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Eddie’s hands rushed over his desk, sweeping almost everything into his new backpack. His brows were heavily knitted together. The stress of starting school was creeping up his neck quicker than his brain could catch it. In 12 hours, 18 minutes and 46 seconds he’ll be stepping into the halls of Derry High for the first time. The nerves were replaced by excitement as quickly as they’d appeared. He was actually going to high school, a proper high school. With lockers, a cafeteria, classrooms and more than one teacher. Eddie remembered the tedious days he had spent with his mother, learning grammar, algebra, history and the basics of French. He used to love being home-schooled by his mother, but that was when he was eleven and hated talking to anyone but Bill and Stan. And even now as they sit across the room, he can’t bring himself to talk to them. Eddie took a gasp of air and flicked his eyes to the red inhaler on his desk. Inches from grabbing it, a cough came from his bed and he snapped his head at Stan who had one eyebrow raised.

“Eddie, we’ve gone over this you don’t need it,” Stan reminded him as he shifted his position in Bill’s lap. “Why do you still have it anyway?”

“I um, well.” He searched his brain for a reasonable answer and slumped on his desk chair when he realised, he didn’t have one. He had known for years now that all his medication wasn’t real. Bullshit he remembered telling his mother at the young age of thirteen. Now seventeen, Eddie couldn’t care less about what his mother thought was right for him. He still loved her, but he was done with listening to all her lies.

“Hey, you’ll b-b-be fine.” Bill’s kind eyes reassured him. “You’re Ed-d-ddie K-kaspbrak, everyone loves y-you, your-”

“So small and adorable” Stan cut him off, a giggle escaping his lips. Eddie shot daggers at the curly-haired boy. Bill gave him a small smack on the back of his head, and Stan sank further into his boyfriend’s lap.

“But that’s the problem, everyone’s at least three inches taller than me.” Eddie stood at a measly five foot five and, even without having much interaction with people his age, he knew the entire school would be towering over him. He knew he was excited but the more he thought about the fine details the nerves started to take over. He was going to be the new kid, the home-schooled kid, and the short kid. What a lovely combination. Eddie thought to himself and internally rolled his eyes.

Eddie sat staring at the pale blue walls of his bedroom for too long before his mother’s voice echoed from the living room.

“Do you boys need anything up there?” She asked, voice sickly sweet. She didn’t really care, she just wanted to check up on Eddie for the third time that night.

“No, we’re fine ma,” Eddie yelled back. From the corner of his eye, he saw Stan pull a face and stuck his tongue out at him. Eddie sighed and moved from his chair to the bed, resting his head on the clean wall.

“R-r-remind us how sh-she agreed with you g-going to d-d-d-”

“DHS.” Stan finished for Bill, smiling at his Bill’s frustrated expression.

“To be honest, I don’t know either. I was realising how sick of her smothering and babying I was and one day I snapped. I yelled at her for the first time since I called her out on the medication bullshit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her like that. I don’t know if she was scared or disappointed or angry maybe. I don’t know. I just… I don’t want to hurt her but at the same time I’m seventeen and she treats me like I’m still five and don’t know how to look after myself. I shouldn’t be locked inside this house for my whole life, right? I haven’t left this house more than ten times for something other than going to see my doctor. God, she’s so overbearing and controlling, how did I handle it when I was a kid? That’s right I didn’t know any better. Anyway, she agreed but made me promise all these stupid things, like,” his voice transformed into a high-pitched mockery of his mother’s, “always keep your inhaler and watch on you, always take your medication, keep up with your study, don’t talk to anyone. Fuck, what am I going to school for, I may as well stay here?” Bill stops him with a hand on his shoulder and a small smile.

“You’re r-rambling, E-e-eddie.” “Sorry sorry.” The heat crept up to his cheeks and he ran his hands over his face.

“I’m just nervous, you two are my only friends and now I’m being dumped into a huge fishbowl of staring and whispers. I don’t know it all seems like too much.”

“If you hate it, you can just come back here and let your mom home-school you again,” Stan suggested, and Eddie knew he was genuine but the idea of being stuck in his house any longer made him want to throw up.

“Thanks, but no thanks.” Eddie chuckled and closed his eyes. You’re going to be fine. It’s only for two years, it’s no big deal. He relaxed on his bed and repeated those words in his head. Eddie was calm for the first time in the past few days. He had everything he would need; he and his mother had gone shopping multiple times and he began to question whether she was getting as excited as he was, he doubted it though.

The peaceful moment didn’t last long before the notoriously loud music started coming from the house directly across the street. Eddie cringed and balled his blanket up in his fists, the music had first begun early in the summer and had been a recurring problem almost every night and Eddie relished in the nights when it was silent. He couldn’t pick out what was being played but Eddie thought it sounded ridiculous. It was just loud enough to be disruptive but not loud enough to properly listen to.

“Do they do this every night?” Stan sat up from Bill’s lap and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Not every night, but most.” Eddie hadn’t ever seen any adults enter or exit the house, just a tall dark-haired teenager in what looked like bright Hawaiian shirts. Eddie had caught himself staring, from his second-floor window, on a couple of occasions but he would never admit it.

“It m-m-must get an-nnoying,” Bill commented and both Stan and Eddie gave him a look that said, yeah, no shit. “Jeez, s-sorry.”

“I’ve gotten used to it by now, but I really hope it stops now that school is starting.” Eddie sighed and checked his watch. “Crap, it’s late you guys better head off before ma comes marching up here.”

“S-s-sure thing.” The two of them stood up and grab the small number of belongings they had brought with them, and they all walked down to Eddie’s front door. Eddie’s mother didn’t take her eyes off the television screen whilst saying goodbye to Bill and Stan, so they made their way out of the door swiftly. The three shared hugs and goodbyes out on the porch and Eddie watch them ride off on their bikes in opposite directions. Eddie lingered for another moment and let his gaze wander to the source of the obnoxious music. He rolled his eyes and shuffled back inside.

“Do you have all of your medication for tomorrow?” His mother asked from her armchair, eyes quickly flickering from the screen to Eddie and back.

“Yes, ma,” He answered automatically. “I’m going to bed now, okay?”

“Are you forgetting something?” She turned fully this time and poked a meaty finger into her left cheek. Eddie moved quickly, placing a chaste kiss to her cheek and rushed up the stairs. “Goodnight, Eddie bear.”

“Goodnight, ma.”

He finally took a breath when he was collapsed on his single bed, staring at the always clean ceiling. Taking another measured breath, he stood up and padded to his chest of drawers. He changed into his pyjamas and buried himself under the warm covers. Pulling out his phone he set his alarms and plugged in the charger. He set it on his nightstand which was empty except for an old white lamp. He rolled over and closed his eyes and tried to ease the racing thoughts plaguing his mind. Tomorrow was the first day of new beginnings and Eddie smiled softly as he drifted into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

It had taken Eddie thirty-two minutes to get out the door and on his bike riding down his street towards the main roads of Derry. He had prepacked his bag and planned his outfit down to the colour of his shoelaces. He had decided on neatly fitted shorts, a red and white striped polo shirt and his favourite grey runners. His mother’s eyes had frantically shot up and down his body as he tried to tiptoe out of the door, questioning whether he would be warm enough. It had taken a lot of reassuring before she released her iron tight grip on Eddie’s shoulders.

Now, with his two sizes too small helmet strapped to his head, Eddie carefully slid through the empty streets. He hadn’t ridden his bike much but the little he remembered kept him from falling face-first onto the scratchy pavement.

Almost every house he passed was quiet and dark, and Eddie had always been confused by the teenage craze of getting up at the last possible minute. Classes began in twenty-seven minutes, so Eddie decided to take the scenic route past the barrens and across the rickety bridge lined with initials and hearts.

By the time Eddie made it to school, he had nine minutes to find Bill and Stan and make it to the vice principal’s office. He locked his bike to one of the rusty bike racks and shoved his helmet into his backpack.

His eyes ventured up the dull brick walls of Derry High, and his breath caught in his throat. He rummaged for his inhaler and grasped it in his shaking hands. He savoured the cold air hitting the back of his throat and stepped into the building with the small number of students who seemed to care about being on time.

Eddie wandered through various corridors trying to remember where the school tour had shown him the vice principal’s office. After a few wrong turns and dead ends, he made it to the office where Bill and Stan were waiting for him.

“H-hey Eddie.” Bill waved from his spot against the wall. Eddie’s feet pushed him forward and he landed in the familiar embrace of his best friend.

“Hey,” Eddie’s voice came out as a squeak, a mixture of nerves and the unnatural amount of walking he had just done. Stan’s eyes were glued to his phone, so Eddie cleared his throat and cocked an eyebrow at him. Stan let out a grunt which encouraged Bill to elbow his shoulder.

“Ow,” he glared at his boyfriend, pocketed his phone and opened his arms for Eddie. “Sorry. How are you feeling?” This time it was Eddie who smacked Stan and the taller boy lifted his arms in surrender. “Got it, shit question.”

Eddie froze when he heard the office door opening and he took three deep breaths before turning to face the gentle-looking older man.

“You’ll b-be fine, E-e-eddie. We’ll s-see you lat-ter, o-okay.” Bill squeezed his shoulder and gave him a small push. Eddie smiled back and walked into the spacious office.

It was professionally decorated with warm woods and complementary leather chairs on each side of the desk. There was a large bookshelf on the left side of the room, filled with what looked like vintage books and family photos. The desk was clean, except for a computer screen, coffee mug and ornate pen holder.

The vice-principal sat behind the desk and Eddie took his place on the opposing side. The vice-principal appeared to be a kind man nearing his sixties. His hair was almost entirely grey, and he had deep-set wrinkles in his forehead.

“You must be Edward Kaspbrak, my name is Mr Durden. As you know I’m the vice principal here at Derry High so, if you ever need anything I’ll be here. I know it will be difficult settling into a new learning environment, but I believe it won’t take you long to feel comfortable here.” Mr Durden sat with a comforting smile on his face as he further explained everything Eddie would need to know.

Eddie’s nerves were calmed with every reassuring word, but he still jumped when the school bell rang through the speaker in the corner of the room. “Wow, how time flies. I’ll get you your class schedule then you can be on your way.”

He pulled a small sheet of paper out of a top drawer and handed it to Eddie; his first class was English literature. Easy start. Eddie thought to himself and stood from the chair. He left the room with a genuine thank you and headed towards his class.

It didn’t take as long as he had thought for him to reach the classroom. Eddie saw everyone was already seated and the breathless feeling started to rise again, but he pushed it down and stepped into the cold room. His teacher was a middle-aged woman, who looked at him with a confused expression before the realisation hit her eyes. She hit a ruler against her desk and the loud conversations between the students started to fade.

“Class we have a new student, please make,” she hesitated and leant over to Eddie. “What’s your name, dear?”

“Eddie.”

“Please make Eddie feel welcome.” The class stared for a lingering moment before going back to yelling across the classroom. “You can take a seat now.” She gestured to the rows of desks and Eddie noticed only two free seats. One in the front row against the window that lined one side of the classroom or a seat further back, that was surrounded by a group of boys that Eddie would do anything to avoid.

He settled in the front row seat and pulled out one of his coloured coded notebooks and pens he would need. Maybe this won’t be too bad. Eddie thought as he listened to the teacher begin her introduction on The Great Gatsby.

***

Eddie walked cautiously through the halls, trying to avoid hitting anyone’s shoulders. Not that he reached most of their shoulders anyway. Eddie had been right to worry about everyone being over a head taller than him, he had yet to find any guys who were his height which made him frown even more.

He was headed for the cafeteria, hoping that Bill and Stan had found a table to sit at. He was nervous to be in a room full of loud, judgmental, and not to mention unhygienic teenagers. It seemed like most of them hadn’t showered in days, the smell of sweat and who knows what else stuck in the air of the narrow hallway. Eddie wasn’t sure if he should get his inhaler out or suck it up and walk faster to the cafeteria. He chose the latter.

It didn’t take him long to get to the cafeteria, he scanned the room and took in the sight he had been dreading the most. It was just like all the movies Eddie had watched, cliques sat around the room. Jocks and their respective cheerleaders in the centre of the room, laughing and yelling at each other from across the table. The quiet kids hovered around the tables closest to the walls. And there were a few tables covered with people who were more interested in drawing than eating.

Then his eyes landed on his friends who were sitting near the edge of the room, Stan and Bill were facing him on one side and a dark-skinned boy was opposite them.

His pace picked up speed once again as he made a beeline for the table. He was a few feet from the table when his body hit something tall and hard. Eddie squeezed his eyes shut as felt himself falling face-first into the laminate floor, but never felt the impact. Instead, he felt large hands grip his shaky arms and pull him to his feet. Eddie’s hands had also found themselves gripped tightly on the stranger’s forearms, his lunch discarded on the floor.

Once he was planted firmly on the ground, he opened his eyes shyly, waiting for a chorus of laughs and pointing fingers, but nothing came. If anyone had seen him, they had ignored him which relieved Eddie immensely.

After realising no one cared he had almost fallen he let his eyes fall to the person who had caught him.

He was a tall, slim boy dressed in dark jeans that Eddie couldn’t help but notice fit in all the right places, a white t-shirt and a loud Hawaiian shirt. Eddie’s eyes reached his face, pale but brightened by the goofy smile hanging off his pink lips. His brown eyes looked huge behind the thick frame of his glasses, and soft dark curls hung around his face and stuck to his neck.

“You alright?” The stranger spoke with a small frown and Eddie nodded rapidly. His brain caught up and he realised his hands were still gripped tightly to the other boy’s arms. He let go quickly, almost too quickly as he nearly lost his balance again.

He then dropped down to start picking up his lunch that had fallen out of the paper bag. He saw the taller boy lean down to pick up something that was further away from the rest. It was a small piece of paper and Eddie instantly recognised his mother’s messy handwriting. His breath stopped and he tried to reach for the paper, but the boy stood up swiftly and lifted his hand high.

“Hey!” Eddie kept reaching for the paper no matter how useless it seemed. The other boy was a lot taller than Eddie and his arms were unnaturally long.

“Have a wonderful day at school,” He started reading out the note and Eddie couldn’t stop a groan from falling out of his mouth. He heard the boy try to stifle a laugh before he finished, “Eddie bear.”

“Fuck,” Eddie breathed and successfully snatched the note from the boy’s hand, ignoring the sparks it sent down his arm when their hands touched. He screwed it up and shoved it in his pocket. He tried to sidestep the taller boy but was blocked when the boy did the same.

“Richie Tozier,” He spoke with a smirk, and a hand out towards Eddie. Eddie glared at him and crossed his arms over his chest. Richie lifted his other hand and high fived himself which caused a chuckle to escape Eddie’s lips.

“Eddie Kaspbrak, but I guess you already know that.” They both laughed this time, and Eddie felt his friends’ eyes glued on him.

“Well, Eddie.” Richie smiled a toothy grin. “I guess I’ll see you around.”

“I guess you will,” Eddie replied and tried again to walk past Richie, this time succeeding. He took his last few steps to the table and sat down next to the boy he didn’t recognise.

He started unpacking his lunch but felt three pairs of eyes on him. He looked up and saw Bill, Stan and the other boy looking at him with questioning eyes. “What?”

“What was that?” Stan was the first to speak up.

“What do you mean? I nearly fell and Richie helped me up.” Eddie frowned and picked up his sandwich.

“Y-y-you were gig-gling and b-b-blushing,” Bill teased as he stole a cookie off Stan’s tray.

“What? No, I wasn’t,” Eddie raised his voice and a few people glared from other tables. He lowered his head and took a bite of his sandwich.

“They’re not wrong.” The other boy said, offering a small smile. “I’m Mike, by the way.”

“Hi, I’m Eddie.”

“I know, these two wouldn’t shut up about you coming this year. It was rather annoying.” Mike directed the last part to the couple across the table. Eddie laughed and kept eating his food.

Was I blushing? His head spun a little and tried to push down the confusion that was swimming in his mind. He didn’t know why he had blushed. It must have been the note, right?

“Hey, Earth to Eddie.” Stan waved a hand in his face. Eddie shook his head slightly.

“Sorry, what’d I miss?” He smiled at Stan who only laughed in response.

“Nothing, you were just off somewhere else.” Stan went back to his food and the rest of lunch was filled with Bill and Stan playfully arguing, Mike rolling his eyes at them more than once and asking Eddie the occasional question. Eddie tried to answer them, but his attention was flicking around the room trying to find a specific tall, dark-haired teenager.

***

Eddie found his Algebra II class quickly and sighed happily when there were less than ten people in the class. He chose a seat three rows from the front, not wanting to be the centre of attention at the front. He started pulling out his notebook, pens and everything else he needed as more students came through the door.

It was another six minutes before everyone was settled in and the teacher entered the classroom. He was young, maybe late-twenties, blonde and slim but not as slim as Richie. Eddie frowned and looked down at his page. Why am I thinking about Richie? He squeezed his eyes shut and when he opened them his teacher was writing his name on the chalkboard.

“My name is Mr Taman. I’ll be your Algebra II teacher. I’m going to try and make this as enjoyable as possible for both of us,” He said with a smile. He then began going over what they would be learning that semester when the door swung open revealing a very confident and very late Richie Tozier. Eddie gasped lightly and started straightening his pens and books on his desk. Richie’s eyes shot to Eddie and then back to the teacher.

“Mr T! What a pleasant surprise. Looking forward to another year?” Richie’s words filled the classroom, and everyone was waiting for Mr Taman’s reaction. He only chuckled, told Richie to find a seat and try not to be late to every class.

That was when Eddie noticed the only empty seat was the one to his left, he looked at it and then at Richie who was already looking at him. Richie grinned and made his way to the desk, taking large steps with his long legs.

“Kaspbrak.” Richie slouched in the seat and took out two pens and a notebook. “We meet again.”

“We do. I wouldn’t have picked you of all people to choose this class though.” Eddie raised his eyebrows and allowed a cheeky smile to fall on his lips. Richie gasped and put a hand over his heart, a dramatically pained look on his face.

“You’ve wounded me, Kaspbrak.” Eddie laughed and noticed the way Richie’s eyes softened at the noise but doesn’t mention it. Both of their heads snapped to the front when Mr Taman cleared his throat and then continued to teach.

The class went on and Mr Taman asked many questions that Eddie was able to answer every time. Each time he raised his hand he thought he saw Richie twitch beside him but ignored it.

This time, however, when another question was asked and Eddie enthusiastically lifted his arm as high as it could go, Richie did the same.

“Yes, Richie?” Richie hesitated, looked at his page and Eddie frowned when he answered wrong. Mr Taman asked Eddie and he answered correctly. He peeked at Richie who was slightly hunched over his notes, crossing things out and quickly writing done how to do the equation right. His huge glasses were at the end of his nose and Eddie felt the urge to push them up but forced the feeling down.

“Well, well seems you’ve been dethroned, Mr Tozier.” Mr Taman grinned and then directed the class to go on with the respective chapter in the textbook. Eddie opened his textbook and began working through the questions.

It had been a fairly easy chapter and Eddie was nearly at the end when he felt someone poke his right shoulder. He looked over to see Richie staring at him, eyes full of confusion and his hair looked like he had run his hand through it too many times.

“Hey, uh do you know how to do this one?” He asked sheepishly pointing at a question Eddie had finished twelve minutes ago.

“Yeah, if you put the x here,” Eddie leant over and touched his page. He looked up at Richie, who watched Eddie with gentle eyes, which made the pink colour from earlier paint over his cheeks. “Oh, and don’t forget the negative. I always do that.” Eddie admitted with a soft laugh.

“Right, of course. Thanks.” Richie started fixing where he went wrong, and Eddie sat back in his chair.

The bell rang soon after that. Eddie packed up and had just walked out of the door when he heard someone call out his name. He turned around to see Richie waving frantically at him. He stopped and waited for the lanky boy to catch up.

“Thanks for the help back there.” Richie walked beside Eddie with his usual smirk.

“It’s no big deal.”

“Do you have a phone?” Richie asked after a moment of silence and raised his eyebrows at Eddie.

“Yeah, of course,” Eddie replied and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He held it lightly in his hand, the plain, clear cover facing him. He regretted this instantly, as Richie had snatched it out of his hand and was unlocking it before Eddie had time to register what had happened. Eddie groaned and remembered Stan telling him to put a passcode on it, but he hadn’t gotten around to it. Obviously.

Eddie smacked Richie’s arm, but the taller boy ignored it and found his way to Eddie’s contacts. They were still walking, and Eddie saw his locker growing closer. He gave up his protests with a huff and waited for Richie to finish whatever he was doing to his phone. They reached Eddie’s locker and Richie handed back Eddie’s phone with a grin that reached his ears.

“See you later, Kaspbrak.” Riche saluted and walked off. Eddie shook his head and opened his phone. Richie had put his number in, as the Coolest guy at DHS.