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Adults say your childhood is the easiest time of your life… they clearly didn't live in Derry, Maine. That, or they weren't bullied when they were a kid. Or chased for a whole summer by some fucking sewer clown.

Richie loves his parents. They've never laid a hand on him.

His dad doesn't understand most of his jokes or his sense of humor — but as long as Richie keeps his straight A's during school, Wentworth Tozier ignores any vulgarity. His mom is a little more complicated. She loves Richie, with all her heart — but Maggie Tozier wanted a little girl. Someone she could project a young version of herself into and have no difficulty bonding.

He's known that all of his life. His mom didn't exactly hide it from Richie or his dad. Richie doesn't think she's being cruel, but is sorry he can't be the child she wants. He often snuck out of the house in the late afternoon, stubbornly wiping tears off his face and running towards the nearest end of town.

It's where he first met Eddie — a smaller, also dark-haired boy with a neon-green fanny pack. Eddie frowned more often than he smiled, and for once, Richie felt like he was able to change something.

Eddie had been grimly examining the label of his inhaler, reciting back the printed information as if trying to memorize it. It was an unusually hot spring in '85, with prickly grass and dandelions on the edge of the pond. Richie plopped down beside him and did his best impression of Schwarzenegger from Commando.

At first, Eddie had gone startled, and then recognized the movie lines, no longer tensing and snorting aloud. The corners of Eddie's lips twitched upwards. Richie stared at him, feeling his little ten-year-old heart skip a beat.

From then on, they met up near the pond, laughing at each other's shitty jokes and throwing bits of grass into the wind, skipping stones across the water. Eddie introduced him to Bill before middle school, and Richie introduced Stanley around the same time. They all became friends in no time.

The longer he hung around Eddie, the more Richie noticed the signs.

Eddie made continuous excuses to not play outside or get dirty, involving getting trouble with his mom, and took pills on a strict, daily schedule indicated by the beeping of Eddie's wrist-watch. Eddie wasn't sick, and yet he thought he was. Or would become sick at the drop of a hat. Richie teased him at first, but realized it was a sensitive subject.

Light pink scratches appeared on Eddie's cheeks and his jaw, done by someone else's fingernails.

When they were pointed out, Eddie's nervous energy disappeared into a smooth, glass facade. He would shrug and calmly explain his mom discovered Eddie was hurting himself in his sleep. Richie understood the familiarity of a look like that — it's done by knowing how to lie and keep secrets.

There's been welts and bruises over the years, on Eddie's shoulders. On his face during the weekends, or places on him from where flying, heavy objects were thrown at him by his mom. Eddie never acknowledges them with their group, despite the exchanging of worried looks. He does let Richie wordlessly examine him by the pond, holding his arm up and thumbing over a fresh, purpling bruise.

"Shit—don't press on it—"

"Yeah, sorry," Richie mumbles, narrowing his eyes down at Eddie's pale forearm and letting go. Richie's fingers absently crawl down to his own ankle, tracing over a scarlet, faded cigarette-burn underneath his sock.

Henry Bowers may be dead — but the memory of his rage and hatred will live on.

There's two other cigarette-burns on Richie's body, one done again by Henry on his leg and then another by an older boy who wasn't part of the Bowers Gang, but loved torturing just as much.

His friends had not been around, not to defend Richie. He doesn't blame anyone but himself for going limp after fighting the weight of the bully pressing him down onto the asphalt, digging a old, smoking cigarette into Richie's lower back, cackling as a thirteen-year-old Richie screamed, muffling his voice behind his closed lips and teeth.

It's many more years until Eddie sees them, all of Richie's scars from his cuts and burns. His hands quiver over Richie's naked sides. Eddie's brown, glimmering eyes squint up tightly as if he's going to start crying.

"Shit, Eds—don't—" Richie shushes him lowly, offering a weak, goofy smile and embracing him.

Nobody's ever cried for him before.

He's not sure what to do.

"Sorry, yeah," Eddie breathes out, scrubbing under his nose. He forces himself to smile back, kissing Richie's lips, easing into him and groaning happily when Richie frisks his mischievous hands beneath Eddie's polo.

Richie is, honestly, so grateful that his childhood is over. No monsters, no more bruises or Eddie's mother.

Eddie's smile — that's all Richie wants.

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IT 2017 isn't mine. One last time for the It Fandom Secret Santa! Today should be the last day for gifts, leaving just me and one other person who didn't receive anything. I decided to do the replacement gift for Trinity (queenhansbrak on Tumblr) who wanted any ships and art/fanfic! I had this idea lingering in my head for a while now, so I kinda just went with it. Hope you love it, Trinity! And I hope everybody else does too! :) Comments/thoughts appreciated!