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Five Times Richie Kisses Eddie and One Time He Doesn’t Have To

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i.

The first time Richie kisses Eddie, it happens to be on a sunny Thursday afternoon in March.

“Truth or dare, Eddie,” Ben says from across the circle. Currently, all seven of the losers are in the Barrens, spending a much needed day off from their senior year together. They sit cross-legged, knee to knee, in the midst of the grass, talking and playing games. However, when Bev had suggested they play truth or dare, Eddie was less than thrilled. But Richie dragged him down in the circle and forced him to play. It’s not that he’s embarrassed to admit something to his friends, it’s how close in proximity Richie is to him. It makes him feel the need to keep his hand tightly grasped around his inhaler just in case his lungs suddenly decide to give out.

“Truth,” Eddie blurts without thinking. Good job, numb nuts, he thinks to himself. Now you’ll for sure be embarrassed.

Ben, being the sweet person he is, can’t think of anything truly embarrassing to ask Eddie. Or anyone for that matter. So he simply says, “Who was your first kiss with?”

Eddie’s eyes widen so that his whole iris can be seen. He actually does begin to panic a little. He brings the inhaler to his mouth to take a puff, but thinks better of it.

“C-c’mon, Eddie,” Bill says from the other side of Richie. “It c-c-can’t be th-that ba-had.”

Eddie draws in a shaky breath and looks up to the sky to avoid eye contact with anyone. “I’ve never actually, you know, kissed anyone before?” It comes out as a question even though he’s entirely certain of the fact. He expects teasing in any and all forms, but none comes.

But Richie does say, “Wait, really?”

It’s a valid question, but it causes Eddie to get angry. “No, Rich. You’re on fucking Candid Camera. There’s a hidden camera over there.” He points off towards one of the bushes in the area, but nobody looks. He rolls his eyes and stands from the ground, brushing off his jeans. He has to consciously keep himself from running from his friends. He hears Mike and Stan shouting at the rest of the group things like “Good job” and “Way to fucking go.” He gets all the way to Kansas Street and his bike before he hears someone coming after him.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Eds,” Richie says, cresting the hill. He bends over, hands on his knees to catch his breath. “For a little guy, you sure move fast.”

Eddie works his bike out from the heap the losers made with their bikes. “I’m aerodynamic,” he says sarcastically. “And don’t call me that.” He finally gets his bike out and he starts to push it away when Richie grabs his wrist.

“Hold on,” he says, face completely serious. “Why did you run?”

“I didn’t want to get made fun of. I know everyone else down there has had their first kiss and it just sucked,” Eddie responds quietly.

They are both silent for a while. Finally, Richie speaks up: “You must think we’re pretty shitty friends.”

“What?” Eddie asks, thoroughly confused. “Of course not.”

“Then why would you think we’d make fun of you for something as trivial as a kiss?” Richie responds. He takes a step closer to Eddie and puts his hand on the handlebar of his bike. Their fingers end up overlapping and Eddie feels like he actually can’t breathe. “I could- I could teach you.”

Eddie’s head snaps up at break-neck speed. “What?” he asks again stupidly.

“I could teach you to, um, how to kiss,” Richie says. Eddie almost doesn’t believe his eyes when Richie turns the exact same shade of red as the tomatoes in his mother’s garden.

“You would do that? Is this some kind of joke?” Eddie is suddenly on the defensive. Typical Richie, he thinks, always trying to pull a fast one.

“What? No. I’m being serious,” Richie responds, the honesty in his voice making Eddie shiver. “Just close your eyes. I’ll do the first one.”

Eddie does as told and shuts his eyes. He can feel his heartbeat everywhere. His fingertips, his ears, his nose, even his knees. He senses Richie getting closer and he thinks his lungs actually will stop working. After all this time of harboring a crush on his best friend, it was finally going somewhere. Even though that somewhere was “kissing lessons” because Richie felt bad for Eddie. He felt Richie’s breath on his lips just before the distance was closed.

His first kiss was… awkward to say the least. He didn’t know what to do with his hands, so he kept them firmly planted on his handlebars. All he did know was to keep his eyes closed, so he did. The kiss was essentially Richie touching Eddie’s lips with his own and holding them there for a few seconds. Regardless of how strange and how short it was, Eddie walked away from the Barrens with a dopey smile etched onto his face.

ii.

The second time Richie kisses Eddie happens only a day later.

All seven losers plus Mike’s boyfriend Sam are gathered around the TV in Eddie’s living room after school watching movies that Bev rented. He, Richie, and Stan take up the couch. Mike and Sam are squished into the large chair that Eddie’s mother usually inhabits. Bev, Ben, and Bill sit on the floor in front of the couch, Bill leaning against Stan’s legs. Snack bowls and drink cans were strewn about the room even though they had yet to start a movie.

The first one Bev picked was one called Dial M for Murder. The movie doesn’t sit well with Eddie. He watches on in muted discomfort as a man plots to kill his wife but doesn’t succeed. Eddie absently grabs at Richie’s arm when the man’s hired murderer gets stabbed with a pair of scissors. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Richie look at him with amusement.

The second movie is House on Haunted Hill. Eddie recognizes the main character is played by Vincent Prince. He was the actor who starred in House of Wax, a movie his cousin had forced him to watch that scarred him for life. He can only feel gratitude for Sam as he makes comments throughout the whole thing about how every special effect was done. He buries his head in Richie’s shoulder so he doesn’t have to look at the body of a wealthy woman dangling from the ceiling. Richie shifts so that Eddie can comfortably hide without craning his neck.

Lastly, and most out of character for Bev, she chose Singin’ in the Rain. This is a movie Eddie can get behind. All of his friends laugh and even sing along sometimes. In the last scene, he watches as Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly himself share a kiss in front of the sign advertising their film.

After three consecutive movies, Ben and Stan decide to call for pizza. Bev and Bill race for the bathroom, Bev claiming that her “lady issues” take precedence over Bill.

“C-come on, Bev,” he protests. “I di-hidn’t need to know th-th-that!”

Eddie rolls his eyes and laughs as he makes his way to the back porch for a breath of fresh air. It’s only a matter of seconds before the porch door slams again and Richie joins him, a cigarette dangling from his lips. Eddie leans against the railing and watches the sun stain the sky orange and pink as it sets. The two are silent as Richie lights up. Eddie can tell that his best friend is watching him.

“Penny for your thoughts?” he asks, a cloud of smoke rising from his mouth.

“Oh, nothing important,” Eddie responds, not bothering to take his eyes off the skyline. There is nothing farther from the truth. Eddie is currently thinking about the kiss from Singin’ in the Rain and the kiss Richie gave him and just how badly he wants to kiss Richie again. He looks over to see Richie staring at him. “What? Is there something on my face?”

Richie stamps out the butt of his cigarette on the porch and steps closer to Eddie. “Come off it, Eds. I’ve known you since the diaper days. You’re thinking about something important. I can see the smoke coming out of your ears.” The sentiment along with Richie’s matching hand gestures make Eddie laugh.

Then he realizes just how close Richie has gotten. He feels his eyes drop to his best friend’s lips and flick back to his eyes. This time, Eddie’s eyes are open when Richie kisses him, but soon they flutter closed. It’s better than the last time because Eddie actually has an idea what’s supposed to happen. Although, Eddie has no idea where to put his hands. Richie grabs at them and puts them on his waist. Eddie gasps as his fingers accidentally slip under the hem of Richie’s t-shirt. Richie laughs against his lips and pecks Eddie once more before quickly drawing away.

Eddie’s eyes are still closed dreamily when he says, “Let’s go back inside.”

Richie chuckles. “Yeah, sure, Eds. I’m sure the pizza will be here soon.” He puts an arm around Eddie’s shoulders and starts heading for the front door.

Eddie subconsciously snuggles into Richie’s side. “Don’t call me that.”

Richie brings out his mobster Voice: “Whatever you say, boss.”

iii.

The third time that Richie kisses Eddie, it’s by accident.

The two, along with Mike and Sam, had decided to go to the arcade after school one day. Eddie was having fun despite the arcade being a cesspool of germs. The group had more or less broken up as soon as they stepped in the door so they could each play what they wanted to. Eddie had looked at a few of the consoles and decided to play Frogger, something that seemed a little more his speed than the fighting games that Richie is so fond of or the racing games that Mike dominates.

The first few times he plays are duds, his high score only reaching nine. But this time, luck seems to be on his side. He keeps getting more and more. It doesn’t last very long, but now his high score is forty-two! He tries one more time, fitting his last quarter into the slot. He took a deep breath to focus and started to play.

During this game is when a young girl comes up to the machine to call next and sees how well Eddie is doing. “Wow!” she exclaims. “Good job!”

Eddie barely registers that she’s spoken and continues to play while mumbling a ‘thanks’. The girl runs to her big brother to report how well this boy is doing. He walks over to the machine with her, eyes the near-triple-digit number on the screen, and gets his best friend to watch. Soon, a small crowd has gathered around Eddie to watch him play. The word had spread all around the arcade to the point that most of the patrons and even the freckly teenager running the prize counter had come to witness Eddie’s impossible game.

Richie, Mike, and Sam had caught up and were looking for Eddie when they saw the huge commotion in the center of the arcade. Richie asks one of the kids in the back what’s going on.

“This kid is totally demolishing Frogger!” he responds enthusiastically. “Woo!”

Richie muscles his way forward to see if he can find Eddie somewhere in the crowd. He looks down at the people’s faces, not seeing his best friend anywhere. And then, he’s at the front of the crowd and spots him. At the console.

“Go Eddie!” Richie says, breaking out of his stupor. He shouts and whoops, the crowd following suit.

None of this seems to phase Eddie. He just keeps playing, the score rising into the 4-digit territory. All he does is concentrate and hope that his butterfingers won’t accidentally screw this up. He plays for another ten minutes without messing up. The crowd starts up a chant of his name, Richie, Sam, and Mike leading the pack: “Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die!” He smiles, but still doesn’t chance a look up.

Finally, he messes up and causes the frog to lose one of his lives. The crowd makes a mixture of noises, an “ooh!” or a hiss expelled through the teeth. Eddie isn’t stopping though, because he’s got two lives left. The number in the corner of the screen flicks to 5 digits, making everyone absolutely lose their minds.

He messes up again, causing himself to only have one life left. Now he begins to get nervous as the crowd of watchers literally bite at their nails. The score is now 6 digits long and everyone is in awe. He’s already beaten the high score, it’s just a matter of by how much.

He messes up one final time and it’s game over. Even though he lost, the crowd cheers, chanting his name once more. He turns around and pumps his fist in the air, shouting, “Hell yeah!” Mike and Sam rush over to life him on their shoulders as the chanting continues. When they let him down, the machine is still spitting out his massively long chain of tickets.

One of the little boys who had fronted the crowd says, “Mister, you gotta put your name in!” and points at the screen. There’s a cursor blinking in front of his score, a whopping 432,189, for three characters. Eddie thinks momentarily of putting his initials in, but then catches a glimpse of Richie smiling encouragingly at him and types in EDS.

The crowd begins to disperse, some leaving, other going back to their games. Sam and Mike bunch up Eddie’s tickets in their arms and start to feed them into the counting machine. Richie runs towards him and scoops him up, spinning him twice until he’s giggling.

“Amazing!” Richie shouts. He looks Eddie in the eyes and places his hands on either side of his face, planting a kiss on his mouth. This one lasts only six seconds, maybe seven, but it feels like an eternity to Eddie. Richie’s lips are warm and only slightly chapped. They both open their mouths, Richie’s tongue slipping inside. Eddie can taste the cigarettes and sugary banana chewing gum that he’s so fond of. They both pull away at the same time, Richie going red in the face. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

Eddie cuts him off, “No. It was…” Fantastic, amazing, exhilarating, his mind supplies. More, his heart interjects. But aloud he only says, “nice.” They grin at each other before Richie slings arm around Eddie’ neck and ruffles his hair. “Stop it, you dickwad!”

Richie raises his arms in surrender, but sends a wink his way. Then he turns towards the two boyfriends still counting. “Mike! Sammy! What’s the hold up? The Frogger King needs his prize!” Eddie just rolls his eyes as he feels his heart grow.

iv.

The fourth time Richie kisses Eddie, a month has passed.

It’s nearing one in the morning when Eddie hears the soft tapping against his window. He forces his eyes open and blinks a few time, an attempt to make himself less sleepy. He focuses his ears, listening for the sound to happen again. When it does and he’s sure the noise wasn’t a product of his semi-conscious state, he raises from the bed, taking the duvet with him and pulls his blinds apart to peek outside. There, standing in his yard is a tall, lanky figure that Eddie knows all too well.

He cracks the window open and whisper shouts at the curly-headed person, “What the fuck are you doing?”

“Can I come up?” Richie whisper shouts back, a slight strain in his voice. That irregularity instantly puts Eddie on edge. He nods and shuts the window before dropping his blanket and rushing down the steps to the front door. His best friend stands on the porch as he opens the door and ushers him inside. Eddie notices immediately that Richie is curled in on himself, shoulders tight and arms hugged to his midsection. His brow is furrowed also.

“Come on,” Eddie says, extending his hand. Richie takes it, allowing himself to be led up the stairs and into Eddie’s room. He kicks off his ratty sneakers and lays on the bed, knees drawn into his chest and eyes shut painfully tightly. Eddie climbs in next to him, urging him to scoot towards the headboard so he can cover the both of them. Richie does so with the least amount of movement he can get away with and it worries Eddie. His best friend, usually a loudmouthed, vivacious, and energetic person, seemed to be ill in one respect or another. “Do you want to talk about whatever happened?”

Richie's only response was to nestle into Eddie’s side, placing his head on Eddie’s chest. Eddie is shocked and wills his heartbeat to slow so Richie doesn’t hear it, but still places his hand on his best friend’s head. He slowly runs his fingers through the curls and hopes that it’s calming. Now that there’s so much contact between the two of them, Eddie can feel Richie’s trembling and realizes that he’s crying. That’s when he starts to panic internally.

Richie begins to speak before he can do anything, his voice gravelly and thick with tears: “My mom was out again tonight. She came home drunk off her ass and stumbling around the front yard. I had to get her inside like usual, but this time she was so drunk I literally had to force her into her bed. My dad- my dad didn’t even care, he just stayed asleep.” Eddie grabs his hand, intertwining their fingers, as Richie takes a shuddering breath before continuing. “I asked her if she new my name or even who I was and she just looked at me. She finally said “You’re my nephew, right? Randy? Robert? Roger?” I- I went off on her.” He lets out a strangled sob.

“Shh, shh,” Eddie shushes him. “You don’t have to tell me.”

But Richie just keeps talking through his tears: “I told her she had to get her act together, that she was so hammered she didn’t know her own fucking son, and that at some point I’m not going to be there and dad doesn’t give enough of a shit to make sure she hasn’t choked on her own vomit. She started to cry and I ran like a damn coward.”

“Look at me, Richie,” Eddie says, a stern tone filling his voice. He forces two fingers under Richie’s chin to make him look up with his big, beautiful, brown eyes and even bigger glasses. Eddie removes these before speaking and wipes away a tear with his thumb. “You are not a coward. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a mother who cares. Until she gets her shit together, you’ve got Ben, Bev, Mike, Bill, me, hell, you’ve even got Stan.” Richie chuckles a little and sniffles. “We’ll be your family because we love you.” Because I love you, he thinks.

“Can I kiss you?” Richie asks suddenly. Eddie nods, not fully in control of his actions but not disagreeing with them either. Richie pushes himself up farther and places his lips delicately on Eddie’s. He can feel the slight waver still in Richie’s and pushes himself to be confident.

This kiss is slow and sweet and lasts for what feels like hours. Eddie puts a hand to Richie’s cheek and wipes away remnants of tears. He tastes the salt from them on Richie’s lips. This one is the gentlest of the kisses the two have shared. From both of them, there are only tender lip touches and quick pulses pounding at their throats. They kiss until they can’t breathe and must pull away from each other, but not completely. Their breaths mingle together as they gaze at one another, full attention on the other person.

“We should go to sleep,” Eddie says, his voice coming out in a whisper. They adjust themselves so that they’re laying flat in the bed. Richie’s head is still on Eddie’s chest, but this time his heart beats only slightly above his average rate. They wrap their arms around each other, a reminder that they’ll be together for the night.

“Goodnight, Eds,” Richie says sleepily.

“Goodnight, Rich,” Eddie replies, eyes shuttering closed.

v.

The fifth time Richie kisses Eddie, they’re not alone.

The losers club and Sam are gathered in Bill’s dining room, preparing for game night. The monthly tradition that had started in their youth had become a staple in their lives. It got brutal and always competitive between the teens, especially as they got older and smarter. This month, it’s Bill’s turn to host and supply food.

Outside, the rain is pouring down in sheets. It puts Eddie on edge, being in this house while it’s storming outside like that. He shivers as he watches out the window.

“Eddie!” Bev calls. “We’re about to start and you’re on my team. Get in here!”

Eddie shoots one final look at the water streaming down the road towards the drain, a chill creeping up his spine, and turns to join his friends. They play through a game of charades, Sam and Ben winning by about ten points, before the thunder starts. Eddie, Bill, and Mike jump, taken by surprise at the sudden sharp noise.

“Ooh, I hate that,” Mike remarks uneasily. Everybody chuckles tensely, Sam included, because they all know. The pain is still fresh for some, but what they went through when they were eleven scares everyone. Eddie can feel his face contort into an expression of grim remembrance.

“Let’s keep going,” Richie interjects into everyone’s thoughts. When Eddie looks up, Richie is staring at him. His eyebrow shoots up in question: Alright?

Eddie nods subtly as he is dealt a hand of cards for Go Fish. He is winning significantly, six pairs on the table in front of him, when a flash of lightning lights the windows. Eddie’s eyes grow to the size of saucers and his breaths quicken to the point of near hyperventilation. He knows he’s being irrational but he can’t help thinking of the horrible things that happened some seven years ago. It’s just a storm, Kaspbrak, he has to remind himself. We killed It. Nothing more to worry about.

“Eddie, are you okay?” Stan asks.

Eddie’s eyes are clenched shut as he lets out the last of his labored breaths. “Yeah. Yes. I’m fine. Just a little- jumpy.” Nobody at the table believes him, but they don’t want to work him up into an asthma attack, so they let it go. Eddie ends up winning having gone out with eight groups on the table. Richie jokingly accuses him of cheating before reaching across Bill to ruffle his hair.

Ben checks his watch. “Almost nine-thirty. Do we want to play one more game?”

“Yeah,” Bill says, grabbing for the Battleship box. “You’re all welcome to stay the night.” There are choruses of “thanks” and “sounds good” as a few people rise momentarily to call their parents. When everyone is back at the table, they split into teams of two. Bill, Ben, Eddie, and Sam on one team, Stan, Bev, Richie, and Mike on the other. This game lasts the longest because no one can sink anything on Eddie’ team. It was Ben’s idea to cluster all their ships together since not one person on the other team would guess their strategy.

Everyone’s less jumpy and more involved in the game when the power goes out. Eddie immediately cannot breathe as his mind fills with the nightmares that usually only haunt him in the wee hours of the morning. He swears he can hear the drip drip drip of the gray water in the sewers. He’s not sure if he screams or not, but if he had to bet he’d say yes. He shuts his eyes tighter than ever before and grabs at the table edge with a death grip. He distantly hears his friends shouting for him to look at them, to snap out of it, but he can’t. There is a shout from Richie for someone to grab his backpack and Eddie can hear him rustling around in it for something. He briefly lets go of the table and searches frantically for his inhaler in his pants pockets, in his hoodie, in the fanny pack he still carried, panicking more when he can’t find it, envisioning it in his mind’s eye on the table in the entry hallway. In the back of his memory, the image of his leper comes up and he hears the laugh of It, taunting him. He sees all the blood, his friends hurt, the leper, the werewolf, the mummy, Georgie-

“Eddie!” Richie’s voice commands. He doesn’t open his eyes but feels Richie’s hand delicately touch the back of his head and jams the spout of an inhaler in his mouth. He pushes the trigger once, twice, three times and waits for Eddie’s breathing to start again. “Eddie, open your eyes.”

He opens them slowly. In his panic and confusion, someone must have brought out candles because there are two lit on the table. It’s a miracle he didn’t knock them over and set the whole fucking house on fire. He glances around nervously at all of his friends. Stan is crying silently and he sees Bev is too. Mike is breathing about the same pace as he is, which is to say far too quickly to be healthy. Finally, his eyes slide to best friend. Richie grabs at his hands and puts them on his chest. “Feel my breathing. C’mon, Eds.”

But Eddie just can’t. “I-I-I saw It. I heard It! What if we didn’t kill It? What if It’s still down there, lurking and biding It’s time before another kill? What if another kid gets snatched? What if it’s one of us? God, I can’t of this again. I’m losing my fucking mind! What if-”

Suddenly, Richie’s lips are on Eddie’s. He doesn’t understand why, but it effectively shuts him up. This kiss only lasts a few moments, but it does the job. Eddie is breathing normally and his heart no longer feels like it’s about to take the jump. Richie is a constant in Eddie’s life and that thought calms him considerably. “Okay?”

“Yeah,” Eddie says. When Richie shoots his eyebrow up skeptically, he adds, “I mean it this time. Do you carry my spare inhaler?” Eddie can’t help but ask. 

“Just in case,” Richie responds, he notices that he hasn’t let go of his hands.

When Eddie looks around a second time, everyone in the room has a look of mild shock on the faces. “What?” This breaks everyone out of their gaping stance as they rush to sit down or leave the room entirely and say “nothing, nothing” as they scratch the back of their necks. Eddie shakes his head at them. “Sorry for freaking out.”

“We get it,” Stan says, his voice still tight with tears. He walks towards Eddie and wraps him in a blindingly tight hug. “We’re here for you though. Talk to us, don’t bottle it up. You’re not a burden.” The others pile in for the hug and for the first time in his life since fifth grade, he feels truly safe.

+1

Graduation creeps up unexpectedly on the losers and when it finally does come, they aren’t the least bit prepared. Yes, they know where they’re going to college and what they are studying, but they aren’t ready for the drastic change in their way of life.

This is all that Eddie thinks about as he poses with his various aunts, cousins, and even his grandma as his mother snaps pictures of him in his graduation cap and gown. After what feels like the fiftieth picture, he snaps, “Mom! I told my friends I’d meet them in ten minutes on the other side of town to take pictures. I’ll see you at the ceremony.” He feels bad for blowing up at his mother, so he gives her a quick peck on the cheek before removing his robe, leaving the house, and laying it along with the mortarboard delicately in the backseat of his car.

He drives to the newly constructed bridge over the lake and parks. He can hear his friends in the distance, laughing and shouting, enjoying the last official moments of their youth. Eddie smiles a bittersweet grin as he grabs his cap and gown to join his friends. He crosses to the middle of the bridge when Stan and Richie spot him.

“Fucking finally!” his best friend says. “Eddie Spaghetti is here now!” The loud announcement has gotten the attention of the rest of his friends. He takes the time to look over all the beautiful formal outfits the losers club has picked out.

Bev rushes over to give him a hug. She’s wearing a delicate, form-fitting red gown that drops to her knees. The off-shoulder straps allow everyone to see the heavy dusting of freckles that cover them and with her black pumps on, she’s the same height as Eddie. “You look beautiful,” he whispers into her ear.

“You look snazzy, too,” she replies once she lets go. She yanks playfully on the spring green tie his mother picked out. “Look at you, matching with trashmouth.” Eddie’s eyes dart to Richie who is still standing by Stan and immediately lock onto the near identical bowtie he’s wearing.

“Unintentional,” Eddie says to Bev. She just smirks at him and walks away. He looks around once more, noting that Mike, Stan, and Bill are all wearing black suits with pristine white dress shirts, the only difference being their tie colors. Ben looks dapper in his navy blue suit accompanied by a baby blue dress shirt and cerulean bowtie.

“Alright, ladies, let’s get this show on the road!” Sam calls out, brandishing a camera and gesturing for them to get in one spot. He offered to take pictures for his boyfriend and their friends even because he had graduated a year earlier.

All the losers put on their caps and gowns for the first picture. They stand in a line looking at the camera and smiling. After one nice picture, it all goes to shit. All of them had removed their graduation garb. Somehow, Bev ended up giving Stan a piggyback ride, Mike and Ben were threatening to throw Richie over the edge of the bridge into the lake below, and Bill and Eddie had ditched their suit jackets due to the increasing heat, their suspenders hanging limply by their sides. All the while, Sam’s camera clicking can be heard.

“One more, one more!” Sam shouts. The losers regroup and stand in the same formation as before, though a little more bright eyed and smiles a little wider. The camera snaps once more before Sam instructs them to get to the auditorium before they’re late. The losers split up between the three cars, Sam taking Mike, Bill taking Stan, Bev, and Ben, and Eddie taking Richie. They take their sweet time loading their gowns into the backseat of Eddie’s car and are the last set to leave.

Before either can get in the car, Richie speaks up: “You look really good. Handsome, I mean.” His hands are buried deep in his pockets and eyes downcast, but Eddie can see the blush lighting his best friends’s cheekbones.

“Thanks, Rich,” Eddie replies, struggling to keep his own blush from showing. “You clean up good.” Their eyes meet over the car and Eddie feels an overwhelming surge of emotions for Richie. The words are tumbling from his lips before he can stop them: “What are we?”

Richie has a deer in the headlights look in his eyes, caught with no chance of escape. “What do you want to be?”

Eddie rounds the front of his car so they can speak properly to one another. “I asked you first.”

His best friend takes in a deep, grounding breath before speaking. “Honestly? So much more than friends.” He lets out a breathy, nervous laugh that makes Eddie feel all sorts of things. “I’ve had the biggest, gayest crush on you for God knows how long and I’ve never had the balls to talk to you about it and the “kissing lessons?” Yeah, can’t say I’m proud of that one. I just didn’t know how to get your attention and I did the only thing that I could think of on the spot. I’m really sorry that I took advantage of you like that, but I’m not sorry that I finally got to kiss you. Wow, I’m making this a lot worse and I cannot stop talking-”

“Oh, shut up, you big idiot,” Eddie says lovingly, having heard enough and pulling Richie towards him by the lapel. He kisses his best friend with as much energy as he can muster. Hands fisted in Richie’s jacket, Eddie is finally the same height as his gangly friend. Richie grabs Eddie by the suspenders and drags him even closer, a hand drifting upwards to caress Eddie’s cheek. Eddie nips at Richie’s lower lip, gaining access to his mouth in the process. He tastes like cigarettes, as always, but underneath that is the taste of mint. When they finally come up for air, they’re both gasping. Eddie leans his forehead against Richie’s, breathing in the same breaths. “You’ve always had my attention. It was you I thought was unattainable. And there’s nothing for you to be sorry about. Jesus, all this fucking round and round and we could’ve been dating this whole time.”

“You want to date me?” Richie asks incredulously.

“Of course,” Eddie says simply. He places another, shorter kiss on Richie’s lips before returning to his side of the car. “Let’s get going. My mom would actually kill me if we skipped.” The two climb into Eddie’s car, driving towards the high school. Richie carefully intertwines their fingers, receiving a huge grin from Eddie. Even though they are about to officially graduate and be free to do as they please in the world, they are certain about one thing and one thing only: that they will be together.

And for now, that’s enough.