Going into the eighth grade was a turning point in Eddie and the rest of the losers lives. They weren’t really little kids anymore, they were actual teenagers, thirteen going on fourteen was a huge deal. They were going to be in high school next year, that was like almost being a full fledged adult, and that meant trying out new things along the way.
Parties and get togethers with classmates were changing.
Less pin the tail on the donkey and more spin the bottle or truth or dare.
When Eddie was invited, if he was ever invited, he would steer clear of those games, choosing instead to shove his mouth full of chips and watch. The rest of the losers would play, expect for Stan who didn’t feel comfortable playing with strangers because he said he couldn’t trust them not to cross a line. Richie, Bev and Bill were champs at it though, taking any challenge easily while Mike and Ben were a little more reserved but still had fun playing. That’s how Richie had gotten to first base with Rebbeca Combbs, which he wouldn’t shut up about for at least three weeks after it happened even though she complained about his braces hurting her mouth.
Honestly, the whole game seemed weird and uncomfortable and never in his life did Eddie think he’d ever play it.
That was until Jason Finderburger’s party while his parents were out visiting his aunt. Everyone had been invited, one of those word of mouth invites that didn’t really discriminate and Richie was itching to go. He had convinced all the losers that they needed to come as well and even though Eddie didn’t find it all that appealing, Richie’s puppy dog pout made his insides squirm and he quickly caved.
So that was how Eddie found himself in Jason Finderburger’s basement, looking at the guacamole that had started to turn brown at the edges while everyone else jumped around to the loud music blaring from the stereo. He glanced out over the decent sized crowd, scanning the area to find his friends. Ben was talking to a kid that Eddie couldn’t recall the name of...
He didn’t know, but it looked like Ben was enjoying himself if his animated motions and smile were anything to go by. Bev and Bill were dancing together, which meant holding hands while jumping up and down repeatedly to the loud beat, they were laughing and smiling.
They were in love and Eddie wondered how long it would last as they grew.
Mike and Stan were off in a corner, heads leaned together as they spoke to each other quietly. Eddie watched them longer than he did his other friends, something churning in his gut as he watched the way they smiled at each other and stood close. Stan has told the losers last year that he was weird, different, that the way he looked at boys was exactly how he looked at girls. Eddie had felt relief as well as terror when that confession left Stan’s mouth, relief because it was something that Eddie hadn’t quite understood about himself. He thought girls were pretty, the way their hair bounced was nice, how their long eyelashes would almost touch their cheeks when they closed their eyes or how their lips looked sometimes when they didn’t have all that gloss or lipstick on them.
But unlike how Richie and many of the others in his grade would just stare and became obsessed with girl’s bodies, Eddie couldn’t find the draw. It’s not like he found boobs disgusting, he just didn’t understand the huge appeal of them like Richie or Bill.
Boys on the other hand, he had started noticing more. Like with girls, the hair, eyelashes and even their lips were something Eddie would stare at and feel his heart start to beat a little fast, but it was also their smell. Something about how different the boys smelled from the girls was intoxicating and honestly weird. Most of the time, boys would reek of that body spray that almost every teen boy bathed in and that stuff was just the worst and brought on some of the worst migraines Eddie had ever had. But it was the natural smell, like when Richie would just get out of the shower and lay down next to him while he was reading comics.
The smell of clean soap mixed with something that was just...masculine did something to Eddie. Made him want to lean in closer and just smell until he had his fill.
If Stan was weird for liking both, Eddie was just unnatural.
Eddie bit his lip as he scanned the crowd for the last of the losers group, finding those wild curls bobbing up and down while Richie danced with Kelly O’Toole in the middle of the group. They both looked like they were having a fun time, Richie grinning every time Kelly would laugh at one of his jokes and he felt something weird move in his stomach again.
He stayed by the snack table for the rest of the song, wanting to get a plastic fork and scoop out the brown from the guacamole and jerked when the music suddenly turned off. Everyone looked over at the stereo, surprised to find Jason there with a grin on his face.
“I think it’s time to play a game.”
Eddie groaned when Jason picked up an empty liter bottle of coke and held it up. Of course that’s what everyone wanted to play because apparently their teenage brains couldn’t think of anything other than kissing. Eddie got ready to move upstairs, not wanting to take part in the game when he felt someone grab his hand and he turned around to frown at them.
“Come on, Eds.” Richie said with a small tug on Eddie’s hand. “Let’s play! Maybe you’ll find Miss. Perfect.”
Eddie could feel himself start to sweat, nerves start to buzz. “In this crowd? I doubt it.”
He tried to pull away again, but Richie held fast. “Don’t leave, okay? I always feel bad when you go off alone when we start these games.”
Eddie frowned. “You don’t have to feel bad. I just don’t want to play.”
“Then just come sit next to me. It’s a large group, the chances of you getting picked for anything is slim.” Richie pleaded and Eddie couldn’t understand why Richie was so determined to get him to stay down there with him, but it looked like all the losers were playing again, expect Stan except Stan but even he sat near the circle, behind Mike.
Eddie worries his lip with his teeth for a moment before giving a sigh and nodding. “Okay fine, but if I get bored I get to leave.”
The grin on Richie’s face made Eddie feel weirdly happy, the red rubber bands on his braces showing brightly and Eddie had to look away as he felt his heart rate start to pick up speed. He sat down next to Richie, aware of how their knees touched and that it made him strangely excited as they started the game.
Richie was right. After sixteen spins, the bottle had still not landed on Eddie, and the one time it was close he felt Richie stiffen before loudly announcing. “That’s on me! Sorry Spaghetti!”
Eddie felt immensely grateful.
He watched as many of his classmates kissed other classmates. Bill had to kiss Juliana Piper and Ben had to give a peck to Karen Whetherholt, and he honestly didn’t get the excitement all the others had at watching people kiss. It was weird, but it wasn’t gross and he sat through more spins.
Then there was a spin that landed directly on Eddie.
Eddie’s eyes widened and there was no way Richie could excuse that it was actually on him instead. It was pointing at Eddie and Eddie slowly looked up into the bright and shocked blue eyes of the spinner.
Bev made a weird noise and she looked at Eddie worriedly for a second which Eddie could probably guess what his face looked like. The crowd started to hoot and holler, starting to chant for them to kiss already and Eddie suddenly felt like he might throw up. He’d never kissed anyone before and now he had to kiss one of his best friends in front of everyone?
“Guys,” Bev tried to yell above the chanting. “I don’t think Eddie-“
“He too much of a fairy!?”
Bev glared daggers ya the boy who had yelled and Eddie really felt like throwing up just then, the only reason he didn’t was he felt Richie’s hand on his back.
“You don’t have to, Eds.” Richie whispered.
Something about that made Eddie nerve turn to steel. Everyone always thought Eddie needed protecting, that he couldn’t do hard or difficult things without help and that honestly drove him insane. He shook his head and moved away from Richie’s comforting presence and a wobbly smile. “It’s okay, Rich. Really.”
Bev looked unsure as he moved toward the middle of the circle, but when Eddie gave a small nod she seemed to accept it as well before moving to meet him in the middle.
Bev was pretty. Who was he kidding? Bev was gorgeous. She had bright blue eyes that crinkled when she laughed, pretty pale skin that had freckles almost everywhere, bright red hair that Eddie still thought was the prettiest he’d ever seen. She was kind, daring, compassionate and always fought for her friends.
Beverly Marsh was the entire package and Eddie couldn’t understand why he wasn’t in love with her.
They sat facing each other on their knees, taking turns looking each other in the eyes before looking away embarrassed. He watched her take a deep breath in through her nose before letting it out slowly through her mouth, mouthing the words Are you ready? and he gave a nod.
They both leaned in and Eddie squeezed his eyes shut tightly.
The press of their lips was soft, more just pressure than an actual kiss like some of the other kids had done. Bev’s lips were soft without being sticky or greasy so that meant she wasn’t wearing any chapstick and Eddie was grateful for it. It was gentle and nice, both of them pulling away after only a second or two and they blinked at each other widely for a moment before smiling.
Eddie felt nothing. The press of Bev’s lips against his left him with no excitement which is what Richie and Bill always said they felt after kissing a girl. They moved back to their seats and it was another person's turn to spin, Eddie sitting back with a weird question in his head. What did this mean? If Bev couldn’t make his heart race, could anyone?
Eddie pondered this the rest of the game, blinking when he felt Richie’s hand on his back again, but this time his friend leaned close to whisper something in his ear. “Beverly Marsh? Nice.”
Richie’s lips brushed part of his cheek and suddenly Eddie felt like every nerve ending in his body had been lit up like every neon light in Las Vegas. He felt his cheeks flame and goosebumps erupted all over his arms and legs as he turned his head just slightly, Richie’s face so much closer that their noses almost brushed.
“Wha-?” He questioned dumbly, and Richie grinned before patting his back and standing up, holding out his hand to Eddie to help him up.
“Never mind.” Richie replied. “Let’s go talk to Stan and Mike.”
Eddie looked at his friend's hand, his own palms starting to sweat suddenly at the idea of taking it and suddenly he understood.
He knew why he wasn’t in love with girls or Bev.
“Y-yeah. Okay.” He agreed and took Richie’s hand, his taller friend pulling him up easily and started leading him towards Stan.
He watched Richie’s back and shoulders move under his bright yellow t-shirt and he felt the biggest urge just to hug his friend from behind but he restrained himself.
He wasn’t in love with girls or Bev because he was in love with boys and one boy in particular.