Richie’s roommate was named Cyrus Howard Blankenship and he kind of hated Richie, whom he refused to call Richie at all because he said it was a stupid name, which was so fucking bold Richie was stunned into silence for nearly thirty seconds.
“Tozier, clean out your part of the fridge or I’m going to set your bed on fire,” he snapped two weeks into the semester, and after that Richie lived in a fog of arousal and confusion. The crush—was it a crush? He couldn’t even tell—helped him through that first few months in college when it felt like there was a part of him that had been carved out and thrown away. Not homesickness, though he did miss his parents a little bit, but soulsickness, maybe, which felt even dumber because for the first time, he was in a place where he felt no rejection of his person at all from any quarter. Even his roommate, whom he called Blank when he didn’t want to piss him off and Blankey when he did, tolerated him. People thought he was funny. People invited him to parties and he didn’t piss anybody off and nobody knew anything at all about him that he didn’t want them to know.
Until the night before they both went home for winter vacation, when Blank said, “Do you like guys?”
He wasn’t looking at Richie; his eyes were trained on the television, where the T-rex was about to bust out of the enclosure. It was Richie’s favorite part of the movie and he was almost distracted enough not to hear what Blank said, but when he did, he could only gape, reaching for an answer that wasn’t there.
“Because I do,” Blank continued, and turned to look at Richie, his eyebrows a heavy, serious black line over his dark eyes.
“Are you fucking with me?” Richie asked. He hadn’t even meant to say it, and it was so quiet and meek it didn’t even sound like it had come from his own mouth. Blank shook his head.
“I thought you might like guys too,” he said. “Sometimes you look like you want to kiss me.”
“I’m sorry,” Richie said, his voice breaking. He could sleep in his car, he thought, or leave tonight. He hadn’t planned on packing until about twenty minutes before the dorms were closed for the holiday, but he could do it now, or fuck it, there wasn’t that much he even needed here. He could grab his movies and run.
“You don’t have to be sorry,” Blank said. “I feel the same way.”
“You want—you want to kiss me?” he asked.
“Yeah.” Blank grinned, which he had never done before in Richie’s company, and Richie felt his heartbeat, suddenly, in his ears and his fingertips. He had a dimple in his left cheek. “Why do you think I fuck with you so much?”
“I’m really hard to live with?” He was so hot everywhere that he had started to sweat a little.
“You’re not that bad,” Blank said. “So do you want to kiss me?”
Richie found himself nodding in awkward jerks, his hand on the wall, ready to jump up and flee if necessary—if this was a trick, if Blank, all five-foot six unassuming inches, decided to punch him, if he suddenly became…something else.
“Then get the fuck over here,” Blank laughed and Richie went to him right away, his legs trembling. He didn’t know where to go—kneel between his legs, his brain supplied helpfully, and his already stiff dick throbbed hard—but settled on sitting beside him on the bed. It was easy after that, so much easier than he had ever imagined. Blank pulled him in with a hand on his cheek and his eyes fluttered shut and then—this is insane, he thought—he was being kissed. He didn’t know the rhythm of it at first and then caught on and felt himself going lax with pleasure, loving the cool, sweet mouth on his and the way Blank’s hand slipped into his hair and gently urged him to the side so he could kiss his jaw and the little space under his ear that made him moan embarrassingly loud.
“Did you ever,” Blank said thickly against his neck, “did you ever want to suck?”
Richie had his hand fisted in the leg of his own jeans, and he wound the material around his fingers so tight it almost cut off circulation. “Yeah,” he breathed. “Yeah, please.”
“I knew you could be polite with some motivation,” Blank said. He smiled into the curve of Richie’s shoulder and kissed him there, a little harder than before, and Richie’s face—his entire body—burned with a deeply pleased embarrassment he had never known before even though it felt familiar somehow. Blank drew back just far enough to give him an amused look before he ran his thumb over Richie’s bottom lip, watching the movement carefully. “You ever done it before?”
Richie shook his head.
“I’ll show you what to do,” Blank said, and Richie shivered so hard he made a little distressed noise. “You want it a lot, huh?”
“I don’t know,” he lied. He gestured to the floor. “Should I just—”
“Or I can lie down and you can lie down too,” Blank said. “Come on.”
He flopped back on his bed and Richie went with him, settling on his stomach between Blank’s legs and watching as he unzipped his jeans, his mouth dry. His dick was pressed hard against the bed and he knew, with humiliating certainty, that he was going to come probably the second he put his mouth on Blank’s cock. His eyes were trained on the zipper, Blank’s pale hand reaching into his briefs, and he thought, I love him, god, I love him so much, I think I’ll love him until I die, a thought that was as out of place as it was familiar. A light passed over his eyes—three spinning lights, blue and then red, burned into the back of his eyes—and then they were gone and he wondered if they had even been there, but more importantly, he knew something he had not known before: he needed to get the fuck out. Now.
He scrambled out of the bed, shoving his trembling hands into his hair and almost knocking his glasses off.
“I can’t,” he blurted out. His stomach was tightening already, and he knew the bag of Doritos he had eaten for dinner wasn’t going to stay where it was. “Can’t do this, sorry.”
“Can’t do what?” Blank asked, pushing himself up onto his elbows and looking like everything Richie wanted and absolutely nothing like what Richie wanted and he had to go, he had to fucking go because this was not what he wanted and it was going to get him, he was going to get caught by the—
“I’m sorry, fuck, Jesus,” Richie said, spinning around dizzily and grabbing his bag, throwing in everything he could find that looked like his, shoving dirty clothes into it and forgetting all his shower supplies and most of his movies. He could feel Blank watching him for a minute before he got up and went into the bathroom, slamming the door, but he was already mostly done packing and then he was out the fucking door and running to his car, almost falling on the ice just outside the building. He did slip when he was almost to the car, but caught himself on the driver’s side and got in, shoved a bunch of Coke bottles out of the passenger seat, threw his bag down, slammed his door, turned on the car, and set his hands lightly on the steering wheel. Safety. He was safe. Nothing was after him.
“Okay,” he said, puffing out gusty white breaths even as the car started to warm. He nodded, pressing his lips together, went to flip the radio on, and started to cry instead, curling down over the steering wheel and resting his forehead on his knuckles while he shook so hard he felt the car rock with him a little bit.
After a while, he got himself under control again and drove the rest of the night, only stopping to throw up once. When he got back from winter break he discovered Cyrus Howard Blankenship had requested a room switch, and his next roommate was an absolute slob named Pete who stayed friends with him for years after he dropped out and moved to LA.
The guy, whose name was Kevin, of all the fucking things, said at first that he was a waiter. Not in the restaurant Richie worked at, obviously; Richie was not about to hook up with a fucking coworker, thank you. He wasn’t about to hook up with anyone, actually, hadn’t even tried since that first disaster, but LA wasn’t like anywhere he’d lived before. He had finally stopped growing and his pointy shoulders started to fill out, and once in a while a dude would give him the once over and he’d flush and refuse to respond, but this time, this time, the guy not only gave him a once over but asked for his number.
“Yeah, sure,” he said, trying not to look like he was about to faint just because a guy was writing down his phone number in a public place and somebody, anybody, might know what was happening. It wasn’t a dive bar but it wasn’t like it was a nice one either, just a sports bar near his apartment with dark, sticky lacquered floors and a pool table and a dart board in the back. He liked being there in the evenings, although he had decided no amount of practice in the world would make him better at pool. It was how the guy had approached him in the first place. You want me to teach you how to break? he had asked, and Richie had gone quiet and nodded. He tried to wipe the sweat from his face and upper lip discreetly and didn’t succeed, but the guy seemed like he thought that was charming, maybe.
“You ever given anyone your number before, handsome?” Kevin Fellows, Public Relations, it said on the business card he passed to him, and Richie could feel laughter bubbling up at the knowledge that the guy he wanted—hoped—might fuck him was the kind of person who handed out business cards to potential one night stands.
“No,” he said, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.
“I thought you seemed kind of shy.” Kevin was probably in his mid-thirties, Richie decided. He wore a band t-shirt and jeans and a nice jacket, and his dark hair was parted neatly, his jaw clean shaven. He looked like a guy who had been in a band at one time but realized he could make more money in marketing, but more importantly, he looked like a guy who wanted to fuck Richie Tozier.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Richie said. “Super shy.”
“You want to get out of here?” Kevin asked. He was good at not looking at Richie directly, making it seem like they were just shooting pool. Richie was not good at it, and kept fumbling his shots so badly that it was lucky all the bar regulars knew he was terrible.
“Sure,” Richie said, and let him leave first. He settled his tab and followed after a few minutes, and got all the way to the end of the street where Kevin’s boxy white BMW was parked and took a left and walked to the apartment he shared with four other people and a parakeet named Jerry.
“Uh,” he asked. “Are you a nurse?”
“No, why?” The guy peeled off his shirt, and Richie was so, so, so into this, he really was. Richie had no idea what his name even was and that was perfect. He was That Guy From the Comedy Club, and he was not too short and not too tall, his eyes were blue with long lashes, and he was affable and seemed sweet and unfussy. He had let Richie buy him a drink after his set without caring what it was and let him choose whose place they would go to, and he had accepted that Richie’s name was Bill even though Richie had paused and had to catch his breath after he’d said it, and the best thing about him was that he was moving back to Philadelphia in two weeks and Richie would never have to see him again after this if he didn’t want to.
The worst thing about him was that there was an absolute pharmacopeia sitting on top of his refrigerator.
“Just wondering,” Richie said. The guy was kissing his neck and pressing him up against the wall in the kitchen and he closed his eyes, unable to stop himself from moaning breathlessly when the guy’s hands slid over his ass and he pushed against him urgently, cock hard and obvious through his jeans. He let himself slide into it, the welcome, wanted feeling of being pushed around a little, in a nice way, the idea that maybe he’d finally, finally get past this. Maybe he could stop getting weird every time he was about to get fucked. Maybe he was just a late bloomer. There were all kinds of things that could happen tonight, and Richie was open to all of them.
“Is that an inhaler?” he asked.
“Yeah,” the guy mumbled, nipping at his neck hard enough to make his hips jerk.
“So you have asthma,” Richie said, and there was that light over his eyes—three lights circling each other, there and gone again.
“Is that a problem?” The guy straightened, watching Richie’s mouth.
“I—yeah,” Richie said, pulling away from him. “Sorry. Yeah. I gotta go.”
“I don’t need to use it very often,” the guy said.
“I’m sure you breathe—real good,” Richie said, grabbing his jacket and running out of the apartment into the street, where he promptly realized he was in a cul-de-sac and had no fucking idea where he was or how to get out.
“What the fuck happened to you?” Steve asked.
“This bartender I was about to hook up with got pissed at me last night,” he said.
“Did she break your nose?” Steve tilted his head to look at Richie’s face from other angles. “Damn.”
“She may or may not have been about to go down on me at the time,” he said. “And I may or may not have said that the last person to do me like that was her mom.”
“This is good,” Tim said, making a go on motion with his hand. “Talk more.”
“I don’t even know why I went for the mom joke,” he said helplessly. “It’s not even funny.”
“We can make it funny,” Tim assured him.
Richie wrapped his arms around himself and closed his eyes, burrowing down into his hoodie. His head hurt and he had really kind of liked that guy and he wanted to be at home, asleep in his bed, preferably with his face buried in ice packs, but Steve had moved heaven and earth to get him a meeting with Tim Barrows and Chaz Peña, two of the best and most discreet comedy writers in LA, and he wasn’t about to fuck it up by being himself. “I did get lost coming home from the hospital because of the painkillers,” he said. “I think I ended up crashing a bachelorette party. There’s a dick-shaped cake pop in my fridge.”
“Okay, but was she a football player?” Steve asked. “Rich, you look like someone ran over you with a car.”
“She was taller than me,” he agreed. “Not my usual type. Also, she was fucking pissed. I think her mom died recently.”
“I basically already have an entire ten-minute set written for you,” Chaz said. “Let’s think about branding.”
“I don’t know, dude,” said Richie. “Do you think you can build a reputation around eating a lot of tacos, like an unreasonable amount of tacos, and making women want to murder me?”
“Yes,” Chaz and Tim said in unison.
“I'm very insulted by your confidence here,” Richie said. “But all right, it seems like I might get a lot of free tacos out of this. I'm on board.”
“I’m really fucking sorry,” Richie shouted through the door. “But those are vintage Chuck Taylors, man. You can throw them at me out the window, but I really like them. Mick Jagger gave them to me.”
“Okay, I’m not proud of that namedrop, but I need my shoes if I’m gonna walk home.” He looked over his shoulder. “In the rain.”
The guy’s name was Theodore, and he was actually a pharmacist. He was the prissiest person Richie had ever met—and Richie knew a lot of fucking prissy people; he lived in LA and got dared to take various exercise classes on YouTube all the time—and he made Richie take off his shoes before he even entered the house. He was allergic to soy, shellfish, wheat, dairy, corn, and turtles (“Don’t fucking ask,” he said, but Richie was definitely going to fucking ask). He was about five-eight and maybe a hundred fifty pounds soaking wet, and he looked like he was ten seconds away from asking if everything was okay all the time, which Richie thought was temporary the first time they had met at Jamba Juice and quickly realized was a permanent feature. He had not expected to find a Theodore on Grindr—hadn’t expected much of anything, after all this fucking time—but there he was, small and compact and fucking furious at the attempted murderer who had slipped protein powder into his protein berry workout smoothie.
“Look,” Theodore asked after seven dates. “Do you even want to fuck me? Like, I get it. I’m not an easy person to deal with. But we did meet on Grindr and I feel like I was pretty clear that I want to see your dick.”
Richie looked down at him, all big sad brown eyes and dark hair and uncertainty lurking all over his face, and found himself suddenly right on the brink of crying, which was strange. He wasn’t a dude who hit that kind of emotional place without a lot of alcohol, and it was ten in the morning on a Tuesday. Not that that meant anything, but he’d only been awake for half an hour. “I do,” he said, blinking hard. “But man, I think I might have too many issues.”
“You do seem kind of fucked up,” Theodore said. He put a hand on Richie’s arm, and Richie fought not to look around and make sure no one was looking at them, stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets. “If you ever want to get seriously dicked, look me up again, all right?”
“Yeah,” Richie sighed, and deleted Grindr from his phone.
The first night Eddie stayed with him, they fell asleep together on the couch. It was a huge sectional, but they were both sprawled out in one section, feet overlapping, sharing Richie’s one nice blanket. It was sage green and cashmere and Eddie lay claim to it the moment they sat down to watch TV.
“Why do you have this?” he asked, bundling it around himself. He looked like a cat, crankily making biscuits, and Richie vowed to tell him that—but later, when he wasn’t overwhelmed by just having Eddie in his house.
“Came with the place,” Richie said. “Standard issue when you move anywhere in Los Feliz.”
“There’s no way that’s how it’s pronounced,” Eddie said, but graciously allowed Richie a quarter of the blanket and didn’t complain when Richie stretched out opposite him, even when he tucked his feet under Eddie’s armpit and tickled him a little bit with his toes. He only gave Richie a look that said clearly Oh, you want to do this? and reached for his foot through the blanket. Richie quickly withdrew his toes and watched Eddie go through seven distinct and different stages of indignation at the people on the television searching for a tiny house.
“Look how small the bathroom is,” Richie said whenever Eddie fell silent. “There’s a toilet in the shower.”
“They’re twenty years old,” Eddie bellowed, throwing his hand out toward the television. “What the fuck is a traveling short order cook? Nobody has that job.”
Richie woke when the TV shut itself off around one in the morning, and looked across the couch to see that Eddie had rolled onto his side at some point and had thrown one arm over Richie’s legs. He’d tease him tomorrow about spooning with his feet, but he couldn’t—he really couldn’t tease him that much today. Today was for listening to his slow, even breath and wishing he could rearrange himself on the couch so he was wrapped around Eddie’s warm body. Today was for allowing himself to think over their conversations over the last three months, picking them apart for signs before he told himself to fucking stop it and then helplessly doing it anyway, over and over again. Today was for remembering the precise moment Eddie—his skin gray, eyes flat and black, blood no longer flowing out of his mouth or his chest—moved under his hands as he reached desperately for him when Mike and Ben dragged him away and he screamed No, no, he’s moving, stop, he’s alive. Today might be for finally laying to rest all the nightmares in which Ben didn’t listen to him, but he decided he wouldn’t bet on it.
He fell asleep again with his hand on Eddie’s leg, holding on in case he rolled over in the night and lost his balance.
The next evening Richie expected Eddie to get up at some point, yawning, and head to the spare bedroom where he had left his suitcases. Richie knew for a fact that the bed was comfortable, because he had passed out in there more than once, but Eddie didn’t seem that interested. He pulled out the blanket again and settled down underneath it, and raised his eyebrows at Richie until he joined him. Richie was afraid to destroy whatever this fragile thing was by talking about it, although it felt less fragile the longer Eddie was there with him, not going back to New York and not sleeping in his own bed.
During the day, Eddie looked for a job and talked to his lawyer while Richie wrote, an activity that consisted of procrastinating until two in the afternoon, at which time he would shut himself in the room he optimistically called his study. He used a writing desk, which he had bought and then refused to use for far too long because its very existence made him feel like a douchebag. Or he might Skype Matty Bowman, a fellow Groundlings alumni who had sent him a sympathetic text after he’d eaten shit in Chicago and then another a few weeks later that said Hey Trashmouth, heard a rumor you’re writing your own shit now. GOOD. You were better than all of us you fucking dick. Matty had a lot of words for Richie’s new material and his standing desk. Richie hoped Matty and Eddie never, ever met each other.
For dinner they either ate out, alone at first or with Bill and Audra when they came back from England, or they ordered in. It took Richie a few days to realize Eddie, Eddie the responsible, Eddie the risk averse, Eddie the financially careful, had no idea how to cook and no desire to learn.
“As long as other people know how to prepare food, I will be there to support them,” he said, leaning against the counter in the kitchen and watching Richie toss old takeout cartons into the trash.
“How do you know they haven’t put anything in it that you’re allergic to?” Richie asked, holding up a two-day-old box of rice and raising an eyebrow. Eddie shook his head, and he tossed it.
Eddie took a deep breath. “I’m not actually allergic to anything,” he said.
“Congratulations,” Richie said, halfway into the fridge. “But then what was that grade A freakout over the onions in your sandwich the other day?”
“Onions are disgusting,” Eddie said. “And they give me gas.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Richie said. “All right, I can see the back of the fridge. Are you happy now?”
“Don’t act like I’m the unreasonable one here. There was shit in there from the Bush administration.”
“That was the mustard, man,” Richie said. “What were you even doing checking the best by dates on my fucking condiments anyway?”
“I almost used it.” Eddie glared at him until he bagged up the trash and took it out to the compactor. But when he came back in Eddie had made him a whiskey sour complete with a little orange zest garnish, and he didn’t complain at all when Richie wanted to order from his favorite Greek place even though they were, in his opinion, one of the worst onion offenders.
One night, three weeks into Eddie staying with him, they started a Cheers marathon after a discussion with Bill, who claimed it had actually held up really well over the years. Audra disagreed, and Richie and Eddie were brought in as guest judges, although it had been at least twenty years since either of them had seen it even in syndication.
“You know what was a good show?” Richie said sleepily. “Night Court.”
“I wasn’t allowed to watch it,” Eddie said.
“That’s right,” Richie said. “But I’d act it out for you the next day, remember?”
“Yeah,” Eddie said, smiling slowly. “You did the worst John Larroquette.”
“I do an amazing John Larroquette,” Richie said, doing an amazing John Larroquette, but Eddie only gave him an unimpressed look and squeezed his calf, under the blanket. He left his hand there, and after a few minutes, he started to idly run his fingers along Richie’s ankle.
Richie stared at the television without seeing it until the episode was finished, and then paused Netflix before it could move onto the next one. He leaned back against the little nest of pillows he had built for himself over the past three weeks and stared at the ceiling, taking a few long, slow breaths.
“So,” he began.
“So,” Eddie said, patting his leg when he didn’t continue.
“So,” Richie said. “Every time I’ve told someone I’m gay over the last however long, three months or whatever, it seems like they already knew. Did you know?”
Eddie didn’t reply, and after a moment Richie dared to lower his eyes and face him. He had turned a little pink, but hadn’t moved his hand. “This feels like a trick question,” he said. “Did you want me to have known?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “It would be nice if I could shock someone, I guess. I don’t know if I want that someone to be you, though.”
“Well, I’m not shocked, sorry,” Eddie said. “Should have told me twenty-seven years ago. Then you would have seen some shock.”
“Poor baby Eds. Did you even know what gay people did?”
“I had some ideas. It’s probably the one sex thing you didn’t tell me about, though,” Eddie said. His fingers resumed their slow stroking, back and forth over Richie’s calf. Richie tried not to shiver and failed. “Anyway, no, I didn’t know for sure, but I thought…maybe.”
“I wanted to tell you, in case.” Richie swallowed. “In case you didn’t want to stay with me anymore.”
“You think I wouldn’t want to stay with you if I knew you were gay?” Eddie asked, so quietly Richie almost couldn’t hear him.
“No,” he said. “I know you’re not a dick. I mean, you are, but not that kind of dick. It’s one of those things that scares you so much it makes you fucking stupid, you know? I’ve been hiding it since I was six years old. It’s had a lot of time to get weird.”
“How did you know, when you were six?”
“I had a crush on another kid in my class,” he said. He became aware of the silence in the room, suddenly, so complete that he could hear a dog barking in the distance. Eddie’s hand, which had begun playing with the hem of his pajama pants, suddenly slid underneath, warm on his bare calf.
“Which little kid?” Eddie asked, almost carelessly.
“Bill,” he said, and Eddie’s eyes snapped to Richie’s face. Several expressions seemed to war with one another before he relaxed against his pillow and laughed.
“Yeah, that makes sense,” he said. “Wasn’t Bill everyone’s first crush?”
“Uh,” Richie said.
“I guess you didn’t know about me either,” Eddie said, and Richie froze. He could see the blanket over his chest quivering just slightly with the force of his own heartbeat.
“No,” he said. “I didn’t. Was I supposed to?”
Eddie shrugged. “It would be easier if you just knew, but you never notice shit.”
“I…” he said, his mouth working. “I—notice things.”
“Oh, really,” Eddie said. “What color are Audra’s eyes? You literally saw her an hour ago.”
“I notice things about you,” he said, and whatever Eddie was going to say, that silenced him. He stroked Richie’s ankle for a minute and then threw back the blanket, climbed over Richie’s legs, and straddled him at the hips like they were ten and Richie had stolen one of his Micro Machines and was holding it just out of reach. For some reason, he had always threatened to eat them and that would send Eddie into a screaming rage, and then Eddie would knock him down and try to grab them out of his pockets or wherever he had stashed them. He always relented right before he could tell Eddie was about to start crying, and then he’d feel bad and make him a long, complex roller coaster of a track all the way through his bedroom and down the stairs, and Eddie would forgive him right away. If they managed to get the cars to do something cool—to fly up and out the window, for example, which he had done once and never been able to replicate—they would jump up and down and hug each other. No accolade, no award, no applause had ever compared.
“I’m kinda new at this,” Eddie said, “but I’m pretty sure you should have noticed how much I want to kiss you.”
Richie closed his eyes, his chest shuddering up and down rapidly. “Please don’t fuck with me,” he whispered.
Eddie touched his face, a gentle stroke of his finger along Richie’s cheek. “This is still you making it weird, right?” he asked. “You know I wouldn’t do that.”
He opened his eyes again and let himself look at Eddie, who was staring down at him with a half patient, half get with the program, asshole look that convinced him faster than words could. “Well,” he said, licking his lips. “Kiss me, then, if you want to.”
Eddie smiled, sudden and pleased like he had been handed a wonderful present, and bent down to kiss him, bracing himself on the pillows under Richie’s head. It was a quick kiss, but firm and sweet, and Eddie only pulled away long enough to gauge Richie’s reaction before he bent his head and gave him another, which led to another, and another, until Richie felt like everything in him was pouring into the kiss, seeking out Eddie’s mouth again and again. He reached for him with clumsy, longing hands, still afraid that he’d be pushed away even as Eddie kissed him longer and slower. He wore shorts and an old NYU t-shirt, and when Richie ran his fingers down his spine he shivered and pulled away.
“So that was what I wanted,” Eddie said, touching his lips with a dazed look on his face. “What about you? What do you want?”
“Anything,” Richie said, and meant it. His hands were trembling so badly he had to steady them on Eddie’s legs, which were still locked tight around his hips.
“No, don’t throw it back to me,” Eddie said, shaking his head with that particular look he sometimes got when he had Richie exactly where he wanted him, a little arrogant, a little self-satisfied. “Say something and we can do it.”
Richie swallowed hard. “Have you ever fucked a guy?”
Eddie shook his head, but his breath sped up and his fingers curled into Richie’s shirt. “That’s what you want?”
“Yeah,” he said shakily. “Pretty much my lifelong dream.”
“Fuck,” Eddie said. “I didn’t know if you’d like that. Yeah, yes, fuck.”
He slid off Richie and adjusted himself with a look of discomfort, and Richie blinked and swung his legs off the couch, trying to keep up.
“Your bed is bigger,” Eddie said with an impatient little gesture that finally turned into grabbing Richie’s hand and pulling him off the couch, leading him to the bedroom and shoving him onto Richie’s giant king bed none too gently. He was excited for it, Richie thought, eager in that way only Eddie could get, hustling Richie along pissily until he was stretched out and Eddie knelt between his legs, looking triumphant.
Richie laughed up at him and caught his hand, kissing the knuckles, tugging on his bare ring finger. “That really fucked me up,” he said. “That wedding ring. I kept looking over and seeing it, and every time it was like getting punched in the balls.”
“It’s weird,” Eddie said. “I felt the same way. I never even noticed it anymore, but as soon as I got to Derry—as soon as I saw you—I was really self-conscious about it, like it was the size of my whole hand.”
Richie pulled his hand close and kissed the space where the ring had been and Eddie watched him, his eyes hot. “I was so fucking jealous,” he admitted.
“You shouldn’t have been,” Eddie said. “My marriage was…not great. I think I would have left soon even if I hadn’t, you know, died and then come back to life.”
The words caught him off guard and he rested his cheek against Eddie’s hand to give himself a moment to breathe.
“I gotta warn you, I’m probably gonna get weird,” he said after a moment. “I’ve never managed to actually get to the good stuff without freaking the fuck out and running away.”
Eddie leaned back, sitting on his heels. “Wait, you’ve never had sex?”
He closed his eyes so tight he felt his entire face scrunch up, and shook his head. “Complete fucking virgin,” he said, so fast that only Eddie, working at 150% of everyone else’s speed, could have understood him.
“Wow,” Eddie said. “So let me get this right. You’re saying I have more experience than you do?”
“More experience with vaginas, sure,” Richie said. “I’ve still been near more dicks than you have.”
“Near them,” Eddie said. “Did you ever even touch one other than your own?”
He dug into his memory like a filing cabinet, skimming through the Sex (Disasters) folder, the only one that wasn’t empty. “I think I did.”
“Well, congratulations on your asymptotic dicking.” Eddie’s hand ran a restless path up and down his thigh, and Richie wondered if he even knew he was doing it. “You’ve approached sex with a man at a slightly faster rate than I have.”
“Did you just throw fucking calculus at me?” He pushed himself up to his elbows. “Do you even want to have sex or are you gonna just sit there and make fun of me because I don’t have your vast Freudian fuck experience?”
“No, dude, let me give you a teeny tiny fraction of the shit you threw at me,” Eddie said, but he was giving Richie that smile with the soft eyes and moving onto his hands and knees so he could hover over Richie and kiss him, slowly spreading Richie’s knees with his own and sinking down against him.
Backing off and talking hadn’t cooled either of them down and Richie could feel the rigid, thick line of his cock. He loved that moment, the realization that he had made someone else hard. It was a bodily confession and it always made him feel like he was being dragged down into his own arousal just to know for sure someone wanted him the same way he wanted. With Eddie it was more than being dragged down; the knowledge spread through him like he was being melted by it, and he went so hot under him that he couldn’t do anything but tilt his chin up in a silent request to be kissed more. Eddie gave it to him with a little broken gasp when they pushed against each other, and then it was nothing but Eddie’s mouth against his and the way he softly bit him every so often, the way his hand cradled the back of Richie’s head, the way he reached down to rub his thumb over the head of Richie’s cock through his pajama pants, first like he was outlining the shape of it and then just specifically to torture Richie, who clung to him and lost his fucking mind, panting out loud, fast, whimpering moans into his mouth.
“Do you want me to fuck you?” Eddie asked, kissing his chin, his jaw, his neck, while his thumb still pressed firmly against the head of Richie’s cock.
“If you don’t I’m gonna come in my pants,” Richie said, but didn’t stop him. He really was getting closer and closer to orgasm just like that, and he moaned in shivering bursts when Eddie didn’t let up. His fingers pushed him close—right up to the edge, his hips shamelessly pistoning up against Eddie’s hand—and then he pulled away.
“Do you have condoms and—lube?” he asked, only stuttering over the words a little.
“I,” Richie said, trying to figure out what was happening. One hand was caught in Eddie’s shirt and the other flailed around like he was trying to find what Eddie was looking for on the bed. There was a dark, slick wet spot on the front of his pajama pants, all along the length of his cock, and he shivered, struggling to focus. “Uh, in the bathroom. Under the sink.”
“God, look at you,” Eddie whispered. He bent his head and kissed Richie’s shoulder, almost reverently. Richie looked down at the top of his dark head and was overcome by such abject tenderness that it broke through the fog in his brain and he wondered when the panic would start to rise. Nothing felt wrong and he held onto that, tight, as Eddie slid off the bed and headed for the bathroom with his hand trailing along Richie’s calf on the way out.
Richie sat up and tugged his shirt off, sparing a moment for self-consciousness and regret for the hundreds or perhaps even thousands of tacos he had consumed while never exercising, before Eddie came back in with a towel, a bottle of lube, and what looked like an entire strip of condoms.
“Big plans?” Richie asked, nodding toward the condoms.
“Pretty fucking big, yeah.” Eddie grinned, tossing them on the bed and pulling his shirt off, then stripping out of his shorts and underwear like he was just used to being naked in front of another person.
“Jesus Christ,” Richie said. Eddie knelt on the bed and Richie reached for him, not even knowing where he wanted to touch first, shoulders or ass or stomach or cock or thighs, fucking god, his thighs. He ended up running his hands over Eddie’s chest, pressing his lips against the unscarred line from his rib cage to his navel. He couldn’t bear to look up at Eddie afterward and slid his hands upward instead, noticing that he bucked his hips a little when Richie touched his nipples, and then went straight for his cock, which was just—yes, granted Richie really liked dicks, that was not in question, but he thought maybe he was as in love with Eddie’s as he was in love with Eddie himself. It was thick and heavy in his hand and he wanted the big head of it in his mouth, almost as much as he wanted to get fucked. You and me, later, he thought. We’re gonna have a fucking time.
“Pants off, buddy,” Eddie said, tapping Richie’s leg. He shook himself from his telepathic dick promises and shoved his pajamas and boxers off, and lay back on the bed hoping Eddie wouldn’t look at him too closely. Now, he thought, the freakout is going to start any time now. But as Eddie smoothed his hands over the insides of Richie’s thighs, staring down at Richie’s cock with enough of a gobsmacked look on his suddenly pink face that Richie stored it away to tease him about later, there was no fear at all.
“Have you done this before?” Richie asked. “To yourself, I mean.”
“Yeah, I have a…toy.” Eddie flushed even darker. “Yours is not the first ass my fingers have been in.”
Richie’s brain supplied him with a sudden image of Eddie in bed alone, one hand in the sheets and the other pressing a plug inside himself, or god forbid a big, thick dildo or a vibrator, while he fucked against the bed. “You’re a dark fucking horse, Eds,” he said, swallowing heavily.
Eddie spread the towel out and gestured for him to lift his hips. “I don’t want to get your comforter wet,” he said, twisting to grab the lube, popping the cap, and pouring a generous amount into his hand. “Don’t tell me anything else about what might be on it. I want to know nothing.”
He leaned in again and kissed Richie as he slid his wet fingers down between his thighs, almost inside him but not quite. Richie surged up against him for a moment before he relaxed again, but he could still feel his breath, too quick, uneven, against Eddie’s lips.
“It’s okay,” Eddie murmured, kissing him through it, his other hand soothing on Richie’s arm. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”
“It’s—” He choked on his words when Eddie slid one finger into him and then, slowly, another. “Eddie. Eddie.”
Eddie kissed him again and again while his fingers spread him open, mildly unpleasant and invasive and uncomfortable for a few moments before that same feeling, like he was being melted from within, began to build. He ran his hands over Eddie’s back and finally dug his fingers into the beautiful thick muscle of his ass, and Eddie gave a startled cry and rubbed against his thigh as he fucked him with his fingers. Richie had to pull away from the kiss to muffle his moans into his neck, rocking along with him.
“You think you’re ready?” Eddie asked shakily, lips brushing his ear.
“I don’t know,” he said, his chest heaving. “I don’t—I don’t—”
“Okay, don’t worry,” Eddie whispered. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.”
He was gone only for a moment, digging his fingers into the towel before he ripped open a condom and smoothed it over his cock. Even with almost one hundred percent of his brain in his dick, Richie thought he would remember this moment forever, the way Eddie looked up at him as he moved up the bed, ready to fuck him, his hair damp on his forehead, his eyes heavy and dark. Eddie wasn’t uncoordinated or unathletic, all issues aside, but Richie had never thought of him as particularly graceful until right this second, pushing Richie’s leg up and working his way in between his thighs, pressing just the head of his cock inside him. He gripped Richie’s ass with his other hand and pushed at him until Richie tipped his hips up a little and then gradually slid inside him.
“This isn’t easy,” he said with a breathless laugh. “Should have done it on your stomach, but I want to see you come.”
He shifted around until he got his knees under him and then dragged Richie closer by the hips, which had the added benefit of focusing the pressure of his cock right against what Richie had to assume was his prostate, by the way his entire body seized up in pleasure. He gave a shout that felt like it was punched right the fuck out of him and arched up until only his shoulders and head were still on the bed, and when Eddie began to move in short, concentrated thrusts, he fell back against the bed, reaching for something to hold onto and finding nothing but the headboard, his fingers scrabbling against it before he braced himself there with one hand and reached down blindly. Eddie’s hands were wrapped around Richie’s thighs to give him leverage, but he slid their fingers together anyway and then just fucked him, slow and steady and precise. When Richie could focus on him he saw Eddie’s eyes were closed, his head tilted back, mouth open, breath shuddering out of him fast. He straightened and bent his head to kiss Richie’s knee and then rubbed the side of his cheek against it, watching Richie carefully even though he seemed to be having a hard time keeping his eyes open.
“Feel good?” he asked.
Richie could only nod, close to coming already no matter how hard he struggled to calm down. He didn’t dare touch himself but it didn’t matter; his cock was twitching and he couldn’t stop making low, needy noises as he tightened around Eddie, squeezing his hand like it might help him stop.
“Yeah,” Eddie whispered. “Let me see it, Rich. Come on.”
It was too late anyway—he was starting to come even before Eddie finished talking. He pulled Eddie’s hand along with his own so both of them were stroking his cock fast and hard as he spurted all over their fingers and his own stomach with a thick, hot rush of pleasure, sobbing in relief. Eddie’s hips jerked and he suddenly gasped, “Oh, Rich, fuck,” cock pulsing hard inside him, and while Richie was still trying to figure out what the fuck was even going on, Eddie dragged him up until he was sitting so he could kiss him through the last of it. He followed where Eddie led him and let himself get lost in kissing him until they had both calmed.
It took a minute or two before Eddie was soft enough to pull out, grimacing. “Shower, right fucking now,” he said, climbing off the bed and heading for the bathroom fast.
“How do you even know your own name?” Richie called after him, staggering to his feet and wincing at the pull of muscles he’d never used before. “I think I have a sex concussion.”
“Yeah,” Eddie said once Richie was in the bathroom with him, flipping on the shower. “Sex will do that to you.”
“So it’s always like that?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest and feeling small and stupid, suddenly.
Eddie stilled, his hand under the tap while the water warmed. “No,” he said, his voice low. “It was never like that before.”
He straightened, shaking the water from his hand, and turned to face Richie, his troubled face softening at the sight of him.
“You all right?” he asked, and Richie shrugged, not sure why he was reluctant to talk. Maybe he really did have a concussion. Eddie tugged on his wrist until he unfolded, and pulled him into the shower.
He stayed quiet for a while, partly because his glasses were sitting on the counter and he couldn’t see all that well and partly because he was reviewing the evening and also, incidentally, most of the last twenty-seven years. Eddie let him stay quiet, even scrubbing his back without reminding him that he needed to get some kind of exfoliator, and finally, when they were toweling themselves off, Richie said, “I didn’t freak out.”
“Do you usually?” Eddie asked.
He gave a short, hard laugh. “Yeah. Trust me, I tried to catch a dick a hundred times. I’d almost get there and then—something always stopped me. I never knew what it was, but I think it was you.”
“So you’re gonna blame me and not the alien spider clown that made us forget our childhoods,” Eddie said, winding the towel around his hips. “Like I’m the cockblock here.”
“Sorry to say it, dude, but it was all you,” Richie said. He shivered as he walked naked from the humid bathroom to the bedroom and dug through his dresser for clean pajama pants. Eddie followed him, picking up his own clothes along the way. “I’d be almost there, like, dick about to be sucked or whatever, and all of a sudden I’d think—”
“What?” Eddie’s scowling face disappeared and then reappeared, even more displeased, as he pulled on his t-shirt. “You’d think about me and your dick would go soft?”
“No.” Richie stared at the top of his dresser and then closed his eyes, letting that old feeling overtake him, that thing that had consumed him so beautifully for such a long time—that he wanted to consume him, that he would never stop wanting no matter how it hurt, because it had made him. “I’d think I love him.”
Eddie was silent behind him. Richie didn’t look into the mirror over the dresser to check his reaction, keeping his eyes on a little bowl of movie ticket stubs. Apparently he had seen Leprechaun: Origins on September 3, 2014 and Fright Night September 3, 2011.
“But I didn’t even know who you were, and it definitely wasn't those assholes I was thinking about," he continued. "Nothing like that first love, right? It fucks you up.”
“Yeah, it does,” Eddie said. Richie felt a hand on his lower back and turned around reluctantly to find Eddie looking up at him with his eyes dark and solemn and full of a strange sort of pain Richie knew well. “Sometimes for life.”
They moved together at the same time, wrapping around each other so tight he could barely breathe and didn’t care. He hid his face in Eddie’s hair and clung to him and tried to forget the feeling of this warm beloved body broken and ripped open underneath him, the realization that in between one moment and the next, he had died.
“You want to sleep in a bed tonight, finally?” Richie asked after a while. Eddie shook his head, his face still buried in Richie’s shirt. “Yeah, all right, me neither.”
They ate leftovers standing up in the kitchen and ended the evening as always, on the couch. This time, however, when Eddie turned on his side, Richie was there behind him, his back to the room and his arm tucked firmly around Eddie. It wasn’t like he thought anything was going to attack them there on the couch, but if it did, it sure as hell was going to have to get through Richie Tozier first this time.
“You good?” Eddie mumbled, almost asleep.
“Yeah,” Richie said. “Think you might have ruined my career though. Comics are supposed to be miserable.”
“That’s really sweet, but you don't have a career for me to ruin right now.” He made a low, deeply pleased hmm noise when Richie kissed the back of his neck, but when he opened his mouth to respond, he realized Eddie was out. He rested his hand against Eddie’s chest, the ribs and muscle and organs and skin he had watched knit themselves back together while Eddie lay in the dirt outside the house on Neibolt Street and Richie and Bev held hands over his body and cried and Ben and Bill stalked back and forth yelling uselessly and Mike started to call an ambulance and then, astonished, hung up and just stared with his hand over his mouth. Eddie had rolled over and coughed and coughed until he threw up, and then he sat up shakily and said, Did I fucking die? Guys, did I die? and the six of them sat there in the patchy grass and gravel and held onto each other until the paramedics showed up anyway and kindly, gently yelled at them for going inside a condemned house. Richie remembered mumbling Does Obamacare cover brain injuries sustained from dead childhood friend spider heads? which earned him a ride to the ER for an actual concussion check, but the truth was that he felt like maybe Eddie wasn't the only one who had died and come back to life. There was something in him that had been ripped apart and then put back together too.
The three rotating lights passed over his vision again—a little late this time, aren’t you? he thought—and he fell asleep with them in his sight, drawing him down inward, into the voice that had soothed him to sleep since he was a child and that now told him he had done well, that they had all done well and they deserved to keep their peace and love one another. They wouldn’t remember it when they woke but would turn to each other and smile over the best night of sleep they had ever had, and Richie would know that it was right, this time, it was all right. Everything was all right.