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keep your mouth shut, darling.

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i.

It’s on the third Friday of the month, nearly summertime when Stan notices something up with Richie. The loudmouth's sleeping over his house this weekend but is being unusually quiet. Instead of obnoxious jokes and horrible impressions, he's been smiling at his phone screen the entire time.

He must be texting someone, giggling at the screen after every buzz. Normally, he wouldn’t say anything, because a quiet Richie is a blessing but it’s starting to interfere with him reading. So, he decides to nudge the other with a sock-clad foot until Richie chooses to start paying attention.

“Uhh sorry, what’s up?”

“Who’s texting you?” He asks, mostly to be a little shit, and besides, it’s funny to see his friend’s face go pink from embarrassment.

“Uhh, the president.”
“Try again.”
“Your mother.”
“No-”

“Ugh! Fine uhh,” Richie’s practically squirming in his seat, the boy starts to stutter out another limp ass excuse before Stan hits him with his best, ‘you better tell me the truth now because I’ll find out anyway’ glare. He visibly deflates and with a sigh begins to explain himself, “well ya see,” Ah, and now, he’s doing a piss poor western Voice. Amazing. Stan has never seen true comedy quite like this before.

“Our love-a-lee Eddie darlin’ figured out how ta text without his mama seein’ it.”

Now, let the records show that Stanley Uris held his laughter back for a solid five seconds before bursting out into, clearly mocking, cackles. A pillow smacks him square in the face from an obviously flustered Richie, which only makes him laugh even harder.

“Shut up! Don’t even- Stan, seriously, shut up!”
“I wasn’t even thinking anything!”
“Yeah right, you son of a bitch-”

Richie launches forward to tackle him and they wrestle for a little bit, although it’s mostly Stan wheezing out laughter and his friend weakly hitting him.

After the two have calmed down, Stanley nods over to the other boy’s long-discarded phone.

“Hey, why’d he tell you and not the rest of us?”

Richie let out an odd sputtering sound and his cheeks are flushed with color again. He’s pointedly looking down at Stanley’s crisp, periwinkle sheets and shrugs, plucking at his cuticles. Stan feels a pang of guilt for a moment because only he knows how much Richie really loves Eddie and it feels like a cheap shot to make fun of him for it. Before he can even open his mouth to apologize another damning buzz rings through the room and Richie is scrambling for his phone to answer it.

“Well I mean,” After a beat of silence, Richie speaks up again all while typing away to Eddie, “why wouldn’t he tell me first? I’m his b-” He cuts himself off, eyes wide and cheeks burning up as they redden, even more, his fingers hovering over the screen of his phone.

“You’re his what now?” Stanley says with a mischievous grin and one eyebrow raised.

"Best friend! I'm his best friend. Yea man, Eddie tells me everything." He lets out a scoff as if he’s annoyed but snaps his head towards his phone as soon as it goes off yet again.

“..Right., sure Rich, whatever you say.”

Stan sort of wants to bring it back up and prod him about it, but he decides to hold off. This doesn’t feel like a regular Richie “been in love with his best friend” Tozier move, no, something else is going on here. So, instead of bringing it up and horribly embarrassing Richie right then and there, Stanley decides to wait until both idiots are present. Better to get both oblivious morons at once, especially while they

It happens about a week later when they’re all in the clubhouse and the two idiots are fighting over that stupid god damn hammock. They’re going at it again like rabid dogs, kicking and spewing foul insults at each other. If Stan didn’t know any better he’d think that they really did hate one another but, unfortunately, he does know all too well about how the two of them both feel.

“Get your fucking feet away from my face, you smell like absolute shit, fucking-” Eddie’s shouting as he smacks the top of the foot pressed against his cheek.

“Awww what,” Richie coos, wiggling his toes against the other’s cheekbone only grinning when he starts to squirm away, “doesn’t remind you of your mommy?”

And while he’s too busy smirking at his own joke, Eddie is lurching forward to pinch at the little ankle skin that’s peeking out between fabric.

“Shut up Richie!” Richie makes a strange yelp noise and yanks his foot back, choosing to dangle the stray leg over the side of the hammock.

“You little bitch-” He lands a smack to the closest body part of Eddie that he can, hand coming down on the other boy's knee.

Stan watches this weird mating dance from a distance, face scrunched up in utter disgust. Now seems like a perfect time to bring up something that will stun them both into panicked gay embarrassment.

“Hey!” He calls out, snapping them both out of their little catfight.

“What.” Eddie’s grumbling, face sorta scrunched up in irritation and it makes Stan want to scoff. He’s such a little dickhead.

He’s sitting up now, one hand fisted in the collar of Richie’s shirt from the ‘wrestling’ the two were just doing. Though, it looked a hell of a lot more like flailing around and seeing who can insult the other more to Stanley. He lets go of the fabric though, smoothing it down quickly while avoiding eye contact with the loudmouth staring him down.

“So you’ve been messaging Richie a lot huh?” Stanley says with a smirk, watching as the boy starts stuttering in denial, instead, turning towards his hammock buddy to yell at him for telling.

"Richie!" He shrieks, pushing at the other boy's shoulder, "what the hell!"

Richie goes to open his mouth and say some smartass retort back at Eddie, the sound of the clubhouse door opening shuts them all up.

It’s just Beverly, but the losers know that once she shows up, the rest of the boys will be soon to follow. She studies their serious faces and huffs out a laugh while walking over to grab a shower cap for her hair, “What’s with the weird energy in here?”

Bev plops down on a cushion next to Stan before leaning in close to move a stray curl from the middle of his forehead. The gesture makes him lose his train of thought, only for a moment before he clears his throat and nods.

“Oh uh thanks but… it’s nothing,” He says, gesturing over to the two red-faced idiots who are now on separate sides of the hammock, “I was just messing with them.”

Beverly laughs a little and sneers, mostly in Richie’s direction, “Good! Lord knows Trashmouth needs to be knocked down a peg.” The tension in the room eases, Eddie visibly releasing his bunched up shoulders.

Richie sticks his tongue out at the red-haired girl, “whatever Carrot Top, you’re just jealous of my rockin’ bod and hilarious nature.”

The two descend into petty bickering and Stanley doesn’t bring up the texting thing again, but he still thinks something is up.

 

ii.

Eddie’s standing at the curb at the end of his street, fiddling with the strap of his backpack anxiously. Mostly out of the sheer panic that shoots through him every time he lies to his mother.

Now, it's not as if he hasn’t lied to her before but this time it feels strangely… illegal, somehow. Eddie had told her that the bus moved his pick up location, making it now just out of sight from his living room window. And of course, at first, she had flipped and tried to call the bus station to have it all switched back.

But Eddie was prepared this time, had an explanation and excuse for any freakout under the sun. He told her that the place was closed on weekends and, had she called to check, would've given her Richie's father's number, who agreed to help him out. Thankfully, she didn't call and Eddie didn't have to worry about it after that.

His mother had also been recently switched to the first rounds of the morning at the hospital she works at, the one on the other side of town. This means that not only can she no longer drive him to school, thank god, she’ll also be taking a nap when he gets out most days.

Which means more time with-

“AY YO MA!” Jesus Fucking Christ.

Just as planned, Richie is pulling up in the beat-up Nissan that his sister didn’t want anymore. The sudden shout makes Eddie jump a little and glance back in the direction of his house as if his mother was going to come stomping out any second. He scowls at the other’s mischievous grin and does a little shuffle run to quickly get into the car before any of the neighbors' notice.

“Do you HAVE to make so much noise that the entire neighborhood wakes up?” Eddie grumbles out, feeling his whole face scrunch up in annoyance, the way it normally is when Richie’s around.

The expression melts off of him when the other boy leans forward to press his thumb on the crease of his furrowed brow. Eddie feels a tiny, stupid smile involuntarily spread across his own face at the look Richie’s giving him - all soft eyes with a fond grin.

“Course I do honeypie-”
“Gross.”
“Not a fan? Hm.. what about... Buttercup!”
“Worse, actually.”
“Pumpkin-” “No.” “Puddin’ pop-” “Nope.” “Cream puff?” “What’s with you and food names?”

Richie breaks off whatever awful nickname he was going to suggest with a laugh, moving his hand down to squeeze at the others’ squishy cheek.

“Can’t help it, I just wanna-”
“If you say something about eating me up, I will not hesitate to bite your hand.”

Another laugh, more on the giggle side this time, and then Richie’s leaning in closer, lips almost pressed up against Eddie’s when he whispers, “You’re feral Kaspbrak.”

“Shut up,” he murmurs back, leaning forward to kiss Richie back sweetly, only for a moment before pushing him back into his own seat.

Richie hesitates to turn the key in his car for a moment, before diving back in to kiss Eddie once more, who squeaks in protest. He presses a few obnoxiously loud smooches against the other’s cheek, ignoring his protests of, “Richie! We’re gonna be late!” Both dissolve into laughter, just out of sheer giddiness and Eddie pulls his boyfriend in for one last kiss before hitting his shoulder.

“Okay last one Rich, seriously, we have to go.”
“You’re positive we can’t skip and makeout?”
“It’s the first day. No. Maybe next week.”

With an exaggerated, loud groan Richie complies and Eddie takes the time he’s distracted on the road to look him over, admiring the way his jawline tenses when he takes a sharp turn.

They’ve been dating a few months now and have decided to tell absolutely no one, not even their close group of friends. Partially out of the crippling fear that comes with being gay in a small town and partially because of how homophobic Eddie’s mother is.

It's not as if the losers would spread it around intentionally but it’s still the paranoia of one of them bringing it up at the wrong time with the wrong people around to overhear.

They’re both equally anxious about the whole situation and plus, it’s easier sneaking around when they’ve always been joined at the hip. Both sets of parents just assume that Richie and Eddie are just best friends - who hold hands and have to fall asleep on facetime together.

Course, Sonia has never been the biggest fan of “The Loud Tozier Boy” as she calls him, but she never says anything outwardly rude to Eddie’s face anymore, so the thinks they're getting somewhere.

Eddie's ninety-five percent sure Richie’s parents know, mostly because they keep inviting Eddie to family only events and always say, “You kids have fun!” whenever Richie shuts his bedroom door when he's over. But they’re cool either way and were alright with their son liking boys so he doesn't think wouldn’t be an issue if they found out.

Eddie’s train of thought goes off the rails when Richie leans over to hold his hand while they’re parked at a stoplight. He squeezes their interlocked fingers before pulling away, cheeks a bit pink from the gesture.

Instead of saying something sickeningly sweet though, he just crosses his arms and huffs out, “Watch the road, dumbass.”

That gets another laugh out of Richie and he doesn’t have to look over to know about the wide grin that's plastered on his face right now. They spend part of the drive yelling to Weezer songs until Richie turns the music down and pulls into the drive-thru for a coffee shop by their school.

“Why are you stopping! School starts in-”
“Eddie, my love, relax… we have, like… half an hour until the first bell. Let me buy you one of your nasty teas.”
“First of all, at least I don’t drink coffee that’s going to put me in the grave by thirty with how much sugar is in it and secondly-”
"Oh my god, I don't even drink it with that much sugar."
"Don't interrupt me asshole!"

The two descend into bickering, unaware of the very familiar car pulling up behind them in the drive-thru. Beverly’s slumped against her steering wheel, dead tired and not at all excited to start school when Ben, who’s sitting in the passenger seat, taps her shoulder.

“Hey hon, look who’s ahead of us,” his tone is quiet and calm, mindful of just how grumpy his girlfriend can be in the morning. God, she loves his considerate ass.

She begrudgingly lifts her head up to see two of her good friends in what looks to be a firey fight. Suddenly brightening up, Beverly goes to shove her head out the window to say hi.

With a big, broad smile on her face, hands cupped over her mouth she prepares to scream when she sees Eddie lean in and kiss Richie square on the forehead. Beverly shoots back into the car with a startled shout, hitting Ben repeatedly on the arm.

“I saw them!” he yelps, rubbing at his now sore arm while glancing over at his, now screaming, girlfriend in worry. Her eyes are bulging as she wipes her head over to him, pointing at the car in front of her, making unintelligible choked off sounds.

“Eddie kissed him! You saw!”
“He did-”
“You don’t understand Ben, it’s always the other way around, this has to mean something!”

Meanwhile, completely oblivious to the chaos behind them, Richie’s leaning out the window to grab an iced coffee and a small iced tea. He ends up doing a side-eye at the car behind him on instinct, double-taking when he sees a red-faced, shouting Beverly cut herself off to smile widely and wave at them, almost frantically.

“Shit,” He grits out through clenched teeth, a fake, almost strained grin plastered on his face as he nods back to them in acknowledgment, hands full with drinks. When he ducks into the car and parks, Eddie looks at him concerned turning around in his seat quickly with a rushed out, “What’s ‘shit,’ what, who-”

He sees Beverly reaching out of her car window to pay the worker at the window and feels his stomach turn over.

Eddie whips back around to stare at his tea with wide eyes, eyebrows are drawn in subconsciously in worry. He turns to look at his boyfriend and sees him with a similar face, all scrunched up together in nervous thought. It’s always weird to see Richie serious, weirder to see him fretting over something. Not that he doesn’t get worried or anxious, granted not in the same ways that Eddie does, but he’s just better at internalizing it.

“They’re pulling up,” Richie whispers, nudging Eddie with his elbow, “act normal.”

“Me act normal? Please! If anyone should be warned about acting normal, it should be you.” Eddie retorts with a little smile, trying his best to break them out of this weird uneasy air that’s settled around them.

It works, thankfully, because Richie’s turning towards him with a dramatic gasp, hand clutching his heart, as he theatrically drapes himself over the steering wheel.

“You… wound me so,” He’s choking out, coughing a few times for the effect, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it.”

Eddie goes to open his mouth, cut off by a horn honking from the car next to them. Beverly sits there in her aunt’s cherry red Buggie while Ben timidly waves at them from the passenger seat. Richie rolls the window down and takes a big sip of his coffee, nodding his head towards the couple in acknowledgment.

“Hey, what are you two crazy kids doing this fine morn,” He shouts as if there are miles between the two cars. Eddie covers his ears and shoots him a side glare, before waving a little back at Ben.

“The same thing as you it seems,” Beverly smirks and shakes the drink in her hand side by side, “oh, by the way, I saw-”

Richie glances at the clock and cuts the excited looking girl off with a surprised noise, “would you look at the time Ms. Marsh, we gotta scuttle, don’t we Spaghetti Head?”

Eddie makes a show of glancing at his phone screen and nodding furiously before taking a big sip of his iced tea. He turns the screen towards the other car just so the others can see.

“See you in third-period Haystack!” Richie shouts over the two, who both begin yelling out protests to talk more before turning the engine over and backing up. He can feel Eddie’s disappointed stare watching him as he parks in his usual faraway spot towards the back of the school.

Turning the car off, he makes eye contact with his boyfriend who’s still staring him down, eyes raised and arms folded together.

“Why are you still looking at me like that,” Richie sighs out, breaking eye contact to reach into the backseat and grab his backpack.

Eddie lets out a scoff and grabs his own off the floor in front of him, “real smooth Tozier, real smooth.” He hops out of the car and suppresses a smile when he hears his boyfriend cackling behind him.

Richie walks over to him, throwing an arm around his shoulders as they start their descent towards the school, leaning down to whisper close against the shell of his ear, “think they’ll bring it up again?”

“Quit it,” he all but giggles out, using a spare hand to push the other’s face away from him.

Thankfully, despite the pointed looks that the happy couple both give them in the following weeks to come the two don’t bring it up again.

iii.

Bill sees the difference in Richie and Eddie that summer, while they’re all staying at Ben’s family’s summer cabin up in Cape Cod. The house itself far more huge and fancy than they're used to but has been in the Hanscom family for years, shared by most of the family during the summer. It's a few minutes walking distance from the water with enough room to house the entire losers club, plus Ben’s parents. Well, as long as they had two to a room at least.

They used to have to go without Beverly, facetiming her whenever they could for everyone to be together. But, since Ben finally asked her out after pining for the redhead for almost six years and his parents adore her, Beverly finally gets to join them.

This is her first year out and for it, she offers to drive up a few of the crew on the condition that she gets to play her own music. Richie, of course, absolutely refuses and insists on driving himself, because, “I’ll be damned if I spend five hours listening to Sleater Kinny and Stevie Nicks.”

“Oh fuck OFF,” she groans when he says as much to her, punching his shoulder, “It’s not like driving with you is going to be any better, how many plays have you given Mr. Matt Maltese again?”

“Ow!” Richie cries out dramatically, leaning on a nearby Stan for support, who shrugs him off quickly. Nursing his wounded shoulder, he nods over at where Eddie and Mike are going through the hypochondriac’s extensive checklist on what to bring for the upcoming trip.

“At least Eddie likes my music,” The loudmouth grumbles, mostly talking under his breath when he hesitantly makes eye contact with Beverly, who’s got a shit-eating grin plastered on her face.

“What?” he snaps out, a bit irritated with his friend giving him That look… like she knows something he doesn’t.

Beverly just takes it in stride though, not one to let any of the boys and their occasional piss poor attitudes annoy her too much. She’s good like that. Instead, Bev just laughs a little and shakes her head, making a move to go greet Ben, who just walked up with his own stuff. Before walking fully out of earshot, she just has to get one last kicker in, because Richie deserves a little bit of teasing.

“Nothin’! I’m just sure that Eddie loves your … ya know, ‘taste in music’, that’s all!”

Before Richie can whip out a crude insult back, the sound of a car trunk being slammed shut startles him just enough to forget whatever shitty one-liner he was going to say.

The culprit of the conversation and much of Richie’s teasing, Eddie Kapsbrak himself, suddenly appears by his side.

“Fuck!” Richie exclaims with a jolt, much to the annoyance of the other, “little gremlin, where’d you come from?”

“Just for that, I’m riding with Ben’s parents,” Eddie sneers up at the loudmouth, smacking his uninjured shoulder before speed walking to his boyfriend’s car before he can get a chance to counterattack. Richie gasps, as if thoroughly offended and turns towards the rest of the crew, most of which are about to load into Beverly’s little cherry red Volkswagen Beetle. Stanley, however, decides to ride up with Ben’s parents this year because according to him, “they’re quiet and play audiobooks that I like.”

“Alright well,” Richie shouts out, despite everyone being within talking distance, “I’ll be driving the party car, so if anyone wants to have a good time, you know who to drive with!”

Bev rolls her eyes at him, looping arms with Ben, who is giving him a tiny smile out of sympathy. Everyone knows that regardless of all the noise Richie makes, it will be only Eddie riding with him, and the rest of the club splitting between whoever else is driving up. Not because Richie’s horrible at driving, although he does have a habit of speeding, but just because he blasts the music and sings along to it even louder. It gets tiring after about two hours.

But Eddie goes with him as always, posts the funniest bits on his Snapchat story while giggling in the background the entire time. They’re always exhausted by the time they make it to the cabin, passing out in their shared room as soon as everything’s unpacked. It had been that way since they first started coming, the two of them sharing a pair of headphones in the backseat of the Hanscom's minivan at thirteen. They’d giggle and fight obnoxiously until whoever was stuck sitting next to the pair elbowed them both. They'd eventually falling asleep on each other's shoulders for the rest of the car ride.

And then Richie gets his license and sister’s hand me down car at the ripe age of sixteen and it becomes karaoke for the four-hour drive, passing out at the cabin until 2:00 AM before going to the nearest IHOP for dinnerfast, as they so lovingly coined it.

It used to be all the boys sleeping together in their sleeping bags in the living room, ‘camping indoors’ as Ben’s mom Arlene called it. As they got older though it becomes less fun and the boys divide up the house’s rooms once they’re all fifteen. Mike rooms with Bill in the room downstairs, Stan gets the comfy couch in the living room and Ben gets the furnished basement.

That leaves Richie and Eddie in the guest bedroom upstairs, the one with a bathroom attached to it. The only reason they get the room is because of Eddie and because Ben’s parents adore him, and want to make sure he’s as comfortable as possible. And of course, where Eddie goes, Richie goes.

This year is no different, just that Ben has to sleep in the living room while Beverly gets the basement to herself. Well that and, Bill’s convinced something is going on with Richie and Eddie. The pair have always been close and touchy, always laughing and insulting each other like there was some deeper inside joke that nobody else got but the two of them.

Richie has always told jokes and then immediately looked to Eddie to see if he laughed, always carried an extra asthma aspirator just in case, things like that. And while Bill is a bit oblivious but he’s not a total idiot and he knows what Richie looks like when he has a crush. He lets it completely consume him, lets himself be swept away into the person he’s infatuated with.

Eddie's more subtle if you don't know him the way the losers do. He hovers over the ones he loves, choosing to rant about potential health issues than smother those around him. Cleaning out scraped knees, pressing cotton swabs with a little too much rubbing alcohol while chastising the person he loves for being stupid. All his fuss and noise is because he cares, all because he loves too much.

They've been this way forever, tossing schoolyard insults towards each other while wearing huge grins on their faces. And as they’ve grown older, Bill’s noticed that the insults have veered into a fun game of ‘how hard we can flirt until one of us gets flustered.’

He first notices when they’re still on the road, Stan texting the group chat about halfway through the trip that Ben’s parents are stopping for gas. The place they pull off to has some fast-food restaurant attached and when Beverly pulls up, Richie’s already inside and in line.

Bill’s in the middle of talking to Eddie about this nice thing Mike said to him in the car while the man is inside, buying them snacks when Richie comes out with a bag of food.

“I’m telling you, Bill, he-- oh!” Eddie stops mid-sentence when he’s nudged by a neatly wrapped sandwich.

“Eat me, Edward!” Richie says, his voice high pitched while he wiggles the food around, trying to make it seem like it’s the burger talking. Bill watches in silence as Eddie holds back a smile, his dimples pressing into the skin of his cheeks.

He expects the smaller boy to say something along the lines of, ‘oh my god, shut up,’ like he always does. So Bill’s a bit shocked to see Eddie take the food with a grin, leaning up to kiss Richie on the cheek.

“Thanks, Rich,” he says with a fond smile that Bill doesn’t recall seeing before, leaning into the taller boy as he unwraps his food to eat. With a big grin full of teeth, his eyes crinkling in the corners in glee, Richie ruffles Eddie’s hair and leans down a little to say, “No prob, bob.”

They both watch him walk away to where Bev and Stan are, Bill whipping his head back to make eye contact with Eddie.

“Wuh-what was that?”

“What was what?” He replies, mouth full and a little ketchup on the corner. It’s progress that he’s allowing himself to eat junk food every now and again, at least without googling all the health risks that could come from eating a single meat patty.

“You with Richie j-just now, y-you kissed his cheek!” Bill points out, eyes wide and almost frantic looking.

Eddie just shrugs, looking mostly unbothered, “So what?” he says, staring his friend down, “Richie does it to me all the time and you guys never say anything.”

“Yeah, b-buh-but-”

He’s cut off by Beverly, who’s screaming his name across the fifteen feet of distance between them, rather than just walk over and say what she wants to.

“Bill!! We gotta go, can you go grab Mike?” He sighs, suppressing an eye roll before nodding in agreeance.

“Sure, Bev!” Bill yells back, just as obnoxiously before turning back to Eddie, meeting the shorter boy’s eyes, “Th-this isn’t over.”

All he gets is a snort in response and without him realizing, Richie’s strolled on back.

“What’s not over Billy boy?” He says, poking at Bill’s spine just to see him jump. Before he can respond, Eddie’s reaching out to grab the lanky boy by one of his skinny wrists and pulling him past Bill.

“Nothin’, Bill’s just messing with me,” Eddie replies quickly, shooting Bill an oddly serious look before nodding over to the building, “go get Mike, we’ll see you at the cabin.”

Richie’s looking down at Eddie with scrunched up eyebrows, his wrist still being squeezed in a tight grip. Bill gives them a weird look because, yeah... what the fuck was that. As he’s walking away he hears Richie, who to his credit is trying to talk quietly, whisper down to Eddie. With a soft tone, one where Bill can practically see the hearts in his eyes, he hears Richie say, “what’s wrong, baby?”

He feels his eyebrows shoot up unconsciously in disbelief and decides that yes, something indeed is different between them.

---

Bill doesn’t get the chance to bring it up to anyone, turning into bed early that night. The next morning he’s woken up to Mike slipping out for a morning jog, saying that he promised to join Ben (as much as he doesn’t want to). It takes about half an hour for the rest of the house to wake up after that, Ben’s father cooking breakfast while his mother and Beverly look over some fashion magazines.

He groans at the sound of his door opening, knowing exactly who it is. Bill doesn’t even have to roll over to look, he’s had enough sleepovers with the kid. Still, he peeks over his shoulder when the bed dips and, yup, it's Eddie. With his hair combed and face glowing from whatever little skincare routine he has in the mornings. He’s still in pajamas though, which is unusual, normally he comes to bug Bill fully dressed with demands that the other boy does the same.

“Morning Bill,” he chirps out, much too enthusiastic for however early it is in the morning.

“Hey, Eddie... Richie still asleep?” Bill mutters out, letting out a breath of laughter when the other scoffs.

“Yeah, he is, lazy bastard wanted to sleep in,” Eddie grumbles out and he doesn’t have to be facing him to know that his friend is rolling his eyes. They start talking about Spiderman villains because Eddie brings up that he’s just read one of the newest issues and thinks one of them is super lame. Bill disagrees.

They’re in the middle of bickering over whether or not Shocker deserves rights when a half-awake Richie stumbles into the room. The conversation cuts off when he lingers over to the side of the bed where Eddie’s sitting up on, hitting him lightly in the leg.

“ ‘Pasghetti… lay down..” He mumbles sleepily and Eddie wordlessly complies as Bill watches in some kind of horrified awe. Richie lays down half on and half off of the other, nose nuzzled into the side of his neck. Bill can’t look away as Eddie laughs all soft and fond, muttering out a much too sweet, “Aw, Rich,” before using a hand to run through his curls.

Silence fills the room for a moment before Eddie clears his throat, cheeks red, and says, “So Bill, what were we saying? Oh yeah, how stupid Herman fuckin’ Schultz is as a character.”

Sudden rage fills him again and Bill doesn’t fucking care about how Eddie and Richie feel about each other right now, honestly. He just wants to save this character from the tiny, demonic talons that Eddie Kaspbrak has wrapped around him. The little bastard.

They fight with Eddie gingerly playing with Richie’s hair until breakfast is ready, coming to a wordless truce for now. Bill’s about to leave the room when he hears Eddie whispering to Richie, who probably fell back asleep.

He fixes his hair in the nearby mirror, rolling some deodorant on so that he can eavesdrop for a little bit longer. So, alright, he’s nosy, sue him!

“Hey... Richie, you gotta wake up.”
“Dun wanna... Comfy.”
“There’s pancakes downstairs..”
“Not hungry.”
“Oh you so are- c’mon you big baby, you gotta get up”
“So mean to me..” Richie whines out, reluctantly peeling himself off of Eddie.

“Yeah, yeah,” Eddie huffs out, standing up quickly before grabbing the pouting boy by the wrist and pulling him onto his feet, “you love it.”

Richie looks down at him with hooded, enamored eyes and a small smile before nodding, “you bet I do.”

And that’s when Bill walks out of the room.

He doesn’t confront them about it because, well, they’re still Richie and Eddie - obnoxious and confrontational as ever. And, he figures that his friends will tell them when they’re ready. Or maybe they won’t, maybe he’ll get wake up one day to a wedding invitation for the idiotic pair and that’ll be fine too. They’re his family, he just wants what will make them happiest, after all.

iv.

As a friend group that has been together for eight or so years, the Losers have developed many traditions. Living in rural Maine leaves them with little to no options, except during summer and maybe fall. Luckily there’s an orchard just outside of Derry where they all go to once Mike gets his license first, the fall of their junior year. He learns early because his grandfather doesn’t wanna do out of town deliveries anymore but doesn’t think it’s safe enough for Mike to bike there.

It’s their second year going, but now that more of them can drive there’s no need to squish into Mike’s pickup truck like they did last year. The losers divide up who drives but it, as always, ends up with Eddie and Richie driving together alone. Mostly because Eddie still can’t drive and because Richie immediately assumes that’s who's going to be in his passenger seat, regardless of who else is coming along.

The pair get there an hour before the others under the guise of having “nothing better to do” but really, so they can go on a little date alone. Eddie steps on a rotting apple and gags, while Richie cry laughs about it so hard he nearly falls over. Of course, he then spends the next fifteen minutes finding something to clean the apple gunk off of Eddie’s shoe, listening to the smaller boy complain the entire time. Not that he’d rather be anywhere else, though.

They’re still the only ones in the Losers Club at the orchard when the pair is under an apple tree and Richie pulls his boyfriend in for a sweet kiss. Just because he can, just because he loves spending time with Eddie no matter what they’re doing.

Mike and Stan arrive right on time and that means the party’s over. Well, not really, they’ve given up actively hiding their relationship but Eddie still doesn’t feel comfortable kissing in front of his friends just yet. Richie really doesn’t mind though, still got a constant arm wrapped around Eddie’s shoulders.

They haven’t said anything officially but, Richie knows that with their friends, he probably wouldn’t even have to make an announcement. Shit, they probably already all know. Somehow though, that thought doesn't comfort him as much as it should. He's not sure he wants them to all immediately know.

Richie’s sitting with Mike, watching Stan and Eddie absolutely bomb at playing cornhole from a nearby picnic basket. They’re the worst two people in the friend group at the game and therefore, team up together every single time. So, before the rest of them get here, the two are practicing and doing as terrible as they do every single time. Richie can hear them bickering from his seat and snorts into his apple cider, Mike shaking his head next to him.

“You’d think they’d learn,” Richie sighs out, watching as Eddie throws a beanie bag down in pure rage because he’s missed a shot yet again. Stan approaches him cautiously and puts a hand on his shoulder in support like he’s trying to calm a wild beast.

“The definition of insanity... Trying over and over and expecting a different outcome,” Mike agrees solemnly, the two of them bursting out into laughter as they make eye contact.

“Eddie has been treating this damn thing like the fuckin’ Olympics, he was practicing at my house the other day too,” Richie huffs, remembering how the other boy had accidentally hit him while trying to take a shot and he was on the other side of the backyard.

Mike hesitates before answering, taking a long sip of his cider before looking over Richie pensively. Just as he’s about to ask what he's looking for, Mike opens his mouth to say, “You and Eddie hang out a lot, huh?”

At this, Richie feels himself freeze up, holding his own breath for when the other shoe drops. For when the question of what he and Eddie really are to each other pops up, for someone he thought was a friend to say, “knew you were one Toizer.”

But Mike isn’t like that, never has been, and loves his friends wholeheartedly. He notices the petrified deer in headlights look on Richie’s face and puts a gentle hand on the other’s back, “Woah man uh, it’s cool. I was just gonna say that you’re good for each other.”

Richie finally takes a breath in again and nods, “right uh, thanks… though, I don’t know how good our constant bickering is for our mental health.”

Mike gives him this weary look and an almost unbelieving smile, “that’s not really what I meant..”

Before Richie can change the subject or brush the conversation away, Mike continues, staring at Stan and Eddie with a fond smile.

“You and Eddie always look out for each other, you’re always there for one another… regardless of what your relationship is,” He says in a pleasant tone, not at all digging for more information or condescending. Hell, he doesn’t even give Richie time to process it before slapping him on the knee and standing up.

“I’m gonna go rip Stan away from Eddie before they start throwing shit at each other,” Mike chuckles out, walking towards the pair of boys who have begun turning their frustrations of being bad onto each other. Richie watches as Stan melts, immediately calming down with Mike’s hand on his back. Huh. Maybe he and Eddie aren’t the only ones with secrets around here.

Speaking of Eddie, the rage-filled little monster is stomping over to where Richie is sitting, plopping down into the empty spot next to him with a huff. He does not wait for Richie to get with the program, lifting the gangling boy’s arm up himself and putting it around his own shoulder.

Richie lets a fond smile overtake him and he squeezes the other a little, rubbing the frustrated boy’s shoulder slowly, “bad match?”

“Yeah, you guys are totally gonna kick our ass again,” Eddie grumbles out, sounding downright miserable about the thought of losing. Knowing how competitive Eddie can get sometimes, he probably is agonizing over it.

“You know we don’t have to play-”
“Yes, we do! I’m not gonna pussy out, Rich.” Eddie turns to glare at him, eyebrow all furrowed up in pure rage.
“Okay… well, let Stan be on Mike’s team, I’ll be on yours... That way it’s even.”

At this, Eddie considers it, watching bitterly as Mike shows Stan how to throw underhand properly. He snuggles into Richie’s side a bit and lets out a final sigh, “fine, he’s a traitor anyway.”

This makes Richie laugh, boisterous, and insufferably loud with his head thrown back. Eddie watches him with the faintest ghost of a smile, always feeling a bit better when he makes Richie laugh. Not that he’d ever tell him that though.

They do end up playing their annual Cornhole match later after everyone arrives at the orchard. Beverly still wins, even with her on her own team to keep it ‘fair’, still the best shot out of all the Losers. Ben and Bill actually end up losing, much to Eddie’s utter delight. Nobody else really cares about it but he and Stan have giddy grins afterward, congratulating each other like they’ve won some sort of grand prize.

Richie can’t help himself, swooping down to kiss Eddie on the forehead with a quick ruffling of his hair. If anyone’s looking, they pretend not to notice, which is awfully nice of them.

--

There are only a few times a year that living in Derry is worth it, and one of them is around Halloween time. For the entire month of October, local shops decorate their windows and sell specialized ‘spooky’ goods.

Richie, being the horror movie fanatic that he is, absolutely loves this time of year and normally dresses up as some random movie murderer. Eddie isn’t the biggest fan, more excited that pumpkin muffins and toasted almond chai lattes come back to their local bakery.

Most of the time, in exchange for these delicious cafe goods, he goes and sees the shitty b-list scary movies with Richie… not that he wouldn’t go without persuasion anyway. They just have a deal, a set-up that works for them.

But everyone in the town seems to love the holiday, for whatever reason, even local farmers get together every year to create a haunted house in their barns with a corn maze across the street and everything.

So it’s no surprise to any of the Losers when Bill brings up that they should all go, definitely not just because Mike and Stan were working there this year. A friend of Mike’s grandfather asked him to help out, which is why he gets roped into it. Stan only offered to volunteer because he ‘didn’t mind helping!’ and denied with red cheeks that it was only to spend more time with Mike.

Richie decides not to ask what’s going on between the three of his friends because he's not sure that he entirely wants the nitty-gritty details anyway. Still, they all agree to go, even with Eddie glancing at Richie warily when he says yes.

It’s not that either of them are scaredy cats or anything, they watch horrifying shit all the time! But people jumping out at them in a big, dusty, old barn? He knows that both he and Richie will be terrified.

Eddie, of course, doesn’t bring it up until they’re in the car together, on the way to the haunted house.

“Hey, Rich… do you uh, really wanna go?”
“What? Yeah man, of course… what’s with that voice, you were so excited to go,” he mutters, slowing down to a stop at a red light before making eye contact with Eddie. It only takes him a moment to realize, looking back to the road with an impassive look before sighing, “aw man I wish you said something earlier, no, of course, I don’t want to go.”

Eddie feels a sigh of relief wash out of him, sinking into the seat a little, “honestly I just feel better if you’re just as freaked out as me.”

“Dude, of course! Jumpscare horror is the cheapest kind, acts on pure reaction alone… that shit sucks,” Richie mumbles out, a little bitter that neither of them desires to go and still have to. If he had known, they could have opted out way earlier and just spent the night making out to ‘Night of The Living Dead’ or something.

“Well,” Eddie sighs out as they pull onto the road for the haunted house, “at least we can cling onto each other.”

“Yeah, that’s true... I’m making Bill go first, that little turd, it was his idea anyway.”

Eddie lets a titering laugh out at that, nodding a bit, “serves him right.”

They pull up to the decorated barn, staring in awe at how the slightly rotted building is decorated. Colossal and ancient, it stands in front of the boys as they slink out of the car, almost mocking them for even coming in the first place. Maybe it’s the nightfall affecting their vision but it seems to be made of pure dark matter, creeping false spiderwebs coating the entire building.

“Gnarly,” Richie falters, desperately trying to think of a joke to calm him and Eddie down. It’s just a stupid haunted house with actors in stage makeup inside, it’s not going to be that bad.

And then they hear a piercing, shrill scream come from inside and Eddie is hugging Richie’s arm as the other clings onto his shirt right back in fear.

“Richie-” Eddie starts before he hears Beverly calling out for them. She’s in line already with Ben and Bill, hands cupped over her mouth as she calls out, “Hey guys, over here!”

“Aw damn it,” Richie groans, releasing his hold on the fabric to hold Eddie’s hand regularly, “alright, let's get this over with and then make up an excuse to dip.”

His boyfriend just nods in agreement, sighing a little himself before trudging over to the others regretfully. The line isn’t huge, which means they’ll be going in soon… great. But that means potentially more time for them to convince their friends to ditch, which is what Eddie is planning on doing.

“You guys didn’t dress up?” Bev questions, dressed in a simple witches outfit, leaning on Ben, who has decided to go as a pumpkin. Hell, even Bill’s got a costume on, some shitty, last-minute zombie makeup with tattered clothes.

“Didn’t know it was a requirement,” Richie says with a shrug, knowing damn well that they could’ve gotten something together if he wasn’t so preoccupied with biting up Eddie’s shoulders about an hour ago. He has his priorities, alright?

Beverly huffs at him a little bit, crossing her arms as she sticks her tongue out at him, “such a buzzkill Tozier,” she teases, knowing damn well that it’s gonna set Richie off. And it would have succeeded, if the line hadn’t shifted up, making them next to go in. A man is working the front door in a crude butcher's costume with a mask that looks like a pig’s head, copious amounts of blood splattered all over him.

“How many?” He huffs out, probably irritated that he has to work at the front desk and interact with all these brats.

“Five!” Beverly chirps out, honestly just happy to be there and it makes Eddie feel bad for a moment for wanting to ditch until she turns to him and says, “isn’t it so lucky that you got here when you did? You almost missed it!”

“Yea, real lucky,” Eddie mumbles bitterly, turning towards Richie when his hand is squeezed tightly, “what?”

Richie backs them up a bit from the other three, leaning down to whisper, “it can’t be too bad, I mean our friends are in there right? They can’t be all that scary.” It helps calm his nerves a bit, sighing and leaning against his boyfriend slightly.

“You’re right,” he answers back in a hushed tone, “I mean, I don’t think Mike’s even capable of being scary… he puts spiders outside instead of killing them.”

“Right! We’ll be fine… and avoid Stan if we can because he WILL try to scare the shit out of us,” Richie says back, sounding mortified at the thought of running into their other friend.

“It’ll be fine, he can’t touch us anyway so it’s not like he can strangle us like he said he was going to,” Eddie tries to rationalize but can feel his hand growing sweaty from being up close to the barn. From here, he can see all the dirt and grime caked onto the outside of it and an intrusive thought decides to remind him that animals are killed here.

Out of the corner of his eye he sees Richie’s body shake with laughter before standing up straight and can distantly hear the other saying, “right, thank god.”

Eddie’s better with the whole concept of sickness these days but that doesn’t mean he’s cured, hell, he’ll probably never be totally rid of the anxiety that clouds his brain. It’s just more easily manageable these days, but his head is showing him flashing, gruesome images of farm animals with their guts on the floor and it makes him want to gag.

Then, the door opens and Beverly is looking back at them with a big, ready as ever grin and asking if they're coming.

Richie stays quiet, looking over at Eddie briefly, trying to suppress the worried look on his face, “you alright?”

“Yeah,” Eddie decides impulsively, letting out a final sigh while dread fills his body, “let's get this shit over with.”

“That’s the spirit!” Bev yells, grabbing Bill by the wrist to drag him to the front, “your idea bud, you get to lead.”

Richie snorts next to him and squeezes his hand once again, “gotta love her huh?”

Eddie just nods in response, looking at his boyfriend once and decides to stop being dramatic, because Christ, it’s a low-budget haunted house! How scary is this shit really going to be? He walks in behind Ben, tugging Richie along behind him.

Once he enters the building he’s hit with a wall of fake fog, the sticky but sweet vaporized glycerin smell clogging all other senses, room pitch black. There’s a voice talking in front of them, explaining that the farm was used to experiment on pig and people but something went terribly wrong. Eddie isn’t really paying attention though, just reaching over to grab Richie’s arm with his free hand.

If they weren’t terrified already Eddie would laugh at the way his boyfriend jumps but now is not the time. Richie pulls his hand out of their intertwined ones and as soon as Eddie’s about to yell at him, not caring who hears, he feels one hand fist into the fabric on his lower back, the other clenching onto the front of his shirt.

“You can hide your face in my shoulder, if it gets too, uh... gross,” Richie whispers in a shaky tone, clearly scared himself. His heart swells for just a second but then they’re moving forward, lights clicking on in the building. A scream echos somewhere else in the building as they do and Eddie has half a mind to say fuck it and leave.

But then they’re moving into the first room, which is bare aside from a single medical table with a sheet over it. He looks down to see that the floor is smeared with blood, footprints tracking through it, and even though it’s corn syrup and red food coloring the sight makes bile rise in Eddie’s throat. There’s a lump on the table, Eddie realizes far too late as a pale man with deep-set eyes shoots up to scream.

It looks as if he’s gotten a pig nose sewn in where his real one is supposed to be, gruesome stitches sewn there as if it was fresh. The group screams collectively and Richie’s tugging him close, away from the table as if the man was gonna reach out and grab at him.

They scurry out of that room into the next, hearing pitiful, ghastly moans of pain before they enter. In front of them is a dining room table, a woman dressed to the nines sitting pretty at one end. The only way to get through the room is to walk around the table, passing a stoic looking butler who watches their every move.

Just as they’re about to leave, a tired voice calls out to them and they all stop in their tracks.

“Wait a moment,” the butler speaks slowly, accent prim and proper, “aren’t you kids hungry?”

He lifts up the lid of a porcelain serving plate that is sitting in the middle of the table, one that they hadn’t even noticed when they first entered. Inside of it, they find the source of the horrid crying sound from earlier. It’s Stanley, just his head on the platter, with crab-like claws spewing from his head.

They expect him to break character or smile at the very least but instead, he just turns to them with these dead, sunken in eyes, letting out a ghoulish scream when he makes eye contact. It makes even Beverly jump and she shouts out an unbelieving, “Jesus, Stanley!” before pushing at Bill to move forward from his shell-shocked position.

Eddie doesn’t want to open his eyes once they hit the next room but he hears skittering across the floor and Richie starts screeching in his ear. He sees a team of doctors fighting to hold down a boy that they can’t really see all that well, a nurse off to the side running towards the group once they enter. Of course, they're pushing at each other to move out of the room quickly, nearly knocking Bill over in the process.

There’s a hallway next, full of a couple cheap shot jumpscares that make him shout but honestly aren’t that bad. Only some of them get Richie too and he goes a little lax on the sweaty death grip that he has on the other’s shirt.

At one point he hears his boyfriend grumble, “jump scares are such bullshit,” and it makes him laugh a bit breathlessly.

Then there’s the last room before the exit and Eddie can hear wailing coming from inside.

“M-Maybe if we stay h-here, they’ll f-forget about us,” Bill suggests, right outside the doorway.

“No way... We still haven’t seen Mike yet,” Ben huffs out, his arm around Beverly’s waist even though she hasn’t even screamed at everything. Richie and Eddie are clinging onto each other, hands shaking and absolutely refusing to let go under any circumstances.

“Yeah, let’s just run through this room and we’re done,” Bev agrees, resting her head on Ben’s chest for a moment and the boy smiles down at her warmly.

Bill just lets out a noise of disgust, crinkling his nose up before turning forward, “a-alright fine, l-let’s go.”

He leads the way into a big, empty room, starting to head for the flashing exit sign.

“O-o-oh... Guess they r-ran out of b-budget or something,” Bill mumbles out before a noise on the other side of the room has them turn all at once. A light clicks on and what looks to be a dozen, malformed and misshapen looking people with various farm animal parts sewn onto them. They’re dragging a screaming person across the floor and as the man is reaching out towards the group, wailing for help, the realization of who it is sets in.

“Oh god, it’s Mike!” Beverly yells, clinging onto Ben desperately as he gapes in horror as well. A man with large goat horns turns towards the group and starts calmly making his way towards them. It’s Richie who shouts, “sorry dude!” in Mike’s direction before pushing all of his friends towards the exit sign, Eddie right on his heels.

They all stumble out into the open air, still clinging onto each other. There’s silence for a moment, just filled with steady panting and looking into each other's wild wide eyes. Someone starts laughing then, probably Beverly, and then they’re all collapsing on each other in gasping, wheezing shrieks of laughter.

“You should’ve seen your fucking faaace!” Bev cries, pushing Bill playfully who shoves her gently into Ben in retaliation.

“L-Like you w-were any b-buh-better!” He yells back, cheek splitting grin stretched out on his face.

Eddie laughs until he’s wheezing, falling over onto Richie with tears in his eyes. His boyfriend has released the death grip on him but still has an arm wrapped around his middle. It feels so silly now, how scared he was in the beginning because it wasn’t like he was going to die or anything. Besides, he has his best friends by his side, they wouldn’t let anything happen to him.

He’s also got Richie laughing beside him, squeezing him nice and close, it makes Eddie feel like he could take just about anything on with him by his side.

After a moment they collect themselves and someone makes the suggestion to go get food, have Mike and Stan meet up with them when they’re done. Ben glances over to ask the pair if they’re coming but finds them engaged in a hushed conversation with each other, Beverly nudging him with a smile.

“Leave them, I’ll just text the group chat,” she mutters with a warm smile, watching the two boys with fond eyes as Eddie giggles at something Richie says. The trio walks away, Bill obnoxiously shouting, “O-Okay, we’re leaving now!” to see if they would get any acknowledgment from dumb and dumber. It doesn’t succeed.

But it doesn’t matter because they all know that regardless, Eddie and Richie will show up to wherever they end up going. They’ll be fifteen minutes late and bickering about how bad Richie’s parking skills are but they’ll be there.

 

v.

Richie Tozier does not hate a lot of things. Okay, that’s a lie, but there’s nothing he hates so vocally than the wintertime. Probably because, as Eddie so lovingly puts it, he doesn’t cover up right and is going to die of hypothermia before he hits thirty. Which is probably why Eddie is furiously stomping into the school's library with a very full backpack.

They’re seniors this year, finally about to get out of this hell hole of a town. He and Eddie applied to several colleges together but ended up going to NYU because there’s something for the both of them there.

For Eddie, that means going to a great pre-med program and for Richie, it means he gets to stay with Eddie. Not that he doesn’t have his own goals but, who’s going to be able to start a comedy career on the northeast coastline? Unless he starts doing open mics in various Dunkin Donuts or something but the management would never approve of that.

Richie’s snapped out of his thoughts by his boyfriend rudely smacking his backpack onto the table.

“Hey baby,” he says, sickeningly sweet with a wide grin and it just gets him a glare from Eddie.

“Do not ‘hey baby’ me Richard. Do you wanna tell me why it’s in the thirties outside with ice on the ground and you’re wearing a t-shirt?”

Richie’s smile drops a bit and he looks away, rubbing the back of his neck as he’s scolded. Not that he doesn’t deserve this one because... Yeah, he totally does.

“Uhh,” he tries to make an excuse to make Eddie less mad, “felt a little warm this morning?”

“Liar,” his boyfriend snaps back, eyebrows all scrunched up the way they do when he’s especially stressed, “you probably just didn’t feel like doing laundry.”

It’s then when his study partner decides to come back from his bathroom break, good ole Benjamin Hanscom. They’re in the same AP US History course that Richie is only taking because Eddie told him that it would look good on his transcript and, ‘really Rich, you ought to do it if it’s not too much pressure.’

“Oh! Hey Eddie,” he says with a grin, sitting in the seat to the right of Richie, “you here to study too?”

“Hi Ben,” Eddie responds, face morphing into something much more cheerful than it was when he spoke to Richie, “Nah, I’m not staying... Just here to give this loser some stuff to stay warm.”

He nods his head over to Richie, who just smiles over at his study buddy sheepishly. Eddie opens his backpack and pulls out a grocery bag, full of goodies, placing it on the library table.

“Ooohh, what’s that?” Richie questions, reaching out to get a good look inside but Eddie just smacks his hand away lightly. He reaches back into the backpack to pull out a sweater, chucking it in his boyfriend’s direction, nearly hitting him in the face. He also pulls out one of his own spare scarfs and a set of gloves before opening the grocery bag up.

Just as Richie’s pulling the sweater on he realizes that it is one of his own but one that he’d let Eddie borrow forever ago. Before his heart can swell in delight, a large energy drink is placed in front of him and Richie thinks he might just cry. Seriously, his throat clenches up and everything, looking up at Eddie with watery, adoring wide eyes.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Eddie huffs with a little scowl, cheeks flushed, “I just know you’ve been working hard and you like that stuff… a SINGLE can won’t kill you and you have actually been drinking water lately so, whatever! Take your gross drink off the table though, I don’t think the librarians would appreciate it.”

Richie is too busy swooning over his boyfriend, filled with a desperate urge to kiss the living crap out of him. Eddie always bitches about him drinking energy drinks, saying that they’re going to kill Richie before he even gets the chance.

Ben, the saint that he is, answers for Richie, “no it’s alright! We sit in the food and drink area because I like to snack when I study.”

“Oh,” Eddie murmurs out, glancing back in the direction from where he came, “I didn’t even see the sign.”

“Yeah, too worried about me,” Richie teases out, reaching across the table to make grabby hands at Eddie, “c’ mere, I wanna hug you.”

“I was worried you dipshit,” he mutters, scoffing as he comes around the table. Richie is quick to wrap his arms around Eddie’s middle, burying his face into that cashmere sweater-clad chest of his.

“Thank you,” he whispers, propping his chin on Eddie’s chest to look up at him, “I love you.”

His boyfriend goes pink, all the way to the tips of his ears and Richie can see him fighting a smile before he responds back nice and low, “I love you too, idiot… let go, you got a study guide to finish right?”

“Right,” Richie groans out, pulling away with a dramatic sigh as he turns back to the history book strewn out in front of him. Then, he remembers something and as Eddie is zipping his bag up he taps the table in front of him, asking with a puzzled look on his face, “Hey, how did you know that I was here and that I needed a sweater?”

Eddie laughs lightly and it sounds so pretty that Richie almost forgets what he even asked for a second.

“Ben snitched on you,” his boyfriend responds simply, slipping the bag onto his shoulders with a toothy grin.

Richie whips his head to look at the now shamefaced Benjamin, who looks as if he’s trying to sink into his chair.

“How could you study buddy! I trusted you!”
“You were shivering when you came in! I did it for your own good!”

Eddie snorts at the exchange and leans over to push Richie’s head lightly, “stop yelling, you’re in a library. And stop complaining, you big baby.”

Richie just opts for sticking his tongue out, the comment he really wants to make shoved into the back of his brain. There are people around, he can’t start an all-out bickering match with his boyfriend, even if he desperately wants to.

And then Eddie is walking away with a quick wave to both of them, leaving Richie slumped against his chair with a small frown pulling at his cheeks. He lets a wistful sigh out as he cracks open the energy drink, touched at the fact that Eddie even remembered what flavor was his favorite and everything.

Ben’s side-eyeing him pretty intensely before reaching forward to pat Richie’s shoulder lightly a couple times before pulling away. He nods in thanks, turning his attention back to his packet and textbook, and then the pair are quiet again. Just for a few moments, until Ben is clearing his throat and nudging his elbow against Richie.

“Uh, yeah, what’s up dude?”
“Should I just pretend not to hear what I heard?”

The words sound eerily serious but there’s a sweet smile pressed into Ben’s cheeks and Richie can’t even misinterpret that if he wanted to. Instead, a light chuckle escapes him, his own face flooding with color as he glances away from his friend’s watchful eyes.

“Nah, I love all of you guys,” he says instead of denying it outright, “nothing to be ashamed of!”

Ben scoffs at him, outright makes a noise in distrust and Richie suddenly has the idea that Beverly is influencing this man too much.

“But it's different when it comes to Eddie though, right?” Ben asks delicately, walking on eggshells around exactly what he really wants to ask. He can’t fault the guy for it and would rather have someone be careful than cruel with him anyway.

Richie is silent for a moment too long, trying to figure out exactly how he should answer when he hears Ben shift in his seat awkwardly before speaking up again. “Sorry,” he’s muttering, sounding horribly guilty, “I don’t mean to pry, I just.. I love love you know?”

This makes him break out into a wide grin, reaching over to ruffle his friend’s hair, “no worries dude, I know you do.”

Ben doesn’t bring it up again but it’s got Richie wondering about how long he wants to avoid this conversation any longer. He isn’t scared anymore, not like he was when they started dating. Shit, they’re coming up on two years this summer, and even if the Losers already all know, it makes Richie feel like pure shit that they aren’t direct about it. Even if it was just to keep him and Eddie safe and even if the Losers will be completely supportive about the whole thing.

They’ve still got to say something, at least before they all leave Derry and go off to their respective colleges. Not that anyone is moving far away, within a few hours driving distances from each other, but still. They won’t be just down the road anymore, no more clubhouse after school or all grabbing food together on a whim.

They have to tell the Losers.

 

+1

Eddie thinks he’s going to shit himself. Absolutely crap himself and destroy the nice leather seats in Richie’s brand new car. It’s not like he can actively complain about it though, because he knows Richie is feeling the exact same way if the white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel is any indication.

It’s February, Valentine's Day is just next week and they’ve decided to finally tell their friends that they’re dating. That they’ve been dating for a while now. He’s not exactly nervous about how they’ll react to the first part, just about how mad they’re going to be about the whole secret-keeping portion of it.

Richie says that it’ll all be fine but every time he says it his face scrunches up and he looks constipated, so Eddie doesn’t really believe anything he says. It’s happening at the clubhouse, the easiest place to call the gang to without making them seem suspicious. He’s bouncing one knee, the way Richie does in class when he has a thought pressing in his brain, begging to get out but he knows he can’t say it. Lately, he’s taken to writing them down, and honestly, it’s pretty funny stuff… Eddie’s so proud of him.

He shakes his head a bit to ground himself, get his mind back on track before they pull up to the road closest to the clubhouse. They’ve created a whole script of what to and to not say. Well okay, Eddie’s created (and memorized) a whole script, Richie said that it was a good idea once and never looked at it again.

The car stops and Richie unbuckles his belt with a loud, guttural groan, sliding down the driver's seat. Normally, it would make Eddie laugh but this time he feels the other’s pain so instead, he reaches over to tug at Richie’s shirt.

“Wanna make out in the backseat for ten minutes so we feel a little less crappy about lying to our friends?”

“...Yeah actually, that would be great,” Richie mutters after running a hand over his face, crawling into the back over the center console. Once he’s comfy, he pats his lap obnoxiously with a tiny smile on his lips, “c’ mere Eds, got a seat just for you.”

He makes this stupid joke every single time and any other day it would make Eddie roll his eyes but today, the familiarity of it makes his heart sing. He scrambles to crawl back, straddling Richie’s hips and wasting no time in pressing a firm kiss to his boyfriend’s mouth.

Eddie gets lost in it, regardless of how much they’ve kissed, he always gets lost in the feeling of Richie’s lips moving against his own. It feels so natural, as if they’ve had lifetimes to practice and who knows, maybe they have. Richie’s hands engulf his waist easily, pressing their bodies together just a little more as Eddie tilts his head for better access. His hands fly up to tug at his boyfriend’s curls in the way he knows the other loves and he gets a hand on his ass for his efforts. Eddie feels his guard going down the longer they kiss, melting against his boyfriend so that they’re firmly chest to chest.

Then Richie’s putting tongue into his kisses little by little until he coaxed Eddie’s mouth open just enough to slip it in. He’s about to moan into it when he hears a knock on the window and Richie accidentally jumps, shoving them away from each other.

Any shred of arousal that had previously been blooming inside of him dies abruptly in a pit of sweaty, adrenaline-fueled fear. His mouth goes dry as he turns to the window to see who will be taking the form of the cold hands of death because they are most certainly dead men.

He wants to cry in relief and throw up at the same time, staring right into the bored, unfeeling eyes of Stanley Uris. Their friend has the faintest of smirks on his face, almost like he’s trying to keep himself from bursting out into laughter, which is probably accurate. He’s wrapped up in what Eddie thinks is Bill’s bomber jacket, arms crossed over his chest and the longer they stare at him dumbfounded the more annoyed and less amused he looks.

After about a solid minute of petrified staring, neither moving from their promiscuous position, Stanley shouts out, “open the damn door!”

Richie does so out of pure fear, Eddie hits him in the shoulder, hissing out a frantic, “dude!”

His boyfriend turns back to glare at him, clinging on a little tighter as the cold air from outside floods into the car. Eddie opens his mouth to shout at Richie, about to tell him not to look at him like that when Stan cuts them off.

“Hey idiots, I just wanted to tell you to cool it,” he sighs out, before breaking out into a snicker, “your windows were getting foggy.”

Richie and Eddie both start trying to explain themselves, frantically talking over each other in attempts to save face but it just sounds like a jumbled mess.

“No, so you see, we were really planning on-”
“We were gonna tell you guys-”

Seeing them panic just makes Stanley laugh harder and he shuts the car door mid explanation, walking towards the clubhouse. Partially because he genuinely doesn’t care that Richie and Eddie are clearly together, anyone with two eyes would be able to tell that the two morons were head over heels for each other.

Also, it’s so fucking cold out and a harsh, whipping breeze is starting to pick up so he really wants to get inside as quickly as possible. Not that the clubhouse is going to be all that much warmer but there’s a little space heater there and blankets, so it’s better.

Faintly, behind him, Stan can hear the crunching of someone running on leftover snow in clunky boots and he knows that his friends are scrambling to catch up with him. And he’s right of course, because Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are by his side in an instant, tripping over desperate apologies and reasonings for their actions. He doesn’t stop trudging towards the entrance though, they can talk about this on the way. Or, you know, inside the actual building.

“Stan, listen, buddy,” Richie starts breathlessly, panting from running in this biting cold, “we were planning on telling you guys today, Eddie even had a whole script!”

Eddie’s nodding frantically on the other side of him and even pulls his phone out as if he’s going to pull it up from his notes app with his woolen gloves on.

Stan tilts his head up to let out a groan of annoyance echo into the sky before confessing his true feelings.

“I don’t care if you and Eddie are dating, however long you’ve been dating.”
“But-”

“No, seriously guys! I’ve known that you were in love with each other since like... Fourth grade, this is not a new development for me. I mean I’m obviously happy for you,” he rambles on, cutting himself off for a moment to enter the clubhouse and waiting for the pair to follow him in suit. Once they’re all safe inside, the rest of the group looking at the trio in confusion, Stan decides to let them speak, not going to be one to take this away from them.

Except they’re both looking at him with frost touched pink cheeks and an utterly lost expression. Stan rolls his eyes and motions towards them, “go on, tell them what you told me… I’m not going to spoil it or anything.”

They glance at each other, having a silent conversation amongst themselves before Richie turns back to Stan with a queasy smile, apprehension all over his face, “I mean... You could just do it?”

All he has to do is raise his eyebrows a bit and Richie gets the message, rubbing the back of his neck while shifting his weight back and forth.

“Uhh… Eddie and I are dating.”
“And we have been for a year and seven months,” Eddie pipes up, taking a side step to stand a little closer to Richie, who puts his hand on his lower back.

The room is quiet for a moment, everyone looking around at each other as they try to figure out who should talk first. Nobody looks angry, which is good but they definitely look at a loss for words. It’s Beverly who speaks up first, forcing a smile on her face as she beams over at the boys, “we’re so happy for you guys!” She stands up from where she was playing scrabble with Mike and Ben to pull the two into a hug.

“A-Are we r-really going to a-act like we duh-didn’t know?”
“Bill!”
“Wh-What! I’m j-just asking!”

Richie looks down at his boyfriend quickly with a furrowed eyebrow, before looking over Beverly’s shoulder to look at Bill, “explain yourself Billy boy!”

He pulls out of his friend’s embrace with some struggle given how tightly Beverly was squeezing onto them. Eddie follows quickly after, despite the redheads' cries of, “I’m just trying to love you!”

“W-Well I m-mean we all f-figured it out on our own... R-right?” He looks around for support from the rest, who are nodding in agreement quickly.

“What!” Richie cries out, face falling in surprise as he looks over at Eddie for some sort of explanation but his boyfriend looks just as shocked, answering with a flabbergasted noise.

“We were so careful though!”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
Stan clamps a hand over his own mouth, turning his back to them as he tries to hold it together, Richie notices though and hits him lightly on the back with an outcry, “Hey! We were!”

Ben speaks up, a small sympathetic smile as he explains, “well, Richie, we just all know you guys too well, that’s all.”

“Yeah, that and the fact that you guys were completely oblivious,” Beverly adds with a snort, pointedly stepping away from Eddie when the shorter boy turns to glare at her.

Richie’s silent for a while just staring at the floor, the room filling with an awkward, stagnant silence and even Eddie’s not sure if he should say something or not.

“Rich-” Mike speaks up in attempts to make the other feel better, that they didn’t always know about him. They just always knew that he was in love with Eddie, that’s all.

But Richie cuts him off, lips pursed and arms crossed as he blurts out, “does that mean I can make out with Eddie whenever now?”

Everyone laughs in disbelief, Eddie just reaching over to smack him on the arm, letting out an exasperated groan of, “Rich!”

As the group laughs together at the antics of Eddie and Richie, the comfort of being together settling back into the pack. Regardless of what happens, they know that at the end of the day Richie and Eddie will always be themselves, will always treat the others the way they always have. Eddie is too brutally honest and Richie is too genuine for anything to change too drastically.

The only thing that changes is the amount of PDA, and even that isn’t by much. Later that day, the couple falls asleep together, curled up in the hammock, and Beverly coos as she takes photos to send to the group chat. Yeah, everything’s going to be just fine.