Author's note: So I lied. Richie and Eddie decided they wanted to have some more sexy times before things started getting complicated again. This chapter still conforms to the M rating and there's nothing graphic, but this scene is quite a bit more involved than any of the previous ones, so please tread carefully. If you'd rather avoid this part entirely, please skip down to about halfway through when Eddie asks Richie if he's okay.

Brave
Chapter 23 – The Calm Before the Storm

Eddie was lying on his back, stretched out in the middle of Richie's bed. Richie's bed. Eddie almost had to keep reminding himself of where he was, of the fact that they weren't just sharing a bed at a hotel or an inn anymore. No. They were in Richie's bed now. In Richie's home. Their home.

They had started off kissing with Eddie on top, but at some point, Richie had flipped them over. Richie was now partially on top of him, his body comfortably covering Eddie's. Richie's leg was in between Eddie's, one of his hands just reaching into the waistband of Eddie's jeans to cup his hip gently.

Eddie moaned into Richie's kiss, bringing his hands up to thread his fingers through the hair at the back of Richie's neck. Eddie wrapped his free leg around Richie's, thrusting up slightly into Richie.

"Shit," Richie muttered against his lips before pulling away. He was breathing heavily, his mouth hanging open as he gasped for air. Richie's cheeks were flushed and his glasses were beginning to get a little steamed up.

This caused Eddie to chuckle, but then it seemed to hit him that he was the one who was eliciting this response from Richie. Richie was the one on top of him and he was getting breathless just from kissing Eddie. Of all people. This wasn't exactly news anymore. After all, it was two months into their relationship and making out was becoming a common occurrence for them, but Eddie still had to remind himself that this was actually happening. That Richie completely and totally wanted him.

Richie still hadn't resumed their kisses because they were quickly approaching the point where Richie would always pull back. Would always stop things before they got carried away and they went too far, and Eddie fucking loved him for it. Loved that Richie was always so attentive and considerate of him, never pushing for something that Eddie wasn't ready for. But this time, Eddie decided he wanted more.

"Rich?"

"Hm?"

"Don't stop yet."

Eddie could see him swallowing, and then Richie asked, "How, um…how far did you have in mind?"

"Not all the way," Eddie immediately replied, because he certainly didn't want to freak Richie out. "Just…I want to feel you. More of you."

Eddie wrapped one of his fingers around the beltloop of Richie's jeans and tugged, pulling Richie to straddle him completely. Richie looked completely shocked, because this was always the point where they stopped. Always.

"If…if you want to," Eddie added tentatively.

Richie grinned before leaning down to kiss Eddie again. Their chests were pressed together and Richie ran his thumbs over Eddie's cheeks. "I want to."

"Can…can we take our shirts off?" Eddie asked. He stuck his hands up underneath the hem of Richie's t-shirt, pushing it up and running his fingers along Richie's stomach. "We haven't done that since back in Derry that day Myra called and kind of aborted things. Can we…I want us to see each other again…and see where it goes this time with no interruptions." Eddie paused before adding, "If you do."

"Yeah," Richie gasped. "God, fuck, yeah. Just…are you sure?"

Eddie nodded. "I'm sure. Nothing else just yet, and…I'll still have my bandages on, but…is that okay? That…I won't be…as naked as you?" Eddie knew Richie wouldn't be upset at him for it, but he still took a moment to watch Richie's eyes searchingly, questioningly.

"Yeah, more than okay," Richie replied. He sat up straight, wasting no time in pulling his t-shirt off. He flung it to the floor without so much as a second thought before returning his gaze to Eddie. Almost immediately, however, he diverted his eyes away, biting at his bottom lip.

It wasn't the first time they had seen each other shirtless, but this was certainly the first time it had been in a completely sexual manner. Richie always helped Eddie with his bandages, and they'd seen each other coming out of the shower without their shirts on more than their fair share of times, but never with the express intent of becoming frisky. Sure, it had led that way sometimes, but this was different, and Richie knew it.

It warmed Eddie's heart to know that Richie was just as nervous about Eddie seeing him, probably imagining that he wouldn't measure up to Eddie's buff and chiseled muscles and abs achieved after hours of working out. Maybe Richie wasn't hot in the traditional sense – so he had love handles and his stomach hung over the waistband of his jeans the tiniest bit – but something about him made Eddie feel turned on like no one else ever had.

Like no one else ever would.

Eddie ran his hands up Richie's stomach and chest, letting them settle against Richie's pecs. He rubbed his thumbs over the hair there and said, "I told you back in Derry, you got hot. You're fucking beautiful."

Richie leaned over him again, letting his hands drift up under Eddie's t-shirt. He tugged it upwards while he gave Eddie a long and deep kiss, perhaps expressing his appreciation for Eddie's words in a way that he couldn't quite verbalize at the moment.

Eddie pushed up against the mattress so that Richie could tug his shirt off over his shoulders. He helped Richie push it up over his head next before Richie flung it to the floor to join his own.

Richie let his hands wander down from Eddie's shoulders, past the expanse of bandages that took up the majority of his chest, and finally to his toned abs just peeking out from underneath the bottom of the bandages. "You're so fucking beautiful too," Richie told him, one of his hands returning to the gauzy material. "This isn't going to change that. Not for me. Not now. Not ever. If you don't want me to touch it or see it in that way yet, it's perfectly okay, but please know that."

His bottom lip quivering the tiniest bit, Eddie reached up to wrap his around the back of Richie's neck again. He pulled Richie down on top of him, and he loved the feeling of Richie's skin and chest hair against his body. A part of him did want to rip off his bandages then and there so that he could feel even more of Richie, but the twinge of fear in the pit of his stomach at the thought of it was enough to stop him. Besides, he was quickly approaching the end of the week when the doctor told him he would have to stop wearing them. That thought made him nervous, because the bandages kind of felt like a security blanket in a way, and Eddie didn't want to quite think about going without them just yet.

Instead, Eddie kissed Richie deeply as Richie snaked his arm underneath Eddie's waist. Richie pulled him closer, and Eddie thrust up, eliciting a gasp from Richie. Richie then started trailing kisses down along Eddie's neck towards his shoulder. Richie squeezed Eddie around his waist again, simultaneously thrusting his hips down against Eddie's.

Eddie whined at the sensation, but it was a sound of pure pleasure, because he had never felt so wanted and desired in all his life. The way Richie was holding him, and kissing him, and gazing down at him like he was the most precious thing he had ever held in his arms made Eddie's eyes burn with emotion.

Richie, however, had seemed to misread his reactions, because he immediately stilled, his eyes wide behind his glasses. "Are you okay?" Richie asked, sounding almost frantic. "Is it…is it too much? Do you want to stop?"

Shaking his head firmly, Eddie gasped out, "No, god. It's not too much. Please don't stop." He ran his hands down Richie's chest, looping them around his waist and pulling him down insistently. "I want you, Richie."

"Want me how?" Richie asked, going back to laving kisses along the top of his bandages. Eddie could hear the smile in his voice.

"Not that far, dumbass," Eddie said, slapping against Richie's hip playfully. "I just…" His voice died in his throat, morphing into a groan when Richie worked his way back up the other side of Eddie's neck. His soft breath there against Eddie's skin caused Eddie to shiver in pleasure.

"What?" Richie asked, kissing at that sensitive spot behind Eddie's ear. "What do you want, baby?"

This time, Eddie did nothing to protest Richie's use of the word 'baby', because he loved the tone in Richie's voice when he said it. Just like the way Richie was holding him, and kissing him, and looking at him, his voice was so tender; Eddie couldn't possibly be angry or snap at him for it.

Eddie swallowed hard, because a tiny part of him was nervous at expressing his wants to Richie. He knew Richie wouldn't think any less of him for it, and indeed, judging by the way he was currently clinging to Eddie, he probably wanted this just as much as Eddie did. Still, being sexual in any way and asking for things in the bedroom was such a foreign concept to him, it scared him at the same time. His only experience with this sort of thing had been with Myra, which hadn't been positive or fulfilling at all.

"Do…do you want to get off?" Eddie asked, his voice small.

This caused Richie to pull away, his breathing hard as he stared down at Eddie. "I…is that what you want?"

Eddie nodded solemnly, gripping Richie's hips tightly in his hands to emphasize his point. "If…if that's okay with you."

Richie laughed breathlessly, still struggling to get his breathing under control. "Do you have any idea how fucking long I hoped and wished that you'd ask me something like that? I must confess, there were more than a few wet dreams I had where questions like that would come up a lot."

It was Eddie's turn to laugh, because he still had a hard time believing that Richie lusted after him like this. That anyone would want him in that way at all. That Richie had wanted him since they were horny teenagers, having fucking stupid wet dreams about each other.

"So you want to get off like this?" Eddie asking, bucking his hips and pulling Richie down against him.

"Holy shit," Richie murmured, burying his head in Eddie's shoulder. "I want that like you wouldn't believe." He paused, lifting his head a moment later to stare into Eddie's eyes. He cupped Eddie's cheek with his free hand, gently rubbing his thumb over the stubble there. "Only if you're absolutely positive that it's what you want."

Eddie smiled softly, because he didn't think he'd ever tire of Richie checking to make sure that everything he was doing was all right. Didn't think he'd ever tire of Richie wanting to look out for him and making sure he didn't hurt him. Eddie was more than capable of taking care of himself, but there was something so pure about Richie being so careful and gentle with him, something that Eddie had never known before. Sure, his wife and his mother had coddled him to the point of being smothering, but that was always about control; it had never stemmed from Richie's place of genuine concern.

"I'm positive, Rich," Eddie replied. He brought one of his hands up, cupping Richie's cheek, his thumb caressing the corner of Richie's lips. "Maybe…I don't know. Maybe it's finally knowing I'll be free of Myra in just a few short months, or maybe it's finally being here with you in your apartment."

"Our apartment," Richie corrected, and there was a soft twinkle of a tear in one of his eyes.

"Our apartment," Eddie repeated. "Or maybe it's…because tonight was so fucking amazing and…it made me realize that I want to take that next step with you. That I'm ready for things to…take that turn."

Richie smiled, ducking his head to place another kiss against Eddie's lips. "I love you so much," he said when he pulled away again. "But if at any point you decide it's too much for you and you want it to stop, just tell me and I will. You know I won't be mad if you do, right?"

Eddie nodded. "I know," Eddie whispered, his fingertips threading through the locks at the back of Richie's neck. "I trust you, Richie. And the same goes for you, you know. If you get freaked out or whatever, just tell me to get off. I promise I won't be offended by that either."

"But I thought the whole point of this was to 'get off'," Richie said, dipping his head and pressing more kisses along Eddie's neck. "That is what we're doing, isn't it? If I tell you to 'get off', how are you going to know the difference?"

"Oh, Jesus," Eddie muttered, but he turned his head to give Richie better access. He rolled his eyes and said, "How about 'stop' then? Just say 'stop'. How's that work for you?"

"It works," Richie agreed, grinding his hips down into Eddie's and renewing his kisses against Eddie's skin. "But I don't want to stop."

"Don't stop then," Eddie echoed. "God, don't stop. Please." Again, he trailed his hands down to Richie's hips and hooked his index fingers through the beltloops there. He thrust up again before throwing his head back against the mattress in pleasure.

"I won't," Richie murmured, beginning to match Eddie's movements. "I just…don't know how good this'll be, because I have no fucking clue what I'm doing."

Eddie laughed softly, turning his head to lay some kisses along Richie's cheek in encouragement. "And I do? Believe me, I wasn't exactly in the habit of getting off with Myra. It's been fucking ages since I've done anything like this."

"Could we not…talk about your soon-to-be ex-wife right now?" Richie asked, turning his own head to capture Eddie's lips in a kiss. "It's kind of killing the mood."

"Now you know how I felt," Eddie replied, pressing his tongue into Richie's mouth. "Try being married to her." He rained kisses against Richie's lips before he added, "Just do what feels right. This is me. You don't have to worry about embarrassing yourself since, you know, you do that on a regular basis already."

"Fuck off," Richie muttered, sucking in a sharp breath at a particularly enthusiastic thrust from Eddie.

"Is that okay?" Eddie asked, stilling his movements, not sure if his had been welcome or not.

"God, fuck, yeah," Richie whispered, tightening his arm around Eddie's waist and pulling Eddie against him like he was holding on for dear life. "Holy shit. You're going to be the death of me here, but…it's good."

Smiling, Eddie hummed in response. He released Richie's beltloops to grip his hips for more leverage. Then he slipped his hands underneath the waistband of Richie's jeans, his skin sweaty and sticky against Eddie's fingers. They would so need showers after their little romp, but right now, Eddie couldn't bring himself to care. He found the elastic of Richie's boxers next, letting his fingers drift downwards ever so slightly, just reaching the gentle curve of his ass.

"Is this still okay?" Eddie asked, his eyes going up to Richie's face.

"Yeah," Richie gasped out, finding Eddie's lips again as if to prove his point. He kissed him fiercely this time, even more so than before, and Eddie wondered if that was a telltale sign that Richie was getting close. "More than okay."

It excited Eddie to no end just thinking about the fact that he and Richie had the rest of their lives to do shit like this – to get to know each other in the bedroom, to get each other off, and have sex eventually. They had all the time in the world to do what they had wanted for their entire lives, to explore each other, and Eddie could barely even think straight anymore.

All he could process was the fact that Richie was thrusting against him steadily and almost frantically now, his breath coming even harder than it had before. His grip was so tight around Eddie's waist, but Eddie loved the feeling of it there, of feeling so wanted by the man of his dreams. Richie was still kissing Eddie in between his heavy pants for breath, while Eddie gladly opened his mouth for the other man and just let Richie love him.

This thought – that Richie was expressing his love for Eddie – finally pushed Eddie over the edge. He thrust up one last time as a groan was ripped from his throat. He clung to Richie, his hands pressing down insistently against the small of Richie's back, his back arching up off the bed as his orgasm tore through him. Eddie's heels dug into the mattress as he tried to find more parts of Richie to touch, to guide him through his release as he rode it out against Richie's hips.

Richie, meanwhile, had slowed his movements, giving Eddie time to come down from his orgasm.

Eddie's breath was heaving as he collapsed back against the mattress, moving his hands to wrap his arms securely around Richie's waist. Once his breathing had begun to slow, he asked, "Did you…?"

"Not yet," Richie said, trailing soft kisses along Eddie's cheek.

"Don't stop, then," Eddie said, using his arms to pull Richie's hips down against his. "Come on. Cum for me, Richie."

Richie moaned at his words, resuming his earlier nearly-frantic pace. It only took him a couple more thrusts, most probably driven by Eddie's words, before he growled in pleasure. He dropped his head to mattress next to Eddie, burying his head in the soft covers as he rutted desperately against Eddie.

Eddie had never seen him like this, letting go this much, and Eddie hugged him tighter. He curled his arms around Richie's waist even more, and let one of hands trail up, lightly dragging his hand across Richie's back in what he hoped was a reassuring manner.

Richie groaned one last time before he sagged heavily against Eddie, his breathing coming in long and heavy gasps. He was shaking slightly, and Eddie wasn't sure if it was from his release or from the gamut of emotions he was experiencing right now. A moment later, however, a sob escaped from Richie, and Eddie realized he was crying into the mattress.

"Hey," Eddie said, turning his head and trying to find Richie's face in the mess of covers underneath them. His stomach tightened uncomfortably, because he would never forgive himself if this had upset Richie in any way. Perhaps Richie had realized that he wasn't ready for this, that he regretting what they had just done, and that thought made Eddie feel sick.

He released Richie's waist and brought his hand up to push some of Richie's hair out of his face. "Rich? Are you okay?"

The next sound to escape Richie was a laugh, and that helped to assuage Eddie's fears the tiniest bit. Richie turned his head and although he was indeed crying – his cheeks were wet and his eyes were slightly red – he was also smiling like a fucking lunatic.

"I just got off with the man of my dreams," Richie said. "Fuck yeah, I'm okay. I've actually never been better." He swallowed and took some deep breaths before he added, "Just a little emotional from everything." He brought one of his hands up to Eddie's cheek, caressing it gently. "What about you? Are you okay?"

It was Eddie's turn to laugh, because Richie had voiced his sentiments almost exactly. "Yeah," Eddie whispered, pressing a soft and sleepy kiss to Richie's lips. "God, that was fucking amazing. You were fucking amazing, so it matters fuck all that you didn't know what you were doing."

Richie was still smiling as he seemed to find his energy again. He pushed himself up with his arms so that he was hovering over Eddie, staring down at him intently. He was still running a hand over Eddie's cheek, and it looked like he was trying to blink away some of the tears that had gathered in his eyes.

It was fucking intense, the way Richie was looking at him, and Eddie didn't think he'd ever tire of seeing it. Hell, he still wondered if Richie's feelings for him were as intense as Eddie's own, and all it took was one look at the expression on Richie's face just then to know the answer to that.

"I can't believe you're here," Richie gulped out. It sounded like Richie had been about to let out a sob, but he was able to contain it. "Not just…in our home, in our bed, but…here. Alive. Because when we were down in the sewer, I was so certain that fucking clown had killed you. Oh god, you don't know how afraid I was."

"I'm here, Rich," Eddie replied, placing his own hands on Richie's cheeks. "I'm alive because of you. Because you wouldn't leave me down there and because you gave me something to fight for."

"Did…did anyone ever tell you what happened in the hospital after they brought you in? That first day you were there?"

Eddie shook his head.

"I guess it wasn't important in the grand scheme of things, but you stopped breathing for a little while," Richie told him. "They said you went into respiratory arrest, which apparently wasn't that out of the ordinary, considering how much blood you lost, but…fuck. First, I was so sure that clown had killed you, but then we got you to the hospital alive, and you stopped breathing…I was so sure I was going to lose you."

"You didn't lose me," Eddie said reassuringly. He let one of his hands drift around to the back of Richie's neck, running his fingers through the unruly locks there. Eddie was coming to learn more and more that as much as he wished Richie would do something about his ridiculous hair, Eddie really didn't want him to at all; he loved the way it felt between his fingers, especially when they were being intimate.

"I know, but you should have seen me," Richie said. "I never cried so hard in my life – sitting on your bed, and out in the waiting room, and…they let me take showers there, because I wouldn't leave you, and that was when I let go a lot. I even punched the shower walls a time or two because I was so upset."

It wasn't a surprise to Eddie that Richie had cried over him in the hospital. Bill had told him as much, even though Eddie still had a hard time imagining Richie crying on what could have potentially been his deathbed. What did surprise Eddie, however, was something else entirely.

Lifting his head up from the mattress, Eddie asked, "You wouldn't leave me?"

"No," Richie replied. "The others were trying to get me to go back to the inn to at least take a shower, because we had just come out of the sewer. And I wouldn't. So thank god the staff took pity on me, because I was fucking rank."

"You're always rank."

"Fuck off," Richie said warmly. After a moment, he said, "But I had this irrational fear that if I left…something horrible would happen to you. That I'd leave, and you'd die all alone, never knowing how I felt." Richie's eyes were wide, and there was a shimmer of tears in them again.

Eddie had the urge to stop him, because he hated seeing Richie this upset. On the other hand, however, it was rare that Richie opened up to him like this. It was rare that Richie made himself this vulnerable, so Eddie was going to let him. Eddie was going to let him, because it made him feel things he didn't even know he was capable of feeling. There was a warm tingling sensation somewhere inside him that he didn't think he'd ever get enough of.

"I was already beating myself up over the fact that I didn't tell you how I felt when I had the chance," Richie went on. "I wasted so much time, and…I was so stupid."

"We both wasted time," Eddie said. "I had ample opportunity to tell you how I felt, and I never did either."

"But you did eventually," Richie pointed out. "Meanwhile, I went right on being a coward just like I always have been. Even after I almost lost you once and for all, I was still too terrified to be honest about my feelings. At least you had the courage to go after what you wanted."

"So did you," Eddie said. He released Richie's cheek with his left hand, holding it up between them. He let the soft lamplight glint off of his ring for a few moments before he said, "So I made the first move, but…that doesn't make you any less in this relationship. Can it…stop being a competition and can you stop putting me up on a pedestal, because you think I did things first or better? This is a partnership, not…a contest, you know? It doesn't matter how we got here. All that matters is that we are here."

Richie reached out, cupping his hand over Eddie's, over his ring. "Yeah," Richie agreed. "I just…keep thinking about how we almost didn't have this, and…it scares me. You're the love of my life, and I almost let you slip away."

"Not anymore," Eddie vowed, meeting and holding Richie's gaze. "You don't have to worry about losing me. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere, okay? I love you so much, Richie. More than you could ever imagine."

Richie's bottom lip quivered and he suddenly lowered his head again, burying it in Eddie's shoulder. He didn't say anything for a long time, but he clung to Eddie like he might disappear if he loosened his grip even for a moment. He had tightened his legs around Eddie's waist and was holding onto Eddie's shoulders, his arms pressed down over Eddie's. He was quivering slightly, and Eddie heard errant faint sobs coming from him every now and again.

It was strange, but all at once, Richie seemed so small. One of the things that Eddie loved most about Richie were his solid, firm shoulders and arms, the way they held Eddie so protectively. It always made Eddie feel so safe when he was in Richie's arms, but the way Richie was clinging to him and shaking sort of shattered that image for Eddie. At the same time, however, Eddie had only seen him like this once before (after Richie's nightmare while in their room in Derry), and Eddie felt blessed that Richie trusted him enough to let go in front of him like this.

Eddie tightened his hold around Richie, continuing to thread the fingers of one hand through the hair at the back of Richie's neck. Eddie ran his other hand over Richie's back, gently dragging his fingernails over the skin of Richie's shoulder. Burying his nose in the top of Richie's head, Eddie pressed soft kisses into the hair, reveling in the way Richie's curls tickled his face.

Richie eventually quieted and stilled, and Eddie almost thought he had fallen asleep. But then Richie whispered, "I love you so fucking much."

This caused Eddie to smile and he asked, "Are you okay?"

Sniffling and lifting his head, Richie said, "Yeah." He used one hand to push his glasses up to his forehead and rub at his reddened and swollen eyes. Once his glasses were back in place on his nose, Richie muttered, "Sorry. I didn't realize this shit would make me so emotional."

"Don't apologize," Eddie immediately replied. "After the number of breakdowns I've had, I'd say you're entitled to a couple. Besides, I like that you feel safe enough to kind of fall apart in front of me. I…hate knowing that you're keeping so much bottled up inside and…I want you to be able to talk about these things with me. You know that, right?"

Richie nodded, lazily kissing Eddie like he was still recovering from their orgasm together. "Hungry?" he asked when he pulled away. His eyes were still watering a bit, but his smile from earlier had returned, and Eddie was content in knowing that they were happy tears. "'Cause getting off with you works up my appetite."

"Mm," Eddie mumbled around a soft laugh. "Yeah, but I need a fucking shower, because cumming in your pants is fucking gross." Eddie crinkled up his nose as he wiggled his waist around uncomfortably.

"Your idea."

"No regrets."

"None."

This caused Eddie to grin as Richie crawled off him and got to his feet. Eddie stayed where he was for a moment, watching Richie make his way over to his dresser and pull out his own change of clothes.

"The master bath is through there," Richie said, gesturing to the door on the other side of the dresser. "I'll grab your bags and get a shower in main bathroom."


When Eddie emerged from his shower over half an hour later, it was to the smell of lasagna drifting down the hallway to the bedroom. Eddie followed the scent, still patting his hair dry with one of Richie's large and fuzzy yellow towels.

Richie was in the kitchen, setting out two plates, two bowels, and silverware on the island counter.

There was just one little problem.

"Fuck, Richie," Eddie said. "It smells amazing, but…you know I can't have lasagna. Gluten, you know. I…can just order-"

Richie held up a finger and grinned as he said, "Already taken care of." He stepped forward around the island counter and grabbed one of Eddie's hands. He led him over to the stove where he picked up another note from the counter and handed it to Eddie.

Gluten free noodles in the lasagna in the red dish for your friend.
Wouldn't want to make him sick his first night in LA.
Or make him think LA is full of a bunch of idiots like you.
Enjoy!
~Helen

"Rich…" Eddie began, but then his words died in his throat. His eyes went from the note he was holding in between his thumb and forefinger to Richie standing just before him. "You…told her about my dietary restrictions?"

"Why do you always act like I don't know you?" Richie demanded, throwing his hands up as if in despair. "No egg, soy, gluten, or cashews," he said, ticking each one off on his fingers. "I'm not about to let my housekeeper make you sick. Do you think I'm a fucking idiot?"

Eddie's eyes drifted down to the note in his fingers again, the corners of his mouth twitching up into a smirk. "Helen seems to think you are."

Richie reached forward, snatching away the note. "Ignore that. She just likes to tease. Just like you. And Jeff. And why do I always seem to find people like you? It's exhausting." Richie bent over at the oven, opening the door and peeking in at the food. "Should be ready soon."

Eddie came up behind him, wrapping his arms around Richie's waist. When Richie straightened up, Eddie buried his head in Richie's back and whispered, "Thank you."

"For what?" Richie asked, his hands coming up to wrap around Eddie's at his stomach.

Smiling deeply, Eddie said, "For taking my restrictions seriously. For not trying to convince me that it's all in my head. For not giving me a hard time about it. I mean, you make comments about the 'scary gluten' and shit, but I know none of it is ever meant in a mean way. Nothing about you is ever mean. And you never seem to think twice about finding food that accommodates me."

"It's not that hard," Richie said, turning around in Eddie's arms. He pulled Eddie into an embrace, leaning over to kiss him.

Just then, they were interrupted by a soft ping from Richie's phone which was sitting out on the counter. Richie reached around Eddie, still not relinquishing his hold on him, to grab it. "Bev probably just wants to know if we-" Richie broke off, stiffening against Eddie. "Oh."

"What?" Eddie asked, turning around in Richie's arms to try and get a look at his phone.

Richie swallowed softly before he said, "Someone recognized me at the pier."

"What?" Eddie asked again, his heart thumping uncomfortably in his chest. He partially let go of Richie and placed his hand over the one Richie was holding his phone with.

"It's not…" Richie began, his voice cracking. He cleared his throat before he said, "Um, there's a picture of us, but it's kind of innocuous, actually." He let go of his phone, letting Eddie examine it. "Just scared the shit out of me."

Someone had tagged Richie on Twitter with a picture of them at the pier that night. It was just after they had bought their concessions, so they were both completely consumed in their food rather than each other, which was a massive relief. Richie was tearing off a large piece of cotton candy in the shot, and Eddie was picking a piece of popcorn out of his box while he clung to his turtle. The picture made Eddie smile and the caption on it read:

I thought I saw TrashmouthTozier at the Santa Monica pier tonight, but I was too afraid to say anything. This is you, right? It's nice to know the rumors aren't true, but did I miss my chance to meet one of my idols? :(

"Aw," Eddie murmured. "You have a sad fan."

"I wish they would have said something. I always enjoy meeting fans," Richie said, taking his phone back from Eddie and typing out a response. "Maybe they'll feel better if I answer them personally, and it'll at least help to set the record straight – that I haven't been out getting plastered this entire time."

"You enjoy meeting fans except when they're little kids from Derry that you scare the shit out of by screaming in their faces," Eddie commented.

"I thought that was the clown!" Richie exclaimed, waving an arm around for emphasis. "We had just been horribly traumatized by those fucking fortune cookies, and you expect me to have remembered a line from a routine I didn't even write?"

"I thought it was the clown too," Eddie admitted, "and I've seen that act. More than once."

Richie grinned while he finished typing out his message. Once he set his phone back down on the counter, he leaned back against it and stared at Eddie. "You're okay with this, right?" Richie asked him.

"What? Getting my picture taken?" Eddie asked, gesturing absently to Richie's phone. When Richie nodded in response, Eddie shrugged before he said, "Myra was the last person to find out about us who actually mattered, so…yeah. I have nothing to hide. I'm mostly worried about how this is going to play out for you."

Richie took Eddie in his arms again, kissing the top of his head. "You're amazing."

"I just want to be with you, Rich," Eddie said. He settled his hands against the front of Richie's t-shirt, staring up at him. "If people are interested in my boring little life just because I'm hanging out with you now, they can knock themselves out."

"I love you," Richie said. "And thank you for being patient with me while I freaked out a little bit. I'm just…it's kind of all hitting me that this is happening, you know?"

"Yeah," Eddie hummed in response. "I keep looking around here and…I can't believe it."

He kissed Richie again before they ate Helen's fucking amazing lasagna and the salad she had left them as well. It was kind of nice that even though Richie talked about being alone before he and Eddie had gotten together, he still had friends that looked out for him and helped him. Richie was just kind of like that – despite the fact that he was an annoying dumbass, it was hard to not want to be his friend.

It was nearly an hour later when Eddie and Richie cuddled up in bed together. It was the very first night that it didn't pull uncomfortably at Eddie's scar to lay on his side, so he curled up against Richie's chest. It was a position Eddie had wanted to sleep in since he was thirteen years old, and it was actually happening.

Richie was on his back, and Eddie had his head cradled in the crook between Richie's neck and shoulder. Eddie's left hand was splayed across Richie's chest, and Richie's left arm was curled up around Eddie's shoulders. Richie was threading the fingers of his free hand through Eddie's, occasionally stopping to run them over Eddie's ring.

Despite the fact that Eddie was completely exhausted from the events of the day, he still didn't quite feel like sleeping. He was actually home with Richie, and it had been one of the best nights of Eddie's life for as long as he could remember. He didn't quite want it to end just yet.

"What are you thinking?" Richie asked, barely paying attention to the cooking show he had turned on. All of his attention was completely focused on Eddie, burying his nose in the top of Eddie's head.

"Can we have more nights like tonight?" Eddie asked quietly. "You…really made me feel special and that's all I've ever wanted."

"You are special," Richie murmured back, tightening his hold around Eddie, "and I'll give you a million more nights like tonight if you let me."

"Forever," Eddie mumbled, his eyes closing against his best efforts to the contrary. He drifted off, Richie not far behind him, and neither one of the awoke until the very first splinters of daylight began to pierce the Los Angeles sky.

To be continued…