“Rich, are you even listening to me?”
Richie looked up from his phone, mumbling a quick huh? as he kept walking towards baggage claim. He and Stan had just flown in from LA to go to Monaco’s Grand Prix being held that weekend, an early birthday present for Stan. Richie didn’t really know anything at all about Formula 1 racing, but he assumed that knowing it involves race cars going around a track was enough to get by; it was more for Stan’s sake than his really. Richie’d been offered tickets to the weekend’s races and a post race party after the success of his new Netflix special and he couldn’t turn them down once he’d told his friend.
“I was trying to explain at least the basics to you so you don’t turn up looking like a moron tomorrow that doesn’t know what’s going on at all. But if you wanna just look at your phone instead, that’s fine with me.” Stan’s tone would have been called harsh by a passing stranger, but Richie knew better. He’s just excited for a return to watching the races, he’d made that much obvious when Richie offered to take him weeks ago.
“Hang on, I’m just checking where the hotel is.” They both watched the luggage carousel start spinning and waited for their bags to pass by. Richie saw his suitcase—custom made with his own face all over it—pass by and pulled it off the belt. “Is this time change gonna fuck with me the whole time we’re here?”
“It wouldn’t be so bad if you’d slept on the plane like I told you to,” Stan grabbed his bag off the carousel and turned to Richie to motion towards the exit. “Worst case scenario you get a little extra caffeine in your coffee order this week to keep you up. It’s not like the races go that late anyway. It’s not so bad after the first day usually.”
“Well the only thing I know is gonna happen this week is I’m going to get to the hotel and pass the fuck out. The race stuff doesn't start until tomorrow anyway, right? I won’t be missing anything?”
“I mean you’ll miss out on some of the fun Monaco stuff but you don’t know enough about Formula 1 to care about the fan stuff anyway so for you there’s nothing to miss. I’m going out today though because I wasn’t stupid on the plane.”
Their hotel was close enough to the airport and they had both packed light enough that they decided to walk. After a few minutes of bickering back and forth, they could see the hotel at the end of the block.
“I’ll tell you what, Stan,” Richie turned to face Stan as he started talking, both of the men waiting behind a couple checking in in front of them. “You let me sleep off this jet lag and I’ll let you do whatever you want tonight. All I need is a nap and I’ll be fine by tonight. We can go out, we can stay in, we can do whatever you want. I just need a fucking nap.”
Stan nodded his head and agreed to the terms as they went up to the counter.
“I told you not to stay up on the plane. You should know better by now, you literally travel all the goddamn time on tour.”
“And this is my routine! It’s not my fault I have a human cardigan that actually likes sightseeing following me around this time.”
“It is your fault, Rich, you did this for my birthday.”
The woman at the counter gave a worried glance between both of them before asking for their names for the rooms.
“Don’t worry about him, ma’am, he’s my best friend since kindergarten. This is just how it is with him.” She gave Richie a polite smile as she handed over his room key and a slightly more genuine smile to Stan as he took his key from her and they walked away from the counter.
Richie and Stan were in the elevator on the way up when Stan decided what they’d do for the night.
“You brought your switch, right Richie?”
“Who do you think I am, sir? A simpleton?” Richie laughed as Stan rolled his eyes at the remark.
“We’re playing mario kart and whoever loses the most races has to wear whatever the winner picks for them on animal crossing. For a week.”
“Get ready to dress like real life Richie Tozier for a week, man.”
“In your dreams. ”
“Oh God, I need coffee.”
Stan had woken up at 7am sharp, knocking on Richie’s door just 20 minutes later to have them go get breakfast before making their way to the track for the first day of the grand prix weekend. According to Stan, they had two different practice races to watch today and then nothing again until Saturday. The night before, Richie had tried to pay attention, he really tried, while he listened to his friend ramble on about various regulations that had been introduced and some of the bigger names involved in the races this weekend. The only thing he remembered was hearing a few names (Den-something?? A name that sounded like Handsome but most certainly wasn’t?) so the chances of him having a good time today was slim to none.
I’m doing this for Stan, remember. I’m sure the post race thing or whatever will be enough to make up for this whole thing. I hope so anyway.
Richie took a deep breath before opening his hotel room door, seeing Stan leaning against the wall texting who he assumed was Patty. She had to stay in the states for work, but Stan promised updates on the races and the trip in general.
Richie patted his pockets down, making sure he had everything before turning around and closing the door behind him. “Ready to go?” Stan nodded and they made their way to the front doors of the hotel. They’d spent the last night figuring out where they wanted to eat this morning, and Stan had google maps pulled up on his phone to find the right way to the coffee shop they picked.
An easy conversation had passed as they walked, eventually coming up to the shop and already smelling coffee from across the street. The place was comfortably balanced between busy and cozy, customers mostly just ordering drinks and leaving rather than claiming one of the tables. Richie turned when he heard Stan’s phone go off behind him.
“Oh it’s Pattycakes, she wants to facetime. You know my order right, Rich?”
“Of course, black coffee for the most boring person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Richie teased, shaking his head when Stan went to pull out his wallet. “Nah, I got it. This is your birthday we’re celebrating here, dude! Get outta here, tell Patty I say hi. Even though I’m pretty sure it’s, like, 3AM there?” Stan’s curls bounced as he quickly nodded and turned to go outside. Richie turned back to face the flow of the line and almost bumped into the guy in front of him.
The man was wearing a comfortable looking polo with the same logo embroidered onto his hat and pegged khakis, a slightly weird combination with the frequency of the logo, but who was Richie to judge; he had a habit of wearing the least cohesive clothes he could find that passed the smell test. Seems a little bit overboard with whatever this horse logo’s for , Richie thought before seeing the small Formula 1 logo underneath the horse.
“Formula 1, that’s like Nascar for Europeans, isn’t it?” Richie grinned a little as he tried to start some friendly conversation to pass the time without Stan there. Clearly he said something wrong with how quickly the man in front of him whipped around to face him. There was a slight twitch in the guy’s eye when Richie tilted his head down to make eye contact. Richie was too focused on Hot Polo Shirt Guy to realize the coffee shop nearly fall silent as they all stopped their chattering to look at who asked the question. When the other man finally started talking, there was a slight accent that Richie couldn’t quite place.
“You think Nascar is even close to Formula 1? What, just because the cars go fast you think it’s the same thing? Do you think baseball and soccer are the same thing too because the ball is round?” All of it was said in a rush, Richie barely keeping up to figure out what was being said at him before it was his turn to come up with a response.
“Uh...I guess, yeah. With the cars, that is.” There was slight tension in the air as he could feel his face heat up under Hot Polo Shirt Guy’s gaze, his brain working overtime trying to come up with more to say. “I mean,” Richie looked around, trying to find Stan to come in and relieve him from this embarrassing conversation that was sure to get worse. “The drivers go around the track, right? I think there’s some strategy to it but I don’t know what the hell strategies are...I don’t see how there could be much of a difference, really. You just want to get to the finish line first, right?”
Richie could see the man’s face grow more irritated before he pinched his nose and shook his head slightly. When he started talking again, Polo Shirt’s movements were short and sharp, talking with his hands with little chops to emphasize certain words.
“ First of all, American ,” the man spit the word like it was poisonous. Richie couldn’t help but grin a little even as he grew slightly more concerned about what the gremlin man was gonna do if he saw the reaction he was getting. “Formula 1 has always been, and always will be, better than your little Nascar can ever dream of being. It takes actual talent over here, not just driving in little ovals over and over again for half a day.”
There were two people in front of the man that were looking back at him and Richie now, the cashier and other baristas were glancing over between preparing drinks.
“For starting, the cars are smoother, better to look at. You can see the key sponsors instead of in the states where the drivers are driving around fucking billboards. Formula 1 cars have a design , they have a level of class to them. We make a whole show of it over here, before winter practices and test drives start we unveil the car for the season and tell all of the features.” The line was inching up as Hot Polo Shirt Guy kept talking, still chopping the air around him. He was careful to keep hunched over and in his own space despite the fact that he was talking with his hands so much.
He was still talking on and on just about the design of the cars as Richie zoned out and switched between watching the man’s hands and his mouth, still trying to figure out where the accent came from. There was only one customer in front of them now, currently ordering her drink, and Richie felt a little ping of sadness when he realized the conversation with Hot Polo Shirt Guy would be coming to an end soon.
“—and the design of the car is so crucial to the outcome of the team because you could have the best driver in the world but give him shitty car and he can never get on the podium at all. Williams used to be hot shit but the cars kept getting worse and now they are at the bottom of the grid all the time!”
Richie watched as the customer in front of them received their drink and he motioned at the small man in front of him to turn around to place his order. He knew the guy was about to be finished lecturing after he got his coffee, so Richie started pulling out his phone as he heard Hot Polo Shirt Guy ordering a coffee with enough sugar and caffeine in it that Richie could feel his teeth start hurting just listening to it.
“Hey, American. Am I boring you or something?” Richie looked up from his phone with a curious look as he heard the guy start talking to him while handing over some money to the cashier, still facing him.
“Oh. Oh, I just thought you’d be done when you got your coffee. Is it even coffee at that point, actually? You added, like, so much shit to it, dude.” Hot Polo Shirt Guy couldn’t stop his mouth from quirking up a little bit before he could wrestle his face back into a (mostly) neutral expression.
“Why would I do that? You clearly have so much left to learn, dude ,” he said the term in a silly way and they both laughed for a second. “I went to America once and they messed up my order and gave me too much sugar and now I can’t drink black coffee.” He stepped to the side to wait for his drink as Richie ordered his usual drink with an extra shot of espresso in it and ordered a black coffee for Stan at the end, nearly forgetting it altogether.
While they were both waiting for their drinks at the second counter near the pastries, Eddie continued talking about Formula 1.
“Do you know there are teams? And not teams like the loose connected drivers in your Nascar, there are actual teams with the exact same car design and uniforms and traveling together and interviewing together. I’m for the Ferrari team.” Eddie vaguely gestured to the horse logo on the polo shirt as he took a sip of coffee.
“Would now be a good time to mention I don’t actually watch any Nascar? Just so you can save time comparing it to that. I don’t watch any sports except baseball usually so I don’t even have anything to base this Formula 1 stuff on anyway. My friend’s for Red Bull, he likes that Vandertramp guy or something.”
“Yeah that sounds right.”
“Well in that case,” he said with a little chuckle, “at least now I can talk about more because I was running out of stuff I know about Nascar to compare.”
It was then that both of their drinks plus Stan’s coffee was ready, and they both grabbed them off the counter saying thanks to the barista. This is it, Richie thought, this is where he says he has somewhere better to be and I say goodbye forever . To Richie’s surprise, though, the guy followed him over to a table, already mid sentence with another explanation. They sat down at the table without the stranger faltering in the sentence and Richie smiled to himself as he listened.
“—and your friend has good taste cheering for Max, he’s a great driver and he has the attitude to get him far in this stuff.”
“How do you know this stuff about him, are you one of those fans that watches interviews and stuff?”
Eddie looked up from his drink at that, squinting as if he was trying to figure something out in his head before he answered.
“Because...I saw him yesterday? When we were at the track?”
“Oh, gotcha,” Richie nodded his head seriously, going along with the joke. “So what’s this weekend gonna look like? I’m here for my friend, if that wasn’t clear already. I kinda wanna know what I’m in for.”
After a solid 15 minutes of talking with Hot Polo Shirt Guy at a table, the guy’s phone pinged and he looked down at it quickly before interrupting himself describing the typical weekend schedule.
“I wish I could help you understand all of Formula 1 before the weekend starts, but I have to go. Read up on some F1 before you embarrass yourself in the stands tomorrow, American.” And with that, the shorter man stood up with his coffee and quickly walked out, nodding to a few people staring as he passed. With the chime of the bell above the door, most of the other customers quietly returned to their conversations, a few sparing glances back at Richie as he sat there stunned. A minute later, Stan returned, slowly looking around as he sat down across the small table and pulled his own coffee closer to himself.
“Alright, Rich,” he started slowly, “what did you manage to do while I was gone that has half the store looking at you like that?”
Richie, still shocked, finally dragged his eyes to meet Stan’s and shrugged slightly. “I just tried to make a joke, dude, and ended up getting roasted by the hottest man I think I’ve ever seen.”
Stan lifted his head a little bit, looking around to see if the guy was still close enough to agree with Richie or judge his poor taste. With no sign of anyone worth commenting on that extremely, Stan just rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers in front of his friend’s face, trying to get him back into the real world.
“Richieee, earth to Rich here!”
Richie continued to stare off into space despite Stan’s desperate attempts to get him out of his own head. Vaguely noticing Stan pick up his phone to start texting someone, the only words Richie could string together were, are all F1 fans just Like That?
“Stan help me out here, I’m begging you. I know I haven’t paid attention literally any other time you’ve ever tried to explain this to me, but I’m ready now.”
Richie and Stan were at the track, ready to watch the wind up for the first practice run about an hour away. Stan narrowed his eyes as he looked over to Richie sitting next to him. He looked Richie up and down before slowly replying.
“What changed your mind, Rich? I’ve been trying to get you into this stuff since college, why are you just now deciding it’s time to pay attention? Please tell me it’s not because of that guy back when we got coffee.” Stan rolled his eyes as Richie’s pink face and small grin gave him away. “I swear, Richie. Not that I don’t want you to pay attention and pick up literally anything from my hours of talking about this, but you’re probably never gonna see him again, what’s it matter that you learn about Formula 1? What happened to just kicking back and pretending it’s like Nascar just going around the track over and over for a few hours?”
“Stanley my manley, I don’t see what the problem is. Best case scenario, I see the guy again and can knock his socks off with how well his American knows about Formula 1. Worst case scenario, I accidentally end up learning shit about these cars you talk about so much. It’s a win/win for you, I know how much you’ve been dying to talk about it more ever since we flew in yesterday.”
Stan seemed to weigh his options for a second, looking from left to right as if looking at an imaginary scale and giving a little nod before saying fine and settled into his seat further. “We’re only doing the absolute basics right now because, honestly, I’m not sure you’re gonna actually follow through with this once you realize how unrealistic it is that you’ll ever see that guy again.”
To his credit, Richie did end up paying attention to a majority of the lecture for the hour leading up to the start of the practice race, even asking questions that Stan seemed impressed with. By the time they got down to explaining the qualifying race breakdown, a voice came over the speaker system to announce the start of the first of the practice races.
There was a little bit of chattering between the two of them, but for the most part the first race was spent with Richie just trying to get a hold on what happens for the practice rounds. He watched the cars zip past them and attempted to pick a favorite to at least spice it up for the more boring parts. Richie’s mind kept floating back to the logo on Hot Polo Shirt Guy’s, well, polo shirt. He leaned over to Stan once he realized it was on two of the cars and plastered basically everywhere else.
“Stan, what’s that symbol for? The one with the horse? I keep seeing it everywhere, man.” Richie purposely left out the fact that he’d seen it at the café on his guy; a few other people had t-shirts with it as they were walking into the track anyway, it didn’t seem like too weird of a question to make Stan suspicious.
“You live in Los Angeles, Rich. You sure you haven’t seen that logo before? Maybe on a stupid expensive car?” Stan shook his head with a light laugh as Richie stared at him with a completely blank face. “God, Rich, you’re hopeless aren’t you. Ferrari, Tozier, the horse is Ferrari.”
“Oh! Well, okay, they’re my favorite then,” he replied, turning back to the track to watch the cars drive past again. He heard Stan mumble something like yeah, you and half the other people here before getting sucked in himself to the practice run.
The first practice run (“ free practice, Rich” ) was 90 minutes long and Stan had told Richie after that run that between the first and second practices the teams were allowed to work on the cars to fine tune and adjust what they needed before the qualifying race that would determine their placement in the actual race. The two of them spent the time between covering more of the regulations and procedures, Stan starting to go a little in depth about the tires before it was time to watch the second free practice.
This time, there was even less conversation between them as both men followed what was happening closer as the run went on. By the end of that race, Richie and Stan both realized they hadn’t eaten since breakfast that morning. After Stan’s stomach let out a low grumble, they both pulled out their phones to find a place to eat as they carefully maneuvered their way through the stands toward the entrance they came in through.
Looking back at the track one more time, Richie paused as he saw one of the drivers talking to a teammate in the pit area. He seemed to be in a heated conversation, hands making harsh chopping motions as he leaned forward on his toes and bounced slightly with every chop. The driver hadn’t even taken his helmet off yet before the conversation got intense, but something kept Richie watching for another few seconds before Stan got his attention and pulled him forward a little by the wrist.
It wasn’t until they sat down to dinner that Richie realized that the driver’s movements seemed to remind him of Hot Polo Shirt Guy. Lots of people talk with their hands, though, it’s not that weird that he was doing it too. Richie pondered it for a few minutes while Stan texted Patty before they both started a conversation as they finished up their meal and decided to head to a bar they saw a few blocks away that didn’t seem too crowded for the night.
Walking into the bar, Stan and Richie were hit with a wall of sound; people laughing together, speaking too many different languages to count, a small group of friends playing pool in the corner. The two of them walked up to the counter to order beers, and Stan excused himself to a quieter area of the large bar to call Patty for the night. Richie absently nodded as he looked around the room looking for a way to entertain himself while Stan was away. A small grin formed when he picked out a familiar face—or rather, a familiar hat—in the sea of bodies around him.
Approaching Hot Polo Shirt Guy, no longer actually wearing a polo shirt, was the easy part; Richie struggled instead to find a good way to start a conversation once he was hovering close by.
“You know, you’re not very sneaky, American.” Richie jumped a bit as he heard the guy speak up, still looking at his phone despite the nervous edge to his voice, almost like he didn’t want to draw attention to himself if he happened to be wrong in his guess.
“What gave me away, the fact that I’m one of the tallest people here?” Richie turned to fully face the guy, carefully leaning on the empty table beside them as he put his beer glass down on it.
“No,” he replied, finally looking up from his phone and pulling his sunglasses down on his nose so he could look over the top at Richie. “You’re wearing a bright yellow shirt while the rest of us are dressed normally, and this morning you were wearing an awful neon shirt that made it seem like you walked off of Sesame Street in the 1980’s.” There was a quick pause with the man looking Richie up and down before shrugging and adding, “the height doesn’t hurt though.”
Richie grinned wider now, realizing that the stranger not only remembered him, but paid attention to what he was wearing that morning. Maybe there’s a chance , he thought before he could stop himself.
“Hey, what’s your name anyway?” The question seemed to catch the guy off guard, a small curl on the end of his lips and squinting, curious, before realizing he had to actually answer.
“Um, Eddie. It’s Eddie.” The guy—Eddie—looked around quickly without moving his head before his eyes settled back onto Richie with his cheeks a little pinker than they were a second ago.
“Well okay, Eddie , I’m Richie. I’d shake your hand but, like, we’ve already talked so I feel like that’s a little awkward.” They just stared at each other for a second before Richie jumped in again. “Oh and I took your advice. Read up on some Formula 1 stuff, watched a few youtube videos, listened to my friend lecture me about it for the hundredth time but actually paid attention this time.” Eddie laughed a little as Richie added, “who knew this stuff could actually be interesting right?”
“So what kind of stuff do you know now, smart guy?” Eddie had to tilt his head up a little to look Richie in the eyes as he was leaning on his elbows on the table. The table was so small that even with it between them, Richie and Eddie were less than a foot away from each other. The bar was crowded enough, though, that they could both blame the closeness on the fact that they couldn’t hear each other or didn’t want to touch anyone else.
“Well for starters, I know there’s enough differences that I could see why you might have lost your shit on me a little this morning.” The sound of Eddie’s light laugh filled Richie’s ears and, for reasons he was too oblivious to realize then, made his face get a little warmer and his smile kept getting bigger as the conversation went on. “I watched a video at lunch time that told me that when drivers crash, it supremely fucks up their joints and their backs,” he continued. “And I watched this other one, I think it was for the race point team or something?”
“Racing Point,” Eddie politely corrected.
“Yeah, Racing Point! Apparently both drivers are Canadian, so I bet they’re, like, the nicest team ever, stereotypically speaking. They seem super cool and the one, Ben I think, seems like super super into his wife. And I gotta admit that Ben looks SO good in pink, I can’t lie. But that’s not even to do with the sport really, I don’t know why I went off on that—”
“Uh, maybe because it’s true? Ben’s wife actually designed that suit for them, she’s a big deal over here.” Eddie was still smiling as he took a drink of his own beer, not breaking eye contact with Richie as he raised his eyebrows, clearly expecting him to say more.
Richie struggled to remember more until he looked down at his beer, breaking the eye contact with Eddie across from him. Was Eddie getting closer? I haven’t even had half my beer, I can’t be drunk enough to be seeing things yet, Richie reasoned when he looked back up.
“And, uh, I learned some about the tires? It was kind of confusing but I guess they all have the same ones, like from the same company or whatever, and the company decides which ones they use for each race? I don’t know, the video got a little complicated after that, I got a little lost. But I’m trying, I really am, Eds.” Richie’s words got smashed together and he could feel himself speeding up as he watched Eddie looking at him like he was the only person in the bar, despite the nudges from people running into them and the loud cheering behind Richie saying otherwise. “I swear I learned more, Eddie, but I have to ask—”
“Can I have your number, Richie?” Eddie reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, handing it over to Richie before he’d even answered. He’d already typed in a contact name ( Richy with an american flag emoji next to it) when the phone was shoved into Richie’s hands, no hesitation at all on Eddie’s end. Richie looked back up and saw Eddie nod towards the phone with a small smile. He looked back down and corrected the spelling of his name before putting his number in and handing the phone back and pushing up his glasses.
“I’m glad you got to that step before I did because I would have totally fucked that up, but I was just gonna ask,” Richie pointed to his own glasses, “what’s with the shades?”
Eddie’s answer was immediate, as if this is a common occurrence, that he wears sunglasses inside a bar at night : “nasty hangover.”
Richie raised his eyebrows a little, mentally making sure that it was Thursday night and not Monday morning after a long weekend, before just shrugging the answer off and moving on.
They ended up talking for another half an hour before Eddie sees the time and says he has to leave.
“I’ll text you so you can have my number, American,” he says as he’s turning away to put on his jacket.
“Hey, man, you know my name now, what’s with this ‘American’ thing? It’s not like I still call you ‘Hot Polo Shirt Guy.’” Richie and Eddie both freeze when they realize what was said, and Eddie slowly turns back as Richie shrinks down in his seat.
“You called me...hot polo shirt guy?”
“Well....yeah I guess. Who under the age of 60 actually wears polos by choice, man?”
Eddie’s eye twitched as he responded, reminding Richie of earlier in the day when he’d seen it happen for the first time. “It’s Ferrari , asshole, it’s not some $10 polo you wear to a backyard barbeque you have in the states. They’re comfortable and classic. ” Richie was laughing as Eddie spoke and he felt himself crack a smile at hearing how ridiculous their conversation was. “Who are you to talk anyway, Richie? What are you gonna wear tomorrow, some hot pink getup with pants that you clearly picked to clash on purpose?”
Richie didn’t think it was possible to smile any wider than he already was, his cheeks were already sore, but he felt his smile grow as he said, “well, I guess you’ll just have to find out, won’t you Eds?” They both started laughing too loudly at the joke before Eddie actually had to leave, texting Richie’s phone before he was even out the door.
Stan ended up coming back to the table immediately after Eddie left and Richie passed him his now warm beer across the table.
“That was some good timing, Stan. Hot Polo Shirt Guy—his name is Eddie, by the way—he just left.”
“Oh, I know Rich. I was off the phone with Pattycakes, like, twenty minutes ago. I didn’t wanna interrupt.” Stan started laughing as he saw Richie’s jaw drop before launching into recounting what Patty did today. He pretended not to notice how Richie kept looking down at his phone with a smile every few minutes.
After he and Stan had a relatively quiet night post-bar, Richie woke up around 9:30 to a text from Stan.
Text from Stanley The Manley Blum-Uris at 8:27am: Went out to go get breakfast. I tried to wake you up to see if you wanted to go with me but I didn’t get a response. No F1 today. I’ll probably wander around to see what there is to do, text me if you need anything.
Richie almost fell back asleep trying to decide what he wanted to do for breakfast, but was woken up again by a loud ping from his phone.
Text from Eds at 9:50am: Bored and stuck at work, want to do something later today when I am out of here
Text to Eds at 9:51am: kind of a fuck boi text dont you think
Text from Eds at 9:56am: You can choose what we do as long as you never say I sound like a fuck boy ever again
Richie cackled to himself in his empty hotel room as he got up to get ready for the day and he thought through what he could talk Eddie into. Lunch? No, Eddie might have food allergies or be a picky eater or something, and he didn’t know what time Eddie got out of work anyway. The food limits ruled out dinner too, and that seemed a little too close to a date anyway. Is that what this was? Who knows, but it’s better to play it safe anyway. Richie didn’t have any idea about anything to do in Monaco, and Eddie didn’t feel like the type of person that would enjoy walking around aimlessly.
An hour had passed before Richie was knocked out of his thoughts by the sound of his phone again while he was zoning out pretending to watch TV.
Text from Eds at 11:45am: I have a few hours of work left, have you thought of anything yet or do I have to figure it out
Text to Eds at 11:47am: dont worry i have a plan. come to my hotel when youre done >:-)
Richie sent a second text with the hotel’s address and went into panic mode. At least if he told Eddie to meet at his hotel he’d have extra time to come up with something, right? It was only when Richie calmed down enough to stop pacing and sit back down in front of the tv that he found the perfect idea. He got up to get dressed in something better than his muppets pajama pants and Bill and Ted shirt as he texted Stan that he was gonna be busy that night but needed help with clothes. A whatsapp video call came in almost immediately as both Stan and Patty’s faces popped onto Richie’s screen in two different windows when he answered.
“Hi Richie! Stanley said you needed help with something? You have plans tonight?”
“Yeah Pattycakes, I need help picking out clothes, I have someone I wanna impress. I only brought my usual clothes but you always seem to find a way to make them still match somehow.”
“Sure thing, Rich! Just show me what you brought with you and I’ll see what I can do. Who’s the lucky guy?”
“Oh it’s no one you’d know, it just kinda ended up that we had the same free time tonight while we’re both in town. It’s not huge stakes but I don’t need my Gonzo looking ass showing up to meet up with him, you know?” Richie looked back down at his phone after unzipping his suitcase all the way and saw Stan and Patty giving him identical sceptical looks. It looked like Stan was about to interject and ask who it really was when Patty stepped in first and showed a little mercy pretending not to be suspicious.
“Oh, I like that one! The second one in, the—yeah, the blue one right there. Put that with the grey pants down there and pick any shoes to go with it and you’re golden. What do you think, Stanley?”
“I think you’re good at making Richie look like he’s an actual adult, babylove.”
“Cool cool cool, thanks guys, mostly Patty though. Love you both, bye!” Richie hung up the call before he heard either of their responses and snatched up the clothes Patty pointed out for him, throwing them on the bathroom counter to put on after his shower.
Doing a quick scan of the room, Richie scooped up the rest of his clothes and shoved them back in his suitcase before shoving his suitcase into the closet and jamming the door shut in front of it. He tossed the trash from his lunch yesterday into the garbage can and checked his phone one last time before jumping into the shower for a 10 minute too-hot wash. When he had gotten out and had his clothes on, he checked his phone yet again and saw a new text from Eddie.
Text from Eds at 4:24pm: I am stopping at my hotel to get changed. I’ll be there in half an hour probably
Richie cleaned up a few more areas in the hotel room before deciding it was clean enough and taking a few deep breaths. He grabbed one of his key cards and slid it into his wallet as he shut the door behind him and walked to the stairs, hoping that walking down that many flights would give him enough time to calm down from a near panic attack level heart rate.
Richie was in the lobby of the hotel clicking through instagram stories on his phone when he heard a familiar voice and looked up. He couldn’t help the instant grin on his face as he saw that Eddie was wearing more Ferrari gear, this time on a quarter zip jacket zipped all the way up to his throat.
“Yes, Ben, I made it safely. I’ll talk to you soon. Yes. Ok. Bye.” Eddie pocketed his phone as Richie rose to his feet and grabbed a hotel key card out of his wallet.
“You ready to see the best movie in existence, Eddie Spaghetti?”
“And you get offended when I call you American?” They both laughed lightly as Richie led them over to the closest elevator. “What are we even going to watch? You didn’t tell me anything.”
“I already told you! The best movie ever. And it has to do with race cars too, you’re gonna love it!” Richie threw an arm around Eddie’s shoulders and pulled him in, slightly surprised that the smaller man didn’t try to pull away. Unless he was going crazy, Richie could swear he actually felt Eddie lean into him as they got out of the elevator and walked down the hall to room 409.
Richie had to pull away in order to pull the key out of his jacket pocket, but Eddie stayed close as he pushed the door open for the two of them to walk through.
“You can go ahead and make yourself at home, I gotta pull up the movie real quick. You have any ideas for dinner, Eds?” Richie unlaced his shoes and pointed Eddie towards the bed as he picked up his laptop to rent the movie and connect it to the fancy tv the hotel room had. “Sorry about the seating situation, I didn’t really expect to have company when I booked the room.”
“No, I’m not picky. You can choose, Richie.” Eddie sat down on the bed and took his own sneakers off, putting both of them neatly next to the bedside table before turning so his back was against the wall and he was sitting with his legs stretched along the edge. It looked stiff and uncomfortable and Richie started to think he got the wrong idea of where this thing was going with Eddie. His worries subsided when Richie sat himself down on the bed and Eddie scooted a little closer to the middle, slouching a bit.
“How does pasta sound?” Richie looked over to see Eddie already looking at him.
“Sounds great, Richie.”
Richie placed the order and got the laptop set up. He laughed when Eddie saw the title of the movie and made a confused little noise.
“What is this?”
“Talladega Nights, baby! You’re about to watch the best racing movie ever made!” Richie settled a bit lower into the bed and smiled as he pressed play and could feel Eddie moving closer to him as he lowered himself into a lying position too. The movie started and within just a few minutes Eddie was laughing quietly to himself, almost like he was embarrassed to be enjoying it.
About twenty minutes in, Richie had to get up to pick up the pasta from the lobby of the hotel. He picked up his phone and key as he slipped his shoes back on and told Eddie he’d be right back.
“You don’t have to pause it for me, I basically have this shit memorized at this point. I’ll be back in like two minutes with dinner.” Richie closed the door behind him and checked his phone as he made his way back over to the elevator.
Text from Stanley The Manley at 5:35pm: thin walls I’m gonna get some work done please try to keep the noise down tonight
Text to Stanley The Manley at 5:48pm: ill try but you know how it be
Text from Stanley The Manley at 5:49pm: I will kill you
When Richie got back up to the room, he went to get the key when the door swung open before he could try to juggle the bags to get to his pocket. Eddie was standing on the other side, already out of the way so that Richie could get in easily. The lack of noise told Richie that Eddie had paused the movie too.
“Aw, Eddie, I said you didn’t need to pause it. Thanks for getting the door too,” Richie looked over his shoulder as Eddie shut the door behind him and went to grab one of the bags to help out even more.
“Well it was you who picked the movie, I did not want you to miss it.” Eddie took the bags of food to the kitchen counter and opened them up to sort the food while Richie took his shoes off. It all felt oddly domestic, both of them fitting together and working around each other so easily to get set up for dinner and a movie.
Richie and Eddie ate dinner at the counter quickly and quietly. When they were done, they threw away the trash and headed back to the giant bed. This time, Richie laid down first and Eddie settled in right next to him, looking up to check before laying his head down on Richie’s chest as he pressed play on the movie. Within a few minutes, they were both laughing loudly again. With every movement, they got closer to each other with more contact until Eddie was damn near on top of Richie only halfway through the movie.
The rest of the movie went off without interruptions and the credits started rolling as Eddie lightly smacked Richie’s cheek to get his attention.
“It’s only 9pm and you are sleeping! You getting old, Richie Bobby?”
“Did you just fucking call me Richie Bobby?” Eddie just grinned in response as Richie stated wheeze laughing, trying not to accidentally shove Eddie off of him.
The rest of the night was spent with them talking quietly to each other as they tried to keep each other awake for one conversation more. Eddie told Richie a little bit about Poland and his #1 fan (his dad), Richie telling Eddie about how his best friend dragged him out here to Monaco ( “oh yeah, what a horrible way to spend a week” “shut up, Eds” ) and he’d never be able to thank him enough. When both of them were getting too tired to think of new topics to talk about, they settled in as close as possible and fell asleep.
Saturday morning came a few hours later with Eddie’s silent alarm on his watch going off. He looked down seeing that it was 6:30am and rubbed his face trying to place exactly where he was. Almost immediately Eddie remembered that he was in Richie’s hotel room and looked over next to him to see if he’d woken him up with his moving around.
Richie was still sleeping heavily with quiet snores and his arms wrapped loosely around Eddie’s waist even as the latter had sat up a minute ago. Eddie took a second to look at him with the grey sky lighting his face through the large hotel windows (Richie had explained the night before as he was pushing the curtain open, he likes to be woken up by the natural light rather than alarms on the weekend.) He took a few quiet minutes to himself still looking at Richie while being caught up in his own thoughts before he looked down at his watch again as his backup silent alarm started going off at 6:45, telling him he really had to get going now.
Eddie shuffled off of the bed as silently and smoothly as he could, not realizing until he was standing next to the bed that it would be worse to leave without telling Richie. Especially since he didn’t want this to be a one time thing. He picked up his phone from the nightstand and contemplated how to tell Richie he was leaving to go to work, not because last night was bad. He smiled to himself before pulling up Richie’s contact in his phone as he slid his shoes onto his feet, pressing the call button as he started tying the laces.
A second later, Eddie could barely hold back his laugh as Corey Hart’s Sunglasses At Night started playing from Richie’s phone. He was putting his jacket on as Richie reached for the phone.
“Hey Eds,” Richie tried to sound more awake than he clearly was as he picked up, not realizing Eddie was still in the room until he spoke up to reply.
“Good morning, American.” Eddie grinned as Richie heard his voice both through the phone and by the door of the room, turning around with a sleepy smile on his face.
“Was it really that bad last night? It’s like 7am on a Saturday, dude.”
“The opposite actually. I was calling to see if you wanted another night like that.” They both took a minute to smile at each other, their faces turning a little pink as they realized what was happening. It was turning into something somewhat serious within the span of 48 hours of meeting each other.
“I’d like that, I think, Eddie. But you could just stay for breakfast at least. Or do you have some secret boyfriend to get back to that you didn’t tell me about or something?” Richie turned a little more serious by the end of the question, his smile fading a little bit as if it’s happened before. Eddie rushed to make it better, not wanting Richie to get the wrong idea.
“No no, no boyfriend, no husband, no...male mistress? I don’t know what that would be called,” Eddie smiled again as Richie laughed a little. “None of that, I just have to go to work. But I will text! I just wanted to wake you up before I left so you didn’t assume anything.” He paused for a second before adding on, “I...I really like you, Richie. I want to see you again. Soon.”
Both of them were still smiling as Eddie opened the door and slowly walked out, still facing Richie as they waved to each other and finally hung up on their phones as he gently closed the door.
Richie stayed awake after Eddie had left, deciding to get a head start on the day rather than going back to sleep for an hour before Stan would come over and wake him up anyway. It wasn’t until 20 minutes after Eddie had left that Richie realized how weird it was that he had to leave for work at 7am on a Saturday. He sent a quick text over before rifling through his suitcase to pull out some clothes for the day.
Text to Eds at 7:24am: whats your job anyway?
Text from Eds at 7:32am: we are at a formula 1 race and I had to leave early on a Saturday, what do you think, American?
Oh, Richie thought, he’s probably a photographer for a news network or something. That would make sense. Finding a shirt he liked—a button up with all the sections being a different awful pattern—Richie put his phone back down on the table and went to take a quick shower.
Richie and Stan got to the track early again so that the latter had time to get properly excited and make sure Patty had the tv set up so she could watch it back in Georgia. Richie had asked Stan to explain a little more about qualifying since that was coming after FP3 this afternoon.
“Okay, so,” Stan had started while pocketing his phone and turning to face Richie. Richie put his phone away too and turned with an exaggerated movement to make Stan roll his eyes before continuing. “Qualifying this afternoon is to figure out where everyone starts in the real race tomorrow, right? So there are three rounds. The first one is 18 minutes and after that, the five slowest cars are eliminated and whatever place they’re in is where they start. The second round is the same type of thing, five more drivers get eliminated after that. The third round is only for the top ten drivers, and whoever has the fastest time has what’s called pole position. Kaspbrak and Denbrough in the Ferrari cars usually kill it in qualifying because they’re really strong drivers with an amazing car. But Red Bull’s really good this year too. My favorite driver, number 33 over there,” Richie looks over to where a Red Bull car is speeding around the corner, “he’s been on the podium 10 times so far in 13 race weekends and he’s looking good today too.”
Richie listened to Stan talk about a few more of the drivers before they both tuned in to watch the rest of the 3rd practice session in relative silence. By the end of it, there were two cars that slid into the barrier wall and Stan’s predictions seemed to be pretty accurate; Kaspbrak and Denbrough came in with the two fastest times as Verstappen got 4th. After all the cars came in and went to the garages, the two of them got up to go get some lunch before the qualifying was set to start.
“So what’s this guy like?” Stan took a drink as he watched Richie debate between playing dumb or just getting straight to the point.
“Well,” Richie paused and considered his words. “He’s really hot but, like, in the rat kind of way. You know Goob from Meet the Robinsons?” Stan scrunched his face up a little bit as he nodded and waited for Richie to elaborate. “Imagine him as a teenager from that one montage scene but with a polo shirt on. It had that horse logo—Ferrari—on it.”
“Really? You’re getting attached to a guy that wears polo shirts? By choice?”
“Stan, I’ve literally seen you wear a sweater vest unironically. On multiple occasions.”
“Patty loves them!”
“And maybe I love polo shirts, who knows?” Richie’s eyes got wide as Stan raised his eyebrows.
“You love polo shirts or the guy wearing them?”
“Stan! We just met, like, 2 days ago! We’ve had a combined total of, what, 20 minutes of talking?” He shrunk in his seat with the glare he was getting.
“One,” Stan stuck up his pointer finger in a sharp movement, still glaring, albeit looking slightly less harsh than it was a second ago, “it wouldn’t be the first time you said you loved someone that quickly. You told me you loved me on our first day of school together in kindergarten , Rich. I’m not saying you’re in love with him. And two, I’m not that stupid. Your hotel room shares a wall with mine, asshole. I know you had someone over last night because you guys kept laughing your asses off at fucking Talladega Nights and I was already awake when it took you guys like 20 minutes to say bye this morning. Thin walls.”
“Okay uh forgot that your attention to detail is fucking crazy.”
“Just know I know that you’ve had a few hours together at least . So I wanna know more about him.” Stan stared at Richie until he nodded to himself and kept going.
“He’s from Poland. I couldn’t place the accent when we were getting coffee and he was biting my head off for calling Formula 1 the Nascar of Europe, but I asked when it sounded like he cussed in a different language after I accidentally elbowed him in the face—don’t ask—and he said he got out of Poland when he was like 17 with his dad for his job—Eddie’s job that is. I think he’s a sports photographer or something, he didn’t tell me but I kinda assumed since he had to leave so early this morning. He spends a lot of time at the races and he really seems to like Ferrari since he’s almost always wearing the stupid logo.”
Richie went on about Eddie for 20 minutes more, basically just summarizing everything he’d learned about him the day before (mixed with not-so-subtle clues of everything he liked so much about him) as Stan listened closely and nodded every once in a while while continuing to eat his food. When it seemed Richie was done talking about Eddie, they both went to casual conversation for the rest of lunch before they threw the trash away and left to go back to the track for qualifying.
Clouds had started rolling in while they were eating and it was starting to thunder as Richie and Stan walked back to the track.
“Are they allowed to drive in the rain? Is that a hazard or something?”
“Yeah, I mean, it’s a little more slippery but they have different tires for weather like this.” Stan talked Richie through the different tires again as they made their way back to their seats in time for qualifying.
Once the first round had started, it was clear that yesterday’s frontrunners were still doing pretty damn well. Kaspbrak and Denbrough were neck and neck with each other through it all; once one of them had the fastest lap, the other one would beat it directly after.
There were three spin-outs on different corners, one of them including a Haas car causing one of the Mercedes to puncture a tire. When all was said and done about an hour later, the Ferrari team was in the front row with Denbrough in pole position, Stan’s favorite for Red Bull was starting in P4, and Ben Hanscom’s pink car would be starting P5.
Richie and Stan went back to the hotel for an early night in to prepare for the race and the after party tomorrow. Stan excused himself once they got to their rooms to call Patty and ask about her day, and Richie nodded and waved goodbye as he pulled his key out to go to his own room and decide what he wanted for dinner. Richie pulled out his phone to check what fast food was around when he saw a new text appear on his phone.
Text from Eds at 6:21pm: Sorry for not texting sooner, busy day today
Text to Eds at 6:21pm: thats fine eds dont worry about it. ferrari looked good today and starting front row tomorrow holy shit!
Text from Eds at 6:23pm: Yes hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow
There was a few minutes of quiet from his phone as Richie saw there was a McDonald’s within walking distance of the hotel that he could get to in just a few minutes. As he was putting his shoes back on, he heard the ping from his phone again and picked it up to see.
Text from Eds at 6:37pm: I can not meet up tonight but do you want to call? I miss your voice today
Richie grinned, barely holding back his laugh that Stan would surely hear next door before pressing the call icon immediately and raising the phone up as he laced up his shoes and grabbed his keys.
“Sorry again I can not see you in person, today has been crazy and I have to be rested for tomorrow.”
“It’s fine, Eddie! You’re just gonna go with me as I go pick up some food, no biggie. Stressful day at the office?”
“You could say that, yes,” Eddie sighed and Richie could picture him pinching the bridge of his nose. He sounded tired.
“You sure you don't wanna turn in early tonight? You said you needed to rest up anyway. I’m not that exciting of a person, buddy.”
“I was the one that wanted to call, why do you sound guilty? I just wanted to hear your voice today, that is all.” Eddie’s accent was getting more noticeable as the conversation went on and he got more tired. Richie had found out the night before that Eddie worked hard to keep his accent light during the day but as the night would wind down and Eddie would call his dad, he let it slip up more often.
Richie smiled, weirdly proud of the fact that Eddie wanted to talk to him and he didn’t feel the need to stay so formal with him. Eddie’s walls seemed to be falling quickly with him and Richie wasn’t going to stop him. It was at that moment, walking down the street on his way to pick up a Big Mac with Eddie’s voice in his ear, that Richie realized that he truly was falling headfirst for him and needed to tell him. Not now, not while he could hear Eddie falling asleep as he told Richie about his big dog back at home with his dad. But soon. Before the weekend was over at least.
The race itself was largely uneventful with the exception of one of the cars losing power in lap 27 and a few overtakes that almost caused crashes. Richie paid full attention, still rooting for both Ferrari drivers, Ben Hanscom in the pink, and Stan’s favorite, Verstappen. Who said you could only have one favorite, right? As it ended up, Richie picked the right drivers. Kaspbrak, Verstappen, and Hanscom filled out the podium, with Denbrough and Stroll coming in right after.
The crowd was pure noise after the cars crossed the line, some yelling in celebration, some in frustration. Stan and Richie were on their feet cheering for their drivers getting first and second place and making it into the podium ceremony. They watched as the drivers got out of their cars and made their way over to the elevated platforms to collect the trophy and speak to the announcers and fans.
Realization quickly dawned on Richie’s face as he saw the Ferrari driver on the podium take off his helmet and shake the hair off his forehead before looking around and waving with a grin.
“ EDDIE?? ”
Richie saw Stan slowly turn towards him, eyes wide and eyebrows slightly slanted before he made himself turn to look back and wince. He barely had time to register what was happening before Stan took him by the shoulders and pulled him close enough that no one else could hear what they were saying, an easy enough task with all the cheering going on around them.
“You’re telling me,” Stan started slowly, “that the Eddie guy you’ve been talking about all weekend was Eddie fucking KASPBRAK? ” Richie shrunk down even further while still in Stan’s tight grip and he could feel his face heating up as he let out a high pitched nervous laugh. “And you honestly didn’t even know? I’ve been teaching you about Formula 1 and I’ve mentioned all of the big drivers so many god damn times and you never made the connection between the Polish guy obsessively wearing Ferrari gear named Eddie and the fucking Polish Ferrari driver named Eddie Kaspbrak?!” Stan was shaking Richie by his shoulders at this point to emphasize certain words and Richie was full on laughing as he kept looking between the podium and his friend in crisis.
“Wait, that means you didn’t either! You knew all that stuff about him too, Stan!” Richie bent over to catch his breath from the laughing as he watched Stan take a step back to continue his breakdown silently with his head in his hands before picking up his phone, undoubtedly to call Patty.
While Stan was processing the fact that he can be just as clueless as Richie sometimes, Richie turned his attention back to the podium where Eddie, Ben Hanscom, and Verstappen were still waving at fans.
So much for being a fucking photographer, he thought before realizing that Eddie had never actually told him he was photographer, Richie had just assumed he was given the fact that it was infinitely more likely than his Eddie being a fucking racecar driver. Not just a racecar driver, one of the best racecar drivers in the world.
After the world stopped spinning, Richie remembered his plan he’d determined for today; he was going to tell Eddie about how he felt, about how he wanted it, needed it, to work out for them. He felt his face flush as he realized how crazy it sounded before even adding the fact that he now knew Eddie was world famous Ferrari driver Eddie Kaspbrak, not just a normal fan of the sport. His first instinct was to run away, leave before Eddie could break it to him that he was just being nice by sticking around and that it was a fun weekend but it would never happen again. Richie looked over to Stan to see him past the breakdown, now looking back with a knowing look on his face and his arms crossed.
“Richie Tozier, you are not backing out now.”
“Stan, he’s famous! Who knows if I’ll see him again past this weekend anyway? Come one, let’s just go back to the hotel, I don’t even need to go to the party tonight, I don’t feel well and I—”
“Richie! First of all, do you not realize that you’re famous too? For crying out loud, you had your own small crowd of people asking for pictures and autographs before the race started, you got invited to an after party in fucking Monaco! We’re here because you’re famous too! Second, he wouldn’t have given you his number if it was just gonna be a weekend thing, idiot. He called you while still in your hotel room this morning to tell you he wanted to see you again! I knew you were lacking common sense, but this seems low for even you, Rich!” Stan finally took a break when he heard Richie laughing at his intensity. They both looked around to see a small group of people looking at them curiously as Stan took a step closer to Richie to be able to say something quieter just to him. “You have to realize you’re a catch, Rich, and he’s lucky to have you. College me had it for three whole years, Patty sees it, you should be able to see it to. You have to tell him, man. Patty and I are rooting for you.”
Stan lightly squeezed Richie’s shoulder as he took another step back and they both looked back over to the podium that the drivers were now standing on spraying champagne all over each other with. Eddie and Ben were going at each other, then turned to go after the Red Bull driver too. Richie grinned as he felt himself gain confidence and decide he was still going to do it. Eddie needed to know that Richie was willing to take what they had seriously and needed to know that Eddie was going to do the same thing.
After the race was over and people were leaving the stands to clear out the track, Richie and Stan both got up to talk to Eddie. Stan was chattering away, still slightly losing his mind trying to figure out how he couldn’t have put the pieces together sooner than Richie could. Richie had the advantage of being taller than a lot of people around him, so he was looking over people’s heads trying to find Eddie. Many of the racers had put their helmets back on after the podium so they could get some more publicity photos, so it was hard to spot faces. Not that Richie would recognize a good chunk of the drivers anyway.
He finally spotted a Ferrari helmet and made his way over quickly, letting Stan know where he was going so he could go talk to other people or stay out of the crowd if he wanted. Eddie was talking to one of the team members—Mike Hanlon, if he was remembering correctly—when he walked up, barely being able to stop himself from talking until he made his way all the way over. The speech he had perfectly planned in his head the night before and typed out on his notes app after hours tossing and turning thinking it over quickly left his mind as he approached the driver.
Eddie had his arms crossed without any tension as he was listening to Mike tell him about something that’d happened earlier in the race, evidently something that happened to one of the racers he couldn’t see from his car. Once they saw Richie approaching, Mike lightly hit Eddie on the arm and pointed over, lightly laughing at a joke he’d just heard from under the helmet that was too muffled for Richie to catch.
“Uh, hey Eds—Eddie I mean. Edward? No, I’ll stick with Eddie. If that’s okay with you,” he immediately mentally kicked himself for starting off on such a bad note. Get to the point, Tozier. Mike took a step back to give them some space and turned to look at something on his phone, clearly still listening in on the conversation a little bit. Richie, always a little bit of a mess, didn’t notice as he plowed through what he’d wanted to say to Eddie all weekend.
“For starters, I guess I know why you were wearing that ugly ass horse on everything now. No offense to your team or anything.” Richie let out a nervous laugh as he ran a hand through his hair and continued with a shakier voice than what he wanted to have. “And if I’m being honest, this whole thing was supposed to be in a completely different setting, maybe not surrounded by a shit ton of people I don’t know after finding out the guy I like is a world famous race car driver and is, like, super hot shit over here in Europe. But I still have an escape plan I guess and you do too since you could probably just get my ass kicked out of here if you’re over it and I could just run away and you’d never have to see me again if this goes horribly.”
Richie looked around himself and caught Stan’s eye a little ways away near the Red Bull area. He saw Stan making an exaggerated “ok” symbol with his hand before mouthing stop rambling, get to the point .
“Uh anyways, I just wanted to say that...I really like hanging out with you and I don’t really want to stop it from happening.” Richie’s tone went up at the end as if he were asking a question. “My friend Stan over there says I love people too quickly and I guess I couldn’t help it since I saw you at the café on Thursday and almost passed out when you turned around to roast me to shit for an honestly very bad joke. You’re super intimidating at first glance. And at second glance. And third. And basically every time I see you, actually.” Eddie’s shoulders started bouncing with what Richie could only hope was a laugh and he could feel his chest swell with a surge of confidence at that. “I just needed you to know that. I needed to know how I felt and I kinda need to know how you feel because no offense but I really can’t handle another friends-with-benefits or, like, one sided relationship thing. Especially not from you, Eds, I couldn’t take it.”
Eddie started taking his gloves off, practically ripping the right one off quickly and going a bit slower when taking the left glove off his fingers. He still hadn’t taken the goddamn helmet off again since publicity pictures had started, meaning Richie was watching his hands as he was pouring out his feelings to the driver. It was when Eddie’s left hand finally wiggled out of the glove that Richie stopped in his tracks and saw red.
“And I know this might sound crazy because we just met, like, two days ago, but honestly Eds you’re starting to feel like. I don’t know, maybe my soulm—waitwaitwait—you’re fucking married?! ” The blood drained from Richie’s face and he suddenly felt faint. This whole time I was flirting with a married man and he didn’t even feel like fucking telling me? Richie took a step back as he realized many things were happening at once; Eddie in front of him hurriedly started yanking at the helmet still on his head, apparently forgetting there was a strap at the bottom that was pretty crucial in being able to force it off; he heard Mike Hanlon mumble oh shit oh fuck while whipping his head around wildly before seemingly finding what he was looking for and running off in that direction yelling something beyond Richie’s capacity to listen to anymore; multiple drivers and crews had stopped what they were doing to look behind them at the soap opera level drama happening near the Ferrari crowd.
It couldn’t have been more than fifteen seconds total before everything came together. Eddie had finally gotten his helmet off after nearly falling twice and started rushing toward Richie to put his hands on Richie’s shoulders—not Eddie, actually. Some driver Richie vaguely recognized from Stan making him go through the drivers on Formula 1’s youtube channel earlier that weekend. Will? No, no, Bill! Bill Denbrough, that’s it. As the puzzle pieces of that were coming together in Richie’s head as he stared at the poor guy, Mike ran over with the actual Eddie, helmet already off and looking like he was going to snap at the camera guy following them back to the Ferrari area before Ben Hanscom stepped in to cause a distraction.
“Wait guys, have I shown you all the features of the suit my wife Beverly Marsh designed for me and Stroll? Here, look!” The interviewer got momentarily distracted by Hanscom, partly because no one could resist how sappy he could get while talking about his wife, but mostly because he’s 6’6” and it’s nearly impossible to get past him.
Mike was still in the process of desperately pulling Eddie by his hand before the latter broke eye contact with the nosey camera man, finally seeing why Mike pulled him out mid-interview. Bill and Richie were standing so close together that if he didn’t know better, he’d assume they were the ones falling in love this weekend. But upon second glance, Eddie could see that Richie was close to tears and rambling about something while Bill was trying to calm him down as well as he could with his frequent cussing and own panic coming on. Eddie quickly took the lead on the way back to them, shaking free of Mike’s grip on his hand to be able to run faster before almost tripping over his own feet in an attempt to stop.
“Richie! Richie, what happened? Tell me what happened, please!” Eddie took Richie from Bill’s grip, turning them to face each other as he kept trying to get Richie’s attention. Bill and Mike quickly started stumbling over their words before Eddie cut them off. “Both of you shut the fuck up! Mike, what the hell happened?”
“Bill and I were both over here talking about the race, right, and you were over there doing the interview but he—Richie I mean, I guess—just walked up and Bill still had his helmet on and I guess he thought Bill was you and he just started talking and we thought it was funny at first but then Bill started taking his gloves off and he saw Bill’s engagement ring and freaked the hell out because he still thought it was you and—”
Mike was cut off again by Richie nearly jumping him to get him to stop talking.
“I’ve got it from here, guys!!” Richie turned to look at Eddie, grabbing his arm and pulling him a little closer than they already were, nearly touching chests at this point. “I basically almost told your teammate that he’s my soulmate. To sum it up. Because I’m already embarrassed enough, I really don’t want to repeat it all, so I’ll just skip to the point and wait for the rejection that I can feel coming with that look on your f--”
Richie couldn’t finish the sentence before Eddie had pulled him down slightly to kiss him on the corner of the mouth. It was a quick, barely there kiss, and Eddie hoped it was enough to get his point across since neither of them seemed to be able to keep up with their thoughts at the moment.
“I’m not going to reject you, American. I thought I was going to have to make all the impulsive decisions, though, I will admit.” Richie’s face turned pink as Eddie said it, and they both pushed away from each other the slightest bit when they remembered where they were.
“Well. Lucky me, I guess. Bill over there is still an asshole though. And Mike too,” Richie was laughing as he said it, and Eddie laughed with him.
“Let me finish up here and we can go somewhere for dinner, yes?” Eddie lifted onto his toes to give Richie another peck on the cheek after he nodded his response. “I’m onto you assholes,” he looked over to Bill and Mike who, in their defense, still looked like they felt bad about what had happened. With that, Eddie turned back towards the garage with a last wave to Richie to go finish the interviews and post-race reviews the team had to do. Bill and Mike apologized to Richie before they turned back towards the garage too.
Richie turned around and saw Stan behind him a little ways away, stuck in a sea of people. He walked towards his friend quickly and pulled him from the crowd towards the exit of the track.
“So how’d it go? I wanted to be there but I got wrapped up in the Red Bull crowd, though I’m guessing it went fine based on the smitten look on your face.”
“Yeah, I’d say it went pretty well. I have a date tonight and you’re legally required to help me get ready for it.”