Chapter 1: The Gallery
Veil of thorns disguises me.
When I'm at the door, I go quietly.
Eddie sits down onto a comfortable couch. He can tell just by sitting on it how many others had done the same, the springs giving way quickly as he sinks deeper into the cushions. Well worn.
He looks at the table in front of him, pamphlets and paper and brochures scattered around. Some are inpatient facilities. Some are resources for food or housing. And some, Eddie can’t bring himself to actually pick up. Even when he wants to.
Can’t let go of the past? Ways to cope with PTSD triggers and begin the rest of your life!
Eddie’s eyes linger but his hands stay stiff at his side. Just then, his therapist enters. His head whipped towards her, his thoughts pushed aside.
“Hey, Eddie.” She says softly, shutting the door and sitting down in a small chair opposite him. Two portraits of lotus flowers and lily pads hang behind her head, perfectly spaced and evenly displayed.
“Hi, Kate.” He smiles back at her, eyes tired but genuinely happy to see her. Her office smelled like vanilla today. She must have bought a new wax melt.
“So…” She begins, setting aside her clipboard and getting more comfortable in her chair. She lets her long brown hair free from its bun and it falls onto her white-clothed shoulders like a dark waterfall. “How are you today?”
“I’m…” For some reason this question was the hardest to answer of all the ones she asked. He struggles to dig for an answer, combing his mind like a rake through sand. It’s smooth and bare. The rake’s fingers glide right through.
“I’m good.” He says. A little too high pitched though, an unfortunate lie. He was never a good liar. At least he isn’t anymore. At least... his honesty stayed in tact a little bit.
“Are you actually good… or are you just not doing bad?” She says with her eyebrows raised, smile sweet but knowing. Cough it up, Kaspbrak.
“I’m…” Honesty it is, then. “I don’t know.”
Kate nods at him, eyebrows dropping and smile turning soft.
“It’s okay not to know. What have you been up to?” Eddie looks away from her, staring at the carpet. He doesn’t know why the beginning of these sessions suck so bad. Maybe its because he is transferring from being just another person, stranger, politeness upheld and fake smile plastered- to someone who needs to bring honesty. Who needs to take advantage of the time. Who needs to be…
“There’s not a right or wrong answer, Eddie, I just want to know what you’ve been doing since we last met.” She says, a dimple appearing on her left cheek.
“I’ve been working. (Mhmm.) And… I’ve been reading. (As always, she laughs.) And… That’s it.” He finishes quickly.
“Okay. Well, that’s nice, honey. I’m glad everything has remained stable since the beginning of the month. That’s kind of nice, isn’t it?” There had been many times where things hadn’t been. She was right. Eddie lets himself feel thankful for his solidarity, for a moment. At least things were stable. At least things were safe.
“Yeah. It is kind of nice.” He says. His genuine smile makes an appearance on his face, meek, but genuine all the same. She returns it excitedly.
“Have you been working on anything we’ve been talking about the last few weeks?” She asks it off-handedly, not a requirement, not an accusation. But a reminder- Eddie, are you at least trying?
Eddie had been coming to Kate for almost a year now. Since he moved to the big city. She doesn’t know this, but she was his first friend. And if he was ever honest with the both of them, he would say she was his only friend, still.
“I haven’t… I mean, I’ve tried! I just haven’t… Actually…”
“You haven’t actually gone out and made plans huh? To meet people?” She says, again with another understanding smile. He smiles back, a tiny-there smile, but at least there was an effort. See? Trying.
“Eddie, I really like you.” She says, and he perks up a little bit, attentive. “So what I’m about to say is the truth, no pep talk and no affirmation included.” She says, holding his gaze.
He looks on for a moment, mentally preparing for the truth-bomb she was about to unload.
Right. He sighs and nods at her. It’s time for her honesty, too.
“You are worth knowing, Eddie.” She begins, sitting up in her chair so her postier is tall, so her words are profound. “I really like you. This past year being your therapist has been nothing short of enjoyable. But this goes past being your therapist, Eddie. I believe you are truly a treat to be around.”
Eddie feels quiet tears fill his eyes, They never spill. He’s tried in this room before, he knows they won’t. But he lets them hang there. Never to drop, hanging in mid air. He nods to let her know he’s listening.
“Let other people get to know the real you. Let other people in. Your mother…” He tries not to flinch. He fails.
“Your mother didn’t break you like you believe she did… People want to know you. People deserve to know you.” Eddie nods again, this time to try and get her to stop.
“This isn’t just for you either, you know.” She says, her stern look firing another attack of love and care. “You aren’t just depriving yourself of truly touching other people.
“You’re depriving them from getting to be touched by you, too.”
It’s Saturday evening and Eddie is walking down the busy New York street, being lightly bumped by those walking past him every once in a while. He doesn’t truly mind it. Its nice to be touched by someone sometimes.
Eddie looks down at the flyer that Kate gave him. In big and bold black letters it simply reads THE GALLERY. Underneath is just the address and the time. He didn’t find himself incredibly drawn to art, or paintings, or whatever this was going to be. But he couldn’t help but admit that he would like something to do after work, at night. It got old walking to his apartment and back to work every day and that being… It.
He stops his walking as he ponders the fact.
When had he become so passive in his own life?
He feels as though he used to have so much spark, so much fire, so much of himself, so much… Eddie. That he could just burst. He would outburst, he would yell, he had the mouth of a sailor, always got soap put in his mouth, and now he… Now he…
He begins walking again, looking forward but nowhere. Looking at the crowd of faces and the ocean of bodies but looking past them, through them, evaporating them like rain puddles. There one moment, gone the next. That's what people were. What they had been for a while.
Eddie was truly resigned from his life, resigned from the city, resigned from the art he hasn’t even looked at yet, and resigned… from himself. He feels his thoughts just echo and vibrate around his skull, the empty spaces of his mind bouncing them around until the sound fades. Nothing sticks. Nothing inspires.
He is on autopilot, he thinks pitifully. He does what needs to be done, he eats what needs to be ate.
He tries to recall what he had for breakfast that morning and he can not.
It's not like he doesn’t try, he insists. He meets people. He smiles. He says what he thinks is truly the right thing to say, he's funny. He's funny, he thinks. Or he… In a past life he was.
He shuts out the thought before it blooms, because selfishly he thinks the issue really was… No one was giving him a real chance, either.
As he rounds the next corner of his thoughts and of the city block, there the brick building he was looking for stands. Outside all you can see is a large window filtering bright illuminating white light. It cracks open the black streets like a piece of glass, sharp and violent in the quiet night.
As soon as he gets closer, though, what he once thought was a shark swimming towards him was a school of fish. Harmless and full of life, the gallery was filled to the brim with people quietly talking and laughing, sharing a drink. Those that weren’t socializing were having private moments in front of the displayed pieces, eyes wide and feeling or eyes closed and pondering.
Eddie walks in, his baby blue polo and sneakers making him stick out like a sore thumb. Everyone else seemed to be in chiq and clean outfits, the majority of the crowd dressing to the nines for the big opening of the show. Eddie let his eyes fall to their shoes, hoping that their gazes would fall over him mercifully, so that judgement be done on him without harm. Needless to say, he walked to the very back.
It was quieter and more intimate the further into the building you went, spaces between the pieces getting further and further apart. Between each portrait and painting was an expanse of white walls. Maybe it was to give people the time and the space to truly absorb them. Maybe it was because they were the forgotten ones. No public eye, no crowd to fawn. Eddie liked it much better in the back.
Finally, as Eddie glanced at each gloomier and gloomier piece and he was about to make his run for it, he got to the very back wall. Displayed on the wall was a canvas larger than Eddie’s bedroom, reaching each corner of the floor and each corner of the ceiling.
Something about it captivated Eddie. It had a bleakness that was nearly heartwrenching, a loneliness that was only amplified by its solitude and dismissed placement in The Gallery.
In front of the painting was a single black bench. Eddie sits down on top of it, and where he sits his vision is all but completely absorbed by the paint. Within the blackness and the movement, there were small white specks that gave the piece room to breathe and the mind space to think. If there wasn’t the tiny breaths of white paint, Eddie knew he would of been swallowed entirely.
He looks on for a while, heart tender inside of his chest and kindred spirit vibrating in the space between him and the piece.
He finds himself feeling near frightened as he looks on. Why is it the one time he has lived in this city, and has felt seen, is here in this moment of true isolation? The painting is not even beautiful, Eddie observes. It is ugly and angry and surreal and alone. It almost scares him. His eyes remain glued. He sits there for a while.
Eventually another black-clad individual walks towards the back as well. Eddie is aware of their presence, but just barely. Lost in thoughts that flow in and out easily, Eddie wonders if he stays here if he can truly begin to meditate. The ambience of the painting calms him.
The Stranger sits down next to him, nearly touching Eddie, but not quite. Eddie isn’t surprised or uncomfortable. They share a moment of silence.
Well, until he realizes the Stranger has been staring at him this whole time, that is.
Eddie looks at the Stranger from the corner of his eye first. When he sees that the Stranger has yet to look away, Eddie finally turns.
“Um… hi.” Eddie says, but it sounds more like “uh, dude, can i help you or something?” Trying to be rude without the rudeness.
“Hi.” Stranger says, eyes crinkling up from his soft smile. A few more seconds pass.
“Can I help you, man?” Eddie says for real this time, trying to say it flatly, but it comes out weak and fluttering. Like a baby bird that wasn’t flown before.
Man. His spark really is gone.
“You already have.” Stranger says with a nod, his hands still tucked in his pressed dress pants. “I walked around this whole gallery, twice, and couldn’t find anything worth looking at.” Eddie just stares expectedly.
“Until just now.” He finishes.
Eddie’s eyebrows furrow and he frowns. His heart began to hammer against his permission and he looks down at his shoes for a few seconds. Was he being flirted with?? He forces his eyes back up. The Stranger turns from him and now he is completely facing the piece of art before them.
“But you found it.” Stranger says dreamily. “This is totally the one. For sure.”
Looking at the mans face in earnest now, Eddie notices first his large sloped nose and giant mass of raven black curls on top of his head. They looked shiny and soft, an incredibly captivating feature on such a lanky body. The man has freckles patterned all around his face, tiny constellations begging to be named. Wait. What?
Eddie stares at the side of his face in disbelief until he shakes his head, and slowly turns and looks on.
Eddie can’t decide which blackness before him he finds more captivating.
After some silent moments pass, Eddie begins to feel tenderness grow in his chest. There is someone, right there, not an inch away. Touchable and vocal and real and smiling. Why can’t he talk? Why can’t he think of anything to say? He racks his mind for something, but again, just sand. All just grains of sand. Nothing to grasp.
Another long moment ticks away and Eddie almost feels like crying. Any moment, Stranger will leave and Eddie, once again, didn’t do it. Didn’t do what he and Kate have been talking about, the only thing he knows that is going to fix whatever the fuck is going on with him and yet- He can’t do it.
He can’t do it, Kate.
The city really will swallow you whole.
Eddie shakes his head, and grabs his coat off the bench, and stands up. Just as he’s turning to walk away, shame filling his chest, a hand just barely brushes his shoulder.
“Hey, hey!” Stranger says, breaking the hollow silence, his tone asking. When Eddie looks at him, his face is still smiling, but his eyes aren’t crinkled at all.
“Thanks for letting me sit with you.” He says seriously. This takes Eddie a moment to process, just looking at the other man.
“What’s your name?” He asks lightly, hand still hovering above Eddies shoulder. When Eddie doesn’t say anything, he laughs. “Oh, right. Stranger danger huh?” He laughs to himself again. “My names Richie.”
For some reason, that thought doesn’t echo. It stays sound. It’s Loud in his head of barely-there whispers.
Eddie feels his lips twitch in an odd way, like his face was battling between a smile and a frown.
“I-I’m Eddie. Kaspbrak. Eddie Kaspbrak.” Richie’s eyes crinkle back up.
Just like that, Eddies own face decides on a smile.
Richie pulls back his hand just to offer it back out again. A handshake.
Eddie reaches out and grasps it. A hand to hold.
“Well it is lovely to meet you, Mr. Kaspbrak.” Richie nods, bringing his hand up and down in time with his head bobs. Eddie lets him shake his arm around, becoming a little off balance for a moment from Richie’s excitement. This makes Richie laugh a softer laugh, trying to stifle his giggles.
“What brings you here, Eds my man?” Richie finally releases his hand and places his own back on the bench beside him, leaning in to listen. Eddie leans back a little bit because of Richie’s close proximity, becoming a little weirded out from Richie’s strange movements and actions. He couldn’t really tell where Richie was going but… He seemed happy about wherever it was.
“Um…” My therapist sent me here because she’s afraid I’m becoming agoraphobic. “I’ve never been to an art gallery before.”
“Really?! Me either!” Richie says, bringing a hand to cup his mouth as he whispers, “To be honest… All of this is total bullshit.” Eddies eyes widen in surprise at the words and Richie continues,
“A bunch of yuppies can’t just get drunk at home?? I mean, they have to come wear all their priciest shit and act like they know jack about paint or whatever the fuck they’re always on about?” Richie says, actually above a whisper now but still acting cavalier. He was totally trying to get someone to overhear.
Eddie can’t stop the smile that graces his face and it feels strange to have it be unforced. He wonders if he looks as weird as it feels. It must not have though, because his reaction just makes Richie laugh a mischievous sort of laugh as they both glance around to see if anyone overheard.
“Seriously, this place fucking blows!” Richie hollers, and Eddie instinctively reaches out and grabs Richie’s shoulder.
“Sshh! Jesus dude, quiet!” Eddie stage-whispers, totally appalled but unable to cover his chuckles. Richie closes his mouth and just smiles at him. Just smiles.
After a second, Eddie retracts his hand and gives Richie a stern expression. The look Richie was giving made him… Just uncomfortable. He stands up from the bench.
“It was nice to meet you, Richie.” Eddie says honestly. “But I gotta go.” He grabs his coat again. Okay, that was enough socializing for the next week. You happy now, Kate?
“You gotta go? Where you headin?” Richie asks quickly, standing.
“Home?” Richie’s eyes go wide. “Its 9 at night Eds, on a Saturday. You got work?”
“No, I just-” Eddie wrings his hands together nervously.
“Then hang back for a little bit! They haven’t even brought out the free food and shit yet.” Richie nudges Eddie’s elbow, smile easy and wide. “Come on, Eds. Horse divorce.” He winks.
“You mean hors d'oeuvres?” Eddie asks incredulously.
“Yeah, whatever, you know! Cmon, Eds!” Richie says, both of his palms opening at his sides.
“Don’t…” Eddie looks away from him. Fists balled at his sides. “Don’t call me that.”
Richie’s smile falls slightly, but remains present. His eyes soft for a moment.
“Sorry, kid.” Richie rubs the side of his arm, retracting himself for just a moment.
“...What did you think about the painting?” He asks, gesturing over his shoulder at the gargantuan creation that Eddie, for some reason, forgot the presence of.
Richie’s presence was just that much bigger.
Eddie looks back over it once more, resisting the temptation to get sucked back in. He focuses on Richie’s eyes, dark and deep instead, and... he finds that he can’t seem to resist the orbs that… Gave him the same sensation.
“It... reminds me of myself.” Eddie says honestly, breaking out of his reverie. He gives the painting a parting glance.
He looks away and looks back over at Richie quickly, waiting for the judgemental look he knew he was going to receive
But Richie is just looking at the painting with a more thoughtful expression. Eddie can’t read him. Without having to wait long, Richie looks back at him.
“No wonder I like it so much, then, huh?” Richie’s eyes crinkle.
Eddie just looks back at him. Feeling so small. No, feeling… Small? No, that’s not…
“I think you need a drink, Eds, for real. Lets go get some of that stupid expensive champagne they’re giving out!” Richie says excitedly, like a high schooler who hardly gets a drink in his hand, and tugs on Eddie’s sleeve before walking quickly down the hall. Eddie looks around, looks down at the bench as he tries to let his thoughts catch back up with him.
Laughing lightly, Eddie shakes his head at himself. If you can’t beat him, join him, he supposes.
Without giving the painting another glance, he nervously follows Richie’s invisible footsteps.
As he slowly walks back towards the crowd, he can see where Richie is talking quickly, using jerky arm movements in his excitement despite the two full wine glasses he was holding. He couldn’t really hear what was being said, but as he grew closer he could see the faces of two smiling, beautiful, young people.
One had a mass of fuzzy red hair on the top of her head, and her modest dress only amplified her natural beauty. Her freckles almost resembled Richie’s in every placement.
The other man next to her was tall and broad and his skin was so beautifully dark in contrast to the painful white walls that surrounded him. Despite his large stature, his smile was open and blooming. It was that smile that made Eddie brave enough to come forward, standing just behind Richie’s back.
“And he’s fucking gorgeous, so don’t be weird, okay? And he’s really cool, so just act really cool, okay? I’mgonnagogethim so I’ll be right-” As Richie finishes his sentence, he whips around and comes nearly nose to nose with Eddie. Eddie jumps out of his skin with a short yelp and holds his heart.
“Shit, sorry Eds! Hey, when did you get here?” Richie laughs nervously, but Eddie just answers by glaring up at him and taking one of the drinks out of Richie’s hands.
“You scared the shit out of me.” Eddie says once he’s gulped down his whole drink, handing it back over to Richie. This just makes Richie’s smile get impossibly large on his already too-wide mouth.
“Whoo-hoo, Go Eds! Turning it up at the Yup-Fest!” Richie snickers and Beverly hits his shoulder the moment Eddie gets the impulse to.
“Hi!” She smiles, white teeth almost perfectly straight. You could tell she didn’t get braces, though. Just naturally that way.
“I’m Beverly. And I see you’ve already met the worst of us, so hopefully we’ll get along.” She winks. Eddie smiles at her, cheeks a little flushed from the drink. Or maybe from her smile.
“Hey, oh very nice, guys, so sweet.” Richie complains, taking his own swig from his drink while he flips off a laughing Beverly.
“I’m Mike.” The larger man said, his hair immaculately trimmed and his eyes even friendlier than his smile.
“I’m Eddie.” Eddie brings his hand out to shake his, but Mike just steps forward and brings him in for a warm hug.
“Mikey Boy’s a hugger,” Richie says sweetly, patting Eddie on the back. “Let him exude his love and he’ll leave you alone eventually.”
“Oh, shut up, Rich. He just gets jealous when he’s not the center of attention.” Mike teases. Eddie tries to laugh at that, but it comes out weak and nervous.
He hasn’t been held in a long time, no matter how short the hug was. Mike sets him back down firmly on his feet. It was… Nice.
Eddie looks around nervously between the three of them as they bicker back and forth, and while he thought the drink was going to help calm his nerves it actually just made him feel- It made him feel…
“You want to get out of here, Eds?” Richie offers, interrupting his thoughts. His expression is endlessly open, eyes endlessly hopeful, smile endlessly growing. “We’re heading back to Mikey’s for a kick-back. Right, Bev? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?”
Beverly rolls her eyes at him. But it’s fond. “Yes, idiot. And don’t act like you’re some old man, congrats on your 25th Birthday, grandpa.” Richie retorts with some unintelligible voice that almost sounds like an old man, but it is mostly just him making wheezing sounds. Beverly hits him again, laughing.
As they continue to patronize each other, Eddie realizes something he hadn’t meant to say out loud.
Interrupting their bickering, “Wow… So like you’re… Really annoying.” Eddie says wistfully, like he just had a revelation.
This makes everyone holler with obnoxious laughter. Besides Richie, of course, who just stares at all of them in mock disbelief.
“Oh, VERY nice, guys, LOVE that. And you! Eds! What the fuck did I ever do to you?!” Richie laughs, pointing right at Eddie as the others laugh at his expense.
“Sorry! Shit, uh- I just- I didn’t really-” Eddie tries to muster an apology, but it is just covered by Mike and Beverly trying to calm down. Richie’s smile is fond.
“Oh yeah, no one told you??” Beverly chuckles.
“More like WARNED you!” Mike finishes snorting in between breaths, wiping a tear from his cheek.
“Sorry, Richie.” Eddie says feebly, a small smile sneaking onto his embarrassed face.
Richie just looks at him with half-lidded eyes. A content smile settles on his face as he watches his friends finish their laughing fit.
“No need to say sorry, Eddie.” Beverly reassures him. “He’s used to it. He really IS obnoxious, huh?” Beverly pinches his cheek.
“You bet I am, Eds.” Richie says, not taking his eyes off of him for a second. “And I promise . Its only gonna get worse.”
Eddie feels his smile open up enough he is showing teeth. What a moron.
“You want to come over or not, Eddie?” Mike says hopefully. “Come on, one more drink, yeah?”
“No, guys, I really want to head home but uh…” Eddie scratches the back of his head, struggling to find the exact right thing to say.
“Hey, don’t sweat it, Eds.” Richie nods at him, a smile of reassurance blooming on his face. “No worries. Just…” Richie walks up to him and gingerly takes his hand. Frozen in place, Eddie watches on as Richie uncurls his fingers to expose his palm. Eddie almost thinks he is about to kiss it.
Popping open a sharpie, Richie began scribbling something onto his hand. If Eddie wasn’t already so shocked to have his hand held, he definitely would have squirmed away, but something about this entire situation just made him feel raw and-
Richie drops his hand at that, and gives Eddie one last award-winning smile.
“Call me, will ya?” Richie nudges his elbow again, like before.
Eddie looks down at his hand and sees a bunch of digits written across it. And a goofy looking heart.
Once they all say goodbye out on the street, the four of them part. As Eddie begins to walk away, he gives the three one last look. Only to find Richie already looking right back.
He waves excitedly at Eddie, jumping once, like the dork Eddie is catching on that Richie is.
“Eds! I forgot to ask you something!” Richie yells. Eddie looks around himself for a moment, making sure no one is near.
“What is it?” Eddie hollers.
“Do you want to be friends?!” Richie shouts through the empty streets. “You’ll be my friend, right?!”
Eddie is taken aback for a moment. He looks around himself nervously, trying to find something to ground himself, but there is nothing there. He looks back up. And there is only Richie.
“Only if you want to be!” Eddie yells shakily. He hears the distant and distinct sound of Richie’s laughter.
“Then it looks like you’re stuck with me forever, Ed!” He waves one more time before turning around. “Call me!” Is the last thing he shouts.
Eddie is left there alone to stare as they turn a corner. He feels wind chill his face, but he doesn’t even shudder. Something inside of him feels… Warm.
It feels so good to feel thought of that is actually hurts. Does that make sense? Something so good that it feels bad? Eddie hopes he isn’t psyching himself out.
Eddie looks down at his hand again once he gets into his bed, unshowered and unclean, because he didn’t want to lose the numbers.
He made a friend today. Maybe even three.
As he drifts to sleep, head swirling with thoughts that don’t seem to echo, thoughts that are present , and excited, and confusing. It takes all of this undiscovered emotion that he finally feels like he understood something about himself. The thought came in as the sound of Kate’s voice.
The word you’re looking for is vulnerable. Richie makes you feel vulnerable.
Eddie drifts to sleep before he can remember the revelation.
Chapter 2: The Clinton
The song is The Velvet Underground - Rock & Roll
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Into your arms,
I lose myself
The next day, Eddie gets up and out of his bed to stand and look in the bathroom mirror. Instead of undressing, jumping into the shower, brushing his teeth. He just stands and looks at himself.
What did Richie see in him last night? That made him want to be friends?
Eddie inspects himself. His hair is getting to the length it curls in waves. His mother would have forced him to get a haircut weeks ago. Eyes big. If he were to be a stranger looking at himself, he would think the eyes were sad. His expression goes from sleepy to dismayed. He sees each of his dimples appear, his mouth lines more prominent when he frowns than when he smiles.
How many years of his life had he spent frowning more than he did smiling? Days filled with worry instead of laughter?
He begins washing his face with hot water, and as he is about to wash his arms, thinking he may as well jump into the shower, he sees black ink drip from his hand onto the white marble of his sink. Two splotches of darkness ripping him from his quiet thoughts.
Oh, fuck! Fuck, fuck fuck!
He had forgotten to write down Richie’s phone number last night! But as he panics and hastily looks down at his palm, he is reassured that the ghost of the digits are still there. Washed and worn but definitely there. He sighs a breath of relief.
God, why does he work himself up like this? It’s just a phone number...
He walks into his bedroom and writes down the number onto a pad of paper. He almost laughs at himself. So thrilled by the phone number last night he didn’t even want to wash it away.
So real. Physical and real, the permanent marker. He clings to the impermanent feeling.
He goes to work and it is fine.
He finds himself thinking about Richie a few times throughout the day, mostly just the anxiety of when it was that he should call him. He had the number, Richie asked him to, they even invited him to Mike’s house. Maybe he should do the three day thing… Eddie continues typing on his work computer. Maybe he should just call tomorrow, one day in between, just so that Richie has his number, too. Or maybe he should wait a whole week…
As Eddie comes back to his work, he notices that he had just typed out his thoughts onto the document instead of tax inquiries.
Maybe wait three days.
Maybe wait one day.
Maybe wait a whole week.
He quickly erases it. Begins typing again, this time thoughtfully, forcing his mind to focus on his work. There was a deadline today. It was easy for him to stop thinking about good things when there were stressful things to worry about first.
As he begins walking towards his apartment around 6pm, mind elsewhere and feelings floating even further out in space, maybe he should just call Richie today so he can stop all of the worryin-
He comes crashing into someone else on the street, their papers flying and the strangers latte spraying across the pavement like a sad coffee massacre.
“Fuck! Shit!” The tall man says underneath his breath, clinging to his laptop in his hands so he doesn’t drop that as well.
“Oh, I’m so sorry man, that was a total accident!” Eddie says, bending down to pick up what he made the man drop, but unfortunately it was all running down the street gutter. He hears the man heave a big sigh but when Eddie looks up he’s just nodding his head as if the coffee spill provided him with some sort of affirmation.
“Well, that may as well of happened.”
“I really apologize.” Eddie says, forcing an awkward smile. “Can I give you money to get another coffee?”
“No, no, don’t bother yourself.” The man shrugs, defeated but unbothered. “It wasn’t your fault. I was lost in thought.”
“So was I.” Eddie says before he realizes it. The stranger finally looks up into Eddie’s eyes, and actually looks.
Dirty blonde curls were immaculate and parted smartly on top of the man’s head. Suit fitted and sleek, shoes shined and well kept, but his face completely gave away just how unhinged it was obvious he was feeling. Imperfect within his illusion of perfection, like a fluke.
Just when Eddie wonders what the man was thinking when he inspected him in return, he gave Eddie a sideways smile and understanding eyes.
“See you around.” The man said.
“See you.” Eddie says in return, like he will.
While Eddie continues his walk home he wonders what would of happened if he insisted he buy the stranger a coffee. Wonders what they might of talked about. Would of asked him how is day was going, why was he so pessimistic about his evening? Questions, questions… Eddie wonders where he would be right now if he had asked any of them.
Once Eddie is in his apartment, he spends a few minutes just standing in front of his phone sitting on his dresser. He took off his coat and work pants, just standing in a button up and his boxers, one sock pulled up and one sock slack. He laces his fingers together, like a tiny prayer of courage, and finally just picks up the phone and starts dialing.
It rings once.
“Hello hello!” Richie’s voice comes in crystal clear.
“Hi, uh, Richie, this is-”
“Eds!” Richie chirps gleefully. Eddie’s furrowed brow immediately lifts its weight from his eyes. Richie was waiting for his call.
“Why didn’t you call me last night?! Don’t tell me you were busy,” Richie teases. Eddie feels a wash of relief at that. He almost feels childish now at how scared he was to call. Wasted emotion. Richie wasn’t scary at all.
“I fell asleep! I just got back from work like ten minutes ago, so I called you.” Eddie’s mouth twitches upwards.
“Okay, good.” Richie says, satisfied with that and voice sounding like it was talking through a smile of his own. “Well what are you up to tonight, Ed head?” Eddie hears Richie rustling with something.
“I’m…” Eddie sweeps his head and there is nothing. “Nothing.”
“Perfecto.” Richie replies, preoccupied with something else when he says, “Well, Eds, I have to go. But you BETTER meet me and the boys at The Gallery in ONE hour or I’m going to fucking freak out. Okay??” He says earnestly, like he actually will freak out if Eddie doesn’t show up.
“Okay, Richie.” Eddie laughs.
“Ciao baby.” He hangs up.
Eddie smiles to himself the whole time he gets ready. Richie called him baby and it makes him laugh a second time. A friend is a weird thing to have.
The walk to The Gallery his second time is a strange thing. Last night when he headed here, we was clouded with so much dread his head was like a room filled with smoke. Hard to see, even harder to wander through, breathing didn’t come easy. Walking through the streets he felt alone, overwhelmed by being alone. The sea of creatures he walked around he would bump and he would bother.
Now, though, wandering through the sea it truly was just a dance and a shimmy in order to walk through them. He felt alert, aware of other people as people and not just the perpetuation of his isolation.
He smiled to himself when he thought about all the potential people he could get to meet, just from this walk alone. So many people to meet.
Taking a deep breathe, he centers himself.
Let’s just start with Richie.
And like a spell cast or a devil’s name spoken, there he was. Standing just outside the gallery and facing away from Eddie’s direction, he recognizes Richie’s height and bounce of curls immediately. He is wearing a black blazer and black capris, like a weirdo. He is holding a cigarette out and flailing as he speaks with his friends, the three of them all laughing together easily. Skinny legs. Skinny arms. Smoke rises and swirls around Richie’s head like a toxic halo, and Eddie is struck with the parallels from last night to now.
Fuck, man. He is shaken by what just one day can do.
Just as he was about to call out, Mike pats Richie’s shoulder and points at Eddie, and Richie turns around and smiles an open-mouth big grin in the exact same moment Eddie calls out.
“Richie!” Eddie shouts, his voice absolutely giving away his own excitement.
“Eddie!” Richie yells, voice not unlike a maiden in distress. “Where have you been all my life?! I’ve needed saving, sweet knight! There was a dragon and everything, where the fuck were you?!”
It feels like they have been friends for a long time. Is this what all friends are like? Eddie is positive it just can’t be.
“You’re a weirdo!” Is all Eddie says. The reply is enough to have Richie clapping and laughing while he shifts on his feet in anticipation. Eddie finally reaches them and Richie just gestures at his face, looking back at Bev and Mike.
“Aw, and here he is, our crowning jewel.” Richie sighs. Eddie finds himself rolling his eyes.
“He never stops, does he?” Eddie deadpans, looking over at Beverly. She bites down on the tip of her tongue, shaking her head cutely.
“Hi, Eddie.” Mike says, patting his shoulder. Eddie smiles at him. “Hi, Mikey.
“Okay, so whats the move tonight, losers?” Richie asks, taking a drag from his cigarette and nudging Eddie’s elbow. Eddie looks over at him and Richie’s eyebrows are raised. A challenge. Eddie just looks back over to Mike.
“I was thinking The Clinton. Invite the Terrible Twos over.” Mike put his fingers pointed like devil horns on top of his head.
“Just what I was thinking, I’ll call Ben.” Beverly laughs, plucking Richie’s cigarette and taking a drag. Richie, not having anything to do with his hands, just had to reach over and rustled Eddie’s hair.
“Sound good, Ed Head?”
“What’s the Clinton?” Eddie asked sheepishly, feeling lame for having no idea.
“I live in the attic of a theater,” Mike says, also taking a drag of the cigarette and coughing a bit. “I work there, too. We do Rocky and Drags shows and stuff, but after hours they let me come in and put on movies with the projector.”
“That sounds really cool,” Eddie said, even though he had never been to any type of shows like that. Let alone a movie theater in… Quite a few years now, it seemed.
“It is.” Beverly nods, “It’s where we all met each other.”
“Richie was dressed like Frank N Furter and I was Janet,” Mike explains, gesturing with his head that they should head out.
“He is the spitting image of Tim Curry when he wears it,” Beverly ruffles Richie’s hair, but much harsher than Richie had just done to Eddie. “Poofy hair, scary eyes, the lipstick, the whole deal.”
The lipstick? Eddie pushes down a smile.
“Oh. Cool.” He had no idea what they were talking about.
Richie throws an arm over Eddie shoulders loosely, guiding him in the direction of the theater.
“Maybe I’ll wear it for you sometime.” Richie winks, wide smile on his pale face.
“Oh gee, would ya?” Eddie says sarcastically. It almost surprises him, how blunt he was being, but it was just too funny not to. “You know, since I asked and all.”
“Ooo, zip, pow, Ed got me good.” Richie retracts his arm and covers his hands over his heart, pantomiming that he had been shot.
Bouncing off of Richie completely, Eddie brings his hand up pointed like a pretend gun and blows on the tip of his index finger.
“Shut. Up.” Richie breathes, mouth hanging open as he looks at Eddie’s eyes. “You are absolutely adorable.”
Eddie feels heat fill his cheeks and he glares at Richie.
“Fuck off.” He says, nudging Richie’s elbow. Richie laughs, bumping him back. Eddie doesn’t respond, just sighs heavily, and it makes Richie push him lightly with both his hands. Eddie stumbles in his walk a little bit and looks over at him, totally heated now, a scowl on his face. He brings up his hands and shoves him too, making Richie drop his cigarette, but Richie truly doesn’t care.
They keep nudging each other, not unlike children, and they go back and forth until they’re both laughing and flipping the other one off as they all walk down the street together. Eddie finds himself giving Richie a soft smile, and in return Richie grins. His eyes scrunch up. Eddie sighs almost dreamily in his head.
A little winded, Eddie laughs through his infatuation while Richie lights up another cigarette. Chancing a glance behind them, Eddie sees Beverly in the arms of Mike, her head resting on his shoulder as they contently walk down the street.
“Come, come now boys.” Beverly says. “Mother didn’t raise you this way, you don’t wan to make Father angry.” She pretend-scolds.
“Sorry Mother, sorry Daddy.” Richie says over his shoulder.
“Why am I Daddy, Rich?” Mike sighs.
“Oh, you know why, Mikey.” Richie winks over at him. Eddie looks down at his shoes, the realization dawning on him that maybe Richie is just like this with everybody. He made Eddie feel sort of special, but maybe that was just him Hes just.. Charming, I guess. Shrinking into his coat a little deeper, Eddie wants to vanish just a little bit. Not disappear. But maybe fade. Like a window with all his transparency. Insecurity’s familiar grip takes hold tightly.
“Hey.” Richie says, pulling him out of his small hole, “How was your day?”
“It was good.” Eddie answers quickly. Too quickly.
“Was it?” Richie asks again. “You being honest?” His eyebrows raise in concern.
There’s that word again. So Eddie gives himself a moment to rethink his answer. To his surprise, yeah. It was.
“It was actually really good. Yeah.” Eddie smiles at him and it is genuine. “What about you?”
Richie kicks a rock or two on the sidewalk, head down as he puffs on his cigarette.
“It was interesting, it was…” And just when he thinks Richie is going to elaborate, “It was interesting.” He finishes flatly. Eddie looks at the side of his face, absorbing Richie’s aura and picking up immediately the stress of the day.
Shaking his head and taking the last big drag of his cigarette, he puts it out on the street and tosses it in a bin. He feels Eddie’s gaze on him, so he looks back over at him, eyes dancing to look at each of Eddie’s, and Eddie looks over each of those little freckles, and they just look, and just look.
Keeping eye contact with each other plainly, just for a moment.
Then Richie’s face splits into that big grin presented before him once again, like an outstretched hand. His eyes scrunch up.
“Cute.” Is all he says.
Before Eddie can reply, Mike begins tickling Bev and she screams, laughing really hard.
“We’re here!” Richie sing-songs, presenting the building with two outstretched hands.
Eddie smiles and looks away from the other two, turning to be greeted by the most worn-down and charming building on the whole city block. Tiny, on the corner of an intersection, sits a brick building with a time-worn lighted display.
It states: ROCKY HORROR FIRST AND LAST SATURDAY OF THE MONTH. And below: BARBARELLA SEPTEMBER 30TH 6PM
They all walk up to the theater just in time for two tall figures to hop out of their car and greet them. They are both waving and chatting, more like bickering, between each other when they get close enough for Eddie to try and see their faces.
“Hey Dumb and Dumber!” Richie hollers, opening his arms wide in an ask for a hug, in which one of the tall men completely deflects him, pushing both of Richie’s hand down to his sides.
“Hands to yourself, Trashmouth.” He says. The man is tall, probably as tall as Richie, with beautiful burgundy hair that is cropped neatly. He wears a red flannel and ratty jeans, and while his tone is serious, his bright blue eyes are light and happy to see them. He releases Richie’s arms in time to swing him into a headlock, grinding his fist into Richie’s head.
He is probably the only person who could actually reach Richie’s head from all the way up there. Eddie giggles at his own joke.
“Who’re you calling dumb and dumber? You and your dick?” A dry voice says, making Richie bust up laughing.
“Ooo, Stanley, so crass. You feeling good today? Horny maybe?” Richie snickers, glancing over at Eddie like he was looking for some approval for the remark. Eddie just shakes his head sternly at him. God, Richie. So dumb.
“Fuck off, today sucked.” And as the man walks around Richie so that he can see them, Eddie is surprised with familiarity. Perfect curls and perfect sneer, before him stands the man from the coffee massacre earlier.
“Hey,” Eddie interrupts, “I know you.”
“Hey, I know you, too.” Stan looks over him once. “You’re the coffee slayer.” Eddie has the decency to look bashful as a chuckle escapes.
“What did you just call my Eduardo?” Richie asks, looking between them with a question on his face. He obviously didn’t like being on the outside of things, Eddie notices. Maybe Mike was totally right. Richie needs the attention or he starts to fizzle out, like a fairy.
“I ran into him today, and totally ruined his coffee and papers and stuff.” Eddie explains, realizing that each of the losers were looking directly at him now. He tries to puff out his chest a little, but he struggles to raise his eyes from Richie’s chest.
“I’m Stan, by the way.” When Eddie lets himself look up he sees Stan has an easy smile on his face.
“I’m Eddie.” Eddie lets a tiny smile bloom. Another friend, maybe.
“Of course, Coffee Slayer.” Everyone laughs.
“Hey, no, please don’t call me that, guys…” Eddie starts.
“No sweat, Eds, I’m not the one who came up with it, so I know it won’t stick.” Richie reassures with a snide smile. The rest of the group just groans.
“The only reason your nicknames stick is because you push it down everyone’s throat, Rich.” Tall Man says.
“Sure, Billy Goat. Gotcha. Sure.” Richie puts his hands up in mock truce. Bill just laughs, used to Richie’s constant antics it seems.
“Hey, I don’t really like Eds, either, you know.” Eddie says, trying to make a point but Richie’s smile turns into a mischievous grin.
“Oh, you don’t like that one?” Richie walks up to him, head a little tilted as he antagonizes. “I guess we just need to think of a better one then, huh?”
“Oh here we go,” Mike says, walking through the group and getting out his keys for the front doors of the theater.
“Richie, leave me alone,” Eddie scowls, trying to seem tough but he can already feel his blush burning his cheeks from the constant attention he was seemingly having to deal with with this guy.
“Eds… Ed head…. Ed boy…” Richie was saying the words over and over like he was tasting a fine wine.
“How about just ‘Eddie’, what, you don’t care for my actual name?” Eddie huffs and follows everyone into the building.
“Baby, I ADORE your actual name.” Richie says with earnest. “So much so that I’m going to steal it so it’s mine and you can never have it back.” He nods. Eddie blanches.
“What do you me-”
“That’s it, Eddie! Eddie Spaghetti!” Richie yells, pumping his fist into the air like his favorite football team just scored.
“Jesus, Richie, you can’t honestly think that I’m going to let you- (Eddie) Richie, there’s no way you’re- (Spaghetti) RICHIE- (Spaghetti Head.)” Eddie just stops walking, glaring at Richie’s annoying poofy head.
Beverly walks by him, patting him sympathetically on the shoulder.
“Don’t test the Trashmouth, Eds, or you’ll get the horns.” Is all she says.
“Bev, no, not you, too.” Eddie whines, and everyone snickers before falling into their own chatting. Eddie hurriedly begins walking again to catch up with everyone else through the dark hall. Shit, he could hardly see anything.
A long moment of in that pitch dark makes Eddie realize that everyone must have walked into another room, because the silence is nearly painful compared to the constant noise of his friends talking and laughter. For a brief second Eddie is legitimately scared. Something young and childlike inside of him feels fright, deep down, and his heart starts beating like a baby bird’s, faint but quick.
“Guys?” Eddie breathes.
Pushing through the inner fear, pushing past the feeling that there is something big and dark and dangerous right behind him, he pushes through two heavy double doors and-
Eddie’s big panicked eyes are greeted by a large and extremely antique theater. The stage is large and high to the very right of the room, and there are red velvet and red leather theater seats all aligned and spread across the large expanse. The lights that hang above are of all different sorts of lamps, glass and vintage and old, some new some he can tell were from Ikea, and so many aged light bulbs it took dozens to light the room. Some spaces of the room were light by white luminescence while others were dimly struck by a too-old bulb, making that corner of the room be cast in an orange or yellow hue.
Eddie takes a big breathe in, steady and deliberate as he closes his eyes. The vivid panic of being in the hallway fades father quickly, but Eddie would be lying if he wasn’t on edge. The feeling of happiness and companionship had faded in that minute alone, but too fast, like an arrow through his contentment. Why was he so quick to believe he had been abandoned? The child inside of him lets a weep echo in his mind. Eddie frowns when he opens his eyes again, looking down at the worn and ugly green carpet that covers the theater. He can tell he’s going to start to give himself a hunch here soon, never being able to lift his eyes from his posture of submission.
Where did his spark go? When did it leave? How… How can he get it back?
“Eddie Spaghetti!” Richie’s voice sing-songs, and immediately Eddie’s eyes shot up and across the theater chairs to see one poofy headed idiot grinning as he stands center-stage.
“What are you doing up there, Weirdo?” Eddie shouts in his too-fast tone, and he almost cringes as he walks across the room. He doesn’t know how to not act on edge when he truly was. He feels like rattlesnake that never gives the victim a warning, a hiss, or anything. He just strikes.
Richie just laughs at him, a huff of a laugh, as he opens his arms towards Eddie. “Come here.”
Eddie walks up to the stage, and it’s so high from the ground that his chin is level with Richie’s worn down vans.
“Upsy daisy,” Richie quietly says, bringing his hands down open-palmed, waiting for Eddie to take them.
“What are we doing?” Eddie asks, voice strained by weariness. He doesn’t reach for Richie’s hands, he just looks at Richie’s face, and tries to smooth his forehead of the worry lines he knew were present. “I mean, why are we going up here?”
“Ed Head,” Richie sighs, resting his hands on his bent knees. Richie looks down on him, and while his eyes have a fold of question, he is refusing to acknowledge Eddie’s stress. “What are you so worried about, hm?”
“I…” Eddie doesn’t know. Richie looks at him like he already knows Eddie doesn’t know. There is a weird beat, then Richie just sighs again.
“Take my hands, Eddie.” Richie tells him. “You can’t get up here without help from someone.”
Eddie feels as though Richie means more than just him getting up on the stage. And because of that feeling, he grasps Richie’s hand immediately. Richie hoists him up with ease.
“That’s my boy,” Richie says, finally breaking his serious expression with a soft smile. Eddie looks away pretty quickly at that, turning away from him.
“Where are the others?” Eddie asks, and just as Richie points up at the ceiling towards the other end of the theater, two stage lights blaze alive and blind the both of them with an immediate hot heat that only stage lights can give.
“Mike! Jesus! Too bright, too bright!” Richie yell-laughs, covering his big glasses with his right hand while covering Eddie’s face with his left. Eddie laughs, gripping Richie’s hand to pull it away, but he actually just kind of… Lets him be touched. For a second. At least until Mike mercifully turns off the stage lights.
“Oh what, are we interrupting something?” Beverly’s voice comes from some overhead speakers. As Eddie looks around where Richie had pointed, he sees that Stan and Bill were seated next to each other right smack in the middle of the sea of seats and Mike and Beverly are up high in the tech booth.
“Fuck off!” Richie yells, chancing a glance at Eddie’s reaction but Eddie is too enthralled with getting to see the true glory of the The Clinton St Theater.
“It’s so beautiful.” Eddie nearly breathes.
Standing center stage Eddie’s eyes get to swallow the entirely of the room that reminded him nearly of an opera house. How had he never heard of this place before, seen this place, smelled this place? It had a magic that only old buildings and worn seats can give you, a sense of time and of energy and of experiences. Eddie can’t help the big grin that sweeps onto his wondrous expression. There were pillars and balcony seating and the ceiling just seemed to go up and up and up, even though Eddie knew the building couldn’t possibly be that big. When he finally absorbs the absolute power of it all his eyes fall back onto Richie.
Richie is yelling something over at Stan, which Stan dryly replies, which gets big laughs from Bill, but Eddie couldn’t tell you exactly what was being said because he is so focused on that damn profile of Richie’s face.
Big nose with a large slope, high cheekbones, pointy chin, and the scrunched. Up. Eyes. The dark orbs turn to look at him.
“You want to watch that too, Spaghetti?” Richie asks, walking up to him so close Eddie has to lift his head just to maintain eye contact.
“Watch what?” Eddie questions almost dumbly, trying not to sound as dazed as this theater has made him feel.
“Stan wants to watch My Side of the Mountain. Super boring. You wanna watch it?” Richie leans down to whisper. “We can make fun of it the whole time, I promise.” Richie winks at him too.
“O-Okay,” Eddie agrees, and Richie shoots up away from him yelling, “Put on the boring ass bird movie and light a joint!”
“Fuck you Richie, it’s not a bird movie.” Stan says with disdain, throwing popcorn across the room that could never actually hit Richie, just splaying across the seats ahead of him.
“Oh but it IS super boring, right?” Richie hops off the stage as Stan shoots something else back at him, Bill holding him back from getting out of his seat while Stan points at Richie’s giggling face.
Eddie stands on the stage for one more moment, trying to imprint the moment to his memories, to his subconscious, to himself.
Beverly and Mike walking down the stairs and laughing, her hurriedly running up to the double doors to greet someone, Mike catching up to Stan and giving him a big sloppy kiss on the cheek, making him fuss, and simply leaning over and kissing Bill tenderly on the lips. Richie is bouncing around, hands on his hips while he shakes his curls, talking shit and teasing relentlessly, Eddie’s sure.
And right as Eddie feels displaced, high on the stage, separate, isolate from the others, just as he gets the nag in his brain that this isn’t actually real, these couldn’t possibly be his new friends, Richie turns.
“Get the fuck over here, Spaghetti! They’re being soo mean to me!” Stan throws popcorn again, but this time it hits Richie square in the head.
“Don’t listen to him Eddie, he’s being a shithead!” Bill laughs, rubbing Stan’s back while the dirty blonde man rolls his eyes. Eddie can tell its genuine though. A happy eye roll, even.
Richie turns around again, and just gives Eddie that… That look. Eddie smiles and shrugs at him. I guess I’m having fun. The shrug says.
It makes Richie’s eyes scrunch up. Nose scrunched too, this time.
Eventually they all rally together and find their seats in the middle of the theater while Mike revs up the projector and starts the old 1969 film. And Richie’s right, Eddie totally agrees, this movie is boring . Like, super charming and interesting, but old enough and long enough that by the point they are a third of the way through Eddie finally looks over at Richie with a look of how much longer exactly? Richie already has a knowing, almost haughty look on his face of I told you so.
Every once in a while Richie could reach into the popcorn bowl and just rest his hand there, waiting for Eddie’s hand to reach for popcorn for him to grab his hand and not let go, making Eddie squirm and laugh with a “Richie, leave me alone!” Which would only make Stan shoosh at them harshly.
“What do you do for work?” Richie asks at a certain point.
“I work at a tax firm.” Eddie whispers in reply. He says it quickly, and doesn’t even have time to be embarrassed when he sees Richie nod, but after a moment a smile and a laugh pops out of his mouth.
“What’s so funny, dickwad?” Eddie hisses, pinching Richie’s arm and making Richie laugh harder.
“You don’t seem like the type.” Richie says.
“What do you mean?” Eddie is confused. “What 'type' do I look like to you, then?” He sounds more insecure than he thinks.
“You’re too fun.” Richie says easily, giving him a curt nod and flashing his teeth in a full-force grin.
Eddie feels butterflies for a moment in his stomach. He turns back to the screen and just can’t push his big smile down this time.
Things get more interesting when Ben actually arrives. Beverly interrupts Stan’s avid and attentive watching of the young boy on screen befriending a hawk, but he doesn’t truly mind because Ben has brought candy and more joints. Richie immediately sparks one and Mike takes the second turn while Ben shakes Eddie’s hand.
“I’m Ben Hanscom. You’re Eddie, right?” Eddie feels the chubby man’s soft hand, and Ben caresses his attentively, not grasping too tight or shaking too hard. Just right. Eddie admires the perfectly trimmed beard on his face, the cute fade of his haircut, and Eddie can’t help but think he’s… Adorable.
“Y-yeah, how did you know?” Eddie says, almost nervously, and it makes Beverly giggle. Richie turns around in his seat, first with an easy first-hit-of-a-joint smile, but then has a look of questioning.
“What’s so funny, Bev?” He asks, smoke coming out of his nose while he talks, and Beverly just rolls his eyes at him.
“Eds has a crush on Ben,” She says off-handedly, and Ben laughs easily. Eddie blanches, then huffs a sigh, not being able to keep the embarrassed smile off of his face.
“No, I don’t, Beverly, leave me alone, and Hey, I told you, don’t call me Eds,” He slightly rambles, obviously nervous and turning away from Ben with a flushed face.
“It’s okay Eddie. You gotta know, I like you back.” Ben flirts, but its not sarcastic at all, the joke has a layer of sincerity. He thought Eddie was really cute, too.
“Ooookay,” Richie says, a little too brightly, and makes an obvious attempt at changing the subject. While Eddie tries to focus on the movie as Bev and Richie talk back and forth, totally hogging the joint Bill protests, Richie subtly and softly puts his arm around Eddie’s shoulders. Eddie lets him, he likes feeling the heat and the closeness of another person, but he finds himself wondering… Why Richie keeps doing that.
Eddie genuinely can’t let himself accept that either Ben or Richie, especially Richie for that matter, thinks that he’s… Attractive. He almost flinches at using the word to describe himself. No, he thinks. That’s ridiculous.
The movie eventually comes to a close and all seven of them head upstairs to Mike’s apartment above the theater. “Like the Phantom of the Opera,” Richie jokes, making Eddie laugh out loud as they head up the stairs.
Mike’s place definitely looks like just what is: An attic. There are books, vinyls, and movies stacked haphazardly, notebooks open and college papers littering most of his tables and any other given surface. Eddie learns that Mike is completing his Bachelors, he doesn’t know for what, and that he and Stan have been dating for four years. They both began dating Bill last year. They all stuck together like glue.
Beverly and Ben had been together since they were kids, off and on and open and closed, but they were still truly infatuated. They’re own version of being in love, Beverly sagely told him while she made mixed drinks for the group. He found that she and Ben had the same flow and ease in their relationship that she had with Richie, the difference was, though, the tenderness of the conversations.
“What about Richie?” Eddie had asked her, and she and Bill laughs out loud at the same time.
“Oh, no,” Beverly chuckled, “No way Trashmouth has ever had a long term thing.” She says knowingly. Richie begins to defend himself, but whatever he was thinking of saying dies in his throat. He laughs to himself, almost embarrassed as he scratches the back of his head, and Eddie is about to give him a smile of me either, but then Mike speaks up, too.
“Not like he would ever give anyone the chance to,” Mike punches Richie’s shoulder lightly. “Tempts em, fucks em, and leaves em, huh, Rich?” Richie looks almost mortified, deliberately not looking at Eddie.
“Y-Yeah right Mikey, don’t make me sound like some monster.” Richie says, but his joking voice is forced. Eddie just keeps looking between the two of them, trying to maintain an air of stoicism.
“You’re not a monster, Rich.” Stan says from the couch. “You’re a slut.” Everyone laughs, and Richie walks over to Stan to bitch back at him, but Eddie stays seated at the dining table.
So… So that was it. Of course.
Of course Richie didn’t want him to know, was acting so embarrassed, almost sheepish in front of Eddie about it. Eddie felt almost shameful that he made the assumption that Richie actually liked him. That he actually saw something in Eddie that Eddie couldn’t see in himself.
This is just like Eddie to romanticize a situation, just like Eddie to be too tender hearted to see the way the world really was, too emotional and too reactive and too. Eddie. Sometimes someone just wants to fuck you. Why did Eddie put so much leverage on a stranger?
Eddie can tell his face is hot, but this time in agitation at himself, and… Something else. He doesn’t know it yet, but a sour pinch of jealousy makes him scrunch up his face, in a pinched and furrowed brow. Realization drops in his stomach like a stone and he just tries not to show it. When he looks over at Richie, Richie catches his eyes and unfortunately for him, gives Eddie a big wink, as always, all the same, another time, again.
Now Eddie is actually pissed because he absolutely feels the sensation of arousal deep in his gut. He is feeling such deep self consciousness that now, the flirting that he picked up from Richie were tainted with intent and with desire. Eddie just liked him. I guess the friendliness wasn’t just for the sake of friendship; because Eddie knew that Richie just hoped that he could fuck him. Did Eddie want to fuck him back? Well, even if that were true… Eddie looks over at Richie’s frame, his long legs, his pretty hair and…
Eddie gets up from his chair.
“Hey, guys, I have to go.” He picks up his jacket that was hanging around his chair.
“Aw, what!” Mike squawks, already a little tipsy, “No, Ed, come on! Stay for a while longer, please.” Mike gives him a reassuring smile. It does make Eddie want to stay, but… He just puts his arms through his sleeves.
“No, no, I really should go. I hear it’s supposed to storm tonight, so. I should get walking now.”
Richie looks up from Stan once more and notices Eddie putting on his sneakers. He quickly runs over, hair flopping up and down in a curly heap.
“Hey, speedo, where you headin?” Richie reaches for his jacket as well, grabbing his smokes from the pocket.
“I’m going home, Richie.” Eddie replies with finality, not even gracing Richie with eye contact. “I’ll see you around.”
“Hey, okay, well if you want to go then at least let me walk you home-” Eddie cuts Richie off, despite Richie’s soft tone.
“No, Rich, just stay here.” Eddie finishes tying his shoes. “Its going to rain and its a long way there, anyway.”
“Come on, Eddie. Let me walk you. I hate the idea of you walking out there in the rain by yourself.” Richie states sincerely.
“But you’d prefer we both walk out in the rain instead?” Eddie asks critically, finally looking up at him in the eye.
“Yup.” Richie says, like it’s that simple. And to Richie, it is.
They look at each other for a moment, Eddie sizing Richie up, trying to see what the ulterior motive was, but he finds. Nothing.
“Fine.” Eddie sighs, waving and saying goodbye to the others as Richie excitedly follows him out.
As they walk back down through the theater and down those dark hallways, Eddie can feel Richie’s ecstatic energy just growing and growing as the silence goes on. For Eddie, hes just getting more stressed out over the whole affair.
There is an awkward silence as they begin their march down the street, the sky looking black and hungry.
“You okay, Eds?” Richie asks, holding his cigarette in mid air just outside his lips.
“Fine.” Eddie says bluntly.
“You don’t seem fine…”
“Richie, drop it.” He snaps. Richie’s eyebrows shoot up, but Eddie doesn’t see it, because he is just glaring at the concrete. Eddie hears Richie light his cigarette.
“Okay, I’ll drop it.” Richie says quietly. “But you can talk to me, you know. I won’t get mad at you or anything.” Finishing, like he already knows.
There is a moment thought where Eddie realizes that he isn’t being like he is when he is with his therapist…. His only other friend. He’s usually personable, focused… He really cares about what she thinks of him.
In this moment though, with Richie outside of a worn-down theater and dank buildings, he’s being his honest self. His honest, pissed, insecure, rant mad self. Richie still likes him. Not even skipping a beat. Just accepting Eddie for who he really is; unsure, opinionated, insecure, and blunt. Why would anyone like him at all?
He has noticed that Richie feeds off of him like nothing else. He watches every footstep Eddie takes on the damp sidewalk, watches each puff of breath from his shallow breathing, eyes squinted and attentive. Eddie doesn’t realize the gravity really, but he can see Richie is truly making an effort. Voices, jokes, touches, everything. Sure, thats who Richie really is… But why with him? Is it truly just to fuck? He’s almost desperate, trying to find anything to get Eddie to actually emote, open up, laugh, anything.
He doesn’t want to do it. Eddie just simply doesn’t want to do it.
As the awkward walk continues, they take a shortcut through a dank alley way.
“This way,” Richie nudges Eddie’s elbow. “Through here. We’ll get you to Central faster this way.” Eddie easily changes his path, following Richie in between two buildings. There are dumpsters and soggy gutters, but that was it. In between a bunch of restaurant buildings, Eddie supposes.
As they walk through, Richie stops them short.
“Wait. Do you hear that?” He asks seriously.
“Hear what?” Eddie says, voice dry from not talking.
“The music.” Richie says, turning around with a big smile on his face. Who was Richie? Someone who literally gets excited at the mere whisper of music? Eddie just rolls his eyes.
“So?” Eddie actually does begin to hear some music coming from a short distance, probably from a restaurant kitchen or something. Rain begins to drip onto Eddie’s warm head.
“Aw shit!” Eddie puts his hands over his head, cursing himself for grabbing his work coat instead of a jacket with a hood. “Richie, come on, its starting to rain.”
Richie just stands still in the alley, walking forward a few steps to investigate where the sound was coming from. Eddie looks around quickly and immediately runs underneath a fire escape stairway, trying to stay dry for as long as possible. Richie just stands and lets the water begin to really come down on top of him.
“What are you doing?!” Eddie has to yell now, the rain making a loud white sound over everything.
“Wanna dance, Eds?” Richie finally turns to him, hair wet and dripping.
“What?!” Eddie squeaks. “In the rain, Richie?!”
“Come on, Eddie Spaghetti. Live a little!” Richie raises his arms as he begins to get a feel for the beat of the song, which was only been turned up by whoever was listening to it over the pounding rain on the cement.
Eddie just stares at him, wearing what he knows is a scowl, and shakes his head.
“No way, Richie, you’re going to get sick- or, or, or get fucking hypothermia or something out there! You’re not even wearing a real jacket!” Eddie can see he is completely soaked through now.
“La, la la, can’t hear you!” Richie teases, really getting into his groove now. “What are you so worried about?!” Richie says, and Eddie just looks on.
Richie’s dancing was basically just bouncing and spinning, bobbing his head to the music and the rain. His arms are lifted slightly above his head, curls sopping wet and flinging water around as he shakes it like a dog. Eddie could only describe the way he moves as sporadic and silly and lanky and stupid.
Richie really doesn’t seem to care though, he keeps laughing in between spins, dancing in all of his rain soaked layers and smiling over at Eddie every single chance he got to catch his eyes with his own. Just grinning.
Eddie looks on and swallows, disturbed almost, but just as he ponders if he should just head back to Mike’s, that same strange feeling creeps into his chest.
How did Richie have this much fun doing nothing? Have a good time hanging out with someone that doesn’t want to hang out with him? Eddie never knew how to make his own fun. He read, he did puzzles, he watched game shows.
Richie just dances in the rain like an idiot.
And Eddie was so, so jealous.
“Eeeeds! Ed Boy!” Richie says again, having to shout now over how hard the rain was pouring.
“Leave me alone, Richie!” Eddie warns, backing up towards the building when Richie begins to walk over.
The music of The Velvet Underground floods Eddie’s ears. Sounds like the kitchen crew turned up the radio again.
“Eddie, please come here.” Richie says, still swaying a little with the music, but now both of his hands were outstretched towards Eddie again. “Come hold my hands and dance with me, come on.” We wiggles his fingers out at him.
“Nuh uh.” Eddie shakes his head and folds his arms against his chest.
“Well, then, Eds,” Richie shrugs, a soft look in his eye as he says, “I guess I’ll just have to keep dancing for the both of us.”
Theres nothing happening at all!
Every time I put on the radio,
There is nothing going down at all!
Not at all...
But one fine morning, she turns on the New York station…
She doesn’t BELIEVE what she heard at all!
As the seconds pass, and the music rages on, and the rain isn’t letting up, and Richie keeps peaking his eyes out at Eddie as he jumps and flails…
Eddie gives in at that.
“Fine. I’ll dance! But you have to close your eyes.”
“Already closed, Eds!” Richie says, voice high with excitement as he lies.
“Close them for real!” Eddie insists, looking worried as he begins to slowly walk into the freezing rain and the howling wind.
Richie relents and closes them, continuing to dance happily, and after a few seconds, Eddie begins to move.
Slowly at first, awkward and stiff and looking exactly like someone who had never danced looks.
Sheee started dancing to that FINE FINE music!
Her life was saved by Rock & Roll!
Yes, Rock & Roll!
Despite all the computation, you can just dance to that Rock & Roll station!
When a minute or two goes on, Richie can begin to hear quicker and quicker steps being taken by Eddie. He hears jumps and stomps in big puddles, rain splashing, and as he listens Richie can’t help but peak.
And there he is, Eddie, really fucking Eddie, thrashing around, dancing, laughing, laughing so loud. Richie begins to hear him humming along to the radio as Eddie goofily and so, so poorly dances. His light brown hair look black in the night, getting soaked, but free, so free.
I’m fucking free! Eddie’s mind screams, because his clothes are so cold, but his body and face are so warm from the exertion, and he can’t believe he’s never done this before, and he loves this song it’s so fun, and the sound of him stepping on puddles is hilarious and joyous and-
As he yearns, Richie has to stop dancing.
Richie’s breathing so hard, he had been dancing for so long, so vigorously, so dumbly, just for Eddie. Just for Eddie to get it. Just for Eddie to fucking get it. And look at him now.
Just looking on, Richie can’t stop his grin. He grins and grins and grins and grins and he thinks his face is going to split in two.
After a few seconds, he truly doesn’t want to get caught. So, he raises his arms completely above his head as he shouts on the top of his lungs, a long and joyous holler to the sky, rain hitting his face and getting in his mouth, but neither of them stop dancing with their eyes closed, right next to each other.
Eddie laughs to hard that he is almost positive he is crying. All of that rain hitting his face makes it hard for him to know for sure, though.
And it was alright,
And it was alright,
And it was alright,
And it was alright,
Its alright now!
Its all alright now!
And its alright!
And its alright now!
Eddie walks into his therapist’s office. He isn’t able to shake the dream he had the night before. When he opens the door, Kate is already sitting in her big comfy chair, an easy smile on her face as she greets him.
“Hey,” Eddie says, the smile on his face growing just that much bigger after the night he had just before. After Richie and he had been soaked to the bone, teeth chattering and fingers all raisin-y, Richie finally got him to his place. Richie didn’t even stay long enough for Eddie to get him some dry clothes, he left just as quickly as they arrived.
Later that night when Eddie was drifting to sleep, though, Richie began texting him all sorts of annoying Richie-like things.
So, I just walked past this Pasta Shop, and naturally, I thought of you…
What’s your favorite type of food, Eds? Don’t tell me. Spaghetti, right?
Hey, if you’re asleep, that’s okay… I’ll just count meatballs until I get tired.
They ended up texting all night, far past the time Eddie was used to passing out, so he had a late start this morning, but… He didn’t really care. Even when he missed the train and had to wait in the subway. He… He didn’t really care, so much. Not when he could read through their texts to pass the time.
“So, Eddie, what’s new?” Kate asks as she sits down, taking off her jacket. And before she can even finish her question, Eddie jumps into all he had done over the weekend since he had seen her.
He told her about the art gallery, the weird stranger who only kept getting weirder, how Richie introduced him to his friends and to the theater and he almost took up half of their session just boasting and excited about it all. Kate was engrossed, the whole time just nodding her head and laughing, clapping even, whenever Eddie would remember something stupid Richie had done that made Stan feel the need to antagonize him.
“I think Stan gives him a taste of his own medicine, in a way,” Eddie had chuckled. Kate nodded, a warm smile lifting the apples of her cheeks.
“Eddie, that all sounds wonderful. You seem like you really like the people you have met.”
“Yeah,” Eddie almost sighs. “It’s really nice to have friends.” Kate nods.
“Yes, it really is.” Her smile shrinks a little bit on her face, that inquisitive look she always gets coming onto her expression.
“Has Richie talked to you at all today?” She asks lightly.
“Oh, no, he hasn’t. He’s probably busy with work.” Eddie states.
“I see. What does Richie do for work?”
“Oh Richie? He works at- uh…” Eddie stops for a moment, eyebrows furrowing as he searches for the answer. “He… I guess I never asked him.” Kate raises her eyebrows.
“Oh, alright. Well, where in the city does Richie live?” Eddie let his eyebrows raise too, coming to realization that he didn’t know that either.
“I don’t know.” He says, voice a little high. He didn’t even notice that he had failed to learn really anything solid about Richie. At all. He knew about the others, where Ben and Bev lived, where Mike worked, even what kind of car Bill just purchased. But Richie, he… He didn’t even know his last name.
“He doesn’t talk a lot about himself.” Eddie supplies, because that’s all the information he really has. How had he not noticed before? Richie was actually really good at redirecting conversations, getting Eddie’s mind lost on something else, on something… That wasn’t Richie himself. Like he only wanted to be a concept instead of a fully fleshed out person. Eddie didn’t like the realization.
“I hear you,” Kate starts, but her face is much more serious than her easy going tone. “I just want you to look out for yourself is all, Eddie. You deserve good companions.”
“But?” Eddie pokes at her to continue.
“But it sounds like you don’t really know who you have been texting all night. Maybe get to know them a bit more before you devote all of your spare time? You know?” She asks lightly, trying not to flatten Eddie’s enthusiasm.
Eddie feels a little pinch of disappointment at that. But she wasn’t wrong.
“Yeah, I understand.” Eddie holds in a sigh. “I guess… I just get so distracted by…” Richie’s eyes come into his mind.
Kate just giggles and Eddie looks over at her.
“What? What’s so funny?”
“Oh, nothing.” She waves her hand in the air. “Tell me more about Stan.”
And so Eddie does. He knows Kate supports him, it just sucked to hear you one friend tell you to be weary of your new friends. He tries to take her advice to heart.
While he walks down the four flights of stairs from her office down to the sidewalk, his phone vibrates.
Hey Eds picnic in ten?
Eddie smiles down at his phone, sun shining on the top of his head. A beautiful day after a nasty storm. Ah, Autumn. So back and forth. Before Eddie can even reply, however-
You want spaghetti, I’m assuming?
Fuck off . Eddie sends. And then,
You don’t have any other material? Seriously?
Richie immediately replies
I try! I just get dummy brain when I think of you Eddie rolls his eyes.
Oh, I’m sure.
What? You don’t believe me?
Suit yourself, Spaghed Head. But I’m still going to count down the seconds until I see you. Waiting in Central Park ;)
I didn’t actually say yes, Poof Head
Eddie heaves out a big breath, but as he turns around and walks the other direction, his brief annoyance morphs into giddy excitement. He almost has a skip in his step as he nears his destination, a hum on his lips. He couldn’t wait to see everybody.
Its as he enjoys the chill wind and warm sun, so warm he gets to take off his jacket, that he happens upon where Richie is sitting.
He is on top of the classic red and white checkered picnic blanket complete with a wicker picnic basket. Walking up to him, Eddie can see the top of Richie’s curly head. For the first and last time, Eddie jokes in his head.
“Hey.” Eddie says lightly, walking around to see Richie’s face. Richie seems to nearly jump out of his skin, hand going over his chest.
“Holy shit, hey, Eds.” Richie laughs breathlessly, “You scared the shit out of me.”
“What, you didn’t think I’d show?” Eddie jokes, but for just a split second he can see a flash of something come in and out of Richie’s eyes. It was almost… Insecurity? Eddie shrugs it off.
No. Couldn’t of been that.
“No, I knew you would show.” Richie leans back to casually rest on his elbows, legs crossing as he lounges on the blanket. “How could you resist aaalll of this?” He gestures to himself and the set up.
“Oh yes, how could I resist a poofy-haired weirdo and his spaghetti picnic.” Eddie says flatly, but he lets his eyes stay friendly, looking into Richie’s as he stares back up at him.
“Actually, unfortunately for you, because I know how disappointed you’re gonna be,” Richie reaches into the basket and pulls out some sandwiches.
“I didn’t actually bring spaghetti. That was just supposed to bait you in.” Eddie actually laughs at that, throwing down his coat and sitting down.
“Right, right,” Eddie nods, acting serious. “Of course. What was I thinking.” Richie reaches out and pinches his cheek,
“Cute, cute, cute.” He sighs, then immediately bursting, “What the fuck, you’re so cute!”
“Get off me, Trashmouth,” Eddie pushes Richie’s hand away from his face while the other man tries to grab his cheeks again.
“Aw! You remember my nickname,” Richie sighs, finally taking back his hand. Eddie groans.
“You’re unbearable.” Richie smiles while Eddie presses on, “Where are the others, anyway?”
“The others?” Richie takes a bite of his sandwich. “Don’t know. Not here.” He states through a full mouth. Eddie makes a grossed out face.
“Are they not coming?”
“Nope,” Richie swallows. “They weren’t invited.”
Eddie unwraps his own sandwich when the realization dawns on him.
The picnic was just for them. Only them.
“Oh… Thanks, Rich.” Eddie takes a bite of his offered food. A peanut butter and jelly. Eddie smiles to himself. Obviously Richie didn’t know how to cook food, because beside the basket on the blanket there was store bought cookies and store bought potato salad, too. Eddie tries not to let it get to him, but happiness wells up inside his chest. Richie really just wanted to go on a picnic.
Eddie thought it was sweet.
“So, Eds, how was your day today?” Richie asks lightly, inhaling the fall air deeply, letting out a happy sigh.
“Don’t call me Eds,” Eddie says pointedly, his eyebrows raising. “You know I hate that, Richie. Why do you do it?”
“Because you hate it.” Richie says pointedly back, letting a devious grin grace his features. “I like that you hate it.”
“Why do you like that I hate it?” Eddie grumbles taking another bite of his sandwich. Richie shrugs.
“I guess if you don’t know you don’t know, Eds.” Eddie lets out an exasperated sigh.
“I don’t know a lot of things about you, Richie.” Eddie throws back, almost feebly. Richie turns his head and really looks at Eddie for a moment.
“What do you mean?” He tries to force a chuckle.
“I mean, you have to have noticed.” Eddie insists, searching Richie’s eyes for something, but there is a wall. A very definite wall that Eddie wasn’t allowed to see. But he did. Eddie has walls of his own, too.
“What do you want to know?” Is all Richie says.
“I don’t even know your last name.”
Eddie sits up straight that, taken aback for a second. He didn’t think Richie was going to be forthcoming at all.
“Richie Tozier.” Eddie tries it out on his tongue.
“Yup.” Richie keeps looking at him, searching his face. “What else do you want to know?”
“What do you do for work?”
“I don’t.” A moment of silence. “... I want to be an actor, though.” Eddie tries to think of something to reply with, but Richie continues once more. “I… I take classes.”
This makes Eddie’s serious expression turn into something bright and glowing.
“Richie!” Eddie says loudly, making a couple walking on a pathway turn to look at them. “That’s fucking cool!” Richie’s eyes grow a little large in surprise.
“You think so?”
“Yeah! Yeah, man, totally.” Eddie nods his head, smile still evident on his face. “I wish I was brave enough to do something like that. Perform or whatever.”
“Well, I’m not that brave, Eds.” Richie says bitterly, eyes looking down at the food he was holding instead of at Eddie. He didn’t seem to want to know what Eddie was thinking. Not about this, at least.
“Why aren’t you?” Eddie asks quietly, because he couldn’t even believe how brave he already thought Richie was. Talking to him, a complete stranger. Wanting to be friends, give him his number, invite him to meet his friends. Eddie didn’t even have any friends to introduce Richie to, and even if he did, he felt as though he’d be too nervous to have them meet. He’d want to keep Richie to himself, like some mystery, like he was his… Secret.
But beyond even that, Eddie couldn’t even really fathom talking in front of a crowd of people. Let alone being in front of a crowd of people that want to be entertained. Live or recorded, Eddie couldn’t imagine.
As he looks on at Richie’s face, though, he can tell he didn’t agree. He is quiet for a few seconds longer before he continues.
“This…” Richie’s voice is quiet now. “This is like, a big secret, Eds.” Eddie’s eyes widen. “None of the other losers know.”
Eddie leans in at that, brows furrowed in confusion. He almost feels bad for misinterpreting Richie at all. Maybe he wasn't keeping secrets from him. Making he was just... Keeping secrets from everything.
Eddie understood what that was like. Hiding.
“Why don’t they know, Richie??I know that they would all support the shit out of you. You already go to shows at the Clinton!” As Eddie points this out his voice raises in pitch. Why the fuck didn’t Richie want to pursue this??
“I… It’s a long story, babe.” Richie says, almost bitterly. And that seems to be that. Eddie tries a few times to push for an answer, but the expression of Richie’s face tells him to beware.
“Well… Why did you want to tell me, then?” Eddie scooches away from him a bit, giving his space while they both continued to eat their food.
“I don’t know. I guess I’ve never felt comfortable with anyone else…” Eddie waits for Richie to continue, basically holding his breath entirely.
“I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.” Richie looks at Eddie thoughtfully now. Eddie is taken aback at that, trying his best not to show it. Just so Richie will keep talking.
“Like you could just get it. I just… Want to tell you everything.” He finishes. Eddie feels tenderhearted. Just looking at Richie, in all of his honesty. Or at least, as much as he could muster.
“You do?” Eddie nearly rasps, in complete disbelief. Richie sits in silence before he replies. His face is scrunched, like he’s trying to read the maps of his mind.
“I… Yeah. I do.” He nods with finality, saucer eyes behind his glasses connecting with Eddie’s.
“I bet you’re a really great friend, Eds.” He says it like its the easiest thing in the world. Richie smiles a smile at him that makes him feel like the Earth could just crack open and swallow him whole and he’d fall into a volcano or something.
The smile is so beautiful Eddie feels himself take a deep breathe in. After a moment of contemplation, with a shaking hand, Eddie slowly reaches out towards Richie- instead of the way Richie always was reaching out towards him. Hands wanting, fingers twitching, and while Richie watches on in interest, Eddie gets this twist in his stomach of too much emotion, of too much and-
He shoves Richie over into the grass.
“Shut up, Richie.” Eddie laughs joyously.
“AHG!” Richie yells comedically, “Ed’s! You’ve betrayed me once again!” Grasping his side, Richie continues to groan and roll around in the grass, feet kicking in pretend death. “Et tu, Spaghetti?! Et tu?!”
“Do you even know that Et Tu means, Richie?!” Eddie laughs. He is filled with joy, just looking down at Richie’s charade like he’s a fucking weirdo, because he is, and people are watching, but Eddie honestly, truly, for the first time, just doesn’t care. His smile can’t be tamed. He doesn’t try to tame it this time, even. He doesn’t try to hide the honesty of his love. Of the tomfoolery. Of feeling like a child. He lets his smile split his lips and open wide, teeth flashy and on display.
When Richie finally stops and looks at Eddie, his smile is almost identical to his own. Two maniacs, joyous. Eddie has to look away. Its that bright and beautiful.
Richie heaves a great, big, beautiful, happy, sigh.
“Can I tell you something, too?”
Richie just looks over at him, head resting in the grass and sun lighting his face.
“I felt… Last night, I mean, I felt like…” Being vulnerable at all is making Eddie’s skin almost crawl. He scratches at his arm nervously, not being able to maintain eye contact at all. But if Richie can do it, he can, too.”
“I really felt like I didn’t belong. With you guys,” Eddie takes a steadying breathe before he looks at Richie. “I didn’t feel like I really fit in, like.” Eddie swallows. “I literally don’t know why you, or any of you, want… Wanted to even hang out with me.”
Richie almost immediately interrupts, sitting up and grasping Eddie’s arm softly.
“No. No, Eds, it’s because I like you. I just wanted to be your friend.” Eddie doesn’t look convinced, so Richie continues. “You totally fit in. Like, totally. They all loved you.”
Eddie looks over at him with a hard expression, but there is a wetness that tears through Richie’s chest completely.
“No, seriously. When I first saw you at that art gallery, even. Like... I thought that you looked so… so interesting. The way you were engrossed in the art. Not like anyone else who was there. Everyone else was there to make appearances, seem cool, get their socializing on… Even I was just there to make fun of shit. But you…” Richie looks forward, away from Eddie, down the path Eddie had just took.
“You were getting something from the art. Conjuring something out of the art. You looked so special.” He looks at Eddie now. “And what do you know.”
“What?” Eddie asks quietly, feeling self conscious.
“You are special.” Eddie feels a blush come forth, giving Richie a tiny smile. It means more to him than Richie realizes. They share a sweet smile between the two of them, private. Intimate.
But Richie, being Richie, just has to say, “So special… You’re like… My little Special Ed.” Richie immediately begins cackling at his own joke, falling onto his back. Eddie groans loudly.
“God, Richard, you fucking suck,” Eddie says, not laughing at all, just a look of distaste fired at Richie. “Like seriously, are you fourteen?” Richie wipes away a fake tear from his cheek.
“Wait, did you just call me Richard?” Richie asks through chuckles.
“Yeah, that’s your name isn’t it? Richard Tozier?” Eddie fires back.
“No…” Eddie raises his eyebrows critically. “Okay, yeah.” Eddie just barks a “HA!” And then a serious,
“Hey, leave poor Richard alone,” Richie laughs. Eddie hits his shoulder, a devilish smile on his face.
“What, you don’t like your name…. RICHARD.”
“Eds, come on now-”
“YOU BIG DICK.” Eddie flicks some potato salad at him. Richie just laughs harder at that, letting out a shout of fear at the potato that goes flying towards him.
“Oh, you think I have a big dick?” Richie teases, poking Eddie with his shoe, and Eddie just grunts, “Ugh, GOD,”
“Do NOT get your dirty shoe on me, Richie. I’m sure neither of us has known where its-” Eddie tangent is cut short by Richie tapping him with his shoe again.
Anger surging through his veins, paired with complete exasperation at never being able to beat Richie as his own game, and something else, something that felt like a spark. A straight up spark goes off in Eddie’s chest. And he jumps up from where he is sitting.
He jumps on top of Richie’s back, just to pound his fists on the taller man’s back. He lets himself be foolish, he lets himself… Be a kid.
“You fucking suck, Richie!” He yells.
“Aaah!” Richie pretend-yells, “Spider monkey, spider monkey! Everyone watch out, it’s A-” He grunts when Eddie puts all of his weight on his back, “A Spaghetti Monster!” He grunts out, Eddie releasing all of his dead weight while he laughs a sinister laugh.
“What has gotten into you, Spaghetti Man?” Richie asks through breathless laughs, rolling over so that his body is now the one crushing Eddie while they both lay on their backs.
“Ow! Richard!” Eddie says, voice always grumpy, “You’re hurting me!”
“Oh ho, now that you’re the one being crushed it’s not so fun, is it?” Richie mercifully rolls off of him, letting Eddie catch his breath.
“I only did that to you because I knew you’d let me.” Eddie says in his defense, but it comes out sounding much more endearing than he meant.
“Aw.” Richie juts out his bottom lip. “Cuz I’m your best friend?”
“No,” Eddie says, too quickly, “Because I wanted to punch you, why else.”
Richie just looks at him with happy eyes. Expectant.
“Richie, you’re not my best friend.” Eddie states, trying to convince himself more than he is Richie.
“Aw what, I’m not?” Richie rolls so that he is on his side, looking down at Eddie. “What do I have to do to be one, then?” They were so close Eddie could see the pores of Richie’s face.
Eddie immediately sits up at that, scooching away from the close proximity that Richie always seemed to want to be in. Especially with him. It made Eddie’s stomach flip, it made his face hot, it… It made him plain fucking nervous.
“Well…” Eddie huffs. “You could not be so annoying, for one.” Richie barks a laugh.
“Scratch that one, obviously. Not gonna happen. Anything else?”
“You could actually learn to brush your hair, for another.” Eddie points his nose up at that, but he can’t keep the playing smile off of his face.
“Oh, Spaghetti,” Richie flips the heap of curls on top of his head. “I know you love it.”
Eddie opens his mouth to say anything against him, but the words catch in his throat. Richie’s freckles look pretty and dark in the sunlight. His curls match his eyes an almost unfair amount, like an artist used the same exact pallet to create them. Richie’s mouth was wide, lips were thick, and his-
“Told ya.” Richie chuckles. “You love it.”
“God, I hate you.” Is all Eddie says, feeling that familiar scowl paired with that familiar blush.
“I hate you, too.” Richie replies, but he says it with a dreamy in-love tone, so Eddie doesn’t actually believe him. Richie rubs his hands through Eddie’s curls.
“I like your hair too, by the way.” Richie says in random seriousious as he looks at Eddie’s waves, with an expression that could only be described as intense. Eddie lets him look for a moment before he shoves him over again. Richie lets out a near giggle. Eddie tries not to giggle himself. Here they are, grown men. Giggling.
“How’d you know I actually liked your hair?” Eddie tsks, almost annoyed, but he truly did want to know. Why was Richie like that? Was he really that self absorbed? Eddie shoves him once more, just out of annoyance from the thought.
“You’re kind of like a kid, Eds.” Richie giving him a wink before he stands up.
“You say you hate the things you actually really like.”
Eddie blushes a furious blush, lips twisting into one of distaste. Here he is, see-through again, transparent like a window. Standing up to help Richie clean up the picnic, before he can think about it, he scoffs.
“I fucking hate you, Rich.” Eddie grumbles.
Richie just laughs.
Later that night Eddie still couldn’t bring himself to forget Richie’s expression when they had both gotten something off their chests. Something small, so small, but powerful. Delicate. Beautiful, almost, like a hummingbird.
The expression was one he hadn’t seen on Richie’s face before. It was one… Of just...
He knows it to be true because he was feeling it too.
Thank you for reading!
Truly getting into the meat of the story next.
Vulnerability is so freeing! You should really try it sometime. Love ya'll