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The Art of Acceptance

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Richie Tozier is six when he first learns that men could date other men.

 

Richie Tozier is also six when he learns that could does not mean should. At least his dad makes that clear.

 

It’s the Fourth of July, and the Tozier family is out for the annual Derry Fourth of July Parade. Richie had just gotten ice cream, and was jumping up and down in between Wentworth and Maggie Tozier. It had been a great day, full of games and excitement and candy and Richie is having the time of his life!

 

“Richie, slow down,” Maggie mutters, wiping his newly formed chocolate ice cream goatee away, “Stop making a mess!”

 

“Messes are fun, though!” Richie whined, trying to escape the napkin is Maggie’s hand.

 

“Messes are messy, not fun!” Maggie groans, throwing the napkin down on bench they’re seated on.

 

“Let the boy have his fun, Maggie,” Wentworth said from the other side of Richie. Richie beamed up at him, but Wentworth was only looking out at the people passing in different shades of red, white, and blue. Richie wanted to dress up in red, white and blue as well, but his parents weren’t dressed up, so Richie wasn’t dressed up.

 

“It’s not fun, Wentworth, it’s disgusting,” Maggie mutters again, leaning back against the bench. The group was filled with silence, and Richie decided he didn’t like silence. So he talked. He talked about anything that hit his six year old mind. He talked with his mouth full of ice cream, spitting it everywhere to Maggie’s disgust. He talked about things he saw, and things he didn’t know. So Richie naturally asked about the two men holding hands. The moment he asked, it was like a shift in the air.

 

“They’re just a couple of fags,” Wentworth scoffed, voice dripping in a tone Richie didn’t know. It was kind of like the one Maggie had when she saw him covered in mug or the one time he had worms in his mouth, but only angrier. Richie decided he didn’t like that tone.

 

“Fags?” Richie asks, testing the new word on his chocolate covered tongue.

 

“Perverts who think that being with another man is okay,” Wentworth said, before turning towards Richie, “I better never catch being one of these faggots, okay?” All Richie could do is nod. Richie doesn’t know why, but the sound of ‘fag’ and ‘faggot’ makes his skin crawl. The ice cream suddenly doesn’t sound as good as it did minutes before, and Richie regrets even asking about the two men in the first place. Richie can’t shake the feeling the rest of the day, and the parade seems not as fun as it did hours before.

 

That was the last day he spent with his family and had fun. That was only a few days before Maggie found out that Wentworth had been banging his secretary. A few days before she found comfort in a liquor cabinet (Or, some days, just in pretending everything was normal). A few days before Maggie and Wentworth fought like it was going out of style. A few days before Richie’s home life tanked for the worst.

 

*

 

Richie is eight, and doesn’t see the big deal with girls.

 

Sure, he’s heard the older boys talk about how “sexy” and “pretty” they are, but Richie’s just doesn’t get it. He voices this during recess one day, and Stan scrunches his face.

 

“Girls are just weird,” Stan says, and Bill nods behind him, playing with the stick he found. Bill’s lying, however. Richie sees how flustered he gets when he kisses Beverly Marsh in the play. Eddie shudders next to him.

 

“Victor Criss says they have cooties,” Eddie says.

 

“Wuh-wh-what are c-cooties?” Bill asks, dropping the stick as it proved to be less fun than he thought. Richie snatches it from the ground.

 

“A disease only girls have, but can give to boys,” Eddie explains.

 

“W-Why?”

 

“I don’t know!” Eddie exclaims, throwing his hands up, “But apparently it makes your skin form weird lumps that ooze and fall off after a week!”

 

“I guess girls aren’t worth shit!” Richie exclaims, poking Eddie with the stick. Shit was a word Richie heard a lot. Henry and his gang told him to eat shit once, Maggie has told Richie to get his shit off the floor multiple occasions, and god knows how many times he’s heard it being thrown around during a screaming match between Maggie and Wentworth. Though, the new string of words was new. Richie recently heard Wentworth say Maggie “wasn’t worth shit”, and while Richie didn’t know what that meant, it was certainly fun to say. Maybe it was the excitement of saying a “grown-up word”, the weird adrenaline that rushed Richie when he said shit. This, however, was the first time he had ever said shit to his friends.

 

“Don’t poke me with that!” Eddie exclaimed, jumping back. Bill was only in shock.


“R-Richie…” He muttered, looking around as if a teacher was about to jump out of the bushes and drag Richie in, “Y-You can’t sa-say that!”


“But I just did!” Richie smiled, showing his few missing teeth, holding the stick proudly as he danced around. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!”


“Richie, be quiet!” Stan shushed him, looking behind him as a teacher—Mrs. Casey, a fifth grade teacher—walked dangerously within hearing range. Richie opened his mouth again only for Bill’s hand to slap over it.

 

“Shhhhh!” Was all Bill said before Richie grinned and licked it, mustering all the saliva he could onto Bill’s palm. Bill yelped, pulling away, and Richie laughed. All the shit with girls was forgotten.

 

*

 

Richie’s eleven, and still doesn’t understand what’s all that with girls. By now, most of his classmates were starting puberty and finally seeing that the cooties bullshit was just that. Bullshit. They’re starting to see the training bras and the fuller figures. 

 

But Richie doesn’t see it. Of course, he can see the changes. Like how Greta Keene is now a B-cup and shows no sign of stopping, that’s obvious, old news. What he doesn’t see is why everyones talking about Greta and her bust. Or Sally Mueller and her “nice ass”. Not even Marcia Fadden and her new use of make-up.

 

What Richie did see was Peter Gordon’s sharpening jaw. Or how Tommy Vicananza’s shoulders were getting broader. Even Victor Criss’ newly bleached hair looks good on him.

 

And what Richie didn’t understand was why no one was talking about it. So, naturally, he asks Wentworth about it, on the rare day he was home. It was a day where Maggie played Perfect Housewife, the dining room clean and chicken dinner laid neatly on the table. The silence was killing Richie, and he wanted to fill it anyway he could.

 

“Dad?” Richie asked, and Wentworth let out a small hum, not looking up from his paper, “What’s the big deal with girls?” Wentworth paused, looking over his paper.

 

“What do you mean, Richard.” Richie swallowed at the use at his full name, but he had to know.

 

“I mean, everyone is talking about Greta’s nice rack or Sally’s nice ass and I just don’t get it! I mean, it’s not even a good rack, and Sally’s ass is okay, I guess, but it really doesn’t compare to Moose Sadler’s ass, though that’s really all he has going for him. Even his hair doesn’t fit his face. I mean, he looks straight from the fifties with that greasy look. He looks like a wannabe Danny Zuko, and I doubt he’ll get a Sandy with his brains—” Richie’s cut off with a smack, and although his vision is now blurry, he can still see how close the carpet on the floor has gotten. Richie holds a shaking hand up to his cheek, and looks up at the blurry image of his father.

 

“I won’t have a fag for a son,” Wentworth says, and what scares Richie the most is how calm his voice is. Like he just came back from a stroll in the park. However, there’s underlying anger deep in his voice. Something dark and it causes a deep chill to run up his spine.

 

“Are you a fag, boy?” Richie just stares, and Wentworth is suddenly in his face, “Answer me, son, are you a fag or not?” Richie shakes his head, unable to form words. “Words, boy!”

 

“No, sir!” Richie spits out, and Wentworth looks (or at least, Richie guesses he looks) satisfied with his answer, and sits back at the table, unfolding his paper. Richie sits for a second, before grabbing his glasses and stuffing them back on his face. He stands on wobbly legs, and sits down as well. Maggie is just eating her chicken calmly, sipping her wine. Richie can only stay for a few minutes before he leaves the table quietly, heading up to his room. The door closes, and the flood gates break. He slaps a palm over his mouth to stifle the sobs that pour out of his body at a rate that Richie doesn’t have the energy to control.

 

“Fuck…” Richie mutters, voice weak and wet. Did he really sound like a fag? All he was doing was pointing out the obvious, and now he’s a fucking fag. Maybe he should lie more. Lie about how he also thought Greta’s bust was rocking, or how Sally’s ass was the cats meow.

 

So, on the following Monday, Richie came to school with a new set of jokes and lies, much to the disgust of everyone around him, and fully getting the reputation as Trashmouth Tozier.

 

*

 

Richie’s thirteen, and sobbing on the bench in City Central, covered in cuts and bruises.

 

It was a normal day. Richie was in the arcade, having fun like normal pre-teens like him. He was playing Street Fighter, like normal. Normal, normal, normal.

 

“You’re good,” A kid said after Richie finished. Richie turned to him, and felt his breath leave him. This kid was cute. Real cute. Blonde curly hair, piercing blue eyes, and a lopsided smile. Richie swallows, before doing what he does best. Talk.

 

“Well, I basically play this game everyday,” Richie says, rubbing his clammy hands on his jeans, “I’m Richie by the way!” He holds his hand out, and the kid grabs it. Richie feels his cheeks heat up. He’s nervous, but he doesn’t know why.

 

“Conner,” The kid—now Conner—responds, “Can I join you on for a round?”

 

“Why of course, my good sir!” Richie slips into a voice without really noticing it, then curses inwardly. The chuckle that leaves Conner’s mouth makes it better, though. He slides next to Richie, putting a token in. The round starts, but Richie is hardly paying it any mind. His heart is pounding, and Richie feels he likes it. He can feel the heat from Conner, they were so close. Richie can’t help his eyes looking over Conner’s body, and immediately looks back. The round ends, and Richie realizes he lost.

 

“Good round,” Conner says, and Richie is blinded by his smile. Richie smiles back, and they high five, Richie’s fingers lingering a bit more than they should. 

 

“I gotta go,” Conner says, looking a bit disappointed, and Richie frowns before fumbling with the cup he held his tokens in.

 

“How about we go again!” Richie says, holding a token up, “Play some more, you know?” Richie doesn’t know why, but he doesn’t want Conner to leave. Being with Conner brings a rush of adrenaline and emotions Richie doesn’t care to understand. Conner looks at him with an unreadable expression, and Richie feels the warm rush of embarrassment run through him.

 

“Only if you want to!” Richie explained, but secretly he didn’t want Conner to leave. Conner was cool, and fun to play with. Conner looked at the door, but Richie didn’t look away from the way his curls move. Suddenly, Conner turns towards him, and Richie jump slightly.

 

“Dude, why are you being weird?” Conner asks, voice sharper than the nice tone he was speaking with earlier, “I’m not your fucking boyfriend.” Richie blinks, the former embarrassment turning into confusion. Boyfriend? Why would Richie want him to be his boyfriend?

 

“Whoa,” Richie says instead, lowering his arm, “I didn’t—“

 

“What the fuck is going on here?” Henry Bowers’ voice interrupts Richie’s defense. Why was Bowers here? Bowers never liked the arcade.

 

“You assholes didn’t tell me your town was full of little fairies,” Conner said, and Richie could only watch. Fairy. That was a word he heard a lot. A word that’s been directed towards his friends. But never a word about him.

 

“Richie fucking Tozier?” Henry says, stepping closer,  “You trying to bone my little cousin?” Cousin. Of fucking course Conner is Bowers’ cousin. Richie just has the best fucking luck in the world, doesn’t he? Henry’s face morphed from a neutral look into one of pure rage.

 

“Get the fuck out of here, faggot!” Faggot. That word hit him like a bullet, piercing through the last little facade Richie had. Faggot. Richie? A faggot? Looking around at all the staring faces, Richie realized they all thought that. They were buying the bullshit that was spewing from Bowers’ cracked lips. The only eyes that didn’t show disgust was Conner’s, shining with what could be described as guilt. Slowly, Richie’s feet moved back, nearing the door. The words Henry was yelling at him had been blocked out by blood rushing his ears. Turning around, Richie pushed the door open, and left. The air became humid, but Richie paid it no mind.

 

Faggot. That word was ringing in his brain, echoing around and blocking any other thoughts. The blood was still rushing in his ear, and effectively covers the sound of footsteps behind him.

 

Faggot. The word was still ringing as Richie was shoved to the ground, face breaking the impact. The word was still ringing as Bowers’ and his gang threw kicks into his side, his back, anywhere they could reach.

 

Faggot. The word that was being yelled at him from all different directions, not just from inside his mind. The word that almost hurt more than the boot that connected with his cheek, sending his glasses flying.

 

Faggot. The only word that was on his mind as he stood after what felt like hours, grunting as tears flew down his bruised cheeks. The word that followed him to the City Central, on a bench facing that goddamn ugly Paul Bunyaun statue.

 

“Faggot,” Richie whispered, and it hurt because it was true . It was true! Richie was a faggot , and a fairy , and any of the other slurs the minds of Derry citizens could come up with. Richie was gay, and fuck . He didn’t like Sally’s ass, nor Greta’s much more impressive bust. He liked the sharp edges of Peter and no matter what, Moose’s ass was better than Sally’s. Hell, he thought Conner was cute, and he wanted to hold his hand and play Street Fighter again. He was not normal. He was a sinner! His dad had said so at the parade all those years ago, and while Richie wasn’t as religious as he probably should be, the thought of going to Hell was one that scared Richie.

 

And God, if his father ever found out. Or worse, the Loser’s. Bill would give him the stink eye, and Ben would refuse to look at him. Mike would just stop coming to town, not wanting to be near pervs like Richie. Beverly would blow smoke into his face, telling him to get lost, and Stan would tell him he was going to hell or whatever the fuck the Jewish version was. And Eddie, sweet Eddie would not want to be around a man with a disease like Richie’s.

 

“Shit,” Richie faintly hears himself say, and he hugs himself, ignoring the pain that is shooting up his bruised sides, “Shit, shit, shit, shit!

 

“Richie?” Richie’s head snaps up, and sees the blurry figure of Stan run up to him. Shit! Richie quickly wipes his tears, wincing as he pushes on a bruise.

 

“Holy shit, Rich, what the hell happened?” Stan asks, looking over the beaten form of his friend.

 

“You should see the other guy,” Richie muttered, and Stan shot him a glare.

 

“Was it Bowers?” Stan’s voice is softer, and Richie scoffs. He can’t deal with this.


“Who else?” Really, there were more people than Stan knew about that would love to beat the shit out of Richie Tozier’s apparently extremely punchable face. Richie himself, for starters.

 

“What did you do to piss him off this time?” Being a fucking fag.

 

“He found the leftovers of me and his mom from last night.”

 

“God, Rich,” Stan muttered, “I thought you had class, but clearly you don’t.” Richie smiled. This was the shit he liked. Emotions were not to be touched, even with a ten and a half foot pole.

 

“A quick fuck to pass the time.” Stan snorted, before sighing.

 

“Let’s get you cleaned up…” Stan muttered, taking a look at his face, “Wait, where’s your glasses?” Richie blinked, and remembered that his vision wasn’t just blurry because of the tears and pain.

 

“I, uh,” Richie started, patting around the bench, then his pockets, and then looks back up at Stan, “I don’t know.”

 

“Did Bowers fucking steal your glasses?”

 

“I don’t know! He kicked them off!”


“Kicked them off? Where?” Richie vaguely pointed in the direction he was at mere minutes—Hours? Seconds?—ago. Stan swore under his breath, and ran off, making him a blob in the shit that was Richie’s eyesight. God, Richie loved Stan. And not in the gay way. He loved him how Bill loved Georgie, like a brother. And Richie didn’t want Stan to leave him. Didn’t want Stan to look at him with disgust. 

 

He can’t know, Richie thought to himself. No, Stan could not know about how dirty Richie was. He couldn’t know about Richie’s dirty, dirty secret.

 

“Miraculously,” Stan said, running back up, “They aren’t broken, just bent.” Richie grabs the glasses and shoved them on his face, the non-blurry face of Stan a welcomed one.

 

“That’s good, my parents would kill me if they got broken,” Richie says, standing with a few groans and protests from his sides. Stan stands to his side, hands up ready for anything.

 

“Come on, let’s go to the clubhouse, get you patched up.” Stan leaves no room for arguments, and tries to grab Richie’s hand. Tries is the key word, as Richie pulls his hand away as if Stan was on fire. Stan turns to Richie, and Richie stuffs his hands across his chest.

 

“What the hell?” Stan asks, and Richie shrugs, trying to look as nonchalant as he could. Really, he didn’t want to hold hands with Stan. He couldn’t hold hands with Stan. Boys don’t hold other boys hands. That’s dirty.

 

“I just don’t want my hand smelling like hand sanitizer, Stanley!” Richie lies, and he knows Stan can see right through him. Stan just sighs, and moves to Richie’s side.

 

“Let’s go, Rich.” They walked, and Richie vowed to try and be normal. He can be normal.

 

If Stan looked at him weirdly, than that was the price Richie was willing to pay.

 

*

 

Richie’s fifteen, and finding that being normal is much harder than he thought.

 

He had thought that being normal was going to be simple. Think of girls the way he shouldn’t think of guys, talk about all the “action” he was getting, make jokes about Eddie’s mom. It should be easy.

 

But it’s not! It’s not easy when thinking about girls makes him sick. It’s not easy when the retelling of his “action” feels like ashes in his mouth. It’s not easy when Eddie is cuter than Mrs. K could ever hope to be. It’s not easy when Richie looks at Peter in class and thinks about how cute he’s gotten, or when he sees Tommy’s lips and thinks about how kissable they are. It’s not easy when everything else in his body is not normal no matter how hard he tries.

 

“Penny for your thoughts?” Bev asks, smoke leaving her lips as she spoke. Richie startles, his train of thought broken momentarily. He takes a puff of his own, leaning against the pole of the clubhouse. It was just them for now, the others coming later in the day.

 

“My thoughts are worth more than just a penny, Marsh,” Richie responds, watching the smoke fill the clubhouse, dancing with the light that shines in. Bev snorts, leaning her head against the ropes of the swing she was on.

 

“Okay, Tozier, a nickel for your thoughts.” Richie scoffs, running a hand through his hair.

 

“Just a lot on my mind, darling.” Bev frowns, standing from the swing and moving over to him.

 

“Like what?” Bev asks, and Richie shrugs, looking up at a crack in the wood.

 

“Bullshit, mostly,” Richie says, taking a drag of smoke. Bev’s watching him, and he blows the smoke out with a sigh.

 

“What kind of bullshit?”

 

“The shittiest kind, my dear,” Richie says, turning towards her. Beverly Marsh is pretty, anyone with eyes could tell. With her fiery locks and determined but kind eyes, they’d have to either be stupid or blind to think Beverly Marsh is not appealing to the eyes. The problem is that Richie didn’t think she was pretty, at least not like Ben or Bill did. He didn’t look at her hair and think about how’d it feel under his fingers or want to gaze into her eyes like she hung the stars. Don’t get Richie wrong, he wanted to think she was pretty, desperately so. But he couldn’t. Not without the taste of bile on the back of his tongue. He wanted to be normal. God, he wanted to be normal.

 

“Like what?” Bev asked, and Richie knew the way to be normal. The cure to his abnormality. He stubs his cigarette on a nearby ashtray, before leaning in and connecting his lips to Bev’s. They both stay still for a moment―a bit shocked at the sudden kiss―until Bev moves her mouth against his and Richie just follows the rhythm of her lips. They’re surprisingly soft, especially against his chapped ones. Bev tastes like smoke and cherry lip balm, which is not a bad combination. Bev places her hand on his cheek, and Richie, for a second, feels normal.

 

Then he feels sick. His stomach is rolling and his heart is hammering against his ribs. His mouth is dry and Bev’s lips are suddenly too much and the mix of smoke and cherry lip balm is nauseating. 

 

I can’t do this, Richie thinks, subconsciously freezing, I can’t do this. I’m not normal. I’m a fag and I can’t be normal no matter how hard I try. Bev pulls away, her hand still on his cheek, and her soft lips are in a frown.

 

“Richie,” She says, and Richie just stares at her, “You’re crying.” He brings a hand up to his cheek, and finds it wet. He gives a wet chuckle, then lets out a loud sob. Tears are streaming down his cheeks, and the sounds won’t stop leaving his mouth. He can briefly hear Bev move above him, before he sinks to the floor, legs giving up the one-sided fight between them and the weight of his abnormality. He pulls his knees to his chest and tucks his face his knees. His glasses presses awkwardly into his face, tears soaking the lenses, however Richie doesn’t care. All he cares about is how no matter how hard he tries, he will never be normal . He will always be a faggot. Derry’s Fairy. He will always be dirty, and will always be abnormal.

 

“Richie!” Bev says over the mess, grabbing his shoulders, “Honey, what’s wrong?” He looks up at her, his vision blurred. Her eyes shone with such concern that Richie let out another sob.

 

“Bev…” He whimpers, voice shaky and wet, “I can’t do it…”

 

“Can’t do what?” Bev asks, the concern shining through her eyes.

 

“I c-can’t be normal,” Richie says, a new round of tears flowing down his cheeks. Bev just looks confused.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I’m not normal,” Richie whimpers, grabbing his hair, “I’m dirty and a sinner and a faggot! I’m not normal, Bev! I will never be normal! With the words out, Richie let out a fresh set of sobs, burying his face in his jeans to avoid the look of disgust that she would have. The silence is overwhelming, and Richie’s waiting for him to get lost and never come back.

 

Instead, she mutters, “Oh, Richie…” and wraps her arms around his shoulders. Richie takes a peak and meets her sad gaze. “Is that what you really think?” Richie nods, and stops when he sees tears appear in Bev’s eyes. She wipes them away before they fall, but they appear again. All he can do is watch as she looks away, and takes a shaky breath.

 

“Richie…” Bev whispers, “You’re not dirty, or a sinner.” Richie can only look at her, frozen at the words. That’s not right, it can’t be right. Fags go to Hell, that’s what Richie has heard everywhere. Home, school, the streets, church, wherever the Bowers gang is at. Everywhere you go, everyone seems to agree with the same thing. All fags go to Hell.

 

“You’re wrong,” Richie whispered, looking at his hands, “Fags go to Hell, Bev, haven’t you heard?”

 

“Yeah, I’ve heard,” Bev said, “And I also heard Greta call me a slut. The thing they have in common is that they’re both bullshit.” Richie’s about to protest when the latch opens, and five pairs of shoes move down the ladder. Richie hastily stands, wiping the remains of his breakdown with his sleeve. Bev doesn’t move, her eyes watching Richie.

 

“It smells like shit down here,” Eddie complains once his feet touch the floor, waving the air away from his face, “Have you guys been smoking down here?”

 

“Only the good kind, Eds,” Richie responds, a fake smile gracing his chapped lips.

 

“The kind that gives you cancer, asshole.”

 

“The only cancer is the way you want to get between me and Mrs. K!”


“Shut the fuck up, that doesn’t make sense!” Richie laughs, and ignores the way Bev and Stan are looking at him. Because Bev is wrong, how could something he’s been told over and over be wrong?

 

Though, a seed of doubt has been planted in his chest.

 

*

 

Richie’s sixteen, standing on the kissing bridge, wondering what the hell he just did.

 

The day had started so normal. He got up, ate some stale cereal, and headed to the clubhouse. The Losers were planning on meeting anyway, and what did it matter if Richie was a bit early. He sat on the hammock, staring at nothing in particular. An unlit cigarette hung loosely in his lips as he rocked the hammock with one of his newly long legs.

 

Today will be a good day, Richie decided, hearing chatter from above. Today will not be shitty, Richie decided as the latch opened and legs came down the ladder. Today is a good day, Richie decided as a grin crossed his face at the sight of Eddie.

 

“Well howdy, Eds!” Richie exclaimed, pulling the smoke out of his lips and shoving in his breast pocket.

 

“What are you doing here?” Eddie asks, arms crossed.

 

“Just chilling, waiting for some losers to make their appearance,” Richie said, grin getting wider, “We got the first one right here.”

 

“Fuck you, man,” Eddie says before he looked at the hammock, “How long have you been in there?”

 

“Uhhh,” Richie starts before shrugging. Eddie sighs before pointing away with his thumb.

 

“It’s my turn, get out.”

 

“I thought the timer starts when everyone was here, and,” Richie pauses, making a big show of looking around the small space of the clubhouse, before looking back at Eddie with a mock-sorry shrug, “I don’t see anyone but you, Eds.”

 

“Why would it start when everyone was here?” Eddie asks, face twisted in one of his key emotions: annoyance.

 

“So it can be fair, duh!”

 

“Just give me the hammock, Dick.”

 

“That’s not nice, Eds,” Richie responds, spreading all of his limbs over the hammock, “I was here first. Finders, keepers.”

 

“You know what?” Was all the warning Eddie gave before he charged, climbing into the hammock with much struggle. Richie swore, feeling Eddie’s boney elbow dig into his side. They struggled for a moment, throwing swears and insults at each other like there was no tomorrow. Then, they both stilled, each other’s feet next to their faces. Richie was breath was coming out in huffs from the struggle, and he looked at Eddie, who had a small smile on his face.

 

It was this moment that Richie realizes that Eddie was beautiful. His usually neat hair was sticking up at odd places. The sunlight was hitting his brown eyes, showing some of the hidden colors that Richie had noticed before. His face was flushed, a few laughs coming out of his mouth for a reason Richie didn’t know. And his lips, oh man his lips. They were nice and looked soft and very, very kissable. In fact, every place on Eddie’s face seemed kissable, and Richie wanted nothing more than to kiss him—

 

Richie felt his eyes widen.

 

He wanted nothing more than to kiss Eddie.

 

He wanted to kiss Eddie Kaspbrak.

 

Oh shit, Richie thought, tearing his gaze away from Eddie’s kissable lips, I want to kiss Eddie Kaspbrak. I want to hold hands with Eddie Kaspbrak. I want to go on dates with Eddie Kaspbrak. I’m in—

 

“Richie,” Eddie’s voice cut through his loud thoughts, “You okay? You look pale.” Richie swallows and gives a shaky smile, not meeting Eddie’s eyes.

 

“I’m fine, Eddie,” Richie tried to reassure, but he sure Eddie saw right through him. Before he could say anything, the door opened, five voices heard from above. Perfect timing.

 

“Hey,” Mike says as he enters, “You two are here early.”

 

“I had nothing better to do,” Richie said, sparing a glance at Eddie before smacking his head, “Oh shit!”

 

“What?” Ben asks.

 

“I forgot I had to do chores today!” A big ass lie. Richie hasn’t had chores since he was eight. The Losers don’t know that though, and Richie was grateful they never had came over to his house. “Shit, I need to go or my dad will have my head.”

 

“R-Right now?” Bill asked, disappointment not hidden in his voice. It made Richie feel bad for lying but he would not survive down here stuck with Eddie. Bev and Stan were looking at him weirdly. “We just g-got here.”

 

“Sorry, Big Bill!” Richie sprang from the hammock, almost hitting Eddie in the face, and grabs his backpack. “Gotta bounce! See y’all on the flip side!” Ignoring the protests, Richie ran up ladder, grabbed his bike, and booked it. He had no idea where he was going, but he didn’t care. He needed to get away.

 

Apparently, his bike decided to bring him to the kissing bridge. A bridge full of initials and love and why Richie was here, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he had a knife in his backpack and a clean spot on the side of the bridge.

 

Richie isn’t even thinking as he jumps off the bike and walks to the clean spot, taking off his backpack and pulling out the knife. All he’s thinking about is the fact that he feels like a balloon about to burst. There was too much air just packed in and it was he could feel the tightness consume him and he just needed to release a bit of air. Just a bit.

 

His knees touch the gravel near the rotting wood, and he holds the knife to it.

 

Release the air, He thinks as he carves the first letter.

 

Release the air, He thinks as he moves to the little plus sign.

 

Release the air, He thinks as he puts the last letter on the wood.

 

The balloon in his chest is not as tight, but it’s filled with a whole new emotion as Richie stares at the fresh carving.

 

R + E

 

Holy shit, Richie thought, dropping the knife as he moved away, why did I do that? But he knew well enough.

 

Richie Tozier is in love with Eddie Kaspbrak.

 

Richie Tozier is in love with Eddie Kaspbrak, and he had no idea what to do.

 

“Fuck,” Richie muttered, leaning against the piece of wood, away from the taunting carving. With shaky fingers, Richie pulls out the cigarette and his lighter, taking a drag of the newly lit smoke. “I’m fucked…”

 

However, the seed of doubt had grown and had taken root in his brain, replaying Bev’s words a year prior. Bullshit, she had said. Was it really bullshit?

 

No, Richie thought, It can’t be bullshit, but he wasn’t sure. How could anything involving Eddie be sinful and dirty? Hell, the kid hated dirty.

 

That means he’ll hate you, the deep, dark voice in his head said, you and your dirty, dirty secret.

 

“Fuck…” Richie muttered, taking a puff of his smoke. If only Bev hadn’t said that his thoughts were bullshit, then life would be a bit simpler.

 

“Richie!” Speak of the fucking devil. Richie turns his head in time to see Bev drop her bike and run up to him. “What the hell, Rich?”

 

“Good to see you too, Bev,” Richie mutter, flicking the rest of cigarette on the street. “What are you doing here?”


“I could ask you the same question,” Bev shot back, arms perched on her hips, “Why the hell did you run away like that?”


“I told you, chores.” That was a lie and they both knew it.


“You and I both know that’s bullshit, unless your chores include being at the kissing bridge.” Bev then seemed to realize where they were, and looked around confused. “Why are you at the kissing bridge?” Richie’s throat was dry as he stared straight ahead, looking out into the woods. Bev then kneeled next to him, in front of the dreaded carving, and he knows she knows.

 

“Rich…” She whispers, and Richie feels the balloon swell more. Release the air.

 

“I’m gay,” He starts with what she knows, “And I’m in love with Eddie.” And he ends with what he thinks she doesn’t know.

 

“I figured…” Bev said, and sat next to him. Richie still stared straight ahead. “I remember that day, two years ago, when you kissed me.” She grabs his hand, and he finally faces her. “I remember hearing you call yourself dirty and a sinner and a…” Bev stops, gripping his hand tighter. “You know. I remember being heartbroken hearing you say that.” She looks him in the eyes, and Richie can see tears in her blue eyes. “You don’t still think that, do you?”

 

“I don’t know, Bev,” Richie says, itching for another smoke, “Part of me says its bullshit and the other part is telling me I’ll go to hell, that I’m a pervert and a sinner, that I’m sick and no one will want to know my dirty little secret.” Richie stopped, sucking in a shaky breath. Bev looked away, pulling out a cigarette.

 

“You want to know a secret of mine?” She said, and Richie looked at her, slowly nodding. She smiled, lighting the smoke with her pink lighter Richie bought her a year ago. “Around the time you kissed me, I had the biggest crush on you.” Richie’s eyes widened, and Bev seemed amused with his reaction.

 

“No way!” Richie yelled, and Bev laughed, cigarette hanging from her lips.

 

“Yeah, as shocking as it is, I was crushing hard on you.” Richie looked forward, and the smile slipped off his face.

 

“I’m sorry…”


“What!”

 

“I mean,” Richie quickly said, “You had a crush on me and I’m gay.”

 

“That’s nothing to be sorry for, Rich.” Bev puts out her smoke, and smiles at him. “I actually think that’s a must for girls.” Richie let out a genuine laugh. Bev wrapped her arms around him, and Richie realized he was shaking. Only it wasn’t due to just laughter. His laughs turned into sobs that he let out on Bev’s shirt. She removed his glasses, and pulled him closer.

 

“I got you, Rich,” She whispered into his ear, “I’ve got you.”

 

At the moment, Richie believed her.

 

*

 

Richie’s seventeen, leaving the hospital with stitches in his face, and feels life is okay.

 

It had been a normal day. Boring even. Richie had gone to the pharmacy in hopes of getting a pack of bandaids and maybe snatch a couple packs of cigarettes. He was deciding between a pack with a bunch of weird shapes and one with a bunch of neon colors. Richie was leaning more towards the neon ones, but knew Eddie would like the weirdly shaped ones. Finally saying fuck it, he grabbed both and turned to head to the register, only to run smack dab into someone, causing them to drop the shit they were holding along with Richie’s bandaids.

 

“Oh shit, sorry!” Richie said, bending down to get his things.

 

“It’s my fault, don’t worry,” The man chuckles and Richie gets confused. He recognizes the voice but doesn’t know where. Then he looks up and his heart freezes.

 

Crouching in front of him, grabbing all the shit that had fallen, was Conner Bowers. He looked almost the exact same, the only difference was the baby fat had mostly fallen off, leaving a nice jawline and sharp cheekbones. Richie, however, was frozen. The reason he got yelled at all those years ago was right in front of him. Conner looks up, blue eyes connecting to Richie’s brown ones, and his eyes widen.

 

“Richie?” Conner asks, and Richie is just frozen, “Is that you?” Finally, Richie finds his voice, and stands, grip on the two boxes tight.

 

“I have to go.” Richie wasn’t lying. The Losers had a meetup in an hour or so and Richie wanted to get there early to claim his spot on the hammock. Conner stood quickly and Richie attempted to make a break for it before Conner grabbed his arm.

 

“Richie, wait!” Conner said, and Richie turned to him, readying for the first punch, “I’m sorry!” Now that confused Richie, he hadn’t expected Conner to apologize. He expected him to throw a punch and a few slurs. Maybe call Henry over to finish the job.

 

“What…” Richie felt himself say, and he searched Conner’s face for any sign of trickery. There was none.

 

“I was scared,” Conner says, voice growing smaller, “Henry is crazy, and I was worried he was going to find out I was gay…” Wait.

 

“Find out?” Richie was completely out of his element. He had only met Conner once and here Conner was, coming out to Richie in the middle of a pharmacy. 

 

“Yeah…” Conner said, “He followed you out afterwards, and came back with some blood on his knuckles. And I want to say sorry, for everything.” Richie just stared at him, wondering if this was all a sick joke. A few moments of searching, and all Richie could find was regret.

 

“If it makes you feel better,” Richie muttered, “It was a life changing moment for me too.” Conner blinked, before laughing. It wasn’t a malicious, it was a relieved laugh. One that Richie found himself laughing along with. Conner dropped his arm, and Richie smiled lightly.

 

“I actually have to leave,” Richie said, and Conner looked upset.

 

“I’ll see you again, right?” Conner asked and Richie smiled.

 

“Beat me in Street Fighter, and we’ll talk.” Richie went to the register, checked out (after stealing a pack of smokes), and headed off to the clubhouse, a new spring in his step. He hadn’t met another person like him, and it felt...good. Surprisingly, really fucking good. 

 

Twenty-five minutes later, Richie made it to the edge of the woods when he was tapped on the shoulder. He turned to face the person, before his vision went blurry as pain exploded from his left cheek. He fell down on the pavement—the bag in his hand falling next to him—in shock on what the fuck was happening.

 

“Oh, Tozier,” A familiar voice said, and Richie’s eyes widened, “Didn’t you learn the first time?”

 

“Bowers…” Richie said, looking at the blurry image of Henry Bowers standing over him, “Who pissed in your cereal this morning?” Henry didn’t laugh, just picked up Richie’s glasses.

 

“You know what I’m talking about, you Four-Eyed Faggot!” Henry said before his voice raised into a yell. “You were trying to fuck my cousin earlier, weren’t you!” He threw the glasses down, and stepped on them with a loud crunch. Richie flinched. His parents won’t be happy.

 

“What the fuck?” Richie asked for two reasons; his glasses and what ever the fuck Henry was talking about.

 

“Too bad my cousin is a fag like you.” Bowers voice had gone calm again, and it sent a big chill down Richie’s spine. Then it hit him. He had heard them in the pharmacy. “I’ll take care of him later.”

 

Fuck, fuck fuck fuck! Richie’s mind chanted, watching Bowers circle him like a vulture looming over his next meal. 

 

“You, however.” Bowers stopped his circling, crouching next to Richie. “I have a bone to pick with you.” Richie had enough sense to scoot away, feet and hands scrambling to get him far away from this insane bitch. The gravel dug into his palms, however Richie didn't care. Henry stood, walking slowly towards him.

 

“Now, now, we can—we can talk this out—“ Henry sped up, and sent his foot into Richie’s stomach. Richie fell back, and Henry was over him, a crazed grin on his face.

 

“You have been a thorn in my side, Tozier!” Henry growled, and Richie tried to push him away. Henry, however, was made of muscle while Richie was made of sticks. “First you won’t shut up! And now? Now you’re trying to bang my cousin?” He punched Richie’s face again, and Richie cried out, feeling blood run from his nose.

 

“I’m not—“

 

“Shut up!” Richie’s face exploded in pain again, his lip splitting open. “Just stay still!” Richie spit a glob of blood in Bowers face, and smirked, getting a spike of confidence.

 

“You hit like a bitch.” Bowers glared, stood up quick. Richie tried to follow him, but was kicked back down.

 

“Shut!” A boot to the side. “The!” A kick to the stomach. “Fuck!” A stomp on the forearm. “Up!” An upwards kick to the jaw. Richie fell back with a yell, body covered in bruises as pain buzzed around his body like a second skin. He coughed, tears involuntarily leaving his eyes. He barely registered Henry crouching next to him, watching him like a lion watches a wounded gazelle before making the kill. Then, Henry pounces, grabbing Richie’s bruised face, pushing the bruises that decorated Richie’s skin, forcing Richie to stare at Henry’s crazed face. Henry had a giant smile that rivaled the Joker’s—in both size and insanity—the blood Richie spit on his cheek only serving to make his serial killer vibe more effective, and that’s when Richie saw the knife in his hand.

 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa—what are you doing!” Richie yell fell on deaf ears, and Henry brought the knife dangerously close to Richie’s face.

 

“I’m teaching you a lesson, Tozier,” Henry said, tracing Richie’s cheek with the knife. Richie felt sweat form on his forehead.

 

“Henry, please—“ The knife swiftly cut his cheek, and Richie let out a pained yell.

 

“Just shut up!” Henry yelled, then held the knife to Richie’s neck. “I’ll fucking kill you, Tozier! I’ll kill you!” Right now, Richie fucking believed him. He was going to die at seventeen in this horrid town at the hands of Henry fucking Bowers. Richie closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable. Suddenly, the pressure of the knife was gone, and Richie risked opening his eyes, expecting to see Henry jab the knife into his eye. Instead, he sees Henry on the ground next to him.

 

“Like hell you will!” A voice yells, and Richie turns to see a blurry version Stan standing at the edge of the woods, and a bike—surprisingly—forgotten next to him. Henry stands, a smirk on his face.

 

“Well, well, well,” Henry says, and if Richie didn’t feel dead, he would scram, “Isn’t it the Jew?”

 

“Yeah,” Stan responds, something clutched in his hand, “A Jew that’s about to fuck you up if you don’t leave.” 

 

“Make me, Flamer.” Stan only threw the rock—the something in his hand—at Henry, hitting him in the mouth. Henry staggered back with a swear, and Stan took the time to throw another rock, hitting Henry’s arm. Richie briefly remembered the rock war many years before, and how the Losers won. He thinks Henry remembers as well, if the panicked look on his face is anything to go by. Stan throws another rock, and Henry decides to book it.

 

“I’ll fucking kill you!” He yelled over his shoulder. “I’ll kill you both!”

 

“Get new material!” Stan hollers back, and lets out a breath of air. Then he remembers why he was here, and runs up to Richie.

 

“Hey, Stanley!” Richie slurs over the swollen cut on his lip. He’s sure he looks great, covered in bruises and blood.

 

“Richie, what the hell did you do?” Stan says in fake annoyance, his face drips in concern. His hands are flying around Richie, clearly wanting to hold his friend but not sure where.

 

“Surprisingly,” Richie says, “I didn’t do anything.” Stan just sighed, and looked around for a second, clearly watching to see if Henry decides to make a comeback, then turns back to Richie. Stan spots his glasses—or rather what’s left of them—on the pavement, grimaced. He stood, and pocketed whatever was left of them, before walking back over.

 

“Come on,” Stan says, “Let’s get to the clubhouse.” He holds out a hand, and Richie grabs it. Stan pulls him up, wrapping Richie’s arm around his shoulders. Richie stumbles a bit, and Stan grips his arm tighter. Then Richie stops.

 

“I’m gay,” Richie whispers, and Stan pauses, before smiling.

 

“Thank you for, you know, trusting me,” Stan says, and Richie feels a bit better. Still feels like shit.

 

“No problem,” Richie says, “Now let’s go, I think I might hurl.”

 

“Yeah, okay,” Stan says, patting his arm. He picked up the bag from the pharmacy that Richie forgot about, and lead him to the clubhouse. They made it to the latch, before Stan turned to Richie.

 

“Hey,” Stan says, voice quiet, “I just want to say, I think you should tell the others.” Richie’s eyes went wide, starting to shake his head. “I don’t mean now, I’m just saying they won’t judge you, Rich.” Stan placed a hand on his shoulder, sending Richie a soft smile. “We love you.” Richie stared into Stan’s warm eyes, then wrapped his arms around him.

 

“Thank you…” Richie whispered, and Stan rubbed a hand on his back.

 

“No need to thank me,” Stan said, pulling away, “Let’s get you in there. Can you climb down?” Richie looks at the latch, before shrugging. Stan sighs, opening the latch, releasing a bicker match between Eddie and Bill.

 

“Vanilla is not a boring flavor!” Eddie yelled from the hammock, “It’s a classic and you know it!”

 

“J-Just because it’s a classic doesn’t mean it’s not b-boring!” Bill said back.

 

“At least I don’t like mint chocolate chip!”

 

“Hey!” Ben asks, “What’s wrong with mint chocolate?”

 

“Everything,” Eddie deadpans, “Every fucking thing.”

 

“The true worst is birthday cake, and you all know it,” Mike says, adding to the fuel, and Bev gives a mock gasp.

 

“How dare you!”

 

“Sorry, Bev,” Mike says, not sorry at all, “Some truths must be said.”

 

“Well maybe you should just—“

 

“Holy shit, Richie, what happened!” Eddie asked wide eyed at the sight of the bloody teen. Stan closes the latch above him.

 

“Bowers got him,” Stan says, placing the bag on a stool. Eddie stood from the hammock, almost tripping over his feet, and sat Richie down, digging through his fanny pack.

 

“Shit,” Eddie muttered, before turning towards Bev, “Get the first aid kit, it’s over there.” He pointed vaguely at a set of shelves set up, and Bev nodded, running over there.

 

“What the fuck did you do this time!” Eddie asked, and Richie huffed.

 

“Why does everyone assume I did something!” Eddie glares at him, worrying in his own Eddie-way.

 

“Because you normally do, dumbass!” Eddie says, grabbing the first aid from Bev. Richie sends a look at Stan, and Stan just smiles. That’s all Richie needs.

 

“I can’t help that me being gay makes Henry have a hissy fit!” The clubhouse goes quiet as Eddie drops the roll of bandages he pulled out, and Richie is once again filled with anxiety, crushing his stomach into one big ball of mush.

 

This was a bad idea, Richie’s mind says, A real shit idea. He looks up at the blurry imagine of Bev, who’s smiling at him, and he feels better.

 

“Honesty,” Ben speaks up, “What doesn’t cause Henry to have a hissy fit?” Richie cracks a small smile. Thank God for Ben.

 

“Beats me!” Richie said with a nervous laugh, and Mike nods, smile on his face.

 

“Thanks for telling us, Rich,” Mike says, and Richie nods.

 

“Yeah, yeah, no problem.” Richie nodded again, once more, then doubled over and spewed whatever food he had in his stomach on the floor of the clubhouse. He heard a few swears, and felt a comforting hand on his back, rubbing hesitant circles into his back. Richie dry heaved for a few seconds, then leaned back, wiping some leftover vomit off his chin. Eddie was gagging himself, and Ben looked ready to hurl himself.

 

“You good, Rich?” Bev asked—the one who was rubbing circles on his back—and Richie nods.

 

“Is there blood in that?” Mike asks, and Richie risks a look and yeah, there was blood, “That’s not good, right?”

 

“P-Probably not…” Bill muttered, staring at the puddle of yuck with his nose scrunched up. Richie sympathizes, the smell is revolting, especially mixed with the normally musty smell of the clubhouse.

 

“Well,” Stan says, “At least you feel better, right?”

 

“I feel like a ten ton truck killed me and then a double-decker bus crashed into my dead body,” Richie said, staring Stan right in the eyes.

 

“Was that a The Smiths reference?” Bev asked, and Richie smirked.

 

“Could be.”

 

“At least he can make weird references,” Mike said, “But honestly, how do you feel? ” The word feel was said in a way that Richie knew exactly what he was talking about.

 

“It’s weird now that the closet is now, ya know.” Richie made some hand gestures that did nothing to help with the word he was looking for. “Opened.”

 

“Well,” Bill said, “Welcome to the r-real world.”

 

“Thanks, it sucks.”

 

“No shit,” Bev responded with a smirk and Richie snorted. Then he looked at Eddie, who was frozen, staring between Richie’s knees and the puddle of puke.

 

“Eddie?” Eddie snapped out whatever the fuck he was in, and looked up at Richie.

 

“Sorry, I’m kind of shocked,” Eddie said, picking up the bandages, “I mean, who would have guessed Richie ‘I-Fucked-Your-Mom’ Tozier is gay?” Richie looked down at Eddie, who sent him a soft smile. Richie smiled back, relief flooding him. He wouldn’t know what he would do it Eddie hated him.

 

“Honestly, no one did,” Richie responded, picking at a hangnail.

 

“No one?” Ben asks, and Richie nodded.

 

“I mean, it came as a great shock to me,” Richie clarified. Eddie smacked his hand away from the hangnail, and Richie stuck his tongue out. “Probably will shock the hell out of my parents.”

 

“Wait so they d-don’t know?” Bill asked, and Richie snorted.

 

“Hell no,” Richie said, “They probably never will.”

 

“That sucks.” Richie shrugs as if to say ‘what-can-you-do’ and Eddie groans.

 

“What sucks is you being fucking covered in blood, Rich,” Eddie says, “Like holy shit you look disgusting and you probably have an infection, and- and we probably need to take you to the hospital and get you checked out, you could have a concussion because you threw up and that’s not good and if we don’t know, you could fall asleep and never wake up!” Eddie huffed, a little out of breath. Richie shook his head, leaning his head back, ignoring the headache as a groan escapes his throat.

 

“No hospital, please,” Richie said, “Just give me some bandaids and some bourbon and I’ll be good.”

 

“Bandaids?” Richie nods. “Bandaids?” Eddie turns to look at the rest of the Losers, who only shrugged. Eddie turns back to Richie, exasperation on his face. “Bandaids would only be good for about two of your injuries and you probably need stitches for at least half of the rest of them! And the blood in the mess you made, that could be internal bleeding! There’s no way we can put bandaids on that! And what would bourbon do?”

 

“Numb the pain, darling.”

 

“That’s what painkillers are for, dick,” Eddie says, “We’re taking you to the hospital, and that’s that.” He stands, and turns to the rest of the Losers. “Mike, get your truck and we’re going.” No one moves, and Eddie glares at them. “ Now.” Everyone moves at that. Mike runs up the ladder, going to grab his truck from who knows where. Ben and Bill grabbed Richie’s arms, and pull him out of the clubhouse. After a few minutes of dragging, they finally reach the beat up truck that Mike calls his own, and everyone piles in—Mike, Eddie, and Richie in the front with everyone else in the bed.

 

“Oh shit,” Richie says when they leave the barrens, “I hope Conner is okay…”

 

“Conner?” Eddie asks from next to him “Who’s Conner?”

 

“Bowers’ cousin.”

 

“Wha- Bowers has a cousin?” Eddie yells and Richie nods, groaning when the ever growing headache is bugged at the movment.

 

“Why wouldn’t he be okay?” Ben asks through the window open between them.

 

“He’s like me and Bowers knows.”

 

“Like you?” Bev asks, appearing over Ben’s shoulder, “He’s gay?”

 

“Yeah.” Richie snorts. “We talked today, that’s actually how Bowers new I was gay.”

 

“You weren’t lying about that?” Eddie asks, and Richie turns to him.


“Why the fuck would I lie about that?”


“I don’t know.” Eddie makes weird hand motions (which aren’t cute, shut up). “Dramatics?” Richie makes a mock-shocked face, placing a hand on his chest.

 

“I’m not that dramatic!”


“That one time you stubbed your toe and said we had to amputate it―” 

 

“It was bleeding! And it wiggled weird! I swear it still does!”

 

“Or that time you ‘wailed’ at my feet because I wouldn’t buy you ice cream―” 

 

“Oh, don’t act like you’re not dramatic as well, Eds!” Richie yelled, pointing a finger at Eddie, “We even look at rust, you go on a four-hour tagent on what tetanus does to the body!”

 

“You know what, fucker!―”


“Both of you shut up for my own mental health!” Stan yells from the back, causing both Eddie and Richie to shut their mouths, choosing to instead argue with glares. Someone mutters a “Thank god,” and they arrive at a hospital a few seconds later.

 

Surprisingly, Richie has a mild concussion, and needed stitches for the cut on his cheek. He had no internal bleeding, it was probably swallowed blood from his nose or lip. Richie was cleaned up, and sent on his way

 

“Hey, Eds?” Richie says as they pile back in the truck.


“What?”


“Can I have bourbon now?” Eddie glares, before going off on a rant on how he shouldn’t drink with a head injury because he’s already dumb enough and this is adding two extra dumb factors on him and Richie smiles.

 

Maybe life will be okay.

 

*

 

Richie is eighteen and ready to get the hell out of Derry.

 

There was only a week left of school, and Richie was leaving the moment he got the diploma. No waiting for anything, his bags were already packed and stuff was already in boxes. He’s ready to kiss Derry goodbye, au revior, adiós! One of the only things that he will miss is the Losers, though they all promise to keep in touch. The other thing he will miss is the clubhouse. The safest place in Derry, full of great (and one not so great) memories. A place where Richie has discovered multiple things about himself.

 

Including the fact that he is in love with the cute boy cuddled next to on the increasingly smaller hammock as they read comics. Eddie’s head was on his chest, and Richie only hoped his heart was calm. It helped that they were deep into the adventure Spider-Man had gotten himself into. It was only the two of them in the clubhouse, and for once, it was quiet. The silence was comfortable and strangely domestic, though Richie would never say out loud. Over all, Richie was content with the calmness around them.

 

“Hey, Rich?” Eddie said, apparently not content with the peace. Richie hummed, not glancing away from the comic. “I think I’m gay, too.” If Richie had a drink, he would have done a spit take. Slamming the comic closed, Richie turned to Eddie.

 

“What?”


“Yeah,” Eddie said with nod, not meeting Richie’s eyes, “I’m definitely gay.”


“Uh.” Richie had no idea how to respond, so said the best thing that he could think of. “Congrats?”

 

“Thanks.” And then they fell into a—albeit not as peaceful—silence. Richie’s mind was working miles a minute, and he found himself reading the same few words over and over again.

“How did you,” Richie asks, needing the silence to be filled, “Um, know?”

 

“I just found out,” Eddie says, “You know, reflected on life.”

 

“Yeah?”

“Yeah…” Then silence filled them again. Richie tried to read, but he was acutely aware that Eddie’s head was on his chest. 

 

“What did you reflect on?” Richie hears his voice say, but he doesn’t remember thinking about them, only watching Eddie.

 

“Just some thoughts in life,” Eddie says, turning to face Richie, “You know.”


“Yeah.” Richie says, because he doesn’t know what else to say. All he knows is that Eddie is really close and is he closer than he was before?


“Yeah…” Eddie whispers, and Richie swears he’s looking at Richie’s lips. Which is fair, as Richie can’t seem to look away from Eddie’s. Okay, Eddie is definitely closer and on top of him and Richie can feel the edges of his breath. In one split second, Richie’s brain goes fuck it and next thing he knows, his lips are on Eddie’s and for a second it’s like the last piece of the puzzle is placed and the whole picture is amazing and everything Richie wants. Then reality catches up and Richie pulls away, eyes wide and cheeks red, sitting up as much as possible in the hammock.

 

“Holy shit,” Richie breathes out, “Eds, I’m—”


“Shut up.” Was all Eddie said before grabbing Richie’s collar and smashing their lips together. Eddie tastes like mint and vanilla and so very Eddie and Richie is going crazy because Eddie is in his lap and his hand is in his hair. Richie didn’t know kissing could be this enjoyable. His first kiss was a fucking nightmare, and he had never kissed anyone since—hadn’t even wanted to kiss anyone (minus Eddie). But now, Richie doesn’t want to stop. Especially now that Eddie has his tongue in his mouth and God, Richie wished he knew about this sooner. Eddie eventually pulls away, and Richie opens his eyes, unaware he had them closed.

 

“Wow…” Richie whispers after a few breaths. Eddie lets out a laugh.


“Yeah,” Eddie says with a deep breath, “Wow.” They sit there, just staring at each other. Eddie’s previously neat hair was sticking up, his face red, his lips swollen, and all in all a mess. Richie doesn’t think Eddie has ever looked better.

 

“Eddie?” Richie says.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you,” Richie says, because how can he not with Eddie looking beautiful like that.

 

“Pretty sure?” Eddie asks with an eyebrow up, and Richie’s face goes redder, somehow.

 

“I’m definitely in love with you,” Richie says, then adds meekly, “Is that okay?”

 

“My tongue was in your mouth,” Eddie says with a smile, “I’m pretty sure I can handle your declaration of love.”

 

“Okay.” Richie nods, looking up from Eddie’s amused face. “Cool, cool.” Then he looks back down at Eddie’s face. “Do you love me?”

 

“God you’re stupid,” Eddie groans without dropping the smile, “I’ve been in love with you since like sixth grade!”

 

“Oh, wow,” Richie says, because what else can you say in that situation?

 

“Yeah,” Eddie says with a laugh, “Wow.” They fall in a silence again.

 

“You know,” Richie says, “I carved our initials on the kissing bridge.” Eddie’s eyes go wide.

 

“You did what?”

 

“Yeah!” Richie exclaims, a large smile on his face, “R + E!”

 

“Holy shit!” Eddie yells, “I carved an R on the bridge, right below that!”

 

“What?” It’s Richie’s turn to be shocked.

 

“Yeah, heart around it and everything,” Eddie says sheepishly.

 

“Oh, wow.” 

 

“Yeah, wow.” They sit in silence again, just staring at each other. Then Richie gets an idea.

 

“Eds, let’s leave together.”

 

“What?”


“Let’s leave Derry together,” Richie clarifies, “Right after we graduate.”


“Really?” Richie nods, somehow smiling wider.


“I mean, think of it! We can go anywhere!” Richie says with a big hand motion, “New York, Chicago, LA! It’s R and E, baby, against the great country of America! As long as it’s not Derry.” Richie stops, looking at Eddie. “Whaddya say?” Eddie just blinks.

 

“How the fuck am I going to sneak past my mom?” Eddie asks, but there’s a hint of a smile on his face.

 

“I’m sure I can distract her for a bit, if you catch my drift,” Richie says with a wink, and Eddie slaps his arm.

 

“Beep beep, I’m serious.”


“So,” Richie speaks up, “That’s a no?”

 

“I never said no, dipshit,” Eddie says, “I just said how the fuck am I going to get away from my mom.”

 

“So,” Richie says, a little hesitant, “You do want to go together?”

 

“Of course I fucking do, you idiot!” Eddie yells, and Richie nods.

 

“Sweet, okay.”


“Good.”


“Yeah, good.” They sit there, taking in everything that has happened the last twenty minutes or so.


“Can I kiss you again?” Richie asks, and Eddie’s lips on his is a good enough answer for him.

 

A week later, they’re waving bye to the Loser’s as they drive away, and Richie can’t keep the smile off his face.

 

*

 

“Babe, have you seen my shirt?”

 

“Which one?”

 

“The yellow one? You know, with the red cross-thingys on it?”

 

“Oh god,” Eddie groans, sticking his face in the room, “You better not be wearing that, Rich!”

 

“C’mon, Eds!” Rich says, hands on his hips, “I love that shirt!”

 

“It’s hideous,” Eddie says, sitting on the bed, “I don’t want you to traumatize Audra and Patty too much tonight.”


“They already know me!” Richie says, digging through his closet, “They know I have a shitty fashion sense, no use hiding it from them!”

 

“Excuse me for wanting you to look well for dinner tonight!” Eddie exclaims, throwing his hands up. Kit—their Pomeranian of three years, and Richie’s pride and joy—wanders in, and immediately runs to Eddie’s feet (she likes Eddie more, and Eddie never hesitates to hold that fact over Richie).

 

“What,” Richie says as he moves to his dresser, “Want to pick my outfit for me like I’m four and you’re my mom?” Eddie scoffs, picking up Kit and placing her in his lap.

 

“Maybe you’ll actually look good, then,” Eddie says, rubbing Kit’s back. Richie just gasps.

 

“Well sorry, Mr. I-Wear-Polos-Every-fucking-Day, I don’t want to look like a fifty year old!” For emphasis, Richie picks up one the god forsaken polos and waves it around before chucking it in Eddie’s direction. Eddie catches it, but in the process scares Kit off as she runs out of the room.

 

“Newsflash, dick,” Eddie says as he starts folding the shirt back up, “You already do!” Richie sticks his tongue out rather childishly and Eddie responds in similar matter.

 

“But really, I’m excited, man!” Richie exclaims, digging back in the dresser, “I haven’t seen Stan since like, last year!”

 

“Bill’s been working on a movie, right?” Eddie asks, placing the folded shirt down on the bed.

 

“Yeah! Something about an attic?”

 

The Attic Room!” Eddie snaps his fingers and Richie groans, momentarily pausing his dig.

 

“Oh god, that ending sucked.”


“Don’t say that to Bill’s face, honey,” Eddie says, “It’ll upset him.”

 

“Let Bill be upset,” Richie says, flinging a random pair of boxers he found around, “I’m still mad over that game of hearts!”

 

That game?” Eddie exclaims, face full of pure bewilderment, “Rich, that was like nine years ago!”

“It was a shit move!” The boxers go flying, and Eddie catches them with a scowl. “I was going to shoot for the moon and he stole the queen! He stole it!”

 

“God, Rich, just let it go!” Eddie says, looking at the boxers with disgust.

 

“Don’t you dare quote Frozen on me,” Richie says, pointing a finger at Eddie before turning around to dig some more. “A-ha!” Richie yells, pulling the god awful shirt from the drawer, “Found it!”

 

“God help us all,” Eddie mutters, before standing from the bed and brushing off any spare Kit fur from his jeans, “Just hurry up, we’re going to be late.”

 

“Fashionably late, babe,” Richie says with a wink, and Eddie groans, loud and tired.

 

“Shut up and let’s go!” Richie runs after him, buttoning the shirt as he went. Leaving their nice, New York penthouse—after saying bye to Kit—the two get into Eddie’s car and leave for the Chinese restaurant the Loser’s have planned to meet at. They only lived ten minutes away, but Eddie was convinced they were going to be late. They arrived fifteen minutes before the scheduled meeting time, and weren’t the only couple entering the restaurant.

 

“Well, well, well,” Richie says, approaching the couple, “Isn’t it the newly weds?”

 

“We married five years ago, Richie,” Ben says, letting go of Beverly’s hand to give Richie a hug, “So I don’t think we’re newly weds anymore.” He lets go of Richie to engulf Eddie in a hug.

 

“That was five years ago?” Richie says as Bev wraps her arms around him, “Holy shit!”

 

“Already have old man brain?” Bev says, moving away from Richie, who flicks her on the shoulder.

 

“Hey, shut it Ringwald, I have blackmail on you.”

 

“Blackmail?” Ben asks as they step into the restaurant, “I didn’t know Bev could be blackmailed.”

 

“Oh, I have so much shit on her, you won’t believe it,” Richie says as he enters the private room they had reserved. Mike, Stan and his wife, Patty, are already in there catching up.

 

“Don’t worry, Richie.” Bev pats his back in mock comfort “I have shit on you as well.”

 

“Now that’s not hard,” Stan pipes up, standing from his chair.

 

“Yowza, Stan!” Richie laughs as he pulls Stan into a hug. “You never disappoint!”

 

“Nice to see you too, Rich,” Stan says with a small smile, returning the hug.

 

“Patty!” Richie exclaims in Stan’s ear, running over to hug his next victim, “I haven’t seen you in forever!”

 

“Nice to see you too, Richie,” Patty says, a little flustered. After the few years of knowing him, she’s still not used to his nature. Eddie and Stan always assure her that he’s always like this, and yes, it’s worse when he’s drunk.

 

“Come on, guys,” Mike says as Richie grabs him a hug, “Let’s sit.” They all comply, sitting in their seats, and the first round of drinks come out, the only ones opting not to drink being Patty, Stan, Bev and Ben. Richie takes a shot before looking around the table, directly at the two empty seats between Mike and Ben.

 

“Where’s Bill and his better half?” Richie asks, pointing at the empty seats.

 

“They said they were running late, so they’ll be coming later,” Mike explains as the food comes out.

 

“Boring Hollywood shit,” Richie mutters, and Bev gives him a look as brings a dumpling to her lips.

 

“Don’t you work in Hollywood, Rich?” Richie just shrugs, stuffing some rice in his mouth. They eat and chat for a few minutes before Stan raises his glass.

 

“You know what,” Stan says, a small smile on his face, “Cheers to Mike for organizing this shit show.” They all cheer and Mike laughs as his cheeks go red.

 

“So how’s that Netflix special going, Rich?” Mike asks to get the attention off him. Richie opens his mouth to answer before Eddie interrupts him.

 

“Don’t get him started!” Eddie groans, “It’s just making his ego bigger!”

 

“Sorry, Eds,” Richie says tapping his ears, “Can’t hear you over my second Netflix special.”

 

“They’re both shit anyway,” Eddie says, shoving rice in his mouth. Richie gasps, hand on his chest.

 

“I’ve run jokes by you before.” Richie points his chopsticks aggressively at Eddie. “And you laughed, dammit!”

 

“I didn’t laugh!”

 

“Oh yeah you did!”

 

Maybe I let out some air faster than I normally do,” Eddie says with a dramatic shrug, “But I didn’t laugh.”

 

“Oh shut up, you liar!” Richie flicked some rice at Eddie who flicked some back, starting a war with the only bombs being rice.

 

“There they go again,” Stan mutter, sipping his drink with a roll of his eyes.

 

“Who let them out of their cages?” Bev asked with a giggle. Richie turned to glare at her, ignoring the pelting rice and triumphant Eddie.

 

“Don’t tempt me, Bev,” Richie mutters and Bev sticks her tongue out.

 

“I’d like to see you try, Trashmouth.”

 

“Strong words for the woman who had a crush on me many years ago,” Richie leans back with a smile as the chaos unfolded. 

 

“Richie!” Bev yelled as Ben choked on some sweet and sour chicken, “I told you that with confidence!”

 

“I said don’t tempt me, Bev.” Richie shrugged, watching Mike shake with laughter.

 

“Wait,” Ben coughs out, his poor face drenched in confusion, “You had a crush on Richie?”

 

“Your standards were that low?” Stan asks, and Richie flips him off.

 

“Bite me, Stan.”

 

“No thank you.” Patty giggles from next to Stan.

 

“No, really, Bev?” Ben asks with genuine confusion, and for a moment, Richie feels bad for him, “Richie?”

 

“I had a small crush when we were fifteen,” Bev admits, chopsticks scrambling to grab some of Ben’s chicken, “But that’s all!” She shoves some chicken in her mouth.

 

“I think I vaguely remember a kiss?” Richie says, rubbing his chin in a dramatic show, and Bev’s face is redder than her hair. Success.

 

“No way you two kissed?!” Eddie yells, and Mike is howling with laughter.

 

“Did you think you were my first rodeo, Eds?”

 

“Well.” Eddie glares, before mumbling, “I didn’t know...”

 

“Was there a kiss or not?” Stan asks, invested in the dramatic mess that was his friends, “Some people want to know.”

 

“Oh there definitely was a kiss.” Richie leans on the table with a smirk. “I’d remember those lips anywhere.” He winked and blew a kiss as the cherry on top.

 

“But Richie’s gay?” Ben asks, still very confused.

 

“Who do you think turned me?” Bev slapped his arm and Richie yelped. “Ow! I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” Bev smacked him a few more times before turning back to her food, satisfied.

 

“So you two kissed?” Ben asks, and Richie is starting to feel for this poor man.

 

“She was my first kiss,” Richie clarified, and ate some of his cooling rice.

 

“Richie cried immediately afterwards,” Bev said, deciding to get a dig at Richie.

 

“That’s expected though,” Eddie cuts in, interrupting whatever Richie was about to say, “Richie’s a huge cry baby.” Richie’s mouth falls open.

 

“Not true!”

 

“You cried at the end of Dr. Horrible.”

 

“Penny fucking died and Billy didn’t have a chance to tell her he loved her!” Richie picked at his food with his chopsticks. “Excuse me for shedding a few tears!” Eddie paused, going over his words, before moving his head in a silent agreement.

 

“Yeah, well, you cried when we got Kit,” Eddie says, stealing some of Richie’s rice.

 

“Our first child, Eds!” Richie exclaimed with big hand motions. “How am I not gonna cry?”

 

“Speaking of child…” Stan interrupts, and Richie drops his chopsticks.

 

“Oh. My. God.” Richie says, before leaning over Eddie and grabbing Stan’s hand, “Stan, you’re pregnant?!”

 

“Yes,” Stan deadpans, before a smile cracked on his face.

 

“So wait,” Bev says, a huge smile on her face. Richie sees her and can think about how she looks like she’s practically glowing. “Patty you’re pregnant?”

 

“Yeah,” Patty said with a shy smile, “It took a few times, but we did it!” She loops her arm through Stan’s, who leans his head down on her head.

 

“Ugh,” Richie grunts, “We don’t need to hear how Stan is a sex maniac.”

 

“Beep beep.”

 

“No way,” Bev yells with a smile, “Me too!” The table goes quiet, before Mike breaks it with a growing smile.

 

“Wait,” Mike says, “We have two pregnancies?”

 

“Eddie,” Richie says, turning to Eddie and putting his hand on Eddie’s, “I think it’s time we tell them…”

 

“Shut the fuck up.” Eddie moves his hand and Richie pouts.

 

“That’s no way to talk to your pregnant husband, now is it?”

 

“Who’s pregnant?” Bill’s voice comes through the door, and they all turn to see him and Audra.

 

“Audra!” Richie stands, grabbing her in a hug, before sending a shit eating grin at Bill. “Oh, Bill you’re here too.”

 

“Hardy har, Trashmouth,” Bill says, pulling Richie into a hug, “Now who’s pregnant?”

 

“Patty and Bev.”

 

“Patty and Bev?” Bill says, his eyes widening. 

 

“That’s called timing,” Ben says.

 

“That’s called a coincidence,” Mike says.

 

“That’s called the Losers Club, baby!” Richie yells, and Eddie scoffs.

 

“That doesn’t make sense, asshole.”

 

“You’re the asshole, babe.” Eddie scowls and Richie blows a kiss.

 

“Oh shut up, dickwad.”

 

“You want my dickwad,” Richie says as he gestures his chopsticks downward, “Now don’t you?”

 

“Now I fucking don’t!”

 

“So you did want it!”

 

“Is it always like this?” Audra asks, settling in her seat. 

 

“They’ve been like this since they were eight at least,” Bill sighs with fake annoyance, but it’s clear as day he loves them. Loves them all.

 

“Hey,” Bill yells over the bickering, “Toast to the Losers Club?”

 

“To the Losers Club!” The night goes on with laughs and cheers, and Richie is as happy as he could be. His best friends are around him, telling stories and enjoying life to the fullest. Richie catches Eddie’s gaze and smiles at him. A genuine, loving smile. Eddie smiles back, and grabs his hand.

 

Richie Tozier-Kaspbrak is forty, and wouldn’t change his life for anything.