“Richie what the— what are you doing to Eddie?” Stan asked, seeming pretty much at his tipping point all things considered. His voice was tight and his brows scrunched, and Eddie could understand that.
He was pretty tired of Richie’s stupid games, too. Especially when it meant Richie was currently sitting on his lap, legs falling over the side of the tiny chair and an arm wrapping around Eddie’s neck. They were seventeen now, for god’s sake. So close to the end of youth and high school and all those things his mother tried to force him to panic about so he’d never do anything but stay by her side.
Richie should have given up games a long time ago. Richie was always bad at giving things up, though, especially when it involved annoying Eddie.
“I’m just letting my favorite beau get the touch he’s been longing for,” Richie said, reaching forward and trying to push some of Eddie’s hair off his forehead.
“Oh my god Richie, your hand is so fucking clammy do you just perpetually sweat that's so disgusting.” He elbowed Richie, who fell to the floor with a humph as Eddie kicked him off of him, too.
Bill snorted. “You t-two are l-like an old married couple.”
Eddie narrowed his eyes. Bill knew Richie, they all did, and he had to know what the hell he was starting. He looked to Stan for sympathy. Stan looked mostly a mixture of annoyed and amused which was not that off-base from the norm for him.
“What’s going on?” Ben asked as he walked back into the living room. They were at his place today, his parents both gone on some weekend date, and he had just come back from using the phone.
“You’re really going to ditch us to talk to Bev on the phone right now?” Richie had asked, throwing a dramatic hand against his forehead and falling back into Eddie’s legs before he kicked him away.
Ben shrugged. “She’s a lot prettier than you.”
Richie squealed, clapping his hands in delight.
“Eddie and I are married now,” Richie told him matter of factly. “Should we order pizza? I feel like we should order pizza.”
“Richie needs to shut his stupid, awful mouth. As if I’d ever marry someone as constantly disgusting. I’m certain you have at least five contagious diseases at any moment. I’m not sure where your hands have been.”
Richie wiggled his brows. “But you can be certain where they will be, cutie.”
Eddie fake-vomited. Ben and Bill laughed. Stan looked frankly disturbed by the idiocy.
“When’s Mike coming?” Stan asked, looking between all of them hopefully. “I miss having another adult in this group.”
Bill raised his middle finger while Ben laughed good-natured. Eddie huffed, pretty sure that if Richie wasn’t so dead set on annoying him all the time then maybe he could be considered the adult he was. Sure, like, he loved hanging out with Richie and everything but it was just… like sitting near an active volcano. It was pretty cool to look at but then any moment it could explode and Boom! Poof! you’re toast.
“Sure you don’t want to just stare after him?” Richie teased. “Googly eyes and all that? Oh Mike... ”
“Go back to your husband and leave the rest of us alone,” Stan muttered while staring at him through narrowed eyes.
Eddie’s eyes widened. “Don’t encourage him!”
That was the start of it, really. The We’re dating game. Eddie had been unwillingly roped into a number of Richie’s games before, the worst perhaps being the I fuck your mom game. Eddie had sort of optimistically hoped this would blow over like the majority of them, but in typical fashion Richie knew the exact button that annoyed him the most.
It shouldn’t be that worse than the usual contact the two shared, contact that Eddie would never admit aloud he actually liked most of the time. Occasional hand-holding and arms around necks. Nights the two of them slept over at each other’s houses to avoid their own.
This was bigger now, though. It had a label. Because Richie couldn’t stop acting like Eddie’s boyfriend, and sometimes Eddie almost didn’t actually mind it but mostly it was fucking annoying.
Just like Richie.
“Come on, Spaghetti. I know your legs are like half the length of the rest of ours, but I’m going to need you to speed up your pedaling,”
Eddie took a hand off his handlebars to give Richie the middle finger, though Richie only laughed as he watched him over his shoulder. Which was dangerous, might Eddie add. Richie biked like an absolute idiot, always standing and staring over his shoulder and at things, and it was a mystery to Eddie how he hadn’t been hit by a car from swerving into oncoming traffic yet.
“If only we had a car you asshole,” Eddie yelled back, despite his anger trying to move his legs a little faster to catch up to Richie and Bill. “One that was, I don’t know, working instead of currently in the shop because someone forgot to change the oil.”
“Don’t be s-sour, Eddie,” Bill said.
“Yeah don’t be sour, Eddie baby. It’s for an aesthetic. It’s a ritual. We can’t start changing it just because you have inhumanely tiny legs for a seventeen year old. My car being indisposed is just a sign.”
“Fuck you, Trashmouth.” Eddie stopped talking for a second to catch his breath as he sped his bike up to ride between Richie’s and Bill’s. “I’m of a perfectly normal stature.”
“Sure.” Richie scoffed. His obnoxiously large floral shirt flapped behind him something like a cape. “If a normal person was shrunk, maybe.” He turned his head and smiled at Eddie’s wrinkled face, which was infuriating. “Aw, baby, don’t get sore. You know they’re my favorite legs around. I wouldn’t look at another pair.”
“I hope you drown in the quarry.” Eddie followed the curve of the road alongside his two friends, and when they arrived to the Barrens they stashed their bikes and walked the rest of the way to the Club House. There was the sound of a radio playing music, soft and light, and flickering light coming from the opening.
Bill went down first, then Richie motioned dramatically with a bow to Eddie who followed but not before rolling his eyes. When he hopped the last step, he saw Ben, Beverly, and Mike already hanging out on the cushions they’d brought down in the spring when they’d opened the Club House back up for the year.
Beverly was leaning into Ben’s side, and there was something so oddly delicate about it in the calm lighting and even calmer music. It sort of made Eddie’s heart hurt—though he wasn’t sure it was in a bad way. It felt sort of like happiness, though maybe only with the slightest edge of jealousy. No, jealousy wasn’t the right word. Want, maybe. A longing.
“Come on, Eddie baby. Don’t you want to cuddle up in the hammock?” Richie asked, sending him a wink.
“Sure, with Beverly maybe,” Eddie replied. “I’d rather not have you wipe all your sweat on me.”
Richie held his hands over his heart. “You wound me.” He shook out his shoulders, hopping from foot to foot like he was shaking out his extra energy, before sitting across from the other four to start a sort of wayward circle. “I want to smoke anyways, so the hammock can wait.”
Eddie positioned himself carefully between Richie and Beverly, giving enough space on each side so he wasn’t crowding in, as Richie happily pulled out his weed. Bill laughed lightly while Beverly’s eyes glowed with excitement.
“How’s the farm, Mike?” Eddie asked as he leaned back on his palms, stretching his legs out in front of himself. His eyes flickered to Richie as he finished rolling the joint, bringing it to his lips to lick the paper to close it. He caught Eddie watching and gave him a wink before going back to his work.
“Fine. Busy,” he answered. “Pops is convinced it’s going to be a slow winter, so he’s trying to get ahead on a lot of stuff.”
“Sounds like a shitty way to spend the summer,” Richie replied through a large smile, probably in an attempt to make it clear he didn’t mean to hurt Mike’s feelings.
Mike shrugged. “I still get to be here with you guys now, don’t I? Plus I have more money in my pockets than you do.”
“What do I need money for when I have the love of my friends?” Richie asked. “Let’s not forget my loving boyfriend, either.” He lit the joint then, taking a deep breath and holding it in his lungs before blowing the smoke in Eddie’s direction.
“You’re the worst, most disgusting— ” Eddie kicked out at Richie, who just laughed before offering the joint to him.
Eddie readjusted, bringing his knees up to his chest and tugging his sweater further over his arms before taking the joint. Every time he held one in his fingers it felt weird, wrong, like Eddie wasn’t the type of person who should do this. The first time he’d nearly had a panic attack just thinking about inhaling something he had no idea the origin of.
But he couldn’t deny that he liked the feeling of it. A brief weightlessness. An easing of his mind that was constantly racing. He took a puff before passing it onto Beverly who made grabby hands for it.
The joint made another circle, and another, but by that time Eddie could feel it edging on his limbs, and he didn’t need anymore. He stood up slowly as Bill talked to Mike about something, Beverly and Richie were in a heated music debate while Ben listened cautiously in, and made his way to the hammock before plopping himself in.
A minute later Richie was by his side, tapping at his shoulder, and Eddie gave him a pout. “Don’t make me move.”
“We’ll share. Come on,” Richie continued. He tapped Eddie’s shoulder again. “Come on. ”
Eddie sighed but sat up, about to adjust so Richie could get on the other end when Eddie felt him stepping over the hammock behind him to slot in.
“If you make me fall…”
“I’m not going to make you fall, you baby,” Richie answered. He brought his legs up, adjusting so Eddie fit between them and could lean back into his chest.
Maybe the weed was making him calmer than usual because Eddie didn’t mind. It was comforting to be this close to Richie, actually. He was warm and smelled sort of nice, all things considered. He would never say that aloud, but it was true. Always true, sort of, but Eddie didn’t normally let himself think on that too long.
“You seem stressed,” Richie whispered to him, the words blowing over the shell of his ear.
“I’m always stressed.” Eddie humphed a little, because usually he hated to admit that, but it was also part of his personality at this point. Little Eddie. Stressed Eddie. Hypochondriac Eddie. Probably the first to ditch out on any plans. A massive wet blanket (and why do they keep me around, again? he couldn’t help but think).
Richie laughed, but it wasn’t mean or loud. It was light, like the music and the lights and the feel of Richie’s fingers tugging at the ends of Eddie’s hair that Eddie only now noticed. “You seem more stressed than normal,” Richie amended.
Eddie shut his eyes as if he could escape that accusation and the memory tied with it, but he could only think about his mother hours earlier yelling at him which seemed to play on loop behind his eyelids. You’ve become tainted, Eddie. You’re lost. Over the years Eddie had gotten pretty good at ignoring his mother’s words and letting them slide over his back, but for some reason the word lost had stuck in his head and bounced around. Lost, lost, lost.
Was he lost? Sometimes, he looked around at his friends and he felt like he could see their futures laid out for them so perfectly. Mike and Stan getting respectable jobs. Bill exceeding at whatever he set his mind to. Ben doing his architecture while Beverly and Richie went to some cool city and did creative things and…
Eddie wasn’t sure where he fit in it all. Maybe he felt trapped, like every word his mother ever said was true. He would get stuck here, live a boring life, be forgotten.
“Just my mom,” Eddie answered because he sure as hell didn’t know how to say any of that to Richie. Especially not Richie cradling him with care, his fingers still tapping at the back of Eddie’s neck in soothing motions.
“Whatever she said I’m sure it’s wrong,” Richie promised. “I hate to disagree with the old gal, given our illustrious past and everything, but I have a husband now and I believe in the laws of matrimony.”
“Shut up, ” Eddie replied, but his words were still soft. They were in a cocoon right now, and at any moment something would claw in and rip the safe space open, the world still harsh and bright outside. Eddie didn’t want to be that claw, though, didn’t want to cause it himself.
His mouth perched open, and he wasn’t sure what he was going to say next. He contemplated letting out some of those winding, ridiculous thoughts or maybe just something light and joking.
“Mr. and Mr. Richie Tozier, can we please get your attention?” Beverly called across the room.
“You guys look so comfy ,” Mike teased.
“Ex cuse me,” Eddie replied, middle finger already up and ready, “but if you fucking think I would take this asshole’s last name then you are all dumber than I thought.”
It was all a game, Eddie reminded himself, because for a moment he had forgotten.
“Aw honeybun, you don’t need to be so defensive,” Richie spoke, ruffling Eddie’s hair as he crawled out from the hammock. “They’re just jealous of us.”
Eddie rolled his eyes before coming back to the circle, but the happy haze he had been in was wearing off, and he sat himself down between Bill and Mike. It was safer there, easier. Fucking Richie and his fucking games.
Fuck him too, Eddie guessed, because he had been the chump to forget.
They were at the movie theater in the lobby, waiting for Stan and Bill to show up hopefully soon or they’d be late for the movie, when Eddie finally had the thought. Mike and Ben were talking, Eddie only half listening because he was trying to psych himself up to see whatever horrible horror movie they were about to see, when he noticed Richie talking to some girl at the concessions stand.
She was tall and blonde and just… sort of perfect in the way pretty girls were. She looked like the human equivalent of bubblegum, her lips that exact shade, with those lips smiling at the stupid little jokes Richie was clearly throwing her way.
Richie could make Eddie’s life a joke, teasing him, but Eddie could do it right back.
Eddie beelined toward Richie. He wasn’t sure what he would say or do, yet, but he knew it had to be good. This was payback after all for that dumb little feeling that had fluttered after Eddie kept remembering it was a joke that was aimed at him. Probably because Richie thought the whole idea of dating Eddie was so hilarious. Whatever, Eddie could use that to his advantage now.
“Hi,” Eddie interrupted. The girl turned toward him with a raised brow. Richie’s face didn’t look any different than normal. Fuck, what do boyfriends do? It wasn’t exactly like Eddie had a guidebook on a situation like this. How to act convincingly like another boy’s boyfriend to piss him off safely in small town America.
This was getting awkward. Eddie had to do something. “What’s taking you so long?” Eddie asked, but as he was finishing his question he reached forward and wrapped his arms around Richie’s waist, purposefully tucking himself beneath his arm.
Richie’s face looked surprised, his eyebrows pushing together, but after a minute his lips formed a small ‘o’. Then his eyes twinkled with amusement.
“You’ve left me all alone over there,” Eddie continued. He turned toward the girl, who seemed undoubtedly confused by this whole situation. “Hi, I’m Eddie.” He held out his hand.
The girl shook it now, recovering quite well as she gave him a smile. “Miranda. Richie and I were in Algebra together. He almost made it bearable.”
“Almost bearable? Sounds perfectly in character for him,” Eddie answer.
Richie awoke with that, his arm coming to happily swing over Eddie’s shoulder. “You’re so sweet to me Eddie, I barely know what to do with it.”
“If I was sweet to you, you’d go and get a big head, and it’s already massive.” He sent him a smile, teasing but not cruel, and Richie laughed slightly in return.
“I’m going to head in,” Miranda said, waving lightly at them in goodbye. “See you.”
She left, and Eddie stayed pressed into Richie’s side for a beat longer before stepping back.
Richie looked like a kid on Christmas morning—wide eyes, tilting smile, energized.
“What?” Eddie snapped.
“You’re playing ,” Richie said, his voice near an actual giggle like the oversized child he was. “You’re playing this stupid game. Either that or you secretly are in love with me, which, please tell me now Eddie because—”
“That was retaliation,” Eddie cut him off, reaching for Richie’s popcorn and taking that, too. The bastard. “You cause me enough pain on the daily.”
Richie hopped from foot to foot. “How exactly is cuddling into my side retaliation, Eddie bear? Having your cute little self all over me, oof, if that isn’t—”
Eddie rolled his eyes. “Please. Like you weren’t trying to get in Miranda’s pants. Figured two can play the stupid game.”
Richie stopped shifting his weight, and he looked at Eddie fully. “You thought I wanted to get in her pants?”
“Didn’t you?” Eddie felt sort of like he was missing something, like he used to all the time before he met the Losers and someone in class would say something, everyone laughing, and Eddie didn’t get it. He felt left out of the joke. “Ladies man Tozier, right?”
“Right,” Richie said, and his voice was near tense, but then he was shaking it off. “I know we’re married, Eds, but that doesn’t mean you get custody of the popcorn. That's just rude. It’s like you’re trying to bleed me dry, darling.” At some point the words had twisted into a horrible southern debutante sort of voice, and Eddie nearly laughed before scowling instead.
“You always order too much anyways. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach, though maybe you’re the first case in existence to certifiably, scientifically make that idiom true. Look at those things.” Eddie tapped at Richie’s glasses, and he swatted his hand away with a laugh.
The tension dissipated around them, almost like it was never there at all.
“Anything good?” Beverly asked.
Eddie was lying on her bed and flipping through one of her fashion magazines while she sat at her sewing machine hemming a skirt. He found a picture of a dress with embroidery that looked like vines, and he tapped at it while twisting it toward her.
She turned from the machine and bent forward to look. “Hmm, could be cool.” She took it from his hands and looked at it closer. “Good eye, Eddie.”
“Thanks.” He flopped back onto her bed and stared at her ceiling now that he didn’t have anything to occupy his hands. He felt restless, had been since the weekend. There was only so many things to fill his time up with in the endless stretch of summer, though, and he didn’t want to go home.
“Hey, Eddie?” Beverly asked tentatively.
That piqued his interest. Beverly very rarely did tentative unless it was serious, then she could be the most serious of them all. Otherwise it was all teasing smiles and light japes. He twisted back onto his stomach and watched her carefully. “Yeah?”
“Do you…” She looked like she was trying very hard to be careful. “Do you like Richie?”
Eddie blanched. “Like?”
Beverly nodded. Then she stood up and fell onto the bed next to him, twisting until they were in the same direction. “It’s just… well, Ben told me about the movies the other day. And Richie has been so insistent about this dating thing that I thought…”
“What? That we actually were?” Eddie asked. He could feel her shrug on the bed. “No, Richie just likes to fuck with me the same way he always has.”
“That wasn’t…” Beverly trailed off again. “If you did like him in that way or whatever, well, you can talk to me about it if you want.” She hit her shoulder into his. “It would be fun to have someone to talk to boys about since all the rest of the Losers are such knuckleheads.”
“I don’t like Richie ,” Eddie replied on instinct, though he wasn’t sure… god, he didn’t know, okay? It was all so confusing. Half the time Eddie felt seconds from strangling Richie, but then he’d give him one of those smiles that were just for him, the ones that cut through all the bullshit, and Eddie couldn’t deny that sometimes just being by Richie—whether they were fighting or watching movies or driving aimlessly around in his car to avoid going back home—were the best parts of his day.
“Ooooookay,” Beverly said. She hopped back up and over to her sewing machine.
“I don’t know,” Eddie said after a minute of silence. Beverly shot him a look, a smile, and Eddie huffed. “I just don’t know.”
“That’s okay, too,” Beverly replied. “It took me forever to figure out I liked Ben. I’d think about him all the time and couldn’t help smiling when he was around, and I was such an idiot, like… obviously I liked him, but it’s hard. You don’t have to know right now.”
Eddie released a breath. That was one of those things that snuck up on him like a black cloud. He felt this creeping fear too often that he was constantly late or behind everyone else. Like he was still the kid sheltered from everything by his mom who was out of the loop, a step behind, never going to catch up.
“Of course. Now can you come hold this up? It’ll make it easier for me to see if the hemming is even.”
Just like that, the edges smoothed over, life continuing to roll on.
“I’m tired,” Eddie said. “Give me a piggyback ride.”
“Eds, baby, sweetheart, we’re literally almost back to Mike’s.”
“You’re the worst fake husband slash boyfriend in the whole world.” Eddie turned toward Beverly who was on his left. “Bev, Ben would give you a piggyback ride, wouldn’t he?”
Beverly shrugged. “Ben, can I have a piggyback ride?”
Ben smiled at her and paused, bending slightly so she could jump on.
“Guess so,” Beverly answered now from the height of Ben’s back, happily whooping as Ben sped up a little and lifted her up higher to stay stable.
Eddie turned back to Richie. “Do I mean anything to you at all?”
“Where’s mean Eddie. I miss mean Eddie.” Richie paused to look at him before sighing and turning around. “Hop on, Kaspbrak.”
Eddie jumped up onto Richie’s back, sliding his arms securely around Richie’s neck and squeezing his thighs once he was in place. The night was falling around them, and the breeze had Eddie pulling himself tighter into Richie. It made him a little brave, maybe, a little more open to the world with the dusting of darkness and stars around them.
Mike and Stan were a few feet ahead, while Beverly and Ben were still jokingly running forward, and Eddie didn’t care suddenly if it took them all night to get back to Mike’s house after their impromptu hike/walk. Eddie tucked his chin into Richie’s shoulder.
“Someone is feeling affectionate this evening,” Richie said. “What did I do to deserve such love from my favorite Eddie?”
“I’m allowed to be nice to you.”
“And yet as you say it you sound like you’re raring to fight. An odd duck, you are, Mr. Tozier.”
“You’re not always the worst,” Eddie mumbled into his skin, deciding to ignore the Mr. Tozier for the time being. He didn’t exactly feel like fighting right now.
Richie’s hands were holding onto his thighs, and they were sort of big and strong and Eddie couldn’t stop thinking about them. He wondered how it would feel to have him cupping his cheek, pulling him closer…
So, fine, maybe Eddied liked Richie, okay? Maybe he’d sorta known for a while, but it was a hard thing to wrap his head around. Richie was… Richie. He was difficult and wild and loud. He was annoying as all hell, and he never stopped, took everything too far, and still Eddie sort of couldn’t get over how much he liked him sometimes.
Feelings were disgusting.
“Don’t worry, Eds. I won’t tell the rest of them.”
“Don’t call me Eds, asshole.”
Richie sighed dramatically. “Aw, how I do love our pet names.”
“Eddie, the phone is for you!” His mother called from the living room.
Eddie rushed down the stairs, trying to take two at a time, because he knew if his mom was left waiting too long she’d get bored and interrogate whoever was on the line or sometimes just hang up if she was in a mood. He took the phone and stretched the cord around the corner, just to get a semblance of privacy.
“Hey, it’s Eddie.”
“Eddie.” Bill sighed over the line. “Can you come over?”
“What a nice greeting. You don’t even sound excited to talk to me, asshole, what’s going on?”
“Sorry,” Bill continued, sighing again more dramatically. Honestly, it was nearing Richie-levels of dramatic, but since it was Bill Eddie found it in his heart to have a little sympathy. “Richie is being unbearable.”
“What does that mean?” Eddie asked.
“I don’t know,” Bill said. “We were drinking beer, but he must have been drinking when I wasn’t l-l-looking because he got drunk, and my parents just called to say they’re coming home early and—”
Eddie sighed. “You want me to come get him?”
“I’m s-sorry, I just—”
“No, I get it Bill.” Eddie tried to keep his voice more even, just in case his mom was listening through the door. “I’ll be there soon. Did he drive over?”
“Yeah. I stole his keys already, so I can g-give them to you.”
“Thanks, Bill. Be there in a flash.” He said another goodbye before hanging up and taking a deep breath.
Even when Richie wasn’t around he seemed to have some sort of way of making everything more complicated. Eddie grabbed his jacket from the hook by the door and told his mom he had to head out for a bit, which went about as well as he was expecting, but he slipped out the front door before she could say much more about it. Whatever, hopefully she’d be asleep by the time he came back with a drunk Richie. He shuddered at the thought of dealing with it already.
The bike ride there seemed to go quicker than usual, and Eddie tossed his bike with a huff into the back of Richie’s truck to avoid doing it when he had drunk Richie in tow later. His knuckles only rapped against the front door twice before it was being swung open, and he was pulled into a hug that took his feet from the floor.
“ Eddie ,” Richie breathed out, holding him for a beat longer before letting his legs drop back to the floor. His smile was wide and goofy, and he patted Eddie’s cheeks. He turned over his shoulder to look at Bill. “You didn’t tell me Eddie was coming.”
“I’m here to take you home, asshole,” Eddie said in an affectionate tone. He knew Richie’s breaking point about as well as any other person could, and they were on the edge of it. Eddie saw the fault lines in Richie’s exuberance, in his wide eyes and drunken slant and soon to come over-exhaustion. “You good, Bill?”
“Yeah.” Bill nodded, stepping forward to give Richie a pat on the back. “You g-guys should head out. Thanks, Ed.”
Eddie said goodbye and took Richie’s arm, who leaned heavily into Eddie’s side. It was disorienting, nearly toppling them over, but Eddie kept him upright long enough to get him in the passenger seat of his car. Richie was too distracted to reach for the seat belt, and Eddie huffed out a breath as he pulled it across Richie’s chest for him.
“Don’t make me,” Richie said suddenly serious, his body tilting forward.
Eddie paused, hands still holding the seat belt to click in. “What?”
“Go home.” Richie paused. “Please, I don’t…”
His heart twisted, and Eddie reached out a hand to pat Richie’s cheek. “I won’t make you go home. I’d never.”
Before Eddie’s hand could pull back, Richie was taking it in his own and was placing a sloppy, wet kiss on the palm. “The best boyfriend.”
There was a moment where all Eddie could do was look at Richie with that dumb look on his face. Richie’s hair was an absolute mess, and his glasses were halfway down the bridge of his nose, and he looked disheveled as all hell. He also looked… sort of lost himself. Sort of unsure, and Eddie felt the twinge of that in his chest.
He stepped back and closed the door, making his way to the driver’s seat and taking a deep breath. “We’re going back to mine.”
“So forward, Eds.”
“Don’t call me Eds.”
“I know,” Richie said as he leaned himself against the door. “But it’s so cute just like you.”
“You’re drunk.” Eddie clicked the turning signal and tried to remain calm. He sort of hated everything about driving, which was why he was much happier sitting in the passenger seat of this truck despite that meaning it was Richie driving.
Richie was always pretty safe when Eddie was in the car with him, though. Maybe he could tell how anxious Eddie was and adjusted accordingly, because when Stan or Bill talked about Richie’s driving they used words like chaotic and terrifying .
“Doesn’t drunk mean honest,” Richie replied. His eyes were closed, and his words were flowing in a sleepy way.
“Stay awake until we get back to mine, okay? We’re going to have to sneak up.”
Richie hummed, and Eddie used the silence as an opportunity to stay focused. It was an easy enough drive, but Eddie parked the truck down the street because he knew his mother would recognize it in the driveway and get huffy. As they walked the half block Richie kept his arm around Eddie’s shoulders, and they snuck up the stairs with a few terse sh’s from Eddie.
Then Richie was falling into Eddie’s bed with a huff followed by a long, dramatic ahhhhh .
“I can’t really offer you anything to sleep in,” Eddie said.
“It’s cause you’re too tiny.” Richie was smiling, though his eyes were closed, arms spread out on Eddie’s bed so he made a large T-shape. “Sometimes I look at you and it makes me want to squish you, like when you see a small fluffy dog.”
“Thanks,” Eddie deadpanned. “You better take your fucking shoes off at least before getting under the covers.”
Richie popped one eye open, looking at him through lidded eyes. “Baby, are you asking me to take clothes off? ”
“Calm down, you perv.”
Eddie kicked off his shorts and folded his jacket up to set on his desk chair. Then he helped Richie with his second shoe, which he seemed to be having considerable trouble with, and tossed it to the ground with a small laugh. Drunk Richie was sort of hilarious in a disastrous way.
By the time Eddie was slipping beneath the covers, Richie had already found his way there, too. They were curved toward one another, almost like they were in middle school again and about to whisper secrets to each other at a sleepover. Well, if that had been a thing they did at sleepovers. Mostly they had just kicked at each other and refused to sleep from the fear that the other would prank them.
“Why didn’t you want to go home?” Eddie asked.
Richie scrunched further into his pillow, and Eddie reached forward to take off his glasses for him. Richie hummed in thanks before moving a little closer.
“No one is there. It’s so silent. It was…” Richie was shrugging it off, clearing his throat.
Eddie wanted to reach out and offer him some sort of comfort, but he wasn’t sure. Suddenly, he felt frozen and woefully ill-prepared. It wasn’t like this was the first time Richie had said something like this to him, usually drunk or sad or tired—broken down a little by something to make it easier for the words to flow. Still, it never made it any easier.
“You don’t have to drink. You can always come here,” Eddie whispered back. “Not sure it’s much better than your house, but…”
“It has you. That's better than any other house.”
Eddie couldn’t help the smile spreading on his lips. “You’re ridiculous.”
“You love it.”
The room was dark, and in the darkness Eddie could only make out the edges of Richie. The sharp juts of his jaw, and the swoop of his lips that was surprisingly delicate. He did love it. He loved it in a way that was dangerous and horrible and wonderful. In a way that Eddie had no fucking clue what to do about.
“It’s so quiet there I feel like it rattles in my chest,” Richie admitted.
Eddie wanted to reach out a finger and trail it over the lines of Richie’s face. He sort of wanted to take his hand and let their fingers lace together, squeeze so Richie knew someone else was there.
Eddie did none of those things. “Sometimes it’s so loud here I feel like I can’t even think,” he said instead, which was more honest than he usually was so he figured it was sort of something.
Richie’s eyes opened for the first time, and Eddie thought maybe he should be embarrassed by how openly he had been staring at Richie’s features, but Richie didn’t seem to notice. “We make the perfect pair, then. We definitely should get married. Could you imagine the horrible little children we’d have? Your cute face and my sharp wit, just horrible.”
Eddie huffed. “You know we can’t actually have kids biologically, right?”
Richie waved his hand as if it could shake the problem away. All his movements seemed as if through water, getting looser and lazier by the minute. “Semantics.”
There was no reason to play this game, not here with only the two of them. Yet, it was like Richie didn’t know how to stop it. The funny thing was, now that Eddie was thinking about it, the game actually wasn’t that new.
They’d always been playing at it, hadn’t they? Since they’d become friends practically there had always been Richie with his comments. He would call him cutie or ruffle his hair. Sometimes he would dramatically swoon over Eddie in one of his ridiculous accents. The game itself wasn’t all that new, just that they’d put a name to it, just that Eddie had become a more active participant.
Eddie didn’t know what to make of that. Nor did he know what to make of the fact that for the first time he wanted the game to end because he wanted it to be real.
“Hey, Richie…” Eddie wasn’t sure how he would finish the phrase anyway, but he still felt sort of disappointed for some reason to hear Richie’s snore in response. “Night, Rich,” he said instead, though he knew he couldn’t hear him, couldn’t sense it.
Hopefully it reached him anyways.
Honestly, Eddie wasn’t sure how he had gotten convinced into this in the first place. It was not his scene in the least, but Beverly had thought it would be fun and so had Richie. Eddie could tell Bill thought so too, but hadn’t wanted to get in the middle. In the end, Eddie had been outnumbered.
So he went to the stupid house party. It was at some girl in their grade’s house, but Eddie could have sworn he had never heard her name before. Not that it was that surprising considering they were in the nice part of town. Like, the real nice part of town. The house was huge with high sloping ceilings and a whole floor of extra bedrooms that Eddie could only imagine were disgusting right about now.
He was nursing a drink that was gross, and he had absolutely no plans of drinking any more. It was easier holding it though than answering questions of whether he wanted a drink or not (or the teasing from, say, Richie about not having one).
Eddie had found the emptiest, quietest corner and staked out there as soon as it was clear his friends were going to be off socializing. He had tagged along for a bit, but he’d started feeling like he was bogging them down (unfortunately not that uncommon of a feeling), so he’d decided to take a brief break and find them in a few minutes.
Eddie looked up from the drink he was not drinking to see a dude in front of him he was pretty sure was on the football team. Wait, no that wasn’t right… baseball? That seemed more accurate. Sandy hair and blue eyes and the sort of smile that said “I’ve been handed everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, and I know it”.
Without meaning to, Eddie wrinkled his nose. “Hi. The bathroom is down the other hall.”
The guy laughed. “I’m not trying to find the bathroom. I saw you over here and thought you might want some company.”
There wasn’t exactly a polite way to say I came over here for the express purpose of having no company so please fuck off , so Eddie just gave an awkward smile. Despite what Richie said Eddie could be polite, just not to Richie .
“You’re part of that gang of boys, right?”
Eddie scoffed. “Gang?”
The boy smiled again. Maybe it was a little more charming than Eddie had first given it credit for. “Gang wasn’t the right word. I just remember my mom would be driving me to practice or whatever, and I’d see all of you biking everywhere in this sort of pack. Always seemed sort of fun.”
“Oh.” Eddie had never thought about what it would look like on the outside. “Yeah, that's us. The losers.”
“Guess you gotta claim it, right?” He laughed a little. “I’m Martin.”
“Eddie.” Eddie purposefully did not reach out his hand to shake. They were at a house party, for fuck’s sake, that hand could have been anywhere.
“Nice to meet you, Eddie. You sure you don’t want a better drink than that shit? I sort of know my way around this place.”
Eddie shook his head and looked over Martin’s shoulder. He was nice enough and everything, but honestly Eddie sort of just wanted to be back with his friends. Or, more ideally, back at one of their houses watching movies and eating popcorn. He was pretty worn out on this whole stupid party business.
“What? Am I boring you?” Martin laughed again, and Eddie tried harder to pay attention. “Don’t worry, I’m not offended. This doesn’t exactly seem like your scene.”
“Not exactly.” Was Eddie’s smile back genuine? His cheeks felt stiff. He hated this.
Before Martin had the chance to say anything else, Eddie felt an arm flopping around his neck. When he turned he saw the familiar curve of Richie’s smile looking right at him. Eddie released a breath, feeling more at ease already.
“Thanks for taking care of my boy,” Richie said to Martin, tugging Eddie closer. “He hates parties.”
Martin raised a brow and looked between them. “Huh. Yeah, well, maybe you shouldn’t have left him, then.”
“Who the fuck are you?” Richie asked suddenly, voice sharper than Eddie was used to hearing it nearly ever.
“I didn’t…” Martin held up his hands, taking a step back. “I come in peace. It’s just pretty clear your friend here was uncomfortable, and you were off—”
“Yeah, my friend. Please lay the fuck off.” Richie pushed at Martin’s chest, and Eddie could already see this whole thing play out with a startling clarity behind his eyelids. The dramatic fight that would ensue and how Eddie would be left cleaning up the wreckage.
Eddie reached for Richie’s arm and pulled him back toward him, trying to stop whatever would happen next. His ideal night did not involve patching his best friend up after this.
“Lay off,” Martin ordered. His voice was rough, and Eddie hated this corner and these two teenage boys trying to up one another like this wasn’t a stupid adrenaline, alcohol fueled rage over nothing.
“We’re going to leave,” Eddie said, trying to loop his hand through Richie’s to pull him away from this.
Richie yanked it out to step closer to Martin. His pointer finger was pushed into the center of Martin’s chest, and Eddie released a breath. He looked around him to see other people nearby were tuning in to the show. God, this was slowly turning into the worst night imaginable.
“ Richie, ” Eddie hissed. His voice must have really been steel because Richie’s gaze snapped to his. “We’re leaving. Now.”
He wrapped his fingers around Richie’s wrist and tugged him away from the confrontation. His anger pushed him through the masses with relative ease. There were spilled drinks and bumped shoulders left in his path, but Eddie didn’t give a flying fuck. He wanted out. He hadn’t wanted in in the first place, but now he sure as hell wanted to be away from all this.
They made it out the front door and out past the front lawn before Eddie was able to let go of his grasp, and he didn’t stop moving. If Richie wanted to go back in or fuck off, then he could, but Eddie was going to just keep going until he was far enough to feel the anger leave him.
“Eddie. Wait, Eddie. Shit, how can someone with such short legs get away from me so fast.”
“ Stop ,” Eddie warned, twisting around and practically letting Richie run straight into him. “Just fucking stop for one minute, will you?”
Richie’s brows scrunched together. “Eddie, what—”
“Why were you starting some fucking fight that you couldn’t win?”
Richie shrugged. “Don’t underestimate me, baby, I’m pretty scrappy.”
“Ahh!” Eddie half-screamed, throwing his hands up and grabbing a clump of his hair. He had too much anger rattling in his bones, and he wasn’t sure how to let any of it out.
“He was being a dick, Eddie. Got all up in your space and asking flirty little questions and…”
“And what? You’re not my boyfriend,” Eddie said. It felt hard to push it out, but there was a relief in the words, somehow. Like it had been bottled up between them for forever, and now Eddie had finally unscrewed the top.
Somehow, that wasn’t what Richie had been expecting to happen next. “Wait, what ?”
“That’s what it was all about, right?” The street around them was empty, the flickering of the street lamps and the buzzing of bugs in the distance their only companions. Eddie was glad to have this moment for them and only them, no unwanted onlookers. “Your stupid little joke that we’re dating because it’s so funny for you to imagine that I would ever be your boyfriend.”
Richie stepped forward and reached for Eddie’s arm, but Eddie snapped it away. “That’s not—”
“Stupid, ridiculous Eddie Kaspbrak. What a fucking joke that anyone would ever be interested in him, the stupid little sprite like–”
His next words were swallowed by Richie’s mouth. Which… holy shit, Richie was kissing him. He definitely needed to do something about it before Richie pulled back and this whole moment was ruined. Eddie grabbed onto Richie’s waist before he could end this and held him in place, moving his lips in tandem with Richie’s.
It was so good. Richie’s lips were light and teasing and he peaked just a small bit of tongue out in a somehow infuriating way. His hands were cupping Eddie’s cheeks just the way Eddie had unwillingly fantasized about before, and it felt like it was real. There was nothing joking about it.
“I can’t believe you called yourself a fucking sprite ,” Richie said when they pulled back.
Eddie slapped Richie’s chest. “ Asshole .”
“Baby, don’t be like that.” Richie wasn’t letting go of Eddie—one hand holding onto the back of his neck, the other on his hip now. “It’s never been a joke to me. Not one bit of it.”
“Really?” He wished he didn’t sound so vulnerable, but he felt like just the wrong step, the wrong word could snap him in two. This was Richie Tozier they were talking about here.
Richie Tozier who was kind of the worst but also everything. Eddie didn’t want his heart broken from him. He just wanted.
“Really,” he answered. “Well, like maybe some of it, actually. I can’t really remember all the weird shit I’ve spit out, but definitely not the wanting to be your boyfriend eventual husband forever arm candy part of it. Like just imagine how fucking hot we’ll be someday when you’re all cool and successful and I’m still bumming off of you, what a dream team.”
“That’s…” Eddie laughed, shaking his head. “Ridiculous.”
Richie shrugged. “Not my fault you like ridiculous.”
Eddie groaned. “Why couldn’t I be into literally anyone else.”
“Couldn’t resist my charms. I get it, truly I do.” Richie sighed and the laughter fell away, and he looked happy just… happy. He dipped closer and kissed Eddie’s forehead lightly. “I’ve been in love with you since the first time you took a puff of your nerdy little inhaler. Had dreams about the sound of it for years.”
Eddie stepped onto his tiptoes to kiss him back, wrapping his arms around his neck to give him leverage, and god Richie really was the worst. Five minutes ago he made Eddie want to yell and rip his hair out, and now all he wanted was to never stop touching him.
“I love you, too,” Eddie replied when he pulled back, resting his forehead against Richie’s chin the tall bastard. He didn’t know how to explain how he had fallen in love with him years ago, how it had edged in his chest and expanded slowly and surely like a flower taking root. It had been hard to decipher, but impossible to ignore, and Eddie was sure he couldn’t pull it out of him now without taking part of himself with it, too. “Take me home?”
Richie interlaced their fingers, bringing it up to his lips. Eddie really should have realized how fucking sappy he would be, but if the smile that was wide across his cheeks was anything to go by, it was pretty obvious he didn’t mind.
“This is the least surprising thing that has ever happened,” Stan said, staring between the two of them. “I don’t know why we had to have an official meeting for this.”
“We’re being supportive,” Mike reminded him before turning to the two. “Congrats.”
Ben narrowed his eyes at the two. “Wait, I thought you two had already started dating like three weeks ago.”
“No,” Beverly corrected. “They’ve been fake dating for, like, twice as long as that.”
“N-none of this makes sense,” Bill said through a huge smile, reaching forward to pat both of them on the backs. “I’m happy for you.”
Eddie’s face must have been comically bewildered because when he turned back toward his boyfriend (his actual, no fake- attached to the front of it boyfriend what the fuck ), Richie laughed and pressed his thumb into the spot between his brows as if to flatten it out.
“Don’t know why you expected anything else, Eddie. I’ve been talking about how badly I want to hit that for years.”
Eddie pulled back and shoved him away. “You’re disgusting.”
“This is comforting,” Stan said with a nod. “Absolutely nothing has changed. Thank god we had a meeting about the nothing changing. Happy you two decided on a label or whatever. Now can we go get ice cream, it is hot as hell today.”
Beverly shrugged while Bill gave Stan a high five and soon all of them were standing back up, scraping off the dirt left behind on their clothes and walking back to Richie’s and Bill’s cars to carpool over.
“That was anticlimactic,” Eddie said to Richie.
Richie shrugged. “We already had a dramatic love declaration. Guess you can’t get it all, sugar.”
Eddie winced. “I hate sugar. Add it on the no-fly list.”
“Come on , Eds. At this rate we’ll have no cute pet names. What am I supposed to call you?”
“I go by Eddie. Or best thing to ever happen to you.” Eddie sent him a cheeky smile, and he stopped walking to peck a kiss on Richie’s lips before continuing on toward the car. Richie was smiling like a loon, like someone who had everything they could ever want, and Eddie sort of understood it.
For now they were still stuck in Derry, still had another year of school in front of them, but looking around him—at his friends all laughing and joking, at his boyfriend hopping into the driver’s seat after dramatically blowing him a kiss—he figured there were worse places he could be. Being there a little longer didn't seem too bad.