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True Faith

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"Are we there yet?"

"Uh, not yet... Thirty more minutes tops, I suppose..."

"Alrighty"

Eddie shifted in his seat, lazily glaring at the dense trees lining the sides of the road. It seemed like he had fallen asleep for about half an hour or so, right before they exited New Hampshire. He was tired. The whole process of packing his and Stanley's belongings in the car had left him exhausted. Or perhaps, it had to do with the fact that his anxiety didn't allow him to get a proper amount of sleep the night before he and his best friend finally left the town where they had lived their whole lives, now heading to university in Boston.
Asides from tired, he was feeling undeniably anxious, and yes, that was an inherent part of himself he couldn't help. But above all, he was feeling hopeful. And hope, while implying a desired (so much desired) outcome, inevitably led him to consider as well the possibility of that desired outcome turning to shreds at any given time. Eddie tried to silence such thoughts, he tried hard. But the life in the city he was leaving behind still kept his heart squeezed in a painful grip, and the depths of his mind scarred with fear. A life consistent of almost 20 years where the few moments of true happiness he experienced were brief, or followed by an incesant trail of guilt, self-doubt and self-hatred.

He hoped for that squeezing grip on his heart to go away soon.

Right after he and Stanley graduated from high school, they both knew they had to get the hell out of Franklin. They spent summer days and nights discussing, arranging, planning. Which college would they choose? How would they even get there? How would they pay for their tuitions? Would they have to live on campus? How would that turn out?

"Eddie, nothing can be worse than staying in this fucking place. Wherever we go, we'll make it work. We've always been good students. We have to make it work"

Stanley had been Eddie's best friend since they were in elementary school. Eddie couldn't help but feeling grateful to Stanley for sticking around for so long; Eddie knew he was, in general lines, an introverted person, especially awkward when it came to meeting people or making new friends. Stanley wasn't much of an extroverted person either, but as he grew older he became a collected, well mannered young man. And what Eddie cherished the most about him: a respectful and empathethic being. Someone Eddie could always trust.

It was Stanley's girlfriend, Patricia, who suggested Boston as their most suitable option for college. It was relatively near their hometown, and also near the university she was already attending since the previous year. That would make it easier for her and Stanley to visit each other when they had the opportunity to do so.

"People in Boston are so different - she would say, during a phone call with Stanley and Eddie - You guys will not believe when you see it. It's like a whole new world"

Eddie would immediately demand to know what Patty meant by "different". As far as he knew, the only kind of "different" he could think of, was himself.

"They're just different. They're so open minded. It's honestly so cool, no one gives a fuck. Literally. Their minds are not stuck in 1805 like pretty much everyone's in Franklin. Sure there are some assholes around, but... nothing in comparison. And I mean... nothing"

"Different" had always had a negative implication in Eddie's mind. Sufficient for him was to remember the way he and Stanley were bullied, both physically and verbally, throughout their whole high school experience. Stanley had a quiet personality, he was what their bullies would constantly point out as "a fucking nerd", and he was also one of the few jewish kids in a small community where being conservative and christian was the norm. Eddie, on the other hand, had been raised as a catholic under the wing of his overprotective and devoted mother. But as he grew into his teenage years, he got to the realization that he was different. Not only physically, because he knew he was relatively short in stature and small framed compared to Stanley and the other kids in his class, which made him feel extremely self-aware.
By the age of 16, Eddie was considered a good looking boy. Sure he looked nothing like Patrick Swayze, or any other movie stars the girls in his class would swoon over in giggly chats during breaks. He was roughly 5'5" tall, with dark brown hair and big brown eyes. The girls in his class would constantly point out how "pretty" the freckles spread on his nose and cheeks looked. It took him a while to grasp the concept of flirting, by the time girls started to openly flirt with him. Some of them even would even dare to ask him out.

His mother Sonia never intended to have "the talk" with him. It was in those moments when Eddie wished that his father, Frank, was still alive. Eddie couldn't remember quite much about him, since he had died when Eddie was only 7 years old. Sure he still felt some kind of affection towards his mother, but he couldn't help to wonder how different his childhood and teenage years would have been if his father was still around.

According to the notes he took during Health Class, he figured his body would go through some changes. He would start experiencing certain needs, certain urges he should take care of. He would want to kiss girls, touch girls, have sex with girls. Eventually, pick a girl out of the bunch, ask her to be his girlfriend, just as Stanley did with Patricia right before the end of their last year of high school.

But the answers you seek will never be found at home
The love that you need will never be found at home

"Well... we're almost there Eddie! Fucking finally. Fuck the speed limit. I swear to God" Stanley cursed under his breath, one hand on the wheel and the other one reaching to turn the volume of the radio down a little bit.

Stanley's voice snapped Eddie out of his thoughts.

Pushed around and kicked around, always a lonely boy
You were the one that they'd talk about around town as they put you down

"Wait, don't turn it down, I like this song"

"Oh, sorry"

After Stanley nodded apologetically, Eddie reached down and turned the volume up again.

And as hard as they would try they'd hurt to make you cry
But you never cried to them, just to your soul

Stanley smiled, with his eyes still fixed on the road in front of them as he drove through the streets of Boston.

"We did it, Eddie. We're here. This, right here, this is the first day of the rest of our fucking lives"

Eddie swallowed hard and bit his lip while looking around, but couldn't help to finally smile too.

Chapter Text

 

Stanley let out a heavy sigh, while his index finger roamed across the pages of a handbook.

"Is it complicated or...?"

"A tad. But we'll figure it out. If we do, this baby right here will be of a great help for us"

They had almost finished unpacking all of their belongings by then. Fortunately for both of them, their request to be roommates had been postively accepted, at least during freshmen year. The comfort of knowing he would share a dorm with his best friend during this new era in his life meant the world to Eddie. Things were going well so far.

"I can't believe your parents gave you a whole computer for your birthday...! Like wow. You're so lucky"

Stan threw a quick glare at his friend and smiled before his eyes dropped back to the handbook. He had turned 20 years old a couple of days before they left Franklin, on August 28th.

"I know. I couldn't believe it either. But hey, we'll both be able to use it as long as we share dorm. Just let me figure how to set it up first..."

"Thanks, Stan"

"No problem!"

Eddie laid back on his designated bed and stared at the ceiling for a while. Sure the room they got wasn't a five star hotel suite. Objetively speaking, it was somewhat small and it didn't have any windows. Just two single beds, two bedside tables, two desks, two chairs, one television and one tiny sofa as a sort of "divider". He appreciated the fact the room had a private bathroom they would obviously have to share with each other. But in Eddie's eyes, that college dorm was heaven on Earth, the Promised Land. He was finally free, and freedom tasted amazing so far. He soon forgot how frustrated he felt at the thought of having two years "wasted" before being where he was now.

After he and Stanley finished high school, they both applied for full-time jobs so they would be able to save enough money to pay for their tuition fees. Eddie got a job as a delivery boy for a coffee and pastries shop in the commercial area of Franklin, and Stanley got a job as a salesman in the pet-store division at a Veterinary Center a few blocks away from Eddie's work.

It wasn't bad for a first job, Eddie would think to himself. Esther, the woman who owned the coffee shop, was a lovely old lady, the sweet-grandma type of woman, one of the very few nice people Eddie would remember from his hometown. As months went by, he started to grow familiarized with their regular clients, some of them would even tip him generously when their orders arrived. Reasonable, because he was a polite and awkwardly charming young man, and most of their clients were elders or nearby shop owners.

By the end of the previous year, one part savings, one part borrowed money, and one part coming from family donations, he and Stanley had gotten enough money collected to pay for their college expenses.

Eddie's mother was reluctant about letting his son go to college, especially one out of state, after a whole life of keeping him around and being able to control every step he made. But once Stanley, whom Sonia considered was the best influence Eddie could ever have in his life, got to talk to her out of her obstination, it was all set. It was for the best, it was for his future. He would study hard, he would be a good boy. He would graduate. He would get a girlfriend, get married, and give Sonia grandchildren.

"I don't understand how you still allow her to control you like you're 12 years old or something" Stanley complained in low voice, after walking out of Eddie's house that day. 

Eddie didn't know how to answer that question. Or perhaps he knew, but he certainly didn't know how to put it into words. Not yet.

---

"Stan? Are you awake?"

"Barely, what's wrong?"

"I-I need to tell you something"

Stanley was the only person Eddie had ever ever told he was gay. Eddie didn't know why he did it, and he surely regretted it more than once afterwards. The sudden urge to confess it in the middle of the night took over him during a sleepover at Stanley's house when they were both 16. He loved Stanley, he was his best friend, Eddie felt he couldn't keep lying to him and to himself anymore. After blurting out the words that were torturing since he came to terms with the realization of it, Eddie shut his eyes and covered his face with his palms, waiting for Stanley to yell at him, to kick him out of his room, to tell him that he was a degenerate sick fuck, and to never get in touch with him or his family again. But there was only silence before Stanley spoke in a raspy voice.

"Oh... Eddie, I know. I mean. I kind of knew it already. I'm happy you could collect the courage to say it out loud"

"And you... d-don't you have a... problem with it...?"

"No, man. Not at all. You are my best friend. Hey, don't get me wrong, but it's 1 AM, dude. We can talk about it in the morning, if you want. Or whenever you want to"

"A-Alright"

Eddie waited for Stanley to change his mind the next day, after deciding that he couldn't be friends anymore with a "fag", a "fairy", a "princess", amongst other nicknames the school bullies had always called him, not even for having the certainty that he was in fact gay, but merely for the fact that Eddie wasn't physically as "tough" as the rest of the boys at school.

But it didn't happen. Not the next day, not the next week, not the next month, not the next year. It just never happened. Stanley genuinely seemed to be okay with it, and that couldn't have made Eddie happier. He felt safe. For the first time, he felt that he could be safe.

---

Back to present time: Stanley had finally managed to set the computer up on his desk, proudly looking at it with his arms akimbo.

"Well, see, it's on my desk but whenever you need to use it, just let me know and it's all yours"

"Sure, thanks Stan, I'm sure it will be of much help"

"Do we have a phone line in here?"

"I suppose so. I guess every dorm gets an extention?"

"Ha, here it is!"

Stanley picked up the receiver and pressed it against his ear for a few moments, before placing it back on its base with a loud clack.

"We need to program a schedule for our calls, don't you think?"

"I don't feel like calling my mom that often, Stan. I literally have no one else to call so it's all yours, for now at least"

Stanley pouted, but didn't argue. Eddie knew he didn't like Sonia. As polite and respectful as he was, Stanley tried to keep his thoughts on his friend's mother to himself most of the times. He would never say anything that could possibly hurt Eddie's feelings on purpose.

Unless he considered it strictly necessary.

Chapter Text

After a counseling meeting, Eddie and Stanley chose their classes for the upcoming semester. Since they had opted for different majors (Stanley chose Management and Accounting, while Eddie chose Economy as major, and Political Science as minor because why the fuck not), they would most likely not share any classes, due to the fact that both majors were imparted in different buildings. That saddened Eddie a little bit: of course, he would see Stan everyday at the dorm after classes, but knowing that they wouldn't share a single one together made him feel anxious. He was now indirectly forced to get out of his shell in order to make new friends.

Eddie managed to arrange his schedule so he got Mondays free, while keeping the rest of the weekdays pretty much occupied. He had his first class the next Tuesday at 8 AM, and it honestly didn't go as bad as he expected. College classes were considerably longer in extension than high school classes, two hours on average, and much more intense in matters of rhytm and content. In all seriousness, it was nothing a cup of black coffee couldn't help him to manage. Just as he expected, he hadn't interacted with any of his classmates so far that day. He could think of how sorting out the little inconvenience his social anxiety was later on. After all, the semester had just begun.

It was 12:30. Right after buying himself a cup of coffee at the buffet, he headed to his next class, which was supposed to start at 1 PM. It would be the first one for the minor he impulsively decided to take. Well, it was nothing weird after all; everybody knew that politics and economy usually went hand in hand.

He arrived to the classroom hallway 20 minutes earlier, and logically, there was no one there yet. Eddie just leaned against a wall, sipping from his cup and looking around nervously. After what it seemed like an eternity, a few other students started to arrive and gather outside the classroom. Eddie felt extremely self-aware for some reason: Politic Science students appeared to him a bit different from the ones he saw in his previous two classes. They seemed to be more... intimidating. Not knowing what to do with himself, Eddie glared at the watch on his wrist. And fuck. It was only 12:50.

Everyone around him seemed to be interacting with at least one more person. And then there was him, completely by himself, with no one to talk to. Eager to ditch the feeling of being exposed as a loser in front of his classmates, he decided to sit on the floor a few meters away from the classroom door, half hidden behind a couple that was chatting lively about who the fuck knew what.

Eddie couldn't wait to finish that class to go back to his dorm, and just lie there all by himself and relax. He wondered how Stan was doing in his classes. He missed Stan so much.

After taking another sip of coffee, Eddie put the lid back on top of his cup, and then placed the cup on the floor right next to him. His eyes landed on the couple that was chatting (way too loudly for his personal taste) next to where he was sitting. The girl was slim but tall, with beautiful red short hair and sparkly green-ish eyes. Of course Eddie would admit it when he found a woman beautiful, like that redhead girl for example, presumably one of his future classmates. It was the fact that things never went further from there what tormented him during his teenage years. He wondered way too many times if there was something wrong with him. Why couldn't he get himself to like girls in "that" way? Eddie tried to shake such thought off his head. He still hadn't formally "come out" to the world, only to Stanley, but he didn't want to feel like he was "wrong" anymore.

The redhead girl was talking to a tall boy whose face Eddie couldn't see, since the guy was leaning against the wall facing the other way. But in general lines, they seemed to be like one of those cool TV show young couples. Both gave off a kind of a rocker vibe. The guy was wearing a red tartan flannel with black jeans and Chucks, and the girl was wearing combat boots and a Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt half tucked in a denim skirt.

Eddie had always considered himself an uninteresting person. His life wasn't exciting at all, and his personal style was... pretty average. He spent his years in high school too busy to find a personal style he felt identified with, by dealing with his teenage angst, his confusion towards sexuality and doing everything he could to appear as invisible as possible in hopes that the bullies wouldn't notice him. That was okay with him though, it was not like he was actively wanting to change his overall looks now, being almost 20 years old.

"Okay Rich, see ya later"

The redhead girl suddenly walked past the tall boy she was chatting with, who was now walking away, and she, not noticing Eddie sitting a few centimeters away in her path, accidentaly stumbled with his cup of coffee, making it fall and split open on the floor. Eddie gasped at the feeling of the hot liquid splashing his knee and thigh through the fabric of his jeans.

"Holy shit! Oh my God, I didn't see you! Oh shit, look at that, I'm so sorry, dude..."

"I-It's okay, don't worry... It was my fault! I shouldn't have sit here..."

"No, no, it was totally my fault! I should have looked before stepping forward out of the blue! Let me help you clean this shit real quick"

"It's okay, you don't have to!"

Eddie could feel his cheeks burning hot, and roughly thirty pair of curious eyes fixed on both of them. The redhead girl pulled a pack of Kleenex out of her backpack, and immediately reached down to clean the spilled coffee before it continued spreading on the floor. She handed then another Kleenex to Eddie before throwing the used ones in the bin across the hallway.

"Here, clean yourself a bit"

"Thank you"

With a few clumsy pats, Eddie tried to dry the wet stain on his jeans the best he could. It didn't do much, honestly. The curious eyes around them started to gradually look away, and Eddie sighed in relief at the realization of it. The redhead girl shrugged with an apologetic smile.

"Well, shit, that was embarrassing! Again, I'm so sorry"

"Don't worry, really, shit happens..."

The girl glared at Eddie from head to toe inquisitively, which made Eddie blush again.

"Are you taking your next class here?" she asked, nodding towards the classroom door.

"Yeah"

"Cool! We are classmates then. My name is Beverly. You can call me Bev. What's your name?"

"I'm Eddie. You can call me... Well, just Eddie"

Beverly chuckled. Her laugh was as beautiful as her smile.

"Alright Eddie, see, I had no friends in this class until fortune decided to throw you in my path, so that officially makes you my Politic Science buddy for the rest of the semester. What do you think? Do you accept my offer?"

She was for sure confident, but not in a cocky, unpleasant way. Eddie couldn't hold back a shy smile.

"Yeah, sure"

-----

Beverly sat next to Eddie for their first Politic Science class. They chatted briefly before the professor arrived, and so the class began. It was an interesting type of class, different from the two Eddie had earlier that same day for his major. Politic Science students actually engaged in debating and sharing points of view with the professor. He hoped to be able to collect enough guts to dare and participate one day too. Eddie felt content with himself and his decision of taking that minor. He enjoyed that class so much he didn't realize how quickly the two hours went by.

"So, Eddie - Beverly asked as they walked out of the classroom together - You're taking Politics as minor. What's your major?"

"Economy. Yours?"

"Communication. I was between that one and Psychology. So I tossed a coin"

Eddie stared at her, dumbfounded.

"Are you... serious?"

"Nah, I'm joking. I just liked Communication's program more, since it's a relatively new career. I actually started my major in Psychology last year, but I got bored pretty quickly and everything went to shit. So I switched"

They walked out of the building. It was a beautiful sunny day. Light brown and orange leaves were starting to take over the treetops, as the autumn season quickly approached. Beverly pulled a pack of cigarettes and a lighter out of her backpack and offered one, but Eddie kindly turned it down. After watching Beverly smoke in silence for a solid minute, Eddie decided to resume the conversation, fearing she would get bored of him at any given moment.

"So... are you from Boston, Bev?"

"No, I wish I was, though. Massachussets is cool as shit. I'm from Waterville, also known as Hell on Earth"

"Where's that?"

"Maine"

"Oh"

"Fucking hellhole if you ask me. As soon as I graduated from high school me and my best friend decided to get the hell out of there and come here. No regrets. I started working as a waitress downtown a couple of nights a week during summer. My aunt is helping me with my expenses too, bless her heart"

Eddie realized how many similarities he and Beverly had in common. They were both eager to escape their hometowns, and they both did it alongside with their best friends. It somewhat made him feel strangely bonded to her.

"Is your friend studying here at Boston too?" Eddie asked, genuinely curious.

"Yeah. Majoring in Arts. Fucking hippie" Beverly chuckled.

"Oh, that sounds cool. My friend, his name is Stanley... he is majoring in Management And Accounting..."

Beverly took a drag of her cigarette and slowly blew the smoke between her lips.

"Is Stanley your friend? Or like..."

"Huh?"

"I mean is he your friend? Or your partner? Like, a boyfriend"

Eddie felt his cheeks blushing furiously. His heart beat so fast it could have easily jumped out of his chest.

"N-No! He's my friend. My best friend..."

"Oh, okay - Beverly cooed, smiling lightly - just checking"

She could immediately guess Eddie's discomfort.

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude or anything. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable... I have plenty of friends who haven't come out yet, so I know the struggles..."

How the fuck could this girl, whom Eddie had met literally less than three hours ago, see through him so easily? He hesitated before answering.

He didn't want to feel like he was wrong anymore.

"No, it's okay. I'm still struggling with the whole coming out thing. I actually... I only came out to Stanley, only because he's my best friend. Well, my only friend, actually..."

Beverly smiled kindly and reached out to tuck Eddie's hair behind his ear.

"Well, now I'm your friend too, right? Don't break my heart like that"

Eddie nodded and smiled too. He felt extremely vulnerable after confessing so easily to this girl he barely knew. But for some reason, Beverly made him feel safe and warm inside. Just like Stanley did when Eddie came out to him almost four years prior. Beverly was oficially his first girl-buddy, and he couldn't help to feel stupidly happy about it.

There was another moment of silence Eddie rushed to break.

"And your friend, Bev, did she work with you as a waitress or...?"

"Oh, no, my friend is not a she, it's a he, actually! His name is Richie. We've been best friends since high school. He wasn't happy in Waterville, neither was I. That's why we decided to leave together when we graduated. Small towns can be real hell for women. I've been groped and cat-called in broad daylight in the streets more times that I'd like to remember, only to come back home crying my eyeballs out and having my shit-ass father saying that everything that happened to me was basically my fault. Like, they way I looked, or the way I dressed justified being cat-called and touched without my consent. Fuck Waterville. I hope that shithole burns down to ashes one day" she grunted, litting up another cigarette.

"That sucks, Bev. Most of the dudes in Franklin were absolute shit too. Hostile and... sexist. Typical conservative mindset. I guess that's just one of the many things our hometowns have in common"

"Richie had it bad, too" Bev continued absently, but she didn't explain herself further. Eddie didn't want to seem nosy, but he felt like he had to continue the conversation somehow.

"Is he... uhm... gay or...?"

Beverly hesitated for a little bit before continuing.

"No. I mean, I don't know. I think he might be bisexual. Well, I'm guessing he is. We... I mean, me and him, we hooked up a couple of times during high school. But we talked it out, and we figured we both felt more comfortable with each other being just friends, you know? I couldn't really see him as a steady boyfriend, and he couldn't see me as a steady girlfriend. He never came out to me oficially, as gay, or bi, or else. But then, he would show up with a girl one day, then with a guy another day. So I guess there was no need to clarify anything. I love him to bits".

Eddie immediately remembered Patricia's words while she was trying to convince him and Stanley to pick Boston.

They're so different, so open minded.

Eddie felt immensely grateful to God, life, destiny, or whatever it was, for having met Beverly during his first day of attendance. He couldn't wait to introduce her to Stan, and see if perhaps, they could all hang out together one day. The thought of it made his heart jump in excitement.

"Richie sounds like a cool guy. I'd like to meet him one day"

"That'd be so fucking cool! - Beverly smiled widely - I'd love it! I promise, you're going to love Richie. He's a crazy motherfucker. Absolutely fucking deranged. But deep down his heart is pure gold... See, there's this party next Friday night at Bill's Bar, it's a cool pub downtown, next to one I worked at last summer so I know the manager and he's cool as hell. They sometimes have bands performing, karaoke nights and other kinds of fun shit. Richie and I were planning to go together. Would you like to join us?"

Chapter Text

"Sure you don't wanna come, Stan? I really want you to meet Beverly" Eddie asked, after finishing buttoning up his shirt and yanking his head and arms through his favorite beige sweater.

"Yeah, I'll be fine, Eddie, go out and have some fun for me. I still have to meet Beverly some other time. She seems like a cool girl... Can you believe I already have two projects to turn in next week? One of them is a group project. A. Fucking. Group. Project - he accentuated each word - I didn't know group projects were still a thing in college. I honestly want to eject myself off the solar system at this point"

"You'll be fine, you know how to handle shitty group projects. I've seen it myself. Remember that group project we had to turn in for English in 10th grade? Literally no one was doing shit but you and me, until you flipped the fuck out. I swear to this day, I had never seen you so angry before! It was fucking scary. Just do your thing, pull the whip out and make them regret"

Stanley let out a loud chuckle.

"Whip and regret. Noted"

After grabbing a jacket, his wallet, and his keys, Eddie headed towards the door.

"I'm not sure at what exact time I'll be coming back but..."

Stanley waved a hand, as if dismissing the matter.

"Don't worry about that. I'll probably be asleep by then. Just don't come back fucked up and vomiting all over the place. We'll have serious issues if you do that"

"No vomiting, noted!" Eddie replied smiling, closing the door behind his back.

----

He reunited with Beverly at the entrance of the campus. It was a chilly night. Eddie mentally congratulated himself for remembering bringing a jacket. Beverly looked stunning. She was also wearing a leather jacket, the same combat boots Eddie already knew, and thick purple tights underneath a black leather knee-lenght skirt. Her makeup was a bit darker that the usual.

"You look so cute tonight, Eddie!" she praised, hugging him and kissing him on the cheek.

"Thanks, Bev. You look amazing as well!"

They walked together towards the pub, Beverly hooking Eddie's left arm with her right arm in a tight grip. Eddie let himself be guided by her, because he had no idea where the place they were heading to exactly was. After twenty minutes or so, they got to Boston downtown. It seemed like a fun place to party at. They walked past a bunch of pubs, restaurants and coffe shops. It was nothing like Franklin. Boston seemed to be... alive and moving.

"Here", she finally pointed at one of the pubs across the street.

----

In all honesty, Eddie haven't had visited that many pubs in the past, so his criteria could be dubious. But he really liked Bill's Bar. It was a bit crowded already, and the music was a tad loud, but the place seemed to be overall clean and the food looked delicious.

There were people already dancing at the back of the main salon, like a sort of improvised disco.

"Do you want something to drink?" Beverly shouted in his ear, making Eddie suddenly cringe.

"Uhh, yeah, a light beer is fine, how much is it?"

Beverly shook her head and tut-tutted, although Eddie couldn't hear it.

"This one's on me. Go find a spot in the back, I'll find you there in a minute"

Eddie could barely hear her instructions before she turned around and headed towards the bar. "Go find a spot", okay, that couldn't be hard.

Making his way through the dancing crowd, Eddie finally found a free spot close to what it seemed to be a stage set up for performances. He awaited for a few minutes before he realized he was fucking 5 foot 5 inches tall, and that Beverly would probably never find him unless he raised a hand to bring her attention or something. Before he could even think of a strategy to be found easily, she was already by his side.

"Found ya" Beverly chanted, handing Eddie a bottle of beer. She was holding a bottle of beer for herself too, but a stout one.

"Now before you ask - she continued - I don't know where the fuck Richard Tozier is. He's 20 minutes late. Not surprised though. I've been looking around and I didn't see him, so he probably hasn't arrived yet"

Eddie didn't know what to say. He hated impuntuality, yes, but he couldn't just let himself agree with Beverly and trash on her best friend, whom he didn't even know yet. So he just took a long sip from his bottle. The beer was delicious. The music was kind of good, too. Duran Duran's "The Reflex" was playing.

"There he is! The big motherfucker!" Beverly yelled, looking above and behind Eddie's shoulder, waving a hand high in the air. Eddie immediately turned around. He couldn't quite figure why, but the way Beverly referred to Richie everytime she talked about him made Eddie feel very curious about his persona.

Richie Tozier.

At the exact moment their gazes met, Eddie realized that Richie was the guy Beverly was chatting with last Tuesday before the coffee incident, also known as the day Eddie and Beverly first met. Even though Eddie couldn't see his face that day, he was now one hundred percent sure it was the same person.

Richie walked towards them in a slow but steady pace. He was tall, very tall. Roughly 5'8" or 5'9", even. Eddie suddenly felt very self-aware of his own height. Even though Richie was kind of lanky, he had broad shoulders and chest, which somehow made up for the lack of "bulk" on his body. His hair was dark, curly and messy. He also wore a pair of thick glasses, which made his black eyes appear way bigger than what they actually were, a black Pink Floyd t-shirt underneath an unbottoned grey flannel, and a pair of ripped blue jeans.

"Good evening ladies, and gentlemen", he cooed, grabbing Beverly's waist and placing a loud quick kiss on her cheek.

"Rich, this is Eddie! Eddie, this is Richie. The big deranged fuck I talked to you about"

"Good things, I hope, Miss Marsh" Richie teased, before loosing the grip on Beverly's waist and stretching a hand to grab and shake Eddie's.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Eds"

Eddie blushed at the sight of his tiny hand squeezed in between Richie's long fingers. It could had been his imagination, but Eddie could have sworn Richie was able read his exact thoughts and smiled even wider in consequence.

"L-Likewise. And my name is Eddie, not Eds"

"Sure thing, Eds"

What the fuck was wrong with this dude?

"Eddie, do you want another beer? 'Cause I just finished mine - Beverly asked - Besides I'm gonna get this motherfucker something to drink too"

"Yeah, I'd like another beer Bev, thank you"

"Just admit you want to flirt with Benjamin and go, girl - Richie teased again, rolling his eyes, before talking directly to Eddie again - Benjamin is the bartender. That hot viking-ass looking dude you see at the other side of the bar"

"Abso-fucking-lutely not, Tozier - Beverly complained, blushing so intensely that her cheeks were almost as red as her hair - he's not my type anyway. He's just a good friend, that's all"

"Suuuure, a good friend. That's how they call it now, I guess", Richie crooned, winking exaggeratedly at her and lightly poking her side with his elbow.

Beverly let out a nervous giggle before flipping him off and turning around on her way towards the bar.

"ONE JACK ON THE ROCKS FOR ME! AND PEANUTS! LOTS OF PEANUTS! THANKS BEVVIE!" Richie shouted out of the blue, making Eddie cringe hard when all the people around stared at them in amusement.

"So, Eds"

Eddie turned around to look at Richie again.

"Don't call me Eds, please. I hate it"

"As you wish, pumpkin"

Eddie blushed furiously.

"Dude, Bev was right when she warned me about you", he defied, not knowing exactly where those words were coming from. The beer, probably.

Richie let out a light chuckle and stepped forward, leaning closer to Eddie.

"Are you serious? I'm a walking Teddy Bear. Harmless. Absolutely G Rated. Don't be afraid of me, Eddie. I'm a cool fella"

Eddie shifted uncomfortably in his spot.

"I'm not afraid of you. Why would I be?"

Before Richie could even answer, Eddie acknowledged Beverly's fingers locking around his own wrist, dragging him closer to her. She then leaned in to speak in Eddie's ear.

"I need your help! Too much stuff to carry and I only got two hands"

Eddie immediately nodded and followed her towards the bar. He didn't turn back to see Richie's expression, but he couldn't help to feel somewhat satisfied for cutting him off. So far, Richie seemed to be the kind of person that never knows how or when to shut up. Rude, even. He proceeded to call Eddie "Eds" several times, even though Eddie politely required him to not to. Yeah, the guy was definitely rude.
As they reached the bar, Eddie saw the guy to whom Richie referred to as a "hot viking-ass looking dude" minutes before, holding two bottles of beer, one in each hand. He was indeed very attractive, but even though Beverly denied having any interest in him earlier, Eddie thought it wasn't right to allow himself to look at him with lust in his heart. Just in case she was actually interested. The bartender smiled and handed the bottles to them.

"Thanks, Benny - Beverly leaned on the counter and smiled back at him, grabbing both bottles - Eddie, could you carry Richie's drink and his motherfucking peanuts? Ben, this is Eddie, by the way! My new friend from Politics" she informed, nodding towards Eddie.

"Nice to meet you, Eddie" the bartender greeted with a honest smile, handing Eddie the wide glass and a little bowl filled with peanuts up to the top.

"Thanks, likewise" Eddie muttered, shyly.

He guessed that Beverly simply and naturally liked to bring people together, even if it was for a one night event only. And the whole thing wasn't awkward for her, nor it did seem forced, at least in Eddie's eyes, and that was a lot to say consdering how socially awkward he knew he had been his whole life. Beverly's chosen major and minor suddenly started to make a lot sense to Eddie.

"So? What do you think about him?" Beverly inquired, as they headed back to the spot where they left Richie waiting.

"Well, he's good looking. And he seems to be a cool dude. Being a bartender seems like a..."

"No, no, not about Ben! I meant what do you think about Richie"

"Oh"

Eddie gulped before deciding it was fair and absolutely necessary to give his friend a sincere answer. The beer had slowly started to make his tongue feel loose. And in all honesty, it was an amazing feeling.

"Well, he seems a bit rude. And sloppy. And obnoxious - he couldn't stop the string of adjectives coming out of his mouth - Sorry, I know he's your best friend, and that you love him, but..."

Beverly threw back her head and cackled loudly.

"Well, yeah. He's fucking rude sometimes. Most of the times, actually. And sloppy, but in a charming way, I guess. Come on, Eddie, give him a chance!"

Richie was leaned against the wall, peering lazily at the people dancing around.

"Fucking finally - he chanted, yanking the glass and the bowl from Eddie's hands - Thanks, Eds. Jesus Beverly, what the fuck is wrong with the DJ tonight? The music they're playing fucking sucks"

"Feeling picky tonight, huh? The music is fine... It's not that bad, you're just being a little bitch right now"

"They've been playing Duran Duran non-stop for the past twenty minutes, give me a fucking break"

"Duran Duran has definitely earned a spot on my list of guilty pleasures"

"Hilarious - Richie rolled his eyes - Stay here you both. Bev, hold my peanuts. I'll go and try to talk to the fucking DJ back to his senses. Otherwhise I'm taking my ass back home"

He took a long sip from his glass and disappeared in between the crowd.

"Do you know the DJ, Bev?"

"Yeah, I mean, there are officially two or three of them, but they take turns each night so I don't really know who's actually playing..."

There was a brief moment of silence and the crowd booed playfully, before the music started to play again. It was a different song, which Eddie immediately recognized.

No fucking way.

It was his favorite song. How the fuck...?

I feel so extraordinary
Something's got a hold on me

Richie emerged back from the crowd, with a self-sufficient grin plastered on his face.

I get this feeling I'm in motion
a sudden sense of liberty

"I know, I know. You are welcome. Now - he clapped - let's go to dance, shall we?"

Beverly nodded with enthusiasm, but Eddie stood froze in his spot.

"What's wrong Eds? - Richie inquired, a defiant vibe ligering in his voice - don't dig New Order? 'Cause that'd be a fucking crime, pal"

"New Order is one of my favorite bands and... this is my favorite song by them"

"Really? Then this has to be a sign from the Heaven's above, Eddie. A sign for us to dance our asses off all night long" Beverly crooned amusedly.

"Yeah, Eddie, I've chosen this song for you. Don't rain on my fucking parade!" Richie squeezed Eddie's shoulder playfully once, but kept his hand there.

----

As they night went on and they continued dancing, Eddie couldn't help to feel he was third-wheeling Richie and Beverly. Of course Beverly would turn around to dance with Eddie alone every once in a while, which he sincerely appreciated, because it made him feel less... ridiculous. But Richie was all over the fucking place, and Eddie eventually decided to submit and go back to his spot to rest against a wall, closing his eyes for a moment. He was feeling a bit tipsy; he had lost the count of how many beers he had drunk so far that night.

"Calling it quits already, Eds? It's barely midnight"

Richie's voice snapped him out of his resting.

"I've been up since 6 AM. I've had classes early this morning", Eddie protested. It was nothing but the truth, actually. He wasn't used to stay up late partying. He would normally feel embarrassed about admitting such a thing and coming off as "uncool" or "boring", but for some reason, he didn't care at that point.

"So did I - Richie shrugged, adjusting his glasses before resting his elbow against the wall and his face on his hand. His eyes roamed all across Eddie's face, which made him feel OH so fucking uncomfortable - and here I am, as you can see. As fresh as new"

Eddie cocked an eyebrow. By default, he guessed that Richie was probably tipsy too.

"Where's Bev, by the way? Did you leave her alone?"

"Nah, she found one of her hippie friends from Pysch. She's over there, look"

In fact, Beverly was dancing with another girl in the spot Richie pointed out, deep down the dancing crowd. Her red hair was unmistakeable. Of course, Eddie thought to himself, Bev probably still had a lot of friends she made in between classes before switching majors.

"'Hippie friend?' That's saying a lot, considering you're majoring in Arts" Eddie blurted, regretting it almost instantly.

Richie stared at him, jaw-dropped.

"Wow, that fucking hurt, Eds"

"Sorry"

"No problemo. But I guess it kind of bugs me more the fact that you know so much about me, that I'm majoring in Arts for example, and I, on the other hand, still don't know shit about you. Well, now I know you like New Order and that 'True Faith' is your favorite song. But that's pretty much all I know so far"

"What would you like to know?"

"Oof. Many things"

"Such as?"

"Well, uhm... How old are you? That's a good one to start"

"I'm turning 20 in November. And you?"

"Turned 20 in March. But hey, I'm the one making the questions now - he grinned - What are you studying here at Boston?"

"Economics as major, Politics as minor"

"Cool. I'm guessing you're studying out of state. Don't ask why, I'm just guessing"

"That's correct. I'm from New Hampshire"

"Portsmouth?"

"Franklin"

"Oh, sorry, never heard of it..."

"You're not missing out on anything, Richie, don't worry"

"You just said my name for the first time! Felt good. Made my heart warm up a bit"

"You're fucking weird"

"Pretty much"

"Is that all you wanted to know about me?"

"Uh, no, I have another question"

"So... ask away"

Richie shifted a bit and leaned in closer to Eddie. Eddie gulped. He didn't want to seem intimidated by the sudden proximity, so he held his head high and stared at Richie straight in the eye. His eyes were really dark. Eddie realized from up close that Richie had freckles on his nose and cheeks too, just like him, only that Richie's freckles were much lighter.

"If I asked you out, like, to grab a coffee after classes next week or something... What would you say?"

He would show up with a girl one day, then with a guy another day. So I guess there was no need to clarify anything.

Beverly's words echoed in his mind right after Richie's. Several times. Eddie immediately forced himself to ponder the possibility that Richie's was just trying to be friendly, wanting to get to know his best friend's new acquaintance better. It made sense, after all, since Beverly seemed to be so interested in always making her friends interact with each other. According to her own words, she and Richie had been very close to one another since high school. Given the nature of their relationship, and the nature of their own selves, they probably shared many outlooks on life, being friendly with their friend's friends one of them. It made sense, it totally did. Eddie didn't aim to seem rude. He was, by nature, a very polite person.

Richie stared at him quizzically, waiting for his answer.

Just say 'no thanks', Eddie, for fucks sake. Make up a goddamn excuse.

"I, uh... Sure, why not"

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Chapter Text

It was 3:30 when they finally walked out of Bill's Bar. The chilly weather had conspicuously accentuated during the past hours they had spent inside of the pub.

"Well, that was fun - Beverly declared, grinning - Except for that part when Richie started singing 'Take On Me'. I would have to check, but I feel like my eardrums are still bleeding"

"You know I can sing pretty well - Richie protested, frowning at her - I was just fooling around"

"Tragic. What about you Eddie? Did you have fun?"

Eddie nodded and smiled in response.

"I sure did"

"Glad to hear!"

"Hey Bev, have a cig?" Richie suddenly asked.

"Always"

Beverly pulled the pack of cigarettes and the lighter out of her pocket. She grabbed one for herself and handed Richie another one.

"Thanks - Richie lit his cigarette and took a deep drag - You don't smoke, Eds?"

"No, no. Thanks. I used to have asthma when I was a kid, so I guess it's not a good idea..."

"Wise decision", Beverly backed him up before Richie could even say a word.

Eddie didn't know what to do while Beverly and Richie smoked in silence. He was quickly getting used to the abrupt change of temperature and his body started to shiver uncontrollably. Richie immediately noticed it while Eddie rubbed his hands together, in an attempt to warm himself up.

"Hey, it's cold as fuck. Let me drive you both back to campus"

"Don't worry, Rich, we'll walk"

"Are you fucking nuts? It's 3 AM Beaver-ly. And it's freezing. Come on, my car is parked two blocks away. It's the least I can do for you both after showing up late"

----

"Won't we get into trouble for coming back to campus at almost 4 AM, Bev?"

"Eddie, no one gives a fuck, we have our ID cards with us anyway. Don't worry, we'll sort it out"

"As long as you check in and out everything is fine, Eds - Richie assured, throwing a quick glance at him through the rear mirror - I know almost every security guy at campus. Cool bunch of dudes. Had to get them on my side one way or another"

"Don't you live on campus?"

"Not anymore. I did until last semester. Now I'm renting a tiny ass apartment 10 minutes away. It's okay though, I'm one to value privacy even if it's in a room of the size of a pea".

"I'd like to move out of campus next year. That shit is hella expensive. Aren't you by chance looking for a roommate, Rich?"

"Hell, no, Marsh. Even if I was, I'd rather it not be you"

"Rude" she frowned for a second, but then smiled.

As they drove closer to the entrance of campus, Eddie began to feel extremely nervous. Despite of Richie's claims, he couldn't help to feel that they were really going to get into trouble. It was only his first week, way too soon to get into trouble. At that point, he expected Richie to ask them to get off the car so they could walk back into campus, but he didn't. He kept on driving until they reached the actual entrance, and then suddenly pulled over.

"Richie, what are you...?"

Eddie immediately spotted one security man pacing nearby. His stomach jumped as he saw the short stubby man in uniform walking towards the car. Richie rolled down his window and smiled at him.

"How's everything going, Charlie, my old friend?"

"Not you again, Tozier, I thought we had gotten rid of you already"

"Never. No one ever gets rid of me" Richie replied, with a toothy grin.

"You know I shouldn't let you in until 6 AM, right? That's the rule"

"I know, I know. Hey man, I'm just trying to make sure my drunk-ass friends make it safe back to their dorms, that's all. I'm doing the Lord's work, being a good designated driver and shit. Please, it will take me no more than ten minutes, I promise. Zip-zap and I'll be done"

The guard seemed to hesitate for a moment, before letting out a deep, deep sigh. He obviously had already dealt with Richie in the past.

"Alright, alright. But I'll need to see their ID cards first" he pointed at Beverly and Eddie.

"No problem!"

Eddie and Beverly immediately handed their ID cards, which the man observed carefully for a moment, front and back, before handing them back to their respective owners.

"Alright, kids. Everything seems to be in order. Ten minutes tops, Tozier. I beg you"

"Yes, Sir! You're the best, Charlie, I owe you a big one"

----

After driving for a while, they reached the residential building area.

"There, that's my building" Beverly pointed, and Richie nodded before pulling over right in front of the entrance.

"Okie-dokie"

Again, a brief uncomfortable silence.

"Well - she started, throwing a nervous look at Eddie in the back seat - I'll call you later, is that okay, Eddie? I already got your dorm's number"

"Sure! As long as Stan isn't using the phone, we can talk, of course"

"Alright. Well, good night guys. Or should I say good morning? Whatever floats your boat"

"Sleep tight, angel" Richie cooed, waving a hand at Beverly as she got out of the car. They both watched attentively as she managed to unlock the front door before getting inside of the building.

"Where's your dorm, Eds?" Richie asked then, turning his head around to look at Eddie.

"Six buildings to the right from here"

"Gotcha"

Richie resumed his driving in silence. In less than a minute, Eddie spotted his building, and Richie pulled over again.

"Here it is. Well, thanks for everything, Richie" he hissed shyly, before reaching down to unlock the door.

"Wait"

Eddie stood froze in his spot.

"We haven't set up our date. I don't even have your phone number. And I don't want to ask Beverly for it. You know, a matter of dignity"

"I..."

"Have you changed your mind? 'Cause I'll totally understand if you do" Richie winced, nervously tapping on the wheel with his fingers.

Eddie could perceive a sublte tone of disappointment in his words. Wow, this obnoxious guy seemed to have feelings too. His stomach shrunk.

"N-No. I haven't changed my mind"

Richie's face seemed to lighten up at his words.

"Awesome"

"Do you have a piece of paper or something?"

"Yeah, give me a second"

Richie's hand reached the glove compartment and opened it. After a quick search, he pulled out a tiny post-it and a pen. Both items where handed to Eddie, who grabbed them and proceeded to scribble the phone extention number to his dorm on the little piece of paper.

"Here. Either me or my roommate Stanley will pick up", he handed the post-it and pen back to Richie, his hand shaking a bit.

"You got classes on Monday?"

"No, I don't have any classes on Mondays. Only Tuesdays to Fridays"

"Cool. I have all my classes scheduled early in the morning 'cause I have to go to work from 3 PM to 7 PM. I could pick you up next Monday after I finish my last class of the day, what do you think? That'd be around 11:15. Perfect time for a coffee"

Eddie didn't understand quite well what the hell was going on. He was afraid he would throw up as soon as he got into his dorm, and Stanley would murder him in the spot. The only thing he could think of at the moment was that he wanted to crawl into his bed, chug down a tall glass of crisp water and sleep throughout the whole day.

"Sure. I'll see you then"

----

Stanley's eyes wandered to the clock in the bottom right corner of the screen of his computer. It was 11:16. He then turned around to look in Eddie's bed direction. Eddie was still sound asleep, his mouth slightly opened. After letting out a muffled giggle, Stanley decided it was time to wake his friend up. He was happy to see how Eddie could finally sort his social anxiety out, so he was able to make new friends so quickly. Even though he had his own struggles with bullying during high school, he was aware of how Eddie's struggles weighed on his shoulders even more, especially after Eddie came out to him.
It was true that Stanley already sort of knew it beforehand. During their school years, Eddie did the most he could to not to bring any kind of attention onto him. But as they grew into their teenage years, Stanley realized how Eddie would never reciprocate any kind of feeling towards the girls that dared to openly flirt with him. He never brought it up, of course, thinking that, perhaps, Eddie was just scared of the idea of sex, just as many other teenagers who had never had a proper approach to the matter. But then again, there were days when Eddie would show up to school with his eyes completely blown out, red and puffy, as if he had spent the whole prior night crying. Stanley would try with every reasoning he could. The bullies? His dead father? Sonia? Eddie would shake his head, denying all the options, and criptically declare that Stanley wouldn't understand even if he ever tried to explain himself.
Stanley was a very intelligent young man. He wasn't aware that "gay" was actually something, apart from a derogative term the bullies loved to throw around, until he was 13 years old, when his father Donald had "the talk" with him. Even though they were jewish, they weren't strictly as religious as the christian community in Franklin. Donald explained that sometimes, boys don't like girls, as well as girls don't always like boys. He proceeded to give his son a history lesson on how homosexuality had basically existed since the dawn of the humanity. Stanley would ask if homosexuality was a sin, because that's what he heard once, or twice, or one million times. Donald would ponder about the question for a minute, before simply declaring that he used to believe such a thing when he was younger, but that now he didn't believe so anymore.
Years later, Stanley would remember how much Donald cried his eyes out when Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of his forever favorite band Queen, died. His death was surrounded by topics crudely approached by the media such as homosexuality and AIDS. Stan realized how much impact that particular event had on his father's outlook on the matter. He knew homosexuality wasn't a sin, but many, many people in their community and around the world still believed so.
By the time he was 15 years old, Stanley realized that maybe, his best friend could actually be gay. And if that was the case, he would be okay with it. Still, he didn't dare to ask. Such a topic was not meant to be treated so openly, so loosely, not yet.
Still, he hoped that things would be different someday. He loved his best friend, and he wanted him to be happy. It seemed unfair that he couldn't be. Why couldn't he be? Eddie was a good person, he deserved to be happy.
That was one of the main reasons why he encouraged Eddie to leave Franklin as soon as they graduated from high school. Of course, he never explicitly said it.

"Eddie, Eddie, wake up. It's almost noon" Stanley muttered, shaking Eddie's shoulder gently.

"Huh?! What?!"

"It's almost noon, dude. Time to wake up"

"Holy shit! I overslept!"

"Don't worry, it's Saturday. But I guess you have stuff to do so I didn't think you'd like to spend the whole day in bed"

"Thanks, Stan, yeah, there's this assignment I must finish today, holy shit, I'm so fucking dumb... By the way I'll need to use your computer later"

"Relax, dude. And of course you can use my computer. At least everything seems to point that you had a lot of fun last night"

Last night. Eddie suddenly remembered everything. Beverly looking gorgeous, the music, the beer, Richie, the hot barman named Benjamin, Richie, another beer, Richie, Richie's car, Richie asking him out, Richie asking for his phone numer, Richie picking him up on Monday at 11:15. Shit.

"Uhm... yeah... it was fun"

"I haven't forgotten that you wanted me to meet Beverly. We could grab lunch together in between or after classes next week, if our schedules allow us to do so, what do you think?"

"That would be awesome! - Eddie smiled, and hesitated for a moment before continuing - I met her best friend last night, too"

"Oh, cool, is she nice?"

"It's a dude, actually. His name is Richie"

Stanley cocked an eyebrow and gestured with his hands, as if encouraging Eddie to continue.

"So..."

Eddie wanted to tell him about the coffee date. He really did. But instead, he just shrugged.

"Nothing. He's cool, too"

Get your shit together, Edward. Why are you so fucking flustered all of the sudden?

"Well, in that case, he can come and have lunch with us, too - Stanley added with a smile, before his eyes wandered back to his computer screen - Give me 10 more minutes and it's all yours..."

Chapter Text

Eddie cracked his knuckles and stretched on Stanley's chair, after finishing his assignment and saving it on a floppy disk. He should now go to the computer room at the library, in hopes to quickly find a free unit to have it printed. He guessed that there were more chances to find the library less crowded right before dinner time.
He had just closed his textbook with a loud yawn when the phone rang. Eddie gasped and looked around. Stanley wasn't there: he had left the dorm a couple of hours ago, in order to meet with his classmates and finish the infamous group project he had mentioned the night before. Eddie let the phone rang a couple of times before picking up.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Eddie!"

It was Beverly. He sighed in relief.

"Hey, hi, Bev"

"How are you today? Did you get some rest?"

"Yeah, actually! Stan had to wake me up at noon. I probably would have kept on sleeping throughout the whole afternoon if it wasn't for him... And I just finished an assignment I have to turn in next Wednesday. How about you?"

"I truly need a Stanley in my life to help me get my shit together - she chuckled - I'm actually working on a paper due too, but I decided to take a little break to eat something and call you. Last night was so much fun, right?"

"Yes, it was! Oh, before I forget... Stanley said he was sorry he couldn't come with us last night, but he really wants to meet you, so he suggested we could perhaps grab lunch together after classes, maybe next week?"

"I'd love to! I'm free every day after 1 PM, except on Tuesdays, you know"

"How about next Thursday? Stanley told me his classes wrap up quite early on Thursdays"

"Thursday sounds great, can't wait! Hey, Eddie... Please, bear with my curiosity, but I wanted to ask you how was everything with Richie? I mean, after you dropped me at my dorm"

Eddie gulped. He guessed that Beverly and Richie hadn't had talked to each other yet that day. Otherwise, she would have known: Richie was her best friend, not his.

"It was alright. He's a bit strange, I think I told you already... But he's okay, I guess"

"Yeah, I remember - Beverly paused for a moment - Well, I talked to him earlier today, and he said he really enjoyed meeting you. So I wanted to hear your side of the story, too, because he suggested that perhaps, we could hang out again some other time soon. Would that be okay with you?"

Eddie frowned. So they did talk to each other that day. Why didn't Richie mention Beverly, his best friend and the link between them both, that he had already asked Eddie out on his own? Beverly seemed to be sincerely oblivious about it all. Should he say anything?

"Don't see why not, Bev"

"Ugh, great. You'll grow to like him, I promise"

"I sure will" Eddie grimaced.

"Well, I'll leave you alone now, I just wanted to check up on you, now I really need to get my shit together and finish this assignment before I fuck around and decide to switch majors again. I'll see you on Tuesday?"

"Yeah, see you then Bev"

----

Around 6:30 PM, Eddie decided that it was a good time to try his luck at the library. After grabbing his floppy disk and his wallet, he walked out of the room. Stanley hadn't had come back yet. Eddie suppossed that he perhaps would have dinner with his classmate and come back later that night.

The library was almost empty, just as Eddie had thought. He mentally congratulated himself, once again. A few students were sit around here and there, reading in silence. When Eddie reached the computer room at the back of the salon, there was only one girl using the printer machine. He had no option but to stay there and wait for her to finish printing all of her stuff. It was okay. He had time, after all.
While he awaited (and damn, that girl was printing a lot of pages, she better not make the machine run out of ink), Eddie's eyes roamed all across the salon. The annoying screeching sound of the printing machine was the only thing breaking the silent atmosphere.

And then he saw it. Those messy hair and glasses were unmistakeable.

There was Richie, sitting alone at a table, roughly 20 meters away. Eddie held his breath for a few seconds, feeling his heartbeat thumping in his ears. Richie didn't tear his eyes apart from the book he was reading, with his face resting on both of his palms. He hadn't seen Eddie, obviously.

Eddie slowly walked a few more steps into the computer room, so he was now half hidden from Richie's field of vision, and the girl, suddenly aware of his presence, turned around to look at him up and down, before resuming her printing spree.

For some reason Eddie couldn't stop looking at him. Waiting for Richie to look up and see him, perhaps? That would have been awkward.

Without a warning, Richie let out a heavy sigh, and with little to no care he frantically rubbed his eyes underneath the thick cristals of his glasses. He then took said glasses off, and placed them on what it seemed to be his personal notebook, before leaning back on his chair, head thrown back and eyes closed. He seemed to be that he had been reading that book for a long while now.
And wow, what a change, Eddie thought to himself. Richie looked different without those coke-bottle glasses on. He appeared to be more... mature.
Eddie observed his side profile with attention, the line of his sharp jaw going down to his long neck, and then his stomach, where his hands were resting with his fingers entwined. His chest rose up and down ever so ligthly as he breathed in and out.

Eddie remembered the first time he felt his lower belly tickling warm while looking at a boy he considered attractive. He was 14 years old, and of course, he was in the midst of his self-repressed hormonal blow-up. Eddie would feel extremely guilty and dirty afterwards, every single time it happened, because he knew it wasn't right. From that very first time onwards, he would mentally reprimand himself whenever he felt such things. But sometimes, the mental reprimand wouldn't be enough, especially in those occasions when he could find himself completely hidden under the blankets on his bed, with a hand snuck down his underwear. Eventually, he found a way to manage such torturing thoughts and acts: by overshadowing them with some kind of physical pain. Since his mother kept a strict control over every inch of his body until he turned 16 years old, he couldn't allow himself to do anything that left any kind of marks, bruises or scars on his body. The only way he found to sort that sickening impulse then was by scratching, picking on and pinching his gums to the point of making them bleed. The itchy lingering feeling in his mouth and the taste of his own blood had a somewhat soothing effect on him, pushing his lewd emotions aside for a little while, at least.
He stopped his mania as he grew out of his hormonal burst, wiser in matters of controlling his impulses and thoughts, and after a visit to the dentist, where he was warned about a possible gum infection. Eddie decided it was time to stop right after he turned 16. Luckily for him, he never relapsed.

And then, there he was. Standing in line at the computer room at college, waiting to get his fucking assignment printed once for all, and looking at Richie Tozier while that old known feeling of warmth in his lower belly started to rise up.

Shit. Shit. Not now, please. Not now.

"It's all yours"

The voice of the girl in front of him snapped him out of his dreamy.

"Huh?"

"The printer. I'm done with it", she clarified, pointing at the big square-shaped device.

"Oh, yeah, right. Thank you" Eddie blurted distractedly, as the girl walked out of the computer room with nearly 50 freshly printed fucking pages in her hands.

----

"Eddie, where have you been? I was worried, dude"

Stanley was already laying in bed when his friend got back to the dorm, around 9 PM.

"I was at the library, sorry Stan, I got my assignment printed and got some other stuff done. Didn't realize time went by so fast"

It was partially true, yes. But of course, Eddie wouldn't mention the other half of the story, in which he stayed inside of the computer room for nearly two hours doing absolutely nothing, only waiting for Richie to leave the library first so he wouldn't have to walk in front of him with an awkward bulge in his jeans.

After getting in his pajamas, Eddie lay down on his bed. Stanley was already snoring. Damn, Eddie wished he could fall asleep as fast as his friend always did. He tried to lull himself to sleep, too. But when he closed his eyes, Richie was there. All of him. With his head thrown back, his eyes closed, his sharp jaw, his chest going up and down, maddeningly slow. And his lips.

Eddie Kaspbrak, calm the fuck down immediately. Are you a fucking horny 14 year old?
Are you!?

Before he could even refrain himself from doing so, his fingers slid underneath his pajamas, and lazily stroked his cock up and down through the fabric of his briefs a couple of times.

Richie.

His hand squeezed a bit. Fortunately for him, Stanley let out a loud snore that overshadowed the tiny, pathethic and stiffled moan Eddie let out of his lips.

Richie.

Chapter Text

Sunday went by surprisingly fast. Both Eddie and Stanley had spent most of the day reading their textbooks, summarizing and organizing notes for the future exams. Their studying dynamics were quite similar, and that was one of many reasons why they got along well in high school. The concept of procrastination was absolutely banned from their aimed academic performing.
Eddie felt anxious and strangely frenzy the whole day. He wasn't aware of much that took a toll on his body it until Stanley kindly asked him to stop bouncing his fucking leg because "it was distracting".

He would see Richie the next day. Should have him told Beverly about it? What about Stan? Stan was his best friend. Why was he making such a big fuss out of it anyway?

The truth was that Eddie never in his life had a proper date before, let alone a guy who straight up asked him out, out of the blue. Never in a million years he would have dared to ask a guy out either, not in Franklin, at least. He felt excited about this new prospect, even if he wasn't sure about what exactly Richie expected of him. Eddie never mentioned him he was gay. But then again, he never mentioned it to Beverly either: she straight up seemed to guess it.

What did he expect from Richie, anyway?

Beverly had told him that she guessed that Richie was bisexual, that she had sex with him a couple of times before ditching in favor of their friendship (Eddie tried to forget that part of the story), but she also mentioned Richie dating some guys. Did Richie have sex with them too? Perhaps he was just a straight dude "experimenting"? Eddie knew "experimenting" was a thing in college, though he never actually considered doing such a thing, whatever it actually meant. But Beverly was referring to a time previous to Boston, meaning high school.

He felt a prick of sadness in his chest. Richie seemed to be the kind of guy who wasn't afraid of showing himself exactly like he was. And that was something that Eddie felt he could never fully do in the past. Was he jealous of Richie? Not only this man fancied girls, but he also appeared to be courageous enough to face his own sexuality to be able, being only eight months older than Eddie, to be much more experienced than him.
Eddie could blame it on his overprotective and intrusive mother; he could blame it on his hometown, full of conservative stuck up people; he could blame it on his bullies, who made sure Eddie knew from a very young age that being called "gay" was the worst kind of degradation for a man. But something still felt off to him.

Richie had it bad too.

I'm a fucking coward.

------

He woke up at 7 AM. Stanley had already left the dorm, of course, not before making his bed and leaving it in pristine condition. Even though he still had at least three more hours to rest, Eddie couldn't go back to sleep. Around 9 AM, he was already up and ready.
Unable (and unwilling) to sit still in his dorm for the next two hours, Eddie decided to have a little walk around campus. The sun was shining bright that day.
It felt good to walk around people who had no idea who he was, nameless students just like him, all coming from different places, different backgrounds. He never wanted to go back to Franklin, that was for sure, even if he still hadn't quite thought about where to head next, after graduating. He knew Stanley would probably move in with Patricia, get married, and eventually have children. What would he do? What could he do?

10:55. Shit. Time to head back to his building.

Eddie managed to go back to his dorm, take a quick shower and change his clothes right on time. The walk under the sun had left him a bit sweaty.

11:13. Would Richie show up? Eddie was already sitting at the entrance of the building, hugging his knees and looking around nervously. He and Richie never really got to talk after last Friday night. Perhaps Richie was drunk enough to not to remember about the whole asking out thing. They never actually re-confirmed it. Perhaps he just forgot.

"This is the most on-time I've ever been in my whole life, just so you know"

Eddie sat straight and saw the car that was slowly pulling over in front of the building. It was Richie.

"Should I feel honored?" Eddie darted in response. He couldn't think of anything smarter to say, but deep inside he was happy he finally showed up.

"Oh, yeah, absolutely"

Eddie stood up and walked towards the car, his knees wobbling a bit. Richie tapped on the passenger seat and smiled at him.

"Make yourself comfortable"

----

They barely talked to each other during the car ride. After driving out of campus, Richie headed downtown, following the almost same route Eddie and Beverly walked through to get to Bill's Bar the other day. But Richie kept on driving past that point for about ten more minutes, until they reached a less transited area. Eddie spotted a large cafe, styled like a 50's typical diner.

"Here?" he asked, hopeful. It was a beautiful place, movie-like. Eddie had never seen such a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing cafe in Franklin.

"Yup! - Richie nodded while looking for a parking spot - I thought McDonald's first, but then I remembered that I'm banned forever after a little incident in the ball pit. And no, I'd rather not talk about it"

Eddie chuckled. It annoyed him how easily he would laugh at Richie's nonsense. It was like his brain had made a 180° turn after the library incident, to which Richie was completely oblivious by the way.
After parking and getting out of the car, they both walked into the cafe. And Jesus Christ, it was so aesthetically pleasing. The checkered-floor, the vintage posters hanging on the walls, the retro-styled puffy red chairs and cuttlery, everything. It was not as crowded as the cafes Eddie saw while they drove downtown, so they could practically choose any table they wanted.

"Have you been here before?" Eddie asked, knowing the answer beforehand. Of course he's been here before, you dumb fuck.

"Uh, yeah. Couple times. Food's great"

"I'll have to check myself, I'm starving"

Eddie ordered a chocolate milkshake, and a caramel and cream topped waffle. Richie got himself a cup of coffee with a dab of cream and a chocolate donut.

"So good" Eddie aproved, chewing on his waffle.

"Looks like it" Richie smiled back, stirring his cup. His head tilted to the side as he observed at Eddie sipping on his milkshake. It took Eddie a while to notice the eyes fixed on him, which made his face burn red in a second.

"What?"

"Nothing. I'm just waiting for you to finish chewing so I can talk to you. It's rude to talk with a full mouth"

Eddie swallowed.

"Okay. I can talk now"

Richie shifted in his seat and straightened his back a little, before leaning against the table.

"How's Boston been treating you so far, Eds?"

Again that stupid nickname.

"It's been great so far. It's... better than I ever imagined. I'm happy to be here"

"Yeah, Boston is great. It's my second year in here, and I'm no planning on leaving, at least until I graduate. I got a job at a video store downtown and I can't complain, honestly. Cool people around. Where were you from, again?"

"Franklin, New Hampshire. Small town, very few people, most of them are shit, so yeah, I guess you can imagine"

"I... think I can. Sounds like my hometown too. I guess Beverly told you about it already"

"Yeah, she did"

"What else did she tell you?"

Eddie gulped. He wasn't stupid. He knew where Richie was trying to get with such a direct question. At the same time, he didn't want to get Beverly in trouble for "saying too much".

"Not much more, I think, she told me about her father, and well... We talked about how hard life was for both of us in our respective hometowns. We basically shared our experiences on why we took the fuck out right after high school. That's why we clicked so well, I guess. Many things in common"

Richie squinted and pursed his lips. Eddie wasn't sure if his half-assed answer had him convinced.

"Yeah, Waterville sucks - he sentenced - Evil nosy people talking shit about each others 'cause they've got nothing better to do with their pathethic boring lives. Bunch of losers. I'm never coming back to that shit-ass place. Only to visit my parents, but that's it"

"You get along with your parents?" Eddie asked, sligthly surprised.

"Yeah, I do. Why do you look so surprised?" Richie chuckled in response.

"Oh, I don't know - of course he knew - It's... just that my family is a bit dysfunctional. That's why I tend to assume it's a general norm, even though I shouldn't"

"You don't get along with your creators?"

"I... My father is dead. And my mother is... a strange lady, to say the least"

"Oh, so sorry about your father"

"Don't worry, he died when I was 7. I barely have memories with him"

"What about your mom? You said she's strange? Does she like to boil baby bunnies alive or...?"

"Jesus Christ, no! She's just... a bit overprotective. And a bit of a control freak. And I'm an only son, so you can imagine..."

"Yeah... that sucks, man. But hey, she gave you her blessing to come to Boston, so props to her"

"She didn't want to let me go, at first. My best friend Stanley had to convince her it was the best for me and my future"

"Convince her how?" Richie asked, smirking. Eddie caught the innuendo immediately.

"Dude, ew! Don't be so freaking gross"

"Sorry, I just happen to joke a lot. I apologize in advance"

"Yeah, I noticed it last Friday"

"You might be surprised to hear it, but joking around is like a self-defense mechanism"

"Defense against what? Me?" Eddie inquired, cocking an eyebrow.

"Oh, yes, Edward. You're lethal"

"How so?"

Richie pushed his empty cup aside and leaned even more on the table. Eddie held his breath.

"Well, Eds, call me paranoid if you want, but I could've sworn you looked down at me like I was a disgusting son of a bitch when you first met me"

Eddie opened his mouth to protest, but he didn't know what to say exactly. Yes, he thought Richie was obnoxious and annoying when he first met him.

I jacked off to you, dude.

"I-"

I jacked off two times in a row to you, and for the first time in my life I'm not even sorry about it.
No, wait, don't say that.

"I... I might have thought you were obnoxious and annoying"

Richie took his glasses off and placed them on the table.

"And you still do, now?"

Eddie's chest was heaving. Fucking hell, he was so beautiful.

"Of course I do. But I'm willing to tolerate you. You're Beverly's best friend"

Richie smiled widely and Eddie's heart felt like dropping down to the pit of his stomach.

"Works for me!"

"Ugh, dude"

"I'll get you to love me, Eds, you'll see"

Well, fuck it.

"Richie?"

"Tell me, Eds"

Eddie took a deep breath and leaned on the table too. His brain felt like mush floating in a gravity-free cage.

"Why did you bring me here?"

Richie opened his eyes wide as he put his glasses back on. The question for sure caught him out of guard.

"Why do you think I brought you here, Eds?"

"I asked you first"

"Okay, fair point"

Richie leaned in even closer, so now their faces were at less than 20 centimeters away from each other.

"I brought you here because I wanted to get to know you better..."

Shit.

"And damn, Eds, you're slow"

"How am I slow?"

"I thought you'd figure already"

"I have no idea what the hell are you talking about, dude"

Richie rolled his eyes in annoyance.

"Let's just leave it there. Hey, I don't wanna seem like a party-pooper but I have to go to work in an hour. And I want to drive you back to campus".

"Alright..."

They asked for the check, and before Eddie could even reach for his own wallet, Richie stopped him.

"Don't worry, Eds, it's on me"

Eddie frowned.

"You don't have to pay for my stuff"

"I might not have to, but I want to. Please"

"Richie..."

"Eds. Please. Make a man happy, would you?"

Eddie hesitated for a moment, but he finally accepted.

-----

"Did you like the cafe?" Richie questioned, as he got in the car. Eddie was already sitting on the passenger seat, buckling up his seat belt.

"Yeah, it was nice. Thanks for... everything"

He felt fucking embarrassed. What the hell was he expecting after all? He created his own fucking expectations out of the blue only because that guy asked him out to grab a fucking coffee. Only because after a confusing rush of arousment he masturbated to the thought of him. Only because Beverly said that she thought, without much of a proof, that he liked men the same way he liked women. Even if he actually fancied men, why would he like Eddie that way? He was so deprived of love he basically clinged onto hope, an absurd hope because of that man, the first and only man to ever show some kind of interest in him. He wanted to go back to his dorm and cry himself to sleep. Not because he was sad, but because he felt fucking naïve and stupid.

"Are you okay, Eds? You look pissed"

Eddie closed his eyes for a moment. He waited for Richie to turn the engine of the car on, so his eyes would fix on the road in front of them and not on him anymore.

"I'm... I'm fine"

"Well - Richie grinned - I think your face didn't get the memo"

"Fuck you"

Richie's smile vanished as he looked at Eddie, surprised at his seemingly enraged answer.

"Whoa, what...? Eddie, calm your tits, buddy. It was a joke"

Eddie felt Richie's hand dropping on his thigh. His body immediately reacted to it with a jolt, and his breath started to pitch.

"Do you mind?" Richie's voice sounded a tad deeper, nodding at his hand, still resting on Eddie's left thigh.

Touch me. Touch me. Touch me.

"N-No"

Richie bit his lower lip as his hand trailed upwards a little bit.

"Now?"

Eddie's heart was beating furiously in his chest.

"Fuck"

"What is it, Eds?"

Don't fucking ruin it Edward. Whatever you do, whatever you say. You'll fuck everything up.

"It feels nice" he breathed out, without thinking.

"Yeah?"

Richie's hand continued its way upwards a bit more and stopped there.

"Richie"

"I'm right here, Eddie. Tell me"

"Do you want to kiss me?"

He knew he was the one who said the words, he knew that they came out of his own lips. Still, Eddie had the strange feeling that it wasn't his voice pronouncing them. It was another voice, a different one, a new one, a voice that came from deep within.

Richie didn't respond right away, and Eddie wanted to undo his seat belt, open the door and run away as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

And he was about to do so. In fact, his shaky fingers were already handling the metallic buckle, when Richie's hand sneaked up to grab his nape and push it forward, pressing his lips against Eddie's.

Chapter Text

Richie took his glasses off, and Eddie closed his eyes. He had never kissed anyone before, and he sure didn't want Richie to realize that he had not a single clue about what to do with his mouth. He just let himself go and be guided by Richie.
It was wet, it was hot, and it made him feel tingly all over. With his hand pressed against Eddie's nape, Richie guided the kiss, shifting the position of their mouths every few seconds. Soon Eddie figured out what to do, mimicking Richie's lips and tongue movements. And holy shit, it was driving him crazy. Richie would slowly swirl his tongue against Eddie's, reaching every spot inside his mouth, before pulling out and suckling Eddie's lower lip with a loud slurp. Eddie opened his eyes a couple of times, only to see Richie's long black lashes fluttering against the freckles on his blushed cheeks. He could feel himself falling down to pieces. It was better than he ever imagined it could be, and he didn't want it to ever end. He wanted to kiss Richie Tozier until he ran out breath.
It was when he acknowledged Richie's free hand roaming near his crotch area that he snapped out of his high, back to reality.

"Richie..." he breathed out, breaking the kiss.

Richie removed his hand from Eddie's thigh and looked at him, expectant. His dark eyes were glistening, and his glasses were back on the bridge of his nose, a bit askew.

"What's wrong? I thought you wanted to..."

"Yeah, yeah, I wanted to. But we're in the middle of the street, someone could see us"

"Who gives a shit?" Richie hissed, leaning in to kiss Eddie again.

"I do..."

This time, Richie shifted backwards fully, with an inquisitive expression on his face. He finally seemed to understand what was bugging Eddie.

"You haven't... yet?"

"Sort of. Not really. I'm currently working on it - Eddie seemed to guess where his questioning was heading to - But I'm not ready yet for... public displays of affection, let's just say that"

Richie sighed, but smiled after a few seconds, which made Eddie regain his breath. He was fearing that Richie would get mad at him, or tell him how much of a stupid coward he was for fearing for a simple kiss.

"I totally understand Eds. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to rush you or make you feel exposed. I just really wanted to kiss you"

He turned the engine of the car on.

"It's fine, I wanted to kiss you too - Eddie rushed to assure him - Then I remembered that we are parked in the middle of the street, where literally any pedestrian that walks by can see us"

"I know... I know"

Richie began to drive back to campus in silence. But this time, Eddie didn't want that silence. He wanted Richie to talk to him. He wanted to be sure that it wasn't the last time that he was going to see him.

"Richie. Can I ask you something?"

"Of course, Eds"

"How did you know I was...? you know"

"Oh - Richie chuckled, steering his hands on the wheel - Well, I guess I figured it out when you didn't try to get into Bev's pants right after you guys met. You might not be aware of it, Eddie baby, but most of the straight men's brains work following a very steady and predictable pattern. So when I saw you the first time, and saw how you weren't actively trying to bone my best friend, or any other girl at Bill's, well, I put all the pieces together and kinda figured that you might, perhaps, be at least a bit interested if I ever asked you out. Because I'm that irresistible"

Eddie laughed nervously. Damn, was it really that obvious?

"Well, to be honest, if it wasn't for the fact that you had your tongue in my mouth five minutes ago, I could've sworn you were one of those predictable straight men"

"That's offensive, Eduardo. Moi? Straight? No fucking way"

"You just don't look..."

"What? Don't I look gay enough? Eddie, fuck that shit, for real. I just don't give a fuck about what people have down there. If I happen to dig someone that way, I just hope they will eventually like me back enough to let me dive in between their legs, and I will lick whatever I find there"

"Beep beep, Richie. Too much information"

"Sorry. I just find extremely annoying how people actively try to put tags on everything nowadays. I don't know what I am, I'm definitely not straight. That's all I can tell you. I hope it's enough for you"

"Alright. Got it"

"And back to your previous question at the cafe - he continued - I asked you out because I think you're fucking adorable and I wanted to be sure that if I ever tried to make a move on you, you wouldn't slap me across the face or kick my balls or something"

Eddie felt his heart jumping in excitement. So Richie did like him that way.

"I would never kick your balls. That shit probably hurts like hell"

"Oh, trust me. It does. Been there"

"Sorry, do you wanna talk about it?"

"Only with my therapist" Richie replied, curving his lips into a tiny smile.

-----

Richie pulled over in front of Eddie's residence and adjusted his glasses nervously before speaking again.

"So... No PDA"

"Nope"

"What if that 'P' stood for 'Private' instead...?"

"What do you mean?"

"It means that I want to see you again - Richie cooed - and maybe, if you let me, kiss you in a place where no one else can see us"

Holy shit, holy fuck.

His heart was beating so fast and so hard it made his chest hurt, like it was about to split open and pour all over Richie.

Don't die, Edward. Don't be a fucking coward.

"Sounds like... a second date?" Eddie blurted nervously.

"It does, right? I know a place we can go. And no, I don't mean my apartment, don't worry"

"Where is that?"

"Let yourself be surprised - Richie grinned - I'll call you in a few days to see how your week's going, alright? You know, just in case there are exams to study for, or assignments to turn in and shit. Who knows, you might need the whole weekend to study and stuff, and I wouldn't forgive myself if you fuck up because you can't say 'no' to an incredible kissing sesh with me. I'm trying to be a responsible student too"

"Fine - Eddie rolled his eyes, but Richie had a point - you can call me on Thursday or Friday if you want. Around 7 PM, if possible. You already got my number"

"Sí, señor"

Eddie unbuckled his seat belt and opened the door. Before he could get out of the car, Richie stopped him.

"I had a great time today"

"So did I" Eddie replied, blushing.

"Alright, you can go now. See you later, Eddie baby"

Richie waited for him to get inside of the building before waving a hand (Eddie waved in response) and driving away. Eddie ran back to his dorm. Holy fucking fuck. He just had his first kiss, and he liked it, he loved it, he wanted more of it. Without a second thought, Eddie slammed the door of his dorm open, completely forgetting that Stanley was probably already there, doing stuff on his desk. And he was, indeed.

"Shit, Eddie, you scared me! Don't open the door like that"

"Stan! Sorry!"

"It's okay! I thought you didn't have classes on Mondays"

"Oh, I don't have classes on Mondays. I just went out of campus, had a little walk downtown, you know. Trying to get to know the area a little bit more"

"Yeah, Boston is cool. Nothing like Franklin. I hope I won't get too many assignments to do this week. I really wanna go out, like, to a pub or something. Also I'd love to see a band performing, I've heard there are some good pubs downtown where local bands perform on weekends"

"We totally have to go out, Stan. I hope I won't get too much shit to do this week either". Of course, there was now another reason for Eddie to wish for that.

Stanley tore his eyes away from his notebook and looked at Eddie, who was already taking off his sweater.

"Are you okay, Eddie? You look a bit flushed"

Why the fuck was he so easy to see through?

"I've been walking under the sun! Forgot to put sunscreen on. My freckles are gonna fuck up, I know. Don't yell at me"

"I won't! My name's not Sonia" Stanley joked, before skillfully catching mid-air the bunched up sweater Eddie threw in his direction, giggling.

Chapter Text

Well, fuck.

By the time Eddie walked out his first two classes that Tuesday, he already had two different assignments to turn in next week. Looking on the bright side, neither of them didn't seem to be very extensive or time-consuming. If he got to properly manage his free time during the week, he could perhaps have them both finished before Saturday.
After a quick stop at the buffet and buying himself a coffee, Eddie headed towards his Politic class. He almost had forgotten that he'd see Beverly again that day. How he wished he could have shared with her or with Stanley what had happened the day before! Eddie felt like it was like a part of his adolescence he couldn't properly get to experience in the right time. It might not be a big deal, but it was, to him.

"Eddie!"

Beverly waved at him from the opposite side of the hallway, smiling. Eddie was beginning to grow fond of her already. He wondered how would she react if she knew what happened between him and her best friend? Well, it was only a kiss, really. Not that there was a lot to tell yet. Especially not before discussing it with Richie, and desciphering what his intentions were. Sure Eddie didn't have factual experience with dating, but he wasn't unaware of how relationships were sometimes a bit... confusing.
After the class wrapped (with no assignments given, fortunately), Eddie and Beverly decided to have a little walk around campus before going back to their respective dorms.

"I hope we won't get assignments to do tomorrow either. I'm loving this class so far"

"They'll have to, eventually, Bev. Sorry to burst your bubble"

"Let a girl dream, Eddie"

"By the way, are we still doing the little lunch meeting on Thursday, right?"

"Yeah, of course! A promise is a promise. Do you want me to ask Richie to come too, or...?"

"Uhm - Eddie hesitated - I'd rather it be only Stanley, you and me. You know, this time... the first time. We can tell Richie to join us next time, of course"

"Sure, makes sense" she agreed.

-------

Wednesdays and Fridays were the days Eddie had the most of his classes scheduled, from 7 AM until 5 PM. It was for sure a consuming and physically exhausting scheme, but he really wanted to make the most out of each semester, combining his major and minor classes equitally. He had to give it a try, at least on his freshmen year, while he still kept the most of his energy and enthusiasm intact. At least on Wednesdays, he got to share another class with Beverly, and another chance to talk about their lives, their interests, their expectations about Boston, and the future.

"Eddie, don't think you're fucked because you still don't know what to do after graduating. I mean, I don't know what I'll do after graduating, either. If I think about it now, I guess I'd like to work on something related to business communication or design, but who knows... I might change my mind tomorrow. So I don't sweat it"

When Thursday came, Eddie was excited for Beverly and Stanley to finally meet. They were so different from each other, yet they both meant so much for Eddie. They were loving, soothing beings. The kind of friends one would like to keep forever.

He and Stanley were already sitting at the buffet when she arrived. This time, she was wearing a red and black stripped turtle-neck sweater, and black skinny jeans. And of course, her favorite combat boots.

"Hey guys!"

"Hey, Bev! - Eddie greeted excitedly while she reached their table - This is Stanley! Stan, this is Beverly"

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Stanley!"

"Thanks, Beverly, it's a pleasure to meet you as well. Eddie's been talking a lot about you"

"Oh, be still my heart! Well, just so you know, he talks a lot about you too. So don't get jealous, alright?"

Stanley chuckled and shook his head, as Beverly threw her backpack on a chair and sat at the table with them.

"No worries. We can share him"

"Love the spirit. So, Stan, how's been college to you so far? You're majoring in Accounting, right?"

"That's correct - Stanley ran his fingers through his curls - Not the most entertaining major, one could say, but I kinda like it. College's been good to me so far, I can't really complain"

"Except for the group projects" Eddie interrupted with a toothy grin.

"Oh, come on Stan, don't you like group projects? They're, like, the most entertaining type of assignments"

Stanley blushed a bit, and felt the need to defend himself.

"It's not that I don't like group projects per se, I just find the whole dynamic annoying. Especially when there's someone in the group who doesn't work as hard as the others. Or those who are always 'busy' and supposedly never have enough time to show up to the group work meetings"

"Oh, well, but let's just say: you find a great group, where everyone's hard working and nice people..."

"Then that's a whole different story"

"See? The secret is to team up with the right people"

"I absolutely get your point"

"It's like me finding Eddie. I feel blessed for having tripped on his coffee cup, even though the whole thing was embarrassing as fuck"

"Oh, yeah, Edward is a blessing - Stanley playfully pinched Eddie's cheek as he spoke - Not to brag or anything, but we've been best friends since we were like... what, 7 years old?"

"More or less, yes" Eddie accorded, scratching his forehead.

"That's so cute! Since ever, practically. It's so good that you guys could get to attend the same college"

"Yeah, if it wasn't for Stan's girlfriend, Patty, we wouldn't be here right now. She's the one who recommended Boston"

"Oh, is she studying here too?" Beverly asked Stan.

"No, no. She's studying at Lasell. But she's been to Boston several times"

"Well, yeah, Lasell is relatively close from here. I'm glad she got you guys in here. So say 'thanks' to her from me, Stan"

"I will, I will"

"Also, I hope I'm invited to the wedding!" Beverly joked, making Stanley's cheeks turn red hot within a second.

"Woah, Beverly, hold up. We haven't discussed that yet" he mumbled with a nervous giggle.

"I'm just joking! - she appeased, waving her hands as in apology - Hey, guys, I don't know about you, but I'm starving. Shall we get something to eat...?"

-----

"Beverly is great" Stanley approved, as he and Eddie walked back into their dorm a few hours later.

"She is, right?"

"Yeah. I liked her a lot. She promised she'd let me know when and where are the local bands performing within the next weeks"

"We can go together, if you want"

"Absolutely, yeah"

Stanley threw himself onto his bed, and lazily watched as Eddie sat on his desk and opened his notebook and a text book.

"Are you gonna do your assignments? Now?"

"Yeah, I want to... you know, have the weekend as free as possible"

"Do you have plans for the weekend?" Stanley inquired, cocking an eyebrow and rolling onto his belly.

Technically, not yet.

"Not really. I just wanna rest, you know, it's been a rough week so far. Lots of assignments and new stuff to learn..."

"Oh, okay, I understand - he paused - Do you mind if I go out on my own? See, my Math classmates were talking about this pub dowtown and..."

Of course, Eddie had forgotten that, just as he had met Beverly, Stanley probably already had a couple of new acquaintances from his own classes.

"No, I don't mind at all, Stan. You can go out anytime you want. We'll have time to hit dowtown together"

------

After a couple of hours, Eddie had his assignments almost completely done. Stanley eventually decided to follow his friend's example, and worked on his own assignments too. Peer pressure, one would say. Around 6:50, he let go of his notebook and stretched on his chair.

"I think I'm gonna go to the kitchen and make myself something to eat, I'm hungry . Do you want me to make something for you too?" he offered Eddie.

"Uhm..."

Eddie peered distractedely at his watch.

You can call me on Thursday or Friday, if you want. Around 7 PM, if possible.

Then he remembered. It was quite possible that Richie would call him in aproximatedly 15 minutes. Eddie knew that Stanley would normally go to the kitchen to make himself dinner around that time every day. The pieces were falling into place, just as he expected.

"Yeah! Yeah, actually. I'd like to eat some pasta. If that's not too much to ask for..."

Pasta would take at least 25 minutes to be done. Time enough for a quick phone call.

"Well, I was planning on making myself a sad-ass sandwich, but pasta sounds like a better option. I'll make some for both of us - Stan agreed, standing up and stretching himself again - I'll be back in a while, you can set up the folding table in the meantime, it's under my bed"

"Alright" Eddie nodded, standing up at the same time Stanley walked out of the room and closed the door behind his back.

First thing Eddie did was, of course, setting up the folding table. He had no excuse for not having it done by the time Stanley was back with the food.

6:59. Would Richie call him that day? Eddie cursed himself for his lack precission. "Thursday or Friday"? What the fuck was he thinking? He should have just picked one day. Thursday OR Friday. And why didn't he ask for Richie's phone number anyway? Richie had his own place. It would be easier for Eddie to call him, and not the other way around, because he had to make sure that Stan wouldn't be there by the time Richie called.

So many things to fix up, Edward.

Minutes passed by with no signs of Richie and his promised call. Eddie started to grow impatient. At certain point, he begged for Richie to straight up call him the next day, if he was to call him at all, because he knew that Stan was probably about to get back to the dorm in any second.

Eddie jumped off his chair when the phone rang at exactly 7:23. He almost fell on the floor in his attempt to pick up the headset.

"He-Hello?"

"How I missed to hear that sweet voice of yours"

Eddie bit his lip and grinned. It was Richie, of course. What a relief. He was aware of how his technically non-existent self-confidence made him second guess himself everytime someone complimented him or said something objectively positive about his person. Eddie knew he had to work on that. So far, Richie had given him nothing but proofs that he was actually interested on him, even though Eddie had a hard time letting his head properly wrap around that idea.

"It's been only three days since we last saw each other, weirdo"

"An eternity. I just got home from work, by the way. How's been your week so far, Eds?"

"Pretty exhausting, to be honest. A bunch of assignments to turn in, me fears. But I'm working on them. How about you?"

"Same here. No exams on sight yet, though. That's good. But yeah, I got a few things to turn in next week"

Eddie felt his guts squeezing in anguish.

"That means that you'll be... busy next weekend?"

"You sound disappointed"

"Well..."

"Eds, don't worry. I haven't forgotten about that second date we talked about on Monday. I'll have my shit done before Saturday comes. Do you think you can have your shit done before Saturday comes?"

"Yeah, I told you I was working on it..."

"Then I guess we could hang out next Saturday, if you still want to"

Eddie knew he sounded kind of desperate. But he didn't care. He had to close the deal before Stanley got back to the dorm.

"Yes. Yes, I want to"

"Okie-dokie. I checked the forecast beforehand and Saturday's gonna be a beautiful sunny day, so it fits like a glove to my secret plan. I gotta work from 9 AM to 1 PM that day, so I could pick you up at 1:30, what you say?"

"1:30 is okay - Eddie approved, nervously glaring at the door everytime he heard footsteps walking down the hallway - Do you need me to bring something?"

"Only that beautiful face of yours"

"Dude, you're so corny"

"I know you love that type of shit, Eds. I can feel it in your voice, even through the phone. I can practically envision you, all flustered and blushing, probably wearing a cute soft wool sweater"

"Shit, are you spying on me or something? Got a CCTV installed in my dorm when I was out?"

"Hey, what a great idea! I could keep an eye on you all day that way"

"Fucking creep"

"Relax, Eds. I haven't went on full-psycho mode yet - he let out a soft chuckle and continued - So, before you regret: Saturday 1:30, okay?"

"Yeah, alright. I'll see you then"

"Have a good night, angel"

"You too, corny-ass"

"Thanks, I love you too!"

After placing the receiver back on its base, Eddie had only a few moments to squeal in excitement and collect himself again before Stanley knocked on the door.

"Eddie, open the door, please - his shaky voice begged from the other side of the door - my hands are full and these bowls are hot as hell"

"Coming!"

----

Friday was a rough day. By the time of his last class, Eddie was already yawning and nodding off. Truth was, he couldn't sleep quite well the night before. Despite of his exhaustion, he bought himself a large cup of coffee before heading back to his dorm, willing to conclude with all of his assignments that very evening.
Around 8 PM, Stanley was getting ready to go out.

"Do you wanna use my computer? I'm leaving in 10 minutes, I can leave it on for you"

"No, it's okay Stan, thanks, you can turn it off. I almost got this done over here. Where are you guys going, by the way?"

"It's a place downtown named 'The Black Rose'. Mike, my classmate from Maths, says it's a good spot, sort of a mix between a disco and a pub. So he invited me and a few other people from our class"

"Sounds like a cool place. Well, I hope you guys have fun!"

"Thanks, Eddie"

"And don't forget the 'no vomiting' rule"

"Never! If I get too fucked up I'll make sure I let it all out before coming back to campus"

"Well, look at us, being responsible adults and shit...!" Eddie joked, ruffling Stan's curls while the taller boy giggled and theatrically pretended to adjust the collar of his polo.

----

Eddie fell asleep right after finishing his last assignment. He dozed off so hard and so deep that he didn't realize at what exact time Stanley got back to the dorm. He only knew, by the time he woke up around 10:40 AM, that Stanley was probably drunk at his arrival at the point he didn't even get to change his clothes before falling onto his bed, since he was still wearing his jeans and his polo shirt, and his shoes were spread here and there on the floor beside his bed. Eddie smiled, enjoying the sight of what was supposed to be his best friend's first hangover. Not that getting drunk was exactly a good plan, but it was frankly unusual to see Stanley "loosened" like that. Eddie felt it was necessary for him to live through such an experience at least once in his life. The idea of challenging themselves through new experiences thrilled Eddie.

Trying not to wake Stanley up, Eddie got out of his bed and took his good time to shower. The warm water relaxed his muscles and soothed his nerves. What was Richie's plan for that second date? He had said he wanted to take Eddie to a place where they could be alone, but assured that it wasn't his apartment. That, perhaps, meant that he wasn't trying to go further with him in... that way.
Eddie was scared of the idea of having sex, not because of the act itself, but for the fact that he had not a clue about how the whole thing would work out for him. Of course, he kinda of knew how things were meant to happen between a woman and a man.
Once he found himself out of his mother's reach, out of his old house, his old room and his old bed, it became easier for Eddie to start getting in touch with his own body, with gradually less and less sense of guilt. Without rushing, without fear.
He technnically understood how two men could have sex. But it was the idea of putting it down to practice what concerned him the most.
What would Richie like? What would he like?
Before he could get too much into the thought of it all, he decided to conclude his shower. Stanley was snoring, still sound asleep. Eddie had time to think what he would say to Stan once he was back, especially after declaring a few days prior that he wanted to spend the whole weekend in "to rest".
He put on a baby blue polo, a dark blue wool sweater and a pair of jeans. It didn't say much, but it was comfy and very much his signature style.

After a quick breakfast at the buffet (no coffee this time, only an orange juice and a sandwich), Eddie headed back to his building and, just as he did a few days prior, he sat on the entrance steps and hugged his knees, expectant. A few residents were walking past the building, of course, not minding his presence at all. The sweet, sweet comfort of being absolutely unknown.
1:37 PM. Alright, Richie was a bit late. Not too much, but enough to make Eddie begin to feel unease. He looked around nervously, eager to catch a glimpse of the the grey Ford Escort. But 5 more minutes went by with no signs of Richie.
1:46 PM. Eddie was now feeling a lump throbbing painfully in his throat, and he was right about to stand up and go back to his dorm when he finally saw it.
Richie pulled over with a goddamn loud screech, and unlike the first time, he got off the car and trotted towards Eddie, visibly agitated.

"I'm so sorry, Eddie - he apologized, out of breath - I know I'm late. I was... I had to stay at work for a little longer waiting for the manager to arrive..."

The burning lump in his throat immediately subsided, and his heart caught a peacefully steady beat again.
Richie didn't have his glasses on. His curls were messy, as usual. On that day, he chose to wear a white t-shirt with Jim Morrison's face printed on it, underneath an unbuttoned black shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His black ripped jeans were so washed out they almost looked grey, and a thick silver chain poked out of one his front pockets, all the way to the back.

"Don't worry, it's okay. Shit happens"

"Thanks for understanding - Richie panted, trying to catch on his breath - Whew, Jesus, I'm so out of shape. Alright, are you ready? Come here, get on"

And so Eddie did. The inside of his car smelled strongly like cigarette smoke, a scent Eddie personally found rather displeasant. Even though, he couldn't help to think that Richie looked sexy while smoking, despite of knowing that it was bad for his health.

"Where are your glasses, by the way? - Eddie inquired, buckling his seat belt as Richie got in the car and shut the door with a loud slam - I thought you couldn't see shit without them."

"I can't, actually. I'm wearing my contacts today. I normally prefer to wear my glasses since they're easier to manipulate, though. Contacts are too much work"

"Oh, okay"

"What, don't you think I look good without my glasses?"

"You look good either way" Eddie declared dryly. For someone who seemed to be so self-confident, Richie sure worked his ass off to get Eddie's compliments every time he could.

Richie turned the engine on.

"Asides from that, it's easier for me to do certain things without my big ass glasses in the way. Kissing, for example. Amongst others you might find about later on"

Eddie shivered in his seat, and Richie smiled pleased with himself at the realization of it.

"Where are we going, by the way?" Eddie asked, regaining himself as Richie drove out of campus.

"Don't be so impatient, Eddie baby. You'll find out in a little while. Just sit back and enjoy the ride"

------

They drove for approximately 30 minutes to the south. As they exited the urban area, the landscape became greener, and the sky more visible. At certain point, Richie took a road exit, and the next thing Eddie saw was a white sign ahead of them.

Blue Hills Reservation.

Eddie looked around as they moved forward, fascinated. They drove through a large forest area that led to a beautiful lake on the side of the road. The sunshine reflected on the surface of the water, making it sparkle.

"We're almost there" Richie announced, tapping his fingers on the wheel.

After another 5 minutes, Richie slowed down, as they entered a parking area where he finally pulled over.

"Are you ready for a hike, Eds?"

"Thank God I decided to wear my Nikes today. You should have told me"

"Don't worry, you're fine, I won't make you walk a lot".

Richie reached for his backpack on the backseat, stretching a bit over the gearshift, and turned the engine off.

"Alright, let's go"

----

Richie led Eddie through a forest area, a little bit upwards. It was so beautiful, quiet and peaceful, only the chirping of birds could be heard, asides from an occasional car driving past the road behind them. And not a single soul around. The physical effort the hike upwards required didn't quite allow them to collect enough breath to talk to each other a lot during their expedition. Not that Eddie had a lot to talk about, since his brain was sort of blocked due to his increasing anxiousness and expectation. They soon reached a rocky peak with a decently nice view.

"We can rest here for a little while, if you want" Richie suggested, carelessly throwing his backpack on the ground at his feet and stretching himself.

Eddie collapsed on the ground, under a large tree.

"Thank God" he breathed out, wiping his forehead. It was a chilly day, but he was already sweating.

Richie kicked his backpack a couple of times until it got to Eddie's reach.

"I brought some stuff to eat. Serve yourself"

Eddie hesitated for a moment before grabbing Richie's (already covered in dust) backpack and unzipping it. He found two bottles of water and a handful of snacks inside of it.

"Grab anything you like - he continued - I bought it for us"

"Thanks, Richie"

While Eddie took a long sip of water from the bottle, Richie sat by his side and rested his back against the tree, looking around with squinty eyes.

"I like to come here when I need to take a break from the city life. Reminds me of when I was a kid. I never found myself quite comfortable in Waterville, so most of the times, when I didn't want to stay at home, I would normally go to walk around the quarry or whatever green area I could find where I wasn't kicked out for being fucking bum. My parents didn't dig the fact that I was barely at home, but they have always been very permissive so basically I always did whatever the fuck I wanted" Richie explained, before reaching for his backpack and grabbing his pack of cigarettes and a lighter after a quick search.

"You're lucky your parents weren't obsessively after you, like my mother did with me"

Richie lit his cigarette and took a deep drag before blowing out the smoke, with his eyes fixed on the ground at his feet when he replied.

"Yeah, I guess..."

"My mother never let me out of the house by myself until I was, I don't know, 14 or 15 years old. And only if Stanley was with me. She always said the outer world was a dangerous place, that I was physically weak enough to catch every illness and infection in existence if I ever got to set a foot further from our front porch. She basically made me fear for my life whenever I was out of the house"

Richie tore his eyes from the ground and glared at Eddie with a compassionate look.

"That's horrible, Eddie. I'm sorry you had to grow up like that"

"It's okay. I don't want to think about that now. I'm sorry I interrupted you..." Eddie mumbled, playing with a fallen leaf between his fingers.

"Eds, you didn't interrupt me. We are having a conversation. And I like it when you tell me stuff about you. Helps me to get to know you better"

Richie's fuming cigarette was hanging from his lips while he managed to rip open a pack of Twinkies. After succeeding in his task, his right hand reached up for his cigarette and he took another drag.

"Smoking is bad for your health"

"I know. But so are Twinkies. I'm here for a good time, not a long time, so whatever".

He then offered Eddie a Twinkie with a wide smile on his face. And Eddie couldn't say no, of course, since he had a sweet tooth and loved all kinds of pastries.

"You look cute when you eat" Richie cooed, reaching out to play with Eddie's hair, which made him cringe while still chewing.

"I'm literally doing nothing special"

"You're special, Eds, you don't need to do anything"

"Richie?"

"Yup?"

Eddie didn't quite know how to word the million questions he had for Richie. But he had to try. They were there already, together, just as he had been craving the whole past week.

"What do you want from me, exactly?"

Richie swallowed and sat straight, before inhaling deeply.

"Could you please elaborate on that question?"

"Richie, I think you understand what I mean"

"I need you to word it up"

Eddie closed his eyes for a moment. The lack of a proper answer didn't exactly help to appease his nerves.

"Are we... dating? Or are you just trying to get in my pants and then dip? Because if that's what you want to do, we can call it quits right now. I'm not sure if you noticed, but I'm not looking for that kind of experience. Especially not now, when I'm literally just... coming out"

"I'm not trying to get in your pants and dip, Eds"

"So?"

Richie ran his fingers through the mess of his curls, nervously.

"Look, we literally met, like, less than two weeks ago. We're just... getting to know each other. Which is basically what normal people do when they find someone they like. I usually never bother to get to know a thing about someone who I know will only be a one night stand. That's where I dip, because believe it or not, I have feelings too. Then there's you. I like you. That's why I'm here. And I'm guessing you like me too, because you are here as well"

"I just don't wanna get hurt" Eddie sentenced.

"Me neither! And I don't wanna hurt you either, Eds. Look, I don't know what Bev told you about me. I love her, and I know her so well that I know she sometimes talks a little bit too much, just like I do. I'm not seeing anyone right now. In fact, I was trying to avoid dating or fucking around because I wanted to focus on my studying. But then I met you, and you had me seriously considering the whole no-dating thing. I literally seized every spare moment I had at work this week to finish my assignments so I could be able to see you today, something I would have never done in the past. So, do the maths, buddy"

Eddie had a few seconds to think what to say, while Richie softly crooned something in the lines of "No littering, good sir", before proceeding to storage the crumpled up Twinkie packages and the cigarette end in a tiny pocket in his backpack.

"I'm sorry I'm being a bitch" he finally said with a choked voice.

"You're not being a bitch, Eddie. I know how you must feel with the whole coming out thing. I know I'm not the best prospect for a first-anything. But I wanna try. I think you are worth it. I liked you as soon as I saw you that night at Bill's"

A sudden urge to cry his eyeballs out took over Eddie. He wanted to run out of Richie's sight and curl up somewhere he could cry all by himself. He felt so moved, so emotionally exposed; he didn't know how to cope, how to handle himself.

Don't cry. Don't you dare to shed a single fucking tear.

It took him a couple of deep breaths to re-compose himself.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm good"

Richie shifted closer, and tenderly caressed Eddie's cheek with the back of his shaky index. Eddie looked at him straight in the eyes for a few seconds, before his eyes involuntarily dropped down to his mouth. Richie had a sort of ict Eddie got to descipher during their first date, that consisted in nervously chewing the corners of his lower lip every once in a while, causing them to look even more flushed and fleshy. In the proximity, he could feel Richie's breathing intensifying by the second.
Without not much of a second thought, Eddie shifted forward and kissed Richie, holding the sides of his face with both hands, and Richie responded instantly by grabbing Eddie's nape and yanking it forward, which caused Eddie to moan softly, almost imperceptibly.

"Did you just moan?" Richie questioned, breaking the kiss for a moment and doing the lip-biting thing.

"Sorry" Eddie apologized, feeling his cheeks burning in embarrassment.

"Don't be sorry, it was cute... and kinda hot"

Two minutes into the kiss and he was already straddling Richie's lap, with the taller boy's hands going up and down all over his body, feeling every inch of it. His knees were hurting, consequence of the grainy soil nailing on his skin through his jeans, but he didn't care. Eddie felt like his whole self was made of clay between Richie's hands, each one of the sensory nerves on his skin reacting and submitting, liquifying any kind of resistance he could ever try to put up. He didn't know what to do with his own hands, so he just wrapped his arms tightly around Richie's neck, forcing their bodies even closer.

And then it happened. An inner tide that rose up from the very pit of his bowels to meet the electric jolt that shook his brain as his hips started to rock back and forth against Richie's crotch. This. This is what I want.

This time, it was Richie who let out a choked moan. His hands instinctively grabbed each side of Eddie's hips, manhandling him on his lap so Eddie could now feel him, all of him.

And holy shit.

Eddie could feel Richie's cock hardening against his own crotch. It was so arousing, and it made him feel so dizzy that he feared he was about to pass out. He moaned again when Richie squeezed his ass with both hands.

"Fuck, Eds, you're so cute. So cute..."

Eddie couldn't have articulated a single word even if he tried. His brain was made of mush once again, his own erection was now rubbing against Richie's, and even through the thick fabric of both of their jeans, he could feel every inch of it.

"Let me make you feel good, Eddie... please"

He didn't quite know what that meant, but all he could do then was nodding frantically in response.

Touch me. Touch me. Touch me.

Chapter Text

"I need you to tell me what you wanna do" Richie breathed out, breaking the kiss and wiping off the strains of Eddie's hair that were stuck to his sweaty forehead.

Eddie mouthed like a fish that's just been plucked out of the water, but no sound came from his lips. All what he wanted was to have his mouth pressed against Richie's, and his hands all over his body again.

"Eddie - Richie insisted when Eddie didn't answer - Have you ever done this type of stuff with someone else before? Please answer me"

Without a second thought, instinctively, even, Eddie shook his head, just like he would do as a kid when his mother asked if he had been playing in the mud or reading lewd comics. Be a good boy, Eddie. But this time, at certain extent deep down his consciousness, he was already regretting having said no. Richie's jaw dropped for a moment.

"Well, fuck. Hold up, Eds"

He attempted to get Eddie off his lap, but Eddie sunk his heels on both sides of Richie's thighs in response and shook his head again, as in refusal. Still with Eddie sitting on top of him, Richie shifted backwards and glared inquisitively.

"You can't think straight right now, no pun intended. But I'm sure this is not the way you want your first time to be"

Eddie snapped out of his high. His first time. Of course he had thought, a long before even knowing Richie, about how his first time would be. More precisely, about how he wanted it to happen, even if he couldn't allow himself to imagine it with much detail due to the self-restraint urge that would immediately follow. Richie was right, though, Eddie had to admit. For sure in his imagination it didn't happen in the middle of a forest, on a ground covered in grainy soil and fallen leaves. His throat tightened in embarrassment as he regained enough composure to admit his defeat.

"Yeah, you're right"

Richie cupped Eddie's face with one hand and placed a soft peck on his lips.

"If I were to be your first time, I promise you it would be at a proper place and time"

Eddie nodded and bit his lip. Richie's prospect had excited him. For the past few days, Richie and the idea of being intimate with Richie was all he could think of whenever he got to pleasure himself. Instead of occasional anonymous faces, public figures he found attractive, or even classmates, all of his fantasies now had a tangible individual behind them. Did he really fancy Richie that much? Or was it only because he'd been the first man to ever make him feel wanted? Eddie knew he wasn't able to think properly through all of that while still straddling his lap, with a raging erection tugging in his jeans.

"Richie?"

"Tell me, angel"

"I want you to touch me"

There! He finally fucking said it.

"W-What?" Richie muttered, opening his eyes wide in surprise.

"I want you to touch me - Eddie repeated, more firmly this time - That's all I want, I promise. Please"

Richie blinked a few times, as if challenging Eddie to revisit his requirement. But Eddie didn't even flinch.

"You sure want that, Eds? Here and now?"

"Y-Yes. I want it. Here and now"

"Okay, then"

Richie's hands eagerly reached down for Eddie's jeans, and quickly unbuttoned and unzipped them. Eddie rose slightly up on his knees, enough to allow Richie to pull the fabric a little bit down his thighs. His erection was now on full display, trapped underneath the pristine white briefs. Richie groaned at the sight, and his long fingers ghosted all over the shaft in admiration.

"You're gonna kill me, Eddie - he sighed, grabbing the elastic of Eddie's briefs and slowly shoving them down - I'm going to have a fucking heart attack and you'll have to drive me to the ER"

Eddie's cock sprang up free from his cotton prison and throbbed victoriously, with its tip already taut and wet with precum. Richie wrapped the palm of his right hand around it.

"Your cock is so pretty, Eds. I've jerked off way too many times on the past week imagining it. And it's even better now that I got to see it in real life"

"Fuck - Eddie moaned, his hips jerking forward as Richie's hand began to pump firmly but with a maddeningly slow pace - You really d-did that?"

"Yup. I can't tell you what I imagined, though. That's confidential information"

Eddie wished he knew how to engage in a dirty talk, a common sexual practice he knew about, without feeling awkward or embarrassed. He wanted to tease Richie with words, but he wasn't quite sure about how to do so without making him laugh and consequently ruining the "sexy" mood.

"If you tell me what you imagined, I could tell you what I imagined when I did that too" he ventured, slightly dubious. And it seemed to work. Richie immediately tightened the grip and sped up the pace of his pumping, making Eddie squirm on his lap.

"When you did what, Eds?". His voice sounded deep and hoarse, in a way Eddie had never heard before.

"Well... Jacking off"

"Jesus Christ"

Richie continued pumping his hand, occasionally circling the tip of Eddie's cock with the pad of his thumb, while holding him tightly on his lap with his free hand. His eyes were glistening with a vicious spark that made Eddie tremble, completely defensless under his touch.

"Makes me happy to know you've been touching yourself for me, Eddie. Next time you wanna do it let me know beforehand, so I can give you a quick call and help you out with it. Do you want me to tell you what I was thinking of while I jacked off to you?"

"Y-Yes, I wanna know"

"I was thinking... how pretty you'd look with my cock in your mouth"

Jesus fucking Christ.

"Holy shit, Richie..." Eddie whined, feeling his orgasm starting to build up.

"Your face is so beautiful, Eds. It enrages me how pretty you are. I'd give away everything I own if I had to for a chance to fuck your mouth and then come all over that pretty face of yours"

Sure Richie knew how to engage in a dirty talk that was effective enough to send Eddie over the edge in little to no time.

"Fuck, I'm close..."

"Show me how you come for me, baby, come on - he encouraged, pumping his fist faster and tighter every time - Show me how good it feels when you touch yourself thinking of me"

So good. It feels so good.

Richie leaned slighty backwards, grabbed the hem of his t-shirt and lifted it up to his chest, seconds before Eddie moaned and squirmed as he reached his orgasm. A couple of thick streams of cum erupted from the tip of his cock, splattering on Richie's exposed belly, a few dropplets clung to the trail of dark hairs that led to his groin. It was the hottest thing Eddie had ever witnessed so far in his almost 20 years of life.

"Holy shit, Rich..."

As Eddie got down from his orgasm and clumsily storaged his softened cock back in his briefs, Richie managed to grab a paper tissue from his backpack and quickly cleaned himself with a satisfied grin on his lips.

"Come here, Eds" he invited tapping on his chest, once his t-shirt was back in its original position and Eddie's jeans buttoned up.

And so Eddie fell completely limp against Richie's body and rested his head on his shoulder, feeling like his brain and limbs were made of jelly. Richie played tenderly with his hair, then his hand went up and down his back caressing ever so lightly with the tip of his fingers.

"Better?"

"Much better - Eddie cooed, rubbing his nose against Richie's neck soft skin - What about you? Do you want me to...?"

How could he have forgotten? Richie was just as hard as him when they were kissing. Eddie couldn't help to feel like a selfish wanker. Richie shook his head and continued caressing the small of Eddie's back.

"I'm okay, Eds. Don't sweat it. My main worry was to get you back to your senses. Seems like I did a good job, didn't I?"

Eddie suddenly got off Richie's lap and sat on the ground by his side. The bulge in his jeans had considerably subsided by then.

"I'm... I'm sorry"

"Don't be sorry. We'll have plenty of opportunities to... you know. If you want to, of course"

"Yes, I want to" Eddie rushed to assure.

Richie smiled at him, playing with a tiny rock he picked up from the ground. Even with all of the doubts and questionings echoing in his mind, Eddie knew that he really liked Richie. Yes, he still believed he was a bit reckless and obnoxiously flirty to the point of being almost irritating. But he also made Eddie feel excited, desired, and above all, he made him feel brave enough to push his own self-established limits. A sensation he barely got to experience before in his life.

"Besides, you still have to tell me what you imagined. But! - he continued before Eddie could even reply - Not now, not today. Perhaps I could call you again next Thursday, and we could discuss it then..."

"Wait, no - Eddie suddenly remembered one of his pending tasks regarding to Richie's phone calls - You give me your phone number instead. It's easier for me to call you when Stanley's out. If you call me and Stan's there, we're both fucked, especially me"

"Oh, right... the dorm life and its uncountable perks! You know, I don't miss it in the slightest bit" Richie joked, looking in his backpack for a pen and a piece of paper. He took his time to scribble the numbers in the clearest handwriting he could achieve, before handing it to Eddie, who carefully folded and storaged it in his pocket.

"You get home from work around 7:30 PM every day, right?"

"Monday to Friday, more or less, yes"

"Alright. I could call you earlier than Thursday, if you want"

"You can call me whenever you want to, Eds. Not trying to sound like a sappy bitch, but I truly love talking to you"

"Yeah, that sounded a bit sappy"

"I don't care"

They kissed again for a while, this time in a sweeter tone, much more slow and tender. While running his fingers through his hair, Eddie couldn't helpt to think that Richie really needed a haircut, but at the same time loved his overall messy look. He couldn't particularly stand messes of any kind (one of the reasons why he bonded so well with Stanley, even though Stanley was frankly more intransigent), but Richie seemed to have his own mess under control, turning it into one of his charms, even.

"Thanks for bringing me here, Richie. It's been a great date so far"

"Glad to hear! You have a curfew or something?"

"Not really. But I have yet to make up an excuse to tell Stan. I told him a couple of days ago that I wanted to stay in for the whole weekend because I was tired and wanted to rest. So you can guess he'll have a few questions when I'm back after being out the whole Saturday"

"Didn't he see you leaving earlier today?"

"No - Eddie grimaced - he went out last night and apparently blacked out when he came back to the dorm. By the time I left he was still asleep"

"Goddamn - Richie chuckled - Must've been absolutely shitfaced"

"Yeah, probably. He's not used to drink that much"

"He'll get used to it soon. That's how college works. Did he go to Bill's?"

"No, no. He went out with his Accounting classmates, Maths I think. He told me how the pub was named but I can't remember right now, ugh... Something like... Rose? Black Rose, perhaps?"

Richie opened his eyes wide.

"You're kidding, right?"

"Why? Do you know that place?"

"Uhm... yeah. The Black Rose. Shit, that explains everything"

"What does that even mean?"

"Well... The Black Rose is known for throwing some pretty dope ass parties. I mean, the music is cool, drinks are cheap and most of the people there are nice, but they go hard, I mean... hard. Literally everyone can get in and there's a lot of everything going on. So don't be surprised if Stanley had his cock sucked by a rando while blowing rails in a bathroom stall last night"

Eddie frowned.

"Stan's not like that, he'd never do such a thing. Besides, he has a girlfriend"

Richie let out a loud cackle and wiped his eyes.

"Yeah, okay. Whatever you say, Eds. I don't even know the guy so let's give him the benefit of the doubt"

"If I had known all of this beforehand I'd probably have warned him. Sounds like a dangerous place to party at..."

"I wouldn't say it's exactly dangerous - Richie pondered - More like wild, and a bit messy. As long as you don't get into fights or accidentally overdose on something you'll do fine. Your friend Stanley got out of it alive, and I've been there a few times too and I honestly had a lot of fun, so..."

"So you had your cock sucked while blowing rails in a bathroom stall?" Eddie inquired dryly.

"Eds, I was kidding"

"Yeah, alright"

"Look at you, being all jealous and shit! You're lucky I'm hopelessly infatuated with you"

"Shut up"

"I'll take you to The Black Rose one day, and you'll see what I mean. I promise you'll have fun"

Eddie glared at him in disbelief, but then shrugged. So far Richie's plans with him had always been quite successful. Eddie was aware of how Richie knew Boston way better than him, so why not?

"Okay, I guess"

Richie then stood up with some difficulty, holding to the tree bark, and after patting the dust off his jeans he offered Eddie a hand to help him stand up as well.

"Come on, let's hike a little more"

Chapter Text

They left Blue Hills Reservation around 5:30 PM. Eddie was feeling exhausted, since he and Richie ended up hiking way more than what was originally planned, but having that fact dismissed, he was feeling overall quite content. After Richie being a complete mystery to him when they first met, Eddie was getting to know more and more about him. That day, for instance, he got to know that Richie's parents expected him to major in something related to mathematics since he'd always been very good at it, also, that he caught his smoking habit when he was 13, and that one time, a few years prior, he and Beverly sneaked out to assist to a New Order concert in Philadelphia (a fact that honestly made Eddie feel a bit jealous, since he'd never gone to a concert before, let alone a concert of a band he loved so much). He also found himself able to open up and tell Richie quite a few things about his past life in Franklin, and Richie would listen to him attentively, ocasionally reaching out to caress his face or hold his hand, simple gestures that were enough to make Eddie's heart melt in a bubbly warm puddle. They spent most of the ride back to campus chatting and singing to the songs that came on the radio. Eddie couldn't have imagined a more perfect date, even without actually having prior experience in that matter. He couldn't help to feel bummed when they finally got to campus, because he knew damn well that he wouldn't see Richie again for a few days at least.

"Today's been great, I've enjoyed it a lot. But next time let me know where we're going to beforehand so I can wear proper clothes and shoes"

"Sorry about that, I'll keep it in mind next time, Eds"

"Well... Thanks for everything" Eddie mumbled, when Richie pulled over in front of his residence.

"Thanks to you, for letting me smother you with my sappiness" Richie joked and squeezed Eddie's thigh playfully.

"Alrigth, so... I'll call you. I don't know exactly when. But I will"

"You better do, Eduardo! If you don't, I will do it for you. I don't care if that guy Stanley picks up. I might as well try and befriend him, who the fuck knows"

"Ugh, please, don't. Let me take care of that, okay? And don't worry. I'll call you. Promise"

Eddie got off the car and headed towards the main entrance. He turned around and waved at Richie before walking in, and so Richie waved back and winked at him before driving away, leaving Eddie there with his heart still feeling warm and bubbly.
The sound of the door lock opening made Stanley jump in surprise. He was laying on his bed, playing with a Tetris console.

"Eddie! Where the fuck have you been? Why are you all covered in dirt?"

"Hey, sorry. I should have left you a note or something. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything, you know, and... I needed to take a little walk, see some green, so I went on a hike at Blue Hills"

"You mean Blue Hills Reservation? How did you even get there? That's like 40 minutes away from here"

"I... took the bus" he lied. He didn't even know if there was actually a bus that could take him to Blue Hills from campus, but he was almost a hundred percent sure that Stanley didn't know it either.

"Oh, okay. Yeah, I've heard it's a nice spot to go on hikes and stuff"

"By the way - Eddie rushed to change the subject - How was The Black Rose? I left by noon today and you were still asleep... I guessed you came back pretty late"

After what Richie had told him about that pub, Eddie was eager to know Stanley's version on The Black Rose. He had to refrain a giggle when Stanley let out a deep sigh and ran his fingers trough his hair before adressing the question.

"Well, it was... interesting"

"Could you, perhaps, elaborate on that? Not only you were still asleep by noon, you were also sleeping in the exact same clothes you wore last night before leaving. You never go to bed wearing the same clothes you wore to go out. So don't fucking bullshit me"

"Well... Damn. This is embarrassing. The thing is... I drank a lot, yeah, the drinks were ridiculously cheap...! I know that's not an excuse. One thing led to another, we were drinking, and dancing, and having fun, and... smoking - he cut short for a second, as if regretting having said that - We left around 5 AM, or so I do believe. I can't quite remember. At certain point I had to beg Mike to pull over because I... I really had to throw up. After that, he dropped me off and it was already dawning. And then, I woke up. That's pretty much all I can recall"

"Wow. Just wow"

Eddie was positively shocked. Not in a million years he could have imagined his unyielding best friend Stanley Uris getting that wild, and in his first going out. It seemed to be that Richie's appreciation on The Black Rose was at least partially truth, minus the cocaine and the blowjob part. He suddenly felt very curious about that pub. Would Beverly know of it? Eddie could try and ask her when he got to see her next Tuesday. Perhaps she'd been there too, since she seemed to be Richie's favorite party-bud.

"I felt like absolute shit when I woke up - Stanley continued - A part of me was thankful that you weren't here to witntess it full display. My head ached so bad I had to take two Motrins. And, like, a gallon of water. Now I'm feeling better, thank God"

"That sucks, man. But hey, at least it seems that you had a great time"

"Yeah, I did, one could say. But the cost of it all... fucking high" he concluded, grimacing.

------

"Stanley's been to The Black Rose?"

Beverly seemed to be as shocked as Richie when Eddie told her about it on Tuesday, after leaving their Politics class. Of course, he had to pretend to be absolutely oblivious to all the information he got from Richie about said place, and Beverly's reaction only got to increase his curiosity even more.

"Yeah. Why? What's up with that pub?"

Beverly lit a cigarette as they walked out of the building. That day in particular was cloudy and humid, and forecasts were already predicting rain for that week. It would be the first time it rained since the semester began.

"Well... a lot, to be honest. Once you're in, you'll probably get offered drugs of any kind at least once or twice before leaving. Drinks are very cheap, so the odds on getting shitfaced before midnight are super high, also... you'll find people having sex in almost every dim corner, which I personally find kinda gross when I'm still sober"

"You've been there?"

"Yes, I have been there. Like, three times, tops. Two times with Richie, and the other one with a guy I met at a seminar whom I was actively trying to fuck, but it all kinda flopped, so I left early that night"

"And you got offered drugs then?"

Beverly looked at Eddie through the dense smoke she'd just exhaled out of her lips.

"Yeah, obviously. But it's up to you. They usually just leave you alone if you decline. To be honest with you, I only smoke weed every once in a while, I did molly a few times, and acid just once. But there's heavier shit I would never do. Like cocaine, or meth"

"Well, shit. I hope Stanley didn't do any of that. I mean, I'm guessing he at least smoked weed that night"

"Weed is harmless, don't worry. Smoking a joint at a social event won't get him addicted to it"

Eddie didn't know what to say. He remembered how his mother warned him about that house full of "junkies" three blocks away from them back in Franklin. She would demand him to avoid walking past it, even if that meant circling the block and making his walk home from school longer than what it really was. But there was one time, during his first year of high school, that he forgot to turn around the corner before walking past the house, absort in his own thoughts. Two girls and two boys around the age of 25 were sitting in the porch, smoking and talking about a movie, or a TV show, Eddie couldn't quite remember. He walked as fast as he could when the smell of burnt pot filled his nostrils. It was too late to turn back. They're junkies, they're crackheads, Eddie-bear, they're dangerous people.

"That's one rad ThunderCats t-shirt, kid!"

One of the boys yelled in Eddie's direction. Of course, he was well aware that he was wearing his favorite yellow ThunderCats t-shirt. He didn't want to, but instinctively turned around. The four of them were smiling at him, and the young man that seemed to be the one who complimented his t-shirt waved. Eddie stood froze in the spot, not knowing what to say or what to do. But they then proceeded to continue their conversation, as if nothing happened, and Eddie could finally command his legs to run to his house as fast as he could. That would be the first and last time he saw them.

"I'd like to try it out sometime" Eddie declared distractedly, imagining with perverse satisfaction what his mother would say if she ever got to to know about it.

"Alright Bob Marley - Beverly chuckled - I could get you some if you want to give it a try someday. But if you allow me to, I'd suggest you doing it, for the first time at least, in a one hundred percent safe enviroment. Like with me, for example"

"Makes sense" Eddie agreed, smiling.

-----

It took Eddie a strong will to stop himself from calling Richie right away that week. The fact that Stanley spent every afternoon and evening at the dorm working on his assignments was a big help. When they met with Beverly to grab lunch that Thursday, Eddie truthfully appreciated the fact that she didn't even mention The Black Rose "incident". Instead, she and Stanley chatted lively about music and what their favorite records were. It happened to be that they both liked Queen a lot, Beverly confessing having a crush on Roger Taylor (amongst other musicians). Eddie was happy to see them getting along so well.
The promised rain arrived later that evening. Eddie had just finished his last assignment and was working on his notes, when Stanley shied away from his computer with a loud sigh.

"My fingers are fucking numb"

"It's getting colder outside - Eddie murmured - Should we turn the heat on?"

"It's not that cold yet. I think it's just the fact that I've been typing non-stop for the past four fucking hours"

"When is it due?"

"Tomorrow"

"Well, shit"

"SHIT! - Stan slapped his forehead - I gotta print the whole fucking thing now"

"Can't you do it tomorrow? It's raining outside"

"No fucking way. I hate leaving stuff to the last minute. The library is still open, so I better get this done now. I won't be able to handle my anxiety until tomorrow. What if the printer machine goes out of service? I'll be seriously fucked"

"Feeling optimistic today, huh?"

"Eddie, you're one of the most anxious and pessimistic people ever. So shut the hell up - Stan joked, pulling the floppy disk out of the computer - I hope there's few people at the library. Do you have an umbrella I could borrow, by chance? I can't find mine anywhere"

"Sure. Grab the black one that's hanging on my side of the closet"

"Thanks, Eddie. I'll be back in a while, I hope"

"Alrighty"

After Stanley closed the door behind him, Eddie let go of his pen. How long would he be out? His eyes landed immediately on the phone. He had said he would try to call Richie earlier than Thursday, but he didn't, not because he didn't want to, but because he couldn't, not with Stanley around. Would Richie be mad at him? After all, he didn't call either. But then again, Eddie had asked him no to do so. Maybe Richie was still actually waiting for his call. Eddie peered at his clock. It was 7:38 PM.

Well, fuck it.

Eddie jumped on his bed and opened his bedside drawer, where the tiny folded paper had been hidden in between his underwear and socks since last Saturday. Sure Stanley would spend at least 30 minutes out, right? Not without a sense of guilt, Eddie prayed that the 50-pages-girl that was in front of him that first time he went to the library to get his own assignment printed was at the computer room at the moment, right before Stanley. After picking up the receiver, Eddie dialed carefully so he wouldn't miss any key, until he heard the ringback tone. It rang one, two, three times. His insides were already churning in anxiety.

"Hello?"

"Richie?"

"Eds? Is that you?"

Eddie sighed in relief. For some unknown reason, he feared someone else would pick up.

"Yes, it's me"

"What a nice surprise! I thought you wouldn't call"

"I'm sorry I couldn't call you earlier this week. Stan's been here every afternoon and evening, working on his assignments"

"Making up for past Saturday's debauchery, me thinks"

Eddie laughed. It made sense, actually.

"Perhaps. Do you have some time to... talk?"

"I have all the time in the world, Eds. I've missed you"

"I've missed you too - Eddie felt his cheeks burning - Stan's out for a little while, had to go to the library to get one of his assignments printed"

"Now? What a nerd, I mean, it's fucking raining outside. Have you noticed? It's raining a lot. I got home completely soaking wet"

"You don't seem the kind of guy who carries an umbrella amongst his belongings when there are rains predicted. No offense"

"No offense taken, you are absolutely correct, Edward. Fuck umbrellas. I'd much rather get wet"

"You should take a hot shower so you won't catch a cold"

"I already did that, Doctor Kaspbrak, but thanks for the advice. Actually, you just caught me fresh out of the shower. Haven't even finished dressing up when you decided to bless me with your call"

Eddie swallowed hard, trying not to envision Richie wearing absolutely nothing. The mental visual of the dark trail of hairs that led from Richie's navel down to his groin made Eddie's insides tingle.

"Are you... naked?"

"Nope, I got to put my briefs on at least. Why, do you want me naked, Eds? 'Cause I'd do anything you asked me to. Just as I did last Saturday"

Too flustered to care anymore, Eddie sighed against the speaker. His right hand was already wandering on his belly, going up and down with the tip of his fingers; his skin felt hot, feverish. The lingering memory of what Richie had done to him last Saturday got him aroused almost immediately.

"You're such an asshole" Eddie whined with shaky voice, sneaking under the sheets and pulling the phone base closer to his bed.

"Alright, I'll take that as a 'yeah Tozier, take your briefs off, you nasty whore'"

"I didn't say tha-"

"Too late, Eds"

Eddie fingers reached down for his half-hard cock and stroked it slowly. His breathing speeding up against the speaker most likely gave him away.

"Richie..."

"Are you touching yourself, Edward?"

"N-No"

"Bullshit. I can feel it in your voice. I already know what you sound like when you're all hot and bothered. And knowing that I can get you to feel all of that... Heavenly"

"You sure do give yourself a lot of credit" Eddie breathed out, teasing the already wet head of his cock with his thumb, index and middle fingers.

"I have to, Eds. The thought of seeing you again is what keeps me going at this point. I haven't felt like this with anyone in a long while"

"Sappy"

"Let a man open up about his feelings, Eddie. Unless you just called to make me help getting you off, in which case I'm equally interested"

"Reality is complex, Richard"

"Wow, look at you playing with my expectations. My dick is definitely hard right now"

"Wanker"

"Okay, that was a joke, but I promise my dick's actually hard right now"

Eddie's hand was now wrapped around his cock, pumping up and down and smearing his precum all over its lenght. Despite of having felt it a few days prior, he couldn't help to wonder how Richie's would look like. He could try and imagine it, just as he'd done plenty of times before. But after allowing Richie to see and touch his own cock, it wasn't the same. Eddie wanted to see and feel Richie's as well.

"Are you going to jerk off?"

"Well, I could. But you gotta help me out a bit, Eds. We could help each other, if you want"

"How can I do that...?"

"Tell me what are you wearing, you know, details and everything" Richie demanded, while laying on his bed.

"Uhm, well, I'm wearing a blue t-shirt and red shorts. And... white socks"

"Cute. I bet your legs look amazing in those shorts. Can't wait to dive in between them and suck you dry, Eddie baby. That's all I can think of"

"That's all you want to do to me?" Eddie teased, more and more aroused everytime.

"Of course not, dummy - Richie laughed nervously - But I'm afraid I'll scare you off if I tell you what else I've been thinking"

"You can tell me" Eddie urged. He had to finish before Stanley got back to the dorm.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes! I'm sure. Just tell me"

"Well, just so you can envision it, I'm laying on my bed, completely naked, wanking while wishing with every fiber of my being that you were here on top of me, jumping on my dick over and over"

Eddie let out a high pitched moan, picturing the whole situation Richie was describing.

"I've never done that before..."

"I'd gladly help you learn, Eddie. I want to fuck you senseless in every position known to human kind until you can't take it anymore. Not trying to brag about it, but I got a pretty decently big dick. I trust you'll be able to handle it"

"See to believe, buddy"

"Oh, you'll see it. And you'll feel it too, if you're lucky"

Stanley's gonna be back in any second.

"I want to feel it, Richie. I want to... feel it deep inside of me"

Richie's voice trembled. A faint sequence of squelching sounds echoed from the other side of the phone, confirming Eddie that Richie was, in fact, touching himself while speaking.

"You will, Eds. Jesus Christ, I can't wait to stuff you like a fucking Twinkie. That pretty ass of yours is what wet dreams are made of"

"Richie - Eddie panted - I'm gonna come"

"Let me hear you, moan for me, please"

And so Eddie did. After a few more strokes and repeatedly crying out Richie's name, his hips jerked spastically as he came in his hand, immediatey sinking in a mindblowing bliss. He tried to not to let go of the speaker he was still holding in his left hand when he fell back completely boneless against his pillow.

"You sound so pretty when you come for me, Eds. I can't wait to hear it again, in the flesh"

"Richie - Eddie hissed again - I need to hear you coming too. I need it. I need you to fucking wreck me"

If he hadn't just reached his own orgasm a few seconds prior, Eddie could've had come again right after hearing Richie's high pitched groan ripping his throat as he climaxed. There was a brief moment of silence afterwards, the only sound that could be discerned was his heavy breathing and the ocassional deafening sound of clothing (pressumably bedsheets) rubbing against the speaker. Eddie realized then that he still had cum in his hand, which he quickly cleaned on the fabric of his briefs. Not the best idea, but he was planning on doing his laundry on Saturday anyway.

"Holy shit, Eddie. Holy shit. That was so good"

"It's the first time I've done this... phone sex thing. I hope I didn't fuck up"

"The only thing you've fucked up is my brain, Eds. You were amazing. I only wish you were here with me so we could cuddle and watch TV or something"

"That'd be nice - Eddie admitted, stretching under the sheets - I'd like to visit your apartment sometime"

"You will eventually. Let's take it slow. I'm enjoying it so far, aren't you?"

"Me too, but it's hard when you have a roommate"

"I know, I know. I've been thinking about that a lot, actually. We could discuss it next time we meet, if you agree"

"Discuss what, exactly?"

"About your friend Stanley, and about Beverly. I mean, the whole secret lover thing is kind of exciting to a certain extent, but..."

"I know. I know - Eddie rushed to cut him short - We'll talk about it next time we meet"

Chapter Text

Eddie agreed on meeting next Monday. Despite of it being a complete lie, he told Richie that he already had plans for the weekend. Truth was, he needed a few days to think about discussing their relationship status with Stanley and Beverly. One thing was to have come out, which he already and definitely had done with Stan, and kind of done with Beverly too. A whole different story was to admit that he was getting involved with a guy, who also happened to be Beverly's best friend and ex-hook up. Eddie only had one opportunity to see them together that night at Bill's Bar, but from what he could gather after watching them dancing, talking, and being physically affectionate with each other in front of him, it wasn't absurd to think that there was a tiny little possibility for Beverly to still have some kind of feelings for Richie, and Eddie needed to be a hundred percent sure that it wasn't the case. But what if it was? How could he even bring up the subject to Beverly without making it weird?
Neither him or Stanley had plans for that Saturday, asides from doing their laundry. It had been raining non stop since Thursday, and as October quickly approached, nights gradually became colder and darker. That, in addition to an intense and persistent drizzle, definitely didn't offer a tempting prospect on going out to a bar or anything similar. Around 8 PM, Stanley ended his one-hour-long phone call with Patricia; Eddie was laying on his bed, reading a horror novel that Stan had borrowed him, trying to keep his mind busy from thinking about Richie. It was when Stanley suggested they could watch a movie that Eddie had a sudden moment of clarity.

"We could ask Beverly to come over, what you think?"

"I don't know, it's raining a lot, man"

"Her residence is, like, six buildings away from ours. She won't have to walk that much"

Stan shrugged.

"Alright, if she wants to come, it's fine with me"

After Eddie dialed her room phone number, he heard the voice of an unknown girl picking up the receiver.

"Hello?"

"Hi, uhm, is Beverly there?"

"Yeah, give me a second. BEV! You've got a call"

Eddie tried not to laught when he heard the quick muffled exhange between Beverly and her roommate, in which Beverly reprimanded her for not asking who was calling before confirming she was there.

"Who's it?" she asked, cautiously.

"Hi, Bev. It's me, Eddie"

Her voice immediately softened.

"Oh, hi Eddie! How's it going?"

"I'm okay, thanks. I was wondering if you have any plans for tonight?"

"Sadly, not! Weather's been terrible so no plans"

"Well, me and Stanley were planning on watching a movie and stuffing ourselves with junk food, was wondering if you would like to join us?"

"Absolutely! I could be there in 15 minutes. I'll bring a couple of beers, is that okay?"

"Yeah, great! I'll wait for you at the main entrance"

While he ran downstairs to receive her, Eddie's brain was already articulating a possible conversation in which he would ask Beverly how she currently felt about Richie without being too direct. Since he met Beverly, Eddie got to know about at least two boys she was interested in: Benjamin the hot bartender, and the unknown guy from her seminar she went to The Black Rose with. It was a good sign, but it definitely did not invalidate the possibilty for her to still be attracted to her best friend, especially since their relationship had already trespassed the boundaries of a normal friendship when they decided to sleep together, indistinctively of how many times it happened. Beverly was never clear about how old they were then, but Eddie knew it happened while they were still in high school. Perhaps it never got to be that serious. Perhaps, it happened while their hormonal blow ups took place, just as it happened to him and for a brief moment, he wondered if it was possible that he had a crush on his best friend Stanley.

Beverly knocked on the door glass and waved to catch Eddie's attention. Her red curls were soaking wet, and she was holding her backpack pressed against her chest, as if protecting its content with motherly affection. Eddie immediately opened the door and let her in.

"I'll get you a clean towel" he offered when they walked into the dorm.

"Thanks, Eddie"

After drying herself up, Beverly greeted Stanley and dropped her backpack on top of Eddie's bed, causing a clattering sound of glass bottles striking against each other.

"Which movie do you guys want to watch?"

"I've got a few I bought back in Franklin I never got to watch - Stanley informed, kneeling in front of his desk and reaching for a few VHS boxes piled on a little shelf - 'Pulp Fiction', 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest', 'Schindler's List'..."

"Haven't you guys watched 'Pulp Fiction'? Seriously? That movie is rad as fuck, you must watch it"

"I think it'd be more entertaining if we pick one none of us have watched before, no?"

"Yeah, you're right - Beverly admitted - We could go with 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'. Never watched that one, though it's kinda old"

"Jack Nicholson starrs in it, so I bet it will be good - Stanley opened the plastic box and pulled out the VHS - Eddie, help me connect the VCR"

"Do you guys mind if I... roll one up?" Beverly asked, glaring nervously at Eddie and Stanley.

Eddie didn't know what to say. It took him a few seconds to understand what she was referring to. Instead, he looked at Stanley, who simply shrugged and nodded.

"I don't mind. People here smoke all the time and no one gives a shit. Eddie?"

"Yeah, Eddie, you told me once you had asthma when you were a kid, right?"

"I don't mind either. Fortunately I haven't had an asthma attack since I was 13. It's just the smell of regular cigarettes I despise"

"Oh, I see"

Beverly reached for her backpack, and right behind the four bottles of light beer, she pulled out a small jar with a few nugs in it.

"Ah, fuck. I forgot my grinder. Do you have a pair of scissors, by chance?"

-----

The movie lasted for approximately 2 hours. Set in a mental institution, it was an interesting plot, especially from Beverly's perspective, since she had taken a whole year of Psychology before switching to Communication. Halfway through the movie, the three of them were already half-laying on Stanley's bed, the closest one to the TV.

"That nurse is a fucking bitch, I hate her" Beverly complained, shoving a handful of Gushers into her mouth while cuddled up against Eddie.

"Is it weird that she reminds me of my mother?"

"No, I definitely kind of see it too" Stanley agreed, taking a sip from his bottle.

"Oh my God, are you guys for real? Is she that bad?" Beverly asked with concern, tearing her eyes from the TV screen and looking at Eddie.

"Sort of" he admitted, feeling mildly embarrassed.

"Shit"

By the end of the movie, which was honestly a bittersweet one (if not absolutely fucking heart wrenching), Beverly sat on the floor and lit the joint she had rolled up before the movie even began.

"You guys better turn the bathroom extractor fan on if you don't want your whole room to stink like weed"

"Good idea" Stanley rushed to the bathroom following Beverly's advice.

Eddie observed at her inhaling, and then blowing the smoke after a few seconds. She looked up at him and tapped the floor beside her, invitingly.

"Come here, Eddie. I'll teach you how to take a toke"

She handed Eddie the delicate joint and showed him how to hold it in between his lips. Stanley got back and sat on the floor beside them, as Beverly reached for her lighter.

"When I lit it up, I want you to take a deep drag, not with your lips, like, with your throath. Suck up the smoke and keep it down there for a few seconds before you blow it, okay? You'll probably want to cough, it's normal, especially if you had asthma episodes when you were a kid. Ready?"

"Ready" Eddie assured, placing it back in between his lips.

Of course, Eddie almost coughed his lungs out with the first toke. He knew asthma was rarely revertible. But at a certain point, after he stopped using his inhaler without his mother knowing when he was 14 years old, he got to wonder if he actually ever had asthma at all. He couldn't remember anything before his inhaler, which was suspicious enough. Of course, he wouldn't doubt of his mother's good intentions most of the times while growing up. But now, taking a look back at the memory of the vast assortment of pills she would make him ingest during his whole childhood made him think that, perhaps, it wasn't exactly normal. He never came up with the idea of revisiting his clinical history; a good excuse to visit Franklin someday in the future.
Stanley seemed to be surprisingly used to smoke by then, not coughing even once whenever Beverly passed him the joint. After the third and final round, Eddie felt extremely lax and giggly, and every movement he made seemed to happen in slow motion.

"Bev - he suddenly mumbled - I need to ask you something"

Beverly was resting against the bed frame, with Stanley resting his head on her lap while she distractedly ran her fingers through his curls.

"Ask away, honey"

"Are you in love with Richie?"

He was aware of the general concept his question held, since it had been in his mind the whole evening, but of course, his initial intention on being subtle sank like a shipwreck.

Beverly laughed rather boisterously at the question.

"Holy shit, Eddie, of course I'm not. I've never been in love with Richie, first of all. We fucked a couple of times when we were 16, that's it. I love him, but as a friend"

The stupid grin on Eddie's face would have probably been incriminating enough if Beverly wasn't just as high as he was. Anyway, he couldn't have been happier after getting Beverly's confirmation that she held no romantic interest in Richie whatsoever.

"Who the fuck is Richie?" Stanley asked Eddie, squinting.

"I told you about him, Stan"

"I... don't think I remember"

"He's my best friend - Beverly explained - Eddie met him that time we went to Bill's Bar, right after the semester began"

Eddie felt the uncontrollable urge to laugh. How was it possible that Beverly ignored what was happening between him and Richie? It was like contemplating two parallel dimensions overlapping each other.

"Eddie, what is it?"

"S-Sorry. It's just that... Richie. I don't know. Sounds funny"

"Aw, shit, he's high as a kite" Stanley shook his head, reaching out to squeeze Eddie's cheek.

"You have to meet Richie too, Stan. Remember I talked to you about local bands performing at Bill's? Well, he plays the guitar in one of them"

Eddie stopped giggling all of the sudden. Did he hear right? Richie playing the guitar in a band?

"What?"

"What?"

"Richie plays the guitar in a band?"

"Yeah - Beverly replied, raising her eyebrows - Well, it's not, like, a proper band. It's just him and a couple more of his Art classmates playing a keyboard, drums and a bass. They only perform at bars downtown when they feel like doing it. Richie told me they were planning on performing soon, before Halloween, maybe"

"Why didn't he tell me about that?" Eddie pouted, without thinking through it.

"Why would he? You guys have seen each other one time. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm almost a hundred percent sure you said he was annoying, so you kind of avoided him all night"

He could sense Beverly's eyes fixed on him, waiting for his answer. She had a strange expression on her face, like a mix of curiosity and disbelief. If he fucked up irreversibly or not, it all depended on the next thing that came out of his lips. The problem was, he had been drinking and smoking pot alltogether.

"That night... at Bill's, when you were heading to the bar to get our drinks, I saw the stage at the back of the salon, and I asked him if he knew what kind of performances there were usually there. He mentioned bands. But he didn't tell me he had one... That's what I meant"

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Another self-congratulation for you, Eddie Kaspbrak.

"Oh, okay. But yeah, he performs sometimes"

"What kind of music do they play?" Stanley asked Beverly, genuinely interested.

"They play covers, mostly. It's what the audience likes best"

"Such as?"

"Oof, lots of bands. Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin... Just to name a few"

"Sounds amazing! I'd love to see them perform one day. Let us know when, and we'll be there, right, Eddie?"

------

Beverly spent the night at their dorm, sharing Eddie's bed. After living through her adolescent years believing that men and women couldn't be friends without men having second intentions, she was happy to prove how wrong her old self was. She understood it, though: it was a different time, surrounded by a different kind of people. Now, at college, she felt freer than ever. Free to be herself without having his father, classmates, and literally everyone else calling her a "slut", a "whore", amongst other hurtful nametags, only because she liked to hang out with "the boys".
By the time she woke up the next morning, Eddie and Stanley were still asleep. Trying to make the less noise possible so not to wake them up, she managed to clean up the mess they had left on the floor before going to bed, too out of themselves to care. After picking up the empty bottles and scrunched packages in a plastic bag, she headed to the door tiptoeing. It was the sound of the lock opening what woke Eddie up. He sat up on his bed and looked around, rubbing his eyes and squinting in confusion.

"Bev...? What? Where are you going? What time is it?"

"Shhh - she pressed her index against her lips - Good morning, Eddie. Stan's still asleep. It's 8 AM. I'm going to take the trash out"

"You don't have to..."

"It's okay. Don't worry. I was planning on stopping by my dorm and have a quick shower, change my clothes and stuff. We could meet around 9 and grab breakfast together, if you want"

"Er... sure"

"Okay - she hissed, throwing a quick look at Stanley and blowing Eddie a kiss - See you guys later"

After Beverly closed the door behind her, Eddie fell back against his pillow and made every mental effort to recall the events of the night before. The movie, the beers, Beverly, a joint, Richie.

Beverly is not in love with Richie. That's definitely good.
Richie played the guitar in a band and never told him about it. Not good, but not necessarily bad either.

A promising start for that day, Eddie thought, while turning the shower on. He got the information he needed, not exactly as he planned it, but the result had been equally satisfactory. One hour later, he and Stanley met with Beverly at the buffet. While both of his friends continued discussing the details on the movie they had watched the night before, Eddie's mind went back and forth, thinking and thinking about what to tell Richie the day after. Was he ready to open up to his friends about whatever was going on in between them? Would Richie expect him to be?

----

Around 11:30 that Monday, Eddie was already waiting for Richie at the same spot as usual. Fortunately for whatever his plans were, the sun was once again shining in the sky, since rain had completely stopped the day before. He wondered how many more times he could await at the same spot before the other residents of the building started to recognize him. The guy who's always waiting for his tall friend with glasses to pick him up in his Ford Escort. Well, it didn't sound that suspicious, put in such terms.
His heart jumped, once again, when he saw Richie's car pulling over in front of the residence. He already knew what to do.
Richie looked especially good that day, Eddie thought to himself. He was wearing a buttoned up burgundy shirt and black jeans, and his coke-bottle glasses were back in action.

"How's everything going, Eddie-baby?"

"Pretty good, actually - Eddie replied while buckling up his seat belt - What about you?"

"Can't complain" Richie said distractedly, steering the wheel and peeking through the rear mirror.

"By the way, where are we going today?"

"Oh, about that. Well, I couldn't really come up with a good idea, so I'm just gonna drive around until we can find a quiet spot to park, you know, so we can talk privately"

"Okay..."

Eddie felt a bit disappointed, but after giving it a second thought, he had to admit Richie was right in his reasoning. He wasn't quite willing to talk about whatever they had to talk on their relationship in a highly transited place, like a cafe. After driving for a few minutes, Richie stopped by a small coffee shop drive-thru, and ordered two cups of coffee (one of them with a shot of milk for Eddie) and two chocolate croissants.

"How did you know I haven't had breakfast?" Eddie questioned, grabbing the cup and the paper bag Richie handed him.

"Just guessed - Richie threw a quick look at him and smiled - Hey, I know it's not the most romantic spot you could think of, but what about Target's parking lot? It's always pretty much empty at this time of the day"

"It's fine for me" Eddie shrugged, chewing his croissant.

It was in fact practically empty when Richie finally parked in the most distant spot he could find.

"So - he unbuckled his seat belt and turned his body to the side to face Eddie - Eds. We have to talk"

Eddie swallowed hard.

"Yeah..."

"Is there anything you want to say first?"

"Yes"

"Alright. Go ahead"

"I... - he took a deep breath, attempting to appease his anxiety - I think I'm not ready to tell anyone about us yet. I want to do it, eventually. But not right now. I just need some time. I hope you understand, but I'll totally understand if you don't"

Richie furrowed his brows and shifted slightly backwards. He seemed to be pondering about Eddie's words, tapping on the wheel with his fingers.

That's it. It's over. It was good while it lasted.

"I perfectly understand, Eddie - he finally replied, with a tiny smile - We can do it whenever you feel ready. But we'll have to rearrange some things if we're going to pretend we're just friends, at least for now"

Eddie's heart could have just exploded right there, after going from beating to the fastest rythm it could physically handle, to be almost completely still, waiting for the final cut, in a matter of just seconds. Richie was really willing to put up with his bullshit. It seemed unreal. A dense, mellow, slimey feeling took over his insides whenever he heard Richie's voice.

"First off, I want to meet your roommate, Stanley. He has to know that we're somewhat close, at least, so it won't be weird if he ever sees us hanging, or if he ever picks up the phone and it's me calling you"

"Understood"

"As for Beverly, well, it's basically the same strategy. She has to know that you and I get along. She probably thinks that you hate me after that first night out at Bill's"

"She kinda does" Eddie admitted, biting his lip.

"Understandable. You weren't exactly friendly to me that night - Richie complained, grimacing - I think... we could arrange a meeting, a night out, if you'd like, for the four of us. That'd be the easiest way"

"I think so, too. Actually - Eddie suddenly remembered what had been bothering since the day before - Beverly told us that you play the guitar and that you perform at pubs downtown every once in a while with a bunch of your Art friends. Stanley seemed interested in meeting you after Bev told us that, since he's a sucker for music in general. And it was funny as fuck to me, because I didn't know that about you either"

"Oh... right. I forgot to tell you about that"

"Yeah, you did" Eddie grumbled, taking the last sip from his cup.

"Not for any particular reason, I haven't performed since last semester so it wasn't the first thing in my mind, Eds. It's not a big deal"

"Well... I'd like to see you playing sometime"

"You will. Nothing would make me happier than seeing your pretty face in the front line looking at me. Besides, I'll get you all hot and ready with my sexy guitar moves"

"Oh, please, I need to see that"

"Can we pretend that you're my groupie lover and that I drag you to the dressing room backstage after the show?"

"Your creativity amazes me" Eddie chuckled, tilting his head to the side.

Richie bit his lip and shifted closer.

"You're so adorable, Eds. So adorable that you almost make me forget how hard you made me come last Thursday"

Eddie's cock throbbed at the boldness of his statement. He was so nervous thinking about what they had to talk about, that he almost had completely forgotten about the phone sex session they had the week before.

"I did?" he asked, attempting to impose the most indifferent tone he could achieve.

Richie placed his palm dangerously close to Eddie's now bulging crotch, and started to massage in a circling motion.

"You did. God, it felt so good. Hearing you moaning and begging me to wreck you was too much for me to handle. I swear, Eds, if I had been there with you I don't know if I could have been able to refrain myself from fucking your brains out"

Eddie let out a suffocated moan and Richie proceeded to straight up stroke his cock through the fabric of his jeans, making it react almost immediately under his touch.

"Eddie?" he breathed out, almost hyperventilating,

"Y-Yes, Richie"

"Let me suck your dick, please. I need to suck your dick or I'll go insane"

Eddie opened his eyes wide when his cock jerked violently against Richie's palm.

"What?"

"I need to suck your dick and I need you to come in my mouth, Eds. Please. I beg you"

Eddie gulped and looked around with unease. What if anyone saw them? Well, there was absolutely no one around. But, but, what if Richie didn't like how he tasted? Eddie never in his life had a dick near his face before, so he didn't know if his own dick was acceptable or even "average". His only assurance was the strict hygiene routine he followed every single day. It couldn't be that bad, right?

"Okay" he finally accepted.

Richie had his left hand already pressed on Eddie's thigh for support, while his right hand was still massaging his crotch. With a quick movement, he took off his glasses and left them resting on top the dashboard. Leaning over Eddie's lap, he looked up at him and bit his lip while unbuttoning his jeans. His lips looked so fleshy, wet and viciously eager that Eddie had to close his eyes for a moment to slow down the hot and bubbly known sensation growing in his lower abdomen. By the time he opened his eyes again, Richie was already pulling down his briefs and releasing his raging erection.

"Richie..."

What happened next was simply undescribable. Eddie watched in rapt as Richie poked out his tongue and proceeded to twirl it around the tip of his cock, licking it and mixing the precum with his own spit. After what it seemed to be a minute, Richie took the whole length in his mouth, before pulling out completely with an obscene slurping sound.

"Holy shit"

"Your dick tastes so good, Eds. Can't wait to taste your cum as well"

Think of something really ugly and disgusting, Edward. Just don't fucking dare to come now.

Richie leaned in to take Eddie's cock in his mouth again, and with the help of his left hand holding its base, he started to bob his head up and down, applying an exquisite tight grip with his lips and tongue, slobbering all over it. Soon his hand began to follow the movements of his mouth, and Eddie was now absolutely out of his mind. He wasn't sure for how long he could keep on delaying his orgasm. It felt so good, it felt a million times better than his own hand. And it was even better because it was Richie doing it. He was so in rapt he couldn't quite descipher when his own fingers ended up entangled on Richie's messy curls, yanking them everytime his hips jerked spasmodically upwards, attempting to push his cock deeper down his throat. It was done for him when Richie moaned around it, sending a vibrating and pleasant sensation that shook his spine from head to toe.

"Richie, Richie" he warned, tapping on Richie's forearm, unable to articulate anything but his name.

Despite of his half-assed warning, Richie continued pumping his fist and suckling Eddie's length faster and faster, until it suddenly tensed and jerked in between his lips, releasing the plentiful load inside of his mouth. After moaning again and suckling it completely clean, Richie let go of Eddie's now pliant cock and smiled up at him, sticking his tongue out as if showing him that he had in fact swallowed it all. Eddie was near to faint. He'd never experienced so much pleasure in his life before. Ever.

"Richie, oh my fucking God. Shit. Holy fucking shit"

With a diligent will, Richie helped Eddie to pull up his briefs and trousers, before shifting back to his seat, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and putting his glasses back on.

"Wow. I can't even begin to explain how much I enjoyed that. From now on I plan on surviving on your cum only, just so you know" he joked, his voice sounding a bit raspier than usual, before placing a soft peck on Eddie's lips.

"I'm afraid you'll die young then"

"I said I'm here for a good time, Eds, not a long time"

"Well, then kiss me again, just in case" Eddie demanded with a shy smile.

Chapter Text

"I saw Richie yesterday"

"Really? Where? I' haven't seen him, like, in a week or so"

"At the library. I went to have one of my assignments printed, and... he was there"

It wasn't the truth, but it wasn't a complete lie either. Without explaining where it came from, for obvious reasons, Eddie proposed the setup of a fictional scenario where he and Richie finally had the chance to interact with each other after that not-so-good first encounter. Richie agreed with the plan, but insisted on meeting with Stanley as soon as he could.

"I'm so glad you guys could finally get to know each other a little bit more. I know Rich doesn't exactly give the best first impressions... But he's not that bad"

"I know, I know. I have to admit I felt a bit overwhelmed that night, but he seems to be a cool dude once you get past the first layer of obnoxiousness and bad jokes. We could ask him to join us for Thursday's lunch, since Stan wants to meet him too. What do you think?"

"That'd be great! - Beverly's face lightened up - I'll tell him. I was actually planning on calling him later, he's been kind of absent the past few days"

"Well... he told me he's been quite busy, studying and working on a couple of projects for his classes, I guess that could be why..."

Yeah, that was definitely why.

He felt bad for lying to Beverly. But what else could he do? He knew she would understand, eventually. Fooling around with your friend's best friend while still being in the closet to the rest of the world wasn't exactly easy peasy lemon squeezy. It had always been easy for Eddie to pretend his desires and fixations weren't there, as long as they were never exteriorized in any way or form. But accepting he had an incipient sort of relationship with Richie was something else. Eddie knew he wanted to be able to be open about it, but he was also aware of the uncomfortable self-reflecting work he would have to go through before. Many fears weighing on his shoulders and very few certainties.

-----

When Thursday finally came, Eddie was feeling exceptionally anxious and worried. What would Stanley think of Richie? Just as Beverly had said, he wasn't exactly the best at giving first good impresions. And as a matter of fact, he couldn't think of two people more diametrically opposite than Richard Tozier and Stanley Uris.
He and Stan were already sitting at the buffet (Eddie's leg bouncing uncontrollably) when Beverly and Richie arrived together. Richie's overall look was a bit messy, as per usual, but Eddie couldn't help to feel like he was already fond of that mess his unruleable curls and impractical ripped jeans were. And not to mention those god-awful coke-bottle glasses. Eddie loved those glasses. Pretending that he and Richie had nothing going on was both difficult and surprisingly easy at the same time. Easy, because Eddie had a vast expertise in bottling up his emotions and keeping a straight face while pretending not to be breaking down on the inside. But it was also difficult, because his feelings for Richie were intense and overwhelming in a way he never got to experience before. He craved for his touch, he wanted to feel Richie next to him. Control yourself, Edward. It couldn't be. Not there, not at that moment.

"Hi, guys! - Beverly greeted as they reached the table - Stan, this is the infamous Richie Tozier, my best friend. Richie, this is Stanley Uris, Eddie's best friend and roommate"

"Hello, Staniel - Richie shook Stan's hand and sit at the table right in front of him - It's a pleasure to meet you"

Eddie grimaced. Of course, he had completely forgotten about Richie and his uninvited nicknames. He could see out of the corner of his eye the quick and obviously shocked glance Stanley threw at him, before speaking directly to Richie.

"Nice to meet you too, Richie. But my name is Stanley, not Staniel. You can call me Stan, if you'd like"

"Ah, loosen up a bit, Stan The Man. Eddie's got his own nickname too. Right, Eds?"

How unfortunate was for Eddie not to be able to stop his cheeks from turning bright red immediately after Richie winked playfully at him. He could have just melted right in his chair. After hating being called "Eds" the first few times, he was secretly starting to enjoy it. Everytime Richie called him that way, his heart would go all fluttery in his chest, flooding him with a warm sensation of closeness and intimacy.

I'm your Eds. Yours.

"Don't fucking call me 'Eds', Richard. I hate that stupid nickname"

Stanley suddenly squinted and tilted his head to the side, with his eyes fixed on Richie.

"Wait a minute. Haven't we met before...?"

Eddie turned his head in Stanley's direction so fast his neck made a snapping sound. What the hell was going on?

"I don't think so - Richie waved a hand as if dismissing the possibility - I would have remembered you"

"I truly feel like I've seen you somewhere before"

"Us guys with glasses look all very similar from afar, it's a common mistake. And I guess there could be a few impersonators around campus - he laughed nervously - you know, the rockstar life"

Stanley seemed to be convinced, since he dropped the subject immediately after. But Eddie couldn't let go. They proceeded to chat about the usual topics people adress when they first meet: hometowns, majors, campus life, favorite music, favorite movies, etcetera. Eddie was half-listening, since he already kind of knew all that information beforehand, until he perceived the slight raise on both Stanley's and Richie's voice drawing his attention fully again.

"I'm just saying that people who claim 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' as the best album are too stuck up to even try and admit other good stuff like 'Meddle' or even newer stuff like 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason' only because Waters took the fuck off"

"So you're saying 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' isn't as good? 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason'? Are you fucking serious?"

"That's not what I said, Staniel. Are you even listening? What's so wrong with 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason' anyway?"

"How would you even dare to compare...?"

Beverly scratched her forehead and shot Eddie a silent desperate glare from the other side of the table. Make them stop, I beg you.

"It's perfectly fine to have a preference for certain albums above others - Eddie suddenly interrupted the heated exchange - No one's right or wrong here. That's the good thing about art in general. I personally enjoyed their last album a lot even though a lot of people said it was shit"

"'The Division Bell' is good, fuck people"

"Yeah, it is" Stanley agreed, leaning slightly back in his chair and letting his hands rest on the table, as a conciliatory gesture.

The rest of the meeting went on in a significantly quieter and more pacific tone. Richie promised to let them know when he would be performing as soon as they had a scheduled date at Bill's Bar, but he was guessing it would surely happen before Halloween.

"I'll warn my bandmates not to pick any post-Waters song to play that night, Staniel. We don't want you to burn down the place in a rage fit"

Stan rolled his eyes and smiled, before Richie and Beverly said goodbye and left the buffet together. Once the both of them were out of sight, Eddie looked at his friend, aprehensively.

"So? What do you think?"

"Oh, well..."

That sigh and that pause could not be a good sign.

"I know he said it wasn't possible. But I'm quite sure the guy I saw was him"

Eddie's stomach jumped.

"Where?"

"At The Black Rose"

Making a big effort to remember that one time when Stanley went out with his classmates, Eddie contemplated the odds on it being actually true. He knew he saw Richie the day after. And he also knew that Stanley had been drinking and smoking to the point of blacking out as soon as he got back to the dorm that night. His memory could be not exactly reliable to a certain extent.

"Are you... super sure?"

"I'm pretty sure"

Alright. Even if it was true, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Richie didn't have to tell him about his every move. They weren't officially a couple yet, and Richie didn't owe him an explanation for going out at night. But the next day, when he told him about Stanley having gone to The Black Rose, he didn't mention being there too. Why wouldn't he mention it? That, if he had been there at all. Perhaps, Stanley was in fact wrong and it was someone else he saw that night. There were zillions of tall guys at campus who wore glasses and had curly hair.

"Well... what if it was him, anyway? I mean, the way you said it..."

"Nothing - Stanley said pensively, after pondering for a few seconds - He was just chatting with a couple of guys. That's all"

------

Eddie couldn't sleep well that night, which was unfortunate for two main reasons: he had a long day ahead and classes until 5 PM, and because he felt Richie conveniently skipped telling him about his recent visit to The Black Rose, which was especially suspicious after telling Eddie how dodgy the place seemed to be. He knew it wasn't right to make assumptions without knowing if it was in fact Richie the guy Stanley saw there that night. He had to ask Richie, he needed to know the truth.
That Friday seemed to be endless. All Eddie wanted was to finish his classes and run back to his dorm, patiently wait until 7:30 and call Richie to finally solve the angst that'd been tugging his insides since the day before.
Fortunately for him, Stanley announced that he had plans for that night. He would go out to have dinner and then grab a beer with his classmate Mike and one of Mike's best friends Bill, and asked Eddie if he wanted to join them. Eddie kindly declined the offer, but said he'd gladly join them some other time... when his mind wasn't as troubled as it was at that moment. Of course he wanted to meet Stanley's new friends, just as Stanley had agreed on meeting Beverly and Richie. But not that day.
Once Stanley left the dorm around 8 PM, Eddie desperately grabbed the phone and dialed as fast as he could, feeling his heartbeat thumping in his throat. It rang a few times, but there was no answer. Eddie cut the call and tried again, one, two, three, four more times. It became clear that Richie wasn't home. He decided to make a last attempt around 10 PM, and this time, Richie picked up.

"Hello?"

"Where the fuck were you?"

"Eds?"

"Yeah, it's me"

"Wow, dude, chill. Can't a man enjoy a beer after a long day at work? I was with Bev, just for your information"

"Sorry. I don't know where that came from. It's just that I've been calling you and calling you and I couldn't find you, and I freaked out"

"What's wrong, Eddie baby? Tell me. Is Stanley there?"

"No, I'm alone. But that's not relevant. Why didn't you tell me that you were at The Black Rose that same night I told you Stanley went there? The night before you and I went to Blue Hills. You even denied it when he asked you, like a fucking sociopath"

Richie sighed.

"I don't know. I really don't know why I did that. I'm sorry if that bothered you"

"Yes, of course it bothered me. What else are you hiding from me?"

"Whoa, whoa, hold on there, buddy. I'm not hiding shit. What the fuck? I dropped by to say hi and share a beer with a couple of friends, no big deal, I literally left before midnight. I just didn't see a good reason to tell you about it"

"Because the place is a fucking mess or what?"

"Because the place is a fucking mess, yeah, and because I know you are not. The fuck, Eddie, I mean, look at you and look at me. Even if your mother accepted you dating a dude, she would surely have an aneurysm if she ever gets to see how the guy her son's dating looks like"

"Are we... dating?" Eddie asked with shaky voice, almost dropping the speaker.

"Eds, what the fuck is the matter with you? You're acting weird"

"Richie, fuck you, honestly. You confuse me big time"

"Okay, okay. I fucked up. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it, but I swear I didn't even see Stanley there, that's why I was shocked when he said he saw me somewhere. Like, I immediately knew he was talking about The Black Rose, because I remembered what you told me when we were at Blue Hills. And I freaked out. I hope you're not mad at me"

"Of course I'm mad, and I'll still be for a few more days, at least. But there's something you can do to make up for it"

"Tell me, Eds. I'm all ears"

"I want you to take me to The Black Rose. Tomorrow. And I won't take a 'no' as an answer"

Chapter Text

It wasn't a spontaneous plan Eddie came up with out of the blue. He had been wanting to go to The Black Rose ever since he found out that Stanley, Beverly and Richie had all been there. After checking Stanley's calendar while he wasn't at the dorm, Eddie knew that he had planned on driving to Lasell to visit Patty and spend the night there on October 5th, meaning, that Saturday. He wouldn't have to come up with any sketchy excuse to justify his absence.
Richie seemed a bit reluctant, but ended up accepting Eddie's proposition. He would have to wait for him at the campus entrance around 10 PM, and Richie specifically requested him to wear the "less pastel-ish" clothes he could find in his wardrobe. Eddie wasn't quite sure what that requirement entailed, so he just went for a long sleeved black shirt, a pair of dark blue jeans and a leather jacket. And of course, his favorite black sneakers. While he was awaiting at the campus entrance, Eddie saw the same guard Richie had talked to that first night when he drove him and Beverly back to campus, pleading that they were both absolutely shitfaced, and felt a slight prick of embarrassment. When Richie finally arrived, and willing not to bring any attention upon him, Eddie rushed to get in the car as fast as he could, probably causing the opposite effect he was going after.

"What's the rush, Eds? Have you just mugged someone or what?"

Richie's glasses were missing, so Eddie guessed that he was wearing his contacts that night. After turning on the car dome light, Eddie could appreciate the plain black tight t-shirt he was wearing under a denim jacket, and a subtle touch of black eyeliner enhancing his naturally long eyelashes.

"Shit, you look good"

Richie grinned widely at the compliment

"Thanks, Eddie baby. You look good, as well. So, are we ready to go?"

"Ready" he nodded in response, buckling up his seat belt.

Eddie didn't know where The Black Rose was exactly located, but he guessed it couldn't be far from Bill's Bar. It seemed to be that all the pubs that were popular amongst the college students were next to each other.

"So - he asked after a few minutes - what do you think of Stanley?"

"Stanley! Stan The Man. Well, he seems to be a cool guy. A bit uptight, if you ask me. But overall harmless... or so I do believe"

"Uptight? Richie, you'd say that about literally anyone who, unlike you, actually combs their hair in the morning"

Letting out a loud cackle, Richie reached out to ruffle Eddie's hair, to which Eddie reacted by pushing his hand away and combing his hair with his fingers back to its original styling.

"Keep your fucking hands on the wheel, asshole"

"You obviously love my bedhair, Eds. The day I actually comb my hair you won't be able to recognize me. Who's that man peeing in my bathroom? I'm calling the cops!" he crooned with a fake squeaky voice.

"You rely too much on that hair"

"Eds, I'll show you what I rely on and it's not my hair, precisely..."

Eddie blushed.

"...my personality of course. And my big fat sense of humour"

"Shut up, Richie"

"Yes, Sir! We're almost there. Let me just find a parking spot"

-----

At first sight, the place didn't appear to be striking or spectacular, the three leaf door with blacked out windows crowned with a hand-painted black and white sign. The music coming from the inside was so loud it could be easily heard from across the street.

"I forgot to mention they usually play hard rock until 11 or so. After that, they go with the usual, you know" Richie explained, nodding towards the entrance, as Eddie followed him in.

"Yeah, that's fine. I don't mind"

There were a lot of people in there, wherever Eddie would look at. The enclosure was considerably darker than Bill's Bar, narrow at the entrance, then opening to a peculiar inverted "L" shape. A few tables were spread here and there, coveniently next to the bar located on the right side, near the midway.

"We'll have to break through the crowd to get there"

"You're taller, you go in front of me"

Taking hold of the the hem of Richie's denim jacket, Eddie followed him while he made their way through the crowd. People around them were dancing, having drinks, talking to each other. So far The Black Rose seemed to be like any other pub, with nothing particularly dodgy going on.

"So - Richie leaned against the bar counter and turned around to look at Eddie - is it how you imagined it?"

"Not really. I expected to see chained cages hanging from the ceiling and walls covered in blood"

"Well, I know a place exactly like that, if you'd like to go"

"Ha ha, very funny"

"Alright, you want a beer or what?"

"Yeah, a beer is fine. Do you want me to go look for a spot in the back or something?"

"No - Richie shook his head energically - don't walk away from me"

"Okay"

While taking a look around the main salon, Eddie noticed a couple (a straight couple) standing to his left, waiting for their drinks and eagerly groping and kissing each other. He couldn't help to wonder if the day when he would finally feel comfortable enough to do such things with Richie or any other without caring about what other people would think, would finally come. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy public displays of affection: he was just extremely self-conscious, and of course, the coming-out issue was still weighing on his shoulders. Another couple then crashed against him, in their attempt to reach the bar, and much to Eddie's surprise, they were two girls.

"Sorry, honey! I didn't mean to!" one of girls yelled in his ear, squeezing his arm in apology.

"It's fine, don't worry!" Eddie assured, waving a hand.

"Stop pushing me! You're a dumb bitch, Lara. Look what you made me do!" the girl reprimanded her partner, before smiling and pecking her on the lips with tender.

Eddie shifted slightly to the right, making enough space to allow the girls to finally reach the bar counter. In consequence, he accidentally pressed his side against Richie's.

"Watch out, Eds"

"Sorry"

It all happened in the span of a few seconds. The bartender was already handing the bottles when Eddie saw Richie turning his head to the side, talking to someone he couldn't see from the spot where he was standing.

"Connor, get the fuck out of my sight, dude"

"Come on, why do you always have to act like such a bitch?"

"Dude, fuck off"

"Richie? - Eddie asked with concern - What's wrong?"

A young man with curly blond hair peeked out from behind Richie's side, glancing at Eddie from head to toe with a cocky smirk.

"Are you with him, Richie? Really?"

"If you don't get the fuck out of my sight in the next two seconds I'll smash your fucking face. I'm not kidding"

His voice sounded strained and filled with rage, in a way Eddie never got to hear before. Once the blond guy turned around and dissappeared in the crowd with his drink, Richie shivered and ran his fingers through his curls, visibily upset.

"Richie? Who was that? Richie?" Eddie begged, shaking uncontrollably and teeth chattering as if his body temperature had suddenly dropped 20 degrees.

"No one. It doesn't matter" Richie grunted and shook his head.

Handing Eddie his beer, Richie nodded towards the back of the salon, but Eddie stood completely immobilized in his spot.

"Richie, tell me who the fuck that was, or I'm leaving"

"Jesus - Richie whined, rubbing his eyes and his temple with his free hand - We don't have to do this. It's not a big deal, trust me"

"It is, to me"

"Alright - he sighed heavily, defeated - I hooked up with that guy a couple of times last year. I met him in one of my classes. He's an asshole and a narcissistic cunt, literally. He's a horrible person. I cut him off for good, but he still thinks he's got me wrapped around his finger, which is obviously not the case"

"But why is he talking to you? What does he want from you?"

"Because he's an asshole, that's why. I don't give a shit about what he wants, he can go fuck himself. I don't want to let this shit ruin our night, Eds. Please. He's no one to me. I'm with you now"

Richie seemed to be obviously affected because of whatever he and that blond guy had going. Eddie wanted to ask him about it, he wanted to know, he needed to know, more than anything, he wanted to turn on a giant beacon and dissolve at once all the shadows that surrounded Richie and his past. When, who, how, and why. He seemed to be genuinely angry when that guy Connor approached him, and truth was, Richie was there with Eddie, and not with him. Eddie was fully aware that Richie most likely had at least one ex-girlfriend, ex-boyfriend or ex-hookup at college, even sharing classes with him, perhaps. But why wouldn't he mention anything about his past relationships? Eddie could feel his blood boiling in rage at the inequality of a situation where he, with absolutely no previous experience in relationships whatsoever, was like an open book to Richie, whereas Richie still remained a box full of surprises, despite of all the things he shared with Eddie about himself. Why there was always one thing, one tiny little thing that he'd simply just "forget" to mention?

"Fine" Eddie finally blurted, clenching his fist around the neck of his bottle.

"Okay. So... do you wanna... dance, or...?"

Nailing his fingers on Richie's forearm (thus making Richie grimace in pain) and taking a long sip of beer, Eddie dragged him towards the back of the salon, this time, being the one making their way through the crowd. He didn't want to be upset with Richie, he really didn't.

"Come on, Richard. Let's dance"

------

It was at the back of the salon where things substantially changed to Eddie's perspective. The ambient was conspicuously darker despite of the purple, blue and red led lights flickering over their heads, and just as Beverly had predicted, there were couples kissing and touching in almost every dim corner. The persistent smell of burnt pot was lingering in the air and Eddie could've sworn he caught a glimpse of a transaction happening a few meters away from them. There was a little bar counter right around the corner of the "L", which he considered was a good feature: having to make all the way back to the main bar, coming and going through the crowd over and over in case of wanting to grab another drink would have been a huge annoyance.

"Do you want another beer?" Richie asked, leaning in to speak against his ear and snapping him out of his thoughts.

"Y-Yeah, sure"

Eddie was near to experience a strong headache when his silent prayers seemed to be heard, and the music switched from heavy rock to the typically danceable music from the past decade. While he and Richie headed towards the bar, Eddie couldn't help to see, right across the salon, a narrow dim stair that led to the DJ cabin. At the top of it and almost out of sight (if it wasn't for a sudden flash of red light that gave them away) there were a couple, one of the two unequivocally kneeling and bent over in between the other's legs, bobbing their head up and down. It was the first time Eddie witnessed two random people he didn't know having explicit sex. Back in Franklin, there was not a single chance he could ever get to sneak an X-rated movie in his bedroom, since Sonia had the habit of going through his personal belongings at least once a week, two, if she was feeling especially suspicious. Of course, he got to read a few lewd comics at school, but seeing such a scene in the flesh was something completely different. He could feel a rush of adrenaline running through his veins, knowing that he was witnessing something he shouldn't, at least not in a "normal" context. When Richie noticed what his sight was fixed on, he immediately raised a hand to cover Eddie's eyes, and Eddie reacted by pushing his hand away, annoyed.

"I'm not a fucking kid, Richard"

"So you're a Peeping Tom, huh? Interesting"

"Fuck off - Eddie grumbled, but ended up tearing his eyes from the stair scene - Bev told me I would probably witness something like this if I ever came here. A hotbed of diseases, if you ask me"

"If that's your subtle way to ask my opinion on the subject, I can confirm you I'm pro-safe sex and I get checked every year. I'm as clean as a shot of vodka. Oh, and one thing I almost forgot - Richie hissed, handing him the bottle - Whenever you're not drinking, cover up the spout with your fingertips"

"So I don't get drugs slipped into it?"

"Exactly"

"Have the police ever checked on this place?"

Richie dropped his head back and laughed.

"Eds, you're so naïve, for real. First off, neither of us is legally allowed to drink until next year, yet here we are. Second of all, do you really think the police don't know what the fuck goes on around here? This is not like our hometowns, Eddie, this is the real world. Do the maths"

"Don't call me naïve. It was a rethorical question. Stop treating me like a fucking child"

"Eddie, baby, calm your tits. You said you wanted to dance, let's dance then"

For the next ten songs, Eddie kept on chugging down at least two more bottles. When he and Stanley were 16, they managed to steal three cans from the local store, and after locking themselves in Stan's bedroom one Friday evening when his parents were out, they decided it was time to give beer a try. After all, all of their classmates were doing it, and making sure everyone else at the school knew about it, like it was some kind of life-changing feat. Eddie remembered how bitter that first sip tasted, and how weak in the knees he felt after finishing a whole beer by himself. But the loose feeling on his limbs and the tingling sensation lingering in his mouth also made him feel relaxed and funny. Everything was fine until it was time to go back home, and he would chug down a couple glasses of water and swallow a whole pack of mints to hide away the stench of alcohol in his breath. A nice feeling he knew he shouldn't and couldn't experience quite often.
He was far from home now, far from Sonia, far from his old room where he had absolutely no privacy whatsoever. All he wanted to do now was to enjoy that night with Richie by his side. The darkness around them was somewhat encouraging.

"Richie! What's up bro!"

What now?

Eddie snapped out of his thoughts and turned around. There was gentle-looking short guy behind him, holding his hand up in the air, waiting for a fist bump.

"What's up, Nick? - Richie greeted nervously - Uhm, this is... this is Eddie, my friend"

"Yo, Eddie, nice to meet you! I've never seen you around, no? First time here? Hey, look, I've got some good stuff if you'd-"

"No, we are fine, Nick, but thank you" Richie cut him short, smiling condescendingly.

"Oh, oh, alright! Gotcha! No problem, enjoy the rest of the night guys, see ya around!"

Richie covered his face with the palm of his hand and shook his head as soon as the short guy dissappeared from the sight, guessing that Eddie would be upset once again at the unwanted intromission.

"I'm so sorry about that. It was inevitable, though. Especially being your first time here. They don't miss one out"

"Selling drugs?"

"Yeah... I know him. I buy weed from him every once in a while. He's a cool chap"

"You know - Eddie suddenly interrupted - I smoked with Beverly last week"

"Weed?"

"Yeah"

"I thought you said you had asthma" Richie frowned.

"It's a long story. I don't wanna talk about that now"

"As you wish... But we won't smoke tonight. Not here, at least"

After every sip of beer, the space in between their bodies lessened more and more. Neither of them seemed to be exceptionally gifted dancers, so they would just go from doing the mimics to the song lyrics, to awkwardly swing and jump from side to side following the rhythm of the music. It was in those moments, when their thighs and knees crashed and brushed against the other's, that Eddie's need to feel Richie closer to him increased more and more. His brain was still putting up with the intense twirl of emotions he experienced since he set foot in that damned pub, and of course, the loosening feeling consequence of the copious amount of beer he'd been drinking. Eddie shifted closer, purposely bumping his lower belly against Richie's groin.

"Eds - his voice sounded a bit shaky - don't be a tease. It's not fair. There are people here"

"Sorry..."

"If I could, I would have kissed you already"

There it was. That goddamn "if" again. Richie for sure would get tired of him eventually. Why did he care that much? Who the fuck was Richie anyway? And why was he pretending he didn't spend most of his life living in a suffocating shell that didn't fit him? Eddie looked around. Would that bitch Connor still be there, believing he'd still have a chance to make Richie leave with him?

He's with me, get lost, you bleached-ass toad face.

"Kiss me, then" Eddie cooed in Richie's ear, standing on the tip of his toes and pressing his palms against his chest.

Richie shook his head and smiled, shying away a little.

"You're going to regret it, Eds. You know that"

You are an obsession
I cannot sleep
I am a possession
Unopened at your feet

Eddie felt overwhelmed by the sudden urge to slap Richie's stupid grin off his face, his know-it-all attitude, but decided to shut his eyes and continued dancing instead. He knew that song, he liked that song. Having past that little (huge) Connor incident, he was having fun now. But then, as if seeking for revenge after that suggestive bump, Richie stepped closer to tickle Eddie's left flank and make him squirm.

There's no balance
No equality
Be still
I will not accept defeat

"Asshole" Eddie mouthed without making any actual sound, but Richie could perfectly read his lips.

You are an obsession,
You're my obsession

As the colorful lights flickered off for a few seconds, Richie seized the opportunity to grab Eddie's neck with one hand and tugged his face to the side, leaning in to sing in his ear.

Who do you want me to be,
To make you sleep with me?

The feeling of the soft lips brushing against his earlobe while whispering the lyrics to the song caused Eddie's knees to wobble dangerously. His whole body shivered in arousment and his mind went completely blank.

"R-Richie-"

Eddie looked at him with his eyes open wide, when Richie let go of the grip on his neck and proceeded to continue dancing, as if nothing had happened in those brief seconds prior. His stomach was churning and his face was completely red and hot, with little drops of sweat forming all over his forehead.

"Yes? Tell me, angel"

"B-Bathroom"

"Do you wanna throw up?"

Eddie mouthed an undescipherable answer, squeezing and tugging Richie's forearm with a deadly grip.

"Shit, alright, hold my hand and come with me"

Richie somehow managed to drag Eddie through the crowd to the restroom at the back of the salon, and after kicking out a couple that were making out against the sinks he guided Eddie to one of them and turned the tap on.

"Let me wet your face a bit, you're burning hot - he requested, cupping his hand under the stream of cold water and lifting it up to pat Eddie's face a few times - Do you wanna throw up, Eds? Come on, drink some water"

"No, I don't wanna throw up" Eddie finally muttered, wiping the water off his face with the sleeve of his shirt.

"What?"

"I want to do to you what that couple were doing at the top of the stairs"

Richie's jaw dropped while he dried up his hands on the fabric of his trousers, and turned the tap off.

"Eds, you're drunk"

"I'm sober enough to know what I want - Eddie replied dryly, clenching his fists - Get in that stall and let me do it, please"

"You're thinking with your penis right now, you don't want to do this, not here"

"I'm so fucking tired of people bossing me around and telling me that they know what I want or what's the best for me. Fuck that shit. First my mother, now you? Fuck you, Richard. Let me fucking decide on my own what the fuck I do want. Get in that fucking stall. Now"

Pressing his palms against his chest with an unusual force, Eddie pushed Richie into the stall and locked the door behind his back. Holding himself against the wall, Richie panted and stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds before leaning in to grab Eddie's hair, yanking his head back to dive his tongue deep in his mouth.

"Little fucker"

Eddie reacted immediately as if the tense strings holding him back were suddenly cut, and threw his arms around Richie's neck, kissing him back and desperately rubbing his crotch against his. Richie let go of Eddie's hair and both of his hands slid down to the small of his back, pressing him closer to his body, making Eddie moan sharply in response. The kiss was definitely sloppy and lacked coordination, since every few moments their front teeth would clack against the other's making them cringe, but the mix of anger, confusion and roughness underlying it made it extremely arousing for both of them.
As soon as Eddie could palm Richie's crotch and feel his erection already bulging, he dropped to his knees and his trembling fingers fought to unbotton his trousers. He tried not to look up, he didn't want to see Richie smiling down at him with cocky condescension at the sight of his obvious clumsiness. When he finally managed to unbotton Richie's jeans, Eddie pulled them down altogether with his briefs.

Holy shit.

His jaw dropped and his eyes widened at the sight.

"It's... big" Eddie babbled, completely hypnotized, making Richie chuckle and reach down to stroke his face with the back of his index.

"You think you can handle me, Eds?" he asked, with an evil grin widening his face.

Arrogant fucker.

"I'll try my best"

Eddie didn't know exactly what to do, since that would be the first time he performed oral sex to someone, but he still had the experience of Richie having it done to him, so he tried to remember the best he could what were the things that caused him the most pleasure, how it started, and how it ended. Guided by his instincts (and a bit of spite) rather than solid knowledge on the matter, Eddie poked out his tongue and ran it all the way up Richie's lenght, before suckling and licking the head a couple of times. Pretend you're sucking on a popsicle, that's a good one. Richie squirmed and moaned, which was a clear encouraging sign for Eddie to keep going. The tip of his cock was already leaking, and Eddie could taste his precum was mostly flavorless, but a pinch salty.
A sudden knock-knock on the stall door made Eddie jump scared.

"Fuck off, we're busy in here" Richie grunted in response, and it seemed to work, because whoever was standing on the other side of the door didn't knock back again.

Eddie looked up at Richie and bit his lip.

"That was close..."

"We can stop, if you want to"

"No - Eddie shook his head - I want to keep going"

Was it possible that the idea of almost getting caught at that moment had such a pep pill effect on him? After taking a deep breath, Eddie was determined to try and take it whole in his mouth, but Jesus fuck, it was so big it made the corners of his mouth stretch tightly and his eyes watered when it hit his gag reflex, making him cough and choke on his own spit.

"Take it slow, Eds, you're doing it well. Don't force it on yourself"

Eddie nodded, before diving in his second attempt. He tried to forget about the loud music coming from the outside still rumbling in his ears, distracting him. This time, he helped himself with his right hand by holding firmly the base, and forming a tight ring with his lips, he bobbed his head up and down, one, two, three, four times, pushing it bit by bit deeper into his mouth, and figuring at the same time the best ways to position his head and his hand to be able to reach further without gagging.

"Fuck, Eddie, baby - Richie moaned from above, running his fingers through Eddie's hair - You're doing it so good..."

With the most pure sense of pride and achievement tingling his brain, Eddie was determined to make Riche orgasm. He then remembered something Richie had said to him when they were romping around at Blue Hills Reservation.

I was thinking... how pretty you'd look with my cock in your mouth

Information is key to success. Eddie pulled out and looked up at Richie with begging eyes.

"Do I look pretty with your cock in my mouth?"

"Holy shit, Eds. Fuck" Richie cried out, biting his knuckles in a failed attempt to muffle his whimpering.

Eddie didn't ressume his duty, demanding for a proper answer.

"Do I?"

"Yes, yes, baby. You look so pretty with my cock in your mouth. Jesus fucking Christ, you're so fucking hot"

Letting go of the grip on the base of his lenght, Eddie nailed his fingers on Richie's hipbones, pushing them forward.

"Fuck my face"

"Oh my God, Eddie. No. You're going to kill me..."

"Do it like that motherfucker Connor is looking at us. Let him know your dick belongs to me now, I don't care anymore"

Where the fuck did that come from, Edward?

"I'm yours, Eddie. All of me. Jesus, you're so fucking hot..."

With tears streaming down his cheeks, Eddie tried his best to endure Richie's thrusting over and over into his mouth, following the pace with his own neck movements, not without some difficulty and occasional gagging. It was so mind-blowingly arousing that he felt he was near to come untouched in his own briefs.

"Eds - Richie whined, tightening the grip on Eddie's hair and thrusting faster - I'm gonna come. Tell me where-"

He then allowed Eddie to pull out and so he looked up at him, teary eyed and completely flushed and sweaty.

"I want to swallow it, like you did to me"

"Alright... I'm gonna drop it on your tongue then, I wanna see you swallowing it - Richie proceeded to fist his cock to completion - You're a fucking whore, Eds. Look at you, choking on my dick in a public restroom, all fucked up and begging. You're a dream come true"

"Richie..."

"Be a good boy and open up, come on"

And so Eddie obeyed. His eyes shut instinctively when the first string of cum landed on his tongue. It was gooey and tasted nothing like anything Eddie had ever tried before, so he couldn't quite compare or define in clear terms if he liked it or not. But as promised, he collected every drop with the tip of his tongue and swallowed it eagerly. Richie wiped his forehead and fell back against the wall, with his chest heaving.

"Holy shit. Are you okay, Eds? Talk to me"

"I-I'm okay. Did you...? Was I good? It was my first time doing it" Eddie quickly put up his defense. His voice sounded a bit raspy.

"You were so good, Eds, so good. Just... give me a minute"

See, I can handle you.

After Richie pulled and buttoned up his jeans, Eddie rested his face against his thigh and yawned. He was feeling content, lax, dizzy, and his jaw ached a little bit, but it was a bearable, satisfying kind of ache. It was the mere selfish pleasure of knowing himself capable of making Richie feel like that, just like any other person he's ever fucked with. As seconds went on and his breathing regained its normal rhythm, he felt like dropping from his high, right onto that dirty bathroom floor where he knew his mother would die in the spot if she ever got to see him.

I need to get the hell out of here.

"I'm tired, Rich. Can we leave...?"

Chapter Text

Eddie peered at his clock: it was almost 2 am. He had exited the restroom first, after debating with Richie what was the wisest way to proceed before leaving. They arrived to the conclusion that if they exited one by one a few minutes apart from the other, it wouldn't be as "suspicious", in case that anyone had seen them walking in together in the first place. When Eddie stepped out of the stall with his cheeks burning red in anticipated embarrassment, he saw a couple kissing desperately in a corner past the sinks. Fortunately for him (and for Richie as well, after all), the couple were so engaged in their passionate making-out session that they didn't even flinch when Eddie opened the door and sneaked away.
While he awaited for Richie back in the salon, he regretted not having washed his hands or even rinsing his mouth, but it wasn't that he had much of a choice or time enough to think things through. In fact, he mentally thanked every supernatural entity in existence for having being able to exit the restroom going practically unnoticed. People were still dancing, drinking, having fun. The music was still on, and the world hadn't stopped, but for some unexplainable reason, it seemed to him a little different now. Perhaps a bit smaller, and less scary.
After a couple of minutes that felt like an eternity, Richie emerged from the restroom, grinning.

"Those two were really getting on it, huh?"

"Yeah, I saw"

His curls were messier than ever, and he was overall visibly sweaty. Eddie couldn't check himself on the worn-out mirror hung above the sinks before his exit, but he was well aware that he probably looked even worse than Richie. Despite of the dark ambient in the pub, he couldn't help but feel a bit self-conscious about his appearance at the moment.

"Come on, let's get out of here" Richie hissed, briefly pressing his hand on the small of Eddie's back.

After a last dive in the crowd at the main salon, they finally reached the exit. It was probably the coldest night Eddie experienced since his arrival to Boston, and the fact that his body was already accostumed to the heat inside the pub didn't make the transition any easier for him. Once they stepped outside, Richie pulled out a cigarette from his pocket and lit it.

"What just happened in there... - he blew the smoke and pointed at the three leaf door behind him - just wow"

"Shouldn't we... go to your car or something?" Eddie warned. There were still a few people around them, some of them just hanging at the entrance of The Black Rose, and some others that probably had come out of the pub for a brief moment to smoke a cigarette or take a breath of fresh air.

"No, no. I can't drive right now, Eds. I'm sorry. I've drank a bit too much"

Oh, no.

"Then what are we gonna do?"

"Look, I live five blocks away from here, my car will be fine. I could wait for you to grab a cab back to campus if you want, but you'll have to deal with a guard, and I know that's not a prospect that excites you a lot, especially 'cause you've been drinking. And I don't want you to wander around all by yourself at 2 AM, even at campus. It's dangerous"

"So?" Eddie asked chattering his teeth, even though he could anticipate the answer. He wasn't sure if his body was shivering as a consequence of the cold breeze, or if it was the sudden rush of excitement that began to grow inside of him instead.

"You can come to my place and stay there until morning. By then I'll be as fresh as a daisy and able to drive you back to campus"

He would finally meet Richie's place. His kingdom. The place where his esence and his powers were nested. How exciting was that?

"Well, okay..."

"But - Richie cut Eddie short and leaned in, lowering his voice - We won't do the nasty. I'm not inviting you to come over with that idea in mind, are we clear?"

Eddie frowned.

"Fine. I wasn't thinking about that, anyway. You make it sound like I'd beg for it"

"Well, you were begging me to fuck your face a few minutes ago - Richie smirked and took a drag of his cigarette - And I couldn't say no to you, Eds. You bear a special kind of power that completely anihilates my will. You ask and I deliver. By the way, that was the hottest beejay I've ever received in my entire life, just so you know"

"Really?" Eddie asked, incredulous yet unable to stop his cheeks from blushing again at a supersonic speed.

"Come on, Eds - Richie nodded towards his right - This way"

They began to walk together in that direction. At every step, the noise coming from The Black Rose and other pubs nearby became less and less hearable, until it disappeared almost completely.

"So - Eddie's voice echoed in the silent street - You really meant what you said?"

"I meant it, yeah - Richie assured, throwing away the end of his cigarette - It was so fucking hot I still can't believe it actually happened. Straight up saved to my favorite mental images to jerk off to"

"Wow - Eddie looked at his feet, not knowing exactly what to say - Well, thank you, I guess"

"I'm the one who got his dick sucked, I should be the one saying 'thank you' - Richie joked, bumping Eddie's arm with his elbow playfully - Come on, Eds. Give yourself some credit"

"It's hard when I'm aware that I'm completely unexperienced while you are... well..."

"A whore?"

"No! Jesus. I mean you're obviously much more experienced than me"

"So?" Richie asked, frowning.

"So I'm constantly afraid I'll fuck up, and you'll laugh at me"

"I'd never do that, Eds. Also, I don't really know how many people you think I fucked with. Whatever the number you've got in mind is, I can assure it's probably not that big"

"How would I know, Richard? You never talk about that"

"Come on, Eddie, don't tell me you want a full detailed register of every people I ever had intercourse with?"

"No! I don't want that. It's just that... I don't know. I wish I had my own stories to tell, but I don't have any"

"And that's perfectly fine. Stop being so hard on yourself. You lived your whole life under certain circumstances that made it that way for you, and you did your best to live through them in this fucked up world full of hateful motherfuckers, and since you're here now being able to talk about this, whatever you did, you got it right. Trust me"

His words felt like a warm embrace, a much needed reaffirmation Eddie craved for. Ever since he came to the realization that he wasn't a "normal" heterosexual boy, he spent days and nights crying in angst at the thought that he was a miserable coward for not standing up for his truth. He knew there were people out there, people like him, fighting for their rights to live and to love. Why couldn't he be brave and join them?

"Thanks, Richie" Eddie mumbled, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand when Richie looked away for a moment to look for another cigarette in his pocket.

"No problem!"

"Still I'd like to ask you some things... out of curiosity"

"Bring it on" he encouraged while litting up his cigarette.

"Have you ever had a steady relationship?"

"Define 'steady relationship', please"

"You know, like a 'normal' relationship, a partner you would have brought home to meet your parents, walked around hand in hand, no seeing other people, and so on"

"Yeah, I actually did. It didn't last for long, though, only six months. She was a high school classmate of me and Beverly"

"So, with a girl?"

"A girl, yup, her name's Anna. We started dating during our last year, right before I came here. She was really cool and we became somewhat close during that time. A fucking freak like me, basically. That's why we clicked so well"

"And what happened? I mean, why did you guys break up?"

"She was jealous of Beverly, in short. She'd constantly bitch about our friendship, saying that it was weird, inappropiate, suspicious, and so on. I liked her a lot, I really did, but friends are friends, you know? I told her plenty of times that Bev was my best friend and nothing else, that she didn't have to worry about a thing, but she obviously never fully trusted me. The day she told me to choose between her or Beverly I knew it was over. Not even once I did regret my decision"

"That sucks, I guess..." Eddie ventured, clueless on how to react to Richie's breakup anecdote. Of course he couldn't manifest it, but he guessed that it was a good thing that Richie had ended that relationship, otherwise, they would have probably never met at all.

"Not really. I could never be with someone who's jealous of my best friend. It would've gone to shit sooner or later"

"And after Anna..."

"Never got into anything quite 'serious' again, if that's what you wanna know"

"Alright"

They continued walking in silence (stumbling and crashing against each other every once in a while) a couple more blocks, until Richie finally pointed at a relatively tall residential building across the street.

"Here"

----

It was a simply decorated but nice building, with a big mirror covering most of the left wall at the entrance hall and three wide steps in dark grey marble that led to the elevators. But the elevators were quite small in width, so Eddie had to stand barely a few inches away from Richie to fit with him in one of them. Not that he was complaining, though. After Richie pressed the button to go up to the sixth floor he smiled, put his hands on Eddie's waist, and kissed him. It was the first time they kissed since they had left The Black Rose, far from the noise, the loud music, the sticky floor. And of course, out of nearly two hundred unknown people's sight. It was the kind of comforting kiss Eddie was needing after such an intense night out.
Richie's apartment was, just as he had mentioned the first time they met, not so big. It consisted of one only room, with the kitchen area near the entrance, bathroom at the right (of course), and a tall wide white shelf stuffed with a mess of books and loose papers acting as a divider between what was meant to be the living room and the bedroom area. A guitar case was resting agaist a wall right beside a small television and a set of speakers. He wanted to ask Richie what kind of guitar he owned, but in all honesty, he didn't know that much about guitars. It was Stanley the one who was a certified music junkie, and probably able to identify the guitar without even actually having to take it out of its case.

"It's not much, but it's the best I can afford" Richie grimaced, looking around with his arms akimbo.

Past the white shelf, at the back of the apartment, there was a medium size window where Richie had conveniently placed his bed right beside. A big chunk of the sky was visible from there, which Eddie considered was wonderful plus.

"It's not bad at all, I really like it. And it's still bigger than my dorm, so..."

After a quick stop at the bathroom (and finally washig his hands), Eddie wandered around the apartment, looking at every detail, every personal touch Richie had imprinted there, every poster (mostly movies and music themed), every picture and every painting hanging from the walls (would those paintings be his own creation?). Unaware of Eddie's extense analysis of his surroundings, Richie took off his denim jacket and walked to the fridge.

"Do you want something to drink? - he threw his jacket sloppily on a nearby chair and picked an orange juice box from the fridge - I've got, uh... orange juice, water, milk... or I could make you some tea or coffee, if you want something hot"

"I don't want to bother you. A glass of water is fine"

"You don't bother me, Eds. A cup of tea takes literally five minutes to make. It's just boiled water"

"Alright, a cup of tea, then"

"Okie-dokie. Don't stand there like a fucking scarecrow, make yourself comfortable, you can sit wherever"

Eddie decided then that the little loveseat couch set in front of the television was a good spot. After chugging down a glass of orange juice, Richie filled up the kettle with fresh water and set it on the stove, before walking towards Eddie nodding in approval.

"May I?" he asked, leaning with his hands pressed on the armrest.

"Obviously, I mean, it's your apartment, and your couch"

"And you?"

"Me, what?"

"Are you mine?"

Eddie snorted and shifted nervously on the cushioned seat.

"Dude..."

"Sorry, that was extremely sappy - he dropped himself on the cushion beside Eddie and rubbed his eyes - You've turned me into a sappy, slobbery monster"

"Don't blame it on me. Perhaps you've been sappy all along. It's just that you're finally unleashing it now"

"Shit, Eds, chill. Don't expose me like that..."

With a complex maneuvre, Richie streteched his legs over Eddie's and leaned back to rest his head on his lap, while his feet hung from the edge of the armrest

"Dude, you're so fucking long, how do you even handle yourself?"

"I'm 5'10, I'm not even that tall. You're like 5'5, of course I'm tall from your perspective"

"Whatever" Eddie rolled his eyes, slowly running his fingers through Richie's curls over and over. It must have been a pleasant sensation for him, as he closed his eyes and sighed heavily at the first touch, his lashes fluttering against his cheeks with every breath.

"That feels nice..."

It certainly felt nice for Eddie as well. It wasn't only the intense rush of excitement he experienced everytime he and Richie had a sexual approach what he craved for. He also longed for that mushy feeling of intimacy he got from every moment they shared cuddling, laughing at Richie's dumb jokes, kissing or even staring at each other in silence. Common sense was: those were the things couples normally do. Richie had told him once during a phone call that they were dating, but Eddie couldn't figure if he meant that literally or rather figuratively in the context of that particular conversation. He wasn't still sure what his relationship status with Richie was, and due to his "closet issue", he was certainly afraid to ask about it way too directly.
A sudden noise of metallic jingling snapped him back to reality.

"Shit, the kettle!"

-----

Once Eddie finished his cup of tea (which took him a while, since the water in the kettle had boiled a little too much), Richie offered him one of his t-shirts and a pair of bike shorts to change his clothes before going to bed. Just like Stanley, Eddie wasn't keen of sleeping with his street clothes on, especially when they smelled so strongly like smoke and cigarettes like his own at that moment. Richie then announced that he was going to take a quick shower because he was feeling "sweaty and sticky all over". He asked Eddie if he perhaps wanted to take a shower too, but not necessarily implying to do it together. Eddie just nodded and said he'd do it right after him; he didn't want to give Richie the impression that he was actively trying to be a tease.

"You look so freaking adorable wearing my clothes, Eds" Richie cooed, already laying on his side of the bed when Eddie stepped out of the bathroom and emerged from behind the white bookshelf, drying his hair with a towel. Of course, Richie's t-shirt was a little bit too big for him, and his shorts were barely visible, poking from under the hem.

"I do look like a scarecrow now" Eddie mumbled and waved his arms, blushing.

"The sexiest scarecrow I've ever landed my eyes on - Richie looked him up and down and bit the corner of his lip, tapping the mattress by his side - Come here"

Eddie crawled on the bed and sneaked under the sheets. Everything around was warm and smelled like Richie. All of his senses were collapsing under the dizzing effect Richie had on him: the sound of his voice, the taste of his lips, his touch, his smile. Everything.

"Well... Good night, Eds - Richie lulled, wrapping his arms around Eddie's waist and pecking him softly on the cheek - By the way, don't push your ass back if you don't want me to pop a boner"

"Alright, Romeo, I'll keep my distance. Good night"

And just like that, they both fell asleep almost immediately. It wasn't strange, though, since they were both physically exhausted, and of course, the effect of the alcohol they'd been drinking, even if it never got to reach the levels of a black out.
Eddie woke up first that next morning. A ray of sunlight coming through the window was already taking over one corner of the bed at their feet, reflecting on the white sheets and causing him to squint to protect his still sensitive eyes. He didn't know what time it was, but Richie was still asleep, resting on his side and facing him. Eddie took a few moments to admire every detail on his face. He didn't know why, but Richie seemed to be now the most beautiful boy in the world to him. What were his feelings for him exactly? Was it love? Was it lust? Was it just a desperate need for affection and attention that Richie seemed to fulfill?
With a soft grunting, Richie suddenly shifted to the side so he was now resting face up, still asleep. Eddie did know damn well, when his eyes unwillingly traveled down to his groin area, that Richie would probably have a morning wood, just like his own. But what he didn't know, was how or when he shifted closer to Richie, like a nail being helplessly dragged to a magnet, and started to place soft kisses on his neck, rubbing with his hand the bulge that poked from under the sheets with a circling motion. It took Richie a solid minute to finally wake up at the feeling of Eddie's delicate touch.

"Eds...? - he hissed with a buttery sleepy voice - What are you...?"

"Shhh"

Slowly coming to the realization of what was happening, Richie turned back to his original position on his side facing Eddie, and pressed his body against his, tilting his head back so Eddie could reach every inch of the exposed skin of his neck with his kisses. With a sloppy and slow motion, he began to rock his hips against Eddie's crotch, and both of their cocks started to rub against each other through the fabric of their shorts.

"Eds" Richie breathed out again after what seemed to be no longer than a minute and a half, pulling his shorts and briefs down with one single movement.

Eddie did the same.

Richie took hold of both of them with his right hand, and began to slowly pump up and down. It was arousing and pleasant, but not in a wild, unhinged way. It felt intimate, sweet, even. The nearest thing Eddie could think of to a mellow morning love-making session he would normally see in the romantic movies his mother liked to watch, of course, always starring heterosexual pairings. Eddie continued rocking his hips back and forth, panting and feeling the exquisite friction against Richie's palm and cock with every thrust. Against all odds, Richie finished first, and Eddie could feel the warm sticky goo sliding down his own lenght. But Richie continued moving his hand up and down, determined to make Eddie reach his orgasm too. With a muffled moan, Eddie finally came in his hand, making a mess of his and Richie's cum mixed dripping down the mattress.

"Shit, Eds. Wow. What a way to wake a man up..." Richie panted, sticking his wet hand out from under the sheets and falling back completely limp against his pillow.

When Eddie regained his breath, he placed himself on top of Richie and pecked him tenderly on the lips, before cocking an eyebrow and fake slap him.

"Won't you say 'good morning', at least?"

Chapter Text

After a quick stop at a drive-thru to grab breakfast (and at a pharmacy to get a couple Advils for the mild hangover), Richie drove Eddie back to campus. During the whole ride he'd willingly make Eddie cringe in panic whenever he let go of the wheel to touch him or even kiss him, but it was clear that they both enjoyed those little games. Richie promised he'd help him with his driving lessons after Eddie confessed that he never had the chance to drive his mother's car by himself, let alone get his license or even a car of his own. Stanley had offered him the chance to practice with his car when he got it from his parents as his 17th birthday present, but Eddie refused, fearing that he would somehow damage it, or worse.

"Speaking of Stan The Man, do you think he's back from Lasell already?" Richie inquired, as he drove through the campus entrance.

"I truly hope not, that'd be hella awkward. He told me he would be back before dusk... And it's not even noon"

"He's probably still balls deep in his girlfriend, don't worry"

"Dude! Why do you have to say it like that?"

"Alright, alright. Sorry. I mean he's probably still making love to his dearly beloved girlfriend. Better?"

"No, not really" Eddie chuckled.

Richie finally pulled over in front of his building and threw a quick look around.

"Okay, the coast is clear. Can I get just a tiny little goodbye kiss?"

"Uh, I don't know..."

"Come on, Eds, there's literally no one around. Please?"

Eddie had to double check before finally leaning over the gearshift and pecking Richie quickly on the lips.

"There. Satisfied?"

"Very much. Last night was amazing, and today morning, too. I enjoy everything we do together"

"I like spending time with you too, sappy monster. I'll call you as soon as I can, okay? We still have a couple of free weeks until midterms"

"Ugh, I know. Don't even mention it. I still have to talk to my bandmates to schedule a date at Bill's. We wanted to do it before Halloween, but I guess that won't be possible, with the exams approaching and shit"

"Yeah, but we have no choice, we need to focus on passing those exams - Eddie sighed and unbuckled his seat belt - Well... bye, Richie. Thanks for the breakfast, and for the ride"

"Glad to serve - Richie bowed - You can ride me whenever"

"Bye, Richard" Eddie repeated, getting off the car and closing the door without looking back, so Richie couldn't see him blush.

Cautious as he was, and just in case anyway, Eddie pressed his ear against the door, attempting to catch any sign of Stanley's presence in there before straight up walking into their dorm. He couldn't hear anything, not the radio, not the TV, not even the clicking sound of his computer keyboard, so he guessed that either Stanley was asleep, or wasn't there at all. Eddie took a deep breath and mentally counted to three before finally opening the door.
Stanley wasn't there, just as he had planned, and his bed and everything on his desk were exactly the way he had left them the day before. Eddie breathed out in relief. Surely the Advil had helped him to feel better, but it was a hot shower and a nap what he really needed to feel renewed.
The night before had been a rollercoaster of emotions, to say the least. Taking his time in the shower to think through all the events that took place, Eddie still couldn't wrap his head around the fact that he dared to do what he did to Richie in a semi-public place such as a pub restroom. The most shocking part of it all, was that he wasn't as ashamed as he would have expected to be for it. Not even close. He asked to do that, he needed to do that because he wanted Richie, and he felt ragingly jealous at the concrete idea of him being with someone else. Such thoughts began to corrode his mind from the very first moment knew about that guy Connor. It wasn't the same as the idea of Richie and Beverly together, because Eddie knew they both gave in to it out of curiosity, not being the result of those encounters enough to put the sex or a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship above their friendship. And of course, there was that girl Anna, his only official ex-girlfriend, who was far behind in space and time. That guy Connor, on the other hand, was as recent as the previous year, and so recent that he thought, the prior night, that he could still have a chance to sleep with Richie if he tried. Much to Eddie's dislike, he had to admit, even if he wasn't particularly his type, that Connor could be considered conventionally desirable: slender and blond with big blue eyes. It was understandable that Richie ever got to feel attracted to him. Eddie was aware that he looked nothing like him, except perhaps for his complexion, though he was definitely shorter in height. But then again, Richie wanted to be with him, it was him the guy who ended up sleeping in Richie's bed that night, even if they hadn't have sex in the end. Eddie wished he could've had the courage to step up when Connor approached them, and tell him that Richie was his... whatever he was. After putting on his pajamas and stuffing the clothes he wore the night before into the laundry bag, Eddie tucked himself in his bed, dozing off almost instantly.
The sound of the door opening woke him up around 5 PM. It was Stanley, of course, who recoiled a bit at the sight of his roommate still laying in bed.

"Hey! Sorry I woke you up..."

"Hi, Stan. Don't worry, I was just taking a little nap, woke up early to work on some assignments... - Eddie lied, jumping off his bed - So! How's Patty doing? Did you guys have fun?"

"Yeah, she's doing great, fortunately. By the way, she says hi - Stanley informed, leaving his backpack on a chair and taking off his coat - But yeah, I've missed her a lot"

"Please, next time you talk to her tell her I said hi too. And yeah, I can imagine. You guys haven't seen each other in weeks"

"I'm kind of used to, though. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say. How about you? How's your weekend going?"

Oh, if he only knew.

"Pretty boring, honestly - Eddie lied again - I've been trying to catch up with my readings and working on a couple assignments"

"I should try and catch up with my readings too - Stan said pensively - Midterms are right around the corner"

"Do you know when's your last already?"

"Wednesday 30th. What about you?"

"Thursday 31st - Eddie grimaced - Right on time for Halloween"

"At least your birthday falls on a Saturday! We have to celebrate"

"Oh... I've completely forgotten about that"

It was true, indeed. The past few weeks had been eventful at the point that Eddie had sincerely overlooked the fact that his birthday was approaching. Not that he was used to properly celebrate his birthday anyway. The good thing was, it would be right after finishing his exams, on November 2nd. He'd still at least have the choice to do it now that he was far from home and had a couple more of friends to join him.
He and Stanley spent the rest of the day working on their exam notes and summaries, their favorite studying technique and the one that had always worked the best for them, because it saved them time and most importantly: unnecesary anxiety.
On Monday, after doing the laundry (Eddie had offered Stan to do his too, which he sincerely appreciated), Eddie focused on actually catching up with his readings and tidying the dorm a little bit. By the time he decided to take a break, it was almost 4 PM. He knew Richie was at work at that time. Perhaps it would be a good idea for Eddie to apply to a part-time job in Boston, as well? That would definitely force him to slow down and even rearrange his future scholar schedule, but at the same time, he knew it would be a good experience, and of course, a new monetary income that would allow him to save some for whatever the purpose. Stanley agreed it was a good idea, so they decided they would start looking for part-time jobs downtown to apply to once they had finished their current courses.

--------

"And did you have sex with him?"

"Yes, I did. Oh my God, I'm so embarrassed! But it was so good, Eddie. So good"

Eddie and Beverly were already leaving their last Tuesday class, talking about how their weekends had been. Of course, Eddie had nothing to tell, more like, nothing he could tell, but it seemed to be that Beverly did. She'd been to Bill's Bar on Saturday with a couple of friends when her flirting with Ben, the hot bartender, seemed to have escalated real quick.

"And you did it... there?"

"Jesus, no! I waited for him to end his shift and then we went to his apartment. I don't know if I told you, but he's majoring in Architecture, he's in his third year already"

"Oh, wow. And no, you didn't tell me. Actually, all I can remember is that you said that you didn't like him that way" Eddie teased with a tiny evil grin.

"I lied, okay? I lied - Beverly replied effusively - The guy is a dream. And the sex. Damn"

"Uh... What about it?" he asked, shyly. He still wasn't quite sure if it was "normal" to talk about such things with a friend. Stan had never mentioned or discussed his sex life with Patricia with him, for obvious reasons. But of course, Beverly wasn't Stanley.

"Let's just say he's a very generous lover, and not at all selfish. Unlike most of the losers I've ever fucked with. I hate it when guys don't give a shit if you come or not and literally only focus on their dicks. Once they come they call it a day and dip"

"Sounds like he knows what he's doing"

"He certainly does - Beverly sighed, litting a cigarette - Ugh, don't let me catch feelings, Eddie. I'm so fucking weak"

I wish I knew how to control feelings. You're talking to the wrong guy.

"Why not? He seems to really like you"

"Because feelings are shit. Feelings fuck you up. Either you get to touch heaven, or you go down straight to hell. Or even worse, you might have one coming right after the other"

I know. I know. I fucking know.

"It still might be worth trying, no...?"

-----

Thursday had a strange vibe about it, if not borderline chaotic. When Eddie joined Stan at their usual table at the buffet salon, he was sitting leaned slightly back, arms crossed on his chest and a cryptic look in his eyes.

"Stan? Are you okay?" Eddie asked with concern while sitting on a chair next to him.

"Yeah - he replied absently - I'm okay. You?"

"I'm... I'm okay"

An uncomfortable silence followed, leaving Eddie feeling extremely confused and clueless on what was bothering Stanley at the moment. Even if he said he was okay, Eddie wasn't stupid. Over 10 years of friendship were enough for him to descipher whenever Stan was upset about something. When Beverly and Richie arrived a few minutes later, his confusion levels went up to the sky as he saw Stan greeting Richie with the coldest and most distant nod, whilst greeting Beverly the usual affectionate way. The contrast would have been obvious even to the most oblivious of the human beings.

"What's up, Stan? How's everything going on for you?" Richie spoke directly to him, clearly aware of his cold treatment.

"I'm good - he replied dryly - It's just that my stomach hurts. I think I had too many lattes this morning"

"What a coincidence! My stomach's been bugging me too - Richie joked, rubbing his belly - But you know, I think I'm actually pregnant. I suspect Eddie might be the father"

"Shut up, Richie" Eddie couldn't hold back a nervous chuckle while kicking him under the table.

Beverly laughed too, but Stanley didn't seem to find the joke hilarious in the slightest bit. He instantly rolled his eyes and looked away, shifting in his seat, visibly uncomfortable. Eddie was now reaching unbearable levels of internal anxiety. What the hell was wrong with Stanley? Why was he being like that to Richie? While he, Richie and Beverly were chatting about the upcoming exams, Stanley remained in absolute silence, with his eyes fixed on the table, distractedly tracing invisible lines with his index. At certain point, he suddenly stood up from his chair and announced that he was going to buy himself a lime soda, before asking the others if they wanted him to bring something else. Beverly and Eddie shook their heads and thanked him.

"You know what, Stan? - Richie stood up too and straightened his glasses - I do want something, actually. I just don't know what. I'll go with you and I'll decide there what tempts me the most"

"Fine" Stanley murmured, turning around and walking away from the table. Richie immediately followed him up close.

Eddie saw them in the distance covertly exchanging a few words when they reached the counter. How he wished he knew how to read lips in that precise moment! Whatever Stanley had said to him, Richie nodded once in response. Only once.

They didn't talk to each other again through the rest of the lunch.

Chapter Text

"Hey, I'm gonna go for a walk. I need some fresh air - Stanley announced, grabbing his jacket and heading to the door - I'll be back in thirty minutes, tops"

Eddie tore his eyes from the notebook where he was scribbling, looked at his watch and nodded, a bit lost. It was almost 8 PM.

"Do you want me to make something for dinner?"

"No, no. I'm fine, not really hungry, and my stomach still hurts a bit. Eat whatever you want, I was planning on going to bed early anyway"

"Alright..."

As he walked out of the building, Stan realized he had no choice but to put on his jacket. It was a really cold and windy evening, even for October. Despite of Autumn being his favorite season of the year, he couldn't stand a windy weather, such as the one they had that day. It didn't take him long to reach his destination, submerged in his thoughts and planning on what to say, and how to word it.
The buffet was still open, but Richie was already waiting for him outside, with his hands in his pockets.

"Hey - he greeted awkwardly when Stanley approached him - Shall we get in, or...?"

"Yeah, it's fucking freezing out here"

Even though the salon was pretty much empty at that time of the day, they agreed on picking the furthest table to sit at so no one would hear their conversation, which was, according to Stanley's prevision, unevitably going to escalate rather quickly.

"So, Staniel - Richie started after sitting on a chair - You asked me to come to meet you, and here I am. Now tell me, what's been bothering you?"

Stan sat right in front of him and leaned on the table, entwining his fingers. He knew it wouldn't be a pleasant, friendly conversation.

"Look, I'll get to the point as quickly as I can. You know Eddie and I have been friends since forever..."

"I know that" Richie spat dryly.

"Please, let me continue - Stan cut him short, raising his voice a little - Eddie is my best friend, and we've always been there for each other whenever things got bad at school, or out school. I don't know what's going on between the both of you, and of course I'm not gonna ask him, because it's up to him to choose what to tell me and when to do so. And of course, I'm not gonna ask you either, because I've known you for literally two weeks, you wouldn't have to tell me shit. But I'm not dumb, I see how Eddie reacts whenever he's near you, I see the way you flirt with him, and I know he's been quite elusive with his 'solo' going outs lately. I also know what I witnessed at The Black Rose that night I saw you there, because I'm one hundred percent it was you, and the fact that you have denied it front of Eddie when I mentioned it was the first piece I got to put into place in this puzzle. After that, it all became quite clear to me"

Stan made a brief pause, but Richie didn't say a word. He simply leaned back on his chair and frowned with his arms crossed on his chest.

"I don't have a problem with Eddie lying to me or sneaking out to see a guy he met and likes - Stan continued - I knew this would eventually happen, because he's been deprived of doing such things his whole life, basically. And I know that well, because like I said before, we've been friends forever. What concerns me, in this particular case, is that I don't know if I'm okay with the fact that you are that guy"

Another brief silence. Richie began to bounce his leg nervously and his jaw tensed, but once again, he remained quiet.

"What I saw at The Black Rose that night didn't sit right with me. Again, I don't know what's exactly going on between you both, and I don't wanna know unless it's from Eddie, but I want my friend to be okay"

"I think - Richie suddenly interrupted him with a strained voice - Edward is old enough to take care of himself, and to decide on his own what he wants, and with whom he wants it. You should stop acting like you're his father with this holier-than-thou fucking attitude"

"I just don't want him to get hurt"

"Who's gonna hurt him, Stanley? Tell me" Richie raised his voice even more, uncrossing his arms.

"Eddie has no experience in relationships whatsoever - Stan argued, clenching his fists on the table - Literally zero. He's very naïve and very gullible. I'm just trying to protect him, like any friend would do"

"Protect him from what, exactly? You think I'm trying to take advantage of him? Is that what you're saying?"

"I don't know, but it's a possibility, especially after what I saw that night. And if I'm not mistaken, he allegedly went out 'on his own' the day after that event. If it was you the person he was with that day, that'd make everything even worse"

"I did nothing that night, Stanley. I don't know what the fuck you're talking about"

"I know what I saw"

"You were drunk and high as fuck that night, that's what Eddie told me"

"Really? So the guy I saw you kissing before you disappeared and the bag he was holding in front of your face was just me being high, right? Guess what I smoked was so good it got me hallucinating, for sure"

Richie gulped, chest heaving.

"You have no idea what you're talking about, Stanley... you really don't"

"I know what I saw, I don't need to know more. Do whatever you want because I'm not planning on telling Eddie about it. But let me tell you only this: if I ever get to see Eddie doing weird shit, or being upset or crying, and then I find out it's because of you, I'll fuck you up. I swear I will"

Richie suddenly stood up and leaned over Stanley, pressing his fists on the table. Stan held the eye contact without flinching; he was for sure aware of how the other boy was way taller than him, in case that the tense exchange ended up with a physical quarrel, but that didn't seem to frighten him in the slightest bit.

"Anything else?" Richie asked, grinding his teeth.

"No, that's pretty much all I wanted to say. What about you? Do you have something you need to say right now?"

There were many things Richie wanted to say, things that were puncturing his insides like he'd swallowed a million thorns. Problem was, he couldn't.

"No - he finally grimaced before he started to walk away from the table, but then turned around to face Stan one last time - Oh, wait! Yeah, I actually do want to say something: go fuck yourself, Stanley"

And so he walked out of the buffet, leaving Stanley there, definitely not calmer and absolutely more concerned than he was before. Guided by the half-assed aswers Richie had given to him, it was quite obvious now that he and Eddie had, in fact, some kind of relationship going on. Stanley wondered if keeping what he knew to himself was the right thing to do at that point, even after assuring Richie he wouldn't tell anything. The first time Eddie inquired him about Richie being at The Black Rose (the day he and Richie were oficially introduced to each other at the buffet), he didn't want to explain himself any further, because he knew it would be quite inrequited to remark the fact that he saw the guy kissing another guy to his closeted gay best friend, fearing it would come across as some kind of monstruosity abnormal enough to point out at first. But as soon as he began to catch spare clues of a possible "fling" going on between Eddie and Richie, his whole perspective on the matter changed. Perhaps Eddie knew it already? No, no, it couldn't be. He knew his best friend, it was impossible for him to imagine Eddie diving into his first relationship ever with a man who openly hooked up with other people in the meantime. Unless (Stanley thought with worry) that Richie, being obviously more experienced than him, had lured Eddie into believing that such thing was acceptable, even if Eddie didn't want it to be that way. Then there was the colossal issue with the other thing he saw that night: the little white bag. He technically didn't know for sure if it was coke, neither he saw Richie doing lines on a table, that was true. He could, if he wanted, give him the benefit of the doubt, but the whole situation was already suggestive enough, especially since next time he checked, both Richie and the other guy were nowhere to be seen.
His stomach shrunk when he walked back into his dorm and saw Eddie sitting cross-legged on his bed, eating Oreos while playing a video game. He decided not to say a thing, not now, at least.

"How was the walk?" Eddie asked with a shy smile. He knew Stanley had been acting strange the whole day, especially during lunch, after meeting with Richie and Beverly. Deep down, he was afraid of bringing it up, so he decided to wait until the next time they all met again, and he would see if Stan's attitude towards Richie had changed by then. After all, they were having their autumn break next week, and even though they had planned on spending it studying for the midterms, they could for sure find the way to meet one day for lunch or even for a night out.

"It was... it was okay, but it's fucking freezing outside. I think I'm gonna take a shower now and then go to bed. I'm really tired - Stan sighed, taking off his jacket - Oh by the way, tomorrow night I'm going out with Mike and Bill. You know, the usual, dinner and perhaps a couple drinks. Will you join us this time? I really want you to meet them, they're cool, I promise"

"Er... Sure, why not? I owe it to you" Eddie accepted before resuming his game. He couldn't focus on continue studying that night anymore, not after his four failed attempts to call Richie while Stanley was out. All failed.

Chapter Text

Something seemed to be off, Eddie couldn't get that thought out of his head, even if Stanley was apparently in a much better mood that Friday. Before leaving the dorm that morning, he asked Eddie to be ready before 8 PM, when Mike and his friend Bill would come pick them up. According to what Stan had told him, Bill wasn't a classmate of his, but one of Mike's closest friends from his hometown. Since they seemed to have clicked well the first night they met at The Black Rose, Mike would invite him whenever he and his other Accounting classmates went out, and so the three of them had become somewhat close in the past few weeks. Eddie was thrilled to meet them, on the one hand because they were Stanley's friends, and on the other hand, because that new life where meeting people was easier and less scary was much more exciting to him, compared to his practically non-existent social life back in Franklin. There was still one thing that kept bugging his mind throughout the whole day: the fact that he couldn't get to talk to Richie after the awkward lunch they shared the day before. They were suppossed to hang out on Saturday, but it was to be yet confirmed, since they hadn't set any plan, place, or time. Eddie could run to his dorm as soon as he wrapped his last class, get ready early, and wait for Stan to get in the shower (he would never go out without taking a shower first) to make Richie a quick call, only to confirm that their original idea of meeting the day after was still on. It was the perfect plan, except for a few inconveniences: Richie would normally get home back from work around 7:30, that, if he didn't actually go out after, which was quite possible since it was Friday, and Stanley would never wait until last minute to get ready. Even if Richie went home straight after work, Stanley would have probably had his shower finished by then. Eddie had another possibility before giving up, which was trying to reach Richie at his work place, even though he didn't know where it was, let alone their phone number. The only information he held was that it was a video store relatively near his apartment, therefore, close to The Black Rose and other known pubs in the area. He could try and ask a couple of his classmates, but it was hard to imagine that any of them, most of them freshmen, would know of it, and even if they did, there was no reason for them to go around carrying the phone number of a video store. Ten minutes before his last class wrapped up, Eddie decided to try and find the video store on his own. He knew how to get to Bill's Bar by foot: that was enough for him to begin his search from there.
He almost ran out of campus, knowing that the store closed at 7 and that he had to be back in his dorm with enough anticipation to get ready before 8. Making the same way he and Beverly did the first night they went out, Eddie finally got to Bill's Bar. To his surprise, the pub was already open. Ben, the bartender Beverly had hooked up with, was hanging a chalkboard at the entrance, with the names of the drinks and brands of beers they were promoting for the happy hour that evening. Eddie wasn't sure if Ben would remember him, since they had only seen each other one time, but it was better than nothing: he had to give it a try and see if he could, perhaps, help him with his search.

"Hi... Ben?"

"Hey! - Ben turned around when he heard someone calling his name, offering a friendly smile - It's Eddie, right? You're Beverly's friend. I remember you. How's everything going?"

"Yes, exactly - Eddie felt relieved he didn't have to explain who he was, and it was somewhat nice that Ben actually remembered him - I'm doing good, thanks for asking. What about you?

"I'm fine! Got here a bit earlier to get everything ready for my shift. Fridays and Saturdays are quite eventful around here"

"Yeah, I can imagine! I don't go out that much, though, but I've seen what is like the few nights I went out"

"Believe it or not, I'm not fond of partying that much either! But I love working here. It's fun, and I get to meet lots of cool people. By the way, we're throwing a Halloween party on Thursday 31st, mandatory costume, themed drinks and decorations, and stuff like that. I hope you can make it!"

"That's so cool! I'm defintely coming, I love Halloween - Eddie assured with enthusiasm - Well, I'll let you finish what you were doing, truth is I'm in a bit of a rush, and I was hoping you could help me find a specific store, since I'm not familiar with the area yet... if you want, of course"

"Sure! I pretty much know the whole area like the palm of my hand, tell me"

"Well, I'm looking for a video store..."

"Hmm, a video store. You're probably talking about Reel"

"'Reel'?"

"Yes, that's where your and Beverly's friend Richie works at, right?"

"Oh - Eddie choked with his spit a bit - Y-Yeah, Richie. Exactly"

"Keep going four more blocks on this direction - Ben pointed to his right - Turn to your left, do one more block and you'll find it midway. You'll see the neon sign right away, it's unmistakeable"

"Thank you so, so much, Ben - Eddie thanked sincerely - Alright, so... I'll see you on Halloween, then!"

"Don't forget to bring your costume! Otherwise I won't let you in" Ben joked, waving at Eddie before walking back into the pub, tapping the chalk powder off his hands.

Following the indications he got from Ben, Eddie finally saw the film strip shaped neon sign in the distance.

Reel

As he approached the store, Eddie felt his legs wobbling a bit. He expected Richie not to remember that he never actually told Eddie where he worked at, so he wouldn't think Eddie was some kind of psycho stalker for showing up there completely unannounced. Before walking in, Eddie peered the inside through the showcase. The store was bigger than he imagined. There were a group of teenagers with schoolar uniforms and a young adult couple pacing through the aisles, presumably picking the movies they would watch on that Friday night. He then saw Richie at the back of the store, sitting behind the counter and chatting lively with a tiny wrinkly old lady. Eddie couldn't hold back a smile when he opened the door, causing a little bell to jingle above his head. Richie looked distractedly in his direction before he realized who he was, and stared back open mouthed. Trying not to laugh at his facial expression, Eddie pretended to be another costumer and paced through the aisles, picking random movie boxes to look at from time to time. Besides from movies, the store seemed to have a little section for CD's and cassettes, and snacks too.

"I'm sure you're going to love this movie, Betty, plus, you deserve to feed yourself some eye-candy like Keanu Reeves on this cruel, cold Friday evening"

"Alright, alright - the old lady agreed, picking the VHS case from the counter with a shaky hand - I'm going to trust you, Richie! I'll tell you how it was next Monday"

"Please, I'll be here like every Monday, Betts. Oh, and don't forget your M&Ms"

"Thanks, dear"

As the old little lady walked out the store, Eddie distractedly headed to the counter, looking around with curiosity.

"So, this is where you work at"

"Speaking of eye-candy - Richie whispered, leaning on the counter and glaring at Eddie from head to toe - Amazing, huh? Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to see you, but what the hell are you doing here, Eds?"

"Sorry I showed up out of the blue. I couldn't find you yesterday on the phone and I guessed I probably couldn't do it today either. I just wanted to know if you still wanted to hang out tomorrow..."

"Of course I do. I'm sorry I didn't call you yesterday either - Richie continued with a drier tone - Something came up and I got home a bit later than expected"

"Something bad?"

"Nah... not really, I think... I hope - he remarked pensively - By the way, how the hell did you find me? I never told you where I worked at, if I'm not mistaken"

"Benjamin told me. I stumbled across him while I walked past Bill's"

"That nosy cunt" Richie joked, shaking his head.

Eddie waited for the group of teenagers and the young couple to leave the store, but he knew time was running out and he had to go back to campus as soon as he could.

"Hey, Eds - his voice sounded much more relaxed once the store was finally empty - I'll pick you up tomorrow after I'm done here, what do you think? 1:30 or so, the usual"

"Perfect"

"Also, I'll be kind of busy for the next couple of weeks, you know, studying for my exams and shit. And I still have to reunite with my bandmates to rehearse before we perform at Bill's, so we won't sound like absolute garbage"

"Yeah, I have to study too... When are you guys performing, by the way?"

"November 2nd"

Eddie opened his eyes wide.

"No fucking way"

"What?"

"That's my birthday"

"You're fucking kidding me! - Richie tapped excitedly on the counter - Holy shit, that's amazing, Eddie! Can I sing 'Happy Birthday To You' then?"

"Don't you fucking dare, Richard"

"But you'll come see me, right?"

"Yeah, I mean, I haven't planned anything for that day yet, and I know for a fact Stan wanted to see a live performance downtown. So I guess that could be the perfect excuse"

"Right. Yeah, that could be it - Richie replied dryly, before his voice softened again - Hey, do you wanna hang out now? I mean, you're here already, and I'm ending my shift in 20 minutes..."

"No, sorry, I can't - Eddie pouted - I promised Stan I would go out with him and a couple of his friends tonight"

"Oh, okay - Richie sounded a bit disappointed - I could drive you back to campus, if you need"

"That'd be great, thank you. Stanley's friend will come pick us up around 8, being there at 7:30 or earlier would be good for me, so I'd have enough time to take a shower, dress up and so on "

"No problem, we could be there in 15 minutes, tops. Just wait until I finish the cash count, then I'll close the store and we can leave. By the way, have you thought where you wanna go tomorrow already?"

"No, not really. Actually... - Eddie cut short for a moment and shrugged - Since we're probably going to be busy the next few days, I was thinking we could, perhaps, hang out at your place this time... If you want"

Richie tore his eyes from the balance sheet he was checking and looked at Eddie, straightening his glasses with a shaky hand.

"At... my place?"

"Yeah. If you want" Eddie repeated and accentuated the last three words.

Richie raised his eyebrows and bit his lip for a few seconds, before relaxing his face back into a slinky grin.

"Deal"

------

Stanley, already dressed up and playing on his SEGA console, jumped on his seat when Eddie slammed the door open at exactly 7:26. It didn't take him long to realize that his roommate was still carrying his backpack, which clearly indicated that hadn't dropped by the dorm after finishing his classes until then.

"Hey, Stan. I'm sorry, I was..."

"Don't worry - Stanley cut him short, waving a hand before resuming his game - Just... just go get ready"

While in the shower, the vague feeling that something was off started to morph slowly into a concise frightening thought.

Stanley knows it

Could that be the reason behind his strange behavior towards Richie? Was he waiting for Eddie to step up and mention it first? Eddie was absolutely not willing to do so, not unless he had more proof of Stanley actually knowing it. Perhaps he simply didn't like Richie, which wasn't a crazy thought, since Richie could have easily come across as obnoxious to someone like his best friend. In all honesty, that had been Eddie's first impression on him too.
Ten minutes before 8, Eddie was ready to go, and Stan suggested to go downstairs already to wait for Mike and Bill at the entrance of the residence. It was weird for Eddie to be there, waiting for a car that wasn't Richie's old grey Ford Escort.

"Is this outfit okay?" he suddenly asked, opening his arms for a better appreciation of his clothes. Speaking of first impressions, he sure wanted to give Mike and Bill a good one.

"Yeah, why wouldn't it be? - Stan cocked an eyebrow - We're not going to the Ritz anyway, your outfit is more than acceptable, don't sweat it"

When the black Toyota pulled over in front of the building, flickering the front lights a couple of times, Stanley tapped Eddie's shoulder and nodded towards it.

"It's them, come on"

Mike then turned on the dome light, and he and Bill smiled as they walked to the car. Mike was honestly striking, like a magazine model. His style was somewhat avant-garde, as far as Eddie could see from outside of the car: he was wearing a brick red mao collar shirt with a black leather corset-belt, and black tailored pants. Bill's style, on the other hand, was more "casual", consistent of a green tartan shirt and blue jeans. In general lines, they were both very handsome young men.

"Hey, guys - Stan greeted, getting in the back seat followed by Eddie - Bill, Mike, this is Eddie, my best friend and roommate. Eddie, this is Mike, my friend from Maths..."

"Nice to meet you, buddy" Mike turned around to fist-bump Eddie with a smile.

"Nice to meet you too, Mike!"

"...and this one is Bill, an ex-convicted for tax fraud and forgery..."

"Shut the fuck up, Stanley - Bill reached around to smack Stan's thigh, making him burst into a laugh - Nice to meet you, Eddie. And I'm not an ex-convicted, by the way"

"You're majoring in Arts, which is way worse, William" Mike joked, and Bill smacked the back of his head too.

"Go fuck yourselves, both of you"

"On the way!"

------

Eddie considered that Mike and Bill were really nice and easy going guys, after chatting through the whole ride downtown about random subjects. Following a brief debate, they decided to go for a mexican restaurant named "Jairo", well known in the area for their extra spicy food and super cheap variety of drinks.

"So, Eddie - Bill started, once they picked a table and made their orders - Tell us a bit more about yourself. We already know your major and minor, and blah, blah. Let's forget about college talk and get to the real deal"

"Oh, I don't know... - Eddie blushed and played nervously with a napkin - I wouldn't know where to begin, ask me whatever and I'll answer, that'd be much easier"

"Well... are you a party monster like your roommate? - Bill nodded towards Stanley - Or are you more like, a low-profile dude like me?"

"I'm not a party monster! - Stan complained - You only saw me drunk once, and it was entirely your fault, William. You kept on bringing more and more screwdrivers everytime even after we left the bar"

"But you kept on chugging them down like it was tap water, so..."

"Because they tasted good?"

"Shh. Would you let Eddie answer my question? Eddie?"

"I'm not really a party monster - Eddie confessed - I don't really go out that much either..."

"Wait, wait, wait. Wait a fucking second 'I don't go out that much' - Mike suddenly squinted and raised a hand - Weren't you at The Black Rose last Saturday? Because I saw a guy there who looked a whole lot like you that day"

Eddie's stomach felt like dropping. Stanley let go of his fork which fell against the plate, making a hell of a noise. Eddie could perfectly sense his eyes piercing through his skull, waiting for his answer.

"No, no - Eddie lied, making the best attempt he could to remain calm and not to reflect any trace of panic in his voice, which was difficult because his mouth felt suddenly dry - I stayed at my dorm the whole weekend, being a fucking nerd, I'm telling you..."

"Are you sure? Because I could've sworn it was you..."

"Let it go, Michael. The guy said no!" Bill backed up, rubbing Eddie's shoulder.

"Yeah, Mike. Kinda seems like The Black Rose makes you hallucinate and see things that aren't real - Stan barked with a slightly high pitched voice - They should change the name of that fucking place to 'The Mirage' or something"

"By the way, did you go out without me? - Bill asked Mike, dramatically accentuating the pain in his voice.

"I have other friends at college besides you, Bill"

"Ouchie! That hurt"

Stan didn't bring up the subject again, which could have been a good sign for Eddie, if the exact same thing hadn't already happened with Richie the first time they met. Nevertheless, the dinner continued as if nothing happened. They were eating, drinking and chatting about whatever. It had been definitely a fun night out.
When they walked out of the restaurant around midnight, Bill hooked his arm around Eddie's neck, making him shiver and flush. His boldness somewhat reminded him of Richie, though Bill was obviously softer and less overwhelming.

"What music do you like, Eddie? Do you have a favorite band?"

"I don't have one favorite band, to be honest, but I like new wave as a general rule, and a few rock bands. I'd say New Order, The Cure, The Doors, Bowie, Pink Floyd..."

"You have a great taste in music then, bravo"

"What about you?"

"I'm currently into grunge, but I also dig other things. Depends on my mood, mostly"

While Bill and Eddie walked across the parking lot in front of them, Stan covertly slowed down his pace, to go side by side with Mike, who was already looking for his car keys in his pocket.

"Mike?" he hissed in the lowest voice he could.

"Yup?"

"Are you sure... it was Eddie the guy you saw at The Black Rose last Saturday?"

"I don't know, man. I'm... I remember I walked past a guy who looked a lot like him, you know, at the back of the salon. The guy was just as short as him, now that I see him properly. But I could be wrong"

"Was he alone?"

"No, he was with another guy..."

"Didn't you see a girl with them, perhaps? A redhead girl?"

"Not that I can recall, at least not when I walked past them"

"How did the other guy look, do you remember?"

"Not much, it was really dark - Mike scratched his head and grimaced, making an obvious effort to remember - He was tall, I think..."

"Was he wearing glasses? Please, Mike, I need you to try your best"

"I'm not sure. I think not... he had long messy hair, so I couldn't see his face quite properly"

Stan felt like if someone had sucker punched a big hole in his stomach. Tall, messy hair: it had to be Richie.

"Shit, I feel like I fucked up big time - Mike cooed, furrowing his brows with distress - I wish I had never said that. Please, pretend we never had this conversation... I hope I didn't mess things up between you both"

"Hey, losers, hurry up - Bill turned around and yelled at the other two when he and Eddie reached Mike's car - I have to feed my hamster. He bites when he's angry"

Hitting The Black Rose with a group of friends, being easier to mind one's business and with no intention to mess around was one thing, Stan thought to himself. But why would Richie ever think it was a good idea to take Eddie there on a one-on-one date, knowing of all the things that would normally go down, being himself part of those things? If there was still a slim chance for Stan's suspicions not to be true, that possibility had almost completely vanished after Mike's innocent comment. Even if Stanley didn't like Richie, how could he ever address the issue without freaking Eddie out? Whoever his friend hooked up with was, after all, none of his business. Should he wait for Eddie to bang his head against the wall by himself?

"Don't worry - Stan assured, with his eyes fixed on Eddie, who was laughing at one of Bill's jokes - It's just a drop in the ocean"

----

"Stan?" Eddie called shyly from his side of the room, once they were tucked in their respective beds and ready to go to sleep.

"Mmh?"

"Bill and Mike are really cool. I liked them a lot"

"I'm sure they liked you too, Eddie - Stan smiled at him through the dim light - Well, good night..."

"Stan?" Eddie called again, dubious.

"Yeah?"

I'm sorry I lied to you. I just don't know how to handle things. I care too much for your opinion and the idea of disappointing you terrifies me.

"Nothing, nevermind - Eddie shook his head and shifted under the comforter - Good night"

-----

The next morning, Eddie and Stan woke up and went about their day normally. They shared breakfast, tidied up the dorm a bit, and reminisced on last night's going out. But as soon as Eddie mentioned he'd go out for a couple of hours that afternoon, Stanley's mood seemed to abruptly change. He wasn't angry or upset, just slightly... concerned. Still, he couldn't question Eddie where he was going, or with whom.

"Will you be back before dusk?" was all he dared to ask.

"Yeah, most likely - Eddie sincerely thought - Do you need me to bring anything? I'll probably take a walk around downtown"

"Well, I'm almost running out of Motrin. Advil would work, also"

"Got it. I'll make a quick stop at the pharmacy. Next week's gonna be rough so I'm probably gonna need them too, so..."

"Thanks, Eddie"

At exactly 1:30, Eddie ran downstairs and walked out the building. He saw Richie's car parked right in front of the entrance, and it seemed to be that he had been parked there for a few minutes now.

"Hey - Eddie greeted, getting in the passenger seat and closing the door - Rich, are you okay?"

Richie was rubbing his temple, with a distressed look in his eyes, which was evident since he wasn't wearing his glasses that day. He shook his head at the question and smiled briefly at Eddie, before turning the engine of the car on.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't sleep well last night... Not a big deal. Tell me, how are you? How was last night for you?"

"It was good, I had a great time, Stanley's friends are really cool, honestly. Except that..." Eddie cut himself short, feeling his throat constricting.

"What is it, baby? Tell me"

"I think... Stanley knows about us. Not for any particular reason, and I'm not one hundred percent sure. But he's been acting very strange lately, and on top of that last night one of his friends, Mike..."

"Stanley. Stanley. Stanley. What the fuck does Stanley know, huh? Of course I know he's been treating me like shit for absolutely no reason. When I pulled that joke at the buffet... a fucking joke. He acted like I put a fucking gun to your head - Richie let go of the wheel for a moment and pressed his index and middle fingers on Eddie's forehead mimicking a gun, making him cringe and shift back in his seat - He thinks he's so good, so righteous... Fuck him"

"Dude, what the fuck is the matter with you? Don't speak of my friend like that in front of me. He didn't do anything to you, just because he's been pulling a bad face doesn't give you the right to talk shit about him. Fucking control yourself, Anna..."

Richie swallowed hard with his eyes fixed on the road, and took a few deep breaths to regain himself. Eddie had definitely hit a raw nerve. When he spoke again, his voice sounded a bit halthy.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Eds. Forgive me. We can discuss that thoroughly when we get to my place. It's just that... I don't know. I'm fucking stressed, my mind's been anywhere... and I had a horrible nightmare last night"

"What was it?" Eddie asked. His voice had softened too.

"I dreamed that my teeth fell off, one by one. I could taste the blood dripping from my gums, even in my sleep"

"Your gums?" Eddie cringed at the word. Of course, the mention of it brought him back to his old mania.

"Yeah. It was fucking horrible. And whenever I opened my mouth to ask for help... I couldn't speak. My lips moved so slowly and no sound came out. I woke up all cold and sweaty in the middle of the night, I had to run to the bathroom to check that my teeth were still there"

"It's okay, Rich, it was just a bad dream. Don't think about it anymore" Eddie tried to soothe him, squeezing his thigh tenderly.

"You make me happy, Eds. I don't want to lose you"

"Why would you lose me?"

"I don't know. I sometimes feel like you're too good for me"

"That's funny because... I sometimes feel I'm not good enough for you"

"Absolute nonsense" Richie shook his head, looking for a free spot to park as they approached his building.

They didn't talk much while the elevator traveled up to the sixth floor. But as soon as Richie slammed closed the door of his apartment, Eddie was already wrapping his arms around his neck, desperately reaching for his mouth. Richie ran his hands down Eddie's back and squeezed his ass, returning the kiss with eager and pushing him against a wall. Eddie squealed a bit, but kept swirling his tongue against Richie's, while his own hand sneaked down to briefly squeeze his growing erection a couple of times. When Richie saw where his intentions were heading to, he held Eddie's wrists away from his body and smacked his lips.

"What's the rush, Eddie-baby? We've just walked in"

"I-I'm hard" Eddie breathed out, thrusting his hips and seeking for some friction to appease his arousal against Richie's thigh.

"What can I do for you? Tell me. Do you want to put it in me?"

Eddie shook his head energically.

"Not that I didn't like the idea of riding you into the sunset, but I kinda suspected bottoming was your cup of tea. Still had to ask, though. Manners maketh man, as Sting said. Well, I'm not sure if he actually made that up but..."

Eddie laughed with some effort, because his breath was already faltering. It didn't help that Richie leaned in to kiss his neck, ocassionally biting and suckling on the delicate skin. He was sure that he would end up with marks all over, but he couldn't care less at that moment.

"Please" he begged, squirming and uselessly fighting against the grip that kept his hands away from his crotch.

"Mmh?"

"Fucking touch me"

Richie shook his head and tut-tutted, shifting back enough to look at Eddie straight in the eye, still not letting go of his wrists.

"You'll have to do it yourself"

He wanted to ask Richie how the hell was he supposed to do that without the help of his own hands, but there was no need to. Not that he had enough strenght in his lungs to do so, since the increasing arousal was making it harder for him to breathe (and think) properly. Next thing he knew, he was being dragged to bed, with Richie climbing on top of him and pulling his sweater and shirt off altogether. His long fingers ghosted all over his chest, nailing on his skin every once in a while and leaving red trails behind them. Kneeling up on the mattress by his side, Richie pulled his shirt off too, so Eddie could admire his frame completely uncovered for the first time. Every part of his being seemed perfect in his eyes, from his scrawny arms to his broad shoulders, the few dark coily hairs spread here and there on his chest, even his soft little beer belly. Eddie squealed in anticipation when Richie unzipped his jeans with a devilish grin, and rushed to unzip and kick off his own trousers too, alongside with his briefs, releasing his neglected erection. He almost fainted when Richie crawled backwards on the mattress, enough to face Eddie's cock, and without a warning, he spat on it. The vision of it was so crude to Eddie it caused another stream of precum to sprout from his already taut tip, mixed with Richie's saliva.

"Do it" Richie commanded, stroking himself through the fabric of his briefs.

Eddie obeyed without a second thought, relaxing his head against the pillow, closing his eyes and pumping his fist eagerly on his lenght. He could sense Richie's feral eyes piercing right through him, watching every move, every muscle in his body jolting with pleasure.

"Look at me"

When Eddie opened his eyes again, Richie was standing next to the bed in front of him, allowing Eddie to see him completely naked for the first time. With a quick movement, he straddled Eddie's chest and looked down at him, fisting his cock energically right above his face.

"Do you want my cum on your face, Eddie-baby?"

"Y-Yes" Eddie moaned, feeling his own orgasm building up as he pumped his hand faster and tighter.

"You're a nasty boy, aren't you? I'm going to fuck you so good, Eddie, I can't stop thinking about that. But I'm willing to wait until you're ready. I'll gladly wait for you to beg me to drill you"

"Ah, fuck"

It was too much for him to handle. He wanted to please Richie, he needed to feel he held the power to do so. He instinctively opened his mouth and stuck his tongue out, and Richie didn't take long to get the message. Holding himself onto the headboard, he guided his cock into Eddie's mouth and proceeded to thrust it in and out over and over, panting the heaviest Eddie had ever heard from him: music to the ears of an over achiever like he was, for sure. A few seconds after Eddie came in his hand (and over his belly) with tears streaming down his temples, Richie pulled out and with a deep groan he spilled three or four thick streams of cum and a few spare dropplets all across Eddie's face. It was a good thing that Eddie had instinctively shut his eyes as soon as Richie pulled out, because at least a couple dropplets had landed dangerously close to them. It was different from swallowing it, Eddie thought to himself; it felt a bit nastier and icky, but incredibly hot and intimate at the same time. Trying not to read too much into it, he guessed that it required a certain level of trust and comfort between two people to allow one another to do such a thing. He could only hope that Richie appreciated it the same way he did.

Spill yourself all over me, I'm yours.

Richie fell completely boneless on top of him, both of them out of breath. Once he had fallen from the high of his orgasm, Eddie cleared his throat almost theatrically.

"Could you get me a towel so I can wipe my face, please?"

"Sure. I actually got a bit of your jizz on my belly, so I should go get one for myself too..."

"Yucky" Eddie scrunched his nose.

"Nah, not yucky at all"

Eddie kept his eyes shut until he felt the raspy fabric rubbing his forehead.

"Let me just admire the masterpiece I've created one more time before I ruin it - Richie joked, before he continued wiping Eddie's face clean - Shit, you look so beautiful like this"

"How was it?" Eddie asked, after he could safely open his eyes again.

Richie didn't answer right away. He was sitting on the mattress next to Eddie with his briefs back on already, glaring at him with a look in his eyes Eddie couldn't quite descipher.

"What's wrong, Rich?"

"I think I'm in love with you"

Chapter Text

Eddie waited for Richie to burst into a laughter, to crack one of his bad jokes, or to reach out to ruffle his hair to emphasize the effect on pissing him off, but none of those things happened. Instead, Richie tore his eyes from him and looked out the window, palpably uncomfortable, as if the words that had just came out of his lips were more like a thought he accidently said out loud, and not a willing confession meant for Eddie to hear. Seizing the opportunity while Richie was still looking away, Eddie slithered under the sheets, feeling strangely conscious of his nakedness all of the sudden. Of course his mother, a few relatives when he was a kid, and occasionally Stanley, had somewhat verbally manifested feelings of love and affection for Eddie before. He was comfortable with the idea of reciprocating such tokens, because one is supposed to feel love for their friends and family, or at least that's what he thought while growing up, until he realized that he wasn't exactly sure of what the concept of love exactly entailed. From what he could gather, there wasn't a single, established formula to reckon it, but he could guess that there were different types one could ever get to experience. If he were to classify them, he would conclude that the affection his mother and relatives manifested for him was somewhat linked to the idea of protection and an instinctive care, whilst the one coming from friends would relate more to feelings of brotherhood, companionship, and empathy. But there was another type of affection he never got to experience in the flesh to such levels of clarity, and that was romantic love. Of course, movies and TV shows would educate him on what people were supposed to go through in their love seeking quests, most of the times culminating in passionate kisses under the moonlight, or straight up sexual encounters, not before putting up with a certain amount of vicissitudes in their paths. He knew what it was to feel lust, after struggling with it for years. But how to tell lust from love? Was one exclusive of the other? Did they always go hand in hand at the exact same time? If not, which one should come first, ideally? Truth was he had wondered more times that he'd like to admit what his feelings for Richie exactly were. It would have been absurd to deny that he felt lust for Richie, just as Richie seemed to feel for him, especially after the intimate situations they got to experience together ever since they met. But Eddie couldn't help to think that there was something more, even though he never dared to straight up refer to it as love, a term so vast that put in the context of his relationship with Richie made him feel extremely ignorant and vulnerable. Despite of all his internal struggling, Eddie knew that Richie wasn't to him only a guy he wanted to satisfy his sexual needs, but that wasn't enough for him to dare and deem his feelings as love. But was that really all? Eddie craved for Richie's company, he wanted to let him roam freely the dimest nooks and crannies of his self, because he felt safe, happier, and more alive whenever Richie was around. As days went by, Eddie had started to believe that, perhaps, he was actually capable of making Richie happy as well, and that was exactly what he wanted. Sure he was afraid of regarding it as "love", but deep down his heart, Eddie was hoping for it to be, because it felt good, like something one simply feels in the guts that's the right thing.

He just said he's in love with you, Edward, what the fuck? Say something.

"W-What...?" was all Eddie could mutter, regaining Richie's attention.

"You don't have to say anything you don't feel right now. I just... I don't know. I guess I just wanted to let you know how I'm feeling. That's all"

Before he could think of something else to actually word properly, besides of his useless babbling, Richie picked and tossed Eddie's underwear on his lap and smiled.

"Put them on, I want to cuddle"

They spent the rest of the afternoon simply laying in bed, talking about whatever subject landed in their minds, holding each other and shifting positions from time to time to avoid cramping, with the honorable exception of Richie sneaking under the sheets to blow Eddie once, which of course, Eddie could not decline. He was content with the fact that Richie didn't push the idea of doing "it", which any person could have thought was inevitably going to happen with the two of them spending so many hours alone in his apartment. It seemed to be that Richie was in fact waiting for Eddie to be the one who proposed it. But for some reason, not related to the fact that he had just climaxed two times in the span of three hours, Eddie didn't want it to happen yet. Not that day, at least. Once he could finally manage to escape from Richie's grip and get out of bed, he decided it was time to stop by the bathroom and check how bad his neck looked after bearing with Richie's unhinged passionate demonstrations.

"Ugh, dude... - Eddie stared at his reflection, dropping his head back enough to measure the two darkened spots on the sides of his neck - They're fucking huge. None of my shirts will cover them"

"Yeah, sorry about that... Got too carried away"

Richie appeared on the mirror behind him, furrowing his brows and grimacing at Eddie's evident concern.

"You can always wear turtlenecks or scarves until they're gone"

"I'm not going to wear turtlenecks or a goddamn scarf twenty-four-seven, Richard, especially not in October. It's not that cold yet"

"True - Richie pondered for a few moments - Hey, you know what would be good for covering those? Concealer. Works wonders for... bruises, dark circles under the eyes, and stuff like that. So I guess it could work with hickeys, too"

"I don't have any, I don't own any make up items"

"Why not? Make up is fun. Anyway, we could look for a good concealer at the pharmacy on our way back to campus, since you said you had to stop by to buy Advil. They usually sell make up stuff there too. I'll get one for you, it's the least I can do after leaving you looking like a fucking coyote mauled your throat"

"I accept the offer"

Richie wrapped his arms around Eddie's waist and pulled him closer to his body, placing a quick kiss on the tip of his nose. The gesture was so sweet, so heartwarming, Eddie could have melted in a puddle of tears of frustration and joy all mixed up right in the spot.

I think I'm in love with you too. I wish I could say it just as easy.

"We should get going then, Eds, it's almost six"

"Alright, I'll go get dressed" Eddie nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat.

"What do you mean? I was planning on going out like this" Richie fake protested in a moany voice, running his hands on his bare chest.

"I don't think the employees at CVS are ready to see that" Eddie cocked an eyebrow, holding back a giggle as he exited the bathroom.

"Bold of you to assume they haven't already..."

------

Fortunately for Eddie, the weather was chilly enough that afternoon, so the blue scarf Richie had lended him to tie around his neck for the ride back to campus didn't come off as suspicious to any of the employees at the pharmacy. With the help of a lovely sales assistant, they quickly found a concealer that matched Eddie's skin tone, and after purchasing it alongside with the promised Advil, he was ready to go back to campus.

"Hey, Eds. Sorry, I just remembered... - Richie apologized while turning on the engine of his car - You wanted to talk about Stanley earlier today, when I flipped out like a fucking bitch..."

Eddie had almost completely forgotten about that, partially because he was having a really good time with Richie, and partially because addressing the issue was a particularly stressful to him.

"Oh, right. Stanley. I don't know, perhaps I'm just paranoid. But I think he's starting to suspect that something's going on"

"What does make you think that? - Richie steered nervously - Did he say something about me or...?"

"No, not really. But he's been weird to you last Thursday for absolutely no reason, it was so blatantly obvious. And yesterday, one of his friends, Mike, said right in front of him that he thought he had seen me at The Black Rose last Saturday"

"What?? Holy shit, are you serious? That's not good... So what did you say?"

"I denied it, of course. I couldn't back up from having said one million times to Stanley that I had stayed at the dorm the whole weekend. But for some reason I don't think he believed me. The whole situation reminded me of that one time when you and him met, when he said that he saw you at The Black Rose, and you denied it... He let it go out of courtesy, but he knew it was a lie. I think he did the same with me last night"

"And do you know what that guy Mike saw?" Richie inquired with a trembling voice.

"Not really, he just said that he saw a guy who looked a lot like me. He didn't mention seeing you... Or anything else. So I denied it to death"

"Alright. Good... Better that way"

There was a long, uncomfortable silence while Richie drove through the campus entrance. Eddie didn't know what to say either, so he just fixed his eyes on the dashboard and waited for Richie to speak again, which happened once they parked a few meters away from Eddie's building.

"I think... - Richie started, after inhaling deeply and rubbing his eyes - You shouldn't say anything. To Stanley, I mean. Besides, it's absolutely none of his business"

"He's my best friend..."

"I know, I know. But just as you said, I'm afraid he doesn't like me that much. Of course that makes me feel fucking self conscious, because I know damn well he's your best friend. He'll know, eventually. Just... not now, Eds. Please. I know you don't wanna rush this either. We can figure it when we're both ready, what do you think?"

"I guess... makes sense" Eddie shrugged, tearing his sight from the dashboard and looking at Richie again.

There was a subtle hint of tiredness, if not straight up angst in his dark eyes, noticeable even while being the interior lights of the car turned off. Richie raised a hand and stroked Eddie's cheek with his thumb a couple of times.

"I'm probably going to meet with my bandmates to rehearse next week, not sure when yet, but Saturday and Sunday most likely. We could hang out on Friday once I'm out of work, if you want. We can do whatever you want, go out or stay at my place, your choice"

"Alright, I'll think of something"

"Call me whenever, okay? I still have to go to work so I'll probably spend my free mornings studying and finishing some projects I have to turn in"

"I'll be studying too, most likely, the first week after the break will be the toughest one for me. But I'll call you when I'm free. Perhaps we could still meet to grab lunch or something"

"Absolutely" Richie agreed with a smile.

-----

The concealer trick seemed to work well enough for Stanley not to notice the now purplish splotches on Eddie's skin, at least until that Tuesday when, after waking up a few moments before his alarm rang, he caught a glimpse of Eddie sleeping on his back, exposing his neck with most of the product rubbed off on his pillowcase. 'Wow', he mouthed, swaying over Eddie to contemplate the size and the intensity embodied in both marks. It wasn't like he believed that getting rough and passionate was inherently a bad thing, but he sure considered a bit distasteful to leave bruises of that magnitude in such an exposed area, almost as a predator marking on its prey for everyone else to see. Of course, he wouldn't mention it when Eddie woke up a few minutes later, conveniently yawning and rubbing his neck with both hands on his short trip to the bathroom.
That week went on quite uneventfully, amongst endless cups of coffee, turtleneck sweaters, summaries and question sheets spread all over the room, random naps at strange hours, unconvenient amounts of stress eating, and rather brief phone calls to their families to catch up, even though Eddie's weekly calls to his mother never lasted longer than three minutes as a general rule. Eddie seized every opportunity he had, whenever Stanley was out, to try and call Richie, even if those conversations were bound to be short and rushed. He even called Beverly a few times, after she apologized for not being able to meet for lunch on Thursday, alleging she was a "complete mess" and asking Eddie to smack her in the head with a fryer pan if she ever verbally manifested intentions of engaging in two careers at the same time again. Despite of not admitting it so not to stress her even more, Eddie was somewhat feeling the same way, even though he truly enjoyed his classes. Exams, well... not so much.
It was on Thursday night when things got significantly weird. When Eddie heard the phone ringing around 8:30, while he and Stanley were sharing a pizza at the dorm, there was no way he could have had imagined that Richie would be on the other side of the speaker when Stan picked up.

"Hello, who's it? - he frowned for a moment, before his forehead relaxed and his eyes struck Eddie like a whip - Richie"

Oh fuck, I'm so fucked.

"Yeah, he's here, hold on a sec - Stan pressed his palm on the speaker and mouthed, handing the receiver - For you"

Eddie felt like his lower half was made of wet sand, crumbling all over the place when he took the receiver and Stanley simply stood there, leaning on the desk with his arms crossed on his chest and staring quizzically at Eddie.

"H-Hello?"

"You're probably wondering why didn't I hang up when I realized it wasn't you picking up"

"Something like that, yeah" Eddie muttered, scratching his forehead.

"Well that makes two of us - Richie lauged nervously - No, really, I just wanted to let you know that my manager asked me to do a few things before closing tomorrow, which will probably take me a whole extra hour, so I'll most likely pick you up around 8:30 instead of 7:30. Is that a problem?"

"Nope, not at all"

"Is Stanley still there?"

"Yup, precisely"

"Fuck. I'll leave you alone now, I hope he doesn't get too dense..."

"I'm praying for that too, trust me"

"Alright, bye, Eds, see you tomorrow"

"Bye"

Eddie deliberately avoided looking at Stan while placing the receiver back on its base.

"Everything good?"

"Yeah, everything good" Eddie assured nervously, wishing he could had come up with a good explanation for Richie's call. And because he couldn't think of any, he decided to remain silent, chewing on his slice of pizza with his eyes fixed on the tip of his fingers. Stanley didn't ask about the phone call again.

---

That Friday afternoon, when Eddie stepped into the dorm after a long walk around campus intended to appease his nerves, he realized where the persistent stench of burnt pot that could be smelled from down the hallway came from. Stanley was playing Minesweep in his computer, cussing on the low every few seconds, while an unlit joint rested halfway consumed on top of a bottle cap next to him. He didn't seem to acknowledge his roommate's presence right away, while his right hand slowly dragged the mouse around on the mouse pad. Eddie coughed and cleared his throat to gain his attention.

"I'm back!"

"Hey - Stan finally looked at him and smiled - Oh, shit. Do you mind? I needed to relax a bit. Shit's been rough..."

"Don't worry, it's okay"

"You want a hit?"

"No, no, I'm fine. Thank you"

"How was the walk?"

"Uneventful"

"I guess that's a good thing... Ah, fuck me sideways" Stanley whined and slammed the mouse on the desk, after clicking on a square with a bomb underneath.

"One could say, yes - Eddie sighed, taking off his shoes yet no his scarf, in fact, Richie's blue scarf - If you wanna use the bathroom you better do it now because I'm going to take a shower"

"Go ahead, I peed right before you arrived"

"Yeah, that wasn't necessary, man"

"What? I pee, you pee, everybody pees, big deal. Means that my kidneys are working just fine"

"You sure do talk a damn lot when you're baked, Stan..."

----

It was probably the longest Eddie had ever spent in the shower, mainly because he didn't want to deal with Stanley navigating the peak of his high, but also because he was having a hard time with making up an excuse to justify his absence later. There was essentially nothing suspicious about hanging out with a friend, after all, Richie had never explicitly manifested being bisexual in front of Stanley. Perhaps, the whole secrecy around Eddie's going outs and phone calls could be easily sorted out by plainly admitting that he and Richie got along quite well, and that they liked to spend time with each other, just as Stanley seemed to do with Mike and Bill. Of course, it was easier to be said than done. While growing up in a catholic household, Eddie spent years of his childhood tormented by the idea of a God that could read through his every thought day and night, eager to punish him for his sinful deeds. That, amongst several other factors, had most definitely impacted on his grasp of reality, and as he grew older, he became an overthinker and an extremely paranoid individual. Despite of being used to deal with such features, he couldn't stop thinking about one suggestion that came up naturally during one of his conversations with Beverly: therapy. It was funny to think now that Sonia would go to extremes in order to keep his son under constant physical checks at the doctor's office, but never even once seemed to show interest for his mental welfare.
By the time Eddie got out of the shower, and after applying a light coat of concealer on the marks of his neck (which fortunately were less and less noticeable as days went on), he found Stanley now laying on his bed, staring at the ceiling with his fingers entwined on his chest, humming an undescipherable song. He didn't flinch while Eddie dressed up a few meters away from his bed, but when Eddie grabbed his jacket from the hanger and headed to the door, Stan finally spoke directly to him.

"Are you going out?"

"Uhm... yes"

Stanley sat straight on his bed and sighed.

"With Richie, right?"

There, I fucking knew it.

"Yeah - Eddie replied firmly, his heart racing up. It was too late to back up - We're going to this..."

"Ugh, stop - Stan waved a hand and grimaced - Cut the bullshit, Eddie. I'm not stupid. Do you think I haven't seen those huge... things, on your neck?"

Eddie stood froze in the spot, feeling his insides churning. Stanley knew it. Not that it was abnormally surprising, since he was one of the smartest people Eddie had ever known in his life. It was a matter of time until he got to put all the pieces together. And that night was somehow meant to be the night when everything would finally be coming out to light. Perhaps Stanley was fed up, perhaps the weed had loosened his tongue and thoughts. Or perhaps, it was a little bit of everything.

"Just... be careful with that guy" Stan blurted out, part willingly, part not so much.

"What do you mean? - Eddie shivered and let out the question he had been wanting to ask ever since last week's Thursday - Why don't you like him? I know he seems a bit obnoxious at first, but you don't know him like I do..."

"I just don't want you to get hurt, Eddie. I don't like that guy for you, that simple. You're just coming out, and the motherfucker is sketchy as hell, so"

"And don't you think that's up for me to decide? - Eddie protested, clenching his fists - I appreciate your concern, Stan, but we're not in high school anymore. I can take care of myself now"

"Oh, really? - Stanley stood up and positioned himself between Eddie and the door, squinting at him - Let me ask you this. Were you already seeing each other that night I stumbled across him at The Black Rose?"

Well, fuck. I guess it's time to tell the whole truth.

"We... had already gone on a date by then. We met the day after, also, why? Why are you asking that?"

"So I guess it was a fair agreement between the both of you that it was okay to hook up with other people in the meantime?"

"W-What?"

"Just as I thought - Stanley took a deep breath and continued. It was too late for him to back up as well - I saw Richie making out with a guy that night. I didn't give a shit about it, until I realized there was something going on between you and him. Then, I wondered if perhaps you were already 'together' when that happened. And now that you just confirmed it, I had to tell you, just so you know the kind of guy you're getting involved with"

"That's not true, it can't be" Eddie shook his head, feeling his eyes watering.

"I'm sorry, Eddie - Stanley reached out to squeeze his shoulder tenderly - It's the truth, I wouldn't lie to you, you know that. I saw that shit happening two feet away from me at the bar and I had to look away, because it was awkward as shit. When I checked again, they were both gone. It happened before I got stoned, actually, and it was a very particular event I recalled from that night, hence why I'm so sure"

Everything seemed absurd, ilogic. Eddie wished he had the hability to stop time and run away from that room, not having to face Stanley, or Richie, or anyone else for a while, just to think, or cry, or whatever the fuck it helped him to feel better. Why would Richie lie to him so shamelessly? Why would he even play with his expectations, telling Eddie that he wasn't seeing anyone else, that he was making him feel things he hadn't felt in a long while, knowing damn well he was his first relationship experience? It was so sick and twisted to even think that at certain given time, Richie would be laughing at him and his naivety, deeming how lame he was for not giving in to get laid with him, but at the same time waiting patiently for it to happen, to consider his conquest completed at last. The pain was so intense it felt like someone very heavy and very careless stepping on his chest, constricting his airflow and crushing his insides. Nothing made sense to him at that point. Except perhaps, one thing.

"How was the other guy?" Eddie finally muttered, wiping a tear that was running down his cheek.

"What?"

"What did the other guy look like, Stanley. I need to know. Please"

"Shit - Stanley furrowed his forehead, making an obvious effort to give Eddie a proper answer - Uh... I don't remember that much, I mean I remember Richie mostly, but... You know Billy from 'One Life to Live'? He kind of looked like him..."

Eddie glanced at his clock, and without another word, he sneaked behind Stanley, taking advantage of his still slowed reflexes, opened the door and ran downstairs as fast as he could. Of course he knew he was making a hell of a noise at rather quiet hours in the residence, but all he could hear then was the sound of his heartbeat thumping in his ears, and nothing else.

"Eddie! Eddie, what the fuck are you doing? Oh, shit... Eddie!" Stan yelled and ran after him, while a few other resident students that were casually walking by stopped and stared at the whole scene in rapt.

Eddie slammed the entrance door open, trying the hardest he could to refrain his sobbing. Richie was already standing outside of his car with his hands in his pockets, smiling briefly at him before he realized that Eddie didn't seem as happy as the usual to see him, more like the opposite, actually.

"Is it true? What Stanley told me he saw, is it true?"

"What?" Richie paled abruptly.

"You were with that guy Connor that night he saw you at The Black Rose? Fucking stay there, just answer my question" Eddie commanded, before Richie could even try to step closer.

"N-No - Richie shook his head energically - No, I wasn't with him. I have nothing to do with that guy, I've told you already"

At that precise moment, Stanley appeared behind Eddie, holding onto the doorframe and trying to catch his breath after almost rolling downstairs.

"Dude... - he began, still panting lightly and talking directly to Richie - I told him everything. Just cut the bullshit, for once"

"Stanley, shut the fuck up!"

"Fucking answer me! - Eddie shouted, already hyperventilating - Is it true?"

Richie bowed his head, aware that denying the whole accusation wasn't an option anymore.

"Eddie, I swear, it's not what it looks like"

"So it's true, huh? 'I'm not seeing anyone right now', 'I'm focusing on my studying'? Fucking bullshit, wasn't it? That's why the guy came to you the other night when we were there, now I get it. Why would you even lie to me like that, what have I done to you?"

"Eddie, Eddie, listen to me! It's not what it looks like, please, get in the car, I'll explain everything"

"No, Richie, I'm not getting in your fucking car! I'm tired of racking my fucking brains trying to descipher you everytime, there's always a missing piece... I feel stupid, you fucking lied to me for no reason, I feel like I can't trust you now, and I hate to feel that, because... Fuck it. I can't handle this bullshit right now. Do not fucking touch me" Eddie smacked Richie's hand away halfway his attempt to reach for him and recoiled, crashing against Stanley.

"Eddie. Eds, please, let me explain" Richie begged, almost tearfully.

"I don't wanna see you right now, you should just leave, I don't know, do whatever you want"

Stanley sighed heavily as Eddie rushed past him and walked back into the building, before Richie shot a furious teary look at him, clenching his fists.

"This is all your fault"

"No, Richie - Stan shook his head and frowned, walking backwards until he crossed the doorframe too - I did what any friend would have done in my shoes. You have no one to blame but yourself for all this"

Chapter Text

"Do you want me to bring you something? A glass of water? An Advil? A cup of hot chocolate? Something to eat...?"

"I'm fine - Eddie muttered, before snorting and wiping his eyes with the back of his hand - I'm sorry I'm wetting your shirt"

"Don't worry about that" Stanley assured, rubbing Eddie's back soothingly.

Eddie wasn't sure of how much time it had transcurred since the chaotic confrontation downstairs, not that it did matter anyway. Everything seemed blurry and confusing, despite how much he tried to put all the pieces together. That new and unknown sort of pain had taken him completely off guard, making him feeling powerless and disoriented. He didn't want to, but couldn't help to burst into tears as soon as Stanley walked back into the dorm, wrapped an arm around him and let his head rest on his shoulder.

"I feel so fucking stupid..."

"Don't feel stupid, Eddie. You did nothing wrong. There was no way you could have known all this. I mean, when you're getting with someone, you trust them, that's how the whole thing works. Whatever the other person decides to do with that trust, well... that's one hundred percent on them, and has nothing to do with you"

Trust. One simple word that held so much meaning behind it. He had willingly put his trust in Richie, and for what? What would have happened if he actually had already given in to get laid with him? Eddie remembered casually eavesdropping a few of his old high school classmates' conversations at the boys bathroom during breaks, in which they would usually mock the girls they had dated the prior weekend, measuring which one of them had let them go the furthest and laughing about it. Why it seemed to be that it was something shameful to trust, but fooling around with other people's trust wasn't? He also remembered having a similar conversation with Beverly, referring to her past experiences in Waterville. And holy fuck: he had completely forgotten about Beverly, Richie's best friend, who happened to be one of the people he cared for the most, also.

"Oh, shit, Beverly... What am I gonna tell her...?" Eddie felt like crying again at the mere thought of losing Beverly's friendship too.

"Hey, don't worry about that. We'll think of something, she loves you either way, so I'm sure she'll understand"

"I don't know what the fuck I am supposed to do now, seriously"

"I know you must feel like absolute shit, but you can't let all this fuck you up. Fuck Richie, man, you need to focus on yourself, on the exams you've been working so hard for, and all of that. Just keep him off your mind, he doesn't worth it"

He doesn't worth it. But why the fuck does it hurt so bad, then?

"Thanks, Stan. For everything" Eddie cooed, blinking a few times to clear his sight and smiling briefly at his friend.

"I'm here for you, okay? Always - Stan assured, squeezing his shoulder - If you need to cry, or talk about it, or if you wanna go out for a walk, to take a breath of fresh air, whatever, just let me know"

"I will... I think I need to sleep right now, my head hurts a fucking lot..."

The phone rang a few times during that night, but with the certainty that it wasn't Sonia, Patty, or any of his parents calling, Stanley decided to disconnect it, until the next morning, at least.

-----

"Bev! You got a call"

"Who's it?" Beverly inquired from the bathroom while drying her hair with a towel.

"It's Jimmy"

"Jimmy? - she repeated, confused. For sure she wasn't expecting any calls from a guy named Jimmy, especially not on a Sunday afternoon after a whole week of voluntary cloistering - Jimmy who?"

"Kingston. Richie's friend... the keyboardist, I think"

"Oh, right. Hold on a sec"

Still with the towel wrapped around her head, Beverly trotted out of the bathroom and took the receiver her roommate was handing her.

"Hey, Jimmy, what's up?"

"Hi Bev, look, I'm sorry to bother you, it's just that... Well, Richie was supposed to come rehearse with us yesterday and today, and he hasn't showed up. We've been calling him, but we got no answer, so we're starting to get a bit worried. Perhaps you have seen him lately, or you might know where he could be at right now...?"

"Oh my God, are you serious? No, I actually haven't talked to him either, I've been a bit busy studying for the midterms and shit, but I knew he was supossed to meet with you guys... Shit, now I'm definitely worried too. Thanks for calling me, Jim. I'll go check if he's in his apartment, first of all"

"Please call me or Rebecca if you get to know something, we're seriously worried over here"

"I will, don't worry. Bye, Jimmy"

After dressing up with the first set of clothes she had at hand and grabbing her car keys, Beverly rushed out of the residence, her still wet hair not bugging her as much as the distressful certainty that something had happened to Richie. Of course she was aware of how elusive he had been the past few weeks, with plans she never got to know about, missed calls and a general atmosphere of secrecy around it. But that was how Richie was, and it was most definitely not the first time he'd ever behaved in such a way, generally showing up a few days later as if nothing had happened. Beverly was used to his brief and unannounced periods of isolation, and in the context of the upcoming exams, it didn't seem particularly alarming at first sight. But for some reason, this time, she had the odd feeling that there was something else going on.
Since it was Sunday, there wasn't a considerable amount of traffic downtown, which luckily helped her to get to Richie's place rather quickly. After parking at the first free spot she could find, Beverly rushed to the building entrance and waited for the first resident to walk in or out, to try and convince them without coming off as too suspicious to please let her in, because she urgently needed to check on her friend who wasn't responding to her phone calls, which was in fact, what was really happening. Fortunately for her, it was a gentle old lady that seemed to know who Richie was who allowed her in, moved by Beverly's tangible concern on her way out of the building.

"Rich? - she knocked on his door a couple of times after getting to the sixth floor - Are you there? It's me, open the door, please"

There was no answer. Beverly bent over to try and peek through the lock hole, but she found the sight blocked by a key inserted in there, which clearly indicated that Richie was still in his apartment. She knocked on the door and called him once again, harder and louder this time.

"Rich, I know you're there, and I'm not going anywhere until you open the goddamn door"

Again, no answer. Beverly was starting to get seriously concerned about Richie's wellbeing in there. What if he had passed out on something? What if he...?

"If you don't open the fucking door now, I'm going to call the cops, and you and I know damn well we don't want to get to that point, right?"

It was her last resource before trying to knock the door down on her own with a fire extinguisher, and it fortunately seemed to work. A few faint noises came from the other side, before the door lock finally clicked open. Beverly stood there, open mouthed at the unfortunate sight of her best friend, who was displaying what it seemed to be a three-day stubble and an overall disheveled look.

"Oh my God - she glanced at Richie from head to toe - Richie, what's happening? Jimmy called me and told me you never showed up to the rehearsals... And God, you look fucking terrible..."

"Thanks, Bev - he rolled his eyes, making an exaggerated reverence - I'm happy to see you, too"

"Can I come in?"

"Er... Sure" Richie scratched his head and accepted dubiously, before stepping back and allowing Beverly to walk into the apartment.

It was for sure messier than the last time she'd been there. But this time, there seemed to be a lingering atmosphere of sadness and abandonment that sent shivers down her spine as she walked across the room.

"Can I get you something...? Coffee?" Richie offered, looking around nervously.

"No, thanks. Well, yeah, actually. I've changed my mind - Beverly corrected herself, knowing that whatever Richie was going through, it was better to have an excuse to distract him with something that led him to ingest some food and liquids - A cup of coffee will do"

"Alright, I'll make some"

It was then when Beverly spotted the half emptied blister pack on the coffee table with a gut wrenching feeling. She knew what those pills were, with absolutely no doubt, not after being by Richie's side throughout the whole breakdown he had went through the previous year.

"Kpins again? Seriously?"

"No, no - Richie gasped and shook his head, running his fingers through his tangled hair before heading to the kitchen, so he wouldn't have to face Beverly as he spoke - Those are Ibuprofen, I've been having a bad headache these past few days, that's all"

"Oh, really... So I guess you wouldn't mind if I do this?"

"Do what...? - Richie asked distractedly, grabbing a jar of coffee beans from the cupboard, before realizing that Beverly was now heading to the bathroom with the blister pack in her hand - Wait, no, no, no, no, no!"

There was no hesitation when Beverly dropped the blister pack in the toilet and flushed it, right in front of Richie's unbelieveing eyes.

"Beverly! Shit, what the fuck? Why the fuck did you do that...? Jesus" Richie cried out, leaning in just to double-check that the blister pack was in fact completely gone, before collapsing on the floor against the toilet seat, covering his face with both of his hands and seemingly on the verge of tears.

"Hey, hey - Beverly kneeled by his side and petted his hair with a soothing gesture - It's okay. I'm sorry I had to do that, but I'm sure popping a few Kpins is not the solution for whatever you're going through. Why would you even do that again...?"

"Because I'm a piece of shit, that's why"

"No, you are not a piece of shit. Will you tell me what's going on? Is that guy Connor again? Because if it is, I swear to God I'm going to thump that motherfucker, and this time I mean it for real..."

"No, it's not him" Richie shook his head, sobbing already.

"Oh"

Beverly bit her lip before continuing. She knew what she had to ask next, still being aware of the rather complicated situation that simple question would unleash if the answer happened to be "yes".

"It's... - she hesitated for a second - It's Eddie, right?"

There wasn't a "yes" as an answer, but there wasn't necessity of it, anyway. At the mere mention of Eddie's name, Richie immediately sobbed louder and buried his face in his palms and in between his knees.

"Oh, man - Beverly swallowed hard, deeply shocked by the silent but unequivocal confirmation - Damn it. Richie, please, tell me what happened"

"I fucked up, just like I always do" Richie whined, raising his head up to look at Beverly and carelessly wiping his eyes.

"But why do you say that?"

"Because I did, okay? I always ruin everything. Now Eddie hates me, and I can't fucking stand myself for that"

"Why do you think Eddie hates you?"

Richie snorted and panted a few times, attempting to regain enough composure to tell all the facts straight.

"A couple of weeks ago... I stopped by The Black Rose to say hi to Josh and Daniel. And Connor was there. He came to me and... kissed me, offered me a bump, and shit"

"What!? - Beverly yelled, furrowing her brows - Why the fuck did he do that? And why the fuck did you let him kiss you, Richard? After all the shit he's done to you...!"

"Because I was stoned as shit, I was out of my fucking mind! And I regret so much having let that happen in the first place, though I told him to fuck off almost immediately... The problem is that Stanley was there and he saw us kissing, and then he told Eddie about it. We were already hanging out when that happened, so he flipped the fuck out, he didn't even want to listen to me, we argued, it was... it was awful"

"And when did all this happen?"

"Last Friday..."

"Oh, shit, Richie... what the fuck..."

"I'm sorry I never told you about Eddie and I - Richie bowed his head - Since he was still struggling with his coming out, we agreed it was the best to keep it quiet, for a while at least. Ugh, I want to fucking die, seriously. I'm head over heels for that guy..."

"No need to apologize at all, Rich. But I think you still need to talk to Eddie, if you care that much about him. He needs to know the whole story"

"He doesn't want to see me, he doesn't even get my calls, how am I supposed to do that?"

"Are you sure that's the reason?"

"Yes, I'm sure, Beverly - Richie protested with silent tears still streaming down his cheeks - You think I haven't tried? Perhaps I did, perhaps I didn't try hard enough, I don't even know. I'm a pile of garbage anyway, so I'll understand if he doesn't want to know shit from me. I deserve it"

"I could try and talk to him. He'll want to see me, for sure"

"I don't think that will work..."

"I'm still going to try, I think he needs to know your side of the story - Beverly insisted, before squeezing Richie's forearm tenderly - But first, can we get the hell out of here? Crying on the bathroom floor is vintage as hell, not to mention fucking depressing. Besides, I still want that cup of coffee, I don't know what about you..."

-----

After managing to drag Richie out of the bathroom (not before suggesting him to shave his unfortunately uneven three-day stubble) and sharing a cup of coffee, Beverly knew she had to go and talk to Eddie as soon as she could. Of course she could put herself in his shoes, and understand why he was so angry at Richie at the moment, but at the same time, she had the urgent need to step up for her best friend, just as Stanley had done for Eddie before. Beverly, more than anyone else, knew how hard it was for Richie to open up about his feelings, his fears, and his mistakes.
It was 8:45 when she got back to campus, and almost 9 when she finally found herself knocking at Eddie and Stan's door.

"Guys, it's me, Beverly - she called from the hallway - Please, I need to talk to you..."

Stanley immediately paused the movie they had decided to watch that night, to distract their minds from all the studying (and Eddie's situation) for a little while. Eddie stared at him with his eyes wide open: he didn't think he would have to face Beverly, not that soon.

"What do I do?" Eddie hissed, rubbing his hands nervously.

"I don't know, man!"

"You think she knows it already?"

"It's quite possible, I mean... why would she be here at almost 9 PM on a Sunday..."

"Shit"

It wasn't that he had much of a choice anyway. Beverly wasn't the person he was upset at, so there was technically no reason for him to commit the distasteful act of leaving her waiting at his door, pretending he wasn't there, when she most likely had already heard the sound of the TV on from the hallway. However, there was a huge possibility, wherever the conversation that was bound to happen headed to, that everything ended up in an unwanted argument and tears, things that for sure Eddie didn't need at that moment, especially not the day before the exams week began. On the other hand, he loved Beverly, and he craved for her comforting words, always full of wisdom. He didn't want to lose her because of Richie, it didn't seem fair to him.
When Eddie collected enough courage to get up and open the door, Beverly simply stood in silence for a few seconds, before wrapping her arms around him and hugging him tightly, causing his eyes to water almost instantly.

Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry.

"Eddie, I'm sorry I showed up like this - she started, still holding him against her body - But I really, really needed to talk to you. Richie told me everyting"

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it..." Eddie apologized, swallowing hard and trying the best he could to not to shed a tear.

"I understand why you didn't, don't worry about that, at all - she leaned sligthly back and cupped Eddie's face with both hands tenderly - I just wish things hadn't gotten to this point..."

"Me neither, trust me"

Eddie seized the opportunity, while Beverly walked into the room and greeted Stanley, to wipe a single tear that had bravely attempted to escape from the corner of his left eye. She then sat on Eddie's bed, with her fingers entwined resting between her thighs.

"I don't want you to think that Richie sent me to try and convince you to have him back. But he's really affected by all this"

"Yeah, well... - Eddie spat bitterly - he should have thought about that before lying to me the way he did"

Beverly sighed and threw a quick glance at Stanley, who was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed on his chest, arching his eyebrows with a clear "I don't know how can I help you" look in his eyes.

"Eddie - she started - It's not for me to tell you the whole story. But there's a reason why Stan saw what he saw at The Black Rose that night. Of course I know the whole story myself, because I'm Richie's best friend, and let me tell you, it's not a cute one. I've been there with him the whole time, helping him to... you know, cope. But I don't wanna go into detail now, I'm just saying... that you should give him the chance to explain himself. You don't even have to forgive him if you don't want to, but at least give him the chance to open up with you, Eddie. He really cares about you, he's definitely not happy with all this situation, either"

This time it was Eddie the one who looked at Stanley, as if expecting him to manifest his personal opinion on Beverly's petition. But then again, Stanley didn't say a word, instead he simply shrugged and grimaced.

"You're my friend too, and this shit hurts a fucking lot because I love you both so much - Beverly continued with a shaky voice, wringing her hands on her lap - If you don't want to do it for him... do it for me, Eddie. Please"

Chapter Text

It would have been hard for Eddie to dismiss Beverly's felt plead right away, even knowing that she would unfailingly side with her best friend in a conflict like the one they were involved in at the moment. He was aware of how he had known Beverly for roughly two months only: compared with at least seven years of friendship with Richie, he stood no chance. Still, Eddie felt it would have been wrong to disregard her, on the one hand, because he knew that she was doing what any friend would do in her place, and on the other hand, because the firm conviction in her words got him to think that there was actually something he needed to know before cutting Richie definitely out of his life. There was no reason for Eddie not to trust Beverly, why would she lie, anyway? What would she gain from all of that? He didn't want to admit that, deep down his heart, he was desperate to find out if there was a reason convincing enough to explain Richie's behavior. It was not like his feelings for him had vanished from one moment to another, more like they just had been severely obscured by the unnecesary pain Richie had caused him. After battling against the voice in his head that kept bidding him not to be weak and give in, Eddie finally agreed with a relieved Beverly that he would try and get in touch with Richie, with the only condition that he wouldn't do it immediately after, not only because he was still upset since it all had been so recent, but also because he wanted to focus on his midterms: the week that was about to begin would be precisely the toughest one for him, with most of his exams scheduled in it. Beverly concurred it was the wisest decision; as for Stanley, he simply declared (once Beverly had left the dorm) that whatever Eddie felt like it had to be done, he would have his support regardless.
Just as Eddie had expected, the first few days after the autumn break transcurred in the midst of an emotional chaos and academic stress. He was irrationally afraid of failing, despite of knowing how hard he had been studying for the past couple of weeks. It wasn't a new thing, though, since he had been the same way throughout his whole high school experience, but failing a college exam definitely seemed to him much more terrifying... and humiliating. Once he was done with his first round of exams that Friday, he decided it was time take a moment to finally address the subject he had been avoiding since Beverly's unexpected visit last Sunday: Richie.
Eddie still had a few more exams scheduled for the upcoming week, so the midterm season hadn't technically wrapped up for him yet, but the urge to solve the pending issue with Richie one way or another was constantly interfering with his thoughts, more and more frequently and intrusively as days went on. It was on Saturday evening when he finally collected enough courage to call him, and fortunately for him, Richie was at home. The conversation was rather brief and tangibly uncomfortable; it was clear that none of them wanted to say more than what was necessary, or come off as nothing else but aloof and nonchalant. Eddie proposed to meet at a neutral location, like a cafe, or even at the campus buffet, but he ended up accepting Richie's proposal to meet at his place the next day, after promising he wouldn't try any "moves" on him, more like because he needed the most privacy to talk about the things he intended to.

None of them could sleep well that night.

After letting Stanley know where he was going (which he deemed extremely necessary at that point) and after writing down Richie's phone number in his notebook just in case, Eddie left the dorm around 4 PM. Taking the bus to Richie's place was an option, after kindly rejecting Stanley's offer to drive him there in his car if he wanted to. Still he preferred to go by foot, knowing that it would take him nearly thirty minutes: the longer it took him to get there, the more time he would get to clear his mind and put his thoughts in order, before facing Richie for the first time since the big quarrel.
He didn't know what to expect, or what could Richie possibly tell him that made him forgive and forget. But why was he expecting that, anyway? Perhaps it wasn't Richie's intention to have him back. Perhaps, he just wanted to give the "relationship", or whatever the thing they had going on was called, a proper closure. Beverly hadn't been quite specific with her pleading, either. Was that what Eddie truly wanted, a closure?
His heart was beating hard and fast when he saw Richie walking across the main entrance hall to receive him. It was only after the awkward greeting, when they stepped into the tiny elevator, that Eddie got to see how exhausted Richie looked that day: he was noticeably pale, more than the usual, which made the dark rings under his eyes pop even more. Despite of his rather unfortunate looks, the sudden proximity caused Eddie to shiver, but Richie didn't seem to notice. His usual humorous attitude was nowhere to be seen, nor he tried to pull any of his silly jokes to lighten up the mood. Eddie was starting to believe that he was, in fact, really affected by everything that had happened between them both. After Eddie cautiously walked in the apartment, Richie closed the door behind him and stood there, with his hands buried in his pockets, expectant.

"Can I get you something? A beverage, a snack...?" he offered, his voice sounding a bit hoarse.

"No, thanks - Eddie declined, wishing it would have sounded way kinder than what it actually did - I'm here because Beverly asked me to, to be honest with you. I have nothing to say, really, but she insisted on how I needed to hear a couple of things from you, so... you can start whenever you feel like"

Riche bit his lip and stared at his feet at the roughness of Eddie's statement, but raised his head up almost immediately, pointing at the loveseat in the middle of the room.

"Would you like to take a seat? It's gonna take long"

Eddie glared at the couch, but didn't move.

"How long? I have stuff to do, Richie..."

"Edward - Richie cut him short, raising his voice - I'm fucking trying, okay? This shit is hard enough for me, so please, don't make it harder..."

Letting out a heavy sigh, Eddie finally dropped himself on the cushion, leaning the furthest he could against the armrest, so to keep a considerable distance from Richie once he sat on the opposite side of the couch.

"Well, fuck... I don't know where to start..." Richie hissed, nervously running his fingers through his hair.

"The beginning, perhaps" Eddie suggested, still avoiding making eye-contact with him.

"Sounds like a good idea"

The atmosphere in the room seemed dense, even foggy. Eddie looked out of the corner of his eye the mess of notebooks and crinkled loose papers on top of Richie's bed, seemingly as if he had piled them there in the rush to tidy his apartment minutes before Eddie arrived.

"I know you hate me right now, Eddie, and I understand it perfectly - Richie started - I'm not going to try to convince you to have me back, because I probably don't deserve it anyway. Truth is, I didn't behave well enough with you, and you did not deserve that, for sure. I've been sneaky, I've been avoiding telling you certain things about myself, because I was afraid you would walk away from me if you ever got to know them... If you ever got to know that side of me I'd rather not show to others"

Eddie listened in silence, with his eyes fixed on the wall in front of him.

"Since you suggested me to start from the beginning, well, that's exactly what I'm going to do, because I think that will help you understand better why I am the way I am... - Richie took a deep breath before continuing - I knew I was... peculiar, since I was little. I never thought it was a bad thing to be different, until other kids at my school started to point it out, making fun of the way I looked, the way I talked... that, from fourth grade til seventh grade, when they... well, I got beaten up, quite a few times. It became sort of a routine after classes, or whenever they found me walking around at the quarry on my own. I never told my parents, because I didn't want to bother them with my crap, they were always so good to me that it almost felt like a crime to come home carrying such bullshit on my shoulders... I could have died at the mere thought of disappoiting them. I also knew that if I opened my mouth, they would go to my school, put in a complaint, and things would get even worse for me, for being a fucking rat. So I just... I learned how to cover up the bruises with my mother's make up, especially the ones I would get on my face; I saved some money, and got a pocket knife from one unscrupulous motherfucker who didn't even care I was thirteen at the time, he just wanted my money. For years I hid myself behind that knife, because it kept me safe from being beaten up again, but the shield I got to build up around me also pushed people away, or drawn me to the wrong kind, at worst. I spent most of my teenage years with fear of being hurt again, joking around to hide away my emotions, taking what I thought I needed from others to feel better, then shying away before catching feelings, before anyone could even get to know me fully. The only person I could never push away, the only person that stayed by my side and put up with my bullshit was Beverly. For a brief moment I thought that we were meant to be together, we even... you know, we slept together. But it felt wrong, that's why we we decided to remain friends, which was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life, because her friendship is one of the very few things that helped me keep my feet on the ground until date. I'm sorry if I'm making you uncomfortable with all this information, but it's something I knew I needed to tell you eventually. I know for a fact she loves you madly, and I know how much you love her as well..."

After a brief pause, and since Eddie didn't even seem to flinch, Richie decided to continue.

"I started to go to therapy before I came to college, but I ditched it after four sessions. I know it was a dumb decision, but I wasn't ready to talk about my shit, let alone hear whatever the therapist had to tell me... It was somewhat helpful, anyway. By the time I arrived to Boston I was seriously drained, feeling like I needed a brand new start, just like you"

A new start.

"I met Connor at one of my classes during my first semester here. It all happened pretty quickly... I don't know. He was funny, good looking, and I liked him, so I was like 'why the fuck not', you know...?"

Eddie shut his eyes at the mention of Connor's name, but still didn't say a word. He needed to hear the whole story, all facts and no bullshit for once.

"We had a thing going for about three months, everything was cool then, running smoothly... Until one time, when we were at his dorm, and he asked me to look for... something in his drawer, while he was in the bathroom. It was nosy of me, I know, but I kinda went through his stuff out of curiosity, and at the bottom of the drawer I saw a photo face down. It was a picture of him with a girl, the typical kind of boyfriend-girlfriend family holiday picture. 'Must be his sister or his cousin' I thought then, so I never asked a thing about it, I just put the photo back in the drawer and pretended I hadn't seen shit"

Eddie snapped his eyes open, noticing how Richie's leg had started to bounce.

"We really didn't care about hiding our thing, that's why many people that shared classes with us kinda knew it. At certain point, one of my classmates came to me and asked to talk to me privately... It happened to be that he was one of Connor's old high school classmates from Ohio. He warned me about him, told me that he was a fucked up guy, his uncle was a cop or something, and he had access to deal with lots of shit, you know, substances. Not only that, he would usually be seen at The Black Rose and other pubs downtown, luring freshmen to sleep with him, with or without drugs involved. I went out with him a bunch of times, but of course, he wouldn't do any of those things in front of my face. On top of everything, this guy told me Connor had a girlfriend back at home, who obviously had no idea of all the things he was doing in Boston, nor that he was sleeping with guys, asides from her. Then I remembered the picture I saw in his drawer... It was so fucked up, Eddie. I couldn't believe what I was hearing, how all the pieces were falling into place. And of course it hurt me, because damn, I really liked the guy... When I confronted him about it, he just... he just laughed, and called me a nosy, whiny bitch. I told him it was over, because I didn't want to put up with his sketchy bullshit. That time I had no bruises to hide, but for some reason it hurt even more. I let my walls down for the first time in years... allowed myself to be vulnerable... and then that shit happened...?"

The walls Eddie knew so well. The ones he'd fought against so many times. These walls were different, but so strangely similar at the same time.

"Even after I told him it was over, he still tried to lure me to sleep with him, which I didn't want to do, because I was quickly crawling back into my shell. I felt like absolute crap, you know? I started to drink a lot, I tried everything I could lay my hands on to wash that horrid sensation off my body and my mind"

Eddie felt a hole growing in his stomach, at the same proportion Richie's voice seemed to crack more and more as he continued with his narration.

"One night, I was at The Black Rose, high as a kite and completely hammered, when Connor came to me, again with the same shit. 'Don't be a bitch', 'Don't make a big deal out of it', 'I want you'... I told him to fuck off, I really did. But then I... I really don't know how, or when it happened. I'm not saying he put something in my drink but... - Richie gulped and rubbed his hands with distress - I don't know. It's impossible to know it now, for sure... But next thing I knew, I woke up at his dorm, in his bed, completely naked and sleeping beside him. I fucking panicked, you know? We always used protection when we were still together, but that one fucking time, after all the shit I got to know about him... I couldn't find any signs of having actually used protection, not in between the sheets, not on the floor, not even in the garbage bin. When I woke him up, right about to lose my shit, and asked him about it, he just laughed and said that we hadn't used any, according to what he could remember, I had insisted on going in 'raw'. Everything in and around me just fell apart. I can't even begin to explain how much I cried waiting for my blood test results. Beverly could tell you, because she was there with me the whole time, trying to keep me from stuffing myself with whatever shit I could find to numb my feelings and make days go on faster"

The pain ligering in his voice was so raw and so real, Eddie had to bite his lip to refrain a sob. The whole scenario Richie described seemed incredibly terrifying and cruel, to the point it was imposible for Eddie to remain impassible, even if he wanted to, no matter how pissed he could be at him at the moment.

"Those two weeks I spent waiting for my results back were the worst days of my life. I cried myself to sleep every night, I got so paranoid I couldn't even believe it when they turned out negative, so I had to pay for having them done all over again at a different medical center. It was only after a double negative that I could finally breathe again. After all that shit, he still tried to get with me... And after letting all out, because I fucking needed to, he called me a whiny bitch again, and told me that what he had said about us not using protection was a joke, that he simply flushed the condom and the wrapping down the toilet right after I finished, so his roommate wouldn't see it when he got back to the dorm. Can you believe it? After that whole month I spent being miserable, wishing I was fucking dead, and wondering what the fuck was I worth for, he laughed and said it was a fucking joke. He made me feel like I was nothing, and I felt the exact same way about myself for a long time, too"

For the very first time since he had walked in the apartment that day, Eddie looked at Richie, but Richie wasn't looking at him. His eyes, already teary and red, were fixed on his fingers, taking turns to wring nervously against his palms.

"That one night, when Stanley saw us at The Black Rose... I was high on some good shit that got me really slow and loosened up. When Connor came to me, yeah, I admit it, I was weak enough to let him get to me. I was accepting what I thought I deserved, so I kissed him back for a brief moment, I'm not even going to try and deny it anymore. But I swear, on everything that's holy... that kiss felt so dirty, so wrong, compared to the one you and I had shared a few days before, you know, our first one. I realized that those were the kind of kisses I truly wanted now. No more of that sordid resignation, just... hope for something real. That's why I snapped out and told Connor to fuck off, and I left immediately after, despite of knowing damn well that if I got to get back home safe on my own in the pathetic state I was, it would had been nothing less but a miracle, but I didn't even care. I guess that's why Stanley thought that Connor and I left together, but it wasn't the case, though I understand why he could've gotten to that conclusion. I left on my own, Eddie, I swear. The only thing that comforted me that night was knowing that I would get to see you the day after... Remember? That time we drove to Blue Hills..."

Their gazes met at the same time like a whiplash, while silent tears began to run down Richie's flushed cheeks.

"I hid shit from you, yeah, I absolutely did. And I'm so fucking sorry for it, because I meant no harm, I promise, it was never my intention to hurt you... I guess I was just embarrassed and afraid... and I still am"

Eddie felt like crumbling to pieces.

"I don't want to be afraid anymore, I want you in my life, Eddie. I just wanted to let you know all this, because I love you, and I trust you. I feel safe with you by my side. But I'll understand if you don't want to know shit from me ever again. It will hurt like a motherfucker, but I will have to accept it"

His words echoed in Eddie's mind, bouncing and amplifying more and more like a snowball rolling down a hill. At certain point, Richie's voice began to slowly morph into his own, and soon Eddie wasn't sure of whose voice was whose anymore. He couldn't stand the vision of Richie crying right beside him, opened and gutted like a roadkill, only for him. Eddie felt sorry for Richie, for himself, for the both of them. He couldn't have found the right words to comfort him, even if he tried.

Instead, he simply wrapped his arms around Richie, allowing his head to rest on his shoulder and their hearts beat close to one another, matching their rhythms in a soothing lull.

I don't want to be afraid anymore.

Chapter Text

The silent embrace seemed to last long enough for Richie to fall asleep, resting his face against Eddie's chest, while the flush on his cheeks subsided and his tears dried off, leaving a sticky glow behind them. Eddie could guess how exhausted Richie must had been for the past few days, after all, he'd felt the exact same way. Each one of the revelations he got to know about Richie that afternoon made Eddie finally come to terms with the fact that he wasn't the only one struggling with inner demons and fears. Clinging to the idea that Richie was, unlike himself, a confident man, who had everything under control and very little to no self-assurance issues, had somewhat contributed to the build-up of a wall between them, a wall with a few tiny holes here and there, through which Eddie could still see Richie moving around, yet distorted and blurry. It seemed to be that Richie had decided to start knocking down that wall from his side, but at the end of the day, any thing that has been built up by two people altogether can't be easily torn down by only one of them, at least not without resulting in a hassle to one or the other in the process. Eddie leaned back against the armrest, trying his best so not to wake Richie up, and ran his fingers ever so ligthly through his curls. The feelings of anger, disappointment and shame stilll lingered inside of his heart, though shrinking more and more as minutes went on, being replaced by a warm and fuzzy sensation, while Richie slept peacefully in his arms. He wanted to make Richie feel safe, even with his walls already tumbled down; he deserved it, after all he had to endure in the past, they both did. It couldn't be a coincidence. Sometimes, all it takes is a helping hand to get to break through the shell faster, and make the unavoidable pain a more bearable experience.
Eddie was near to doze off as well when Richie suddenly wiggled against him, slowly opening his eyes and looking around, confused.

"Oh, shit, what... - he hissed with a husky voice that made Eddie's mouth water against his will - I fell asleep..."

"Yeah, for quite a while, actually... I didn't want to wake you up"

"You should have... I bet you're all crampy right now"

Richie sat straight and stretched himself, causing several joints of his body to crack at the same time. He seemed less tense and a bit more lively now than what he was before, as if he had just removed a heavy weight off his shoulders.

"So..." he started, expectant.

"So?"

"I mean - Richie blinked a few times and pushed his knees against his chest, wrapping his arms around his folded legs - You're still here, and you let me sleep on your chest... Are you... are you still mad at me?"

"Man, how... how could I be... after everything you just told me - Eddie replied sincerely, feeling his throat clenching a bit with emotion - What you did today was so fucking brave. Those goddamn awful things that happened to you... I had no idea. But I can assure you, you didn't deserve any of those things, not the school beatings, nor feeling like a burden to your parents, nor being afraid of others, nor feeling like a piece of shit because of that son of a bitch Connor... I know myself how sometimes things can get out of hand, even when we think we have them under control. The way I reacted the other day, well, I was angry and hurt, because I thought that you had been lying to me and playing with my feelings all the time... But that's because I was seeing the tip of the iceberg, only. I saw red after what Stan told me. I hope you aren't mad at me either. I'm sorry if I didn't give you the chance to open up before..."

"You did give me the chance, Eddie. I was in complete refusal. I was afraid you'd leave. But I guess I got it all wrong. I mean, that's not what you're supposed to do when you want to be with someone, like, you know, a couple"

Eddie's stomach jumped at the mention of the word "couple", but tried his best to remain calm. Too many emotions were gathering inside of him at the same time.

"I have to admit that I tried to keep my walls up for a while, too. But then I realized that I didn't want to. Not with you, at least"

"I don't want it either, not anymore. I'm sorry I made you go through all this bullshit last week, I truly am. I let it all go out of hand like the dumbass I am"

"Yeah, these past few days were deplorable. But as I said, I can't be mad at you anymore. And what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, as they say" Eddie shrugged, curving his lips into a brief tiny grin.

Richie smiled and let go of his knees, shifting back to sit in a normal position in his side of the couch. His eyes seemed to have regained most of the usual sparkle in them.

"Your smile is the most precious thing I've ever seen, Eddie. I'm so happy I got to see it again, because I thought I was never going to, anymore"

Not knowing when it exactly happened, Eddie looked down only to found his fingers now entwined with Richie's, wriggling nervously in the space in between their thighs. He wanted to cry, feeling as if the last remaining traces of the anger, frustration, and pain he experienced through the past few days were being harshly ripped out of his body, leaving him physically and emotionally meek and disoriented. Despite of all that, holding Richie's hand made him feel steady and safe again. At that precise moment, it felt to Eddie like they were both walking at the same pace for the first time, side by side, no one in front or behind the other. It was more than clear that both of them had a load of issues to unpack and work on, not only for the other, but also for themselves. Being side by side made the whole idea sound a lot more achievable and bearable.

"Do you still want to be with me?" Richie asked shyly, almost as if guessing Eddie's thoughts, just like he had done the first time they met at Bill's Bar.

I'm madly in love with you. I feel safe by your side, and you feel safe by my side. Of course I want to.

"Is that what you want?"

"More than anything else in this life, for sure" Riche nodded.

"Only if you promise that you won't make me regret it" Eddie teased, raising his eyebrows.

"There will be no more bullshit from my side, I promise. No more building up walls, no more hiding stuff. I'm going to be a fucking open field now, with little sheeps roaming around and everything"

"Still I think it would be good for you to... resume therapy. Don't take it the wrong way, please, but you've been through some difficult shit, Rich. I was actually thinking about starting therapy myself, I haven't decided it yet... But you definitely must"

"Yeah, I agree. I should look up for some options here in Boston. If you need help with that just let me know"

"Thank you - Eddie smiled at him again - By the way... Are you still mad at Stanley?"

"I'm not mad at Stanley - Richie sighed - I was at first, yeah, but then I realized he was doing what any friend would have done in his place. I mean, I would have done the exact same thing for Beverly, if it was me in his shoes. I'm guilty of letting him go around believing the half truth he saw, which obviously made sense to him, and to you, and probably would have to anyone else, because of my stupid fear and my fucking ego. Just sharing a little bit about myself with him would have been enough to avoid all this chaos. Deep down inside I knew it would come up eventually, of course. I simply tried not to think about it... You know... the good ole' evasion tactic"

"Yeah, I know that one well" Eddie smirked ironically.

"But you know... Perhaps it was for the best - Richie added, pensive - I mean, all of the sudden I saw myself facing the dilemma that was having to choose quickly between speaking up at once, or losing you forever"

"That's a rather positive focus"

"It is, right? In conclusion... I don't want Stanley to be mad at me, either. I told him a couple of... not so nice things, and I'm deeply sorry for that. I'd like to apologize, if he allows me to"

"I'll talk to him - Eddie agreed - I won't go into detail but... You both need to call a truce. And he'll also want to know why we made up"

Richie suddenly gasped.

"Say that again"

"What?" Eddie inquired, furrowing his brow.

"What you just said" Richie urged, writhing in his spot before shifting closer to Eddie.

"'We made up'?"

"Yeah, exactly. Say it again"

"We made up" Eddie whispered, dropping his gaze and staring unwillingly at Richie's mouth.

Neither of them had their libidos peaking high enough that day to engage in anything other than a slow cuddly kissing session, as a tangible way to seal up the reconciliation. Despite of that, Eddie was feeling content: on the one hand, that day was for sure meant to mark a milestone in the course of their relationship, whatever it was, and on the other hand, because it was then we he realized how much he had missed Richie the whole time they had spent apart from each other. It was not like the world had stopped turning without him, more like life felt cozier and merrier when he was around. At 7:30 PM, they decided that it was the best to conclude the meeting, since both of them needed to urgently catch up with their sleeping schedules, and wrap up their studying for the upcoming week's remaining midterms. Richie also mentioned that he got to apologize to his bandmates for not showing up to the rehearsals, and promised to join them intesively for the next few days, since the scheduled date to play at Bill's was quickly approaching.

"Now that you mention Bill's - Eddie suddenly recalled, while they were walking to the spot where Richie's car was parked - Are you hitting their Halloween party next Thursday?"

"Well, I knew it from Bev a couple of days ago, and until this very morning I wasn't planning on going, but now that we are good again, heck yes I'm gonna go"

"You know you'll have to wear a costume, right?" Eddie inquired, getting in the passenger seat.

"Absolutely. It's not going to be my first Halloween, cowboy. Besides, I already have something in mind"

"Oh, I'm dying to see that"

"Well, look at that! You're kinda close already"

"A zombie, a living dead or something of the sort?" Eddie took a chance to guess while turning on the radio.

"Don't be impatient, you'll get to see it in a couple of days. What about you, have you thought of something?"

"Yeah, indeed. I bet you'll find it out pretty quickly..."

-----

Stanley listened in rapt every word Eddie told him that night while sharing dinner at the dorm. Of course, Eddie made sure to skip the most sensitive bits, not only because it was not for him to share Richie's intimacy with his best friend, but also because recalling them verbally moved him in a way he still couldn't process completely. His main aim was getting Stanley to understand how Richie's situation with Connor led him to see what he saw at The Black Rose that night, and why he didn't explain himself further when confronted about it. It was for sure a lot of information for Stan to handle, going from straight up disliking Richie, to feel somewhat sorry for him in the span of a few hours.

"Shit - he finally exhaled, rubbing his frown - Dude, this whole thing was so freaking unfortunate. I mean I understand why he didn't say shit when I confronted him about it, but damn... Why didn't he just...? Ugh, fuck. I feel so bad right now"

"Don't be hard on yourself - Eddie tried to comfort him - He knows you did what you did because you care about me and you were trying to help me. He's also willing to take his part of the blame, so he wants to personally give you an apology"

"I think I owe him an apology, too. Is he going to attend the Halloween party at Bill's next Thursday...?"

"Yeah, actually, I asked him about that today. He said he's going, so I guess we'll see him there"

"Great, well, I guess that coud be a good opportunity for me to get to talk to him..."

"I hope you guys can get along someday... Not saying that you should become best friends or anything, but you know... Just get along" Eddie murmured, tapping his spoon on the bottom of his plastic bowl.

Stanley sighed and tilted his head, staring at his friend with tender.

"You really like him, don't you?"

"I do. After all this shit... This... big fucking unfortunate misunderstanding... I want to be with him, I don't know, it might sound dumb, but..."

"No, not dumb at all, Eddie. I know I've been a jerk about it, too. I went over the top trying to keep you from banging your head against a wall. Sometimes it's necessary, I mean, banging our heads against a wall every once in a while can help us get some clarity afterwards..."

Eddie held Stanley's hand in his own and gulped, trying his best to suck in the tears that were menacing to stream down the corners of his eyes at any given moment.

"I've been kind of a dick to you as well, and I apologize. Especially for lying to you. I know you meant no harm, either. You're the best friend I could've ever asked for. Thanks for always being there, no matter what..."

"Shit, Eddie, you wanna make me cry or what?" Stan chuckled, holding his friend's hand tightly, and his eyes watering a bit as well.

-----

Wrapping up the midterms season couldn't have felt any better for all of them, especially for Eddie. Despite of his acquired and sometimes irrational fear of failing, he was now somewhat sure that he had done at least decently well in his exams. He would find out if his supositions were actually true in a couple of days when he got the results back, of course, but for now, he just wanted to relax and have fun with his friends. Things were going well. Eddie had already called Beverly, to let her know of his reconciliation with Richie (the news were received with great joy from her side), and that Thursday evening, Mike and Bill were getting ready with them at their dorm, before heading to the Halloween party at Bill's Bar all together.

"What the fuck are you, Stan? Raggedy Ann or some shit?" Bill teased, when Stanley walked out of the bathroom wearing a colorful stripped long sleeved shirt underneath a denim overall. With Mike's help, he also had slicked back and color-sprayed his hair with a dark shade of red, and drawn a stitched scar with black eyeliner right across his cheekbone.

"It's Chucky from Child's Play, you absolute dumbfuck - he protested in response - But hey, lets take a look at you, wearing that tacky ass white suit, who the fuck are you, anyway? That one beardy dude from ABBA?"

"I'm Tony Montana, okay? - Bill pulled a cigar out of his pocket and put it in between his lips, attempting to upgrade his characterization - Watch your words"

"I don't want to say hello to your 'little friend', just saying" Mike added distractedly, while finishing up the last details on his vampire make up in front of the mirror.

"Your loss" Bill mocked back, pretending to be offended.

"Okay but you totally won this, Mike - Eddie gestured towards him. He was already dressed up in his Waldo costume - You look... amazing"

"Yeah, Eddie is right, Mike, you're gonna get a lot of ass tonight. Or, blood, if you want to stay in character"

"I don't even care about that, to be honest with you guys. I just want to flaunt around my awesome costume, which costed a shitload of money to rent for the night, by the way"

"That's a very Leo thing of you to say, Michael"

"Oh, come on, William, don't come here with your horoscope bullshit"

"Why not? First off, it's not 'horoscope bullshit', it's called astrology. Second of all, you're the stereotypical Leo, so it can't be a coincidence"

"Studying Arts really does fuck up your brain cells, huh?" Stanley joked, before being hit on the face with the pillow Bill threw at him.

"Suck my dick, Pippi Longstocking"

"Okay, I'm done - Mike announced, putting the cap back on his eyeliner pencil - Are we all ready to go?"

"Hold on! We gotta wait for Stan to get in his costume... Oh, right, he's already wearing it, my bad" Bill teased again, before a fed up Stanley hooked his arm around his neck from behind and knocked him down playfully.

Eddie put on his fake round glasses and looked at his friends fooling around, and a warm cozy sensation filled him from head to toe. He couldn't help to feel extremely happy and thankful for having them in his life.

"Alright, I'll take that as a 'yes' - Mike rolled his eyes and grabbed his car keys from the desk - Let's go, Eddie. These two should walk, if you ask me"

"Hey, we heard that!"

----

The bar was already crowded when they finally arrived. Fake spiderwebs, plastic jack-o'-lanterns and orange and black garlands were hanging all over the place, setting the festivity mood; even Benjamin the bartender was wearing a pirate costume, alongside with his other coworkers, who were dressed as witches and skeletons respectively. Eddie threw a quick glance at the now empty stage at the back of the salon: the thought of getting to see Richie performing there in a couple more of days had him sincerely thrilled.

"Eddie, Mike - Stan called - Could you guys go get a spot for us? Bill and I will go get the drinks"

"Sure - Eddie agreed - I'll have a regular beer"

"A Stout for me - Mike added - Thanks guys, see you there"

Right after his friends turned around and headed to the back of the salon, Stan and Bill made their way through the crowd to reach the bar.

"Thank God midterms are over" Bill sighed, leaning on the counter to catch the attention of one of the bartenders.

"Tell me about it... toughest weeks of my life"

"You'll get used to it, Stan, it's only your first semester"

"Alright, experienced boy..."

"I'm serious! At least you'll learn how to schedule your classes better, and to value your free time, especially if you're intending to look for a job"

"Yeah, me and Eddie were actually thinking about start looking for part time jobs once the semester is over"

"I could give you guys a hand if you need a recommendation or something"

"That'd be cool - Stanley smiled pleased - Thanks, Bill"

"Have you got something in mind already, or...?"

"Not really, I'm not intending to get picky, at least not until I graduate. I'm open to all the possibilities"

"I could talk to my boss at the editorial, if you want - Bill offered, grabbing his and Mike's beers from the counter - Just in case they're looking for a junior accountant or something like that. But let me warn you, you'd be surrounded by Art interns..."

"What's the problem with Art students, William? - a third voice appeared from behind him - It's not like we eat souls or something"

Bill gasped and turned around, while Stanley glanced open mouthed from above his shoulder. To his surprise, the guy who had approached them was none other than Richie.

"Shit, Richie, you scared me"

"It's Halloween so I'll take that as a compliment - Richie grimaced, adjusting the collar of his stripped Beetlejuice costume before adressing Stanley with a shy bow - Hey, Staniel"

"Hey, Richie - Stanley greeted coyly as well - Uh... wait a minute, do you guys know each other?"

"Well, yeah, we take a couple of classes together. We're both sophomores"

"Yup, indeed - Bill nodded, confirming Richie's statement - Coolest chap I've ever met"

"Dude, that's fucking crazy...."

"I'll tell you what's crazy! - Beverly's high pitched voice appeared from behind them. She was wearing a rather enchanting black and purple witch costume - I turned around and you weren't there, Richard! Don't leave me like that again, you dipshit!"

"What was I supposed to do? - Richie frowned - Stay there while you flaunted your costume to Ben? You know how bad the heterosexual mating rituals make me cringe"

"Mating rit-? What the fuck? Whatever - she rolled her eyes and quickly turned around to hug Stanley, not allowing the others see her blushing - Hi, Stan! And you are...?"

"I'm Bill, but you can call me whenever, beautiful" Bill introduced himself and winked.

"Oh my God - Beverly laughed nervously - That was way over the top"

"You guys better try and get along right now, because me and Stan The Man need to talk privately" Richie announced, staring directly at Stanley.

"Right - Stan agreed, feeling his heart racing a bit - Bill, Bev, could you guys go find Eddie and Mike? They're in the back, most likely. We'll be there in a moment"

"Sure - Beverly looked expectantly at Richie, then at Stanley, before hooking her arm around Bill's - Let's go, Casanova. Our friends need to talk"

Richie guided Stanley to a rather quiet corner near the entrance, far from Eddie's possible field of sight. A certain tension could be sensed between them, but it was most definitely not the same like the turbulent exchange they had shared at the buffet a few weeks prior.

"Well... - Richie started, scratching his nape nervously - Stan. First of all... I want to apologize. I've been a real cunt to you, and you didn't deserve it. I know you were looking after Eddie, like any friend would do. I guess he told you already some things about my... past"

"Yeah, he did - Stan admitted, playing with one buckle of his overall - By the way, I'm sorry I misunderstood the whole thing. I mean... what I saw that night..."

"Yeah, I know. It made sense by itself, there was no way you could've ever known what was going on behind that"

"If you could have just told me one little thing..."

"I know, I know..."

"Anyway, I'm glad you and Eddie could talk things through. I also want to apologize, because I've been a certified jerk to you, but I swear I meant no harm"

"I know, Stan. And I swear on everything that's holy that I would never hurt Eddie on purpose. I'm crazy for him... Call me cheesy if you want, but my life's been brighter since I met him. I want to make him happy, just like he has done with me"

After a brief but somewhat emotional hug, Richie gasped and raised a hand.

"Wait! I almost forgot..."

Stanley looked at him with curiosity while Richie looked for something inside of his jacket, and his jaw dropped when Richie handed him a CD box.

"Here. Asides from cheesy, I happen to be an unsufferable nosy asshole, so I got to know through Beverly that you had bitched several times about not being able to find any copy of Queen's first album at any record store, which happens to be the last one you need to complete your collection. Well... I assumed you'd like to have it. It's been on the rack at the store I work for since ever. A tragedy, if you ask me..."

"Y-You're giving it to me?" Stan gulped, deeply touched.

"Yeah! Please, don't think of it as a bribe. I just thought you'd like it... I'm a bit awkward with felt words sometimes, but music always helps me to sort out that inconvenience. So I was like... why not, you know? Take it as a peace offering, if anything"

"Damn, Richie, thank you so much... I don't know what else to say..."

"Having your blessing to date Edward is enough for me"

"I don't know man, I might need a few more CD's for that. Like a monthly suscription" Stan joked with a devilish grin.

"...you motherfucker" Richie shook his head, but smiled too.

At the back of the salon, where they had fortunately found a free little table with a couple of stools around, Eddie had no idea where Stanley was, while Mike, Beverly and Bill were dancing, conveniently distracted, after avoiding telling him about his friend's whereabouts. In fact, Eddie was about to stand up and go look for his friend, when a couple of familiar hands suddenly covered his eyes from behind. The unmistakable voice whispering in his ear sent shivers down his spine, straight to the bottom of his stomach.

"I think I've found Waldo..."

Chapter Text

"Wow, look at that, Beetlejuice - Eddie turned around and glanced at Richie from head to toe, grinning - And I didn't even have to call your name once"

"You know it takes less than that to make me come, Eds"

"Oh, please, guys - Stanley emerged from behind Richie, pressing his palms against his ears - I truly didn't need to hear that, thank you very much"

Ignoring the fact that his cheeks were burning hot because of Richie's little jest, Eddie looked at Stanley with curiosity. It seemed to be that he and Richie had already solved their pending conversation in the span of his brief absence, which Stan confirmed silently by giving Eddie a thumbs up, guessing the meaning behind his inquisitive stare. It was great news, indeed.
Despite of the fact that neither Mike or Bill knew of his relationship with Richie yet (although Mike cocked an eyebrow with mischief when Richie introduced himself, as if he had suddenly remembered the night he allegedly saw Eddie at The Black Rose), Eddie was having a great time, dancing and fooling around with his friends, feeling comfortable like never and the best of all: safe and accepted. The fact that all of them seemed to be getting along at that point, especially after Stanley and Richie sealed their truce, couldn't have made him feel more content.
Much to his dismay, after a couple of hours, a few more beers and a round of tequila shots, Eddie was already nodding off. It was true that he had been awake since 6 AM, with a few classes and an exam taking place in the between. It was also true that he was supposed to attend to classes the next morning as well, although he was considering taking the day off at that point, aware that he would probably wake up with a bad hangover.

"Honey, are you okay? - Beverly asked, reaching the spot where Eddie was sitting and rubbing his shoulder amicably - Do you need something?"

"No, no, thanks, I'm just a bit tired... - Eddie smiled at her, squinting his eyes - And a bit dizzy"

"I think you had too many vodka gummy worms. We warned you those weren't regular gummy worms..."

"They didn't even taste like alcohol"

"Well, that's exactly the point - she chuckled - But don't worry, William is kind of calling it quits already, too. He went overboard with the tequila shots. We all probably should get going in a little while, it's kinda late, and I think we all have classes tomorrow..."

Eddie shifted slightly forward to look at Bill, who was now dancing slowly by himself in his spot on the opposite side of the table, with his eyes closed and seemingly completely out of his skull. Mike was holding his hand while chatting with Richie at the same time, probably as a security measure to catch him on time in case he suddenly tripped. Both Richie and Mike seemed to be quite clear-headed, perhaps a bit tipsy, if anything. It was the same for Stanley, who was precisely walking back from the bar with a couple more beers; Eddie suspected that his levels of alcohol tolerance had progresively increased since his first hangover.

"Hey, are you okay, Eddie? - he asked too, after placing the bottles on the table, drawing Richie's attention - Do you wanna leave already?"

"No, no. I don't want to be a buzzkill - Eddie was aware of how he was slurring the words a bit - I'm alright, I'm just a bit tired. It's been a long day"

"I think Tony Banana needs a ride back to his dorm ASAP - Richie intervened, nodding towards Bill - I hope he's no one's designated driver, that would suck ass"

"No, no, I am the designated driver" Mike clarified, raising a hand.

"Better that way"

"We could get going, if you want - Stanley agreed - Just let me finish this beer..."

"I'll help you finish the other one. I didn't bring my car, so fuck it" Richie shrugged and picked the last bottle from the table.

"You walked around downtown dressed up like that?" Stan inquired with a look of surprise.

"It's definitely not the worst they'd seen me looking, Staniel. Besides, it's Halloween, so who gives a shit?"

"Bev, what about you?"

"I brought my car! And I didn't drink that much anyway, I'll be fine. I could go behind you guys, or in front of you, whatever you prefer"

Eddie was on the verge of dozing off in his seat, feeling his eyelids heavy yet his head light weighted. He had stopped paying attention to the others' conversations a while ago, daydreaming of the recent events that had occurred in his life, when he suddenly acknowledged Richie's hands holding onto his waist from behind.

"I must say, you look very handsome with those glasses, Eds"

He had been longing for that kind of touch since last Sunday, since the last kiss they had shared. The intoxicating effect Richie had on him, temporarily suspended after the big quarrel, had been gradually resurfacing on the past few days, peaking its highest point at that precise moment, combined with the alcohol induced drowsiness; Eddie desired, with an intensity that ovepowered all of the previous instances of intimacy he had already shared with Richie, that the two of them were in his bed, in his car, or wherever they could be completely alone and out of sight. He couldn't figure exactly why, since he didn't find Richie's costume particularly enticing in that way. Perhaps it was just the alcohol he had ingested playing with his mind, or the fact that the midterms season had put his libido on hold, combusting back to action all of the sudden now that exams were officially over.

"Are you good, baby?" Richie whispered in his ear, squeezing his grip only once, making Eddie feel tingly all over.

"Yeah, no. Not really - Eddie slurred in response - I want to leave... with you"

Richie shook his head, laughing almost imperceptibly, still not letting go of the grasp on Eddie's waist.

"You're way too smashed this time, Eds, for real. You have to go back to your dorm safe. Besides, I have classes early tomorrow, and so do you, if I'm not mistaken"

"I'm gonna bail, I don't care..."

"Don't do that... Save those absences for when it's really needed"

"But I really need you to take me home with you"

"No, baby, not tonight"

"Then when? - Eddie pouted, lowering his voice so only Richie could hear him - I want to... go to bed with you, like, real bad"

Richie stared at him rather expresionless for a little while and sighed.

"Look, there's nothing I'd like to do more than take you home with me and... but not with you being like this. Last time you were just tipsy, and we didn't do... we just... you know. That. What we did"

"What...? - Eddie furrowed his brow, confused - I can't understand shit of what you're saying, Richie"

"Exactly - Richie grimaced and let go of Eddie's waist, before shouting from above his head - Hey, Mike! Eddie's kinda ready to dip, too. I think we all should get going..."

"Say no more" Mike approved, urging Stanley to finish the last sip of his bottle.

Eddie stared at him in disbelief, but Richie simply smiled back a tad condescendingly.

"Sorry, Eds"

"Fucking traitor..."

-----

Just as he had predicted it, Eddie woke up with an awful hangover the next morning. It was quite unfortunate, since Fridays happened to be one of the longest and toughest days of the week for him, due to his schedule crammed with classes until 5 PM with no breaks in between. Following Stanley's advice, he had two Advils and half a gallon of water before finally deciding not to bail, which was also what Richie had (responsibly) suggested him to do. Nevertheless, it had been impossible for him to fight back the exhaustion after attending his first three classes, so he ended up skipping his last two. Three of five wasn't that bad, anyway.
Eddie was surprised to see that Stanley wasn't there when he got back to the dorm four hours earlier than expected, but didn't have that much time to wonder where his friend could be, before dozing off as soon as he laid down on his bed to "rest his eyes".
It would be the first time he dreamed of Richie (not including daydreaming, of course) which wasn't anything intricate by itself, except for the fact that the content of said dream had been rather... explicit. Not willing to take the risk of being caught full on display by Stanley if he suddenly walked through the door, Eddie decided to take care of the warm pressure lingering in his lower belly in the bathroom, more precisely, while taking a shower. He couldn't keep overlooking the physical signs his body and mind were throwing in his path, and even though he wasn't as scared at the idea of sex like he was before, it still seemed like a great deal to him, and the thought of being bad at it and making Richie regret his decision of sticking by still terrified him. Would it be significantly different from the other things they had already done? Would it hurt? It wasn't like he didn't trust Richie, because he knew Richie would do the most to make him feel comfortable and safe in said hypotetical situation; it was more like the feeling of strangeness he inherited from past years of self-repression upon his own body and needs. Despite of having tried it a few times, Eddie could never get to finger himself, whether it was out of shame, fear or repulsion, he always ended up relying on the same known process whenever he needed to reach his own climax. Having sex with another man, aware of the fact that he was "more into bottoming" like Richie had rightly observed a few weeks prior, was a whole different thing. How would his body react to him? Would he be able to control it? Still with a few questionings boiling in his brain, one thing stood with the most certainty.

----

His birthday started off quite well that Saturday morning, with Stanley arriving to the dorm with a box full of his favorite donuts and a gift for him, consisting in a new Kodak camera with a couple of extra film rolls for Eddie to use.

"It's time for you to start creating your own memories, instead of living through the ones Sonia's made of you" Stan declared with a smile, causing Eddie to almost burst into tears of joy.

Eerily enough, his mother called a few minutes later, to wish him a happy birthday, ask him how he was doing, and warn him about not giving in to peer pressure to drink any alcohol or do "weird stuff" if he went out that night. It didn't help that Stanley could be heard in the back, trying rather unsuccessfully to hold back his cackling when he caught that part of the conversation.

"I forgot to mention - he suddenly spoke once Eddie said goodbye to Sonia and cut the call - I invited Mike and Bill to come tonight to Bill's. We'll celebrate your birthday there"

"It's... It's Richie's performance tonight"

"Uh... yeah, I know - Stan cocked an eyebrow - That's why we'll be gathering there, I thought you would've figured"

"Did you tell them that Richie and I...?"

"No, of course I didn't, Eddie, are you nuts? I just told them we're celebrating you're birthday, and that Richie is casually performing there. That's all"

"And does Richie know?"

"Of course he does! I talked to him yesterday, and Beverly is coming too. He'll make sure they have a table saved for us, since it's a special occasion, so it's all set. We should be there at 9"

"Shit - Eddie felt sincerely moved - Thanks for all this... You guys are amazing. I feel... I don't even know. I feel so..."

"We love you, Eddie - Stan grinned - There's a lot to celebrate"

-----

After stopping by to grab lunch, they spent the whole afternoon driving around downtown in Stanley's car, since Eddie wanted to get a new shirt and a new pair of jeans to wear that night. He didn't look for anything radically different from the clothes he already owned, but for some reason, he felt the desire to wear brand new items for that special ocassion. Fully aware that going clothes-hunting was one of Stanley's least favorite activities ever, Eddie sincerely appreciated the fact that his friend put up with his indecision and hesitating, until he could finally stumble across two garments that really caught his eye.
He spent a lot more time than the usual to get ready for that night's event. There was a strange ceremonial vibe ligering in his mind he couldn't get to figure, regarding to see Richie performing additioned to the fact that it was also his birthday. It was almost like getting to witness some sort of once in a lifetime astronomical phenomenon; even Stanley seemed to be wearing his favorite polo shirt and sweater. By the time they arrived to the bar, Beverly, Mike and Bill were already there, sitting at a table conveniently near the stage. Three local bands would play that night, being Richie's the first one in the line, which explained his absence at the table, since he was probably finalizing the technical details backstage with his bandmates. After the three of them hugged and congratulated Eddie for his birthday (and Beverly complained for not being able to find him on the phone that afternoon), much to his surprise, they proceeded to hand the gifts they had bought for him. Eddie got a really fancy and nice smelling perfume from Beverly, and an electronic organizer from Bill and Mike. He felt deeply touched by the tokens of affection his friends had showed him since the day had begun, and not only then, but ever since he had met each one of them, whether it had been for years, a couple months or a few weeks. He was undeniably happy. So far, that one seemed to be the best birthday ever.
Right after they got the first round of drinks, Eddie's heart jumped when he saw Richie and his bandmates getting on the stage to set up the instruments and the sound equipment. It was good to see him again out of his Beetlejuice costume, with his signature unbuttoned flannel over a Pink Floyd t-shirt, the same one he was wearing the night he and Eddie met for the first time, at the exact same location. Acknowledging the presence of his friends sitting at a near table, Richie awkwardly waved a hand at them, and mouthed "happy birthday" followed by a wink directly at Eddie.

"Alright - he started, after setting up his microphone, and his voice suddenly rumbling in the salon caused all the present people to quiet down - Uh... Hi, everyone. I hope you're all having a wonderful night and... well, thanks for coming by and supporting your local bands... We're not going to play, actually, we're just testing the equipment, so..."

A collective giggle emerged from the crowd, and Eddie couldn't help to smile as well.

"... I was kidding, sorry. We're playing, actually. Some of you already know us, some others don't, either way please don't throw stuff at us, we're sentient human beings... Except for Daniel the bassist, who is a fucking bitch, by the way, so if you wanna throw something at us, just aim at him - another collective laugh - Anyway, for those who don't know us yet, that beautiful girl on the drums is Rebecca, Daniel on the bass, Jimmy AKA "the pussy charmer" on the synth, and last but not least me, a fucking trashmouth, that's all you need to know. We are 'Dumpster Fire' and yes, of course I picked that name"

Stanley immediately choked with his own laugh whilst taking a sip of his drink, spitting out a bit of it, which caught Richie's attention, who proceeded to smile cheekily at him.

"We'll start jamming a bit to warm up, then we'll play a few classics, because we're obviously not smart enough to write our own songs yet... - people laughed again - Wow, thank you, I'm not that funny, but thanks, Iove the enthusiasm. You all better be laughing with me and not at me, because I wil pull a fucking Carrie, I swear..."

Eddie was enchanted with the way Richie had easily won over the crowd with the silly jokes he knew so well. He obviously knew how to entertain an audience, but when they started playing, both Eddie and Stanley looked at each other open mouthed. The four of them were all truly talented, whether it was playing their instruments or singing, but Eddie couldn't stop looking at Richie. Not only his guitar skills seemed to be top quality: he also had a great singing voice.
They started off with "Black Night" by Deep Purple, and Stanley was visibly fascinated. It wasn't like Eddie could not appreciate it the same way his music lover best friend did, but unlike him, seeing Richie performing so energically and skillfully got him additionally turned on. After continuing with "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin, "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath, "Smoke On The Water" again by Deep Purple, they moved onto more recent songs like "Cult Of Personality" by Living Colour, "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden and "Basket Case" by Green Day. The crowd seemed to be truly enjoying the performance, chanting and dancing to each one of the songs.

"Okay, so - Richie started, after taking a long sip of water from a bottle he had on the stage at his feet - We're gonna go with our last track of the night... Wonderful news, I know. So, uh... well, this song means a lot to me, and I want to publically thank my bandmates for agreeing to play it tonight, because it was kind of a last minute decision... The thing is, I went through a low point a couple of days ago, and this song was stuck in my mind the whole time... Thankfully everything got back on track again, and so did I. I'll shut up now and let the song speak for itself"

With the first chords of "Wish You Were Here", Eddie could hear Stan muttering "holy shit" on the low, while his throat tightened with emotion. It was the one and only song Richie sang alone, with no back up vocals from his bandmates. There was such an intensity lingering throughout the whole interpetation that caused Eddie's eyes to water: Richie was singing that song for him only, he knew it. Despite of keeping his eyes fixed on the microphone during the entirety of the track, he stared directly at Eddie while singing the last part of it, making Eddie's heart beat fast and hard in his chest.

We're just two lost souls,
swimming in a fish bowl
year after year...
Running over the same old ground,
what have we found?
The same old fears...

Wish you were here

The crowd in the salon broke into a loud round of applause right after the song wrapped up, and the people sitting at Eddie's table weren't the exception. After bowing to the audience and saying goodbye, Richie and is bandmates rushed to unplug all of their equipment. Eddie observed with a warm feeling in his heart how Richie ran to the end of the stage, to ask one of the guys from the second band in line if they perhaps needed anything of their stuff so to keep them plugged (the other guy shook his head and waved a hand with a thankful gesture, kindly rejecting the offer).

"Wow, that was... Holy shit - Stan ran his hands through his hair - I had no idea he was that good. I'm blown away"

"He is, right? - Beverly agreed with a smile, before staring straight at Eddie - What do you think? Did you like it?"

"It was amazing - Eddie admitted, still significantly moved - Incredible, really"

"And... - she leaned in to speak in a lower voice - That last song was for you, Eddie. It was so obvious. How cool is that?"

"I know - he blushed, not sure of what to say - I know..."

Richie got to the table right after the second band started to play, and they were really good too, Eddie had to admit. After introducing each one of his bandmates, who were actually really nice people, Richie let them know that he was intending to stay with Eddie, Stan, Beverly, Mike and Bill for the rest of the night, since it was the occasion of Eddie's birthday. His bandmates didn't seem to have a problem with it.

"Well? Did you guys enjoy it? Did I suck? Be honest, words can't hurt me anymore"

"Dude, what? You were amazing!" Mike stated, while Bill nodded frantically in agreement.

"I was blown away, I swear"

"I'm going to get a lemonade - Beverly hastily stood up from her chair, which happened to be right beside Eddie's - Does anyone else want anything? Richie? I bet you're thirsty, too"

"Yeah, I'll want one too, Bev, please" Richie accepted, conveniently sitting on the chair Beverly had just left free.

"Awesome"

While the others were entertained chatting about their favorite guitarists, Richie shifted on his seat to get closer to Eddie.

"Happy birthday, Eds"

Eddie got goosebumps at the sudden proximity.

"Thanks..."

"Are you enjoying your special day so far?"

"Very much, yeah" he replied sincerely.

"I got a gift for you"

"Really?"

"Yeah, but... I don't want it to sound like an excuse to drag you to my place, but I didn't bring them, I left them at home just in case, because if I lose them before they get to your hands I will fucking kill myself, no joke"

"'Them'?"

"Yeah, it's a pair of... things"

"Wow. I'm intrigued..."

Richie glared nervously at the opposite side of the table, where Stan, Bill and Mike were still immersed in their chat.

"You could help me take my equipment back to my place, if you want, and then I could give you your present"

"Sounds like a bribe" Eddie joked, but deep down his heart, he was willing to cling for dear life onto that offer for Richie to finally take him to his place. He only had one beer that night, so his drunkness wouldn't be an issue.

"Well, I could give them to you some other time, if it's such a hassle..."

"No, no - Eddie rushed to interrupt him - I'll help you with your stuff. I won't be able to deal with my anxiousness, I know me"

After the last band wrapped up their performance and left the stage, and the DJ began to play the usual ambient music, Eddie started to grow impatient. Of course he had enjoyed his birthday celebration, in fact, it had been the best birthday of his life so far; it was the idea of leaving with Richie what kept poping up in his mind over and over, messing up with his thoughts. Around 1 AM, Bill suggested to hop to another bar, which happened to be a few blocks away from there, and that also had games and arcade machines in it.

"I'd love to go with you, guys, but I, uh... I... - Beverly excused herself, blushing so intensely her cheeks turned as red as her hair - I'm going to wait for Ben to end his shift. Don't hate me, please..."

"Oh, I see" Stan smirked mischievously.

"Should I feel bad? That guy stole my girlfriend - Bill joked with a pout, looking at Ben behind the bar counter through the distance - Although I wouldn't mind if he stole me, as well, damn..."

"What the fuck, William? You need a cold shower ASAP" Mike laughed, shaking his head.

"I can't make it either, guys - Richie added, scratching his nose - I have to take my shit back home, you know, my sound equipment and stuff"

"Do you need help with that?"

"No, no, actually - Richie hooked an arm around Eddie's neck and grinned with teeth - Edward offered himself to help me already, so I think we will be good with his big strong arms"

"Alright - Stanley raised his eyebrows with a tiny smile on his lips - Well, I guess it's gonna be the three of us only, guys"

"I'm okay with that, totally" Bill accepted, wrapping both of his arms around Stan's and Mike's shoulders.

"Well, Eds - Richie spoke directly at him, lowering his voice - Are you ready to do some excercise? We'll have to carry some heavy shit, I'm telling you"

Eddie could have sworn Richie stroked the skin of his neck softly with his index just once. Whether it had been real of a mere product of his imagination, Eddie shivered helplessly under his touch.

"Yeah, I'm ready"

-----

Richie didn't lie about the equipment being heavy. By the time he and Eddie managed to stuff all of it in the tiny elevator at Richie's building, Eddie was already flushed and sweating.

"What the fuck, man, how did you even manage to get all this stuff to the bar in the first place?"

"Dan came by and helped me out a bit before heading to Bill's. I don't think he's a bitch, by the way, he's actually the coolest guy ever. What I said on stage was a joke"

"Yeah, I know - Eddie exhaled, wiping his forehead - You really do know how to entertain an audience, huh?"

"I just did my thing, you know... Talk shit, and make people laugh"

"Richie... how are we gonna get in there - Eddie interrupted him, pointing at the elevator, completely crammed - Someone needs to get in there to make it go up to the sixth floor"

"Oh, shit, that's true..."

"We could take the other elevator and call this one from up there?"

"Good idea"

The worst part wasn't over yet, since they still had to take all the equipment out of the elevator at the sixth floor, and drag it into Richie's apartment piece by piece. Eddie's arms were sore and trembly after finishing with the task.

"It's a good excercise for your biceps, Eds. Take it that way"

"Fuck... you" Eddie panted, letting himself drop completely limp on the loveseat.

"I'm just kidding, don't get all pissy. Thanks for your help, really - Richie glared at him with sparkly eyes with his arms akimbo - Well... I think it's time to finally give you your birthday present"

Suddenly remembering the original purpose of his visit, Eddie stood up anxiously as Richie walked past the white shelf, heading to one of his bedside tables. After a quick search in the drawer, he emerged back with a white envelope in his hands, biting his lip.

"Here"

Eddie took it and opened with shaky hands. There, inside the envelope, were two concert tickets.

DAVID BOWIE
A BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
THURSDAY JANUARY 9. 1997. 8:00PM

"Richie - he breathed out, although this time it had nothing to do with physical exhaustion - What...? Holy fucking shit. Are these real tickets...? To see Bowie? David Bowie!? Oh my God, what the fuck..."

"Yup! I bought them from a reliable source... I normally never do this, but... See, when you told me you never attended to a concert before... I felt so bad, you know? Like, shit, going to concerts is such an amazing experience, especially if it's an artist or a band you dig. I, myself, have the habit of saving money to attend to at least one concert a year, but this year honestly sucked so far, no concerts that interested me, whatsoever. When I found out that Bowie was playing at the Madison Square Garden with Robert Smith and Lou Reed as special guests I was like 'holy shit, Eddie needs to fucking go' so... - he wringed his hands nervously - I got you two tickets, so you can go with whoever you want"

"Richie..."

Eddie couldn't stop his hands, and his whole body actually, from trembling with excitement, joy, and a thousand more overwhelmingly positive emotions. In two months, he would be attending to his first concert ever, at the Madison Square Garden, to see none other than David Bowie himself.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, Richie, I can't.. I don't even know what to say. I'm so... I don't know. Shit. This has been the best birthday ever..."

Richie smiled tenderly at him.

"I'm so glad to know that, Eds. I want you to be happy, always"

"Richie?"

"Yup?"

"I want to go to this concert with you" Eddie stated shyly, holding the envelope against his chest.

Richie opened his eyes wide and gulped.

"Are you... are you sure? Wouldn't you rather go with Stan, or...?"

"I wanna go with you - Eddie repeated, more firmly - If you want"

"You know that means you'll have to stick around for at least two more months, no?"

"I'm fully aware. As long as you don't fuck it up again, we will be cool, I think..."

"I won't fuck it up - Richie assured, walking towards Eddie and placing his hands on his waist - And of course, I accept the proposition... I just didn't want you to feel pressured to ask me to go with you. And damn, it's David Bowie, I mean..."

"Wait, wait a second - Eddie cut him short - How the fuck are we going to get to the Madison Square Garden?"

"By car, duh?"

"I know, dumbass, but that's, like, a whole four or five hour car ride!"

"Yeah, so? Who gives a fuck, Eddie? We're going to see David fucking Bowie, for fucks sake! I'd drive across the whole goddamn country if it was necessary. We are totally doing this, don't worry. I got your back, always..."

After sharing a quick, tender kiss and a hug, Richie cleared his throat and let go of Eddie's waist, reaching for his jacket.

"Alright, Eds. Thanks again for helping me out with all my shit. Also, I'm happy as fuck you loved my gift! That's exactly what I wanted... I'll drive you back to campus, come on"

Eddie stood froze in his spot.

"Eds?" Richie called, turning around when he realized Eddie wasn't following him.

"Richie..."

"Tell me, baby, what's up?"

"I want to spend the night here"

"Oh - Richie rubbed his palms on his jeans. It seemed to be that Eddie caught him off guard - Oh, alright, sure, uhm... you can spend the night here... I'll drive you back to campus in the mor-"

"Richie?" Eddie called again, feeling his mouth dry.

"Tell me"

Eddie took a long, deep breath, and held it in for a few seconds. The way Richie stared at him, confused, with his eyes glistening and his cheeks still flushed after the physical effort it took them to carry his equipment around, made his insides churn, and his heartbeat thump loudly in his ears.

"I want to do it"

Richie tilted his head, furrowing his brow.

"What...?"

"I want to do it, Richie. Tonight. I'm... I'm ready"

Chapter Text

Richie didn't react immediately; his eyes wandered all across the room, as if waiting for some kind of reassuring echo, before finally landing back on Eddie. His Adam's apple bobbed up and down in his throat.

"A-Are you serious?" was all he could blurt out.

"I'm serious - Eddie took another deep breath, and continued - I've been thinking about it for several days, and..."

"I don't want you to feel pressured because of my..."

"I don't feel pressured, Richard. Are you even listening? I just told you, I've been thinking about it for a few days now. I actually want to thank you, because you've been really nice about this whole 'first time' thing. I truly, never, felt pressured by you, in any way"

"Well, I know it's a big deal to you, and I also know that I'm a horny bastard sometimes. But I could never live with the idea of you giving in to do it without actually wanting to, or without feeling ready enough, or... - Richie swallowed - That would be so fucked up, on many levels. Sort of the fucked up things I don't want anymore"

Eddie stared at his feet for a moment, recalling with a heart-wrenching feeling the days after the big quarrel, when he believed with the most blind certainty that Richie's aim was to take advantage of him, both emotionally and sexually. Those days seemed far away now, yet he still felt somewhat guilty, for not trusting Richie, on the one hand, and for not allowing himself to trust, on the other hand. Each one of them carried their own burdens, their own past, their own fears. And yet there they were, despite of how different they could be from one another, coincidentally matching in space and time, wrecking down together the last remaining debris from what was once a tall, wide wall dividing them, not allowing to see or touch each other in the fullness of their beings. It was time to come to terms with the fact that he indeed loved Richie. Three simple yet complex words that were bouncing on the tip of his tongue, eager to be said out loud.
Richie finally walked away from the door, reaching the spot where Eddie was still standing immobile. Raising a hand, he let his fingers ghost all over Eddie's face, tracing the lines of his cheek, his jaw, and finally his lips. The touch was soft and so soothing, it caused Eddie to shut his eyes almost instantly, focused on feeling Richie through every nerve underneath his skin. Even with his eyes closed, Eddie could still envision him doing the lip-biting ict, before leaning in to press their mouths together. A mix between the anxiousness for what was going to happen, and the tranquilizing feeling of it happening with Richie took over Eddie, as Richie ran his hands up and down his back, eventually sneaking under his shirt. Eddie couldn't put up any resistance. With every piece of garment falling sloppily on the floor, he felt like both of their souls were stripping as well. It was going to happen, there, that night, with him, just like he had dreamed of.

"Hey, hey - Eddie suddenly broke the kiss, right before Richie could finish unbuttoning his trousers - Do you want to... Perhaps... Take a shower, or...? I mean, not doing it in the shower, but I'm kinda sweaty, and I know myself, I won't be comfortable if..."

"We can do whatever you want, Eds - Richie assured, cupping his face with both hands - If you feel more comfortable with us taking a shower first, then we'll take a shower first. Is that what you want?"

"To be honest, yeah"

"Alright - Richie held his hand and nodded towards the bathroom - Come on"

Eddie knew it was sort of absurd at that point, aware of what was about to come, but he couldn't stop deeming everything he did with Richie as the most intimate and sensual experience in his life so far. After stripping off the rest of their clothes and stepping in the shower, all he wanted to do was let himself go, wrapping his arms around Richie's neck, allowing him to run his hands all over his body, over and over. Knowing that they weren't going to stop, and that he didn't want to stop this time either, Eddie could not think of a reason to stop kissing Richie at all, except for those few moments when he accidentally snorted or swallowed a bit of water from the shower stream, causing both of them to burst into little giggles. He didn't even have to worry about slipping and falling; whenever they switched the position of the embrace, Richie would hold him tightly against his own body or against the tiles on the wall, applying all of his strenght to keep him safe in place. It soon became obvious that keeping on with the kissing session would inevitably end in some kind of sexual activity in the spot, since they were both unmistakably turned on. They agreed on proceeding to actually clean themselves (which was, after all, the original plan), helping each other and joking around a bit, attempting to keep the remaining tension on hold for a little longer.
After drying themselves up completely, and putting only their underwear back on, Eddie knew that there were no more delays left for what was meant to happen. Even after Richie accepted his request of leaving only one dim light on, he could feel his ears burning, his stomach writhing and his mouth dry, as Richie led him by the hand past the white shelf (where all the loose papers, books and notebooks usually stuffed in there seemed to have been finally tidied and organized, Eddie observed with surprise). The dryness in his mouth was distressing him at the point he had to ask urgently for a glass of water.

"Well, uhm - Richie started with a trembly voice, after Eddie left the emptied glass on the table and sat on the edge of the bed, looking up at him expectantly - Shit. What the fuck... Kinda feels like my first time, too"

Eddie chuckled at the sight of Riche getting coy and jittery all of the sudden, not knowing well how to start off the whole process that was about to take place for some reason.

"Okay. First off, I'll leave the stuff we're going to need right here - he finally seemed to get back in track, opening the drawer of his bedside table and pulling out a box of condoms and a little bottle of lube after a quick search - Are you sure you wanna... You know..."

"What?" Eddie asked, tilting his head to the side.

"I mean - Richie sighed heavily - If you sure want to... bottom?"

"Oh. Well, yeah, I mean, that's how I imagined it would be, and how I want it to be"

"Okay, okay. Cool, then... Well, let's see... Have you ever...? Like... Touched yourself down there? Or put something in...? Like a dildo, or anything like that?"

"No, I haven't - Eddie replied sincerely - I never dared to... I mean, I tried to, but..."

"It's okay, don't sweat it - Richie waved a hand, trying to dismiss his worry - The thing is... You can't just go and put whatever in there as it is, with no prep, because it will most likely hurt like shit"

"Understood" Eddie nodded, storaging and organizing all the information in his brain as quickly as he could as Richie explained the whole protocol.

"I'll do that with my fingers for a start, and lots of lube, that's fundamental always, whatever you put in there... Once you can take at least three fingers, we can move on with... You know. I will try to... uh..."

"Where's the trashmouth I know so well? - Eddie interrupted his babbling with a playful grin - Stop beating around the bush, Rich, just say it as it is"

Richie laughed nervously and rubbed his eyes, dragging his cheeks down and pulling a funny face for a second.

"Don't do this to me, please... I'm trying to tone myself down... You have no idea how much I've dreamed of this moment"

"Just say it - Eddie urged him - 'Once you can take at least three fingers', what?"

Still not wrapping up the sentence, Richie stepped forward and stood in between Eddie's knees, leaning in to kiss him gently on the lips with his eyes closed. Eddie tilted his head back, immediately sliding backwards onto the bed until he was able to rest his head on a pillow, followed by Richie crawling on top of him. He could see his dark eyes snapping open again, sparkling viciously right above his face when he spoke again.

"Once you can take at least three fingers..."

"Hmm?"

"I'll stick my cock in your cute little asshole, and make you cry out my name"

Eddie sensed with a jolt of pleasure how his own erection throbbed in response to Richie's words almost instantly, as a sharp moan escaped through his lips. What had started as a tender kiss at first quickly turned into a passionte making out, witht their hips thrusting back and forth and rubbing against the other rhytmically.

"You're so fucking cute, Eds. So fucking cute"

It seemed to be that Richie's intention was to prolong the foreplay as much as he could; the problem was, Eddie was growing impatient more and more as his arousal shot up to sky-high levels. Still he knew that the purpose of foreplay was to precisely make the sexual encounter more pleasant and easy-going for the partakers; he knew that Richie's aim was to make the experience the most enjoyable for him, which Eddie sincerely appreciated. The kissing alone, accompanied by the constant friction between their crotches was enough for him to start oozing precum: the idea of climaxing before the foreplay had even ended terrified him.

"Rich - Eddie breathed out - Rich. Please..."

"What is it, baby?" Richie hissed, desperately attempting to re-join his lips with Eddie's.

"When will you...?"

"Shh... - Richie chewed Eddie's lower lip and sucked it in with a loud slurp, causing his cock to throb again - I'll get you off first, it will feel much better for you once you had come, I promise"

For sure Eddie's intention wasn't to come off as a horny wanker when he pulled from Richie's curls and pushed his head down to his crotch. To his surprise, Richie simply let himself be dragged, smiling up at Eddie once his face hovered over his prominent bulge, tugging the fabric of his briefs underneath a big wet patch.

"Then suck my dick, come on. Please" Eddie begged, softening his voice as much as he could, to even out with the rather aggresive impulse with which he pushed Richie's head down.

"Can't say 'no' to that, Eds"

Less than two minutes in from the very first moment Richie cupped his hand around Eddie's cock and proceeded to take it into his mouth, suckling on it with the most devoted enthusiasm, and it was over for Eddie. He felt a tad embarrassed for having climaxed so quickly, but if it hadn't been for his constant attempting to delay it by thinking of ugly, disgusting things, it would've probably happened even quicker. For sure Richie knew what he was doing.

"Did I suck you off good, baby?" Richie inquired, after swallowing and wiping his mouth, crawling over Eddie back to his original position.

"Yeah... - Eddie exhaled, partially back to his senses - Thank you"

"The pleasure is mine - he grinned - Well, I think we might be ready to start off with your prepping now that you're more relaxed, if you still want to do this..."

"Yes! - Eddie assured immediately - Yes, I want to"

"Awesome"

Stretching out an arm, Richie managed to grab both the box of condoms and the bottle of lube together in only one attempt. Eddie stared with curiosity at his every movement, how he handled each one of the items, with which he was obviously more familiarized than himself. A sudden worry seized him while he saw Richie pulling out the pack of condoms from its box.

"Will you put one of those in your fingers?"

"Eddie, these go on my peepee" Richie chuckled, shaking the pack and cocking an eyebrow.

"I know that, you dipshit - Eddie spat, irritated - What I'm trying to say is that I want you to put one in your fingers to... prep me. You know, that place is full of bacteria, I think it's the safest for both of us if your fingers don't touch directly in there"

"Well, makes sense - Richie shrugged, after reflecting on Eddie's petition for a second - I'll do it if it makes you feel more comfortable"

"It does"

"Gotcha"

Raising up on his knees, Richie took one of his pillows and commanded Eddie to lift his hips up in the air a bit, so to place the pillow right underneath for support. He explained Eddie that with his hips set slightly upwards, at least in that position, it would all be easier and less painful for him.

"Spread your legs for me, baby - Richie ordered then with a husky voice, kneeling in between Eddie's legs and gently pushing his thighs to the sides, manhandling his hips up so to expose his rear more - There you go... You're such a good boy for me, aren't you?"

Eddie clenched his eyes while the heat rose up to his head, feeling now completely exposed in a way no one had ever seen him before. His whole body shook when the first stream of cold gooey lube landed on the sensitive skin around his entrance.

"Shit, fuck! - he hissed - That shit's fucking cold"

"Yeah, sorry about that... - Richie apologized, unrolling a condom and sticking his already lubed middle finger in it - I should look for a warm effect lube next time. Make sure I remember to write it down on a post-it later"

"Noted" Eddie breathed out, feeling his heart racing up.

Richie positioned himself briefly back on top of Eddie only to give him one tender, chewy and slobbery kiss, before crawling back to the spot between his spread thighs. Eddie let out a loud gasp at the first touch of Richie's finger, circling and teasing around the puckered skin. It felt strange, a bit tickly, but certainly not unpleasant.

"Are you okay, baby? If you want me to stop, just let me know, okay? We can stop whenever you feel like it"

"I'm good - Eddie assured, both to Richie and to himself - Keep going, please"

The first finger was, put in perspective, the toughest one for Eddie to bear with, since the sensation of something going in there was new and absolutely foreign to him, and the thought of that particular part of the human body being rather unhygienic somewhat bugged him. Even though, he knew that there was no other option to prep him at the moment, and that he would have to eventually overcome his reticence to explore it by himself by the time they started to sleep together regularly. Once Richie bidded him to breathe in and out deeply several times, Eddie could finally relax his muscles enough to allow him to start thrusting and circling his finger inside of him. He didn't seem to have any type of rush, asking Eddie every once in a while how he felt, if he wanted to keep going, and so on. After the pointer finger joined the middle finger inside of the condom a few minutes later, Eddie found that his body reacted more welcoming to it, relaxing almost immediately after the first jolt of tension. It was when Richie hooked his fingers pressing slightly upwards that he felt a mindblowing wave of pleasure, as if another orgasm was already building up in his groin. Unable to hold back a loud whimper, Eddie pressed his palm against his mouth, and Richie smirked at him with a bit of self complacency.

"Holy fuck, what the fuck was that...?"

"I think I've found your spot, Eddie-baby. That's a good thing"

There was no way Eddie could envision what exactly Richie's view was at the moment he inserted his ring finger alongside with the other two. From what he could gather from the feral twinkling in his eyes, it was probably nothing disgusting, more like completely the opposite. That thought tranquilized him, because it was more than clear that Richie still desired him, every bit of his self.

"I think... - Richie murmured, shoving and spreading his fingers evero so slowly - I think you're ready to take me, my love. What do you think?"

"What do you think? - Eddie retorted, his voice sounded unusually deep - You're the expert here"

"I am no expert, at all. But by the looks of it... - he leaned slightly back and glared at the stretched entrance, biting his lip - I think you are"

"Good, great. Okay, then"

The feeling at being emptied all of the sudden after Richie removed his fingers somehow upset Eddie. A desperate urge to be filled again took over his senses, despite of seeing Richie already unrolling a new condom on his cock, after stroking it a few times to get it completely erected again. He deemed unnecessary for him to be taking so long while pouring a generous amount of lube, smearing it all over his length.

"Come on..." Eddie urged, almost unconsciously.

"Shh - Richie hissed again, hovering over Eddie and rubbing the pad of his lubed thumb around his entrance one last time - Relax, baby. Now hold your knees up in the air a bit... like that. There you go. Fuck, you are so beautiful... You've been so good to me so far, such a good boy..."

The initial pressure of the taut head slowly pushing its way inside of him caused Eddie to squirm and moan both in pain and pleasure, nailing his fingers on Richie's shoulders as he kept on shoving it in slowly, stopping to wipe strains of hair off his face every once in a while.

"Fuck, you're so fucking tight..."

"Sorry" Eddie panted, completely flushed, misunderstanding Richie's statement as a reprimand to him for not being relaxed enough.

"Feels so fucking good, baby. Take a deep breath. I'm halfway in already... do you think you can handle all of my cock in that pretty ass of yours?"

It was mandatory for Richie to eventually realize that, as an over achiever, defying Eddie's skills on whatever the subject was would irredeemably make him want to do it even more, and even better. Perhaps Richie already knew that, just as he knew that his dirty talk made Eddie go absolutely insane.

"I want all of it inside of me, please"

As for Eddie, he also should have guessed that three of Richie's boney fingers were not even close to emulate the width of his penis when fully erected. When the whole shaft finally fit inside of him, stretching him and pinning him on the mattress, he trashed his head to the side and bit on the pillow to try and suffocate the sharp whine that tore his throat.

"Are you okay? - Richie asked concerned, looking for Eddie's eyes with his own - Does it hurt too much?"

"It hurts - Eddie cried out, wriggling yet trying the best he could to relax his body - But feels good... Your cock feels so good inside of me, Rich"

Letting out a low groan and an almost inaudible "fuck", Richie began to thrust in and out, following a calm but steady pace, allowing Eddie to accommodate and get used to every movement. Soon Eddie's whimpers evolved into deep, pleasure moans, as Richie gradually sped up the rhythm of his ramming, propping himself up on one forearm, while his other hand reached down to stroke Eddie's cock every once in a while, mimicking the exact same pace of his thrusting. It still hurt a bit, but the mindblowing pleasure that made his toes curl certainly overshadowed it as his body got used to being possessed by Richie. Nothing else could be heard then, except for their breathings, their whimpering, and the embarrasingly hot (to Eddie, at least) sound of skin slapping on skin. Nothing else, except...

"I love you" Eddie suddenly blurted, feeling once again that voice that came from deep within, betraying him yet freeing him at the same time.

"What...?" Richie slowed his pace and fixed his eyes on Eddie's, incredulous. He had to make sure if he had heard that right.

Eddie gulped and stuttered before repeating his statement: there was no turning back, not now. Saying it out loud was the last obstacle he had to tackle down, and he had finally done it. It was frightening, but it was real; it was himself reaffirming a part of his identity he had been struggling with since his teenage years.

"I said I love you"

Richie kept the surprised look in his eyes for about ten more seconds, before pulling the lip-biting ict, visibly moved. His voice sounded a bit cracked when he replied.

"I love you too, Eddie. I love you with all my heart"

After a quick, sweet kiss, there was nothing left to do but resuming what was meant to be done, to give Eddie's official "first time" a proper wrap up, being even more meaningful since it was also their first time together. As Richie's thrusts became quicker and more erratic, Eddie held onto his neck for support and proceeded to rock his hips back and forth, accompanying his movements and forcing Richie deeper and harder inside of him. He was determined to make him come hard, by showing him how much he was enjoying the whole love-making session he had waited for so long.

"I'm yours, completely yours - Eddie cooed, tickling his own acute fondness for intimacy and hoping it would have the same effect on Richie - You're fucking me so good..."

Richie clenched his eyes and winced, followed by stiffled groan and a last deep thrust as he reached his orgasm. Eddie could sense with a bit of discomfort how his cock jerked several times, tugging him from the inside while releasing its load into the condom. He was once again tackled down by the same strange feeling of emptiness he had experienced before, when Richie pulled out almost immediately after. With his senses overflowed and sensitive, he could also hear his ragged breathing and the sound of his spit going up and down his throat when Richie collapsed limply on top of him, burying his face in the nook of his neck and his shoulder.

It had finally happened.

"Fuck... So good - Richie exhaled, more calmly after a few seconds, coming down from the high of his orgasm - You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm great - Eddie grinned briefly, wiping the sweat off his forehead and fondling Richie's cheek with the tip of his fingers - What about you?"

"Never been better, swear - Richie pondered for a few seconds before continuing - Was it how you imagined it would be?"

"Uh... That's a tricky question... I've imagined many things"

"You're right, yeah. That was a dumb ass question, in fact. Let's just go with 'have you enjoyed it?'"

"A lot"

Richie shifted backwards and rested his cheek on the pillow, staring in rapt at Eddie's profile for a while, his eyes going up and down the bridge of his nose and occasionally jumping straight down to his lips, only to jump back to the tip of his freckled nose, making all the way up to his brow again. He felt satisfied, and despite of how corny it could have sounded like, full of love.

"Eds?" he called, after a brief moment of silence.

"Yep?"

"Would you be my boyfriend?"

Chapter Text

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"

Chapter Text

It was a great relief for Eddie to get his midterms results back that week, finally confirming his suspicions that he had actually done pretty well in all of them. Much to his joy, Stanley got good grades in his exams too; it made sense, given the intensity and the constancy of their prior studying sessions, like the ones they have been accostumed to since high school. There were a few weeks to go until finals and the end of the semester, but the pressure of keeping up par with his first successful performance at college examinations started to weigh on Eddie rather quickly, much to his regret. Still, things seemed to be a bit different from his perspective now, since he knew that he was perfectly capable of doing it just right: he had just proved that to himself, despite of his acquired and (sometimes irrational) constant fear of failing. Asides from that renewed boost of self-confidence, his reconciliation with Richie for sure had raised up his spirits; not only was he a good company to share a laugh with, but also a great supporter, both academically and emotionally, as Eddie got to confirm the more they spent together the next couple of weeks. He wouldn't hesitate to advice Eddie in academical matters from his experience as a sophomore, even if their majors had pretty much nothing in common, just as he would always hype him up whenever the heavy load of handling two careers at the same time weighed a bit too much on his shoulders.
There were other relevant events going on in their lives, asides from college matters. Exactly one week after Eddie's birthday, Richie announced that he had finally appointed a first date with a new therapist, which made Eddie feel sincerely thrilled and happy. Looking back at the way Richie openly dared to show his affection and care for him from the very beginning of their relationship, aware now of all the things he had went through his childhood and later on, showed Eddie not only his strenght and will to seek the good through the bad: it also showed him what kind of person Richie was, despite of everything. Even if Eddie had a way with words, which wasn't exactly the case, he still wouldn't have been able to manifest how much he looked up to him. He also knew well that Richie would reprimand him for belittling his own experiences, for the slight prick of shame he felt whenever he thought about the fact that he had been willingly hiding behind a shield of invisibility most of his life. But just as Richie had said once, there isn't only one certain way to live through the fear, despite of how different the enviroments they came from were: surviving through those fears, living through the hate, it was all enough proof of strenght and willpower; it took Eddie a while to recognize his own, and the toughest but most comforting thing: being proud of it.
Most likely related to the course of the recent events, the urge of letting others know about his relationship with Richie gradually started to tickle Eddie's brain. He knew there were people out there who would probably yell expletives at them if they ever dared to hold hands walking down the street, and even worse if they felt brave (and stupid) enough. Being the university campus a relatively "safer" enviroment than the outside world, Eddie considered it a reasonable place to finally start fantasizing in a tangible way about doing those things that all the other couples normally do. A small, yet huge step in his own terms.
So far, everything seemed to run smoothly in their relationship having past the reconciliation. A couple days a week, Eddie would walk downtown right on time to catch Richie ending his shift at the video store, with the promise of perhaps having dinner out, what they would in fact do some days, whenever they didn't end up in Richie's apartment having sex either on his bed or the couch (or wherever they landed on right after stripping each other's clothes) until past midnight. At certain point, considering the effort it was for Richie to drive him back to campus at such late hours that often, Eddie decided it was the reasonable thing to do to start asking Richie to spend the night at his dorm too, even if that meant quiet sex or no sex at all. Even though neither Eddie or Richie suggested or asked for it, Stanley still managed to give them a couple nights all by themselves by sleeping at Bill's room, which was a sincerely welcomed gesture. Eddie enjoyed his intimate moments with Richie, especially once he overcame the initial awkwardness and shyness consequence of his lack of experience; but even when Stanley or Beverly were there, just by playing a video game, sharing a beer, watching a movie, and literally whatever they'd do together, Eddie cherished Richie's company immensely. Ever since the emotionally intense exchange at the church, when both of their hearts once again poured all over the other, Eddie felt surer and surer of his feelings as days went on, and of how he wanted to be brave enough to stand for them, step by step, but steadily.

"Have you used this one already?"

"Huh?" Eddie tore his eyes from the video game on the TV screen and turned around to see Richie handling the photographic camera Stanley had given to him on his birthday.

"The camera. I mean, have you snapped some pictures already?"

"Oh, no. I haven't had the chance, really..."

It was one of those nights when Stanley had conveniently left to stay at Bill's dorm. Thanksgiving Break would start on Thursday that week, yet neither of them had plans set for it so far, though Eddie suspected that Stan would probably drive to Lasell to spend the weekend with Patricia. As for Richie, he simply declared that he was feeling too lazy to drive all the way up to Maine, and that a simple a phone call would surely do to his parents content. On his side, visiting Franklin was completely out of the question for Eddie: for one time, he was happy he still didn't own a car himself, since having Stanley driving to a different destination served well enough to excuse himself from visiting his mother and, quite possibly, reuniting with her equally bigoted sisters and their children at the Thanksgiving dinner.

"Bullshit. Come on, let's take some pictures"

"What? - Eddie opened his eyes wide - You mean, right now?"

"Yeah, why the fuck not?"

"I... I don't know. I mean, we're literally doing nothing special"

"Wanna save the film for Disneyland or...?"

"Fuck you"

"Dude, chill. It's not a big deal. I'll get you a new film roll, if that's the issue, there's a Kodak store like, two blocks away from my place. I just... I guess I just want to have a picture with you - Richie's voice cracked a bit, almost imperceptibly - Even if we're not at Disneyland. But we might be someday, though, who knows"

"Wow, uhm... - Eddie scratched his forehead and paused the video game for good, cursing himself on the inside for not having agreed with such a simple and well intended request right away - I mean, sure, let's do it. Have you thought of what kind of picture do you want us to take?"

"Yeah, but don't worry, we don't need to take our pants off. Unless you want the developer guy at Kodak to see your dick, which I'd perfectly understand, yet not recommend"

"Beep beep, Richie"

"Let's just say... you know... a, uh, normal picture...? Just us two, and our pretty faces"

"Okay, fine"

What had started as a series of the usual college pictures any student would normally pin up on a cork board at their dorm under a "My Friends" sign soon evolved into pure goofiness, with both of them taking turns to snap pictures of the other simply fooling around the room and laughing. Those were the kind of pictures Eddie never had of himself, and the fact that it was Richie taking them made it all even better, because this time, for a change, the joy behind his smile was real. The camera was in his hands when the film roll reached its end, and after letting out a deep sigh, he helped Richie to stand up from the spot on the floor where he had landed after Eddie pushed him off his bed.

"No more pictures tonight, I guess?"

"Wait, I think Stan got me a couple of extra film rolls..."

"Don't worry, Eds - Richie shook his head, sitting on the mattress - I think we got a few good takes. Save those films for the trip to Chicago. Oh, and don't forget the concert"

"Alright..."

Eddie left the camera on his desk, and when he looked back at Richie, he was sipping on the straw of his apple juice box, striking an intended to be sensual yet overly theatrical pose at the realization of Eddie's eyes on him.

"You're absolutely ridiculous"

"I know, Eds. But you love me, so that makes you equally ridiculous"

"I agree - Eddie chuckled, before nodding towards the juice box Richie was holding - No beer tonight, I suppose?"

"I'm trying not to drink as much as I used to. I mean, I'm not gonna cut it off completely, but... you know. Drinking socially, avoid it when it's not necessary... baby steps" Richie explained, adjusting his glasses nervously.

"I understand - Eddie sat on the bed beside him - It's a good thing. Actually, I believe it's more of a 'you' thing, rather than the alcohol itself"

"That's exactly what the therapist said - Richie opened his eyes exaggeratedly wide - Sure it's not you with mod make-up and a wig on?"

"You know, I need to pay those tuition fees somehow..."

They were seconds away from kissing when they heard a couple of shy knocks on the door. It was Stanley, who walked into the room with his eyes squeezed shut. Eddie instinctively shifted sligthly away from Richie, despite of the fact that literally nothing "incriminating" was going on between them.

"We're not butt naked fucking on your desk, Staniel, you can look"

Stanley opened his eyes and frowned, slightly amused.

"I sure do trust you won't have sex on any of my belongings"

"Promises, promises, Stanny"

"Anyway, I forgot my fucking toothbrush, let me just grab it and I'll leave you guys alone for good"

"Go ahead"

In the span of less than thirty seconds, Stanley sneaked into the bathroom and emerged back with the pearly white toothbrush clutched in his hand, and after a quick goodbye to Eddie and Richie, disappeared behind the door once again. There was a brief silence before Richie stretched lazily against the bedframe.

"So, who you think's gonna blow who? 'Cause they both give off a strong switch vibe in my opinion"

"What?" Eddie frowned, sitting more comfortably now that they were alone again, with his legs crossed on the mattress.

"I mean William and Stanley" Richie replied, rolling his eyes as if stating the obvious.

"What the fuck are you talking about? Stan is... he's not gay. He's got a girlfriend, you know that"

"So? I had a girlfriend too, so did Bill, big deal"

"I know Stanley, okay? He would never-"

"And I know Bill" Richie grinned playfully.

"So?"

"Come on, the guy is lovely. I mean, he's definitely not my type of fella, but he's good looking, and super nice..."

"Stanley isn't into guys - Eddie sentenced, dryly - End of the discussion"

"Wow, okay, Eds - Richie waved a hand as if asking to drop the subject, surprised to see how much it had upset Eddie - No need to get all pissy"

"You just happen to talk a lot of shit, Richard"

"I sure do. I guess I just need to keep my mouth busy on something"

They had been shifting closer to each other as they spoke, until their lips finally met. Nothing further from a few kisses had happened that night so far, not because Eddie didn't want to, but because it was one of those days where his level of self-confidence fluctuated pretty wildly, triggered by the slightest tickle to his perception.

"What is a 'switch'?" he finally gave in to the curiosity, breaking the kiss right before Richie sneaked his hands underneath is shirt. Richie stood froze for a second, confusedly blinking a few times before adressing the question.

"Well... a 'switch' is a person who likes to, uh, either give or receive while having sex, to put it into simple terms. Some people enjoy doing one or the other exclusively, but switches do according to their moods or the dynamics with their partners, they simply enjoy doing one or the other, even if there's one way they tend the most to, it doesn't matter"

"Oh - Eddie furrowed his brow, processing all the information he'd just got - And you're like that, then?"

"Uh, I don't know... Eds, are you sure you wanna talk about this right now?"

"Yes. I mean... There are so many things I still don't know about all this, and... I guess I don't want you to get bored of me, or something"

"What the fuck? - Richie shook his head energically - Don't ever think that. Never. I know well there are many things you still don't know, and there's nothing wrong with that. There are many things I still don't know either, most likely. Whatever you need to know theorically, just ask away. If I can give you the answer you're looking for, I will. As for the rest..."

"What you mean 'the rest'?"

"Well, I mean, the things you like..."

"Oh"

"The things you enjoy doing... And the things you enjoy having being done to you"

"And what about that?"

"We'll find them out together bit by bit, though I think I got a pretty good idea of what you like already"

"Is that so?" Eddie asked, distractedly tracing lines with his index all along Richie's thigh.

"You're horny, aren't you?" Richie inquired, cocking an eyebrow, following Eddie's finger before staring directly at his eyes.

"You've barely touched me since you arrived" Eddie protested, taking his hand away.

"You literally jumped over the console to play Mortal Kombat as soon as I stepped in this fucking room, give me a break"

"Yeah, well... - Eddie chugged - I don't know. Whatever"

"Edward - Richie shifted forward and cupped Eddie's face with both hands, speaking in a suspiciously serious tone - If you want dick, just ask for it. You know I won't say 'no' to that"

"Dude..."

"I'll take that as a 'no', I guess"

"No! I mean... I want to... you know"

"Blow my pipe?"

"DUDE!"

------

Just as Eddie had predicted it, Stanley left to Lasell that Thursday around 5 PM, after helping him with the dorm cleaning up. For some reason, a nostalgic feeling took over Eddie while he hugged Stan goodbye: he was on his way to visit his girlfriend, just as he had done several times before. This time, for a change, Eddie would receive his own partner as well. A bell rang in his mind, a sort of inner alarm getting him to the realization that they were, in fact, becoming adults, simply doing adult stuff. Deep inside, he was afraid he'd eventually grow apart from Stanley, yet he trusted with all of his heart that it wouldn't be the case. Richie dropped by right after ending his shift at work a few hours later, bringing a pizza and a movie for them to watch that night. It for sure helped Eddie to keep his mind away from gloomy thoughts about the end of his teenage years, at least for that night.

"Are you sure you don't mind coming here everytime, Rich?" he asked, unfolding the table and placing the pizza box on top of it.

"Of course I don't, why do you ask? Do you miss visiting my kingdom?"

"Sort of - Eddie shrugged - I like your apartment. It's obviously much better than a college dorm... plus, your bed's bigger than mine"

"That forces us to sleep closer to each other, kinda dig that"

"It's uncomfortable as shit, come on"

"Eddie, I'd sleep on a corn kernel if I had to as long as I get to spend the night with you. But I get what you mean. You can stay at my place on Saturday, what do you think? 'Cause I'll go out with Dan, Jimmy and Rebecca tomorrow, I hope you don't mind..."

"Of course, don't worry - Eddie assured, though he was honestly a bit sad he wouldn't see Richie the day after, aware at the same time that it wasn't healthy to expect him to be by his side every free second he had - We could go out on Saturday, or something"

"Sure! We can do whatever you want. We can go to the cinema or anything wintery like that. I mean, it's kinda cold for hiking..."

"I'll think of something - Eddie smiled briefly, glaring at Richie taking the VHS out of its box - Uhm, Rich?"

"Tell me, baby"

"I want to take the film roll to that store you mentioned, to get it developed"

"Oh, cool! I was about to ask you about that. Do you want me to take it there for you?"

"No, no. It's fine. I will do it, it's my camera after all. Also, I need to see those pictures first. I would die of embarrassment if you see the pictures first and then I discover that I look like shit in some of them"

"There's no way you'll look like shit in those pictures, Eds. You're pretty as shit. Most likely I'll be the one looking like a blind walrus in them, but hey, walruses are kind of cute, so I'm okay with it. Just let me know when you have them, and once they pass through your censorship, I'd like to keep one of us together, is that okay with you?"

"Yeah, of course. I'd like to keep one of us together, as well. Just pray I don't look ugly in any of th..."

"Eds, cut it already"

"Fine, I'm sorry. Anyway, I was planning on doing it tomorrow..."

"That'd be cool, they're open from 10 AM to 5 PM on Fridays if I'm not mistaken. They should have them ready before next Friday"

"How far is that from your place again?"

"Three blocks to the left from the corner before you walk past it, as if we were walking back from The Black Rose. It's literally a yellow store on a corner, you'll see it right away"

"Got it"

"You still wanna watch the movie, or...?" Richie asked, tapping on the empty plastic box he was still holding in his hand.

"Yeah, yeah, just put it in the fucking VCR"

Needless to say, they lost track of the film halfway through it. After years of self-repressing his urges, in which even something as simple as touching himself felt wrong to him, Eddie was finally free to experience all the things he ever got to imagine love and sexual pleasure involved, and even more. With the exception of that Friday, in which he spent the whole afternoon with Beverly, after stopping by the Kodak store in the morning, Eddie spent nearly every night of Thanksgiving Break with Richie. One of those nights, after dinner, a deep conversation took place at Richie's apartment, in which Richie opened up with Eddie about how unsettling and unsatisfying his first time (with a man) had been to him. Even without having gone into much detail, Eddie couldn't help to feel extremely lucky for having experienced his own first time with a person as caring as Richie was, because he understood it wasn't the norm, more like the opposite, in most cases.
It was a good thing that he didn't have to go to classes right away that next Monday, since the relative lack of sleep from the past few days had for sure taken a toll on him, which was confirmed by (a divided between concern and amusement) Stanley, who immediately pointed out the dark rings under Eddie's eyes as soon as he saw him at his arrival that Sunday night. In a quick yet smart attempt to make up for unwillingly embarrassing him, Stan reminded Eddie that he probably still had some concealer left from the neck bruises episode he could use again this time. It worked.

------

The nice middle-aged lady at the Kodak Store had given Eddie a tiny receipt that indicated the photos would be ready to be picked up on Friday, but since he couldn't make it on time that day because of his class schedule, he finally decided to go pick them up on Saturday, when the store would be open until 12:30. It all fell into place, since Richie would end up his work shift thirty minutes after, and the video store was relatively near from there. He was already waiting, tapping nervously on the yellow counter, looking around, while the lady looked for the paper envelope with his pictures with Richie in it. Literally most of the items, the decoration, everything in there was painted bright yellow with a bit of red here and there. It made sense, since those were the main colors of the brand, yet Eddie couldn't help to feel strange, somewhat hot, like standing inside of some sort of heated oven, despite of the chilly weather outside.

"Ah! Here it is"

After a quick inspection of what was inside, the woman finally handed Eddie the branded envelope, thickened with the photos storaged in it, and smiled tenderly at him.

"Thank you" Eddie replied, grinning back at her while he grasped the envelope with trembly fingers.

"You're welcome, dear. By the way, those are adorable photos of you and your friend"

Eddie could feel a thumping on his eardrums, like a thousand of bees trapped in his skull, buzzing and crashing against each other blindly.

Yes, of course. Me and my friend. Because there's no way in hell two men should share anything asides from a friendship.

"T-Thanks" Eddie murmured again. With clumsy hands, he storaged the envelope in the inside pocket of his jacket as quickly as he could, and then turned around, heading to the exit. His mouth felt desperately dry.

Me and my friend.

Eddie stopped with his hand on the doorknob, right after opening the door just a little bit. The cold breeze felt like a slap on his face, awakening him.

My friend.

"Actually - he turned around and smiled again at the lady behind the counter - he's not my friend. He's... He's my boyfriend"

My boyfriend.

"...Well, uh, have a nice day!" Eddie rushed to wrap up his statement before he could even get an answer in return, smiling one last time at the visibly shocked woman, almost trotting out of the store and closing the door behind him with a bit too much of energy.

My fucking boyfriend.

He wasn't sure of how many seconds, or even minutes, had passed since he stepped out of the store and started to walk, hyperventilating.

"Holy shit"