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He’d woken that morning, early, with a sort of crawling under his skin. He hadn’t minded it. Eddie knew what desire felt like, needle-clawed thing that it was pricking at him.

No time for it. For once Richie was up before Eddie. He’d an interview on Good Morning America at 7:45AM. The network expected him at 6:30AM for wardrobe, make-up, the prep work. “Boring shit,” he had told Eddie over the phone the week before when discussing their respective schedules. “Like, they have to dry run me through the same questions every other day show’s asking about the tour and this movie.”

“That must suck for you,” Eddie said. “Getting all that attention. Softball questions you don’t have to study for.”

“Are you kidding me? Have you ever seen me on Good Morning America? I look like a deranged ape,” said Richie. “Lara scares the shit out of me. She’s got shark eyes. I always wind up laughing like a lunatic.”

“When the fuck would I ever watch Good Morning America? I watch actual news, Richie.”

“Fox Business isn’t actual news, you fucking neocon. You disgust me.”

Eddie shouted directly into the phone, “I voted for Clinton,” and then hung up on Richie. For the rest of the day Richie had sent him a nonstop flood of Bernie memes interspersed with news headlines of women divorcing their Republican husbands in the wake of the 2016 election. Eddie hated him so much he wished he could piss literal fire.

But on August 15, 2017, he had mostly forgotten how badly he wanted to beat Richie with a rolled up magazine. It was 5:03AM. He did not know this. Richie pressed three slow, soft kisses to Eddie’s cheek in a descending line from the corner of his eye to the bottom curl of his scar.

This roused Eddie from an idle dream of floating weightless in water with Richie licking ice cream off Eddie’s fingers, chocolate ice cream and strawberry ice cream and chunky peanut butter ice cream. With Richie’s lips tender to his cheek, whatever part of Eddie still clung to the grievance some ten days after the fact now forgave him entirely, thoughtlessly.

He smelled coffee, bitter and strong.

“Mm-zat,” Eddie mumbled.

He was skin itchy even then. The expanse of his chest was cold, exposed even with the blankets pulled over him. He was used to curling around Richie at night, on the nights they spent together in New York or in Chicago.

“Coffee. French Roast. It’s not for you, leaf-sucker.”

He left another lingering, scratching kiss at the corner of Eddie’s mouth. The stubble scratched at Eddie’s lips, his cheek; his jaw. Eddie was waking now, really waking. The coffee smell slithered through his brain, or it was the warm and too dry touch of Richie’s mouth against his that did it. Either, or: Eddie turned and stretched an arm across Richie’s shoulders, across the clean line of cotton button-down, and leaned up from his sturdy foam pillows to kiss Richie slant-mouthed and open.

Richie slipped Eddie a little tongue, just a stroke along the hard palate. Then he pulled away.

“Gotta go.”

Eddie made an irritable sound. He sounded not unlike a dog, chuffing, or a very small bear. Richie grinned. His teeth, too square, showed under his glasses in the dark of the room.

“Don’t worry, Eddie baby. I’ll be back later.”

Eddie grasped Richie’s arm. He’d planted an elbow on the bed when he leaned over to first kiss Eddie’s grievous, narrow face. Now Eddie tightened his hand around the biceps, and Richie succumbed to kiss him longly. Eddie did not tremble but rose from the sheets, just so, like a coming wave about to strike a beach.

Then Richie broke the kiss and pushed off the bed.

“Dickhead,” Eddie said, and he collapsed into the blankets with a murderous heart.

“Hey, I packed leaves in your mug,” he told Eddie, sounding as he spoke far too cheery. “Kettle’s full and on the stove. So whenever you finally get your lazy ass out of bed you just have to turn the burner on.”

Comforting as an old jersey sweater worn fuzzy over years, Eddie’s annoyance lulled him deeper toward sleep. He was thinking of Richie’s broad, flat tongue running up the knuckles of Eddie’s middle finger, licking peanut butter out of the creases.

“Drive safe,” Eddie grumbled.

“I’m taking a taxi.”

“Wear your seatbelt.” He was drifting. “Keep your phone in your pocket. Mm. Text when you get there.”

“You are the worst person to live in this city,” said Richie fondly. “How has your tiny little heart not exploded from stress?”

“Fuck you.”

“You’re so cute when you’re grouchy,” Richie said, “so cute, cute, cute. Makes me wanna eat you up,” and licked a line up Eddie’s dripping sweet vanilla wrist.

Maybe that was the dream. Richie didn’t usually say things like that. He usually said things like, “Hey, Eds, I bet $5 I can swallow your whole dick,” or: “Eddie, my butt’s lonely for your butt,” and then Eddie hit him with a pillow or sat on his lap or something else. It was hard to remember what he’d do, with Richie eating the chocolate syrup out of Eddie’s throat. God, that was disgusting. Unsanitary, too, as they floated together in the quarry water.

“More,” he said in the dream, “more. More,” and Richie rose dripping out of the water to cover Eddie with his slicked wet hairy chest, and his thighs, and his shoulders like pelican’s wings.

His phone alarm woke him at 7:00AM. He was hard, not all the way, but enough his thighs itched. All of him itched. All of him; all of him. Like Richie had fucking cursed him with beard rash and his chapped lips. He wished Richie had bugged him with those dry kisses earlier or turned them over together when Richie had woken up, rubbed his morning wood against Eddie’s hip as Eddie muzzily stirred and clutched at Richie and dream-like swallowed Richie whole with his arms and his mouth and his own lean muscle body.

Eddie put his face into Richie’s pillow. The pillow smelled like Old Spice Swagger 2-in-1. “For my hair, Eddie. Not my pits.” The cheap, stinging scent of it filled his nose, his throat, his brain. He squeezed his thighs together. His dick throbbed. Eddie screamed once, and shortly, into the pillow. Then he rolled out of bed.

The kettle sat copper bright on the stove. Richie had put a saucer upside down over Eddie’s tea mug. Turning the burner on under the kettle, Eddie lifted the saucer from the mug. The leaves were fragrant, dried and curled tongues of jasmine mixed in with the green tea leaves. Eddie wormed his toes inside his slippers and allowed a smile. It pressed shyly at his cheeks; he hated it.

The mug didn’t match any of his other mugs, not the red ridged ones and not the smooth navy blue ones and certainly not his New York Mets mugs, treasure beyond price, saved only for such special occasions as the Mets beating the shit out of Richie’s beloved Cubs. 2017 had proved a dusty season for Eddie’s mugs.

This tea mug Richie had presented to Eddie when they’d met in March. “A late birthday present,” he’d declared. Eddie had opened it, trying not to look too pleased, and when he’d unwrapped the mug with Richie’s face on it – he was smirking on the mug and identically across the table from Eddie – Eddie had explained in small words exactly what he thought about Richie’s generosity.

“Oh, no,” Richie had said, feigning surprise, insult, hurt. “This present was for me. That look on your face right there. The one that screams ‘I’m going to throttle Richie Tozier with my bare hands while he laughs hysterically,’ that’s my gift. Thank you, Eddie. That’s so sweet of you. I’m just, I’m so happy you even thought of me.”

“I’ll fucking throttle you with my dick,” Eddie had snapped.

“Oh, no, wait,” said Richie, “that’s my birthday gift,” and that was how Eddie had his first ever blowjob, in Richie’s gorgeous $10,000 a month Chicago apartment, Richie on his knees in the kitchen while Eddie gasped and moaned and said, “Rich— Rich— Rich, I can’t— Richie, oh, my god, fuck, fuck— Please,” he said, trying not to beg, begging, “please, I never—”

Richie had pulled off obscenely, slow and wet, his mouth dragging widely and his tongue lingering under the foreskin so that Eddie’s eyes rolled in his head and his hips jerked once helplessly, just a few centimeters, hardly anything at all.

“Yeah, Eddie?” Richie said, hoarse and low, deep, low. “Why don’t you tell me all about it,” and he’d smirked that same mean, asshole smirk before licking over Eddie’s dick head like he wanted the come hot and filthy right in his mouth.

(Eddie had refused to come into Richie’s mouth, even though he knew all his tests were negative, Richie’s too. Something in Eddie fritzed, a droning shout at the thought: too soon, too much. They weren’t even using a condom, he kept thinking; but Richie’s tongue so hot, so wet on him, the fine and imagined scrape of the taste buds across this most delicate skin: every sensation hit Eddie in the belly like a statically charged needle.

Richie said, “Okay, so do it on my face, what’s the big deal?” and Eddie had groaned and done exactly that, right on cue. Dirtying up Richie’s glasses and lining his stubbled cheek, his red-made lips with white come. Eddie’s white come. Eddie’s white come, that Richie had licked off his lips anyway, and Eddie made helpless noise and managed to come just a little more in Richie’s hand even as he said, “What the fuck, Richie, I just told you I didn’t want to come down your fucking throat,” throat clicking.)

So now he had this tea mug and every time he looked at it he felt his balls tighten, just a tiny bit. Thinking as he looked at Richie’s shit-eating face of how Richie’s eyelids had fluttered and he’d bit at his lip when Eddie came on his glasses, like he wanted it. Like he liked it.

That particular morning, remembering vaguely how Richie had licked into his mouth before he’d left Eddie alone in bed, Eddie wanted to break the mug in half with a blow from the side of his hand. He knew he’d only hurt his hand trying that, and in the end he’d miss the mug. It was the first birthday gift he’d gotten from Richie since the ninth grade, the March before Sonia took Eddie out of Derry.

He made his tea. He stirred it. He fished out most of the leaves with a sterling silver tea spoon and dumped them in the trash can under the sink. Clutching the mug in his left hand Eddie wandering into the living room and tuned the television to ABC.

Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf backed Robin Roberts as she introduced an author “combining her passion for nutrition and science,” to sell more copies of her book thought Eddie uncharitably as he muted the TV. The author smiled widely, whitely.

Eddie paced out of the living room with the tea in hand. He didn’t want to think of nutrition, food, what’s healthy, what isn’t: the ticking in his head that was the calorie count; fats vs sugars, polyunsaturated fats vs monounsaturated fats vs saturated fats vs trans fats.

In the kitchen he forced himself to sip at his tea rather than guzzle it. Some crumbled bits of jasmine stuck to his teeth. He ran a finger across his teeth. With each measured taste of tea his shoulders unratched. The clock on the microwave told him it was now 7:23AM.

Eddie set the tea mug on the counter with Richie’s face turned to the wall. On the television a male anchor led a segment on Trump. SINKING POLL NUMBERS a graphic declared. Fucking good it did them with a Republican-controlled Congress.

He scrambled eggs with Monterey jack cheese, green onion, and spinach. With a little paring knife he peeled an apple. Wandering again as the eggs cooled on his plate with fork stuck in, the waxy green peel of the apple curling out in spiral staircase, he checked the television. Up next, after this commercial break, comedian Rich Tozier sits down with Lara Spencer! paired with a shot of Rich and Lara laughing together against a plain yellow backdrop outdoors.

Eddie dropped the peel on the plate by the omelet and picked up the plate to carry into the living room. He put the sound back on. A car dealership jingle blared. Holding the apple in place with his thumb, he began cutting it into neat eighths. Most mornings Richie would lean over and steal slices as Eddie made them, most mornings when Richie stayed with him or Eddie stayed with Richie.

It occurred very suddenly to him in a way it had not before that Richie filming in New York City for six weeks starting in October meant he would be living with Eddie for six weeks. Of course he had known. Objectively he had understood. He’d made the arrangements necessary to his schedule. Mrs Kwon had joked she’d put in a triple order for Twinkies and whipped cream in a can. This was her subtlest way of telling Eddie he wasn’t getting any younger.

Six weeks, Eddie thought as the GMA logo filled the screen. Six weeks beginning October 4th. Richie was going to steal all his fucking apples.

Richie sat with his knees wide-set and his feet planted. His left leg bounced. His grin flashed lopsided, exposing too many teeth.

Most of the crowd gathered was for the show itself: tourists, groups of stay at home mothers politely excited to see a celebrity, no one Eddie thought had come just for the privilege of seeing Richie Tozier propped on a wooden fold-out chair with a canvas seat.

“I’m here today with the popular, news-making comedian Richard Tozier,” said Lara, all white teeth and blonde hair in a near Fawcett curl.

Richie glanced at the camera, an eyebrow half-cocked. Richard? said that eyebrow. Eddie laughed and pulled his feet up on the couch. He bit into another slice of apple. The tartness of it stung at miniscule scratches on his tongue.

“Richard, you’ll be staying with us here in New York City for some weeks, filming The Brigadier General’s General Brigade, I’m sorry, I just cannot help laughing at that title!”

Shifting in the seat, too small for his frame, Richie rubbed his hands on his thighs and said, “Well, it’s a comedy, of course. I was really lucky to get the part. Luciana Modesto’s kind of an idol of mine. She does these really great, off the wall indie comedies, so it was cool just to audition.”

“And then of course to get the part! And you’ll be playing one of the leads, is that right?”

“Yeah, I don’t know how much of it I’m allowed to discuss or they’ll have one of the, uh, CIA guys take a shot—” Richie’s left cheek rucked, a slight wince.

Lara Spencer moved smoothly over him. “We’re allowed to talk a little about it. You’ll be playing the straight man, sort of a first for you, career-wise.”

Richie laughed, too loud. “Yeah, it’s.” He scratched at his eyebrows, fussed at his glasses.

Surely Lara hadn’t meant it as a jab. Nevertheless Eddie thought unkindly of her Fox News hairstyle, her zip-front black skirt, the false brightness of her smile. She looked like the kind of wealthy professional who had an off-shore account and a skeezy accountant, the sort of accountant Eddie longed to break over his knee.

But Richie had gone on, saying, “It’s a great opportunity to explore another side of comedy. Which is what’s so great about Luciana Modesto’s work as a director. She’s always pushing her actors to try out new things.”

“And you’ll be launching your tour with the new year. How’s that feel? Your first major tour since 2016. Everyone’s been talking about these smaller, low-key shows you’ve done over the last year. And of course so much has changed for you. You’ve come out; you’re doing more with film and television. What’s the new year look like for you?”

Richie shifted again in the chair, making an abortive attempt at crossing one leg over the other then choosing instead to spread his knees wide and lean forward as though confessional. The movement pulled tighter somehow the tight denim of his blue jeans. The rivets punched into the seams gleamed dull brass. The cloth at his crotch folded. He’d worn the red and yellow striped plaid cotton button-down to the taping and the heavy red glasses frames that stood out so sharply against his face, the broad angles of his cheeks.

“It looks good,” Richie said. He still spoke with a certain guardedness, masked by the toothiness of his smile and the Fuck Yeah! Richie! energy he put out. “I’m seeing someone, romantically. So New York has a lot to offer.”

He hadn’t named Eddie. Still Eddie stuffed a slice of apple in his mouth so he wouldn’t curse at the television. It was his own mask, the shouting. Don’t look; don’t see how tender the skin of my throat. Lara Spencer offered generic congratulations and Richie smiled, for a moment sincere-seeming, eyes creasing with pleasure behind those fire engine frames. The long lines of his forehead folded, four of them across his brow.

They talked some more, fluff and platitudes. Eddie watched Richie fold his arms. The sleeves were rolled down, the cuffs neatly buttoned at his wrists; no one could see all the black hair that curled against his skin. Eddie sucked the acidic juice from the slice of apple. Fingertips sticky with it.

He thought: Get a fucking grip, Kaspbrak. Are you a teenager? Are you fourteen years old and dreamsick over Richie Tozier? No, he thought, I’m forty-one years old and dreamsick over Richie Tozier. The absolute lunatic inescapability of love briefly overwhelmed him. He thought fourteen year old Eddie would have stabbed him for kissing Richie, even if that little motormouth fuckhead had wanted to kiss Richie too.

The segment ended. Richie blew a kiss to the gathered audience. CUT TO: commercial.

Eddie turned off the television. He made sure to do so with the unsticky hand.

In the silence, so clear, he conjured up his child self, who looked at him with curled lip and horror-fevered eyes and said, “Oh, my god, Richie? Richie Tozier? This is so disgusting, this is just beyond even the most disgusting thing I could have ever imagined for myself, you realize that you’re over forty and that means you are halfway through your life expectancy, and you could kiss anybody in the world on the mouth so long as they don’t have, like, herpes, and you still want to kiss Trashmouth? Like, I get it for me,” said this memory of Eddie, “I’m fourteen years old and completely psychologically scarred by, uh, everything, but you? And Rich?

“Yeah, dipshit,” said Eddie, “I wanna blow him too,” knowing he was clearly still psychologically scarred if he was talking out loud to his own speculative thoughts as to what his child self would have to say about his romantic and sexual relationship with Trashmouth Tozier.

Kid Eddie, as Eddie remembered, would have recoiled with disgust and gagged and still flushed all over and looked then after Richie with some small finger of longing buried deep in his bowels as sure as any comprehensive digestive disease. What was love if not hemorrhoids of the heart?

“Put that on a postcard, Haystack,” Eddie muttered. He ate his omelet, now congealed, and the rest of the peeled and sliced apple, and finally the peel.

“What kind of monster eats the apple peel?” Richie had demanded.

“Apple peel has ursolic acid in it.”

“You can’t just say words. They have to mean things.”

“Are you the fucking trashmouth? And you’re saying this shit to me about words meaning things? Ursolic acid helps build muscle and brown fat.”

“Brown fat?” said Richie. “Well. I guess I’m glad you’re not being a fat racist anymore—”

“Shut the fuck up,” said Eddie loudly. “Apple peels have fiber! Do you know what fiber is?”

“Yeah, it makes me shit,” said Richie. “You know what shit is? It comes out of your ass, like everything else you’re saying right now.”

“The health benefits! You can’t overlook the fucking health benefits!”

“Just eat the fucking apple like a person!” Richie had shouted back. “Don’t skin it and then eat the flesh separate!”

The rest of the conversation had devolved.

Eddie was trying to be better about not counting calories, not cutting out entire categories of food because this celebrity dietician advocated no grains or this gym trainer recommended cutting out all meats but fish. The mercury alone— He tried not to think about those things any more than he thought any normally health conscious person would think of them.

“Is it normal?” he’d asked Dr Greene pleadingly. “To have a journal dedicated to not tracking calorie counts and daily nutritional percentages.”

“Is it working for you?”

“But is it normal? I’m still logging what I eat every day but I don’t write down any of the details or add up the values, and I feel like I’m a, a nutritional centrist. Like I should just stop writing any of it down or I should start writing all of it down, and I don’t know what’s the healthy thing to do. Is worrying about my nutrition bad? Is it bad to want to know everything I can know about what I’m putting into my body? It’s my body.”

“It is your body,” she agreed. “But when you write down these nutritional values and you tally up the percentages at the end of the day, when you did do that, that was you trying to control something in your life when you felt like you couldn’t control something else. So let’s try something. Let’s think about what’s in your life. Your job. Your bills. Your divorce. Your friends. Your boyfriend, Richie. Pretend like they’re the foods. What about these things do you feel like you need to control?”

This had turned into another of Dr Greene’s homework assignments. He had a composition notebook, college-ruled, that he now used for these occasions. With a pen he could draft in the book and later edit as he typed it up in an e-mail to Dr Greene or in a document he would print and bring in to the next session.

Perhaps some part of him still felt as if wanting Richie and having Richie was like the twinkies Richie so enjoyed, the cans of whipped cream he would spray into the holes at the bottom of each twinkie so the stale cake expanded fatly with cream. Something he shouldn’t let himself have but he wanted it anyway.

If Eddie didn’t take care he would spoil his appetite on Richie; but of course he wanted to spoil his appetite on Richie. It was the same old problem for Eddie, who liked to spend money and to give himself rewards: spa days, a new pair of designer shoes, vitamins personalized to his specific dietary needs, a bespoke suit, a Jaeger-LeCoultre watch from a limited production run of 100.

He supposed this was yet another consequence of his mother’s influence. Denied so much as a child he had unknowingly grown up greedy, hungry for too much. It wasn’t right or fair to blame Sonia for it. Maybe, he sometimes thought, on the days when he couldn’t manage to push off the weight of it, she had been so hard on him because she had known he was so selfish. Then he would close his eyes and think it through and usually he could remember that it wasn’t right or fair to punish a child for liking to play with his friends, either.

Still: Limit yourself, he would think. Don’t take too much. If you want something nice then you should have to give something else up. He didn’t want to give anything up. He wouldn’t give anything up. He refused to do so. He wanted Richie and Richie was so very good, so very fine a thing that Eddie would have to give up everything else in his life to make up for getting Richie; but Eddie was allowed to be greedy and what allowed Eddie to be greedy was Eddie.

He could, if he liked, use a flex day to call out of work. He did like, that day Richie was on Good Morning, America. Eddie wrote in to the department, to payroll, and finally to Tanner, reminding him that he, Tanner, had his presentation ready, that it was acceptable work, and he did not require support to give it in front of the department heads. Some other mentor might have offered a gentler approach, but Tanner responded well enough to Eddie’s blunt comments now that they more or less understood one another.

(“He has a crush on you,” Richie had said. They were in bed together, legs tangled, on the one Saturday they’d managed in all of July to spend in the same city.

“What? Fuck off,” said Eddie. “He thinks I’m an asshole.”

“You are an asshole.”

“Tanner doesn’t have a crush on me.”

“Face it, Eds,” said Richie, “you’re a snack.”

“Tanner probably thinks I’m a fucking demon.”

“Yeah, that’s why he has a crush on you,” Richie said. “I’m starting to feel kind of bad for this kid. What devil magic have you worked with your dick?”

“I’m sleeping on the couch,” Eddie announced, standing regally from the bed with the duvet across his shoulders. Richie had lunged for him and dragged him back into bed as Eddie complained and pretended to fight and gave in immediately so he could roll Richie on his back and straddle him.

“You’re just trying to run off so you can text your hot young lover,” Richie said breathlessly. “This Tanner hussy.”

You’re my hot young lover,” Eddie said, idly grinding his hips into Richie’s soft abdomen.

Richie said, “Mm, Daddy,” very straight-faced and with his eyes lidded, and Eddie had laughed so hard he fell off Richie and very nearly off the bed entirely.)

So he spent most of the morning like that, lazy and irritated at his own laziness and wanting, also, in a vague sort of way to jerk off. He could have dressed; he decided against it. He napped on the couch for a half hour with his feet burrowed under the brown afghan: Richie’s afghan, he thought of it now. Sweetie barked once, twice, around ten, at a heavy tread upstairs; then she settled again. Eddie stretched on the couch and rubbed his fingers idly under his cotton shorts, just feeling at the shape of his cock, stroking the line of it. Thinking, as he did so, of Richie leaning forward in that chair on the set of GMA, the denim pinching at his crotch, the line of his own penis only just discernible, tucked as it was; or perhaps Eddie had seen the line because he had known to look for it and he had longed to see it.

What if Richie hadn’t left that morning? It was a silly fantasy. Adolescent, even. But hadn’t Eddie called off work today with simmering intent to jump Richie the moment he came through the door? Think of it, then. If Richie, bending to kiss Eddie’s warm and sleep-softened mouth, had succumbed to the rough and unsweet sounds Eddie had made and clambered onto the bed in those tight jeans and that plaid cotton shirt that clung too tightly to his shoulders and the swell of his chest.

God, he would have sucked Eddie’s dick and Eddie would have let him do it, and when Richie had done then Eddie would have pushed him over and slicked his fingers and worked Richie’s asshole, his prostate, his heavy, fat balls until Richie sobbing would have come on that fucking shirt he’d worn with his jeans pulled down to his thighs, the denim restricting his every motion as neatly as any silk tie or rope.

Who could say? Once Richie moved in with Eddie for October and the first few weeks of November, they’d have morning after morning together, the hours darker and longer, the heat of their bodies under the sheets a comfort.

Eddie squeezed his cock hard at the base of it and closed his eyes and breathed. He did this until his erection had ebbed, enough so he could bear to get up from the couch and wash his hands and go to clean the bathroom.

He’d finished with the bathroom when Richie finally returned to the apartment. The key sounded in the lock. Richie stubbed his shoes across the mat in the hallway, cleaning off any muck real or imagined. Eddie stripped off the daisy-printed yellow gloves and laid them by the sink to come out and greet Richie.

Richie said, “You’re here. I thought you’d be at work,” and his voice rose into a question at the end, certainly because he’d seen Eddie in his cleaning clothes: cut-off shorts with fraying threads, the too small NYU runner’s shirt he’d had since college.

Eddie felt every one of his years whenever he wore shorts so high up on his thighs, but they made Richie go wild-eyed like a spooked horse if a spooked horse were a very hairy man who had to get his hands on Eddie’s ass in the next five seconds or his heart would burst. This was loosely paraphrased from a bit in Richie’s new act. It was a very stupid bit but Eddie had decided to wear shorts more often and Richie did not often fail the five second challenge. He did not fail it now.

Richie got his hands on Eddie’s ass and Eddie got his tongue in Richie’s mouth. This, they could agree, was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Eddie bit hello and welcome home and a thousand other little things into Richie’s lips

They broke for air, Richie smiling too gently to be smug even if he tried to act the part. “Aw, Eds. Did you miss me?” he crooned at exactly the right pitch to set Eddie off.

Eddie tugged on the hairs at Richie’s nape. He frowned at him. “Do you really want to waste half an hour fighting?”

It was as if they resumed a conversation, left abandoned that morning; a conversation they hadn’t had but now continued.

“I dunno.” Richie leaned in and nuzzled at Eddie’s throat, running his long nose along the side of it and at last behind Eddie’s ear, where he pressed a little kiss, lips lingering. His thick fingers squeezed Eddie’s ass out of rhythm, kneading at him. “You like fighting.”

“I don’t like fighting.”

“Yeah, you do.”

“I just don’t understand why you have to argue with everything I say, why can’t you just let me say what I have to say and you say yes, Eddie, you’re right, Eddie.”

Richie kissed Eddie’s earlobe, the corner of his jaw. The skin so oddly delicate just beneath the bone, in that tender corner hollow underneath the hinge of jaw, where the throat began.

“Because you like it. You like it when I say shit to rile you up, because it means you get to bully me.”

“Don’t say it like that!” Eddie complained loudly. “You make me sound like some kind of, of asshole. Like I’m one of those old guys that sits on a park bench and bitches all day.”

“Eddie, it’s like you can see into the future,” said Richie. He laughed as Eddie pinched him vengefully up his side, laughed and squirmed. “No, no, listen. Eddie, no, c’mon, dude, I’m ticklish there! Look, I’ll sit on the park bench next to you and shout mean shit at the birds.”

“What the hell are you talking about? You think we’re going to be sitting together on park benches when we’re eighty?”

“Yeah, in between blasting each other’s dicks in the nursing home,” Richie said. “What, you don’t want to hold my gross, wrinkly old man hand?”

Eddie colored and held Richie’s stubbled face in his hands. He grumbled, “I didn’t say that,” and pulled Richie back down to him, to kiss him very slowly, their tongues tangling only just. He felt Richie’s breath gusting across his cheek.

“So you do want to sit on a park bench with me.”

“I’m not gonna listen to you yell at birds.” He dragged Richie into another kiss, longer this time, Eddie knocking Richie’s thighs apart with his upraised knee and then sliding against him.

“You’re the one who’s going to yell at birds.” Richie rubbed his nose across Eddie’s eyebrow.

“Why would I yell at birds? What stupid shit yells at birds?”

Richie pinched Eddie’s ass between finger and thumb. Eddie jumped. His hips hitched up Richie’s long leg.

“See?” said Richie, pleased. “I told you. You like fighting.”

“Like you’re not hard.”

“Oh, Eddie,” said Richie, “you could be throwing your shit around like a little monkey and I’d still get bonered for you.”

“Do not ever say bonered again,” Eddie said, “we’re forty-one years old, you can’t just say bonered and expect me to—”

“Mmmm,” Richie said, really dragging it out into a cresting performance. “Say it again, Eddie. Bonered. Bonered. Bonered. It really gets my dick wet when you say bonered.”

Eddie said, “Why the fuck are you like this,” but he was laughing the entire time he said it and Richie, beaming, really gave his ass a squeeze and leaned in close.

Making out was easy with Richie, so miraculously easy. It was like talking with Richie or arguing with him, something simple as breathing. Eddie could be as mean as he liked and Richie fired back or took it like he wanted all of Eddie’s teeth in him, and Richie could say the stupidest shit just to piss Eddie off and Eddie liked it. That was what it was like to feel Richie up, to get Richie rocking minutely against his thigh or to have Richie groping his ass, his thighs. It was a conversation.

Hey, I want—

Sure, if you’d just—

How’d you like it if I did this?

What do you think if I put my hands here?

Hey, fuck you, where do you think you’re going?

I’m right here, I’m still here, what, did you think I was gonna leave?

Put your hand on my thigh. Now squeeze. Yeah. Like that. Get your thumb against my inner thigh, high up. I wanna feel that in the muscle. Yeah, Rich.

What d’you want? I’ll tell you what I want. I wanna touch you. I wanna get your shirt off. Hey, Eddie, you mind if I kiss you? You mind if I kiss you here? What about here? What about … here?

“You looked good,” Eddie gasped into Richie’s mouth.

They were fumbling blindly along the living room wall, almost to the closed bathroom door, still some ways from the bedroom. Eddie kept pulling Richie’s hair, scolding him every time he tried to look up and figure out where to go, and Richie would immediately cave against him, trying to flatten Eddie or to coax his legs up higher than they could feasibly go in this day and age.

Richie made a curious hey-tell-me grumbly honey bear sound. Pressing his knee into Richie’s thigh for leverage, Eddie twisted them so Richie’s back smacked into the bathroom door.

“Ah, shit, the knob,” Richie cackled. “My kidney, Eddie.”

“I’m sorry, are you okay?” Eddie made to pull away, his hands already flying from Richie’s face to pick at his arms, fighting to feel at his back.

“I’m fine, I’m fine. That’s why I’ve got two of ‘em.”

“That is not why you have two of them. You know, you joke about it, but every time you hurt an organ—”

“Ah, are you gonna take care of me, Doctor K?”

Richie stuck his right leg out far, slung between Eddie’s legs. Teetering, Eddie clutched at him. His hips humped along his thigh again. With a hand settled warm and firm at the small of Eddie’s back, Richie urged him to do it again.

“You’re lucky I don’t make you drink a gallon of water.” He pushed his face into Richie’s chest. Hid his heated brow in the suggestion of Richie’s collarbone, somewhere underneath that cotton button-down.

“C’mon,” Richie murmured. “You were telling me how sexy I am.”


“How I’m such a snack.” He drew out the sibilant and cracked the –nack off the roof of his mouth.


“You think I’m cute,” Richie said sing-song. “You think I’m hot. You wanna fuck me.”

“Yeah,” said Eddie. “I kinda do.”

Richie stopped the teasing. His glasses had slipped down his nose. Now he looked pale under his beard. Where Eddie flushed, the blood would drain out of Richie’s face. Eddie got a head full of blood and Richie got dizzy.

“Is that a surprise?” said Eddie, not meanly, but lowly. “That I want to fuck you?”

Behind his glasses and over them, Richie flurried his lashes. He said, “Sometimes. I sweated through my shirt out there.”

He felt it again, that scratching under his skin. Like that hunger in his belly was near to erupt. Like he could bite Richie and taste his sweat and want more: more meat, more salt, more red blood hickeys sucked into Richie’s throat and chest and jack-strapped shoulders.

“So?” said Eddie. He bit the inside of his cheek. It felt too much again, as though he were about to frighten Richie away with his teeth, his claws, the shifting bones inside him. He made himself say it anyway: “I like it. When you’re sweaty.” He said it shyly rather than how he intended. “And I do. Want to fuck you.”

“You like it when I’m sweaty?” Richie raised his eyebrows. This was perhaps not undeserved.

Bristling, Eddie dug up his temper. His temper always made it simpler to speak.

“Yeah, so what? It makes you…”


Eddie raised a hand and looking at it, looking at his own sun-tanned fingers with their harsh knuckles and his thumb like a scoop, he traced his palm down Richie’s very faintly salt-crusted cheek. He took one black curl between thumb and forefinger and rubbed it there against the first knuckle of the first finger.

His eyes flicked to Richie’s. He crowded Richie against the door. Richie’s thigh pressed into his dick. He allowed his hips to twitch, grinding, as he tugged that curl and touched his lips to it.

He said, “I like that smell,” and he was only lying a little. “I like it when you’re kinda dirty.”

Richie said, “Oh?” but it came out breathless in a rush. O-o-oh?

Eddie curled that lock of hair around his finger and held it against his cheek, against his scar. His lips moving across Richie’s hairy, scratchy jaw as he said,

“Yeah. I like it when you make me dirty, dickhead. That surprise you?”

“Maybe a little,” said Richie, still aching for breath. His thick chest swelling uselessly underneath Eddie’s other hand, sprawled across the soft-firm expanse of Richie’s left pectoral. “You’re always so…”

“You don’t think I like getting dirty?”

“I think you like it.”

“I liked coming on your face,” said Eddie, surprising even himself. “I liked—” His head was blood-full. He hid his face again, against Richie’s breast, his breast that rose and fell and rose again with each quick breath.

“No, no, you have to tell me,” said Richie. “You have to tell me now. Eddie, c’mon.” Wheedling, teasing, plucking his fingers through Eddie’s much shorter hair like Bugs Bunny massaging Elmer Fudd’s scalp.

“I like making you dirty,” Eddie said into Richie’s chest. His head was pulsing.

“Oh,” said Richie. “Okay. Cool.”

“Okay? Cool?”

“I’m forty-one,” Richie said, “cut me a break. Do you have any idea what this kind of blood loss to my brain does to me now?”

“Your dick’s not that big,” said Eddie, mouth moving too fast as ever.

“Fuck you, I’m carrying you princess-styles. Fucking get ready for this He Man shit.”

“If you pick me up your spine will snap in half, idiot!” Eddie grabbed hold of his shirt and began hauling him toward the bedroom.

“Break my back and my spirit and my dick,” said Richie, “what a world, what a romance, fucking hustle it up, champ, Christ eat shit, Eds, your ass.”

They barged through the door and stumbled across the floor. When Eddie hit the bed he didn’t so much fall on it, all sensually thrown, limbs artfully akimbo, as he did smack his ankle on the bed’s foot, swear, and bounce off the bed and toward the floor. Richie caught him by the arm and tether-ball swung him back on to the bed.

Eddie made a collapsing lung sound and said, “Richie, what the fuck?”

“Hold on, I think I pulled my shoulder,” said Richie.

“Oh my god,” said Eddie. “I keep telling you to do stretches.”

“What stretches do you recommend for three point tossing a twink?”

“Did you just call me a twink?” said Eddie dangerously.

“Who’s been gay longer? Me or you?”

Eddie pointed at him. “Fuck you. No, fuck you. I’m not a twink. I’m an otter.”

Richie had one knee up on the bed. At this, he slipped. With a heroic recovery, he planted his face into the mattress. Then he trembled, a man in the grip of some greater force that shook him like a doll in its hand. That greater force was Richie being a complete dick.

“Fuck you,” said Eddie again.

“What am I, a bear?”

“You’re a natural disaster.”

Richie lifted his head. His eyes were over-bright with mirth. He straightened his red glasses and finally, finally got up on the bed. As he clambered up he sighed and rubbed at his back.

“Okay, baby,” he said, “gimme another half a minute and I’ll rock your world. Act of God.”

“Another half a minute?” Eddie said. “I should have just jerked off.”

“Wait,” said Richie. “No. Wait. Hold on. Yeah. That did it. It’s go time.”

“Don’t say go time,” Eddie complained, but he was wriggling to get out of those annoyingly small shorts. His briefs went easily with them. Much harder to keep those on.


“Is go time not sexy enough for you?”

“No, it is,” said Eddie, “that’s why I hate it.”

“Aw, babe,” said Richie, “you love me,” and Eddie, stuck in his shirt, kicked blindly at Richie and missed him entirely.

Not to worry: Richie caught his ankle and turned to kiss up Eddie’s naked calf, his lips distractingly sweet across the flexing muscle. At last Eddie broke free of NYU. He pitched the shirt across the room.

“Why are you still dressed?”

Richie shrugged. “I didn’t want to interrupt the striptease.”

Eddie crossed his arms in front of his chest and flushed. “Take off your shirt.”

“Slow or fast?”

“Get it off or I’m going to jerk off in front of you.”

Richie’s throat tightened, eased. He said, “Promise?” huskily. He tugged at Eddie’s ankles, one in each hand, pulling his legs wider and drawing him closer so that his knees bracketed Richie’s thighs.

Eddie licked at his lips. His eyes flickered. He could see, astonishingly, how Richie’s dick bulged hard against the zipper of his jeans. Would it chafe Richie, to keep those jeans on while Eddie worked himself over? How would it hurt or pinch, to rub at his own hard cock through the denim?

“Take off your shirt,” said Eddie. He reached between his legs. Precome beaded at the slit of his dick. He touched the tip of his first finger to it. Richie’s nostrils flared. The muscles in his jaws leapt.

Without breaking eye contact, either of them, Richie reached for the topmost button of his plaid shirt and Eddie slipped his thumb under his foreskin. Shivering, Eddie stroked at the tender and swollen head of his cock, rubbing the first wetness into his own skin. Richie popped the second button. He had a white t-shirt on underneath the button-down. A very faint shadow of hair showed through the worn fabric. Eddie licked loudly again at his lips and got that mushroom head of his cock out from the foreskin.

Richie said, “Jesus, Eddie, just look at you,” wondering and rough in his throat. “Fuck. Fuck. How the hell are you so hot.”

Eddie stroked his precome-slick fingers down the length of his cock. With the fingers of his other hand, he pinched at his own left nipple, tugging at it so it stood on point. Richie groaned low in his chest. His hips jerked.

“The third button,” Eddie said. “Don’t forget, Rich.”

Richie closed his eyes. He shuddered. His hands flew to Eddie’s thighs, grasping tightly so his fingers sank into muscle and fat.

“Do it, Rich.”

Eyes still closed, Richie reluctantly slid his hands away from Eddie. He reached for that next button.

“Every time you call me that.”

“Open your eyes.” Eddie was panting slightly, his cock a familiar fat, hot weight in his hand. His nipple ached. He reached for the other, arm across his chest.

Richie opened his eyes very slowly. His lashes rose black. He looked at Eddie through his glasses in that worshipful way he had of looking at Eddie, as if he wanted to kneel in front of Eddie and peel everything from Eddie until Eddie stood luminous before him.

He popped the third button, then the fourth. The fifth without needing to be told, as Eddie masturbated slowly underneath and in front of him, jacking his wettening dick with the foreskin rumpling under his hand and his balls heavy on the sheets.

Eddie pinched his nipple and somehow the pain surprised him. He arched his shoulders some and bit off a noise, and Richie gave up on the sixth button to reach for Eddie’s shoulders and kiss him devouringly. Their teeth caught on skin. Richie humped his hips between Eddie’s thighs, and Eddie tightened his legs around Richie, holding him there.

“Take the shirt off, Rich.”

“Make me.”

So Eddie, his cock like an iron brand smearing across his stomach, grabbed either side of Richie’s button-down with his hands and tore. Two buttons pinged off into the room. Richie started laughing helplessly.

“You want me to rip the t-shirt too?”

“Yeah, caveman, fucking shred me,” said Richie. “No, I got it.” He slipped out of the t-shirt with an ease Eddie hadn’t experience trying to get out of his own fucking shirt.

The motion, as ever, made electrical connections inside Eddie’s roiling chest. The muscular pulling of his chest, how his arms, rising, made a barrel of his ribcage. The layer of fat that softened the bulk of him. All that hair, black curls thick across his breast, his ribs, his stomach. Eddie knew that hair coated his thighs too, his calves.

“Throw away that exfoliating soap,” Richie had declared one afternoon, bare naked in his astonishingly well-lit Chicago bedroom, “I’m gonna scrub you clean.” Just for that Eddie had pulled his hair till tears sprang up from his eyes and Richie pulsed come sticky-hot between them.

Here, now, Richie reached next for the button of his jeans.

Eddie said, “No. Leave them on.”

“I can’t blow in my jeans,” Richie said.

Eddie stretched out, making a show of it. He stretched a hand down his chest, his leanly muscled abdomen, his hips, to frame his jutting cock between thumb and two fingers.

“You can wait,” said Eddie.

Richie said, “You’re so mean,” in a voice that scraped and scratched with hunger. Too, delight. He curled his hands around Eddie’s thighs again, massaging at the meat of them.

Eddie hummed and began slowly again to pump his cock in his hand. Precome made sleek his palm. It wasn’t quite enough, so he lifted his hand to Richie and said, “Please.”

He meant for Richie to spit into his hand, but Richie instead leaned down and licked Eddie’s proffered hand, tasting the pre-ejaculate that stuck in the whorls of his fingers and the creases of his palm. Richie grabbed Eddie’s wrist and held his hand there so that Richie could suck clean each finger and lick at each knuckle too. His tongue flashed, red as his glasses. Eddie groaned and grabbed his dick with his other hand, squeezing and tugging so that his cock seemed like to pound as did his heart.

Richie made him feel wild, wild and filthy. Like something feral let loose in a finely kept house of china and cashmere and delicate lace. Eddie fucked into his fist and turned his wrist in Richie’s hand so he could gently curl two fingers with Richie’s tongue. Richie grinned down at him. His tongue flashed lazily, teasing at Eddie’s fingers.

Eddie thought, I love you. I love you. I love you. He was saying it as he thought it. It came spilling out of him as he rutted animal-like into his fist. His balls tight and throbbing it seemed.

He said, “I love you,” and he said, “I wanna fuck you, Rich,” and Richie moaned at the way Eddie said his name: Rich, just that. Like Eddie made his chosen stage name profane just by speaking it.

“When you come stay with me,” said Eddie. “When you come live with me. In October.” His chest worked: a bellows. Sweat dripped along his chest. The scar hollow stung with it, a phantom recollection. “Fuck.”

He arched cat-like with the pleasure, his fingers fanning out to stroke and stroke at his cock even as his thumb dug in under the head, pushing so the clear precome came flowing out. He liked how Richie’s eyes dilated, how his own sweaty, hairy chest swelled with every desperate breath. His cock hard and no doubt aching in the strictures of his jeans.

“Every day,” said Eddie in a whine, his voice pitching higher even as he fought it. “I want it every day. I wanna get you in my bed every fucking day, Rich. I wanna—”

He was dizzy with everything he wanted. He wanted to fuck Richie staccato-sharp while Richie called him asshole, brat, bitch, motherfucker, Eddie, Eds, oh, God, Eds, oh my god. He wanted Richie to fuck him boneless in return while he scratched strips out of Richie. He wanted Richie to linger in bed and wake him up with a long, slow blowjob that left Eddie brain-stunned. He wanted to show up on set with lunch for Richie and then they’d fuck up against each other in a trailer, Eddie eating up all of Richie’s come so it wouldn’t ruin his costume.

“Anything you want,” Richie was swearing. “Anything. Whatever you want, Eddie.” He stroked Eddie’s thighs; he squeezed them bruisingly; he made a daring play for Eddie’s balls and Eddie let him. He let Richie rub his balls in his stupid-huge hand.

“Fuck me, Eddie, whatever you want, I’ll give it to you. You want me to give it to you? Anything. Anything. Fuck.”

He ground his palm to his crotch and made a low, pained sound. Eddie arched again, supernova plasma heat in his gut, his dick slick and so fucking hard in his hand.

“Fuck!” said Richie. “You’re so hot. Fuck, Eddie, what the fuck! God. Every day. Every single day. Whatever you fucking want. Move in with me. Or I’ll move in with you, fuck, I don’t care, God, every day. Just tell me what you want.”

Eddie grabbed at his own face with one hand. He wasn’t even sure how clean that hand was; he wasn’t sure he cared. His hair was matted with sweat. He pulled at it.

“Everything,” he gasped out. “Everything. Fuck me, Rich. Fuck! Richie, please, I want your mouth, Richie, I’m sorry, you can take off the jeans, just please, please—”

“I got you, Eddie,” said Richie, and he knocked Eddie’s thighs as wide as they would go so he could drop between them and swallow the head of Eddie’s cock into his mouth and Eddie tried to last, he tried so hard, he always tried at everything, but Richie made a humming sound, a sound like he’d tasted something very good, and flicked his tongue across the slit, and Eddie said punch-hit in the gut, “Oh, fuck, Rich,” and came into Richie’s mouth.

His eyes blacked with stars. His balls pulsed. He clutched at Richie’s hair, his ears, the left lens of his glasses. The frames creaked. Eddie made absurd noises and slurred out Rich-Rich-Richie-Rich as he creamed in Richie’s trashmouth. He trembled, salt-sweated, and fumbled for Richie, who licked at Eddie’s cock as it fell from his lips and then sat back. He ripped open his jeans; he got his cock out the slit in his briefs; he pumped it twice in his hand as Eddie looked dreamily at his pupil-blacked eyes, and he came with a body-aching groan across Eddie’s thighs and softening cock. Richie swayed. He planted a hand heavily in the mattress. His elbow locked. He panted madly. Sweat made the hair of his chest slick. Pubic hair showed thickly curling and brownish dark through the hole of his briefs, around his still engorged dick.

Eddie thought, God, that’s gross, and shivered. He grabbed for Richie. Stiffly, Richie shuffled up the bed and collapsed half-on Eddie. He looped his big arms around Eddie and bundled him to his chest. Eddie bit half-heartedly at Richie’s nipple, the muscle near it, at the dimpled suggestion of a collarbone under Richie’s stubbled throat.

Richie said, “Mm. Like that,” and sighed when Eddie bit him again, this time rising so he could nip at Richie’s jaw.

“Should have marked you up before you left today,” said Eddie sleepily.

“You’ll get another chance in October.” Richie stroked Eddie’s back. He always got cuddly after sex. Eddie enjoyed it, how Richie would octopus around him, clingy and happy to press open-mouthed kisses across Eddie’s scarred and ruined chest. “Did you mean it?”

“Fucking you every day?” He was drowsy, drifting under the warm and scratchy weight of Richie.

Richie rumbled, a laugh. He carded his fingers through Eddie’s mussed hair.

“Moving in with you.”

“Mm,” said Eddie. His eyes were lidding. He rubbed his naked leg between Richie’s legs, still mostly dressed. The denim itched at him. “I know you like Chicago.”

“You’d miss Mrs Kwon.”

“You’d miss the guys.”

“But you’d like to?” said Richie. “Some day?”

“Yeah,” said Eddie. “Of course I would. I love you.”

Richie stroked Eddie’s shoulder blades. Then he bent his head and pressed a fierce kiss to Eddie’s narrow, freckled shoulder.

“Edward Kaspbrak,” he said. “You romantic.” But he sounded as if his nose were stuffed.

Eddie ran a hand through Richie’s curls. He twisted his fingers in the hair of Richie’s nape, as he had before, and he tugged so that Richie lifted his head just enough that Eddie could take his glasses off and fold the arms and lean over Richie to set them on the nightstand.

“We can talk about it later,” Eddie said. “We’ve got time.”

“You’re just saying that because fucking makes you sleepy,” said Richie, sniffling.

“Crybaby,” Eddie grumbled, but he kissed Richie’s lips, his cheeks, his nose, his too wide forehead with its long lines that folded into place when Richie smiled underneath Eddie’s ministrations.

They settled together. Eddie dozed. After a few minutes, or perhaps after several, he felt Richie pull away. Eddie complained wordlessly and clutched at him, and Richie pressed three quick kisses to Eddie’s scarred cheek and said, “I’m taking my jeans off, ya Klingon,” and Eddie said, “Come back,” and Richie shucked the jeans and his briefs and slipped nude under the covers so that Eddie had no choice but to get up and under the covers too.

Richie said, “Bring it in, Kaspbrak,” and spread his arms wide. So Eddie went to him, and easily he went to dream again.

In the dream they were living in a house made out of blocks of ice cream and Richie said, “You’ve got some on your nose,” and Eddie said, “So what’re you going to do about it?” and Richie said, “Well, I guess we just have to get married now,” and Eddie said, “No, about the ice cream on my nose, stupid,” and Richie said, “Oh, that,” and licked the pistachio ice cream off Eddie’s nose and said, “There. Now we’re married,” and Eddie said, “Thank you,” very solemnly, as the house melted down around them. They probably shouldn’t have built it in Texas. Ben had warned them about this. Oh, well. Eddie guessed they could try twinkies next. Mrs Kwon had ordered an extra large shipment just for Richie.