About ten minutes after Eddie had fucked off, Richie finally gave up on the idea of getting to talk to Bill alone. Giving a grudging goodbye to his best friend, Bev, and Ben, he began to stalk through the tall grass towards the fence where they had all ditched their bikes.
As the bikes of the remaining Losers Club members came into sight, Richie hesitated. A slight figure was huddled on the ground beside the fence. The hair pricked up on Richie’s neck as he walked slowly closer, squinting at the figure through his oversized glasses.
Eventually the figure came clearer into view and Richie heaved a sigh of relief. It was just Eddie. Arms folded around his legs, head on his knees. He was the only member of the Losers Club not to have biked to the meeting spot. Since, according to the man himself, biking with a broken arm was a statistic waiting to happen.
“What’s crackin Eds?” Richie called, causing Eddie to turn towards him. The perpetual frown on Eddie’s face deepened as Richie came closer, now only a few feet away from him. After a beat of silence, Richie continued. “Shouldn’t you be halfway home by now?”
A shrug. Richie bent to the ground and picked up a small rock.
“Heck, if I was in your position, I’d already be home.” Richie sighed, tossing the rock up in the air and catching it with ease. “Nothing like the sweet sight of Mrs. K to relieve the heebie-jeebies, ain’t that right Eds?”
“Fuck off Trashmouth,” Eddie spat bitterly, avoiding Richie’s gaze.
“Geez Eds, I’m just having a laugh.”
Eddie’s voice was softer when he replied. Less bitter, more sad. “Well, could you just have a fucking laugh somewhere else then?”
Richie looked down at the rock in the palm, rolling it between his fingers before hucking it over the chain link fence. Had it been another day, or another person, Richie might have remarked on just how far he had managed to throw the rock. But on this day, with this person, he wiped his gravelly hand on his shorts and sank down to the floor beside his friend.
He bumped his shoulder gently against Eddie’s, causing the boy to turn and look at him, “Hey, what’s up Doc?” Richie asked quietly. “Have you already forgotten that we were just celebrating the kicking of some major monster ass?”
The frown on Eddie’s face deepened, and he hesitated before replying. “That’s the thing. We kicked major monster ass and I’m still afraid to go home and face my mom.” His gaze slipped from Richie’s and turned back towards his scuffed sneakers, “How can someone help kill a fucking demon and still be such a pussy?”
“C'mon Eds, let’s get real here. I would rather face down Pennywise again, all by my lonesome, then face Mrs. K when she’s on the goddamn warpath.”
This got a snort out of Eddie, his frown briefly lifting into one of his rare grins. Richie knocked his shoulder softly into Eddie’s again before standing up. He turned towards Eddie, still folded in on himself, and held out his hand.
“Why don’t we walk home together Eds? Your place is on the way to mine - and if by the time we get to yours, you still don’t wanna go home, we can just have a sleepover or something.” At Eddie’s raised eyebrows, Richie hastily continued. “My parents won’t care, scout’s honour. For some reason they think you are a, quote un quote, good influence on me”
Eddie rolled his eyes as he grabbed Richie’s bloody hand with his own. With a decidedly exaggerated huff, Richie pulled him up and they walked over towards the bikes. If their hands stayed in contact for a little longer than was considered strictly normal, neither one mentioned it.
The two boys were well on their way home before Eddie spoke again. Richie had been talking nonsense the entire time, trying to fill the silence with any comments he could think of.
“So who all was still there when you left?”
Richie stopped walking and, turning towards Eddie, put his on hands on his chest and leaned backwards as if he was going to faint. “OH LAWKES, it speaks.”
“Says the person who can never shut the fuck up”
“Now, now, let’s not be rude Eds,” Richie tutted, as he began to walk again. “After you left, Bill and Bev started giving each other googly eyes up the wazoo, so I decided to skedaddle out of there.”
“But Ben stayed?”
“Well you know Ben.” Richie shrugged, “He wants to mack on Bev so hard he can barely see straight. I bet he’s only just started to get the hint that three’s a crowd.”
Eddie’s brows furrowed, his hands tightening into fists. “Why does everyone have the hots for Bev? I mean, she’s pretty and all. But is she that pretty?”
“I dunno Eds. Bill and Ben seem to think so.”
“Do you think so?” Eddie pressed on, glancing over towards Richie, who was now starting straight ahead.
“Not really.” He turned to Eddie, who had raised his eyebrows in slight surprise. “I mean, she’s okay I guess. But I’d rather just hang out with you, y’know?”
Richie turned away from Eddie, and fixed his gaze on the road ahead. He stared so hard that it took him several seconds to realize that the smaller boy had stopped walking and was now standing several yards behind him.
“What Eds?” He groaned, pulling to a stop.
“You’d rather hang out with me than Bev?” The question was loaded with doubt.
“… Well, yeah?”
“But, but you don’t even like me.”
A moment passed where neither of the boys spoke. Richie’s mouth opened and closed several times, but no words came out, causing Eddie’s eyes to widen in confusion. Few people had the power to render Richie Tozier speechless. Eddie Kasprak was not supposed to be one of them.
“I don’t…Wait, what? You don’t, you don’t think I like you?” Richie’s voice came out like a squeak. “Wh-why would you think that?”
Eddie stared down at his shoes, “Well, you never give me a break. You’re always shitting on me.” He took a deep breath before looking up at Richie, “It kinda just seems like you only hang out with me because you have to, you know?”
Richie swallowed the laugh in his throat when he saw Eddie’s careful expression. “Eds, I make fun of you BECAUSE I like you.”
“You don’t make fun of the other Losers nearly as often. And you like them.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like them nearly as much as I like you.”
Eddie gave an annoyed snort and began to fold in on himself again, expression becoming more guarded. “Stop fucking around Trashmouth, I was being serious.”
Richie’s bike dropped to the ground as the taller boy let go of it, putting his hand in his pockets and moseying over to Eddie, whose face remained intentionally blank. Richie stared at his feet briefly, squinting his eyes in concentration. The only sound on the street was the slight wheeze in Eddie’s breathing.
“Look Eds, remember how Bill and I told you that we got separated? And I got locked in that room with It?”
Eddie nodded and glanced at his cast, a souvenir from that memorable night.
“Well, what we didn’t tell you is how we got separated. I got like lured away or whatever by - by...” Richie took a breath and looked up, taking in Eddie’s now curious expression. “It – It was pretending to be you, Eds. It knew that I would come after you.”
A furrowing of brows. “Huh?”
“Not – not Bev, not Stan, not even Bill.” Richie ran a hand through his hair, his other hand fidgeting slightly by his side. “It was you.”
Richie pulled his gaze from Eddie’s, whose expression was softening into something unrecognizable. A blush ran up onto Richie’s cheeks, and he felt a strong need to fill the silence, which felt overly heavy from the weight of what he had just said. “Now, bucko, whaddya say we –“
“I’d go after you too, Richie.” Eddie’s words sliced through the Richie’s voice, stopping his ramblings in their tracks. “I always would.”
Richie’s eyes widened, his hands continuing to fidget nervously as if they had a life of their own. “Cool,” He muttered quietly, before turning around and picking up his bike from where it had been dropped unceremoniously on the ground. With a shake of his floppy hair, his trademark grin returned and he turned back to Eddie. “Right then, ol chap. We best keep on moving, shan’t we? Wouldn’t want to get stuck out here when night falls. Not with you being a cripple and all.”
“Ugh, fuck off Trashmouth, I am not a cripple.” Came the grumpy reply as Eddie caught up to Richie, their footsteps slowly falling into unison. “That night really sucked dick though, huh?”
“You can say that again Squirt.” Richie whistled, “Definitely on my list of worst nights ever. It probably only comes second to that time when the Bowers gang left a dump in my backpack. That one was just a doozie.”
Eddie snorted. “Well at least you didn’t get your arm broken and then have it get even more fucked up by some wackjob who thinks he can play surgeon.”
“Hey now! What I lack in technical skills, I more than make up for in my bedside manner.”
“Whatever you say Richie.”
As Richie regaled Eddie with stories of how he could woo over any patient with just a single glance, the grim looking Kasprak house came into view at the end of the street. The boys’ steps got slower and slower.
Once they reached the edge of the house’s overgrown front lawn, Richie turned to Eddie with a cocked eyebrow. “What’re you thinking Eddie Spaghetti? The offer still stands.”
Eddie squinted his eyes as he stared at the crumbling old house. A light was on in one of the rooms, dimly lighting up the entire building with a foreboding glow. He heaved a sigh before turning to Richie and smiling, “I think I’ll just stay here tonight. Gotta face her sometime, right?”
Richie placed his hand on Eddie’s shoulder, squeezing lightly before raising his other hand in the air, gesturing to the stars, “From this day on, let no man call my Eddie Kaspbrak a pussy - for never before has the town of Derry encountered such a hero.”
Eddie giggled before shoving Richie off him and starting towards the front gate of the house. Before he could get far, Richie’s hand grabbed his arm.
“Eds, do you – now that we’re all done killing monsters and saving the world and shit, do you think we could go get ice cream tomorrow?” Richie asked, his eyes landing everywhere but on Eddie’s face.
When Richie’s gaze finally landed on Eddie, he saw a grin that could have powered all of Derry for the next year. “Sure thing Trashmouth.”