Richie woke to sunlight streaming in through flimsy curtains. Those idle beams of light caught the tiny dust particles that hung floating in the air above the bed and reflected off of them like little, flickering stars.
He was half-flung over Eddie, limbs so entwined that he had to unwrap Eddie’s ankle from around his knee in order to roll across the bed and reach his glasses strewn on the unused, crisp second pillow. Hooking the glasses over his ears, the world came into focus again, and he watched as Eddie shifted in his sleep, his nose scrunching up for just a passing moment before relaxing again, face pressed into Richie’s back.
Whatever happens, we’ll still be together. That’s what Eddie had said. Richie repeated it to himself as he turned to the nightstand.
Eddie’s watch read 3:47.
He pawed around for his half-dead phone abandoned on the floor. It also said 3:47.
If he hadn’t been so bone-tired, he would have cried - just like that morning in the shower, with overwhelming exhaustion and relief and disbelief and trepidation - and everything hit him at once as he gasped, lurching forward to grab the watch and see as 3:47 ticked over to 3:48. He couldn’t do much of anything except cling to the watch and shakily curl back into Eddie, face buried in the hollow between his shoulder and jaw, away from the aggressive afternoon sunlight, and whisper, “Eds, Eds.”
Eddie stirred around him, hand coming up to shield his eyes. “Rich?”
“It’s 3:48. No, now it’s 3:49.”
And Eddie kissed him, barely awake and lazy and open-mouthed, like they had the time now to relish it, and they did, Richie realized as the watch ticked to 3:50 then 3:51. There was time enough to take it slow, and so Richie kissed back, matching Eddie’s leisurely pace that seemed so counter to the rushed, frantic kisses of before, and they weren’t outrunning anything, weren’t on a fucking deadline with an end date looming overhead anymore. He dropped the watch on the far side of the bed.
Richie wasn’t completely awake - was this a dream? Fuck don’t let it be a dream, or if it is, don’t let me wake up - and he rolled them so that Eddie was on top of him, and fuck, that felt good. Eddie’s comforting weight settled over him, grounding him to the here and now - 3:58. The press of a knee, the jut of Eddie’s hip bone, the easy crest of relaxed, just-woken breathing echoing through Eddie’s chest against Richie’s, and it was right in a way he’d never felt before. Like everything had fallen into place, the stylus of an old record player finding a familiar groove in the vinyl.
Words dissolved into his tongue; Eddie kissed them from his mouth, and Richie was speechless, peaceful in a sort of surrender to Eddie’s pulse.
Richie’s hands slipped over Eddie’s ass. They’d never bothered to dress after the shower in the early hours of that morning, Richie too tired to navigate back to his room and sort through his duffle bag. The intimacy of just sleeping next to each other unclothed and unguarded struck Richie only now, as he splayed his fingers across the underside of Eddie’s perfect fucking ass that no forty-year-old had any right to possess, cupping him so that their bodies rocked together as Eddie shifted up to straddle him, still leaning over Richie on his palms so not to break the kiss.
“It’s tomorrow,” Richie said breathlessly. Eddie laughed against Richie’s lips.
It was messy, graceless in a way that could only be good with Eddie. Richie wouldn’t disentangle their limbs out of some vague fear that parting, even momentarily, might just give the universe another opportunity to separate them again, so they moved together, Eddie’s hand slipping between their locked bodies, as Richie sighed, “Need you, please.”
Remind me you’re here. Remind me where and when here even is. I’m so fucking scared to close my eyes. I’m scared to blink and lose you in that quick moment my eyes aren’t on you.
Later, Eddie fell back asleep curved around him, and Richie listened to his deep, nasal breathing while trying not to sleep, even though his eyes craved rest.
Don’t close your eyes, he thought.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he snored a bit, especially when he was really tired, but Richie wouldn’t piece together that it was exhaustion related until after a few more months of bedsharing.)
4:28. 4:29. 4:30. 4:31.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he was always the big spoon.)
5:13. 5:14. 5:15. 5:16.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he claimed he hardly dreamed, but sometime after they bought the house and Richie started pulling late nights in the crunch before the HBO premiere, he’d come home to Eddie already asleep, stretched out over Richie’s side of the bed like an oversized starfish, and Richie would just watch him for a moment before climbing into bed next to him. Eddie’s eyes moved back and forth under his eyelids, and a small smile played on his lips that could only mean whatever it was he was seeing, it was good.)
Hours of waiting for the watch to stutter or stop or backtrack somehow - and it never did, only ticking steadily forward - and suddenly there was a knock at the door. Eddie‘s grip tightened around his waist, and he muttered, half asleep, “Not it.”
Another knock. “Hey, Eds?” Ben called.
Richie stumbled out of bed, tripping on the fucking tasselled carpet like a jackass, and he blearily grabbed a pair of Eddie’s briefs and a neatly folded polo that was at least two sizes too small for him from off of the sofa near the door.
“You know where Richie is? He’s not in his room,” Ben said through the door.
Richie pulled the door open. “Found him.”
Quiet, an awkward glance at what was definitely Eddie’s too-short shirt showing Richie’s belly hair, then, “Oh, hey man,” Ben said dumbly. “We thought we might get some food soon.” He not-so-discretely looked past Richie to see Eddie still sprawled across the bed behind him.
“You want dinner?” Richie called over his shoulder.
A muffled, “Okay” into a pillow.
“We’ll be out in a few,” Richie said as he started to close the door, smiling as Ben grinned openly.
Ben gave him a thumbs-up; Richie gave him the finger.
They ate at a subpar Mexican joint where the pico de gallo resembled canned tomatoes, but it was fucking fantastic seeing as Richie had barely eaten anything in five months.
The others split a few pitchers of margaritas while Richie passed on the drinks entirely - he could almost taste the burn of the bourbon in the back of his mouth even now - and Eddie nursed a glass of white wine.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: given the opportunity, Eddie always ordered white. When called on this by Rich some months later and asked “Isn’t red supposed to be good for your heart or something?’ Eddie shrugged and said, surprisingly, “Yeah, but white tastes better.”)
Richie tried not to focus on the racing thoughts frying his fucking brain.
Don’t close your eyes.
Nothing was explicitly said about how Richie pushed his chair closer to Eddie’s or how Eddie’s left hand stayed on Richie’s knee during the entire meal, but Bev was all smiles as she flicked a lime at Richie, laughing as Eddie caught it midair, and the way she glanced at Ben after with a knowing look told Richie that Ben had at least mentioned to her where he’d found Richie earlier. Loose plans to visit Bill’s upstate cottage sometime over the winter were made, and Richie leaned back in his chair and wondered fondly how much of a fuss Eddie would make over the dangers of ice skating.
“We can check flight times back at the inn?” Eddie asked as a plate of soggy churros was handed around the table.
Richie nodded. “Pit stop first.”
The house on Neibolt wasn’t anything more than a hole in the ground.
The debris that had been scattered throughout the yard - bricks and broken glass, the disparate pieces of the collapsed roof, planks of wood, the entirety of the grey water-sodden, ruined interior that they’d ran through earlier that morning - it was like it had been consumed, Richie thought, sucked down into the lair below and destroyed by the same imploding force that wrecked the cavern, leaving little more than concrete chunks of the foundation wedged precariously into the ground along the perimeter of a sunken crater.
Standing on the street next to Eddie, behind the police tape that had been erected around the boundaries of the property, Richie counted in his head:
Come on, asshole.
He squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again, and the house remained gone.
“It’s over, Richie,” Eddie whispered. “It’s done.”
The house on Neibolt was still gone.
“How can you be so sure?”
Eddie was so calm, so even, and that alone made Richie nervous because he knew it was put on for his benefit. There was no way he should be as restrained as he was after all that had happened to him, but still he sounded so sincere when he said, “We saw it.” The bedroom. Their bedroom. Their future.
“I can’t shake the idea that it’s not over,” Richie said, quieter than a whisper, as they walked back to his car parked further up the street.
“What can I do?”
Richie didn’t need Eddie to do anything; he just needed him here. “Just stay.”
“Deal.” And Eddie took off his wedding ring.
The next tomorrow
Eddie texted Myra during their layover in Philadelphia.
“It’s going to be bad,” Eddie said, sipping his coffee from the airport Starbucks as Richie watched the increasingly rapid tap tap tap of his fingers on the surface of the bistro table.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: the man took his coffee black. Always. No cream or milk - not even the shitty oat milk that seemed right up his alley - and no sugar either, and Richie found himself ordering increasingly cloying Frappuccinos to piss him off.)
Richie wanted to take Eddie’s hand. Like he’d wanted to for the entirety of his adolescence every time Eddie panicked - which, let’s be real here, was often - but now, like back then, Richie bit back the impulse because of the consequences.
Then: Bowers and his gang, his survival at school already hanging on by a fucking thread, his certainty that he’d be kicked out of the only group of friends he’d ever had once they knew he was queer, and worse than all that, the absolute worst thing his twelve-year-old self could imagine before Pennywise - Eddie rejecting him, and then he wouldn’t even have him as a friend anymore.
Now: his career built on a certain reputation that gay just didn’t fit, his shot at another Netflix special with the same sort of material that the execs expected, the trolls on his Twitter and the hate he’d receive, what the late night guys would definitely say if he came out, and Christ, what his buddies would say, and -
Eddie was chewing his lip as he stared at the three, small dots blinking at the bottom of his text.
He took Eddie’s hand.
“I’m shocked this place isn’t a biohazard,” Eddie said, looking around his condo as twilight settled over L.A.
Open concept. Modern, minimalist finishes. Sparse furniture. Walls the same shade of generic off-white they’d been when he bought the place. A television that took up most of the living room wall, surrounded by two decades worth of movie hoarding mounted around it. Too many video games. A stove in the kitchen that Richie was fairly confident had never been used for anything other than keeping delivered pizza warm.
“My maid does excellent work.”
“It’s what every college dorm wants to be when it grows up.”
Richie grinned. “Well we don’t all have a wife to decorate - ”
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he actually had pretty good taste when it came to, well, most things. He’d been responsible for most of the decorating in his old apartment - Richie only saw it the one time, almost a year later when their lawyer finally talked Myra’s into something resembling a fair deal, and they’d trekked across the country to sign the final papers and grab the last of Eddie’s stuff on a late spring day - and the place was nice, like somewhere an actual grown up would live, with geometric backsplashes and copper accents and furniture made from actual wood and not the cheap fiberboard that was slowly being phased out of their condo the longer Eddie lived there. The condo had stopped being Richie’s and started being theirs an indeterminate time ago, possibly the first night he’d stayed.)
As if on cue, Eddie’s phone buzzed in his hand. Another call from Myra, or Myra’s sister, or Myra’s mother, and Richie took the phone from Eddie and shut it off, flinging it across the room and onto the far couch. “No more of this shit tonight.”
“You look so tired,” Eddie said, removing Richie’s glasses. “You should sleep.”
“You going to put me to bed? Tuck me in?” The words came out huskier than he intended.
Something about Eddie being here made it real in a way that it had never been in Derry. The idea that he was still being mindfucked, tricked, trapped in some warped vision from the Deadlights pervaded the whole, sick town of Derry, and that fear made Eddie seem surreal, like something he’d conjured up to keep himself sane in the loop. But here they were in the real world, tangible and reliable. The evening lights of West Hollywood shone outside, even on his relatively quiet residential street, and further past them the glow of downtown created an indistinct haze of light pollution that kept the skyscrapers just out of focus, and the white noise of the city was ever-present too - traffic and clubbers and chatter - and it was so actual, so definitively absolute that Eddie was in his condo without a wedding ring, having just texted his soon-to-be ex-wife that the divorce wasn’t up for discussion, and more than all of that, Eds was looking at Richie like it had just hit him too.
And if Richie couldn’t close his eyes out of fear that this would all be taken from him at any moment, well, he was going to fucking enjoy it now.
The lights in the bedroom were never turned on - Eddie would first see the dingy IKEA bed and the The Thing poster hanging over it the following morning, the room now highlighted only by the dim shades of the ambient glow from further down the hall - and Richie was knocked hard into the door frame as Eddie pinned him there, mouth to his neck. He threw Eddie down on the dark bed, climbing over to cover him with his body while kicking off his own jeans. Eddie was faster, already down to just his briefs, and Richie slid them off without fanfare, because he was sure he’d die if he didn’t get his hands on Eddie again.
Eddie’s mouth was everywhere: claiming Richie’s mouth, sucking on his earlobe, bruising his jaw and neck, grazing lower across his chest, and he paused for just a moment, Richie feeling a brief surge of hesitancy as Eddie glanced up, uncertain, before lowering his head back down and swiping his tongue clumsily across one of Richie’s nipples. Richie threaded his fingers through Eddie’s hair - soft and still tousled from travel, the perfect length for holding like this - and Richie stifled a groan as Eddie’s teeth chafed him; it was inelegant and sloppy, but Eddie’s mouth was hot and wet, and every inch of his 5’9” frame vibrated in want, and that alone made Richie arch into him.
It was like he couldn’t pick a place to settle, couldn’t choose one part of Richie to focus on; he flitted back and forth, across Richie’s neck and chest and shoulders, distracted and desperate, and fuck, the idea that Eddie was overwhelmed by him was simultaneously so seemingly impossible and so hot that Richie could only stroke Eddie’s hair and let the sensation of Eddie’s lips kissing down his body wash over him as he lay inert by the need of it all, cock straining against his briefs.
“Richie?” Eddie said, voice low. “Can I?” He was kissing lower, down his torso, over his belly button and into the dark hair that trailed into Richie’s underwear.
“You remember me telling you that you don’t have to ask, right?”
There was no pretence, no teasing, no build up; they’d both waited long enough. Eddie had Richie’s briefs off and his lips on him immediately, sucking the flare of his cock into his mouth, tongue running along the frenulum with more technique than Eddie had any business knowing, and Richie moaned and fought to keep his hips from bucking up into that silken, unrestrained heat.
Eddie hummed something that sounded like gloating, and edged forward to take Richie deeper and -
Just as quickly as Eddie had taken him in, he pulled off.
“Shit,” Eddie breathed.
“Oh fuck, your cheek?”
“Yeah. I forgot.” And Eddie laughed sheepishly, and that sound was enough to make up for the fact that Richie’s cock was pulsing against his stomach, wet with saliva and almost painful in how fucking hard he was for Eddie.
Richie tugged Eddie back up to him. “Dumbass. We’ll call someone about it tomorrow, get it looked at.”
Eddie was already kissing him, medical necessities forgotten in so uncharacteristic a way that Richie could only understand it by how blown Eddie’s pupils already were. “Fuck me?” He asked, catching Richie’s bottom lip between his teeth.
“You’re going to kill me talking like that.”
“Fuck me into the mattress?” Eddie smirked, an eyebrow raised.
Richie flipped them so he was on top again, fingers slipping between Eddie’s thighs, kneading the curve of his ass.
“Fuck me so hard that I feel it in my throat?”
Richie moaned, “Christ, Eds. Good thing you’re in L.A. and can get that porn career started.”
“Just fuck me already.”
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and...
Waking up to Eddie, morning after morning, was borderline revelatory.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he was a morning person, which was honestly a pain in the ass since Richie was hard-pressed to get out out of bed before ten unless he had a meeting or press, but Eddie made up for the shrill ring of his phone’s alarm at seven every morning by kissing him awake, his brown eyes so reverential that Richie almost had to look away to keep himself steady, and then Eddie would make Richie coffee, delivered to bed while Richie idly scrolled through Twitter as Eddie showered and got dressed.)
They settled into something akin to a vacation. Fuck the world and responsibilities and jobs, and hell, even fuck anywhere just outside of their bed.
There was no adjustment, no awkward shuffle of figuring out how they worked as a unit. It was as if they’d always been together, as if Eddie had always been here, as if the intervening twenty-seven years had just been a short break in an otherwise long-lasting relationship.
And if Richie woke up in a cold sweat in the hours too early even for Eddie, visions of the cavern behind his eyelids, the metallic smell of Eddie’s blood clinging to his olfactory nerves, Eddie would shift in his sleep as if he knew Richie was spiraling, even when unconscious, and he’d pull Richie back down against his chest so that Richie could count his breaths and listen to his heartbeat.
His manager was pissed that he rescheduled the three upcoming Reno dates, but whatever.
He couldn’t have performed even if he wanted to - and he didn’t want to; he didn’t want to do much of anything except memorize Eddie’s body and make up for the decades they hadn’t been fucking - and his material was crap in a way it hadn’t seemed before anyway. It rang false, wrong, and he wanted nothing to do with it.
If he felt a little sick staring at a blank Google Doc that judged him with its wordless pages that seemed to shout fraud and imposter and what’s the point when you’re not sure any of this is even real?, disappearing between Eddie’s thighs was always easy solace.
“You here with me?” Eddie asked, cupping Richie’s face one night on the couch. “You’re a hundred miles away, man.”
Richie hid his face against Eddie’s neck. “I’m so fucking scared it’s not over, Eds.” Eddie slipped his hands over Richie’s shoulder blades and rubbed reassuring circles into his tense muscles.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he really liked Richie’s shoulders. Richie had never been particularly self-conscious about his body, even next to the gym-rat that was Eddie Kaspbrak, but it did catch him a little off guard when Eddie - stretched out on the edge of Richie’s recently upgraded bed, with Richie kneeling on the floor between his spread thighs - when Eddie dug his fingers into Richie’s deltoids and groaned, “You’re broad as fuck, Rich. You look so fucking good like this.” And later, long, exploratory kisses over the slope of Richie’s shoulder, along taut deltoids and down his trapezius, lips bruising already sensitive, barely healed skin from a previous evening’s busywork; and the next morning a yell of, “Christ, Eddie,” from in front of the bathroom mirror. “I look like I’ve been mauled, dude.”)
Eddie was a jogger.
Because of course he was.
Because the universe had fucked Richie over enough in his life, and now he was owed a jogger with a perky ass and toned thighs, who walked around the condo in indecently short hotpants, stretching obscenely over the kitchen island with one leg bent up, leaving absolutely nothing to Richie’s imagination.
Richie lugged a heavy-as-fuck package in from outside the front door. “What’s in this thing? It’s like five hundred pounds. Didn’t know Amazon shipped your mom through prime.”
“I haven’t seen you eat a single piece of fruit since I got here.”
“So what, you ordered all of them?”
“It’s a juicer. Now you won’t get scurvy. You’re welcome.”
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he hid kale in every smoothie he ever made, even the good strawberry and banana ones that Richie wouldn’t admit to liking.)
They Skyped when Eddie was in New York.
More divorce bullshit. More State Farm transition team bullshit, because apparently his boyfriend - boyfriend, a word Eddie casually used once and now Richie couldn’t shake it from his head - his boyfriend was really good at his job and finding a replacement had been a bitch for the company or something.
More increasingly hostile blank Google Docs that were supposed to be full of new material that he’d stayed in L.A. to work on when he should have just gone with Eddie and wrote from the hotel room or a coffee shop or somewhere closer than a country-length away from him.
More porny video calls with Eds laying against hotel-white linen, and Richie would say, “Hold your phone up. I want to see your face, too.”
“You’re a true romantic, Richie.”
“Fuck off. You love me. And I miss your stupid eyebrows.”
More nightmares when Eddie wasn’t in bed with him. Normally he could stave off the worst of it with Eddie next to him; Eddie’s legs slotted between his, his arms around a compact frame, fingers digging into Eddie’s hips, and it was easy to remember that Eddie was safe, in one piece and not slumped bleeding in that fucking cave, dying. But waking up in an empty bed, sweat-soaked and heaving as he lurched to the bathroom to vomit whatever passed for dinner without Eddie around to incentivize cooking, it was impossible to shake off the images that he’d spent five months living. His shivering hands, clinging to the side of the toilet as he retched, could still feel Eddie’s palm slick with crimson blood, and he doubled over, head against the bath mat, trying to even out his erratic breathing.
It was over.
Please, let it be over.
He felt his way back to the bedroom in the dark and turned on Eddie’s reading light, then grabbed his phone off the charger and the earbuds beside it. Four in the morning in New York. He threw his phone down before swearing and picking it back up immediately.
Eddie’s voice was sleep-slurred. “You okay?”
“Got your earbuds in?” A familiar strategy from too many previous phone calls like this one.
“Love you, too.”
And he drifted off to the sound of Eddie breathing in his ear as they both fell back asleep on opposite coasts.
As he stared at the blank Google Doc the next afternoon, he wondered if this was all pointless since he didn’t think he’d survive touring anyway. He shut his laptop and grabbed his Xbox controller, opting for Mortal Combat instead of existential dread.
The rescheduled Reno shows were cancelled entirely and his Twitter feed blew up with rumors he was in rehab.
Eddie swapped State Farm for Liberty, and got a pretty hefty signing bonus, too.
“Who’s the trophy husband now?” Eddie asked on his way out the front door on his first day, and Richie managed to restrain himself from messing his freshly styled hair or loosening his tie. Eddie looked good in a suit.
“Does this mean I have to go to the gym?”
“Nah, my trophy husband can still have a dad bod.”
On mornings when Eddie had early meetings, Rich forced himself out of bed to make scrambled eggs with the egg replacement thing Eddie still insisted on using, and it tasted less like cardboard if he added a metric-shit-ton of shredded cheese to it. He’d make Eddie his equally disgusting black coffee and then lay everything out on the table with more care than he’d ever bothered with when just feeding himself.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: before the new morning ritual - before Eddie got up to shower while Richie stumbled grousing to the kitchen, before they ate their fake eggs and Richie drowned his coffee in cream just to see Eds’ mortified look, before they talked about Eddie’s awful new intern or that thing Richie was writing but would only speak about in the vaguest of terms - Eddie would stretch awake in bed and lean over to kiss Richie, and Richie would smile as he waited for Eddie to say, like he did without fail every morning, “Your morning breath is disgusting,” and he’d respond with some variation of, “Not as bad as your mom’s,” because tradition. Eddie would roll his eyes, but would still kiss him again, morning breath and all.)
Richie posted obnoxious couple selfies of the two of them in the Losers’ group chat because, “We’re not losing to Ben and Bev.”
“It’s not a competition,” Eddie said while chopping red onions for the salad one evening.
Popping a cherry tomato in his mouth from his spot atop the counter, Richie waved his phone at Eddie. “They have a boat, Eds.”
Eddie set the knife down on the cutting board. “Wait, what? They have a boat?”
“Yeah. Didn’t you check the group chat today?”
“No, I muted it after you and Bill got into that gif-off.” Eddie grabbed his phone off the counter. “That’s a huge fucking boat.”
“I told you.”
“Get the hell over here. And bring the glazed salmon for the background, all casual. Wine glasses, too. And fix your hair, you look homeless.”
Richie grinned. “I thought it wasn’t a competition.”
“They have a boat, Rich.”
He kissed Eddie at the arrivals gate of LAX when he returned from another divorce-related overnight in New York.
They hadn’t exactly been hiding their relationship, but public makeouts were new.
He’d texted his manager with the heads up months before, and Steve had immediately responded with is this a bit? But he came around quick enough, although he wanted to talk about Richie’s career trajectory in a way that made Richie’s stomach flip flop, so he just kept bumping their scheduled meetings.
I’m writing something, he thought about texting, something I could do here. I don’t think I can tour, and even if I could, I don’t want to anymore. I don’t want lonely hotel beds and fast food and too many hours to kill at bars between gigs. I don’t want to be away from Eddie for months of the year.
And he’d introduced Eddie to a few of the other guys who came up in the circuit with him, years back, and Eddie had held his own, casually responding to, “So this is the dude who turned Tozier gay!” with, “Yeah, hey man, better not get to know me too well,” and a wink.
Eddie had dragged them to half of the more pretentious restaurants in the city, which Richie enjoyed despite himself even though molecular gastronomy was stupid and whatever new South Asian, haute French fusion thing that just won a James Beard award wasn’t as good as the Popeyes Richie had introduced Eddie to, and Richie wasn’t sure he’d ever been more smugly satisfied as when Eddie admitted that the spicy bonafide chicken was probably the best thing he’d eaten ever.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: most of his food sensitivities could be solved by an antacid, but nuts were still off the table, and Richie sadly parted with his Skippy out of an abundance of caution.)
Richie would slip his hand into Eddie’s sometimes when they were at Whole Foods or Starbucks or leaving a restaurant, and when they ate out together they sat on the same side of the booth, thighs pressed together. At the movies - a little cinema off of Santa Monica Richie had been going to for the better part of a decade - Richie inevitably ended up throwing his legs over Eddie’s lap in a way that couldn’t be construed as platonic.
But he was always aware that this could be the time that a picture hit Twitter; this could be when dirtbag comedian Richie Trashmouth Tozier was outed.
No one took a picture of Eddie and him making out at the arrivals gate though, which was equal parts a relief and a disappointment.
“You’re not as famous as you think you are,” Eddie said with a barely contained smirk as they pulled onto the freeway, baiting, begging for a response. “No one’s going to secretly snap a picture of us and post it online.” He leaned across the console and kissed Richie again for emphasis.
“All I hear is a challenge, Kaspbrak.”
He met Eddie outside the gym after his next Saturday morning workout with a pair of disgustingly green smoothies from some overpriced organic juice bar Eddie liked, and they walked Sunset several blocks hand-in-hand without so much as a second glance from the passing tourists or a mention on Richie’s Twitter.
No one took a picture of them sucking face at the trendy farmers’ market on Fairfax either, which was especially frustrating since Richie had only agreed to go to the stupid thing thinking it would be a shoe-in.
“Want to go to a Lakers game?” Richie called out one evening, hunched over his laptop on one end of the couch as Eddie came in the front door.
“Only if you actually want to see a game and not because of some desperate attempt to be outed on a kiss cam.”
Richie scowled. “I have four million followers! Some of them have to be in L.A. Why isn’t this working?”
“Just tweet something and get it over with.”
Maybe the issue was that it would be easier if he was outed. Maybe speaking the actual words himself was harder, and putting together some intentional tweet that announced it to the whole fucking world seemed impossible. Maybe. It’s not like he thought about it a lot though.
They spent New Year’s all together at Bill’s cottage. Cottage was a bit of a misnomer though; Richie learned that a mammoth Swiss-style chalet is what several books worth of film rights could buy you, if you were so inclined to outdoorsy, mountaineering bullshit.
Eddie was shockingly proficient at hockey for someone who hadn’t been allowed to skate as a kid, even if he did look like a dork in the helmet he insisted on wearing. On the frozen lake that backed the cottage, he outscored Mike and Bill - the only two who really knew what they were doing - and he only gloated a little as he helped Rich off his ass for the third time.
“You know I was an indoor kid,” Richie said, wiping snow off of his pants.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he could pick up just about any sport despite never having played any of them, and he would, the following summer, annihilate Richie at half-court basketball regardless of the height disadvantage, and Richie wouldn’t hear the end of it for months.)
When they went to bed well after midnight in the cozy, blanket-strewn guest room on the upper floor, Eddie was a little white-wine drunk and handsy, pulling Richie’s shirt off before they got under the warmth of the covers. His hands were winter-cold on Richie’s stomach. “Let me warm you up,” Richie breathed into his neck.
Hours later, Richie woke from a deep sleep, gasping.
Eddie’s body slack against his. His bandaged cheek motionless on Richie’s shoulder. Richie watched his eyes for any movement, but they stayed open and glassy. He was so cold.
But Eddie was still breathing behind him, arms curling protectively around Richie’s middle at his movement, body radiating heat from under a pile of blankets.
“Rich?” Eddie asked, hardly conscious, as Richie shifted up and out of the bed, his bare feet cool on the hardwood before he threw on a pair of socks, tucking them into his pajama pants.
“Just getting some water. Back to sleep.” Richie kissed Eddie’s temple, and he was already snoring softly.
He padded down the stairs towards the kitchen, and startled at Bill sitting at the breakfast table in dim lamp light.
“Could have at least turned on a real light, man? Fuck, you scared the shit out of me.”
“Sorry. Couldn’t sleep. Sometimes I get these d-dreams - ” Bill didn’t need to finish.
Richie slumped down across from him. “Yeah, same. Thanks for another lasting memory, Derry. Our childhood is the gift that keeps on giving.”
“Eddie get them, too?”
“Not often.” Not as often as before. They had tapered away some - the nightmares that left Eddie shaking and wheezing, clutching his chest and coughing this terrible, hacking rattle that sounded too much like his last breaths - and Richie would hold him, one hand pressed to his breastbone as the shaking slowly subsided.
“Distractions help.” Bill waved an old paperback with a spine so bent the title had abraded away. “Even if I’ve read it s-six times.”
Richie looked up at him tentatively. “Want something new?”
Richie grabbed his laptop, abandoned hours ago on the nearby coffee table. “Mr. Professional Writer can tell me if I’m wasting my time.”
“Your jokes aren’t funny, I can tell you that already,” Bill said, unable to hold a straight face.
“Ha ha.” He opened up the first of several Google Docs and pushed the laptop across the table to Bill.
“First four episodes are written, but the whole season is planned out; eight episodes in total. It’s probably crap but I literally can’t write material anymore, and this just seemed - I don’t know - easier somehow to slip into someone that was very obviously not me.” Richie swallowed. “I couldn’t write authentic material before, and it turns out I still can’t, even though I don’t have any excuses anymore.”
Bill was skimming the text, eyes darting back and forth across the screen.
“You’re the lead?”
“That’s what I’ll pitch.”
“And you think you can play a hitman?”
“That’s the joke, dude. It wouldn’t be funny if it was someone competent.” Richie leaned back, hands in his hair. “Besides, the hitman thing is just the hook. It’s really about being lonely and trying to find a community and redefining yourself. Bunch of feely bullshit.”
“Very obviously not you, huh?” But Bill was still reading, his forehead creased in concentration as he scrolled down the Doc.
“I know it’s not your genre, but I haven’t written in a decade. Just tell me if it’s shit.”
Bill straightened up. “I can’t read with you l-looming over me. Go the fuck back to bed, get some sleep.”
Hours later, after he woke to Eddie sleeping next to him - a rare occurrence, attributable only to the wine - and Richie walked back down the stairs to see Bill still stooped over the laptop, a half-empty pot of coffee next to him.
“Good, you’re up,” he said with caffeine-addled enthusiasm. “So the acting instructor needs more f-fleshing out. I’m thinking the obvious way to do that is either a love interest or maybe like a son or something - could p-present a nice parallel with his relationship with Barry. But if you went the love interest route with the detective, that really opens up possibilities for the final episode and ramifications for a potential second season.” A long gulp of coffee. “Hank’s going to steal the s-show, just so you know. Like, I get that it’s about Barry, but this guy will make or break it. Casting’s going to be tricky.”
“So it’s not crap?”
“Oh, didn’t I say?” Another sip of coffee. “I emailed some guys I know at HBO. They want to add more c-content with Thrones ending soon anyway, and this is the sort of thing they’ll be interested in. It’s really fucking good.”
Richie came home one Saturday afternoon after a working brunch with the HBO guys ran long, and Eddie had taped paint swatches to the living room wall.
“It’s too white in here. Everything is this off-white sanitarium color and it’s making me mental.” He pointed to the middle swatch. “Is the green too much?”
The green was definitely too much, Richie thought.
(Something he would learn about Eddie: he would paint their future house whatever color he damn well pleased, despite Richie telling him four times that the green sucked. And soon after the worst of the boxes had been unpacked, and Richie came home in the early hours from a night shoot, semi-asleep as he stumbled in the front door, he thought briefly, I’m in the wrong house as he surveyed his newly green living room with some confusion. It grew on him, though, eventually.)
“Fuck it, let’s just move.” Richie shrugged. “We need more space for all your Goddamn protein powders and juicers and smoothie makers anyway. They’ve taken over the kitchen, man. Might as well find somewhere with more cabinet space.”
The place we both saw didn’t need to be said.
The first house they toured in Studio City had a good pool, but Eddie took one look at the bedroom and said, “It’s not right,” - and it wasn’t; the window was on the wrong wall and the ensuite was smaller than Richie was sure he remembered, as blurry as the vision was - and so they tried another place only a few blocks over, close to a lauded ice cream shop that Richie insisted on visiting after Eddie decided the layout was off.
Eddie found a listing online for a place in Westwood that looked like it might fit the bill, but the stairs faced the wrong direction and the bedroom closets weren’t what Eddie swore he remembered.
Another place in Beverly Hills. Then two houses in North Hollywood, and then one within walking distance of their current condo.
Their realtor fucking hated them, and Richie didn’t blame her. Linda sent them perfectly nice listings every day that were exactly to Eddie’s specifications, and Eddie responded with two or three word replies from his work email, terse Not rights or Definitely nots, and poor Linda took Richie aside after a viewing in West L.A. that had lasted only a few minutes, and said, “I just don’t understand what you’re looking for.”
After Linda left - with an exaggerated, professional smile stapled across her face as she chirped, “Next one will work, I can feel it!” - Richie took Eddie by the hand as they walked to Eddie’s behemoth of an SUV parked across the street.
“We could just pick any house you like. That first one in Studio City was really nice - ”
“No,” Eddie interrupted, opening the driver’s side door with more force than was necessary. “We need to find the one.”
(Something he had learned about Eddie decades ago, but was reaffirmed on a daily basis: the dude was a stubborn jackass.)
“Any of them could be the one. Whatever we pick will be fine.”
“You’re not listening, Rich.” Eddie knocked his head back into the headrest, eyes closed, fingers strumming the wheel. “Just knowing it was all going to be okay because of that bedroom, because I felt we were happy there, it’s just...” he trailed off for a moment. “The certainty of it was nice.”
And it clicked. New, suddenly calm Eddie who was shockingly even throughout the ever-lasting divorce from hell, who adjusted to L.A., and the new job, and fuck, the bullshit that came from living with a semi-neurotic, semi-celebrity, ADHD-plagued trainwreck that had HBO-related crises weekly and still couldn’t come out on Twitter - and somehow Eddie was okay through it all, and while Richie was still paranoid that this was all going to be wrenched away by some supernatural fucking force out of the pits of Derry, Eddie just carried the hell on, like he hadn’t been stabbed through the chest for the better part of five months, like he was confident it would be alright in the end.
Because he had seen it. In their house. Proof fucking positive that they had a future and it was good.
I need to find that fucking house.
Tomorrows ticked on, and Richie was so grateful for every mundane, boring, routine detail. Weeknight takeout when they both worked late and Richie crushing Eds at Mortal Combat and relaxed Sunday mornings where Richie ignored the incessant texts from the producers so he could sidle closer to Eddie under the covers, Eddie pressing into him in a lazy morning fuck as Richie wrapped a leg around Eddie’s waist.
Richie got final script approval from the network guys and casting was underway, and being on the other side of the table making the decisions was terrifying.
Eddie’s new, crappy intern couldn’t master his Starbucks order, which Richie thought was actually pretty impressive given that it was just black coffee.
Linda fired them as clients, and he was pretty sure that her replacement, Cathy, would end up firing them, too.
The divorce was finalized, and they celebrated signing the papers by having a long weekend hauled up in a New York hotel room together, phones shut off, calls going straight to voicemail.
Richie was location scouting for the exterior of Sally’s apartment when he saw the house.
On the border between Westwood and Brentwood. Spanish style. Two and a half stories. Cream stucco. Low-pitched, red clay roof. Roman arches over the front door. Double-hung windows. Ostentatious three-car garage that Eddie would definitely get off on. Terracotta finishes. A few palms on the front lawn.
No for sale sign.
But it was the one, Richie was sure. He could almost feel a buzz emanating from the house; a familiarity that electrified the air around it. Like coming home to a childhood house after years away. Or, that’s what he imagined it must feel like, because Derry didn’t evoke any such nostalgia in him.
Memories that hadn’t happened yet, inexact and out of focus, but still real. Kissing Eddie under that arch, before he watched him run for the SUV on a rainy morning, Richie still sipping coffee as he waved bye. Carrying groceries in from the car. A dog - definitely a dog - a breed that was big and stupid and perpetually happy and drooling all over Eddie’s meticulously curated furniture, and Eddie yelled, horrified as Richie brought it inside. “You did what? You cannot just buy a dog without fucking consulting me first.” But after that, Richie would come home late in the evening after a long day of shooting, and Eddie would be half asleep on the couch with a one-hundred-and-fifty-pound lapdog snoring across his legs.
Richie pulled his car over, texting the crew from his work phone that he was taking the afternoon off, while calling the bank on his other phone.
A knock on a door he would open thousands of times, and a middle-aged woman answered. “Hi, I’d like to buy your house.”
(Something he would learn about Eddie: big romantic gestures got Richie laid every time.)
“It’s better than a boat. It’ll win the group chat.”
“Bill and Audra looked pretty good at Bill’s premiere last night. We’re not beating that.”
“It’s a house, Eds. We’re winning.”
A stupid selfie. The partially unpacked kitchen in the background, the countertops covered in half-empty cardboard boxes and an already worn-out juicer from only a year of use. Richie kissing a slightly embarrassed, smiling Eddie on the side of his mouth.
Richie opened the group chat and hesitated before sending it, looking over the happy crinkles under his glasses and the way Eddie’s brown eyes caught the light.
He posted it to Twitter instead.