Richie had lived many years, 41, to be precise, and he hadn't known a thing about vulnerability. Such thing was a complete stranger to him.
But now, lying in a bed together with the love of his life, he let his thoughts wander. He propped himself up on one elbow, looking over to Eddie, who was still asleep. And finally some things made sense to him. It wasn't that he hadn't felt like this before per se, after all he had pinned after Eddie for the better half of his teenage years, but right now, the feeling wasn't tainted with repression and internalized hate. It was free and transparent.
Vulnerability in its essence is one of the greatest dangers and weapons of humanity. In vulnerability there's always a sense of duality, and while being vulnerable you agree to both sides, whether deliberately or not.
It can be peace and misery, a curse and it's cure, all at once. You place your heart and soul in the palms of another person, giving the person the liberty to do whatever they want with them, even breaking them. You just trust them enough that they won't. A trust like that is something that can either crush you in pieces or mend you.
A trust like that is strength, despite what many might believe, Richie realized. It's bulletproof, wholly and irreversibly indestructible down to the very core; it protects you, because it allows you to find a home in another person. A home that's beyond material values is a small salvation of its own; it's safety and security, it's pure, unadulterated love that vividly pierces trough you, providing you with strength unlike any other.
That is, if the love is mutual of course. To misplace trust like that can cause such heartache that can shake the very ground you stand on, to make it crumble beneath you, taking you with it. It's a huge risk, but Richie has always been a risk taker, and oh, how easy it was to take this one. After around 8 years spent pinning and 27 not remembering, that is of course.
To love and to be loved like that was something that Richie never consider to be possible for him, yet here it was, right in front of him, in a form of this small, hyperactive hypochondriac 41 year-old who calls him an idiot on daily basis. With him, he finally felt at home, with him all the misplaced pieces suddenly fell into place.
Richie looked at Eddie, eyes running over every feature of his, watched how the sunlight from the window created a soft glow and delicate shadows on his face and it finally hit him; the fact that he could just do this now. He could love Eddie, as a man, and as a human, with nothing stopping him.
Eddie sighed and shifted in his sleep, turning his face to the side, his hair falling on his face. Richie reached over and pushed the escaping lock of hair behind his ear, then gently run his knuckles over his cheek.
Eddie was snoring not so quietly and a little drool was coming out of his mouth and he hadn't taken a shower yesterday because he had had a quite tiring day at work, and oh dear god and all heavens above, he looked so stunning Richie could cry.
He had picked up the habit of just simply watching Eddie. He liked watching him do simple, mundane things, like reading a book or cooking, or anything really. While there was a certain thrill of doing new things with Eddie of course, there now was newfound enjoyment in simplicity. Maybe he was really getting old, but he found that just being with Eddie was enough. Or maybe it was the fact that he had come so close to losing Eddie, that now he really was relishing that he was alive, breathing.
"Fucking creep." Eddie's voice echoed trough Richie's thoughts, making him snap out of it. He looked down and noticed Eddie's vivid, sparkling eyes looking at him.
"Well, good morning to you too, spaghetti-man, " Richie said, a smile already forming on his face.
Even just woken up, sleep mussed Eddie was able to direct a death glare Richie's way. ''I swear to god, if you don’t stop calling me that, dude.''
Richie raised one eyebrow. "And how is calling me dude any better? As if we're two straight dudes, complaining about our wives, watching sports, ya know, living our best heterosexual lives. If you need to be reminded, we fucked yesterday. That's not very 'dude' of us.''
Eddie signed, sat up in the bed and run his hand trough his hair. Then he turned to Richie, who was watching him with a grin on his face. ''You know what, you're right, I just realized that I am, in fact, a heterosexual man, sorry, dude,'' he said, making sure to emphasize the word 'dude', ''I gotta go back to my wife, I don't think she'll be very happy if she finds out that I have once again stayed the night at some attractive mans house.''
Richie snorted and sat up too. "Hmm, and how often exactly do you stay at the houses of these attractive men?" He slowly put his hand over Eddie's chest, gently running his hand over the big scar that now decorated Eddies front and back. Eddie was still quite insecure about it, so Richie never stopped reminding him how beautiful he was and that a scar like that could never change that.
Goosebumps rose on Eddie's skin and he shivered. He put his hand over Richie's and laced their fingers. "Every night." He whispered, then leaned forward and softly kissed Richie, to which Richie was quick to respond. Kissing Eddie was something that he never got tired of.
When Eddie pulled back slightly, Richie spoke again, changing his voice to sound more like a professional doctor. ''Well, Mr. Kaspbrak, I sure do have some new for you. I have to diagnose you with Richie Tozier-sexuality. This includes being incredibly attracted to dudes with dad bods and terrible personal hygiene. '' He announced, matter-of-factly, counting the things he listed on his fingers for emphasis.
Eddie pulled back a bit more, just enough to fix Richie with a pointed look. ''Is there any cure to this horrible disease? '' His voice was serious, but his eyes twinkled with amusement.
''Yeah, I recommend getting under the covers with me immediately, that should help you quite alright. '' Richie declared, while pointing at the blankets on their bed.
Eddie raised one eyebrow and tilted his head. ''Are you always this flirty with your patients? ''
''Yeah, actually. I am flirty with every single one of my patients, which include, hmm let me check, '' He then pretended to check an invisible list of patients that he apparently has, and then continued, ''Eddie Kaspbrak. Yeah, that would be all. ''
Eddie smirked, leaning forward, and slowly running his thumb over Richie's lower lip. ''How very unprofessional of you, doctor. ''
Richie had no idea how they always could go from stupid jokes like that, to heavy flirting like this. But he wasn't about to complain, rather the opposite.
Richie already felt his cheeks reddening. ''Will I get punished for it? '' He whispered, pressing so close to Eddie that they were breathing the same air.
''Oh, most certainly. '' Came the reply, which Richie felt more on his lips rather then heard. Then Eddie pulled back, Richie chasing after him, and while still having that suggestive smirk, calmly said, ''Go do the dishes, babe. ''
Richie gasped and scrunched up his face in disappointment. ''Bro, really?!''
Eddie only snorted and tilted his head. ''And who's being a straight dude now, huh?'' He laughed, so open and happy, that Richie couldn't help but to swoon at, after all this time all he still could think was - 'cute cute cute'.
''Well, shit you caught me, all the internalized homophobia that I've felt my whole life has been fake and I actually do like boobs!''
Eddie signed, laid back down on his back and sprayed out his hands. He looked at Richie, pressing his lips in a thin line and then smiling sadly. ''I fucking hate this. It's fucking bullshit. That we had to go through that. ''
Richie joined him, snuggling up close to Eddie, laying his head on his chest. ''Yeah. It sucked ass, but I am happy now though. You make me so happy, Eds.'' He took Eddies hand and started playing with his fingers. A stupid joke about sucking ass was on the tip of his tongue, but he held back. He has used humor to hide his true feelings for his whole life, but being with Eddie made him realize that maybe, sometimes it was good to just feel.
Being this close to another person was still a challenge to him. Living a life mostly all by himself, never letting anyone close left it's impact after all. He had built walls upon walls, but with Eddie there beside him, he could feel them slowly crumbling.
''You make me so happy too, Rich.'' He kissed the top of Richie's head, took a deep breath and whispered, ''I love you.''
Richie tried his best to still his beating heart and blushing cheeks. This wasn’t the first time they’ve told these words to each other, but every time they still made Richie's breath get stuck in his throat, and his heart skip a beat. ''I love you too, Eds, I love you too. ''
Then Richie looked up, into Eddie's eyes and saw that he too was still affected by words like that. He smiled, open and bright, and Eddie smiled back, just the same, his eyes full of fondness and unmistakable, undeniable love.
And Eddie looking at him like that made him realize that perhaps being in love really was an endless free fall. You trip over the edge at that's it, no ground to reach, just you falling deeper and deeper and deeper. And he never wanted to stop.
Now he could say that he knew a thing or two about vulnerability, and honestly, it's a pretty fucking good feeling.