Richie Tozier is a nerd. That is as indisputable fact of life as the sky is blue and trees are green.
Richie Tozier is seventeen years old, he is a straight A student who wears coke-bottle glasses and watches jeopardy for fun. His dad is a dentist who insisted he got braces as soon as he was able to, and he wears his hair in long, often greasy curls that hit right at his shoulders. He likes foreign films, dad music, and he cannot dance to save his life. He got a skateboard last year because he thought it would make him look cool, it did not, and he joined the AV club because he thought that would give him a chance to be on the school’s morning news segment, it did not. What it did do for him though, was give him two new best friends, Bill and Stan.
Now Richie always wanted to be a performer, and although he is a nerd he’s also something else, the class clown, although he hates that term. Richie was drawn to the prospect of being a star, being in front of the audience, being someone that everyone looked to for the latest news, in short, he wanted to be heard.
Stan wanted the exact opposite, he was fine to sit by and keep an eye on mic levels and camera feed as Richie did his thing. That’s why they made such a great team, and that’s why Richie liked him so much. Stan was quiet, fastidious, and always knew which wire went where, but that wasn’t to say he couldn’t hold his own, no Stan the man was no ones doormat. He has a caustic wit and dark sense of humor that Richie couldn’t get enough of, he was always the first to call him out on his bullshit, but knew when to let him run his mother mouth too.
In short, Stan was a good friend for a guy like Richie.
And in being Stan’s friend, Richie also found a friend in Bill.
Bill was, to be quite honest, kind of a disaster around electronics, he didn’t know a USB from an HIV, as Richie liked to put it. But Bill didn’t need to be good at electronics, Richie and Stan had that covered well enough, and what Bill did provide was infinitely more useful. He was the idea guy, the writer, the director, overall, the brain behind everything they did.
Now, soon after Richie realized the school would never let him be a part of any sanctioned broadcast he had to find other ways of making himself seen and heard, so he, Bill, and Stan started their own sub-AV club to work on their own projects.
They had done music videos, short films, sketch comedy, you name it and they’ve dabbled in it. Not all of them were good per say, but they had fun and all insisted that their art is simply before it’s time, like all great art is.
Which brings us to the present.
Stan is bent over his dad’s old RCA camcorder trying to unstick whatever gunk is left inside from years of the garage treatment, Richie is using the school’s large computer to splice together some footage for the homecoming assembly, and Bill is going over the shoot schedule for his latest magnum opus, ‘ Epitaph for Fire and Flower’.
“We can’t d-do W-w-wednesday like we usually do, Bev’s already g-got plans.”
“Bev?” Richie asks, snapping out of his hyperfocus at the unfamiliar name.
“Yeah, Beverly Marsh.” Stan says.
Richie feels his thoughts melt into the grating sound of a dial up modem as he processes the words.
If Richie had to guess he would say that Beverly Marsh is popular just by virtue of being the most beautiful girl in school, probably the town, and quite possibly the world. He would guess that, because she is nothing like any other popular girl he had ever met. Beverly Marsh is beautiful, certainly, but she’s also unyieldingly kind and undeniably an individual. She takes no shit but does no harm and does not give one damn about what people think about her. She skateboards like a demon on wheels, she wears clothing of her own making of every style you can imagine, and even some you can’t, and all of her best friends are boys.
And one of her friends is Eddie Kaspbrak. Now had you asked Richie a year ago if he thought he would ever fall in love with a jock the answer would have been a succinct no. Actually it would have been a sprawling and facetious monologue about the state of his and Michael Jordan’s wedding plans that would make everyone who heard roll their eyes, but you get the picture. All of that changed when he transferred to Derry High during peak season for the track team, Richie couldn’t go down the hallway for 5 minutes without hearing someone singing the praises on Eddie Kaspbrak, so naturally he had to get a look at this guy. Richie, along with his new friends, Bill and Stan, went to the next meet and stood in the sea of fellow classmates to watch Eddie, if the rumors were to be believed, absolutely destroy the other team as well as any previous records. And the rumors were true, Eddie was fast, faster than any of the other guys there, and he now had a big shiny ribbon to prove it, but that’s not what Richie was focused on.
Richie was focused on the long line of his tan legs, the way the muscles in them flexed and tensed as he dashed or sprinted or whatever the hell he was doing out there. He was focused on the rainbow topped tube socks he was wearing and the cute nervous grin he gave to his friends in the front row. If he was any closer he would have been hyper focused on the warm brown of his eyes, the sparse freckles dotting his nose, and the slight dimple in his right cheek.
But all of that came later, when he actually started sharing classes with Eddie, by the grace of the school’s computerized scheduling system.
Richie liked to think he fell in love with Eddie that moment he first saw him on the rubberized track, but it actually happened over the months where they were in class together. They shared a table in AP Gov and Richie sat two seats to the left and one row behind him in Spanish, where, miraculously, Eddie actually snorted at one of his jokes one time. Richie rode the high of that for a week. During the fall semester of their junior year Richie watched Eddie argue in debates about everything from healthcare accessibility to marriage equality and mispronounce the spanish word for armchair, and with each day he fell further and further in love with him without telling him a damn thing.
He couldn’t say a damn thing, because Eddie was untouchable, a golden shining beacon that the entire school loved from afar. He was kind and personable, but he stuck close to his tight knit group of friends, Mike Hanlon, another star, but this time of football, Ben Hanscom, possibly the kindest and most handsome man in school, and Beverly Marsh, the aforementioned beauty of the ages, who he was the closest to out of any of them.
Eddie and Beverly had never officially said anything about the two of them being a couple, but one look at them and that would never be a question. They had a casually intimate air about them, one that only two people who had known and loved each other for a very long time could have. The sight of them interacting always made Richie’s heart ache for something he’d never have.
Which brings us back to the present.
“You know Beverly Marsh?” Richie asks, then realizes what that means. “YOU KNOW EDDIE KASPBRAK?”
Bill gives him a look, a little startled but mostly confused.
“Um , yeah, d-dude they went t-to elementary with us. Eddie helped me f-f-fix up Silver, I can’t believe I never told y-you that.”
Richie groans, the grief of not growing up with Bill and Stan stronger than ever before.
“Oh my god of course he did, I bet he’s so good with his hands.”
Stan gives him an unimpressed look while Bill scowls.
“B-b-beep-Beep, asshole, we w-were like ten.”
“Ah, to have grown up with you guys, it would have been a real sandbox love me and him, I tell you.”
“Have you ever actually had a conversation with him?” Stan asks.
“My sweet sweet Staniel, of course I have! A love like ours doesn’t just come from nowhere, we’ve had many a talks just him and I!”
Richie doesn’t mention that these talks usually center around borrowing a pencil or wishing Eddie luck at his track meets, the average running time of them being about 10 seconds a piece.
“Right, a-anyway b-b-back to the movie, I figure we can all g-g-go down to the barrens to shoot some of the establishing s-shots this Saturday, B-bev’s free all day.”
Richie groans at the reminder that they’ll be working with Beverly.
“Ugh, why do I have to give up my Saturday for this? Why’s Bev in charge of our schedule all of a sudden?”
Bills eyes narrow, expression suddenly becoming darker than Richie had ever seen before.
“Look R-r-richie, I know you d-don’t like her or whatever, but s-she’s really cool and a g-g-good actor so-”
“Aww, Billy Boy’s got a crush.” Richie teases, trying to break the tension while Stan steadfastly does not look at either of them. It’s kind of weird that Bill wants to mac on the star of the school’s girlfriend but it would be pretty hypocritical of him to point that out.
“S-shut up, trashmouth, l-l-like you’re any better.”
“Me?” Richie feigns innocence.
Stan rolls his eyes.
“Don’t patronize us, you can’t make it ten minutes without talking about Eddie . Everyone in the tri-state area’s heard you talking about him, or seen you staring at him, literally now that you stalk him to all of his track meets.”
“Ouch! Stanley, hasn’t anyone ever told you that words can hurt? It’s not stalking if I’m gathering valuable footage of the school’s star!”
“Yeah, and what exactly are you doing with all that valuable footage? I noticed you checked out a VHS-C adapter last weekend, weird that you would need to watch the footage back at home when you don’t have a computer to edit it on.”
Richie pales, then flushes violently.
“Ahaha, Stanley I don’t know what you could possibly be implying.”
But he is still bright red.
Bill just groans.
“Just p-promise me you won’t b-b-be weird this weekend okay, R-richie?”
“Me? Weird? Never!”
Stan just rolls his eyes.
On Saturday morning Richie Tozier wakes up, takes a shower, puts on his dad’s old ‘vacation’ shirt, a pair of overalls and his too small bright cherry red converse, eats and burns his tongue on two pop tarts, and skates his way down to the barrens with a backpack full of notes and a camcorder.
When he gets there he’s either somehow late or Beverly is just extremely punctual because she’s already waiting where the street ends and the long, yellowing grass of the barrens begin. She’s got a duffle bag full of something at her feet and she’s holding the edge of her own skateboard up at her hip while she chews sweet pink bubblegum and taps out an unreadable rhythm on the fence she’s leaning against.
She’s wearing sunglasses but Richie knows the second she sees him because she raises an enthusiastic hand to wave towards him, and her perfect, naturally red lips quirk up into a smile. He’s far enough down the road that Bev can kick her own board down and roll over to meet him halfway, which she does, startling Richie far too much than necessary.
He feels himself overcorrecting at the sight of her seemingly coming right for him and he barely has the mind to think ‘save the camera’ as he falls over, landing on his own hands and knees.
“Woah, woah, are you okay?” Bev asks as she hops off. “Richie, right?”
Richie looks up at the girl who he really wants to think of as his mortal enemy in the game of love, but she is standing, hands outstretched, sunglasses pushing back her gorgeous red hair, with her blue-green eyes wide with concern for him.
Richie feels the tension in his body release all at once for some reason.
“Tis but a flesh wound, my fair maiden.” He says, wiping his superficially scraped palms against the age-softened denim of his overalls as he tries to stand up.
Beverly reaches out, helps him to his feet, and her hands are warm and soft in Richie’s.
She tsks, “I wish Eddie were here, he’s always got a hospital of a first aid kit on him.”
Right , Richie thinks, and he brushes her hands away in a way he hopes doesn’t come off too mean, she doesn’t seem to notice.
“Well, I’m pretty tough I think I’ll survive without him.”
The rest of the day goes by quickly, normally filming days with Bill are grueling, he thinks of himself as an auteur and he can sometimes obsess over details no one will see to the point that it drives them all crazy, but not today. With the four of them the flow is easy and simple, with enough natural chemistry between them that Richie doesn’t even get to have much of a chance to be jealous. There’s joking and laughter and Bill gets some of the best footage of his life while Richie realizes that Bev isn’t just beautiful, she’s really really fucking cool too. Her dirty jokes rival his, but she can also make Stan laugh with a well placed literary reference that she later tells him she stole from Mike, and she’s able to easily diffuse the tension of any situation with a simple look. It’s like she’s magic, and as much as he doesn’t want to, Richie gets it . He gets why everyone, up to and including Eddie must be in love with this girl. She’s just...great.
“Gum?” She offers, after they’ve packed up and started heading their separate ways.
“What is it with you and the gum, Red?” Richie asks, honestly, because she has been chewing the damn stuff all day, but he still holds out a hand for her to give him a piece.
She rolls her eyes good naturedly at the nickname.
“It’s a distraction, Eddie’s been trying to get me to quit smoking for years, the gum helps a lot though.”
Right, gotta quit smoking for Eddie , bet he doesn’t like making out when his girlfriend tastes like an ashtray! Richie thinks to himself bitterly.
He doesn’t notice Beverly’s expression darken as he unwraps it
“Okay, what the hell is going on?” She asks.
Richie looks at her, confused, genuinely.
“What are you talking about?”
“That face, you make it every time I mention Eddie, what, you don’t like him or something?” She’s not trying to be mean, he can tell, just firm, no nonsense.
“N-no! I never said that, why wouldn’t I like Eddie?” Richie can feel his palms start to sweat, the way they always did when someone brought up the subject.
Bev just narrows her eyes.
“Umm, maybe because you look like you wanna punch something whenever I say something about him? Look I know a lot of people are jealous of him or they don’t like him because he’s gay or whatever but he’s my friend and-”
“He’s gay?” Richie chokes out, eyes wide.
Bev looks at him a little weirdly, because that is not the usual tone of a homophobe.
“Yeah...I thought-” She realizes. “Oh! I keep forgetting you’re new! Yeah, I mean, he doesn’t advertise but it’s not like it’s a secret.”
“Oh, um I, uh...I guess I didn’t know, sorry- I mean not- I’m not sorry I just uh, I didn’t… uh, know…”
Bev looks at him for a long time, and Richie feels like she’s somehow both putting together a puzzle and tearing apart the pieces of him, and the longer she stares the redder he can feel himself getting.
“Oh my god, you like him!” She finally shrieks.
“Shhh, the whole town’s gonna hear you, Marsh!” He dramatically sticks out his arms, heart pounding but nowhere to hide now that he’s already been caught.
She laughs, but not unkindly, no, she laughs at him the way he wants her to at the ridiculousness he shows her to distract from the ridiculousness she’s uncovered by herself.
She laughs and her voice sounds like bells, her hair is shining in the last few minutes of daytime, and Richie can’t help but laugh too.
“Kind of sucks for you though,” She says, once they’ve calmed down, just a wry smile at her lips. “Because he’s got it bad for some goofball in his Spanish class that wears ugly shirts and never shuts up.”
Richie just stares at her, like she’s become all the more incredible to him in that moment.
“Or so he tells me.”
The rest of the filming goes well, Bill got some speech therapy friend of his to play the other role and he’s kind of a dick but he’s not in nearly as much of it as Bev is so they get rid of him quickly enough and all the slip-ups he caused were easily forgotten. It’s weird because Richie feels like he should feel like more of an outsider than he does, but something about being with Bev and Bill and Stan just clicks. They tell stories about what they used to get up to as kids, and he finds out that Mike and Ben used to hang out with them too back then, but they never make him feel left out. The worst is the soft ache his heart jumps with when he wishes to himself that he had been there for it, but even that’s gone quickly enough when Bev follows up a story about something Eddie did with a wink or a nod in his direction.
She’s been trying to convince him to go on a date with him, or at least talk to him, but he still insists he can’t, even after hearing probably a hundred embarrassing stories about him, Eddie still seems untouchable to Richie.
Then, they’re done filming.
Richie sits at the AV club computer meticulously splicing together footage and mixing audio and fondly looks back on the weeks when he called Beverly Marsh his friend. It’s a big highschool, and although they still wave at each other when they pass by during breaks or lunch it’s not the same. He still sticks to himself and Bill and Stan, at school working on the film, or at home sifting through old records to transfer to CDs, and he tries not to think about how close he would have gotten to being with Eddie had he been less of a coward with more self esteem.
Soon enough, the film is finished. Bill takes one final look at the cut, smiles, that perfect Bill Denbrough smile that has the power to make anyone’s knees weak, and declares it officially finished.
“We should have a screening.” Bill says, doing one last fast-forward through the thing.
“D-d-don’t be smart, Richie, it could be f-fun. We could invite everyone over, m-make a night of it.”
Stan rolls his eyes.
“You just want an excuse to talk to Beverly again.”
Bill only blushes a little and Richie just sits back and watches the conversation like a tennis match.
“H-hey, we’ve b-b-been talking! She s-says everyone misses us, it could be nice, a-all of us together a-a-again.”
Stan softens a little.
“Fine, but we’re doing it in my basement, yours is super creepy, Bill.”
So Bill invites Bev over for the next Saturday, tells her it’s a screening for everyone involved and their friends, and if speech therapy kid’s invite gets lost in the mail that’s no one’s business but the good old United States Postal Service.
Logically, Richie knows this means he will be in close proximity to Eddie Kaspbrak in less than a week’s time but more than that, which he can’t even think about right now, he is worried about how glaringly obvious it’s going to be that he’s the odd one out once all six of them are together again. Sure it was fine when just Bev was hanging out with them, but then he had the strength in numbers of being close with both Bill and Stan then, plus Beverly is like the nicest person ever and makes it impossible to feel left out when you’re hanging out with her.
There’s no way he’ll be able to keep up that rapport surrounded by a bunch of their handsome childhood friends he’s never even spoken to.
Richie Tozier is dead meat. Which is why he’s awkwardly pretending to mess around with cables as Bev, Ben, Eddie, and Mike show up and start to settle in. He can hear the overlapping sounds of chatter, laughter and genuine happiness seeping into everyone’s tones as they talk to each other as if they had never stopped. Richie is suddenly gripped with a not-quite fearful, but still sad feeling of not being able to be a part of this.
Until Beverly notices him and calls out from her place on the couch.
She’s sitting against the armrest on one end, Mike to her side and Eddie next to him, the seat on the other end open. He sheepishly waves at the sound of her voice and gives up the charade to walk over to them.
Half way there and he suddenly realizes that this is the closest he’s ever been to Mike, but all trepidation tied to that thought melts away when he sees the full, beautiful smile on his face. He’s all full cheeks and straight, white teeth as he watches Richie, eyes scrunched up in a way that makes Richie feel warm, and how is it really fair for all of these assholes to be so attractive and nice?
Speaking of, Eddie is there, wearing a pair of soft looking light wash jeans and a green and purple sweater that’s just a little too big for him. He looks good, like he always does, but more importantly, and what really sticks with Richie, is that he looks comfortable. He’s kicked off his shoes, his legs are tucked under himself on the couch, and he’s looking down, until Bev whispers something to Mike that he clearly overhears, making his eyes dart around the room, briefly landing on Richie, then Bev again.
Richie reaches the couch.
Beverly and Mike are quietly giggling to themselves and Eddie shoots them a sharp look before turning the full force of his big brown doe eyes on him.
“Hi, Richie.” He says, and the simple greeting makes it suddenly hard for Richie to breath.
“Hi Richie.” Beverly echoes, a smile at the edge of her mouth.
“Well hello,” He draws out the sound, trying to focus on the more familiar distraction of Bev so he doesn’t completely forget how to speak. “If it isn’t my favorite Hollywood starlet and her two best friends.”
She rolls her eyes at him.
“We’re really looking forward to the movie, right Eddie?” She asks, pointedly and not subtle at all, she doesn’t have to be though. Eddie just picks up his cue.
“Yeah, Bill was telling us you did all the music, you must be really good.”
Richie blushes to his roots.
“Well I like to think of myself as someone who can bang out a tune.” Oh god, why did you say bang? Why would you say bang? BANG??
Luckily Eddie didn’t seem to notice his momentary peril, he just opened his mouth to reply only to be interrupted by-
“Alright, are you r-ready?” Bill asks, he’s standing by the TV, when did he get there ?
Everyone cheers, Bill smiles to himself and presses play on the VCR and walks over to the 3 person couch on the other side of the coffee table.
Sit down , Stan mouths at Richie as Bill takes his seat next to him, and Richie looks around to realize that he’s standing right by the only available seat in his basement. The seat right next to Eddie.
He sits down and tries, for the next 40 minutes, not to think about the warmth radiating from where their legs are pressed together, or the softness of his sweater when it accidentally brushes against his arms. It may just be the longest 40 minutes of Richie’s life as he sits, as still as possible without looking completely crazy, while Eddie shifts around to stay comfortable, each touch sending an electric shock through his body.
When, finally, mercifully, the movie is over everyone cheers again, they take turns embarrassing Bill with praise and shuffle around to help clean up until Stan finally kicks them out.
Ben, Bev, and Mike have already left, and Bill lingers in the basement with Stan, leaving Richie alone to follow Eddie out of the house and into the cool fall air.
It’s more than a little awkward and neither of them seem to know exactly what to say, until finally Eddie breaks the silence as they approach the street.
“I really did like the movie,” He says, slowing down to a stop, forcing Richie to follow. “I still can’t believe you made all that music! It didn’t sound like any instrument I’ve ever heard.”
“Oh, yeah, I mean, sometimes I just record myself like crinkling bags and dragging bricks around to get what I need, then I layer them up in the editing software until they sound right. It’s actually kind of nerdy now that I’m saying it out loud.” Richie reaches up to run a hand through the back of his hair self consciously.
“No, no, I think it’s really cool. I mean, I’m hopeless around a computer so I just think it’s really...cool.”
Eddie looks at him, and Richie notices his cheeks are a little red. He’s holding his own arm, looking a little nervous, but that sweet, sweet smile is still fixed on him and Richie doesn’t get it.
Richie is a beanpole with a face full of acne, braces that he’ll have for at least two more years, the shittiest teenage attempt at a beard, and is probably a year or two overdue for a haircut.
And Eddie is… just entirely too good for him in every conceivable way.
Which is why it makes no sense for Eddie to be looking at him like that.
He looks away.
“Okay, are we gonna keep pretending that we don’t like each other or what?”
Richie’s eyes go wide.
“Is that an answer or a question?” He bites back.
“I- um...you? Like me?” What, what, what, what, what?
“Dude, yes! I’ve been trying to flirt with you for months but you keep running away from me.”
Ha, running away from the fastest runner in school , keep ‘em laughing, Eddie.
“Oh! Um...why though?” Richie tries to backtrack. “I mean, um, why me? Like, I’m sure you’ve had to invest in plenty of snow shovels to clear a path around your house with all the people throwing themselves at you and I’m…” He shrugs, helplessly gesturing at himself.
Eddie sighs again.
“I keep forgetting that you’re new around here.” He gives him a significant look, like he wants to say more on that subject, but he doesn’t. “You don’t remember when I was just a short, loud, gay kid with psychosamatic asthma. All these other students, when they cheer for me they don’t really give a damn about me, they just want to feel like they’re a part of something and the track teams the only one in this school that ever seems to win at anything. They act like I can’t remember when they would call me names or push me around, but I didn’t forget, and yeah I try not to be a dick about it, but I’m not gonna just sit around acting all buddy buddy with them. That’s why I only really hang out with Bev and Ben and Mike, because they get it, like, they got it just as bad as I did, worse actually. And that’s why I like you, Bill and Stan too of course, but- Anyway, that’s why I like you, you don’t look at me like I’m some kind of trophy machine, and I bet if you were around back then you wouldn’t be making fun of me, even if you don’t know how to shut your mouth. I mean, you’re loud, but you’re not mean, you’re just funny, like really really funny actually, it’s distracting when I’m in class with you because I just know you’re going to say something that’s fucking hilarious and I’m gonna have to try not to laugh. And then, you started coming to the meets and filming them and, you know, it’s kind of silly but I always thought of you as my good luck charm because no matter where I was or how nervous I got about running when I saw you in the crowd recording I knew it would be okay, after all I couldn’t mess up your footage!”
Eddie finally paused to take a breath. Richie just stares at him.
“I’m sorry, was that weird?”
Richie runs his hands over his face.
“No, no I’m just...trying to process all the cuteness of that without dying of a heart attack.” He grins. “That speech may have just been the last nail in my coffin, tell my parents I love them, why must the good die young, lord, oh why-”
Eddie cracks a smile, tension successfully diffused.
“Alright, alright, that’s enough, Tozier.”
“Really ‘cause I can go all night long, really.”
Eddie raises an eyebrow, and he really, really shouldn’t be able to look so cute right now.
“Don’t make promises that your dick can’t cash.”
“Eddie! I am agog, I am aghast, I-”
Eddie doesn’t let him finish. Richie feels the soft press of lips against his, and he yields to the warm hands tugging at his long hair.
The kiss is sweet and good and everything, no, more than Richie ever dared to think it would be. Eddie’s shorter than him, but he’s pulling him down and then Richie’s arms are around him pulling him up and it’s perfect, perfect, perfect.
He deepens it, feeling all the braver for having Eddie initiate this whole thing. He’s so unbelievably glad that one of them had the balls to do something because he can’t believe he’s gone this long without this feeling and he never wants to go back to how it was before he knew it.
They kiss for what seems like forever until Eddie breaks them apart with a hiss.
“Ow…” He sucks his lip into his mouth
Richie panics, trying to figure out where he could have fucked up.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I think your braces just cut my lip.”
Richie isn’t sure what to do, so he just kind of moves his hands around Eddie in a fretting, frantic manner.
“Oh geez, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that could happen, I’m sorry, are you okay?”
Eddie laughs a little.
“Yeah, I’m fine, dingus.” He smiles, and his lip is no more noticeably red than usual. “Just means we’ll have to practice more… a lot more.”
Richie feels his brain melt into mush, his heart rate picks up again, and he tries to think of something to say, but before he can Eddie presses their lips together again and the one-man rendition of We Are The Champions starts up in his mind.