Richie can’t say he was surprised when Eddie asked him to hang out that night without the rest the losers. They had been doing so for a few weeks now. They did things that any normal friends would do, like go to the movies, get breakfast before school or have sleepovers. It felt different, though, than when he would hang out with the others alone or when the whole group got together.
When he was alone with Eddie, there was this warm feeling in his stomach and his heart always seemed to beat a little faster. When Eddie would lean into him, the smell of laundry detergent and cucumber melon shampoo would overwhelm him in the best way. When Eddie would giggle and scrunch his little nose up, Richie’s heart would melt. He tried not to think much about it. Eddie was his best friend. There was no reason why being alone with him should make his chest hurt and his palms sweat.
Except for the fact that there was a reason and Richie knew exactly what it was. He knows he has to keep these feelings a secret though. If anyone knew, especially Eddie, they would probably laugh him off of the planet. To be fair, the thought of Eddie reciprocating his feelings almost made him laugh too. As if someone as perfect as Eddie Kaspbrak could ever feel that way about someone like him.
Tonight, when he’s with Eddie, he knows he’ll have to pretend everything is normal like always. He also knows that tonight, acting normal will be about ten times harder than usual, because when Eddie asked him to hang out, all he told Richie was to meet him at the quarry because he had a surprise.
Eddie told Richie to meet him at the quarry around 6:00 pm, but Eddie showed up half an hour early because that’s just how he is. He realized this was a mistake because now he had nothing to do but pace back and forth while trying not to think about how nervous he was and how he really shouldn’t be.
Unbeknownst to Richie, Eddie was always nervous when he was around him. Richie didn’t know that his head would swim every time he would lean in too close causing him to catch Richie’s signature scent of cheap cologne, mint and sometimes cigarette smoke, depending on what kind of day he had. He didn’t know that Eddie’s small hands would almost twitch with the desire to run them through Richie’s curls when he threw his head back with that stupid, infectious laughter of his. He didn’t know how hard it was for Eddie to keep his lips to himself pretty much anytime Richie moved his own. Richie was clueless and Eddie wanted to keep it that way. He knew he’d be the laughing stock of the century if people found out he’d been pining over his best friend for the past 5 or so years.
He wasn’t really sure why he invited Richie out here tonight. He had found something that he had wanted to share with all of his friends, but a small voice in his head told him that he should share it with Richie first. He doesn’t know who that voice belongs to but it always seemed to be screaming “Richie! Richie! Richie!” and Eddie wished it would shut up.
So here he was, pacing back and forth and checking his watch. He can feel himself start to sweat. It was late May and the sun hadn’t quite set yet, plus he was wearing jeans so he decided to blame it on that instead of his nerves.
It was 6 pm on the dot when Richie showed up. Like always, the moment they both saw each other, their hearts skipped a beat. He was sporting black jeans, a t-shirt and a jean jacket. His Hawaiian shirts still sometimes made an appearance, but he had mostly switched them out for various jean and leather jackets when he turned 16.
“Oh, you’re already here. I’m not late am I?” Richie almost sounded worried.
“No. Right on time actually.” Eddie smiled and showed him his watch.
“Huh. Look at me, being all punctual.” He grinned. “So… what’s this big surprise, Eddie Spaghetti?”
Eddie didn’t even flinch at the silly nickname as he had grown quite fond of it over the years.
“Don’t call me that.” He replied anyway. He couldn’t let Richie know he actually liked it. But of course that was one thing Richie did know. “Just come on. I’ll show you. We’ll have to do a little bit of walking. Hope that’s alright.” Eddie reached out and grabbed Richie’s wrist and pulled him along.
Both of them were hoping the pink tint in their cheeks from the contact wasn’t obvious. They walked in a comfortable silence for the first few minutes until Richie decided that it was too quiet.
“You have me come out here and meet you, right before it gets dark and drag me way further into the woods than any of us have ever cared to go. Are you bringing me out here to kill me, Eds? Did all the jokes about your mother finally break the camel’s back? Come on, Eddie. Please give me another chance. I can change.” He dramatically clasped his hands together like he was begging. He tried to keep a straight face, but failed when Eddie began to laugh and shake his head at him.
“Shut up, you idiot.” Eddie rolled his eyes but the smile remained on his face.
“Alright, alright, but honestly we’ve been walking for like… ever. Are we even in Derry anymore?”
“Rich, it’s only been 10 minutes, chill out. But yes, actually. We’re here.” Eddie stopped walking and dramatically held his arms out as if to say ‘Ta-da!’ Richie began to look around, confused. It didn’t seem like anything special to him.
They were still surrounded by trees and they could still see the quarry. It didn’t look much different than where they had just been.
“Uh… this is nice and all, Eds, but… what exactly am I looking at?” Richie asked carefully, in case he was missing something, not wanting to hurt Eddie’s feelings.
“Just wait. Wait for it.” Eddie was looking up towards the sky. Richie began to do the same. Another minute passed before Richie saw something small light up above him. And then he saw another one. And another one.
“Woah! Look, Eds! Look! Fireflies! A whole bunch of ‘em!” Richie pointed up towards where they were flying with his eyes wide. And there were tons of them. Lighting up all around them.
“I know. That’s what I wanted to show you.” Eddie smiled softly and looked over at him. Richie hadn’t taken his eyes off of the fireflies and for that Eddie was thankful. Because as soon as he saw the complete joy and awe on Richie’s face at something so simple, the only thing he could think was ‘Holy shit I want to kiss him and I have never loved anyone more than I love him’ and that thought was enough to cause his face to flush.
“Eddie, this is so cool! How did you know they would be here?” He finally tore his eyes away from the pretty sight above him to look at an even prettier sight beside him.
“One night after my mom was being extra insane, I came out to the quarry to be alone. Just to think, ya know? And I just kept walking until I got here and saw all of them flying around. I came back the next night to see if they would still come out and they did. I’ve been coming out here on nights that I want to be alone and think. They only stay in this little area though. I’m not sure why. I just thought it was kind of beautiful. So I wanted to show you. I thought maybe… I don’t know… you could come out here if you ever needed to. Or maybe we could start coming out here together. I- I mean if you wanted.” Eddie could feel his cheeks heating up as he spoke.
Richie was looking down at the smaller boy, trying to ignore his heart that was probably about to come out of his chest because ‘Holy shit I want to kiss him and I have never loved anyone more than I love him’.
“Thank you. It really is beautiful. And you know I would go anywhere with you.” Richie says, still looking at him. When he sees Eddie’s eyes widen, he clears his throat awkwardly, regretting his words. “What do you think about? When you’re out here, I mean.” He asked, changing the subject. Eddie almost lies. He isn’t sure if it’s the humidity getting to him or maybe it’s Richie’s previous words giving him the confidence to say what he feels.
“You.” He finally says, his eyes never leaving Richie’s. Richie’s breath hitches and it’s his turn to widen his eyes. “I think a lot about you. And me. Us. What we are and what we aren’t. What we could be. I think about all the chances I’ve had to tell you how I feel and how stupid I was to ignore them because I was scared. Scared that you would laugh in my face. Scared that you wouldn’t feel the same way. And I don’t know what it is but I don’t think I’m scared anymore. I want to tell you. I want to tell you that I love it when you call me Eds and I love it when you do that terrible British accent. I want to tell you I love it when you knock on my window at 3 am and say it’s just because you missed me. I want to tell you that I’m in love with you and that I’ve been in love with you ever since we were 13 and I’ve tried to get over it I really have but God Richie sometimes you make it so damn hard with your stupid laugh and your stupid jokes and I just-”. He’s interrupted when Richie leans down, gently grabbing his face and pressed their lips together.
Richie’s scent washes over Eddie and Eddie’s scent washes over Richie. Eddie is finally able to run his fingers through Richie’s hair and Richie feels that familiar warm feeling in his stomach. They’re both sure this is what pure bliss feels like and they never want it to end. It does though, when they finally pull away.
“I love you too.” Is the first thing Richie says. “I always have. I always will.”