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he says that he will (but he's just a liar)

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Eddie’s eyes glide over the words of his psychology notes for the umpteenth time. The same sentence over and over. He feels stuck. Trapped.

Trapped in a dark dorm, dimly lit by his measly desk lamp. The lightbulb flickering, signaling its need to be replaced.

Trapped at a school that was supposed to set him free. Trapped in the same cycle. Wake up. Greet Bill good morning. Go to class, library. Study. Bid Bill good night. Sleep.

A year into his so-called freedom, and Eddie has never felt so suffocated.

Bill had been so proud of him when he finally told his mom to fuck off. Of course, that meant he had been cut off, but the one good thing about childhood trauma was that it made for really fucking good scholarship essays. Take that, ma.

So here he was, a year without his mom, a year finally doing what he wanted to do, and Eddie couldn’t understand why he wasn’t happy. That’s how it worked right? You get rid of all things toxic in your life, and you’re supposed to magically be happy?

Ah.

Eddie got rid of too much. He was so focused on cleansing his life, he rid himself of the one thing that was good.

Eddie stares at the words in front of him, not really comprehending them. Instead, he thinks of the words of a person who just wanted to love him. He remembers the words that left his mouth, taking that love and grinding it to dust. The words that shred the person in front of him, severing all ties between them.

 

“I think… Fuck, I think I’m in love with you.”

Eddie freezes, jerking himself back from the lips pressing burning kisses into his neck.

Richie continues, “I love you, so fucking much. And… and I was thinking about coming out to my parents.”

“What the fuck, Richie?”

Richie cocks his head to the side, confused at what had set the other boy off. “Did I say something wrong?”

Eddie shakes his head furiously, climbing off Richie’s lap, climbing over the center console, climbing into the passenger seat. His eyes flitter towards the door handle.

“Do you… do you not feel the same?” Richie stammers, clearly trying to hide the shakiness of his voice. “Because, that’s… that’s fine! You don’t have to say it back or anything…”

“You don’t love me.”

“I think that’s for me to decide, Eds.”

“Don’t call me that!” Eddie snaps. “You don’t love me, Richie. You can’t love me.”

Eddie can’t bring himself to meet Richie’s eyes. As much as Richie hid behind his jokes, if you looked close enough, you could see all his emotions swimming in his eyes. His blue eyes, deep like the ocean, were so clear, transparent, yet muddled by truth. Eddie isn’t ready to drown.

“What do you mean, I can’t love you? I’m pretty fucking sure I can love my boyfriend if I choose to.”

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie says softly, voice barely above a whisper.

“What, boyfriend?” Richie asks incredulously. “Fuck, Eddie, what’s going on?”

There’s hurt in his voice. Eddie never wanted Richie to hurt. Ever. He doesn’t say anything.

“Come on, Eds. Is there a reason your being all pissy right now?”

“I said not to call me that.”

Eddie can see Richie recoil in his periphery.

“Can you just tell me what’s wrong?” he pleads.

And that’s question, isn’t it? Eddie thinks. What is wrong? He can’t go to college with a boyfriend. He can’t be… He’s not…

His mother is barely letting him go to New York. He was finally getting away from this fucking town. He had to get out.

“What’s wrong?” Eddie laughs humorlessly. He gestures his arm sharply between the two of them. “This is what’s wrong.”

Eddie knows how he feels about Richie. He knows how Richie feels about him. But he also knows how much he needs this fresh start. He needs to get away from his mom, and if she ever found out… Well, Eddie doesn’t want to think about that.

When this… thing, started between him and Richie, it was always meant to be temporary. They were seniors. Soon, their small friend group would be scattered to the wind. Sure, they would stay in contact, it wasn’t hard to stay in contact with two people, but that would be it. Richie talked about California, and Eddie knew his mother wouldn’t let him off the east coast. He would probably never see Richie again. He could let himself have this.

But college acceptances came, and Richie had set aside his UC Berkeley letter, proclaiming that he would follow Eddie to New York; that he would follow Eddie anywhere.

Eddie tried to be okay with it. People in New York were more accepting, right?

Their future in New York loomed over his head for the rest of senior year, and with three months to go, he just… couldn’t. He was scared. He will always be scared.

It was easier to run away. Run away from that part of him that he so desperately wishes he could bury. Run away from Richie.

Richie looks back at Eddie, eyes wide. “What do you mean?”

“Did you even consider the consequences of coming out?” Eddie demands. “What is someone finds out about us? What if your parents tell my mom? Then I’ll never fucking get out of this town.”

“Eddie…”

“We can’t be together, Richie. You know how wrong it is, don’t you? We’re finally leaving Derry! And that means a fresh start. I can finally escape my mother, and I can enjoy college, and… and maybe even meet a… girl or something.”

Richie visibly cringes. “You don’t mean that…”

Eddie forces himself to go on. It was easier this way. “I do. I’m not a… a… this is just a phase. Blowing off some steam between friends, right? No one ever needs to know.”

“If you’re joking, Eds, this isn’t funny.”

“Call me Eds one more time–!”

Richie goes silent, turning away from Eddie in favor of staring at his hands. Minutes pass. A low chuckle escapes Richie’s throat. It gets louder and louder until it’s almost maniacal.

“Of course, Eddie. You’re not a faggot, right? And even if you were, you wouldn’t be into me anyways. Just needed good ol’ Dick Tozier to make you feel, what? Wanted? Well congrats, I wanted you. I want you. And I was what… to you? Trash? A hole to get your dick wet?”

Eddie winces, glad that Richie can’t see the hurt twisted in his face. “You know it’s not like that. I’m just not… you know? We’re friends. Best friends.”

“Just… just get out.”

“What?”

“Get out. Get out of my car.”

 

That was the last Eddie had heard from Richie. He got out of the car, forcing back tears as he watched Richie drive away.

He heard from Bill a week later that Richie withdrew from NYU, sending his SIR for UC Berkeley.

Three months later and Richie was gone. He didn’t say goodbye.

 

The words haunt Eddie. He’s still surprised that he could say something so cruel.

But he found his way to NYU. Bill had been his roommate for the past year and a half. Bill started dating Mike. It was reassuring to know that maybe, just maybe, there wasn’t anything wrong with him. Sometime after that, he had finally come out, in a way.

He still couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud. He never liked labels anyway. But Bill knew. Mike knew. And that was enough.

Except it wasn’t. There was still a gaping hole in his heart. A hole the size of a tall, lanky idiot, with much too messy hair.

***

Spring break was just around the corner. Bill was going home, as always. Eddie didn’t know what he was going to do. Probably just stay in the dorm, it’s what he did last year.

Eddie walks into his room, prepared to throw himself onto his bed and bury himself in blankets, but he lets his eyes wander.

His eyes catch on a picture frame on Bill’s desk. He has seen the picture thousands of times. Him, Bill, and Richie in the Denbrough’s basement, taken by Bill’s mom as they screamed at each other over Monopoly. It seems to hit him harder than usual.

It’s then when Eddie knows what he wants to do for spring break.

His hands shake as he types out a text to Bill.

Hey, have you, by chance, kept in contact with Richie?

***

Whoever told Eddie that California was hot year-round needed to die.

He exits Oakland airport in his stupid shorts and paper-thin windbreaker, chastising himself for not thinking to pack warmer clothes, just in case.

It was such a spur of the moment decision. And he wasn’t planning to be in California for long anyways, bringing only a backpack. A well packed backpack. At least he thought so.

He calls an Uber. Unit One, Bill had said. Putnam Halls.

Eddie’s phone burns in his pocket, knowing that there’s a number hiding. A number he had finally garnered the courage to put into his contacts. The number of a person he hasn’t talked to in almost two years. A person he hasn’t stopped thinking about in two years.

He reaches the collection of buildings, and Eddie doesn’t really know what his plan is. That’s new for him. Eddie always has a plan.

As he stands in the quad, staring at Putnam Hall, he has absolutely no idea what he wants to do, or what he should do. It's three in the afternoon on a Friday. Richie probably isn’t in his dorm. Maybe he’s still in class. He’ll have to come back eventually.

So Eddie sits himself on a bench and waits.

***

Richie drags himself out of class, hot on Stan’s heels. “What kind of asshole puts a midterm the day before spring break?” he complains.

Stan snorts. “Would you have rather studied throughout spring break?”

Richie pouts. He doesn’t want to give Stan the satisfaction of being right.

“Come on, Trashmouth. We said we would meet Bev before we all go over to Ben’s.”

Richie quickens his steps, his long legs barely allowing him to keep pace with Stan. He’s been looking forward to this party all week. And, of course, what comes after all parties, but he’s kept that part to himself, at Stan’s request.

As they round the corner of Unit One, a familiar face bounds toward them. Richie smiles.

“Hey babe,” he says.

“Don’t ‘hey babe’ me,” Richie laughs. “I just took the worst exam of my life, I need kisses.”

Stan rolls his eyes, “Shut up, Richie. It wasn’t that bad.”

Jason slides his hands through Richie’s arms, wrapping himself around his waist, tucking his head under Richie’s chin. He tilts his head up, giggling as he presses a kiss to Richie’s jaw. “Don’t listen to Stan, Rich, not everyone can be a genius like him.”

“Hey!” Richie exclaims, the same time Stan deadpans, “We both know Richie has a higher GPA.”

They laugh as they walk, all knowing that Bev is going to kill them. They were only… ten minutes late… ish.

Bev is sitting outside Cheney when they finally enter the confines of Unit One.

“Took you guys long enough!” she shouts as they approach.

“We just had an exam,” Richie cries. “Have mercy!”

“I will do nothing of the sort! We told Ben we would help him set up the apartment.”

Stan waves her off, “Yeah, yeah. We can all yell at Richie later, let’s go.”

“Hey!”

 

They’re finally walking toward Ben’s when Richie hears a soft, “Rich,” from behind him. The voice doesn’t sound familiar, really, so he ignores it in favor of listening to Bev ramble about the art project she was assigned over the break.

The voice comes again, louder this time. “Richie.” He sighs and whips around. His heart stops at the sight.

Eddie.

***

Eddie waits for two hours.

He hears Richie before he sees him. The laughter penetrating through the air is so fucking familiar, it makes Eddie’s chest ache.

He looks toward the sound to see that Richie isn’t alone. More specifically, he sees a guy with an arm looped around Richie’s waist, Richie’s arm slung over his shoulder. Eddie clenches his fists inadvertently, nails carving half-moons into his palms. He’s not sure what he was expecting. It never hit him that Richie might’ve moved on.

Richie looks good. Eddie feels his heart rate quicken; he feels himself reaching for an inhaler that he knows isn’t it there because Richie takes his breath away, he always has. He looks happy, throwing his head back in laughter, his friends laughing along with him. Eddie can’t tear his eyes away. He stares without blinking, capturing every aspect of Richie that he can. He’s still long and lanky, ripped black jeans hugging his legs. He’s wearing some black t-shirt with faded lettering, and Eddie is pleasantly surprised that Richie is still donning silly button ups, this one bright yellow with pineapples with sunglasses.

Eddie stares, hoping that this image of Richie will burn itself into his mind, hoping that it will replace the memories that haunt him. Memories of Richie’s broken face, doing his best to hide his broken heart. Memories of the sorrow pouring from Richie’s eyes. Memories of Richie driving away. And if this is the last time he ever sees Richie, he wants to appreciate every second of it. He wants to remember Richie filled to the brim with happiness. Something I could never give him.

He sees the group heading towards the street and does the only logical thing. Eddie jogs after them, mustering the courage to call out to Richie. “Rich.”

He doesn’t respond, so he tries again. “Richie.”

Richie begins to turn his body, and Eddie isn’t prepared. He has no fucking clue what he’s doing. But Richie is here. In front of him. Looking at him.

Richie’s eyes grow wide, stumbling back, like he needs to put as much distance between the two of them as possible. “Eddie…”

“Hi, Richie.”

Richie tilts his head towards the ground, squinting his eyes shut and shaking his head lightly. When he looks up, he locks eyes with Eddie, and they are stone cold. The oceans of Richie’s eyes have frozen into terrifying icebergs, armed to destroy any ships that dare traverse its waters.

“Eddie… wh-what the fuck are you doing here?” he demands.

“Wait,” the girl by Richie interjects. Her hair is a striking red, but the real fire lies in her eyes as she glares at Eddie. “This is Eddie?”

Oh. So Richie’s talked about him. That’s probably not a good thing.

“Uh, yeah…” Richie whispers hesitantly, not breaking eye contact. “Look, we have somewhere to be, and I don’t know why you’re here, but you should go.”

Eddie chews on the inside of his cheek. He expected this, but he wasn’t going to give up so easily.

“Can we talk? Please?”

The shorter of the two guys, the one who still has his arm around Richie, turns to him. “He asked you to leave, dude.”

“Stay out of this, dude,” Eddie snaps.

“No. You don’t get to show up and demand things from Richie.” It’s the taller one who speaks this time. His eyes are firm, burning holes in Eddie’s head.

“Stan, it’s fine.”

“No, Rich, it is not fine. You asked him to leave, so he needs to leave.”

Eddie reaches an arm out, fingers grazing Richie’s hand, but he jerks back, as if he’s been burned by Eddie’s touch.

Please, Richie. It’ll be quick, I promise.”

Richie’s face contorts, some mix between confusion and hurt.

“Come on, just let it go.” It’s the shorter guy again.

Richie sighs, leaning into the guy’s hold. “It’s fine, Jase. I’ll meet up with you guys at Ben’s, yeah?”

Stan and the girl nod hesitantly, but they don’t argue.

Jase sends another glare Eddie’s way before looking back at Richie with a soft smile. “We still on for tonight?”

Richie’s eyes soften, warmth creeping in, thawing the ice. “Yeah, of course. This… this is nothing.”

Eddie’s eyes narrow, feeling like Jase knew the answer to his question. He just felt the need to make sure Eddie knew as well.

Jase perches onto his toes, placing a quick peck on Richie’s cheek, before heading off with the rest of Richie’s friends.

And now they’re alone. They stand in silence for a moment, until Richie offers, “Let’s go to my dorm.”

Eddies nods silently, following Richie’s lead.

***

“So are you ever going to tell me what the fuck you’re doing here?”

Richie’s dorm room is as small as any dorm. It’s neater than Eddie expected.

Eddie hovers by the door, leaning against a desk and looking at Richie, who has plopped himself onto his bed, from across the room.

“I missed you,” Eddie admits.

Richie gives Eddie an incredulous look. “Is that all?” he asks, emotionless.

“And…,” Eddie starts, feeling at a loss for words. He honestly didn’t think he would get this far. “And I wanted to say I’m sorry for… for everything I said that summer.”

Richie’s lips press into a hard line. For the first time, it feels like Eddie can’t see the emotions in Richie’s eyes. He doesn’t feel that overwhelming sensation he always got from the pools of unspoken words. 

“Don’t worry about it. Water under the bridge.”

An awkward silence settles over the two of them. Eddie fiddles with the bottom of his shirt, wearing down the soft fabric. He never takes his eyes of Richie.

“You look good,” Eddie tries, not sure what compels him to keep speaking.

“Did you really fly across the fucking country just to say that?”

Eddie’s at a loss.

“Where are you even staying?”

“I… I didn’t think about that.”

Richie exhales loudly, running his long fingers through messy curls. “Jesus, Eddie, you really didn’t think any of this shit though, did you? You can stay here until I get back, but then you have to leave. I really have somewhere to be.” He gets up from the bed and gestures to it. “You can just, I don’t fucking know, chill I guess. Just leave everything on Stan’s side of the room alone.”

Eddie nods as Richie makes for the door.

It opens and slams shut as Richie leaves. “Bye Rich,” Eddie whispers to himself, softly.

God, what the fuck was he doing. Richie has clearly moved on and is happy, and who is Eddie to disrupt that?

He lays in Richie’s bed, on Richie’s sheets, face pressed against Richie’s pillow. Eddie can’t remember if Richie smelled this way before, but the scent was comforting, nonetheless. Knowing that Richie laid here, slept here.

Eddie holds on to whatever scraps of hope he can. Maybe he’ll be able to talk to Richie once he gets back. Maybe he’ll get Richie to listen, to forgive him. To take him back.

He turns to lie on his back and stares at the ceiling, trying to think of what he should say to Richie. Eddie wants to tell him just how much he missed him. That he doesn’t feel complete without him. That he wants him, needs him. That he loves him.

Eddie usually tries to avoid the L word, but when thinks about Richie, he knows it’s true. He loves Richie. He loved him the day he drove off, and he loves him now. All he’s ever truly known is that he loves Richie.

And Eddie has been given this chance to make things right. He loves Richie, and he just wants him to be happy. Eddie will take whatever he can get. Friends. Acquaintances. Anything, as long as he gets to have Richie in his life.

So he thinks, and he waits.

And waits.

And waits.

***

Eddie wakes with a jolt at the sound of a door closing.

Eddie squints his eyes, trying to adjust to the light streaming in through the window. God, he must have been exhausted yesterday. The plane ride, the confronting of his ex-something that he hasn’t seen in years.

When he’s able to fully open his eyes without the ache, he sees Richie sitting on his desk, feet swinging. He’s wearing the same clothes from yesterday, and Eddie can’t help but frown. There are wrinkles in his button up. His curls look messy, more than usual. Like someone had run their fingers through them. There are faded bruises, sloppily hidden behind his shirt collar and along his neck.

We still on for tonight.

Ah. Eddie knows what that means.

“You’re wearing the same clothes as yesterday,” he says without thinking, voice crackling.

Richie snorts. “Good morning to you too.”

Eddie feels his face flush. “Sorry… Morning.”

Richie looks at him, somberly. “Did you sleep?” he asks. There are dark circles under his eyes, prominent against his porcelain skin. He looks like he barely slept.

“Did you?” The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them.

Richie frowns, a look of annoyance flashes in his eyes, briefly. “What?”

Eddie feels some bubbling deep inside him. Anger, maybe. Jealousy. “Did you sleep with him?”

“You don’t get to ask me that,” Richie retorts, coldly.

“Did you?” Eddie asks again, the intensity of his voice rising.

“This was your plan? Show up after two years, tell me you miss me, yell at me about my choices? I don’t owe you anything.”

Eddie stands up from the bed and walks over to Richie, setting himself at eye level with the other man. If he took another step, his legs would be pressed against Richie’s knees, hanging over the desk.

“You don’t think I know that!” Eddie huffs. “Why won’t you just fucking answer the question?”

“Yes!” Richie blurts. “I slept with him. He’s my fucking boyfriend, we’re sleeping together. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Eddie’s not so sure. He can’t help but wonder to himself. Does he hold you like I did? Does he make you feel as good as I did? Does he love you like I do?

“I don’t know what you want from me, Eddie. I finally got my shit together. You know I barely left my dorm freshman year? I could barely make it to class or eat. I would just sit at my desk or lay in bed and think about how much I wished you were with me. How much I wished you would… I don’t know, call? Text? Email?”

Eddie winces. The reminder of exactly how much he hurt Richie burns him from the inside out.

“But one day, I told myself, fuck it. I dragged myself to some GSA event, and I met Stan and Bev, and for the first time, fuck… for the first time, I felt… whole. It took over a year to put myself back together, and now you just show up out of the blue, what kinda bullshit is that?”

“Richie…” Eddie starts, all of his plans and thoughts escaping him. “I’m so fucking sorry. I can’t even begin to describe how sorry I am. I’ve… I’ve changed, really. I told my mom to fuck off, and I… I came out.”

Richie raises his eyebrows, eyes wide. “Wow,” he says sincerely. “How… how did it go?”

Eddie purses his lips. “You know my mother. She cut me off, but I have some scholarships. It should be fine.”

“God, well that’s… that’s great, really.”

“I did it for you,” Eddie says quietly.  

Richie sucks in a breath and is silent, contemplating. “I know how hard that must have been,” he states, calmly. “I’m… I’m proud of you, Eds.”

“Don’t call me that.” It slips out before Eddie can even comprehend.

Richie is silent. And then he’s not. He starts to chuckle softly, his laughter growing into a raucous roar. So distinguishably… Richie.

Eddie has to admit that he’s a bit confused, but he can’t help but smile. He tries to suppress a giggle, but Richie’s laughter was always contagious.

They laugh together, for the first time in almost two years. Eddie can’t remember the last time he laughed like this.

Their laughter fades into a dull buzz. And then there’s silence.

Richie is looking at Eddie, and Eddie is looking back. He’s really looking at Richie; his pale skin, freckles smattered over the slope of his nose, contrasting the dark ringlets that frame his face, piercing blue eyes, slightly cracked slips, as pink as the blush dusting his high cheekbones.

Eddie is moving before he realizes it, surging forward to cup Richie’s jaw and crushing their lips together.

It’s not a good a kiss. His teeth crash into Richie’s right away, and Richie remains still, lips unmoving. As Eddie chastises himself, pulling away, he feels Richie’s hand land on the small of his back, pulling him deeper into the kiss. Richie pushes himself off the desk and shoves Eddie against the door. Eddie doesn’t dare break the kiss.

It’s not a good kiss, but it’s hot and desperate, smacking lips and roaming hands. Eddie traces his tongue over Richie’s bottom lip, asking for entrance.

Richie is kissing him. Eddie couldn’t have dreamed about kissing Richie like this again, drenched in passion and want.

But as soon as it starts, Richie jerks himself back, gasping for air. “Fuck… Fuck! No… I can’t–”

“But you can! We were just…Richie… I love–”

“No, Eddie, I can’t,” Richie says firmly. “I’m… I’m with Jason now, and he’s so good. I can’t do this to him.”

Eddie fights the tears that begin to form, nodding silently. He understands. Richie has new friends. A boyfriend. People who won’t hurt him.

Richie backs further away. “I… I think you should go,” he says, eyes pleading.

Eddie continues to nod. “Yeah, of course… I just… Bye, Rich. I’m… I’m sorry.”

Without another word, Eddie is storming out of the building, moving so quickly, he’s practically running. He doesn’t pay attention to the street signs or turns, he just needs to keep moving.

He’s heaving when he finally stops. His phone feels heavy in his pocket. Against his better judgement, he unlocks it and presses on a familiar contact.

It rings once, twice, a third time, and then–

“Hello? Wh-Who is this?” the voice says wetly, shakily, almost as if he’s been crying.

Eddie inhales deeply, mustering every ounce of courage he can. “It’s Eddie, and before you cut me off, I left… I’m leaving, I just need you to listen, okay? You don’t even have to say anything.”

Richie is silent on the other end of the line, and Eddie takes that as permission to continue.

“Okay… I… I fucking messed up, Rich. I never should have let you go because… because you were the best fucking thing to ever happen to me. I was just so scared, and I know, I know that’s not an excuse, but I was so fucking scared. I… I loved you so much, and… it was terrifying, to love someone that much. And I’m so so sorry for all the shit you went through because of me. I’ve never wanted you to hurt. And I’m sorry for showing up out of nowhere, I just… I had to see you. I’m happy that you have good friends, and that you have Jason, and God, I really hope you’re happy. That’s all I want, for you to be happy. And I want you… I need you to know that I love you. I think I always will.”

Tears are pouring down Eddie’s face as he finishes. He can hear slow breathing from the phone, but other than that, it’s silent. Five seconds pass, ten, thirty.

And then Eddie can’t hear the breathing anymore. The other line clicks. The dial tone is deafening.

***

Eddie’s proud of himself. Really, he is. Which is a first.

He got back from California, and he didn’t want to wallow anymore. It was enough, knowing that Richie was happy. He tells himself that it’s enough.

As heartbroken as he was, Eddie took his pain and poured it into school and work. He began working part time as a mechanic. He found solace in putting his hands to good work, fixing things. And he was confident that he was going to finish the semester with a 4.0 GPA.

He still misses Richie, but it hurts just a little less.

Eddie walks out of the last final of his sophomore year starving. He thinks the library café is still open. He hopes.

His feet carry him toward the library, and as he reaches for the handle on the heavy glass doors, his phone rings.

Eddie looks down. The sight knocks the breath out of him.

He stares for a couple seconds, hands fumbling as he answers the call in a panic. “Rich?”

“Hey, Eds.”

Eddie’s mind is spinning. After Richie had hung up, he thought that was it. He was never going to hear from Richie again. He was making peace with that. But here he was.

“Why… uh… what’s up?” he finally replies, struggling to keep his voice steady.

“Can you help me with something?”

Eddie is beyond confused. Though part of that is because his brain isn’t fully functioning, still trying to comprehend that Richie called him.

“Yeah… sure. What… what do you need?”

“I’m a little lost.”

“How am I supposed to help with you that?” Eddie asks. “I doubt I know Berkeley as well as you do.”

“Ah… about that Eds. I’m actually not at Berkeley right now. Or in California. But I gotta say, NYU’s campus is an actual maze.”

Oh.

Oh.

Richie. Is here.

Eddie is appalled. He isn’t sure what to say or do, he just, stands there.

“Eddie?”

“Yeah, Rich?”

Eddie scrubs the heel of his palm over his eye. His cheeks are wet. He doesn’t know when he started crying. But he does know that Richie is here. Richie is here.

“So do you think you can help me out?”

“Wh-where… where are you right now?”

“Uhhh… I think, the Student Center?”

“Stay!” he shouts abruptly. Richie laughs on the other end of the line. “Just… stay.”

And then Eddie is running. Faster than he’s ever ran before. The pounding of his heart echoes the pounding of his feet against the pavement.

Richie is here.

His eyes catch on a tall figure, topped with a messy head of curls. Richie turns towards the sound of Eddie’s footsteps, smiling sheepishly, hands shoved into pockets.

Richie is here.

Eddie runs and launches himself at Richie. He hears the taller man laugh as he wraps his arms around Richie’s waist, pressing his face into his chest.

“You’re here,” Eddie sobs, barely able to form words. “I can’t believe you’re here.”

Richie cradles Eddie’s head with one hand, soothingly stroking his back with the other. “Yeah… I am,” he croaks.

Eddie’s grip tightens, grasping at Richie’s shirt and gasping for air. “I thought… I thought you’d never want to see me again.”

Richie glides his hand so that it’s pressing lightly against Eddie’s cheek, tilting his face up.

“Eddie… when you left… I tried to forget. I tried to go back to normal. I really fucking tried. But I couldn’t stop thinking about you, and that kiss, and what you said… Fuck, Eddie, I never stopped loving with you,” Richie says earnestly.

Eddie looks into Richie’s eyes. He sees longing and hope and love swirling in the beautiful blues. He pushes up on his toes and presses their lips together.

It’s nothing like their last kiss. It’s slow and languid. Eddie savors every slide of Richie’s lips, every twirl of Richie’s tongue. This is something he never, ever, wants to forget.

Standing there, kissing Richie, Eddie doesn’t feel so scared. For the first time, he feels braver beyond belief, like he can do anything.

Maybe drowning in Richie isn’t such a bad thing.