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True Faith

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Boyfriend. A word that, by itself and completely out of any context, implied the existence of a link that could be named out loud, to each other, to others, to the whole universe. Instead of a constant state of doubting and hesitation whenever he thought about what his and Richie's relationship status was, he could just address it with that one simple term. At the same time, assuming the existence of said link, seemed to Eddie as a further step in a sort of political stance. He could, too, have a boyfriend: just as Stanley was Patricia's boyfriend, Richie would be his. The whole coming out issue still weighed on him, even though he expected Richie to be able to bear with it; for some reason, having him by his side encouraged Eddie to go from being in absolute denial, to start considering how and when to give the first step in that direction. He deserved it, after so many years of internal struggling, and so did Richie, after all.

"Your boyfriend...? You mean, like, a couple?"

"Yeah, I mean... - Richie cut short for a moment and continued - Not that things will change drastically from the way they are now between us. I mean, we've been kind of acting like a couple for a while now, so putting a name on it would just make it more... 'official', if you'd like. Like, I could take you home for Hanukkah or Christmas to meet my parents given the opportunity, and stuff like that. Regular shit couples do"

"And you think your parents would be okay with that...?" Eddie thought with a bit of hopelessness how his mother would react if she got to know that her son was gay, let alone he already had someone he could call a boyfriend.

"Well, I sure do hope so. I mean, if I had children, as a parent I would want them to be happy. And I'm happy with you, so..."

"If only was that easy..."

Richie propped himself on one elbow, as if attempting to ensure a certain level of gravity on what he was about to say.

"Eds, nothing in this life is easy, I never said it was. But my parents have two options: accept me or accept me not. I love them with all my heart regardless, but whatever they decide to do, I will continue living my life the way I want to. I'm not hurting anyone, and I'm just trying to be happy for once in my life. I won't let that opportunity slip away just because of some people's narrow minds"

It made sense, of course it did. Eddie wanted to discuss the issue of his mother thoroughly with Richie, but not then, not that night. His birthday had ended in the most positively beautiful way: he didn't want to spoil it by bringing Sonia up, and quite possibly, end up crying in Richie's arms in consequence.

"I don't know when it will happen - Richie continued, snapping Eddie out of his silent pondering - But someday, people like you and me will be able to get married, like any other 'normal' couple. There are many people fighting for that, I know it has to happen one day. When that day comes, and I don't give a shit if we're eighty by then, I'll marry you. I promise"

"Wow, wow - Eddie chuckled nervously - You've just asked me to be your boyfriend. Isn't too soon to be thinking about such a thing already...?"

"Perhaps, I don't know, who cares? When the time comes, if we're still together, we'll get married. I'll wear the white dress, of course, with a sexy little garter and everything"

In the midst of a laugh while envisioning Richie showing off a bridal garter around his thigh, and trying not to let his mind wander way too deep into the thought of marriage, Eddie felt the urgent need to kiss him and touch him again. He was undeniably tired, and a bit sore in parts of his body he'd never imagined he could feel pain in before, but he still wanted more of it. Not a single thought of guilt or regret lingered in his mind, and knowing the volatility of his own willpower, he wanted to seize every moment with no second guessings that night. When the kiss got both of them aroused enough after a few minutes in, Eddie asked Richie to teach him how to "ride", since he remembered it was something he had pointed out quite a few times as something he would like Eddie to do to him, and because he also considered it an exciting thing to learn, especially with Richie (who accepted the proposition with no hesitation). The prepping went on briefer and smoother the second time, though the positioning on top was much more uncomfortable at first, with Eddie having to actively adjust his own body to be able to take Richie in, move, and stimulate the both of them at the same time with the least pain possible. Fortunately for him, Richie would help him to pick up a steady pace by holding tightly his hips or his thighs alternately, rocking his own upwards to ease Eddie's bouncing. Large amounts of obscene praising through, Eddie was near to hit his own orgasm, and so Richie willfully reached down to fist him to completion, causing his come to eventually spurt all over his belly. It didn't take long for Richie to climax afterwards, pinning and shaking Eddie from the inside while still straddling him, making a huge effort to continue wiggling his hips and not to melt boneless all over his own come. Back to Richie's question, it had been actually better than everything Eddie could have ever imagined, because it was real.
After another quick shower, and Richie theatrically begging for mercy and fake calling 911 to be rescued from Eddie's "nymphomaniac urges", it was time to finally wrap the night up. The sharp aching in his whole lower body (especially his groin area) struck Eddie as soon as his temperature dropped following the warm shower; he knew he should've taken at least one Advil so to feel better when he woke up, but once they were tucked in bed, he didn't want to break the tender embrace when Richie wrapped his arms around him, lulling himself to sleep. Eddie eventually dozed off too, extremely tired, but happy.
They did it one last time in the morning, tenderly but rather quickly, before Richie's attempt to set a modest coffee and cookies breakfast that Eddie sincerely enjoyed, like pretty much anything Richie did for him. He finally drove Eddie back to campus around 11 AM; by the time they said goodbye to each other, they both knew there was no need to verbally re-confirm the new status of their relationship.

-----

It surprised Eddie to see that Stanley hadn't come back yet when he walked into the dorm, where everything looked the exact same way it did the night before when they left. Before taking off his jacket, Eddie emptied its inner pockets and placed each one of the gifts he had received for his birthday lined on top of his bed, alongside with the photographic camera he had gotten from Stanley earlier. His twenties had started off the best imaginable way. How different things would have been if he never went to college, if he were still stuck at home with his overbearing mother? Probably nothing special, like most of the birthday celebrations he went through his childhood, having less and less classmates involved as years went on, until it was only Stanley, the only friend Sonia allowed near his son for considering him a "good influence". He understood that it wasn't college per se what did the trick, but more like the opportunity he seized to reach a different enviroment, a more diverse one, where his existence could be less limited by the constant fear of others and of himself: the two visible faces of the same monster. The fact that he perceived himself as a nameless student, absolutely unremarkable amongst a million of other students walking around campus worked well for him in the process of his self-acceptance, which eventually allowed him to engage in a relationship with Richie. But what would happen when he had to face Sonia, or the rest of his family, or the people he knew at Franklin, whenever he had to go there? Of course he had fantasized with the idea of taking Richie to his hometown, and introducing him to his mother as his boyfriend, his first kiss and his first lay, just to see her face twisting with horror, as a revenge for all those years of borderline abusive control and repressed angst. But fantasizing about it was one thing, and executing it was a whole different one. He still cared for his mother, despite of everything she had put him through.
The sound of the lock opening snapped him out of his thoughts, as Stanley walked into the dorm, with his curls made a complete mess. None of them said a thing for approximately five seconds, while staring at each other.

"Uh... good morning, Eddie - Stan finally greeted, unsuccessfully attempting to tidy up his hair with his fingers, immediately realizing that Eddie was still wearing his jacket - Have you just...?"

"Yeah, I got here a couple minutes ago. I stayed at Richie's place - Eddie admitted, not seeing the sense in lying about the obvious anymore - What about you?"

"Well, same here. I mean, I'm just back from... I stayed at Bill's dorm"

"What did you guys do after we left? - Eddie inquired, finally taking off his jacket - I thought you were going to that arcade bar Bill mentioned..."

"We did, actually. But Mike got bored pretty quickly so we hopped to another bar and... I don't know. We all ended up pretty fucked up. Bill was flirting with this girl there, trying to win her over... I think she was a bit older than us, anyway"

"So he didn't succeed, I suppose" Eddie cocked an eyebrow.

"Well, that depends on what 'succeed' means to you..."

"So they kissed, at least? Exchanged phone numbers or...?"

"She probably blew him at the restroom, I don't know" Stan concluded cryptically.

"Oh, shit - Eddie chuckled - Well, that's something, I guess"

"Yeah... whatever. What about you? I mean, how did you, uh... end up your special day?"

There was a brief moment of silence while Eddie decided what to say and what to keep to himself, regarding to his night with Richie. He knew that sharing the details of his first time with him would have been rather uncalled and perhaps even uncomfortable for Stanley, so he decided to go with the only thing that he was sure his best friend would like to know.

"Richie asked me to be his... boyfriend" Eddie declared, trying the best he could too hide away the bubbly excitement lingering in his voice.

Stan opened his eyes wide with surprise.

"Holy shit, are you serious? And you said 'yes'?"

"Yeah, I did"

"Well, congratulations, Eddie! Are you happy?"

"I am, actually..." he replied sincerely

"If you're happy, then I am, too! I know Richie and I had our differences at first, but he really seems like a nice guy, and he's head over heels for you, I can tell. You deserve someone to love you like that"

"Thanks, Stan - Eddie smiled - I appreciate it a lot"

"Of course! But hey... Does Beverly know it already?"

"No, not really, I haven't had the chance to talk to her yet..."

"True. I bet she's still with Benjamin - Stan glared at his wrist watch and grinned mischevously - Should we ask her to come have dinner with us later...?"

"That'd be great!"

-----

Despite of having it known beforehand by Richie himself, Beverly still squealed in excitement when Eddie re-confirmed their new relationship status that night; they ordered chinese food to celebrate, alongisde with the couple bottles of beer she got to sneak in her backpack as a treat for her friends. By the end of the meeting, they somehow agreed on arranging a road trip to Chicago, date to be confirmed, for absolutely no reason other than the thrill of getting to share a special adventure and create memories together. Of course, Richie would also be included in the plan, but that wasn't the reason why Eddie called him after Beverly left around 1 AM, trying the best he could to speak in a low voice so not to wake Stanley up, but clearly enough to be understood. He wanted to meet downtown the next morning, once Richie had wrapped up his classes and before he got to work.

"Sure, baby - Richie agreed with a sleepy voice; it was clear that Eddie's call had woken him up - But why, something's wrong? Something bad happened?"

"No, no, nothing's wrong - Eddie hissed, bouncing his leg nervously - I just... There's something I need to do. And I'd like to do it with you. If you don't mind, of course"

"Whatever you want, baby, just name it"

"I'll tell you tomorrow, okay? Please"

"Okay, okay, sure. Where do you want to meet, by the way? Don't you want me to pick you up at your building, like we always do?"

"No, no. Let's meet straight up there, at 12 o'clock, alright? Carmel and Tremont Street"

Richie rubbed his eyes, making an effort to locate said intersection on the map of Boston he had mentally storaged in his brain. After a few seconds, he was almost completely sure of what was exactly there, but just as Eddie had required, he didn't say anything that could be confirmed or denied.

"Alright, I'll see you there tomorrow, baby. I love you"

"I love you too. Bye"

----

It was only after Stan left the dorm to attend to his first class that Eddie finally got up from bed, despite of having being awake since very early in the morning, perhaps even earlier than Stanley himself. After a quick shower and getting dressed (and a mandatory stop at the laundry), he picked up a quick breakfast on the go and headed downtown. The sky was clear that Monday morning; despite of the cold autumn weather, it seemed to be one of those beautiful chilly days to enjoy outside, warming up under the sunlight with a cup of coffee or anything similar. Since it was still quite early, he decided to go by foot to the place he and Richie would meet. Surprisingly enough, when he got there at exactly 11:50, Richie was already waiting for him, smoking a cigarette while sitting on a bench right in front of the church's entrance, with his backpack hanging from one shoulder. He didn't say a word when Eddie appeared shyly in front of him, staring alternately at his feet and at the huge building behind his back. Instead, Richie simply stood up and nodded towards the open door, throwing the cigarette end in a near garbage bin, once again seemingly able to read Eddie's thoughts.
The church was pretty much empty at that time of the day, and the silent atmoshpere echoed in their ears like an almost imperceptible buzzing. After taking a few steps in through the main aisle, Eddie pointed at one of the wood benches at the back of the line, and Richie immediately followed him. Still not saying a word, Eddie kneeled on the step at his feet, entwining his fingers under his nose and facing the altar, and Richie did the exact same thing after him. He could feel his heart racing up, his insides churning, like the vertiginous feeling one experiences while standing at the verge of a large, tall cliff.

"My mother will disown me - Eddie finally gulped, feeling the tears gathering in the corners of his eyes - And my father would probably do the same, if he was alive"

Richie sighed heavily before responding.

"There's no way you could know that, Eddie. He's dead. I'm sorry, it sounds terrible, yeah, but that's the truth. You can't torture yourself with the thought of what could have been, especially when it's about a deceased person. As for your mother, well, I don't even know her yet, but..."

"She'll never accept me. Never" Eddie sentenced, looking around as if desperately seeking for a sign that could get to change his mind.

"Look - Richie started again, softening his voice - I don't believe in any God, like, the typical God religions try to impose, the kind of God that judges and punishes you for literally whatever the... eff you do. I do believe that there is something beyond our understanding, call it karma, mother nature, divine justice, E.T., whatever you'd like. If there's a God, I mean, one only God, I'm sure it would never expect us to be all the same kind of perfect flawless beings. It just could not be, it wouldn't make any sense. If we were made to its image, like most of religions say, well, that means that God has to be everything, all together and at the same time, with flaws and all... Actually, the problem is not God by itself, but the people who believe they possess the right to speak on its behalf. I personally believe that, in any case, God lives through acts of love and kindness, not in ivory statues storaged in churches, or ancient books written by who the eff knows, filled with judgement and norms that literally no one, and I mean no one adjusts to. To me, faith means to believe in the kindness of others, and in my own as well. If your mother can't understand that your particularities don't mean that you're necessarily broken, or that despite of whatever your sexual preferences are you're probably the best human being and son a mother could ever ask for, well, then I'm afraid she's the one who doesn't understand God or what the true faith is"

Eddie couldn't refrain anymore the silent tears that started streaming down his cheeks. It somehow frightened him how accurately Richie's words matched with his own thoughts and feelings, no matter how hard it was for him to define or even admit them. He could see out of the corner of his eye how Richie stared at him, adjusting his glasses after disentwining his fingers, divided between reaching out to wipe Eddie's tears or staying still, given the context they were at the moment.

"I like the idea of God you believe in..." Eddie finally muttered, wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his sweater.

Richie smiled tenderly for a moment before staring at the altar in front of them.

"It couldn't be any other way, Eds. I just hope you find it helpful somehow"

A few more minutes transcurred in silence, before Eddie finally stood up, making Richie gasp in surprise.

"Alright, let's go. I'm hungry"

As they walked out of the building, Richie pulled a new cigarette out of his pocket and held it in between his lips while searching for the lighter in his backpack.

"Wanna go get a burger or something...? - he asked distractedly, before looking back - Eds?"

Eddie had stopped at the last stair of the church entrance, chugging slightly, his eyes fixed on the ground at his feet.

"Eds?" Richie called again, walking back to him and hesitating for a moment before wrapping his arms around his neck, seconds before Eddie bursted into tears. He finally stepped down to the sidewalk, so his face could be now at the perfect height to rest against Richie's vibrating chest, feeling each one of his heartbeats, soothing him.

"Everything's gonna be alright. I promise"