“What the fuck is this?” Richie asked as his head brushed against the sprig of mistletoe hanging on the clubhouse ceiling.
“Mistletoe.” Bev answered from the hammock. “I forgot you suddenly grew a foot and a half over the summer.”
“Yeah, Ben’s going to have to extend this ceiling for me.” Richie tapped the ceiling lightly.
“He can’t. If it gets any thinner, it’ll cave in when we walk over the top.” Bev told him, swinging her legs off the hammock. "He talks about architecture a lot."
It was an unspoken rule that the hammock belonged to Richie whenever he was there and whoever was occupying it when he arrived better make themselves scarce. Unless, it was Eddie. In which case, Richie would just clamber over Eddie and squish himself into the opposite end of the hammock, feet in Eddie’s face.
“Riveting conversation. You guys have the best pillow talk.” Richie teased.
“Beep beep Trashmouth.” Beverly nudged him as they crossed each other.
“Who precisely are you hoping to ensnare with this dastardly mistletoe though?” Richie jumped onto the hammock. The support beams let out an uncomfortable creak and Beverly, offhandedly, thought that if the clubhouse was going to cave to anything, it would be Richie’s careless hammock jumping. “Perhaps you’re hoping to catch good ol’ Staniel and Billiam out.”
“No, Stan’s too busy with his bird books and Bill’s entire life has been taken over by his job helping at that publishing house.” Bev propped the clubhouse door open and struck up a cigarette- none of the other loser’s appreciated the smell of cigarettes in the clubhouse but she wasn’t going to stand out in the freezing cold to smoke, not when it could result in her possibly losing a few fingers.
She was surprised they’d all even agreed to meet today. Especially Eddie. Winters in Maine were bitterly cold and even Richie, who had an immune system made of steel, got sick at some point. Then again, Eddie had become a lot less cautious over the past few years- the quarry water didn’t scare him and he was much more prone to spontaneity. Then again, she supposed none of them were quite as scared anymore. Bullies didn’t scare them. Neither did their parents. Or staying out to late when it gets dark early, so they were walking home in the pitch black. Pennywise, she shuddered even thinking about It, had done a lot of damage to the Losers but defeating him had made them feel almost invincible.
“Wanna bum a smoke?” Bev asked, offering the cigarette to Richie after she’d taken the first drag.
“Not offering a full one? I am disappointed Bevvy dear. What’s made you so stingy?” Richie joked but leapt off the hammock and shared the cigarette with her regardless.
“This is my last one dickwad. Be thankful I’m sharing it with you.” Bev flicked his forehead and took the cigarette back when he offered.
“Eds is going to kill us. You know he can smell cigs from a mile away.” Richie filled the silence as they smoked.
“I bet he already has. He’s marching down the path grumbling to himself about lung cancer.” Bev joked which lead Richie to do a funnily accurate impression of Eddie marching towards the clubhouse.
Almost as if on cue, the clubhouse door was pulled wide open, letting in a gust of cold wind that put the one cigarette out. Beverly shrugged, there wasn’t a lot left anyway, and threw it on the floor, stubbing it out with the heel of her boot.
“Honestly guys, do you even know how disgusting smoking is? Not only does it stink and give you horrible breath but it can lead to all sorts of breathing difficulties and cancers.” Eddie said as he landed in the clubhouse.
“What are you saying Eds? Am I not peppermint fresh?” Richie let out a loud breath right in Eddie’s face.
“No, it’s the furthest thing from peppermint fresh.” Eddie pushed Richie’s face away from his. “It’s a good job I love you guys otherwise I would definitely report you for stealing from Mr Keene.”
“No you wouldn’t.” Bev had heard the threat the exact same amount of times she’d heard the famous ‘cigarettes are disgusting and give you cancer’ speech from him. “Also, Mr Keene’s a creepy old man, he deserves to get his cigarettes stolen.”
“Can’t disagree with her there, Eds.” Richie nodded knowledgeably. “I once caught him getting his rocks off in the back and he literally didn’t even wash his hands.”
“Do you ever consider just not saying the things you say sometimes?” Eddie sighed. “Also, who the fuck hung mistletoe? Are you two trying to catch Bill and Stan out?”
Beverly wondered how the two of them were so utterly oblivious. She’d counted on Eddie being completely clueless but Richie was normally a lot more annoyingly self-aware. Richie was either choosing this one instant to be utterly oblivious or he was just being a stubborn asshole. She hadn’t set the mistletoe in the hopes of catching Bill and Stan out, although that would be an added benefit. She had set the mistletoe up to get Richie and Eddie to finally acknowledge the blindingly obvious pining that the rest of the Losers had to put up with. It had become even worse after they had both come out. The hopeless glances had turned hopefully and the lingering stares had lasted ten times longer, if that was even possible.
“Why do you want to know? Are you looking for a kiss Eds?” Richie puckered his lips and made kissy noises at Eddie.
“Shove off, cigarette breath.” Eddie rolled his eyes but Bev hadn’t missed the blush.
Richie and Eddie had raced each other to the hammock and then scrambled over each other to get comfortable on it which included plenty of cursing and the occasional elbow jab. When they were settled, Richie kicked up a conversation about the most attractive rockstar. Both Richie and Bev agreed that it was David Bowie. Eddie, on the other hand, went with Mick Jagger, saying he had a thing for crooked teeth and mops of hair. Bev raised her eyebrows and stared between them wondering whether Richie would pick up on the fact that Eddie had just admitted his type was basically Richie- Richie’s parents couldn’t afford braces for just three of Richie’s teeth which had grown crooked and Richie himself refused to cut his hair above his eyelashes. Bev didn’t think she’d seen his eyebrows since they were fifteen.
It went unacknowledged because of course it did, and the rest of the losers trickled into the clubhouse. All except Bill who Stanley had informed them couldn’t get the day off work.
“What’s the mistletoe for?” Ben asked Bev as he sat down next to her.
“Those two.” She nodded towards Richie and Eddie who were engrossed in a conversation about comic books. “They’re insufferable and I just want to kick them up the ass and tell them to get a move on.”
“Richie’s scared.” Stan joined the conversation. “He doesn’t want to ruin the dynamic. He told me the other day.”
Beverly couldn’t help but be slightly jealous of the friendship Richie and Stan had. They’d been best friends since basically the beginning of time and, consequently, told each other things they wouldn’t dream of telling the other Losers. Bev wanted to be there for Richie, and for Eddie, but it was so hard when every time she brought up the topic of romance or ‘liking’ someone they skittered away, whether they were alone or together.
“Stop thinking so hard about it. It’s going to happen and I think we should let it develop naturally.” Mike shrugged, also joining the conversation.
“Have you met them?” Ben asked with a slight shriek. “I don’t think they’re going to do anything unless they get a little nudge. Also, we all go off to college soon. Imagine if it goes unresolved.”
“I reckon Bill’s got some pretty juicy gossip about Eddie as well.” Stan said. “They’ve spent a lot of time together lately after Bill’s finished work.”
“Is today the exclude Richie and Eddie from the mother’s meeting day?” Richie interrupted them from across the clubhouse. The conversation quickly went to mundane things like maths homework and their English teacher’s bad breath.
They left a little while after it got dark- Stan wanted to meet Bill from work, Ben and Beverly were going to Ben’s to watch some movies and Mike hadn’t entirely finished his chores on the farm when he’d left earlier in the day. Richie and Eddie were the last to leave. Eddie was layering his battle armour against the cold onto himself- Richie picked up his scarf and tossed it around his neck.
“Did you hear their mother’s meeting about us today?” Richie asked, still holding the ends of the scarf.
“I still don’t understand why we don’t just tell them.” Eddie said, taking the scarf, wrapping it better and tucking it into his coat.
“I think it’s pretty funny.” Richie shrugged. “They’re all so insistent on getting us together that they haven’t even noticed that we already are.”
Both Richie and Eddie were perfectly aware of their friends scheming ways. They were also very aware of their feelings towards each other- or at least they had been for the past couple of weeks. Richie had snuck into Eddie’s room and ended up crashing there for the night. To cut a long story short, Eddie had woken up clung to Richie like a koala, and his sleep addled brain had just leant up and kissed him, short and sweet and soft. Richie, also still being half asleep, had kissed him back. It took them nearly five minutes to figure out what had happened and Eddie had tried to laugh it off. Richie, on the other hand, had ran to the bathroom and threw up. They’d had a long conversation after that and where they’d both admitted to being absolutely smitten with each other for years. They’d also made out a bit and were late to first period.
“Also, it means we get to observe cheesey holiday traditions like this,” Richie pointed up to the mistletoe and then pulled Eddie in so that they were inches apart. “In private.” He finished in a whisper before closing the gap and kissing Eddie under the mistletoe.
If they didn’t leave for another five minutes after that, no one had any idea.