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when i swing by

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Eddie hates navigating parking garages after conventions. It’s not that he can’t find his car, because he always remembers where he’s parked, but weaving through cosplayers and groups of people not looking where they’re going and cars trying to get in and out of the garage as fast as possible without committing vehicular manslaughter, it all makes him twitchy with anxiety. That’s why this year he decided to pay the exorbitant fee to park in the garage for the fancy hotel down the street from the convention center. He’s walking through the relatively quiet garage and thinking about the Spider-Man panel he went to earlier in the day, lost in his own head, and he nearly jumps out of his skin when a voice calls out, “Eddie Kaspbrak?”

Eddie is slow to turn around, trying to think of who could possibly recognize him and know his full name — god, he hopes it’s not one of his coworkers — and then he finds himself staring at a very familiar face.

Richie Tozier, Eddie’s very best friend from kindergarten until eighth grade when the Toziers packed up and moved from Maine to California; Richie Tozier, Eddie’s gay awakening at the age of twelve when he realized he wanted to hold Richie’s hand more than he wanted to do anything else.

Richie fucking Tozier, the face of Sam Raimi’s early 2000s Spider-Man trilogy and Eddie’s gay reawakening in his twenties. Eddie’s most intense celebrity crush. The special guest at the Spider-Man panel Eddie was just dwelling on. Eddie can feel his ears burning immediately and hopes the blush isn’t as obvious as he feels like it is.

“Holy shit, hi,” he says. Richie is wearing the same thing he’d worn to the panel: an extremely loud paisley button-down and dark jeans, the same thick glasses Eddie remembers him wearing when they were kids, converse that appear to be held together in places by duct tape, like he’s a broke teenager and not a C-list actor in his late thirties. Unreal. 

Richie’s grinning at him. “I thought that was you! Wow, what the fuck are the chances, dude? It’s been — shit, it’s been decades. Do you do hugs? Can I hug you?” 

Eddie laughs slightly, feeling a bit like someone’s hit him over the head with a cartoon hammer. “Yeah, of course,” he says, and then he’s hugging Richie Tozier in a hotel parking garage. Richie is big, broad-shouldered, with strong arms, and he gives great hugs. Eddie can’t stop thinking about one of the questions at Richie’s panel, asking him if he did his own stunts in the Spider-Man movies — he’d laughed and said, “Kinda! I was on wires and everything though. I can’t actually do a backflip, I had noodles for muscles back then.” 

Richie decidedly does not have noodles for muscles now. Eddie’s face is hot when he pulls away from the hug, looking up into Richie’s smiling face.

“What are you doing here?” Eddie asks.

“I was in a panel and a photo op thing earlier,” Richie says, hooking a thumb back behind him in the direction of the convention center.

Eddie rolls his eyes. As if he doesn’t know Richie’s famous. “Yeah I know, idiot, I was there.” He winces internally when he realizes maybe he shouldn’t be mouthing off to Richie moments after seeing him again for the first time in years, but Richie just cracks up. 

“You were not there, I would’ve recognized you if you were at the photo op!” Richie says. 

That’s exactly why Eddie decided not to purchase a photo op pass, but he doesn’t admit that. “I was at the panel. I meant why are you in the parking garage?”

“Making a secret escape,” Richie says, winking. “I’m staying at the hotel, and if I cut through the garage I can avoid getting stopped by fans. Not that I’m like, Tom Cruise or anything, but one time a girl did try to follow me to my hotel room. Anyway, who cares about that, what have you been up to?”

Eddie laughs awkwardly. “Me? Nothing exciting, man. I work in insurance.”

Richie’s giving him a knowing sort of smile, the kind that always spelled trouble when they were kids. Eddie’s honestly kind of amazed by how quickly he recognizes it. “Nothing exciting? I know that’s not true.” At Eddie’s blank look, he adds, “I’ve seen the video, Eds.”

It takes a moment to process, but then Eddie realizes what he must be talking about and groans, covering his face with his hands. “Shut the fuck up, you have not.”

Richie cackles. “Oh but I have, Eduardo. Don’t be embarrassed, it was very thorough.”

He’s referring to Eddie’s semi-viral video uploaded to YouTube several years ago, entitled “Everything Wrong With Spider-Man 3.” It’s twenty-seven minutes long. Eddie rants, very passionately, about the third Spider-Man movie, to the mixed delight and outrage of the comments section. “Why the fuck did you watch that!” Eddie exclaims. 

Richie looks fucking delighted to have gotten Eddie flustered. He really hasn’t changed, Eddie thinks. “Because it was you, obviously! And it’s fucking hysterical. You really tear it to shreds, man. Some real deep cuts.”

“I — it’s not that harsh,” Eddie says weakly. “It’s fucking justified,” he adds, because embarrassed as he is, he’s not about to pretend he’s wrong. He has capital-O Opinions about Spider-Man, which Richie well knows, no use in acting like he doesn’t. 

Richie’s grin only widens. “Oh, for sure. My favorite part is when you call me cute, though.” 

“I never fucking said that!” Eddie yelps. 

“Pretty sure you said something about the movie’s one redeeming feature being that ‘Tozier is as charming as ever,’” Richie says, putting on what’s clearly supposed to be Eddie’s voice at the end.

Okay, Eddie did say that. He fights the urge to hide his face in his hands again. “Charming is not the same as cute,” he says, feeling the familiar instinct to be contrary the way he always did when he and Richie were growing up together. He can also feel himself grinning like a fucking idiot. It’s probably fine, considering Richie is making a similarly stupid expression. Then, something in his face twitches and shifts, and Eddie can practically see him go through a brief internal debate and come to some kind of decision.

“Hey, do you wanna — get dinner or something, and catch up?” Richie asks abruptly. “Like, I was just gonna go back to my hotel room for the night, but if you don’t have anything going on…” 

“Oh yeah, definitely!” Eddie says, nodding rapidly. “That’d be great.” Then he remembers that Richie is something of a celebrity, and the downtown area is going to be crawling with nerds from the convention, and there’s a part of him that wants to be a bit selfish, wants Richie all to himself for the evening. “If you want to avoid the like, mobs of adoring fans or whatever, we could go back to my place,” he says. He tries very hard to make sure it doesn’t sound like a come-on. Based on the way Richie’s eyebrows raise, he’s not sure he succeeded. “We can order takeout?” he adds weakly.

To his surprise, Richie just says, “I’d like that, yeah.” 

So Eddie drives Richie Tozier, his former best friend and current stupid nerdy crush, to his apartment, and they order pizza and sit on Eddie’s couch and shoot the shit. It feels surprisingly normal. There’s the little part of Eddie that’s jittery with excitement and nerves about having a celebrity in his house, but like… it’s Richie. Even after years apart, they fit back together like no time has passed at all. 

“I still can’t believe you watched my video, that’s so fucking embarrassing,” Eddie says, dropping the crust of his fourth piece of pizza onto his plate. “Please tell me no one else in the cast has seen it.”

Richie sneaks a hand out to steal the crust for himself. “Oh yeah dude, Kirsten Dunst and I had a watch party for it and everything,” he says. At Eddie’s alarmed look, he bursts out laughing. “I’m fucking with you, man, no! Just me. I was so excited when I saw it was you. It was nice to know you kept up with the movies, I don’t know. I was thinking of you when I auditioned back in 2000.” 

Eddie’s cheeks grow warm. “What? Shut up, no you weren’t.”

“I was!” Richie insists. “I remembered how Spider-Man was always your favorite, you know, so I was like, man, if I get this Eds will think it’s so cool. I didn’t know if maybe you’d outgrown all your comic book shit, but. It was a nice thought.”

“I saw the movie opening night,” Eddie says, smiling slightly at the memory. How it had felt to see Richie on the big screen, young and dorky and earnest. How he’d felt so proud and excited, how his heart had raced when he watched MJ roll down part of Spider-Man’s mask to kiss him upside-down in the rain. How he’d pressed his lips together hard, in the dark of the movie theater, and thought fuck, I wish that was me. 

“Aww,” Richie coos, exaggerated and teasing, but Eddie can tell from his expression that he’s genuinely pleased.

“Rich, you know I —” Eddie pauses, biting his lip. “I really didn’t mean to lose touch with you, you know? My mom never told me when you called, and she wouldn’t let me use the phone, and then it had been a couple years and I didn’t know if you had a new number or if you even still remembered me, so. I’m sorry.”

“Aw, Eds,” Richie says again, but this time there’s nothing teasing about it. “I know that, man. I knew.” They share a long, quiet moment just looking at each other, and Eddie is thinking about the kiss in the rain again, but before his mind can swing too far into dangerous territory, Richie says, “Seriously though, what have you been up to? You got family? A girlfriend?”

Eddie gestures broadly to his apartment. “Does this place look like other people come stay here?” he says. “No, man, I’m not — not seeing anyone. Haven’t had anything serious in like… an embarrassingly long time, to be honest with you.”

Richie raises his eyebrows. “I mean, I did notice you weren’t wearing a ring, but I didn’t wanna assume anything.”

“Fuck off, yes you did,” Eddie says without heat. He smiles ruefully. “I mean, you’re not wrong, anyway. It’s not like I haven’t wanted to, it’s just, uh. Well, are you ready to lose all respect for me?”

Richie snorts. “Sure.”

“After I finished my master’s, my mom got really sick. She couldn’t live on her own anymore, and I just. I didn’t want to put her in assisted living or anything like that, she would’ve hated it and those places, you know, they don’t always treat people well, so I… I moved back in with her. And she was sick for like a decade, it was just this really long, horrible decline, and I couldn’t really date anyone seriously through all of that. I didn’t want to bring anyone back to my place, I didn’t want them to meet her, it was just a whole — well, you remember how my mom was.”

Richie nods. “Unfortunately.” He winces. “Sorry, that was shitty.”

Eddie huffs a quiet laugh. “It’s fine. It’s valid, after how she always treated you. So anyway, yeah, that’s why. I only moved into this place a couple years ago, I feel like I’m in my twenties again, with my shitty little bachelor’s pad and my fucking comic book display cases. I had to keep all that shit in a box under my bed when I was living with my mom.”

“Oh my god, like porn?” Richie says. “Eds, that is so sad.” 

“Yeah yeah, laugh it up,” Eddie says, shoving him. Richie lets him, flopping dramatically sideways against the arm of the couch, and then sits up again. 

“So you’re telling me you haven’t had a girlfriend since what, college?” Richie asks.

Eddie takes a deep breath. Now or never, he thinks. He takes the plunge. “Oh no, I gave up on the whole girlfriend thing in high school,” he says. “Had a couple boyfriends in college, though.” He says it very, very casually. He glances at Richie, gauging his reaction.

Richie blinks a couple of times. A small smile twitches at the corners of his mouth. “Right on,” he says, like a complete doofus. “I uh, same. The boyfriends thing. In college.”

Eddie hasn’t exactly been keeping up with Richie’s dating life, but he knows that he’s been a relatively private person, as much as Hollywood allows for that kind of thing. It helps that his most famous roles were in the early 2000s, so he’s able to fly under the radar more these days. And Eddie’s had his suspicions, but he tried very hard not to think about it. 

“I really missed you, you know,” Richie says after a moment. “Like, I thought about you all the time and I had no idea how I’d ever get in touch with you again and then I saw that video and I was like, wow. He’s exactly the same.” 

“Ranting about the finer details of the Spider-Man franchise?” Eddie asks, smiling.

Richie laughs. “Yeah, man! In your little fucking Spidey pajamas, always talking my ear off at sleepovers and shit. I thought you were so cute.”

Eddie’s head is spinning a little bit. The pizza, mostly gone now, is forgotten on the coffee table. Outside, it’s starting to rain, the sound of it hushed against the living room window. And Richie is sitting there across from Eddie on the couch, wearing his horrible shirt and a nervous smile and looking both everything and nothing like the kid Eddie loved and the young man Eddie watched embody his favorite superhero on the big screen. He reaches across the couch cushions to put his hand over Richie’s. Richie flips his hand palm-up so he can lace their fingers together and squeezes gently. “Me too,” Eddie says.

“You thought you were cute, too?” Richie asks, tongue pressing into his cheek to keep from smiling.

“No, asshole,” Eddie says, huffing a slight laugh. “You! I thought you were really cute. I still do.”

“I knew it,” Richie says, faux-smug, but there’s a blush creeping over his face, and his smile has turned almost shy. 

Eddie rolls his eyes. “Sure you did.” They look at each other, a quiet sort of tension building, the air feeling very still. Eddie leans in a little, and Richie mirrors him, his eyes drifting half shut —

And then Richie’s phone beeps, startling them both. Richie leans back, pulling it out of his pocket with some difficulty, and then sighs ruefully when he looks at the screen. “Shit. It’s my agent, she’s asking where I am. I’ve got an early flight tomorrow, so…” He rubs the back of his neck. “I should probably get back. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine!” Eddie says quickly, trying to stomp down his disappointment. “Seriously, Rich, it’s no problem. Sorry for keeping you out so late.”

Richie laughs a little. “Believe me, I was happy to stay.” He shoves his phone back in his pocket and gets to his feet, so Eddie follows suit. Going shy again, Richie asks, “Can I, uh… can I see you again sometime?”

“You’d fucking better,” Eddie says, punching him lightly on the shoulder. “Gimme your number, man, let me know next time you’re in New York. I want to see you.” 

“Cool,” Richie says, beaming at him. He plugs his number into Eddie’s phone, and then calls himself an Uber despite Eddie’s offer to drive him back to the hotel. “I don’t wanna put you out, man, you bought dinner already.” 

“You’re not putting me out,” Eddie says, rolling his eyes, but he doesn’t push it. They’re both a little awkward after their almost-moment on the couch, standing by Eddie’s door and shuffling their feet while they wait for Richie’s ride to show up.

“I might be flying back here for a weekend next month,” Richie says abruptly. “If you want to hang out then. I could take you to dinner? Someplace nice?”

“Like a date?” Eddie asks.

Richie’s blushing again. “If you want it to be.” 

“Sounds like you want it to be a date, Mr. Bigshot,” Eddie says. As a kid, Richie was always the one getting Eddie embarrassed and flustered. It’s a little thrilling to be the one making him blush now. Not wanting to keep him in suspense, Eddie adds, “Yeah, dude, of course I want it to be. What do you think this was?”

Richie shrugs, shooting Eddie a mischievous look. “Well, I don’t know. You didn’t even kiss me.”

“I was getting to it!” Eddie exclaims, and Richie cracks up. Before Eddie can get to it, Richie’s phone notifies him that his ride is outside. 

Richie’s laughter subsides. “Well…” he says, reaching for the doorknob. “Um, I’ll see you around, Eds.” 

“See ya,” Eddie echoes. He watches Richie pull the door open and step out into the rain, his heart sinking a little. And then he thinks what the fuck am I doing? and lurches forward, following Richie outside. He’s immediately drenched, water getting under the collar of his shirt and blurring his vision. He grabs Richie’s arm, and Richie turns, looking at him with confusion. Eddie fists the front of Richie’s shirt in his other hand and tugs him down into a hard kiss. 

It’s a mess at first, the rain making it slippery and awkward and off-center, but then Richie’s hands cradle Eddie’s face, their mouths slide together better, and it suddenly becomes really good. Richie’s fingers thread through the hair at the nape of Eddie’s neck, and Eddie holds Richie close, pressing up into the kiss, going up on his toes a little bit. They part with an audible click, but only for a moment to tilt their heads the other way and come back together again, mouths opening. Eddie feels warm despite the chill of the rain. Richie’s fingers fit so nicely against Eddie’s jaw, behind his ear. 

The Uber honks from the street. Richie pulls back, still cupping Eddie’s face, looking dazed. His eyelashes are stuck together with rain. His glasses are foggy. He huffs a breathless laugh. “I gotta go,” he whispers. “See you around?”

“Not if I see you first,” Eddie says. He’s fucking giddy, still clutching at Richie’s shirt, still a breath away from kissing him again. He reaches up to push Richie’s wet curls off his forehead. “Get outta here, Spidey.” 

“Fuck,” Richie says fervently, and kisses Eddie one more time, just a brief, firm press of the lips, before he steps away. He keeps looking over his shoulder at Eddie the whole time, grinning goofily. Eddie stands there on the doorstep, getting soaked through, and waves as Richie gets in the Uber and it drives off. 

Eddie leans back against the doorframe, touching his fingertips to his mouth. He can’t stop smiling. Looking back on what he’d wished for, sitting in that movie theater in 2002, he thinks it ended up better than he ever could have hoped.