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tell me, did you fall for a shooting star?

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            The first thing Eddie notices about Richie is his eyes.

            He’s at a diner just off campus from the local university. Bill and Mike are sitting across from him in their booth and chatting happily while he absentmindedly doodles into the sketchbook he brought along. They’re having their weekly Sunday dinner, a tradition set into place when Mike and Bill decided to attend college and Eddie opted to take a different path, never a fan of school but always a fan of art. It’s always a pleasant time, but his friends are currently talking about some assignments they have yet to finish and Eddie finds himself zoning out of the conversation entirely, a soft sigh leaving his lips as he sets his pen down on his sketchbook, letting his gaze wander around the cute little establishment they’re in. The place is eighties themed, colors bright and vibrant, music crooning gently from the jukebox in the corner of the room.

            It’s as he’s appreciating their surroundings that he sees him for the first time.

            He won’t learn this until later, but the boy across the room is Richie Tozier, and his eyes look like the ocean glimmering under the sunlight. Brown, curly hair is halfway pulled up into a messy little bun while the other half hangs loose, framing his soft features and complimenting the curve of his jaw. Clad in a pair of skinny jeans that show off his long legs and a large, baggy black sweater covered in little white galaxy doodles, he should look ridiculous due to how the outfit seems to swallow him whole, but something about it is just endearing, in a way Eddie can’t explain.

            Instantly, he picks his pen back up, and he starts drawing.

            Across from him, Bill and Mike are still talking, though they have already recognized that glint in Eddie’s eyes – the one that means he’s too invested in something else to be listening – so they don’t bother in trying to invite him into the conversation. Eddie would be grateful, but he’s kind of distracted right now, doing his best to capture the beauty in front of him, wanting every line to be perfect, everything from the slope of the boys nose to the curve of his neck to the way his eyes shine as he laughs along to something the girl sitting next to him said. It doesn’t take long, the sketch a little rough, but by the time he deems it good enough, there’s a drawing of this boy on the page and he wants to go say hi.

            Just as he’s weighing the pros and cons of actually approaching the table – which, now that he’s looking closer, has three other occupants as well – they all get to their feet. Eddie deflates, thinking that they’re leaving and he’s missed an opportunity, but then he overhears the redheaded girl telling a waitress that they’ll be back in a minute and are just going outside to smoke.

            This is his chance, then.

            As soon as the four of them are outside, Eddie scribbles down a little note below the drawing and rips it from his sketchbook, quickly bringing Mike and Bill’s conversation to an end as they watch him curiously. He pays them no mind as he quickly gets to his feet, crosses the room to set the page on the table where the boy had been sitting, and gets back to his booth in record time.

            “What was that?” Mike asks, intrigued.

            “I drew someone,” Eddie explains quickly, shrugging. “Figured they might want the drawing.”

            Bill just grins, already looking far too aware of what’s going on in Eddie’s head, but he opts to drop the subject as he starts rambling about something that happened to him the other day. This time Eddie listens, though he does continue to absentmindedly doodle little shapes and stuff onto a new page, his gaze flickering back and forth between the paper and the door.

            Five minutes later, the four of them come back inside, talking loudly. When they sit down, none of them seem to notice the drawing – not until the boy himself, who looks down and frowns in confusion as he picks up the page to take a closer look. Eddie can see the exact moment he realizes what it is, as his cheeks immediately burn a bright red and his frown twitches up into a bashful little smile. For a second, Eddie wants to draw him again – wants to capture his blush and his soft eyes and shy features – but then the boy looks up, as if feeling Eddie’s eyes on him, and they meet gazes.

            Part of Eddie wants to look away, but most of him likes the idea of this boy knowing he was the one who drew him, so instead he just smiles at him, lifting his pen and waving it slightly in a small little greeting. The boy blushes harder and looks back down at the drawing. He doesn’t look at Eddie again for the rest of the evening, but Eddie can see him holding back a giddy grin, so he doesn’t mind.

 

 

 

 

            The second time Eddie sees Richie, he’s wearing glasses.

            Eddie doesn’t realize this at first, too enraptured in the conversation he’s having with Bill – a text conversation, though, because Bill is late and Mike said he couldn’t make it this week, leaving Eddie sitting in this diner booth by himself and trying not to feel awkward when other customers eye him curiously. It isn’t until Eddie is reduced to begging Bill to come have dinner with him that he hears someone beside him clearing their throat.

            When he looks up, he thinks he stops breathing for a moment, because standing there is the boy he had drawn two weeks prior. He has his hands clasped in front of him, eyes cast down and face flushed. Eddie can’t think of anything to say, so he openly gapes instead, because holy shit, the boy is even prettier up close and he doesn’t know what to do about that.

            After a moment of silence, the boy speaks, his voice quiet and timid. “Hi,” he starts, glancing at Eddie before dragging his gaze up to stare at the ceiling, sinking his teeth into his lower lip for a moment before releasing it with a soft sigh. Eddie watches the movement intently, swallowing the lump in his throat. “Um,” the boy goes on, “I just- I saw that you were, y’know, sitting over here, and I know you drew that picture of me, and my friends, uh- they’ve been bugging me about how I need to say something if I see you again, and then, y’know, you’re here now, and they said I had to come over and at least say thank you, and—”

            He cuts off, features pinching together. Eddie is starting to think that love at first sight is real after all.

            “Is that seat taken?” he eventually asks, unclasping his hands in order to gesture to the other side of the booth. Dumbly, Eddie just shakes his head, his wide eyes watching in wonder as the boy murmurs a quiet, “Okay,” before sliding onto the bench.

            Finally, Eddie manages to get his brain to function again, and he says, “I’m Eddie.”

            With the same bashful smile that he wore when he saw the drawing, the boy replies, “Richie.”

            “You’re really cute, Richie,” Eddie states, and then decides that maybe his brain isn’t functioning quite yet, because that’s not at all what he meant to say. It’s true, but he didn’t mean to say it.

            Richie bites his lip again in a failed attempt to stop himself from grinning, a rosy blush rising up his neck and across his cheeks. Eddie is absolutely delighted to find freckles and moles dotting the expanse of his skin. Just when Eddie thinks he’s going to murmur some variation of thank you or you, too, Richie parts his lips and starts rambling about the stars, his eyes shining with a mixture of uncertainty and something akin to wonderful passion.

            Leaning forward in interest, Eddie listens to every single word.

 

 

 

 

            Sundays are still dinner with Bill and Mike, but Saturdays are dinner with Richie.

            Eddie isn’t exactly sure how this happened, the arrangement unspoken and suddenly put in place, but every Saturday evening he ends up at the diner, and after ten, maybe twenty minutes of waiting, Richie sits across from him. In the past month that this has been happening, not much has changed – Richie will talk about something science- or space-related, and Eddie will listen, wanting to hear more about these topics for the first time in his life. Sometimes, Eddie will draw while he listens, usually another drawing of Richie or something that has to do with what it is he’s talking about, and sometimes he’ll ask questions that Richie is ecstatic to answer.

            On the fifth Saturday, Eddie asks, “Why don’t you talk about other stuff?” He asks this because he’s curious, not because he’s complaining, but when Richie’s face falls he can’t help but feel his own chest cave in slightly. “Not that I mind,” he quickly adds, and some kind of instinct takes over causing him to reach over and grab Richie’s hand. “I never cared about this shit until you started talking about it, but I just… I dunno. I was just wondering.”

            One thing that Eddie’s noticed about Richie is that, despite dressing like someone who could talk his way through anything, he’s actually fairly shy and blushes more than anyone Eddie has ever met before. It’s fucking adorable, especially now, as he raises his shoulders in a meek shrug and murmurs, “I talk about stuff I know when I’m nervous.”

            “Why are you nervous?” Eddie asks, cocking his head to the side.

            “Because of you,” Richie practically whispers, staring down at the table.

            It goes quiet for a long, slow moment, and Eddie tightens his hold on Richie’s hand before softly admitting, “You make me nervous, too.”

 

 

 

 

            It’s not until their ninth dinner that Eddie has the courage to bring up the thing that’s been eating away at him since these dinners began. Richie hasn’t started babbling on yet, still looking over the menu despite the fact that he always orders the same thing, and in the few moments of silence, Eddie says, “I want to see you outside of this place.”

            Richie nearly drops his menu in his haste to meet Eddie’s gaze with wide, stunned eyes.

            “I don’t really care where,” Eddie continues, trying not to let his own stomach-churning anxiousness show on his features. “A movie theatre, a different restaurant, my apartment, whatever. I just… I want to spend time with you and I want to know for sure that it’s a date, because I can’t tell if these dinners are friendly or not, and I really want more than friendly. If that’s what you want, too.”

            “Yes,” Richie immediately says, only to pause and clear his throat after his voice comes out hoarse and croaky. Offering a bashful grin, Richie nods and repeats, “Yes. Yes, I- I want that. I want that, too.”

            Eddie can feel his heart skip a beat at the excitement glimmering in Richie’s eyes. Returning the smile, he offers, “Next week, then? We can meet here first and figure out where to go from there?”

            Richie enthusiastically nods. “Sounds perfect.”

            If both of them stammer with red faces the rest of the dinner, neither of them bring it up.

 

 

 

 

            Their date doesn’t feel very different from the dinners, Eddie comes to realize, but the fact that it is a date makes his heart flutter every few moments.

            They start at the movies, picking the first one that catches their eye and buying a horrendous amount of popcorn. He doesn’t know who initiates it, but halfway through the movie they intertwine their fingers and don’t let go, not even when they leave. Richie starts rambling about what he thought of the movie as they trail down the sidewalk, and Eddie finds it cute for many reasons – one, Richie always looks cute, especially when he’s talking about something excitedly, his words fast and his free hand extended in front of him to gesture wildly as he speaks; two, it assures Eddie that he’s not the only one who still feels alight with nerves.

            “My place is just around the corner,” he says.

            “Lead the way,” Richie replies before jumping right back in to what he’d been talking about before. Eddie has never experienced heart-eyes before, but he knows that’s how he looks now, gazing up at Richie with so much fondness that it feels suffocating in the best possible way. Anyone who merely glances at the two of them must see it, too. That thought sits warm and fuzzy in his chest.

            Eddie’s apartment is not big or glamorous. It’s what he can afford with a minimum-wage job and some extra money he occasionally gets with his art. The rooms are small and the carpet is old and dingey, but Richie says he loves it as soon as he steps in, wide eyes sweeping every square inch to take in the place fully. He approaches the scattered papers filled with incomplete drawings and the corner of the living room that Eddie calls his painting area, a cheap bookshelf filled with several containers and colors of paints, an arrangement of paint brushes on the top shelf and a half-painted canvas sitting on an easel he bought two years ago, when he still lived with his mother and had a monthly allowance.

            Scanning over the swirls of color and the beginnings of what will be a painting of a sunset, Richie tells him, “You’re insanely talented. You know that, right?”

            With a little shrug, Eddie responds with a half-hearted, “I know I’m not bad.”

            Richie looks like he wants to protest, but opts against it.

 

 

 

 

            They still go to the diner after that, but not as often. Richie insists that he enjoys spending time together at Eddie’s place much more, and often claims that he could stay there forever and never get bored. Eddie claims that there’s no such thing as boredom when he’s with Richie. That never fails to make Richie blush, so Eddie likes to say it a lot.

            On the day that they first kiss, they’re spending the evening in Eddie’s room, random music playing from the old radio Eddie’s father gave him before dying. Richie is sitting on the floor, his arms crossed on top of the bed and his chin resting on his wrists, while Eddie is sitting on the bed, legs crossed and sketchbook balanced on his knee. While Richie has been going on for fifteen minutes about why Jupiter is the most interesting planet in their solar system, Eddie has been thinking.

            Eddie has been thinking a lot.

            His hands are moving on their own, capturing Richie’s image on the page for what is probably the hundredth time since they met, but his mind is somewhere else, replaying the past five months in his mind and wondering why neither of them have tried to take anything a step further. It’s fairly obvious that they want to be something more – they’ve been on multiple movie dates and admitted to one another that they’re always nervous and jittery around each other – but still, nothing much has happened.

            And then he thinks back to how this started, how he had drawn Richie, a stranger at the time, and on the page he had written, I love your eyes, and he decides that this going-nowhere thing stops here.

            Richie keeps talking, because this is something he cares a lot about. Eddie keeps drawing, but now he has something specific he wants to put on the page. With more precision and care than he’s ever shown for any piece of art before, he starts adding in Richie’s freckles and moles, scanning over Richie’s features as subtly as he can to make sure he’s getting them right. The shading has to be exact, and the glasses perched on Richie’s semi-crooked nose are drawn on slowly. Even the reflection on the lenses given the same patient treatment for the sake of making this perfect. Once he’s satisfied, he starts connecting the myriad of freckles into little constellations, as if he’s mapping out the sky. Some of them are real constellations – listening to Richie ramble about space has brought him some knowledge on the matter – and some of them aren’t, but he likes the way it looks.

            Below the drawing, in almost the exact place where he had written the first note on the first picture of Richie he drew, he carefully writes out, I think I love you.

            By this point, Richie is no longer talking, opting instead to watch with rapt interest as Eddie works on this, eyes trained on the way his hands move and his brows crease in concentration. Eddie meets his gaze timidly, and with a whispered little, “Here,” he carefully tears the page out of the book and hands it over for Richie to see.

            For a long moment, nothing happens, but then the drawing is set aside and Richie’s fingers are curled around the collar of Eddie’s shirt and he’s pulling him in and they’re kissing, a sweet little kiss that feels as shy as it is, soft lips and gentle touches. It’s a little uncomfortable, with Eddie having to lean down so much and Richie craning his neck up to close the distance completely, but despite all of that, it’s absolutely perfect. Eddie raises a hand to brush through the loose curls framing Richie’s face before settling gently on Richie’s jaw, while Richie keeps one hand clutching Eddie’s shirt and slides the other over to carefully hold onto the back of Eddie’s neck. Their movements are languid, soft – there’s no rush.

            He doesn’t know who pulls back first, but after a few minutes of this, they end up with their foreheads pressed together, breathing a little heavy, eyes blown wide, faces warm to the touch. Richie is glancing back and forth between Eddie’s steady gaze and his parted lips, looking speechless, and Eddie can practically hear the cogs turning in his head as he searches for something to say. Eddie waits, patient and pleased, until Richie finally settles on, “You’re everything I never knew I wanted.”

            His voice is so open and vulnerable.

            Eddie wants to kiss him again.

            Instead, he jokes, “Do you like me more than Jupiter?” And it makes Richie snort lightly, but even that is quiet, and his features are so genuine, and Eddie think that there is nothing better in this universe than the boy sitting in front of him.

            “I like you more than anything,” Richie admits. His gaze flickers away, shy and bashful once again, but he takes a deep breath and looks back, cupping Eddie’s face in his palms. Voice a little bit thicker, he breathes, “I think I love you, too.”

            This time, Eddie does kiss him again, and even when his back starts to ache from hunching over so much, he doesn’t stop kissing him. He only tugs on his shirt gently and guides him onto the bed with the intention to trace constellations into Richie’s skin with his own fingertips until every single mark upon Richie’s body is memorized and mapped out in his mind.