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Shake Like The Bough Of A Willow Tree

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There was something magical about being on the ice.

When he was skating, he was no longer Eddie Kaspbrak, high school senior with an aversion to anything fun, he was just himself. Eddie Kaspbrak, figure skater prodigy.

It was invigorating to step onto the ice, to feel the chill on his skin as he preformed, the sweat on his skin as he practiced.

Set up for the entry, get onto the takeoff edge. Bend your knees, move your arms into position. Dig your toe pick into the ice. Take off. And for a second, fly through the air, free of all limitations. There’s no feeling quite like bending into the edge on a Lutz, the snap of jumping through the air, the feeling of spinning so fast the entire world blends around you until all the world consists of is you and your skates.

It’s freeing to step onto the ice, to relax your muscles and let the skates do the work for you. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of landing a jump correctly, the solid feeling of his blade hitting the ice again, his center of gravity shifting.

Off the ice, he wasn’t sure of anything. He second-guessed every move he made, every step he took, every word he spoke. But on the ice there was a rhythm, there was a pattern, a way that he knew he was supposed to be. On the ice everything just felt right and if he could he would spend every single hour of every day on there, just skating and jumping and turning, no one but himself and his coach to tell him what to do.

But, being a normal seventeen-year-old boy, he had to go to school. And that is where his fantasy ends. At school he isn’t he graceful figure skater, he’s the quiet but relatively smart kid in class everyone makes fun of. He’s the loser without friends, the boy who can’t take a joke, Eddie Kaspbrak who has a stick shoved up his ass. He hears everything they say about him.

But that’s not important. Right now, the only thing important to him is the hard ice in front of him.

It’s five am on a Thursday morning, and today Eddie has the ice all to himself.

He has nothing against the other kids at his rink, but they have a tendency to goof off, to not take it as seriously as he does. His ice dance partner, Beverly Marsh, is really the only person he can tolerate for long periods of time. He likes his coach too, but he was hard as hell on him, and sometimes it was nice to skate without that added pressure.

He stepped onto the ice, already feeling the stress fall away as he broke into his warmup routine. There was no program music playing overhead, the rink was dead silent. He liked it that way, the only noise to be heard the dig of his skate into the ice, the satisfying sound that echoed around every time he made a turn or spin.

It’s just him and his skates digging into the ice, repeating the same moves over and over again. It was methodical, sensical, logical. Repeat an action over and over again until it’s perfected, move on to the next until all the moves bleed into his soul and there’s no room to think of anything other than the sound of his skates and the moves vibrating through his limbs.

Minutes tick by, and before he could even blink his hour was up, and he needed to leave if he wanted to make it to school on time. He hurries off the ice, waving to the kind old man who flooded the ice after he was done.

“It’s looking good Eddie!” The man, who Eddie thinks his name is Will, calls out.

“Thank you!” He replied cheerfully, waving back as he sat on the bench, untying his skates. His feet were slightly red and sore from the amount of jumping he did that day, but he found he didn’t really care as he pulled on his runners and a hoodie.

Glancing at the clock, it was only six-fifteen, which meant he had enough time to go for a quick run as a cool down before heading back to the locker rooms to take a shower and get changed for school. Normally he would go home to do that, much more comfortable in his own room, but ever since his mom and him had that last big fight, well he found it easier to spend as much time away as he could.

Running was also cleansing, although nowhere close to the effect skating had on him. When running, it was more intense, more of a shove than a glide. It was less hyper-focusing on the task at hand and more running until his breath gasped out of his chest and sweat soaked every pore.

He managed to get a good twenty-minute run in before he headed back down, washing away all the dirt and sweat with warm water before throwing on some clothes and packing his bag. The drive to school was sobering, the come down from the high that skating gave him, circling back down onto the earth.

He hated school. With a passion.

it wasn’t that it was hard, in fact, most subjects were easy for him, but it was more the people in the school. His town wasn’t known for being that accepting, and as the only guy in the city who did skating, he was automatically labeled “QUEER” with capital letters. It didn’t bother him that much, since he was, you know, queer. But it was the constant ridicule, the looks he got in the halls, the way people pushed him around, it made it an overall unpleasant place to be.

He never really made friends when he moved here four years ago, more focused on integrating into the skating club and learning how to work with his new coach. He didn’t have time for things like parties, or hangouts, or school dances. Due to that, he was labeled an outcast, thrown away and left alone on the side, all by himself.

So when he sat down in his first class, biology, he was all alone. He sat near the back, to the side where he could easily see the board over the obnoxiously tall people who gravitated towards the middle rows. The seat beside him was left empty. He tried not to care.

There was a buzz going around the room, whispered conversations taking place instead of the normal loud ones. That meant something big was going on, he just hoped it wasn’t like last time. Last time Eddie heard whispers like that it was because Henry Bowers had told everyone about the prank he was pulling on Eddie. It took Eddie almost three hours to get all the glitter out of his hair and clothes.

”There’s some glitter for you fairy, maybe put it on your sparkly costume and do a dance for us.”

Eddie glanced over to where Bowers and his goons sat near the back, always smoking or doing some other illegal activity. Bowers and his gang were technically a year older than him, but they were all held back because they failed out of most of their classes. Which meant Eddie had the honor of having him in three out of four classes.

The surprise became apparently when after the bell rang, a curly haired boy ran into class. Eddie had seen him once or twice in the halls, but never up close. He had dark curly hair, glasses too large for his face, but overall he wasn’t overly bad to look at.

“Tozier,” The teacher said coolly. “Great first arrival to your new class. Take a seat.”

A new student, probably changing in from one of the other classes, that’s probably what the buzz was about.

The boy looked around, eyes searching for the only empty desk. The one right beside Eddie. Eddie tensed a little, staring back at the page of homework he finished three nights ago to avoid the other boys’ eyes.

“Just my luck that the only open seat happens to be beside a literal angel,” The boy whispered as he sat down, and Eddie turned to glare at him, his lips turning into a frown at the odd compliment. “Ah,” The boy nodded wisely, a twinkle to his eyes. “I see now, not an angel actually, but a devil in disguise.”

Eddie decided he hated him already.

____________________________

He was right. He hated Richie Tozier. In the span of a single biology class, the boy managed to interrupt the teach a total of three times with some witty joke, and the amount of time he chose to instead whisper it into Eddie’s ear was far too many to count.

Eddie was barely able to pay attention to class at all, and once it was over he was out the door before the boy could get another word in.

Because his luck absolutely sucked, because as soon as his locker was opened it was being slammed back shut by one Henry Bowers.

“Saw you and the Tozier kid practically cuddling in class,” Henry sneered. “Got yourself a boyfriend fairy?”

“Good morning Henry,” Eddie said casually, reaching into his locker and grabbing his books. “How are you doing today?”

Henry reached out, a hand slapping at his books and causing them to fall out of his hands.

“You listen to me when I’m talking to you!” Henry said, grabbing Eddie’s shoulders and pushing him hard. He was used to it at this point. He really shouldn’t be this apathetic to the vicious assault, but it had been four years of this already. He was more than used to it. “You like using those little lips of yours? Does the four-eyed faggot enjoy when you suck him off?”

Eddie wasn’t sure why he got so mad. Normally he just sat there, waiting for it to be over, biting his tongue in order to not piss Bowers off more. But for some reason, hearing his peer being called a slur like that, the implications behind it, well it pissed him off.

“No,” He snapped, smiling widely without amusement. “But your dad sure did seem to enjoy it.”

He was sure he was getting hit. Henry Bowers raised his arm and Eddie could see the anger in his face, etched into the lines. He prepared himself to listen to his mother’s panic, his teachers worry, his coach’s disappointment. But Henry only lowered his arm, his eyes darting to the side.

“Henry Bowers what in the world are you doing!” A voice called out, and Eddie recognized it as their principals.

“You got off lucky this time fairy,” Henry hissed. “Keep an eye out.”

With that Henry let go of him, storming away to avoid whatever punishment the principal had in store.

He dully responded to the principal’s concerns, shaking him off by saying he really needed to get to class. He did, the warning bell had rung and if he was late to class Mr. Boychuk would literally kill him. He hurried off to class, making it in right before the bell. Boychuk still glared at him, but that was normal, the man just hated him.

He sat down in his seat at the back of the class, glancing over at Henry Bowers, who was grinning at him like a shark from across the class.

“You piss off Bowers again?” Beverly greeted him, leaning across the aisle to grin at him.

“Is there anything I do that doesn’t?” Eddie countered, pulling out his math book. Beverly hummed.

Out of everyone in this entire school, Beverly was probably the only person he truly considered a friend. The fiery redhead first met him when he joined their club, being the only one to formally go up and introduce herself. They got paired up for their rhythm dance routine the next week.

They grew close after that, falling easily into sync with each other. She was probably the only person who he could trust to be 100% honest with him, even if the truth hurt. She had a no-nonsense way of talking that he liked, and she also understood his sense of dry humor, having the same type herself. They fit well, which is why they also skated well together.

“Hey, my friend Bill is having a party next Friday,” She told him, lightly hitting his shoulder. “You wanna come? I know you don’t have practice so don’t even try that excuse.”

“I have practice,” He deadpanned, rolling his eyes. “You know I don’t like parties Bev.”

“Oh come on,” She sighed. “One little party won’t kill you, and I think you’ll get alone well with Bill and his friends.”

“Bill as in the Bill you dated last year?” Eddie asked. “You’re still friends with him?”

“Course I am,” Bev shrugged. “We dated for like a week, nothing important. Doesn’t bother either of us at all.”

“I still don’t know Bev,” He said, hesitating slightly. “My mom won’t approve of it.” His mom rarely approved of anything he did. To her, every action and decision he made was made to specifically spite her as a person.

“Come on Eddie,” She whined. “I promised to introduce you to Ben remember! And you never get out, it’ll be good for you to go out of your comfort zone you know? And I know you love to stick it to your mother.”

It was true, he did. But only when he wasn’t near her, because if he was near her he became putty in her hands, melting to her every need. But, maybe a party would be good. He had been in the school for four years now, and not once had he let Beverly drag him to a party, despite her many tries. Maybe he should just give in and go, try one high school party and see if he liked it. He might as well experience it once right?

“Fine,” He sighed. “I’ll go to your stupid party.”

“Wait really?” Beverly asked, blinking into surprise before her face broke into a grin. “Holy shit I didn’t think that would actually work!”

“Kaspbrak, Marsh, please try to refrain from discussing your personal life in my class, you are supposed to be doing math.” Mr. Boychuk chided, and the two of them ducked their heads back towards their looks, glancing at each other and smiling widely before starting.

_________________________________

He regretted agreeing to this stupid party.

Beverly said it would be a small party, and yet Eddie counted maybe 100 people there. Bill had greeted them when they walked in, an apologetic smile on his face as he explained that people brought a lot of guests. He dragged Beverly away seconds later. But it was fine, everything was fine.

He was huddled against the wall as far away as he could get from everyone, drinking water out of a red solo cup and wondering what time it was socially acceptable to leave.

The music was too loud, and bad too. It was all bass; meaningless words being screamed as loud as they could as if they were making a point. People were attempting to dance in the living room, but in reality, it was just a bunch of people drunkenly swaying together, limbs thrown about. There was no grace, no technique, just people being stupid.

A small part of him wanted to join, to just let loose and dance around like an idiot, and he knew it was irrational to hate those people when in reality he just wanted to be like them.

But he still hated them, no matter how irrational or not.

“Why hello angel, fancy meeting you here.” A voice said to the side of him, and Eddie jumped in surprise turning around to come face to face with no one else but Richie Tozier. The boy was grinning like an idiot, a loud Hawaiian shirt on paired with ripped jeans and a band tee. It didn’t look half bad.

“Richie,” He greeted coolly, not really up to holding a conversation with the obnoxious boy.

Over the past week, his hate for Richie had grown. He literally never shut up. All throughout the class, he would quietly chat Eddie’s ear off, not caring how many times the teacher reprimanded him for it. He would do his best to make Eddie laugh, mocking the teacher using ridiculous voices. Eddie hated it with a passion. He was now behind in the class, having to go online to copy half his notes because he couldn’t pay attention with Richie talking his ear off.

“You sound so formal,” Richie said with a grin, leaning against the wall. “What you doing over here all by yourself sweet cheeks?”

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie groaned. “I’m waiting to leave. I foolishly let Bev drive me so I can’t leave until she leaves.”

“Beverly? Beverly Marsh?” Richie asked, and Eddie nodded. “So you’re her mysterious guest! She was so excited when she told us you were coming.”

“You guys are friends?” Eddie asked, genuinely surprised. He never saw them together, but really Eddie only ever saw Beverly in the second and fourth periods. “I didn’t know that.”

“You should hang out with us more then,” Richie grinned. “I’d love to get to know you more.” He reached forwards, as if to pinch his cheek and Eddie angrily slapped the hand away. Richie only laughed.

“You are wound so tightly,” Richie giggled. “Come on lover boy, dance with me.”

“No way,” Eddie said, shaking his head. “I am not dancing with you.”

“Come on,” Richie whined. “It’ll be fun, I promise. You can’t just hang out here looking like some weird loser all night.”

“Is that why you came over here?” Eddie asked. “Because I looked like a weird loser?”

“Well yeah,” Richie shrugged. “You looked lonely.”

“I don’t need your pity,” He snapped, crossing his arms and glancing at the door. Fuck it, he could walk home. “I don’t want it either.”

He turned and walked away, ignoring Richie’s call from behind him. Why he was so upset was beyond him. He didn’t even like Richie, so why did he care that the boy only wanted to talk to him out of pity? It didn’t matter to him anyways. He pushed through the crowd of people, muttering out soft ‘excuse me’s and ‘so sorry’ every time he hit someone. He was steps away from the door when someone grabbed his shoulder turning him around.

“Well look what we have here,” Henry Bowers cooed, his gang of delinquents standing tall behind him. Eddie really regretted coming. “Little twinkle boy decided to come to his first high school party.”

“Screw off Bowers,” He grumbled, attempting to get past again.

“Not so fast,” Henry grabbed him again, pushing him back several steps. People started to back away, whispering but not coming forwards to help. “I’m not done with you yet you little fairy.”

“Jesus Christ Bowers,” Eddie snapped, at the end of his rope. He felt like crying, he felt seconds away from a panic attack. There was no escape, Henry standing in front of the door. He was literally trapped, and no one was coming to help him. “Just let me go.”

Before he could even realize what was happening, Henry Bowers punched him in the face.

The stinging pain came quick, and Eddie fell backwards, only catching himself from years of balance practice. His hand raised to his aching cheek; the skin warm from the strength of the hit.

“Woah!” Someone was calling out, and suddenly Bill and Richie were in the room, pushing Henry and his goons away from him. “I told y-you not to c-come here Buh-Bowers.” It was Bill speaking, if the stutter was anything to go by.

“You can’t tell me what to do Denbrough,” Bowers sneered, but he turned and left all the same.

“Shit, Eddie!” Beverly was by his side in seconds, prying his hand away from his cheek and prodding at it gently. “Are you okay? Fuck, that’s going to bruise.”

“Great party Beverly, thanks for the invite,” He managed to get out of his throat, his eyes already swimming with tears. He refused to let anyone see him cry though, not wanting that embarrassment on top of everything else. He pushed past her and stormed out the door.

He walked all the way home that night, the whole thirty-minute walk in the dead of night without a jacket or anything else to protect him from the elements, luckily h was used to the cold.

He wasn’t going to be going to any more parties anytime soon.

Chapter Text

Bev (11:00am) : you’re not mad at me right?

Bev (11:01am) : i’m sorry for pressuring you into that party, it was really shitty of me

Bev (11:01am) : just please don’t be mad? I thought you would have fun

Bev (11:02am) : Bill feels really bad about it too

Eddie (11:03am) : I’m not mad at you Bev

Bev (11:04am) : oh thank god!! I thought you were dead

Eddie (11:04am) : No I’m fine, just been sitting in the hospital all night cause my mom thinks I broke my jaw or some shit like that

Bev (11:05am) : that fucking sucks man

Bev (11:05am) : you still going to be able to come to practice tomorrow?

Eddie (11:05am) : You can count on it

Bev (11:06am) : you really aren’t mad right?? I didn’t mean to ruin your night and get you punched in the face

Eddie (11:07 am) : Not your fault, I’m not mad

Eddie (11:07 am) : Henry Bowers can suck a dick tho

Bev (11:07 am) : Actually no, sucking dick is fun. I hope he falls into a pit of flaming sticks

Bev (11:08 am) : that’s the spirit!!

Eddie put down his phone, glancing around the emergency room again. His mom was once again harassing the poor nurse working the shift, and the only other person in the room was an older man who Eddie was pretty sure he was dead.

He sighed, closing his eyes and trying to relax. The second he got home his mom was all over him, crying and distressed over his now black eye and bruised cheek, talking about broken jaws and hairline fractures and lawsuits. Eddie wasn’t paying attention.

He had been in the hospital enough times to know this song and dance. Ever since his dad died his mom had been weirdly overprotective, taking him to the hospital every time he as much as sniffed. He pretty much knew all the nurses and doctors’ names, and all of them let out a collective groan whenever he came in.

Of course, that had gotten worse when he joined figure skating, and his mom would drag him to a doctor every time he fell over, worried about broken arms and internal bleeding. The doctors told her she was full of horseshit, but in much nicer terms. Eddie would have turned them away if he had the choice.

“Eddie Kaspbrak?” The nurse, Mindy it looked like this time, called out.

Eddie got up, following behind his mother, who was ranting about elongated wait times and incompetent staff. Eddie learned to tune it out.

“Can I talk to your son alone please Sonia?” The doctor asked when he came in, a long-suffering look on his face.

“I have a right to be here as the mother of this-“ His mother started, raising up to full height to stare the man down.

“Just go mom,” He sighed. “I’ll be fine.”

His mom huffed, but left either way.

“How are you doing Eddie?” Dr. Anderson asked, sitting beside him on the bed. “That’s a nasty bruise you got there.”

“It’s nothing,” Eddi grumbled. “I just got punched. Nothing broken, nothing out of place everything’s fine.”

“Oh I have no doubts about that,” Dr. Anderson said. “Not shocked that your mom is blowing things out of proportion. How’s skating going?”

“It’s going,” Eddie shrugged. “I finished good in regionals, which means sectionals are coming. If I place high enough I might even make it to nationals.”

“Wow,” Dr. Anderson said. “That’s really impressive, good job Eddie!” He clapped Eddie on the back, and he secretly preened at the compliment.

“Yeah well, it had to happen at some point.” Eddie shrugged modestly.

“We got a future Olympic figure skater on our hands here,” Dr. Anderson joked. “I think it’s been long enough to satisfy your mom, should we get going?”

“Gladly,” Eddie jumped off the bed. “I have practice at three and if I miss it Lewis will go batshit crazy.”

“I wish you luck with that,” Dr. Anderson said, clapping Eddies' shoulder. “My doctor’s opinion is that you should stay away from whoever punched you, by the way.”

“Gee thanks,” Eddie said dryly, turning and walking away. “See you soon Doctor!”

“Let’s hope not!” Dr. Anderson called back, their normal exchange.

“What did he say?” Eddie’s mom asked the second he was in sight. “Is anything wrong?”

“Nope,” Eddie reassured her, patting her arms. “Everything’s fine. Just need to ice it.”

“Oh I should never have let you go,” His mother cooed, fingers ghosting across the bruise. “You should stay in today, get some rest, I can make you tea and we can watch those soap operas you love.”

He hated soap operas.

“I have practice today,” He reminded her. “I can’t skip.”

“But what if you hurt yourself?” She insisted. “It’s too dangerous for you to go, you’ll fall and get even more hurt.”

“I’ll be fine mom; I’m not working on my jumps that much today anyways.” He said, patience wearing thin like it always did. “Lewis will be mad if I skip.”

“I don’t care what that man thinks,” His mom said, crossing her arms. “I still think you should stay home.”

If it was anything other than skating, eh would have agreed. It wasn’t often that he was able to disobey her, the quivering of his voice and shine of tears in her eyes enough to guilt him into whatever she wanted. But not when it came to skating. To him, skating went before everything, even his moms fucked up manipulation tactics.

“I’m going,” He said firmly. “Sorry mom.”

“Do you even love me?” She asked shrilly. “You go off every morning before you see me, stay away late. You never see me anymore. I’ve given you everything, and this is how you treat me. This is what you give back to me. I love you Eddie-bear, but do you love me back?”

“I’m going to practice mom,” He said, his voice shaking despite his attempts to keep it strong.

His mom only huffed, slamming the car door and ignoring him for the rest of the ride. He would get hell for it later, but for now, there was nothing he could do.

_______________________________________

“Eddie!” Beverly called out as soon as he was in view, hurrying over and grabbing at his chin, turning his face so she could see the bruise. “Shit, that looks painful.”

“Tell me about it,” Eddie said dryly, batting away her hand. He had iced it for hours, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but Bowers packed a punch. His chin and eyes were already a deep purple color, an ugly yellow around the edges.

“How pissed was your mom?” Bev asked, linking arms with him and pulling him into the warm-up room. The two of them started stretching.

“Pretty pissed,” He shrugged. “Nothing I haven’t dealt with before.”

“Doesn’t mean you still should,” Beverly insisted.

“Bev,” He told her, a warning note in his voice.

“I’m just saying that I know she treats you like shit and you deserve better than that Eddie,” Bev said fiercely.

Eddie felt the words get lodged in his throat, remembering his mother's voice earlier as she expressed her disappointment in him. He knew he was a horrible son, that he picked a meaningless sport over his own flesh and blood. He couldn’t even show her that he loved her. He wasn’t even sure if he loved her.

“Let’s move on,” He said quickly, the thoughts becoming overwhelming to the point where he felt like seconds away from hyperventilating.

“Fine,” She grumbled, rolling her eyes. “Did you hear about Becca?”

“No, what about her?” Eddie asked, glad to have some sort of distraction, his heart rate already slowing down as he tried to forget his mothers' voice.

“She’s dating that Jessica chick, you know, the one that plays hockey?”

“No shit, really?” Eddie asked, glad to fall into the same meaningless drama as usual, getting lost in the stretching and normality of conversation.

It was nice.

________________________________________

It was a bad session.

Eddie couldn’t count the number of times that he fell, bruises forming all over. His hips, his legs, his arms, his chest, they littered his body, bruise after bruise purpling his pale skin. Beverly looked worried form the side as he kept going on longer than his prescribed time, since there was no one scheduled after them, he figured it was fine.

She sat in the stands for a lot longer than he thought she would, staying there even though it had been almost an hour after everyone else left. He thought that maybe she was waiting for him, but he just needed to try that jump one more time.

He just needed to go a few more minutes, push a little harder, and then he would get it right. He could still hear Lewis’s voice in the back of his mind, criticizing him on every little thing he did, listing every technical thing he did wrong.

Th jump feels good in the air, and for a second he was sure he finally had gotten it, that he could land this one. But as soon as he landed his blade was slipping out from under him again, and he ended up on the cold ice once again, his shirt already soaked through with snow.

He picked himself back up.

He pushed forwards again, going into a simple turn and spin, before heading into a triple loop. He falls again, and picks himself back up.

The only way to learn is to fail, to fall onto the ice and pick yourself back up. It’s all about practicing, about performing one move over and over again until it’s ingrained into your memory. You will fall many, many times, but it will be worth it to finally stick the landing, finally achieve the grace you needed. You needed to fall until you don’t anymore.

And maybe there was something else to it. Frustration normally fueled him in a way that benefited him, slowed his mind until all he could focus on was the ice below him. But today all he could think about was his mother's voice, on loop inside his head over and over again.

“Do you even love me Eddie?”

He fell to the ground once more, and any thought of his mother was pushed out of his mind as quickly as it came.

That’s the good thing about falling, the good thing about the pain it brought. It gave him an opportunity to center himself, to focus on what was in front of him again.

He went through the moves again, and when the thoughts and anxieties start to creep back in, when he could hear his mothers voice in his ear, feel the impact of Henry Bower’s fist, feel the disappointment of his interaction with Richie, he picked a little too hard, launching himself into the jump.

For a second he was flying, twirling through the air and he was free. Free from the bullshit holding him down, free from the grasping hands of expectations trying to drag him down. For a blissful two seconds, Eddie was free.

But then he remembered his rough start to the jump, and it all crashed down onto him again and he hit the ice, his ribs aching from the impact. He laid there for a minute, breathing hard through the pain and wondering if he just broke his ribs, wondering why he threw himself into the jump so hard when he knew it would only hurt him in the end.

He pushed himself to his feet and started again.

When he glanced into the stands, Beverly was gone.

____________________________

His feet were red and swollen, and it hurt to put any pressure on them. It was worth it though, to know that he had done all that he could, that near the end he managed to perfect the jump five times. It was near closing time, almost nine already, but Eddie didn’t care.

He didn’t care that he had spent nearly five hours on that ice, jumping and skating over and over again until he perfected the move. He didn’t care that he had missed dinner with his mom, who was probably fuming at him right now.

Maybe he would go somewhere else for the night, not ready to face her screaming words, the tears that would make him feel even shittier than he did now. Eddie almost wished he was back on the ice just thinking about it.

Sure, the ice was hard and unforgiving, causing bruises to flourish on his skin. But it didn’t expect anything from you, it doesn’t take more than you could give. The ice never asked for more than what you were capable of.

The door to the Zamboni entered just as Eddie finished packing up his gear, and Eddie waved cheerfully to Will, who was using the hand crank the door open.

Only it wasn’t Will who waved back like normal. No, standing there instead was no one other than Richie fucking Tozier, grinning at Eddie with the stupidest grin in the world. Eddie wanted to smack it off.

“What are you doing here?” He asked, taking a step closer despite himself. He should just turn and leave, he had already locked the dressing room door already, there was no real reason to why he was sticking around.

“Good ole Will retired,” Richie said cheerfully. “I was hired in his place. Work the afternoons.”

“You're kidding me,” Eddie said, dread seeping into his chest. The only person Eddie consistently saw at the rink was the Zamboni, who was the one who he had to return the dressing room key to daily. Which meant he would be seeing a lot more of Richie than he ever wanted to in his entire life.

“Nope!” Richie said cheerfully. “I’m loving the job so far, lots of opportunities to ogle those beautiful legs of yours.”

Eddie felt himself go red at the once over Richie gave him, and he clutched his bag closer to his body.

“Fuck you,” He grumbled, turning and storming away.

“Oh, the view is even better from behind angel!” The boy called out, and Eddie threw him a middle finger over his shoulder.

“Okay, okay!” Richie called out. “Just wait a minute Eds.”

“Don’t call me that.” He snapped, stopping despite the only sensible voice in his head telling him to just keep walking.

“Are you okay?” Richie asked, jogging to catch up with him. He looked genuinely worried, hand raising as if to poke at the bruise. He thought better of it. “Are you pressing charges?”

“Why the hell would I do that?” Eddie scoffed. “You should know that doesn’t work.”

“He punched you out in front of at least thirty people.”

“His dad’s also the chief of police, they won’t do shit,” Eddie snapped. He had played this game before; this wasn’t his first time getting punched or knocked around by Henry Bowers. Reporting it only made it worse.

“You never know until you try,” Richie insisted.

“Just leave me alone Tozier,” He groaned, turning to walk away again.

“I’ll see you on Monday!” Richie called out, and Eddie didn’t correct him by saying that they would see each other tomorrow when he came for his session with his coach. He didn’t want to give the boy a reason to wait around for him. “See you later Eddie Spaghetti!”

Like his life couldn’t get any worse.

Chapter Text

“You need to land that smoother Eddie,” His coach Lewis said, a frown on his face. “If you keep faltering it will never look as smooth as you need it to be.”

Eddie had perfected that jump four times; his landing nearly impeccable as far as he could tell. And yet it wasn’t enough. He got back into position and got ready to jump again.

His eyes flickered over to the stands, where Beverly was sitting smoking with Richie, both of them laughing as they watched him. He didn’t even want to ponder the idea that they were laughing at him.

“Can we go back to working on the separate jumps?” He asked quietly, not able to meet his coach’s eyes. “I think I need to nail them by themselves before I can truly try a combo.”

His coach was an older man, maybe in his fifty or sixties. His name was Lewis, and he was one of the most terrifying people Eddie knew. He was strict, overly serious about his skating, and he had personally asked Eddie to train with him when he showed up all those years ago.

They had been working together for almost four years now, and Eddie couldn’t imagine working with anyone else, no matter how scary the man could sometimes be.

“You’ve been practicing the individual jumps for almost a month,” Lewis said dryly. “Why don’t you know them yet?”

“I’ve been splitting my practice between them and my ice dance component,” Eddie said, glancing up to where Bev sat. He was attempting for sectionals under Lewis’s coaching, but he was also putting on a performance for their annual show with the club.

“Eddie,” Lewis sighed, and Eddie hated the ice pick that shattered through his chest as he stood there like a disobedient child being scolded. “You have a legitimate shot at Nationals, and you're skimping out on practice for some low-level commitment?”

“That’s not-“

“You are quite possibly one of the best male figure skaters in this town, maybe even state, and yet you keep letting me down.” Lewis’s voice was soft, the words brutal. Eddie was almost used to it at this point. It was rare to get positive feedback from the man, there was always something to improve on, something to be better at. “Now let’s go over the combo again.”

Eddie straightened out, took a deep breathed, and starting the combo again.

It wasn’t an easy combo, a triple flip, followed by a euler and finally a salchow. It was hard, and no matter how many times he tried, he could never get the hang of it. But he tried again, because if he managed to land something like this? It would almost guarantee a qualifying score, as long as the rest of the program wasn’t complete shit.

Quick turn into backward stride. Left foot forwards, arms drawn back. Liftoff on edge and jump forwards, arms tucked in close as he rotated. Land and quickly transition into the euler, half turn jump to get into the correct edge. Sweep the feet out. Take off from left blade. Spin through the jump. Bend legs slightly for landing-

His blade fell out from under him, and his center of gravity was shifting as he went tumbling onto the ground, his hip hitting the ground harshly.

He could hear Lewis’s sigh from his place on the ice.

“The flip was really good, solid landing and transition into the euler, but the salchow needs some more work,” His coach said. “Twenty salchows and then we’ll try again.

Eddie stood up, taking a deep breath and letting his eyes flicker back to the stands, where both Bev and Richie were intensely staring at him. He tried not to let the nerves get to him. It was the fact that Beverly was watching him, herself being a super talented skater. He couldn’t care less about what Richie thought of him.

He got into position, starting his skate as he prepared to jump.

__________________________________

“You had a good session,” Beverly said when he got off the ice after doing his fiftieth salchow in a row. His feet felt sore and swollen, and he was sure he wouldn’t be walking correctly for another day. But it was fine, because by the end of the session Lewis’s frown had faded into almost what looked like approval.

They had their private sessions three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Pretty much every other day was either his free skates or skating with his club. Eddie took his private sessions with Lewis seriously; he was one of the best private coaches around after all.

The man had been a figure skating legend in his day, placing second in Nationals twice and winning numerous competitions before and after that. He retired at 35, choosing instead to become a coach. And Eddie was beyond grateful that he did.

The sessions were hard, the criticism harsh, the material grueling, but it made him better, motivating him to improve. Eddie wanted to be the best around, wanted to be the best overall. And if a little verbal abuse and tough love was the way to get it, then he would endure.

“You buying me ice cream?” He teased, untying his skates. “I feel like my feet are going to fall off.”

“If you want I can carry you,” Richie teased, coming up from behind them, throwing up the locker room keys and catching them. “I promise I have strong arms.”

“Noodle arms are more accurate,” Beverly said, rolling her eyes. “Frozen yogurt from that shitty place across town again?” She asked him.

“You bet,” He said, showing his skates into his bag.

“Can I come with?” Richie asked.

“No,” Eddie said at the same time Beverly said, “Yes.”

“Let the boy come,” Bev rolled her eyes. “I promise he’s not that bad.”

“Just like you promised the party would be fun?” He deadpanned, rolling his eyes. “Are you at least going to pay Trash mouth?”

“Of course I am,” Riche scoffed. “I am a gentleman thank you very much.”

“Gentleman huh?” Bev asked. “Where’s the twenty bucks you owe me?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You know damn well,”

“Okay fine you got me.”

“Should we get going?” Eddie asked, steering the conversation back int eh correct direction. “If I’m not home in an hour my mom will likely call the police.”

“If you and Bev want some extra time I’m sure I’d be able to distract her,” Richie said with a wink, making a suggestive gesture.

“I don’t think sixty seconds is considered extra time,” Eddie snapped back, zipping up his bag and throwing it over his shoulder. “Let’s get going before I change my mind and stab him with my skates.”

___________________________________________________

Frozen Yogurt was surprisingly nice.

Eddie really didn’t have much experience with friends. In his old town, he had a single friend, if you could call her that. Her name was Myra, and the only reason they knew each other was because their parents were best friends.

Eddie never felt overly fond of her. He liked her, of course he did, you don’t spend almost all of your time with someone for almost thirteen years without growing somewhat fond of them, but they had nothing in common. She liked watching rom-com movies and doing her hair, gossiping about the girls in their school and talking about everything she hated.

She never let him do anything he wanted to do when they hung out, and really he just accepted it. He accepted that his interests were meant for times when he was all alone, where no one could judge or ridicule him. When he joined figure skating on a whim, she hated it. Claimed it took time away from the time they would have spent together, said she was worried he was going to get hurt or die.

Sometimes she reminded him a little too much of his mother. When he moved, she cried for hours, clutching onto him and claiming she would never love someone like she loved him. He barely was able to feel anything.

He promised to keep in touch with her, and yet she never messaged, and life moved on without her.

But being around people again? Joking and laughing and having a good time like a kid his gage was supposed to? It was surprisingly nice.

Beverly apparently decided to invite her entire friend group along, shooting Eddie an apologetic look that was way too smug to be truly apologetic, at first he was annoyed, sure he was going to be pushed to the side and forgotten, but surprisingly, he had fun.

He found he blended fairly well into their group, the seven of them mixing together easily. He found he was actually enjoying their company, and the abundance of other people made it easier to ignore Richie’s horrible jokes.

He apparently decided that the funniest jokes in the world were the one where he fucked Eddie's mom, which Eddie did not find amusing at all. No one did, in fact it normally only got him a sigh and his name dejectedly whispered.

Other than Richie's horrid sense of crude humor, Eddie truly had fun. He was sad when he looked at the time and realized he was already twenty minutes over his allowed time. His mom would be freaking out at this point, and chances are he would get grounded when he stepped foot into the house. He found he didn’t care; he wouldn’t have traded his time with the others for more freedom for the next week.

He quickly said goodbye to everyone, walking out quickly and texting his mom saying that there was a load of traffic on the way home. Unbelievable, but maybe she was gullible enough to accept it.

____________________________________________________________

“Hey Eds,” Richie whispered from beside him, leaning closer. “You think Mrs. Lewinsky still screws her husband?”

“Nope,” Eddie replied, trying his best to continue to write down the formulas despite the annoying mosquito-like boy beside him.

“Really? I think she could totally get it.” Richie continued, eyeing the teacher up and down. “If her husband doesn’t want to, I’m sure I could pick up the slack if you know what I mean.”

Eddie tried not to gag.

“Her husband doesn’t do it because she’s married to a woman dipshit,” Eddie sighed, crossing out one of his answers and trying over again. “And I’m sure they have plenty of fulfilling sex. You’d understand if anything other than your left hand had ever touched your dick.”

“Ooh!” Richie cried. “Eds gets off a good one!”

“Mr. Tozier!” Mrs. Lewinsky scolded; Richie only gave her two finger guns in reply.

He was quiet for all of five seconds before turning back to Eddie.

“Hey Eddie,” Richie poked him. Eddie skillfully ignored him, staring hard at the paper in front of him. “Eds, Eddie, Spaghetti, Eddie spaghetti, Eds, Eddie, Spa-“

“Will you shut up!” Eddie cried, turning to face Richie with a glare.

Two seconds later he realized how loud he said that. His cheeks burned red as everyone in the class turned to stare at him with wide eyes, some snickers breaking out in front of him.

“Lover’s spat!” Henry Bowers hollered from the other side of the room, and Eddie kind of felt like crying as the room burst into laughter. He could practically feel the eyes on him, their mocking laughs filling his ears and he could feel his throat tightening.

No. This wasn’t happening.

He closed his eyes, his cheeks burning bright red as he fought for breath, faintly hearing the teacher scolding the class as he struggled, his throat closing as eh pathetically sat there, quietly gasping for breath.

This was so stupid. There was no reason for him to be like this, he shouldn’t even be having a stupid fucking asthma attack, because he’s known for almost a year now that he never had asthma in the first place.

The class continued working, but he could still hear the faint giggling from the corners of the class, the whispered conversations he just knew were about him. The room felt too small for him at the moment, and he still couldn’t pull in a breath.

Focus. In and out. Over and over again until it works.

He pulled in a full breath, his chest inflating even as the panic still resided in his chest and tears still pricking the back of his eyes. He shouldn’t be crying over something this stupid, he was being ridiculous. Yet no matter how many times he said that, the tears wouldn’t fade from his eyes, blurring the paper in front of him.

“Hey,” Richie said softly from beside him. “Are you okay?”

Eddie ignored him.

If Richie fucking Tozier learned to keep his big mouth shut in the first place, this would have never happened. If he had sat in any other place in the class, this wouldn’t have happened. Hell, none of this would have happened if Richie simply hadn’t existed in the first place.

The second the bell rung; Eddie was bolting out the door.

______________________________________________

“Eddie! There you are!” Richie cried out, chasing Eddie down the sidewalk in front of the school.

“What do you want?” Eddie said coolly, his shoulders tensing as he continued walking, Richie falling into place beside him. Eddie glanced around, still on edge from the incident earlier that day.

“I just wanted to say sorry, you know, for earlier,” Richie said, his voice sounding slightly hesitant.

“I don’t want your apologies,” Eddie said, his hand tightening onto his bag. The strap dug into his skin, and he was pretty sure he would have some sort of rug burn type thing on his hand tomorrow.

“Jesus,” Richie scoffed. “Would it kill you to be nice for five fucking minutes? I’m trying to apologize here and you’re honestly being a bitch about it.”

Eddie tried to ignore the way it stung.

“I never asked you to apologize,” Eddie said, walking a bit further, still refusing to look at Richie. “I never asked you to follow and harass me about this.”

“Come on man,” Richie complained. “I’m trying to be a decent person here. The least you can do is look at me.”

Eddie stopped hard, turning to glare at Richie.

He ignored the way his eyes immediately caught on his askew glasses, the way they made his eyes ten times larger and shinier. He totally didn’t notice how tussled his hair was, the curls falling perfectly over his forehead. And he defiantly didn’t notice how plump and pink his lips were, even as chapped as they were.

“Happy now?” He said over the lump in his throat. He felt like shit. The day started off with the humiliation in his first class, and it had stuck with him all day. His throat was sore from his half fake half not asthma attack, and he had practically gone mute since the incident so worried about opening up his mouth and making a fool out of himself again.

He just wanted to go to practice, skate until his feet physically burned, then fall into bed and never wake up.

“No,” Richie said, his arms crossed. “Why do you hate me?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Cause I haven’t done anything to you ever?” Richie threw up his hands, and Eddie could hear the frustration in his voice. Well, Eddie has been plenty frustrated for weeks, so he could join the club. He could be the vice president.

“You never shut up during class, you make horrible gross and inappropriate jokes, and you literally embarrassed me in front of everyone this morning,” Eddie grumbled.

“Okay yeah,” Richie sighed. “I do all of that.” His arms fell from where they were crossed, and the boy looked away, seeming unable to hold Eddie’s gaze. “I don’t mean to be rude about it, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“You didn’t mean to,” Eddie deadpanned. “And yet you did.”

“I guess so,” Richie said, clearing his throat seconds later. “Can we restart? Please?”

“Why?” Eddie asked, blinking in surprise. He felt like he was on uneven ground, unsure of where he stood with Richie at the moment, unsure of what Richie was asking of him.

“I’m not good at the whole making friends thing,” Richie said, shrugging. “I’ve known all my friends since like, preschool, so they’re stuck with me. But you’re really cool, and I really want to actually get to know you and Bev told me I’m an idiot so instead of annoying the shit out of you and hoping you grow fond of me, I’m standing here in front of you asking if we can restart because Stan punched me really hard and threatened to do it again if I didn’t stop being an idiot and talk to you-“

“Richie,” Eddie cut him off, a small smile tugging at his lips. “You’re rambling.”

“Right, sorry, bad habit,” Richie said, grinning softly. “So? What do you think?”

“I think that maybe, just maybe, I can deal with a reset,” Eddie grumbled, but even he couldn’t reset smiling when Richie’s face lit up like a kid at Christmas.

No one had ever asked to be his friend before, normally they either didn’t want to be his friend, or just pushed into his life without him having a say in it.

Sometimes it wasn’t bad, in fact he was forever grateful for Bev’s overly aggressive friendship-making, but normally it just caused him to feel trapped.

But Richie had asked. Richie actually wanted to be friends with him. Maybe Eddie could learn to hate him just a little less.

“You better buy me frozen yogurt though,” Eddie threatened as the two of them fell into step again, both heading towards the rink. Eddie knew Richie had a car, but the boy didn’t mention it, so neither did Eddie. “And chocolate, lots of chocolate.”

“Sounds like a date,” Richie teased, and Eddie ignored the flipping feeling inside his stomach.

He was probably just coming down with something.

Chapter Text


Eddie agreed to start over with Richie, but the other boy was making it kind of hard.

He insisted on walking with Eddie to the rink every day, which was sometimes nice, but mostly just annoying and made Eddie wonder if he could get away with murder. Richie hadn’t stopped bothering him in science yet, which was annoying on so many levels, but Richie had seemed to take a hint and know when to stop, which was nice.

Eddie didn’t hate Richie, not really anymore. They weren’t exactly friends yet, but they had moved past the hating part. He could tolerate Richie half the time, and when Eddie was in the mood Richie could actually be really fun to hang out with.

 

What Eddie truly didn’t understand was why that the entirety of Bev and Richie’s friend group suddenly wanted to hang out with him.

Bill would wave to him in the hallway, calling out his name and choosing to walk him to class despite him having almost a million other people he could walk with. Stan, who was in his last period, asked him to study in the library after school, even though Eddie was nowhere near the smartest kid in that class. Ben would come and sit with him whenever Eddie was in the library, and the two of them would either read in silence or talk about random things that came to mind. Mike would walk to the rink with Richie and him, since he currently had a job at the store right beside it.

To add it all together, they invited him to one of their game/movie nights at Bill’s house. Eddie agreed, despite feeling like his heart was going to beat out of his chest. Eddie also had a feeling that Richie wouldn’t have taken no for an answer, due to the fifty million text messages the boy sent him about it.

But Eddie was just a tad bit nervous about it all. He had fit well with them that one time when they went to get frozen yogurt, and he would admit that he enjoyed spending time with them whenever they pestered him during school, but actually going to one of their annual hangouts seemed like a major step up.

What if he messed up? What if they realized they didn’t actually like him? What if this was one bit set up from the start and none of them actually wanted to be his friend in the first place, and when he showed up they would all ruthlessly terrorize him until he had to move away out of embarrassment and never show his face again in public?

Maybe he was overthinking it.

Either way, he had to put it out of his mind for now.

Whenever he was stressed like this, he found himself turning to skating. But there weren’t any open slots, and his next practice wasn’t for another day, so he was stuck without his main stress reliever. Which was fine, because he could deal with this.

Approximately a year ago, Eddie found out that all of the illnesses his mother told him he had were fake. In a fluky find, he got a hold of his medical records, which recorded none of what his mother said. Apparently, the only thing he had ever been truly diagnosed with was anxiety. All his meds, his inhaler, his pills, they were fake. His mother had bribed a pharmacist into given them to him.

Eddie had been determined ever since to never touch another pill or piece of medication, even when the impulse itched at his skin and he thought his throat was closing up and his skin was on fire.

He lived most of his life as a lie, and he wasn’t going to stand around and continue to do so. He found other alternatives, running, skating, working out. Things that distracted him, calmed him. It wasn’t as effective as the instant relief of a pill sitting in his mouth, but it worked enough to calm the tide on anxiety in his veins.

Right now, he was in the local gym, sweat soaking his skin as he ran his thirtieth lap around the track. Running as freeing to skating to him in terms of getting over his past issues. When he was younger, his mother refused to let him go into gym class, to let him run or play like any of the other kids. She claimed he had asthma, that he was weak, that he was too fragile.

But Eddie only experiences his asthma attacks when he was freaking out, or when Sonia herself was around. And when he got into skating, he found his lungs filled and emptied just like everyone else.

So when he ran, it was a reminder that he wasn’t different, that he wasn’t fragile, that no matter what his mom said, he wasn’t going to break apart at the seams anytime soon.

He stopped after his thirty-fifth one, his lungs burning pleasantly as he walked to the bench and chugged some water, the cool liquid helping the burn of his throat. He let his eyes flutter closed as he fought for breath, but not in the way he used to.

It wasn’t like an asthma attack, something beyond his control, involuntary. Something that swept in from under him, that stole his breath away from him and left him gagging as he tried to grab it back. This was all on him.

He caused this, he was the reason his body was struggling, he was fully in control of himself. He had brought on his lack of breath, not some made-up disease his mother gave him. It was freeing, intoxicating, addicting.

“You look like a tomato,” Richie said from in front of him, and Eddie’s eyes flew open in surprise.

He should have been used to seeing Richie grinning at him, since the boy did it all the time, but every time he saw it, it was like it was the first time all over again. It annoyed him sometimes, how someone could have such a contagious smile. It made Eddie want to smile along, to make jokes in order to pull the grin from Richie’s lips. Maybe he should tell Richie that someday.

“Fuck off,” Eddie said instead of voicing whatever the hell he had been thinking.

“What are you doing here?” Richie asked, sitting on the bench beside him.

“I could say the same to you,” Eddie replied, looking Richie over. He was wearing ripped jeans, a tee-shirt, and a Hawaiian shirt. Not really gym attire.

“I saw you in those cute little red shorts and just had to come up and say hi,” Richie teased, reaching forwards as if to pinch Eddie’s cheeks. Eddie knocked his hand away. “Now that I’ve answered, it’s your turn.”

“I’m running,” Eddie deadpanned.

“Yeah, but why?” Richie prodded.

“Because I can?” Eddie said defensively. “Because I need to get my endurance up?”

“You have some of the best endurance I’ve ever seen,” Richie said casually. “You don’t need to practice.”

“Didn’t ask for your opinion Tozier,” Eddie rolled his eyes, taking another sip of water and getting ready to go again. He stood up and made to leave towards the track once more.

“Wait!” Richie said, standing up with him and grabbing onto Eddie’s hand. “You don’t need to run.”

“It’s part of my training, I kind of need to.”

“No, I mean not right now,” Richie insisted. “The concession downstairs has a sale on their chips? Want to go get some with me? I’ll even buy you them myself if you continue to wear those shorts.”

Eddie’s cheeks burned red, and it had nothing to do with the exercise he did. That was another thing about Richie that Eddie couldn’t’ deal with. The constant flirting. Eddie knew he was gay, the whole school either knew or assumed it. And Eddie honestly couldn’t tell if Richie was flirting with him as a joke, or if he really meant it.

Eddie didn’t know how he’d react to either of those situations.

“Fine,” Eddi sighed.

“You’ll wear the shorts?” Richie grinned, and Eddie hit his shoulder.

“I’ll go to the concession with you,” He grumbled. “After I change.”

He ignored Richie’s bitching about that decision.

____________________________

Standing in front of Bill’s house was possibly one of the most terrifying things he had ever done after every single skating competition he entered.

He knocked before he could lose his courage and drove away again.

It was Ben who opened the door, smiling widely as laughter filtered in through the back of the door.

“Hey Eddie!” Ben said, before turning around to face the others. “Eddie’s here!”

“Eddie!” Richie cried, stumbling towards him and attempting to hug him, but Eddie pushed him away with a smile. “I missed you.”

“You saw me yesterday,” Eddie said dryly.

“Exactly,” Richie shrugged, grabbing his hand and pulling him towards what Eddie assumed was the living room. “Eddie’s on my team!”

“Oh no you don’t!” Beverly yelled from the other side of the room. “Eddie knows this kind of shit, he’s so on my team.”

“What does Eddie think about this?” Mike asked, looking deeply amused at the argument.

“I pick Bev’s side,” Eddie said, purely in order to hear the cry of despair that Richie let out. Beverly cheered, crossing the room to grab his arm and pull him over to their side.

Just like that, all of Eddie’s worries dissipated.

They were playing some sort of trivia game. It was Bev, Ben, and him against Richie, Stan, Mike, and Ben. The score bounced around a lot, depending on what topic the question was about. Bill and Mike dominated the sports category, Ben and Bev won most of the arts and culture things. Richie was best with obscure and random knowledge, and Eddie dominated everything medical-related.

In the end, their team won by a single point. Richie and Bill insisted someone had cheated.

They settled down to watch a movie next, Bev and Stan arguing for a solid twenty minutes about the movie while Eddie helped Bill pull the pizza out of the oven.

“How are y-you du-doing?” Bill asked quietly, not even looking at Eddie when he asked.

“Me?” Eddie said stupidly, as if there was anyone else Bill could have been talking to. “Oh, I’m good, fine.”

Are y-you having fun though?” Bill asked, and Eddie noted that he sounded a bit desperate, like he really needed to know the answer. Bill was normally the kind of guy Eddie looked up to, self-assured, confident, a natural born leader. EVerything Eddie wished he could be. But seeing Bill looking slightly worried, like he actually cared what Eddie thought, well it made Eddie realize that Bill wasn't just some confident boy. He was a kid just like him, who was trying to impress someone that maybe would become a friend.

“Yeah,” Eddie answered, and he was surprised to find it was the truth. He was having fun. “Yeah, I am.”

He grabbed a plate of pizza and a drink, walking over to the couch and settling beside Richie, who reached over and grabbed Eddie’s hand, proclaiming that the movie was scary and he needed Eddie to protect him.

Eddie didn’t protest.

Chapter Text

Richie had always known who Eddie Kaspbrak was.

Everyone knew who he was. Richie wasn’t one to listen to rumors, mostly because he heard so many about him, but not even he was fully immune to the gossip shared around the halls.

Their town of Derry wasn’t that small, per se, but it wasn’t overly large either. The funny thing about Derry was that no one ever came. They either left, or had been living in the city since the dawn of time. In Richie’s entire life, no one had ever moved into the town. Not until Eddie came at least.

Eddie came into the school during Richie’s first year of junior high, and Richie only noticed him due to the buzz of the hallways. Richie had mostly wanted to keep out of the way, since it was his first year and he really didn’t want to start it off on the wrong foot. Not that he would be around people any different from the last decade of his life.

The rumors came quickly, but that’s just how Derry was. Richie heard what they called him, the slurs and insults they tossed behind the boys back. It always rubbed him the wrong way, but what could he do about it?

Richie had heard the same said about him, he learned that it was time to simply just accept it and move on. Keep our head down, and hope that no one noticed you.

Most of what he knew about Eddie wasn’t from the rumors though, because his very own Beverly Marsh happened to be friends with him.

That was the weirdest thing, how his best friend could be friends with this dude, and yet Richie had never had a conversation with him. Bev told their entire group about him though, relaying stories and tales about whatever the two of them got up to during their skates or anything else they would do. But even so, Eddie was only a person Richie knew through stories.

Eddie was just a background character for the next few years, a person he sometimes saw wandering down the halls but also someone who his eyes jumped over, never really focusing enough to look at him.

But when Richie got moved into the boy’s science class, it was almost like it was the first time he had ever seen him.

He had caught eyes with Eddie and at that moment Richie knew that he would be friends with him, no matter what happened. It didn’t work out so well for a few weeks. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a good idea to annoy the living daylights out of the other boy. He could tell that he got on Eddie’s nerves, and yet he just couldn’t help himself. The boy looked so cute when he was mad, cheeks flushed red and arms crossed, almost pouting in complaint. Richie just wanted to spend time with him, be his friend, get to know him. It wasn’t really working out well, because he was pretty sure Eddie didn’t care if he lived or died.

But Richie was nothing if not persistent. And that’s how he found himself applying for a job at the rink Richie knew Eddie skated at, in a last-ditch attempt at somehow getting the smaller boy's attention.

Richie didn’t really think it would work. But somehow it did. He got the job, which was good because money, and he also got the chance to annoy Eddie at every possible turn.

But he found that he really didn’t want to just annoy Eddie anymore, no matter how fun it was. Sure, it was nice to watch Eddie’s face turn red with embarrassment or anger, his cheeks staining that beautiful color. It was nice to see his lips turn down into a frown, to see the raise of his eyes brows when he leveled Richie with a glare. It was nice to feel the fire sprouting from his own lips, to draw the snarky comebacks and the fire that danced along Eddie’s tongue. He loved seeing that, but he found he wanted more.

He wanted to hear Eddie’s laugh, the kind that bubbled out of the boy’s chest, causing his eyes to scrunch up and lips to pull wide. Richie wanted to see his smile, the soft look in Eddie’s eyes when he was content. Richie wanted to reach out and run his fingers through his perfectly styled hair, to feel the soft strands tumbling through his fingers. He wanted to know just how perfectly the shorter boy would fit into his arms, how it would feel to hold him close, to hear his heart beating under Richie’s fingers, to feel his warmth.

It didn’t occur to him for a solid two weeks of annoying Eddie before he realized that he was falling in love with him.

The thought barely even crossed his mind until he was watching Eddie skate one night. It was his late shift, almost 9 pm already. Eddie’s ice time ended an hour ago, and yet the boy was still there, tirelessly working through his routine.

Richie lounged in the stands, knowing he should kick Eddie off, but not really having the heart to. Besides, it gave him time to smoke a cigarette or two before he had to do his run of the ice, and he wouldn’t lie and say he didn’t enjoy watching Eddie twirl around.

Richie had never seen the appeal in figure skating. He never did. It was just another sport, another useless activity that he had no interest in. He often went to support Bev, but other than that small link, it was just another thing.

But watching Eddie skate, well Richie could definitely see the allure.

Eddie was graceful on skates, ethereal, magical. The way he moved, his arms gliding through the air, his skates cutting into the ice, it captured Richie’s attention, entrapped him in the display. The swirl of his arms, the flick of his hands, the graceful transition from forwards to backwards. And that wasn’t even counting when he did any sort of trick.

When Eddie jumped into the air, his entire body tucking into itself, spinning so fast Richie could barely see him, he lost his breath. The smooth landing, the effortless execution, Richie knew nothing about figure skating, but he could see perfection when he saw it. When Eddie span, his arms reaching to the sky as if trying to grab the stars, and Richie wanted to reach out with him.

He moved like he was born skating, like every atom of his body was designed to move in that specific way, to twist and turn like an angel on skates, his body twisting in a way that only Richie felt like he could understand. Eddie told a story as he danced, every movement he made precise and sure. He was like fluid as he danced across the ice, his movements conveying every kind of emotion Richie was capable of feeling.

Eddie danced like it was a language only the two of them knew, like he was speaking and singing as he sashayed across the ice, a sentence, a song, an emotion. Sometimes Richie would feel selfish, and he would pretend that Eddie was dancing for him, just for him. Eddie would spin or jump or simply turn, his hands outreached like they were becoming to Richie specifically. All Richie wanted to do was reach out and grab his hands, to hold them tight and spin across the ice with him, to learn whatever forgotten language Eddie spoke while skating.

It was in that moment that Richie realized that maybe he wanted to be more than just friends with Eddie.

But then he remembered that he actually had to be friends with him first.

Fuck his life, and fuck the cute boy who decided to skate in and steal Richie’s heart.

_____________________________________

Richie knew when he made a mistake.

With his friends, it was easy to tell when he messed up. He would be int eh middle of a joke and his friends would Beep him, and he knew immediately that he had gone too far. He would move on with the conversation no questions asked, no pushing. He knew that sometimes he had no verbal filter, that he could be annoying or take a joke too far. There was a reason that he was called a trashmouth.

But he still knew when he went too far. And he went too far that morning.

He didn’t mean to, was imply bugging Eddie just like every normal day, but he kept pushing and pushing even when he knew that Eddie was getting frustrated, when he could tell that Eddie wanted to work and didn’t want to talk to him.

But maybe he wanted some attention, maybe he wanted Eddie to look at him so he could see the smile dancing across his lips, or the scrunch of his eyebrows when he concentrated hard enough.

It didn’t end with any of that happening. It ended with Eddie snapping at him loud enough for the class to hear, and it ended with the entire class laughing at them.

And yeah, it sucked. But it didn’t suck nearly as bad as the soft gasping noises Eddie was making, or the redness of his cheeks and the shine of tears in his eyes. Richie felt like crying himself. Not because of the bullying, he was used to that by now, but because Eddie looked so panicked, so sad.

He never wanted to see Eddie like that again, let alone form something he did. He wanted to reach out and pull Eddie close, to hug him tightly and promise that no harm would come to him. Richie had never felt such a strong urge to comfort, to protect. He knew that Eddie wasn’t fragile, in fact he was far from it, but Eddie had a softness to him. Even when fiery mad and acting like an absolute dick, Eddie was soft, kind, beautiful.

Richie wanted to preserve that, to make sure that those soft edges never turned jagged, that they weren’t sanded down into points so sharp that no one could get past them. Not like Richie wouldn’t try. He wasn’t sure that there was anything that could keep him from trying to get through to Eddie.

Eddie ignored every attempt Richie made at comforting him, and he was too much of a coward to properly reach out and touch, because Eddie was something special, and Richie wasn’t. Eddie ran out of the door once the bell rang, leaving Richie with no chance to get a single word in.

Second period was a drag, the only thought consuming him was the distressed look on Eddie’s face, the image pressed onto the back of his eyelids for him to constantly see every time he closed his eyes. He felt like an idiot, like the stupidest person on the planet.

His mood extended to lunch, and his friends picked up on it immediately, because they were annoyingly in sync with him.

Stan bumped his shoulder when he sat down, raising a single eyebrow in the closest thing Stan knew to be concern. Richie gave him a smile, but it felt plastic to even him.

Beverly took a more direct route.

“Do you know guys know what’s up with Eddie?” Beverly asked, staring dead at him. “He was super quiet last period.”

“I might have had something to do with that,” Richie grumbled out, knowing that if he didn’t respond Beverly would call him out on it. She was lovely like that. “I pushed a bit too far and upset him.”

“Why would you do that?” Mike asked, like Richie meant to. “I thought you guys were friends.”

“I wish,” Richie snorted. “Pretty sure he hates my guts.”

He may have had an embarrassing crush on Eddie, but he knew that Eddie didn’t feel the same. Eddie made his distaste of Richie clear, the lack of amusement whenever Richie talked, the look of annoyance whenever Richie entered the room. How could someone as amazing as Eddie even be remotely interested in someone like Richie?

“He doesn’t hate you,” Beverly rolled her eyes. “He just doesn’t know what your angle is.”

“What do you mean?” Richie asked, leaning closer. Bev and him were good friends, if anyone knew the key to Eddie’s heart, it was her.

“I mean he doesn’t know if you’re being annoying for the sake of being mean, or if you legitimately want to be friends with him,” Beverly rolled her eyes, crunching on a carrot loudly. “He did the same thing to me for like, the first six months I tried to befriend him.”

“I’ve made it clear I want to be his friend!” Richie protested, because why else would he spend so much time vying for the shorter boy’s attention? Why else would he even talk to him?

“Have you?” Stan asked, sipping on his milk. “Or have you simply annoyed him and assumed he knew you wanted to be friends?”

Richie didn’t know how to reply to that.

“You’re a b-big boy Richie,” Bill rolled his eyes, a smile tugging on his lips as he teased him. “Use y-your words.”

“What am I supposed to do,” Richie scoffed. “GO u and say ‘Hi, my names Richie Trashmouth Tozier and I want to be your friend?”

“Yeah,” Bev said. “Basically.”

“What if I mess it up though?” Richie asked, curling into himself slightly. “I don’t normally make friends; I’ve never wanted to. But I really want to get to know him, I don’t want to fuck it up.”

His friends were silent, all of them staring at him with various looks of surprise or confusion. He hated it.

“I just-“ He cut himself off, wondering what to say.

”I just really like him?”

“I just really want him to like me back?”

“I just think that I might be honest to god in love with him?”

“I just really want to be his friend,” He finished lamely. Beverly and Stan stared at him with looks that seemed just a little too knowing for Richie’s liking.

“Bring him flowers,” Ben blurted out.

“What?”

“Flowers,” Ben said slower. “Who doesn’t love flowers? They’re a good apology for whatever you think you did, and it’s a good way to show that you have good intentions.”

Richie really loved Ben sometimes. Not that he was going to buy Eddie flowers, but because he was probably the only person in the world who would suggest something as cute as that.

Maybe he would get Eddie flowers, but they’d have to be as cute as Eddie himself was.

“You could just talk to him too,” Bev said, although she was giving Ben heart eyes. “Although flowers are sweet too.”

“But what if I mess it up?” Richie asked. “I got to be honest, the idea of just annoying him until he gets the hint is pretty tempt- ow!”

He turned to Stan, who had punched him really hard, and glared the boy down.

“What was that for?” He asked, rubbing at his arm, which still stung.

“Go talk to him Tozier,” San grumbled. “Or else I will punch you again.”

It was a good motivator.

The conversation moved on, and Richie was allowed time to think over his option, to debate what was going to happen next. He knew he had to talk to Eddie, because he honestly felt like dying half the time. He didn’t think he would be able to survive going day by day without being able to talk to Eddie on a constant basis, without being able to at least call Eddie a friend.

The bell rung.

“Trashmouth!” Beverly called as Richie was walking out of the lunchroom after saying goodbye to everyone. He was already plotting what he was going to say to Eddie.

“What’s up?” He asked, the two of them falling into step.

“If you hurt Eddie,” Beverly warned. “I will be really mad at you, got it?”

“I don’t know what you’re implying,” Richie said tonelessly, heart pounding for no good reason. Beverly only rolled her eyes.

“I’m not blind you asshole,” She slung an arm over his shoulder. “I see the way you look at him, and more. Just don’t mess this up, you’d be good for him.”

Like the cryptic person she was, she planted a kiss to his cheek and wandered away before Richie could even process anything she said.

Typical.

__________________________________________

He almost bought Eddie the flowers, was actually planning on it, but he saw the boy walking down the sidewalk after school and any plan he had flew out of his mind.

Richie didn’t like apologizing to people. Never really had to. He would make up for it if he did something really bad, but often it was easier to pretend like he did nothing wrong and go on with his life. But he knew that he needed to apologize if he wanted this to go anywhere with Eddie ever. He had to learn to be the bigger person at some point right? Even if it didn’t go as smoothly as he wanted.

It worked out in the end, the boy reluctantly agreeing to start over, to attempt being friends.

All Richie could think of was how adorable he looked in that moment, cheeks slightly red, mouth parted with disbelief as if Richie asking to be friends was the weirdest thing possible. Richie figured that he had never seen anyone as cute as Eddie was.

It was worth the fact that he walked beside Eddie to the rink even though his car was at school, the run back there at 11 pm was well worth the few soft smiles he was able to coax out of the smaller boy.

_____________________________________________________

“Teach me how to skate,” Richie asked a few weeks into their official friendship. Eddie was outside the changing room while he tied his skates, his fingers tying the bow easily.

“What?” Eddie asked, his fingers stilling from where they were halfway through pulling at the string. Richie forced himself to look away from his hands.

“I want you,” Richie pointed at Eddie. “To teach me how to skate.” Eddie simply stared at him for a long moment, and for a second Richie debated taking it back. It was a stupid idea anyways. Eddie was serious about this whole skating thing, why would he give up his time to teach Richie how to skate?

“Do you even have skates?” Eddie asked, but he didn’t sound annoyed. His voice was soft, like he was out of breath for some reason.

Richie held up the pair he had rented from the front in a spurt of impulsiveness. “I rented them for the day,” He said, plastering on a smile. He wondered if Eddie could tell how nervous he was.

Richie really shouldn’t be worried about this anyway. Eddie had no obligation towards him, he didn’t need to do anything for Richie. And he probably wasn’t. He had some sort of big competition coming up, so there was no way he was going to throw away his valuable practice time for him.

“Do you know how to put those on or do you need my help?” Eddie asked, and Richie forgot how to think.

“What?” He said stupidly, and Eddie’s grin grew wider.

“How do you expect me to teach you how to skate if you don’t know how to get your skates on?” Eddie said, laughing at how stupid Richie probably looked.

He managed to nod, excitement vibrating through his body. He couldn’t believe that Eddie agreed to this. He practically tripped over his own feet in order to sit down on the bench beside Eddie and pull on his skates. His fingers were clumsy, and the laces hurt his fingers when he pulled on them, but he barely felt it.

“Ready?” Eddie asked, and Richie could hear the note of amusement in his voice before he even looked up. Eddie was already standing, smiling softly at Richie as he waited, and Richie almost forgot how to breathe.

Eddie always looked cute, which was the bane of Richie’s existence, but right now, with his skates on, his hip cocked to the side, hair slightly ruffled and a twinkle in his eyes, Richie felt like there was no one more beautiful in the entire world. Richie stood up to meet him, and fell right on his ass again.

“Holy shit,” Richie said, from the ground, a laugh bubbling out of his lips. Apparently, walking in skates wasn’t easy.

“Nice going,” Eddie said dryly, moving over to help him up. Richie waved away the hand, his cheeks burning red. “Have you ever had skates on before?”

“Nope,” Richie said with a grin.

“I’m doomed,” Eddie groaned. “I regret agreeing to this already.”

“Can’t back out of it now Edspagetti!” Richie cried, leaning forwards and jokingly pressing a kiss to Eddie’s cheek before the boy could react. Richie’s lips felt like they were on fire and he walked towards the ice, his blush still red on his cheeks.

He stepped onto the ice, his legs wobbling as the ground under him suddenly turned slippery. He put out his arms, panicking slightly as he glided without consent, sliding around slightly as he wondered what the hell he was supposed to do. How was Eddie so good at this? He made it look easy. Richie felt like if he moved a single muscle he would go crashing to the ground.

“You need to actually move Richie,” Eddie said, effortlessly skating up beside Richie. His cheeks were slightly pink already.

“If I move, I will fall,” Richie said, trying to shuffle a tiny bit. He felt like if he picked up his foot his entire sense of balance would fail him and he would land flat on his ass.

“I’m not going to let you fall,” Eddie said quietly, and Richie looked up to meet his eyes. They were the most stunning brown color Richie had ever seen. Eddie looked serious, his hand outstretched and Richie had flashbacks to the dream he had weeks ago, when he wished that he could reach out and grab Eddie’s hand. Eddie smiled softly at him again, his entire face looking softer than usual. “I promise.”

Riche reached out, grabbing onto Eddie’s hand. They were softer than he expected. He tried to take a step forward, and immediately felt himself slipping.

His feet were falling out from under him and he swore to god he could feel his life flash before his eyes. He prepared himself to fall flat on his ass, but something stopped him.

He could feel Eddie dart out quick as a jet, his hand releasing Richie’s and grabbing at his arm instead, the other raising to do the same. Before Richie could topple over, Eddie was tugging him back up, setting Richie harmlessly back on two feet. Richie felt like his heart was going to beat out of his chest.

Eddie’s hands were still wrapped securely around his arms. Eddie was a lot smaller than him, but the grip was tight, secure. The warm from his hands chased the chill out of his skin, even though Richie’s cheap shirt.

They stood there for a long time, Richie staring into Eddie’s eyes with an intensity he had never felt before, his heart pounding rapidly in his chest. They were absurdly close, their chests almost pressed together after Eddie helped pull his back up. Richie was looking down at him, and he couldn’t believe that he hadn’t noticed how small the boy was.

He was nearly a full head shorter than him, mostly because Richie was a literal stick. But still, Eddie was so much shorter than him, and Richie would have to lean down far in order to press their lips together, but dear god did he want to do that.

He just wanted to lean down and kiss him, just a simple press of the lips was all that he could ask for. He could easily do it too, with them as close as they were. It would be so simple, as easy as breathing.

“My hero,” He whispered, a smile spreading across his lips. He wanted to kiss Eddie to bad, to hold him tight and finally break past whatever barrier the two of them had set between them, but he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t because he didn’t know if Eddie liked him back, or if Eddie even wanted to kiss him. Richie wasn’t about to go ruin a good friendship over some stupid crush.

“The point of skating is to not fall,” Eddie said, and Richie noticed how red his cheeks were, how he wouldn’t meet Richie's eyes. His hands were still clamped hard onto Richie’s own arms. He never wanted them to leave. Maybe he should fall more often, if Eddie always held him afterwards.

“Teach me,” He requested, and Eddie smiled.

“It’s just like walking at first,” Eddie coached, moving backwards a bit, his hands tugging Richie along. He felt his heart leap to his throat, but he managed to move without falling, Eddie’s hand keeping him steady. “Small steps, baby steps, just until you get the hang of it.”

For a few minutes, they worked in near silence, Richie trying his best to learn how to move on the blades, and Eddie keeping a constant stream of soft reassurances and tips.

“You think you’re ready to try on your own?” Eddie asked.

“Nope,” Richie said, causing Eddie to snort and roll his eyes, his hands lessening and suddenly Richie was on his own, arms outstretched for balance. It was terrifying, and he missed the feel of Eddie’s strong hands holding him up.

“See?” Eddie said, grinning. “You haven’t fallen flat on your ass yet!”

As if a higher power was just waiting to prove him wrong, Richie’s foot hit a dent in the ice.

He went sprawling out on the ground, but not before Eddie reached out to grab him. Regrettably, he was half a second too late, and instead of pulling them both back up, Richie simply took Eddie down with him.

They lay there on the ice for a solid ten seconds, Eddie’s body covering Richie’s and their faces inches apart, Richie’s ass hurting like all hell.

Then they burst out laughing.

Eddie’s head fell into the crook of Richie’s shoulders, his chest heaving as he laughed harder than Richie had ever heard him laugh. Richie wanted to bottle the sound up to listen to whenever he felt sad. He felt brave, so he wrapped his arms around Eddie himself, ducking down his head so he could laugh with his forehead pressed into Eddie’s hair.

He wasn’t sure how long they laid there for, laughing until they couldn’t physically laugh anymore, the two of them gasping for breaths with tears leaking out of their eyes. Richie wanted to stay there forever, Eddie’s head tucked into his neck, his own arms wrapped around Eddie. He would be content to lie here for hours, even when the ice was freezing his back and water started to seep into his clothes.

Their laughs died down, but Richie refused to let Eddie go. He would remain there for as long as humanly possible, memorizing the feel of Eddie’s body pressed against his, the feeling of his soft hair brushing Richie’s chin, the soft puffs of air on his neck.

“I think it’s fair,” Richie said softly. “To say that I failed.”

Eddie’s shoulder shook in silence laughter, and the smaller boy finally lifted his head, his cheeks stained red and eyes still crinkled form laughter.

“You are truly the worst student in the world,” Eddie declared. “Let’s do it again.”

They stood up, and they did it again.

They spent almost two hours on the ice, learning how to skate and laughing every time Richie fell. It was filled with Eddie's half-hearted attempts at explaining how to skate, and the constant bickering between them. It was nice. More than nice. Richie was almost able to skate by the end of it, and he still had the feeling of Eddie’s hand holding his own imprinted in his mind.

When they stepped off the ice, Eddie left with a wave over his shoulder, a wide grin still on his lips. Richie felt like his chest was going to melt.

_________________________

The first thing he did when he got home was call Bill.

“I think I’m in love.” He sighed, throwing himself onto the bed.

“How was Eddie today?” Bill said, not even flinching at the admission. “I didn’t know y-you saw him.”

“He taught me how to skate,” Richie sighed, turning to stare at the posters on his wall.

“Romantic,” Bill said dryly. Richie grinned at the words, knowing he was acting like a lovesick teenager. He couldn’t help it. His heart still pounded when he thought about anything that happened, and his skin was still afire from where Eddie touched it. “Are you in luh-love with him like you were with Sam? Or Andrew? Or Maddy?”

“No,” Richie admitted, his voice suddenly quiet. He had been through some relationships, some flings, people he had made out with behind the bleachers. But this wasn’t like any of those. They were fleeting, month long experiences that sparked his interest while it lasted, but they were over soon enough. None of them made Richie’s heart pound quite like Eddie did, none of them made Richie feel anything like he did when he looked or talked to Eddie.

“You’ve got it bad,” Bill said, and he sounded serious too, like he was only now realizing that. “D-Don’t you?”

“I do,” Richie admitted. “I really like him Bill. Like, really, really like him.”

“Then go for it!” Bill said urgently. “You two w-would be cute together.”

“I don’t think he likes me back Big Bill,” Richie rolled his eyes, ignoring the sting in his heart as he admitted that. Richie flirted with Eddie all the time, but the boy only reacted with either anger or annoyance to it. Richie knew that Eddie was gay, that much was very clear to everyone in the school, but that meant nothing. There was nothing that even hinted to Eddie liking him in that way, and even if there was, it would probably be Richie making it up.

“Well it’s w-worth a s-shot!” Bill scolded. “Don’t give up before you truly know. What’s the worse that can happen?”

“He doesn’t want to be my friend anymore?” Richie said, as if it as obvious. “I’m totally fine with just being his friend.” It would hurt like hell, to talk to Eddie but not touch him. To be friends but never more. But it was better than not having Eddie at all. Richie wasn’t sure what he would do if Eddie wasn’t his friend. Sure, they had only known each other for a couple of months, but in those months everything had shifted, Richie’s world had changed. He wasn’t sure if he could go back to how it was before.

“Are you?” Bill asked.

Richie didn’t reply. He didn’t know how to.

“Look R-Richie,” Bill sighed. “I’m going to be honest with you. Eddie’s awesome, really awesome. He’s a really great friend and I think that he’d be good for y-you. And I don’t know m-much, but I think you’d be good for him too. I don’t w-want to see you get hurt over this Rich. I don’t w-want to see Eddie get hurt either, so you better watch your m-mouth. But don’t ruin this, not when it could be something good. But don’t torture y-yours-self either.”

Richie laughed, hollow but genuine, the ache in his chest settling slightly. He knew that he called Bill for a reason. He was the only Loser, except Stan maybe, who wouldn’t sugarcoat whatever Richie needed to hear. Bill always found the source of the problem and dove right into it.

“I don’t know what to do Bill,” Richie admits. Bill was also one of the only Loser he felt completely comfortable letting everything tumble down. He could be honest with Bill, even when it made him seem weak, or delicate. Bill never judged him, would never turn against him. Not that he didn’t trust any of the other Losers, but well, Bill was just the one he felt more comfortable with. All the Losers were his friend, but Bill and Stan had been their first. And when Richie wanted someone to tell it exactly how it was, Stan was the one to go to. But Bill was the one who he went to when he needed someone to confide in, someone to tell him everything was going to be okay while still telling the truth.

“Do whatever feels right,” Bill replied. “Everyone w-will support you no matter what happens.” Then, almost like it was an afterthought. “Unless you hurt Eddie, then we m-might be a bit pissed at you.”

Richie laughed, the tension inside his chest loosening as he closed his eyes, letting out a sigh.

“How did you know?” Richie asked once the silence dragged on a bit longer.

“Know what?”

“That it was Eddie,”

Bill let out a snort.

“You’re pretty obvious Trashmouth,” Bill said, a hint of laughter in his voice. “He w-was all you talked about even before you guys were officially considered friends. And now? You practically have heart eyes every time you talk or l-look at him. I think it’s o-obvious to everyone except Eddie at this point.”

“Hey!” Richie protested. “I’m not that bad!”

“Stan literally had to leave the lunch table last week because you w-wouldn’t stop talking about Eddie.”

“Really?” Richie asked. “I thought he just really had to go to the washroom. Or he had a secret affair that he needed to sneak off with.”

“No, it’s because you’re horrible mushy w-whenever you talk about Eddie,” Bill said. “It’s too much sometimes Rich, you sound so lovesick.”

“I do not!” Richie protested, but he was laughing, his spirits souring. He really loved his friends. “You exaggerate.”

“I wish,” Bill groaned. “You spent t-twenty minutes talking about how pretty his eyes are.”

“They’re really nice eyes!”

“They’re brown! How romantic can brown eyes be?”

“You’d be surprised,” Richie sighed, picturing Eddie’s eyes staring at him, the soft chocolate brown staring at him.

“There you go again,” Bill said with a long-suffering sigh.

“What! You lie! I wasn’t going anywhere.”

“You were thinking of him,” Bill said knowingly. “I can tell.”

“I was actually picturing Sonia’s eyes,” Richie said, grinning at Bills sound of disgust. “She has gorgeous brown eyes; I see them every time I go over to screw-“

“Beep Beep,” Bill sighed. “You think maybe Eddie doesn’t know you like him because you always talk about fucking his mom?”

“Excuse you,” Richie gasped. “I love Eddie and his mom equally.”

“Liar.” Bill scoffed.

“Okay fine, you got me,” Richie laughed. “Eddie has nothing on Mrs. Kasprak. She’s just too good of a fuck.”

“Richie!”

______________________________________

Richie didn’t know why, but he took Ben’s advice.

Not when Ben intended him to, but he still took it anyways.

He didn’t even know what he was doing when he wandered by the old lady on his streets yard, leaning down and picking a single one of her flowers. He used to read to her when he was younger, and she always said that when he met a pretty girl he could take any flowers he wanted to give to her. Which was kind of what he was doing, except it wasn’t a pretty girl he was giving it to.

He didn’t know where he was going with this idea, because it wasn’t like he could just go up and give the flower to Eddie. But he couldn’t just slip it into his locker, or anything like that. That was too cheesy. So he kept it in his bag, and after school when they were walking to the rink, Richie slipped it into Edie’s bag while Mike and Eddie were talking.

Eddie didn’t notice a thing, but Mike raised an eyebrow, to which Richie only shrugged. He didn’t have to explain himself to Mike. He was pretty sure he could make conclusion by himself.

He wasn’t there when Eddie found the flower, since he did have a job to do, but when he got ready to drive the Zamboni over the ice, he saw Eddie leaving with the flower tucked behind his ear.

Richie didn’t stop grinning for the rest of his shift.

This was fine. He was okay with admiring to the side, being Eddie's friend. He may want something else, but he didn't need it. This was good enough for him.

Chapter Text

Eddie knew stress. It was a part of him almost as integrated into his being as skating was.

He didn’t even know what he was stressed about at this point. There was nothing big happening, nothing had changed, and yet he felt the stress buzzing under his skin like a bunch of angry bees, demanding his attention.

His mom wasn’t helping, but when did she ever help?

“I booked up a nice dinner tonight,” She said casually over breakfast. Or what was considered breakfast. It was more Eddie fixing her a meal while she sat in her recliner. They gave up sitting together a long time ago.

“What?” Eddie asked, looking up to her in surprise.

“It’s been a long time since we went and sat at a nice restaurant together,” She said calmly. “So I booked us one tonight.”

“I have practice tonight Ma,” Eddie said slowly. “You know that.”

“And you can’t miss a single practice to spend time with me?” She asked, her voice going slightly shrill. “I barely see you anymore Eddie-bear, and the one night I want to do something nice with you, and you are planning on leaving me to go skating? One night is all I ask for.”

Eddie felt the pangs of guilt settle in his chest, making him hunch forwards as hic cheeks burned red. He went skating almost every day, was it too much for her to ask for one night? Was he being a bad son again? One night wasn’t that much to ask for.

But it was during his session with Lewis, and the man would be pissed if Eddie skipped.

“I’ll think about it,” He said softly, ducking his head as he finished making his mother eggs.

He was out of it all day. He couldn’t even bother to banter with Richie in first period, or gossip with Bev in the second. Anxiety had pooled in the bottom of his stomach, and he was left wondering what the hell he was going to do.

On one hand, he could simply cancel on his mom, put his foot down and tell her that he wasn’t going to miss practice for her. But she was still his mom, all her faults aside. He had spent months spending as much time as he could away from her, going to the rink early mornings and staying there late at night. He was still mad at her, of course he was, but he loved her. She was his mom, and was it so wrong for her to want a single night just to themselves?

On the other hand, Lewis would be pissed if he missed a practice. They only had three slotted times per week, and Eddie was serious about his skating. It was the only thing he had. If he pissed Lewis off enough into him refusing to coach him? Eddie would be lost. There were no better coaches around, no one that could improve Eddie as much as Lewis could. And Eddie liked Lewis, he was everything Eddie wanted to be. A beautiful and truly enchanting skater and a man completely in charge of himself. No one told Lewis what to do, and Eddie was tired of being bossed around.

What would be worse, letting down his own mother? Or the man who Eddie respected more than anything?

He couldn’t decide.

He sick and tired of these decisions. He loved being in control of himself, he was a bit of a control freak himself, but at the same time, he hated not knowing what to do. Sometimes he wished things could go back to how they used to be, when people would tell him what to do and he would listen, without even thinking of the consequences.

He sat by himself in the library like usual, hidden in the stacks of books where no one could find him. He used to sit in the lunchroom with everyone else, but it made him an open target for Bower’s bullying, and it hurt to sit at a table and have everyone subconsciously scoot away from him.

Instead, he befriended the librarian, and she would let him eat there if he didn’t make a mess, stayed quiet, and sometimes talked to her about books. It seemed like a fair deal.

He liked his slotted time of loneliness, where he could unwind and not have the constant pressure of everyone’s eyes on him. But on days like today, it wasn’t that nice.

He just couldn’t stop thinking. Different scenarios played over in his mind, each of them getting worse the longer he obsessed over it.

If he went with his mom, Lewis could end up yelling at him for hours. If he ditched his mom, she would cry and yell and guilt him until he felt like shit. If he went with his mom, Lewis might not want to coach him anymore. If he ditched his mom, she might decide she had enough and kick him out.

Each scenario got worse and worse, and he found himself curling up into himself, not even touching his food. His fingers danced along his thigh, fingernail’s darting lightly against the skin.

Was he a bad person for debating skipping on his mother? He was her son; shouldn’t he at least attempt to make things up with her? Maybe she booked this dinner so that they could talk it out, so that she could apologize. Was he a bad son for thinking of ditching his own mother once again?

His fingers dug digging into his thighs through the material through his jeans.

On the flip side, was he a horrible skater for wanting to miss a practice? He only had so much time, and he would have to cancel on Lewis in short notice. The man gave up his own time in order to teach Eddie, took time out of his week to show up, and Eddie was going to insult that opportunity by leaving? What kind of person was he? He had a shot at nationals soon, which was probably the biggest opportunity of his entire life. And he was thinking of skipping a practice? What did that show about his dedication?

Distantly, he heard the footsteps coming towards him. He shoved his hand into his lunch bag, taking something out as fast as he could to make it seem like he didn’t just have a mental breakdown in the middle of the library.

“Eds?” Richie asked from the entrance of the stack, and Eddie would have spoken if he wasn’t so shocked at seeing him here. How did he get in? The library was closed at lunch, since it was the slotted time for the volunteers to come in and re-shelf any books that had been taken out and returned. Eddie was really the only person who didn’t volunteer who was allowed in. “Are you okay?”

“How did you get in here?” Eddie asked instead of answering his question.

“Ben’s working,” Richie shrugged. “He let me in.”

“He could get kicked out for that,” Eddie scolded. “You shouldn’t risk him like that.”

“I wanted to see you,” Richie said, shrugging as he sat down on the ground across from Eddie, his long legs outstretched. Eddie ignored the flutter in his stomach at those words. “You looked upset in Science earlier, and Bev said you were off during math too.”

“So you bribed Ben into letting you in?” Eddie asked.

“Well, the Loser’s and I first played rock paper scissors to see who would get to come, Bev nearly fought me when I won, I got threatened by all of them not to make you anymore upset, then I bribed Ben into letting me in,” Richie grinned. Eddie rolled his eyes, ignoring the tiny shred of happiness worming his way into his chest. He liked having friends.

“I’m fine,” He told Richie, plastering on a smile. He still felt delicate, which he hated. He hated feeling like he would burst at the seams, tear apart like tissue paper.

“You don’t look fine,” Richie said, unusually serious. “You know you can talk to me right?”

“Of course.”

They sat in silence for a long time, Richie staring right at Eddie without any shame and Eddie pointedly staring everywhere but Richie. He felt like he was going to start crying.

“Do you want a hug?” Richie asked quietly, almost like he was unsure.

Eddie did. All he wanted was a hug right now. He remembered teaching Richie how to skate, how comfortable lounging in Richie’s arms was. How he stayed there longer than what was probably normal because he felt so safe wrapped in his arms. Eddie just wanted Richie’s arms to surround him, for the other boy to tell him that everything would be alright. He wanted to feel safe again, secure again. He wanted more than anything to clutch onto Richie and just stay there until everything felt right again.

“I’m fine,” Eddie repeated, his voice wavering slightly.

“Okay,” Richie said, sounding almost relieved. Why would Richie want to hug him anyway? It was stupid that Eddie even considered it. “The offers always open though man, anytime you need it. Tozier’s Hugging Service is open 24/7, although sometimes I need to take breaks to go visit your mother, she'd get lonely without me.”

“Fuck off,” Eddie giggled, reaching over and smacking Richie’s shoulder. Richie laughed as well, his head thrown back, and something inside Eddie settled at the sound.

“You going to eat that?” Richie asked, pointing to the banana lying at Eddie’s feet. “I forgot my lunch with the others.”

“Go for it,” Eddie shrugged, tossing him the fruit. Richie grinned, snapping off the top before shoving it in his mouth, peel and all.

Eddie couldn’t restrain his cry of disgust.

“That’s the most fucking horrific thing I’ve ever seen,” Eddie said, feeling like puking as he watched Richie shew the monstrosity. “You are truly the most disgusting person I know.”

“You love me,” Richie said, but it came out all muffled and gross due to the unchewable peel still being chomped on.

Eddie mimed puking, holding his stomach as he gagged. Richie only smiled, chewing happily before swallowing.

“It’s healthy for you,” Richie said matter o factly. “Lot’s of those yummy vitamins.”

“Eat a fucking Flintstone gummy you heathen,” Eddie said, but he could help but laugh. “I can’t believe you did that.”

As if you spite Eddie, Richie took another bite.

Just like that, all thoughts of his mother and skating flew out of his mind, and all Eddie could focus on was berating Richie Tozier for how fucking disgusting he was. It was the best lunch hour he had ever had.

__________________________________

In the end, he ended up going with his mother.

He texted Lewis, and was already panicking over the fact that the man left him on read, but he had made his decision and there was no changing it now.

But he was already regretting it. It was probably the fanciest restaurant in the entire town, so he was required to get dressed up. The tie around his neck was casual, but it made him feel like he was choking. He was pretty sure he was sweating enough to drown in it all.

But here they were, sitting across from each other, Eddie staring at the menu but not really understanding what it was trying to say. Theoretically, he knew there were words on it, but they seemed to be written in a different language, blurred just enough that he couldn’t comprehend.

He probably should have expected this. They had been at odds for months now, ever since he found out about the medication and decided she wouldn’t have the same control ever again. He had been practically avoiding her ever since, and they didn’t really even get along that well to begin with. They had nothing in common, two people separated by too much space while simultaneously having only a few feet between them.

He really wished he went to practice.

“How’s school been darling?” His mother asked, folding her menu and putting it down.

“It’s fine,” Eddie said shortly. He was still trying to make sense of the words in front of him. He felt like he was going to suffocate. What was he supposed to say? How was he supposed to sit? He felt like an imposter in his own skin.

“Are you still hanging out with that Marsh girl?” His mother asked, her voice darkening. “You know I don’t like her.”

“She’s my friend,” Eddie maintained, a burst of anger bubbling up inside him.

“She’s a slut,” His mother said, and Eddie slammed his menu down, the paper making a loud thump.

“Don’t say that about her,” He said firmly, anger roaring his head inside Eddie’s chest. His mom seemed unfazed, like she was expecting it. “You don’t get to say those things about my friends.”

“Am I wrong?” His mother asked. “She only hangs out around guys; I wouldn’t be surprised if she opened her legs for everyone in town.”

“Shut up!” Eddie said, louder than he expected. Patrons around the restaurant turned to stare at him, and he shriveled at their glares, ducking his head and curling into himself.

“Now Eddie, don’t cause a disturbance,” His mother scolded. “I’m trying to have a nice conversation.”

“Yeah, by insulting my best friend,” Eddie said darkly. “That’s not good conversation.”

His mother hummed, picking at her nail. She didn’t look up at him.

“You know I’m your mother right?” She asked after a minute.

“Yeah?” Eddie said, scrunching up his face a bit in confusion.

“As your mother, it’s my duty to care. To worry.” She said calmly, her voice only wavering a tiny bit. “You know I worry about you right?”

Eddie stayed silent. Of course he knew she cared, she cared sometimes a bit too much.

“I care about you more than anything Eddie. You’re all I have left,” She continued, and her voice was breaking now, sniffles between the words. “I don’t know where I went wrong with you, but I need you to know that I love you, and I care about you, and I don’t want you to get hurt. I don’t know where I went wrong.”

Eddie looked up at her, watching as he tried to brush the tears coming down her cheeks, watching as her body shook with barely controlled sobs. It made something inside his chest twist and turn until he wasn’t able to resist it and he got up, crossing over to her side and hugging her close to him.

“I’m sorry,” He whispered. He wasn’t sure what he was sorry for. He just felt sorry, the guilt replacing the anger and tearing up his insides, claws clenching around Eddie’s heart and squeezing. “I’m sorry for making you cry.”

“I tried so hard to make you good,” She said between sobs, her hands reaching up to grab his shirt and pull him closer. “I did everything right, I did everything I was supposed to, so why do you hate me?”

“I don’t hate you,” He whispered, and it was true. It was impossible to hate her, because even after everything she did, she was his mother. “I promise Mommy, I don’t hate you.”

“Then why do you do so much to spite me?” She asked, her voice rising. “Why don’t you do what I say? Why do you avoid me? Why do you leave me alone? I’m the only one who knows you Eddie, I raised you, you’re my son. No one in this world knows you better than me. I know what’s good for you.”

Eddie wanted to go and sit back down. He didn’t like it when she held him this close, this tightly. It didn’t feel like a loving embrace, it felt like a nose wrapping around his neck.

“Ma, please let me go,” He whispered as her hands tightened on his shirt. “Please let me go so we can talk rationally about this.”

“I can only think of one reason as to why you’re doing this to me, why you shut me out, why you don’t want to spend time with me.” She continued, not letting him go. “You hate me. That’s it. You hate me and I don’t know why. I did my best Eddie; I did all that I could do. I love you. But you don’t love me back. Why don’t you love me? Why do you hate me?”

Eddie felt like he was drowning. Tears burnt at his own eyes and he wanted to leave, he wanted to go run off somewhere and live like a hermit for the rest of his life.

His mother was crying, sobbing, in hysterics, because she thought Eddie hated her. How ungrateful was he? She had given her everything, fed him, housed him, mostly supported him, and when he hit a rough patch in his life and begged her to move, she did. She listened to him and gave up her life for him. And yet he couldn’t spend one dinner with her without wanting to leave. He couldn’t spend an hour with her without making her cry.

“I’m sorry,” He whispered, over and over again until it was the only word he knew, the only thing he understood.

_____________________________________________

He didn’t go to school the next day.

He woke up and felt like he needed to escape, needed something to do. The thought of sitting in a class and ignoring the crawling anxiety in his gut sounded like a death sentence, but if he stayed home his mother would have a fit and take him to the hospital.

So he got up, got dressed, grabbing his skating bag, and walked to the gym.

He had a car, knew that he should take it so his mom wouldn’t worry, but he needed the time to shut his brain off, and he refused to do that while driving. He wasn’t trying to end up in a ditch.

He found himself at the rink, but that wasn’t really a surprise at all. This was the single safe place he knew in this entire town. It was the place where he spent most of his days, where he felt at home, where he could truly be himself.

He sat in the stands for a long time, dully watching the practices go on hour by hour. It was mostly adult hockey or ringette, since all the kids were in school. Distantly, he knew why he was here.

Noon rolled around, and Eddie felt like he was frozen. It wasn’t warm in this arena, and he was wearing only thin leggings and an athletic shirt. He hadn’t moved in hours, and he was kind of worried that if he tried he would break into a thousand pieces. But the time came, and Eddie watched as Lewis entered the building.

Lewis only coached two people in this town, Eddie and an older lady of maybe twenty. Eddie knew that she was practicing today, and a small part of him knew that that was one of the reasons he had shown up here.

He forced himself to stand up, his numb legs moving slowly as he walked down the steps, eyes never leaving Lewis, who was tying his skates. His skater was already on the ice, going through her warmup. Eddie walked closer.

“Lewis?” He asked hesitantly. The man stopped tying his skates, but he didn’t lookup. “I’m sorry about missing last night. It was really last minute and that wasn’t responsible of me, but I promise I will-“

He was cut off by Lewis finishing tying his skates, standing up, and walking onto the ice. He didn’t look or acknowledge Eddie once.

Eddie turned and walked to the washroom. He didn’t cry, he was tired of that. He was tired of always crying every time something small went wrong. He had cried out all his tears yesterday. He simply stood in front of the mirror and stared at his reflection, heart pounding as he struggled to breathe.

He stared at every aspect of himself, trying to figure out if the outside of himself looked as flawed and broken as the inside of him felt. He could see nothing wrong, nothing that made him stand out. He was the same as he always was, nothing special, nothing horrible. Maybe it was a façade.

Maybe he looked so normal on the outside to lure people in, to make them believe that he was good, kind, decent. But he wasn’t. He was a horrible son, a horrible skater, a horrible person. There was no question about it.

He turned and left the washroom, not daring to look back at the ice as he left it and walked upstairs. He didn’t need to change into his workout gear, which was good because he didn’t think he would be able to stand waiting around doing nothing for much longer. He put his bag on the bench and moved to the track, forgoing his warmup to start running immediately.

He shoved everything out of his mind and focused on his running, feet pounding against the ground as his lungs heaved. He didn’t let up. He kept running even when his pace started to lag and he felt like he was going to collapse. He kept running, gritting his teeth and forcing himself to continue on, the sweat cleansing his skin, the shortness of breath reminding him that he had things to work towards.

After nearly an hour of running, an employee stepped out and waved at him, forcing him to stop.

“Jesus Christ kid,” The man grumbled, looking like he wanted to be anywhere else. “Take a drink before you pass out.”

“I’m fine,” Eddie wheezed, despite reaching over to grab at his bottle. The cool water on his sore throat was undeserved.

“You look like your about to pass out,” The employee deadpanned. He wasn’t lying. He may have overdone it. His lungs felt like there were on fire, his feet and legs were aching and his side was bursting with fireworks of pain. He could see little black dots on the edge of his vision. He wanted to do more. “Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“Probably,” Eddie shrugged. “You gonna call my principal?”

The employee snorted, shaking his head sadly. “Just try not to pass out on my shift okay? I’m off in like fifteen minutes. Give Gloria the heart attack, not me.”

He walked away, muttering something about punk-ass kids and not being paid enough to deal with them. Eddie ignored him.

He walked a few laps around the track, forcing his heart rate down until he felt sort of normal again. His legs protested greatly when he started into a jog, but he forced himself to ignore it.

He knew what he was doing was wrong, knew that he was well past his point of exhaustion, but he didn’t think when running. Even just walking those few laps caused his mind to start to whirl again, replaying the interaction with his mom last night and the harsh ignorance of Lewis only a few hours ago. When he was running, all he could focus on was putting one foot in front of the other, making sure he didn’t fall flat on his face. He could only think about the pain in his legs and chest, the frantic pound of his heart.

He didn’t know how much longer he was running, but he knew it was enough.

He felt dizzy, his head spinning as he slowed himself down to a walk. His legs felt numb, and he was gasping in efforts to control his breathing. He couldn’t get it back into rhythm, but that was normal. He was used to that. He would be fine.

Next thing he knew, his legs were crumpling under him and he fell to the ground, his vision going black.

__________________________________

He wasn’t sure how long he was out, but when he woke up, he was in the hospital.

He was a lot calmer about that fact than he probably should have been. But waking up in a hospital was normal. He was used to it at this point.

He sat up, rubbing at his head, which was pounding with a headache. He didn’t really remember much about what happened. He just assumed he maybe fell down the stairs and his mom called the police or something equally ridiculous.

He sat up, rubbing at his head and marveled at the fact that he had a literal IV line in his arm. He hadn’t had one of those in years, ever since he had the flu and his mom demanded they do that for him. What did he get himself into this time?

“So Sleeping Beauty finally awakes,” Dr. Anderson said from the doorway, causing Eddie to jump. “Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Why am I here?” Eddie asked. “Where’s my mom?”

“You passed out from overexertion,” Anderson said, walking into the room and sitting down.

"What?" Eddie asked, his memory coming back to him in waves. GOng to the rink, getting rejected by Lewis, feeling like crap, going to the track, running for as long as he could. "Wheres my mom?" She normally would be right beside him, fawning and yelling at whoever was around. SHe would surely use this as an excuse to get him to quit skating.

"We haven't called her yet," Anderson shrugged.

"Isn't that illegal?"

"Everyone in the hospital knows and hates Sonia, they're not going to say shit," Anderson said. "Are you going to tattle on me Eddie?"

"No," Eddie said, shaking his head. He was glad his mother wasn't here.

"I won't call her in unless you refuse to answer my questions," Anderson said seriously. “So, how long were you running for?”

“I don’t know,” Eddie whispered, ducking his head as he tried to remember.

“What time did you start running?” Dr. Anderson said softly. “Did you stop at any point? Were you drinking water?”

“I, um, I started around 1? Maybe a bit earlier?” He says hesitantly. He wanted to lie. To say that he hadn’t been running for long, that he probably just didn’t drink enough water or something. But he made a promise to Dr. Anderson when he first moved. He promised that he would always tell the truth about his condition, no matter what. The alternative was the doctor believing his mom’s truth instead. “I took a break once, for like five minutes. Had a quick drink of water then. Started running again.”

Dr. Anderson looked down at his sheet, scribbling some words down and frowning.

“Eddie,” He said, and his voice was softer than Eddie had ever heard it before. He didn’t like it. Dr. Anderson was someone he went to escape with. He was funny, cracking jokes and always trying to make Eddie smile. He wasn’t meant to be serious. Not with Eddie. “Buddy, by that calculation you were running for almost two and a half hours.”

“That’s not right,” Eddie shook his head, but regretted it when he felt slightly light-headed. “I didn’t think I was going that long.”

“The call came in around three-thirty, saying you passed out on the track and wouldn’t wake up. That’s not good Eddie. Normally when someone passes out from overexertion they’re out for a couple of seconds at most, not completely unresponsive.” Dr. Anderson said, his voice stern.

Eddie looked down at his hands. How did he manage to disappoint all three adults in his life?

“Bud, I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me,” Anderson said softly, causing Eddie to stare at him. “What’s going on? I’ve never had you end up here without your mother's influence, so why would you push yourself like this when you know the danger? You’re dehydrated, you have muscle cramps on your legs that are going to be a bitch to deal with, and I should probably be checking you for all types of heart diseases right now.”

“Please don’t,” Eddie said quickly, the thought sending panic through his veins. He remembered being a child and having his mom force him through so many different types of tests, the ones testing for different heart diseases being one of them.

“Obviously I’m not,” Anderson rolled his eyes. “You are possibly the most active kid I know, if you had a problem with your heart you would be having a lot more issues than this one fluke.”

“Thanks,” Eddie sighed, deflating a bit. His hands reached down and massaged his legs, which were aching painfully with every second he sat there.

“But, I’m not letting you deflect,” Anderson continued. “What did you eat today?”

“A granola bar,” Eddie grumbled.

“How many cups of water have you drank today?”

“Maybe one?” Eddie answered, thinking back.

“How many hours of sleep did you get?” Anderson continued, and Eddie kind of hated the scratch of the pen on paper.

“An amount,” He replied dryly. At the glare Dr. Anderson gave him, he said the truth. “Only a few hours.” He was up late watching boring Hallmark movies with his mother. And when he finally went to bed he couldn’t shut his brain off long enough to get a decent amount of sleep.

“Eddie,” Dr. Anderson sighed, and Eddie couldn’t’ stand the disappointment in his voice. He couldn’t get a single thing right and he felt like sobbing because he just wanted to be home again just wanted to go lie down and forgot about the fact that he had a life that he needed to live. “That’s not healthy and you know it.”

“Yeah,” Was all he could get through his dry mouth.

“You can talk to me you know,” Anderson continued. “I may not be a therapist, but I like to believe that I’m your friend. And if you don’t tell me about what’s going on, I’m going to have to make assumptions.”

Eddie swept out an arm, almost like he was inviting Dr. Anderson to do his worst.

“Okay fine,” Anderson sighed. “I think this is some fucked up way of punishing yourself.”

“Excuse me?” Eddie asked, blinking in surprise.

“You like exercising right?” Anderson asked. Eddie nodded, because of course it did. “It makes you feel good? I think it’s a scapegoat. You feel bad, you go and work out to the point where you pass out. You get stressed, you skate until your legs hurt and your moments from collapsing. It’s your form of self punishment, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what you’re punishing yourself for.”

Eddie stared at his hands, barely even listening because that wasn’t it. There was no way that was it. He liked running, it cleared his head. It wasn’t because he was punishing himself or hurting himself or anything stupid like that.

“You’re a good kid Eddie,” Anderson said softly, reaching out and patting Eddie’s knee. Eddie raised his head to stare at him with wide eyes. “I don’t know what happened today, or this week, or whenever. But you’re a good kid, and you do so many good things. Your kind, funny, stubborn as a mule,” Anderson laughed, and Eddie let himself smile at the words. “But you’re a really good kid. I’m proud of you, and I only know you when you come in for your moms’ monthly freak outs. Just know that my door is always open, at any time.”

Dr. Anderson reached into his pocket, pulling out a piece of paper and a pen. He scribbled something onto it and passed it to Eddie. It was a phone number and an address.

“Call me next time you feel like running until you pass out,” Anderson said with a stern look. “And I’ll take you out to McDonalds or something. And if you ever need a place to go, come to my house. I won’t ask any questions, won’t force you to talk, you can simply just come in for five minutes to steal snacks if that’s what you want. I keep a key under the mat. Promise me you’ll use it?”

“Okay,” Eddie whispered, folding the paper and tucking it into his pocket. It felt special, a gift with more meaning than anything ever gave to him before. “Thank you.”

“Anytime kid,” Dr. Anderson smiled. “Now let’s get that IV out of your arm, and you better take at least a days break from all exercise, drink, eat, and sleep normal amounts, and then maybe I’ll forgive you.”

Before Eddie left the room, he launched himself into Dr. Anderson's arms. He told himself that it wasn’t that embarrassing to hug your doctor. It was just a thing that happened sometimes.

__________________________________

Unknown Number: where were you today?

 

Unknown Number: I missed you :(

 

Eddie: who is this??

 

Unknown Number: you dont recognize me eds?

 

Unknown Number: I guess I’ll just have to be your secret admirer :D

 

Eddie how did you get my number Richie?

 

Unknown Number: Bev gave it to me

 

Eddie: of course she did

 

Unknown Number: you sound disappointed

 

Unknown Number: are you disappointed to hear from me?

 

Unknown Number: your bestest friend in the entire world?

 

Unknown Number: im hurt

 

Unknown Number: you hurt me!

 

Eddie: why are you texting me again?

 

Unknown Number: haven’t we established that im your friend?

 

Unknown Number: friends’ text each other you know

 

Unknown Number: im going to send you so many memes man

 

Unknown Number: it’ll be awesome

 

Eddie: the joy is radiating off of me

 

Unknown Number: you haven’t answered my first question btw

 

Eddie: cause it’s stupid?

 

Eddie: you don’t need to know where I’ve been

 

Unknown Number: what? Do you have some sort of lady friend your stepping out to see?

 

Eddie: why do you even care?

 

Unknown Number: I worry

 

Unknown Number: and I mean who else am I going to annoy while your gone?

 

Eddie: knowing you, you can find someone

 

Unknown Number: true

 

Unknown Number: oh!

 

Unknown Number: Bowers is out for you again

 

Unknown Number: maybe staying at home is the best option

 

Eddie: I thought the asshole was suspended?

 

Unknown Number: he only got three days

 

Unknown Number: it’s bullshit

 

Unknown Number: he decked a kid

 

Unknown Number: but no, apparently he’s blaming you now

 

Unknown Number: so just a heads up

 

Eddie: great, another trip to the hospital

 

Eddie: just what I need

 

Unknown Number: ???

 

Unknown Number: another?

 

Eddie: forget I said that

 

Unknown Number: is that where you were today?

 

Unknown Number: are you okay?

 

Eddie: I’m fine

 

Eddie: I go all the time, it’s normal for me

 

Unknown Number: that’s not reassuring

 

Eddie: don’t worry about me okay? I’m fine

 

Unknown Number: I always worry

 

Unknown Number: cause you’re my friend

 

Unknown Number: understood?

 

Eddie: You’ve been super aggressive about affirming our friendship lately dude

 

Eddie: everything good with the losers?

 

Unknown Number: oh yeah

 

Unknown Number: we’re all chill like usual

 

Unknown Number: I just like the reminder that I managed to charm you into being my friend

 

Unknown Number: gives me confidence

 

Eddie: oh fuck you!!

 

Unknown Number: love you too eddie spaghetti

 

Eddie: not my name

 

Unknown Number: okay eds

 

Eddie: you’re impossible

 

Eddie: I’m going to bed

 

Unknown Number: admit it

 

Unknown Number: you love me

 

Eddie: Good night.

 

Unknown Number: Goodnight Eddie spaghetti, light of my life, tell your mother I’m sorry I missed tonight, her luscious lips will keep me awake tonight

 

Eddie: GOODNIGHT!

 

Unknown Number: Night eds! <3

 

Eddie has added Unknown Number to their contacts.

 

Eddie has changed Unknown Numbers name to Richie <3

Chapter Text

Despite Anderson very firmly telling him to keep away from exercise for at least a day, Eddie went to practice the next day.

He was going to go to school too, but he woke up in the morning with absolutely no motivation, so he decided that maybe one more day wouldn’t kill him. He was ahead in most of his classes anyways.

Luckily, his mother had work early that morning, so he got to stay home all day, mostly lying in bed fitfully sleeping or playing his records and throwing a ball at the ceiling.

He left the house early to go to the rink, again forgoing using his car for the time to think.

His legs were still sore as hell, aching with every step he took but he kept walking, knowing that he wasn’t going to miss another practice anytime soon. It was Bev and his specific day for training, and he wouldn’t force Bev to miss it because of some stupid ass thing he did.

He walked into the rink and immediately got attack hugged.

“Holy shit,” Eddie gasped, blinking at he awkwardly patted Bev’s head. “Hi?”

“You act super weird, skip two days of school, ignore all my texts, and apparently miss out on practice with Lewis, and you expect me not to be worried?” She hissed, pulling back and smacking his shoulder. “What the fuck Kaspbrak?”

“I’m fine,” Eddie laughed, pushing her away from him. Not that he didn’t like hugging her, it was just that he was still feeling fragile, and the further she was away from him, the easier it would be to keep together. “Sorry for worrying you.”

“You worried a whole lot more people than me,” Bev grumbled, grabbing his arm and pulling him towards the bench he used to tie his skates. She normally changed in the changing room with the other girls, but he wasn’t allowed for obvious reasons. Which was kind of stupid, because he was gay and all. “All the Losers were worried; Richie was moping so hard I gave him your number.”

“Yeah,” Eddie said dryly. “Thanks for that.”

“He’s not that bad,” Bev waved his concerns off. “But seriously, why did you skip out on Lewis? Do you have a death threat?”

“My mom scheduled the two of us dinner,” Eddie looked away from her, focusing on tying his skates. “She wouldn’t take no as an option.”

“Shit,” Beverly said softly. She knew all about his mom, he had told her about it one night they spent in the back of her truck, her cigarette smoke filtering through the air. She had told him about her father, and in exchange, he told her about his mom. “How did that go?”

“About as well as you could imagine,” Eddie said tensely. “How was your date with Ben last night?”

“Perfect,” Beverly said, thankfully following his change in subject. “He took me out to the park. I got a bunch of ice cream on my shirt and he switched with me. There’s nothing more romantic than your boyfriend agreeing to wear your tiny ice-cream stained shirt so you won’t have to go through the embarrassment. He’s perfect.”

“I’m so glad you guys are happy,” Eddie said honestly, smiling up at her. “You guys make such a cute couple.”

“What about you?” Beverly asked. “Any cute boys looking your way?”

“There never is,” Eddie said with a self-deprecating chuckle. His dating life had been non-existent since he moved here. There was only one person before, but Eddie tried not to think about him.

“You never know,” Bev said mysteriously. “Maybe some cutie is looking your way right now.”

“Unlikely,” Eddie snorted. He looked over to the side. “Is that Richie?”

Sure enough, Richie was standing in the stands, looking over to them and waving exaggeratedly.

“Yup,” Bev said, sighing and shaking her head.

“Isn’t his shift not until later?” Eddie asked. “When does he work actually? I’ve never actually seen him do much around here, other than annoy the shit out of me.”

“How should I know?” Bev asked. “He came early to see you though dipshit. You ready to go?”

“Why would he come to see me?” Eddie asked through the flipping of his stomach. Bev was already walking away.

He pushed all thought of Richie out of his mind, and instead followed Beverly to the ice on aching legs.

_____________________________

 

Bev called off the practice halfway through, forcing Eddie to skate to the bench and grab a drink of water.

He desperately needed it. His throat was still on fire, scratchy and uncomfortable after the skating. It wasn’t even a hard routine, but it required a lot of skating, and his legs were absolutely killing him at this moment.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Bev asked seriously, her eyes clouded with worry. He hated it, had always hated it. He hated when people worried over him, fussed over him. It made him feel weak, fragile, everything his mother told him he was. “You’re so pale.”

“I’m okay,” He reassured. “I just didn’t sleep much last night.”

Which was a lie. He managed to get an overwhelming amount of sleep, had practically collapsed once his head hit the pillow. He guessed that the lack of sleep had finally caught up with him.

“Sure,” Bev said, not sounding convinced at all. “Can we skip the rest of practice? I’m kind of tired too.”

Bev had barely broken a sweat, wasn’t even close to panting or looking even remotely tired.

Still, he wasn’t in the mood to argue with her. In fact, he never was. It was easier to agree with her and move on. She wasn’t one of the best debaters in their school for nothing. She was ruthless when it came to getter her way. So he simply nodded and the two of them headed off the ice, ignoring the stares of the other skaters.

His skates were off faster than humanly possible and he massaged the sore pads of his feet and ankles, hissing softly at the pulsing pain vibrating through them. Bev looked over to him with worry, but he avoided her glance, feeling guilty for making her worry more.

“Ben and I are meeting up with Bill at the library,” Bev said. “I’d invite you, but I know you already have plans.”

“I don’t have any plans,” Eddie said with a frown, what was she talking about?

“Really?” Bev asked, standing up and giving him a smirk. “Could have fooled me.”

And with that, she left.

Eddie loved her, she was one of his best friends, but did she really have to be so goddamn cryptic all the time?

“Eddie!” Someone cried from the stands, and Eddie felt a faint smile tugging at his lips as Richie jumped up and down, waving him over. Eddie shoved his skates into his bag and threw it over his shoulder, wandering over to where Richie sat.

“Hey,” Eddie greeted, throwing his bag down on the bench beside them. “How are you?”

“Better now with my Eds,” Richie said with a cheeky smile. “What’s in your bag?” Richie pointed out, his fingers gesturing to the side pocket.

Eddie frowned, turning the bag around to get a better look. Sure enough, tucked into the folds of the fabric, was a small rose. Eddie’s cheeks burned red as he picked it out, avoiding Richie’s eyes.

“Someone’s been leaving flowers for me over the past two weeks,” Eddie muttered. “I don’t know who.”

“A secret admirer huh?” Richie asked, and Eddie looked up, the other boy staring at him with a weirdly soft look on his face. “Do you like it?”

“I mean, I love the flowers,” Eddie shrugged. “But it’s kind of cheesy you know? And I don’t have a secret admirer. That isn’t what this is.”

“I think it is,” Richie said. “But whatever you say.”

Eddie shrugged, choosing not to say a thing. In truth, he loved the flowers. He would never admit it to Richie, who would probably make fun of him for it, but Eddie loved small romantic gestures like that. Flowers, chocolate, letters, the whole ten yards. He was crazy about it.

But the idea of anyone having a crush on him was laughable. Everyone in this town hated his guts, despised him to their cores. He was the outsider, the fairy, the figure skater. It was probably a gag anyways. He placed the flower on the bench once again.

“I think it’s prettier here,” Richie said softly, grabbing the rose and gently reaching out, tucking it behind Eddie’s ear. Eddie’s cheeks burned even redder, his stomach fluttering as he stared at Richie with wide eyes. “Cute, cute, cute.” Richie teased, patting his cheek. The touch sent electricity down his spine.

“Shut up,” Eddie muttered, looking away from Richie.

“We should go for a walk,” Richie continued. “It’s too cold in this rink.”

“Aren’t you working?” Eddie asked.

“My day off,” Richie shrugged. “And luckily for you, I can spend it all with you.”

“I’m sure you’d want to spend it with some of your other friends,” Eddie grumbled. “Are they not free?”

“They are,” Richie said casually, standing up. “But I still want to spend the day with my Eds, should we get going?”

“Where are we going?” Eddie asked, already knowing he would go anywhere.

“The park?” Richie offered. “The ice cream truck there is supposed to be wicked good.”

“I shouldn’t have any,” Eddie said hesitantly. “I’m not supposed to have any sugar. Bad for my diet.”

“One day won’t kill you,” Richie said, waving a hand. “Come with me anyway. Maybe they have sugar free options.”

“Okay,” Eddie allowed, standing up as well. Richie was a step below him, and at this level Eddie was taller than him, only by a few inches. But enough that he noticed. They were oddly close at the moment.

“Let’s get going then,” Richie said, grinning widely and for a second Eddie forgot how to breathe. He wondered why that was.

______________________________________________________

The park wasn’t large, not in a town like Derry. It centered around a lake, an oblong path lining it. To one side, a large open field resided, where sometimes soccer games were played, but it was mostly used for couples to lounge in the shade of the trees, basking in the humid summer heat.

On the other side was a park, the largest one in Derry. Three different attached play centers, a towering witch’s hat, and even a water park off to one side. There were never more than two kids playing on it at once, a reminder that even with the picture-perfect view, they were still in Derry.

Eddie never really came here often, it was on the other side of town then where he lived, practiced, and went to school. If he wanted to go for walks, he would travel down to the barrens, where the paths were more secluded, less in the open. But it was a nice place.

The weather was warm, but not obnoxiously so. In Derry summers, the weather was always boiling hot. You couldn’t go outside without freezing to death. But it was dwindling down to fall, and soon it would be winter, and it was the perfect weather for Eddie.

“You see that girl over there?” Richie asked, their shoulders bumping together. They were walking oddly close, but Eddie told himself it was because the path wasn’t overly large. He didn’t want to take up the entire space. He looked over to the girl Richie was gesturing it. “You think I can pull off those shorts?”

“No,” Eddie replied immediately. She was wearing short shorts, bright pink with what looked like beach balls printed onto them. They were cute, but the thought of Richie wearing them made Eddie’s stomach turn.

“I bet you could rock em,” Richie said, a grin on his lips. Eddie rolled his eyes.

“Those things are nothing, you should have seen my last skating outfit,” Eddie said, feeling some of the tension in his chest start to loosen.

“Oh pray tell,” Richie said, leaning closer somehow. “Was it bright pink? Skimpy? Covered in sequins?”

“Close,” Eddie turned to look at him, Richie was smiling softly, his eyes enlarged by the ridiculous glasses he wore. “It was neon pink shorts and a tube top, with netting covering my stomach, I was dancing to an 80’s song.”

“I’m swooning,” Richie cried dramatically. “My Eds is just too cute to picture.”

Eddie muttered a quick come back, trying hard to ignore the way his stomach fluttered whenever Richie called him ‘My Eds’. He liked the sounds of that.

“Those shorts do wonders for her ass,” Richie continued, back to staring at the girl, as the fluttery feeling in Eddie’s stomach fell away. Eddie wanted to smack him until he tore his eyes away. He was being a creep. “She’s pretty sexy huh?”

“Whatever you say,” Eddie said dryly, rolling his eyes at Richie’s laughter.

“Come on,” Richie said, suddenly grabbing his hand. “I’m buying you ice cream.” Eddie wanted to protest, because he really wasn’t supposed to be eating ice cream, but Richie was already dragging him away, and Eddie wasn’t in the mood to argue.

“You know,” Eddie grumbled once they got into line. “Ice cream really isn’t good for you.”

“What are you talking about?” Richie exclaimed. “It’s good for your soul.”

“And bad for everything else,” Eddie said, rolling his eyes. They finally made it to the front of the line. “Which one had the least amount of sugar in it?” He asked the bored teenager working the stand.

“We’ll have two chocolate chip cookie dough cones please,” Richie cut in smoothly, handing over the money.

“Richie!” Eddie scolded. “That’s the one with the most sugar you idiot.”

“Oh shut it,” Richie said casually. “It’s the tastiest. And I won’t stand anything but the best for you.”

The boy working the stand reached over the side to give them the cones. Eddie went to reach up with his left hand, only to realize that it was still clasped tightly in Richie’s hand. He grabbed it with his right instead.

They moved on. Eddie’s heart was pounding, and he found himself wondering what the hell this meant. Did friends hold hands? He never did it with anyone else. He never really held anyone’s hand ever, come to think of it. Back in New York that he was considered too sick for that.

But it was nice, walking through the park, Richie’s hand holding his, eating probably the sugariest thing he had eaten in years.

“Why did you move here?” Richie asked, out of the blue. Eddie should have expected it, Richie was never quiet for long.

“Things happened,” Eddie said breezily. It was the truth. Some shit went down. “I had a falling out with some people, begged my mom to go, we came here.”

“How was New York?” Richie asked.

“Busy, loud, dirty,” Eddie listed. “Tell me about yourself.”

“That’s broad,” Richie laughed, bumping their shoulders together, it was easier with their hands locked together. Eddie really hopped his hands weren’t sweating. “Give me ideas Eds.”

“I don’t know,” Eddie said, letting the nickname slid. “We’ve been friends for almost two months, but I don’t know the basic things, like what’s your favorite color? Animal? Music? Shit like that.”

“You want to know my zodiac too?” Richie teased.

“Why not,” Eddie shrugged. “I want to know it all.”

Richie was quiet for a long time, and Eddie tried not to think about it, instead focusing on walking forwards, happily licking at the ice cream in his hand. Richie was right, it was stupidly good. The sweetest thing Eddie had in ages. When he first got into his rebellious stage, he took handfuls of candy and shoved them into his mouth.

Obviously, he got incredibly sick the next day, but that wasn’t the point. After that, it was back to his regular diet, most of his sugar coming from fruit and the occasional treat.

“I like the color purple,” Richie said after a moment. “And orange. I really love lizards, and Africa by Toto is possibly the best song in existence.”

“It is!” Eddie laughed, throwing his head back. “I was listening to that earlier today.”

“Finally! Someone with good taste!” Richie said, joining him in laughing. “Your turn Spaghetti.”

“Pastel colors,” Eddie started. “Cats, I guess I’ll go Africa too, because you brought it up. And don’t call me spaghetti.”

Richie hums, pulling at Eddie’s hand and pulling him towards the bridge. There were three crossing the lake, joining both sides.

“Why did you start skating?” Richie asked, the two of them standing on the bridge, watching a family of duck’s crawl under them.

Eddie hesitated.

He knew why he started skating, knew about the crawling energy under his skin that remained trapped for so many years. How he thought he was sick, but still signed up for skating. How it was the only time he really put his foot down and refused to compromise with his mother. Skating was his source of freedom, a place where he could express himself without anyone stopping him.

“It looked like fun,” He landed on. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Richie to know that, but well people didn’t see figure skating the same way as he did. Especially in this town. Here, figure skating was a fun activity to do if you were a girl, but as a guy it was a stapled reminder that something was wrong about you.

He wasn’t sure where Richie landed on that scale, but he didn’t want to risk it.

“You’re really good at it,” Richie said, but his voice had the sound of something being held back. Eddie stayed silent, knowing that Richie would spit it out at one point or another. “Doesn’t it bother you?”

“Does what bother me?”

“When people insult you about the sport you clearly love doing,” Richie said, and Eddie could feel the other boys' gaze weighing on him. He didn’t look back. “The things they say about you, the things they say, doesn’t it get under your skin?”

“It doesn’t both me that much,” Eddie said truthfully. “Sometimes it does. Sometimes it makes me want to pull out my hair. But I’ve learned to accept it.” He turned to look Richie in the eyes. “I’m a gay figure skater, and if people have a problem with that, they can kiss my ass.”

Richie grinned at him, and it was infectious, causing warmth to spread through Eddie’s chest and a smile to pull at his lips.

“I mean, ass-kissing isn’t that bad though,” Richie said with a wink, causing Eddie to grow bright red. He was going to kill Richie. “Could you imagine Bowers in bed? His poor girlfriend.”

Despite himself, Eddie laughed.

“He’s probably one of those guys that thinks thirty seconds is a long time,” He joked back, enjoying the way Richie cackled.

“He probably doesn’t think that the female orgasm exists,” Richie said, and Eddie laughed with him, shaking his head.

“I’m true to myself,” Eddie continued seriously once the laughter died down. “And that’s all that matters. It gets to me sometimes, but I’m not going to stop doing what I love to please them.”

“You truly are amazing,” Richie said, and Eddie thought that he might faint. “What a super trooper,” Richie continued, and they smiled at each other before Richie looked away, his smile falling. His hand dropped Eddie seconds later.

Eddie wasn’t sure why it hurt so much.

Maybe it was because there was something happening. Something he didn’t want to admit, because Richie was still disgusting and immature and annoying, but he was also sweet, funny, sensitive. Eddie wanted to spend more time with him, wanted to get to know him in ways that ‘just friends’ couldn’t. Maybe it was because when Richie smiled at him, Eddie just wanted to lean forwards and kiss him.

It was hard to accept, since he had spent months in denial, but Eddie maybe, just maybe, had a tiny crush on Richie Tozier.

“Let’s get going,” Eddie said, forcibly repressing that thought down as alarms started screeching inside his head. He walked away, getting a few steps ahead before he realized Richie wasn’t following him. He turned to look back, staring at Richie, who was looking at him with a slightly dreamy look in his eyes. “Are you coming?”

‘That’s what she said,” Richie joked, breaking out of whatever spell he feel into. The boy cackled as Eddie reached forwards, smacking Richie’s shoulders hard. It was nice.

___________________________________

Eddie was panicking.

That much was clear.

He had managed to last for the rest of the walk, the two of them falling from their semi-serious state into something more lightheaded, filled with jokes and digs that made Eddie’s day. But now that he was home, lying on his bed at midnight as he tried to sleep, it was impossible to ignore.

Sure, this felt like something natural, realizing how much he liked Richie. It was almost if he was destined to it, like there was a star that burned in his chest, caught in the orbit of Richie’s gravitational pull. It felt natural, easy, sweet.

He didn’t fall in love with Richie, he gently glided there, as easily as he would on the ice. He simply pushed off, blades easily cutting through the ice as he skated towards Richie, it was always towards Richie.

But what if it was a mistake?

Sure, Eddie knew there were rumors of Richie kissing and dating boys, but they were only rumors, where all of Richie’s relationships with girls had been public. And they were a lot of them. It seemed like every few weeks Richie had a girlfriend, although recently there hadn’t been any girl that Eddie had seen. Of course, it was likely he could be bi, but what if the rumors were rumors? What if all the flirting and hand-holding and pointed looks were all just a construct of Eddie’s lonely mind?

The truth was that Eddie was lonely.

Up until a few months ago, Beverly was really Eddie’s only friend. Before that, it was always him against the world, with no one to properly watch his back. He got used to coping alone, to dealing with the trauma and anxiety through running and skating. But over the past few months, he got a taste of what friendship was like.

The Losers had practically adopted him, had shown him respect and care for him in a way that not many of his friends ever did. He learned how to trust others, to talk to them and open up to them and enjoy his time with them.

And it was nice. Beyond nice. He loved all the Losers more than anything. But there was still something missing out.

Eddie was a romantic at heart. He wanted someone to buy him flowers, to take him out on dates, to hold his hand and kiss his cheek and all that stupid mushy stuff. He had dated once before, and it turned out to be a clusterfuck, but he wanted to try again.

But not just with anyone. He wanted it with Richie. He couldn’t see himself with anyone else.

If he pictured himself in a relationship, it was Richie beside him. Richie laughing at his jokes, Richie calling him annoying pet names, Richie kissing him and holding him and loving him.

And Eddie wanted that more than anything.

He remembered a time when he hated Richie. But that really wasn’t the truth now. He had gotten to know Richie beyond the horrible jokes and inability to shut up. He wasn’t that annoying kid who would never let Eddie work, he was something more.

When had that changed occurred? When did Eddie start to look at Richie with less annoyance and more exasperated fondness? When had he started looking forwards to the daily walks with Richie, when had he started laughing at Richie’s jokes instead of getting mad over them?

It was such a gradual change that Eddie hadn’t seen it coming, hadn’t even recognized it until he smiled at Richie and realized just how much he wanted to kiss him.

What would his mom say about these kinds of thoughts? She was never supportive of his sexuality, that much was something that he accepted, but she was fine with it as long as he didn’t have a boyfriend. If he was single, it meant to her that maybe he would come to his senses, maybe he would find a nice girl.

He wanted to make his mother proud, but he couldn’t ignore the fact that he was gay. He was proud of himself, even if it got his name called in the hallway, even if he got punched out occasionally by Henry Bowers, and even if it meant getting a crush on some stupidly handsome guy in his class.

He wondered what his mom would say if he brought Richie home. He hadn’t even mentioned their friendship yet, but he knew that his mom was aware of Richie through Beverly’s friendship. He knew she wouldn’t approve of them, but then again, why did he even care about her opinion? She was his mom, but she had no control over his love life.

Or lack thereof.

He didn’t’ even know if Richie liked him, and here he was fantasizing about bringing him home to meet his homophobic mother. Hell, Richie had made it clear that he wanted them to be friends. Just friends. And who was Eddie to go and ruin that?

He could be fine just being Richie’s friend. Because Eddie knew what having a really good friend now felt like, and he couldn’t let that go. If he ruined this with Richie, not only would he lose Richie but the rest of the Losers. Probably even Bev who had been his constant over the years.

He couldn’t go back to how he lived before, floating through school on his own, unable to form true connections with anyone around him. The thought made his heart stutter, the familiar thrum of anxiety pumping through him again.

Before he even knew what he was doing, he was picking up the phone and dialing Richie’s number.

“Eddie?” Came Richie’s sleep-addled voice a few seconds later. “It’s ass o’clock at night, why the hell are you calling me?”

Eddie hated the way that just hearing Richie’s voice managed to calm him down.

“You remember a few days ago?” He asked, his own voice sounding rough. “When you found me in the library? You should I could cash in that hug at any time.”

“Yeah?”

“Can I come over now?” Eddie asked, tears slipping down his cheeks once again. He wasn’t even entirely sure why. He was just so tired. Tired of pretending, tired of hoping for things he could never have, tired of playing games with his own life. He just wanted the comfort of his best friend, even if it was ass o-clock at night.

“Of course,” Richie said, sounding a lot more awake. “Yeah of course, you know where I live?”

“Yeah, I remember,” Eddie nodded, standing up and walking to his window, shoving on his shoes and opening it up. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“Okay,” Richie said. “Just let me, fuck, sorry, I’ll see you soon!” With that Richie hung up, and Eddie shoved his phone into his pocket and grabbed his bag, swinging a leg out the window.

It wasn’t the first time he had done this. When he was younger, he snuck out of his window to go to early skating practices, sneaking back in seconds before his mom came in to wake him up. It was practically second nature now.

Eddie started the walk to Richie’s house, tugging the loose flannel he wore to bed tighter around him. He forgot how much he hated walking in the dark. Every shadow seemed like someone out to get him, the stars a thousand eyes staring down at him.

He walked a little faster.

He knew where Richie lived, had been their probably only once or twice, when Richie had to drop something off at his house. Eddie had even met his mother once, a nice woman by the name of Maggie, who offered him brownies and complimented him on his nails. At the time they were colored pastel pink.

It was a nice house, to overly large, but Richie’s dad was a dentist, which meant they were pretty well off. They lived a humble life though, and Eddie enjoyed that. Living with a single mother who only worked part-time meant that he was kind of uncomfortable with people of higher wealth, he never knew what to do with himself.

Eddie made it there in just over five minutes, since he was in a bit of a hurry to be out of the night. Walking alone really did creep him out.

He didn’t want to knock on the front door, it being almost 1 am, so instead he walked around to the back, grateful that Richie’s room was on the first floor. He would not want to climb up a million steps to get to his friend.

He knocked on the window, hoping that Richie hadn’t fallen back asleep.

A little under five seconds later the curtains were being drawn back, revealing Richie’s face. He heard the click of a lock, and the window was swinging open, Richie becoming him in. Eddie climbed through, almost falling to his feet when the second he got in, Richie wrapping his arms around him, burying his head in Eddie’s shoulder.

To was like a weight had been lifted off of him, and he wrapped his arms around Richie, resting his cheek on Richie’s soft hair. He never really liked hugs. Normally they were from his mother, tight, suffocating, painful. But hugging Richie, well it was soft, warm, secure. He felt safe here, Richie’s arms wrapped around him.

“Are you okay?” Richie asked, his voice still sounding sleepy. “Not that I’m not enjoying this. You give much better hugs than your mother.”

“Moment ruined,” Eddie laughed, pulling away and ruffling Richie’s hair. The other boy squawked, smacking at Eddie’s hand.

“Not fair!” He protested. “Only I am allowed to ruffle hair.”

Eddie giggled, stepping back slightly, suddenly aware of how little space was between them. He really didn’t mind, but he knew that he shouldn’t’ stand as close as he was.

Richie however, wasn’t allowing that. The second Eddie moved away, Richie reached out, grabbing his hand and pulling him over to the bed. Eddie followed without protest.

Richie shoved him lightly, and Eddie fell backwards, sitting on the bed with a soft noise of protest. Richie patted his cheek, moving away before Eddie could hit his hand away.

“What are you doing?” Eddie asked, watching as Richie walked to the corner of the room, opening up a cabinet. He couldn’t see what was inside.

“You’ll see,” Richie said mysteriously, grabbing something and turning to what looked like an old record player in the corner. Seconds later, there was a soft scratching sound, and the first notes to Africa started playing.

“You have a record player?” Eddie asked as Richie walked back over to the bed, sitting beside Eddie. “How fucking old are you?”

“Old enough to know how to use a record player,” Richie said with a shrug. “Do you want to talk? Or should we just kind of relax since it is super late?”

“You’re always up late,” Eddie protested, cheeks reddening. He didn’t mean to keep Richie up.

“Yeah, but that’s besides the point. Normally I’d be fucking your mom right now, and her moans keep me up no matter what.”

“You’re the worst,” Eddie said, pushing Richie over, the boy laughed as he laid back, his eyes fluttering shut. Eddie only now realized that he wasn’t wearing his glasses. It was a shame, Eddie liked them. He hesitated for a moment, wondering what he was supposed to be doing.

“Lie down with me dipshit,” Richie said, almost like reading his mind. Eddie really wanted to, but that was weird right? Richie sighed, like he could hear Eddie’s conflict, before reaching up and tugging Eddie down. “Was that so hard?” He asked when Eddie settled.

“I’m not a kid to be manhandled,” Eddie grumbled without heat.

“But it’s so much fun,” Richie teased, his eyes half-open. “I’ll try not to sleep, but no promises. Was having an amazing dream before you called.”

“Sorry,” Eddie said, because he wasn’t sure what else to say.

“Don’t be,” Richie said, his voice muffled by the pillow. “This is a lot nicer.”

Eddie smiled, his own eyes fluttering shut. Within seconds, he fell asleep.

_______________________

He woke up in an unfamiliar bed.

The sun was only peeking through the closed blinds, shining right into his eyes and stirring him from his sleep. It was quite possibly the best sleep he had in ages.

He immediately noticed that someone was sleeping beside him, which didn’t alarm him as much as it should. Someone’s arms were surrounding him, their legs tangled up and Eddie’s head resting on his chest. Eddie looked up, staring at Richie, who’s mouth was open and was drooling everywhere. Which was disgusting.

But it was nice, laying there in Richie’s arms, even if it wouldn’t last. Richie was warm, the heat warming every aspect of Eddie's body. Richie’s arms were secure around him, the touch soothing instead of sending lightning up his spine like it normally did. He could definitely stay there for a while longer.

He looked over at the clock, and that’s when the alarms inside his head started to go off.

It was 9am on a Friday. That meant he missed school, second, that meant his mom knew he was gone.

“Shit!” He said loudly, sitting up in a panic. His exclamation woke up Richie, who blinked blearily and frowned at him, rubbing at his eyes.

“What the hell man?” Richie groaned, but Eddie didn’t hear him. He was too busy throwing off the blanket and rolling off of bed, stumbling when his sleep-addled body protested the movement.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Eddie cursed, looking around trying to find the bag he knew he brought with him.

“Eddie?” Richie asked, sitting up. “Eddie what’s wrong?”

“My mom wakes me up on Fridays,” Eddie said, fumbling around the room. Where were his shoes? “She’ll know I’m gone.”

She’ll know that he snuck out, since the window was open. And how was he supposed to explain to her that he spent the night at a boys?

Worst of all, how did he allow himself to do that? He fell asleep in Richie’s bed, woke up cuddling him, and that wasn’t just something you did with your friends. That was way out of the friend territory. Did Richie suspect? Did he think that Eddie liked him? Would this mess everything up between them?

He was dully aware he was panicking. His breath was coming out shorter like his lungs were shrinking, closing up and stopping the flow of air. His heart was pounding like he was having a heart attack.

His mom had probably already called the police, the school, the rink, and everyone else in the entire fucking town. He could imagine her freaking out, flapping around the house calling out his name even though she knew he was gone. She had probably already run to the neighbors, tears running down her cheeks while she begged them to tell her anything about her poor lost son. He wouldn’t be able to walk down the streets for weeks without people looking at him weirdly. They probably thought he eloped with some other boy.

“Eddie, you need to breathe,” Richie was in front of him, Eddie’s eyes snapping to him immediately through the haze in his mind. He looked panicked; his eyes blown wide behind his thick-rimmed glasses. “Come on man, you’re going to pass out if you keep this up.”

He tried to say something back, but the words came out in a warbled wheeze, the words were stolen from his lungs by the lack of air being allowed past his stubborn throat. His stupid lungs and throat that thought he still had fucking asthma.

“Come on Eds,” Richie whispered, hands on his shoulder, soothing circled being rubbed into his skin. “Tell me what you need.”

You. Was the first thought that Eddie had. But he wasn’t allowed that, he wasn’t allowed to want or need him like that. So in a panic, his muddled-up brain went to the next thing he knew would provide him comfort, the one thing that never failed him.

“My pills,” He gasped, finally able to get a few wheezing words out. “My bag, my pills.”

Richie seemed to get it, patting his shoulders twice before darting to the other side of the room, rummaging around the bag and pulling out that stupid little orange plastic container Eddie kept in there for some fucking reason.

Richie was back in a second, popping off the top and shaking two onto his hand, which Eddie gratefully took with shaking hands. He threw them down the throat, swallowing them dry along with the shame that clung to every inch of him.

He hated the way his heart instantly stopped rapidly pounding, the way his throat opened up at the powdery taste on his tongue. It seemed to coat his mouth, refusing to disappear no matter how many times he swallowed. A constant reminder of his weakness.

Suddenly, he felt like crying.

“Are you okay?” Richie asked, still standing in front of him with his oh-so-worried eyes. Eddie wanted to scream.

He knew his pills were fake. Knew that the “anxiety pills” he just swallowed were nothing more than glucose shoved into the shape of a pill with a hint of saline to give it that medical taste. He knew it was fake, and yet he swallowed it, begged for it while he was panicking, relished in the relief it gave him.

He reached out, grabbing the bottle from Richie’s hands, turning the small innocent-looking bottle over in his hands. The plastic glistened in the dull light.

“Eds?” Richie said, so soft and understanding and Eddie hated it. Hated this little bottle and the stupid pills and his stupid weakness for allowing himself to cave in and swallow them.

He threw the bottle on the ground, the lid popping off and the pills scattering around the room, twinkling innocently against the floor.

“What the fuck is wrong with me?” He whispered to himself, tears obscuring his vision, warping the small white tablets on the ground. “They’re fake you know?” He turned to look at Richie, who looked beyond confused. “They are fucking fake. I’m not sick, I don’t need them, they don’t help.”

His hands reached up, pulling at his skin and a few tears ran down his cheek. He had gone years without taking one of those, only to cave at something so small, so stupid? How pathetic was he?

“I don’t need them,” He continued, a sob forcing out of his throat. “I don’t fucking need them and I hate her for making me believe that I do, I hate myself for believing her.”

“Eddie,” Richie said firmly, but he couldn’t bring himself to listen, to hear the pity in his voice. He had only told a few people this. Dr. Anderson, because the man needed to know, and Bev, because she had trusted him with her secrets. But he kept it from everyone else, because he knew how pathetic it was. How weak he was to let his mom convince him that he was sick, fragile, ill. And here Eddie was, believing it himself, unable to quit the stupid sugar pills that did nothing for him.

“It’s been a year! A fucking year and here I am still swallowing them back, believing that they’ll help me. How fucking pathetic is that?” He ranted. “I’m not sick, and yet those stupid pills still help me believe that I am. I can’t get it out of my head, and you probably think I’m a fucking coward for that but-“

Richie’s lips were suddenly pressed against his, and Eddie forgot how to think.

It wasn’t a nice kiss, the angle was off, Richie reaching forwards from the side of Eddie. His lips were beyond chapped, and Eddie’s were wet with his tears and parted with the half-spoken word. It was a messy kiss, a quick and efficient press of the lips, and yet Eddie wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Richie pulled away quickly, the two of them staring at each other in shock.

“Shit,” Richie whispered. “I didn’t mean-“

Eddie surged forwards, grabbing Richie’s cheeks in order to kiss him properly.

He felt like he had waited a million years for this, to finally kiss Richie like he wanted to, their lips connecting strongly. Richie’s lips were chapped against his, but at the same time they were so soft, barely even caressing Eddie’s lips as they kissed, the two of them standing there in Richie’s room.

Richie pulled away first, his hands reaching up to push Eddie’s shoulders back a bit. It wasn’t harsh or anything like that, but Eddie still felt eh sting of betrayal either way.

What the hell had he done? He had kissed Richie, had grabbed the other boy and pulled him closer. He wasn’t allowed to do that; he wasn’t supposed to do that. Richie was staring at him with wide eyes, his lips slightly swollen from the intensity of their kiss, and Eddie wanted to sink into the floor and never come up.

“Wow,” Richie said, blinking fast. “That was, um, well- “

Eddie opened his mouth, but no words came to him, no words could sum up everything he was thinking. He didn’t want to apologize for that, because he wasn’t sorry. He couldn’t be sorry for kissing Richie, not when it was one of the best things that Eddie had ever done. But should he say sorry? Technically, Richie kissed him first, but the look on Richie’s face after was replaying in his head.

He couldn’t tell if Richie looked surprised, or disgusted.

“I didn’t know you had that in you,” Richie blurted out, his voice going louder. “You kiss almost as good as a girl Eds. Give a guy a warning though next time, maybe I’ll put some makeup on for you.”

The words felt like a knife to the chest. He wasn’t sure what he expected, because it wasn’t like the kiss meant anything to Richie. He probably just kissed him to shut him up. Which was fine. Eddie could live with that. In his dreams, Richie would have confessed to him said that he liked Eddie too, but this wasn’t some dream. This wasn’t a picture-perfect movie.

This was his life, and in his life, boys like Richie Tozier didn’t like Eddie.

Boys like Richie Tozier were friends, people who kissed other girls and boys and bragged about it loudly to everyone around, boys like Richie Tozier were unobtainable, inaccessible, unforgettable. They never like someone as plain and boring and neurotic as Eddie. He didn’t even know why he was hoping for something more.

Eddie was probably just another tick on Richie’s list, another person’s lips. He didn’t think Richie was the kind of guy to go around kissing everyone, but he knew that Richie had his fair shares of dates. He was dating that one girl in their science class only a couple of months ago. Richie obviously liked having relationships, obviously liked kissing people. It would make sense that Eddie was one of them.

“I should go,” Eddie choked out, hating how weak his voice sounded. “I should go.”

He walked away before Richie could say anything, slipping out the door and walking through the house to get to the front. He knew that Richie’s parents were out at work at this time.

He heard Richie calling his name from behind him, but he ignored it, walking out the door and down the driveway. Richie didn’t exit the house behind him. Eddie tried not to let that get to him.

Chapter Text

The weekend passed almost like a dream. He ignored all of his friend’s texts, instead choosing to stay at home all day, spending most of the time with his mother.

It wasn’t fun, but he liked having the opportunity to just wrap himself up in a blanket and watch stupid tv shows while zoning out, his mother’s endless comments almost making up for the loneliness that pierced his soul. She held him while he cried, ranting about dirty disgusting boys and untrustworthy corrupt girls. Eddie didn’t really listen, just let himself collapse into her warm stifling touch, let him pretend that she was a proper mother comforting him after a heartbreak.

He wondered how different things would be now, how altered his relationship with everyone would be. No doubt that Richie had told them everything, judging on the fifty million texts that he couldn’t’ bring himself to look at. He didn’t want to imagine what they said. He had turned off his phones ages ago, but the anxiety rolling in his gut reminded him of it every five minutes.

Him and his mother were on their sixth episode of Days of Our Lives Sunday night when there was a solid knock at the door.

“Would you get that for me Eddie darling?” His mother said, not even lifting her eyes away from the screen. Eddie nodded, wriggling out of the blanket cocoon he had made for himself. He almost regretted it immediately, the weight of standing and moving and existing almost too much to bear.

He shuffled his way to the door, ready to talk to one of his mother’s friends from work, only it was Susan from down the street holding a casserole dish, it was Beverly.

“Eddie,” Beverly greeted, her chin raised and eyes steely. “We need to talk.”

Possibly the worst four words in the entire human language. Immediately, fifty million reasons why she wanted to talk popped into his mind, and not a single one of them was good.

“I’m watching a show with my ma,” He said weakly, as if Bev would shrug and walk away.

“Put on your shoes and get your ass out here,” Bev said rolling her eyes, and Eddie was frozen, staring at her and wondering the repercussions of slamming the door in her face. He didn’t want to do this. He didn’t want to go with her because she may be his friend, but she was Richie’s friend before that. His expression must have given something away, because her face softened. “It’s nothing bad Eddie, I just want to talk.”

He nodded jerkily, slipping on his shoes and wondering if she cared that he was wearing short shorts and an extra-large hoodie.

“I’ll be back in a minute Ma!” He called out, slipping on his shoes.

“Where are you going Eddie-bear?” She called out; her voice shrill. “Is everything okay? Who’s at the door?”

“Everything is fine,” He lied. “I’ll be right back in.” He firmly shut the door, hoping that she wouldn’t get out of her chair to inspect further. If she knew it was Beverly at the door, she would probably grab Eddie by the back of his shirt and drag him back to his room.

 

“Let’s go down to the Barrens,” She suggested, already walking away. Eddie really didn’t want to. If they talked outside his house, he could flee at any moment, and it was also late at night, meaning that his skimpy outfit wouldn’t provide him much protection from the harsh wind.

But Bev was already leaving, and Eddie knew better than to deny her when she got on her warpath. So he followed, glancing back at the warm inviting glow of his house. He thinks that maybe that was the only time he ever wanted to be in his house. Normally he grasped any excuse to go, but right now he wouldn’t mind walking back, snuggling into the blankets and letting his mother coddle him.

He wanted to go back to when times were simpler, when whatever his mom said was gospel, and he lived his life blissfully unaware of all this shit. He missed going to school, paying attention in class and zoning out every time Myra tried to talk to him. He missed coming home and curling up on the couch with his mom, her rants and lectures droning around his head as he sat there, staring at the tv.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was a life without conflict, a life of sitting docilely but free of heartbreak, free of the sting of rejection.

Bev and him walked in silence. The barrens were exactly far away, but it was far enough that Eddie noticed the stifling silence between them, the tense air that Eddie wanted to break down.

He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say. Was he supposed to tell Bev what happened? Did he deny it happened at all? Did he tell her the truth about his stupid feelings or did he lie and say he felt nothing towards Richie?

He didn’t want to talk about it at all. It had happened almost two days ago, but the hurt was still pulsating from his chest like an open wound, festering and growing infected. Eddie had no way to close it, to stitch it together without Richie beside him again, things back to the way they were. He didn’t even dare to dream for anything other than that. He knew now that Richie didn’t want him like that, which was fine, but Eddie at least wanted things to go back to normal.

He could get over Richie, it would be hard, but he could try. It would feel like something was missing from inside him, a vital organ of his missing, stolen right from inside of him, but he would be fine. He lived most of his life as a lie, he was fine with throwing a few more on top of those.

They got to the barrens a few minutes later, and Eddie expected Bev to take him to the Quarry, the most popular hangout for the Losers. Except she took him deeper into the forest. Eddie briefly wondered if she was going to murder him. She stopped in the middle of a clearing, leaning down and pulling something from the ground.

Questions sat at the tip of his tongue, wondering what the hell she was doing, when she pulled some sort of latch, sweeping her hands to show Eddie some sort of underground clubhouse.

“Is this where you take people to murder them in style?” He asked dryly, shivering slightly and debating if he should go in. The need to be warm won out in the end, and he crawled down the ladder, sighing at the warmth the underground chamber provided.

“Ben made it for the Losers,” Bev said, climbing down after him. “It’s our most guarded secret.”

Eddie chose not to say a thing, wondering if he was ever considered a Loser like the rest of them. He wanted that more than anything. Not that he could have that anymore, not after Friday.

“Sit,” Bev ordered, pointing to the hammock hanging from the ceiling, she had already sat down on some sort of swing type seat. “You gonna tell me why you’ve been ignoring everyone’s texts?”

Eddie looked away, swinging slightly to distract himself from the guilt, his feet dragging on the dirt floor.

“Come on Eddie,” She said, her voice suddenly very soft. It hurt to hear. He didn’t want to tell her in fear that that voice might go hard, cruel even. “You can tell me anything. I know something happened between you and Richie, since he’s also ignoring everyone.”

“He hasn’t told you yet?” Eddie asked, looking up in surprise. He kind of just assumed that Richie told all the Losers right after. They told each other everything else.

“I think he might have told Stan or Mike,” Bev shrugged, saying it casually but the words sent daggers through Eddie’s stomach. Stan, who always shared knowing looks with him, who taught him the different types of birds and taught him how to play sudoku. He probably hated him now. And Mike, how walked with him and Richie sometimes, joking and laughing but also so sweet, so caring, so smart. He didn’t want to imagine how hot Mike’s anger burned. “But he hasn’t said a word to me.”

Eddie looked down again, his hands twisting in his sweater, wrapping tightly around his fingers.

“Eddie,” Beverly said, her voice still patient. “What happened on Friday?”

“He kissed me,” Eddie blurted out, unable to hold it in any longer. “Or I kiss him. Something like that, I don’t know.”

“He kissed you?” Beverly said, sounding shocked. “And you didn’t like that?”

No!” Eddie protested, looking up, begging her to understand, to not hate him. “No, that’s the problem Bev. I wanted him to kiss me.”

“So what’s the problem?” Bev asked, standing up and walking over, sitting on the hammock beside him. It took everything he had not to lean into her for support.

“The problem was that it didn’t mean the same thing to him as it did to me,” Eddie whispered, reliving that moment over and over again, just like he had for the past few days. He felt the tears sting his eyes once again.

“Tell me everything,” Bev ordered, and Eddie couldn’t even debate denying her. Now that he had started, he physically couldn’t stop.

“I was upset, so I went over to his house. And it was stupid of me but I fell asleep. Which was fine, I mean I shouldn’t have, but I did. I woke up late, and I freaked out because my mom knew I was missing and she went crazy like she always did,” She had cried when he came back home, nearly in tears. She had been so upset that he thought she was going to hit him; in fact, he was sure she was going to until she noticed the tears in his eyes and started panicking. “I had a panic attack, and I took my fucking pills to help me. Which is a whole other story of my fucked-up life.”

“Eddie,” Bev gently coaxed him back on track.

“I took my pills, and that pissed me off, and I got upset again. I was ranting and talking and he just kissed me,” He went quiet for a second, his mouth twisting up with the phantom pain of the memory. His chest thrummed, pulsing and aching with literal pain. “He probably just meant to shut me up, but when he pulled away I fucked up and I kissed him again.”

He fell silent, the memory of the kiss seeming a lot less happy looking back on it now. At the moment, it was the happiest time of his life. But now? It was the moment of no return.

“That’s not all right?” Bev asked, her voice slightly less soft. He hated it. But he deserved it. He shouldn’t have taken advantage of Richie like that, going into his house, sleeping in his bed, kissing him.

“He pushed me away,” Eddie said hollowly, the memory of Richie’s hands shoving his shoulder replaying once again. “He made it into a joke. Said I kissed better than the girls he had kissed before. Made a joke about putting on makeup and shit.”

Beverly was silent for a long moment, and Eddie prepared himself for anything. For more rejection, for anger, for laughter. What he wasn’t expecting was for Beverly to grab him shoulder and pull him into a hug.

“I’m sorry Eddie,” Beverly whispered into his ear, and just like that the flood gates broke, and he sobbed into her shoulder, melting into the embrace and shoving his head into the crook of her shoulder, soaking her shirt with his tears.

“Fuck Beverly,” He whispered between sobs. “I love him. How stupid is that? I fell in fucking love with him and he doesn’t like me back. I’ve ruined it Bev, I ruin everything.”

She shushed him, her voice soothing and calm as one hand rubbed circled onto his back, the other cupping the back of his head.

“I love him,” He admitted for the first time out loud. It felt hollow, his voice breaking as he spoke. “Fuck, Beverly I love him.”

They stayed like that for a long time, her holding him close as he sobbed. He sobbed until all his tears dried out, until the ache in his heart was all that he felt.

____________________________

He didn’t want to go to school on Monday, but he had already missed three days, and any more would be suicide. Even though he felt like crap, drained from his and Beverly’s talk yesterday and really life in general, he had to go to school. If he flunked his classes, he would be forced to quit skating.

So he dragged himself to school, despite his mom telling him that he should stay home more, that he was still too weak and tired to go. He almost caved.

But he didn’t so here he was, dragging his feet as he entered the school. He failed to open his lock three times, and was almost late as the bell rung, but it was fine.

What was not fine, was walking into his first period and realizing what Richie had done.

Eddie of course noticed right of the bat that Richie wasn’t sitting at his normal spot. In fact, Richie was sitting on the complete opposite of the room, pointedly not looking up as Eddie entered. In Richie’s old spot sat Greta Keene, the daughter of the pharmacist that used to give Eddie his pills. She leveled him with an unimpressed look as he sat down.

“Richie offered me twenty bucks to trade spots with him,” She said in a monotone, popping her gum bubble. “Good job doing whatever the hell you did to piss him off so much.”

Eddie ignored her, instead choosing to stare at his paper and try his best not to cry.

He didn’t hear a single word the teacher said the entire class.

He walked into the second period feeling like utter crap, Richie leaving so fast that Eddie couldn’t even debate if he wanted to talk to him. But it was fine. Eddie didn’t need Richie. It isn’t like Eddie felt like crying and screaming simply because Richie didn’t want to sit next to him anymore. How did he let himself fuck up so bad?

Bev arrived shortly after him, concern written over every inch of her face.

“Are you okay?” She whispered as she sat down, her hand reaching out to rest on his arm. He pulled away.

“Richie paid twenty bucks to switch seats with Greta Keene,” Eddie said, forcing his face to remain neutral, his voice unwavering despite the screaming inside his head. He felt oddly empty.

“That little-“ Beverly cut herself off, her hand curling to a fist as she turned back to her own desk. “I’m sure everything will work out Eddie.” She said, her voice softer and more understanding.

“It’s fine,” Eddie said. It wasn’t. “It doesn’t bother me.” It clearly did.

Beverly only hummed her disbelief, but thankfully she didn’t push it.

Eddie didn’t get any work done for the rest of the day.

______________________

 

To add onto the already bad day, he had practice with Lewis. He had missed his last two, because Lewis canceled his Friday with for no reason, and Eddie knew that he was going to get worked hard today.

The second he stepped onto the ice, Lewis told him to do a lap, alternating between front and back on every corner. Eddie obliged, quickly skated off while Lewis hooked up his music.

“Come in Eddie!” Lewis called after his seventh lap. Eddie was already breathing hard, but he tried not to show it as he skated over, stopping before his coach. “Do you know how many weeks until Sectionals?”

“8 weeks sir,” Eddie responded instantly. He had been counting it down on his calendar. Even with all the shit going on in his life, he hadn’t forgotten his one true passion. Sectionals were coming up, and he had to focus on that. Not whatever else was going on in his mind.

“Good,” Lewis said, clapping his hands together, it made a dull sort of sound. Weirdly enough, it was familiar enough to help calm some of the nerves in his chest. “After practice I want you to head upstairs, I got a new dryland routine for you to work on. I’ve booked the practice room for an hour every morning at 6 am, and I have your old ballet coach booked in to train on your off days. I’ll update the schedule for you online. Does that sound good?”

Eddie nodded, forcing himself to stand up straighter and relax his limbs. He had expected this. With Sectionals coming up fast, his conditioning and training had to be upped as well. He had been slacking the past few weeks, but he knew that wouldn’t fly now.

“We’re going to run through the full routine every practice from now on. You know the moves right?” Lewis asked.

“Yes sir,” Eddie responded, dropping his hands from his waist and pushing into a backwards stride. Lewis nodded approvingly, and Eddie skated to the middle of the ice, his hands folding behind him as he kicked a single leg out, getting into his starting position.

“Go!” Lewis called, and Eddie went into motion, striding backwards to his left, his arm outstretched.

He knew this routine like the back of his hand. Lewis and his choreographer had gone over it with him a million times, and he had performed it in little bunches every day for the past few weeks. But this was his first time running it fully.

It was going surprisingly well too, he landed his first jump, and had already performed a spin so good Lewis clapped for him, which was rare. It was looking like his day was turning out to be better than it started, and Eddi felt himself relaxing more with every stride, letting himself get lost in the push of his blade, the pick of his toe, the exhilaration of the moves.

When skating, you have to remain focused. If your mind wanders for even the barest of seconds, everything is knocked out of place and you’d fall flat on your ass, wondering what even went wrong. He was managing to push everything on his mind, focusing on the moves he was making and those moves only.

Then his eyes wandered to the Zamboni’s area, where he caught sight of a familiar mop of black hair. And just like that, everything was lost, and he was tumbling to the ground, hitting his hip hard.

“Come on Eddie, get back up,” Lewis said, only sounding slightly disappointed and Eddie bit his lip, pushing to his feet and steeling himself to go once more. He continued with the rest of his program, but it was nowhere near the quality that he wanted to be at. Seeing Richie had thrown him for a loop, sent his mind wandering so badly that when his combo jump came he barely even landed one. The rest of the practice wasn’t much better.

He could practically feel the disappointment radiating off of Lewis when he skated up at the end of his time. The Zamboni doors were opening, and Eddie didn’t dare let his eyes wander over there. He didn’t know what he’d do if he saw Richie again, the ache in his chest having doubled.

“Eddie,” Lewis started, and Eddie prepared himself for the violent dressing down he was sure to get. “Do you know why I train you?”

Eddie blinked, not expecting such an innocent question.

“Because I’m the best male skater in this town,” Eddie said quietly. That much was a fact. It also helped that he was one of only two male skaters, the other being four years old.

“No,” Lewis shook his head. “You’re the best damn skater in this town period.”

Eddie didn’t know what to say. That almost sounded like praise.

“You are one of the best skaters I’ve had to privilege to teach,” Lewis continued. “Your commitment rivals no one else, and when you get into the zone, the potential you have is overwhelming. I know I’m hard on you, and I don’t regret it. But I was too harsh those past few days. I know that you’re stressed, I can see it in every line of your body,”

“I’m sorry sir,” Eddie said, ashamed how Lewis was able to read him. As a skater, he had to be an actor as well. And he had let the hit going on affect him, alter his facial expressions, which are supposed to be plastered either in neutrality or a bright smile.

“Don’t apologize,” Lewis snapped. Eddie barely held himself form apologizing for that. “From now on Eddie, I don’t want to hear the word ‘sorry’ come out of your lips again. We’re a team, and I know you can make it to nationals if you try hard enough. But there’s one thing you have to do for me.”

“What?” Eddie asked, unable to stop himself from prying. He just wanted to make Lewis proud.

“Get in the game,” Lewis said, tapping at his own head. “I can tell your distracted, but right now, I need you committed. Forget about what happens off the ice. You are on ice time right now, and when you're off, you are also on ice time. Shove everything else from your mind, focus on this, and you can get it. Do you want to win?”

“Of course.”

“Then prove it,” Lewis said, nodding in approval. “Your schedule will be updated with your new times, and I’ll email you the new workout schedule. I’ll see you on Wednesday.”

“Yes sir,” Eddie said, standing up and skating off the ice.

Ever since he was six years old and starting skating, all Eddie wanted to do was win nationals. It was every figure skater's dream, to compete against people from all over the country. Eddie had to get this, and he wouldn’t let anyone stop him from getting there. He needed to push everything from his mind, needed to focus on one thing and one thing only.

He couldn’t’ spend his time worrying about his stupid love life when he had the opportunity of a lifetime in front of him.

He had to go and win a high scoring in Sectionals, and after that, he could get a chance at Nationals. And he wasn’t going to let anything stop him from that, not even Richie Tozier.

Eddie left the rink, only looking back once to stare at Richie’s back. He irrationally hoped that the boy would turn around, that their eyes would lock and Richie would come down and they could just talk this out.

But Richie didn’t look back, and Eddie kept walking.

Chapter Text

For the next month, Eddie threw himself into training. He didn’t know what else to do with himself.

Every morning he was up at 5;30, getting ready and walking to the gym. From there, he practiced his jumps off the ice for an hour, and after that, he worked on legs and arms. At 7:30 he went down to the locker room to shower, and then walked to school.

School was a bit harder, but he did his best. He focused on his work, ignoring Richie at every turn. It kind of hurt, to see Richie acting like himself on the opposite end of the room, joking around and laughing with the people up there like he used to laugh with Eddie. It wasn’t easy to see just how replaceable he was.

But he pushed Richie out of his mind, and instead focused on the teacher’s voice, hyper-focusing on his schoolwork and the lectures instead of what Richie was doing. As a result, his marks in that class started climbing.

At lunch, he still sat in the library, except Beverly sat with him almost every day. Apparently, her and Richie had a bit of a disagreement a couple of days after Eddie and Richie’s blow out, and it was easier for her to just eat with him. Ben would often come with, and Eddie tried not to three-wheel too hard.

Bill would sometimes join too, maybe once every couple of weeks. He would update them on how everyone else was doing, and Eddie tried not to show how much he loved the updates, how much it relaxed him to hear that everyone was still doing good.

He didn’t see much of Mike anymore, other than the other boy sometimes smiling at him in the hallway. It was enough for Eddie most of the time. Stan was never rude to him in class, but he also made it very clear what side of the split he was on. Eddie didn’t take it personally, he knew that Richie and Stan were best friends. He was glad that Richie still had someone.

But other than the slightly changed social circles, school life was no easier or harder than it was before.

After school, Eddie would go right back to the gym. He would continue his dryland until his practice, working his ass off no matter what class he had. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he was meeting with Mrs. Bell, an old ballet instructor that helped him with the small technically things with his moves. She had worked with him when he first came to town, and he enjoyed their sessions together.

The hardest part of it all was avoiding Richie. They saw each other at the rink all the time, because Richie did work there and Eddie spent 99% of his time there, but they never talked, they never interacted beyond short glances in the general direction. Eddie wanted to go and talk to him, and there were so many nights that Eddie ended up staring at his phone, typing out and deleting message after message. Some were apologetic, other angry, other begging Richie to just talk to him. But Richie made it clear that he didn’t want to talk to Eddie. He made it clear what he thought, and as much as it hurt, Eddie needed to respect that.

So he always ended up deleting the messages, he always ended up walking away every time their eyes met. No matter how much it hurt, no matter how much he wanted to just hear the other boys voice again, he knew he wasn’t allowed.

Either way, life somehow moved on.

It wasn’t perfect, and most days went by almost robotically, the routine falling into place so soundly that he was barely able to retain information, just going through the motions with ease, but it was fine. Sure, nothing changed, it lacked entertainment and fun and everything that made Eddie smile, but it was fine. There was a Richie sized hole in his chest, but Eddie knew that life could go on without him.

Eddie didn’t need Richie to survive. The only difference was that he was pretty sure that he needed Richie in order to properly live.

Eddie kept pushing on though, throwing himself into training and schoolwork, his programs coming together nicely and his grades rising fast. Everything was going okay for him.

Sure, he lost the boy he was pretty sure he was still in love with, and his life currently lacked all color and fun, but Eddie didn’t need those.

At least, that was what he told himself.

___________________________________________

Sectionals crept up on him faster than he thought they would. And so did the blinding anxiety that occupied it.

Eddie had been competing ever since he had first gotten on skates, the nerves were nothing new to him. And yet it still shocked him. The week leading up to the competition, Eddie could rarely focus on anything. It ended with his teachers calling him out a lot, which did nothing to help with the stress when everyone in the class (including Richie) turned and snickered at him, laughing at how absent-minded he was.

But it was fine, because he was still able to focus during practice, nearly perfecting his routine every time. They were never perfect, they never were going to be, but they were enough that it made Eddie glow with pride, and made Lewis smile and clap his back at the end of each practice.

“Hey Ma,” Eddie asked one night, sitting at the dinner table. She was eating in her recliner, her eyes still glued to the screen. “Are you going to come to Sectionals?”

“Oh Eddie-bear,” She sighed. “You know how stressed seeing you skate makes me. I hate it.”

“Of course Ma,” He said, the words feeling like ash on his tongue. “I understand.”

Their relationship had grown even rockier since Eddie started focusing even more on skating. She had tried to get him to stop multiple times, and every time she did he only went harder, left more often, stayed out later. Soon she quit trying. They barely had any time together, and when they did it was tense and awkward, the conversation often not flowing.

He put his dish in the sink and left the house without a word. Another thing he picked up was going for walks late at night. Sometimes his house was just too stifling, too overwhelming and he had to leave.

Some nights he would walk to Bev’s house, some nights he would walk across town to visit Dr. Anderson. But most nights he would just wander, getting lost in his own mind as he daydreamed, a jacket wrapped lightly around him. Winter was starting to set in already.

Tonight he knew it was just a walking night. It was already pretty late, and he knew that Bev’s aunt wouldn’t let him stay the night. So it was no use bothering her. And it was too far to walk to Andersons, the sun already set with darkness coating the streets. So Eddie started to wander.

The streets were well lit, and Eddie had long gotten over the fear of walking alone. Despite himself, he found himself walking down the street towards the barrens, the only place he forbid himself from going to at night. There was just too much opportunity for mishaps to happen. So instead he just walked to the Kissing Bridge, hands running over the old wood.

He always liked the idea of loving someone so much you’d be able to publicly admit your feelings for them. Sure, most of the names carved here lasted only a week or two, but the thought behind it was pure. He wanted someone to love him enough that they publicly declare it. He wants to love someone so much he has the urge to carve their name into some old rotting bridge. He thinks maybe he did. Or still does. Whatever.

He rests his back against the bridge, his eyes fluttering closed as he breathed in the crisp night air, a chill racing through him. He didn’t shiver. The cold was like an old friend to him, as reliable as the ice he constant made his home on.

He thinks maybe he should move to Canada, where the winters are harsh and long, where there are ice rinks every couple of feet because everyone is crazy about one sport or another. He’d get a nice little cabin in the mountains, maybe attempt skiing, adopt a dog or two. He could live a secluded life, free of heartbreak and pain and betrayal. A life where he could simply focus on his craft, get his love from his tiny little puppy. Or maybe he’d get a big dog, one that could absolutely smother him if they wanted to. That would be the dream.

He opened his eyes ago, shrugging to dispel the thoughts as he started walking back. He had one more year of school, then he wasn’t sure what he’d do. He kind of wanted to go to university, but for what he wasn’t overly sure about. He thought about going into med school for a while, but that sounded too stressful. Maybe an easy job, like a teacher or a librarian or something boring like that.

A car passed him, brushing close enough that he could feel the wind rush past him. He barely even flinched, used to the horrid driving in Derry. He had a heart attack every time he took to the streets. Not that he did often.

He didn’t like driving that much, and he had kicked the habit of driving everywhere months ago when Richie would walk him everywhere, or just drive them both himself. Even now, when Eddie had no one to walk with and he made his trek to the rink alone, he hadn’t been able to kick the habit. It was good, because he literally almost died every time he sat in that car.

But sometimes it got lonely. He sometimes saw Richie drive by on his way to the rink, the other boy not even glancing out the window at him. It made Eddie extra conscious off how he was walking alone, how every step echoed because there was no one to fill up the silence surrounding him. It made him think about the people walking around him, their whispered conversations. He wondered what sad lies they were whispering about him this time.

He pushed that thought out of his mind, changing his route last minute and deciding that maybe he didn’t want to go home tonight. Ben and Bev had stashed a bunch of blankets for his there, saying that if he didn’t want to be home he could grab them and go to their clubhouse to sleep. Instead, Eddie often just found a semi-clean place to huddle down until morning. He didn’t like going to the clubhouse, it was a Loser thing, not meant for him. He thinks that Bev and Ben just missed their other friends.

It made him feel guilty sometimes, hewn he saw Bev’s smile droop and she gazed longingly at the cafeteria when they passed in on their way to the library. He regretted it when Bill came around and both Bev and Ben seemed so much livelier, so much happier. He knew he was taking them away from their friends, but nothing he said could convince them to leave.

Eddie was fine on his own, really he was. They deserved to go back to their friends, to the people they still loved despite it all. And Eddie was there stopping them. It made him feel dirty, unworthy. He had messed everything up, more than just everything between Richie and him. He had come into their life and screwed with everything. And he couldn’t fix that, no matter how much he wanted to.

He pulled out a blanket he had shoved against a tree, shaking it out in hopes that the dirt and bugs would leave. He wandered out to a nearby field, settling down on the soft grass. He kind of hated sleeping out here, but his bedroom had felt so stifling lately. He felt like a caged animal in there, with his mom clicking the lock every time he went to bed. Out here, under the twinkling stars, he was free.

He closed his eyes, snuggling deeper into the flimsy blanket and wondering if he should bring out a warmer one if he was going to make a habit out of this, and slowly, he fell asleep.

____________________________________________

The drive to Sectionals was nearly four hours. He took the Friday and Monday off school to ensure that he would have enough time to get there, rest, do the competition, so some sightseeing, and then return back to school without feeling rushed.

Lewis had offered to drive him, but Eddie declined, saying he would rather have his own time to destress and get ready for the competition.

Truth was that the closer he got to the rink, the more stressed he was.

He had spent two months putting all his time and energy into skating. Every free moment was spent practicing his jumps and humming along to the songs he had picked, getting himself used to the rhythm so he could learn how to dance to it properly. Almost every out of school hour was spent either practicing or working out in the gym, refining himself even more to ensure the performance he needed.

And here he was, thirty minutes away from the motel he was staying in. The tournament wasn’t even until tomorrow, and yet he was already beyond stressed just being in the hosting town. Everywhere he looked, he saw some kind of reminder of the event.

He pulled into the motel and immediately saw three other kids his age, two boys and a girl, all laughing with their arms linked. They had their skated hanging from their arms as they walked, and Eddie suddenly felt sick.

He remembered a few months ago, how he had sat with the losers and they all promised to go to Sectionals to support him. They talked about renting rooms right beside each other, staying up late joking and goofing around, wandering around town during the days. They were going to buy matching sweaters to wear to cheer him on, the six of them in the stands cheering him on. It was a dream, but at the time it seemed realistic.

And yet here he was, all alone, no one by his side. Bev said she would come, but in the end, she opted to instead stay back, for reasons she didn’t tell him. She said she was sorry she couldn’t make it though, and he believed her. But the point still stood. He was alone.

He had planned to come out here with his friends, and yet here he sat in his stupid car, all alone. None of them came. There would be no one to cheer him on in the stands. There would be no one to hug him and tell him how good he did.

Eddie wanted to win this more than anything in the world, but he realized now that without anyone here to celebrate with him, the win was nothing but a hollow victory whispered to an empty arena.

____________________________________________

Despite how stressed he was, the closer Eddie got to the rink, the easier it was to leave those worries behind and forcibly shove those feelings into a box to lock far far away.

Lewis was talking, going over the technical parts and reminding him of the things he hadn’t done overly well in the last few practices. Eddie barely listened, too focused on the pull of his laces against his fingers, the feeling of the tightening skate around his foot.

His heart was barely pumping, moving so slow that Eddie thought it would stop. Under the surface, he could feel the bubbling anxiety, but it almost like he wasn’t registering it. He was removed from his own skin, floating through the air, the only thing holding him down was his skates. If they weren’t on, he was sure he would simply float away.

Practice went okay, and okay really wasn’t good enough. He almost fumbled one of his flip jumps, a little shaky on the landing, but he practiced schooling his facial features into a mask of indifference.

He sat to the side while the other boys started performing, fiddling with the edges of his costume. It was a nice one, his favorite of the year so far. A dark shimmering blue shirt with a plunging neckline along with simple black pants and a golden belt wrapped around his waist that sparkled in the arena light. He had paired it with a pair of dark blue gloves made with sparkly material that catch attention every time he moved them ever so slightly. To go along with that he had paired it with dark blue eye shadow, which admittedly, not a lot of male figure skaters did.

But well, he looked good with the flaring dark color matching his outfit, and he also loved the smattering of glitter places across his face. It gave him the dramatic look that he enjoyed pulling off.

His name was called, and Lewis reached out, giving him a small smile and a nod before Eddie stepped onto the ice.

He did a few laps, testing out his edges and relieved when they held, and he came to a stop in the middle of the ice, getting into his position and closing his eyes for a second, taking a deep breath and letting all the stress wash out of his body like water running out from a stream. He locked eyes with the judge in front of him, never breaking eye contact until the music started and he let the routine take over him.

_____________________________________________________

He didn’t do badly on his short program. Not his best performance, but he only fell once, and he managed to play it off well enough that it didn’t affect his score that much. He placed sixth place, meaning that if he performed well enough on his free skate, then he had a good shot at making the top four.

Lewis and him went out to dinner together, and it was probably the most enjoyable experience Eddie had ever had with the older man. Apparently him and his wife had just adopted a dog, and they spent practically the entire dinner fawning over photos and talking about how he wouldn’t stop tearing up their curtains.

It was one of the best dinners he had in ages. Turns out, when Lewis relaxed and wasn’t being anal about everything, he was actually a pretty nice dude.

The thing was, Eddie had put Lewis up on a pedestal. He was a brilliant skater who took time out of his day to teach Eddie, and in return, Eddie had seen him as some sort of superhuman, someone he couldn’t let down, someone who never made mistakes. It was refreshing to see him more as a human, someone who Eddie knew and could be friends with.

The next morning, Eddie woke up early to go to his slotted twenty minutes of practice time. His free skate wasn’t until late that night, so he practically had the entire day to waste away. His plan was to go to his practice, try and get his routine down at least three times, then spent the day at the gym doing light exercise to keep himself warm without tiring himself out.

His practice went well, and it mostly dispelled a lot of the stress plaguing him. Not all of it, because this was it. This was the deciding factor. If he did bad, his shot would be lost, but if he pulled it off? He was going to nationals.

He took to the track, plugging in his music and doing a few quick jogs around the track. It was a bit larger than the one back at home, so he cut his normal number of laps down by half. He didn’t want to wear himself out before the competition, but if he stopped moving he would be lost. Lewis was off with some old coaching friends, and Eddie knew no one there. He was truly and utterly alone.

He walked off the track and into a room, one of the walls taken over by a mirror, a bar in front. It must have been used for some sort of ballet class. He moves in front of the mirror, carefully practicing his jumps from muscle memory. He bopped his head along to the music playing out of one earbud.

“You’re doing that wrong,” A voice startles him, and he twists around, stumbling and almost falling over his feet. In front of him, was a boy with glossy black hair and the brightest blue eyes that Eddie had ever seen.

“Excuse me?” Eddie asked, looking the boy up and down. He looked around Eddie age, just a lot taller, with thin arms that were still very clearly defined with muscle. He was wearing a very revealing tank top.

“Your jump,” The boy nods. “It was wrong.”

Eddie wasn’t sure what was going on.

“Sorry,” The boy laughed, his head thrown back. “I’m only joking. I just wanted to talk to you and I didn’t know how.”

“Saying ‘hi’ is effective,” Eddie said, a small smile poking at his lips.

“Hi,” The boy said, sticking out a hand. “I’m Tyson.”

“Ryan,” Eddie repeated, reaching out to shake his hand. “I’m Eddie.”

They stood there awkwardly for a moment, as if neither of them knew how to continue.

“Um, I’m one of the skaters,” Tyson said awkwardly. “I saw you practicing earlier. You’re really good.”

“Thanks,” Eddie replied, starting towards where he put his water bottle down. “Hopefully I’m good enough.”

“You came here alone right?” Tyson continued, following him. “I’ve only seen you with your coach.”

“Yeah,” Eddie said, the words bitter on his tongue. “I’m alone.”

Alone with friends’ hours away, none of them wanting to come with them. Most of them not even wanting anything to do with him. Alone without a caring parent to cheer him on. Alone without anyone to hold him close and tell him how good he is.

“Yeah,” Tyson says. “So am I.”

_________________________________

They go out for lunch together. After the first initial tense moments, the conversation flows easily, as if they had known each other for years.

“I live in Portland,” Tyson was saying, grinning around the straw in his mouth. “It’s not that bad of a town.”

“One of my friends almost move there,” Eddie said. “She visited there a few times, said it’s a nice town.”

“It is, the people suck, but that’s to be expected of any town really.”

“I live in Derry, and the people there are stuck in the 1950’s I swear.”

“I’m sorry,” Tyson laughed. “You live where?”

“The middle of buttfuck nowhere,” Eddie laughed, head thrown back. “Derry Maine man.”

“No way that exists dude,” Tyson shook his head. “No fucking way.”

“That’s what I thought when my mom said we were moving there,” Eddie admits. “It’s a pretty shitty town.”

“I mean, it can’t be shitty if you live there,” Tyson said with a wink, making Eddie flush red. He had grown unused to flirting after Richie’s constant attempts stopped along with any communication. He found himself falling into the familiar patterns, the banter, the laughing, the jokes.

“I mean, there are some bad people too,” Eddie continued. “Like Henry Bowers. That dude literally tried to carve his name onto one of my friends’ stomach.”

“No shit?” Tyson asked. “That’s crazy man.”

“Yeah, he’s not a fun dude.”

“You talk a lot of your friends,” Tyson said, sipping from his drink again. “Why didn’t they come with?”

“Oh,” Eddie swallowed, his mood sinking. “I had a bit of a fight with some of them, a falling out of sorts. It’s fine though.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Tyson said softly. “But hey, if you had a million people surrounding you I probably wouldn’t have gained the courage to talk to you, so I guess that’s one good thing that came from that.”

“Yeah,” Eddie said, smiling once again. “That’s one good thing for sure.”

They finished their meal, talking often enough that they managed to kill almost an hour and a half of time. They paid and left the small restaurant, walking back in the direction of the rink. Tyson’s practice was in just under an hour.

“Then, my friend Amanda fell backwards over the bench, splitting her leggings open. I honestly thought she died,” Tyson was saying through laughter, and Eddie had his head thrown back, in stitches over the story. Tyson was a natural storyteller, spinning tales and adding a humorous element that Eddie thoroughly enjoyed.

They chatted the entire way back, stories and tales slightly exaggerated falling from their mouths, flowing as easily as ink from a new pen. By the time they got to the rink, Eddie really didn’t want Tyson to go to his practice. He didn’t want to be alone again, didn’t want to face the impending silence without his newly made friend.

“I’ll see you late okay?” Tyson promised, holding out his pinky finger. “After the competition. I’ll come to your hotel or something.”

“A pinky promise?” Eddie asked, smirking. “Are we five?”

“It’s an important thing dude,” Tyson said, fake seriousness plastered on his face. Eddie giggled. “You can’t break a pinky promise.”

“Okay fine,” Eddie rolled his eyes, linking their pinkies together. “I’ll see you later.”

“See you Eddie,” Tyson said, squeezing their entwined fingers before turning and walking towards the ice. For a second Eddie debated following him, watching him practice so he wouldn’t have to be fully alone, but he knew that he had to be ready for the competition in around an hour and a half, and Lewis would kill him if he didn’t show up early to get ready.

So Eddie turned and left.

______________________

The announcers called his name and Eddie could feel his heart pounding in his chest as he glided around the ice, regulating his breath and telling himself to calm down a million times in his head.

He got into position, closing his eyes and reminding himself that this was what he knew. This was what he was born to do.

In the stands, his eyes caught onto Tyson’s briefly, before flickering down to Lewis, who gave him a thumbs up.

Eddie took a deep breath, and as the music swelled, he pushed off into the first move, and Eddie felt himself mold to the music, the notes bending the air around him to conform to what he wanted it to do.

When he finished, he launched himself into Lewis’s arms, the man laughing and holding him close.

”I knew you could do it,” The man whispers, and over his shoulder he could see Tyson standing up, clapping wildly and cheering louder than anyone else. At that moment Eddie decided that there was not much more he could want.

_____________________

Eddie and Tyson lay under the stars later that night, blankets placed on the top of the motel roof that they climbed on top of. The stars twinkle over their head, and Eddie still has his makeup smeared over his eyes, eyeliner staining his eyelids. He didn’t really care.

“They’re beautiful aren’t they?” Tyson asked. “The stars. I can’t see them in Portland, too many lights.”

“You can see them sometimes in Derry, Eddie says absentmindedly. “If you drive out to the barrens.”

He had gone once with Richie and Bev, the three of them giggling on top of the mountain above the quarry, late at night. They had snuck out the window together. Beverly was trying to point out the stars for Eddie, who had never been able to identify them, but Richie kept on making up stupid constellations.

“My friend Richie called those start constellations the “Massive Dick’,” He points out, and Tyson giggles, a musical sound that carried around them. It was mostly silent out, the only sound being the soft howl of the wind, the creaking of trees, and the faint sound of passing cars. It was nice.

“My friend Dana said that the stars are just holes poked in the sky for us to peek out into the other worlds,” Tyson said softly. “That was before everything of course.”

“Before what?” Eddie asked, turning his head to look at Tyson, who continued to stare at the sky. “I told you what happened with my friends. Why are you here alone?”

“You never really told me,” Tyson said airily. “You just said something happened. Which is fine. My friends, well, they didn’t take to me being gay very well.”

“Oh,” Eddie said, his heart sinking to hear that. “If it makes you feel better, my falling out had something slightly gay too.”

“Really?” Tyson said, finally turning his head to look at Eddie. “Guess we’re more alike than we thought we were.”

“Guess we are.”

They stayed silent for a long moment, just staring into each other's eyes. He had really nice eyes, electric blue, almost piecing in a way that felt so familiar.

“Loneliness is the worst possible form of torture, isn’t it?” Tyson whispered, eyes flickering over Eddie's face. “Physical pain is one thing, but knowing you’re alone? That there’s no one to have your back? It’s something else.”

“Yeah,” Eddie nodded. “It leaves you hollow like nothing else.”

“Like someone carved out your chest with the sharpest knife they could, leaving little nicks that ache too much at certain moments,” Tyson agreed.

“Until you find someone to help heal them,” Eddie said, offering Tyson a weak smile.

“Yeah,” Tyson said, his vice lightly. “Hey Eddie?”

“Hmm?”

“Can I kiss you?”

Eddie’s breathing hitched slightly, and he blinked. Just like that, his world tilted and shook. He was suddenly aware of just how beautiful Tyson was. With his wild curly hair, dark smooth skin, strong jaw, he was stunning to look at. And he was nice, kind, funny, understanding. Everything Eddie told himself that he wanted.

Eddie wouldn’t mind kissing him.

“Please do,” He whispered, his heart aching for any type of contact, the space between them suddenly feeling like too much. He nearly sobbed in relief when Tyson leaned forwards, a hand coming up to cup Eddie’s cheek.

The kiss was nice. Soft, sweet, with a hint of strawberry Chapstick on both their lips. It was nice.

But that was all. Nice.

Against his wish, Eddie related it to that stupid kiss with Richie.

While Tyson’s lips were softer, more understanding, Richie’s held the passion Eddie needed. The connection, the zap of something that made Eddie’s blood sing out, that made his heart sigh. Tyson’s kiss was nice, but Richie’s was every single positive descriptor words wrapped into one.

He pulled away, slightly out of breath, staring into Tyson’s eyes.

“I’m sorry, I can’t-“

“I get it,” Tyson said, smiling understandingly. “I didn’t expect anything.”

“It’s just,” Eddie sighed, leaning back, his head moving to stare back up at the sky. He wondered if the stars were really just holes, meant for sight into another world. A better world. “I’m in love with someone else.”

It hurt to say, to admit, but it was true. Months had passed, but despite it all Eddie’s heart still called out for one boy only. Still turned for the taste of Richie’s lips and Richie’s lips only.

“I know,” Tyson said, and Eddie frowned, looking down at him.

“You what?”

“I know,” Tyson repeated. “They way you talk of Richie, it’s not the way you talk about someone who’s just a friend. I knew a kiss would be a one-time thing, if even that.”

“So why did you ask?” Eddie asked, finding the situation inappropriately funny.

“Cause you’re cute!” Tyson laughed, Eddie joining in despite himself. “SO sue me if I want a kiss from the pretty boy I met earlier today.”

“Is that all I am to you?” Eddie cried dramatically. “A hunk of meat? A cute face?”

He was joking of course, but the seriousness in Tyson’s responding words shocked him.

“That and so much more,” Tyson replied honestly. “I don’t know you that well Eddie Kaspbrak, but you are a force to be reckoned with. That boy is very lucky to hold your heart.”

“Yeah, well if only I held his,” Eddie said bitterly, the age-old familiar sting of heartbreak still floundering in his chest. “He doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore.”

“Then he is an idiot,” Tyson snorted. “A dammed fool.”

“Thanks,” Eddie said dryly, the ache lessening slightly. He found it was easier when he was around people like Tyson, like Bev. People who didn’t judge, didn’t care that he was hurting.

“And,” Tyson continued. “If you ever want to make him jealous, give me a call. I’ve been told I’m a good actor.”

“You just want to kiss me again!” Eddie said, laughing again, amusement flooding his mind.

“Okay fine,” Tyson laughed. “You’re a good kisser! A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do!”

Eddie reached over and smacked his shoulder, and the two of them burst into another fit of giggling.

“I’m glad I met you,” Eddie said after a moment, and it was true. He wasn’t sure why, but the two of them clicked. And Eddie was lonely, despite having Bev back at home. He wanted more, craved more. He was a social creature, and having someone to talk to that didn’t have any connections to Richie was nice. It gave him an opportunity to talk without censoring all his words. Because despite it all, Bev and Richie were still friends.

“I’m glad I met you too,” Tyson sighed. His hand reached across the gap between them, and he hesitantly linked their pinky fingers together. “It’s good to have a friend.”

“Yeah,” Eddie said, smiling as he stared up at the sky. “It’s good to have a friend.”

_____________________________________

Monday rolled around, and Eddie had to leave. He hugged Tyson goodbye, the two of them exchanging numbers and promising to text and call each other often, already talking about weekend visits and vacations. The two of them had bonded, their friendship solidified by the understanding of the pain and sorrow of loneliness, understanding that maybe together they wouldn’t have to feel so alone.

Eddie started the drive back to Derry, very second he drove away weighing on him deeper.

He went into Sectionals with fear and stress coursing through his veins, he left with a sense of fulfillment, a sense of understanding, he left with a friend.

And here hew as returning to the town that did everything to suppress that, to suppress the joy, the understanding, the achievement, the friendship. The town of Derry ate everything that came close to it, chomping up on almost every good thing that Eddie ever had.

That was what he was driving towards. A bleak boring life, filled with people he loved who didn’t love him back, filled with a mother who wanted nothing more than to lock him up, filled with bullies who pushed him into lockers and sneered slurs at him every time he moved.

He didn’t want to go back to that, and yet that was where he was going.

He entered the town limits, and he tried not to cry as he pulled into his driveway.

He walked inside the house, his mother's tv show playing in the background.

“Hi ma,” He said as he walked in. “I’m back.”

“Eddie-bear!” She shrieked. “You’re back! I thought you’d never be home. Are you okay? Oh, how I missed my little boy.”

He noticed how she never once asked how it went. How she never even gave a second thought to possibly one of the biggest moments in his life. It made the canyon between them grow, and he barely managed to survive the two-minute encounter before he was running upstairs, locking his door and sobbing into his pillow, wondering how his life got to this point.

The next morning, he got up and went to school. Outside the front door, his eyes caught on the group of six people, all laughing and joking around, grins on all their faces.

it confirmed what Eddie already knew, their group was stronger without him, and despite himself, he felt the pulsing string of betrayal spark through him. He knew that he wasn’t important, but Bev and stuck by his side for the past two months, and it kind of hurt to see her having so much fun with the people she promised she was mad at.

But it wasn’t his business, he kept walking.

Someone must have pointed him out, because seconds later he heard his name being called out, and Bev was running up to him, a radiant smile on her face.

“Well?” She asked, her eyes sparkling. The anger dissipated immediately, because how could he ever be mad at her? Over something so stupid as well? “How did it go?”

Despite himself, he felt his shoulders lift with his own accomplishments, flourishing under the single person who actually bothered to ask him how it went.

“I got fourth place,” He said, a grin splitting his face. “I’m going to Nationals.”

Chapter Text

Like always, Lewis picked out the music for his National performance. Eddie actually kind of liked them, they had a calming sort of rhythm, while also being something he could dance to. And it had lyrics, which he liked. Knowing the meaning behind the song helped him dance to it. He had to have an understanding of the story he was telling throughout the song and dance.

He listened to the three tracks for hours once he got it, leaning back and closing his eyes, letting the sweet melody wash over him. It was a really good song choice. A love song by the sounds of it, the lyrics a soothing call of faraway voices, deep and smooth. He liked it.

Lewis let him have a week off of skating, claiming that if he overworked himself, he wouldn’t have enough energy for Nations. The competition was almost half a year away, due to some sort of error with the scheduling, but that was fine. It meant he had plenty of time to practice. And so did his competitors.

His first skate with Lewis wasn’t off to a great start. Their choreographer, Mrs. Taylor, had canceled last minute, meaning that Eddie didn’t really have anything to practice. Of course he could go over the basics, but well he found he really didn’t want to.

He had already had a rough day. He nearly failed his physics quiz, and Bowers had been on his ass all day, taunting him about some stupid thing that Eddie didn’t actually know about. Something about being a fairy, but that was normal with Bowers. Either way, Eddie was tired, bummed out, and just wanted to sleep.

His music was playing overhead, cycling through as Lewis was busy on the phone, probably talking to Mrs. Taylor about one thing or another. The only thing he knew was that he was glad he wasn’t on the other end of that phone call.

He practiced a few jumps, just a simple flip or two. Nothing out of the ordinary. He found himself humming along to the music, his head bopping to the rhythm. He turned into a spin.

The song was about finding love, the unsteady feeling of trying out and experimenting with those you loved. It was about new beginnings, the hope of falling and finding love in the most uncertain places you could.

He relaxed out of his spin, taking off to the side, his eyes closed as he let the music wash over him. The moves came naturally as he fell into some backwards slides, taking a sharp turn with his hand outstretched, as if becoming someone closer. He spun away quickly, transitioning to forwards for a moment before switching back about, the constant spin and turns of new love, the uncertainty that came with never knowing what was going to happen next.

He danced along to the rhythm of the music, his limbs flowing through the air as his feet bounced through each turn, the slightly childlike quality to the dance, the eagerness to follow someone to the depths of hell and back, the innocence that came with learning to trust someone more than you trust yourself.

The music swelled as it came to the period of transition into the middle component, and he took off into a jump, his foot digging into the ice as he took off, spinning into the air as the air whipped around him. One hand was tucked against his heart, clutching the fabric of his sweater, the other was reaching towards the roof. Reaching as if attempting to grab someone’s hand, as if trying to grab a hold to someone and drag them along with you.

The music changed into a much more somber tone, and Eddie landing, immediately turning into a spin, grabbing his hand from the air and tucking it close to his body. He broke out of the spin, leaning back as far as he could, hands clasped as if burned, the steady grasp between two lovers denied. He angled his foot to glide to the other side, leaning back as his hand skimmed the ice spraying snow up as he straightened out.

The second part of the music was the dramatic portion, a cooing ballad of soft music, the pain etched into the notes floating through the air. Eddie felt his heart sing along with them.

He led himself in a much more somber dance, one with a lot more dance than the first part. The beginning was a dance of jumps and spins, the trust of launching yourself into the air and trusting something to catch you on your way down. It was the energy put into a relationship, the effort and display dramatic and energetic.

But now it was a tale of heartbreak. A story where all the energy was spent, and you were left desiring the fire and passion that you previously had. It was filled with slower twists and turns, dramatic motions that lacked the speed of the last one, but held the fluidity and elegance the other lacked.

It was an understanding of the heartbreak that had happened, the soulful music swelling as he spun around, and he picked hard into the ice and took off into a jump, landing gracefully and gliding for a few seconds before he fell down to his knees dramatically, his head thrown back with his neck barred before he pushed back up onto his feet, ending with a spin, his leg extended in the air as his head and arm hung limply down to the side. He stood back up, pulling his arms in close to increase the speed for a few seconds before breaking back into stride as the music changed.

He didn’t know how to continue.

“That was really good Eddie,” Lewis said from the side, and Eddie turned, startled. He wasn’t aware that Lewis had been watching him still. “Good enough that I think we can make that into a routine. But you need the third part, why’d you stop?”

Eddie stood there for a moment, standing in the middle of the ice, his eyes wandering over to the Zamboni’s corner, lying dormant, since he still had thirty minutes left of practice. Something deep inside him twisted.

“I don’t know what happens next.”

________________________________________________

The day dragged on, and truthfully, Eddie just wanted to go home. School had seemed to be on a decline lately, the material getting harder as the year processed to end. He could barely stay awake during classes, due to the fact that he spent most nights outside or in his car, and whatever he actually was aware enough to listen to, it didn’t seem to fully enter and process in his mind.

He needed a distraction, something to give him a reason to focus on his studies again, something to kickstart the fire inside his chest once again.

The fire had gone out a long time ago, smoldering in the heat when approaching Sectionals, and just barely puttering with Nationals in the distance. He missed having the spark of life inside him. He wondered how long ago it went missing.

He walked to his locker, messing up the combination three times before finally being able to fumble it open. He shoved his backpackat the bottom of his locker, standing up and shrugging on his jacket. It was a simple jean one, the dark denim striking against his pastel pink shirt. He grabbed his backpack, twisting to throw it on his shoulder when suddenly someone was grabbing it, tugging it out of his hands.

Eddie sighed as he turned.

“Bowers,” He greeted pleasantly, trying not to let the thrum of fear show in his voice. Henry Bowers had gotten worse over the months, harsher, more violent. Eddie was sure it had to do something with his failing grades and the purpling bruises Eddie could see on his face.

“Fairy,” Bowers greeted. “I hear you made it to Nations, is that just a faggot-fair for people like you?”

Eddie resisted the urge to deck him in the face.

“You sound interested,” Eddie snapped. “Didn’t peg you as the type.”

Bowers lunged at him, and Eddie winced as his back hit the lockers behind him. He saw the students around him move out of the way, all of them ducking their heads to avoid his eyes.

“Watch yourself you little fairy,” Henry hissed. “One of these days I might decide to toss your sparkly ass in a gutter.”

“You should get some new names,” Eddie said, his voice shaking slightly. “Fairy is getting a bit old.”

He saw Henry raise his fist, prepared himself to the impact, but a teachers voice quickly called their names.

“Your dead fairy, you hear me?” Henry threatened before stalking off, leaving Eddie alone.

Eddie shook himself off, ignoring the teacher as he snuck away, his head down low. He didn’t want to meet anyone’s eyes right now.

His life had been balancing on a wire lately, a guillotine blade hung over his neck simply waiting to collapse, and multiple people held the string, all of them staring at him and simply waiting for him to make a single wrong move before they let go, allowing the blade to swing down and server through his flesh.

He walked outside.

“Eddie!” A familiar voice called out, and Eddie’s head snapped up in shock, eyes connection with Tysons’.

“Ty!” Eddie called out, breaking into a run and launching himself at his friend despite there being multiple people watching. Tyson barely even flinched as Eddie flung himself into his arms, holding onto him as tight as he could. “I am so glad to see you.”

“Me too,” Tyson said, wrapping his arms around Eddie and squeezing tightly. “Did I surprise you?”

“You sure as hell did,” Eddie said, his voice muffled from where he had shoved it into Tyson’s shoulder. “Don’t you have school?”

“Leak in the waterline, schools out for two weeks. Decided I had nothing better to do than come visit you.”

Eddie finally pulled back, understanding that maybe he had held on a little too long, but he was stressed, almost just got assaulted, and if he wanted the comfort of his friend, he would get it.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Eddie said honestly, and Tyson grinned down at him.

“Of course you are,” Tyson joked, throwing an arm over Eddie’s shoulders and leading him towards his old beaten up jeep. “I’m amazing.”

“Shut up,” Eddie reached over to lightly smack his shoulders, but the grin on his face wouldn’t leave. Over Tyson’s shoulders, he caught sight of a mop of shaggy brown hair turning away from him. Just like that, the mood dropped. Truly magical how Richie had the ability to simply show up and make Eddie remember everything he was trying to forget.

Tyson caught his mood, following his eyes sight to the back of Richie’s head.

“Is that him?” Tyson asked gently.

“Yeah,” Eddie said through a dry mouth. “That’s him.”

“Good taste in men,” Tyson commented, and Eddie laughed despite himself. “He kind of looks like me.”

“Not at all,” Eddie said dryly. “Keep dreaming.”

“Oh no, I think you only like me because I look like your long-lost love,” Tyson sighed. “My broken heart weeps.”

“Have I ever told you you’re dramatic?”

“Once or twice.”

“You better be driving me to practice.” Eddie changed the subject, and two of them almost at the jeep now.

“No, I was going to make you walk as I drive beside you.”

“Smartass,” Eddie rolled his eyes, walking over to the side of the jeep and climbing in.

“You think Lewis will be glad to see me?” Tyson asked, staring the car. “I made such a great impression last time.”

Tyson had been so excited by Eddie’s scores that he dropped his drink on Lewis’s feet in his haste to give Eddie a hug. Eddie wouldn’t call that a great impression.

“I’m sure he’ll be overjoyed,” He said instead, because he knew that Lewis absolutely wouldn’t. “Just don’t distract me while I’m skating.”

“But I need revenge for you placing a single spot higher than me and ruining my chances at Nationals,” Tyson whined.

“Should have performed better then,” Eddie teased, and Tyson let out a mock sound of horror.

Eddie grinned the entire way to the rink, feeling lighter than he had in ages.

__________________________________________

“I’m sorry, you’re ditching me?” Bev said as they walked through the halls, a cigarette hanging limply in her mouth.

“Only for a few days,” Eddie said with a shrug. “Go eat with your other friends. You’ll survive.”

“I don’t want to sit with them,” Bev whined. “I want to sit with you.”

“Sorry Bev,” Eddie shrugged. “I already made plans. It’ll only be for a little while.”

“Whoever they are, they better be pretty damn hot,” Bev grumbled. “I’ll walk you out, I will talk smack if needed.”

“Bev,” He sighed, shaking his head but not protesting as they reached the doors.

“Okay,” Bev said, eyebrows raising when she caught sight of Tyson. “I approve. Big time. Is he gay? If he isn’t introduce me.”

“You're dating Ben,” Eddie rolled his eyes. “And yes, he is gay.”

“You think Ben wouldn’t be down to tap that too?” Bev asked. “You caught yourself a looker.”

“Shut up, we aren’t even dating.” Eddie sighed.

“Maybe you should,” Bev said, her voice a lot softer. “You deserve to be happy Eddie.”

“I am happy,” He snapped. “And not because I am or am not dating Tyson.”

“Your kind of going on a date with him right now.”

“I’m going out for lunch!”

“With a super-hot dude who clearly likes you.”

“That’s not how it is,” Eddie shook his head, walking down the stairs. “I’ll see you at practice Bev.”

“Have fun!” Bev called out, and Eddie shook his head at the teasing note in her voice. Sometimes she really couldn’t take a hint.

_____________________________

There was another flower in his bag.

It nearly paralyzed him, and he sat there for almost ten minutes, staring at the red rose he held tightly in his hand. He could feel the thorns poking into his skin, but he barely felt it.

The flowers stopped after him and Richie fought, he always just assumed that it was Richie who put them there as a joke. But here they were, back again.

He remembered how happy the flowers made him feel when they first started off. He had no idea who put them there, but getting them almost weekly had been a treat he looked forwards to. Deep inside him, he was a romantic at heart. Stuff like that made him melt.

Now, he wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Who was giving them to him? At first he assumed Richie, since they stopped after their fight, but Richie still clearly hated him, and yet here the flowers were once again.

“Those are pretty,” Tyson said, sitting beside him. Their two weeks were almost up. Pretty soon Tyson would have to pack up and drive back to his hometown. Eddie really didn’t want him to go. They went out for lunch daily, and spent most of their afterschool hours together training, or simply just talking. When Tyson was around, Eddie never felt alone.

And he knew that Tyson didn’t want to go either. He was just as alone as Eddie was in his own town. Ever since he was outed as gay, he had become an outsider, someone no one wanted to hang out with. All his friends dropped him, and he was constantly shunned from the town.

If Eddie had his way, he would convince Tyson to just move here with him. They could get an apartment and live as roommates, where no one could touch them, no one could hurt them, no one could bring them any harm. But this was reality, a reality where they both had obstacles they couldn’t break past to get to that fantastical point.

But it was fine. Once they both graduated, then they could be free. Maybe they could both move to Canada together. But the daydream always lacked someone. Something. Eddie didn’t want to place it.

“Yeah,” He said, shaking his head to dispel the thoughts. “It's nice.”

Despite himself, he reached up and tucked it over his ear like he used to, the familiar flower scratching against his skin and he almost wanted to cry.

He didn’t, and instead he reached down and linked his pinky finger through Tyson’s smiling at him before hey both got up and walked out of the rink. They had a dinner reservation to get to.

_________________________________________

“I don’t want you to go,” Eddie whispered as he held onto Tyson tightly, his best friend holding him just as hard.

“I don’t want to go either,” Tyson said, squeezing Eddie tighter. “But I have to.”

“I know,” Eddie pulled back, not able to meet Tyson’s eyes. “Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“I know, you tell me that almost every day,” Tyson teased. “I’m starting to think you actually like me Kaspbrak.”

“No, I despise you,” Eddie joked, tears filling his eyes. “I despise you and I really don’t want you to go.”

Tyson said nothing, instead only pulling Eddie closer once again.

They stood there for a long time, simply hugging each other and wishing that they could never let go.

“If that Bowers kid touches you again,” Tyson started, his voice shaky. “I will come down here and beat him up.”

“And if any of your ‘friends’ do anything to you,” Eddie replied, equally as shaky. “I will come and kidnap you.”

“Is it kidnapping if I want to come?”

“I’m not a lawyer.”

“Fair point.”

They lapsed back into silence again, before Eddie took a deep breath and stepped back.

“You have to get going,” He said reluctantly. “Text me when you get back okay?”

“I promise,” Tyson nodded, stepping away. “I’ll see you soon Eddie.”

“You better.”

“You couldn’t keep me away,” Tyson said, and his voice was a touch sad. “I promise you that Eddie.”

“Bye,” Was all that Eddie could whisper.

He tried not to cry as Tyson got into his truck and drove away.

________________________________________________

Later that night, Eddie went out walking.

He didn’t really know where he was going, and he really didn’t care.

The last two weeks with Tyson had been amazing. He had forgotten what it was like to have a friend who dedicated time to be with you, instead of splitting it with others. Bev was amazing, but especially lately it was hard for her to truly spend time with him. She was distracted, which was fine, but sometimes it left him lonelier than he wanted to be.

Tyson changed that.

The two of them had spent their time together well, going out for lunch daily, going to practices together, spending their nights in Tyson’s motel room because Eddie couldn’t stand the sight of his mother.

It was nice to have a friend back, someone who believed him, who joked with him, who trusted him. It was nice to spend time with someone who cared about him. He hadn’t had that ever since the fight with Richie.

Eddie’s feet took him to the Kissing bridge, but instead of stopping he found himself wandering down the path towards the quarry, deep into the barrens.

He remembered when he had an entire friend group that cared about him, who invited him out to movie nights and board games, who went swimming in the quarry with him like he wasn’t an outsider. Like he was their friend.

He was happiest at that time, with the rest of the Losers, with Richie.

But he was happy with just Bev and Tyson too. Sure, Bev seemed occupied most days, and Eddie knew she missed the rest of her friends. And Tyson did live hours away, their only communication through a phone, but that was fine.

He found himself at the quarry, settling down on a cold rock by the water. The losers and him had sat here months ago, all laughing and joking around. Eddie remembered the memory as easily as if it happened yesterday.

He wished that Tyson was still here, that instead of sitting at some stupid Quarry alone he could be in the run-down motel room Tyson had been staying at. Even the mothball smelling room would have been better than this place.

He wondered if Tyson missed him this much too. He would nearly be home now, the drive only a couple of hours. Eddie really wished that he didn’t have to leave.

He dully thought back to his conversation with Bev weeks ago, when she asked him if Tyson and him were dating. Obviously, they weren’t.

But a part of him wondered.

He cared about Tyson a lot, and even though they had only known each other for a week, Eddie couldn’t imagine life without him. And a part of him knew that Tyson liked him, knew what those looks when he thought Eddie wasn’t looking mean. And maybe it was wrong to entertain the thought, but he did.

They had only kissed once, and it was a nice kiss. Eddie didn’t want Tyson to leave, and he had already fantasized the two of them moving in together, no matter how platonic the situation.

And Tyson was cute, he could admit that. With his wild curls and striking eyes, strong arms and body, sharp jawline and kind smile. He was a heartthrob. To add onto that, he was the kindest person Eddie knew, not to mention smart and funny. He was everything that anyone could ever want in a boyfriend.

Eddie closed his eyes, and tried to picture it. Tried to picture the two of them dancing together at prom, the two of them laughing and cuddling at night, the two of them kissing in the hallways. He tried to imagine them getting married, the two of them in bed, the two of them adopting a kid and being parents together.

He couldn’t. But it was beyond easy to picture it was Richie.

He could imagine going to prom with Richie, the two of them laughing as Richie did some stupid dance that embarrassed the shit out of Eddie. He could imagine the two of them cuddling under the stars, Richie pointing out random ones and naming it as Eddie giggled into his shoulder. He could imagine Richie and him walking to classes together, pressing kisses to each other's lips before they went their separate ways. He could imagine them growing older together, getting married, living together, having a life together.

It was funny how even after all these months, Eddie still loved Richie.

He opened his eyes, his head falling to his hands as tears started to fill his eyes.

He wanted to hate Richie; he really did. The boy kissed him, then made some stupid joke about the entire thing. Then he proceeded to literally pay someone so he could avoid Eddie, and had been ignoring him for months since. Eddie should hate the boy with his entire being, and a part of him did. A part of him wanted to yell and scream at Richie until the boy understood how much hurt was spiraling inside Eddie’s chest.

But he couldn’t.

As much as he wanted to, he could never hate Richie. The boy had wiggled his way into Eddie’s heart and nothing Eddie could do was going to dislodge him. Truth was that he missed Richie like he missed a severed limb.

He missed the idiot’s horrible jokes and overused profanities, he missed their daily walks to the arena, he missed Richie waiting for him once practice was over. He missed Richie sneaking into his house late at night and listening to old music with him. He missed laughing and joking around with him.

Eddie missed Richie more than words could say, and it hurt more than anything to realize that Richie probably didn’t miss him back.

He sat up, unable to think of it anymore and decided he should go home. He needed to sleep. He wrapped his coat around him, wondering when it got so dark. The sun had only just been setting when he wandered down here. He hoped he could make it back in the dark.

Behind him, a stick snapped.

He stopped, his heart hammering as he turned around, staring into the darkness behind him.

“Who’s there!” He called out, his voice wavering. “Come on out!”

No one emerged from the shadows. Eddie was probably just imagining things. He turned around and started walking again, cursing himself for getting lost in the first place. He had one rule, that he would never come out here alone after dark, yet here he was, alone after dark. Sometimes he could be a real idiot.

He hurried his steps, stumbling over the path in the dark. He had trouble seeing where the roots were and where was safe to step. He just hoped he didn’t fall and crack his skull open.

Behind him, he heard the soft crunch of leaves under someone’s foot. Eddie sped up faster, the back of his neck prickling as if someone was watching him. He didn’t dare turn around. He knew that a lot of homeless people lived in the quarry, knew that there were some people who he wouldn’t want to encounter alone in the middle of the night.

He just had to make it to the edge of the tree line, after that he knew the route home and could make a break for it. He was sure he was halfway there when someone grabbed a hold of his arm and pulled.

Eddie let out a cry of surprise as he went flying to the ground, his arm yanking the other way due to the strong grip still on it.

He heard a snap.

The pain came next.

He let out a sob as he felt his arm break, the flooding pain overwhelming him as he felt the bones grind together.

“I warned you fairy,” Henry Bowers hissed from above him, a sick look in his eyes. From beside him, Victor and Belch cackled. “I warned you.”

“Let me go,” Eddie gasped out through the pain in his arm. “You broke my arm Henry.”

“Did I?” Henry asked, his grip tightening and causing Eddie to cry out with pain. That only made his friends laugh louder.

The hot burning pain had spread from his arm, pulsating every few seconds with a pain so intense that Eddie thought that he might pass out. Tears were streaking down his face, and his eyes darted, trying to find any way out of Bower’s grip.

There was a tree at his back, the bark digging into his back as his eyes flickered around the forest floor. If he could just get out of Bower’s grasp, he could try making a run for it. His best bet was losing him on the street. Eddie may not be the fastest, but endurance was a lot better than Henry and his gang. If he could just keep running, the older boys would eventually get tired and give up.

“Please let go of me,” He said, his breathing starting to quicken with his panic. If he couldn’t get Henry’s hand off him, he was dead meat. He could feel himself getting worked up into an asthma attack, as irrational as it was. He was panicking, and that was enough for his old habits to surface quickly.

“Why would I do that?” Henry asked, leaning closer. Eddie could smell the stink of his breath. “You’re my favorite play toy after all. No one cries quite like you do.” He reached forwards, his fingers swiping across Eddie’s wet cheeks. Despite his best efforts, it only made Eddie cry more.

“Yeah!” Victor cried. “Look at the little cock sucker cry!”

“Your insane,” Eddie gasped out, pulling on his arm, the pain lighting up his skin. That was a bad idea. Henry’s grip tightened.

“Probably,” Henry shrugged.

Eddie decided to do something even stupider than anything else he had done that night, and he lashed out with his leg, nailing Henry right in the crotch.

The grip on his arm fell away immediately, and as soon as he could, he was scrambling to his feet, clutching his broken arm to his chest as he ran through the dark. He wasn’t even sure what direction he was going in, just picked one and took off

“Get him!” Henry screamed from behind him, and just like that, the hunt was on.

Eddie didn’t think he had ever been this scared.

Henry Bowers was a schoolyard bully, he called Eddie names, sometimes pushed him around, but that was it. He never thought h would be running through the forest in the dark, clutching a broken arm and wondering what would happen in Bowers and his gang caught up.

He didn’t want to think about the possibility of the other boys catching up.

He stumbled over a root, nearly losing balance and he threw his arm out to catch himself, unfortunately, that meant his other arm dropped down to his side, and his vision darkened at the intense bought of pain that shot over him. It felt like a thousand knives being driven into his skin at once. He wanted to be sick.

He heard the footsteps behind him, and he forced himself to continue.

It was hard. He could feel the tug of unconsciousness pulling at the edge of his mind, could feel the exhaustion pulling his limbs down. But he forced himself to push through, to keep running, to keep moving. It was just like a competition, if you get tired, you can’t stop. Only this time if he stopped he could possibly die.

Before he knew what was happening, he was back at the Quarry.

In front of him, was a lake and a cliff nearly a hundred feet high. To his back, was Henry Bowers and his gang.

He was trapped.

He turned to face the three of them, backing up until his feet were at the edge of the water. If he ran to one side, Victor would get him. If he went to the other, Belch was there to nab him. His only option was to go back, but there was a cliff to the side that discouraged any thoughts of that.

Eddie sobbed, his broken arm clutched tightly to his chest and he wondered if he would die here. If someone would find his body lying in the Quarry water tomorrow and he would become Derry’s newest victim.

“Please,” He said, his voice shaking. “Please Henry whatever I did, I’m sorry.”

“The little queer’s shaking in his boots,” Victor cooed. “Look at him.”

“Just let me go,” Eddie continued, taking another step back as the three boys advanced. His arm was broken, badly too, and he was cold, tired, scared, and he just wanted to go set his arm and maybe sleep for a couple of hundred years. “I won’t say a thing.”

“Damn right you won't,” Henry hissed, there was a snap and Eddie’s eyes were drawn to the glint of steel in Henry’s hand. His knife. “Grab him!”

Eddie fought the best he could, but the fact was that he was almost a hundred pounds less than both of them, a foot and a half shorter, and he had a broken arm.

But he fought with all the fiery desperation burning in him, the adrenalin tearing at his skin as he kicked and screamed and lashed out with his good arm. Victor and Belch can’t get a hold of him, and for a second Eddie was free to run, slipping past the three boys and towards the forest.

He felt a surge of hope go through him, and if he could only make it to the treeline, he would be able to make a break for it. The boys would get bored of him, and he could go to the hospital and set his arm, or simply pass out and hope for the best.

He was meters away from the treeline when someone grabbed his shoulder, and the next thing he knew, Henry Bower’s switchblade was being driven into his gut.

Eddie’s torso exploded into pain, and Eddie screamed as he fell, landing on the ground hard. He barely was able to feel it over the blinding pain in his stomach.

“Holy shit,” He heard someone say over his own sobbing. Someone was screaming. He thinks it might be him. “You killed him.”

“We got to get out of here man,” Someone else was saying, their voice panicked. “Take the fucking knife and run dude!”

Before Eddie knew it, he was alone, floating in a haze on pain as he lay on the rocky shore.

He knew he had to do something, but all his limbs felt numb, pins and needles echoing throughout his bones. Numbly, his uninjured hand pressed against his stomach, the warm wetness soaking his hand.

“Oh,” He whispered to himself, staring at the sticky red blood on his hand. “Ow.”

His hand then fumbled for his phone, mercifully unbroken in his pocket.

His first thought was to call 9-1-1. But he remembered something, a faint memory of them hanging up on him the moment he called to report Henry Bowers for assault. Henry Bower's dad was a powerful man, powerful enough to get his son out of everything. If Eddie called in, he was sure it would be the elder Bower answering the call, and he was sure that he would not make it out safely.

So instead he tapped on Dr. Andersons contact, shakily reaching his phone up to his ear. It hurt to move, to breathe, to do anything. So instead he let his hand fall back down to his side, pressing speakerphone and hoping it would be enough. He didn’t want to move, didn’t want to stay awake with the blinding pain singing through his blood. But Eddie knew he had to, no matter how much he just wanted to close his eyes as fall asleep.

” This is Doctor Anderson speaking, I am unavailable to take your call right now, please leave a message at the tone.”

Eddie sobbed, hopelessness clawing at his chest. He couldn’t move, the pain too overwhelming every time he shifted, so he couldn’t get out of there alone. He didn’t know who else to call. He heard the dial tone ring loudly in his ear.

“Anderson,” He managed to spit out, his voice hoarse from screaming and sobbing. “I got into some shit. I think I’ve been stabbed,” His free hand rested on the wound again, and he put pressure on it, a distant part of his mind reminding him of the steps. “Okay yeah, I’ve been stabbed. My arm is broken too I think. Henry Bowers caught up to me,” He let out a hollow laugh. “You’re probably working. If you don’t’ see me get wheeled in within the hour, then I’m lying dead at the Quarry.”

He let out another sob, unable to continue the message through his cries, and the dial tone was heard again, a voice telling him his message was sent.

He was going to die here. He had no one else to call. His mom took sleeping pills at night, and she wouldn’t wake if a tornado plowed through their house. Bev’s aunt took her phone every night. Tyson was too far away to make it in time. There was no one to help him.

His fingers were typing into the phone either way, like they had a mind of their own. He stared up at the night sky as he heard the phone start to dial, the stars blurring in front of him. It wasn’t a bad sight to die staring at.

“Hello?” The voice startled Eddie, cutting through the night and he honestly forgot that he was calling someone. He recognized the voice easily.

“Richie,” He sobbed out loud, unable to stop himself.

Of course he would call Richie. No matter what, it always came back to Richie. Even in his lowest hour, bleeding out in possibly the most unsanitary place he could, he always managed to find a way to circle right back to Richie.

“Is this some kind of fucked-up booty call?” Richie groaned. “I am not in the mood to have phone sex with you Eddie.”

“Help me,” He managed to push out. His tongue felt like it was inflated in his mouth. “Pease, Rich, I’m at the Quarry.”

“Why the hell are you at the Quarry?” Richie asked, his voice sounding a bit panicked. “Are you okay? What’s going on? Is this some kind of messed-up joke?”

“Richie please,” Eddie begged, the words getting harder to form by the second. “I’m hurt. Bowers.”

“Fuck,” Richie cursed, and there were a few seconds of noise that Eddie simply couldn’t make out. “You idiot, why did you get into trouble with Henry?”

“I didn’t mean to run into him!” Eddie protested. “Or his knife.”

He found that absurdly funny, chuckling even though it came out more like a wheeze.

“You got stabbed?” Richie screeched, the noise causing Eddie's head to pound. “What the fuck Eddie?”

“Tis but a flesh-“ He broke off into a series of coughs, his lungs constricting painfully. “Tis but a flesh wound.”

“Shit,” Richie cursed, and Eddie was content to just lie there, Richie’s voice floating through the microphone. He remembered when the two of them watched that movie together, the Holy Grale. Richie and him had acted out every scene they found funny until the two of them had collapsed on the floor, their sides hurting with how much they laughed.

“Eddie?” Richie's panicked voice echoes through his memory, and Eddie wondered how many times Richie had said his name before that one. “Don’t you dare die on me.”

“I’m okay,” Eddie reassured. “Just needed to hear your voice.”

His fingers were starting to go numb. He was just so tired.

“Stay awake,” Richie ordered. “Okay Eds? I’m almost there. I need to hang up, I can get you some help. Just stay awake for me oaky? I’m at the Barrens, just give me ten minutes.”

“Kay,” Eddie mumbled, the click of the phone making him oddly sad. He felt lonely. He wanted to call Richie back again, to just hear his voice for a few more minutes.

He wondered if he would recover in time to go to Nationals, if he recovered at all.

But that wasn’t a fun thought to have, so instead, he pushed that as far as he could, his eyes fluttering shut as his mind wandered, picking across thoughts and dancing away from anything coherent. The pain never lessened, but he started getting used to it, the throb dulling down into numbness.

He wasn’t sure how long he was lying there, but it must have been a while. When he pried open his eyes again, it was because he could hear someone screaming his name.

“Shut up,” He muttered, turning his head to the side weakly. He felt dizzy, even though he wasn’t actually moving.

“I thought I told you to stay awake?” Richie scolded, and Eddie’s eyes opened again, and he stared up at the other boy, who looked distressed.

“I’m awake,” Eddie mumbled, trying to shift to sit up, before remembering that he had a massive wound in the middle of his stomach. “Ow.”

“Don’t move you idiot,” Richie cried, hands fluttering around him as if unsure where to touch. “I called Ben’s mom. She’s a nurse. She’s bringing an ambulance to get you. You don’t have to wait much longer.” Richie finally settled his hands-on top of the wound, pressing down firmly. Eddie let out a hiss of pain at the pressure.

“What’s that for?”

“You're supposed to keep pressure on the wound, you know, to stop the bleeding?” Richie said, pushing slightly harder. “Shouldn’t you know that you little nerd?”

“Wow,” Eddie coughed slightly. “Sorry for not remembering some stupid fact while I’m literally lying on the floor bleeding out.”

“You wouldn’t be bleeding out if you remembered that.”

“I am literally dying and you’re berating me for not remembering one stupid little fact.”

“Don’t say that,” Richie snapped. “You’re not dying okay?”

Eddie opened his mouth to respond, but the emotion came so quickly that he could only manage a soft little sob.

“You’re crying,” Richie said, blinking in surprise. “Why are you crying?”

“You came,” Eddie whispered. He didn’t think Richie would. He never expected to talk to Richie again, let alone be lying here with Richie overtop of him. Not the most romantic reunion that Eddie imagines, because hew as currently bleeding out with a broken arm, but Richie was here. That was all that mattered.

“Oh,” Richie said, ever the elegant one.

“I thought I’d never see you again,” Eddie blurted out. Because his mind to mouth filter was shot, and he was in a lot of pain, and if he wanted to say something stupid, then he might as well. “I thought you hated me.”

“Eds,” Richie whispered, his voice breaking as Richie started crying too, tears pouring down his face. He raised one hand from the wound, his palm pressing gently against Eddie’s cheek. It would be nice is he didn’t have Eddie’s blood covering his hands. “I could never hate you.”

“You’ve been ignoring me for weeks,” Eddie forced out, avoiding Richie’s eyes in favor of staring at the stars. They blurred together as tears started gathering on his waterline. He just wanted this all to stop. He thinks he could hear sirens in the distance, and he hoped to god that they got here fast. “You left me alone Richie. You rejected me, joked about my feeling, then literally paid someone twenty bucks so that you could avoid me. You haven’t talked to me in months.”

“I never meant to hurt you,” Richie whispered, his thumb gently swiping against his cheek. He leaned into it despite himself. “I’m so sorry Eddie. I just couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle having you so close without being able to properly touch you. And you looked so horrified after I kissed you. I thought you would hate me, so I thought it was easier to just distance myself. Let us both carry on with our lives. You deserve so much better than me.”

“Maybe I do,” Eddie snapped, his eyes falling back onto Richie. “But I don’t want anything better. I wanted you Richie. It was always you, and I won’t ever be able to get that because stupid fucking Henry Bowers decided to turn my insides outside.”

He hissed as his ranting caused his wound to shift, and he cried out as white-hot pain spiked through him. He slammed his head back against the ground, his entire body tensing as the pain surged to an all-new high. The wound on his stomach ached with mind-numbing pain with every breath he took.

“Richie,” He sobbed out, his good hand reaching up and grasping his hand, squeezing tighter than he ever did. “Richie it hurts.”

“I know baby,” Richie cooed, his own voice thick with tears. “Just a few more minutes okay? I can hear them already, they’re almost here.”

“Help!” Richie screamed, turning towards the forest. Eddie could hear the footsteps rushing towards them. “Hurry up for gods sake! Help us!”

“Richie,” Eddie cried out again, and Richie turned back towards him, his hands pressing down on the wound again. Eddie didn’t know what happened, but the pain was becoming unbearable, the edges of his vision darkening slightly. “I don’t want to go.”

“You’re not going to,” Richie whispered fiercely. “You’re going to pull through this, and we can work all our shit out and be happy okay? You promise me that. You’re going to stay awake, and the medics are going to show up and we will have the time to work this out. I promise you that Eddie.”

“I love you,” Eddie whispered, unable to hold it in anymore. “Fuck Richie, I love you okay? I don’t care if you don’t love me back, but you need to know that.”

Richie didn’t say anything, only leaned down and pressed their lips together once more. It was a really bad kiss, because Eddie was in a lot of pain and the angle was off and their lips were slick with both their tears. But it was fine, because Richie was here, the medics were coming closer, and Eddie knew that everything would be already.

“I love you too you dipshit,” Richie whispered, and Eddie only managed to let out a weak chuckle before he passed out.

Chapter Text

Richie’s hands were covered in blood.

He didn’t dare lift his hand from where it was pressed against Eddie’s stomach, and he tried to ignore the way the blood was still bubbling out of him at a very fast rate.

“Help!” He screamed, turning to eye the tree line, where he could see people approaching at a fast rate. It didn’t reassure him. He turned back to Eddie, whose eyes had fluttered shut, his head falling to the side. “No, no, no Eddie wake up!”

He lightly smacked Eddie’s cheek, ignoring the way the bright red blood smeared over his pale cheek. Eddie didn’t wake up. Richie felt tears gathering in his eyes and he tried in vain to blink them away.

He had just gotten Eddie back, he couldn’t lose him, not like this. This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. This wasn’t supposed to be happening.

“Don’t do this to me Eddie,” Richie whispered, emotion choking him as he leaned forwards, forehead pressing against Eddie’s own. “Don’t you dare.”

Suddenly there were hands grabbing at him, pulling him away from Eddie. For a second he panicked, fighting back against them in an attempt to get back to Eddie and feel the warmth of his body under his hands again. But then he remembered what was happen and he stopped struggling, letting the nurse hold him back as the other paramedics attended to Eddie, shouting vitals and other jargon that went over Richie’s head.

“It’s going to be okay kid,” The nurse who was holding him said, squeezing his shoulder as Richie burst into tears.

Nothing about this was alright. He wanted everything to go back to how they were before all this shit happened.

_______________________

“That’s not how it works,” Eddie told him, leaning over his shoulder, breath hot against Richie’s neck. He tried not to show how hard his heart was beating. “You did the equation wrong.”

“I double checked it twice,” Richie complained.

“You can’t call staring at it double checking,” Eddie chastised him. “You weren’t really paying attention.”

Richie wasn’t really paying attention now, with Eddie’s body practically draped over him, their shoulders pressed together firmly and the warm puffs of breath falling on Richie’s neck. There was absolutely no way he was paying attention at the time.

“Are you even listening to me?” Eddie asked, the sting of annoyance in his voice.

“Nope,” Richie said cheerfully, a small part of him deflating when Eddie leaned away from him. “Too busy thinking about what your mom and I did last night.”

“Fuck you,” Eddie said, smacking him and it felt so familiar that something deep inside Richie’s chest ached with it.

Later that night Richie waited outside Eddie’s house with a smile, standing in the shadows enough that he was sure no one could see him unless they really looked. Around twenty minutes later Eddie was hurrying out from the back of his house, a sweater wrapped tightly around his shoulders.

Richie and him fell into step as they hurried away from the house.

“I told you not to come,” Eddie scolded, but there was no heat behind his words.

“Just couldn’t wait to see you,” Richie said with a joking tone. He wasn’t lying. He hadn’t spent this much time with anyone in forever. Sure, he saw the Losers almost every day for long periods of time, but they were the Losers. This was Eddie.

It was different, because being without the Losers sucked, but he could manage a few days. But not seeing Eddie? Well, it was like he was missing a limb. He made a joke and missed hearing Eddie’s dry comments or choked laughter. He would find himself waiting to hear Eddie’s random medical facts and felt bad when he didn’t hear them. His life had changed when Eddie walked into it, and Richie knew that he couldn’t go back to the way it used to be.

______________________

 

Richie’s life had a balance to it. A rhythm.

He always liked music, the pump of the bass, the melody of the music, the poetic lyrics. Music had rules to it, but it also regularly broke them. Music was all about pushing boundaries, testing the limits and setting your aspirations higher. Richie liked that.

He liked when his life made sense, and for the most part, it did. He had a set dynamic with the Losers ever since kindergarten, he had a set system with his parents, knew how to get good grades and deal with bullies. He liked it when everything made sense.

What he didn’t like, was the uncertainty when it came to Eddie.

Eddie traveled into his life and everything shifted. It wasn’t that big of a problem, in fact, Richie actually welcomed it most of the time. Eddie fit so easily into his life I was almost like he was destined to be there, like he was a puzzle piece that had been missing the entire time.

The problem was that Richie wanted more. It was almost like Eddie was cast as the wrong person in the play of his life. He should have been the love interest, the two of them falling in love and getting together in the end, but instead he was miscast as the best friend, unobtainable, probably about to fall in love with someone else.

Here he was, on what could be considered a literal date with Eddie, eating ice cream and holding his goddamn hand and yet here they were as friends. Richie could walk beside Eddie, hold his hand, laugh with him, stare at him, but no more.

And it hurt. To not be able to reach out, to tell Eddie just how amazing he was, to not be able to kiss those beautiful lips, to not hold him close. Richie was close, but never close enough.

But it would be fine. Because he had to accept it. Eddie didn’t like him that way, he never would. Because people like Eddie never fell in love with people like Richie. Boys like Eddie found beautiful boys to fall in love with, smart boys, charming boys, not a dumpster fire mess like Richie was.

So Richie dropped Eddie’s hand when the boy smiled at him, because was he taking advantage of Eddie by getting close to him when Eddie’s only intentions were platonic? That’s what it felt like. So he dropped Eddie’s hands and wondered why the other boy's face fell like it did. Not that it matters, because a few seconds later the moment had passed and they were moving on again and it was fine because they still fit together like two peas in a pod.

___________________________

He lay awake that night, attempting to sleep but miserably failing. He had Eddie to blame. He couldn’t stop thinking of the sound of the boys laughs, the wit behind his words, the small scrunch of his nose when Richie said something gross. Richie lay in his darkened bedroom and his chest hurt while he replayed the memories of Eddie’s touch ghosting over his skin.

He trembled with the restrained emotion running around his head, and his heart sung out for Eddie’s presence, to feel the smaller boy at his side again. To have him in these off moments, to hold him whenever. But he couldn’t have that. Because that wasn’t what they were, and Eddie deserved far better than someone like him. But that didn’t stop him from wishing.

Almost as if Eddie could hear Richie’s thoughts, his phone lit up. Richie barely even processed the call before he was answering.

“Eddie?” He said into the screen. “Why are you calling me? It’s ass-o-clock in the morning?”

Eddie wanted to come over. Eddie sounded panicked, like he had been crying or had a panic attack or something. And he wanted to see Richie. He didn’t go to Beverly, his best friend, or Bill, who was good with this kind of stuff. He came to him.

He paced his room for the entire ten minutes it took for Eddie to get to his house. Then Eddie was knocking on his window and Richie was practically tripping over himself to open it.

He couldn’t help it, as soon as Eddie’s feet were on the ground Richie was wrapping him up in his arms, breathing in the smaller boy’s scent. He fit perfectly into Richie’s arms, his head tucked into Richie’s neck and arms holding on as if his life depended on it. Richie could die right now and he would be fine with it. This was all he needed, Eddie in his arms, Eddie in his room, Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.

“Are you okay?” Richie said, his voice soft. And then he remembered that he was being too personal, that he wasn’t allowed to worry like that because Eddie wasn’t actually his. But he couldn’t help it.

Either way, he ended up making some stupid joke about Eddie’s mother like he used to and the moment was ruined, and yet it wasn’t because Eddie was sitting on his bed and Richie was putting on some of his favorite records to play.

And maybe it was because he was tired, or maybe it was because the ghost of someone a lot braver than him possessed him, but he lay down on his bed and pulled Eddie close to him, and soon after he fell asleep with Eddie in his arms, and his heart finally settling in his chest, the overwhelming feeling of rightness resting over him.

_______________________

He woke up to Eddie scrambling through the room, swearing softly with his breath coming out in short spurts, panicked and worried, eyes blown wide as he ran around the room looking for something.

It was something about his mom knowing he was gone, how she would be freaking out, how he needed to get back right away. Richie kinda hated Eddie’s mother in the moment. He had a faint memory of Eddie lying in his arms, right now ruined by the overwhelming panic radiating from the smaller boy.

Richie didn’t know what happened between Eddie and his mother, but whatever it was, it was bad. Richie had no idea what to do. It was too early in the morning. He was dimly aware that the two of them were skipping school.

Then it got worse.

Suddenly Eddie collapsed on the ground, his breath coming out in pained little gasps that almost sounded like a dying seal.

Richie wasn’t sure what to do. He pushed himself in front of Eddie, grabbing hold of his shoulders and forcing the boy to look at him. His beautiful eyes were blown wide with panic.

“You’re going to pass out if you keep this up man,” Richie said, the panic in his own voice barely being restrained.

Eddie tried to respond, his mouth opening and closing like a fish, but nothing came out. Richie really hated this.

“Come on Eds,” Richie said, a bit desperately. “Tell me what you need.”

Richie just wanted to hold him close, to rock him until his breathing calmed down and the tears dried on his face. He wanted to hold Eddie tight enough that he never had to deal with shit like this ever again.

“My pills,” Eddie gasped, his voice barely a croak. “My bag, my pills.”

Richie had never moved faster. He had grabbed the little pill bottle within seconds, nearly vaulting across the room to get back to Eddie, almost shoving the pills down Eddie’s throat.

They worked almost like magic, Eddie’s breathing calming down almost instantly and Richie almost sobbed in relief as Eddie’s eyes shut, his lungs seeming to work properly again.

“Are you okay?” Richie asked him, because he needed to be sure.

Instead of responding, Eddie grabbed the pill bottle in his hand and sent it scrambling all over the floor. Richie wasn’t sure how to respond. This was a whole new side to Eddie that he had never seen. He wasn’t sure he liked it.

___________________________________

He kissed Eddie.

Eddie was ranting about something, his mother’s fake pills, being weak, being stupid, and Richie couldn’t take it anymore.

He loved Eddie. Even if he shouldn't. And to hear him talk like that, to hear him put himself down like that, to see the tears of frustration pouring out of his eyes. Richie just wanted him to stop. He wanted to show Eddie just how wonderful Richie thought he was. And before he knew what he was doing, their lips were pressing together.

Richie wouldn’t lie and say it was bad. Because it wasn’t. It lasted maybe a second or two but Richie wanted it to last for hours. It didn’t matter that he had almost missed Eddie’s lips, or that it was the sloppiest kiss he had ever had, but it was perfect to him.

But then he remembered who he was, and who Eddie was. He pulled away before he could even think, mouth opening to apologize, to beg Eddie to forget everything that happened.

But Eddie was surging forwards, their lips pressing together against and Richie almost died from the shock of it all. Eddie’s hand were cupping Richie’s cheeks and Richie’s hand rested easily on the back of Eddie’s neck.

He thought he had died and gone to heaven; Eddie’s lips were so soft, almost salty because of the tears covering them. And yet they were perfect. They slotted against his wonderfully, almost like they were destined to be there.

Then Richie remembered that he wasn’t allowed this. That Eddie didn’t actually want this, that no one knew he was bi int eh first place. His hands moved and quickly pushed Eddie away before he could think any more about it.

His thoughts were racing a million miles per hour. Eddie was staring at him with parted lips, panting slightly from the long kiss. Richie wanted to kiss him again, wanted to make him absolutely breathless, wanted to show him other ways they could lose their breath together.

But then he remembered that he had ruined everything. They couldn’t go back to just friends after this. Eddie was going to leave him, to scream at him, to turn away and never look back.

“I didn’t know you had that in you,” Richie blurted out, his voice going louder. “You kiss almost as good as a girl Eds. Give a guy a warning though next time, maybe I’ll put some makeup on for you.”

He immediately cringed away from what he said, the sting of his own words hitting himself as well as Eddie. Richie watched the second that Eddie closed away from him, backing up and blinking rapidly, and fuck was he crying? Did Richie make him cry?

He tried to remind himself that this was for the best. Even if Eddie wanted him back, Richie would ruin him. Eddie deserved so much better. He deserved someone who wasn’t afraid all the time, who knew how to shut his mouth, someone who could treat him right.

“I should go,” Eddie choked out, his voice wobbling. “I should go.”

Richie called out his name, but it was pointless. Eddie walked away either way, and there was nothing Richie could do to get him back.

Deep inside himself, he felt something crack.

__________________________________________________

He refused to leave his room until Sunday night after his parents left. And that was only to go sit in the living room and eat ice cream.

Someone knocked on his door. He ignored it. They knocked again, and then didn’t stop knocking until Richie gave up and stormed over, throwing open the door.

“What?” Richie snapped at Stan, who seemed unphased.

“Nice to see you too,” Stan said dryly, pushing his way inside. Richie didn’t bother to try to kick him out. Stan was already sitting on the couch.

“What do you want?” Richie asked. “I’m not in the mood.”

“I figured,” Stan said, before his voice softened. “What’s going on Richie?”

“None of your business.”

“It has something to do with Eddie doesn’t it?”

Just hearing the boy's name sent lighting towards Richie’s chest, striking his deep and making him wince. He wondered how he was doing. Probably fine, Eddie had probably already moved on to someone better than him.

“Sit,” Stan ordered, and Richie did, head hanging low.

“I fucked up Stan,” He whispered. “I fucked up bad.”

Stan scooted closer, throwing an arm around Richie’s shoulders. He was suddenly very grateful for his best friend at this moment, who said nothing and let Richie go at his own pace.

“I kissed him,” He blurted out. “God Stan I ruined it all. I kissed him. He hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you,” Stan said softly. “Did he kiss you back?”

“I mean,” Richie stopped, replaying Eddie grabbing his face and kissing him back. “Sorta?”

“Then he doesn’t hate you,” Stan said dryly. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you Richie, he cares about you.”

“Well then he hates me now,” Richie laughed, Eddie’s tear-stained and betrayed face flashing behind his eyes. “Shit, he probably wanted nothing to do with me anymore.”

“What happened?” Stan prompted.

“What do you think?” Richie asked, shaking off the arm and standing up. He didn’t deserve the comfort. “I made a joke about it Stan. A terrible fucking joke and he now hates me. The person I love hates me.”

Stan didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything to say. He simply stood up and hugged Richie tightly.

Richie hugged back twice as hard, crying into the early hours of the morning with Stan softly comforting him.

__________________________________

He paid Greta Keene twenty bucks to change seats with him. He didn’t want to, but Eddie was royally pissed when he found out, and that was good. Richie wanted him to be mad. He wanted Eddie to be pissed, because Richie couldn’t fix this. He was too much of a coward to talk to Eddie and work this out normally.

Eddie hating him was easier than facing the solid wall of confusing emotions bubbling up inside him. Knowing that didn’t make It easier. Watching Eddie stare at his desk and not being able to comfort him killed Richie, but he pretended it didn’t, plastering on a fake smile and making jokes like usual. His heart wasn’t in it. His heart was still in that seat, still with Eddie.

He left before Eddie could yell at him, even though he deserved it.

Second period was hell, and he left halfway through class to go outside and light a cigarette. He hadn’t smoked since he met Eddie, too busy with amusing him and his job to participate in his habit, but now it was back, the smoke in his lungs a comforting friend. He went through an entire package, the stubs burning down in his fingers until they were nothing.

Then he went to lunch.

He didn’t want to, but he knew if he didn’t show up people would worry, and then they would ask questions, and then he would truly lose the fragile control he current had over his own emotions. Fuck, he should have just stayed home.

Of course, the first person to notice and talk to him at lunch was none other than the lovely Beverly Marsh, who looked pretty much ready to murder Richie where he stood. He’s guessing that she heard the story.

“Richie Tozier,” She said, standing up and storming over to him. He grinned as innocently as he could. Behind her, he could see Stan following, a look of concern on his face. “Outside. Now. We need to talk.”

“But my lunch,” He protested.

“Can be eaten later,” She said firmly. Richie nodded, sending a reassuring smile to Stan, who looked like he was seeing Richie for the last time. It was very reassuring.

“What’s up Bevvy?” He asked as soon as they were out of the school.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” She asked, crossing her arms and glaring at him.

“I don’t know what you're talking about.”

“You know damn well,” She countered. Richie felt some of the façade fall, and he reached into his pocket for another cigarette. His fingers were skating as he lit it.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” He said, glad his voice came out smoothly.

“Tell me the truth,” She said without missing a beat. “Tell me why the hell you decided to go and break Eddie’s fucking heart for no goddamn reason.”

“That’s not what happened,” Richie said immediately, looking away. “He’ll be fine.”

“What part of this is fine?” Beverly asked. “I have Eddie on one hand, nearly in tears telling me how you made some stupid fucking joke about the two of you finally kissing, how you paid someone to change spots to get away from him, and I have you here smoking for the first time in almost a year, looking like a complete mess and ten seconds away from breaking apart.”

“It just happened okay, there nothing to talk about.”

“So you’re telling me that I spent months trying to get you two together for you to ruin it after you finally kissed?” Beverly asked. “Richie what happened? I thought you liked him?”

“Well you thought wrong!” He said, even though the words felt like ash on his tongue. He didn’t like Eddie, he loved him, but he couldn’t tell Beverly that, because if he said it everything would fall around him. If he spoke it, that meant it was real.

Beverly looked at him, her eyes roaming over him like they were seeing into his soul.

“Well,” She said softly. “He loved you. I just wanted you to know that. I just wanted you to know that you gave him up, and if you truly don’t feel the same way about him than you lost possibly the best friend you could have ever had. And if you do feel the same way about him, then you fucked that up too.”

She turned and walked away, leaving him alone out in the courtyard.

He turned and walked home. He just couldn’t deal with it anymore.

________________________________________

The weeks passed slowly, even slower than they had before. First class was boring without Eddie by his side, and although he kept up his image and joked around with the people around him, they didn’t have the spark that Eddie had.

His friendship with the Losers had dwindled too, much to his disdain. Beverly rarely ate with them anymore, and Richie knew that she was with Eddie. They hadn’t talked much since their argument all those days ago, and the loss of one of his best friends weighed on him badly.

Not only did he lose what might possibly be the love of his life, but he also lost one of his best friends.

Luckily Stan stayed by his side, supported him at 3am when he broke down into sobs, was a little less harsh on some of his jokes, let Richie rant when he needed to. He wasn’t sure where he would be without Stan, but he never wanted to find out.

The days moved slowly, ever second dragging as he tried activity after activity to distract himself from the fact that he couldn’t bug Eddie anymore, couldn’t smoke with Beverly, couldn’t go on fake dates with Eddie while they both pretended to be just friends.

Often it didn’t work. And no matter how often he re-read his favorite books, went out to the quarry, played at the arcade, it couldn’t erase the newfound loneliness deep in his soul.

___________________________________

Richie had marked the weekend of Sectionals in his calendar the day Eddie told him. Even if he wasn’t invited, he was prepared to go marching down to that town to support Eddie, no matter what. And here he was, standing in front of it staring at the words like they had personally offended him.

A part of him wanted to go. Wanted to surprise Eddie and be there cheering for him as loudly as he could. He wanted to watch as Eddie kicked their asses and win himself his earned place in Nationals. He wanted to go and congratulate him, to sweep him into his arms and whisper his apologies into his ears and beg him to take him back, beg Eddie to forgive him.

But that was a dream. Richie had to live in reality now. He lived in a reality where Eddie hated him, and if he showed up to that competition it would only throw Eddie off. And that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted Eddie to be able to focus, to go and win his place in Nationals like what he deserved.

So he stayed, and he spent most of his time in the arcade, furiously playing game after game in an attempt to pretend like he wasn’t supposed to be somewhere else. Like he wasn’t meant to be standing in the stands, cheering louder than everyone else.

Bev stayed back too, and Richie restrained himself from snapping at her, form screaming and demanding she answer why she wasn’t by Eddie’s side. She was the only one close enough to him to be there, and yet she chose to stay back. And for what? Why did she decide to leave Eddie alone?

But it wasn’t his place. He couldn’t judge her when he was the one who hurt Eddie the most.

____________________________________

Richie had taken to watching Eddie sometimes, not even in a creepy way, but just noticing him. Now that Eddie was out of reach, Richie seemed to notice him even more. Which was ridiculous, because he noticed him plenty before too.

But often he would see him in the halls, head ducked down low as Eddie avoided everyone’s eye contact. He would see him as he drove to the rink, walking down the sidewalk and Richie would stare straight ahead in order to not crash while admiring him. Even in class sometimes Richie would stare at him, studying the lines of his face, the way his nose scrunches when he is concentrating.

He would always look away whenever Eddie looked up though, because he really wasn’t allowed to look, not after everything he did.

Richie was watching Eddie while he walked out of the school one day, because Richie had skipped last period to smoke and was already there. And once his eyes stuck on him, well it was over, and Richie had tracked him through the crowd, despite how short he was.

So he had a full view when Eddie suddenly stopped, eyes going wide as the most blinding smile spread over Eddie’s face.

“Ty!” Eddie screamed, suddenly bolting through the crowd, weaving through people with ease before he launched himself into someone’s arms.

Richie tried not to gag as he watched Eddie and an absolutely stunning boy hug longer than they probably should, because they were in public for god’s sake. He tried not to feel jealous as Eddie grinned at the boy like he used to grin at Richie, and the two of them walked towards an unknown truck, and Richie resisted the urge to dash forwards and pull Eddie from the boys’ arms.

Instead, he turned away and left.

____________________________________________

Richie was bantering with Stan at lunch when Beverly marched up to their table and sat down, grinning at them.

“Hey,” Bill said with a smile.”W-whatcha doing? Not eating with Eddie?”

Beverly shrugged, her eyes snapping over to Richie and holding direct eye contact as she gave him a sly smile.

“He’s out on a date,” She said innocently, and Richie tried not to bristle at the thought.

“Eddie has a boyfriend?” Mike said, and Stan bumped Richie’s shoulders, but Richie refused to look over at him. Instead he pushed around the shitty cafeteria food and tried not to think about Eddie with anyone else. “I didn’t know.”

“Oh he insists they aren’t dating,” Beverly rolled her eyes. “But I give it a day at most, that boy is a real catch. Eddie would be a fool to give him up. And he clearly likes Eddie too, so it’s inevitable.”

Beverly sighed, a dreamy look in her eyes. Richie was sure she knew what she was doing.

“I love a good love story,” She said, grinning over at Ben, who blushed like an idiot.

Richie focused back on his food.

__________________________________________

He wasn’t sure what he was doing, standing in his neighbors’ yard and picking out the best looking rose in the plot.

He was being idiotic, and he had no idea what the hell he was doing. He shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t even be planning such an idiotic thing.

And yet here was, carrying the stupid flower towards the rink where he knew Eddie would be.

For the past week and a half Richie had to deal with watching Eddie like normal, except the difference this time was that Eddie looked happier. He had such a happiness in his face, a spring in his step, and Richie hated the way his face broke into a grin every time he saw that stupid Tyson kid in the parking lot after school.

He hated that he wasn’t the one to put that grin on Eddie’s face, that Eddie was happy with someone else, content with someone else. But at the same time he brought this upon himself, it was only a matter of time before Eddie found someone better than him.

And yet instead of accepting that and moving on Richie was busy slipping a flower into Eddies bag once again, before walking to clock in for the night and pretend like he wasn’t spying on Eddie practicing.

He looked so happy on the ice, jumping and spinning and Richie found that he still loved watching him skate, still loved every single movement he made on the ice. Richie wished he was down there, skating with him, dancing with him, holding him.

And yet there was that stupid fucking kid again, on skates beside him, holding Eddie’s waist as he helped him in a jump, Eddie’s coach watching with raised eyebrows and an amused look on his face. It should have been Richie there, holding him, helping him.

But Tyson knew how to skate, hew as hot as hell, and from Bev’s many reports he was sweet and nice too. Everything that Richie lacked.

Later, he watched with glee as Eddie tucked the flower behind his ear once again, even if the Tyson kid was there when he did it.

Maybe Eddie had found someone better than him, but Richie was there first, and Richie would never love anyone like he loved Eddie.

___________________________________________

He was lying in his room when it happened.

He should have been asleep, and yet his mind was moving a thousand miles per hour, and instead he was staring at the cracks in the ceiling above him. His phone rang, and he wondered if it was his mother telling him she would be late again tonight.

Instead, it was Eddie’s name staring out at him.

He debated ignoring it, declining the call and turning over to go to sleep.

Instead he pressed answer.

“Hello?” He whispered.

“Richie,” Eddie's voice cackled over the phone, sounding very small.

“Is this some kind of fucked-up booty call?” Richie groaned, because joking was easier than admitting how good it was to hear Eddie say his name. “I am not in the mood to have phone sex with you Eddie.”

“Help me,” Eddie whispered. “I’m at the Quarry.”

Just like that, Richie's world flipped over.

___________________________________________________

He was sitting in the hospital waiting room, had been for the past few hours.

It was almost morning now, and Richie hadn’t slept a single minute, not since they carted Eddie away on a stretcher, not since he was wheeled in by a bunch of doctors screaming orders in words Richie couldn’t understand.

Eddie’s blood was still coating his hands. He didn’t have it in himself to move off the chair to wash it off, his legs felt numb after sitting for hours.

He stared at the red flaking on his skin, covering his fingers and hands from where he had pressed down firmly on Eddie’s chest.

He was going to kill Bowers, because this wasn’t something that happened in their town. They were high schoolers for gods’ sakes, they weren’t supposed to know what it was like to be stabbed, or bleed, or worry that the boy you loved would die before you could repair the broken relationship between them.

“Richie!” He heard Ben first, eyes blinking as he watched all the Losers stumble into the waiting room, staring at him with panic in their eyes.

“W-w-what huh-happened?” Bill said, all of them practically running over to him.

Richie opened his mouth to answer, but all that came out was a sob.

“Oh Richie,” Beverly cooed, pulling him close to her, and the rest of the Losers crowded around, each other them grabbing onto him and holding on to help keep him from falling apart.

He sobbed because it wasn’t fair. Because Eddie’s blood covered his hands and his glasses were splatted from droplets of it too. He cried because it was Eddie in that room, because he loved Eddie and Eddie loved him back and they might not even get a chance to do anything about it.

“I love him Bevvy,” He whispered into her hair. “I love him so much and he’s-“

He broke off into another sob, and Beverly just held him tighter.

“I know,” She whispered. “It's going to be okay.”

It didn’t feel like it would.