The first time it happens they’re stomping around the Barrens after school on a Tuesday. The leaves are starting to turn a brilliant shade of orange and red, a whispered promise of autumn. The first cold breezes have begun to roll in from the north and Richie kind of wishes that he was wearing something heavier than a t-shirt.
Bill and Beverly are a few paces ahead; heads ducked as they talk excitedly about something Richie doesn’t give two shits about. When they first got together everyone was worried it would throw off the rhythm of the Losers Club. But in the last few months it has become clear that nothing of the sort is going to happen. So they continue on like before, throwing jokes back and forth, cruising the side streets on their bikes, and lazing around the quarry before the weather gets too cold.
Richie is meandering along the very edge of the riverbank, tottering between the grass and the sharp drop down to rocks that poke up above the water. Stan has his hands shoved in his pockets and snickers as Eddie carefully picks his way between plants, a grimace on his face. “Would you chill out for five minutes?” Stan says, “Jesus, you look like you’re gonna’ have an aneurism.”
“There’s poison ivy everywhere,” Eddie protests, skirting around some suspicious looking leaves, “and God knows what the fuck kind of pollution is in the water! It’s probably like 95% fish shit and piss.”
“It can’t be worse than your mom’s vag on her period,” Richie chimes in, pushing his glasses further up his nose.
Eddie stops for a moment, fixing Richie with a dry look, “That’s so not funny.”
“Rarely funny, the truth is,” Richie says, slipping into his Yoda impression.
Eddie just shakes his head and mutters something under his breath. He treks back to where Stan and Richie are, studying the ledge where the grass drops off into the murky stream water, “No, nope. Fuck no. There is definitely shit in that water and probably a million different kinds of salmonella. No way I’m getting near that.”
“Don’t be such a pussy,” Stan says.
Eddie stops in his tracks next to where Richie has started kicking loose rocks into the water with his foot. “At least I have my whole dick, Stanley.”
“Oh fuck,” Richie gasps as Stan rolls his eyes.
“They didn’t chop my whole dick off,” he bites back. “It’s a hygiene thing, dipshit.”
Eddie freezes, eyes wide, “Wait seriously?”
Stan rolls his eyes, “Yes, I’ve told you a thousand times.”
“Aw does little Eddie have a nasty dick?” Richie laughs, shoving at Eddie’s shoulder. Eddie’s shoes skid on the dirt, knocking loose some rocks that splash into the water below. He yelps and grabs onto Richie’s sleeve.
“God you’re such a fucking asshole!” Eddie shouts, “I don’t even know why I hang out with you Tozier. You’re the worst.”
“Oh please, Spaghetti man, you know you love me,” Richie says, batting his eyelashes at Eddie.
“You wish, Trashmouth,” he grumbles, crossing his arms and pointedly not looking at Richie as they continue along the riverbank. They walk in silence for a while, only the quiet gurgling of the river and the crunch of grass beneath their feet.
“Guys I’m serious,” Eddie pipes up, sounding genuinely distressed, “You’re walking through so much poison ivy right now! Do you know how long that shit lasts for? You’re gonna’ be scratching yourselves raw for a month!”
Richie leaps from the grass onto one of the larger rocks that rises up above the river. He throws his arms out, steadying himself, sneakers sliding on the damp surface. Then he looks up, locks his eyes on Eddie and grabs his crotch with a shit eating grin, “Speaking of raw, last night your mom and I-”.
“Shut up,” Eddie protests, fists clenched at his sides.
Richie can practically hear Stan rolling his eyes, “Beep beep, Richie.”
But Richie carries on, rolling his hips in the air, pitching his voice up in an attempt to sound more feminine, “Oh Richie! Give it to me good, Richie! Ah! Ooh!”
“Are you retarded? I said shut the fuck up, cumwad!” Eddie is red in the face right now and Richie can’t help but think that he looks really good with ruddy cheeks.
Richie shrugs and jumps off the rock, feet first into the river, splashing water up into Eddie’s face. “What the fuck!” He sputters and stumbles just an inch too close to the edge of the river. The ledge crumples under his weight and Eddie yelps as he tumbles off the bank and lands ass first in the river.
Eddie’s arms flail about for a moment and he gasps as he pushes his head above the surface. His hair is plastered to his forehead, even though the water probably wouldn’t go past his hips if he were standing up. The Losers erupt in laughter as Eddie splashes about, trying to regain his bearings. Stan stares down at him owlishly. Richie is gripping his sides and shaking with full-bodied laughs that ring out across the Barrens.
It takes a moment for him to realize that Eddie is gasping for air. One of his hands is clawing uselessly at the front of his shirt, and the other is grabbing blindly at his fanny pack. His eyes are wide and scared and Richie feels what he will later identify as panic rising in his throat.
“Eddie!” He shouts, splashing through the river towards him. He grips him around the middle and hoists him up onto the grass. It’s clear that he’s having an asthma attack and Richie immediately goes for his fanny pack, looking for his rescue inhaler.
He fumbles for a moment but eventually succeeds in bringing the inhaler to Eddie’s lips. Eddie wraps a shaky hand around Richie’s hand, steading him as he presses down on the button, inhaling the medication as fast as he can.
The other have crowded around now, worry creasing their brows as Richie maneuvers the two of them so that Eddie is sitting between his legs with his back against Richie’s chest. He is rubbing Eddie’s chest the way he once told Richie helps normalize his breathing after an attack. Eddie is clutching the inhaler like his life depends on it, but gives a weak smile to the Losers. “I-I’m fine,” he wheezes unconvincingly, setting off a round of coughs that make Richie’s teeth rattle.
Eddie turns, pressing his forehead against Richie’s collarbone as he catches his breath again. They stay there, limbs entangled, as Eddie slowly comes back to himself, pulling in slow steady lungfuls of air. It figures that of all the bullshit sicknesses and diseases that Eddie’s mom made up, that asthma would be the only thing he actually has. That and a mild case of hay fever.
It’s only once he finally goes to slip his inhaler back into his fanny pack that Eddie seems to notice that his clothes are soaked in nasty river water. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He moans, tugging at his damp shirt and wrinkling his nose in disgust, “Richie you suck!”
“Only for you, dear,” Richie grins, wiggling his eyebrows. Eddie makes an annoyed noise and rolls his eyes. Bill and Beverly laugh at that, reassured that Eddie is back to normal now that he’s needling Richie again. The day Eddie and Richie stop bickering will be the day hell freezes over.
“Go take your boy home and get him cleaned up, Tozier,” Stan says, rolling his eyes in affectionate annoyance. He can feel Eddie go rigid in his arms at Stan’s words, if only for a moment.
Then Eddie is pushing himself upright and unhooking his fanny pack. Muttering to himself he wanders over to a nearby rock and tucks his legs underneath himself, careful to avoid any of the nearby plants. He begins sorting through it, groaning at the waterlogged bandages and cotton swabs.
Richie leans back onto his elbows and looks up at Stan, squinting into the late afternoon sun. “You-you don’t mind?” he ventures, “Us leaving you behind with the lovebirds, I mean.”
“No I don’t mind,” Stan says evenly, shrugging his shoulders like it’s the simplest thing in the world. “I don’t mind any of it.”
“Cool,” Richie chirps, grabbing his backpack off of the grass and pushing himself to his feet. “Pip pip Edward,” he calls. “Shall we endeavor to find you a cleaner wardrobe?”
“Fuck you,” Eddie says back, but there is no venom behind his words.
But then Stan is reaching out, gripping Richie’s arm, “Dude what are you-”
“I don’t mind any of it, Tozier,” he repeats, voice lower and his words somehow more weighty, fixing Richie with an indecipherable look. “And I don’t think any of the other Losers would mind it either. If you wanted to,” he jerks his head in the direction of Eddie, “you know.”
Richie stares back at Stan, searching his face for any sort of explanation of what Stan is implying. “Okayyy,” he drawls, pulling his arm free of the other boy’s grip, “thanks for the mysterious seal of approval, Stanathon. I’ll, uh, see you in history.”
Stan presses his lips into a firm line; clearly annoyed that Richie isn’t picking up whatever he’s putting down, “Yeah, history.”
“Eduardo!” Richie claps his hands and rucks his backpack onto his shoulder, “Àndale, àndale let’s go, Eds!”
Eddie climbs to his feet and shakes his head, “You know I hate it when you call me that.” But he relaxes into Richie’s side as soon as he slings an arm around Eddie’s shoulders and tugs him back towards town.
The second time it happens Richie and Mike are sitting in alone in the Derry Diner munching on a basket of fries. Mike always seems a little on edge when he’s in town despite the knowledge that any of the Losers would happily get bloody knuckles and a black eye for him. Even though it’s easier for black folks than it was twenty years ago it’s still no walk in the park, so Richie knows that it can’t be easy being one of a handful of black people in all of Derry.
Which is why when Mike starts seeing Betty Davidson he demands that the Losers keep it a secret. Betty is a small, pretty girl with big blue eyes that wears floral dresses. Richie thinks her frizzy blonde hair and crooked smile kind of kill her whole look, but she makes Mike happy and that’s what’s important. She never really hangs around the Losers, but she doesn’t live far from Mike’s grandpa’s farm and is also homeschooled.
Sometimes Betty will come down into town and order a milkshake at the diner. A little while later Mike will drag one of the Losers along for a burger and fries and sit with his back to Betty. Sometimes they hold hands, back to back, if the diner is empty enough. More often than not it’s Richie that ends up playing the role of third wheel because everyone else either has better things to do or a family that will miss them. Richie has neither, so he is happy to tuck into a warm meal at Mike’s expense every other week.
Tonight they’re still hanging around after Betty has gone home so nobody sees them leaving together. It’s a fucked up way to date, but it’s a good way to not get beat up. So Richie dips his fries into his milkshake while Mike polishes off the last of his burger. “Dude this sucks,” Richie finally says, sucking the salt from his fingertips.
“Tell me about it,” Mike groans, shaking his head. “It’s fucking bullshit, but it’s just the way it is.”
“Yeah well fuck the way it is,” Richie grits out, slamming his milkshake down a little too loudly, “Like, if you two want to be together then you shouldn’t have to hide. It’s nobody else’s business. Fuck everybody else, Mike. You guys should just go out whenever you want, screw everyone else.”
Mike fixes him with a strange look, “Like you’re one to talk.”
“I’m serious,” Richie bulldozes on, “Just go to the movies, hold hands, and kiss and all that shit! If other people can do it in public you should too.”
“But it’s not that easy,” Mike hold his ground, “if someone saw we would get beat up, at best. You know what this town does to people like me.” And then he’s lowering his voice and leaning towards Richie, “It isn’t too different to what they do to people like you.”
“Both of us are lovers, Mikey boy,” Richie sighs, leaning back in the booth and kicking his feet up on the bench next to Mike’s legs, “and we shouldn’t have to apologize for that. Even though people may not understand the love that Eddie’s mom and I share they have to deal with it, whether they like it or not. It should be the same with you and Betty.”
“You and Eddie’s mom,” Mike chuckles, “sure Trashmouth, if that’s how you want to spin it.”
“Forbidden love,” Richie flutters his eyelids and shoves more fries into his mouth, “something about it just gets me hot under the collar.”
“Okay gross. But speaking of forbidden love,” Mike smiles and waggles his eyebrows, “how’s Eddie?”
Richie shrugs, “Probably jerking off with hand sanitizer like he usually does.”
Mike’s eyes go wide for a moment, “Wait does he seriously do that?”
“How the fuck would I know?” Richie laughs, fiddling with his straw. He likes to get malt in his milkshake even thought all the Losers say that’s something only old people do. But Richie does it anyway.
Mike puts his hands up in mock surrender, “Hey man, sorry if I’m getting too personal. But I think you guys are good for each other, really.”
“Eddie’s a dweeb but he’s good for a laugh,” Richie shrugs, not really sure why Mike keeps trying to turn this into a conversation about Eddie when there are clearly more important matters at hand, namely saving Mike’s love life. “But really Mike, the world won’t change it’s mind if you don’t force it to. Do you want to hide forever?”
Mike shakes his head miserably, “No, I don’t.”
“Then go for it man, you know we’ll be there to back you up,” Richie adds, nudging Mike’s thigh with his shoe. “You’re part of the Losers Club for life, dude. Who you date isn’t going to change that.”
“You know what? I think I’m going to ask Betty to go to the movies next week. Just the two of us,” Mike says it like he’s trying to convince himself. “And this time, we’re gonna’ sit next to each other.”
“That’s the spirit, Mycycle!” Richie reaches over to slap Mike on the shoulder, grinning from ear to ear. “Show the world what a lover you are!”
“Yeah,” Mike agrees with a smile, “because it’s nobody’s business but our own. Thanks man.”
“Anytime my guy,” Richie gives him a mock salute, feigning seriousness before they both descend into laughter.
When they have paid and are walking out the door of the diner Mike turns to Richie and puts a hand on his shoulder, “You know, you should do it too. Fuck everybody else, Richie.”
“What, date a white girl?” Richie laughs, “Been there, done that.”
Mike rolls his eyes and punches Richie a little to harshly in the arm, “No you haven’t! And you know what I mean. Go to the movies, hold hands, and kiss and all that shit,” he parrots what Richie had said before. “Fuck everyone else Richie, enjoy your forbidden love! The world isn’t going to change for you unless you force it to.”
Richie playfully shoves Mike back, “Do you think it’s legal for me and Mrs. K to neck at the movies?”
“If you and Mrs. K want to neck at the movies I’ll be there to knock out any assholes that try to give you any problems,” Mike says with a conspiratorial glint in his eye.
Richie is caught off guard for a moment, “Mike you know I’m not actually fucking Eddie’s mom, right?”
“Yeah,” he says, knocking his shoulder against Richie’s, “I know. You should go for it though. Fuck everybody else.”
The third time it happens they are sitting in the cafeteria. Eddie is rooting through his Star Trek lunch box while Richie talks around a mouth full of ham sandwich. “And then Maya Keen sucked me off underneath the bleachers,” Richie says wistfully. “What a birthday gift, right?”
Bill snorts into his sandwich, “T-t-there is no way that M-Maya fucking Keen gave you a b-blowjob.”
“Well my dick says otherwise,” Richie grabs his crotch and flashes a toothy grin.
“Well the entire cheerleading team, including Maya, being in Agusta for that cheer competition during your birthday says otherwise,” Stan replies coolly.
Bill and Beverly erupt into laughter as Richie flushes pink, caught in his own lie. Stan is chuckling and looking smug while Ben’s brow furrows, his mouth a hard line. Richie doesn’t like the way Ben is looking at him so he turns and elbows Eddie in the side, “Eds saw Maya flirting with me last week! Isn’t that right, Eddie!”
Eddie looks up from where he is silently picking at the peel of his orange, “What?”
“You saw Maya getting all up on me last week, right?” Richie goads, desperately trying to save face. “In gym when she was trying to put her hands down my pants and play a little tonsil tennis. But I told her it wasn’t respectable to deflower a lady on a tennis court. Everyone knows that the football field is much more romantic.”
“Ew no, do you have any idea how unsanitary that is?” Eddie shudders, “And besides, nobody wants to touch your trashwang, Trashmouth.”
Richie grips his shirt and collapses backwards in his seat, “Eds, you wound me! I thought you and your mom loved my trashwang!”
“Fuck off,” Eddie bites back, returning to his orange with renewed vigor. He rips a few pieces of the peel off and unceremoniously drops them onto Richie’s plate.
Richie watches as Eddie continues to pile orange peels directly on top of Richie’s sandwich, juice coating his fingers, “I see how it is, treat the Trashmouth like a trashcan!”
“Yeah, that’s how it is, asshole,” Eddie says, not bothering to meet his eye. When he is carefully separating the orange out and bringing the first slice to his mouth Richie’s hand darts out, grabbing Eddie’s wrist. Eddie stares at him for a moment, tugging his arm back futilely, “Let go of my fucking arm and let me eat in peace. Jesus fucking Christ.”
“No, no Eds,” Richie chides, “time to pay your taxes.”
Eddie balks as Richie starts yanking his hand towards his mouth, “Would you just- what the fuck are you doing?” They grapple back and forth, Eddie slapping a hand against Richie’s shoulder, trying to push him away. “Get the fuck off me dickhole! Beep beep! Beep fucking beep, Richie!”
And then Richie is fitting his mouth around Eddie’s fingers, swallowing down the orange slice. Eddie lets out a shocked yelp and jerks in Riche’s grip as he sucks the juice from his fingers. He manages to break away for a moment but then Richie is licking a long stripe from his wrist, across his palm, and to the tip of his middle finger.
“B-Beep beep, Richie,” Eddie sputters, cheeks bright red and eyes wide.
“There, all done,” Richie crows, making a show of licking the tips of each of his own fingers. “Eddie my love, that was delicious as always.”
“You’re so fucking gross I don’t even know where your mouth has been you sicko,” Eddie whines, vigorously wiping his hand on Richie’s pants. Everyone at the table has gone worryingly silent, having watched the whole affair descend from playful bather into something much more uncomfortable and charged.
“Come on, Spaghetti, it’s a fucking joke,” he knocks his shoulder against Eddie’s. Beverly and Bill are looking at them like they each just sprouted a second head and Eddie looks like he would rather melt into the floor than meet Richie’s eye.
Mercifully the bell rings, breaking through the uncomfortable silence that has so rapidly descended.
“I, uh, I gotta go,” Eddie mumbles and grabs his books off of the table. Beverly ties her sweater around her waist and follows him towards their science class, Bill in toe.
“Stay sweet Eds,” Richie calls after him, blowing a kiss in his direction. Eddie just ducks his head and walks faster.
Ben is hovering a few feet behind Richie as he dumps the remains of his lunch into the trash and stacks his tray. “Richie,” he starts, “you know you don’t have to lie around us, right?”
“What on Earth makes you think I’m lying?” Richie feigns sounding hurt. “You think the Trashmouth can’t score with a cheerleader? I’m hurt, Haystack!”
They grab their backpacks off the backs of their chairs and head towards the stairwell. Shoulders bump as they navigate the sea of bodies on their way to class.
“You know we would all be happy for you, right?” Ben says, shooting a glance over his shoulder in the direction that Eddie, Bill, and Beverly are walking.
“Well I would hope so,” Richie says, taking the stairs two at a time “Maya is hot as shit!” He pauses at the stop of the first flight, waiting for Ben to catch up.
“Richie, you don’t have to lie to me,” Ben says, shaking his head. He stops and fixes Richie with a pointed look. “You should really say something to Eddie.”
Richie rolls his eyes, “Christ, is that what this is about? Fine, I’ll apologize for molesting him and his precious orange. Fuck! It’s not my fault he’s too much of a baby to take a joke.”
Ben fixes him with an annoyed look and presses his mouth into a frown, “You know that’s not what I’m talking about Richie.”
“I really don’t,” Richie says earnestly, pushing his glasses up his nose.
Ben sighs and shakes his head, “Just say something to him, Richie. I’ll see you in Spanish.”
Richie cranes his neck as Ben disappears into the sea of students, “What the fuck are you talking about?! Yo no hablo espanol!!”
The fourth time it happens Richie is sitting on Bill’s bed on a Friday afternoon, smoking the filter of one of the cigarettes he bummed off of Beverly a few days ago. He’s not sure how she does it, but Bev has some kind of special skill when it comes to acquiring smokes that Richie has yet to master. Stan says it’s probably because Beverly already looks like a college student while Richie he can’t grow facial hair and looks like a hairless string bean. Eddie says it’s because he looks like a dumbass kid that would try to steal cigarettes from the pharmacy, which isn’t far from the truth.
Originally the plan had been to go to the quarry if the weather had allowed it. It has been raining for three days straight and considering the veritable downpour happening outside it doesn’t seem like it’s going to let up just because it’s the beginning of the weekend. Nature is funny like that sometimes. No regard for schedules, what a shame. So instead Richie is sprawled across Bill’s bed, staring at the plastic glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. Bill is fiddling with the record player in the corner, looking for a record that isn’t “pop eurotrash” as Richie had so elegantly put it earlier.
Mike is sick, Ben is in Vermont visiting his aunt, Eddie is still under house arrest after Sonia caught him sneaking out to go the arcade on a school night, Stan is off doing Jew stuff because it’s Friday, and Beverly is still in Portland. That leaves Bill and Richie as free agents, thus the cigarettes and second hand records.
“Can I?” Bill asks, reaching out for the end of the cigarette.
Richie nods and passes it over, “You can finish it.”
“Not much left to f-finish,” Bill mumbles, settling on The Cure album that Richie got for him last year for Christmas. “This okay?”
Richie hums an affirmative, “I’m willing to compromise today Denbrough. Besides, who says that England is part of Europe? It’s an island anyway.” He nods to himself and pulls another cigarette out from behind his ear. “What time are your parents getting back?” He asks, digging in his shirt pocket for his lighter.
“It should be any time now,” Bill flops down onto the bed next to Richie flicking the cigarette butt in the direction of the trashcan.
A gust of wind rushes through the open window, blowing the curtains every which way. A few stray raindrops find their way onto Richie’s cheek, “Where are they anyway?”
“The airport in H-Houlton to pick up my uncle a-and David,” Bill plucks the cigarette from Richie’s hand before he can light it. “We need to air out the room properly. I don’t need my mom f-f-freaking out about me s-smoking.” He drops the cigarette into the pencil cup on his desk. Bill crosses the room and grabs the door handle, pumping the door open and closed to get the air moving.
Richie wrinkles his nose; the room does kind of stink of smoke. “Who the fuck is David?” He asks sitting up and taking his glasses off to clean the lenses with the edge of his shirt. There is a smudge on one of the lenses that just doesn’t want to come out, no matter how hard he rubs. Richie is so focused on his glasses that he doesn’t notice that Bill has let go of the door and is chewing his lip.
“D-David is,” he starts, scratching the back of his neck, a nervous tic he developed somewhere around the third grade. “He’s my uncle’s b-boyfriend.”
Richie feels his breath catch in his throat and his hand freezes where it was rubbing one of his lenses. “Boyfriend?”
“Y-yeah,” Bill says with more conviction, “they’ve been together for like nine years. He’s r-r-really cool.”
“Huh, I didn’t you know your uncle was a fag,” Richie replies thoughtfully. He moves to open the other window next to Bill’s desk.
Bill grits his teeth, “Can you n-not say that?”
“What,” Richie looks at him from over his shoulder, “fag? What’s better? Queer?”
“He’s just g-gay, Richie,” Bill bites back, kicking some dirty laundry further into his closet. “You’re s-such a T-t-trashmouth.”
Richie stops, chews his lip. Clearly Bill is upset and it’s Richie’s fault. “Hey, gee Bill, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
Bill just shakes his head and waves a dismissive hand in Richie’s direction, “It’s f-f-fine I j-just figured that you of all people would get it and n-n-not make a b-big deal out of it. I-It’s whatever.”
Richie stops short for a moment, “Me of all people?”
“Well I m-mean with you being” Bill doesn’t even bother looking at Richie as he says it, head still buried in the closet as he searches for something other than a dirty baseball shirt to wear, “the w-way you are and all.”
Richie opens and closes his mouth a few times, trying to figure out how to articulate to Bill that he has no clue what he’s talking about, but instead he just lamely mumbles, “What?”
Bill tries to straighten up as he steps back out of the closet, smacking his head on the doorframe in the process, “Fuck!” He yelps, a hand rushing up to press against his temple, wincing in the process. Richie jumps up to help but Bill just shrugs him off. For a moment he looks like he’s going to say something to Richie but then a car horn is sounding in the driveway and they’re rushing to find some kind of air freshener to get rid of the lingering scent of smoke.
A few minutes later when the room smells like fresh spring laundry instead of cheap cigarettes, Richie and Bill are helping carry in the luggage from the car. Richie has met Bill’s uncle before and he never got any sort of queer vibe from him, but now that he’s here with a short brunet man by his side that must be David, Richie can see it. Part of him wonders what the fuck two men do together considering that they don’t have the proper parts.
They’ve got hands and mouths, same as anyone.
He blushes at the thought, imagining what David and Bill’s uncle might do with their hands and their mouths and their dicks. Then he is shoving that thought deep deep down into some place far within his mind and ignoring it as best as he can.
But then David is reaching out to shake Richie’s hand and his palm is sweaty in the man’s grip. He notices that David’s eyes kind of look like Eddie’s the way that they look brown at first but then upon closer inspection there are flecks of green around the iris. And oh my god this guy has probably touched other guy’s dicks and now he’s touching Richie’s hand and he should probably be more grossed out than he is.
Is that what Bill was implying earlier? That Richie is? No. That’s not possible.
But then again, his brain is helpfully supplying the image of Eddie doing those things he was imaging David doing a moment ago and he really really absolutely should be more grossed out than he is.
And then the handshake is over and Bill’s mom is leading the adults towards the kitchen, leaving Bill and Richie at the stairwell. Bill is saying something but Richie is too caught up in his own thoughts to process any of his words. When he notices that he is being ignored Bill shoves his shoulder with a smile, unaware of the strange internal crisis Richie is having just inches away from him, “Earth to R-Richie.”
“Uh-huh,” Richie says dumbly, nodding slowly. He can tell that he’s wearing that big-eyed look he gets when words fail him and his brain shuts off like an overheated projector. He shakes his head, trying to rid the lingering idea of Eddie doing something with his mouth from his mind.
His mouth feels dry and he pushes his glasses further up his nose. “I’m gonna’ grab my jacket and head home.”
“You can b-b-borrow an umbrella if you need one,” Bill offers, knowing Richie will never accept it.
Like always he shakes his head and just flips his hood up, “I’ll see you on Monday, Denbrough.”
Richie gives him a little wave from his bike and then takes off down the street. Even when he is rolling down the deserted main street, he can’t completely get his mind off of the image of Eddie’s mouth. He isn’t even really sure what the fuck Eddie would even do with his mouth, but the idea of a mouth, specifically Eddie’s mouth, in a decidedly sexual context makes Richie’s skin feel tight.
He tries to ignore the thought through dinner and the rest of the night. Later, when’s he’s quietly jerking off beneath his sheets that night he imagines a mouth pressed against his lips, his neck, and a few other unmentionable places. And if that mouth just so happens to bear a striking resemblance to Eddie’s, well nobody needs to know.
The fifth time it happens is when Bev pulls him aside one day between classes, literally. She fists her hand into the sleeve of Richie’s beat up Ramones t-shirt, yanking him behind the vending machine.
“Bev, what the fuck,” he demands as his back smacks into the cool plastic. She has that familiar smirk on her lips as she brandishes a flyer in one hand. Richie reaches up to adjust his glasses from where they’ve slipped down his nose, trying to get a better look at whatever is printed on this piece of paper that has Beverly grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Beverly glances over her shoulder, checking that nobody will stumble upon them, “I thought I should wish you good luck.”
“Well thanks I guess,” Richie says, pauses, and then ads, “With what though?”
She presses the partially crumpled paper into his hand and rests her hands on her hips, looking smug.
Derry High School Prom
May 19th 8pm
There is something conspiratorial in her smile that Richie doesn’t like. He shrugs his shoulders and offers the flyer back, “I’m sorry but I must decline my dear Beverly,” he raises his chin, affecting the British accent that everyone but him seems to hate. “It would be quite ungentlemanly to seek the hand of the good Billiam’s beloved.”
She smacks him in the shoulder with the rolled up flyer, letting out an annoyed and impatient huff, “Ew gross, I’m not talking about me, Trashmouth.” And there is that look again, like Beverly knows something Richie doesn’t but thinks he does, like she is expecting him to complete the second half of an inside joke he has never heard before. But instead his brain just stalls, like a computer going through the boot up cycle, grinding away but never getting anywhere.
“Okayyy-” he drawls, raising his eyebrows in an unspoken request for an explination.
“Look, I just think you should go for it, Richie,” Beverly says, her voice dropping to a whisper. “Fuck what other people think, you should ask him.” Him? Richie’s brain struggles to keep up as Beverly carries on. “All of us see the way Eddie looks at you. There is no way he would turn you down.”
“Eddie?” Richie says dumbly.
“Yes Eddie,” Bev says like it’s obvious when it really really isn’t. “I mean, I can’t say I get what he sees in you, with your whole being a shitty little trashmouth thing. But the way that kid looks at you you’d think you had single handedly cured cancer, the flu, and seasonal allergies every time you walk into the room.”
It feels like Ritchie’s brain has been dunked in molasses; thoughts come slowly and half formed. There is too much information. None of it makes sense. Why should he ask Eddie to prom? Why would Eddie look at him like that? “We’re-we’re not like that. Me and Eddie.”
“Well why not?” Beverly asks like it’s a genuine question, which should be stupid. But then, oh, yeah, there it is. Something is clicking into place. Sure Richie likes being around Eddie and he’s pretty sure Eddie doesn’t hate spending time with Richie. Yeah, Eddie is a cutie patootie when he gets annoyed and turns that adorable shade of pink. And sure, maybe he sometimes imagines what it would be like to put his hands under Eddie’s shirt or whether Eddie’s lips taste as good as they look. But the idea of them being together like that has genuinely never crossed his mind before.
The question bounces around his skull for millennia, knocking loose the cobwebs and thoughts he has never let himself dwell on. Richie thinks about all the times he has riled Eddie up just to see his cheeks go red because it makes his freckles stand out. He thinks about the way his chest gets warm when Eddie laughs at his jokes, and the way his gut twists when Eddie shucks his clothes at the quarry. He remembers the time he jerked off and the thought of Eddie’s mouth just wouldn’t leave his head. He remembers the way his mouth went dry when he woke up on the floor of Ben’s house after his 14th birthday party to find Eddie curled against him, letting out warm little breaths against Richie’s neck.
And oh, fuck.
“Close your mouth Richie, idiot isn’t a good look for you,” Bev chides with a grin, interrupting his train of thought. But her smile falls as the dumbfounded look remains on Richie’s face. She fixes him with a dry look, “Are you serious?”
“I, I uh-” Richie tries, finding himself at a loss for words for the first time in his life. This is all too much, the revelation that he might have more than platonic feelings for Eddie makes his head reel. He belatedly wonders if his brain is going to drip out of his nose, considering how fried it feels.
“You can’t possibly be this stupid, Richard,” Beverly admonishes.
Richie balks at the use of his full name, “Excuse you, my stupidity knows no bounds!”
Beverly rolls her eyes, “Christ you really are the dumbest piece of shit in Derry.” She smoothes a hand down her dress and shakes her head, “Good luck, Richie.” She taps his nose with the rolled up flier and then drops it into his hand. A moment later she is gripping the strap of her bag and turning on her heel before disappearing into the sea of bodies that crowds the hallway.
Richie stands there for a moment, slumped against the vending machine, paper clutched too tightly in his fist. He and Eddie. Richie turns the thought over and over in his mind. He thinks about the way Eddie froze against his chest that day in the Barrens when Stan called him Richie’s boy. And he remembers the way Eddie went bright pink when Richie licked his finger at lunch. Eddie is always blushing and ducking his head when Richie calls him cute or slings an arm around his shoulder or picks him up without warning. His freckles are so much more visible when he blushes and it always makes Richie’s stomach clench.
Christ, how could he not have noticed sooner? How could he not have known that the butterflies that rattle around his chest whenever Eddie smiles at him or calls him Trashmouth were signs of something more? Little Eds of all people, the kid who wears fanny packs and nearly vomits every time Richie farts in front of him. Eddie is always the first person to call Richie and idiot or a dumbass, but always goes along with whatever dumb shit he proposes. For as long as he can remember Eddie has been by his side, calling him names while they rush headfirst into their next adventure. When did he go from wanting spend his weekends playing against Eddie at the arcade to wanting to play with Eddie’s hair? Fuck, he’s in deep.
Does anyone else know? Clearly Beverly knows, but she’s a girl and so she must have some kind of sixth sense for these sorts of things. Right? But then again, Mike had been pretty adamant about sticking up for Richie’s “forbidden love”. Oh god, he was talking about Eddie. Richie feels like he might be sick.
He remembers his conversation with Ben on the stairs and his stomach falls through his shoes. Ben knows too. Jesus, he’s so fucking transparent. And Bill, he thought Richie was a queer, like his uncle. But Richie’s not a queer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, he just isn’t one. Right? But then why does he think about Eddie’s lips and Eddie’s hands when he humps against his sheets at night?
Fuck fuck fuck fuck. This is bad. He’s totally in love with Eddie, who definitely isn’t in love with him, and isn’t that just peachy? Here he is having some kind of goddamn sexuality crisis over his best friend, who is probably not gay. God, his life is so damn tragic.
And just to top it all off he’s apparently so head over heels that all of their friends noticed his feelings before Richie even did. Eddie must know, he reasons, if everyone else has figured it out so easily. He’s never going to talk to Richie again. Eddie probably won’t even want to be around him anymore.
Why should he want to hang around with Richie anymore? Eddie is funny and smart. Plus he’s got those deep brown eyes that you could drown in and that cute little nose. He can’t count the number of times he has squeezed Eddie’s cheeks, crying out cute, cute, cute. But Riche is decidedly less appealing with his trashmouth and glasses that take up half of his damn face. The coke bottle lenses give him bug eyes that make him look like he’s in a perpetual state of low-level shock. His nose is too big for his face and even though they’re both seventeen he’s still wearing the same battered t-shirts and Hawaiian button ups that he did when he was a fucking knobby kneed thirteen year old. Richie’s hair is a rats nest of curls that he gave up trying to tame years ago, compared to Eddie’s immaculately combed locks.
But Beverly said that Eddie likes him. And if Eddie already knows about Richie’s feelings that means he hasn’t pushed Richie away for having some big gay crush on him. Maybe Bev isn’t wrong. Why else would Stan call Eddie his boy? Maybe, just maybe, Eddie feels the same way.
After all, he does spend more time with Richie than with any other Loser. He doesn’t trust any of their other friends to carry his inhaler when he goes swimming or to calm him down when he’s having an asthma attack. Eddie has come to every single one of Richie’s band concerts, just like how Richie goes to all of Eddie’s track meets. Eddie always worms his way next to Richie on the couch when they watch movies, even when there really isn’t enough room for him. And if Richie’s being honest with himself he and Eddie touch each other a lot. Whether it’s teasing punches or standing a little too close together or sitting practically on top of one another they are almost always touching.
Hope blossoms in his chest. So maybe he’s not a total lost cause after all. Maybe there is a chance that Eddie might feel the same way about him. Richie pushes the thought away. Best not to get his hopes up, he reasons.
Richie looks down at the paper in his hand and swallows. His stomach flip-flops. The bell rings. He stuffs it into his backpack and hustles off to gym. Richie smiles to himself when he remembers that Eddie will be there too.
The last time it happens they’re sitting on the ratty couch in Stan’s basement, watching Psycho and eating popcorn. They’re three movies deep and Mike is sprawled on the floor next to Bill, snoring softly. Stan, Ben, and Richie are sinking into the couch. Richie flicks an unpopped kernel at Bill who is also starting to drift off.
“Ground control to Major Denbrough,” Richie muffles his voice behind his hand, doing his best to sound official and science-y. “Come in Major Denbrough come in. You’re gonna miss the naked chick, Denbrough!”
“Beep beep Richie,” Bill grumbles, swatting a hand at where Richie is nudging Bill’s head with his foot.
“Can you guys keep it down?” Eddie calls from the kitchen upstairs. “I’m on the phone!”
“I’m on the phone,” Richie parrots in a nasal voice before stuffing another handful of popcorn into his mouth.
He can still hear Eddie talking to his mom upstairs. “Yes, mom I know. No, I don’t know the last time they vacuumed but Stan said I can sleep on the couch so I don’t have to be on the floor.”
Richie isn’t really watching the movie if he’s being honest. The prom flyer has been burning a hole in his back pocket for a little over a week now. He figures he must have worn a hole in his carpet of his bedroom from all the pacing he has been doing, trying to figure out whether or not he’s going to ask Eddie. And if he does decide to do it how he’s going to ask. Should it be a big grand gesture with flowers and a boom box? No, Eddie would probably hate that kind of attention being drawn to him.
“Yes mama I have my EpiPen and my Benadryl. Okay. Yes. I love you mommy. Goodnight,” Eddie pads downstairs and tries to squeeze onto the couch between Ben and Richie. There really isn’t enough room on the couch for four people but that doesn’t seem to deter him. Richie makes a show of spreading out even more. Eddie knocks his shoe against Riche’s, “Shove over fatass.”
He acquiesces and slides over just enough so that Eddie can settle next to him. He reaches over, trying to grab popcorn out of Richie’s bowl. Eddie makes an annoyed noise when Richie swats his hand away. “You don’t know where these hands have been, Spaghetti Man. Do you really want to take your chances with my popcorn? My grubby dirty hands all over your food?”
“Your sister didn’t mind my grubby hands on her last night,” Eddie shoots back without missing a beat, shoving a handful of popcorn into his mouth. He sinks lower on the couch and kicks his feet up on the coffee table. Richie picks at his thumbnail absent-mindedly and tries not to think about how their thighs are pressed so tightly against each other. When their fingers brush in the popcorn bowl Richie freezes, but Eddie is munching away happily, seemingly oblivious to Richie’s internal crisis.
“Did you know that Psycho was the first movie to show a toilet flushing?” Ben says from the other side of the couch.
“Gross,” Eddie says around a mouthful of popcorn. “Do you have any idea how much shit gets launched into the air every time you flush the toilet with the lid up? In Europe they have a separate room for the toilet so microscopic shit particles don’t land on your toothbrush. That’s how you get Hepatitis A.”
“Or you could just eat Eddie’s Mom’s ass,” Richie adds coolly. “Cut out the middle man.”
“You’re the grossest person I know,” Eddie elbows him in the stomach and shakes his head.
They lapse into silence as Marion Crane drops her bathrobe and steps into the shower. Richie has seen Psycho a million times but Eddie has never been much for old movies. So Richie is watching him out of the corner of his eye, mostly ignoring the film. When Norman Bates pulls back the shower curtain and plunges the knife into her skin Eddie jumps, “Fuck!” He grabs Richie’s hand as he stabs again and again until she collapses in the tub. Richie’s brain short circuits. He’s pretty sure steam must be coming out of his ears and he can feel his face burning.
He’s just sacred, Richie quickly reasons. No other reason why he would want to hold his hand. But then much to Richie’s amazement Eddie stays there, pressed flush against his side, hand gripping his own tightly. Oh god his palms are sweaty. Why isn’t Eddie letting go? Richie feels something akin to hope swell in his chest.
Eddie doesn’t acknowledge their hands, just entwines their fingers and sits ramrod straight. They’re both rigid in their seats for what feels like an eternity. When Stan starts snoring Eddie slowly rests his head on Richie’s shoulder. Ben meets Richie’s eye and raises his eyebrows. Richie can only imagine how fucking stupid he looks with a mixture of excitement and fear on his face. He probably looks constipated. Fuck.
The phone rings upstairs and Ben’s mom reminds him that he has a history project that he needs to work on tomorrow. About twenty minutes after Ben heads home Stan goes upstairs to sleep. That leaves just Eddie and Richie pressed together on the ratty little couch with Mike and Bill sprawled on the old carpet.
When they find Mother’s mummified body in the basement Eddie lets out a squeak and presses himself impossibly closer to Richie. Okay Tozier this is your chance. Make a move, damn it!
Mustering his courage, Richie reaches out and rests his free hand on Eddie’s knee. Eddie goes rigid instantly and Richie is about to yank his hand back when Eddie lets out a soft sigh and presses his face into Richie’s shoulder. They stay like that for a long time, hands intertwined in the darkened basement.
It’s only after the credits have begun to roll that Richie dares to speak. “Hey Eds,” Richie says, his voice sounding a thousand time too loud in the silent basement.
“Mmm?” Eddie humms softly, sleepily.
“Do you, uh, have a date to prom?” The words feel awkward on his tongue, like a mouthful of marbles. His heartbeat is tap dancing away in his throat and his voice is scratchy, like it hasn’t been used in days.
Eddie freezes against him and then sits up. “Beep beep Richie,” he mumbles, tugging his hand away and fixing him with a glare. “That’s not funny,” Eddie backs away, putting a good foot and a half between the two of them.
Richie puts his hands up in surrender, “Hey, I’m not being funny. It was just a question, jeeze. Who came in your cottage cheese?”
“First off, gross,” Eddie says. “Second, this isn’t fucking funny, dicknose. Get off the couch so I can go the fuck to sleep.” He kicks at Richie’s thigh with his socked foot.
“Come on, Eddie,” Richie protests, hating how desperate he sounds. This is Eddie rejecting him, it has to be. The handholding had just been because he was scared. Nothing more.
Eddie crosses his arms and glares at him, looking genuinely hurt. “Would you just fucking drop it? It’s not funny.”
“I’m not trying to be funny,” Richie whines, roughly shoving his glasses back up his nose. “I’m trying to ask you to prom!” Richie’s hands fly to cover his mouth but it’s too late. The words are out before he can stop himself.
Eddie’s eyes have gone wide, like a deer in the headlights. His lips part slightly, like he might say something, and then he presses them closed again. His eyes flick over Richie like he’s worried he might burst into flames at any moment. Eddie wrings his hands in his lap and the silence drags on.
Jesus he’s trying to figure out how to let Richie down gently. Hey, I’m sorry Rich, but I’m not like that. Just kill me now, Richie thinks. Sorry Trashmouth, but I don’t want my dick anywhere near your trashmouth. He can’t stand another moment of this hell. He prays to a God he doesn’t really believe in that Eddie will still talk to him tomorrow at school. He doesn’t think he could handle not having Eddie in his life. This was such a bad idea, fuck. Richie can deal with just being friends with Eddie; he’s been doing that forever. But the thought of losing Eddie is too much to bear.
“Eddie, I-“ Richie starts but then Eddie is shaking his head vigorously. His stomach falls though the floor. Here it is.
“Richie,” Eddie says, “this is cruel.” He pauses to mess with the zipper on his stupid little fanny pack. “I know I’m not subtle, but you’re being mean, Rich. This is low, even for you. Just stop making fun of me and leave me the fuck alone, okay?”
“I’m not making fun of you,” Richie insists. “If you don’t like me you can just say it, Eddie. Let a guy down easy, you don’t need to rub my nose in it.”
“You’re the one making fun of me, dipshit!” Eddie retorts, pulling his knees up to his chest. In the light of the TV Richie can see tears forming in his eyes.
“No, I’m fucking not!” Richie throws up his hands. Now he’s just getting mad. Why does Eddie have to be such a dick about this? “I’m trying to tell you that I like you, asshole!”
Eddie freezes, sniffles, and fixes him with a guarded look, “You like me?” His voice is hesitant and his knuckles have gone white from where he’s gripping his legs. “You’re serious?”
“I’m being serious, Eds, I swear! I want to go to prom with you. Like together.” Richie nods, his voice disgustingly vulnerable. “I mean we could go together but people wouldn’t have to know that we’re together. I’d really like to be together together though because you’re so fucking cute that it makes me angry sometimes. And I can’t figure out why some girl hasn’t swept you off your feet already.” Good lord he’s babbling uncontrollably and Richie wishes he knew how to stop. “But we could just show up at the same time and then you could spend the night at my house. I’ve got a Styx album, oh and that Police album that Stan gave me for my birthday last year.”
The words are pouring out of his mouth like water from a fire hose. His lungs have shriveled to the size of raisins and Richie is pretty sure that his heart is trying to make a daring escape straight through his ribcage. This is it; this is how he’s going to die, on the shitty couch in Stan’s musty ass basement. And then some poor asshole is going to have to shove his scrawny corpse into a body bag and lug it up the stairs like a sack of discount potatoes.
“I don’t know, I just thought maybe we could dance or watch a movie or something.” Richie can feel tears pricking at his eyes. He blinks hard, refusing to cry right now. But it feels like he’s trying to bail out a sinking boat, the water keeps coming in and he’s having a hard time keeping it back. “We could always just stick our heads in the oven if we get bored,” he jokes, knowing it’s not even that funny.
“You’re really being serious?” Eddie cuts his thoughts off hesitantly, lifting his chin off of where he was resting it on his knees. There is doubt clear on his face and Richie can’t figure out why the hell Eddie would think he’s joking. Here he is pouring his heart out on this shitty couch in Bill’s nasty basement.
“Yes,” Richie says earnestly. “Cancer serious.” There is a long pause as Eddie seems to consider his words. Richie chews his lip. He would be panicking if he couldn’t see the big goofy smile slowly spreading across Eddie’s lips.
“Yeah, Richie,” Eddie says, reaching across the couch to squeeze Richie’s hand, “I’d love to go to prom with you.”
Eddie is waiting on the porch when Richie pedals up on his bike. He jumps to his feet and runs a hand through his hair. He’s wearing a dark blue button down with a light blue bowtie. For once he isn’t wearing a fanny pack, but is instead fiddling absent-mindedly with his inhaler. It looks like he’s even wearing dress shoes. Richie feels underdressed in his tuxedo print t-shirt and scuffed sneakers.
“Hey,” Richie grins, slowing to a halt at the edge of the sidewalk. His whole body is tingling, fingers twitching against the hand brakes. Eddie looks so fucking cute he could swallow him whole. Richie really hopes he can’t smell the cigarettes he chain-smoked out his window earlier in the evening. At least his hands aren’t shaking like leaves in the wind anymore.
“Hey,” Eddie says softly as he hurries towards Richie. “My, uh, my bike pump isn’t working and my back tire is totally flat. I can ask my mom to drive me when she gets back from bingo, but I told her I was going to a sleep over at Stan’s.”
Richie shoots him a wink, “Hop in my basket, dearie. I’ll get you to the ball on time, Eddierella.”
“Don’t call me that,” Eddie says, failing to conceal the fondness in his voice.
“Oh, by the way,” Richie fumbles in his pocket for a moment, “this is for you.” He holds out a tiny slightly crumpled white flower.
Eddie’s cheeks go pink and a smile tugs at his lips as he takes it. He twirls the stem between two fingers for a moment, looking at Richie from under his eyelashes “Did you pick this from the gutter on Witcham Street?”
“Maybe,” Richie says with a smile. If they were coming from anyone else Eddie wouldn’t touch gutter flowers with a ninety-foot pole. But instead he just tucks it into his shirt pocket and hands Richie his inhaler. He tucks it into his pocket as Eddie carefully hoists himself onto the back of the bike. Richie’s heart is almost hammering out of his chest when Eddie tentatively wraps his arms around Richie’s waist. He feels like an over inflated inner tube. At any moment he is going to pop and sink down into the warm waters of content.
Richie’s mouth has gone dry, “You good?” He can feel Eddie’s chest pressed firmly against his back, his breathing tickling the back of his neck.
“Mmhm,” Eddie hums an affirmative.
The early evening air ruffles their hair as they zip through the streets of Derry. Trees and houses fly by a blur of color made vivid by the last strains of sun. Eddie tightens his grip on Richie’s waist and he nearly crashes into a parked car. But they manage to get there in one piece.
Nobody spares them a glance when they wander through the gym doors. Richie makes a beeline for the punch bowl while Eddie chats with Bill and Stan.
“Cute date,” Beverly whispers into Richie’s ear as he ladles the pink mystery drink into two plastic cups.
“Christ,” Richie yelps, nearly spilling on himself, “warn a guy, will ya, Marsh?”
She chuckles and nods her head towards where Eddie is bouncing along to the one Nirvana song he knows. “So, you and Eddie?”
“Me and Eddie,” Richie says, chewing on his lip. It feels weird to say it out loud, even though he knows that Beverly knows. But still, just acknowledging it to someone else goes against all of his instincts. Though, at the same time, it feels good to say it to someone who smiles instead of wrinkles their nose in disgust. His cheeks are getting warm and Richie tugs off his glasses to clean the lenses, giving him an excuse to look anywhere but at Beverly.
She slaps a hand on his back, “I knew you would get your head out of your ass eventually, Tozier. This deserves a celebration!” Beverly produces a flask from her pocket. In one swift motion she unscrews the top and unceremoniously dumps a generous helping into Richie’s cup. “You think Eddie wants any?”
“Nah, he like the sweet stuff,” Richie drawls, batting his eyelashes as he takes a long swig of his drink. Whatever Beverly is toting around on her hip is probably strong enough to strip paint.
She smirks when he sputters and coughs for a moment, “Gross. Go get your man, Trashmouth.”
Richie composes himself enough to give her a mock salute and then he heads back into the mass of dancing teenagers. He finds Eddie with Bill, Stan, and Ben, dancing awkwardly to some song he’s never heard of. Having refined taste in music truly comes at a price, Richie decides.
He passes a cup to Eddie and nods along to the beat. They jump and dance to the music, a bunch of losers having a good time on the fringe of the crowd. Bill dips Beverly low while Stan plays air guitar, curls bouncing. Eddie and Ben sing along at the top of their lungs. Richie sips his drink and the world goes pleasantly fuzzy at the edges.
Eddie’s fingers brush against his own as they sway back and forth, joking and laughing with their friends. If any of them notice the way that Eddie leans into Richie more than usual they don’t say anything. Though Ben does smile a little too broadly when Richie pulls Eddie into an overzealous spin. Eddie shoves halfheartedly at his chest when Richie presses a noisy kiss to his forehead.
“Ew gross, Trashmouth,” he whines, though he is still smiling.
“Eddie, ma love, kiss me again,” Richie cries in his best southern belle voice. Eddie just rolls his eyes and downs the rest of his drink.
Towards the end of the night Richie and Eddie are sitting at the top of the bleachers, watching the couples slow dance below them. Because they’re shrouded in darkness nobody notices when Eddie tangles their fingers together. Richie freezes for a moment; terrified that someone might see them. But the other students continue to dance, unaware of the two knock-kneed boys sitting a little too close together.
“And I need you now tonight, and I need you more than ever. And if you only hold me tight, we’ll be holding on forever,” Bonnie Tyler croons out of the speakers. They’re alone in the bleachers and nobody is watching.
His heart races in his chest. His mouth feels dry. Eddie is running his thumb back and forth along the bumps of Richie’s knuckles. It’s such a reverent gesture that Richie thinks he might just melt. When Eddie rests his head on Richie’s shoulder he thinks, fuck it. He settles a shaky hand on Eddie’s neck and grazes his thumb across his cheek. Eddie’s looking up at him with those big brown doe eyes and god he’s just so gorgeous.
Richie leans forward and kisses Eddie, just a chaste press of lips before he pulls back. But then Eddie is surging forward and wrapping a hand around the back of Richie’s neck to better keep him in place. And Jesus, Eddie’s lips are as soft as they look. Soft and a little bit wet but not in an off-putting way. He tastes like that cherry chap stick that he’s always carrying around. Richie wonders if Eddie is thinking about how many germs live in their mouths. But then Eddie’s tongue is slipping into his mouth and oh this is much better.
It’s a hesitant kiss, lips moving against each other slowly, gently, as their tongues slide together. Richie doesn’t even have time to be nervous that this is his first kiss because Eddie is curling a fist into the front of his shirt and making small, pleased noises that Richie swallows up like he’s been stranded in the desert for years. When they finally break apart he’s still rubbing his thumb against Eddie’s cheek.
“That was,” Richie says, struggling to pull his thoughts together. “Wow.”
“Yeah,” Eddie breathes, releasing the front of Richie’s shirt as the song fades. He ducks his head and lets out a small laugh.
Richie scoots forward a bit and pulls one of Eddie’s hands into his lap. He traces the creases of his palm and the dip between his index finger and his thumb. He’s smiling a small, soft smile, one that Richie has never seen before. It feels like a secret, something that belongs to just the two of them and Richie decides right then and there that he’s going to spend the rest of his life trying to get Eddie to smile like that every single day. Fuck everyone else. He realizes that he doesn’t care one bit if the whole school sees them necking in the bleachers. Richie would fight Henry Bowers a thousand times if it means he could see Eddie smile that smile even just one more time.
Eddie. His Eddie who brightens even the rainiest of days. Eddie, who walks into a room and punches all the air right out of Richie’s lungs. He makes his stomach churn, his legs go weak, and his mind go blissfully blank. It feels like all the thoughts that usually rattle around his head at all hours of the day are quieted whenever Eddie’s around. The way Eddie is looking at him makes his heart flutter in a way it never has before. Eddie would probably call it arrhythmia and insist on dragging him to the nearest hospital, but Richie just calls it love.
“Hey Richie?” Eddie says quietly as the next song picks up.
He keeps rubbing a small circle behind Eddie’s ear that makes him shiver, “Yeah?”
Eddie is silent for a moment, tracing the curve of Richie’s lips with his thumb before it comes to rest at the very corner of his lips. He grins that soft mischievous grin that Richie loves so very much, “Your mouth tastes like trash.”
“Thanks, Eds,” Richie smiles as he kisses Eddie again.