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the summer we forgot

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I think I’m in love with you .

Richie’s words repeated over and over in his head like a mantra. He couldn’t stop thinking about them, even after Richie realized what he had blurted and quickly tried to pass it off as a joke. Eddie pretended to believe him, but he knew the difference between his real jokes and fake jokes now. 

It was roughly two in the morning and Eddie was wide awake, laying in his bed and staring blankly at his ceiling. Richie? In love with him? He thought that maybe he should be disgusted by the idea. They were both boys after all. But as he thought longer about it, he realized that it didn’t bother him too much. And then he considered maybe that should be his main concern but it just felt.... Right? No, it felt wrong. Being in love with a boy is wrong .... Right?

It gave him a headache, thinking about what was right and wrong and the grey area in between. Eddie’s mom would lose her shit if she found out Richie was in love with him. He’d never be allowed to hang out with him ever again. And no matter how often Richie annoyed him, he didn’t want to not be friends with him. And if Eddie’s mom found out he was in love with Richie-

Wait, he wasn’t in love with Richie. Was he?

Eddie groaned in frustration, turning in his bed and pulling the covers over his head. This was stupid. Richie was stupid. Why’d he have to tell him he was in love with him? Now he can’t stop thinking about it and it’s just stupid, stupid, stupid. 

The second he thought it, he felt guilty. No, he shouldn’t call Richie stupid. It’s not his fault. He read in a book once that people can’t just choose who they love. It just happens spontaneously. Like fireworks. Or farts. Eddie snorted at his analogy. Farts are always funny.

 

The next day they all met at the ice cream parlor. Ben, Beverly, Bill, Stanley, Mike, Richie, and Eddie. Afterwards, they were going to go to the clubhouse but for now: ice cream. 

Eddie sat across from Richie who was making a mess of himself with his ice cream and making the same stupid jokes as he always did. His thoughts drifted as he wondered why Richie would be in love with him. He looked down and noticed his reflection in the metal napkin holder. His ears stuck out funny beneath his hair. His eyes were too big and his mouth too small. He had a baby-face. He could faintly see freckles scattered over the bridge of his nose but nothing too noticeable. He frowned at his reflection. He didn’t look that outstanding. Eddie looked over to Richie.

Ignoring the mess of vanilla ice cream over the lower half of his face, he took account of Richie’s features. His hair was wavy and dark and looked like it would be soft if he ran his fingers through it. His eyes were magnified by his glasses but when Richie turned his head at just the right angle, he could see his actual eyes which had surprisingly long lashes. His face wasn’t as round as Eddie’s was. He had a more defined jawline. And his lips-

“What’re you looking at, Eds?” Richie asked suddenly, startling him. “See something you like?” He made a kissy face at him.

Eddie rolled his eyes. “The only thing I see is your ugly-ass face.”

“That’s not what your mom said last night.”

He threw his spoon at Richie’s face.

 

On their way to the clubhouse, they stopped by the kissing bridge. Eddie glanced at Richie who seemed to falter and noticed how pale he became. He looked more terrified walking across the bridge than when they faced that fucking killer clown. Eddie wondered what could make him look so scared as they crossed the bridge when he saw it. Carved in the wooden fence was a distinct “R+E.” No, that couldn’t be it. That could be anyone. There are tons of people with the same initials in his town. There was no way that it was-

Eddie looked back at Richie who had been staring at the carving for a moment before turning and looking at him. Their eyes met and Richie’s widened to the size of saucers and Eddie realized that he had been right and he quickly averted his gaze, ignoring the stare burning a hole in the back of his head. 

The tension between them was palpable. They barely spoke to each other in the clubhouse. They barely looked at each other. They didn’t even stand within three feet of each other. It was obvious to the others that something was up. Beverly was the first to speak up.

“What’s the matter with you two?” she crossed her arms over her chest, frowning at the both of them.

Eddie looked up from the magazine he had not been reading. “What do you mean? Nothing’s the matter,” he said a bit too quickly.

“Yeah,” Richie quipped from the other side of the clubhouse where he had been drawing in the dirt. “What’s the matter with you ?”

“It’s kinda obvious that there’s something wrong,” Stan pointed out. “You two are the noisiest people we know and neither of you have spoken once in two hours.”

A series of offended sounds sputtered out of Richie’s mouth. “I’ve talked in two hours! I made fun of your grandma shoes like five minutes ago!”

“I mean you haven’t talked to Eddie ,” he corrected. “And Eddie hasn’t talked to you either. But I can tell you both want to say something to each other.”

“I have nothing to say to him-” Richie and Eddie said at the same time and they froze. 

Beverly rolled her eyes. “New rule: Richie and Eddie are banned from the clubhouse until they sort their shit out. All in favor?”

Everyone but Richie and Eddie raised their hands. 

 

Officially kicked out of the clubhouse until they “talked about their feelings” as Ben put it, Eddie and Richie occupied opposite ends of a log not too far from their friends.

“This is your fault,” Eddie grumbled.

Richie turned to him. “What the fuck did I do?”

“You told me you were in love with me!” Eddie turned his head to glare at him.

“That was a joke! I didn’t mean it!” he insisted, but his voice went high and Eddie gave an exaggerated groan. 

“That’s bullshit! I know when you’re joking and you definitely weren’t joking when you told me that. But you said it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it the entire time!”

“No one asked you to think about it! You should’ve just ignored me and forgot about it!”

“It’s not that easy, Richie! I can’t just stop thinking about it, that’s not how it works!”

“It is that easy! Watch: I’ve just stopped thinking about this entire conversation. It’s done. It’s over. Feelings sorted. Goodbye,” Richie stood up and started marching out of the forest. 

Eddie stood up quickly and followed him. “We’re not done talking-”

“I think we are -”

“If you’d just let me finish-”

“La la la, I’m not listening-”

“Jeez, would you just shut the fuck up, Richie?!” 

He stopped walking and Eddie could finally catch his breath. “I thought about what you said. A lot. A little too much, maybe.” Richie didn’t turn around. “And maybe I’m not completely disgusted by the thought of you and me which is saying something because you’re literally the grossest person I know. I’m pretty sure you have rabies.” He thought he heard a quiet laugh from Richie, but he didn’t stop there. “But what I’m trying to say is... maybe I feel the same way. I don’t know. I haven’t really figured it out yet and we’re like barely high schoolers. I mean technically we just finished eighth grade which technically makes us high schoolers now, even though it's summer and we haven’t actually started-”

He was cut off by Richie turning around quickly and pressing a chaste kiss to his lips. They stared at each other, both surprised by what just happened.

“Uh,” Richie said very eloquently. 

Eddie’s brain went on full auto-pilot as he grabbed him by the collar of his stupid palm tree print shirt and pressed their lips together awkwardly. Richie had a moment of unsureness but eventually put his hands on Eddie’s shoulders and kissed back, eyes squeezed shut. 

It was a terrible kiss, really. Not to mention painfully awkward. But neither of them hated it. It felt just right. Neither of them wanted it to end.

“Eddie-bear?!” 

They jumped away from each other so quickly that Richie fell over. Eddie looked to his left and spotted his mother standing by the fence. He didn’t realize that they had made it this close to the kissing bridge.

“Mommy?” he said quietly, horrified.

“Oh, shit,” he heard Richie mumble from the ground.

He watched with terror sinking into his bones as his mother climbed over the wooden fence, held her skirt up, and marched right up to them with fury in her eyes. He hadn’t seen her this angry since the time he broke his arm.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing to my Eddie?” she snarled at Richie, pulling Eddie by the arm so that he was hidden behind her.

Richie blinked frightfully from behind his glasses. “I- I wasn’t-”

“Don’t try to lie to me. I saw you trying to corrupt my precious boy. I saw you kissing him,” she hissed. “How dare you do that to him? How dare you try to taint him with your pervertedness? You should be ashamed of yourself.”

She pulled Eddie away as she turned to march back to the bridge. “Don’t think you’ll ever be allowed near my Eddie again, you hear me?” she shouted at Richie.

Eddie looked back at Richie as he was pulled away. He saw the tears that welled up in his eyes and Eddie couldn’t shake away the guilt that settled in his chest. I’m sorry , he mouthed, his own eyes stinging a bit as Richie became smaller and smaller as he was pulled away. I’m so sorry .

That summer was barely even a memory in his head twenty-seven years later. People say that the brain likes to focus on the good memories. To find the bad ones, you’d have to dig a little deeper. That’s all Eddie remembers: the good. He remembered the summer when the Losers Club came to be. He remembered throwing rocks at Henry Bowers. He remembered stitching up the new kid with stolen bandages. He remembered the clubhouse where they spent most of their days.

But something was missing. Right, the bad stuff. Memories of Pennywise and Neibolt and the leper come flooding back to him after the Jade Incident and he suddenly feels sick again. But something else was still missing. Something that happened later. After. The next summer? He couldn’t quite pin-point it before thoughts of Pennywise made him nauseous again. 

Eddie was going to leave. He couldn’t fight a fucking a clown. He has a life he can’t risk it all to kill the shithead who gave him the most traumatic summer of ‘89 a kid could ever have. No, he had to hop on the next flight to New York and get back to Myra and forget any of this ever happened. Who gives a fuck if he might die a gruesome death? He’s gonna die anyway if he goes after Pennywise! Eddie isn’t that stupid! Besides, Richie was-

Richie.

Right, Richie.

What’s wrong with Richie?

Eddie paused in his packing as he scrambled his brain for a clear answer. Something happened with Richie when they were kids. Something to do with the kissing bridge? Why couldn’t he remember?

Richie’s voice calling from him from downstairs startled him from his thoughts and he frowned a little before resuming in gathering his bags and stumbling down the steps. 

 

He fucking hated everything. Why’d he have to go down to the basement? What the fuck was he going to find down there? A fucking leper that’s what. He hated this, he fucking hated Pennywise. Fuck . He wasn’t going to let this piece of shit get the best of him. He made it this far and he wasn’t stopping here. Eddie got his hands around the leper’s throat and squeezed as hard as he could.

He was doing it! He was actually doing it! He was going to kill this motherfu-

And then fluids. Everywhere .

Nope . Eddie thought loudly. No no no no nope. This is not happening. Nope. Goodbye. And he ran away screaming. God, Richie would be cackling at him if he saw him now.

 

He supposed that today was not his day. Getting spewed on by a fucking leper was bad enough, but no. The universe decided that he needed that extra cherry on top and had Henry fucking Bowers show up in his bathroom and stab him in the face.

After his initial thoughts of ow, fuck, why??? , he thought that if Richie were here, he’d somehow be able to make a stupid joke about the whole situation. That was probably why he decided to insult Bowers’s shitty hair as he slowly scooted across the wall.

 

He almost let Richie die. Oh fuck what was he thinking? He almost let Richie die . Eddie felt like a coward. No, he was a coward. He was so afraid for his own life that he was willing to sacrifice his best friend’s . He wanted to puke. He couldn’t go down there with the rest of the gang. He’d freeze up again. He’d fuck everything up. He can’t fuck it up again. He can’t let them die again. But if he did go- he was a liability. He’d compromise everything that they worked for and-

“Eddie.”

He looked up and saw Richie. There was a glint in his eye, like he was about to give the world’s shittiest pep talk. 

“Who killed a psychotic clown before he was fourteen?”

Eddie took a moment to register the question, brows furrowing before answering: “Me.”

“Who pulled Henry Bowers’s knife out of his own face and stabbed him with hit?”

“Also me,” Eddie answered, feeling more confidence fill his chest. 

“And who married a woman ten times his body mass?”

Eddie resisted the urge to roll his eyes but he still answered with: “Me.”

Richie was calling him brave. That did weird things to his feelings and he almost felt something in the back of his mind, a lost memory trying to make its way to the surface. But the feeling is gone when Richie pat his bandaged cheek, sending brief sparks of pain through his body.

“Ouch.”

“Sorry.”

 

He was gonna save Richie this time. He was going to do it for real. He held the spike tightly in his hands, muttering Beverly’s words quietly to himself. It kills monsters....if you believe it can . With newfound confidence, he turned toward Richie caught in the deadlights and ran.

“Beep beep, motherfucker!” he shouted as he threw the spear into Pennywise’s open mouth, impaling It successfully. He was ecstatic. “Holy shit!” He turned around. “Richie, listen! I think I got It, man! I think I killed It!”

He was so excited. There was more he wanted to say. So much more. But then all those memories came flooding back to him. That summer in 1990, when he and Richie kissed for the first time. He remembered it all now. Eddie, still smiling with excitement, crouched over Richie and kissed him.... right as one of Pennywise’s ugly sword arms came stabbing through where he had just been standing. Eddie stopped kissing Richie to turn and look at the arm that had appeared above him, eyes wide. 

“Holy shit! I could’ve died!” he noted, momentarily shaken. But then Richie seemed to finally come to his senses and he cupped Eddie’s cheeks and kissed him again.

Yeah, Pennywise could go fuck itself.

 

They killed It for real this time. They made It small enough to crush it’s tiny heart with their bare hands and then they got the hell out of Dodge. They made it out alive. All in one piece. The six of them watched as the Well House collapsed on itself and twenty-seven years of weights on their shoulders were suddenly lifted. The scars on their hands disappeared and It was dead. For good, this time. They were silent on their way back to the quarry. They took off their shoes and whatever else they didn’t want to get wet before jumping off the cliff and into the water. 

On any normal day, Eddie would have been disgusted by the number of germs they were probably catching, swimming and cleaning themselves with the dirty water. But right now he was exhausted and just wanted to get the blood and grime off his skin. Richie dropped his glasses in the water, losing them instantly and he rolled his eyes fondly at him. Everyone else dived under the surface to search for Richie’s glasses but Eddie stayed up there with him. It was quiet besides the sounds of their friends splashing around in the water and the birds chirping in the surrounding trees.

“Stan would’ve liked this,” Eddie mused, eyes roaming over the branches and gazing at the rest of the Losers laughing and hitting water at one another.

Richie sniffed beside him. “You almost died down there.”

He turned quickly to look at him, eyes slightly wider. “Right... I almost forgot about that.”

They went quiet again, just for a moment. 

Then Richie asked: “If you’d been stabbed, what do you think your last words would be?”

Eddie tilted his head in thought. “I dunno. I never really thought about that.”

“I know what I’d say,” Richie said very seriously.

He looked at him with obvious curiosity. “What would you have said?”

Richie looked him in the eye and whispered: “ I fucked your mom .”

Eddie pushed him so that he fell back into the water and laughed when he flailed as he went. Richie got his revenge by splashing a wave of water right back at him and some got into his mouth and Eddie gagged and spat it out. The result was the two of them ending up in a splashing fight with Eddie having an obvious advantage with Richie’s lack of sight. Their fight lead them further away from their group and they paused behind a nook behind the bushes. They were laughing, breathless and soaking wet. Eddie pushed some of Richie’s hair from his face and their laughs quieted. They floated closer to each other until Eddie could tilt his head and slot their lips together, pulling him in by the waist. Richie carefully cupped his injured cheek and reciprocated the kiss with a gentleness Eddie never knew he was capable of. They pulled away only slightly so that their noses bumped a little.

“Hey, Eds?” Richie started, voice quiet. “I think I’m in love with you.”

Eddie gave a short, breathy laugh and shrugged. “Well, maybe I’m not completely disgusted by the thought of you and me.”

“Wow,” Richie breathed. “Fuck Ben Hanscom, you’re the real poet here.”

Eddie rolled his eyes and kissed him again before he could make another stupid joke.