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It's Never Simple, Is It?

Chapter Text

Eddie sat at the table, sneaking glances at the book in his lap. 

He occasionally smiled or hummed at his mom--who was currently speaking a mile a minute about her latest TV show she's become engrossed with--but the words were going in one ear and out the other. He had chapters for AP English to read, and with how much time The Losers had spending together lately, he had to fit it in anywhere he could. 

Not that he was complaining by any means. 

They were already half way through their senior year. They all felt it--that pressure. Like this was it; this was their last chance. 

Eddie's stomach twisted uncomfortably at the thought. He liked to tell himself that they were just trying to savor high school before the responsibilities of adulthood took over most of their free time, but he knew better. He knew he was being naive. Everyone was going to leave but no one had a plan. Which meant everyone would more than likely end up somewhere different on the spree of the moment--different colleges, different jobs, different places. 

He didn't like it, but they might be splitting up. 

Of course, he could at least take solace in the fact that the Losers would never be officially split up. They'd keep in contact, they'd visit. Eddie had absolutely no doubt in his mind--even if it didn't sound realistic, he knew it was. It was the Losers, there was no question. 

But he was realistic enough to know it'd be few and far between. 

And that was why they were all so pressured to constantly spend time together this year, somehow even more than the insane amount of time they'd spent together every other year. Because this would be the last time they had that kind of luxury... 

Eddie muttered a thank you as his mother slid a plate with some toast and eggs on it, thankful to be pulled out of his thoughts. His mind was always running and it was easy for him to get too caught up in it; he had a bad habit of drifting away. 

Which Richie called him out on often. With a snap to the face and a "Ya with me, Eds?" And God, that shit-eating grin when Eddie came back to reality. He wanted to smack it off of him. 

Though even as he thought that, he was smiling. 

"What're you think about, Eddie-bear?" 

Eddie snapped out of it once again. 

"Just about how I don't have to bike to school this morning," he said smoothly. When you have strict parents--especially Eddie's level of strict--lying to them is as natural as breathing. 

Which is maybe a bad analogy considering Eddie couldn't breathe well half the time, but that's beside the point. 

"Oh?" she pressed, sitting across from him, the wood of the chair creaking threateningly under her. 

"Mike's parents gave him their old truck." Eddie explained. It wasn't a lie either, that did happen. "He's picking us all up for school." Also true. 

"How fun." His mother said, but it was too tight, and she only gave her fake smile a few moments to hang tensely in the air before she relieved herself with what she actually wanted to say: "Be careful though, Eddie. Those old trucks can be pretty rusty sometimes. And please don't ride in the bed, that's so dangerous. Mike can drive, right? He can drive well?" 

"He can drive just fine, mom." Eddie sighed, shutting the book. He slid his eggs over to her and stood. "I'll be careful." he assured, rushing upstairs to finish getting ready. 

As he went, he could hear her muttering to herself about how it was due time Eddie got another tetanus shot. Just to be safe. 

 

When Eddie heard the honk outside, he raced to the door--he hoped if he got out of there quick his mom wouldn't want to look at the truck or talk to Mike or something equally as embarrassing or frustrating. 

Lucky for him, she was back to being absorbed in her show. 

"Bye mom!" he called, rushing out the door, barely hearing her say the same. 

A wide smile hit him as he closed the door behind him. 

Mike had the window rolled down, waving with a big proud smile on his face. "Isn't she gorgeous?" 

She was brown, and rusty, and sputtering some horrifically dark fumes out of her tail pipe--but she was their chariot. The first of the Losers to get a car. None of their parents had the money, Mike got lucky that they had an old one. 

So sure, she was kind of a pile of junk, but she was gorgeous. A loser, just like the rest of them. 

"She's incredible Mikey," Eddie said with a laugh. 

Stan was sitting in the passenger seat, not that Eddie was headed there anyway. Because Richie was grinning at him from the bed of the truck, arms folded over the edge, waiting oh-so-patiently for Eddie's attention. When Eddie grinned back at him, Richie lit up. 

"Hop on in, Eds! Saved you a spot next to me." he announced, patting an empty spot beside him. Even though there was plenty of room. 

Bill and Bev were the only other two in the back, and the bed wasn't small. Bill waved excitedly and Bev reached her arms out over the edge of the side of the truck after handing her cigarette off to Richie. "Climb up the tire, the tailgate doesn't open," she laughed. 

Eddie put a foot on the tire and grabbed her hands, letting her help him as he attempted to pull himself up. He was the shortest of the Losers, even an inch or so smaller than Bev, so getting in the trunk was interesting and resembled absolutely nothing like grace. 

He felt Richie grab the back of his shirt with his free hand and helped hoist him in the last bit of the way. He was really strong, it made Eddie blush just a bit--at least he could blame that on the effort of getting in. 

Once he managed to clamber inside, he huffed. Bev grinned, slapping his shoulder. "You did it!" 

Eddie smiled, settling in next to Richie, who was busy taking a long drag off of Bev's cigarette before handing it back to her. He slung an arm around Eddie's shoulder, turning his head away to blow out the smoke. He always did that, he always made sure to keep the smoke away from Eddie. And if he was smoking when Eddie walked up, he always put it out or handed it off to Bev. It was oddly touching. 

"I am thoroughly surprised that Ms. K let you anywhere near this death trap." Richie commented. 

"She's busy with her TV show. If she saw me right now, she would blow a blood vessel. Speaking of..." he raised his voice a bit, leaning his head slightly back so he would show up in Mike's side mirror. "We should probably take off before my mom notices us. She'll kill me." 

"Sounds like a plan," Mike replied with a thumbs up out the window before getting them moving--the truck chugged and sputtered, but the protest was short lived and they were off to go get Ben and then head to school. 

Richie absently toyed with some of Eddie's hair as he spoke. "The group's not hanging out after school today. Big Bill's got a dentist appointment and Ben's cousin is visiting. So, I was wondering if you'd like to walk home with me." 

"What're you walking for? If you haven't noticed, we have the smoothest ride Derry has to offer." Eddie said, giving the truck a little pat. He was trying his best to be casual and witty, but Richie's absent touches were distracting. He would never get used to them, no matter how often they happened (which was practically all the time). 

Richie looked amused, looking like he was considering making a dirty joke about that, but decided to focus on the topic at hand for once. "Just feel like I need the exercise," he said, patting his stomach with his free hand--his completely flat stomach, by the way. "I'm out of shape, what can I say? Turns out candy is not a sustainable diet." 

Eddie laughed. "Who knew?" Richie really did eat way too much candy. 

"That's what I'm saying!" 

Eddie just smiled. "Sure, Rich." 

"Stellar, Eds." Richie replied, but it was said with a certain fondness and softness that made Eddie squirm a bit. 

"Don't call me that," Eddie quipped, elbowing Richie's side lightly, anything to relieve that sudden atmosphere that had settled over them. He could only take so much, especially so early in the morning. 

"Okay, okay." Richie said with a nod, looking completely serious. "Eddie-bear it is." 

"Richie!" Eddie gasped, holding back a laugh. "That's so much worse! Anything but that." the last thing he wanted to think about was his mom when he was around Richie. Yikes. 

Richie just smirked victoriously. "Okey-dokey, Eds." 

Eddie huffed and rolled his eyes, but he was smiling. It was always like this with Richie. 

It seemed he was always smiling. 

Chapter Text

When they made it to the school, Richie jumped right over the side of the truck, which set Eddie off. 

"I am honestly shocked you didn't get one of your stupidly long legs caught and fall or something," he bitched as he sat himself on the edge, ready to hop down. "Be more careful." 

Richie just grinned, he loved when Eddie nagged at him. Eddie was cutest when all his little feathers were ruffled. 

Before Eddie could hop down, Richie walked over and grabbed his sides, helping him down. Which, of course, was for Richie's own benefit. He knew damn well Eddie would've been just fine, but he wouldn't deny himself the simple pleasure of helping out his friend. 

"Thanks," Eddie muttered, looking a bit embarrassed. 

Oh wait, Richie thought, that's when Eds is cutest. 

The Losers walked into the school and it was like the entire school grimaced all at once--it wasn't a common occurrence for all the Losers to arrive all at the same time like this. And the typical bully-types who replaced Henry and his goons looked so very disappointed.

The Losers had mostly grown out of having to worry about bullies. Richie was taller than most people and made people uncomfortable, and maybe a little intimidated; Bev could take anyone in this damn school by herself and she unapologetically radiated that vibe; Bill was tall and handsome, he had definitely filled out over the years, Mike was a beast (a gentle one, but you'd never guess by looking at him); and Stan had a look that could kill effortlessly. 

Though Eddie and Ben were still hounded every now and then--Eddie was small and harmless looking, despite the fact that Richie didn't doubt he could take just about anyone--Hell, as far as Richie was concerned, Eddie was the most dangerous of the group. And poor sweet Ben looked just as soft and sweet as he actually was. Richie kept an eye on them though, no one would approach them if he was anywhere near them. 

As stupid as the bullies around here may be, they had enough common sense to avoid Richie. The moment they pulled something when he was around was the moment Richie would snap. 

The Losers slipped off to their classes and lockers. Eddie was headed for his own locker, and of course, Richie followed. 

He leaned against the locker next to him as Eddie spun the combination in. "Not having to walk to school was nice. I feel like I have even more energy than usual." Richie remarked, watching his small hands gently spin the dial. It was hypnotizing and made Richie's stomach twist into knots. 

"God help us," Eddie whispered. 

Richie grinned, pinching Eddie's cheek. "It's all for you, Eds." 

Eddie swatted Richie's hand away before rubbing his cheek. "I hate when you do that!" 

Richie hummed. "I know." 

"So if you liked the ride so much, why do you insist on walking back?" Eddie asked casually as he slipped some books into his backpack. Except it was too casual. Eddie didn't do casual--Eddie did rambling and bitching and laughing and blushing. He was a spitfire, he was soft, he was smart, he talked too much. But he was definitely not casual. He was all or nothing.

Richie squirmed a bit. Maybe he's on to me. 

Richie did not need exercise (nor ever, ever want it), he just wanted some alone time with Eddie. Last week, he and Beverly were skipping fourth period to smoke behind the school. It was cold, they were leaned up together, passing the cigarette back and forth, when Bev said softly: "How long have you been in love with Eddie?" 

Richie was so shocked he had choked, wheezing as the smoke tore through his lungs in dark, sputtering puffs. "What!?

"Oh c'mon," she said, that smug grin Richie loved so much on her face. "It's obvious. You should do something about it." Suddenly, she hadn't been smiling anymore, and those burning eyes became so soft and warm. "You're running out of time, Rich." 

And Richie had known she was right. This was his last chance. 

But he couldn't just suddenly drop that on Eddie, not unless he wanted to completely embarrass himself. He had to take this slow, ease into it. One step at a time. And walking home together, just them, felt like an excellent first step. 

"Well I've gotta burn this extra energy somehow, Eds. Unless you really would like me to direct it all to you?" 

Eddie laughed, shutting the locker. "No, no, we'll walk, please." 

The bell rang and Richie winked. "That's what I thought. See ya soon Spaghetti." 

Richie heard Eddie groan as he walked away and a smile found his face. 

Music to his ears. 

 

Richie had his first class with Ben. 

They sat near the back, which Richie had requested on the first day, and Ben had been happy to oblige. Ben was a great student but he liked to daydream and write every now and then. It made Richie's heart twist--Ben was so romantic, all daydreams and sighs, his heart full of poetry. Richie had read every little line Ben had absently wrote on the side of his papers just to scribble them out or erase them, or sometimes just forget about them completely. 

How could he do that? Make something so beautiful on accident--without even thinking about it? 

It drove Richie insane. He would give anything to be that good with words. 

"I don't think Beverly's ever going to like me." Ben suddenly whispered, eyes glued out the window. 

Richie frowned. "Ben, that's not true. She keeps all your poems and gifts. And isn't she always happy to receive them?" 

"Well yeah, but... She never says anything about them. She just reads them and smiles at me, and that's it." 

"She's treasuring it," Richie said simply.

He knew Bev was crushing hard on Ben, she tried to make it as obvious as possible, she even tried to ask him out once but poor Ben thought she meant as a friend and invited all the others... 

"You should say something." Richie said after a moment when Ben's big, sad eyes drifted back to the clouds. "Outright. Just go for it." 

Ben blushed, glancing at him. "You really think so?" 

Richie clasped a hand on Ben's arm. "Benny Boy, I have been listening to you pining and swooning and romanticizing Beverly like she was a piece of art for years. You have been so madly in love that I think it's spreading to me like a disease. All I ever do now is sigh and pick flowers." he teased lightly, giving a dramatic sigh and swoon to prove his point. 

Ben appreciated the joke, letting out a bubbly laugh. "Okay, okay. Maybe I will. Not a poem this time, just... Going for it. No subtlety." 

Richie squeezed him. "Yes, that's it!" he encouraged, leaning back in his seat. He sat there for a moment, staring at his desk before speaking up. "Do you think I could ever write poetry?" 

Ben looked at him amused, but apparently saw something on Richie's face because he softened. "You want to write poetry? Who for?" 

Richie panicked for a moment, but was careful to keep it completely internalized--couldn't let Ben see him slip up. Ben was the love expert, he'd catch it in a second. 

"Eddie's mom of course." 

 

The rest of the day was pretty normal, despite that look Ben kept giving Richie. 

Richie was doing his best to ignore it. 

The Losers said goodbye for the day, and Richie and Eddie headed out together. 

"You ready, Dr. K?" Richie asked as they hopped down the school steps. "You got your inhaler on you?" 

"Always," Eddie replied, answering both questions at once. 

Richie nodded in approval. "Good, this could be quite the adventure, ya know? Who knows what could happen?" 

Eddie mocked thoughtfulness. "Well... If I had to make a wild guess, I'd say that we're going to walk home and then... End up at home?" 

"Cute. Real cute." Richie replied sarcastically. "If you wish to banish all the magic and adventure out of it then so be it." 

Eddie laughed making Richie smile. 

They had only walked maybe five minutes before Eddie spoke up. 

"Where do you think you'll go after high school?" 

Richie was sort of surprised by the question. No one had really asked each other this question yet, none of the Losers. They didn't want to know, or maybe they didn't want to deal with the fact everyone would say something different, or maybe they just didn't know. 

"I'm not sure." Richie muttered. Wherever you go. "Anywhere but here." 

Eddie nodded a little, looking unsatisfied. "Yeah..." 

Richie felt sort of bad. "Why, you got somewhere in mind?" 

"A few places. I've submitted a few different college applications." he said with a nod. Then smiled at Richie. "Anywhere but here." 

Richie gave him a little wink. 

"Well how about you let me know which one you end up picking, and maybe I'll check that place out." 

Eddie's eyes lit up and he looked at Richie like he had just promised him the world or something--it made Richie's chest stir hard. 

"Really?" Eddie asked softly. "I mean... You'd consider?" 

"What, going with you?" Richie laughed, patting Eddie's back. "Stop looking so shocked. You're my Spaghetti, who the hell else would I bother if you were gone?" 

Eddie smiled widely like he could barely contain it and it made Richie so damn breathless--did it really mean that much to him? Did Richie really mean that much to him? "Well c'mon Eds, don't look so excited. You'd be stuck with me for the rest of your life." 

Eddie bit his lip, trying to contain his smile, but he was practically bursting at the seams. "I think I could put up with it." God, Eddie really wanted to kill Richie today. 

Richie cleared his throat. It was awkward, definitely, but Richie couldn't handle the gravity of this situation. He couldn't even begin to consider that he made Eddie as happy as Eddie made him. "I'm starving." he blurted. 

"Me too."

Richie slid his backpack off, so thankful, he could handle hungry Eddies. "I've got you covered." he said simply, digging around inside. 

"Let me guess--" 

"Candy!" they said in unison--Richie sounding much more enthusiastic about it. 

"It's good stuff!" Richie defended. "And I know you're sick of chocolate so I got you some gummy candyyyy," he sang, holding up the bag as temptingly as he possibly could. 

Eddie eyed him sideways before snatching the bag. "Fine." 

Richie smirked, hopping back up. Eddie tore the bag open and dropped some candy in Richie's hand. Richie liked all candy, he was quite literally always down for whatever, so he adjusted his tastes to whatever Eddie was particularly fond or not fond of at the time. For the next couple weeks, it'd be gummy candy. Richie had completely exhausted him on chocolate. The timing couldn't have been better actually, it was starting to warm up little by little, and Richie would rather not have melted chocolate all over his stuff. 

They continued walking, eating candy as they did so. 

Once they finished the entire bag, Richie tossed it on the ground. Then Eddie promptly picked it up and shoved into Richie's backpack, nagging at him about littering for a solid five minutes. 

While Eddie was going on about it, Richie had begun playing a little game; avoiding the cracks on the sidewalk. 

When Eddie fizzled out, he noticed Richie's uneven strides and looked down at his feet. "What are you doing?" 

"Y'know, the sidewalk game. Play with me." 

"You mean the 'step on a crack, break your mother's back' game?" Eddie asked, glancing at Richie like he was an idiot. "The one parents have their five year olds play so they won't wander off the sidewalk?" 

"Yep, that's the one." Richie grinned. "Lighten up Kaspbrak--Hey, you just stepped on a crack! Your mother's back is broken, way to go." 

Eddie just laughed. "Well since it's already broken, I don't really have to worry anymore do I?" 

"That's cold." Richie said with a disappointed shake of his head. "Alright fine, my back is on the line next." 

Eddie hummed, turning his attention to the ground. He stop walking, holding his foot over a crack of the sidewalk threateningly. Richie froze and gasped softly. "You wouldn't." he whispered. 

"You sure?" Eddie asked, lowering his foot just a bit. 

"Don't do this, Eds. Not after everything we've been through--think of all the candy I've brought you." 

Eddie slowly pulled his foot back, then smirked deviously. "Don't call me Eds." he said simply, attempting to step on the crack. 

But Richie would not have his back broken, not today. 

He tackled him into the grass. This area was well kept and the plush grass did well to cushion their fall, Richie quickly positioning himself over Eddie. "You monster, you were actually going to do it!" he shouted, squeezing Eddie's side, making him laugh and squirm for a moment. "Such betrayal." 

Eddie laughed, pushing Richie off him. "I wasn't about to let my opportunity pass me by." 

Richie couldn't hold back the genuine laugh that bubbled up from his chest. His laugh was contagious apparently, because Eddie started laughing again. They both fell on their backs in the grass and just laughed and laughed and laughed. 

They only stopped when they were both crying; Richie was panting and Eddie had to take a hit from his inhaler, smiling like an idiot the whole time. Richie admire him, pretty pink lips smiling against his inhaler, teary eyes and red cheeks, dusted with those freckles. It was painful, really. Maybe Richie could understand the way Ben loved. All art and pretty words; it was times like this that Richie felt that kind of love too. 

Sometimes he felt like maybe he could write poetry, too. 

Eddie turned over and looked at him, smiling. "Should we get up now?" 

Richie smiled. "I guess so." he said, jumping up and pulling Eddie to his feet. 

As they started walking, Eddie glanced up at the sky. "You think we'll make it back to my house before it gets dark?" 

"Oh most definitely." 

 

They did not. 

Eddie hadn't even reached the steps to the door before Sonia slammed it open. "What in God's name do you think you're doing?!" she shouted, grabbing Eddie's arm and yanking him up the steps. "I was scared to death, you know you're supposed to be back before dark," she went on and on, so shrill. How did Eddie put up with this, honestly?

Richie touched his ears softly to make sure they hadn't started bleeding. 

She ushered Eddie inside, then glared at Richie. "Listen up Tozier, I know what kind of boy you've become these days. And don't think you and Eddie being friends since you were kids means anything to me, understood? He has rules, he's a good boy. If you corrupt him, I'll end this." she hissed. 

Richie raised his hands in mock surrender. "I wouldn't dream of it, Ms. K. Just an honest mistake, won't happen again." Man, he really wanted to be snarky, but he didn't doubt Sonia's psychotic hold over her son, and he wasn't about to lose Eddie because of her. 

She nodded, seeming satisfied with Richie's compliance. "Go on home, I bet your parents are worried sick." she snapped, rushing inside, probably to bitch at Eddie some more. 

But even Sonia's outburst couldn't ruin his good mood. He just smirked as he began walking home, amused by her image of him. Like he was some delinquent. She really thought he was corrupting Eddie? Please. he thought with a little snort of laughter. If only she knew what her son was really like. She wouldn't think he was such a baby then. 

He's all fire. Richie's just the gasoline. 

That night Richie went home, had dinner with his parents (who were not insane, and didn't explode at Richie for coming home after dark), then headed upstairs to feed his fish. Well, he and Eddie's fish. Eddie had won it at the carnival last year, but knew his mom wouldn't let him keep it, so Richie took it home on the condition he got to name it. 

So that being said, he gave Spaghetti his dinner, then slipped into bed. 

His legs were sore--maybe he really was out of shape--and he was so damn tired, but the moment his eyes closed, all he could see was Eddie laughing, his hair fanned out in the grass around him, the vibrancy of the green against Eddie's red cheeks. The images flashing against his eyelids; they looked so warm, so soft. Like how Richie felt. 

Perhaps it goes without saying, but Richie slept well that night. 

Chapter Text

The first thing on Eddie's mind when he woke up was Richie. 

Cliche, yeah, but it was true. 

Yesterday had just been so incredible. His memories sounded like laughter, smelled like grass, tasted like candy, looked like Richie... It made his head spin. The moment he sat up to get out of bed he was smiling and flopping right back down again. He would've clutched his chest but he had to draw a line at just how cliche he was willing to be within the first ten minutes of being awake. 

He did allow himself a love-struck sigh though, smiling at his ceiling. 

It was getting a little difficult to deny these feelings now. 

He had really tried his damnedest. They had began forming when he was a freshman; the little stirs in his chest and the fluttering his stomach. Though 14 year old Eddie had just assumed he was sick or coming down with something. 

Though he could only be so damn oblivious for so long. One day Eddie had been short of breath after gym, nothing a concentrated moment of breathing exercises couldn't fix. But Richie did not know that and panicked a bit. Before Eddie could say a thing, Richie had pulled an inhaler out of his bag. One of Eddie's inhalers--one of his spares. He had left a few at Richie's house over the years and just assumed they were lost and got new ones. He didn't think Richie would keep any of them. Or keep them on him at all times. 

And that was it. 

Eddie realized he had fallen for Richie, without even really noticing until that moment. He hadn't been sick or tired or anxious. He had been falling, and he was so oblivious that he didn't even realize until he'd hit the ground. Hard. 

Eddie buried that just as far down as he could, nipping that right in the bud. That was the last thing they needed. But sometimes it would pop right up again from beneath the surface, maybe from a certain look or a brush of Richie's hand, and it took Eddie a bit longer each time to bury it all over again. 

He'd kept at this exhausting process for four years now, but Eddie didn't feel like he could shove it back down now. 

It was like he'd been pushing a flower back down into the dirt over and over again. But this time it was a freaking tree. It broke through the surface and wasn't going anywhere. 

But whatever. 

There was nothing to be done about it. Nothing would happen anyway. Eddie would fuss over it later, agonize over it later. For now, he just let it be. Smiling ear-to-ear, feeling his chest burn, his entire body buzzing with warmth. 

 

As they rode in the back of Mike's truck that morning, Eddie couldn't take his eyes off Richie. He never could or did anyway, but it was different this morning. He wondered how Richie felt. Surely that dizzy, warm feeling yesterday left Eddie with couldn't be one-sided. Not when it was this strong--right? 

But Richie seemed so calm and collected. Like yesterday had never happened. Like it wasn't anything special. 

Maybe it wasn't anything special to him. 

Eddie's burning heart suddenly went out like someone had blown out a candle. 

Just another day. 

His heart dropped in his stomach, squashing every little butterfly on the way down. It sat in the pit of his stomach like a stone, making him squirm in discomfort. He tried to rationalize, tried to tell himself he had no reason to be this damn disappointed. They were friends, that was it, he needed to get his mind away from the prospect of anything else. 

He even maybe convinced himself of that, in his own delusional way. But no matter how much he ignored it, his heart was still sitting in his stomach--heavy and dark. 

His chest was so hollow. 

He missed how it felt when it was burning, bursting. He missed this morning. 

He missed yesterday. 

 

The Losers had plans after school that day. 

It was about time they headed down to the clubhouse again, it had been a hot minute. Eddie could only hope that the insect repellent they sprayed all over the place was still going strong. They had ditched those dirty old shower caps a long time ago after an incident where Bill had gotten a beetle trapped between his hair and the cap. 

Eddie and Stan spent the first ten minutes walking around and brushing dirt and dust off all their stuff, and squashing the occasional bug. Thankfully there weren't many. Mike took the hammock before Richie could, sticking his tongue out at him. Richie flipped him off and sank back into one of the bean bags--they had several all over the place. Too many fights over the hammock. 

Ben walked around and checked on the structural integrity. It had been a few months, and there had been quite a few rains since then. It dawned on Eddie then that maybe they shouldn't have all gone in there right away... 

But it seemed the ceiling wouldn't be caving in anytime soon which was a relief. 

Sort of. 

Eddie had felt like death all damn day. He really did depress himself this morning. When he and Stan could relax, they both sank into the same bean bag chair together. Richie looked surprised, sitting on the edge of his, like he had been anticipating Eddie to sit with him.

If it bothered him, he didn't say anything about it, just scooted into the center. 

Bev stood under the entrance, smoking. Ben went to stand with her and they chatted amongst themselves, while Bill sat on the ground in front of Stan and they spoke. Mike and Richie slowly tapered off into a conversation, but Eddie stayed just watching everyone else absently. He felt so far out of it, like he wasn't even actually there, like he was just speculating from a distance. 

He thought maybe he could get through the night like this, just coasting. And then maybe just sleep this funk he put himself in off tonight and be fine again tomorrow. 

But Richie suddenly put his hand on Eddie's knee. "Hey." he said softly.

Eddie glanced at him and smiled a little. "Hey." 

"He speaks," Richie teased, but there was no joking tone. He was just smiling, so damn gently. He sounded more concerned, and maybe relieved, than anything else. "Where you been today, Eddie?"

Eddie. 

So apparently all his butterflies weren't dead because a few still had the audacity to flutter at that. 

"Just a little out of it, I guess," Eddie said with an awkward little laugh. "Just one of those days." 

Richie just nodded, looking utterly unsatisfied with that answer. "Okay." he said with a nod. "And you're sure you're okay? You're not sick or anything?" A cautious grin found his lips and pressed his hand against Eddie's forehead. "Maybe I'm feeding you too much candy." 

Eddie laughed, swatting his hand away gently. His chest didn't feel so tight now. 

It really didn't take Richie much effort at all to cheer Eddie up. 

 

The rest of the night was great. 

Richie had clearly noticed his success in lightening Eddie's mood because he kept it up. It was so natural joking around with Richie that Eddie forgot he had been sad in the first place. The Losers played card games and arm wrestled each other (Mike was the undefeated champ, as usual) and the only reason they stopped was because Eddie spoke up when he noticed it was sunset, telling everyone he needed to head home or his mom would ground him for life. 

Mike offered to take him home, so everyone decided they'd go too. No one wanted to miss out on their ride. 

Everyone crawled out of the clubhouse, brushing themselves off. When Eddie went to do so he froze. A freaking spider. On his arm. "Richie." he said, his voice higher than usual, getting everyone's attention. "I'm going to freak out." he warned frantically, completely frozen. 

Bev saw it and gasped, frantically brushing herself off, shivering. Ben tried to look cool about it but he was definitely checking over himself now, paranoid. And Eddie was about 90% sure Stan was about to throw up. 

Richie just grabbed Eddie's arm. "Alright calm down," he said, not even the slightest sound of alarm in his voice. And ever so casually, he grabbed the spider between his fingers and squished it. 

All the Losers gasped. Stan made mock vomiting noises in the background--or maybe they were real, who knew. Even Mike shivered and shook his head. "Nope. Nope, definitely not. That's horrible." 

Richie rolled his eyes. "Aren't you the farmer, Mike?" he asked as he casually wiped spider guts off on his pants. 

Eddie gagged. "Richie!" he shrieked. He dug into the side pocket of his backpack and found his tissues, tearing open the bag and holding them out to him. "Wipe your hand off!" 

Richie noticed how far away Eddie was standing and grinned. "What's wrong, Eds?" he asked 'innocently', reaching past the tissues and going for Eddie's wrist instead. 

Eddie screamed and jumped back, throwing the tissues at him. "Richie, if you touch me, I swear I'll--" 

"What?" Richie asked deviously, stalking towards him, holding his hands out like claws. 

"Run Eddie!" Bill shouted with a laugh. 

And Eddie did just that as Richie started chasing him. He got maybe twenty feet--Richie's long limbs really were unfair. Richie caught him by the waist, pulling him in against him and tickling his sides, easily holding Eddie in place despite all his squirming and breathless screaming and laughing. He even threw in quite a few death threats for good measure but Richie wouldn't budge. 

The Losers could be heard laughing in the background, and then Bev shouted: "Geez guys, get a room!" 

And it was instant, like a snap of his fingers: Richie immediately let go and took two steps away from Eddie, suddenly tense and awkward. "Beverley," he scolded softly. Really scolded. 

Ouch. 

An awkward, tense silence fell over the group. 

That was the most uncharacteristic thing Richie had ever done. He always playfully flirted, and never shied away from playing along. But he shut that down so quickly--he retreated. 

Eddie felt his stomach churn hard, like it was suddenly full of tar. 

Was Richie really that repulsed at the thought of them? Even jokingly...? 

"I really need to go home." 

Eddie didn't hide the tone in his voice; something between hurt and urgency. 

Richie looked at him, softening the moment he did. "Oh, Eds, no I--" 

"My mom's gonna freak out." he spoke over Richie, looking only at Mike. "Will you take me home now?" 

"Sure," Mike said, squirming a bit under the tension now. "Yeah. Sure, let's go guys." 

As they were walking back to the truck, Eddie jogged to Stan's side. "Hey, do you think I could ride in the cab with Mike this time?" he whispered; he knew that Stan preferred to ride there, so he didn't just want to swoop in and steal it. 

Stan frowned and nodded a bit. "Of course. But... What was that? Are you and Richie...?" 

"We're nothing." Eddie quipped. Too quick, too stern. He cleared his throat a bit. "Just friends, same as always. Nothing's wrong with us. I just don't feel good. After the spider." he was rambling, and Stan saw right through that crap, but he didn't press. 

When they reached the truck, Richie looked shocked as he watched Eddie climb into the cab. "Oh, you're gonna ride up front?" he asked, trying really hard to sound casual. But he sounded desperate. 

Eddie just smiled as reassuringly as he could. This wasn't Richie's fault, he hadn't done anything wrong. This was Eddie's for letting himself get too caught up in Richie recently, and for expecting Richie to act as anything other than his friend. He didn't want Richie to be upset. 

"Yeah Rich, I just don't feel too well." 

Richie just nodded, but he was frowning. Eddie hated that. He looked so dejected and sad. So Eddie rushed to add: "I'm still coming over tomorrow to help clean Spaghetti's tank, right?" 

Richie smiled a little, looking just the smallest bit relieved. "Yes sir." he said before crawling into the bed. 

Eddie pulled himself in and buckled his seat belt. Mike didn't look at him as he turned the key, the engine coming to life just a bit too loudly and violently. Poor thing, she was doing her best.

"Everything okay, Eddie?" Mike asked in that sweet and soft caring way he did. He really did have one of the biggest hearts Eddie had ever seen. 

"Just fine, Mikey. Just--" 

"--don't feel well. I know." Mike said, offering a little lopsided smile before he started driving. "Just don't hesitate to talk to me if you need to, okay?" 

Eddie nodded a bit, his heart twisting. He wanted to tell him. He wanted to tell the Losers, he wanted to tell Richie. He wanted to tell them because he told them all everything, but this was just so different. He couldn't just tell people about this. He'd had this internal struggle about confiding in the Losers about this for years now. He always came to the same conclusion: Don't. 

It just wasn't worth the inevitable drama and awkwardness it would cause among the group. And God, the last thing Eddie would ever let himself do was risk his friendship with Richie. He would never forgive himself if he ruined that.

When they reached his house, Eddie thanked Mike for the ride and gave him a hug which Mike gladly reciprocated. It felt nice, Mike gave the best hugs. 

As he hopped out and started towards his door, Richie called for him. Eddie turned just in time to see Richie clamber over the edge of the truck. And it happened--just like Eddie said it would--that idiot got his leg caught and fell onto the road. 

The Losers all flung themselves to the edge, wincing and asking if he was okay. 

Eddie ran to his side and helped him sit up. "Richie! What the fuck did I tell you just yesterday--don't just throw yourself over like that, the truck is too tall, and you're just too damn lanky--" 

Richie laughed, putting a hand over Eddie's mouth. "Shut up! Just say 'I told you so' and move on." 

Eddie smiled and smacked his hand away. "I told you so. And don't touch my fucking face, you still haven't washed your hand." he softened a little. "Now what did you need to tell me that was so important that you fell out of a truck?" 

"Just wanted to say goodnight." Richie said, suddenly looking embarrassed. "I didn't think it'd be such a scene, so now that feels really underwhelming..." that blush on Richie's cheeks was rare but it made Eddie smile like an idiot. 

"You're so stupid." Eddie said fondly. 

Richie just pushed a piece of Eddie's hair out of his face. "Yeah I know." he said softly, then stood up, pulling Eddie up with him--which was good. After that little soft moment, Eddie's legs never would've worked on their own. "Now go home before your mom shits herself. Meanwhile, I'm going to slowly climb into the truck." 

Eddie laughed and rolled his eyes. "Okay. Goodnight guys," he said, waving. 

He rushed inside, not looking back once. The feeling in his chest was rising at an alarming rate, so he quickly shouted a greeting to his mother before racing to his room. The moment he closed his door, it all overflowed. 

The giddiness that had been skyrocketing suddenly burst and he busted up laughing. 

He crawled onto the bed and just laughed, slowly fading into giggles, then was just left with a stupid smile on his face. 

There was a sense of dread somewhere behind this wall of absolute giddiness and electricity. A little rational voice, reminding him how shitty he just felt after getting his hopes up. How he had just learned his lesson--Richie didn't like him. He was grossed out at the thought of being with him, even as a joke. 

But Eddie wasn't stupid, he knew that already. So he ignored it. 

These feelings of bliss were totally worth the misery when it all came crashing down. 

Richie didn't like him, that much was obvious. But Richie made him feel so much; so much that he could barely breathe--in a good way. And he definitely knew what it felt like to not be able to breathe in the bad way.

So he just savored it for now. 

He'd break his own heart a hundred times a day if it just meant that he could keep feeling like this every now and then. 

Chapter Text

Richie was not pleased with yesterday. 

He went to bed stressed out and guilty and woke up feeling even worse somehow. 

All he could think about was that look on Eddie's face when Richie pulled away from him after the whole spider incident--after Bev made that little comment. Eddie had looked like he'd just been smacked in the face. Like Richie had just smacked him in the face. 

Richie groaned, rolling over and burying his face in his pillow to muffle it. He could not understand his own stupidity sometimes. 

He was Richie, he wasn't supposed to care about flirting. Hell, he was supposed to play along. All he ever did was flirt with Eddie, but instead he did that. He wished he could've grabbed Eddie and told him that it wasn't what he thought.

Richie had just been so caught up in the moment... It was like it was just the two of them. Eddie trapped in his arms; squirming, laughing, breathless... They were so close, Eddie's back was pressed against Richie's chest. He could feel his warmth like it was his own, he could smell Eddie's shampoo. He always smelled like shampoo up close. Eddie used all kinds of products (Richie had seen his bathroom and may or may not have gone through his stuff a few times); face washes, lotions, and so much hand sanitizer. But nothing he had was particularly scented or perfume-y.

But his shampoo was. It was some all natural brand, and it smelled like fresh strawberries and flowers. And left Eddie's hair so frustratingly fluffy and touchable. 

And God, he had been breathing it in, accompanied by Eddie's laughing and adorable little death threats, it was no wonder Richie had gone completely deaf and unaware to the rest of the world.

But when she said that, it snapped him right out of it. 

It caught him off guard, because for once he let his guard down. And he was so embarrassed. Looking back on it now, it's not like anyone could've known how entranced he was. He could've played it off like it was nothing like he always did. But when she said that, he had felt so embarrassed and guilty, like he'd done something wrong by letting himself get so caught up in the moment. 

Maybe he had, but it was nothing compared to the way he had hurt Eddie's feelings. 

He hurt his feelings so bad that Eddie didn't even sit with him on the ride back. 

Richie couldn't help but smile a bit though when he thought about the way Eddie had laughed at him before he went home, though. He could still hear Eddie's smug little "I told you so". 

Richie's second "oh shit" alarm went off while he was daydreaming. So he promptly muttered "oh shit", and went scrambling to get ready with the time he had left. He wouldn't admit how often this happened. 

 

When Richie threw himself in the truck, Bev almost immediately passed him her cigarette. "Morning, champ."

Bill was in the back with them, and Stan up front with Mike. Eddie was the next stop, then Ben. 

"Morning my dear," he said, taking a drag and smacking the side of the truck to let Mike know he had settled in. He glanced at Bill, who was really actually trying to read in the bed of a damn truck; made Richie wonder what assignment Bill forgot about, and just how soon it was due. Once he was sure Bill was dead to the world, he scooted a bit closer to Bev and lowered his voice. "I should kill you." 

Bev laughed; she always laughed off his death threats. Richie did the same to Eddie's, so he understood. "I'm sorry," she said, she was smiling but it was a sincere apology. "But to be fair, you didn't have to freak out. I gave you the perfect flirting opportunity and you ruined it." 

Richie took an even longer drag with that one, holding the smoke in, letting it burn for just a second before exhaling and passing it off to her. "Yeah, tell me about it." he glanced at Bill--he was still out of it--and continued. "I really hurt his feelings." 

"I mean, that's not all bad right?" she asked softly. When Richie gave her a look she shook her head quickly. "No, no, I mean... If he got that upset, don't you think that says something? Maybe?"  

Richie hadn't really thought about it actually. He chewed it over for a moment. "... Maybe." he said after a moment. "I don't know." he picked absently at the tear in his jeans, there were several rips in his jeans, but this one had a loose strand of fabric hanging off the side, which Richie fully intended to take scissors to later. "I don't wanna get my hopes up."

Bev nodded a bit. "I understand. I'm just saying. Maybe this crush isn't so one-sided." Thankfully, she had the good grace to lower her whisper even further. 

Richie felt the tips of his ears heat up at the thought. "Marsh, you made me blush. You're a madman." 

She blew out a long puff of smoke, a smug grin settling on her face. 

"I know."

 

When Eddie came hurrying out of his house, he looked particularly panicked this morning. 

He rushed right up to the truck and reached out, right for Richie. Which was painfully adorable and captivated his heart a bit more than he'd care to admit. "Hurry, she's getting out of the shower!" 

Richie didn't need to be told twice, he just grabbed Eddie by the arms and pulled him up and in. "Get us outta here Mikey," Richie announced loudly. 

Mike drove off a bit rougher than anyone in the bed intended, everyone being tossed to the side. Richie managed to not crush Eddie by holding on to the edge of the truck just tight enough, and Eddie managed to not be thrown to the other side of the truck by quickly grabbing Richie's arm and leaning in against him. Richie almost vomited up his heart. 

Mike could be heard laughing out a very insincere apology from the cab. Not surprisingly, Stan was laughing too. 

"Rude." Richie said with a grin, then glanced at Eddie. 

Eddie just laughed, slowly letting go of Richie, but not putting any space between them. He looked up at Richie and all Richie could think as he counted Eddie's freckles was hey, if we hit a speed bump or stop suddenly, we can have an accidental kiss like some kind of rom-com, imagine that. Don't let me down, Mikey. 

Mike let him down. 

Once the ride evened out, Eddie scooted to a normal distance. "That was a close one." 

"Tell me about it," Richie muttered, mostly to himself. 

"You ever gonna tell your mom you're riding in the back of the truck?" Bev teased. "What're you gonna do when she sees you one of these days?" 

"I will climb in the cab until we're somewhere she can't see us, duh." Eddie said, making Richie grin. 

As Bev and Eddie began talking and laughing, Richie felt way better. Eddie didn't seem to be upset anymore, thank god. Richie could only take that dejected look on Eddie's face for so long. 

Richie still intended to make it up to him, though. He didn't know how, but he would. 

 

School was normal, except Ben had written down just about a thousand different ways he could ask Bev out. 

You'd think there'd only be like one or two, maybe five at the most, right? Wrong. And Richie got to listen to every. Single. One. God, he loved Ben so much, but he wanted nothing more than to just grab those chubby cheeks and yell at him about how sweet and handsome he was, and that she already liked him

But Richie couldn't bring himself to ruin Ben's romance. He was putting forth an actual effort and a real plan to ask her out so he decided to be supportive. 

And by "supportive", of course he meant that every time Ben practiced a line on him, he clasped his hands together, swooned, and used a horrifically high-pitched voice as a poor excuse for a girl's voice, then loudly declared how he was so madly in love with him, how could he ever say no to Ben's charms?! 

Richie also got in trouble for being too loud, but it was a sacrifice he had to make. For Ben. 

 

After school, Mike was nice enough to give Eddie and Richie a ride back to Richie's, even though Mike and the others had studying plans. 

Which meant Richie and Eddie were completely alone in the back of the truck. Richie's chest fluttered at the way Eddie still sat right next to him. 

"Are you going to go to college, Richie?" 

Oh boy, here we go with this again. 

"Probably," Richie said, putting his arm along the back of the truck behind Eddie. "Not right away like you, though. I want a minute away from school to breathe first." 

Eddie nodded a bit, picking at the tear in Richie's jeans, making Richie's breath catch a little. Man, that tear was really distracting to everybody apparently. "Do you have any places in mind?" he asked hesitantly. Richie could not understand why Eddie was so worried about it. He'd already told him he would go with him. 

Richie grinned and pinched Eddie's cheek, making his nose scrunch up in the cutest, angriest little way as he swatted Richie's hand away. "Richie, don't!" 

"Would ya listen to me, Eds? I already told you I'd follow you, remember? I wasn't kidding." 

Eddie rubbed the cheek Richie had pinched, biting the inside of his cheek to hold back a smile. "Okay, okay..." he still looked a little worried, but he had dropped it for now. Richie had a feeling it would probably keep coming up until Richie was with him wherever they ended up. 

 

Eddie and Richie shouted thanks to Mike before heading into Richie's. 

Richie's parents were working so the place was dead, which was fine with them. It just meant Eddie could go raid Richie's kitchen without politely greeting and talking with his parents first for ten minutes. 

Eddie climbed onto Richie's counters and found some pretzels in his cabinet. Eddie knew where they kept everything and came over so much he knew he was welcome to everything and anything. Richie got them sodas from the fridge just as Eddie hopped down from the counter. "Race ya to my room!" Richie shouted. 

"Richie, you have sodas in your arms!" he heard Eddie shout after him, but Eddie still came running after him. 

Richie made it first, Eddie crashing into him, laughing. "That was unfair, you started ahead." 

"I would've won anyway," Richie said simply, setting the drinks on the table so they could de-fizz. "My legs are way longer than yours." 

"That doesn't mean anything asshole. I have less weight to carry." 

Richie gasped dramatically. "Eddie Kaspbrak, did you just call me fat?" 

"Yes, I did." Eddie said, shoving Richie, who then pretended to be wounded and fell back "dead" on his bed. Eddie rolled his eyes with a grin. "Anyway, while you die, I'm gonna clean Spaghetti's tank." 

Richie smirked, folding his arms behind his head. "All by yourself? Thanks Eds." 

"Very funny. Go get me the gravel vacuum and the bucket." 

Richie hopped up, doing as told. They'd been through this a hundred times, it was basically second nature by now: Turn off the filter, start the flow through the vacuum (which was actually just a plastic tube; that had to be fake advertising), clean the gravel until a 1/3 of the water is gone, then replace and condition the water, dump out the dirty water, turn the filter back on and bam--all done. Richie could do it with his eyes closed. But he never told Eddie that. He knew Eddie would come to help regardless, but if Richie pretended he never paid attention, then Eddie wouldn't skip a single cleaning. 

As Eddie cleaned the tank, Richie knelt beside him and watched Spaghetti swim over and stare at Richie. His mom called Spaghetti "friendly." Spaghetti was just smart enough to know who fed him. But it was cute. "He's like our son." 

"Our fish son?" Eddie asked, glancing at him.

"Yep." 

Eddie hummed, turning his attention back to what he was doing. "He looks like you." 

Richie grinned. "Cute. Real cute." 

Soon the tank was clean, and Richie took the bucket and dumped it out the window. Eddie bitched at him about that for that the first couple times but it turns out fish water makes plants grow really well, so the yard under Richie's window had some hella green grass and little flowers. 

"So how long are you hanging out today?" Richie asked as he put the supplies away for another two weeks, stealing glances at Eddie as he leaned back in Richie's desk chair and began snacking on pretzels. Richie loved to see him just... exist in his room. 

"I gotta go home. Homework. Plus, uh..." he shrugged, glancing at Richie. "I was wondering if we could spend the weekend together. Y'know, after whatever we do with the Losers. And if I try to stay long today mom will say no." 

Richie smiled. "That sounds good to me. Let's get you home." 

 

They walked home, drinking soda as quickly as possible--Eddie's mom would kill him. 

Richie tried to throw his can and Eddie just about broke his arm. Richie of course wasn't actually going to, he just liked to see Eddie get all mad and go on a rant about the planet for the millionth time. 

Richie and Eddie paused in front of Eddie's house. "Guess I'll see ya tomorrow morning, Dr. K," Richie said, kicking Eddie's shoe lightly. 

Eddie kicked his back, smiling up at him. "Guess so." 

Yet neither of them moved. Richie didn't leave and Eddie didn't head inside. Instead, they just stood there, nudging each other's shoes and glancing at each other, throwing little smiles at each other. 

Eddie dropped his head a bit to stare at their shoes, and when he glanced at Richie again, it was through dark lashes. Richie's stomach twisted into knots. Eddie's eyelashes were one of his many, many weaknesses. Eddie's freckles, too. Which he could see all of right now. He would count them, but he already had about a million time. The number changed depending on how much sun Eddie had gotten recently, but never fell below thirty. 

Speaking of falling below, Richie's eyes dipped down to Eddie's lips. Pink and pale, wearing that little smile--this little smile wasn't uncommon, and neither were Richie's thought about how badly he wanted to taste it. 

Richie's cheeks were suddenly burning. I could kiss him right now. He'd taste like salt and sugar. 

"You okay, Rich?" 

Richie snapped out of it so violently he almost flinched. He looked at Eddie--well, his eyes now. His entire face burned. Those thoughts weren't uncommon, but he never got caught in the middle of them. Damn Rich, you're slipping up lately. 

Richie cleared his throat and nodded. "I'm sorry." he blurted. "For yesterday. I didn't, uh. I didn't mean to--" 

Eddie shook his head. "It's okay, I get it." 

Richie shook his head. "No, trust me, you don't." 

Eddie's smile fell and the look in his eyes was really heavy really suddenly. They stopped touching their shoes. Eddie glanced between both of Richie's eyes, looking for something. Richie hoped he found it. 

"No. I think I do." 

Richie's throat went dry. He had no idea what that meant. 

Regardless, he took a step forward and hugged him. That was completely on impulse, but he definitely wasn't going to take it back. "Well. It hurt your feelings. So. I'm sorry." he muttered awkwardly, thankful for the height difference. Eddie couldn't see his face. 

Eddie slowly hugged him back, smiling into Richie's shoulder. "It's okay." 

Richie pulled away, so embarrassed and overwhelmed, he had no idea what to do with himself. So he just awkwardly rubbed his palms on his jeans and pointed towards the general direction of his house. "I should, uh. Go. Y'know. As people do." 

Eddie laughed. "Yeah, maybe." 

Richie laughed a little too. He kicked Eddie's shoe one last time before smiling at him, turning, and walking away. He heard Eddie rush inside. The moment he heard the door close, Richie let out a deep breath, sinking his hands into his pockets. 

"Wow..." he muttered to himself. 

That was all he had to say about that, his brain was in no shape to form any even slightly intelligent thoughts. 

He smiled so wide it hurt, then said it again. 

"Wow." 

Chapter Text

It was Friday morning and Eddie couldn't have been in a better mood. 

He woke up feeling so pleasantly confused from he and Richie's exchange the other day. He tried not to get his hopes up, but surely he couldn't have imagined that moment. That was what Eddie had decided to call it--a moment. 

It was slightly colder this morning out of nowhere. Derry's weather did whatever the hell it wanted to. 

Eddie was freezing the moment he walked outside, wishing he had worn an actual jacket or something. He noticed the others in the back of the truck had brought blankets--Except Bill, he was a baby and crammed himself into the front with Mike and Stan. It sounded like this thing actually had a sort of functioning heater in there, believe it or not, based off the horrible buzzing and rumbling coming from the cab. But if it worked, it worked. 

Bev had a blanket bundled up around her shoulders, and Richie had his own, one that Eddie had gotten to know quite well over the years; it was the blanket he always had in random places around his room--sometimes on his bed, sometimes in his desk chair, just wherever he used it last Eddie supposed.

Just as Eddie was wishing he had brought one, Richie opened his arm. "Get in 'ere, schweetheart," he said in an exaggerated (but actually not that bad) old mobster voice. 

Eddie blushed but he laughed it off. "Getting better at the voices, I see," he commented, trying to act casual as he scooted under Richie's arm; anything to cover the fact that his heart twisted embarrassingly hard.

"Thanks! Good to know all the practice I don't do is paying off." Richie replied smoothly. All hopes of not being weird were gone the moment Richie wrapped his arm and the blanket around him, hugging him in close. "Geez Eds, you're freezing, you've been out here for like three minutes." 

Eddie would not be freezing for long. Was it possible to blush with your entire body? Because he was burning all over. 

And Richie was so damn warm. All his body heat was being insulated inside the blanket wrapped around them. Eddie was already so warm; he guessed it was equal parts embarrassment and Richie's heat. They were way too close for Eddie to keep his cool. He could feel his own heart in his ears and he just prayed Richie couldn't feel it.

Ben had a similar melt down when Bev opened her blanket for him. Eddie just hoped he hadn't looked that obviously embarrassed... 

 

Somehow, Eddie survived the ride.

He had been absolutely melting the entire way but the moment Richie freed him, he was freezing. The sudden lack of Richie's warmth was damn near heartbreaking, like someone just sucked the soul out of him and left him hollow and cold. He really wanted to snuggle up with him more often...

As they stood at Eddie's locker, Richie started talking. No surprise there. 

"I'm thinking about leaving my blanket with you," he said simply. "I've got a dentist appoint around fifth period, so I won't be back before school ends. And all of us Losers aren't meeting up until later tonight. Don't want you to freeze on your way home," he teased, pinching Eddie's cheek. 

Eddie smacked him away, blushing at the thought of having Richie's blanket. He really wanted it actually... It smelled like him. Cheap cologne and cigarettes. Sure, it didn't sound like the best smell ever, but it definitely was to Eddie. It made his head spin. 

"I'll take you up on that actually." Eddie said, sliding his books into his backpack. "And then I'll keep it forever because you're never coming back from the dentist; not with all the candy you eat." 

"Hey now, I take great care of my teeth, thank you very much." Richie said, crossing his arms. "I just happen to need a check up." 

Eddie rose an eyebrow at him, shutting his locker. "You have a cavity, don't you?" 

Richie just stared at him for a moment before shrugging his shoulders. "That is to be confirmed or denied later today by a professional." 

Eddie laughed and shook his head. "Alright, alright." he leaned against his locker and smiled at Richie, but he suddenly got so nervous and couldn't hold the eye contact. He looked down and scuffed his shoe on the floor. "So, I was thinking about after school, I come over to your's? I know we're not all meeting until seven, but I told my mom I'd be gone all day, so..." 

"I like the sound of that Spaghetti. I should be back by then. If not, just let yourself in." He kicked the shoe Eddie was staring at and it made Eddie's cheeks flush, thinking about yesterday... 

When he looked up at Richie, he had a sort of awkward smile. Maybe he was thinking about it too. "Let's go. Don't want you to be late." 

Eddie smirked. "Aren't you worried about being late? We start class at the same time." 

Richie slung his arm around Eddie's shoulders, leading him along. "On the contrary, Eds. I think if I showed up on time, I'd seriously concern some people. That being said, why don't I walk you to class?" 

Eddie just laughed, but he definitely didn't argue. 

 

Luckily, Eddie didn't really have to endure Richie's absence too much. 

Eddie and Richie had third period together, which Richie was still here for, and Richie was still there for lunch as well. The only thing he was really missing out on was the trip home. 

Stan and Ben walked with Eddie to his locker after school before heading to the parking lot. Ben and Stan were talking about some Civics project they had coming up together that Eddie definitely didn't want to think about. 

The moment he opened his locker, he had to catch the blanket that came flooding out of it. Stan just rose an eyebrow. "Isn't that Richie's?" 

Eddie smiled at the gray blanket, which he was pretty sure had been black once, with some band logo on it. It was faded and not very soft anymore, and definitely smelled just like Richie. But Eddie still thought it was incredible. Maybe he could understand Mike's commitment to his poor old truck. "Yeah..." Eddie said fondly. 

"It's not even that cold outside anymore," Ben said with a little laugh. "Definitely not cold enough for a blanket." 

Eddie laughed too as he shoved it into his backpack. "Yeah, but he didn't know it was going to warm up." he sighed with a smile on his face. He must've snuck it into Eddie's locker during a passing period or before he left. Eddie wasn't surprised that Richie knew his combination, he only stood by his locker every single morning. 

"We should probably head out there before they leave without us," Stan said, patting Eddie's shoulder. 

Eddie chewed it over for a moment. He didn't want to think about school, or his project, or his assignments. And not because he was a student, and students just didn't want to think about that stuff. It was because he wanted to think about something else... Someone else. 

"Actually," Eddie said, slinging his now awkwardly bulging backpack over his shoulder as he stood. "Why don't you guys go on ahead? I think I wanna walk home today." 

Ben looked so concerned so quickly. "Eddie, are you okay?" he asked sweetly. 

"I'm fine," Eddie said with a reassuring smile. "I just have a lot on my mind--nothing bad, I promise. Just wanna... Sort things out, ya know?" 

"If you say so," Stan said with a little nod. Though Eddie could see the concern in his eyes--Stan may not have been as outward about it as Ben, but he was definitely just as worried and concerned for his friends all the time as he was. 

Eddie waved, watching them go, before he started out the other entrance. 

 

Eddie wasn't really sure what about Richie he wanted to think about. He just wanted to think. 

His mind had felt like it was getting increasingly fuller with each passing day this week, like every little interaction with Richie was just piling up, and Eddie had been neglecting really thinking about what all this meant. Because he couldn't deny it at this point; it had to mean something.

Things felt different after yesterday especially. That moment was definitely something. Usually when Eddie thought about something over and over, he would start to reason and rationalize--he would realize he was being crazy about it or over exaggerating it. He would pick it apart and think about it like a normal person, and realize it had never been that big of a deal in the first place. But not this. The more he thought about it, the more apparent it became that something happened. 

He smiled, biting his lip to try and control it. 

Eddie couldn't have thought of a better way to end that night with Richie. Who knew a few nudges of each other's shoes would mean so much? And that hug, oh God. He almost melted just thinking about it. It came out of nowhere but it was so good. It was so genuine. Eddie didn't get that from Richie too often, so he savored it whenever he did. He really wanted another one.

And as crazy as it sounds, he also really wanted a kiss. 

It was the oddest thing. Eddie has never expected anything like that from Richie, not ever. But there was something about that moment that just made him feel like it was supposed to happen, like they were being pulled into it. It left him feeling an odd twinge of disappointment that it didn't happen. 

And maybe that was crazy. An irrational thought, one of many. But he couldn't help it... And he couldn't bring himself to pick it apart. He didn't want to understand it, he just wanted to understand how it felt. And it just all felt so warm, so good. 

Eddie was so deep in his thoughts, daydreaming and positively swooning like a love-struck idiot, he didn't even notice someone calling out to him at first. He didn't turn around at first either, in case he was just imagining it. 

But then there it was, clear as day. 

"Hey Loser!" 

Eddie audibly groaned, knowing exactly who was there before he even turned around. 

Of course, when Bowers and his idiots went away, the spot had to be filled. Some other douchebags took over as being the douchebags, and those new douchebags were Jax and Hunter. 

Eddie hadn't had to worry about these guys in so long since the Losers practically never split up anymore. But of course, the one day he did, they followed... 

"What?" Eddie sighed as they walked over, standing on either side of him. 

"Don't be like that, we're just wondering how you've been," Jax said, his voice just dripping with mock innocence. "Where's everybody else?" his eyes darkened a bit. "Where's Trashmouth?" 

Eddie shot him a dirty look. "Not here. Obviously." 

"Why so hostile? I was just asking," he said with a 'playful' shove. Which was definitely not playful and almost knocked Eddie right off his feet. 

"What do you guys actually want?" Eddie snapped, deciding that trying to walk and ignore them wasn't going to help. He just stood and crossed his arms. He wasn't nearly as scared of them as he'd been of Bowers--Bowers was the kind of lunatic that carved his initials into people and tried to kill them. Jax and Hunter were just... Well, as stupid as it sounds to put these two words together: normal bullies. 

Jax grinned. "We're just accompanying you on your walk home," he said, shoving him again, this time into Hunter, who steadied him with a not-so-friendly laugh. 

Eddie glared and aggressively shrugged Hunter off of him. "I'm going to Richie's." he said sharply. He hated to use the Richie card, it was so pathetic, it was basically the same as hiding behind him. But he knew these idiots were scared of Richie, and Eddie really didn't want to deal with this today.

And it worked, Jax looked a bit uncomfortable, his mouth pulling into a tight, thoughtful line. "Ah, fine. Go on, run home to your boyfriend," he said, shoving him again. This time, Hunter wasn't there to catch him and he hit the pavement. Which probably would've hurt way more if he didn't have Richie's blanket shoved inside his backpack. 

Jax and Hunter laughed to themselves as they started walking away and Eddie quickly got to his feet, his face burning in both anger and embarrassment. "Fucking assholes." he snapped, louder than he had intended. 

Jax turned on him. "Excuse me?" 

Eddie felt himself pale a bit--shouldn't have done that, definitely shouldn't have done that. But Jax wanted an actual answer. And what was he supposed to do, tuck his tail between his legs and run?

"I said you're a fucking asshole." Eddie repeated, wishing his voice hadn't wavered on the word 'fucking', that was definitely not helping anything. 

Eddie had sort of expected another shove, or maybe for Jax to laugh in his face. 

Instead, one second he was standing there, and the next he was just laying on the pavement. 

He hurt so bad. 

Once the shock faded away, the pain started coming at him in tidal waves. He put a shaking hand to his nose--it wasn't broken, thankfully, but when he pulled his hand away it was dripping with blood. 

He blinked through the tears in his eyes to see Jax and Hunter had already started walking away. Which was good, if they had decided to stick around, literally nothing would've stopped them from being able to just kick Eddie's ass. 

Eddie just laid there for a minute, letting the tears burn his eyes. 

That's the thing about getting punched in the face. In movies and books, everyone just gets up like it's no big deal. But the pain radiates throughout your skull, and your eyes water whether you want them to or not, it's utterly involuntary. The pain starts off stinging and sharp, and later it would settle into a miserable ache that would last a whole day or two. Eddie had clearly taken a few beatings here and there. 

Once he got control of his tears, he weakly got up and started walking to Richie's. 

He felt exhausted now; like all his energy had just been burned up from that one interaction and those few seconds of adrenaline which did nothing in his favor. It was crazy really, what adrenaline could make people do, but the moment the experience was over, it took so much energy. Even for just a spike of adrenaline--it was draining. 

Eddie was embarrassed but mostly just relieved that they left right after that. Eddie almost blacked out from one punch to the nose--that didn't even break it! He'd rather not find out what would've happened if they beat him up a little more. 

When Eddie saw Richie's house he only got more relieved; Richie's parents weren't home, their cars weren't there. Thank god. Eddie didn't have anything helpful on him for once in his life so he'd just been bleeding this entire time. He could feel it; warm over his mouth and on his neck and shirt. 

With a huff, he knocked, fighting the urge to lean against the door. He was so tired now. 

"On my way," Richie sang dramatically from somewhere on the other side of the door. "Hello Eds!" Richie shouted as he swung open the door and then froze, his mouth falling open. "What the fuck.

Eddie just shook his head. "It's not broken." 

A look Eddie had never seen before came over Richie's face. He was pissed--Not Richie pissed either. No, this was pure rage. It was raw and it was burning and it was honestly kind of terrifying. He looked over Eddie's shoulder, looking around with some serious determination, as if they still might be there.

"Where are they."

It wasn't a question. 

"Richie, calm down--" 

"I'm serious, where are they--" 

"Long gone!" Eddie said, pushing Richie in the house as he tried to head outside. Richie could've easily pushed right past him but he let Eddie push him back, which weirdly made Eddie's stomach flutter. Not the time, Eds. he mentally scolded. 

"Just listen, okay!? They're gone, I don't know where. Just please stay here. With me. Please," he begged, sounding quite pathetic, but it got Richie's attention.

Richie finally cooled down and looked at Eddie, gingerly touching his cheek. "Eds," he said softly, looking so miserable. It made Eddie wish he had just shut his mouth and hadn't gotten himself punched.

Yes, Richie was the reason Eddie wished he hadn't gotten punched. Eddie didn't even want to think about how stupidly in love he had to be for that to make any sense. 

"Come on, let's go get you cleaned up." 

 

Eddie sat on Richie's bed while Richie gently wiped the dried blood off his face with a wet rag. 

"When did this even happen? Why were you walking home?" Richie asked as he worked on the task at hand--Eddie had insisted he could do it himself but Richie wouldn't let him. 

"I just kinda wanted to walk," Eddie said with a sigh. "My mistake, right?" he huffed sarcastically. 

"Seriously, you can't even fucking walk home by yourself once without those assholes bothering you." Richie growled to himself. 

"Let's focus on what's important," Eddie said quickly, trying to keep Richie's anger levels down before they got out of control. "How many cavities do you have?" 

Richie scoffed out a laugh, shaking his head. "That's what's important?" 

Eddie grinned. "That many, huh?" 

"No!" Richie protested, taking the bait. He was so easy sometimes. "I only have one, thank you very much. Soon, it will be drilled out of my skull and I can resume my eating habits, however sugary they may be." 

Eddie laughed, then winced when a wave of pain shot through his head. "Don't make me laugh, that gave me a headache." 

Once Richie was satisfied, he tossed the now red-stained rag aside and gently touched Eddie's cheek again. It made Eddie's face burn, though he could blame it on the pain if he needed to. "Eds, I'm so sorry. I should've met you half way or something--" 

Eddie jabbed Richie in the stomach, making him yelp in shock. "Ow!" he shouted, rubbing his stomach. "Why did you do that!?" 

"I'm gonna beat your ass if you even try to take blame for this, Tozier." Eddie snapped. "It had nothing to do with you. You didn't know I was walking home and it's not your job to protect me 24/7 in case something might happen. You understand how ridiculous that sounds, right?" 

Richie pouted a bit, glancing aside, still rubbing his stomach. "Well yeah, okay. But still..." he glanced back at Eddie with a little dejected look in his eyes. "I know it's not my job, but... I want to. Y'know. Look out for you." his voice dropped so low Eddie almost couldn't hear it. "I just don't want anything happening to you." 

Eddie softened and let out a little sigh. "You never let anything happen to me, Rich." he smiled a little. "You never let me go cold. Even when it's 65 degrees outside." 

Richie gasped dramatically at the mention of the weather. "I know right, isn't that ridiculous!? Went through all that effort to shove that thing in your locker and it warmed up." he shook his head in mock disbelief, and even though he was playing, there was a soft look in his eyes. 

Eddie laughed, shoving his arm lightly. "Yeah well, great job ya did. It freaking fell out the second I opened my locker." 

Richie grinned. "Yeah I had a feeling it would do that when I had to close the locker as quickly as possible just to keep it in there..." he nudged Eddie, which for some reason Eddie got a weirdly affectionate vibe from. "Added to the surprise though, right?"

"It did." he cleared his throat after a moment. "I suppose you want that back, huh?" he mumbled, reaching for his backpack.

"No it's fine." Richie said quickly. "I figured you could keep it. If you want it, that is." 

Eddie blushed a little bit. "Okay. Yeah, yeah I do." 

Richie wiped his palms on his jeans. He'd been doing that more lately. "Should I cancel for us? Y'know, for hanging out with the Losers this weekend?" 

The word us hit Eddie like a ton of bricks. The way Richie just automatically assumed them as a team... Eddie had no idea he could feel this good after getting punched in the damn face, but it was all he could do not to smile so wide he would've probably hurt himself. 

Eddie thought about telling him that he didn't have to stay with Eddie; that Eddie could go home so Richie could go hang out with them. But... Maybe it was selfish--scratch that, Eddie knew it was selfish--but he wanted Richie to himself. After today. After yesterday--after the whole damn week. 

He just wanted Richie. 

I want us

Eddie just nodded. "Yeah. Please." 

 

Richie cancelled; of course the others freaked out when they heard what happened, but Eddie heard Richie tell them to give Eddie his space and they could all smother him on Monday.

The word popped into Eddie's head once again: Us. 

Just us. Just Richie and I. When I need my space, it comes down to him and me, so naturally. I don't ever want space from him. From us. 

Eddie had a feeling that word would be floating around his head a lot lately. He was okay with that. 

It wasn't until Richie had given Eddie a change of clothes and they had settled in with pizza and a movie that Eddie said something he'd been dying to say for about an hour now: "You fixed me up real good, Dr. T." he said--not in a British accent, no--in a mock accent of Richie's British accent. 

It was so abrupt and out of nowhere that Richie busted up laughing, spitting his drink out in the process. 

And Richie laughed and laughed until he cried; he laughed so hard it made Eddie laugh and that hurt, but it was so worth it. 

Maybe today wasn't so bad after all. 

Chapter Text

Richie couldn't have been happier when Monday morning came.  

He had such an incredible weekend, of course. He and Eddie spent Friday night eating way too much and watching movies--specifically cheesy horror movies. Eddie had about a hundred things to say how inaccurate most of it was, and how stupidly people in horror movies handled things. Nothing amused Richie more than to hear Eddie bitch. Just one little thing would set him off and Richie could just listen to him go on and on all damn day. 

And Saturday had been even better, they spent all day in Richie's room. Cycling between movies, talking, video games--everything. 

The best was the talking. They would just lay on his bed, facing each other, and talk about whatever popped into their mind. Richie spent most of the time doing horrible voices and jokes so that he could watch Eddie cringe while failing to hold back laughs; he'd shove Richie's shoulder and laugh, and Richie would happily hand his heart over every single time. 

Eddie also hadn't brought clothes but he didn't want to go by his house and deal with his mom so he borrowed some of Richie's. Which was painful. Richie had to look at Eddie in his clothes, in his bed all damn weekend. 

God, and it especially didn't help that Richie's clothes didn't fit him. The neck of his shirt exposing way more of Eddie's collar than Richie could handle. He wouldn't even talk about the way his pants hung off Eddie's hips...

Needless to say, it had been a great weekend. 

Almost perfect. 

His favorite person, in his favorite place, both of them doing Richie's favorite things, and definitely Richie's favorite view. Almost. His favorite view was Eddie--and now he knew that Eddie in his clothes only made that view sweeter--but that damn bruise. 

Eddie was fine. He was sore the first night and had a headache Saturday morning, but then he was completely fine. His nose wasn't broken, there was no serious damage. But there was the smallest bruise on the bridge of his nose. 

Small, definitely. A brownish-yellow; already in the healing stage. 

But every time Richie saw it, he got so damn angry. 

He pictured it over and over again--Jax hitting him, hurting him. It was like thinking about somebody kicking a puppy. Except Eddie wasn't a puppy, he was Eddie. He was strong and vicious, and quite frankly, scary. But these assholes just assumed he was some weak little loser just because Eddie was composed enough not to go after their asses. Eddie was too damn smart sometimes. Richie wished he would blow up, put those assholes in their places. 

But he wouldn't. As scrappy as Eddie was, he had too much common sense than to start something. 

He just couldn't stand the thought of those idiots thinking they had bested Eddie. It drove him crazy. 

But he knew Eddie didn't want him to bring it up or freak about it anymore so he kept it to himself. But all that meant was that he was just silently festering in this rage that sat in the pit of his stomach, making him feel more and more tense by the hour. 

Which is why after he walked Eddie home on Sunday afternoon, he formed the most brilliant plan. 

Okay, brilliant was definitely not the word for it. Stupid, reckless, probably gonna piss off Eddie, probably gonna get his ass in serious trouble--any of those fit much better. But to Richie, who had been stewing in anger the whole weekend, it seemed brilliant. 

So that Monday morning, he was all smiles. 

Richie helped Eddie into the truck and Eddie muttered a thanks to him. He glanced at Richie and looked surprised. "In a good mood this morning?" he asked with a little unsure laugh. 

"Of course," Richie said simply, pinching Eddie's cheek. "Spent the weekend with my favorite little Spaghetti, after all." 

Eddie swatted him away, his face scrunching up in that adorable little way it did. He probably would've complained but Bev grabbed Eddie's face before he could, gasping. "They left a bruise!" she shouted. 

And that was it, that was all that was talked about for the rest of the ride. 

That's all an angry Bill and Bev talked about, it was all Ben--who was completely heartbroken someone had hurt Eddie--talked about, and when they got to the parking lot, it was all Stan and Mike talked about. 

Which Richie was fine with. It just reminded him how brilliant that plan was. 

And as they walked up to the school, Richie spotted Jax and Hunter, hanging around the entrance like they did every morning so they could bother kids as they went in. Richie just smiled wider. "Eds, darling?" 

"Don't call me that." Eddie grumbled. 

"Eds or darling?" 

Eddie's blushed, making Richie grin. 

Even the glare he threw at Richie didn't ruin the perfect view of him blushing. Hell, it made it better. He loved when Eddie was annoyed with him--he couldn't get enough of the way his eyebrows knit together, or the way his nose scrunched up. Too cute. 

"What do you want?" Eddie snapped, choosing to ignore Richie's question. 

"Will you hold my backpack for me?" he asked, shrugging it off. "I gotta do something real quick." 

Eddie rose an eyebrow but he grabbed Richie's backpack anyway. There was nothing in it at the moment so it didn't weigh anything. He just held it in his hand, looking confused. "What do you have to do?" 

All the Losers were paying attention to him now. Richie just started walking backwards, blowing a dramatic kiss to his audience, before turning and walking over to Jax and Hunter. He could hear Eddie call for him but he pretended he didn't. 

Jax saw Richie coming and shifted. He was tense now. "Trashmouth." he 'greeted'. 

"Douchebags." Richie said with mock formality. 

Jax tried to look annoyed, but it was off. He looked uncomfortable, maybe scared. Richie hoped so. "What do you want, man?" 

Richie didn't dignify that with a response; no one was that stupid, he knew damn well why he was here. So instead he just shook out his hands, took a breath, then punched Jax across the face as hard as he possibly could, knocking Jax right down to the ground. 

Everyone around him erupted in gasps and excited buzzing, kids crowding around. No one wanted to miss the fight. 

Various shocked "Richie!"s came from the Losers and Richie just grinned, wiping his bloody, stinging knuckles on his jeans. Did they really not see this coming? Hunter definitely hadn't, based on that shocked look on his stupid face. 

Richie had actually kind of expected him to back off, he didn't seem like the fighter, but he definitely came at Richie--slamming into him, making him hit the ground hard, knocking his glasses off in the process. They skittered off somewhere to the side which meant Richie wasn't getting those back. Shit. he thought as he pushed himself back up. Those are expensive, mom's gonna be pissed. 

The moment he stood up, Hunter punched him hard. Not hard enough to knock him down, but hard enough to make him stagger. And then again right after. Richie could taste blood now. It didn't scare him though, it just made him react faster. 

He moved out of the way of the next punch and hit Hunter dead center in his face. He connected with his nose and winced at the crunch. Based on Hunter's cursing and shouting, his nose was definitely broken. 

Jax came out of nowhere, jumping on Richie's back, trying to take him down, hitting him basically anywhere he could land something, which resulted in some seriously painful blows to his head. 

Richie recognized the shouting of one of the coaches and felt Jax being pulled off him. Richie tried to go for him again, but someone grabbed him too. He almost started hitting but thankfully heard Mike's familiar cursing first. Richie did manage to kick out his legs and connect with Jax's stomach though, making Mike yank him back farther so he couldn't deal anymore damage. "Dude, stop! Seriously!" 

Richie settled down as more teachers started showing up, shooing kids to class. This was over, but Richie felt much better. 

"Let go," he said, patting Mike's arm. "I'm done, I swear." 

Mike let him go but shoved his shoulder aggressively. "Dude, what the hell are you doing?! You can't just go starting shit!" 

"He's right!" Bill shouted, that steely look in his eyes he got when he was angry. 

Eddie was just standing there, fuming. Richie could practically see the steam blowing out of his ears, his face red. One of the teachers grabbed Richie's arm. "Principal's office. Now." 

"Okay," he said, yanking his arm away. "Just let me grab my stuff." 

He walked over to Eddie who promptly threw his backpack at him. Again, it was empty, so it didn't do much damage, but Eddie's point got across. "I told you to drop it." Eddie snapped. "You made this so much bigger than it needed to be." his voice came out tight and constricted, he was doing his best not to yell. 

No, that wasn't right. Eddie's eyebrows knitted in a way Richie had only seen a few times and his stomach turned suddenly.

He was doing his best not to cry. 

"Woah, Eddie, I--" 

"Tozier, let's go." The teacher snapped impatiently. 

"Just give me a damn second, okay?" he snapped back; except it wasn't the same teacher. It was the principal. Whoops, that was gonna get him in way more trouble. He turned his attention back to Eddie, cringing. "Fuck, I'm screwed, that's the principal." 

A poorly contained smile suddenly found Eddie's face. "Shut up Richie, don't make me laugh, I'm mad at you." his voice shook. 

"I'm sorry, Eds." Richie said, smiling apologetically. "Just don't cry, okay? Cause I gotta go, and I'm gonna feel really bad if I have to leave while you cry." 

Eddie punched him in his stomach halfheartedly. "Shut up, like I would cry over you being an idiot." he said, sniffled subtly, and then apparently reigned it all in because he looked okay and in control now. Eddie was really a lot stronger than he gave himself credit for. 

Richie was relieved. He was more than relieved actually, he felt high. The adrenaline was still doing its thing, and without the threat of Eddie crying, it was coursing through him like crazy. He grabbed Eddie's face, squishing his cheeks. "Don't be mad, you can yell at me later Spaghetti." he said with a grin. Eddie looked so frustrated, like he was about to explode, and Richie oddly wished he could've hung around and let Eddie blow up at him. 

Instead, he just patted Eddie's cheek, kissed his nose, and went with the principal. 

He was feeling great. 

 

Richie felt terrible. 

Somewhere in the middle of the principal's thirty minute yelling session, his adrenaline tanked. The pain set in and he had a pulsing headache--the only person he enjoyed to have yell at him was Eddie, not this prick. Luckily, Richie kept some semblance of intelligence and didn't snap at him, even though he really wanted to. He was already in enough trouble. 

Then when it was Jax and Hunter's turn to sit through the principal's wrath, they made Richie sit in those uncomfortable chairs in the office and wait. They wouldn't even let him go to the bathroom to wash his face, just threw a box of tissues at him. 

Tissues? Seriously? 

So he sat there, pressing a tissue to the gash on his eyebrow that was still bleeding, wincing every time he had to press a new tissue to it--which was quite often because tissues were the worst possible thing they could've gave him. He probably would've gotten more use from a piece of fucking paper.

The office was quiet, nothing but the muffled drone of the principal yelling in the other room. In this silence, Richie's face flushed red. Not because he was mad, or in pain, or any of that. 

Because he kissed Eddie's nose. 

He couldn't believe he did that. He was just so high on adrenaline, he was thinking straight, his mind had been so jumbled and overwhelmed. He blushed even deeper the more he thought about it, which only added to his discomfort. 

While he was sitting there, wishing he wasn't so damn stupid, he heard a teacher chewing some student out down the hall, coming this way. 

"--Honestly, you already know we've had a busy morning on our hands. This isn't cute, Marsh. Go wait in the office." 

Richie swung his head up as Beverley walked in. "Bev?" he asked in disbelief. "What did you do?" 

"Got caught smoking in the hall." She said with a grin, making Richie do the same. Bev wasn't stupid, she didn't get caught. Unless she wanted to. 

She sat down beside him, patting his leg. "How're you doing tiger?" she asked, taking a tissue and pressing it to Richie's lip. He winced--he hadn't even realized he had a cut there. 

He tossed his stained red tissue into the trash can, which he had puled over to him, with a huff. "Been better, miss Marsh. Definitely been better." 

Beverley shook her head. "Boys are so stupid." 

"Oh please." Richie sputtered, looking at her. "Like you weren't planning to do the same thing!" 

"Yeah, after school. Outside of school. Ya know, where you can't get in trouble?" she flicked his forehead, not caring when he groaned in pain. "You've got a big brain Trashmouth, you should use it more often." 

Richie rubbed his head. "Touche." 

She was right. That would've been way smarter. He should really talk to her first the next he planned to start a fight. 

"I'm kidding, boys aren't stupid." she grinned, throwing away her now bloodied tissue. "Just the ones that are in love." 

Richie's cheeks burned. 

"Look, that may be true, but I don't see what Benny has to do with any of this. Stay on topic, Marsh." 

Beverly laughed. "Okay, touche." she muttered with a small blush. 

Richie smiled at her. "So how's my little monster doing? Is he fuming?" 

"Definitely." she said with a nod. "Went on and on about how stupid you are, and how this could've been such a small thing, but now you've started thing, how he shouldn't have told you in the first place, yada yada yada." 

Richie actually felt his stomach twist with guilt. 

He didn't want Eddie to hide things from him because he thought Richie would make a big deal out of it. And it was only now dawning on Richie that maybe Eddie was embarrassed by the whole thing--and that Richie storming in and making a scene probably didn't help. He frowned, not caring enough to hide it from Bev. He didn't know what to say. He messed up this time. 

Bev just focused on lightly patting Richie's lip, speaking softly. "He also held back tears when he talked about how hurt you got." she smiled at him warmly. "And he has your glasses, by the way. Cleaned 'em up for you, too." 

Richie's heart skipped a beat. It twisted with yearning; he wanted to see Eddie right then so bad. 

"I've got it bad, Bev." 

"I know." she said sympathetically. "I know a love-struck fool when I see one." 

She tossed aside the tissue and gently hugged him. 

And Richie relaxed in her arms, letting his exhausted body rest for a minute. He looked down at his bloodied knuckles. They were already starting to scab and bruise, and there was a constant sting radiating from them. 

Weirdly enough, it made him smile.

Or maybe it didn't. Maybe the thought of Eddie picking up his glasses, in that overly gentle way he always handles them, was what made him smile. Yeah. Richie thought, a fond smile on his face. That's it. 

He clenched his fist lightly in his lap, making his knuckles sting more, still smiling. 

When he thought about Eddie, he remembered why he did it. 

When he thought about Eddie, it was worth it. 

Chapter Text

Richie Tozier was an idiot. 

A fucking idiot--Honestly, Eddie could not wrap his mind around it. He couldn't even fathom it. What kind of reasoning could he possibly have to start some fight with some dimwit bullies like they were damn middle schoolers. Richie's not a kid anymore, he could get in serious trouble now. He's legally an adult--even though he was clearly not an adult in any other sense of the word that matters--what if Jax and Hunter, or their parents, decided to press charges?! 

"You okay?" 

Eddie snapped out of it, glancing at Mike. Mike offered a small, comforting smile. 

Eddie just nodded a little. "Yeah I guess so." 

All the Losers--except Bev and Richie--were sitting in the back of Mike's truck. It was lunch, and they all decided to just hang out in Mike's truck today, considering the whole school was buzzing with post-fight excitement. The Losers were not "popular" in the traditional sense, but the entire school new who they were, and who was in their group. People had been asking about Richie all day. 

They'd been asking Eddie most of all. 

"Why'd he start the fight?" "Is he gonna go to jail--is he old enough to go to jail?" "Is he expelled?" "When's he coming back?". And Eddie answered the same way every time: "I don't know, he's an idiot." 

Except to the girl who thought the fight was kind of hot and asked if Richie was single. Eddie said no. 

Not his proudest moment but Eddie was already pissed off enough, and he wanted to stay that way--he'd rather not have to be all jealous and longing. Just angry. Yeah, angry was good. 

Eddie lost his appetite and gave his lunch to Mike, who graciously accepted. Mike sat next to him, Bill and Ben across from him, and Stanley leaning against the cab off to Eddie's left. And they were all looking at him. 

Eddie groaned. "I am fine.

Bill just reached over and patted Eddie's knee. "We know. J-Just making sure." 

Eddie smiled a little; they were just worried about him. It was sweet. "Thank you, guys." he said sincerely, sighing a bit. "I wonder how much trouble he got into..." 

Stanley nodded. "So you and Bev's plan backfired, huh?" 

"I guess so. We thought she would just get assigned lunch detention or something, but I haven't seen her since this morning. Maybe she got in school suspension." Eddie huffed. 

The minutes ticked on until there was only about ten minutes left of lunch. Eddie was thinking about heading to class early when Bev came walking over. Eddie's face lit up. "Oh my gosh, finally!" 

"Tell me about it!" Bev laughed, crawling into the bed of the truck and sitting across from Eddie, right up next to Ben. Who, of course, promptly flushed red. "They kept me in in school suspension for the first half of the day, it was rough. But I'm off the hook now, and I have an update on Richie."

Eddie's heart skipped a beat. Stop. he mentally scolded his own heart. We're mad at him. 

All the Losers leaned in closer, all attention on Bev.

"So, it's not good." she said with a wince, and when her eyes landed on Eddie it looked almost sympathetic. It made Eddie's ears burn. What the hell was that?  "He's suspended for the rest of the week, and then has lunch detention all next week. His parents got called and he got sent home today." Before anyone could speak, she spoke quicker, her voice raising an octave in anger. "And ya know what? Jax and Hunter are suspended the rest of the week and that's it. They didn't even call their parents, just sent them home. And no detention for them." 

"Yeah well Richie's dumbass started the fight." Eddie snapped. "And he broke Hunter's nose. He's lucky he's getting off this easy." 

Bev softened a bit. "He did it for you, Eds." 

"I didn't ask him to!" Eddie shouted, surprising himself--and everyone else--that he had actually just shouted at Bev. "Sorry." he muttered, standing up and hopping over the edge of the truck. 

"Eddie, don't go!" she called, but she didn't chase him. 

Eddie let out a frustrated sigh as he stormed to his locker. He couldn't believe she said that. 'For me', he thought bitterly. That's stupidest shit I've ever heard. I would never ask him to be such a dumbass. 

He yanked his locker open, all his huffing and puffing fizzling out when he saw Richie's glasses sitting in his locker.

He sighed again, gentler this time. He leaned against the door of his locker and just stared at those stupid glasses. 

I would never ask him to get hurt for me. Or in trouble. 

He slowly shut his locker, and all he could think about was Richie's face. He was so bloody, but he was smiling like an idiot. How could he do that? How could he do that to Eddie? It made him sick thinking about it. Seeing him bleeding and bruising--it really did put him on the edge of vomiting. 

And Richie just didn't care. 

He was smiling so wide like it was fucking Christmas. He teased Eddie and squished his face in his hands like his knuckles weren't skinned raw. He kissed his nose like his lip wasn't busted. 

Eddie's stomach fluttered. He kissed his nose. 

He bit his lip, trying to keep that smile down. I'm supposed to be mad. he reminded himself for the millionth time, but he couldn't deny how that made him feel. It was all adrenaline and nerves, but it still happened. 

Eddie kinda wished it hadn't been so quick. He wished he could've enjoyed having Richie's face so close, his hair brushing against Eddie's forehead, his lips on his skin, his hands on his face. 

His hands, that were all torn up--that he tore up for Eddie. 

The bell had rang at some point during Eddie's daydreaming, the halls completely empty. But for once in his life, he did not care. He just pressed his back against the locker and slowly slid down until he was sitting on the floor. He gingerly touched his fingers to his cheeks where those hands had been. He could still see that look in Richie's eyes--adrenaline and fire, his pupils blown out. 

Eddie blushed deeply. He had no idea that look in his eyes was going to affect him so deeply. Or seeing him fight. He couldn't have anticipated the way it made Eddie's cheek a deep red and his stomach coil in a way that left him sort of breathless. 

Eddie's fingertips slowly slid down his face, resting on his lips subconsciously as he thought about Richie--that look, his lips... 

Eddie snapped out of it, his entire face going red, he could feel his ears burning. He was suddenly so flustered and jittery. 

He quickly scrambled to his feet, got his book, and rushed to his next class. That was so embarrassing, he was so thankful he was alone. Richie made everything so difficult, even when he wasn't there. 

Eddie was definitely going to yell at him later. 

 

After school, all the Losers grouped around Mike's truck, trying to decide what to do from here. 

"Should we go see him?" Ben asked. "Make sure he's okay?" 

"He's okay." Bev assured. "Probably pretty sore now, but okay."

"Should we go see him anyway?" Stanley asked. "This was kind of a big deal." 

"Yeah, I agree." Bill said, nudging Stan lightly. "Even if he's f-fine, now would probably be a good time to give him our sup-p-port." 

Eddie didn't have anything to offer to this conversation. He was going to go see him regardless, and yell at him, of course. Whether the other Losers were there or not didn't matter. Though he did kind of want some alone time with him. He wondered how long they'd stay. 

"Or," Mike offered, making sure he had everyone's attention before continuing. "Why don't we let Eddie have some time with him first? I definitely think we should all be together pretty soon, but... Ya know." 

"Yeah." Bev agreed enthusiastically. "Richie did that on Eddie's behalf after all," she paused, looking worried Eddie might freak out again--which he felt really bad for--but when she realized he was slightly more calm now, she continued. "And Eddie's pretty upset with him. Maybe they should talk." 

The others agreed, looking to Eddie. Eddie just nodded. "Thanks guys, I think that's a good idea." 

Mike slapped the side of the truck. "Alright, everyone in. Let's get everyone home." 

 

Eddie was pleased to see Richie's parents were away; they usually were during the weekday with work, but part of him worried that maybe they would've stayed home after having to pick up Richie. 

Eddie hopped out of the truck, but paused and put his hands on the side of the truck. "Hey Bev?" 

Bev peeked her head over. "What's up?" 

"I'm sorry. For yelling at you earlier. That wasn't directed at you." 

Bev smiled warmly, leaving an affectionate little kiss on the top of his head. "I know. Now go yell at him." she said with a wink. 

Eddie smiled and nodded, waving goodbye to everyone before jogging to Richie's door. He didn't knock, just walked right in and right into Richie's room, all mad and chest puffed, ready to explode. 

Richie was asleep. 

He clearly hadn't intended to fall asleep. He was writing some essay, probably assigned from the office as some sort of apology, and the paper and pencil were laying next to him. He was on top of the covers in the same clothes he wore earlier--Eddie couldn't believe that shit, there was still a blood stain on his jeans from him wiping his hand off. How could he not change? 

Eddie crossed his arms and pouted. Here he was, ready to yell at him, and this bastard had the audacity to be asleep. Eddie rolled his eyes, making his way to the kitchen. He used Richie's phone to call his mom and tell her he was hanging out with everyone--she was getting more and more suspicious of Richie these days so he decided not to risk it.

He had fully intended to come yell at Richie, then storm home before his mom could worry about him, but now it seemed he'd have to wait for Richie's ass to wake up, so he figured he should call her before his face ended up on a milk carton. 

Eddie hopped up on Richie's counter and distractedly snacked on pretzels while shuffling through a pile of papers beside him. He froze when he saw a paper about community college. In LA? his chest constricted uncomfortably. Is he planning to go to LA...? He didn't tell me. 

With a new found worry rising in his chest, he shuffled through more of the papers. Slowly, he realized they were all for community colleges in areas Eddie had mentioned he applied to. 

He smiled fondly to himself. Richie really made it hard to be mad at him. 

Eddie wasted some time, tidying up and doing Richie's dishes for him. He read through all the informational booklets about colleges that Richie had gotten. He wondered what Richie would go for. It didn't seem he knew either.

Then he decided Richie had slept enough and walked back into his room. Still dead asleep.

Eddie gently took Richie's glasses out of his backpack, walked over to the edge of the bed, took one last look at Richie's peaceful face, then shouted: "Wake up, dickhead!" 

Richie shot awake, looking at Eddie wide-eyed. "Eds?" he asked, disoriented, rubbing his eyes. 

Eddie handed over his glasses without a word. The moment Richie took them, Eddie crossed his arms sternly, waiting for Richie to get them on and wake up a bit more. He needed Richie's full attention if he was going to yell at him, duh. 

Richie knew the drill. He took a moment to get his glasses on and orient himself. Then he just grinned up at Eddie, and it made Eddie's heart hurt to see his face like that. His right cheek bone had a huge blue and black bruise on it, and his eyebrow and lip each had a nasty looking gash. 

Richie folded his arms behind his head, leaning back. "Alright. Show time." 

Oh god, finally something that actually pissed Eddie off. He hated when Richie acted like Eddie was his entertainment, it infuriated him. Which was exactly the fuel he needed, considering he'd been struggling with staying mad at Richie all day. 

Eddie rose his eyebrows. "Oh, so this a joke to you? Okay." Eddie snapped, grabbing his backpack and throwing it over his shoulder. "Bye then." He turned and headed towards the door, knowing Richie would stop him. 

"No, no, no!" Richie shouted, jumping up and running over. He reached his stupidly long arm over Eddie's head and shut the door as Eddie was opening it. "Stay, Eddie, please. I was kidding, I'm listening." 


"Well good!" Eddie shouted, throwing his backpack back down, turning to face Richie. "Because I could kill you right now! What the fuck is wrong with you--how stupid can you be!? Do you know how lucky you are that they didn't press charges, you're eighteen! You could get in serious trouble!" he pointed his finger angrily in Richie's face. "And ya know what else?! Everyone's talking about you now. There's going to be rumors and unwanted attention, and you could end up as a joke. The idiot who started a fight with two guys by himself for seemingly no damn reason. Everyone's going to think you're crazy!

Richie just shrugged. "Who cares, Eds? It's just talk--" 

"care. Apparently I'm the only one!" he shouted, all his anger and frustration just pouring out of him. "I care when you get hurt, and when you get in trouble, and when people talk about you, and when you start shit that'll probably come back to bite you in the ass! care about you!" he stopped to take a breath, his face burning with anger, his hands shaking.

He wished he could say it was all anger, but his eyes were burning. He hated that so much--could he just yell at Richie without feeling like he needed to cry? Love sucks. 

Eddie leaned against the wall, breathing deeply, placing a hand on his chest. He maybe overdid it a little. 

"Hey," Richie said softly, bending over so he could look Eddie in the eyes, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You okay? You need your inhaler?" 

"No dammit!" Eddie shouted breathlessly. "Stop! I'm trying to be mad at you!" he swallowed hard and let out a strangled breath. When he saw that look on Richie's face like he was trying not to panic, he rolled his eyes. "Yes. Fine." 

Richie nodded in relief. Eddie tried to tell him it was in his backpack, but Richie yanked his desk drawer open and pulled one out. How many did he have here...? Eddie had one hand braced against his chest and the wall, focusing on breathing, waiting for Richie to hand it over.

Instead, Richie pressed it against Eddie's lips. "Ready?" 

Eddie blushed and nodded. Richie counted down from three, then pressed the button. Eddie inhaled deeply, feeling his airways relax a bit. Richie slowly pulled it away. "Again?" 

"No, I'm fine." Eddie said, shaking his head a bit. 

Richie put the inhaler away, slowly shutting the drawer. "Eddie," he said with a sigh, not looking at him. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't think it would hurt you this much." 

Eddie was actually sort of surprised. There was no joking, no awkward grins, nothing. He was being completely sincere. Eddie wasn't even mad anymore. He got it out. And what could he say? The moment Richie pulled out that inhaler Eddie's heart won the battle it'd been having against Eddie's head all day. Eddie couldn't stay mad at Richie, he loved him way too much. 

"It's okay." Eddie said, standing up straight. "I don't like that you got hurt, and that you didn't care about getting hurt--and I definitely didn't ask you to do that--but... Thank you. I know you did that for me." 

Richie smiled, walking over and sitting on his bed, patting the space beside him. 

Eddie came and sat beside him. Richie grinned softly. "Anything else?" 

"No." Eddie said with a huff. "That's all I had..." 

Richie laughed. "You look so disappointed." 

"Well!" Eddie shrugged dramatically, fighting a smile. "I was so mad all day long, I thought it would be more than that. And then you were asleep when I got here, so I had even more time to be angry, and then that was it." 

Richie smirked, resting his head on Eddie's shoulder. "Can't stay mad at meeee?" he teased, batting his eyelashes. 

Eddie rolled his eyes. "More like I don't care enough to." 

A devious look crossed over Richie's face. "Nuh-uh! You just said you cared about me. Yelled it at me, actually." 

Eddie blushed deeply. "Richie." he warned. 

"What? I'm never forgetting that." he said, poking Eddie's side. "Doesn't matter how mean you are to me from now on because you admitted that you cared about me! You love me!" he sang, poking him more. 

Eddie's face burned and he tried to push Richie away from him, laughing. "Get away from me! I did not mean it!" 

Richie just tackled him back onto the bed the moment Eddie started resisting. Richie hovered over him, pinching his cheek. "You meant it. And you can never take it back." 

Eddie whined in defeat, not even bothering to smack his hand away this time. "But I do take it baaackk." 

"Nope! Can't do that!" Richie chirped, laying back beside Eddie on the bed, turning his head to look at him. "So people have been talking about me all day, huh?" he asked with a grin, scooting closer to Eddie and elbowing him in the ribs. "Did people think I was hot? I bet I was pretty hot." 

God yes, he was so hot. Eddie could stop hiding behind his mostly fake anger now--he just couldn't deny it, it was so hot. 

"No, people asked me why you looked like that." 

"Like what?" 

Eddie motioned to Richie's face. "That." 

Richie gasped. "You're so mean Kaspbrak!" he said dramatically, 'attacking' him by tickling him as mercilessly as he could. 

And as Eddie laughed and tried to push him away, and threatened to kill him about seven different times, he couldn't believe how dizzily in love he was with this idiot. Richie Trashmouth Tozier, of all people. 

And as much as he hated to admit it, maybe Eddie was pretty lucky. 

Chapter Text

"So. Suspended?" 

"Yep." Richie said, glancing at his dad--the first person to finally speak up about this. 

When his mom had to come pick him up from school she had just asked if he was okay, took him home, told him to rest, then went back to work. Richie really couldn't tell if he was in trouble or not. 

Eddie went home about an hour ago, and his parents came home soon after. The first twenty minutes of dinner had just been his mom and dad talking about work, and now finally someone said something about the suspension. 

"They said you started the fight," his mom chimed in. "Did you really?" 

It would've been easy to lie to them. They would've believed him if he said it was those douchebags who started it, and that he had just gotten caught up in it. But that was the thing--they really trusted him. He didn't want to lie to them. 

"I did, yeah." he admitted. 

"Why?" his dad asked--he didn't sound upset. Just curious. 

"They hit Eddie a few days ago." he poked at his food absently. "So they deserved it." he added, under his breath. 

"I agree." 

Richie's eyes widened and he looked up at his dad. "What?" 

"I agree." he said with a shrug. "They sound like a couple of punks." 

His mom nodded. "I agree, but Richie honey, you can't just start fights at school, okay? Please don't do that again." 

Richie just looked between them for a minute. "Uh, okay." he laughed, a bit unsure. "Am I in trouble or...?" 

His mother hummed thoughtfully. "Um... No video games while you're suspended, how about that?" 

Richie grinned. "Grade A parenting." 

"Thank you." 

Richie bit his lip a little bit. "Um. What about Eddie?" 

"What about him?" his dad asked, giving him a pointed look that Richie didn't quite understand. 

"Can I see him?" he blushed when he realized how that sounded. "Like, can he come over," he stammered quickly before they got the wrong idea. "While, uh. I'm suspended. Or am I grounded from visitors?" 

His parents exchanged a certain glance that, once again, Richie didn't understand. He hated when they did that. They always had conversations like that, just through looks. In a way Richie kind of admired it; how close they were. But it drove Richie crazy because they always "talked" about him. 

No wonder Richie talked so much. He had to make up for all his parent's silence. 

"No." his mom said after a moment. "As long as you stay at the house, you can have visitors." 

"Cool." Richie said with a smile. 

"You have to look more disappointed," his dad said, pointing his fork at him. "We're supposed to be punishing you." 

"Oh right, right," Richie said, pulling the most devastated face he could muster. "Ugh, this is so lame, you guys are the harshest parents ever, I can't believe this." he whined dramatically. 

"Better." his mom said with a laugh.

As they sat and ate, Richie couldn't help but feel pretty grateful. His parents were so understanding, they never treated him like he was some mindless teenager. They always treated him like he was an actual person, unlike most parents. He really was lucky, he could tell them anything.

Richie bit his lip, tapping his fork against his food anxiously. "I need to tell you guys something." he blurted. 

They looked at him expectantly, patiently. Richie wasn't entirely sure if he was going to regret this or not, but he definitely couldn't take it back now. 

He didn't look at them, just stared down at the table like his life was depending on it, his throat suddenly going dry. He had to fight the urge to take a drink of water before continuing. 

"I..." he took a deep breath, slowly looking up at them. "I like boys." 

There were a few moments of tense silence and Richie was about a hundred percent sure he was going to be crushed under it; it felt like hours just waiting for them to say something. Anything. Then when his mom opened her mouth to speak, the dread washed over him--what if he didn't want her to speak? What if she had something bad to say? God, he wished he could take it back. 

"Okay." 

Richie's brain stalled, trying to process that. Just one stupid little word managed to completely halt the gears in Richie's head. 

"Okay...?" 

"Yes. Okay." she said, nodding a little. "Of course." she smiled warmly and reached across the table, taking his hand. "Of course that's okay." 

A nervous smile cracked across his face, but he wasn't quite breathing easy just yet. He glanced at his dad. His dad just kicked his leg under the table. "Don't look so stressed, as if it would be an issue." he glanced at Richie's mom and grinned a little. "Besides. We're not so blind to not realize you've been crushing on Eddie forever." 

Richie blushed deeply. "I have not been crushing," he grumbled halfheartedly. Technically, he hadn't. He's been in love with Eddie for years, but he decided not to mention that. He just smiled widely, his chest feeling so much lighter--he hadn't realized he'd been carrying this weight until it was gone. "You're not mad?" 

"Oh please. If I was going to be mad about something it'd be that you smoke, which we have also noticed." his mom said, giving him a threatening look. 

Richie laughed a little, running his shaking fingers through his hair. "Okay, okay, noted." 

His mother softened. "Seriously honey, we love you. You don't have to worry about being anyone else around us, just be yourself." 

His dad nodded. "Plus, we like Eddie. He does your chores for you and he does them way better than you do." 

Richie just laughed, he had no words. He had never felt so relieved--so loved. He wished he hadn't hidden it for so long, it seemed so silly now. Like he wasted so much time dragging this secret around. 

"So prom is coming up in a couple of months, huh?" His mom asked after a moment. "Are you gonna ask Eddie?" 

"Mom please, I just came out like five minutes ago."

 

The first half of the next day sucked so much. 

Richie did not like not being able to go to school, to see the Losers, to see Eddie. He hated to lay there, imagining what they were doing, what Eddie was doing, how his hair looked today, what he was wearing... 

And of course, it was fucking cold today. Which meant he was probably wearing some cute sweater or something.

Or the blanket. 

Richie was so upset he was missing something that may or may not even be happening. He was going to die before this suspension was up, he really was. Thankfully the Losers were coming over after school today. 

Richie practically counted down every single minute. 

So the moment he heard the squeal of the old brakes on that beautifully shitty truck, he bolted to the door and yanked it open. "Yes finally! I have been waiting for you Losers all damn day!" he shouted as he watched them head over. 

Bev pushed her way inside first, heading straight for the soda. "It's only 3:30. It hasn't even been all day." 

"Basically all day," Richie said pointedly. 

Ben came in next, frowning deeply at Richie. "How do you feel?" he asked worriedly, looking all over Richie's face. It did look pretty bad today. It was scabbing and bruising; but healing always looked bad. 

"Better than I look, I promise." he said, ruffling Ben's hair affectionately. 

Bill winced as he walked in. "That's good," he said. "Because you look r-really bad." 

"Thanks Bill." Richie said, pretending to be absolutely touched by his kind words. 

Stan walked in, looked at him, then shook his head and walked inside, muttering under his breath about how he shouldn't have started the fight. Very loving, as usual. Mike just laughed when he saw him. "Dude! You look terrible! Geez!" 

"He really does, doesn't he?" 

Richie looked at Eddie like it was second nature--not even second nature. Just instinct. Eddie's presence demanded his attention. And Richie's heart twisted; he actually was bundled up in Richie's blanket. His nose and cheeks a little pink from the cold, his hair so fluffy as always, and that little smug grin on his face. How was it even possible to look like that? 

"Thank you, everyone, you all boost my self-esteem every day," Richie said sarcastically, resting a hand on the small of Eddie's back and leading him inside. "Get in here before you freeze to death." 

The Losers made themselves at home. Bev sitting on his counter, drinking his soda, Mike leaning against the counter next to her, the others sitting at or on the kitchen table. "So." Mike spoke up, a grin on his face as he cracked open a soda. "How busted are you?" 

Richie sat on the table right next to Bill. "Actually, not that much. I can't play video games, and I can only have you guys over if it's at the house." he shrugged. "That's it." 

"Of course they're on your side." Eddie said, sitting at the table, in a chair, like a square. "They're always on your side. I'm not surprised. For whatever reason, they think Richie makes good choices." 

Richie smirked and tussled Eddie's hair, making him smack his hand away and grumble as he tried to fix it. Satisfied, Richie looked back to the others. "He's right though. They trust my judgement." 

"I guess that means for the rest of the week we'll be hanging out here, eating all your food." Mike said with a grin. 

Bev raised her soda can. "Cheers to that." 

"Lovely, my parents will be so thrilled." Richie said with a laugh--they really wouldn't care that much. Richie would care, when he ran out of soda, but the Losers didn't care about what Richie wanted anyway so that was irrelevant. 

"Let's go play video games," Bev said, hopping off the counter. 

"I literally just told you I can't play video games." Richie said, just watching her walk right into his room like she owned the place. 

"I didn't say anything about you playing!" she called over her shoulder. 

Richie just gasped, pretending to be so offended as he watched the Losers all invade his room to play his video games that he couldn't even play. All except Eddie, who was just sitting at the table still, grinning at Richie. "Seems like you've got a lot of control over the place." 

Richie nodded a bit. "Yeah... I'm starting to remember why I don't have them over." 

Eddie just laughed, making Richie's heart warm. God he missed him today. "I much prefer when it's just you." Richie said, laying back on the table, turning to look at Eddie. "You don't drink all my soda. And you especially don't play my video games. Unless we're playing together, of course. In which case I kick your ass." 

Eddie punched Richie's arm. "Shut up, you get more practice than I do! Mom won't let me have video games." 

"Mmhmm, sure." Richie said. "Whatever you need to tell yourself." 

Eddie stood. "I'm gonna go play your video games without you." 

"No!" Richie laughed, grabbing a fistful of the blanket. Eddie easily could've just let it go and walked away, but he didn't. He acted like he was confined to it, like he couldn't possibly leave it, and he stayed where Richie was holding him. It made Richie blush; whether it was because Eddie wanted to keep the blanket or because he wanted to stay with Richie, either scenario made him flustered. 

"We gotta get you a real jacket, Eds, you can't be walking around in this old thing all the time." Richie said, trying to sound casual, but he was so nervous now. He was just struck by Eddie. 

"I have jackets." Eddie said simply, sitting on the edge of the table beside Richie. "Plus, the weather's getting warmer anyway. Mostly." 

"Still. If you keep walking around in this thing every time it gets cold, I'm just gonna have to give you one of my jackets." Richie said, blushing slightly at the thought of Eddie in his jackets. 

Eddie blushed as well. He was so breathtaking. Those rosy cheeks would be the death of Richie, he just knew it. 

"Your parents really weren't mad?" Eddie asked softly. 

"Not even a little bit, Spaghetti." Richie replied, lightly fingering the fabric of the blanket absentmindedly. He thought about telling Eddie and the rest of the Losers what he told his parents, about being gay, but he decided maybe he should wait. 

He wasn't even the slightest bit worried about coming out to the Losers, he knew they wouldn't care. But he also knew that it was still going to be emotionally overwhelming, and between the fight, coming out to his parents, and Eddie, he decided to give his heart a break with this one. He'd tell them when he got back from suspension. 

Eddie tapped Richie's forehead, bringing him back to reality. 

"You with me, Rich? You okay?" 

"I am more than okay," he said, sitting up beside Eddie. He pinched his cheek. "Just got a headache, you know how it is." 

Eddie smacked his hand away. "If that's all it is..." 

"It is." Richie assured, resting his hand on Eddie's that rested on the table between them. "Trust me." 

Neither of them moved. Eddie looked down at his hand, just staring at Richie's hand on his. Richie told himself to move it away but he couldn't bring himself to actually do it. Instead, he wrapped his fingers around Eddie's. 

Eddie gasped softly and Richie looked up at him, worried, but Eddie's eyes were still transfixed on their hands. Richie just stared at Eddie's face, biting his lip, his heart quite literally pounding his ears. What now? 

As if he had asked the question out loud, Eddie slowly wrapped his fingers right back around Richie's. He glanced up at him, those cheeks bright red, those nervous eyes hiding behind his thick lashes. 

He really was just beautiful. 

Richie glanced at Eddie's lip, still biting his own. He wasn't thinking straight--Hell, he wasn't thinking at all. He was burning up, it was like his embarrassment was slowly melting his brain. His mind was numb, but it was like his senses were heightened; he could smell Eddie's shampoo from here, he could smell his own blanket but it was a little different now--it smelled better, like Eddie's house. Like Eddie. 

He was hyper aware of how Eddie's hand felt against his; his hands were really soft, he took great care of his skin. Richie sucked in a shaking breath, his nerves were completely out of whack. But Eddie wasn't saying anything or pulling away. Richie couldn't figure out the look on Eddie's face. It was almost like he was waiting. 

Richie squeezed Eddie's hand, then began to lean in slowly. 

He barely even moved an inch before Bill came running into the kitchen. "Richie, Mike's about to b-beat your score!" 

They both pulled away from each other violently. Eddie quickly jumped to his feet and wrapped the blanket around him tighter, his face bright red. Richie just sat there, his face just as red he was sure. Richie really, really wanted to punch Bill right that second. 

"Thanks Bill." Richie snapped, not bothering to hide his short tone. 

Bill just snickered, thinking Richie was mad about that stupid high score. The moment Bill rushed back to the room, Richie looked at Eddie, who cleared his throat awkwardly. "We should probably get in there." His voice cracked. 

Richie raked his fingers through his hair. "Yeah, you're right," he replied, a bit more breathlessly than he had intended to. He stood, wiping his palms on his jeans. His hair, his jeans--it didn't matter, he couldn't get the feeling of Eddie's skin off. 

"Um." Eddie muttered, but he quickly shook his head. "Nothing. Never mind." he rushed into the other room without another word. 

Richie stood there for a moment. He placed a hand over his chest to make sure he was still alive. Yep, quite alive. His heart was racing, beating against his chest like it wanted out. He took a deep breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. 

Okay. he thought after a moment. He could still see Eddie's face, it made his stomach twist hard, the back of his neck burning. So... That happened. 

So much for giving his heart a break. 

Chapter Text

Eddie was a wreck. 

He had thought he and Richie had a moment when they stood outside Eddie's door, nudging each other's shoes. Well, this was definitely in an entirely different ball park. 

That rest of the night he had been so awkward, and he felt bad because Richie was trying to be normal after that, but Eddie couldn't even sit next to him without erupting into blushes and fidgeting hands. 

Eddie's heart was burning, and it hadn't stopped since then. He didn't get anything done at school the next day, just stared at his paper, his face going red as he tried to reason with himself about what just happened.

Eddie couldn't even form a coherent thought on it. What even happened? he thought, one hand pointlessly dragging his eraser across his paper over and over, the other rubbing the temple of his head. He screwed his eyes shut, trying to focus--it was all such a blur, and the moment he tried to think about it, his heart and body kicked into overdrive and he couldn't focus. 

We were sitting together. That's easy enough. He promised me he was okay, and then he put his hand on mine. The blush was rising up again. Then he held my hand. Like, really held it. There's no denying it, he purposely wrapped his fingers around mine... His heart started beating hard. And I held his back. He put a hand over his face, trying to hide his embarrassment. Oh God. And then... he shook his head. No way, he imagined it. It was all in his head, there was no way Richie was going to--

"Eddie?" 

Eddie looked up at the teacher so quickly he practically flung his pencil out of his hand in a panic, causing several kids to laugh and whisper. Eddie felt the tips of his ears burn in humiliation. "Yes sir?" he asked. 

"You don't look so good. Maybe you should go to the office." He looked genuinely concerned--Eddie was so embarrassed he could die. 

But everyone was looking at him, some of them laughing at him already, he wasn't about to tell the teacher he was just distracted. So he just nodded, got his stuff together--choosing to save some dignity and abandon his pencil--and headed that way. 

He sat in the Nurse's Office, waiting for her to tell him he was fine and send him out. 

As he sat there, waiting for her to finish with her current paperwork so she could turn her attention to him, his mind wandered right back to the same place yet again. He couldn't help it, what else could he possibly think about? 

Eddie was so anxious and embarrassed about it, but it had also been so incredible. 

Richie's hand holding his; thinking about Richie's long fingers wrapping around his, feeling his skin against his. It made his head spin. And the way Richie was so close, he could feel the warmth coming off from him, he could see the red on his cheeks. 

Eddie bit his lip. What if he had been about to kiss him...?

"Alright, let's take a look at you," she said, wheeling over and absently placing a hand to his forehead. Her eyes widened. "Oh my gosh sweetheart, you're burning up. I should call your mom, she'd be freaking out if she knew you were this warm." 

That just made Eddie blush deeper. 

This was not going well. 

 

He actually, seriously got sent home. 

Even after he got his embarrassment under control, they still sent him home. Entirely because they knew his mother, and feeling him be too warm for a few minutes was enough to send him home in worry of having to deal with her wrath later if she found out. 

On the drive back, his mom was going on and on about his health, like he were dying or something because his face was hot for a few minutes. 

"You've been out a lot more lately, Eddie-Bear, maybe it's finally getting to you. Maybe you're exhausted. Maybe you should stay home for awhile. Just stay home with me, we can just relax together, okay?" 

"Mom, I'm fine, really." he said, staring out the window, his mind a million miles away. 

"Fine. But you're not going anywhere tonight." 

That brought him back. 

"What!?" he asked incredulously. "Mom, no, I have plans tonight!" 

"To hang out with your friends again? You can take one day off, Eddie." 

Eddie had been terrified to see Richie all day long, but the moment he thought about not being able to see him he was frantic. "Mom, please, we're trying to hang out as much as possible before we go to college. Just--" 

"No Eddie." she said firmly. She had made up her mind. "Not tonight. And if you keep arguing with me, you can stay home after school tomorrow too." 

Eddie sighed heavily and sank back into his seat. She wasn't bluffing, and the last thing Eddie wanted to do was risk losing more days. "Well what about Mike and Stan? I was supposed to help them go over their college essays tonight. They have to submit those soon." 

She chewed it over for a moment. "They can come over for that. But only them, and they can come here." 

Eddie just nodded. He had a phone call to make. 

 

Eddie grabbed the phone, dialed Richie's number, then slunk into the hallway for some privacy. 

It only rang three times before Richie answered. "Hello?" 

Eddie's heart exploded in his chest; he was overcome with such a wave of emotion he had to lean against the wall. He wanted to see him so bad. Instead of saying anything worth saying, he just sighed: "Richie." 

"Hey," Richie's voice came back softer on the other line, sounding almost concerned. "What're you doing home, it's not even 2:30 yet. Are you okay?" 

"I'm okay." Eddie assured. "The school was convinced I looked sick so they sent me home"--Richie did not need to know the whole truth about that--"and now my mom won't let me come out today. I'm really sorry." 

"It's okay, Eds." he sounded a bit disappointed, but Eddie found that oddly flattering. "I'll see you tomorrow, right?" 

"Yeah. Can you do me a favor and tell Mike and Stan that if they still want me to look over their essays to come by here?" The Losers had plans to go over to Richie's again today (which Eddie was missing out on now), so he knew calling their home later would be useless. 

"Consider it done." Richie said, and then there was an awkward pause. 

Eddie was about to start saying goodbye when Richie spoke up again. "Are you sure you're okay? Um. Are we okay?" 

Eddie smiled a bit, falling for Richie somehow even more. "We're always okay, Rich." he said softly. 

Maybe they should've talked about it, like normal people do. God, it would've made everything so much easier and simpler if they just talked, but if Richie felt anything for Eddie, then he was as much of a coward as Eddie was. 

Which meant they would be lucky if it ever got anywhere. 

But that was the closest they were going to get to talking that whole thing out for awhile. And for now, that would suffice. Though Eddie had to admit, he was a bit worried that maybe nothing like that would ever happen again. Maybe that was a slip up. 

It made his heart sink. 

"Okay," Richie said and Eddie could hear his smile in his voice. "I'll see you tomorrow, Eds."

"Bye Richie." 

Eddie hung up the phone with a sigh. Just knowing he wasn't going to be able to see Richie for one day was enough to ruin his mood. 

He dragged himself to his room and threw himself on the bed, putting a hand over his racing heart. He couldn't remember the last time it had beat at a normal pace. He shut his eyes. 

I wish he had kissed me. 

 

Stan and Mike came by at around six, greeted Eddie's mother, then they all rushed off to his room. 

"Richie pouted the entire time," Stan said simply as they closed the door behind them. "Honestly, he has two rules: Can't play video games, can't leave the house to hang out with friends. And he spends all day pouting because he couldn't go to you." 

Eddie blushed, a smile forcing its way onto his face. "Really?" 

"Yeah, he's kind of a drama queen." Mike said, sitting on the floor and pulling his papers out of his backpack. "Enough about Richie. You're the master at college application essays," he held out his essay, pulling puppy dog eyes. "Please help!" 

Eddie spent the next hour and a half reading and editing, and then rereading and editing again, Stan and Mike's papers until Eddie thought they couldn't be any better. They were pretty good to begin with actually, they had clearly put a lot of thought and effort into it. 

After that, a silence settled as Stan and Mike worked on safely stowing away their precious essays, talking to each other about how much better it was now. But Eddie only caught pieces of their conversation; because of course, his mind went back to Richie. 

He could imagine him right now; laying in his bed, staring at the ceiling, maybe listening to music. Wearing those ripped black jeans he loved so much, his hair a mess as it always was. He thought about how Richie looked when he was sleeping. So peaceful. He looked tired, even while he was sleeping. Eddie wondered how exhausting it must be to always be the entertainer, the performer. Eddie wanted him to rest. He wanted to make him rest. He wanted to rest with him. 

He missed him so much, after just one day. He wasn't even thinking about their hand holding, or that maybe-almost-kiss. He just missed Richie's presence. He missed just being in the same space with him. He wanted to be close to him. 

"Eddie?" Stan asked. "Are you okay? Are you actually sick?" 

"No, no, it's just--" his voice trailed off. He stared back at Mike and Stan. 

Mike was staring at him with those big, soft eyes. He looked so worried; he also looked so inviting and warm, like he was just waiting for Eddie to say what he needed to say so he could jump in to comfort and support him. Stan wasn't as outward about it, but Eddie could see the way his mouth was in a tight line, holding back asking more questions. He could see so much caring concern in the small knit of his eyebrows. 

And God, Eddie was falling apart. 

"I love Richie." 

Both Mike and Stan's eyes widened at the same time, but Mike was quick to not let a silence settle. "Yeah." he said, a smile on his face. He didn't really sound surprised about what Eddie had said, just that he had actually said it at all. His smile grew even more loving. "Yeah you are." 

"I didn't think you'd ever say it," Stan said; even he was sure to give Eddie a gentle smile. 

Mike came and sat beside Eddie, putting his arm around him and pulling him in close. Stan rested his hand on Eddie's leg. "Are you going to tell Richie?" 

Eddie leaned into Mike's embrace, shutting his eyes, savoring the feeling of being held. It was like he was being held together, he really needed that. "I don't know." he replied, biting back emotion. "I don't think so." 

Mike rubbed his arm comfortingly. "You should, Eddie." he said gently. "You shouldn't hold this in forever." 

"I agree." Stan said, giving Eddie's knee a squeeze. "But you should wait until you're completely ready, okay? So long as that day comes eventually, then take your time. Don't push yourself." 

Eddie let out a sigh of relief, he couldn't believe how good it felt to tell somebody, to get some support on something he'd been carrying by himself for so long. He was exhausted. 

"Thank you guys... I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, I just..." 

"We understand." Mike said soothingly. "It's complicated." 

Eddie laughed a little. 

Yeah, definitely complicated. 

Chapter Text

As far as suspensions go, Richie supposed his wasn't the worst. 

His friends got to come over, he wasn't in any real trouble, and he got to rest while his face healed. Which it had successfully done. Except for the small scar on his eyebrow--it was split in the fight, and would've healed just fine, except Richie scratched the scab off in his sleep twice.

He thought the scar made him look cool, though. Eddie said it made him look like a dumbass delinquent--which was basically Eddie's way of saying it looked cool. 

Speaking of Eddie, that was a whole different situation. 

They hadn't been alone together since their... whatever that was. The Losers came over after school, they all hung out together, and then Eddie went home with them. Same routine everyday.

Richie wasn't complaining of course, he loved spending time with them, and he didn't feel awkward around Eddie or anything, but he did want some alone time with him. It'd been so long. 

He missed having his alone time with Eddie. He hoped that would change now that his stupid suspension was finally up. 

Richie had never been this excited to get up for school. It was his first day back and he was more than ready. He figured maybe he should've been anxious. People had been talking about him (according to Eddie) and Jax and Hunter would also be back today as well. But he just didn't care--all he cared about was riding in that shitty truck with all his stupid friends. 

Richie did a once-over in the mirror, shaking his hair around for good measure until he was pleased with its messiness. He also really did approve of the scar. 

He looked over himself, wearing a long black-sleeved shirt rolled up to his elbows, black jeans, black sneakers. Usually he wore some colorful over shirt but he had neglected to do laundry during his week off, so since this was what was clean, this is what would have to do. He heard the truck honk outside as he was spraying his cologne--which he didn't care what anyone said, it was just as good as all that expensive crap even if he got it from the drugstore down the street. 

Plus, Eddie had never complained about it, so who the fuck cares. 

He grabbed his backpack and dashed out the door. "Good morning Losers!" he exclaimed excitedly, hopping into the truck. 

"Good morning," Bill and Bev said in unison. 

"Happy to be coming b-back?" Bill asked with a little laugh. 

"God yes. I bet not a single one of you has been bothering Eddie at his locker, huh? Christ, the natural order has been all out of whack." 

Bev laughed. "I'm sure poor Eddie is dreading your return," she said as they truck started, handing her cigarette off to Richie. 

He reached for instinctively then stopped right as his fingers were about to take it. "Ah..." he muttered, thinking about his mom's comment about his smoking, pulling his hand away. "Not today. I think I'm gonna try to cut back. I'll save my smoking break for school, when I actually need it." 

Bev looked genuinely surprised. "Oh okay," she smiled warmly. "I'm proud of you." she said, promptly taking a drag herself. "I do not envy you, though." 

Richie was practically squirming in excitement when they made it to Eddie's. Eddie came rushing out, shouting a goodbye to his mom over his shoulder. When he looked at Richie he smiled right at him and it made Richie's heart race. 

Eddie rushed over and Richie helped him in the truck--God, he really missed this part of his morning. Eddie settled in next to him. "Excited to be back?" he teased softly. 

"Oh most definitely." he said, slinging his arm around Eddie's shoulders. 

He caught Eddie raking his eyes over him, making Richie grin victoriously to himself. It seemed Eddie didn't mind Richie's fewer layers in the slightest.

As they drove to pick up Ben, Eddie leaned in against Richie, resting against him. Richie's throat went dry and he wished Eddie's head wasn't so damn close to his chest, he might feel his heart on the verge of exploding. 

Richie thought that was bad, not long after, Eddie absently reached over and played with Richie's hand from his arm that he had draped over Eddie's shoulders. And Eddie was just talking about school while he did it--his stupid Civics project, that he aced of course. How the hell was he doing that? He even started spinning Richie's ring around on his finger absently.

And yes, on a slightly unrelated note, Richie had a ring. A plain silver ring that he wore on his middle finger in hopes someone would ask about it, so he could promptly flip them off. 

"Did you do all the work they sent you home with?" Eddie asked, resting his head against Richie's shoulder. 

Honestly, what the fuck. 

"Most of it." Richie replied, hating the strain his voice. But what did Eddie expect? He was so casually all over him. Richie's stomach was in a tight knot, and he couldn't stop anxiously bouncing his leg. 

And when they got to school, it was all over.

Eddie just got up. Like none of that had just happened. Like he didn't just steal all the air from Richie's lungs and leave him completely dazed. 

Everyone else promptly got out of the truck, but Bev stopped him before they got out. "Are you guys dating?" she whispered. 

Richie flushed. "No. Not that I'm aware of. And I really hope I would be informed about that." 

Bev looked sincerely surprised that Richie had said no, which just made Richie's cheek burn even deeper. At least that meant he hadn't imagined that. She smiled a little and shrugged. "I guess he missed you." she slapped him on the arm. "Welcome back." 

Richie just stood there, watching her hop down. He took a deep breath. "Yeah." he muttered to himself. "Welcome back indeed." 

 

Richie really was glad to be back.

He missed his classes with his friends. And sure, he had lunch detentions, but it was much less painful than the actual suspension. And he hadn't seen Jax and Hunter all day, which meant they were probably intentionally staying out of his way, which he was also glad for. 

He did notice some people giving him weird looks, and it seemed they all started whispering the moment he turned his back. But they always sounded so excited about it. Poor Derry kids, they never had anything to be excited about. And Richie did in fact notice a few girls give him looks--he knew he was hot, Eddie was just simply wrong. 

Richie was so glad to be back annoying Eddie. Despite the very... close morning they had, the day was still normal. Richie hung around his locker and walked him to all of his classes. He was sure to pinch and poke at him even more than he usually did, and he called him just about every name in the book. All he'd heard all day was Eddie groaning, sighing, cussing at him, threatening his life--ah, he thought, an accomplished smile on his face, the sweetest sounds. 

It wasn't until fourth period that he was somewhat put off. 

He and Eddie had third period together, and Richie gladly took the opportunity to draw various smiley faces and dicks on Eddie's notebook--who would promptly kick Richie under the desk and erase them--but sadly they had to actually focus because they had a lecture. 

Then Richie had lunch detention right after that, and after that he had fourth period, which he had with nobody.

He was bored. He wanted Eddie.

So he decided to go get him. 

He raised his hand, everyone looking at him. Richie could tell who had seen the fight because they all stared at him with completely undivided attention, like he was going to start throwing hands or something right there. 

"Yes Richie?" 

"Can I use the restroom?" he asked, watching those same people look disappointed as they returned their attention to their own desks. 

"Sure." his teacher grumbled; this was the period Richie skipped the most and his teacher just really did not care. Bless him. 

Richie slipped out, fingering his pocket lightly to make sure he had his cigarette and lighter. Check. Just one more thing he needed. 

Now Eddie had never skipped with him before. But quite frankly, after this morning, Richie was feeling confident enough to try and get him to do so. So he strolled down the empty halls until he found Eddie's class. He peeked in the window on the door, watching Eddie write. He looked so cute when he was all focused like that, his eyebrows just slightly knit together. 

Some girl at the desk behind Eddie noticed Richie. He waved at her and pointed to Eddie. She just rolled her eyes but tapped Eddie on the shoulder and pointed at Richie. Eddie glanced over and his eyes widened comically so when he saw Richie. He tried to give Richie some communicative look but Richie wasn't his parents, he couldn't have eye conversations, so he just motioned for Eddie to come with him. 

Eddie hesitantly raised his hand. Richie couldn't hear him but he watched those pretty lips ask to be excused. 

Eddie came rushing out. The moment the door shut behind him he smacked Richie's arm. "What are you doing!?" 

"I need a smoke. Come with me." 

"You must be kidding me." Eddie grumbled, about to go back to class. 

Richie grabbed his arm. "Wait! Come on, Eds! Just one smoke, then you can go back. Every teacher in this damn school worships you, they're not gonna care if you're gone for a few minutes." he folded his hands together, pulling a puppy dog face. "Please?

Eddie groaned, rolling his eyes. "One smoke?" 

"Just one." 

"Fine." 

Richie smiled excitedly. "Yes! Come on," he said, grabbing Eddie's wrist and leading him out to the courtyard. 

"Don't you usually take Bev when you skip to smoke?" Eddie asked as he was dragged behind him. 

"Well yeah." he said, "but I wanted some time with you." 

"I see." Was all Eddie said. 

 

When they made it outside, they went and hid behind the line of shrubs along the walkway. Which were clipped in the shape of squares; Richie would never understand the point. Because it looked neater? At least do something cool. 

They plopped down on the dirt. They always sat so close together; it was so natural.

Richie pulled out his cigarette, resting it between his teeth. He lifted his lighter to light it then paused. "Shit, Eds." he muttered, glancing at him. "Are you cool with me smoking?" 

Eddie looked somewhat taken aback, and maybe a bit touched, that Richie was asking permission. "Well I agreed to go with you on your smoke break, I don't care. Go ahead." 

Richie lit his cigarette, eagerly taking a long drag off it. He sighed the smoke out in relief. "I'm cutting back." he said, holding his cigarette off to the side, away from Eddie. "She didn't ask me to stop, but my mom doesn't like that I smoke. I figure the least I could do is cut down to one a day." 

Eddie looked surprised. "Really?" he asked after a moment. "Woah, Richie that's great." 

"Thanks Spaghetti. Being back at school helps, surprisingly. Being around you guys puts me at ease I guess." he said, nudging Eddie's leg with his knee, grinning. "Or maybe the fear of your wrath puts me in check."

Eddie laughed. "Please, you've never been scared of my wrath, no matter how much I wish you would be." 

"True that." Richie said, pinching Eddie's cheek with his free hand. "You're too cute." 

Eddie smacked his hand away. "I am not." 

"Oh trust me, you are." That came out a little more serious than he intended, so he blushed a bit as he took another drag. Quickly, he changed the subject. "I've got some news to share with you Losers after school, by the way." 

"Yeah?" Eddie asked. "What is it?" 

"Well you'll find out when I tell you all, now won't you?" Richie teased. 

Eddie pouted a little. "Awe come on! Tell meeee," he whined. 

"I will! Later!" 

Richie laughed at the way Eddie threw his head back and groaned. 

"Come on Rich, please?" he asked, pulling the most innocent face he could possibly muster. And oh God, it almost worked. Eddie peering up at him like that, purposely batting those lashes at him. Damn. 

"Trust me, it's a group thing." he said quickly; he was worried if he hesitated, he might actually tell him. He'd do anything Eddie wanted any day, and with that look he had to be extra careful. 

Eddie wiped that adorable look off his face, scrunching up his nose and sticking his tongue out at Richie.

Richie thought that face was way cuter. 

It was more like how Eddie actually was--bratty. Richie loved it. 

"Don't pout, Eeeeeeddds," Richie sang as Eddie crossed his arms. 

"Well if you're gonna tell us all anyway, how come I can't know now?!" he pressed. 

"You'll know why when I tell everyone, trust me." he glanced at Eddie, catching his eyes. "Besides. I think you already know." he lowered his voice, looking away. "At least I hope you do." 

Eddie looked utterly dumbfounded, but at least for now he finally dropped it. 

"So." Richie said after another drag. "I've noticed people talking about me." 

Eddie looked at him, and he looked so damn worried and sad, that Richie felt bad about setting this joke up this way. So he just quickly rushed to the next part. "They're definitely saying I'm hot." 

Eddie stared for a moment, then punched Richie in the shoulder. "You're such a dickhead," he said, but he was smiling. 

Richie laughed. He missed this a lot. It was different when they teased and bickered in front of the Losers. It was still fun, but when they were alone, it was just different. Like they were the only two people in the world. 

Richie put his cigarette out in the dirt beside him. "Alright, Kaspbrak. Let's get you back." 

As they walked, they talked quietly, as if they might get caught walking back to class. Not that Richie really cared but Eddie was super paranoid.

When they reached Eddie's class, he paused. "Rich?" 

Richie glanced at him. "Eds?" 

"I'm glad you're back." he said, not looking at Richie right away. 

Richie smiled warmly. "Me too." 

Eddie smiled back at him, opening the door. Eddie looked over his shoulder as he disappeared into the class and Richie winked. Then he grinned at the way Eddie's cheeks went red. Mission accomplished. 

Richie slowly began making his way back to his own classroom. And as cliche as it sounded, he really did miss Eddie already. 

 

After school, they all stood around Mike's truck waiting for everyone to arrive so Richie could make his announcement. 

Bev was the last to show up, but the moment she did, everyone turned to Richie. "Alright, let's hear it." Mike said excitedly. 

Richie looked around, everyone was awaiting to hear what he had to say. No one looked particularly serious though, like they were waiting for Richie to say something sarcastic or a joke or something. Except Eddie, who was focused on Richie the same way he got focused on his books and his assignments. 

It made Richie's heart skip a beat--he always wanted Eddie to look at him like that. 

It also made what Richie needed to say much, much easier. 

"Well, I guess it's about time I tell you guys..." 

Everyone looked slightly amused, waiting for the punchline of whatever joke they were sure Richie was about to tell. 

"I'm gay."

Chapter Text

So Richie is gay. 

Richie just told them that he's gay. 

Yes, that really just happened. 

Eddie just stood there, his jaw dropping. 

"Besides. I think you already know. At least I hope you do."

Eddie's face burned, his heart beginning to race, he could hear it hammering away in his ears. What did that mean? Richie had hoped Eddie knew he was gay? He hoped? Eddie's mind was racing--not how it usually did with a thousand at least somewhat coherent thoughts all at once, no, right now, it was just a mess. Nothing made sense, he couldn't focus on any one thought. His stomach was in knots, and they were only getting tighter by the second. 

He almost didn't notice Richie staring at him. Almost. 

"Are you serious?" Mike asked after a moment of stunned silence. "I mean really. Cause this wouldn't be a very funny joke." 

"I wouldn't joke about this, I'm not that much of a dickhead." Richie snapped. 

Everyone had to reprocess it, like they'd been holding back in case it really was a joke--like they had all been waiting for the punchline. Except Bev. Who was just smiling proudly. Did she already know? 

"Do your parents know?" Stan asked after a few moments. 

Richie nodded. "They're fine with it." he paused, trying not to look anxious, but the way he rubbed the back of his neck suggested otherwise. "Are... You guys cool with it?" 

"Of course." Eddie said without missing a beat. "What kind of stupid question is that?" 

Richie looked a little surprised, then smiled warmly. "Thanks, Eds."

Bill nudged him. "Yeah, that's a stupid question, of course we're fine with it. Doesn't change anything." 

Everyone else gave various agreements and encouragements. And once everyone felt confident that Richie felt accepted and validated, Mike suggested they get out of there. They were all going to some new diner that Bill swore had amazing milkshakes--so amazing that they all had to go. 

As they were driving there, Richie rested his hand on Eddie's knee, which made his face go red. 

"I feel like maybe my 'your mom' jokes are going to lose some of their credibility now, huh?" Richie asked in mock sadness.

Eddie laughed. "I don't want to hurt your feelings, Rich, but they never really had any credibility to begin with." 

Richie gasped, then pulled his hand away, 'pouting'. "Well that does hurt my feelings. I can't believe you never believed that I could get your mom, that's just rude." 

Eddie shoved his shoulder, laughing. "Shut up!" 

Richie grinned and draped his arm around Eddie's shoulders. "Oh well." he said casually. "Guess I'll have to come up with new jokes."

"Oh thank God," Eddie muttered, leaning in against him. 

And just like this morning, Richie didn't squirm away or seem uncomfortable. As stupid as it sounded, maybe Eddie was sort of testing the waters. The more he thought about that whole moment they had at Richie's house, the more he mused the possibility that Richie felt something too. 

It was a hard thought to wrap his mind around, he had spent so long convincing himself that Richie was his best friend and nothing more, but he knew that if he was ever going to tell Richie, it was going to have to be sometime this year. Richie seemed serious about coming with him when he left--but if they were ever going to be something more, he didn't want to wait. If they were going to be something more, he wanted them to be that when they left here.

He just needed to... make sure that Richie was going to be okay with that. 

Which was stupid. The whole point of a confession was to just put yourself out there, and be completely truthful. You're not supposed to "test the waters" before confessing. But Eddie just couldn't bring himself to risk it. Not with Richie. Richie was too important. 

Much to Eddie's surprise, Richie just pulled him in a little closer. 

Bev, Ben and Bill had been talking, but as their conversation fell off, they noticed Richie and Eddie. No one said anything about it though. Bev watched them for a moment, then scooted closer to Ben and rested her head on his shoulder. Ben's eyes just about bugged out of his head, but he placed a nervous hand on her leg for a moment. 

Then got too terrified and pulled it away. 

Bill just looked between them, pouting. "What d-did I miss?" 

Richie just laughed, holding out his other arm. "C'mere Big Bill, get in on this." 

Bill laughed, but he crawled over and snuggled up to Richie's other side. Eddie laughed, shaking his head a bit as Richie pulled Bill in under his other arm. It was weirdly thoughtful in its own right. God, Eddie loved that idiot so much. 

Richie rested his head on top of Eddie's. "Don't worry Spaghetti, you're my favorite. You smell way better." 

"Hey!" Bill whined, making everyone laugh. 

Meanwhile Eddie was just trying not to melt. 

 

Eddie had expected it to be more packed. 

On the rare occasion that anything new came to Derry, people spent so much time there for so long. They just had nothing else, anything new was just about the biggest deal it could be. But the diner looked like it had always been here--super old fashioned and maybe a little sad looking. And that was probably why no one seemed to care about its existence... 

Richie winced as they walked inside. "Not to break your heart or anything Bill, but this place kind of looks like a dump." 

Bill shoved his shoulder. "You haven't even tried it yet!" 

"Yeah, don't judge a book by its cover." Ben said with a smile. 

"Yeah Richie, don't be such a dick." Eddie said with a grin. He thought it looked like a dump too but he liked to pick on Richie. 

"Alright fuck me I guess!" Richie said, throwing his hands up in surrender. "They better be good milkshakes, Bill!" 

They took a booth near the back; there were only two booths in the whole place that accommodate a big group like them. Luckily there wasn't much competition. 

They all ordered milkshakes, since that was what Bill was going on and on about, and a bunch of fries. Eddie was seated between Richie and Mike. Then Stan, Bill, and then Ben and Bev right across from Eddie. He and Bev kept accidentally kicking each other's shoes, then it just became a game and they spent awhile kicking each other and laughing. Richie and Ben had no idea what was going on which just made it way funnier. 

When milkshakes got there, Bill acted like the world was actually going to come to a stand still. "Okay, everyone has to try at the same time!" he insisted. "Three, t-two, one!"

Everyone took a sip. And yeah, it was really good. 

"These are fuckin' great." Richie said with a nod. 

Bill looked around. "That's it? Aren't they amazing? Where's all the excitement?" 

Bev laughed. "Well what did you expect? A standing ovation?" 

Bill couldn't keep a straight face with that one. "... Maybe." 

Richie just sighed. "Fine, if I must." he said, standing up. Before he could start clapping, Eddie grabbed him by the shirt and yanked him back down. Richie just shrugged. "I tried, Bill." 

"I appreciate the effort, Richie." 

Everyone started talking amongst themselves when Richie poked Eddie in the face. "Hey." 

Eddie swatted at him. "What?" 

"Let me try yours," he said simply, taking it before Eddie could refuse. Not that he would've anyway, he didn't care. While Richie drank his, he took Richie's and did the same. Richie nodded. "Yours is better." 

"Keep it, yours is way better." Eddie said.

Bev just grinned and threw her cherry at Eddie. "That's cute. Trading milkshakes? I thought you hated germs, Eds." 

Eddie blushed. "I don't care when it's you guys," he muttered under his breath. 

Richie casually took the cherry Bev had thrown and ate it before promptly putting the stem in his mouth and resting his arm along the booth behind Eddie. "Hey Marsh, are you and Ben dating yet?" 

Ben choked and Bev blushed--which looked so pretty on her, accenting her eyes and hair. Eddie was so jealous, he looked like he was dying anytime he was embarrassed. She laughed. "Alright fine, you win." 

Eddie and Ben just exchanged shocked glances. 

Win? When did this game start--what was this game? Eddie's stomach knotted even further. Is he playing the same game I am...? 

Eddie didn't completely hate it... 

Out of nowhere, Richie spit out the stem on the table in front of Eddie. Eddie scrunched his nose up. "Ew, Richie, what the hell!?" he shouted, leaning as far away as he could. 

"Just look at it!" 

Disgusted, Eddie glanced down at the stem. It was tied in a knot. Richie elbowed him, a shit-eating grin on his face. Then he just ever-so-casually winked. 

Eddie just took a sip of his milkshake, trying to cool down. 

He wasn't sure he could handle playing this game. 

 

When they finished up, everyone was tired from drinking way too much milkshake and eating way too many fries. 

And the staff was more than glad for them to leave because there were several points where the Losers would randomly end up throwing fries at each other, laughing like idiots. 

As they were walking to the parking lot, Mike nudged Eddie. "Am I dropping you off at your's or Richie's?" 

Richie and Eddie exchanged glances. Eddie just shrugged back at Mike. "Richie's." 

Mike gave Eddie a certain kind of smile and Eddie just blushed and looked away. There was only so much he could deal with. 

When they made it to Richie's house, they greeted his parents for a few minutes. They were always really excited to see Eddie and asked him a thousand things about his life; how he was feeling, how school was, if Richie was annoying him too much lately (the answer was always yes). They were so nice Eddie couldn't really wrap his mind around it. He was a little envious--he would love to have parents like these. Hell, even half as good as Richie's. 

They rushed up to his room the moment they had a second of freedom. They were sweet people, but they'd talk all night, and Eddie only had until sunset before he had to head home. 

Richie kicked off his shoes, then fell back on his bed with a huff. He patted the spot next to him. "Join me." 

Eddie laughed a little, copying him. "I'm so tired." he muttered. "It's been a long day." 

"No kidding." Richie said. "At least Bill's stupid milkshakes were good." 

Eddie laughed. "Don't say it like that." 

"What?" Richie asked, mocking genuine curiosity. "You don't want to talk about Bill's milkshakes? I don't understand-" 

Eddie laughed, smacking Richie's stomach lightly. "Stop! Please!

"Well if you're gonna plead to me," Richie said with a perverted grin, winking at him. 

Eddie just grabbed the nearest pillow and pressed it against Richie's face. "I should've done this a long time ago." 

Richie laughed into the pillow he was being 'suffocated' with--Eddie was applying almost no pressure. Still, Richie pushed Eddie's arm away, then rolled over on top of him, making Eddie's body temperature skyrocket. 

"That was the most pathetic assassination attempt I've ever witnessed." Richie said with a shake of his head. "I've raised you better than that." 

Eddie had absolutely no wit. How did Richie do that? Flirt with him, get so close, and still have enough brain power to make jokes? It really was wired in that boy's brain. 

Eddie's chest suddenly tightened, and he was overcome by such a random wave of emotion. Just staring up at Richie like this--he was grinning, he was waiting for Eddie to say something back, something he could play off of. His eyes had that gleam in them that set off a spark inside Eddie he didn't know how to explain. That smug little grin on his face... Eddie remembered the scar on Richie's eyebrow--it looked really good on him, but he hated that he had gotten it in the first place. 

For me. 

"I missed you." Eddie blurted. 

Richie looked utterly dumbfounded, his eyes going wide and his smile falling. He gaped for a moment, tripping over his words. "Yeah, uh. I understand, I..." he smiled a little. "I missed you too, Eds." 

The phone could be heard ringing from the other room, and they were reminded in that moment that there indeed was a world outside of them. It was hard to believe; when they were alone together, it always just felt like they were the only two. 

But they both winced, because they had a feeling they knew who it was. 

"Maybe it's not my mom?" Eddie offered rather unconvincingly. 

"Eddie, your mom's on the phone!" Richie's mom called immediately after Eddie said that. 

They both sighed in defeat. Richie rolled off Eddie and sat up. "Go, calm the woman." 

Eddie rolled his eyes. "That's impossible, Rich." he said, hopping up and running to get the phone. "Yes?"

He just held the phone out away from his ear, knowing exactly what she was saying anyway. "It's almost sunset Eddie-bear, you should start heading home now, just in case. You need to make it back before dark, remember?"-Blah, blah, blah. 

"Okay, I'll start heading back," Eddie said the moment she stopped to take a breath, quickly hanging up the phone after that. 

Richie was already standing behind him, waiting. "Off we go." 

 

They didn't talk on the way to Eddie's. 

It wasn't awkward or weird, Eddie barely noticed it at all, it was comfortable--his mind was a million miles away. He couldn't figure this whole thing out. It seemed that they were pushing this, them, further and further. Eddie was all over him, Richie was shamelessly flirting with him--Hell, even Ben was making way more direct comments. 

Again, it made Eddie wonder what she knew. 

If they were just pushing back against each other, then it was only a matter of time before this tension snapped right? Eddie blushed a bit. Who was going to snap first? And still, in the back of his mind, Eddie did worry that maybe Richie didn't feel anything--that maybe he was just playing around. 

Well, Eddie decided the only way to know for sure was to make Richie be the one who snapped first. This suddenly felt like a competition. It made a little spark ignite in Eddie's chest. If Richie did feel something, if they were pushing back against each other, then it was only a matter of time until they... 

"You with me, Eds?" 

Eddie jolted back to reality, his face bright red. "Yes." he choked out, clearing his throat awkwardly. "What?" 

Richie tussled his hair. "I said we're here." he said, motioning to the door. "And as much as I want to, I don't think mama Kaspbrak would appreciate if I went any further," he said, tapping lightly on the door--he might've knocked if this was anywhere else, but Eddie could tell he didn't want to risk summoning the demon woman just for the sake of the joke. 

"Oh sorry," Eddie said with a bashful laugh. "I'm pretty tired." 

"Yeah me too." Richie said with a nod. He looked like he was thinking about something, then he hugged Eddie. 

Eddie somehow blushed even more than he already had been. But of course he hugged him back. Richie's hugs never lasted long though, he always got embarrassed and pulled away. And Richie definitely looked embarrassed. "Uh, sorry about that. I just--" 

"No, it's okay." Eddie assured softly, his heart yearning. He wished Richie didn't pull away so quickly. He wanted more. 

Only a matter of time. 

Eddie felt his ears burn and his heart kick into absolute overdrive as he stood on his toes, quickly kissing Richie on the cheek. He literally could not look at Richie when he pulled away. "Okay goodnight," he blurted, practically running inside.

He leaned against the door and put a hand to his chest, taking a moment to try and consider if he needed his inhaler. So far, he was leaning towards yes. 

His mom spotted him and frowned. "Eddie, are you okay?" 

"Yes!" he said, rushing to his room. "Very tired, goodnight!" he shouted, practically slamming his door shut in his frantic attempt to get out of there as quickly as possible. He sat back on his bed and let out a deep breath, steadying his heart the best he could. He was so embarrassed, he couldn't believe he just did that. 

He laid back on the bed, screwing his eyes shut, putting his hands over his face. He was so embarrassed, part of him wished he could take it back. Even here, by himself, he was so embarrassed he could barely function. 

He bit his lip; he could still feel it. Richie's face had been so close to his, and it had been so warm. He had been embarrassed too. 

Eddie suddenly smiled widely, giggling softly into his hands. 

He changed his mind. He definitely didn't want to take it back. 

Chapter Text

Richie just stood there, hands in his pockets, his face on fire. 

He gingerly touched his cheek where Eddie had just kissed him. Part of him wondered if that even really just happened--it was so quick. But a bigger part of him also didn't need to wonder at all; the stir in his chest and the way he could still feel Eddie's lips on his skin was beyond real.

Eddie had just completely fled after that. Which Richie decided was a good thing; if Eddie had looked back even once, Richie might've just shoved him up against that door and kissed him with everything he had. 

Richie realized he had been standing there for quite awhile so he slowly began to drag his feet home. He didn't want to though; he just wanted to wait outside Eddie's door all damn night, banking on the slim chance that Eddie might come back out. 

Richie's mind and heart were racing, and they definitely weren't working together. Through all of that though, he was able to really realize one thing. 

It wasn't a question of if anymore, it was a question of when. 

So Richie just grinned so wide his face hurt; a bit more energy in his step the rest of the way home. 

 

The next morning, they were back to their little game. 

Which was getting increasingly harder to play--Richie could feel his self control whittle away little by little each time Eddie leaned against him, sat right up next to him, rested his head on him. Every time he could feel Eddie's warmth, his breath, his heartbeat...

He really hoped Eddie knew what he was doing to him. 

But Richie hadn't quite snapped yet. Eddie was safe for another day. Probably.

So for now, he just stood next to Eddie's locker, eating candy out of his pocket. 

"Do you have candy in your pocket?" Eddie asked, sounding disgusted. 

"It's in a bag, I'm not an animal." Richie said with a grin, raising his eyebrows seductively. "Interested?" 

"In your pocket candy?" Eddie asked with a laugh, shutting his locker, starting towards his class. "No thank you." 

"It's in a bag." Richie defended, rushing to his side. "Fine, your loss." 

Eddie shook his head. "Get to class," he said, shoving him playfully. 

Richie grabbed Eddie's wrist at the last second, pulling him close. Very close. "Class is no fun. Skip with me." 

Eddie looked so adorably panicked. "No!" he gasped, pulling his hand away. Richie let him go. For now. "My mom would kill me if we got caught, I'd never be able to see you again. She already thinks you're some vandal or something."

Richie threw his head back with a laugh. "Ah, I do love that woman. She's smart, I wouldn't want my kid running around with someone like me either." 

Eddie grinned. "Who? A dork with candy in his pocket?" 

Richie threw his hands up dramatically. "It's in a bag!

Eddie snorted, continuing on his way. "Regardless, you're a loser. Nothing to worry about." 

"I could have bad intentions," Richie said, smirking. "You have no idea what my ulterior motives are." 

"You don't have enough brain power for ulterior motives." Eddie deadpanned. 

Richie gasped. "You're mean." 

Eddie paused before his class. "Yes, and you're stupid, it's why we work." 

"We work pretty well, don't we?" Richie asked, letting his tone sound a bit suggestive. 

Eddie looked a bit taken aback, his cheeks just a little red. "Yes." he said after a moment of hesitation. He was staring at Richie with such wide doe eyes, like he was waiting for him to say something else. 

Instead, Richie just winked as he put a piece of candy in Eddie's mouth. Much to his surprise, Eddie actually ate it. "And here I thought you would spit out my dorky pocket candy." 

Eddie shrugged, a bratty little grin on his face. "It's in a bag." he said, oh so smug, before walking into his class. 

Richie laughed in disbelief to himself, shaking his head. What a brat, what an absolute brat. 

Richie loved him. 

 

Richie was still grinning when he wandered to class and sat down next to Ben. 

The moment Ben noticed him he grabbed Richie's sleeve and yanked him in close. "I have something really important to tell you." he whispered as the teacher began talking in the background. That look in Ben's eyes had him a little freaked out. 

"Uh, okay." Richie whispered back. "What's wrong?" 

"I need you to come over and help me today." he whined. 

"With what Benny-Boy, come on," Richie pressed.  

"I need you to help me pick out an outfit. I asked Beverley out this morning and she said yes." 

Richie gasped, promptly getting shushed by the teacher. He had his eye on them now so they had to stay quiet until thankfully the lecture was over and everyone was supposed to break into partners to do the assignment. 

The moment the volume of the classroom rose as people began talking and working, Richie turned on him. "I told you she would say yes! God, finally, I'm so proud of you." 

"I'm really freaking out though, Rich. Do you think you can come over today and help me?" he practically begged. "Just you, okay? You've been through this with me and I'm really shy and I know it's all with love, but I just really don't want the Losers to freak out and make a whole big thing out of it yet. Not unless her and I, ya know... Not unless something happens, and we make it official." 

Richie laughed. "Calm down, lover boy, I'll be there. We'll just tell them we have a project to work on or something. I'm gonna make sure you don't look like an idiot, and you're gonna woo her with your romantic ways, and everything's going to be fine. Better than fine. So just breathe." 

Ben did just that, taking a deep breath. "Thank you, Richie." 

"No problem." 

Ben looked around for a moment, and then lowered his voice. "What about you?" 

Richie blushed a little, immediately feeling like he was being accused of something. "What about me?" 

Ben was not a confrontational guy, and he definitely didn't ask people super direct questions. He was so sensitive and considerate of other people. So instead he just offered an almost sympathetic smile and whispered: "Do you still want to write poetry?" 

Richie's heart skipped a beat. Of course he knew. He probably knew even before he and Eddie had started putting on whatever show they were in the middle of right now. He ran his fingers through his hair, sighing. "Even your metaphors are romantic, Ben." he said with a soft grin. "Yeah, I do." 

Ben just nodded a little. "What are you going to do?" 

Richie groaned. "That is the question, isn't it? Y'know. I was thinking it was less of a question of if something's going to happen, and more of a question of when, but now... Now I'm wondering if it's a question of if we're going to do anything about it." 

Ben shook his head, waving his hand dismissively like Richie had just said something completely nonsensical. "Oh no, please, it's definitely a question of when. You guys just need... The right moment, ya know? And if it makes you feel any better, that's all you need. You've already won him over obviously." 

Richie's face went a deep red. "Wait, obviously?" 

"Well, duh. Have you seen that look in his eyes when he looks at you?" he laughed a little. "Not to sound self deprecating, but he looks like me." 

Now that definitely made Richie's heart lurch. There was no way--Eddie? Love-struck? Wouldn't Richie have seen it by now? He bit his lip. Or maybe there was a chance he wasn't seeing it because he looked exactly the same way. If they were mirroring each other then of course he would never notice. 

Richie pressed the back of his hand to his mouth in an attempt to casually hide the smile that tore across his face. "So the right moment, huh?" 

"Mmhmm." Ben hummed. "I'm hoping to win Beverly over tonight so that her and I can find our right moment." 

Richie just glanced at Ben. "Hey Ben?" 

"Yeah?" 

"She looks at you the way I look at Eddie. You've already won her over." 

Ben's face went bright red, and just like Richie, a stupid smile stretched across his face. They both covered their mouths, laughing into their hands; pure, bubbly laughter. It was just about the most embarrassing moment of Richie's life, but he never felt better. Ben seemed to be feeling the exact same way. 

They were hopeless. 

 

At lunch, Richie was the last to show up to the table. He managed to get out of lunch detention early for "good behavior", like a prisoner or something. But he wasn't complaining.

But the moment he walked up, Stan subconsciously scooted a bit to allow him to sit next to Eddie. Richie just smiled to himself as he slid in next to him. "Hey Spaghetti, listen up, I've got heartbreaking news." 

"Which is?" Eddie asked, half of his attention on the book in his lap, where he was highlighting various lines. Another forty percent of his attention was on occasionally eating a chip, which left Richie with only ten percent of his attention and that just would not do. 

Richie grabbed his book, holding it over his head. 

Eddie glared. "Richie!" he groaned, reaching for it. "Give it to me!"

Richie stood up, still holding it above his head. "If you can grab it, you can have it." 

Eddie huffed, getting up and briefly trying, but he knew he wasn't tall enough. He was absolutely steaming, then just stood on the table and tried to grab it. Richie turned his back to him, holding it out and away from him. "You're gonna have to try harder," he sang. 

Eddie jumped on his back, shocking him--he probably most definitely should've seen that coming. He stumbled from the surprise, and it was all Eddie needed to get the book from him. "Ha!" he shouted, hitting Richie in the back of the head with his book before sliding off of him. 

They sat back down and Eddie just looked at him. "Now what do you want?" 

"I wanted to tell you that tonight, I am going to be at Ben's. We've got a project to work on. So we can't hang out." 

Eddie looked so annoyed. "That's all you had to tell me? You stole my book and made me fight you for it for that? Why couldn't you have just told me that before stealing my book?" 

Richie grinned and pinched his cheek. "I wanted your full attention." 

Eddie smacked him in the head with the book again and Richie decided to stop pulling and poking at him for now; that was not a small book and that fucking hurt. 

Stan just glanced at Bill, shaking his head. "Do you think they'll ever have a conversation like normal people?" 

Bill, like most of the losers, barely even noticed them at this point. 

"Not a chance." Bill said without missing a beat. 

 

When they pulled up to Ben's, Richie just ruffled Eddie's hair. "See ya tomorrow, Eds." 

Eddie swatted him away. "Yeah, yeah," he grumbled. 

Richie admired him lovingly as he watched Eddie fix his hair, then hopped out of the truck with Ben. He threw a wave over his shoulder to everyone. And he didn't look back, but as he heard the truck disappear, he was oddly certain that Eddie had been looking at him. 

Ben's room was still as nerdy as ever, and his desk was always littered with seemingly thousands of papers. All of them covered--blueprints, thoughts, writings. Ben's mind really was always at a hundred percent, wasn't it? 

Ben started rummaging through his closet. "So we're going to that diner," Ben said after a moment. "I know it's not that fancy, but I'm hoping it'll be as relatively empty as last time, ya know? Give us a little privacy. And I was thinking maybe if she feels up for it, we can take a little walk around town afterwards and just talk. I don't know. What should I wear for that?" he was totally freaking out. 

Richie walked over and placed a hand on Ben's shoulder. "What have I told you about freaking out? Breathe. Go sit down. You want some candy? I've got some in my pocket." 

Ben looked disgusted. "Gross." 

Richie just stared at him blankly for a moment before shaking his head. "Don't." he whispered threateningly. 

Ben had no idea what that meant but he went and sat down regardless. Richie looked over his clothes, rummaging around. It was a casual date, Richie had no idea why he was losing his mind. It's not like he needed a damn suit. 

Richie smirked as he looked through Ben's clothes. "So are you going to kiss her?" 

He didn't even have to look at him to know his entire face was red. "I don't know! It depends on--" 

"--the right moment, got it." Richie said, picking out a plain button up shirt and throwing it over his shoulder. He had a feeling Ben wanted to look at least a bit nicer than usual, so he decided that would work as he continued to look around in his closet. 

The right moment. 

He thought about the night on Eddie's doorsteps, when he had thought about kissing him. Then he thought about the night at his place, that Bill so kindly interrupted. He bit his lip with worry. Was he missing them? Hell, even just the other night. Should he have stopped Eddie from running? Should he have chased him? 

"How do you know?" Richie asked quietly after a moment. "The right moment, I mean. How do you know when that is?" 

Ben's voice came back softer; once again, he knew what Richie was asking without Richie having to actually ask. "You'll know. Because it'll happen. Trust me. Things will feel different, and it'll be like you're being pulled in. You'll feel like you won't have a choice." 

"So you don't think I could miss it?" 

"No." Ben paused. "Wait, why?" 

Richie was on fire, blushing deeply. He could feel it on the back of his neck, making him shift with discomfort. "Uh." was all he said. 

"Have you guys almost kissed?" 

Awe geez Ben, come on, what happened to the metaphors? "I don't know," Richie stammered, cursing how nervous he sounded. "I don't know." he repeated firmer this time. "I mean... It's complicated." 

"You can talk to me, Richie." 

Richie sighed heavily, turning to face him. "I just don't know, honestly. have almost kissed him. Once. And thought about doing it, like, two other times. They all felt like the right moment. I think I'm fucking this up." 

Ben shook his head. "No, definitely not. It'll happen when it's supposed to." 

Richie groaned, leaning dramatically against the wall. "But what if it doesn't? What if I really do miss it, and then it's gone, and then it all falls apart and--" 

"Calm down, breathe," Ben said, mocking Richie, making Richie grin and throw the shirt at him. Ben laughed, placing it beside him gently and smoothing it out, a soft look on his face. "Seriously though. I promise, if it didn't happen, it wasn't the right moment." 

"Alright. If my love life falls apart, I'm blaming it on you." Richie said simply, returning to his task at hand. 

"And if my date ends horribly, I'm blaming you." 

Richie laughed. 

"That's fair." 

 

He ended up just picking out some nice, dark jeans to go with his button up. 

Ben started fretting about his hair and what he should do, which just made Richie laugh. He begged Ben not to do anything to his hair, he'd look like such a dork. Then Ben had a whole different meltdown about the shoes, which Richie picked out brown sneakers. Reminding him, for the millionth time, that it was casual. 

At some point he somehow got Ben to calm down, which was some act of God. 

Richie hung around for awhile. They just hung out and read comics together with some music in the background. He listened to Ben talk about Bev, and god that boy was hopelessly in love. 

But the entire time Ben was speaking so tenderly and lovingly about Bev, all Richie could think about was Eddie. So. Maybe he was hopelessly in love too. 

When it got dark, Ben's parents offered to give Richie a ride. 

He was staring out the window, waiting to give them directions on which road to turn on, when he saw Eddie's house. On complete impulse, he told them to stop there. He thanked them for the ride and ran over there. 

Then he stopped at the door, suddenly feeling really stupid. 

But he didn't want to miss any more right moments. So he knocked. 

He heard Eddie's mom shout about someone at the door, and Eddie shouting that he'd get it. He was closer, must've been studying or something at the diner table. Eddie opened the door, his eyes lighting up when he saw Richie. "Richie." he said, surprised, quickly stepping outside with him and shutting the door behind him. "What're you doing here?" 

Richie stared at him, staring deeply into Eddie's confused eyes. God, they were so pretty. Everything about Eddie's features was so soft and delicate looking. His skin was so perfect, and that face--all freckles and red cheeks. 

His eyes were so expressionate, so deep. His lashes were just way too pretty for a boy and Richie wasn't sure if he wanted to complain about how unfair that was or thank God for it. 

And his lips... 

"Richie?" Eddie repeated, softer. 

Richie was nervous. He was too nervous. Uncomfortably nervous. Eddie was too much for him to face in that moment, like he was some sort of higher existence.

Richie was hyper aware of how clumsy and human he felt standing before him. 

It's not the right moment then. 

Richie just smiled. "Just wanted to say goodnight, Eds." 

Eddie nodded a little, still looking completely dumbfounded. "Okay." he muttered. 

"Goodnight." he said, resting a hand on Eddie's cheek, leaning forward and kissing the top of Eddie's head. "I'll see you tomorrow," he said against Eddie's hair. 

He pulled away, leaving Eddie looking absolutely struck. He looked so beautifully human now. 

Richie's heart twisted.

"Richie," Eddie breathed after a moment, about to take a step forward. 

"Eddie, who is it?" 

They both sighed when they heard his mom. Eddie shut his eyes, looking frustrated. "Just give me a second!" he shouted back, then looked at Richie apologetically. "I guess I have to go." 

"Go on, scram. Before she comes out here, please.

Eddie laughed. "Okay, okay. Goodnight, Rich." 

Richie just gave him a wink, watching him disappear back inside.

Richie let out a long sigh, but he couldn't wipe that smile off his face. 

He made Eddie look human. 

Chapter Text

Eddie was pretty sure he was slowly losing his mind. 

After that with Richie... 

That night, he just went right to bed after Richie left. It was 8:30. And he had a lot of homework. But he knew that he had completely checked out for the day so he just didn't even try to fight it. 

When he woke up the next morning, he was pretty much in the same state, just with more energy.

The first thing he did when he woke up was smile.

Last night was magical. He had been missing Richie as it was, and then he just... showed up. On his door step to tell him goodnight and kiss his head. It really did sound like something right out of his daydreams. Maybe he was losing his mind. 

But if he was, he was enjoying it. 

It was way warmer that morning. Spring was definitely over with now; no more chilly mornings, no cuddling for warmth, no more blankets. It made Eddie kind of sad, but at least he had summer nights to look forward to. 

When he crawled into the truck that morning and settled in next to Richie (rather, right up against him), Richie grinned, looking so smug. "Morning." 

Eddie blushed. "Morning." 

Richie just kept looking at him and it was making Eddie freak out a little bit. It seemed that any trace of subtlety--as poorly executed as it was before--in this little game of theirs was gone, and Eddie was not going to be able to handle that. 

Richie was confident. That was terrifying. 

Eddie was doomed. 

And knowing that, Eddie was so excited he could barely hold back from just beaming. Eddie's eyes wandered to Bev, who was sitting there, smiling down at her shoes, looking particularly daydreamy today. 

"Bev?" he asked. "You good?" 

"I'm really good." she said with a nod. But she didn't offer any further explanation. 

Eddie was just going to let it go when Richie leaned over, pressing his lips against Eddie's ear. "It's low profile, but her and Benny had a date last night." he whispered. 

Eddie didn't even realize what he had said at first, he thought he was going to vomit up his heart when he felt Richie speak against his skin like that. When it finally did register, he gasped loudly, making Bev and Bill look at him. Richie gave him a warning look and Eddie just laughed awkwardly. "Sorry, I just realized I forgot to finish my homework last night." 

Oh wait fuck, he thought to himself when he realized that was actually true. 

Today was off to a rocky start. 

 

When they got to school, Bill called everyone's attention before they could leave the parking lot. 

"Everyone! Mike and I have made a plan." 

Mike beamed, crossing his arms over his chest. "Can I say it?" 

Bill just laughed and nodded. "Sure." 

Mike smiled excitedly. "Okay, ready for this?" he paused until Richie yelled at him to just say it already. "Road trip!" 

Stan just rose an eyebrow. "Road trip? Where? And when?" 

"This weekend." Bill said. "And down to the beach. It's really only three hours away, but Mike and I have been planning this for awhile and we got a little rental house near there for the w-weekend. We thought it might be cool to have a t-trip together." 

"You rented a vacation house?" Eddie asked in shock. "How?" 

"I did a lot of extra work." Mike said. 

"And I helped my d-dad out with some stuff." Bill paused. "... And the place is a total dump. But it's by the beach, so who cares!"

Bev beamed. "This sounds amazing! I'm totally on board." 

"Me too." Ben said immediately after her. 

Stan shrugged. "I guess. What're we gonna drive?" 

Mike looked so personally offended. "Um." he said forcefully, motioning to the truck. "What else?" 

"We're going to go on a road trip in this?" Stan asked. "So, we're going to break down?" 

Mike gasped. "She is road worthy. And she's reliable, we'll be fine." 

Stan rolled his eyes. "Alright fine. I'm in." 

Richie nodded. "Yeah, this sounds like it'll be a disaster. I can't wait." 

Everyone looked at Eddie, who shrugged, feeling his stomach twist uncomfortably. "I want to. But I'll have to ask my mom, and we all know how she is. I'll try though, I promise. I'll let you guys know." 

Bill nodded, smiling excitedly. "Good! Great, okay. Well, once we have Eddie's answer, we'll start planning when we're going to l-leave." 

Everyone scattered to head to class. Richie slung his arm around Eddie as they walked to his locker. "If you can't go, I'll stay here with you." 

Eddie shook his head. "No you won't." he said firmly, working on the combination of his locker. "You're not gonna stay stuck here with me. You're gonna go with them and you're going to have fun or I'm going to kick your ass." 

"C'mon Eds, you're already talking like you won't be able to go-" 

"Of course I won't." Eddie said sharply, a little more venomous than he intended to; he couldn't help it though. It really did upset him--not Richie of course, just that he knew his mom would say no. "Have you met my mother?" 

Richie softened a bit. "Well yeah, but you're 18 now, maybe she'll lighten up." 

Eddie shut his locker and shook his head. "You know that's not true. As long as I live with her, everything's going to be the same as it always is." 

"Well you're still going to try, aren't you? You never know." 

"Of course I'm going to try, Richie." Eddie snapped. "I told Bill and Mike I would. They're so excited." 

Richie put his arm around Eddie again as they were walking to his class but it was different from when he lazily draped his arm over him all the time. It was like a little hug; he was holding him in close as they walked. It sort of off-put their rhythm, but neither of them minded, they just walked to Eddie's class a bit disjointed. 

When they reached his class, Richie released him, pushing some of his hair back. "Don't get yourself down about it, Eds. Not yet." he said, pinching his cheek. 

Eddie groaned as he smacked Richie's hand away, but he was fighting a smile. 

Richie didn't even have to really do anything and he still cheered Eddie up. 

 

Eddie had thought that would be the only big announcement of the day, but he was definitely wrong. 

At lunch, everyone slowly made their way to their table. Richie was last, as always. And the moment he sat down, Bev sprang up. "I have news!" she shouted excitedly, and when Ben laughed, she corrected herself: "We have news." 

Everyone knew what was coming, but the moment Bev excitedly exclaimed that her and Ben were dating, everyone still cheered. 

Richie sprang across the table and shook Ben's shoulder violently. "Yes, finally!" he shouted. "I'm so proud of you!" 

Hugs went all around the table, and Eddie just squeezed Bev with everything he had. He was so happy for them, they'd been going on like this forever. And the way she was glowing really did captivate Eddie's heart--she was so happy, and she really deserved it. 

And so did Ben, who looked so happy he looked like he was floating. 

"We must celebrate!" Richie declared, standing on the table. 

Eddie blushed and lowered his head as half the lunch room turned to stare at them. "Richie, oh my god." he muttered. 

Everyone else had a similar reaction except Bev, who excitedly stood on the table with him. "Yes! What should we do!?" 

"Let's go somewhere nostalgic... Where's somewhere we haven't been in awhile?" Richie wondered aloud. And all Eddie could think was why did he have to wonder aloud on the damn table? 

"Quarry?" Mike offered. "I don't think we've been since last summer, right?" 

"Perfect!" Bev and Richie shouted in perfect unison, getting even more attention. 

Eddie just looked away like he didn't know them. When he looked away, he spotted that girl who had asked about Richie--specifically, she had asked if he was single. And she was sitting two tables over, staring at Richie with a grin on her face, and a certain look in her eyes. 

Eddie turned suddenly and punched Richie in the leg. "Sit down!" 

Richie rolled his eyes and hopped down, sitting beside him. "Jesus Eds, such a party pooper--Are you okay?" he asked; Eddie must've been making a face. He sort of panicked. He didn't know why. 

"I'm fine, you're just really embarrassing, everyone was looking at you." Eddie stammered. 

"So what?" Richie teased, nudging him. "Do I embarrass you, Eds?" 

"Yes. All the time." 

Richie slung his arm around Eddie's neck, pulling him into a headlock. "So, so mean!" he said, just holding Eddie in a headlock. Which actually, he was completely okay with. It oddly put him at ease; it was an odd form of it, but so long as he had Richie's attention, that was enough for him. 

Eddie did feel his stomach twist uncomfortably though, thinking about her. And maybe it wasn't so much that he was worried about Richie with her, considering Richie had just announced he was gay not too long ago, but she still made him so uncomfortable. 

It made him so jealous to think that anyone else thought about Richie like he did. 

"Are you alive down there?" Richie asked, releasing him. "I expected you to fight, not just go silent on me." he softened a little. "Are you seriously okay, Eds?" he asked, lowering his voice. 

"Yes, I'm fine." Eddie said adamantly. Then he rested his head on Richie's shoulder, breathing him in, finding peace in his warmth. "Just fine."

Richie didn't say anything, just rested his hand on Eddie's thigh under the table. 

Oh yeah, definitely fine. 

 

After school, everyone was buzzing.

The road trip plan had been announced, Ben and Bev were dating, and now they were making quick trips by everyone's houses to get clothes to swim in. When it was Eddie's turn, he ran to his room and got his clothes. He quickly changed into his swimming shorts and pulled on an extra shirt. He was rushing, because he had another stop to make. 

He knew damn well these idiots weren't going to remember anything important. So he filled his backpack with sunscreen, little first aid things like disinfectant and band-aids, and towels. 

When he came back out, Richie winced. "Oh god, he brought his backpack." he poked it. "And it's full." 

Eddie yanked it away from him. "Yeah, well if you don't use sunscreen, you're gonna get skin cancer. So, shut up." 

Richie just rolled his eyes with a grin. "Oh god, let's get out of here before he remembers something else." 

Richie was so ungrateful. 

 

So was everyone else. 

Literally all of them whined and carried on as Eddie forced them all to put sunscreen on. Did they want skin cancer? "Yeah, yeah, bitch all you want," Eddie said with a roll of his eyes as they started walking up to the drop off. 

Richie grinned, taking Eddie's backpack and carrying it for him. "You're so sweet, Eds. Thinking about everybody." 

Eddie blushed a little and rolled his eyes. "Shut up." Eddie watched Bev and Ben walking ahead of them, holding hands and laughing and talking amongst themselves. He smiled. "They look really happy." 

"And now they won't get skin cancer in their life of happiness." Richie added, looking absolutely thrilled with himself when Eddie flipped him off. 

Everyone had been super excited and ready as they walked, until of course, they reached the actual top. Eddie looked over the edge, only getting close enough to do that. "Was it always this high?" he squeaked. 

"Y-Yes." Bill said. "W-We just f-forgot, I think. Since it's been so l-long." 

He was trying to sound confident, but that was the worst Eddie's heard him stutter in a long time. Richie nudged Bev. "Well go on, be the brave one." 

Bev laughed. "Why does it always have to be me? You do it!" 

Richie put his hands up. "No way, Marsh." he stepped back until he was at Eddie's side. "I've got to jump with Spaghetti, he's scared." 

Eddie elbowed Richie's side. "Shut up, don't use me as an excuse!" 

Stan pointed to Bill. "You're the leader, you go." 

"I am not the l-leader." Bill said adamantly. "I nominate M-Mike. He's the new l-leader, he's the one who d-drives us around." 

"That's a good point." Richie said, nodding at Mike. "You're basically the leader now, you lead us in the truck all the time. Go first." 

Mike sputtered. "Does it look like I'm in a truck right now?" 

"Oh my god!" Bev shouted. "Fine! I'll go. You guys really are wussies, ya know that?" 

Ben took her hand. "We can go together?" he offered. 

Bev's eyes sparkled; she was so in love. She stuck her tongue out at everyone else. "Losers!" she shouted, and then her and Ben jumped right off the edge. 

Eddie just watched them. "Oh, they're dead now." 

"Yep, that's it. Young love is tragic. Let's go home." Richie said. 

Eddie laughed, and a few seconds later Ben and Bev were shouting from below, telling everyone to get in. 

"I guess they survived." Stan said after a moment. "So who's next?" 

Bill was standing right at the edge, looking like he was trying to hype himself up when Mike ran up and shoved him off. He screamed the entire way down and Mike laughed into his hands. "He's going to kill me for that." 

Richie laughed. "Yeah he is!" 

Mike just laughed when they heard Bill start yelling from the bottom. "Guess that's my cue..." he said, jumping next. 

Stan looked at Richie and Eddie expectantly. Richie just put his arm around Eddie. "You know you don't want to be stuck up here with us, Stanley." 

"You're definitely right." Stan said, and just like that, he went next. 

Eddie knitted his eyebrows together. "I'm concerned about how well that worked. I think we're his least favorite." 

"Oh no doubt." Richie said. "Well, I guess we should go." 

"I guess." Eddie said, his heart racing. They'd done this a million times, but that first jump of the summer was always the scariest. 

Eddie glanced over, eyes widening as he watched Richie pull his shirt off. It wasn't anything new, Eddie had seen him shirtless a million times, but the older he got, the more difficult it was to look at Richie without completely shutting down. He wasn't sure if Richie was getting hotter or if Eddie was just getting more attracted to him, but it was definitely getting more and more difficult. 

Richie tossed his shirt aside. "Well come on, undress, let's jump." 

"I am not undressing." he said simply. "You can swim with your shirt on." 

"Well yeah, you can, if you're a dork." 

Eddie blushed. "The less skin exposed to the sun, the better." Which of course was a lie, he was just super self conscious, especially around Richie. Richie was thin, but it looked really good on him. He was tall and carried himself well. Eddie was skinny and weird. 

Richie just eyed him suspiciously. "Eddie Kaspbrak, are you being self conscious?" 

Eddie sputtered in shock, blushing deeper. "No!" 

"Good." Richie said sternly. "Because you have absolutely no reason to be. And I will be upset if you think otherwise." he said sternly, already looking upset. 

"Fine." Eddie grumbled under his breath, pulling his shirt over his head. 

When he pulled it off, Richie was right there, way closer than he was before. His heart stopped as he just stared at Richie, not even able to ask why.

"I had a great plan." Richie said, suddenly turning around and kneeling in front of him. "Get on." 

Eddie needed a moment to recover from that, taking a deep breath. "Richie, this is like the worst plan ever." 

"Nonsense, it'll be fine. Then you technically don't have to jump. Now hurry up, the rock is hurting my knee." he whined. 

Eddie laughed and rolled his eyes, crawling on his back, wrapping his arms around his shoulders. He gently took Richie's glasses off his face and held onto them, keeping them safe. Richie never thought about them when they went swimming and had lost them more than a few times. 

"Thank you, Spaghetti." he said, oddly sweetly, standing up. 

Eddie had expected him to wobble or something but he barely even seemed to notice Eddie's weight, which made him blush a little bit. Yeah Richie had gotten stronger as he got older, but how much stronger? 

Richie stood at the edge, prompting the Losers to cheer. Except Stan and Bev, who told them to fucking hurry up already.

"You think we're gonna die?" Richie asked. 

"Probably." Eddie said with a nod. 

"Hold onto me tighter, it might help your chances." 

Eddie laughed a bit as he held on tighter, nuzzling his face against the back of Richie's neck. "Okay go." 

And maybe Eddie imagined it, but he was pretty sure Richie shivered. 

He didn't have much time to think about it though because Richie jumped.  

And amazingly, they hit the water alive. Eddie didn't even have a chance to let go of Richie before he came up, both of them gasping. Richie shook out his hair like a dog, making Eddie lightly punch his head. "Richie!" 

Richie laughed. "Hey check that out, we lived." 

"Took ya long enough," Bev said, splashing them. 

"Are you trying to start a fight with me, Marsh?" Richie taunted, and Eddie quickly got off of him because he knew this would escalate into something he didn't want to be a part of. 

Eddie swam over to the nearest bit of land to set Richie's glasses down as heard Bev and Richie start shouting and loud splashes of water following. He just grinned and rolled his eyes. 

Mike swam up next to him, scaring the shit out of him. "Mike, Jesus!" 

Mike laughed. "Sorry about that." he watched Eddie set Richie's glasses aside and he grinned. "It seems you look after his glasses more than he does." 

Eddie blushed. "Yeah, well, he's stupid so. He can't really help it." 

"How are things with you two?" Mike asked, glancing over. 

Eddie followed his gaze to where Bev was trying (and succeeding) to drown Richie. Eddie giggled, his heart warming a bit. "They're... I dunno." he said after a moment. "Something's definitely happening. I'm just not really sure yet." 

Mike grinned over at him. "Well from an outsider perspective, it looks like you guys are totally in love with each other." 

"Mike!" Eddie gasped. 

Mike shrugged. "Stan and I were talking about it the other day actually--" 

"You guys were talking about it!?" Eddie blushed. "Oh my god, why did I tell you two?" 

Mike just shrugged. "Good question. You probably would've been much wiser to tell Ben, he's the love expert." 

Eddie rolled his eyes. "Yeah, and then Bev would know. And then soon all of you losers would know." 

Mike nudged him lightly. "Is it really a secret, though?" he asked, raising his eyebrows as he began swimming back.  "Just saying!" 

Eddie just blushed deeply, glaring at him as he went. He didn't have anything to say to that though. It most definitely wasn't a secret anymore, was it? 

Speak of the damn devil himself, Richie came swimming over to him. "I need you to help me fight!" he gasped--he had just been drowned by Bev, it was understandable. "Come on!" he said, grabbing Eddie's arm and dragging him. 

"I'm not helping you fight!" Eddie protested, but Richie did not care because he just kept pulling him along. 

"Oh yes you are! Ben's helping Bev fight!" he said as they reached the others, then he disappeared under the water without another word. 

Eddie rolled his eyes. "Ben is not helping-" he glanced over to where Bev was sitting on Ben's shoulders. Before Eddie could really think about it, Richie came up under him, forcing him to sit on his shoulders. 

Eddie screamed, grabbing Richie's head. "What is wrong with you!?" 

Richie laughed. "You would've said no if I had warned you first, duh." 

Bev grinned deviously at Eddie. "Take me on, coward!" 

"What!? Why do I automatically get caught up in Richie's battles!?" Eddie yelped as Richie swam forward; Eddie was pretty sure Richie should've died from how tightly Eddie was holding his head, but he didn't seem to care. 

"Because you guys are Richie and Eddie." Stan shouted. 

Bill nodded. "It's like... Apples and oranges. Or dogs and cats." 

Bev laughed. "No, those are horrible examples Bill!" 

Ben laughed from under her. "She's right. It's more like... Fire and gasoline. Or a rose and thorns." Ben smiled with a certain look on his face, like he knew exactly what he was doing. "You guys just go together, and are totally unstoppable." 

Eddie's face had gone bright red by now, and he was utterly shocked. Not just because Ben just said something like that, but everyone nodded in agreement like it was just common knowledge. At least Richie seemed pretty blown away too. 

Bev smacked Ben's head playfully. "Unstoppable? Really? We're about to challenge them!" 

Ben smiled at her lovingly. "You're unstoppable all on your own, you'll be fine." 

Bev just looked so touched, like she might cry. Then she channeled it all into determination and pointed at Eddie. "Let's fight!" 

Richie finally spoke after all that. "Get her, Eds!" he shouted, but he sounded a bit shaken up. Like how Eddie felt. 

Bev was so stupidly good at this game; she was aggressive, it helped. But they were both laughing like idiots. And Bev was totally about to win when Richie let go of one of Eddie's legs to tickle Ben's side, taking him and Bev down. 

Eddie laughed. "Richie, that was cheating!" he exclaimed as he slid off his shoulders. "When she gets back up her, she's gonna kick your ass!" 

Richie was laughing too. But then he just pushed Eddie's wet hair out of his face and smiled at him so lovingly. "I'm the thorns, I had to do something.

Eddie was utterly smitten, his smile fell and he had literally no words, but he didn't have to think of any because Bev came up and jumped on Richie, pushing him under the water. 

Eddie's heart was on the verge of beating out of his chest. He was touched, and so stupidly, dizzily in love. He could barely form a coherent thought. Well, maybe just one that made his cheeks flush and his heart twist. 

He thinks I'm the rose? 

 

Somehow, Eddie managed to go on after that. 

Everyone alternated at playing Chicken, all laughing and 'fighting' and falling. They eventually split up Eddie and Richie because Richie was a filthy cheater. They even went against each other at one point. Eddie had heard Bev mutter about how Richie was going to let Eddie win. 

Which was not true. Richie pushed him off like three seconds after the fight started. 

So Eddie took a page out of Bev's book and drowned him after that. 

Then they spent awhile just swimming around and whatever else until they were all exhausted. They were just laying on the rocks, trying to let the sun dry them a bit before walking back to the top--cause everyone was stupid and all left their clothes up there. 

Eddie brought towels, but he was also stupid, and left his backpack at the top so. So much for that. 

Richie was laying on his stomach, and Eddie was starting to think he was napping. Amused, Eddie took one of Richie's wet curls in his fingers and played with it absently. He was such a dickhead but he really was adorable sometimes. 

Eddie smiled a bit when he thought of Richie calling himself the thorns. He supposed it made sense. Thorns were supposed to protect the rose and Richie definitely did that, despite Eddie's many complaints about it. 

Richie was also way stronger, in more ways than one. Physically, yes. But he also didn't care what people thought about him at all, even if he knew damn well they didn't like him. He wore whatever he wanted, he said whatever he wanted, he acted first and asked questions later. He wasn't scared of standing on a lunch table and shouting, even if people thought he was an idiot. 

And he was, because he also lived so loudly and boldly and still didn't seem to notice that some people were watching him and falling for him. Like Eddie. 

Eddie grimaced. And her. 

Richie opened his eyes and glanced at Eddie. "You're pulling my hair." 

"Oh sorry," Eddie said, letting him go, blushing. He didn't even realize. 

Richie narrowed his eyes. "What's going on with you today?" he asked. 

"Nothing." Eddie said, shaking his head. "Nothing important." 

Richie sat up, prompting Eddie to do the same. "Come on, Eds. Talk to me. What's wrong?"

Eddie blushed. "I can't. It's not... Just. It's stupid." 

"Well?" Richie pressed. "Come on, just do it. I won't laugh at you." 

Eddie scoffed. "Oh yes you will." 

Richie pouted a bit. "Eddie, I won't. I promise." 

"Richie," he whined. "Please, just trust me, it's stupid. I'll tell you later, okay?" 

"How much later?" 

Eddie bit his tongue. "... I don't know." he admitted. "That's sort of up to you." he said, trying to be bold. But he immediately wished he hadn't said it, because now he was uncomfortably warm and couldn't sit still. 

Richie looked so shocked, like a deer in headlights. "Wait, you mean like... When we-" 

Mike came jogging up with all their stuff--Eddie hadn't even noticed Mike had left. "Here, guys!" 

Richie just glared at Mike as Mike handed him his shirt, and then Eddie his shirt and backpack. Richie looked at Eddie. "Can you believe this shit?" he whispered. "This is what, the third time?" 

Eddie busted up laughing, making everyone look at him. Eddie put a hand over his mouth, leaning his head against Richie's shoulder to hide his face. "We have too many friends," Eddie whispered through laughs. 

Richie laughed, putting a hand over his own mouth to try and muffle it as well. 

Everyone was just staring at them, but no one seemed surprised at this point. 

Of course not. Eddie and Richie 'went together', after all. 

They were Eddie and Richie. 

 

Richie leaned over the edge of the truck as Eddie hopped out. "See ya tomorrow, Spaghetti." Eddie smirked and pinched Richie's cheek, making Richie's eyes widen. "You just stole my thing," he whispered in pretend shock--or maybe just a bit of real shock, too. 

"Annoying, isn't it?" Eddie teased. 

Richie grabbed Eddie's hand, casually bringing it to his mouth and kissing his palm. "I don't think so." he said, and there was that smug grin again. That little shit knew damn well what he was doing. 

And goddammit, it was working. 

Eddie pulled his hand away, blushing deeply. "Shut up." he said, turning and rushing to his house, waving to everyone as he went. 

Eddie spared a glance over his shoulder before going inside, and of course, Richie winked. 

Honestly, he was such a dickhead. 

It made Eddie smile. 

Chapter Text

Richie felt like he was going to die. 

And maybe that was dramatic, but Richie was dramatic. 

Eddie had promised he'd try to get his mom to let him go, and he definitely did not go easy on that promise. He had been spending everyday for the rest of the week with her, and then planned to ask her on Friday if he could go, after he sweetened her up of course. Which meant Eddie hadn't been hanging out with the Losers after school at all, much less any alone time with Richie. 

Eddie called him once or twice when he could find the time though to keep him updated. He had sat and watched her show with her, they made dinner together, went shopping, ran errands. Eddie even faked being sick one day so she could dote on him all day--Eddie was scarily good at playing Sonia's twisted idea of the "perfect son"--sick, sweet, needy. A patient. 

Though Richie had a feeling Eddie could probably play any one of them like this with the slightest of ease; pull all the right strings to get what he wanted. 

Of course, he wouldn't do that, but Richie knew he could. Eddie paid far more attention to every little thing about everybody than Richie's mind could ever even dream about doing. Richie would bet his life that if he asked Eddie, Eddie could tell Richie quite a few things about himself that he didn't even know. 

It made Richie muse the thought of Eddie expertly pulling all off Richie's strings, getting whatever he wanted... 

Look, Richie hadn't seen Eddie a lot recently, which meant Eddie was on his mind even more than usual. It was just unrealistic to not think that at least half of those thoughts were naughty. Richie was only human. 

All the other Losers still hung out everyday after school and Richie had fun of course, these were his best friends, but he was always hyper aware of how off the group felt. Richie could tell the others felt the same way. When one of them was missing, everyone could just feel their absence the entire time. 

He just really missed Eddie. 

But he managed to get through the rest of the week. When Friday morning came, he was ready. Whether that was to console or congratulate Eddie was irrelevant. He was just ready to do whatever Eddie needed of him. He always was. 

Eddie hadn't ridden with them that morning; the last part of his little plan, getting a ride from his mom. He made up some bullshit about Mike's truck being fixed up so she would not only think that the truck was going to be in good condition (because let's face it, it wasn't) but also playing the 'I need you' card that she loved so much. 

So Richie just stood around by Eddie's locker, waiting. 

He was absently spinning the combination, opening Eddie's locker, and then closing it again over and over when Eddie walked up. 

"Richie!" he groaned, shoving his hands away from his locker. "I knew it, you get into my locker when I'm not around!" 

Richie's heart jumped excitedly for no reason in particular; just Eddie. 

"Not all the time." Richie said with a grin. "Just when I want to slightly move things around to bother you." 

Eddie shook his head with a grin. "Shut up." he paused. "Seriously, if you start doing that, I'm going to request a new locker." 

"I would never." He was going to. 

Richie stood there, watching Eddie get his books, waiting for him to speak. When Richie was pretty sure he wasn't going to he could only assume the worst. Richie sighed softly, dotingly resting a hand on Eddie's head. "So what are you and I doing this weekend, Kaspbrak?" he asked softly. 

Eddie pushed his hand away, that little dejected look on his face. It made Richie's heart break. Honestly, he should go give Sonia a piece of his mind--

"We're going on the trip." 

Richie froze for a moment, trying to make sure he had heard that right. But Eddie was trying to hide a smile that was growing by the second. Richie gasped, throwing his arms around him. "You little brat! I believed your little act!" he pulled away, grabbing Eddie's shoulders. "She really said you could go!?" 

Eddie laughed and nodded excitedly. "She did! I couldn't believe it. I have to call her like a thousands times, but it's totally worth it." 

"Totally worth it!" Richie agreed excitedly, grabbing Eddie's hand and pulling him along. "We need to share the good news!" 

 

By lunch, all the Losers knew. 

Everyone was so excited and hugged the life out of him like he had just won the lottery or something. Though with how Sonia is, Richie supposed statistically speaking, this was probably about the same. 

Bill came absolutely unhinged, talking a mile a minute and smiling and hugging. He really had wanted this to be a trip for all of them, Richie was glad that it got to be that way. 

They made plans to leave early on Saturday. Grossly early, like five in the morning. 

Stan was still very concerned about Mike's truck. Not just its ability to get them there, but hold all of them. Mike assured them that there was three seats in the front, and three in the little back seat, but it'd be more than enough room to fit another one of them in there. They decided they probably shouldn't ride in the bed of the truck for three hours on actual roads and highways, they'd probably get in trouble. 

So they spent all of lunch talking about the trip, and everyone decided they'd just go home tonight instead of hanging out, so that everyone could get their stuff ready and get some sleep.  

Richie had really wanted some time with Eddie, but Eddie insisted he should probably go home too, to appease his mother. He didn't want to risk her changing her mind. 

Which Richie understood, but he was dying. 

When they pulled up to Eddie's house after school, Richie pouted as he watched Eddie grab his backpack, getting ready to climb out. "See ya tomorrow morning Spaghetti." he grumbled. 

Eddie rolled his eyes, pausing before getting out. "Would you quit pouting? Just one more day of sucking up to my mom, and then we get a whole weekend together."

Richie sighed dramatically. "I know. Go on then, I'm still gonna pout until tomorrow, though." 

Eddie groaned, leaning forward and pressing a kiss to Richie's cheek. But it wasn't like last time. It was longer. Long enough for Richie to really register the sensation of Eddie's lips on his skin, leaving Richie breathless. 

And Eddie didn't run away either. Just blushed, stared at Richie for a moment, then muttered. "Shut up now, will you?" 

Richie's face was hopelessly red. He was pretty sure his glasses were starting to fog up actually. He just nodded. 

Eddie hopped out, waving to everyone and disappearing inside. 

Richie might've just sat there, dizzy and dazed, if Bill hadn't started talking. 

"W-What was that?! Are you guys dating!?" he asked, looking so shocked. 

"No they're not, but they will sooner or later." Bev said ever so casually. 

"Bev!" Richie shouted, blushing deeper. "What is wrong with you!?" 

Bev threw her arms up. "Everyone knows already anyway!" 

"No they do not!" 

"Yes we do." Mike and Stan said in perfect unison from the cab. 

"And I can speak on Ben's behalf," Bev said, since Ben had already been dropped off, "he also does. It's obvious, sweetheart." 

Bill sputtered in shock, looking around. "I had no idea!" 

Richie crossed his arms, trying not to look as hopelessly, painfully embarrassed as he actually was. "See? Bill didn't know. Look what you did." 

"You're right though, it's so obvious..." Bill muttered after a moment. "I guess I just didn't think anything of it because you guys are always like that..." 

"That's because they've always been in love." Bev said, as if Richie wasn't right there. 

"Okay, that's enough!" Richie shouted. "Stop talking about us. Especially while I'm right here, please." but even with all his bitching, his chest did stir a bit when Bev said that. Have we always been in love? Are we both so blind? 

Thankfully, the conversation fell off, and Mike finally started driving Richie home. 

Fine. So the Losers knew. It's not like they'd been really trying to hide it lately. Richie wasn't worried about them saying anything so direct to Eddie though. He knew that they wouldn't do that. They knew him well enough to know that he wasn't like Richie, and that would make him freak out. 

When Richie got home, he just focused on getting packed for the weekend. 

Then he just laid in bed, zoning out. He smiled to himself, finally having a moment of calm to think about the kiss. Eddie was so much more confident this time. Richie's cheeks burned. It really was only a matter of time, wasn't it? 

Richie didn't pout. 

 

Richie hated getting up at 4:30 in the morning. 

He hated showering at 4:35 in the morning, and he hated being dressed by 4:50. 

The only thing that gave him any sort of energy was the thought of seeing Eddie, and then having an entire weekend away with the Losers. When they pulled up to Eddie's, Richie hopped out to help him with his stuff. He had a duffel bag, which was normal, but then he had his backpack which Richie didn't doubt was full of emergency items. 

Richie took his bag and threw it over his shoulder. "Ready for a three hour drive, stuck sitting next to me?" he asked with a grin. 

Eddie rolled his eyes. "You're going to sleep the entire time. You never stay awake in cars for long." 

"You know me so well." 

Once they got Ben, they all got out of the bed of the truck so Mike could put a cover over it and tie it down so everyone's stuff would be fine on the drive. Then he opened the door to the cab and motioned to the backseat. "There it is." 

It was the saddest excuse for a backseat Richie had ever seen. It was so small, Richie wasn't actually sure if his legs would fit. If he was lucky, they might just uncomfortably press into the seat in front of him.

"Mike, how the hell do you expect to get seven people in this?" Richie asked. 

"Three in the back, four in the front." he said as if it was no big deal. 

"I call being someone in the front!" Bev said, raising her hand. 

"Hold on, hold on," Bill said. "We've already p-picked who's sitting where. Ben's the best with the map so he's in the front, obviously Mike, me so I can help d-drive half of the way, and then Beverley. Because. Well, her b-boyfriend's in the front." 

Richie gasped. "That is favoritism!

"Cool it, you get to sit next to Eddie." Mike said casually, making both Richie and Eddie blush and shift awkwardly. "Plus, Eddie and Stan are the smallest, so they're in the back." 

"I'm the tallest!" Richie shouted, throwing his hands up. 

"Well yeah, b-but we can't separate you and Eddie!" Bill said, throwing his hands up too. "You'll c-complain about that the entire ride!" 

Richie blushed, slowly sinking his hands into his pockets. "Fine." he couldn't exactly argue that. 

Eddie was blushing but he laughed and nudged him. "Favoritism." 

Richie grinned over at him. "Shut up Spaghetti." he said softly. 

They all filed in; Richie on the right, Stan on the left, and Eddie in the middle. Richie was already uncomfortable, his legs were definitely too long for this. Once everyone was settled, Mike smiled back at them excitedly. "Are we ready!?" 

Everyone cheered, even Richie, despite the amount of complaining he'd done and most definitely would do. 

He spent the first twenty minutes trying to find a comfortable position. He tried raising his knees up against Mike's seat, he tried sitting criss cross, he tried hugging his knees against his chest--he just could not function like this.

Finally, Eddie groaned loudly. "Richie. Find a spot, oh my god." 

"I am trying, Eds." Richie grumbled. "You don't understand the struggles." 

"Are you calling me short?" Eddie asked pointedly. 

"Yes." Richie said without missing a beat. "If you weren't short then you'd understand why I'm being so annoying." 

"No one could understand why you're this annoying." Eddie mumbled. 

Stan scooted slightly farther away from them. 

Richie was considering cutting his legs off when Eddie suddenly scooted farther away from him too, right next to Stan. It made Richie feel worse than he cared to admit, a spike of jealousy and discomfort twisting in his stomach. 

Until Eddie just grabbed Richie's arm. "C'mon. Lay down." 

Richie looked confused. "Eds, I appreciate the effort, but the extra three inches you made by scooting over is not enough for me to lay down." 

Eddie looked so annoyed, glaring aside, blushing. "I meant lay your stupid head on my lap, duh." 

Richie's eyes widened a bit, blushing slightly. "Oh." he muttered--quite the intelligent response. He wasn't about to pass this up either though. It took him a minute to maneuver himself, but he somehow managed to lay his head on Eddie's lap, legs pulled up. 

He sighed in relief. "Oh my gosh I thought I had forgotten what comfort was," he muttered. "You're a life saver, Eds." 

Eddie laughed and rolled his eyes. "It's been twenty minutes you drama queen." 

Richie just shut his eyes. "Worst twenty minutes of my entire life," he said as dramatically as he possibly could. 

Shortly after, Mike and the others put on music now that they didn't have the ever so lovely sound of Richie and Eddie bickering. Richie laid there, smiling to himself. He could hear Ben and Bev whispering to each other. He couldn't hear what they were saying, but he could hear how softly they passed words to each other, and he could definitely hear the smile in their voices. 

Mike and Bill had started singing. It was sappy but Richie preferred hearing them over the actual music; they would alternate between singing softly to themselves and loud and dramatic duets depending on the song that came on. 

Eddie and Stan were talking and laughing about one of their teachers and how often he fell asleep in class. Listening to Eddie speak and laugh was the most relaxing Richie could think of. At this point, he was sure Eddie assumed Richie was sleeping. So Richie tried not to react when Eddie gently rested a hand on Richie's head, stroking his hair softly. 

It was an absent touch; Eddie was still talking with Stan and probably wasn't thinking about it too much, but it meant everything to Richie. 

It was so comforting, the way Eddie's thumb lazily stroked Richie's hair. Occasionally he would stop moving, but at some point, he'd start up again like he remembered what he was doing. 

Richie had never fallen asleep so quickly. 

 

He awoke to the sound of the truck door closing. 

They were stopped and the truck was silent except the gentle melody of whatever song was playing on the radio; the volume was too low to place, but just enough for Richie to recognize music. 

It took him a moment to realize that he was laying on his side now. He had his arm wrapped around Eddie's waist, his nose buried in Eddie's stomach. He pulled away slowly, peering up at him. 

He was asleep now too, head resting on Stan's shoulder, who was also out cold. 

Richie took a few moments to just smile at him before looking around. Ben and Bev were also out cold, leaning against each other. Bill was awake, looking over the map, and Mike was out getting gas. 

Richie was very careful sitting up, not wanting to wake Eddie or anyone else. He folded his arms across the back of Bill's seat. "How we doin', Big Bill?" he whispered. 

"We've made it to the town," he whispered back. "Now we just need to find the residential area and our h-house."

"Shit, have I been asleep the whole three hours?" he whispered incredulously. 

"Yeah. It's okay though, everyone was asleep by the first hour. I even dozed off on M-Mike's shoulder for an hour myself."

"While he was driving?" Richie asked with a grin. 

Bill laughed softly. "It's not my f-fault he didn't wake me up, he said it wasn't difficult to drive so." he paused for a moment. "Hey Rich, d-do you really think you and Eddie will date?" 

Richie spared a glance behind him, making sure Eddie was still asleep. "I hope so." he said, barely even a whisper at all. "Why do you ask?" 

Bill just smiled a little. "I think you guys would be together f-forever. Like Ben and Bev will be," he said, nodding at them. "Our group's full of true l-love apparently."

Richie blushed deeply. "Yeah, well." he affectionately pushed Bill's face away from him. "We've been through a lot together. I think this group is as close as it could possibly be."

Bill nodded. Mike slipped back in, shutting the door as quietly as he possibly could. "Ah, one of them's awake," he said with a grin. "I thought you'd sleep the entire time. All cuddled up on Eddie's lap." he teased.

"Shut it, Mikey." Richie whispered with a blush. 

 

It took them thirty minutes without Ben's navigating expertise, but between Mikey, Bill, and Richie, they somehow found their house for the weekend. 

"It's pretty small." Richie whispered as they stared at it. From the outside, it looked like there was maybe two bedrooms, maybe three or four rooms in total. 

Bill looked worried about it, exchanging glances with Mike. "Yeah, I know, but I figured we could make it work." he chewed his lip. "Do you think it'll work?" 

Richie patted his shoulder. "Bill, if we can all fit in this damn truck, we can fit anywhere. Plus..." he pointed down the road, where off in the distance he could already see the shimmer of the sun against the ocean. "That's all anybody's gonna care about." 

Bill and Mike looked relieved, and Bill nodded. "Alright, let's get going." 

Bill gently woke up Ben, who woke up Bev even gentler. Richie looked at Eddie, sleeping soundly. It was like looking at a different side of him. Eddie usually had a knit in his eyebrows, even when he was zoning out or relaxed. His mind was always working, he was always thinking about something, and it showed on his face. 

Now though, his features were completely at ease. Richie bit his lip as he let himself soak in the image a bit longer, his heart twisting as he did so. Richie wanted to see this more; he wanted to put Eddie at ease. 

But for right now, that was definitely not the plan. 

He squished Eddie's face. "Wake up!" he shouted, effectively waking both Eddie and Stan. 

Eddie shoved Richie off of him, looking all disoriented and groggy. Cute, painfully cute. "Richie!" he groaned. 

Stan looked so annoyed, giving Richie a death glare. "Next time I catch you asleep, I'm going to pour water on you." he said, so steady and calm about it, despite the clear rage in his eyes. 

Okay, so Stan was not a morning person. Noted. 

"We're here losers," Richie said, giving Eddie's cheek a pinch for good measure. 

Everyone filed out, stretching. Richie was so relieved to finally straighten his legs out for the first time in three hours. Sure, he had gotten comfortable, but his legs were still bent then too. 

Mike seemed just as relieved. Clearly, he hadn't let Bill drive at all, which Richie totally saw coming. 

Bill really had sorted everything out ahead of time. He had the code for the lock box, which had the key inside. The moment he unlocked the door, Bev and Richie were pushing past him to be the first one inside. And no matter what Bev said, Richie totally won. 

They looked around, and it was indeed small. 

There was no wall separating the kitchen and the living room. The living room was tiny, but it had an awesome glass sliding door that they could see the ocean from. Richie understood why Bill had gotten this place now. It sort of sucked and smelled suspiciously like mildew, but it had a great view, and so close to the ocean. 

Other than that, there was a bathroom, and one bedroom. There wasn't even a couch or table--the place was not furnished. Which meant there was probably also no bed in the bedroom anyway. Though Bill had warned them of this, so everyone brought what they needed to make a bed on the floor. They'd survive. The place had electricity and running water, they didn't need much else. 

The Losers were all completely blown away by it of course. Richie couldn't understand how Mike or Bill could've been worried, they could've pulled up to a shed and the Losers would've been equally as excited. 

"Alright, first order of business," Bill announced after everyone had a chance to look around. "We need to go grocery shopping, then we'll make some b-breakfast. Though the store is pretty close, we could walk, we'd just have to carry the stuff b-back?" he suggested. 

Everyone agreed eagerly. No one wanted to be in the truck right now. 

"And after breakfast, we'll unpack the truck, okay?" 

Richie waved his hand dismissively. "Nah, I'll stay and do that." he said; he just really did not want to go walking right now. What could he say? He was tired and feeling pretty lazy. 

"I'll stay too." Eddie said, making Richie smile. He had hoped Eddie would stay with him. 

None of the Losers argued, and none of the others stayed. Which Richie wasn't stupid, he knew they were trying to give them alone time. Richie tried not to think about it. 

The moment they left, Eddie sat on the floor. "I am still so tired," he whined. "I can't believe they want to walk." 

Richie plopped down beside him. "Right? Gross." he said, laying back. "I say we get all the stuff in here as quickly as possible and then take a nap until breakfast." 

Eddie laughed. "That actually sounds amazing..." Eddie stood up and stretched, watching Richie as he slowly pushed himself up. Richie was about to ask why Eddie was looking at him like that when Eddie grinned and said: "Beat ya there." Then took off before Richie could process. 

Richie chased after him the moment his brain caught up to the situation, catching him just before he made it to the truck. He wrapped his arms around his waist and spun him around and away from the truck. "Gotcha! Too slow, Kaspbrak!" He held Eddie back, despite his struggling, and touched the truck. "Ha! I win." 

Eddie grinned when Richie released him, trying to pout, but he couldn't quite stop smiling. "You are such a cheater." 

Richie just ruffled his hair. "I told you, you can't beat me." he smirked as he began taking the cover off the back of the truck. "Because you're short.

"Watch it, Tozier." Eddie warned halfheartedly, helping Richie toss the cover aside. 

From there, Richie boosted Eddie into the truck, and Eddie handed Richie bags while Richie carried them inside. Between the two of them, it only took ten minutes or so. They probably could've done better work, like maybe put the bags somewhere other than a pile in the middle of the living room. But they were tired, they just wanted to nap. 

They decided to set up in the bedroom, considering the Losers would be coming through the living room later with groceries and probably didn't want the bags and Eddie and Richie in the way. 

Eddie pulled his bag into the bedroom. "I'll just make us one bed and we can share it." he said, making Richie blush a little. Eddie kept talking though, looking embarrassed himself. "I'm too tired to make another one, so." 

Richie wasn't complaining by any means, just stood back as Eddie made it. He kicked off his shoes and took off his glasses, setting them on the floor near Eddie's makeshift bed. When Eddie was done, Richie couldn't say he was surprised at how well done it was. This was Eddie after all. 

Richie wasn't sure if he was just exhausted or not, but it looked so comfortable. 

"You're so perfect, Eddie," Richie said, crawling into the little bed. He moaned the moment his head hit the pillow. "Oh my gosh, absolutely perfect." 

Eddie just laughed as he kicked off his shoes. "Shut up," he said fondly, crawling in beside him. 

They didn't really say anything after that. 

Not for the ten or so minutes that they laid there initially anyway. It wasn't until Richie noticed Eddie all bundled up, looking freezing, that he said something again. Richie wasn't really cold, he liked that it was early enough to be just a little chilly, but Eddie was always so damn cold. 

Richie stared at him for a moment and something strong stirred inside him. "Hey." he said softly. "C'mere." 

Nothing else needed to be said. 

Eddie didn't even hesitate. He crawled over and draped himself over Richie, nuzzling under his jaw, gripping his shirt. Richie's face was red and his heart was absolutely beating against his chest like it was trying to get out, but he wasn't awkward or stiff like he usually was when something like this would happen. He just wanted Eddie to be comfortable. 

He wanted to make Eddie comfortable. 

Richie wrapped his arms around him, and neither of them said anything. He knew Eddie could feel his heartbeat, Eddie's hand was right against his chest, and their bodies were pressed right against each other anyway. And if by some miracle he couldn't, then being nuzzled against Richie's neck meant he could definitely feel his pulse. 

But Richie just smiled a little, because he could feel Eddie's heart too, and it was beating just as hard. 

Richie laid there, gently rubbing a hand up and down Eddie's back, feeling Eddie's heart gradually calm down. He could feel Eddie's breath against his neck slowly even out. He was asleep pretty quickly. Richie liked to think it was his warmth and gentle touches that lulled Eddie into sleep so quickly.

Richie was a little jealous of how quickly he fell asleep actually, his heart hadn't calmed down in the slightest. 

But he really wasn't actually that jealous; he didn't want to miss out on this anyway. 

When Eddie had been asleep for at least fifteen minutes, Richie finally started feeling tired again. He tightened his grip around Eddie, hugging him against him. Richie was so painfully in love with him he wasn't sure how much more of this he could take. 

He wasn't sure what this meant right now. Or what it was going to mean later. It's not like they really did anything, but it felt vastly more intimate than anything they'd ever done. 

Richie couldn't help himself. 

He pressed a long kiss against Eddie's shoulder, since it was the closest thing to him. Richie might've kissed his cheek or forehead, but that was a little difficult with Eddie nuzzled up against his neck like that; Richie hyper aware of Eddie's nose resting right under his ear. He could feel him breathing. It made him shiver. 

He kept his lips against his shoulder as he spoke, barely even a whisper: "You're still asleep, right?" 

Nothing. 

Richie just nodded to himself, that's what he was hoping to hear. He shut his eyes, still speaking against his shoulder, still barely anything more than just breathing out the words. "I love you, Eds." 

The slight relief of pressure on Richie's heart was good enough. Of course this constricting feeling wouldn't go away, not yet. Not until he actually did something. But for now, it was enough for him. 

Eddie was definitely still asleep, but he mumbled in his sleep every now and then, Richie had heard him do it a million times. This was one of those times. 

"I love you too, Rich." 

Chapter Text

Richie didn't fall asleep. 

Not after that. He knew he shouldn't put any merit in it, since Eddie was dead asleep, but it still kept Richie up. I love you too, Rich. God, Richie would give anything to hear that while Eddie was awake. 

So Richie just laid there, but he honestly had no complaints. In fact, he couldn't more content. He was utterly at ease with Eddie on him, breathing against him. 

He heard the Losers come back maybe half an hour later. There was some bustling in the kitchen, and of course he could hear them talking and laughing. Richie opted for only holding Eddie's waist with one arm, using his free hand to gently cover Eddie's ear. He didn't want them to wake him earlier than necessary. Richie knew Eddie was going to need a lot of rest this weekend anyway--this was the first time his mother let him go anywhere this far away from home, and without her. 

He knew Eddie would enjoy every minute of it, Richie would make sure of that, but that wasn't going to change the fact that it would probably be a bit overwhelming. 

It wasn't until the house started to smell like food that Bev came running in, all smiles. She stopped in her tracks when she saw them. Richie blushed and just shook his head, warning her not to tease. 

She just smiled and winked, mouthing 'breakfast' before rushing off. 

Richie rolled his eyes before patting Eddie's back. "Hey Eds," he said gently. "Wakey, wakey." 

Eddie groaned, burying his face deeper in Richie's neck. "Not yet." he muttered against his skin. 

Richie was starting to wonder if he was going to die on this trip. 

As much as Richie would've loved to just continue laying there with him all day, he knew that if they didn't get moving, some of the noisier Losers (Mike) would come in soon and that was the last thing Richie could deal with right now. 

Richie just grinned, poking Eddie's cheek. "Last chance for a nice wake up." he warned. 

Richie could feel Eddie smile against his neck. "Then what?" 

"Better get up or you'll find out." When Eddie didn't move, Richie just shrugged. He warned him. Richie rolled over on top of him abruptly and started tickling his sides. 

"Okay, okay!" Eddie shouted through laughs, trying and failing to push Richie's hands away. Richie just grinned; he loved to watch him squirm. "I'm up, I'm up!" 

Richie had some mercy, releasing him. "I warned you." 

"Shut up," Eddie said, sitting up, but he was all smiles. 

They stared at each other for a moment and Richie could still hear Eddie saying he loved him; it made his throat go dry. Eddie rose an eyebrow, a confused smile on his face. "Rich? You good?" 

"Yes." Richie blurted, too fast. "Uh, yeah. I'm hungry, let's go." he said, quickly standing up and helping Eddie up. 

"Okay," Eddie said, still not sounding completely convinced, but he didn't push it. 

Thankfully so, because in that moment Richie probably would've buckled and told him everything. 

 

After breakfast, Eddie and Ben volunteered for the dishes, so Richie and Bev took their opportunity to step outside for a smoke. 

They stood outside, their backs against the wall as they each smoked their own cigarette. Bev refused to share with Richie anymore; not because she didn't want to share, but rather she knew he was trying to cut back, and insisted he'd be less likely to have more if he got a full one to himself. She was way more supportive about this than Richie had expected. He wondered if she would cut back now that she was with Ben, she seemed much happier. 

Richie wondered if he'd completely quit if he was with Eddie. Probably. 

"So..." Bev started. 

"I already told you no, Marsh." Richie deadpanned, knowing exactly what she was starting. 

"Awe come on, that was really cute, I need the story," she practically begged. 

"No story." Richie said, taking a drag. "He was just cold." 

"Mmhmm, real convincing." Bev said with a grin, watching him. She softened after a moment. "You look sort of out of it. Are you okay?" 

Richie took a really long drag that time. "What do you think about sleep talking?" he asked as casually as he could, absently ashing his cigarette as he did so. 

"Usually nonsense." Bev said, making Richie's stomach drop a little bit. Apparently it showed on his face because she frowned, quickly speaking again: "Well not always. Why? Did Eddie say something?" 

Richie blushed. "Well." he looked over his shoulder briefly. "I knew he was asleep, so I told him I loved him," he said awkwardly, purposely not looking at her as he said it--he was way too awkward. He rushed to keep talking, hoping that wouldn't be addressed. "And he said it back, so." he took another drag. "But it was probably nonsense." 

Before Bev could say anything, Eddie came walking out, looking annoyed. He handed Richie his glasses. "You left these in the bedroom. Someone could've stepped on them. And doesn't it hurt your eyes when you don't have them on? Jesus." he grumbled, turning and heading back inside, mumbling under his breath about how he shouldn't be the only one worried about Richie's glasses. 

Richie and Beverly just exchanged smiles. Bev laughed and finished off her cigarette, putting it out on the bottom of her shoe. "Seems to me like it wasn't nonsense," she said smugly before heading inside. 

Richie shook his head at her as she went, then smiled at the glasses in his hand. He tried to wrap his mind around the thought of Eddie loving him. 

Eddie was always yelling at him, scolding him, bitching at him. Which was Eddie's way of always worrying about him and wanting him to take better care of himself. And he definitely was on Richie's ass way more than he was on anyone else's. 

Richie put on his glasses, finished off his cigarette and put it out before heading back inside. A stupid grin on his face. 

Eddie loved him. 

 

The Losers were really living up to their names today. 

They all looked like complete idiots trying to wrap their minds around how many people were here. They were on their way to the beach, and there were people everywhere. There were so obviously from a small town, Richie was sure everyone could tell. They might as well have been carrying around a sign. 

When they saw the actual beach, Bev jumped on Richie's back. "Go!" 

Richie didn't hesitate, taking off. The moment they hit the sand he slipped and fell. Richie did not go to the ocean often, he was not used to sand. He was used to rocks and dirt around the quarry, which was easy to run on. 

They both laughed, trying to help each other get sand out of their hair. 

When Ben made it to them, he sweetly helped Bev up and brushed her off, asking if she was okay. When Eddie reached them, he just rolled his eyes. "I can't believe you tried to run on sand, you're such a dumbass." Even still, he helped Richie up. 

Richie preferred Eddie's way of showing love. 

Mike's eyes were practically sparkling, not unlike the sun was sparkling on the ocean he was staring at so lovingly. "I've gotta move somewhere near the ocean," he said, looking utterly awestruck.

Stan hummed thoughtfully. "The ocean's nice," he picked up a handful of sand. "I dunno if I could deal with the sand all the time." 

"It's not that bad," Richie said just as he found some sand in his ear. "Nevermind." 

Eddie laughed at him which always made Richie smile. "Come on, let's go get set up. Also, you guys are putting on sunscreen again." 

Everyone groaned in unison, but no one argued. You couldn't argue with Eddie. 

 

Bill was almost as bad as Eddie. 

He brought a blanket for them to sit on, and as everyone put on sunscreen, he kept asking if they needed anything else like he was a single mother of six. Richie put a hand on Bill's shoulder. "Bill. Look at me. Calm down. Everyone's fine, you're doing great, the trip is great. Don't be like Eddie." 

Eddie glared, throwing the sunscreen bottle at Richie. 

"See what I mean?" Richie asked with a grin, making Bill smile. 

"You're r-right." Bill said with a nod. "I just want this to go w-well." 

"It is, don't worry about it. It's your trip too, big guy, enjoy yourself." Richie said, patting his shoulder. "Now please go find Mike because he just wandered off and I think we're going to lose him at sea." 

Bill laughed but he did actually go rushing after Mike, who did indeed just wander away. Stan just rolled his eyes. "Now I'm going to go keep an eye on them, because Bill will gladly get lost at sea with Mike." he said, making Richie laugh as he rushed after him. 

Bev grabbed Ben's hand, pulling him to his feet. "Come on guys, let's go!" 

"Yes, let's!" Richie said, grabbing Eddie's hand and yanking him to his feet. Eddie complained but he ultimately let himself be dragged over. 

Bev was crouching, watching the waves hit her feet. "Wow, the waves are cool," she said, dipping her fingers in the sea foam. 

Ben was just staring at her and Richie could practically see him writing a poem in his head about Bev and the ocean right now. Eddie walked over beside her and did the same. "Okay, but what if a jellyfish washes up here?" 

Bev looked amazed. "Do you think that could happen? That'd be awesome!" 

Eddie's head just about exploded as he went on rambling and explaining to her how that would definitely not be awesome. Richie smiled as he admired him. Then he realized he looked just like Ben--that stupid romantic was rubbing off on him. 

So instead, he walked over and picked Eddie up, throwing him into the water. 

Bev laughed and jumped up. "Me next!" So Richie threw her in too. 

Ben laughed and Richie smirked at him. "Want to be thrown in too?" 

"No, I think I'll walk in like a normal person. Thanks." he said, doing just that. 

Richie followed, not surprised when Eddie splashed water in his face. "I should kill you." 

"You should," Richie said, grabbing Eddie's hand as he started swimming further out. 

Eddie freaked out. "We're going to get eaten by sharks if we go out too far!" 

"We are not going to get eaten by sharks!" Richie groaned, pulling Eddie in closer. "I'll protect you from sharks," he said with a wink. 

Eddie rolled his eyes, a slight blush on his cheeks. "I'd like to see you try." 

Richie kept pulling him farther out. "Then let's go further out! We might find one!" 

Eddie did not appreciate that joke, trying to pull away. Richie laughed. "No, no, I'm kidding! Eddie, please! You'll be fine." he held out his arms. "C'mere." 

They both looked at each other a certain way, and Richie was sure Eddie was thinking about this morning too. Just like this morning though, Eddie just swam over to him, letting Richie grab onto him and pull him closer, then further out to deeper waters.

Eddie was finally starting to chill out when Bev came up from under the water and shouted "Boo!"

Richie knew she was coming since Ben was currently swimming over to them, but Eddie clearly did not because he screamed and clung to Richie. Richie just held him, blushing deeply. Oh God, that was cute. 

Bev laughed so hard she might've drowned if Ben hadn't caught up and held onto her. Richie just grinned softly, rubbing Eddie's back. When Eddie was scared he just threw himself into Richie's arms, it made Richie a bit prouder than he cared to admit. 

"Shut up Beverly," Eddie mumbled, his cheeks red. He glanced at Richie a certain way as he slowly pulled away from him, and it made Richie wonder if his blushing was even caused by Bev at all... 

 

They enjoyed the ocean for awhile. Even more so when Mike, Bill and Stan found them and joined them.

They must've spent hours in the ocean. It probably shouldn't have felt that different from what they were used to, but there was something about it being the ocean that made it feel so much more special.

Eventually though, the combination of sun, swimming, and salt water became exhausting. Bill suggested they head back to the beach. 

When they were all sitting there, Bill and Mike went to go buy cold bottles of water for everybody. Stan could not handle the salt and sand in his hair and went to the showers. Richie was perfectly content just laying back, enjoying the sun and being lazy. Bev laid beside him, folding her arms behind her head. "I don't know why Stan's whining, I like the salt in my hair." 

Richie shrugged. "Me too. It's because we're beach babes." 

Bev laughed, then smiled warmly at Ben who just staring at her. They started talking sweetly to each other. Richie was going to turn and talk to Eddie when Eddie just leaned over and started putting more sunscreen on Richie's face. "You're looking kind of red." 

Richie willed himself not to blush, the last thing he needed was Eddie thinking he was dying or something. Richie didn't have it in him to listen to anymore talk about skin cancer, at least not for another week. 

A comfortable silence settled over them as Eddie slowly finished tending to Richie, and Ben and Bev were comparing their hand sizes. Richie smacked the sunscreen bottle out of Eddie's hand, watching him gasp. Before he could start freaking out, Richie pressed his hand to Eddie's. He grinned, able to fold his fingers over Eddie's. "Cute." 

Eddie's face went red and he pulled his hand away, grabbing the poor abused bottle. "Shut up, Richie." 

Richie laughed softly, grinning at him deviously. "You're looking pretty red Eds, maybe you need more sunscreen too."  

Flustered, Eddie threw the bottle at Richie yet again. 

Ben and Bev were laughing at them when some dude walked over to them, his eyes on Bev. Richie was already rolling his eyes. So was Bev. 

"Hey." he said as flirtatiously as he possibly could. 

"She's taken." Eddie deadpanned, he couldn't look more annoyed. 

The guy looked at Eddie like he had just suddenly appeared there, clearly he had only been looking at one thing on his way over here. He scoffed after getting a good look at Eddie. "Not by you.

Richie's eye twitched and he sat up. Wow. he thought, so mad he was actually calm. I'm really gonna have to fight somebody right now. 

But Bev was on her feet first, shoving him so hard he almost lost his footing in the sand and fell. "And what's that supposed to mean!?"

This random guy looked genuinely surprised that Bev was mad--like he didn't just walk up, hit on her, then insult her friend. "Please. We both know why," he said, motioning to Eddie. 

Richie stood up. "Alright, now we have a problem." 

"Richie." Eddie warned. 

"I'm not doing anything." Richie said, putting his hands up. Bill and Mike walked up with water bottles in their arms, looking concerned by the very obvious tension. "What's going on guys?" Mike asked, using his not-so-friendly voice, staring right at the newcomer that Richie was currently sizing up. He was thicker and muscular, but Richie was had more than a few inches on him. And based on that prissy, spoiled face Richie was pretty sure this guy had never used his muscles outside the gym. Richie could take him if he needed to.

Richie just took one of the water bottles they brought, taking a drink from one. "Nothing." he said casually. He 'accidentally' spilled the very cold water, right on the guy's face. Crazy how accidents happen. 

"Shit, my bad." Richie said, no inflection in his voice at all as he watched him sputter in shock. Richie reached down, took a handful of sand, and very deliberately blew it in his face. "Sorry I sneezed," he said, just as deadpanned as before. 

The guy was all talk, just like Richie thought. He wiped at his eyes enough to glare at him and mutter a "fuck you guys" before wandering off. Richie prepared himself for the glare he was sure was waiting for him as he slowly turned to look at Eddie. 

Eddie was trying really hard to look disapproving, but then he just busted up laughing. Then Bev broke too, then one after the other, they were all laughing their asses off. "I cannot believe you did that!" Bev gasped, laughing so hard she was crying. 

Stan walked up, pausing when he saw them all doubled over and crying with laughter. 

"Jesus, what did I miss?" 

 

After they had gone home and showered, they went out for dinner at some pizza place. 

Everyone was talking amongst themselves so Richie nudged Eddie. "Hey. Don't let what that guy said get to you, okay?" After the laughing fit, Richie had been sickeningly worried that Eddie's feelings might've been hurt by that idiot. 

"It didn't." Eddie said with a shake of his head. "I already know what he means." 

Richie sat up straight in his chair. "No." he said sternly.

"No?" Eddie asked, looking so hopelessly confused. 

"Yeah. No." Richie said. "I don't want to hear that shit from you. Fuck that guy, he was wrong. The fact that you agree with someone who so obviously thinks with their dick should be a red flag to you." he softened, leaning back in his chair and trying to not look Eddie up and down too obviously. "You have no reason to be worried about what you look like that." he blushed, looking away. "You're the most attractive person I've ever met." 

"Richie..." Eddie muttered, looking utterly dumbfounded and flustered. He couldn't find anything to say. Instead, he just smiled and rested his head on Richie's shoulder.

Richie smiled too, resting his head right back against Eddie's. 

 

That night--well, morning, they all stayed up way too late--Richie still didn't bother making his own bed. 

They shared again, once again claiming it was laziness. Maybe it actually was for Eddie, but Richie just wanted to sleep next to him again. Shameless, he knows, but he didn't care. He was quite fond of how close they had to be to both fit on their makeshift bed. 

Eddie and Richie were both exhausted, so they didn't say anything as they got comfortable. Richie was laying with his back to Eddie, but he could still feel his warmth next to him. That was enough. 

Apparently not for Eddie. 

Not even a minute after they laid down, Eddie scooted closer, hugging Richie's waist from behind, burying his face between Richie's shoulder blades. 

Richie blushed deeply, suddenly hyper aware of how much he moved when he breathed, not wanting to disturb Eddie.

They didn't say anything, they didn't need to. They both knew. Maybe they didn't know what they were doing, but they knew what this was. They knew how they felt

So Richie grabbed Eddie's hand that was around his waist and pulled it up to his chest instead, holding it there. 

And Eddie held his hand right back. 

Chapter Text

When Eddie woke up, he was still hugging Richie, his face still between Richie's shoulder blades. 

He didn't move for a little while, savoring the feeling of Richie's even breathing. Richie was still holding Eddie's hand against his chest, albeit weakly now that he was asleep. Carefully, Eddie pulled his hand back and sat up, stretching. 

He cast one more look at Richie, smiling, then got to his feet. He carefully walked over a sleeping Stan, and then Mike, who had both also set up their beds in the bedroom. Bill set up his bed in the hallway for whatever fucking reason, Eddie did not know, so he almost stepped on him. Luckily, he managed to redirect himself just enough at the last minute to only step on his blanket, and Bill was out cold, he didn't even stir. 

Cursing under his breath, he made it to the living room. Ben and Bev were the only ones in there, and they were all cuddled up together. It made Eddie smile warmly. They looked so happy, so comfortable together. Eddie wondered if that was how he and Richie looked... 

It was about ten in the morning, but Eddie wasn't surprised everyone else was still asleep. The whole group had all stayed up talking and playing with some cards that Bill brought until almost five in the morning. 

That being said, Eddie didn't know why he was up either. He was just always an early riser, even if ten was what was considered "early" today. 

He very quietly called his mom, basically just telling her that he was still alive, then started getting what he needed to make breakfast for everyone. 

 

When he was almost done making breakfast for everyone, he felt a pressure on his shoulder. 

Then that familiar faint lingering scent of cheap cologne and liquor store shampoo. Eddie just continued what he was doing as Richie dropped his tired head on Eddie's shoulder. "Of course you come to the smell of food," Eddie whispered, a grin playing on his face. 

Richie hummed against Eddie's shoulder, then wrapped his arms around Eddie's waist, just standing there and hugging him. Eddie's face was bright red and he wished he could be as seemingly casual about it as Richie was being, but he was pretty sure his heart was going to explode.

He had the clearest image of them like this every morning. In their own place. Together. Together together. 

"Let me help," Richie said tiredly, snapping Eddie out of his daydreaming. 

"No way, you're so tired you'll fuck it up." Eddie quipped. "I'm almost done anyway."

Eddie couldn't help but notice Richie actually remembered to get his glasses up off the floor this morning. It made him grin to himself; Richie actually listened sometimes, who knew? 

"We have to go home today," Richie grumbled. 

"I know." Eddie said sadly. "We'll have to make the most out of today." 

Eddie started making plates, which meant he had to leave Richie's embrace which broke his heart more than he cared to admit. "Why don't you go wake up the others?" 

"Wake up, breakfast's ready!" Richie screamed without moving from his spot, making Eddie jump. Various grumbles and whines sounded from the sleepy Losers through the house. 

Eddie glared at him and Richie just grinned. Eddie shook his head. "I prefer you when you're half asleep." 

"Half asleep and cuddly?" he teased, pushing a strand of Eddie's hair behind his ear. 

Eddie blushed deeply and smacked him away. "Go make sure Mike and Stan are awake!" 

Richie just looked so smug, going to do so. Once he was out of view, Eddie smiled to himself. He usually did when Richie wasn't looking--but Richie didn't need to know that. 

 

Everyone thanked Eddie for breakfast, except Richie who just muttered about how Eddie was an angel through mouthfuls. Same thing, he supposed. 

They had to leave at six that evening, so the moment everyone had eaten and got dressed, they headed out, eager to get as much time out as they could. Eddie wasn't looking forward to leaving. This had just felt so right. Waking up and eating breakfast with the Losers everyday, spending the day and night with them, then falling asleep against Richie... He wasn't sure how he was going to be able to go back to sleeping in his own bed after this. 

The ocean was incredible; Eddie had never been in it before this trip. Sea foam was soft and the waves were stronger than they looked. The water was blue and gray rather than green, and the salt and sand clung to his hair, but it felt sort of good. Natural. Better than the thick water of the Quarry; it wasn't clean water and Eddie could definitely feel that. 

Though, Eddie did prefer the Quarry. 

The ocean was amazing, but the Quarry was the Quarry. It was their place. No matter what. 

They were all together the entire time today, soaking up the time with each other. Bev pointed out sea shells, and everyone promptly got one. To remember the weekend by. Eddie took Richie's until they made it home--he knew Richie would lose it or break it. 

They all went and got ice cream after exhausting themselves of the ocean. 

Then they all just sat along the sand, watching the ocean when they had only an hour or two until they had to leave. 

"Let's just not go home." Bev said, a dreamy smile on her face. It was mostly a joke, but the look in her eyes made Eddie wonder how serious she was, like there was a small part of her that hoped someone would agree with her. "Let's just live on the beach forever." 

"People do that." Richie said, watching Bev light up. "They're called beach bums." 

Bev laughed. "You dick. Eddie, smack him for me." she said, considering Eddie was between them. 

"Gladly," he said, smacking Richie's leg. 

"Thanks Bill and Mike," Stan said after a moment. "For planning this. This was really great." 

Mike nodded and Bill smiled so big, it warmed Eddie's heart. 

Ben smiled at Bev lovingly. "I know it's not for another like, two weeks, but will you go to prom with me?" he asked, everyone looking at him in surprise--that was completely random. "I just wanted to ask you here, seems like a good place." 

And the way Bev looked at him was like he had just asked her to marry him or something; she looked genuinely moved. "Well of course, I thought that was a given!" she said, but she gave an excited laugh and hug anyway. 

"I can't wait until they get married," Richie whispered to Eddie. "He's going to ask her on the moon or something." 

Eddie laughed. 

Sadly though, they did have to go home. They needed to pack and shower, then head out. 

So they reluctantly left the beach behind, promising they'd all go back together again. Eddie didn't doubt that would happen, sooner or later. Eddie couldn't wait.

Richie and Eddie were done packing first, since they had shared one bed the entire weekend and Eddie kept all their other stuff so organized. They were just sitting alone in the bedroom; for now, everyone was just packing and cycling through showers. 

"I don't want to go home but I'm also really excited to go home." Richie said. 

"I completely understand." Eddie said with a nod. That pretty much summed it up. 

"I'll tell you what though, I am very excited to get away from all the people. There's so many people here," Richie groaned, laying back on the floor. "Everywhere you walk, there's like ten people in the way." 

Eddie laid back with him. "It's not too bad." he said, amused with Richie's disdain for all people except the Losers.

Richie rolled onto his side to face Eddie, grinning stupidly. "Whatever. You should be the one who's relieved ya know. You're so tiny, all those people could've trampled you--" 

Eddie punched him in the arm. 

 

The way back was so much easier than the way there had been. 

They had already figured out how Richie could get comfortable, so they didn't have to deal with twenty minutes of Richie groaning and shifting. Instead, the moment they sat down, Richie laid across Eddie's lap. Which of course, embarrassed Eddie a bit, but in a good way. He loved to stroke Richie's hair; it was so thick, and there was so much of it. It was surprisingly soft; not soft and fluffy like Eddie's--Richie's definitely wasn't fluffy, just curly. But still so soft. 

It kind of annoyed Eddie actually. Since when did Richie have great hair? 

Eddie didn't sleep on the way home this time, he wasn't tired enough to. He talked with Stan for a bit, but Stan passed out. Ben and Bev were up the entire time, giggling to each other and making prom plans way too early. It was cute. 

It wasn't until they were almost home that Richie woke up. He looked up at Eddie and rubbed his eyes under his glasses. "Where are we?" he grumbled. 

"We're in Derry. Almost home." 

Richie shot up. "Oh shit. I slept the whole way again." 

Eddie just grinned and rolled his eyes. "By the way, I told my mom I wouldn't be back until Monday after school, so I'm staying with you tonight." 

Eddie's chest fluttered at the way Richie's eye lit up. "Sounds good to me, Spaghetti!" 

 

Everyone hugged everybody goodbye tonight. It felt right. After they'd bid everyone a farewell, Richie and Eddie rushed inside. It was only almost 9:30, but they were so tired. Eddie could not understand how Richie was still tired, though. Richie slept all the time. 

They talked with Richie's parents for awhile, telling them about the trip. It was nice to catch up with them, but Eddie was so relieved when they got to Richie's room. 

He just threw his stuff on the floor before falling onto Richie's bed. Richie laid beside him. "Bed time?" 

"Bed time." Eddie confirmed. 

Eddie was about to sit up so he could take his shoes off when Richie did it for him, tossing them aside. Eddie curled up under the covers, muttering a thank you. Richie laid beside him and Eddie considered cuddling up to him but he decided that maybe he shouldn't. He wasn't sure if that was too much, now that they were back home. 

But while Eddie was thinking about it way too hard, Richie scooted closer to him, hugging him from behind and pulling him in against him. "Night, Eds." he said softly against the back of Eddie's head. 

Eddie blushed deeply; he was glad Richie was behind him, because he had the stupidest smile on his face. 

He hoped this was a permanent thing now. 

 

Richie skipped school the next day, which Eddie totally saw coming. 

Everyone was so surprised when Eddie was the only one to walk out of Richie's the house next day. "Where's Richie?" Bev asked in surprise. 

"Sleeping." Eddie said with a roll of his eyes. 

Bev scoffed. "Imagine having parents that let you stay home because you're a lazy shit." 

Eddie couldn't help but laugh at the one. It was true. If Richie told them that he didn't want to go to school just because he didn't feel like it, they'd let him stay home. 

Lucky bastard. 

 

The day went by so slow without Richie. And then Stan left half way through because he had some family member visiting. But somehow, Eddie got through it. 

And when he got dropped off, all he needed to do was survive his mother. 

He walked in. "I'm home!" he called. 

Just as he thought, she hugged the life out of him the second he closed the door behind him and asked him a million questions about any strangers he met or any weird things he might've eaten, she even asked if he saw any weird bugs--as if they had left the country or something. They were three hours away. 

But Eddie answered all her questions, even if the answer was usually "nothing". If he ever wanted to go on another trip again, he had to be compliant with this endless string of questions. 

Finally, she did stop though. Eddie thought he was finally free when he heard her call him just as he was turning the handle to his room. He stopped, sighed dramatically--which he picked up from Richie, and walked back to the living room. "Yes?" 

She was grabbing her keys. "I'm going to go get us something for dinner to celebrate you being home." she said excitedly. "Oh, and a letter came for you this afternoon." she kissed his head before stepping out. 

Eddie wandered over to the mail, expecting another invitation from some random college. His heart stopped when it was a letter from a college he actually applied to--and not just any college, the one in New York. The one he actually wanted to go to but doubted he could ever get in. 

He halfheartedly pulled out the letter, scanning for the "we regret to inform you". 

Instead, he found "Congratulations." 

"No way." Eddie whispered, practically hunching over the letter as he read it, being as focused as he possibly could. Congratulations, register, orientation, new student resources, etc., etc. 

He read it about three times as if the words might change, but they were still there. 

He got accepted. 

A huge wave of emotion hit him all at once. At first he was dizzily excited, trying to think of how he'd tell the others. But then one thought hit him like he'd just run into a wall: "I'll tell you what though, I am very excited to get away from all the people. There's so many people here". 

Eddie's elation plummeted, dropping with his stomach, making him feel something akin to motion sickness. Richie didn't like people, and he didn't like areas full of people. Hell, they were just in a town in Maine for a weekend and Richie complained. New York was New York. And they'd live there. 

Eddie ran his fingers through his hair, a slight panic setting in. 

He won't go.

Eddie rushed to the phone. He needed to call someone, he needed to call Mike. He would've called Stan and Mike and had them both come over again, but Stan was busy, Eddie knew that. So he just called Mike. 

"Hello?" Mike asked cheerily from the other line. 

Eddie squeezed the phone cord in his hand anxiously. "Mike, something happened." 

"What? What, are you okay?" 

"Yeah." Eddie said, his words shaking--why was his voice wavering? "Um. I got accepted to New York," he said with a little laugh that practically choked out of his throat. 

Mike paused, then cheered excitedly. "Eddie!" he exclaimed. "Eddie, that's amazing! Oh my god! Just wait until we tell everyone tomorrow--they're all going to be so excited! This is great news!" 

Eddie laughed, but it felt like barbed wire was in his throat. "I know, I'm really happy." 

The line was silent for a moment, then Mike spoke up again. 

"Then why do you sound like you're about to cry?" 

That was it; the wire and pain released his throat, only to make way for the sob that shook out of him. He threw a hand over his mouth as tears filled his eyes at an alarming rate. 

"Eddie," Mike said gently. "What happened?" he asked, so softly, so patiently. 

"He won't go," Eddie choked through a sob. He slid down the wall until he was sitting on the floor, pulling his knees up to his chest. He sniffled and sobbed, wiping at his eyes, which was ultimately useless because new tears were there right away. "What if he doesn't go!?" 

Apparently Mike could deduce what Eddie meant because he made a disapproving sound. "Eddie, come on," he said, though it was still so soft. "You really think Richie won't go with you? He can't survive a damn day without you." 

Eddie couldn't exactly form any words, he just sat on the floor, crying into the phone. He hadn't realized how stressed he'd been about this until it all came crashing down all at once. "I can't-" he sobbed; he was an absolute mess. He was glad this was just a phone call. "If he doesn't go--I can't." 

"Have you even talked to him yet?" Mike asked sweetly. "You should go do that. You guys can figure it out together, okay?" 

Eddie nodded even though Mike couldn't see him. He focused on taking some deep breaths, trying to get somewhat of a grip on himself. "Yeah... I'm going to do that right now, I think," he sniffled. "Thank you, Mike. I mean it. I love you." 

"I love you too, now get going. Call me again if you need me." 

Eddie scrambled to his feet, hanging up the phone. He quickly rummaged through his backpack, pulling out his inhaler and taking a hit, then two, before he finally stabilized his breathing. He was hoping to be back before her, but he quickly left a note for his mother about forgetting something at Richie's.

He rushed out--he was sure he looked like an absolute train wreck, but he'd drive himself crazy if he had to worry about this all night. He wanted to know so he could plan what to do next. 

This school was his first choice, but Richie was his real first choice. 

If Richie wouldn't go, Eddie might not either. 

Eddie had considered sneaking in Richie's window, but thankfully, Richie's parents weren't home. He let himself in, rushing to Richie's room. Richie's door was open, and he was working on homework. It made Eddie wonder if that was part of the reason he stayed home--maybe he had weekend homework he hadn't had the time to do. 

Richie glanced over, then did a double take. "Holy shit, Eds, you scared me--" he frowned, standing up and rushing over to him. "What happened to you?! Have you been crying?!" 

Eddie just grabbed his hands and yanked him back over to the bed, sitting him down and sitting beside him. "I got accepted to New York." he blurted. 

Richie's face lit up, even if he did look a bit confused still. "Eddie! Congratulations--" 

"No!" Eddie cried. "You don't want to go! I know you don't! You didn't like all the people in Maine. This is New York. You'd hate it there!" he was getting worked up again, but he had already started, he couldn't stop now. "I won't go. Not without you. I don't care. I just want to be by your side, I don't care where," he said, feeling himself tear up again. 

It was true though. He really just did want to be by his side forever. He didn't care where, he didn't care what they were doing, none of it. So long as it was him and Richie. He just wanted to be in his presence. It was the most simple statement he could think of, but it was the purest love he could think of. 

Because how deeply did you have to love someone else to be entirely satisfied with just having them next to you? 

Eddie had never seen Richie look so completely blindsided in his entire lifestyle. "Woah." he said, grabbing Eddie's shoulders. "Eddie what the fuck, I need you to calm down first. Like, a lot." He looked genuinely concerned. 

Not surprisingly, Eddie was looking a little strung out. Eddie took a deep breath, nodding. "Okay." 

Richie stared at him for a moment, and then just started laughing. But not a laugh like something was funny, just like a laugh that he was so happy a smile wouldn't cut it. And despite everything--despite the last twenty minutes, despite the tears in his eyes, the lack of air in his lungs--It make Eddie laugh the same way with him. 

Richie grabbed Eddie's face. "Eds, you're crazy. You're absolutely insane. I don't care about a lot of people, Eds! Sure, it's annoying, but who cares? You got accepted to New York. And you're going. And I'm going with you, okay?" he softened. "I can't believe you paid attention to that. And I can't believe you let it eat you alive like this." he looked more touched than anything else, though. Didn't he know? Eddie listened to everything he said, even when he thought nobody was. 

Eddie grabbed one of Richie's hand on his face, just holding it there, a broken smile on his face. He just nodded, trying to hold back anymore unnecessary emotions. 

Richie smiled, stroking his face with his thumb. "Just don't cry anymore okay? I can't deal with that, seriously." Eddie laughed, so Richie looked slightly less stressed. Richie leaned forward, resting his forehead against Eddie's. 

They both shut their eyes, and Eddie felt all this stress just fall off. It was moments like these when there wasn't a doubt in Eddie's mind. Richie loves him, and he loves Richie.

Eddie opened his eyes slowly, staring at him. 

He was so close, Eddie would barely have to lean forward to kiss him. And he knew Richie would kiss him back. Because they were in love with each other, it was so obvious. It was so simple--Eddie couldn't believe all the time he'd wasted thinking it was anything but a given. 

Even still, it wasn't quite that simple. Not right now, anyway. 

This moment was everything. It was the moment Eddie finally knew without a doubt that Richie was going to be in his life forever, no matter what. It should stay as that moment. And Eddie was a mess right now anyway; the kiss could wait. 

So Eddie shut his eyes again, both of them just enjoying each other's presence.

Eddie needed to go home, he really did, but he had no intention of moving just yet. Not yet. He wasn't about to throw this moment away. If he wasn't going to end this for a kiss, which he really wanted, then he definitely wasn't going to end it to go home. 

Eddie was so relaxed, so at ease. 

All this worry about him and Richie was gone; Richie was coming with him no matter what, Richie loved him, and they'd be together sooner or later. There was no reason to worry about it anymore.

Sooner or later. 

 

Though, what Eddie didn't know was just how soon they'd be together... 

Chapter Text

Eddie had to go home, obviously. 

Which was a damn shame because all Richie wanted to do was hold him all night. There was nothing that made Richie sicker than seeing Eddie cry--and when he had just showed up like that, like he had just been sobbing, Richie was surprised he managed to function at all when all he wanted to do was tear his heart out of his own damn chest.

And to think Eddie had been like that because he had been so worried about whether or not Richie would go with him. 

It was such a silly thing to cry over. Richie would follow him anywhere. 

But at least the next morning Eddie looked fine--he looked great actually, like he was beaming. Richie could understand why, he got into his dream school after all. And as much as Richie hated that he had to at all, he could tell that Eddie gotten a lot of weight off his shoulders when he cried it out the other night. 

Eddie sat up against Richie as usual, smiling at him. "I'll tell them at lunch." he said softly. 

Richie ruffled up his hair, earning a groan. "Good plan, Spaghetti." 

 

As they pulled into the parking lot, they watched some football guy and all his friends holding up some huge sign to ask a girl to prom. Obviously, she said yes; she even cried

Richie just shook his head. "I'll never understand that." he said as they all hopped out of the truck. "Isn't that a bit much? I dunno, maybe Benny's rubbing off on me, but those 'prom-posal' things sort of take all the sincerity out of it, don't ya think?" 

Ben just smiled at Richie's remark. "Well obviously I agree. It's not very personal." 

Everyone seemed to be on the same page, except Stan, who said that prom was over hyped and a waste of time. Good old Stan. 

"You're gonna have to get used to these," Eddie said as they walked inside. "Under two weeks till prom? The whole school's going to go nuts. Everyone's gonna be asking everybody to prom." 

They walked to Eddie's locker and Richie watched him. "And what about you? What do you think about prom?" 

"It's fine, I guess." Eddie said, shoving his books into his backpack. "I'm sure our group will probably go, so. Why?" 

Richie just shrugged nonchalantly. Except there was nothing nonchalant about it, he definitely planned to ask Eddie to go with him. He wasn't sure if he was actually going to be able to pull it off without chickening out, but he'd try. 

He didn't know how or when, but he definitely would try. 

Richie draped an arm around Eddie's shoulders as they headed to his class. "You think there'll be booze at prom?" 

"Do I think there will be alcohol at a school function?" Eddie asked sarcastically. "No." 

Richie clicked his tongue disappointingly. "Well there's the first issue. I should be on the prom committee." 

Eddie laughed, shaking his head. "You shouldn't be in charge of anything." he said as they reached his class. "Why don't you focus on getting to class on time for once?" 

"Fine," he groaned, pinching Eddie's cheek. "But I'm not done complaining about this yet. Stay tuned." 

Eddie smacked his hand. "Lovely," he muttered as he walked inside. 

Richie, for once, did actually make an effort to get to his class on time. Mainly because Eddie told him to. 

Ben looked surprised. "Wow, you're here before second bell." 

"I know, tell me about it." he said, sitting beside him. 

Ben was staring at Richie with a certain smile on his face. Richie narrowed his eyes at him. "Oh god what now?" 

"Are you going to ask him to prom?" 

Richie blushed and rolled his eyes into the back of his head. "I don't knoowww." he groaned dramatically, going limp in his chair. "Maybe. I've been thinking about it. But obviously you could tell, which is why you're asking." 

Ben laughed, but he definitely didn't deny it. "I think you should." 

Richie grinned. "Of course you do." 

"And you know you should." 

Richie blushed a little. 

"Of course I do." 

 

Richie and Bev skipped third period together, as they did often. 

They sat on the steps of the courtyard, smoking. They didn't hide behind the bushes like Eddie and Richie had done, because they didn't care if somebody saw them. Richie hid for Eddie's sake. 

But Richie and Bev had done it so many times they knew that none of the teachers would come through the courtyard now; the worst that happened was a few kids would go by, going wherever it was they needed to do. But literally nobody gave a shit. 

"Ben told me last period that you're planning to ask Eddie to prom." Bev said with a smile.

Richie rolled his eyes. "Of course he did." he took a drag. "I said I should, and that I've been thinking about it. I'm not going to be doing it today or anything crazy like that." he corrected. 

Bev grinned. "Awe, nervous?" she teased, elbowing his side. 

Richie shoved her lightly. "Shut up Marsh, you don't know me." 

As they were laughing about it, some girl came walking through the courtyard. She did a double take when she saw Richie, which Richie thought was odd. He'd literally never seen this girl in his entire life. Someone could've told him that she didn't even go to school there and he would've believed them. 

"Oh." She said, surprising them both even further--she was talking to them. It seemed Bev didn't know her either. "She's your girlfriend? I guess that makes sense." she said, a little bitchy tone, as if Richie had personally done something to offend her.

Richie looked around--Yep, she was definitely talking to them. 

"Um?" Richie started, trying to figure out what was happening. "Beverley's not my girlfriend, she's like my sister." 

The girl looked almost pleasantly surprised. "Oh, well your friend had said that you were with somebody, so I just assumed..." 

"My friend?" Richie asked, he and Bev exchanging glances. "What friend? Who said I was dating somebody?" 

"Ya know," she motioned to about her height. "Little one. Freckles? After the fight, I asked if you were single, and he said no." 

Richie's jaw dropped. 

He and Bev looked at each other again, both of them mirroring each other's shock. Richie put out his cigarette; he didn't have the brain power for that anymore. "Hold on, hold on, hold on," he said, "let me get this straight. You asked if I was single, and Eddie said no?

The girl just nodded, looking a bit confused at how big of a deal he was making. 

Richie and Bev looked at each other and just started laughing. Absolutely giddy and excited; Richie was at a complete loss for words--which was not something that happened t Richie often. This was probably the best thing he could've heard today. He was so stupidly happy. 

And so was Bev, leaning on his shoulder and laughing--not that it was funny, more that it was like such good news out of nowhere, they did not know what to do about it. It was pure excitement. The girl just smiled awkwardly. "Uh, yeah. Wait, so are you single?" 

Richie looked at Bev and he grinned so wide it actually hurt his cheeks. "No." he said, looking back at the girl. "I'm not." 

So maybe Richie would be asking Eddie to prom today. 

 

When Richie saw Eddie at lunch, there was no hope of him wiping that grin off his face. 

That was equally the most amusing and touching thing Richie had ever heard. And back at the fight? That was quite awhile ago. Richie was beyond thrilled with this development.

Eddie eyed him suspiciously as Richie sat down beside him. "What's with that look on your face?" 

"Oh nothing." Richie said smugly. 

Eddie didn't look convinced, but it was Richie, he didn't push it. And besides, Eddie had his announcement to make. Richie put his elbows on the table, propping up his head in his hand as he watched Eddie excitedly tell everyone about New York. 

And of course, everyone was thrilled. That smile on Eddie's face when everyone started hugging him and freaking out made Richie's heart melt. 

And all he could imagine was Eddie telling some random pretty girl that Richie wasn't single. As if Eddie would ever have to worry about some other girl, as if Eddie could have any competition--it was just like him worrying that Richie wouldn't go with him.

Yet another silly thing to worry about. 

 

The Losers didn't hang out that evening. Everyone was still a bit tired from the previous weekend and everyone just wanted some down time. 

And down time for Richie and Eddie was hanging out together. 

They played video games most of the time; Richie loved the way Eddie would pout every time he lost. He'd have any excuse; "You cheated", "I let you win", "you play more than I do so it's not fair", "my controller sucks". Richie mused the thought of letting Eddie win someday, but for now, he very much enjoyed how shitty and petty Eddie got when he lost.

"You know how you could win next time?" Richie asked, dropping his controller.

"How?" Eddie asked, trying not to look actually interested, even though he so clearly was. 

"Just do this thing where you play the game well." 

Eddie smacked his arm. "Shut up, Richie!" 

Richie smirked, sitting up and checking the time. "Ah, it's that time again Spaghetti." he said, standing and stretching. "Gotta walk you home." 

"You don't have to walk me home every time," Eddie said, but it was half hearted. He was just complaining to be a brat; they both knew that Eddie liked it when Richie walked him him home. Richie liked it too. 

Besides, Richie had something he needed to do this time. 

 

When they reached Eddie's house, Eddie smiled and wished him a goodnight, turning to go inside. 

"Hold on," Richie said, grabbing Eddie's hand before he could open the door. "I gotta say something."

Eddie's face fell and he suddenly looked somewhere between worried and expectant. "Okay." he said cautiously, turning to face him. "Everything okay?" 

"Everything's fine." Richie assured, taking a step closer. Eddie's breath caught in surprise at the closeness, but he didn't take a step back. Not that it would've mattered; if he had taken a step back, he would've been backed against the door anyway. "I just want to ask you something." 

"Okay." Eddie said again. "Well, get the fuck on with it then." he sounded nervous.

Richie really considered bringing up the girl. This was Richie after all, he wanted to tease him about that so bad, but he decided he'd have some mercy on him for now. It would definitely come up later, but not right now. Right now he didn't want to ruin the sincerity of the moment. 

"Do you want to go to prom with me?" 

Richie thought he would feel more nervous when he asked. And sure, he was a little nervous and a little embarrassed. But every single time he thought about Eddie lying to that girl he got another boost of confidence. 

Eddie wanted him to himself clearly, so what did he have to worry about? 

Eddie hesitated, opening his mouth to speak but nothing came out for a moment. Then his mind finally really caught up and he looked so dumbfounded. "You want to go to prom? Like... Like as--" 

"A date." Richie said confidently. "I want you to be my date." 

"Yes." There wasn't a second of hesitation in Eddie's response, just eagerness. His face was so red and he still looked utterly blindsided, but he knew what he wanted. He didn't need to think about it anymore; they'd spent plenty of time doing that.

Richie tried to hold back the smile growing on his face. "Okay." he said, a blush on his own cheeks. "It's a date." 

Eddie put a hand over his mouth to cover the smile that just tore across his face. He nodded, his eyes all but sparkling. He didn't take his eyes off Richie as he reached behind him, fumbling until he found the door knob, opening the door. 

"A date." he said, almost more to himself than Richie, then backed inside. 

Richie just laughed at him as he watched the door close. 

And then he laughed the entire way home; he was too ecstatic to just smile, he couldn't hold it in. His chest had never felt lighter, he could feel electricity buzzing through his veins, his head absolutely spinning. Richie was sure he had never been lighter on his feet in his entire life. 

A date.

Chapter Text

A date. 

Eddie couldn't believe it, he couldn't even begin to wrap his mind around it. 

Richie had asked him to be his date. 

There was nothing platonic about it, Richie made that very clear. Eddie was just sitting his room, smiling into a pillow so hard his face hurt. Finally. Eddie was so relieved; though he would also like to add that he knew Richie was going to be the first to crack in their little game, but that was irrelevant now. 

Because Eddie was going to be going to prom with Richie. 

Eddie wasn't sure how he was supposed to survive until then. 

 

Luckily, the time went by quickly. 

It just flew by, they were having so much fun. Nothing really changed on the outside Eddie supposed; it's not like they were dating or together, but they both were so damn giddy to finally have a date; to finally be taking the next step.

They were always so smiley and giggly around each other, and they were basically always touching in some way. When they announced they were going to prom together to the other Losers, not a damn one of them was surprised, but they were all so excited for them.

And there was no denying the obvious tension. 

Their hands were always on each other, and every time they were alone together was a constant struggle. All Eddie wanted to do was grab his stupid face and kiss the life out of him, and he had caught Richie giving him some pretty intense looks, but they were both waiting. It's like they were challenging themselves to wait until prom at least. Eddie couldn't wait for all that tension to just snap. 

Prom was on a Saturday evening. So the Friday before prom, all the Losers made plans to all drive together--In Mike's truck, of course, nothing fancy. Everyone was going, even Stan who thought prom was stupid. Mike, Stan, and Bill didn't have dates--even though Eddie knew damn well they could've gotten one no problem if they really wanted one. Though they didn't really seemed to care that much about going with dates. 

They made a plan to all go out to eat together before prom started, so Mike would be picking Eddie up at around five. Eddie would be the last stop this time, because Ben specifically asked to be picked up first--which everyone knew was because he wanted to be ready with flowers or something like that when they picked her up. 

Eddie had dealt with just under two weeks of tension and excitement, but the Saturday of prom was absolutely the most unnerving. 

He woke up and the moment he did, he thought about how he'd be going on a date with Richie. Suddenly it was scary. Good scary, of course. But still scary. He showered and got dressed that morning, but was way too nervous for breakfast. 

His mother was excited for prom, mainly because she got to take pictures of him all dressed up--which was subsequently Eddie's least favorite part... 

At about three, Eddie started getting ready. Way earlier than he needed to, yes, but he was getting increasingly more nervous. To the point where his inhaler had looked tempting a few times. 

He tried to imagine how Richie was doing right about now. The only thing Eddie could picture was him just laying around, probably with that smug look on his face. Eddie was ridiculously envious of Richie's easy-going attitude. Here Eddie was, practically on the verge of a heart attack, and Richie was probably napping. 

Despite himself, the thought made Eddie smile. 

Eddie didn't do much with his hair except wash and blow dry it, which he did everyday. His hair was naturally fluffy and held well on its own. He did dress nice, though. He didn't really like the jacket of his suit, it was too heavy, so he just decided not to wear it. Opting instead for just the black slacks and white button up, and plain black suspenders. He spent about twenty minutes trying to decide how many buttons to unbutton. He decided on just the top one. 

The benefit of getting ready ridiculously early was that his mother got her pictures out of the way rather than waiting until he was trying to get out the door. 

Eddie could not have been less interested as she got her pictures. When she was satisfied, she smiled at him. "So handsome!" she said excitedly. "Surely you must've asked some nice girl, there's no way anyone could turn you down."  When Eddie didn't say anything, she pressed, still just as excited. "So are you going with anyone?"" 

Eddie blushed and shifted uncomfortably. 

A small part of him (which he chose to believe was influenced by Richie) really wanted to tell her that he was going with Richie just so he could watch her absolutely ascend. 

But he also knew that she would then immediately say no and probably forbid him from ever seeing Richie again, so he decided against it. 

"Nope, we're all just going as a group." he said simply.

"Oh well that sounds fun," she chirped, turning her attention to the photos and wandering off to go store them. 

Eddie sat around, anxious and fidgeting with his hands, watching the clock tick down. Each minute brought a new wave of anxiety and excitement, which was a very overwhelming mix. 

And he was going to be the last one to be picked up, which meant Richie would already be there. 

He was so nervous. 

He nearly vomited up his own heart when he heard Mike honk from outside. "Okay goodbye!" he shouted quickly, rushing out the door before she could ask for one more picture--because knowing her, she would. 

Eddie focused on getting into the truck before she called him for anything, so he didn't even really get a good luck at Richie until he sat beside him. 

And it didn't help with his nervousness. 

Eddie had never even seen Richie dressed in anything even relatively nice, and now this. He was wearing an actual suit; his jacket was open and his first two or three buttons were open--which would have Eddie dead by the end of the night--, and he didn't bother even trying for any kind of tie, but it was still an actual suit. And he looked amazing. More than amazing--breathtaking, quite literally. Eddie was starting to wish he had brought his inhaler. 

Richie's pants were tucked into his boots--which weren't even fancy boots, they were some worn black combat boots he wore fairly often. One shoe had black laces, the other had red, and the red ones had little stars drawn on them in one section from when Eddie and Bev had started doodling on them once when Richie wouldn't move his leg off them. 

But as far as Eddie was concerned, it didn't take away from the look. Maybe to other people, but Eddie was practically drooling over it. It was so Richie. His loud personality shining through even when he dressed formally. 

That loud personality Eddie was completely love-struck for. 

"Wow," he breathed after a moment, his cheeks red. He glanced up at Richie's face and his throat went dry. 

Richie was looking Eddie up and down like Eddie looked even half as good as Richie and it was making his stomach coil. "Wow yourself," Richie muttered after a moment, his eyes finally meeting Eddie's. "Wow.

"Hello, can you guys stop undressing each other with your eyes now?" Bev teased, a bouquet of roses sitting in her lap. She looked incredible. A somewhat short black dress, just a little poofy at the bottom. Nothing constricting, of course not, Bev would want to dance. She wasn't the kind to put up with uncomfortable dresses. 

Ben was wearing an all black suit to match her, and he all but had actual hearts in his eyes. Bill was wearing a proper suit, opting for the bowtie rather than the traditional tie. 

Eddie hadn't really gotten a chance to look at Mike and Stan since they were in the cab, but he had a feeling they looked great too. Eddie blushed. "We were not undressing each other with our eyes." 

"I was." Richie said shamelessly, putting an arm around Eddie. 

Eddie blushed deeply, groaning. Eddie couldn't handle Richie right now, not when he looked like that. Lord help him. 

All that anxiety and worrying suddenly felt pointless as he leaned in under Richie's arm, resting his head on his shoulder. It just all felt so right, so natural. Like it always had. 

As long as he was with Richie, he'd be fine. 

 

They all went out to eat at none other than their favorite shitty little diner. 

There were maybe three other couples in the whole place, all dressed up from prom as well. Even on prom night, the diner couldn't even get half of a full house. But Eddie liked that about this place. It was like it was theirs--like the truck, the quarry, the clubhouse... 

Eddie also finally got a look at Mike and Stan, who of course looked great. Stan wore a plain black suit, with a gray tie. He was trying to not put too much effort into it, but it still looked great. Mike wore a black suit without the jacket, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. And of course, he also looked incredible. 

Once they had ordered and everyone was sitting and waiting, Eddie caught Richie staring at him again. 

"Stop it," Eddie said with a grin, shoving him playfully. "People are gonna actually think you're undressing me with your eyes." 

"Oh I am." Richie said, grinning ear-to-ear. "You didn't think I was joking did you? Sorry to break it to ya babe, but that's gonna be happening all night." 

There were so many things in that sentence that made Eddie's brain just absolutely shut down. 

His face flushed red and he both wished he could crawl away and hide, and also drag Richie off to somewhere completely alone. Just the two of them... 

Richie laughed when Eddie just short circuited, putting his arm around him. "Too much, Eds?" 

"Too much, Trashmouth." Eddie confirmed. "You're always too much." 

"You love it," Richie teased, pulling at Eddie's cheek. 

Eddie smacked his hand away. "I never said I didn't." 

Eddie quite enjoyed the way Richie's cheek went red. 

"They flirt more than you guys and they're not even dating," Mike said to Ben and Bev, grinning. "Well, not yet anyway." 

"You guys aren't dating yet?" Stan asked, looking genuinely surprised. "Oh." 

It seemed Eddie would actually die tonight. 

 

They made it to the school and Eddie was still alive, it was a miracle. 

Though Richie really was determined to change that. As Eddie was about to hop out of the truck, Richie grabbed him by the hips and unnecessarily helped him down. For Eddie's own sake, he pretended not to notice the way Richie's hands lingered on his hips for just a moment or two. Just enough to notice, but gone far too soon. 

The others started heading in but Richie gently grabbed Eddie's wrist, pulling him back and waiting till the Losers had gotten inside without noticing their absence. "I just wanted to ask you," Richie started, a very sudden sincerity in his voice, "how are you feeling about this?" 

Eddie looked around. "Prom? I don't know, we haven't gone in yet--" 

"No, no. Us--Well, I mean, uh, the date." he stammered, starting to look very nervous. 

It was the most endearing thing he'd ever seen, seeing Richie squirm in anxiety, as if Eddie would have anything negative to say. Eddie just smiled warmly and took Richie's hand. "Great. I'm having a great time." 

Richie looked relieved. "Okay. Okay, good. Let's go." 

As they were walking inside, Eddie locked eyes with some familiar douchebags and groaned. Jax and Hunter weren't dressed up, and were just hanging outside smoking. Probably just came to bother people and ogle the girls.

Jax looked back at him and for a second, it looked like he was just going to ignore them, until he saw their hands. Still connected. His eyes widened, he looked genuinely surprised. "Holy shit." he said, "I did not see that one comin', Trashmouth. Didn't think you were a queer." 

Eddie had been completely indifferent with Jax about 99 percent of the time. When he called him names and slurs, when he hounded him anytime he was alone, even when he punched him in the nose and left him laying in the middle of the pavement. He even had been able to direct his feelings at Richie when the fight happened, because Richie had started it. 

But the moment Jax said a damn thing to Richie, it was like a switch had been flipped. 

It wasn't even the kind of rage that boils and shakes, it was solid and dark. He glared at Jax and apparently that rage showed on his face because Jax physically recoiled when he looked back at Eddie. 

"I dare you," Eddie growled. "Say one more word to him. Do it." 

The threat hung heavily between them for awhile, but in the end, Jax just lightly shoved Hunter. "Come on let's go, we have better shit to do." he said, but even Eddie caught how quickly he was rushing out of there. 

"Jesus, Eds." 

The moment Richie spoke all that anger just dissipated like a snap of his fingers. He looked back at him, blushing slightly. "What?" 

Richie smirked. "That was amazing!" he exclaimed. "You just looked at him and he went running!" he beamed, then softened a bit. "You didn't have to do that for me, you know I can handle them." 

"Yeah, well, I said the same thing when you started a fight with them. Guess we're just protective." 

"I guess so." Richie said softly, tugging him along. "Come on, before Bev starts a manhunt for us." 

The auditorium was actually decorated pretty damn well. Most of the effect was from the lights and the fog machine of course, but it still looked impressive. The music was loud, thrumming at their feet. There were a lot of people, it was making Eddie's skin crawl.

And sure enough, Bev spotted them and ran over, shouting over the music about how she'd been looking for them. 

She was quick to take their hands and lead them to the group. Bill and Mike were currently dancing, as hyped as they could possibly be. Neither of them knew how to dance, so they kind of looked like idiots, but it made Eddie's heart so warm to see those idiots dancing; laughing at each other and just how bad they were. Stan was just leaning against the wall beside them, sipping from a cup of water. He didn't look bored though; he was smiling slightly over his cup, watching Mike and Bill. 

Ben looked relieved when Bev returned. "You found them!" 

"Yep!" she said, taking Ben's hands and dancing just as badly with him as Mike and Bill. 

"Well if everyone's doing their poor excuse for dancing..." Richie said, grabbing Eddie's hand and just moving their arms around with no semblance of rhythm. "How's this, huh?" he asked with a wiggle of his eyebrows. 

Eddie threw his head back laughing but just let Richie do... whatever that was. "What even is this?" Eddie shouted so he could actually be heard over the music. 

"Dancing, duh." Richie said, mocking seriousness. He couldn't keep a straight face though, grinning after a moment. "It's better than what Mike's doing over there." 

Mike heard him and gasped. "Come here, I'll show you!" he shouted, reaching over and stealing Richie away, making him dance with him, just as bad as Richie was doing a minute ago. Seeing their two tallest friends aimlessly just move around and call it dancing had just about the entire rest of the group in tears from laughing so hard. 

Eddie had already completely forgot about the crowd. 

 

Eddie wasn't sure how much time had passed. 

They all danced with each other. To clarify, none of them could dance, so we're just calling their pointless floundering movements "dancing". Eddie was pretty sure everyone had a dance with everybody else; even Stan had joined them for a bit. Eddie made Stan laugh by copying Richie's dance when it was their time together and the way Stan laughed, shook his head, and then joined him absolutely captured Eddie's heart. 

He loved his group so dearly. 

Stan did eventually tire out, and then out of nowhere, there was a slow song. 

Ben practically sprang into action, grabbing Beverley's hand and asking her for this dance--yes, he literally asked her for a dance. Like it was the Victorian Ages or something, and it was painfully sweet. Bev's cheeks were as fiery as her hair and her smile couldn't have been bigger as they walked out further on the dance floor to find a bit more space. 

Mike, Bill, and Stan took this as their chance to go get some fresh air. Eddie was about to join them when Richie grabbed his hand. Eddie's face went bright red. Oh. 

Of course they couldn't slow dance either, but that's not what they did anyway. Eddie just put his arms around Richie's shoulders, Richie wrapping his around Eddie's waist. Then they just sort of swayed, which Eddie noticed pretty much everyone else doing too. They were seniors in high school, could you blame them for not knowing how to dance? 

Richie grinned at him. "This is like, the most sappy thing ever, isn't it?" 

"Oh yes, definitely." Eddie said with a laugh. He looked down at their shoes, staring at those stars doodled on Richie's loose laces--couldn't keep up with the dancing apparently. Eddie decided there was too much space between them, summoned as much courage as he possibly could, and took a step forward so that they were almost chest-to-chest. 

Richie blushed. "So, not a bad type of sappy then, huh?" 

Eddie blushed and smirked as he kicked Richie's ankle. "Would you shut up?"

Richie's grin deepened. "Just this once, Eddie." he said softly, making a shiver run up Eddie's spine. 

He tightened his grip around Eddie's waist, pulling him in right up against him. Okay, so maybe Richie was bolder than he was. Eddie pressed his lips against Richie's shoulder as they swayed, and he felt Richie's head rest on top of his own. Eddie just forgot where he was, all he could focus on was this; he could feel Richie's heart beating against his own. 

Eddie had been so out of it that when the music changed again, it left him disoriented and feeling like he was about ten steps behind. The others came back and the music was loud again and everyone was moving again and it was almost a dizzying change. 

Richie pulled away, but he grabbed Eddie's hand. "Do you wanna go get some air with me?" he asked; apparently he was still a bit stuck in the moment too because he just got close and whispered it rather than shouting over the music like he'd been doing. 

Eddie nodded. 

The air felt nice. It wasn't too cold out, just definitely cooler than the auditorium. He hadn't realized how stuffed up his lungs had felt until he breathed in some fresh air. 

Richie walked over to the truck and climbed inside, helping Eddie in. They both sat back, in their usual spot, despite the fact they had the entire bed of the truck to choose from. Richie looked up. "Derry kinda sucks, but I gotta give it some credit. The stars never disappoint." 

Eddie looked up as well, smiling at the cluster of stars overhead, like someone had flicked a paint brush across a black canvas. Though to be honest, Eddie preferred the ones on Richie's laces.

"And some of the people aren't too bad either." Eddie added with a grin, looking at Richie. 

Richie looked back at him but he wasn't grinning, he was just staring. He took a deep breath and started muttering something under his breath about the "right moment" over and over, like he was trying to hype himself up. Eddie laughed softly, about to ask him what the hell that meant when Richie suddenly grabbed Eddie's face and kissed him. 

Really kissed him. 

A few of Eddie's senses shut off the moment Richie's lips touched his. 

Eddie wasn't sure if his eyes had fallen closed right as Richie kissed him, or if he just went blind. And Eddie was definitely more than deaf to the world right now, he couldn't hear a thing but his heart pounding resoundingly in his ears. 

Though he was still left with a few functioning senses. He could feel, he could smell, and he could taste.

Richie's lips were softer than Eddie had imagined--and he'd imagined it quite often. But they were forceful. Eddie could smell Richie's cologne between them, but it wasn't his usual one--it smelled expensive. Had he bought nicer cologne? For tonight? 

And when Richie pushed his tongue into Eddie's mouth, he was overcome by the test of mint and the slightest trace of sugar. 

Richie's hands were cupping Eddie's face, and Eddie finally remembered to move, placing a hand on the back of Richie's neck, keeping him in place. Not that he was going anywhere, but Eddie wasn't about to risk it. Not now. 

Eventually though, it was Eddie who pulled away first, and he had never been so mad at his shitty lungs. 

He dropped his head, panting, his heart making his entire body thud with each beat. It reverberated through him the same way the bass of the music had just fifteen minutes ago. Richie was still holding his face, so he turned his face back up to him, pressing his forehead against Eddie's. "Are you okay?" he asked breathlessly.

Eddie let out a breathless laugh. "More than okay." 

Richie laughed as well, looking at Eddie with such an intense look in his eyes. He looked so emotional, vulnerable even. "I've wanted to do that for a long time, Eds." he said so softly he almost didn't say it at all. 

Eddie melted, sliding his hand up into Richie's hair. "Me too." he muttered, leaning forward and speaking against Richie's mouth now. "Since we were fourteen." 

Richie kissed him a few times, trying to focus on speaking between them, but he was struggling. "I've got you beat. I've been wanting to do that since we were thirteen.

Eddie rolled his eyes, pulling away. "Oh shut up," he said with a laugh. 

Richie chased him, kissing the corner of his mouth. "I'm serious," he said against his skin, making Eddie shudder. "You were such a little brat, you stole my heart." 

Eddie was suddenly utterly overcome with emotion and he wrapped his arms around Richie's shoulder as tightly as he could. "I can't believe this is finally happening." he said softly--Eddie would've thought it was a dream if it wasn't for the way his skin and lips burned like Richie had left fire behind there. There was no way anyone or anything other than Richie could make him feel something so real. "I love you, Rich." 

Richie hugged him back tightly, dropping his head onto Eddie's shoulder. "I love you too, Eds." he said softly. 

Eddie smiled, wide and warm. Richie couldn't see it but that was alright, it wasn't something Eddie control. "Do you feel like this could've been way simpler?" 

Richie laughed, kissing Eddie's shoulder. "Nah, it's never that simple. Especially not with us." he paused for a moment. "Do you want to get out of here?" 

Eddie looked at him a bit surprised. For some reason, he hadn't expected that. But he did want to go, more than anything. "Yeah." 

"I'll go in there and tell them we're heading out," Richie said, running his fingers through Eddie's hair. "You should, um. Call your mom." he lowered his voice in a way that made Eddie's cheeks burn deeply. "Stay the night with me." 

Eddie hesitated, and Richie caught it. He pulled away to look at him properly. "I'll behave." 

Eddie blushed again and just nodded eagerly, he didn't have any words to say to that right now.  

 

The ten minutes they were apart was painful. 

Richie went off to tell the others they were leaving, and Eddie went to the office and used their phone to tell his mom he was staying the night at Stan's--she wouldn't say yes if he asked to stay with Richie on prom night. Eddie was pretty sure she was onto them already. 

The moment they were together again, Eddie was grabbing Richie's hand. He could not stand being away from him at all, he needed him to be within reach at all times. 

They walked home quickly. Though they did stop a couple times to share a brief kiss. Richie was insatiable, leaning over every couple minutes to kiss at Eddie's jaw and the corner of his mouth until Eddie turned his head to properly kiss him.

Not that Eddie was complaining. If Richie wasn't doing it, Eddie would've been. 

They had a lot of time to make up for. 

Richie's parents were already asleep, even though it was only about ten. Which was perfect anyway, because they were just chasing each other to Richie's room. Richie shut the door behind them and they fell onto his bed, laughing the entire way down. 

Eddie was pretty sure he had never felt so light and bubbly in his entire life; he'd been waiting for this for so long. It was still sort of unreal. Until Richie would kiss him again, and snap him back into reality. Just Richie kissing him made him feel so unmistakably alive. 

Richie ditched his jacket and they both ditched their shoes, laying more comfortably on the bed so that they could, well, make out. That was their only plan right now. 

Richie was on top of Eddie, one hand beside Eddie's head to hold him up, the other resting on his waist. Eddie had one hand in Richie's hair, the other on the back of his neck, once again so he wouldn't go anywhere. 

"Stay with me tonight." 

Eddie shuddered at the memory, the tone in Richie's voice still affecting him. Slowly, Eddie ran the hand in Richie's hair down to his shirt, and even more slowly started unbuttoning Richie's buttons. 

Richie pulled away, just enough so that they weren't kissing anymore, but he wasn't going anywhere far. "Eddie?" Richie asked cautiously. 

Eddie blushed a deep red, the burn from it all over. "I never asked you to behave." he whispered. He was pretty sure that was the bravest he could ever be, so Richie better have appreciated it.

He was also pretty sure he just watched Richie's brain actually stop, based on that comically wide-eyed look on his face. 

But the last thing Richie was doing was complaining. 

 

Eddie hadn't been sure how it was going to feel. 

But it was incredible. Richie was so patient, they took a lot of time just getting ready and comfortable. In fact, Richie must've asked the exact words: "are you comfortable" at least five times. 

And Eddie had thought the 'warming up' had felt good, the actual thing was brain numbing. It was electricity. The volts ran in strong, warm waves up and down his spine, shocking his brain each time, making it more and more useless. He could feel the current buzzing along his skin, and feeling Richie's on top of him, in him, his chest sliding against his own over and over made the most incredible friction, a charge. 

It crossed Eddie's mind (very briefly, his mind was utterly fried in the best way) that he, personally, should've found this gross. Their sweat mixed together, and the constant sliding together, right up against each other, definitely had them pretty worked up. But it just felt so right, Eddie couldn't bring himself to dislike it. They breathed the same air; at some point they had stopped kissing and were just breathing against each other's lips. 

But even that was incredible, like Richie was getting him high, like his air was some kind of drug. 

With Richie's breath in his lungs, Eddie had never breathed easier in his life. 

Eddie pressed bruises into Richie's back from pressing his fingertips into his skin so hard, and Richie had Eddie's shoulders littered with various hickeys, but Eddie didn't care. Richie was a Trashmouth in more ways than one; he either constantly had his mouth somewhere against Eddie, or he was whispering various sinful things against Eddie's ear. 

Though Eddie supposed he wasn't so innocent himself. He took a moment to admire Richie's face; that desperate look on his face, and Eddie tugged on the hair at the nape of Richie's neck, watching him react each time. He looked almost primal, and those moans and groans that kept slipping out of his mouth made the ever growing pressure in Eddie's hips only get stronger. Richie was noisy; Eddie liked that. 

But it was when Richie looked at him, and his pupils were so delectably blown out--Eddie thought it had affected him back after the fight, they were way more blown out now--Eddie fell right over the edge. Richie followed soon after, moaning loudly against Eddie's neck. 

And for awhile, they just laid there. Panting, sweating, lazily kissing. 

Richie grinned tiredly against Eddie's lips. "So do you finally believe me about my di--" 

Eddie threw a hand over his mouth. "Stop." 

Richie moved from Eddie's hand, softening. "I really love you, Eddie. More than anything." 

Eddie was sightly taken aback from the sudden sincerity, but he just cupped Richie's face in his hands. "I love you too, Richie. More than anything."

Richie just leaned into Eddie's touch for a bit, savoring it. It made Eddie's heart lurch; he wanted nothing more than to constantly be a source of comfort for him. He'd do anything. Anything for him. 

Richie glanced at him, that gleam returning to his eyes. "Can we go to sleep now? I am so tired."

Eddie giggled but eagerly agreed. 

Eddie honestly couldn't have expected his day to go this perfectly. He wouldn't have changed a thing. 

He still wasn't entirely sure what Richie had been going on about it, but Eddie couldn't help but think that tonight really was the right moment.

Chapter Text

Richie awoke to Eddie softly kissing his face. 

He opened one eye and watched as Eddie kissed the scar on his eyebrow, then his cheek bone, then was going to kiss his jaw but Richie caught his lips at the last second. They kissed for a moment before Eddie pulled away, smiling at him. "Well good morning." 

Richie grinned. "Good morning to you too. That's probably the best way I've ever been woken up before," he said, "though the time you shouted 'Wake up, dickhead' is a pretty close second."

Eddie laughed, shoving him lightly. "Shut up!" 

"Gladly," he muttered, kissing him again. 

Richie could not get enough of kissing him. He was absolutely addicted to it already. Richie still couldn't really believe last night had happened, but god he wasn't complaining. It was perfect. 

Eddie gently ran his fingertips across Richie's cheek, absently sliding into his hair, and it was little touches like these that Richie was sure would kill him. "Rich, I gotta go home soon," Eddie said softly against Richie's lips, looking so sad it broke Richie's heart. 

"No, just stay here with me," Richie whined dramatically, pulling Eddie closer against him. 

"I want to but my mom will have an aneurysm if I'm gone for any longer. She'll call Stan's parents to ask when I'm coming home and it's going to be very difficult to explain to her that I didn't go home with him, I went home with you." Eddie said, pushing Richie back. "And then she's going to show up here and she will kill you. Or me. Or both of us, it's hard to say." 

Richie hummed thoughtfully, nuzzling Eddie's cheek, just scooting right back after Eddie pushed him away. "I guess that's true. Especially if she came in right now." he smirked. "I'm pretty sure your clothes are on the other side of the room." 

Eddie gasped, jabbing Richie in the side with a laugh. "Richie!" he was doing his best to scold him, but that laugh was really betraying him. "Get the hell off me, I need to shower." 

Richie released him, rubbing his side. "Fine," he sighed dramatically. "Can I join you?" 

Richie had expected to get smacked, or at least get a dirty little look, but Eddie just rose his eyebrows at him. "Well duh, I thought that went without saying?" He was completely serious. 

Richie blushed deeply, caught off guard completely. 

Eddie won that one without even trying. 

 

After they showered, Eddie borrowed some less formal clothes, then walked home. Richie couldn't go with him, if his mom saw them she wouldn't be pleased. 

But Richie did get a damn good kiss goodbye, so for now, he could suck it up. 

He wandered back to his room; he had thought about telling his parents about him and Eddie. But he decided that was something he should wait to do until Eddie came out to his mom--if he ever did. He knew Eddie probably wouldn't care if Richie's parents knew, but it still didn't feel like the right thing to do. Not yet anyway. 

So when they asked him about prom, he left out the kissing and everything that happened after that...

 

Richie's plans for the night were pretty much just eat, nap, think about Eddie, then go to bed. 

But at about four in the afternoon, he got a call from Bill, telling him that everyone was meeting up at the park--including Eddie. Eddie's mom would only let him for about an hour, but they still wanted to cram it in. And he didn't say it, but Richie knew why they so desperately wanted to fit in this little meeting. 

They wanted to know what happened with Richie and Eddie last night. 

Richie supposed maybe he did sort of leave them hanging when he found them at prom the other night. He had told them he and Eddie were heading out with his lips kissed raw and his head so high in the clouds he wasn't even actually sure if his rushed sentence had made any sense. 

So he tugged on his shoes and headed out. The park was close enough that he could just walk.

Eddie's house was closest to the park, so it didn't surprise Richie that he was there first, sitting at one of the tables and staring off, absently scratching at the table. His heart jumped excitedly at the sight of him. But that didn't mean he wasn't going to mess with him.

Richie grinned, approaching as quietly as he could. He crept up behind Eddie and blew air right on the nape of his neck. 

Eddie jolted, and Richie practically watched the shiver travel up his spine. He swung around, glaring. "I knew it!" he shouted, throwing a nearby pine cone at him before clamping a hand over the back of his neck.

Richie laughed, sitting beside him. "Miss me?" 

Eddie gave him a dirty look, rubbing the back of his neck. "I did. I'm starting to wonder why now." 

Richie grinned, grabbing Eddie's chin. "I could remind you..." he whispered before kissing him softly. 

"See, I told you." 

They turned to where Stan was in the process of sitting down, Bill beside him. Bill nodded. "Alright, yeah, you were right." 

Stan smiled at them, genuine and warm. "It's about time." 

Richie returned it. "Thanks Staniel." 

"Congratulations," Bill beamed. "I didn't think y-you guys would actually go through with it, e-especially not on prom night. Seemed t-too perfect." 

"It was perfect," Eddie said, the softness surprising Richie a bit, making him blush. 

Ben and Bev arrived next. Bev knew of course; she knew the moment Richie came and told them they were leaving. Hell, she probably knew the moment they stepped out. Ben was absolutely beaming. "It was the right moment, huh?" he teased softly. 

Richie blushed a bit and laughed. "Shut up." he said, but he was smiling at him. 

Mike was the last to arrive, but when he heard, he was the most outwardly excited. He slammed his hands down on the table, a big smile on his face. "I knew it! I knew you were worried over nothing!" he shouted, pointing to Eddie. 

Richie glanced at Eddie. "Ooh," he said, a grin on his face. "What's that mean?" 

Eddie blushed deeply. "Nothing." 

"It means he told Mike and I that he was in love with you before you guys started dating," Stan deadpanned, but even he couldn't fight the grin on his face when Eddie's face flushed. 

"You did?" Richie teased. "That's so adorable!" 

Eddie dropped his head on the table. "I hate you guys so much." he whined, making everyone else laugh at him. 

They talked for a bit, everyone talking about their prom night. Apparently Stan went home shortly after Richie and Eddie because Mike and Bill made him dance with them for twenty straight minutes and he was exhausted, but he swore he had a lot of fun, and that maybe prom wasn't so bad. 

Ben and Bev left an hour or so after that and took a walk through the park like the freaking fairy tale characters they were. Then Ben walked her home.

Mike and Bill stayed out all damn night. They stayed at prom until they were actually closing and had to ask them to leave, then they just wandered around town. Probably being loud and disturbing the peace. They didn't even drink, they were just like this. Especially when they were together, they amplified each other's seemingly endless source of energy. 

And all that was fun and good, but everyone's favorite part of prom was when they were all together. Their stupid group dancing and singing like the losers they are for a whole two hours; two hours that just flew by. 

They were having a great time just talking about their night, but soon, Eddie did have to go. 

"I'll walk ya home." Richie said, waving to the others. "See ya at school tomorrow." 

Everyone said their goodbyes, then proceeded to call them "love birds" and various other teasing nicknames as they walked away until they were finally out of earshot from those losers. Though Richie wouldn't have been surprised if they had kept it up even after they couldn't hear them anymore. 

Richie took Eddie's hand as they walked. "Well now they know." 

Eddie laughed. "Great. Hopefully the teasing doesn't last too long." 

"I kinda like it." Richie said simply. "I like it when anyone talks about us, I guess. I like us.

Something about that made Eddie smile really wide. Richie didn't really understand, but he didn't care--so long as Eddie was smiling. They didn't talk most of the way home, they just held hands and soaked up each other's presence. It wasn't often that Richie could be comfortable in silence, but when it came to Eddie, he was always comfortable. So long as he was with him. 

When they reached the bottom of Eddie's steps, Richie grimaced. Just three little cement steps between Eddie and that door, three little steps and then Richie had to somehow survive until tomorrow when he would see him running down them to him. 

He hated those steps.

Eddie noticed the look on Richie's face apparently because he rested a hand on Richie's cheek. "Hey." he said softly, getting his attention. "It's just until tomorrow." he frowned. "I wish I didn't have to go, but..." 

"I know." Richie said as he grabbed Eddie's hand on his face, leaning into his touch. His hands were always just a little cold, his skin so soft and flawless. Richie leaned forward after a moment of enjoying the touch, kissing him deeply. "I'm gonna miss you, Spaghetti." 

Eddie pulled away after a moment, smiling warmly. "I'll miss you too, Trashmouth." 

Richie smirked. "Excuse me, you like my mouth." his smirk grew a little more devious. "Obviously.

Eddie returned the devious look, that fire burning in his eyes. It made Richie's stomach pull into knots.

They were moving in for another kiss when the door started to open; Eddie pushed Richie back and took a step back himself for good measure. It's a good thing Eddie did something because Richie's mind was so out of focus, they totally would've gotten caught. 

Ms. K stood there, and she didn't look happy. 

It was just three steps, but her standing at the top of them made her an oddly imposing figure to be looking up at. 

"C'mon, Eddie." she said, but her eyes didn't leave Richie. 

Eddie just nodded. "Night, Rich." he whispered before rushing up those three little infuriating steps, taking them all in one stride, rushing inside. 

Ms. K did not rush inside though, she just stood there and crossed her arms as she looked down at Richie. "You smell like cigarettes, Tozier." 

First of all, that was bullshit, he hadn't smoked all day. And since he cut back he almost never smelled like them anymore. But he understood the point she was making. 

He just held out his arms like he was putting himself on display, a grin on his face, he hoped it didn't look as mad as he felt. "My bad, Ms. K. Do I smell like weed and alcohol too?" Yikes, Rich, cool it. One false step and you're cut off from Eddie. 

Ms. K was not pleased with Richie's comment, and especially not the tone he said it in. She glared, not putting up the facade anymore--she never did hold it for long. "Eddie's not like you, and I won't have him becoming like you either. I've warned you before and I'll do it again, if this gets out of hand, he's done with you. Understand? I don't know what intentions you have, but I'd forget them if I were you. It's pointless. Do we understand each other?" 

Richie's jaw tightened as he grit his teeth. God, she thought she was so high and mighty. Like she was some saint who made some perfect, cookie-cutter kid. Eddie was perfect, but she had no idea. Because she had built this image of him of what she considered perfect. She had no idea that he was perfect all on his own. 

And that judgmental way she looked at Richie, like she was so far above him. 

Richie really wanted to remind her she was only three steps above him. 

He also really had to fight the urge with everything he had to tell her what her son tasted like, or what he sounded like last night. Or that her sweet little boy liked to pull hair. 

The look on her face would've been so worth it. He wondered if she'd go into cardiac arrest on the spot. 

But again, he knew that she was completely crazy, and he actually did need to be careful with her. If it wasn't for Eddie being on the line, he wouldn't step so carefully around her. But it was Eddie, he'd walk a damn tightrope for him. 

"We understand each other, Ms. K." Richie said, forcing an overly pleasant smile on his face. "Nothing to worry about." 

She nodded, and as much as Richie hated to admit it, she had won. 

Because after that horrible little interaction, she was the one who had Eddie, waiting inside for her.

Richie was still three steps away. 

 

At least the bad aftertaste from his interaction with Ms. K didn't last. 

How could it? The next morning, when Eddie came crawling into the truck, all his frustrations were just wiped away. Especially when Eddie smiled at him like his breath had just been taken away, his cheeks rosy, his eyelashes dark. All his little freckles speckled against his skin, and he smiled at Richie, like he had absolutely no idea that he was way too gorgeous to be doing that. 

And when they were using the door to Eddie's locker to block their kissing from the busy, swarming hallway, he really did forget about the entire damn thing. Richie was the one who had Eddie, there was no question of that, especially when he was kissing the life out of Richie like that

Richie felt like Ben. 

In class, he was just daydreaming, his mind was elsewhere completely. He probably would've spent the entire class on a different planet if Ben didn't kick him lightly under the desk. "Hey Rich, you with me?" 

"Sort of." Richie said. "What's up?" 

"Bev and I are going on a date this Friday. We're going out to the diner and then the movies. And we were thinking maybe you and Eddie could come?" he offered, smiling, all sunshine. Richie couldn't have said no to him even if he wanted to. 

He didn't want to, though. 

"That sounds so cheesy and so unbelievably fun." Richie said, making Ben light up even more. "I am so on board, and I'm sure Eds will be too." 

Ben nodded excitedly. "Okay! Just let me know!" 

Richie just smiled at him. This little romantic fuck had seriously rubbed off on Richie, and Richie would never admit it out loud, but he loved it. 

 

Third period came along, and Richie considered sneaking out for a smoke, but he just didn't feel like he needed one. 

He supposed now that he and Eddie were together and he always felt so good, now was the time he should really start to quit. It'd probably be easy. And it would make his mom happy--and Eddie. Eddie didn't harp on him about it anymore, but when he first started, Eddie bitched about it every damn day. To Bev, too. It was fair though; Richie could laugh at all his other rants about cancer and illness and germs, but Richie literally was breathing in cancer on a stick. Eddie was most definitely right. 

Some girl tapped Richie's shoulder, snapping him out of his thoughts, then pointed to the door. 

No way. 

Eddie stood there, motioning for Richie to come out. Richie quickly asked to go to the bathroom, as he always did, and the teacher said yes, as he always did. And they both knew that's not where he was going, as always. 

 

Scratch that. That was where he was going. 

Eddie dragged him to the bathroom then shoved him against the wall, standing on his toes so he could kiss Richie quiet before he could even make any noise of surprise. Richie wasn't complaining, in fact, he was pretty sure he'd had a wet dream exactly like this before. He grabbed Eddie's hips and spun them around, pressing Eddie against the wall instead. 

Richie grinned against Eddie's lips. "Well hey there, Eds."

"Shut up, Richie." he bit Richie's lip, making him laugh before kissing him again. 

Richie grabbed him by the back of his thighs, lifting him up. Eddie wrapped his legs around Richie's waist, his hands tangling in Richie's hair. They kissed until Eddie couldn't breathe, so Richie placed kisses against Eddie's jaw. "I didn't think you-" he kissed Eddie's chin "-would skip just for-" he kissed the corner of his mouth "-me." 

"Are you kidding?" Eddie asked breathlessly, looking down at him, cupping his face. "I couldn't stop thinking about you." he was suddenly sincere, making Richie's heart melt. "I love you. I'd do anything for you." 

Richie blushed deeply. "Eds..." he muttered. 

The door opened and they froze, whipping their heads over.

Stan walked in, took one look at them, and looked disgusted. "You guys, come on, get out. I need to pee." 

Richie and Eddie just looked at each other and erupted into laughter. 

 

At lunch, Richie laid his head across Eddie's lap, and with Eddie gently running his fingers through Richie's hair, the entire rest of the world fell away. 

Eddie was so gentle sometimes. Yet he was also the bravest person he'd ever met, and he didn't even know it--burning and spitting his fire as if he had an endless reserve of it--Richie was pretty sure he did. 

He thought about one of Ben's examples of them that day at the quarry, calling them fire and gasoline. That always felt right to Richie, he'd thought it a couple times himself. 

And maybe, with the way Eddie was looking at him like he was everything, maybe Richie was Eddie's gasoline. Maybe Eddie had an endless reserve of fire because Richie fed it. Just maybe. 

As they were heading back to class, Richie grabbed Eddie's hand. "Wanna walk home today?" he asked, a wide smile on his face. "Just you and me." 

Eddie smiled eagerly and nodded. 

 

They didn't really need to explain themselves to the others when they turned down the ride. Everyone knew. 

The moment they started walking, Richie pulled candy out of his backpack. "I got sour candy this time." 

Eddie rolled his eyes, but he was still smiling as he held out his hand. "How sour are these?" 

"Not sure." Richie admitted, looking at the bag. "The bag's got people's heads exploding on it though, so I expect great things." 

They laughed as they put candy in their mouth. Eddie was immediately disgusted, spitting it out, his face scrunching up so hard it made Richie laugh--he almost choked. Richie did not think they were that sour, and easily ate his. "Oh my god!" he exclaimed, wiping away tears of laughter. "So Eds can't handle sour, noted." 

"Shut up, you can't eat hot sauce." 

"That's because normal people don't eat hot sauce ya freaking little maniac." Richie said, throwing his arm around Eddie's shoulders. "I saw you eat a whole spoonful of it once." 

"It tasted good." Eddie said, wrapping his arm around Richie's waist. 

As they walked, Richie couldn't help but think about the last time they walked home together. When Richie had been so sure Eddie felt nothing for him, when Richie was still yearning. 

Hell, he was still yearning. He had Eddie now, but the moment Eddie was out of arm's length, his heart ached all over again. 

"Let's play the step on a crack game." Richie said, "your mom's back is the one on the line." 

They both paused before deliberately stepping on a crack. 

Eddie laughed as they continued walking. "So I'm guessing she chewed you out last night?" 

"Yeah," Richie said with a shrug. "But here I am, with you, so." he smirked, leaning over and kissing Eddie smugly. "Look what good that did her." 

Eddie grinned back at him. "Trust me, she can't keep me from you. Even if she tries. I'll figure it out." 

Richie's heart lurched unexpectedly hard. He knew Eddie loved him, but he hadn't seen that coming. Eddie's mother was an impossible nightmare, which was why Eddie dealt with her shit so much. She would make his life an endless nightmare the moment he tried to challenge. 

So to hear him say that, it really did affect Richie more than he thought it would. 

"I love you." 

Eddie looked surprised. Richie knew he looked deadly serious, but he couldn't force any fake smiles on his face. He just loved him so much. 

"I love you too, Rich." he assured softly. "You okay?" 

Richie just nodded as they kept walking. "Incredible." 

He decided after a moment he needed to lighten the mood again though, so he pulled his arm away from Eddie and stood behind him. "Carry me." he said, not giving him a chance to react before jumping on his back. 

Eddie yelped and actually held Richie up pretty well for a minute there, but the moment he tried to actually walk, he went down. 

They both laughed as they laid there. Eddie reached back, weakly trying to smack Richie but missing completely. "Get off me!" 

Richie smirked, kissing the back of Eddie's head before getting to his feet. "You suck at that." 

"You're stupidly tall!" Eddie said as he got up. "That was doomed to fail." 

"Alright then," Richie said, kneeling. "Get on." 

Eddie bit his lip to hold back some small laughs as he hopped on Richie's back. Richie boosted him up, securing his arms under Eddie's legs, and continued on. "This is way easier," he said with a smug smirk. "I don't have to slow down for your short legs." 

Richie knew he was going to get hit on the back of the head, and he just laughed and accepted it when it happened. 

 

Richie carried Eddie the entire way home. 

His legs were getting tired, but he wouldn't put him down until he absolutely needed to. He loved the feeling of Eddie on him. And the way Eddie was resting his little head on Richie's shoulder was something out of a dream. 

Not to mention those little hair touches, so soft and distracted. Richie couldn't get over the thought of Eddie thoughtlessly touching him--that when his mind wandered, his body's first instinct was to reach out to Richie in some way. 

They made it to Eddie's house and Richie pouted as he set Eddie down. "Let me guess, you're stuck at home for most of the week huh?" 

"Yeah. I'm free on Friday and the weekend, though." he said, taking Richie's hand. 

"Oh yeah!" Richie exclaimed. "I can't believe I forgot-" that was a lie, he was not surprised he forgot, he was with Eddie. Not many other thoughts stuck "-Ben invited us to go on a double date with him and Bev this Friday." 

"Sounds fun." Eddie said, smiling while blushing a bit. "Our first date as a couple, huh?" 

Richie's face went deep red. Oh geez. 

"Yes." Richie fumbled. Oh God, he really couldn't mess it up. "Yes, yes it is." he cleared his throat awkwardly. "It'll be fun." 

Eddie laughed, grabbing Richie's face. "Calm down! If it makes you feel better, our first ever date was prom." 

Richie did relax a bit actually. Prom had been perfect. 

Eddie kissed Richie briefly, but Richie knew he didn't want to risk them being caught. "I should go inside before she comes out here again," Eddie muttered sadly. 

Richie nodded a bit. "I'll see ya soon, Spaghetti." 

"I love you, Rich," Eddie whispered against Richie's lips, pressing one more kiss to him as he rushed inside. Even from here, he could see Eddie's ears burning. 

Richie just smiled as he watched him rush inside, knowing that Eddie's heart was racing. Because of Richie. Richie wouldn't be surprised if he looked up and there were actual hearts floating off his head. 

He was hopelessly in love with Eddie. And Eddie was in love with him. 

"Trust me, she can't keep me from you. Even if she tries."

Richie smiled, slipping his hands into his pockets, turning and heading home. 

Maybe three steps weren't so far away after all. 

Chapter Text

Eddie had thought maybe that the initial wave of warmth and dizziness after they got together would be just that: Initial. 

Oh boy was he wrong. 

He always felt this way now. He practically floated everywhere, he felt so weightless. Except when Richie was kissing him, holding him, anything--when he made contact with Richie, he was suddenly completely grounded. The weight and intensity of them enough to keep him on the Earth. Just barely. Just enough to be there with Richie. 

He also thought it would be a difficult transition for them, him and Richie. After being friends for so many years. But it was natural and effortless, like they'd been leading up to this all their lives; like every single moment was meant to bring them right there, right where they were. 

So that aspect of Eddie's life was perfect. 

Things at home were not so much. 

Eddie hadn't kept himself in check, he let himself be dazed and distracted. Eddie's head was too high in the clouds, his eyes too love-struck--too many smitten sighs and lazy smiles. His mother definitely took notice. 

And from the dirty looks she gave when Richie's name was ever even slightly mentioned, something told Eddie that telling her about them would be an awful idea. As the week progressed, there was a building tension in the house. It was like she was just waiting to see something happen between them so she could have a reason to shut it down. 

It had reached the point where he never said he was going to Richie's anymore, he just always said Stan's. 

She had wanted him most of this week anyway, so it wasn't like he was spending nights--he only got an hour at most with Richie after school all that week, but he still had to say it was Stan, or else even that small amount of time would've been taken too. 

Which Eddie told Stan about, and of course Stan was completely okay with it and supportive. Eddie was really grateful. Mike even offered to vouch for him and say he dropped him off at Stan's if the need ever arose. 

He did miss having Richie walk him to his door though; he wouldn't risk it now, unless Eddie told his mother that the entire group was hanging out or something--then she couldn't be suspicious about Richie walking him home. 

Which is what he did Thursday night. They had been so careful, but even then, she caught them hugging. 

Both of them had expected her to make some scene, but she just told Eddie to get inside. She didn't even do her whole stare-down thing with Richie like she usually did. She didn't bring it up again that night either. Eddie wasn't sure if he should be relieved or worried. 

Turned out, he definitely should've been worried. 

 

Friday morning, he heard Mike honking outside and hurried to grab his stuff off the kitchen counter and get out there. 

He snatched his backpack, but the moment he turned around, his mom was standing right there. 

Eddie staggered slightly. "Oh sorry," he muttered, trying to walk around her, but she blocked him. 

Eddie suddenly felt his blood turn to ice. She had physically cornered him. He was sure she would never actually hurt him of course, but the situation still set off his fight or flight response--but he ignored it, had to repress them both, which his body didn't like. He didn't really have any options. 

Taken aback by the sudden gravity of the situation, he adjusted his backpack nervously and glanced at her. "Mom?" 

"Is there something going on with you and him?" It was barely a question at all. 

"I don't know what you're talking about," Eddie lied. "Who?" 

"Don't play dumb, Eddie, we both know you're not dumb. I'm going to ask nicely one more time; is there something going on with you and Richie?"

Nicely? This was nicely? 

"No." Eddie replied, the lump in his throat making it difficult to do so. 

She didn't look convinced. She wasn't stupid; you couldn't manipulate like she does if you were stupid. She was smart, and that was the problem. She knew damn well he was lying, and he knew that she knew. 

"You said you were at Stan's a few days ago..." she started, and Eddie knew exactly where this was going already, the dread washing over him. "But I saw Stan and his parents out while you were gone. And I remember you telling me you guys just sat around and studied the entire time." 

Shit. 

Eddie's throat went dry, he didn't know what to say. He didn't have anything to say. He'd been caught. 

"I wonder why you would need to lie to me about that. Unless you were doing something you're not supposed to be doing," she lowered her voice, staring him down. "Does that sound about right?" 

Eddie talked a lot, always. He always went a million words per minute, barely stopping to breathe. Especially when he was in a stressful situation. 

But not this time. He didn't say anything. 

He just stared back at her, his mouth practically wired shut. He had completely frozen up. 

She realized this apparently, because she dropped it. Or rather, she suspended it. It wasn't gone, but it hung in the air above their heads, suddenly making the entire room feel suffocating. A constant threat just waiting right above his head. It would crush him if he didn't keep an eye on it.

She let him go this time when he rushed outside, right as Mike honked a second time. 

Richie was giving him a certain look as he approached them; of course he could tell something was off, Eddie never needed to be honked at twice. He was always ready and waiting when Mike pulled up. 

And he had to admit, he was feeling way more shaken up than he had anticipated. His eyes burned like he wanted to cry, but he was too stressed out to. 

Richie helped him in the truck and put his arm around him once he settled in. "Hey Spaghetti man," he said softly. "You okay?" 

Eddie nodded a little. "Um, yeah. Just a little out of it, I guess," he muttered. He knew he should, but the last thing he wanted to do was tell Richie about this. He'd freak out, he was pretty much always on the edge of freaking out on her anyway, Eddie could only imagine how he'd react if he found out she confronted him like that. 

Richie didn't look entirely convinced, but he didn't push it, he just pulled Eddie in against him comfortingly. 

Eddie relaxed in his arms, his eyes drifting up and meeting Beverley's across from him. She was looking at him in a way that only they looked at each other every now and then--when she still lived with her father, she would give him this look sometimes, and he'd give it right back. They knew what it was like to have to walk on egg shells in their own home, becoming a completely different person for their own parents, like they were playing a part. 

But now Eddie had been caught behind without his script. It wasn't something that was going to be let off easily. 

It seemed her years without her father hadn't dulled her senses to this sort of thing. She knew. 

 

Eddie was a little out of it, his brain already burnt out for the day, and the school day hadn't even actually started yet. 

Eddie distractedly pulled his books into backpack, Richie standing beside him of course. "You with me, Eds?" he teased softly, leaning over and kissing his ear, his hand resting on the small of his back. 

Eddie quickly moved away from him, almost recoiled. "We need to be careful." he blurted; the shocked and slightly dejected look on Richie's face made his heart break, so he quickly grabbed his hand. "I'm sorry. It's just that someone could see us and tell my mom, you know how things spread around here." 

Richie softened, squeezing Eddie's hand. "Did something happen with her this morning?" 

Eddie sighed a little and nodded. Sure, Bev knew because she'd been in that sort of situation before, but Richie knew because he just knew Eddie so damn well. Hiding it from him in the first place was stupid; he probably knew as quickly as Bev did. 

"Yeah."

Richie looked worried, genuinely worried. "Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?" And God, he looked so sad, it made Eddie want to cry. 

"No, Richie, it's not you," he assured. He looked around, the halls were beginning to thin out a bit as their time before class started dwindled down. Eddie pulled him closer, the two of them hiding behind his locker door. "I promise, okay? Please don't think that." he muttered, kissing Richie as lovingly as he could muster. 

He couldn't stand Richie thinking he was doing something wrong when he'd been so perfect. 

Richie nodded a bit, resting his forehead against Eddie's as he pulled away from the kiss. "What can I do?" 

Eddie just smiled, his chest warming. He'd felt cold and on-edge all day, but that look in Richie's eyes, that tone in his voice--it washed it all away. As usual, Eddie couldn't be upset around Richie. 

"Nothing. Just hang in there while I figure it out with her, okay?" he gently ran his hand down Richie's cheek. "Just give me a little time." 

"I've got all the time in the world, Eds." Richie said with a soft grin, kissing him again, smiling against his lips. "Especially for you." 

Eddie melted into him, even as the second bell rang; even as they were most definitely late for class. 

Call him crazy, but Eddie found this to be way more important. 

He was so lucky. 

 

Eddie felt so much better, like it had never even happened at all. 

He knew until he actually sat down with her and worked it out (or fought it out), it would still hang over him. But for now, he was able to forget about it. Which Eddie was thankful for because they had their double date with Ben and Bev that night. 

Eddie had been a little worried that his mother might've called the school and told him to come straight home, considering he had told her he'd be spending the night with Stan. But she didn't call, and Eddie wasn't going to question it. The last place he wanted to be right now was home anyway. 

The movie started at 6:30, so they just went straight to the diner after school to kill time. 

Richie seemed so nervous about the--quite casual--date, which Eddie found so adorable. He really was all talk, wasn't he? 

The four of them sat at their usual booth, drinking milkshakes--Bill's head would explode if he found out they had milkshakes with him. They intended to tell him later too; they wanted to watch it happen, duh. 

They had been all chatting and laughing together, but once their food arrived, they broke off into their own quieter conversations. 

Richie shifted awkwardly. "Uh, I have something for you." he said, his cheeks bright red. 

Eddie bit his lip, trying to hold back the grin on his face; Richie was so cute when he got all embarrassed and anxious. "You didn't have to do that Rich, it's just a movie date." 

"I know, I know," Richie said. "I've just been looking for an excuse." he took Eddie's hand. "I really want you to have something, ya know, of mine. That you can wear..." he wouldn't look at Eddie, just stared at their hands. "And uh, it's too warm now or I'd give you a jacket." 

Eddie just stared at him; stared longingly at those eyes that wouldn't even make contact with him. They remained nervously glued to their hands, but Eddie really didn't care. He just wanted to look at him--he wanted to admire him. Eddie didn't even know what Richie had in mind yet, but the sincerity in his words, the way he had clearly spent time thinking about this... 

Eddie's heart was all his, there was no doubt. 

Richie cleared his throat, sliding his ring off his middle finger, then gently slid it onto Eddie's thumb--it was too big to fit anywhere else. Eddie just stared at the ring in shock. "Richie," he muttered, as if Richie had just given him everything. To Eddie, he basically had. "That's so sweet..." 

Richie let out a little laugh of relief. "Yeah? It's not stupid?" 

"No!" Eddie gasped, looking up at him. "Are you crazy!? This is the sweetest thing I--I didn't even know you thought about this kind of stuff." he grinned softly. "How long did you think about this?" 

Richie blushed deeply, putting a hand over Eddie's face. "Hush Spaghetti. That's irrelevant." 

Eddie laughed, pushing his hand away. "That's so cute! Richie, you're so romantic!" 

"Stop!" Richie shouted, his blush deepening. "I am not!" 

"Richie Trashmouth Tozier is a big ol' romantic softy, who knew," Eddie teased further, loving the way Richie was squirming with embarrassment. 

Richie just grabbed Eddie by the chin. "Only for you. So don't blow my cover," he whispered with a little grin and wink, doing his best to ignore his blush that was still burning. 

Eddie smiled, taking Richie's hand and kissing where the ring used to be. "Fine, I suppose I can keep your secrets." 

"I won't keep the secret." 

They both looked at Bev with equally surprised looks; they had gotten so caught up in their little moment they managed to completely forget about the other couple they were on the date with. 

Ben just put his arm around her gently. "I won't either." he beamed. 

Richie groaned and dramatically dropped his head on the table. "That's it, I'm done. I'm never being romantic again." But based on the way Richie grabbed Eddie's knee under the table, massaging his knee softly, Eddie had a feeling that wasn't true. 

Eddie smiled warmly at the ring on his finger. 

So romantic. So lucky. 

 

The movie was some comedy Ben picked out. 

Eddie was pretty sure it was rom-com actually, but he wasn't entirely sure, because he probably watched a total of twenty minutes of the entire movie. His attention was elsewhere. 

Like Richie's lips on his or his hands lost somewhere in Eddie's hair, undoubtedly ruining it. 

It was so unfair, Eddie could run his hands through Richie's hair all day and it would fall right back and look exactly the same. The moment Eddie's was out of place, it stayed that way. 

Eddie occasionally spared a glance to make sure that the only other person in the theater, at the very front, wasn't looking, but that was about it. He did at one point push Richie off of him, feeling bad for ignoring Ben and Bev. 

Then he saw them making out, so he just grabbed Richie's face and pulled him right back in for another kiss. 

Somewhere near the end of the movie, Richie whispered as soft as he could against Eddie's ear: "It's a promise." 

"What?" Eddie whispered back, a bit disoriented by the sudden change, considering they'd just been making out for over an hour. His brain was a little slow at the moment. 

"The ring." 

Eddie pulled back to look at him--what. 

Richie looked nervous. In the dim light of the theater, Eddie could barely see it, but it was there--that nervous little line he held his mouth in, the slight knit of his eyebrows. Such subtle details, maybe they would've been unrecognizable to someone else. 

But not Eddie. 

"Do you still want it?" Richie breathed--not a hint of actual voice in it. 

He was scared. 

It almost amused Eddie actually. He was scared Eddie would say no to a promise ring? As if Eddie had ever imagined a future without Richie? 

"Of course I still want it," Eddie whispered, cupping Richie's worried little face in his hands. "You could actually propose to me right now and I'd say yes." 

Richie looked so terrified so Eddie just laughed softly. "Calm down, I'm kidding, I'm kidding." he whispered, pressing his forehead against Richie's. He actually wasn't sure if he was kidding. Eddie admired him, running his thumb over Richie's cheek. "For such a smug dickhead, you sure are a nervous wreck." 

Richie laughed softly too, relaxing in Eddie's hands. "Don't sass me Spaghetti, I'm doing my best." 

"You're perfect, Rich." Eddie cooed, kissing him softly this time.

Richie kissed him back, melting into it. 

Eddie was suddenly quite aware of the cold metal of the ring on his finger. He smiled. 

 

When the movie was over, the four of them wandered out to the lobby. 

"So..." Bev started. "Good movie, huh?" 

"Sure, sure. Excellent." Richie said with a nod, putting one hand in his pocket, the other taking Eddie's hand. 

Eddie couldn't hold back his laugh which got the rest of them laughing too. Not a damn one of them knew what happened in that movie--Eddie honestly couldn't even tell you the name of it. 

As they were laughing, just standing around and talking, Eddie noticed a woman looking at them. 

He sort of recognized her, he couldn't place where. It wasn't until Richie leaned over and kissed Eddie's head that he was pretty sure he had seen her talking with his mom at the grocery store before. 

Eddie ripped his hand away from Richie's, taking a few steps back. 

Ben, Bev, and Richie had all fallen completely silent and were just staring at him in shock. That dark feeling came back at him like a tidal wave, almost knocking him off his feet. He looked around quickly; one of the screening rooms was closed, so the hallway leading there was completely dark and empty. 

"Come here," he muttered to Richie, hurrying down there. 

Richie followed him, looking around worriedly. "What happened?" he asked softly. 

"I'm sorry," Eddie blurted. And then that shitty feeling was just clawing up his throat and he could feel his eyes stinging. "I just--I saw someone. I think she knows my mom, so I-I-" he took in a shuddering breath as his eyes welled up with tears. He sniffled softly and put his hands over his face. 

Richie panicked. He always panicked when Eddie cried. 

"Eds!" he gasped, grabbing his shoulders. "Hey! You don't need to cry, it's alright, I understand!" 

Eddie looked up at him, hot tears burning down his face. "I feel so badI don't want you to think I don't want to be seen with you, it's not that I just--I can't take it. Everything at home is so tense and I feel like I'm going to crack under the pressure, and if she separates us, I don't know what I'll do, I can't be away from you, I--" 

Richie just pulled him into a tight hug and Eddie clung to him, burying his face against Richie's shoulder. He hadn't realized how badly he needed to vent until it was all just pouring out of him like that. 

"Eddie, listen," Richie said softly, but he didn't loosen his grip on him, just talked against the top of his head. "I don't mind. I'm with you, that's more than enough for me. We've only been together for almost a week, I'm not expecting you to tell your mom yet." he rubbed his hand up and down his back. "And ya know what? You could never tell her and I'd be fine with that. Ya know why?" 

He pulled away, grabbing Eddie's shoulders, then lowering his head a bit so he could look him in the eyes. He smiled warmly, pinching Eddie's cheek. "Cause we're going to New York soon, remember?" 

Eddie grabbed Richie's hand, and just nodded a little bit. "I'm sorry, Richie." 

"Stop apologizing," Richie muttered, cupping the cheek he'd just pinched. "And please, God Eddie, stop crying. I can't deal with that." 

Eddie looked at him, and the look on his face was so desperate and concerned, borderline pathetic. He really couldn't handle when Eddie cried... 

A giggle forced its way up as he looked at that strung out look on Richie's face. The moment Eddie laughed, Richie looked about a thousand times more relaxed. "Are you kidding? Are you laughing at me, Spaghetti?" he grinned, pinching both of Eddie's cheeks and tugging on them. "And here I am, worried about you!" 

Eddie let out a shrill little laugh, grabbing Richie's wrists and pulling his hands away from his face, his cheeks stinging just a bit. "I can't help it! You looked so pitiful." 

Richie smirked, shaking his head. "You're such a mean little thing, ya know that?" he softened, wiping away Eddie's tears. "But I don't mind. Whatever makes you stop crying is fine with me." 

Eddie smiled up at him, sniffling softly. "I love you, Richie." 

Richie smiled back. "I love you too, Eddie." 

Eddie wasn't sure what he did to deserve Richie. The way he squirmed when he was embarrassed or worried--Richie didn't show it as much, but he felt so much. And he felt so much for Eddie. 

Eddie was so lucky. 

And when Richie walked out, telling the others he tickled Eddie until he cried so they wouldn't ask about Eddie's red glossy eyes, Eddie's heart fell a bit harder. 

So lucky. 

Chapter Text

The date went well, all things considered. 

The crying was a minor setback, but Eddie seemed genuinely fine now, so Richie could rest easy for a minute or two. They were walking home now, to Richie's. Eddie had told his mother he was staying with Stan for the night. And even after whatever went down with Eddie and his mom this morning, she hadn't made any attempt to contact Eddie and tell him to come home. 

And knowing Sonia Kaspbrak, if she wanted to find him, she would

Richie wasn't exactly sure what happened, Eddie didn't go into detail about it, but it had been enough to stress him out bad enough for him to cry, so. To put it lightly, Richie wasn't happy with her. 

But he wouldn't just start something. Richie was hot-headed, sure, but he wasn't stupid. He knew that whatever he did would make Eddie's home life infinitely worse. And Sonia was probably looking for any excuse to split them up, so Richie had to keep his distance for now. 

Which was why they were taking the long way home. It went nowhere even remotely near Eddie's house so they wouldn't have to risk her being nearby. 

Which Richie was more than happy with, because Eddie was relaxed enough to hold his hand without worrying about being seen. Richie glanced over often to admire him, silvery starlight dusting his hair, but not much else, because he was looking down. 

Every time Richie looked over at Eddie, he was staring at their connected hands, smiling. 

Well, the ring, to be specific. 

It made Richie's ears burn just thinking about it. The way Eddie had looked at it when he gave it to him absolutely stopped his heart. Eddie accepted it like it was the greatest thing Richie could ever give him--not some old ring Richie had been wearing on his middle finger for three years as an excuse to flip people off. 

But Eddie really did treasure it, like it was something to be cherished. 

And perhaps it was something more than just some old ring. Lord knows that when Richie gave it to him, and then told him it was a promise ring, he had been so nervous he thought he was going to be sick. 

But of course, in the end, he had nothing to be nervous about. It all washed away when Eddie looked at him like he couldn't possibly be more in love.

Richie admired him for another moment before staring off thoughtfully. "Wanna go to the park?" 

Eddie finally looked up at him, that silver catching on his eyes, his cheeks--Richie could see his freckles now. Eddie's moonlit face was one of Richie's new favorite sights; if only the moon was this bright all the time. 

"What?" he asked with a slightly unsure laugh. "The park? Now? It's like nine." 

"Exactly." Richie said with a grin, pulling him off course, veering towards the park instead. He already knew Eddie's answer; the curiosity and spark in his eyes, washed over by that shimmering silver, was loud enough. "No one will be there, just us. The night is perfect--the moon's bright, it's warm. Why waste it?" 

Eddie grinned back at him, the spark in his eyes igniting--the look he gave Richie was all adventure and fire, and in that moment Richie would've taken him anywhere he wanted to go, all he had to do was ask. "I like the way you think, Tozier." 

"Good," Richie said smugly, pretending he hadn't just fallen a hundred times harder. 

 

They made it to the park, and of course, it was empty. 

Eddie looked around, and got that look on his face like he was going to start bitching--probably ask what Richie had planned to do here. So Richie grabbed his face and kissed him before the words could come out, also answering his unspoken question. 

And Eddie relaxed; not like when they kissed while walking home or behind his locker door at school, where Richie could tell he was tense, ready to run at a moment's notice. It was like they were in Richie's room, the way Eddie melted into it, melted into Richie. 

Eddie pulled away when he needed to breathe, smiling against Richie's lips. "I probably should've seen that coming," he muttered. 

"You should've." Richie agreed, pulling him along. "Though I do have another plan. You know how the kids are always playing in the pond all the time?" 

Eddie looked at him warily. "If you think I'm getting in the pond, you're out of your mind." 

"There's no one here!" Richie exclaimed, but he knew Eddie would join him. He wasn't pulling away as Richie led the way, he'd already made up his mind. But this was Eddie, he would just need a bit of persuading, even if he was already sold on it.

Richie was fairly certain he wasn't going to be able to convince him to skinny dip though. Bummer.

The pond was decent sized, actually. Just big enough that people often confused it for a small creek. It wasn't deep by any means, only about five feet, which is why the kids liked to play in it in the summer, and why parents didn't mind letting their kids loose in it. 

There was also a park table in the middle of it. Someone had pushed it in there years ago and no one ever bothered to take it out. Richie quite liked it, not everyone could say there was a random table in their park's pond. 

"When're they going to get that table out of here?" Eddie muttered. Well that was to be expected, Eddie was a dork. 

Richie just casually began taking off his shoes. "You better join me, Eds, or else you'll be standing there all weird and by yourself." 

Eddie crossed his arms with a grin. "Who cares? There's no one else here." he said, oh so smugly, mocking Richie's voice. 

"Cute." Richie said sarcastically, tossing his shoes aside. "Now take off your shoes, let's go!" 

Eddie rolled his eyes but he did begin kicking off his shoes. Richie had known he wasn't going to put up much of a fight, he wanted to go after all, knowing full well Richie had something stupid planned.

Eddie walked over to him. "What if there are bugs in it?"

"There would be no more bugs here than there would be at the Quarry." 

"Well that's not much comfort, the Quarry is gross." Eddie grimaced. 

Richie smirked. "You still swim in it." 

"What about broken glass?" 

"What about broken glass?" 

"What if it's in there!?" 

 

This conversation went on for a long time.

Finally, Richie just did his own sanity a favor and shoved Eddie in mid-sentence, when he was currently asking leeches. Yes, leeches. In a pond. A man-made pond. In a park--Richie clearly had it on very good authority to push Eddie in. 

Eddie came up with a gasp, not even because he was breathless, because he was so mad. "Richie!" he shouted, looking at Richie with his eyes equally wide from anger and the purest shock Richie had ever seen on his face.

Richie fell to his knees laughing. He had no words, he was laughing so hard his ribs hurt. He could practically hear the steam whistling out of Eddie's ears. 

Which is why he wasn't that surprised when Eddie grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and yanked him in roughly. Richie somehow managed to hold onto his glasses, coming up and still laughing his ass off. He could easily stand in the water. Eddie could too, but the water went up to just below his shoulders. He was so small. 

Eddie just stood there, arms crossed, glaring. 

Richie finally got control of himself, gasping pathetically. "Oh Eds," he whined breathlessly, "I'm not even sorry!" 

An involuntary grin cracked across Eddie's face. He tried to hold it back the best he could, but once it started there was no going back. He laughed and shoved Richie's shoulder, hard enough to almost knock him back in. "I hate you." 

"You don't," Richie cooed smugly, grabbing Eddie's chin. 

Eddie's cheeks were a little pink, the moonlight was kind enough to shed enough light on that. "I don't." he confirmed softly as Richie leaned forward and kissed him. 

Eddie caressed his face in the most gentle, mind numbing way. It had Richie whining and dazed when Eddie pulled away, and Richie had full intentions to chase after him, but Eddie splashed him in the face. 

Okay, so maybe he was still mad about Richie shoving him in. 

Richie looked at him, and Eddie just grinned back at him, looking so proud of himself. 

Richie just rose an eyebrow at him. "You think if I throw you in while standing on the table, you'll hit the mud at the bottom?"

Those were fighting words, because Eddie immediately splashed him in the face again. 

Richie went after him, and of course he caught him. He managed to get Eddie--laughing, squirming, swatting--onto the table. He had him in his arms, all ready to throw him, when Eddie grabbed his face and kissed the life out of him. 

It was a dirty move, but Richie respected that. 

It took some ungraceful maneuvering, but Richie opted for sitting back on the table, pulling Eddie into his lap, never once breaking the kiss. When Eddie pulled away for air, he just smirked. "You're so easy." 

"Don't be a coward, Kaspbrak, just call me a slut." Richie replied, kissing at Eddie's neck as he waited for him to catch his breath, feeling Eddie's giggle against his lips. 

Richie absently kissed and sucked at Eddie's neck softly, entranced by the feeling of Eddie's skin against his mouth, when Eddie smacked him on the head. Richie looked at him, pouting. "What?" 

"You totally just left a hickey, didn't you?" Eddie snapped. 

"No, I'm not stupid--" Richie looked at his neck and shut his mouth. "Oh. My bad." 

"Richie!" Eddie scolded. "What if my mom sees that?!" 

Richie touched it gingerly, admiring the bruised skin against the rest of his soft, pale skin. It really wasn't the time, considering Eddie was yelling at him and smacking him (and also making very good points), but Richie quite liked the way Eddie's neck looked marked up by him. 

"You can just wear my jacket, it's low enough, the collar will cover it." Richie said, looking up at him. 

Eddie rose an eyebrow at him. "A jacket? Now? You don't think that's a little suspicious?" 

"No, not with your mom. Just tell her you're feeling a little chilly and she'll have you in a damn snow jacket, no questions asked." 

Eddie looked partially sated with this plan, which meant he couldn't have been that mad in the first place. Richie hugged around his waist tightly, grinning up at him. "You didn't stop me until I was already done," he purred. "Felt good?" 

Eddie looked so horrified and red faced. "You're pushing it, Rich." 

Richie grinned, rolling them over so Eddie's back was against the table. "Yeah? How far?" 

Eddie just grinned, and Richie knew he was in trouble. He didn't have time to think about it before Eddie shoved him off of him, right back into the water. And Richie did indeed land on his ass in mud. 

He came up out of the water, shaking his head in disappointment. "I am wearing black pants, Kaspbrak." 

Eddie burst into laughter, and even Richie couldn't keep up the act, a smile tearing across his face. Honestly, he couldn't be expected to not smile when Eddie laughed like that. 

 

The mud didn't stay since it was at the bottom of the water anyway, it wasn't very thick. 

But Richie was still so uncomfortable as they crawled out of the water, Eddie looking just as disgusted. "Why did we wear our jeans?" Eddie whined. 

Richie groaned. "There was no way you would've taken them off." 

Eddie was quiet for a moment. And then: "True." 

Richie didn't even bother putting on his shoes, just picked them up and walked with them. Eddie wore his of course, because he insisted they'd step on broken glass. Him and his broken glass today. 

"What do you say when we get back to my house, we shower and go the hell to bed?" Richie offered. Walking around all day, and now in wet clothes, tired him out.

"You're speaking my language, Tozier." 

Richie took his hand as they walked, the only sound was the rustle of their heavy clothes with each step. 

 

It was almost eleven when they made it home, so of course Richie's parents were out cold. 

Which was good, because Richie was very busy shamelessly chasing Eddie to the shower and he couldn't be bothered to speak to anyone else at the moment. Not when Eddie was giggling like that, letting himself get caught just as they reached the bathroom. 

Richie very much enjoyed showering with Eddie. 

 

Being changed into clean, soft clothes was a dream. 

Richie fell back on his bed, utterly spent. Eddie insisted on taking their clothes downstairs to put them in the dryer which made Richie pout. It meant he intended to go home in the morning tomorrow. 

Which Richie could understand, things were tense, the sooner he was home, the better. 

But still, nothing would stop Richie from pouting about it. 

Knowing Eddie, there was a good chance he'd leave before Richie was completely awake, so he hopped up and dug around in his closet until he found his jacket with the collar on it. It was an old black denim jacket, looking a bit worn now. The cigarette burn in the sleeve didn't help--it had helped Richie at the time, saving him from Bev getting distracted, not realizing she was letting her hand with the cigarette go slack, and almost burning him. 

And now, it would save Eddie from Ms. K's wrath. 

He threw it on the foot of the bed so Eddie would be able to find it, then laid back, waiting for Eddie to return so they could fall asleep together. 

Eddie took forever, apologizing about it when he came up. "I folded the clothes that were in the dryer." 

Richie smirked and rolled his eyes--he wasn't even surprised. "Of course you did. Just c'mere." 

Eddie did as told eagerly, crawling over and curling up on Richie's chest. Finally, Richie was able to relax. "I'm gonna pass out, Eds." 

"Me too," Eddie muttered against his chest, already sounding half asleep. 

"Love you, Spaghetti." 

"Love you too, Rich." 

Hearing Eddie say he loved him, while having the little monster curled up on his chest, was enough to send Richie in a borderline divine sleep. Everything just seemed so dream-like and perfect, he couldn't imagine anything ever going wrong. 

 

But it definitely did. 

And Richie knew it was going to the moment he woke up the next morning, Eddie gone already. 

But the jacket was still on the foot of the bed. 

Chapter Text

Eddie was so tired. 

Pleasantly so, of course. His body ached slightly from all the walking and playing around in a freaking pond, but it felt good; like the memory didn't want to leave him just yet. He would've loved to sleep in more--he slept best when he was curled up with Richie. 

But he knew he should head home. He was walking on thin ice as it was, it'd probably be best not to test it too much. 

When he opened the door, his mother was nowhere to be found. Maybe showering or sleeping still, it was pretty early.

Which Eddie was relieved for. The tension around her was painful--he always felt the need to just slip away when she was around, anything to ease the pressure, like they were both just waiting to snap.

He rushed to his room, quickly shutting the door behind him. 

It was only Saturday, which meant he had to get through today and tomorrow before he could get out of this house again. It sounded so daunting and impossible, he considered just faking an illness so he wouldn't have to leave bed. 

Though, maybe if he was particularly good (in her eyes, anyway), he could talk her into letting him out on Sunday. Whether he could scrape together a meeting with all the Losers, or was just able to get out and go to Richie's, either would be perfect. 

It felt safer lately to think about everyone hanging out as a group. It gave him an alibi--it was sad that he needed one in the first place, but it was what it was. Because of her, spending alone time with Richie felt like a crime. He resented her for that. 

With a sigh, he crawled into bed and curled up under the covers. The more he slept, the less he had to be awake in this house. 

Just two days. 

Then he was with Richie and the Losers. Riding in Mike's truck, under Richie's arm, sneaking kisses behind Eddie's locker. 

He just had to get through two days. 

 

He awoke an hour or two later to his mother calling for him; she clearly wasn't sure if he was even there. 

Groggy, legs still sore, he rolled out of bed. He opened his door. "I'm home!" 

"Oh, I didn't hear you come in," she called back--she sounded pleasantly surprised. That was a good start, Eddie's only goal nowadays was to keep her as delighted and distracted as possible; anything so she didn't look at him like she was analyzing him, trying to find a weak spot to grasp at. Eddie could only hide them for so long. 

Eddie gave a somewhat half attempt to fix his hair as he dragged his feet out of his room, wandering out. 

Her eyes were glued to the TV. "How was it?" she asked. 

"It was good." Eddie said, going to the kitchen, grabbing a cup of water. He left it at that, deciding that any lie he tried to come up with about what he and Stan did would just get him into more trouble somehow--she could always tell when he was lying about where he'd been, despite Eddie's best efforts. 

He drank half of it and walked out to her, about to sit down with her when she looked at him and her eyes went wide. 

"Where were you?" she suddenly demanded, startling Eddie a bit. She looked so horrified, what did Eddie say that gave it away?! 

"I was with Stan," Eddie fumbled. 

She stood and Eddie instinctively took a step back. 

"He gave you that?

Oh no. 

Eddie threw his hand over his neck. No, no, no. He forgot. How could he forget!? 

He was tired. He should've stayed longer, until Richie woke up, Richie wouldn't have forgotten. 

Eddie just kept his hand there as if maybe if he covered it, she'd forget too. 

"So you were at Stan's." she said, her voice heavy with accusation--could it even be considered accusation at this point? She had her proof. "Fine." she said sharply. "I'll call Stan's parents and let them know--" 

"No!" Eddie shouted as she started moving to the phone. She stopped, of course. She was just trying to get him to talk. Of course it worked, he didn't doubt she would actually call--lie or not, if she dragged Stan into this for some petty argument, his parents would be livid. They'd believe another adult over Stan any day. 

"I was at Richie's." Eddie muttered, dropping his hand from his neck. There was no point in hiding it now. 

And just like that, it all came down. 

The pressure broke all at once, there was an odd relief at the absence of its presence, but it stung even as it dissipated. Like it was raining broken glass. 

"I knew it!" She shouted, pointing at him. "I knew you were lying! And I knew he was a bad influence!" 

"Richie did not influence me to do anything!" Eddie shouted back. "I know it must be hard for you to believe, but I can make my own decisions!" He said it with so much more venom than he had meant to, and when she recoiled, he immediately regretted it. 

Not because he felt bad for hurting her, but he knew her--she would hurt him back. 

"No more." she said quietly. 

"What?" Eddie asked; he already knew. 

"No more--You're not spending anymore time with him. You're done with him." she said sternly. 

"No, you can't do that," Eddie muttered, shaking his head. He sounded desperate now. He was. "You can't." 

"I can. And I am. As long as you live with me, you will not be with him." 

"No." Eddie choked. 

"No?" 

"No." Eddie repeated, shaking his head. "I won't stop seeing him. I love him." 

She gasped, as if Eddie had personally wounded her. "You don't." she whispered. "I won't let you." 

She wouldn't let him? Eddie couldn't believe this. His throat burned, stinging with raw emotion just like his eyes. Both on the verge of just losing it, it hurt to hold it back. "If I can't be with him and stay here, then I'll go." he hissed, turning for the door. 

He wasn't sure what he had expected. Maybe for her to cry, or yell, or slam the door behind him. 

Instead, she grabbed him by the wrist, hard enough it hurt. Eddie's chest spiked, that familiar rush of adrenaline. He looked at her cautiously, and the look in her eyes was so dark it sent a chill up Eddie's spine. 

Eddie wasn't leaving, she already decided. 

She didn't say a word as she started aggressively yanking him to his room. Eddie tried to pull away, but she had easily a hundred pounds on him at least, and he wasn't about to start kicking and screaming--this was still his mom. 

She yanked him in against her. "You're going to stay in here until you're thinking straight, do you understand?" she hissed under her breath, before shoving him inside his room, hard. She basically threw him. He hit the ground so hard he bit the inside of his cheek, and a headache erupted through the back of his head. He weakly sat up, tasting blood in his mouth. 

He glared at her, but he was more scared and hurt than he was angry. His tears cut down his face, if he didn't know better, he would've touched them to make sure they weren't bleeding--to make sure there wasn't glass in his skin. 

"You're mad that I'm with Richie?" he shouted--sounding completely shrill and hysterical, he had never heard himself sound like that before. "Well too bad! Because I'm gay! Oh, and guess what else? I got accepted to New York and I'm going!" This was definitely not the way he had planned on telling her, but in that moment, he didn't care. As he tore up his throat screaming at her, all he wanted was to hurt her. 

It worked--he could see the tears in her eyes, but not for long, because she slammed his door shut as hard as she could. So hard, Eddie put his hands over his ears. Even still, he could hear several frames fall off the wall in the hall. 

He didn't move his hands. Even as the silence settled, he kept them pressed against his ears. 

Then he started sobbing, and he preferred it to the silence actually. He thought the tension was bad before, the silence she left behind--that they left behind--after screaming everything out like that was heavier, sharper.

He sat on the floor and sobbed and shouted for a long time, until his throat couldn't handle it anymore, until his headache felt like it was tearing his brain apart. 

But he was still hurt. 

He was still mad, he was still scared, he was still upset. 

And he'd be damned if he was just going to stay here. 

His legs had never felt weaker but he still pushed himself up, grabbing his backpack, dumping the notebook and pencils out of it. He rummaged around in his closet, grabbing a change of clothes. He grabbed his spare inhaler, not realizing until now that his lungs had been screaming too. For a long time. He took a shaking hit off of it, and that did help to relieve some of this God awful feeling. 

Not enough, though.

He didn't need much else. He had a spare toothbrush at Richie's. 

Of course that was where he was going, where the hell else would he go? 

He rushed to his door and stopped short. The handle suddenly looked like it would burn him. Cut him, like the smooth surface was suddenly a jagged edge. Eddie pulled his hand away before it ever even touched it and crossed his room, opting for the window. 

His window was always closed because it didn't have a screen, and he was far too paranoid about things getting in to ever leave it open. But for once in his life, he was thankful it didn't have a screen. No barrier between him and getting the hell out of here. 

He pushed it up. It stuck for a moment, so used to be stagnant, but it gave way after a moment. Eddie hadn't been worried about it. If he had needed to, he would've broken it. Everything else had shattered in this house, the window would be no different. 

Eddie slipped out, the moment he was out of there he felt like he could breathe easier. 

Still, he ran. He ran until he was at least two blocks away, then he stopped to catch his breath and get a little help with breathing from his inhaler. Then he started walking, if you could call it that. 

His body was so heavy, his head ached unlike anything he'd ever felt before, his legs felt like they were tied to his room--the rope getting taunter and taunter with each step he took. 

The hysteria and adrenaline left him, and all that was left was the agony. 

He broke into sobs as he walked, not making much of an effort to hide it. He was all hiccups and pathetic whimpers, his cheeks beyond soaked. And he still didn't stop as Richie's house came into view. 

His parents were home. Eddie knew they wouldn't turn him away, but the last thing he wanted to do was try and explain what had happened. 

He just wanted Richie. 

So he continued with his newly trusted method, and walked around the house to Richie's room to find his window.

Richie didn't have a screen either, he took it off awhile ago so he could smoke out his window. But Richie's window was always opened a crack, because he wasn't scared of things coming in. Sometimes Eddie wondered if he was scared of anything. 

When Eddie came up to his window, Richie was just laying back on his bed. Eddie knew he wasn't asleep though, he could see the headphones over his ears. It made Eddie's heart twist--something that had become pretty common was them listening to music together. They would lay side by side in his bed, not saying a word, just soaking up the music. Richie loved music. They would just shut their brains off and listen. 

Well, Richie would. Eddie would open one eye and watch him; that serene look on his face, like he was somewhere else entirely. 

Eddie almost felt bad about disturbing it now, but he simply pushed Richie's window open. Richie must've sensed something because he glanced over, then doubled back and threw his headphones off his ears. "Oh my god, Eddie!" he shouted, scrambling to help him in the window. 

Eddie clutched onto him, and the moment he was inside, he just slammed himself into him, sobbing into his chest. 

Richie held him, bringing both of them down to their knees. He clutched onto Eddie with everything he had and Eddie could feel his embrace putting all his pieces back together. 

He sobbed violently. Practically screaming against Richie's chest. It dawned on him that he was actually falling apart, but Richie wouldn't let him really. He held him together even as he was breaking. 

Richie held him together until Eddie had nothing left to break. It had all either been screamed or sobbed out of him, so he just clung to Richie now. 

He was so warm. No jagged edges or burning throats. 

He could feel Richie's heart racing against him. A small, weak smile found Eddie's face. 

So maybe Richie is scared of something. 

"What happened, Eddie?" Richie whispered. 

Eddie just shook his head. "Can we sleep for a little while?" he whispered, but his throat was beyond wrecked; it came out cracked and unstable. 

Richie nodded. So Eddie swallowed the glass in his throat and let Richie help him stand. 

Richie made him take another hit of his inhaler before they laid down, and once again Eddie could breathe easier. He doubted it was because of the inhaler this time though. 

Richie didn't push it or ask anymore questions. He just pulled Eddie in against him, covering them with the blanket. 

Eddie fell asleep almost the moment they settled. 

He'd have a lot to deal with later, but for now, he just needed to rest.

He just needed Richie. 

 

Chapter Text

Richie didn't sleep. 

He wasn't even remotely tired before Eddie had shown up, and now he was just wired. He knew that something would happen, of course he did--just not like this. He had expected to hear Eddie complain on Monday about his mother making his rules stricter or something, not have Eddie come sobbing through his window. 

And the backpack Eddie brought with him wasn't exactly a good sign either, it must've been pretty damn bad. 

Once Eddie had fallen deep asleep, Richie carefully slipped out of bed, careful not to wake him. He needed to rest.

Richie felt sort of weak on his own two legs as he wandered into the kitchen. His parents were sitting at the table, looking particularly stressed out, somehow managing to make sipping coffee look anxious. His mother noticed him first and she smiled, quickly setting her cup aside. "Hi honey." she said, looking at him nervously. 

His father did the same, watching him closely, cautiously. "Hey." 

Richie couldn't help the little laugh that left him as he stared at the look on their faces, both of them giving him their absolute full attention. "Guessing you heard that, huh?" he asked softly, as if he was still at risk of waking Eddie in the other room.

She softened. "Yeah... What happened?" 

"I don't know for sure," Richie muttered, grabbing a glass of water before joining them at the table. "But I could probably guess..." 

His parents exchanged glances, like they wanted to ask further questions but couldn't figure out how. Richie figured he must've looked pretty shaken up himself, based on the way they were speaking so softly to him. 

"Hey so," Richie said, pulling them out of their personal little eye conversation. "I should say this before it comes out any other way," he muttered, absently scratching at the table, blushing slightly. "Eddie and I are together. I would've told you sooner, but Eddie hadn't told his mom yet, so it didn't feel right." 

"I had a feeling," his mom said, then frowned. "I'm guessing that's what this is about?" 

"Yeah," Richie groaned, rubbing the temple of his head. 

His father nudged his foot under the table. "Well we'll figure it out, okay? Don't sweat it too much." 

Richie just gave him a little half smile, unbelievably thankful for them, especially at a time like this. "Yeah..." 

 

Eddie didn't wake up for another three solid hours. 

Richie was back by his side by then, of course. It felt wrong to be anywhere else for long.

He softened when he saw him stirring. "Hey, Spaghetti." he said quietly, pushing some of his hair out of his face. Eddie's hair was usually so neat and tidy; even when he had arrived it had been a total wreck. It made Richie's stomach churn trying to think about what happened. "How're you doing?" 

Eddie glanced at him, making Richie's heart just shatter--he looked so exhausted, his under eyes were so dark, like he hadn't slept in weeks. The whites of his eyes had gone red and didn't show any sign of returning to normal anytime soon. Weakly, he sat up, rubbing his eyes, Richie wished he could've just rubbed it all away, but they looked exactly the same when he finished. "Hey." 

Richie chewed the inside of his cheek--he wanted to ask about what happened, or what was going to happen now, but he knew he should wait. Let Eddie figure out how to get back on his own two feet first. 

"Do you need anything?" Richie asked instead, gently running his hand through Eddie's hair, resting it on the back of Eddie's neck. 

Eddie smiled--oh thank God, he smiled--and just shook his head. "No, I'm alright." he softened. "Sorry. About that, that was--" 

"Hush." Richie said, pulling Eddie in closer by the back of his neck, pressing their foreheads together. "I'm glad you came to me. Are you okay?" 

Eddie thought it over. "I think so, yeah." he looked at him guiltily. "Things are going to be much more difficult now, I think..." he muttered, sounding almost apologetic, as if any of this was his fault. 

"We'll figure it out." Richie assured. "Do you think you can talk about it?" 

Eddie nodded, making Richie's head bob too, which made them both laugh softly despite everything that happened. Everything seemed so much easier to face when they were together. 

Which is probably why Eddie took Richie's hand before he told him what happened. It felt like they were in it together. They were. 

So long as Eddie talked to him. 

Richie was determined to make sure he could help Eddie shoulder as much of this as possible, which meant that all needed to do then was hold Eddie's hand and listen. Easy. He was always listening to Eddie. 

The only difference was that he might not like what he heard this time.

 

So Richie definitely didn't like what he heard. 

Surprisingly, he wasn't fuming. He was well beyond that, but he had an easier time than he expected keeping it in check. Eddie needed him right now, cool and collected, it wasn't exactly the time to go popping off. 

"Well you can stay here," Richie muttered. "My parents don't care." 

Eddie frowned. "No, I can't." he sighed, looking away. "She'll make a scene sooner or later, I'm sure. Once she realizes I'm gone anyway. I don't want your parents to have to deal with that." 

Richie rested his hand on Eddie's knee. "Well then what happens? When you go home?" 

Eddie's face scrunched up--but not in the adorable way that Richie practically lived for. It wasn't playful frustration, it was all deep thought and fear. Richie wished he hadn't asked. 

"I'm not sure." Eddie admitted after a moment. "Maybe we'll talk. Maybe..." he mumbled, thinking aloud. He was having a hard time coming up with outcomes. And if Eddie was stumped, the situation was probably pretty bleak. 

"She's going to separate us." Richie said, saying what they were both thinking. 

Eddie winced. "Probably." he shook his head. "But who cares? We're already supposed to be separated, but then I snuck out and came to see you." he offered a somewhat cautious grin, not sure if he should be trying to make light of something this dark. "Clearly, she can't control that." 

Richie returned the grin, pinching Eddie's cheek. "No mama's boys here, huh?"

"Just you," Eddie teased softly, but instead of smacking Richie's hand away, he just held it against his face. 

Richie gently cupped his cheek in hand, running his thumb over his skin soothingly. "It'll be fine, Spaghetti." he whispered, leaning forward to kiss that worried look off Eddie's face. 

And he seriously hoped he was right. 

 

Richie assured him up and down that he didn't need to, but Eddie still insisted on talking with his parents, saying they deserved to know what happened since he was hiding at their house. 

The dumbfounded look on his parents face was almost laughable; they clearly did not think a parent could do that to their own child--especially Eddie, it was like a carpet had been ripped out from under their feet. 

But they were supportive, and offered their house or whatever else he may need any time.

He and Richie spent another hour together, and it was almost normal. Like they were just spending time together on any other day, like nothing bad had happened at all. Almost. If Richie tried hard enough, he could ignore the feeling like there was a bomb ticking down in the background. 

But there was, and it went off soon after everyone had finally seemed to relax; right when they had forgotten about it. 

The phone rang loudly throughout the house, as if they had never heard it do that before. They knew who it was of course. Richie's father offered to answer and lie to her, but Eddie refused. He didn't want to drag them into this, so he answered it himself. 

He was mostly silent, just staring at a wall in the distance, his mind was somewhere else completely. Richie would've thought that he wasn't even having a conversation with someone at all if it wasn't for the yelling he could hear on the other line and the occasional "okay" Eddie muttered. 

When he hung up, everyone else in the house completely tried to "act natural", like they weren't just all standing around and watching. The Toziers were pretty similar in their subtlety--in that they didn't have any. 

Eddie walked over to Richie, taking his hand and leading him back to his bedroom. "I'm going home." 

"That didn't sound great, Eds." Richie muttered sympathetically. 

"Yeah, it wasn't." Eddie muttered. "But I'll work on it, okay? Until then, just..." a small smile graced his face, which Richie was beyond grateful for. "Keep your window open." 

Richie almost laughed. It was almost funny--maybe it would've been if Richie couldn't tell that Eddie was being serious. 

 

Richie didn't hear from him again at all until Monday morning. 

Not even first thing in the morning--No, first thing in the morning, Mike informed him that Eddie wasn't going to be riding with them in the mornings anymore. His crazy mother was driving him to school from now on, and he could only hang out with the other Losers after school, Richie was completely off limits.

Not that they were going to follow that rule, but still. It was insulting. 

When Richie made it to school he all but ran to Eddie's locker. Eddie was just standing there, smiling at him apologetically. "Yeah..." was all he said when Richie approached him. "Looks like I'm being driven to school now." 

"That's ridiculous," Richie grumbled, needless to say, he was more than a little pissed. "What else?" 

Eddie made a face and Richie's stomach dropped. "Oh God Eddie, what else?

"She called the school," he said, looking down, staring at Richie's shoes. It made Richie weirdly self conscious about them--maybe he should start wearing matching laces. "We're not supposed to be anywhere near each other. So, we're technically breaking the rules right now." 

"I don't give a shit." Richie sputtered in shock. Sonia really went that far, huh? Richie's self control was dwindling further and further down pretty damn consistently today. Richie would start swinging for a lot less, this was really pushing it. "They can try all they want, I'm not going anywhere."

Eddie looked relieved. "I said the same thing to her."

Richie grinned, an odd swell of pride in his chest. "Wanna skip third with me? Since you're rebellious now and everything." 

Eddie laughed, and it was a real laugh. It was so warm and light, it was almost enough to drown out the memory of Eddie's sobbing that sat in the back of Richie's head, making him sick every time it surfaced. "Sounds incredible to me." 

Richie threw his arm around Eddie's shoulders as he always did, and when one of the teachers walking the hall gave them a warning look, Richie flipped him off. A little less showy without the ring, but it still worked. 

And then Richie got lunch detention. 

 

But what mattered was that he was able to sneak out third period. 

They met in the courtyard this time rather than risking any teachers catching them waiting outside each other's classes. And despite everything, third period was filled with laughing and kissing. But it was still there, that feeling of dread lurking in the background. Like they were going to get caught, like this was going to get worse, like it was going to get harder. 

It set Richie on edge, and he wished he could wash it away, but he knew that until he and Eddie were away from his damn mother, that fear of her doing something worse would constantly be there. Richie wouldn't put it past her to completely take him out of school if they got caught too many times together.

Richie had never been worried about being caught during third period before. Was this how Eddie always felt when they snuck out? 

 

Richie hoped Eddie was alright. He said he was going to properly fill the Losers in during lunch, and Richie couldn't be there with him because, well, he had lunch detention for flipping off a teacher. 

Richie just sat there, staring at his desk, his leg bouncing anxiously. Anxious? Richie usually wasn't so anxious. About what? Eddie telling the Losers everything all on his own? 

No, not just that. All of this. It could be worse, he knew that, but he hated feeling like he was committing a crime just walking Eddie to his damn class. 

He hated not having Eddie under his arm in the bed of Mike's truck in the morning--their truck. And there was no way they were ever going to be able to ride in it together now. Richie could still feel the blush on his cheeks the first time Eddie curled up at his side, when he took his hand, like it was all so casual. He could still see Eddie picking at the rips in Richie's jeans. 

The group couldn't risk hanging out in public now, either. Not if all of them were going to be there. So what about the diner? Switching milkshakes and tying cherry stems in a knot? 

And there was no way in Hell Richie could ever walk him home again. And that was almost more heartbreaking than the rest. 

How many times had he watched Eddie rush into his house with his cheeks red? Whether it was from nudging shoes, a kiss to the cheek, a proposition of a date--watching him scurry up those three steps. 

There was a lot more than just three steps between them now. 

Richie dropped his head in his hands, threading his fingers through his hair, letting them tangle just a bit. 

He hadn't felt so discouraged in a long time. 

 

It continued on for a whole week. 

Same routine; meeting at Eddie's locker, getting separated--he could only flip off a teacher so much before he had to just start glaring and doing as told. They stopped skipping third period because it seemed the teachers were looking for them nowadays. Eddie was all for risking it, but Richie was the one who decided to play it safe.

It wasn't like him, but the stakes were too high. Not even he would gamble if Eddie was on the line. 

They couldn't spend lunch together. So the Losers split into two groups during lunch--Bev and Ben with Richie, the others with Eddie. Everyone assumed Eddie needed more people with him, that he was the one taking this harder. 

But he was definitely doing better than Richie, on the outside anyway. 

Richie was a strung out mess. All he ever thought about was how tense and horrible life must be at home for Eddie. It had to be bad enough to make Eddie--Eddie, who cared about everything seem like he didn't care about anything at all. 

It stressed him out to the point where he wasn't eating well, his sleep was terrible.

He had started smoking more again. He and Bev skipped a few periods together and would smoke and talk like they used to, except Richie was the only one talking, and he was talking. He sounded like Eddie--a million miles a minute, and so worked up all the time. It was exhausted. 

Eddie, on the other hand, was numb to his mother. He didn't care about openly rebelling against her anymore. He snuck out to Richie's every night, stayed until five in the morning, then walked home to get dressed before she drove him to school.

He would've skipped third period, or any other period, every single day. He didn't care anymore. It made Richie a bit uneasy. He should be proud that Eddie was loosening up, shouldn't he? 

But it was more than that. 

It was like he was changing. The look in Eddie's eyes terrified Richie. He seemed numb to more than just his mother. He did things with reckless abandon. He looked depressed. He probably was. Richie had never seen such a miserable look in his eyes. Richie tried to get him to talk to him about it at night in bed together, tried to draw some emotion out of him, but Eddie just assured him he was fine--that he'd never been better--and kissed him quiet. 

All he ever wanted to do when they were alone was listen to music, kiss, have sex--anything other than talk, despite Richie's many efforts.

When the Losers hung out, they all walked to the clubhouse. No truck, someone might see it. And the clubhouse was the only place they'd risk, considering it was literally hidden underground--if they got caught there, there was nowhere else they could go.

Richie wished he could say he enjoyed himself, but his eyes were always on Eddie as he laughed at the other's jokes--more precisely, his eyes. They were dull. He was always absent, he could've been somewhere else entirely. And no one else seemed to notice, or if they did, they were handling it far better than Richie was. 

Richie couldn't take it anymore. 

On Friday, when it was about time to leave the clubhouse so Eddie could start to walk home, Richie asked the others to let him and Eddie have some alone time. 

Once he had long heard their footsteps disappear, he turned to him. "Spaghetti," he muttered. 

Eddie looked a bit concerned--God, finally something on his face. "You okay, Rich?" 

Richie leaned against the ladder, running a stressed out hand through his hair--he hadn't stopped being stressed out since the beginning of the damn week, it was feeling a bit difficult to breathe these days. "Are you?" 

"I told you, I'm fine," he assured softly, smiling, but it was the same empty look on his face. It was almost insulting that he would fake smile at Richie--did he think Richie couldn't tell the difference? After spending every damn day of his life admiring it? The warmth in his eyes and his cheeks, the way his freckles seemed to pop against the pink of his cheeks. 

Richie wasn't sure how he had expected this to go, but when he suddenly started feeling like he was going to go cry, he was definitely surprised. "Eddie!" he exclaimed desperately. "This is not fine!" 

Eddie looked surprised by the sudden outburst. "Woah, woah, Richie--" 

"No, Eddie, I don't like this!" he said, grabbing Eddie's shoulders. "I don't like how far away you feel. I don't like the way you're not bitching about something every hour, I don't like the way you're not smacking me away when I pull at you, and I can't stand not seeing anything in your eyes!"

He could definitely see something in his eyes now. He looked utterly shocked. 

Richie let him go, taking a deep breath. "Seriously, Eddie, I have never been so strung out in my entire life. I am always worried. About you, about us. I can't breathe. I can't lose you. And I feel like I am." 

Eddie was so shocked he audibly gasped, but he softened, and Richie could see the sadness in his eyes. 

It wasn't what he would have preferred, but it was something. Richie missed seeing every raw, strong emotion in Eddie's eyes. He loved that about him--he loved how strongly Eddie felt. 

"I can't lose you, Eds." Richie muttered, his voice breaking. Annoyed with himself, he pushed his glasses up to wipe tears from his eyes--this was really not the time. 

For some reason, he had expected Eddie to be mad or hurt or something, but instead he suddenly looked so full of love and worry. "Richie," he whimpered, and it was so full of concern it made Richie's heart give out. Eddie rushed to him, cupping his face. "I'm so sorry." he muttered, wiping at his tears. "Don't cry, okay? I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I was just shutting it down instead of dealing with it." 

Richie grabbed his hands, squeezing them. He felt bad that Eddie was apologizing--Eddie was doing the best he could to handle the hardest situation he'd ever been, and Richie had honestly just started crying and made him apologize. 

"I just wish I could fix this for you, Spaghetti." 

Eddie pulled him in, hugging him tight. "Please don't cry, Rich. I'm sorry I've been so unavailable. I thought it would be easier for you this way," he looked up at him, his eyes swimming with more emotions than Richie could identify. It was overwhelming and Richie had never been so relieved to be so hopelessly confused and off balance. "Clearly, I was wrong." 

They just hugged quietly for awhile before Eddie spoke up against Richie's shoulder. 

"You can't fix this for me." he muttered, looking up at him. "But I'm going to fix it for us." 

The finality in his voice made Richie feel more stable than he had in what seemed like forever. 

Richie relaxed against him, holding him close. He felt a bit bad that Eddie had to be the foundation right now, but it was now quite apparent which one of them cracked under pressure in heavy situations. And it definitely wasn't Eddie. 

That being said, Richie trusted him, he didn't have a doubt in his mind Eddie could handle this. He shut his eyes, savoring the feeling in Eddie's voice. Finally, he felt like he could breathe a bit easier. 

"I know, Eds." 

Chapter Text

Eddie walked inside, shutting the door behind him; the subtle squeak of it closing always sounded so loud nowadays. 

His home life had been unbearably tense lately. His mother knew he was still seeing Richie behind her back, of course she knew, she's not stupid. It's not like Eddie locked his bedroom door when he snuck out his window at night, he didn't even try to pull one of the cliches like bunching up his covers so it looked like someone was there. 

Maybe part of him wanted her to know. He was being reckless so she'd know--so she'd know she couldn't control him, no matter how many restrictions she placed on him. He was being reckless and loud, like the squeak of the door. 

He had fully intended to keep pushing this down further and further until he had what he needed to get as far away as possible--well, to New York anyway. 

He had thought that shutting himself off so that it couldn't wear him out was a good idea. He thought it would be easier for everyone, he really did. 

But then Richie cried. 

Eddie made Richie cry. It had utterly blindsided him; Richie always handled everything so well. He could brush it off, laugh it off, move on. Eddie thought, of everyone, he'd be the most okay. 

But now Eddie could see how selfish he'd been. 

He shut Richie out--not on purpose of course, but that didn't change the fact he did. Richie had just been on the outside looking in. And of course, of course, Richie could tell that Eddie was putting on an act. If there was anyone who could it would be him. 

Seeing Richie of all people completely fall apart like that was enough to make Eddie feel more capable than he'd ever had. He never wanted to see Richie like that again, not if he could help it. 

And in this case, he definitely could. 

Eddie walked lightly, like he was walking on egg shells, or broken glass. He felt like he was always stumbling through the dark in this house, even when all the lights were on. 

His mother was sitting at the dinner table, looking over the mail; she hadn't noticed him. Eddie wondered if it was because he moved soundlessly to avoid her or if it was because she didn't care enough to listen for his footsteps anymore. 

She tried to fake it sometimes, like nothing had changed. But she would call him "Eddie-bear" and her words fall so flat, like they'd been dropped off the abrupt edge of her previous sentence. She would smile at him, but her eyes were never on him. Maybe the wall next to his head, maybe right through him. But never him.

And Eddie spoke and looked at her the same way. 

But not this time. He told Richie he would fix it, and he fully intended to do so. 

"Mom." he said, and it was deafening in this muffled house, but he didn't take it back. 

She sensed the change in his voice immediately, actually looking at him. "Yes?" 

Eddie didn't want to do this. The last time she looked at him was when everything went to hell, when all the glass walls in this house shattered between the screaming and slammed doors. 

But he had already decided he'd face this. When he saw tears fall down Richie's face, when he heard his voice break. 

They'd left a mess in their wake and it was about time they cleaned it up. 

"I think we should talk." 

His mother pushed the mail aside and watched Eddie carefully, calculatingly, as he sat down across from her. "Okay." she said tightly, she clearly hadn't decided if that actually was okay yet.

Eddie didn't look at her, bouncing his leg as he tried to find a way to collect his thoughts. If he screwed this up now, his mother would probably shut down any further requests to talk like this. Eddie needed to get this right or he'd never be able to fix this. 

"Mom," he muttered, pulling absently at his jeans, licking his lips nervously. "Do you still love me?" 

She softened all at once, like it had all just washed over her; he hadn't seen that look on her face in such a long time. "Of course I do." 

Eddie nodded a bit, more to himself than her. That was a good start. "I love you too," he said quickly, and he meant it. "I don't want things to be like this between us anymore, but... I won't leave Richie, and I won't keep hiding it from you either." he said, a bit firmer now. "I'm not going to pretend I don't love him to make you more comfortable." he knitted his eyebrows together as he kept speaking, his heart more than relieved to finally confront her. "I've pretended to be someone else to suit you for a long time. I've played along with your idea of me to make you happy. And maybe that's my fault and I should've drawn the line sooner, but..." he risked a glance at her, he was nervous, his hands were shaking and sweating. But he tried to look at her in a way she would understand that he meant every word. "I'm drawing the line now." 

So far, he felt good. He thought the most difficult part about this would be finding something to say, but it turned out he had a lot of things to say he'd been holding in for a long time. Now his problem was making sure he worded and limited it just right or else this had the potential to quickly go off the rails. 

He watched her face contort tightly, but it looked like she was actually trying to be patient, for once in her life to listen. Maybe the tensity between them had made her miss him, desperate enough to actually hear him out for once. 

"Eddie..." she said, forcing it out. She was trying to get the words started, she didn't know where to start either. She chewed it over for awhile, tapping her fingers on the table. "I'm trying." she said after awhile. 

Eddie wasn't sure what to say, so she kept going. "I am. I'll try. To understand, I mean." she softened. "And I'll try to be better. I know I haven't been good to you. And I went too far this time." 

Eddie gaped at her, now he really didn't know what to say. He didn't think his mother would accept any sort of blame, he had fully prepared himself to try and absorb the guilt she would push his way. 

It wasn't exactly an apology, but to Eddie, it might as well have been. 

"Okay." Eddie choked. "I will too." he nodded. "I'll be more respectful of your rules until I leave. No more sneaking out or lying to you about where I am." he grew a bit anxious again. "... So what about Richie?" 

She shifted uncomfortably and sighed; it was an annoyed sigh, but she really was trying to reign it in. "I don't like it." she said, inhaling deeply. "But it's not my choice who you... date." she looked at him. "I just have to trust your decision." 

Eddie held his breath. "And me being... gay?" 

She softened that time, looking at him apologetically. "That's okay with me. I thought about it, and it doesn't change anything." she glanced away, looking sad. But not her usual sad face she pulled when she was manipulating Eddie to cave and do what she wanted. She looked genuinely sad. "I've been miserable without you. I want you back." 

Eddie's resolve crumbled and he felt his eyes burning, his face contorting with an incoming sob he was doing his best to hold back. "So we're okay?" 

She looked at him, mirroring his expression, and nodded. "We're okay." 

Eddie rushed around the table to her and into her arms. He usually hated hugging her, it always felt so suffocating and caging. But for once, it felt like comfort. It was an embrace. 

And for awhile, they stayed like that. And when they finally let go, and Eddie started towards his room, he was relieved to find that his footsteps didn't shake the entire house anymore. 

Eddie was about to disappear down the hall, maybe get a grip on himself before going to Richie. He had just seen him a couple hours ago, when Richie was crying, but he couldn't wait to tell him what happened. They didn't have to hide anymore; Eddie couldn't wipe the smile off his face even if he tried. 

"Oh, Eddie." 

He paused, looking back at her. "Yeah?" 

She smiled at him. "About New York... Congratulations." 

Eddie smiled so hard it hurt. "Thank you," he muttered, turning and rushing to his room. 

So screw getting a grip on himself, he was overly emotional right now and he wanted nothing more than to share it with Richie. He just grabbed a jacket that he probably didn't need considering it was getting warmer everyday and went running out. He stopped at the door, reminding himself what they just talked about. "Can I go to Richie's?" he asked. 

His mom just rolled her eyes, but there was no actual malice in it. "Go ahead." 

Eddie bit his lip excitedly, rushing out and jumping down the steps, almost falling and breaking his damn leg in the process--those stairs could be dangerous apparently.

He would've sprinted the entire way but he knew he'd run out of air too quick, and he didn't bring his inhaler. The last thing he wanted was to need Richie to save him from an asthma attack first thing. 

But the moment he saw Richie's house come into view he ran. 

Thankfully Richie's parents weren't home yet because Eddie was sprinting through their door, racing to Richie's room, and he would've done the exact same thing whether they were there or not. This way, he just didn't have to awkwardly explain it later.

Eddie slammed Richie's door open--for the record, he did not mean to do that. He was just over excited. 

Richie flinched awake violently--why was he always sleeping? He took one look at Eddie and looked absolutely frantic, scrambling to his feet. "What's wrong?" he asked, rushing to him. 

Eddie panted, trying to find his breath, a smile stretching across his face. "Nothing!" he choked out excitedly. 

Richie laughed softly, calming a bit. He looked gorgeous; his hair a mess, his glasses discarded on the bed, that stupid scar on his eyebrow, and he looked so pleasantly confused. It was probably just the sheer excitement Eddie's heart was bursting with, but he wondered to himself if Richie had ever looked this good? 

Maybe. Maybe when they laid together and laughed until they cried in the grass. Or when he fell out of the truck or showed up at his door unprompted just to say goodnight. When his pupils were blown out and he looked high after the fight or when he looked so gentle when they almost kissed. When he shakes his hair out like a dog after swimming or keeps Eddie warm when their bed on the floor wasn't cutting it. Maybe when he finally kissed him under the stars... 

Maybe he just always looked good. Breathtaking. Perfect. 

"Eddie, you gotta fill me in, I'm at a loss here," Richie said with a soft grin, pushing Eddie's hair back.

"She said okay." he blurted, knowing that made no sense without context. "My mom. She's okay with it." he bit his lip hard trying to hold back that smile, like it might tear across his face. "She's okay with us.

Richie's jaw dropped and he looked so vulnerable, so emotional, and completely blown away--add that to the list of the many times Richie looked good. 

"Are you kidding?" he asked softly, then cupped Eddie's face--he knew he wasn't kidding. "Are you serious? Eddie?" he asked more urgently this time, his eyes darting all over Eddie's face, searching for the answer. 

Eddie just nodded, feeling his eyes welling with tears again. But Richie's were too so he didn't care. 

Something between a laugh and a sob shuddered out of Richie and he ducked down, wrapping his arms around Eddie's waist and lifting him into a tight hug. "Oh my god!" he exclaimed, squeezing him, but he couldn't find much else to say. 

It was more than Eddie could say that's for sure, he couldn't find any words at all--he just laughed, the purest expression of happiness he could muster in that moment. Eddie grabbed Richie's face, kissing him with everything he had. And in that moment, it was a lot. 

It really was everything. 

Every single moment, choice, feeling, whisper, sob, touch, glance, laugh, kiss--all of it. It all led up to this. Right now. 

He loved him so completely, and finally, that was all that mattered. 

They pulled away when Eddie's lungs couldn't take it anymore, and Richie looked at him, and it was something else entirely. The emotion so raw in his eyes, on his face, everywhere. Dewy-eyed and red kissed lips. Okay, so this was it, this was the best he'd ever looked. 

"I love you," Richie said breathlessly, and it shook with so much emotion that Eddie had never been more certain of anything in his life. 

"I love you too," Eddie muttered, another laugh shaking out of him. 

And this was the moment that he knew there was absolutely nothing to worry about anymore. Not for them. 

He had never viewed something as so absolute before, but this was. 

They were. 

 

Of course they had to tell the Losers, and Eddie's mom even gave him permission to go out for a late night meet up with everyone. 

They went to the diner and were all hugs and teary eyes; Eddie was actually quite surprised about how many of them were on the verge of tears for them, just because they finally didn't have to hide anymore. It was easy to forget how much they all loved each other. 

And when Stan sniffled, Eddie and Richie were so shocked that everyone laughed at the look on their faces, and Stan punched them both in the stomach.

They got their milkshakes--because of course that's what they got--and Bill raised his. "A t-toast!" 

Eddie groaned, already embarrassed. "Oh god, don't." 

Bill ignored him completely. "To Richie and Eddie. N-Now they can do PDA and spread out their affection, so maybe they'll stop being s-so gross when we hang out!" 

Laughs bubbled up from around the table and Eddie just blushed as everyone raised their glasses and clinked to that. Well, everyone except the couple in question of course. Richie smirked. "That's mean." he said, turning and tapping his glass against Eddie's. "To being gross." 

"No!" Eddie said, pulling his glass away. "I'm not toasting that." 

Richie took a sip of his milkshake. "Fine. I'm still going to be gross though." he muttered, promptly licking Eddie's ear way over zealously ; his tongue was freezing from the milkshake and Eddie shuddered, making loud gagging sounds. 

He smacked Richie, who just laughed smugly, before wiping at his ear.

Ben kicked Richie under the table. "Not even Eddie wants to be gross with you." 

"That's not true, he does." Richie said confidently. 

"No I don't." Eddie deadpanned, drinking his milkshake. In the background he could hear Bill passionately ranting to Mike about how good these milkshakes were. Eddie was pretty sure Mike wasn't even looking at him. 

Eddie just smiled, absently stirring his straw around as he looked around. It had been a minute since they got to hang out anywhere other than the clubhouse. Between being split at lunch and hiding away when they were together, Eddie didn't realize how much of their energy had been held back. He missed this. 

Richie put his freezing hands on Eddie's neck, snapping him out of it. 

Eddie yelped and smacked Richie's hands away. "What is wrong with you!?" he demanded, grabbing his cherry and hitting Richie in the face. 

Ben laughed, wiping at his tears. "Geez, it's like nothing changed between you two at all. You're the same no matter what." 

Eddie and Richie exchanged glances, and slowly Richie's smug grin fell into something more gentle, and Eddie felt his own frustrated expression fall into a smile. Maybe they were always the same, but they both definitely felt that something had changed. Things felt better somehow. 

Suddenly, Richie's face scrunched up. "Wait..." 

"What?" Eddie asked. 

"We just had an eye conversation..." he muttered, as if he was realizing something. 

"A what?--" 

"Oh god, we're turning into my parents!" he exclaimed dramatically. "Eddie, don't ever look me in the eyes again."

Eddie tried to ask again but Richie put his freezing hand over Eddie's eyes. Eddie smacked blindly at him, shouting at him. But he could just hear Richie, and everyone else, laughing.

It was all he could do not to laugh too. 

 

And that night, for the first time in a long time, Richie walked Eddie home. 

Mike insisted on giving them a ride, but they wanted to walk home together so bad. They paused at the bottom of his steps and Eddie smiled at him. "We have, like, a normal relationship now. Who knew?" 

Richie smirked. "Please, we're never going to have a normal relationship." he softened. "But we're a little closer." 

They shared a kiss goodnight, and Richie started down the driveway, and Eddie rushed up his steps. 

"Hey Spaghetti." Richie called, and Eddie paused with his hand on the door. Richie walked backwards a few more steps, then stopped at the end of his driveway. He looked serious now. "I would've hid with you forever, so long as I was with you. You know that, don't you?" 

Eddie's heart clenched hard--too hard. Like his body was physically rejecting loving something this much. 

"I know." Eddie whispered. 

Richie nodded. He winked, but still had the most gentle smile on his face. Then he turned and continued walking home. 

And Eddie walked inside, suddenly feeling on the verge of tears. Good tears, of course. 

His mother was watching her show and she smiled when he came in. "Hey Eddie-Bear, how was--" she paused, turning off the TV first. "How was your night?" 

Eddie smiled warmly at her, those tears getting seriously threatening now. 

Instead of rushing to his room after a quick "Good!" as usual, he kicked off his shoes and walked over, sitting beside her. 

They talked together about their past few hours. 

And everything was complete.  

Chapter Text

Richie groaned, waking to warm sunlight in his eyes. 

He rolled over, burying his face in the pillow. His alarm hadn't gone off yet so there was no way in hell he was going to be waking up right now. In fact, he was almost back to sleep again. 

Until he heard a honk. 

He shot up, scrambling for his clock. It was almost eleven-thirty.

"Fuck!" he cursed loudly--he was supposed to get up an hour ago. Then he heard his front door slam open and closed--now that was a problem. "Oh fuck." 

Eddie came slamming his bedroom door open now, he was fuming. "We have honked three times!" he shouted, those freckled cheeks red with anger. "What the hell!? Graduation starts at 12:30, Richie! We need to be there at noon! It's almost noon!" 

"I know, I know!" Richie said frantically, hopping up to his feet. "I forgot to set my alarm!" 

"Okay, but why are you still naturally asleep at 11:30!?" he demanded, throwing his arms up. 

Richie looked at him like that was a stupid question, because it was. And then he noticed how Eddie looked today... They had to wear nice clothes under their gowns (which Richie always thought was stupid. If they were going to wear a gown over it, why did it matter?), but they weren't getting those until they got to the school. So Eddie was just standing there in his sleek brown dress pants and a pale yellow button up. Richie loved when Eddie wore yellow, made those beautiful brown eyes stand out. And those adorable brown freckles, and that soft brown hair... He looked good. 

"Well look at you," Richie muttered flirtatiously, completely abandoning his panic to slide over, slyly hooking his finger through one of Eddie's belt loops. "Gotta admit though, I miss the suspenders." he winked. 

"Richie!" Eddie shouted, smacking him away. 

"Right, right!" Richie exclaimed, snapping out of it, remembering why he was panicking in the first place.

He was so grateful he had decided to take a shower last night because at least now all he had to do was actually get dressed. If he hurried, they might not be late. He scrambled to the bathroom, tearing a brush through his hair. "Eddie!" he called. "Clothes are on my desk, grab 'em?" 

Eddie came in, dropping them on the counter as Richie started brushing his teeth. Eddie pinched the fabric, glancing up at Richie in the mirror. "Is this the same outfit from prom?" 

"Yep." Richie said, making Eddie grimace at his mouth full of toothpaste. 

Eddie shook his head disapprovingly, taking the jacket. "No jacket, that's too formal. And roll up the sleeves on your button up." he said bossily, exiting so Richie could focus. 

Which was a good call because all Richie wanted to do was stare at that bossy little monster. 

When he got dressed, he thought about going through the hassle to roll up his sleeves like Eddie had told him to, but he knew that would end in disaster--he was terrible at that. And he just didn't care. He rushed out and sat on his bed, pulling on his shoes. 

Eddie crossed his arms, trying to look indifferent but there was a small pout on his face. "You changed your laces. What did you do with the old ones?" 

"I threw away the black one," Richie said, tying his shoes. He grinned up at that worried little look on Eddie's face before pulling back the sleeve on his right hand where the worn out red lace, covered in Eddie and Bev's doodled stars, was tied; once a shoelace, now a bracelet. Richie was truly innovative. "I wouldn't throw it away." 

A smile found Eddie's face. "I thought I told you to roll those sleeves up..." he muttered, oh so lovingly. 

Richie stood, grabbing Eddie's chin. "And I thought I told you to kiss me." 

"You didn't.

"Well, my bad," Richie said with a smirk, leaning forward to kiss him. 

Eddie threw his hand over Richie's mouth right as their lips were going to meet, glaring up at him. "Just like you didn't set your alarm, so we're late. Let's go." he snapped, turning and rushing out the door. 

Richie sighed dramatically. "That's just cruel, Spaghetti." he groaned, running after him--he stopped dead in his tracks when he remembered something very important and doubled back to his desk. Inside the drawer, there was a gift in there for Eddie. A flat rectangular box that would fit just right in Richie's pocket; flat enough that it would probably go unnoticed. Perfect. 

Quickly, he ran out before Eddie came back in after him again--there would be Hell to pay. 

Stan was glaring out the window when they ran out. "Richie, you're an idiot." he growled. 

Mike noticed him and just really laid it down on the horn. Bev threw her empty carton of cigarettes at him, and Bill booed him dramatically. Richie wished Ben had been picked up first, Ben would've been sympathetic. 

"Okay, I get it, I'm sorry!" Richie shouted, climbing in the truck and settling in as quickly as humanly possible. "Just go!" 

Bev rolled her eyes. "I can't believe Trashmouth is going to make us late for our own graduation." 

"Seriously, it doesn't even start until 12:30, how do you manage to sleep in this late?" Eddie bitched, smacking Richie's arm as he tried to put it around Eddie's shoulder. "Don't touch me, I'm beating you up later." 

"In the fun way?" Richie asked hopefully. 

"No." 

"Awe..." Richie muttered sadly, resting his head on Eddie's shoulder. "C'mon Eds... I'm sorry," he said with a mock whimper, giving him the biggest puppy dog eyes he could manage. 

An involuntary smile found Eddie's face and he just shoved Richie's face away, it was oddly affectionate. "Give me your stupid arm." he muttered, proceeding to roll up Richie's sleeves for him. 

Richie watched his handiwork for a moment but instead decided to look at his face. Much better sight. "How're things with your mom?" he asked softly. 

"Good." Eddie said with a smile. "Really good." 

It had been a month since Sonia had given them permission to be together. And her and Eddie had been working on their relationship since. Of course, it wasn't perfect, it's not like it was fixed overnight. But Eddie had looked so much lighter, they were figuring it out, and her effort was beyond obvious. Eddie looked really happy.

It was still sort of confusing for Richie; he had spent so long ready to throw down with her at any given moment that now he was trying to transition. Not that he, like, ever saw her, because she didn't bother them when they said goodnight in front of the door anymore, but still. It was weird not to be filled with rage every time Eddie talked about her. 

"There ya go," Eddie said, patting Richie's arms. 

Richie looked over his sleeves approvingly. "Nicely done, Spaghetti. Can I put my arm around you now?" 

Eddie laughed and rolled his eyes. "Fine." 

"No!" Bill shouted, reaching out, barely able to smack Richie's leg--he sat on the other side of the bed of the truck and just couldn't be bothered to scoot forward. "I'm still m-mad at you! Eddie, keep being mad at him!" 

Eddie laughed, grinning at Richie. "Well, you heard him." 

Richie just shook his head at Bill. "When we went on that double date with Ben and Bev, we got milkshakes without you."

Bill gasped, looking at Eddie, then Bev, looking like such a broken man. "You d-did?" 

Bev groaned, glaring at Richie. "You made us late, and now you're dragging us down with you?" 

"So you did?!" Bill gasped, but everyone ignored him. 

"We all make mistakes, Bev." Richie said smugly, putting his arm around Eddie, who just huffed but he didn't push him off. "Maybe you'll be more forgiving next time." 

Bev rolled her eyes, but she was grinning. 

Bill was very unhappy the rest of the ride. 

 

"We're like ten minutes late!" Mike called as he parked rather violently. 

Everyone cursed Richie in various ways, but at least everyone was more focused on getting out of the truck and beginning the mad sprint into the school. "It's not that big of a deal!" Richie shouted. "They're probably just giving out gowns, they'll go in alphabetical order for our last names, we're fine!" 

"My l-last name starts with D, you dickhead!" Bill shouted as they ran. 

"Well that's your fault, not mine Denbrough!" Richie shouted back, and everyone immediately started yelling at Richie about how this was his fault. Except Ben, who made a quiet statement about how actually it was neither of their faults since they couldn't pick Bill's last name. 

But they ended up making it just as the principal started calling for people with C last names, so all their bitching turned out to be completely unnecessary. 

"Alright so can everyone stop being mad at me now?" Richie asked, holding his arms out dramatically. 

Everyone muttered various forms of "I guess" as they all worked on catching their breath. Except Bill, who adamantly said no, but Richie ignored him because his opinion doesn't count. 

It all moved quite quickly from there; cap and gowns were passed out, they went over how the ceremony would go, and then it was time for everyone to be assigned with their walking partner. Then the teachers would arrange said pairs in the line and send them out--tallest first so they could be in the back, shortest in front. 

The Losers would've been more bitter that the walking partners were assigned, but there was seven of them. And they'd rather all of them be split up randomly than have one left out. 

Except Mike and Bill got assigned together, which then made everyone else quite bitter--what kind of luck does that take? The universe literally always put them together, but not one of the couples of the group. It was rigged. This right here was a prime example of why Bill's opinion is invalid. 

Ben got paired up with some bored looking dude Richie was pretty sure he had never seen in his entire life, Stan got paired with a kid Richie actually sort of remembered but only because they were in one of his classes, and Bev got paired with some girl with glasses as big as Richie's. 

And Eddie got paired with some pretty girl who was at least three inches taller than he was. 

And Richie laughed and laughed--he laughed so much that this poor, sweet girl who had been trying not to embarrass Eddie, started laughing too. Eddie was planning to murder Richie, no doubt. If he looked hard enough he could see Eddie's eyes glancing around, mapping potential areas on Richie's body that he could stab. 

And it was so funny until Richie got assigned his walking partner. Jax. 

Eddie gasped like he'd just been shot and looked at Richie, the most twisted and delighted smile curling onto his face. He looked like an absolute maniac, and Richie weirdly fell a little harder for it. 

He even pointed at Richie as he laughed, and laughed, and laughed... He was still laughing and pointing when Jax found Richie, scowling as he stood beside him. Jax and Richie tried to hold some sort of aggressive eye contact, but with Eddie absolutely losing it in the background, the mood didn't last. 

Jax gave Eddie a threatening look, and it shut him up right away. Richie was about ready to start swinging when Eddie then just pointed at Jax and started laughing at him this time. 

Jax looked so shocked and uncomfortable, glancing at Richie. "Can you make him stop?" 

"Me?" Richie scoffed. "Good one." 

Jax just grumbled, accepting it. That was good, Richie didn't want to get in trouble on graduation. 

Eventually, Eddie was dying and had to stop laughing for the sake of his lungs, and the teachers had come around to start lining people up. Eddie and the girl were ushered to the back since they were one of the shorter groups, they needed to come out last so they ended up in front. Richie and Jax were the second in line for the complete opposite reason. Mike and Bill ended up right behind them, and despite Richie's warning, they too started laughing. 

Richie just glared ahead. Maybe he would start a fight after all. 

 

Then before he knew it, it was starting. 

The moment they started walking, parents started waving and taking pictures like this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them. Maybe it was, maybe this ceremony was definitely way more for the parents. 

Richie was grinning to himself about how dorky these parents were when he glanced over and saw his dad, standing and waving his arms around. Oh god. He gave him a little wave, relieved that he sat down after Richie noticed him. That was when Richie realized his parents were sitting next to Sonia in the second row. Richie was surprised to say the least, but Sonia and Richie's mom were talking--and Sonia laughed at something his mom said. Had he ever seen her laugh before? 

Richie thought it couldn't get any weirder but then Sonia gave him a look; she wasn't quite smiling at him, but she wasn't glaring at him like usual. And then she took a picture of him--of course she brought a camera. Poor Eddie. 

Richie and Jax were standing in the very back, and Richie watched each of the Losers walk down, beaming with pride. 

Mike's dad cheered embarrassingly loud, and Georgie stood on a chair and shouted for Bill's attention, quickly getting yanked back into his seat by Bill's dad. Stan's parents snapped pictures, and Stan did not look happy about it. Ben's parents waved until Ben smiled at them, and Bev's aunt smiled proudly, her eyes glued on Bev. 

And Eddie just looked so cute. Richie couldn't help the small laugh that left him when he saw Eddie spot his mom, and then spot the camera--the dread on his face was immediate. And the moment she saw him she shouted for his attention--even though she already had it--and started obsessively snapping pictures. Eddie's ears turned pink; adorable. 

Finally, everyone was settled. And the principal went on some long speech about school and life after school and yada, yada, yada... Then everyone had to go one-by-one to walk up, shake his hand, and get their diploma. Some parents were crying, some were taking pictures--Eddie's mom was doing both. 

And then, just like that, it was over. 

Everyone went to go find their parents, meanwhile Richie was looking for Eddie--he had to give him his gift still. Except Richie's parents found him, stopping him before he could really look. His dad grabbed his shoulders and beamed at him. "I'm so proud," he said, his eyes glossy. 

His mom was sobbing, just throwing her arms around him. Richie just laughed and patted each of them. "You guys are embarrassing." 

"We're parents, it's our job." his dad said, ruffling his hair. 

Richie spent some time with them, letting them fawn over him. Then when the conversation wandered to how Richie hadn't folded his laundry in three days, Richie found it acceptable to find his excuse and back out of that. He left his cap and diploma with them and then was out of there as quickly as possible. 

Though when he found Eddie, he was pretty preoccupied with his sobbing mother. She alternated between looking at him, sobbing, hugging him, then doing it all again. 

Richie just smiled warmly at them, leaning against the wall. Looks like he'd have to wait to give Eddie his gift; this was more important. 

Mike came up, also capless and diplomaless, and slapped Richie's back. "We did it!" 

"Yep." Richie said, adjusting his glasses that had been knocked sideways--Mike hit hard, that man was a beast. "What's our plan for today?" 

"Bill wants milkshakes." 

"Of course he does." Richie said with a roll of his eyes. "Where is he?" 

Mike pointed, and Richie's gaze followed Mike's direction to where Georgie was on Bill's back, trying to steal his cap. His parents were freaking out, trying to get a picture without Georgie being a menace. 

Richie laughed, and Mike just grinned at them, beaming at Bill. 

Stan was the next to find them and stand with them. "My parents took so many pictures..." he grumbled under his breath. They also took all of his other things--gown included--they were totally the type of parents who would frame them. 

"Awe come on," Mike said, nudging him. "It's sweet." 

Stan rolled his eyes. Bev was next, excitedly shoving her diploma in their faces, calling them bitches as if they didn't just get one too. Points for enthusiasm at least. Until she realized how much easier it was to leave her diploma with her aunt, pouting now that she didn't. Ben was next, all smiley and beaming, looking so happy. Then Bill finally caught up with them, and Eddie came wandering over, looking so exhausted. "She took so many pictures," he whined. 

Richie was a bit distracted now; Sonia had of course taken his cap and gown too, and he looked so good in that outfit. Richie's poor mind was always so stuck on Eddie. 

Stan pointed. "See? It's horrible." 

"Drama queens," Richie said, clapping his hands together. "Now, let's get out of here, shall we?" 

 

The waitresses didn't even bother showing them to the booth anymore, they already knew where they were headed.

Everyone slipped in, and Bill was already talking about the milkshakes again. And as usual, the whole place was dead--Richie wondered if this place would go out of business when they were gone. 

Eddie sat distracting close, resting his hand on Richie's thigh. "Are you going to drool over me all night?" he whispered in a tone that Richie quite liked. 

"I usually do, Eds." he pinched absently at the collar of Eddie's shirt. "Did you wear this color because you knew I liked it?"

Eddie grinned smugly, so Richie already knew the answer to that. "You like this color?" he asked, mocking innocence. "Well I had no idea." 

Richie laughed, shaking his head. "What a tease." 

"Is it considered teasing if I'm going home with you later?" he asked, blinking up at him, once again faking innocence. 

Richie's brain short circuited, and he didn't have a chance to try and restart it before Stan spoke up. 

"Stop." Was all he said, so firmly, looking at them with the most deadpan expression. 

Eddie and Richie exchanged glances with each other, both of them blushing at the same time. They laughed to themselves and then Richie realized it was happening again. "Dammit Eddie, what did I tell you about looking me in the eye?!" he demanded. 

It actually didn't bother him. He kind of loved it. He spent his whole life wondering how you could have a connection so strong with someone that you could speak with just passing looks. It made Richie sort of proud. 

"Are you ever going to tell me what that means!?" Eddie groaned. 

"No. Once you know, it's too late, you'll do it all the time." Richie said, only shutting up because the waitress had come to take their order. As they all ordered, he felt Eddie's hand gently nudge at Richie's under the table. 

Richie smiled to himself, taking Eddie's hand in his. 

 

Bill got three fucking milkshakes. 

"What the fuck, Bill?" Richie asked after the waitress brought them. "Are you really going to drink all of those?" 

"Don't insult m-me." Bill said, taking a sip. "It's probably the last time I-I'll be going here, I need to make the most out of i-it." 

Everyone looked at him. 

Bill blushed under the gazes, realizing what he said, and then he looked sort of guilty. "I'm m-moving next week." 

He sat there, waiting for the Losers to get mad at him. Instead, Richie reached across the table and slapped him on the arm. "Congratulations!" he exclaimed, and then everyone else started excitedly congratulating him as well. He was moving on, succeeding--why would they be mad? 

"Where are you going?" Bev asked excitedly. 

Bill exchanged a glance with Mike. "Florida." 

Richie looked at Mike. "Wait. Are you going too?" He knew that Mike had always wanted to go, but he didn't know if that was something he was actually going to do. 

Mike nodded. "Yep. It was too expensive to go alone, so I looked in to what kind of places we could get if there were three of us. And we can get a really nice place..." 

"Three?" Eddie asked, and everyone looked at Stan immediately. Stan just waved a little. 

Of course, everyone was excited and congratulating them, but it dawned on Richie that they had all avoided this topic like the plague--about what happened next. No one knew anyone's plans, except Eddie because he announced that he got accepted to New York to everyone. 

Richie assumed that it was probably the time to talk about it. 

"What about everyone else?" Richie pressed, leaning back and draping his arm around Eddie, who leaned into him. Richie appreciated it; he didn't know why, but just talking about this was sort of heart wrenching--even though Eddie and Richie had their own plans, hearing that everyone else was scattering around was sort of miserable. 

"Ben and I are staying for a bit." Bev said, resting her head on Ben's shoulder. "We have a few plans. Ben's been looking at some schools and applied to some, we're just waiting to get all the options first." 

Ben smiled at her and Richie knew that look. Bev could've said "we're leaving tonight" and Ben would've packed his bags right that second. Ben just nodded. "And what about you two?" 

Eddie gave Richie a look; something between curiosity and unease. They hadn't talked about it since he promised Eddie he'd go with them. He could tell Eddie was getting nervous, especially since Eddie and his mom sat down together and worked out everything--Eddie's flight next month, the amount of money she had saved for him, the apartment, he'd already contacted the building and worked it all out. 

Meanwhile, Richie had been deadly silent. He could tell when Eddie talked about his plans for New York that he wanted Richie to add to it, wanted him to confirm he was still going. He always left the end of those sentences with a hanging tone, practically begging Richie to pick it up and carry it further. But Richie never did. 

Richie grinned to himself. Poor Eddie, Richie just loved to see him on edge--he loved to surprise Eddie. 

"Eddie and I are going to New York together," Richie said confidently. 

Eddie smiled at him warmly, nuzzling his shoulder. "Yeah," he confirmed softly. 

Richie definitely had more details to share with Eddie, but those would wait until later. 

A silence settled among them as they all digested it; digesting the reality that very soon, they'd be apart. 

Bev spoke up. "I'm going to miss you guys." she muttered, and she muttered it so calmly that everyone almost didn't notice the tears running down her face. 

Richie's heart wrenched--all he could picture was her at his side, passing a cigarette to him, laughing out the smoke from one of Richie's stupid jokes. Richie was pretty sure they were separated at birth or something. He could talk to her for hours; about anything and everything, and she could do the same to him. 

Bev, his Bev. 

"Don't cry." Eddie said, and when everyone looked at him, he was crying. "We'll see each other and stay in touch..." his voice fell away as he sniffled. 

Richie hugged him tightly. "Yeah we will, it's alright," he muttered softly, feeling a little choked up himself.

Everyone just sat there, looking around at each other, glossy eyed. Then Stan just started sobbing and it became very apparent that everyone needed a hug. So they all huddled around to Stan's side of the booth and had a group hug--the best they could manage anyway. It was times like these that Richie realized there were way too many people in their group, but they made it work. 

They always made it work. 

 

They managed to pull themselves together after the waitress very embarrassingly asked them if they were okay. 

Soon, they were laughing and acting like nothing had even happened. Because maybe it didn't make a difference, really. They were The Losers, they'd never lose contact, they'd make frequent visits. They'd make it work. 

It was okay. They were going to be just fine. 

Except Bill, cause he drank three milkshakes and was now sick and cold. Stan rolled his eyes. "We should get out of here before he orders more." 

Everyone agreed eagerly. Especially the people who rode in the back of the truck--they could do without Bill vomiting on them. 

Mike carried Bill to the truck because he was whining about having to walk and how much his stomach hurt--so basically, he was being an actual baby. "Mikey, don't encourage him." Richie said, shaking his head. 

Eddie scoffed. "Coming from you." 

Richie grinned. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said, then leaned all his weight on Eddie. "Carry me." 

Eddie laughed and shoved him off. "No! Your legs are too long, we'll fall." 

"Ben, carry me!" he shouted, giving no warning as he jumped on Ben's back. And Ben just laughed and boosted him up. "Okay," he said casually, so Richie had to turn his head and stick his tongue out at Eddie. 

"So what're we doing now anyway?" Stan asked. 

Everyone looked around at each other, then Bev smiled, speaking everyone's mind. "Maybe go home?" she suggested, then laughed. "That sounds super lame of me. But I'm sort of overwhelmed. And you three aren't leaving for another week, we'll just spend everyday together until you do." 

No one argued, everyone wanted to unwind. Between almost being late for graduating, graduating, and then crying at the diner, they were pretty worn out. 

When everyone settled into the truck, Richie leaned over and kissed the top of Eddie's head. "Coming over, Spaghetti?"

"Duh." he said, but it sounded sweeter than you'd think. 

 

Oh God, Richie's parents were home. 

They cried again. Richie was wishing he had taken off his gown, maybe it wouldn't have set them off again. They spent a decent amount of time with them, talking, assuring them that they were fine with being out of high school, then finally they escaped to Richie's room. 

"Oh!" Eddie piped up as they shut the door behind them. "I have something to ask you." 

"Enlighten me," Richie said as he pulled his gown off and tossed it aside. 

Eddie promptly scolded him about that, carefully putting it in his closet, speaking as he did so. "You can say no." he warned, looking at Richie warily. 

Richie sat back on his bed, patting his lap for Eddie to sit. "Well if you don't tell me, I can't say yes or no." 

Eddie rolled his eyes as he ever so casually walked over and sat on Richie's lap, wrapping his arms around his neck. "So, my mom invited you to come over tonight for dinner..." he said, his eyes darting all over Richie's face worriedly; he genuinely had no idea how Richie was going to react. 

Richie didn't either. 

He blanched. "Your mom? She... Invited me?" 

"Mmhmm." Eddie said softly, gently running his fingers through Richie's hair. "She thought it'd be good for you two. And for her and I of course--if she got to know you a little better. Um. Like I said, you don't have to." 

Richie shook his head. "No, I'll go." Of course he'd go. If Sonia Kaspbrak was willing to finally try and make things decent between them, he wasn't going to deny just because he hated her for awhile. She was trying. For Eddie. And Richie would do anything for Eddie. "I'll definitely go." 

Eddie face lit up; all sunshine and freckles. "Okay!" he said excitedly, grabbing Richie's face and kissing him. 

Ah, yet another good reason to always do what Eddie wanted. 

About five minutes into the make-out session, Richie finally remembered that he had an announcement of his own. He laid back and rolled them over, hovering over Eddie. "I have something for you." 

Eddie rose an eyebrow. "Is this an innuendo or something--" 

"No!" Richie laughed, then stared off thoughtfully. "... Oh that's good though, that's how I'm initiating it next time." 

Eddie grinned and shoved him off, sitting up. "What is it, Trashmouth?" 

Richie fished the little box out of his pocket. He even went to the trouble to get a gift box, making it look quite official. He handed it to him. "Open."

Eddie looked at him, confused, trying to figure out if this was a joke or something. "Is there going to be some stupid toy or something in here?" he asked as he started untying the ribbon. 

"Open it and find out. It could be naughty pictures I took for you, you never know." 

Eddie looked at him, then started opening the box way slower, a bratty little grin on his face. "Oh, no rush then?" 

Richie gasped. "Mean! Mean little monster," he said, pinching Eddie's thigh, savoring the way Eddie gasped and giggled. "Open it!" 

"Fine, fine," Eddie laughed, discarding the ribbon and opening it up. He stopped, studying the plane ticket inside. "Plane ticket?" he looked up at Richie, and looked at him like he was the stupidest man that ever lived. "I already have my plane ticket, Richie. Did you think I made all these plans and didn't buy one?" 

Richie groaned. "Oh my god, it's not for you!

Eddie gasped the moment the words left Richie's mouth. He looked at the ticket with new determination, putting a hand over his mouth when he saw Richie's name on it. "... Rich," he muttered, not able to find anything else to say. "This is..." 

Richie pointed. "See the flight number? That's your flight. And the seat number? It's right next to you." he beamed, quite proud of himself. 

Eddie looked up at him, eyes wide. "How...?" 

Richie shrugged. "Maybe I called Ms. K. Maybe she ordered our tickets together and only told you about yours so I could surprise you..." 

Oh God, Eddie's eyes were getting glossy--not again. 

"You and mom...?" he muttered. Yep, his eyes were definitely welling up with tears. 

Richie placed a hand on Eddie's cheek. "Calm down Eds," he said sweetly, almost begging. "It's not like I went over and saw her. I just called her. I didn't even see her when I got the ticket, my mom stopped by and got it from her after work." 

But it was too late, Eddie was already crying. "Richie," he whimpered. 

"Oh no," Richie muttered, pulling Eddie into a tight hug. He smiled against his hair. "C'mon Eds, it's nothing to cry over." 

"Shut up, yes it is," Eddie said as angrily as he could manage, hugging him back. "It's official, we're leaving together. We're really..." it was lost to Eddie's muffled little heartbreaking sounds. 

"It was always official," Richie said softly, rubbing his back. "I've told you a hundred times, I can't go anywhere else." 

Eddie sobbed softly against Richie's shoulder, and Richie's heart couldn't have twisted harder--it always moved him when he saw how emotional Eddie got over him. Richie really didn't deserve Eddie, he wasn't sure how he landed that. 

"I love you," Richie muttered against Eddie's hair, his heart just wouldn't calm down. Did it ever really though when he was around Eddie? His Eds, his Spaghetti, his little monster--he really made Richie into such a romantic sap. Richie could blame Ben all he wanted, but he knew well enough who made him like this. 

"I love you too," Eddie muttered, but he made no move to move anytime soon. 

Richie was glad. He wasn't ready to let go. 

 

When they did finally pull themselves together, they decided to just lay together. 

Richie loved when this happened. They were just laying on Richie's bed, facing each other. Richie lightly brushed his fingers over Eddie's cheeks. "I love your freckles," he muttered. 

Eddie laughed softly, but he didn't swat his hand away. "I know, you tell me all the time." 

Richie grinned. "I'm nothing if not consistent, Eds." 

"That's true." Eddie said, gently removing Richie's glasses and placing them aside. "I think about before we were dating and... it was sort of like this anyway." he smiled warmly, fondly. "Wasn't it?" 

Richie blushed a bit; recalling the many times they sat too close, touched too much, laughed too loud--they were never just friends, not once. Maybe when they first met, but Richie's sappy side liked to think that maybe they were supposed to be in each other's life. That maybe he should stop complaining that Mike and Bill got put together during graduation by some stretch of fate, because fate had been pushing Richie and Eddie closer and closer everyday of their lives. 

Richie could've said any of that, or any of the countless thoughts he kept to himself--about how quickly he'd run away with him without ever looking back, or how he'd give everything he had just to be at his side. If nothing else, he just wanted this. He wanted to lay beside him, admire him. Love him. 

Instead, a playful grin found his face. "Well, that's pretty much what you told that girl." 

Eddie's face immediately went red. "Oh god, enough about that--" 

"Nope!" Richie exclaimed, grabbing Eddie's face. He loved to talk about how Eddie told that girl Richie was taken. It was his favorite thing probably ever--Only rivaled by Eddie himself. "You decided we were together well before we got together." he teased, pinching at those cheeks. 

Eddie swatted him away, his nose scrunching up. "Stop!" he whined, hopelessly embarrassed. 

"Ya know," Richie said, almost comfortingly, "finding that out was the main reason I was confident enough to ask you to prom. As a date." 

Eddie softened a bit. "Really?" 

"Mmhmm," Richie hummed. "When I heard that, I knew you were waiting for me." he softened. "You'd been waiting for me for awhile. I was taking too long." 

Eddie blushed and grinned. "Yeah you were," he said, shoving his shoulder playfully.

"Forgive me?" Richie whispered, leaning in until their lips were just a breath away, their noses touching. 

Eddie looked so smitten it made Richie melt--he couldn't possibly be looking at Richie. Not with that look on his face. "Always," Eddie muttered, much more sincerely than Richie had anticipated--his heart lurching so hard, it practically pulled him forward, bringing their lips together.

Richie always seemed to be moved by some greater force. 

Pushed by gravity, nudged by fate. 

His being simply belonged to Eddie. And it was simple, it had always been so simple. How could they have been so blind? 

They simply belonged together. 

 

"This is really weird, Eds. Isn't this weird?" 

"No, it's not weird," Eddie said with a roll of his eyes as they walked up Eddie's driveway. "Don't make it weird." 

"I'm weird, Eds, that's difficult." Richie muttered, wiping his palms on his jeans. He hadn't been in Eddie's house in years. The moment he wasn't a dorky little kid Sonia shut him out. Not just him really, none of them ever went to Eddie's that much. But she didn't have a personal vendetta against the others. Except maybe Bev. 

She doesn't hate you anymore. Richie reminded himself. At least she's trying not to. Suck it up. 

Richie paused at the bottom of Eddie's steps purely on instinct. Eddie didn't notice until he was at the top and he groaned, opening the door. "Come on, Richie. You have to come inside to eat dinner with us." And in his bratty little way, he turned and went inside, leaving the door open for him. 

God Richie loved that little brat. 

He looked down at the steps and suddenly this seemed like a rather dizzying thing to do. 

Those three damn steps have always seemed like mountains between them. Sonia's own personal barrier between Richie and Eddie, between Richie and Eddie's life. At least part of it. How many times had she stood at the top, staring down at him, reminding him that he was indeed on the other side--the outside. 

Richie took a deep breath. This was ridiculous. They were just three steps. That's all they'd ever been. 

And with a loud exhale, he started up, counting as he went. 

One. 

Two. 

Three.