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All told, Richie thought, things could have been a lot worse.


Could have been better, though. Definitely could have been better.


Maybe it was just the one-two-punch of it all; the adrenaline and the cortisol and the overwhelming sense of loss; and then - of course- the comedown. Richie knew that routine well. The high and the eventual drop. It never did feel worth it, after everything was said and done. There was no vice on earth that Richie’s met that he ever wanted to hold onto longer than a hot potato. It was better - and he’d known this for a long time - just to let it go.


The déja-vu of the entire experience was difficult enough to live through.


The first time, Eddie shook and shook and Richie took his broken arm in his hands and felt it snap; Eddie said, “don’t,” and Richie did anyway. And after, Eddie leaned halfway out his bedroom window, Richie held tight onto the handlebars of his bike, and his hands were still shaking. Eddie was the only one who would talk to him, and Eddie wasn’t allowed to leave the house.


“I can’t come out to play,” Eddie said, and it made Richie angry.


“I don’t want to play,” Richie said. He didn’t say, “Please,” and he didn’t ask, “Are you okay?” And he didn’t tell the truth. “I’m so scared,” he didn’t say.


Instead, he said, “I don’t want to play, you weirdo. I came to see your mom, figured I should say hey on my way out.”


Eddie said, “Fuck you,” and Richie laughed. “She already did, Eds, but thanks for the offer,” and Eddie slammed his bedroom window.


The second time, Richie didn’t remember falling, but when he woke up with Eddie above him, he knew something was wrong. He rolled them over and wondered if that was the closest he’d been to Eddie this entire time. And then when they tried to get up and run, Richie couldn’t, and it was then he realized his ankle was...not feeling much like an ankle.


Eddie was back over him, and Richie wondered, how could one person’s touch be so firm and so gentle at the same time? Eddie took his dislocated ankle in his hands; Richie felt it pop and snap back into place under his skin, under Eddie’s hands. Richie said, “don’t,” and Eddie did anyway.


Richie'd read a few of Bill’s books - something pulling him towards displays in airports all over the country, something he can now name as memory - he knew what Bill would say:


Time’s a flat circle, Richie. Things happen the same way because we’re the same people; the world changes around us all the time but we stay pretty stagnant. What was true about you once is still true about you now, even if you don’t feel it anymore. The version of you that’s eleven, twelve, thirteen, twenty-one, twenty-five, thirty-six, they all live inside you, Richie. Déja-vu happens because your brain wants it to. It’s just a pattern, but not a pattern of the world. It’s a pattern that lives inside you. It’s about feeling. Time has only ever been about feeling. That’s all life is for, anyway, Richie. To feel what you feel and see what you see and live how you live. To be with people and eat good food and wait for the time to run out.


Richie himself wasn’t so sure that was true, but he couldn’t form an argument against it in his mind; not then, soaked in water and fear under the most haunted house on earth in the world’s most haunted town. And not later, under the fluorescent lights in the Derry County Hospital emergency room.


He had the worst headache he’d ever had in his life. His glasses were broken which did not help. Eddie explained that he’d set Richie’s ankle himself and the doctor scolded him. Richie filled out paperwork and wanted to cry. He asked for fluids and they gave him some apple flavoured Pedialyte. He went for x-rays. He thought the Bill in his head was wrong; sometimes time did play tricks; sometimes things were just bad; sometimes the boy you’d been in love with your whole life was married. Eddie’s face had been stitched up by the time Richie was back. Eddie was so handsome. He really wasn’t that short; he still spoke with his hands and he didn’t really seem all that concerned about anything other than if Richie’s foot would be okay. They were given a bunch of antibiotics, and Richie said no to the prescription for painkillers, and Eddie walked behind him slowly as Richie adjusted to his crutches, helping Richie balance as he climbed into the car.


Richie looked out the window as Eddie drove them back to the Townhouse. Eddie hummed along to the radio. Richie’s ankle throbbed and his head pounded and David Byrne crooned, keep one step ahead of yourself, don’t you miss it, don’t you miss it. Richie thought, sometimes, just sometimes, magic was real; sometimes magic was everywhere you looked.


Eddie looked away from the road and caught Richie looking. He smiled, and Richie bit at the inside of his lip. But maybe the Bill in Richie’s head was right. There was a word for that, wasn’t there? All things being the same?




Richie woke up in a fog, with Eddie’s hand on his arm. He knew he was smiling up at Eddie before he opened his eyes. Wanted to press into the feeling of Eddie’s fingers against his bicep. Dialled it back as he blinked. Rubbed at the sleep in his eyes.


Eddie said, “You can go back to sleep, but you should eat something.”


Richie pulled himself up to sit against the headboard. Eddie was showered and dressed in a plain black t-shirt. He looked younger than he had the day before. His hair was curling at the ends. Richie had missed that; hadn’t remembered it in full until just then.


“We ordered Italian,” Eddie said. “Wasn’t sure if you’d want to come downstairs, so I brought you up a plate.”


He gestured. Richie looked. Richie smiled. “Thanks Eddie,” he said. “For the spaghetti.”


“Don’t get any ideas,” Eddie said, and narrowed his eyes. It made Richie want to laugh. Instead, he made a grabby-hands motion. Eddie leaned over to grab the plate from where he’d left it on the hotel room dresser, and passed it to Richie.


“Thanks for the noods,” Richie said, and twirled his fork around on the plate.


Eddie rolled his eyes. “Everyone’s crawling back into bed, but I can stay with you for a bit, if you want.”


Richie smiled around his mouthful of food. It wasn’t actually spaghetti; rather, fettuccine with some kind of cajun twist on alfredo. There are little bites of chicken in it, but Richie could imagine it with seafood - scallops or prawns. Eddie probably asked for it to be modified.


“Thanks for dinner,” Richie said.


“Bev paid, since she’s the only one who had cash. None of us had salvageable wallets.”


“I have cash,” Richie said, as if on instinct. “Too much of it, actually. It’s weird. I’ve been hoarding cash in my apartment since I was, like, nineteen. Is that clown shit?”


“Probably,” Eddie said. Richie watched Eddie pick at a thread in the comforter. His left knee was pressing into Richie’s thigh on the bed. His right was bent over the side. Richie lost sight of it. Richie shovelled his dinner into his mouth.


“How’s your ankle?” Eddie asked, and Richie shrugged. “I uh, I have a question to ask.”


“I might have an answer to give,” Richie said.


“Why’d you say no, to the pain pills?”


Richie shrugged. “It’ll still hurt once the prescription runs out. Best to get it over with. Feel it until it becomes a normal part of it. I’ll do the physio when I get home.”


“Okay,” Eddie said. 


Richie knew things were awkward - what were they supposed to do now? They weren’t thirteen anymore. They didn’t really know each other.


Eddie huffed, then squared his shoulders and said, “You’re really different, now.”


Richie set his fork down on his plate, five o’clock. His dinner was only half-finished, but he wasn’t really hungry. Eddie took it and slid it onto the bedside table to his right. Richie’s left.


“So’re you,” Richie said.


Eddie nodded. “I feel,” he stopped. Shook his head. “I feel so strange.”


“Oh, buddy, trust me, you are super strange.”


Eddie swatted at Richie’s thigh through the bed covers. “You’re a dick,” he said, but he was smiling. Richie knew the steps to this song and dance, even if it’d been a lifetime since they did it last. History, in spite of itself, repeats.


“It’s like,” Richie said. “There’s the version of myself I was here with, with you all. And the person I would have been if I could have held onto it. Kept my memories in my head. And then there’s the guy I became without you. I don’t know how to get to the centre of the Venn diagram.”


Eddie’s fingers traced a pattern on the bedspread. Every once in a while, he’d make contact with Richie’s leg. It made Richie feel like his blood was made of static. He needed to text his therapist.


“I don’t want to be that person at all,” Eddie said. His eyes welled, and Richie watched him avoid eye contact. Richie wished, then, more than anything, that Eddie had been happy in his life. Even without Richie in it, even if they’d never remembered. The Eddie that Richie remembered, the one he knew, the one who snapped Richie’s ankle into place and whispered, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know, even Stevens, I’m still really sorry,” as he did it -- Eddie deserved a happy life, no matter what shape. It made Richie so...sad to know that wasn’t the case.


“So don’t,” Richie said, and Eddie finally met his eyes.


He sighed. “What if I ruin everything?”


Richie leaned forward, caught Eddie’s hand in his own. His palm to the back of Eddie’s hand. He could feel the hill and valley of each of Eddie’s knuckles. Squeezed. He smiled with only the left side of his face. “So don’t,” Richie said again.


Eddie turned his hand over in Richie’s. Traced his hand over the line of the scar across Richie’s palm before gripping his fingers, tips to tips, curling their hands into each other. He whispered, “I think maybe I want to, though.”


Richie wasn’t sure if he knew how to breathe, anymore. Eddie was the splinter that had been stuck between his finger and his nail for Richie’s entire life. He was certain, now, that he’d never manage to pull it out. There’d never be relief.


“Eddie,” Richie said. “I don’t know what you want me to say, here.”


What time was it? Richie didn’t know. They had been awake so long. Richie hasn’t had a good night's sleep since the spring of 1989.


“Tell me I’m not making it up,” Eddie said, and Richie wondered if Eddie had ever been so honest in his life. He acted like he wore his heart on his sleeve; he was so angry and so scared and so alive; but did he ever actually say what he felt? Richie wasn’t so sure. Just because you keep your shit close to the surface doesn’t really make it hurt any less. And so, Richie knew, either way, if Eddie was a closed or open book didn’t really matter: it cost too much to feel so lonely.


“You’re not making it up,” Richie said.


Richie felt Eddie go very still; Richie thought time might stop, fold in on itself; he knew that if he let this happen, he would never, ever recover from it.


Eddie's thumb brushed along Richie’s knuckle; Richie said, “Don’t,” and he didn’t know what that meant. Richie wasn’t sure how they got so close to each other; didn’t know who pressed into whose space. He could feel Eddie’s breath against his face. They both smelled of garlic.


Eddie said, “I won’t,” and cupped his hand around Richie’s jaw, his thumb on Richie’s cheek, his fingers hot against Richie’s throat. “I promise, I won’t,” he said. And then he kissed Richie.


It only stayed soft for a second. Maybe it never really was; just the calm, then the storm; Richie gasped, tried really hard to turn it into something that could sound sexy. Really, he knew, it just sounded desperate.


And there it was - the reason Richie only ever slept with people who didn't know how his name in cities he wouldn't be back in for a long, long time: sex was really scary when you cared what the other person thought of you.


Eddie smelt like soap; he tasted like fettuccine alfredo; he kissed Richie like he wasn’t doing it for fun; he gripped Richie’s jaw harder than necessary. It hurt; every little thing about it made Richie’s chest feel tight; the clown hadn’t killed him, but surely this would. Richie held his hands at Eddie’s ribs and tried to avoid going fully insane in this lumpy hotel bed.


Eddie pressed himself into Richie’s lap, settled his weight down in Richie’s lap. He licked into Richie’s mouth, and Richie’s hands shook as he slipped them under the hem of Eddie’s shirt.


It wasn’t working; and Richie could understand the irony of it all. He was being handed the only thing he had ever wanted, it was literally right in his lap, and he couldn’t enjoy it. Couldn’t feel it. Eddie bit at his lip and Richie felt like they were playing make believe. Maybe he was still in a dream.


He remembered the smell of mildew, rotting wood, dust and blood and fear, spread out across the floor of the house on Neibolt Street. It was the bass dropping; the part of the song where the chorus hit; the never-ending loop of time and memory and wanting; he could feel it, but it didn’t feel the way he thought it would. He remembered Eddie’s tiny voice, pitched in terror; don’t fucking touch me.


Time, of course, would continue to play its favourite trick on Richie no matter what Richie did. Richie had looked his fear in its face and time still went about its job of making Richie look and feel like shit; even with Eddie in his lap, with Eddie’s mouth on his mouth, he didn’t think he’d ever fit inside his skin the way other people seemed to; he would be at war with his mind until he was dead. He thought, in the deepest part of his mind, that he was probably already meant to be. Dead.


Eddie pulled his own shirt over his head; for the first time, Richie actively wished he was wearing his glasses. He needed to get them fixed. Eddie’s torso was longer than Richie had thought - he looked so much like a man, as he rolled off of Richie and shimmied out of his pants. Richie took a breath and tugged his own shirt over his head. He’d gone to sleep in his boxers; hesitated and then looked at Eddie.


There wasn’t a way to go back, after stripping yourself bare in front of the only person you ever wanted to die from. And Richie did want to die from Eddie. Choke on him, be smothered by him, suffocate under him, melt into him, live inside him, disappear into the smell and taste and touch of him. But if he started, he wouldn’t be able to stop; if Eddie balked and went back to his wife, Richie wouldn’t die - it would drag out and he’d suffer, and slowly he would turn to dust from the inside out, and he’d never, ever recover. There wasn’t a way to backpedal out of the future once you passed by the present. Eddie was already shucking his briefs. Richie took a breath in and heaved it out, and tugged his own boxers down.


Eddie was hard; the head of his cock was already red; leaking. Richie thought he could cry over it. Richie wanted him more than he had ever wanted anything; he would give up every single part of his life to get to stay in this room with Eddie forever.


Eddie shifted back into Richie’s lap; Richie felt like he was twenty again. Gawking. He didn’t know what to do. Eddie said, “Richie,” and huffed a laugh against Richie’s mouth. “Use your hands.” Richie felt outside of himself. Eddie said, “Please fucking touch me.”


Richie was hard but it felt half-hearted. He dragged a hand from Eddie’s side up and over his chest. His fingers trembled. The divot between Eddies clavicles was sharp; he was strong; he was slender; he was fully grown. Richie missed so much. He felt like he had closed his eyes and when he opened them, everything had changed. Of course, after this, nothing would ever be the same for Richie again. He pressed a thumb into Eddie’s pectoral muscle, brushed his fingers over his nipple. Eddie kissed him so hard it hurt Richie’s teeth.


Richie wondered, somewhere deep inside himself, if there was a version of this where it didn’t do so much harm.


He dragged his hand down Eddie’s abdomen, pressed his palm hard against Eddie’s pelvis; Eddie’s erection grazed the back of Richie’s hand. Eddie keened. His hands scrambled at Richie’s shoulders, his fingers gripping hard. Richie was sure he’d be covered in bruises. When he moved to grip Eddie’s dick, Eddie made a pained noise. After that, it happened the way things always did for the two of them: Richie pushed, Eddie pulled. Eddie said, Richie, and Richie thought, Oh. Eddie fell through the floor and Richie set his arm straight; Eddie threw the spear and Richie dropped to the ground; Eddie kissed and kissed and kissed Richie, and Richie held his breath the entire goddamn time. When Eddie came, his whole body shook; Richie held him as his muscles tensed and then collapsed. Eddie’s breath was sticky on the thin skin of Richie’s throat. So close to the carotid. Richie wished he’d just go for it; he already had the blade against his skin - all he needed to do was apply pressure.


Eddie said, “Jesus,” and Richie wished he had had a chance to spend his life getting Eddie out of the way, remove him from all the things that hurt him and haunted him and kept him up at night, but then when Richie tried to take stock of this moment, he understood that the things you love hurt you in the end, and he thought; maybe he was that too: Harm’s Way.


Richie blinked his eyes once, twice, three times. His vision swam, then cleared. He wouldn’t cry with Eddie’s cum all over his hands - there were moments in his life where he knew he was scraping the bottom of the barrel, but he wouldn’t let this be one of them. Even if it swallowed him whole; he’d had this, he’d be here; he’d held Eddie and kissed Eddie and loved Eddie.


Eddie leaned back, his hands on Richie’s shoulders, and Richie watched the expression on his face change. “You’re not-” he started, stopped, looked at Richie’s face and for the first time, Richie understood why he felt the way he did: he had spent his entire life hiding, and now he was with someone who knew him, saw him, remembered him and he didn’t know how to hide anymore. But he’d be safe - tucked away from the world and drowning in his longing - and now, with Eddie looking at him, he wasn’t anymore.


“Uh,” Eddie swallowed. “Is something wr-” Richie flinched, and Eddie corrected. “Did I do something wrong?” Richie shook his head, no, and how could he explain? It was crazy; Eddie had given him something he wanted really badly - Eddie was beautiful and bright and lit Richie’s blood on fire - and all having got it did was make Richie sad.


Nothing was ever what it was cracked up to be, especially when you’ve had as much time to dream about it as Richie’s had. How was it possible that it happened that fast? That over the course of 36 hours, he poisoned his entire life with expectation. Richie shook his head again, swallowed against the lump in his throat and said, “No.”


“You’re not h-” He trailed off. He brushed his thumb under Richie’s eye, along his cheekbone, up his temple. The pads of his fingers settled gently in his hair above his ear. Eddie’s thumb traced along Richie’s eyebrow and back. He shifted, like he was about to get out of Richie’s lap, so Richie gripped him hip tight with one hand as the other wrapped around Eddie’s bare forearm.


“You didn’t,” he said. Shook his head again. “You didn't do anything wrong.”


“Did you not want to?” Eddie said, and his voice was. Different than Richie had heard it before. Very small.


“I did,” Richie said, and wished he’d disappear into the floor. “I do.”


“Okay,” he said. Richie still couldn’t open his eyes. “Richie,” Eddie said, and then Eddie gently nudged at Richie’s chin. “Can you look at me?”


Richie shook his head again, no, and Eddie said, “Richie, honey, you have to tell me what’s going on.” He sounded different again. Maybe, Richie thought - maybe Eddie was scared too.


“I’m scared,” Richie said, and it shook out of him. It barely made it past his teeth.


“What are you scared of?” Eddie asked, and Richie wondered how long Eddie had been in therapy; he had never been good at that, when they were kids: staying calm when shit hit the fan. Everything about him was so different than it had been; how stupid, to think anything would be the same; how naive to think loving someone when you were thirteen could be transposed over your entire life. It was so sad, Richie thought, to no longer be the person who knew Eddie the best.


Richie opened his eyes. Eddie was bent back, his back bowed so he could watch Richie’s face. He had been flushed, only a few minutes prior, blissed out and touching Richie like he’d fall into a million little pieces if he didn’t. He’d paled considerably while Richie had his eyes squeezed shut. He was resting across Richie’s lap, but Richie couldn’t really feel him - how did his knees hold all the weight, stay bent like that for so long without aching? Richie was boxed in by him, his knees on either side of Richie’s hips, his hands on Richie’s face and shoulder, his cum drying sticky on Richie’s skin.


“I don’t know,” Richie said. Then: “Everything.”


“Are you scared of me?” Eddie asked, and Richie shook his head again.


“I,” Richie started. “I’m afraid of what I feel,” he said. Let out a shaking breath. He waved at the space between them. “That I’ll never get over this.”


“You mean this, like, what happened in Derry? Or this like what we just did?”


“I jerked you off,” Richie said. “You can say that.”


“Okay,” Eddie said, and Richie watched him fight back a scowl. “Are you afraid of Derry, or are you afraid of having had sex with me?”


Eddie wasn’t understanding him; Richie knew that much. And of course he didn’t: Eddie wasn’t ass over tea kettle, off the rails, cuckoo bananas out of his mind. Richie was absolutely off the deep end, where Eddie was concerned; where sex was concerned; where love was concerned. He looked, resolutely, down at his hands on Eddie’s arms. Braced for Eddie to pull away.


“I’m afraid it won’t happen again,” he said. “I’m afraid I’ll fall in love with you again and not be able to claw my way back out.”


“Again?” Eddie asked, not what Richie expected at all, and Richie sighed.


He shrugged. “Again. Always. Whatever.”


“You didn’t even remember who I was two days ago,” Eddie said.


“So what?” Richie asked. Because really: so what? What did memory matter if the feeling had always lingered? The gaping hole in Richie’s life was the exact size and shape as Eddie, just fucking enormous. Massive. Absolutely larger than life.


Richie had spent his entire adult life trying to avoid it, not look right at it. But that’s all it was, that entire time: it was just love. And once, he had given it freely; and when it had been taken away, he carried all his love around inside him without anywhere to put it down.


Eddie whispered, “So what,” back at Richie, no inflection, and then huffed. “Richie, can you look at me?”


Richie, reluctant, met Eddie's gaze. “It matters,” he said. He took Richie’s face in both his hands. “How you feel matters. What you need matters.”


“I don’t think I have it in me to half-ass it,” he said. “I’ve done it before. Slept with someone who had a wife. I can’t do it again. I -” He was starting to cry. “I have love to give. I want to give it.”


“Richie,” Eddie swallowed. His thumb moved back and forth against Richie’s cheek. It was so tender. “Richie,” he said again. “I don’t-- I’m not going back to her. I don’t know what to do, but I’m not - I can’t go back to her. I’d like to go with you, wherever you’re going, maybe, but only if that’s okay with you.” Eddie wiped at the tear that escaped Richie’s eye.


“That’d be okay,” Richie said, swallowed. “That’d be. That’d be good.”


“Yeah?” Eddie asked, and Richie almost smiled.


“Yeah,” Richie echoed, and then Eddie smiled. It pulled at his cheek, and he winced. Richie felt all the tension bleed out through his body. He was tired down to his bones, but maybe, he realized, maybe they were good bones; maybe he was really, really strong, even when he didn’t feel that way.


“I do understand,” Eddie said. “That not doing something wrong isn’t actually the same as doing something right.” Richie didn’t really know what the hell he meant by that. He was exhausted. He thought he could melt through the bed and seep into the floorboards. What’s the thing people say about water - slips through fingers; holds up ships. Big and small at the same time.


“Eds,” Richie said, and Eddie said, “You haven’t called me that this entire time.” He sounded annoyed.


“I thought you didn’t like it,” Richie said.


Eddie said, “I liked it when it was you.”


“You did not act like that, growing up.”


Eddie traced his thumb over Richie’s lip, and Richie shivered. “What was I supposed to say?” He did a voice. “Oh, Richie, please call me that every single day forever and can I live with you in your room in secret and can we hold hands at the movies?”


A laugh shocked its way out of Richie’s chest, and Eddie rolled his eyes.


“You absolutely should have said that,” Richie said. “I would have done anything you wanted if you’d said that. I swear.”


“Richie,” Eddie said.


“Eds,” Richie said.


“Please call me that every single day forever and can I live with you in your room and can we hold hands at the movies?”


“You messed it up.”


“I don’t think I’d want to keep it a secret. Not for real. Like if you can’t -” Eddie said. “I would want the others to know. I’d be lucky to be with you. I’d want them to know.”


“Will you kiss me again?” Richie asked.


“Hmm,” Eddie said, making a face. “Only if you tell me what you want me to do. How to make it good for you.”


“Can you just,” Richie said, and shifted beneath Eddie’s weight. “Can we lay down?”


Eddie nodded, lifted off Richie and settled down beside him. As they adjusted their positions, eventually settling on their sides, facing each other, Richie thought: magic was everywhere.


Eddie’s hands were pillowed under his cheek. “What next?” He asked, and his toes nudged along Richie’s shin, dragged against the hair on his leg.


“Your toes are freezing,” he said, and Eddie pressed them into his leg with more intention. Eddie raised his eyebrow at Richie, and Richie scoffed. “What?”


“Do you want to get off?” Eddie asked, and Richie felt his cheeks go rosey. Shy, Richie nodded. “Would you like my help?”


Richie wanted to throw his hand over his eyes. Instead, he shuffled closer to Eddie. Instead of two parentheses closing around a lifelong sentence, they were so much closer, nearly a circle. “Yeah,” he said. “I would.”


Eddie lined his nose up against Richie’s, traced his fingertips down the arm that was resting along Richie’s side. Their lips brushed as Eddie said, “Tell me what you need, okay?”


Richie kissed him, lined their mouths together softly; it was less like the crashing together from before, more of a settling. It took a few tries for them to get it quite right. His lips buzzed. Eddie reached out to touch Richie’s cheek again, and very slowly he traced his fingers down the side of Richie’s neck. It tickled. It was a barely-there touch. It was the best Richie had ever felt.


Eddie traced along Richie’s side, down the curve of his arm. He settled his palm to Richie’s hip, pressed his thumb into Richie’s skin. “S’nice,” Richie said against Eddie’s mouth, and Eddie said something that sounded like good, before kissing Richie again, dragged his tongue against Richie’s sensitive bottom lip.


Richie was starting to fill out, he felt his skin start to light up under Eddie’s touch. Richie wanted to touch Eddie everywhere, scrambled to settle his free hand against Eddie’s shoulder blade. His right arm, half under him, reached for Eddie, and Eddie’s trapped hand found Richie’s. Held on tight.


“I missed you,” Eddie said, and Richie wished he could eat him, or be eaten by him. “The whole time,” Eddie said.


“Please,” Richie said, “Eddie, please touch me.”


Richie’s hips stuttered when Eddie finally did, wrapped his hand, smaller than Richie’s, around Richie’s hardening cock. He pumped his hand gently, slowly, like Richie was something delicate; something precious; worth preserving.


Richie pulled Eddie closer to him, and Eddie laughed against his mouth, “You’re not giving me much room to work here, man,” and Richie kissed him quiet.


“Okay, okay,” Eddie said, adjusting to the changed angle. “I get it.” He pumped over Richie until Richie ached with it; Richie’s hands skimmed Eddie’s sides and his chest, traced over the defined muscles of his arms and shoulders until Eddie was hard against Richie again. "I've got you."


Richie shifted until he could get his hand around Eddie again; Richie felt like he was about to vibrate out of his skin; so tightly wound he thought his teeth would chatter. When Richie touched Eddie, Eddie rocked, pressed; his body reacting so differently than Richie’s; Richie, this time, wanted to appreciate the detail of it, how incredible it was to be a part of Eddie’s pleasure. Eddie leaked over Richie's hand, and Richie said, “God, you’re so wet.”


“You’re,” Eddie said, kissed Richie’s jaw. “You’re fucking perfect.”


“You’re leaking,” Richie said, and felt stupid; he thought, maybe, the first time was the first time, a fluke. Everyone’s body reacted differently. But Eddie’s dick was beading precum at the tip again, and Richie wanted to swallow him whole. “I’m going to suck you dry, next time,” he said, and Eddie said, “Oh, fuck.”


“What else,” Eddie said. “What else do you want?”


Richie’s toes flexed as Eddie’s thumb pressed into the tip of his dick. “I want you to fuck me next time. Wanna feel it for,” he stuttered, “for days after.”


“Rich,” Eddie said, and Richie’s throat felt tight. “Baby, I want you to come for me.”


“Please,” Richie said, and Eddie kissed him and Richie shuddered as he tipped over and through his orgasm. He bit his lip so hard he thought it would bleed. His grip on Eddie went tight.


Eddie said, “Jesus Christ,” and Richie laughed at the relief, the bone-deep feeling of comfort and joy that washed over him. Eddie’s hands were covered in Richie’s come, it was all over them both. Eddie traced a finger through the mess of it on Richie’s tummy. Richie squeezed at Eddie again, desperate to get him to come a second time. “Richie, you’re fucking,” he lost the thread of it as he moved against and into Richie’s hand. “You’re so hot,” he said, almost laughing with it.


“Eds,” Richie said. He kissed his cheek, the tip of his nose. “Thank you,” he said, and Eddie made a noise not unlike a cry, and brought his cum-covered fingers over Richie’s. He came that way, pumping into their joined hands until he stopped shaking.


Richie bit his lip and fell onto his back. He let his eyes drift closed. Eddie’s hand found the one that had been trapped under their sides. He twisted their fingers together. Richie took a minute to catch his breath, allowed himself a few moments to think of absolutely nothing at all.


“Damn,” Eddie said beside him, and Richie turned his head, cracked one eye open. Eddie was staring at the ceiling, but he was smiling.


“Yeah,” Richie said. What else was there to say?


“Second time’s a charm,” Eddie said, and Richie snorted.


“Fuck you,” Richie said, and Eddie, to the ceiling, said, “After I fuck you first.”


Richie did throw his arm over his eyes then. “Eddie,” he said, “I’m fucking crazy about you, dude.”


“Okay, well, good,” he said, and lifted Richie’s arm away from his face. He leaned over Richie and said, “I’m crazy about you too. Also just plain crazy.”


“We can work on our shit together,” Richie said.


“I mean like, really crazy about you, though.” He tucked a piece of Richie’s hair behind his ear. Richie kissed the palm of his hand. “We should shower,” he said. Then, “Can I sleep in here?”


“Cause your room’s a crime scene?”


“‘Cause I’d like to sleep here with you, numbnuts.”


Richie sat up and Eddie followed him towards the bathroom to shower. “I want you to stay,” Richie said.


“So I’ll stay,” Eddie said, and all told things could have been a lot worse.