Pairing: Richie Tozier x Reader
Type: Platonic | Romantic | Familial | Other
Warnings: profanity, angst omg, thats it??
Summary: in which Richie will keep talking until someone remembers him.
You’d spent your life searching for love.
You searched for it in your house - between cracked mirrors and dusty mantels and air thick with wine and yelling, but you couldn’t find it there. You searched for it between the pressed pages of your library books, in the cassettes that drowned out the yells in early hours of the morning, in the pencils arranged and re-arranged in colour order like a set of toy soldiers lining your desk, but you couldn’t find it there, either.
In fact, you found it in the place you least expected.
You knew ordinary people loved the most simple, ordinary things - flowers and cakes and clothes, a song or a poem or the stars on a clear night. But none of it seemed to work for you. You wanted something that made you feel so fiercely that you felt it with ever fibre of your beings - something that made you ache and sore at the same time, the perfect blend of pain and euphoria.
But love wasn’t a stew simmering in a pot, and you couldn’t find it in a thing.
You found it in a person - and that person was the one you’d least expect.
Richie Tozier was, dare you say, nefarious in Derry. His loud mouth got him into trouble often, and he seemed to spend more time in class doodling absently with a pen lid in his mouth, blowing spitballs or flipping off other students loudly - and yet, inexplicably, the straight A’s on his report card practically glowed through the envelope at the end of semester. You’d never paid much mind to him - you had little time for trashmouths, save for the odd “shut up, Richie,” when he made a passing remark at you in the hallway.
So, you two had spoken before. But you’d never talked, not in a real way.
Not until you found him curled against his porch bannister at midnight, freezing cold with his chin buried in his knees.
At first, you hesitated to even go up to him. But he looked so very lost at that moment, your empathy got the better of you. So, slightly against your better judgement, you cautiously made your way over to the half-asleep boy, who had still failed to notice you.
“Richie?” you called timidly, and he started violently - clearly you’d just jerked him from a heavy half-slumber, but as soon as he saw you, his face cracked into a wide smile.
“Hey there, sweetcheeks,” he countered cheekily, stumbling to his feet. “What’re you doing here?”
You shrugged. “Just…passing through. Why are you on the porch?”
Richie suddenly seemed to remember where he was. “Oh.” He kicked the decking with his sneakers. “Just… got locked out.”
“Aren’t your parents home?” you inquired with a frown, making further forward before stopping at the porch.
Richie laughed, a sound slightly too bitter to be considered genuine. “Yeah, uh… they’re the ones who locked me out.”
“Oh. Sorry.” There didn’t seem to be much else to say, much as you wanted to come up with something. “Are you… okay?”
“Me? Never better, Bubs!” He brushed off your concern like a dust speck, that wide smile ever-present. “I just love it out here, y’know? Freezing my balls of is, personally, the highlight of my night. Other than talking to all the pretty girls cruising through my neighbourhood.” He sent a wink at you, to which you rolled your eyes.
“But…” you chewed your lip. “They’re not gonna leave you out here all night, right?”
He scoffed. “Nah - no way. Mom’ll be out in an hour or two to throw out the empty wine bottles and I can probably sneak in, like, incognito. Like a ninja.”
You laughed, despite yourself, and Richie seemed to swell with some kind of self-assurance. “Okay, well - I should head home. If you’re sure you’re gonna be okay?”
“Hey, if you’re looking for an excuse to stay, look no further!” His arms splayed out wildly before flopping back to his sides. Rolling your eyes again, you backed out of the driveway and clambered aboard your bike again.
“Later, Tozier,” you said in goodbye.
“Only if I’m lucky, sweet thang,” he replied with a pretty terrible accent of something that sounded like it was supposed to be Western, and you grinned to yourself in the dark as you started up the pedals.
You didn’t see the way his smile slipped as your bike took off down the dark road, as the silence filled the street, and as he sank back down onto his porch, a scared little boy once again.
After all, if Richie wasn’t talking, what was he good for?
The next time you talked to Richie Tozier was when you found him in the girls’ toilets - and not in the context you’d expect.
He was crouched in the end stall - or, to you at that time, the only toilet not blocked by paper towels. Awkwardly, you reached for the door and knocked.
“Hey, um - sorry, are you almost done in there? All the others toilets are blocked,” you explained gingerly. There was no reply, but you heard breath hitch in a throat.
You bent down to glimpse through the gap at the bottom of the stall, and a pair of feet stared back at you - bright stripy socks, clad in black sneakers with the soles almost completely torn off, and most definitely not belonging to a girl.
“What the fuck?” you muttered, before rapping on the door. “Who’s in there?”
“Don’t freak out,” came the muffled reply, and you frowned as the lock clicked open. The frown turned to shock as the door edged open, and the brown eye of Richie Tozier stared balefully out at you, magnified by his thick red glasses.
“Tozier?” You gaped at him. “Jesus Christ - I should’ve known.”
“No, hey! Hey, it’s not like that!” he protested in a harsh whisper. “I - I’m hiding from Bowers and his army of fuckwads, alright?”
“Don’t you think a girl’s toilet is the first place they’ll look for you?” you countered drily. The brown eye widened affront.
“That’s fucking mean.”
You grinned. “I saw Bowers five minutes ago on the art block, laying into that Bible kid in second grade, alright? You’re good for now.”
“Really?” The door edged open, leaving Richie looking sheepish and out-of-place, with his garishly-bright, untucked shirt, head of messy curls and shabby sneakers, against the bland, placid toilet cubicle around him.
“Mm,” you hummed in affirmation. Richie blew out his cheeks in relief, nervously knocking his glasses back up his nose.
“Thanks,” he proffered, and the word felt odd in his voice, almost like he rarely said it.
“Don’t worry about it.” Your eyes were suddenly drawn to a discoloured patch of skin peeking over the hem of his grey undershirt. The hue of dying flowers, the bruise loomed over at you, ugly and fist-shaped, and you winced despite yourself. “Bowers give you that?”
“Wha-” His fingers skittered down to his collar, yanking up his shirt to shield the bruise from view. “Hockstetter,” he muttered after, letting his arms hang limp at his sides. “Dickwad. All because I told him he had ever venereal disease known to mankind, too!”
A giggle leapt from your mouth. “I’d have socked you too.”
Richie looks at you sharply, before the annoyance splinters and he dredges up a weak smile. He hauls himself onto the sinks, apparently getting comfy.
“To be fair, I only said it to keep him from laying into Bill,” the bespectacled boy continued thoughtfully. “You’d think the day he came to school after Georgie went missing, Hockstetter would be less of a bitchbag, but I guess not. Long story short, Hockstetter’s a sadist, Bill was pretty fucking sad, and I got mouthy, and then I got decked. God’s balance of nature is pretty mesmerising.”
You looked at Richie then - really looked at him, under the mask he wore with a huge painted smile under porcelain eyes, and you saw him. You saw a boy who’s mouth ran faster than his brain, who’s jokes unravelled quickly to the black bitterness at their core. And it was sad.
“I think-” You cleared your throat. “I think that was really good of you.”
Richie glanced at you in surprise, then began swinging his legs absently. “Thanks, I guess.”
Your small smile slipped as Richie suddenly swung down from the sink with extravagant vigour, landing with a flourish at your feet. “And, next up on Richiana Jones, he takes Greta Bowie and Belch Huggins’ ugly heads and - WHAM - the force of the two idiots colliding is too great for our cosmic universe.”
He kept at it until you were laughing, laughing so hard you had to hold the sink for purchase and your throat was aching. When you finally subsided with a giggle and a hiccup, Richie was beaming as if he’d accomplished the greatest feat in the world - and then the guilt slid over you, hot and cold and burning.
You’d given him just what he wanted. For a second, you’d seen beneath his mask, touched the skin beneath the cool plastic - and he’d hated it, hated how it made him shudder and ache for more. And so the only way was to make you laugh. You had a nice laugh, anyway. Not like most people. When they laughed, it was to be pretty, or seem clever or fun or humorous. You laughed with your whole body.
You swallowed, feeling the smile slide off your face like oil over water. “You don’t have to do that,” you mumbled.
“Do what? Because I personally think a snake bite to the dick would do Criss some good-”
“That, Richie! You’re doing it now. It’s okay to… let people care about you every once in a while!”
He blinked, eyes huge and wounded behind his glasses. When he spoke, his voice was smaller than you’d ever heard it. “I just like making people laugh.”
You sighed. “Because you’re terrified everyone will forget you if you don’t. You’ll just keep talking until someone remembers you, won’t you, Tozier?”
You’d hit on a truth like a lightning bolt - Richie was horrified to feel the prick of tears at the corners of his eyes, and you watched with a heavy chest as he scrubbed furiously at his cheeks.
“I gotta go,” he mumbled, shoving past you none too gently. You almost let him, but at the last second, your hand shot out, closing over his wrist.
“You don’t. You don’t have to run.”
He turned back to face you. “It’s just… stupid. I feel like I have to try so fucking hard, even with my friends, y’know? But it’s like, they’ll move on eventually. They’ll find someone less annoying, less loud, less unpredictable and good ol’ Richie Tozier’ll find himself right back where he started.”
He squeaked embarrassingly loud as you suddenly pulled him close in a hug. He flailed feebly, arms waving like an octopus in distress - and then he caved, letting your warmth soak through his clothes, letting his breathing fall into step with yours, burying his chin on your shoulder.
“I’m scared,” he whispered, and he hated how pathetic it sounded as it left his mouth.
You hugged him fiercely. Your eyes were wet. “I know,” you whispered, and you felt the first wet drop of tears on your shoulder.