Eddie had hoped going back to school would make things normal again. Like a reset. Like sitting on a chair with a notebook on his desk while he listens to a boring teacher would make him forget about how not even months ago he and his friends were almost murdered by an evil creature dressed as a fucking clown. It still makes him feel like he’s about to be sick.
The first day of school after that summer was fucking weird. In fact, the first day after the killed It was even weirder. One would expect the world to change after such an even, killing an evil force of nature, saving a whole town. Everything was the same. People kept living their lives, grocery shopping, reading the newspaper, mowing their lawns. Everything was the same except for them.
“D-d-don’t worry, Eddie. It’ll g-get better,” Bill had said, and Eddie had wanted to believe him even when he just couldn’t.
It did get better, though, in a certain way. After all, they had to keep on with their lives even if they didn’t want to, going to school, doing homework, doing chores. It was a matter of time to start going to the movies again, to start joking again, to start laughing again. Richie helped a lot with that too. Of all of them, Richie seemed like he took it the best way, even though Eddie suspected he felt the same as the rest. It didn’t matter, because seeing Richie act like everything was okay made everyone start feeling like everything was okay, or like it could be okay in a not too distant future.
“It’s the nightmares, you know? And… and sometimes I see a shadow and I jump. I don’t even think there’s something there, it’s my body. It’s like my body gets scared before I even know what’s going on,” Eddie had confessed once when they were throwing rocks at the river.
“Don’t ya worry, my good fella! I won’t evah let those bloody shadows get you, wot-wot?” Richie had replied in one of his voices, flashing a big smile and pinching Eddie’s cheek. “Cute lads like ya shall not worry their head with such mattahs.”
“You’re such an idiot,” Eddie had said, but he was smiling because that’s a thing Richie knew how to do for sure. He knew how to make people smile.
He knows how to make Eddie smile.
It’s always been weird, always, not just now when a lot of things are weird, but from the beginning. Richie Tozier was always kind of a mystery to Eddie, like something he couldn’t totally get but made him want to keep looking, keep learning about it, trying to finally understand it. Eddie doubts even Richie understands himself, but he thinks he’s pretty close.
“I think I would let a leper blow me for free if he didn’t have any teeth. Think about it. It’d be a pretty smooth blowjob,” Richie says and Eddie looks at him horrified. Maybe he’s not that close to understanding him after all.
“You’re so fucking disgusting,” Eddie spits, and Bill chuckles a little while Stan just rolls his eyes.
They’re going down to the Barrens and Richie is poking at things with a stick he has found God knows were and looks like someone already used it to poke at a rotting corpse because there’s something slimy covering one of the ends. Eddie is walking as far from it as he can because he has seen Richie’s face when he had warned: “if you go anywhere near me with that thing I swear I’ll fucking kill you.”
They find a hole close to a few big rocks, not big enough to be a rabbit’s den but definitely big enough to have some animal inside.
“Maybe it’s a snake nest,” Stan says, and he takes a step back when Richie gets closer, poking at it with his stick.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Eddie slaps Richie’s hand, but he doesn’t let the stick go. “What if there are snakes in there?”
“It c-can be dangerous. Some snakes are v-v-venomous. You s-shou-shouldn’t disturb them.” Bill says, twisting his lips a little.
“It’s okay. I have my stick to protect me,” Richie says, poking at the hole again, making Eddie furious.
“Yeah? Well, tell me how a stick is gonna protect you when a snake bites you, fuckface. Are you going to poke at the bite ’til the venom just goes away? Huh? Do you know what a snake bite can do to you? ‘Cause first the bite gets all nasty and disgusting and your skin starts to rot, and then your blood gets all liquid and starts coming out of your eyes and your nose and your mouth, and you die!”
“That’s if you don’t suck the wound. You need to suck the venom and spit it out, and then go to the hospital,” Stan corrects him.
“Hey Eddie, would you suck my wound if a snake bites me?” Richie asks with a stupid smile on his face.
“I’d let you die on the spot.”
“What if it bites my dick. Would you suck my wound then?” Richie laughs.
“How is that an improvement??” Eddie throws his hands in the air. “If a snake bites your dick I hope you lose it so you stop talking about it.”
“Or maybe it’ll get even bigger and I’ll have a super dick.”
It’s always like that, no matter how much time passes, they end up in the Barrens, sometimes reading comics, sometimes playing guns, sometimes just talking. Bill and Ben miss Beverly the most, and they talk on the phone sometimes, so when it happens they share with the rest the things she’s told them. Mike comes along sometimes too, but just on the weekends because he has a lot of work to do. They feel less like kids when Mike is around and Mike feels less like an adult when they hang out and he can act his age. No matter what happens or what they do, though, Richie is always the same. His bad jokes, and his even worse voices, and his constant smile, and his huge eyes behind his huge glasses.
Maybe Eddie is starting to think of Richie too much.
It’s always the same, it’s true, but they’ve changed, it’s obvious they’ve changed, and they also keep changing, their bodies, their minds. Ben is getting taller and his weight starts sitting differently in his body. Mike is strong, so much stronger than before, and every time he invites the Losers home for dinner they can see how he’s already the man of the house. Bill almost doesn’t stutter anymore, and he’s starting to get some attention from the girls at school. He’s handsome, he always was, but now he’s more confident, and that shows. And then it’s Richie. Richie and his long black curls and his long fingers and his inches taller because it seems like he’s decided to grow everything at the same time. Richie and his stupid, so stupid trash mouth, with his stupid, oh so stupid full lips. And his voice.
Eddie’s voice has changed too, but it’s nothing compared to Richie’s. Eddie still has to deal with those awful squeaky sounds coming out of his mouth now and then, his voice trying to adjust to the changes. Richie’s voice is deep, rich. Eddie’s voice is like a cat scratching a violin. It’s like, while Richie hit puberty, puberty hit Eddie. On the face. With a chair.
Sometimes he wonders if the rest of the guys feel the same. Of course, he doesn’t ask because guys don’t talk about those things and he’s not a sissy. Maybe if Bev had stayed he could talk to her about it, about how sometimes he feels like everybody is growing up and becoming men and he still feels like a kid. He hopes that changes when he goes to college in a couple of years, although he still needs to convince his mom he won’t die if he lives alone. He needs to convince himself too, to be honest.
“You can always live with me, Eddie Spagh—Unf!” Richie laughs when Eddie clasps his hand over his mouth, shutting him up. “Yrrsoqwt.”
“I’m not cute. I’m fifteen and fed up with your bullshit nicknames. So cut it already,” Eddie says and gives him a dirty look before he moves his hand down again. “And like you’re going to college anyway…” He adds, just to see Richie bring his hand to his chest, gasping, absolutely offended. “I should ask Stan, though. He will go to a good college for sure.”
“You insult me. I won’t tolerate this disrespect!” Eddie is laughing when Richie grabs a pillow and hit him straight in the face.
They start a pillow fight and Eddie can’t stop laughing. If they were at Eddie’s home he knows his mom would be there right in the moment asking them to stop and warning them of the dangers of pillow fighting. They’re at Richie’s, though, and Richie’s parents don’t really care about what they do. Richie’s dad is not even home. His mom is but it’s the same as if she weren’t.
It gets rough because they don’t know how to fight without hurting themselves, they’re still kids that way. Richie takes advantage of his height and pushes Eddie down, climbing on top of him and pressing the pillow against his face. They’re playing around, Eddie knows, but the first thing he thinks when he starts suffocating is: ‘I’m gonna die’. So he fights back even harder, kicking and punching and making Richie laugh until he doesn’t laugh anymore.
“Hey! Hey! Okay! It’s okay! Jay-sus, you wild,” Richie chuckles when Eddie throws the pillow away, looking at Richie all red and bothered.
“You almost killed me here, motherfucker,” he spits, breathing fast, his chest moving up and down trying to get as much air as possible.
“Oh, so your mom finally told you about us,” Richie laughs, stopping Eddie’s arms holding his wrists when he tries to punch him. “Easy! I wouldn’t let you die, Eds. I’d save your life with my scout skills. Mouth to mouth resuscitation. Sounding heartbeats. Intimidation.” Richie sings, laughing again and fighting Eddie, trying to put his disgusting mouth on him.
“Stop it, asshole!” Eddie fights back, but he’s laughing uncontrollably again, protecting himself with his arms while Richie sticks out his tongue and wiggles it making stupid noises and trying to lick him.
“Eddie, are you okay? Eddie, are you okay? Are you okay, Eddie?” Richie sings in between laughs, trying to move Eddie’s arms out of the way. Eddie can’t help it, he’s laughing too much and he’s getting weaker, so Richie takes advantage of it and manages to push Eddie’s arms to the side, licking a strip up Eddie’s face, across his mouth.
“No!! Gross!!” Eddie jumps and makes a grossed out face, spitting and wiping his mouth hard while Richie can’t stop laughing hysterically. “Your spit got in my mouth! Eww!” Eddie wipes his tongue with the back of his hand and Richie falls down on the bed laughing. “You taste like trash, Trashmouth.”
“Now you know what your mom tastes like,” Richie laughs and screams when Eddie grabs another pillow and jumps on top of him, pressing it hard against Richie’s head. Richie laughs and fights back a little, but then he stops fighting, letting his limbs fall on the bed. Eddie knows he’s playing around, but he can’t help feeling a little anxious when he takes the pillow back. He laughs in relief when he sees Richie’s stupid face with his tongue out and crossed-eyed. “You killed me Eds. Save my life. Quick!” He says making voices.
“Stay dead,” Eddie responds with a satisfied smile, letting himself fall down by Richie’s side. They both laugh again, the type of laugh you enjoy when you’re young and stupid and life couldn’t feel better. Eddie didn’t know he could feel like that again, not after the clown. And still, here they are.
“It’s getting pretty late,” Richie says, moving his head to the side to look at Eddie. “You staying over? We can call your mom.”
Eddie looks at him too, thinking about it. His mom is not fond of sleepovers, even less when they’re at Richie’s house, and even less when it’s just Richie there and not the rest of the guys too. However, Eddie can’t think of anything better right now than staying right where he is.
“Yeah, let’s call my mom.” It’s worth a try.
Eddie doesn’t know what’s the deal with being sixteen, but the moment he reaches that age it’s like everything changes even faster than before, or maybe he just wasn’t paying attention. He’s almost glad Bev is not in Derry anymore because suddenly it’s like all his friends can think of is girls. Yes, he knows it’s not that new, they all had gotten crushes on girls on TV and some real-life girls too, but it’s different just having a crush than acting on it.
It’s Ben and Bill the first ones who start dating, girls from their clubs in high school and the like. Stan dates too, but not as much, and only Jewish girls because his dad would kill him otherwise. Richie dates, or so he says, but he’s been joking about being a heartthrob since forever so that’s nothing new to Eddie. He, on the other hand… just can’t see the appeal on it.
Girls are pretty, that’s for sure. Girls are so, so pretty. They’re pretty and kind and soft and… boring. Or not! Or not, because some girls are not like that, it’s true. Other girls are strong and fun and witty and… also boring. Or, okay, there are also girls who are mean, and ugly and stupid, and definitely boring. But there are also girls like Bev. She’s smart, and pretty, and strong, and fun, and she’s not boring… But she is. She’s not boring to hang out with, for sure, she’s not boring for a friend. But she is… for a date.
Maybe Eddie hasn’t found the right girl yet, the one that doesn’t make him feel bored out of his mind just thinking about dating her. He’s sure they’re too young to be thinking about girls anyway, he doesn’t get why his friends would prefer going to the movies or to the smoothie hut with some random girl than spending the day hanging out with each other.
“Going to the movies or to the smoothie hut… and also making out,” Richie corrects him once, and the rest of the guys laugh and blush at the same time. “And getting some action if you’re lucky.”
“You s-should try kissing a gi-girl sometime, Eddie. Maybe you’ll s-see the difference,” Bill says, and Eddie frowns. Okay, so now even Bill mocks him.
“Just saying. Kissing sounds gross. Like why would I want anyone to spit in my mouth? Do you even know how many different bacteria are in a human mouth?”
“Some of the best things in life are gross,” Richie says. Eddie makes a face, as well a Stan.
“That’s so not true,” Stan replies, and Eddie is about to thank him when he adds. “But kissing is not gross anyway. Especially when girls wear those gooey things on their lips…”
“No, but like, it smells nice. And tastes nice,” Stan adds, blushing a little.
“And it feels good on your dick,” Richie adds, and everybody laughs except Eddie. Even Stan laughs. Eddie feels betrayed.
The thing is, Eddie can see how his friends may like girls and think about doing sexual things to them, with them. He can see Bill being all romantic, and for sure Ben is the type of guy who finds his high school sweetheart and never breaks up and has the perfect family. When it comes to Stan it’s almost the same. Sure Stan is more reserved than the others, but Eddie bets he’ll be the first to marry. Or maybe Mike. Mike is already dating someone, but Eddie always thought Mike was more mature than the rest of them, so that doesn’t surprise him. Richie, on the other hand… Eddie just can’t see it.
It’s like Eddie can’t imagine Richie in a romantic or sexual situation. He doesn’t really think about it because thinking about Richie and sex is thinking of jokes and stupid comments, like if a life of dirty jokes has made Richie completely asexual in Eddie’s eyes. He can picture Richie talking about sex but he can’t picture him actually doing it. If Eddie thinks of Richie sexually the only image in his mind is Richie doing stand-up comedy making some inappropriate comment about his mom.
That’s why, when it happens, Eddie thinks he’s about to have a severe asthma attack.
He doesn’t walk on Richie having sex, thank God, because Eddie doesn’t think he could have survived that, but it’s something close anyway. They’re kissing. Richie and some, some girl, Eddie doesn’t even know who she is, he doesn’t think he’s seen her before. They’re kissing right in front of Richie’s house. They’re not even hiding, they’re just there in plain sight. Eddie turns around immediately, feeling his lungs contract and his body shake.
He wishes he still wore his fanny pack because that would make so much easier for him to reach his inhaler. No matter how fast he turned around, the images are still there repeating inside his brain. The way Richie was pressing her against the wall, how eager they looked, his hand holding up her thigh, his lips… Jesus. Richie doesn’t. Richie doesn’t kiss like that. Richie can’t kiss like that. Eddie shakes his inhaler and puts it between his lips while he tries to breathe, repeating himself mentally ‘stop it, stop it, you’re not even truly asthmatic, asshole’ and triggering a couple of puffs right into his throat.
“Eddie, my man! You’re early. So eager to see me?” He hears Richie joke behind him. He takes a couple of seconds to breathe properly before he turns around again. There’s no girl to be seen, and it would almost look like Eddie imagined it all if it wasn’t for the way Richie’s lips look all puffy and red.
“Did you bring a girl over??” He asks in shock, and he almost sounds like a pissed off dad who just discovered his teen son threw a party home without permission. Richie looks taken aback for a moment, but then he laughs proudly and shrugs like it’s no big deal.
“Oh, you saw that. What can I say, I’m a charmer…” He jokes again, but Eddie is not having it, not today.
“So you have no little respect even for your own house. Like, like, what if your parents saw you? Huh? Right in front of your door!” He’s getting mad and he doesn’t know why, but he’s shaking. He’s furious. Like what Richie just did offends him in every possible way.
“What the fuck, Eds, you know my parents don’t give a sh—“
“Unbelievable. Unbelievable. Just…” Eddie throws his hands in the air and grunts, turning around again and walking away. There’s no good reason to do what he’s doing, but he can’t help it, his legs are moving and he can’t control them.
“Eddie!” Richie calls him in the distance. “Eds, what about the project?” Richie asks because, oh, yeah, that was the reason Eddie came to Richie’s house in the first place. Well, fuck the project. He should have known better than to bring a girl over and sucking her face in front of Eddie. Even if that doesn’t make any sense. Fuck.
“Don’t fucking call me Eds!” Eddie screams and he doesn’t even look back. He doesn’t want to see Richie’s face to confirm how crazy he’s acting right now.
He should be thankful Richie is the less resentful person in the whole wide world. He doesn’t even bring it up the next time they see each other at school. He just looks worried, maybe cautious, not saying much until Eddie starts talking to him like everything is normal. That’s all Richie needs to go back to the way he always is.
Eddie never catches him with another girl ever again.
That doesn’t mean Richie stops dating, Eddie is sure of that because the guys keep talking about girls more and more. It becomes a preferred topic over comics, games, and the rest of stuff. He’s the only one who keeps feeling grossed out when his friends talk about making out, touching, first base, second base. They’re good friends, though, because they never look at Eddie wrong, they don’t pressure him to do anything. It just becomes his thing, like how much he hates getting dirty or how afraid he is of catching a disease. Now they add the ‘Eddie is too much of a germaphobic to kiss a girl’ and they just roll with it. Eddie would correct them and say it’s not exactly like that, but he doesn’t know what exactly is, so he just leaves it be.
He just doesn’t think about it, girls. He thought about it for a while, at first, when all of his friends caught the girl fever. He thought maybe it would happen to him eventually, but it just didn’t, so he stopped worrying. Stan said something once about how Catholic priest never marry and must be celibates, and that made Eddie think maybe he was destined to be a Catholic priest, but that only lasted for, like, two days, and only took Richie joking about just jerking off to Jesus for the rest of your life for Eddie to get the thought out of his mind. It was like that for a while, just not thinking about the topic, and he was happy with it. Until he was forced to think about it again.
It was Bill’s seventeen birthday, and Mike said they could use the barn to throw a party. Eddie didn’t like parties too much. The whole idea of a bunch of people sharing breath and sweat in a closed room made him feel itchy. But it was a party for Bill, so that meant, as much as Bill had become a lot more popular than when they were kids, not too many people would attend. Of course, he would have preferred just a nice little party for the Losers, but it wasn’t his birthday, it was Bill’s.
They all helped clean up and prepare things, or they all did except Richie, who was just cracking jokes about what would happen when Beverly arrived at the party, asking Ben and Bill to fight for her in a duel.
“Bill is the birthday boy after all. It’d be rude to take her from him on his day,” Ben said. He didn’t need to fight for any girl’s attention. That’s all he got lately. He seemed pretty satisfied with it, though.
“Or, you know, maybe she could choose. Since she’s a person and has free will and everything,” Stand added. “Maybe she ditches you both and goes for Eddie.”
All the guys laughed, Eddie too. That would be awesome, although he’d feel bad for Bev. He doesn’t think it could happen for real anyway. Eddie doesn’t think anyone would choose him over Bill or Ben.
When people start to come, Eddie starts feeling a bit anxious. There are more people than he expected. He guesses a party is a party, after all, no matter the reason or the host. He has some fruit punch he knows is spiked just to see if that helps him feel more comfortable. It tastes weird and it doesn’t make him want to talk to random people like Richie said it would, but he feels like he cares less about what people can think of him, so he just stays in a corner talking to Stan because he’s the only one who feels the same about parties.
Beverly does come to the party. Her aunt had to come to Derry for a few days and she decided to come with her. It was really lucky to have it coincide with Bill’s birthday, although Eddie had preferred if it was just a normal day so they could all hang out down in the Barrens or at the Quarry. She’s smoking and her hair is different. Her face is different too and her body has changed. She looks older, somehow sophisticated, and way cooler than them. She’s still her friend, though, and they talk for a while before she goes to find the rest of the Losers, promising to hang out together the next day.
It gets boring after that, after Bev leaves and after Stan decides he’s going home early. He asks Eddie if he wants a ride home too, and Eddie regrets saying no because that means now he needs to wait for Richie or Bill to go home, and it doesn’t look like that will happen soon. He wishes he had his own car, but of course, his mom wouldn’t allow him to drive. Driving is too dangerous. Do you know how many people die in car crashes, Eddie-bear?
He opens a beer someone has brought and sits on the first empty couch he sees. He takes a sip and puts the beer down to never pick it up again. Fucking disgusting, he doesn’t understand how the hell his friends can drink that shit. It’s even worse than the punch. Half an hour passes and Eddie is honestly thinking about walking home when someone falls down on the couch by his side, putting an arm around him and smiling stupidly.
“Are you drunk??” Eddie asks. It wouldn’t surprise him. Richie is the kind of person who would do that. He was the first to smoke, he was the first to drink, Eddie is sure he’ll be the first to go into an alcoholic coma.
“Nope,” Richie answers with the same stupid smile on his face. Then he chuckles. “Maybe a little. Come on, Eddie-baby, don’t get mad at poor Richie. He’s just having some fuuuun.”
“So now you use the third person when you talk about yourself. What’s the next—“ Eddie stops talking when Richie gets closer. Too close. So close it makes Eddie gulp and breathes deep and fast, leaning back a little, his hand ready to reach his inhaler. Richie doesn’t do anything else, though. He just looks at Eddie. Looks at him closely. “What?”
“You have a lot of freckles on top of your nose. And over your cheeks,” Richie says with a chuckle. They’re so close. Eddie never thought Richie would pay attention to those things, Eddie never thought Richie would look at him like this. He feels self-conscious.
“Nice observation, dipshit. So what?” He asks defensively. Richie just chuckles even more, his stupid laugh sending shivers down Eddie’s spine.
“They’re cute.” It’s Richie’s voice as well as his smile what makes Eddie get all red and even more frustrated. Richie seems to like it. “You’re cute, but they make you even cuter now. You’re so cute I’d bite your cheeks, Eds.”
“Don’t call me Eds.” He’d like to sound firmer, but his body feels like pudding filled with chunks of ‘what the fuck is going on’. Richie feels warm near him, and that’s making Eddie’s temperature rise. Especially in one particular place.
“Why?” Richie asks, and that’s not what Eddie was expecting at all, but once again, Eddie doesn’t know what the hell he’s expecting. He must look as puzzled as he feels because Richie laughs and asks again. “Why can’t I call you Eds?”
“I… don’t…” Richie leans closer, so close it pokes Eddie’s cheek with his nose, so close Eddie can feel Richie’s breath on his skin.
“You don’t like it? Eds is cute. Just like you,” Richie moves again, and now he’s almost over Eddie, leg pressed against leg, Richie’s chest resting on Eddie’s arm and shoulder, Richie’s lips… “I’m gonna bite your cheek, Eds.”
“Hey, Eddie, do you need—“ Beverly’s voice startles him so bad Eddie jumps and moves away from Richie in less than a second. His heart is racing, pumping in his ears, and he doesn’t know how he’s managing to breathe right now. Maybe he’s not breathing. Yeah, that might be it. Maybe he’s dead. “Oh. Um. I just…” Beverly looks away and points back. “I’m leaving and I thought maybe you’d want a ride home?”
“Oh. Yes. Yes, sure. Okay. Okay, cool,” Eddie answers quickly, standing up almost as quick, bumping against Richie and walking to the door. “Bye, Richie,” he says without looking back. He even walks past Beverly and doesn’t wait for her to get out of the house. He needs fresh air. He needs… He needs to punch himself in the face.
The first thing he does when he finally gets out is reaching for his inhaler, putting it between his lips. He’s about to trigger it when he realizes something. He doesn’t need it. Maybe he’s still in shock, maybe he hasn’t had the time to freak out, but the thing is… he’s fine.
Okay, no, he’s not fine, he’s way far from being just fine, but he’s not freaking out and that’s something. He’s sure he will, though, the moment he gets home, he knows he will freak out. But now. Right now. Damn, right now Eddie feels like he’s in a fucking cloud. A weird as fuck cloud, so high it makes him dizzy and a little sick to his stomach, but a cloud.
“You ready?” Bev asks and Eddie jumps again. “Jesus, Eddie, chill,” she laughs and Eddie frowns.
“You should wear a bell.”
“And avoid walking on people in weird situations? No way.”