"Have you ever kissed anybody?"
The question was simple, hanging there in the balmy Summer air. Bill Denbrough worried his bottom lip between his teeth, his mind working over the answer.
It was weird to ask , Eddie thought to himself. Still, everybody seemed interested, so he didn't feel like too weird about it.
"Nu-nah, I duh-duh-don't really think so. Unless th-the-that one time in suh-summer camp. I kissed th-th-this girl on the ch-cheek," Bill shrugged.
"That doesn't count, asshole," Richie Tozier laughed.
"Well it's not like you h-have either."
The revelation of Richie having never kissed anybody secretly delighted Eddie, though he didn't know why. Perhaps it was because this meant he wasn't alone in his inexperience.
Then I should have been happy that Bill hasn't kissed a girl either. I guess I am, he supposed.
"What about y-you, Eh-Eh-Eddie?," Bill suddenly asked.
Caught off guard, Eddie's face flushed, bright crimson patches blooming all over the pale skin of his face and neck.
"Well, no, I haven't," he muttered.
Bill and Richie collapsed into a second peel of laughter.
"Oh, such a cute young man! All flustered!," Richie exclaimed in his best grandma voice. He pinched the soft flesh of Eddie's cheek, which only caused Eddie to flush harder. Richie's eyes glittered.
Eddie chuckled halfheartedly, more embarrassed than he’d like to admit to himself. At least he could breath --the anxiety coursing through him had yet to close up the tunnel of his throat.
"The curfew is soon, you guys," Eddie announced softly.
"O-oh, shit, y-you're r-r-right," Bill swore, his eyes flicking up to the skyline.
The orange-reds had been seeping into purple for a while now, though Eddie wanted to get Bill's (and Richie's) answers before they all decided to turn in for the night. He knew his mom would have a fit at how close he'd already been cutting it, but oddly, he didn't really care.
Richie stood and brushed away the bits of grass that had clung to the seat of his blue jeans.
"S-stop staring at Richie's ass, queermo," Bill jived, swatting Eddie's arm.
"I wasn't!," Eddie snapped. It came out more defensive than he had meant.
"J-Jesus, sorry," Bill said, holding up his hands as if Eddie had been waggling a firearm instead of his tongue.
Awkward silence, something rare between the three of them, seemed to permeate the air.
"C'mon lads, lessuh hurry up new, lest the coppahs start hangin ow assuhs," Richie ordered. It seemed his voices only emerged at the most uncomfortable moments.
Bill rolled his eyes and stood. Richie extended a hand to Eddie, who took it gratefully.
"Yer maam needs tuh put some meat on yer bones, lad," Richie grinned, yanking Eddie to his feet. "Yer as light as a babe!"
Eddie laughed, though his mind felt like it was malfunctioning all of a sudden. Richie's hand was cool and dry, as opposed to his own clammy, nervous palms.
"B-uh-buh-bye guys!," Bill called. He was already mounting silver a few yards away.
"BYE!," Richie yelped, waving their still-clasped hands as Bill wobbled off down the path.
"Bye," Eddie added, as an afterthought. He stared at their hands together.
"C'mon, Kaspbrak," Richie grinned. "Walk me home."
Richie hadn't realized that poor Eddie had been wheezing until they had rounded the street corner. He knew he was a fast walker and also the taller one (and therefore the one with the longer legs), but still. Sometimes he felt a little thick-skulled.
"Jeez, Eds, y'alright there?," he touched Eddie's shoulder gently.
"Don't...call...me Eds," Eddie gasped, hunching over and resting his hands on his thighs. Richie rubbed circles into the small of Eddie's back, oddly reminiscent of Eddie's mother. This thought made Eddie giggle stupidly.
"You're acting like my mom," Eddie laughed, straightening up. Richie's hand fell away from his back. The spot where he'd touched Eddie was warm.
Eddie's laughing turned to wheezing, and he took a rip of medication from his inhaler, his mouth gaping like a goldfish. Now it was Richie's turn to laugh. Eddie shoved him, and Richie laughed even harder, stumbling down the sidewalk as the pair continued onwards.
Tall ferns and peony plants surrounded the path to Richie’s front door. His bike leaned against the fence, gleaming in the sunset.
"Your bike is gonna rust if you leave it out like that," Eddie said.
Richie rolled his eyes. "Always the voice of reason, you." He opened the front door, which was unlocked, and motioned for Eddie to follow him inside.
"I can't, my mom will have a fit."
"Oh, c’mon. It'll just be a minute."
It was impossible to say no to the face Richie was giving him – like he'd be forever upset if Eddie didn't take the invitation. His eyes were endlessly brown, and pleadingly large. His pink bottom lip was half curled into a pout, like a rose petal.
Eddie glanced away. "Fine, but only for a minute."
Richie's face broke into a glorious grin, lopsided and endearing.
"Mom, I'm home! Eddie's here too!," he shouted, grabbing Eddie's arm and yanking him inside.
"Don't shout, Richie. I can hear you perfectly fine,” Mrs.Tozier frowned. She stood in the dining room with a telephone catalog in one hand and a dripping wooden spoon in the other. “Hello Eddie," she said, as a thick glob of marinara fell off of her spoon and onto the linoleum.
"Hello, ma'am," Eddie said politely.
Richie looked a lot like his mom. He had her kind gaze and friendly eyes, and the same upturned nose.
"Would you like to stay for dinner? I'm making spaghetti and meatballs tonight," Mrs.Tozier smiled.
Spaghetti and meatballs sounded fantastic– and smelled fantastic too. The house was filled with the bubbling scent of chives and oregano. Eddie’s mouth watered, like he could practically taste it. His own mom’s cooking couldn’t hold a candle to Mrs.Toziers. Speaking of his mom -- it was far past the time she had instructed he’d come home. She’d probably called nine-one-one, assuming the worst.
"Well I'd have to call my mom...," he trailed off.
"I'll give her a ring, just a second."
Mrs.Tozier set down the catalog she had been holding and disappeared into the kitchen.
Richie grabbed Eddie's hand.
"Come upstairs, I just got the new Batman issue!," he ordered, tugging Eddie along.
Eddie willingly followed, thinking about how clammy and gross his own hand probably felt to Richie (though Richie didn't seem to mind very much).
Richie's room was always a gigantic mess, which made Eddie panicky. His own room was militarily organized. All of Richie's stuff was everywhere, comics and clothes all over the floor, his bed unmade, his model trains and matchbox cars scattered.
Eddie plopped himself into Richie's bed, laying back and closing his eyes. Richie's room might be a mess, but it wasn't like Eddie wasn't used to it.
"Oi, lad. Why ah you going to bed at this ehh-ly owah?," Richie asked in a horrendous British accent.
"Your accent is awful," Eddie sniggered.
"Why, I'm heartbroken!," he exclaimed in the voice of a southern belle, clutching his chest and collapsing onto the bed. He reached over Eddie and grabbed one of his comic books, and for a second there Eddie had thought Richie might embrace him. It was a stupid thought, but he had become lost in his own head with it.
"Your face is red, Ed. Hey, I'm a poet and I didn't even know it!," Richie chuckled.
Eddie touched his own face absentmindedly.
"Hey, Earth to Eddie," Richie said, snapping his fingers in front of Eddie's eyes.
"Sorry," Eddie blinked. He plucked the comic book from Richie's hands and opened it. He tried to be immersed. He really did. But Richie was trying to read over his shoulder (or more like on top of him), and he’d rested his head on Eddie's arm, and Eddie could feel his warm breath. He felt strange, his stomach whirling like a tornado. He nudged Richie off of him and sat up, inhaling deeply.
"You okay, Eds?"
"Y-yeah...I'm gonna go downstairs and ask your mom what my mom said," he announced, bolting from the room.
In his haste, he had even forgotten to tell Richie not to call him "Eds".
When dinner is over, the town curfew has long passed. A smattering of stars twinkle brightly outside. The Derry night sky is suburban picturesque.
"Guess you're not going home tonight," Richie says, staring at his superman-themed alarm clock..
"I don't have my toothbrush or anything," Eddie sighs.
"You can use mine," Richie snickers.
"What, I'm too germy for you?"
"If I get sick because of your cooties my mom will have a heart attack," Eddie laughs.
He watches as Richie gets up and digs through his dresser. He's bent at the waist, and his shirt has ridden up just enough that Eddie can see a few inches of skin.
"Do my pajamas have cooties?" Richie asks, still looking through mounds of clothing.
"No, stupid, you get cooties from kissing and stuff," Eddie says -- then wishes he hadn't. His face is red again, thinking back to their earlier conversation. Luckily the room is dim, save for a few stripes of moonlight.
"Then no-fear. I'm cootie free." Richie straightens and throws a pile of wrinkled pjs at Eddie, who catches it clumsily. There's a shirt that must belong to Richie's dad. It's huge and red and has the words Coca Cola printed on the front in faded lettering. There's also a pair of grey sweatpants, which are Richie's.
Eddie looks up from the clothes in his hands to find Richie pulling his shirt off and tossing it to the floor, followed by his jeans. He stands there in the pale light, kicking the discarded clothing to the side. His skin is nearly glowing in this sort of lighting, and the waves of his hair look black in the darkness.
The sight is doing strange things to Eddie, even though they've changed in front of each other plenty of times before, without so much as a second though. Eddie's eyes dart around for his aspirator, suddenly out of breath.
By the time he looks up again, Richie is dressed in boxer shorts and a t shirt with bugs bunny on it. He falls onto the bed with a dramatic yawn, turning to stare at Eddie, who is still sitting up. He plucks at the hem of Eddie’s shirt. It’s coated in grime from laying in the grass near the barrens.
Eddie slips his shirt off, replacing it with the baggy coca cola t shirt. Then, he stands, removing his jeans and replacing those with Richie’s sweats. The pant legs are too long, and he has to roll the ends into cuffs. He falls onto the bed when everything is satisfactory. Richie is observing him through the thick lenses of his spectacles.
"You're gonna break your glasses, numbnuts," Eddie scolds. Richie slips them off and tosses them onto his nightstand.
His eyes look much softer without the wide black frames. He also has dark, curlicue eyelashes, even darker than the hair on his head. Eddie finds himself having to look away again.
Richie's breathing goes soft with exhaustion. Eddie turns to look at him, surprised at how awake he is. Richie's face looks so uncharacteristically serious. It's making him feel shifty and uncomfortable.
"Don't call me that."
"Sorry. Hey, um, remember how you said earlier that you haven't ever kissed anybody? And I also said that too?"
Eddie just hums a nonsensical sound in response, finding he can't really form any words.
"Well, don't you ever wonder what it feels like? Y’know, with like, a girl?"
"Hmm?,” Eddie squeaks.
Richie props himself up onto his elbow, staring up at Eddie with those earnest eyes. Eddie feels like he's about to die. His face is surely red as a tomato. He has no idea why he feels this way, why his whole body feels all warm and weird and bad.
"You wanna, like, practice...?," Richie asks.
Eddie feels like his chest is caving in, like this is for-sure the moment of his death.
"I mean like, not in a queer way! Like, so that when we kiss girls we won't be bad at it!," Richie adds hastily.
After what feels like a lifetime, Eddie says; "...o-okay” softly, his throat tight.
Richie hesitates for a second, then tugs Eddie down by his shirt – not forcefully, but almost shakily (if Richie Tozier could even be described as a nervous person).
"I'm gonna just, um, do it now," Richie says awkwardly. He sits up a little further and cups Eddie's cheeks in his hands. Eddie's eyes look terrified. This close up, Richie can see how flustered he truly is. His face is aflame, and his dark eyes are darting like a madman.
Their mouths meet, clumsy and inexperienced. Eddie feels like he's going to implode, but in a good way, if that makes sense. Richie's mouth is warm, and kind of wet, but it isn't unpleasant. And then it's over, much too quickly.
When they pull away, Eddie notes that his hand is clutching Richie's shirt, and that Richie's hands are still holding his face, and that neither of them move to change that.
In fact, Richie looks to be in awe. His lips feel tingly, and his heart is thudding the way it does when he's peddling real fast on his bike. He thinks about Eddie. Eddie Kaspbrak, small and thin. He looks frail even though his friends know he's not, and he always seems a little distant (though who doesn't, really?).
To his horror, Richie finds himself wondering if he had meant this as practice, or as the real deal.
But he's not queer.
The thought is terrifying, but the dreamy look on Eddie's face is anchoring him. Eddie's lips are parted and they look very inviting. And right then, it isn't about curiosity anymore. Richie decides he very much wants to kiss Eddie again. And before he can tell himself that kissing other boys is Bad and Wrong, he's drawing Eddie towards him. And this time he means it. He’s not very suave or skillful,, but he doesn't care, because Eddie is kissing him back. And it feels so normal. And nice.
When they break apart for the second time, there's a soft, wet "pop" sound.
Eddie buries himself against Richie's shoulder, still breathing hard. His mouth kinda hurts now, but it's alright. This is so nice, even if "it isn’t right”. Terrifyingly sudden, Eddie feels like if he stops nuzzling into Richie's shoulder and actually looks him in the eye, this will all be over and, consequently, his heart would positively fall out of his chest.
But that doesn't happen.
Instead, Richie is wrapping his arms around Eddie, pulling him down so that they're not sitting up anymore.
And neither of them say anything as Richie tugs the blanket over their shoulders.
He kisses Eddie on the nose, and it's so dumb that both of them burst out laughing, until it dies down into silence.
Just two kids at a sleepover.