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Afternoon Car

Chapter Text

A sudden “thunk” filled the silence in the room, and Eddie sat up in bed, already knowing what to expect.
With a sigh of disbelief, he headed to the window, already prepared to see the dark-haired boy he’d been so infatuated with for so long. And when he looked down, that’s exactly what he got.

Good ol’ Richie waving his arm frantically, the excitement visible on his face as Eddie appeared in his window.

Richie cupped his hands around his mouth, ready to shout, but was stopped by the look of sheer horror that spread across Eddie’s face.

“What are you doing, Tozier?” Eddie whisper-hissed. He already felt his blood pressure rising just thinking about if someone saw them.

“I’m here to show you a good time,” Richie’s goofy smile made Eddie’s heart skip a beat, and he couldn’t help but return the gesture.

“You’re not supposed to-“

“Be here, I know.” Richie rolled his eyes. He heard this daily, didn’t Eddie think he’d be able to comprehend by then?

“Rich.” Eddie sighed, his heart filled with sorrow all of a sudden.

It’d only been a week since he told Richie they needed to “cool things down” for a while. Eddie’s mother was starting to catch onto their little charade, and he knew it would not be tolerated.

Since then, Eddie thought about Richie even more now, craving his presence, and the smallest of things that he did. His stupid jokes, his wise-ass personality, the way he’d show the real him to Eddie and Eddie only. It was something neither one them could fathom, but they both loved the feeling. And they both knew it.

“Come on down, little Edward.” Richie motioned him to join him on the graying street.

Eddie contemplated for a moment. If he went, there was a possibility of getting caught and punished, and then they’d really never see each other again. But if he did go…

“Be right down.”

Eddie quickly put on some shoes and gave himself a quick spritz of cologne, just enough so that Richie could smell it in his embrace, and avoid questioning from his mother.

“Mom, I’m going to the library.” Eddie called out as he casually walked to the door.

“Not so fast.” The old hag’s voice sounded demanding. “What time will you be back? She asked in a knowing voice.

“8:30. I know.” Eddie answered in a low tone of voice.

His mother smiled in satisfaction. “Good boy.”

His foster mother seemed to be just like his biological mother, only at a healthy weight. It seemed he couldn't escape being suffocated.

Eddie dreadfully pecked his mother on the cheek good-bye before heading out the door, excitement bubbling over in his stomach. Richie was already in his red corvette, engine running.

“Where’s your bag?” Richie muttered under his breath, a smirk forming on his face as he shifted the car into drive.

Eddie looked at him in confusion. “What?”

“Don’t you always have a little carry-on with you no matter where you go?”

“Yeah but why would I take one if we’re just going to the park?”

“You know what for,” Richie winked flirtatiously.

Eddie widened his eyes, his face evidently red.

“And we’re not going to the park.” Richie corrected.

“Then where are we going? Is it somewhere illegal? Because I swear–”

“No,” Richie chuckled. “That was last week.”

“Then where–”

“Don’t worry about it.” Richie extended his hand to place it on Eddie’s, sending tingles up Eddie’s arm. Richie’s hand was cold, but Eddie always felt comfort and warmth in his touch.

Eddie didn’t recognize where they were when they got to their mysterious destination. There seemed to be endless green and a single tree. The closer they got to the tree, Eddie remembered when he saw the set of big rocks in a sort of circle formation.

Richie looked at Eddie expectantly, a twinkle in his eye. “So?”

“So.” Eddie kept his eyes on the ground, recounting the memory.

“You remember, right?”

“Yeah,” Eddie weakly smiled. “I do.”

“It still looks the same.”

“Well, obviously, it’s nature. It won’t shift itself around.” Richie sarcastically remarked.

Eddie glared at him, annoyed.

They stood in silence until Eddie felt arms wrap around his waist ever so slowly. Then came Richie’s chin resting on his shoulder.

“Richie…”

“Shh…” Richie planted a gentle kiss on Eddie’s neck. “Just let me hold you.”

So Eddie did just that.

The silence wasn’t awkward, but more comforting. The scenery around them was so perfect and the sky was so clear, neither of them had ever seen anything like it.

“I missed you so much.” Richie quietly mumbled.

“It’s only been a week, Rich.” Eddie nervously chuckled, suddenly feeling insecure about his small tummy.

“A week can be longer than you think,” Richie suggested matter-of-factly. “Like when girls get their periods.”

“Eck, gross!” Eddie pulled away from Richie’s grasp as Richie loudly cackled.

“Come on, don’t be like that.” Richie let out a happy sigh, pulling Eddie closer to him by the hand.

“You don’t be like that.” Eddie snarled, half joking, half meaning it.

“You’re so cute when you’re annoyed with me.” Richie said, closing in on the gap between their lips. “Come here.”

Heat rose to Eddie’s cheeks as Richie’s lip brushed against his. He could feel Richie’s eyes on him, the main reason he chose to stare at his white tennis shoes.

“Eddie.” Richie’s voice took a softer tone, giving Eddie chills. He loved when Richie spoke to him that way. He was always loud and annoying around others, but when it was just them, just the two of them, Eddie saw a side of him he knew Richie would never show anyone else.

“Richie.” Eddie playfully mimicked him.

When he finally looked up, Richie pressed his lips against Eddie’s, and they melted into each other’s arms. Eddie slid his hands onto the back of Richie’s neck, the kiss becoming more forceful. Eddie could feel the warmth of Richie’s tongue glide across his bottom lip.

When they finally pulled away, Richie stared lovingly into Eddie’s eyes, adding a shy smile. “Eddie.”

“Richie.”

There was a moment of hesitation before Richie, in a barely-audible whisper, said, “I love you.”

Eddie’s heart skipped a beat, and he felt his stomach lurching. Of course he knew Richie loved him, but they hadn’t actually outwardly said it to each other.

Richie looked nervous as he waited for a response. When he didn’t get one, a look of remorse washed over his face. Eddie wanted to say something before anything could happen, but he couldn’t find the words.

“I-”

“It’s okay.” Richie interrupted. He rubbed his thumb on Eddie’s lips, looking at them longingly. “I know you do.”

Eddie felt a heavy weight start forming in his heart. It hurt being away from Richie even for a day. And now he couldn’t even say three simple words to the boy. He was hurting Richie and he knew it, but there was nothing he felt like he could do.

He just wished they could go back to being kids, just about to enter high school, cracking ridiculous jokes, being able to playfully smack each other’s butts without anyone saying something other than “boys will be boys!

A time when they could see each other without having to hide anything.

Chapter Text

The sight of a bunch of the seniors goofing off and plowing into anyone in the grades below them made Richie reluctant to exit his car and start heading to class. He hadn't had a good night's sleep, and definitely wasn't in the mood for his fellow classmates' antics. Sure, they were his "friends", but it didn't feel that way. Especially when those so-called "friends" teased him for even the smallest thing he did that was "out of character" for him.

The halls were hustling and bustling as usual, and Richie had a hard time getting through to his locker. Once he did, he found a little white paper sticking out of one of the slits. His heart fluttered at the thought that it might be from his beloved, so he quickly slid it out of place and opened it.

To his dismay, there was just a stupid, badly drawn sketch of him with a turd coming out of one his pant legs.

Annoyed, Richie crumpled the paper up and threw it to the ground. The previous week had been Valentine's Day, and Richie was on his way to gift a box of chocolates to his own Valentine. Unfortunately, his friend group caught him sneaking away, and started questioning him. Richie had no other choice but to pretend he'd defecated in his pants by smearing the already-melted treats on the back of his pants. They'd been giving him shit about it ever since. No pun intended.

"Tozier."

Speak of the devil, Richie thought.

His "closest" friend and the leader of the pack, Sawyer, was making his way towards him, Sawyer's group following closely behind. It was almost laughable at how coordinated the way they were formed was.

"Mornin'." Richie greeted, putting on his façade for the day.

"You know what tomorrow night is, don't you?"

"...Yes...?" Richie furrowed his brows.

Sawyer looked slightly annoyed. "The championships? Come on man, we've been talking about this for weeks."

 

"I hear the bitches got new uniforms." The shortest yet toughest of the group, Manny, informed. "When they go flying in the air, it's showtime."

The boys laughed, Richie faking a convincible one himself. He would rather swallow nails than to spend a cold evening in the bleachers of the football field with a bunch of horny teenage boys. He probably had no choice but to go. But maybe he could talk his way out of this one like he usually did...

Before he could say anything, Richie's eyes found the cute little short nerdy-looking teen that he'd spend his night thinking about. Eddie was scurrying down the hall, and probably didn't see Richie.

"Uh, I'll talk to you guys later." Richie left without waiting for an answer, even though he knew it was a risk of getting a toughening-up lecture by Sawyer later on.

Richie quickly zig-zagged down the hall, weaving his way through the crowd of zombified high-schoolers. Eddie's locker was basically at the other end of the school, near their favorite spot to hang out in the quad.

Once in the usually-quiet hall, Richie spotted Eddie struggling to open his locker, eyes narrowed in focus.

"Good morning, hornet." Richie slammed Eddie's locker shut once he finally got it open.

Eddie stepped back, his mouth open to start attacking his boyfriend. "What the hell! I just got this open!"

"Relax, Edward," Richie swiftly reopened the locker after re-decoding the combination. "See? Easy."

"How did you know my combo?" Eddie seemed genuinely impressed.

"How can I not?" Richie snorted. "Does this look familiar?"

Richie grabbed the lock from the locker next to Eddie's and squinted while slowly turning the knob, mimicking Eddie's usual morning struggle. Surprisingly, the lock opened.

"Whoa," He cocked his head back. "It's the same one as yours, 'cept it's a 5 instead of a 6."

Eddie shook his head and returned to his own business.

Richie sauntered over to Eddie's right side, holding onto the top of the small door. "How'd you sleep?"

"Regularly?"

Richie pouted. "Well, I didn't."

"Why?" Eddie looked concerned. "Did you have chocolate milk before bed again? Because I swear I've told you a million times that gives you a sugar-"

Richie placed his finger against Eddie's lips. "I was busy thinking of you."

Eddie rolled his eyes, but Richie could see the corners of his mouth struggling not to rise. "Is that actually why?"

"You think I'm lying?" Richie gasped in fake offense.

"Aren't you supposed to be throwing rotten eggs off the roof right now?" Eddie joked, but it didn't seem that way. Richie knew what he was referring to; that one time he accidentally dropped a rotten egg on Eddie's head while pranking other students with the crew.

"I came to check on you," Richie softly said. "You walked right passed me."

"Don't take it to heart, Richie. I probably didn't see you." But Richie did take it to heart. He could've sworn they met eyes before Eddie picked up his walking pace.

Eddie felt Richie's lingering gaze. "I'm serious. I'm fine. We're fine."

Richie hesitated for a second. "Skip first and second period with me."

Eddie's eyes nearly bulged out of his sockets. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me," Richie was already amused by his reaction. "You. Me. To Willard's."

"Are they even open in February?" Eddie questioned the authenticity of the ice cream shop.

"They sell other things too, you know." Richie scanned the area. "If we make a run for it now, we can get past Principal Fatass' hall-sweep."

"Richie, I can't-"

"Race 'ya to the 'vette." Richie dashed away ealier than Eddie could protest.

"Goddammit, Tozier." Eddie slammed the locker shut and chased after him.

Richie was already in the driver's seat of his car when Eddie arrived at the parking lot. Richie reached over to the passenger side door to unlock it. "Get in, nerd."

Eddie did as he was told.

When they came to a stoplight, Richie placed his hand on Eddie's thigh. Eddie stared straight ahead, ignoring the newfound excitement forming.

"Do you want to go to our spot tonight?" Richie asked.

"Tonight?" Eddie raised a brow. "Isn't tonight the big game or something?"

"Tomorrow night. But either way, I'd rather spend time playing tonsil tennis with you."

"God, Richie." Eddie covered his face in embarrassment.

Once the boys arrived at the parlour, Richie ordered their usual; two banana splits with extra hot fudge.

Eddie watched with amusement as Richie devoured his ice cream, leaving a bit of chocolate syrup on the tip of his nose somehow.  "Do you know how to eat?"

Richie smiled like a little kid.  "I haven't eaten today yet."

"So your breakfast is ice cream?"  Eddie made a disgusted noise.

"Simmer down, Edward,"  Richie licked the chocolate from his top lip.  "Eat your food."

"It's barely food..."  Eddie mumbled, taking a pink plastic spoon from the bowl in front of them.

"Is it edible?"

"Of course it is, idiot."

"Then it's food."  Richie said as it should've been obvious.

"Pills are edible but you don't munch on them like afternoon tea."  Eddie said with a mouth full of ice cream.

"Sure you don't."  Richie gave him a knowing look.

"Are you gonna eat that?"  Richie asked Eddie after he spent about five minutes on the same spoonful.

"You have the most active sweet tooth I've ever seen, Tozier."  Eddie sliced a small chunk in half and pushed it towards Richie's side.

"Of course, I'm with you, aren't I?"

"That was the lamest thing you have ever said to me."  Eddie cackled.

Richie had on a big grin while he watched Eddie lick the same blob of ice cream over and over.

"This is the sweetest thing I've ever had; how can you down this so quick?"

"I like sweet things."

Eddie rolled his eyes, expecting another cheesy pick-up line. 

"It's sweet knowing that you love me."

Chapter Text

"You're being quiet."

Eddie looked up at Richie from his spot on the boy's chest. He was looking down at Eddie, his facial expression softening.

It wasn't normal for Richie to not be chatting away about the littlest things. It was one of Eddie's favorite parts about Richie; there was never a dull moment with him.

"Not really, no." Richie gingerly ran his fingers through Eddie's hair. "Just thinking."

"About?"

Eddie heard him sigh. "Something's bothering you."

He felt Richie shrug. He was now twirling a strand of Eddie's hair around his index finger, the way he did with any object to keep his hands busy when he was nervous or upset.

"You can talk to me, Rich." Eddie sat up and leaned against the tree. They were at their spot, and the tree was providing just enough coverage from the shining sun through the gray clouds. It was February, sure, but he noticed the wintertime always had beautiful sunshiny days. No wonder they took refuge there.

Richie twiddled his thumbs as he spoke. "I dunno. I guess I'm kinda getting restless."

"Restless how?"

Another shrug.

"Richie."

"About this," Richie motioned around them. "About us."

Eddie felt his heart leap. "W-what do you mean?"

"I mean," Rich sat up now too. "I'm tired of hiding. Shouldn't we be able to love each other publicly? Just like when we were kids?"

Eddie widened his eyes. Was this guy insane? "You know that can't happen."

"I know but..." Richie scratched at the back of his head. He didn't finish his sentence.

"You know how I feel about you," Eddie wrapped his fingers around the back of Richie's head, slightly tightening his grip on the boy's hair. "But-"

"We can't. I know."

Eddie felt a pang of guilt hit him like a bullet. The look on Richie's face absolutely destroyed him. It was a mixture of sorrow and pain. Anger, even. Like he blamed Eddie for the cruelty of the world. But Eddie knew he wouldn't do that. No matter how angry he got.

"I just..." Richie blurted out. "I wanna be able to hold your hand in front of everyone and not have them laugh at us. It's my only wish at this point..."

"Richie..."

"Stop saying that!" Rich flailed his arms up in the air. "I know my name, Little Edward."

Eddie looked annoyed. "I get why you're upset."

"Then let's do it." Richie grabbed hold of his hand. "Let's just be together."

"We are together."

"Fucksake." Richie, frustrated uncrossed his legs and stood up from the grass. He started in the direction of his car.

"Richie wait." Eddie ran up to him before the driver's door could be opened. "Please don't be mad at me. I can't stand it when you don't talk to me."

"I'm talking to you right now," Richie spat. "Yet here we are."

"Let me make it up to you, okay?" Eddie took Richie's hand.

Richie looked down at Eddie's hand as if it were a visible germ. Despite this, he had a mischievous look on. "How?"

Eddie scanned the field as if there were anyone there. He then looked back up at his boy's eyes and said, "Are your parents home?"

Chapter Text

"Richie, stop. Youre amazing." Eddie spoke softly, looking to the boy laying beside him on his bed. His head was laying on a pillow, his mess of curls going every which way on it. "I just wish you could see that."

Richie laughed a little sadly, closing his eyes. "I don't know what hallucinations you're having, Eds, but I'm not that great. I'm really not."

Richie's parents weren't home, and they took it as a chance to lay together in his room full of rock band posters and some geeky trinkets here and there. Eddie could tell Richie was embarrassed with his interests, but Eddie found it anything but.

They had been laying on Richie's bed for almost two hours now, just talking and poking fun at each other, the latter being more of Richie's doing. Eddie was the only one Richie could trust to vocalize his concerns and insecurities.

"I'm not hallucinating, its true. I mean come on, look at you. You're fucking perfect, Richie."

"No, I'm not." He looked to him. "If anyone's perfect here Eddie, it's you."

A small laugh escaped from Eddie. "I'm the farthest thing from perfect. You're so much better than me Richie, in so many ways. You can do whatever you want, say whatever you want without being scared. It's like you don't even care. Do you know how badly I wish I could do that? To not care or overthink about things? To be able to do things so... so freely as you? You're brave, Richie. You're the bravest person I know."

Richie turned on his side, looking at Eddie. A small smile was spread on his face, but it wasn't a happy one; it almost said he was sorry for Eddie. He knew what he meant by "brave". And it was heart-wrenching. "I'm not brave at all, Eddie. I just panic and say whatever comes to my mind, which usually is pretty stupid stuff. Have I ever done or said one smart thing in my life?" He laughed, not giving Eddie a chance to answer the question. "I'm scared to do so many things. You don't even know how many."

"Like what, Richie? What are you scared to do?" Eddie's brown eyes watched him carefully, his voice soft.

Richie gulped slightly, thinking of all the things. One of them was right in front of him; he wanted a kiss. He wanted to kiss Eddie more than he wanted to live, but he couldn't. He was too scared. He was too scared of all the wrong things that could happen if he did, everything he could lose if he didn't kiss back. Just as he had risked it all when those three little words slipped from his lips.

"Whatever it is, you can do it. I believe in you."

"I...I'm scared to lay here with you." Richie had absolutely no idea what he was saying. Words seemed to spill out of his mouth just as they usually did, but now it felt like he couldn't stop them. It was like they needed to be said, and if they didn't come out then he would explode.

"Huh?" Eddie's nose scrunched up, just as it always did when he was confused or disgusted. Richie hoped it was confusion. "What do you mean?"

"I'm scared to be around you. I'm scared I'll do something that'll make you hate me." His heart wrenched as he spoke, beating faster and faster. He was sure Eddie could hear it, it was so loud.

"Richie, I could never hate you. You're my best friend."

"Even...even if I said I wanted to show you how I feel?" Richie's eyes widened at the same time Eddie's did, shocked by his own words. He didn't mean to say that, he had no idea where it even came from. He felt panic rise up inside of him as he watched Eddie's face change. "

Eddie's eyes stayed wide, looking at Richie as a blush rose on his cheeks. The silence between them only made Richie more anxious, but after a few moments Eddie finally said something.

Eddie's voice was quiet, almost a whisper. His eyes never left Richie's as he spoke, afraid he'd run off if he lost eye contact. "Do you...do you want to...?"

Richie wanted to look at the door, he wanted to bolt out of there as fast as he could, but he couldn't. Eddie's eyes held him there, keeping him still. He couldn't look away, his eyes were just so beautiful. He didn't have the courage to speak, so he just slowly nodded. He waited for his nose to scrunch up, for Eddie to scream and yell at him, for him to slam the door and leave with no intention of coming back.

But he didn't do that.

Richie felt like his heart could burst into about 50 billion pieces when he felt their lips connect. Richie's hands immediately went to hold Eddie's face as they kissed, pressing his lips against the smaller boy's. He'd been waiting for this for so long, he could barely believe it was happening. He never wanted this feeling to end, he wanted to hold Eddie in his arms and keep him there forever.

Eddie pulled back after a moment, but only a few inches away. He looked up at Richie with the dreamiest eyes, and Richie couldn't look away. He looked into those glimmering eyes, still caressing his face.

"I was scared of that, Eddie. And I'm scared of you."

"Why?" Eddie whispered.

"Because I'm in love with you. And sometimes I'm not sure you are with me."

Chapter Text

"Why're you smiling?" Eddie eyed Richie suspiciously.

Richie shook his head. "No reason."

After another minute of staring, Eddie shouted out, "What?"

Richie laughed as if his reaction was the highlight of a stand-up comedy line-up. "Why're you so insecure for?"

"I'm not insecure. I'm just..." Eddie's voice trailed off. His eyes gaze dropped to Richie's bare torso. There was a long scar on the skin above his rib cage.

Richie followed his eyes and looked down at his own body. "I was laughing too hard, if that's what you're looking at."

"What actually happened?" Eddie traced the elevated skin, causing Richie to flinch. Eddie pouted. "Is it recent?"

"Not really," Richie shifted uncomfortably. "Just an accident."

Eddie could tell he was covering something up, but he didn't bother pushing further. Richie didn't exactly have anger issues, but he did get annoyed easily. Even if it was rare for him to get that way with Eddie.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the laughing thing was true." Eddie joked, attempting to break the silence. When Richie gave him a smile, he felt relieved.

Richie let his head tilt to the side as to rest on his shoulder, looking at Eddie like he held the world in his eyes. It was a while before he reached over to pull Eddie closer to him, skin to skin. Eddie's heart raced, and so did Richie's, almost rhythmic. Richie had always wanted to wake up on a Saturday morning with his love.

He and Eddie were so close; their noses were touching, eyes focused on each other. "Do you have to go?"

Eddie watched Richie's usually playful and snarky expression turn into pouty, puppy dog eyes. "If I had a choice, I'd never go."

This made Richie feel content with Eddie's promise.

He watched as the petite young boy pulled a T-shirt over his head and struggled to put on rather baggy jeans.

"You do know those are all mine, right?" Richie inquired.

Eddie looked down at his newfound wardrobe. "Eh, I can just lie and say I lost weight."

"Would she let you live if you told her that?" They both knew Eddie's mom would probably have a panic attack at the sight of her precious son possibly "being influenced by the media" and how "boys are portrayed to be skinny to be good-looking".

"Doesn't matter." Eddie tightened a belt around the loose-fitting jeans.

Richie rose from his spot on the bed so that when Eddie turned back around, he'd be greeted with a fully naked Richie standing loud and proud. And he got the exact reaction he was waiting for.

"Richie," Eddie tossed him a random pair of boxers. "Put on some pants, would you?"

"What? You don't like what you see?" Richie started bouncing on his tip toes, swaying his hips from side to side.

"Rich-ie!" Eddie tossed his own clothes on the bedroom floor at Richie. Richie laughed while dodging articles of clothing hurdling towards him.

Richie sat at the end of the bed, motioning Eddie to come to him. "I'm not letting you go until you give me some love."

Eddie rolled his eyes but complied. "You're annoying."

"I know." Richie gritted his teeth, mimicking a look Eddie made one time after Richie broke a beloved piece of furniture at Eddie's house.

Eddie rested his forehead on Richie's. The two stayed like that for a while, Richie cracking a joke that made no sense here and there. Eddie gently grabbed Richie's face in his hands, licking his own drying lips. Richie pulled him closer and their lips met briefly.

"I love you." Richie softly said in the middle of the invigorating kiss.

Eddie slid his finger between their lips. "I have to go."

Richie let out a small whimper, still tightly holding onto Eddie's hand. Eddie reassuringly held onto his face. "When are we seeing each other again?"

Eddie thought for a second. "How about tonight, maybe?"

Richie gulped. "Tonight?"

Eddie realized what that night was. "Oh."

Richie felt Eddie's grip on his hand loosen, but Richie held on. "You know I don't want to. It's more like I have to."

"Yeah. I get it." Eddie avoided eye contact.

"Eddie..."

Eddie gave an unenthusiastic thumbs up. "Just be careful."

"I will. I promise." Richie stood, towering over him.

Eddie suddenly felt self-conscious, which was something they could detect on each other. "I'll see you around."

Richie reluctantly let Eddie out of his room, watching him until the front door closed.

Chapter Text

"Get your head out of your ass, Tozier!"

Richie shook himself out of a daydream and looked up at Sawyer, who was intently focusing on the cheerleaders. One of the guys, Todd, held up a camera to his face and snapped a picture as a cheerleader twirled in the air, her mini skirt puffing around her, underwear in full view.

"Yes!" The boys high-fived each other, and Richie joined in, feeling like if he didn't do what they did, he'd be interrogated. And he was not in the mood.

Despite the light rain, the game was still in full swing. Richie hadn't been paying attention, but somehow was able to jump back into the conversation. He couldn't get his mind off of Eddie. When would they see each other again? Would it be at school, or would his stupid crew butt in and take him away? Is Eddie's mother still not going to allow them to see each other? How did Eddie even get to see the rest of their friends?

"Hey," Sawyer climbed down one bleacher to sit next to Richie. "What's been up your ass lately?"

"What?" Richie tried to keep the panic in his voice at a minimum.

"You haven't been acting like an ass," Sawyer implied. "There always has to be a dumbass in the group, and Isaac doesn't come close to you."

Richie felt proud that his daily facade worked; at the same time, it saddened him how evident his separation anxiety from Eddie was becoming. He wouldn't dare tell Sawyer; he'd get an ass-beating in a heartbeat.

"I guess I haven't been feeling myself lately." Richie vaguely explained.

"You just need some action is all," Sawyer nudged him with a chuckle. He scanned the bleachers before smacking his arm against Richie's chest. "Bingo."

Richie looked to the girl Sawyer was ogling at. She was a stereotypical blonde bimbo who had breasts larger than her body frame would usually have. Richie tried hiding his disgust.

"Samara's perfect for you," Sawyer winked. "You'll be in her pants in no time."

Richie shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Cool...?"

"I'll go talk to her for you." Sawyer patted him once on the back before getting up.

Richie grabbed his arm. "I can do it myself."

"Then why don't you?"

Richie looked over at the girl, who was putting on quite the show by bending over to grab something that those around her clearly did on purpose. "She's with a bunch of people." He tried his best to sound convincing. Like he actually cared about the girl.

"Don't be a little bitch, Tozier." Sawyer nudged Richie's head forward. "Wait here."

"Sawyer...!" Richie ran after him, but he was already chatting the bimbo up.

"Hi!" Samara bounced in her seat like a cute little girl. She was adorable in a cutesy way, which made her mature physic unsuitable. She paused for a second. "You're that Trashboat boy, right?"

"Trashmouth..." Richie corrected through gritted teeth. Sawyer gave him a look of amusement.

"Right!" She giggled.

"My buddy here Rich doesn't have a date to Todd's party."

"Wait, what?" Richie looked at him in a panic.

Sawyer held up a finger. "We were kind of wondering if you'd like to accompany him. Be his arm candy."

"That's not--"

"Sure! I'd love to!" Samara exclaimed. "Pick me up at six? I need time to do my makeup."

Richie didn't know what else to do besides force a smile. He wasn't even planning on going to that stupid party.

Samara stood, pulling down her long camisole over her little bum. "I have to go now. My sister is in labor."

"What?" Richie was waiting for her to come out with a "Just kidding!" but she looked serious.

"Yeah. I wanted to watch at least the first quarter before I went to see her."

Richie looked back at Sawyer, who gave him a single thumbs up.

"I'll see you next Saturday, right?"

"Sure." Richie shoved his hands in his jean pockets.

Then, unexpectedly, Samara planted a kiss on Richie's cheek before waving at him. The boys kept their focus on her as she left, and that's when Richie noticed.

Eddie was standing right where Samara had walked out of, his face twisted in disgust.

"Shit."

"What?" Sawyer looked annoyed.

"I, um..." Richie started sliding in Eddie's direction. "Diarrhea. Be right back."

"Dude. Come on, again?"

Richie was already halfway across the bleacher rows, sprinting to where he had seen Eddie. But when he got there, Eddie was nowhere to be found.

 

***

 

"Come on, Eds..." Richie whispered into the phone speaker. "Pick up. Please pick up."

"You have reached the voicemail box of--"

Richie slammed the phone back into place angrily. He let himself slide down the wall beside the payphones, his head falling into his hands.

He couldn't get the sight of Eddie's innocent little face waiting by the gym door, possibly waiting for his boyfriend to notice him. He had a corn dog in each hand; one of them even had ketchup plastered around it, just the way Richie liked it. Eddie hated the process of using a fork or spoon so spread it out, but he did it anyway.

Richie contemplated trying one more time before making his way back home. He had left his corvette at home, Sawyer and the boys being the only way he'd be able to get home safely. And dry.

Richie remained still for a moment, the only sound filling his ears being that of the now heavy rain hitting the concrete sidewalk, and the distant cries of excitement from the football field.

"You have reached the voicemail box of--"

Slam!

Richie punched the wall, not being able to hold his vexation back any longer. Things have already been rocky with them for a good week or two now, but this was the icing on the cake. He fucked up in a way he had no control over.

Feeling helpless, Richie exited the comfort of the awning-like structure he was under and began his journey home.

The streets were empty, with the exception of a passing car here and there. One even passed by a gigantic puddle, soaking Richie's shoes and going through into his thin-layered socks.

Richie started to feel cold, and he longed for Eddie's embrace. There had been a similar incident where Eddie had come to his rescue in ninth grade, a little while before they dated. Richie was stuck on the streets after his father kicked him out for something petty; he couldn't really remember.

Either way, Richie didn't know where to go for the night. He attempted breaking into cars, hoping to at least get a few minutes of rest. He asked around if anybody would let him crash at their place for the night, knowing he'd just get slammed doors in return.

He felt he had no other choice but to go to Eddie's.

And Eddie took him in. He always felt at home with Eddie.

And that was probably why Eddie was now holding a shivering, slightly disoriented Richie in his arms, guiding him to the Kaspbrak boy's house.

Chapter Text

Back at Eddie's house, his foster mother wasn't anywhere in sight when he entered. Richie waited at the side of the house under a small awning, the only way he'd stay at least remotely dry.

"Daisy?" Eddie called out. In the kitchen on the counter was a small note.

Be back by 8. -Mommy

Eddie let out an excited yelp like a little kid would. He ran outside and motioned Richie to enter through the back door. They met each other there, the only thing separating them this time being the screen door.

Richie immediately grabbed Eddie's face and brought him into an aggressive kiss. Eddie pulled away and looked Richie in the eyes, who in turn started laughing. Eddie attempted to kiss him once more only to be interrupted by another fit of giggles between the two.

"Do you want to..." Eddie's voice trailed off.

"Actually," Richie smoothed his thumb against Eddie's cheek. "I think it'd be good if you let me cook for you."

"You? Cooking?" Eddie let out a single cackle.

But Richie was dead serious. "I mean it. You have spaghetti?"

Eddie pushed Richie away, expecting him to bust out laughing. It took Richie a second to realize. "No! There was pun intended, I swear!"

"Okay. Sure." Eddie skeptically accepted.

"So do you?" Richie asked, entering the kitchen without permission.

"No, don't touch that!" Eddie snatched a neatly ironed girly apron from Richie. "God, Daisy'll kill me if there's even one wrinkle on this thing."

Richie, with a brow raised, watched Eddie vigorously attempt to flatten the already-flat apron. He knew Eddie'd freak, but he still snatched it back and put it on.

"Richard Tozier if you don't-"

Richie was already obnoxiously clanging pots and pans together. He loved getting under Eddie's skin, even if his voice would become even higher and more annoying than it already was.

"Chill out, Sped-Head." Richie held onto Eddie's wrists. His grip was strong, but not strong enough to be hurtful.

Eddie felt a hot flash pass through him when Richie pinned him against the counter. "Rich..."

"Sh, shh, shhh," Richie coaxed, his face lowering into the crook of Eddie's neck.

"R-Richie..." Eddie's breath caught in his throat as Richie began nibbling on the nape of his neck.

"You're so uptight," Richie said, his voice muffled. He started lightly massaging the back of Eddie's neck, and he could hear Eddie let out a breath he seemed to be holding.

Once that was over with, Eddie was a little more relaxed, to Richie's satisfaction. "You really know how to-"

"Make you relax? Make you feel good?" Richie beamed, eager to hear an answer.

"Make me uptight," Eddie playfully pushed Richie off of him.

They stared at each other for a single moment, yet it felt like they were there a fortnight. "I missed this." Richie said.

"Missed what?"

"This." Richie started swaying Eddie and himself, guiding him into a waltzing position. "Us."

"There never was a reason to miss 'us'," Eddie cocked his head back, following along with the swift motions. "I've been here the whole time."

"Sometimes it doesn't feel that way,"

Eddie let himself be pulled into an embrace. He reached under Richie's armpit and held him close. Richie buried his face in Eddie's neck once again, giving him a small squeeze. He let out a sniffle, and Eddie could've sworn he felt drops of water against his skin.

"Richie." Eddie tried prying him off, but it only made him hold on tighter. Eddie gave in and let his chin rest on the tall, lanky boy's shoulder.

Suddenly, the sound of the front door's lock being jiggled startled the both of them. Eddie pushed Richie off, and looking at his tear-soaked face, confirmed his thoughts. Richie turned away and wiped his eyes quickly.

Daisy entered with three brown grocery bags in her arms, having a difficult time closing the door behind her. When she finally got it closed with her foot, she looked at Richie and Eddie in the kitchen. Richie was rummaging through the fridge while Eddie was washing a random dish.

"Hello?" Daisy's greeting sounded more like a question.

Eddie put on his best shocked face and said, "Hey Daisy! I didn't think you'd be back so soon!"

"Yeah, well, Marissa had book club today at seven..." Daisy looked at Richie in front of the fridge with his mouth stuffed with leftover cake from a friend's birthday. "Richard?"

"Miss Daisy." Richie nodded politely.

"Is that my apron?" Her eyes filled with horror.

"Uh, yes, it is." Richie twirled himself around, modelling for Daisy.

"Well, could you take that off?" She tried her best to be hospitable, but instead came out sounding constipated. "I'm having guests over for afternoon tea tomorrow and need to look my best."

"No problem." Richie took the apron off around his head. Eddie looked at him with irritation.

"Edward, may I speak to you for a second?" Daisy commanded.

Eddie's stomach lurched. He already knew what was coming.

Richie waited patiently in the kitchen. He heard a few aggressive whispers and a foot stomp before they returned, obvious fake smiles on their faces.

"I should get going," Richie said before any of them could initiate kicking him out. "Got a load of homework."

"Aw, so soon?" Daisy pouted.

"Yeah," Richie returned a sad pout.

"I'll walk you out just in case you get lost." Eddie joked.

Richie and Eddie felt Daisy's judgmental eyes on them, so they just awkwardly dapped before Eddie slammed the door in his face.

As Richie made his way down the street, he saw something at the corner of his eye. Up in Eddie's window was the boy himself, waving vigorously. Richie laughed, beginning to walk again. He had on a big smile most of the walk home.

If only things could always be this way.

Chapter Text

Sat on Richie's bed, Eddie waited sheepishly for Richie to come back to the room, surrounded by treats. Richie had been gone for a while, and Eddie was starting to wonder if he was still in the house.

When Richie returned, Eddie felt more at ease knowing he was still there, but still didn't speak.

Richie was now watching Eddie eat a chunk of cookie cautiously, as if someone poisoned it. Eddie had been quiet the ride there after they'd gone out to ice cream, and only mumbled a few words here and there. It was beginning to make Richie insecure; what had he done wrong this time?

"Eddie?"

Eddie met eyes with Richie, even if Richie's eyes were slightly covered behind his curly hair. "Yes?"

"Do you still..." Richie had to force himself into continuing. He leaned forward and whispered, "Do you still love me?"

Eddie fumbled with the bag of treats in an attempt to look busy. "What are you talking about?"

"Did I do something?"

Eddie barely shook his head. "Not really. No..."

Richie couldn't help but think that Eddie's sudden mood change had to do with what happened a couple days earlier. Richie wouldn't know, after all; Eddie made sure to never make any type of strong emotion show on his demeanor.

It took a while before Eddie saw that Richie was staring. "Yes?"

The corners of Richie's lips struggled to stay neutral; he was obviously trying not to laugh or smile.

"What?" Eddie snapped, annoyed.

"Nothing. It's just..." Richie went over to Eddie on the bed, kneeling in front of him. With Eddie being so tiny, Richie was able to look into his eyes, their height difference not so irritating after all. "Nothing."

Eddie kept eye contact, which was rare, especially when they were sort of mad at each other. Eddie, to Richie's surprise, slid his small hand into Richie's, and their fingers intertwined. Richie's eyes lit up.

"I'm sorry." Richie said suddenly.

"For?"

"Being the way that I am."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know, I guess I just..." Richie nervously scratched the back of his head. "I've been kind of a dick lately."

"Lately?"

Richie playfully shoved Eddie down, followed by a gentle caress of Eddie's cheek. "I mean it, Eds."

Eddie shrugged. "It's whatever."

Richie softly grazed his lips with Eddie's. "I love you."

Eddie smiled. "Does that mean I can stay tonight?"

Richie hesitated. "Huh?"

"You're not still going to that party, are you?"

Another pause from Richie.

Eddie snorts. "Of course..."

"It's not really a choice I have, Eddie."

"Don't give me that crap." Eddie pushed Richie off of him and started gathering his belongings.

"Oh come on," Richie followed Eddie down the stairs, and before Eddie could open the door fully, he slammed it shut again.

"You mind not doing that?" Eddie asserts.

"I'm not letting you leave if you're mad at me."

Eddie sighed impatiently. "I'm not mad. Go. Have fun."

"If you're not mad, why are you leaving?"

"Can't get in the way of your preparations, can I?"

"Why do you always do this shit?" Richie spat.

"Do what?"

"Get mad over the stupidest shit."

"I'm sorry if I don't want my boyfriend going on a date with some tramp."

"That's not really nice to say, Eds." Richie lectured, amused.

"Everything's a joke to you." Eddie rolled his eyes and opened the door.

Richie once again slammed it shut. "Nothing's going to happen if that's what you're thinking."

Eddie was looking down at his shoes. "Do you promise?"

Richie kissed Eddie in reassurance. "I promise."

Chapter Text

"Fuck!" A random guy screamed into Richie's ear, somehow knocking over the red cup in Richie's hand.

"What the fuck, dude?" Richie scowled, shoving the guy toward another group of drunk and horny teenagers.

It was in that moment Richie regretted even setting foot on the premises.

Richie scans the room for Sawyer or any of his buddies. Once he finds Todd, he follows him and one of their other lackeys into the crowded house. They reach a group of people who are obviously more of their friends. They are all wasted and sitting in a row on the couch, one girl grinding on an uninterested-looking guy.

"Wow, you actually fuckin' came," Sawyer cackled. "Looks like Towering Tozier's back."

"I mean, I didn't have anything else to do." Richie tried sounding unimpressed with the loud and obnoxious crowd, and the scent of vomit wafting throughout the room.

One girl--who's clothes are a little too revealing for a March evening--gives Richie a once-over, eyes full of hunger. "You didn't tell me he had a package on him."

Richie kept his head up and sat on a chair's arm, the sudden urge to check to see if anything below the waist was in any way making itself known.

"Chill, Prissa," Todd jumps in. "This one's Samara's."

The "Prissa" girl looks genuinely surprised, and sort of disgusted. "I didn't think anyone would crawl up that slut's pants."

Richie gulped, forgetting all about Samara. He was supposed to pick her up, but he had been so focused on Eddie; it was all he could think about.

Prissa stood and walked over to him with a seductive demeanor. She wrapped her arms around him and said, "You know, I could make you feel hotter than that dirty whore ever could."

"S at 3 o'clock." Todd coughed.

Richie felt a sudden dread wash over him as Samara and a few of her friends walked over in a tight formation. Samara was beautiful, yes. But she wasn't...

"Hey people!" Samara blew kisses at the group. She grabbed Richie's arm and whispered, "You forgot to pick me up, silly."

Richie cleared his throat. "Yeah. Sorry. I was caught up in... something else."

"Alright shitheads," Sawyer stood, rubbing his hands together. "Let's get down to business."

The teens stood and made their way through the house and towards the back door, entering the yard.

They sat in a sloppy circle around a fire, the heat radiating all around, melting the snow surrounding it.

Richie awkwardly watched the bunch get out bottles of alcohol, beer cans, and take hits from the possibly-germ-infested blunt they were all sharing.

He looks over to Samara, hoping to see the same reaction he was having, and to his relief she did. But that didn't stop her from grabbing a bottle.

"No drinks Richie Boy?" One of the guys raised a brow at him.

"Not tonight, no."

Sawyer put his arm around Richie and Samara, holding a flirtatious smile. "Yeah, they'll need to be sober for tonight as to not have a run-in with the law, am I right?"

The boys snickered, and Samara was obviously pretending not to have heard that remark.

"Bet the fucker is all talk, no bark." Todd laughed out loud.

"It's all bark, no bite, dumbass." One guy smacked the back of Todd's head.

Richie crossed his arms. "How do you know what I do behind the scenes?"

The guys whooped and hollered, the girls more interested in the raggedy-dressed dork in front of them.

"Looks like you're all bite and bark!" Todd winked. Everyone looked at him, annoyed.

"Prove it." Sawyer hushed the posse.

"What?" Richie cocked his head back.

"Prove you're not the little bitch everyone makes you out to be." The tone in his voice becomes somewhat... sinister?

"No one thinks I'm a bitch, Sewer." Richie snapped. "Probably just you."

Richie looked around at the group; they were either avoiding his gaze or shrugging at him as if to say "Well, you kind of are."

Richie let out a chuckle of disbelief. Didn't he work hard enough to make himself look tougher than he actually was? He could've sworn everyone bought it. Was it because...

"Think long and hard, Richie Boy." Sawyer twirls an invisible pen around his finger.

A heavy weight on began pressing down on Richie's shoulders. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Maybe the rumors are true."

"Rumors? What rumors?"

Sawyer shook his head.

Richie's eyes widened. Did he know? No. He couldn't.

Maybe he'd seen something...

Did everyone else know?

Think fast, Richie.

"Come on." Richie yanked Samara by the arm, ignoring the cheers of encouragement rising up behind them.

Richie weaved about the crowd, not caring Samara was struggling to keep pace.

Was that why Sawyer wanted to set him up with a girl? To expose him if he rejected her?

Richie threw open the nearest bathroom door upstairs, which was already occupied by a half-naked couple.

"Fuck off somewhere else." Richie pointed behind him. "There's a backroom with no one there."

The couple excitedly scurried out, Richie slamming the door behind them.

He stayed like that for a minute before remembering someone was in there with him.

She was looking at him, concern on her face.

"I'm sorry." Richie said, letting out a breath. "I don't want to do this to you, you seem like a nice girl. But..."

"You're in love with someone else."

Richie looked up at her smug expression. She didn't look disappointed like he expected her to be; it was as if she could see right through him.

"How did you—"

"I saw you run after that little guy," Samara sits on the sink counter, crossing her legs. "I've seen you two around together and always thought you'd be cute. And I was right."

"Then why did you agree to go out with me?"

She shrugged. "I guess I felt you knew how I feel."

"So it's okay with you that I'm..." Richie's voice trailed off. She was waiting for him to finish. He cleared his throat. "Bi. Like. Bisexual. As in, I like guys and girls."

"Oh, so you play for both teams!" She chirped. "More choices for you!"

Richie laughed, feeling relieved that someone outside of his small, disintegrating friend group accepted him for who he is.

"I'm limited to honey buns instead of both." She giggled. Richie widened his eyes at the innuendo, making Samara laugh.

"So I guess we're both using each other, then, huh?"

" Not really." She motioned him closer. "If you want, we can be friends and each other's cover."

Richie nodded, a relieved smile spreading across his face. "That'd be amazing."

Samara pulled Richie into a hug, surprising him a bit. He hugged her tightly; no one around him and Eddie had understood the hardships. But now he had someone who did. And she knew exactly how they felt.

"Should we stay here a couple minutes to get them to think we honked each other's horns?"

Samara busted out laughing. "That's a saying? Or did you just make that up?"

"Maybe. I swear I've heard that somewhere else, though."

Another fifteen minutes passed while Richie and Samara sat in the bathroom just talking, making the posse out in the backyard even more antsy to find out what they'd done.

The two decided time was probably up, so they went their separate ways, agreeing to meet up during lunch on Monday.

Richie began making his way up the street in the direction of his house, not long before hearing a distinct sound in the distance.

He snapped his head in the direction of the source, still not quite sure what he heard. It sounded similar to a bird chirp.

Passing it off as random hooligans fooling about the neighborhood, Richie kept his head low, occasionally looking behind him to ensure his safety.

Suddenly, a familiar shriek caught his full attention. He didn't want to assume what it was, but by the second time it rang out, he knew.

Eddie.

Richie darted up the street now, following the noises. There were more, something similar to thuds and slams. This only sped his pace.

Finally, Richie found what he'd been looking for. And it wasn't something he wanted to see.

There Eddie was, on the grass, a small group of guys beating him down.

"What the fuck?!" Richie practically jumped on top of one of the assailants.

Eddie looked up to find his savior, and relief seemed to wash over him when he found his boy's eyes.

"So you are a fag!" Richie recognized that booming voice anywhere.

Sawyer wiped his top lip of what was probably Eddie's blood, and flashed a grin.

"Maybe I'm a decent—" Richie shoved Sawyer. "—fucking—" Another shove. "Person—" Shove. "And don't want little boys getting fucked up by neanderthals."

Sawyer shoved Richie once, but it was enough to send Richie tumbling back onto the ground.

"Relax Tozier," Sawyer laughed. "It's a joke."

Richie didn't like the flash of an unethical glint in his stare.

The boys gave one last kick each to Eddie's side, Sawyer hitting back the hardest.

Once he was sure they were gone, Richie stumbled onto his feet to get to an injured Eddie.

"Eddie! Eddie...!" Richie took Eddie's face in his hands. "Can you see me? Can you hear me?"

Eddie was looking directly at Richie, but he didn't respond. A blank stare overtook any other emotion he could have shown.

"Fuck." Richie, surprising even himself, lifted Eddie swiftly off the ground, his legs wobbling. "I'm getting you home, okay? I'm getting you home..."

Eddie was still hypnotically eyeing Richie, his left eye beginning to swell.

Richie never ran as fast as he did until that night.

Chapter Text

Richie felt Eddie's eyes on him as he lay on his bed, but he didn't bother speaking his mind this time. And that was making Eddie feel worse.

"Rich." Eddie softly called to his across the room.

No response.

Eddie sucked in his breath. Why was he being this way? Didn't Richie just save his ass from getting jumped? Was he still mad about the way Eddie pushed him away?

Eddie stared at the boy he'd always wanted, admiring everything about him. Everything about Richie made Eddie swoon. The way his curly hair would fall over his eyes. His goofy smile when Eddie got annoyed with anything he did. The way his eyes would look into Eddie's.
Eddie could see everything in Richie's eyes. His insecurities, his pain. His fear. Only Eddie could see it.

And that's how they both liked it.

"This is ridiculous." Eddie stood from his spot on the armchair at the corner of Richie's room. A sharp pain shot through his body, and he grabbed his side.

Richie jumped up from bed, concern etched on his face. Eddie suppressed a smile. Of course he still cared.

"If you're not gonna be an obnoxious trashmouth, at least get me some ice or something." Eddie sat back down, the fresh slash throbbing.

Richie let his shoulders droop, but complied anyway. When he came back, Eddie was in the middle of changing his blood-soaked shirt.

When they made eye contact, Richie looked away, which was out of character for him. He reached the first-aid kit out towards Eddie. "Here."

Eddie gave him an expectant look.

Richie rolled his eyes and sat next to Eddie on the edge of the bed. He lay down as Richie poured alcohol onto a rag. Eddie fought back wincing in pain when the cool substance hit the open wound. Now it was Richie hiding back a grin.

"No squealing?" He asked under his breath.

Eddie beamed. "So you do talk."

That wiped the smile off Richie's face. He continued dabbing at Eddie's wound in silence. He wrapped gauze around his hand in preparation of bandaging the small boy's waist.

Eddie sat up, no longer able to hide the pain he felt from the cut. Richie waited for him to quiet down before swathing the gauze.

"Thank you." Eddie quietly said, his head low.

Richie shrugged.

The two sat in silence, neither one of them knowing what to do or say. Eddie felt if he showed any sign of vulnerability, it would only heighten Richie's overprotective mannerism. Richie didn't want to say anything in fear that it would cause Eddie to push him further away.

Eddie caved first.

"Why did you save me if you're so mad at me?"

"Why leave a deer to choke?"

"What?"

Richie chortled through his nose. He shook his hair out, a mess of curls dancing about his face frame. He was beautiful.

"I'm not mad." Richie asserted. He played with a loose thread from the bed sheet he's had since elementary school.

"Then what's wrong with you?" Eddie bellowed, his voice bouncing off the walls of the house.

Richie was visibly taken aback for a second. He began pacing around the room, grabbing at his curls. He wanted to admit something to him. Eddie knew it.

"Rich—"

"We can't be together anymore."

Eddie's heart dropped into his stomach.

"W-what..." Eddie's voice cracked.

Richie hesitated. "It's not safe."

"What's not safe?"

"It's not the same." Richie corrects himself.

"How—"

"I know why this happened." Richie confesses. When Eddie was about to speak, Richie cut him off. "This isn't going to work. Especially not now.

"Richie..."

"I'm doing this to help you. Help us. It's better."

"Better for you maybe," Eddie stood. "Where did this come from? What did I do now?"

"Don't be so self-centered. It's more than just you," Richie hissed. "It's about us in general. We cannot be together, whether or not we like it."

"Yes we can!" Eddie grabbed Richie by the shoulder to spin him around, the two now facing each other. "You're making all this shit up."

"Think about it, Eddie!" Richie shouted out. "We can't show how we feel about each other in public, we won't be accepted by anyone—and we would probably be shunned—and I have a risk of losing..."

"Losing?"

Richie bit his lip, fighting tears. His voice was quiet, but Eddie heard him clearly. "They're after you."

"What?"

Richie began bouncing his leg, anxiety clearly reaching its peak. "I think someone knows. Someone we don't want to know."

Eddie couldn't respond. He just... didn't know how.

"They went after you because they know you matter so me. The person who knows."

"Who knows?" Eddie grew fidgety.

"They want to fuck with us. Because we're different." Richie let a tear stream down his cheek. "Because we're not normal."

"I thought you didn't care about that." Eddie's voice rose in volume, something that rarely happened, especially towards Richie. "What happened to 'We should be more out there'?"

"I thought it was something you'd want. But I'm clearly wrong. I'm sure you're fine with not being together."

Eddie's hands became cold and clammy. "What does that mean?"

"I don't know..." Richie leaned against the door. "I feel like... You're different. We're different..."

"All because the world is fucked." Richie sounded angry at himself, as if he were the problem.

Eddie was by his side in no time. "Are you... Are we...?"

Richie's eyes were welling with tears. "If that's what you want."

"No! No, that's not what I want!" Eddie quickly reassured. "That's far from what I want."

"I feel like I don't know you anymore. Or that I never did."

Eddie put his hand on Richie's shoulder. "Richie..."

"You're different," Richie tilted Eddie's chin up so the could look into each other's eyes. "Why do you push me away?"

Eddie racked his brain for a defense mechanism. He's got nothing.

"You only give half of yourself to me," Richie gulped, holding back any other burst of emotion. "It hurts, Eddie. It hurts knowing there's more to you that you block with a wall."

Eddie avoided his watery eyes.

"Is it because you knew about all of this? Knew that it was dangerous?"

"Richie."

"I've given you my heart for half my life." Richie's voice cracked. "You've only given me half of yours."

"If I knew it was dangerous, do you really think I'd be with you?" The words came spilling out before he could stop them.

Eddie blinked back tears that threatened to spill down his cheeks. He wanted to show himself to Richie. He loved him. Richie knew Eddie loved him. Eddie knew he loved him. But Eddie wouldn't admit it. And for what?

"Just go."

Eddie's head shot up. Richie was looking blankly out of the window. "What?"

"I need a breather."

"Richie." Eddie's heart began racing.

"I'm not... ending things, okay?" Richie ruffled his own hair. "I just..."

Eddie wanted to pull Richie into a hug and let him know how much he meant to him. He wanted to gently kiss his lips and make everything better, just like how he said Eddie made him feel.

But all he could do was walk home alone.

Chapter Text

An object slamming against glass rose Richie from his deep slumber. He looked at the digital clock on the nightstand next to him. It was two in the morning.

He looked over to the window, covered by curtains, the moonlight shining through the thin fabric. He was sure the knock was just a tree branch. He was glad for the distraction either way; he couldn't stop thinking about the period of time he and his boy were separated.

He sat up in his bed, trying to think of anything but. This only made him think back to the day they spoke to each other again.

It was during a field day trip around the end of eighth grade.

Richie spent the day with one of his closest friends, Bill, while Eddie was with their friend Stan. They'd been stealing glances from each other the whole time. Both were contemplating going up to each other, after 57 days--and yes, they were both counting.

Stan had left Eddie at a secluded picnic table to retrieve their friend Mike. Richie saw this as a chance.

"Hey there." Richie had casually said, sitting facing Eddie on the bench.

Eddie perked up when he saw who was talking to him. "H-hi."

"Don't think we've been introduced properly." Richie held out his hand for a handshake. "I'm Matthew Broderick."

Eddie smacked Richie's hand away, laughing. The rest of the day went on as if no time had passed.

Richie snapped himself out of the memory, not realizing he was smiling until then. He frowned at himself in a tilted mirror leaning against the wall on the floor.

Richie lay his head back on the pillow, facing the window. He could only let his thoughts race as he fell back asleep.

He'd apologize to Eddie in the morning.

Chapter Text

Outside of the Tozier home, a blanket of snow covered the front and back yards, stretching miles farther than the town itself. No one was outside that night; only the occasional car arriving to their house being an exception. The blizzard was at its peak, and everything indoors felt cozy.

Richie had been making hot chocolate for the two of them while Eddie was finishing up cleaning Richie's room; he just couldn't stand how messy it was. The power had been cut due to the storm, and their only source of light was the light emitting from the dimming streetlights outside.

Richie finished their special treat just as Eddie made his way downstairs with a trash bag held out in front of him.

"You are such a pig, Tozier." Eddie let the bag fall in front of the front door.

Richie handed Eddie his drink, taking a sip of his own. "It's going to end up like that again, why bother cleaning it?"

"Is that your logic?" Eddie grimaced.

"Shut up already." Richie slipped his arm around his boyfriend's waist and gave a loving peck on the top of the head.

Eddie attempted to hide his blush by raising his mug to his mouth. Richie kept that adorably dorky smile on his face as he watched Eddie. His eyes were full of love.

The couple sat in the living room in their little setup: a forest green blanket laid out on the carpet like a picnic blanket, pillows scattered about the floor around them, fattening foods being hogged by Richie. The curtains had been shut tight, just in case.

Eddie was glad Richie came to his senses and chased after him. When it was three in the morning and Richie still wasn't knocking at his window, he thought it was over. But of course, his charm won Eddie over all over again.

Richie was in Eddie's arms a few hours into the night, ear against his chest, listening to the steady heartbeat. Eddie twirled a curl around his finger, hesitating to say what he was about to say.

"When are your parents getting home?"

He felt Richie stiffen. "I dunno."

Eddie nodded as if Richie could see him.

"They don't live here anymore. Technically."

Eddie pulled gently on Richie's hair to get him to look up. "Elaborate?"

Richie shook his head. "They're never home, so I just say I live alone. I do, basically. I have since, like, middle school."

Richie wasn't that close with his parents, mainly his father--especially after what he did--but Eddie couldn't help but feel sorry for him. It was no wonder he would always seek attention; he didn't get any.

"Does... it bother you?"

"Nah. Not anymore." Richie closed his eyes, letting his drowsiness take over.

Eddie's mind inevitably wandered to their separation in eighth grade.

He knew Richie and his father got into a verbal scuffle, but Richie never told him what happened afterwards, or leading up to it. Eddie ever bothered asking about it in fear that it might irritate or upset him.

"Richie."

"Hm?"

"...What happened that night?" Eddie whispered. "With your dad?"

Richie was quiet for a long while. Eddie was beginning to get uncomfortable, afraid that question shut him down. Or maybe he'd fallen asleep?

He shook Richie lightly. "Rich."

"Yeah."

"You don't have to tell me..."

"It's okay," Richie sat up. "It's been long enough."

Eddie perked up, all ears.

Richie barely swayed back and forth, contemplating whether or not he would actually be fine with sharing what happened that night.
"I got home. We had dinner. I was in my room for a while." Richie recounted. "That's when my mom called me downstairs."

Eddie watched his eyes for any indication of weakness. If there was, he was hiding it well.

"He asked me about you. Why we were so close. I told him we were just best friends. But then he found that valentine you gave me that year." Richie kept his gaze on the carpet he was fidgeting with. "He asked who it was from, and I didn't bother lying. It was just what ever kid did in middle school, right?"

Eddie was listening intently.

"He called me names. Fucked up names. Especially fucked up if you're calling your son by them. Mom stayed in the office for the whole night while my dad fucked me up. Emotionally and with a belt. That's why I couldn't see you for that long." Richie was now facing Eddie, his cheeks stained with droplets.

Eddie's face softened, and he was suddenly aware of a lump forming in his throat.

"I don't know why he let me see you again out of nowhere. I guess my mom stepped in after a while. I was kind of fucked up." Richie admitted.

"If he's the way he is, why do you want to..." Eddie's voice trailed off.

"Because I don't care anymore," Richie waved his arms around. "I don't need people like him in my life. I need you."

Eddie made a small gasping noise. "I... need you too..."

Richie widened his eyes. "You do?"

Eddie hesitated before nodding. He really did need Richie. Those few months were hell for him, unbeknownst to Richie. He'd toss and turn in bed, thinking of what he did wrong to make Richie avoid him, and when he found out why he'd been avoided, Eddie would stay up until he cried himself to sleep. It was probably one of the worst periods of time he's had.

Richie took Eddie's hand in his. Eddie could feel the slight tremble Richie was trying to control. Eddie planted a kiss on the boy's hand, their eyes never leaving each other's. It was comforting how they could talk about anything and not feel the other would be judgmental. They were nothing short of understanding.

The two chatted upstairs in Richie's room until he dozed off first at around 3am.

While the storm went on outside, two boyfriends lay cozy in each other's arms. And they wouldn't have it any other way.

If only it wasn't a dream.

Chapter Text

"Tozier."

Richie looked up from the new shipment of music records on the floor in front of him at his manager Jeffrey. Jeffrey was looking down at him, his usual displeased expression slightly putting the boy on edge.

Richie stood, wiping away any dust or lint from his behind. "Hey."

"Some oansy in the back looks lost. Help 'em out." Jeffrey commanded, making his way back to his office without dismissing himself from Richie.

Richie sighed and put on his customer service mask, a big, obviously fake smile plastered across his lips. Near the very back, where the not-as-popular-as-when-they-were-released records could be found, Richie could make out a small figure behind one of the shelves. He immediately recognized the voice that mumbled, "Dammit," when an object slipped out of their hand onto the carpeted floor.

"What are you doing here?" Richie was visibly excited, but tried making it out to look like he was irked.

Eddie didn't bother looking his way. "I can't check out some music on my own?"

"No," Richie snatched a Bon Jovi record from Eddie's small hands, their fingers momentarily brushing against each other. "Go home."

"And who are you to tell me what I can and can't do?" Eddie snapped, taking the record back.

"Nothing, I just..." Richie sighed, letting Eddie go back to browsing.

Neither of them talked for the time Eddie gave the vinyls quick once-overs and went round a few more aisles, Richie following not far behind.

"May I help you?" Eddie whirled around when he noticed Richie still following him.

"May I help you?" Richie raised a brow.

Eddie scoffed.

Richie hesitated speaking before he blurted out, "Have you been taking your medicine?"

"What?" Eddie almost snorted.

"I'm... I haven't--"

"My mom's dead, Richie." Eddie slid a vinyl back into its place. "I haven't had to take any of that shit in a while."

"I'm... I'm sor... I just wanted to know..." Richie struggled to find the right words to say, but everything came out jumbled.

"Um, excuse me?" A young woman's soft voice interrupted the boys, who simultaneously whipped around to face her.

Richie cleared his throat and said, "Hello ma'am. Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Do you have any... 'specialized' mixtapes?" She asked, sounding a little embarrassed to bring up the question.

"What kind of 'specialized' mixtapes?"

She let out a breath. "Okay, I'm kind of in a rut with my boyfriend, and I wanted to make him a little tape as a token of apology."

Richie laughed. "I hear that." He shot a quick look at Eddie, who bit back with an innocent yet sarcastic smile.

"Come with me." Richie went into the back room and sneakily set a small box of tapes on a shelf in front of them.

This caught Eddie's attention.

"It might be cheesy, but I'm prepared for these types of things," Richie explained modestly. "I make these mixtapes when I'm in your situation. I just don't really... use them. I guess."

The girl, intrigued, began rummaging through the box. "Why don't you give it to whoever you made them for?"

He shrugged. "I guess... Too shy? I dunno."

He stole a glance at Eddie, attention now fully on Richie and the girl. Eddie's eyes darted from Richie to the box, as if to say, "Are those... for me?"

"What songs are on here?" She picked one up and examined it for nothing in particular.

Richie pointed out a sheet of paper at the bottom of the box. "I mark them down on here in order of which they're arranged."

The girl's eyes scanned the paper until she yelped, "Time After Time! That's a good one."

"Yeah," Richie looked back at Eddie. He was standing there, head tilted, smile slowly forming.

"Thanks so much for this!" The girl beamed, holding onto a tape with her life.

Richie watched the girl head for the exit, all the while his peripheral vision catching Eddie walking towards him.

Eddie put his hands in his baggy hoodie, a blush creeping up on his already-rosy-from-the-cold cheeks. Richie held back a sly smile, knowing all too well he'd won Eddie back.

"Cyndi Lauper?" Eddie raised a brow.

"Be quiet." Richie shook his head and playfully pushed Eddie's shoulder.

"Why didn't you give those to me?" Eddie pouted, genuinely seeming upset.

Richie lifted his shoulders. "I guess I didn't think you'd bother. Or you'd call me a serious wuss."

"You're the one who name-calls in this relationship," Eddie grabbed the box and hugged it close to his chest.

Richie wanted to say, "So we're still together." but decided against it. Instead, he asked, "So what are you actually doing here?"

Eddie looked down at the Blondie vinyl in his hands. "I.. wanted to.. make things up to you?"

Richie giggled. "By buying me things?"

"Yeah?"

Richie looked around, grabbed Eddie by the waist, and planted a kiss on Eddie's cheek. "I don't need gifts. I need you."

Chapter Text

Eddie had been awake for about half an hour, feeling comfort as Richie's boney arms held onto his torso. His back was still firmly pressed to Richie's front. Every time Eddie would even move to adjust his position, Richie's grip subconsciously tightened, as if he was afraid Eddie might leave.

Eddie rolled over to face Richie, whose eyes were still closed, but Eddie could tell he was awake. Dark curls lay messily on the pillow.

Richie blinked his eyes a few times before they focused on Eddie's face.

Eddie sweetly kissed Richie's nose and snuggled back into him. They were like that for another few minutes, until Richie suddenly slid out of Eddie's grasp. Eddie watched Richie slide on shoes and put on his jacket.

"What're you doing?" Eddie gave Richie innocent puppy dog eyes that he knew no one could resist, especially Richie.

"I have to go." Richie collected his belongings hurriedly without even looking Eddie in the eye.

"Again?" Eddie let his shoulders droop. This was the third night Richie left before sunrise that week. Eddie wasn't sure if it was because Richie didn't want to be caught sneaking out of Eddie's house--everyone already had their suspicions; that would only make things worse.

"I'm sorry Eds, I really am." Richie leaned forward to kiss Eddie's forehead, but Eddie cocked his head back.

The look of disappointment Richie gave him was almost heartbreaking. Eddie crossed his arms like a stubborn child before laying back down.

Richie sighed impatiently before letting his backpack slide off his shoulders and getting into bed once more. The two faced each other, lips almost touching. Eddie could never get enough of Richie's beautiful eyes. He couldn't wait to wake up to them every single day.

As the boys' eyes scanned each other thoroughly, Eddie stopped at a healing mark on Richie's wrist. Richie noticed this, and casually placed his arm behind his head, messing with his hair.

"Everything okay?" The suspicion in Eddie's voice was too obvious.

Richie nodded. "Yeah. I would tell you, if anything."

Another look and it was evident to Richie he could no longer stall the questions.

"It's not what you think," Richie sat up, rubbing the ring mark around his wrist. "It was after a bad argument with my dad. It was a few months ago, it doesn't matter now."

"Of course it matters," Eddie widened his eyes. "What did he do that left a mark that bad?"

"It's nothing, okay?" Richie raised his voice, something he never did with Eddie. When he realized what he'd done, Richie placed a hand on Eddie's shoulder. "It's nothing."

Eddie wanted to question further, but knew it would only cause more drama. And at the moment, all he wanted to do was be there for his love.

It wasn't the first time Eddie noticed marks on Richie's body. One time during the summer of ninth grade, the boys had gone to a creek to camp out, and while swimming, a burn mark on Richie's shoulder blade caught Eddie's eye. He didn't question it that time.

The day of their sophomore class trip, though, was one to remember.

The boys just got off a roller coaster at some new theme park on opening day, and decided to disperse from the group to go to the ferris wheel. Once atop the ride, the boys took in the park scenery around them, and sniffed the funnel-cake-filled air wafting up to them. That was when Eddie noticed a rather prominent mark on the side of Richie's neck, towards his clavicle.

You could probably guess what Eddie was thinking.

"Richie..." Eddie's voice cracked.

Richie turned back to face him with a smile, but the look on Eddie's face wiped that smirk off his face right away. "Eddie, what's wrong?"

"You tell me." Tears were brimming.

Richie blankly stared at his boyfriend. "What-"

A look of realization swept across Richie's face.

"Oh.. my God," Richie's hand jerked up, possibly to feel the bruised patch of skin, but stayed put, not wanting to frighten Eddie further. "Listen, it's not what you think."

"What else could it possibly be?"

Richie was holding back, Eddie knew it. Whether it was what they both thought it was, or if Richie had another explanation, something was racing through the boy's mind.

"Tell me or I'm getting off." Eddie sat up forward in his seat.

"Eddie, don't." Richie warned, touching his arm lightly.

Eddie snatched his arm away like he'd come in contact with something radioactive. "Tell me. Or. I'm. Jumping."

Richie hesitated before blurting out, "Fine, you know what? Think what you want. I'm not talking about this."

"I knew you didn't love me." Eddie began leaning over the railing.

Richie grabbed his arm tightly. "I never said that!"

"The way you're acting says it all."

But before Richie could protest further, Eddie was off the ride and on the ground before anyone could realize it.

Don't worry, they weren't too high up. Eddie escaped with only a broken leg.

At the hospital, Eddie almost threw a fit when Richie came to visit.

"I don't want to talk to you." Eddie stared out of his hospital room's window.

"Eddie..."

"Nurse!" Eddie frantically reached for the "Press for Help" button, but Richie wrapped the cord around his body, the button far from Eddie's reach.

"You didn't let me finish on Saturday."

"I saw all I needed to see."

"You assumed you saw what you think you did." Richie reluctantly revealed the problematic mark. "It's not a hickey."

"Humor me." Eddie tried to sound tough and unaffected, but the shake in his voice was hard to hide.

"It was my dad." Richie admitted shamefully. Eddie's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets, but before he could say anything, Richie continued. "I came home late one night. I was with Bev. At a party. He caught me sneaking in. He was a little--a lot--drunk."

Eddie felt a pang of guilt strike him right in the gut. Why hadn't he let Richie finish before deciding to make a show out of assumption? Now he had a broken leg for no reason.

"He took a belt." Richie softly spoke. "Wrapped it around my neck. Threatened to kill me if he saw me with 'that slut' one more time."

"Is... is that why you avoid her whenever you can?"

Richie nodded. "I love that girl. She's like a sister. But I don't want anymore trouble with my dad. She gets it, and I know she does."

"Richie..."

"I get why you'd be upset, babe," Richie sat on the hospital seat beside the bed, grasping the boy's hand. "I would assume the worst, too. Only I wouldn't jump off of a carnival ride to get you to squeal."

"Which you didn't." Eddie playfully scoffed.

Eddie snapped out of his flashback and wrapped his arms around Richie's waist. Richie seemed surprised.

"I'm flawed, too."