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Veil of Gray

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Richie had learned from an early age that maybe it was best to keep your mouth shut, well, maybe keep his mouth shut when it came to sensitive topics like people looking sickly and/or passing of people, such as close relatives.

He learned that it was okay to chatter on and on about arcade games and comic books and stupid jokes, because while his parents sometimes got tired of him constantly running his mouth, he’d rather have them annoyed with that and not because he said one time during Thanksgiving:

“Granny, you’re looking a little gray in the face.  Got hangover after a wild evening with your girls from bingo night?”

While it had been funny at the time, despite his mother looking like she was going to reprimand him, what wasn’t funny was that his grandma ended up dying two days later from heart failure.

That had been grim for his mother that she started hitting the bottle again, so it was all around, gloomy and depressing in the Tozier household; his dad picked up more hours, leaving Richie to fend for himself, as his mom was usually passed out on the couch, her room, or sometimes in the hall.

Richie stopped going to the synagogue, because he wanted to keep tabs on his mother, made sure that she ate and drank water, but that was okay, he wasn’t really religious; he mostly went so his mom didn’t have to go alone.

Which that then brought up concern from Stan, due to his sudden disappearance from the sessions.

Richie didn’t tell him the whole thing where he felt like he cursed his grandmother into death and therefore, fucked over his whole family, but just told him that his mother had relapsed and Stan offered his comfort and that been the end of that.

Until the new uprising of terror: missing children.

Georgie hadn’t been the first, it just sucked because he was such a nice kid, he was practically Bill’s number one fan, and not to mention, he smuggled Richie Twinkies and other sweets every once in a while, and was eager to listen to Richie read the newest addition to the Spider-Man comic.

So, when Richie had offhandedly commented a few days before Georgie went missing that Georgie looked a little gray in the face, or the fact that the area around him just seemed…a little washed out, Eddie told him to stop being a dickhead to a child and Bill even looked a little affronted.

Stan had just eyed Richie critically, but still noticed that Richie looked uncomfortable even after apologizing to Georgie and offered to buy him ice cream the next time they all hung out.

And when Bill came to him, Eddie, and Stan with tears in his eyes that Georgie still hadn’t come home and it had been almost a week, Richie had thrown up in the shrubs in Bill’s backyard.

“Y-you kn-know s-something!” Bill had shouted when Richie had buried his head into his knees when he was crouched down on the ground, trying to stave off his nausea, and Bill had glowered back at Eddie when the shorter boy had told Bill to calm down.

Eddie had been a comforting presence, knelt down next to Richie, offering him his mini bottle of water he stored in on his fanny packs, “You’re being mean, Bill.  Don’t blame Richie for your brother going missing!”

Stan had watched on uneasily, “He’s not wrong, Bill,” he murmured.  “I’m sorry, I really am, man.”

“I’m sorry, Bill,” Richie whispered, peeking up at his friend; he saw the anguish there and Richie ducked his head and he moved to sit down on the cold ground.  “I think I cursed him like I did my grandma.”

Eddie had scoffed at that about to retort to that when Stan and Bill both silenced him with a glare and his sulkily sat down next to Richie, still keeping a hand on his shoulder.

“I told her she looked washed out and she died within that same week I saw her at Thanksgiving,” Richie confessed; the knot his chest didn’t loosen any, if anything it felt tighter when Bill looked like he was going to cry more.

“It just has to be a weird coincidence,” Stan finally concluded; he was a very logical person, he didn’t believe in the unexplained, everything had a reason and a conclusion.

“W-what d-did you s-see-, R-Richie?” Bill asked him.

“Gray,” Richie whispered.

After that, none of them talked about it again, not even when it was summer break and it had been months since Georgie went missing, but Bill was still determined to find his little brother.

Before they could go search, they had been harassed by Henry, Patrick, Blech, and Victor per usual outside of school, but before things could escalate, Henry’s father had been there, making sure that there were no suspicious looking persons attempting to take any kids from the school’s property.

After the bullies had left, Richie had a sick thrill go through him to see that Hockstetter’s normally pale face looked more of a pale gray, where it washed out the other blemishes on his face.

“I wish he’d go missing,” Eddie muttered when the group fucked off.  He looked at Richie for confirmation; he didn’t believe, but at the same time, part of him did, because Richie wouldn’t make jokes like this, especially when it hit too close to home.

Richie had just patted Eddie on the shoulder and put an arm around his shoulders, “Let’s go before Bill starts his period,” he huffed.

Bill told them that they needed to hurry and search the sewer drain pipe by the quarry before curfew was upon them and while it sucked, they understood that Bill would have done the same for them if they had siblings and they went missing.

Which that unsuccessful manhunt then led them into meeting Ben at the opening of the sewer, who had been attacked by Henry and his henchmen, they all fled, biking the injured boy to an alleyway in town to get him patched up from the knife wound he got, which then led them to meeting Beverly, who had saved their asses and let Bill, Stan, and Eddie steal the medical supplies from that sleazy, creepy pharmacist.

Days went by, and the next time they all met up with Henry and his goons, was when they were ganging up on Homeschool, Richie noticed that Hockstetter was nowhere to be seen, and it was in that moment he realized that he had a gift.

A gift to see people marked by Death and damn, what kind of a shit gift was that?  Why couldn’t he gotten x-ray vision to see through clothes or maybe invisibility?  But instead, he got to see the people who were marked and about to get ripped out of the land of the living.

Which is why meeting an alien, space monster disguised as a clown to lure in kids (really, it was more of scare tactic, in Richie’s opinion, because fuck clowns) that ate the fear and the children practically in one bite, didn’t really faze Richie as much as it should have.

Yes, it was still ‘shit your pants’ worthy, but Richie wasn’t scared, because none of the people he cared about were suddenly looking more shadowy than usual.  There was only time he nearly popped his lid and that was when they went to that stupid fucking house on the corner of Neibolt, because he thought he was going to lose Eddie.

And Richie had nearly busted the front door down when it slammed shut, he could hear the other Losers trying to open the door on the other side and Bill told them that they should try to find another away out, he thought he saw that a window on the top floor hadn’t been boarded up like the rest had been.

Richie should have punched him for ever thing that they should go upstairs.

Long story short, Eddie got lured away from them, he and Bill were trapped in the bedroom at the end of the hall, because they thought they saw Betty Ripsom getting dragged away in there.

Then Richie thought he heard Eddie in the storage room connected to the bedroom and got separated from Bill.  Richie had just scoffed at all the clown figurines that took up the majority of the space in that room, but then immediately felt unnerved by his own puppet corpse that was filled with maggots and mouth being stitched shut.  Sue him about it, okay?  It wasn’t is fault that he got upset when he saw people marked for death; he was scared that he’d look in the mirror one day and see that his own skin looked ashy.

His fear was justified in his opinion, but then meeting It, face-to-face?  Richie had insulted him that his makeup was sloppy and the monster had snarled and showed all its nasty, pointed teeth and Richie had almost been its snack if Bill hadn’t saved the day by getting him out.

Eddie’s head poked out in the middle of the old mattress on the ground, it spat black ooze, cackling hysterically, then more scalding blood oozed from under the mattress, burning the rotten floor, they had tried to leave, but then there were three marked doors, ‘Very scary’, ‘ Scary’, and ‘Not Scary’ and obviously, the right choice was to open the Not Scary.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.  Whelp, there was Betty, in the fucking closet (ha) asking about her missing legs.

Jesus Christ, clown monster, what the fuck!!!  Richie was sure his voice reached a whole new high and continued to screech even after Bill had slammed the door shut.

“I-It’s not real!” Bill said.  “It’s j-just tr-trying to sc-scare us!”

“Fucking tell that to Betty and her missing legs, Bill!” Richie screeched.

But they got out and were rushing downstairs because Eddie was shrieking for help.

Then, his worst fear happened and Richie thought his ‘power’ had been a giant spoof; Eddie was pinned down against a broken table, cradling his left arm, as he cried in fear, he was afraid he going to lose Eddie, he was going to lose him, he was going to lose him, he was going to watch Eddie die.

But, Eddie didn’t die, Beverly came in like the vengeful angel she was, impaling the clown monster in the straight through its horrible head with a metal fence post.  The creature had let out a loud wail before snarling and slashing at them, everyone had screamed, and Ben had almost been gutted, but the child-eating monster slunk off towards the basement and down into a well; it had taken all of them to get Bill to see reason, mostly because two of their friends had been seriously hurt.

Stan had been the first one out of the house, already on his bike and halfway down the road before any of his other friends were even on the sidewalk.  Mike loaded Eddie up into the basket on his bike and took off, Richie not far behind, he had managed to balance Ben’s bike onto his bike, since Beverly had been helping Ben get onto the back of Bill’s bike, since their friend was practically ripped open from sharp monster claws, and soon enough, they were far away from the Neibolt House.

The terror lingered when they reached Eddie’s house, Richie’s heart in his throat the whole time, even after Eddie’s psychotic mother had finished yelling at them and then whisking her injured son away into her station wagon, his heart remained practically jammed in throat by fear, practically sick with dread at the what ifs, the terror remained even when he yelled at Bill and shoved him away, the terror wasn’t even replaced with rage or pain when Bill had punched him in the mouth.

Richie spat out blood and told Bill to go fuck himself and then he stalked off to go destroy competitors at Street Fighter until he had to go home and make dinner or else his mom would starve and he’d get a disappointed look by his father.

As if Richie fucking cared right now, because while he had been worried about his friends and Ben especially, but none of them were Eddie.  Richie felt like he was going to cry if he had to remember seeing Eddie’s tear slick face, the fear in his eyes, how his voice had been pleading for them to help him, how he couldn’t look away from the monster in front of them, despite Richie practically begging at Eddie to look at him.

Even with all of that, Richie knew they were going to be fine, none of them were shaded gray, their skin all remained flushed from running around, the color surrounding them remained vivid with life.  Richie had watched Eddie’s in particular, he wasn’t going to let that change, he would have protected Eddie with his own life, he wasn’t going to let some stupid fucking clown sink its nasty, gnarly teeth into the boy he loved—huh.

Oh?

“Oh,” Richie whispered hollowly, lingering outside the front door to his house, his hand on the doorknob, which wasn’t turned just yet.  He knew he should have felt ashamed, especially when he saw what happened to kids targeted as ‘fairies’ or whatever else horrible name that swept through town, but Richie could give less than a single fuck what people assumed about him.

He had bigger fish to fry, such as a fucking space monster, determined to eat children and live off their fear, and a second fish to fry later, how to get his emotions sorted at 13 and he hadn’t even fucking hit puberty yet.

God, he dreaded everything; he’d rather fight the space clown forever than deal with this shit right now.

Ugh.

And life continued with simmering dread until Bill came to him one day when Richie was back at the arcade a few days later after getting publicly humiliated by Bowers; his cousin wasn’t even that cute anyway, Richie liked dark hair and dark eyes, a bit on the short side, the only thing the kid had was his personality, not quite as fiery has Richie preferred, but the blonde knew how to dish it out.

Then they were all back in the sewers, Richie was pissed that Bowers didn’t have a gray pallor as he tumbled down the well, and then he and his Losers were walking through disgusting waters to go save Beverly from getting eaten.

They almost lost Stan, but they saved him from getting his face eaten off by the shapeshifting monster that took the form of the really creepy painting in his dad’s office.

Then Bill shot off like a bat out of hell, yelling for Georgie, and they all had to haul ass, despite the fact that Stan was still pretty fucked up by what happened, which Richie wished they could have paused for a few more minutes just so he could comfort his friend, but he held Stan’s hand tight as they ran.

They were all led to a giant room that had a literal mountain of junk, he saw a faded painting of a clown’s face on the side of a giant, wood circus wagon that said Pennywise in faded red paint, but they spotted Beverly, suspended in air with a white glaze covering her eyes.

They hauled her down and screamed and pleaded for her to wake up, but nothing worked; Richie saw that her skin was pale, but it wasn’t the shade of death that Richie normally saw on people marked with death.

Richie was happy that Eddie had scowled in disgust when Ben kissed Beverly, like she was Sleeping Beauty, and the only way to awaken was by true love’s first kiss.

Okay, then he was somewhat jealous, because what the fuck?!  It worked?  Damn, now he wished he had been kidnapped and pulled out of whatever the fuck Beverly went through if it meant that Eddie would have kissed him.

Then it was go-go time again, they followed Bill around the pile of junk and saw what looked like Georgie, Richie pushed Eddie behind him, his arm outstretched in front of Stan, like fuck he was going to let either of them get hurt again.

They listened to fake Georgie plead for Bill to take him back home, which, yes, this bastard hit a fucking nerve and Richie was desperately trying not to cry, because it was fucked up seeing a little kid under 10, crying and pleading for his big brother to take him home, his arm was missing, and Richie had to remind himself that wasn’t Georgie.

“I l-love you, t-too,” Bill had choked out, “but you’re not Georgie,” he sternly added and raised the bolt gun and pulled the trigger.

Fake Georgie collapsed.

It was a nerve-wracking 30 seconds of silence and Richie had legit feared that Georgie had survived and they just fucking murdered the kid they had been looking for.

Nope, never mind, it wasn’t Georgie because the body started to convulse and shriek and then suddenly, it was the clown and lunging at Bill, bringing their fearless leader to the disgusting, wet, sewer ground.

Mike, Ben, and Stan had all be tossed around like ragdolls, Beverly and Eddie tried to attack It, then Bill jumped on Its back, Richie had done the same, thinking that they could do this and that they would win, and then within moments, Richie was tossed away, Bill had been flipped and suddenly it was a standoff.

Bill got nabbed, clutched between the monster’s claws, and then his friend was pleading for them to just leave him behind, because he didn’t want them to die, this was all his fault, and they should just let the monster take him instead; IT mocking his stutter softly the entire time, and Richie stepped forward, glowering at Bill.

He stalked in front of his friends, “You’re right Bill, I don’t want to die,” Richie scowled, “you punched me, you made me walk through shitty water, dragging me through a crack-house,” he listed off angrily, and he heard Pennywise snarl lowly, and Richie walked towards the mound of junk and found the end of a baseball bat and yanked it out and he leveled the clown-monster with a sneer, “and now I’m gonna have to kill this fucking clown,” his tone serious.  He lunged forward with a shout, “Welcome to Loser’s Club, asshole!” and swung at the beast.

Then the fight was back up, but this time, the Losers fought with every fiber of their entire being, shouting and hitting harder, Richie watched his friends stop being afraid and he fought back just as vigorously, while keeping an eye on his friend’s faces, making sure that none of them became cloaked in gray.

Ben still showed no fear even after he had almost been chewed up on, Eddie had basically gone batshit feral mode when the clown had turned its leper head at him and vomited black ooze all over his face, Mike attacked even as It mimicked his family’s screams, Beverly had struck it down when it morphed its head to look like Beverly’s dad.

Finally, the damn thing lurched away from them, scrabbling backwards to a giant open pit, Richie couldn’t see where it led, but It was already inside the pit, muttering what Bill practiced to say to help with his stutter.

Bill scowled and threatening stepped forward and they all saw It flinch back.

Fear,” It whispered and disappeared.

That was the end of the It, so they thought.

They all navigated their way back out of the sewer, relief made their bodies feel light, even though they were just fucking exhausted, and Richie hoped that Eddie’s mom wouldn’t lock him away after Eddie had a minor panic attack being gone for so long.

Summer was nearly over, they survived it, they were back near the quarry again, but they all sat in the overgrown field, the late July sun beating down on them heavily, Beverly said that she was leaving Derry soon, because she was going to live with her aunt in Chicago, and Richie confessed that he was moving too; his mom was finally going to get proper help in California and his dad found a better position there too.

“S-swear,” Bill said as he picked up a broken piece of glass that was curved, “swear that, i-if It isn’t d-dead, w-we all c-come back,” he stated before cutting into his palm with a wince.

Richie stood up, he heard Eddie softly say his name, “I swear,” he replied and offered his hand to his friend.  The cut hurt like a bitch and he gritted his teeth through the pain, blood gushed from the cut and he heard Eddie gag.

Eddie reluctantly was next and his still casted hand gripped Richie’s uninjured hand as Bill quickly cut into his palm; tears had gathered into his eyes, Richie remembered and Richie didn’t let go of Eddie’s hand the entire time, even when Bill had cut each palm of the friend’s.

They all joined hands and even though the stinging pain of now having to hold Eddie’s casted hand with his sliced palm, and Richie had entertained the idea of them all being in a blood cult now.

Everyone left one by one soon after, since it was getting late.

“Walk me home,” Eddie demanded, looking at Richie sternly.

Richie for once didn’t have a quip, he said bye to their friends and followed after Eddie through the tall grass that scratched at his calves; his hand still throbbed, though he guess it didn’t help the pain since he hadn’t unclenched his fist after they all stopped holding hands, and he was lucky that his mom still wasn’t as observant as she had been, or else he’d have to come up with a cover story before he got home.

The walk was quiet and Richie hated silence, it was too quiet at home now, what was once filled with pop music, his mom’s singing voice that usually was joined with his father’s, was now substituted by the silence, the loudest thing in the house was the grandfather clock that was in the living room, but Richie didn’t know what to say.

He knew Eddie was upset and judging by the occasional sniffle, Eddie must have been thinking about Richie leaving and Richie just didn’t know what to say without blurting out how he felt.

Jesus, he felt like Ben, and suddenly, Richie felt bad for him, because at least no one else was in love with Eddie like he was, well, maybe Sonia Kaspbrak was a little bit of a competition.

“Hey,” Eddie said when they neared his house.  They had taken a backway, which should have been a shortcut, had they not been dragging their feet; backways were usually safer for them to take to avoid bullies.

“What?” Richie asked, pausing in step with Eddie.  He saw that Eddie’s eyes looked a little watery and Richie swallowed back the urge to cry too; he couldn’t breakdown in front of Eddie, or else he wouldn’t stop.

Eddie scuffed his tennis shoe along the dirt, something he never would have done, he averted his gaze for a second before peering up at Richie, “Will you,” Eddie’s voice got softer as the sadness started to overwhelm him, “will you promise to call or write me?”

Fuck. The tears sprang to Richie’s eyes and the sob he tried to fight back tore through him more sharply than the fucking glass cut to his palm, and without hesitation, he pulled Eddie into a tight hug, wrapping skinny arms around Eddie as he cried into Eddie’s sun warmed hair that somewhat stung his cheek due to the heat.

He felt Eddie’s fingers curl into his already dirty shirt and felt Eddie shaking in his arms and Richie squeezed him a little tighter, “I will,” Richie promised softly, even as his breath came out shaky and a little labored.

“Good, because I’ll never fucking forgive you if you forget!” Eddie’s threat was muffled in Richie’s shoulder.  He pulled back, “You’ll call and write on holidays, even though you don’t celebrate Christmas, you still better call me!  Don’t forget about birthdays either, or-or on Fridays or when—”

“I will, sheesh,” Richie laughed, rubbing at his blotchy face with one hand, nearly knocking off his glasses that he could barely see through due to tears.  “Sound like a fucking needy girlfriend, Eds,” he teased.

“Shut up,” Eddie snapped, voice cracking.

“But that’s fine, I’ll call you over stupid shit too, like if it rains or some shit, I’ll call,” Richie promised.  “I’ll write you stupid letters all in shitty, barely legible writing with shit grammar mistakes so you can roast me over the phone.”

Eddie gave him a tearful smile, “I’ll hold you to it, Rich.”

Richie walked Eddie home, told him that he’d see him tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and then he’d see him one last time on Saturday morning before he left Derry forever.

He made a pitstop before heading home, Richie hesitated at the idea before tensing up his shoulders and walked determinedly to a well-known bridge that was known for two things: sucking face and carving names.

The shoddy, faded bridge came into view, as did all the fence boards that were covered in initials, hearts, dates, and Richie eyed the ones that had been scratched out; he hoped that he’d never have to come back and scratch out what he carved into the faded plank.

He flipped out his penknife and crouched down to an open spot that left a perfect amount of space, the nerves ran through him and Richie’s hand shook that held the penknife.

“No, you beat a fucking child-eating, space clown, you carve the stupid initials, you chickenshit bitch,” Richie scowled.  He took a breath and steeled his hold, glaring at the plank of wood with a determined stare before carefully etching the first letter of his name and tiny plus sign and without hesitation, with the uttermost care, he neatly carved the letter E.

~~~

There wasn’t much for Richie to mourn and visit one last time before he left, other than the underground clubhouse, which he hogged the hammock per usual, and Eddie didn’t complain this one time, the shorter had simply taken his usual spot by between Richie’s legs at the other end of the hammock, using his own leg to slowly rock them side to side.

Richie wished he had known that Eddie was staring at him the whole time, but perhaps it had been for the best that he didn’t see the sadness in Eddie’s eyes.  He had stared up at the planks that Ben had put up to act as extra support.

The other Losers lingered with them, quietly doing their own thing, it sucked because Richie was going to be the first leave, since the paperwork for the custody of Beverly to be given to her aunt was still in the works, she was still going to be in Derry for a bit.

Richie was only bitter because Bill and Beverly were being quite open with their relationship, the handholding, hugs, and kissing, the works, while Richie couldn’t do that and side-eyed Eddie, and then felt bad for Ben, who looked from afar with sad puppy eyes.

Stan and Mike were over it with the affection clearly, but Mike was too nice to say anything, and Stan openly rolled his eyes at the couple; Richie just wished it didn’t feel like their relationship was being rubbed in his face, because they didn’t have to be afraid to show affection in the open with each other.

And yes, he felt bad for Ben, listen, Richie knew he was a selfish 13-year-old boy, fucking SUE him about it, all right?  Can’t he also just gaze lovingly and pine for the love of his life too?  Or is this strictly meant for straights only?

Either way, Richie knew he was being a jealous little bitch, so he didn’t feel bad about laughing at Bill when the boy slipped on a latter rung when getting out the clubhouse and bruising his knee.

Everyone hugged Richie, promising to see him off early in the morning and then it was just him and Eddie, Richie kinda figured Stan knew about his feelings for Eddie, as he had subtly, not so subtly left the portable radio on with some soft music playing in the background.

God, what a fucking sap, Richie would mail him a bird book, surely California would have better bird books than fucking Derry.  This town had shit fucking nothing that made passing visitors buy souvenirs, unless a person wanted to have a slur thrown at them to leave a psychological scar as a souvenir.

Other than that, Richie didn’t want anything from this town, he would never say this out loud, but he wished that he could pack six certain somethings from this shit town and pack them into his suitcase and bring them to Cali.

“Rich,” Eddie clicked his fingers in front of Richie’s face.  “Have you been listening to anything that I’ve said?”

“Sure, you were going on how much you’re gonna miss me, yea?” Richie teased and the smile on his face wasn’t as forced as his positive mood has been for the last few days.

“No, dipshit, I asked if I could have your Return of Venom set, I know you have part 3 and I still didn’t get to read part 1 or part 2d, asshole,” Eddie scowled at his friend.

“Geez, Eds, I’m moving, not fucking dying!” Richie huffed.  “Come over, I know where I packed them,” he said, sitting up, which had Eddie sliding towards the middle of the hammock at the weight change.

Eddie frowned, “No, it’s fine, dude.  Just busting your chops over it,” he muttered, averting his gaze from Richie’s.

Richie figured it out earlier that week, which was that Eddie didn’t like seeing the Tozier house packed up, looking more barren and stranger-like than the house that his best friend grew up in, where they read comics in the backyard, where they built forts in the basement that Richie’s dad had refurnished a few summers ago, where Eddie had his first piece of chocolate cake in the Tozier kitchen where Mrs. Tozier made cake just because the sun was out.

He understood, Richie didn’t really like being home either, the walls were void of the family pictures, his mom’s artwork, his dad’s dental books that took permanent residence on the fireplace since Richie’s birth were packed away as well, his childhood pictures he drew and were stuck to the fridge were gone too, packed away with the rest of everything that made his home feel like home.

It really did feel like a stranger’s home; he never realized how bland the paint on the walls were without things hung up to spruce up the place, make it look nice and well, lived in. 

Richie could have gone on for days how much he hated being home; his room was just as barren, he watched prison shows with his dad after supper, and that’s currently how his bedroom looked and felt, since he had packed up his sheets and pillow cases, leaving only his thin, summer comforter and two bare pillows.

“Walk me home?” Eddie asked him softly.

“Yea,” Richie’s smile was gentle; he felt like he was doing that a lot lately, when it was just him and Eddie, hell, even if the Losers were around, Richie felt himself getting all mushy around Eddie.

When Eddie moved to slide off the hammock, he was stopped by Richie’s hands on his shoulders and Eddie’s gaze shot up to meet Richie’s, his friend’s eyes look much bigger from behind those stupidly thick lenses, and Eddie felt heat rush up to his cheeks.

“I, uhmm,” Richie stammered, his hands started to shake and he could feel his palms starting to sweat.  “I—”

Eddie was pretty clued in by how much Richie’s gaze kept flickering down to his mouth and back to his eyes and Eddie’s heart raced as he closed the distance and gave Richie a quick peck; it shocked somewhat and Eddie didn’t know if it was because they were staticky or if it was just how he felt.

Richie seemed to freeze after that, before taking a slow breath and leaned forward, he didn’t know when to shut his eyes, because soon their lips touched again and for a moment it was awkward. 

“Close your eyes, stupid,” Eddie whispered and his lips quirked up in a small smile when Richie eyes shut quickly and Eddie followed suit; he only knew because his mom sometimes watched dramas and Eddie saw kiss scenes, before his mom would shield his eyes.

It was very chaste, Richie pulled back and his lips felt tingly, his body felt weirdly light and when he looked at Eddie, his friend’s face was still pink, but Eddie didn’t look upset or nervous for once.

“Is that why you’ve been so weird to me all week?” Eddie asked him after a moment of silence.

“I can’t try to woo you with ice cream from Scoops?” Richie defended himself.

“Not with that grainy shit,” Eddie scoffed.  “I think they use grains of rice in with their ice cream.”

“God, you’re so difficult to please,” Richie sneered and Eddie laughed, slapping at his shoulder.

They smiled easily at each other and yea, they were going to be okay.

They were going to be okay, but at the same time, they weren’t, because Richie was moving to the other side of the country in fourteen-ish hours from now and he just had his first kiss with the boy he had been not-so-secretly crushing on for as long as he can remember.

~~~

Moving day was soon upon Richie, he had woken up at 7 in the damn morning, helping his parents load the rest of their lives into the U-Haul and the smaller trailer attached to his parent’s station wagon; he couldn’t help with the furniture, so his dad and a couple of his co-worker friends had moved that stuff.

Richie was riding in the U-Haul with his mom, who shocking had been sober for the last few of days, Richie figured it was because of the clown going back into hiding, the weird magic shit that cloaked the place seemed less suffocating, which he never realized had been that bad to begin with.

His mother already looked clear-eyed and focused, smiling more, she had woken him up with McDonald’s breakfast and juice and Richie thought his dad looked livelier too; it was just this fucking town that sucked the life out of people.

Literally, because there weren’t as many gray-marked people, Richie had almost even forgotten about his power until he saw an old lady across the street when he had walked Eddie home after a couple of (four) kisses.

He saw her gray hue and Richie felt his stomach clench in nerves, he had held Eddie’s hand after that and Eddie had asked him what the matter was and Richie had just mumbled that it was nothing.

“That old lady is gonna die, isn’t she?” Eddie had asked him sadly, looking up at him with a sorrowful expression.

Well, as least she gets to die old,” Richie bitterly said, shoulders hunching.  “Betty Ripsom and all those other kids who got fucking eaten by that stupid clown won’t even get to know what it’s like to even get old enough to drink.”

Eddie had been quiet after that up until they reached his front door, where he suddenly looked seriously, “You’d tell me, wouldn’t you, Rich?  You’d warn me?”

Richie had taken in that rosy hue of Eddie’s cheeks, warmed up by the orange-ish toned porchlight; he knew he’d probably die of heartbreak if he ever saw Eddie’s skin ever turn gray, because he didn’t know how to prevent it.

“Yea,” Richie lied.  “G’night, Eds, see you in the morning,” he whispered, giving Eddie another hug and swift kiss to the cheek before hurrying home.

And now, Richie saw Eddie marching towards him that early fucking morning with the rest of their Losers in tow, Richie couldn’t have stopped the tears if he tried, and in his defense, it was way to early and his walls were down.

Everyone hugged him tight, first Bill, almost crushing Richie in a hug, he was stammering hard through the tears and Richie was sure his own tears soaked the collar of Bill’s shirt.  Their fearless leader always had a big heart, it was why Richie called him Big Bill, not just because he acted tough or was almost as tall as Richie, but because Bill was literally Snow White, singing to animals, dwarf-loving gentle.

Stan was next, it was so funny watching Stan trying to brave-face Richie, clapping him on the shoulder, telling him that he would miss Richie, and all it took for the breaking point was Richie saying ‘Staniel’ and then Stan was crying and hugging him tightly, saying that he’d write and call him.

Beverly followed after, slipping Richie a half pack of cigarettes in his hideous Hawaiian shirt pocket, she wasn’t full-on crying, but her pretty eyes were brimmed up with tears; she hugged Richie gently, telling him that she loved him and hoped that they’d get to see each other again someday.

Despite teasing her about the love confession, Richie felt unnerved by what she said, there was just something in Beverly’s tone that suggested that they were going to see each other again, but how soon, Richie didn’t know; he hoped it would be after the 27-year marker though.

Ben’s hugs were nice, Richie concluded, his hugs were as nice as him and warm and Richie tussled his hair, calling him a cutie, trying to deflect that he really enjoyed Ben’s hugs.  He also promised to write Richie, and Richie had practically begged for a poem; he loved that Ben’s face went cherry red.

Okay, so Mike could possibly rival Ben’s hugs, there was just something nice about being wrapped up in a farmer boy’s arms and maybe, just maybe Richie wasn’t just Eddie-sexual, perhaps he did just enjoy boys.  Richie thanked him again for kicking Bower’s ass and asked him to keep Beverly and Bill’s sappy love in line and to make sure that Stan didn’t get lost in the woods while bird watching, and to keep Ben safe, and most importantly, kept Eddie clearheaded.

Then came Eddie.  Hmm, nope, Richie was taking it back, he was strictly Eddie-sexual and 100-percent through and through all for Eddie’s hugs, nothing made Richie feel warmer than practically encasing his shorter friend in his arms and tucking his face into Eddie’s hair.  Nothing would beat the feeling of Eddie’s fingers curling into the back of his shirt to cling to Richie, to act like he was an anchor to keep Richie rooted where he was, California be damned, and Richie really wished that he could stay right here in this moment.

Unfortunately, Richie’s dad came along:

“Ready, Champ?  Time’s a-wasting,” Went said, he did feel awful about having his son hurry up, especially when it was obvious that Richie was close with his friends. 

“Coming,” Richie muttered, but it was loud enough that his dad knew to take his cue and fuck off.  He felt the rest of his friends step around him, hugging him, murmuring gentle words that they’d miss him and hoped he like California.

“Course I will,” Richie said.  “All those hot girls, sorry, Eds, maybe your mom will get replaced,” he replied with faux sympathy.  He laughed when Eddie lightly punched his shoulder and told him to shut up, but the shared fond look between them almost have Richie start into another fit of tears.

“I’ll miss you,” Eddie whispered, he didn’t care that the rest of their friends stood almost shoulder to shoulder with him; he happily held Richie’s hand, feeling those longer fingers tremble in his hold.

“You’ll always be my Spagheds,” Richie promised, warmth flooding his cheeks.  “All girly feelings aside, sorry Bev, you all can literally go fuck yourselves, I have cried enough,” he bitched.

Bill was still wiping at his cheeks with tissues provided by Eddie’s fanny packs.

“We’ll see each other again, Trashmouth,” Beverly winked.

“For a good cause, I hope,” Stan pitched in.

Richie squeezed Eddie’s hand lightly, never taking his eyes off Eddie, “Yea,” he agreed absentmindedly.

Then he was getting into the passenger side of the U-Haul and Richie weakly waved to his friends, who were all standing on the sidewalk, watching him get carted off to the other side of the United State of fucking America.

Reflecting back on it all, Richie from current time, concluded that this moment of his parent’s deciding to uproot his whole life, was in fact, very homophobic, as the kids said these days.

Kid Richie on the other hand, was dealing with anxiety of having to make new friends, because the group he had were anything but perfect, but they were the ones Richie loved.  He was worried what his life was going to become, he already felt weird leaving Derry and they passed over the Kissing Bridge; Richie saw his mark and his hands squeezed into tight fists.

He’d never love another like he loved Eddie Kaspbrak.

No one else could handle him and his obnoxious (amazing) impressions, or banter with him the way Richie could, even Stan the Sassman couldn’t keep up, which was fine, because Richie could mindlessly bicker with Eddie and not get bored of it.

And now, Richie wasn’t going to have that anymore, his eyes felt hot and stingy again, his throat felt like it was swollen shut, his mom must have sensed something was wrong because she took Richie’s hand into her own slimmer hand.

“It’s going to be okay, honey,” Maggie promised, giving her heartbroken son a comforting smile.  “You’re good at talking and you’ll have twice the many friends you had to start with.”

Richie made a soft mutter of reluctant agreement, just to appease her, because he was done with emotional bullshit.  He cast one last look into the rearview mirror when they had passed the faded Welcome to Derry sign; he felt a heavy settling of dread.

The words matched on the other side, but what made Richie’s heart practically seize in his chest was that those faded red letters seemed to bleed, dripping red droplets when the thick liquid reached the bottom edge of the wooden sign; Richie watched the letters faded to gray.

There was nothing he could do.