Richie loved living with Bev. He loved the fact that she was always game to marathon romantic comedies with him, that she was always up for going to the shitty little dive bar three blocks away to hit on men with no intention of bringing them home. The thing he loved the most about Bev though, was the fact that she was with Ben. Richie loved Ben – hard-core best friend love. Ben lived in his own apartment, a fifteen minute drive away from casa del loser (Richie’s idea), but he was almost always over at theirs, which Richie LOVED because Richie loved Ben, and he loved how happy Ben made Ben, and Ben makes a mean margarita and Richie loves Margaritas.
This particular morning started how it normally did. Bev’s out at some sports thing, Ben is still in bed, and Richie is making pancakes in the kitchen, singing (Bev would call it howling) along to I Believe In A Thing Called Love. The door clicks, and a very sweaty Beverly Marsh falls through the door, panting slightly and clutching a rolled up yoga mat under her arm. Richie throws a pancake at her, which she doesn’t catch. The pancake hits the floor with a pathetic slap and Bev looks at Richie like, what the hell, Richard?
‘What the hell, Richard?’
‘Thought you might be hungry’ he replies, smirking.
Bev picks up the pancake, and promptly throws it in the trash, glaring at Richie as she does so.
‘What a waste of perfectly good pancake’ she laments, before tipping her head upside down and catching her fiery hair into a bun on the top of her head. Richie thinks she looks like a pineapple, and he tells her as such. She just flips him off, before flopping onto one of the kitchen stools.
‘Miss Marsh you are disgustingly sweaty. Have you just been dicked down somewhere in public? Didn’t peg you for an exhibitionist’
Beverly screeches, throwing a spoon at Richie’s head. He catches the spoon, and brandishes it at her like a sword. She puts her hands up, playing at surrender. They both laugh.
‘I’ve been at bikram yoga, you degenerate’
‘bik-ham what now?’ Richie asks lazily, piling up a plate of pancakes before drenching them in strawberry compote. Richie was a damn good cook, if he said so himself. Which he did, multiple times a day, much to Bev’s chagrin.
‘Bikram yoga. You do yoga in a heated room – it’s normally around 100 degrees or so, and it is A-MAZ-ING’ she replies dreamily, picking at one of the pancakes. Richie swats her hand away, but she just sticks her tongue out at him, continuing to eat his breakfast.
‘Well that sounds like the stupidest thing ever’
‘No, Richie, seriously, it’s incredible. You should totally come with me! I’m going again tomorrow morning’
Richie stares at her.
‘Do you know me at all, Marsh? Problemo numbero uno, it happens before eleven am which is just.. an absolute no. And two, I’m about as bendy as a stick, a very brittle stick, so unless you want to see me actually snap in half, I don’t think it’d be a very good idea’
Bev doesn’t even blink, launching into a tirade of reasons why Richie should absolutely definitely come with her tomorrow morning. Richie thinks that she’d probably been planning to entice (force!) him to come with her since before she’d even got home.
‘It’s futile me even attempting to convince you that I’m not coming tomorrow, isn’t it’
Bev just grins.
So Richie finds himself getting up at the ungodly hour of 7am, and following Bev to the yoga studio like a lost puppy. The yoga studio is downtown, in a building that used to be the old swimming pool. They pay at the reception, giving their money to a bright-faced, enthusiastic man called Mike, who points Richie in the direction of the men’s changing room. He thanks Mike, before Bev leaves him to get changed in the women’s changing room. Bev had told him that he’d be unbearably hot even in what people normally wear to the gym, and that, really, all he should be wearing is cycling shorts. He’d been absolutely adamant that he would not be just wearing cycling shorts, but she’d gotten all serious like, ‘Richie, you’ll get heat stroke, seriously. No one will care what you’re wearing’, so he’d conceded. He had, however, shaved his chest last night which made Bev howl with laughter.
Richie gets changed into the cycling shorts, and is relieved to see that the changing room is actually full of men of all ages wearing pretty much exactly the same thing he is. He lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He shoves his normal clothes into one of the lockers, and steps out of the changing room. Bev is already waiting for him, dressed in a deep burgundy sports bra and tiny black shorts.
‘dayyyyymn, Marsh, who knew you were a hottie with a body’
‘Come on, Trashmouth, let’s get set up’
Richie lets Bev pull him into the studio, which looks just any other gym studio. The floor is sprung wooden boards, and the wall at the front is one huge mirror with a bar. Bev walks to the corner the furthest from the wall, and unrolls her mat. Richie, who is borrowing one of Bev’s old mats, does the same. They both sit on their mats, watching the rest of the yogis filter in through the door. Richie can feel his heart beating in his chest. He’s nervous. He scans around the room when it’s filled up, and realizes that none of these people know who he is. He doesn’t recognize anyone, and they won’t recognize him, and he’s fine. He starts to feel better about the fact that he won’t actually be able to DO any of the stupid poses or whatever.
Bev, sensing Richie’s apprehension, places a calming hand on his arm. She knows.
‘You’re going to be fine, Richie, honestly. I’m not that great, so we can just be shitty yogis’ in this corner together, okay?’
Richie wants to quip something about ‘yogi’ being a pretentious, ridiculous thing to call yourself, but he doesn’t. He just sends a whispered thanks her way.
‘and besides’, Bev continues, a wicked glint in her eye, ‘you’re in for a very nice surprise, Tozier’
Richie snorts, pushing her arm away playfully.
‘Woman, you’re an enigma’
The room, which had been almost chilly when they’d walked in, suddenly began to noticeably heat up, swiftly moving past cold to comfortable to warm to almost boiling. Richie can already feel beads of sweat slide slowly down his back. Bev stands up, bouncing on her heels slightly. She’s excited, Richie notes. He stands up too, grabbing one last drink from his bottle before he’s contorted into god knows what pretzel position.
When the instructor walks through the door, Richie actually chokes on his water, spraying it out of his mouth like a moron. The instructor is short, but built like an Adonis. His face is kind, and open, and clean shaven. His hair is fluffy, messy and quaffed up out of his face. His chest is bare, but he wears a thin silver chain around his neck. His tan skin is taught over his defined muscles, a trail of hair leading from his navel into the worlds tiniest-tightest shorts. Richie can feel his mouth fall open comically, before he turns to Bev.
‘I know!’ she replies slyly, the same wicked glint in her eye, before she erupts into goofy laughter. Then, much to Richie’s embarrassment, the instructor looks directly at them, his head cocked curiously. Richie is sure his face is as scarlet as Bev’s damn sports bra.
‘Oh, sorry, Eddie, Richie here just said something absolutely hilarious’ Bev simpers, and Richie wants to smack her. The instructor – Eddie – smiles this soft, small smile.
‘I don’t think I’ve seen you before, Richie, welcome! I’m Eddie, like Beverly said, and I’ll be leading us through the sequence today. Have you done bikram yoga before?’
Richie shakes his head, no.
‘Well, I’ll come over and help you if I think you need it, but for now, if everyone could stand with their feet together and their arms reaching strong towards the ceiling we’ll begin’
So, it turns out that Richie loves bikram yoga. He loves the biting, cruel heat, and he loves the way it makes his muscles feel loose, strong, supple. He loves that the heat helps him stretch just that little bit further, his hands get that much closer to the ground when his legs are pin straight. He loves the feeling of the sweat running down his back in large drops, cooling his skin as it evaporates. But, mostly, he loves watching Eddie. The way Eddie’s body flows through the sequences, the way his muscles shift under his skin, the way his kind eyes stay trained on his students. Richie isn’t very good, obviously. He isn’t strong enough to hold most of the poses for longer than a few seconds, and he can’t put his palms flat on the floor when his legs are straight. Whilst the heat is helping make his muscles more supple, he can’t force his body to bend into some of the more complicated positions. Currently, Eddie is sat at the front of the studio, legs pretzeled into a lotus like it was the most natural position in the world. Richie can sort of do it, but when he manually hauls his left leg to rest on his thigh, the right leg just slips straight off again, and he’s back to square one. He stops looking at Eddie, briefly, to stare at his own uncooperative legs, and that brief moment is enough for Eddie to spring up out of his own lotus, and start walking around the room. He lazily walks over to where Richie and Bev are sat, and smiles approvingly at Bev’s almost perfect lotus.
‘Fantastic, Bev. Well done!’
‘Teacher’s Pet’ Richie hisses.
Bev snorts knowingly, but Eddie blinks at him, the ghost of a smile playing on his lips.
‘Richie, you’re doing great! let me just–‘
Richie’s skin burns with the fire of a thousand suns, and it’s not just because the room is set to nearly 100 degrees. Eddie’s hands, which are soft and damp, are moving Richie’s right leg to slot back underneath his left. Richie can’t hold the position for very long when Eddie legs go of his leg, his body giving up and his right leg shooting straight back out of its position defiantly. Eddie, though, still looks at him like he’d just stood on his head for the first time.
‘Excellent’, he hums approvingly, before wandering back to the front of the room.
‘Excellent’ Bev parrots back, waggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Richie ignores her.
It’s only fifteen minutes before the session is supposed to end that Richie’s body starts to protest, loudly. He’s aching, the heat is cruel and oppressive and it’s all becoming just a little bit too much. The rest of the class are stood in warrior pose, but Richie can’t quite make his legs stay rooted to the ground, and he keeps losing his balance. He huffs angrily at himself, pawing at his hair until he’s shoved it on the top of his head in the worlds messiest bun. He tries again, positive that it was just his unruly hair that was causing his whole body to sway violently, but he only manages to stay in warrior for three seconds before he has to steady himself again. Richie gives up, and crouches on the mat, briefly hiding his face in his hands. When he looks up, he notices that Eddie is striding purposefully straight towards him. He stops at a few other students on his way over, lifting their arms or straightening their torsos, barking out praise as he goes. When he gets to Richie, he crouches down next to him.
‘It’s okay, you know. Bikram yoga is incredibly mentally and physically exhausting for most people the first time they try it’, Eddie says in a low, comforting hum. ‘Hell, I fainted the first time I tried it. Like, full on ate dirt kinda fainting, it was horrific. But, here I am. Try lying on your back’
Eddie’s hands guide Richie’s torso back, so he’s lying on the yoga mat with his knees bent.
‘– Straighten out your legs’, Eddie continues, gently sliding his palm down Richie’s legs, pushing them down, so he’s now lying flat on the mat.
‘– and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose for seven, and out through your mouth for five. Pull your tummy back towards your spine, and – breeeeeeathe’.
Richie can feel Eddie looking at him, even through his closed eyes.
‘Yes, excellent’ Eddie murmers, before Richie can sense him stand up and walk off.
Richie was sure he could hear Bev parrot back Eddie’s ‘excellent’ again, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
When the session was over, Richie follows Bev out of the room in a sort of daze. The cool air hits his skin like thousands of tiny rocks, and leaves his body sizzling. He goes back into the changing room, and his heart drops slightly when he doesn’t see Eddie getting changed. He hauls his aching body into the shower, standing under a stream of water as cold as he could physically bare, before getting changed back into the same loose track pants and old iron maiden shirt he’d worn in. He takes the elastic out of his hair, and shakes it out like a dog. He looks in the mirror, and almost laughs at himself. His face is bright red, and still sweaty despite the shower. His hair looks absolutely wild. He looks hilarious.
He leaves the changing room and meets Bev in the reception, who looks like she’s glowing. She bounces over to him, hair flying wildly around her shoulders.
‘Did you, or did you not, LOVE bikram yoga?!’
‘I did love it! It was great, actually, even though I had to tap out like a little bitch at the end’
Bev hits her shoulder into his, playfully.
‘and I think I know whhyyyyyy you loved it so much’ she sing-songs, smirking gleefully.
Richie winks at her, sticking his tongue out the side of his mouth, before he realises that he’d left his sports bottle in the studio.
‘Hang on, Red, I just need to go and get my bottle, I left it –‘, he babbles, shucking off his converse and walking back to the studio door. He looks in through the little glass window, expecting the studio to be empty, but it isn’t. Eddie is still in there, still dressed in his shorter-than-should-be-legal shorts. He’s currently in a headstand, arms bracketed around his head, legs pointing towards the ceiling, stomach muscles taught and rippling. His eyes are closed, and Richie just stands in the doorway in a silent panic, unsure what to do. He decides to make his presence known, and coughs awkwardly. Eddie startles out of his position, and windmills his legs gracefully down so he’s now crouched on his knees. Richie groans inwardly. Damn.
He starts to apologise, before Eddie cuts him off, smiling.
‘Oh, hey, it’s fine! Don’t worry Richie. Are you okay?’
Richie just points stupidly at the bottle on the other side of the room.
‘Yeah, I just forgot … my bottle … I’ll just’
He starts to walk into the studio, but Eddie springs to his feet. He strides over to where the bottle is abandoned on the floor, picks it up, and then walks it back over to Richie. Richie’s sure he’d just swallowed his tongue. He watches Eddie walk, and the way the muscles in his thighs are so strong, so defined that they don’t move when he walks. He watches the way Eddie rolls his shoulders, in a way that is probably subconscious but is nothing short of enticing.
‘You did really well today, Richie, I was very impressed’ Eddie says as he hands Richie the sports bottle.
Richie snorts, crudely, before replying, ‘Really? I had to tap out and lie on the floor at the end or did you forget about that’
Eddie just smiles the same damn soft smile again and Richie’s pretty sure that’s going to be the thing that kills him.
‘No, I didn’t forget, I told you about my first time doing bikram yoga, and you didn’t faint or vomit or have to leave or run screaming out of the door so. I’m proud of you’
Richie feels his chest puff out. He feels stupidly happy.
‘Thanks, teach’, he says with a wink.
Eddie beams at him, an honest to god megawatt grin, and Richie decides that this beam is his favourite kind of Eddie smile.
‘Will I be seeing you again? – I mean, in my class, will you come again?’, Eddie asks, tripping over his words. Richie thinks it’s adorable.
‘Yes! Definitely, I’ll be coming back with Bev, for sure’
Richie doesn’t move immediately, finding himself anchored to the spot. He stares into Eddie’s eyes in a way that he thinks is probably incredibly awkward but Eddie doesn’t drop his gaze. Eventually, he tears himself away, sending a rushed ‘See ya, Eds!’ over his shoulder, before shuffling out the door.
If he’d turned around to look at Eddie once more, he would have seen Eddie standing in the middle of the studio, that same soft smile on his flushed face, not entirely the result of the heat in the room.