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Richie Tozier has gamed this whole soulmate system.

He’s frankly shocked that no one else has managed to figure this out yet. It’s clearly a testament to his superior genius. And it’s going to keep him out of that mire of romantic angst everyone else seems to be drowning in. He’s not going to be one of those chumps who spends a lifetime wondering which “Hello” came from his soulmate (no offense, Bill). 

He has a four-part plan:

  1. Greet every new person with a new, random, ridiculous phrase.
  2. Wait for their eyes to light up with recognition and joy.
  3. If not soulmate, don’t waste a fucking second pining after them.
  4. Once proper soulmate is identified, ride off into the sunset together.

It’s also kind of a failsafe, because otherwise he seriously doubts they’d be able to find each other. And that’s because his own soul mark is painfully vague and boring: a tiny EXCUSE ME scrawled on the inside of his right arm.

So yes, that’s not going to help him at all. Strangers say it when they bump into him on the street (and then freak out when he chases them down screaming nonsense). And, to be honest, half the people he greets with gibberish have said it. It has also occurred to him that maybe, possibly, his soulmate might just be excessively polite. But he’s Richie Tozier, so that seems pretty unlikely.

But he’s got a four-part plan and it’s absolutely flawless and, once he meets his soulmate, nothing’s going to stand in the way of true love.



Bill has these friends who all applied for housing together at the end of freshman year. Richie hasn’t met them, but transferring in as a sophomore doesn’t give you a ton of great housing options, so of course he agreed to room with Bill when asked. And it’s a nice set up: they have an entire hallway and lounge to themselves, three doubles and one single.

But it also means Richie’s going to be living with a bunch of strangers.

He spends a week at orientation with a bunch of freshmen and then finally Bill moves into the room with him and saves him from boredom. They have a fun few days together before the rest of campus starts to liven up. None of Bill’s friends move in until the day before classes start and Richie ends up in a long meeting with his advisor and can’t be there for the move-in.

But that evening he’s reading on his bed when Bill comes in the room and announces that they’re having a “hall meeting.”

“What the fuck,” Richie says. “Like the big RA meeting about not doing drugs? I’ve just gone through a week of that shit.”

“No,” Bill says, “a meeting for our hall. You know, the block.”

“Calling it a block makes it sound way cooler than it is,” Richie argues, but he closes his book and follows Bill to the lounge.

“H-hey everyone,” Bill calls. “This is Richie.”

Richie sees the girl first, and bows to her deeply. “Dolphin choirs dance under moonlight,” he intones.

She blinks at him. “What the fuck?”

Bill sighs. “I apologize for him.”

Richie flashes her a grin, puts out a hand to shake, and says, “Richie Tozier, pleased to meetcha.”

She accepts his hand warily. “Beverly. Hi. What’s going on?”

“He has this plan to find his soulmate,” Bill explains, but Richie’s moved on to the next person.

“Bedazzled balloons or bust!”

“Um, wow. Hi. I’m Ben.”

“That’s kind of clever, actually,” the boy next to Ben says. “It’s to make it easier for them to recognize you?”

“Yes!” Richie cries with a rush of validation. “Thank you! No one appreciates my genius.”

“I’m Mike,” the guy says. “And believe me, I totally understand.” He pulls down his shirt just enough to show HELLO on his collarbone. Richie whistles.

“That’s a rough one, buddy.” He looks back at Bill, who shakes his head furiously.

Mike shrugs. “Can I get one of your quotes anyway? It seems fun.”

“Of course,” Richie says. He thinks a moment, and then breathes out over his hand, as if blowing a kiss, “fear the feral pineapple.”

Mike nods appreciatively. Richie turns to the boy with curly hair.

“No,” the boy says, arms folded.

“Fair enough,” Richie admits.

“This is Stan,” Bill says.

“Stan the Man! Nice to meet you.”

Beverly’s watching him, sizing him up. “You know, Bill tried to warn us about you, but I don’t think any description could possibly match up to the real thing.”

“To clarify, though, none of us is your soulmate, right?” Ben asks.

“Nah,” Richie says. “You’re safe.”

He settles onto the green couch by the window and starts to get to know them better. They promise to show him around campus, “the real campus, not that orientation stuff,” and inform him which student groups are worth joining (none) and which to avoid (all). Then they shift to planning, spinning out grand ideas about what they should do with their hallway: weekly movie nights in the lounge, extensive Halloween decorations (“It’s not even September!” “It’s never too early to start celebrating Halloween, Bill.”). It’s comfortable. Richie feels relaxed and excited for the new year in a way he hadn’t felt before.

And then a seventh person walks in. “Sorry I’m late,” he’s mumbling to the room at large as he squirms out of his backpack and lets it drop against the wall. Then he sees Richie and stops.

Richie spies his opportunity. He leaps to his feet and asks, “Have you heard of the naughty goat conspiracy?”

Stan, despite his earlier reticence, actually laughs out loud at this one. The boy who just entered does not.

Instead he purses his lips, narrows his eyes, and hisses, “Excuse me?”

“It’s a thing he does,” Beverly explains. “To find his soulmate. We all got one.”

But Richie’s watching the boy, because fuck if he isn’t the cutest thing on two legs (or on legs at all, he’s even cuter than any puppy Richie’s seen). And he just said Richie’s soul word. And Richie doesn’t want to get his hopes up, but, god, he really wants to know. His eyes are glued to the boy’s face, waiting to track every minuscule movement, every twitch, look for any sign of a reaction.

The boy inhales deeply. “How’s that going for you?”

“You tell me.” He tries to say it flirtatiously, like he’s not fucking dying to hear the answer.

The boy rolls his eyes. “You’re fucking insane.”

Richie frowns. “I don’t think so,” he says. “Unless, wait, hold on, is Insane your mom’s name, because —”

“Beep beep,” Bill interjects. “Richie, this is Eddie. Eddie, meet Richie.”

Richie holds out a hand. “Nice to meet ya, Eds.” And he does mean it, even if Eddie isn’t his soulmate.

Eddie doesn’t take his hand. “Fuck you,” he bites out, and goes to sit by Mike.

 

richie to bill [8:46 PM]
hey so what’s eddie’s deal

bill to richie [8:49 PM]
we are NOT texting about people while we’re in the same room as them

richie to bill [8:49 PM]
yeah yeah fair

richie to bill [8:52 PM]
but like. is he single

 

Within a month they’re Richie’s best friends.

They call themselves the Losers (not “the block,” thank god) and they spend most of their time together. They go to campus parties as one flock and take care of each other afterwards, they study in the lounge in the evenings and have movie nights with pizza on the weekends. 

It takes a while for Richie to really find his bearings in that first month, despite his outward bravado. School is stressful for him sometimes because, let’s face it, he’s not the best at “time management” or “remembering things” or “turning in assignments.” He worries that it’s obvious that he’s a transfer, that maybe he’s not smart enough to be here anyway, that he’s going to make some stupid mistake and they’ll realize it was a mistake to let him.

But then he comes home to the Losers’ hallway, and he sees his friends goofing off in their lounge, and they laugh at his dumbest jokes, and he feels safe. Happy. Like he belongs.

It’s movie night tonight. They order pizza from their usual place and Mike and Bill go to pick it up. It’s Bev’s night to choose the movie, so she’s pulling up Juno on the big lounge computer. Richie’s keeping her company, calling out fake computer tips from the green couch. Then Eddie arrives, arms full of blankets, and he groans at the sight of Richie.

Eddie Kaspbrak is the sand in the oyster of Richie’s happiness. He has not warmed up to Richie since their first meeting, not even a little bit: he always makes excuses so he won’t have to be alone with Richie, and even in group activities he’ll glower at Richie across the circle. Every gesture of friendship Richie has offered him only pisses him more off.

But also, at this point, even Richie will admit he deserves it. He’s definitely going out of his way to wind Eddie up. He tries to provoke Eddie with bad jokes and worse nicknames. He figures out which Voice Eddie hates the most (the British guy) and deploys it strategically. He’s pulling Eddie’s metaphorical pigtails in every way he can.

Right now, for example, he has sprawled his entire gangly body across the green couch, despite knowing full well that it is Eddie’s favorite spot to sit for movie night.

“Get off my couch,” Eddie snaps.

“But Eds, it’s so cozy! Come cuddle with me.”

Eddie turns red and clenches a fist. “I’m not going to fucking cuddle with you.”

“At least give me a blanket?” Richie pleads. “I’m cold over here by myself. Please, Eddie Spaghetti?”

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie growls. “And no, I’m not giving you a blanket. Get off my couch.”

Richie smirks at him. “Shan’t.”

And this is why he does it, why he does any of this: because when Eddie gets mad, his face goes pink, and he goes off at Richie. He looks so small and cute at first glance, but then he’ll release a string of unspeakably filthy curses, some worse than Richie himself could come up with. When he turns the full force of his fury onto Richie, it’s like the sun bursting out at him. And if that’s all Richie can get from Eddie, he’ll lap up as much of it as he can.

This time it devolves into an actual physical struggle, Eddie cursing and trying to drag Richie off the couch by his ankle while Richie clings to the arm of it.

“You’re such a fucking child,” Eddie complains and tries a different tactic, forcing himself into the space between Richie’s body and the back of the couch.

“So we’re cuddling after all?” Richie asks. “Is this spooning? Is that what’s happening?”

Eddie’s pushing against his back, trying to force Richie off the couch, but he’s not actually big enough to take up that much space. Instead their legs get tangled up and Richie’s cackling and Eddie’s just repeating “fuck you” over and over again and eventually Bev turns around and sighs, “Boys, please.”

“Not again,” Bill groans. He and Mike have arrived with the pizza.

“I say, dear chap,” Richie declares (with the help of his British friend) and nudges Eddie. “Fetch us a slice of that pie, would you?”

“Go fuck a garlic press,” Eddie says. “I’m not moving.”

Richie’s not moving either, so eventually Ben just hands them both plates of pizza and Mike lays a blanket over them. They both stay on the couch throughout the whole movie and Richie’s heart keeps hammering even hours after he’s gone to bed.

 

losers groupchat

bev [11:56 PM]
never again leave me alone with those two

mike [11:56 PM]
we had to get the pizza, it was a public service
but sorry

richie [11:57 PM]
what r u insinuating there bev

ben [11:57 PM]
sorry my meeting ran late!!
I came as fast as I could

bev [11:58 PM]
ben ur doing amazing sweetie
richie i’m insinuating that maybe i don’t want to third wheel while you two construct intricate rituals

eddie [11:58 PM]
richie started it. i’m trying to sleep

stan [11:59 PM]
Sorry for not intervening
I didn’t care

richie [11:59 PM]
:( :( :( :(

stan [12:00 AM]
Next week we cut the couch in half

eddie [12:23 AM]
they’re not intricate rituals

 

Eddie’s eating lunch outside. Just out there, in public, on a bench, munching on a sandwich. This makes it justified for other people, who happen to also be in this public space, to maybe look at him, Richie thinks. Not that he’s watching him. He just looks up from his reading sometimes, about every two sentences or so.

Ah, fuck it. Richie’s watching him. And he’s mad about it.

He’s a little mad at Eddie, because there’s really no need for him to be that cute when he eats, nibbling on his sandwich like a little squirrel. Mostly he’s mad at himself, though, for being so overwhelmed by his crush on Eddie that he’s started comparing him to a squirrel.

Part 3 of his flawless four-part plan was not to waste any time pining for non-soulmates. He doesn’t want to be one of those schmucks who falls head over heels for someone and then has to watch their real soulmate sweep them away. But Richie’s failing part 3, and he doesn’t know what to do.

He’s so distracted by Eddie’s tiny bites that when a young woman comes up to him and says, “Excuse me?” he only says, “What?”

“Is this the building with the Bio department?”

“Uh, no,” Richie says, tearing his eyes off Eddie. “That’s on the other side of the quad, behind the library.”

She thanks him and walks away and Richie realizes the enormity of his error. He’s so fucked up over Eddie that he forgot Part fucking 1 of his plan. He throws his book to the ground and chases after her.

“Wait!” he calls. “Wait wait wait.” He catches up with her and she turns back, confused. She’s very pretty. It could be possible. “What’s your soul word?”

“Excuse me? I don’t know you.”

“I know, I know,” Richie says. “But, please. I need to know. I just, I wasn’t paying attention, and you said mine, and I –”

Her eyes widen and she nods. “Sorry,” she says. “I don’t think you said mine.”

To prove it, she twists her head and lifts her hair. On the back of her neck is I THINK YOU DROPPED YOUR WALLET.

“Oh,” Richie breathes. “Okay.”

She looks back at him with pity. “I’m sorry,” she says.

“You know, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity here,” Richie advises her. “Why aren’t you dropping your wallet all the time? You could just throw it down and see who picks it up.”

“Why?” she asks, bewildered. “Then I’d have a bunch of strangers touching my wallet?”

“Fine,” Richie says, who’s used to having his ideas shot down. “Your loss.”

He turns back towards where he was sitting and his gaze falls on Eddie, who… is watching him. Richie’s cheeks burn with humiliation. He picks up his books and heads to the library.

 

losers groupchat

richie [4:02 PM]
what are ur saturday plans
WRONG
we’re going 2 a party

eddie [4:02 PM]
wtf

ben [4:02 PM]
what party?

richie [4:02 PM]
@ bateman house

stan [4:03 PM]
Where is that?

mike [4:03 PM]
it’s the group house across the st on the west end of campus
why are we going to a bateman party?

richie [4:04 PM]
i was invited
& told 2 bring “””whoever”””
u r my beloved whoevers

bill [4:05 PM]
you’ve been at this school for like a month how have you already been invited to a bateman party

richie [4:05 PM]
billiam is disinvited for doubting my popularity & charm
i am a GIFT to be around, u guys don’t know how good u have it
maybe the rest of the world realized what theyre missing
and now they want a piece of the richie tozier pie

eddie [4:06 PM]
doubtful

bev [4:12 PM]
doesn’t ur dealer live in bateman

richie [4:13 PM]
bev is also disinvited,,

 

They’re at the party that weekend when Richie realizes he hasn’t seen Eddie in a while. And yeah, maybe he’s just out getting some air, or maybe he went home with someone, or maybe something worse happened. No one else seems to have noticed Eddie’s absence but, then again, no one else suffers from the condition of desperately wanting to look at Eddie Kaspbrak at all times.

“Where’s Eddie?” he asks Stan, but it comes out as more of a roar so he can be heard. It’s a loud party. Stan shrugs. Richie slips away from their friends to go searching.

He finds Eddie outside, sitting on the lawn in front of the porch. Relief blooms in his chest.

“Hey, Eds, the party misses you,” he calls.

Eddie whirls around and doesn’t bother to mask his displeasure at the sight of Richie. “Well, I wanted a break from the party,” he replies, and looks away again.

Richie plops down next to him. “Can I ask you something?” he ventures. Eddie hasn’t run away from him yet, and Richie doesn’t have a lot of chances to talk to him one on one.

“Sure,” Eddie concedes, but he doesn’t look up at Richie. He’s holding a Solo cup in his hands, twisting it back and forth.

“Why do you hate me?” Richie asks.

“The fuck kind of question is that?” Eddie laughs.

“I mean it, Eddie Spaghetti, I want to know what I did.”

“What didn’t you do?” Eddie murmurs into his cup, and takes a swig. “Okay, let’s do this. Number one. Those stupid fucking nicknames.”

“They’re affectionate, Eds!”

Eddie scowls. “This will go faster if you don’t talk.”

Richie mimes zipping his lips. Neither of them are convinced by the gesture.

“Number two,” Eddie continues. “The jokes about my mom. They’re not even fucking funny, it’s just the same bit over and over —”

“I bit your mom over and over,” Richie says automatically. It’s not his best work.

Eddie’s fuming. He’s real cute when he’s worked up. “Three. The way you introduce yourself to people, the stupid soulmate routine. It’s exhausting.”

“Okay, that one’s strategic,” Richie argues.

“I told you to shut up! Four. The fucking Hawaiian shirts. Five. You always lay on my couch in the lounge. You know it’s mine, it’s always been mine —”

“You can’t claim a couch —”

“Six. The fucking Voices. Seven. You pick the worst movies for movie night.”

Madagascar is a cinematic masterpiece!”

“Eight. You’re always flirting! Like, can you not keep it in your pants for one fucking second?”

“Aw, that’s just with you, Eds, ‘cause I like you so much.”

“It’s definitely not. I saw you practically throw yourself at a girl in the quad on Tuesday. Nine. You can’t take fucking anything seriously. It’s always gotta be a joke! Why? Why can’t you let a single moment pass without making a fucking joke out of it?”

Richie doesn’t have an answer to that. When he makes enough money to go to therapy, maybe he’ll come up with one. “Ten?” he asks, a glutton for punishment.

Eddie glares at him. Then he looks down at the ground. “I don’t actually have a tenth thing,” he says, and he sounds madder about it than any of the other nine.

“Well,” Richie says, “glad the rest of me passes muster, at least.”

“I’m sure I’ll come up with more,” Eddie grumbles, and drains his drink.

“You know, my little Spaghetti-O,” Richie suggests, leaning forward, “a wise man once said that love and hate are two flavors of the same popsicle.” He wiggles his eyebrows.

Eddie throws his empty cup at Richie’s face and it bounces off his glasses. “You’re such a fucking idiot,” he sighs, and stands up, brushing grass off his jeans. And then he looks down at Richie and adds, a little quieter, “Whatever. I don’t actually hate you.”

He walks away and Richie spends the rest of the party frozen there on the lawn, trying to parse those five words.

 

richie to bill [2:05 AM]
hey bill
do u think eddie likes me

bill to richie [2:05 AM]
richie where tf are you

richie to bill [2:05 AM]
wanderin the woods, thinkin my thoughts
u didn’t answer my question

 

richie to bev [2:05 AM]
hey so has eddie like ever said anything about me 2 u

bev to richie [2:06 AM]
oh honey
go to sleep

 

bill to richie [2:06 AM]
richie if you’re not back in the dorm in 10 min i’m locking the deadbolt

 

richie to ben [2:06 AM]
do u think eddie likes me

ben to richie [2:07 AM]
we all like you richie

richie to ben [2:08 AM]
not what i meant but i’ll take it

 

richie to stan [2:07 AM]
so u live with eddie right

stan to richie [2:08 AM]
We’re not doing this

richie to stan [2:08 AM]
ok but does he ever say anything about me

stan [2:09 AM]
I mean sometimes
He says he has a huge fat gay crush on you
And he wants to fuck you into next week
That sort of thing?

richie to stan [2:10 AM]
adfjsafhghwiwejrwo.;’
for real??

stan to richie [2:10 AM]
No
Go to bed and leave me alone

 

richie to bill [2:11 AM]
wait i just saw this!! omw now!!!!

 

richie to eddie [2:12 AM]
had fun talking 2 u tonight eds

eddie to richie [2:15 AM]
that’s not my name

 

richie to bill [2:17 AM]
i swear i’m almost there

bill to richie [2:17 AM]
RIP

 

losers groupchat

bev [9:32 AM]
sleepy Tozier in the lounge
[richienap.jpg]

mike [9:34 AM]
??????

bill [9:35 AM]
he had his chance.

eddie [9:39 AM]
that’s my fucking couch

 

Richie gets to the lounge two hours before movie night starts and stakes out his spot on the green couch. He alternates between scrolling through twitter on his laptop, scrolling through twitter on his phone, and a combination of the two.

Bill and Mike wander in around 7:00, when movie night is scheduled to begin. Bill looks at him and just sighs, “You’re a child, Tozier.”

“It’s comfortable,” Richie insists. “It’s got the best view.”

“I’m sure,” Mike says, and starts setting up the movie.

Stan and Eddie burst in with pizza. Stan’s entire face is flushed red and Eddie’s quivering with news. He drops the boxes on the table and announces, “Stan met his soulmate!”

“What?” Richie and Mike ask simultaneously.

“Who?” Bill asks as well.

Bev runs into the room and skids to a halt. “I heard the word soulmate,” she pants. Ben follows close behind.

“So we’re in the pizza place,” Eddie’s saying, “and there’s this girl in line in front of us, and when she tries to pick up her pizza she knocks her wallet off the counter, and so Stan picks it up and says, “I think you dropped your wallet.” And she gasps like this and says, “Oh my god, it’s you,” and look!” Eddie makes Stan turn around and holds up his shirt to show OH MY GOD IT'S YOU crawling vertically up his spine.

“Holy shit,” Richie says. “I know that girl! I met her last week!”

“Stan, that’s awesome!” Mike says.

“What’s she like?” Ben asks.

“Well, she didn’t have time for any of my soulmate-hunting suggestions,” Richie pouts. “But I guess it all worked out in the end.”

“Your soulmate hunting ideas are bullshit,” Eddie retorts.

“She’s, um, she’s nice,” Stan says, still pink. “We’re getting dinner soon.”

They glom onto him in one giant group hug and then disperse for pizza. Richie manages to keep his spot on the couch and Eddie slides in next to him. They’re not as close as last week but it’s not like Eddie’s avoiding him. It’s almost like they’re actually friends.

“No one else here has found their soulmate yet, right?” Richie asks.

“I mean, who knows,” Mike sighs.

Beverly frowns. “Ben and I are soulmates.”

“Wait, what?” Bill asks. “When did this happen?”

“When we met, duh. Like with everyone else?”

“Okay, but you didn’t tell us,” Mike counters.

“We wanted to keep it between us,” Ben says.

“Totally valid,” Eddie agrees.

“So you guys are together?” Stan asks. “You’ve been together this whole time?”

“Not really,” Ben admits. “We didn’t want to force anything. We’re just friends.”

“Fuck, that’s really sweet,” Richie groans. He nudges Eddie with his foot. “What about you, Eddie Spaghetti? Found your match?”

Eddie turns red and focuses his attention on his pizza. “No,” he mumbles, taking a huge bite.

“Well, maybe Dr. Tozier, soulmate expert, can help you there,” Richie suggests. “What’s your word?”

“I’m not fucking telling you my word,” Eddie snarls through a full mouth of pizza. He swallows. “That’s none of your business.”

“You show me yours and I’ll show you mine?” Richie offers. He holds up his arm.

“No fucking way,” Eddie huffs, curling in on himself, and Richie has no choice but to abandon his efforts.

It’s not his fault he’s curious about Eddie’s soulmate. It’s just that that person, whoever they are, has the unfortunate power to take away everything Richie loves. It seems fair to want to gather data on your rival, even if they don’t exist yet.

 

losers groupchat

richie [7:38 PM]
[standate.jpg]
stan the man wooing his lady

mike [7:38 PM]
get it stan!!!!

bill [7:39 PM]
kind of creepy of you richie!!
but yeah stan get it

ben [7:39 PM]
aw stan she’s beautiful

bev [7:40 PM]
holy shit yeah she’s gorg!!
geeettt itttt

eddie [7:40 PM]
get it stan

richie [7:40 PM]
ikr she’s like an angel

eddie [7:41 PM]
okay let’s not objectify patricia

richie [7:41 PM]
patricia!!!!!!!!!!!

bill [7:41 PM]
don’t do it richie, don’t give her a dumb nickname

richie [7:42 PM]
RUDE big bill
nothing but respect for my peppermint patty!!

mike [7:42 PM]
aaaaand there it is

richie [7:43 PM]
emergency 911 i’ve been spotted!!!!!! sos

Stan [7:44 PM]
I’m going to kill you all.



“Can I ask you about s-something?”

Richie looks up. He hasn’t heard that stutter in a while, so he knows it’s serious. “What’s up?”

Bill’s lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. “All this stuff with S-stan and Pat has me thinking… Like, how can I possibly find my soulmate? If all I have is hello? W-where do I go with that?”

“Well,” Richie starts, “I keep telling you guys, if you tried my method —”

“You’re method doesn’t work for sh-shit.”

“Excuse you!”

“But seriously,” Bill asks. “I keep wondering… like, what if I’ve already met my soulmate? And I just don’t know?”

“You think they’re keeping it a secret? Why the fuck would they do that?”

“Maybe th-they don’t know. Maybe th-their word is confusing too.”

“Like Mike?”

Bill says nothing.

“Bill,” Richie says. “If you like Mike, you could just ask him out. You don’t need proof that you’re soulmates to do that.”

“But,” Bill protests, “what if —”

Richie shushes him. He knows the what-ifs, he’s been developing a long list of them since he met Eddie. “Listen,” he says, “why not go for it? You like him and you guys just click together. Plus, there’s a non-zero chance you’re soulmates anyway. What do you have to lose?”

“My best friend,” Bill lists, “our entire friend group, the stability of our dorm —”

Richie shrugs. “Doesn’t matter. Follow your heart, Big Bill! Besides, I’m your best friend.”

Bill makes a non-committal hum. “I don’t know why I bothered to ask you,” he sighs. “You can’t even admit you like Eddie.”

“What? Who said I like Eddie?”

“Shut up,” Bill says, and rolls onto his side.

 

richie to ben [10:55 AM]
ok so u know how mike’s in love with bill

ben to richie [10:56 AM]
yes but I didn’t know you did
what, did he do something about it?

richie to ben [10:56 AM]
nah just wanted 2 confirm a theory

ben to richie [10:58 AM]
fuck
richie please don’t tell anyone, I promised to keep it a secret

richie to ben [10:58 AM]
np dude my lips are sealed
anyway i think bill’s gonna ask him out today

ben to richie [10:59 AM]
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

richie to ben [10:59 AM]
secrets secrets!!

ben to richie [11:01 AM]
okay I told bev but no one else I swear

 

richie to bill [11:23 AM]
godspeed big bill
as the kids say
get it

bill to richie [11:24 AM]
shut the fuck up

 

There’s a knock on the dorm door.

“Come in,” Richie calls and, to his great surprise, Eddie steps in. And stops and stares at him.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Eddie asks.

“Ah.” Richie remembers. “Okay, this isn’t what it looks like.”

“Kind of looks like you’re taping a shirt over the smoke detector and violating a whole bunch of fire safety rules,” Eddie says.

“Hmm,” Richie nods. “Then yeah. It’s sort of what it looks like.”

“When you get down from that chair, care to explain why you’re putting our entire building at risk?”

“Well, my darling Eds,” Richie begins, smoothing over the last piece of duct tape, “if you must know, I’m preparing to smoke a victory joint. Once again I have played Cupid and guided our friends forward on their path to romantic bliss.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Eddie says. “What do you mean ‘once again’?”

“I was the first one to meet Pat.”

“That did nothing to help Stan. It was just a coincidence.”

“You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to,” Richie shrugs, and he steps down. “So is everything good? Between Bill and Mike?”

“Very good,” Eddie says, “so good that Ben is spending the night in Bev’s room.”

“Nice!” Richie hoots. “Go Big Bill!”

“Right, but the problem is,” Eddie continues, “usually I stay with Bev on nights when, um, Stan has a guest.”

“Oho! Have you been sexiled, Eds?”

Eddie grimaces. “Please don’t use that word. Just — can I stay here tonight?”

“Of course,” Richie says, maybe too quickly. “Mi casa es tu casa.”

Eddie looks around skeptically. “Were you really about to hotbox this room?”

Richie feels briefly self-conscious. He had been, and he had been looking forward to it, but now he remembers that Eddie carries an inhaler everywhere and has some kind of breathing condition. “I don’t have to,” he offers. The last thing he wants is for Eddie to have to leave.

“Can I join?” Eddie asks.

In this moment Richie knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that this whole soulmate system must be a scam. There is no way Eddie’s not the only one for him. 

They sit on Richie’s bed and pass the joint back and forth. Eddie gets giddy when he’s high, and it’s super cute. Richie wants to reach over and muss his hair, so he does, and then he keeps doing it, and then he’s scratching Eddie’s head.

“That’s super gross,” Eddie says. “Like, you don’t know where my hair has been.” But he settles his head in Richie’s lap to allow him easier access, and his eyes flutter shut as Richie’s fingers graze his scalp. He’s so beautiful. Richie wants him here, under him, always.

“Did you really mean it the other night?” he asks softly. “When you said you didn’t hate me?”

Eddie nods. “Of course.”

“You’re always so mean to me.”

“You’re always really annoying.”

“You’re cute when you’re annoyed.”

Eddie opens his eyes. Richie’s hand stills, terrified he’s gone too far. Eddie sits up.

“Do you really think I’m cute?” he asks suspiciously. “Or are you just saying that for the jokes?”

Richie’s not sure how to bullshit his way out of this one. “You’re adorable, Eddie Spaghetti.”

Eddie makes a noise of frustration. “This is what I mean,” he says. “You don’t take me seriously!” He moves as if to go and Richie grabs his wrist.

“Eds, Eds, hey, I always take you seriously.”

“Okay,” Eddie says, “prove it. Kiss me.”

This seems like a bit of a leap and, despite all the times he’s dreamt of this, Richie feels caught off-guard. He backs against the wall. “I don’t know if this is a good idea, Eddie, you’re high, and —”

“I’m a little buzzed, I’m not wasted,” Eddie insists. “I can consent. It’s just a kiss. Come on.”

Richie knows that this is a terrible idea, but Eddie looks determined, and he’s not going to pass up an opportunity to live his dreams, so he crawls across the bed back over to Eddie.

“Okay,” he says quietly. “Here I go.”

“Just do it, you don’t have to narrate the proce— mmf."

Maybe it’s the high, more likely it’s Eddie, but it’s the best kiss in the world. Eddie’s lips are soft and slick and Eddie opens his mouth almost immediately. It’s a kiss Richie could get lost in forever. And Eddie’s kissing him back, almost urgently, almost like he wants it as much as Richie does, a thought which is too much for Richie to even process.

And then Eddie’s in his lap and his hands are slipping under Richie’s shirt and it’s hotter than anything Richie could have pictured. He lets Eddie pull off his shirt and then does the same for him and kisses his neck. Eddie shudders under the kisses, twists his fingers in Richie’s hair, and pulls. Richie lets out an embarrassing whine.

“Fuck,” Richie pants, and he looks up at Eddie. “Is this — Do you want this?”

“Of course I want this,” Eddie says, also breathless. “Do you?”

“Yeah, duh, I’ve wanted you forever,” Richie says.

“Okay, well, you should keep kissing me then,” Eddie says, and Richie does. He kisses Eddie and he lets his fingers trail down Eddie’s chest and to the waistband of his pants. He undoes the button and opens his eyes to meet Eddie’s.

“Still good?” he asks, and Eddie nods, eyes wide.

Then Richie uses both hands to unzip Eddie’s jeans and hook his fingers in the waistband and pull — and then he stops.

“What the fuck is this,” Richie asks. It feels like someone else is saying the words for him, or like his body is asking the question by itself while the rest of him is somewhere far, far away.

“What?” Eddie asks.

“Your soul mark,” Richie says, voice trembling. It’s scratched just under Eddie’s hipbone: HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE NAUGHTY GOAT CONSPIRACY.

“What the fuck,” Richie repeats. He feels numb, like his high has been punctured and is slowly hissing out of him. “I said this. I said this to you.”

He looks up to Eddie, as if that might ground him, as if he might have a better explanation for what happened. Eddie looks like a deer in headlights.

“Okay,” Eddie starts. “I know I should have told you, but —”

“But what? What the fuck, Eddie?”

“I didn’t know when to bring it up!”

“Maybe when I asked you? Or maybe when I first fucking said it?”

Eddie’s face is flushed, but with anger now. “Well, it’s not like you made the best first impression! And maybe I didn’t want everyone to know my word!”

“What, so you’re embarrassed about me?”

“I mean, it’s pretty fucking embarrassing!” Eddie cries. “I’ve spent my entire life with the dumbest possible combination of words permanently written on my skin, I think I have some right to be a little miffed about that.”

“Well I’m sorry I didn’t have anything more eloquent prepared —”

“That’s not the point! This is what I mean, you treat everything like a joke, even your fucking soulmate.”

“It’s not a joke,” Richie argues back. “It was so I could find you. And it would have worked if you weren’t such an asshole about it!”

“Oh, I’m the asshole?”

“You knew we were soulmates this whole time and you said nothing! You watched me freak out about it and you knew!”

“When was I supposed to tell you, Richie? Between the dick jokes and the “your mom” jokes, oh, by the way, some random fucking force decided to throw us together?”

“It’s more than that and you know it,” Richie insists. “Are you scared? Is that what this is?”

“No, I’m not scared! I just wanted to be cautious. I’m not gonna throw myself at a guy I don’t even know because he says the right nonsense.”

“Is that why you didn’t tell me? Because of the words?”

“I mean, the words didn’t help,” Eddie bites. “I just, well, fine, okay, to be honest, I just wasn’t sure how I felt about being in a relationship with someone who obviously can’t take anything seriously. Sue me.”

Richie sucks in a breath. He feels like he’s been punched in the gut. “Wow. I’m sorry you’re saddled with me, that must really suck for you.”

“That’s not what I —”

“Did you know how I felt? Was this a fucking joke to you?”

Eddie gapes. “What you felt?”

Richie starts pulling his shirt on. “Here I’ve been beating myself up for falling for the wrong guy,” he says, “and then it turns out it was the right guy all along, but hey, he just didn’t want anything to do with me —”

“Richie, that’s not fucking fair.”

“You know what’s not fair? You didn’t even tell me. You just decided for both of us that it wasn’t gonna work out.”

“But I was right, wasn’t I?” Eddie snaps. “Look at this!”

Richie glares at him. “You can have the room,” he says and leaves.

He lies down on the floor of the lounge. It takes him three hours to fall asleep.

 

losers groupchat

bill [9:21 AM]
uh so
i thought we were gonna be the ones with the embarrassing walk of shame

bev [9:23 AM]
not a walk of shame if you’re not ashamed about it

stan [9:23 AM]
Please don’t be gross
Pat stayed the night, we watched movies, whatever

ben [9:24 AM]
I got up to go to the bathroom & saw richie asleep in the lounge? I didn’t imagine this right

mike [9:24 AM]
so like did anyone sleep in their own room last night?

bev [9:25 AM]
i was in my room but i wasn’t sleeping :)))))

ben [9:25 AM]
it’s true
we were up pretty late playing mario kart

eddie [9:27 AM]
why is it anyone’s business where we sleep

stan [9:28 AM]
Where did you sleep last night, Eddie?

 

bill to richie [9:31 AM]
everything ok?
i mean
is there a reason i came into our room and found Eddie crying on your bed
also our whole room reeks of weed, wtf
you could febreze at least???

bill to richie [10:09 AM]
okay just check in whenever you can

 

losers groupchat

bill [10:23 AM]
anyone heard from richie today?

ben [10:23 AM]
not since I saw him in the lounge this morning
didn’t he go back to bed?

stan [10:24 AM]
Dining hall?

mike [10:24 AM]
just got breakfast, he’s not there

bill [10:24 AM]
he’s not responding to my texts :(

bev [10:24 AM]
he prob forgot to charge his phone

 

eddie to richie [10:24 AM]
hi can we talk??
i’m sorry about last night
and everything else

 

richie to bill [3:46 PM]
out 4 a walk

bill to richie [3:46 PM]
CALL ME

 

Bill finds Richie in the woods on the edge of campus, staring at the rushing waters of the stream.

“You’re so f-fucking dramatic, Richie,” he sighs.

Richie frowns and throws a rock into the stream.

“Eddie told me what happened,” Bill continues, lowering himself onto the log next to Richie. “Or some of it, at least. You guys are soulmates?”

“Apparently.”

“You didn’t know?”

“No fucking clue.”

“And you ran away?”

Richie drops his head between his knees. “Eddie doesn’t want me to be his soulmate. He hates me. He’s always fucking hated me.”

“I don’t think he hates you,” Bill says gently.

Richie scoffs. “Then why wouldn’t he tell me?”

“Maybe he wasn’t ready. This soulmate stuff is s-scary. You can’t force it.”

“I didn’t,” Richie moans. “I didn’t even think he was my soulmate and I was fucking nuts over him anyway.”

Bill rubs his back. “Richie,” he asks, “why are you moping in the woods?”

“I’m not moping.”

“Richie.”

“I dunno. I’m not ready to face him.”

“Well, nothing’s going to get better out here. Go talk to him.”

“Counterpoint,” Richie suggests, “what if I just die here?”

“We’re going back to the dorm,” Bill says firmly, and tugs him up. “Right now.”

The sun has already started to set when they emerge from the woods. They walk up the hill and cross the driveway to step back onto campus, and that’s when Richie sees it: there’s a chalk drawing of a goat on the sidewalk. And another one.

“Hey Bill,” Richie asks, “what the fuck is that?”

Bill shrugs. It’s a suspicious shrug.

They follow the path away from the woods. There are more goats, and winking faces, and finally Richie stops and sees the words scrawled in huge letters on the ground: HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE NAUGHTY GOAT CONSPIRACY???

“Is this a trick?” Richie demands. “Or some sort of prank?”

It’s everywhere, on each path they turn on as they wind their way to the dorm. No sidewalk remains unchalked, and it looks like a massive herd of two dimensional goats has been released to run riot over the campus. And then there’s that question, scrawled in big letters and small letters and all caps and cursive, over and over and over again. 

It’s the work of a deranged lunatic.

It’s the work of Richie’s deranged lunatic.

Eddie’s sitting on the steps of the dorm, draped in an oversized hoodie. He stands up at the sight of them. He’s twisting his hands, clearly nervous.

“You forget your keys, Eds?” Richie asks, as casually as he can. “Do we need to call campus security to let you in?”

“Please don’t,” Eddie says with a grimace, “they’ve already yelled at me three times today. I got an official warning.” But he lifts his chin when he says it, almost proud.

Richie’s face spreads into a smile before he can stop it. “Whatever did you do to deserve that, dear Eddie Spaghetti?”

“Shut up,” Eddie says, red-faced. “I tried to make a gesture.”

“You sure made something.” He’s at the base of the steps now, and Eddie’s face is just above his own. It’s funny to have to look up at Eddie.

“Hey,” Eddie says softly. “I’m sorry. Really.”

Richie shrugs. “It’s whatever.”

“It’s not, though. I’m sorry. I was scared.”

It’s not as bad as Eddie hating him, but it doesn’t feel great. “I don’t want you to be scared of me, Eds.”

“Not you exactly. But I was scared, I don’t know, that I’d tell you and you’d get all weird, like the joke had gone too far. I thought you were fucking with me. I didn’t think you actually liked me.”

Richie laughs a little at that, because it’s the most absurd thing he’s ever heard. “Eds. I’ve been head over heels for you since we fucking met.”

Eddie rolls his eyes. “Well, I know that now.”

“The first time I saw you walk into the lounge, I thought, please lord let that boy be my soulmate.”

“Okay, okay, I get it.”

“And then you said my word and I thought, no fucking way, how am I this lucky —”

“Richie, c’mon.”

“I mean it! I thought you were the most beautiful person I’d ever see—”

Eddie cuts him off with a kiss. He grabs Richie’s face in his hands, tilted up towards his own, and Richie lets his arms slide around his waist as he kisses him back enthusiastically. He hoists Eddie up into the air and Eddie wraps his legs around him, still kissing him fiercely. This is how he wants to be always, absorbed in Eddie and kissing Eddie and surrounded by Eddie. He wants to hold him in his arms forever and kiss him until they both run out of air.

“Can we g-go inside now?”

They break the kiss and turn their heads. Bill raises his eyebrows. Eddie slides down Richie until his feet reach the ground again.

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Eddie says. He grabs Richie’s hand and tugs him inside. Richie follows gladly, up to Eddie’s (thankfully empty) room, and shuts the door behind them.

“I feel like we’ve wasted so much time,” Eddie says after he pounces on Richie again. “Like, all these months, I could have been kissing you instead of, like, freaking out.”

“Mmmm,” Richie agrees, kissing up and down Eddie’s neck, but he pauses long enough to add, “that’s your fault though, hundo p.”

“You could have made a move, you know,” Eddie tries to argue, but the end of his sentence turns into a squeak when Richie kisses behind his ear.

“Nice try,” Richie murmurs, and nips his earlobe. Then he pulls back to look Eddie in the eye. “You know I’m totally in love with you, right?”

Eddie blushes. “Well, I am your soulmate.”

“I mean it, Eds. Soulmate shit aside. I love you.”

Eddie’s mouth twists up into a smile. “Yeah, okay. I love you too.”

Richie swoops in and kisses him, because he can’t help it.

“Cool,” he says. “Glad we got that sorted out.”

Eddie rolls his eyes. “You’re a fucking dork,” he says, and he pushes Richie down onto the bed.

 

losers groupchat

bev [6:14 PM]
omg eddie and richie we’re so happy for you
but for the love of god
these walls are so thin

stan [6:15 PM]
👀👀

mike [6:15 PM]
who taught stan emojis??

bill [6:16 PM]
he’s got a point tho
you’re not exactly quiet when you play “”mario kart””

bev [6:16 PM]
BLOCKED

mike [6:16 PM]
but also congrats eddie & richie
for finally figuring shit out

ben [6:17 PM]
I called it!!

stan [6:17 PM]
I called it first

ben [6:17 PM]
you live with eddie that’s not fair
you’ve seen his soul mark like a hundred times

stan [6:18 PM]
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

mike [6:18 PM]
no but seriously who did this to our stan

bill [6:18 PM]
guess
(it rhymes with itchy)

bev [6:24 PM]
so i’m guessing movie night’s not happening
given that it’s eddie’s turn to pick
and, well

ben [6:25 PM]
we could get pizza anyway?
watch something on netflix

mike [6:25 PM]
yah i’m down

bill [6:25 PM]
7pm in the lounge?

stan [6:25 PM]
👍

eddie [7:02 PM]
we’re coming!!

bev [7:02 PM]
i bet u are

richie [7:02 PM]
bev u perv
i’ll have u kno we spent the past hour stroking each others hair & reciting poetry
perfectly innocent

bill [7:03 PM]
no. you didn’t

mike [7:03 PM]
anyway we have pizza
hot & fresh in the lounge

richie [7:04 PM]
eddie’s about 2 b hot & fresh in the lounge!!

eddie [7:04 PM]
it’s over. never speak to me again

richie [7:04 PM]
BABE
:( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :(
babe :(

mike [7:05 PM]
hey eddie did you see the dean’s email about “inappropriate graffiti”

eddie [7:05 PM]
whatever, i did it for love

richie [7:05 PM]
BABE
:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
babe :)

stan [7:06 PM]
Eddie it’s your turn to pick a movie

eddie [7:06 PM]
ik ik be there in a sec

bill [7:07 PM]
we’re serious
stop making out & come join movie night

bev [7:07 PM]
if you’re not here in 2 mins i’m taking the green couch

eddie [7:07 PM]
NO

richie [7:07 PM]
COMING

bev [7:08 PM]
knew it :)