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My Gears They Grind

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Eddie usually didn’t mind his job so much, he got to hang out with Mike and talk a lot of shit, but today had just been one disaster on top of another. Eddie thought if he were to make a layer cake with today’s disasters it would be about as tall as Bill. He had barely clocked in at the bowling alley that had been the bane of his existence for a year and a half now, before Suzie, one of the co-worker’s he didn’t completely hate, spilled soda all over his shirt. That meant he had to find another out back, and it was about 3 sizes too big, and smelt suspiciously of onion and something he couldn’t and frankly didn’t want to place.

About an hour into his shift a horde of teenagers came in and Eddie knew instinctively that was going to suck. He was absolutely sure they were filming some sort of challenge, probably for YouTube or something because, at one point 4 of them bowled at the same time, causing their machine to grind to a halt, which meant Eddie had to spend about 20 minutes hunched over in the crawl space behind the lanes to extract those bowling balls, and get the machine going again, and also he couldn’t even yell at the kids, because they had left by the time he was done.

Then someone’s toddler had decided to wander onto a lane and take a piss because why not? Eddie of course was the one who got stuck with cleaning that mess, and he had to remind himself about seven times that he did not care about germs anymore. His immune system was fine, and there wasn’t even anything particularly gross in piss anyway, so could he please get over himself already.

After that he had his break, and got to complain to Mike for 30 minutes, which helped a little, because Mike was a great listener, and superhumanly patient.

“All I’m saying is, if you gotta piss in a bowling alley, why not do it somewhere, where there isn’t a real danger that it will go in the gutter and get into the machine so that all future bowling balls will have a nice yellow sheen on them? “

“Mmhmm.”

“I mean how hard can it be to watch your child, like toddlers move at the speed of literal turtles, so how little of a fuck do you have to give about your kid to let them wander on to a lane like that?”

“Mm.”


“Not to even mention the fact that one of the other kids threw a ball at me while I was cleaning. What the fuck is wrong with people?”

“I know.”

“Anyway, I gotta clock back in, nice talking with you Mikey.” At this, Mike cracked a smile at him, finally looking up from his book, that he had probably been trying to read but whatever.

“Yeah, you too, Eddie, see you later.”

Eddie secretly prayed for a better second half of his shift, but the patron saint of exhausted bowling alley employees was not on his side tonight.

A kid had thrown a rented shoe at another kid, causing a bloody nose, a group of sorority girls had hit on him incessantly, even though he was pretty sure his whole thing screamed hot gay mess, just trying his best, and then Suzie, who was probably also having a pretty shitty shift, by the look of pure misery on her face, spilled another soda on him, so he had to dig through 4 boxes of junk to find a clean uniform, this time a little too small for comfort, and oh joy, the sorority girls had loved that.

By the time his shift was over he was about ready to sink into the pavement and live his life as an amorphous blob, and the thought of the essay he had to write tomorrow for his cognitive psychology class almost made him want to curl up and die. He should probably have started that sooner.

Luckily Mike was off at the same time as Eddie, so he could catch a ride with him back to their dorm. Eddie had never looked forward to his shitty twin bed more than he did right now, and he had never been more grateful to be rooming with Ben who was notorious for going to bed at 11 every single night, no matter what. It was about midnight, and so the fact that the light was still on in their room probably should have told him that something was amiss, but Eddie had already landed face-first on his mattress, door smacking loudly behind him, by the time he realized that there were people other than his roommate in his room.

“What the hell, Ben?” Eddie said, except his face was still buried in his mattress, so instead it just sounded like a muffled groan. He heard someone snort but decided to ignore it.

“Oh, hey Eddie, I have people over,” Ben said, as if that wasn’t incredibly weird. In the year and a half Eddie had been sharing a dorm room with Ben, he had probably stayed up past 11 o’clock three times total, and one of those had been New Year’s Eve.

“H-h-hi Eddie.” That was Bill. Eddie liked Bill. Loved him even. Bill was like a brother to Eddie, and the person who arguably knew him best in the world. Eddie was trying very hard to remind himself of all of these facts as he twisted his head and squinted against the light. It wasn’t Bill’s fault that he had had a shitty day, and it wasn’t Ben’s either.

“Long day, Eds? You look like death.” Eddie closed his eyes for a couple of seconds, then opened them, and found the person who had spoken. His curls were all over the place today (not cute), his lips twisted in a wry smile, his limbs bent at strange angles as he sat against Ben’s bedframe. He looked comfortable, like he belonged there ( what the hell Eddie, no he doesn’t) and his huge coke bottle glasses were balanced precariously on the tip of his nose.

Eddie closed his eyes again and counted to three. When he opened them, Richie Tozier was still sitting in his room at almost midnight, and Eddie was pretty sure that this day was safely in the top ten of worst days ever. Then again maybe not, he had had some pretty shitty ones.

“I’ve told you a million times Trashmouth, don’t call me Eds.” At that Richie’s smile just widened giving Eddie full view of a row of perfectly straight very white teeth. Eddie was struck by the thought that Richie must have had braces at some point in his life, and he kind of wanted to see a photo of that. He could just picture middle school Richie, wild curls everywhere, eyes big behind his lenses, incredibly cute and – wait what? You’re delirious Eddie, you need sleep big time.

“Aw, Eds don’t be like that, you know your mom hates it when we fight.” Eddie fumbled around with his hand, finally found a pillow and chucked it at Richie, hitting him square in the face.

“Fuck off.” Richie just let out a loud cackle and Eddie decided to focus his limited energy elsewhere, mainly towards complaining so much that Ben would feel guilty and kick out everyone, so Eddie could finally get some rest.

“Beeeeen” Eddie whined. Bill snorted, probably because he knew Eddie well enough to know where this was going.

“Yeah, what’s up Eddie?”

“Who are you and what have you done to my nice roommate who would never dream of being up past his bed time, especially on a Thursday.” Ben reddened a bit, which eased Eddie’s quiet worry a bit. Eddie knew that Ben liked his routines, so if something had broken that up, that could mean anything, but if Ben was blushing, it probably wasn’t anything bad.

“Oh, right. Um, well, professor Blake told me today that he sent in some of my stuff for consideration for the school paper, so me and Bill decided to celebrate after class you know, and then we sort of just found Richie and he tagged along and - oh god, I didn’t realize how late it is. I’m gonna be a wreck tomorrow.”

Eddie had read some of Ben’s poetry, and he was pretty sure Ben was equal parts happy and panicked out of his mind right now. A lot, like a lot, of it was about a certain red-head they all knew, and as far as Eddie knew, Ben had still not told Bev about that yet.

“Hey, that’s great Ben, congrats!”

Ben smiled sweetly. “Thanks man. Sorry about the –“ he gestured at Bill and Richie, and Eddie waved him off.

“No worries, I just kind of had the shift from hell, my nerves are a little frayed, I think.” He was still lying on his stomach, head bent at an odd angle, so he could see the people in the room, but his eyes were so heavy, he was pretty sure he would fall asleep soon, people or not.

“Eddie, are we s-s-still on for l-luh-lunch, tomorrow?” Bill asked, interrupting Eddie’s slow descent into dreamland.

“Mm, I don’t know actually. I have to write that paper for cog, but if we meet at the coffee shop, maybe Bev can help me in her break, and I’ll finish sooner.” Bill grimaced at that. They usually never went to the coffee shop in the quad when Bev was working because she was, not to put too fine a point on it, not very good at making coffee.

“Ugh, okay, but you owe me one.”

“You get the privilege of hanging out with me Bill, don’t be greedy.” Eddie said. Richie who had been fidgeting with his phone the past five minutes, finally looked up, and started straightening out his frankly obscenely long limbs, cracking them as he went.

“Well boys, it’s been a hoot and a half, but I gotta bounce, Bev needs a place to crash.” Eddie tried not to let that bother him. He loved Beverly, she was one of his best friends. He didn’t care.

“Have fun.” He tried just saying it, but somehow it came out sounding extremely ironic, and Bill shot him an exasperated look, which Eddie pointedly ignored.

Richie fingergunned him, which only made Eddie more annoyed. “Always.” Then he was out the door. Bill shuffled to follow, shouting a goodbye over his shoulder, and then at Richie to wait up. He had probably forgotten his keys again. Eddie buried his face in his mattress again and let out huge sigh. He toed off his shoes and wriggled out of the too small work shirt and his jeans. Ben turned off the light, and Eddie drifted to sleep, happy that this nightmare of a day was finally over.

Only to wake up a few hours later, drenched in sweat, shaking from whatever actual nightmare had torn him awake. Eddie always had the same nightmare, and it was always like this. He would crash, too tired to have trouble falling asleep, and then a couple hours later he would wake up, pulse racing and gasping for breath. You’re fine Eddie. You don’t need any medicine. Nothing is wrong with you.

Eddie wished he was one of those people who immediately forgot what they had been dreaming about, but he always remembered. He was always trapped somewhere so small he couldn’t move, and he could always hear his mother on the other side, crying, screaming, sickeningly sweet on repeat. Then pills would start popping up out of nowhere, making their way into his mouth until he was gagging on them. Usually that was when he woke up, just as he was about to suffocate in the dream, gasping for breath, and trying to calm himself down.

Mostly though, Eddie was fine, and he was relieved that Ben hadn’t heard anything. Bill was probably the only person who knew enough to put together how awful Eddie’s childhood had been, and that was only because he had actually been there for most of it. Bill still didn’t know everything though, didn’t know that Eddie was a porcelain boy, because Eddie didn’t let him. Eddie was made of ceramics, hard surface and all, because if his friends knew how fucked up he actually was, they would probably all leave him in the dust.

Bill knew enough to know why Eddie was withdrawn and quiet sometimes, why he occasionally freaked out if something got dirty, and then overcorrected by dirtying it even more, why he tended to disregard his own safety more often than not, but mostly Bill knew enough to know not to ask, because Eddie would never tell.

Eddie was always wearing a mask. Eddie was fine because he had to be. Eddie’s porcelain mask didn’t have any cracks, and that was the way he liked it. He was fine.

Chapter Text

Beverly was late again, and it was so unfair because it wasn’t even her fault. She knew she had kind of a reputation for being late, and yeah it was probably warranted most of the time, but it also meant that nobody ever believed her when she had an actual reason for being late, like an asshole boss who wouldn’t let her clock out, even though she told him several times that she couldn’t overtime today, because she had something super important to do.

He didn’t need to know that the super important thing was basically just a movie night with her friends but whatever. Bev dug her phone out from her pocket and sent a quick text to the group chat, already knowing that they were going to drag her through the mud for this. She was already 20 minutes late.

Bev: omw sorry i’m late

Eddie: Bev ur like the walking embodiment of that will be late because of who i am as a person meme

Bev: not my fault!

Bev: my boss is a dickhead!!!

Stan: *eyeball emoji

Richie: Sure, Jan

Bill: Stan just use the real emoji wth

Stan: no.

Bev: fuck u guys fr

Ben: it’s fine Bev, we haven’t started yet, Mike’s running late too

Mike: hmmm ben didn’t know you changed ur name to j u d a s

Mike: Bev do u want me to pick u up?

Bev: YES thank

Mike: ur welc

Bev: <3

Mike was the only one in their group who had a car, and as far as Bev knew it was mostly for sentimental reasons, because he didn’t really need it. Mike had grown up on a farm in the Middle of Nowhere, Maine, and had bought his truck the day he got his driver’s license. It was pretty much ancient, and it was probably a miracle that it was even running at all, but all of their friends agreed that it just had character.

Bev only had to wait a couple of minutes before the old carcass screeched up to the curb, which made her think that Mike had probably been on his way to pick her up before he even asked her, and she felt a lot of the annoyance she had been feeling just moments ago melt away. Mike was really the best of them all.

She got in the truck and greeted Mike cheerily. “Hey old man, how’s life?”

He reached over and gave her a half hug with one arm, and she snuggled in for a couple of seconds, allowing his warmth to wash over her. Bev was pretty particular about who she let touch her, but when someone had gotten permission from her, she was tough to get away from. She loved cuddling, she just only wanted to do it with people she trusted completely.

That was probably why she and Richie were the way they were. He was already an incredibly tactile person, and when Bev had started seeking physical comfort from him when they were about fifteen, they had been practically fused together all through the rest of high school. These days she had a lot more options to pick from though, and she was eternally grateful for that. Sometimes Richie got on her nerves a little, (a lot) and she respected him too much to hide it.

“Same old same old, how about you?”

“Just fine Mikey, now that you’re here.” He grinned and pulled back and shifted in to first because of course the truck was a fucking manual transmission, meaning Mike was the only one of their friends who was able to drive it. He probably preferred it that way, now that Bev thought about it.

Bev fiddled with the music for a bit, and when she found something halfway acceptable she settled in, enjoying the feeling of just being with her friend.

“You think they picked something good this time?” Mike asked. Bev snorted.

“Doubt it, but hey, some time’s gotta be the first, right?”

“We can only hope,” Mike said solemnly and then they were both laughing. Mike and Bev liked to pretend that they had better taste in movies than the rest of the Losers, always digging through IMDB to find the most obscure foreign films to suggest for movie night. One time they had actually gotten their way, and they had all watched some Chinese drama that was about two hours too long, and afterwards Mike and Bev passed out study questions and quizzed the others on the movie. They kept it up for so long, that someone, maybe Stan or Bill, had actually started making excuses to leave, and then they had cracked and laughed for about ten minutes straight.

God that had been fun, totally worth sacrificing the right to ever pick a movie for movie night ever again.

“You think they remembered the snacks?” Mike asked. Bev felt her eyes light up and her lips twist in a amused smile.

“Probably not, we should make a pit stop to be safe.”

“Yeah we should.”

***

Ben loved movie night. It was a chance for him to hang out with all of his friends gathered in one place, no need to separate into smaller groups, no one getting lost in crowds of parties, no one left out or forgotten. Just the seven of them together, sometimes quietly watching a movie, sometimes loudly heckling it, but always, always on the same page.

Before he went off to college Ben hadn’t really been the person to – well, have a lot of friends. Sure, there were people at school he talked to more than others, people he gravitated towards during lunch, but Ben had never had friends like this before. He had never had friends he knew he would still make an effort to see if they weren’t living in the same building, and who would make an effort to see him too. It felt good, when he was with his friends, like pieces of his soul had slotted into place, pieces he hadn’t necessarily been aware had been missing, but when he found them, he felt whole, more like the person he was supposed to be.

It had been easy making friends with them too. Eddie had been his roommate from the start, and Bill and Eddie were basically joined at the hip. Bill dragged Richie along, and where Richie went there followed Bev, ( January embers) Eddie had clicked with Mike at work, and Ben had met Stan at the library, and when they found out that Stan and Mike were roommates too it had felt almost like it was meant to be. Suddenly Ben had not one, not two but six friends, all of whom he would help hide a dead body if he needed to.

So yeah, he loved movie nights because it was a chance to hang out with his friends without the world getting in the way for a change.

Ben was sitting on Bill’s bed with Stan on one side, and an open space on the other. He kind of hoped Bev would sit there when she got here, and the others knew it too.

Eddie, Bill and Richie were on Richie’s bed, Richie splayed on it with his head in Bill’s lap and his feet in Eddie’s. Eddie had pretended to be annoyed by that for like 2 seconds but had then given up and accepted it without further complaint. Ben sometimes wondered about Eddie and Richie, but he never knew where to start that conversation with either of them.

There was a knock on the door, and soon Bev and Mike were invading the already crowded dorm room. Bev’s arms were full of snacks, which explained why it had taken them so long to get here. Not that Ben had been worried or anything.

Bev dumped the bags of candy and chips on Bill’s bed and went around in a circle smacking a loud wet kiss on each of their cheeks as she greeted them. Ben barely had time to register Eddie wiping his cheek with a disgusted “Ugh, gross,” before Bev reached him, and before he knew it she was in his space, lips on his cheek, which was getting hotter and redder by the millisecond. Ben tried hard not to think about the poems he had submitted for the paper, and what it would mean if any of them got published. It wasn’t as if being subtle was his strong suit.

Before he knew it, the kiss was over with a loud “mwah” and Bev sank onto the bed next to him, head on his shoulder, legs pressed against his. He reached his arm around her, and she cuddled in closer, and Ben did his level best to ignore both Bill and Eddie as they tried to catch his eye. Probably to make fun of him.

“What are we watching?” Bev’s voice was quiet, just for him, and when he answered his voice was quiet too.

“I think we decided to do Fincher week. Zodiac and then Seven, because Stan vetoed Fight Club. You should have heard his rant, it was awesome.”

“Hmm, not too bad, but you know I like a little more culture in my cinema.” She said it with the accent of some upper-class socialite, and Ben, who had heard horror stories about Richie’s voices in high school, figured she had probably picked that up from him.

“Oh, shut it, Marsh. You know you belong in the gutter with the rest of us.” She pretended to think it over for a while.

“True.”

Richie interrupted their conversation by getting up from where he lay splayed on his bed to set up the movie.

“Why is it always me who must sacrifice his place to get this thing to work?” Ben sometimes wondered if Richie was just delaying the inevitable by not declaring himself a drama major yet. Richie had been undeclared forever, and by this rate, he would finish college before he ever picked a major.

“B-because it’s your sh-shuh-shitty TV, dickhead.” Bill said. Richie flipped him the bird.

Anyways… I hope you guys appreciate the things I do for you.”

“Yeah whatever would we do without the constant jokes about fucking our moms?” Eddie said. Richie turned, snapped his fingers at Eddie and smiled. Ben noticed Eddie squirming a little.

“Exactly Eds, you get it. Just like your mother gets my- “

“Beep beep, Richard!” Bev interrupted what was sure to be another horrible joke. That was sort of a thing those two had. Apparently, Richie had been a real delight in high school and Bev had started the beep thing as a way of keeping him in check. The others used it sometimes too, but it was mostly a Bev-and-Richie thing.

“Alright, Beverly, calm down.”

“Hey Dickard, why don’t you stop talking and focus on getting the TV to turn on, asshole” Stan interjected.

“Ooh, Stan gets off a good one.”

Richie finally got the movie to work, and they all settled down to watch it, Mike reaching for the snacks where he sat next to Bev, while Richie settled on the bed again this time with his feet in Bill’s lap, and head resting on Eddie’s thighs. Ben kind of wanted to say something about it, tease him a little, but he would probably just say it was so he could see the screen better.

When the first movie ended Mike got up to put in the second while Bill and Stan left to go to the bathroom. Bev was still tucked into Ben’s side, and Ben thought he wouldn’t mind staying like this forever.

They were halfway through the third movie when Ben noticed that people were starting to nod off. Bev had been snoring lightly for a while now, but it looked like both Bill and Eddie were asleep too. Richie was obviously struggling to keep his eyes open, letting them fall shut for a couple of seconds and then blinking violently for a few seconds, keeping them open a minute or so before they would start to fall shut again. It was kind of hilarious to look at.

When the movie was done the room was dark and Ben was the only one still awake. He contemplated waking everyone, so they could go home, but they all looked so comfortable, and he kind of didn’t want to disturb them. They had all found places to lie down. Bill and Richie were lying feet to face on Richie’s bed and Eddie was on the floor with Mike. They both had blankets and Eddie was wrapped in his like a tiny burrito. Stan had moved to the couch at some point. You couldn’t really see the TV from there which was why nobody used it on movie nights, but Stan must have been tired enough not to care.

That left Ben and Beverly on Bill’s Bed, Ben was lying against the wall, head propped on one of his arms and Bev was wrapped all around him. He didn’t take this personally, knew she would do this with anyone, that she hated sleeping alone, and always ended up spending the night, if not in one of their beds, then at least in one of their rooms. Nothing ever happened, it was just a weird Bev thing that you had to accept. Bev liked to cuddle, and today Ben was just closest.

That didn’t stop him from overthinking it completely though.

Ben reached for the remote to turn off the TV and settled on the bed, knowing that he probably wouldn’t sleep much, and not even caring, because he didn’t want to miss a second of being close to Bev like this. ( his heart burns there too)

***

Eddie’s phone had vibrated approximately 40 times the past three minutes, and he just knew it was his loser friends blowing up their loser group chat with something super dumb as usual. On the one hand he was busy studying for his abnormal psych lecture, but on the other hand he was pretty curious, and he hadn’t had a break in a while.

He pulled his phone out to check.

Bill: Are we still on for that party tonight?

Stan: Yes.

Richie: Billiam when have i ever said no to a party

Bill: tru

Bev: im in too

Ben: Same

Mike: might be a little late, have a paper to finish but i will def be there

Richie: boooooo lame

Bev: well rich some of us actually want a degree

Richie: why????

Bill: cool, pregame in our room?

Richie: nahhhh since Dan caught me with,,,, weed last week he’s been. on me like a hawk

Bill: Christ alright

Bill: Stan can we pregame in ur room?

Stan: Last time we did that Richie poured beer in my sock drawer.

Bev: lmao I forgot about that

Richie: so that’s a yes then??

Stan: No, asshole.

Ben: Yike

Bill: Ben??? ur room??

Ben: Ask Eddie

Bill: @Eddie ????

Richie: Eddie

Richie: E d d i e

Richie: Eds

Richie: Eddie Spaghetti

Christ almighty, his friends were morons. He texted a quick affirmative and then put away his phone to finish his reading.

The thing was, Eddie knew things were different between him and Richie. They were friends, sure, but in a different way than Eddie was friends with Bill, or Mike or Ben. They didn't quite know what to do with each other, never knew where the boundaries were or when to pump the brakes. He also knew that was mostly his fault.

He didn’t like to think about it, because when he did he always got this urge to throw up or maybe lie down flat on the floor Arrested Development style, because he was just so embarrassed.

Eddie rarely let himself hope for things, life had proven to him time and again that hope would get you nowhere. He had done it though, despite his best intentions, because he and Richie had really hit it off.

At first Eddie had hated the guy with a burning passion, and then he had somehow started to like him a little, and then he found himself laughing even when the jokes weren’t funny and when Richie had told them all that he was bisexual he had felt it in his chest. Hope.

They had known each other almost six months when they had been at a party with all of their friends. Richie and Eddie had broken off though, were doing their own thing. They were in the kitchen, Eddie with a beer and Richie smoking a joint, because he didn’t really like to drink anymore.

They had talked and joked and laughed and Eddie had felt really happy and disgustingly dangerously hopeful. He couldn’t help but stare at Richie, at his full lips, his big eyes, partially obscured by those dorky glasses that he loved so much, his dark hair that just begged to be touched. He also couldn’t help but notice that Richie was staring back.

Then they started to move in closer, neither one really initiating anything, but not holding back either. Eddie had taken a small step closer. Richie had done the same. Richie had started to lean in, and Eddie met him halfway.

Before he knew it, their lips crashed into each other and Eddie fumbled to put his beer on the kitchen counter, so he could grab on to Richie, who already had a good grip on his face, hands enveloping his cheeks, then moving to caress his cheekbones before settling, one on the back of his neck and one on his waist. They kissed frantically, like they were both starving for something undefinable. Tongues slid against each other, exploring, tasting, and hands gripped tightly. Eddie was practically heaving for breath, and for a short second he was back in the sixth grade, his mom yelling at his phys ed teacher that he was delicate and wasn’t allowed to do sports while he stood at her side gasping, not because he had been doing anything particularly demanding, but because everyone was looking and his mom was shouting, but then Richie bit his bottom lip and he was back in his body, giving as good as he got.

Eventually, after someone made some very pointed vomiting noises in the background they broke apart and Eddie couldn’t help the smile that broke out on his face. For once he had allowed himself to hope and it hadn’t bitten him in the ass.

Then Bill had been there, dragging Eddie to the beer pong table, and Eddie had lost track of Richie for a while.

When he saw him next, he was on the couch with Bev in his lap and Bev’s tongue down his throat.

Eddie allowed himself to be upset for 10 seconds, so he stood there, staring at Richie while he counted, (1) felt the anguish on his face, (2) felt Bill’s eyes burning a hole in his face, (3) but not doing anything to hide his fucking broken heart. (4)god how lame are you Eddie? You made out once (5) it’s not like you’re (6) married, he thought. He had just thought they had been on the same page is all, (7) so he hadn’t been expecting this.

He knew it was something Bev (8) and Richie did sometimes at parties, he just thought… Never mind.

When he got to 9 he caught Richie’s eye and he jerked out of the frozen stupor he had been in and rushed out of the room. He vaguely heard him yell out “Eds, wait!” But that only made him go faster, not wanting to hear the explanation or the excuse or worst of all and most likely the pity.

In the weeks following Eddie had done his level best to avoid Richie altogether, and when his heart stopped aching every time he saw him, he settled for just ignoring him, when all of their friends were gathered together.

A lot of time had passed since then and they were back to being friends, or at least something that resembled friends, and Eddie was doing fine. Of course he was. He had gotten over it, because that was what he did best.

He was fine, and anyone who had a problem with that could go fuck themselves.

Chapter Text

Richie found himself alone at the party much to his surprise. Bev was running late, to no one’s surprise and he had lost all of the others almost immediately. The entire hall was throbbing, music blaring out from several rooms, all blending together in something not quite distinguishable. He heard Africa by Toto play somewhere and decided that was as good as any and headed for the sound.

Richie was a little worried about Beverly. The few times he had seen her the past few days she had looked ragged and worn, and instead of texting the group chat tonight, she had just texted Eddie, which meant that she wanted him to smooth things over for her.

Then Richie spotted Eddie and decided that Beverly’s problems could wait.

“Hey Eds, should I even be surprised that you’re hanging out where the synth pop’s playing?”

Eddie glared at him before dragging him down next to him on the couch, handing him a beer when he sat.

“First of all, that’s purely coincidental, and second of all fuck you Trashmouth.”

Richie laughed loudly. He loved when Eddie got mean. He could really be a little firecracker.

“Nice comeback Bobby Kimball, never heard that one before.”

Eddie smacked his shoulder lightly and Richie jerked a little, barely noticeable (he hoped) at the unexpected contact. It was fine when he was the one initiating it, then he knew what to expect, but whenever Eddie was the one to touch him first, Richie would twitch or spasm or something equally embarrassing and weird. He hoped Eddie hadn’t noticed.

“Whatever” Eddie muttered. Richie looked around in the room they were in.

“I cannot believe” Richie said, “that anyone would ever own this many knitted things.” The bed closest to them was covered in a knitted blanket, the couch had several knitted pillows, on the wall hung knitted decorations, and on one of the desks several knitted toy animals sat. Eddie looked around and laughed a little.

“It could be crochet you uncultured swine” He said with a grin. Richie grinned back.

“Oh yes, if this room is entirely covered in yarn that has been crocheted then that’s an entirely different thing. Not weird at all.”

“Something about yarn freaks me out a little.” Eddie said, shuddering exaggeratedly.

“Whatever you do, don’t tell Billy” Richie said, “He’s been working on a Christmas sweater for you for five months now.”

Eddie smacked his shoulder again. “No, he has not, Bill wouldn’t know a knitting needle from a fork. If someone gave him one he’d probably poke himself in the eye”

Richie snorted in amusement. “Very true.”

Then because Richie was a horrible person, and because he couldn’t ever let a wound scab over without picking at it a couple million times, and because they had been quiet for a while Richie asked.

“So, why were you sitting alone Eddie Spaghetti?” He made his voice extra goofy, and annoying, just so Eddie had a chance to really get annoyed with him. Why do you do this Rich? “Haven’t found any fresh meat to hook your claws into yet?”

Eddie blinked at him a couple of times in confusion and then his brow furrowed.

“What?”

“Isn’t that what you do at parties?” Richie just could not stop himself at this point, even though he knew he was being cruel, knew the weirdness between them was completely and utterly his fault. “Find some poor unsuspecting guy to make out with in the dark for a couple of hours and then leave without a care?”

Eddie stared at him for a while and Richie knew he was mad, and kind of needed him to be, honestly. He felt like the only time he got to see the real Eddie, the Eddie he had gotten to know those brilliant first few months before he fucked it all up, when Eddie was screaming at him angrily.

“You know what Richie? I’m not doing this with you.” Richie opened his mouth to dig the hole deeper, argue more. The look on Eddie’s face stopped him. Shit.

“No, shut up. You don’t get to judge me, and you don’t get to make fun of me about this, okay? We are not talking about this tonight or ever… Just fuck the hell off and leave me out of whatever weird thing you have going on.” Then Eddie was gone leaving Richie to sit, completely frozen on the couch, wondering why he could never just shut the hell up.

He knew he had fucked up last December just as soon as he’d done it. He had been so happy kissing Eddie, had been practically walking on sunshine, and had not at all been averse to doing it again, but then Bev had found him, and she had been trashed out of her mind, so he had to take care of her. Before he could say anything to her, she had been all over him, because why would she not, it was what they did after all, and Eddie had seen, and everything had been fucked.

Richie had tried, several times in fact, to talk to Eddie about it, had tried to explain, but the smaller boy had refused to listen. For three weeks he had turned the other way every time he saw Richie, had left the room every time he entered, had hung up when he called. Then he had just ignored him for almost two months, accepting that he was there, but never responding or acknowledging him. Richie had tried, honest to god, because he had felt something there, but Eddie had started talking to him again around the same time he started making out with random guys at every party they went to and Richie could take a hint, okay?

They were friends again now, mostly, but the wound was still a little raw for Richie, even after all this time, and he couldn’t help but prodding at it every once in a while, just to get a reaction.

Nobody ever said that Richie Tozier was a fast learner when it came to matters of the heart.

While he sat there wallowing in his misery, he finally became sick of himself, and decided to go find Bill. He wanted to get wasted, hadn’t had a drink in almost two years and suddenly really needed one, and Big Billy was just the person to do that with.

***

Bev was running desperately late. She was supposed to meet the guys in Ben and Eddie’s room for pregame in – she checked her watch – 4 minutes and 17 seconds and she had only just left the library. If this had been any other Friday she would just have gone straight over there, but she had had kind of a rough week and she hadn’t showered in a couple of days. She had just straight up forgotten, had been lost in deadlines and lectures and annoying email-correspondences with asshole professors.

She thought it was ironic sometimes that psychology professors always seemed to be the least understanding when it came to the mental health of their students.

Anyway, she was late, so, so late, and it was her fault this time. She felt her stomach knot into tight coils. She knew, rationally that the guys wouldn’t care, she could just text them and let them know she would meet them at the party instead, and everything would be fine. Yeah, they might rag on her a little but that was to be expected.

She just didn’t feel very rational today, she was sort of at the end of her rope, mentally exhausted, in a way she only got when she had been working herself too hard for too long.

If she was being totally honest with herself and her needs, she should probably skip the party altogether but no- she had made a promise to her friends that she would go, and so she would.

(I worry about you sometimes Bevvie)

Beverly shook her head, pushed that voice, his voice all the way down, she could not go there right now. It would be big trouble and she could not afford to unravel today.

You just have to get through this party Bev, preferably without sharing spit with Rich, and then you can sleep all weekend.

She couldn’t actually, but this was a thing she told herself to fool her mind into picking itself up by the bootstraps.

If Bev was a pushover, then she sure as shit was a bulldozer too.

She decided to just text Eddie, knew he would probably be the most understanding, since he sometimes had these weeks too, not that he would ever admit it, but Bev knew. She knew that the circles that sometimes showed up under her eyes, showed up under his too, and yeah Eddie didn’t have that weird touch thing that she did, but he did have a thing with pills, she had noticed, and his running thing, and sometimes he would show up with bruises on his body, or face, looking like he had been in a fight or fallen down three flights of stairs, and refuse to say how it happened.

She also knew that Eddie never ever picked up the phone when his mom called, at least not in front of them ( Bev didn’t think he picked up when he was alone either, but she couldn’t be sure) Just as she never picked up when the number that was plugged in her phone as no. called her.

She didn’t know but had a pretty good theory that Eddie was a psych major for the same reason she was.

She sighed and texted him.

Bev: Hey Ed, just left the library, can you tell the others I’ll meet u at the party?

Eddie: sure. u ok?

Bev: Long week

Eddie: i’ll let them know <3 love u keed

Bev: <3333

She felt a little better now, knowing Eddie would smooth things over for her, because they had an understanding. Long week meant, “I’m not doing too hot, but I don’t wanna talk about it so don’t ask.” And that was that.

Bev held back a sigh as she turned the handle to her room and discovered it was unlocked. She really didn’t want to deal with Sally right now.

The sigh forced its way out anyway when she opened the door fully and saw that Sally had friends over.

Sally turned her head and her eyes widened in mock surprise when she saw Beverly in the door opening.

“Someone quick! Grab a camera, it’s Bevfoot!” Bev flipped her the bird but forced a smile on her face in greeting.

It wasn’t that Beverly didn’t like Sally, not at all. In fact, Bev thought Sally was pretty funny and nice too, didn’t pry too much or anything like that. It was just that Bev was bad at sleeping in her own bed, didn’t like the feel of her pillow, or the way her blankets clung to her body. The first couple of months she had tried adapting, tried buying new stuff, even bought a mattress topper to see if that would help, but it hadn’t.

She had done this when she had lived with her aunt Michelle too. Her aunt had bought her a brand new queen sized bed, when Bev had first moved in, and Bev had really tried sleeping in it, because she knew Michelle had spent a lot of money on it, and she didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but by the end of the first week she had started sneaking out to the living room to sleep on the couch and by the end of the third week Michelle had found out, and Bev had stopped trying to hide it. There hadn't even been a fight about it like Bev had been expecting (dreading).

Bev was fine if there was someone in the bed with her, someone like Richie or Stan or Mike or any of the other people she trusted explicitly, someone she could grab if she woke up confused in the middle of the night and didn’t know where she was (if she was back there) and she could sleep on couches. She did too, often crashing on Bill and Richie’s battered, old, dark green monstrosity, or on the pullout in Eddie and Ben’s room. Mike and Stan didn’t have a couch, but neither of them minded sharing their bed with her, they knew it came with the territory.

Richie knew about the reason behind this, but Bev didn’t think he even had to explain it to the other boys, they had just accepted it as a thing to know about her and moved on. She almost wanted to cry when she thought about it too hard.

A somewhat unfortunate side effect of this, however, was that Beverly very rarely spent time in her own room. She was there most mornings to change clothes, and at night to grab her toothbrush and stuff, and sometimes, if the boys were a pain and the library was crowded, she would study there for a few hours too, but that was basically it.

All of this meant that Sally had become convinced Beverly Marsh was a cryptid on par with the mothman and joked about this often and loudly. Bev mostly thought it was funny enough, and it wasn’t like Sally was getting a bad deal, practically having the room to herself, so they were on good terms, and even ate lunch together sometimes, if their schedules matched up.

Bev just wasn’t really in the mood for bigfoot jokes today, she just needed to take the fastest shower in the world and get dressed so she could go to this stupid party. She knew that as soon as she saw all her boys, her mood would improve drastically.

“Hi Sally. Sally’s friends.”

There were about six people besides her roommate, and they all murmured greetings varying in enthusiasm. Bev didn’t think she had ever seen any of them before, but Sally was an archeology major so that made sense honestly.

“So, Bev, you staying or just passing through?” Sally said. Bev thought she probably knew the answer already.

“Party over at Weisman Hall.” She said as she dug through her closet looking for something acceptable to wear. Laundry day was coming up.

There was a long silence, and Bev remembered her manners.

“Oh! You guys should come.” She winced at herself as she stuck her head back in the closet and pulled out a red and white striped t-shirt and an old flannel she hadn’t worn in forever. She quickly sniffed her black jeans and deemed them acceptable. Now she just needed to find her shower stuff and she was golden.

Sally snorted. “Will your boyfriends be there?” Bev heard one or two of Sally’s friends giggle, and she rolled her eyes.

“They are not my boyfriends but yes, they will be there.”

“Whatever you say. Maybe we’ll stop by, Diane heard about a thing in Stevenson that we were planning on checking out but if that blows, who knows.”

Stevenson, Stevenson, who did she know in Stevenson?

“Wait, doesn’t Bowers and all those idiots live in Stevenson?” Someone nodded. “You should drop that then, they’re all complete assholes. I know the kids who are throwing the Weisman thing, they’re cool.”

Sally smirked, and Bev smiled back at her, daring her to speak the smartass comment that was inevitably already on the tip of her tongue.

“Then we’ll probably see you and your six boyfriends there, Bevfoot.”

“Har har, fuck you Mueller, I was just trying to help.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Then Bev was out the door and in the bathroom, and after the quickest shower in the world, she was on her way.

God, Richie was probably pissed she hadn’t texted him.

Nothing to do about that now, she thought, he just likes to worry.

(I worry a lot)

She pushed that thought backdownaway. Bev knew it was a bad sign that it had happened twice today already, knew she needed a nap or maybe an aspirin, but she did not have any more time to waste so she pushed past it.

The party was going strong when she got there, the whole floor was crowded with people drinking out of solo cups. Almost as soon as she got there she spotted Eddie in the corner of one of the rooms heatedly making out with some guy Bev thought she had seen at the coffee shop once or twice.Go Eddie! she thought first, and then soon after better find Richie.

The thing about Bev and parties was, that when drunk and left to her own devices, Bev had a tendency to seek out men that reminded her of her father. That was why she and Richie had agreed pretty early on in their friendship that she should never be those two things at the same time if they could help it, and that was also the reason why she had spent too many Fridays and Saturdays with her tongue down Richie’s throat.

They both knew that it would never be more, and it had never gone farther than a little heavy petting, and that was a big part of the reason that Bev kept doing it, even though she told herself to stop at least seven times a week. She saw the look in Ben’s eyes when it happened, saw how Bill had looked the first couple of months they had known each other (luckily that had come and gone pretty quickly) And she saw how Eddie had looked that one time, almost a year ago. That one had been a little less her fault, as she knew people thought she was hot, but Eddie was, as he proudly proclaimed whenever he felt like it, as gay as they come, so she didn’t think she was the reason he looked like his cat had just been run over.

It had been a little weird between them the first couple of days after that whole thing had happened and Eddie had categorically denied being within 50 feet of Richie for what felt like years but was probably just weeks, but he and Bev had quickly fallen into their old routine and Bev was glad. She didn’t want to lose Eddie just because she couldn’t handle being lonely and drunk at the same time.

Bev knew she was using Richie to some degree, and she felt bad about it. She knew the only reason he felt safe for her, was because he was as far away from her father as she could possibly come, and because they both knew that there was no danger of them falling in love.

When she was in high school she had mourned this fact a little, but now she was glad. She knew he would always be there for her, and she would always be there for him, and that felt purer somehow, than any relationship she was in ever would, she was pretty sure.

Still, if she got drunk, she would crave touch, and she had hardwired herself, with Richie’s help, to seek him out. They had been doing it less this past year, and Bev knew why, knew Richie felt bad about doing it, but sometimes she couldn’t help it, and he would never say no.

She had to stop it though, wanted so badly to not need anybody.

She made her way through the party and finally found people she knew. Stan, Ben and Mike were chatting, all with beers in their hands and she joined them, cheerfully calling out.

“Hey losers, having fun?”

They all smiled at her in greeting, and she could already feel her frayed nerves repairing themselves. She always felt better when she was with her friends. They soothed her soul somehow.

“Hey Bev, you’re even later than usual.” Stan said, dry wit present as always.

“Well fuck you too I guess.” She grinned.

“Have you seen Richie and Bill yet?” Mike asked her with a mischievous smile.

“No, why?”

Ben laughed outright now, and Stan rolled his eyes good-naturedly.

“They’re doing Edward fortyhands, only they’re doing it with cans, and they keep taping more on top of the empty cans. Bill is trashed.” Mike explained as Beverly laughed. Richie hadn’t really drunk in a while, but this could only be his doing. She hoped he didn’t go too far over his limit though, he had to be kind of a lightweight by now.

“Richie’s idea?”

Ben chimed in. “Yup.”

“How long have they been doing that for? I’m not that late.” Mike laughed, Stan sent her a withering look, and Ben just smiled softly at her. Something in her stomach fluttered.

“About an hour” Mike said. “Richie almost can’t drink from the cans anymore, he’s got so many taped on there.”

“Okay I have to see this” she laughed again. Ben touched her elbow and passed her an unopened can of beer. She accepted and smiled at him gratefully.

“I’ll come look with you, Bev.” He said. She thought she saw Stan and Mike share a look out of the corner of her eye but decided to ignore it.

“Thanks Haystack” she said and glared at Mike and Stan “you’re a prince among frogs” They all laughed, and Ben looked a little pink at the top of his cheekbones, but then they were on their way and soon he was back to normal.

They found Richie and Bill 20 minutes later out on the lawn in front of the building. Richie was puking his guts out about 4 beer cans taped to each hand, and Bill next to him, patting him awkwardly with his own beer hands.

Bev laughed for about forever and felt much better. She loved her idiot friends.

Chapter Text

Eddie’s phone started ringing at exactly 8 AM. It always did on Saturdays, and Eddie would without fail, always reach over and turn it off, so he could go back to sleep for a couple more hours. Today though, when he saw that name flashing on the screen, he just stared at it, and let it ring. It wasn’t until Bev, who was curled up in a ball on their pull-out, started groaning into her pillow, that he reached over and put it on silent.

He would never understand how she hadn’t gotten the hint yet. Eddie supposed it was his own fault for not blocking the number, but doing that felt final, in a way that made his intestines twist up so instead he just ignored her whenever she called and tried not to think of her at all the rest of the time.

It mostly worked too.

Eddie contemplated going back to sleep, but he felt jittery, and weirdly awake considering that he, Ben and Bev had stumbled into the room about four hours earlier. Maybe his hangover just hadn’t caught up with him yet.

He decided to go for a run, and slowly started to get up to gather his things. Eddie was careful not to make too much noise. He didn’t want to wake Ben or Beverly, who had fallen back asleep if her quiet snores were anything to judge by. When he was dressed and ready to go Eddie had to do some gymnastics to get to the door. Their crummy dorm room was tiny and the couch where Bev was sleeping took up most of the floor space. He made it out to the hallway and soon he was running along the familiar paths, on his way down towards the park.

Eddie liked to run, loved it in fact, probably because, as was the case with a lot of other things in his life, he had been told he couldn’t for 18 years of his life. He liked to run in the morning too, whenever he could drag himself out of bed. There was something so calming about being awake before everyone else, seeing the world awaken slowly, ready for another day. He liked running along the lakes in the park, when it was this early, you could almost always spot some animals walking around, before people inevitably invaded their space.

Eddie’s breathing was even, measured, and not the least bit shallow.

He thought about last night and could feel himself getting angry again. Richie really was the most infuriating person he had ever met.

How dare he make fun of Eddie for kissing a couple of guys at a couple of parties as if what he was doing with Beverly wasn’t 30 times unhealthier. So what, Eddie liked making out, sue him.

You know you’re only mad because you’d still rather make out with him.

Eddie shoved that thought into the garbage can he kept at the back of his mind where it belonged. He was still pissed.

The worst part was that he was a little worried about Richie too. After he had gotten rid of the guy (Caleb?) he had been kissing for a while, Eddie found his friends in one of the bathrooms gathered around Richie who was puking his guts out. Apparently, he had been drinking, and that just did not make any sense. Richie didn’t drink, ever.

Eddie had ended up telling the others to go out and enjoy the rest of the party, and Bill looked at him like he wanted to say something for about 5 seconds and then he went back to being incredibly drunk.

Eddie sat with Richie for a half hour until he started to return to normal, and then dragged him into one of the dorm rooms where they found a free bed. Eddie sat on it leaning against the wall and Richie, who still looked like someone had kicked his favorite puppy, lay with his head in Eddie’s lap. Neither of them mentioned the fight they’d had earlier, and Eddie was over it anyway. Richie always said shit like that, he just had to stop letting it bother him.

They talked a little bit about random crap, and Richie told Eddie about the new voice mail his philosophy professor had left him, which made Eddie laugh so hard he almost vomited.

For some reason Richie had that guy convinced he was a goddamn genius and he had no idea how he’d done it either. A couple of months ago, after Richie had handed in his first paper, the professor had called him at 2 o’clock in the morning and left a 27-minute long voicemail talking about the implications of artificial intelligence. Richie was nonplussed which only made the whole situation more hilarious and since then it had only gotten weirder. Richie had told Eddie that he wrote most of his philosophy papers high, and he barely read through them before handing them in, but he must be doing something very right.

Richie fell asleep after a while, the alcohol knocking him out, and Eddie let him sleep, while he sat and looked at the people around him, not really registering them. At one point the guy ( He was pretty sure it was Caleb) had stuck his head in the door and Eddie had pointed at Richie and grimaced apologetically. He had looked at Eddie for a couple of seconds, and Eddie had the sensation that he was seeing more than Eddie really wanted him to, but then he had shrugged and left, and Eddie had breathed a sigh of relief.

After a couple of hours Bev and Ben had found them, and Bev looked at Richie with a soft smile. Eddie felt a little twinge in his heart but ignored it. He woke Richie up by shaking his shoulder gently, and then Bill was there, and Eddie let him take responsibility for getting Richie home. Bev went with him and Ben, and when they got into their room they had all crashed instantly.

As Eddie was running, his breath even and measured, he felt the last traces of anger leaving him. He had never been good at staying mad at Richie anyway. He decided that he would stop by his and Bill’s room later today to see how he was doing, and hopefully he wouldn’t be weird or awkward at all.

Yeah, right.

***

Stan was up early, but he had a good reason. Or… semi-good. Well, if he was being honest, it was kind of ridiculous actually. He was going to get coffee, because he had to study today. Right, that was it.

He glanced at his watch and winced slightly. Yup, it was still 9 AM on a Saturday, and he actually had no reason whatsoever for being up except – well except for the fact that Bev had let it slip last night that Pat was working today. She had probably meant to tease him about it, in fact Stan knew her well enough to know that was where she was headed, but something had distracted her before she got the chance, and Stan was gifted with knowledge he didn’t know what to do with.

He liked Patricia, liked her a lot, but he was so bad at this. He decided to text Mike and ask him for help, he always knew what to do.

Except he was next in line and Pat was right there and Stan forgot how to breathe for a moment. Then she snapped her fingers in front of his face and he felt himself blush furiously.

Way to make an impression dumbass.

“Um, a black coffee please?”

“Sure thing.” She smiled at him and Stan’s heart skipped a beat. He was pathetic, but something about those dimples and those bouncy curls that only just reached her shoulders was really doing it for him. “Hey, you’re Stan, right? Beverly’s friend?”

Holy shit, she knows my name.

“Uh yeah. And you’re Patricia, right?”

She smiled exasperatedly. “God, Pat please, only my mom calls me Patricia, it gives me PTSD.”

Stan barked out a surprised laugh and not knowing what to do now, started searching his wallet for money. Pat smiled as he handed her the cash. He smiled too, but he couldn’t go yet, he was talking to her! He had to make the most of it.

“Please tell me you make better coffee than Bev does.” This time Pat was the one who was surprised, and the giggle she let out, added a couple of years to Stan’s life, he was pretty sure.

“I don’t think it’s actually possible to make worse coffee than Beverly, so I really hope I do.”

The guy behind Stan coughed once, and Stan reluctantly moved out of the way, looking at Pat one last time.

He had really done it. He had had an entire conversation with her and hadn’t made a complete fool of himself. Mike would be so proud of him.

***

Bill burst into his dorm room praying to god or whoever was listening that Richie was home. He was going to fucking love this.

He glanced around the room, quickly spotting Richie, who was lying flat on his bed, phone in his hand, looking like someone who needed a distraction. Bill was just the right guy for that today.

“Richie, you are n-nuh-not gonna believe what I found.”

Richie looked up from his phone and when he saw what Bill was holding his eyebrows lifted comically.

“What the hell is that?”

Bill held out his treasure proudly, displaying it from several angles.

“A leg lamp!” he stated, as if the question itself offended him, which it kind of did. It was pretty obviously a leg lamp.

Richie’s eyebrows lifted just a fraction more and Bill was kind of impressed. He always wanted to have eyebrows that could do that. It looked so cool.

“A leg lamp?” Richie asked. Bill put said lamp down on his night stand. It was a little scuffed up and pretty dirty but overall it looked awesome. Bill loved it already.

“Y-yes!”

The fact that Richie couldn’t seem to grasp the awesomeness of his find didn’t bother Bill at all. Sometimes it took people a little while to catch up to his genius.

“Why do you have a leg lamp?” Richie was sitting cross-legged on his bed now, looking unimpressed as hell. He was probably still feeling the effects from all the beers last night. And whatever made him drink all those beers last night too, if Bill had to guess. Not everyone could be blessed with whatever gene Bill had that made him impervious to hangovers, and no one but him appreciated it.

“I f-found it.” Bill said.

“You found it?” Richie was looking more and more animated as the conversation went on, and Bill patted himself on the back in his head for being the best at distracting people from their moral and literal hangovers.

“Yes.”

“Bill… I swear to God. Where did you find it?”

Bill grinned. This was the good part.

“In the dumpster.”

Richie put his head in his hands and groaned. What a drama queen.

“You found a leg lamp in a dumpster and decided that the rational thing to do was bring it in to our dorm room where we sleep?” He spoke through his hands, words coming out a little muffled.

“Yup. I w-want to see if it wuh-works.”

“Oh, well now it makes perfect sense.” Richie put on the voice of an old timey news anchor. “The boy just wants to see if it works lads.”

“Why are you questioning me on this? It’s an a-awesome lamp and if it works we’re gonna make a ton of n-new friends, I’m t-t-telling you.”

By now Richie was trying to hide his goofy smile, the one that meant that he was almost back to normal, and Bill was secretly relieved. He hated when Richie was being weird and moody almost as much as he hated when Eddie was being quiet and unnaturally polite. It was not their natural states and Bill would worry.

“Why, pray tell, my dear William, are we making friends because of an ugly lamp?”

Bill decided to ignore that frankly unnecessary comment and started to untangle the cord, so he could plug it in. The cord was kind of gross and yellowy too, but Bill didn’t care, he could always buy a new one and change it later. He stuck it into the outlet and, miracle of miracles, the lamp turned on.

“Oh, yes! B-beautiful!”

Richie rolled his eyes.

“Now to answer your question, Richard, we are going to make f-friends, because I’m putting this beauty in the w-window, and I promise you p-people are going to come knocking to talk about it.”

Richie was silent for a bit and when he spoke his tone was serious.

“Bill, I’m going to ask you a question, and it is important to me that you answer truthfully.” Bill nodded.

“These people who knock on our door to talk about your lamp. Are you going to kill them or fuck them?”

Bill grinned.

“Depends on if they’re hot, I g-guess.”

Richie laughed, and Bill did too, and they sat on their beds chatting quietly for a little while until Bill’s phone rang.

He flipped it over to see who was calling.

“It’s my mom, I should pick it up.”

Richie shrugged.

“Put it on speaker, I wanna say thanks for last time.” Bill flipped him off but put the phone on speaker anyway.

“Hey mom, you’re on speaker with me and Richie.”

Hi honey, hi Richie. How are you two?”

“Hey Mrs. D.” Richie said. “We’re hanging in there.”

“That’s good to hear. Listen Bill, I wanted to ask about thanksgiving. Is Eddie coming again this year?”

Bill saw Richie perk up a little at the mention of Eddie. He probably shouldn’t have put his mom on speakerphone after all.

“Um, I th-think so, but I’m not sure. I’ll a-ask him next time I see him, okay?”

Sure thing sweetie” Richie sent him a look at the nickname and Bill stuck out his tongue. He was five, whatever. “ Richie, you’re welcome too, of course!” Bill shuddered at the thought. Him, Eddie and Richie alone at his parent’s house for a week. Not a chance in hell. He saw Richie open his mouth and hurried to answer his mother before he got a chance.

“He can’t, he’s g-going home.” Richie raised his eyebrows in a question, and Bill shrugged him off.

That sounds nice. Maybe next year then.”

“Thanks for the offer Mrs. D., maybe.” Richie still looked a little puzzled.

Of course. Anyway, the reason I asked is, I saw Sonia Kaspbrak at the store yesterday, and Bill, let me tell you that women is looking meaner every day, it’s a miracle Eddie managed to-”

Bill saw Richie sit up straighter, attention caught at what his mom had said, and knew he was trying to figure something out. Bill wasn’t too sure how much Eddie had told Richie about his life before college, but he didn’t think it was a lot. Bill had had to figure a lot of the stuff out himself, because Eddie refused to talk about it. He grabbed his phone to turn it off speaker, not wanting his mother to share details about Eddie’s life that Eddie wanted to keep private.

She was still talking, and Bill let her talk. Richie looked like he wanted to ask a question but didn’t quite know what or how to ask.

He talked with his mom for a while, knowing Richie was hanging on to every word in the hopes of overhearing anything else that might give him insight into Eddie’s life.

When he hung up, he looked at Richie once and knew he had to say something.

“Please don’t ask, because you know he doesn’t want you to know, and I have to respect that. “ Bill said as gently as he could.

“But Bill-“ Richie started.

“Richie. It has to be his choice to talk about it. It just does.”

Richie sighed, and Bill did too. They were back to square one, and Bill really didn’t want to have to dig through more dumpsters to find things to distract his roommate with, even if the lamp was awesome as hell.

There was a knock on the door and Bill shouted that it was open. Eddie walked in, looking unusually perky. He sniffed once and scrunched up his nose.

“Why does it smell like garbage in here?”

Bill sighed, and Richie laughed, looking pleased as Eddie flopped onto his bed next to him.

Bill thought, not for the first time, that his friends were dumb as hell, but what was he going to do about it?

Nothing, that’s what. They could figure their shit out themselves.