie makes sure to talk a lot. Eddie doesn’t know if Richie remembers Eddie’s hesitance to ride the T earlier, or if he just has a lot more to blab about when he’s got alcohol in his system. But the train ride is fine, fast, surprisingly, and Eddie receives no new messages from Bill on the way back to their building. Richie and Eddie stop right out front of Eddie’s housing building. It is just eleven PM.

“Thanks for bringing me back,” Eddie says.

Richie reaches inside his pocket and pulls out a cigarette. He lights it, takes a drag, and looks at Eddie thoughtfully. “Thanks for coming out tonight,” Richie says.

“You gonna head back home?” Eddie asks, just for conversation. “Around where do you live?”

“I live over in Southie,” Richie replies. “Just a ten minute walk from here.”

Invite me over sometime, Eddie wants to say, but he doesn’t.

“Don’t forget to text me so I have your number,” Richie says suddenly. “I’ll be waiting for that text. Good night, sugar.” Eddie says good night, and Richie turns on his heel and sets off down the street, cigarette in hand as he whistles an unfamiliar tune. Eddie swipes in and heads upstairs to his dorm, tuckered out. As soon as he unlocks the door, he is hit with a pillow. Bill sits on his bed with his laptop in his lap, annoyed.

“What the fuck, Bill?”

“T-That’s what y-y-you get for m-making me think you were d-dead.”

“I said sorry,” Eddie states, shutting the door behind him. He tugs off his jacket and throws it on the bottom of his bed, collapsing atop the covers. “Ugh. I’m exhausted.”

“Well, s-show me the tattoo.”

“Oh.” Eddie sits up and pulls back his sleeve, revealing the small paper boat tattoo Richie picked out. “It hurt like a bitch, not gonna lie.”

“I-It’s cute, though,” Bill says. “R-Reminds me of the r-rain… And what’s the n-name of that guy?”

“Richie.”

“Wait.” Bill narrows his eyes, thinking. “Is he t-the one w-with the black curls?”

“Who’s obnoxiously loud?” Eddie adds. “Yeah. That’s him.” Then Eddie remembers that Richie said to text him, so he gets his phone from his pocket and types out a quick message.

 

[11:12] to honeybun: it’s eddie

[11:12] to honeybun: and what’s with this contact name lmao

 

A few minutes pass before Eddie gets any sort of reply, and the one he receives makes his chest tighten.

 

[11:16] from honeybun: sugar!

[11:17] from honeybun: u needed a cutie nickname for me like mine for u

[11:19] from honeybun: so tired. good night sugar

 

 

The next morning, Eddie stops by Brewed Awakening before class starts at eight. He walks in with his new tattoo on full display, so Richie is reminded that he likes it. Stanley is working the register, as usual, and he wears the same look he does everyday. Except today he says good morning to Eddie like they are friends, using his name and everything, which Eddie isn’t expecting at all.

“Morning, Eddie,” Stanley says. “How was your night?” he asks, but before Eddie can reply he continues talking, “Yeah. I know. Trashmouth wouldn’t shut up about it. Glad to know you ‘looked so cute’ while you were getting your tattoo.” Eddie nearly blushes, but covers his embarrassment up with a cough instead.

“Eds!” Richie yells from the back. He emerges with his apron on and signature smile. How can one person be so cheery in the morning? “What did I do to deserve seeing you first thing in the morning?”

“What did I do to deserve having to listen to you two flirt?” Stanley asks to nobody. “You ring him up. I’ll stick the next round of pastries in the oven.”

“Hell yeah.” Richie walks over to the cash register and passes Stanley on his way toward the back room. “He never lets me use the cash register. This is a good day already. So, what’ll it be, sugar? Small iced latte?”

“Well if you know what’re you asking for?” Eddie teases.

“Consistency. Can’t have the other customers knowing we’re friends, that I know your order and stuff. Imagine how jealous they’d be.” He punches some buttons of the cash register but shoots Eddie a swift wink. Then he lowers his voice, “On the house. Don’t tell Stan.” And when the register drawer pops out, Richie shoves it back in without a care. “I’ll go make your iced latte. To go because you have class?”

“Yeah,” Eddie says. “Thanks.”

It only takes a few minutes for Richie to make the iced latte, and he hands it over to Eddie with a gentle brush of their fingers. Eddie tries not to think about it, tries not to get flustered, because Richie is not bothered at all. The more Eddie talks to Richie, the more he thinks Richie is just a flirty person in general, and that the way he acts around Eddie doesn’t mean much. Eddie doesn’t want to get his hopes up, and he doesn’t even know if Richie is gay. So naturally, Eddie is in denial about his crush on Richie. He knows it’s there, he just chooses to ignore it. Richie clears his throat, stealing Eddie’s attention.

“How much time do you have before class?” he asks. Eddie glances down at his phone to see the time.

“About twenty minutes.”

“Great,” Richie says, and he turns around to make sure Stanley isn’t watching them. There is nobody at Brewed Awakening except them and some woman sipping her coffee at the counter. “Here’s the updated list.” Richie pulls a piece of paper out of the back pocket of his jeans and hands it over to Eddie, as if Eddie has any idea what it is. “I thought I should revamp it to fit your needs, less crazy, more doable. I even crossed out the ones we already did. Take a look.”

 

[

RICHIE’S EXCITABLE, SUPERB, ENJOYABLE LIST OF FUN THINGS

  1. EAT FIRE
  2. JUMP OFF A CLIFF
  3. GET A TATTOO
  4. GO SKINNY DIPPING
  5. HAVE YOUR PORTRAIT PAINTED
  6. CRASH A PARTY
  7. STARGAZE AT 3 AM
  8. GO TO TIMES SQUARE
  9. TRAVEL SOMEWHERE NEW
  10. TRUST A STRANGER

]

 

These ones are a lot better, and way less nerve-wracking. Eddie grins at Richie, shockingly, and says, “Yeah okay. Sure.”

“Great! We can just go whenever I’m off of work,” Richie replies, and then it occurs to Eddie that Richie made this list of things for them to do together. That he sat down last night after having hung out with Eddie, and wrote more things for the both of them to do. Eddie’s chest tightens and he feels so flattered. While Richie may be rambunctious, and annoying, there is something intriguing about him, and suddenly Eddie can’t wait to cross off some of these things on his list. “That sound good?”

“Yeah,” Eddie replies, voice velvet thick. “That sounds perfect.”

Chapter Text

Eddie heads to class after receiving the updated ‘to do’ list from Richie. This class day is Eddie’s meeting with Professor Flynn, which means all Eddie’s classmates have to stay in class for five minutes, and Eddie has to stay for the remaining fifty-five. He is the first one to arrive, however, and he shoots Bill a quick message telling him to hurry up. But soon, students start filing in and taking their seats, and Eddie is no longer alone. Bill arrives last, which earns him a glare from Eddie.

“Where were you?” Eddie asks. Bill raises the coffee cup in his hand.

“Getting coffee, mom.” Bill sits down next to Eddie and sighs deeply, then takes a sip of his hot coffee. “This is so good.”

“Did you go to Brewed Awakening?” Eddie asks.

“Yup. Trying to make the moves on the cashier,” Bill replies.

“I was just there, but I didn’t see you.”

“I went in late because I overslept,” Bill says. “You probably just missed me.”

“Probably,” Eddie agrees. Professor Flynn walks in shortly. He turns to the class and smiles, but as he puts his coffee and bag down on his desk, his smile immediately falters. Low chuckles emerge from the students. Professor Flynn is Eddie’s favorite professor, for two reasons: because of his relaxed and careless personality, and also because he is the one teacher Eddie feels like he’s friends with.

“All the seats are full, that’s promising,” Professor Flynn says. Then he takes his laptop out of his bag and pulls up the roster. “Everybody’s here. All right… Eddie, your meeting is today. Tomorrow is… Bill. Okay, general check in—how is everybody doing with their thesis?” Nobody says anything, so Professor Flynn laughs, moving to lean against his desk and face his students full on. “That’s worrying. So you’re either struggling or it’s too early in the morning.” Silence. Professor Flynn waves a hand. “You signed up for this morning class, so.”

A classmate Eddie has talked to once or twice before raises her hand and once being called on, says, “I’ve just been brainstorming really. I’m trying to use one of my old pieces and build off of that.”

“Good idea. We can talk more about this in your meeting,” Professor Flynn replies. “No general questions? …Okay, you’re dismissed. Eddie, come on up here.” All the students stand up, and Eddie shoots Bill a stressed out look.

“I’ll text you. We’ll get lunch,” Bill says. “Good luck.”

“Okay, and thanks,” Eddie replies. As Bill leaves, Professor Flynn takes his seat and kicks his feet up on his desk, waving Eddie over. “Hey,” Eddie says to him, walking over as he anxiously clutches the strap of his backpack.

“Take a seat,” Professor Flynn says. Eddie pulls up a chair and sits down. “How’s your writing going?” Professor Flynn has his head held in the palm of his left hand, leaning into Eddie, eyes wide, genuinely interested.

“It’s going okay,” Eddie says, but that’s sugarcoating it. He cringes and changes his answer. “Well, not really. I have absolutely no ideas. Like zero.”

“Have you tried any exercises, or watching any new movies? I remember you’ve told me that usually works,” Professor Flynn suggests. Eddie nods, sinking back into his chair and dropping his backpack on the floor next to him. I’m gonna be here a while. “Well what about—oh, that’s new?” Professor Flynn gestures to the tattoo on Eddie’s hand, an intrigued look claiming his face. Richie comes to Eddie’s mind immediately. He extends his hand out toward his professor to give him a better look.

“Yeah. I got it with a new friend,” Eddie says, not wanting to draw so much attention to his blushing cheeks or how his fingers seem to be quivering ever so slightly. Professor Flynn never misses a beat, though, and he leans back in his chair with a teasing smile on his face. Bringing a hand to cover his mouth, he quirks an eyebrow at Eddie.

“New friend?”

“Yeah.” Eddie takes his hand back and flops it in his lap. He wishes Professor Flynn hadn’t seen.

“Who is this new friend?” If it were not Professor Flynn asking, Eddie would not be so okay with revealing Richie. But Professor Flynn is young, no older than thirty, and he is comfortably relatable and close with all his students. “New friend can be your inspiration, no?”

Richie? My inspiration?

“He’s hardly anything,” is all Eddie can muster.

“He doesn’t sound like he’s less than anything, to me,” Professor Flynn says. “Look. Don’t tell me. But sometimes people come into our lives at just the right time, when we need them most, whether we know that or not. So use this. I have a good feeling about new friend.” Eddie nods. “Does new friend have a name?”

Eddie looks down, flustered. “…Richie,” he admits.

“New friend, Richie.” Professor Flynn looks at Eddie the way a good friend would. “All right. Spend lots of time with him and I’m expecting updates on how he alters your view of the writing world. For now, I picked out some short stories I thought you would enjoy. Maybe you can draw some inspiration or points from them…”

 

 

Three weeks since Eddie got the paper boat tattoo, and he still stares at it throughout most of his days. When he’s in the shower, and he drops his hand down to the shampoo bottle, and he stares and stares. Or when he reaches for his iced latte from Richie in the morning, and it is staring right back at him in all its glory. It might be Eddie’s favorite thing about himself. It reminds him of Derry, of rain, of Bill, of Georgie, and of Richie.

Richie and Eddie have not hung out outside Brewed Awakening for a long time. Eddie figures Richie is just busy; he seems to work all day long and on some days he most likely has responsibilities outside of this coffee shop. He has a life, Eddie needs to remind himself, a life outside Brewed Awakening and a life outside Eddie, though Eddie so desperately wishes for their worlds to collide. At least everyday, when Eddie enters the coffee shop, he has a delicious iced latte waiting for him. Richie likes Eddie to text him five minutes before he comes in, so that he can have his drink ready once he arrives and they can have prime flirting time.

Today is no different. When Eddie enters, there is Richie waiting for him, looking dreamy and dazed, sweeter than the iced latte in his hand. He smiles at Eddie, and says, “Your coffee, sugar.” And Eddie grins back and accepts the beverage with a gentle thank you, their fingers brushing for a split second. “Class soon?” Richie asks, digging his hands into his apron pockets. He is not so floury today, so Eddie guesses he is not baking.

“No class today,” Eddie answers, shaking his head. He notices Stanley is missing from the front counter and furrows his brows. “No Stanley?”

“Had a dentist appointment,” Richie says. “Just me today. Wanna sweeten up my day and keep me company?”

“You wish. I’m just here for the caffeine.” Eddie takes a sip of his latte and tries not to openly moan at how tasty it is. “God, you make the best coffee,” he breathes. Richie chuckles and leans his elbow on the counter, gazing up at Eddie endearingly.

“So they tell me,” Richie says. “Well if you’re not gonna stick around, what’re you gonna do for the rest of the day?” It is only three in the afternoon, and Eddie has nothing to do. He was just teasing before. “Or was that all a mean joke and you’re really here to cover Stanley’s shift?”

“I’ll stick around,” Eddie agrees. “But I’m not working the register.” A wide grin spreads across Richie’s face.

“No worries! I can multitask, just stay by my side and I’ll manage.” Not knowing if he should go to a table or stand by the counter, Eddie glances around and notices how unbelievably empty the shop is today. Usually there are swarms of people early in the morning, but the afternoons seem to die down completely.

“Slow day?” Eddie says, but it sounds more like a question.

“Lots of slow days lately.” Richie lets out a low whistle. “Hope this place doesn’t get shut down. I don’t have another job and I really need the money.”

“It’ll be okay,” Eddie says, because he doesn’t know what else to say. Then, “Can I take a seat at that table or are you gonna follow me over there and distract me from writing?”

“That depends,” Richie is trying to bite back a grin, “Do you want me to follow you over there?”

“Absolutely not.” Of course I do, idiot. “But I guess I don’t really want to write either, so…”

“So a distraction is necessary,” Richie clarifies, nodding. He looks very serious, playing along with Eddie’s ploy. “I understand. Let me make myself a drink and I’ll be over in second.” Eddie chuckles and watches as Richie scurries to make himself a coffee. While Richie’s busy, Eddie heads over to the table closest to the counter, so just in case a customer does come in and needs assistance, Richie can get there quickly. Eddie sits down in the seat closest to the wall, leaving the chair opposite him open for Richie and placing his latte on the table. Setting up his laptop and notebook, Eddie digs his hand into his backpack for a pen. Upon finding one, his eyes fall to the paper boat tattoo settled on the skin of his hand. It is so delicate, but somehow so powerful. “Here we are,” Richie says, breaking Eddie’s trance. He slides into the seat across from Eddie, a hot beverage in hand. Eddie wonders what he’s drinking. What is Richie Tozier’s drink of choice? As if reading his mind, Richie tilts his cup toward Eddie, “Want a sip? It’s a mocha with caramel drizzled into it. Made it up myself. It’s not even on the menu.” While Richie looks quite pleased with himself, Eddie purses his lips and shakes his head slowly.

“If you wanted dessert why didn’t you just pick out one of the pastries?” Eddie asks.

“Because none of them taste quite this good.” Richie takes a sip of his mocha. “Anyways… whatcha workin’ on today?”

“The usual. So, nothing.” Eddie sighs.

“How long have you been writing?” Richie asks. This is a question every writer is used to receiving, so Eddie delivers his practiced answer.

“Ever since I was little,” he says simply. “I read a lot, like most writers. Decided I liked living inside of fictional universes more than the real world at a young age.”

“So you wanted to make your own fictional universe,” Richie adds. “How poetic.”

“What about you?” Eddie asks, shifting gears. “You never told me about your interests. What do you do besides make coffee?” Sinking back into his chair, Richie keeps his eyes trained on Eddie, a flirty smile capturing his lips with ease.

“Take a guess,” Richie says.

“What?” Eddie asks.

Take a guess?

“What do I look like I enjoy doing?”

Annoying me. Flirting with me. Making me want to—

“It’s not that hard.” With a groan, Richie leans his elbow on the table between him and Eddie, resting his head in the palm of his hand. “You have writer written all over you. You might as well be wearing a sign.”

“I can’t just guess your hobby,” Eddie says, because what is this? Some kind of game? “That’s not how it works. You could be into anything. I don’t know your limits.”

“I’m not as kinky as you may think,” Richie states. “Fine, fine. Here’s a hint… I was in all my high school plays.” Eddie gazes at Richie, just gazes, because he is so pretty to look at.

“Acting,” Eddie decides. He bites his lip and lifts his iced latte off the table, taking a sip, still studying the man sitting across from him. “You seem like an actor.”

“See! Not so hard.”

“Not so hard.” Eddie hums.

“My turn for a question,” Richie says.

“Well, technically mine wasn’t a question. It was more of a… topic proposal.”

Topic proposal,” Richie mocks with a laugh. “Sure. Here’s mine: this story you’re supposed to be writing. Tell me more.”

“It’s for my thesis. It’s supposed to be a well-crafted story, something lengthy, and good enough to publish. All seniors in the creative writing department have to do it. Yet I can’t even think of an idea,” Eddie says. “My professor wants us to write what we know, but I told you that already.”

“Don’t worry, sugar, you’ll think of something good. I know. I can feel it. I have intuition, ya know.” Richie grins widely. “By the way, before I forget—we’re doing number seven on the list soon. I don’t know when yet.”

“Oh, okay,” Eddie replies. “I don’t remember what that is.” The bell at the entrance of Brewed Awakening jingles, and a tall man walks in, looking as if he is in a rush.

“Have a look when you’re home,” Richie says. Then he gets up to help the customer that walked in. Eddie stares at his laptop screen, trying hard to remember what number seven is, but he draws a blank. He’ll have to remember to check later, though that’s unlikely. Hopefully he doesn’t forget. Shrugging, Eddie takes another sip of his drink before opening up a new word document.

 

 

Loud ringing sounds within the small dorm room belonging to Eddie and Bill. Eddie only hears it because something has been chucked to his face, and it hits him straight in the nose, causing an ache. Opening his eyes slowly, adjusting to the new light, Eddie stares at Bill, who towers over him wearing an angry look.

“You sleep l-like a log,” Bill says. “Your phone won’t s-s-stop ringing. F-F-Fucking answer honeybun.” Eddie groans and waves a hand at Bill, who turns their room light off once again and collapses back into his bed. Clicking on his phone, Eddie glances at the time (2:14 AM) before scrolling through the dozens of messages he has missed from Richie. Suddenly his phone begins to vibrate repeatedly, and a blank contact ID photo lights up his screen. Eddie will have to remember to take a photo of Richie later. But what on earth could Richie be calling about at two AM?

“What?” Eddie says into his phone, voice raspy with sleep. A laugh echoes on the other line.

“Sugar!” Richie calls into the phone, wide awake. “Number seven. Come on!”

“Richie, it’s two in the morning. I’m going back to sleep,” Eddie states, his voice quiet and lazy. “Seven can wait until tomorrow. Good night.”

“No! Sugar!” Richie says loudly, his voice ringing straight into Eddie’s ear. “You can’t go back to sleep. Number seven is stargazing, didn’t you check?” He speaks through a midst of chuckles, and suddenly Eddie realizes. Number seven Of course I didn’t check, fucking jackass. I forgot.

“You’re awful,” Eddie croaks. “You knew I would forget and that you’d have to wake me up.”

“Sure did,” Richie says. “And I don’t regret my decision at all. I’m having a lot of fun.” Eddie says nothing. He’s drifting back into sleep already. “Don’t fall asleep on me, Eds! Meet me outside. I’ve been waiting for like… fifteen minutes. Bring a jacket; it’s chilly.”

Am I really about to do this?

“Fine,” Eddie says. “I’ll be down in a second.” He hears Richie happily laugh before he hangs up. Dragging himself out of bed, Eddie still is in disbelief that he is actually going stargazing at three in the morning. Let alone with Richie. Nonetheless, Eddie tugs on his same clothes from yesterday (that were sleeping at the foot of his bed) and grabs his jacket, searching for his key and school ID in the pocket.

“You r-really going?” comes Bill’s muffled voice. His face is buried in his pillow, so Eddie can just make out his words. “You sure d-do like him a lot.”

“Shut up,” Eddie replies, walking over to the door. “I’ll see you later.”

“Have fun f-f-fucking,” Bill says, and Eddie flips him off, even though Bill cannot see the gesture. Eddie leaves their dorm and walks to the elevator, jamming the button repetitively as if not to keep Richie waiting any longer. He’s been here fifteen minutes? He’s fucking insane. The elevator comes and Eddie steps on, anxiously tapping his feet on the ground and waiting for it to deliver him to the main floor of his housing building. In the lobby, the security guard gives him a strange look, the question of ‘why the fuck are you leaving this early?’ written across his raised eyebrows and pursed lips. Calmly, Eddie raises a hand to wave and exits the building. His eyes find Richie quickly; he is leaning against the light post outside, cigarette stuck in his mouth like it has never belonged anywhere else, smoke dancing in the early morning air, curls bouncing from his head rambunctiously. His entire look is a presence in itself; somebody could look at him and know who he is without him even having to say anything.

“Mornin’, sugar,” he tells Eddie, taking one last drag from his cigarette and dropping it to the ground in one swift movement. His foot crushes his cigarette’s light without a second thought. “Ready to see some motherfucking stars?”

“I can’t believe I’m here right now,” Eddie thinks out loud. “So yeah, I guess I am.” Richie already takes off walking, and all Eddie can do is follow. They walk down the street from Eddie’s housing building, yet Eddie still has no clue where they’re heading. “Uh. Where are we going?”

“Just across the way here—to The Public Garden,” answers Richie, and Eddie immediately stops walking.

“The Public Garden is closed. It closes at nine, Richie.” Eddie can’t help but feel a little aggravated, because it is so like Richie not to do his research and to waste Eddie’s time.

“I know,” Richie says, as if it is not almost three in the morning. “They’ll just have to make an exception for me and my sugar.”

“Richie,” Eddie says in disbelief. “What are you—“ Then it seems to click. Eddie’s shoulders drop and his eyes dart from Richie to the dark sky hovering above them. “Are we sneaking in?”

“Sure are! Just don’t tell anyone. It’s kind of a public offense.”

“Kind of?” Richie is the exact kind of person Eddie’s mother always warned him about. “It is a public offense.” Raising his finger to sit between his lips, Richie shushes Eddie softly, like he is telling Eddie not to worry. “If I get arrested I will never forgive you.”

“You’re not gonna be arrested if you’re sneaky,” Richie states. “Now can we please keep walking? Please? We’re gonna miss the stars.” With a heavy sigh, Eddie nods his head and the two men continue down the street. They turn at the corner and there is the garden. “I will warn you, these streets are swarming with campus police because of your school, so be quiet, okay?”

“You’re insane.” Eddie rolls his eyes as they face the gates.

“If I’m insane for thinking of this, what does that make you for going along with it?” Richie shoots back, eyebrow quirked. Eddie wishes he knew the answer. “You any good at climbing?” Actually, yes. Eddie spent his entire senior year climbing in and out from his bedroom window, because his mother was too controlling and Eddie had finally had enough. He used to sneak out to spend time with Bill, watching movies and drinking his parents’ forgotten wine Bill had stored underneath his bed.

“I’m pretty good,” is all Eddie says to Richie, and he watches as Richie hoists himself up the fence and swings a leg over, officially trespassing. Eddie follows Richie’s actions, and they are both on the other side in no time. It is still very dark out, the stars glowing above them especially beautiful. They illuminate the grin on Richie’s face as he gazes up at them, entranced. “Wow,” Eddie says.

“Right? Aren’t they pretty?”

Oh. The stars.

“Yeah,” Eddie chokes out quickly. “They are. I’ve never gone stargazing before.”

“Really?” Richie asks, and he takes off walking again, probably wanting to find a spot away from the gates where they can lie down. Eddie is not so far behind him, watching his every move, admiring in silence until Richie asks, “Where ya from?”

“A small town in Maine called Derry. It sucks.” Eddie shrugs his shoulder. When they have seemed to walk far enough, Richie glances back at Eddie before lying down in the grass. Eddie goes to lie beside Richie, not so close but also not so far. He asks, “What about you?”

“Bostonian born and raised,” Richie says. “Been in Southie my whole life. Never been out of Boston ever. Pretty lame.”

“Boston is nice, though,” Eddie replies. “Derry is nothing compared to it. Derry is nothing compared to anything, to be honest.”

“What don’t you like about it?” Richie inquires, turning his head slightly to look at Eddie. Eddie’s eyes are still locked on the stars above; he knows that if he turns to mirror Richie’s look he would grow too nervous.

“Lots of things. It’s too small, for one. And everyone there is… weird. Racist and homophobic, like they’re stuck in the 60s or something.” Eddie shifts in an attempt to find a more comfortable position where his jacket is not bunched at his hips. “My mom is there, too, which makes it even worse.”

“Your mom?” Richie prompts.

“Yup. She’s kind of terrible. She was always super overprotective of me as a kid, making me think I was sick all the time and sending me to the doctors over and over. But I think that’s just because my dad died when I was young and she didn’t wanna lose me, too. I guess I get it. But I really don’t.” Shrugging, Eddie bites his lip and thinks more about Sonia Kaspbrak, and how he only sees her on holidays and she speaks little, not that he particularly minds. “She also is not so thrilled about me being gay, go figure.” Eddie wonders if Richie expected him to be gay, like most people so often do, but he still does not glance at him. “When I came out she was so weird about it, and she still is, even though it’s been like…” Doing the mental math, Eddie is surprised, “five years, I think? I don’t know. Part of me feels like she thinks this being gay thing is just temporary, that I’ll come home from college and suddenly like girls. It’s lame.”

“I get that,” Richie says finally, and Eddie is glad not to have to speak anymore. He feels as though he has over shared, or said something he should not have. But perhaps in this moment of vulnerability, Richie will reveal something, too. “When I came out as bi both my parents were kinda like, ‘Eh. We guessed.’ Which is… good and bad, in a way. At least they weren’t dicks about it.”

Bisexual? Thank you, God. I will take this information and use it for good.

Maybe this flirting isn’t for nothing.

“Yeah. That’s true,” Eddie agrees. “God, parents can really suck sometimes.”

“You’re telling me.”

It is quiet for a bit. Eddie does not know what else to say, so he just watches the stares. And he no longer feels Richie’s eyes on him, so he assumes he is doing the same. The stars are small at this distance, but all equally as beautiful. Each glows a bright white, each a separate story. Can I use this? Can I build a story off these stars? But as Eddie hears a soft sigh from his left, he turns his head ever so slightly to the man dozing off next to him, and he thinks, just for a moment, that maybe he can build a story off Richie instead.

 

 

It is six in the morning when Eddie finally reaches over and shakes Richie’s shoulder. Richie wakes, his glasses nearly fallen off his face during his sleep. The Public Garden opens at seven AM, so Eddie knows they should be leaving right about now, before it gets too light and they actually get arrested. As both men get up and stretch their lazy limbs, Eddie wonders how much sleep Richie gets on average; he seemed wide awake over the phone, and fell asleep without even trying.

“Let me walk you home,” Richie says to Eddie, digging his hands in his jacket pockets. He retrieves his pack of cigarettes and lights one. Taking a drag, he tilts his head towards the park entrance, silently asking Eddie if he is ready to leave. They begin walking, but Eddie remembers that Richie had walked Eddie home the last time they were out late.

“You walked me last time,” Eddie says. “I’ll walk you home. Which way do you live?” Richie blinks at Eddie, seemingly surprised by the offer. “Fair is fair.”

“No, really,” Richie says. “I’ll walk you to your dorm. I’m gonna need to go into work soon, anyway. I’ll just go in early and get started on the pastries. They don’t bake themselves.” As they approach the gates, and they both climb over to the other side, Eddie can’t help but think that Richie is being a little strange. Why wouldn’t he want to go home first, to shower or sleep some more? Especially if Southie is only fifteen minutes away from where Eddie goes to school.

Does Richie not want me to see his place?

 

 

A few nights later, Richie gives Eddie a call. It is ten at night, and Eddie is sitting at his desk doing some homework, Bill over at the dining hall getting a late night snack. As his phone vibrates, Eddie considers not answering at all, because he has dedicated this entire day to completing his recent assignments, but upon seeing it is Richie, he can’t help but answer with a sigh and a, “Hello?”

“Hello, hello, hello,” Richie says into the phone, and Eddie can hear the smile in his voice. “How’s my sugar today? You haven’t come to get coffee.”

“I’m doing homework,” Eddie replies, putting his pencil down. He kicks his feet off, pushing his desk chair away from his work and turning his full attention to whatever Richie is calling about. “Bill picked up a coffee for me from the dining hall this morning because I haven’t left the dorm all day.”

“Yowza. A lotta work then?” There is a lilt to Richie’s voice that causes Eddie to believe Richie is hopeful. Eddie is almost done with his psychology homework, and that only leaves statistics, which he probably wouldn’t even do tonight anyway. “You up for a distraction?”

“Are you not the distraction?” Eddie chuckles.

“I’m the first part,” Richie states. “Beverly is having a thing. Wanna be my plus one?”

“What’s in it for me?” Eddie tests, his bottom lip between his teeth. Of course he’ll say yes, because any time with Richie is good time, but what exactly is this thing? And what does being a plus one imply?

“Uh.” Richie pauses, thinking. “Booze and some good music?”

“Okay, sure,” Eddie says. “When is it?”

“Like, right now. Actually, ten minutes ago, but I contemplated calling you and killed some time,” Richie admits. Eddie’s heart warms, and he sinks into his chair a little, awed.

“Why contemplated?” Eddie asks, truly curious.

“Thought maybe you wanted a break from me and that’s why you didn’t come in,” Richie answers nonchalantly. “But I decided I’d invite you. As if you’d ever want a break from me. Anyway, I can meet you at your dorm building in five minutes? Oh—and feel free to bring your roommate! I’m bringing Stan. Might as well get everyone acquainted.”

“Sure! See you then.” Eddie is excited. He hangs up and shuts his notebook, leaving it on his desk so he can simply pick up where he left off tomorrow morning. After pulling on a pair of shoes and tugging on his jacket, Eddie opens Bill’s contact, ready to shoot him a text, but the door to their dorm pushes open and Bill trudges in lazily. “Bill! Richie invited me to his friend Beverly’s house. They’re just gonna drink and stuff. Wanna come?”

“D-Drinks? Hell yeah,” Bill says without a second thought. He drops his bag on his bed and reaches for his jacket spread across his sheets, pulling it on swiftly. “I-Is the c-cute cashier gonna b-be there?”

“Yeah, actually.” Grinning cheekily, Eddie watches as a smile pools across Bill’s own lips. “You guys can get to know each other. It’ll be good.”

“A-And I’ll finally g-g-get to meet this guy y-you’re so into,” Bill adds. “Nice.”

The two men head downstairs to meet Richie, who is already waiting for them. He grins at Eddie and runs a hand through his messy curls upon seeing Bill. Richie slings an arm across Eddie’s shoulders, pulling him close, his eyes tracing Bill’s form as he says, “You must be Bill! I’ve heard so much about you. I’m Richie.”

“H-Hey,” Bill says politely.

“My friend’s got his eye on you, did ya know?” Richie asks, and Eddie knows he is referring to Stanley. Unsurprisingly, just like how Bill has had eyes for Stanley, Stanley has had eyes for Bill. “He’s already at Bev’s place. I’ll introduce you two officially. Let’s roll.” They walk to Beverly’s house (Richie mentions she only lives a few minutes away from his apartment) and they make it to Beverly’s house in short time. She lives inside a larger complex, but as soon as Richie knocks on Beverly’s apartment door, it swings open, revealing the hectic inside. There is music blasting, and from what Eddie can see, Mike is dancing in the middle of the living room, his shirt unbuttoned. Ben and Stanley are both out of sight.

“Hey guys!” Beverly says cheerily, a bottle of beer in hand. “Come inside, come inside! Hey! What’s your name, cutie?” she asks Bill. Before Eddie can stick around for Beverly and Bill to introduce themselves, Richie takes his hand and tugs him inside, leading him straight to the kitchen. Beverly’s apartment is small, a studio type; it seems as though there is the living room (where Mike is dancing and Stanley is sitting on the couch), which is connected to the kitchen, and a small standoffish bathroom toward the back. Eddie imagines he would live somewhere similar if he were off campus.

“What’d ya want, sugar? I’m mixing drinks tonight, not making coffee.” Richie grins.

Eddie shrugs and tells Richie, “Make whatever.” To which Richie’s grin only widens. “Nothing too sweet,” Eddie warns, because his sweet tooth is not as evident as Richie’s. As Richie makes their drinks, Ben comes out from the bathroom and waves at Eddie. “Benny boy! Nice to see ya. You already got somethin’ to quench your thirst?” Richie asks. Eddie rolls his eyes; Richie is always the people person.

“I’m good. I’ve had a few beers,” Ben replies. “How are you guys?”

“Fine,” Eddie answers.

“Poor Eddie was cooped up inside all day studying,” Richie adds. “I swooped in and saved him. Isn’t he a lucky guy, Benny?”

“Sure is,” Ben agrees. “Who’s that with Beverly?”

“That’s my friend Bill,” Eddie says, eyeing where Beverly, Mike, Bill, and Stanley are all sitting on the couch, laughing and talking. “She gets along with everyone, huh?” Eddie does not mean anything by the comment, it is a compliment if anything, but something flashes across Ben’s face that does not sit well with Eddie. But Ben just smiles, excusing himself to go sit with the others. As Richie slides Eddie’s drink across Beverly’s kitchen counter so it stops right in front of Eddie’s hand, Eddie furrows his brows. “Did I say something wrong?”

“Nothing wrong, sugar,” Richie says, taking a sip of the drink he made himself. “You’re right. Bevvy does get along with everyone. Sometimes Ben just gets jealous.”

“What’s that whole thing about? They used to date?” Eddie is only curious, and they are far away enough from the others to talk privately. Besides, the music is blasting so loudly those sitting on the couch couldn’t eavesdrop without turning the volume down first.

“Not exactly.” Richie comes over to where Eddie stands and hoists himself up to sit atop the counter, beside Eddie. “They’ve known each other since middle school, and they’ve always kinda had a thing for each other. At least, that’s what Beverly told me. But she says she’s young and doesn’t want to be tied down, so as long as Ben is willing to wait for her…”

Oh.

“And Mike’s her fuck buddy, or what?” Eddie infers as Richie takes a huge swig of his beverage. The vulgarity of his comment makes Richie choke on his drink a little.

“Yeah, something like that. But she has a few, he’s only one.”

She sleeps around a lot? Well, if I was half as beautiful as her, I would, too.

“Come join us, will you?” comes Beverly’s loud shout, her pearly teeth on full display as she waves Richie and Eddie over. Richie hops off the counter and goes to her, sitting on top of the couch cushions just beside her head. Eddie follows, but sits beside Mike on the sofa, his drink in hand. He doesn’t exactly know what Richie mixed him, but it is not too sweet and tastes like it would be found in a divorced dad’s alcohol cabinet. Though it is oddly satisfying on the tongue. “What were you two talking about over there?”

“Only how ravishing you look tonight,” Richie replies, the lie dripping too easily from his lips.

“Charming.” Beverly giggles, then her whole face lights up. “Rich! How’s Pepperoni?” While the question stumps Eddie, it makes Richie giddy.

“She’s good,” Richie says. “Happy and cuddly.” Eddie glances at Bill who shrugs his shoulders and takes a sip of the beer Beverly must have given him.

“Who’s Pepperoni?” Eddie asks. And what kind of name is Pepperoni?

“My cat,” Richie replies simply.

“You have a cat?” Eddie doesn’t know why he is surprised; plenty of people own pets. But the thought of Richie cuddled up beside a cat makes Eddie’s heart want to leap directly out of his chest. That’s a sight Eddie truly wants to see. “I didn’t know that.”

“I sure do have a cat, and she’s my whole fricken world!” As Richie and Eddie engage in conversation over Richie’s cat, Eddie notices Mike stand up and start moving his hips to the beat of the new song that has started to play. It does not take long for Beverly to follow Mike to the living room floor (which has been deemed the dance floor, seemingly), and shockingly, Stanley and Bill go to dance, too, having worked some alcohol into their system.

“When’d you get her?” Eddie asks, intrigued. The fact that Richie is a cat owner just makes him all the more attractive; he’s good looking, interested in boys, and he has a soft spot for animals. Eddie wants to just melt into Richie.

“I got her the day I moved out of my parents’ house.” Richie smiles fondly at the memory. “I was eating a slice of pizza when she meowed at me from behind a dumpster. She looked hungry, so I tossed her a piece of pepperoni… Checked her for a collar but she didn’t have one, so I brought her to my apartment and made her my new roommate.”

“That’s cute.”

“She’s a real cutie pie. Sucks I’m allergic.”

“You’re allergic?!” Eddie is a bit disturbed. Raised by a hypochondriac, Eddie knows it is not a good idea at all to expose yourself to your allergy, depending on how severe.

“Yeah, but I couldn’t just leave her on the street!”

A new beat starts, and Richie snaps his finger at the realization of what song is playing. He looks to Eddie and says, “Wow. I love this song. Gotta dance. Come dance, sugar.” But Eddie shakes his head no and downs the rest of his drink, gesturing to the kitchen as if he is silently telling Richie he’s going to go for a refill. Richie pays Eddie’s excuse no mind and grabs Beverly’s hands instead, swaying her to the music and dancing with her. Eddie tries not to feel jealous, but Richie tugs her close and laughs into her hair, and Eddie knows that could be him if he weren’t so concerned about looking stupid. Maybe after a few more drinks Eddie will have the confidence it takes to dance in front of an attractive guy, to let loose and have real fun.

Eddie makes himself another drink by pouring different substances into the same glass and deciding it tastes fine. It doesn’t taste anything like what Richie made, but alcohol is alcohol. Liquid courage, Eddie thinks as he tilts his head all the way back and downs the entire cup of his concoction.

When the song ends, Beverly comes to the kitchen to grab another beer from the fridge. She glances at Eddie and smiles gently, like she knows of Eddie’s jealousy.

“Enjoying yourself?” is all she asks as she pops the bottle of her beer off straight into the trashcan. She takes a quick sip.

“Yeah, thanks,” Eddie replies. It is quiet for a moment. Beverly slides her tongue across her bottom lip as she stares at Eddie, possibly considering.

“I wouldn’t sleep with him,” she says to Eddie. It is obvious him is Richie. It is also obvious Eddie did not do a good enough job acting as though he doesn’t care who Richie dances with. “He’s just a friend.”

“I wasn’t—“ Eddie goes to deny what Beverly’s implying, but she cuts him off.

“So you weren’t. I’m just putting it out there.” She winks. “Uh oh,” she mumbles, watching as Richie approaches the two of them with his arms outstretched for Eddie. Finally Eddie is starting to feel the effects of his drink. Thank fucking God. “Your time has come, Eddie, have fun.” Beverly leaves to go back to the living room, whooping at Mike’s dance moves.

“Come dance with me, sugar. Wanna see you move.”

“Fine, fine.”

Richie cheers and takes Eddie’s sweaty palm, though he makes no mention of Eddie’s obvious nerves. Eddie is less embarrassed then before, but still equally as bad of a dancer. Richie only laughs, slurring, “Move your arms, Eds! It’s easy!” in an attempt to get Eddie to let loose. Which he does eventually, after training his eyes on how Richie moves shamelessly to the music, like embarrassment has never been anything but a stranger. Watching Richie like this, Eddie suddenly realizes, with several drinks in his system, that Richie is one of those people that comes into your life for a reason, and that reason might be to give Eddie inspiration, but Eddie thinks it might also be to make Eddie the best version of himself.

The hours begin to pass, and while Eddie is sobering up, Richie is only becoming more intoxicated. He even ran to the bathroom on a few different occasions to puke. Everybody other than Richie is asleep somewhere in the apartment. Mike fell asleep on the kitchen counter, somehow, Ben on the floor leaning against the fridge, Bill on the living room floor, and Stanley in the corner of the living room with a pair of sunglasses on and a bottle of tequila in hand. Richie thinks he’s been dancing with Beverly for the past thirty minutes, but in reality, she passed out not so long ago on the couch next to where Eddie sits. By the time Richie falls to the ground for the tenth time, he looks around sluggishly, his eyes searching. When his gaze falls to Eddie, he smiles dopily, an amusing sight. As he raises his finger to point at Eddie, he slurs, “Take me back to your place, sssssssugar.”

“No way,” Eddie shoots back immediately, chuckling a little. Richie is so out of it. “You’ll vomit all over my bed. I’ll take you home. What street do you live on?”

“Nooooooooo,” Richie whines, standing up on wobbly legs. He looks quite funny, but at this point Eddie mostly feels bad for him. Richie walks over to Eddie slowly, cautiously, and he towers above Eddie as he says, “Sleep now.” And then he collapses at Eddie’s feet with a loud bang. Eddie is startled, and moves his feet out from under Richie’s torso. He pokes at Richie’s unconscious body with his foot, and upon not getting any response whatsoever, he checks Richie’s pulse with his index and middle finger. Better safe than sorry. But Richie is breathing, so Eddie figures him sleeping on the floor is okay.

“He just knock out now?” Ben says, and Eddie hadn’t even noticed he woke up recently. As if he can read Eddie’s mind, he smiles and adds, “He woke me up.”

“Sorry,” Eddie says sheepishly. He pulls out his phone and checks the time. 3: 07 AM. “It’s late.”

“Yeah,” Ben agrees, his eyes on Beverly as she sleeps beside Eddie. Eddie bites his lip. He wants to ask about this whole situation, but how does he do that without making things awkward? Without seeming like he’s prying, when he’s really just curious?

“How long have you known Beverly?” Eddie decides to ask. Ben doesn’t skip a beat.

“Since we were in middle school.” Then he chuckles, rubbing his mouth with his fingers as he seems to recall a good memory. “She still calls me ‘new kid’, the nickname everybody at our school had for me.”

“That’s cute. I know Bill from when I was younger, too… how did you meet Richie?”

“Through Beverly,” Ben answers easily.

“Ah,” Eddie breathes. “I should’ve guessed.”

“Yeah. There was a time he used to cling to her like a lost puppy. I feel like everybody does that with Beverly… she’s just so easy to like.” Ben is so kind, and thoughtful, and sweet. And perhaps still a little drunk. Eddie doesn’t know what to make of the situation between Ben and Beverly, but it is not really his place to have an opinion on any of it. As long as nobody is getting hurt, Eddie thinks. But before he can reply, Ben stands up and excuses himself to the bathroom.

 

 

The next morning, Eddie groans, his head pounding, and before he even opens his eyes, he stretches his arm out to the right of him, desperately searching for his cell phone. When he finds it, he hovers it a few centimeters above his face and opens his eyes slowly, trying his best not to be disturbed by the sudden light. The time reads eleven in the morning, well past Eddie’s morning class, and Eddie’s eyes immediately widen. Shit. He sits up from where he fell asleep on the floor and runs a hand through his hair, stressed, but then he thinks about it. What if this is what he’s supposed to be doing? Maybe he’s just supposed to be okay with it; he is experiencing something new, learning how to write what he knows, as Richie has been trying to tell him.

“You look so cute when you’re sleeping, sugar.” Eddie nearly jumps out of his skin, his eyes whipping over to where Richie is standing at the kitchen counter drinking a glass of water. Richie is smiling.

“Morning,” Eddie replies, voice morning raspy. Placing his phone back on the couch, he pushes his weight off his palms and stands up, stretching out his arms with Richie’s eyes still trained on his form. “Does Beverly have any painkillers?” Glancing around at the others, Eddie is secretly glad to find them all still asleep. A little alone time with Richie sounds nice right now, especially when his curls are flying in a million different directions and the bags under his eyes are managing to look an aesthetic galaxy purple.

“Got them right here,” Richie says, holding up a container of Tylenol. Eddie walks to Richie and takes the pill container gratefully, pouring three capsules out and swallowing them dry. “How’s your hangover?”

“A fucking nightmare,” Eddie says, hoisting himself to sit on the counter, on a spot directly to the left of Richie. Richie has to look up to keep eye contact now. This would be such a good angle to kiss someone, Eddie thinks. But he quickly shakes that thought away.

“I bet.” Richie grins. “How’d you sleep?”

“Like I was in a coma.” Eddie snorts, then realizes he had a dream that he can’t quite remember. He remembers fog, and the ocean, but that’s about it. He also thinks the dream was strange, but that’s more of a feeling he gets. “Had a weird dream.”

“What was it about?” Richie asks, his arms on either side of Eddie. They are positioned differently now, with Eddie sitting directly in front of Richie. This is not how two friends should be.

“I can’t really remember now,” Eddie says honestly. But then suddenly he gets a vision from the dream, an image of a handsome man. That’s all. The rest is a blur.

“Dang. I hate when that happens.” Eddie hums in reply, trying not to think about how much he would enjoy a kiss from Richie right now. Friends don’t kiss, Eddie has to remind himself. “Want some coffee?”

“Yes, please… wait, who opened Brewed Awakening up this morning?” Eddie asks, his head turning to see Stanley who is still passed out on the floor.

“Nobody. Stan opens up everyday.”

“What?”

“Yeah. He doesn’t give me a set of keys, so I guess we’re just closed for today.” As Richie goes over to the coffee machine, Eddie thinks about their business and how it will inevitably fail if they slack off like this. But Eddie bites his tongue about his opinion; it’s too early to get into an argument.

“Won’t the owner get mad?” is the only question Eddie allows himself to ask.

“Probably. I dunno. Stan’s pretty friendly with him. Maybe he’ll let us off the hook.” Richie isn’t stressed at all, so Eddie takes that as a good sign and stays silent as the coffee brews. Richie doesn’t turn back around to look at Eddie. He just stands near the coffee machine with a hand stuck halfway through his hair, tugging slightly as if to relieve some tension. Richie’s company is nice, even if he and Eddie are just friends. So what if Eddie has a little crush? Crushes are okay—nice, even. They make Eddie feel like a teenager again, being giddy when he’s around, sometimes anxious. Sweaty palms and budding feelings can most often be the best.

 

 

“What do you mean you haven’t eaten anything all day?” Eddie snaps, brows furrowed and eyes glued to Richie as he bunches up his apron and tosses it in the backroom. It is three in the afternoon and Eddie has picked up his iced latte order. Richie had engaged in conversation (as per usual) and dropped in to the conversation, as if not at all concerning, that he has not consumed anything other than coffee since the previous day. “Do you know how unhealthy that is? Malnourished is the last thing you wanna be. You need to eat.”

“I will, I will. But dinner’s right around the corner, I might as well just wait.” Richie shrugs, coming around the corner to stand next to Eddie. There must be a real reason Richie doesn’t want to eat right now, but Eddie is stumped trying to guess what it is. “I promise I’ll eat dinner.”

“You know what? I’m hungry, too. We can go eat at my school’s dining hall,” Eddie states, because he needs to know right now if Richie has an issue with eating. Thankfully, Richie seems to jump at this opportunity.

“Really?” he asks, a grin settling on his face. “Wait, can you even do that? Don’t you need to swipe in?”

“The guy who monitors the swipe-ins is in my statistics class. I let him cheat off my paper sometimes. He’ll let you in,” Eddie says simply, waving goodbye to Stanley. “It’s just down the block, come on.”

“Wow! It’s my lucky day. A free meal with my sugar.” As they walk out of Brewed Awakening and start down the street, Eddie wonders if money is the issue. It seems probable; Richie is in his early twenties, working a full time job, doesn’t go to any physical school (though Eddie assumes Richie attends online school), and he hasn’t mentioned much about his parents… “This it here? Wow. This looks fancy. I’ve passed by this building so many times. They were doing construction on it a while ago, right?”

“Yeah. It’s the nicest dining hall we have,” Eddie says as they enter. He holds the door open for Richie and approaches the swiping station, thankful his classmate is working today. “Hey, Andy. Wanna do me a favor?”

“Hey, Eddie,” Andy replies, and his gaze immediately drifts to Richie, who is looking all over the building in awe, as if he has never seen a meal in his life. “What’s up?”

“Wanna do me a huge favor and let my friend come in with me? He doesn’t go here but he’s starved.”

“Uh… I don’t know if I’m authorized to—“

“Do me this one favor and I’ll act like you’re just naturally good at math,” Eddie says softly, not wanting Richie to hear. “Okay?” he grins. Andy doesn’t say anything, just narrows his eyes before nodding slowly. “Thanks. I owe you one.” Eddie swipes in and ushers Richie to come in with him, which he does. Eddie quickly finds an empty table and puts his backpack down, waving a hand in the direction of the general food stations. “Pick out whatever.”

“Aren’t you hungry?” Richie asks.

“No. I just said that so you would come with me.”

“Sly,” is all Richie says before he takes off toward the pasta and salad section. Eddie sits down and only waits a few minutes before Richie comes back with a full plate. It looks like he got a little of everything, as if he’s trying to stuff himself so full he doesn’t have to be hungry ever again. “This looks great! Thanks, sugar.”

They sit in silence for a few minutes. Richie eats without saying much and Eddie scrolls through his phone, not wanting to disturb their silence. Once a quarter of Richie’s plate is gone, he talks with his mouth half-full and Eddie pretends not to be grossed out, “The list.” Eddie nods and rummages through his backpack’s front pocket in search of Richie’s list. He pulls it out and scans it quickly before turning it over to Richie, who searches quickly before slamming his pointer finger down on number one.

“I’m not eating fire, Richie. I don’t even know what you mean by that. It’s so vague,” Eddie says, crossing his arms. This is the one thing on the list he is completely and undoubtedly serious about.

“It’s on the list,” is Richie’s reasoning.

“You made the list—of course it’s on the fucking list,” Eddie replies. Richie sighs, putting down his fork.

“It’s easy. Just watch me do it once and you’ll be less scared. Basically, you light a cotton ball on fire—“

“No, no, no.” Eddie shakes his head. “I already hate it. Fire is like my one no.”

“You seem to have a lot of no’s,” Richie mumbles, stabbing his fork into a piece of lettuce. Eddie narrows his eyes. “Whatever. Now your future story is destined to falsely portray house fires.”

“Those two things have absolutely no correlation, but okay,” Eddie says.

“Cross it off, I guess.” Eddie pulls out a pen and scribbles out the list, which they have made little progress on within the last few weeks. Neither man says anything more, but Eddie watches Richie’s gaze as it wanders around the dining hall. He chews his food slowly, examining the atmosphere, then he says, “So… your school is pretty gay, huh?” Eddie snorts out a laugh.

“What makes you say that?” he asks, though Richie is not wrong.

“Everyone is so artsy. I would’ve killed to go to a school like this.” Eddie is about to ask Richie what he means, but Richie is quick to whip his gaze back to Eddie and continue rambling. “Do you have a lot of friends?” he asks. Eddie shifts in his seat.

“Mostly just Bill. He’s my roommate, too, so it’s easier. But there are a few people inside our major I like okay.”

“Huh,” Richie says before he begins scarfing down the rest of his plate. He makes little comments here and there, how that kid dresses cool, and how Richie wishes he could pull off dyed hair, but for the most part Eddie just listens. By the time Richie is done eating, he looks like he’s ready for a nap.

“Did Stanley let you off work early today?” Eddie asks, curious. Usually Richie works ridiculous hours, probably because he needs the pay.

“Yeah. He lets me off some days when it’s slow, or when I have plans.”

What plans?

“That’s nice,” Eddie says.

“Believe it or not, underneath Stanley’s intimidating exterior he’s a really loving guy. He’s been my best friend for so many years and he loves me, no matter how many times a day he says he hates me.” Richie smiles, and Eddie mirrors his look, grateful Richie has someone like Stan in his life.

“That’s sweet,” Eddie replies.

“Stan is the sweetest,” Richie states. There is a beat, and Eddie decides to ask.

“Do you have plans today?” He realizes how straightforward the question is only after he says it. He has a brief moment of embarrassment, but what’s done is done. Richie doesn’t look the least bit bothered; he leans back in his seat and stretches his arms out across the booth.

“You wanna take up some of my time or what, sugar?” Richie laughs as Eddie’s cheeks turn red. “I’m kidding. But yeah, I’ve got improv in like an hour. I should probably get going.”

“Improv?” Eddie questions, interested.

“I dabble in that and acting lessons.” As soon as Eddie says this, Richie’s phone goes off. Richie pulls his phone out and scans the screen, his eyebrows shooting up. “Shit. I forgot I was supposed to go early to help my friend with something. Rain check, sugar?” he stands up and takes his plate with him. “Where do I put this?” Eddie points a finger lazily to the tray cart near the bathrooms. “I’m gonna drop this off and head out. Thanks again, Eds! I really needed this. Text me!”

“Yeah.” Eddie stands up and grabs his backpack. “Have fun at improv.”

When Richie leaves, Eddie does, too. He goes back to his dorm to finish some homework. Sitting at his desk, scribbling math problems with light pencil, Eddie’s eyes fall to the paper boat sitting on his hand, in the space between his thumb and the side of his wrist. In that patch of skin that he never thought would be tattooed. It is beautiful, and meaningful, and Eddie will never not be entranced by it. Though he would never admit it, he secretly thinks there’s hidden power snuggled in the thin, black lines. And then, as he stares at the art that is stained to his body for eternity, Eddie thinks he might have an idea.

Chapter Text

Two months has passed since Eddie was assigned his thesis, and thus, it has been two months of being friends with Richie Tozier. Richie has quickly become one of Eddie’s favorite people; he is funny, charming, sweet, and he, just like Eddie, is undeniably addicted to caffeine.

Eddie sips away at his coffee, planning out the potential story idea that has been floating around in his head. Out of the corner of his eye, Eddie can see Richie watching him shamelessly. Richie often sits at the table while Eddie works. Eddie pretends not to enjoy it. Though Richie is partially responsible for Eddie having an idea in the first place, Eddie has yet to mention anything about it. And up until now Richie has not asked.

“Whatcha doin’?” Richie asks casually. He sits with his arms sprawled out on the table between him and Eddie, his head resting atop his left, eyes teasing.

“Nothing,” Eddie says, grinning slyly. He doesn’t want to give Richie any clues, none at all. All that has been done for this thesis idea is brief planning; some plot points have been listed, but nothing beyond that. Eddie wants to take his time, make sure everything is just right before he jumps right into writing. His eyes flicker to the clock on his laptop. It is almost nine—closing time. “I should probably head out soon.”

“Me too,” Richie agrees, standing up from his seat. He reaches to take off his apron and points a thumb toward the back of the shop, beyond where Stanley leans against the register reading a book. “Wait for me and I’ll walk you. I need my jacket.” Eddie smiles and zips open his backpack.

“Okay,” Eddie replies, packing up his things. As Richie goes to retrieve his jacket, Eddie slips on his sweater and pulls his backpack over his shoulder. “Good night, Stanley.” Stanley looks up from his book and offers Eddie a slanted smile.

“Night, Eddie. See you tomorrow,” Stanley replies. Richie puts his hand up for Stanley to high five, but Stanley just gives him an unamused look. “Take him with you, will you, Eddie?”

“Don’t you worry Stan,” Richie says. “I’m escorting this cutie back to his dorm. I’m out of your hair for the rest of the night.” Richie and Eddie leave Brewed Awakening and walk down to Eddie’s housing building down the block. When they reach the outside, Eddie turns to Richie, expecting Richie to say good night and make movement for his apartment, but Richie just looks at Eddie blankly. “What?”

“You gonna walk me all the way upstairs this time?” Eddie asks, mostly joking. But Richie just smiles.

“Would I be a gentleman if I did not?” Richie shoots back.

“You’re hardly a gentleman,” Eddie says, but he brings Richie upstairs with him anyway. During the elevator ride, Richie is examining everything, same as he did in the dining hall that one time. And as Eddie leads Richie down the hall to his dorm room, Richie is quiet but attentive. When Eddie unlocks the door and goes inside, he notices Bill is not here and shoots him a quick message letting him know Richie is here. Bill doesn’t reply. Eddie is silently thankful their room is always tidy, neat, everything in its place. As Richie gazes around the room, a new feeling settles in Eddie’s stomach. It is as if he is finally realizing how nice it truly is to have someone that is not Bill around, and how particularly nice it is that that someone is Richie Tozier.

“That’s Bill’s side,” Eddie says; Richie is standing over by Bill’s desk, looking at all the knickknacks and grazing his fingers over his belongings. It’s too quiet. Eddie only said that to break the silence. It isn’t as if Bill would really mind Richie’s presence, or him poking at his things. Richie nods, and then shifts his gaze to the view from the dorm window. It is a beautiful sight, an overview of The Public Garden.

“You like it here?” Richie asks. Eddie furrows his brows.

“Boston?” Eddie asks, needing clarification for a question so vague and unexpected.

“I meant the school. College in general… how is it?”

“Good…” Eddie narrows his eyes, confused. Richie is still facing away from him. “Don’t you go to school?”

“Nah,” Richie says, shrugging. Finally he faces Eddie, swiveling his body around and leaning against Bill’s desk. “I couldn’t afford it.” And Eddie feels bad, because he had no idea and hadn’t bothered to ever ask.

“What would you have gone for?” Eddie asks, genuine curiosity eating up at him.

“Drama.” This rises a smile out of Eddie. Sadly Richie does not mirror the look.

“You really like acting, huh?”

“Yeah,” Richie answers, crossing his arms. Thoughtful. “Always wanted to be an actor.”

“You don’t still want to be?” Eddie doesn’t know why he’s so invested. He just wants to know. There is an ache in his body, an ache to know everything about Richie’s passions, and aspirations—an ache for Richie.

“Of course I do. But the chances of making it are even slimmer when you don’t study it.” Richie’s words are sad, but he shrugs it off and slaps a smile on his face, like it is that easy to fake happy. And maybe for him it is. “It’s whatever.”

It’s not whatever.

Nothing about you is whatever.

“I should probably head home to feed Pepperoni,” Richie says, pushing his weight off the desk. He walks towards the door, Eddie’s gaze lingering, and turns to Eddie with one last grin. “See you tomorrow, sugar.”

 

 

To say Richie and Eddie text all the time is a bit of an understatement. And to say Eddie loves it is a huge understatement. They text about everything: Richie’s improv, Eddie’s classes, Bill/Stanley’s moods, how Beverly is doing—the list goes on. They have also developed a system for Eddie’s coffee order. Before he goes into Brewed Awakening, Eddie texts Richie to let him know, so by the time Eddie walks in, Richie has his order ready to go and they both have prime flirting time. Today is no different. Eddie strolls into Brewed Awakening, smiles at Richie, and reaches over the counter to take his drink. Stanley must be in the back room today; he is missing up front. Grinning, Richie bids Eddie good morning and Eddie does the same. This is so perfect, Eddie thinks, as Richie talks about his day so far. The only thing that would make this more perfect is if we were together, not just good friends.

“How’s your thesis going?” Richie asks, breaking Eddie from his thoughts. Shifting on his feet, Eddie considers telling Richie about his planning, but decides against it to avoid questioning. Class is soon, so Eddie doesn’t have so much time, unfortunately.

“You should already know. It’s not,” Eddie lies.

“Don’t worry, sugar. We’ll do another thing on the list real soon! I’ll ask Stan what day I can have off.” Richie has been working, and has not been up for doing much during the nights like he has been previously. Eddie hasn’t questioned it. He just thinks Richie’s terrible sleeping schedule is finally catching up with him.

“Okay. What are we doing next?” Eddie asks. Richie leans his full weight against the counter and flutters his eyelashes cutely, eyeing Eddie.

“It’s a surprise!” Richie says cheerily.

“Didn’t I tell you I hate surprises?” Eddie shoots back, a smirk playing at his lips playfully.

“You should be used to them by now.”

Before Eddie can form a witty reply, Stanley shouts from the backroom: “Richie! Stop slacking off!”

Richie frowns, yelling back, “There aren’t even any customers here!”

“I should get to class anyways,” Eddie interjects, almost reaching for Richie’s hand to comfort him. But he stops himself and puts his arm by his side, his other hand busy holding his latte. “I’ll text you.” Richie doesn’t look so content, but nods and says goodbye. Eddie smiles and goes to the front door. As soon as he shuts the door behind him, Eddie feels his phone vibrate in his back pocket.

 

[8:08] from honeybun: come back

[8:08] to honeybun: why? did I forget something??

[8:08] from honeybun: my heart ;)

[8:09] to honeybun: ok bye

 

 

A few days pass and Eddie has been non-stop planning, and non-stop coffee drinking. He is sitting in his dorm room, and it is around four in the afternoon, when his phone goes off with a text from an unregistered number. As Eddie scans over the message, the first feeling he gets is uneasiness. He pushes back in his chair, away from his laptop, and decides to answer the message:

 

[4:02] from unknown: eddie?

[4:02] to unknown: maybe who’s this?

[4:02] from unknown: it’s ben

[4:02] to ben: oh hey what’s up?

[4:02] from ben: richie gave me your number. Wants me to paint you

 

For a brief moment, Eddie is stumped. Richie wants Ben to paint me? But then Eddie remembers the list, and how he’s sure this has something to do with that. It is a strange thing to put on a bucket list, sure, but Richie must have put it there because he knows it is attainable, and easy to complete, on Eddie’s part, anyway.

 

[4:04] to ben: oh! Sorry

[4:05] from ben: no worries! I always need to practice. when are you free?

[4:05] to ben: mostly nights and afternoons but sometimes i have class. what’s best for u?

[4:07] from ben: nights work for me too! Going back on the road kinda soon, so how is tomorrow night?

[4:07] to ben: tomorrow’s good! is richie gonna be there?

[4:10] from ben: I think he is, yeah

[4:10] to ben: i’ll ask, if not what’s your address and what time should i be there?

[4:10] from ben: i’ll share my location and how is 8?

 

Eddie shoots back an OK to Ben and opens up his texts with Richie, quickly sending him a message asking if he’ll be there tomorrow, to which no immediate reply arrives. Eddie shrugs it off, though disappointed, because he knows Richie is probably just busy with work and can’t get to his phone right now. Richie doesn’t text back until tomorrow night, when Eddie is about to leave for Ben’s place. Richie’s message is short and sweet

 

[7:26] from honeybun: hope ur not mad sugar been super busy with work n improv c u soon xoxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxmissu ;)

 

Eddie does not reply, perhaps in silent protest or perhaps because he is going to see Richie within the next thirty minutes. Over the past two months, Eddie has gotten more comfortable with riding the T, so when he swipes in to take the green line, he is not stressed like he previously was. The train ride is easy, and before Eddie knows it he is at Ben’s apartment building, which is little but very nice looking. The first door is unlocked so Eddie lets himself into the lobby area only to see the door to the right of the hallway is cracked open by someone’s foot. He hears Richie’s distant laughter, and the door pulls open to reveal Ben’s tall figure.

“Eddie, hey, we were just waiting on you,” Ben says. He gestures for Eddie to come inside, so Eddie does. Richie is sitting on Ben’s couch with a glass of wine in his left hand, his right running through his curls anxiously. By the looks of it, everything is set up and ready to go for the painting session. Eddie hears the front door shut behind Ben and feels Ben come up on his side, grinning.

“Sugar! You didn’t reply to my text.” The first thing Richie says. To put on a show, Eddie slides his phone out of his pocket and acts like he’s reacting to seeing Richie’s message for the first time. “Huh. You didn’t see it?” Richie frowns, and Eddie isn’t sure why he’s feeling upset with Richie in the first place. He shrugs it off and offers Richie a friendly smile.

“I was on the T, sorry,” he says. Richie doesn’t look like he buys it, but smiles back anyway.

“It’s okay. Ben’s mighty excited to paint you. Aren’t ya, Benny?”

“Sure am, just let me grab my brushes and we can get started… you can go sit on the stool by the window, near the easel,” Ben says to Eddie, and then he walks off into a room toward the back of the apartment, leaving Eddie and Richie alone in the living room area.

“I really was busy,” Richie breaks the silence, standing up and walking over to where Eddie is. If they were dating Eddie imagines Richie would reach out and stroke his hair, but they’re not, so Richie’s hands remain by his side and Eddie pretends not to be disappointed. “I work full time, sometimes overtime. We’re understaffed. You know this, Eds.”

“I know,” Eddie replies. I don’t know why I’m mad, he wants to say, we’re not even together so I don’t know why I’m acting like we are. “Sorry for being a dick.”

“You weren’t being a dick.” Richie shakes his head and crosses his arms, leaning back on the balls of his feet with a charming grin on his face. “You were just jealous. It’s okay, sugar. I get it. But—for the record, you have nothing to be jealous of.”

“I wasn’t jealous,” Eddie says, rolling his eyes, though they both know he totally was. Neither man says anything else; Eddie’s eyes glide over to Ben’s easel and the stool he is to be sitting at soon, when all eyes are on him and Ben’s brush is tracing him like some kind of old antique drawing. “Fuck. I’m nervous,” Eddie admits, a little embarrassed. “I don’t know how to do stuff like this. Like at all.”

“You’ll be fine,” Richie says, and Eddie wishes the raspiness of Richie’s voice was calming to Eddie’s nerves. “You just sit there and look cute. You do that everyday.” Not only is Eddie anxious, but now he’s also blushing. He feels his breath quicken, and there is no way he’s doing this here. Just calm down. In and out. Breathing is easy. Eddie is so in his head he almost feels as though he is sinking into the floor, and suddenly he is alone, alone, alone. “Hey, hey,” Richie says, dripping back into Eddie’s consciousness just as easily as he had slipped out. “It’s okay. Benny’s real nice and it’ll be relaxing. Think of this as time to sit and think. Plenty of time to brainstorm ideas, right?”

Richie’s here, Eddie thinks as he gazes up at the pretty man with curly hair. Exhaling deeply, Eddie feels Richie’s hand on his shoulder, but thinks it might have been there for a while and that he’s just now feeling it. It’s okay. It’s just a painting.

“Maybe you’ll even like it,” Richie says with a shrug, and Ben comes back into the room with a pot of brushes and a cup of water. “Go take your seat, Eds.” Eddie goes over to sit down near Ben’s easel and Ben comes over to start his color palette. Nobody says anything, not even Richie, who walks over to the couch and plops down, his eyes glued to Eddie like he has never known anything else. And it gets Eddie thinking.

Richie is sweet to Eddie. The kind of sweet that entrances Eddie, makes him fall head first into his feelings and digs him into a hole so deep he can’t even go about trying to get out. No matter how many times Eddie tries not to think about it, or denies it, he likes Richie. As a friend and as more; it was inevitable—falling for Richie. Because how can Eddie not when Richie makes it so damn easy? When he’s charming and witty and has a smile that could make anybody happy, even on the saddest of days?

The painting session begins, and Eddie holds his posture, remains blank-faced, and thinks. Thinks about how he likes Richie, and how sometimes it feels like Richie likes him back. But Richie seems the straightforward type, so if he likes Eddie, wouldn’t he just come out and make a real move already? By now Eddie knows the basics of Richie’s personality, and flirting is just who Richie is. He flirts with Eddie and Beverly, and Mike, and other people as well. That’s just him. His flirting with Eddie probably doesn’t mean anything.

The entire time Ben is painting, the room is silent. Richie watches, Eddie stares off into space, and Ben works at his art. It is an interesting thing, to witness a painter in their zone. Eddie wonders if he looks similarly when he is writing. With focused eyes and well-trained hands, Ben cautiously swishes his brush across the canvas, his tongue peeking out from between his lips, making him look overall very professional. Eddie tries to keep his eyes steady on Ben’s poised figure, but it is extremely difficult not to let his gaze glide over to Richie. Especially when Richie has never looked like this. His eyes a haunting chocolate, glued to Ben’s easel, never wandering, or teasing, and his hair flopped over his head in its usual chocolaty mess, yet not a word from his mouth that Eddie has come to love so much. Eddie almost thinks something is wrong, because with Richie so quiet, surely something must be.

Eddie tries his best to be a pleasure to paint, to sit there and look cute, like Richie says he does so flawlessly. But he feels ridiculous, and embarrassed, sitting there with the pressure to look pretty when he never feels anything such.

After a long while, Richie rises from his spot on the couch and goes up behind Ben, humming and stating, “It almost looks as cute as the real thing. Really good job, Ben.” To which Ben simply smiles and continues mixing shades. Eddie tries not to allow redness to puddle at his cheeks, and if it does neither Ben or Richie makes any note of it. Eddie just hopes the color doesn’t transcribe to Ben’s painting.

Finally, Ben says, “I’m done. You can move now, Eddie.”

Letting out a large sigh, Eddie stands up from the stool and stretches his limbs. He is oddly exhausted, though he didn’t do anything but sit in a chair and stare for several hours.

“Wanna see?” Ben asks, placing his brush down.

“Yeah. Show me.”

And it’s beautiful. It’s him, but it’s the most beautiful thing Eddie has ever seen. He is in inexplicable awe. As Eddie stares at Ben’s masterpiece, he feels Richie’s arm around his shoulders, a comfortable warmth booming throughout his chest at the unexpected contact.

“Oh my God,” is all Eddie can manage, lips parted and poised, in shock. “This is amazing… God, Ben, you’re so talented.”

“Thanks, Eddie,” Ben replies warmly.

“There’s a reason you’re always going on tour, buddy,” Richie says, grinning. The three of them stand before Eddie’s portrait, each admiring Ben’s craftsmanship with only the upmost appreciation.

“Thank you so much,” Eddie says again, because it feels as though he will never thank Ben enough. Thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule, for doing Richie this favor, for painting Eddie when there are truer models out there in the world. “Seriously. Thanks.”

“It’s fine,” Ben says easily. Richie slips his arm off Eddie’s shoulders and says he’s going to the bathroom, so while he’s out there is quiet between Ben and Eddie, until Ben asks: “Do you want it?” Eddie would, but the thought makes him feel a little foolish.

“Having a portrait of yourself is kinda weird, no?”

Then comes Richie’s loud shout. “I’ll take it!” He comes up beside Eddie with his large smile and snakes his arms around Eddie, pulling him in for a hug though Eddie is facing away from Richie’s chest. Eddie chokes out something of a laugh.

“That’s somehow weirder than me taking it,” Eddie states. Ben laughs.

“Sort it out,” he says. “I’m gonna clean my brushes.” Ben leaves the living room area for the room in the back again, and Eddie assumes this is his bedroom. Eddie doesn’t say anything, he just continues to look at Ben’s painting and wonder how that is really him, because it is. It both is and it isn’t. Eddie shakes his head, in debate with himself on how this painting could look so much like him but still feel so different. Turning to look at him, Richie watches Eddie with the steadiness Eddie watches the painting. Eddie only knows this because he can see it out of the corner of his eye.

“You don’t like it?” Richie asks, presumably trying to read the confusing look on Eddie’s face.

“No, no,” Eddie says, quickly meeting Richie’s eyes. “I love it. It’s just… it doesn’t really feel like me,” he confesses, but he regrets it as soon as he says it. “Sorry. That’s weird. That doesn’t make any sense.”

“No, I get it,” Richie agrees, removing his arm from Eddie’s shoulders and instead burying his hands deep within the pockets of his black jeans. “I felt the same way the first time Ben painted me. Feels like it’s you but somehow separate, right? Like you in an alternate reality.”

“Yeah,” Eddie beams, smiling, because Richie gets it. Somehow, in a world where Eddie feels as though he makes no sense, Richie is here to shine a light on his most inexplicable thoughts. Eddie thinks about an alternate reality where him and Richie never met, where Richie never got transferred to the new Brewed Awakening location, where Eddie never fell inevitably, or where he never got an idea for his thesis.

What a dull reality that is.

“I get you, sugar,” Richie says, and Eddie wants it in print. “We’re like two peas in a pod, huh?”

Feels like it.

“Not if you say it like that.” Eddie groans.

“Like what? I’m just saying the truth.”

Ben comes back in the room with a smile on his face, like he knows something Eddie and Richie don’t, and part of Eddie is convinced Ben does. Whistling innocently, Ben plops his freshly cleaned brushes back down next to his easel and brings out a can of something. He sprays the painting of Eddie and then tosses the can on his living room couch.

“Decide who gets to keep you?” Ben asks. “If not, there’s still time to bicker over it; the painting needs over 24 hours to dry. Just make sure one of you comes to pick it up before I leave for work again.”

“Sounds good, Benny boy,” Richie says, and he claps a hand to Ben’s broad back. “Thanks for doing this. Beautiful work as always. Never a disappointment.”

“Thanks, Richie,” Ben says, eyes kind. “Where you two going for the rest of the night?”

Eddie is about to say nowhere, that he needs to study, but Richie’s voice unsurprisingly cuts him off: “We haven’t decided yet. I’ll be over to pick up the painting, Ben. Text me a few hours before you’re set to leave and I’ll make my way down here.”

“Sure, Richie.” Ben laughs. “See you guys.” Richie and Eddie say goodbye and head for the door, and on their walk downstairs to the main lobby of Ben’s apartment building, Richie has already stuck a lazily lit cigarette in the corner of his mouth. Eddie tries not to roll his eyes, because he still is not fond of Richie and smoking, but if Richie smokes then so be it, it’s not any of Eddie’s business or concerns (or that is at least what he tells himself). As they exit the building and the night air flicks into Eddie’s personal space, Richie hums the chorus of a song Eddie vaguely recognizes.

Eddie doesn’t know where they are going from here, or if Richie will actually return to Ben’s apartment in 24 hours to retrieve Eddie’s portrait and do God knows what with it. Richie gazes up at the sky and Eddie sits in this comfortable silence. Eddie wonders if Richie does not tire of Eddie’s company, like how Eddie does not tire of Richie’s.

Then Richie asks, “How do you feel about public nudity?” and Eddie thinks perhaps he can tire of Richie’s company. Shifting uncomfortably on his feet, an old habit Eddie has never been able to break, Eddie wants to know if Richie has always been this blunt, or if something happened to make him this way.

“That’s blunt,” Eddie thinks out loud. Richie doesn’t say anything, just takes a drag of his cigarette and holds it between his index and middle finger, awaiting a proper response. Eddie sputters, “Uh, like most people I’m not so fond of it… why?”

Richie whips out a copy of the list he made, which Eddie didn’t even know he had, but he isn’t surprised. Before showing the list to Eddie, Richie takes out a pen and scribbles something out. As Richie sticks his cigarette to sleep on his bottom lip, he leans closer to Eddie and drags his finger down the list, guiding Eddie’s eyes to number four.

“Number four, my friend,” Richie says.

 

[

RICHIE’S EXCITABLE, SUPERB, ENJOYABLE LIST OF FUN THINGS

  1. EAT FIRE
  2. JUMP OFF A CLIFF
  3. GET A TATTOO
  4. GO SKINNY DIPPING
  5. HAVE YOUR PORTRAIT PAINTED
  6. CRASH A PARTY
  7. STARGAZE AT 3 AM
  8. GO TO TIMES SQUARE
  9. TRAVEL SOMEWHERE NEW
  10. TRUST A STRANGER

]

 

The first thing Eddie notices is that half the list is completed, minus number one which Eddie refused to do, but Richie has so kindly crossed it off anyway.

The second thing Eddie notices is 4. GO SKINNY DIPPING.

Palms clammy, Eddie shakes his head profusely and meets Richie’s gaze.

“As if I’m doing that shit,” Eddie says. He takes a step away from Richie and sticks his hands in his jacket pockets. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Come on, Eds! I know you want an excuse to see my junk—well, here’s your chance.” Richie grins smugly. As Eddie parts his lips to deny Richie’s childish accusation, Richie steals the breath from Eddie’s lungs with a quick wink. “Get it while it’s hot!” he says, chuckling. Eddie blushes, a dark color staining his cheeks undoubtedly.

“Where would we even go skinny dipping, Rich?” Eddie asks, playing along with the idea to not seem like so much of a coward. Though, he totally is. “There’s no place in the city.”

“Park fountain?” Richie suggests, which earns him an immediate glare from Eddie. Clearing his throat, Richie gestures back to the list still in his hand and points out another number to Eddie. “Number 2: jump off a cliff. We’ll kill two birds with one stone. We’ll drive out to the country, find a cliff over a pool of water, go for a swim, just me and you.” There’s his signature Richie smile. “Waddya say?”

“I say you’re insane,” Eddie answers. There’s no way I’m doing any of that.

“You always tell me that,” Richie states, crossing his arms. “I’m starting to think you telling me I’m insane means the same thing as ‘I like you’.”

“You wish,” Eddie says, scoffing. When in actuality, Eddie is silently panicking, with words of you’re totally right whooshing through his mind.

 

 

A few days later Eddie receives a phone call from Richie. It is very like Richie, to call the same day Eddie and him are leaving for their skinny-dipping-cliff-diving-extravaganza without giving Eddie any warning. “Hello?” Eddie answers the phone with a yawn; it is a Monday morning and he’s just skipped out on his class, too lazy to even leave his bed but still productive enough to prop his laptop open on his lap and type up some more of his story planning.

Eddie does not hear Richie’s obnoxious but somehow sexy voice in reply, instead he hears lyrics to a popular 90s song. “Sugar! Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum! Ohhhhh, honey honey!” Eddie pauses his typing on his laptop and says, “I’m hanging up.”

It’s too early for this bullshit.

“No, Eds! Sugar! Don’t hang up. I was just joking around,” Richie says, the song being turned down to a soft level of volume. “We’re leaving today, for naked cliff diving. Or did you forget?” If Richie were in Eddie’s dorm room right now, Eddie would shove him flat on the floor.

“You never told me that,” Eddie says to Richie, annoyed but now annoyed and anxious at having to go skinny-dipping. “I can’t just pick up and leave right now, Rich…” Glancing at the dirty laundry decorating his dorm room floor, and the 2000 word count taunting the bottom of his word document, Eddie bites his lip. “I’m too busy right now,” Eddie lies. He is absolutely not busy.

“You’re busy,” Richie repeats back, as if even he knows it is a lie. “And why aren’t you in class right now?”

“Because… I’m so busy I needed to miss class time to make up on work?” It comes out sounding more like a question than Eddie had intended.

“Oh, of course.” Thankfully Richie plays along. “Well, I’ll be over in about an hour to pick you up. I gotta pick up Mike’s car from his place. All you need is a towel.”

“Richie—“ Eddie sighs.

“See you soon, sugar!” And the call ends. Because Richie hangs up.

On the list of all things Eddie is dreading this must be number one. Because Eddie Kaspbrak does not go skinny dipping with a man he has only known for two months. He doesn’t follow the list of crazy things said boy makes, and doesn’t turn into putty at just the sound of said man’s voice. Eddie Kaspbrak doesn’t do any of those things, because Eddie Kaspbrak abides by the rules, and he always has.

But then… Eddie Kaspbrak hasn’t been acting very Eddie Kaspbrak-like lately.

And so Eddie gets out of bed and pulls out an empty backpack from his closet to pack.

Just a towel and the clothes I’m wearing, Eddie thinks, because Richie was vague with any instructions, as he so often is. Eddie cleans his dirty clothes off his and Bill’s floors, and makes his bed, and leaves his laptop sitting on his desk for when he gets back, charging so there will be plenty of battery to write. By the time Richie calls again, Eddie is sitting on his bed listening to music and trying hard not to have an anxiety attack over being naked in the same space as Richie.

“I’m downstairs,” Richie says.

“Okay. I’ll come down,” Eddie replies, voice loud in the receiver. He hangs up without another word and throws on his jacket, slipping his backpack straps over both shoulders afterwards. The elevator ride down to the lobby is quick, and then it seems to hit Eddie that he has no clue where he is going or what time he will be back. He decides to text Bill before he goes outside.

 

[9:07] to bill: hey im about to drive out of the city w richie idk when ill be back but if i die just know u were a great friend

 

Eddie is half-joking.

 

[9:07] from bill: what r u 2 doing?

[9:07] from bill: and lol ur not gonna die

[9:08] to bill: cliff diving

[9:08] from bill: omg like we used to do in derry. have fun

[9:08] to bill: naked

[9:08] to bill: we’re going cliff diving naked

[9:08] from bill: that’s hot

[9:08] from bill: ill b home late, out w stan n mike

 

Eddie rolls his eyes and pushes his phone into his back pocket. Taking a deep breath, he pushes the door of his housing building open and is immediately met by a sleek, black car parked right upfront. It’s a nice car, something a teacher would drive, so Eddie guesses it suits Mike’s persona pretty well. The car honks at Eddie, and Eddie puts his hand up in greeting or perhaps surrender, walking up to the passenger door and opening it in one swift motion. Richie glances at Eddie, a beautiful smile on his face and a freshly lit cigarette in between the fingers of his hand, which is settled on the car’s wheel in a relaxed fashion.

“Car order for Eddie Kaspbrak,” Richie says, lifting his cigarette to his lips. He takes a long drag and turns his head to exhale out his opened window. Then he turns back to Eddie, says, “Hop in, sugar,” and presses down hard on the car horn.

“Shut up!” Eddie says, and Richie retracts his hand, the streets going quiet. Eddie glances around the streets to see if many people are looking their way, and plenty of people are. Quickly, he sits down into the passenger seat and slams the door shut. “Fucking drive. You’ll be lucky if campus police don’t give you a ticket.”

“Yowza,” replies Richie. “I can’t afford a ticket. Buckle up, sugar!” And he slams his foot down on the gas pedal, speeding them down the street and straight into traffic. The ride out of the city isn’t that long, and before Eddie knows it they’re on the highway heading nowhere. He wants to ask where they’re going, but settles on not doing so, because for the first time in Eddie’s life, he’s aching for a little mystery. Richie has changed him some, admittedly.

The radio switches on, and Richie twists the dial until he settles on a station he likes okay. It’s show tunes, and Richie drums the beat on the driver’s wheel, cigarette still in hand but almost burned to its end. Eyeing his habits with interested eyes, Eddie realizes Richie is mumbling the lyrics to the song under his breath, like the words come so easily it is second nature, and maybe it is.

“What musical is this from?” Eddie asks.

“Kinky Boots,” Richie answers without missing a beat. “My favorite musical.”

Eddie has heard of Kinky Boots before, but he doesn’t know anything about the plot or the music. But this song is upbeat and loud, though it is being played on a low volume, and Eddie is inevitably curious.

“What’s it about?” he asks. Richie looks to Eddie with a large grin.

“It’s about this amateur shoemaker who teams up with a drag queen who has good shoe designs,” Richie states simply. “It’s more complex than that, but it’s something you really gotta see to get. I can’t just explain it to ya, you know?”

“Yeah,” Eddie agrees. “Have you ever seen it?” And this look flashes across Richie’s face. A look Eddie has never seen Richie wear before. It is a look of awe, and love, like Richie is looking back on a good memory and reminiscing in the past.

Stars in his eyes, Richie answers, “Yeah. I have. Stan saved up for my birthday and took us both out to see it. We took the train out to New York City and had the best time ever.

“That sounds so fun,” Eddie says, grinning. “Do you wanna be on Broadway one day?” Richie chuckles.

“Come on, Eds,” he says in disbelief.

“What? I’m serious. It’s just a question,” Eddie says.

“Okay. Yeah. Sure, I’d like to be on Broadway one day,” Richie says. “As if my mediocre training in acting can get me anywhere.”

You can do anything.

“You won’t get anywhere with that attitude.” Eddie crosses his arms and opens his window a smidge, just so there’s a little more circulation.

“Huh. I guess you’re right,” Richie says. “What about you? Am I gonna buy your books off a shelf one day, or?”

“Hopefully,” Eddie replies. “It’s always been my dream to publish a book series.”

“What would it be about?”

“I can barely think of an idea for my thesis.” Eddie rolls his eyes. “All in good time.”

“All in good time,” Richie repeats, then he turns the radio up and drowns the car in sound.

 

 

The cliff is a big jump, even compared to the cliff Eddie used to jump in Derry. Richie pulls the car to a stop near the trees and parks soundly. They sit in the car for a second, both admiring the view, before Richie says: “Grab your things and let’s head out.” He opens his car door and slams it shut, leaving Eddie alone to think. Eddie watches as Richie peers over the cliff, his face blank. Sighing, Eddie pushes the passenger door open and drags his bag along with him over to where Richie stands.

The water is a nice deep blue, and Eddie wishes he knew the temperature. On a sweaty day like this, Eddie hopes the water is nice and cool, which seems relatively promising. With his arms behind his back, Richie goes back over to the car and tugs his backpack out of the backseat, putting his glasses in the small pocket. Eddie starts to walk over to Richie but stops halfway when Richie suddenly yells, “Race you!” and pulls his shirt over his head.

Richie begins his run back over to the edge, stripping shamelessly along the way, his briefs and pants coming off in one swift motion, and before Eddie can even think about getting a good look, Richie is jumping over the edge of the cliff and plummeting down into the water. Eddie races to the edge, and there’s Richie swimming all the way at the bottom, looking similar to a speck of dust at this distance.

“You’re insane!” Eddie shouts.

“I like you, too, sugar!” Richie calls back, and it echoes across Eddie’s heart.

Backing away from the cliff’s edge, Eddie is nervous. This has got to be the craziest thing Eddie has ever done—skinny-dipping with a guy he doesn’t know so well. Not even Bill has seen Eddie naked. Eddie doesn’t want to strip down, but that’s the whole point of this trip, and there’s no backing out now, not when Richie is thirty feet below swimming naked in a pool of open water. Hesitantly, Eddie pulls off his shirt, blush evident across his chest because he has always been a full body blusher. Next the briefs and shorts come off, and before Eddie can reconsider, he throws himself off the cliff and closes his eyes so tight there is no way even a tiny bit of water could sneak in and disturb his vision.

At least he’s only nude underwater, Eddie thinks as he goes up to the surface. Richie is grinning, squinting.

“See? That wasn’t so bad,” Richie says.

“Shut up.” Eddie blushes. His eyes drift down to the water around them. It is unexpectedly clear. Eddie’s body immediately folds into itself, not comfortable with the tuft of hair below his lower abdomen being on full display in front of Richie. Richie just laughs, not embarrassed or uncomfortable by Eddie’s wandering eyes whatsoever. Eddie wants to know how Richie became so confident. It must have been hard. It has taken a long time for Eddie to even be remotely okay with himself. Confidence seems like a wet dream.

“Whatcha thinking about?” Richie asks as Eddie drifts away from him, wanting distance between them. There are water droplets decorating the apples of his cheeks, dripping down to his chin cutely, his black curls soaking with water and slicked back maturely.

You. I’m thinking about you.

“Nothing,” Eddie says. “What’re you thinking about?”

“How cute you are,” Richie answers, and there’s that confidence so high Eddie’s envious of it. “You’re so innocent it makes me wanna scream. There’s just this adorableness to you I can barely stand.”

Will I ever not be blushing around him?

“You don’t mean that,” Eddie says.

“If I didn’t mean it I wouldn’t say it!” Richie shoots back smartly. Eddie bites his lip and sinks further into the water so only his eyes are within Richie’s gaze. They must be at least ten feet apart now. “Where’s my compliment?”

Staring at Richie, Eddie considers goofing off, cracking a joke like they both do so often. But something wills him to be honest for once, and so he says, “You’re pretty great, Rich.” And the genuine grin that spreads across Richie’s face is so worth it.

“Oh, do tell,” Richie replies, swimming on his back with his eyes still glued to Eddie. “In which ways am I ‘pretty great’?”

Oh, don’t make me do this.

“Well,” Eddie starts, pretending to think long and hard.

“Oh, come on,” Richie whines.

“You make good coffee,” Eddie states. “And you’re fun to be around. And you’re smart.”

All around perfect.

“That’s all?” Richie questions, amused.

“I guess I like your curly hair, too,” Eddie says, pursing his lips. I did not just say all of that out loud.

“Oh, you guess,” Richie throws back in Eddie’s face. “Okay. I guess I like how much you blush.”

Shut up. Stop talking right now you idiot before I develop even more of a crush on you.

If that’s even possible.

“Whatcha thinkin’ about now?” Richie asks.

You. How much I like you. How much I can’t believe I like you.

“What would you say if I said ‘you’?” Eddie asks in a brief moment of bravery. Shock flashes across Richie’s face. And then—a deep blush puddles across his cheeks.

“I don’t know what I’d say,” Richie replies honestly. “What about me, would you hypothetically be thinking of?”

Everything. Absolute everything. You from head to toe, just you.

Eddie shrugs. He doesn’t know what to say, so he doesn’t. Richie seems okay with it; he’s swimming on his back, floating further away from Eddie, into peacefulness, into bliss. Eddie tries to do the same. The water is cool against his skin, like the summer breeze across chapped lips. Time passes quickly, with more chattering from the boys, and playful splashing like they are still in grade school. It is fun, Eddie thinks. The fact that neither of them are wearing clothes anymore isn’t so embarrassing. Richie doesn’t stress it, so Eddie learns not to either.

When the tips of Eddie’s fingers are wrinkly, he decides it’s time to get out of the water. Richie agrees, and so they swim over to an area with flattened land, making it easier to get out of the water. As Richie is about to hoist himself up and out, Eddie tugs on his arm and says, “How are we supposed to get our clothes if they’re at the top of the cliff?” Richie looks at him, blinking.

“That’s a good question, sugar,” Richie says.

Oh, fuck.

Eddie already feels his body turning red, and Richie seems to notice his panic quickly.

“Don’t worry!” Richie says. “I’ll go get our clothes.”

You’ll what?

“…You’re going to walk up the cliff… naked…?”

“Well I don’t have my clothes, so yeah.” Richie shrugs a shoulder, and Eddie cannot help but think that this is not a shoulder-shrugging situation. “I’ll be quick,” Richie adds, as if that is what Eddie has an issue with. Without a second thought, Richie rushes out of the water. Eddie tears his eyes away. “No peeking!” he hears Richie say, laughing, but something tells him Richie already knows he isn’t looking.

Richie is gone for at least twenty minutes. Eddie swims in the water, bored, waiting, hoping Richie didn’t totally ditch him and drive off with all his clothes. Shuddering, Eddie tries his best to keep an open mind. Thankfully, Richie appears off in the distance, fully dressed, clothes sticking to his soaking body, Eddie’s towel and dry clothes shoved under one arm. He approaches Eddie and stares down, offering his free hand to Eddie to help hoist him out of the water.

“Are you forgetting I’m completely naked?” Eddie asks, knowing he’ll get a cheeky response but not caring.

“Maybe,” Richie says smugly, dropping his hand. “I’ll leave your clothes right here and I’ll turn around so you can change, okay?”

“Okay.” As soon as Richie turns around, Eddie gets out of the water. He dries off in a rush, doing his best to get dressed hurriedly. When he is done he lets out a sigh of relief. In truth, he was worried about how Richie could turn around at any given moment and get a good look at Eddie’s everything. “You can turn around now.”

“I missed the free show,” Richie says, grinning. “Just joking with you, sugar.”

“Yeah,” Eddie huffs. “Why didn’t you drive the car down here so we wouldn’t have to walk up the cliff again?”

“I didn’t think that far. I just knew there was a prince down here in need of being saved,” Richie states. “That’s you, by the way. The prince. I saved you.”

“I got it, thanks.”

 

 

They’re on the road again, with Richie driving and Eddie gazing out the window.

“I’m hungry,” Richie says. Eddie looks at him. “Let’s go get food.”

“I could eat,” Eddie breathes. He doesn’t know how long they’ve been driving, or how close they are to getting back to the city. It’s almost eight PM, though, and it’s just Richie and Eddie. To Eddie it feels like this is how it was always meant to be, the two of them, together, open road, open mind.

Richie pulls into the closest drive-thru, which happens to be McDonalds. Eddie doesn’t know what to order, so when Richie tells the employee what he wants, Eddie says he’ll have the same thing. It’s an easy decision, and he’s hungry enough to eat whatever comes. He can’t remember the last time he had McDonalds. As a child, Eddie was never allowed to eat fast food because of his overbearing mother. But he’s an adult now, so fuck it.

Richie pulls over in the parking lot to eat his food. The radio hums a soft tune to the sound of both of them chewing. Eddie avoids Richie’s eye contact and eats his burger, and it’s not half bad. Richie enjoys his food; he’s done in less than five minutes, lighting up a cigarette as dessert.

“How long have you been smoking?” Eddie asks, not judgmentally. He’s curious.

“Uh, since I was like… twelve? I dunno.”

“Twelve?” Eddie’s mouth gapes. “That’s so young.”

“I used to steal cigarettes from my dad and hide them under my bed,” Richie says fondly. “I grew up with smokers, what can I say?”

“My mom would never,” Eddie admits, appetite gone at the thought of his mother. He drops the remainders of his food into the bag the food came in, done. “She’s a total health freak.”

“I remember you mentioning something like that,” Richie replies. “Sucks. No parent is perfect.”

“You can say that again.” Eddie sighs. Then it is quiet, nothing but eyes. Richie’s eyes trace Eddie and Eddie’s eyes trace Richie. Neither man says anything; they don’t have to. This moment of silence somehow says it all. “We should probably keep driving.”

“Yeah,” Richie says, and the engine roars to life. The drive is relatively quiet. The radio is on. Richie sings along at a low volume. Eddie tries to nap, but he mostly just sits with his eyes closed, convincing himself into sleep. He doesn’t know if he can’t sleep because of Richie or because of the car. Maybe both.

When Eddie actually manages to sleep, the car pulling to a stop wakes him up shortly. His eyes flutter open. It’s dark outside now. The first thing he asks: “What time is it?”

“Nearly eleven,” answers Richie. Eddie glances over at him, still drowsy. He rubs his eyes, face scrunching. “We’re outside your dorm.” Eddie looks out the window and settles his gaze on his housing building. We sure are.

Turning his attention back to Richie, Eddie doesn’t want to leave. Being with Richie makes Eddie so carefree. It’s like he’s really living. Eddie doesn’t think he ever lived before meeting Richie. It’s as if two months of this life has changed Eddie completely as a person. Eddie doesn’t know if he truly believes in fate, but meeting Richie makes him consider the odds.

“So,” Eddie says, not knowing how else to break this silence. Richie purses his lips, hands dropped in his lap instead of gripping the steering wheel like they have been for the past who knows how many hours. The expression Richie wears is unfamiliar, almost…considering? Questioning? Hesitant? All Eddie knows is that Richie’s gaze is flickering from Eddie’s eyes to his lips, repeatedly.

Are you going to kiss me? After all this time, will you finally kiss me?

I hope you do.

It really feels like you might.

“I should probably go drop off Mike’s car,” comes Richie’s voice in a raspy whisper.

That’s not what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to grab me and kiss me like your fucking life depends on it.

“It’s late,” is what Eddie says in reply. They are both talking softly, like there is someone else in the car they might startle awake. But the only thing startling awake are the butterflies nesting in Eddie’s stomach. “Can’t you do that in the morning?”

Richie raises his eyebrows, surprised. “You inviting me upstairs, sugar?”

Eddie realizes how forward his question must’ve sounded. With a question like that, Eddie tries not to think about how he practically invited Richie downstairs.

“Just a place to stay,” Eddie says. “It’ll be too late to be taking the T back after dropping off Mike’s car. The crazies come out.”

“Okay,” Richie whispers in reply. They look for parking in silence, the air between them too delicate to disrupt. It isn’t even that late, but this day has been long, and exhaustion is finally claiming Eddie. When Richie finally finds a parking space, Eddie is fighting to keep his eyes open. “Wake up, my sugar. We have to walk a few blocks back to your dorm.”

“I’m wide awake,” Eddie lies, unbuckling his seat belt and pushing his door open. He holds his bag and jacket in both hands, and walks over to where Richie is buttoning up his coat.

“Put your jacket on,” Richie says. “It’s chilly.”

“Too lazy,” Eddie says. “I’ll be okay.”

“Here,” Richie says, taking Eddie’s jacket and bag from his hands. Putting Eddie’s bag on the sidewalk, Richie waves Eddie closer and motions for him to turn around, which Eddie does. Richie helps Eddie get his jacket on and Eddie turns back around, completely pliant. “You’re really tired, huh.” Richie zips up Eddie’s jacket and hands his bag back. They walk over to Eddie’s residence hall in silence, listening to the cars whoosh by and the passersby engaged in conversation, even at this hour. When they reach the building, Eddie swipes in and ushers Richie in front of him, waving hello briefly to the guard.

The dorm is empty. Eddie tosses his bag on the floor near his desk, and Richie puts his coat down in the same area. He looks around, examining all of Eddie’s and Bill’s things, as if he has not been here before. Eddie doesn’t say anything.

Eddie wonders if Bill is still with Stanley and Mike, so he sends him a quick text.

 

[11:23] to bill: where are u?

[11:23] from bill: at mike’s w stan still

[11:23] to bill: ;)

[11:24] from bill: never send that evr again. good night eddie

[11:24] to bill: gn billy luv u

 

“Bill’s at Mike’s place,” Eddie says. He doesn’t know why he tells Richie, but he does. Richie nods.

“Interesting,” Richie replies. “I wonder if Mikey is finally cutting off his loose strings with Beverly and committing to a full relationship. With two cute boys, no less.”

“He’s bi?” Eddie guesses.

“Pan, I think. Goes with whatever.”

“Are any of your friends not gay?” Eddie jokes. Richie cracks a grin at that, meeting Eddie’s playful eyes.

“Only Ben. No clue how,” Richie says.

“I couldn’t imagine being straight.” Eddie lets out a laugh.

“Me either. Too many cute boys out there…”

Me? Am I one of the too cute boys out there?

“Yeah?” Eddie says quietly.

“Definitely,” Richie replies. “This one in particular is… really irresistible.”

Richie likes him. That’s what Eddie knows for sure. Today has confirmed it in multiple ways, and Eddie’s heart is soaring. Richie’s taking his time, maybe, and that’s why he hasn’t made a move yet. Maybe he wants to get it right, maybe he needs to be sure Eddie wants something of this. Although Eddie isn’t sure how to be any clearer than he already is.

“Gonna be honest here,” Richie starts. “I’m so fucking tired. Driving sucks the life out of me.”

“Oh.” Eddie blinks, pointing a finger at Bill’s bed. “You can sleep in Bill’s bed. He won’t be back tonight, anyway. He wouldn’t mind.”

“Thank God,” Richie says, throwing himself atop Bill’s covers. He snuggles into Bill’s pillow, looking so cute. “This is so comfortable. Way better than my bed.”

“Your bed must feel like rocks, then,” Eddie states. “Dorm mattresses suck.”

“I might as well sleep on a bed of rocks. That’s sure what it feels like,” Richie mumbles into Bill’s pillow. His eyes are closed and he looks close to nodding off. Leaving the dorm door propped open slightly, Eddie walks to the bathroom and brushes his teeth and washes his face. When he comes back into the room, he thinks Richie is asleep, so he grabs his laptop from his desk and shuts off the light.

Propping his laptop on his lap, Eddie sits upright in bed. He recalls the day he has had, how happy Richie makes him, and decides that it is finally time to start writing his thesis. The brainstorming and the planning are both done. Eddie opens a new word document and pauses, thinking. He sits for a few moments. And then, as if exhaling for the first time in a long time, Eddie types the beginning of a story so dear to him.

The click of Eddie’s computer keys is music to his ears. It has been so long since he has heard them like this, a perfect symphony, the sound of creating.

“You got an idea then?” comes Richie’s tired voice, but he sounds happy. Eddie stops typing, looking over at the darkness in Bill’s space, the darkness in which he thought Richie had been sleeping.

“Yeah,” Eddie answers finally.

I think I was destined to meet you.

“Does it have a happy ending?” Richie asks.

Eddie thinks about Richie, about what Richie is to him, and how he is desperate to be more. They will have many more adventures, many more stories to tell; their friendship isn’t ending, it is only just beginning. And so, Eddie gathers all the courage he can muster, and he says, “I don’t know yet.”

Chapter Text

It has been four months since Eddie got assigned his thesis. He is not so stressed anymore; he has thought of an idea he feels safe in writing, an idea that spiraled from a certain curly haired man. Nothing has happened between Richie and Eddie, much to Eddie’s disappointment, and he isn’t quite sure why. They are such good friends, even in such short amount of time, and Eddie truly doesn’t think he’s ever felt this way about anyone else. Eddie has only ever had little, pointless crushes, mostly on straight boys in high school, and this is painfully new. Eddie doesn’t know how he’s been able to stand not kissing Richie every time he sees him.

Today, Eddie goes to Brewed Awakening with a huge smile on his face. The previous night had been terrific. He got so much of his thesis done—a huge chunk of it! And so he’s buying a large iced latte to reward himself, and maybe seeing Richie is a bit of a reward, too. But when he walks into the coffee shop, he sees Richie leaning his front against the counter, lips pursed and eyebrows furrowed, an angry look, and there are two older people speaking to him. Troubling customers, Eddie guesses. Just as Eddie is about to go put his things down at the table, the two older people turn and make for the exit. Confused, Eddie grips his backpack strap and approaches Richie at the counter. He still looks stressed from the previous conversation, running a hand through his messy curls before blowing out air from between his thin lips.

“Hey,” Eddie says.

“Hey,” Richie says back, not overly enthusiastic like usual. It seems that those two people sucked the happiness out of Richie. Eddie doesn’t like that at all.

“Who were they?” he asks, and Richie eyes the door.

His eyes still not on Eddie, he answers, “My parents.”

Oh.

“Do they stop by a lot?” Eddie asks, not sure what else to say. Finally Richie’s eyes flicker back to him.

“Nope. Never,” Richie says. “An iced latte, then?” Eddie is relieved Richie is jumping right back into their usual schemes; he isn’t sure what he would have said about Richie’s parents. He doesn’t know anything about them, so who is he to be judgmental over whatever he thinks just went down? He isn’t even sure what he thinks happened, but whatever it was, the Toziers were definitely not doing a friendly check-in with their young adult son.

“Yeah. Can I get the biggest size you have?” Eddie asks. Richie cracks a smile, going over to the cups and taking the largest size.

“Late night?”

“Yeah, actually.”

Richie makes Eddie’s drink without another word. When he’s done, he hands it over to Eddie across the display cases, not making any movement to punch the three seventy-five charge into the cash register.

“Want my money?” Eddie asks.

“No need. Stan’s not here today,” Richie says.

“It’s only four dollars.” Eddie chuckles. “I have the money. Just take it.”

“No can do,” Richie says, crossing his arms over the display case and resting his head against them. He stares up at Eddie dreamily. “New store policy. We’re not allowed to charge cute boys for their iced lattes.”

“You’re so full of shit,” Eddie says, but he still blushes. Sipping on his latte, Eddie is reminded of how wonderful the brew is here. “God. You may be full of shit but you know how to make a damn good latte.”

“Making lattes isn’t the only thing I’m good at.” Richie winks.

“Oh yeah?” Eddie plays along. “What else are you good at, then?”

“Well,” Richie starts, biting his lip. Eddie thinks he might sink into the floor. Flirting is so childish, but it’s so fun. “I’m good at baking, and… acting, and singing. Also… other things.”

“Other things, huh? Being good at other things is a valuable skill.”

Other things.

“Sure is,” Richie says, lifting his arms and head from the display counter. He stretches his arms above his head, gaze still trained on Eddie. “Maybe one day I can show you.” Eddie’s mouth runs dry, his fingers tightening around the cup he’s holding.

“Show me what?” Eddie asks, because what the fuck? Clarification is needed.

“Show you the other things I’m good at. If you want,” Richie says.

Oh, fuck yeah.

“How’s your thesis going, by the way?” And just like that Richie’s changed the topic. Hopping over the counter, he approaches Eddie’s usual table and sits himself down, eyeing Eddie with curious eyes, clearly wondering why he isn’t doing the same. Eddie goes over and sits down, setting his backpack next to the back legs of his chair. “You started writing it a while ago. When I stayed over. We haven’t really talked about it since, which is odd considering it’s the whole reason we became friends.”

Friends.

“I did start it,” Eddie says vaguely. He doesn’t want to give too much away. “I’ve been writing it. Pretty consistently, actually. I just reached the twenty page mark last night.”

“Yowza!” Richie grins widely, leaning his whole body across the table to get closer to Eddie. “That’s great, sugar! I’m so happy for you.”

“Thanks,” Eddie replies shyly.

“Do I get to know what it’s about?” Richie asks, still beaming.

“No way,” Eddie shoots back, smiling. “It’s a surprise. I’m not telling anybody what it’s about.” In fact, Eddie is a little nervous about Richie, specifically, knowing the plot. The story has been crafted, sculpted; it is vaguely based on the friendship that has blossomed between them.

“Not even Bill?”

“Not even Bill.”

“I’m sure it’ll be amazing. The best thesis I’ll ever read,” Richie says.

“God, stop,” Eddie sputters, trying to cover his blush with the sleeves of his coat. He pouts.

“No, I love when you blush.” Richie chuckles. Staring at Eddie, he sits back in his seat and sets his elbow on the table, leaning his cheek into the palm of his hand. This is the softest look he has ever worn. He looks in awe of Eddie, the look is written in the starriness of his eyes. “Will you dedicate it to me?” Richie asks, no jokiness hidden in the tone of his voice.

Yes. A million times yes.

“In your dreams,” Eddie says back, a close-mouthed smile claiming his lips.

 

 

Eddie walks into Brewed Awakening wearing only his jacket, no backpack slung over his shoulder, the crumpled up list Richie wrote for him buried deep within the front pocket of his jeans. Stanley is mopping the floors, and he waves politely at Eddie, even offering something vague of a smile. Eddie imagines Stanley, Mike, and Bill will be hanging out tonight, as they so often do. The three of them are officially dating, Bill told Eddie a few nights ago through giggles and burning red cheeks. They’re a cute couple, the three of them. The thought makes Eddie smile.

Richie is wiping the counter down with a dishrag, but upon seeing Eddie he grins and throws the rag over his shoulder. “You just missed us. We’re closing,” he tells Eddie. Eddie smiles back and approaches him carefully, not wanting to slip on the wet floor tiles.

“I didn’t come for the coffee,” Eddie replies. “I came for you.”

“Oh, did you now?” This makes Richie’s sappy grin widen. “What is it then, sugar?”

“Feeling a little stressed,” Eddie admits, and he pulls out the list from his pocket. Holding it out for Richie to see, Eddie says, “Number six?”

CRASH A PARTY.

“Oh hell yeah,” Richie says. “Let me call Bev. Stan—we’re going to a party, wanna come?” Stanley glances at both Richie and Eddie and pulls his mop up to a standing position, pausing.

“No thanks. We’re gonna watch movies at Mike’s place,” Stanley replies. ‘We’ as in Bill and him.

“Have fun,” Eddie says to Stanley.

“We will. Thanks. Have fun at your party.”

 

 

“All right, thanks,” Richie says into his phone. Richie and Eddie are standing outside Brewed Awakening looking for a party to crash. Richie is on the phone with Beverly, but soon hangs up and makes eye contact with Eddie, a grin on his face. “I have a location—Beverly’s friend, but she can’t come. So it looks like it’s just me and you, sugar.”

Just how I like it.

“Sounds good. Where does this friend live?”

“Some nice ass neighborhood. I’ve only ever passed it,” Richie says. “We can walk from here, it’s only like… fifteen minutes away?” Richie begins walking, hands dug into his pockets where his phone and cigarettes rest. Unsurprisingly, he pulls out a cigarette from his pack and lights it. “Want a drag?” he asks Eddie, and Eddie scrunches his face up, disgust.

“No thanks,” Eddie says. “I won’t ever smoke.”

“How come? Makes ya feel good,” Richie tries to level with Eddie, though he doesn’t sound at all pushy. Eddie sighs.

“My dad died of lung cancer,” Eddie states. He hopes Richie doesn’t feel too bad for him. In truth, Eddie barely knew his father. The only thing he knew is that he smoked too much and died, and that’s inevitably what led to Sonia Kaspbrak being a health freak. Eddie imagines that when his father died, Sonia grew worried Eddie would die of health complications, too, so she did her best to shield him from everything. Not that Eddie thinks that’s the right approach. Sonia just lost it a little. That’s what Eddie thinks.

“Oh, fuck,” Richie says, immediately tossing his cigarette over his shoulder. “Sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay.” Eddie shrugs. “I didn’t tell you. You don’t have to not smoke around me, I told you that before. Just know I don’t want to.”

“No, it’s fine,” Richie says. “Been wanting to quit, anyways.” Eddie knows this is not true, for Richie has never mentioned wanting to rid himself of this habit up until now. Eddie hates to think Richie will change for him, but the thoughtfulness of Richie’s desire to quit is strangely endearing, and it makes Eddie’s chest tighten.

“If you say so,” Eddie replies softly. “So do you know this guy? Beverly’s friend?”

“Not at all.” Richie smiles. “It’ll be fun. Number six does say crash a party. Not go to a party. No stress. We’ll get in just fine.” Eddie doesn’t doubt it. Richie has a way with words, as in he talks way too much but can still manage to get everyone to like him, shockingly.

They arrive at the guy’s house in no time, because Richie talks to fill up space and Eddie lets him. It must be around ten at night. Eddie’s ready for a drink, and he can tell Richie is, too, because he gets antsy as they walk up the steps. The music that is playing inside the house is pouring through the crack at the bottom of the door. The two men can hear it before the door is even pulled open—which it is shortly, by a short and stocky man.

“This isn’t even my party,” the guy says, gesturing with his hand at the mess of dancing and drinking behind him. He walks off without needing a word from Richie, and Richie grins widely down at Eddie, raising his eyebrows, quite pleased.

“That worked out great,” Richie says as they enter the house. He shuts the door behind him and is instantly pressed up against it due to the massive crowd of people they’re surrounded by. “Shit. I dunno who this friend of Bev’s is, but he sure knows how to throw a party. Let’s find the kitchen.” Richie grabs Eddie’s hand, and Eddie’s eyebrows shoot up. He hopes his palm isn’t too sweaty, but if Richie finds it is, he doesn’t mention it as he guides Eddie in the direction of the kitchen. There are drinks spread out across the kitchen counter, the fridge left open, revealing the hundreds of beer cans lined up inside. “This guy has gotta be an alcoholic. Holy shit. He doesn’t even have any food in there.”

“Your drink of choice, right?” Richie asks as he tosses Eddie a can of beer with his free hand. Eddie nods. He’s gotten so used to the taste of beer since it was all he used to drink. But he’s not opposed to other kinds of liquor, either. Anything that does the trick of making him let loose is just fine. Richie only lets go of Eddie’s hand when he goes over to the whiskey to pour himself a shot. He drinks it immediately, looking to Eddie. “You want one?” he asks as Eddie downs half his can of beer.

“Yeah, thanks,” Eddie says. As soon as Richie is done pouring a shot for Eddie, Eddie is done with his can. He isn’t one to chug beer so casually, but tonight he wants to get loose enough to dance and giggle with Richie. Richie hasn’t seen him like that, and Eddie wants him to catch a glimpse.

“You sure can drink,” Richie says, amused. “I like a man that can hold his liquor.”

“Don’t jinx me, moron,” Eddie replies, downing his shot.

“Which one of us is gonna vomit first?” Richie jokes. But before Eddie can reply, Richie cuts him off, “Definitely me. I drink way too much way too fast and vom like you wouldn’t imagine.” He wears a grin, but Eddie doesn’t take his words as a joke. It seems realistic, for someone as energetic Richie. “You don’t have any issues with puke, right?”

“None specifically,” Eddie says. Obviously like most people I am not crazy about it.

“Good. You’re gonna need to hold my hair back.” Richie pours himself two more shots and holds them in both his hands at the same time, drinking them one after the other. “Fuck! Hell yeah. Let’s go request a song. This music is absolute garbage.” Eddie smiles, and realizes he and Richie have never discussed music together, not that Eddie thinks Richie would be very much of a fan of his music taste.

Suddenly the music is turned up even louder, and Eddie knows he won’t be able to hear Richie if Richie says anything more. Leaning close to Richie, Eddie stands up on his tippy toes to ask, “Why? What do you usually listen to?”

“What do you think I listen to?” Richie asks, and Eddie smiles though he knows Richie can’t see. Richie’s eyes are elsewhere; they are pressed so close, side-by-side, that neither man can see their faces.

“I dunno,” Eddie admits. He doesn’t want to assume wrong, and he also genuinely has no clue. Indie rock, maybe?

“I’ll send you a playlist of my favorite songs,” Richie says, his breath suddenly hot on Eddie’s skin, lips ghosting a kiss to the shell of his ear. “Come on,” he says, grabbing Eddie’s hand again, and Eddie wants more, more, more. More until he can barely take it, more until he can barely breathe. They walk to wherever it is Richie wants to go, through crowds of dancing people and pairs of sweating bodies. They walk to the living room, where the speakers are booming and someone’s phone is plugged in. Richie does not hesitate to unplug the person’s phone and plug in his own. There are no shouts of disdain or anger toward him, much to Eddie’s surprise. The song that plays from Richie’s iPod is unfamiliar, but it has a lot of rhythm and instantly brings a smile to Richie’s lips.

Richie’s shoulders bump to the beat of the song as he grabs both of Eddie’s hands and pulls him to the side of the room, where they are still with the messy crowd but somehow more secluded. Eddie remembers the last time Richie tried to get him to dance, how uncomfortable Eddie felt, how he just wanted to sit and watch, but time has passed, and Eddie is more relaxed, whether that’s because of the alcohol pumping through him or the comfort that Richie seems to bring. Eddie dances, feeling a little loopy but letting Richie guide his arms into a swift motion. Grinning, Eddie watches as Richie shouts the lyrics of the song. He is not singing well, it is more of screaming, but his sound drowns out with the beaming music and happiness of the people around.

The song ends, and another plays, and Eddie doesn’t think he ever wants to stop dancing with Richie. Richie brings out the best in Eddie. Eddie knows this. If someone told Eddie four months ago that Richie Tozier would show him how to live, Eddie would laugh straight in their face. But somehow, in four short months, Richie has managed to show Eddie how to live a little carelessly—how to dance like nobody is watching.

Hours pass. People keep dancing. It is a party that will last all night. And Eddie gets drunker. Richie gets drunker. At one in the morning Richie and Eddie are a mess of limbs, pressed against each other so tight, both screaming the lyrics of a song at the top of their lungs, laughing, giggling, paying no attention to the way they are dancing because they don’t care. They only get off the dance floor when Richie’s cheeks puff out and he stops singing.

Snatching Eddie’s hand, Richie drags him across the floor and through the mass of people. Eddie is still smiling dopily. Perhaps he has not processed that Richie is about to vomit. Pushing into the bathroom, Richie slams the door shut and immediately vomits. At least he makes it to the sink, if not the toilet. Eddie blinks, his eyes fluttering, adjusting to the situation at hand.

“Oh, shit, Rich,” he says, helping Richie lean over the toilet. Eddie brings Richie to a sitting position and holds his hair back as he vomits repeatedly. Eddie tears his eyes away, sitting on the edge of the bathtub as Richie empties the contents of his stomach. He doesn’t say anything, just strokes Richie’s hair and lets him have it out. “That’s disgusting,” Eddie speaks finally, when ten minutes have passed and he thinks Richie is done.

“I feel like garbage,” Richie says.

“You don’t look too hot either, gonna be honest,” Eddie replies. He is still drunk, so he stands up carefully and runs the sink tap. Watching as Richie’s vomit washes down the drain, Eddie nearly chokes. He opens the overhead cabinet and finds a cup, which he fills up with water. “Here. Drink some water,” he tells Richie. Richie leans his back against the bathtub, his head tipped upward slightly as he downs the whole glass. Eddie gets him another, which he drinks compliantly. Eddie sits down next to Richie, a little confused because he has never seen him this quiet.

“I need to sober up a little,” Richie says. “The room won’t stop spinning.”

They sit quietly until someone starts banging on the door, yelling for them to “hurry it up or get the fuck out”. Eddie drags himself to his feet, holding onto Richie’s arm in attempt to get him to stand.

“Hold me up, sugar,” Richie says to Eddie, his words a little slurred as Eddie pulls him to his feet. Richie leans himself almost completely against Eddie. Due to their difference in height, and considering Richie weighs a lot more than Eddie, holding him upright is a difficult task. But Eddie manages, throwing Richie’s arm around his shoulder and bringing them both to the bathroom door. Eddie swings it open and nods his head at the guy who’s angrily standing before them. Pushing past the crowd, Eddie leads Richie and himself to the front door and outside. The fresh air feels so nice. Eddie lets out a sigh of relief.

“Where’re we going, Eds?” Richie asks, looking around them. The streets are empty because it’s so late at night (or early in the morning?) and Eddie doesn’t know where they’re heading. “Let’s go do something.”

“It’s one AM,” Eddie says to Richie, as if the time in itself is an explanation for what they can and can’t do. He pulls them both to a stop and helps Richie lean against the fencing of the house.

“So what? Let’s go see a movie.” Eddie crosses his arms, amused as he gazes at half-drunk Richie.

“I don’t remember that being on the list,” Eddie says.

“It isn’t.” Richie runs a hand through his hair. “I just wanna see a movie with you.” And Eddie smiles.

“Okay. Okay, yeah. Let’s see a movie. Which way’s the theater?”

“There’s one like…three blocks away, yeah. But it’s late, we won’t even make a movie, I think.” Richie tries to stand up, but stumbles a bit. Eddie catches his arm and levels him before he falls. Richie smiles his thanks and leans against Eddie for support again. “Maybe we can see the last thirty minutes of a movie. Let’s try anyways.”

Walking over to the movie theater, Richie rambles lots and Eddie just nods along to everything. By the time they’re at the movies, both of them are almost completely sobered up, so much so Richie can finally stand on his own again.

“Thanks for helping me out,” Richie tells Eddie, his hand on the small of Eddie’s back as Eddie stares up at him. And Eddie thinks: kiss me, kiss me, won’t you just kiss me? Richie doesn’t. Instead, he speaks again, “I’m good friends with one of the workers here. Maybe he’ll let us in for free to see the butt end of a movie.” He grins and opens the door for Eddie, and they go inside to see a man standing behind the ticket booth. The man looks incredibly bored, but he perks up slightly at the sight of Richie.

“Darren, just the man I was looking for,” Richie says, approaching the man quickly.

“Richie. Why are you here at,” Darren glances at the watch settled on his wrist, squinting, “one thirty four in the morning.”

“Here to see a movie,” Richie answers simply.

“There’s only one movie still playing and it ends in twenty minutes,” Darren says blandly. Richie stares at him, not saying anything. Eddie’s eyes flicker between the two men. Finally, Darren cracks and he sighs heavily. “Theater six.”

“Thanks! I owe you one,” Richie says.

“You now owe me several,” Darren replies.

“Can we get some popcorn?” Richie asks. Darren narrows his eyes.

“Don’t push it.”

“Okay! Just double-checking. Thanks again,” Richie says, waving goodbye. “Come on, Eds, this way. Theater six is the best.” Eddie is not sure how one theater could be preferred over another, because all the theaters are identical, but he doesn’t say anything. He has learned it is best to just let Richie ramble; it is what Richie does best. Theater six is mostly empty, because who wants to see a film that will run this late?

“Front row, best row,” Richie says.

“What the hell? Nobody sits in the front row. The front row is awful. It makes your neck hurt.”

You are so fucking strange.

“Fine, I’ll level with you. Second row. Now come on! We’re missing the best part!” Richie bolts to the front of the theater, and Eddie sees him slump into the first seat of the second row. I can’t believe I’m really sobering up in a movie theater when it’s almost two fucking AM. Sighing, Eddie goes to where Richie is sitting and takes the seat next to him. He’ll be lucky if he doesn’t fall asleep. “I love this actor. God. He’s so good.” Richie points a finger at the lead, Eddie assumes, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. “Do you like him?”

“Well yeah,” Eddie replies. “Everybody likes Jake Gyllenhaal.”

“Brokeback Mountain, eh?” Richie says with a flirty smile as he elbows Eddie lightly in the stomach, joking. Eddie blushes but narrows his hands. Kicking his feet up on the chair in front of him, Richie sinks further into his seat and puts his arms behind his head, moving his gaze back to the screen. “Plus he’s a total dreamboat. I mean look at him.” And as Eddie gazes at Richie, as he sits engrossed in a film Eddie doesn’t even know the name of, the term sticks with him—dreamboat, Eddie thinks. You are a dreamboat.

His eyes then flutter down to the ink that stains his hand. Thoughtful, he ponders.

“You have tattoos, right?” he asks Richie, and Richie turns his head and nods. “What are they of?”

“I have some song lyrics across my ribs, and a bee on my foot, and… constellations, too.”

“Can I see?”

“Sure.” Sitting up properly, Richie grabs his shirt and lifts it halfway, revealing the song lyrics painted across his ribs. It is dark in the theater, but the light from the screen shines on Richie’s skin. Eddie is in awe; the words read, I just gotta sing it out of me.

“It’s beautiful,” Eddie says. “What song is it?”

“Green by Cavetown.” Richie shrugs, pulling his shirt back down. “It’s just one of my favorite songs. No special meaning behind it or whatever. Or I guess,” he pauses, considering, “I like singing. Gotta sing it out of me. I dunno, thought it was cool and Bev wrote it all pretty for me.”

“Beverly does all your tattoos?” Eddie asks curiously as Richie leans down to take off his left shoe.

“She sure does,” Richie replies. He rolls his sock halfway down his foot so Eddie can see his bumblebee ink. It is cute, a bit out of character, Eddie thinks. “This one is matching with miss Beverly Marsh. We got it the third day we met.” Then he smiles. “Kinda like me and you. Guess I have a thing for getting tattoos with people I barely know. Or knew. I know you pretty well now.”

Eddie grins back softly. “And the constellations?” he asks.

“On my back,” Richie says, turning around so Eddie can see, though he makes no movement to lift his shirt. “You can lift my shirt. It’s okay.” So Eddie does, and he’s not at all familiar with constellations. Thankfully, Richie saves him, “it’s the Pisces constellation. That’s my sign. What’re you?”

“Virgo,” Eddie answers, pulling Richie’s shirt back down. Richie faces him with a full grin.

“You sure are, sugar,” Richie says.

“Where’d this sugar thing come from? Ever since you met me you’ve been calling me sugar,” Eddie says. Neither man is paying attention to the movie.

“It’s cute, no?” It sure is. “You’re cute, so I call you sugar. You don’t even bother to try with nicknames for me.” Richie pouts cutely.

“I can think of a nickname,” Eddie states. They sit for a few moments, just with Eddie’s silent, internalized brainstorming. But when he does think of a nickname, he almost goes hysterical. He chokes on his laugh as he says, “Richurro.

“Richurro?!” Richie nearly shouts, and Eddie is thankful the theater is close to completely empty; these two men are laughing so hard, unable to keep their giggles quiet and their hands off each other. The few people in the theater must be mad with them, but Eddie can’t find it in himself to care when he and Richie are having so much fun.

“I-It’s like Richard—but Richurro,” Eddie explains through his giggles. He’s got his arms crossed, folded over his stomach as if that will help contain his laughter. While Richie is laughing, he does his best to feign hurt. Eddie just keeps laughing. “What?!” he says. “It’s like you calling me sugar.”

“Sugar is endearing. Richurro sounds like a mistake!”

 

 

Both completely sober, it is fifteen minutes past two AM and Richie is leading Eddie to a mystery location, “Richie, where are we going?”

“My place,” Richie says simply, as if it is not a big deal at all, and maybe it’s not, but to Eddie it sounds exciting. Suddenly jumpy, Eddie latches onto Richie’s arm and grins up at him. “It’s no college dorm room,” Richie says, looking down at Eddie as they walk closely down the street. They must look like a couple to outsiders, Eddie thinks, or he hopes. “Don’t get too excited, sugar.”

As they make a turn at the corner, they begin to walk down a street with more broken down buildings. There are a few people on the streets, though they wear dark clothes and smoke as they sit on the sidewalk. They are in Southie, Eddie knows this, but he has never been on this street specifically. He wants to ask Richie what the street name is, but he feels childish and holds back. This street is definitely… not as nice as other parts of Southie.

“It’s just at the end of the block,” Richie says, as if he can feel Eddie’s anxiety creeping up on him. Eddie feels a little unsafe, walking here at this time, and he wonders if Richie ever has felt this way, too. Nobody bothers the two men as they walk down the street. Eddie is relieved. When they walk up the porch of Richie’s apartment building, he digs his key out of his pocket and unlocks the front door. “I live on the third floor. There’s no elevator,” he explains, letting Eddie step inside first. Richie shuts the door behind them both and makes his way to the stairs.

It is not the nicest place Eddie has seen.

It might be the worst.

The inside is messy, and this is just the main floor. It must be one of those buildings with shared bathrooms and such, Eddie has heard of that concept. He’s curious as to how many people live here.

“You coming?” Richie asks, halfway upstairs already.

“Yeah,” Eddie replies, following Richie upstairs. There is one room playing music on the second floor, but thankfully it can’t be heard at all on the third floor. Richie unlocks his apartment door as he whistles a jolly tune. And as he pushes the door open, suddenly Eddie realizes why Richie didn’t want him coming over. It is a dump. It is one bedroom, with a sink. One room.

“Welcome to my humble abode,” Richie says, entering his room and tossing his keys on the floor. “Shut the door behind you, will ya?” Taking off his shoes, Richie gazes at Eddie as he stands quietly, looking around Richie’s ‘apartment’. “It’s pretty cute, huh?” Richie jokes.

It must be the shittiest place Eddie has ever seen.

At least there’s a private sink?

Eddie takes off his shoes and leaves them by Richie’s, and then he notices a pair of shiny black shoes. He takes them in his hand and holds them up to Richie. “Tap shoes,” Richie states simply.

“Tap?” Eddie asks.

“I like tap.” Richie grins. “What? I don’t look like a dancer?”

No, actually. Not at all. Your arms and legs remind me of noodles.

Eddie doesn’t say anything. He looks to the mattress in the back corner of the room. There is no bedframe, just the mattress, and all in all, Eddie feels quite bad for Richie. He wonders why Richie lives like this, for wouldn’t it be better to live with his parents? Perhaps Eddie will ask, if the right moment comes. Suddenly a loud meow sounds near Eddie’s feet, and his gaze snaps down to the large orange tabby cat with a long tail that curls around his leg in a loving manner. Eddie totally forgot Richie owns a cat.

“Pepperoni,” Richie says, picking up the cat and pressing a thoughtful kiss to the top of her head. “She’s an old lady, but she’s super sweet and loves to snuggle. Hope you don’t mind.” Eddie smiles and pets Pepperoni, who purrs loudly and leans into his touch. Richie sneezes into the crook of his arm, shaking his head. “Sorry. Allergies. Look! She likes you,” Richie says, and Eddie doesn’t think he has ever seen anything cuter than this: Richie holding and babying an orange tabby that he picked up off the street.

“She’s cute,” Eddie says.

“Feels like just yesterday she became my best bud.” Richie places her back on the ground, and she slithers around a pile of dirty clothes before settling down next to it for a nap.

“Do you like living on your own?” Eddie asks, genuinely curious. He has never thought of living by himself, he always imagines he will have a roommate, if not Bill then someone else.

“Yeah, I do.” Richie looks at him with a crooked smile. “I like having my own space. Even if it’s not the… nicest place. There’s nobody to tell me what to do. I live on my own time. The best way to live, ya know?”

“Is that why you moved out? From your parents’ house?” As the question leaves Eddie’s lips, Richie goes over to sit on the edge of his mattress. He stares at Eddie, resting his chin atop the palm of his hand before he replies with a, “Well, sugar, I think you’re old enough to know the truth, now…” Eddie furrows his brows. He sits next to Richie, knees brushing. They are close.

“I couldn’t afford college because my folks didn’t want to pay,” Richie admits, shoulder shrugged up to his ear. “And I wasn’t wanted at home, so I did the three of us a favor and got out of their hair. The least they could do is get out of mine, but they still love to shit on me every once and a while.” Chuckling, he shakes his head.

“But you’re so smart,” Eddie says, because he knows it to be true. He has known Richie Tozier for four months, and he is clever, and witty, and he deserves a college education if that’s what he wants. “Couldn’t you get scholarships, or something? If you tried, I mean.”

“I did get scholarships,” Richie replies. “But I didn’t get a full ride. With my folks, it was full ride or nothing… because I wanted to study drama, and they wanted me to do something ‘important’ and ‘successful’. They didn’t wanna pay for a proper acting education for me, so I didn’t end up going to school at all. But I wouldn’t wanna go to college for something I didn’t love, anyway.”

So they threw you out? Is that what happened?

“And that’s why I live here, and work long hours. So I can afford living in this dump and still manage to pay for mediocre acting lessons.”

Richie…” Eddie can’t help it—saying Richie’s name in that tone. He also can’t help reaching out and holding Richie’s hand, the first serious romantic gesture either of them has initiated. They have held hands many times tonight, but never like this, with intimacy and adoration laced between their fingers. “Richie, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, sugar. You’ve got absolutely nothing to be sorry for,” Richie says, squeezing Eddie’s hand. Kiss me. “My parents and I are just too different. That’s all.”

“And when they stopped by earlier?” Eddie urges.

“They show up out of the blue every once in a while. They stopped by to be nasty and ask if I was ready to move back home.” Then he snickers. “As if I would ever do that.”

“They’re awful,” Eddie says, and though he has never met them, this he knows for sure. “They don’t deserve you, Rich. You’re gonna be the most famous actor ever. You’ll be so successful; you’ll make them eat their words. They’ll be watching you on movie screens, seeing you at fancy events on TV. They’ll feel so stupid.”

“I hope you’re right about that, Eds.” Richie grins. It is quiet until Richie stands up from the mattress. “You take the bed,” he says. Eddie shakes his head.

“And you’ll sleep on the floor? No way,” Eddie replies.

“Well, hate to break it to you, sugar, but that mattress is the only comfortable sleeping surface in my luxury apartment.”

“Ha, ha,” Eddie deadpans. “We can share it.”

Richie’s eyebrows raise, and he says, “You sure?” Eddie folds his legs up and presses them against his chest, curling into himself.

“Yeah. I’m pretty small.” So is the mattress. It’s not even a double bed. It’s a twin bed. Eddie finds it hard to believe Richie fits on his own, let alone sharing with someone. There is no doubt that this bed will not be big enough for the both of them, so when Richie and Eddie brush their teeth (Richie gives Eddie a toothbrush) and turn out the lights, hopping under the thin covers, they are pressed body-to-body, closer than they have ever been. Eddie doesn’t regret his decision, though, because it is cold in the room and Richie’s body is doing a finer job at warming up Eddie than this shitty duvet.

“You sure you don’t want me on the floor?” Richie asks after they have been lying in silence for a bit.

“No. It’s okay.”

Richie is so warm. Eddie closes his eyes and tries to imagine what being enveloped by Richie’s arms would feel like. Stuck in his thoughts, Eddie almost misses the meek, “Eddie?” that Richie whispers.

“Yeah?” Eddie whispers back, eyes open and glued to the ceiling. It is too dark to make out anything, with the lights off and curtains drawn.

“I really like hanging out with you,” Richie confesses, and Eddie feels a small smile claim his lips. His heart is heavy.

“I like hanging out with you, too,” Eddie replies. “So much.”

“And—“ Richie pauses, shifting under the covers. “And I…” he stops and instead turns so his back is to Eddie.

“You what?” Eddie encourages Richie to continue, but Richie stays still as a board.

“Never mind. Good night, sugar.”

 

 

The following morning, Eddie wakes to a room full of sunshine. He blinks several times, adjusting to the new light, for up until now he has only known Richie’s room in darkness. Flattening his hand out across the mattress, Eddie expects to find Richie’s sleeping body, but there is only an ocean of sheets. Sitting up, Eddie’s eyes search for Richie, and alas, there he is, sitting on his window box, gazing outside at the city of Boston, a mug of something lazing in his hand and his glasses pushed to rest atop his curls. The sight makes Eddie smile, for he has never seen Richie so relaxed, composed. Richie is so strong. Eddie admires him for it, because despite not having the approval of his parents, Richie continues to strive and fight for his passion, and he wears a smile every god damn day, even though it must be incredibly difficult. All people should be like that.

“How long have you been up?” Eddie asks, his voice still raspy with sleep.

Richie turns and looks at Eddie, parting his lips slowly to say, “A couple hours. I guess.” Eddie wants to know what is keeping Richie up. There are dark circles under his eyes, and the sky is bright, the colors dull. It must be early in the morning.

“I didn’t kick you off your bed, did I?” Eddie asks to fill the silence. Something is different about the air. The atmosphere between them has changed. Richie chuckles, glancing down at his mug.

“No, you didn’t,” he says. Now they are just watching each other. If it weren’t for Pepperoni’s purring, the room would be completely silent. She rubs against Eddie’s thigh affectionately before jumping on the window box where Richie sits. Eddie needs to know what’s wrong—what has changed since the night before, because something surely has. It has never felt like this with Richie before, whatever this may be.

“Is something wrong?” Eddie finally asks.

It is a minute before Richie replies, a gentle, “No.”

“Okay,” Eddie says, unsure.

“I just keep thinking about last night,” Richie adds.

“Last night?” Confused, Eddie bites his lip. “What about last night?”

Richie takes a deep breath and puts his mug down on the windowbox, directly next to his leg. He crosses his arms. “Well.” Richie evidently chews on the inside of his cheek, stressed. “It was probably the best night I’ve had in a long time.” Eddie grins softly.

“Me too,” Eddie agrees.

“But… there’s one thing I regret. And I really can’t shake it from my head.” Richie frowns. Suddenly nervous, Eddie feels altogether a little fuzzy.

“And what’s that?” Eddie questions, butterflies everywhere. And Richie looks at him. Just looks.

“That I went to sleep without kissing you good night.”

Oh.

He won’t let himself freak out. No way. He maintains even breathing. No grin. Nothing. Straight-faced as he can manage, Eddie returns Richie’s courageous gaze, and he replies, “So kiss me good morning.”

Richie’s lips curl into a smile. “I’ll taste like coffee.”

So Eddie shrugs. “I like coffee.”

“Okay,” Richie says, as he slowly gets up from his seat, and Eddie can’t believe this is happening. He must still be asleep, dreaming, but now Richie is sat down next to him, smiling, his hands on Eddie’s cheeks, and he’s leaning in, and then they’re kissing. Slow and soft and gentle, their mouths meet, and melt. Eddie cups Richie’s cheek, taking him in closer, hungry. He feels Richie giggle into his mouth, and he holds back his own laugh, pulling their lips apart to see what’s the matter.

“What is it?” Eddie whispers, smiling. Richie’s eyes are still closed from their kiss, but there is a smile that seems to be permanently stitched to his lips.

“You really are sugar,” Richie says. He pecks Eddie’s lips again, once. “You taste so sweet and I can’t get enough.”

“You’re ridiculous.” Eddie laughs, pulling away. Suddenly Richie’s face contorts into something odd.

“Oh no,” he says, feigning panic. “Eds, you better stay back. I can feel myself getting addicted to your kisses—it’s too much for me to handle—you—“ Pushing on Richie’s shoulder, Eddie offers him a sly smile.

“You’re so full of shit,” Eddie says. “Kiss me again.” Loose lips meet once again, and Eddie thinks he can finally die happy. Richie pulls back and hums softly, resting his forehead against Eddie’s shoulder.

“You know how long I’ve been waiting to kiss you?” he asks in the softest voice. Eddie smiles. “I didn’t wanna ruin anything, because we’re such great friends, ya know… but being around you everyday was a struggle.”

“I didn’t wanna ruin it either,” Eddie states. “But nothing’s ruined,” he adds in a rush, wanting Richie to be completely sure of that fact. “I feel like I’m on cloud nine.” Long arms enclose around Eddie’s waist, and he is hit with the desire of wanting Richie’s hands everywhere.

“Mhmm, lay with me?” Richie asks, letting go of Eddie’s thin form to lay down on his twin bed. Smiling, Eddie still finds this whole mattress situation a little ridiculous. But he lies down beside Richie anyway. “Turn around. Wanna snuggle you from behind.” Eddie does as he’s told so his back is against Richie’s front. Attempting to keep his mind out of the gutter is proving to be difficult, especially with Richie pressed so close. Eddie feels Richie press his forehead into Eddie’s back. “You’re so good to snuggle. My little snuggle bug. We should’ve been doing this all night.”

“Last night was so awkward.” Eddie lets out an embarrassed groan. “I spent the whole time trying not to be so close to you.”

“Ouch,” Richie says.

“No—I didn’t mean it like that. I just didn’t want to make things weird.”

“I know.” There is a meow from the bottom of the bed, and Eddie feels the mattress dip as Pepperoni walks over to the two boys. She plops down near their feet, purring.

“You need a real bed,” Eddie states.

“This is a real bed,” Richie replies.

“It’s a twin bed. And your feet hang off the end of it.”

“Maybe I like it like that.”

“I know you. You don’t.” Eddie bites back his smile, even though Richie can’t see him.

“Buying a new mattress isn’t my top priority right now,” Richie admits. “Using all my savings and my coffee money to afford improv, acting lessons, and rent.” Oh. Right. Eddie wants to say sorry for saying anything at all, that he was being insensitive and he knows it. “Sorry,” Richie says instead, “I didn’t mean to make it weird.”

“You didn’t make anything weird,” Eddie replies softly. “Sorry for bringing it up.” More like sorry you have unsupportive parents that don’t help you out with living finances, and sorry I can’t buy you a brand new mattress like I want to.

“The only thing you should be sorry for is being too freaking cute,” Richie murmurs into Eddie’s back. “I’m sleeping. I didn’t sleep the whole night.”

“What? Why?”

“I lied before,” Richie says, his laugh vibrating into Eddie’s shirt. “You did kick me off the bed.”

 

 

Two weeks has passed since their kiss, and Eddie doesn’t know what they are. They are friends that catch dinner when they can, friends that text 24/7, friends that kiss a lot. They’ve done nothing beyond kissing, though it isn’t as if Eddie hasn’t thought about it. Richie seems pretty content moving at the pace they are now, so Eddie has left it at that. They’ve fallen into an endearing routine, additionally; they never go to sleep without saying good night over the phone, even if it is said in the messiest of tones or the softest of whispers, in a rush or drawn out just to stay on the line.

Eddie’s creativity has been bursting, and it’s because of Richie. Who knew love could be so inspiring?

Oh, Richie.

They are nearing month five, and Eddie is in love. He knows it. There is no other word to describe what he is experiencing. But… he’s too nervous to tell Richie. They’ve known each other for less than half a year, isn’t that a little insane? And things are good, too good—Eddie doesn’t want to ruin it. So he keeps those words to himself. Richie has been secretive lately, and Eddie feels as though it might be for the same reason. When Richie is not working or with Eddie, he is busying himself with his acting. He tells Eddie about all the tips and tricks his instructor gives him, yet Eddie has never actually seen Richie act. Richie boasts, like he does about everything, so Eddie believes he is a great actor.

On the day marking the fifth month, there is a knock on Eddie’s dorm door. Rolling his eyes, he goes to the door and pulls it open, meeting the eyes of a sheepish Bill.

“F-Forgot my keys,” Bill says.

“What’s new?” Eddie shoots back with a playful smile. He goes back over to his bed and continues to sort through his clothes.

“Y-Y-You tell me. I-It’s cleaning d-day, or what?”

“Richie and I are going to New York,” Eddie says with a smile. They are crossing the last two things off on Richie’s fun list, and Eddie is ecstatic. He’s never been to New York before.

 

[

RICHIE’S EXCITABLE, SUPERB, ENJOYABLE LIST OF FUN THINGS

  1. EAT FIRE
  2. JUMP OFF A CLIFF
  3. GET A TATTOO
  4. GO SKINNY DIPPING
  5. HAVE YOUR PORTRAIT PAINTED
  6. CRASH A PARTY
  7. STARGAZE AT 3 AM
  8. GO TO TIMES SQUARE
  9. TRAVEL SOMEWHERE NEW
  10. TRUST A STRANGER

]

 

“That’s fun,” Bill replies, placing his backpack down on his bed. “R-Romantic.” Only humming in reply, Eddie begins to pack all his clothes into the biggest backpack he owns. “So w-what’s going on w-with y-y-you two?”

“We make out a lot,” Eddie says with a shrug. “That’s all it is, really. Not much else has changed—not that I would’ve wanted it to.” Which is true, they still hang out and flirt like before. They still get dinner and smile too fondly at each other. Only now kissing is thrown into the mix.

“H-He hasn’t asked you to be h-his boyfriend, o-or anything?” The question makes Eddie want to frown, but he fights it and zips up his backpack swiftly.

“No,” Eddie states, facing Bill as he sits at his desk. Taking a seat on his bed, Eddie adds, “It’s okay.” Bill offers Eddie a crooked smile, perhaps out of pity, or sympathy, before he opens his laptop on his desk and turns around. They sit in silence for a few moments before Eddie says, “Wait—how are you and Stan and Mike? Dating or…?”

“Y-Yeah,” Bill says, glancing over his shoulder to meet Eddie’s gaze. “Before us, M-Mike had been f-f-fooling around with B-Bev, but that’s d-done now.”

“Stan and Mike are lucky guys,” Eddie says softly, because it’s true. Bill is the best of the best.

“Richie is, t-too,” Bill replies.

“I feel like I’m the lucky one between us,” Eddie admits, a little flustered at just the thought of Richie. “He’s so great, Bill. He makes me feel like I can do anything.” Throwing his hands over his cheeks, Eddie lets out a light sigh. “God, I’m so fucking whipped.”

“I-It’s cute,” Bill says. He’s typing on his laptop. Eddie wonders if he’s working on his thesis, but restrains from asking. Eddie is almost completely done with his thesis, too. The next stage is editing. “You t-t-two are a good m-match. S-Stan says he never s-shuts up about y-you.” Eddie can’t help the smile that comes to his face. “W-When are y-you leaving, b-by the way?” As soon as the question leaves Bill’s lips, Eddie’s text tone goes off. Bill looks to Eddie.

“Soon, I guess,” Eddie replies, pulling his phone out of his pocket. It’s Richie, unsurprisingly.

 

[1:02] from honeybun: here to pick up my sugar

[1:02] from honeybun: hope he doesn’t take long my lips r hungry for his sweet kisses

[1:02] from honeybun: sssssssuuuugarrrrr sooooooo sweeeeeeeeeet

[1:02] to honeybun: richie

[1:02] from honeybun: I MISSED U

[1:02] from honeybun: come down and smooch me

 

“That’s him,” Eddie says, pulling his jacket on. He shoves his wallet and keys into his jacket pockets and slings his backpack over his shoulder. Double-checking his reflection in the mirror on his closet, Eddie decides he looks cute enough for Richie to see him. “I’ll see you in a few days, Bill. I’ll be missing some classes, but,” Eddie waves a hand, “It’s whatever. I always make up my work.” Still looking at him, Bill grins widely.

“H-Have fun,” Bill tells him. “Have sex.”

“I’m trying,” Eddie says in a joking whine. Then he chuckles. “I’ll text you. Bye.”

“B-Bye. Love ya, Ed.”

“Love you, too, Billy.”

As soon as Eddie shuts his dorm door, he feels the excitement pumping through his veins. It’s going to be a whole three days off from school, spent with his favorite person in the whole world (sorry, Bill). Rushing to the elevator, Eddie smashes the button with his index finger repeatedly, impatient. By the time it comes, Eddie is practically bursting, ready to see Richie and ready to get to New York City.

When Eddie gets downstairs and goes outside, he sees Richie standing on the street with his bag slung over his shoulder. He looks like the type of person you write stories about, and Eddie has. As Richie makes eye contact with Eddie, he grins toothily, and Eddie walks up to him on rushing feet, practically jumping into his arms. The bag Richie was holding clatters to the sidewalk and a low laugh rumbles from Richie’s throat as his arms come up to wrap around Eddie’s tiny torso.

“Somebody missed me,” Richie says, still chuckling. “I missed you, sugar. So much. Every time we’re apart I’m surprised I don’t explode from missing you so much.”

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Eddie replies, pulling his head out from Richie’s chest. He kisses Richie on his open mouth, like their lips haven’t met in weeks when it has only been a day. “I’m so excited for New York.” I’m so excited to spend three whole days in a beautiful city, being with you and kissing you and just living.

“I am, too, sugar,” Richie says. They are both so outwardly happy, booming, and Eddie doesn’t think it could get better than this. There is no way it could get better than this. “Well, next stop, New York City!”

 

Chapter Text

Coffee is the first thing on Richie and Eddie’s agenda. They are both on the same page; without a word, they turn and make their way down the block to Brewed Awakening. Holding hands has become second nature to them, so when Richie reaches for Eddie’s hand and presses a kiss to his knuckles, Eddie smiles fondly. Richie is so sweet. Perhaps Eddie should be calling Richie sugar, instead of the other way around. Brewed Awakening is relatively busy when they arrive. Eddie’s heart feels heavy; he feels a little bad for Stanley, having to work with all these customers without Richie’s help.

“This better be good,” Stanley says to Richie, shooting him a look from behind the counter. Stanley is currently taking the order of the customer at the front of the line. “I’m a little busy right now, Rich.”

“Want some help? We’ve got five minutes or so before we should head down to the train station.” Stanley smiles his thanks but shakes his head. “Okay. Mind if I make us some drinks for the ride real quick?” Richie asks.

“Go ahead,” Stanley replies.

Eddie stays at the front of the shop while Richie makes their drinks. People-watching has always been fun for Eddie. He likes to look at strangers and make up stories about their lives. It’s fun, though it sounds a little silly. He and Bill used to do it often, riding the bus to middle school. He only snaps back into reality when there is a nudge to his shoulder—Richie’s hand. He is holding Eddie’s iced latte.

“Thanks,” Eddie says, taking his drink. Richie juggles his bag over his shoulder as he takes a sip of his hot beverage. “What’d you make?”

“The usual,” Richie replies, grinning. “Want a sip?”

“You know I don’t.”

“That I do.” Eyeing the door, Richie gestures to it. “Shall we head out?” Waving goodbye to Stan, they push the door open and are hit with the chilling wind. It is a hotter day, but the wind makes up for it. Richie makes pointless chatter as they walk to the train station (which is a few blocks away), and Eddie shoots back witty remarks when necessary. Richie’s smile is radiant, his curls bouncing energetically as he suddenly transitions to a skip on the pavement, giggling for Eddie to catch up. This is gonna be the best few days of my life, Eddie thinks as he breaks out into a skip to catch up to Richie, who is few feet away, I know it.

The train station isn’t overly crowded, much to Eddie’s surprise, so the line to buy their tickets isn’t very long. Richie speaks to the ticket employee, and Eddie is secretly grateful; he isn’t so fond of talking to employees, but maybe Richie could tell that from the brief panic that surfaced across his face. After they get their tickets, Richie says, “Maybe we should get some food before we hop on. We’ve got some time to kill. You hungry?”

“Yeah,” Eddie says, blinking. He hadn’t noticed he missed lunch. “I didn’t eat lunch.”

“Now wasn’t it you that lectured me about how important it is to be well nourished?” Richie teases, gazing down at Eddie as they walk in the direction of a small shop within the station.

“I’ve been busy!” Eddie says with a laugh. “I’ve been writing lots. Going to classes.”

“Kissing yours truly,” Richie adds, reaching down and kissing Eddie’s lips chastely, as if reminding him of what he forgot to mention. “Feeling up yours truly.” Eddie can feel his cheeks heating up as Richie takes Eddie’s hand gently and puts it on his hip.

“I’m not feeling you up in a train station,” Eddie states.

“Damn.” Richie clicks his tongue. “What about on the train?”

Richie,” the word warning. Richie hums and kisses Eddie again, both his large, calloused hands on Eddie’s cheeks, tongue in Eddie’s mouth. “Richie,” Eddie says again, breathily—a different kind of warning. When Richie pulls back his lips are plump and ready for more, but Eddie shakes his head and puts distance between the two of them. Rubbing the back of his neck, Eddie hates to be one of those PDA couples that he so often despises. “We’re in public.”

“So let’s give ‘em a show,” Richie says, pulling Eddie in again.

So let’s wait ‘til tonight, okay?” Eddie replies, pushing back again. He walks off to the store they were originally headed toward. It is only a few seconds before Richie is at his side, close to his ear and purring, “is that a promise?”

“Not if you keep acting annoying.” Eddie rolls his eyes, entering the store and going over to the food section. They have small sandwiches and some bottles of water. It’s good enough; it is classic traveling food.

“Roger that!” Richie says, giving Eddie a salute. “I’ll be on my best behavior. Now, what’s for lunch?”

“This, I guess,” Eddie says, picking up two sandwiches from the rack. “You want one, right?”

“Yes please, Eds,” Richie replies, kissing the side of Eddie’s head lovingly. Eddie smiles. He loves this, loves them. Richie takes the sandwiches from Eddie, causing Eddie to furrow his brows. “I’m paying for these.” Eddie immediately reaches to reclaim the food from Richie.

“Uh, no,” Eddie says, knowing full well Richie can barely afford this trip. “I’m paying. Give them back.” Richie’s grip only tightens and Eddie glares at him. “Rich, come on. Let me pay. You’ll pay next time.” As a child, Eddie always thought it was silly for adults to argue over who paid for what, but now he gets it, he really does. Pouting, Eddie stares up at Richie with pleading eyes. “Let go. Gimme.” Hesitantly, Richie gives up and hands Eddie the food.

“This makes me such a bad boyfriend,” Richie says, stressed. Eddie’s brows shoot up.

“Boyfriend?” he asks, because what? He’s spent all this time wondering what they were and Richie casually says they’re boyfriends? Eddie did all that worrying for nothing?

“Yeah. You’re my boyfriend. I thought you knew,” Richie says, his face blank. Parting his lips, Eddie is still a bit shocked.

“You never told me.”

“I thought exclusively making out with you and going on dates was enough.” Richie shrugs, and Eddie feels incredibly stupid.

“Oh,” Eddie says. “I hadn’t realized…”

“Silly Eddie is silly,” Richie says, shrugging. “If you’re really about to pay for those, I pay for the next thing we eat. Got it?”

“Sure, okay.” They walk over to the cashier and Eddie pays with no more trouble from Richie. By the time they’re done at the shop, the train has started boarding, so they decide they should go find seats before eating their food, and eat on the ride there. “Oh,” Eddie says as Richie plops down in a seat, silently declaring this section of the train cart theirs by how he settles their bags across the four seats. “I’ve been meaning to get a picture of you for your contact photo.” Richie looks at Eddie and winks.

“’For your contact photo,’ yeah okay, Eds. Take a nice picture of me looking good for my contact photo. Totally not for late at night when you’re lying in bed and thinking about me.” While Eddie narrows his eyes, he simultaneously blushes furiously.

“Shut up, idiot,” Eddie says, pursing his lips. “That’s not even true. You wish I thought about you.”

“You don’t think about me when you’re in bed?” Richie asks calmly. What he says next nearly makes Eddie’s knees buckle, “Because I think about you. A lot.”

“Shut up,” Eddie repeats, even redder than before.

“There’s nothing wrong with honesty, sugar,” Richie replies, and it’s quiet for a moment as Eddie takes his seat next to Richie. The look on Richie’s face is… strange, uneasy, perhaps. “You really don’t think about me?” he asks in a quiet voice, and Eddie realizes with parents like Richie’s (or from what Eddie has heard about them), Richie must be very used to being shot down.

“No,” Eddie says quickly. “I-I think about you.” And Richie grins. “Like all the time.”

Richie leans his head on Eddie’s shoulder, staring up at him with fluttering, flirty lashes. He says, “all the time, huh?” Eddie is unable to help a smile from surfacing across his lips. He wants to kiss Richie, and they’re boyfriends, so kiss Richie he does.

Richie’s lips are not soft; they are rough, like the struggles he has had, but still tasteful, like the man he has become. Eddie doesn’t think he will ever get tired of kissing Richie Tozier. Every time feels like waking up from the best dream ever. With a hand on Richie’s chin, pulling him in closer, Eddie whispers across his lips, “All the fucking time.”

“You’re,” Richie breathes, voice equally as quiet. “You’re getting me all hot and bothered on public transportation.”

“Am I?” Eddie asks with a soft laugh, and he slides his hand from Richie’s cheek down his chest, searching lower, and lower

“Okay, you need to stop,” Richie says with a nervous chuckle, grabbing Eddie’s roaming hand. “As much as I want you to touch me—I can’t get a boner right now. There’s a family sitting right across from us.” Laughing, Eddie pulls away from Richie completely and settles back into his seat. They are properly apart now, and Eddie watches as a frown forms on Richie’s face. “I only meant for you to stop touching my dick. You can still cuddle me.”

“How about after we eat?” Eddie says, reaching for his sandwich and offering Richie’s his with a slight tilt of his hand.

“Tease,” Richie grumbles, though there is no trace of disappointment in his tone, just happiness. He accepts his food and the two men make small talk as they eat. They talk about absolutely nothing, but it’s not boring. With Richie nothing is ever boring. By the time they’re done eating, Richie says, “You actually want a picture of me, sugar?”

“Obviously.” Rolling his eyes, Eddie slips his phone out of his back pocket.

“Let’s get a good shot of the two of us, eh?” Richie takes Eddie’s phone from him and opens up the camera, putting it on selfie mode before smiling wide and waiting for Eddie to mirror the look. Grinning, Eddie puts his arm around Richie’s shoulders endearingly and Richie snaps a photo of the two of them. “This is cute,” Richie decides. “I’m gonna send it to myself. Wanna make it my background.”

“Okay,” Eddie replies, looking over Richie’s shoulder as Richie switches from the photos app to his messaging app.

“Ooooooh,” Richie coos, turning his head to face Eddie. They are closer than Eddie had meant for, but he doesn’t mind the feeling of Richie’s breath across his lips. “You still haven’t changed my contact from that first day I gave you my number. How cute. You should start calling me honeybun in real life; pet names turn me on.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“Why don’t we change it for now?” Eyeing the keyboard, Eddie wants to chuckle at what Richie is typing, but it only makes his heart warm. “This is perfect. Good as new.” Richie holds out Eddie’s phone for Eddie to take, and Eddie stares at the new and improved contact ID.

 

[my honeybun baby ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥]

 

“Does that mean you’re gonna change yours, too?” Eddie questions, eyebrows raised. Without a word, Richie takes out his phone, unlocks it, and passes it over to Eddie. “Oh my god,” breathes Eddie. He feels Richie’s curls brush his cheek, Richie looking over his shoulder. “How long has it been like this?”

 

[my lil sugar make me feel ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥]

 

“For a while,” Richie admits, taking his phone back. “I think I changed it… the day after we kissed. I was just so excited. And it’s true, you do make me feel—“ gesturing to the emojis on his phone, Richie puckers his lips jokingly, “—like this.”

“I can’t believe I like you,” Eddie states, but he totally can.

“Me either,” Richie replies, his cheek dug into Eddie’s shoulder, gaze drifting.

“By the way, how’s all your acting stuff going?” Eddie asks, because it has been a while since Richie last mentioned it. He hopes everything is all right. “You haven’t talked about it in a while.”

“It’s fine,” Richie answers, almost routinely.

“Just fine?” Eddie wants more than that.

“Just fine, Eds,” Richie replies, looking up at Eddie with a soft smile.

“Nobody knows what they’re missing with you,” Eddie says before he can help himself. It’s too true.

This seems to perk Richie up; his smile widens, exposing his teeth and all. In an amused voice, he questions, “No?”

“Some agency or whatever the fuck is gonna snatch you up quick. I know it.”

“So feisty,” Richie says. “I like it.”

“You never told me why you like acting,” Eddie states, thoughtful. “So tell me.”

“Not to sound fake deep or anything,” Richie starts, “But when I was younger I always liked the idea of being able to, like, become someone else.” It’s sad, but Eddie is intrigued. He eyes Richie carefully, silently urging him to continue, and he does. “My parents aren’t the best. You probably know that. Honestly, I don’t really think they were ever cut out to be parents. Some people just aren’t. So being in school plays and stuff was… an escape, I guess. Something easy, that I liked, and could dedicate my energy to so I didn’t have to be upset with my parents all the time. Pretty lame.” And Eddie hasn’t seen Richie act, but somebody so passionate cannot be bad at their craft. He thinks Richie is the best actor. He is too good of a person to not get some positive karma.

And suddenly Richie’s phone buzzes, and his eyes are torn from Eddie’s with the agility of the wind. With his phone in his hand, Richie angles his messages slightly away from Eddie, so Eddie can’t make out what’s on the screen. Which is… weird, but okay. Maybe it’s a private message. Eddie would do the same… wouldn’t he?

But then why is Richie smiling like that, with that toothy grin that he reserves for Eddie and for Eddie only? It is too happy of a smile to be texting parents, or a landlord, or even a friend.

And just like that, Eddie’s heart drops. He leans away from Richie, not thinking, but it isn’t as if Richie notices the distance between them. Typing away on his phone, Richie must reply to whatever message he received, because then he shoves his phone back in his pocket and leans his elbow on his knee, chin resting on his palm and fingers curling into his lips like he doesn’t want Eddie to notice his grin.

Too late.

Just ask who he was texting. If he tells you then it doesn’t mean anything.

“Who was that?” Eddie forces himself to ask, and he’s hoping with his entire being Richie doesn’t lie. And then he does.

“Nobody,” Richie says, cocking his head to the side to get a better look at Eddie’s face. Eddie tries hard not to look too hurt; he slaps a smile on his face as he nods, angling his body away from Richie, curling into himself protectively. “You gonna nap?” Richie asks.

“Uh. Yeah,” Eddie says, but he just doesn’t want to look at Richie right now.

“All right. Me too.”

Nobody, Eddie thinks. Since when does nobody make you smile like that?

 

 

Eddie tries not to act weird, and so far, he thinks he isn’t. Because it’s probably all one big misunderstanding, like these situations always seem to be. Because it’s not worth being upset over until something bigger happens, if something ever does. But when Richie intertwines his fingers with Eddie’s, smiling real wide like he wouldn’t rather be with anyone else, and he leads them down the crowded streets of New York City, it is so hard to ignore the subtle ache in Eddie’s heart. The ache of I did something wrong, of he wants someone else, of why can’t I ever just be happy in a relationship?

“Our hotel is uptown,” Richie says, breaking Eddie from his trance. “We’ll have to take the subway. That okay?” and staring up at Richie, Eddie thinks about how thoughtful he is, to remember that he has an issue with subways. Eddie also thinks about how if Richie is seeing somebody else, he will never recover from it. Nodding, Eddie tries to disregard his insecure thoughts. This is supposed to be a nice trip. I don’t want to be worrying the whole time.

The subway ride consists of Richie babbling, and looking to Eddie for validation, and Eddie smiling in silent reply. It is easy to tell Richie is excited—overjoyed, to be here with Eddie; his knees are bouncing up and down, his hand constantly tightens around Eddie’s, and his grin is as wide as the Cheshire cat’s. It’s cute, to see him like this. Eddie’s mind is still busied by nobody, and perhaps it shows, because Richie asks, “You sleepy, sugar?”

“Yeah,” Eddie lies. “My, uh… the nap on the train made me drowsy.” The train ride was three hours long, give or take, and while Eddie is tired physically, it is not to blame for his being tired mentally.

“You can nap before we go out to eat,” Richie states, and he leans closer to Eddie to press a sweet kiss to his temple. “Drowsy baby.” The new pet name makes Eddie’s heart melt. It seems as though Richie can tell. “You like that, huh? Me calling you baby? Maybe I’ll switch it up… sugar and baby. I can do both.”

“You’re so annoying.” Eddie sighs, unable to help himself from leaning his body against Richie, his head resting against Richie’s shoulder.

“But you think I’m cute,” Richie says, satisfied.

“Yeah,” Eddie agrees. “I do.”

“Was your last boyfriend cute?” Richie asks, curiously, as he gazes down at Eddie. Eddie has not had so many boyfriends, so the question is a bit jarring. Though they have not been together very long, Eddie considers his relationship with Richie to be the most serious.

“He was… okay looking.” Which is true, he was tall and slim, much like Richie, though he had shaggy blonde hair and light eyes. He was two years older than Eddie, so it has been years since Eddie last saw him. It’s been years since Eddie last thought about him. “He wasn’t anything special. It only lasted a couple months,” Eddie adds.

“He wasn’t anything special,” Richie repeats. He licks his lips before asking, “Did you two ever have sex?” And maybe this was Richie’s way of asking if Eddie is a virgin. Eddie stifles something of a laugh, whipping his eyes away from Richie as he thinks back to his previous relationship and all the terrible sex he had. This is no conversation for the subway, Eddie knows, but he answers anyway.

“Yeah. It was pretty awful.” Richie hums, and Eddie looks at Richie as he ponders. “What was your last relationship like?”

“My last relationship…” This question seems to take Richie back; he adjusts the glasses that sit on the bridge of his nose and squints slightly. “I dated someone all throughout high school, believe it or not.”

Eyebrows raised, Eddie says, “Really?” He wonders if Richie and his ex were one of those annoying couples everyone hated, the ones that would grope against lockers and make out in the school bathrooms.

“Yeah. A girl. Waverly.”

“Waverly?” Eddie says. “Like the street?”

And Richie laughs. “Yeah. Waverly, like the street.” He is oddly quiet, and thoughtful, in recalling Waverly. His gaze drifts from Eddie to the subway floor, the black and white speckled design seemingly intriguing. Richie thinks of Waverly too intently. His face contorts into something strange, and Eddie can’t help but ask in a soft voice, “Did you love her?” Because with a heart as big as Richie’s, there is no way he did not.

“Yeah,” he says. “I did.”

“You don’t have to talk about her. If you don’t want to,” Eddie replies.

“No. It’s okay. I just never told anybody other than Stan.” Richie meets Eddie’s eyes again and he squeezes his hand, loving. “She wasn’t very good to me, is all.” Richie must want to leave it at that, because he doesn’t say anything more. Eddie doesn’t want to set him off by asking. So he waits, and waits, until finally Richie takes a rushed breath and continues, “But that doesn’t matter now. I’m with you.”

“Yeah. You’re with me.” I’ll be good to you. Promise. So please be good to me, too. “What stop are we getting off at?”

“Next one.” Richie rises to his feet, still holding Eddie’s hand, and he pulls Eddie up, too. “Get ready to get movin’, sugar. We have to walk two blocks to get to our hotel.”

“I’m excited,” Eddie says, because he is, and maybe that text earlier doesn’t matter. Maybe it all really is a misunderstanding. Because if Richie was hurt by the last person he dated, then surely he wouldn’t hurt Eddie. Not intentionally.

“Me too,” Richie says, and when the train pulls to a stop, they’re off. The New York subway station is way more disgusting than the Boston T. The mere sight of the exit makes Eddie gag, but he powers through and follows Richie closely up the stairs. The walk to the hotel isn’t too bad, apart from this one street that has a chain of stores with a few scary looking people loitering outside. When they finally reach the hotel, Eddie is really ready for a nap. Richie does most of the talking during check-in, and before Eddie knows it, he’s being lead to the elevator and brought up to the third floor. “This room here, sugar.”

As Richie pushes the hotel room door open, both his and Eddie’s gaze falls to the bed in the center of the room. Eddie assumed they would not have separate beds, because they’re together now, and they spoon and make out constantly, but seeing just the one bed is still oddly striking. “Uh,” Eddie sputters, but before he can say something to make things awkward, Richie lets out an exaggerated sigh, tired, and says, “I have to take a leak.”

Richie goes into the bathroom and shuts the door, and Eddie goes over to the bed and puts his backpack down by the side table. Bathing in the quiet, Eddie listens to the sound of the toilet flush and then the running water of the sink. He wonders how long it will take for them to get handsy, like they were so desperate to be back on the train. He also wonders why they have only groped, and have yet to go all the way. He thinks about that a lot. Doesn’t Richie want that?

The mattress dips. Eddie is facing away from Richie, so Richie comes up behind him and puts his lips real close to Eddie’s ear, tongue teasing as he questions, “Whatcha thinking so hard about?” You. It’s always you.

“You,” Eddie says, brave. He recalls when they were skinny dipping, when he and Richie used to play games of what if. Now that what if is reality, so there’s no use lying. Eddie is thinking about Richie, and he wants Richie to know.

“Me?” Richie asks, spreading his whole body across the double bed. His head is by Eddie’s hip, chin resting there as he peers up at Eddie with this certain look in his eyes. “Any specific part of me?”

Your dick.

“Just all of you,” Eddie settles for, and that’s no lie. “How happy I am to be here with you. How happy you make me…”

“If I’m being honest, you don’t seem very happy.”

“I am happy,” Eddie says. Aren’t I? There’s just that stupid text you got earlier won’t you just tell me what that stupid text said?

“Are you?” There is a rasp to Richie’s voice, low and rugged, his arms slithering up the sheets and locking around Eddie’s waist. “I’m happy, too. And tired. Should we nap before dinner?” And Eddie nods, and Richie lets go of his grip around Eddie’s waist and creeps up the bed, burying his head in a pillow before raising his arms, beckoning Eddie to him. Eddie obliges, and finds purchase pressed against Richie’s chest, so tight, so infatuated, and he closes his eyes, focusing on Richie’s breathing and the soft song he seems to be humming.

Why aren’t I happy? Why can’t I just forget about that stupid fucking message that was probably nothing and be happy for once? Why do I always find something to be upset about?

Richie’s arms are thick, a little muscle to them, and they seem to fit around Eddie like a glove. Like they have never fit around anything else so perfectly. But as Richie dozes off into his slumber, Eddie stays awake, alert, with nervous jitters and clammy palms. Is there someone else? Eddie wants to whisper, his words destined to disappear in the dark room surrounding them. Biting back the question, he feels so torn. Do you hold anyone else like this? Like you belong?

Because if Richie does, Eddie thinks he will break.

 

 

Dinner is fine. They go to some local Chinese restaurant, because neither of them can afford something grand every night. They decide that tomorrow when they go to Times Square they will eat somewhere nicer. Richie is energized, the nap having done him good, and he holds Eddie’s hand and points to various buildings and all the people out. He makes little comments, “The streets are busy! No matter how far uptown you go, huh? That’s cool.” And Eddie replies, “Yeah, it’s cool,” with a calm smile, and he’s truly happy to see Richie like this, where he seems he belongs, on crowded streets with busy nightlife, no matter where you go. Yet with that happiness comes a pang of hurt, every time Richie looks at him, because Eddie doesn’t know what to expect and the ache to is overbearing. Though Eddie knows nothing about New Yorkers, he thinks Richie would fit in perfectly, with his big glasses and funky style and creative interests… and his coffee addiction.

When they get back to the hotel, Eddie showers first, and the shower is a haven Eddie did not know he needed. The hot water feels pure against his skin, washing away all the dirt that has collected upon his flesh throughout the busy day. Eddie scrubs himself with soap so roughly in attempt to see if a shower can wash away his negativity, too. After the shower, Eddie changes into his nightclothes and leaves his towel hung up on the curtain rod, leaving the bathroom shortly. Richie is sitting on the bed, scrolling through his phone as it sits upright on his chest. His eyes instantly dart to Eddie’s wet wavy hair, and the beads of water that still sleep upon his cheeks.

“You look as cute as a button,” Richie says, dropping his phone to his side and grinning at Eddie across the room. Eddie has yet to approach Richie, for now he just watches. Richie grows impatient, biting his lip and waving Eddie over, laughing a gentle, “Well don’t leave me waiting. Let me see if you taste as sweet as you look.” Blushing, Eddie pads over to Richie’s position on the bed and slings his legs on either side of Richie’s hips. “This is new.”

“You like?” Eddie asks. He immediately cringes afterwards and pushes his lips onto Richie’s before Richie can comment on how fucking ridiculous Eddie sounded. You like? What am I? A seventh grader?

As if to add to Eddie’s embarrassment, Richie lets out a low purr, licking the words, “I like very much,” into Eddie’s mouth.

“Fuck,” Eddie curses, the words dripping from his lips out of free will. He feels Richie hum into his mouth, the vibration seemingly taking its course all throughout Eddie’s body, for he feels it in every joint, muscle, and limb. And if words could kill, Richie’s raspy reply of, “I’m trying,” would send Eddie straight to the grave.

What happens next makes Eddie feel as though the world is purposefully trying to cock block him.

Richie’s phone goes off. And Eddie looks at Richie, knowing his lips are red and plump, the evidence of careless kissing, and with only his eyes, he begs Richie not to answer. To let it ring. To not ask Eddie to move, or pull away, to stay right where he is and continue kissing Eddie like his life depends on it.

“I need to get that,” is what Richie says, and without having to ask, Eddie slides off of him and watches as Richie collects his cell phone, and goes into the bathroom to answer it. Eddie feels like screaming, but he keeps it in, and instead, gathers what is left of his pride, and gets under the covers. Staring at the wall, he wishes he could make out Richie’s phone conversation. But the walls are too thick, much like the tension between the two men when Richie finally comes back out. Richie turns the light off and gets under the covers, leaving distance between himself and Eddie, and Eddie wishes he were alone. It is the only time he wishes he were not in Richie’s presence. Right now it hurts too much. He is thankful he is not facing Richie, however. Meeting his eyes would only be more difficult. He pretends to be sleeping, so Richie will not touch him, because he would never without Eddie’s permission, not even a gentle hand on his shoulder or his hip. Not even to smooth out a crease in Eddie’s clothes.

And with all that Eddie is, he closes his eyes, and tries not to think of the mystery someone Richie is occupying himself with. Someone who is probably more attractive, and more fun than Eddie, though Eddie does not particularly think it is hard to outdo him in either of those categories.

“Night, Eddie,” he hears Richie say.

He doesn’t say good night back.

 

 

Was it all for nothing? Eddie asks himself as he watches Richie tug on a fresh pair of jeans, buckle and all. Richie just got done showering. The tattoo? The stargazing? The making me fall for you? If Richie notices Eddie looking at him, he doesn’t say anything, just continues to get dressed for the day. On comes a clean white tee, slim fitting, comfy, and his usual jean jacket. And the black shoes. The only shoes Richie seems to own, apart from his tap shoes.

“You watching me get dressed for any particular reason?” Richie finally asks, something of a sly smile playing at his lips. Eddie swallows, anxious. Shrugging, Richie says, “Not like I have anything wrong with it. Just curious. I turned around when you got dressed, so.” Eddie wants to deny ever looking at Richie at all, but that would be the biggest lie he’s ever told, and it would only bring more teasing from Richie.

“Sorry,” Eddie says, tearing his eyes away from Richie and grabbing his jacket. Pulling it over his shoulders, they are both ready to hit Times Square. As Eddie is putting on his shoes, sitting on the edge of their shared bed, he feels Richie sit down next to him and sling an arm around his shoulders. All Eddie can think about is who else Richie has been touching. There is no use making excuses anymore. Why would Richie have gone to the bathroom if it had been a friend, or a family member? Or even his boss?

Eddie shrugs off Richie’s arm, but passes it off as an accident as he rises to his feet. Richie gives him an odd look but follows suit, and they both exit their hotel room in silence. There is so obviously something wrong between them. Awkwardness caused by Eddie’s overthinking, pain caused by Richie’s secrecy. He hopes Richie does not ask what’s wrong, why he’s acting weird, why he can’t hold his hand without pulling away. Richie’s skin on his feels like fire. Eddie only pulls back because it burns.

“I think they have free breakfast here.” Of course, Richie is the one to break their silence. It is so unlike them, not to talk to each other or touch each other. Eddie watches as Richie glances at his wrist, squinting, “But it’s already noon. Wanna just hit lunch first? Though breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” He says the last bit in a teasing tone, grinning cheekily, knowing it will hit right into Eddie’s health freak tendencies. But Eddie just nods, biting back his ramble about breakfast and how if they skip it there is more of a chance they will both develop type-2 diabetes.

Richie doesn’t try to talk on the subway. He doesn’t make eyes with Eddie. Doesn’t even put in the slightest effort. And that only disheartens Eddie more, even though his distance is what brought on Richie’s discomfort. It isn’t until they are walking down Forty-second Street that Richie stops walking and turns around to face Eddie. They are in the middle of the street, blocking people’s way, but Richie doesn’t seem to care as his words tumble from his lips, “Okay, what’s bothering you?” Passersby scoff at the two men halted in the middle of the street. Eddie grabs Richie’s elbow and leads him to the entrance of a random clothing store, wanting to be out of people’s way before they have this discussion.

“Nothing’s bothering me,” Eddie lies, like a goddamn idiot. A stranger could look at them both and know something is wrong.

“Why are you lying?” Richie asks, rightfully aggravated.

“I’m not lying,” Eddie fires back, eyebrows furrowed, his anger now building up. It was mostly just sadness, before, but now Eddie’s fists are tightening and his jaw is clenching.

“You obviously are,” Richie says. He is trying not to get mad, his breathing steady and his arms crossed, a very mature argument stature.

“I’m not.” The words are so ugly in Eddie’s mouth. “Can we please just go for lunch? Please?” And it’s almost as if Richie is considering letting this all go, continuing on with their planned day, but after a few minutes, he shakes his head, pursing his lips.

“No. We can’t,” Richie says.

“You’re acting like a child,” Eddie says, and this is when Richie really snaps.

You’re acting like a child!” That’s a proper shout. There are people looking at them now. Eddie wants to become one with the sidewalk. Some guy looks at Richie and Eddie, a cocky smile on his face, and he yells, “Fucking beat his ass, Pinky!” Pinky must refer to the pink sweatshirt Eddie is wearing. Glaring at the guy, Richie seems to have intentions in mind, his body turning toward the stranger, but Eddie grabs the back of Richie’s jacket and mutters a quiet, “Richie, don’t.”

“Mind your own fucking business, asshole!” is what Richie says instead of beating this guy’s face in. The guy just laughs and walks off, down the street, away from their business. A beat of silence passes before Richie’s eyes find Eddie, sweet Eddie, and he pleads, “Just—Just tell me what’s fucking wrong, Eddie. Please. I want to know. It’s hard to care about you if you don’t tell me what’s upsetting you.”

“I—I’m sorry.” Eddie says quietly, eyes glued to the sidewalk. “I’m sorry… okay?” Eddie feels Richie’s fingers on his chin, an attempt to get him to look up. So he does. Richie’s eyes are concerned, no longer annoyed.

“No, sugar. I’m sorry, for whatever I did to make you feel like you can’t trust me.”

Eddie wonders if Richie can hear his heart breaking.

“I do trust you—“ Eddie starts, but Richie cuts him off, voice tired.

“—but you can’t even tell me what’s making you upset?” Richie asks, and his insecurity makes sense. Eddie doesn’t say anything. He hears Richie huff and turn to walk away. Pulling on Richie’s jacket sleeve, Eddie stops him with a rushed, “Wait.” Richie glances at Eddie expectantly.

“I don’t know why I—“ Eddie lets out a frustrated sigh. “I… why didn’t you tell me who you were texting yesterday? Or why you… went into the bathroom to pick up your phone?” Richie doesn’t laugh, like Eddie is half expecting him to; he licks his lips and stares at Eddie. In disbelief, maybe? Confusion?

“Is that what this is about?” he asks, and Eddie wishes he could detect any sort of tone hidden behind Richie’s words. Eddie nods meekly. He feels embarrassed, stupid. Like he has been reading into the situation too much, and he probably has. “Sugar.” Richie takes Eddie’s hands and something of a smile surfaces across his lips. He speaks very slow, careful, “The text was from my agent. She was updating me about this audition I went on.”

“An… an audition you went on?” Eddie questions, stunned. Richie didn’t mention anything like that to him. Isn’t that the type of thing you mention to your boyfriend?

“And the phone call was my agent telling me I got a call-back.”

Richie,” Eddie says, breathless. He throws his arms around Richie’s torso, pulling him in for a tight hug, because Eddie is so proud, and so sorry. “I’m sorry. God. That’s amazing, Rich! That’s really fucking fantastic!”

“And I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want you to make a big deal of it,” admits Richie, his hand pushing back a strand of Eddie’s hair that has fallen. “Because it probably won’t happen. I don’t wanna get my hopes up. And I didn’t wanna get yours up, either, especially after that whole ‘you can be famous’ spiel you gave me.”  

“Richie,” Eddie says, in perpetual shock. “Richie, they’d be stupid not to cast you.”

Richie smiles, looking awestruck. Then he furrows his brows. “What did you think I was hiding?” comes the question Eddie has been dreading. “Did you think I was cheating?” Eddie’s silence delivers an answer. Richie’s face contorts to one of disgust. “I would never! You really think I’d do some shit like that?”

“No! I really didn’t,” Eddie says. “That’s why I was so fucking confused.”

“I’ve been cheated on enough to know that it fucking sucks,” Richie confesses. And suddenly the air is heavy. There is a weight to his words, a weight that takes Eddie back to their conversation yesterday, about a girl named Waverly that broke Richie’s heart.

“She cheated on you?” Eddie asks in the quietest voice, because he hopes it not true.

“A lot,” replies Richie, and Eddie wishes they weren’t standing on the side of the street at half past one in the afternoon. He wants to be back in the hotel room. To bring Richie into his arms and hold him there, to protect him from ever being hurt, from ever being crushed by someone he thinks loves him. He is too good a person to be put through that kind of pain. “Over and over again… she really made me feel like I was crazy. Like none of the people she was fucking were real, like I was just overthinking everything.”

“I’m so sorry, Rich,” Eddie says, because he is. Richie is the kindest person Eddie has ever met. If Eddie ever crossed paths with Waverly, he is sure he would break her nose. God knows she deserves it. “She didn’t deserve you.”

“Yeah.” Nodding his head, Richie manages a smile. “You’re right. She didn’t.” A pause. They are just eyes. “It’s funny… until yesterday I hadn’t thought about her in so long.”

“Oh,” Eddie says. “Sorry for reminding you.”

“No, no!” Richie says with a chuckle. “I’m glad you brought her up. It only helped me realize how much of a piece of shit she really is, and how lucky I am to have scored someone like you.” Eddie shakes his head, grinning.

“You’ve got it backwards. I’m the lucky one.”

“How about… we agree we’re both lucky… and go eat something?”

“Okay.” Eddie giggles, and they do.

 

 

When they get back to the room, around eleven PM, things feel different. There is more honesty between them, with Eddie’s worries having been spoken, as well as Richie’s past relationship. They sit on opposite ends of the bed, like children learning to flirt, their feet touching, teasing, a preview of what their bare skin feels like rubbing together, no clothes, no barriers. A smile tugs at Eddie’s lips as Richie’s leg snakes against Eddie’s, a new movement. They are both showered, hair wet and slicked back, bodies clean. Only one thing has gone unsaid thus far, but neither dare say it. Their eyes say enough.

“You gonna make me beg?” Richie asks. He is leaning against the pillows, spread out across the sheets. Eddie is at the foot of the bed, facing Richie and holding his body up by leaning his weight against his palms, which sleep on the sheets behind him, steadying. Ever so slowly, Eddie pushes off his palms and makes his way to Richie, collapsing next to him, hand trailing against Richie’s chest. Goosebumps spread across Richie’s arms at Eddie’s touch. “I wanna kiss you,” Richie says in the softest voice ever. Eddie nods his head, as if to say then kiss me. “No…” Sheepishly, Richie’s cheeks tint red. A new look. “Want you up on me again… like yesterday.”

Oh.

Eddie doesn’t skip a beat, climbing on top of Richie’s lap, his legs on either side of his body. Richie’s cheeks are red, and Eddie finds he quite enjoys the sight. Deciding he’ll have some fun with this, Eddie asks, “What next?”

“You’re not really gonna…” Richie laughs heartedly. “Okay. Kiss me.” Obliging, Eddie kisses Richie once, a close-mouthed kind of kiss. The kind of kiss given to someone while hiding in the middle school bathroom stall. “How about you kiss me like we’re grown ups?” comes Richie’s reply. He’s smiling real wide, puckering up for seconds. Though his cheeks are no longer red, Eddie still finds the sight obnoxiously cute.

An open-mouthed kiss. The kind of kiss that is swiping tongues, and silver moans, the kind of kiss that is dreamt about, and sought in life, echoed in film. The kind of kiss that apparently draws a moan from the back of Richie’s throat, though unintentional it is oddly satisfying. Eddie feels the weight of Richie’s large hands, pressing into his hips, steadying him, drawing him closer to disregard even a wedge between their bodies. Pressing hands become tugging ones as Richie pulls on Eddie’s shirt, wanting off. “Take it off,” Richie verbalizes, the words vibrating into Eddie’s mouth. Perhaps Richie is still hung up on Eddie asking for orders, but at this point Eddie doesn’t care. Drawing his lips away from Richie’s, Eddie’s hands sink to the bottom of his shirt and pull it off in one swift movement. He tosses it to the side, off the bed, away from them.

“Yours, too,” Eddie breathes, hefty, watching as Richie sits upright in his position and removes his shirt. Eddie doesn’t know why he never considered the fact that Richie had freckles everywhere. Because he does. They trail up his chest and puddle across his shoulders like April rain. Scattered across his stomach, they are spread out like snowflakes. Eddie wonders what they taste like, decorating Richie’s skin, so as Richie’s head hits his pillow, his shirt in a pile with Eddie’s on the floor, Eddie swipes his tongue across Richie’s shoulder and sucks on the patch of skin where Richie’s collarbones sit. Richie lets out a sharp breath.

“Everything okay?” Eddie asks, pulling back to meet Richie’s eyes, which are fluttering. “Want me to stop?”

“No, no, no,” Richie sputters. Chuckling nervously, he says, “I just want you to know I’ve never done this before.” Eddie doesn’t believe that at all, so he narrows his eyes and sits back, fully upright against Richie’s body now.

“Made out with someone?” he asks cautiously. There’s just no fucking way.

Richie laughs. “No, no. I mean… I’ve never been with a guy before. Like, yeah I’ve made out with guys, and done a lot of stuff but.” He ends there abruptly. There is no need for clarification; Eddie knows. But he has his fun anyway.

“You mean you’ve never fucked a guy before?” The vulgarity of Eddie’s question brings the brightest shade of red to Richie’s cheeks, and Eddie would be lying if he said he didn’t feel his own cheeks warm.

“I haven’t,” Richie admits slowly.

“Okay, well,” Running a hand through his hair, Eddie chooses his next words carefully, “If you want to, I’ll try to do my best… and show you what to do.” And snarky Richie makes his reappearance.

“Is that a promise?” Richie asks. “Because I might need a full Wiki-How tutorial on it.”

Eddie’s laugh echoes through the room, and he sits for a quick moment, thinking about how Richie can make any situation lighthearted no matter what. It’s a special ability he has. But when Richie’s hand comes up to meet Eddie’s cheek, Eddie leans down and kisses him once, gently, a silent promise to take things slow, because they are both nervous, and Richie has never done this before.

It isn’t perfect. It’s awkward, like any first time. And Eddie can’t help but laugh when Richie sucks at the patch of skin below his ear, peppering several kisses across his flesh, because it tickles some and Eddie has no self-control. He even feels Richie’s laughter rumble against his skin, a quiet, “Sorry. I won’t kiss you there,” following Eddie’s giggles. And there is grunting, and moaning, when the pants come off and when Richie finally sinks into him. Eddie stares up at Richie with hooded eyes, focusing on his contorting face and the feeling of him pulling back, and pushing in, and pulling back, and pushing in, and it feels— “So fucking good,” Richie reads Eddie’s mind. “You feel so fucking good, Eds. Fuck.” The bed seems to shake with the weight of Richie inside him, and Eddie melts into the feeling, the motion, squeezing his eyes shut, knowing there will be patches of white in his vision because he’s—“So close, sugar, fucking fuck.”

And a strained reply from Eddie, “Me too.”

When they both reach their high, Eddie opens his eyes to get one last look at Richie’s face. There is a pleasurable look of yearning he wears, with his mouth fallen open and his eyes locked onto Eddie’s parted lips. Then Richie’s holding himself up falters, and he collapses a bit against Eddie, panting long and hard, still inside. Eddie is panting, too, though he reaches a hand up to tug on Richie’s curls, and he feels Richie pull out, the feeling of him evaporating, leaving Eddie empty (an emptiness that suddenly is unfamiliar, like he has never known anything but Richie), and Richie kisses him on his mouth lazily, dewy, in love.

Stretching his hand to the bedside table, Eddie fumbles with the tissue box and cleans his chest off before tossing the dirtied tissue to the floor. Without saying anything, Richie settles his head on Eddie’s chest and sighs contently. Eddie pets his head, brushing his hair through loose fingers while still thinking of how tightly Richie had filled him up. In a low voice that is not quite a whisper, Eddie asks, “Good fuck?” Cue Richie’s drowsy laughter.

“Yeah,” he says. “Best fuck.” Eddie grins. “And me?” Richie asks,

“Best fuck,” Eddie seconds, laughing. Richie hums, perhaps drifting into sleep, and Eddie traces circles into his back, murmuring lyrics to a song Richie played for him once, and he holds him, just holds him.

 

 

The morning light shines through the shifty hotel room window. Skin is flush. Honeyed words escape Richie’s lips, and Eddie never thought Richie would be much of a sleep talker, but he’s been murmuring all night, incoherent things, and the occasional tight whimper of, “Eddie.” And Richie is still against Eddie’s dirty chest, lips parted slightly, curls spread against Eddie’s flesh like a fan. Richie grunts, suddenly, and shifts underneath the covers, and Eddie drags his fingers down Richie’s arm, back up again, a comforting gesture.

“Good morning,” Eddie says softly.

“Mhm,” Richie mumbles. His eyes blink open, starry. “It is a good morning… how’s my morning wood treatin’ you?” His voice still has it’s sleep rasp, which Eddie finds somehow adorable and sexy. The hardness against Eddie’s thigh hadn’t even crossed his mind until Richie’s mentioning. He just smiles. “Yours is treating me very nice, I must admit.” While Richie is still soft, he never fails to bring out his infamous humor. “Dreamt about you all night.”

“What about me?” Eddie questions, wanting to know.

“Your cute smile, and cute nose, and cute lips.” Surely there must be a punch line coming. “And that tight little ass of yours.” Rolling his eyes, Eddie thinks: there it is.

“Gee, thanks,” is Eddie’s casual reply, his tone thoroughly unamused though he is quite the opposite. They have a brief moment of silence, of just holding each other, until finally Richie positions his chin against Eddie’s chest so that he is looking up at Eddie, and eyes wide, he asks, “Can I kiss you good morning?”

Eddie giggles. “I can’t believe you remember that.”

“Of course I do,” Richie says, grinning. “You’re so poetic. You little writer, you.”

Richie lifts his body from Eddie’s and crawls up to kiss Eddie hard on his open mouth. Licking into Richie’s mouth, Eddie feels as though this kind of infatuation (love?) has given him the ability to do anything, and perhaps he can.

“Fuckin’ love kissing you like this.” Richie speaks into Eddie’s mouth. “Love being against you like this, too…” Pulling their lips apart, he grinds against Eddie once, touching in all the right places, and Eddie inhales sharply at the contact. “Round two tonight?” Richie asks, cheeky.

“Fuck yeah,” Eddie replies; he does not want to seem overeager by asking for an encore right now.

“Let’s go explore the greatest city ever, huh?” Richie says, slipping out from the sheets and walking naked all the way to the bathroom. Eddie admires Richie’s confidence, and thinks about how last night he didn’t care what he looked like. There was no time for insecurity, for he just wanted to be completely with Richie.

Eddie wishes he could feel like that all the time.

The shower turns on. Eddie can hear it, the sound of water hitting the shower curtain, of water dripping down Richie’s freckled skin. Since meeting Richie, Eddie has experienced more of his life than he thinks he ever will. While checking things off of what feels like a bucket list, Eddie also managed to fall deeply in love. And now the list is finally done.

He glances down at his tattoo, and brushes the art with his other hand, dragging his thumb over his porcelain skin, inspecting, pondering, because it all started here, with something so simple yet powerful. With a tattoo that reminds Eddie of his youth, of simpler times when inspiration came as easy as breathing.

Eddie takes a deep breath in.

 

 

[

RICHIE’S EXCITABLE, SUPERB, ENJOYABLE LIST OF FUN THINGS

  1. EAT FIRE
  2. JUMP OFF A CLIFF
  3. GET A TATTOO
  4. GO SKINNY DIPPING
  5. HAVE YOUR PORTRAIT PAINTED
  6. CRASH A PARTY
  7. STARGAZE AT 3 AM
  8. GO TO TIMES SQUARE
  9. TRAVEL SOMEWHERE NEW
  10. TRUST A STRANGER

]

 

 

It has been six months since Eddie Kaspbrak got his thesis assignment, and his thesis is done. Though the actual assignment is due in a few days, Professor Flynn pulled Eddie aside after class one day and let him know (totally off the record) that if Eddie wanted to swing by and have him look over his work, he would. Never one to pass up such an opportunity, Eddie turns in his thesis and waits for an email from his Professor, letting him know that it is time to come in for a meeting.

And so it is time.

“Eddie, Eddie, Eddie,” Professor Flynn says. The thesis is a thick book in his hands, held within too rough fingers, for the story is so soft, so precious. Professor Flynn raises his eyebrows and leans back in his chair, saying, “Eddie. This story is wonderful.” Eddie’s heart feels warm. “It’s so unlike anything I’ve ever read of yours. Had you been holding back on me?”

“No, I just…” Eddie doesn’t know what to say. It is only that Richie brings out the best in him. “Remember that thing you said? About how people come into our lives at the right time, whether we know it or not?”

“Yes,” Professor Flynn says, nodding slowly. “I do.”

“Well. I know,” Eddie states, secure in his words. There is not an ounce of doubt surging through his being.

“New friend Richie will be around for a while, yes?” Professor Flynn catches on. Eddie nods with an embarrassed smile. “Well, good! If he makes you write like this, then by all means, bring him into my class and have him learn a thing or two.” Eddie’s grin only widens as Professor Flynn hands Eddie’s thesis back. “I marked it up for you. There’s only minor edits, really. Oh! And I wanted to mention this part…” He flips through the pages until he finds what he is looking for. “I really enjoyed this. It’s beautiful.” Eyes glazing over the page, Eddie recalls writing it, and how motivated he had been to get the words out.

 

[

Gazing at Stevie’s extended hand, Olly wonders what would become of him if he turned away, if he ran off without looking back; would he regret his actions? Would he spend the rest of his life curious as to if this kind stranger was telling the truth about the boat he resides in? The magical boat that will take you to the place you most desire? But Olly has never been one to back down from adventure, even in his youth. When he was young, his mother would pester him, tell him his adventurous nature would come back and bite him in the butt one day. For some reason, the putrid woman found solace in brainwashing her child, spitting lies into his head, rooting him with the idea that he would do something he regretted so much he would have no choice but to return home. But Olly is so far from home now, in this mysterious dreamy place with a golden opportunity, standing before Stevie, a handsome man with calloused hands and greasy hair, and so, with a pang of bravery, Olly reaches, and he takes it.

]

 

 

 

“Sugar!” the first thing Richie says as Eddie enters Brewed Awakening. He meets Eddie at the door, grinning widely as he sets his hands on Eddie’s shoulders. “I got it! I got it, Eddie! The role! They want me! They really do! T-They said my first audition was great but—but my second—they said I was incredible!” He wraps Eddie in a tight hug before Eddie can utter a word.

“Oh my fucking God,” Eddie says, wrapping his arms around Richie’s thin frame. “Oh my fuck! Rich, that’s amazing! I’m so fucking proud of you.” He pulls back and catches another glimpse of Richie’s wide smile, and lucid eyes, and Eddie can’t help but lean up and peck him on the lips. “We have to go out tonight to celebrate. My treat.” He hopes Richie doesn’t argue, but Richie seems too overjoyed to care. “You’re gonna do so fucking amazing,” Eddie says, brushing a strand of Richie’s hair behind his ears, bumping his glasses along the way. “What is it for? A movie, or TV? Or…”

“A show,” Richie says. “That’s why I’ve been taking tap. I needed to practice in case I got this gig, and then I fucking did. Fuck! It feels so good.”

“I can’t wait to see you perform,” Eddie says honestly. Nothing but relief consumes him; Richie is finally getting everything he deserves. And Eddie has his thesis finished, too. Things are so wonderful. “Which show is it?”

Anything Goes,” Richie says. “Which is literally one of my favorite shows of all time, so.”

“He’s been obsessed with it for years!” comes Stanley’s voice from the back. Richie smiles sheepishly and rubs Eddie’s back, eyes locked.

“And I’m gonna play Billy. My favorite character. I’ve only been memorizing his lines for… forever!” Everything Richie says he says through an abundance of giggles. “I can’t wait for you to see it, sugar. It’s gonna kick ass. And I get to sing, too… everything I could’ve dreamed of. The only thing that would make my life better right now is if you would let me read what you’ve been working on…” There is a lilt to Richie’s voice, like he is hoping Eddie will be eager to share. Well, it’s his lucky day.

“About that… it’s in my bag,” Eddie says.

“It’s done?!” Richie shouts excitedly. “Lemme see! Lemme see! I’m so pumped, sugar! I can’t believe this! I’m so proud of you!” Richie ducks his head down and meets Eddie’s lips, though his beaming smile makes it difficult for them to kiss at all. Then he leans back and stretches his limbs out real tall.

“Calm down! You’re making a scene,” Eddie says, chuckling. “It’s in my backpack.”

“Well?! Get it out! I’m shaking in my boots, Eds.” Richie gestures to his feet, and Eddie is amused to see he is actually wearing boots. Stifling a laugh, Eddie swings his backpack from behind his shoulder so it bumps to his chest. His thesis turned out to be about fifty pages, so when he takes it out, Richie’s jaw drops. “Holy shit, baby. You sure wrote a lot.” Handing the thesis over to Richie, Eddie bites his lip. He is undeniably nervous about having Richie read his work. Yet there is an additional reason as to why he is nervous.

As Richie grabs the thesis, Eddie says, “The cover page is blank, but look at the first page.”

“Okay,” Richie replies, grinning. Painfully slow, he turns the first page of Eddie’s thesis, and his eyes fall to the several words dancing across the paper. Leaning over Richie’s shoulder, Eddie’s gaze drops to the title of his thesis, and to the words below. He reads along, too.

 

[

“DREAMBOAT”

 

To Richie

for bringing out the best in me.

]