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the imperfect reality of eddie kaspbrak

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The first person who Eddie spoke to upon arriving in the house was actually Bill, despite what the editing might show later.

Post-summer, post-filming, post-the entire goddamn experience, that part gets erased, lost after the hours of footage are processed and recut into a narrative. He met Richie later, because Richie’s always late (reason #19 why Richie was not his Perfect Match), but when he watches the first episode, the first time Eddie shows up on screen, there’s Richie with him, grinning wildly at the bewildered Eddie of the past.

That should’ve been his first hint. He spent a lot of time with Richie at the house, but he spent a lot of time with Bill too, and Ben and also with Myra, his so-called Perfect Match. But week after week, he watches himself and Richie, caught joking and talking and, oh god, wrestling (so much more wrestling than Eddie remembers there being) in between challenges and dates and match-up ceremonies that made the memories of being picked for kickball (glaringly aware of the inhaler in his hand) feel warm and fuzzy in comparison.

So, yeah, it wasn’t like he spent all his time with Richie, no matter what the highly edited footage might show.

Eddie had ostensibly joined the show for the money, but it was actually mostly just as a way to get away from his mother after junior year of college. The idea of ten weeks without a phone had sounded like a better idea than ten weeks with his mother, and somehow he had talked pathetically enough about his nonexistent love life to land himself a spot on a reality dating show. 

When he walked into the house after riding in an air-conditioned van from the Hawaiian airport, after a thirteen hour flight from New York, after a forty-five minute cab ride to the airport, he felt disgusting, and so stressed he thought he might fly apart into a million pieces if anyone came within five feet of him, which boded well for the entire premise of the reality show he had signed the rights to his likeness away to.

Luckily, he appeared to be one of the first to arrive, because the house still pretty empty beyond the black-shirted camera people. There was a guy and a girl at the kitchen table, playing Go Fish, and he didn’t really know what he had expected from a sexually fluid dating house, but that definitely wasn’t it.

One of the crew, carrying a clipboard and earpiece in, hurried up to him. “Hi, welcome to the house, my name is Stan.” He couldn’t be much older than Eddie, had kind eyes and a gentle smile. “You’re Eddie Kaspbrak, right?”

Eddie nodded curtly. If he didn’t get the germs carried through 13 hours of recycled air off of his body as soon as he could, he might die. “Bathroom?” he said, not caring if he sounded peevish or rude. The guy’s eyebrows flew to his hairline and he pulled his hand back wordlessly, using it to point down the hall. “Thanks,” said Eddie flatly, and fled in the direction he’d pointed. 

He nearly slammed into someone just inside the bathroom, a boy staring at his own reflection in the mirror, mouthing words. When Eddie slammed into him, he managed to keep both of them upright. “D-d-dude, I’m so s-sorry, are you okay?” 

“Spectacular,” said Eddie. He couldn’t stop fidgeting as he pulled away from the other boy.

“Okay,” said the boy, looking unconvinced. He pushed open the door and left, letting it swing shut behind him. Making friends everywhere you go, thought Eddie as he went to lock the door behind him.  

That confronted him with a new problem: there were no locks on the doors. He swallowed and yanked the door open again. “Hey!” he said. The guy turned, halfway down the hall. “Is there, uh, any chance you can guard the door for me? There’s no locks.”

“Y-yeah,” the guy said. He grinned, and it lit up his face. “F-figured that one out right before some t-tiny ball of fury body-tackled me.”

Eddie flushed. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“I-it’s okay,” said the guy cheerfully. “Do your thing, uh--”

“Eddie,” he said. 

The guy leaned against the wall. “I’m Bill.” He waved him towards the bathroom. “This is actually r-really convenient, since I’m an aspiring b-bathroom attendant.” The kindness made the knot in Eddie’s stomach unclench a tiny bit, and the bathroom helped with a lot of the rest of it.

So, yeah. Eddie talked to Bill first. Eddie’s existence (and reality television career) did not begin and end with Richie Tozier. 

Here’s the other thing: when Richie finally did show up, Eddie was already a little drunk.

After scrubbing every inch of his body in the shower, he apologized to Stan, who took his phone, and befriended newly arrived Beverly, who had already stared mixing some truly lethal drinks with the contents of the bar. “Free booze is to be taken advantage of whenever it is available, Eddie,” she told him seriously, handing him a solo cup. It tasted like sweetness and ginger, with barely a tang of liquor, and it was all downhill for them all from there. 

By the time Richie got to the house, half the house was collapsed in a puppy pile on a couch, and Eddie was questioning every single life choice that had brought him to this point. 

“I think…” Beverly giggled, flush high on her cheeks. “Bill’s Perfect Match is...Ben. Because both your names start with B.”  

“Your name starts with a B too,” pointed out Ben quietly. Ben did everything quietly. Eddie liked Ben.

Beverly’s eyes widened. “Oh my god, you’re right.” She flopped back. “Well, that was all I’ve got so far. Anyone up for a smoke?”

Eddie wasn’t, but Eddie was feeling hot and a little suffocated and could use some air, so he hopped up to go with her. They retreated pool-side, Beverly with her legs in the water, Eddie extremely aware of the lack of hygiene in pools and sitting cross-legged at the edge.

“It’s a little crazy, huh?” said Beverly gently. Eddie looked back through the window, where Bill was attempting to literally climb Mike like a jungle gym. 

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m definitely starting to feel like I’m crazy.” 

Beverly snorted. “We signed up for a reality show, Eddie. Everyone here is certifiable.”

“Even you?” he asked.

She tapped out some cigarette ash into a clearly fake plant. “Oh, yeah, it’s definitely crazy for me to still believe in love.”

“So, is this the delinquents’ club?” cut in a voice. “Smoking, skinny dipping--" 

Eddie looked around for the source of the interruption, and was confronted with a freakishly tall (reason #1 that Richie was not Eddie’s Perfect Match) guy, hands shoved in the pockets of his pants. “We’re not skinny dipping.” He blinked. The guy grinned at him. “Wait, you’re new. Who are you?”

“I’m Richie. Who are you? I need to have the right name to moan when--”

“Ew,” said Beverly, wrinkling her nose. “That’s really your opener?” 

“We’re in a sex house in Hawaii,” said Richie. He held out his hand and made a grabby motion until Beverly passed him her cigarette. “This is the only time I can use that opener.”

Eddie snorted. “Sorry, uh, Richie, but you still can’t use that opener.”

“You wound me,” said Richie, clapping his hands to his chest. “But my name sounds so good on your lips that--”

“Jesus Christ,” said Eddie. He rose, less gracefully than he would’ve hoped. “That’s definitely my cue to leave.”

“Okay, wait, no, that’s not okay,” said Richie, honest-to-god pouting at him. Eddie raised his eyebrows at him. “Listen, cutie--” Eddie’s eyebrows went higher and he pressed his lips together tightly.

“He’s Eddie,” said Beverly, because she was a traitor. “I’m Beverly.”

“Listen, Eds--”

“Eddie,” he grit out.

“It’s our first night in the Hawaiian sex house--” Eddie felt a headache coming on. “--and you are cute as a button--” He thought longingly of the ibuprofen stuffed in his bag. “--and it would be a crime against both God and these United States of America for us to not go skinny dipping in this lovely, convenient pool.” Richie’s eyes were shining at him, and Eddie felt nauseous.

“How about you go first,” he said.

“I’d love to,” said Richie agreeably, before switching to an affected, twangy Southern drawl. “But what would my mama say, if she found out I was both the last to arrive and the first to get naked.” 

“I’ve known you for three and a half minutes, but something tells me she wouldn’t be surprised,” said Eddie dryly. 

“Three and a half minutes? I must be off my game. We should’ve had an embarrassing, mediocre sexual encounter by now. At least, that’s how long it takes your moth--”

Eddie pushed him in the pool, fully clothed. “Goodnight, Beverly.” Beverly saluted him lazily with her cigarette as Richie surfaced, drenched and sputtering.

“I think you might be my Perfect Match,” Richie called after him. Eddie flipped him off, letting a snort of laughter out only because he knew Richie couldn’t see it from where he was treading water in the pool.

Here’s their first interaction, according to the show: Eddie in the kitchen, eating Cheerios at the huge kitchen island; Richie, bleary eyed, glasses askew and hair mussed, stumbling in and collapsing on a stool next to him. 

“Eddie, my man, I will pledge my undying (bleep)ing love to you in exchange for that bowl of Cheerios,” says Richie plaintively. Eddie, hungover and a little contrite about dunking him in the pool, rolls his eyes and pushes the bowl to him, and starts fixing another bowl for himself. Richie wolfs down the cereal like a feral boy who hasn’t seen food in days, then fixes Eddie with a softly smug grin. “And everyone said this game was going to be hard. It only took me three and a half minutes.”

Eddie rolls his eyes, cursing the blush creeping up his neck. “If a bowl of cereal is your basis for love, I’d consider raising your standards.”

“I would, but I’d miss your mom too much,” says Richie, smirking. Eddie makes to pull back the bowl of cereal he had given Richie, but the other boy curls protectively around it, even though it's just milk at this point. “Hey,” he chides. “This is mine. My Perfect Match gave it to me.” 

He lifts the bowl to his mouth and tips it towards his lips. Streams of milk run down his chin and Eddie shudders, pulling a paper towel off the roll and throwing it at him. “If you’re my Perfect Match, I’m going to write letters,” he tells Richie. “Strongly worded ones.” 

Richie wipes at his face with the towel, grinning, and then throws it back at Eddie. “Aw, Eds, you say the sweetest things.”

Eddie flicks the napkin back at him, trying to eat his own cereal one-handed. “I’m not your (bleep)ing maid, Richie,” he says, saccharinely sweet. “Or your match, I’m pretty sure, so maybe go bother someone who thinks this whole thing is, like, charmingly douchey.”

Richie keeps grinning and hops down off the stool. He pats Eddie’s cheek. “Just give it time, man, reluctant tolerance is where I thrive.” He winks. “Just ask your mom.”

Eddie reaches out and flicks his forehead, hard. Richie winces and rubs at the spot. “Jesus (bleep)in’ Christ, Eds--” For a moment, Eddie feels bad, before he sees the glimmer of mischief in Richie’s eyes. “--you’ve gotta stop being so cute.”

Eddie's blush rises to his face and he curses his stupid, tattletale body. “Shut the (bleep) up, Richie.”

“Oooh, okay, now say that slow, in a sexy voi--” Eddie gets up and walks away. Richie watches him go, then takes his bowl and Eddie’s over to the sink to wash.

That’s the first scene Eddie is in on the new season of Are You The One?, and as soon as he sees it, he realizes that this is absolutely going to be the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to him, because Richie is definitely not Eddie’s Perfect Match and the Eddie on the television screen keeps gazing at him like he might be. 

The first week was...weird. No one really knew how to act, no one knew anyone else, and everyone was getting used to ignoring the cameras, so no one was acting anywhere in the vicinity of normal. Except maybe Bill, because Eddie had come to learn that Bill was unflappably himself, no matter the situation. 

That’s why, that first week, he chose Bill to sit with at the match up ceremony. Richie caught his eye and drew his finger down his face in a mocking tear. Eddie rolled his eyes.

“T-thanks,” whispered Bill. “I was w-worried I’d be picked last.”

Eddie snorted in disbelief. Half the house was already deeply in love with Bill, and it would be actually shocking if Bill ever got picked last. Richie, alone, had already proposed marriage to Bill at least three times that Eddie knew of.

(Eddie actually knew of all the instances, because Richie just always seemed to be around him. It was like his dorm during the freshman year of college all over again, people grabbing on to the nearest person and cliques forming and breaking up quickly. Eddie figured that if Richie had chatted up Mike first, he would be the one constantly dealing with Richie’s food theft and inappropriate jokes and general nuisance, instead of Eddie. But Richie had imprinted on Eddie, “like a duckling,” according to Stan, who Eddie actually preferred to half the cast members of the actual show. 

Stan should’ve been his Perfect Match. He told Stan that, and the man had actually turned green. “I would never go on a reality show,” he said. “I’ve seen what it does to your soul.” Eddie had given him an unimpressed look, and he had winced. “Sorry.”) 

Richie ended up sitting with Beverly, because they’re both compulsive smokers (reason #11 Richie was not Eddie’s Perfect Match). When Terrence asked him why he chose her, Richie claimed they had bonded over cigarette breaks and “Shortstack’s death glares about it.” Eddie scowled at him. “Yeah, just like that,” said Richie, grinning at him delightedly. “Anyway, who the fuck cares, it’s week one! We’re embracing the chaos, Big T.”

Terrence Jenkins didn’t appreciate Richie’s nicknames. Eddie could relate. They got three out of eight beams. 

Bill squeezed his knee in excitement as the lights came up and production started herding them back towards the house. Richie, on the other hand, leaned forward and draped himself across Eddie’s shoulders. “Just think, we could’ve had four, if you’d just gone with me to the boom boom--”

“Beep beep,” said Eddie. Richie had invited more than half the house into the boom-boom room in the first two days, to the point where they had taken a vote and decided as a group that he wasn’t allowed to say it anymore and did their best to drown it out when he got going.

“Wow, way to make a girl feel special,” said Beverly, slapping Richie’s shoulder, though it was softened by her giggling.

“Aw, you know you’re my number one girl, Bev,” said Richie. “I mean, I’m willing to take you on a trip to the boom-boom room--”

Beep beep, Richie,” said Eddie and Beverly together over Richie’s last three words. She held up her hand for a high-five, and Eddie returned it. Richie looked betrayed.

“Don’t w-worry, Richie,” said Bill, a glint in his eyes belying his comforting tone. “Beverly w-will still be here for you when Eddie and I are confirmed a Perfect Match and get to go m-make out in a bungalow w-while you losers fumble the game.” Eddie snorted.

“Unbelievable. I already called dibs on Eds,” said Richie, sounding appalled. “It’s like you don’t respect the sanctity of calling dibs, Billiam.”

“Don’t call me that,” said Eddie.

“And Eddie’s a person, not a toy, Tozier,” cut in Beverly. Eddie loved her; at this point, Eddie sort of hoped she was his Perfect Match, but it seemed unlikely. Ben kept making cow eyes at her, and Eddie’s asthma was definitely not a match for her smoking habit.

“I’m well aware of Eddie’s--” 

“I fucking dare you to finish that sentence,” growled Eddie. 

Richie grinned blithely at him. “--personage.” He managed to make the word sound dirty enough that Eddie blushed, grateful that they were out from the blinding lighting rig of the match-up stage.

“If he’s my Perfect Match, please drown me in the ocean,” Eddie told Bill.

“Don’t w-worry, Eddie. You and me got a th-three out of eight chance, now,” said Bill. “Way b-better odds than you and Richie.” He squeezed Eddie’s shoulder. Eddie ducked his head, bashful.

“That’s not how math works,” sniffed Richie dismissively. “Besides, I know exactly who the three beams are, and they aren’t you two fuckos.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and started whistling.

“You don’t know shit,” said Eddie.

“Yeah,” said Bill. “S-stop oppressing our love.”

Richie turned so he was walking backwards and narrowed his eyes at them. “This--” He waved his hand back and forth between them. “--is a hate crime, because I’m bi and it hurts my feelings.”

Here’s what the episode shows: Richie, draping himself across Eddie like a jacket on their way back to the sex house (Eddie gave up trying to dampen that mental nickname for the house; despite what some might say, he could actually recognize when resistance was futile). Eddie, in the confessional booth back at the house with the endlessly patient Ben, flushed and clearly tipsy, admitting “I like Bill a lot, but I honestly...don’t know if he and I were one of the three beams,” looking at Ben and lowering his voice, “don’t tell Richie I said that,” Ben nodding seriously.

The episode cuts on that, which is a relief because Eddie vaguely remembers how after he and Ben left the confessional, Richie and Beverly had somehow convinced all of them to play Truth or Dare. Then the preview for next week’s episode starts up, and it turns out the Truth or Dare game was not in fact cut, and Bill nudges him (from where they’re collapsed on Eddie’s couch, because they vowed to watch the whole thing together) because there’s Eddie’s face, his eyes blown as Richie attaches himself to his neck like a persistent leech.

Luckily, that shot is followed by one of Bill and Beverly in the boom-boom room, and Bill sinks impossibly lower into the couch like he wishes he could disappear. So at least the humiliation is shared.

They got tricked into Truth or Dare, because Richie had demanded they play strip poker and Eddie, Mike, Myra, and Ben had all protested loudly, so Beverly suggested Truth or Dare as a compromise. They agreed, but then Eddie saw Richie give Beverly a low-down high-five and realized they had been played. He didn’t say anything, extremely aware that the only reason he’d seen it happen was because his eyes kept straying back to Richie without any conscious thought on his part.

That happening was--whatever. He wasn’t gonna look at it too closely. Theoretically, there was a person here who would complement his life, and he was fairly certain that person was not Richie fucking Tozier.

They settled into a loose circle, everyone clutching to their drinks like life rafts. Eddie had a terrible feeling about the entire thing, so he shoved his way next to Ben and did his best to become one with the couch. Unfortunately, it was a moot point, because Richie had the glint in his eye that Eddie was coming to fear and enjoy in equal measure and he had yet to figure out how to get Richie to not involve him in things.

“Eds, my man, light of my life, fire of my loins--”

“I will pay you money to stop,” said Eddie. He couldn’t believe they were a week in and Richie was already getting predictable to him.

“For $8000 a month, I will stop,” said Richie, giggling to himself. Over 6’ and he was giggling. Eddie despised him. “Time to put up or shut up, babe. Truth or dare?”

If ever there was a question with an obvious answer, it was that one, especially when it was asked by an inebriated Richie. “Truth.”

“Who d-do you think is your P-perfect Match? F-for real,” asked Bill.

Hey, it’s my question, and I’m not going to waste it on something we can learn from any old Match-Up Ceremony,” said Richie, his eyes narrowed. He considered Eddie, and Eddie braced himself for whatever was about to come out of his mouth. “Do you steal the blankets at night?”

“Yes, but only because I run cold,” said Eddie, defensively. “I have bad circulation.”

“Really?” Mike seemed surprised. “That’s your question? Kind of a softball there, dude.”

“Yeah, well, I already know everything about Eddie,” said Richie, winking.

“I’ve known you a week--” started Eddie, annoyed.

“Yeah, but I’ve been banging your mom for--”

“Beep beep, Richie,” said Ben. Eddie nudged him gratefully, and Ben grinned back at him.

“And--” said Richie, loud again. When Eddie looked back at him, he was obviously avoiding his gaze and the smile he had on had gone a little rigid. “Now none of you fuckers can make him tell you all his deepest darkest secrets this round.”

Against his will, Eddie felt touched. He grinned at Richie, the alcohol and getting three beams on their first try making it easy, and Richie grinned back. They smiled stupidly at each other for a moment until Beverly cleared her throat. The noise broke the spell: Richie blinked and shook his head, as if to clear it, and Eddie looked around the circle. “Uh, Bev--” Richie made a victorious noise. “--erly, truth or dare?”

“Dare,” she said, amused.

Eddie hadn’t quite thought that far ahead, distracted by--whatever, it didn’t matter. He thought for a second. “Kiss your second choice in the house,” suggested Richie.

Bill squawked in outrage. “N-not even one minute ago, you yelled at m-me for asking Eddie a question.”

“Yeah, it’s fucked up, right?” agreed Richie cheerfully. “I contain multitudes.” 

Beverly rolled her eyes, hopped up gracefully from her seat next to Mike, sat herself onto a surprised Bill’s lap and kissed him. It went on for a full ten seconds, Bill getting over his surprise and with the program surprisingly quickly. Richie looked positively gleeful.

Eddie, on the other hand, felt Ben go stiff next to him. He frowned and nudged him, aiming for comforting and probably landing closer to aggressive, but Ben gave him a small, forced smile and Eddie let it go.

Beverly rose gracefully and bowed mockingly. She looked a little breathless; Bill looked like he had been hit by a bus. “Mike,” she said, picking her way around people’s bodies on her way back to her seat next to the man in question. “Truth or dare?”

Mike was caught off guard. “Uh, truth.”

“Why did your last relationship end?” said Beverly.

Mike snorted. “Oh, I see, Eddie gets ‘do you steal blankets’ but I get ‘bare your entire soul.’”

Beverly shrugged, falling against his side as she toppled back down next to him. “Don’t blame me because Richie’s jealous--” Richie made a noise of protest. “--sorry, protective enough to keep us from learning anything interesting about Eddie.”

“The blankets thing is relevant to the game,” said Richie.

“Uh huh,” said Beverly, unconvinced. “So?”

“She said I never shared my feelings,” said Mike. His lips twisted. “She’s actually the one who submitted me for this after we broke up, as some passive aggressive BS--” 

Whoa,” said Richie, sitting up. “That’s, like, the Mike equivalent of a swear. I’m proud of you, buddy.” Eddie threw a pillow at him, but Richie caught it easily and hugged it against himself, winking.

“I didn’t have a place to live anyway, after we--well, I figured, at least I could go to Hawaii.” 

“Well, she sounds like an absolute bitch,” said Richie. Mike made a face halfway between annoyance and laughter. Eddie knew how he felt.

“Beep b-beep, Richie,” said Bill. “Gendered insults are--”

“Oh, come on, Billy-boy, stop listening to everything Bev says. I’m allowed to say ‘bitch,’ because I am one,” said Richie.

“Well, that’s definitely true,” said Ben.

Benjamin,” said Richie. “I thought you were nice, but you come in here, talking shit--I’m so proud of you. If you weren’t putting the moves on my PM--”

Not your match,” chimed in Eddie.

“Who was talking about you?” said Richie, smirking. Eddie’s face flushed. “I meant Be--”

“Beep beep, Richie,” said Eddie, feeling Ben’s body go even more rigid next to him. “There’s sixteen people in this house, maybe let someone else take a turn.”

Richie’s grin fell for a second, and the room was awkwardly silent for a moment, when Mike--incredible, kind Mike--turned to the girl on his other side. “Audra, truth or dare?” and sent her to go jump in the pool. Audra stripped down to her matching bra and underwear, prompting a laughing ”oh, fuck you,” from Beverly. “I’ve never had my life together enough to be wearing matching underwear.” It was enough to break the moment, and Richie’s grin reappeared.

A shivering Audra asked bright, sporty Hannah whether or not she’d had a threesome (“Yes, but only as a unicorn,” she said. “It’s not really my thing. Too much work.”), and Hannah asked Bill what his number was. “L-less than ten,” he said, and didn’t elaborate. 

“Big Bill! No, I don’t believe it,” said Richie, sitting up straight.

Bill shrugged. “I p-prefer when feelings are involved.”

“Not everyone’s a ho like you, Richie,” said Myra from her seat. “You can be bi and still respect yourself.”

“Wooooow, really?” said Beverly, irritated. Myra shrugged, unapologetic.

Richie spread his hands out, drink sloshing dangerously close to the edge of his glass. “Look, when you’ve got skills like mine, it’s a crime not to share them.”

“W-what skills?” said Bill, snorting.

“That a truth or a dare, Bill, my man?” said Richie, a wicked grin spreading across his face.

He hadn’t known him long but the first thing they learned about Bill was that he didn’t back down from a challenge. So Eddie really should’ve seen it coming when he lifted his chin in defiance. “Neither, but let’s say d-dare. Time to put your m-money where your m-mouth is.”

“Aw, Big Bill, all you had to do was ask,” trilled Richie, prowling across the circle towards Bill. This time, Ben was the one to nudge him, and Eddie turned to him, frowning at the fact that Ben was giving him Comforting Eyebrows, for reasons Eddie couldn’t figure out. Then, Ben’s eyes went wide at something behind him, probably where Richie and Bill were making out.

Eddie should’ve remembered the saying about assumptions, or he wouldn’t have been surprised when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Embarrassingly, he heard a squeak come out of his own mouth as all 6ft of Richie Tozier straddled his lap and bit his neck. “What the fuck,” he gasped breathlessly, his voice embarrassingly high to his own ears. Richie didn’t reply, nose bumping against Eddie’s ear as he sucked at his neck. It was honestly...mostly just awkward, until Richie readjusted his position in Eddie’s lap and grazed his dick, at which point Eddie’s traitor body decided it was extremely on board with what was happening and his brain lost a lot of its blood flow in the ensuing reaction. 

His mind zeroed in on Richie: the smell of smoke and 2-in-1 shampoo (reason #24 that Richie was not his Perfect Match) and cinnamon because Richie still used Old Spice (reason #25) that individually Eddie hated but together somehow worked for Richie; the feeling of Richie’s lips on Eddie’s neck as he sucked and laved at the newly sensitive spot that made Eddie shudder; the feeling of Richie’s shoulders underneath where Eddie’s hands had automatically come up to clutch at him. He tipped his head back and stared up at the ceiling, face burning, refusing to make eye contact with anyone and willing his body to calm the fuck down. Richie pulled back, and Eddie started going alphabetically through different types of rashes, willing his erection down, but that strategy was derailed when Richie made a dissatisfied noise and leaned in again. There was the sting of a harder bite, then Richie laid a gentle kiss against the skin, and Eddie’s entire body felt like it was on fire.

What the fuck.

“Perfect,” announced Richie, rising. His eyes were a little glassy from the alcohol, his movements jerky as he rose. “See, I told you. Skills. That’s a perfect hickey.

“Jesus Christ, Richie, I can see that from over here,” said Mike from across the room.

“They can see that from space,” muttered Myra.

“Jealousy isn’t a cute look,” said Beverly, and whatever gesture Myra had made had half the house bursting into raucous laughter. Eddie didn’t see it, still staring at the ceiling and trying to take deep breaths without looking like he was taking deep breaths. His face was probably bright red, because Richie was an asshole.

“Eddie,” whispered Ben. “Are you okay?”

“Yup,” he said. “Except someone, um, attacked my neck, and I’m probably going to get a bacterial infection from his dirty fucking mouth--”

Richie’s mouth opened. “Oh, beep beep,” said Bill irritatedly. “Whatever d-doctor joke you’re gonna make, w-we get it.” 

Everyone’s attention moved on from Eddie, which he was grateful for, and Ben shifted for a second and then passed him a pillow. “Sorry,” he said. “It was digging into my back. Do you mind?”

Eddie settled the pillow onto his lap, blocking his shorts from camera and everyone else. Ben smiled shyly, and Eddie made a face at him. He loved Ben. Maybe Ben could be his Perfect Match. He tried to imagine a relationship with Ben, but his mind was still on its single track and kept circling back around to the feeling of Richie’s mouth on his neck. 

Richie, on the other hand, was fully unaffected, daring Jake to streak through the backyard. Jake shrugged and, without pausing, swung off his shorts and took off, rounding the pool. Eddie does his best to become one with the couch again, content to watch and hope no one dragged him back into it.

Over the course of the night: Myra ended up kissing Beverly; Bill and Richie ended up rolling around on the floor, half wrestling and half almost making out, Richie smacking wet kisses to different parts of Bill’s face; Bill disappeared to go to the bathroom and Beverly disappeared right after. 

Eddie, who had gotten steadily more shitfaced as the night progressed, only noticed because Ben went sort of soft and sad next to him. He curled up to Ben’s side and closed his eyes, and he heard Ben huff at him quietly but also felt him move so he rested more comfortably against him and the couch. He smiled. Ben was awesome, and right now Eddie felt a camaraderie with him, though he wasn’t really sure why.

He swallowed and brought his finger up to brush the tender spot on his neck. A few feet away, Richie’s nonstop stream of words stuttered to a halt, but when Eddie opened his eyes to check and see if he’d choked and died, Richie was determinedly studying one of the the holes in his jeans.

Whatever. Richie was weird. Eddie took another drink of the punch that production had made for them and Stan had quietly warned Eddie heavily against drinking, and that was when the memories of that night started to get hazy.

Bill’s laughing all the way through the scene, even when it cuts to him and Beverly in the boom-boom room. “You’re just, so obviously hiding a b-boner, Eddie.” Eddie really needs better friends.

“Oh, look, it’s you--” Eddie squints at the television, at the dark shapes in blurred out night-vision. “--going down on Beverly,” he finishes, irritated.

Bill grinned smugly. “I’m not ashamed of t-that.” The Bill and Beverly on screen, now in the confessional, have untidy hair and flushed cheeks. Bill’s shirt is on inside out. “First ones in the beep beep Richie--” says Beverly. They both crack up.

“She made a bet with her friend ab-bout being the first to use the boom-boom room,” admits the Bill next to Eddie on the couch. “She said since I kissed her like that she had to give me a shot.”

“And then it turned out you were just the bump along the road to Ben,” replies Eddie, aware he’s being mean.

“I-I’m gonna let that bitchy little comment go, Eds--” Eddie winces, the nickname hitting him hard even in Bill’s voice. “--but only because I, uh, j-just remembered what I’m about to s-say.” He frowns apologetically.

Eddie doesn’t have to wait long to see what’s making Bill squirm, as Richie barges into Beverly and Bill’s post-sex confessional. “I heard my name, are we talking--oh, hey.” His smile drops a watt. “I thought Eddie was with you.” He does a double take, his eyes widening large enough that, through them, Eddie can see him putting the pieces together in his mind, even months later and through a television. “Did you two just--”

“Beep beep, Richie,” says Beverly, looking pleased enough that it was answer enough even though Richie didn’t have the context of big brother’s camera footage.

“Hey, not four hours ago I got up before nonexistent god and Terrence J and named you my one Perfect Match on this planet, or at least in this house, so when you and Ed’s Match--”

“S-sorry, man,” says Bill on screen, unrepentant. Bill on the couch stares down at his phone. Eddie braces himself. “It’s the first week, it’s not like y-you’re married. And Eddie’s cool b-but if I was stuck with him for the r-rest of my life I’d probably lose it. No way matchmakers paired me with someone that neurotic.” He gazes dreamily at the side of Beverly’s face.

“Harsh but fair,” mutters Eddie.

Bill’s head jerks up and he frowns across the couch at him. “No, it’s not.”

Richie on the screen looks like he’s about to object to Eddie’s character assassination (though that might’ve just been wishful thinking on Eddie’s part), but Bill and Beverly start making out and he beats a hasty retreat instead.

On screen, Kim and Audra have jumped in the pool fully clothed, which is a relief, because Eddie can tune it out. Bill’s fiddling with his phone, and Eddie kicks at his ankle. “You’d known me, what, a week, dude? I think I can let it go.”

“You’re not neurotic, you just c-care a lot,” says Bill.

“I’m neurotic and I care a lot,” says Eddie, crossing his arms, breathing out the hurt. “Get it right, Big Bill.”

“Stay there,” says Bill suddenly.

“I’m not a dog,” grumbles Eddie, digging his toes into the side of Bill’s leg. Bill rolls his eyes and snaps a picture of Eddie.

“We’re gonna get in trouble with the show,” says Eddie. “You do understand what nondisclosure agreement means, right?”

“I’m keeping it vague,” said Bill, typing something on his phone. Eddie gets an alert moments later.

bill denbrough @brokebillcanyon
moral support for thoughtless assholes @edkaspbrak

Attached is the picture of Eddie, glaring at the camera, nose scrunched. He’s basically drowning in the sweatshirt, which he’d absconded with when he left the house--by the end, their clothes were all mixed together, so it could’ve been really anyone’s AC/DC hoodie.

“Uhhh,” says Bill slowly, and Eddie looks over from the tweet. Bill is staring at the television, phone dropped to his side, and Eddie follows his gaze and sees--

Him, in the bathroom, washing his face. Even from the overhead angle, the hickey stands out against his skin, and he’s not wearing a shirt. He’s not wearing a shirt, and he definitely does not remember this.

The door nudges open, and Eddie on screen turns, and he can see the mic pack still attached to past him’s shorts. “I came to make sure you’re okay, uh--” Richie stops, hovering just inside the bathroom door, staring at Eddie.

Eddie on screen relaxes. Eddie in the living room chews on the inside of his cheek. This is a week in and he already found Richie comforting. Pathetic. ”Can you help me get this (bleep)ing thing off, they must’ve used child locks to fasten it--”

“Oh Eds,” croons Richie’s voice. The audio is clear, even if the video doesn’t have the best angles. “You’re a little shwasty, huh?”

Eddie on screen giggles. Eddie on the couch longs for death. Bill looks torn between laughter and sympathy, which is his default state of being. “I would’ve thought you’d jump at the chance to get anywhere near my pants,” says the Eddie on screen. Laughter wins the battle, and Bill starts cackling. Eddie buries his head in the couch cushions.

When he lifts his head, it’s just in time to see Richie crowding up against his back, and he can almost feel the heat on his own back, like the space-time continuum has ripped open and past Eddie and present Eddie are one and the same. He sees Richie’s hands gently untangle the mic and hears his breathy “thanks” in response. “These are my favorite shorts,” says Eddie. His voice sounds high to his own ears. This is humiliating.

Richie chokes out a harsh laugh that nearly blows out the speaker of the television Eddie had found at Goodwill for $30. “Oh, I’m well aware that those are your favorite shorts.”

Bill’s shoulders are shaking with silent laughter. Eddie might kill him. 

But then he forgets about Bill, forgets about anything that’s not what’s happening on the screen, because Richie hesitates and then carefully places the mic pack on the sink. His hand comes up to hover at Eddie’s neck, right over the hickey, and once again Eddie experiences a phantom feeling, like seeing it play out has awoken a sense memory, and he can feel Richie’s fingers ghosting over his neck. He shivers. 

Eddie on screen must have a similar reaction, because he turns around and pulls Richie down by the neck of his t-shirt and presses their mouths together. 

Bill’s not laughing anymore, and Eddie can feel his eyes boring into the side of his head, because Eddie never told him about this, but he can’t look away from what’s happening on screen because Eddie doesn’t remember this.

Richie enthusiastically returns the kiss, until someone makes a noise outside the bathroom and he jumps back, looking around wildly. “Holy (bleep).” He rubs at his face, a nervous tic that Eddie had seen in person hundreds of times, but for the first time through a television screen. “You’re definitely wasted, Eds, so we definitely can’t do this now.”

“I’m fine,” insists Eddie on screen.

“You are not fine,” yells Eddie at the television. “You are blacked out.” 

Richie seems to be of the same opinion as current Eddie. “You didn’t yell at me about the nickname--”

“I cannot believe you’re not letting me kiss you because I’m not yelling at you,” says drunk Eddie, reproachfully.

Richie looks like he’s in pain. “Yeah, me neither. But hey, once you’re sober, you know where I live.” He hugs the wall as he edges around Eddie on screen and out of the bathroom, like he doesn’t trust what might happen if he gets too close.

“Okay,” says drunk on television Eddie agreeably. “I’ll see you in the morning, then. Try to be less freakishly tall next time I try to kiss you.”

“I’ll do my best,” chokes out Richie, and flees the bathroom. Mike is on his way in and a red-faced Richie steers him away towards another bathroom, friendly arm thrown across his shoulders, leaving Eddie with some privacy as the commercial break starts.

“Oh my god,” says Eddie, staring at the screen in horror. “Am I the villain?” 

Because Eddie does remember the morning after, Richie grinning at him widely at the kitchen island, smile dimming a little when Eddie snarked coolly back to Richie’s questions about how he slept. Because he didn’t remember kissing Richie in the second week.

“That never happened,” he says faintly. “That--”

“Dude, it’s kinda h-hard to make that case when it was caught on camera,” says Bill, the traitor. They’re only halfway through the second episode. There’s no way Eddie is going to make it through watching the whole season.

“It’s not too late to Thelma and Louise it,” says Eddie desperately. “I’ve got a car.”

“No way,” says Bill. “I wanna f-find out how this ends.”

“It ends with you and me on this couch, me dodging Myra’s texts and Stan ignoring yours,” says Eddie. Bill flips him off, but checks his phone anyway and goes a little white, and Eddie’s phone chimes too. That doesn’t bode well, but he looks at it anyway. 

sorry for saying “fuck” on national tv 12 times mom @richdicktozier
@brokebillcanyon @edkaspbrak guess my invite got lost in the mail 😢next time make sure you send it to ed’s mom’s place

Eddie’s heart throbs. 

Before they did the first challenge, Stan had gathered them up. “So, our original relationship expert is getting a divorce--yeah, the irony is not lost on me--so they had to drop out, and our backup is a little more, uh, alternative. So I just wanted to say, uh, sorry.” 

Alternative turned out to mean literal clown, and Dr. Pennywise was terrifying enough that Eddie considered quitting on the spot that first week. The only reason he hadn’t was Richie, who had nudged him and paired up with him for the challenge, offering increasingly unhinged backstories for why Dr. Pennywise ended up a clown therapist who made them do semi-dangerous obstacle courses to fix their relationship problems. Eddie had been too busy fighting laughter to be particularly good at the challenge, so neither he or Richie got to go on a date that week. On the other hand, Mike, Hannah, Bill, and Ben got to go jetskiing and the clown didn’t speak to him once, so Eddie was fine with the outcome. 

The second week, he and Kim failed miserably at emoji communication, and Richie, Beverly, Myra and George got to go snorkeling. Richie and Beverly had gotten sent into the truth booth and gotten a no match, coming out laughing and unsurprised. Eddie felt relieved, but figured that was only because Bill was starting to get a little puppy-dog eyed around Beverly.

The third week he ended up paired with Ben, and they built the shit out of some modular furniture, mostly because Ben was disgustingly handy and Eddie more than happy to locate different pieces and otherwise stay out of his way. Mike finished second, despite the handicap of being partnered with Richie, and Beverly and Bill, still attached at the hip, finished theirs 10 seconds before Jake and Ridley finished theirs, so two days later the six of them went ziplining.

“I don’t want to,” said Eddie flatly, staring up the tree.

Stan’s lips twitched down. “You’re contractually--”

“--obligated, yes, I know,” said Eddie, feeling tired. “Why couldn’t it have been something less dangerous?”

“This is completely safe,” said Stan. One of his several jobs was apparently field producer for their dates. Eddie and Bill had spent the entire van ride asking Stan about life outside the house, and he had remained closed-mouthed beyond ‘I saw a nene yesterday, it’s a bird endemic to Hawai’i.’ Bill had gaped at him like he was an alien and Stan had turned bright red and stayed closed-mouthed the rest of the drive. “If one of you dies, I’ll definitely feel bad about it for the rest of my life.”

Eddie really liked Stan.

“Fine,” he said. “But if I die, I will come back and haunt you, specifically.”

“I knew my ass would be enough of an incentive to overcome your fear of heights,” said Richie from above him when they were halfway up the tree.

“Stop flirting with my date, Richie,” growled Ben from beneath Eddie. He had very gallantly volunteered to go up after Eddie, which had actually reassured him; irrational as it was, he did sort of feel that if anyone could catch him if all the ropes snapped, it would be Ben.

“I can’t help it, he just looks so cute in his little helmet,” said Richie.

Eddie sighed. “Mike deserves better than that, Richie.”

“Oh, I’m well aware,” said Mike, already standing on the zipline platform. “If Richie’s my Perfect Match, I am keeping the receipt.” He gave Richie a hand and easily pulled him up the rest of the way.

Richie pouted. “You should be so lucky, Michael.” 

“Oh, poor Richie,” said Eddie. The conversation was better than looking down. “No one wants to be his Perfect Match.”

“Well, unfortunately for whoever that lucky person is, I’m here whether they want it or not,” said Richie. He laid a smacking kiss on Mike’s cheek, and Mike rolled his eyes.

Once they were all crowded together on the platform, six of them and the instructor for the course, with Stan and a camera man across from them in the trees, it all became very, very real that they were very, very high in the air. By the time Beverly, Bill, and Ben had flown down the line, Eddie’s ears were ringing and he felt like he might pass out. The ground looked like it was miles away.

“--Eds?” Richie’s voice broke through the haze of low-level fear across his mind. “Whoa, Eddie, are you okay?”

He nodded jerkily, unable to look away from the ground now that he was looking down at it.

“Hey, Eds,” said Richie’s voice, loud and demanding and right next to his ear. “Fuck you, dude, look at me.” Eddie tore his eyes away from the ground, and looked at Richie. His eyes were crinkled behind his glasses, even though his tone was obnoxiously sharp, and Eddie used them as an anchor.

“Don’t call me that,” he said, voice only shaking a little. Richie grinned, looking relieved. Mike hovered behind him, frowning in concern. Eddie shook his head. “I’m really not a heights person.”

“Ya don’t say,” said Richie. Mike smacked the back of his helmet. “Ow, that’s unsafe, I’m wearing glasses and we’re thousands of feet in the air--” And now Eddie was back to the ground. 

“Beep beep,” growled Mike.

“Shit, shit, sorry, Eddie.” Richie’s hand came and forced Eddie’s eyes to his. He could see his pale reflection in Richie’s glasses. He forced him to look past it and into Richie’s eyes, which were actually a little concerned. “You don’t have to do it, dude. Right?” He called across to Stan.

“He’s gonna have to get down one way or the other,” Stan called back.

“Fuck,” said Richie. He chewed on his lip. “Well, Eddie, I could tell you about the dream I had last night. You and I, and, if I’m being completely honest, Margot Robbie were, you’re not going to believe this, naked in the pool, but then it turned out that you had a monster co--” The need to get away from where that ramble was going before his face caught fire was impetus enough, and Eddie pushed himself off the platform and into the air.

Swooping through the Hawaiian canopy, trees flashing by, he felt like he was flying. It was breathtaking, and really fun, and over way too soon. Eddie wanted to do it 100 more times.

Richie came flying down a minute after Eddie had, whooping and flailing wildly, doing his level best to smash into a tree and not succeeding (Stan was, of course, correct about the safety of everyone involved, because Stan was great at his job).

“Holy shit, that fucking ruled,” screamed Richie as he got unhooked. “Eds, Eddie, my dude, did you keep your eyes closed the whole time? You better not have, or we’re going back up there again and I’m taping them open--.”

Eddie rolled his eyes but couldn’t help the breathless excitement that was still in his voice, adrenaline still pumping through him. “Yeah, I kept my eyes open, Richie.”

“So cool,” said Richie. His glasses were a little fogged in the wet Hawaii heat. “Best ride I’ve had since your--”

“Beep beep, Richie,” said Eddie, scowling, though there wasn’t any heat behind it. He elbowed Richie in the side, trying to convey that while Richie’s methods were questionable at best, he did recognize that Richie had--in his own, shitty way--been trying to help Eddie get his ass off the platform. 

Richie jostled him back, still grinning, so Eddie was pretty sure he got it.

They all got to go again, for camera coverage, and it was easier this time for Eddie to just push off and fall downwards towards the earth, stomach swooping upwards and leaving him breathless. “THAT’S FUCKING RIGHT,” he could hear Richie screaming after him. “LOOK AT THAT BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER GO.” Eddie whooped back.

When Richie made it down, he unclipped his helmet and threw it to the side. His hair was slicked down with sweat and he shook it out, catching them all with it. Eddie opened his mouth to protest, then forgot what he was going to say as Richie lifted the bottom of his shirt to wipe at his face, revealing a stretch of pale stomach. Richie tugged at the shirt, trying to find a dry spot to clean his glasses, but the entire thing was soaked with sweat. Eddie fumbled in his pocket for the package of tissues he always carried with him and thrust one at Richie.

“Thanks,” said Richie, grinning at him. Eddie just wanted him to put his shirt back down, or take it off all the way. He couldn’t decide.

“Thanks,” he echoed. Richie looked amused, and Eddie realized he was zoning out on the uncovered strip of skin between Richie’s visible underwear (reason #5 Richie was not Eddie’s Perfect Match) and his tanktop, and he started. “Uh, for the. Help. Up there. Such as it was.”

“I’ve got some other things you could help with--” started Richie, grinning wickedly.

“Ugh, congrats, you ruined it,” said Eddie, throwing his hands into the air and walking away to search out Ben, the actual man he was supposed to be on this actual date with. “The moment is dead.”

“So what I’m hearing, is that there was a moment to kill,” called Richie. Eddie flushed, and his stomach swooped like he had just gone flying down the zipline again. 

“Oh my g-god,” says Bill. “That was so c-cute.”

“Shut the fuck up,” says Eddie, gesturing at the screen, where he and Ben are settling onto a picnic table. “I’m literally on a date with Ben.”

Bill waves his hand dismissively. “Yeah, b-but not really. In like 15 minutes, you’re getting sent to the truth booth, and you know how that one ends.” Eddie on screen actually looks pretty relaxed, he and Ben sharing--he tunes in--childhood bullying stories, wonderful. Ben nervously pulls up his shirt to show him the tattoo that covers up the place where a boy carved up his skin with a knife , and Eddie shows him the scar where his broken bone had snapped through the skin of his arm.

“This is so d-depressing,” says Bill. “I sort of f-forgot about the concept of homophobia while we’ve been watching.”

“Yeah,” says Eddie. He mutes it. He already lived it once.

“So, now are we going to t-talk about the fact that you and Richie obviously had something going on for a lot longer than you let on, and also, how you told me over and over that both of you were over it but you k-keep going all quiet--”

“Mot people are quiet while they watch television, Bill,” snaps Eddie. “We made out, like, three times--four times. Maybe someone’s dick got touched. It’s a dating show, and he wasn’t my Match, and neither of us fits into the other’s life anyway.”

“I-interesting use of the present tense,” says Bill.

“No, it’s not,” says Eddie. “Oh look, it’s Billvery.” People love Beverly and Bill, gave them a little portmanteau (for his own sanity, Eddie ignores the #reddie that occasionally appears with it), and on the date, the chemistry is obvious. Beverly teases Bill, Bill stutters and flushes and has wind-tousled hair, they make out on a bench. It’s good television.

Better television is Richie and Mike’s date. Richie makes increasingly outrageous passes at Mike, until Mike sighs, reaches out, and grabs Richie’s hands. That makes Richie’s word vomit stutter to a halt and he blinks owlishly behind his glasses. Mike squeezes his wrists. “Man, it’s okay to just be quiet sometimes.”

Richie twitches. “You know how when sharks stop swimming, they die? That’s me and talking.”

“Yeah, I know, it’s overwhelming. I don’t get how Eddie handles you being all over him all the time.” Mike’s grinning, though, and Richie goes red, though to be fair, Mike’s grin is a lot. One time he smiled at Eddie first thing in the morning, and Eddie had been forced to brace himself against the wall to keep from falling over.

“It’s not cute to bring up another guy on our date,” says Richie accusatory.

“You just spent half our date flirting with another guy,” says Mike bluntly. Bill snorts and tries to muffle it with a cough. Eddie wants the floor to open up and swallow him.

“That’s just, you know, Eds,” says Richie. “It’s cute when he’s flustered. It’s like when a Pomeranian loses it.” Eddie makes a noise of protest and Mike must agree, because the other man shoots him an unimpressed look. Richie crosses his arms. “Oh, come on, like you don’t think Eddie’s cute. Everyone thinks Eddie’s cute.”

“Eddie’s cute,” agrees Mike. “But, food for thought: I don’t feel the need to push Eddie’s buttons until he explodes and storms away.”

“It’s only because his butt looks so--”

“Beep beep, Richie,” says Mike, looking irritated. Richie’s mouth clicks shut. “You do see where you are, right?”

“Yeah,” says Richie. “Hawai’i.”

“You’re on a dating show about being bad at dating, because we’re all bad at dating, Rich,” says Mike, endlessly patient. “Maybe consider that annoying the object of your affections to get their attention is a little grade school.” 

“I annoy everyone,” says Richie, which is true. “It’s a fairly tried and true method for me.”

Mike sighs. “Tried and true doesn’t work here, Richie, that’s the whole point. Can I make a suggestion?”

“Well, it seems like this date is a bust, so, sure, why not, lay it on me, ooooh, Mike, you’re so emotionally well-adjusted--” Richie bats his eyelashes.

“Your deflection is noted and ignored. Maybe, try talking to him, instead of at him. Or maybe, you could, I don’t know, be nice. I like you, Richie, but you’re not exactly taking any of this seriously, so it’s hard to think you take other people seriously. Do you see what I mean?”

Richie runs his hand through his hair, and for a moment, he looks genuinely ashamed. That’s the power of Mike’s concerned eyebrows. “Look, okay, it’s--it’s not like that.”

“You’re not exactly subtle,” says Mike.

“Eddie doesn’t think we’re a Match, and he’s probably right,” says Richie. “I’m a literal and figurative mess, and Eddie is insane in the exact opposite way of me.”

“Yeah, the guy literally carries a first aid kit with him everywhere,” says Mike. “But, if anyone is equipped to clean up a literal and figurative mess--” Eddie mutes the television.

“Hey, what the hell,” says Bill. “I want to hear this.”

“Well, I don’t,” says Eddie. His stomach is in knots, and he stares at Mike and Richie’s silently moving lips. Which is why he doesn’t see it coming when Bill launches into him and wrestles the remote control out of his hands, knocking Eddie’s coffee table out of position and sending pillows flying. He manages to hit the button, and Richie’s voice fills the room again.

“--doesn’t want me.” Richie ducks his head. “So.”

Mike snorts. “Tell that to someone who didn’t see his eyes when you lifted your shirt up. I could literally see you going slo-mo in his mind.” Bill is still sitting on him and the remote is firmly out of his reach, so Eddie gives up and buries his head in Bill’s back. Bill pats him awkwardly.

“How did he know that,” moans Eddie, pathetically.

“Mike knows everything. I t-think he had all the matches down on the first day,” says Bill. 

“Obviously not,” says Eddie, gesturing at the screen, where Mike is telling Richie to be vulnerable instead of using humor as a defense mechanism. Mike really was the most well-adjusted of all of them on the show, though that wasn’t saying much.

“Besides, it might go better than you think,” says Mike. “Eddie’s more fun when you’re around. Smiles more. All that romcom bullshit.” Eddie changes his mind, Mike is as dumb as the rest of them.

Richie looks thoughtful. “You think?” he says.

“Sure. Why not?” says Mike, shrugging. “We’re here to find love, right?”

“And a million dollars,” Richie reminds him.

“And a million dollars.” They laugh and it cuts to commercial. 

Eddie mutes it, which is the only reason he hears Bill’s small noise of surprise. He looks at Bill and Bill studiously avoids looking back. “What,” he says.

Bill hesitates, then tips his phone towards Eddie. There’s a series of tweets displayed, and Eddie grabs Bill’s phone to bring them close enough to read:

sorry for saying “fuck” on national tv 17 times mom @richdicktozier
omggggg i get it, i’m an asshole for doing that to mike on our date. in my defense, eddie was wearing v short shorts that day and mike can do way better than ME

sorry for saying “fuck” on national tv 17 times mom @richdicktozier
talking about another guy on ur date is actually called a “power move,” look it up

sorry for saying “fuck” on national tv 17 times mom @richdicktozier
lol he’s 100x cuter in 3D. a tiny hurricane with doe eyes and a bitchy streak.
RT @keriggy: @richdicktozier is eddie as cute in person as he is on tv????

“What the fuck,” says Eddie, faintly.

“Yeah, you’re both definitely over whatever the f-fuck it is you two were doing,” says Bill. Eddie throws the phone back at him and takes out his own phone. He scrolls to Richie’s twitter--he already follows him because they’re all contractually obligated to not spoil any fights or fallouts. His heart had lodged in his throat when he got the notification @richdicktozier started following you, but now he’s just mad.

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier I don’t have doe eyes

sorry for saying “fuck” on national tv 17 times mom @richdicktozier
@edkaspbrak so ur agreeing about the bitchy streak

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier No shit, Sherlock. If I was Mike, I would’ve pushed you off the cliff.

The show comes back on, and everyone in the house starts voting. Neither of them was around for this bit, so watching the house choose Ben and Eddie is...enlightening.

“Eddie and Ben always hang out during parties,” says Hannah to Kim, as she chooses them. “My mom always said the key to a good relationship is wanting to leave a party at the same time.” Kim shrugs and follows her lead.

Myra chooses Bill and Beverly. “Eddie is one of the less insane people in this house, I don’t want him to leave yet,” she admits in confessional. Eddie winces.

When Ben and Eddie start their walk to the truth booth, they cut to interviews. Eddie and Ben, both looking more than a little terrified, talk about bonding over their pasts. Then, it cuts to Richie. Eddie wants to mute the television again, but Bill has taken possession of the remote, so Eddie is forced to hear.

“They’re not a match,” says Richie. “I will bet the 27 dollars in my bank account on that.” There’s a beat, then Richie’s eyes go wide. “God, I really hope they’re not a (bleep)ing match.”

The truth booth was the most annoying part of filming. Any time they went in there, they spent a full half hour holding hands and having lasers scan up and down their bodies, doing absolutely nothing beyond the visual of lights. On screen, it’s maybe 30 seconds, and when NO MATCH flashes on the screen in front of them, both Eddie and Ben exhale.

Back at the house, the whole room erupts into boos, because it means that they’re stuck with no confirmed matches yet for another week. On the other hand, Richie rises. “Eat (bleep)! I (bleep)ing told you!” he yells, pointing at Beverly, then Bill, then Eddie’s picture on the house’s television screen. “Mike, you’re okay.” 

“Oh, thanks,” says Mike, but he’s smiling.

“Still a (bleep)ing chance!” crows Richie. He looks...excited. Eddie can’t look away, which is ridiculous, because he knows how it ends. Him and Bill on this couch, and Richie on Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter, he checks his phone, and obviously there’s an alert, because neither Eddie or Richie knows how to stay away from a bruise.

sorry for saying “fuck” on national tv 20 times mom @richdicktozier
@edkaspbrak if you were mike we would’ve been too busy for you to even THINK about pushing me off the cliff

Eddie has no idea what to do with that.

Weeks four and five were mostly devoted to the B³ situation imploding first slowly (week four), then spectacularly (week five). Somehow the show worked around Stan’s role in the entire drama, which was a credit to the editors, given that Stan played a rather large part in the whole affair.

While Eddie had been caught up in Richie’s grin and drink experiments and one-man reenactments of movies (where he played all of the characters, to various degrees of success), Bill had found himself embroiled in his own dramatics. He and Beverly didn’t have much in common beyond both thinking the other was hot, which was enough to keep their physical relationship going but not enough to keep Beverly and Ben from wandering off onto a beach to ‘have private talks.’

Whatever happened on the beach was a mystery to the housemates (or at least, it would be until the show aired) but Beverly and Ben came back blushing and kind of soft focus. 

(“Did everything just get pink and glowy, or is that just me?” said Richie.

“It’s called a sunset, doofus,” said Eddie.

“Sun’s down, babe, that is all the Benverly Teenage Dream music video--”

“Beep beep, Richie,” said Eddie, noticing Bill within earshot, sulking.)

Eddie, vaguely tipsy for about two weeks straight at this point, wasn’t particularly observant as to the events unfolding, and was forced to put everything together from different people after the fact, feeling like a detective trying to work backward from a crime. The crime, in this case, was a huge blow-out on a three-person date that ended with Bill and Ben sniping at each other and Beverly smoking next to the pool as soon as they got back to the house, which is when Eddie figured out all was not well in the Hawaiian sex house.

After they had separated Ben and Bill and Richie had jumped into the pool fully clothed, making Beverly smile for the first time all night, Eddie dragged Bill to the small closet where the cameras couldn’t follow, and stared at him until Bill started talking, stuttering at first and then getting more evenly cadenced as the story poured out of him.

A couple of weeks earlier, Bill had found a bird’s nest and led Stan to it while the rest of them were asleep, because Bill has a compulsive need to be liked by everyone he meets. Stan had informed him that it was not a nene nest, but it was still actually quite interesting, and somehow that had led to Bill and Stan observing the nest in the predawn hours each morning because Bill had never met a narrative he couldn’t invest himself in. They waited for the eggs to hatch and swapped stories about growing up in suburbia, and how Bill missed being able to write while he was in the house and forbidden pen and paper, and how Stan had end up working for a reality television show.

No one knew it was happening, though Eddie noticed Bill did yawn more and started falling asleep on the couch from time to time. He figured Bill, like the rest of them, was just exhausted from the entire ordeal of sharing a bedroom with 15 other people. God knew Eddie found it difficult to sleep sometimes too, though he was more distracted by the fact that he kept occasionally waking up with Richie clinging to him, having rolled off his bed and onto Eddie’s. He retaliated by stealing Richie’s blankets in the middle of the night, but that just made Richie more likely to cuddle up against his blanket burrito.

“This place is just so f-fucking intense,” said Bill helplessly, bringing Eddie’s attention back to him. “I just...e-everything I was feeling, I don’t know, I kept telling him things and he kept listening.” Bill looked angry, like Stan’s listening skills were a personal affront to him. “And then I, I--okay, so we had that challenge about, um, open and honest communication b-being--” Eddie raised his eyebrow, and Bill deflated. “I told Stan I thought I might have, you know, feelings, and he freaked out about, um, the s-sanctity of the observer, and how maybe if w-we had met under different circumstances, but I should focus on the people in the house and winning the game. He said h-he’d never date someone on the show--”

“Yeah, because this is his job, Bill,” said Eddie. “What were you thinking?”

“It’s not m-my fault,” said Bill. “It’s the fucking clown, and this place, and all the unresolved tension, it’s making my brain dumb.”

“Your brain is always dumb,” said Eddie consolingly. “And don’t worry, I’m sure Mike and Hannah will bang it out soon.” 

There was a rapping on the door, and Richie’s voice floated through it. “If you guys are touching each other’s dicks and you didn’t invite me, I’m going to cry real tears.” 

“Y-yeah,” said Bill dryly. “Mike and Hannah is definitely the unresolved sexual tension I was referring to.”

Eddie ignored him and rose to let Richie into the closet.

As the date montage starts, Bill slides down the couch until he’s basically horizontal, chin against his chest. The Bill on television is annoyed and obviously unhappy with the situation he’d found himself in with Ben and Beverly, who keep laughing together.

“Five hours earlier, I had been rejected by Stan,” mutters Bill into the ether. “So let’s just remember that.”

Eddie takes a picture of him, prostrate and tense with anxiety. On screen, Ben presents Beverly with a crown of flowers that he had woven together as they ate lunch. “It matches your hair,” he says shyly. “It always reminds me of January embers.”

Bill on screen and Bill next to him on the couch both let out snorts of derision. Eddie kicks the one he’s able to reach, and it pushes Bill off the couch and onto the floor. “Oh, come on,” says Bill. “January embers, what does that even mean.” 

“It means Ben spends a lot of time thinking up words to describe Beverly’s hair because he’s in real, Nora Ephron love with her, which is what she deserves, instead of being someone’s second choice.”

“I know,” says Bill from the floor.

“And we do not stand for anti-Ben Hanscom sentiment here,” Eddie reminds him. “He’s an angel and you’re a reality tv show villain.”

“P-pot, meet kettle,” says Bill, which, well. Touché. “Oh, g-god, here we go.”

Beverly is telling them that she feels a connection with both of them, but that at the moment, she’s feeling closer to Ben, and she really wants to explore that connection more.

Bill on screen starts to fidget. “You and I--okay, no offense, Ben--but Bev, w-we had a really strong connection early on, and now out of nowhere, you’re just d-dropping me for what. ‘January embers’?” He sneers. The Bill on the floor covers his eyes with his arm, groaning.

“You’re such a dick,” says Eddie fondly.

“I f-fucking know,” says Bill. “God, Richie turned us all into such trashmouthed assholes.”

“The trashmouth part, maybe,” agrees Eddie. “The asshole part? All us, Big Bill.”

Ben on screen is telling Bill not to talk to Beverly like that, because Ben was and continues to be the best of them, and Bill is yelling at Ben about how when he and Beverly sat together they had gotten another beam, which was true in week three. It’s extremely unhinged, and kind of incredible to watch.

“I will say, your breakdowns make for good television,” he says. Bill groans and rolls over, smashing his face into a pillow. 

Beverly rises, and slaps Bill across the face. “Calm the (bleep) down,” she says. Bill on screen looks stunned. Beverly crosses her arms. “If either of you follow me, I’ll cut your dicks off.”

Eddie checks Twitter, a habit he’s formed over the course of watching the show for five weeks now, and the first tweet that show up is one of Richie’s, because of course it is.

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 26 times mom @richdicktozier 
i did want to kick bill’s ass that night (&i almost did!) but it seemed @rumandotherbevs had it handled

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier Bullshit you “almost did.” You flailed at him uselessly for like 10 seconds. 

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 26 times mom @richdicktozier
@edkaspbrak well he had a human shield

beverly marsh @rumandotherbevs
@richdicktozier @edkaspbrak i’ll be the richie translator: he means eddie was wearing his ridiculous red short shorts and he got distracted

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 26 times mom @richdicktozier
@rumandotherbevs dont knock the red short shorts, they were a real source of personal growth for me

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier @rumandotherbevs in before “in my pants”

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 26 times mom @richdicktozier
@edkaspbrak @rumandotherbevs aww eds u know me so well 🍆

“Why are you flirting with Richie on Twitter,” says Bill from the floor. Eddie starts. He’d honestly forgotten Bill was there. 

“Someone’s gotta distract the masses from your raging assholery,” says Eddie tartly, but he can feel the blush on his cheeks.

“It’s okay to s-say you, I don’t know, miss hi--”

“Beep beep,” says Eddie, and freezes. Bill stares at him judgmentally, especially for someone who was just screaming on television. “It’s really not that deep, and also I don’t want to talk about it.”

Bill draws a zipper across his lips, because occasionally Bill does know when to stop pushing, but then the episode ends and there’s a preview. Any relief he’d experienced is suddenly gone, because next week is the party production planned for them like they were middle-schoolers at a summer camp, and his heart clenches as he watches Richie in a short dress spinning him and making his pastel skirt fans out. He needs to remember to pick up more alcohol before next week, because it’s going to be a doozy.

He reopens Twitter, and the first thing he sees is a tweet from the official Are You The One? account, a gif of them dancing with the caption “Who’s #reddie for next week???”

“Look on the bright side,” says Bill, still laying on the floor. “At least my embarrassing moment is over.” 

Eddie throws his phone at him.

“Will you go to prom with me?” said Richie.

“Will I--what? Is this a bit?” said Eddie, arms folded. 

Richie grinned up at him from where he was down on one knee. Eddie’s traitor heart skipped a beat, which was definitely a sign that this whole thing was going to end up killing him. “Yes, the bit is that we go to fake prom and get real wasted and have a great time, and then you can tell me how good my legs look in my dress and I will consider letting you get some--”

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s how it’ll go,” said Eddie, his face burning. He sat down on the floor, right there in the hallway. Richie stared at him. “What? It felt weird being above you.”

Richie rocked back onto his heels. “You’re ridiculous.”

I’m ridiculous?” scoffed Eddie. “Sure, okay. Fine. Yes, I’ll go to prom with you, Richie.”

Richie’s grin lit up his entire face, and Eddie felt like he was back on the zipline.

It was prom-slash-house party, and Stan quietly directed them to go all out, which was a forte for pretty much everyone in the house. Richie took a dress from Hannah and, not to be one-upped, Eddie went to Beverly and borrowed a bright red skirt that fell to his knees. Mike and Ben rock-paper-scissored for the same halter dress, and Ben won, so Hannah pulled Mike away and gave him a dress that somehow made him look like a Greek god. Bill, the coward, wore pants but submitted to glitter from Eddie and Krissie, a funny, quiet girl who had a killer makeup palette.

They all looked awesome, and Eddie felt. Happy. Free. Even Stan and the camera operators had been stealthily glitterbombed by Krissie and Bev, who wore a suit and looked like she’d just stepped off the runway. Ben had actually almost passed out when he saw her, but Eddie privately doubted Beverly noticed anything about Ben in that moment beyond the bulge of his biceps in his halter top. It was a pretty hardcore distraction.

“You look gorgeous,” said Ben, recovering his voice.

“Back at ya, Benny,” said Beverly. She presented her arm to him, and he took it. “Shall we?”

“With you? Anywhere,” said Ben fervently, then looked immediately embarrassed. Eddie pretended to be very interested in making sure the zipper of his skirt was exactly in the middle of his back. “Eddie?” 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “You know Richie, he’ll probably want to make an entrance. Go take your prom photos, fuckers.” Beverly flipped him off and Ben grinned, almost bouncing with excitement. 

“Richie, why is it taking you so long? It’s a bunch of people you see every goddamn day wearing nicer clothes--”

“Wow, it really is prom, then,” said Richie, emerging from the hallway. He did jazz hands. “Ta daaaa!

Eddie swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. Hannah was tall, but Richie was taller, so the dress was short, and Richie’s legs were long. Very long.

“Think your mom’ll like it?” said Richie. When Eddie didn’t answer, his grin faltered a little. “I gotta tell you, Eds, sometimes you’re a little hard to read. I can’t tell if I look hot or ridiculous.”

“It’s always both,” retorted Eddie automatically. In this case, that was mostly a lie: Richie should have looked ridiculous, covered in glitter and wearing a dress obviously too small for him with--Jesus Christ--sneakers, but instead he looked like a punk rock cool kid, like every 80s pop star Eddie had fantasies about when he was growing up, an androgynous mix of boy and girl that made Eddie feel a little lightheaded.

With very long legs. 

The glasses magnified Richie’s eyes, made even larger by an expert cat eye Beverly had given him. Before he could stop himself, Eddie blurted out, “It’s, um--it’s hot. You look hot.”

Richie’s responding grin was blinding, and Eddie felt his own cheeks heat in response. “You look really hot too, babe--”

Eddie winced. “Worse than Eds.”

Richie gasped and pointed at him accusingly. “I knew you liked Eds!

Eddie ducked his head. “I plead the fifth,” he said, but when he looked back up Richie was still smiling at him. They stood there for a moment in the hallway, just grinning idiotically at each other. 

Richie cleared his throat. “Seriously, though, you look good. Like, really good.” Neither of them moved for another moment, then Richie jerked his head. “Your adoring fans await.”

Eddie rolled his eyes and grabbed Richie’s hand, towing him through the house and out into the backyard and the cooling Hawaiian night. As always, Richie (and therefore by extension Eddie) was the last to arrive, and his face lit up when he saw the makeshift dancefloor some poor PA had put together earlier in the afternoon. He kicked off his sneakers and Eddie, to whom Richie was astonishingly predictable most of the time, was not particularly surprised when he made a running start and slid across the dance floor, Risky Business-style. He crashed straight into Ben and Beverly, taking them both down with him, but Beverly laughed and Ben just rolled his eyes, scrambling to his feet so he could offer Beverly a hand up. She took it and he gently pulled her up, and then Ben laid a kiss to her hand and Beverly glowed.

Ben really was the best of them. And he had game. It was unbelievably unfair. 

“That’s so unfair,” said Richie from the ground. “How do you think they even made him? In a lab, probably, and then raise him and never show him Bambi so he retains a gentle spirit until he’s too old for anything to change his basic nature--”

Eddie rolled his eyes and offered Richie a hand. Richie took it and Eddie pulled him up, the other man’s socks slipping a few times before they were both fully upright. Richie pressed his lips against Eddie’s hand. “Oh, come on,” said Eddie. The place where Richie’s lips were felt like a brand on his skin. Calm the fuck down, he told himself sternly. Richie’s a flirt. “Do your own homework, don’t just copy Ben’s.”

Richie snorted, and dropped their clasped hands back down between them. Ben and Beverly were dancing, looking like a fairy tale in the string lights that decked the backyard. It was all so romantic that Eddie’s teeth started hurting every time he looked at them. He wondered how Bill was handling it, and craned his neck around, looking for him.

Fortunately, Bill had not seen them. Unfortunately, Bill was in a corner, out of view of the cameras, arguing with Stan. Eddie wasn’t close enough to hear what either were saying, but Bill looked pissed underneath all his glitter and Stan looked distraught underneath his. 

“Drink or dance?” said Richie, interrupting Eddie’s spying. 

He turned back to his date, sheepish. “Drinks.” 

“Word,” said Richie, and led him to the bar, which is when Eddie realized they were still holding hands. They got to the bar and surveyed the options; Richie paused, then turned to Eddie. “I’ve got a pitch.”

“I’m not streaking, I don’t care how funny it was at your prom.” said Eddie. He should probably drop Richie’s hand at some point. 

Richie scoffed. “Eds, if I thought I could get you to streak, it would’ve happened by week three.” He fidgeted and dropped Eddie’s hand, leaving it suddenly cold. Eddie crossed his arms and tucked his hand into his elbow and frowned. Richie didn’t get uncomfortable. “What if, we don’t drink, like, that much. Avoid the hard liquor, or whatever.” 

Eddie stared at him. “In the Hawaiian sex house? You’re the one who said you wouldn’t consider it a real prom unless someone puked in the bushes--”

“I mean, yeah,” said Richie. “But it doesn’t have to be, you know, you. You and me,” he amended hurriedly. “I blacked out at my last prom, I don’t want to do that this time too.”

Eddie’s lips twitched. “I’ll drink what you give me, Richie. I trust you.” The last part slipped out, and he wished he could take it back, but Richie lit up like a Christmas tree and he suddenly didn’t regret it even a little bit.

Richie passed him a red solo cup half-filled with beer, and Eddie snorted. “Well, obviously we can’t do it 100% sober, either,” said Richie, and he raised a cup to his mouth and chugged it. Eddie watched the muscles in Richie’s neck move as he swallowed, and he hurriedly took a sip from his own cup.

The gulp steadied him. “Okay, we have to do photos before you fuck up all your makeup--”

“Before you fuck up my makeup, you mean--” said Richie, waggling his eyebrows suggestively behind his glasses like he always did when he went for the low-hanging fruit. Unlike most times he did it, though, Eddie had a sudden, clear mental image of Richie on his knees, Richie with his make-up ruined, glitter all over his face and body and Eddie’s--Eddie gulped more beer and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to derail that train of thought, but the damage was done and he could already feel the blush on his cheeks. When he opened his eyes again, Richie was staring at him, eyes wide and dark and magnified by his stupid fucking glasses, and Eddie was pretty sure Richie wasn’t the one who was going to be sitting with at the end of this show, but he really wanted to kiss him anyway.

“Photos,” he said hoarsely, instead. “Preserve the look.” 

“It would be a crime for this outfit to not be preserved in the historical record,” said Richie, agreeably. He frowned down at himself. “Mine’s good too, I guess.”

Eddie laughed and pulled Richie towards the photo booth. It was always necessary to steer Richie, and the action had nothing to do with Eddie wanting to hold his hand. Because Richie was a flirt, and had imprinted on Eddie, and wanting to hold his hand was not really a good way to keep those two things in mind. Holding hands was simply a necessary evil of going places with Richie, who had a tendency to wander off. “Keep fishing, maybe you’ll catch something.”

“Oh, Eds, I think we both know I already caught something from your--” 

Eddie shoved Richie away from him. “Beep beep, Richie,” he said warningly, though he could feel the smile tugging at the corners of his lips. “If you even mention my mom tonight, I’m ditching you for Bill.”

Richie gasped in faux outrage, sweeping back into Eddie’s personal space, one arm around his waist. “You’d never.”

Eddie scoffed, trying to ignore the variety of reactions his body was having to Richie’s proximity. “Try me.”

“I’d certainly like to,” said Richie, right next to his ear. Eddie closed his eyes. This was a terrible idea.

“Ho-ly shit, Richie,” said Mike, and Eddie jumped away from Richie, feeling, inexplicably, like he had been caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. As they hit the bright lights of the photoshoot, Mike squinted from where he and Hannah were posing together like a pair of mythological heroes. “That is so much glitter.”

“I know, right?” said Richie. “I’m going to use it to mark my territory.” Eddie really should’ve seen it coming when that statement was followed by Richie rubbing his face against Eddie’s shoulder. 

Eddie shoved his head away. “You can’t wait two fucking seconds, Richie? I swear to god, if you fuck up the cat eye before there’s a photographic record of it, Beverly’s going to murder you and Ben’s gonna hide your body in the foundation of some poor person’s suburban dream house.”

“Wait, Eddie, so your objections are to the timing, not to the action of him marking you as his territory?” said Mike, tone innocent though his eyes were dancing and Hannah was trying and failing not to giggle next to him.

Eddie stared at him incredulously. “Yeah, have you met Richie? You’re delusional if you think he isn’t going to shove his glitter covered face into everyone’s personal bubble.” Richie made what was either a noise of protest or agreement, Eddie couldn’t tell. 

Hannah eyed Richie’s glitter, and then moved so Mike was standing between her and them. “Drinks?” she said. “I refuse to get glitterbombed before 11pm.”

“That’s just going to encourage him,” said Mike, but nonetheless kept himself between Hannah and a grinning Richie and spirited her away. 

The photobooth was strewn with balloons and props and Eddie kicked at one of the balloons, sending it drifting up. “These are so bad for the environment.”

“Ooof, Eds, you can’t talk about the environment, you know when you talk about science it gets me all hot.” 

“Just like the planet,” said Eddie, dryly. “And everything gets you hot.”

“Well, that’s true,” said Richie, then made an exclamation of victory as the photobooth camera he was fighting with came to life. “Oh, fuck, it’s happening so fast, get ready, Eds.”

In the first shot, they both pulled faces, Eddie’s eyes crossed and Richie’s tongue out. In the second one, they were both laughing too hard to actually make a pose. In the third one, Richie licked a long stripe up Eddie’s face that made him shudder and screw up his face into a grimace. In the fourth one, Eddie threw caution to the wind and turned his head and caught Richie’s mouth with his.

Richie’s hands came up to cradle his face as he kissed back. It was an awkward angle for both of them, but Eddie quickly stopped caring. Kissing Richie felt familiar and completely new at the same time, and Eddie’s whole body felt like it was on fire. Everything was Richie: Richie’s lips on his, Richie’s long fingers against his face, Richie’s chest under his hands. His nose bumped against Richie’s glasses and he growled in impatience against Richie’s lips and took a breather mostly as an opportunity to climb into Richie’s lap, getting a better angle on the entire situation.

“I still don’t think you’re my Match,” said Eddie. His breathing was labored, like the earliest stages of an asthma attack.

Richie blinked up at him, looking dazed. “I literally could not care less about that right now.”

“Great,” said Eddie, and tilted Richie’s mouth up to meet his again.

They made out like teenagers until Richie, in a plot twist, gently pushed Eddie back. “Wait, wait, we have--prom.” He looked at Eddie and groaned, closing his eyes and running his hand through his hair. “You have so much glitter on your face.” 

“And who’s fault is that,” said Eddie, rubbing at his face self-consciously. Richie made an aborted mood to stop him that Eddie clocked despite Richie’s best efforts to pass it off as a stretch.

“Jesus Christ,” said Eddie. “You’re such a fucking freak.” 

“And proud of it, baby,” said Richie, grinning. He pulled Eddie against his side. “Speaking of freaks, let’s get our freak on before we, you know, get our freak--”

“Beep beep,” said Eddie sourly. “You don’t actually have to ruin every single moment, you know.” 

Richie regarded him for a moment, then held out his hand. “Let’s dance.” 

“Is this a joke?” said Eddie suspiciously.

“Okay, whoever it was that Carrie’d you, I gotta have words with them,” said Richie. “I’m talking full-on New England, ‘I was told by Applecare’ WASP mom words.

Eddie squinted at him. “Are you--are you being serious right now?”

“Yes,” said Richie. “I would seriously like to dance with you. I’m pretty sure.”

“Well, if you’re pretty sure,” said Eddie sarcastically, but put his hand in Richie’s and let himself be pulled onto the temporary dance floor next to where Audra and Myra were dancing embarrassingly badly with Bill, who smiled without it reaching his eyes. Ben and Beverly were still swaying together. 

Eddie placed one hand in Richie’s, and the other on his shoulder, which is when the second-rate DJ switched the track over to some top 40s hit with a strong beat and everyone started grinding on each other. Richie danced close to him, and Eddie normally would’ve felt awkward and embarrassed--should’ve felt awkward and embarrassed, doing this in front of cameras where the world and, oh god, his mom were going to see it--but instead he just grinned wildly at Richie, feeling drunk on a quarter of a cup of beer and the friends around them and Richie, grinning back at him.

He did the robot and Richie threw back his head and laughed, his whole body shaking like Eddie’s stupid dancing was the greatest thing he’d ever seen. Eddie smacked his arm and Richie caught the hand and used it to pull Eddie towards him, then dipped him.

“No fucking way,” said Eddie, floor at the top of his eyeline. He craned his neck to look at the grinning Richie in disbelief.  “No fucking way did you just dip me, are we in the 50s, are you going to ask me to go steady, you fu--mphw.” He was cut off by Richie lowering his mouth down to his. 

Everyone around them starts cat-calling and whistling. “Beep beep,” said Beverly, tossing a napkin at them, and they broke apart. “God, he’s going to be insufferable. What happened, Eddie? You were standing so strong against him.” She was grinning, though.

“Fortunately for Eds here, I’m irresistible,” said Richie, spinning them back around and putting Eddie back right side up on solid ground.

“Fortunately for Richie, I’m desperate,” said Eddie, but he couldn’t stop smiling. 

Then, Mike and Hannah swept onto the floor with them and the too-small platform did its job and pushed them all into a tight knot of bodies. Beverly was in front of him and Richie was behind him and even Bill was grinning as they all jumped wildly, smashing into each other with reckless abandon. Eddie was nearly knocked over a couple times before he gave up and relaxed back into Richie, who had the advantage of being both tall and merciless with his elbows.

Richie rubbed his face against Eddie’s neck, tickling him and making him squirm. “What the fuck, stop, all your goddamn glitter is just going to end up on me.”

“Oh no,” said Richie, tone indicating he wasn’t sorry in the least. “That’d be terrible.” His cheek rubbed higher up Eddie’s neck, making him shiver, then he felt lips on his skin. He realized a moment too late what Richie was about to do, and was unable to prevent the nip of teeth against his neck.

“Stop giving people hickeys,” said Eddie. “It’s unhygienic.” 

“I’m not giving people hickeys, I’m giving you hickeys,” said Richie, close enough that Eddie could feel the words as well as hear them.

“Stop giving me hickeys,” said Eddie, mercilessly stomping on any butterflies that might’ve been about to take up residence in his stomach. “It’s unhygienic.”

“Ooh, baby, say unhygienic again, you know it gets me--” 

“You guys are so fucking weird,” said Bill. Eddie jumped, having forgotten they were surrounded by other people and cameras that were filming them. Richie, unphased, returned to his spot of interest on Eddie’s neck. “I can’t tell what’s even happening here. Is he stealing your life force?”

“Probably,” said Eddie.

“I have a reputation to maintain,” said Richie. “What if Michaelangelo never finished David? What if Lucas never finished Star Wars --”

“Really?” said Bill. “You’re g-going with George Lucas for maintaining a reputation? Did you see the prequels?”

Richie opened his mouth to argue, and Eddie huffed, knowing from experience that these conversations could go on for a while if not derailed quickly and early. He rolled his head to one side, half-finished hickey catching the light, and Richie’s defense of the original trilogy as a masterpiece regardless of later additions to canon stuttered out.

Bill fidgeted. “Actually, Eddie, I was just wondering if I could talk to you for a second?” Something in his voice made Eddie step forward and out of Richie’s hold. Outside of the haze of alcohol and prom and Richie, he could see that Bill looked wan and exhausted under his makeup, and his hands were shaking.

“Yeah,” he said. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, yes, of course.” Richie made a noise of protest and he grimaced. “Richie, I will be back in a second.” Richie honest-to-god pouted at him, there in the middle of the dance floor, and Eddie sighed. “Well, you shouldn’t have tried to give me a hickey.” 

“You guys are weird,” said Bill, smiling weakly at the ground. “You do realize you just had a whole conversation without Richie talking once.” 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “I know, it’s incredible, I was gifted by god with the ability to make Richie shut the fuck up, my one true purpose on this planet is to follow Richie around making him shut the fuck up for the rest of his life--”

“Don’t threaten me with a good time,” said Richie, and pulled Eddie back towards him. Eddie thought he was going to kiss him, but predictability wasn’t always a good bet when it came to Richie, because he pressed a kiss to Eddie’s cheek instead. It was chaste and sweet and the butterflies burst back to fluttering life in his stomach. “I’ve gotta destroy the dance floor anyway, and I assume you won’t do the Dirty Dancing jump with me--”

“You assume correctly,” said Eddie. 

“--but don’t you be gone too long now, darlin’,” Richie said, in a southern drawl. He saluted mockingly to Bill and swung away, scooping the giggling Audra into a wild half-tango/half-hip hop routine, and Eddie’s hand came to his cheek.

“I think I’m having a crisis,” he said faintly.

“Join the f-fucking club,” said Bill.

In Eddie’s completely not at all professional opinion, that’s where the show’s narrative goes fully off the rails.

As Bill and Eddie watch their fake prom episode, each with a drink that is 60% rum and 40% diet coke, it becomes clear how the editors got Stan out of the equation, because it increasingly looks a lot like Bill is in love with Eddie.

Eddie can even sort of see how it happens. He did spend a lot of time with Bill, because he likes Bill, and Bill turned to him during his romantic breakdown because Eddie is awesome (and also because Eddie required the least amount of catching up on the situation of anyone in the house). Beyond that, besides an early crush on Eddie’s part, Bill and Eddie had settled into a steady friendship, one that had been consistent on and off camera, which was why Bill’s the one on the couch next to Eddie, sharing in this humiliation.

“We’re so dumb,” says Bill, watching prom Bill get intercut with confessional footage from what Eddie would guess was week 1 or 2, talking about how smart Eddie is and how Richie makes it impossible for Eddie to see anyone else in the house. Eddie winces. “Why does anyone do a reality show?”

“Psychotic break?” suggests Eddie. “Richie told me he sent in an audition tape because he thought it would be a good bit, but you know how Richie gets with a bit, he will take it so much further than anyone wants or asks for--” He thinks if he keeps talking, maybe they won’t get to what he’s fairly certain is coming next, but time and MTV doesn’t give a shit about Eddie’s discomfort, so in the next scene, Eddie and Richie appear on screen in the confessional.

Eddie gets up, circles the couch, and lies down behind it. He cleaned the floor this morning, in preparation for Bill coming over, so at least he can take comfort in a clean floor while he dies of embarrassment. Bill’s head pops over the top of the couch and looks down at him, amused. “It’s gonna air whether you’re watching or not.” Eddie shakes his head.

Bill shrugs and unmutes the television, and Eddie’s voice echoes around the apartment, breathless and loud. “--flashed everyone, and he could’ve dropped you--” Eddie groans. Mike had done the Dirty Dancing lift with Richie after being plied with alcohol and compliments, and Eddie had taken offense to it.

“Aw, Eds, you know the only person I’d purposefully flash is you,” says Richie.

“You’re so (bleep)ing--mph .”

“You’re making out,” says Bill helpfully. “Your technique could use work, Eds--Richie’s a good kisser, but he really can’t do all the work.”

“Uh, how do you know Richie’s a good kisser?” says Eddie, hands falling to the floor with a thump.

“Let he who hasn’t lost gay chicken to Richie Tozier cast the first stone,” says Bill. “Wow, don’t worry, I don’t think Richie gave a shit about your technique.”

It’s obvious manipulation on Bill’s part but it works anyways, and Eddie scrambles up to see what’s happening. Eddie and Richie on screen are less kissing and more laughing against each other’s mouths. They both look happy and weirdly soft and Eddie can’t breathe. 

He remembers being inside the confessional, the feeling of doing something he shouldn’t be doing with someone he really wanted to do it with, the giddy lightness of letting everything else go, forgetting the game and his mother and Bill’s upset eyes and everything other than RichieRichieRichie, but he didn’t know that this is what it looked like. Television Eddie is staring at Richie like he’ll follow him anywhere.

He can’t stop watching as Richie drops his forehead onto television Eddie’s shoulder. “Did you have fun?” he murmurs, and Eddie really regrets investing any money whatsoever in the sound system of his apartment, because he suddenly misses Richie more than he has since the end of the show. His voice, low and familiar, hangs in the air of the apartment.

Eddie’s hand comes up to run his fingers through Richie’s hair on the screen. He grins. “Yeah, I actually did. Though, honestly, it’s a little embarrassing that you didn’t get any glitter on Hannah before 11. Like, I’m embarrassed for you.”

Richie grins on screen, and all these months later, Eddie can feel the ghost of it against his skin. “(Bleep), I like you.”

Eddie on screen blushes and ducks his head; real Eddie does the same. “I occasionally enjoy hanging out with you,” the one on television responds primly, then yelps as Richie digs his teeth into his neck. “I changed my mind, you’re a (bleep)ing dick--”

“Please don’t say the word dick,” says Richie.

“Oh, sorry, is it against your delicate sensibilities --” says Eddie. “Dick, dick, di--”

“Let me rephrase,” says Richie. “Don’t say the word ‘dick’ unless you’re going to let me touch yours.”

The Eddie on television blushes crimson enough that it’s definitely going to be visible on every level of television definition. Then he bites his lip. “Dick.” 

(“Eddie,” says Bill admiringly. Eddie groans and tries to smother himself with a pillow.)

“Oh, look at the time, we have to go,” says Richie to the camera, grabbing a laughing Eddie and pulling him bodily out of the confessional booth. It cuts to them barricading the door of the boom-boom room, Richie impatiently crowding against Eddie’s back. They make out against the door and then Richie hoists Eddie higher and carries him over to the bed.

It had been insanely hot at the time, and even now Eddie feels warm despite the cool air of his apartment. The Eddie on television throw the mic pack at the wall and drags a sheet up and over him and Richie. Mercifully, the sound does cut out, so the embarrassing shit Eddie remembers saying to Richie while he had his hand on Eddie’s cock remains between them and some sound editor in a basement somewhere. 

Then it cuts to Richie, alone in the confessional. He’s in a soft cotton t-shirt and so obviously rocking sex hair that it makes Eddie wince. “If Eddie’s not my Perfect Match, I’d have to question the expertise of the so-called experts.” He scrunches his face up. Eddie finds it adorable, and feels like he’s going to throw up. “God, I hope he’s my (bleep)ing Match. Otherwise, he’s going to want to--” He cuts himself off and runs a hand through his hair, and his mouth quirks, a little bitter.

It cuts to the main bedroom, where enough of the beds are occupied that it’s probably the pre-dawn hours of the early morning. Richie picks his way between the sleeping bodies and climbs into bed behind Eddie and slides his arms around him. Eddie watches himself shift, obviously half-asleep, and grope slowly for Richie’s glasses. “G’na (bleep)ing break ‘em, ‘gain,” Eddie’s sentences are half-mumble. “Go the (bleep) t’sleep.” He thrusts the glasses onto the nightstand next to his bed, then relaxes back against Richie in his bed and follows his own directive. Richie curls up until his forehead rests against the top of Eddie’s spine and closes his eyes.

“Well, I’m just not really sure if Eddie’s someone I’d be able to move on from all that easily,” says Richie, back in the confessional. He shrugs, self-deprecating. Eddie squeezes his eyes shut.

A commercial starts, and Bill mutes it. Eddie waits for him to say something, but they just sit in silence until Eddie opens his eyes and sees Bill staring at him, accusatory. “Don’t start,” says Eddie.

“You t-t-told me Richie d-didn’t have feelings for you,” says Bill. He stutters more when he’s pissed, and Eddie knows that at this moment, Bill is pissed at him. “You s-said--” 

“Oh, yeah, like I knew he was saying shit like that in the confessional,” says Eddie. 

He s-said it to your f-face, Eddie! ” explodes Bill.

“Yeah, but he said shit like that to everyone,” says Eddie weakly.

Bill shakes his head. “Eddie, man, I love you, b-but you are so f-f-fucking dumb sometimes.”

You’re so fucking dumb,” replies Eddie. Bill shakes his head and glares down at his phone like it has personally offended him.

On screen, it blissfully seems like Eddie’s humiliation is over for the night, Ben and Beverly having a conversation about...something. The scene leads into one of Audra, Bill, Kim, Richie, Rhea, and Vicki going on a date before Bill speaks again. “I let y-you be mopey and kind of an asshole, because I thought Richie broke your heart, but now I’m starting to t-think that you broke his heart and now you’re just too much of a c-coward to apolo--”

“Fuck you, Bill,” grinds out Eddie. On screen, a muted Audra and Bill are both hyping Kim up to do increasingly dangerous jumps off a waterfall. Bill doesn’t even spare the footage of him and his Perfect Match a glance, still glaring at Eddie. “No one’s heartbroken. I’m not fucking--you know everything is heightened in that fucking house, and we got out and Richie was gone before I was even done with my interviews, so fast that he didn’t even have time to write his fucking phone number down on a fucking piece of paper, I guess. I didn’t even have his number until Beverly started the group chat. If anyone should be heartbroken, it’s me. But I’m not.”

“Yeah,” says Bill. “You definitely sound like someone who is n-not heartbroken.” But his voice is gentler than it had been and Eddie resents it, so he flips him off. “We’re n-not done with this,” he informs Eddie, and unmutes the television.

“Yeah, we are,” says Eddie, but it’s undercut by when Richie picks Eddie for the Match-Up Ceremony. Richie keeps trying to drag him closer to him while Eddie fends him off with his elbow. Terrence J watches it happen, bemused, but smiles in his vacant robot way and doesn’t question it. Bill sits with Audra, and they get a new beam. Richie smacks a sloppy kiss against Eddie’s cheek and Eddie rolls his eyes but looks pleased. The Bill next to him on the couch keeps making meaningful eyebrows towards the television, which Eddie chooses to ignore.

The preview for next week’s episode starts and the music is ominous enough that Eddie immediately has a bad feeling. #REDDIE splashes across the stream in bold, dramatic font with a loud chord behind it; Eddie chokes on his drink. There’s a shot of Richie and Eddie on the deck of a boat in the middle of the ocean. OR. A shot of Eddie on a counter and Richie grinning at him from between his legs. NOT? A shot of Eddie doing CPR on Richie.

Eddie stares openmouthed at the television.

“Damn,” says Bill. “We’re already that f-far along?”

“Oh, that one is going to fucking suck,” breathes Eddie, feeling lightheaded.

Bill hums in agreement. Eddie’s phone dings, and there’s a text from Bill. It’s a tweet from Beverly.

beverly marsh @rumandotherbevs
lol @richdicktozier asked the audience of this chicago livewatch event who thought #reddie was a PM 

It’s a picture of a bar that’s crowded with people. Most of the hands are raised, and in the front of the crowd, grinning up at the camera, hand raised, is Richie.

“Oh, fuck you,” says Eddie out loud, not sure if he’s talking to Are You The One? or Beverly or Richie’s frozen smile. “I hope MTV sues him.” He scrolls down and sees a picture of Richie and Bev and a couple of fans. Richie’s grinning at the girl next to him, looking carefree and untouched, unlike Eddie, who feels like his heart had been run through a food processor over the past hour. “Yeah, you’re really having a hard time ‘moving on,’” he mutters angrily at the phone.

“Yeah, I can see that you’re t-totally over it,” says Bill.

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 26 times mom @richdicktozier
did anyone get a swear count? kept getting distracted every time eds said dick 🤷♂️

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier F-bombs in the episode: 17. In person, more like 206.

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 43 times mom @richdicktozier
@edkaspbrak wowwww rly?? i should get an award for restraint, given the number of fantasies that were fulfilled for me that night. thought i’d gone 4 figure at least

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier Don’t worry, I’m sure Mike will do the Dirty Dancing lift with you whenever you want.

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 43 times mom @richdicktozier
@edkaspbrak yeah, that’s what i was talking abt 💩

The week after prom was one of the most confusing of Eddie’s life.

He and Richie had already hung out pretty much constantly, but now they made out in closets and against walls until Eddie broke away and fled to safer, more populated areas of the house. He was determined to maintain at least the barest semblance of restraint. He was pretty sure Richie wasn’t his Perfect Match, but somewhere, deep in his chest a tiny coal of hope glowed without his consent; when he was touching Richie, that coal burst into a flame that threatened to consume him if he wasn’t careful.

Pennywise’s challenge for the week involved balloons, and they had to pop them using any part of their body besides their hands. It was extremely stupid and it made Richie’s eyes light up.

“We’ve got this, Eds,” he said. “We’re for sure going on a date.”

“Don’t call me that,” said Eddie, out of habit more than anything else at this point. He eyed the balloons. “What if there’s, like, razors in there or something? Pennywise is really fucking creepy, I wouldn’t put him past him.”

“Then we get to sue MTV for one million dollars that we don’t have to share with anyone else for traumatizing us with a psychotic clown, and we blow this popsicle stand and have sex in a ferris wheel to counteract your burgeoning clown phobia--”

“Beep beep, Richie,” said Eddie, laughing. “I don’t have a--”

“Did I hear someone say clown?” came from behind him, accompanied by a high pitched giggle. Eddie spun and shrieked when he saw Pennywise just inches from him, smiling horribly. He tripped backwards until he found Richie and grabbed his hand. Richie snorted but laced their fingers together.

“No,” said Eddie. Richie shook his head.

“Okay! Well, my funny little friends, it’s balloon popping time,” said Pennywise. He giggled again. “Be careful, now, some of them have...hee hee...surprises in them.” He clapped his hands. “You may start.”

“Now I am actually worried about razors,” whispered Eddie, but he obediently followed a determined Richie as they figured out how to pop as many as they could. They managed to get a rhythm going--chest to chest hugs seemed to work the best, even if the constant proximity of their dicks was giving them both semis. Eddie sucked it up as little keys fell from the balloons and they were forced to match them up with locks, and somehow they finished second after the terrifyingly competent Mike and Hannah. 

When they made the cut, Richie whooped and picked Eddie up and spun around until the other man started hitting him to put him down. “Pull out your best short shorts, Eds, we’re going out.”

Which is how Eddie ended up on a boat, in the middle of the ocean, going swimming with Richie Tozier and manta rays. Richie kept making him surface so that he could yell “this is fucking awesome!” into Eddie’s ear. His voice was loud and close but Eddie couldn’t even bring himself to be annoyed, because it was pretty fucking awesome. They floated together, sometimes jostling each other or making rude gestures towards the fish and each other, and Eddie was suddenly really glad he had done the stupid reality show. 

That feeling lasts almost until they get back to the dock. Richie started fucking around on the boat’s railing, because Richie got antsy if constrained to one place for too long. Eddie shook his head. “Richie, stop.”

“It’s fine, we’re almost at the dock,” said Richie. “Eat my dick, Johnny Depp.” 

“Richie, get the fuck down--” Eddie reached for Richie but before he could yank him down Richie lunged back and slipped, and went right over the edge of the boat. “Oh my fucking god, Richie--” He rushed to the railing and looked down. Richie floated in the water a few yards below, face-down.

Without thinking about it, Eddie jumped into the water after him, flailing around until he made contact with Richie’s prone body, and then the summer he had worked as a lifeguard six years earlier came back to him. He flipped Richie over and he towed him towards the dock, the ocean still thankfully warm even at night. 

Mike and Hannah were waiting with the field producer and the rest of the crew, faces panicked, and together, they hoisted Richie up to the dock. Eddie, scrambling up after him with the help of the adrenaline pumping through his body, started doing CPR, pressing down hard on Richie’s chest, over and over. Thankfully, he didn’t even have to start mouth to mouth before Richie was coughing up water onto the dock next to him, taking gasping breaths.

Once it seemed like Richie was going to be okay, Eddie slammed his hand against his chest one last time for good measure and rose, stalking off. “Don’t fucking follow me,” he snapped at production. “--and make sure that asshole drinks some spring fucking water and gets a check-up, I have to make sure he’s not going to die so I can fucking kill him, but right now I have to go take some deep breaths.”

He went and put his head between his knees, struggling not to have a panic attack. He was wet and shivering and all the adrenaline had faded, and he just felt exhausted. The only upside was that any tears that leaked out of his eyes disappeared into the saltwater drying on his skin.

“Eddie?” He spun, and there was a camera there. The field producer peered at him, concerned, or at least appearing to be so. “Are you, uh, okay? You kind of, um, freaked out.”

“No,” he said. “I’m not okay. Because I was, for one second, starting to think that maybe Richie was my Perfect fucking Match. But I guess I should thank him, because now I’m really sure he’s not my Perfect Match.” He blinked hard. “My Perfect Match would never make me worry about them like that. I can’t--Richie never fucking thinks.” He swayed. “I--is Richie going to the hospital?”

“Yeah,” said the producer. “Standard protocol for production accidents.”

“Good,” said Eddie. “Then can you take me back to the house, please?”

When he, Hannah, and Mike got back to the house, everyone was doing a puzzle, but they looked up when they entered.

“You’re late,” said Ben, frowning. “Where’s Richie?”

“The idiot fell off a boat,” snarled Eddie. “I’m going to go take a shower, and then I’m going to scream in the Hawaiian jungle for an hour or so, and if anyone speaks to me, I’ll probably cry, so that’s your fucking call.” 

He stomped down the hallway, pausing in time to hear Mike’s soft voice in the living room. “It’s been a rough couple of hours.” Eddie loved Mike. “Richie really scared him.” Mike was an idiot, and Eddie’s immediate enemy.

“Is Richie okay?” he heard Jake ask. Mike made a noise of affirmation, and Eddie stopped listening and made a beeline for the shower. 

He was sitting naked on the floor of the shower, knees drawn up to his chest, when Bill opened the door to the bathroom and slipped in. He settled on the floor next to the tub; Eddie could see him through the shower curtain.

“Drew the short straw?” said Eddie.

“Actually, I had to fight Bev for the honor. Thank god Ben is her Match and not me, she is way too stubborn. Like, if I’m being one hundred p-percent honest, the only reason I’m here instead of her is because Richie got back and she wanted to yell at him.”

“Richie’s back?” said Eddie. “They released him already?”

“Apparently. Said he just swallowed some seawater when he fell. He’s g-got a bump on his head but no concussion,” Bill recited. “He wanted to talk to you, but--”

“I’m so mad at him,” said Eddie, the words tripping out of his mouth. “He was floating in the water. He looked dead. I thought--” He swallowed. “He knew it wasn’t fucking safe.”

“Yeah, Richie sometimes falters on the decision making,” said Bill. “He can b-be a little obvious.”

“Obviously deranged?” said Eddie. “Obviously idiotic?”

“Obvious about trying to g-get your attention,” said Bill gently. “Eddie, he’s, like, actually obsessed with you, you g-get that, right?”

“It’s like when the lions go after the weakest gazelle,” said Eddie mournfully.

Bill snorted. “It’s really not.” He drew the shower curtain back and Eddie’s head shot up. Bill’s eyes were narrowed. “Eddie, do you--”

He was interrupted by the door--unlockable like everything in this stupid house--flying open. Richie, red faced and breathing hard, took in the whole scene in front of him: eyes flicking between Eddie naked and huddled under the spray of the shower and Bill with his hand on the edge of the tub. Ben and Beverly crowded behind him. “--stay out,” finished Ben, chagrined.

“I think it’s a little late for that,” said Bill dryly.

“Eddie--” started Richie.

“Get out,” interrupted Eddie. “I’m not fucking kidding, Richie, I’m so fucking mad at you, get out, we can talk like normal fucking human beings when I’m not naked in a tub.” Richie didn’t move. “Seriously, get the fuck out.” Richie looked like he wanted to push it, but Ben and Beverly all but wrestled him out of the room before he could, which Eddie was grateful for. He sighed and reached forward to turn off the shower spray. 

“Talk t-to him,” said Bill. “Maybe he’ll apologize.”

“And maybe hell will freeze over,” said Eddie.

“Okay, well then, talk to him because we voted you two into the Truth Booth,” said Bill, suddenly studying the ceiling like it was fascinating.

Eddie gaped at him. “Mike and Hannah were right there--” 

“Eddie, the not knowing is making us all w-want to rip our hair out, including you,” said Bill. “Either you are a Match, and you can stop being a coward and admit you have feelings for him--” Eddie made a noise of protest. “--or you’re not and you can get back to the fucking game and figure the rest out later.” 

“I don’t think we are,” said Eddie. “He doesn’t fit in my life, Bill, he’s. He’s so much. I would have a heart attack before I was 50. Everything about him makes me feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff.” Just talking about it was making him feel hysterical. He couldn’t live the rest of his life like this. “I’ve known people like Ri--him, he’s funny and charming and he definitely likes me, but as soon as we get out of this house, he’ll leave.” Suddenly self-conscious about sitting naked and wet in an empty tub, Eddie grabbed for a towel and stood, wrapping it around him. “Richie’s not safe, and he’s not my Match, and I guess I just forgot both those things for a second.”

Bill opened his mouth to speak, but Eddie climbed over him, almost tripping as Bill’s knees caught his towel but somehow managing to make it to the door. He fled down the hall and into the first closet he could find. Over a month in, socialism had fully taken over and everyone’s clothes were pretty intermixed, so Eddie pulled on what he was pretty sure were Beverly’s pajama pants and an AC/DC sweatshirt that at one point belonged to--

Like he had been summoned by Eddie’s thoughts, Richie himself shoved into the closet and slammed the door behind him. He threw his weight against the door. “No, fuck you, I’m not fucking doing this on camera, I swear on your dad’s dick that we’ll fucking reenact it in better lighting for you fuckers after I talk to him--” He turned to Eddie, his back against the door. “Hey, Eds.” His eyes went wide as he looked at the shorter man and he faltered. “Is that--” He cleared his throat. “Is that my sweatshirt?”

“Fuck you, no,” said Eddie. He folded his arms self-consciously across his chest. “Read a room, Tozier, I really don’t want to talk to you right now.”

“Isn’t that kind of mean? I almost died today,” said Richie petulantly, and Eddie’s vision went red.

“Because you were doing something dumb and unsafe, because you don’t know how to be responsible about anything in your fucking life, and I kept thinking, at some point, he’ll take something seriously. But you don’t take my anger or the game or your own life seriously, so there’s absolutely no way in hell you take me seriously, especially when you don’t listen when I tell you to get the fuck out.

Richie blinked at him, eyes wide and surprised behind his glasses. His throat worked but no sound came out, and it was strange to see him speechless. Then, Eddie remembered that Richie had almost died today, so he went over to where he was still leaning against the door and started prodding his body to check that Richie was actually okay. Richie let it happen without protest, but once Eddie had ascertained that Richie did, in fact, appear to be fine and started to step back, the taller man reached out and pulled him back against his body, arms wrapping around him.

Eddie didn’t have the strength to fight the hug when Richie’s heartbeat beat steadily under his ear, and to his mortification, he felt the back of his throat burn like he was about to start crying again. “That was fucking terrifying, Richie,” he mumbled into the other man’s chest.

“Yeah, I was there.” Eddie started to draw back again but Richie’s hold on him tightened. “Wait.” Richie blew out a breath. “Um, I’m going to need you to not look at me while I say this part, so you can either stay here or, I don’t know, go stand in the corner and turn around.”

“Richie…” started Eddie, but he brought his arms up to cling to him anyway, head tucked down.

“No, this is--” Richie huffed in frustration. “If you look at me while I’m talking about my tragic backstory, I’m going to freak out and make a joke about your mom, and then you’re definitely going to break up with me--” 

Eddie felt himself go red at the implication of he and Richie being a thing, which was so dumb because Richie had seen him naked and crying. Eddie wasn’t actually stupid; he knew that he and Richie were something, but hearing it come out of Richie’s mouth unclenched a knot in his stomach that he hadn’t realized was there. He was suddenly glad they weren’t looking at each other. 

“Fuck. Okay, here we go. Eddie, I was an only child. I think Maggie and Went had me because it was what was expected, the next life step for them or whatever, and the idea of actually raising a kid didn’t really factor into the decision all that much. I was alone a lot--I ran away when I was 12, and they didn’t notice.” Eddie thought about 12-year-old Richie, gangly and alone, same bottle top glasses, and wished 12-year-old Eddie had been there to help him. He tightened his hug, and Richie clung back as tightly. “I lived in the woods for two weeks and they just assumed I was at summer camp. I literally only came back because I ran out of peanut butter. So, I acted out for attention, blah blah, psych 101, who the fuck cares. Anyway, the point is, um, a lot of what the clown would call ‘red flag behaviors’ have to do with my bitchass brain confusing attention with lo--affection.”

“That’s remarkably self-aware,” muttered Eddie, ignoring Richie’s obvious word change.

“A lot of it Beverly yelled at me like ten minutes ago,” said Richie. He grimaced and let go of Eddie, who stepped back. When he met them, Richie’s eyes were wide and worried. “I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean to scare you, but I clearly did, and it was stupid and I’m sorry.”

“Wow, does apologizing physically hurt you?” said Eddie.

“Yeah, it fucking does,” said Richie, but he was grinning hopefully. “So can you accept it so we can go back to normal? Please?”

And here was the problem: the problems were still there. Richie still didn’t fit into Eddie’s life. Richie wanted attention, and eventually Eddie wasn’t going to be enough. Richie would be gone, and the longer Eddie let himself get tangled up in him, the more it would hurt when he left, because Richie wasn’t safe. Richie was bright. Richie burned.

“Eds,” said Richie softly, his fingers coming up to graze Eddie’s cheek, and Eddie’s heart cracked. One night wouldn’t make it worse. He could be selfish for one night. 

“Okay,” he said, unsteadily. “Apology accepted. If you ever do anything like that again, I’m going to fuck your mom and become your stepdad so I can ground you.” 

Richie barked out a laugh. “You know, Eddie, you might just be one of my favorite people.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Eddie. “I bet you say that to all the boys.” 

Eddie texts Bill to say that he’s sick the day Are You The One? Episode 7 “Reddie or Not?” is scheduled to air, because he really doesn’t know if he’ll be able to watch it if there’s another person in the room. 

Bill sends back a “k.” Eddie stares at it, and feels like he might actually be the villain of this whole story.

Fifteen minutes before the episode starts, there’s a knock on his door. He rolls his eyes and yanks it open, expecting Bill, but he’s surprised to instead find Beverly standing there, carrying her weight in Chinese food. “Uh, hey, Bev,” he says, unsure. He leans out of his doorway, looking up and down the hallway, but it’s just Beverly.

“He’s not here,” she says.

“Who?” She sweeps in, giving him a look that manages to convey that she refuses to even dignify the question with a response, which is, fair. He shuts the door behind her. “How do you know where I live?” 

“Bill told me,” she says, which is obvious in retrospect. “We’re switching teams tonight.”

“You’re pan,” says Eddie. “Isn’t the whole point that there are no teams--” 

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” she says. “Can I put this down somewhere, or do you want me to just hold it all night?”

Eddie digs plates out of his cupboard and beers from his fridge. Beverly sits on the ground, shoving lo mein into her mouth straight out of the carton. “Ben’s on some health kick,” she says, mouth full. “He would never tell me to do it, hasn’t even considered it, but I feel horrible eating trash while he’s drinking smoothies and shit.”

“Well, you’re welcome to eat trash here any time, Bev,” he says. “Where is Ben?”

Beverly swallows the noodles. “Back in Chicago. I’m just here for a second to help Ri--a friend move.”

Eddie snorts. “He’s not Voldemort. You can say his name. It’s fine.” He passes one of the beers to her and she nods in thanks. “So Richie moved to New York,” he says, faux casually. 

Beverly snorts, not buying it for a second. “Yeah. It’s wild, but who knows why Richie does what Richie does.”

“Well, there’s a whole season of television that shows it’s definitely not me,” jokes Eddie, but it falls flat. 

Beverly stares at him. “What show are you watching?”

“Uh, my own lived experience,” replies Eddie.

Beverly shakes her head. “Ridiculous.” They eat on the floor, backs against the couch, as The Hills ends and rolls over into Are You The One? The “previously on” is just a montage of Richie and Eddie, with detours into Bill and Eddie and, randomly, Vicki and Kim, which at least means there’ll be brief moments of respite through the episode. “Wait, before we start, I need a pic.”

Eddie rolls his eyes, but submits to a selfie with Beverly. His phone dings.

beverly marsh @rumandotherbevs
who needs #reddie when there’s #edverly @edkaspbrak 

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 43 times mom @richdicktozier
@rumandotherbevs i’ll call and raise you #billie

There’s a picture of Richie and Bill, with Bill’s feet in--Eddie blinks--Stan’s lap. He looks at Beverly, and she grins. “What, you thought you were the only one who gives a shit about the tragic love of Stan and Bill? I’ve been working this for weeks.”

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier @rumandotherbevs Technically, #billie could be Bill and me, too.

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 43 times mom @richdicktozier
@edkaspbrak @rumbandotherbevs god wouldn’t do that to me

Eddie was more prepared for this episode than any of the other ones due to having lived through most of the scenes, though it’s still painful to watch. What he isn’t prepared for is the commentary of his housemates as they vote him and Richie into the Truth Booth while they’re on their disaster date.

“I’m voting Eddie and Richie, because I don’t know what’s happening there but there’s obviously something happening there,” Vicki tells Kim as she votes. Kim nods and follows Vicki’s lead.

“I hope it is them,” Bill tells Myra and Jake, as he makes his choice. “Or Richie’s gonna be unbearable.”

“He’s going to be unbearable if it is him,” says Myra, selecting Hannah and Mike instead, and her voice turns into a mocking imitation of Richie. “‘Here’s Eddie, you know, my Perfect Match’ --” 

Jake elbows her. “At least he’ll be unbearable in a bungalow on the beach with just Eddie instead of here with all of us.” He selects Eddie and Richie.

“God, poor Eddie. There’s like 80% chance that Richie shows up on his doorstep even if they’re not a Match,” says Rhea, as she makes her choice. Next to Eddie, Beverly chokes on a spring roll. “If there’s, like, science behind it, Eddie’s never getting rid of him.”

“Are you okay?” Eddie asks Beverly. She nods furiously, waving him away as she swallows.

“Wrong pipe,” she says. “Oh, it’s me. Oh, I love those pants.” The Beverly and Ben on screen both pick Richie and Eddie. “I just want some answers for them, one way or another,” Beverly tells Ben.

“What a segue,” says Beverly. “Are we gonna talk about it?” 

“Talk about what,” says Eddie. Beverly sighs and grabs the remote, muting the show as the promos roll with ambulance lights and Eddie’s unnecessary CPR. 

“You. Richie. The other tragic love story of our house that turned you into a hermit and turned Richie into a crazy person.”

“Richie’s always been a crazy person,” says Eddie. “Don’t lay that at my feet. And I’ve been a hermit since the day I was born, Beverly. I thrive in confinement.”

“No, you don’t,” says Beverly. “No one does. Eddie, can I ask you something?”

“I don’t think I could actually stop you,” he sighs.

“Is Richie your type?”

“What?” he says.

“If you saw Richie, like, I don’t know, at a bar, or in a coffeeshop,” she says impatiently. “Would you go up to him and ask him out?”

“No,” says Eddie. “What, exactly, is happening right now?” 

“Okay.” Beverly pauses, choosing her words. “Sometimes, I feel like you give other people more credit than you give yourself. You know yourself better than anyone. It’s okay to trust your own feelings, sometimes. Like, if you meet someone, and you feel like you’ve known them forever, and they feel like the person you’ve been waiting for? Sometimes, it’s okay to trust that feeling over the opinions of people who don’t, um, actually know you.”

Eddie has definitely lost the plot. “Is this an intervention?” On screen Eddie is freaking out post-rescue, white-faced and drenched in seawater. It cuts to Richie on a stretcher, throwing up deuces. His mouth moves and even though it’s muted, they can see him forming the vowels of Eddie’s name. He squeezes his eyes shut.

“I think you miss Richie,” says Beverly, gentler. “I know Richie misses you, because he obsessed over your stupid tweets the entire drive here.” On screen, Eddie and Richie are doing a sanitized version of their closet talk next to the pool. Eddie remembers being so tired he could barely string words together. As soon as production was satisfied, they had both tumbled into bed in a tangle of limbs, but only to sleep. “Richie wasn’t your Match, but he’s not your normal type either. The bullshit experts at MTV talk about repeating old patterns, which is true, but at the end of the day, they don’t know you better than you know you. Does that make sense?”

Eddie was way too emotionally fragile for this. This is why he wanted to be alone today. “Uh, I think I get the gist. But I’m actually starting to get kind of pissed with everyone blaming the whole thing on me. You know who would be repeating old dating patterns with me? Richie fuckin’ Tozier.” On screen, Vicki and Kim are having a moment on the lawnchairs in the backyard. “Richie saw me, and decided that was it, and it’s flattering, but...being his best option out of 16 people isn’t actually that difficult. He’s the one who ditched out as soon as we were free to go. I was just proven right, like I always am.”

Beverly purses her lips. “Yeah, but the thing is, Richie is kind of dumb, Eddie.”

“Richie’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, Beverly,” says Eddie, disbelieving. “It’s one of the most frustrating things about him.”

“Yeah, about stupid shit, like remembering facts. But his emotional intelligence is genuinely embarrassing.”

“Wow, a girl finds a boyfriend on a reality show and suddenly she knows it all, huh,” says Eddie.

“Fuck no,” says Beverly. “But it does not take much to be more emotionally intelligent than you and Richie.” She nudges him. “I’m just saying, Richie panicked, a feeling you may be familiar with. And it sucked watching it, so I can’t even imagine living it.”

“It sucked living it,” says Eddie, flatly. “Look, I thought we’d at least be friends, after. But he went radio silent. I didn’t even have his phone number until you started the groupchat. I can’t exactly text him now, like, oh, yeah, congrats, we’re both cowards. That’s a great basis for a relationship.”

Beverly hums and unmutes the television as Richie and Eddie walk down the long path to the Truth Booth. “Admit it, you’re really hoping we are a Match,” teases Richie in interview.

“Yeah, looking at your stupid o face for the rest of my life is the stuff dreams are made of,” says Eddie. Richie grins and pulls him in against his side. “It’d be nice to get a confirmation, though, make the game easier. No one’s been confirmed since George and Ridley, and we’re most of the way through.”

“You have no romance in your heart,” Richie tells him.

“I have no money in my bank account,” Eddie corrects him. “I have plenty of romance in my heart. I bagged you with one word, remember?” He mouths “dick” at the camera.

“Oh, yeah, whatever, I’m a sure thing,” scoffs Richie.

Eddie snorts. “Classy.” He looks directly into the camera, eyebrows raised. He looks happy, and months later, Eddie’s heart hurts. “And to think, not 10 seconds ago he said I had no romance in my heart.” Eddie’s head thumps against the couch behind him. Beverly reaches out and squeezes his hand.

He and Richie stand in the Truth Booth, the fake lasers going up and down their bodies while they nervously shift. When they filmed, Richie had kept making fake laser noises the entire time, which had made Eddie giggle, so it had taken 45 minutes to get enough footage of them looking serious and concerned for the 30 seconds they air. The NO MATCH flashes across the screen and Richie’s face falls. Eddie on television just looks resigned, but at the time it had hit him like a physical blow. He watches as he lets go of Richie’s hand.

The housemates explode into noise. “I was right.” says Myra, triumphantly.

“Holy (bleep),” says Bill. “Someone hide the matches, f-fast, Richie’s gonna burn the house down.”

“Okay, who’s on babysitting duty?” asks Krissie, darkly.

“I’ve got Eddie,” says on screen Bill. Eddie feels a sudden rush of affection towards Bill and guilt for canceling on him.

“Yeah, take the more emotionally stable one, I see how it is,” says Ben.

“Well, B-benverly, Richie is definitely going to need a tag team effort,” says Bill, glaring at him.

“Um, yeah, I guess I knew it was going to happen, but I guess my (bleep)ing heart didn’t get the message,” says Eddie, alone in interview. He sighed. “This just...really sucks.”

“Of course I actually (bleep)ing thought he was,” says Richie, in his own solo interview, his Hawaiian shirt drawn close around him like a shield. “There’s no one in the--in the house I like as much as him.” He pauses. “We meet in the middle. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but for me, um--yeah. I don’t know.”

“Richie made me more myself,” says Eddie, tugging at his shirt. “That doesn’t even make sense, so, whatever. It’s stupid. I knew he didn’t fit into my life and I let myself have hope anyway. That’s my fault. Like, maybe if we had the evidence there, it would let me relax, have confidence in the stupid magnetic pull that--whatever. But it didn’t, it just confirmed what I suspected, which is that we don’t fit.” Eddie looks at the ground, scuffing his shoe in the sand. 

“I’m gonna go (bleep)ing drown myself in the shower now so that I won’t have to watch Eddie go on dates with Bill or, I don’t know, (bleep)ing Krissie for the next month.” Richie runs a hand through his hair. “Let alone figure out who the (bleep) my Match is.”

When they return to the house, they disappear underneath a group hug, and at the end Richie and Eddie are expertly herded in different directions. “I don’t believe for one second that Richie is going to leave Eddie alone,” says Myra in confessional. “But the important thing is finding our Matches, so they both have to find other connections.” She sighs. “We’re going to have to, like, physically tie Richie down, probably.”

“Wow, Myra, jealous much?” mutters Beverly at the television. “I can’t believe you even figured out she was your Match. I didn’t think you even liked her all that much.”

“I didn’t,” admits Eddie. “Stan told me.”

Beverly stares at him. “Stan told you?”

“Right before he left,” confirms Eddie. 

(In the wake of Richie’s accident, Stan had resigned. He had handled field producing every date except for the one where Richie had fallen from the boat. “I should’ve been there,” Stan had said, simply. “Nick is really new, and Richie’s hard to produce. Bill had been--well, my choices are my own. I should’ve been there, and I wasn’t, and I obviously can’t be objective here anymore. I got a job with the North American crew of Planet Earth lined up in a few months, and I haven’t had a vacation in years.” 

Stan had bid him goodbye, then hesitated and turned back to him. “Your Match is Myra,” he had said. “I disagree, but it’s an imperfect system. And if I’m being selfish, I’m a little bit glad it’s not Bill.”)

Beverly whistles. “Damn. Do you think he told Richie about Jake, too?”

Eddie has a vivid memory of the one time he walked in on Jake and Richie making out in the closet and shakes it away. “No, I’m pretty sure that one Richie figured out by himself.”

The Richie on screen at the moment, however, doesn’t look close to figuring that particular thing out. The whole night is a blur, like Eddie’s body had gone numb, so he barely remembers the conversation where he and Richie end--whatever it is they were doing. “I can’t--you’re too distracting,” says Eddie on screen. “I just need some space, and you should, um, try and figure out who your Match is. I think it would be best if we just. Cold turkey.”

Richie swallows and nods, not speaking. Eddie reaches up and touches his cheek, pulls his head down, and presses his face into Richie’s neck. Richie responds by folding Eddie into a hug and turning his face towards Eddie’s throat. “Better now before we got too deep,” Eddie murmurs, so low that the show adds subtitles at the bottom of the screen. “Bye, Richie.”

Richie, now alone in confessional, isn’t even smiling. He actually looks a little devastated. “Well, we wouldn’t want to get too deep,” he says, sarcastically, then scrubs at his face and lets out a harsh breath. “It was nice while it lasted.”

Beverly mutes the television.

“Well, on the bright side, hashtag reddie is trending on Twitter,” she says.

“Shut the fuck up,” he says, and scrambles for his phone. His notifications are all tweets, until his phone gives up and stops registering them, and he’s about to just turn his phone all the way off until his eye catches on a green one towards the bottom. Richie Tozier: 3 New Messages.

Eddie’s hands start shaking. He’d considered texting Richie a thousand times in the four months since he’d seen him, but every time he typed something he ended up deleting it, having no idea how to even start the conversation. He opens the chat.

Richie: jsyk i always took you seriously
Richie: ur probably like 
Richie: the only thing

Eddie flushes. He hadn’t brought that up during their more rehearsed and sedate poolside conversation, which means Richie had also been thinking about their talk in the closet. He’s both furious and his stomach is full of butterflies, a familiar feeling when it came to Richie.

“Your face,” says Beverly. “I can’t even tell what you’re looking at right now. It’s either a dick pic or a car crash.” Eddie wordlessly shows her the screen of his phone, and she reads it and sighs. “Well, I guess he usually is a combo of both.”

“Is he serious?”

Beverly wiggled the phone at him. “It says so right here.”

“Oh, fuck you, Beverly.” He grabs the phone back and opens Twitter up. #reddie is indeed trending, at least in the US, and Eddie’s mentions are full of everything from sympathy to anger to claims of queerbaiting and trolling and that he and Richie still dating. It’s overwhelming, and switching over to his timeline isn’t exactly better, because the first thing he sees is a tweet from, of all people, Bill.

bill denbrough @brokebillcanyon
everyone who keeps telling me the #reddie breakup is absolute imbeciles. you fools. you can’t even imagine. eddie kept taking showers like we wouldn't figure out he was crying in there.

beverly marsh @rumandotherbevs
@brokebillcanyon richie chainsmoked for 8 hours straight. he used up the REST of my cig stash.

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@rumandotherbevs @brokebillcanyon What’s funny is i’m watching myself cry on tv right now, but please, tell me more about how hard MY breakup was, for YOU.

bill denbrough @brokebillcanyon
@edkaspbrak @rumandotherbevs god, u kept making everyone cry, u were so fcking mean

Mike H @mkhnln
@brokebillcanyon @edkasprak @rumandotherbevs at least eddie didn’t break 4 different coffee mugs as part of his grieving process like SOME ppl @richdicktozier

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 69 times mom (nice) @richdicktozier
@mkhnln @brokebillcanyon @edkasprak @rumandotherbevs i would very much like to be excluded from this narrative

Eddie Kaspbrak retweeted:
sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 69 times mom (nice) @richdicktozier
lol eds was aware that $1mil depended on us making other connections & finding our matches. he was thinking abt the other 14 ppl in the house.
RT @ghoulapapi: @richdicktozier p shitty of eddie to cut u off like that just b/c u weren’t a match

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
You wanna take this one, @richdicktozier?
RT @devrfricks: @edkaspbrak i just don’t get why u didn’t win the game and just get together after?? u were both obviously heartbroken abt it lmao

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 69 times mom (nice) @richdicktozier
@edkaspbrak @devrfricks hold ur fuckin horses devrfricks, ur gonna have to stay tuned

The final month at the house sucked. Eddie sat with Myra at the Match-Up Ceremonies, and Bill sat with Audra again, and they got beams, so suddenly it became Eddie-and-Myra, which was an...adjustment. Myra was nice enough, and she had the kind of energy that Eddie was used to, and it was easily to fall into a routine where they hung out and did puzzles. She occasionally asked if he wanted to get more physical, but he wasn’t really interested in doing anything other than keeping his head down and riding out the rest of the show. Once Ben and Beverly made it to the Truth Booth and sent on to the honeymoon suites, and with Stan gone and Richie not an option, Eddie felt somewhat adrift, and a little lonely, despite the best efforts of Bill. He was tired, but having trouble sleeping. He just wanted to have his own room again. 

It went from bad to worse the final week, when they were down to six beams, and all that was left was some combination of Richie, George, Krissie, and Rhea. Eddie walked in on Richie and Jake in the closet, making out, Jake crowding Richie up against the wall but Richie’s hands tangled up in his hair. He made a noise and Richie pushed Jake away, gasping. “Fuck, fuck, Eds--”

“No, sorry, sorry, I--I didn’t mean to--” Eddie stuttered. “I’m gonna go, um--sorry.” He fled to the bathroom and sank to the ground, his back against the door keeping it closed. “And don’t call me Eds,” he said out loud to the empty bathroom, and put his head between his knees. He heard Richie running down the hallway, and was glad when the steps hurried past him. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to look at Richie without punching him or bursting into tears, neither of which was appropriate for where he and Richie’s relationship currently was.

Richie kept making sad eyes at him all the time, but Eddie was pro at avoidance and did his best to disappear into the background. He and Myra fumbled the challenges, mostly as part of a coordinated effort on the part of the house to send the straggler singles on dates so they had a chance at figuring out who they were supposed to be with, given it would be their last chance to win the money.

It worked, somehow, and that was almost worth it, watching the last two beams light up. They all exploded into noise, screaming and losing their shit, everyone hugging and yelling and screaming. There was champagne, and more screaming, and not even the sight of Jake ripping off his shirt and swinging Richie around was enough to dampen Eddie’s mood. Much. They’d won a million dollars, which wasn’t actually a million dollars but was definitely enough to pay off Eddie’s student loans.

Richie caught his eye and his mouth quirked. Eddie, in turn, raised an eyebrow, and Richie sauntered over. Eddie held his arms out and Richie swooped him into a hug. “We fucking did it,” he said, quietly in Eddie’s ear. “The shit we went through was fucking worth it. We beat the...fucking clown.” Pennywise was there, dancing in a champagne spray from Terrence J, and the sight activated Eddie’s fight-or-flight response.

“We did it,” agreed Eddie. He stared up at Richie, who stared back, too close and serious in the celebration happening around them. “Richie, maybe we--”

“Eddie?” said Kenny, who had come in to replace Stan for the back half of the season. Irked, Eddie turned. Kenny grimaced apologetically. “You’re all flying out tomorrow, and we just need to get a few more interview bites from you--”

“Can’t I it tomorrow?” said Eddie, a little desperately.

Kenny shook his head. “I promise you and Bill will be at the hotel with everyone else in a few hours.”

“I’m--ugh.” Eddie turned back. “I’ll talk to you later?”

“Yeah,” said Richie, blinking. “See you later.”

When Eddie and Bill got to the nice Hawaiian hotel, hours later, they were sent to their rooms, which were organized by Match instead of by any choice on the part of the houseguests. Eddie’s was empty, and he went to Bill’s room. Bill let him in and held up a sheet of paper in Audra’s handwriting. At pool, come join! Under it was a list of room numbers with initials next to them. “Wanna go swimming?”

“Fuck no,” said Eddie, vehemently. “I’m too tired.” He hesitated. “Um, what’s Richie’s room?”

Bill consulted the pad. “Uhhh, 418,” which is how Eddie found himself outside room 418, knocking on the door. 

Jake pulled open the door, looking like he’d just woken up. He frowned. “Eddie?”

“Hey, uh, can I talk to Richie?” Eddie fidgeted.

“You don’t--he didn’t see you?” Jake’s frown deepened. “Um, he’s gone, Eddie. Bumped his flight. I think he took off like--” He checked his watch. “15 minutes ago. I’m sorry.” He leaned against the frame. “Can I go back to bed?”

“Uh, yeah,” said Eddie, faintly. He retreated to his own room, and curled up on one of the two large beds. Production had delivered their suitcases to their rooms, and they would never see the house again, and it all felt suddenly far away and dreamlike. Eddie fell asleep, and dreamed about Richie.

“This is the worst fucking idea anyone has ever had,” says Eddie. “And both of us went on a reality dating show .”

“Whatever,” says Bill. “Do it for the fans.” 

“I don’t have fans. I have haters,” says Eddie, staring at the slowly filling bar where they’re holding the Are You The One? finale screening.

“You have more fans than anyone except Richie, and that’s just because Richie’s f-facial expressions lend themselves better to gifs,” says Bill, trying for comforting and failing miserably.

“Well, maybe he should be here instead--” 

“Aw, Eds. And here I was, thinking you’d come here for my grand romantic gesture.” Eddie closes his eyes, and longs for the earth to swallow him whole as Richie’s low voice floats towards him, for the first time since the show ended. He twitches and turns around to see Richie standing there, looking tired and amused and gloriously real.

“That’s not funny,” says Eddie. “And you don’t get to call me Eds.” The anymore hangs unsaid between them, and Richie pauses. Bill looks between them and decides discretion is the better part of valor and creeps away.

“Who’s joking?” says Richie. “Eds.” He pauses. “You never replied to my texts.”

“Oh, I was going to. In three months.” It’s not true. Every night he wants to reply but has no idea what Richie is trying to say, so he just closes it out and tries to sleep, with varying results.

Richie winces. “That’s fair.” He fidgets from one foot to the other, then blurts out: “I'm sorry, okay? I'm really fucking sorry. I freaked out. You’re. I think you could be, like, it for me and I thought, um, you were in love with Bill.”

Bill?” asks Eddie in disbelief. “Like. Bill. Bill?” 

“Yes. Bill,” says Richie, rolling his eyes. Eddie had missed him so much. “But then I watched the show and realized--”


“It’s not that unreasonable, Eddie, okay.” Richie looks up at the ceiling. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you and I moved to New York, well, not because of you, but you definitely were a factor in the decision, because I want to go to dinner and go to, I don’t know, the fucking aquarium or movies or whatever the fuck you want to do, and maybe, um, like, see your o-face for the rest of my life.”

Eddie stares at him for a moment, then shakes his head. “Wait, sorry, I just have to go tell Bill that I’m in love with him--”

“Eddie,” groans Richie.

“Richie,” says Eddie, like he's speaking to a small child. “Bill’s in love with--”

Richie exhales harshly. Eddie freezes, surprised. “Sorry, sorry,” says Richie. “I just. I missed you. I spent, like, two months high on a beach in California telling myself it was the house, and the show, and all of that, but we’re in some shitty New York club and I hear you say my name and it feels exactly the sa--”

“No,” says Eddie. “You--you proved me right. You can’t just waltz in and say shit like that and expect me to fall over myself. The same shit’s there, except now I have evidence that I was correct. I’m not going to, fucking, fall in love with you so you can disappear without a note . It sucked enough the first time, you fucking asshole.” 

Richie looks pained. “I really freaked out, and I’m so fucking sorry, you have no idea. You’re just. Eddie, you’re fucking scary. I could see our stupid lives out in front of us, and I thought you wanted to, like, be friends, and I couldn’t--I couldn’t hear it. The sex house makes you crazy.” He steps closer to Eddie, and Eddie wants to put space between them but he’s rooted in place. “I won’t disappear again, or if I do, I promise I’ll let you come with me.”

“I just...don’t know how I’m supposed to believe that,” says Eddie, but he can feel his resolve weakening in the face of Richie, here and close and blinking owlishly behind his glasses, saying he moved to NYC for--

“Eds,” says Richie. “Okay, it’s like...Jake said we should give it a shot, since we were paired by the experts, and Jake’s great and probably would get high on a beach with me for two months--”

“This is a really terrible romantic gesture,” Eddie informs him.

Richie steps closer. “--I spent two months in Los Angeles, and then one in Chicago and one in New York City, and I’m a fan favorite on a queer reality show, so it’s not like I’m lacking for offers--”

“Oh, fuck you,” says Eddie. “You’re such an asshole.”

“--but I can’t stop thinking about you and your face and your massive --”

“Beep beep, Richie,” says Eddie, and that’s when he knows it’s a losing battle, that he’s already most of the way to forgiving Richie just because he’s here and he’s saying the shit Eddie has realized he’d wanted to hear. Extremely embarrassing. He tries to rally for some shred of dignity. “I’m still fucking mad at you. I don’t care about your feelings right now. You fucking--ghosted, for four months. So, maybe if you ask me in three months, I will be less mad at you, and we can go on a date. Maybe.”

“Are you serious?” asks Richie, looking hopeful.

Eddie can feel a smile tugging at his lips. Whatever. Life without Richie had sucked, and life with Richie would at least be more interesting. Beverly’s right. He can choose for himself. “If you ghost me again, I’m legally allowed to hunt you for sport, I don’t give a shit if you’re a ‘fan favorite.’”

“Uh, no,” says Richie, hurriedly. “I definitely won’t. How do we feel about two months?”

“You’re being shockingly confident,” says Eddie.

“Dick,” says Richie, grinning.

Eddie decides he never really had any dignity to begin with, so it’s not like he’s maintaining much. “You make a compelling argument.” He pulls Richie towards him, and brings their mouths together.

After the finale airs, Mike posts a picture of the New York-based portion of the cast crammed into a subway elevator together, with the caption “of course sometimes shit goes down when there’s a million dollars in an elevator.”

Hannah and Mike are in the middle, arms around each other, and next to them, Bill is flanked by Ben and Beverly, flying in from Chicago for the event. Rhea and Vicki strain up to be seen behind the too-tall Hannah and Mike, and George throws up a peace sign from the back. In one corner, Richie stands behind Eddie, his arms wrapped around Eddie’s waist and his chin propped on the shorter boy’s shoulder. Eddie’s flipping off the camera, held by the endlessly camera-shy Stan, but he’s grinning.

sorry for saying “fuck” on national television 103 times mom retweeted:
gina loves #ayto @realiteagina
@mkhnln @edkaspbrak @richdicktozier wow look at #reddie in the corner. i can’t stop crying we did it kids

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
Beep beep, Richie. 🙄😳
RT @richdicktozier: guyyyyyyys i love eds and i want him to yell at me for the rest of my life

Chapter Text

As with most things in Eddie’s life at the current time, The List was incited by Richie, disseminated by Bill, and then taken to a truly stupid level by Twitter.

Bill did a lot of Q&As, because he was constantly procrastinating on writing and at a certain point Eddie and Stan just stopped answering his texts. It was during one such Q&A that the existence of The List was made public.

bill denbrough @brokebillcanyon
lol we all had to get creative. eddie would walk around muttering his list of reasons richie wasnt his perfect match over and over like arya in game of thrones so he wouldnt forget any of them
RT @beepbeeptozier: @brokebillcanyon how did u survive without pen and paper??? i’d die lol

bill denbrough @brokebillcanyon
i literally JUST SAID he never wrote it down. by the end it was 31 things?? i think??? i remember the gist but i don’t think i could remember them all
RT @goodnightgracy: @brokebillcanyon LEAK THE LIST KING

stop calling me mom @rumandotherbevs
@brokebillcanyon lol don’t even try, the list is a piece of performance art, it can only be experienced

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@brokebillcanyon Shouldn’t you be writing?

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@brokebillcanyon And it was 33, and they ALL remain true to this day.

bill denbrough @brokebillcanyon
lol @richdicktozier probably heard it more often than anyone
RT @polkadotkolkadot: @brokebillcanyon nooooo i love reddie DON’T leak the list

richie from tv @richdicktozier
@brokebillcanyon ohhh god i miss the list. it was soothing. like white noise. no matter how much i beg eddie refuses to do it now

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier @brokebillcanyon Someone’s coming out as a bottom, I see…

richie from tv @richdicktozier 
@edkaspbrak @brokebillcanyon begging is a switch activity 

bill denbrough @brokebillcanyon
@richdicktozier @edkaspbrak i would LOVE if you would untag me from your weird foreplay tweets

richie from tv @richdicktozier 
@brokebillcanyon @edkaspbrak would u say that ur BEGGING us… ;)

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
@richdicktozier @brokebillcanyon Beep beep, Richie

Eddie Kaspbrak @edkaspbrak
It’s not relevant anymore, and I’m trying to be nicer to Richie.
RT @fridaygayday: @edkaspbrak lmaoooo why won’t you do it anymore???

richie from tv retweeted:
Frida G @fridaygayday
lmaooooooo im fucking DYING over eddie being so obssessed with richie that he had to come up with a list of THIRTY THREE REASONS to not make out with him. incredible.

Over weeks and months, The List’s legend grew, encouraged by Richie and other castmembers, despite Eddie doing his best to ignore it, because it honestly was a little embarrassing. In retrospect, he probably should’ve figured out he was having feelings a lot sooner.

That was probably why Richie enjoyed The List, because it was proof of Eddie’s attention, which was the other reason he remained steadfast in his refusal. As a general rule, caving to Richie was never a good idea.

As a result, it ended up being Bill who finally got Eddie to do The List.

Eddie was actually pretty good at saying “no” to Richie, and it got easier every time he did it. Bill, on the other hand, was difficult to say no to, and he had come to him with the fundraiser idea and said that Eddie didn’t actually have any talents to auction off as part of an auction for bird habitats--

“Uh, no,” interrupted Stan, looking at Bill sideways. “I get the gesture, Bill, and I appreciate it, but we’re definitely donating it to homeless LGBTQ youth. Like, um, from both a moral and optics standpoint--”

Bill grinned dopily at him. “You’re pretty great.” Stan flushed. Richie made a retching noise and Bill glared at where he was laying down, keeping Eddie trapped against the couch with his body. “Really?”

“It’s gross, and I’m hypocritical. Two things can be true.” Eddie snorted. “Speaking of which, Eddie actually has plenty of talents--”

“Beep beep,” said Eddie, elbowing Richie. “And I’m not showing those on a YouTube livestream--” Richie made a noise and shifted, giving Eddie the opportunity to shrug his arms off and sit up. “Okay, what do you need? I can, I don’t know, steal some of fan favorite Richie Tozier’s boxers to auction off--” Richie made a sleepy noise of amusement and grabbed for Eddie again, clearly more interested in getting back to his nap than the conversation with Bill. Eddie slapped at his hands.

Bill exchanged a look with Stan, looking shifty enough that Eddie started to get nervous. “I w-was thinking, you c-could maybe do The List?” Richie huffed and Eddie put his hand over Richie’s mouth, feeling his boyfriend grin against his hand.

(Every time Eddie thought the word boyfriend, his stomach started fluttering and he felt like he might throw up. It was a work in progress.)

“No one is going to spend money on that,” said Eddie. Richie started making out with his hand, and Eddie drew it back, disgusted.

“Dude, you have no idea,” said Bill fervently. “It’s l-legendary.”

“It’s genuinely moving,” agreed Richie. “I say we start the bidding at $100k.”

“Bill, I don’t even remember it,” said Eddie desperately.

“There’s not way that’s true,” said Bill. “Please, Eddie?”

 Which is how, once they raised $15,000 for charity, Eddie found himself in the middle of Bill’s living room, glaring at Stan’s camera.

“This is stupid,” he grit out.

“Come on, Eds,” said Richie, gleefully. “You love roasting me. You had no trouble doing it all the time at the house.”

“We weren’t actually dating then,” said Eddie.

“Need me to jog your memory?” said Ben, grinning. He and Beverly had flown in for the livestream fundraiser, which Eddie had been happy about until this moment. “I heard it, like, a lot, and my memory doesn’t suck as much as Bill’s--” “Hey,” said Bill, mildly. “--and the beginning I think we can all do.”

“‘One, he’s freakishly tall,’” recited Beverly in an...honestly pretty good impression of Eddie. “‘Two, the fucking nicknames, it’s so fucking annoying.’”

“No, see, but that’s where you lose it, though,” said Richie. “Because no human being can strike the correct balance of cute and horrified that Eddie Kaspbrak can when he talks about my incredible fashion choices.”

“Hawaiian shirts aren’t fashion,” snapped Eddie.

Richie’s eyes lit up. “Yes! Like that. Oh, Eds, you’re too cute.”

Eddie glared at him. “One, you are freakishly tall. Two, don’t call me Eds, the nicknames are fucking annoying. Three, the fucking Hawaiian shirts.” Richie waggled his eyebrows.

The litany was coming quicker to Eddie’s brain now. “Four, the fucking nicknames, again, because it’s annoying and no one likes them--”

“A couple weeks ago, Richie called Eddie ‘sweetheart’ and Eddie literally had to leave the room,” said Bill. “I guess because of how much he hated the nickname.” Eddie flushed.

“You guys are so bad at feelings,” said Beverly. “It makes me question how you ever managed to get it together.”

“Fuck off, Bev,” said Richie cheerfully. “We can embarrass Eddie about how much he loves me later.”

“Who said anything about love?” said Eddie. “At best, I think your dick is acceptable and the rest of you is a huge pain in my ass.” 

“Which is it,” said Richie, grinning wickedly. “Acceptable dick or pain in your--”

He was drowned out by a chorus of “beep beep, Richie” from more than half the room. “If we don’t derail this, Richie is going to make everything dirty until Eddie loses it--” said Beverly.

“I’m just trying to take him back to the glory days,” said Richie. He lifted his shirt to wipe at his forehead dramatically. “When he was so pissed off and turned on that--”

“Five, his underwear is always showing--” said Eddie furiously. “Six, he always steals my goddamn food. Seven, his taste in music sucks. Every fucking day I hear him singing Avril Lavigne in the shower--”

“Her old stuff,” interjected Richie. “Pre-Nickelback marriage, and it definitely holds up.”

“Eight, he’s definitely a stoner,” said Eddie. Richie shrugged and pulled out a bag of gummi bears. He offered one to Ben, seated next to him, and gestured for Eddie to continue. “Nine, he swears too fucking much--”

“Wow, I feel like I’m b-back in a closet in Hawai’i,” said Bill fondly.

“Ten, he keeps--kept proposing to Bill,” Eddie corrected himself, feeling a blush rising on his cheeks.

“I still think that should count towards him being your Match,” said Beverly. “You’re both weirdly obsessed with Bill.”

“Oh, okay, of the three of us, who fucked him?” said Richie. Beverly kicked at him across Ben’s lap, but Ben caught her leg and squeezed it, smiling wryly. 

“Number eleven, he’s a compulsive smoker.” Richie rolled his eyes and pulled up his sleeve to show the nicotine patch there. “He’s a fake bitch who I have caught sneaking cigarettes on my balcony twice in the past week, which leads into number twelve, he’s not serious about anything and I am serious about everything.”

“I’m serious about regularly getting into your pants,” said Richie, leering at him. 

Ben elbowed him. “Beep beep, Richie, this is where it gets good.” He leaned forward towards Eddie.

“Thirteen, he doesn’t know when a bit is dead. Fourteen, I actually don’t think he knows what a bit is--” Richie grinned, settling back into the couch he shared with Benverly. “Fifteen, he likes giving hickeys, which is disgusting and juvenile and really fucking annoying. Sixteen, he flirts with everyone, which is really fucking confusing. Seventeen--”

“Sometimes his impressions border on racist,” chorused Ben and Beverly in unison with Eddie. 

Richie grimaced. “Okay, yes, my judgment sucks, sorry, I’m sorry, don’t worry, everyone, Beverly now has veto rights over my impressions.”

“Eighteen, he set off the fire alarm four times to ogle hot firemen,” said Eddie, his voice rising until he was yelling. “A waste of their time and resources, and there could’ve been an actual emergency while they were responding to a summer rental in the middle of nowhere.”

“I did that for everyone. I would argue that it was actually a public service,” objected Richie. Hannah nodded seriously.

“Nineteen, he’s always fucking late. We were late today. Twenty, he has the most useless superpower ever, which is the ability to conjure Hawaiian shirts from thin air.”

“Eddie was hiding them,” said Bill, a traitor.

“I fucking knew it,” said Richie, bolting up.

“Yeah, I did, and when you move in you’re leaving every single one of your dumb fucking shirts in the trash--”

When? ” said Richie gleefully.

Eddie flushed and barreled over the other man. “Twenty-one, his genetics suck, he has shitty eyesight and stupid glasses. Twenty-two, he can’t cook, like, he literally burns water--”

“Just because I can’t cook to your bitchass gluten intolerance soy allergy standards--” said Richie, rolling his eyes.

“Twenty-three, he’s too fucking tall,” interrupted Eddie, flipping Richie off.

“In there twice,” said Mike, nodding sagely. He had generally been spared from hearing The List in the sex house, because something about Mike made them all want to retain a semblance of dignity around him. “Makes sense.” 

“At that point, it offended him because he wanted to climb me like a --”

“Beep beep, fucker,” said Eddie. “God, I’m starting to get mad at you again. This is why I didn’t want to do it.”

“He just wants to stop because this is when he started to get embarrassingly into me,” Richie informed the camera.

“Yeah, who wouldn’t be into you and your fucking 2-in-1 shampoo, which is number twenty-four, by the way. It’s 2019, just get two fucking bottles, man. Twenty-five, he still uses Old Spice, despite no longer being a 14-year-old virgin. Twenty-six, he looks way too good in a dress--”

“Eddie takes that as a personal affront,” interjected Beverly.

“He claims it triggers his asthma, but I think he’s just embarrassed that every time it happens he gets a--” Eddie grabbed a pillow off the couch and shoved it into Bill’s face to cut him off.

“Everyone shut up, this is my favorite part,” said Richie, grinning so hard he was probably about to break his stupid, beautiful face.

Eddie blushed, but soldiered on. “Twenty-seven, he sucks at dirty talk. Sometimes, he slips into impressions in bed, which is completely deranged, and the nicknames--they get worse, and more confusing, and he loves to start shit when there’s people around because he’s a huge asshole--”

“If I’m a huge asshole, it’s only because of your huge co--” Richie was drowned out by everyone else again, and Beverly threw popcorn at him.

“This is a charity livestream,” said Stan from behind the camera. “Just to remind, uh, everyone.”

“Twenty-eight, his sleep schedule is insane, and the opposite of mine, and I know he’s always leaving in the middle of the night to jerk it in the bathroom--”

“Uh, at the time of The List, I was jerking it in the confessional,” said Richie. “Get it right.”  Eddie looked disgusted.

“Twenty-nine, he’s way too stubborn, and once he thinks he’s right, he won’t consider anything else. Thirty, he has a smug, stupid face--” Richie winked. “--and thirty one, he’s a smug, reckless dumbass with a low-grade death wish and the situational awareness of a toddler.”

Bill made a face. “That one got added when Richie f-fell off the boat.”

“Thirty-two, he can’t look you in the eye when he talks about his feelings, which is so fucking embarrassing for a twenty-four-year-old man, and the last reason that Richie fucking Tozier is not my Perfect Match is because god made my life hard enough by making me 5’7” and bisexual, there’s no way he’d let MTV match me with a 6’1” dumbshit idiot cross between a wannabe SNL supporting cast member and Elrond’s loser brother, who thinks your mom jokes are the height of comedy.” 

Richie mouthed along to the final reason, dissolving into laughter. “God, the first time I heard that was when I knew Eds was it for me, no one roasts me better than him.”

“Elrond?” asked Mike, eyebrows raised.

“He’s freakishly tall,” snapped Eddie, at the same time as Richie chimed in with, “Ed’s a huge fucking nerd.”

Eddie glared at Richie and Richie grinned back brightly. “You’re too cute, Eds, you gotta c’mere.”

Eddie rolled his eyes and came to the couch, but sat on Ben’s lap instead of Richie’s. Richie pouted at him, but Ben just wrapped his arms around Eddie’s waist, unfazed. Eddie leaned back against Ben, and Richie’s pout deepened.

“I hope that was worth fifteen thousand dollars,” Eddie said, ducking his head.

“Priceless,” mouthed Richie at him, then turned to the camera. “If anyone screen recorded that, tweet it @richdicktozier, I’m going to start using iTunes again just so that I can listen to it as I fall asleep.”

“I fucking hate you,” growled Eddie.

“You fucking love me,” said Richie, leaning towards Eddie. Eddie pushed his face away, almost toppling over into Beverly if not for Ben’s steady hold. 

Richie reached out and his fingers searched out Eddie’s most ticklish spots. Eddie squirmed away, kicking wildly, catching Mike in the leg and Beverly with his flailing arms. “Fucking stop, oh my god, you’re the worst person I know, I definitely don’t fucking love you right now.”

“You love me all the time, baby boy,” crooned Richie. “No takebacks--that’s God’s law, not mine.” His fingers twitched again, and Eddie launched backwards into Beverly, who yelped.

“Oh my god, just sit in his lap, Beverly is going to end up in the hospital,” said Hannah.

“No, that’s rewarding bad behavior,” said Eddie mulishly.

“We raised fifteen fucking thousand dollars for charity, Eds,” said Richie. “I would argue we’ve been on our absolute fucking best behavior.”

Eddie rolled his eyes but stood up and collapsed heavily into Richie’s lap. Richie oof -ed but his arms came up to keep Eddie from sliding off, and his chin came to hook onto Eddie’s shoulder. “They aren’t all still true. I don’t use 2-in-1 shampoo anymore,” he murmured into Eddie’s ear.

“Yeah, because you steal my fucking shampoo and conditioner,” muttered Eddie back. “And just to head this one off at the pass, that was not permission, I will notice if you try and secretly move in with me.” Richie laughed, his breath ghosting against Eddie’s neck, and Eddie shivered. The movement made them both extremely aware of the position they were in, and Richie’s hands tightened against his stomach.

“Oh, ew, beep beep, Richie,” said Beverly.

“I’m not even doing anything,” yelped Richie. Eddie hid a grin, lacing his hand through one of Richie’s and squeezing it.

“There’s a vibe, and I’m derailing it before it gets unbearable and Eddie drags you to the bathroom,” Beverly said.

“She was so sweet when we first met her,” said Richie mournfully. “Now she’s making innuendos about gay bathroom hookups. They just grow up so fast.”

Beverly flipped him off.  “Would that I could, Richie, but you never actually leave any room for innuendo. It’s all very, very clear.” 

“It’s a losing battle, Bev,” said Bill. “Richie’s never going to let us forget that he’s getting laid.”

“Uh, of course not,” said Richie, blinking widely behind his glasses. “I had to overcome Eddie’s thirty-three reasons in order to get laid. It’s a fucking accomplishment.” He cracked up.

“I know you’re laughing at your own stupid pun, and I hate you,” said Eddie wearily, feeling Richie’s body shake behind him. “And I’m serious, you’re not bringing the fucking Hawaiian shirts near my apartment.”

Richie hugged him from behind. “Yeah, well, too bad, because you’re my favorite person,” he murmured. Eddie hid a grin, though not well enough based on the screencaps he kept getting tagged in later on Twitter, mostly by Richie. They raised $25k, and Richie stayed on the train past his own stop and followed Eddie home to his apartment, grinning at him wildly like there was nowhere he’d rather be than on Eddie’s front steps.

Richie left the Hawaiian shirt he was wearing outside. Eddie suspected it was only to prove that he did, in fact, know what a bit was.