Actions

Work Header

Do you need anybody?

Chapter Text

Eddie tells him, “I think I need to leave my wife.” 

He tells him, “I don’t know if you meant it when you said I could stay with you.” 

He tells him, “I know it’s a lot to ask.” 

Richie is already nodding when he answers with an emphatic round of, “Okay,” and “Yes,” and “When can we leave?”

It takes a couple of days to sort things out in the end. Even though Richie had been the first to offer, and even though Eddie had already asked, it takes some coaxing to get him fully committed to the plan.

“If you’re looking to blow up your life, you could do much worse,” Richie tells him, using his teeth to tear into the package of Kit Kats he’d gotten from the vending machine downstairs. Eddie grimaces at him from where he’s perched on the edge of his hospital bed, newly kitted in a gleaming white cast, but he accepts the proffered chocolate all the same.

“Worse than shacking up with some washed up has-been in the most vapid city in America?” Eddie asks a grinning Richie, for his part delighted to be insulted so mercilessly. “Not likely,” Eddie says around a mouthful of wafer, pinky out where he’s trying not to get chocolate on his cast. 

He still agrees to move in anyway.

After Eddie’s discharged from the hospital they make it their business to get out of Derry as fast as fucking possible. Eddie’s leaving Derry with a cast that looks a lot like the first one, a little bigger maybe. Still, he favors his injured arm just the same as he had then, and Richie tries very hard not to think of the smudge of his own blood that Eddie had worn for weeks that summer, how it had stained a muddy brown on the palm of the plaster. He tries not to remember how Eddie had never mentioned it, or how looking at it had made thirteen-year-old Richie want to scream until his throat went dry.

Richie drives Eddie to the Townhouse, and then he drives him to New York. They go to the house Eddie had shared with Myra, and then to a hotel, and later Richie drives him to the airport. Six hours, four checked bags, and two sleeping pills later, they touch down on the tarmac at LAX where there’s a driver waiting to take them home.

Things are kind of ridiculously good after that.

And look, Richie knows he’s simplifying. Eddie’s still got a divorce to slog through, one he doesn’t talk to Richie about much at all. He’s still got to find a job, decide what kind of life he wants to make for himself. And Richie- Well, Richie’s got a career to salvage with an hour’s worth of material he hates. But all the same, he’d be lying if he said that having Eddie here, with him, in his home, wasn’t the realization of most of his more innocent teenage daydreams. The first time Eddie had shuffled into the living room in the late morning—grumpy, sleep rumpled, and unbearably cute—Richie had had to take a walk around the block.

So yeah, things have been good.

Richie drags a hand down his face as he half-listens to Eddie putter moodily around the kitchen, apparently happy to grumble darkly to himself until, moments later, Richie hears the unmistakable sound of an avalanche of tupperware falling from the kitchen cabinet, as well as the frankly inspired piece of enraged poetry that follows. 

“-dumbshit cocking motherfuck.”

“You okay in there, Eds?” Richie calls distractedly from his place on the couch where he’s spent the last half-hour rewriting an email to his manager. He’s struggling to appear stern without sounding petulant, the tone vacillating between his usual brand of flippant humor and something maybe resembling professional, but Steve’s going to lose his shit when Richie tells him to fire his writers either way, so Richie hits send before he can overthink it. Or, well. Overthink it any more.

He closes his laptop and sets his phone to Do Not Disturb for good measure.

Eddie stomps into the living room, providing the best kind of distraction.

“I know that your orangutan arms afford you a wingspan that exceeds your height, but could we maybe not store all the fucking tupperware on the top shelf?” Eddie demands, his brow pinched tight. 

Richie grins.

“I’ve told you I’ll buy you a step stool, pipsqueak, just say the word.”

He watches Eddie’s face edge by degrees toward that truly magnificent shade of purple Richie’s always chasing.

“Don’t- No. No, I don’t need a fucking step stool, what I need is to get this thing off of my arm so that I can navigate the world like a real human with opposable thumbs,” Eddie says, waving the cast around like a club. “Since I’ve got another five weeks with the thing though, what I would like is for you to move the tupperware to a different shelf so that I don’t brain myself with falling plasticware.”

“You’d have to get real creative with that tupperware to brain yourself, Eds, take it down a notch,” Richie says around a laugh. “The sky is not actually falling, I promise.”

“Hysterical. Are you done?”

“Tough crowd,” Richie says, still grinning. “What’s up, Eds? I know it’s kind of your MO, but it’s been a while since you’ve been quite so dire. You feeling okay? You taking your vitamins?”

Eddie sighs, shoulders falling, his plastered hand perched on his hip. He pinches the bridge of his nose with his left hand.

“I’m sorry, Rich. I’m just- it’s just frustrating,” he says, laughing bitterly. “All of this is so frustrating. I don’t remember it being so bad last time, I feel like a fucking-” He cuts himself off. “I’m just a little… on edge. Sorry.”

“Eddie, baby,” Richie says seriously, barrelling right over Eddie’s token grumble, ‘Don’t call me baby’. “I can think of one sure-fire way to take the edge off.” He wags his eyebrows for helpful emphasis. “I can clear out of here if you need some alone time.”

Eddie huffs out a distracted laugh and says, almost to himself, “Yeah, well, that’s part of the problem.”

“Oh, Eds,” Richie coos delightedly. “You having trouble getting ol’ lefty to cooperate?”

“I’m having trouble getting lefty to do much of anything at all,” Eddie snaps with a crazed kind of grimace, flapping the offending hand around like an especially uncoordinated bird.

Richie squints at him.

“Well then how do you-”

“I don’t,” Eddie says shortly.

“What do you mean, ‘you don’t’?”

“I mean, I don’t.”

“What- You haven’t gotten off in three weeks?” 

Richie laughs. Eddie doesn’t.

“Oh, Eddie-

“It’s just- the grip is all wrong! Okay. I can never get going as fast as I like. And the dexterity in my left hand is just, like, non-existent, apparently. And if I do manage to get into any sort of rhythm at all, everything just- goes sideways. Literally. It’s like there’s a magnet attached to my left hand that keeps it repelled from my dick. And it’s, like, okay. It’s fine. It’s just that it’s not as good as it’s supposed to be, and then I remember why it’s not as good, and why I can’t use my right hand, and then I’m thinking about the fucking sewers and-” 

Eddie takes a shallow, rattling breath. Richie half expects to hear the clatter and gust of an inhaler, but Eddie doesn’t do that anymore.

“And- and-” Eddie stammers, finding his way back into his tangent, “Any time I try, I end up more frustrated than I started, so I just- stopped… trying.” 

Eddie says all of this staring at a point on the ground some three feet in front of him, free hand held so tightly in a fist his knuckles have turned white. His gaze snaps up and meets Richie full on, eyes a little crazed.

It’d almost be funny if Richie didn’t feel so bad for the guy. He doesn’t really know anyone more in need of a little recreational loosening up than Eddie. He’s wound so tight as it is, all that nervy tension, it seems unfair that he should have so much trouble working through some of his pent up… aggression. 

Something between a cough and a laugh punches its way out of Richie’s chest, unbidden. Eddie’s eyes bug out impossibly further, and Richie wonders idly why he still finds it cute when Eddie is clearly weighing the pros and cons of murder and not finding it to be in his favor.

“Wow,” Richie says, talking slowly so as not to spook him. “I feel like there’s a lot to unpack there, man.”

“Look, can we just-” Eddie’s face screws up tight, a little desperate, like he can’t figure out how he ended up in the middle of this conversation. Richie knows the feeling. 

Eddie’s shoulders droop. 

“I just want to move some of the shit in the kitchen to a lower shelf. Please.”

And it’s unbearable, actually, seeing Eddie look so pitifully defeated. Even still, Richie’s brain really truly must be offline because before he can properly reboot and make another nice, innocuous height joke to clear the air, his mouth goes on to speak without his brain's permission.

“I could help.”

Eddie blinks at him. 

In some distant, faraway corner of his mind, Richie’s sure he can hear screaming.

“Yeah, Rich, that’s kind of the point—I am literally asking for your help in the kitchen.”

“No, I mean-” Richie starts, his mouth now fully just running away with the thing. If he listens hard enough, he can almost hear the sound of sirens echoing through his head. “I mean, I could help you. With the-” and now his hands are getting in on the action too, the traitors, gesturing vaguely—obscenely—in the direction of Eddie’s crotch.

Eddie stares at him. 

“You- what?”

“I can help you get off,” Richie’s mouth says, slow and clear and a little too loud. “If- if that’s something you’d want.”

Eddie gapes at him, and Richie takes a moment to wonder how far he’d get if he just made a break for it now. Eddie’s scrappy, but he’s down one arm and Richie’s got the element of surprise, so he thinks he has a pretty fair shot at making it out the door at least.

Eddie finally sputters back to life, scoffing at Richie with nervous, jerking motions like an animatronic statue powering up.

“Oh- fuck off, Richie. It’s not fucking funny.”

“I’m serious! Eds, I’m not joking, I promise.” Richie holds up his hands in surrender and says, solemnly, “I swear on your mother.”

And it’s a mark of how absurd this conversation has gotten that Eddie doesn’t rise to the bait. 

Why?”

Richie laughs, feeling crazy.

“Uh, cause you can’t do it yourself? I feel we’re talking in circles here, man.”

Richie,” Eddie groans, eyes wide, looking at Richie like he doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. Join the club, Richie thinks, panic mounting.

“I mean,” Richie starts, swallowing dryly. “That’s kind of the whole point of you coming here, yeah? So I can be here to help you out while your arm’s fucked up? While you’re getting back on your feet? So I’m just saying, if you want the help…” Richie trails off lamely. Eddie just stares. “I mean, you saved my life down there, Eds, it’s the least I could do,” Richie tells him with a queasy smile, and fuck, that’s not what he meant to say at all.

Because now Richie can’t help but remember the way Eddie had looked that day, deep underground, hovering above him with a triumphant smile. How the deadlights had left spots on his eyes, making it hard to focus. How they had shown him visions of Eddie—dirty and stained, skewered and limp above him. How Richie had coaxed his sluggish limbs to move, now, before it’s too late. How the clown had let out a furious shriek when It missed Its mark, had dug through the rock to swipe Eddie bodily to the side, had thrown Eddie into the cavern wall. How Eddie’s arm had snapped beneath him. How it could have been so, so much worse.

Richie blinks. And blinks again. And when he looks up at Eddie, refocusing his gaze, he feels a little lost.

“You’re serious?”

“I-” Richie shakes his head, blinks again. Sometimes he thinks he can see the impression left from the deadlights clouding his eyes. “Yeah, Eds,” he says, quiet, too shaken up to be anything but honest. “I want to help.”

He finds Eddie’s eyes again, but Eddie is still just staring at him, expression indiscernible.

Then, quietly, “Okay.”

And Richie can’t think for all the static clouding his ears.

“Okay?”

Eddie’s shoulders fall, hands hanging limp by his sides, “Yes, Richie, okay.” 

They stare at each other for another moment until Eddie huffs, impatient, “You gonna get over here, or…?”

“What, like, right now?” Richie asks, voice cracking embarrassingly, shoving his laptop to the cushion beside him and scrambling to his feet. 

“Yes, Richie, right fucking now,” Eddie hisses, now wringing his hands. “You’re insane if you think I can sit with this and look you in the eye in a few days and ask you to do it later. Certifiable, probably. This is happening now or never, and I actually really would like it to be now because, as we’ve already established, it’s been three fucking weeks, dude.”

Eddie says all of this in one breath, which is simultaneously impressive and makes Richie wonder how they ever thought that he actually had asthma.

Richie crosses the length of the room in a few long strides. Eddie backs up against the wall as he approaches, blinking up at Richie when he draws near. Something thrums hot and molten under Richie’s skin.

“Do you, uh,” Richie clears his throat, voice on the verge of husky. “Do you want to take this to the bedroom?”

“God, no,” Eddie answers quickly. “That’s- that’s too much. That’d be weird, right?”

“Yeah, sure, that’s the weird part.”

Richie,” Eddie whines. Richie loves him. “You’re the one who fucking offered, so if you’re not-”

“Sorry! Sorry,” Richie interrupts, does his best to put on an unaffected smirk despite the swooping feeling in his stomach. “I’ll be good,” he promises, and Eddie sucks in a shaking breath.

Richie steps forward to close the distance between them, heart thumping heavy and obvious in his chest. Eddie stares up at him with wide, nervous eyes. Richie wants badly to kiss him. 

After a long, awkward moment, Richie gestures down, “Uh, should I…?” 

Eddie rolls his eyes, says, “I got it,” and unbuckles his belt.

For all the nights Richie had laid awake, skin hot, flushed with guilt, telling himself that he can’t, he can’t think about this; for all he’d hoped that maybe, somehow, there might be a chance that Eddie felt the same way; for all the years Richie has spent wanting this, even the years he hadn’t remembered who it was he wanted, but still always, always it was Eddie—despite all that time, when presented with the reality of Eddie, willing and wanting in front of him, Richie feels-

He feels...

Well. He’s a little overwhelmed, to be honest.

Eddie is breathing in long, even breaths, gaze focused somewhere around Richie’s chest. He seems determined to keep calm, so Richie’s certainly not going to interrupt him. His line of sight travels downward when he remembers he has permission, and he takes in the sight of the line of Eddie’s cock, visible beneath the deep red fabric of his boxer-briefs. 

I can touch Eddie’s dick, he thinks, a little delirious. Then amends, I’m going to touch Eddie’s dick.  

Richie swallows and bites his tongue to keep himself from saying something truly stupid. 

He takes a breath, glances once at Eddie’s face, then brings a hand up to cup him in his briefs, grinding against his dick with the heel of his palm.

Eddie lets out a short, hitching gasp at the touch. His gaze flies up, meets Richie’s for a few terrifying, exhilarating moments, before his eyes flutter closed, hips rocking forward minutely, chasing the pressure of Richie’s grip.

Eddie is hot and slowly hardening in Richie’s hand, and the thought alone is enough to get Richie’s dick twitching to attention too. The reality of the situation hits Richie all at once and for a few moments he’s unable to do much more than give Eddie some blunt friction while he collects himself. Eddie doesn’t really seem to mind, though, if the shuddering quality of his breathing is anything to go by. 

Richie checks his nerves, decides stubbornly that he will panic about this whole thing later, and determinedly trails his thumb slowly up the line of Eddie’s dick. He lets his nail drag just a little, just enough for Eddie to feel it, curiously watching Eddie squirm beneath him. He thumbs over the head of his cock, presses the pad of his thumb where the fabric is just starting to grow damp, and is rewarded with a quiet whimper.

Richie’s quite sure it’s the best sound he’s ever heard.

He trails his fingers up, tugs at the waistband of Eddie’s briefs and says, quietly, “Can I…?”

“Yeah, yes,” Eddie breathes out, eyes still closed.

Richie hooks his thumbs under the waistband and works them down over his hips, biting his lip hard, just barely managing to hold back a whine at the sight of Eddie’s dick. 

It seems ridiculous to describe a dick as pretty, but that’s what it is. It’s the prettiest cock Richie’s ever seen, heavy and flushed, starting to bead precome at the tip, and Richie gets to do something about it. He feels, frankly, flush with power.

Richie trails his fingers lightly over the length of it, teasing him a little. He glances up to find that little pinch between Eddie’s brow again, gratified to see it make an appearance here too. Eddie’s eyes are still closed, but yeah, that probably makes sense. Easier to imagine it’s not Richie’s hand feeling him up, that it’s not Richie’s fingers teasing at his cockhead. Because Eddie isn’t here to see Richie, he’s here to get his rocks off in as inoffensive a manner as possible, and Richie is here to serve no greater purpose than a functioning dominant hand.

Right.

He wraps his hand firmly around the base of Eddie’s dick and gives him a good, firm upward stroke. Eddie gasps lowly, hips bucking up into Richie’s grasp, his erection filling out nicely in Richie’s hand. Richie works up a slow, lazy rhythm, stepping closer to better manage the angle.

“Fuck, your hand is big,” Eddie gasps out, head bowed low between them, and fuck, yeah, okay, Richie’s dick is now fully invested in the proceedings.

Richie laughs roughly, thinks of the women who might have done this before him. How small and soft their hands would have felt, touching Eddie the way Richie is now. He wonders if they would have been gentle, tentative in how they handled him. He wonders how Eddie would prefer it, if Eddie would have liked it rougher, a little faster, impatient as ever at being coddled.

Sounding more out of breath than he ostensibly has cause to be, Richie asks, “That a good thing, Eds?”

“Fuck you, you know it is,” Eddie says, grinding up a bit into Richie’s hand, and Richie preens where he knows Eddie can’t see him. 

He thumbs up firm under the head of Eddie’s dick, encouraging a pulse of precome to ooze up and over. Eddie bites back a stifled moan. Richie wishes he wouldn’t. 

“You know what they say about big hands-”

“Please shut up,” Eddie begs, eyes squeezed shut. 

“Right, sorry,” Richie says, throat tight. “Just pretend I’m not here.”

He gives him a few long, tight strokes, thumb dragging up the length of him.

“Just let me know if- let me know if this isn’t doing it for you,” he says quietly, working his hand a little faster now.

“I should’ve known that your need for validation would extend this far,” Eddie says, voice sounding thin. His head falls back against the wall behind him. He’s got a lazy grin on his face and his hair is coming loose from the gel he wears, flopping limply over his forehead. And it’s a good thing he’s not looking at Richie, because if the lovesick expression on his face wasn't enough to give it away, the way his hips buck up against nothing at that last certainly would. “What, you wanna hear it’s good? It’s good, Rich. It’s really good.”

“Good,” Richie answers, strangled, tone betraying him, but Eddie is too swept up to notice.

Richie can feel himself leaking in his pants, damp and uncomfortable, but it’s nothing to the way Eddie’s dick is drooling messily in his hand. Richie’s mouth waters at the sight. The slide of his hand is slick and fast, and he wonders what Eddie would do if he got on his knees right now. He wonders how Eddie would react if Richie licked a long stripe up his cock, root to tip, before swallowing him down, making his dick a mess of precome and spit while Richie ground up desperately into his own hand.

“I don’t, ah,” Eddie whimpers when Richie drops his hand down to palm at his balls. “I don’t know what to do with my hands,” Eddie says, laughing a little, breathless. Richie snorts and shuffles forward, right up in Eddie’s space now. He takes Eddie’s cast and rests it heavy on his own shoulder. After a moment, Eddie’s other hand comes up too, smoothing over Richie’s chest to settle hot on his other shoulder. 

Richie bites back a groan.

He gets his hand back on Eddie’s dick and speeds up his strokes, panting roughly himself. Eddie must be able to feel it now with his hands on Richie, but he doesn’t seem to care. “I don’t think this will last very long,” he says, voice thin.

“This is about you, Eds,” Richie tells him, almost whispers it. “You don’t have anyone to impress here,” he says and means it. Richie doesn’t know exactly how he managed to talk his way into this, but he is very abruptly grateful for his trashmouth’s penchant to speak without permission. His dick has been straining at the zipper of his jeans since he got his hand on Eddie, but it’s nothing to the needy, desperate desire to make this good for Eddie. Please, please let this be good, he thinks loudly in Eddie’s direction. Please let me touch you again, Eds.

They’re close enough now that Richie can catalogue the exact shade of the flush of Eddie’s cheeks and the way it travels down his neck, bared where his head is tipped back against the wall. Richie wants to lick and nip and taste, to suck kisses into his neck until Eddie is writhing beneath him. He wants to get on his knees and show Eddie exactly how messy he can be. Wants Eddie’s fingers shoved indelicately into his mouth, getting them sloppy wet so that Eddie can tease and fuck him with them, until he’s over-sensitive and strung out and begging for more.

He can’t have any of that though. So instead he slowly, tentatively rests his unoccupied hand at Eddie’s waist. 

Eddie makes no comment, just continues to huff out shaky little gasps. Richie grips his hip a little tighter, feeling altogether like he’s getting away with something.

Eddie’s hips begin to speed up, stuttering out of rhythm. 

Uh, fuck, I’m close, Rich.”

Richie drags his eyes up to look at Eddie’s face and finds Eddie’s hazy gaze trained on him. 

It’s too much, surely. He doesn't have the wherewithal to hide anything right now, that overwhelming, insidious want must be writ plain across Richie’s face. He should look away before Eddie catches wise, but he finds it impossible to do so. Eddie’s caught him in his gaze, easy as anything.

He stares back and does his best to commit the sight to memory.

“What do you need?” he begs Eddie. “Eds, tell me what you need.”

Faster,” Eddie gasps out. “And, ah, tighter.” Richie adjusts his grip, picks up the pace. “Yeah, fuck, like that.”

He’s never heard Eddie sound like this, so unashamed, so strung out, so- so desperate. Abruptly Richie is not entirely sure that he’ll make it out of this rendezvous without coming in his pants.

Eddie’s breath has quickened and his shoulders are braced tight against the wall, small whimpers working their way out of his throat in time with the steady rhythm of Richie’s strokes. His hips snap up to seek out the tight grip of Richie’s hand, again and again, and Richie chokes down on something that he’s sure would have come out as a growl. He wants Eddie, he always has, but right now he just wants Eddie to want this. Please, he thinks again, hand picking up speed. I’ll make it so good for you- just, please, want me.

Richie drags his thumb just under the ridge of the head of his dick and Eddie lets out a long, broken whine. His free hand clenches at the fabric of Richie’s t-shirt, his fingernails digging into the meat of Richie’s shoulder, and Richie feels more than hears the thought reverberating through him, Touch me, want me.

And Richie loses it for a second. He hauls Eddie closer by his waist, both breathing heavily into the heady space between them. Eddie’s eyes snap up to meet Richie’s, dark and focused, and Richie struggles to catch his breath before he tells him, “Let go, Eds. I’ve got you, let go.”

Eddie sobs out a long moan, gaze held fast on Richie, until his head falls forward, eyes squeezing shut as he comes over Richie’s hand.

Eddie's hand clenches at Richie’s shoulder before shooting out to fumble at the box of tissues sat conveniently on the end table beside them, catching the worst of the mess while Richie works him through it. He pushes a long, slow breath out through his teeth, chest rising and falling heavily, eyes still closed.

Richie lets his hand fall away when Eddie starts to squirm at the overstimulation, his own chest heaving in tandem with the sound of Eddie’s breathing. His left hand is still gripped tight at Eddie’s waist and he squeezes, once, before letting go, shuffling back to put some space between them. Eddie’s eyes open slowly, his cast falling limply from Richie’s shoulder. He watches Richie with unfocused eyes, the beginning of a lazy smile starting to sprawl across his face, and Richie is struck with the realization that he’s never wanted anything more than he’s wanted him.

“That was,” Richie’s voice comes out cracked and thin. He clears his throat, tries again, “That was good, I hope. Seemed to get the job done anyway. The hand job, hah. Literally.”

Richie takes back every nice thing he’s ever said about his stupid mouth. 

He retreats, back toward the hall, away from Eddie. “I’m just gonna-” he says, stumbling around the corner of the coffee table. “I’m just gonna go clean up.” He waves his hand stupidly and escapes into the hallway, leaving Eddie’s dazed expression behind him.

Richie legs it to the bathroom, letting out a long breath when he gets the door shut behind him. He glances at the sink, spares a thought for washing up, before thinking better of it, popping the button on his jeans, and yanking at the zipper. 

He shoves his pants and underwear down and sighs when his long-neglected erection pops free. He’s harder than he’s been in a long time, maybe ever, his dick hanging heavy between his legs and flushed an angry red. He stifles a moan when he gets a hand around himself, still sticky with Eddie’s come. And it’s not the most pleasant sensation, already going a little tacky between his fingers, but it’s still probably the hottest thing he’s ever experienced. 

The image of Eddie’s dark gaze, heavy and trained on him, the sheen of sweat on his skin, and the sound of his breathing and his moans, the way Eddie had felt in his hand, in his arms, and the way Eddie’s hand had felt on him—it’s all fresh, crystal clear in Richie’s mind. And so it doesn’t take long at all before he’s coming into the tight grasp of his own hand, biting down hard on his lip to keep quiet.

He comes down slowly, left arm braced against the counter. He lets out a long breath and moves shakily toward the sink, careful to hold his right hand aloft where it’s covered with both his and Eddie’s come—and fuck if that thought doesn’t make his spent cock twitch pathetically.

He washes his hands methodically, and when he’s done he braces them against the edge of the sink, counts to three and looks up into the mirror. The person staring back at him looks strung out, a little desperate around the eyes, a nervous cut to his jaw. He looks well and truly fucked. And, hey, at least it’s accurate, if not literally.

He sighs and squeezes his eyes shut.

Fuck.”

Chapter Text

Richie’s pretty sure he’s been in love with Eddie his entire life.

It’s not exactly an earth-shattering realization, Richie muses, brushing the fug of sleep from his teeth in the privacy of his ensuite. It’s always been Richie’s lot to be keenly, painfully aware of both the severity and breadth of his feelings. 

Feelings, his mind supplies in a needling Voice. 

It’s embarrassing, sure, but it’s not news to him. Not anymore, anyway.

He’d cracked a joke at the Jade, some stupid gag he can’t remember now, and had watched Eddie’s face open in a bright smile, cheeks dimpling, had listened to him laugh for the first time in two decades, and had realized all at once that he was fucked. Clown notwithstanding.

At the time he’d thought, perhaps naively, that maybe it was just the remembering. He’d thought, surely this will all settle. He’d thought, for all that being back in this place made him feel like it, he is not that same stupid kid and there is no way he’s still ass over tits for Eddie fucking Kaspbrak. 

He had been wrong.

The thing, Richie thinks, about being back in Derry was that the memories, oddly potent, didn’t just fill his head. They’d lodged themselves into the spaces behind his heart and between his ribs and under his stomach. It wasn’t just remembering, it was being made suddenly, painfully aware that all the parts of him that somehow added up to a whole person, all the very best and very worst of him, everything he knew about himself that he’d always taken for granted as fundamental truth, it all had a point of origin.

And Eddie, well.

Even when he hadn’t remembered him, there was always something inside him that stretched and pulled and reached inexorably for Eddie. It feels, to him, like a truth woven indelibly into the thread of the universe, as sure as it was carved with a steady hand that day on the Kissing Bridge; Richie Tozier will go on loving Eddie Kaspbrak for as long as he’s allowed.

Richie brushes a little more aggressively at his molars.

So it’s not like Richie is unfamiliar with wanting Eddie. It’s the getting, in this context, that’s novel. And now that he knows how Eddie feels under his hands, how he sounds when he’s undone, how he looks when he comes apart beneath him, flushed content and panting—Richie’s not sure how he’s meant to go about his days thinking about anything else.

When he had finally worked up the courage to emerge from the bathroom after that first time, uncharacteristically sheepish, but a little giddy too, like he’d just gotten away with something unbelievable (he had), he’d found Eddie back in the living room, perched on the sofa, tapping away at his phone. Eddie had looked up when Richie came in, his hair swept back neatly, his clothes righted and pressed smooth, the only hint at what they’d done found in the crimson blush of his cheeks.

“I, uh-” Eddie stammered, bit his lip. Richie’s heart beat loudly in his chest. Eddie took a breath, seemed to steal himself, and said, “Thanks, Rich.”

Then he’d given Richie a small, shy smile, and Richie had felt his knees go weak.

“Don’t mention it, Eds,” Richie said, sounding miles calmer than he felt.

And he hadn’t since then. Mentioned it, that is. For the last couple of days, Eddie has seemed quite determined to never mention it again.

Which is- It’s fine. It’s fine.  

Because Richie had meant it when he said that he wanted this to be about Eddie and absolutely not about the way Richie’s stomach does a pleased little flip whenever he catches a glimpse of Eddie’s crooked teeth behind an easy smile. So if Eddie is content to keep it a one-time thing, if that’s really all he wants, then it’s fine.

Richie spits a mouthful of toothpaste into the sink.

It’s just that he’s not entirely sure he made it clear how very eager he would be to make this a regular kind of thing, if that is what Eddie wanted. 

Richie knows that it’s probably a bad idea. He knows that there’s every chance Eddie will come up from the fog of his own pleasure long enough to see just how gone for him Richie is. Knows that in a couple weeks time Eddie’s cast will come off, and he won’t need Richie’s help anymore, and Richie will be left with the lonely company of his right hand. Knows that having this small piece of Eddie now will only make it that much harder to remember that this is the most that Eddie will ever want of him.

Except that- well, they’d already done it once. And Richie has always struggled with moderation.

Richie contemplates his reflection in the mirror, angles his jaw to the left and right, and decides that he can get away with one more day without a shave.

So the idea that Eddie might be holding off on Richie’s account is unacceptable. Unfortunately, the subject of friendly hand jobs is not something that comes up naturally in conversation, even in the ones Richie tends to have.

He’s maybe thinking about it too much at this point. 

Eddie had grabbed a banana on his way out the door the other day and everything in Richie had stuttered to a grinding halt. It’s not really his fault, he thinks, as Eddie also happened to be wearing Richie’s favorite suit, the one he complains about being too snug, and the confluence of those events really was uniquely unfair. He’d stared hard at Eddie, his brain working furiously to come up with a feasible thread between the banana Eddie was holding and the hand job Richie would very much like to give him, before Eddie had snapped at him for not listening to what he had been saying about the grocery run, or whatever, and let the door swing shut behind him.

So Richie’s been a little put out. The words I like to get off once a day, how about you! have flitted through his mind so many times that he’s worried he might actually say them aloud one of these days.

He’s wondering how awkward that might actually be, thinking he’s almost certainly said worse for less, as he emerges from the bathroom and shuffles downstairs to find Eddie spread out like a buffet on their living room couch.

Richie pauses at the landing.

Eddie had evidently fallen asleep in the middle of a movie, the DVD menu gone idle on the TV screen. His cast is wedged up next to him against the back of the couch, he’s got one leg dangling down to the floor, and he’s nursing a pretty impressive spot of drool his shoulder. 

Richie feels the tender fondness rolling off of him in waves.

He whistles lowly and whispers, “Hey, Eds,” venturing further into the room. Eddie frowns, like even in sleep he’s found something about Richie’s presence to be annoyed about. Stupidly, Richie finds it very cute. It’s maybe because of this that it takes him longer than it should to notice that Eddie’s tenting his sweatpants. And Richie’s brain isn’t fully online yet, so he’s talking to Eddie’s dick when he says, full volume, “Well, well, well. We meet again.”

Eddie’s frown deepens and he mumbles something unintelligible into his shoulder before he groans with a little more feeling and uses his good arm to leverage himself up on the couch. He yawns and blinks the sleep from his eyes, rolling his neck and stretching his shoulders to work out a crick. His hair is fluffy and mussed from sleep, a little flat on one side. Richie’s hands itch to run his fingers through it.

He forces himself to focus.

Eddie hadn’t cottoned on to his meaning the first time he spoke, but after the banana incident Richie’s not about to let another opportunity go to waste, so he tries again. 

“Looks like someone woke up on the right side of the bed this morning,” he says, joining Eddie at the other end of the couch. He gestures down at him. “You want some help with that, hot stuff?”

Eddie blinks at him. Then he looks down and blinks at his lap. Then he looks up and blinks at Richie again.

Richie lounges as casually as he can manage and sincerely hopes Eddie can’t tell that he’s sweating fucking bullets.

“Uh,” Eddie says, voice still sleep groggy. Richie swallows. “I mean, I guess- if you don’t mind?”

Richie lets out a strangled laugh, scrambling to sit up fully, swiftly abandoning any air of cool he might have managed to diffuse. “I don’t mind,” he says, a little too quick, a little too eager. Luckily Eddie is either too tired or doesn’t care enough to notice. He shuffles back on the couch to make room for Richie to kneel over him.

“Are you sure this is cool?” Eddie asks him. He’s looking up at Richie with wide eyes, nestled into the ugly throw pillows he hates, the ones Richie has insisted on keeping just to be contrary. Richie wants to eat him whole. “Like, there’s no one that’d be… upset that- that you’re doing this? For me?”

Richie snorts. 

Really, it’s sweet that Eddie cares. And it’s flattering that he thinks Richie has anyone in his life that would give two shits about whose dick he’s touching. But as it stands, it couldn’t be further from the truth, and as sweet as it may be, Eddie’s concern is the only thing currently standing between Richie and the dick he very much wants to touch. So Richie drags his attention away from the erection he desperately wants to do something about and meets Eddie’s eyes. 

He holds his hand out between them.

“Hi. Long-time closet case, first time calling.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Eddie says, laughing a little, pushing Richie’s hand away.

Richie grins at him and settles back, knees creaking, shaking his head, “No, man. There’s no jealous boyfriend who’s been conveniently absent the last couple weeks, promise.”

Eddie huffs, rolls his eyes, “I know. I just- it feels a little selfish, is all. You’re doing all the work and you’re not even…” He trails off like he’s not sure how to finish the sentence.

And look, Richie hadn’t exactly been subtle. Eddie need have only glanced down to clock the raging stiffy Richie had sported that day, and he’d hightailed it to the bathroom pretty quickly after their little tryst. So, yeah, Eddie probably knows that this arrangement is doing something for Richie too. But Richie’s not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Even if he’s been in love with that horse for the better part of four decades. Or whatever.

The point is, he doesn’t mind if Eddie doesn’t. And at the moment, with the way his eyes keep darting down to stare at Richie’s hands, Eddie seems to be on board.

“Listen, guys aren’t really beating down my door,” Richie says to put Eddie’s mind at ease. “And I’m kind of over skeezy bathroom blowjobs-”

“Did you really do that? That’s so gross, man,” Eddie says, nose wrinkling.

Richie leers at him, “Look around, man, it’s the 90’s.” 

“It’s 2016.”

“Whatever,” Richie says, waving a hand. “The point is that I’m not exactly getting it anywhere else right now. So, no, Eds,” and Eddie looks up to meet his gaze full on. “I really don’t mind.”

It’s as close to the truth he can get without fully revealing his hand. Eddie’s leveling him with a look that Richie can’t totally decipher, but it’s intense in that way only Eddie can ever really manage, and it’s kind of making him nervous, so he mitigates disaster by helping himself to a handful of Eddie’s morning wood.

Eddie lets out a strangled groan and sinks deeper into the ugly throw pillows.

“We good?” Richie asks, grinning.

“Yeah, yeah, asshole,” Eddie says, right on the edge of breathless. “We’re good.”

Richie teases him over his sweatpants for a little while longer until Eddie grinds his hips up and snaps, “I thought you were supposed to be helping me, dick.”

Touchy,” Richie grins at him. “Sorry I’m not up to your standards, princess, I’ll just go fuck myself-”

Richie feigns pulling his hand away, but Eddie grabs his wrist with his good hand before he can get too far and says, eyes flashing, “Don’t you dare.” 

There’s a charged moment where they don’t do much more than blink at each other until Eddie seems to remember himself and clears his throat, blushing a bit.

He settles back on the couch, avoiding Richie’s eyes now.

“If you, I mean- If you still-” Eddie huffs, rolls his eyes, and says instead, “Please.”

The word travels like a spark on a live wire, a direct line from Richie’s ears straight to his dick, which is now fattening up inside his boxers.

That thought buzzes under his skin again, persistent as ever, a constant hum from the very core of him, straining ever out toward Eddie, Want me. Please, want me.

He dips his hand under the elastic waistband of Eddie’s pants and underwear, working it slowly over his cock while Eddie shimmies his clothes down his thighs. Eddie sighs and leans heavily back into the cushions, eyelashes fluttering while his breathing gets heavier.

It’s slower than the last time, less frantic with pent-up frustration. Eddie rolls his hips languidly into the circle of Richie’s fist, breath hitching quiet gasps as he crests low waves of pleasure. Richie takes the opportunity to explore a little bit. Eddie doesn’t seem to care much one way or the other when Richie twists his wrist just so, but a blunt fingernail dragged lightly up the underside of his dick makes him shake and curse. He doesn’t like to be teased, but he’ll whine when Richie thumbs up over the head of his dick on the upstroke. And when Richie moves to roll his balls in his hand, Eddie turns boneless and moans from the back of his throat.

And it’s easy this way, to focus on Eddie, on making him feel good. It’s all Richie wants really, and he’s content to let his own arousal take a backseat, faded to a kind of background thrum of want. 

It’s all going well until Eddie, eyes closed and lost to the feeling, hitches a gasp, back bowing a little, and exhales on his name. 

Richie.”

And it’s like Richie’s brain shorts out for a second. His hand stills on Eddie’s cock, gripped tight around the base. Richie’s hips stutter forward, seeking friction that isn’t there, and a desperate whine escapes from the back of his throat.

Eddie’s eyes fly open. 

Richie just stares at him, mortified, feeling very much like he’s just fucked everything up. 

Eddie stares back, and then his brow furrows, a determined sort of glare spread across his face, and Richie’s heart drops somewhere to the vicinity of his stomach. 

But then, then, Eddie growls out, “for fuck’s sake,” in a voice at a frequency that leaves Richie warm and breathless. It’s okay though, because a second later Eddie is grabbing Richie’s until now unoccupied left hand and is guiding it to his dick.

Richie stares down at him dumbly.

Eddie huffs impatiently, “Well, come on, we might as well both enjoy it.” And with one hand over his, Eddie grinds Richie’s hand up against his dick.

Richie moans, can’t help it, as his arousal takes a very pointed step into the foreground. His hips thrust a little desperately into the cradle of their grips.

Eddie hums, and when Richie opens his eyes there’s a small, proud smirk on his face. He squeezes Richie’s hand and then lets go, settling back on his elbows, leaving Richie feeling a little bereft.

“Alright, let’s go, can’t you multitask?” Eddie asks grinning up at him, like they’re kids again and he’s ribbing him about comic books or something stupid- Can’t you read any faster, Rich? I wanna turn the page.  

And the thing is, Richie is a fast reader. It’s just that sitting with Eddie in the clubhouse, pressed up against him in that hammock that was only ever really meant to fit one person, he’d found it kind of hard to focus.

Eddie rolls his hips pointedly where Richie’s still, somehow, got one hand around his dick.

“Uh, no,” Richie says dumbly, blinking down at where he’s quite literally got his hands full. But he starts working his hand up and down Eddie’s shaft again anyway, and Eddie lets out a contented sigh.

And it’s different, now, because Richie’s hips are rolling in tandem with Eddie’s, grinding down into his own hand. Any technique he’d had is gone, lost to the more frantic press of his own desire, and as he leans a little further over Eddie, Eddie’s hips straining up toward Richie, gasping at him to keep going, it’s almost like he can imagine-

Richie loses his balance, tipping over to sink into the cushions beside Eddie, catching himself on his forearm.

“Sorry, sorry,” he says, shaking some of the heady fog from his mind. “The angle’s just, like, kinda weird-”

Eddie gets a hand under his arm and urges him forward, man-handling him until his body is stretched out alongside Eddie’s, one knee braced between his thighs, their faces inches apart.

“Is that better?” Eddie asks lowly into the space between them. “For the angle?”

Richie wonders, distantly, if there’s a point at which his heart will just give out on him, and how it’s possible that he hasn’t reached it yet.

“Yeah, yes,” Richie says, because it is. He can’t touch himself anymore, his left arm bearing the weight of his upper body where he’s leaning over Eddie, but Eddie’s pressed up against him now, looking right at him with dark, hazy eyes, and Richie’s never wanted anything more.

“Good,” Eddie says, and then he palms Richie’s dick himself.

“Oh, fuck-” Richie curses, hand darting out to steady himself on Eddie’s waist.

His hips buck up of their own accord, his breath turning ragged, but he still tries to bite out, “You don’t have to-”

Eddie interrupts him, “Oh, don’t be such a martyr.”

Richie huffs out a laugh.

“I’m not, it’s just-”

“Shut up,” Eddie says, firmly. He grinds his hand hard up against Richie’s dick to drive the point home. “It’s literally the least I could do.”

Richie coughs out another laugh that’s all air and determinedly moves his shaking hand back to Eddie’s dick. Eddie groans when he touches him again.

“Fuck, Richie.”

Eddie pushes at the waistband of Richie’s sweatpants, shoving his pants and boxers down until Richie’s dick falls free, and-

Fuck, Richie.”

Eddie’s eyes are wide and dark and Richie may be projecting, but there’s something almost predatory about the way he stares down at Richie’s dick.

“What?” Richie asks, gathering a new bead of precome and smearing it down the length of Eddie’s cock.

“You- you’re-” Eddie stammers and whines when Richie gives him a firm tug.

“I’m what, Eds?” Richie grins down at him.

“Oh, shut the fuck up,” Eddie snaps. “You’re fucking big, Richie. I know you know that.” And then he grabs Richie’s cock with his left hand, gives it an experimental stroke, and Richie does shut up then. 

Well, almost.

Fuck,” he says, and buries his face in Eddie’s shoulder, too overwhelmed to care about boundaries while Eddie’s hand is on his dick.

Eddie’s left hand is slow and a little clumsy, which didn’t work out for Eddie, but Richie’s really not complaining. He works Richie over lazily, Richie’s hips meeting him for every stroke, and Richie lets his own hand match Eddie’s pace. They’re breathing almost in tandem, and when Eddie drags his thumb up hard along the underside of Richie’s cock, Richie whines into his neck.

Struggling to catch his breath, Richie tries to gather some of his old bravado and lifts his head to meet Eddie’s gaze. 

“Getting the hang of it yet, Eds?” he asks around a breath and a weak grin. 

“Oh, my god,” Eddie grits out, thumbing up firm over the tip of Richie’s dick, making him whimper. “Just wait ‘til I get this fucking cast off-”

“And you’ll what?” Richie asks—needling, pushing, joking, always joking. “Show me how it’s done?” 

“Shut up, Richie,” Eddie says. 

And then he kisses him.

If Eddie’s hand on his dick had been a revelation, this is something else entirely. Something that sets the ground trembling beneath him, shaking loose every screw in Richie’s head.

Eddie kisses him the way he braves everything, with blunt determination. He captures Richie’s lips and holds them until he sees fit to let them go, and all in all it’s over pretty quick, Eddie falling back against the cushions before Richie has a chance to wrap his mind around what’s happened. 

“Sorry,” Eddie says. Stupidly, Richie might think, if his brain was in any condition to do so.

“Wuh-”

“Morning breath,” Eddie clarifies.

Richie gapes at him. 

“What- Eddie, what?

But he’s looking at Richie with an expression that’s somewhere between a question and dare, and Richie’s mind hasn’t quite worked up to figuring out what’s going on, except that he very much would like to do it again. 

So he does.

Richie rolls more fully on top of Eddie and Eddie whines into his mouth, his cast knocking heavily against Richie’s hip. Their tongues slide together, hot and wet, and Richie feels Eddie’s dick twitch in his hand. He speeds up, jacking Eddie in earnest now, and pulls away from Eddie’s lips to mouth across his jaw and suck bruising kisses onto his throat.

“Fuck, Eddie, you’re so- you’re so-”

“So what, Rich?” Eddie asks, craning his neck and whining when Richie nips at the skin under his ear. 

Much, Richie wants to say. You’re so much. It’s overwhelming, how much I want you. It always has been.

Instead he says, “You gonna come for me, Eds?” 

Eddie whines, his hips snapping up toward Richie. He drops Richie’s dick, lost to the feeling, his hand smoothing up over Richie’s chest and shoulder, tugging him closer.

“You’re so close, I can tell.” Richie whispers it into the warm skin of his neck, too far gone to know better. “So hot for it. Come on, Eddie, baby, I want you to.”

Eddie lets out a shaking breath and comes over Richie’s fingers and his own stomach, shuddering through it. Richie pushes forward to capture his lips in a kiss, sloppy and ungainly where Eddie is gasping into his mouth.

And then Eddie gets a hand wrapped around Richie again, and it doesn’t matter that his left hand is clumsy and unpracticed, because Richie’s hips start thrusting of their own accord, fucking into the tight grip of Eddie’s hand, and before he knows what’s really happening, before he can gasp out a warning into Eddie’s mouth, he’s coming hard over Eddie’s stomach.

When Richie’s brain comes back online, he realizes that he’s just sort of panting into Eddie’s mouth, which is kind of gross. He slumps to the side, shimmying back into the space between Eddie and the back of the couch. Eddie harrumphs impatiently, but shuffles over to make room for him all the same. 

“So,” Eddie says, still breathing heavy. “Baby, huh? That’s a real thing?”

Eddie turns his head to look at him. Richie’s eyes dart down to Eddie’s mouth and back up. They’re awfully close.

Richie pouts, tone edging toward a Voice, “Be my baby, Eds, come on.”

Eddie laughs, eyes crinkling up, cheeks dimpling, the whole nine.

“Shut up.”

And it would be so easy, now, to lean over and close the gap. Except that Richie’s breathing is slowing down, and his brain is starting to talk to him again, and his brain is telling him that he shouldn’t kiss Eddie because they don’t do that.

Except they did do that. And Richie thinks it was really nice. He doesn’t know what Eddie thinks though. He could ask, but then Eddie might actually answer, and Richie’s not sure he’s ready to hear what he’d say.

So what Richie says instead is, “Sorry.”

Eddie wrinkles his brow.

Richie gestures down at Eddie’s torso, which is thoroughly painted in both their come, and clarifies, “About all of… that. You’re kind of a mess, dude.”

Eddie looks down, and it’s hard to tell because he’s so flushed from what they’ve just done anyway, but Richie thinks he sees him blush.

“Oh,” he says, frowning. “It’s... fine. Comes with the territory, I guess.” 

Richie opens his mouth, delighted, but Eddie raises his hand and cuts across him, “No! Nope. Too much of a soft ball, even for you, Trashmouth.”

Richie obediently shuts his mouth, pleased despite himself that Eddie knows him so well.

Eddie shimmies his sweats back up over his hips, tucking his softening dick back into his boxers. He rolls off the couch, careful to tug his t-shirt away from himself where it’s sticking to his skin, and retreats toward his bedroom, calling out behind him, “Don’t fall back to sleep, Rich. I’m serious, you’ll fuck up your back on that thing! My spine feels like a goddamn accordion.”

“Yes, dear!” Richie returns. He falls back against the cushions, covers his eyes with his arm, and wills his heart to stop fluttering so pitifully in his chest.

Chapter Text

The nightmares are new.

Richie had never really been one to remember his dreams, before. He’d wake up feeling confused and shaken, overwhelmed by a strange sense of grief he couldn’t place with no real idea of why. The best he’d ever been able to guess at were foggy impressions of people he might have known once and a place where bad feelings seemed to be baked into the soil. 

It makes more sense now, in retrospect.

These days his dreams are more vivid. 

Richie’s mind glances off of memories of the deadlights during the day. He gets the gist, remembers the basic context, but all their potency is gone, like his mind can’t find purchase long enough to really see them, to focus. But he’ll dream about them sometimes. 

It wasn’t like Bev had said, not for him. He hadn’t seen an unending stream of possible futures and brutal ends. He’d mostly just seen memories—ostensibly mundane, even unimportant. Ones his brain hadn’t yet seen fit to uncover from the silt. 

It was all Eddie, of course. 

Memories of sunny days spent tracking impossible monsters (only the fun kind) through the Barrens. Footsteps crunching through snow and slush on their way home from school in the tailend of winter. Skinny arms wrestling over a comic book or a candy bar or a cassette tape in the attic above the Toziers’ garage. All memories of Eddie, all the best ones, all barrelling toward the same gory end. Because the deadlights had shown him one glimpse of the future, just one. Like an inevitability. Like it was always meant to end that way. 

Eddie, skewered through and bleeding onto Richie’s jacket.

His dreams are the same. Sometimes he’ll remember himself, halfway lucid, and try to cling to the rosy memories of childhood. But even still, he recognizes the ever-present, pervading thought that followed him through the deadlights like a creeping fog- 

You’ll lose him. You already have.

It hasn’t really gone away.

So he’ll wake up gasping, sometimes. He’ll turn his face into his pillow, fingers clenched in the sweat-dampened sheets beneath him, and count up to ten. And then back down again. And again. And again. Until the remnants of the dream slip away into the fog of forgetting.

Richie closes his eyes and counts.

Eddie’s bedroom is downstairs. It’s the only other room in the house with a private ensuite, and at the time separate floors had seemed like a good idea. Far enough away for some semblance of privacy. Too far away to seek reassurance now while maintaining any sort of plausible deniability. 

Richie fumbles for his phone instead. He scrolls through their message history over the last few weeks and reminds himself that Eddie is here, and he is whole, and he is safe. 

He waits for the feeling to settle, and while he waits, he falls back to sleep.

 

 

“So what’s the verdict, man- Have I sold you yet? Ready to join the ranks of west coast converts?”

Richie swallows around a mouthful of food, trying his best to appear unaffected. 

They’re grabbing lunch in some bougie beach town, adorned with a new and exciting varietal of densely packed charmless multi-million dollar homes. The beaches are cleaner here though, and less crowded on weekdays, and Eddie hadn’t resisted too much when Richie wheedled at him to take the day off, so he’s counting it a win. 

They’d spent most of the morning posted up on the sand, Eddie using what must have been an entire bottle’s worth of sunscreen should the sun so much as glance in his direction. But he’d relaxed long enough to doze under the ridiculous wide-brimmed sun hat Richie had bought him from a kiosk on the pier, so Richie thinks he had a good time.

It’s the latest in Richie’s unofficial and increasingly obvious attempts at selling Eddie on a city he’s very much already committed to. He realizes it’s a little needy, maybe. Eddie hasn’t really given any indication he’s second-guessing any aspect of his new lease on life, and Richie should probably just leave it alone, but call it a sensitive subject. That Eddie might have thrown away his entire life to move across the country on the whim of his long-lost best friend, only to find this new life in some way lacking is a thought that has kept Richie up for a not-insignificant number of nights. He’s maybe spiraling, just a little.

Eddie wrinkles his nose.

“Hardly. I think you’ve called me ‘dude’ three times in the last half hour. It’s not as charming as you think it is, Rich.”

Richie coos at Eddie over his overpriced IPA.

“Don’t tell me you miss the nicknames, Spaghetti.”

Eddie flips him off, but he’s still smiling—a balance of emotion that he’s always worn best, Richie thinks. 

Eddie pours dressing over his comically large salad, emptying the dish. Why ask for it on the side when he’s just going to use the whole thing, Richie could not begin to guess. He stabs at his salad and looks up at Richie, smirking, “Yeah, you were never that good with names, huh?”

“Says you,” Richie grins. He leans back in his chair and spreads his legs a little wider, knee pressing up against Eddie’s. He pretends not to notice. “You use ‘bro’ more than I do.”

“Hey, fuck you, bro,” Eddie says jovially around a mouthful of greens.

“You offering?” Richie leers, and regrets it immediately.

Eddie shoots him a bemused grin while Richie’s stomach twists. 

“Why are you fishing?” Eddie asks, refocusing the conversation. He leans a little further over the table. “You got money on this or something? Just waiting to hear me say I’m never setting foot in one of those frigid east coast cities again?”

That is, more or less, exactly what Richie wants to hear. He’s not about to cop to it though.

“There’s gotta be something you miss about New York, man,” he says distractedly, scooping up the salsa smudged on his thumb with a tortilla chip and crunching down on it obnoxiously. Eddie looks like he badly wants to say something. “City of lights.”

“I think that’s London.”

“It’s Paris, actually.”

“Then why-” Eddie glares at him. “If you knew it was wrong, why did you-”

“‘cause you look so cute when you’re annoyed, Eds, I can’t help it.”

“Is that why you’re so annoying?”

“Yes,” Richie says, grinning widely around his straw. Eddie huffs and stabs a little more aggressively at his salad, but the act is offset by the amused smirk he doesn’t bother to hide. “Seriously, you don’t miss New York at all?”

“I miss driving in the city,” Eddie answers placidly, like that’s not an insane thing to say. 

“You are such a freak.”

Eddie ignores him.

“I don’t know, all our friends were like… couples friends, you know?” 

Richie fights to keep his face impassive. Eddie will still say things like that sometimes, our friends, talking about himself and Myra. It stirs the same uneasy feeling in him that surfaces whenever he thinks about the years they spent apart. How strange it is, he thinks, to know someone at fifteen and again at forty. Eddie is so much the same as Richie remembers him, and he does his best to fill in the gaps, but he still feels those years like a loss. He wonders what Eddie was like at twenty, at thirty. How he fared on the cusp of adulthood, barreling right through to middle age. Richie had never asked when Eddie and Myra met, how much time they’d had together. He wonders if she knows how lucky she was. He’s still waiting for the sick twinge of jealousy to go away. 

Richie hums.

“There’s a few people from the office that were okay, I guess. Good for a drink after a long week.” Eddie frowns down at the table and shrugs. “I don’t know, I’ve never really had friends like you guys.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” Richie agrees. 

Before the Losers careened back into his life, he guesses Steve would’ve held the mantle of best friend by sheer virtue of having put up with Richie’s shit for the last fifteen years. Whether Steve would return the sentiment is not a question Richie knows the answer to, which likely tells him all he needs to know. It probably says something about Richie that his pool of adult friends is comprised almost entirely of people who work with him. The Losers have always felt different, though. Ever since the rock fight that day in the Barrens. And maybe that’s just the way of growing up. Maybe you never really make friends like you do when you’re a kid. When you’re thirteen and terrified and ready to die for the people next to you. 

Or maybe that’s just them. Lucky seven.

Richie fidgets idly at the corner of his napkin.

“Were they surprised when you left?”

Eddie snorts. 

“Not as much as they should’ve been probably,” he says sardonically. “I guess the benefit of being this fucking uptight is that everyone saw my midlife crisis coming. You have any idea what it’s like to tell people you’ve divorced your wife, and quit your job, and moved across the country, only for them to act like it was only a matter of time?”

“Probably similar to how it feels to hear how proud everyone is of you for coming out at fucking forty.”

Eddie groans, slumping back in his chair, “Don’t remind me.”

Richie doesn’t really know how to take that.

“It’s good though? I think?” Eddie says, shaking his head, brow furrowed. “Or at least better than the alternative. I mean, god, starting over sucks, but getting out, coming here- at least I’ve done something. You know it took me three tries to leave my mom’s house? When I was with you guys it was like I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Then we left, and I forgot, and- and I forgot. I forgot what it was like with you guys, I forgot what I wanted. I forgot how to be brave.” He fiddles with his fork before letting it clatter to the table. Richie itches to grab his hand. “It sucks," Eddie says, voice small.

“It’s not your fault, Eds,” Richie croaks out, heart lodged in his throat. “You didn’t have your memories, man, you were playing at a disadvantage. We all were.”

Eddie picks at the edge of the plaster of his cast.

“Rich, do you ever- do you ever feel like we were cheated out of the people we were supposed to be?” He looks up at Richie, eyes searching. “Sometimes I feel like there’s some other version of my life I’m meant to be living right now, but I- I fucked up. I forgot, and I couldn’t remember where I was going, and I misstepped somewhere along the way. Like there’s this version of myself that I never got to be.”

Richie wants so badly to tell him that he’s wrong. That it wasn’t fair what happened to him, what happened to any of them, but he’s wrong about missing out on some person who could be somehow better. Because Richie’s always known who Eddie is. And he thinks Eddie turned out just fine.

The words die in his throat. That kind of vulnerability is not a trick he’s yet learned.

“I think about that all the time, Eds," he says. And it's true of himself, at least, though his mind is kinder when it comes to Eddie.

Eddie nods at him, looking relieved. “Yeah?” 

He sits up a little straighter in his chair.

The conversation settles, Eddie seemingly content in the knowledge that whatever shit they’re grappling with, at least they’re doing it together. He smiles nervously at Richie from across the table.

“Sorry,” he says, running his finger along the rim of his dish. “Kind of heavy for lunch, huh?”

“Hey, at least our dessert didn’t sprout wings this time,” Richie says, adjusting his glasses to give his hands something to do.

“Well it just sounds silly when you say it like that,” Eddie says with a small smile. He moves to grab his drink with his right hand before apparently remembering his cast and switching to the left.

“Hang on,” Richie says, struck with an idea.

He gets up and weaves through the tables, making his way toward the front of the restaurant. He begs a Sharpie off the hostess with a promise to return it on the way out and hurries back to the table, collapsing into his chair and pulling Eddie’s cast toward him. 

“Want me to sign your cast, lover?" he asks, winking lewdly.

Eddie groans, “Don’t draw a dick, Richie.”

“I’m not gonna draw a dick.”

He tilts Eddie’s arm toward him and carefully pens the letters along the inside of his forearm, a bit more subtle than they were the first time around. Eddie watches him, quiet.

“I meant what I said, you know,” Richie tells him while he works, head bent low. “You changed your whole life to get here, Eds, that’s not nothing.”

Richie leans back and admires his handiwork. LOSER, penned in proud block letters.

He levels the pen at Eddie and meets his gaze full on. Eddie stares right back at him, never one to back down, not when it’s Richie.

“You’re braver than you think.”

Eddie smiles at Richie, a little exasperated like he can’t help it. His mouth twists and he takes the pen, carefully striking through the S with a steady V.

They look at the finished product together.

“My coworkers are gonna think I’m so weird,” Eddie sighs.

“I guarantee your coworkers already think you’re weird, Spaghetti Head.”

Eddie throws the pen at him.

 

 

This thing they’re doing, the- the friends with benefits thing, is… 

It’s nice. It’s very nice.

There’s rules they follow, because of course there are. Trust Eddie to be a stickler for rules they’ve never bothered to voice aloud. They haven’t really talked about the situation at all, is the thing. Like another easy habit they’ve settled into since living together, hardly worth mentioning. Richie puts the coffee on in the mornings, and Eddie cleans in a rotating schedule on Saturdays, and they get each other off whenever the mood strikes.

It’s practically routine.

The rules are easy enough to follow. They don’t do anything in either bedroom because apparently that’s too real for Eddie (whatever that means). Shirts stay on, and pants are shed only insofar as it takes to get easy access. And they don’t kiss when they’re not… in the heat of the moment. Not ever.

But it’s okay. Better than okay, it’s great, even. Because they’ll kiss up against the front door, Eddie panting into Richie’s mouth until he pulls away to say, “Fuck, fuck, move, Rich. I don’t want to get jizz on the hardwood,” and then Richie will open his mouth to make the obvious joke about hard wood, and Eddie will have to stick his tongue down his throat to get him to shut up, et cetera et cetera, and Richie doesn’t think he’s ever been happier.

So it doesn’t much matter that Richie can’t call him his boyfriend, or whatever. Because he already feels like he’s very much punching above his weight. And look, he’s not stupid or so insecure that he can’t see that Eddie isn’t entirely straight either. It’s just that Eddie hasn’t seen fit to mention anything about it, not to Richie at least. So he isn’t going to assume this changes anything about how unattainable Eddie has always been. And in the meantime, he’s resolved to enjoy it while he can.

Eddie comes home from work some days later, just shy of the two week mark at his new job and looking fit to scream. He’s mumbling to himself as he bends down to unlace his shoes—never toeing them off, “it’ll scuff the leather, Richie,”—until he sees that Richie is watching him from the living room, probably looking entirely too fond by half. Eddie directs his tirade at Richie then, bitching about Trevor or Thomas something-or-other on his team, whose only crimes, as far as Richie can gather, are that he started the day before Eddie did and talks too much in their team meetings. To be fair, he’s not listening that closely. Eddie has taken to rolling up his shirtsleeves to accommodate his cast and right at that second Richie’s finding the subtle flex of his forearm more interesting than whatever Tyler-at-work said in today’s meeting.

Eddie takes a breath and looks at Richie expectantly, and Richie gauges that it’s his turn to speak.

“No, totally, dude—Trevor sucks.”

“Travis,” Eddie huffs, wrestling his tie loose and pulling it over his head.

“Whatever,” Richie agrees genially. 

And then Eddie’s off again, and Richie can content himself with dazedly watching that furrow in Eddie's brow that he loves so much get deeper and deeper, and how the flush on Eddie’s neck dips down below the collar of his shirt, which is now down two whole buttons. Richie wants to lick at the dip at the center of his collarbone. And he is so focused on this thought that it takes him longer than it should to look down and clock the not-insignificant bulge in Eddie’s expensive suit pants.

A smile blooms across Richie’s face. 

“And it’s like, we get it, you get off hearing the sound of your own voice, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend my time- What, Richie, what?” Eddie asks impatiently, cutting himself off when he notices the Cheshire cat grin that’s being leveled at him.

“Eddie, you’re hard.”

Eddie glances down and back up again quickly. He looks at Richie with a hand on his hip and a defiant expression held fast under the crimson blush that has crept onto his face.

“I- What? So what?”

“Are you getting off on this?” Richie asks, delighted.

“Look, I’m just—stop fucking smiling, asshole—I’m just keyed up, alright? It happens sometimes.”

Eddie raises his eyebrow, as if daring Richie to laugh. Richie does.

“I can’t believe you get off on arguing, Eddie, oh, my god. Actually, no. No, I do believe it, what am I saying? Nothing has ever made this much sense.”

Eddie groans, “Shut up.”

And Richie is still laughing, right up until Eddie is stood in front of him, and then he’s pushing Richie back onto the couch, and he’s straddling Richie’s lap, and all at once Richie is very much not laughing anymore.

Eddie leans down, inches away from Richie’s mouth, and falters.

“Is this- is this okay?”

God, he’s stupid. What a stupid fucking question.

“This is very okay,” Richie rasps out.

“Great,” Eddie says, and then he captures Richie’s mouth in a bruising kiss.

Richie’s hands move to rest at Eddie’s waist, rucking his nice ironed shirt up and out of his waistband so that he can get his hands underneath and on the warmed skin of Eddie’s lower back. Eddie nips at his bottom lip and Richie opens his mouth immediately, ever amenable, so that Eddie can lick inside. Their tongues push and pull together, feeling and tasting, as a quiet moan builds from the back of Richie’s throat. His hand slides from Eddie’s back to rest against his taut stomach, fingers scraping gently through the trail of hair that dips below his waistband. Richie thumbs at the button on his pants.

Richie,” Eddie sighs into his mouth, and like the first time, Richie feels like there’s a thread holding him together that’s been tugged loose. “Touch me, please.”

A hurt sound tumbles out of Richie's mouth while he fumbles eagerly at the fly of Eddie’s pants. There’s something about Eddie asking for him, something about how the words “Richie” and “please” sound coming from Eddie’s mouth that pulls frantically at something deep inside him. He’s always been a little desperate, a little eager to please, and to hear Eddie ask for him, “Richie,” whimpered quietly into the air between them—it’s everything he’s ever wanted.

“I’ve got you, Eds, I’ve got you,” Richie assures him, and Eddie grinds his hips down, his cock pressed up right against Richie’s, their moans hummed in unison.

“Fuck. Fuck, Eddie,” Richie says, finally pulling him out of his underwear, shoving his pants down as best as he can manage as they strain appealingly across Eddie’s spread thighs. He mouths hotly along Eddie’s jaw. His left hand slides around to the small of Eddie’s back as Eddie arches into him, into the slow rhythm of his hand on Eddie’s cock.

Richie’s mouth moves down his neck, sucking gently, not enough to leave a mark, not enough to take more than he’s given. Richie whispers into the warm skin above the curve of his shoulder, “Do you know how fucking hot you are, Eds? How hot you make me?”

Eddie whines and a dribble of precome drools down over his dick. Richie catches it and tugs at him a little harder, a little faster.

“You like that? You like hearing what you do to me, baby?” The pet name tumbles out like it always does, and like always Eddie pays it no mind.

Eddie hisses as Richie swipes his thumb up over the head of his dick, taking a moment to massage his cockhead between his fingers.

“Yeah, Rich, I do. I do,” Eddie gasps. His left hand finds Richie’s jaw and pulls him back to his mouth. “I like it when you talk,” Eddie whispers against his lips.

Richie huffs quietly, “That’s a first-” But it’s cut off when Eddie pushes forward, up on his knees a bit, and grinds his ass down into Richie’s lap. 

There’s too many layers of clothes between them, but Richie can still feel the hard line of his dick press up and against the cleft of Eddie’s ass, and it shatters something fragile inside him. He pulls away from Eddie’s mouth and buries his face in his shoulder, muffling a sobbing moan that’s pulled from somewhere deep. His hips strain forward, grinding hard up against Eddie’s ass, and Eddie follows the motion, rocking down into him while his fingers thread into the hair at the back of Richie’s neck. 

They move together like that, both breathing heavily, until Eddie’s hand slides down Richie’s neck, over his shoulder, and down his chest. 

“Hold on, Rich, hold on.”

Richie falls back into the cushions, head knocking a little against Eddie’s cast where it’s propped up on the back of the couch. He’s still holding him close while Eddie fumbles one-handed at the fly of Richie’s jeans. He lifts his hips a little to help shimmy down his boxers and then Eddie’s hand is moving quickly over his dick. Richie’s not sure it’ll ever stop feeling like a revelation.

A whimper sounds from the back of Richie’s throat, sounding something like Eddie’s name, as he strains up toward him, needing to kiss him again. Eddie smiles down at him, eyes dark, gaze intense and fond all at once. He leans down and meets Richie in a kiss that’s little more than a light brush of lips, achingly sweet, and something inside Richie’s chest stings sharp with want.

“Here, Rich,” Eddie murmurs against his lips before he leans away, tugging at Richie’s hand. Eddie spits into Richie’s palm, and it’s such a filthy thing, so at odds with Eddie’s usual strict standards, that Richie is already moaning even before Eddie guides his hand down to their dicks. He pushes their hips together so that his dick slides up against Richie’s, moving Richie’s hand to grasp them both.

Eddie,” Richie says, voice thin and reedy. Eddie smiles against his mouth.

“That all you got to say now?” Eddie asks, grinning, hips bucking up so that his dick rubs up smooth against Richie’s. “Eddie, Eddie,” he teases. And it should be embarrassing, maybe, but Richie finds that he likes that too. “I thought you talked for a living.”

“You’re not paying me,” Richie gasps up at him. Eddie’s dick is leaking in earnest now, and Richie works his hand fast over both of them, fist slick with precome and spit. There’s something about their dicks pressed up against each other that feels unbearably intimate. He squeezes tighter on the upstroke, the tip of Eddie’s dick rubbing up against the sensitive underside of the head of Richie’s cock. It’s so good, and it’s easy, now, not to overthink it, too lost in the feeling of Eddie pressed up panting against him.

“Should I talk then?” Eddie asks quietly, hand winding into Richie’s hair. Richie bites back a groan and leans forward to mouth at Eddie’s throat. “You make me feel so good, baby,” Eddie says, still teasing, baring his throat for Richie. Richie can’t help but whine against his skin. 

“Your hands are so fucking big, you’re so good at this. I knew you would be. I wanted-” Eddie cuts off as Richie hauls him in closer, nails biting into the small of his back. “Uh, fuck, Rich. I wanted to feel you. Wanted it like this, wanted to know what it felt like.”

“How’s it feel, Eds?” Richie asks, knowing the answer, needing to hear it anyway.

“It’s good,” Eddie says, clipped, hips grinding rhythmically into the circle of Richie’s fist. “Fuck, you know it’s good, asshole.” He says around a smile. “‘s that what you want to hear? It’s good, Richie. It’s so good. You’re so good, Rich. You’re so good.”

It’s over for Richie, after that. He comes messily between them, sobbing into Eddie’s shoulder. His hand moves to grasp his own dick tight, jerking himself through it. Eddie pulls back and Richie whines pathetically, grasping at him where his left arm is still wrapped tight around his waist. But Eddie only pulls back enough to get his hand on Richie’s jaw, tilting his face up to press kisses against his gasping mouth, across his cheek, to the shell of his ear, whispering, “You’re so good, Richie. You did so good.”

Richie’s hand slows and stills as he comes down, his head feeling light and dizzy. Eddie is still whispering quiet affirmations in his ear, and Richie is somewhat surprised to find himself blinking back tears, stupidly. 

It’s embarrassing, so he ignores that in favor of pulling Eddie close, getting his hand around him again, all pretense forgotten, and jacking him off in earnest. It’s not long at all before Eddie’s whining into his ear and coming over Richie’s stomach, thighs clenching hard where they’re bracketed around Richie’s, making Richie’s dick twitch where it rests soft against his leg. 

Eddie squirms in his lap until Richie lets go, sinking a little further into the couch. Eddie pulls back a little and rests his forehead against Richie’s, eyes closed, breathing hard together. Richie’s thumb rubs circles into the warm skin at Eddie’s waist, still snuck up under his shirt.

“Holy shit, Eds,” Richie says when he gets air pumping regularly through his lungs again.

And this is the part when Eddie pulls back, where he smiles roguishly before grimacing down at the mess between them and excusing himself to go clean up. 

Except this time Eddie’s forehead pinches up into that worried-looking frown, and a quiet whimper escapes from the back of his throat, and he pushes their lips together in a searching, desperate kiss.

Richie’s arms wrap tighter around Eddie of their own accord, helpless to do anything else. He has no idea what’s going on. They don’t do this, they don’t do the kissing thing when they’re not actively getting off together, and they certainly don’t share emotional, lingering kisses in the aftermath. It’s against the rules, Richie’s brain provides dumbly. 

His heart is stinging pathetically in his chest, and he needs to get ahold of himself, needs to reign it in, but it’s much easier said than done when he doesn’t know what the fuck is going on.

Eddie pulls back slowly, eyes still closed. They breathe together for another moment, chests rising and falling in sync. 

Richie musters all the courage he has and says, “Eddie,” once, quiet into the space between them.

Eddie opens his eyes and smiles down at him, looking- 

Looking sad. He looks sad.

“Thank you, Richie,” he says quietly, and then he pushes himself back to his feet, away from the couch. 

Away from Richie. 

Eddie doesn’t look back at him as he retreats to his room.

Richie lets his head fall back against the couch and wonders what the hell just happened.

Chapter Text

Things are fine, afterward, if not quite normal. Eddie holes up in his bedroom for an hour, and when Richie knocks quietly on the door to tell him that there’s dinner if he wants it, Eddie emerges with a skittish lack of eye contact and a tired smile, and they eat the pasta Richie made while watching an old SNL rerun, and it’s all fine.

Eddie doesn’t touch Richie at all the next day, though. Not casually when he’s squeezing behind him in the hallway or handing off the groceries when he’s organizing the pantry. But he lets Richie jack him off after a run the day after that, so Richie figures that they’ll be okay.

Unfortunately, that’s also when Bill lets himself in to pick Richie up for the lunch date he’d forgotten they had and gets a pretty eyeful. 

“Rich! You gotta get s-someone to do something about that tree out front, it’s really- Oh, fuck. Jesus.”

Bill stumbles back into the foyer, hand slapped over his eyes, nearly careening into the shoe rack by the front door. Richie jerks away from where his tongue had been determinedly trying to lick Eddie’s molars, and Eddie hastily pulls his running shorts back up over his hips, elastic slapping against Richie’s hand when he’s too slow getting it away from him.

Ow! Shit- uh, hey, Bill,” Richie says, trying for casual. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Eddie slide a few inches down the wall, falling back on his heels from where he’d been balancing on tiptoes to reach Richie’s mouth. 

Cute, cute, cute.

“You didn’t lock the door?” Eddie hisses at him, shuffling to the left to put a few feet of space between them. He adjusts himself in his shorts, wincing minutely, and Richie tries and fails not to grin.

“What? No, I never lock the door.”

“What do you mean you ‘never lock the door,’ are you serious? Anyone could walk in here.”

“I don’t know, we have that Ring thing.”

“The thing that didn’t do shit just now? That thing?”

“Eds, who’s actually gonna fucking walk in here? Honestly.”

“Case and fucking point, Richie!” Eddie yells, gesturing emphatically at Bill who’s still got his hands over his eyes.

“He has a key!” Richie says, shoulders hunching up toward his ears. “He would’ve walked in anyway.”

“Why does he have a key? When did you give him a key?”

“Like, a week after we came back? Why does it matter? I had the spare, I figured it was more use to Bill than it was to my junk drawer…”

“Why are there so many fucking keys to this place? I have one, Steve has one, fucking Bill has one. Anyone could get in here.”

“Which is why I don’t bother locking the door, dude.”

“Then why are you handing out so many fucking keys?”

“You gotta pick a lane, Eds,” Richie says, smile wide. “You can’t be mad about two things.”

“I’m multitasking,” Eddie bites out, and it sounds annoyed enough, but his eyes are bright, and Richie knows him well enough to know he's having fun.

“Uh- guys?” Bill waves at them from the foyer, eyes still squeezed shit.

“Oh, for fuck’s- You can open your eyes, Bill,” Eddie grouses at him, arms crossed tight over his chest. “I’m not standing here with my dick in the wind.”

Richie grins hard. Fuck, he loves him.

“So, uh,” Bill says, squinting between them. “This is n-new.”

And before Richie can even manage to get his hackles raised, Eddie swiftly curbs Bill's curiosity.

“This isn’t anything,” Eddie says, sounding tired. His arms fall heavy to his sides, right hand gripped tight on the plaster of his cast. “This is just- It’s just a bit of fun. Right? Richie?”

Richie wills the smile to freeze across his face.

“Tons of fun, Eddie, my love,” he leers. And the joke sounds a little flat to his ears, but hey, it always had.

Eddie rolls his eyes and shuffles back toward the hallway. 

“Right, so. I should, uh- I’ll just leave you guys to it.”

“You s-sure you don’t want to come to lunch, Ed?” Bill asks slowly, looking carefully between the two of them. Richie shoves down the urge to fidget like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, no matter how annoyingly apt the metaphor.

“No, I’ve got that call with my lawyer in a bit, I’m gonna hop in the shower. But we’re still doing dinner on Friday, yeah?”

Eddie edges another couple nervous steps away.

“Yeah, sure thing."

“Great!” Eddie says, sounding positively chipper. “So I’ll, uh, see you.” 

He escapes down the hall, all but leaving a cartoon dust cloud in his wake. A few moments later his bedroom door clicks shut. Richie takes a breath and glances vaguely in Bill’s direction, feeling a little too raw to brave direct eye contact.

“Let’s get out of here, Billy, I’ve been thinking about this burger all day.”

Bill gives him a considering look as Richie stalks past him toward the front door.

“Yeah, I’ll bet you have.”

 

 

Richie’s attempts at distracting Bill by prodding him to talk about the latest chapters he’s eked out and ribbing all his narrative choices in equal measure last about as far as the second red light they hit.

It’s an uneasy feeling, the weight of Bill knowing growing heavy on Richie’s mind, something slimy curling in his gut. He’s realizing now just how fragile this thing between him and Eddie is. The unspoken agreement to not talk about it had been fine until Richie realized he’d be expected to explain himself. He’s not sure it will stand up to the scrutiny of their friends. 

None of this stops Bill from cutting to the chase, too apparently impatient for anything resembling tact.

“So. You’re fucking Eddie.”

Richie whips toward Bill so fast his seatbelt locks against his chest.

“Okay, first of all, you’re making some very outdated assumptions about the nature of the dynamic between two men," Richie says, tugging at the seatbelt strap hard enough to be counter-productive. “And secondly, no one’s fucking anyone.”

“I’m not m-making assumptions about anything. Jesus, Rich. I’m not speaking literally. And what do you mean no one’s- I saw you, man.”

Richie’s saved from Bill’s accusing look when the light turns green, diverting Bill's attention while Richie’s mind desperately searches for the blinking sign pointing to this conversation’s emergency exit.

“What you saw is all it is, dude,” Richie says, mouth curled up in an attempt at an easy grin. “I’m just helping him out while his right hand is M.I.A. What are friends for, right?”

Bill glances at him sidelong, squinting.

“Yeah? Would you do the same for me?”

Richie pulls a face.

Eugh. Don’t be gross.”

Bill tilts his head down to look at Richie over his stupid I’m-from-LA, I’m-married-to-a-movie-star sunglasses. 

“You were kissing.”

“You really wanna do this, man?” Richie asks through a sigh, slumping low in his seat. “Wanna know how we spent those seven minutes in heaven? If I got lucky underneath the bleachers? We got to second base, okay, we don’t have to re-hash the details.”

Bill looks genuinely confused for a second.

“You- Wait, what do you think second base is?”

“What do you think second base is?”

“Okay. Stop, stop,” Bill takes his hand off the wheel to point an accusing finger at Richie, like this is somehow his fault. “The point is-”

“The point,” Richie mocks. “Okay, fine. We were kissing, so what. Would you rather we just fucking stare at each other?”

Richie can hear his voice rising in pitch and wills himself to calm down. It’s just Bill. Of all their friends, Bill is actually maybe the safest bet here. Mike’s a bit of a wild card, he supposes. There’s something about the fact that he remembered that leaves Richie feeling like they’re on unequal footing sometimes. He’d built a career burying what was left of the real Richie Tozier, it’s a strangely vulnerable feeling, knowing there was someone out there all that time that could see through him. Richie’s trying to get over it. Still, Mike’s chill in that way that apparently comes after spending the majority of your life being decidedly not chill about one very specific thing, so he’d probably be okay, Richie thinks. Better than Bev at least, who has always seemed to know what Richie’s going to say before he says it, and has usually already decided the manner in which she’s going to give him shit for it. Or Ben, who internalized all those insecurities that Richie chose to vomit up on stage. Or, god forbid, Stan. Bill’s only looking for the big picture. Richie just has to sell him the story. 

He takes a stabilizing breath.

“Look, it just happened, okay? Eddie’s a little frustrated, and I’m a little desperate, so we’re just… letting off steam. You know how we get. I mean, fuck, you saw what he deigns to call running shorts. It’s obscene.”

“Shorts he runs in, I’m guessing,” Bill says, purposely or genuinely obtuse, Richie can never tell.

“Sure, except it’s Eddie so it’s, like, unbearably sexy.”

“That doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it does to you,” Bill tells him.

“What- Really?

“Rich, look,” Bill interrupts before Richie can get going. “Be real for a second, man. I know it’s not about the sex for you.”

“It’s definitely at least a little bit about the sex…” Richie pouts, picking at a frayed edge on the strap of his seatbelt.

“Rich.”

Bill’s dad voice isn’t nearly as good as Stan’s—or as good as Richie’s impression of Stan’s dad voice, for that matter—but the part of Richie that hero worshipped Bill a little bit as a kid does go some way in helping its effectiveness.

“You heard him, okay,” Richie says quietly, working hard to keep his voice unaffected. “It’s nothing.”

“Hey,” Bill says, rolling slowly up to another red light. He’s shoved the sunglasses up on his head now, so Richie is forced to bear the full brunt of his disgustingly earnest expression. “I know I didn’t pick up on it as kids, okay. I don’t know if any of us did. But now, in hindsight…” Richie feels the blood drain from his face, the skin under his arms turning prickly where he’s starting to sweat. “After Derry, a-after Eddie got h-hurt- I’ve never seen you like that before, man. And things- things started making sense. And then you came out to us, and it all-”

“I’m not talking about this, man,” Richie hears himself cut across Bill, distant over the rushing in his ears.

Bill huffs, reaches across the center console toward Richie like he’s going to take his hand, but thinks better of it. 

He’s so much more tactile now than Richie remembers him being as a kid. It’s something Richie had paid attention to, cataloguing all the ways in which it was acceptable for a boy to touch his friends, always careful not to overstep. He wonders if it’s something that’s come with age, or maybe it’s just a part of the relief that comes from making it out of a staggeringly hellish experience with all your friends in tow. Twice. The memory comes to him, unbidden, of the easy way Bill and Mike embraced in the sewers, foreheads held close together. The thought makes some awful, sick swell of jealousy bubble up inside him. He shoves it down as best he can.

“Richie-”

The driver behind them—the new love of Richie’s life—honks twice, interrupting whatever horrible thing Bill was surely about to say. He turns his attention back to the traffic, and Richie takes the opportunity to crank up the radio. Whatshername blares through the car’s speakers in what must surely be the universe’s attempt at irony. Richie clenches his teeth and shuffles indiscriminately through channels.

“Alright, come on,” Bill says, fumbling for the volume. “You trying to blow out my speakers?”

“I’m trying to get out of this conversation, actually,” Richie grits out, settling on an upbeat song by some outdated hair band he can’t remember the name of, pleasantly punchy. He slouches back in his seat and stares petulantly out the window like the moody teenager he never really was.

“Sorry, man. I’ve known you since the third grade, I’m used to your diversion tactics.”

“I could’ve developed new ones in the last twenty years.”

“Yeah, but you haven’t," Bill grins.

Richie takes a swig of water, flipping Bill off with the hand upturning the bottle.

“Richie, come on,” Bill says, laughing.

He rounds the corner of the restaurant’s parking lot and pulls smoothly into a spot, cutting off a zippy red Acura who'd clearly been waiting. If it were anyone else, Richie might think they did it on purpose, but he suspects Bill actually goes through life that blithely oblivious. 

Bill angles toward him in his seat, making no move to turn off the car. 

“Look at me.”

Richie rolls his head on the headrest and pointedly meets Bill’s eyes. His expression is infuriatingly patient.

“You live together.” 

“Which has been great!” 

“You have feelings for him,” Bill says. And it’s profoundly unfair, Richie thinks, that he can’t keep this one thing to himself. That it’s so apparently obvious.

“A little thing,” Richie says, prodding a little aggressively at the seatbelt latch. “A minor inconvenience.” 

“I don’t see a v-version of this where this ends well, Rich.” 

“Coming from Bill Denbrough, expert on shitty endings…” 

Richie watches him, a smile twisting across his mouth.

Bill huffs a laugh and shakes his head. He runs a hand down his face and looks at Richie over his fingers.

“I’m trying to get better at those.”

“Hey,” Richie says, quiet. “Me too.”

Bill gets a look in his eye like he’s going to try to reach out and take Richie’s hand again, so Richie barrels forward before he gets the chance.

“Look, it’s really not a big deal. We’re just having fun. And my- my feelings don’t-” Richie cuts himself off, starts again. “It’s nice, okay? What I was doing before, those shitty hookups, it wasn’t- It’s just, it’s nice doing it with a friend for a change, you know? Easy.”

Bill looks at him and it’s too much, too knowing.

“It’s not just a friend, though. It’s Eddie.”

Richie looks out the windshield. There’s a dog sitting outside the cafe across the way, its leash looped around an empty bicycle rack. It looks hopefully up at the door each time it swings open, angling for attention. Hey, man, Richie thinks, we’ve all been there.

Bill takes a breath and says, gently, “He’s going through a rough time right now-” 

Richie looks back at him in alarm.

“Oh, my god, you think I’m taking advantage of him!” 

“No,” Bill says, hands up. “No, I don’t. It’s just that Eddie’s just upended his huh-whole life, and you…” 

Bill grimaces and makes a wide, sweeping gesture that Richie finds very offensive.

“You’re both going through shit. And it may not be the best time to- to make things more complicated.”

“You’re reading too much into it, man,” Richie tells him, hearing his voice edge toward panic, willing himself to play it cool. He squeezes his hands together in his lap, digging his nails hard into the skin on the meat of his palm.

“I just th-think that-”

“No one asked you! Okay? No one asked,” Richie says, bubbling over, all that nervy panic turning his words cruel. “I don’t need the fucking big brother act, Bill.”

Hey.” 

Bill’s voice is firm, steadier than Richie’s heard it in a while.

“Fuck,” Richie says, and thunks his head down on the dashboard, eyes squeezed shut. “Fuck. Sorry, Bill. I’m sorry, that was shitty.” 

He reaches over and Bill lets him tangle their fingers together in apology. 

“I just don’t want you to get hurt, Rich.”

“It’s really not that big a deal,” Richie groans, sitting up fully. “Look, this thing with Eddie, it- it has an expiration date, okay? I was serious about his arm being fucked up. Once the cast is gone, it’s over. It’s always been temporary.”

Bill’s still giving him a look as they get out of the car, making their way through the parking lot.

“I’m not thirteen years old, man. I can handle a silly crush,” Richie says, lying through his teeth. 

Bill, to his credit, does not believe him for a second.

 

 

Richie makes it out of lunch with Bill relatively unscathed, and his next few days with Eddie pass largely without incident. They go out with Bill on Friday night as promised, a belated celebration of his latest film deal or book deal or something or other—they don’t really need much of an excuse to find cause to celebrate these days. Bill seems to know better than to bring up their conversation from the car, a consideration that unfortunately does not seem to extend to the situation as a whole. He makes a few clumsy attempts at jokes about what he’s apparently dubbed their arrangement. Eddie nervously laughs at them all, mostly hiding behind his drink, while Richie takes the more blunt approach of ignoring them entirely. The uncharacteristic lack of reaction seems to dissuade Bill at least, and his oblique references thankfully peter out somewhere around the third course. 

Dinner with Bill inevitably turns into drinks with Bill, and soon enough the night adopts a hazy, happy glow. Because Bill Denbrough is the lightest weight Richie has ever met, he makes a pact with Eddie sometime around 10 to switch to doubles to keep up. And so they’re both a little drunk when Eddie, all dark eyes and roaming hands, crowds Richie against the door of their home at the end of the night, mouthing hotly against his neck.

Eddie rolls his hips up, grinding his hard-on into Richie’s thigh, and whispers against the shell of his ear, “A little help, Rich?”

And Richie is somewhere firmly past tipsy, so he doesn’t bother to hide the want in his voice when he growls back, “Fuck, yeah, sure thing, bud.”

Eddie reels back and glares up at him, swaying slightly. His face is flushed, whether with the drink or his arousal or some combination of the two, Richie doesn’t know, but it’s really working for him.

“Don’t call me bud when you’ve got your hand on my dick.”

Richie grins down at him.

“I don’t have my hand on your dick yet, pal.”

“Well, what the fuck are you waiting for?” Eddie asks, and then he cups his hand around the bulge in Richie’s pants as if to prove a point.

Uh, fuck, okay.”

Richie gets a hand around Eddie’s waist and walks him backward until their positions are flipped and he’s crowding Eddie against the wall. Eddie moans into his mouth while Richie makes quick work of the fly of his pants. When he pulls Eddie’s dick out, he’s already hard and dripping.

“Fuck, Eds,” Richie chokes out, running his thumb up against the slick head of Eddie's cock.

“Shit, shit,” Eddie says, his head knocking back against the wall. “You looked so good tonight, Rich. This shirt- ’s good. With your chest, and your- your fucking shoulders.”

Eddie’s hand follows the trajectory of his mumbled words, running reverently up Richie’s chest. Richie knows for a fact that he’s worn this shirt before, knows that Eddie had once referred to the particular shade of yellow as ‘a visual affront,’ but he’s not about to contradict him now. 

Eddie arches against the wall, rolling his hips up toward Richie.

“Fuck, I want you all over me.”

Eddie,” Richie whines against his lips. He gives him a few slow tugs, his grip slick with precome. “Fuck, fuck,” Richie rasps. “You’re so wet, Eds. So wet for me.”

Eddie’s fingers twine into Richie’s hair, he whispers, “Been thinking about this all night.”

Richie surges forward in a bruising kiss. He’s not so drunk that he doesn’t worry for a second that it’s too much, but Eddie only responds in kind. He grips him closer, cast knocking clumsy against Richie’s hip, and swallows down the keening sounds spilling from Richie’s throat.

Richie adjusts his grip on Eddie’s dick when he regains the wherewithal to worry about technique, pumping him faster. And he’s sure it’s the haze of alcohol that makes him brave enough to grind out, “God, Eds, I wanna taste you. Wanna feel you on my tongue. In my fucking throat.”

Eddie groans, loud and unselfconscious. His hips stutter up into Richie’s grip before he pulls back and looks Richie in the eye, expression dark and not a little frantic.

“Do it. Do it, Richie," he says, like a dare.

Richie stares at him.

“Yeah?”

And Eddie’s still nodding eagerly when Richie presses a clumsy kiss to his lips and drops down onto his knees, wincing at the impact. His hands settle on Eddie’s hips and he bites the inside of his cheek hard so that he doesn’t say something stupid like thank you.

Eddie rests his cast on Richie’s shoulder, grounding him where he kneels. Richie presses a kiss to the jut of Eddie’s hipbone, pulling his pants down lower until they drop to pool around his ankles. He rucks Eddie’s shirt up, marveling as ever at the presence of abs, and presses another kiss to the crease of his pelvis. He leans back to look up at Eddie fully.

Eddie looks down at him, gaze dark, eyelids low. A hand comes down to smooth across Richie’s cheek, down his jaw. He tips Richie’s chin up and then he moves to hold his dick, guiding it to Richie’s mouth. Richie stares up at him as Eddie thumbs across his jaw and slowly pushes the head of his cock between his lips, letting out a quiet whimper.

A broken moan works its way up Richie’s throat. He opens his mouth a little further, taking Eddie a little deeper, his tongue moving to swirl around the head of his dick, to taste. He tongues at the slit and grips Eddie’s hips a little tighter, still staring up at him.

“Jesus, fuck, Richie,” Eddie sighs out, sounding just short of awed.

Richie stretches his mouth open wider, sinks further over Eddie’s dick, reveling in the weight of it on his tongue, the way Eddie’s breathing gets faster, his eyelids growing heavier. He pulls back and sucks as he goes, doing his best to hollow his cheeks, his tongue dragging hard along the underside of Eddie’s cock.

Eddie groans a little and slides his hand into Richie’s hair, gripping tighter when Richie lavs over the head again. Richie makes a contented hum in the back of his throat to let Eddie know he likes it, pumps his mouth once and then twice over his dick and blinks up at him until Eddie takes the hint. 

Eddie, brilliant bastard that he is, gets it right away. 

His hand tightens in Richie’s hair and he uses his grip to hold Richie still while he fucks into his mouth, tugging a little more insistently when Richie moans low in the back of his throat, his mouth full, one hand gripping tighter at Eddie’s hip while the other moves down to palm his own erection. He thinks he could come like this, grinding desperately into his own hand, making a mess in his pants while Eddie fucks his mouth. He whimpers around Eddie’s dick.

It’s all pretty damn near perfect, except that Richie’s knees are really fucking starting to hurt. 

He does his best to soldier through it, particularly as Eddie’s moaning and panting above him grows more insistent, but once he notices the pain he can’t stop noticing it, and it’s really starting to kill the mood.

He pulls off Eddie’s dick with a wet sound and a gasp, wiping away the drool that’s pooled at the corner of his mouth.

“Fuck, sorry, Eds.”

Eddie’s hand gentles immediately. He smooths the hair back from Richie’s forehead and blinks his eyes open, looking down at Richie with that worried pinch between his brows. 

“No, what? Sorry. Sorry, was it too much?”

His faint lisp is more pronounced with the encouragement of alcohol, and Richie finds himself endeared impossibly further every time he opens his mouth.

“No, you were perfect, Eds,” Richie tells him, probably too honest. “It’s just me- I’m fucking forty, I can’t stay on my knees this long.”

His left knee pops in confirmation as he staggers to his feet.

“We- I can finish you off with my hand? Or we could go to the couch, or-”

“Bedroom,” Eddie says, cutting him off.

Richie blinks at him.

“What?”

“Bedroom,” Eddie says again, breathing quick. “I mean, if that’s… If you’re okay with-”

“I’m okay,” Richie tells him. “I’m definitely okay.”

“Great,” Eddie says. He kisses Richie quick, once, hard on the mouth, and then puts his cast on Richie’s shoulder to stabilize himself while he toes out of his shoes (but the leather, Eddie!) and steps fully out of his pants. Then he retreats to his bedroom, pants hanging over one arm, unbuttoning his shirt as he goes.

Richie stares after him, mouth hanging open.

“Well?" Eddie calls from the bedroom. "Are you coming?”

Richie trips over his feet in his haste to get to the door.

Eddie is draping his clothes over a chair in the corner when Richie comes in, feeling like he’s intruding. He’s generally avoided Eddie’s bedroom since he’d moved in, wanting to give Eddie some sense of privacy. It doesn’t look that different than it had as a spare room, honestly, decor sparse and tidy. Eddie’s left his mark in small ways, though. A punishing-looking pillow at the head of his bed that’s probably good for his posture, or something. A book on his bedside table that doesn’t look like it’s ever been opened. A row of expensive-looking, ugly watches next to an uglier Fitbit on his dresser. A frankly staggering array of hair- and skin-care products cluttering the bathroom counter. Richie feels, very suddenly, overwhelmed, faced at once with all the little ways in which Eddie has made his home here.

Eddie turns to him fully, standing naked in front of him, and they just watch each other for a moment. Richie finds himself feeling faintly dizzy. He may be drunker than he thought, but then again, that could just be Eddie. 

Eddie walks over slowly, watching Richie warily, as if he’s afraid to spook him. It’s probably a smart bet, all things considered.

He smoothes a thumb over Richie’s cheek, fingers light on his neck. Richie catches himself holding his breath and forces himself to breathe. 

Eddie reaches up and they kiss slowly for a moment or two before Eddie is pushing Richie’s button up off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. He gets a hand up under Richie's t-shirt, sliding over his belly, and pulls back just enough to ask, “Can I?”

Richie nods and reaches back over his shoulder to pull the t-shirt up and off of him, setting his glasses askew. Eddie rights them on his face, grinning up at him, before pressing back in for a kiss. He’s eager now, hungrier, licking into Richie’s mouth and pressing up against Richie’s torso, arching into him. Richie wraps an arm around his waist, pulling him closer, dying a little bit at the feeling of their skin hot against one another. 

And it’s so different from that first time, when Richie was too afraid to touch. It’s so much better, and for the hundredth time since this thing started he wonders how he got so lucky. 

This thing between them, it feels so precious, so fragile. He worries that if he looks at it the wrong way, it’ll shatter. But he feels braver now, drunk on the evening they’d had and drunk on Eddie, too. It’s easier to push that fear down, to put it away for a while.

Eddie pulls at him and they stumble back toward the bed. Eddie lays himself out over the mattress and Richie watches him for a moment, palming himself in his jeans.

“Take a picture, dude,” Eddie says, blushing faintly.

“Can I?” Richie asks.

“Maybe later,” Eddie grins. “Come on.”

Richie acquiesces and climbs over him, legs slotting together. Eddie smoothes a reverent hand over his chest, tugging a little at the hair there before sliding down over the curve of his belly. He lands at Richie’s waistband and pops the button of his jeans, mumbling, “off, off,” as he goes.

Richie rolls off of him to shuck his pants and boxers, and once he’s managed to tug both socks off and fling them in the direction of the floor, Eddie is climbing on top of him, straddling his thighs and rolling his hips down into his lap.

Eddie,” Richie groans as his dick slides up under Eddie’s, flushed and heavy between them.

“Yeah, Rich?” Eddie asks, grinning and confident and so, so beautiful.

“I-” 

And Richie hadn’t meant to say anything, not really. But Eddie is smiling at him so sweetly, his hair tangled and mussed, a flush burning down his chest, and Richie has never loved him more. So he really can’t help it when Eddie asks and what tumbles out is-

“I love you.”

Eddie stares down at him, mouth open a little in surprise.

He doesn’t say anything.

Richie feels a little dizzy, caught off-guard by his own admission. He can't exactly take it back, is not sure he really wants to anyway. His mind feels cleared out and empty, the firm reality of Eddie in front of him and his heedless confession the only solid things within reach. 

“Eddie,” Richie says, feeling stupid and brave.

He raises a hand to cup Eddie’s cheek, heart beating a fluttering frenzy in his chest. Eddie leans into his touch. He still doesn’t say anything. 

“I love you," Richie says again, heart full with it. "This, doing this, I- I want you to know, I mean it.”

Richie smoothes his thumb over the delicate skin below Eddie's eye, watching that worried line form between his brows.

“Please say something, man," Richie begs around a desperate laugh.

“Richie, I-” Eddie stammers, shaking his head slowly. “I don’t know. I- I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

They stare at each other. 

It's not an answer, not really. Eddie's earnest uncertainty is perhaps not as cold as outright rejection, but it still leaves Richie grappling with a feeling akin to heartbreak. He wonders, again, how he got here, wonders how he could have let himself possibly hope for more when he’d gotten so good at shutting up and taking what he’s given.

He lets himself feel it, gives himself a second, and then two, and then-

“Fuck it.”

Richie uses the hand on Eddie's cheek to pull him closer, capturing his mouth in a bruising kiss. He may not get to keep Eddie the way he wants to, but he never really thought he would anyway. He can have this, though. He can have this for as long as Eddie will let him. And it’s enough, he reminds himself. It’s more than he ever thought he’d get. 

It takes a second. Richie feels Eddie’s hesitation like prodding at a throbbing bruise, but soon Eddie is responding in kind, kissing back a little desperately, like he’s pouring an apology into it. His hand clutches at Richie’s shoulder, pressing in close.

Richie gets an arm between them and takes Eddie in hand. He jerks him fast, knowing he’s already hot for it, knowing he’s close. Eddie shuffles forward a little on his knees and grinds down, Richie’s dick nudging up against his balls and sliding up under his ass. They moan together into the hot air between them. 

Richie speeds up his hand, hips rocking up toward Eddie. Eddie’s eyes are closed, mouth open, gasping under Richie’s touch. Richie watches him closely, memorizing the sight of him while he can, and begs, “That’s it, Eds. Come for me. Come on, please, baby. Please.”

Eddie shudders and keens, more free with noise now than he is sober. His eyes open for a moment, blinking blearily at Richie like he wants to remember the sight of him too, and then Eddie squeezes his eyes shut and comes over Richie's hand, striping his chest and belly with it. Richie works him through it, same as ever, one arm wrapping around Eddie’s back to hold him close.

Eddie twitches out of his grasp when it’s too much and leans up, good arm balanced on Richie’s chest, while Richie’s hands fall back to the bed. 

Richie finds himself at a rare loss for words.

Richie,” Eddie whispers, and as ever it sets Richie’s heart kicking.

Eddie leans down and seals his mouth over Richie’s in a kiss. Richie finds himself blinking back tears.

His hands come up again, tentatively, landing soft at Eddie’s back and waist until Eddie presses more firmly up against him, letting him know it’s okay.

Eddie kisses across his jaw and down over the sensitive skin of his throat while Richie shivers beneath him. He moves down Richie’s body and presses an open-mouthed kiss to his nipple before running his tongue over it, tasting himself there too. He bites gently at him, making Richie whine, and peppers kisses over his ribs as he moves down to settle between Richie’s legs.

“Eddie,” Richie tries, “you don’t have to-”

But Eddie shakes his head and cuts him off, says, “I want to, Rich,” and takes him into his mouth.

Eddie’s mouth is hot and wet and perfect, Richie thinks. He’s shaking a little. Nervous, Richie can tell, but no less enthusiastic for it, bobbing his head in long, slow pulls over Richie’s length. Eddie’s mouth is stretched wide around him, and it’s not long before spit begins to drool down over his chin. He reaches his right hand up, tangles his fingers clumsily with Richie’s despite the cast, and Richie loves him more than he’s ever loved anything.

The latent humiliation of his confession has left Richie feeling raw and on-edge. His arousal hasn't abandoned him, but there's a needy, frantic edge to it now that has him feeling a little desperate. His heart is thundering in his chest in some confused mess of pleasure and panic, and he finds that what he wants more than anything else is for Eddie to keep him close.

“Eddie,” Richie urges, straining to keep his hips from bucking up into Eddie’s mouth. He cups one hand under Eddie’s jaw, feeling as it works around him. He presses his thumb into Eddie’s cheek, trying to feel himself there. Eddie moans around him, the hum echoing along his dick, and Richie’s hips stutter up toward him.

“Fuck, Eds, I’m close,” Richie warns, running his thumb over Eddie’s cheek. But Eddie just bobs his head faster, gripping his fingers tight, until Richie’s toes curl, and he lets out a broken sob, and he comes in Eddie's mouth.

Eddie pulls off after a second, a splash of come hitting his chin before he gets his fingers around Richie and finishes him off with his hand. Richie drowsily urges him forward until he’s close enough to lick the come off his jaw.

“Gross,” Eddie says, and then kisses Richie anyway.

When their breathing has calmed and their heartbeats have slowed, Eddie pulls away with a tired smile. He rolls smoothly off the bed and hits the light in the ensuite. Richie hears the tap running and then a minute later Eddie is kneeling over him on the bed, wiping up the mess on his chest and stomach with a warm, damp hand towel. 

The light clicks off in the bathroom, and just when Richie is thinking that now is probably the time to take what dignity he has left and make his exit, Eddie crawls back into bed with him and shoves at Richie until he can get the covers pulled up over both of them.

“Your glasses," Eddie says nonsensically.

Richie blinks dumbly at him.

“Huh?” 

Eddie gives him a look. 

“If you sleep in your glasses, you’ll end up breaking them.”

“Right.”

Richie takes off his glasses and reaches past Eddie to put them on the bedside table. When he settles back again Eddie burrows up against his chest, and Richie’s arms fit around him so neatly, the weight of him so right, that Richie can almost pretend he'll get to keep him.

Richie says it again, quietly, because it’s easier now. Because he wants to. 

“Love you, Eds.”

Eddie doesn’t reply, but he presses a warm kiss into Richie’s shoulder, and soon they both fall asleep.

Chapter Text

Richie wakes the next morning to the sun streaming in hot across his face, the first clue that he’s not in his own bedroom with its big western-facing windows. 

The second hint is the warm puff of air that hits his face directly from Eddie’s gaping mouth, who it seems has abandoned his own pillow in favor of crowding onto Richie’s. 

Richie clues in pretty quickly after that.

He blows a gentle stream of air back at Eddie, smiling when his face scrunches up in familiar annoyance. Still, looking at Eddie right now feels a little like staring into the sun, so he tears his attention away to take stock of his surroundings.

They’re in Eddie’s bedroom, obviously. They’re also naked, less immediately obvious but definitely more pressing. He can make out his clothes strewn haphazardly across the floor, and also registers a faintly throbbing headache building above his right eye. They hadn’t had that much to drink last night, but it’s been a while since he’s drunk much of anything at all. In fact, the last time he remembers getting properly drunk was in Derry, at the Jade, with Eddie’s hand curled around his, face flushed, egging him on like they hadn’t spent 27 years missing each other, Let’s take our shirts off and kiss, and- No. Nope. Best to put a lid on that one.

Eddie’s curled up on his side next to him. He’s got his cast shoved up between them on the bed, but his free arm is draped over Richie, hand splayed warm across his ribs. And it'd be so peaceful, so nice, if not for the fact that all at once Richie feels like every inch of his skin is crawling. The dawning, cold panic slithers slowly up his spine as he remembers what exactly it was he had said last night.

God, he’s an asshole.

It’s one thing to be caught up in the moment, but it’s like his entire prefrontal cortex took the night off. It’s not like Eddie had ever given any indication that he’d wanted their little arrangement to be something more. Well, other than, you know, stripping in their foyer. But it was late, and they were drunk, and just because Eddie wanted him physically doesn’t mean that he’s ever come close to thinking about him romantically. Which, in the light of day, Richie knows very well. But he had been drinking, and had maybe thought a bit too much about what Bill had said, and as usual was entirely too caught up in the swirling well of gravity that Eddie had always seemed to possess, catching Richie helplessly in his orbit.

The thing about Richie is that he’s never really been very good at playing it close to the vest. The decades-long secret of his sexuality rode less on calculated discretion and more on the assumption that no one would bother looking too closely. He hadn’t had to do much work hiding because the truth of the matter was that there wasn’t anyone around who’d cared enough that he’d needed to hide from. So it’s not like he’s exactly advertising it in so many words, but anyone who’s paying the least bit of attention could have told you that Richie Tozier is one big soft spot for Eddie Kaspbrak. Richie spent his formative years feeling so obvious, about everything, all the time. His heart has always hung grotesquely from his sleeve, but last night he’d served it up to Eddie on a gory, bleeding platter. And okay, maybe the metaphor is a little morbid, but Richie is feeling fragile this morning, he’ll allow himself the histrionics.

The salient points are this-

Point 1: Richie has everything he’s ever really wanted held here in the cradle of his arm, snuffling quiet snores into his shoulder. 

Point 2: He cannot let himself be responsible for screwing that up.

In the interest of self-preservation—an instinct which admittedly has been fairly weak of late—he attempts to slowly, carefully slide out from under Eddie’s arm. But as soon as he shifts, Eddie just scowls further, burrowing closer to Richie, hand flexing and clenching tighter at Richie’s soft side.

Richie whines a little pathetically and raises a hand without really thinking about it to thumb at the freckles peppered across Eddie’s shoulder.

Eddie blinks awake slowly, forehead smoothing out when he finds Richie watching him. A smile blooms smooth and easy across his face, dimples and all like he can’t help it, too drowsy with sleep to temper it, the full force of the thing aimed entirely (disarmingly) at Richie. 

Richie’s heart sends a panicked ping! ricocheting around his ribcage.

“Eddie, I don’t think I can do this anymore.”

Eddie’s face falls remarkably fast. His eyebrows hike up to an uneasy peak while his mouth falls into a sad little moue. He blinks at Richie for a moment, like he’s trying to process what he’s said, and when he does he retracts his hand from Richie’s waist, cradling it close to his own chest. Richie’s brain works overtime to figure out a way to reel the words back in, but once they’re out there, stark between them in the light of day, it’s easy to see that they’re true.

“Okay,” Eddie says slowly. He sits up fully, sheets falling to pool around his bare waist, and Richie is inconveniently reminded that they are both naked. “Is this- I mean, is this because of what you said yesterday? Because I-”

“Yeah,” Richie cuts in. He fumbles for his glasses on the bedside table and slides them onto his face. “Yeah. Listen, I really didn’t mean to just… blurt it out like that, you know? I mean, fuck, obviously. It just kind of…” Richie helpfully (and attractively, he assumes) mimes vomiting.

Eddie winces.

“It’s just that we’ve never really talked about-”

“I know!” Richie assures him, and god, he is not at all in the mood to be let down gently right now. “I know, you don’t- you don’t have to justify anything, man, this is all on me. I just can’t-” He gestures clumsily between them, “I can’t help you out anymore. It’s too… messy, you know?”

“Messy,” Eddie repeats warily, as if his entire adult life wasn’t built in careful antithesis to the word.

“Yeah,” Richie says weakly. “I don’t- I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, Eds. I mean, god, you just picked up your whole life to move here. I don’t want to screw that up.”

“You didn’t make me uncomfortable,” Eddie says quickly, no real hint of tone, as if Richie has any idea what to do with that.

“Yeah? Good.”

They just stare at each other for a second, Eddie looking like he’s working up to something. Richie can almost see the hemming and hawing going on in his head until he finally levels Richie with a sympathetic sort of look. It kind of makes Richie want to rip his hair out.

“Richie, what you said…” Eddie flounders for a moment, looking at Richie imploringly. “You know I-”

Please,” Richie says, voice cracking on the word. God, he really does feel like a teenager again. “Please don’t, Eddie. You don’t have to say anything, man.”

Eddie looks at him, letting out a breath, and then nods and stares unhappily down at his lap. 

A moment passes. Then, in a small voice-

“Did we fuck everything up?”

Richie’s heart stings in his chest. He’s an asshole.

He shakes his head, then shrugs when he can’t think of anything else to do, and says, “I hope not.”

Eddie looks at him then and confides, “I don’t want to leave.”

Richie stares back at him helplessly.

“I don’t want you to go.”

Eddie holds his gaze for a moment then nods, as if that settles it.

An uneasy silence lingers around the room. Richie lets them sit in it for a few seconds before he can’t take it anymore. 

“I’m just gonna-” He shuffles to the edge of the bed and looks back at Eddie. “Could you, like, close your eyes or something, dude?”

“Are you serious?” Eddie asks, finally cracking a tired smile.

“Yes, I’m serious. Spare me this little bit of dignity, man. My dick’s not really up for an audience right now.”

“That must be a first for you,” Eddie says, obligingly covering his eyes with his good hand.

“That is kind of the problem, yes,” Richie answers, shimmying back into his boxers. 

He finds his t-shirt and is struggling to pull it over his glasses when he meets Eddie’s eyes between his cracked fingers. “Hey, no peeking!” he shouts, muffled by cotton.

“Sorry, one for the road,” Eddie says, grinning, and drops his hand.

“Unbelievable,” Richie grouses, quickly grabbing the rest of his clothes. “Subjected to this kind of behavior in my own home.” He shuffles back toward the door. “Sorry to rid you of your eye-candy, but the shower’s calling my name, so-”

“Hey, Rich?” Eddie calls before Richie can disappear behind the door. 

Richie fights the urge to beat a hasty retreat and glances back at Eddie. He forces his shoulders to loosen.

“Yeah?”

“We’re gonna be okay, right?”

Richie looks at Eddie, hair ruffled and bare-chested, sitting alone in a mess of sheets, forehead pinched up with worry. He loves him.

“‘Course, Eds,” he tells him with a crooked smile. “It’ll be fine.”

 

 

Things are, decidedly, not fine.

It’s probably not, like, shocking, Richie thinks, that they’re so ill-equipped to handle their pseudo-break up with any sort of grace. But it is kind of a bummer. 

It’s not that either of them aren’t trying not to make it weird. It’s just that every interaction between them after that morning is weighed down by an unbearable fog of horrible awkwardness. Richie can’t stop making jokes that lean so hard on self-deprecation it’s painful to hear coming from his own mouth, let alone having to watch Eddie’s wincing reaction in real time. And Richie’s so rarely seen Eddie without a twitchy, nervous grimace in the last few days that he’s actually starting to worry his face will get stuck like that.

They make a few half-hearted tries at hanging out like normal, but the clumsy attempts at their old camaraderie fall so short of the mark that Richie finds himself unduly exhausted after any extended period of time spent together.

Eddie gets his cast off a week later too, which just adds insult to injury. It’s almost funny—in a miserable, ironic sort of way—knowing that if he had stuck it out just one more week, their little arrangement would have come to its natural conclusion and Richie might have escaped the thing with their friendship intact and some semblance of pride. As it is, he’s let the whole thing blow up over something so puerile as his feelings. It’d be disappointing if not for the fact that it all feels so unsettlingly inevitable.

Richie goes with Eddie to his appointment, beholden to some sense of misplaced guilt as well as the unshakable bonds of lifelong loyalty that come from a friendship hardened by such harrowing ordeals as that time your friend dared you to eat sand in the first grade and then cried when you threw up in said sandbox fifteen minutes later. Eddie had watched with watery eyes as Richie’s mom drove him home early in their baby blue Oldsmobile, and then had shyly presented him with a bag of malted milk balls (Richie’s favorite) at recess the next day. In retrospect, this was probably a defining moment in Richie’s young life—sticky fingers sharing half-melted chocolate with little Eddie Kaspbrak behind the jungle gym.

Richie wishes he had some malted milk balls to share now, like a peace offering, as he watches Eddie’s arm emerge pale and shiny from the broken shell of his cast. He stares mawkishly at the discarded plaster. Maybe he can convince Eddie to stop at the drive-thru for shakes on the way home.

The doctor instructs Eddie through some gentle stretches, and Richie finds himself fairly mesmerized by the hypnotic flex of Eddie’s (slightly malnourished-looking, but unfortunately no less appealing for it) forearm. He pipes up before he can get too distracted.

“Hey, Eds, what’s the opposite of a farmer’s tan?” 

“Fuck you.”

Richie tunes out while the doctor walks Eddie through post-care instructions, moseying over to the other side of the room, hands shoved into his jacket pockets. He spots the grimacing pain chart on the opposite wall and mimics the grotesque expressions at Eddie behind the doctor’s back. Eddie studiously ignores him, his unfailing respect for the medical profession apparently outweighing his otherwise enduring need to put Richie in his place. He flips Richie off when the doctor turns away to retrieve a pamphlet though. 

And then the appointment is over and Richie is following Eddie into the sunny parking lot, making all the requisite lewd comments as Eddie celebrates the renewed use of his dominant hand. Buoyed by his high spirits, Richie does manage to convince Eddie to stop for milkshakes on the way home, so that’s nice—though Eddie gets vanilla, the weirdo. 

It’s the longest chunk of time they’ve spent together since Richie’s confession, and it seems like things might have a hope of looking up. The thought, though a comfort, still leaves something of a bittersweet taste in Richie’s mouth (milkshake notwithstanding).

 

 

Despite their tentative progress, Eddie has taken to working late most nights, something Richie can’t help but take personally. Eddie insists it’s all down to some nightmare project that won’t wrap up, and his impassioned rants on the subject are convincing enough, but in Richie’s less charitable (read: self-pitying) moments, he can’t help but think that it feels very much like a tactic Eddie would use with his ex-wife when things started to go bad. And it sucks, frankly, that Richie has been relegated to the status of disgruntled housewife without any of the benefits of the actual title. 

It hasn’t gotten quite so dire that Eddie’s going into the office on weekends though, which is something that Bill asks about when Richie calls to whine to him about it later. Bill’s become his de-facto confidant in all things Eddie owing to the simple fact that he’s the only other person who has any idea of what’s going on. Richie had considered roping in one of the others, but the thought of recounting all the dirty details of the situation kind of makes his stomach turn, actually, and he’s not all that sure he’s quite ready for that special brand of tough love anyway. So Big Bill is what he’s got. 

“No, he stills hangs out here on the weekends,” Richie confirms, struggling to open a can of Diet Coke with one hand. Richie’s not actually one to keep soda in the house usually, but Eddie’s nose wrinkles up all cute whenever Richie returns to their shopping cart with a box of the stuff, and Richie’s found that annoying Eddie is as good a reason as any to do anything. “Why? Has he mentioned anything to you?”

“No,” Bill says blandly, altogether very cavalier for someone who was warning Richie against this exact scenario a week ago. “It’s something I might write a character doing though.”

Richie stares in disbelief at the phone in his hand.

“If he was upset with his roommate,” Bill adds when Richie’s silence fails to convey the pointed judgment he’s trying so hard to will down the phone line.

Bill hasn’t really been much help.

As it is, it’s a Saturday when Richie catches Eddie awake uncharacteristically early, talking quietly into his phone while unloading the dryer. He doesn’t register it as weird until he clues into the measured tone of Eddie’s voice, like he’s speaking purposefully calm. And then he realizes that Eddie is talking to Myra.

Eddie’s typically one to lie in on weekends, rolling out of bed sometime around ten or eleven and speaking mostly in slurred syllables and half-hearted grunts until he’s got a cup of coffee in front of him. Every once in a while though he’ll be up early, offering a quick good morning to Richie before excusing himself to take Myra’s call, three hours ahead in New York and apparently more convenient for her schedule. 

Richie’s never been privy to these phone calls. Eddie’s pretty mum on the details of his failed marriage on the whole, actually, which has only led Richie to develop a morbid and unfortunate obsession with the subject of his ex-wife. Richie really only knows as much as Eddie has been willing to tell him (next to nothing) and whatever he can glean from her frankly prolific social media presence. Facebook stalking is always a mixed bag when it comes to tangible results, but given how often Myra posts (almost daily, not counting the shares to her Pinterest profile which Richie has yet to really dig his teeth into), he thinks he’s compiled a fairly accurate impression of her general character.

It’s this curiosity combined with the sad lack of Eddie’s attention of late as well as more generalized hurt feelings that makes Richie hang back, lurking outside the door of the laundry room to eavesdrop.

“-’s not that I don’t want to,” Eddie is saying, phone cradled against his shoulder, pulling a wad of clean clothes from the dryer. “No. Myra, hon- Listen, we really shouldn’t be talking about this without our lawyers.”

Eddie turns and leans his hip against the counter. Richie flinches back from the doorway, but Eddie doesn't see him, consumed as he is in the conversation. His voice is held carefully neutral, patient in a way Richie’s never really known him to be.

“I know, I get it, it’s just that Lukas said-”

He cuts off, rolls his shoulders and breathes slowly through his nose. Richie never thought he’d see the day when the veritable force of Eddie’s irritation bent to the will of some lousy breathing exercises. Eddie grabs something from the laundry pile distractedly and stares down at it, rubbing the fabric between his fingers. 

“I’m not coming back, Marty,” he says softly.

It stings at the center of Richie’s chest, something about the confirmation that Eddie’s not returning to New York paired with the unspoken, easy intimacy of the old nickname. It leaves him feeling off-balanced, off kilter. Somehow simultaneously relieved and sickly jealous at the core of him.

Eddie fumbles again with what Richie now realizes is one of his old tour t-shirts, his gormless face plastered across the front in garrish pop colors. Eddie shakes it out with one hand and says, quiet but undeniably fond, “Yeah. Yeah, he does.”

Richie stamps viciously down on the curious hope struggling to rise from his chest.

Eddie’s face twists as he turns back toward the counter, putting the phone on speaker so he has both hands free to fold the laundry.

“-know you think I’m the villain, Eddie, but you-”

“I don’t think that, Myra,” Eddie says, hands faltering, sounding genuinely stricken.

You’re the one,” Myra continues, tinny over the speaker. “That left for a week and came back acting like the entire life we built together was a mistake.”

“It just-” Eddie starts, sounding pained. “I know it doesn’t make any sense, I know it seems like-” Eddie cuts himself off, frustrated. Richie wishes badly that he could reach out to him, put a comforting hand on his forearm, on the back of his neck. His shoulders look so tense.

“It wasn’t good anymore, Myra,” Eddie says, sounding tired. “You and me, it- I just don’t think we’re good for each other.”

Myra sniffs on the end of the line, but when her voice comes through it’s even and steady.

“Maybe I- I wanted things a certain way, but you told me you did, too. It’s not my fault that I believed you, Eddie.”  

“Myra, I’m-” 

“Don’t. Don’t apologize again, just stop.”

Eddie braces his hands wide across the expanse of the counter, head bowed low between his shoulders as he takes a steadying breath. And it’s almost picturesque, this snapshot of Eddie framed on either side by bottles of detergent and fabric softener and stacked piles of folded laundry. A domestic tableau befitting a domestic squabble.

Richie backs quietly away from the door, aware he’s heard too much.

He retreats back down the hallway, careful to avoid the creaky floorboard in the living room doorway. Unfortunately, avoiding the creaky floorboard means his balance is off kilter when he rounds the corner, and when he overcorrects he ends up jamming his toe on the bookshelf. 

Motherf-” Richie bites his tongue and leans on the wall to shake out his foot, listening carefully to try and gauge whether Eddie heard any of that. He can just make out the steady drone of Eddie’s voice from the laundry room, so he thinks he’s in the clear. He escapes to the kitchen and proceeds to make as much noise as possible, making a big production out of rummaging through the cabinets for the good coffee. 

Eddie shuffles into the room a few minutes later, looking a little awkward (pretty much his baseline of late) and a little sheepish (uncharacteristic but not unheard of), and says, “I didn’t know you were awake.”

Richie glances at him quickly, careful not to give anything away. 

“Oh, you know what they say about early birds and worms, Eds.”

Eddie squints at him.

“Are you gonna make this something gross?”

Richie grins, “I don’t know, Eds, is your worm into it?”

Richie says it before his brain can catch up to his mouth and remind him why he shouldn’t. Like he was too busy not looking at Eddie, he forgot why he wasn’t looking in the first place.

Eddie surprises him though, letting out a shocked bark of a laugh that turns easily into a put upon groan.

“Don’t you have an off switch? It’s not even ten.”

Richie snorts.

“Oh, please. You’re like the energizer bunny, except instead of double-A’s you’re powered by a precarious combination of caffeine and rage.” Richie pauses, then adds, “And spite.” He finally turns from the coffee maker to face Eddie full-on. It’s still a little tough looking him directly in the eye these days, but Richie’s always been self-sacrificial at the altar of the bit. He blows steam from his coffee and closes one eye to squint at Eddie, sizing him up with his thumb and forefinger. “Same height and twice as cute.”

“Fuck you,” Eddie says good naturedly and then elbows Richie away from the counter. “Move.”

Richie dances away from Eddie’s pointy elbow, wincing when he puts too much weight on the toe that’s still smarting. Luckily Eddie doesn’t seem to notice Richie’s careful hobble, rummaging through the cabinet for his own mug.

“Sorry, Eds, but I think we’ve long since established that I can only ever be beeped into submission,” Richie says, settling onto a stool at their kitchen island.

Eddie huffs distractedly, preoccupied with the coffee maker, and says coyly, “Oh, I think we both know that’s not true.”

Richie’s grip slips on the handle of his mug, bringing it down harder than he means to on the counter. He hisses as hot coffee sloshes up and over the lip onto his hand. 

Eddie seems to realize what he’s said a second after he says it, blush creeping up his face as he turns to Richie with wide eyes and that same nervous grimace he’s been sporting all week.

And they’d been doing so good, too.

“Sorry,” Eddie says belatedly as Richie leans over around the back of the sink and wets a paper towel to sop up the mess on the counter.

“S'nothing, Eds,” Richie says, trying for indifference and landing somewhere decidedly more earnest. He debates making a joke about his weak grip, but thinks better of it.

Eddie wrings his hands for a second before speaking again, clumsily trying to navigate them back into neutral territory.

“Why can’t I remember who came up with the beeping, was the little bit of genius from Stan?”

“That little twerp, no,” Richie says distractedly, tossing the paper towel into the sink. “My dad used to beep me when I’d get too-” Richie waves vaguely around his head to convey the manic sort of energy that’d compel at least 80% of his more destructive moods back then. Eddie, no stranger to the whims of harried brain chemistry, hums in sympathy. “Stan just picked it up from him.”

Eddie snorts, “Suck up.”

It’s not strictly true. Stan isn’t a suck up so much as he’s just like that. Bar mitzvah aside, Stan had that uncanny air of maturity long before the rest of their voices started cracking. He’d gotten along with most of the adults that made appearances throughout their childhood by simple virtue of appreciating the same things—nice weather, a structured schedule, and generally some peace and quiet. The latter was so at odds with who Richie considers himself to fundamentally be as a person (and Eddie too, for that matter) that it’s a wonder they got along as well as they did. Richie liked to complain that Stan would have probably thrown him over for Went in a second if not for the bonds of shared history and a few decades-worth of age difference. Not true, obviously, but that wouldn’t stop a young Richie from lamenting loudly in Stan’s general direction whenever it seemed like the two were getting too chummy.

Still, Richie never could help but stir the pot a bit. 

“I’m telling him you said that.”

Eddie’s face does a complicated wince-grimace two-step. “Please don’t.”

“Fine,” Richie acquiesces easily, tilting precariously onto the back legs of his stool, enjoying Eddie’s worried little scowl. “Only ‘cause you’ve never actually beeped me yourself.”

Eddie frowns at him over his coffee mug, “That can’t be right.”

“It is though,” Richie insists. “I know because fourteen-year-old Richie was all geared up to be prematurely outraged at the hypocrisy. I’ve never seen someone deliver such impassioned speech extolling the virtues of anti-bac or whatever-the-fuck without taking a single breath, but somehow you manage it, Eds.”

“You know just because you say something in the tone of a compliment doesn’t mean it actually is one.”

“We’re like a tag team,” Richie grins, “united under the noble banner of not shutting the fuck up.”

“I wanna switch teams.”

“That’s what all the boys say,” Richie sighs. It must hit a little bit too close to home though, because Eddie just stares at him for a second, expression considering. Richie doesn’t actually manage to get his defences raised too high because he gets almost immediately distracted by the movement of Eddie’s tongue poking and prodding obscenely along the inside of his cheek. Richie is swiftly consumed by an urgent feeling of confused-horniness before he realizes that Eddie is actually just running his tongue over the scar in his cheek left by his literal stab wound. The realization leaves Richie feeling a markedly less satisfying combination of guilty-horny in its wake.

“We should do dinner tonight.”

“Wuh?” Richie asks smartly, discreetly shaking his head of its shame-fueled horny haze.

“Dinner tonight?” Eddie repeats impatiently. “It’s been a while, man, I-” His mouth snaps shut, jaw tensed as he looks down. “We keep missing each other.”

“Yeah,” Richie says slowly. He’d been under the impression it was a mutually agreed upon decision to be missing each other on purpose, but Eddie’s tone and the earnest look on his face worryingly suggest otherwise. “Yeah, dude, sure. Do you want to go out, or…?”

“I actually have to head into the office for a few hours.” Fuck. “I can grab an early dinner on my way back though? Thai?” 

“Sure,” Richie hears himself answer distantly, klaxons ringing in his head. Fucking Bill. 

“I’ll get those noodles you like?” Eddie asks, pushing away from the counter. 

“You know you’re the only noodle for me, Spaghetti,” Richie answers solemnly. Eddie smiles at him weirdly. “But, uh, yes, please.”

“Alright. I’m gonna go for a run before I head out, but I’ll, uh, call you when I’m leaving the office.”

Eddie offers him a quick slip of a smile before escaping back toward his room. Richie’s head aches with a sensation not dissimilar to whiplash.

“Great,” he assures the empty kitchen.

 

 

Richie makes it through the rest of the morning without doing anything drastic, but by the time noon rolls around he’s feeling jittery and unsettled.

He’d tried calling Bill earlier to hassle him about being right, but he’d been in a meeting with his editor at the time and Richie couldn’t quite work himself up to derailing his friend’s day so shamelessly. There’s almost certainly worse feelings than listening to acclaimed author William Denbrough excuse himself from his editor’s office to quietly ask you if you’re okay, but it still feels like a low point. 

So he’d sucked it up, assured Bill he’d be fine for a few hours without his dulcet stammer, and left him to his editor—god knows he needs it. Still, it means Richie’s spent the last few hours alone with his thoughts. Historically, this has not gone well for him.

He considers jerking off to relieve some ambiguous sense of pressure, but quickly dismisses the thought. He’s not sure the moral implications of fantasizing about your ex-fuck buddy slash love of your life who you kind of broke up with after confirming what you’d already expected regarding him not returning your very gay feelings, but it feels like a gray area.

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck, he has to talk to Stan.

He tries calling, but Stan doesn’t answer, and Richie hangs up before he’s able to give in to the temptation to leave a whiny voicemail. He contemplates calling Patty to ask after him, but she’s still (probably understandably) a little wary of the Losers and their swift re-introduction into Stan’s life post-near death experience. Admittedly, sharing all the sordid details of Richie’s relationship woes is probably not actually the worst olive branch he could extend, but it still feels like a lot to lay on an almost-stranger.

He texts Stan instead.

12:47 PM PST
To: Stanley Urine 🥴
Help help
Woof
Little timmy fell down the well???

The typing indicator ellipses show up and disappear again almost immediately. 

“Uh!” Richie scoffs, offended. He just about makes up his mind to bombard Stan with a few dozen whiny texts when the incoming call buzzes through. 

Richie answers breathlessly.

“Hi there. Candy speaking, can I interest you in something sweet?”

Stan hums down the line, half a world away. 

“I don’t know, what’s your rate?”

“Two bucks a minute, handsome, but the first five are free.”

Stan tsks, “Can’t have much fun in five minutes.”

“Well, not with that attitude,” Richie grins.

“What’s up, Rich?” Stan asks placidly. Richie’s never seen his house, but he likes to imagine Stanley sitting in a rocking chair on a big wrap-around porch, sipping sweet tea and keeping his eyes peeled for the Great Georgian Goose, or whatever. He’d told Stan about this fantasy once and was primly informed that Stan has better things to be doing than sitting around watching his curls getting increasingly frizzy in the late summer humidity. He does like sweet tea, though.

Richie contemplates making Stan work for it, but his nerves are too frayed to drag it out, and anyway depending on his mood Stan’s more liable to hang up on him than humor his antics ad nauseam, so it’s really in his best interest to cut to the chase.

“I’m having roommate troubles,” Richie tells him evenly.

“Are you having roommate troubles or are you having Eddie troubles?” Stan asks, keenly (infuriatingly) observant.

“What’s the difference?” Richie says, just to be contrary.

“Shall I list Eddie’s issues alphabetized or in chronological order?”

Richie snorts, “I’m telling him you said that.”

“I’m not afraid of him,” Stan says, deadpan and completely terrifying. “Come on, Richie, out with it. Pats’ sister is coming over tonight and I’ve got to do the grocery run.”

It’s not an idle threat. Stan had fallen into the trappings of domestic bliss more gracefully than any of them, probably by virtue of wanting it so much. He will absolutely dump Richie for the grocery shop and will likely feel no remorse for doing so. The thing about Stan, though, is that he’s a huge gossip. It comes from a place of caring, Richie knows. Like he could take care of all the Losers by keeping a careful eye on them. He plays coy, but Stan’s actually fairly obsessed with the minutiae of his friends’ private lives. Richie just needs a good hook.

“Eddie and I are sleeping together.”

Stan chokes on the end of the line.

“Mike didn’t tell you?” Richie asks weakly, unashamedly shifting blame.

“Mike knows?” Stan demands, sounding offended.

“No, but Bill does,” Richie tells him. “So I figure it’s only a matter of time.”

“How does Bill know?” Stan squawks, definitely offended now.

“He walked in on us,” Richie confides, grinning now. “Why, you looking for a show, Stanley?”

“Mike’s on top of some mountain this week.” Stan says, swiftly ignoring him. “No service.”

“Figures,” Richie huffs. He makes a mental note to trawl through Mike’s trendy travel Instagram profile when he’s back.

“You’re sleeping together?” Stan asks, helpfully steering them back on topic.

“Were. Were sleeping together,” Richie amends, picking at a hangnail on his ring finger. “I guess that’s an important distinction.”

“Oh, Richie.”

“No, what?” Richie demands, affronted. “Don’t ‘oh, Richie’ me. That makes me sound pathetic,” Richie whines, pathetically.

“What happened?”  

Richie tells him the whole sorry tale, with just enough detail to elicit an “Eugh! Beep beep, Richie.” when he tries to delve into the finer points of Eddie’s blow job technique (nervous, but ultimately enthusiastic, much like the general demeanor of the man himself). The telling gets progressively subdued as he rounds the corner on their last entanglement, culminating in his ill-timed confession, the reluctant armistice, and all the awkwardness that’s followed.

“He had to go into the office today, Stan,” Richie whispers, the gravity of the statement emphasized in his measured tone. “It’s a Saturday.”

“So?”

Richie huffs.

“I don’t know, but Bill made it sound really bad.”

“Wow,” Stan says, cool and unaffected in that way that Richie could never really imitate. “If you’re taking relationship advice from Bill it must really be dire.”

“Yeah, no shit.” Richie snorts. His gaze wanders distractedly until it lands on the shoe rack in their foyer, Eddie’s bougie loafers lined up right beside Richie’s beat up Chucks. “Keep up, dude,” he says, voice tight.

“How are he and Audra?” Stan asks. Nosy.

“In counseling,” Richie tells him, grunting as he rouses himself bodily from the couch. “I guess it’s not going great. He told me she thinks he’s been acting cagey, which, uh, makes sense. He wants to tell her, I think. Like, tell her. Everything.”

He makes his way to the kitchen to grab a clementine, a compulsion that is decidedly post-Eddie. They’d watched some History Channel doc about pirates a few weeks ago that was a lot more boring than the subject-matter let on. Richie had dozed through most of it, scrolling through Twitter and replying to the particularly nasty comments with increasingly incomprehensible strings of emojis. Eddie’s brought up scurvy half a dozen times since though, as if that’s not a completely insane thing to be concerned about in 2016. Richie’s sure it’s at least 60% performative, but that hasn’t stopped Eddie from raiding the produce aisle when left to his own devices in their local Kroger. He keeps buying hoards of fruit, which Richie is in turn forced to eat lest they attract fruit flies. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere, some extended metaphor about their living situation and the fruity proclivities of pirates, but the subject is just a bit too raw for Richie, entwined as it is with the more pressing matter of, well. Eddie.

Stan whistles lowly, and for a moment Richie is confused as to whether he said any of that aloud. Then he remembers they’re still talking about Bill and their horrible shared clown trauma.

“Damn,” Stan says with all the gravity of someone who’d already gone through the rigamarole of breaking that little bombshell to his own wife. “I should call him.”

“Yeah,” Richie agrees, entirely checked out. He digs a thumb into the skin of his clementine. “It’s my turn now though. So.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Rich,” Stan says, hefty sigh obvious even through the tinny speaker of Richie’s phone. “You have to talk to him.”

Richie groans. 

“Boring,” he declares, jabbing ineffectually but satisfyingly at his snack. “Uninspired. You can do better than that, man, come on.”

“What do you want, Richie?” Stan asks. There’s a shuffling noise in the background, the tell-tale sound of Stan gathering reusable shopping bags for his grocery shop (Richie assumes), and Richie knows their conversation is nearing its end.

“I just want us to be okay,” Richie says, the impending deadline of Stan’s schedule prompting him to honesty. “I don’t want my- my feelings to scare him away. I don’t want him to think that I can’t-” He cuts off, takes a breath. “I just don’t want him to be uncomfortable. I don’t want him to worry.”

Stan’s quiet for a moment, leaving Richie to stew in the embarrassment of his candor.

“It’s Eddie,” Stan says finally. “He’s always gonna worry.”

Richie huffs, cracks a grin.

“Come on, man. My heart’s bleeding here.”

“Richie,” Stan says, and he can tell from Stan’s tone that he’s smiling. “You and Eddie talk a lot but you hardly ever really get around to saying anything. From the sound of it you haven’t actually talked through any of this. So if you want things to stay the same- sure. Keep doing what you’re doing. But you don’t, because you called me, so…”

“So?” Richie repeats, just to be annoying.

“Talk to Eddie,” Stan says. He waits a beat, then tacks on, “And don’t worry so much about what Bill says.”

“Well, now you look stupid,” Richie says, freeing a wedge of clementine and popping it into his mouth, citrus bursting bright on his tongue. “Because Bill said the same thing.”

“Glad some of us managed to grow up a bit.”

“I’m not!”

“Is that it?” Stan asks, amused tone betraying him. “Can I go now?”

“One more thing,” Richie says.

“What is it?”

“What are you wearing?”

Stan hangs up on him, leaving Richie giggling to his half-eaten clementine.

 

 

Eddie calls him on his way to the Thai place, as promised, and Richie’s so overwhelmed with gratitude at the gesture that he inexplicably adopts a New York mob boss Voice for the duration of the conversation to temper the obvious affection.

“You’ve done me a great service today, Eddie Spaghetti,” Richie says, aiming for a standard Corleone.

“Alright, Little Italy, I’ll see you in twenty,” Eddie says, and then lays on his horn and leans into an east coast accent himself to terrorize some poor Prius. 

Richie lets himself smile dumbly down at his phone for a moment after the call cuts out, then shakes himself and resolves to change out of the sweats he slept in the night before, a friendly (friendly!) courtesy before Eddie gets home. He gets a good whiff of himself when he’s wrestling his t-shirt off though and makes a b-line for the shower instead. And so there’s still water dripping from his curls when he emerges fifteen minutes later to find Eddie unpacking their take-out in the kitchen.

Eddie does a double take when he greets him.

“He-ey…”

“Hi,” Richie says, eyeing him weirdly before his attention is diverted by the mountain of food Eddie’s brought home. 

He tugs his shirt away from his chest, fabric clinging to the wet spots forming under his pecs. He hears Eddie make an odd strangled sound, but when he looks up Eddie’s staring determinedly down at the dishes in front of him. Richie shrugs and pokes curiously at the nearest bag until Eddie slaps him away. 

“Did you get spring rolls?”

“I got everything you asked for, dude,” Eddie says, heaping a pile of noodles into a bowl.

“Careful, Eds. Keep it up and a guy could get ideas,” Richie says and then watches with a sick combination of gleeful horror as Eddie’s face floods with color. Richie bites hard at the inside of his cheek and wonders whether he could bite hard enough to get a scar to match Eddie’s. 

“Sorry,” Eddie finally says nonsensically.

“Why are you sorry?” Richie asks, feeling crazy.

“I don’t know!” Eddie says (yells), shoulders hunching up defensively around his ears.

They stare at each other in pained silence for a moment. Richie’s starting to think Stan might be onto something with this whole talking thing, but unfortunately that would require his brain to send signals to his mouth, and at the moment he doesn’t quite feel capable of it.

“Just- here,” Eddie finally says and shoves the bowl he’d been prepping toward Richie.

“Yup,” Richie says, oddly touched, and retreats toward the table, tail between his legs.

They manage to get the rest of the food laid out—Eddie did, in fact, get everything Richie asked for. It’s not quite the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for him, but it’s still, you know, nice. That particular honor actually goes to his first and only real girlfriend the first time they’d tried to have sex. Both he and Sandy had had a lot to drink that night, so when he couldn’t get it up for her, she’d said it was okay, and that he was probably just drunk. And he’d agreed. And then he’d cried. And she’d sat with his head in her lap and stroked his hair until he fell asleep. She was gone before he woke up the next morning, which was fine because he didn’t think he could look her in the eye again anyway. She also stole his ashtray, which was also fine because he’d been meaning to quit.

They’d dated for three years after that. Last he heard, Sandy was settled down with some 90’s sitcom actress and two dopey-looking dogs. He’s pretty sure they have a podcast. He’s happy for her.

Eddie smiles tightly at him once they’re settled kitty-corner at the table. He picks up his fork and starts to ask, “Do you want to put on a movie, or-” when Richie interrupts him.

“So I’m in love with you.”

Eddie’s elbow slips hard on the table edge.

“Richie,” Eddie says, grip white-knuckled on his fork.

Sorry, Eds, sorry,” Richie says, laughing despite himself. It’s still, like, mortifying. It’s still akin to pulling teeth, a metaphor with which Richie is intimately familiar, having had two teeth extracted by dear old dad to help account for his unfortunate overbite. It’s already out there, though, is the thing. Confession fueled by a combination of lust and drink and an excess of feeling. Richie imagines it met with the same level of disgust a pet owner might feel when Fluffy proudly presents their mangled prey on the front stoop, though he admits he’s likely projecting. Like so much else, Richie knows the only way out is through. “It just feels like this elephant in the room sometimes, man, and I figure we might wanna- wanna talk about it.”

“We’ve talked about it,” Eddie says evasively, dropping his fork to instead go for the large glass of wine Richie had industriously poured for him. “I’ve talked about it,” Eddie says, and hey, that distinction sounds pointed.

“Who’d you talk to about it?” Richie asks, affronted. Eddie grimaces at him and swallows a rather large gulp.

“Mike,” he says through gritted teeth. “You?”

“Stan,” Richie answers immediately, then pivots, “who said that Make was on top of a mountain.”

“Stan doesn’t know everything,” Eddie says and then picks up his fork again, apparently determined not to let this doozy of a conversation ruin his dinner. “He got back yesterday.”

“You talked to Mike yesterday ?”

“I mean, that’s why I-” Eddie gestures at the table, and then groans, and then shoves a forkful of sauteed vegetables into his mouth. “Well, when did you talk to Stan?”

“Point,” Richie concedes, attempting to twirl noodles on the end of his chopsticks before giving up and using the fork Eddie had laid out for him, probably anticipating this exact turn of events vis-à-vis said chopsticks. “What did Mike say?”

Eddie winces, which, like- okay, Mikey, don’t pull your punches.

“He said you were probably feeling… badly. About the whole thing,” Eddie says, poking at his curry (level 2 spice, most assuredly). “And that if I wanted you to feel better, I should reach out. Like an olive branch, or whatever.”

“Nice of you,” Richie says, not a little bitterly, reaching for his own wine glass. He does his best to swallow down the mortification at Eddie and Mike apparently commiserating over how badly Richie must be feeling. It’s true, obviously, but he’d hoped it wasn’t quite so apparent. 

“What did Stan say?” Eddie asks hurriedly.

“He said that I should talk to you,” Richie says, advice that is feeling increasingly ill-advised the longer this conversation continues. 

Eddie puts his fork down again and takes in a rattling breath, staring down at the table. For the first time in a while, Richie notices that his breathing is sounding kind of thin.

“Rich, I’m not even divorced yet,” Eddie says quietly.

Richie stares at him.

“Eddie, I’m not- That’s not the conversation I’m trying to have, dude.”

“It’s not?” Eddie looks up at him again, eyes wide and- and panicked.

No,” Richie says, shaking his head, heart stinging in his chest. He debates in rapid succession the pros and cons of taking Eddie’s hand and decides- fuck it.

Richie grips Eddie’s fingers and Eddie grips right back.

“Eds, I’m not trying to convince you of anything, okay?”

Eddie stares at him. Richie’s not entirely sure what his own face is doing, but he hopes it at least conveys sincerity. Eddie must find what he’s looking for there because after a moment he nods. Richie nods back and squeezes his hand once before letting go.

“You don’t-” Richie starts and finds that the words get stuck in his throat. He looks at the table, throat tight, and says what he meant to all along. “You don’t need to love me back, Eds.”

He hears Eddie let out a breath.

“Richie-”

“No, it’s- it’s fine, Eddie. I’ll be fine,” Richie says and looks back up at him, trying to smile. “I don’t want you to feel like you owe me an apology or- or anything. Even this, living here, I- I want you to stay, Eds, but you don’t have to. We both can tap out, yeah? That’s the deal.”

Because Richie knows, he knows that Eddie has spent so much of his life trapped in houses other people built around him. People who bullied their way in and set down roots without asking. Richie wont let himself be the same. So he’ll build them both exits, easy outs if they need it. And as long as they’re both free to leave, maybe it won’t matter so much that Richie won't.

Richie gives Eddie a helpless smile.

“I do love you,” he tells him, and watches Eddie’s chest rise and fall heavily. “I think I have for a really long time, Eds. And I’ve never expected anything, okay? That hasn’t changed. I promise.”

Eddie’s mouth twists and presses into a thin line. He nods at Richie, big dark eyes shining in the low light of their home, and Richie lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. 

Richie clears his throat, breaking eye contact to grab his glass again.

“That’s, uh- that’s all I wanted to tell you,” he says, laughing a little self consciously and taking a long swig of wine.

When he looks up again, Eddie’s still watching him, looking shell-shocked. He looks dumb, actually, slack-jawed and dazed, but also very cute. It’s doing stupid things to Richie’s stomach.

“You know, I was worried these big confessions would lose some of their potency, but it must pack a punch to strike your motormouth dumb,” Richie says, digging into a spring roll that has considerably cooled.

It does the trick of snapping Eddie out of it. He blinks, and then scowls, and then grabs his wine glass like a lifeline.

“Shut up, Richie.” 

“There’s my guy,” Richie says fondly and a little too honest, but hey, it’s that kind of night.

Eddie gives him a little grin, which would normally render Richie weak in the knees, but for one, he is thankfully sitting down, and two, Eddie follows it up by screwing his eyebrows up and taking a fortifying breath.

Uh oh,” Richie mutters and takes his own fortifying swig of wine.

“Do you remember when I told you my mom was moving us away?” Eddie asks, and it’s such an about face that it leaves Richie’s mind grasping for the threads that might have led them to this topic.

“Uh, sure,” Richie says slowly, trying to figure out where Eddie’s going with this. “In my garage yeah?”

“Yeah,” Eddie confirms. It was the room above the Toziers’ garage, actually. A dusty room with a low ceiling and floorboards that would give you splinters if you weren’t careful. Richie’s dad had dragged an old rug up there though, as well as some big pouchy floor cushions, and as long as the day wasn’t too hot it was as nice a place as any for a couple of kids to hang out and escape the notice of their parents for a few hours. It wasn’t as big as the club house, and they never did manage to fit all seven of them up there comfortably, but Richie and Eddie had spent many a lazy Sunday trading comic books and sucking on ice pops from the hulking chest freezer tucked away in the corner of the garage.

It had been late fall, probably too late in the season to really enjoy the uninsulated attic space, but Richie had wanted to retrieve a selection of comic books to relocate to his bedroom for the frosty winter months and had gotten distracted by an old issue of something or other. He remembers Eddie’s head poking through the hole in the floor, fifteen years old and almost rid of the last vestiges of baby fat, cheeks blotchy and eyes rimmed red. It had taken twenty minutes to coax Eddie into talking about whatever was bothering him, and when he’d finally confessed that his mom was moving the two of them a couple states south to be closer to her sisters, Richie had gone and cried.

Well. First he’d stared, and then he’d stuttered out a confused jumble of “No,” and “She can’t just-” and “Well, maybe we-” and then “You can’t.” And then he’d cried, covering four of the five stages of grief in a stunningly concise monologue that spanned all of fifteen seconds. Eddie had tried to reach out to him, looking close to tears again himself, but Richie had shoved him away, wiping his eyes furiously and insisting that they’d just have to make the most of the time they had left (step 5).

It was an undoubtedly harrowing afternoon in Richie’s life to be sure. Why Eddie’s bringing it up now though, he has no idea.

“It felt like the worst thing that had ever happened,” Eddie says, big serious eyes boring into Richie’s. “Clown included. Silly, huh?”

“Silly,” Richie agrees. He doesn’t feel the need to mention that he still kind of thinks it was the worst thing that had happened to him back then.

“I’m not going anywhere, Rich,” Eddie says, capping off a conversation Richie hadn’t known they were still having. “I mean, not as long as you’ll have me.”

“I’ll have you,” Richie answers too quickly. But, like, whatever. It’s not like Eddie doesn’t know. 

Eddie gives him a smile, then picks up his fork, then regales Richie with a catalogue of Travis-at-work’s latest offenses.

Richie smiles back, interjects whenever Eddie stops to take a breath, and when his knee nudges up against Eddie’s under the table, Eddie nudges right back.