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“Do you have everything you need, Eddie-bear?”

Sonia Kaspbrak stood at the far end of Eddie’s soon-to-be dorm room, wiping down the window for the third time. While Eddie took trips to carry his boxes up from the car, she had stayed to disinfect every inch of the already spotless room. But he knew that was her way of stalling, and he let her have it.

“Yes, mommy.” Eddie sighed, carrying in the last of his boxes in and placing it on the top of the stack he had made at the foot of the bed. On one of his trips back to the car, Eddie had run into Mike who’d offered to help move some of the boxes. Eddie protested since it looked like Mike was on his way to something, but Mike insisted and carried two boxes up to his dorm. Despite his protests, Eddie was grateful for Mike’s help because he ended up picking the two biggest boxes that Eddie had been dreading trying to get up the stairs. He even apologized for only being able to help a little bit, which Eddie thought was silly since he’d helped significantly, before needing to run off to whatever meeting he was needed at. He vaguely remembered Mike mentioning in the Losers’ group chat being a part of some buddy-system program for upperclassmen to help first-year students adjust to college life, and he kind of wished he had signed up for that, too. But there was no way his mother would’ve let him move in early enough to make the meetings. He was glad Mike did sign up, though, since he had been homeschooled up until that point.

“That Mike boy sure was nice for helping you out with those,” Sonia remarked, throwing a cleaning wipe in the small trash bin under the desk. “You should have asked him to stay and help with the rest. I can tell your asthma is getting worked up from all those stairs.”

Eddie instinctively reached into the fanny pack that his mother insisted he wore and took two puffs off of his inhaler. He really wasn’t feeling too short of breath, but he did it to appease her. It was easier than trying to explain that he felt fine, really.

Sonia turned to her son and pulled him into a tight embrace. “Oh, I’m going to miss you so much!” She whimpered and Eddie could tell that she had begun to cry. Honestly, he was impressed that she had managed to fend off tears for as long as she did. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay and help you unpack?”

“I’m sure, ma-” Eddie pulled away and tried to reassure his mother that he could unpack a few boxes by himself before he was cut off by the hall door opening and slamming shut, paired with a familiar voice echoing off the walls.

“Is that my Eddie Spaghetti?!” The footsteps quickened until Richie popped his head into the open doorway and Beverly followed a few moments later. He smiled his huge, dorky smile and ran into the room, wrapping his arms around Eddie’s body and lifting him a foot into the air with surprising ease. The smell of stale cigarettes assaulted Eddie’s nose and he winced, realizing his mom could probably smell it too.

“Put me down, asshole!” Eddie cried. He wriggled in Richie’s arms, with little effect. His arms were stuck to his sides, so there was very little he could accomplish. Except wriggle like an oversized trout trapped in a surprisingly well-secured net.

“Eddie-bear! Language!” Sonia scolded and Richie set Eddie down, just then realizing that she had been standing there the whole time.

“Sorry, Ma,” Eddie blushed both at being reprimanded and being called a childish nickname in front of his friends.

“Hey Mrs. K!” Richie chimed, “How was your Summer?”

“Alright, time to go,” Eddie insisted before Richie could interject with anything inappropriate about missing her over the break. He pushed his mom out of the room and both Richie and Bev had to maneuver awkwardly around the tight space in order to let her and Eddie through.

“Oh no, I really think I should stay a bit longer. Don’t you want to get lunch? You should eat something, sweetie, you look pale!” Sonia pleaded as Eddie pushed her down the hall and through the door at the end.

“I’m fine, mom! I still have the sandwich you packed me for the drive here.” Eddie stood in the door jam, blocking her path in case she tried to reason her way back into the hall. “I’ll be fine. I promise. I’ve got my friends to look after me.”

That definitely did not reassure Sonia, but she had little choice in the matter. She sighed heavily, “Alright. One last hug, though.”

Eddie stepped into his mother’s arms and could instantly feel all the air leave his lungs. His mom was crying once again, but he let her cling to him for as long as she needed. He had survived 18 years with her, what was two more minutes? “Make sure to call me! And I mean it, Eddie. Call me with any issues you’re having, or if you just want to talk, I’ll be right on the other line!”

“I will,” He wheezed, and she let up on her grip. She placed a wet kiss on his forehead and let him go. “I love you, mom,” Eddie smiled, knowing exactly what she needed to hear.

“I love you too, sweetie.” And with that, she turned and walked down the stairs back to the parking lot. Eddie waved goodbye from with window in the staircase and he could tell even from that distance that his mother was crying again as she got in the car and drove off. He felt bad that she had to drive all the way back to Maine by herself, but he tried not to dwell on it too much.

 

Upon re-entering his room, Richie had already begun going through some of his boxes and placing the smaller stuff on his shelves. “There he is! Man of the hour! We thought you’d never show up.”

“Yeah, sorry. My mom wanted me home as long as humanly possible. She originally was gonna drop me off right before my first class on Monday, but I convinced her that I needed a day or two to unpack.” He made his way over the open box and joined Richie in the unpacking.

“That’s why we’re here!” Bev piped up from her seat on the bare mattress and tossed Eddie’s sandwich at him. “Your mom was right, though. You, sir, need to eat your lunch.”

“Yeah, Bev and I will get a head start while you munch!” Richie took out a collection of comics that looked eerily familiar and delicately lined them up on the shelf above Eddie’s desk.

“Oh no. You’ll get a head start. I’m in charge of the music!” Bev giggled and earned herself a balled-up sock to the head.

Eddie smiled at his two bickering friends, thankful to have them back in his life and in the same place. Their colorful language and vibrant energies were a harsh contrast to the vacant white walls and uninhabited furniture of his new room, but they helped it feel more like home. ‘How’, he thought to himself, ‘is it possible that I miss them more now than I did back home?’.

Eddie joined Bev on the bed and ate his sandwich, laughing whenever Richie and Bev would get into an argument about the song choice and sometimes even becoming a physical barrier between Richie and Bev’s phone. Eventually, Bev and Eddie joined in on unpacking and they got about 2 boxes completely unpacked before Ben popped his head in to greet everyone. He helped take the empty boxes to the dumpster downstairs and returned to help with the rest of the unpacking. Bill and Stan showed up not too much later to welcome Eddie to the official Losers Hall and stood in the door frame as everyone chatted, catching up on the highlights of everyone’s Summers. Mike joined them a bit later with a box of leftover apple cider donuts he’d snagged from his meeting.

Eddie felt himself fall back into the comfortable rhythm that came with having all of the Losers back together, and any anxiety about living on his own for the first time melted away. This was the first time that all the Losers had gotten together after Middle School, and it felt whole to have everyone back in one place. And in such a new and exciting place, too. He definitely had some concerns, but he knew that whatever happened, he’d at least have them. Just like he did back then.

Not everyone had left Derry after Middle School. In fact, most of the Losers stayed. Mike had stayed to work on his grandfather's farm and even got an internship at Derry Public Library. Albert Carson, the librarian at the time, had offered him the position after noticing how many nights Mike spent in the library’s carrels for his various research projects; both academic and extracurricular. Ben had also stayed, as he had just recently moved there when they’d all met him, and Bill as well. The three of them and Eddie would hang out often, but it never felt the same as it did when the rest were there too. Bill and Ben would often enthuse Mike with their interest in all of his projects, and it was nice, but Eddie was never as enthralled as the other three. He loved that his friends were excited about stuff, don’t get him wrong, he just never had as much of a fascination for Derry history as the others did. It made him feel a little left out if he was being completely honest.

It was in those moments that Eddie would sit back and think about Richie. He’d remember the many times Richie would interject at just the wrong moment with some new voice he’d be testing out, and how he always had something to say. Even if that something was completely outrageous. Eddie always admired that about Richie. How he always had a witty response to everything, and how he didn’t care if people laughed. Hell, he seemed to like it more if they did. He thought about how Richie always included everyone, even if he wasn’t thinking about it. He thought about how if Richie were here right now, Eddie would have something to be a part of. But thinking about him for too long made Eddie nauseous, so he steadied himself with a puff of his inhaler and turned his attention to what the other Losers might’ve been up to since leaving Derry.

Eddie learned that Bev was adjusting well to living with her Aunt in Portland and had made a few good friends in high school, but nothing as close as the Losers. Bill had gone on his annual summer trip with his family; this year to see Niagara Falls. He talked about how the roar of that much water rushing down at once freaked him out a bit, so they didn’t stay long. Bill also was quick to bring up how proud he was of Stan for getting promoted to Assistant Scout Master in his new Eagle Scout troop in New York. Everyone lifted their donuts in a round of cheers and Richie patted Stan firmly on the back. Mike asked about Richie’s new life in California and that sprung him into a long rant about his dad having to move for work, but resolving it with stories about all the “hot babes” he’d met on the beach.

“California must be suffering from some spandex deficiency, ‘cause the swimsuits people wear over there are tiny!” Richie covered his chest as if he’d been scandalized and Bill shoved him lightly.

“Polyester” Beverly corrected, “bathing suits are made of polyester, not spandex.”

“Alright, Miranda Priestly, not everyone’s a fashion genius!” When Bev was the only one to smile at his joke, Richie winced. “Geez, no Devil Wears Prada fans in the crowd?”

Bev giggled and suggested that they plan a movie night soon to educate the rest of the Losers.

“Oh, yeah! We should start a list of movies we want to watch!” Ben smiled and pulled out his phone to start a note. His addition brought on an array of interjections from each of the Losers, each suggesting a wide array of movie genres and titles.

“Indiana Jones!” Mike proposed, and Ben instantly typed it in, agreeing firmly.

“Ooh! Breakfast Club!” Stan added excitedly and earned a vigorous head nod from everyone in the room.

Bill smiled and threw in “Stand By Me” and Ben added it.

It was at that point that Eddie noticed that his friends’ presence had significantly reduced how much unpacking was actually getting done and decided it best to finish up the last of it himself. As much as he loved the conversation, he knew he’d have all year to hang out and politely dismissed them so he could finish up. They all agreed, some more hesitantly than others, and retreated to the lounge to continue their conversation. Eddie smiled to himself as their ramblings echoed down the hall, not faltering for a moment as they changed locations. “Ooh! Put Herbie, Fully Loaded on there!” he heard Richie yell just before his door clicked shut.

He let out a small laugh before turning back to his half-empty room. The sun was low in the sky at that point and cast a warm glow that turned his white walls orange. Bev had cracked the window open earlier to let some fresh air in, and the hush of rustling leaves in the gentle breeze was calming.

This was his for the next year. A place where his friends were all within throwing distance. Not across the country, not in different states, not even down the street. All Eddie had to do to see all the people he loved was leave the room and yell. He might not even have to leave the room if he really didn’t want to. They’d hear him and all come rushing in within seconds, he’d bet. Thinking about their closeness comforted him in a way he’d only felt that summer in middle school. This was his place to remember what it’s like to have fun. A place where his mother couldn’t hold him back. She had restrained him so much growing up that this new freedom excited him. All the possibilities bubbled up and tickled his insides.

Without Sonia, Eddie could be anything.

Because this was his.

And not even his mother could take that away.

Chapter Text

The first thing Eddie did with his newfound freedom was not the most logical of ideas, he would later admit.

He had rolled out of bed the morning after moving in and, upon staring at himself in the bathroom mirror while he brushed his teeth, realized that his hair had gotten quite long over summer. His mother usually cut his hair, to save money and energy on barbershops that she deemed “full of lice”, but she had been too terribly worried about him moving out for the past 3 weeks that she’d forgotten.

He padded back into his room next door, still in his matching set of pajamas, and grabbed a pair of scissors from one of his drawers. He threw a towel around his shoulders to catch whatever fell and stood in front of his mirror. He cautiously grabbed a tuft of hair from behind his ear, ‘Better to start with somewhere not-visible,’ he thought and took a deep breath before closing his eyes and chopping the entire section off. He opened one eye meekly, and then the other, afraid to see what he’d done. The half tuft that wasn’t pinched between his fingers stuck out behind his ear, ending in a harsh straight line. “Shit,” he whispered out loud and fiddled with it to get it sit right. It didn’t cooperate. He even licked his fingers a few times to get it to stick down, but it wasn’t working. He lifted the scissors to his ear again and angled the blade a bit this time, trying to get some semblance of a gradual slope to the cut. He slowly closed the blades, making sure to keep his eyes open this time, and the section fell into a more natural position. Only a few strands stuck out, and Eddie convinced himself that they’d lay flat after a shower.

He switched sides and started off by angling his scissors this time, learning from the previous side, and made the cut. After dropping his hands and looking at himself in the full-length mirror that hung behind his door, he realized the two sides were uneven. He quirked his lips to the side and debated whether he should try to even them out or keep going. He quickly chose the latter and grabbed another tuft of hair before he could second guess himself. He snipped away as precisely as he could with how fast he was cutting, racing against his own common sense. The blades paused briefly as he neared his fringe. This was the part where, if he fucked up, there would be major repercussions. He pinched a small section between his fingers and poised the scissors, but hesitated. ‘Just do it. Do it before you think about it too much’. But it was too late. He was already worrying about all the horrible ways he could mess this part up. If he cut too short he’d probably get called Alfalfa, or something just as demeaning, by Richie for the next few weeks until it grew out. If he left it long, though, it’d look silly compared to how short and choppy the sides were now.

Soon enough, these intrusive thoughts got the better of him and he decided to go to Bev for help. Flinging open the door, he shuffled down the hall, past a mysterious door that Richie joked about having the dead bodies of past school presidents, and stopped in front of the wooden door that read “Beverly” on a decorated name tag. Eddie assumed that whoever their RA was had made them all name tags, because he had one on his door, too, before even moving in. Bev’s name was written in black ink like his was, but hers was decorated with purple flowers and swirls, while Eddie’s was a mixture of blues and greens in geometric patterns. He lifted a hand and tapped his knuckles lightly against the wood. Not wanting to knock too hard and wake her in case she was still asleep. Checking his watch quickly, he realized that it was only 9:42 AM. An hour past when he’d normally wake up, but still relatively early for someone like Bev, he thought.

Just as Eddie was thinking about retreating back into his room, the door opened. Bev stood a few inches taller than him and wore a tank top and running shorts, paired with chunky sneakers and a windbreaker unzipped halfway. “Hey, Ed-Oh!” The bright smile that tugged at her cheeks dropped when she noticed his hair and the pair of scissors still in his hand.

“I tried, but I think you’d do a better job.” Something about the way she glanced around his head made him turn inward. His eyes dropped to his slippers and he toed a stain on the carpet.

“Well, I was gonna go on a run,” she checked her watch and paused for a moment before smiling brightly at him once more, “but it can wait.”

Bev told Eddie to go wait in the bathroom and followed close after him, wheeling her chair across the hall, into the bathroom, over the tiles, and to the sink. Eddie took a seat and looked at his reflection for a long time. The fluorescent lights sure as hell weren’t doing him or his hair any favors. The longer he stared, the less confident he became in how fixable his hair was. A few tufts stuck out in the back when he turned his head and there was one large chunk that he apparently had missed entirely, as it lay significantly longer than the rest of the shorter bits. He trusted Bev, he really did, he just couldn’t help the warmth that flooded his cheeks and pinched at his eyes.

“Oh Eddie,” Bev crooned, combing through his hair with her fingers. She ruffled the back a bit and clucked.

“That bad?” Eddie’s gaze dropped to his lap where his fingers toyed with the tails of his pajama shirt. He took a steadying breath, fighting off tears as best he could. It wasn’t even his second full day on campus, there was no way he was already crying.

“It’s…” she paused, trying to frame her opinion as gently as she could, “not irreparable. You’re just gonna have to deal with a more drastic change than you’re used to.”

Eddie’s heart skipped a beat. ‘Fuck. Drastic? What the hell does that mean? What does that look like?’ He took a few more breaths, these coming faster than he’d intended as his thoughts jittered. Instinctively, his hand reached for his waistband but retracted when he realized he wasn’t wearing his fanny pack yet.

‘Breathe in for four seconds, hold for 6 and let it out for 8’ he remembered his pharmacist instructing. When he was about 10, Eddie had gone to the pharmacy to refill his prescription as usual, but Mr. Keene had stopped him before he could leave the counter. ‘Y’know, it could be helpful to try some breathing exercises before resorting to your inhaler. Sometimes, light asthma symptoms can be helped by slowing your breathing rate and calming down. You don’t always need to rely on your inhaler as much as you do’. Eddie had nodded and even thought about trying that out next time, but immediately knew that he wouldn’t when it came down to it. But he tucked the information away anyway, just in case. Now he was glad that he had. It was easy enough to remember, anyway.

He inhaled deeply through his nose and counted to four, held for six like instructed, and exhaled through his mouth for eight. Wash, rinse, repeat. It took a few tries but, after the 4th or 5th breath, he actually started to calm down. He thought about the change and rationalized that hair grows, and really it’d only be short for a few weeks. Surely, he could handle that. A few weeks would blow by like nothing and soon he’d have to cut it again anyway.

Feeling more confident about the current situation, he looked in the mirror at Bev, who was already looking at him. She’d probably been watching him that entire time.

“Do it.” Eddie’s voice was small, so he cleared his throat and tried again, “Do your worst.”

Bev’s lips quirked and it was infectious. Soon the two were giggling at each other’s reflections. Bev grabbed her scissors and got to work, starting with evening out the back and working her way around to either side of Eddie’s head.

“Hold still!” Bev laughed a few moments later as Eddie lurched away, clutching his right ear.

“That was way too close! I could hear ever hair being sliced-” but Eddie was laughing too, “if you make me the next Van Gogh, you have to buy all my shitty self-portraits!”

“Hey! His self-portraits are monumental-” she protested, and was promptly cut off by the bathroom door swinging open.

“Woah, woah, woah! Who started a party and didn’t invite me?” Richie’s voice preceded him as he made his way into the bathroom. “Woa, Eds! I dig the new look! But don’t you think it’s bit early in the school year to be having a Britney level crisis? Hold on, lemme see,” and he lightly shoved Bev out from behind Eddie’s chair so he could get a better look. “Ho-ly-mo-ly, Eds. Dare I say, you look badass!” he teased and thrust the toothbrush in his hand towards Eddie’s reflection.

“Oh shut up, Rich,” he grumbled. The heat he had just prided himself on getting rid of returned to his cheeks and he turned his head away. “And don’t call me Eds…”

“Hey, hey! No peeking until the artiste is finished!” Bev chuckled and kindly nudged Richie out of the way. “Go brush your teeth, your breath reeks. Big time.”

“Alright, sweet cheeks, but just for you!” Richie blew a kiss in her direction and Bev ultimately swatted it out of the air. “No kisses till you brush em! I better see my own reflection in those pearly whites when you’re done.” She chided.

“You do me dirty, Bevvy.” A pout formed on his lips, to which Beverly only enthused with a glare. That got him to listen.

Turning back to Eddie’s reflection, Bev admired her work. She had left the top long and Eddie was glad he hadn’t cut it earlier. The length balanced out the shorter portions in a stylish undercut, which actually wasn’t that different from his usual style. In the midst of admiring his new ‘do, he noticed that Bev was frowning. Well, not so much frowning as… contemplating?

“What? What’s wrong?” Eddie shifted a bit, glancing between her and Richie who had just spit out a mouth full of toothpaste. Eddie grimaced before flicking his gaze back to her.

“What would you say if I told you I had some leftover bleach in my room?”

“What, like, hair bleach?” Eddie’s brows furrowed.

“Holy shit, Eds would never!” Richie chimed, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Bev just glared at him again and he took the hint.

Eddie thought for a moment, eyeing his reflection. He did kinda wonder what he’d look like as a blond... But he was having such a hard time picturing it. He tried blurring his vision, but then he couldn’t picture anything.

He must’ve looked troubled, cuz Bev chimed back in, “We don’t have to do the whole thing! Hell, I don’t think I even have that much bleach. We can start with just a few highlights and go from there.”

Eddie smiled. Why the fuck not? This was good for him. Change was good. He knew that, and he reminded himself of that at least 10 times since being here, but there’s a lot more risk in doing than in saying. He thought about all the times his mother had scoffed at the kids in his class with colorful hair and how they’d ‘never be able to get a job’. He thought about how he secretly wished he could be like them. How he knew he never would, even after moving out. Just out of sheer fear of what his mother would say if she ever found out. ‘Oh, god. What if she finds out.’

“Oh, hell yeah! Eddie Spaghetti with frosted tips? How very 2000’s Justin Timberlake of you.” Richie chuckled.

Eddie took a breath. ‘Mom promised she wouldn’t show up unexpectedly, and the next time she’s scheduled to come is Family & Friends Weekend next month…’

“Fuck it. Let’s do it.”

“That’s the spirit, Eddie!” Before he had the chance to change his mind, Bev was already going to grab the bleach from her room and Richie was swinging an arm around Eddie’s shoulders, “You’re gonna look so fresh! I can see it already: first day of class, who’s that new kid? Is that JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE?! Why, no, ladies. But I’ll do ya one better! This here’s my good pal, Ed-boy. No, excuse me. Ed-MAN. He just recently graduated, you see and-”

“Beep, beep, Richie!” Bev pushed through the door and set down her arm full of tubs and tubes and... a bowl? Why’d she need a bowl? “I can hear you all the way down the hall, you’re gonna wake up everyone else!”

“Ah, but you’re forgetting one tiny detail, Bev, dear. Richie Tozier always sleeps in the latest.” Richie took up a perch on the counter next to the sink that Eddie was seated in front of. He’d tucked one foot behind his knee and swung the other limply.

“Yeah, you’re not usually awake before 11… what got you outta bed so early today?” Bev eyed Richie knowingly, not actually needing a response, but urging one on anyway.

Richie stared at her wide-eyed for a split second before flicking his eyes to Eddie and then fixing his gaze on her. “I’m offended, Bev! I can’t wake up early just to hang out with my bestest friends in the whole wide world whom I haven’t seen for approximately too-fucking-long?”

“I’m just saying, you didn’t wake up early when Ben or Mike moved in…” Bev challenged.

Eddie thought he saw Richie swallow hard but he was watching out of his peripherals so he couldn’t be sure. He had sort of tuned out the two of them to think about his new hair more in-depth. Maybe he did want his whole head bleached. Not today, since Bev said she didn’t have enough, but maybe someday soon. Maybe he’d even dye it a fun color. He had always liked pink…

He tuned back in when Richie reached across the sink to grab for one of the blue tubes. “Toner? What the fuck is toner?”

Bev launched into a long spiel about how toner works to take out any orange brassiness that comes from just bleaching hair, and answered Richie’s follow up interjections about what the different numbers on the bleach bottles meant. Luckily, Bev didn’t wait for Richie to be satisfied in order for her to begin prepping the mixtures. Eddie watched her pour equal parts powder and cream and mix them in the- “Oh that’s what the bowl’s for!”. The stench of ammonia made his nose wrinkle and he brought a corner of his towel up to his nose. He fought back all the different iterations of his mother’s voice complaining about how ammonia ‘gives you lung cancer worse than cigarettes!’ and how ‘cancer runs in the family, so you need to take every precaution, honey’.

“Bev you’re not providing the full salon experience!” Richie complained, turning to Eddie and putting on a voice he named Diva Denise. “So, haow was yoah summah, dawll? I hoid you was stuck in the cupboard undah the stai’s the entoiya toime! Just loike that Harry Pottah fellow!” Richie mimed filing his nails and chewing gum as he sat on the counter.

“God, Rich, that one’s terrible!” Eddie complained, muffled through the towel, but he was laughing nonetheless.

“Smack, him for me, would ya, Eddie?” Bev nudged him with her elbow, and when he looked up to see why she couldn’t, he remembered that her hands were full of chemicals. Eddie reached out but was only close enough to graze Richie’s knee. He played off the light touch as if he hadn’t misjudged the distance significantly and sat forward to land a solid smack. The sound echoed twice in the empty bathroom, and the three of them fell silent for a moment before bursting out into laughter.

Bev calmed herself just long enough to ask if Eddie was still sure he wanted this. Eddie nodded firmly. She put a pair of latex gloves on and scooped out a small portion of the white cream onto two fingers. She dabbed it onto the ends of Eddie’s fringe and blended it up with the clean glove. She made sure to leave about an inch of unblended roots so that her blend could always be softened later if need be. It only took a few minutes for her to finish blending the rest of his hair and instructed him to let that sit for a few minutes.

“Woah! I can already see it lightening, holy shit! That stuff’s fast!” Richie leaned closer to get a better look at the transformation and blinked heavily when his eyes began to burn. “Oh, but don’t get too close, ow!”

Bev giggled and glanced into the bowl, where about half of the original mixture remained.

“Ugh, I always get the measurements wrong with this stuff… Well, better to have too much than too little I guess. Any chance you want to bleach your hair too, Rich?” she thrust the bowl in his direction and his eyes widened behind his glasses.

“Holy shit, can I?”

“Either that or I throw it away. I don’t really care where it goes.”

“Fuck yea! Eds, we can be all matchy-matchy!” Richie beamed and reached out to pinch Eddie’s cheek, who slapped it away on incoming.

“If I let you copy my hairstyle you have to promise to stop calling me Eds. You know how much I hate it!” Eddie pouted.

“Aw, you know I can’t promise that! But don’t worry, I’ll let you have that sick new cut all to yourself, I just want the color!”

“Ugh, that doesn’t count! Why do you always have to find some shitty loophole-”

“You heard the man, Bev! I’ll have what he’s having!” Richie beamed and Bev rolled her eyes before starting work on his hair. Richie’s hair was significantly longer than Eddie’s so the same amount of bleach didn’t go quite as far on him as it did the other. When they both rinsed out the formula, Eddie had a perfect frosted tip look, while Richie had a sort of Rogue from X-Men thing going on.

“Hey! I want a refund! Eddie’s looks way cooler!” Richie whined, squinting at his and Eddie’s reflections in the mirror.

“No refunds or exchanges, sorry! Shoulda read the contract before you signed it!” Bev grinned, throwing out the empty containers.

When Eddie first saw his reflection, he didn’t recognize himself. It threw him off guard a bit to be standing so firmly with his hands gripping the blue linoleum countertop, yet see someone entirely different standing in his exact position looking right back at him. His freckles were the same, his lips and his nose too, but he looked different. He felt different. He ran a cautious hand through the top, admiring how surprisingly soft it felt between his fingers. He always thought bleach ruined hair, but this hair didn’t feel ruined at all. It didn’t flake or crunch as his mother warned him it would. It felt nice. It looked nice. He smiled to himself, feeling a sense of pride for actually going through with something so different. This was so unlike him. No. this was like him. This was who he’d always hoped he could be. Someone unafraid of doing the wrong thing. Someone who could make choices for himself without relying on anyone else to make sure he was making the right ones.

“Holy shit, he hates it.” Richie smacked Bev’s arm lightly, “Look at him, you made the poor thing cry!”

Eddie hadn’t noticed, but he had, in fact, begun to tear up. He wasn’t completely sure why, but sure enough, when he looked into his mirrored eyes, they were misted over.

Bev panicked, “Ohmygosh Eddie I’m so sorry! I can run to the store and get some brown dye right now and we can-”

“No…” Eddie said softly, “I love it.”