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Richie Tozier wasn’t funny. He just wasn’t. And Eddie respected Bill for maintaining a friendship with the man since high school, even through Richie’s rise to fame. They still Skyped all the time and hung out when Richie made it back out to LA, and Eddie knew that wasn’t easy. But… just because Eddie’s best friend was also Richie’s best friend didn’t mean that Eddie had to pretend like this shit was funny. Because it fucking wasn’t.

Eddie was leaning back against Mike’s legs, sipping from his glass of margarita and feeling a little bit like he was on candid camera. Bill had put on one of Tozier’s comedy specials and fuck. It was bad! But all of his friends were laughing and just generally enjoying the experience? The only thing that made this moment bearable was that a. he was drinking, and b. Mike was gently running his fingers through Eddie’s hair, almost lulling him to sleep and c. Stan wasn’t laughing either. He was staring at the screen like it was growing spider legs, which was exactly how Eddie thought his face looked too.

“Oh GOD, That’s SO not funny,” Eddie griped, unable to passively observe anymore, “I don’t think grown men are allowed to make this many dick jokes.” He’d been paying attention intermittently, between scrolling through Instagram and daydreaming he was watching something actually funny. Stan laughed in agreement but Bill did not. Instead he threw a handful of popcorn at Eddie in annoyance.

“Can you not just sit there and bitch?” he asked and Eddie raised his hands in question.

“That was the first thing I said!” Eddie argued and Bill rolled his eyes, shoving popcorn in his mouth.

“You’re been making dumb faces this whole time. I can practically hear the judgment rolling off of you.” Bill scolded, but Eddie just shrugged, “There’s some funny stuff in here, if you parse through the bullshit.”

“Wow, okay calm down. That’s a rave review, Bill. Really making this sound so appealing, let me just parse through the awful, juvenile, borderline misogynistic jokes that were probably written by a thirteen year old, to find the one that might make me chuckle.” Eddie laughed once, loudly, and then downed the rest of his drink. Bill glared at him and Audra, from her spot opposite Bill on the couch, stretched her leg out and over, nudging Bill’s cheek with her toe.

“Bill, unclench. Eddie’s allowed to not love Richie as much as you do,” Audra said calmly, through a mouthful of Doritos, “I mean, the guy did just make a joke about dick-hole vaping.”

God, straight guys are the worst.” Eddie cringed. He heard Mike laugh from behind him and nod.

“Straight AND white,” Mike added, taking Eddie’s empty glass as he got up and went to the kitchen, to refill it. Eddie blew him a kiss as he walked away, “It’s a dangerous combination.”

“Richie isn’t straight.” Bill pouted and Eddie’s head snapped to him in surprise.

What?” he asked. No lie, he was straight up shocked (the only type of straight he’d ever be, lmao). A man wearing THAT shirt and talking about pussy THAT much was gay? Bill shrugged.

“He isn’t straight. He came out to me as bisexual in like eighth grade I think.”

“He was Bill’s first real crush,” Audra added smugly, making Bill blush, “And his first kiss.”

“Oh my God Audra!” Bill laughed, hitting her gently with a pillow before pulling her into his lap, “These are personal details! Shared in CONFIDENCE! Y’all wanna know some about Audra? Her first crush was teenage Simba and-”

“That’s true of every single millennial,” Stan cut him off, “Let’s talk more about you and Richie, Bill. Did you guys ever, like, go steady?” Stan leaned closer, leaning on his head on his fist and Eddie grinned. Bill’s blush was really ruining his glare, as was the adorable way that he rested his chin on Audra’s head. They were so fucking cute, sometimes it made Eddie mad.

(Eddie wasn’t bitter or anything, but the constant reminder that everyone in his friend group had a soulmate OTHER than him? It stung a little bit.)

“Richie and I share a connection you guys cannot hope to understand. It goes beyond the fact that I think he’s hot. And charismatic. And funny as shit. Our souls are linked.” Bill said seriously, making them all laugh. It was perfect timing, because as everyone else focused on Bill, Eddie’s attention shift went unnoticed. The crowd on the TV let out a raucous laugh that Eddie was just one hundred percent sure was undeserved, but it made Eddie pay close attention to Richie, solely because the shot lingered on him for so long, as he waited for the laughter to fade.

Eddie tried to see him from Bill’s point of view, without the tinge of disgust that Eddie felt due to the baseness of his humor. He supposed he wasn’t that awful to look at? For one, it was pretty undeniable he had a definite big dick energy… and he was tall, which was a reluctant plus in Eddie’s 5’8” book. He also had very nice hair and impressive bone structure. The glasses he wore were dumb as shit, made his eyes look… kind of weird. But, it was endearing in a way. He also had great hands, they were probably his best feature, in Eddie’s opinion. They were big and the way they gripped the microphone or rubbed over his stubble was… not… unappealing…

Okay he needed to stop this train of thought before he ended up somewhere dangerous. Like agreeing with Bill that Tozier was hot. Eddie loved Bill, he did, but GOD he hated when he was right. He would never let Eddie hear the end of it.

Eddie was very relieved when Mike came back with a refilled margarita.

***

Eddie was in the kitchen, cleaning up the dishes left over from when his friends left. There wasn’t much, just some glasses and a pitcher. He could’ve left it until morning, but… then they would’ve been sticky and he was Eddie so. He didn’t.

He was just soaping up the margarita pitcher when he heard the front door open. He jumped slightly, not expecting the sound. He lived alone and none of his friends had a spare key so… Did he leave the door unlocked? That didn’t sound like him.

“Bill? You here still?” a voice called out and Eddie felt tingles spill down his spine, but he didn’t know why.

“Stan?” Eddie called out, a shot in the dark, but he didn’t recognize the voice and he didn’t really know who else would just barge in. He turned his head over his shoulder as he heard footsteps approaching and the pitcher almost slipped out of his hands when he saw who it was.

Richie Tozier was in his kitchen, holding a duffel bag and looking confused.

“What the fuck?” Eddie said aloud, unable to hold it in because WHAT THE FUCK. Richie turned to him with a start and a shy smile spread over his cheeks. Eddie wouldn’t have thought the man capable of looking embarrassed, but he did. It was NOT endearing.

“Oh, shit, you’re not Bill.” Richie fucking Tozier said. Then he looked Eddie up and down, appraisingly, and stopped when he reached the hem of Eddie’s pajama shorts. His eyes widened slightly and he met Eddie’s eyes again, as if they were in on a joke together. And the joke was Eddie.

Eddie just scowled and fidgeted slightly as he turned around completely. His hands were still soaking wet, so he held them out awkwardly, wanting to tug his hem lower but unable to.

No, I’m not. What the hell are you doing in my apartment?” Eddie asked, shaking off his hands once in the sink.

“Umm… well,” Richie took a second to laugh, probably musing on how awkward the situation he created was. Then, Eddie assumed, he kept talking but… Eddie wasn’t listening because that laugh? It sounded… wrong. He couldn’t put his finger on why, but it was almost… hollow. Not right at all, though Eddie didn’t know how he knew that since he’d never-

“Eddie?” Richie asked, pulling Eddie out of his zone-out.

“Huh?” Eddie asked instinctively. Richie tilted his head and smiled, staring at Eddie like he was a little bit insane and a lot adorable. It did NOT give Eddie goosebumps. “How do you know my name?” he asked, dazedly.

“You just told it to me.” Richie explained slowly.

“I did?” Eddie asked and Richie chuckled.

“Yeah, right before I told you why I was here… and judging by the completely blank look on your face, you weren’t listening at all. So, we’ll start over. Bill told me to come. He heard I just got back from my tour and suggested I come over. Said his friend Eddie was having a people over. He didn’t tell me this, though,” Richie said, and suddenly his gaze felt really heavy on Eddie, like he saw right through him. It made Eddie’s heart beat faster, made his legs feel a little like jelly. “He didn’t tell me someone like you lived here.”

“Someone like me?” Eddie breathed, slow to catch up with the sudden shift in the room, the heat that crept in. Seriously, did the heater turn up?

“Someone this fuckable.” Richie whispered and Eddie’s jaw dropped so suddenly he was surprised he didn’t hear it thud against the tiled floor. Heat rushed through him at the words, both from embarrassment and arousal. Richie grinned smugly and that irritated Eddie enough that he shook his head out of his lust-stupor.

“I think you should go.” Eddie managed and Richie nodded, taking a step back and grabbing his duffel bag again. He didn’t seem too put off.

“Right,” Richie shrugged, “Since I seem to have missed the party.” He looked around at the empty apartment and Eddie nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, sorry.” Apparently they were gonna blow right past the whole sudden-sexual-tension thing and Eddie was just one hundred percent okay with that.

“Can I use your bathroom before I go, though?” Richie asked. It was a seemingly innocent question, so Eddie easily agreed. He took a step to show Richie where to go, but he realized his hands were still wet.

“One second.” Eddie muttered, turning around to the counter where he kept the paper towels, and suddenly, faster than should’ve been possible, Eddie felt Richie up against his back, hands strong on Eddie’s hips.

Oh fuck. What are you doing?” Eddie whispered immediately, but Richie didn’t respond right away. He just stood still and firm, heat radiating through the layers of clothes separating them.

“Tell me you don’t want me to stay and I’ll go,” he breathed. Eddie gasped reflexively when he felt Richie’s hands flex, somehow pulling him closer, “Just say the word.”

Eddie’s throat was completely useless. He was struck motionless, all rational thought driven right out of his head with lust. So, instead of doing the entirely rational thing: pushing Richie off of him, threatening to call the cops, and kicking him the fuck out, Eddie arched back against Richie, tilting his head to the side and echoing Richie’s moan loudly when he took the invitation, pressing his lips gently to Eddie’s neck.

Richie’s hands were instantly moving all over him, one going down, gripping the meat of Eddie’s hip, his ass, his thigh. His other hand went up, over his abs and nipples, tracing his collarbone before settling on neck. It wasn’t squeezing, wasn’t constricting any air, but the heavy pressure and the threat were enough to make Eddie breath faster.

He brought one hand up to Richie’s against his neck, but he didn’t try to move it, even when it tightened, making it just a little harder for Eddie to catch his breath. Fuck, he never thought that choking was something that would turn him on so much, but Richie’s hands, they were so big, made Eddie feel so small. That wasn’t something Eddie usually loved, but tonight it was really doing it for Eddie’s dick.

“You like that?” Richie asked, smug, and Eddie whined in a way that was supposed to sound angry but was more desperate than anything else, “Yeah, I can tell, baby.” Richie started grinding his hips into Eddie’s ass. His other hand gripped Eddie’s hip so hard he was probably leaving bruises and Eddie moaned at the thought.

Well, the thought of bruises and the fact that Richie’s hands were moving again, like they wanted to map out every inch of Eddie’s skin.

“God, your fucking thighs,” Richie groaned. Eddie felt him lean back slightly to stare as his hands went travelling down, over Eddie’s hips and gripping the meat of his thighs with both hands this time, shaking him gently in emphasis as he said, “Fucking irresistible, baby.”

“Oh God.” Eddie groaned, gripping the counter in front of him now for stability. Richie laughed and Eddie couldn’t believe how much of Richie’s hands covered his thighs, almost felt like he could wrap around them completely. It made him want to just fucking bend over, press the coolness of the counter against his cheek and beg to be fucked.

“I think you already knew that, though, didn’t you, Eds?” Richie asked as his hands moved higher, his thumbs slipping under the edge of Eddie’s shorts, pushing in right under the curve of Eddie’s ass, “No one could wear shorts these short without knowing exactly how they look.” Eddie whimpered, pushing his ass back into Richie’s touch. Richie hummed his approval and pushed his hands further under Eddie’s shorts. His palms pushed into the flesh of Eddie’s cheeks, kneading possessively and pulling them apart, his thumbs slowly moving towards Eddie’s hole and then suddenly, the pressure was gone and Eddie was being turned around again. The counter was a cold sting against his back, but he was solidly distracted by Richie against his front, his hands stretched across Eddie’s abs and-

Whoa what? When did Richie take his shirt off? How did he not notice that?

“Tattoos, handsome? Shit, wasn’t expecting that.” Richie teased, his tongue tracing Eddie’s chest, focusing on his right nipple and Eddie’s head was reeling. Was he so fucking turned on that he was losing time? That had never happened before, what the fuck?

Richie’s hands were gripping his thighs again, hoisting him up so he was sitting on the counter. Richie spread his legs wide open and slid in between them, wrapping Eddie’s thighs around him tightly. His hand was massaging Eddie’s dick just right and his lips were there against his ear.

“I wanna fuck you, Eds. Wanna take my dick, handsome?” Richie whispered and Eddie groaned, so fucking desperate, completely ready to beg when-

BEEP BEEP BEEP.

Eddie woke up quickly, arm shooting out from under the covers to grab his phone, flashing with the LED light and vibrating wildly. He pressed the snooze button and collapsed back into the pillows, sighing sadly at the loss of his dream. He sunk into his pillows, almost wanting to cry at being pulled from bliss.

He gave himself a minute to wake up, thinking back to why exactly he felt so warm, and comfortable and-

“Oh fuck.” Eddie shouted, sitting up in bed quickly, disoriented. He dropped his head into his hands and ignored the phantom throbbing in his hips, remembering exactly where dream-Richie’s hands had just been. He ran his hands through his hair a couple times, slapping his cheeks to ground himself in reality.

Then, staring into the dark of his room, he whispered, “Bill can never know.”

***

“You’ve been having SEX DREAMS ABOUT RICHIE?” Was, of course, the first thing Bill said as he slipped into the booth at the Panera they were meeting at. Eddie’s head snapped up from his phone and he immediately glared at Audra, who was sliding into the booth next to Bill.

“You bitch.” He said instantly and Bill threw a straw wrapper at Eddie in protest while Audra groaned.

“I’m sorry!” she yelled, putting her face in her hands, “I didn’t tell him much! I was very vague on the details!”

“I tell you ONE secret!” Eddie complained. He should’ve fucking known.

“He’s a wizard! A psychic!”

“You’re weak!”

“You’re dramatic.”

“You betrayed me!”

“Oh come on! Let’s be honest, you should’ve fucking known, Eddie!” Audra argued and Eddie rolled his eyes, leaned back, and crossed his arms in anger, “Bill always knows when I have a secret!”

“That is so not true.” Eddie quipped, and he stared at her for a long moment, discerning, “Vegas?” he suggested, one eyebrow raised. He was very satisfied by the Immediate flush to Audra’s cheeks.

“Don’t do this, Eddie.” Audra begged. Eddie let her suffer a moment before he scoffed, ignoring Bill looking between them, confused and spluttering.

“I’m not doing anything. Because I can keep a secret.” Eddie said. He was only pouting a little but Audra rolled her eyes nonetheless, even as her shoulders relaxed with relief.

“He knows when I have secrets concerning him.” Audra amended and Eddie made a noise of protest.

My libido has nothing to do with him!”

“You specifically told me not to tell him! You said the name Bill! The story and Bill were undeniably linked in my head!”

“Oh my God, that is such bullshit.” Eddie huffed. He was quiet, steaming, for a moment and Bill kicked his foot gently under the table.

“You’re not really mad, are you?” Bill asked softly, “You seem genuinely upset.” Eddie leaned his head back against the booth and took a deep breath, shaking his head.

“No, it’s fine,” He managed a small smile, “I should’ve known she wouldn’t be able to resist telling you.”

“Well, you chose to tell her in the first place.” Audra butted in, “That was your mistake.”

“I don’t have a huge selection of friends who wouldn’t have made fun of me for it, Audra.” Eddie snapped, with little heat. Audra smiled and looked truly apologetic.

“I’m sorry, Ed. But if it makes you feel any better… Bill was so fucking stoked when I told him.” She said with a laugh. Eddie scrunched his face in confusion.

“What the fuck?” he asked and Bill laughed loudly.

“Someone else understands how hot Richie is! I’m excited! I win!” Bill explained. Eddie glared at him.

“Shut the fuck up, Denbrough. Just because I had ONE sex dream about the guy does NOT mean I think he’s appealing. It was one malfunction. You do NOT win.” Eddie argued and Bill just stared, smug.

“Just one?” he asked, and Audra took a big gulp of her iced tea, staring in the other direction even as Eddie glared lasers at her, “That’s not what I heard.”

“What the FUCK? Very vague on the details?” Eddie repeated to her and Audra’s smile was pained.

“I didn’t tell him what positions you two were in.” Audra offered and Eddie balked.

“BARE. MINIMUM.” Eddie snapped, shaking his head as Bill laughed.

“Just admit you’re officially a member of the I-Love-Richie-Tozier Club.”

“I thought once you find your soulmate you’re supposed to quit all those other clubs,” Eddie teased, a desperate attempt to get the attention off of him, “Shouldn’t you only be in the I-Love-Audra club?”

“Bill’s love for Richie unfortunately outdates me,” Audra cut-in, running a hand through Bill’s hair affectionately, “It was here before me and it will be there after me, too.” She said, faux-seriously, and Eddie knew she was kidding, but Bill turned to her quickly, eyes worried.

“You know that’s not true, right?” he whispered, checking in. Audra’s eyes softened and she smiled, kissing Bill on the lips once.

“Of course, baby. I’m just teasing. I know you love me most.” She assured him. Bill smiled too then and nodded once.

They were so fucking cute it was annoying.

Eddie wasn’t sure he really believed in soulmates until Bill and Audra. If he’d met Stan and Mike earlier in life, they would’ve proved it to him too, but as it happened, Eddie saw the development of Bill and Audra before his very eyes. He’d known Bill for a long time. They’d met when he was little, becoming friends in the third grade.

Then, in the seventh grade, Eddie’s parents got divorced. Eddie had thought his parents were soulmates. They told him they were, when he was little and they told him the fairytales about meeting someone, hearing them laugh, and everything in your life clicking into color. It sounded too good to be true, and Eddie didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. Figured he’d understand one day, but when he was younger, he was happy. He didn’t need to worry about stuff like that. He had a good childhood. His dad loved him, his mom was a little overbearing but Eddie’s dad softened her worries in a beautiful way.

But then, Eddie was 12. He was sitting with his dad at a Parent-Teacher Conference, since he was struggling in his science classes, and his Biology teacher laughed. She laughed and Eddie’s dad froze. He looked ecstatic for one brief moment and then his face shifted and he looked to Eddie with wide, apologetic eyes. Turns out his mom and dad weren’t soulmates and all it took was one quick laugh from Ms. Kavatappi to prove it. It was quick, but it changed Eddie’s life drastically.

He didn’t blame his dad, looking back on it. He didn’t even really blame him in the moment, he just didn’t understand. All he knew was that his mom was fucking furious. The whole thing changed her, made her edges rougher, and she tore his dad apart in court, lied in anyway she could to get full custody.

Eddie didn’t see much of his dad at all after that.

So, when Eddie reconnected with Bill in college, after his mom moved him to another city, another school, far away from anyone who knew anything about her disastrous rejection, Eddie had a pretty fucked up view of soulmates. The only soulmate pair he knew of tore his family a part.

Bill understood that, so he didn’t judge Eddie for the random slew of guys he’d sleep with, uncaring of future hypothetical soulmates. It was because of that, Eddie didn’t judge Bill in turn when he fell head over fucking heels for Audra. They’d met in the library, which was very cliché and sweet.

Bill and Eddie were studying late one night, delirious over finals, and Eddie had suddenly started laughing uncontrollably at something, he didn’t even remember. He just remembered being so tired, everything was funny. Bill tried to stop him, but nothing worked and eventually, when Eddie ignored the shushing of two boys from another table, Bill caved too. He’d always said Eddie’s laughter was contagious, so both of them ended up bending over their textbooks and clutching their stomachs, laughing at the fact that they couldn’t stop laughing. When Eddie looked up, finally, he saw Audra a couple tables down.

He’d already met her, hung out with her a few times. They’d had a couple English classes together. Eddie smiled at her, but she hardly noticed. She was too busy staring at Bill, completely frozen, one headphone pulled out of her ear and her face almost exactly like what Eddie had seen on his father 9 years prior.

Things progressed naturally from there, literally no issues for two white, attractive, m/f members of society meeting each other and declaring soulmates. Eddie’s instinct was to be suspicious, waiting for the inevitable blow-up or for Bill to abandon their friendship, or something, anything negative.

But Audra was lovely. Truly and genuinely, she brought out the best in Bill and they supported each other in everything. It was so fucking relieving for Eddie. He actually started entertaining the idea of maybe meeting his own soulmate one day, started working through the negative clouds that hung close to and heavy around that concept in therapy.

It also meant he started sleeping around a little less, cared a little more about the sanctity of love or whatever. Not a whole lot, but somewhat. So, he was partially blaming increased horniness for these dreams.

“Well, was it good?” Bill asked, pulling Eddie out of his thoughts.

“I’m not answering that.”

“Oh come on, Ed! Stop playing. We know you like him, so-”

“Ey!” Eddie cut in, “I do not like him! Where the fuck did you get that from?”

“Um, you wanna fuck him,” Bill deadpanned, “Do you usually fuck people you don’t like?” Bill asked and then backtracked a little because honestly, yes, Eddie had. In college he exclusively fucked people he didn’t really like that much.

“Hate sex is a very real thing.” Eddie said smugly and Bill rolled his eyes.

“Okay, so that’s what these dreams are? Hate sex?” Bill clarified and Eddie was about to agree and simultaneously make fun of Bill for caring so much, for wanting to live vicariously through Eddie’s sub-conscious, but then he remembered his dream last night.

He remembered how slowly he’d ridden Richie’s dick, as the man cried and begged beneath him. He remembered the words he whispered, calling Richie beautiful and perfect and saying how he cried so fucking pretty for him and oh God, your cock feels so good in me, Rich, fills me so good-

“Yeah. Hate sex.” Eddie agreed casually, sipping his Pepsi. Bill stared at him a long moment, eyes squinted, before smiling.

“Liar.” Bill said. Eddie just glared. He knew nothing.

“Well,” Bill continued after Eddie didn’t reply, “If you’re so cool with him, no feelings at all, you should come to his comedy show this weekend.” Bill suggested casually. Eddie looked at Audra, confused.

“What are you talking about?”

“Richie just finished his tour,” Bill said, and no, that didn’t make Eddie think of anything in particular AT ALL as he fidgeted in his seat, “He’s doing a really small, intimate show at a comedy club downtown to celebrate being home. We’re going.”

“Um, no thanks. Not my thing.” Eddie laughed, not even lying. He may have wanted to ride Richie’s dick until he broke it, but that didn’t mean he would sit through an hour and a half of his “jokes”. Bill reached into his pocket and dramatically threw something down on the table.

“Well, I already bought the tickets, so, you’re coming.” Bill said definitively, as if that meant ANYTHING to Eddie.

“I didn’t tell you to buy that! I have nothing to do with this.” Eddie insisted, looking to Audra for support. She just stared back and forth between him and Bill, enjoying the show.

“Stan and Mike are already in, we just need you.”

“What, you NEED a fifth wheel? Bullshit, just go the four of you, why would you-”

“I’m calling in my Georgie-favor.” Bill cut him off and Eddie went immediately silent, shocked.

What?” he balked. Bill just nodded, completely serious. “Bill, you only get ONE Georgie favor a year. You’re going to use it for this?”

“I am.” He replied and Audra waved her hand inbetween them, breaking the stare.

“Um, what is the Georgie-favor and why are you both acting like you’re members of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood?” she asked. Bill looked at Eddie and raised an eyebrow, prompting him to explain.

One time in the sixth grade,” Eddie said, glaring at Bill to emphasize the ridiculousness of it all, “I ACCIDENTALLY lost Georgie in a corn maze at the Derry Harvest Festival. But I eventually found him.” Eddie explained to Audra, casually. She still looked confused and Bill scoffed.

“He was missing for four hours!” Bill argued, “We thought he was dead! Or kidnapped!”

“It was an accident! That I made when I was PRE-PUBESCENT!” Eddie shouted, making Audra laugh.

“I don’t care,” Bill said, “We agreed that to pay me back, you owed me one favor a year, no questions asked, no arguments, until we both die.”

“Both of you? What if one of you dies and the other doesn’t? Ghost Eddie still has favor responsibilities?”

“Don’t worry about it, Audra.”

“That would hardly hold up in court.” Audra pointed out and Bill turned to look at her.

“We shook on it. With blood.” Bill emphasized and Eddie groaned. He usually didn’t argue the validity of the Georgie-favors. To be honest, he does still feel bad about it. Georgie was really fucking scared when they found him in the barrens, shaking and cold and complaining about a clown chasing him through the fair. He didn’t mind the favors.

It was just… what the fuck? Why did Bill want this so much? Was it really that important to him?

“Fine!” Eddie relented, “I’ll go to the stupid comedy show as your 2019 Georgie Favor. Which is just… it doesn’t make any sense, Bill.”

“It doesn’t have to make sense,” Bill said primly, “You just have to come. And hang out with Richie and me afterwards. And admit you’re in love with him.”

“Oh my GOD.”

“He’s better in person,” Bill said and Eddie stared at him like he was crazy, but Bill was unaffected, “Pheromones. Trust me.”

“OH. MY. GOD.”

***

Eddie was… he didn’t remember exactly how he was feeling when the night had begun. Probably a little nervous, a little bored, a little excited. He came to the show, obviously, he came. Bill wanted him to, genuinely, for some reason that probably had to do with his huge pride, so even though it was embarrassing and would undoubtedly cause more … dreams, Eddie got dressed up and pre-gamed for a comedy show with his best friends.

God, the things he did for them.

So he didn’t know how he’d started the night feeling, but now he was upset. Because all of a sudden… Richie was funny. Like really fucking FUNNY. It was like he was a completely different performer. He was so fucking smart, his timing was perfect, his energy both chaotic and controlled, and he was funny. And the content wasn’t anything like what his special was on Netflix. This was random, unexpected, he’d had a whole segment about running a honey business that almost had Eddie rolling. It was so fucking FUNNY.

And it was hot as fuck. And Bill could never know.

“Ever since I was kid,” Richie said about 45 minutes into his set. Eddie had been strong so far, managing not to laugh in the same way he managed not to come too soon in sex when he was younger: he recited the Preamble to the Constitution song from School House Rock. Something about the way Richie started this joke, the quiet confidence and twitch to his lips made Eddie nervous. So he hummed.

“Stop fucking humming.” Stan whispered to him and Eddie huffed but did, returning his attention to the stage, to Richie leaning against the microphone stand like it was a walking stick.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be one thing… An undercover cop.” He paused to let the audience laugh and Eddie grabbed his drink, taking a sip to cover the smile that threatened to spread.

“I love this joke.” Stan muttered and Eddie looked at him curiously.

“You’ve heard it?” he asked. Stan shrugged and smiled.

“I helped him write it.” Stan admitted, humbly, and Eddie’s mouth dropped.

“You know him too?” he asked, but before he could say anything, Richie continued.

“But that’s not something I told many people. Even thought they’d ask. They would, they’d ask and ask and ask. You know how adults are always asking kids what they wanna be when they grow up? And kids are like, I don’t fucking know, I’m 6?” The audience laughed and Richie grinned, nodding along, “Yeah, well, I was smart. I was a forward thinker. They’d ask me that, and I knew I couldn’t say undercover cop. Because I do that and when I grow up, first day as an undercover cop, I’ve already blown my cover! Because I was running my goddamn trashmouth as a little kid, blabbering all about my undercover dreams.

“So,” Richie continued, over the laughter that Eddie fought succumbing to, “I thought ahead. When adults would ask me Rich, what do you wanna be when you grow up, I’d say the same thing, every time: … drug dealer.”

Eddie clasped his hand over his mouth, physically restraining any laughter. (Bill could not know.)

“If I go around always telling people that I wanna be a drug dealer, when I end up becoming an undercover cop, get placed in a drug operation, people will inevitably start getting suspicious, they’ll ask, what if Richie’s an undercover cop? And everyone else will be like, what the fuck? No way! This is his life-long dream! He’s wanted this as long as I can remember! And my cover is safe.”

WE THE PEOPLE, IN ORDER TO FORM A MORE PERFECT UNION-

“It’s worked perfectly. I’m an undercover cop today, I’ve officially made it. You’re all probably wondering what I’m doing up here as a stand-up comedian, then? Well, I was assigned to a case to bring down an organization dealing drugs to comedians backstage at comedy clubs, never cracked the case, but the gigs keep rolling in and I’m happy to be here.”

ESTABLISH JUSTICE AND PROMOTE DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY       

“Let me tell you though, my boss is NOT happy that I’m telling the audience this every night. He is not happy about it. He called me in there the other day. He comes storming out of his office and goes SPRINGLEAF!”

PROVIDE FOR THE COMMON DEFENSE, PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE AAAAND

“Oh Springleaf, that’s my real name, actually. Pat Springleaf.”

And oh fuck, Eddie couldn’t help it, he broke. WHY was that the line that broke him? No idea. But it was so funny and the crowd’s energy was infectious, Eddie dropped his hand from his mouth, covered his eyes, and laughed.

Richie let them all laugh for a long time, too long, and when Eddie finally stopped and opened his eyes, Richie was standing still on the stage, looking around desperately.

“Hold on,” Richie said, breaking the silence as he shook his head and held up one hand, seemingly thinking hard, “Let’s pause that for a second. I need a moment to… reassess, guys. Something weird just happened.” He took a deep breath and the crowd stayed silent, waiting for the next joke. But Eddie, he looked around, confused, because something about the way Richie was fidgeting made Eddie think there wasn’t another joke coming. Something really had happened. Bill seemed to think the same thing. His face looked worried.

“Either the spotlight man just put a weird fucking filter on the room, or I just heard my soulmate laugh,” Richie whispered, but it was a whisper into a microphone, so the whole audience heard, responding with a well-timed gasp. Eddie felt his stomach drop with his jaw and he saw Bill light up from the corner of his eye.

“I know, I know,” Richie said, stopping the crowd’s murmurs with his hand motions, “You’re thinking isn’t this what you fucking signed on for, bro? You’re a comedian, man, you had to think about this possibility. And I don’t know why this crowd’s collective voice is one of a surfer dude, but deal with it bros.” Richie gave a hang-ten sign and Eddie rolled his eyes at the impression. Even if it was fucking funny.

“And to answer your question, brah, I have thought about it. I have, definitely, but mostly it was something I considered when I was younger. First starting. Back then,” Richie explained, leaning on his mic stand for support, “I had really shit self-esteem. Like most comedians who are actually funny. So, mostly I thought I would never have to deal with that, because my soulmate… wouldn’t think I was funny. I know, that’s depressing, but I didn’t think I was either, so… anyway. Then, once I was older and less… cynical, I wasn’t really writing my own material because of shitty contracts and managers. So I kind of HOPED my soulmate wouldn’t even come to my show, let alone laugh at one. Maybe he or she wouldn’t have any exposure to my material, or they just… genuinely wouldn’t think that shit was funny.” Richie shrugged, blasé, and Eddie tried really hard to ignore his friends next to him. At this point they weren’t even looking at the stage, for fucks sake. They were just staring at Eddie, waiting for him to say something.

“Stop it.” Eddie whispered, ignoring their continued glares. Bill was the only one who looked away, looked back up at Richie, even though he was obviously just as annoyed.

It’s just… it might not have been Eddie, you know? Like, maybe someone else in the theater had waited until that exact moment to laugh as well. Or maybe Richie’s soulmate had shown up late, slipped into their seat quietly, and proceeded to enjoy the show like a normal person. That was totally possible. Totally. It wasn’t NECESSARILY Eddie.

“But this show was different, guys, and I forgot to even think about… well, this show is different because this show I wrote myself,” Richie admitted, and the crowd gave a round of applause that Eddie tentatively joined in on. So that was why it was funnier, “Thank you very much, yes. Thank you. It’s exciting… So I’m glad my soulmate found this funny! It’s just…. Over halfway through the show? I mean, I’m over halfway through my set, y’all, and I only JUST made you laugh?” The crowd laughed, a relief tinged in the energy of it.

“I’d really love if you’d just…” and Richie trailed off, swallowing deep, “I could just continue the show, I guess. I don’t really know what protocol is here, but… fuck I really wanna know. Could whoever just … can you tell me who you are?” Richie’s voice was so … so… Eddie’s heart broke, it was so vulnerable. He still had a smile, trying to seem at ease but Eddie could tell he was nervous. Excited, but not wanting to show it, in case… no one spoke.

“And he’s answered with deafening silence.” Richie whispered dramatically, slightly farther away from the microphone. People began looking around then, the pin-drop silence from before broken with soft murmurings. Richie was starting to look sadder by the moment and Stan nudged his shoulder firmly.

“What the fuck Eddie?” Stan whispered and Eddie turned to him with wide, angry eyes.

“What if its not me. I don’t see anything, no color! What if it isn’t me?” He frantically whispered. He didn’t think Richie had laughed yet, but he wasn’t sure, he didn’t remember. He wanted to stand, say something, ease the sting of pain evident in Richie’s eyes, but his throat was closing and his legs felt like lead and-

“You haven’t laughed yet!” Bill suddenly shouted out. Eddie swung his head, turning to look at Bill and feeling like his eyes were going to pop out of his head.

“What the fuck are you doing, Bill?” he whispered desperately. His voice was embarrassingly high and scratchy. Bill didn’t spare him a second glance.

“What was that?” Richie asked, squinting into the crowd, “Is that you Bill?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” Bill said, sitting up straighter, “And whoever your soulmate is, he – or she, or she – hasn’t heard YOU laugh yet. You’ve said a lot of jokes but haven’t really laughed so… they probably don’t know for sure. Y-y-y-you should laugh. So, they know for sure.” Bill explained, staring at Eddie during his last sentence. Richie seemed to be contemplating Bill’s point, nodding along.

Eddie’s heart was beating in triple time. What were the odds that meeting his soulmate induces a heart attack? Damn it, why wasn’t he a risk analyst?

“That’s a good point. Okay. All I have to do is laugh, yeah?” Richie said, seemingly hyping himself up. The crowd cheered a little, signaling their agreement, and Richie shook his head, smiling. “Well, not exactly. It has to be sincere, not fake. Those are the rules. Not nervous or pained or… It must be genuine, happy laughter or it won’t work so…. Fuck, okay, I’m a comedian, right, this shouldn’t be that hard? But God, I’m so nervous, I just don’t know…” he trailed off, biting his lip, and Eddie felt himself standing up, pushing his chair back from his table with little care. It was an instinct, pulled out of him by the need to help Richie.

“Umm, I could… I could help.” Eddie said, his voice cracking with nerves. He coughed and tried once more, louder this time, “I think I could make you laugh.” Richie squinted again and then pointed above their heads.

“What? Hey, can you guys turn the house lights on? I think I should… see the audience, it might help.” He said with an awkward laugh. Eddie fidgeted with his sleeves as the lights shifted, evening out the brightness. When Richie’s eyes settled on him, though, he relaxed slightly. He couldn’t explain it, but the tension eased out of his hands for some reason, relaxing his muscles and making him smile easily. “Oh, hi. You’re Bill’s friend?”

“I am,” Eddie responded and oh God his dreams were nothing like this, they paled so hard in comparison to the way Richie’s smile in person made Eddie’s stomach flip, “I’m Eddie.”

“Nice to meet you Eddie,” Richie responded sincerely, but Eddie was sure he either hadn’t clued in yet that Eddie was the one or he was acting casual, refusing to believe, “You can make me laugh?” Eddie nodded once, definitively, “You got a joke, or what?”

“No,” Eddie said with a shake of his head, “I think… I should tell you why it took me so long to laugh.” Eddie saw the moment the penny dropped for Richie and he wished he’d gotten it on camera. The way the line of his mouth softened, the way his shoulders relaxed, and his eyes widened as he looked Eddie up and down quickly before re-settling on his eyes... it was perfect.

“Oh?” Richie asked, breathless, “Why?”

“Because…” Eddie thought about what to say. He could start at the beginning, but that would take a long time and it would sound a little something like Richie Tozier wasn’t funny. He just wasn’t. And he respected Bill for…

See? Far too long. But, it wasn’t a bad start so…

“You just… weren’t that funny, I guess.” Eddie deadpanned and Richie immediately laughed, loud and bright and shocked.

Eddie squeezed his eyes shut at the sudden onslaught of color. He didn’t hear the roaring laughter of the crowd, all he heard was Richie. It felt like a switch had been violently flipped in his brain, like he’d leveled up in a video game, or like he’d just heard his soulmate laugh and everything had changed.

“Oh.” Eddie whispered to himself and he felt Audra grip his forearm, the weight comforting. He opened his eyes slowly and the first thing he saw was red, the dull red of the stage’s backdrop and the bright red of Richie’s button-up. And Richie’s grin. He was smiling so wide, right at Eddie, laugh still trailing off.

“You’re kidding, right? Please tell me you’re kidding.” Richie begged and Eddie smiled slowly, unable to stop as a giggle bubbled past his lips.

“Yeah,” Eddie admitted, making Richie slump in relief, throwing his head back dramatically and groaning Thank GOD as Eddie continued, “I’m totally kidding. I just wanted to hear you laugh.”

“That so?” Richie asked, “And?” Eddie looked around, suddenly embarrassed by the crowd as he tried to think of what to say. So many people listening, and so much pressure, and – when he looked back to Richie, nothing mattered.

“I really like the color of your shirt,” Eddie yelled back, making the crowd laugh and aww, “It looks really good on you.”

“Oh, shit, thanks, I had no hand in choosing it,” Richie said, looking down as if he was seeing the shirt for the first time and well, he kind of was, “I like yours too. Is that… umm…”

“Pink!” Stan shouted back, holding Mike’s hand and grinning at Eddie, “It’s pink.”

“Pink,” Richie said fondly, “Pink is a great color for you.”

“Thank you.” Eddie replied, not knowing what else to say. The two of them stared at each other for another long moment. Then Richie sighed, laughing as he shook his head.

“Fuck, I gotta finish my set still,” he pointed out and the crowd laughed. Eddie did too, giddily. “How much is fucking left?”

“About half an hour!” Someone called from backstage and Richie sighed dramatically.

“You don’t have to finish.” Stan yelled up to him and Richie just waved a hand at him.

“Shut up, Stan the Man. These good people paid for thirty more minutes, I’ll give them thirty more minutes,” he said pleasantly, and the crowd roared their agreement. Richie turned his gaze back to Eddie, “Plus, I have to see how many more times I can make you laugh.”

“I’m tough crowd.” Eddie warned.

“Yeah, you are,” Richie agreed, eyes seemingly memorizing Eddie’s face, “You’ll be here when I’m done?” he asked, soft and sweet. Eddie nodded adamantly.

“Of course.” Eddie replied. Richie nodded once, slipping into his stand-up façade once more, confidently, as the spotlights turned back on him.

Eddie sat down and kept his eyes on Richie, purposefully and pointedly not looking anywhere near Bill. (Maybe it wasn’t SO bad when Bill was right.)