“You Love Me?”
Title: “You Love Me?”
Pairing: Richie Tozier x Reader
Type: Platonic | Romantic | Familial | Other
Warnings: angst, profanity, mentions of aids, mentions of neglectful parents.
Prompt: F13: “you love me?” “You have no idea.”
Never in your life did you dream you’d fall in love with Richie Tozier.
You’d known him since your diaper days - toddling about together, plump thighs and sticky mouths, with both of your parents watching - your’s attentively, Richie’s listlessly, bored, looking as though they wanted to be anywhere other than watching their only child take his first steps.
Growing up, shared rattle toys became shared peanut-butter sandwiches or bright-coloured hairclips pilfered from your mother’s china dish. Richie loved to wear those hairclips, more than even you. He’d stick an assortment of them into his unruly web of dark curls, specks of pink and lime and chrome swathed in a brunette tide.
Richie had always been… spacey, almost. From the first time, in third grade, you could cross the road on your own (“be very careful, Y/n. Remember to look both ways, and stop and listen for any cars, and never, ever cross on a bend.”) Richie’s parents gave no such forewarning, and it was with cheery ignorance he sauntered right into the - albeit, quiet - road on Monday morning.
Your hand shot out and grabbed him by the collar in childish alarm. “What are you doing? We have to look both ways first!”
“Oh yeah,” he returned cheerfully. “I forgot.”
Brushing off your scandalised look, he pointedly craned his neck left, then right, and then took your hand in his and pulled you from the curb with no warning. You shrieked at him all the way over the asphalt, sure a car would come from nowhere and career into you. When you scrambled onto the sidewalk on the opposite side, you ripped your hand from a giggling Richie’s grasp.
“That wasn’t funny!” you said shrilly. “I told you, we have to be careful when we cross a road, else we’ll both be hit by cars!”
“What happens when you get hit by a car?” Richie countered thoughtfully, as the two of you began walking. You paused to think, chewing your lip.
“We end up flat as pancakes, and the police have to peel us off the road,” you eventually returned triumphantly, but if your aim was to deter Richie, it backfired.
“Cool! I want to be a pancake!” declared the boy enthusiastically, but you merely shot him a frosty look and dragged him through the school gates.
You were there when Richie got his glasses, and the teasing started. Sneering jibes of “four-eyes” were brushed off, kids asking how many fingers they were holding up deflected with ease. You worried for Richie, the sensitive soul that you were, but he only ever laughed about it.
You were there when his parents stopped calling when they weren’t going to come home that night. Before, it was apologetic phone calls (“Richard, sweetie, we’re so sorry, the most silly thing - your father enjoyed himself a little too much at the gathering, you know how he likes his currant wine, only we thought it best to stay at the hotel tonight.”)
You found him hunched up by the side-table where the phone stood. The house was dark and cold - the heating wasn’t on. Richie looked like he hadn’t moved in years, a statue gathering dust, huddled against the wood of the table. You flurried around, snapping the lights on, straining to reach the boiler on tiptoe and turning the dial all the way up before scooting over to Richie and crossing your legs anxiously.
“What’s wrong, Richie?” you inquired. “Where are your parents?”
A pure stab of shock flashed through you at his sudden sob. Tears dripped down his screwed-up face, and when he spoke, his voice trembled. “I don’t know.”
Eventually, after a few phone calls, it was discovered that they were in New Jersey for an open evening of his father’s business. Richie stared at you, stricken, as you solemnly recited what the lady on the phone had told you. “But why didn’t they tell me?” he whispered. You didn’t know the answer to that, so you hugged him instead. He smelled of apple suckers and loneliness.
You were there in fourth grade when Richie discarded his mismatched sweaters and jeans for bright eyesores of Hawaiin shirts and jean-shorts and colourful sneakers. He traded his thin, wiry black glasses for thick red ones that made his eyes looked three times their normal size (you noticed what a pretty brown those irises were, then). He was there when your love for rainbow ponchos and ballet skirts and bracelets with bells on them faded in favour of garish maroons and olives and navies, overalls and sandals and short-shorts. He still wore the hairclips, sometimes - the dark red one that was always his favourite. The rest he kept in a small pot under his bed, along with a photo of you and him grinning toothily in first grade, tucked safe under the velvet lid.
You were there when Henry Bowers, held back for the third year running, decked him for the first time. He called Bowers a “son of a motherless whore” - something impressive-sounding he’d overheard on TV - when he saw him laying into the tiny asthmatic kid from world history. It hadn’t ended well, and you ended up wiping the blood from his nose and lips and teeth. He smiled sheepishly as you scolded him, but his apology was real as the blood staining the tissues. And another plus - from that day, you had three new friends. Stuttering Bill and Eddie Spaghetti and Stan the Man. You five were united as outcasts, not exactly a force to be reckoned with but certainly one that required brief consideration before attempting said reckoning - or whatever.
And in fifth grade, Richie hit some sort of tipping point.
He grew louder and more foul-mouthed, more enthusiastic in his spastic movements, and far more inclined to disrupt a class or smoke in the toilets or flunk school entirely. Then the remarks filtered in - intrusive and suggestive, comments on your legs or your chest or your mom. It annoyed you to no end, but you could think of no way to make him stop. Every time you snarked him or socked him on the shoulder, it made him slightly wilder, a shit-eating grin cracking his face in two - until you remembered something you’d seen once on telly. A man and a woman, and the man talked a lot. Whenever he talked too much, the woman would press a big red button that made a loud “BEEP BEEP” sound.
So, when the next remark came - “Hey Y/n - you have any other hobbies, ‘cept for being my own personal bicycle?” - you stared him dead in the eye and countered solemnly, “beep beep, Richie.”
He gaped at you like a fish out of water, speechless for the first time in years. “Did - did you just - beep me?”
From then on, it seemed to work to shut him down.
But it wasn’t until four months ago - when Georgie went missing, and you met Bev and Mike and Ben, and IT chased normalcy from your life did things between you and Richie start to shift.
You wanted to be with him every second - he was the longest-standing memory you had, the boy with hairclips in his curls who watered your head like a flower the first day of second grade. He was the one who poked your cheeks and called you “bubs” and yanked your ponytail and drew obscene images on your hand in permanent marker. He was the one who spent 70% of his time sleeping round your house when the silence of his was unbearable, who held you sombrely when you cried and cursed at the toughest of bullies in your honour. Richie was, to say with a flair for the dramatic, your life - mapped out in dark hair and freckles and lime sneakers, your other half.
The first time you wanted to kiss him was after the blood oath.
You hissed in pain as you wiped your hands absently on your black shorts. Richie walked beside you, gazing at the jagged cut on his palm with avid interest.
“I swear you can get AIDS from doing shit like this,” Richie commented as the both of you reached your bikes discarded in the grass.
You huffed a laugh. “Probably - but don’t go telling Eddie that.”
“Please. He’d convulse and die on the spot,” Richie scoffed, swinging a leg over the leather saddle. “So, where’ll it be, sweetcheeks?”
You rolled your eyes at the nickname. “I’m kind of in the mood to not think about anything. You wanna head to the arcade?”
Two hours later, pumped up on blue-raspberry Slushies with fingers cramping from the buttons and levers you’d been busy stabbing and yanking, you and Richie sat in a greasy-spoon café, snacking out of a shared basket of cheesy fries as the sky darkened outside the window.
“What d’you think’ll happen now?” Richie asked suddenly.
“What do you mean?” You swallowed your fries, reaching for your Pepsi to wash it down.
“Now IT’s dead. Kaput, bitch. No more missing kids, no more hallucinations, no more freaky fuckin’ clowns.” Richie heaved a sigh. “Cause I don’t think everything will just magically go back to the way it was.”
“No,” you mused in agreement. “No, you’re probably right.”
“‘Cept for us,” Richie beamed suddenly. “We’re inseparable, right?”
You grinned. “You bet, Tozier. For better or for worse.”
You looked at him - skin illuminated by the softly-glowing neon lights from the sign outside, the contours of his face sharply shadowed, hair a black, untameable mess as ever - and the urge to kiss him took you so fiercely, it almost knocked you off your chair. You swallowed your mouthful of fries too quickly in your shock, and one ended up dislodged in your throat. You choked and wheezed, and Richie unhelpfully thumped you on the back until you’d swallowed the damn thing.
“Jesus Christ,” he commented. “Y/n, if you wanted something to choke on, you could’ve just asked.”
A week ago, the comment would be met with an eye-roll; now it only made a flush climb your face, and you took a long swig of your iced Pepsi to ward off the redness.
The first time you actually kissed Richie Tozier was two months later.
It was midnight, but sleep troubled you not. You sat wide-awake, flat on your back and staring up at the ceiling in the darkness, when a sudden tap like long nails on wood made you start violently. Clambering to your feet, you glanced at your window; sure enough, a second later, a pebble hit the glass pane and bounced off again, and you sighed, picking your way over and opening it wide.
“Throwing pebbles, Romeo?” you called down teasingly. Richie glared up at you.
“Can I come up?”
You jerked your head in affirmation. At this point, your parents were so used to you going to bed alone and coming down in the morning with Richie, you didn’t even have to worry.
You slid the ladder out the window until it touched solid ground, then went back to your bed. A minute later, Richie’s face appeared at your open window, and he hauled himself in with all the grace of a sack of wet concrete.
You frowned as the scents of - was that wine? Wine and perfume - wafted in after him. He was also wearing a suit - a suit - but the illusion of whatever formality he’d been going for ended at his hair; looping black curls in total disarray, a soft tide of dark hair held back by a lone red hairclip.
“What the fuck are you wearing?” you eventually managed to choke out.
“My parents are home,” he answered non-communally. “And they decided to host a fucking mixer at our house tonight. So I was forced to wear this bullshit thing -“ he plucked at the suit in disgust “-and I only just managed to get away.”
“Wow.” Your eyes caught the red hairclip glinting amongst the soft web of dark curls. “I haven’t seen that thing in years.”
His hand skittered up to trace the clip absently. “My final act of defiance,” he chuckled weakly, before sinking down to sit on the carpet with heavy shoulders and clasped hands.
“Why are they such assholes, Y/n?” he asked suddenly. “I don’t know if I mortally offended them as in infant, or some shit like that - but even if I did, I still wouldn’t know, because they don’t talk to me. I don’t get it. Why have a kid if - if you’re not gonna-“ He waved his hands around in frustration, as if he could wring some meaning from the sentence if he hit at it enough.
“I don’t know, Richie,” you sighed, sliding off the bed and scooting closer until you sat toe-to-toe with the despairing boy. “I wish - I wish I could help you.”
Finally, he looked up; the tear tracks on his face glistened faintly as he smiled - not a smirk, or a shit-eating grin - a real smile that tore a hole in his chest and let all the dully-glowing fragments of the real Richie spill out for you to see. “You already have,” he answered softly.
Your breath seemed to catch in your throat. “But there’s gotta be more I can do. Damnit, Richie, I love you, so much and it fucking kills me to see you just - just take this shit.”
Richie stared at you, stricken. “You love me?”
You scoffed lightly, your face softening. “You have no idea.”
“But…” Richie was struggling to finish a coherent sentence. “Do you love me like - like the kid the split your granola bars with in second grade or do you love me like a…” Again with the wild hand gestures. “Y’know?”
A laugh bubbled through your lips. “Who says it can’t be both?”
As he opened his mouth to retort, you covered it with yours.
It was chaste and clumsy, but the chaps on his lips felt just right against the smoothness of yours, and the squeak of surprise he made at the embrace was swallowed. You could feel the heat of his cheeks and the flutter of his eyelashes and the firm beat of his heart all in that one, fleeting moment your lips touched.
And even as you pulled back, you felt him still. He was stammering in a way that’d give Bill a run for his money, but you could only smile.
Never in your life did you dream you’d fall in love with Richie Tozier - but right now was one of the rare, blissful seconds reality was better than dreams.