“For the last time, Bill, I'm not going into that fucking shop with you!” Eddie punctuated by stapling the drawing on the board behind his table.
The wall behind it was dark in a brownish color, while the furniture was mostly black, the drawings that covered most of it though had many variations of color. So many well-thought drawings, some just random and others with references from pop culture, stood there, elegant but rustic enough, simple but impressive. A beautiful display of the art Bill and Mike replicated on people's skin.
Bill was also the responsible one for making a mark for their friendship forever. A big bold red V, right into his wrist. It was their thing since he broke his arm one day and a girl from high school wrote Loser in his cast, which Bill had immediately corrected to LoVer over it. And even though he wasn't less of a loser after it, it made Eddie feel a lot better.
Still, the only reason he let him do it, was because it was Bill. He knew his friend would be careful and clean.
It turned out to be a kind of revenge as well. Just a bit.
In a world where soulmates existed in many types and shapes, where someone could wake up to a grey world and go to sleep seeing all the spectrum of a kaleidoscope or have their name tattooed on their wrists, Eddie had been lucky enough to find out he had one when he felt his knees bruise and for the first of many times and looked down to see his plain skin unscathed.
Now, he wouldn't have bothered on having this kind of connection, but his soulmate was apparently born with "Dexterity -1" on his stats. Every day without fail, Eddie would feel a pang of pain on his body. Sometimes it was a bump on the side of his arms, his knees, or even on the back of his head and his toes hurt more often than he cared to admit.
He looked for it online when he suspected they were being mistreated — as his mother couldn't bring herself to talk about the subject since his father died — and found out that the little bumps were very common and the pain of actual aggression would feel a lot different. The connection would lessen the feeling of minor injuries and sometimes they wouldn't even reach the other side, but (non-lethal and intentional) aggression was a completely different case, where they would share the pain evenly so the other would know the danger.
Eddie felt relieved and pissed at the same time. He didn't think there could possibly exist such a gawky person, especially since the bruises didn't stop coming even after high school.
He expected to find his soulmate with different scars and in all shades of purple, and he would have no choice but to spend at least an hour lecturing them on how to be more careful.
When he got the tattoo, part of him felt venged, even if the pain wasn't nearly as much as the one when his soulmate broke a leg, seriously, that person was a walking trainwreck.
Eddie came back to the moment, aggressively stapling the paper once.
“That thing is full of flowers, top to bottom and, “ he turned around in his chair, staring pointedly at the man, Bill, across the room, “it’s Pollen Season, do you want me to die ?”
Bill rolled his eyes and approached, sitting in the chair before the desk.
“Co-come on E-Eddie, you know I ca-can’t do this alone?” Bill searched for some sympathy in his friend’s eyes, finding none but a skeptical look, he rolled his own, “I-if I go there by m-myself I’ll get nervous and yo-you know what happens when I get ne-nerv-” Bill sighs, taking a deep breath, “nervous,” Eddie could see the pleading in his eyes this time.
He tried not to look and it was hard because Eddie knew how difficult this was for Bill, but not every mask in the world together could prevent Eddie from dying a horrible death by pollen.
“Just ask it after his shift ends.”
At this, Bill's face flared up in a way Eddie hadn't seen before since High School, he looked so embarrassed suddenly that Eddie almost felt sorry for him.
He would be if he hadn't been suffering weeks now about Bill's crush on the boy that worked in the flower shop across the street. Once he almost pierced the client's wrong ear when the boy came out of the shop watering the flowers in a soft blue apron ( “I-I s-swear Eddie, it was th-the most adorable thi-thing I’ve e-ever seen” ).
“I can’t! What a-am I going to say? 'H-hey, I've been wa-wat-watching you for t-two months since you opened up the s-shop and I think your hair is pr-pretty?" Eddie opened his mouth to contest again, but Bill was quicker, "O-okay that's it. I'm ca-calling my favor in this."
Eddie narrowed his eyes.
"I can't believe you're using your favor for this," but Bill's gaze was unbending, "Are you fucking serious?! You're using your favor to get me killed !"
"You know the- you know the deal, Eddie!"
And indeed he knew. They made a pact once when they were twelve, a blood oath, where they'd grant a wish once a year instead of birthdays and Christmas presents that didn't really mean anything. No questioning, no complaining. If one of them called their wish for the year, the other would do it no matter what.
In the first year they were nice to each other, not yet fully realizing the potential dark power behind it, and only asked light, easy favors. But, as the years went on, Eddie found himself doing things that were a no-go before, like asking someone for a double date to put up with Bill's gross crush, or going to a horror funhouse (the scarier thing on Derry's one was the fact that it was so old it could crumble down if they relayed in the wrong column or give you tetanus from touching anything), or getting him a tattoo.
Some of them took more convincing than others, but in the end, a wish was a wish.
Which is why Eddie was having trouble accepting this time. Like, seriously, couldn't he just ask the guy out later?
"He could be it, Eddie," Bill interrupted him, stars in his eyes.
By "it" he meant the one. Bill was a hopeless romantic. He dreamt of kissing the love of his life in a scenario where both of them would fall in love as soon as their lips touched, with Elton John playing on the background and rose petals (or snow, he wasn't too picky) falling from above, framing the moment like in those telenovelas from Televisa (they started watching those as kids whenever he went to accompany Eddie's frequents doctors appointments). But that required him finding that love of his life, aka his soulmate, first. Which is not insurance at all, because it could easily be the platonic kind and Bill's fantasy would go down the drain.
Eddie, at the same time that he would like to find someone as perfect as Sebástian Rulli for his life, was also not a fan of dating, having most of his attempts to come to an inevitable crashing end where the guy couldn't deal with how he lived life.
You see, Eddie wasn't an easy person to live with. Since he was a kid, his mother convinced him he was sick, every time, from everything, so she had better control over him. And even if now he recognized what she had done, it didn't mean it wasn't a daily battle against his own head. Or that suddenly he'd stop brushing his teeth three times a day every day, or taking his vitamins, or cleaning his hands after touching anything remotely dirty.
And now, with his 24 years of experience, most of his short-termed boyfriends just hadn't felt… Right for him.
Or grew so bothered by his mannerisms that they eventually broke up.
But the thing is that none of that mattered when he thought about his soulmate. Someone out there made to love him. It didn't matter if it wasn't in a romantic way.
Was he expecting too much? Probably, sue him.
He also admired the way Bill never stopped trying. Bill, who was still waiting for him to say something.
Eddie rolled his eyes once more and didn't bother to answer, instead, he stapled the paper behind him one final time to secure it in place.
Taking a disposable white mask on the drawer Eddie shoots Bill a last dirty look before getting up.
"He better be your fucking soulmate at this point. If I die because of my fucking allergy and you don't even get a date with him I'll come back and push you off the stairs."
They made their way across the street and Eddie put the mask in place, staring nastly at the plants before the entrance as if they insulted his dental hygiene. The interior of the shop was nice enough though, he noticed as they entered, rows and rows of colorful flowers beautifully adorned and bouquets that together formed a lovely atmosphere. It would be a pleasant place if Eddie couldn’t feel his eyes scratching already.
Looking at the balcony — soft green and white at the top with barely any empty space since what wasn’t covered in arrangements, had papers and portfolios over it — he could see a curly-haired man behind it (that’s Bill’s crush) gathering things into a folder, while there’s another one, with glasses and that clearly pushed the papers away, sat on top of it, poking the curly man’s left cheek with some small purple flower.
"Stop messing with the petunias, fucker,” the curly head slaps the hand of the other man, “Or I’m making you buy them.”
Well, at least that’s what he could understand as he couldn’t see shit right anymore because of the tears starting to blurry his vision.
But when he turned to talk to Bill he still could see the fear in his face.
Oh, no sir, he was having none of that bullshit.
“If you don’t go get his number right now I’ll shove that Azalea down your throat,” Bill looked at him and he pointed his thumb to the counter in a motion, “Go.”
And so he went, looking around, pretending to be interested in the plants, which he really wasn’t, by the way he kept drying his sweaty hands on the back of his pants and sending glances to the curly man-
Seriously, this was getting ridiculous, fucking 2 months already and Bill didn’t even know his name! And it’s not like Bill has no game either, no, since high school where puberty finally hit him and they weren’t in Maine anymore, Bill fucking scored like 4 partners, among boys and girls, and that’s not even including just the hookups. If anyone needed any kind of help, that would be Eddie.
But enough of Eddie’s pitiful love life, because Bill’s finally talking to the guy!
Eddie tries to get closer to listen to how it goes, pretending to be reading to the tag of… Snapdragons?
What the fuck were snapdragons?
He could take a closer and see the label- that is, if he wanted to spend the night at the hospital.
“Well, hey there cutie,” a voice startled him and Eddie turned around to see the glasses man, smiling smugly at him, “Do you need any help?”
Now closer, he could properly see the man; Black and incredible curly and messy hair, which definitely haven’t seen a shower in days, maybe more ; His glasses, two big bottom bottle glass that amplified his eyes enough to make any anime character jealous. They were pretty tho, and the glasses made them stand out, in a dark deep shade of brown; But the clothes were just… Something else. An open Hawaiian yellow shirt with oranges on top of a white plain shirt and black ripped jeans.
This man clearly didn’t belong at a flower store.
Eddie raised his eyebrows suspiciously.
“Do you work here?”
“No, but I’m here enough time I might as well start getting paid,” he said, loudly, obviously meant for the other to hear (who proceeded to flip him off), “Tho I am fairly sure I could be of help to such a grace,” he continued, in a shitty English accent, “What could I possibly do for you in this lovely evening, cutie?”
Eddie felt a vein pop on his neck, it happened every time he scowled and that sure is what he’s doing in the moment.
“You could start by not calling me this,” he’s usually far more educated with people he doesn’t know, but people also don’t usually go giving annoying nicknames to strangers.
That had the opposite effect, hence he saw the smile grow in the man’s face.
“Well, that just won’t do. What should I call you if not cutie, it’s literally all I see.”
Eddie narrowed his eyes, he knew he was just fishing for information but he decided to humor the guy for a bit.
“Eddie,” he said absently, looking back at the snapdragons, but he could see the man still waiting for him to continue, “Eddie Kaspbrak.”
He smiled, largely and honest, and it was bright. Eddie didn't mind his teeth were slightly more forward than normal, it was the most beautifully dorkish smile he's ever seen.
“So, you work at the tattoo parlor across the street, right Eds?”
Eddie snapped a censuring gaze at the man, who seemed unfazed by it.
“That’s not my name,” he rubbed his eyes, that now were red as well as his nose certainly is, “But yes, I do.”
The man rounded him, stopping by his other side, leaning his hand into the shelves in a smooth movement (he tried) but retracting desperately after hearing a crack that indicated that no, this is not strong enough to support your weight, man. Eddie had tried to bite back a smile, but it was too late, it seemed like the man had taken it as an encouragement.
“Well, I was thinking of stopping by, maybe get a tattoo or something,” his look gained a mischievous glint, “‘S there anything you’d like to draw on me? Maybe your number ?”
Eddie snorted, the guy was going for it, he could appreciate the effort.
He looked at him again. Tall, dorky face, smile a little crooked and just the general energy around him… Eddie didn’t hate it.
“I’m just attending the clients, Bill, my friend right there,” he pointed at the general place behind him, “and Mike are the artists.”
"Well, I'd still take my chances if it meant getting to know you better."
Okay, that's it, Eddie faced him, a playful smile threatening on his lips, ready for some kind of retort when he felt it.
Oh boy, oh boy, his throat ached in a familiar way that said: "welp, get ready to bust a vein coughing". He could feel it getting harder to breathe as the seconds went by.
Pushing both his hands in front of his mask, he ran out of the store faster than his time in PE, ripping it off his face and combusting into painful coughs. After a few, he was literally wheezing.
Eddie took the inhaler off his pocket, taking one, two, three puffs, and even if the other symptoms didn't go away, it surely helped him breathing.
He heard a bell ringing softly at some point between dying and coming back, but couldn't bring himself to care until he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"You 'kay there cutie? When I pictured you choking that wasn't what I had in mind."
Eddie groaned even before he turned around.
"Oh God, shut up. Don't call me cutie." he said, "It's just my allergy"
Richie's eyes bulged out, as if they weren't big enough already.
"Damn, you're even cuter without the mask- Do you need to sit down?" he motioned to the loveseat before the store. The one with an offending amount of flowers above.
"By the flowers? No, thank you, if I wanted to die I'd rather jump in front of a car." Eddie dusts his clothes off of fucking pólen.
"Should I take you to a walk instead?" he suggested, wiggling his eyebrows, "Perhaps I could invite you to a pleasant stroll and a cup of the finest Ice Cream in town, my dearest."
Eddie snorted, it was such a bad accent it was almost annoying, but still endearing at the same time.
"No, but if you take me back to my shop and tell me your name I could think about giving that number you wanted?"
"Sir Richie Tozier, at your service." Richie gave an exaggerated bow.
It somehow fit him, Eddie thought. It was a remarkable name.
Eddie opened the shop again, letting the nice smell of the air spray get to him. The sweet aroma of civilization. Smelling like nothing at all, just the way he liked it.
He made a beeline to the table, avoiding all the mess Bill left behind on the ground and popping an antiallergic pill before downing it with his water bottle.
"So, Kaspbrak? Doesn't look like a common name." Richie said, sitting at his desk just like he did at the flower shop.
"I'm not sure where it comes from." Eddie pushed him off, receiving an offended frown before the man picked up a stapler, clicking it several times, wasting perfectly good staples and screwing Eddie's perfectly arranged table, "Don't touch that. I just know my grandparents are Polish."
He sits at his chair, motioning for Richie to do the same with the one Bill was previously sat. He did, stapler still in hands. Click.
"You don't look Polish."
"What the fuck am I supposed to look like, a plate of Pierogi?" click click click, "Seriously, stop playing with it, what are you, fucking twelve?"
"Actually, thirteen," Click click and crash, it falls on the ground. Richie put the stapler back on the table, now twisted in a way it shouldn’t be, "Sorry?" Richie gave an apologetic smile that would seem much more convincing if he didn’t take the hot glue pistol right away, "But really, you look more like… a bowl of Spaghetti. All slim and hot ."
Eddie didn’t know if he should blush or scowl. He ended up doing both.
"Well, I'm not."
Eddie eyed the coffee machine and wondered if what they did earlier was still drinkable or if it already was as disgusting as he thought it would be. Maybe if Mike were there already, he’d make him taste it first, but he had to take a few days off to visit his family so Eddie had no other choice but to try it himself.
He took his mug, fresh and clean, from his desk and he could feel Richie’s eyes (on his butt, not that it bothered him) as he walked to get his sweet bliss of paradise.
"So, you don't work at the flower shop, what do you do?" he said, pouring the coffee on the mug, "Want some?"
"Depends on what you're offering," he said teasingly, "No, trust me, I'm better off without caffeine. And I work at a bar. Waiting tables and shit." he started making a pile with the hot glue, "You look like a nice college boy, cutie."
"Don't call me cute," Eddie took a sip and scrunched up his face. It was horrible. "College? Yes. Nice? Well, if you think nice is actually attending to it," he went back to the table, placing the mug there adamant about forgetting it again, "You?"
Eddie took the pistol off his hands, interrupting the weird glue statue Richie was doing. Richie looked at him amusingly.
"A few classes here and there…" he stole the pistol again.
"Are you seriously playing with it again?"
"Sorry, Eddie Spaghetti." he apologized, not sounding a bit sorry at all, and went back to the work he was doing.
Any protest he had on the hot glue on his table went quickly forgotten.
"What the fuck ?" Eddie said, softly, stunned.
He was used to nicknames. He didn't like them, with the exception of "Eddie", but got used to his friend's affectionate ones. But this? It was another level. This was borderline ridiculous.
"Spaghetti, you know? 'Cause you look like it?"
"Don't fucking call me that?" he snapped the pistol out of his hands, throwing it in a drawer and closing it.
Richie pouted dramatically.
"You're no fun Spaghetti Man. I don't know why I like you so much."
Eddie wasn't sure why he was so flushed. He shoved a yellow notebook and a black pen into Richie's face, mostly to hide his red one from him, "Here, you can mess with those."
It was in vain because Richie spent solid 30 seconds looking dazzled at him. Eddie cleared his throat, taping on the notebook to get the attention there.
"You said you were taking classes?" he watched as Richie drew a few lines, "What are you majoring in?"
"I think you could guess it right if you tried," he turned the notebook back to Eddie, a tic-tac-toe game with a circle in the middle as a clear invitation for him to join, "I'm in Drama," Eddie took another pen, red, and did an X on the top left space, "I do a few stand-ups at events at UC Santa Cruz."
"And you're funny?" a circle in the right space.
"You wound me." an X on the left.
"Isn't it expensive?" a circle in the bottom left.
"Eh, a couple times a year won't hurt. Besides, it's not the only place I perform." an X on the top right, "What about you, Mr. I'm-Skeptical-About-Comedy? What do you do?"
"Business, actually," a circle on top, "I wanna help Bill with this place."
"Hm, a pretty selfless housewife then." an X on the bottom.
"We tied," a circle on the bottom right, "And shut up."
"Oh, and he bites too." Richie made another game and Eddie started this time.
"Only if you get too close," Eddie said under his breath, and Richie's smile told him he had listened.
They played a few more times in silence, marking the score at the top of the paper.
"Do you feel better cutie?"
"Don't call me that," Eddie huffed, "Yes."
"Why go there if you're so allergic to it? And has asthma too, I saw your inhaler."
Eddie was quiet for a bit. When it seemed Richie was going to start talking again, he chimed in, "... I'm not."
Richie was confused, "You're not?"
“I mean, the allergy? Yeah, I guess," Eddie fidget with the pen, stopping the game in the middle of his play, "but I don't really have asthma."
"Why the fuck do you carry an inhaler then?"
And how the fuck was Eddie supposed to answer that? They barely knew each other, he wouldn't exploit his personal fears and trauma to Richie just because he was funny and had a nice butt — that Eddie totally didn't check out on their way to the store.
Still, he looked at Richie and couldn't stop himself from saying, “Well," without really knowing where to go from there. He tested a few outcomes before continuing, "You could say it's anxiety? The remedy doesn't really do anything, it's just calming," Eddie bit his lips, talking about it never got any less… Embarrassing, not even with Bill. He knew it wasn't something to be ashamed of, but still, the way people looked at him afterward, the pity, made him want to bury his whole face in his hands, "Sorry, I know it's just a weird thing-"
"I have a fidget spinner!" Richie interrupted, he didn't look in the least pitiful, instead, he seemed eager as he grabbed Eddie's wrist, "Also one of those pens that have like, 3 different things to mess with when you're nervous? Because when I don't I tend to ramble or mess with things or walk on circles and it can be really annoying. So- uh, I have those," he looked from Eddie's face to the notebook and then back, "Uhm, what I'm trying to say is, that's not weird at all- I mean, it is a little, but what the fuck is wrong with being a little weird, you know?"
Eddie looked at his hand, still touching him, and felt grateful, and comfortable. It wasn't a common feeling for someone who was outside their bubble 75% of their time. His hands were cold, not abnormally cold, but colder than how hot Eddie was feeling entire; and his fingers were thin and longer than his too.
Eddie didn't think of all the pollen Richie certainly had in his clothes, he didn't think of the flower petals in his hair or the weird kinda cheap wood cologne he exhaled. Looking at Richie all he could think was how nice his touch felt.
And Richie smiled at him again. Letting go of his and putting his attention back in the game, making Eddie almost miss the contact.
Which, weird, control yourself, Eddie, you've never been so thirsty.
"You still haven't said why," he waggled his eyebrows, "Perhaps you fell in love with me just watching me pass by every day."
"Perhaps not?" Eddie scoffs, "That'd be Bill."
"Bill's in love with me?"
"What? No!" Eddie frowns and Richie looks at him amused, "He likes the guy working there? You know, the actual employee? That's why we went there, he wanted to talk."
"Hey, now! I only don't work there because Bev knows I'm too cool for that. And Benji still remembers the time I stepped in his Gardenias." Richie scores another win for him, not that he was much ahead of Eddie, "So he's in love with Stan?"
Eddie thought about what Bill would answer. Yes, of course, he would say. Except it's all bullshit. You can't love someone you don't know. You can be attracted, sure, you can like them, but love is a much more serious feeling. It's a mark on your life, once you love someone, it'll always be there, even if you don't love them anymore, there will be the memory of such a strong feeling.
"I mean, not in love? I don't think that's even possible, we didn't even know his name? But he was 100% attracted to him. He thinks they're soulmates, if that matters anything."
Richie gasps, far more exaggerated to be true, "What a non-believer! You mean you don't believe in my undying love for you, Eds?"
Eddie choked, he doesn’t know with what, maybe his own breath, but he did and suddenly Eddie’s staring at him open-eyed, perplexed at the absurdity of the thought.
"We literally just met you weirdo. Also, that's still not my fucking name!"
Richie brushes it over, not even acknowledging his complaint.
"Your name isn't accurate, it doesn't live up to your cuteness."
"I'm 25, I'm not cute," Eddie tried, non-convincingly, to protest.
"I beg to differ, that's not what I see." Richie had a smile when he reached over the table to ruffle his hair and Eddie felt his stomach do a flip with the cold fingers barely touching him again, "And I still want your number."
Yes, Eddie would very much like that. He swallowed in dry and said, "Give me your phone."
Richie was up so fast Eddie felt his neck complaint from looking up so suddenly, he patted his pockets until he took the device from the back one. It went straight to the ground, "Fuck!"
He quickly got down to retrieve it, but in his way up, his head hit the table so hard it shook it off the ground and he swore loudly. But the thing is, Eddie didn’t mind any of it, he didn’t even pay attention to what had happened, because at that moment, the back of his own head hurt like a motherfucker, pain irradiating from that spot.
“Son of a-” he groaned, reaching out to soothe the pain away.
"Wait, you felt that too?" but Eddie only heard him when Richie grabbed his shoulders, forcing Eddie to look at him, “Did you feel it?”
Eddie felt dizzy, would that be an answer?
"Uh, I don’t know? What do you mean?" Richie pinched his left cheek, hard enough to be red afterward, and winced at the same time Eddie groaned, "Ahh-ouch, that hurts asshole, what the fuck?"
But before he could say anything, Richie pulled him forward in a hug. It was uncomfortable for both of them considering that the table was in the middle and pressing against Eddie’s stomach, and Richie was so tall and had to lean down at a strange angle in order to pull him closer. Still, Eddie felt his whole body’s temperature increase and Richie’s arms so tight around him. He felt his eyes closing with the good feeling and heard a burst of happy, wet laughter on his shoulder. Richie’s whole body practically vibrating with energy as if he was about to explode.
"Oh my FUCK, it’s you !" Richie broke the embrace enough to look back at him, beaming, "You're my soulmate! I mean, I already had the hots for you and I didn’t know why but now I know you too had no chance resisting my seduction skills ," he extended the ss’s in a silly way.
Eddie rolled his eyes, trying to maintain a facade of annoyance, but losing it to a smile, "Seriously?"
"You know what that means?"
"That I'm forever trapped with the most clumsy asshole that ever lived?"
"If you wanna put it that way. I prefer to say you get to experience a full-time life expo on Richie Tozier’s juicy moments.” Eddie giggled, bubbly and fresh, feeling like a pre-teen, “But no, it means we’re definitely getting that ice cream.”
And Eddie didn’t mind disagreeing.
Maybe he’d even buy Bill one out of gratitude.