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“It wasn’t that bad.”

Eddie raised a brow, “‘Wasn’t that bad?’ I’m sorry, were we even at the same party? Richie, Bev punched a guy. Plus, they only had shitty alcohol, and you smoked weed with someone who I’m pretty sure has killed at least one person in their life. I think Stan was throwing up in the bathroom before the police came and shut it down.”

“Again, I’ve been to worse parties,” Richie replied, looking up at the starry midnight sky above them, “At least the cops didn’t catch us, no thanks to you. Stood there like a deer in headlights.”

“Excuse me for being scared about the fucking police catching me at a party riddled with underage drinking and other illegal activities.”

“That’s half the fun!”

Eddie rolled his eyes, stuffing his hands in his cozy cardigan, “Now I have to walk in the freezing cold all the way back to my place, where there's a possibility my mom is waiting up to kill me for sneaking out.“

“It’s not that cold.”

Eddie looked back to where Richie was casually strolling, dressed in cargo shorts and a god awful patterned shirt that looked like they could be the sheets on Chuck-e-Cheese’s death bed.

“It’s fucking September dipshit! In the middle of the night,” Eddie snapped, “Maybe if you weren’t so fucking blind you could tell that my breath is literally visible.”

“I guess not all of us could be blessed with being so hot and sexy that it keeps us warm,” Richie quipped, sending him a wink.

Eddie groaned, “On top of all that, I’m covered in sticky vodka. Thanks for spilling that drink on me, by the way.”

“My pleasure. Was sort of hoping it would get you out of those clothes, but alas, fate is a cruel mistress,” Richie smirked.

“Beep beep,” Eddie shoved him to the side lightly, but the combination of Richie’s lanky legs and the fact that they were weighed down by a beer, three shots of vodka, and whatever was rolled up in that murder tainted joint caused him to fall on his ass.

He laughed and held up his hand, “Help me up, Eddie Baby?”

Eddie cast him a glance, Richie pouting up at him, puppy dog eyes and all.

“I think I’m okay,” Eddie answered and kept walking, the orange autumn leaves crunching under his feet.

Richie stood back up, stumbling a bit before catching up to Eddie, “Ungrateful. I’m escorting you back home and this is how you repay me?”

Eddie whipped around, “Escorting me? None of that would’ve happened if you would’ve just let me drive your car to the party!”

“I may be irresponsible, but I’m not gonna let you drink and drive. You’re already a chaotic enough driver,” Richie retorted.

“I’m a safe driver!”

Richie laughed, “Your two speeding tickets and The Johnson’s mailbox disagree.”

“Whatever,” Eddie scoffed, kicking a pebble, “I didn’t even get drunk. I took that one shot with all of you and that was it.”

“You were supposed to let loose! It’s our last year of high school,” Richie threw his arm around Eddie, pulling him closer, “Our last hurrah together in the shithole that is Derry, Maine. Live a little, Eds.”

Eddie looked up at Richie, who grinned back at him. He watched the way the moonlight glared off of his huge glasses and the bloodshot eyes underneath them, droopy from being high and the stress of AP Calculus projects. How the metal frames slid on the curve of his nose and the freckles that called it home. Eddie would never admit it, but he had become an expert all things Richie over the years, mapping out every dip and crevice across his skin, to the contents of his very soul.

So the thought of Richie, and all the things that made him who he was, disappearing in a few months? It terrified Eddie.

He did the only logical thing to do. Eddie wriggled out from underneath his grasp and continued their verbal sparring match.

“I am living a little, thank you very much. Some of us don’t need to party to have a good time.”

Richie shook his head, “It’s not that. I mean, you haven’t even done a lot of the boring stuff you consider fun recently.”

Eddie scoffed, taking a long step so he could crush a leaf that looked especially crunchy.

“No seriously!” Richie continued, twirling around so he was walking (or, more accurately, stumbling) backwards, the breeze sending his curls upwards, “Lately, you’ve been so fucking stressed over school and shit. You haven’t updated your candle-making/self-care/Carly Rae Jepsen blog in months.”

“You read that?” Eddie asked incredulously. He wasn’t sure if he was more shocked Richie had found it and been interested enough to keep checking it, or the fact that he had found it and seen all the embarrassing things he posted.

Richie nodded, “Contraire to my horrible self-preservation, I do enjoy a facemask from time to time.”

“Speaking of, how come you’re still walking with me when we just passed your turn?” Eddie pointed out, nodding back a couple streets.

“Oh come on Eds,” Richie smiled, streetlights shining on him like some sort of angel, “We do this too often for you to play dumb.”

 Eddie’s cheeks turned as red as the solo cups that had littered the lawn of the house party. Richie referring to them and his sneaking in late at night as a ‘this’ , unfurled the knot of fondness in his stomach that had been twisting up all night. He knew Richie didn’t mean anything by it, he was inebriated and just trying to tease Eddie. Besides, Richie climbing through the window and under his covers had become commonplace at this point. It didn’t mean anything.

He struggled to find a response, Richie’s eyes glimmering with mischief and staring at him. A gust of wind picked up again and rustled the leaves underneath their feet. The chill brought him back long enough to let him return to their carefully crafted script, retorting with a weak, “Don’t call me Eds.”

Richie snorted, “See, you do know our routine! My feet are getting tired from all this walking though. You think when we get to yours you can wake up your mom and get her to give me massage?”

He glared back, a thousand equally angry responses on the tip of his tongue, settling for, “Just shut up until we get to my room, idiot.”

Surprisingly, Richie listened and hummed softly as they strolled side by side, the taller boy accidentally walking into Eddie from time to time. He’d giggle and brace himself on Eddie’s shoulder, the pads of his fingers just brushing by his neck as Richie steadied himself and kept walking. Eddie tried to place the tune Richie kept repeating but failed, figuring it was some of his weird obscure hipster bullshit.

They made it to his house, the grass turning brown and covered in red and orange leaves. Eddie noticed the living room light was on and tensed up, but his mom often forgot to turn it off or fell asleep watching evening game shows and soaps, so he prayed that was the case.

He motioned Richie to stay there until he checked that the coast was clear, and Richie plopped himself on the curb, resting his elbows atop his knees, tapping his toes impatiently.

Eddie carefully opened the side gate to the backyard, patting himself on the back for remembering to sweep before he snuck out so that he wouldn’t have to avoid the leaves. He slowly opened the door off the kitchen, peeking his head in to see that his mom had, in fact, fallen asleep in her recliner, her grating snores and laugh tracks filling the house.

Doubling back, Eddie found that Richie had been keeping himself busy by doing the productive work of ripping apart his mom’s favorite flowers, and poked at him with his shoe. Richie’s head snapped up and he threw the shredded petals unceremoniously on the ground before following.

The door creaked the second time around, and Eddie cringed, watching in horror as his mom shifted slightly. A moment later the loud snores began again and Eddie allowed himself to let out a breath of relief before closing the door.

There was some commercial for a sex hotline playing on the television, and Richie turned back to Eddie with a wide grin and waggled his brows suggestively, opening his mouth to say something stupid. Eddie shook his head and put a finger to his lips to shush Richie. Richie frowned childishly before continuing their slow journey up the stairs and into his room.

Eddie flicked the lights on and Richie strolled in behind him, looking severely out of place in the neat and cozy bedroom. He flopped onto the bed immediately and Eddie sighed, plugging in his string lights and fishing out some pajamas out of his closet. He grabbed Richie’s own spare pajamas out of its usual spot and tossed them over.

“I’m going to take a shower. Try to behave and be quiet,” Eddie warned.

Richie smirked, “Or what?”

“I’ll fucking smother you in your sleep, asshole,” he deadpanned, and left his door on slightly ajar as he padded over to the bathroom to the sound of Richie’s laughter.

He shut the door behind him and turned on the shower, listening to the pipes rattle and screech as the water warmed. After shedding off his alcohol covered clothes, he brushed his teeth and combed through his hair, which had grown curlier over the years. He stepped in the shower, enjoying the way the droplets melted away the tension in his back and washed off the lingering anxiety of the night.

Eddie showered quickly, not trusting Richie to be alone in his state. He tugged on some shorts and his favorite sweatshirt, which was actually one of Richie’s that once found home on Eddie’s floor after a sleepover. It was from one of the summer science camps Richie was sent off to in middle school, and featured a waving banana slug. The sleeves had small holes and the edges were worn from Eddie always tugging it on, because it was big and warm, and still sort of smelled like Richie, but in the best way possible.

He threw his clothes in the hamper and grabbed Richie’s spare toothbrush, which was an awful shade of fluorescent green. Eddie put some minty fresh toothpaste on the bristles, extremely worn down and frayed from how furiously Richie brushed. Next time he went to the store to pick up meds he’d have to grab a new one. 

Walking back into his room, Eddie found that his distrust in Richie was not misplaced. He had changed into the shirt Eddie had thrown at him, but decided to just wear some boxers instead of the sweats. Beside him was an empty bag of sour gummy bears, the leftover sugar falling out onto the blankets.

“Heathen,” Eddie chastised, walking over and handing Richie his toothbrush.

Richie gave him a shit-eating grin, a piece of red gummy stuck between his teeth.

Eddie gagged, “Ugh! Gross!”

He shrugged and stood up before brushing. Sure enough, the boy was way too aggressive, taking ‘killing germs’ to a whole new meaning. Although, Eddie wasn’t really sure he was cleaning his teeth well, he was way too erratic and ended up with half of the toothpaste outside his mouth, making it look like he had rabies.

Richie caught him watching and smirked, “Naughty naughty mind, Eddie.”

Eddie raised a confused brow and realized that Richie thought he was thinking of something else, something entirely inappropriate. In response he picked up one of Richie’s sneakers and threw them at him, eliciting a cocky laugh from Richie as he rushed out the room. Eddie instantly regretted touching it though, remembering how gross and stinky Richie was, and immediately put on some hand sanitizer.

He cleaned up the bed and got settled under the covers towards the wall, enjoying the comfort of his large pile of warm and fuzzy blankets. A few moments later Richie returned, turning off the lights, leaving only the moonlight to illuminate the bedroom.

Richie slid in beside him, taking off his wire glasses and setting them on the end table.

“Thanks,” Richie whispered, shifting so that they were facing each other, “For letting me stay.”

Eddie nodded, shimmying further under the covers so half his face was hidden. Almost every time the lights turned off and they crammed in the shitty twin bed, Richie seemed to become a different person. Maybe not different, but the stupid jokes and teasing died down, the guard of nonchalance dropping. Eddie felt lucky to see this side of Richie, soft and caring-- vulnerable. It’s not like he hated the other side of Richie, he secretly enjoyed their constant banter and his dumb jokes. No, it’s that this side was rare, and it was something beautiful. Here, safe in the soft flannel sheets, it felt like they were the only two souls for miles, and they could be themselves, and that was terrifying and reassuring all at once.

“I’m gonna miss this. When we go off to college,” Richie admitted, the weight behind his words telling Eddie he was thinking that same thing.

“Yeah,” Eddie agreed, “Me too.”

Richie smiled, “Maybe not the fact that you hog all the fucking blankets, but yeah. I’ll miss it.”

“It’s my bed!” Eddie retorted, but there was no bite to his bark.

“And I can never steal them back because you’re surprisingly strong as shit,” Richie continued, “Got the rage and power of a fucking dolphin.”

Eddie laughed, “Dolphins aren’t that strong.”

Richie shook his head, “Maybe, but those fuckers are deceptive as hell. Look all cute but they’ll kill their own kids.”

"You’re saying I’m cute,” Eddie teased before he realized what he was saying.

“I also said that you’re capable of murdering your offspring,” Richie responded, pinching at Eddie’s cheek, “But c’mon, you’re absolutely fuckin precious.”

Eddie groaned and pointedly took all the blankets away from Richie.      

“Although…” Richie began, a mischievous lilt to his voice.

“No. Whatever you’re thinking, don’t.”

Richie grinned, “There is a way to steal them back.”

Suddenly, Richie was reaching under the blankets and Eddie felt his heart skip a beat before he realized the asshat was going in to tickle him. He howled in laughter, trying to swat Richie’s hands away as the boy chuckled.

“Stop, Rich!” Eddie said between giggles, his eyes tearing up.

Richie obeyed, and Eddie opened his eyes to see Richie hovering over him, a hand braced on the headboard. They attempted to catch their breath, and Eddie was hyperaware of their legs entangled, the way Richie’s other hand still rest on top of the skin where Eddie’s hoodie had ridden up as they moved around. It felt like they stayed like this for years, Eddie watching the way his pinkish lips hung slightly open before returning to meet the gaze of brown eyes and fluttering lashes.

All too soon, Richie grabbed a fistful of blanket and rolled off of Eddie, settling back to his side.

“It’s a little too much effort though,” he sighed out, looking over to him once more, “Night Eds.”

Eddie blinked back at him, swallowing down the shameful urge to reach over and press the other boy into the mattress before kissing him. It went down his throat and into his heart like a sharp knife. Neither of them liked boys, there was no way in hell Eddie liked Richie like that, and Eddie was probably just fucking sleep deprived.

“Night Richie.”