One of Richie’s favourite things to do-apart from studying aliens, that is-was stargazing. Every night the weather was good, he would go out on the flat stretch of roof next to his bedroom window and set up a telescope. Richie didn’t live in a busy neighbourhood, so he could actually get a decent view of the night sky.
Of course, he had to be a nerd about it. He had three thick books full of all kinds of constellations and the times of year they would be visible, and a star journal of his own to note down any variations. His bedroom ceiling was covered with glow in the dark stars, and there was a large poster of a solar system set up next to the “alien pinups” on his walls.
Tonight, Shifty was up on the roof with him. Buttons was somewhere downstairs with Mrs. Cunningham, and judging by the quiet giggles floating up they were having a good time. Shifty leaned back, looking up at the sky.
It was a bit weird to think that he might have come down from one of those stars long ago, but whatever. Shifty was cool. Besides, it was always fun hanging with Richie and listening to him go on about something he thought was neat.
Apparently, Richie was having some trouble though. He kept adjusting his telescope and looking through the eyepiece, his glasses bumping against the lens. Usually he just took his glasses off, but every time Shifty came up he insisted on leaving them on so Shifty would be able to look through the telescope without changing anything.
“I’m telling you, we should be able to see it! This is when star XB-88 is at its peak, and adds on to the Euripides constellation. Maybe if I just shift the angle just a bit—” Richie moved around to the other side of the telescope, fiddling with a little wheel on the side. He was right at the edge of the roof now, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Richie moved just a bit further back so he could crouch down better, and his foot went over the edge of the roof. His arms windmilled, but it was too late to save his balance. As he fell back, Shifty could see how his face contorted in surprise.
Shifty didn’t even think. He shed his human form like it was an old jacket, and lunged towards Richie. His tail grabbed the window ledge for balance, and his hands closed around both of Richie’s wrists.
Richie was hanging off the edge of the roof, his legs flailing wildly. Shifty instinctively tightened his grip on Richie’s wrists, careful not to dig his claws in. Richie stared up at him with wide eyes, panting heavily. Shifty could feel the wooden windowsill straining under the weight of his grip, and he shuffled back so he wasn’t quite hanging off the edge of the roof.
He lifted Richie up, wrapping one arm around his waist. He used his tail to push the telescope aside, holding on to Richie until they were both safely back in the middle of the roof. He set Richie down carefully, only letting go of him once he was sure he was settled.
“Jeez, you gotta be more careful sci-fi.” Shifty sighed, flopping down on to the roof on his back next to Richie. “Ya almost gave me a heart attack.”
“Sorry.” Richie hugged himself, turning away from Shifty. “That was pretty stupid of me.”
“It’s fine.” Shifty reached out and patted Richie’s shoulder awkwardly. He hadn’t meant to make Richie feel bad, he just didn’t want the nerd getting hurt when he wasn’t around to help him. “No harm done.”
“Thanks for saving me.” Richie smiled softly, his eyes crinkling a bit behind the lenses of his glasses. “I know you’re strong, but it was still pretty cool.”
“Ah, it was nothing.” Shifty could feel himself turning pink, and he hoped the night sky would hide it. There was something about Richie that always got to him, and made his insides feel like Buttons’ confetti.
“It’s something to me.” Richie insisted, looking so god-damn sincere. He was enough to give every puppy on earth a run for their money.
It was enough to make any guy go from pink to red, and Shifty had to look away for a second. He wasn’t used to having friends outside of the Bozos, and he didn’t want to screw this up because of a few weird feelings.
“So, what’re we tryin’ to look at anyways?” He asked, turning back to face Richie.
The nerd lit up again, explaining something about the solstice and a rarely visible moon of Jupiter. He reached for one of his notebooks, and Shifty couldn’t help leaning closer. As far as he was concerned, Richie could eclipse any stars they might see together.