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the dissection of richie tozier.

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He starts saying it to himself in the mirror.

 

I’m gay. I think boys are hot. I like men. I’m a homo. I think boys are super cute.

 

Only when he’s home alone, and the windows are empty, as if a bird might fly through and hear and cry out to the world, You heard it here first, Richie Tozier is a flaming homosexual, tweet tweet! And the world would fall down around him and they’d find his body in the sewers or some shit. 

 

Or so much worse.

 

He says he’s gay, when he’s alone and in a dark bathroom, and even then his hands shake uncontrollably.

 

I would be super into kissing a boy. More than kiss. I’m gay.

 

He drags his hands over his face, groaning. Meets his own eyes in the mirror. Opens his mouth. Says what always comes next.

 

I think Bill has really nice eyes. Sometimes, when Stan does that one smile, where he clearly thinks I’m fucking stupid, my heart skips a beat. When Ben asks if I’m okay, I get an urge to kiss his cute smile clean off. Mike’s so fucking good he genuinely makes me feel like I’m gonna fucking melt.

 

Eddie.

 

And that’s where his mouth goes dry and his lips slam shut. 

 

He can admit he’s gay - that took long enough. Admit that he just can’t relate when Bill or Ben talk about Bev in any way but platonic, not just because she’s his friend, but because it just won’t compute. Bev’s pretty. Bev’s smart. Bev’s cool, cooler than any girl, any person Richie had ever met. But Bev is a girl; when he realized that things might have been different if she wasn’t, a screaming realization that had waited to claw out of him, he had no choice but to admit it, at least to his bathroom mirror.

 

But he can’t admit anything about Eddie.

 

Because it had always been Eddie, hadn’t it? Since he was little, real little, and asked his mom if he could make a valentine for Eddie, since his teacher said you should make them for whoever you liked best, and he liked Eddie more than anybody else.

 

Sure, His mom had said. We’ll make some cards for your little friends.

 

No. Richie couldn’t have been much older than six or seven, standing on a step stool to help his mother peel potatoes, though he was doing a poor job of focusing on the task. Just Eddie.

 

Oh? His dad hummed from the table. And why’s that?

 

Cause he’s my favorite.

 

And his mother had smiled at his father in a way that Richie hadn’t entirely understood, before saying, Just Eddie, then. I’m sure he’ll like it.

 

(He did.)

 

And he stayed Richie’s favorite. At first, because he was funny - so so easy to tease, all red in the face and smacking at Richie’s arms and talking a mile a minute, while Bill and Stan sighed and distracted themselves with literally anything else. 

 

And then, when they were nine, when he’d grab onto Richie’s arm, and it was so nice, to be touched, to be the center of Eddie’s attention. He acted out, yelling and teasing and poking, just to be in that spotlight, just to have Eddie’s eyes on him.

 

When they were maybe eleven or twelve, when he started taking careful notice of how cute cute cute Eddie was, how he scrunched up his face and squinted and made Richie’s stomach do backflips. The way, when he finally relaxed, his smile or laugh tugged at something deep inside his chest.

 

And when admitted it, staring into scared eyes in his bathroom mirror, I’m Gay I’m Gay I’m Gay, the unspoken truth that came with it nestled itself by that something and festered.





Bev made it sound so easy.

 

Yeah, she’s hot, She had replied absently, when Richie teasingly asked her about the girl in her  Language Arts class. Richie had felt all the air suck out of his lungs.

 

Oh? Mike raised his eyebrows.

 

I’d date her, Bev said simply, so simply, like it wasn’t groundbreaking. 

 

But you… Eddie tilted his head, chin in hand, an absolutely adorable movement. Cutecutecute.

 

People can like girls and boys, Ben said, sagely nodding his head. Richie resisted the urge to ask him what in the everloving fuck was going on.

 

Instead, he waited. For armageddon. For the other losers to chew Bev up and spit her out, probably not Ben, definitely not himself, tearing her to shreds -

 

That’s cuh-c-c-cool, Bill said, returning to his notebook. 

 

Oh, really? Uh, neat. I guess. Eddie shrugged his shoulders. 

 

Yeah, good to know, Stan agreed. Thanks for telling us.

 

Richie gaped at them.

 

Something wrong, Rich? Bev waved her hand.

 

He flinched. Fuck. S-sorry, no! Must have zoned out. Guess I was thinking about last night, when Suzy Becker and I...

 

Six groans rose in unison, and Richie forced a smile.




He told Bev exactly three years later, face in his hands, on his bedroom floor next to her.

 

I don’t like girls, He blurted out. Bev looked down at him - they were sitting side by side, him laying on the floor and her sitting on her knees, under his window. He closed his fingers from where he peeked at her, feeling his face burn, his chest twist, he was gonna diediedie-

 

You don’t? There was a certain amused edge to Bev’s voice. 

 

Please don’t hate me, Left Richie’s mouth without his permission. A lot of things did that. Word vomit.

 

A silence stretched on, and it dug deep in his bones. She hates hates hates you, it said, she thinks you’re gross gross gross -

 

“I would never hate you for something like that,” Bev says, drawing him back to the present.

 

Richie peeks at her again.

 

“Why would you think I’d hate you?” She smiles so gently, like she knows the answer, and he fears it’s pity in her eyes. A cigarette dangles from between her fingers, and she taps the ash outside the window.

 

“Dunno,” He says, feeling words spill out of his mouth, never asking for his thoughts on it. “Figured, uh, you’d think, ‘oh god, my chances with the guys in Derry are ruined!’” Beep me, he thinks. Somebody beep me. “I mean, once I’m out on the town, ladykiller Tozier over here, just imagine how dudes’ll take it-! Guys’ll be all over me.” Beep me, for the love of god. “And poor Eds, he’ll be so pissed once he learns my relationship with Sonia was-”

 

“Eddie doesn’t know, huh?”

 

And that one works, and Richie shuts up, covering his eyes once more. Fuck. No. God. He’s so fucking dead. Why can’t he just keep his goddamn mouth shut, for once in -

 

“Richie? Are you crying?”

 

Bev sounds genuinely concerned. He’s not, but his breath is heavy and there’s a heat behind his eyes like he might, and he has to make a conscious effort not to.

 

“Sorry, that was...mean. Rich, are you okay?”

 

“Fine,” He strains out, closing his lips tight after, no more stupid shit.

 

Bev picks up his head and puts it on her lap. It’s quiet. For way too long. He uncovers his face just to see what the fuck she’s playing at.

 

She immediately blows smoke in his face.

 

Richie practically hacks up a lung, more from the surprise than the smoke itself. “Bev, what the fuck?!”

 

“Sorry, sorry!” She laughs, covering her giggling with the back of her hand. “You just looked like a deer in the headlights, I couldn’t help it!”

 

He laughs with her, settling back down, head on her thighs. “Jesus fuck. I try to be real with you, and you try to kill me. Really feeling the love.”

 

Bev flicks his nose, and then pushes the hair off his forehead - not commenting on how he could cut it or brush it or use conditioner, so she must be feeling nice. It’s quiet as she runs her hand through his hair, besides the sound of a shoplifted Nirvana CD at half volume. 

 

“So you’re…” Bev makes a complicated hand gesture, but doesn’t say the obvious, like she’s giving Richie a chance to back out. 

 

“Gay.” He finishes instead, the word strangling him, acid on his tongue. He squeezes his eyes shut.

 

“Okay. Um. Thank you for your honesty.”

 

He snorts. “You’re welcome?”

 

“Sorry, I’m not come out to everyday! Give me a break.”

 

Beat.

 

“You...remember I’m bi, right, Rich?”

 

“Uh-huh. Double trouble.”

 

“....You know none of us would hate you, right?”

 

Richie sits up, gesturing for her to pass her cigarette. He leans his head out the window, taking a drag, willing the exhale to relax him. (It doesn’t.)

 

“Is it obvious?”

 

“Is what obvious?”

 

He drags his gaze to meet hers.

 

“I don’t know about the others, or anybody else, but I had...a feeling, I guess?” Bev admits, shrugging.

 

“Fuck.”

 

Beat.

 

“You can’t tell.” He says suddenly. “You - you can’t tell the others, okay?”

 

“I wouldn’t. That’s...that’s for you to do, I wouldn’t just decide that for you.” She takes the cig back from him, taking a puff off it. By now, they’re both leaning out the window, Bev’s arms crossed on the sill and Richie’s hanging limply over it.

 

“Especially not Eddie.”

 

He can feel her eyes on him. 




Bev’s been Richie’s best friend for a while.

 

Of course, technically, all of the Losers are his and her best friends. (Especially Stan and Eddie, in his case, and Ben in hers, for obvious reasons.)

 

But Bev is special.

 

Bev is special because Bev can tell when Richie isn’t Good and can tug his sleeve so they can skip class and smoke under the bleachers. Bev is special because Richie can tell when she isn’t Good and can nudge her and let her hold onto his arm. Bev is special because of nights laying in his bedroom floor (and hers, once her aunt took custody) that eventually turned into conversations neither of them had with anyone else. 

 

But Bev is especially special because Bev knows. 

 

“So.” She says, one night, sprawled out on his bed with him, legs tangled on top of eachother. She’s braiding and unbraiding his hair while he pretends to study.

 

“So?” He raises his eyebrow at her.

 

“Feel free to shoot this question down.”

 

“Oh, fuck, Bevs, I’m sorry - no, I will not go to prom with you, I just really think it’d break Ben’s big ol’ heart, and imagine the toll-”

 

“Do you have a crush on Eddie?”

 

He gawks at her, slamming his chemistry textbook closed. Since his coming out to her, Bev has unfortunately discovered that Eddie works better on Richie than any Beep Beep ever could.

A smile plays on her lips, but she quickly draws them in a line. 

 

Richie briefly considers screaming, throwing her out the window, locking himself in the closet (physically, this time), and dying alone between his old stuffed animals and a box of photo albums.

 

But considering that he probably couldn’t lift Bev, he decides against that.

 

“....I don’t know,” He chokes out, at last. She pushes the hair back from his forehead with a gentle hand.

 

But he does know. He knows well enough. That no, Richie does not have a crush on Eddie; he’s in love with him. Absolutely head over heels in love. With his smile and his big doe eyes, with his fussing and his rapid-fire speech, with his gestures and his skin and his teeth and his bones. 

 

And looking in Bev’s eyes, he thinks she knows well enough, too.

 

“You don’t?” She asks, confirming his fear.

 

He avoids her eyes. “Stop looking at me like that.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Like….” He pulls at a braid and undoes it. “Like you know something I don’t.”

 

She smiles sadly at him. “Do you wanna drop it?”

 

And he could tell her. He could. He could tell her that he couldn’t breathe right when Eddie touched him, he could tell her about R + E, he could tell her that Eddie, brave and bright and brash, is probably the most beautiful force of nature he’s ever seen in his life.

 

Instead, he lifts his hand dramatically. “Paint my nails, Bevsie.”

 

“I’m not your slave,” She snorts, grinning, and he tries to ignore the disappointment in her eyes.




So, Richie never says he likes Eddie.

 

But Bev knows he does.





So, Richie says he likes Eddie, in uncertain terms.

 

I like a Kaspbrak.

 

Are you playing that off as Eddie’s mom?

 

Mind your business, Marsh.

 

But she smiles at him with so much pride in her face that Richie thinks he’s gonna barf.




Richie can more easily say he likes Stan.

 

Bev asks him why he can. What makes Stan different. Richie doesn’t think before speaking, because Bev does that to him.

 

Maybe it’s cause I... love Eddie.

 

And Richie says that, says, I Love Eddie, and bile rises up his throat and he scrambles on his hands and knees toward the bathroom, Bev in tow to grasp his hair (long enough to dangle under his chin by now) in a fist while he hurls.

 

When he’s done, he flushes it, leaning back against the bathtub, eyes shut tight. Bev leans back with him, unclenching her hand and carding it through his hair.

 

“I love Eddie.” He whispers.

 

“Yeah.” 

 

“I love him.”

 

“I know.”

 

He leans against her shoulder and groans. “I’m gonna fuckin’ die, Bevsers.”

 

“You’re not going to die, Rich.” Bev wraps her arm around his shoulders, scoffing. But her touch is gentle, fingers rubbing his back, not commenting on his shaking or his hitched breathing.

 

Because she knows this is hard for him.

 

Because Bev knows Richie.





A few weeks later, they’re loitering on mainstreet, like any bad teens do. 

 

And Stan’s rolling his eyes and smirking in a way that makes him look absolutely ethereal. And Bill is grinning and barely stuttering at all, rolling his shoulders casually as he talks. And Ben’s got Bev’s arm around his shoulders, smiling at her with his heart in his eyes and the sun in his skin. And Mike’s leaned against the wall, arms crossed, smiling knowingly, bursting into a startled laugh every now and again in a way that makes him very kissable. And Eddie keeps doing this laugh where he snorts a little, wrinkles his nose, and furiously swats at Richie’s shoulder, and his cheeks are as pink as his lips.

 

And Bev is Bev, per usual, smiling and teasing and kissing the side of Ben’s head, and at one point Richie grabs her around the waist and pulls her away from Ben, causing her to roar with laughter, and Ben to dramatically gasp, hand thrown over his heart. Richie makes kissy faces at her, and she pushes his face back with her hands, giggling all the while.

 

They’re all beautiful.

 

And it’s all so fucking good. Every bit of it. All seven of them.



“Hey, Tozier!”

 

Fuck.

 

And all seven of them freeze, Bev still off the ground in Richie’s arms, heads toward the sound. Because even at sixteen, there’s the bite, there’s the fear, of somebody yelling for one of them with venom on their tongue and violence on the brain, of rock fights and broken arms and running, alone, for their lives.

 

And it’s not one of Bowers’ gang, no, they’re either dead or Bowers himself, locked up somewhere, a sudden violent attack in the summer of ‘89, but there’s always gonna be cruelty and animosity out there. 

 

The voice is that of a senior, someone neither of them truly know, some random guy, unkempt and scraggly, hands in the pockets of his letterman.

 

“That your girlfriend?” He seethes, gesturing at them. And so Richie prepares his bite back, mouth open, until he continues, “Because I thought you were a f-” He says it, and it hits Richie square in the chest, and he lets go of Bev, mouth shut.

 

Her feet hit the ground with a soft thump, and the guy steps forward, and he says something else, and there’s the voices of the others, and Richie’s been called this before, been called it all before, but not when somebody knows. 

 

“Back off,” Bev snaps, as if on fucking cue, stepping forward. “I’m surprised you think at all.”

 

“Are you really going to try and fight all fucking seven of us?” Eddie pipes up, fierce and beautiful, and Richie can’t can’t can’t look at motherfucking Eddie right now, not here, not when he’s that word, not when he loves him. “Because that’s not gonna work out like you think it will!” And he steps in front of Richie, ready to protect him, and he can’t can’t can’t -

 

The guy opens his mouth to speak.

 

Bev punches him right in the mouth.

 

Right in tha kissa, Richie thinks to shout, but his tongue feels like a weight in his mouth, and his hands are limp by his sides, and fingers are wrapping around his wrist, in a delicate and measured movement he can only associate with Stan.

 

The dickhead stumbles, falls, and tries to stand, only to find Eddie in all his furious glory, and Bill and Mike quickly stepping up to plate with him, and Ben was already there with Bev, and Stan has his hand on Richie’s wrist because this is for him this is because he was insulted this is because they love him holyshitholyshitholyshit. 

 

And so Richie snaps out of his suspended animation. Reaches for and flashes the pocket knife Ben gave him for his birthday, for wood carving or some bullshit like that. He knows he probably wouldn’t fucking stab somebody, the knife probably isn’t even sharp enough to do damage, but it’s a threat, and he needs this guy gone. Say something, he thinks, use that trashmouth.

 

“Yeah, do you fucking hear yourself? Picking a fight? With us? All of us?” Richie gestures with a flick of his wrist, keeping the blade close to his pocket. “I mean, look at these two. They’ll tear you to shreds! We’ll have to send you back in a fucking box! What’ll your mommy think?”

 

A spill, a word vomit, his brain grasping at straws and throwing them, hoping he can play it off.

 

It works enough for the guy to scramble to his feet and look around. When he steps forward, so do Bev and Eddie. He falters.

 

“You could run,” Stan muses, like it’s a suggestion, standing safely but tall behind Richie and their guard dogs, hidden until they need him. 

 

And the guy does, fleeing, and relief washes over them all, because Richie didn’t wanna (or perhaps couldn’t) fucking stab someone and if Eddie got into a fight they wouldn’t see him for weeks. 

 

Hoots of victory go up once he’s out of sight, and Ben and Mike high five. Stan’s fingers linger on Richie’s wrist in a way that makes his head spin. They’ll get shit for this, the guy could go to the cops or something, and they’d take his side, but right now, they’re the unstoppable, invincible lucky seven and reveling in their victory and they’re even more beautiful like this.

 

“That was fucking insane. ” Eddie gestures wildly, expression as animated as his hands. “Holy shit! Richie, you - oh my god. Oh my god, were you gonna stab him? Holy fuck, dude.”

 

“That’s not what I gave you that for,” Ben says, but smiles, taking Bev’s hand and squeezing. January embers, Richie thinks, fondly.

 

“You really think Richie could stab someone?” Stan raises his eyebrows, handstillonwrist. 

 

“I’m right here, Staniel. And no, Eds, I wasn’t gonna fucking stab him, I just wanted to scare him off.” Richie sees Eddie’s face darken and revels in it, but goes on. “Though you sure did help. You looked like you wanted to kill him. What the fuck, Eddie?” He grins. “I would have loved to see you and Bev beat his ass.”

 

“...Seconded, honestly,” Mike mumbles, and Richie claps him on the back.

 

“People shouldn’t be allowed to say shit like that. It pissed me off,” Eddie shrugs,  looking almost sheepish. “Also, don’t call me Eds.”

 

“Sure thing, Eddie Spaghetti!” Richie beams at him, earning a glare.

 

“I can’t believe he thought Buh-B-Bev was your girlfriend.”  Bill all but cringes.

 

“What? I can’t snatch a girl like Bev?!” Richie mocks offense.

 

“No, you can’t,” Stan says, simply, ignoring Richie’s obnoxious gasp. He taps his fingers against his wrist as he talks.

 

Fuck .

 

“No matter! I must give my thanks! Oh, my brave knights!” He crows, putting on a pompous voice, brain buzzing with the knowledge of Stan’s hand, dont hold it dont hold it dont hold it. “Whatever will I do to repay you?!”

 

“You can start,” Mike smiles at him, sunshine in a person, dusting off his jeans. “By paying for lunch.”

 

And Richie must have made a face without realizing it, because Bill covers a laugh with his hand and Eddie does that thing he does where he smiles, scoffs, and looks away.

 

“Sir Hanlon!” Richie continues the charade, throwing his hand over his forehead. “Is that any way to treat a lady?”

 

“Beep beep, Richie,” Bev interjects, smiling at him oh so fondly.

 

So they set off for food, whatever diner they see first. 

 

Stan doesn’t let go of Richie’s wrist.

 

They drag behind, and Stan’s fingers stay laid softly against his skin, and Richie’s sure there’s some kind of poison in his touch that’s killing him slowly. That’s the only explanation for the bees in his stomach and the fog over his brain.

 

“What happened back there?” Stan asks abruptly, rubbing circles on Richie’s skin with his thumb. Richie briefly considers sliding his hand up and holding his hand. 

 

But, he’d die if he did that. 

 

“Whaddya mean?” He counters.

 

“You went into your own head. You’re never that quiet. It felt…wrong. What happened?”

 

Richie shrugs. “I guess it caught me off guard.” He smiles, looking at Stan as he walks. “Why? Do you caaaare about me or somethin’?”

 

And he expects Stan to beep him, maybe even jokingly say of course not in his signature deadpan, but instead he moves his hand to lace his fingers in Richie’s, successfully stopping his heart in the process.

 

“Of course I do, you dick.”

 

They don’t let go until they get to the diner. 





He’s laying on Bev’s floor, stretched out, rambling, talking on and on, and Bev isn’t beeping him, flicking through songs on a CD, hair freshly cut by her aunt (she offered to trim Richie’s, which he pointedly declined), humming and ‘oh, yeah?’ing as needed, and it’s how their nights go, how BeverlyN’Richard always will be, their voices against a clashing grunge soundtrack.

 

“Somebody wrote about you on the bathroom stall again.” Bev says.

 

Richie’s startled out of his speech about Bill and Eddie nearly setting the bathroom on fire - long story, and probably what made Bev think of the bathroom - and sits up to look at her. “Oh, yeah?”

 

“I was scratching out something and saw it.” She shrugs, almost noncommittally. 

 

“What did it say?” 

 

Bev skips to the next song. Radiohead drifts from the speakers.

 

“What did it say, Bev?”

 

“I like this song.”

 

“Beverly.”

 

And Richie startles himself with the firmness of his tone, but Bev turns her gaze to him, looking tired and almost guilty.

 

“I shouldn’t have said anything. It doesn’t matter what it said, Rich. I scratched it out.”

 

“I wanna know, though. I...Just tell me what it said.”

 

She purses her lips and glances away.

 

“Bev. Tell me.” Richie reaches forward and lays his hand over hers. “I’m a big boy. I can take it.”

 

Bev meets his eyes. “It was about you and Eddie.”

 

And Richie flinches, visibly, because fuck, what?

 

“W-what about us?”

 

Bev gets a look on her face.

 

Richie sits back again, staring at his hands. 

 

And it’s not like he hasn’t had this before. All of this. The slurs, the bathroom writing, the threat looming over his head, you’ll die you’ll die you’ll die, none of it is new for Richie. But this time, Bev knows it’s all true.

 

It was always him.

 

This time, it might affect Eddie.

 

Eddie, who has nothing to do with this.

 

Eddie, who has everything to do with this.

 

Richie’s going to get him killed, too.

 

And the thought of Eddie getting hurt because of him, because of what he is, because he just happened to be there, makes Richie want to scream, because it’s not Eddie’s fault.

 

It’s because Richie loves him, which isn’t Eddie’s fault at all.

 

“I scratched it out. I’m sorry, Richie.”

 

“It’s not me you should apologize to,” He replies miserably. “Eds….”

 

Bev pulls him to her by his shoulders, wrapping her arms around them. She runs her hand through his hair, and she smells like honey, and the heat behind his eyes is back.

 

“He’ll be okay.”

 

“Bev-”

 

“I’m sorry I said anything.”

 

They sit, accompanied only by stereo, his head on her chest.

 

“Am I too...close with him?”

 

Hand on his calf. Fingers brushing together. Eddie’s head against his shoulder in a hug. Eddie’s naturally touchy, clingy, in everyone’s space, clambering over Richie to get his attention, swatting his arms, holding his shoulder.

 

“You didn’t do anything, Rich. I swear.”

 

He bites his bottom lip. 

 

“I have...an idea,” Bev says, and Richie lifts his head.

 

“What?”

 

“Remember when that guy called me your girlfriend?”

 

Richie lets the cogs turn in his brain, and his eyes widen. “Bev, you-”

 

“I’m just saying, if I pretend to be your girlfriend, you can’t be Eddie’s boyfriend.”

 

He balks at that, Eddie’s boyfriend, holy fuck, but Bev’s right, she’s always right.

 

“Bev….”

 

“We can talk to Ben. He’d understand. Of course, you’d have to come out to him...”

 

“I can’t break up you and Ben!”

 

“We won’t be breaking up! Just like you and I won’t really be dating!”

 

And it fits, it works. Richie pulls back completely.

 

“You’re fucking nuts.”

 

“Jesus, Rich, when have we not been?”

 

He locks their hands between them, and there are freckles on her fingers. “Are we doing this?”

 

“If you want to,” She says, smiling, green eyes twinkling with something like mischief.

 

“You’re my best friend, you know that, right?” Richie says, squeezing her hand.

 

“You’re mine, Trashmouth,” Bev replies, squeezing back.

 

And so began the chaos.

Chapter Text

Ben leans forward on his elbows, fingers steepled in front of his face. “I’m sorry, what?

 

Richie runs his hands over his face. “I understand that me n’ Bev’s brilliance is hard to comprehend, Benny Boy, but I thought you were the smart one.”

 

Ben makes a face at the nickname.

 

The three of them are in the library - Ben’s favorite spot for secretive talks (surprise parties, birthday presents, etc.) and general leisure, even after meeting the Losers. Ben is seated across from Bev and Richie, elbows on the table, previously looking thoughtfully at his girlfriend. Bev’s feet are on the table, and Richie’s are atop Ben’s knees under it, just to be annoying. They’d just ran through their genius plan.

 

“Hey! I’m complimenting you.” Richie points out, flashing him a grin.

 

“Beep beep, Richie,” Bev elbows him, then turns her attention to Ben, eyes softening. Ugh, straight people. (Wait. Not really, actually. Whatever.) “We just think that if I pretended to date Richie, he would get left alone, right?”

 

Ben softens too, opting to put his chin in his hands instead. “Yeah, okay. It’s just...seems extreme, Bev.”

 

“You can just say no,” Richie sighs, leaning back and tucking his chin into his chest. “Don’t wanna stir trouble in paradise.” 

 

“Stop being a drama queen. I’m not saying anything yet. Just wrapping my head around the idea, man.”

 

“It’s easy!” Richie sits up suddenly, causing his feet to kick the table, which thumps back down loud enough to earn them a shush from the librarian. “Sorry, miss. But, really, Ben, super easy. Bevsie and I hold hands a bit, snuggle up, move on. Everyone thinks we’re the lovebirds and you two can make out later or whatever.”

 

“Don’t make me say it again.” Bev shoves his face, and he laughs.

 

Ben laughs, too, nodding. “I understand that part. What I don’t get is why.”

 

Richie feels the air suck out of his lungs. 

 

“Whaddya mean?” He asks. It practically comes out as one word.

 

“Why don’t you just...ask a girl out? You’re always saying what a ladykiller you are.” Ben teases.

 

Richie glances at Bev. “....About that.”

 

And they talked about it. In the car, on the way here.

 

If he asks, I’m gonna tell him, Richie said.

 

You don’t have to, Bev said.

 

I will.

 

And carried in Bev’s eyes is the same sentiment; he doesn’t have to. He can back out. His decision. His closet. His funeral.

 

Without looking at away from Bev, he continues, “It’s not the ladies I wanna kill.”

 

What the fuck.

 

What the fuck!

 

What the fuck? Why did he - what? Christ. Nice going, Richard. Holy fuck.

 

Richie curses himself, stupid stupid stupid, because he has no idea why he said that, why he says anything -

 

“Oh, okay. That makes sense.”

 

And he’s surprised he doesn’t gasp and scream, looking to Ben, all gentle sunshine sweetness. 

 

“What?” He squeaks out.

 

“Sorry. Uh.” Ben shrugs. “I can..tell. Uh. Eddie. You know?”

 

And it pieces together, january embers, of course Ben would know. Of course Ben Hanscom would know Richie was in love.

 

How stupid could he be?

 

“Am I that…” 

 

“No, nononono,” Ben reaches forward, strains, practically laying on the table to put his hands on Richie’s shoulders. “No. I just, I...I saw. The bridge.”

 

“The bridge?” Bev quirks a brow.

 

Richie sucks in air, closing his eyes, happy place, puppies and open fields and free food. When he opens them, Bev and Ben are staring at him.

 

“...I’m cool,” He says, nodding. “We’re cool.”

 

Ben leans back, and doesn’t press the issue, thank god. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

 

Bev and Richie both turn their full attention to him, giving matching “Huh?”s.

 

“Let’s do it. The fake dating thing, I mean.” Ben smiles. “I’m not worried about it, so don’t sweat it.”

 

“Why aren’t you worried? ‘Cause I’m…?” Richie wrinkles his nose.

 

“No, because you’re you.”

 

He wrinkles it further.

 

Ben’s face flushes pink. “Sorry. I mean, because you’re you - you and Bev…”

 

“I know too much about you to date you,” Bev offers, and Richie gently punches her arm. “Plus, you’re too obsessed with Ben and I.”

 

“Oh, yeah. You two are my favorite couple.” Richie clucks his tongue, grinning. 

 

He means it this time.




They decided their plan.

 

Ben and Bev would stage a mutual break up while trying their best not to make heart eyes at each other.

 

A week later, Bev and Richie would announce their coupledom.

 

The other Losers couldn’t know; at the risk of Richie’s sexuality being brought into question, Ben and Bev agreed to keep it between the three of them.

 

The plan was perfect.




The plan was not perfect.

 

First of all, the others were skeptical that Ben and Bev were breaking up.

 

Yeah, cool, I don’t believe that for a second, Stan had said, narrowing his eyes at their held hands.

 

Richie’s eye twitched. Dumbasses. 




So, a new plan was in order.

 

They’re in Richie’s room, listening absently to one of Bev’s mixtapes. Ben is sitting on Richie’s bed, his legs crossed on top of eachother. Bev has her head in his lap. Richie’s pacing, because he feels like he’s going to actually explode if he doesn’t.

 

“You held hands! You held fucking hands, Bev!”

 

“It was an accident.”

 

“Fuck!” Richie sinks to the ground, head between his knees, next to the bed. Ben reaches out and pats his head. “We’re doomed.”

 

“It’ll be okay, Rich,” Bev soothes. “We’ll figure something out.”

 

“Will we?! Will we, Bev?!” Richie groans. He tilts his head back against the bed. “Because if we don’t, Eds and I are fucked!”

 

Richie is already fucked, but that’s beyond the point, isn’t it?

 

“Listen. Rich. Eddie didn’t even see the graffiti. It’s fine.”

 

“But what if somebody else did? And they think it’s true, whatever the fuck it says we did? What if one of those shitheads-”

 

R + E.

 

Richie’s blood runs cold.

 

He scrambles to his feet, knocking Ben’s hand off. His jacket is across the room, and he puts it on a little too quickly, earrings getting tangled on the drawstring.

 

Fucking earrings. You’re fucking asking for it.

 

“Richie. Rich. Richie.” Bev jumps up, helping him get it over his head. “What’s wrong, babes?”

 

“I gotta - I gotta go. I have to go, I have to get there, Bev, I gotta fix it, I gotta-”

 

“Deep breaths, Richie,” Ben holds his hands up, approaching the two of them slowly. Richie distantly registers Bev’s hands under his elbows, and it makes him think of Stan, and that makes everything so much worse.

 

Arcade tokens. Only if you want to. 

 

“Richie. Earth to Richie. Hey. Hey!”

 

Dude, why are you being weird? I’m not your fucking boyfriend. Disgusted. He didn’t mean it like that. 

 

Did he?

 

He tries to get past them, entirely on autopilot, because if he talks it’s just gonna come out as a scream. Bev’s faster, and practically puts him in a headlock when he tries to duck under her arm, then pushes him to stand upright with her hands on his shoulders.

 

“Bev, you don’t understand, I have to - I gotta-”

 

“Hey. Hey, it’s okay, Rich, please, look at me.”

 

Bowers, fucking Henry Bowers, running, thinking for just a moment he wished that stupid Paul Bunyan statue would use that axe to put him out of his fucking misery.

 

“Richie!”

 

“Bev!” He mocks, sounding utterly pathetic.

 

“You’re there enough to be a dick. That’s good.” Bev almost smiles. “You can go wherever you want, but first I’m gonna need to be sure that’s not directly off a cliff.”

 

Richie barks out a laugh, but tries to breathe, remembering the way they all learned to help Eddie, in for four, hold for seven, out in a whoosh for eight, rinse and repeat until the desired effect is reached, which is currently being a functioning human person again.

 

He looks at Ben when he feels the least bit humanlike, offering a strained smile. “Hey, Ben, can I get a ride?”




Ben’s car is...okay.

 

On the basis of saving money, Ben begged his mom not to buy him one, but she wanted nothing more for her baby to have everything he’d need. Therefore, Ben ended up pretty much owning his mother’s car - a not exactly beat-up little Sedan, which was the extent of Richie’s car knowledge. The inside is immaculate, except for the books piled up in the backseat next to Richie. He’d look at them, but he’s busy staring straight ahead and bouncing his leg enough to shake the entire car.

 

They pull over when Richie indicates, and he guides them to the spot, though Ben already knows where it is.

 

“....Oh.” Bev says, forming an O with her lips as she does.

 

The carving is faded from the years, but still as stark and obvious as when Richie first scratched it in, willing his brain to blank itself as not to think about what he was doing, what it meant, for him, for Eddie.

 

R + E, god fucking dammit.

 

Richie kneels down, pulling out his pocket knife. Might as well use it as Ben intended. 

 

“Wait, wait, what are you doing?” Ben stops him as he touches the blade to the R. 

 

“Getting rid of it.”

 

“What?! Why!”

 

“To protect Eddie, duh.”

 

“I - what? There are so many people with the first initials R and E! You can’t just get rid of it!”

 

“Why?” Richie replies dryly. “Because it’s a testament to our love?”

 

Yes!” Ben cries, like it’s obvious.

 

Richie rolls his eyes and turns his attention back to his 13 year old handiwork. However, when he starts to scratch out his initial, Bev reaches down, grabs his wrist, and plucks the knife out of his hand, reeling back and throwing it into the water with all the force she can muster.

 

“....What the FUCK?”

 

“You’re being ridiculous, that’s what. Jesus christ, Richie, I thought this was serious!”

 

“It is serious! If Eddie-”

 

“Can you shut up about Eddie for one goddamn second?”

 

“I- what - who do you think we’re doing this shit for?!”

 

“You! I’m doing it for you!” 

 

“I’m not the one - Eddie - he’s the one who’s in danger!”

 

“No he’s not! You know he can take care of himself! People already give us all shit, and they always have, and you getting rid of this isn’t going to do anything to stop it!”

 

“Why do you care so much?!”

 

“Because you carved it for a reason!”

 

“Oh, fuck off, Beverly!”

 

You fuck off! I’m trying to help you!”

 

“Will you two stop it already?!”

 

They both turn to Ben, who looks more exasperated than anything else.

 

“You’re acting like children.” He rubs his own shoulder, sighing. 

 

Bev looks down at Richie, face hard.

 

He flips her off.

 

She flips him off right back.





Fighting with Bev lasts until they get dinner and she blows into her straw so the wrapper shoots off and hits Richie right in the face.

 

He considers it an olive branch.

 

When Ben stops to drop Richie off, Bev kisses his cheek.

 

“I’ll get you a new pocket knife.”

 

“You better.”

 

She squeezes his wrist, and his brain buzzes with a name, but he just wraps his hand around hers at an awkward angle. 

 

“You didn’t really wanna get rid of it, did you?” Bev tilts her head.

 

Richie considers it. “I was...in a weird place when I did that. I guess? But I don’t know. I just.”

 

“You just?”

 

“I don’t…” He hushes his tone even more. “I just really don’t want anything to happen to Eddie.”

 

Bev rubs her finger along the inside of his wrist comfortingly. “I know. I know, babes. But shit happens anyway, you know?”

 

“Not shit I caused.”

 

Bev sighs. “Rich…”

 

“Listen. If he got hurt, and it’s my fault, I don’t know what I’d do.”

 

Bev pulls him forward and hugs him. Richie leans down and sets his head on her shoulder, smiling.

 

“He’s not getting hurt. Nobody saw, Richie.”

 

“You don’t know that.”

 

“You’re right, I don’t. But I know that whatever the universe throws at us, we can handle it.”

 

Richie squeezes her, nodding. “Okay, okay. You’re right.” He doesn’t know if he believes it, and he certainly isn’t going to stop protecting Eddie however he can, but it’s easier to agree.

 

“I’m always right.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. You might wanna head on back to your loverboy.” Richie juts his chin in the direction of the car, grinning at Ben. When Bev turns to look, Ben blushes and ducks his head, making her smile.

 

She hugs Richie one last time before pulling back, holding his wrists between them. “Call me if you need me, okay?”

 

“You got it, chickadee.”

 

Bev rolls her eyes, turning her back to Richie and practically sprinting to the car. Richie waves them off as they leave, waiting on his own stoop.

 

When he steps inside, his mother has left a pizza box on the counter. He picks up the sticky note on top of it.

 

Your father had to work a late shift, and so did I. We’re both really sorry we didn’t catch you. Stop sneaking out under our noses! We need to talk about your behavior. See you tomorrow, sweetheart, call your father’s work line in case of emergencies. - Mom

 

She left a little heart at the bottom, and Richie smiles at it. He crumples up the note in his hand, puts the pizza in the fridge, and retreats to his bedroom.

 

He falls into his bed, fully clothed, and conks out.





Eddie shows up at 3 in the morning.

 

When somebody raps on his window, insistent and sharp, Richie immediately knows it’s Eddie. Partially because Eddie and Bev are the most common visitors of his windows, so it has to be one of them, and partially because he knows his knock by heart.

 

Richie wipes the sleep from his eyes, dragging himself out of bed and over to the window, snapping the lock and sliding it open.

 

“Hey, Eddie Spa- woah!”

 

Eddie clambers in, falling onto Richie so hard that he stumbles and falls back against his bed. Hands grip the front of his hoodie, and he can hear Eddie sobbing.

 

“Hey, hey, what’s wrong?” Richie lays his hands on Eddie’s shoulders, pushing him back just enough to see his face. Tears fall thick and fast down his cheeks, and he shakes in Richie’s arms, biting his lower lip and whimpering. He pulls him back into his chest, wrapping his arms around him.

 

“It’s okay, buddy. Let it out,” Richie whispers, setting his chin against the top of Eddie’s head. “Let it all out.”

 

And he does, wailing, lightly hitting his chest.

 

“I can’t. I can’t, I can’t.”

 

“Can’t what.”

 

“Live with her.”

 

And his heart sinks. God, of course that’s what this is about.

 

“You won’t, not forever.”

 

“I-I-”

 

“I got ya.”

 

He’s not sure how long it is until Eddie stops crying, sobs fading to gasps fading to sniffling. 

 

“I’m sorry,” He mumbles, face against Richie’s chest, absolutely getting snot on his jacket. 

 

“Don’t be. What happened?”

 

Eddie slides out of his lap - something Richie was just becoming painfully aware of - rolling over to lay on his bed, rubbing his face with his hands. Richie pulls his hoodie over his head, throwing it across the room, opting to deal with it later.

 

“You know how I have French with Bill?” Eddie asks, at last, in an almost defeated sigh.

 

“Mhm.” Richie pulls himself fully onto the bed, too, cramping himself up against the headboard to give Eddie more room.

 

“He and I have a project, and I was supposed to go help him with it tonight. She wouldn’t let me go. She said I’d get pneumonia. She locked me in my room.” He says it like a list, tone flat and annoyed, cheeks still streaked with tears.

 

“Again?” Richie winces. 

 

Again . I can’t…I can’t fucking take it, Richie. I thought it was normal for so long. And now…”

 

He closes his eyes, scrunching up his face in the way he does when he’s trying not to cry, and Richie tentatively squeezes his shoulder.  He’s relieved when Eddie leans into it.

 

“D’ya wanna do something?”

“Huh?”

 

“I mean. You came here. Can I help?”

 

“Oh. Uh. I guess I just...sure.” Eddie seems to blush, though Richie’s sure it’s just a trick of the light. In the dark. Yeah.

 

“We can play Mario Kart.” 

 

“Won’t that wake your parents?”

“Late shifts.” Richie does a hang ten gesture, grinning down at Eddie. “We’re on our own, baby!”

 

Why the fuck did you call him baby? Jesus christ!

 

Fortunately, Eddie doesn’t seem to pay any mind, sitting up and stretching. “Sure, okay. Only if I get to be Toad.”




Richie manages to survive Mario Kart.

 

They take up shop in Richie’s living room, set with popcorn and soda - two things Eddie wasn’t allowed at home, and therefore two things he always got at the Tozier household.

 

Eddie stays for the next few hours, taking full advantage of Richie’s food and couch space, climbing over him to get to things until he eventually ends up with his legs in Richie’s lap.

 

It’s absolutely unbearable.

 

It’s five AM when Richie asks.

 

“You gonna spend the night?”

 

“What?” Eddie turns his head, glancing at the clock. “Oh, shit. No, I gotta go home.”

 

“Huh?”

 

He scrambles up, and the loss of weight on Richie’s legs is even more unbearable, and he immediately wants nothing more than to drag Eddie back down and hold him there.

 

But, he’d die if he did that.

 

Eddie grabs his sweater and tugs it roughly over his head. “I shouldn’t have stayed this long. Ma’s gonna lose her shit if she wakes up and I’m not home.”

 

He loves it when Eddie says ‘Ma’ instead of ‘Mom’. He isn’t sure why.

 

He loves just about anything Eddie says.

 

“It’s cool,” Richie says, though his heart sinks. “You want a ride?”

 

“No, I...if she sees your car, it’ll be too and from school in a fucking box. With bubble wrap. And packing peanuts. Encased in amber.” He turns back and smiles weakly at Richie. “But thank you so much. I had fun tonight.”

 

“Me too, Eddie Spaghetti.”

 

Eddie rolls his eyes, but smiles. “Don’t call me that. I’ll see you later.”

 

As he steps toward the back door, he pauses, and looks back at Richie, like he’s thinking about something.

 

“You okay?” Richie asks, hopeful.

 

Stay. Stay stay stay. Sleep on the couch, or even better, in my bed. Please stay, I can’t live without you.

 

“Yeah. See you, Trashmouth.”

 

And just like that, he’s gone, leaving so much space where he once was.