“Oh, fuck!” a distinctly female voice wails straight through Eddie’s wall as if it were made of cardboard.
“Harder! Right there – oh!” He can feel the shake of the bed frame next-door, reverberating through the floor, through the wall (again), until Eddie swears his own bed swims like there’s an earthquake. Unfortunately, the last time Eddie checked, he didn’t have a waterbed.
Eddie blinks, anything but amused, into a ceiling that offers him absolutely no reprieve from the commotion one door away. He briefly considers hopping out of bed and marching into the hall to pound on his neighbor’s door himself but then Eddie remembers two things.
One: his neighbor is Richie Tozier.
Two: Richie would probably open the door, grin like the absolute loon he is, and invite him for a three-way – which, no, absolutely not. Eddie is definitely, without a doubt, very gay, as he figured out once and for all when he was sixteen and saw Magic Mike for the first time, and has absolutely zero interest in the opposite sex.
(And Eddie definitely has zero interest in Richie or his dick).
“Fuck, Richie! Fuck me harder!”
Eddie is now glaring into the ceiling as his eyes slide from his fan whirring a million miles an hour, which unfortunately does very little to stifle the hullabaloo coming from next-door, to the offending wall in question. He hears another loud thump, the bed crashing into the wall again he assumes, and with a quiet, displeased groan of his own, he clutches either end of his pillow and pushes it over his ears.
This is going to be a long night.
The next morning, he spots Richie standing in line at the café located a block away from their apartment. Unlike Eddie, who is bearing dark circles the size of Russia under his eyes; he practically glows, bouncing from foot to foot, a ball of misdirected energy like he always is. Which is ridiculous the more Eddie thinks about it because the entire sky, including the goddamn sun, is covered in thick, dark gray clouds that stretch well beyond Eddie’s line of sight.
Richie sees him – of course he does because some deity has decided that Eddie cannot have nice things – and waves an unfairly long, gangly arm in greeting.
Eddie barely suppresses the urge to flip him the bird. Instead, he raises his nose, swivels on his heel, and heads to the rival café nearly a mile away, disregarding the fact that he’ll probably be drenched in sweat by the time he gets there.
First days of anything always leave Eddie as a bundle of nerves and so far, college has been no exception to that rule. Thankfully, Eddie is less than three months shy of twenty now, not eighteen and lost and nearly hyperventilating in the middle of campus because oh God, he’s lost, he’s going to be late and get kicked out of the class on the first day and then he’ll flunk right out of school and either be homeless or living with his mother again.
Luck is definitely not on his side when he settles into a seat in his Intro to Philosophy course. He doesn't sit too far in the front where the professor can see every little thing he’s doing or too far in the back where Eddie has to squint to see the board.
Before Eddie can so much as pull out his laptop, a body is sliding in right next to him. He swears he could recognize those holey jeans a mile away. The knobby knees are also a dead giveaway.
“Well, howdy, neighbor. Fancy seeing you here,” the voice of Eddie’s nightmares for the past four months drawls so close to his ear that he full-body shivers.
You have got to be kidding me, Eddie thinks through the storm brewing in his head.
Sure enough, when he looks up, Richie fucking Tozier is staring down at him through the lenses of a ridiculous (and equally obnoxious) pair of Ray-Bans. His normally unkempt mop has been gathered into a messy topknot on the crown of his head. Eddie resists the urge to scrounge up a pair of scissors and cut that heinous thing right off.
“Man, what are the odds?” Richie plunders on, completely oblivious, as he pulls out his own laptop which has probably endured soda, coffee, and booze being spilled on it. Multiple times.
(Eddie scrunches his nose when he notices the food particles trapped within his keyboard).
“Fucking abysmal,” Eddie says as he reluctantly resigns to his fate.
“Oh my God, it’s Tuesday,” Eddie groans when he hears that telltale squeak of the mattress next-door. He swipes a clammy palm over his face, inhaling sharply.
It’s Tuesday and Eddie has a huge test coming up that will probably determine whether or not he’ll suffer through the class or drop it altogether. Apparently, there are professors in the world that will throw mid-term level tests at an unsuspecting class at the end of September just because they can. Move over Darth Vader, Professor Kimbley has properly assumed the mantle of absolute worst human being alive thank you very much.
And in that same world exists Richie fucking Tozier who thinks three a.m. on a Tuesday is a great time to bring a random girl home. How can someone so easily forget that people have work – or class – early in the morning? At this point, Eddie can’t tell if Richie is just completely oblivious to the universe around him or if he’s just an asshole, plain and simple. Right now, Eddie would guess the latter.
However, before Eddie can properly freak out, silence settles in, warm and familiar. And this time, it actually lingers longer than thirty seconds. Eddie, like the naïve fool he is, mistakenly believes that maybe, just maybe, Richie had tripped on something, which had resulted in the sudden calamity, but then he hears it.
The bed creaks.
And that is definitely a moan he hears seeping through the wall.
Only, that voice definitely doesn’t belong to a girl.
The groan sounds like it’s been punched out of their chest, rising long and slow in their throat, vibrating through clenched teeth. Like they’re trying not to make a peep and not exactly succeeding.
The bed frame clatters against the shared wall again. Only, this time, Eddie is expecting it. He actually strains his ears to listen to Richie Trashmouth Tozier, his neighbor of four months, reluctant friend for three, having sex.
God, what has the world come to?
“You suck cock like a slut, Tozier. Holy shit.”
Yeah, definitely not a woman.
Eddie normally can’t hear dirty talk, thank heavens for small mercies, but whoever Richie’s flavor of the night is apparently doesn’t understand the concept of an inside voice. Or has thrown caution to the wind. Eddie would guess the latter at this point.
Regardless, the revelation still stands. Richie definitely brought a guy to his apartment.
And Eddie, well, he doesn’t know exactly how to process this information. Granted, Richie has joked about his sexual conquests, and everything in between, more times than Eddie can count, partially fueling Eddie’s theory that Richie is a perpetual twelve-year-old trapped in the body of a twenty-year-old man. But there’s a difference between a joke and the actual, unbridled truth. When Richie said he sucked dick like a champ, Eddie assumed he meant it as a figure of speech. He didn’t exactly know what it stood for at the time but then again, when has Richie Tozier ever made sense? Eddie had no way of knowing that Richie actually did…that.
Now that Eddie is thinking about that…
Eddie pushes that train of thought away before it can take form.
Richie Tozier represents everything Eddie despises: he’s loud, he’s obnoxious, and worst of all he’s messy. Nothing about his neighbor should be appealing in any way, shape, or form.
And nothing is, he decides as he burritos himself within his comforter, back facing the wall. Eddie doesn’t know how much time passes before the bed begins to squeak at a steady pace. He simply squeezes his eyes shut even harder and wishes for the sweet release of death.
(He barely sleeps a wink).
The next night, fifteen minutes to midnight, Richie brings home a girl whose squeals could rival Minnie Mouse.
“You look like a Mack truck ran you over,” Richie says as he takes a seat beside him the following afternoon, eyes searching Eddie’s face with what Eddie would dare to call concern. Eddie would feel comforted by Richie’s apparent compassion if it hadn’t been Richie’s fault that he was bone tired to begin with. Plus, accepting the idea of Richie being concerned about his wellbeing sort of feels like hugging a cactus.
“And then some,” Richie stupidly adds when Eddie just glares at him from the corner of his eye.
Eddie simply shifts around on his desk, face smushed against his folded forearms. He wishes he had more meat on him for there to be an iota of cushion but he supposes it’s better than sleeping directly on wood. He’ll probably get more shuteye during class than he will tonight.
Before he can even shut his eyes again, he feels something poke against his clothed shoulder. He doesn’t even have to lift his head to know that it’s Richie's bony finger. Instead of reading the room like a well-adjusted adult would, Richie simply prods at him again and again until Eddie groans between clenched teeth.
“What do you want, Richie?” he asks with as much charm as he can muster. Admittedly, it isn’t very much.
Richie, like the socially oblivious idiot he is, either doesn’t notice or overlooks it entirely. He leans into Eddie’s line of sight, propped on one elbow while his chin rests against the back of his hand. Eddie’s eyes linger a moment longer than necessary on Richie’s (figuratively and literally) large mouth.
“How’s the weather down there, Spaghetti?”
Eddie doesn’t have the energy to entertain him. Hell, he barely has the energy to stay conscious right now. “God, Richie, do you ever stop?”
Richie hums low in his throat. “Whaddya mean dahlin’?”
“This,” he says for a lack of a better word. He sighs through the gaps between his fingers. “Being a fucking menace to society.” Being annoying twenty-four hours a day, nonstop. Does Richie Tozier have an off button? And if he does, where the fuck is it? One very angry, very exhausted Eddie Kaspbrak would like to know.
“Doesn’t it get exhausting to be on all the time?” he spits out. His tongue tastes like salt and vinegar, and a little like fire. Is he overreacting? Probably. Eddie can’t bring himself to care at this point because as he’s insisted time and time again, entertaining Richie Tozier is an awful lot like babysitting a hyperactive preteen.
Richie just blinks at him, kind of like an owl. Slow and possibly puzzled. The shift in his demeanor is gradual but Eddie watches it unfold firsthand, how he pulls back deliberately, slumping in his seat with a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
The first thing he thinks is how wrong the image next to him looks. Richie, who could light up a room with his smile alone, looks more like Eeyore the downtrodden donkey. It also sort of reminds Eddie of trying to fit a square peg in a circular hole – it just doesn’t work.
Guilt fills his veins like it would do with any half-decent, empathetic adult. Because it’s not like Richie knows what he’s done. And maybe, if Eddie would stop pussyfooting around and address the problem head-on, it would be solved.
Maybe that’s what he should do.
“Christ, Richie, I’m sorry,” he says with a heavy sigh as he sits upright. His neck protests the movement almost immediately. “I’m just tired, that’s all.”
Richie lets out a little huff. “A tired Eddie Spaghetti is apparently a pissy one too.” He rakes a hand through his mess of curls, a grin ebbing at either side of his mouth. “No harm, no foul, pal. We all have those days.”
“I guess that’s one way of putting it,” he mutters.
“Why are you so beat anyway?” Richie asks him as he stretches his spine with an appreciative groan. He’s tall enough that his shoulders slide right over the top of his chair. Eddie thinks he looks more uncomfortable than anything else, trapped in a setting created for someone at least half-a-head shorter than him.
Eddie gives him the blandest stare he can manage. “Really?”
“What?” Richie sputters, arms raised. “It’s just a question, Eds.”
“How do you not know?”
Richie levels him with a blank stare.
“Oh my God, you really don’t know,” Eddie deduces aloud before he runs a clammy palm over the front of his face. He scrapes a cursory glance at their surroundings, ensuring that none of their classmates are paying them any mind. Thankfully, most of the seats in the row behind them are still vacant and the girls sitting in front of them have headphones in.
It’s now or never he supposes.
Thus, Eddie takes a deep breath.
“So,” he starts as Richie peers down at him expectantly. He’s sort of surprised he doesn’t break into a nervous sweat right then and there. “You know how you…you know.” And this is definitely not going the way Eddie meticulously planned in his head. It’s veering off course a lot like a car wreck would.
“I know what?” Richie echoes with thinly veiled amusement. “Come on, Eds, just spit it out. I can handle it. I’m a big boy.” Richie makes a show of patting his bicep which is mostly just a long length of bone with skin layered on top of it. As far as Eddie knows, Richie has never once stepped foot in a gym.
Eddie takes another breath.
Well, here goes nothing.
“I can’t sleep because you keep bringing people home,” he says all in one breath. It sort of blends together into a lengthy, singular word rather than anything remotely coherent. He hopes Richie caught the gist of it anyway so that he won’t have to repeat that mortifying sentence.
At first, Richie mostly just stares at him. And then, as if a light bulb goes off in his head, realization washes over his face.
“Oooh,” he says, drawing out the word for far longer than strictly necessary. And then his mouth stretches into a leer that nearly pulls from ear to ear. “Why Eds, my dear Eddie Spaghetti, the ketchup to my mustard, if you were lonely and looking for a good dicking–”
“Oh my God, Richie. No,” he says, raising one finger. “I just mean–” He groans again and hides his face in his hands, anything to stave off the embarrassment churning in his belly. “You’re loud, okay? It wakes me up.”
“Ah,” Richie says, a lot less dramatic than moments prior. When Eddie dares to sneak a peek in his direction, he finds Richie staring at him thoughtfully. Eddie swears he sees a flash of remorse flicker across his expression but it disappears at the speed of light.
“Whoops, sorry, Spagheds,” Richie tells him with a small shrug. Eddie would normally scold him for that weird mash up of a nickname, a monstrosity to humankind, but he notices something that makes him pause. Richie seems slightly sheepish but not quite embarrassed, teetering on that thin line in the middle.
“Sometimes, I sort of get lost in the passion of the moment, y’know?”
Not really, Eddie thinks but doesn’t say. Eddie isn’t a virgin by any means but his dating life, and everything that goes with it – including sex, sort of came to a standstill when he threw himself into his studies and got a job. Well, more like two part-time jobs that exhaust most of his free time. Adulting is not as fun as they make it sound in the movies.
“Well, get lost in the passion of the moment a little quieter next time. Okay?” Eddie proposes, more than ready to push this entirely humiliating conversation behind them.
“Aye-aye, Captain,” Richie replies with a half-hearted salute.
True to his word, Eddie doesn’t hear a peep from next-door for well over a week. And Eddie, simply put, is over the moon to actually get a good night’s rest again. He’s basically floating on cloud nine as he restocks the shelves the following Friday. He even smiles at his supervisor when he walks by.
He’s so lost in his own blissful little world that he doesn’t notice the shadow that settles right behind him or that the person in question clears their throat quite nosily. In fact, he doesn’t realize that he isn’t alone until he twists around on his heel to grab a box from a shelf overhead. He nearly bumps into the body next to him, jumping back on natural instinct alone. Unlike any graceful creature in the animal kingdom, Eddie practically trips over his own feet to avoid colliding directly with the adjacent shelf.
His saving grace comes in the form of a hand that reaches out to grab him by the wrist and steady him. When he looks up, a ‘thank you’ readied on his tongue, he stops short. To be more precise, he chokes on his own breath.
The person helping to hold him upright might as well be the tanned, sturdy surfer ripped straight out of sixteen-year-old Eddie Kaspbrak’s wet dreams. He is at least a full head taller than Eddie (maybe even taller than Richie) with dark brown hair that sweeps at a sharp angle over his right eyebrow. His eyes are a translucent shade of blue that remind Eddie mostly of the ocean.
“Careful there,” the man laughs, his voice so rich that Eddie swears he feels his bones itching with excitement.
“Shit, sorry,” he mostly breathes out as the guy drops his arm. “I didn’t see you there.” The chuckle that leaves his lips is a little too hoarse for his liking.
“Yeah, I figured,” the guys says. “I’m Luke.”
“Eddie,” he returns, still winded. In all honesty, Eddie’s brain is struggling to catch up to speed because there is a very hot guy talking to him of his own free will. This is not a drill. There is a hot guy chatting Eddie up in the snack aisle. Eddie conspicuously reaches around to pinch the skin of his arm and sure enough, even after the subtle sting, Luke is still very much there. In the flesh. In front of Eddie. His hand was on Eddie’s wrist less than five seconds ago.
What the fuck?
“Yeah, I, uh, know. You lived down the hall from me – last year,” Luke says, fingers shifting uneasily at his sides. “I don’t know if you remember me.”
He searches his memory but alas, nothing pops into his head. It must show on his face because Luke’s lips work into a deep-seated frown.
“Shit, sorry if this just got really awkward. I’m not a stalker, I swear.” Luke raises both hands as if the movement will make him seem smaller, less intimidating. Eddie mostly thinks it’s just really endearing, in the same way that teddy bears are irresistibly cute.
“Don’t worry,” Eddie reassures him without missing a beat. “I don’t think you are.”
Luke visibly calms, his nervous fidgeting coming to a halt.
“Good,” he essentially sighs, shoulders shifting with the word. “So, um, are you doing anything tomorrow?”
He tries to hold himself together. Play it cool, Eddie. You got this.
“No,” he answers with as straight of a face as he can manage. Such a feat is sort of difficult when he’s internally jumping for joy at the same time. “I am one hundred percent completely free.”
And there goes any pretense of playing it cool.
Good going, Kaspbrak.
Thankfully, Luke perks up at his answer. “Tomorrow night at seven sound good?”
“Y-Yeah.” Before Eddie can think to ask where they would even go, Luke is pulling something out of his pocket. He thrusts the device into Eddie’s unsuspecting hands. A cell phone.
“I’ll text you,” he promises as Eddie types in his contact information.
“Awesome,” Eddie says as he returns Luke’s cell phone. “I’ll be waiting.”
Eddie would care more about how cheesy he sounds if he wasn’t still patting himself on the back for snagging his first actual date, outside of Grindr, in nearly ten months.
(Who knows, maybe he’ll end up bringing Luke back to his apartment).
Luke does text him. In fact, there is a text is waiting for him when Eddie pulls out his cell phone on his way home from work. It may be a simple ‘hey’ but it’s still a number, from an extremely attractive guy who approached Eddie no less, and they are well on their way to making plans for tomorrow night.
Eddie has a date.
After Eddie checks to make sure there is no one around, he pumps a fist in the air. If there is a nirvana floating above cloud nine, Eddie has certainly reached it. A part of him still can’t believe this isn’t a dream and is waiting to wake up. Yet, when tomorrow rolls around and he checks his phone like a secondary reflex, Luke’s contact, and their subsequent text conversation, is still printed clearly across his screen.
By lunchtime, Eddie and Luke have made plans to meet up at the Black Cat Café downtown and catch a movie afterward.
“Well, somebody is certainly smiley today,” Beverly Marsh comments over the rim of her iced tea. Her shrewd eyes narrow on him as if to make a point.
Richie glances up from his own phone, eyes darting between Beverly and Eddie.
“Got something you wanna share with the class, Eds?” he inquires with a knowing smile. Eddie sort of finds it unnerving because Richie, despite having known Eddie not even a fraction as long as Bill or Stan or Mike have, can read him like no one else can. He picks up on Eddie’s moods, and virtually no one else’s, like metal detector.
“I’ve just had a good day, guys,” he tries to insist but predictably, his friends are having none of it.
Instead, they crowd around him like a pack of hungry hyenas staring down a gazelle. Only, rather than sustenance, they are fishing for answers. And Eddie already knows that they won’t relent until they get what they want.
“You keep staring down at your phone and smiling,” Ben points out oh-so-unhelpfully. “That has to mean something, right?”
“That can only mean one thing,” Mike chips in with a grin of his own.
Richie is the one to wolf whistle. “Our little boy is growing up, Beverly,” he jeers as he shoves a pointy elbow into Beverly’s side. She shoves him in return, much to Eddie’s amusement (and pleasure). Richie wipes away a fake tear. “Our little Eddie Spaghetti is going to get some.”
“Shut up, Richie,” Eddie groans. He hides his head in his hands, cheeks scorching with the burn of a thousand suns.
“So, who’s the lucky guy?” Beverly asks, cradling her chin on the back of her hand, eyebrow arched in question.
“You wouldn’t know him,” Eddie tries but Richie cuts him off with an unnecessarily loud scoff. Richie jumps to his feet to twist his chair around before he settles on it again, legs swung around either side of it, chin propped against the back. Eddie is startling to feel like this is an interrogation.
“Oh, Eds, my naïve bowl of Spaghetti, you ain’t gettin’ off that easy."
“You’re better off spilling now than trying to keep this from us,” Beverly all but singsongs. “Or so help me God, I will sick this one on you.” Beverly gestures loosely to Richie, who simply beams in return – as if Beverly hadn't just insulted him in her own roundabout way.
Eddie frowns but he isn’t particularly upset. He’s simply too elated to be anything but happy right now. Nothing is tearing him down. Nothing.
“That’s low even for you,” Eddie tells her. Finally, he sighs. “I, um, might have a date tonight.”
“Oh? With who?” Beverly asks at the same moment Richie says, “Wait, tonight? Does that mean you’re not coming to game night?”
Eddie’s eyes flicker between the two of them.
“His name’s Luke. I don’t think you guys know him,” he offers Beverly before he turns to Richie. “And yes, I’m totally going to cancel my date to show up to something we’ve been doing on a weekly basis for two months.”
Game night, which essentially takes place at Bill’s and Stan’s every time, has been a fresh but ongoing tradition since Richie, Beverly, and Ben started hanging out with them. Since it can be hard to nick a time and place with seven people to account for, game night has been their attempt at something mildly routine to fix that recurring problem. Thus far, it has been mostly effective.
Beverly shoots Richie an odd look before she pushes him lightly on the shoulder. He stays as sturdy as a rock. “Well, if it’s any consolation, we hope you have a great time.”
“Thanks,” he says slowly.
“Game night won’t be the same without ya, Eds,” Richie tells him, too sorrowful to be an iota genuine. “But we’ll power through it like we always do.”
“Gee, it’s not like you’re going to see me in class next week,” Eddie reminds him. “And in case you forgot, we live next-door to each other.” Richie certainly hasn’t let him forget that tiny tidbit of information.
There’s a slight pause before he hears, “Is this you inviting me for a three-way?”
“Oh my God, Richie,” he says with a jaw that nearly drops to the ground. “No!”
Despite his fruitless attempt to cover his ears, and his burning face, Richie’s voice reaches him anyway. “Well, if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me, sweet cheeks.”
Eddie takes a shower as soon as he gets home and changes into one of his favorite ensembles: a blush colored T-shirt and a pair of light wash Levis that Beverly said complimented his legs. He considers taking a sweater to fight off the nippy evening breeze but when he lays eyes on the denim jacket hanging from his coat rack, he ultimately decides against it. (He tells himself it’s because denim layered over denim clashes, not because the jacket is a hand-me-down from Richie that Beverly had tailored to fit Eddie’s much shorter arms).
After he locks his apartment door, he pulls out his phone and sends a quick text to Mike, telling him to wish him luck and that there are leftovers in the fridge if he decides he wants them. Unlike Eddie, who has to suffer from Richie’s antics night and day, Mike has a convenient reprieve named Becky, whom he had started dating two months after he and Eddie moved in together. They’ve been inseparable ever since, the lucky bastard.
It’s hard to get too lost in his own jealousy because it’s Mike.
(The same could be said for Richie and Beverly’s situation, the latter spending most of her free time at Ben’s apartment rather than the one she shares with her best friend. Then again, considering Richie’s nighttime activities, he’s not surprised. Eddie would run for the hills if he was in her shoes).
Who knows, maybe Luke will be coming home with Eddie after all, and he won’t be drowning in his own self-imposed isolation for once.
That giddy feeling flutters in his chest again, and Eddie doesn’t even try to stifle it this time. He basically skips his way to the Black Cat Café, where he’ll meet up with Luke and if Eddie’s lucky, maybe they’ll share a milkshake before heading off to the movies.
When Eddie arrives, he’s not surprised that he doesn’t see Luke anywhere in the vicinity because Eddie, as always, is fashionably early. Thus, he plops himself down at one of the outdoor tables, phone in hand, and waits.
An hour passes by and Luke never shows.
Eddie throws himself onto his bed when he returns home, both mentally and physically exhausted despite having done nothing at all. He supposes disappointment can really wear on a guy, especially on guys like Eddie who are too quick to put all their eggs in one very questionable basket. It was too good to be true and he should’ve known that from the get-go. Guys like Luke don’t like guys like Eddie. It’s just a fact of life he sometime finds himself forgetting, especially in the humdrum of the City of Angels where anything can happen.
(Or so they said).
He wonders if it was just a sick prank of some sort, because Eddie’s a flaming queer hardy har har – like he hasn’t heard that one before, or if Luke is just another fuck boy (sort of like Richie is he supposes, but he doubts Richie would stand someone up deliberately. Richie can make an ass of himself terribly easily but he’s not cruel). In the end, he decides that it doesn’t matter much because the circumstances remain the same regardless: Eddie is in his apartment, alone, again, ruminating in his own misery.
His phone buzzes, cutting into the silence.
A part of him expects it to be Luke with a half-assed excuse as to why he ditched their date without so much as a warning. His traitorous heart skips a beat as he grapples for the device.
You back already? Thought I heard your door slam
It’s Richie – because of course it is. When isn’t it Richie or something having to do with Richie?
He didn’t show.
Before Eddie can turn off his phone and throw it against the opposing wall like he really wants to, it buzzes again. Almost instantaneously.
I’ll be there in 5
Richie is knocking on his door in less than two minutes. As if he had been sitting there, staring at his phone, waiting for something. It doesn’t occur to him that Richie was supposed to be at game night until he pads to the door and finds a familiar face standing on the other end, curls disheveled more than usual, dressed down in a simple T-shirt and grey sweatpants that look soft to the touch. There is bag of takeout dangling from one hand a bottle of Coors Light in the other.
“Um,” is what awkwardly spills out of Eddie’s mouth as his eyes dart from the items in Richie’s hand to the messy state of him. “Why aren’t you at game night?”
Richie actually balks, like he hadn’t even put much thought into their group’s annual get-together.
“Decided to have a night in,” he explains with a nervous laugh, raising his arm to scratch at the patch of skin behind his neck but not quite making it there thanks to the item hanging from his fingers. “You know, just in case Mrs. K called and wanted some proper TLC–”
“My mom’s across the country, Richie,” Eddie cuts in, not falling for the ruse.
Regardless, he steps aside and lets Richie pass through. Eddie is pretty sure he can count the number of times Richie has been in his apartment (which is less than the number of times Eddie has been in Richie’s). In all honesty, outside of the Losers as a group, Eddie doesn’t really hang out with Richie. It’s always Eddie-Beverly-Richie or all seven of them.
Thus, he’s sort of surprised that Richie is here at all. He expects this behavior from Mike and Bill, or even Beverly or Ben, but definitely not Richie.
“Spiffy as always,” Richie says with a low whistle, spinning on his heel as he practically drinks in the state of Eddie’s apartment. “Spotless, too.”
Of course it is, he wants to say. Some of us actually clean. But then he remembers that he’s never actually seen Richie’s apartment for himself. For all he knows, the space could have been ripped straight out of a Mr. Clean ad.
“Thanks,” he stupidly says instead, unsure of what else to say.
Richie’s smile sort of falls at that. “Damn, that guy really did a number on you, didn’t he?”
Eddie can’t help but roll his eyes. As soon as Richie starts to become even mildly charming, he has to go and say something like that.
“Gee, thanks, Rich. That really makes me feel so much better.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Richie starts, breaking some of the distance between them. “I just–” He stops suddenly, sighing. He deflates a lot like a balloon would. “Look, I’m not good at this kind of stuff, Eds.”
“I kind of figured that out,” Eddie tosses back at him with no heat.
Richie sets the bag and the bottle down on Eddie’s counter before he props his hip against the edge, taking Eddie in with a careful gaze. He crosses his arms across his chest, smile worming its way across his lips once more.
“How ‘bout this – you change into something comfy and I’ll find a movie for us? You have Netflix, right?”
“Um, yeah,” Eddie confirms slowly. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, Richie has crawled back into Eddie’s good graces. He supposes he still has to adjust to enduring the good and the bad that comes with someone so wildly unexpected like Richie, but he’s starting to find that he doesn’t mind it as much as he originally thought he would. It’s not like Eddie always knows what he’s doing, emotions included. Some days, he feels like flat lining while others are sort of like riding a roller coaster.
(Being around Richie feels like being on a roller coaster with no end in sight).
He lets Richie usher him to his bedroom where he tugs his pajamas on without a second thought. By the time he makes it back to the den, Richie is already spread out on the futon, cartons laid open on the coffee table, two cups of beer poured.
Admittedly, the sight looks, and feels, a lot more intimate than Eddie would like to think.
(Sort of like a date).
Eddie shakes that thought almost immediately. As if he had somehow overheard Eddie’s mental turmoil, Richie twists around at the shoulders. His curls bob around the angles of his face, like shadows dancing under the low light.
“C’mon, Eds,” Richie says with a near blinding grin. “There’s more than enough of me to go around.”
Eddie scrunches his nose.
“No, thank you.”
He settles in beside Richie anyway, thighs pressed snugly together as he reaches for the carton of orange chicken.
This is absolutely not a date, he tells himself as Richie rests an arm over the futon, over Eddie’s shoulders. And, well, if Eddie sort of sinks into it, and into Richie’s side by default (which is a lot less bony than he would have figured), then that’s between him and the proverbial devil on his shoulder.
Out of all the Losers, it’s Ben who invites them to a party the week after midterms. According to him, it’s just a little get-together thrown by a couple guys he knows from class. By little, he must have meant a massive, keg-fuelled jamboree because the sight before Eddie could rival the frat parties he wandered into as a doe-eyed freshman. There are at least a hundred people crammed inside and all around the rented property. A hundred people Eddie is pretty sure he doesn’t know.
Eddie shrinks into himself the further into the house he gets, alone since Mike had promised to meet Becky somewhere in the backyard. He searches for any signs of Richie or Beverly or Ben, who he knows for a fact are here, or Bill, who has started coming to things like this since he started dating Audra.
He finds Beverly and Ben first. Both of them are tucked into a little, isolated corner, consumed with one another. Eddie quickly decides that he’d rather not disturb them, thus turning his focus toward finding Richie or Bill. He supposes he’d have more luck with Richie because his stupid voice travels.
(Except that Eddie now laughs at some of his jokes so he can’t exactly call Richie’s voice stupid anymore).
Ever since the Luke situation, a little over three weeks ago now, the two of them have started hanging out one-on-one. Most of the time, they simply settle into an outdoor table at the Black Cat Café after class and go over their notes for philosophy. Other times, they sit on Eddie’s futon and watch some stupid TV show or movie (in which Eddie points out everything wrong with it while Richie practices his admittedly spot-on impressions). It’s happened often enough that Eddie would consider it another part of his daily routine.
So sue him that he would assume that Richie wouldn’t mind Eddie tagging along with him. It isn’t like Richie doesn’t know that crowds can make Eddie sort of anxious, especially when said crowds are full of inebriated jocks that remind Eddie of the kind that used to chase him across the parking lot in high school.
Except when he finds Richie, he is huddled close to the wall a lot like Ben and Beverly were. He isn’t alone either. It’s difficult to see the girl wrapped around him save for her long, thin legs that interlock around his waist, completely bare as far as Eddie can tell minus the pair of black knee-high socks, and her hands, which openly traverse the back of Richie’s head. The only distinguishable detail about her is the rather large medallion tattoo stretched across her left calf.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they’re doing.
He’s pretty sure Richie doesn’t notice him as he spins around on his heel and heads back the way he came in. He makes sure to shoot Mike a text, saying he doesn’t feel well and that he decided to call it a night early.
Eddie returns to his apartment, alone as always.
This time, he doesn’t hear a peep from next-door.
“Hey, Eds, I didn’t see ya last night,” Richie says the following afternoon, when four of the seven self-proclaimed Losers are gathered around for lunch. Richie continues to inhale his sub almost obliviously. Eddie barely restrains himself from reaching over and manually shutting Richie’s mouth himself, anything to get the guy to stop talking with his mouth full.
“He went home early,” Mike explains in his stead. “I guess midterms really took a lot out of you.” He turns to Eddie with that disarming smile of his. Eddie nearly melts.
“Yeah, it was something like that.” He fidgets with his own lunch, hoping his friends will turn their attention to something else. For the thousandth time in his life, Eddie wishes he was a proficient liar. (For some reason, lying to his mother came easy. Lying to anyone else felt like trying to skin a potato with a broken peeler).
“Damn, Eds, I was hoping to get one good dance outta you,” Richie says with a disappointed click of his tongue.
Before Eddie can stop himself, or think how stupid it would be to bring this up, he says, “Well, you seemed sort of preoccupied, Rich.”
“Wait.” Eddie swears Richie spews a shred of cheese as he speaks. Of course, he nearly recoils from disgust alone. “So you were there.”
“I never said I wasn’t,” Eddie counters. “And stop talking with your mouth full – it’s fucking disgusting, Trashmouth.”
Richie pointedly chews, swallows, and licks his lips, gaze locked on Eddie from start to finish. Eddie watches the spectacle warily. He has a bad feeling about what’s going to come out of Richie’s mouth already, revolting manners aside.
“Why’d you dip then?” Richie asks. “Man, we could’a been chumming the whole night away, Eds.” To Eddie’s slight surprise, Richie actually sounds disappointed.
Eddie sighs. Well, he did quite frankly step into this landmine his damn self. He’s going to have to suck it up and deal with the consequences. Maybe next time he’ll think before he opens his –
Oh, God, Richie really is rubbing off on him.
“Like I said, you were preoccupied, Richie,” Eddie says through gritted teeth. “I’m not exactly keen on the idea of third-wheeling.” And he definitely isn’t keen on the idea of accidental voyeurism, which he has already sort of endured thanks to Richie’s late night proclivities. He pointedly tries not to think about that.
Richie’s mouth makes a distinct ‘O’ shape. “I mean, if you wanted in–”
“I definitely did not,” Eddie hisses.
A spark dances behind Richie’s dark eyes. “Or if you wanted me all to yourself, all you had to do was ask.”
“Not in a million years, Richie.”
When his phone buzzes ten minutes after midnight, while Eddie is working tirelessly on one of three essays due by week’s end, he grumbles under his breath as his fingers pause on the keyboard. He reaches across his nightstand to snatch the offending item, twisting it around in his palm. His eyes narrow when he reads Richie’s name as clear as day across his screen.
Against his better judgment, he answers it.
“There better be a good reason you’re calling me at midnight, Richie,” he says in way of greeting.
Instead of receiving a reply that makes an iota of sense, he hears, “What are you wearing?”
Eddie snorts into the receiver before he can help it. Richie takes this response as some sort of affirmative and like he does with just about everything else in life, he grabs it by its proverbial horns.
“I could listen to your laugh all day, sweetheart,” he practically croons over the line. Eddie can envision the leering grin surely working its way across his face. The mental image steals most of the charm Eddie would have felt had the comment come from anybody but Richie.
“That wasn’t a laugh, Trashmouth,” he tries to say but Richie only hums in response. Something about the sound throws Eddie off-kilter for a moment.
It takes another second for it to dawn on him. “Are you drunk?”
“A wee bit, lassie,” Richie confirms with a hearty laugh.
“Why are you drinking on a Wednesday? You have class in the morning, dipshit.” Class with Eddie if he wants to get into specifics. He imagines Richie will be donning his Ray-Bans, that is if he shows up to begin with.
Richie chuckles again. “Don’t you worry your pretty lil’ head over me, dahlin’,” he says in his Southern Belle voice, although he jumps in and out of character more than he normally would. “I’m just havin’ my fun.”
“And now you’re quoting Britney Spears…”
“Hey, anything by Britney Spears is an instant classic, Eds,” Richie cuts in. “Back when pop was still good.”
Eddie decides not to get into the music debate again. It never ends well. He doubts the result would fare any better with Richie being possibly inebriated.
“Why did you call?” Eddie asks, getting right to the point. He absently fiddles with the thread sticking out from his blanket, twisting it between two fingertips. His essay has all but been forgotten at this point.
“I already told ya, Eds,” Richie says and Eddie can practically hear the smile in his voice. “I love hearing your voice. I missed it.”
Eddie rolls his eyes, ignoring the heat flaring in his cheeks. “Aren’t you next-door, idiot?”
Richie hums over the line. And then Eddie hears a quiet knock against the wall. He smiles before he can help it. However, Richie can’t see it, or him, so Eddie decides that it doesn’t matter. A smile Richie can’t see won’t fuel his already impossibly large ego.
“Aw, you didn’t knock back,” Richie says.
Just to appease him, Eddie taps his knuckles twice against the drywall. For once, he isn’t irritated by the fact that he is entertaining Richie’s antics. If anything, he’s sort of endeared.
Of course, it doesn’t last for long. As Eddie has come to realize over the course of four months, Richie’s mouth is the reason why none of the Losers can have nice things.
“So, what are you wearing?” he asks again, more insistent than before. “Is it those tiny, red booty shorts?”
“They’re not booty shorts!” Eddie insists, self-consciously tugging the blanket over his mostly bare legs. This time, he spares Richie the explanation of how the shorts™ came to be, and he swallows yet another jab at Richie’s giraffe-like proportions.
“And why do you care so much about what I’m wearing?”
It takes an embarrassingly long time for Eddie’s mind to catch the implication. When he does, his entire face scrunches up and he nearly hangs up right then and there.
“I swear to God, Richie, if you’re getting off on this–”
“Gee, don’t hurt yourself there, Eds,” Richie cuts in with another laugh. “You can say jerking off. Mrs. K isn’t eavesdropping on us, I swear it.”
“Alright, geez. No need to jump down my throat. I’m not, okay?” Richie says. “I’m a proper gentleman. My needs can wait until after a phone call.”
Eddie frowns again. “Gross, Richie.”
“Nothin’ gross ‘bout a little skin-on-skin action,” Richie drawls. He imagines Richie wiggling his eyebrows right about now. “‘Sides, don’t you think you could use some Tozier-lovin’? When’s the last time you got out there, Eds?”
Eddie bristles at that. A part of him feels like it’s a jab at his lackluster love life, the other (more logical) part reminds him that it’s Richie just joking around like he always does. He doesn’t mean anything by it.
“It’s none of your business, Richie,” he says into the receiver as calmly as he can despite the fact that he’s glaring a hole into their shared wall at that same moment.
He hears a muffled sound over the line. He assumes Richie’s in bed, shuffling around restlessly. Maybe he did have one hand down his pants when he called Eddie…
The thought doesn’t disturb him as much as it should.
“I just mean, you seem a little tense is all,” Richie says, breaking into the short-lived silence.
“I’m juggling two part-time jobs and school,” Eddie reminds him. “Of course I’m a little stressed.”
“Well, if you ever want a little help with that–”
“I’m perfectly capable of managing my own hookups, thank you very much,” Eddie says. “Look, Richie, I’ve got to get back to this essay. I’ll see you tomorrow in class.” He pauses for a moment before he adds, “Drink a glass of water if you can before you go to sleep. I have Advil if you need any.”
“Dr. K, it’s been awhile,” Richie all but snickers. “Like I already said, don’t worry your pretty lil’ head ‘bout me. I’ll be as good as new in the morning.”
Eddie finds himself smiling again. “Good.” He glances to the wall again. “Goodnight, Richie.”
With that, the line goes dead. Eddie leisurely returns his phone to his nightstand and settles into bed again, laptop perched on his lap. He stares listlessly into a screen that glares a tad too brightly in return. Instead of throwing himself back into writing this essay (like he should be), he finds his attention drawn to the wall. Specifically to who lays on the other side of it.
He wonders if he’s serious. For all he knows, Richie could be jerking off, mere yards away, with nothing but a thin wall to divide them. Eddie doesn’t particularly understand why this possibility has piqued his curiosity, especially considering the loud activities Richie likes to partake in at least once a week. But it does.
Before he knows it, he’s straining his ears to hear even the smallest of sounds. He stops himself short of physically getting up to press his ear against the wall, biting down hard on his lower lip as he exhales through his nostrils.
This is Richie, loud, crass, and three kinds of obnoxious, Tozier. There is nothing for Eddie to be curious about. Regardless whether or not Eddie’s love life is in shambles, he isn’t that desperate.
(And even if he was, Richie was just joking like he always does. Right?)
Eddie forces himself to focus on his unfinished essay again, fingers hovering over the keyboard. Only, nothing about Little Albert or white rats pops into his head. His thoughts are: Richie, Richie, and what is Richie doing right now.
With a pained groan, Eddie closes his laptop and pushes it aside. He sinks into his pillows’ welcoming embrace, nestles beneath the covers until he’s comfortable, and pushes a resigned hand under the waistband of his briefs.
He tells himself that it has nothing to do with Richie and everything to do with his own self-inflicted drought.
Eddie tells himself it’s his self-imposed sex hiatus that’s finally catching up with him (again) when his eyes pause on Richie’s form a moment longer than necessary, specifically pinpointed on the slip of skin that becomes exposed when he stands up to stretch his arms. The shut the fuck up, dipshit falls short on his tongue in favor of blatant staring (ogling) – because his attention is suddenly enraptured by the course line of hair starting below his navel and delving beneath the waistband of his jeans.
Then, of course, as natural progression states, Eddie’s mind drifts to the next most interesting topic: Richie’s dick. As far as Eddie knows, every person that has wandered into Richie’s apartment looking for a good time has received exactly that.
(According to that one guy, Richie’s good with his mouth too).
It takes Eddie a grand total of five seconds to pause and truly question his own sanity because this is Richie fucking Tozier, Trashmouth extraordinaire, the king of everything annoying that he’s currently staring (ogling) at and considering whether or not he’s actually curious about what’s in his pants. Has the universe tripped and tumbled on its own ass?
Of course, that’s the moment his mind decides to remind him of every other mildly charming thing about Richie. From an unbiased standpoint, he isn’t bad to look at – maybe a little scrawny but what he lacks in mass he sort of makes up for in height. His hair reminds Eddie of every 80’s and 90’s rock band magazine he happened to thumb through when he was fourteen and going through a phase. There isn’t anything particularly redeeming about Richie’s obnoxious taste in fashion (only that the pineapple socks start to grow on a person after seeing them a dozen times or so because they’re quirky). And don’t get Eddie started on Richie’s mouth.
“Earth to Eddie,” he hears Mike say. It's enough to snap him out of whatever that was.
“Yeah? What?” he says in response, and it mostly sounds like two words mashed together into one unintelligible one.
“I said did you want to play another round or are you heading out, too?”
This time, Eddie’s brow creases.
He turns to Richie, a mixture of frazzled and confused. Ever since game night materialized into fruition, they have walked home together. It may only be a three block journey but Eddie has always been too nervous for his own good and Richie, despite what he may say, isn’t fond of the dark (surprisingly).
Richie scrapes a sheepish hand over the back of his neck.
“Yeah, something, uh, came up,” he explains. He gestures loosely to his phone but makes no additional attempts to clarify what exactly came up that was urgent enough that he’d ditch Eddie without so much as a warning.
Eddie isn’t upset exactly, but he wishes Richie would have given him a heads-up or something.
“Oh.” He isn’t sure what else he can say so he simply shrugs and leaves it alone.
“See you tomorrow?” Richie offers with a hopeful look.
“Yeah. Definitely,” Eddie responds.
He watches Richie shove his feet into his shoes and rush out the door with one last hurried, but dramatic, goodbye.
Eddie isn’t mad until he comes home and rolls into bed, like he always does, and not even twenty minutes later, he hears a commotion reverberate through the wall. At first, he freezes up, thinking it's coming from his apartment. But then he hears what sounds like something crashing through the door undoubtedly coming from next-door. Something slams, which he assumes to be the door, and there are definitely footsteps shuffling around in there.
At first, he is a little alarmed, reaching for his phone to warn Richie that there might be a burglar in his apartment right now, but he stops short when he hears the unmistakable rattle of a bed frame.
And a moan.
The realization hits him upside the head like a sledgehammer.
Richie ditched him for a fucking hookup.
Eddie promptly decides to take back every remotely nice thing he’s said about the group’s resident Trashmouth. He even considers shooting him a venomous text to tell him to shut the fuck up or he’s contacting the landlord this time but forcibly restrains himself. In the end, he shoves his phone into his nightstand drawer and rolls onto his other side, where he’ll feel less tempted to make impulsive life choices.
Unfortunately, their shared cardboard thin wall does very little to stifle the noise.
The following morning, Eddie pads around his apartment in a somnolent state, legs dragging like lead while his brain feels like it’s lagging a moment behind. He’s in the process of (sluggishly) fixing himself a bowl of cereal when a knock on the door quite literally throws him out of his sleep-deprived reverie. At first, Eddie blinks into the beige slab, wondering if it’s his mind playing tricks on him again. And then, like clockwork, another series of knocks commences, more hurried than before.
Eddie grumbles an impressive string of curses under his breath as he reaches for his sweater on the coat rack and wraps it around himself before opening the door. He assumes that it’s going to be Richie standing there, with that stupid, infuriating, shit-eating grin of his, and prepares to weather the storm. He doesn’t plan on holding any punches.
Except that it’s not Richie.
Instead, it’s a young woman, probably around their age, with long auburn hair that doesn’t look like it has been acquainted with a brush since she rolled out of bed. The only garment on her body is the shirt that hangs loose from her shoulders, fitting her like a dress, draping down to her mid thighs. Eddie recognizes it as one of Richie’s well-worn band T-shirts.
Eddie also recognizes the medallion tattoo stretched across her calf.
She’s the girl from the party.
“Hi, um, sorry if this sounds like a weird question, but could I borrow a glass of orange juice?” the girl asks with a fretful smile that tugs a millimeter higher to the right.
He must stare into space for too long because the girl speaks up again. “Um, hey, are you–?”
Wishing the rug would swallow me whole? You betcha.
He hears a resounding thump one room over and by the time he glances to the door, he discovers Richie peering out from the open frame, shirtless from the looks of it. He isn’t wearing his glasses either. The look he gives Eddie can only be described as the same expression a deer would make when it notices a pair of headlights a second too late.
Eddie returns his attention to his unexpected “guest”.
“Give me one second,” he says with the sweetest smile he can muster. It pulls a little too tight around the edges of his mouth but he doubts she’ll notice the difference.
Eddie quickly strides to his open fridge, pulls out the whole unopened carton of orange juice, and returns to the door with the object in hand. Wordlessly, he thrusts the carton into the girl’s hands, carefully keeping his eyes trained on anything but Richie and his stupid face.
Eddie shuts the door before she can finish that thought.
Eddie isn’t mad that Richie may or may not have found a girlfriend – not at all. In fact, a girlfriend, something steady and stable, might be good for Richie. No, he’s mad because Richie not only ditched him without warning, but he also kept Eddie awake for most of the night. And then, the cherry on top of this whole shit-shake, is that Richie had the gall to send her over first thing in the morning to pester Eddie for a glass of fucking orange juice.
So, yes, to say that Eddie is fuming at this point is putting it mildly. A more accurate description would be near the boiling point, seconds away from an imminent implosion.
He’s upset enough that he skips his classes that day without a single care to give. He spends that Thursday in bed, nursing a nasty headache that lingers like a foreboding cloud.
Thankfully, the end of the week marks the end of seeing Richie for at least a couple of days. He can safely push it off until Monday, and maybe even stave it off until Tuesday if he skips lunch. Unfortunately, when he mentions skipping lunch in favor of cramming at the library, Mike turns his puppy dog eyes on Eddie and Eddie’s resolve predictably crumbles.
Thus, he finds himself with Mike, Beverly, and Stan that afternoon, legs, and mind, itching to get the hell out of dodge before he may or may not physically maim someone. He doesn’t even take two bites of his sandwich before his stomach churns.
“We missed you on Thursday,” Beverly says with a small frown after they’ve settled in.
“I wasn’t feeling well,” Eddie simply replies with a shrug, not quite meeting her eyes. He supposes absently shoving his sandwich back in his bag makes his cover story a little more believable.
“That’s a shame,” Stan pipes up. “Are you coming to game night or are you going to take the night off?”
Eddie shrugs again. “I’ll probably stay home. Sorry.”
“No worries,” Beverly reassures him.
And then, like clockwork, he hears Richie’s horribly insufferable voice in the distance. When he lifts his head, he discovers that Richie isn’t alone. The girl from the party, who had been standing on Eddie’s doorstep last week, is next to him. Richie's arm is wrapped over her shoulders as they share a laugh that may as well ring for miles. Eddie drops his head almost immediately, fixing his attention on his cell phone.
He keeps his eyes glued to the screen even after Richie takes a seat. He doesn’t see the girl sitting next to him in his periphery, much to his relief. He can barely handle one Richie. Eddie’s pretty sure he’d spontaneously combust if he met another one.
“There you are,” he hears Richie say. “I was starting to think you died or something. You went radio silent on me.”
There is an ensuing pause where he supposes he should give Richie an explanation. Richie probably expects one too, which makes Eddie even angrier.
He keeps his mouth clamped shut.
Without warning, a gangly arm starts to snake around his shoulders. His head whips up faster than a bolt of lightning.
“Get off me!” he snaps as he hurriedly pulls away.
Richie draws back as if he had been burned, eyes a little wide behind his glasses, smile dampened. Eddie doesn’t have to look at the others to know that they’re watching now, probably concerned. Eddie doesn’t plan on offering an explanation if any of them ask. Quite honestly, he didn’t expect to get this upset. Most of his frustrations had subsided over the weekend, but it seems that seeing Richie’s stupid face rekindled the fuse.
It’s as if every grievance he’s had with him has rushed to the forefront of his mind in the blink of an eye.
“Uh…” he hears Richie start to say because silence can never last long when he’s around. “Somebody’s crabby today.” No one laughs. “Hey, are we, uh, still on for tomorrow? Y’know, our study date? I promised Mrs. K I’d be home for din–”
The word date makes Eddie clench his teeth. They’re not dates. They never have been and never will be.
“I’m busy,” he says without lifting his eyes from his phone.
He can feel Richie staring at him. “Oh. Uh, okay.”
Suffice to say, the rest of lunch is an awkward affair. The other Losers do their best not to step on any toes, Eddie’s specifically, and basically avoid the Grand Canyon-sized rift that’s opened between Eddie and Richie.
Avoiding Richie is easier than Eddie expects. Considering that Richie skips class for the next two weeks and Eddie starts eating lunch with Lauren, a girl in his Childhood Psychology class, Eddie would say that his newly adopted lifestyle has gone swimmingly. He does his best to ignore Mike’s looks of concern, which only burrow under his skin because Mike starts spending more time at the apartment with Eddie. Thankfully, Mike never outright asks about it.
Meanwhile, the apartment next-door remains eerily quiet.
Thanksgiving soon looms over the horizon and while Eddie is not flying home, most of his friends are. Beverly is going with Ben to spend the holiday with his mother in Indiana while Bill, Stan, and Mike are all returning to Maine for the weekend. He has no idea what Richie is doing and no one volunteers that information either.
Eddie supposes he finds out when Thursday rolls around and he hears the distinct sound of footsteps coming from next-door. Eddie eyes his phone for a moment, after he initially hears it, and briefly considers shooting Richie a text, because he still has a conscience goddammit, but effectively rules that train of thought out. He’s still waiting for the apology that Richie definitely owes him.
Thus, Eddie simply changes into a soft cotton shirt and a pair of sweatpants that he has to roll up at the ends and gets to work. Regardless if he’s spending Thanksgiving with a family of ten or all by himself, he plans on making some semblance of a feast. He supposes one perk of making a meal for one is that he has a lot less to do.
Trouble doesn’t arise until the afternoon settles in and Eddie decides to start preparing homemade mashed potatoes. He has the peeler in one hand, the potato on the cutting board, his attention darting between the task at hand and the episode of Jeopardy playing out on the TV. And then, instead of skinning the potato, Eddie happens to peel the corner of his own finger.
The pain is instantaneous.
“Ow! Shit!” Eddie yelps as soon as blood starts to squirt out. He reaches for a nearby paper towel and pinches it against the wound, cradling his injured hand against his chest as panic slowly starts to crawl up his throat. Vaguely, Eddie swears he hears his cell phone vibrate against the coffee table but he can’t afford to pay it any mind between the oh God, that’s blood and oh God, that’s my blood.
To say that the sight of blood makes Eddie queasy is an understatement. Eddie doesn’t think it’s the blood that specifically gets to him but rather it’s anything having to do with material normally inside the human body that does. Just the thought of the three B’s (blood, bile, and bone) is enough to send poor Eddie Kaspbrak into a frenzied state.
“Fuck,” he curses again. The idea of calling 911 and wasting an entire ambulance on a cut seems like an overreaction at best. He mentally cycles through his friends and comes up with a blank because they’re all unavailable and out of state lines. The only person he can possibly contact is…
He’ll just have to swallow his own ego and ask for help. He’d be an absolute idiot not to. He may be prideful, but he also likes having all ten fully functional fingers.
Walking to Richie’s door feels an awful lot like defeat but Eddie forces himself to go through with it anyway. He knocks three times before the door is swinging open, revealing a familiar (and slightly startled) face on the other side.
Eddie may or may not attempt to peer into the open space over Richie’s shoulder. Unfortunately, Richie keeps the edge of the door tucked against his body, and the only thing Eddie thinks he can make out on the other side is a gray couch.
Eddie takes one look at Richie’s attire (a leather jacket and jeans that aren’t ripped to shreds for a change) and stupidly asks, “Were you going out?”
As if that actually matters.
Richie, on the other hand, gapes at him for a moment. Eventually, his mouth twists into a frown, a wrinkle creasing across the center of his brow. “Oh, now you’re talking to me.”
Before Eddie can bite back, Richie’s gaze falls to his injured appendage. “Shit. Let me get my keys.”
“Just breathe, Eds,” Richie says when they’re in the waiting room, when Eddie’s heart feels like it's seconds from bursting out of his chest. Without warning, Richie kneels down in front of him and takes his face between his hands, practically staring into Eddie’s soul until Eddie feels like he can breathe again.
“Hey, look at me – Eddie, look at me,” Richie says when they first start suturing the wound, grabbing Eddie’s uninjured hand and tucking it between both of his. His hands dwarf Eddie’s own and in his own heightened sense of panic, Eddie irrationally compares it to the design of a cheeseburger. Except that Richie’s hands aren’t buns and Eddie is relatively certain he hasn’t turned into a slice of cheese. He’s pretty sure there’s a sex joke in there somewhere. Unlike Richie, Eddie still has a filter, even when the panic lingering in the back of his mind is making him lightheaded.
Before Eddie knows it, the process comes to an end.
The last thing Eddie expects to be doing on Thanksgiving is sharing a private smile in the urgent care center with Richie Tozier of all people but he supposes crazier things have happened.
Eddie ends up getting a better look at Richie’s apartment because after their impromptu trip to urgent care (and three painstaking stitches later), Richie insists that Eddie should come take a load off on his couch. The dirty joke Eddie half-expects never comes and Eddie doesn’t fight the hand ushering him to take a seat. In fact, Eddie all but sinks into the cushions, eyes half lidded. Apparently, having two panic attacks in the span of a couple hours can really take a toll on a guy.
He allows Richie to tug a blanket over his form, curling under it like it’s his own personal cocoon. Eddie must doze off for a second because when he opens his eyes again, Richie has since changed into a T-shirt and sweats. He tells himself that it’s his own delirium getting to him when his cheeks warm.
“I’m gonna go clean up the scene of the crime,” Richie tells him.
“You don’t have to,” Eddie starts to say but Richie is having none of it.
“We’d both be better off if I did,” he counters simply; heel scuffing against the colorful shag rug Eddie is pretty sure is tucked beneath the couch. “‘Sides, I don’t think you’re exactly up for it, Eds.”
“I resent that,” he says but they both know Richie isn’t wrong.
Thus, Eddie is left to his own devices while Richie presumably disappears into his apartment. Despite the exhaustion tugging at his bones, Eddie takes the time to get a better look at the place that has haunted his nightmares for months. Admittedly, aside from the couch Eddie is nesting in, it could be an almost exact replica of the space Eddie currently calls home. He takes note of the opened containers of Thai food that are spread across the coffee table.
He also notices a closed door around the corner and briefly wonders if that’s the door to Richie’s bedroom. A shudder run downs his spine when he considers the state of Richie’s bed.
Eventually, growing bored of entertaining himself with questions he’ll probably never have the answer to, Eddie sinks further into the couch’s welcoming embrace. He half-watches the episode of Jessica Jones that is playing out on Richie’s flat screen while his attention starts to drift to what Richie is doing in his apartment one room over. He doesn’t have to wonder for very long because Richie returns in ten minutes flat. To Eddie’s surprise, when he turns around, Richie’s hands aren’t empty.
“So, the potato wasn’t salvageable,” Richie starts as he drops the contents in his hands on the countertop. “But I managed to clean the blood off the cutting board.” Eddie grimaces. “And then I happened to notice that you had a mini buffet going on.”
Eddie realizes that Richie had carried in the food he had already prepared: the container of yams, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, and stuffing. Unfortunately, he never got around to cooking the Cornish game hen.
“Hope you don’t mind,” Richie continues as he rakes a hand through his messy mop. “I was thinking we could share?” The fact that he says this as a question sort of throws Eddie for a loop. He can’t even remember the last time Richie sounded so unsure of himself.
Eddie releases the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Yeah. Okay.”
And then Richie is pulling two plates out of the cupboard, loading them with food, and settling in next to Eddie, their thighs pressed together, as he hands Eddie his plate.
Although Eddie wouldn’t outright admit it, it’s the best Thanksgiving he’s had in years.
“Richie!” Eddie all but shrieks when a pair of hands who could belong to nobody else except their resident Trashmouth wind around his waist. “No! Stop!” Talking, or rather yelling, becomes a lot more difficult when laughter bubbles from his lips close behind. Richie’s fingers continue their relentless attack on Eddie’s oversensitive sides, inches below his ribs, until Eddie is barely more than a blubbering, incoherent mess.
Their vicious game of UNO has been long forgotten in favor of the man hovering precariously close behind him. He only bats at Richie’s arm once when the man in question hauls Eddie into his lap. To no one’s surprise, the tickle assault recommences without a second wasted.
Five other pairs of eyes watch on with thinly veiled amusement.
In the end, it’s Stan who finally throws down his deck and sighs. “Get a room already.”
Eddie blinks. Then he freezes. He feels Richie’s hands slip to his hips and instead of moving away from Eddie’s body like he really should, those fingers linger there, like ten large pinpricks of heat that seep through a layer of denim like molten lava. He can feel Richie’s abdomen shifting against his back with every heaving breath he takes.
It takes another moment for it to dawn on Eddie how compromising their position is. Eddie is sitting squarely on Richie’s lap, most of his weight bore on the man’s thighs, closer to Richie’s crotch than he ever planned on being. He doesn’t hate it nearly as much as he should.
Which, okay, the realization that Richie is kind of, sort of, maybe attractive is one thing – which may or may not have jump-started Eddie’s quarter-life crisis – but the fact that he is starting to come to terms with that while Richie has a girlfriend is a whole other monster.
Unfortunately, as much as he’d love to forget he ever entertained what Richie’s mouth was like in bed, his dick has had other ideas. Eddie is also starting to think that his dick may as well be an entirely separate entity at this point.
With as much grace as a gazelle on three legs, Eddie awkwardly clambers out of Richie’s lap. His cheeks burn hotter than a thousand wildfires and he’s having trouble meeting the gaze of any of the Losers. Honestly, he doesn’t even want to glance in Richie’s direction. Doing so feels a lot like throwing himself into an active volcano.
Much to his chagrin, he doesn’t really have a choice when the evening comes to an end and everyone aside from Bill and Stan part ways outside the apartment. To make matters worse, Mike decides to spend the night at Becky’s again, which happens to be in the opposite direction of his and Eddie’s shared apartment. Thus, Eddie is left to deal with his own personal nightmare all by his lonesome.
They walk side-by-side, Eddie sort of hunched forward while Richie has both hands stuffed in his pockets to stave off the crisp evening breeze. At first, Richie fills the silence with ease, like he always does, and Eddie resigns himself to nodding along with whatever wild story happens to be spilling from Richie’s mouth.
The fact that he is only paying half-attention must be obvious because Richie suddenly reaches over and runs a devastatingly warm palm over the slope of Eddie’s shoulder. As much as Eddie hates to admit it, he shivers.
“You okay there, Spagheds?” Richie asks. “You aren’t looking too hot.”
Eddie subconsciously inches away from Richie’s outstretched limb. “I’m fine,” he insists, a little too curt to be believable.
“No need to lie, dahlin’,” Richie says, putting on that Southern charm in the blink of an eye. “Dr. Tozier is here to solve all your problems.” Eddie doesn’t miss the subsequent wink or the tongue that sweeps across Richie’s plush bottom lip. He thanks every deity above that Richie is blind as a bat or else he probably would have noticed the ruddy tint Eddie’s face has adopted.
“Seriously, Richie, I’m fine,” he insists despite the alarm bells ringing in his head.
When Richie attempts to drape an arm around his shoulders, Eddie shrugs the appendage off with an exasperated expression. Thankfully, Richie actually takes the hint this time and pulls away without further resistance.
Eddie decides to just go ahead and take the bull by the horns again. It worked pretty well the last time he had been upfront with Richie, months ago when Richie’s late night activities were keeping him up at night. He supposes this situation should be no different.
“Is this really…appropriate?” he ventures through gritted teeth. Richie merely shoots him a puzzled look. “I mean, you being so…” He makes a loose gesture that not even he really understands.
“‘Fraid you lost me, Eds."
“You pulling me into your lap,” he clarifies. “And kissing me on the cheek and stuff.” Richie has recently started to put some of his jokes into motion, now brushing his mouth against Eddie’s skin when he claims that Eddie is cute, cute, cute. It hasn’t escaped Eddie’s notice that Richie is the most touchy-feely behind closed doors, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any better.
If anything, it makes Eddie sort of feel like a guilty party, like it’s just as much his fault as it is Richie’s that these antics have gone on for as long as they have.
They have stopped walking now, coming to a standstill beneath a light pole. Eddie can see the gnats zipping through the air around them.
“I just mean, it’s kind of inappropriate now that you have a girlfriend,” he says, opting to stare at the toe of his shoe as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. “Right?”
Richie’s sudden snort makes Eddie’s neck snap up almost painfully. When his eyes reach Richie’s face, instead of finding the guilt he anticipates, he is met with an expression that can only be described as greatly amused.
“Girlfriend?” Richie echoes with a scoff. “Why, Eddie Spaghetti, do you know something I don’t?”
Richie’s grin grows until his teeth are peeking out from his upper lip. “Last time I checked, I was undoubtedly, one hundred percent living the bachelor life.”
Eddie frowns. “Wait? Then who was that girl?”
Richie snorts again. “Which one?”
“Ha ha, very funny,” Eddie deadpans. “You know what I mean. The one you sent to badger me for a glass of orange juice first thing in the fucking morning.”
Richie stares at him for what feels like the better half of eternity. It must dawn on him at some point because his brow rises when he says, “Meg?”
“I don’t know her fucking name, Richie,” he reminds him coldly. “She was with you at the party–”
“Definitely Meg,” Richie surmises with a sage nod. And then he’s grinning like a lunatic again. “Wait, were you stalking me, Kaspbrak?”
“No!” Eddie sputters.
“Don’t tell me,” Richie starts again, something dangerous dancing through his dark eyes. “You were jealous.”
“No!” he spits out again, with more fervor than before. His skin is burning again and he can feel that scorching heat running down his neck now, like a wildfire hopelessly out of control.
Richie just laughs again, a raspy chorus that sounds like it’s been punched out of his chest. He rolls back on his heels for a moment, scrutinizing Eddie with a mischievous spark, before he breaks the small distance between them. He wraps an arm around Eddie’s shoulders and Eddie sort of sags with it, allowing Richie to pull him flush against his side. Eddie squawks when Richie reaches down to muss his hair. When Eddie attempts to pull away, he finds himself trapped beneath Richie’s arm, which holds onto him like a vice, as Richie’s fingers continue to wreak havoc on Eddie’s head.
“Richie! Cut it out!”
“As if,” Richie simply replies. “Riling you up is way too fun.”
However, he does stop. He pulls back so fast that it nearly gives Eddie whiplash. Before he can breathe easy again, Richie leans in, so close that Eddie swears he can feel Richie’s breath fanning his cheek.
“If you’re ever looking for a good time, you know where to find me.”
Eddie shoves him so hard Richie nearly falls on his ass.
The thing is, once Richie puts that idea into his head, Eddie can’t stop thinking about it. Instead of burying his nose in his textbook like he should, he finds his thoughts wandering to his neighbor. During class and their biweekly study sessions, which might as well be dubbed ‘Richie trying out new impressions’ because that’s all he does for the most part, Eddie catches himself staring at his friend for far longer than necessary. Suddenly, the lighter flecks in Richie’s irises are nearly all-consuming while Eddie eyes those long, tarantulan fingers with something akin to errant wonder.
The worst of it comes when Richie, by the sounds of it, brings company over after winter vacation has officially hit off. To Eddie’s credit, he is only startled by the louder than normal slam of the door. As soon as he hears the bed frame clatter against the wall, his nerves simmer down.
Richie returning to his old ways really shouldn’t come as a shock to him. At least he had held out until after the Losers had properly celebrated the end of the semester. Eddie recalls that night with a small smile. He had been buzzed enough to be more bubbly than usual and Richie, despite not having had a single sip of alcohol, entertained him without as much as a grumbled complaint. In fact, Eddie swears he looked endeared by it all.
Especially when Eddie had started marveling at Richie’s hands.
Eddie is abruptly torn from the pleasant memory when the bed frame starts colliding with the wall at a steady pace. The subsequent moan that pours through the thin barrier is distinctly male. He’s relatively certain that the voice doesn’t belong to Richie.
(Despite Richie’s penchant for noise, especially of the oral variety, Eddie doesn’t think he’s heard a peep out of him during a single one of his late-night encounters).
The fact that Eddie has paid any attention to that minor detail sets off alarm bells in his head. It means that he has been listening for it. Actively even. Eddie is straining his ears at this very moment, waiting to hear what Trashmouth Tozier sounds like when he gets off. Literally.
Which, okay, coming to the conclusion that Richie might be kind of attractive is one thing. Playful banter that sometimes turns into flirting isn’t all that bad either now knowing that Richie does not, in fact, have a girlfriend. It’s sort of like roughhousing but with furtive stares and chests that flutter instead of heave.
However, wondering about what Richie sounds like when he’s busting a nut (Richie’s words, not his) is a whole other pickle entirely. A pickle that Eddie really should not be contemplating for a number of reasons. The most glaring problem of them all is the fact that Richie and Eddie are friends, too friendly and familiar with one another to be considered mere acquaintances at this point. If Eddie is being honest with himself, they passed that bridge months ago.
And Eddie, to put it bluntly, prefers not to mix business with pleasure. Every friends-with-benefits situation he has been privy to has gone down in flames. While Eddie hasn’t explored the dynamic himself, he can easily learn from other people’s mistakes. For example, he’s never tried heroin but he knows that doing so is a terrible, no good, very bad idea.
Screwing Richie certainly falls into that category. He doesn’t have to do it to know that it’s a bad idea from the get-go.
Plus, the only reason he’s even considering screwing Richie to begin with is because of the woeful state of his own sex life. The Sahara Desert would probably be an improvement over the desolate wasteland he’s currently found himself stuck in.
It’s not because Richie is kind of charming in every way that the man of his dreams isn’t. It’s not because Richie will clear his schedule whenever Eddie is having a bad day or because they sometimes sit on the couch and make fun of trashy reality TV together. It’s not because Richie knows about Eddie’s mom or that Eddie knows about Richie’s unspoken penchant of putting on a show to cover-up his own problems.
“Oh – oh fuck.”
Eddie snatches his phone off his nightstand, charger be damned, and all but books it into the living room. He sinks into the futon and downloads Grindr before he can regret it.
Avoiding Richie is easy when they don’t have class together twice a week. In fact, Eddie succeeds for about four days with nothing but a handful of texts exchanged between them. He probably would have succeeded for a fifth consecutive day had it not been for the date (hookup) he had scheduled for the evening.
He takes a quick shower, cleans himself up, and tugs on some flattering attire despite knowing it’ll probably (inevitably) end up in a wrinkled heap on the floor. After scrawling a precautionary note for Mike, he heads out.
As if fate just had to have that last laugh, the hall isn’t empty when he steps into it. Richie fucking Tozier is standing in front of the door to his apartment, muttering a creative string of curses under his breath while he pats on the pockets of his jeans. He precariously balances a plastic bag on his other arm.
The moment Eddie steps into the hallway, his head jerks up. Something tumbles to the floor with a funny jingle – Richie’s keys he realizes not long after. Eddie’s eyes bounce between the keys and Richie’s face before finally settling on the space in between. For once, the crusty walls surrounding them look inviting.
He sort of wishes the floor would swallow him whole.
It doesn’t escape his notice that Richie gives him an appraising once-over, his eyes roving Eddie’s body from the soles of his shoes to the top of his head. His cheeks already feel like they’ve been set ablaze and Richie hasn’t even said anything yet.
“You look nice,” Richie comments, without a forced accent for a change. He sort of sounds like he’s choking on something. “You going somewhere?”
Eddie really wishes the floor would swallow him whole.
“Yeah,” Eddie answers despite the nerves roaring to life beneath his skin. “I, um, have a date.”
Richie raises an eyebrow. Eddie thinks he should feel somewhat insulted by Richie’s apparent skepticism but his fight-or-flight (or freeze) response has currently taken precedence. He has that going for him he supposes.
“A date, huh?” Richie echoes almost blankly. He doesn’t make any further move to grab his keys off the ground. “Who’s the lucky guy?”
Honestly, Eddie has already forgotten the guy’s name.
Richie happens to be a lot more observant than people give him credit for because he crosses his arms over his chest, his eyes never leaving Eddie’s as he carefully straightens up.
“You know there’s no shame in hooking up, right?” Richie says. “Trust me; I’m the last person who’d judge you for something like that.” He cracks a grin that doesn’t quite meet his eyes.
Eddie doesn’t know what to say to that so he wisely keeps his mouth shut. Instead, he turns his attention to Richie’s forsaken keys. He closes the distance between them and bends down to retrieve them himself. When he returns to full height to hand them over, he notices that Richie’s expression has gone unusually serious. For once, Eddie doesn’t see that playful spark dancing behind his eyes or a trace of that shit-eating grin he dons like armor.
Richie’s eyes bore into his like black holes and it’s hard not to get lost in them.
Wordlessly, Richie plucks the keys right out of Eddie’s nearly limp grip.
Richie’s mouth thins and Eddie braces himself for something. “You could, uh, stay here if you wanted to.”
Eddie feels his brow rise. His heart nearly leaps right out of his chest on the spot. “Um…”
Did Richie just imply what Eddie thinks he did?
“I just mean,” Richie starts again, seeming to jolt out of whatever reverie he was in, “you don’t have to go.” He lets out a frustrated breath and his arm begins to move, keys jingling a quiet tune, but the limb never reaches a destination. It continues to hang limply at his side.
“Ah, fuck,” he groans, his gaze darting between Eddie, the bag on his arm, and the keys in his hand. “You know–”
Oh, fuck it, Eddie thinks as he surges to the tips of his toes and stops Richie mid-sentence. The kiss is nothing extraordinary even by Eddie’s standards, but it’s enough to get his point across. By the time he pulls back, Richie’s eyes have grown to the size of saucers.
“For someone that talks as much as you do, you’re really bad at this,” Eddie remarks.
Richie’s resulting grin sends a warm rush through Eddie’s stomach that makes him think he made the right choice. That feeling is only amplified when Richie drapes an arm around his waist, the bag a forgotten accessory at this point, as he tugs him close. Eddie meets Richie halfway when he leans down to slot their mouths together again. Before their lips meet, Richie’s glasses slide down the bridge of his nose, the edge of one frame bumping into Eddie’s cheek.
“Shit, sorry,” Richie says with a breathless chuckle as he pulls back a fraction. He plucks the pesky object from his face, folds the legs up with one hand, and tucks them into his back pocket.
This time, when Richie leans in again, he sweeps a tongue into his mouth, relishing in taking Eddie apart by the seams out in the open, in the hallway of their apartment complex where literally anyone could walk out and see them. The possibility of being caught makes his blood run even hotter. Richie’s fingertips start to burn against his hip, held against the tiny slip of flesh they managed to uncover while Richie’s tongue had mapped the entirety of Eddie’s mouth.
Eddie is nearly out of breath when they finally part.
“You know,” Richie starts, bending down to place his lips against the shell of Eddie’s ear, “my mouth is really good at other things.” Eddie’s knees practically buckle beneath him. Eddie has to reach up and grip the fabric of Richie’s jacket to keep himself upright.
“I heard,” he stupidly replies, the heat from his groin clearly overtaking the organ in his skull.
Richie barks out a laugh at that. “Oh, you did, huh? What else did you hear? All good things I hope.”
Eddie flushes, mostly from embarrassment. Partially from the excitement thrumming through his veins.
“Are you planning on demonstrating today, or should I go on my date after all?”
Richie quickly fumbles with his keys. “Geez, are you always this impatient or–?”
He tapers into a strangled groan when Eddie rises to his toes to bury his face against Richie’s jaw, arms enclosing around his neck, tracing the sharp contours of it with his lips and tongue. Richie’s skin is rougher than he originally imagined, prickled with a five ‘o’ clock shadow he hadn’t gotten around to shaving yet.
Eddie’s plan works exactly as intended.
Richie misses the lock three times before he finally shoves the key in. Eddie hears the lock click quietly before Richie is hurriedly shoving the door open, half-hauling, half-dragging Eddie inside. Eddie simply allows himself to be manhandled. Although he would never openly admit it, especially to Richie of all people, being pulled around like this – like he weighs virtually nothing – is incredibly arousing.
Before he knows it, they’re in the middle of Richie’s living room and they’re kissing again, the kind that makes a wet, filthy noise that bounces off the walls and leaves his lips tingling. Richie tosses the objects in his hand aside in favor of exploring Eddie’s rear-end with open appreciation.
“Been wanting to get my hands on this since I laid eyes on you,” Richie confesses between kisses. He groans against Richie’s mouth when he gives an enthusiastic squeeze.
When they part, Eddie’s fingers are digging under the hem of Richie’s jacket, eager and not trying to hide that at all whatsoever. Richie laughs, calling Eddie bossy as he shrugs out of the garment. Before Eddie can slide his fervent claws against his exposed biceps, Richie is yanking his shirt over his head as well. Eddie may or may not ogle for a few moments too long. Richie certainly isn’t the tan, buff surfer guy of his dreams but he is tall, lean, and surprisingly toned in a handful of places. Maybe he was wrong when he assumed that Richie never went to the gym…
His eyes drift to Richie’s navel to follow that trail of dark hair until it disappears into the waistband of Richie’s jeans. He barely swallows the urge to trace that line with his tongue right then and there.
“Like what you see?” Richie asks, striking a funny pose that is probably supposed to resemble a model. It mostly looks uncomfortable.
Instead of playing along, Eddie’s attention darts to Richie’s ribcage. “You have a tattoo?” It’s more of an observation than a question because the black shape Eddie is currently pointing at is definitely authentic. The tattoo, which sort of resembles a snake, winds into an infinity sign, nestled inches below his right pec.
Richie follows his gaze. “I have a mini collection going on,” Richie replies, lifting his left arm. Sure enough, there’s another inked shape on the underside of his bicep.
“There’s more where that came from too.” He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.
Eddie rolls his eyes, but he is neither annoyed nor deterred. He has long surrendered to the heat coursing through his body, to the blood pooling in his nether regions, to feel anything but slightly turned-on. Richie could sprout a second head at this point and Eddie would be none the wiser.
He takes a step forward, invading Richie’s space once again. His fingertips skate over Richie’s bare skin, over the firm stretch of his bicep, down his chest which is flushed a nice shade of pink, and he practically drinks in the resulting shiver. Richie’s arms enclose around his waist again, nails digging into Eddie’s hips, pulling him so close that their fronts are pressed flush together. Any lingering worries about whether or not Richie is really into this evaporate immediately.
“So, are you going to give me a tour or what?” Eddie asks with a salacious smile. “Put your money where your mouth is?” He leans in to press a kiss to the corner of Richie’s mouth. Richie twists his head to meet him halfway, slotting their smiling lips together.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Just as Eddie had predicted before the evening had even begun, his clothes end up on the floor of some guy’s bedroom. Only, that guy turns out to be Richie Tozier who, in turn, proves that he is as good with his mouth as he says is.
The first thing that Eddie realizes when he wakes up is that he isn’t in his bedroom. He only has to crack an eye open and take in the color of the bed sheets (blue instead of beige) to figure that out. If that wasn’t enough, the acoustic guitar propped up in the opposite corner is a dead giveaway. First of all, Eddie doesn’t play guitar – actually, he doesn’t play any musical instruments because he’s musically illiterate.
The second thing he realizes is that he isn’t alone. There is an arm slung over his (very bare) waist and a warm, equally unclothed chest pressed right up against his back. A leg is sandwiched between his knees, hanging partially over the edge of the bed. His eyes follow the appendage before falling to the pile of wrinkled clothes scattered across the floor. He quickly recognizes most of them as his own.
Eddie doesn’t bother checking beneath the sheets to see if he’s fully naked or not. He doesn’t have to.
A very telling sting rattles all the way from his thighs to the base of his spine. It doesn’t take a genius to guess what he did last night. The mere memory of it makes Eddie feel warm all over again.
Until he remembers that it was a onetime thing.
The realization washes over him like a cold bucket of water. It was just a hookup, a night of fun, with someone he happened to know instead of a stranger he met on a dating app. Which might have been worse actually. In fact, the more he thinks about it, the more that sinking feeling in his stomach starts to swim. His insides lurch like a ship on rocky waters.
He’s going to have to face Richie, that much is obvious considering the man in question is wrapped around him like an octopus. Given the current circumstances, Eddie would bet that awkward exchange will be happening sooner rather than later. They’ll dance around each other like strangers who happen to know each other’s names for at least a month before returning to being pals that might be a little more touch starved than normal. And then Richie will go back to his old habits while Eddie gloomily scrolls through Grindr, probably half-drunk.
The thought of that makes Eddie’s chest hurt.
He decides he’d rather put that off for as long as he can, at least until he is better equipped to deal with it. Not while his backside aches and his brain acts like a video clip stuck forever on loop.
Carefully, he flattens one foot on the floor and nudges Richie’s arm off him. Eddie manages to sit up and reach for his boxer-briefs before a pale arm encloses over his waist, holding him there like a vice. Promptly, Eddie’s heart plummets into his stomach.
“And where do you think you’re running off to at…Christ, seven in the morning?” comes Richie’s groggy voice. His vocal chords sound like they’ve been dragged across sand paper. Eddie finds it way more alluring than he should. “How do you live like that?”
Eddie freezes like a deer in headlights, unsure of how to proceed. He was really hoping he wouldn’t be caught and neglected to make a Plan B in case he had been. Then again, he only had about thirty seconds of actual preparation.
“Uh, home,” he eventually replies, the uncertainty bleeding into his tone. He grimaces.
Richie hums low in his throat. He doesn’t let go. “And here I was, sort of hoping for a round two. I mean, I figured you’d stick around for breakfast at least.”
Eddie doesn’t know how to respond that. The mere mention of breakfast throws him off. He feels like he’s trapped in a maze, at a dead end with nowhere else to go. The sensation is similarly suffocating.
Richie must sense, or feel, the tension littering his body because the mattress shifts behind him, the bed frame creaking as Richie sits up. When Eddie dares to glance over his shoulder, he watches Richie swipe his bedraggled curls out of his eyes. His neutral expression takes Eddie off-guard as well.
The arm around his waist withdraws long enough for Richie to toss it over Eddie’s shoulders, dragging him toward Richie’s chest. He basically melts into it, even more so when Richie peppers a couple kisses to the nobs of his spine. If Richie was to tug him back into bed fully, Eddie thinks he would let him.
But he doesn’t.
“Tell me what’s on your mind, baby boy,” Richie practically burrs into his skin, recycling that pet name he had used the night prior. The same one that made Eddie’s insides turn to goo when he first heard it.
He probably uses that pet name, or a variation of it at least, on all his bed partners.
“Nothing,” Eddie insists, dragging his eyes to more important matters at hand. Such as the clothes on the floor. “I just – I should be getting home.”
“You live next-door,” Richie reminds him.
Eddie shrugs, even beneath the added weight on his shoulders. He refuses to meet Richie’s imploring gaze, although he can see the blurry shape of him lingering in his peripheral. It feels like pins and needles on his skin regardless. The mounting pressure to acknowledge the elephant in the room also sort of feels like being cooked alive.
“I can make a mean scrambled eggs,” Richie continues to ramble. Eddie recognizes it for what it is: a nervous tick. “Or chocolate chip pancakes if those are more up your alley.”
Eddie shakes his head, finally shrugging out of Richie’s half-embrace and out of every false pretense that he might have been playing into up until this point. Things will be painfully awkward no matter what Eddie does, so why delay the inevitable?
Unfortunately, Richie looks devastatingly good propped up against the headboard with nothing but a flimsy sheet covering his lap. Staring at him makes it hard for Eddie to think.
“Come on, Eds,” Richie starts again, his expression worse for wear. “Have breakfast with me.” He sounds almost desperate now.
Eddie really should get up and pull his clothes on. Maybe head over to Stan and Bill’s where he could drink until his mind is quiet. For some reason, he doesn’t.
“Why?” he asks instead.
Richie raises an eyebrow, clearly confused. “Why not?”
“Is this – do you do this with everyone you sleep with?” Eddie comes out and asks. He’s afraid of the answer but he thinks he needs to hear it anyway. Rejection is easier to swallow than uncertainty.
Richie’s eyebrows nearly meet to become one big unibrow. Under normal circumstances, Eddie would laugh but nothing about any of this is remotely ordinary.
“No,” he answers slowly, as if testing the waters. Waiting for Eddie to do something. When he doesn’t, he adds, “I think we’re riding two very different wavelengths right now.”
The scoff that spills through his lips takes him by surprise. “What?”
Richie smiles and it’s softer than what Eddie is accustomed to seeing. For once, Richie doesn’t look like he’s about to put on a show. He’s vulnerable, wearing his heart on his sleeve, even if Eddie is having trouble making sense of it. Granted, Eddie has his suspicions, because the breakfast bit sort of gave it away, but Eddie is afraid of getting his hopes up.
“Have breakfast with me,” he says, again. “And then, only if you want to, let me take you out to dinner. Does tomorrow at six sound good?”
“Wait?” Eddie says because nothing Richie is saying is computing with the organ upstairs. When it finally does, he sputters, “Are you asking me out on a date?”
“That I am, Eds,” Richie confirms. His lips twitch on either side, barely withholding that glorious grin that is threatening to break through. “That I am. So, whaddya say, ol’ pal?” He chuckles but there’s a hint of nervousness beneath it.
“I, uh…” Richie stares on expectantly. “I don’t know.” He feels like he’s blabbering at this point. “I’m just – I’m a little overwhelmed right now.” To be more accurate, his brain feels stuck. His thoughts may as well be the blue screen of death at this point.
As he takes a shuddering breath, Richie reaches out and squeezes his shoulder comfortingly. This time, he doesn’t try to pull Eddie into an embrace. He gives him space and Eddie can’t help but feel a little grateful.
“Take all the time you need,” Richie says. He pulls his hand away, the appendage dropping down to the crumpled sheets. “You can say no you know. I–”
“It’s not that,” Eddie quickly interjects, almost desperately. Richie’s mouth snaps shut with an audible click. “It’s just…when?”
Since when was Richie interested in going out with Eddie? And why didn’t Eddie know about this sooner? Did he just ignore all of the signs or was Richie a lot more subtle than Eddie originally gave him credit for?
Richie shrugs. “And here I thought I was being obvious–”
“Oh, come on, don’t give me that look. How many times did I try to get you in the sack?”
“I thought you were joking, Richie.” And even if he hadn’t been, there’s a difference between hooking up and having breakfast and possibly dinner together.
“Well, I wasn’t,” Richie counters firmly. “I was totally, one hundred percent serious. I just figured you weren’t interested after a while. Imagine my surprise when you…” Richie releases a haggard breath through his nose, raking a hand through his messy hair. And then he reclines back into his pillows, grinning almost lasciviously. “You know, I really didn’t peg you for a screamer, Eds.”
Eddie’s eyes widen in horror.
“Oh, Richie!” he practically whimpers out in what Eddie can only assume to be a poor impersonation of him. Of course, it sounds nothing like him. “Right there! Oh, please! Harder!” Richie crudely thrusts his hips beneath the duvet.
Eddie jumps on him, red-faced and mortified, and slaps both palms over Richie’s mouth before he can utter another word. He can feel Richie’s bubbled laughter against his skin and before he knows it, he’s dissolving into a peel of laughter too. The kind that rattles in your lungs and makes tears spring at the corners of your eyes.
Eventually, he sits back, fingers splayed over Richie’s chest, vaguely aware of his state of undress. However, when he recalls Richie acquainting himself with every square inch he could get his greedy hands (and mouth) on, Eddie realizes how stupid feeling self-conscious would be. He had sex with Richie not even twelve hours ago. It’s a little late to start feeling shy.
Instead of entertaining that sliver of insecurity, he busies himself with brushing a digit over the bruise blooming against one of Richie’s collarbones. Richie’s mouth twitches, still stretched into a smile that is beginning to look a lot less easy.
He doesn’t realize that he had planted himself squarely on Richie’s lap until Richie shifts beneath him. One of Richie’s hands slides against his thigh, fingers stretched over the smooth curvature, while a strange flicker (lust, want, adoration) passes over his face.
Richie hums, fingertips burning against Eddie’s skin. “This is bringing back some really good memories, Eds.”
Eddie flushes. He can recall last night almost vividly. To spare him the brunt of Richie’s already overinflated ego, he keeps his raving review to himself.
“But I’m afraid I’m getting some mixed signals here,” he continues. His hand glides from Eddie’s thigh to his hip, leaving a trail of fire and Goosebumps in its wake. Eddie is already a shivering mess beneath his ministrations.
“You’re gonna have to tell me what you want.”
“You,” he blurts out before he can second-guess himself. It sounds terribly sappy, romantic even – much more than Eddie is typically comfortable with – but Eddie can’t bring himself to regret it when Richie is looking at him like that.
(Plus, he actually plans on taking Richie up on his offer for dinner).
“Oh, thank fuck.” Richie tugs him forward by the nape of his neck, kissing him senseless. Eddie wastes no time in tangling his fingers into Richie’s wild mane, tugging not-so-experimentally. Richie moans into his mouth, sounding almost pained, hips shifting restlessly beneath Eddie’s splayed thighs.
And if Eddie goes for a round two, well, that’s between him and the empty apartment next-door.