Eddie couldn’t have explained it if someone asked him — he didn’t even think the guy’s standup was funny, but there was something that drew him to Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier to the point that he’d be in his living room after his wife went to bed, sitting in the dark with his laptop, watching hours of YouTube videos of this guy performing bad jokes to talk show audiences. Eddie would sit with his arms crossed over his chest, not laughing, but staring at Richie Tozier like he was trying to commit him to memory. There was just something about him, a weird, tall dude with glasses and messy hair and horrible taste in button-down shirts.
He was obnoxious and terrible, and Eddie had the worst crush on him.
It was fine, though. Just a stupid little celebrity crush; a safe, inaccessible outlet for Eddie’s deeply suppressed gay thoughts. He could pine away over Trashmouth Tozier from the comfort of his living room, clicking on video compilations with titles like “Top 10 Trashmouth Interview Moments” and only feel vaguely guilty.
And then, of course, he gets a call from Mike Hanlon in Derry.
As Mike speaks, briefly, while Eddie sits in his now-totaled car in the middle of the fucking intersection, memories start to trickle back in. A quarry, a cliff, a hammock, the sharp pain of glass cutting his palm.
“Who else have you called?” Eddie asks, wincing and pressing the heel of his hand to his forehead. He feels a headache coming on, and he probably has whiplash from the crash.
“Just Bill,” Mike says. “I’m calling Richie next, and then I think probably Ben —”
“Richie?” Eddie repeats. His heart is suddenly hammering in his chest, and he doesn’t know why.
“Yeah,” Mike says. He laughs a little. “I’m surprised he wasn’t the first one you started remembering, you two were always inseparable. You and Trashmouth.”
“Oh, fuck,” Eddie says.
It was one thing to process the sudden remembrance of his long-time childhood crush, the sole target of his blossoming gay feelings. It was entirely another to process that the same idiot was the object of Eddie’s ridiculous, parasocial celebrity crush. He thinks maybe it won’t be so bad — maybe he’ll be able to bury the entire jumble of feelings and just act normal around Richie for once, they are adults now, after all — but the moment Richie walks into the restaurant and bangs the fucking gong, Eddie knows it’s a lost cause. He’s slammed bodily with two very confusing sensations. On the one hand, he looks at Richie and thinks, oh, it’s this dipshit. I remember being thirteen and you were so annoying and I was so, so in love with you. It’s familiar, and close, the rush of youthful affection. On the other, much more humiliating hand, Eddie sees Richie and part of his brain goes, holy shit it’s the hot comedian, and he’s immediately starstruck and a little flustered. Which is just ridiculous, and he refuses to engage with these thoughts.
Consequently, Eddie is maybe a little snappier than he originally planned on being. Then again, this was how he and Richie always were, wasn’t it? Richie making terrible “your mom” jokes and Eddie telling him to fuck off. There’s something comfortable about it, and he thinks maybe he’ll be fine after all.
Ben is laughing at Richie’s stupid joke about Eddie’s mom, and Eddie rounds on him with an incredulous, “What the fuck are you laughing at?!” When Ben just continues to snicker, waving Eddie off apologetically, Eddie shakes his head and mutters sarcastically, “The fun’s just beginning.”
Richie whips around to look at him, and there’s a glint in his eyes that Eddie doesn’t like one bit. “What’d you just say?”
“The… fun’s just beginning?” Eddie repeats. It’s just a phrase he says sometimes, he picked it up somewhere — and then he remembers exactly where he picked it up from, and his eyes widen at the same that Richie’s wolfish grin does.
“Eds,” he says, positively gleeful. “Do you watch my standup?”
“What? No!” Eddie says too quickly. He crosses his arms. “That’s just like, a phrase people say, dude, it doesn’t mean anything.”
“Then why are you blushing?” Beverly asks, taking a pointed sip of her drink.
Eddie glowers at her before turning back to Richie. “Okay, maybe I saw your special once. In passing. It was on the TV while I was in the room.”
“Oh no, I don’t think so,” Richie says. “If you’re quoting my shit, that means you really sat down and watched it. Eddie, are you a fan?”
“I — fan is a strong word,” Eddie flounders.
Richie isn’t listening. “Do you want my autograph, Eds? Want a selfie? Don’t be shy, man, I always have time for my fans. Y’know what they’re called? The trashheads.”
“I really hope that’s a joke,” Ben comments idly, while Eddie has a mild aneurysm beside him. “That’s embarrassing, Rich, did you name them yourself?”
Eddie is spared having to impale himself on his chopsticks just to escape the humiliation of this conversation when the waitress brings out another round of drinks, and everyone downs their shots. The conversation starts to shift to more serious topics, and they start to realize how scared they’ve all been since Mike called, even if they don’t know why. And then Bev says it: Pennywise. Eddie’s blood runs cold, and more memories drop into his head. Everyone looks shaken.
“Eddie,” Richie says quietly. “Pass me a napkin, would you?”
Eddie does it, barely thinking, his hands shaking. He glances over at Richie after a second, suddenly concerned that maybe he asked for a napkin because he’s about to start crying or something — and instead he sees Richie whip out a sharpie, scrawl across the napkin, and pass it back to Eddie. Eddie stares down at it. Richie’s signature is messy along the bottom of the napkin, with To my #1 fan! ;) just above it. Eddie’s entire face goes red.
“Are you kidding me, asshole? This is a serious moment! What is wrong with you?” he hisses, crumpling the napkin in his fist and throwing it at Richie’s face. It bounces off his forehead. “I literally don’t even think you’re funny.”
Richie smiles. “That’s okay, I don’t write my own material.”
Eddie’s eyes bug out slightly. “I knew it,” he says before he can stop himself.
Richie’s brow furrows for a moment in confusion, but then their fortune cookies start rattling in the dish the waitress had brought out for them, and things quickly dissolve into utter chaos after that.
The situation gets pretty serious — like, Native American ritual serious — and all that’s really on Eddie’s mind is a growing sense of dread until they make it to the clubhouse. He’s starting to remember a lot more, like the rock war and the afternoon that followed, the seven of them all together for the very first time, all crowded into Ben’s rickety underground hideaway. He remembers being adrenaline-hyped and obnoxious, and he remembers — the hammock, again, but more details trickle in this time. He remembers how he’d always crawl on Richie so he could wedge himself into the hammock next to him. He remembers Richie’s hand, sweaty, keeping a loose hold on Eddie’s bare calf.
Eddie remembers pining horribly over Richie, and he’s starting to remember that he sometimes thought maybe Richie liked him back. He glances at Richie from across the clubhouse, wondering if he’s remembering the same things. Richie catches his eye, makes a dumb face at him, and looks away again.
When Mike tells them they all have to split up to find their “tokens,” Eddie is pretty sure it’s the worst idea he’s heard all day, and he’s heard a lot of really stupid ideas since he arrived in Maine. But everyone else seems on board with the horrible plan (except Richie, Eddie notes), so he trudges along with them, out of the Barrens.
Richie catches up to him, putting a hand on his arm. “Hey, Eddie,” he says. “Hang on a second.”
Eddie stops, letting the others walk ahead of him. “What’s up?”
“I… have something for you,” Richie says. He chews on his bottom lip, shuffling his feet. He seems nervous, more so than he has the entire time they’ve been here. “I’ve been hanging onto it for a while, and it’s really important to me that I give it to you.”
Eddie blinks at him. He’s a little caught off guard, but his heart starts to speed up, and he feels his cheeks warming. “Really? What is it?”
Richie fumbles in an inner pocket of his jacket — and pulls out a rather large, printed photograph of himself, brandishing it with flourish. “It’s this 8x11 glossy of my face, I hope it reminds you of me while we’re apart.”
For a moment, Eddie just stares at him. Richie is grinning openly, and he shakes the photo a bit as he holds it out to Eddie, so it makes that wobbly paper sound. “What is wrong with you,” Eddie says finally. “Do you just — have those with you at all times?! Or did you bring it with you specifically so you could find a moment to pull this shit on me? I don’t know which option I hate more.”
“I thought you’d appreciate my dedication,” Richie sniffs, tucking the photo back into his jacket. “Anything for a fan.”
“God, you are unbearable,” Eddie huffs. “And you’re still not funny.” He starts to walk away, but Richie grabs his arm again. “Oh my god, what now. I don’t want you to sign it if that’s what you’re about to say.”
Richie snorts out a laugh. “No, but that would’ve been hilarious. I was just gonna say… be careful, Eds. I mean it. If things get, I don’t know, freaky, just call me and I can come meet you, okay?”
Eddie crosses his arms, fighting down the emotions erupting in his chest from this brief moment of sincerity. “Things have been freaky,” he points out.
Richie rolls his eyes. “Okay, if they get freakier, then call me.”
Despite himself, Eddie smiles. “Yeah, alright, will do. Same, uh, same goes to you, asshole. If you get in trouble out there, let me know.”
“Aye aye, cap’n,” Richie agrees.
They leave the Barrens together before splitting off to go their separate ways into town.
As it turns out, things do get freakier, but Eddie is too panicked to do anything after his encounter with the leper except power-walk back to the inn and then get stabbed in the fucking face, apparently. Richie is nowhere to be found, and Eddie’s pretty sure he’s ditching them, so he doesn’t call. He tells himself he’s not a little devastated at the thought of Richie running out on them, but the surge of relief he feels when he sees him at the library that evening is undeniable.
By the time they’re making their perilous way through Its lair, Eddie thinks he’s pretty much entirely over the celebrity crush side of his feelings for Richie. Troublingly, the regular crush has only grown in intensity, especially when Richie keeps grabbing his arm and asking if he’s okay and trying to stand in front of him to protect him from things. When Richie gets caught in the deadlights, Eddie barely has time to second-guess himself before he’s throwing the fencepost like a fucking spear into Pennywise’s gaping, horrifying mouth. It fall backwards, impaling itself on the spiked rocks, and Richie falls from the air, crumpling on the stone floor. Eddie scrambles over to him, shouting his name.
“Rich! Richie!” He drops to his knees, kneeling over Richie, and sees with relief that his eyes are open. He looks dazed, like he’s not all the way to consciousness yet. He’s blinking up at Eddie and his eyes are huge. Eddie’s heart is going crazy behind his ribs. “Yeah, there he is!” he says, grabbing Richie’s shoulders. “I think I got him, man!”
Richie is still blinking at him, unresponsive, and Eddie starts to get a little worried. He thinks back to when Beverly was in the deadlights, and how she’d still been trapped even when they’d pulled her down. Ben had gotten her out — with a kiss. Eddie looks down at Richie, who is grimy with dirt and greywater and sweat. He thinks about being thirteen and watching Richie from across a room. He thinks about being forty and sitting in his living room in the middle of the night, watching Richie on YouTube and feeling an undefinable ache. If there’s any time for wish fulfillment, he guesses it’s now.
He leans down, his hands resting gently on either side of Richie’s face, and kisses him.
The effect is pretty instantaneous — Richie inhales so sharply it’s more of a gasp, and Eddie quickly pulls back to see Richie looking far more alert than he’d been moments ago. He’s still staring up at Eddie, eyes wide, and there’s something to that look that Eddie can’t quite determine.
“There we go,” Eddie says, softer than he means to.
Richie opens his mouth to say something, then stops and stares at something over Eddie’s shoulder. His expression drops to one of sheer panic and he shouts, “Look out!” before wrapping his arms around Eddie and twisting to the side, rolling over and flipping them so Richie is propped up on his elbows over Eddie now. Right beside them, in the spot where they’d been a moment ago, Pennywise’s clawed spider arm hits the ground hard, dragging a shallow trench through the dirt before it’s pulled back again.
“Shit,” Eddie wheezes, and then Richie is yanking him to his feet and they’re both running, the sound of It laughing maniacally echoing behind them. They duck into a crevice just out of reach of Its arms, and Eddie puts a hand on Richie’s shoulder, panting for breath. “What the fuck!” he yells.
Richie looks like he’s about to puke, but he doesn’t. “You — why did you —” he starts, gesturing vaguely.
Eddie hears the others shouting for them, hears them getting closer. “Really not the time for this conversation!” he tells Richie, and then the rest of their friends are there and Richie, thankfully, drops it.
Eddie’s the one who figures it out — how to make It small, to stop It. And they do, crushing Its heart in their hands (disgusting) and then running for their fucking lives for the millionth time that day as Neibolt collapses in on itself. In all of that, Richie and Eddie don’t get a chance to talk until they’re all at the quarry, the two of them sitting in the shallows while their friends splash each other.
“Soooo,” Richie says. He’s looking at his hands. “You really planted one on me back there.”
“It lasted less than three seconds,” Eddie says. “I had to, man, you were still stuck in the deadlights. It’s how we saved Bev.”
“Right.” Richie stares at him then, and Eddie feels the embarrassing swoop in his stomach at being the subject of Richie’s scrutiny. “It worked because Ben had a crush on her and he believed in all that true love’s kiss bullshit.”
“Uh-huh,” Eddie says. He meets Richie’s gaze, waiting for him to put it together. He sees the exact moment he does, Richie’s eyes widening slightly behind his cracked lenses.
Richie looks away, a small smile creeping across his face. Then, weirdly, he says, “Back at the restaurant, you said you knew I didn’t write my own jokes. Why’d you say that?”
“Oh.” Eddie shrugs. “I… I don’t really know how I knew? I watched your stuff like, constantly, I was kind of obsessed, and it’s not like I could remember you or anything, but I just knew it wasn’t the real you. Deep down, maybe I still remembered.”
Richie’s smile turns into a toothy grin. “I’m sorry, did you say obsessed?”
Eddie swats his arm. “Oh, fuck off.”
“Wait, okay, back up for second. Did you — did the kiss work because you have, like, a fanboy crush on me? Or…”
Rolling his eyes, Eddie says, “First of all, never call me a ‘fanboy’ again. Second of all, what do you think, stupid?” He smiles slightly. “I don’t think those kisses work in the movies because the prince is a fan.”
“We’ll unpack the fact that you see yourself as the prince in this situation later,” Richie says. “I’m going to kiss you now.”
“Okay,” Eddie says. He leans in, and Richie tilts his head to slot their mouths together. Eddie tries valiantly to ignore the taste of quarry water on both of their mouths, or how Richie’s skin is kind of clammy from being in the water for so long. Instead, he puts his hand on the side of Richie’s neck and presses in closer. A ridiculous thought enters his head: holy shit, I’m kissing Trashmouth Tozier. His stomach fills with butterflies, the same kind of overwhelming starstruck feeling he’d had when Richie walked into the restaurant, and it’s so funny and goddamn surreal that he has to break away to laugh.
“What?” Richie says, smiling.
“I just — literally can’t believe I’m kissing my celebrity crush,” Eddie says, still snickering.
Richie cracks up. “Oh my god, I’ve really made it, I’m making out with groupies now. Rockstar status, baby.” He wipes a tear of laughter from his eye. “How do you feel about ‘groupie,’ is that more acceptable?”
“Mm, I can think of a few better terms,” Eddie says, leaning in to kiss him again.
For a couple minutes, they just kiss, and the sounds of their friends and the water and everything else fade to the background. Then Richie pulls back, and he has that terrible grin on his face that Eddie just knows is trouble.
“Wait, Eds,” he says delightedly. “So was I like, your celebrity freebie?”
Eddie shoves him, and he falls, cackling, into the water.