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The Writing on Your Skin

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Richie gets his first tattoo the day after he turns sixteen.

It’s a horrible idea, at least according to literally everyone Richie knows. Stan still reluctantly makes him a fake ID as a birthday present - Richie dutifully pretends to be surprised as if he hadn’t been harassing Stan about it for months - and the guy at the tattoo shop barely even glances at it before taking Richie’s cash and letting him in. It’s one of the main perks of Richie being so damn tall, other than the personal satisfaction of making Eddie have to jump to give him a high-five.  

Even with a fake ID, no one would ever let Eddie Kaspbrak into a tattoo shop. Only partially because he’s tiny and adorable; Richie would’ve painted a fake mustache on him or something if he didn’t think Eddie would spend the whole time lecturing him on needles and the illegality of underage tattooing. As it is, Richie’s already endured at least two impassioned rants a night since he brought the whole thing up. Richie goes in alone, hears his phone chime again and again while the guy goes at him with the needle and wonders if it’s Stan asking about the ID or Eddie sending him more pictures of infected tattoos.

By the time Richie gets to Bill’s house, his right arm is sore and he has ten gnarly looking images on his phone courtesy of Eddie as well as two links to a tattoo removal clinic, which is pretty fucking unfair since Eddie hasn’t even seen his masterpiece yet.  

Eddie is, of course, the first face to greet him, standing in Bill’s foyer looking stern and more than a little nervous.

“You know, as my boyfriend I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be supportive of all my decisions.” Richie says, immediately reaching for Eddie and placing a sloppy kiss on his forehead.

“Actually, as your boyfriend I’m supposed to keep you from making stupid ones.” Eddie counters, pushing Richie away, “So far I’m not doing so great.”

Richie grins, listening for where the rest of his friends are chatting away in the living room, so far oblivious to Richie’s grand entrance. He pulls Eddie back to him. 

“You can see it first,” He says quietly, and notices how Eddie’s face twitches in that way it does when he’s trying to seem disinterested. “If you want.”

It’s a cheap trick, but it works. Eddie reaches for Richie’s arm, pulling up the sleeve to expose the white gauze on the inside of his bicep. He traces his fingers along the skin around it, slightly pink but otherwise fine, and feels a little thrill at the thought of being the one to unveil whatever monstrosity Richie’s decided to ink onto his body. It could be anything, knowing Richie. Last week he said it was going to be a snail with Ben’s face but Eddie thinks - hopes - that was a joke. He starts peeling back the gauze gently, aware of how close Richie’s face has gotten, waiting to see Eddie’s reaction. Eddie sees a neat looking y appear, and breathes out a sigh of relief that it’s not the snail, a portrait of Bill, or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. He keeps pulling back the wrapping.

“Richie Tozier,” Eddie begins, voice remarkably even as he tosses the gauze to the floor with a little more force than necessary. “You have got to be the biggest fucking idiot I have ever met in my entire life.”

Richie’s first tattoo, written in neat black lettering on his right, inner bicep:

your mom

 

***

 

The second tattoo comes three weeks later. It’s a ballsy move considering everyone pretty much universally hates his first one, but Richie is nothing if not determined and full of bad ideas. Eddie, especially, seems to hold a grudge against Richie’s right arm. He’s glaring when Richie walks out the door and is still squinty-eyed and glaring when Richie comes back, slamming the door to Eddie’s room shut behind him.

“Well, what can I expect this time around?” Eddie is resolutely staring at Richie’s face and not trying to scope out the new tattoo. “Some more outdated jokes?”

“Outdated!” Richie scoffs. “Please, you know my ‘your mom’ jokes are fucking hilarious.”

To you!

“As a matter of fact, I got something different this time, Eddie Spaghetti.” Richie takes a step towards Eddie and then pauses, fingers toying with the hem of his t-shirt. “It’s a little more personal.”

“A trashcan?” Eddie guesses, laughing when Richie flips him off.

“See for yourself, Eds.”

Before Eddie can open his mouth to tell Richie not to fucking call him that , Richie’s pulled his shirt up and over his head. Eddie falters for a second, face heating up as Richie just stands there, shirtless and smug and not exactly horrible looking. His hair is extra messy from catching on the collar of his shirt, glasses a little askew. It should look ridiculous. It does, a little, but Eddie’s mouth still goes dry. It takes a few seconds before Eddie even notices the gauze along Richie’s hip, low enough to just barely not dip into the waistband of his jeans. 

“That’s a stupid place for a tattoo.” Eddie says finally, looking off somewhere to Richie’s left. “If it gets infected your dick could fall off.”

“I’d never do that to you, Eddie baby.” Richie coos, then yelps when Eddie kicks his foot out and catches him in the shin.

It feels different when Eddie takes off the bandaging this time. More personal , like Richie said. Eddie puts one hand on the gauze, the other against Richie’s opposite hip to keep balance. It’s far from the first time Eddie’s had his hand on Richie’s skin, but his palms start to sweat a little anyways. Richie’s almost always running around without a shirt on but rarely like this , when he and Eddie are alone - when they’re in Eddie’s bedroom .

It’s not exactly the worst thing to happen to Eddie. 

“Oh,” Eddie breathes, dropping the bandaging and dragging his fingertips along the new tattoo, watching as Richie’s stomach clenches. “It’s not that bad.”

It’s acoustic guitar, small and understated, and a million times better than the fucking your mom tattoo.

Richie has a real guitar that he swears he’s going to master someday. So far, his musical education mostly consists of fucking around and strumming loudly until Bill asks him to stop, but every so often he’ll actually learn a song and play it for Eddie when no one’s around. Eddie loves it, even when Richie forgets half the chords or has to stop every few seconds to think about what comes next. The tattoo is the same muted colors as Richie’s actual guitar, but it’s still vibrant on Richie’s skin, there and visible and obvious. It could be so much worse, Eddie thinks. Given Richie’s propensity of bright colors, it could be neon green or leopard print - it could be the damn portrait of Bill that Richie keeps promising. Eddie fully plans on going over the dangers of unregulated ink once Richie sits down, but it suddenly seems a whole lot less pressing. 

“I knew you’d like it.” Richie says, smirking down at Eddie.

“I don’t,” Eddie lies, knows Richie knows he’s lying. “You’re going to get a staph infection, probably.” 

Richie fully plans on saying something that will make Eddie kick him again, but then Eddie’s grabbing him by the neck and pulling him down , kissing him.

Eddie’s always been a good kisser. It’s one of the many unfair advantages he holds over Richie. Everything about him is soft and intense - Richie can’t even complain that Eddie’s mostly just kissing him to shut him up, not when he feels Eddie’s tongue brush against his lower lip. The angle is off, and Richie’s neck is going to hurt like a motherfucker if they keep at it too long, but then Eddie lifts up onto his tiptoes, tightening his hold on Richie’s neck, his other hand still fluttering around Richie’s hip. 

“I knew you’d like it.” Richie says again. Eddie makes a little sound of protest and puts his tongue back in Richie’s mouth.

And just like that Richie is on fire . His hands find Eddie’s small waist, spinning them around so he can press Eddie back against the wall. He slaps both of his hands on either side of Eddie’s head, the noise startling Eddie enough that Richie knows he’s thinking about pulling back to tell him to be quiet. Instead, Eddie’s teeth catch on Richie’s lip and tug. It’s easier for Richie to really kiss back like this, braced against the wall and leaning down to Eddie’s level. Richie shifts so he can kiss along Eddie’s jaw, then smacks a messy kiss on Eddie’s cheek that makes them both giggle.

Eddie grabs Richie’s face and yanks until their mouths meet again. Richie shifts until he can feel the softness of Eddie’s t-shirt against his skin, Eddie’s one hand still on Richie’s hip, pressed deeper now in a way that kind of hurts but mostly makes Richie’s brain short-circuit. Richie pushes his hip further into Eddie’s hand and feels more than hears the breathy noise Eddie makes.

They’re quickly approaching the point where the Rapture could begin and Richie would be hard pressed to notice, but that’s what makes it glaringly obvious when Eddie’s grip on Richie loosens and his returning enthusiasm starts to dip. Richie pauses against Eddie’s slack mouth and opens his eyes to find Eddie’s already open, side-eyeing Richie’s arm.

“What?” Richie asks, mouth still pressed up on Eddie’s.

“Your your mom tattoo is eye-level with me and it’s making me want to murder you.”  

Richie laughs, delighted by the scrunch of Eddie’s little nose.

“Suck it up, Kaspbrak. Just focus on my sick abs instead.” He puckers up his lips and leans in only to be stopped by a hand to the chest.

“I refuse to make out with anyone is delusional enough to think that’s a good tattoo.” Eddie says, as if he hadn’t been doing just that. His hand keeps blocking Richie from moving closer. He actually had planned on kissing him again until Richie told him to suck it up; now he’s just being contrary. “So sorry, Trashmouth.” 

Richie whines pitifully, pulling away from Eddie and reaching for his shirt on Eddie’s floor. He slips it back on, effectively covering both tattoos, and Eddie has a moment of mourning for the loss of Richie’s bare hips. Richie lifts his eyebrows in question, scuffing his shoes against Eddie’s floor, and waits for his cue.

“Fine,” Eddie decides, reaching a hand out. “Get back over here.”

Richie goes.

 

***

 

There’s no one to blame for the next tattoo, except maybe Bev, a little. She basically encouraged Richie, if encouraged means shrugging noncommittally and saying, “could be cool.”

Even without Bev’s help, Richie probably would’ve ended up here anyways: sitting in his boxers on the bedroom floor, foot dunked in a tub aloe vera while he lights an emergency cigarette and unsubtly dodges Eddie’s questioning texts. Saturdays are usually spent with the rest of the Losers, or at the very least Bill and Eddie. Richie has been suspiciously vague about his plans all day and has received increasingly worried feedback from Eddie in return. Richie only ever acts this way when he’s planning some sort of surprise, and Eddie’s had more than his fair share of experience with Richie’s surprises. They’re usually received with wildly mixed reactions, the most common being abject horror and humiliation. 

Richie’s planning on holding up in his bedroom for another few hours until Ben messages him a good-natured hope you can make it to the quarry today text accompanied by a picture of Eddie laid out in the sun, doe-eyed and smiling.

“Fuck,” Richie whines and lunges for a roll of gauze, quickly wrapping up his ankle. Leave it to Ben to play dirty and use Eddie’s adorable fucking face to lure Richie outside.

By the time Richie makes it to the quarry, Bill, Mike, and Stan are already splashing around and yelling threats at each other in the water. Eddie’s still laid out on the ground, laughing at something Bev’s said and looking beautiful under the sun rays and fresh air. He seems only mildly surprised when he notices Richie standing there, then immediately wary. 

“Hey Richie!” Ben calls out, waving him over. His warm smile wavers when he sees the truly excessive amount of gauze taped above Richie’s foot. “Did you hurt yourself?”

“Is that why you’ve been weird all day?” Eddie asks, whipping his head up off the ground so fast it looks painful. “We just thought you were planning something weird again.”

“I thought maybe you wrote another song for him.” Ben supplies helpfully. “That last one was nice.”

Ben thinks anything done with romantic intention is nice. The last song Richie wrote was less of a song and more of a spoken word piece on topics such as Eddie’s hair, Eddie’s smile, Eddie’s ass in tight jeans, Eddie’s mom, and then veered into some weird ad-libbing that Eddie hastily put a stop to.

“Not this time, Benny! Got you something even better!” Richie squeezes himself between Eddie and Bev, throwing an arm around Eddie’s shoulder and hooking his ankle over Eddie’s leg. “Go on, Eddie Spaghetti, do the honors.”

“Don’t call me that.” Eddie snaps automatically, then grabs at Richie’s ankle, leaning down to inspect. “Is that another tattoo? You didn’t tell me you were getting another one, Rich.”

“Wasn’t sure until I did it.” Richie shrugs. “Surprise!”

Despite the previous success, it’s been months since Richie’s last tattoo. He’s closing in on seventeen already, and he’d probably have over a dozen by now if they weren’t so fucking expensive. It’s only through his sheer genius and ability to peruse sketchy internet sites that he’s managed to get this one. As far as surprises go, it’s not a horrible one, or at least Eddie doesn’t look particularly murderous about it. He almost looks curious. If anything, it’s Bev who’s making Richie squirm a little, looking at him with the kind of skepticism that suggests she knows exactly how Richie managed to procure this particular tattoo.

It occurs to Richie that putting on as much bandaging as he did has probably given Eddie the wrong idea. Whatever obnoxiously large eyesore he’s expecting is clearly not what he finds. As he’s peeling away the gauze, Eddie’s face goes through all sorts of phases - relief, outrage, amusement, dismay - but seems to settle on a gentle resignation.

“Well, that’s disappointing.”

Richie sputters but can’t be entirely offended by Eddie’s appraisal. It takes up about a whole inch of space on the inside of his ankle, so no one’s really going to see it anyways, and the whole thing was more about convenience than how cool it was going to make him look. It only took about five minutes to get it down - two lines and a curve, a little tiny smiley face. 

“It’s minimalist!” Richie argues, watching Eddie’s fingers smooth across the reddened skin. “I needed something easy to start out with.” 

“This is your third tattoo.” Eddie reminds him, a little absentmindedly. The smiley face has done little to capture his attention, which is considerably more offensive to Richie than his disappointment.

“Yeah, but this is the first one I did myself.”

That gets his attention.

“You what?

Eddie’s pitch falls about two notches below Only Dogs Can Hear, and startles Mike, Bill, and Stan enough that they all go silent before Richie hears them clambering out of the water.

“Wh-What happened?” Bill sits himself down on the other side of Eddie, dripping all over, then not-so-subtly eye rolls when he catches glimpse of Richie’s ankle. “N-nice one, Trashmouth.”

“Richie gave himself a tattoo.” Ben explains, and there’s an audible sigh from Stan’s direction. Six pairs of eyes fall on Richie. “Didn’t that hurt?”

“Yeah, but I’m fucking hardcore so it’s fine.” Richie turns to glare when he hears some light laughter. “And I’m gonna save a shitton of money this way, so ha .”

“Seems d-dangerous.” Bill ventures. He and Eddie have matching little furrows between their brows.

“Seems like someone is a total moron.” Stan interjects, dropping to his knees to look at the tattoo closely. “It’s not even that good.”

“How dare you, Stanley,” Richie sniffs, grabbing the gauze from Eddie’s fist and slapping it back over his ankle. “My artistic sensibilities are wasted on you. Anyways, Bev thought it was a good idea.”

She smacks him on the chest, betrayed, and everyone’s gaze slides over to her.

“I thought having a tattoo gun would be kinda cool,” She admits, a little sheepishly. “I didn’t think he’d actually have the balls to use it on himself. I thought he’d be practicing on orange peels or something." 

“I did. On one orange peel. Then I used it on myself.”

Eddie looks about five seconds away from combusting. Richie is fully expecting a whole powerpoint presentation on why this is a Bad Idea to happen later on. Bill will probably help Eddie out with it, judging by the look on his face. Hell, all the Losers might join in on it. It’d be kinda funny, Richie thinks. They could make an event out of it, like a movie night.

“I mean, it is kinda cool,” Mike starts, hesitating when Richie reaches out for a high-five. “Definitely stupid, yeah, but kinda badass.”

As far as Richie’s concerned, all of the Losers can think Richie spent the day playing rock music and swigging a beer or some other manly drink while he fearlessly tattooed a tiny smiley face onto his body - like a total badass. They don’t have to know that Richie spent a week hyping himself up to do it and more or less yelled the entire time, drowning out the noise with reruns of The Simpsons

“Are you really pissed, babe?” Richie turns to Eddie, smoothing out the wrinkle between his brows with his fingertips. “I did my research so everything’s totally safe. You can call the cops on me if it’d make you feel better.”

Eddie grins, undoubtedly basking in the image of Richie getting carted off in the back of a police cruiser. The shock of Richie’s stupidity seems to have waned, and Bill, Stan, and Mike start to head back to the water, Ben and Bev trailing behind.

“The first sign of hepatitis, and I’m going to personally make sure you and the tattoo gun go in the garbage.” Eddie warns, an authoritative finger poking at Richie’s ribs.

“Fair enough.” Richie agrees. He risks a quick kiss then throws himself on the ground with his head in Eddie’s lap. “You gotta admit, Eds, it was a good surprise.”

“Definitely not.” Eddie says, then tugs at Richie’s hair. “I fucking hate your surprises.”

It’s mostly true, though Richie’s pulled out a few good ones in his time. Eddie’s still deciding where this goes on the spectrum. On one hand, it’s horrifying, but on the other, maybe it is a little cool. It’s one of those things Eddie could never tell Richie, lest he starting trying to one-up himself, but Eddie can imagine Richie with a tattoo gun to his ankle, handsome and concentrated and, fine, badass. It’s probably completely untrue and entirely wishful thinking on Eddie’s part. Richie probably cried.

“I’ll warn you next time.” Richie promises. “Give you more time to plan your lectures." 

“Thank you,” Eddie says, to both things.

“You totally think I’m hardcore though, right?” Richie asks. He’s half joking, but figures it never hurts to gain those kind of points with your boyfriend. Eddie only pauses for a second, hand still in Richie’s hair.

“I think you’re a lot of things, Rich.” Eddie decides. It’s as close to a win as Eddie is willing to give.

Somewhere in the water, someone has dunked Bill under and he’s promising death. Richie laughs as he listens to the ensuing scuffle, Eddie quietly working at untangling his hair.

He'll get the whole surprise thing right one day.

 

***

 

Richie absolutely fucking loves Beverly Marsh.

She’s the only one who fully appreciates Richie’s impressions, for one thing, and Richie honestly thinks he’d smoke less if she wasn’t such damn good company. When she brings up the tattoo gun again during one of their smoke breaks, Richie thinks he loves her even more.

Whereas Richie leaps into most of his ideas when they’re still half-formed and questionable at best, Bev takes her time. She spends a full month letting herself in and out of Richie’s place every time his parents are out. Considering how often that is, the hours add up pretty quick. Richie keeps the tattoo gun safely hidden away in his closet, which is mostly pointless since no one but the Losers ever go into his room anyways, and Bev’s easily handled the thing dozens of times more than Richie. She’s amassed a sizeable collection of tattooed citrus, the best of which is given to Ben in some weird, charming display of affection.

Between Bev and Richie, Bev is clearly the better source for common sense and good decisions. It’s why Richie says yes when she asks to give him his fourth tattoo.

That, and his blind trust and impulsivity.    

If Bev kills me, I love you Richie sends Eddie, mostly because Bev is standing right next to him and clearly reading his texts. She elbows him before going back to opening up his bedroom windows, a pack of cigarettes open and spilling out on the floor. She’s set up a little station down there consisting of a brand new yoga mat and two first-aid kits. If Eddie were here he’d have a conniption.

“Nervous, Trashmouth?” Bev asks. Richie puts a record on to drown out the buzz of the machine and then plops onto the floor, laying back on the bright pink mat. “I could put anything on you, right now.”

“How kinky of you, Beverly.” Richie winks up at her and lights the cigarette she puts in his mouth. “If you ruin my perfect body Eddie will never forgive you, you know. He’ll haunt your dreams.”

“I think Eddie trusts my hand more than yours, actually.” Bev points out, wiping an alcohol pad on Richie’s chest, right under his pec. “He’s a smart boy that way.”

“Eddie trusted my hands plenty this morning, if you know what I mean.” Richie waggles his eyebrows at Bev. She jabs him in the side. 

“Stop tarnishing Eddie’s good name, Tozier.” Bev teases. “Now shut the fuck up before I decide to take a few creative liberties.” 

“Stick to the plan, Marsh.” Richie snaps, reaching up to flick a red curl away from Bev’s face. “I know you’re upset that Eddie vetoed the ass tattoo, but it’s for the best. What would Benny boy say?”

“That I’m a saint for putting up with you.”

It doesn’t occur to Richie that this could be a monumentally bad idea until Bev’s already begun but of all his tattoos, Richie enjoys getting this one the most. He spends the entire time whining dramatically every time Bev does so much as breathe on him, but she’s actually very gentle despite the increasingly creative curses she hauls at him. Richie doesn’t know what it is about the combination of cigarettes, music, and Bev, but Richie’s pretty sure she could’ve written BEV WAS HERE across his stomach and he’d have barely noticed. 

He’s knows it’s going to be good before she even hands him the mirror, just by the pleased grin on her face.

“One day we’ll find something you’re bad it, Beverly.” Richie muses, looking over the new writing on his skin.

“Not likely,” She pinches Richie’s cheek, giving the tattoo another once-over and snapping a few pictures of it. “Tell Eddie hi from me.” 

“Stop trying to steal my man, Marsh.”

Beverly and Richie leave together, Bev riding off towards her place while Richie hightails it to Eddie’s. All the lights are off at the Kasprak’s when he gets there - not like Eddie’s mom ever lets him in after eight anyways - and he hides his bike off to the side of the house. There’s a tree that every single member of the Losers Club has climbed up, though no one can come close to Richie’s record. Eddie never even bothers closing his window until Richie’s climbed through, not unless Richie’s really fucked up somehow. Even then, Eddie usually still opens it if Richie knocks and looks pathetic enough on the other side.

Eddie’s sitting on the edge of his bed when Richie slides in. He’s already dressed in his pajamas, the oversized t-shirt sliding down one of his shoulders. He looks really fucking cute, like always, albeit a bit suspicious. 

“How’d Bev do?” He asks, eyes trailing along Richie’s body, looking for the evidence. It’s a perfunctory gaze but still makes Richie sweat a little. “The last few melons she practiced on looked real good.”

I look real good, Eddie babe.” Richie scoffs. He diligently ignores the look Eddie gives him and yanks his shirt off.

Eddie realizes that this is the least nervous he’s ever been when it comes to revealing Richie’s tattoos. Either he’s getting used to it or he just trusts Bev enough not to give in to Richie’s more creative demands. It helps that Bev’s bandaging is a million times better than Richie’s was, and as soon as Eddie’s taken it off it immediately becomes clear why Richie asked Bev for this particular tattoo. The soft, neat handwriting looks a little bit beautiful on Richie’s skin in a way Richie never would have achieved with his own atrocious penmanship.

You make me feel like I am free again

“I like that song.” Eddie says softly.

“I know.” Richie beams, grabbing Eddie’s hand and pressing it more firmly to his ribcage, right under the wording. “It always makes me think of you.” 

For one ridiculous moment, Eddie wishes he had been there when Bev was inking this onto Richie’s skin. For an even more ridiculous moment, Eddie wishes he had been the one holding the needle, pressing it into Richie’s chest, putting the words there himself. He shakes the thought away almost as quickly as it comes. Eddie never wants to practice designs on a fruit, much less a person. His handwriting isn't even as good as Bev’s. Clearly something about Richie smiling down at him and saying shit like ‘ It always makes me think of you’ has made him crazy. 

“What if Bev had misspelled a word?” It’s a logical concern, though Eddie knows Bev would never. “What if her hand slipped?”

“Can’t you just tell me it looks good?” Richie whines, patting at the hand Eddie has on his ribs just a touch too light to be considered smacking. Eddie can feel the heat of Richie’s skin radiating against his fingers.

“It sends the wrong message.”

“Last week I pushed Bill into the lake and you made out with me. That sends the wrong message.”

In Eddie’s defense, it was funny.

“Bev’s got nice handwriting.” Eddie concedes, mouth quirking up a little when Richie seems to inflate under the positive feedback. The tattoo is closer to Eddie’s mouth than Richie’s mouth is, so Eddie gives it a quick kiss.  “She did a good job and it looks nice, you happy?”

“You’re a fucking babe and I love you.” Richie throws himself down on Eddie’s bed and drags Eddie to lay next to him. “I’ll tell you why I got it, if you want to know.”

Eddie’s pretty sure he already gets the gist of it. He’s seen hundreds of Richie’s passionate lip-synch renditions of The Cure, and Richie’s not exactly withholding about his feelings towards anything, especially Eddie. Lovesong is on just about all of Richie’s playlists. Just last week he put it on while they were doing homework and sang along horribly until Eddie threw his shoe at him.

“It’s for me.” Eddie says quietly. It almost embarasses him to even say it out loud, as if Richie’s going to deny it or laugh at him. “I mean - you said it makes you think of me."

“Of course it’s for you, Eddie Spaghetti.” Richie grins widely, ruffling Eddie’s hair. Eddie slaps his hand away but moves in closer to Richie’s side. “It’s basically our song.”

Richie says this about almost every song they’ve ever heard. Eddie once endured a twenty minute analysis on why I Wanna Sex You Up was their song. Since they’re having a moment Eddie decides not to bring this up.

“That’s really nice, Rich.” Eddie says, aiming for casual but missing by a mile. 

He feels a fluttering in his stomach that’s unmistakably Richie , this nervous sort of excitement that Eddie’s been carrying around for years now. He thought it would get better when he and Richie started dating and Eddie didn’t have to pretend not to be head over fucking heels anymore. It didn’t. If anything it’s worse now. Being in love with Richie is nothing compared to having Richie be in love with him. Richie loves with his entire being in a way Eddie didn’t even know was possible until Richie kissed him for the first time at the quarry, wild haired and glasses knocking into Eddie’s brow.

“That’s not all of it though,” Richie admits, voice softer than Eddie’s heard in awhile. “It’s always so fucking shitty at home, you know? But I don’t even think about that when I’m with you. All of you, all of the Losers. It’s why none of you can ever fucking get rid of me.” He pokes Eddie in the side; Eddie grabs his finger and holds onto it. “But it’s different with you. I feel good when I’m with you, Eds. Not just because I get to make out with you all the time, it’s just you . It’s different, you know?”

And he does. Eddie spent the majority of his life more or less trapped in the protective bubble his mother created for him. If it weren’t for the Losers he’d still be there, carrying around a boxful of pills and two inhalers just to make it through the day. Eddie’s mom lied to him every single day for thirteen years. Richie’s never lied to Eddie about anything, not ever. Eddie knows everything there is to know about Richie, good and bad, just like Richie knows everything there is to know about him. Eddie doesn’t have to wonder about what secrets Richie might keep or what lies he might tell. Even if they weren’t together, Richie would never be anything but transparent around Eddie. He doesn’t care that Eddie’s still weird about germs and spends too much time on WebMD. Richie’s feelings don’t come with strings; Eddie doesn’t have to try to be anything other than himself. 

Free, Eddie thinks. He reaches out to touch the tattoo again. We’re free. And then, incredulously, he got a tattoo for me.

“I love you.” Eddie blurts out. It’s nothing he hasn’t told Richie a thousand times before but Richie still looks flustered by it each time. “And your stupid tattoos. Except the your mom one.”

“That’s fair.” Richie agrees, voice a little high.

Eddie nods then leans over to kiss Richie, soft and slow. He presses back against Richie’s side and closes his eyes, breathes in Richie’s scent as he starts to drift off. He listens as Richie puts his glasses on the bedside table and feels Richie pull the blankets over them both.

“Bev said to tell you hi.” Richie whispers, foot gently knocking into Eddie. “You really love my tattoos?” 

“Goodnight, Richie.”

 

***

 

“I’ve got a proposition for you, Big Bill.”

Nothing good has ever, or will ever, begin by Richie having any sort of proposition. Bill knows this, but they’ve been playing video games for two days straight now and he’s starting to get restless. 

“Go on,” Bill allows.

Richie starts to smile and Bill regrets everything immediately. 

There are perks to being friends with Bill. Just by association, Richie becomes ever so slightly more trustworthy in the eyes of adults. All the teachers like Bill, old ladies won’t shut up about how handsome he is, and his parents trust him enough to leave town with Georgie for a few days and let Bill stay home alone. 

Richie’s been practically living at Bill’s for ages now, if only because Eddie’s mom kind of hates him. When Mrs. Denbrough had said, have fun and behave, boys Richie knows she mostly meant him, but she still kissed his head when they left, and if she had any worries about Richie Tozier being loose in her home without supervision, she didn’t show it. 

Bill really doesn’t know why he agrees to these things - boredom and morbid curiousity, maybe - but he finds himself nodding along to Richie’s plan and pleasantly waving goodbye when Richie rides off to pick up supplies. Richie comes barreling back in not even fifteen minutes later, Eddie trailing close behind.

“I-if my parents f-find out,” Bill warns.

“They won’t.” Richie promises, taking off his backpack and emptying it out on the living room floor. “No one’s gonna say shit to anyone.”

The Losers are nothing if not discreet, at least when it comes to their own business. They all show up quickly, pulling snacks out of the cupboards and descending Bill’s home into chaos. Bev zeroes in on the big armchair by the television - the one that everyone fights over because it’s unarguably the most comfortable and at the best TV-watching angle - and starts to set up, kicking Stan off in the process. Everyone seems to be choosing to ignore the tattoo machine, displayed prominently on the coffee table. Everyone except for Eddie, that is, who keeps glancing at the thing as if it’s about to take off.

“I’ll do your first for free.” Richie wraps his arms around Eddie’s waist from behind and tugs, throwing them both back onto the sofa with Eddie in his lap.

“Would I get to choose?” Eddie asks dully.

“I’ll give you options.” Richie assures. “You can either get a plate of spaghetti or Richie’s Boy. Face tattoos only, though.”

“I’m going to kill you.” Eddie says calmly, leaning back into Richie’s chest.

“Promises, promises. I’m still alive, aren’t I?”

Eddie snorts, tilting his head back onto Richie’s shoulder to look up at him. When Richie brought this idea to him the night before, Eddie had been surprisingly receptive. To be fair, setting up an illegal, makeshift tattoo parlor in Bill’s living room is not the worst idea that Richie’s ever shared with Eddie. Either Eddie just trusts Bev that much or he’s gone soft on the whole tattoo thing. Richie is definitely one to press his luck, but he’s not a total idiot, so he doesn’t question it too much. Anyways, he has a hickey right above his last tattoo so now he really knows that Eddie is all talk.

He fucking loves them and now Richie knows it.  

“Get your ass over here, Richie!” Bev calls, and Eddie reluctantly slides off Richie’s lap.

For as much shit as everyone gave him for buying the machine, they’re all pretty damn interested in watching it in action. Bev has to shoo Ben and Mike away twice, demanding a wide berth as she works. Eddie seems perfectly content to hang back, though Richie can feel Eddie staring without even having to look. It’d be hot if Richie’s direct line of vision wasn’t aimed directly at Ben. 

Richie gets his fifth tattooed surrounded by his friends. They all flinch the whole time and Richie definitely plans to make fun of them for it later. Bev puts it right under the crook of Richie’s elbow - the most visible tattoo so far, and on the same arm as the your mom one only because he thinks it might lessen the dirty look Eddie gives him everytime he sees it.

Red letters, just as neat and perfect as Richie’s last tattoo:

Loser

“That looks really good, Richie.” Mike is hovering near Richie’s elbow. There’s clearly an attempt being made at trying to give Richie space, but he’s failing spectacularly. 

“It’s fucking crazy.” Stan mutters, as if he’s not standing right next to Mike and looking with the same amount of enthusiasm. Richie’s pretty sure Stan is referring to doing it in Bill’s house more than anything else.   

“It is,” Mike agrees, then straightens up and looks back at Bev. “I want one, too.” 

“Fuck yeah!” Richie shouts, throwing his arm around Mike and regretting it when the sensitive skin hits Mike’s shoulder. “ Ow , fuck. You’re a man after my own heart, Mike.”

“I w-want one, t-too.” Bill interjects quietly. Then, a little louder, “I want one.” 

A stunned silence falls as soon as Bill finishes speaking. Of all the people to get an illegal tattoo in someone’s living room, Mike and Bill are not high on the list. Richie tries to come up with some encouraging words but it comes out as an embarrassing, excited noise that Bill kindly ignores. Eddie’s still hovering in the background, though Richie sees the look that Stan and Eddie exchange with each other. It’s Bev who looks the least rattled, looking back and forth between Mike and Bill with an impressed smile.

“You boys certainly know how to surprise me.” She says finally, and pats the chair a little menacingly. “Now it really is a party.”

“What the absolute fuck.” Stan whispers. Bill looks over at him and shrugs, looking slightly surprised, as if he didn’t really mean to say anything out loud. 

Eddie walks over to Richie and places his hand just under the new tattoo. It feels vaguely soothing, and Richie recognizes it as a concerned gesture, as if Eddie’s checking up on him but doesn’t want to ask. Richie grabs Eddie’s hand and leads him back to the couch, pulling him onto his lap again and pushing his newly tattooed arm in front of Eddie’s face. 

“Well?” Richie prompts. “You like it? I’m a trendsetter. An innovator. Leader of the pack.”

“Please shut up,” Eddie pushes Richie’s arm away, then brings it back by his face again, considering. “It’s not the worst thing on your body.”

“Jesus, Eds, your sweet-talk knows no bounds. Wanna go make out in the kitchen?”   

“Maybe later.” Eddie’s mouth quirks up a little and he looks at Richie through his lashes, coy. It’s a patent Eddie move and Richie falls for it every single time. He leans over and kisses the sensitive spot below Eddie’s neck before kissing his lips, tightening his grip on Eddie’s waist. Richie licks at Eddie’s lower lip and Eddie pulls back, smiling. “I said later, Trashmouth, I wanna see if Mike and Bill complain as much as you do.” 

They don’t, as it turns out, though they both carry the same dazed expression on their faces the entire time. Richie can’t be sure if it’s from the pain or just the simple fact that they’re sitting in Bill’s dad’s favorite armchair getting tattooed by Beverly. They both get the tattoo done where Richie got his first, hidden away on the inside of their arms. Richie’s only mildly surprised when Bill gets off the chair and Ben replaces him, sharing a shy look with Bev.

“You did this.” Eddie accuses, still slumped on Richie’s lap.

“I’m telling you, Eds. I’m a trendsetter. An innovator. Leader of -” 

“I’m breaking up with you.” Eddie says, not for the first time. Richie still clutches at his heart like he’s dying. “You’ve turned Ben into a delinquent. And Mike! We all know they’re the best ones out of all of us!”

“They’re practically grown men!” Richie argues, as if the months between now and eighteen makes it any less illegal. “Admit it, this was a good idea. I’m a fucking genius.”

It was definitely an idea, good or bad Eddie can’t be sure. Good, probably, just based off the way Mike and Bill are excitedly comparing their identical tattoos. When Eddie looks over to Ben, he doesn’t even look slightly uncomfortable; he’s staring up at Bev with an expression on his face that makes Eddie feel like he’s intruding. Eddie turns his attention back to Richie, who’s looking over his newest tattoo again.

It was a whim more than anything, the tattoo. Richie didn’t even think Bill would agree to the whole thing, much less wind up an active participant. Richie’s always been a sentimental fool but there’s something especially poignant about seeing the matching red letters on his, Mike’s, and Bill’s skin - and now half-finished on Ben. They don’t even have a full year left together. Graduation is looming over all of them now. Richie’s been counting down the days since he was a kid, was always waiting for the moment he could get the fuck out of Derry and his parent’s house, but the closer that time approaches the more Richie feels the panic start to set in. He’s not naive enough to think they’ll all end up at the same school, or even see each other half as often as they do now. The tattoos feel like a reassurance, like a lifelong promise. 

When Bill circles back over to show his tattoo for what must be the tenth time, face still flushed with excitement, Richie sees the soft look in Eddie’s eyes and know he must be thinking the same thing.

“It l-looks good, right?” Bill asks, voice soft and pleased. It really does look good on him, suits him in a way Richie wouldn't have expected a tattoo to suit someone as mild-mannered and clean cut as Bill.

“It looks great, Bill.” Eddie assures. Richie elbows him in the shoulder and nearly knocks him off his lap. 

“You’re a little hussy, Kasprak!” Richie pushes Bill’s arm away from Eddie’s view. “So Bill gets a tattoo and you’re all compliments. Next thing I know you’re gonna be taking ol’ Big Bill to the kitchen instead of me.”

“P-please don’t make out i-in my kitchen again.” Bill scrunches up his nose, no doubt remembering the last time he was unfortunate enough to walk in on them. Eddie hadn’t been able to look him in the eye for a week.

“Sorry Big Bill, you know your kitchen is like my third favorite place to make out with Eddie.”

Mike and Stan wander over before Bill can start to protest. Stan grabs Bill’s arm gently, looking back and forth between Mike and Bill’s tattoo, then glancing down at Richie’s.

“I like it.” He admits hesitantly. “Maybe - well, maybe one day I’ll get one, too. Just not in Bill’s living room.” 

Bill smiles, knocking playfully into Stan’s shoulder. “There’s n-no pressure, Stan. We a-all know y-you’re a Loser anyways.”

“I’ll personally fight anyone who suggests otherwise.” Richie promises.

“Well, thanks.” Stan says dryly. “Who knows, maybe in a few years, Eddie and I will let Bev make it official, right Eddie?”

Eddie runs a finger across Richie’s tattoo and smiles. “Yeah, Stan, maybe in a few years.”

Richie is already preemptively forming his arguments on why he’s the better candidate for giving Eddie his first tattoo - so far he has nothing; Bev is clearly superior, but he has a few years to bullshit something together - when Ben finally stands from the chair, giving Bev a quick peck on the cheek before joining the group.

Mike and Bill immediately zero in on Ben, chattering excitedly and sticking their arms together. Richie considers upending Eddie to join them, but then Mike reaches over, clasping a hand on Richie’s shoulder.

“This was fun, Richie.” He says, squeezing Richie’s shoulder. “The old ladies at the library will go nuts if they see it, but it felt right, you know?”

“Hey, there’s nothing sexier than a part-time librarian with a naughty side.” Richie winks at Mike, earning equally unamused looks from Mike and Eddie. “Please, you were both thinking it.”

“There’s still one more to go!” Bev calls out, capturing their attention easily. She’s seated comfortably in the big chair, cleaning her arm with a cotton ball. “I’m not about to miss out on this, you know.”

“Holy shit,” Richie breathes. Eddie’s jumped off of his lap before Richie can even start to move him.

Bev had not held back in letting Richie know how absolutely stupid he was to give himself a tattoo. It was different, Richie supposes. Bev is practiced, especially compared to Richie’s solitary orange peel and arbitrary smiley-face. It can’t hurt that this will be the fifth time she’s given the exact same tattoo, even if it is on herself.

Bev, never really one to hide anything, puts hers in the same spot as Richie’s. The boys are all silent as they watch, at least until Bev complains about it being too quiet which launches Stan into a mostly one-sided discussion about a bird he saw in Bill’s backyard. Bev works efficiently, words just as neat and gorgeous on her skin as they are on anyone else’s. She’s a fucking rockstar, Richie thinks. It’s a thought he has at least three times a week. He says it outloud to Eddie, who nods solemnly and tangles their fingers together. 

Eddie leads him to the kitchen.  

 

***

 

Richie has only ever loved Eddie Kaspbrak.

He’s not even really sure when it all started, only that one day, when they were still in junior high, Richie looked over, saw Eddie, and thought oh, I’m in love . It was thought with such certainty that Richie barely even paused over it, just accepted it as the fact it was and continued on his day. A few months later, Richie kissed Eddie for the first time at the quarry when he was hyped up on caffeine and adrenaline, at the ready to run away if Eddie reacted badly. Eddie had called him an asshole and kissed him back. They’ve been together ever since.

It’s with the same sort of certainty that Richie looks at Eddie now, years later. Eddie and Ben are hunched over a history textbook, Ben reading over it with considerable more gusto than Eddie. Eddie’s hair is longer than he’s ever had it, curling past his ears and falling in front of his eyes when he keeps his head down too long. Richie’s counted three times now that Eddie has irritably pushed his hair off of his face, only for it to fall back again minutes later. It’s on the fourth time that Richie thinks I’m gonna marry him one day.

It’s with this in mind that Richie decides to get his sixth tattoo.

Eddie shows up at Richie’s place almost as soon as Richie texts him the go-ahead. It’s one of only a handful of times that Eddie’s been able to spend the night in Richie’s room - they’re almost always in Eddie’s, or Bill’s, or even Ben’s. Richie gets a little thrill at the sight of Eddie standing in his doorway, the house empty and silent except for Richie and his record player. Eddie barely even spares him a glance before he starts poking around, opening random drawers and going through Richie’s things.

“My sex toys are by the bed.” Richie offers cheekily, tongue caught between his teeth. Eddie scowls but goes to look anyways, scowling even more when he finds nothing but old food wrappers and a pack of cigarettes. “It’s not polite to go through a lady’s things, Spaghetti boy.”

Eddie huffs but walks over to Richie, putting his snooping on hold long enough to get on his tiptoes and finally give Richie a hello kiss.

“Show me,” Eddie demands, then gives Richie another quick kiss. “If it’s a fucking neopet, I’m gonna leave.” 

“Well, you’re in luck.” Richie pulls back far enough to take his shirt off, smiling brightly at Eddie. “I don’t have colored ink and I’d never get a neopet in black and white. I’m not a monster, Eds.”

Eddie laughs, not even bothering to feign disinterest as he grabs at the badly taped gauze and tugs. Richie feels a flash of nerves hit him as the bandage is being pulled away. If Eddie actually hates this one, he’s screwed. He’ll have to change it somehow, come up with something new to cover it up - it’d be easy enough, he supposes, but he really fucking doesn’t want to .

He wants Eddie to like it.

It’s small. Really small, almost as small as the smiley-face. It’s right above his chest, towards the left, low enough that a t-shirt covers it easily but high enough that he could show if off if he wanted, if he left the top buttons of a shirt undone or wore a tank top. He did it himself because he couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it - not even Bev. His handwriting is not the best, but it still looks good, he thinks. It’s only one letter after all, the one lowercase e .

Eddie’s mouth is open, a shocked little oh as he looks over the tattoo.

He hates it , Richie thinks. It’s presumptuous and over the top and his handwriting is bad and -

“I love it.” Eddie breathes. His eyes are huge, still staring at the spot on Richie’s chest.

“Wait - what?” Richie nearly shrieks. He heard him perfectly, but he doesn’t fucking believe it. “You what? ” 

“For fucks sake, Rich.” Eddie sighs, but he’s grinning, hands planted on Richie’s chest. “I like it, okay?” 

“That’s not what you said! You love it!” Richie shouts, triumphant. He grabs at Eddie and lifts him up, laughing at the sound of Eddie’s outraged shout. Eddie’s legs wind around his waist anyway, body settling in Richie’s arms. Richie spins them around for good measure. “You love my tattoo, Eddie Spaghetti!” 

“You’re fucking crazy.” Eddie rolls his eyes fondly, one hand curled around Richie’s neck. The other hand goes to the tattoo, not quite touching it but hovering close. He waits another beat before the hand on Richie’s neck uncurls and jabs Richie in the kidney. “Now put me down, you freak.”

Richie obliges, lowering Eddie so they can sit side-by-side on Richie’s bed, knees knocking into each other. Richie’s practically bouncing, thrilled by Eddie’s easy admission. He leans even closer to Eddie, ready to push him down to the bed and makeout with him for, like hours . Ready to let Eddie put a mean looking hickey near his newest tattoo, like he’s done with a few of the others. He only stops when sees the thoughtful expression on Eddie’s face, that familiar little furrow forming between his brows.

“You don’t -” Eddie starts, then stops, cheeks turning pink. “It’s kind of a fucking lot, Richie.” Eddie looks down at his hands, tugging at the sleeves of his sweater. “You don’t think you’ll regret it one day?” 

The whole point of tattoos is that they’re there forever. If any other high school senior were to waltz in with a tattoo for their boyfriend, Eddie would definitley talk shit about it. Richie would definitely talk shit about it. Eddie knows the lyrics Bev put on Richie’s body are for him, but no one else does. A fucking initial is a little harder to explain away. 

He could always make it into another word. Eddie fucking hates the thought.

“Regret it?” Richie says, recapturing Eddie’s attention. Richie doesn’t look bothered by the question - he was expecting it, or something similar. He’s smiling at Eddie, easy and bright. “I’d never fucking regret it, Eds. You’re stuck with me, baby.”

Eddie grins, clearly relieved, and swings one leg over Richie so he’s straddling his lap. He puts his hands back where they were when Richie was carrying him, one on the neck and the other on the tattoo, this time firmly planted. Richie blinks owlishly at him from behind his glasses, and Eddie feels Richie’s heartbeat tick up near his hand.

“You sure?” Eddie teases, grinning wider when Richie nods earnestly. Eddie kisses a spot on Richie’s jaw, just once. “How do you know?”

Richie can think of a million reasons why he knows, like Eddie’s ass in short shorts or how he pushes Richie out of the bed when Richie can’t wake up in the mornings. Instead, Richie gets distracted by the curl of Eddie’s hair, falling over his eyes again. 

“Because I’m gonna fucking marry you, that’s why.”   

This is not the first time Eddie has heard this sentiment leave Richie’s mouth. Richie proposes to him at least twice a week, though it’s usually half-joking and accompanied by some atrocious accent that makes Eddie’s eye twitch. Unless this is all some big prank and Richie’s tattoo is done in marker, that sucker’s on there forever, and that adds on a whole new level of solemnity to the whole marriage thing.

Eddie surreptitiously wipes his thumb across the e . Richie winces and the letter stays put.

“Yeah, okay,” Eddie says slowly. Richie brushes Eddie’s hair back from his face. “We’ll get married one day, Trashmouth.”

“We fucking better.” Richie breathes. This is a fucking dream. Eddie is a fucking dream, sitting there on his lap talking about marriage and touching Richie’s skin, looking like every fantasy Richie’s ever had. “We fucking better, Eds.”

Eddie just nods, smiling. He looks remarkably relaxed about all of this, whereas Richie more or less feels like Eddie’s run a truck over him a few times and all Richie can think to do is thank him for it.

“We will,” Eddie assures. He slides off of Richie’s lap, smile broadening when Richie makes a belated, unsuccessful attempt to keep him there. “Maybe after college or something, when we’re a little older.”

He lays back on Richie’s bed, lightly kicking at Richie with his feet in what is possibly the most unseductive seduction tactic Richie has ever witnessed. Somehow it still works for him. Richie gets the message and climbs up the bed, laying over Eddie and balancing his weight on both arms.

“After college, then.” Richie agrees, still a little dazed. “Can we get this in writing?”

“Can we make out now?” Eddie counters, wrapping his legs around Richie’s body.

And, well, Eddie’s always had the better ideas.