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shake this world off my shoulders

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Eddie tends to have most of his meltdowns over email. It’s a control thing, Richie is pretty sure; even now, Eddie is wildly conscious of how he’s perceived. Combine that with a verbal filter that goes to shit when he’s worked up about something, and—yeah. Richie gets it. He has a lot of the same issues, although he tends to cope by leaning into it and pretending he doesn’t give a fuck what people think. Eddie cares what people think. Eddie cares a lot, about everything, as Richie has learned in the months that he’s been living in New York, piecing his career back together and serving as the primary sounding board for Eddie’s slow-motion midlife crisis. And, well. Falling even more in love with the neurotic little fucker in the process, but that’s not relevant.

The point here is that Eddie has sent him a number of really weird emails in the months since his divorce, but this one really takes the fucking cake.

It starts off normal enough, or normal enough for Eddie, which is to say that the opening paragraph is a lengthy rant about his incompetent coworkers and the disgusting state of the subway. Richie reads it with a faint grin on his face as the city sleeps around him. He’s aware of what it means that he finds Eddie’s diatribes so charming, but nobody’s around to see him smiling like a lovestruck idiot right now, so it’s fine.

The second half is where it goes off the rails.

I’ve been trying to take your advice about getting back into dating, Eddie has written, and it’s a total fucking disaster, Rich, I don’t know how to do this. I went to this gay bar and I almost went home with a guy and then I freaked the fuck out at the last minute and I don’t know if that means that I’m actually straight even though I’ve never actually been attracted to women or if I’m gay and dysfunctional or something else, but I just wish I knew what it was like for real. I wish I had the guts to actually talk to you about this for real, I wish I had the guts to ask you to fuck me for r

It breaks off there. Richie blinks at the screen, open-mouthed, suddenly very glad he’s sitting down and not drinking anything.

There’s no fucking way he just read that. He sets his phone down, scrubs his hands through his hair, then picks it up again.

I wish I had the guts to ask you to fuck me for r

Eddie definitely wrote that, but he also almost definitely didn’t mean for Richie to see it. If he knows Eddie, and he does, he tried to recall the email the second it went through, and now he’s got to be over at his apartment freaking the fuck out.

Richie hits the call button before he can let himself think about any of it too much. Eddie answers on the second ring, audibly vibrating with anxiety. “So in my defense I didn’t mean to actually send that. Wait, did you read my email? Don’t read it if you didn’t. Forget it, it’s nothing.” A brief pause, just long enough for him to draw breath. “You read it, didn’t you.”

“Yeah, man, why the fuck else would I be calling you at eleven forty-five at night?” Richie says. “Are you okay?”

“I, um.” Eddie pauses, then laughs. There’s a faintly hysterical edge to it. “No?”

“Okay, I guess I got that much from the whole ‘Richie, I want you take my gay virginity’ thing—”

“Fuck you.”

“Too easy, I’ll leave that one alone,” Richie says, and this time when Eddie laughs he sounds a little calmer.

“So, I guess…” he trails off. “I’m gay. FYI.”

“You don’t have to tell me that,” Richie says, full of a sudden painful tenderness. “Seriously. I’ll pretend I never saw it if that’s what you want.”

“No,” Eddie says. “No, I want to tell you. I’m gay. I think. I went to this fucking bar in the East Village—you read the email, right, I went to this bar and I thought maybe I’d just be able to take somebody home and figure it out, but the guy—he kissed me right outside and it was—fine, it was nice, but I still freaked out, and I don’t know why.” He takes a shuddering breath. “I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me.”

Richie takes a breath, looking out across the night city through the vast picture window that takes up most of his living room wall. It is, at least, theoretically, a fantastic view, but he’s largely indifferent to things like that. Especially now, listening to Eddie twist himself up on the other end of the phone in a way that he knows all too damn well. At least he got the agony of self-discovery out of the way early.

“This shit’s complicated, man,” he says finally. “Trust me. There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“Dude. There’s a lot wrong with me.”

“Okay, but clown-related trauma and general hypochondria and control issues aside—”

Eddie snorts. “Right.”

“I’m just saying, you don’t have to figure it out all at once.”

“Okay, but… I mean, I’m forty-one and I’ve kissed one guy, and I panicked right afterward.” Eddie sighs. “And then I went home and fucking propositioned you via email. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“It was nuts, and you know it.”

“Okay, yeah, a little bit, but you’ve definitely done weirder shit since I’ve known you.” Richie rubs a hand over his mouth, then, knowing full well that he’s going to regret asking, says, “Can I ask—why me?”

“I told you, it was a fit of temporary insanity,” Eddie mutters, and then, “I don’t know, Rich. You’re my best friend, and I trust you, and you’ve had sex with guys before, right?”

He pauses like he’s actually waiting for an answer, so Richie says, “Right.”

“Right. So you know what you’re doing, and even if I freaked out you wouldn’t be a total asshole about it.”

“So let me get this straight,” Richie says slowly. “You want me to fuck you, but like, as bros?”

“Well, when you put it like that it sounds fucking stupid,” Eddie says, sulky. “Look, seriously, let’s just forget about it. Please.”

He sounds slightly crumpled. Defeated, like he did so often right after the divorce. It pricks at Richie’s heart, and maybe punctures some of his good judgement in the process, because the next thing out of his mouth is, “I’m not saying no.”

“Oh.” A quick breath. “You’re not?”

Richie leans back against the couch cushions, staring up at the ceiling of his vast, empty loft that he still hasn’t really bothered to decorate in the months he’s been here. Unless discarded takeout containers and empty beer bottles count as decoration. The last time Eddie was over he called Richie a disgusting overgrown frat boy, so this all probably has a lot more to do with him being the only gay dude Eddie’s friends with than any dubious sexual magnetism he might possess. He’s not sure if that makes it better or worse.

“It’ll probably make things weird between us,” he says. “It might suck.”

“It’s already kind of weird,” Eddie says, which is true, but probably not for the reasons he thinks. “I mean, so what if it sucks? Most of the sex I’ve had in my life has been bad. It’s not the end of the world, right?”

Richie closes his eyes, laughing helplessly. That’s true. That’s one of the things they have in common, actually, though in very different ways. “Right.”

“And I actually like you,” Eddie adds. “So there’s that.”

“I like you too,” Richie says, and he coughs the moment the words are out of his mouth, clears his throat, straightens up on the couch like he can swallow back that raw vulnerability. “So hey, you doing anything tomorrow night?”

“Tomorrow?” Eddie asks, a hint of a crack in his voice.

Richie shrugs, trying to project a nonchalance he definitely doesn’t feel. “Or whenever.”

“Tomorrow’s good,” Eddie says immediately, and Richie can imagine the look on his face: the firmed chin, the narrowed eyes, the way he’s always responded to a challenge. “I’ll come over after work. Should I bring anything? Lube, or, or condoms, or…?”

Richie squeezes his eyes shut and does a speed-run through the five stages of grief while Eddie breathes softly into his ear from across the city, waiting for him to answer. “Nope,” he says finally, when he’s sure he can get his voice to come out more or less normal. “I’ll take care of it. Go get some sleep, man, or you’re gonna be biting people on the subway tomorrow morning.”

“Asshole,” Eddie says fondly. “See you later.”

After he hangs up, Richie drops the phone on the coffee table, grabs a throw cushion off of the couch, and yells into it. Then he gets up and goes to see about finding something—anything—to distract himself for the next eighteen hours.

By the time the following evening rolls around, he’s got lube and condoms and he’s put clean sheets on the bed. In a fit of manic nervous energy he also cleans the entire apartment from top to bottom and actually considers going out and buying, like, a bottle of wine or something before he manages to stop himself and duck into the shower to rinse off the anxiety sweat.

It’s not a fucking date. Eddie is curious, and Richie is helping him out, and that’s it.

He pretty much expects Eddie to cancel on him anyway, but the buzzer rings at just past eight o’clock. He opens the door to find Eddie on the other side. He’s changed from his work clothes into jeans and a soft-looking Henley, and he’s clearly just showered; his hair is damp and starting to curl slightly without any product in it. He looks dangerously touchable.

“Uh, hey,” Richie says, after the moment has stretched out a few beats too long. It helps, a little, that Eddie looks pretty nervous too. “Come on in.”

“Thanks,” Eddie says, with a quick lopsided smile that brings out his dimples. He slips past Richie into the apartment, close enough that Richie can smell him. Richie pushes the door shut and locks it, and then takes a moment to breathe.

By the time he turns around, Eddie is standing in the entry hall, hands in his pockets, surveying the uncharacteristically neat living room. He glances back at Richie and smiles again. “Did you clean?”

“What?” Richie says. “Yeah. I cleaned, I’m an adult, I clean my apartment sometimes.”

“Right. Not because I was coming over, though.” It’s teasing, which eases something in Richie.

“Yeah, well, excuse me for thinking you might flee into the night if I left stale pizza crusts jammed between the couch cushions.”

Eddie’s nose wrinkles. “Gross, man.”

“Hence the cleaning.” He pauses. “You still want to do this? We can just order pizza and watch a movie or something. I promise I won’t be offended.”

“I still want to. Why, do you not want to?”

“No, I do,” Richie says, too fast. Worth it for the way it makes Eddie smile, though, startled and quick. Maybe this won’t be a complete disaster.

“Okay,” Eddie says. “Sorry in advance if I freak out.”

“If you freak out, I have beer and Netflix, and I promise I won’t even roast you about it too much. It’s not a big deal, Eds. Seriously.” He hesitates, then takes a step forward. “Here, can I try something?”

“What—” Eddie breaks off as Richie fits a hand against his cheek. His eyes go slightly wide and his breathing quickens, but he doesn’t pull away. His skin is warm and rough; he must not have shaved after work. If this actually goes anywhere Richie’s going to end up covered in beard-burn. But that’s way too many steps ahead to be thinking; for now, he leans down to press a kiss to Eddie’s mouth.

He keeps it brief; just a few seconds of contact before he pulls back enough to see Eddie’s face, his luminous dark eyes. “This okay?”

“Yeah,” Eddie breathes. “Do that again.”

“You got it,” Richie says, and kisses him again. This one is slower, lingering. Eddie’s lips part tentatively, and he makes a noise in the back of his throat when Richie pushes his tongue between them. It’s probably a good noise, from the way that his hand comes up to grip hard at Richie’s shoulder, from the way he sways closer and tilts his head into the kiss.

“Oh,” Eddie says in a tone of soft revelation when they break apart this time. He runs his tongue absently over his lower lip. Heat curls in the pit of Richie’s stomach.

“You’re not freaking out yet, are you?” he asks. It comes out soft and raspy, but that’s okay; he knows what the answer is even before Eddie shakes his head.

“No.” He takes a breath. “You’re good at that.”

“I’m a man of many hidden talents.”

“Yeah?” A blush is rising in Eddie’s cheeks, but his expression is challenging. “Prove it.”

Richie thinks about affecting a scandalized face, then abandons that thought in favor of kissing Eddie again. Slick and deep this time, and Eddie opens up for him beautifully, grabs at his shoulders, hauls him closer. Richie’s not really trying to back him up against the wall but suddenly it’s there; Eddie lets out a grunt as his shoulders hit it, but he’s got his hands tangled in the hair at Richie’s nape now, dragging him down.

He slides his mouth down over Eddie’s jaw, trailing wet kisses down the line of his throat, then nips lightly over the pulse point. Not enough to leave a mark—Eddie will probably fucking murder him if he leaves a visible hickey without asking—but Eddie sucks in a sharp breath, his head knocking back against the wall hard enough to make Richie wince.

“You okay?” he asks, pulling back slightly.

“Yeah.” Eddie is staring up at him, his eyes big, his lips parted and slick, a flush creeping down his throat. He looks fucking undone just from this, and then he shifts his weight slightly, and Richie realizes that he’s hard, the line of his dick pushing alongside the fly of his jeans.

“Eds,” he breathes.

“Shut up,” Eddie says, like he thinks Richie is going to complain or something. “Come back here.”

He’s grabbing at Richie before he can obey, hauling him back in. Richie goes willingly, slotting himself against Eddie's body, reveling in the hot press of Eddie’s dick against his thigh. He’s hard too—has been halfway there since Eddie walked through the door, honestly—but it doesn’t really occur to him to think about it until Eddie pauses and says, in a tone that seems oddly fragile, “You’re turned on.”

“Hazard of making out with a hot guy who asked me to fuck him,” Richie says lightly, leaning back slightly to that he’s not rubbing his dick against Eddie. His dick has opinions about that, but he’s never allowed it a say on this subject. Except maybe the part where he agreed to this insanity in the first place. “Sorry. We can just—”

“I didn’t mean I wanted to stop, come back here,” Eddie interrupts. He grabs ungently at Richie’s face to drag him back down into a rough kiss, a hot clash of teeth and tongues. His hand releases Richie’s shirt to slide up underneath it, then settle against his stomach, just above the waistband of his jeans. “Can I touch you?”

“Fuck,” Richie says, and then, quickly, “yeah, yeah, of course.”

Of course, Eddie mouths, and it’s either incredulous or teasing, but a moment later his hand slides over the crotch of Richie’s jeans and Richie loses the thread a little bit.

Eddie’s not even really jerking him off so much as tracing the shape of his dick through the thick denim, so it has no right to feel as good as it does. But it’s Eddie, and he’s got his lower lip caught between his teeth, intently watching what his hand is doing. It makes him want to crawl out of his skin, makes him want to grab at Eddie and haul him closer. He takes a shaky breath as Eddie rubs his fingers over the head of his dick, and Eddie glances up at him, then very deliberately does it again.

“Fuck,” Richie says again, embarrassingly breathless.

“You like that,” Eddie says. It’s not a question; his tone is wondering.

Richie wheezes laughter against his hair. “Uh, yeah. Do you—” he pauses, clears his throat. “You want to take this to the bedroom?”

It takes a nerve-wrackingly long time for Eddie to answer. Or maybe it just seems like that—like time has slowed down to a syrupy thickness with how fast Richie’s heart is hammering, how terrified he suddenly is of fucking this all up.

Finally, though, Eddie licks his lips again and drops his hand, and looks up to meet Richie’s eyes.

“Yeah,” he says, visibly nervous but determined. It’s probably fucked up to that so appealing, but it reminds him so much of every other time that Eddie steeled himself and stepped up to do something he was scared of, or felt like he shouldn’t, and really wanted to do anyway. Richie was usually the instigator back then, too. It feels appropriate for the moment. Whatever the fuck moment this actually is.

In the bedroom, Eddie pauses, surveying the neatly made bed, then gives him a sidelong smile, small and pleased and knowing.

Richie sighs, but he’s smiling too. “Yes, I changed the sheets.”

“Yeah, I can tell.” Eddie leans up to kiss him again. It’s easier this time, less fraught. It could almost be the kind of kiss that happens after a good date, which is a thought he shoves aside the moment he has it. “Thank you.”

“Nothing but the best for you, Eddie Spaghetti.”

“You fucker,” Eddie says, very fondly, and leans down to tug his shoes off. He glances at Richie when he’s done, then pulls his shirt off too, letting it drop on the floor behind him. He fiddles with the top button of his jeans, then undoes it. He’s blushing wildly. “This okay?”

“Yeah,” Richie manages, sinking down on the edge of the bed and watching as Eddie undoes his fly and shoves his jeans off. He’s in plain boxer briefs underneath, clinging to the solid muscle of his upper thighs, the outline of his cock. The fabric has gone slick and dark around the head, and Richie has a sudden and very strong urge to sink down to his knees right here and taste him.

He drags his eyes back up to find Eddie giving him a very challenging look. “Are you going to take your clothes off, or what?”

“You want me to?”

Yeah, what the fuck do you think is going on here?” Eddie asks, sounding so outraged that Richie laughs out loud.

“Jesus, fuck me, I didn’t want to presume, okay,” he says, and hauls his t-shirt off. Eddie steps closer as he gets to work on his fly, lifts up to shove his jeans off. He leaves his boxers on for the moment, but it’s still—they don’t hide much.

“Oh,” Eddie says. He’s staring.

Richie doesn’t usually give much thought to his body or how it looks. He looks like what he is, which is a hairy middle-aged comedian who likes beer and hates exercise. Some guys are into that, it’s fine.

Eddie, apparently, is into that. Eddie is staring at him with a hot, fascinated expression that makes him blush all over.

“Eds,” he says finally. “My eyes are up here.”

Eddie's eyes dart back to his face. He looks flushed and almost frantic.

“You good?” Richie asks cautiously.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.” Eddie licks his lips. “I’m—I am definitely gay.”

That’s both the weirdest and the best compliment he's ever gotten. “Uh, congratulations?”

Eddie laughs, a little wildly, and then drops into his lap without warning. Richie catches him before they can topple over, and then they’re kissing—he doesn’t even know who moved first, but Eddie’s hands are hot on his jaw, and Eddie is heavy in his lap, and they’re kissing like they’ll die if they break apart. Eddie rolls his hips, then groans into his mouth as their cocks drag together.

“Fuck,” he murmurs, in a tone of revelation. “I like that, I like it.”

Richie laughs raggedly. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I want—” He rolls his hips again, then reaches down between them, pushing a hand under the waistband of Richie’s boxers to stroke him. “I want you to fuck me. Will you?”

Richie swallows hard. “Yeah. Let me just—” he leans to get the nightstand drawer open. This whole thing has a soap-bubble quality to it, like if he lets go of Eddie everything will dissolve around him and he’ll wake up aching and alone. Eddie shifts, lifting up for a moment, but only, as it turns out, to tug his underwear off. He drops it behind him and settles naked and blushing back into Richie’s lap.

“God, you’re beautiful,” Richie says without thinking. It comes out way too sincere, he realizes a moment later when Eddie gives him a startled look, but it’s true. He shakes his head, pressing his mouth to Eddie’s shoulder before he can give anything else away, hauling Eddie closer, hands spread out across his back before sliding around to his stomach. Warm soft skin and hard muscle underneath, and he can hear Eddie’s heavy breath in his ear as Richie strokes down his dick, then reaches between his legs.

“I uh, I prepped myself some before I came over,” Eddie murmurs, and he has to squeeze his eyes shut against the image of Eddie fingering himself open, thinking about this.

“You like that?” he asks, pushing one finger just past Eddie’s rim, where he’s already slick and hot. “Fingers?”

“Uh huh.” Eddie’s eyes are shut, his mouth slightly open. He moans softly when Richie presses deeper. “Yours are better, though. Bigger. I—oh. Oh fuck.

Richie pours more lube over his fingers, then pushes two into him, and Eddie lets out a wounded noise, rocking down. His cock jerks, precome beading at the tip and sliding down, and Richie rubs his thumb over it, dazed.

You really want this, he thinks, and even with Eddie naked and trembling and hard in his lap, the thought seems delirious, almost ludicrous. Eddie wants this, Eddie is grinding down on his fingers and moaning and mouthing breathless kisses across his shoulder because he wants this. He’s got one arm around Richie’s neck to brace himself and he’s fucking himself down onto Richie’s fingers with beautiful gracelessness, and Richie is going to last maybe ten seconds once they actually get going.

“God,” Eddie mumbles. “Fuck, your hands, I fucking knew you’d be good at this.”

“Yeah?” Richie breathes into his hair, rather than let himself think about the fact that Eddie has been thinking about this. Has been thinking about him, like this. “Feels good?”

“Feels so good, fuck.” Eddie kisses his shoulder, then bites him sharply, and he groans, rocking his hips up helplessly, lifting Eddie on his lap. Eddie’s arm tightens, hand scrabbling against his back, fingernails digging in. Leaving marks, probably. “Oh, fuck. Richie, please, I’m ready, I want it—”

He’s fumbling for the condom Richie left on the mattress as Richie pulls his fingers out and shoves his boxers down. Then Eddie’s warm fingers are rolling the condom onto him and he shifts up, bracing himself on Richie’s shoulders for balance as he sinks down slowly onto his cock.

“Oh,” Richie breathes. He’s got his palms on Eddie’s thighs; he’s shaking with how much he wants to move, but he forces himself to hold still and let Eddie work himself down at his own pace. His eyes are closed, his lower lip caught between his teeth, an expression of blissed-out concentration on his face. His cock jerks, dripping precome all over his own pubic hair and Richie’s stomach and thighs.

He’s fucking beautiful. Richie buries his face in Eddie’s hair as he bottoms out, holds him close, feels Eddie’s heaving breaths against his throat, the way his chest moves and the slick drag of his cock between them.

Eddie swallows thickly, then tilts his face against Richie’s, nudging him into a kiss. It’s clumsy and open-mouthed, both of them breathing too hard for anything more, and when Eddie pulls back his eyes are huge, his face flushed, soft, broken-open.

Richie kisses him again so he doesn’t say any of the desperate tender things that come to the tip of his tongue, and Eddie sighs into his mouth and kisses him back, slick and slow, and rocks down tentatively. Heat blooms through him, a sweet dizzy rush. He loops one arm around Eddie’s back, bracing himself on the mattress with the other. It’s impossible to get much leverage to thrust in this position, but that’s probably okay, he thinks, dazed; this way Eddie can control the pace. And he does, he’s moving faster now, bracing his knees against the mattress on either side of Richie’s hips and fucking down on his cock like he can’t get enough of it.

“Eddie, Eddie, fuck,” he breathes, and he’s beyond embarrassment now, beyond thinking about what’s coming out of his mouth. “Fuck, look at you, you’re so fucking beautiful, I can’t believe you.”

“Rich,” Eddie gasps, and sways forward to kiss him, his hips slamming down to take Richie all the way to the hilt. “Oh, fuck, touch me, please fucking touch me—”

Richie fumbles a hand between them to wrap his fingers around Eddie’s cock, which is rock-hard, slick with precome, jerking him off fast and hard. Eddie swears in a rough, broken tone and drags him into a hard kiss as he starts to come in hot pulses over Richie’s fingers. Licks into his mouth and swallows the noise that Richie makes when he follows him over the edge a moment later.

For several minutes, there’s silence broken only by the sound of their breathing. Eddie drops his forehead against Richie’s shoulder, sucking in heaving breaths. Richie lets his clean hand fall lightly on Eddie’s knee; the other one, the one that’s covered in lube and Eddie’s come, he lets settle on the bed.

So much for clean sheets, he thinks, then swallows down a laugh. It’s possible that he’s actually the one freaking out a little here, how’s that for irony.

“Holy shit,” Eddie says eventually. His voice is raspy and fucked-out in a way that Richie never imagined that he’d get to hear. He laughs into Richie’s shoulder, a giddy hiccuping sound, and then shifts up, off of his lap, and flops onto the mattress: loose-limbed and beatific, his skin shiny with sweat and come, looking like the personification of every fantasy Richie has had since he knew what sex was.

Richie unfolds himself off the bed with enough suddenness that his knees protest loudly.

“Be right back,” he says when Eddie looks at him, and escapes into the en-suite bathroom, where he drops the condom in the garbage, cleans himself off, and braces his back against the cool tile wall, taking deep breaths until he feels slightly less like he’s going to have a visible emotional breakdown. Internal emotional breakdowns can wait until Eddie isn’t hanging out naked in his bed.

Then he wets another washcloth and goes back into the bedroom. Eddie doesn’t seem to have moved at all, and Richie takes a single greedy moment to look at him: his messy hair and his bitten lips, the lamplight gilding his body in gold. He blinks at Richie, then smiles sleepily.

“Hey,” he says.

“Hey,” Richie says back. He holds out the warm squeezed-out washcloth, feeling faintly ridiculous. “Wanna clean up?”

“Oh, yeah, thanks,” Eddie says, and takes it. He scrubs at himself indelicately, then pitches the washcloth across the room, missing the hamper by at least four feet. Richie wants to make a joke about that, but nothing’s coming to him. He hovers awkwardly for a moment, then perches on the edge of the bed.

“So,” he says. “What’s the verdict?”

Eddie squints at him. “Are you seriously fishing for compliments right now?”

“No, Jesus.” Since Eddie doesn’t seem inclined to move, Richie flops back against the mattress, careful not to touch him. He’s not sure what’s allowed right now. He feels like he should probably put some clothes on, but Eddie isn’t making any move to do so, so he doesn’t. “I just meant—how are you feeling?”

“Good,” Eddie says, and rolls toward him. His face is sleepy and warm, his eyes fond. “I feel really good. You?”

“I’m good,” Richie says immediately and brightly. “So, hey, you didn’t freak out after all.”

A smile curls the corners of Eddie’s mouth, sweet and sleepy. Richie wants to kiss it and doesn’t. “Nope.”

“Good for you, man.”

Eddie snorts. His fingers worry at the bedspread, and then he reaches over to settle a hand on Richie’s shoulder, warm and firm.

“I mean,” he says. “It’s you.”

“Yeah,” Richie says. It cracks halfway through. He clears his throat and rolls onto his back, dislodging Eddie’s hand. “So, what, was that dude at the bar just a terrible kisser or something?”


“The guy at the bar that you freaked out about kissing,” Richie says, because he’s an idiot and also a glutton for punishment. “Did he suck at it, or what?”

“Dude, why the fuck are you bringing that up now?”

There’s a genuine edge to Eddie’s voice that would be easy to shove toward an argument. Eddie is always pretty easy to shove toward an argument, and Richie feels off-balance and wired right now in a way that always tempts him to pick a fight.

But Eddie is in his bed, naked and warm and still so fucking sweet even with that edge of annoyance, and that’s not how he wants tonight to end. He closes his eyes, curls his fingers against the bedspread and says, “Sorry, I’m sorry. Never mind.”

“Rich,” Eddie says eventually. Richie rolls toward him in time to see him huff out a sigh, squeeze his eyes shut, shove a hand through his hair.

“What?” Richie asks.

“I wanted it to be you,” Eddie says, and then puts his hand over his face. “Fuck. That’s why I freaked out, okay? It’s not because he was a guy, it’s because I wanted it to be you. I wanted—I thought I could just take some guy home and see before I risked fucking everything up with you, but then he kissed me and it was all wrong, and all I could think was, it should be Richie kissing me right now. So, yeah, this wasn’t because I just wanted you to show me the ropes or whatever, it’s because I—because I—”

“You actually want me,” Richie says. His voice is cracking and uneven. Eddie still isn’t meeting his eyes.

“Yeah.” Eddie lets out a long breath. When he speaks again, his voice is small. “You don’t have to—I know that’s not what you signed up for, with this. You don’t have to say anything.”

“I’m in love with you,” Richie blurts.

Eddie drops his hand and stares at him. “What?”

“I’m in love with you,” Richie says again. His breathing has gone all weird; he feels mortifyingly close to tears. “I—Eddie—”

Oh,” Eddie says, and then he’s rolling toward Richie, pulling him into a hard kiss. When they break apart, he rests his forehead against Richie’s, and then starts laughing softly.

“Kinda rude to laugh at a dude who just confessed his love to you,” Richie says, but he can feel the smile starting to take over his face. “Especially when he’s naked. Come on, Eds. Have a heart.”

“I’m laughing at myself,” Eddie says, and kisses him again. “We’re both dumbasses. I love you too, by the way.”

“Oh, by the way,” Richie repeats, and he’s laughing now too, hauling Eddie down on top of him and snorting helplessly into his hair, giddy and relieved.

Eddie pokes him ungently in the ribs but makes no effort to pull away. “Shut up. I changed my mind. I can’t stand you.”

“Nope, no take-backs. You broke it, you bought it, Eduardo.”

“Yeah, okay, fine,” Eddie grumbles, but when he lifts his head to look at Richie again, he’s smiling. “Yeah. I’m okay with that.”