The first time Richie sees Eddie, his world explodes in color.
Not literally, of course - that won’t happen until his 18th birthday. But that’s the thing - it will. He knows it will, more certainly than almost anything else in his life. And that’s weird, because Richie has never been romantic about anything (not counting that one time he asked Lizzie to marry him in Kindergarten, because kids are stupid).
He’s twelve. Stan’s dragging him along to a thing that Bill’s involved with - a fundraiser or something. Richie really hadn’t been listening.
It’s outside in a field, and there are makeshift booths set up everywhere, some selling food or crafts; some advertising “try your luck”-style games. There’s what looks to be a petting zoo over to their right.
“What the fuck, Stan, is this a fair? Did Bill put together a fucking-”
He never finishes. He’s just made eye contact with a boy standing a few feet away by some stand hawking mineral oils or herbs or some shit, who cares - and everything had shifted.
“ - I told you, Richie, you never listen - what? What is happening? Why do you look like your dick just fell off?”
Stan is still next to him, continuing to talk; snapping in his face when he doesn’t reply.
Richie shoves him aside, not even noticing his resultant squawk, and saunters over to the boy.
“Hi,” he says, and the boy looks at him with a weird amount of suspicion. “I’m Richie.”
Richie lifts an eyebrow. “And you are…?”
“Eddie. What do you want?”
“Just trying to be friendly, Jesus.” Richie lifts his hands in a defensive shrug. “You here alone?”
“No. I’m with my momm- my mom.” He gestures to the booth, where a very large woman appears to be haggling with an aggravated vendor.
Richie smirks, lifting a hand to rub the back of his neck. “Shit, that’s your mom? She never mentioned she had a son.”
“You’ve met my mom?”
“Yeah,” Richie says, a wicked glint coming into his eyes. “But you never came up-”
“-you know, when I was fucking her last night.”
Eddie’s jaw drops. Then his face turns bright red, and he shrieks, “fuck you!”
Riche bends in half laughing, unable to stop as Eddie just sputters. He finally gets his wits together enough to spit, “Why don’t you just fuck off?!”
He turns to leave and Richie catches his sleeve, pulling himself together.
“Sorry! I’m sorry! I couldn’t resist!”
Eddie stops moving but only folds his arms and glares.
“Really, I can’t stop myself sometimes, it’s a known issue. My friends call me Trashmouth.”
At that, Eddie smirks. “Well that’s appropriate.”
“And I’m not!” Richie says, brightly. “But I am sorry. Let me make it up to you?”
Eddie is still glaring, but it’s softening. “How?”
Richie shrugs, looking around. “Buy you an ice cream?”
Eddie’s look turns somber as he glances toward his mom, who’s digging out cash to finally pay for her purchase.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Richie catches the look. “She’s the, uh, protective type?”
Eddie nods. “Yeah,” and then adds, “because she loves me,” as if to remind himself.
Richie just nods. “She wouldn’t like me, would she?”
Eddie doesn’t look too happy about it, but he shakes his head.
“Ok. I don’t wanna get you in trouble.”
This time, he turns to go, and this time, it’s Eddie who stops him. He holds up a hand for Richie to wait, and digs into his fanny pack - he’s wearing a fanny pack - before coming up with a notepad and pen. He scribbles something onto it, tears a paper off, and shoves it into Richie’s hand.
“Call between ten and eleven A.M. tomorrow - she’ll be out.”
Richie nods, very oddly out of things to say.
“I’ll talk to you then,” Eddie says, before quickly moving to his mother’s side.
Richie is just about to walk away when he hears it.
“Oh, Eddie-bear! There you are!”
He freezes. Turns around. Eddie’s still looking at him. He’s blushing. Richie grins, widely.
He mouths, “ Eddie-bear?! ”
Eddie flips him off.
And Richie laughs and laughs.
They spend five years together. They’re inseparable almost immediately, that first summer, and they only grow closer as the years go by.
It’s Sophomore year by the time Richie gets the balls to ask Eddie out officially. Eddie smacks him on the arm, asks what took so long, and says “yes, obviously.”
Their routine doesn’t change much after that. They still go to the arcade most days; the movies some of them. They end up at someone’s house nearly every night (usually Richie’s, because his parents really don’t mind, but they have to wait until Sonia’s asleep regardless). They struggle over homework and buy comics and fight over them. The only difference is the constant touching and hand-holding and kissing. And, when they get old enough, a bit more than that.
They fight, often. Their differences only grow with them, but they never break up, or even stay mad for long. Their record was one week with Eddie not speaking to Richie, and that was over Sonia. A lot of their arguments are, in fact.
She’s the one bad thing in their lives, but only Richie can see that. After Pennywise, Eddie had grown up a lot; believes in himself a lot more; threw away his gazebos, but he can’t shake his mother’s influence completely. He loves her, and she him, in her own way. (It’s a bad way, Richie insists, and Eddie might even agree, but what can he do about it?)
She’s the reason they can’t be public after five years friends and two boyfriends. She’s the reason they can only see each other on weekends and late nights.
And she’s the reason Eddie leaves.
She finds out the week before Richie’s 18th birthday.
Richie’s older by two months, so he gets to Know first. Not that he doesn’t already. Eddie seems nervous but Richie has nothing but confidence. (Now, anyway. Two months down the line? Absolutely.)
They’re sitting close together in Eddie’s room, on his bed, shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip, reading a comic together. (They don’t usually do that, because Eddie reads faster, but occasionally he’ll relent. Because it’s an important issue that he doesn’t want to read first, or it’s a special occasion, or he’s feeling particularly needy for touch.)
The night’s gone by perfectly, as it tends to. They’re used to the routine by now; used to speaking in whispers and only walking around if absolutely necessary, and even then on tiptoe. But something conspires against them that night.
Richie fucking sneezes.
And it wouldn’t be so bad, if he wasn’t the one sitting by the lamp. His foot, kicked out by the force of his sneeze, catches on the cord and brings the whole thing down with a terrifying crash.
They look at each other, frozen, for only a moment before they’re in action.
Eddie shoves the comic book under his pillow, pulling down his covers and sitting in the bed, mussing his hair and eyes to make it seem like the sound woke him from sleep.
Meanwhile, Richie leaps off the bed and to the window, tearing it open.
He’s halfway out when the bedroom door opens.
Sonia Kaspbrak stands there, hand on her mouth, tears already gathering in her eyes.
“Eddie? What’s going on?”
Eddie is wide-eyed and pale. Richie can actually see the pulse beating in his neck. “It-it’s nothing, Mom.”
She puts her hands on her hips, making a pained noise. “Eddie-bear, you’re lying to me! How could you? How could you lie to your mother?”
“No, Mom, it’s not like that, I swear, I’m not - I’m not lying, Richie just-”
“I needed help with homework,” Richie jumps in. “I didn’t realize how late-”
“ No !” The shout stops both of them in their tracks. Sonia is glaring at Richie with a truly surprising amount of vitriol. “I will not hear from you. You’ve been trying to corrupt my son for years. And now - now -” She begins to cry, thin tears making their way down wide, red cheeks. And then she shouts . “Get out! Get out of my house! ”
Richie’s eyes widen. He glances to Eddie, head cocked. You okay? Eddie just nods and shoos him away.
And Richie goes.
Sonia immediately runs to Eddie, grabbing him in her arms. “Oh, my sweet Eddie, what have you done? That boy - he’s tricked you, hasn’t he? What did you do? You can tell mommy, Eddie-bear.”
Eddie pushes her away, surprising them both. She nearly falls on the floor.
“No, Mom. Richie hasn’t tricked me. I’m - for fuck’s sake, I’m seventeen! I’m not an idiot, and I’m not helpless! I can make my own decisions!”
Sonia’s cheeks get impossibly redder. Her expression switches rapidly between furious and concerned. “You’re confused, sweetie. I understand, we’re both tense right now. Why don’t we go back to sleep and talk about this in the morning?”
“No,” Eddie says. He stands. “No. I’m not confused. Richie hasn’t corrupted me. I know what I’m doing. And I can’t believe you spoke to him like that. You’ve always hated him! Why?”
“Honey, I know what’s best for you.”
“ Why, mom?”
“ Because he’s trying to take you from me. ” The words hiss from her teeth, and she looks vaguely shocked afterward, like she hadn’t meant to say them. But she doesn’t take them back. She doesn’t take anything back. “You need me, Eddie-bear. I-I protect you.”
“Mom.” Eddie’s voice is low; angry. “I repeat: I’m almost an adult. I know what I’m doing. I don’t need your protection. And Richie is not taking me away. I’m not some weak-willed child following him around for no reason. I love him.”
Sonia gasps, hand to her heart and all. “You don’t! You don’t, you’re just confused-”
“I’M NOT CONFUSED!” Eddie makes his hands into fists, slowly breathing in and out, eyes closed, until he can control himself. “Stop saying that.”
There is a long, long period of silence.
When Sonia speaks, it’s with something like resignation. With a teaspoon of satisfaction snuck in.
“We’re leaving,” she says. “Tomorrow.”
Eddie’s eyes fly open to stare at her, mouth agape. “What?”
“I’m getting you away from here. It’s obviously unhealthy for you.”
You’re obviously unhealthy. There’s something wrong with you.
“I am not going anywhere.”
“Okay,” she says, far too easily. “Okay, Eddie. Go to sleep. We’ll talk about it in the morning.”
Eddie doesn’t want to. But it’s been a long time since he’s been this exhausted. And it’s not like she can move the house while he’s sleeping.
He falls back into bed and shuts his eyes.
Richie tries to stay away.
He goes home that night and stays in bed with his eyes open and heart racing until the sun comes up.
He stops himself from going back no less than five times.
He gets up in the morning, like normal. Eats breakfast, kisses his mom, grabs his bag and bike. He gets to school.
The whole ride, he’s telling himself it’ll be okay. He’ll see Eddie at school.
Eddie, who is so strong. Eddie who’s braver than he thinks. Eddie, who’s mom has never actually physically hurt him.
He’ll see him at school. He’ll learn what happened in the form of a ten-minute rant and he’ll soothe the nerves with a kiss.
It’ll be fine.
And then Eddie’s not at school.
Richie lasts one period before running to his bike, hopping on, and riding faster than he ever has to Eddie’s house.
He throws his bike in the street and races to the door, unable to explain the despair pulling at the back of his throat but feeling it nonetheless.
He knocks again.
A third time.
He goes around to Eddie’s window.
The curtains are open, which is strange. Eddie values his privacy. Richie cups his hands around his face and looks in the window, and feels his heart fall out of his chest.
No one is there.
Eddie’s stuff is, though... or most of it. His bed is there with all the covers, but they’re unmade. His room is still full, but his desk is cleared and… his bag is gone.
And, as Richie walks slowly around to the front of the house, a moving van pulls up, and two burly men walk right into the house.
Richie grabs his bike, but he doesn’t get on. He starts walking. He doesn’t know where. He doesn’t even know what he’s feeling.
He ends up at home, eventually. He ignores his parents angry(worried) questions, goes to his room, and shuts the door.
He sits on the bed, and he cries.
Richie doesn’t have Eddie’s new number. He doesn’t have his address. He doesn’t know where the fuck he went so he can’t even try to look him up.
And Eddie never gets in touch.
No letters, no calls, absolutely nothing.
He’s just gone.
Went and Maggie try, they really do.
They don’t talk about it for a few months, and then they try to, and then quickly go back to not again.
They give Richie all their attention, and then they give him space.
They take him out; they buy him things. They give him an allowance and all but free reign.
Richie slowly stops talking to his mother, unable to handle the sorrow in her eyes.
The first time he comes home in the morning with lipstick on his collar, Maggie takes one look at him before going to her room and shutting the door.
Richie plays video games and pretends he can’t hear her crying.
They move out of Derry.
It’s for Richie’s sake, no matter what his parents claim.
He’s not close to Bill, Stan, and Mike anymore - not like he used to be. Ben and Bev moved away years ago. (They haven’t heard from them, either.)
He still says goodbye.
Stan hugs him the hardest. When he steps away, his eyes are shining with unshed tears.
“Be strong, Richie,” he says.
Richie shrugs him off but he can feels Stan’s eyes on him the whole time he’s walking away.
Richie moves away from his parents soon after they settle in Washington. He goes to California.
Somehow, he makes it. He starts a career. He gets success and manages to ignore the piece of his heart that screams at him that he’s missing something.
Richie grows up, and he forgets.