Richie Tozier stared blankly at the graded test that had just been placed face-down on his generously vandalized desk. The red ‘40’ circled at the top corner screamed out at him angrily and yet his brain was numb. Deep down, he was bothered, but he couldn’t seem to conjure any kind of physical reaction to this painfully low blow.
In his blurry peripheral, he saw Bev glance at him, but his horrible eyesight spared him from catching the look of pity so clear on her face. Slowly, he folded the test longways and slid it into the front cover of his textbook.
“Don’t forget, revised versions of your compositions are due next Friday. And no, Dennis, the deadline is non-negotiable,” Mrs. Allen retorted as the bell rang and she turned her back to the hastily packing class to erase the blackboard.
Richie slung his backpack over his shoulder and slid his book off his desk and under his arm. He made his way to the door and had only taken three steps into the hallway before he felt a hand on his arm and turned around to come face-to-face with Beverly Marsh—or rather, face-to-neck, as the last four years had been full of gruesome growth spurts for Richie. At age 18, he was now just over 6 feet tall and nearly all of it legs, giving him a rather comic look to fit his reputation.
Before he could stop her, Bev had reached down and pulled the folded test out from the book under his arm. She looked at it, her eyes moving across it slowly, but clearly trailing on the grade at the top. “Rich…”
“It was just a bad unit, who understands half the shit Shakespeare drones on about anyway?” Richie said, making to grab his test back.
Beverly held it out of his reach. “You do, usually. You could tutor half the Losers on Shakespearean ‘drone’. Don’t pretend like you don’t give a damn, Richie.” She looked at him carefully. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he said, but he couldn’t think of a follow-up so he left it at that. Beverly continued to stare at him. “I’m fine, Bev, really. I just… haven’t had time to study. Next time will be better.”
Beverly studied her friend skeptically before biting her lip with resignation. “Yeah. Next time. But you’re going to have to put off studying for one more night. Did you get the memo?”
Richie racked his brain for whatever she could be referring to. Beverly seemed to catch on that he had not, in fact, gotten the memo. “Stan’s place, tonight at 8.” As she walked away, she pushed his flunked test into his chest and tapped the lens of his square-framed glasses. “Be there or be square.”
Richie watched her go distractedly and gave his test one last pitiful glance before crumpling it and dropping it into a trashcan on his way out of the school.
Even with his parents’ car gone, Stan’s driveway was already packed with Ben’s and Mike’s cars, so Richie parked at the curb. Bill came running up beside him as he started across the lawn, clearly having just ridden Silver the four blocks to Stan’s house at top speed.
“Glad I’m n-not the only one who’s late,” he said, dropping his bike at the porch steps.
“It’s only ten after,” Richie said defensively.
“You kn-know Stan will be at our th-th-throats anyway,” Bill bumped shoulders with Richie and the two boys let themselves through the front door.
Immediately, they were ransacked with the usual Friday night ruckus that ensued when The Losers got together in an empty house. A vinyl was turning, an old Jackson Browne album that was far too loud for the kind of music it was, and the television was also on although it could barely be heard over the music. A faint smell of pizza was distinguishable beneath the much more overwhelming smell of smoke, though there was none visible so the cooking situation must have been back under control.
Bill gave Richie a look that clearly said they’ll burn this place to the ground before heading further into the house to investigate the source of the smell of a house fire. Richie closed the door with his foot and followed more slowly. Off the foyer to the right was Stan’s living room, where most of the noise was coming from—Beverly was crouched beside the television, clearly in the midst of adjusting the VHS while Mike sifted through a box of tapes, head bobbing to the music, and Ben threw couch cushions across the room in search of the remote control.
Richie pushed on to the kitchen where Stan and (now) Bill were bent over the oven, out of which a small cloud of smoke had poured, but Richie had seen worse—in fact, he’d been responsible for worse, and since then he had never been allowed kitchen duty during their hang-outs.
Stan was pulling a pizza pan out of the oven when Richie’s eyes wandered to the dining table, and then inevitably to Eddie, who was standing on a kitchen chair with a cookie sheet in his hands, fanning it under the fire alarm with a look of deep annoyance on his face.
As Richie allowed his eyes to wander to Eddie’s face, his thoughts were penetrated by disturbing images so vivid they could almost be memories.
“Richie, for the last time…”
Blood covered his tear-streaked face, Richie hefted his frail body closer to his own chest but it felt strangely unbalanced—
“Eds… Eds… Eds… Eds…”
“Shut up, Richie, I’m trying to save us from having to relocate. Call me that again and I’ll hit you upside the head with this thing,” Eddie brandished the cookie sheet.
Normally, Richie would have a smart retort ready for an immediate comeback, but he was so caught off-guard by the memory of his dream that he had nothing. Eddie either didn’t notice this or didn’t feel like provoking him, because he continued to fan the fire alarm until he felt it was smoke-free enough to hop down from the chair. He went over to where Bill and Stan were trying to salvage the better parts of the pizza.
“This is done-for. There’s not going to be enough for all of us,” Stan fretted.
“I’ll take the burnt parts,” Eddie offered over Bill’s shoulder.
“N-nah, Eddie, we’ll just order out—“
“No, really, better overcooked than under. Over half of foodborne illness is caused by undercooked meat anyways so—“
“Th-th-th-there’s no meat on th-this pizza, Eddie.”
“Well, no, but the danger zone is from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit so bacteria could grow on anything in that range so you know… better safe than sorry.”
“Hey, if you’d rather eat charred food just tell me, because that’s about the only way I can make it,” Stan said, finally cracking a smile. There was a pause and after a moment, all three of them looked to Richie, as if expecting a crack about Stan’s cooking, possibly comparing it to Eddie’s mom’s.
Richie, feeling put on the spot, cleared his throat quickly and hopped up onto the counter, trying to look nonchalant. “Eddie’s always had weird taste, haven’t you Eds?”
“I’m warning you, Richie—“
But Eddie was cut off by Mike sticking his head into the kitchen with a VCR in each hand. “Ferris Bueller or Empire Strikes Back?”
“What kind of question is th-th-that?” Bill said, going around the counter and snatching Star Wars out of Mike’s hand.
“I tried to tell Ben it would be a landslide—“
“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try, young Hanlon,” Bill said, disappearing into the living room. Beverly’s voice floated into the kitchen in turn, complaining about the “fucking VHS, goddamned technology, why are there so many fucking cables” and Stan, rolling his eyes, handed Eddie the pizza cutter and followed Bill and Mike into the other room.
Eddie resorted to selectively cutting the pizza in front of him, separating the burnt bits from the edible ones. Richie was watching him carefully, his knuckles white in his grip on the pizza cutter, his bottom lip between his teeth as he worked, his eyes scanning the food in front of him. At the sound of a loud laugh from the other room, Eddie looked up and, his eyes having briefly met Richie’s did a double-take. “What?” he said defensively.
“Nothing,” Richie said, almost truthfully.
Eddie scrutinized him, eyes narrowed. “If you’re going to say something about how I’m cutting this goddamned pizza I swear to God—“
“I’m not, Eds. Chill out.”
Eddie, still looking skeptical, looked back down. Richie continued to watch his face.
“Bev said you flunked the English test pretty bad.”
“You could say that,” Richie said, bringing one of his legs up under him as he turned slightly where he sat on the counter to better face Eddie.
“You love English.”
Richie stared at Eddie’s face. Blood-covered tear-streaked—
“Yeah, I do.”
“Everything okay at home?” Eddie asked. He had selected a stack of clean plates from the cabinet and was putting his own burnt pieces of pizza on the topmost one.
“As okay as it could be.”
“And work?” Eddie continued, referring to Richie’s job at the Paramount that he had held onto for almost three years now.
“Are you going to tell me why you failed the test or not?” Eddie asked, not meeting Richie’s eyes.
“Maybe on my deathbed.”
“Great. I look forward to it.”
Eddie removed his plate from the stack and moved towards the living room. Richie was a millisecond away from calling him back, from grabbing his shoulders and shaking him, from screaming “I watched you die, I held you in my arms and felt your blood on my skin”, but as Eddie’s heels disappeared into the other room, Richie regained some sense and, better yet, some dignity. He grabbed a slice of pizza from the pan and followed his friends into the living room.
A light so intensely bright it could only be the sun “don’t look at it dipshit, you’re already blind” but it keeps getting brighter somehow just impossibly brighter with each passing moment and Richie’s not even sure if he’s looking at it anymore or if it’s just everywhere and everything consuming him indefinitely until finally
The contrast is almost painful and there is nothing but cold wet darkness that fills the air and penetrates lungs and obscures vision but he keeps moving, stone walls on every side moving swiftly while stale air buffets his face and the sound of drip, drip, dripping is the only thing that can be heard over the splashing that could only be his feet wading through shitty water as he
A life depends on it so keep running because it’s all you can do for him, don’t you know it’s too late, it has always been too late but too late for what? and even while Richie has no idea he also has every idea, every inkling he knows exactly what he’s running towards even without having seen it yet because
A crumpled shape becomes visible through the dark as Richie hurtles towards it without hesitation there is no such thing as calm and there is no such thing as fairness as life has always been a series of disappointments save
Richie is on his knees hefting Eddie’s limp body into his chest there’s warm blood sticky on his hands blood on his shirt Eddie’s head falls into his shoulder blood-covered tear-streaked but still his laugher lines were visible freckles the only remnants of youth he’s so light he’s so frail there is so much blood more blood than should be allowed in one human being more life than one person alone can handle and he looks gone but
“Eds—“ Richie begs and
“Richie, for the last time,” Eddie whispers with blood on his lips “don’t call me that” but the last few words are lost and
“I TOLD YOU TOZIER. I TOLD YOU TO GET OUT, BEFORE IT GOT DARK. GET OUT… GET OUT… GET—“
“Eds… Eds…” Richie could think of nothing else and
“GET OUT… GET OUT… GET OUT”
The light was returning painful and concentrated filling more than space but time before—
Richie jolted awake, bolt upright and gasping for air.
Richie jolted awake, bolt upright and gasping for air. The curls of hair he neglected to cut that were now reaching the nape of his neck were slicked to his skin with sweat. The credits of Die Hard were scrolling across the television screen, shedding blurry light on the Losers, all passed out, scattered around Stan’s living room.
Richie patted around for his glasses, finally finding them where they had slipped off his nose and onto his chest while he slept almost sitting up with his arm around Stan.
As soon as his vision was clear, he found himself searching the room almost frantically for—
Eddie. He was curled longways across the armchair, his legs slung over one of the arms and his head using the other as a rather shitty pillow. Richie’s heart tightened at the placid expression on his friend’s face but was reassured at the unmistakable rise and fall of his chest as he slept. However, as Richie continued to watch him, a small voice in the back of his head pestered him until he wasn’t sure if what he was seeing was Eddie breathing, or the flicker of the television making it look as such.
Unnerved, Richie slipped his arm from under Stan’s head and carefully rose from the sofa. He navigated his way to the armchair and crouched down in front of Eddie.
“Eddie… psst. Eds. Helloooo,” he whispered.
“Hmm? God—Jesus—brush your teeth, Richie, that’s disgust—“
Richie covered Eddie’s mouth with his hand, something he could only do with Eddie because he could be sure that he wouldn’t lick his hand in retaliation. With his one free arm, he mimed pulling Eddie off the chair and walking upstairs, and only after taking his eye-roll as a ‘sure, okay, why not?’, he removed his hand and started towards the foyer. He didn’t look back—he could hear Eddie getting up, though rather slowly.
The two boys took the stairs to the second floor and trod the familiar path down the hallway to Stan’s bedroom. Richie headed straight over to the window and pushed it open. As he began to climb outside, he heard a snort of contempt from behind him, but he merely smirked and continued onto the roof.
Eddie was pulling on a sweatshirt as he began crawling out of the window in pursuit. “What is it with you and rooftops?”
“Well, generally they’re not someplace that most people spend a lot of their time, you see, so naturally the appeal is increased tenfold."
Richie reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pack of Lucky Strikes.
“Christ, Richie are you kidding me?” Eddie whined.
“You want one?” Richie grinned, cigarette between his teeth while he scavenged his jeans pockets for his lighter.
“Beep beep, Richie,” Eddie retorted, watching him light up. “If this is why you brought me out here, I’m out—“
“Eddie, I’m kidding, I get it, I’ll shut up,” Richie said, and he wanted to kick himself for how quickly he said it.
Eddie turned slowly back to Richie, as he had been making his way towards the window again. “I thought you gave it up,” he nodded to the lighter Richie was tucking back into his pocket.
“I did. Sometimes you just… need a little, you know?” Richie watched as Eddie closed the few feet that had been separating them and sat down on the slight slant of the roof.
“No, not really,” he said, not looking at Richie as he sat down beside him.
“That would be the escitalopram talking.”
“I guess.” There was silence for a moment. “It’s funny. Or ironic, I guess. I spend the first 13 years of my life swallowing sugar for nothing and only after I realized it was all fake did I actually start to need something real.”
Richie took a drag on his Lucky and let the smoke float out with his words. “It wasn’t fake. If they helped, that’s all that matters.”
They were quiet for a long while after that. A car or two drove by on the street below, but it was that magic hour between midnight and three AM when the world seemed to turn into a ghost town even in the most populated areas, let alone Derry, Maine. Richie smoked his cigarette for a while before Eddie finally pulled his aspirator out of his sweatshirt pocket and Richie quickly stubbed it out on his other side so Eddie wouldn’t see.
“You’ve been thinking about it, haven’t you?”
Richie was startled by Eddie’s sudden words, but there was no mistaking what ‘it’ meant.
“It’s not really something you can just forget,” he replied.
“Yeah but… sometimes it’s harder to ignore than others.” In the very corner of his glasses, Richie saw Eddie’s left hand trail over his right arm, the ghost of a compound fracture from years before. “That’s why your grades are down the toilet, isn’t it?”
Richie’s hands were shaking. They were approaching a topic he’d rather keep his distance to. He rested his elbows on his bent knees and laced his fingers together to hide his nerves.
“It’s part of it, yeah.”
“You know you can talk about it.”
“What, to a shrink? Fat chance, Eddie Spaghetti."
“Of course not, asshole. Any shrink would declare you legally insane if you busted into their office going on about killer demon cl—“ Eddie stopped himself at the sight of Richie’s expression. The latter quickly found his go-to smirk, the award-winning mask he’d developed early in childhood to hide real emotions.
“I just meant,” Eddie restarted, choosing his words carefully, “to any of us—we’ll understand. Anything that you’re thinking about… we were all down there together in that sewer. And we all came out together. And we’re still… together. You don’t have to hide stuff from us.”
I can’t very well tell you, either, though, Eds. “Yeah, I know,” Richie muttered, unclasping his hands to quickly push his glasses higher on his nose and then clasping them again.
Richie could tell Eddie was expecting him to open up right there and then. Richie laid back with the slant of the roof and folded his hands behind his head. “Do you know anything about space, Eddie?”
“I don’t know. Enough.”
Richie smiled. “You can never know enough about space. There’s always more that’s just like… incredible. Like just when you thought it couldn’t get any cooler, you hear something new and it’s just like… your mind is blown. Over and over.”
Eddie was now gazing up at the star-streaked sky as well. Richie could talk a lot of shit about Derry, but the one thing it had going for it was its lack of light pollution.
“For example, constellations. There’s a million of ‘em, right? Just a bunch of dots in the sky that make little triangles that someone decided looked like a fucking fish. Bizarre.”
“Hm,” Eddie mumbled, leaning back on his elbows.
“Look, do you see that bright one, just over that chimney?” Richie pointed. “And the one kinda close to it, diagonally?” Eddie had moved his head closer to Richie’s hand, which was steadier now to his great relief, so as to see in the direction he was pointing. “And then that one, kind of cattycorner… no other way, yeah, and the one directly below it. Do you recognize that one?”
Eddie was squinting hard, trying to see the fish or the centaur or the elephant or God knows what, and Richie was watching him struggle with a genuine grin, feeling the happiest he’d felt in a long while. “I don’t…” Eddie whispered.
“Oh no, Ed’s! This one is renowned, it’s a staple in Greek mythology! It’s called ‘Spaghetti Man’—“
Just to share with you guys, I'm really in love with the idea of To Kill A King's "Bloody Shirt" as like... Eddie/Richie Anthem™.
I made a mix a little while back with Bastille's remix of that song on it, but the original is definitely a good vibe :: https://8tracks.com/baileyerin97/lucky-seven-7
Enjoy tonight's chapter
Richie sat through breakfast the following morning only to avoid having to come up with a sorry excuse for leaving early, but this plan quickly failed when Stan started pestering him about not eating his pancakes and all eyes were on him yet again. To avoid suspicion, Richie cracked a joke about Stan’s cooking, ate some pancakes without really tasting them, listened to the regular morning banter without really hearing it, and drove home around 11:30 without really seeing the road.
The rest of the weekend passed slowly, the nights crawling. Richie actually shot out of bed around 4 AM Sunday morning, drenched in sweat that he mistook for blood in the dark of his room, and sat on floor at the foot of his mattress until the sun rose.
Sunday afternoon, he received a call from Ben inviting him to tag along to Red Apple for candy and to wander Center Street with the lot of them. Richie told him he was busy studying English, but thanks for the heads up so he could be sure to avoid the area (Ben laughed and Richie bit his tongue).
Sunday night, Richie waited as long as he could stand before getting into bed. Not even bothering to remove his glasses, he stared at the ceiling for what felt like an eternity (really only an hour) before he got up, walked over to his desk, turned on the lamp, and sat down with his hands flat on the cold wood for a few minutes.
Richie pulled a piece of loose-leaf paper towards him and grabbed a pencil from the mug Bev had painted for his 15th birthday. He began to write.
Walking into school on Monday morning, Richie barely registered the excitement that filled the hallways as kids jittered about the flyers being passed around and taped to lockers. Richie stared at a bright orange one taped to his own locker for almost a full minute before actually focusing long enough to read what it advertised:
CREEP IT REAL THIS HALLOWEEN
407 WEST BROADWAY
THE ONLY HAUNT FOR YOUR HALLOWEEN HIJINKS
WITCHING HOUR (9:00 PM)
“Hear that, Tozier? Costumes required,” came an aggressive voice from behind him, “Although, you and your friends dress like clowns everyday anyway, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to throw something together.”
Richie’s chest tightened at the mention of a word that had become ever-more triggering for him in recent years, and he turned just in time to see Greta Keene cock her eyebrow at him and disappear into a crowd of underclassmen fighting over one of her flyers.
“’Creep it real’? Is she serious?” Another voice from behind him, but this time much more friendly, and Richie turned to see Beverly ripping the flyer from his locker.
“Fuck her,” Richie said absently, starting in on his locker combination.
“Not feeling so creative this morning, are we?”
“That’s never stunted your trashmouth before,” Beverly muttered, but Richie chose to pretend he hadn’t heard her. “We missed you yesterday.”
“I had to study English,” Richie said, reaching into his locker to transfer that day’s textbooks into his backpack.
“You usually leave homework until the last minute on Sundays, don’t bullshit me Richie—“
“I told you I was going to do better on the next test right? What I usually do clearly isn't going to cut it,” he said shortly, slamming his locker shut.
Beverly’s eyes were wide and shocked. She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out, so Richie filled the silence. “Look, I’m sorry. I was up late studying, I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep.”
“I can tell. Your glasses are magnifying the bags under your eyes,” Beverly recovered, reaching up to stroke his cheekbone with her thumb as she studied him. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
“Never better,” he said, grabbing her wrist and trailing it around him so her arm was slung across his shoulders. “Shall I escort you to first period, m’lady?"
“Why Richie, I thought you’d never ask.”
Eddie was compulsively capping and uncapping his pen, eyes shifting from the door to the clock above it, watching the minute hand tick closer and closer to the first bell, and still Richie was not present.
Not that Eddie cared if Richie was absent or not. They all had their fair share of “sick days” and “family affairs”, but Richie was his lab partner this semester and Eddie wasn’t too enthused at the idea of spending an hour and a half on a shared reflux apparatus in close proximity with Margot Jones while Richie skipped class for some afternoon delight or God Knows What.
Finally, twenty seconds until the bell, Richie walked through the door and Eddie capped his pen in relief. It was short-lived, however, when he noticed how pale and harassed Richie looked as he made his way to his seat.
“Where were you?” Eddie asked, trying not to sound too demanding.
“I walked Bev to class. Is that a crime?” Richie dropped his bag beside his chair and held his wrists out to Eddie in mock resignation. “I swea’, offica’, there was nothin’ thea but good intent, I tell ya!”
“Shut up,” Eddie pushed Richie’s hands out of his face and waited for the bell to stop ringing before he spoke again, whispering so as not to be heard over the morning announcements. “Hey, are you feeling okay? You look kind of off.”
“Why, don’t wanna work with me if I’m sick? What a friend, a real pal—“
“For fuck’s sake,” Eddie gave up and turned to his own backpack to dig through textbooks and prescriptions alike for his lab manual.
Richie had started acting weird about a week ago and Eddie had noticed immediately. Early last Tuesday morning, Richie had called Eddie’s house (to his mother’s annoyance) and offered Eddie a ride to school. This had struck Eddie as odd not only because carpooling was something they tended to work out before the morning of the ride, but also because over the phone, Richie had seemed at a loss for words when Eddie first picked up, almost as if he had no real reason for calling at all.
Since then, Richie had been acting more and more strangely, appearing more and more disheveled, and deflecting any and all of Eddie’s attempts at getting to the bottom of his behavior. He had thought he was finally going to get his friend to crack on Stan’s roof on Friday night, but he had been thwarted yet again by Richie’s innate ability to ward off emotion with words.
When Eddie turned back to Richie, he had already pulled his lab goggles over his oversized glasses, making him look even more ridiculous than usual. Eddie smiled to himself in spite of his worries and flipped open his manual.
“Stan!” Richie maneuvered through the crowded hallway to catch up to his friend, who, unhelpfully, saw Richie over his shoulder and continued moving with the crowd.
When Richie was in-stride with Stan, he began to second guess what he was about to do. He felt crazy, but Eddie had been right about being able to talk to the Losers without actually being called crazy. With a deep breath, he forced out: “Can we talk?”
“Ha ha. We are talking, Richie,” Stan said.
Richie nodded—he felt it was only fair Stan had assumed he was opening for a joke. “I mean, like, can we go somewhere and… talk…?” Richie pushed his glasses up nervously. He couldn’t think of any other way of phrasing it.
Stan looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “I have class in ten minutes.”
“This’ll take five,” Richie assured.
Still looking skeptical, Stan watched Richie for a giveaway, something to prove Richie was pulling his leg, and finally satisfied that Richie was serious, he nodded across the hallway and led the way to an alcove leading to the cafeteria.
Richie continued past him, through the doors into the cafeteria itself. Stan looked at him blankly while he held the door open until Richie finally gestured impatiently for him to follow.
“What the hell could possibly be this important?” Stan demanded once inside the deserted cafeteria.
Richie rubbed the back of his neck and looked around the room, unsure of how to start. Stan stood there, silent.
“I… I had a dream.”
Stan looked at him. “Is that the punchline?”
“No! No, Stan, this isn’t a joke… I had a dream… well, multiple dreams really… or maybe it just counts as one, because it’s the same one, over and over—“
“Wait, what? Start over,” Stan said, suddenly more interested.
Richie tried to take a deep breath but it caught in his throat. “I… I had this dream like, a week ago, that… I don’t know… that Eddie… died.” At Stan’s lack of reaction, Richie added “down there. In the sewers. And… It was there.”
Stan looked around. “Okay… but Eddie isn’t dead. He didn’t die.” Richie just looked at him. “Richie, we all have nightmares—“
“Okay, but this wasn’t just a nightmare, Stan, this was… different!” Richie insisted.
“I know! The ones I’ve been having aren’t like normal dreams either, Richie. They feel… alive, like they know me, like they’re speaking to me—“
“What? No, that’s not it at all—“ Richie interrupted. “This feels like real life. Like, for a few minutes, I—I am holding him, I actually have his blood on my hands, like I’ve been… transported through time, almost. And that’s the thing, it’s not Eddie now, it’s like… a Later Eddie. Our folks’ ages, almost. But it’s him, its definitely him—“ Richie stopped; his voice was starting to sound choked.
Stan was staring at him, but not in a bad way—not in a Holy Fuck My Friend Is Insane kind of way. More like: Holy Fuck My Friend Is a Goddamned Mess. He was right.
“Rich, you don’t look like you’ve slept a whole lot lately, maybe you should skive off the rest of the day and go home—“
“That’s just it, Stan, I can’t sleep. Every time I close my fucking eyes all I see is—“
The two boys stood there in thick silence, unsure of what to say to one another. Finally, Stan spoke up.
“I understand, Richie. I really do. Probably more than you know. But when it comes down to it, it’s just a dream. And we’ve dealt with a lot worse.” Stan adjusted his backpack strap and walked over to Richie. Putting a hand on his shoulder, he looked at Richie sincerely. “Go home. Get some sleep. It’ll seem a lot less real when you’re more awake during the day.”
The door clicked shut behind Stan and, after the momentary sounds of the hallway bustle, Richie stood alone in the silent cafeteria.
Richie made an effort to finish out the school day, but after being smacked in the head by a basketball in phys-ed for failure to pay attention to the scrimmage he was unwillingly part of, his motivation was derailed. He showered half-heartedly, slipped out of the locker room’s side door before Coach D could see him, and marched across the campus to the senior parking lot.
Blessedly, Richie’s parents were still at work when he arrived home, so he was able to let himself in undetected and unquestioned. Once inside his room, he dropped his backpack at the door and fell facedown onto his bed, not bothering to remove his glasses nor his shoes, as he didn’t intend on sleeping anyways.
He had to do something about this. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand it—the lack of sleep was bearable (this was high school after all, it was something he was used to), but being jolted back to the horrific, albeit fictional, dream scene in the sewer every time he saw Eddie…
The more he had thought about it, the more Richie could see the sense in Stan’s words. Eddie hadn’t died in the sewer, he was still alive and kicking to be a royal pain in Richie’s ass, and a loveable one at that. And Richie could understand what Stan had meant about getting some sleep—if he weren’t so tired all the time, maybe it would be easier to distinguish this recurring nightmare from reality. But then there was the matter of Eddie’s age in the dreams… almost as if it weren’t supposed to have happened yet… as if it were some kind of premonition…
“Ever thought about what you wanna do when you’re older?”
“I don’t know. Travelling sounds pretty cool.”
“Traveling? You say public transportation gives you the heebie-jeebies, Eds.”
“Don’t call me that. Besides, that’s just buses. People feel the need to touch everything and cough all over everything and—“
“So what, you’re saying you wanna be like…a train conductor or something?”
“Or something, yeah. Might be fun to see more of the world than just Derry, ya know?”
Eddie, carving a ‘V’ into a rock at the Barrens… Eddie, kneeling down to tie his shoe in front of Keene’s… Eddie, autumn leaves falling around him as he biked down the sidewalk… Eddie, laughing in spite of himself at a joke of Richie’s… Eddie, laying on his stomach with his head over the side of the cliff, looking down on the quarry below… Eddie, inserting a dime into the jukebox at Red Apple… Eddie, through the rearview mirror of Richie’s beat-up Camaro, between Bev and Bill in the backseat… Eddie, smiling… Eddie, laughing…Eddie…
Richie’s eyes opened to his bedroom, slightly darker than he remembered it being before dozing off. The clock on his bedside table read 4:24 PM. His glasses askew, he pushed himself up and turned over to sit on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands. That had been the first ounce of sleep in almost a week that hadn’t been haunted by Eddie’s lifeless body.
Richie got up and walked over to his desk. It was strewn with papers covered in his chicken-scratch from the night before. With a grimace, he began to read them:
i feel like this is supposed to mean something, like it’s some kind of warning that’s being given to me for whatever reason. but why me? and why now? it’s been years since that fucking clown terrorized us and we all came out of it (relatively) well-off… a few more pages of rambling in that direction… there’s something off about the light that always starts the Dream out. it’s more than just a light, it has some kind of relevance… a symbol, maybe? my subconscious trying to tell me something? and the Dream always ends in a loop, ends with the same light it starts out with… yada-yada-yada... eddie can’t know. he can’t know that i know anything… it’ll totally freak him out. either that or he’ll consider me a nut-job for the rest of our natural-born lives. it might also bring up questions of why i’m dreaming about him and none of the other losers, to which i have no answer…
Sifting through a few more pages, Richie found a list of pros and cons of telling Eddie about the Dreams, some recounts of events from the Summer of ’89, a list of hastily drawn-up archetypes and universal symbols connected with the images from the Dreams, and a disturbing sketch that Richie could hardly remember drawing, depicting a downward perspective of Eddie, bleeding out in his arms. Every time the ‘dream’ was mentioned, it was with a capital ‘D’. They were the ramblings of a madman.
Richie stood forcefully from his desk and walked back over to his bed. Agitated, he pulled off his Chucks and threw them in the direction of his closet, thoroughly confused. He was heartened at the fact that he had just slept for a solid few hours without any hint of the Dream, but his writings reminded him of just how paranoid he had been not even 24 hours before. Maybe Stan was right… maybe all he needed was to be tired enough to fall asleep without thinking obsessively of ‘premonitions’ and ‘death omens’.
Laying back on his bed, removing his glasses this time, Richie hoped for nothing more than to be overreacting.
Richie awoke to the sound of crows from the tree outside his bedroom window. By the soft light coming through the blinds, he estimated it to be just about dawn, and was proven right when he reached for his glasses and saw the time to be just past 5 in the morning. He sat up warily. He had no recollection of having had the Dream… better yet, he couldn’t remember having dreamt anything at all.
Richie ran into Stan walking from the parking lot to the front doors of Derry High that morning. Stan smiled encouragingly as they fell in-step. “Sleep well?”
Richie found himself smiling, if not a bit exhausted, but smiling nonetheless. “Yeah, pretty well.”
Stan nudged Richie with his shoulder and the two boys entered the school in good spirits for 7:00 on a Tuesday morning.
Mike met them a few steps into the school, looking excited. “We’re planning a party for Eddie’s birthday in a few weeks, just to let you guys know. Nothing huge, obviously, probably just the seven of us but—“
“Lucky Seven’s always been enough anyway,” said Stan.
“Right you are, Stan the Man. We were thinking a bonfire at the Quarry—or Bill was, really, that was his idea—the whole thing is still in the works but we’ll get together and figure things out. Keep it quiet from Eddie, though!” he added, ducking into his first period math classroom.
“Ed’s will definitely love that… he hates being out of the loop,” Richie observed. Stan branched off a little while later, leaving Richie to walk the rest of the way to his locker alone. Bev came up behind him as he was unpacking his backpack.
“Look, Richie, I know you’re just going to brush me off again, but seriously, I want you to look me in the eye and tell me honestly that you’re okay, you’ve been acting so weird lately and I’m worried—“
Richie smiled and closed his locked as he turned to face her. She stopped dead, seeing the smile that was the Richie-est smile she’d seen in a while, not the grimace that had replaced it for the last week or so.
“Beverly, my chick-a-dee, I’m fine. Your interest is endearing, though, I implore you to tell me you don’t care for me.”
A small smile was finding its way onto Bev’s lips. “Rich…”
“Ah, alas, I knew it… the young and enchanting Beverly Marsh has sacrificed her heart to the fateful temptress of love… I ask you, Miss Marsh, when did you first realize the young Master Tozier had stolen your heart away?”
As he began to walk slowly away from his locker, Beverly linked arms with him and shook her head, exasperated. “I’m not kidding, Richie, you really had me worried there. Bill, too, he was starting to notice…”
But Beverly’s words were fading away. Richie had looked up from her face, smiling broadly, and from down the hallway his eyes had caught Eddie. And for a moment, he was Eddie. But in a flash, something… changed.
Eddie’s finely-combed hair became tussled and streaked with grit. His clothes were sopping wet and grimy, his face… his face… blood-covered, tear-streaked, eyes glazed over—
Eddie stood, at the end of the hall, passed-by unseen by other students bustling around him, a token straight out of the Dream. Eddie’s right arm had been ripped off at the shoulder. Blood pooled around him.
“Richie?” Beverly said, looking up at her friend as the arm he had linked with hers began to go limp. She watched as his eyes rolled to the back of his head, his knees buckled beneath him, and Richie Tozier fell unconscious to the floor.
((my reaction to all of your guys' love))
Hey guys, thank you so so so much for all the reads and your lovely comments. Just letting you know that for about the first 12 or so hours after I update, the newest chapter may not be in the best format, as I tend to update without previewing so that I can get started on homework/lab reports/sleep/feed myself (still trying to learn How To Adult, here). As soon as I get the chance to go back and re-read my work, I fix ao3's spotty html formatting, but it's not usually immediately, so I'm super sorry about that.
COOL. That's all for now.
“ Richie? Richie! ” his voice echoed, bouncing off the walls of the sewer, reverberating back and forth, and Richie ’ s head ached with it. “ Richie … Richie? Richie? ” He needed him … Richie needed to get to him …
The sewer … the clown … Eddie —
Richie’s eyes flew open—his vision was off-kilter, as his glasses had broken at the nosepiece and were dangerously crooked, but even so, the movement around him was blurred and lagging, as if he were in the middle of a slow-motion time lapse.
“Richie?” his voice still echoed, they were still in the sewer—no, Richie caught himself, it’s not real. “For fuck’s sake, Richie, look at me!”
Richie’s eyes trailed from the hands grasping his shoulders to the arms—yes, arms, plural—that they were attached to, to the face of his very alive, very anxious friend. Eddie’s eyes were searching his face frantically while Beverly crouched behind him, her fingers tangled in her hair.
“… Eds?” Richie said weakly. Beverly visibly relaxed, covering her eyes in relief, but Eddie still looked positively alarmed.
“Can you stand? We have to get you out of the hallway—“
“Eddie—“ Richie heard his voice grow stronger. He lifted a shaky hand to his friend’s face, to feel it solid and real and warm and alive in front of him, just feet away from his own. Eddie pushed it away irritably but immediately replaced his own hand on Richie’s shoulder. Richie contented himself with placing his hand on top of his friend’s, felt the fine bones where finger met knuckle, felt the knuckles tighten as Eddie squeezed Richie’s shoulder.
“Richie, are you listening to me?”
“… you’re… alive—“ Richie stumbled over his words, but Eddie was only half paying attention.
“Of course I’m alive, you’re the one who just keeled over—Jesus, Richie, how much do you weigh?”
Eddie had successfully managed to prop Richie up enough to get him into a weak standing position, the latter leaning heavily on the much smaller former. Beverly, having grabbed Richie’s bag, quickly pushed herself under Richie’s other arm and the three kids stumbled down the hallway to the boy’s restroom, attracting the attention of other students the whole way.
Eddie and Bev pushed Richie down onto the window sill where he leaned against the glass and blinked hard up at the ceiling.
“What the fuck, Richie?” Bev breathed.
Richie, who was gaining more and more self-awareness with each passing moment, decided to keep a short story. “I didn’t… eat breakfast this morning,” he mumbled. Slowly, he brought his gaze down from the ceiling. He didn’t want to make eye-contact with Eddie, but he wanted to make sure… to make sure that Eddie was still there. Alive.
He was. Alive. Standing there, freshly-showered, clean and dry, utterly bewildered, but not covered in blood. He certainly had both arms attached.
“We need to get you to the nurse—“
“No, Eds, I’m fine, I just—“
“How long are you going to keep saying you’re fine?” Beverly screamed, flying off the handle. “You’re clearly not fine, Richie, you just collapsed like a goddamned black hole and expect us to just brush it off like it’s any other day—“
“I’m just stressed out, alright? It’s nothing I can’t handle—“
There was an unceremonious flush from one of the stalls and the three Losers watched as an underclassmen snuck out, looking terrified. Bev looked at him apologetically in the mirror as he washed his hands and took off out the door.
Richie was thankful for the interruption. He stood up with the intention of leaving but was met with a bout of lightheadedness that nearly took him off his feet for a second time that morning. Eddie made to catch him, but Richie sat back down before he could.
He could tell that yelling at his friends would do nothing to get them off his back. Besides that, he felt bad abusing them like this… it wasn’t their fault he was going crazy. Beverly looked as if she were going to start in on him again, so Richie beat her to the punch.
“I’m just… there’s just some stuff I’m trying to figure out, and it’s been… taking a toll—“
“To say the least,” Bev retorted.
“—It’s been taking a toll, and I need some time to myself to sort it out.”
Eddie looked terrified, every freckle visible on his pale face, but he nodded once in understanding. Bev wasn’t quite so satisfied, but she folded her arms over her chest and looked down at her feet. She wouldn’t say it aloud, but she was giving in.
Richie retrieved his bag from where Bev had dropped it by the window and slung it over his shoulder. He passed between his two friends and pushed his way out of the bathroom without another word.
Richie squinted down at his unsteady fingers as he struggled to blindly wrap a second layer of scotch tape around the bridge of his glasses. There was no way for him to tell how it looked, but he was fairly experienced in the area of temporarily repairing his coke-bottle lenses—all throughout junior high he had dealt with Bowers and his cronies, and each run-in seemed to have meant a new pair of specs.
Dropping his glasses onto the table, Richie put his head in his hand and rubbed his forehead. His mind was still cloudy from that morning’s fainting spell, but even so he felt as if his brain were on overdrive. He couldn’t shake that vision… the Dream come to life, following him into the waking world… Eddie standing there… death reanimated…
Richie had taken refuge in the library, the only place he could think of that was quiet and where he would least likely be followed.
There was the creak of wood and a small sniff. Richie raised his head from his hand and, even through the blurry mess that was his horrid eyesight, Richie recognized Eddie occupying the seat across from him.
“Fix ‘em?” Eddie said after a few moments of silence, his blurry shape nodding down at the glasses.
“Barely,” Richie said, trying to sound lighthearted.
More silence. Richie stared down at his hands. His stomach felt tight and uneasy. He could feel Eddie’s unfaltering gaze.
“Why did you say what you said this morning?” he asked eventually.
“I can’t really remember a lot of what I said this morning, bud, you’re going to have to be more specific.”
“Why did you s—“ Eddie stopped, but regained his nerve quickly, “Why did you say to me, ‘you’re alive’? As if it were a shock to you?”
Richie’s heart went cold. He couldn’t see any way he could avoid this question. It was very plain that Eddie had been thinking on it all day. Richie cursed himself for having such a loose tongue.
Richie reached over, lifted his glasses off the table and placed them on his face. He looked up at Eddie and, much to his relief, his expression softened a bit when he saw Richie’s ridiculous tape-job—he chuckled once, but continued to watch Richie carefully.
“You wanna go to the Barrens?” Richie asked.
Eddie said nothing, but continued to stare at Richie. There was something behind his eyes that Richie couldn’t quite place. Finally, Eddie looked away and nodded sadly. “I thought maybe you would open up to me one-on-one, but I guess I misjudged. I’m sorry you don’t feel like you can talk to me, Richie.” Eddie got up to leave.
Richie watched him, dumbfounded. “Wha—Eddie, wait—“
“I don’t want to hear any more excuses, I’m tired of it! We’re friends, Richie, I’m here for you but clearly I’m not enough. I hope you ‘figure things out’ or whatever your last crock of shit was…” Eddie picked up his bag and walked out of the library, leaving an irritated librarian in his wake when the door slammed shut behind him.
((this was kind of a filler chapter i'm sorry))
“R-richie? Are you even listening?”
Richie looked up from the pen he had been dismantling to see Bill and Stan staring him down from across Bill’s kitchen table. “Yeah,” Richie said defensively.
“What did Stan ju-jus…just say?”
“To order the pizzas by 7 or they won’t be ready for pickup until after 8,” Richie said.
Bill arched an eyebrow skeptically. “Lucky guess.”
Richie rolled his eyes. Next to him, Bev placed a hand on his forearm in what was meant to be a comforting gesture. She didn’t look at him.
They had gotten together before their weekly Friday hangout to plan Eddie’s birthday without him there. Richie’s week had been nothing short of disastrous. While the Dream had ceased plaguing his nights, it now manifested itself as visions at random times during the day.
After the first one, which had resulted in Richie passed out in the middle of the hallway from shock, they weren’t so surprising anymore. It had still come as a shock, however, when Richie had turned around in chemistry lab on Wednesday expecting to hand Eddie his beaker of filtrate and had come face-to-face with Dream Eddie, dead-eyed and ghostly pale.
Richie dropped the beaker and it shattered, attracting the attention of the entire lab. At the sound of the glass breaking, however, Richie blinked and Eddie returned to himself again, but not before Richie’s heart had pretty much leapt out of his chest for beating so fast. Eddie looked confused at first, worried, even, but the more often these visions occurred, the more Richie looked at him strangely, the sulkier Eddie became until finally, by the time Friday rolled around, he was avoiding Richie entirely.
“We’ll have to take a detour to the quarry because Greta’s party is on the same night,” Ben pointed out, “Unless you guys are keen on passing by her house while it’s the most populated residence in Derry.”
“Yeah, good p-point…” Bill muttered, looking down at his to-do list for the following week.
“Is it too late to change the date?” Bev asked quietly. Now it was Richie’s turn to give her arm a sympathetic pat—he knew that she had dealt with Greta’s bullying in the past.
“It’ll be fine, we can j-j-jus… go down to J-Jackson Street and take th-the long way,” Bill looked at Beverly encouragingly.
There was the sound of Bill’s front door opening and he jumped to collect the lists and plans scattered around the kitchen table and shoved them in a drawer just in time for Eddie to walk in and drop his backpack at the bar. “Did I miss a memo or something?” He asked, looking around at the assembled Losers.
“N-nah, th-they all just got here early because they have n-no man…ners.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Eddie said, eyes meeting Richie’s for a brief moment before looking away.
Richie felt a spark of frustration. He dropped the pieces of pen in his hands and leaned back in his chair. “Alright gang. What kind of hell are we raising tonight?”
The sun was setting over Town Hall when the Losers reached McCarron Park with no plans except to enjoy one of the final evenings of autumn where the weather was nice enough to be outside.
At the park, Mike unfolded a blanket and spread it out in the bed of his truck. The seven kids spread out across it, discussing the happenings of their week, their plans for the weekend. After a few minutes, Richie pulled out his pack of Strikes, lit up, and passed it to Beverly upon her request. Shortly after this exchange, Eddie got up and mumbled something about his medication schedule. He disappeared into the cab of the truck to retrieve his pills out of his backpack, but when he didn’t return, Richie turned to see him through the windshield, sitting on the hood alone.
Richie took one last drag on his cigarette and passed it to Beverly before standing up and pushing himself onto the roof of the cab. Ignoring Mike’s annoyed protests, he slid down the windshield and sat down cross-legged next to Eddie. He had been fully expecting Eddie to just get up and leave and was very surprised when he didn’t even react to Richie’s presence.
“You smell like cigarette smoke,” Eddie said after a minute.
“You smell like Purell.”
“Is there a reason you look like you’re going to vomit every time we make eye contact?”
“I don’t know where you get that idea, Eddie Spaghetti, you’re just so damned cute—“
“You’re doing it. Again. You’re going to put me in the hospital with whiplash, Richie. And would you stop fucking calling me that?”
“For the last time…” Dream Eddie persisted.
Richie leaned back against the windshield and looked up at the darkening sky. He was reminded faintly last week, when he had done almost the same thing. This time, though, he thought, he was going to be a bit more open. More—he hated to admit it—serious.
“If I tell you something private, you promise not to tell anyone else?”
Eddie looked down at him. “Is this about why you’ve been acting like a dick?”
Richie thought for a moment. “Distantly.”
Eddie looked positively furious for a moment, but his expression softened when he saw Richie’s eyes. “Okay. I promise.”
“Blood oath?” Richie smirked.
“Beep beep Richie.”
“The year after… you know. The Neibolt House. I was riding home from school one day and I saw Bev… I saw Bev on the curb. It looked like she’d fallen off her bike but she was just kind of… sitting there. So I stopped to help her up, but when I got closer I saw that she was… well, she wasn’t okay. She was kind of… shaky, rocking back and forth, and her eyes were all glazed over, like she wasn’t actually seeing me. But I’ll never forget, she just kind of blinked at me and said ‘I can’t do it, Richie. I can’t do it anymore’.”
Eddie was watching Richie carefully now, fully aware of the gravity of what he was sharing.
“I picked her up and walked her to my place… my folks weren’t home, you know, per usual… and I put her in the bathtub and just turned on the cold water over us. I think I saw it on TV or something, I don’t know, I just thought it would help wake her up. And afterwards I gave her some dry clothes and made her lay down. She asked me to stay with her, just to keep a hand on her shoulder so she knew I was real. That was what she said—‘I need to know you’re real’.
The next morning, she woke up, thanked me, and asked me not to tell anyone what had happened. When I asked her what exactly had happened… she just looked at me and said… ‘the mind is a lot more fragile than we think’. I kept my promise, I never told anyone. Until now, you know. Don’t tell her I told you.”
Eddie was speechless for a minute before turning away slowly. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“As much as I would give for it all to be just… black and white, ya know? It’s just not,” Richie said.
“Thank you. For telling me that,” Eddie said softly, pulling his knees up to his chest. “That’s the most honest with me you’ve been in a while, Rich.”
Even though Richie hadn’t revealed anything that had been weighing on him in particular, he felt lighter somehow. He reached up and tussled Eddie’s hair affectionately, glad that they were at least on speaking terms again.
“Richie—“ Eddie started to complain, but Richie smiled and sat up a bit more to wrap Eddie’s neck into the crook of his elbow and drag him down onto the windshield with him.
“You’re such a softy, Eds, I love that about you.”
Eddie blushed, but the sun had set enough for the darkness to conceal it, and the two boys watched the final lightning bugs of the year flicker through the trees to the sounds of their friends’ laughter in the truck bed behind them.
hey boys girls nb pals ::
I've thrown together this mix specifically for this fic, so its a bit more fitted to the tone of the story than my other Loser's Club mix. Give it a listen if you're into that sort of thing. Thank you all again so much for all of the reads and replies and kudos and jazz, reading your guys' reactions means the world to me, really i'm not exaggerating I don't have a whole lot going for me these days.
ANYWAY. music. here ya go! THANK YOU GUYS!
“Do not fucking say it,” Eddie said sliding into an empty chair at the Losers’ lunch table. Richie, whose attention had been occupied picking tomato off his sandwich when Eddie had arrived, looked up. A smirk found its way onto his face.
“Well, well, Eddie Spaghetti, join the cl—“
“Shut up, Richie, just shut up!” Eddie’s cheeks were flushed behind his new round frame wire rim glasses. He was sinking lower and lower into his seat while the group took in their first impression of the new addition to Eddie’s face. Finally, Ben reached down and hefted him up so that he was visible above the table.
“They look nice, Eddie,” Beverly assured, taking a sip of milk. “Your bifocals not enough anymore?”
“I was having migraines and my mom suggested—“
“I thought you weren’t going to do what your mom ‘suggests’ anymore?” Richie said, still smirking, his chin in his hand, tomato-less sandwich forgotten.
“It’s just a trial run, to see if the headaches stop. Optometrists are quacks, can’t trust ‘em—“
“You th-think all doctors are quacks, Eddie,” Bill pointed out.
“With good reason!”
“The fact remains, if they help, Eddie, they’re good,” Bev gave him a knowing glance before standing up to dump her tray and Eddie visibly relaxed.
“Anyway, we still on for tonight?” Mike asked, trying to sound nonchalant, as if it were any other Friday night.
“Why wouldn’t we be?” Eddie asked, playing with the position of his glasses on the bridge of his nose. Richie’s smirk was becoming more of a genuine smile as he watched him.
“Just making sure,” Mike gave Bill a sidelong glance, “It being Halloween, and all.”
Everyone ate in silence for a minute and Eddie looked around the table, slowly inspecting each of their faces. Richie hastily picked his sandwich back up as Eddie’s eyes fell on him. “Wait a second… you guys aren’t planning anything, are you?”
“Planning what?” Beverly said, reclaiming her seat.
“Please tell me… please tell me it’s not for my birthday. It’s not for another week—“
“Jesus, Eddie, don’t be so self-centered,” Ben mumbled, pulling off the crust of his sandwich.
“I just said it was Halloween, I didn’t know if you guys had other plans—“ Mike started, but Eddie was nearing a panic attack now.
“What other plans? We’re all we have, we have no other friends, ‘other’ plans don’t exist! I told you guys not to do anything for my birthday, do I have to beg—“
“Eddie, Eddie, chill!” Stan hushed him and Richie reached across the table to grab his arm. Eddie reached into his pocket and took a puff from his aspirator while Ben put a hand on his shoulder to calm him, looking thoroughly alarmed.
“Th-this is w-why we didn’t want to tell you…” Bill said, starting to smile now that Eddie was breathing properly.
“What, you’d rather me pass out on the scene?” Eddie said after another breath of medication.
“At least then you’d have made it to the party,” Mike said, stifling a laugh that, in turn, made Eddie chuckle.
“It’s not a real party, bud, promise. We’re just going to hang out at the quarry and have a bonfire. The only difference from any other Friday night is the cake,” Beverly smiled softly. “Which, incidentally, I still have to make. So if you’ll excuse me, I have a fifth period to skip.”
They watched Bev grab her jacket and sneak through the cafeteria to a side door, which she slipped out of undetected. Richie realized he was still holding onto Eddie’s wrist and let go, watching him carefully.
“You guys promise its nothing big? I don’t have to… to dress up or anything?”
“Not unless you want to,” Mike assured.
“It is recommended you wear something though,” Richie suggested, “just your standard shirt and pants, shoes if you’re really feeling fancy—“
“Beep beep, Richie,” Stan interrupted.
“Just swing by Bill’s house at the usual time—“ Mike started.
“About that, I’m going to need a ride—“
“I’ll pick you up,” Richie jumped in. Everyone looked at him and he shrugged, “I’ve got pizza duty, I have to drive anyway.”
“…Okay. Then we’ll meet you at the quarry, 6:30.”
“So much f-f-for a fucking surprise,” Bill laughed, standing up to dump his own tray, and the rest of the Losers followed suit.
“Eds has a point though, we might have sent him into cardiac arrest if he made it all the way to the quarry without knowing,” Richie laughed, as did the others. Walking out of the cafeteria, Richie wrangled Eddie under his arm and took a closer look at his glasses.
“Willyalooka’that, Eds? We match! Could right well be twins, donchathink?”
“Fuck off, Richie. I look so much better in these than you could ever dream.”
Richie was right on time to pick Eddie up in front of his house, but he only realized why when they were halfway to the quarry.
“Shit! I forgot to call the pizzas in…” Richie cursed himself and began scanning the passing storefronts for a payphone.
“Only the best for my birthday, I see,” Eddie commented.
“Hey, don’t start with me, you were the one who didn’t even want a party to begin with,” Richie said, pulling over to the curb and putting the car in neutral. He began digging around in his jeans pockets for change.
“I know, I know, no meat, no olives, no unpasteurized dairy, no tomatoes,” Richie recited, getting out of the car.
“Wait—tomatoes are fine!” Eddie called after him, confused.
“No they’re not, tomatoes are disgusting,” Richie said through his open window before running over to the payphone and depositing his change. He dialed Costello Pizza and checked his watch while it rang: 6:20. It was before seven. Bill would be proud.
“Hey, can I get four larges for pickup, two cheese, one deluxe hold the olives, and one Hawaiian with no ham… yes, I know that’s just pineapple. No ham.” Richie twirled the phone cord between his fingers and turned his back to the payphone to see—
Richie felt the receiver slip from his hand. Dream Eddie, Dead Eddie was watching him from the passenger seat of the Camaro—his first appearance in almost a week. Richie had thought things were finally getting better, he was finally coming to his senses…
The ground was swaying and Richie stumbled backwards, grabbing onto the payphone for balance. Somehow, impossibly, Dream Eddie was outside of the car in a flash, shoulder dripping blood, shirt plastered to his thin frame, hair flecked with mud—
“ Richie, please, for the last time …”
“No—“ Richie whispered as Dream Eddie started towards him, movements disjointed and grotesque.
“ Richie … please, Richie …”
“NO!” Richie screamed—a flash of insanely bright light and Richie squinted to see Eddie, halfway out of the Camaro, looking both terrified and concerned, but definitely alive. Real.
“Fuck…” Richie’s voice shook, but he grabbed the receiver that was swinging on its cord and brought it back up to his face. “No, no ham,” he recovered quickly, turning away from Eddie.
“What the fuck was that?” Eddie demanded when Richie slid back behind the wheel.
“You said no meat,” Richie said, avoiding eye contact and instead putting the car immediately into drive and getting back on the road.
Eddie stared at him, scrutinizing, a look that was now enhanced by his glasses and made him look all-knowing, but Richie knew that he didn’t know all… he couldn’t.
“Looks like they got the bonfire started alright,” Richie said, clearing his throat. He pulled the Camaro off the road just across the street from the cliff. He chanced a look at Eddie and was relieved to see him watching their friends across the street, who were waving for them to come join them.
Time to rejoin the living… Richie thought. He punched Eddie’s arm affectionately and got out of the car.
Chapter 9: HALLOWEEN: PART I
“Do you guys remember the time Denbrough got high enough to think a jar of mayonnaise was vanilla pudding?”
Mike’s recollection made Beverly snort into her beer, causing foam to spray from the can all over her face, in turn making the rest of the group laugh even harder.
The bonfire was hearty, the drinks were plentiful, and the company was perfect. Walking on Broken Glass was playing from Ben’s portable radio, a song that had certainly been overplayed in the last year but had not yet become intolerable—it was just annoying enough for the Losers to groan and roll their eyes in an affectionate sort of way when it came on.
Eddie was smiling to himself as he listened to his friends laugh, watching the marshmallow turn golden brown on the end of the stick he had selected. Richie laughed along with his friends as the song seamlessly melted into Tiny Dancer, watching Eddie’s face. As much of a fight as he put up against a birthday celebration, he seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Watch yourself, Hanlon,” Bill threatened, but he hid a smile by stuffing a whole s’more straight into his mouth.
“Oh, like you have any dirt on me,” Mike retorted, “I hold my hits exceptionally well—“
“Mike, the last time we got high you wanted to ride down Center on the cab of your truck while Richie drove—“ Bev was laughing almost uncontrollably, wiping foam from her forehead.
“What was that tone of disbelief for, Marsh!? I was the first one to get my license out of all of you—“
“Only because the instructor couldn’t stand another half-hour test with you talking the whole time!”
“I am a good driver, ask anybody,” Richie insisted.
“Eddie, is Richie a good driver?” Bev persisted, looking from Richie to Eddie. Eddie bit his lip, trying hard not to smile, and looked up at her out of the top of his eyes, feigning innocence in the matter.
Beverly was about to take his response as a clear ‘no’ when Mysterious Ways punctured the silence around the fire and she instead jumped to her feet. “I fucking love this song,” she said, putting down her can and grabbing Ben’s hand beside her, pulling him up, and she began dancing. Ben looked awkward at first, but as Bev encouraged him, he seemed to loosen up and just follow her lead. Bill got up to get himself another drink from the cooler and turned up the volume on the radio as he passed. Soon enough the entire group was on their feet and dancing in some way, shape or form.
Richie noticed Eddie pulling away from the group slightly. Under the pretense of getting himself more hot cider from the community thermos, Richie detached from around the fire and snuck over to where Eddie had started to sit down at the edge of the cliff.
“It’s pretty cold when you get away from the fire, huh?” Richie said, sitting down beside him.
“Well it is nearly November,” Eddie said, peering down at the water below.
“Wanna play Loogie?” Richie asked in a painfully sarcastic sort way. The Losers hadn’t played Loogie since Richie and Bill had recounted their experience upstairs in the Neibolt house. Eddie had seemed particularly disturbed, as Richie would have expected.
Eddie smiled sadly. There was something about remembering their childhood that seemed to end that summer that was oddly satisfying and yet at the same time too depressing to bear. Behind them, Bill shouted with laughter as Stan almost tripped into the fire. Friday I’m in Love started playing after a brief interruption from the radio DJ.
“Will you please tell me why you’ve been acting so strangely?” Eddie whispered.
Richie cupped his hands tighter around his cider, not looking at him. “I think you’ll be surprised,” Eddie continued, “…I… I might understand more than you think.”
Richie turned his head ever so slightly and looked at Eddie at an angle. He had completely turned his head and was watching Richie intently, but not with scrutiny this time—not even with determination. Eddie genuinely cared. He was… intrigued?
Richie was suddenly overtly aware of how close Eddie’s face was to his own. His breath smelt like spiced cider and chocolate and Richie could only hope he was coming off as enticing as—
Wait, what? What was he saying? Enticing? Why did he care if he was enticing to Eddie? Sweet hypochondriacally well-intending Eds, who had always been the equivalent of a brother to Richie, who had never had the privilege of siblings; Eds, who he felt responsible for, protective over… in love with?
Am I in love with Eddie Kaspbrak?
“R-richie!” Bill yelled over The Cure. “The pizzas?”
“Fuck!” Richie scrambled to his feet with some difficulty, as his long legs were essentially tied in a knot when he had sat down and crossed them.
“I’ll come with you—“ Eddie started, standing up to follow him.
“No, no, Birthday Boy, let your lowly footservant fetch you your meat-free-fully-pasteurized-dairy-sans-olive-pizzas,” Richie said, waving him off, thankful for an interruption that would give him a few minutes of solitude to think to himself.
Richie glanced at his watch—it was almost 7:45. The pizzas would be cold by the time he picked them up if he didn’t hurry.
He ran across the street, jumped behind the wheel and pulled the car out onto the street, running a quick U-turn before taking off towards town. His car radio must have been tuned into the same radio station as Ben’s radio, as The Cure was still ringing through the car.
“Eddie?” Richie said aloud to himself. He had never even… considered… never thought of Eddie in that way… but then, maybe he always had, and just hadn’t realized… Richie wasn’t necessarily the king of romance—he wasn’t entirely sure what ‘being in love’ entailed.
“This is ridiculous. Eds is my friend. Get your head out of your ass, Tozier,” Richie said, taking a right to cut through Bill’s neighborhood to get to Center Street. “Eds is… Eds.”
“ For the last time Richie, don ’ t call me that. ”
Richie swerved and almost wrecked his car into a truck parked on the curb. In his peripheral, he saw a blurry shape that was—but it couldn’t be.
“I'm sorry, Richie."
“This is not happening. Y-you’re not real,” Richie stuttered. His hands gripped the steering wheel so hard he thought it might turn to dust. He could feel the car accelerating but wasn’t processing the fact that he was pressing down on the gas.
“I’m sorry, Richie. I forgot you. I promised.”
“Get out of my fucking head,” Richie said through gritted teeth. He refused to look at the specter, the Dream Eddie that had become a thing of Waking Hours.
“YOU’RE NOT EDDIE!” Richie bellowed, finally turning to look at the thing in his passenger seat. Where Eddie had sat just a few short hours before, this dead-eyed ghost sat, staring at him sadly, seeping blood into the seat. Richie’s breath caught in his throat; he had never been this close to the thing before… it’s eyes, though blank and glazed, were Eddie’s… dark and warm…
The weight of the image beside him sunk in. He felt his heart break. “Eds…”
There was a sickening crash, the sound of wood splintering and glass breaking, an immense pressure on Richie’s chest, and then nothing. Black.
Dream Eddie had gone. Richie gasped for air, the pain in his chest much more than just physical.
At 407 West Broadway, kids milled around the yard in costumes, red solo cups in hand, dance remixes of Halloween songs pouring out from inside the house. It was with a drunk disconnection that they watched the black Camaro speed down the street, veering slightly, before crashing through the fence and busting through the garden. Kids scattered and screamed. The car came to an abrupt stop, smoke pouring from the hood. The driver did not emerge.
Richie came to in a hazy stupor. He could taste blood on his lips. Everything ached. As he pushed open his car door, not entirely present, Eddie’s voice echoed through his pounding head.
I’m sorry… I’m sorry…I’m sorry… I promised … I’m sorry …
“’m sorry…” Richie mumbled thickly, stepping out of the car. He stumbled over a shrub and fell into the dirt. He could hear voices, but they sounded distant, as if they were on a different plane of existence, talking at him rather than to him.
“Tozier?” someone was calling his name.
Richie felt a distant surge of frustration with himself—here he was on his ass while Eddie was far off, in pain, bleeding out… or had that been a dream? Was he dreaming now? Richie struggled to push himself up onto his knees, and from there he got shakily to his feet. “I nee… need Eddie…” he slurred. Eddie needs me.
And with painfully slow steps, Richie navigated through the wrecked garden and out into the street, headed for the quarry.
Richie had been gone ten minutes, but it felt like an eternity to Eddie, who was frustrated with the terms of their goodbye. There was something in Richie’s eyes when he had glanced at him that Eddie had never seen before. It had disappeared the moment Bill had interrupted them, but the fact remained that Richie was about to open up, as Eddie had been trying to get him to do for weeks. He only hoped they could pick back up where they left off when Richie returned.
Eddie had rejoined his friends by the bonfire to await the arrival of the pizza. Beverly went into Mike’s truck and revealed the tallest layer cake Eddie had ever seen, complete with 18 unlit candles and the empty, discarded aspirator Eddie had retired the week before.
“I sterilized it, don’t worry,” she reassured him as she placed the cake on Mike’s tailgate. Eddie, however, couldn’t care less—he was struck by all of the effort his friends had put in for him and he found he couldn’t stop smiling. The Losers, in turn, were all smiling at his reaction.
“We’ll wait for Rich to get back and we’ll light it up,” Bill said.
“Or we could just dig in now. The last thing Richie needs is more sugar,” Stan offered, making them all laugh.
Ben came around Eddie and squeezed his shoulders. Eddie had never been one for attention and he could feel himself blushing as all of his friends excited themselves over treating him. He slowly raised his eyes from his feet to tell his friends off for doting when he caught sight of something moving far off down the street. He squinted, his glasses catching the reflection from the fire and making it difficult to make out the shape in the distance.
Eddie realized what he was seeing before he even really saw it; The disproportionately long legs, the mop of dark curly hair, the glint of coke bottle lenses as they caught the right angle of moonlight; but something was wrong. His gait was uneven, his shoulders were slouched tiredly, and even as he watched Eddie saw Richie stumble over his own feet and nearly face plant into the asphalt.
Without saying a word, Eddie started walking towards Richie, but the closer he got, the more urgently he felt the need to close the distance between them and he eventually broke into a run. He could hear his friends calling from behind him. Ignoring the searing pain in his lungs, Eddie sprinted the remaining 25 or so feet, getting to his friend just in time for him to collapse in his arms.
“Eddie?” Richie’s voice was weak, almost a whisper. Eddie could see blood on his lips.
“Richie, what happened?” he demanded, struggling to hold the boy up. The tape holding the bridge of Richie’s glasses together had ripped, as the glasses were drastically bent, and one of the lenses sported a long, sharp crack straight through the center. Eddie was starting to fold under Richie’s weight. “Richie!”
“’sokay… you’reokay…” Richie mumbled, blinking dumbly.
Frantic and confused, Eddie turned his head towards his friends, who had started to follow him but much slower, clearly not aware of what was happening… what was happening? “Bill!” Eddie screamed, his voice cracking fearfully when he felt Richie’s head fall into his chest.
Bill must have heard the anxiety in Eddie’s voice, because he broke into a run at the sound of his name, the others following suit close behind.
“What happened?” Bill asked when he reached them, helping to lift Richie up and situate himself under one of his shoulders to direct him towards the bonfire.
“I don’t know, he’s not exactly coherent—“ Eddie answered from Richie’s other side. “What do we do?”
“Let’s get him into the light first—“ Bill grunted, and the group made their way back to the cliff.
“Richie?” Eddie continued to repeat his name in hopes that he would respond somehow. They laid him down by the fire and Eddie rested Richie’s head in his lap, watching his dark eyes stare, unrecognizing, through his broken lenses.
“Richie, where’s your car?” Bill asked.
“Car? ‘s in the garden… Eds’okay though…”
“Gar—who’s garden, Rich?” Bill said.
“’s stutter ‘sgone,” Richie said, a soft smile playing on the corner of his lips, his eyes finally moving with intent to land on Eddie above him. “When’id that happen?”
“It happened when you scared th-th-the shit out of me!” Bill gritted his teeth, clearly frustrated with himself. “What garden, Richie?”
“One with the monsters ‘n the girls… zombie girls… know?”
Bill looked lost in thought for a minute before looking up and locking eyes with Bev. “Greta’s,” they said in unison.
“I have to get him home, he sounds like he might have a concussion,” Eddie said, trying to catch a glimpse of Richie’s pupils, but between his broken glasses and the limited light he couldn’t see anything of any significance. “Mike, can we borrow your truck?”
“I’ll drive you, you might need help moving him,” Mike said, standing up from where he had been kneeling at Bill’s side.
“I’ll go to Greta’s and get his car,” Ben offered.
“I’ll come with you,” Bev said, “We don’t know what kind of scene we’re going to walk into…”
With the Losers’ help, Eddie managed to get Richie into the cab of Mike’s truck. Mike jumped behind the wheel and Eddie slid in so that they were on either side of Richie, who had leaned forward and put his head in his hands.
“Don’t do that, Richie,” Eddie said, pulling him up into a seated position. He let out a small groan and let his head rest on Eddie’s shoulder.
“Eddie—“ Eddie turned at the sound of his name to see Beverly holding his cake. “I’m sorry this—this isn’t how tonight—“
“Beverly, your cake is beautiful,” Eddie said smiling sadly. “I’ll take it home with me and maybe we can all get together this weekend to finish it off.”
Beverly smiled. There were tears in her eyes as she handed the cake off to Eddie and her gaze flickered to Richie. “He’ll be fine. He always is,” she assured.
There was a lump in the back of Eddie’s throat, so he just nodded as she closed his door and stood back to make room for Mike to pull onto the road. As they took off towards town, Eddie glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the rest of the group watching them go, Bev and Ben already walking in the direction of Greta’s house.
Eddie felt numb as they sidled through the neighborhood, his untouched birthday cake in his lap, Richie’s head lolling on his shoulder with every bump in the road. Mike was careful to avoid driving past Greta’s place, something for which Eddie was immensely grateful.
They pulled up to Richie’s house within 15 minutes of leaving the quarry. The windows were dark and there wasn’t a single car in the driveway. Eddie was appalled at Richie’s parents complete lack of actual parenting, but this may just have been because he had grown up with the ultimate helicopter parent after his dad had died. Deep down, however, Eddie found he was thankful for the empty house—it would make things easier to deal with Richie without having to deflect a bunch of questions he didn’t yet know the answers to.
Eddie put his cake on the roof of the cab and, with Mike’s help, hefted Richie out of the truck and up to the front door. Eddie plunged his hand into a scraggly, dead shrub just off the porch and patted around until he found the hidden spare key, unlocked the door, and the three boys let themselves in.
Eddie laid Richie down on his bed carefully, making sure his head landed gently, and turned to Mike. “I’ll stay with him, get back to the others and make sure everything goes over smoothly at Greta’s.”
Mike looked skeptically from Richie, now pressing the heels of his hands to his forehead, back to Eddie. “I’ll take care of him Mike, seriously, who else out of all of us could play a better doctor?” Eddie had never been comfortable enough to poke fun at himself, but it seemed to do the trick as Mike nodded and ran out of the room. Eddie heard the front door close behind him and within seconds, the headlights from his truck had disappeared from the driveway.
Eddie looked down at Richie, finally taking a moment to survey him in full. He looked battered, bruised, and dirty. Eddie sat down at the foot of the bed and watched Richie pull off his now useless glasses. “What happened, Rich?”
Richie blinked, long and hard, and stared at the ceiling. “’failed you, Eds. I… couldn’t… ‘failed.”
Eddie watched his friend, falling apart in front of him, as he had been for weeks, and hoped that his words were nothing but nonsense.
I'm trying to get away from that whole "writing for song lyrics" crap that we all do when we're first starting out (I've been doing this since I was in middle school and i feel like I need to grow out of it) but sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the poetry that inspires you. So a while ago these last few chapters were inspired by The National's "I Need My Girl"--
"Remember when you lost your shit and drove your car into the garden..."
--One of my all-time favorite albums from one of my all-time favorite bands and this image has been in my head for a while now so I had to get it down on "paper".
MORE SONGS TO LISTEN TO WHILE READING THIS PARTICULAR CHAPTER:
Walking in Hawkins, Eulogy, On the Bus, The First Lie -- Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein (STRANGER THINGS SCORE, GOOD STUFF.)
I'm sorry this chapter is so short but I just felt like where it ends was a good place to split things up!
Soft grey light shown through the blinds and Richie was aroused slowly, stuck in a hazy sleep-state for a satisfyingly long time. He sighed deeply, feeling well-rested for the first time in a long time. He immediately regretted opening his eyes, however, when the contented feeling disappeared with a searing pain in his head. As dimly lit as the room was, it was still terribly bright. Richie tried to close his eyes again, but he jumped when someone spoke from the foot of his bed.
Richie tried to sit up, unaware that he had not been in the room alone, but he felt a new weight on the bed as someone crawled over to him and held one of his shoulders down. “Don’t get up.”
Richie didn’t need telling twice. When he had jumped, every muscle in his body had screamed in protest. “Eddie?” Richie rasped, surprised at the weakness in his own voice. He cleared his throat and reached over for his glasses.
“I tried to fix them the best I could, but… the lens, you know…” Eddie said, stopping Richie’s reach for the bedside table and pushing his glasses into his hand.
Richie unfolded the glasses and pushed them on his face, squinting at Eddie through a cracked lens. “What the fuck…?”
“You don’t remember anything, do you?”
“I remember… pizza…?”
“Too bad none of the rest of us do…” Eddie said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Richie defended.
Eddie looked at him sadly. “You really don’t remember? You never even made it to pick the pizzas up, you crashed into Greta Bowie’s garden.”
“Crashed… my car?” Richie asked, his voice rising an octave. But even as he said it, a rush of memory came back to him—
Eddie, dead, apologizing, he promised, Richie couldn ’ t save him, Richie failed him, but Eddie ’ s apologizing and Eddie promised — promised what?
“Yes, your car, Richie, what else? You came stumbling back to the quarry going on about—“ Eddie stopped, feeling his face flush, and he looked away.
“About what?” Richie asked, the blood in his veins running cold.
Eddie hesitated before turning back to face Richie but refusing to meet his eyes. “About me. You kept saying it was ‘okay’ because I was ‘okay’. I was ‘safe’.”
Richie was mortified—he had almost let these dreams (or whatever they were) slip to Eddie in a state of completely unreliable consciousness. He propped himself up, slowly, onto his elbows. He was suddenly aware that his mouth was gaping and closed it quickly. Eddie was watching him carefully.
“Richie, what the fuck happened?” Eddie said at once, pushing himself closer to Richie, insistent. “This isn’t a fucking joke anymore; do you understand? You could’ve killed yourself last night.”
Richie blinked and felt pain radiate through his skull. This was his chance. If Eddie wanted to know so badly, this was Richie’s chance to get it off his chest. He couldn’t bear to see the look on Eddie’s face when Richie looked him in the eyes and predicted his death, but he clearly couldn’t keep this up. Keeping secrets from Eddie would likely ruin their friendship… Richie cringed at the thought.
“Richie!” Eddie demanded.
“I can’t… I can’t tell you… It’s not that simple…” Richie persisted, meeting Eddie’s glare. They stared at each other for a moment, both defiant and frustrated with the other, Eddie angry, Richie sad.
And then something changed in Eddie’s eyes. They softened, searching Richie’s carefully, and then hardened with something like resolve or determination. And before he knew what was happening, Eddie leaned in and pressed his lips to Richie’s.
Richie was caught off-guard, frozen both physically and mentally, but he couldn’t help but notice how soft Eddie’s lips felt against his own, which by comparison must have been chapped and tasted of blood. Richie felt his cheeks grow hot and when Eddie pulled away, his eyes looked as wide as Richie’s felt.
Eddie must have noticed Richie’s lack of reciprocation, because his freckles almost disappeared under his intense blush. After a moment’s silence, in which Richie barely moved at all but continued to stare at Eddie, the latter sputtered out, “I thought… but that’s not… that’s not why you… acting so weird…”
“I saw you die,” Richie blurted.
Eddie stared at him for a moment before tilting his head in a way that made Richie’s stomach lurch.
“I saw you die, Eds,” Richie said again, but softer this time. “I’ve been having these… these premonitions and I didn’t want to believe they were anything more than dreams but they’ve been haunting me for weeks now and sometimes when I see you all I can think is that sometime in the future I’m going to be too late to save you and it’s just… it’s just getting to me, I think.”
Richie watched Eddie’s face, looking for any sign of internal turmoil or even a trace of panic, but there was none. Eddie was quiet for so long, Richie was beginning to think he’d gone comatose when finally, he spoke up: “I mean… they’re only dreams, right?”
Richie swallowed hard. “No, Eds, they’re—they’re more than just dreams.”
“But, I mean like, they haven’t been… hurting you, right? Like, physically? Like… like It did?”
Richie looked up from where he had been pulling at a thread in Richie’s sheet. Their eyes locked and for a moment everything seemed to stand still. And then Richie, ignoring every ache and pain in his body, sat up in full and kissed Eddie, hard.
Now it was Eddie’s turn to be surprised, but after a moment Richie felt him relax. Richie even felt himself relax. This was right. This was what was supposed to be happening… what could have been happening all along… Richie found himself wondering how he could have been so stupid to not have seen this being dangled in front of his dangerously farsighted eyes this whole time.
For the past few weeks he had been so concerned with this ‘death omen’ business and the prospect of losing Eddie for failure to keep him safe when the best way to protect him had been evident all along: admit to yourself you’re in love and you’ll do everything in your power to come between your lover and harm’s way.
Dream Eddie’s voice echoed around Richie’s head as he woke to the sinking autumn sun shining through his bedroom window, but rather than scare him, he felt… different. Almost sad, but a shade off… empty.
Eddie was asleep on his back beside him, the two crammed onto Richie’s twin bed, and Eddie’s fingers were dug, unmoving, into Richie’s curls. Richie felt a pang of guilt when he turned his head to see Eddie’s blurry sleeping profile and felt the same urge to wake him up as he had so many weeks before, just to make sure he could. But Richie reminded himself that Eddie had stayed up all night to rouse Richie every so often through his concussion—it was only after their conversation at daybreak that Eddie felt it was safe for both of them to get some real sleep.
Richie pushed on his cracked glasses, glanced at the alarm clock and gaped—it was almost 5:30 PM. His parents would be home now, for sure—
And sure enough, there was a clatter from the direction of the kitchen. “Shit…” Richie whispered, pushing himself up slowly, with the dual purpose of giving his aching body a chance to prepare itself as well as not waking Eddie, who was still breathing deeply.
Richie closed his bedroom door softly behind him and walked stiffly down the hall. He stopped in the doorway to the kitchen. His mother was standing at the stove, a lit cigarette hanging from her mouth, a pot of not-quite-boiling water on the range.
“Where’ve you been?” she asked when he appeared, not bothering to take the cigarette from her lips.
“I could ask you the same question,” he responded.
“Don’t be a smartass. What happened to your face? And your goddamn glasses, Richard—“
“It’s not your problem, Ma, the Paramount just paid me. I’ll get them fixed—"
“Don’t assume I’d offer to get them fixed anyway. Eighteen years old and can’t even keep a pair of glasses for longer than a month—“
“I’m going out with friends,” Richie interrupted, turning to go back to his room.
“Wait,” his mother demanded, and Richie reluctantly turned back to her. “Care to explain what the hell that is?” She pointed at a tall layer cake with a familiar aspirator perched on top—presumably the cake that Beverly had slaved over yesterday.
“A cake,” Richie said.
“What did I just say about being a smartass?”
“It’s… I made it… For Eddie’s birthday. I’m taking it to his house today.”
“You’d better. I don’t need it sitting on our counter getting stale.”
Richie gritted his teeth as he walked back down the hall. “Nothing in this house would go stale if there were people around to eat it…” he grumbled, walking back into his bedroom. He snuck in with the intention of letting Eddie sleep a bit longer, but saw that he was propped up on his elbows, watching Richie return.
“Wanna get out of here?” Richie asked. Eddie seemed to understand, because he sat up, threw his feet over the side of the bed and started putting on his shoes.
Richie ducked into his closet and pulled out a fresh shirt that wasn’t stained with his own blood. He found that he was much more self-conscious than he ever remembered being around Eddie, probably in light of what had… come out earlier that day. He forced himself to act normally, however, and pulled his shirt off, quickly replacing it and going to pull on his Chucks.
Eddie snuck out the window without having to be told, eager to avoid interaction with Richie’s mother—Richie’s parents had never particularly gotten along with any of his friends, but that wasn’t saying much, as they didn’t particularly get along with their own son, either.
Richie grabbed a jacket, walked straight past his mother and grabbed Eddie’s cake, and left out the kitchen door without a word. He met Eddie around the front and they began walking in the direction of his house.
“Did your parents say where they’d been?”
“Probably in Haven, crashing the casinos again,” Richie said disdainfully. Eddie was quiet, but Richie knew it was just because Eddie understood his friend’s resentment towards his neglectful parents.
“You don’t have to come in,” Eddie said quickly when they had reached his house, taking the cake from Richie. Richie stayed quiet—he too understood Eddie’s frustration with his relationship with his mother. Richie stood outside the garage door while Eddie took the cake inside, and when he returned he pushed his way through the clutter into the garage itself and emerged with his old 28 Schwinn.
“Wanna go to the barrens?”
Richie and Eddie traipsed down to the barrens, Richie having ridden on Eddie’s handlebars, and spent the evening balancing on the rocks, skipping stones and catching up. Richie hadn’t realized how removed he had become from Eddie and felt a great weight lift from his shoulders when he realized he could finally talk freely. He had missed confiding in the boy.
When the sun was almost entirely below the tree line, the boys found a spot of the last remaining sunlight on the rocks, well away from the barrens storm drain.
“So, the dreams just started then?” Eddie asked, pulling a blade of grass from between two rocks and stripping it.
“Yeah,” Richie said, watching him. “I mean I used to have nightmares, the normal kind that we all had for a while there… that’s how I know this is different. They just feel… real. Heavy. I don’t know, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“I kind of get it. It’s like déjà vu; where that moment feels like… completely removed from the linear path of your life… as you experience it, ya know?”
“You’re so smart, Eddie Spaghetti—“ Richie went to ruffle Eddie’s hair but he slapped his hand away, smiling bashfully.
“I’m serious, there are some things that just can’t really be explained logically… and who am I to tell you what you’re feeling in your dreams?”
Richie felt a surge of appreciation and smiled gratefully at Eddie. It faltered a bit at the prospect of the question he had been dying to ask. “So you’re… you’re not freaked out at all? You’re not worried?”
Eddie paused while he pulled up another blade of grass. “I’m worried, I guess... But not how you’d expect… It doesn’t really sound like something we have control over."
Richie watched Eddie carefully as he tore the blade of grass to pieces, distracted. Richie pulled up a piece and twisted it between his fingers.
“You said I looked older in the dreams?” Eddie asked, looking up at Richie, their eyes meeting through Eddie’s crystal clear lenses and Richie’s smudged, cracked ones.
“Yeah, a lot older. Like, our folks’ age.”
“So my death doesn’t seem to be imminent,” Eddie smirked, but it looked forced.
“No,” Richie said, smiling back, hoping it didn’t look so forced. “Looks like I’m stuck with your cute little face for a while…”
Eddie rolled his eyes and Richie saw him starting to say it, so when Eddie recited “beep beep, Richie”, Richie blew into his blade of grass to make it whistle. Eddie pressed his lips together, trying not to smile, and leaned over to yank the piece of grass out of Richie’s mouth.
“That’s disgusting, do you know what kind of shit that grows in out here?” Eddie scolded, and Richie found himself smiling at him. “What?” Eddie demanded, catching his eye.
Richie bit his lip. “Did this morning actually happen? It feels like a dream.”
Eddie looked at Richie for a moment before replying. “A dream that felt real?”
“A kiss that felt like a dream that felt real.”
“It was real,” Eddie said quietly.
Richie leaned in and this time there was no surprise from either of them—Eddie met him a little less than halfway, and the kiss was blissful.
“I can’t believe… I mean, I never knew… you know?” Richie said when they had pulled apart. “You’ve been with me through everything, the whole time, and I never even imagined…”
“You’re not exactly a romantic,” Eddie teased, tossing aside his own blade of grass. “This whole time, I thought you were… pulling away from me. Because… I don’t know, I thought maybe…”
“Oh my god, Eds, say it isn’t so,” Richie said, suppressing a laugh.
Eddie was blushing. “Don’t you dare fucking laugh at me, Tozier, I was getting a lot of mixed signals from you—“
“You thought I had a crush on you this whole time!” Richie burst into a fit of laughter. “How self-absorbed can you be, Eds?”
“Would you stop calling me that?” Eddie spat, ignoring the question, but he was still blushing furiously.
Richie regained some control and leaned forward towards Eddie. “It’s endearing. Really, pal, I’m extremely flattered that I come off that flirtatious.”
“I was confused a lot of the time by how you treated Beverly, but after you told me about… that one day, after that summer, it seemed to make more sense, you two being so close.”
Richie remained quiet and waited for Eddie to go on, but he didn’t. Richie cleared his throat and looked down at his hands.
“It took me…” his voice cracked and he restarted. “It took me watching you die… holding you in my arms… being haunted by your fucking ghost, for Christ’s sake, to realize that… I love you.”
Richie could see Eddie’s head turn to him at the last few words in his peripheral, but he kept his eyes down. He didn’t want Eddie to see his guilt for not having appreciated Eddie properly, for not realizing that he was more than just a friend, that Richie cared for him not more, but in a different way than he cared for the other Losers.
“I’m sorry, Eddie.”
“Don’t be,” Eddie said quickly, and without hesitation he reached out a hand and pulled Richie into him, into the most significant embrace he could remember in his entire life. There was more there than just physical closeness; there was understanding, forgiveness, genuine friendship and love.
The sun set on the barrens and two boys sat in the dark, their breath coming out in thick trails of steam as the temperature dropped.
Richie’s knee was bouncing ceaselessly as Eddie watched him from the passenger seat. They had been parked outside of Bill’s house for almost twenty minutes, Richie trying to calm his nerves and Eddie waiting patiently. Crowded House was filling the silence between Eddie’s reassurances that seemed to have no effect. At one point Richie had pulled out his pack of smokes and lighter, but simply held them, one in each hand, out of respect for Eddie.
“I’m not going to tell them,” Richie said finally, his knuckles white around his lighter.
“Okay,” Eddie said.
“It’s not relevant, they don’t have to know.”
“They’re nosey assholes anyway, they don’t need to know every little thing—“
“Okay, Richie. Don’t tell them.”
“I’m not going to.”
Silence filled Richie’s car once again, punctured only by Neil Finn: Now I’m walking again to the beat of a drum…
“I swear to God, you’re more worked up about that than you are about telling them about us,” Eddie said.
“That’s easy, what’s there to tell?”
“You don’t think they’d be interested to know we’ve been macking in the darkroom for the last two weeks?”
“I’d be surprised if they didn’t already know.”
“What? How the hell would they know?” Eddie cried incredulously.
“You’re not exactly slick.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’ve got a tell, Eds,” Richie said, his knee finally coming to a stop as he turned to smirk at Eddie.
“I do not,” Eddie defended.
“Do, too. It’s pretty cute—“
“Shut up. Asshole,” Eddie muttered, pushing his door open and stepping out into the cold November night. He was tempted to slam his door in indignation, but resisted when he remembered all of the cold afternoons Richie had spent fixing up his Camaro after the Losers managed to get it to his driveway Halloween night, pushing it all the way from West Broadway to Jackson.
Eddie was halfway up the lawn when Richie caught up to him and the two walked side-by-side up to Bill’s door—Eddie could almost feel the smirk on Richie’s face.
Walking into Bill’s house was like walking into a wind tunnel, as Eddie felt physically repelled by the overwhelming volume of the Christmas music that was blasting from the living room. There was the pleasant smell of sugar cookies and a trail of Christmas lights across the foyer floor, disappearing somewhere in the other room.
“What the hell?” Eddie murmured.
“Are we skipping Thanksgiving this year?” Richie shouted over the music as he closed the door behind them.
“The Denbrough’s weren’t going to decorate for Christmas this year so we’re taking it into our own hands while they’re out of town,” Ben wandered in front of them and disappeared into the house, one of the ends of the string of lights in his hands.
Following Ben into the living room, Eddie felt his eyebrows disappear under his bangs.
“It’s like walking in on Santa’s murder scene,” Richie said, and Eddie had to admit he wasn’t wrong. Ornaments, tangled strings of lights, stacks of stockings and jewel-encrusted candles, piles of garland all littered the floor to the point where there was no floor.
“Do you guys have any idea what you’re doing?” Eddie asked.
“Decorating,” Beverly said from where she was perched on the arm of the sofa, untangling lights.
“But like… what’s your system?”
“Why do we need a system?”
“Because this room looks like a fucking hurricane rolled through.”
“I don’t care as long as th-they clean up by S-S-Sunday,” Bill said, coming in with Mike from behind Richie and Eddie.
“Get that rule from your mom, Big Bill?”
“Beep beep, Richie,” Bill said, showing Richie a choice finger.
“What took you guys so long getting here?” Stan came in from the kitchen. “We were going to wait for your help with the cookies, Eddie, but—“
“What about me?” Richie interjected, feigning hurt. “My kitchen skills aren’t good enough for you losers?”
“I thought we’d already established that,” Bev said.
“I just need a chance to redeem myself, Marsh—“
“Rich, just shut up,” Eddie interrupted.
“I’m just saying, Stan’s no worse in an apron than I am—“
“Is that a challenge, Tozier—“
“Actually, we kind of wanted to talk to you guys about something,” Eddie said.
“What?” Ben yelled over the music.
“Turn the damned music down!” Eddie yelled back, annoyance clear in his voice. Ben’s eyes widened innocently and he went to the boom box to adjust the volume.
“I said we wanted to tell you guys something,” Eddie started, absently scratching his arm. Now, with the music low and all eyes on him, Eddie seemed to doubt himself. Richie took notice and quickly took charge; He threw an arm around Eddie and pulled him tightly to his side.
“Eds and I are going together.”
There was a pause where everyone seemed to soak in what Richie had just blurted, almost as if they expected a punchline to closely follow, but when it didn’t come Mike stepped forward and pulled Richie into an enormous hug, clapping him hard on the back. With that one fluid movement, the whole room seemed to unfreeze.
“This is so awesome, I’m so happy for you guys,” Bev beamed up at them.
“But how?” Stan said.
“Stanley!” Bev scolded.
“I’m just saying, you two annoy the shit out of each other,” Stan said, dumbfounded as he watched Mike move from Richie to Eddie and embrace the latter. “How did this happen?”
“I saw it coming,” Ben said, continuing his plight in unravelling a string of lights.
“Eddie has a tell.”
Richie spun to Eddie, grinning, but before he could say anything Eddie ducked away from he and Mike and suggested loudly that they turn the music back up and get to decorating.
The spirits in the Denbrough household were high as the kids seemed to make more a mess than anything else, but it was all good-natured. Eddie, however, was preoccupied and he waited for Stan to disappear into the kitchen to follow him away from the others.
“So, you and Richie, huh?” Stan said when Eddie walked into the kitchen and leaned up against the counter.
“Mhmm,” Eddie murmured. He watched Stan pour himself a glass of water and let his eyes wander back through the door to the living room, where Richie was letting Bev wrap garland around his head like a Laurel Wreath. His smile was radiant… as annoying as he could be, Eddie had always appreciated his smile. If there was one thing Eddie had learned in the last month, however, it was that Richie was good at putting on a show. “I’m worried about him,” he said without thinking.
“Worried about… Richie?”
Eddie hesitated. “Do you remember… do you remember the school year after… you know… that summer—“
“Yeah,” Stan said, sparing Eddie the trouble.
“Do you remember… that day you came up to me after class? You pulled me aside in the hallway and you told me… ‘I saw It, Eddie…’ you said—“
“I remember, Eddie,” Stan said, looking apprehensive.
Eddie tore his gaze away from Richie and turned to Stan. “That next part… when you told me that you kept seeing It, even after we’d… you know, killed It… what did you mean?”
Stan was quiet, looking into his glass intently. Mike howled with laughter in the other room over Wham!. “I don’t remember,” Stan said finally. He looked up at Eddie, and the hardness of his stare made Eddie look away again.
“I think there’s something Richie’s not telling me. Us. Not telling us.”
“He’s been having nightmares,” Stan said, and Eddie spun around so fast he might have given himself whiplash.
“He told you about them?”
“Vaguely. The way he described them made them sound like the ones I used to have about the deadli—“ Stan cut himself off, looking back into his glass again.
Eddie frowned at Stan skeptically but let his gaze trail back to his friends in the other room. “Its not the nightmares. He told me about those. And he does seem better since he told me, more like himself. But I think there’s more. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t even know.”
“He’d know,” Stan said, picking up his glass and taking a sip. Eddie could see that his hand was shaking. “With that kind of dream, he’d know.”
Without another word, Stan walked back into the other room, leaving Eddie alone at the kitchen counter, watching his friends wrap Ben in Christmas lights so tightly his limbs were completely bound.
So you guys know, this is a finite fic, I have an end planned, I'm just not sure when I'll get there... I'm sorry for the upload frequency right now; on top of my freshly arisen health issues, exam season is almost upon us and I'm pretty much ready to die if ya catch my drift.
Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter and caught some of the easter eggs, EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED, IT ALL MATTERS!
“Richie, put that down.”
Richie relented and replaced the 7x7 Rubik’s Cube he had been fidgeting with back on Eddie’s desk. The Cure’s High spilt from the portable radio on the windowsill while Eddie scrawled notes in his lab manual from his spot on his bed and Richie meandered around the room, unable to sit still.
Richie picked up an empty prescription vial and tapped it against his palm, eyes scanning the spines in the bookcase. “Richie, stop,” Eddie scowled at the bottle in the boy’s hand and turned adamantly back to his homework.
Richie cocked an eyebrow, put down the bottle, and picked up the Viewmaster from Eddie’s night table instead. He walked around to the foot of the bed and fell forward onto it, facing Eddie. Eddie ignored him as he put the Viewmaster up to his glasses and began clicking through the reel, but he couldn’t help but glance over at him and smile softly while Richie’s vision was obscured.
“What if I started wearing my hair like Robert Smith’s?” Richie asked absently with a click of the Viewmaster.
“But what if I did?”
“I couldn’t be seen with you.”
“I think it’s pretty cool. I could probably pull it off. My hair is thick enough, I wouldn’t need half the product—“ Click.
“Pretty gross, more like. When was the last time he used shampoo?” Eddie had now forgotten about his lab manual.
“I think the better question would be when was the last time I used shampoo,” Richie said, with another click.
“Shut up,” Eddie said, rolling his eyes.
“You wouldn’t know if I were kidding, Eddie Spaghetti, you don’t shower with me. The invitation is out there, though—“
Eddie dropped his pen and pulled the Viewmaster away from Richie’s face, glaring at him as they made eye contact. “You’ll never be able to be sure that my hair is clean ever again. You’ll just have to resolve never to come within two feet of my head—“
Eddie pursed his lips to hide his coming smile and instead grabbed a handful of Richie’s hair and leaned forward, kissing him deeply. When they separated, Richie was smirking. “Would you have done that if I had Robert Smith hair?”
Eddie closed his eyes impatiently, but he was smiling and Richie watched him with eyes full of love. The song changed and Richie’s eyebrows disappeared under his bangs. “How about a mustache? A big, thick, John Oates handlebar?”
What I want, you’ve got and it might be hard to handle…
“No…” Eddie moaned as Richie pushed himself off the bed and slid dramatically to the windowsill to turn the volume higher. Eddie watched as Richie began dancing in sync with the music, surprisingly coordinated given his gangly limbs. As if Eddie weren’t blushing hard enough, Richie began to lip-sync, gesturing towards him as he did.
Well well you, you make my dreams come true…
“No no no no no…” Eddie protested as Richie made his way around the bed and grabbed his arm to pull him to his feet. Richie ignored him, however, and continued to sync along, one hand snapping to the beat, a mischievous glint in his eye. “Richie!” Eddie groaned when Richie had successfully gotten him off the bed.
Twist and shout my way out and wrap yourself around me…
Richie took hold of both of Eddie’s hands and guided him away from the bed with short backwards steps to the middle of the room.
Well listen to this!
With each pause in the synth, Richie twisted in his sock feet, their connected hands making Eddie twist as well, however involuntarily. When the song continued after the bridge, Richie continued with his dance, pulling Eddie closer to him still.
Me, you, me, you, me…
Eddie could feel himself smiling and, in spite of his embarrassment, he was disappointed when the song began to fade out. Richie used their still-entwined hands to push Eddie down onto the bed and promptly fell back beside him, a shit-eating grin on his face. He turned his head slightly and caught Eddie’s eye; the two of them lying on their backs at the foot of the bed, smiling, and the world outside that bedroom might not have existed at all.
“Eddie? … Eds!”
The bright light subsided partially blinded the dark of the tunnels around him closing in on all sides suffocatingly close a stink unlike any other filling his nose piss and shit and blood and blood? Blood fuck shit his legs were carrying him as fast as they could through the shin-deep water the tunnels like a maze yet he knew where he was going he’d tread the path so many times before and his lungs are burning and he knows it’s too late, it has always been too late and Richie knows exactly what he is too late for by now—
“EDDIE!” the broken mass that Richie knew to be his Eddie was mere feet away now, now inches, now at his fingertips and Richie pulled Eddie into his chest and pushed his hair out of his eyes and wiped the blood at the corner of his mouth and froze because there was something there, something new, something Richie had never seen in the countless times he dropped to his knees at Eddie’s side—
“No…” Richie heard himself whisper as his eye caught the glint of broken glass just next to Eddie’s limp hand, trailing in the water—
“GET OUT. GET OUT—“
“Eds—“ the tunnels around him were blurring now with the coming light.
“GET OUT, TOZIER. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET—“
It had come—the Deadlights had come, filling everywhere and everything as they always did and Richie felt himself screaming but heard nothing—
Richie gasped for air and blinked, surprised at the sudden darkness after the light in his dream. There was a moment where the room was still but for his rasping breath, and then Eddie had turned the bedside lamp on and the room was thrown into blurry, indistinguishable shadows.
Groping the floor beside the bed for his glasses, Richie struggled to regain his composure. Once he had forced his glasses onto his face, he turned to see Eddie, stark white and gaping. Richie realized this was the first time Eddie had ever seen him straight out of the Dream. Richie started to explain himself when he caught sight of Eddie’s wire-rimmed glasses on the bedside table.
“You were wearing glasses,” Richie breathed.
“In the sewer. In my Dream. You were wearing glasses.”
Eddie stared at him for a moment before seeming to understand what he was implying. “Rich, that doesn’t mean anyth—“
“I never noticed before, but you were wearing glasses. You were wearing glasses when you died, Eds, I saw them, in the sewer, after It got you, they were right next to you, broken—“
“Richie, just because—“
“I saw them, Eddie! I saw you die and you were wearing glasses, you never wore glasses before except for your stupid bifocals but those don’t count and in my fucking Dream you were wearing fucking glasses—“
“Richie!” Eddie yelled, frantically shifting onto his knees to grab Richie by the sides of his neck. Richie was still in hysterics as Eddie brought himself to eye-level and shook him gently. “You dreamt that I had glasses because I have glasses now. You had never seen them before. It was a suggestion of the conscious mind.”
Richie was still breathing hard. His neck was clammy and feverish; his eyes were desperately searching Eddie’s, almost pleadingly.
“Richie Tozier. I’m not dead. I’m sitting here in front of you right now. You’re in my bedroom. You fell asleep on top of the covers while I was telling you a story about the time my dad took us to Chicago and dropped an entire deep-dish pizza onto Wrigley Field. I was… annoyed at first, but when I tried to wake you up you… you snored a bit and it was… endearing. So I took off your glasses and turned out the light. And I laid down next to you. And we slept. And you’re still here. I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere.”
Richie’s breathing slowed as Eddie spoke—he could still feel his heart beating in his chest, but reality began to feel a bit more real. The cotton sheet clutched in his hand; his right foot numb with pins and needles from sleeping on it wrong; the dim light from the bedside lamp casting a halo around Eddie’s concerned face; Eddie’s hands on his neck…
Slowly, Richie felt himself nod. Eddie nodded back, watching Richie’s features carefully, and when he was satisfied that Richie was done yelling, he pulled the shaken boy into him and felt him bury his face into his neck.
Eddie sighed with relief—the look of pure mania in Richie’s eyes, magnified times fifty by his glasses, was unlike anything he had ever seen. At a lame attempt at a joke, he muttered into Richie’s hair, “You’re lucky you didn’t wake my mother up, she’d be in here in a second the way you were screaming…”
But even while Eddie remained the comforter through the night as the two resigned to lay back down on the mattress and try to sleep, thoughts of what Richie had said plagued his mind. Not only this, but Eddie had been haunted by Richie’s words from weeks earlier that had never been explained, when he had been coming out of his concussed stupor… I failed you, Eds. I couldn’t… I failed…
As Richie’s breathing deepened beside him, Eddie looked over and watched his sleeping profile, a frown creasing his brow even while unconscious, likely with concentration to keep the Dream at bay.
Eddie was good at lying. He had to be, what with Sonia Kaspbrak for a mother. He had learned soon after his confrontation with her regarding his pills that, if he wanted to be left alone, he would have to lie to keep her in the dark and take matters into his own hands. And so, similarly, he had successfully feigned indifference towards Richie’s confessed nightmares predicting his demise.
But Eddie Kaspbrak was a hypochondriac by nature. He had not asked Richie the gory details of the dream, but the possibilities plagued his mind. And he would not be surprised in the slightest if there was any truth to these ‘premonitions’. After what the Losers had witnessed that summer, Eddie doubted anything would surprise him anymore.
His heart likely beating just as fast as Richie’s had been when he woke from the Dream, Eddie lifted a hand and pushed Richie’s curls out of his eyes while he slept. Richie didn’t stir.
Good evening, guys, I'm so sorry for the delay (finals season was a shitstorm) but I'm home for the holidays now. I've missed this story a lot, I can't wait to wrap it up for you guys. Enjoy x
California Polytechnic. California Polytechnic.
Richie knew that he was a better than average student (how this happened he couldn’t be sure, as he was the worst procrastinator of all of the Losers and neglected to study like… ever), but Cal Poly? Holy shit.
He swallowed hard and stared down at the tri-folded acceptance letter in his hands, utterly dumbfounded. He had applied as a joke, really. As someone who’d never left Derry, he had written his application without even fathoming the idea of going to school some 3,000 miles away. It wasn’t until he ironically tore open the envelope behind the wheel of the Camaro, smirking at the thought of its rejection, that he realized how deeply the idea actually appealed to him.
3,000 miles from Derry. 3,000 miles from this shitshow of a town. 3,000 miles from—
With this realization, Richie closed his eyes and let his head fall forward onto the steering wheel. The sudden force made the horn sound, making Richie jerk back up. Out of the windshield, students milling around in front of the school were staring in the direction of the horn, those closest giving him dirty looks. Richie smiled at them and played it off as intentional.
And as if the universe were playing some kind of cruel joke, Eddie knocked on Richie’s window, making Richie jump. He hastily folded the letter still clutched in his hands and shoved it into his backpack as he grabbed it from the passenger seat.
“You sleep okay last night?” Eddie asked as they walked up the steps of Derry High. “You look… bad.” Richie could tell he was trying to sound casual, but he knew Eddie well enough to hear the twinge of anxiety in his voice.
“Wow, Eds, thanks. That’s exactly what I want to hear from my boyfriend—“
“Shut up, Richie, you know what I mean—“
“I’m good,” Richie said, trying to avoid setting Eddie off before the first bell has even rung. With the thought of moving cross-country and leaving him behind, leaving everything they’ve become in the last few weeks behind, looming over him, Richie hardly had time to spare for the silent treatment.
Eddie didn’t seem to be in a bickering mood today, however. “Boyfriend, huh?” he said after a moment, and Richie looked over to see him blushing.
Richie felt a grin spreading across his own face. “Well yeah, Eds, what do you think ‘going together’ means?”
“I don’t know… I’ve just never heard you… say that before. Boyfriend.” He was smiling softly.
“Is there something else you’d rather me call you? ‘Shit head’? ‘Dumbass’? Perhaps a casual ‘dolt’?”
“Beep beep, Rich.”
“Beep beep, indeed,” Ben came strolling up behind them and threw an arm around Richie’s shoulders. “Did you guys hear the news?” Apparently, the look on both Richie and Eddie’s faces confirmed that they had not, in fact, heard the news. “Bev got into NYU! Got her acceptance with the post this morning.”
“That’s incredible,” Eddie exclaimed, eyes wide. “Is she… you know… going to be able to go?”
“She said her aunt is going to try and work something out with the bank, so I guess it’s ‘to be continued’,” Ben said.
“Holy shit… I hope it works out. She’s been talking about NYU for years. Richie, isn’t this awesome?”
Richie had been worrying his bottom lip, but he found his composure when Eddie looked up at him. “Yeah, if anyone deserves this, its Beverly Marsh. The girls’ a natural talent.”
They were stopped at Eddie’s locker now, and he didn’t seem to notice Richie’s momentary lapse in attention. Truth be told, he had been wondering if Eddie would react the same way were he to tell him about his acceptance in California.
“I guess that means we should all start looking out for the postman now,” Ben said, leaning against the wall while Eddie opened his locker. “’tis the season for rejection and all that.”
“Shut up, Ben, you’ll be fine. I read over your essay for Bates, if you don’t make it in they don’t deserve you anyway.”
“Thanks Eddie. Those are just words until the letter shows up, though. What about you, Richie, you hear from anyone yet?”
“Huh?” Richie had been watching Eddie’s hand work the dial on his locker, lost in thought. “Oh, uh… I don’t know, I haven’t checked the mail lately. I’ve been spending my mornings at Eddie’s, if you know what I mean.”
Ben looked on the brink of being mortified for a moment before Eddie shoved a book into his bag. “He’s kidding, Ben. He didn’t even drive me this morning.”
“I’m not kidding, Ben. I didn’t drive him this morning because he was taking too long showering after—“
“Beep beep, Richie!” Eddie and Ben both nearly screeched, Eddie looking incredibly annoyed, Ben looking like he had just accidentally heard confidential information and would now have to be killed for it.
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that, ya buncha’ low-talkers,” Richie said in an impeccable Jerry Seinfeld impersonation.
“Jesus, Richie, just because we’re—“
“—Dolts?” Richie smirked.
“—boyfriends doesn’t mean you have to share every intimate detail of our personal—“
“That’s what you get for settling for Richie, Eddie,” Ben joked, punching his shoulder. “I’ll see you guys around, I have calculus homework to bullshit before the first bell.”
As Ben walked off, Richie edged along the wall towards Eddie. “So now that Haystack’s gone…”
Eddie slammed his locker shut and walked off, leaving Richie, still grinning ear-to-ear, trotting along in his wake.
“Nothing,” Eddie said, walking back up the drive from his mailbox to where Richie was leaning against his car.
“Not even a measly electric bill? The 15th was just the other day.”
“Let’s go somewhere,” Eddie said, taking Richie’s hand and pulling him away from the car, his eyes shifting to his house for the briefest of seconds.
“Not here. I’m tired of my mom trying to walk in on us to catch us not studying.”
“Okay… where, then?”
“Let’s go to Red Apple. I could go for a soda.” Richie nodded and reached for the keys in his pocket, but Eddie took hold of his wrist. “Let’s walk.” Richie met Eddie’s eyes for a moment and nodded. It was a bit chilly for such a long walk and the cold tended to trigger Eddie’s asthma—needless to say, Richie was confused.
The first few minutes of walking were in silence. After a while, Richie reached for Eddie’s hand and they walked along a bit further. Richie’s mind was racing. Maybe Eddie had seen his acceptance to Cal Poly already and was waiting for Richie to say something? Maybe he was mad that Eddie hadn’t told him right away, like Bev had told the Losers? Richie cleared his throat.
“Don’t worry about college, Eddie. You’ll end up where you’re supposed to be.”
“What?” Eddie said, looking startled. “Oh, yeah. I know. The not-knowing is just hard, ya know? Are you worried at all?”
Richie tried to glance at Eddie out of his peripheral, but his eyes were partially hidden by his fogged-up glasses and he couldn’t tell if this was a ploy to see if Richie would spill the beans.
“Not really,” Richie said, deciding to be non-specific. They were nearing Center Street now. Although it was still late November, garland spiraled around every streetlamp and Christmas lights lined the storefronts up ahead.
“It’s kind of weird to think we won’t be living in Derry fulltime within the year,” Eddie said, his eyes scanning the stores they were approaching.
“I guess,” Richie said, feeling they were nearing dangerous territory.
“Have you had any more dreams?”
“The Dream. Have you had it again? Since… the other week.”
“Um… no. Why?”
“Just wondering.” They walked on, and now the silence was more because Richie was stunned that Eddie had voluntarily brought up The Dream. Usually, whenever it came up in conversation, it was Richie who was freaking out and Eddie who was telling him to calm the fuck down. “Would you tell me if you had?”
Richie’s mind was now as far from college acceptances as possible. “Of course, Eds. It concerns you. And I care about you.”
Eddie’s eyes were on his feet now, his breath steaming back up into his face. Richie was having trouble reading Eddie for the first time in a long time… even before that summer, Richie had learned to read Eddie like a well-worn and well-loved book, but now… Richie was unsure whether Eddie was asking about the Dream for Richie’s well-being or his own.
They had turned onto Center now and were headed towards Red Apple. Eddie’s eyes were down and Richie’s eyes were on Eddie, so neither boy reacted quickly enough when Greta Keene backed out of the Grocery holding a twenty-pound turkey, followed by her father, arms laden with various packages and bags.
“Watch it, Tozier!” Greta yelled just before Richie ran into her. She held the turkey up as high as she could, as if Richie were a dog looking to snatch it out of her hands at the first opportunity. Greta still hadn’t forgiven Richie for wrecking her Halloween party. Mr. Keene was blissfully unaware that it had been Richie who had busted through his garden fence.
“Ah, Eddie, your prescription just came in the other day,” Mr. Keene said, recognizing the pair of them. “I suggest you come by to pick it up before we close for the holiday.”
His eyes strayed down to where Eddie had dropped Richie’s hand, but he gave them a small smile and ushered Greta down the street in the opposite direction.
Richie and Eddie continued slowly towards Red’s. “That reminds me,” Eddie said, “Stan invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. He said half his family bailed this year, so his mom over-bought and has way too much food.”
“Nice of him,” Richie said distractedly.
“We don’t have to go if you don’t want to, I don’t know if any of the others will be there, I think Stan just knows that my mom stopped cooking and your parents don’t give a shit, so he figured—“
“Are you embarrassed of me?”
Eddie stopped. They were in front of Red Apple now, and normally Richie would have thought that Eddie was just waiting for Richie to open the door so that he wouldn’t have to touch the door handle, but he could see that the question had literally stopped Eddie in his tracks, all thoughts of a soda forgotten.
“Why would I be embarrassed of you?”
“You let my hand go just now. In front of Greta and her dad. And at school, you won’t—“
“Just because I’m not as open about us doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed to be with you, Richie.”
Richie was watching him carefully. He seemed genuine. “You’re not worried—?”
“Not worried what, Richie? That people will talk? That people will care? We live in Bum-Fuck-Nowhere, Rich. Who is there to impress?”
Richie could feel a tick in his jaw and tried to relax. “You’re right,” he said. “I’m sorry. I just thought you wanted this. And you’ve been acting like—“
“Like its nobody’s business but ours what we do behind closed doors. Best to leave things to the imagination.” Eddie smiled his soft smile. Richie grinned. “Now open the door and buy me a soda, you dolt.”
Chapter 16: THANKSGIVING: PART II
This is quite the filler (so for that, I apologize) but I'm getting there, friends. Enjoy.
Richie was only half paying attention to his own reflection as he pulled the collar of his button-down out from under the neck of his sweater. His mind was reeling worse than ever, thinking of Eddie, the acceptance letter to Cal Poly tucked in his sock drawer, the impending Thanksgiving dinner at Stan’s, Eddie, why his hair wouldn’t ever lie flat, Eddie, and of course, the Dream running on an incessant film reel in the background.
When he had finished adjusting his collar, he let his arms drop to his sides and examined his reflection more closely. Sweaters always made his neck look too short and his legs look too long (which, admittedly, was saying something) and he immediately regretted not taking Bill up on his offer to lend him nicer shoes—his Chucks were scuffed and stained with Barrens mud. His glasses were covered in smudges. The plaid flannel button-down was clashing painfully with his cable-knit sweater.
“Stupid…” Richie mumbled, yanking the sweater over his head, getting stuck somewhere halfway through and emerging, glasses askew, hair a-fly as ever.
Richie used a sweater sleeve to rub out the smudges in his glasses—whenever Eddie would do this on his own sweaters, Richie’s glasses would come back spotless every time. Replacing them back on his face, he scrutinized his appearance once more. Sans sweater was definitely better. With a quick sigh, he undid the very top button of his flannel so he didn’t look as suffocated as he felt; he raked his fingers through his hair, and although it still came out a mess, the curls looked less like knots; he rubbed the toes of his shoes on the backs of his pant legs, but ultimately accepted that it was a lost cause, and his feet would ideally be hidden under a table most of the day anyway.
Richie simply wasn’t made for fancy dinners and polite conversation. Eddie had reminded him over and over that they didn’t have to go, but Richie could tell Eddie kind of wanted to—he hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving since his dad died. Richie couldn’t give a rat’s ass about some Hallmarked colonialist holiday, but it meant something to Eddie so, by extension, it meant something to him.
In the last week, Richie’s Dream also seemed to take on new meaning to Eddie, much to his chagrin. He had thought he could finally move past it, with Eddie’s permission to ignore his death omen. The visions had almost completely stopped, and although fragments of the Dream still haunted him through the nights, he was able to remind himself of Eddie’s reassurances: It’s a suggestion of the conscious mind… I’m not dead. You’re still here. I’m still here. And I’m not going anywhere.
Maybe you aren’t, Eddie Spaghetti…
Since receiving the letter from Cal Poly, Richie had thought of it daily, hourly, had let it consume him almost as much as he had the Dream. And he had come to the realization yesterday that it’s his ticket out of Derry. And how could he pass that up? Eddie had received acceptance from Fordham on Tuesday and had since been in a much better mood, though still on edge. Richie assumed he was just nervous for Richie himself to hear back from a school, any school—he still hadn’t told him about Cal Poly.
Yet Richie had pretty much already decided, without being completely conscious of it, that he was going to go. Eddie would understand—he had been so thrilled for Beverly, and Fordham was no hop-skip-and-a-jump from Derry either… he would probably be thrilled for Richie… probably.
Richie just had enough. He’d had enough of Derry, enough of looking over his shoulder and jumping at every street corner since the summer of ’89, enough of the fake, evil adults and the fake, evil idea of normalcy this town forced down everyone’s throats. The one thing he hadn’t had enough of was Eddie, and he kicked himself thinking of all of the time they could’ve had together if he’d just gotten his head out of his ass sooner—but that was said and done. Leaving for school wouldn’t be goodbye… it would just be temporary separation, and it would make their time together that much better.
Richie gave himself one last glance in the mirror and grabbed his car keys off his night table. Now he would just have to find the nerve to tell Eddie.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
Eddie jumped the stairs from his porch and was striding towards Richie, sliding into a duffle coat, but underneath he was wearing a sweater layered over a button-down. And he looked stunning.
“Afternoon, Miss Daisy,” Richie simpered, opening the passenger door for Eddie.
“Really? After the shit you pulled on Halloween and I’m Miss Daisy?”
“I’m the one behind the wheel, aren’t I?” Richie grinned as Eddie gave him a look and got into the car, pulling the door closed behind him. Richie walked around the back of the Camaro and got behind the wheel.
“Did you remember the cider?” Richie asked as he pulled away from Eddie’s house. Eddie patted the internal pocket of his jacket. “Cool. If I owe Stan any more than I already do, he’ll have the skin off my back for a winter coat.” Eddie gave him a look of disgust. “Cannibal jokes,” Richie smirked.
“I got it, Hannibal Lecter,” Eddie assured him.
Richie’s smile faltered and he cleared his throat nervously. “You look really nice, Eds.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Richie could see Eddie looked taken aback by the sudden comment. Embarrassed, Richie realized he may have never given Eddie a compliment without sarcasm before.
“So do you, Rich,” Eddie said, blushing furiously. “Who would’ve thought you could polish up so nicely?” Eddie was fidgeting with a clasp on his jacket. “Do me a favor, though, and don’t call me that at dinner.”
“Why not, Eds?” Richie taunted, letting his nerves run his mouth. “Afraid it’ll draw attention to how cute you are, Eds?”
“I won’t hesitate to kick you under the table.”
“After all those years of Bowers’ torment, you think I haven’t developed shins of steel?”
“You’re not helping your case,” Eddie muttered, looking out the window, but Richie could tell he was still blushing madly.
They were quiet until Richie turned onto Stan’s street. Given that it was Thanksgiving, the roads were quiet, even by Derry’s standards, so the ride took no longer than ten minutes. When Stan’s house came into view, Eddie turned to Richie so quickly that Richie jumped and the Camaro swerved.
“Have you heard from any schools yet?” he asked excitedly.
Richie swallowed. This was it. He was hoping he could’ve put it off until after dinner, as he still wasn’t sure how Eddie would react, but he couldn’t lie about it anymore. He inhaled deeply.
“Actually yeah,” Richie started.
“You’re joking. Good news?”
“Richie that’s great! You officially have an option for higher education, that’s gotta be a relief,” Eddie was grinning at him.
“Yeah,” Richie said, tapping his middle finger on the steering wheel as he pulled over to the curb outside Stan’s house. “It’s California Polytechnic.”
Eddie fell silent. To avoid looking at him, Richie turned the car off and pulled the key out of the ignition. The cold immediately started to seep in.
“That’s great, Rich… Where else did you apply?” Eddie asked quietly.
“Southern Maine… Fort Kent… U of M…” Richie listed, still refusing to look at Eddie, but he could feel his gaze burning into him from across the stick. And then, after a moment, “I think I’m gonna go, Eds.”
“To California. For school.”
“You know, and obviously come back. For holidays and stuff. Like everyone else,” Richie said quickly, finally turning to look at him. He was shocked to see a look on Eddie’s face he’d never seen before, impossible to read. Eddie was extremely impossible to read these days. “That’s… that’s the plan, at least… I—“
There was a sharp knock on the window behind Richie and he jumped, turning to see Stan bent double to peer in at them. “Do you guys want me to bring your plates out here, or…?”
Richie turned back to Eddie, but he was already getting out of the car.
Chapter 17: THANKSGIVING: PART II
Richie cleared his throat nervously as a basket of rolls was passed to him by Stan. “Thank you again for having us, Mrs. U.”
“Oh, it’s absolutely no trouble, Richie. You’re practically family, after all. And thank you for the cider, it really wasn’t necessary—“
“Just a sign of our gratitude, you know. Taking us in off the streets for a home-cooked meal, doing the lord’s work…” Richie joked, but no one seemed to get it. He passed the basket of rolls to Eddie, who took them slowly, not fully paying attention.
The dinner had gone over smoothly so far. There was some awkward conversation with Stan’s relatives, a particularly uncomfortable encounter with one of his cousins, but it had been an otherwise uneventful meal. Eddie was being unusually quiet. Richie hadn’t been making efforts to provoke him.
Stan’s father helped himself to a scoop of mashed potatoes and filled the awkward silence following Richie’s failed joke. “So, boys. Stanley recently received acceptance from William & Mary—“
“Dad—“ Stan protested. Richie felt his face grow hot. Here we go…
“Don’t interrupt, Stanley,” Mr. Uris scolded and Stan fell silent, poking at the stuffing on his plate with obvious frustration. “Anyone heard from any schools yet?” Mr. Uris continued.
Eddie was looking at Stan’s father, but his eyes were blank and unregistering, so Richie put down his fork and spoke up. “I actually recently heard back from San Luis Obispo.”
There was a moment of silence where it seemed every adult in the room froze and looked up at Richie, as if seeing him for the first time. It was unnerving. “Right now, I think it’s my top choice,” he continued, nervously picking his fork back up, “Student loans are going to be hell, though,” he said with a laugh that sounded too forced.
“Wow, Richie, that’s…” Stan’s mother trailed off, clearly shocked.
“It’s great, right?” Stan filled in, trying to bring more enthusiasm back into the conversation. “Richie’s always talked about California, Hollywood and all that shit—“
“—Sorry, stuff, and this is like… his ticket out of Derry. His big break!”
“I would hardly call college a ‘big break’, but your confidence is inspiring, Stanny,” Richie said, staring down at his plate and pushing his glasses further up on his nose. With his eyes down, he could see Eddie’s fist clenched in his lap beside him.
“So you’re… looking to leave Derry then? For good?” Mrs. Uris asked. It sounded innocent enough, but a sudden chill gripped Richie’s heart, and he knew Eddie and Stan felt it too—leaving Derry was almost unheard of, for one reason in particular, and it had everything to do with what the Losers uncovered in ’89.
“Uh… I don’t know. Not forever forever… I’ve got some ties here…” Richie said, but he knew that Stan’s parents knew that he didn’t, really, which was why they were asking. His parents couldn’t care less if Richie packed up and left for California that same night and never came back. Richie’s only real ties were the Losers, but adults would hardly understand that. He very well could leave Derry and never come back, never become another tragic victim of Derry’s Black Hole, the inevitable Cycle of Pain that was a package deal with life in this Podunk town.
“Yes… of course,” Mrs. Uris said, slowly going back to her food. “I only mean… that’s a very long way away. Across the entire country. It would be easy to… forget little ‘ole Derry,” she smiled at the last few words, as if she were teasing, but Richie could hear the insinuation. Apparently, so could Eddie.
“Excuse me a moment,” Eddie said, standing so suddenly that the napkin on his lap fell to the floor before he could grab it. He ducked out of the dining room so quickly, it was almost as if he’d never been there; Richie was sure the cousins he was sitting next to hadn’t even looked up from their plates.
Richie swallowed hard, looking from the door back to the rest of the table, who had continued eating. Something told him he should go after Eddie. Immediately. He felt Stan step on his toe from beside him, but looking over at him he refused to acknowledge the gesture and continued eating innocently.
“You don’t mind if I use your restroom, Mrs. U?” Richie asked, crumpling the napkin in his lap.
“Not at all, dear,” she said, not looking up at him. Richie got up, dropped his napkin in his empty seat, and left through the same door that Eddie had. Richie wandered through the kitchen, the living room, and even poked his head into Mr. Uris’ library before heading up the stairs, careful to avoid the creaky steps.
He walked down the hallway to Stan’s room and saw that the window was cracked open.
“What is it with you and rooftops?” Richie mimicked as he crawled out the window. Eddie was feet away, sitting on the slope of the roof, his aspirator in his hand, elbows resting on his knees. He didn’t reply. Richie saw his hands were shaking.
“Hey, are you alright?” He asked, surprising himself with his own seriousness. “You know, there’s a full Thanksgiving dinner downstairs, right?” He couldn’t help himself. This is too heavy.
“Shut up,” Eddie said, lifting his glasses, pressing his palms to his eyes and drawing in a shaky breath. “For once in your life, Richie, just shut the fuck up and let me think.”
“Think about what?” Richie moved over to him.
“’Thank about what?’” he shrieked incredulously. “What could there be to possibly think about? Hmm, I don’t know, lets see—“ Eddie lifted his face and now Richie could see his eyes were wet. No tears yet, but they were coming.
“Flash back to October 7th, somewhere around 6:15 in the morning, I get a call from Richie Tozier asking me if I want a ride to school. This is weird, because we usually sort out carpools earlier than the morning of. My dumb ass jumps to conclusions and I think—‘this is it. Richie’s gonna ask me out’. But then you don’t. And the antics get weirder and you start acting weirder and every time I think I’m getting close to understanding, you pull away, physically, emotionally, and I felt like I lost a part of myself, you asshole. So then you finally, finally tell me that you’ve seen me die. Repeatedly. In an incredibly realistic and plausible way. And I don’t want you to hurt anymore from visions of my goddamned ghost so I tell you it’s okay, it’s not a big deal, hoping that you’ll be able to let it the fuck go. And it seems like you do. But I can’t. What the fuck are you supposed to do when someone tells you they’ve seen how you die?”
Richie is taken aback. This is the most he’s ever heard Eddie say in almost a single breath. Granted, this was usually because Richie would cut him off before he could get this far, but—
“I just keep telling myself that I have him. I have Richie. He cares. He loves me, he’s told me so. He won’t let anything happen to me. He was there for me back then, he’ll be there for me in the end, too. That’s the only thing holding me together. The only fucking thing keeping me sane. And then I find out that my safeguard, my rock, is not only leaving, but is leaving for a place not even within driving distance of the place I’ll meet my demise. How is that supposed to feel, Richie? How much is there to think about there?”
Eddie is breathing hard and Richie wants to remind him of the aspirator clenched in his hand.
“I… I thought you’d be excited, Eds. I thought you’d be happy for me—when you heard about Bev—“
“Bev isn’t you!” Eddie sobbed, and a single tear leaked down his left cheek. “I can’t… I can’t lose you. I thought you cared.”
“I do care, Eds—“
“If you cared, you’d stay!”
Richie stared. Eddie froze, realizing almost at once what he’d said. Richie could see the shadow of guilt flit across his eyes, the undeniable realization that he’d quoted his own mother almost directly. “I didn’t mean that,” he said quietly.
Richie was lost for words. He watched as Eddie grappled with his own thoughts, trying to form a coherent apology.
“I didn’t mean that, Rich, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have… I’m just… got a lot on my mind… please—“
“It’s okay, Eds,” Richie whispered.
“It’s not okay, that was totally out of line—“
“Eddie, shut up.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Thinking.
Richie hadn’t realized how much the Dream had been effecting Eddie. He should’ve known it was wrong to believe him when he told him to drop it. Eddie could never let something like that go.
“This is my fault. I shouldn’t have told you about the Dream.”
After a moment, Eddie turned to him. “No. I’m glad you did.”
“You’re glad I’m the cause for 90% of your anxiety over the last two months?”
“No, I… Jesus fuck, Richie. If you’d never told me about the Dream… none of this would have happened.”
Richie paused. “And that’s… a bad… thing?”
“Not… not this—“ Eddie said, gesturing vaguely, “—but like… this. Us. Whatever this is.”
Another pause. “…boyfriends.”
“Boyfriends.” Eddie confirmed. “Dolt,” he added under his breath.
They sat in silence for a few more minutes. “I can’t stop you from going to California,” Eddie said quietly. After a moment, he continued. “I don’t expect you to put your life on hold because of a death omen that may or may not be legitimate. I want you to get out of Derry.”
Richie was fidgeting with his watchband, waiting for Eddie to finish.
“I want the best for you, I always have. But… what Stan’s mom said down there. About forgetting Derry. You won’t… you won’t forget me, right?”
Richie frowned. “Forget you? Eds, how could I ever? You’re easily like… my favorite person in the world. Not to mention the cutest. I think,” he added, pretending to look pensive, and it caused the desired reaction—Eddie was smiling.
“I couldn’t ever forget you, Eddie Spaghetti,” Richie assured, scooching closer and putting his arm around Eddie’s shoulders.
My Christmas gift to you--not to scare you, but things are going to start picking up from here I think.
Happy holidays, friends! x
Eddie never thought the day would come when he would dread graduation from Derry High School. But with graduation came the unfaltering reality that his life as he knew it would change, and he couldn’t see how it was for the better.
Autumn 1992 ended quickly and merged seamlessly with winter. Richie did his best to convince Eddie that the Dream was less frequent, his visions less realistic, and Eddie did his best to believe him. Really, they both did their best to try and forget about it during their last few guaranteed months together. On New Year’s Eve, the Losers got together to celebrate. Eddie kissed Richie when the ball dropped, the lenses of their glasses clinking together like the flutes of champaign in their friends’ hands. Beverly took lots of pictures with the instant Kodak her aunt had gifted her for Christmas. Generally, spirits were high.
The last semester of their high school career was filled with nothing but the usual. Although Eddie felt that the world was coming to an end, he had realized sometime mid-March that Derry wasn’t changing—he was. So it struck him as odd when their Friday night get-togethers carried on, due dates and deadlines resumed, quizzes and exams were still a thing of the present. And all the while, he couldn’t help but remind himself before falling asleep every night and waking up every morning, that he was going to die in this shit-stinking town and Richie couldn’t stop it. No one could.
“I failed you, Eds… I couldn’t… I failed…”
And no one could understand the root of his anxiety, either.
“W-we’re all bummed ab-b-bout splitting up, Ed-d…Eddie,” Bill said to him in the Library one day as they filled out their order forms for caps and gowns. “B-but we’ll see each other again. Every summer.”
But something told Eddie that once the Losers got a taste of the air outside of Derry, they’d never come back. Himself included.
“You don’t have to go home to your parents during the holidays,” Eddie suggested to Richie, one of the first spring days warm enough to venture down to the thawing Barrens. “You can always come stay with me. Or, you know, if you’d rather stay at Stan’s or something—“
“You don’t have to try and convince me to come back, Eds. This town might be a hellhole but you’re enough of a reason to walk though fire.”
Eddie paused as they jumped from rock to rock. “That was poetic,” he said at last.
“I regretted saying it the moment it came out of my mouth.”
Eddie got the gist of what Richie meant and had tried not to bring up the subject anymore, but he still couldn’t help pointing out the (rare) loveable things about Derry whenever he was with his friends: their time spent at the Barrens, smoking or drinking or whatever the weekend’s entertainment was; their time spent at the Quarry, including similar extracurriculars; how beautiful the snow looked in Bassey Park; the simple high from speeding down Up-Mile Hill on their old cruisers and road bikes; the smells of Costello Avenue Market on a Saturday morning. He couldn’t tell if the others knew what he was doing, but he decided he didn’t care. He realized long ago that his friends were all he had, and he wanted them to know that he cared if he never saw them after this summer.
That summer, which, coincidentally, passed more quickly than any other summer of his life, save maybe the summer of ’89, Eddie supposed. He was so caught up in trying to enjoy each and every mundane moment, as if each day would be his last, that he hardly realized when the days turned into weeks turned into months, and suddenly it was mid-August and Richie was helping him pack for New York.
“Do you really need this?” Richie asked, pulling Eddie’s Viewmaster out of a cardboard box and putting it up to his glasses. “What good is this going to do you at school?”
“That’s the donation box, Richie,” Eddie said, looking back down at the clothes he was folding.
“So you mean you don’t plan on bringing this…?” Richie asked, and when Eddie looked back up he was holding a nylon fanny pack by the strap, his eyebrow arched mischievously.
“You’re hilarious,” Eddie retorted, but he was smiling softly. Sadly. “You wanna actually help me out here or just sit on your ass and go through my stuff?”
“But of course, my liege, I live to serve,” Richie crooned.
“Then take that suitcase to the front door,” Eddie nodded to a roller board at the foot of his bed, and Richie obliged. The moment his heel disappeared around the doorframe, Eddie sidled over to the donations box and zipped the Viewmaster inside the fanny pack, taking it back over to the box he was packing and stuffing it between two sweaters.
Richie walked back in a moment later, his hands in his pockets, unsuspecting. He was wearing a Fordham University t-shirt that Eddie had bought during a tour of the school. Somehow it had made its way to Richie, but Eddie didn’t mind—it felt like some kind of bond between the home he would make at school and the home he had found in Richie.
Richie flopped down onto the foot of Eddie’s bed and watched him finish folding his clothes. Eddie was aware of Richie’s magnified eyes following his every move, but he didn’t want Richie to know lest he look away, so he kept his own gaze downward.
“Do you remember when I tried to reset your arm?”
Eddie felt himself falter but tried to continue folding as if he hadn’t. The Losers rarely talked about anything that happened that summer. It was like an unspoken rule. Always remember but never recount.
“Do you mean when you practically rebroke my arm?”
“It’s the thought that counts,” Richie said.
“I don’t think it is,” Eddie smiled.
“And then I pretty much carried you all the way out of Neibolt. I’m ninety percent sure you could’ve walked fine on your own, but you were screaming so hard and you couldn’t even get to your feet—“
“Don’t flatter yourself, Trashmouth, Bill was carrying all my weight—“
“Bullshit, you were delusional—“
“I think I’d remember you carrying me out of Neibolt if I can remember that fucking leper drooling in my face—“
“Hey, I know my skin was bad back then but calling me a ‘leper’ is a bit harsh, don’t you think?” Richie said with faux hurt.
“Beep beep, Rich,” Eddie said, laughing as he folded one of his last shirts.
Richie was up at him, but there was something else behind his eyes; for a moment, Eddie was afraid Richie was having a vision and was just trying desperately to ignore it. This had happened before. As much as Richie tried to hide it, in the end Eddie would always tell him it was okay, try and shake him back into reality, and the episode would go unmentioned.
But to Eddie’s relief, the glaze over Richie’s eyes cleared slightly as he spoke again. “Did I ever tell you what I saw in Neibolt that day?”
“You mean besides a whole lot of nightmarish bullshit?”
“Well, yeah, but like… after we got separated. After the missing flyer and hearing Betty and all that. And the door closed on you while you were out in the hallway.”
Eddie’s hands stopped mid-fold, unconsciously clenching around the shirt he was holding. He had always been so consumed by what had happened to him after being separated from Bill and Richie that he had never stopped to wonder what had gone on behind the door that had split them up… come to think of it, he had probably always avoided the subject, not wanting to know.
“Bill was busy trying to get the door open to get to you because…” Richie looked down at his hands, absently running the fingers of one hand over the knuckles of the other. He looked ashamed. “I kind of shut down for a minute. I couldn’t… function. Knowing that you were out there alone. And then I heard you, off in an adjoining room, and I was so relieved I didn’t stop to think how that was possible. How you could be in two places at once… I just wanted to believe that I could get to you.”
Eddie felt his heart clench and hoped to God he wouldn’t hear what he expected to hear next, almost like waiting for the inevitable jump-scare in a horror film.
“So I followed the sound of your voice—“
Eddie closed his eyes and tried to resist the urge to shake his head, to scream at Richie for his stupidity, for not realizing he was going to get himself killed—but he hadn’t; he was sitting in front of him now, recounting this long-ago story of classic Richie-like stupidity.
“—and I swear, Eds, I fucking saw you in that room.”
“It lured you in,” Eddie whispered. “Using me as bait.”
“It wasn’t your fault. It was stupid, really. I was stupid. I let my… my feelings get in the way of rational thought,” he said with disdain.
“You can’t get mad at yourself for feeling things, Richie,” Eddie said, dropping the shirt in his hands.
“I know. I just… I should’ve figured it out, right then. How much you mean to me, I mean. I should’ve known… we already knew it used our biggest fears against us… I didn’t realize how afraid I was of losing you. Of not being there to protect you.”
Eddie walked over to the foot of the bed and slid onto it, crossing his legs under him so that he was sitting next to Richie on his left side, but facing the head of the bed, the opposite direction.
“You make it sound like I need protecting,” Eddie said finally, bravely. He suddenly felt like a 14-year-old kid again, trying to sound like a man.
“I don’t mean to. I know you can look after yourself. Hell, you’d probably do a better job at protecting me, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
“You’ve got that right.”
Richie swallowed. It was a showy, nervous swallow, one that looked like it went down hard, put up a fight. “I know I already promised, but… you didn’t. And it might be stupid, but I just wanna make sure… you promise you won’t forget me, Eds?”
Eddie turned his head to the left, eyes boring into Richie’s. “Not in a million years, Rich. Never. I promise.”
Richie looked down at Eddie’s left hand, palm-down on the bed, and turned it over gently with his own. A pale scar, long since healed, glittered just above the lifeline, stretching from one end of the palm to the other. Eddie watched him do this, gaze falling from Richie’s eyes to his own hand, and then to Richie’s, which bore an almost identical scar in the same place.
In the quiet of the bedroom, mid-afternoon sun pouring through the window, Eddie raised his left hand between he and Richie. After a moment, Richie raised his own left hand to meet it. Eddie entwined his fingers with Richie’s and let their healed palms say the words they couldn’t find.
The Losers made many promises in their childhoods, but never one they didn’t fully expect to keep. In the quiet of the bedroom, mid-afternoon sun pouring through the window, Eddie and Richie made one last promise to end their childhoods with every intention of keeping it.
Chapter 19: SPRING 1996
Honey how long has it been since you were near?
Maybe only a week has passed; It seems like years.
Still we don't talk much anymore, dear;
But we... we both know there is something here.
“Well I’ll tell you, folks, that was a wicked set on this fine Friday morning, ayuh. But the time has come to hand the mic off to my good friend Jonathan hea’, what a cunnin’ boy he is, chout boys and girls because he is a man of the finest kind. That’s all from me, your favorite DJ From Away, signing off with a scrid of classic Cure. I’ve been Richie and have a pissah of a weekend from KCPR, where different matters.”
Richie Tozier dropped the needle onto the spinning Wish vinyl and the introductory chords of Friday I’m In Love filled the broadcast studio. There was a dull ache in the back of his head as he removed the headphones from his ears and got up to leave the live room to Jonathan, the relieving DJ, who nodded at him in a friendly way when he passed.
“I swear to god, Richie, your sets get better every time you go on air,” Abby pushed her long red hair behind her shoulder and looked up at him from the control panel as he closed to door behind him.
“Well thank you, deeah, I take quite a bit of pride in my work, if you know what I’m saying,” Richie smiled at her when he saw her leaning back in her chair, trying to stifle her laughter. His Native Mainer Voice had the most successful ratings by a long shot—he had discovered in his first year at Cal Poly that there were very few students from that far Northeast and people rioted over his ability to turn his accent on and off. Granted, for the radio he exaggerated it more than just a little bit, but listeners loved it.
“My shift is over after Jonathan’s intro; did you want to go get lunch or something?” Abby asked, regaining her voice. She had a striking resemblance to a young Beverly Marsh, but Richie had begun to see her as her own person not long after meeting her.
Richie grabbed his backpack from under the control panel and started rifling through it, looking for his wallet. “Nah, I can’t. Lillian said something about going on a hike after her class and she’ll be done any minute now, so I should probably head back home.”
“Are things going better between you two? Like… since Christmas?”
“Why? You looking to move in on me?” Richie teased. Seeing the exasperated look on her face, an echo rang through Richie’s brain: beep beep, Richie. He shook his head hard—it had been a long time since he’d those words and he didn’t have time for a nostalgic flashback right now. “No, we sorted it out. It was a numb sorta argument, anyways,” he said, switching to his Maine Voice for the last sentence.
“I’m glad,” Abby said with a soft smile that sparked something in Richie’s chest. “I imagine it was pretty awkward though. Staying with her family for an entire winter holiday while you two were arguing. Yikes.”
“’Yikes’ is right, doll. Don’t recommend it. Not one bit,” Richie zipped his backpack up, having finally found his wallet and keys, and slid a strap over his shoulder.
“Are you staying with her over the summer as well?”
“Probably not. Jacob offered me a room… I mentioned something about staying in town to look for an internship at a local station and he said he’d heard of an opening back home in Bakersfield, so I took him up on it. So unless he changes my mind, I’ll probably end up going home with him.”
“And Lillian’s okay with it?”
“Bakersfield is a hell of a lot closer to her than Maine, I can guarantee that, so she’ll probably be fine. Not that I give a damn anyway. I’m graduating in a year, I need to start lining up my future, not pining after Lillian,” Richie said.
“That might be the most serious, adult thing I’ve ever heard come out of that big mouth of yours, Richie.”
“Don’t get used to it.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. Have you ever considered going home for break? Like, actual home? The whole time I’ve known you, I don’t think you’ve ever talked about going back to Maine.”
Richie had already laid his hand on the doorknob to leave the control room, but it was almost as if his fingers had frozen stiff. He always froze whenever this subject came up.
“There’s no reason to go back there,” Richie said, avoiding Abby’s gaze. Her question had been innocent enough—there was no reason to get angry with her. “It’s not a good place to be. Not for me, at least.” Not for anyone.
“A lot of people feel that way. I guess that’s why college is so great. A chance to find your own home, you know? Not one that was found for you.”
“Yeah,” Richie said, opening the door. “I guess.”
The entire walk to his apartment, Abby’s words rang in his ears, almost like a taunt, and his own words were heavy in his mouth, heavy with guilt. There’s no reason to go back there. There were plenty of reasons to go back there. But each one had a name and a life outside of him, and he was almost positive that not a single one had returned to their ‘home’ after leaving in the summer of 1993. One in particular, he was absolutely sure of.
Richie had kept up correspondence with Eddie for the last three years. Eddie had not returned to Derry either.
Derry. The word felt foreign and evil on his tongue, so he avoided speaking it aloud whenever he could. It didn’t do much good anyway—when people asked him where in Maine he was from, there was no recognition of the name Derry. It was almost as if it didn’t exist at all.
Richie told Eddie about his courses and his friends and how none of them were quite as easy to talk to as the Losers but they would do for now; he told him when he swapped his coke bottle lenses for contacts and felt like a new man, shedding the identity of his childhood as ‘little foureyes’; he told him about the requirements of his Communications major and his job at the radio station and how he thought it might be a segue into a professional career; he told him about how warm California was and how weird it was to be surrounded by so many people all the time, to not know everyone’s name and business as was inevitable in a small town, and how refreshing the anonymity was. He told Eddie when the Dream had stopped for good. He told Eddie when he met Lillian.
He told Eddie when he met Lillian; he told him about what a great laugh she had when she liked his jokes and how she scowled at him in a way scarily reminiscent of Eddie when she disapproved of them; he told her about how she loved nature and to be outdoors, and how her favorite hiking trail reminded Richie a lot of the Barrens; he told her about how particular she could be about food, and her obsession with food safety was not too different from Eddie’s preoccupation with germs.
Richie told Eddie all of this within the margins of notebook paper, sloppily folded into envelopes and mailed across the country to an east coast address, where the sun rose instead of set and the threat of hurricanes overshadowed the possibility of earthquakes. And in the safety of his writing, Richie told Eddie that Lillian felt like a placeholder. And Richie felt guilty. He loved Lillian. But it wasn’t the kind of love he knew before leaving Maine.
But Richie couldn’t return to Maine. He couldn’t. For the same reason he and Eddie speculated the others hadn’t returned either, coming up with any and every excuse to stay at school, stay with a friend, travel the country, find an internship, etc. etc. etc…
It felt like returning to Maine, like stepping across the state line, would cause him to implode, like some inexplicable case of spontaneous combustion happening in his heart, his lungs, his mind… Distance was safe. Distance was comfort. Distance was… ignorance.
But ignorance was not always bliss. Richie could feel the ignorance creeping, slowly taking hold of his memories. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t complain—he was chalk-full of memories he would be better off without. But the ones he couldn’t bear to let go… those ones didn’t seem to be safe either.
It had started slowly. Richie woke up one morning during the spring semester of his freshman year, remembered that it was the 15th, the day he wrote to Eddie and suddenly—he couldn’t remember Eddie’s face. In a moment of panic, he sat up in bed, head in his hands, and wracked his brain, desperately trying to remember his nose, the color of his eyes, whether or not he had freckles, anything, before remembering the polaroids Beverly had given him the day they'd said goodbye.
Richie tripped over his own feet running across the room to his desk, and as he ripped open the top drawer and started rifling through it, he felt his roommate’s pillow hit him in the back, having been flung from across the room. Richie wasn’t the world’s quietest roommate.
He found the polaroids and scattered them across his desk, pushing them around, squinting at them through his horrid vision, until he found the one he was looking for. Richie could make out his own face, obscured by his equally horrid square lenses, bright and flushed, gazing down at Eddie, who was laughing in the direction of the camera.
Brown eyes. Long lashes. Dusting of freckles. Delicate nose. Richie studied his face with an intensity he had never experienced before, being a rather distracted youth. And when he felt satisfied he would remember it when he looked away, he put the picture in between his bedframe and mattress and went, shakily, to shower.
Since then, Richie has tried to ignore the fact that he was forgetting more and more about Derry, about the Losers, about the summer of ’89… about Eddie. Even his letters with Eddie were becoming scarcer, few and far between. But there was an indescribable pull, as if his forgetfulness was not quite his fault, as if there were something more at play here…
There was a note taped to Richie’s front door when he reached it: Have to meet for a group project after class, rain check on our hike? xo, L
Richie took the note down and let himself into his apartment, hardly surprised. With the end of term approaching, everyone was likely to be busy with final projects and papers, Lillian (and himself) included. With Derry fresh on his mind, however, he decided to sit down and write to Eddie, as it had been a few months since he had had the time.
He started as he always did, opening with a joke and letting himself get more serious the longer he wrote. He let Eddie know he was thinking of him. That he missed him. That he should come visit sometime. Just because neither of them was keen on returning to Maine didn’t mean they couldn’t still see each other. Richie was sure he would be busy though—three thousand miles is a long way just for a quick visit.
He folded his letter and stuffed it into an envelope. As went to address it, he found himself stalling on Eddie’s last name.
Eddie coughed hard into his elbow, nearly to the point he was seeing stars. His allergies always acted up during the change of season, and he supposed spending all day surrounded by pollen and dust was probably not his smartest idea, but the weather was finally warm enough to enjoy his favorite spot by the Loch where it ran between the Northwoods and the Ravine. The soft chuckle of the water was reminiscent of the Kenduskeag and the surrounding woodland and eerie quiet were enough to make him believe he could be back at the Barrens, a 14-year-old kid again.
That’s what he used to imagine, at least. In more recent years, his secret spot in Central Park took on its own identity and only a vague familiarity connecting it to Maine remained.
The coughing fit resumed. Eddie debated getting his aspirator out of his bag, but he knew it wouldn’t do much good—the real solution would be to go back to campus and get back in bed. But eventually the tickle in his throat was gone and he reopened his book—Keats’ collective works. He was annotating To Autumn for no other reason than for pleasure.
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows titter in the skies.
There was something about the entire final stanza that made Eddie’s chest ache, the palms of his hands tingle with emotion and nostalgia. He raised his ink pen to make a note but found himself at a loss for words. How could he articulate a feeling he couldn’t quite identify?
Eddie sighed heavily, his throat cracking painfully with mucus, and looked up from the page. The Northwoods were so secluded, he could practically pretend he was the only person left in the world. He liked that idea.
Eddie didn’t have many friends, but he didn’t really feel like he needed them anyway. The hole he had tried to fill after leaving the Losers was never satiable, so he was always left feeling emptier with each attempt. He contented himself with his roommate, Allen, and the occasional letter from Richie. For the first year or so of school, he had met up with Beverly for coffee a few times each semester to catch up, but they had both become too busy to keep the tradition up. He hadn’t thought of her in a few months now, much less heard from her. Eddie pushed his glasses higher on his nose and looked back down at his book.
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Ouch. That painful tingle again, like being tased with a joy buzzer.
With another sigh came another bout of coughing. Eddie finally resigned to retrieving his aspirator from his bag. He unzipped it and began rifling through his things. He pushed aside his fanny pack, which he had been carrying within his backpack for almost three years now but couldn’t quite remember why—Allen said it was dumb to carry a bag within a bag, especially when Eddie never even opened it (he couldn’t even remember what was inside), but something deep within him told him to just leave it there, that he’d put it in there for a reason. So, he left it there. It took up an annoying amount of space in his bag, but he’d grown used to it, almost so he didn’t even notice it anymore.
After taking a breath of the damned camphor water, Eddie packed up his book and began to wander through the trees, back in the direction of 5th Avenue. Maybe he would get a coffee on the way back to campus, to soothe his throat. Probably shouldn’t, he thought, especially if I want to ensure I have enough money to pay rent through the summer.
It was May 1st. Eddie walked straight past the post office without even realizing it was his day to write Richie.
Chapter 20: SUMMER 2019: PART I
“How much do you remember, Rich?”
“Very little. Enough, I suppose.”
“Will you come?”
“… I’ll come.”
Richie Tozier stared at the outdated dream catcher swinging from the cabbie’s rearview mirror, replaying the last 24 hours over and over in his head because it was all he could really remember.
George. He remembered George fairly easily. Maybe because George was where it all started for the ole Lucky Seven. But beyond that, just snippets. Glimpses into a past he couldn’t even be sure was his own. How could I have forgotten so much?
“You said the Town House, right mister?” The cabbie broke the heavy silence within the car.
“That’s right,” Richie said, shaken out of his thoughts. He glanced down at his watch and, after a moment’s consideration, said, “Second thought, just pull over when we get to Witcham. I can walk the rest of the way.”
“You sure? It’s quite a ways.”
Richie tipped the driver generously at the corner where Witcham met Route 2 and assured him he would find his way. Richie didn’t think his feet could forget the familiar paths trodden through Derry for so many years if they wanted to. However, it was not to Derry Town House that he was walking.
He followed the cab down Witcham towards town for a while, toting his leather duffle over his shoulder, before veering off to parallel West Broadway. As he walked, he let himself remember things. In his mind’s eye, things were still not as clear as he would have liked them to be, but it was somehow refreshing all the same. It was like picking up a familiar book after years since having read it last and remembering all of your favorite parts as you read.
In the distance he could see the standpipe—at that, he felt goosebumps rise on his arms in spite of the warm May sun. To his left, he passed a large Queen Anne Victorian that had a fresh coat of moss-green paint and a flourishing garden, encased in a white fence, taking up much of the front yard.
Wow. That name came out of nowhere. Yet Richie’s mind was flooded with the memory of crashing his beloved Camaro through that garden fence. Holy hell. I must have been shitfaced. But something about the memory didn’t quite sit right. Maybe that’s not what happened, Richie thought, maybe it didn’t happen at all.
West Broadway intersected Kansas Street and now Richie’s destination was visible. The vast expanse of the Barrens stretched out before him. A bit further down the street was a boulder the size of a small car. Bill used to stash Silver there so that Bowers wouldn’t see it.
Richie smiled to himself as he jogged across the street and over to the big rock. He examined it a moment, hoping for more recollections, but none came. It was just a rock, after all. He dropped his bag behind the rock, hidden in the tallgrass, and started his descent into the lush woods. It didn’t take him long to immediately regret his decision to so.
Richie was a far cry from a kid these days, and to think tramping through undergrowth and dodging low-hung branches wasn’t easier as a scrawny agile kid was a far cry from the truth. Richie found himself being scratched up, wacked in the face, tripped up by roots, and generally degraded by the nature he had regarded so fondly as a kid but had grown apart from during his time living in the city.
“Why on God’s good green earth Mike insists we meet here of all places is beyond me—“ Richie was muttering when he heard trampling sounds similar to his own somewhere off to his left. His immediate thought was Bowers Criss Huggins WE’RE GONNA GETCHA SMARTASS FUCKFACE FAGGOT FOUREYED FAGGOT you can’t hide in your little baby fort forever you and your loser friends are DONE we're not faggots we're not losers you're the fuckfaces please don't break my glasses again my dad will kill me—
And then something more sinister crossed his mind, children’s missing posters flashing before his eyes and the dank smell of sewage, soaked-through socks and dirt-smudged glasses and a light brighter than the sun.
A man emerged from a dense patch of trees, swatting aside a branch as he came into view. There was a brief moment before he looked up and saw Richie, but the moment he did, Richie felt as if he’d been drenched in ice water Flashdance style, but with far less glamour—more like he came out looking like a wet cat.
His hair was thick, dark, but flecked with grey, the streaks most prominent in his neat sideburns. He was thin and his frame was frail even under the casual sportcoat he was wearing. The delicate fingers of one hand held tight to the strap of a cylindrical rucksack/duffle bag hybrid on his shoulder while the other hand kept a branch from ricocheting into his face.
Eddie’s eyes were the same—the same deep brown as fallen acorns in autumn, the rich soft earth after a November rain, gazing out brightly behind the lenses of semi-round steel frame glasses (that are so much better than the Ralphie Parker relics he used to wear, Richie thought, and then, how the hell do I remember that?). The bridge of Eddie’s glasses rested comfortably on his perfectly sloped nose, across which a spattering of fading freckles was still visible, heirlooms of his youth.
Richie couldn’t be sure how long they stood there staring at each other, but the shock didn’t seem to wear off with time. Finally, Richie heard Eddie’s whistling exhale.
“Rich?” he chanced.
Richie swallowed hard. His voice was changed, raspy and somehow more adult-like, but he could still hear the familiar warmth in his own name on Eddie’s lips.
“I sure hope you weren’t expecting the Queen of England, Eddie Spaghetti.”
“Oh my God,” Eddie breathed, closing the distance between them in three long strides. He reached Richie and threw his arms around his neck, and Richie quickly reciprocated. It was the fiercest and most genuine hug Richie had been a part of since he could remember. Which, I suppose, isn’t saying much, he thought bitterly.
Richie could hear Eddie laughing over his shoulder and the sound made his palms tingle. “Fuck, this is like a goddamned episode of Twilight Zone,” he mumbled, chuckling to himself. Here he was hugging his best friend from all those years ago, the boy he would've given his life for, the boy he protected and cared for and teased, the boy he loved like a brother. But suddenly (too soon!) Eddie’s hold on him slackened and Richie heard his laughter turn to hitched gasps. Releasing his old friend and holding his shoulders at arm’s length, Richie watched Eddie fumble into his pocket and bring out an inhaler. He brought it desperately to his mouth and took a huge suck of camphor.
“Eddie Kaspbrak blasts off!” Richie yelled with a hoot, disbelievingly. “God almighty, folks, all of Derry has turned out today to see the great Captain Kaspbrak himself take on new heights to bring pride to asthmatics far and wide!”
“Beep beep, Richie,” Eddie retorted, capping his inhaler, and the two men immediately froze. It had been over a quarter of a century since Richie had heard those words; it had most definitely been just as long since Eddie had spoken them.
“Holy shit, what is happening?” Eddie finally whispered.
“Fuck if I know,” Richie replied, raking a hand through his hair. “This is all… surreal. I’m almost convinced it’s not happening. This is all a dream. I’ll wake up tomorrow and realize I’ve still got work in an hour.”
“Fucking realistic dream,” Eddie muttered, fidgeting with his inhaler.
They stood there for a moment, the only sounds being those of the Barrens, which had remained blessedly unchanged in their time away from Derry.
“Do you know where the hell you’re going?” Eddie asked him at last.
“Not a clue. I just figured I’d make my way down to the river and follow it downstream from there.”
“That’s smart. Let’s do that.”
“Was that a… a compliment from The Cynic himself?”
“Jesusfuck, I don’t know what I would have done if you’d grown up quiet, you know that?”
“Is that a thing people our age say?” Richie asked, starting forward again and pushing aside a branch for Eddie. “’Jesusfuck’?"
“I don’t know,” Eddie said, “That was the first time I’ve said it since I was a kid.”
“Mike said things would come back to us slowly. He wouldn’t tell me anything over the phone.”
“What happens if things don’t come back in time? Like… what if there’s important stuff that we need to remember now but it hasn’t come back yet?”
“I guess you’ll have to ask Mike when we get there.”
“I guess I will,” Richie said, stepping over a fallen tree trunk.
They reached the Kenduskeag a short while later and walked parallel to it, following the direction of the water. They caught up on trivial things, but it was interesting nonetheless. Richie found out that Eddie had completed his business major a year early and had immediately gone to graduate school, only to come out pisspoor and unable to find work. By some miracle, he’d turned up at just the right moment at a local limousine company, where a majority of the drivers had gone on strike just before the Grammys, and from there he had steadily worked his way up the totem pole until the previous owner retired and handed the entire business to him on a silver platter.
“It was pretty hard work at the beginning, but I’m my own boss now, so… neither here nor there, I guess.”
“That’s incredible Eds,” Richie said sincerely.
“Richie, do not call me Eds. We are grown-ass adults. If this is seriously a conversation we’re going to continue into the 21st century I think I’d rather kill myself.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Eds, you’ve always loved it.”
“Shut up, Richie.”
“I mean, if it really irks you I can always call you—“
“Shut up, Richie!” Eddie hissed, holding his hand back to stop Richie from walking into him. They stood still for a moment, listening to the sound of the river gliding along beside them. And then there was the unmistakable sound of laughter not far up ahead.
They began to move with purpose, then, towards the sounds of the voices. Slowly, things started to look familiar, certain trees and rocks, landmarks of their childhood. Finally, the trees opened up into a clearing and the river widened, and there were the Losers circled around twenty feet away and deep in light-hearted conversation. Richie felt he could have just stepped through a portal back to 1989 and instinctively reached up to reposition his coke-bottle glasses that weren’t there.
Eddie turned back to Richie, a look of pure excitement etched into every line of his once familiar face. For a moment, the severity of the situation, the prospect of facing whatever was so terrifying that summer, was forgotten. They were together. They were finally together again. And it felt like home.
In a moment, Eddie spun back around and began trotting towards their friends. But Richie hung back, watching. While everything felt so… so right, so solidly exact, like this was where he was meant to be and who he was meant to be with, there was something else nagging at his subconscious. Somehow, not everything was as it should be, like two sets of train tracks that didn’t quite line up and so there was no way the train could pass safely… or at all, for that matter.
He assumed this must be a missing memory, a gaping hole in his recollection of his childhood spent in Derry. This is normal, he thought, Mike warned us we wouldn’t remember it all right away. But this felt important. And Richie could only hope he would remember it in time.
Richie dumped his bag onto the bed in his suite at the Town House and immediately turned to the mini bar. It’ll probably cost me a goddamned fortune to make myself a martini but I’ve never needed a drink more in my life, he thought.
Reuniting with the Losers had been like a crazy trip, and while the memories were still only chugging back to him at the same rate as a Derry Public School bus the morning of the first snow of the year, it was overwhelming nonetheless.
The smoke hole the quarry the Apocalyptic Rock Fight the Turtle the Aladdin Mike’s photo album Ben’s dam Bev’s bathroom Eddie’s arm—
Richie slammed the mini bar closed and twisted open the tiny bottle of vermouth, resisting the temptation to just down the liquor straight.
Mike said things would come back… and they are. But why do I feel like I’m still missing something important? Richie thought back to the Barrens while he mixed his drink. It was unreal seeing his childhood friends well into their 40s. He supposed they thought the same of seeing him, but he had never particularly thought of himself as a (gulp) adult. It was strange how gradual the transition was so that, one day, you’re staring at yourself in the mirror and realize that at some point you grew up. Richie resented it.
Although they were all older, everyone still looked about the same, the way that parents look like weathered versions of themselves from old school photos. Beverly’s hair was still red as ever, but her freckles had faded; Bill assured us he had gotten his stutter under control before his final year of college, but it had made a reappearance following Mike’s phone call (Mike joked that he was just using him as a scapegoat for never having gotten a handle on the speech impediment); Ben had lost a great deal of weight and was now enjoying recognition and awards galore for his successful (if not controversial) take on modern architecture.
The most notable difference, however, was Stanley Uris’ absence. Mike regretfully informed us that Stan the Man had offed himself not an hour after hearing from his old childhood friend. That news had been thrown on their cheerful mood like a wet blanket.
And then there was the business of the business. What they were there to do. The reason they all kept their promise. Mike had told them all he was willing to, but he didn’t want to scare them off with the gravity of the situation, and so here Richie was, taking his martini to the edge of the bed to sit down and blink the burning contacts out of his eyes, pondering what it was that was nagging his heart so strongly he thought it had to be the true reason for his return to this hellhole.
Richie had taken a sip of his drink, but with a deep sigh he tilted his head back and downed the rest in two swallows. He stared at the empty glass for a moment before placing it on the floor and falling back onto the bed, rubbing his eyes tiredly. The Losers had all flown in immediately, except for Eddie, who had come by train (he always loved trains) and looked slightly less tired than the rest of them.
Richie kept his hands over his eyes. He thought he felt the beginnings of a migraine—his head felt full of fluff and the lights were becoming a bit too bright for comfort. He couldn’t get the sound of Eddie’s voice saying his name in their moment of recognition out of his ears. It had sounded so warm and familiar, more so than hearing it from all of his friends and colleagues back in Hollywood, more so even than hearing it out of any of the other Losers that afternoon.
Richie’s heart stirred at the memory of Eddie appearing in front of him at the Barrens. He clamped his hands tighter over his eyes to block out the light that was growing steadily, painfully brighter.
How many years had it been since he had thought of Eddie Kaspbrak? Fifteen? Twenty? His heart lurched now, with something like… guilt?
The light was more than painfully bright now—it was excruciating. The tiny slivers of red-tinted light that peeked through his fingertips were like fluorescent bands just millimeters from his eyes. There was dread in the pit of Richie’s stomach.
Removing his hands from his eyes, he thought he knew what sight would greet him before he even chanced a look. While the insanely bright light was somehow entirely gone, the overhead light of the hotel room was completely obscured by helium balloons of every color—in fact, the entire ceiling was invisible for the balloons covering it.
Richie felt his chest tighten up and his fists clench the bedspread under him, but that was all he could do. Having lost all ability to control his motor functions, he felt frozen. He felt like (dare I think it) a kid.
“GET OUT,” a horribly loud voice boomed through the room, every bit as familiar as Eddie’s but with none of the sentimental charm.
“Fuck,” Richie heard himself say in a small voice. And then, startling him so badly he jumped, the opening notes of an old song by The Cure that he hadn’t heard in ages rang out, seemingly from nowhere. It was an echoic and disturbing version of the song that sent chills up his spine.
“GET OUT, TRASHMOUTH. GET OUT, BEFORE IT GETS DARK. YOU’RE TOO OLD. YOU’RE ALL TOO OLD TO FACE ME. I ALMOST TOOK YOU THEN. I’LL TAKE YOU NOW.”
“No,” Richie said, but his voice was still unimpressive.
“GET OUT. GET OUT TOZIER. GET YOUR FRIENDS AND GET OUT. YOU’D DO BEST NOT TO REMEMBER, ANYWAY, TRASHBOY.”
Now, that sounded like a taunt. A well-informed taunt. “FUCK OFF,” Richie shouted into the empty room. “FUCK RIGHT OFF, GODDAMNED ASS-CLOWN. IF YOU KNEW WHAT WAS GOOD FOR YOU, YOU’D CRAWL BACK INTO THE MUSTY-ASS CRATER YOU CAME FROM.”
But the voice continued to ring in his ears, and now the balloons were losing their lift, descending slowly like a multicolored blanket.
“GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT TOZIER GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET—“
Richie is on his knees hefting Eddie’s limp body into his chest there’s warm blood sticky on his hands blood on his shirt Eddie’s head falls into his shoulder blood-covered tear-streaked but still his laugher lines were visible freckles the only remnants of youth he’s so light he’s so frail there is so much blood more blood than should be allowed in one human being more life than one person alone can handle and he looks gone but
“Eds—“ Richie begs and
“Richie, for the last time,” Eddie whispers with blood on his lips “don’t call me that” but the last few words are lost and
“I TOLD YOU TOZIER. I TOLD YOU TO GET OUT, BEFORE IT GOT DARK. GET OUT… GET OUT… GET—“
“Eds… Eds…” Richie could think of nothing else and
“GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT”
The light was returning painful and concentrated filling more than space but time before—
The cloud of balloons exploded rather than popped, all at once, and were followed by a deafening silence.
Richie was left staring up at the rotating shadow cast onto the white popcorn ceiling by the lazily spinning overhead fan.
Eddie couldn’t believe when Richie pulled up to his hotel behind the wheel of a Chevy Camaro. Granted, it was a rental, but something told him Richie owned one eerily similar back in California. Until that moment, he had completely forgotten that Richie used to have a Camaro, all the times they drove to school together in it, the Losers all piling in to do donuts in the train yards when it snowed, driving through the Bowers cornfield in the dead of night with Butch Bowers chasing after them with a push broom. Eddie knew his mother would have died of shock had she known the excursions undergone in Tozier’s Cheggy. As with everything else, Eddie’s memory of the Camaro felt fragmented, but it was a feeling he was growing accustomed to.
“Ready, Spaghetti?” Richie asked as he climbed into the passenger seat. It was safe to say that this Camaro was no Cheggy.
“Cut it out Richie, we’re not fourteen anymore,” Eddie said, pushing his backpack between his feet.
“I wasn’t aware spaghetti had an age restriction.”
“Right, Eds, I’ll be more careful next time, I promise—”
“Richie, do not fucking call me that,” Eddie felt a furious blush coming on. To his relief (as well as confusion) Richie fell unusually quiet as they drove through Derry towards Neibolt. The silence even became a bit uncomfortable with the knowledge of what they were about to do, and in his mental scavenger hunt for something to lighten the mood, Eddie remembered what he had meant to tell Richie earlier that day.
“Hey, take a look at this,” Eddie reached down and unzipped his bag. He had emptied out all of his clothes and toiletries in the hotel room and had kept packed only the essentials for a monster hunt: his cell phone, a pair of insulated and waterproofed engineer boots, a (DESCRIPTION?) bowie knife inherited from his father when he was a kid with no real purpose for it in mind, a healthy share of pills and prescriptions for any and all symptoms may plague the user, a fresh inhaler, and—
“Holy shit, Eddie,” Richie nearly gasped as Eddie pulled out a weathered fanny pack.
“I know right? How long has it been since you’ve seen one of these?” Eddie was grinning.
“Fucking A. You used to keep the entire damned pharmacy in one of those things, that literally just came back to me.”
“Give the man a cigar,” Eddie chimed.
“Please tell me you’re not still wearing that thing in the year 2019—“
“This one actually has quite an interesting history, I think,” Eddie started, but he saw the look Richie was giving him out of the corner of his eye and realized that he hadn’t answered the question. “No, I do not still wear a fanny pack in the year 2019,” he said truthfully, but Richie looked skeptical. Eddie rolled his eyes. “As I was saying-
After Mike called me, I didn’t hesitate to start packing. I felt like if I stopped moving, if I let myself overthink even the tiniest bit, I would let myself finish packing a bag and take the first flight through a warzone. So, I just started throwing things into a bag without a second thought. It’s funny because this bag is new… bought it within the last year or two, I guess… and I don’t ever remember putting this in there—“ Eddie lifted the fanny pack slightly, “—but when I pulled the bag out of the closet and this fell out onto my bed, the first few memories came rushing back. Not from Derry, not from that summer, but from afterwards. College. I remember my roommate giving me a hard time for carrying a fanny pack around inside my backpack, transferring it over every time I got a new bag but never opening it up.”
Richie was listening intently, making no attempt to interrupt.
“I opened it,” Eddie said. He wanted Richie to engage in the story somehow, to act like his normal self.
“And?” Richie prompted, satisfying Eddie enough to continue.
As answer, Eddie unzipped the fanny pack right then and there and produced an old Viewmaster. A kid’s toy. Talk about anticlimactic.
“The fuck does that mean?” Richie scoffed. Eddie couldn’t help but agree with his tone—up to this point, everything had seemed so calculated, nothing having happened without reason. This random blip on the Derry Radar was nothing but befuddling.
“Beats me,” Eddie said bringing the Viewmaster up to his glasses and clicking through the film a few times. The reel was a collection of images of the cosmos.
They came to a red light. The turn onto Neibolt Street was visible and Eddie felt goosebumps spring up on his arms.
“Let me have a look,” Richie said, holding his hand out for the toy, and Eddie handed it to him.
Richie put the Viewmaster up to his own face and squinted his eyes a bit as he looked through the viewfinder. With a flash of remembrance that was almost winding, Eddie was suddenly looking at an 18-year-old Richie, his hair a curly mess, his glasses as thick as his index finger, a spatter of summer freckles on the cheekbone visible in profile, thin hands gripping the Viewmaster while a youthful, shit-eating grin played across his face. He wasn’t in the Camaro, but was in Eddie’s bedroom, and The Cure was playing in the background, and Richie’s voice, so different from now but still so familiar: “What if I started wearing my hair like Robert Smith?... You wouldn’t know if I were kidding, Eddie Spaghetti… Would you have done that if I had Robert Smith hair?”
“Rich,” Eddie said softly.
“Maybe you’re supposed to use it as a weapon. Click It to death with a series of fourteen photos of the stars.”
Eddie watched Richie take the Viewmaster down from his eyes and toss it back over to Eddie. The latter man felt a realization, a memory on the edge of his brain, just barely out of sight, and was sure of its importance, but his grasp on it slipped when Richie started the car forward again.
Eddie swallowed hard. “Beep beep, Richie,” he said half-heartedly.
“Hey now, I didn’t put up with twenty-seven years of radio silence to hear ‘beep beeps’ that sound as pathetic as that one,” Richie teased, but even the laughter seemed taken out of him as they turned onto Neibolt.
Richie parked the car a block away from 29. Eddie could see the Losers half a block down, gathered closely, the sun setting beautifully behind them.
Eddie started to open his door, but stopped when he heard Richie say his name so quietly he could have imagined it.
“Eddie…” he said again, and then a long pause. He was staring out the windshield, but his eyes looked distant. “Are you sure you wanna do this?”
Eddie looked at him. “You say it as if we have a choice.”
“We only promised to come back, Eds, we didn’t sign up to go tramping through the fucking sewers—“
“Richard Tozier if you call me ‘Eds’ one more fucking time—“
“Eddie, please reconsider this. This is insanity. It’s a suicide mission. We have no idea what we’re up against.”
Eddie looked at Richie, his thin face hard. “We have a hell of a lot better idea than all of the other kids in this town.” Mentally, Richie noted that Eddie said this as if he were still a kid residing in Derry. “You can’t tell me you won’t feel… guilty. That you won’t feel responsible for everyone who loses their life to this thing if we don’t try and stop It now.”
Richie turned his head and Eddie was startled to find such a sad intensity in his eyes that he was speechless. “I’m afraid I’m going to feel responsible for everyone who loses their life to this thing while we’re trying to stop it now.”
Eddie swallowed his words. That had been unexpected.
“Richie,” Eddie said, floundering now. “We’re all adults. We can take care of ourselves. And we can make our own decisions. And in the end, that’s why we’re all here together. We need each other. It’s always been that way. Lucky—“ Eddie stopped himself. He had been about to say ‘lucky seven’, and he could tell Richie knew it.
“We got lucky once. This time, we win,” Eddie said. He zipped his bag closed, stepped out of the car, and slung a strap over his shoulder. Richie turned off the car and followed suit. The two of them stared at each other from across the roof of the car.
Then there was a sharp whistle and Eddie’s head whipped around to see Bev beckoning them down the street.
Eddie stepped out of the car and closed the door, starting towards his old friends and the house that haunted his childhood. He didn’t look back over his shoulder, but he could feel Richie’s sad gaze on his back and hoped to death it was unwarranted. But still, there had been something else behind his familiar eyes, a knowledge of something he was holding back. Eddie had been reminded of all of the times when they were kids that the Losers refrained from sharing things with him for fear of setting off a panic attack. Frustrated, Eddie set his shoulders and walked on. We’ll all come out of this together, just like we did the first time. We’ll do it for Derry, this shithole town that never did anything for any of us. We’ll do it for Stan.
“Come on, Rich. We’ve got work to do.”
AN EPILOGUE WILL BE COMING SOON--MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH WARNING
I just wanted to finish the fic so that those who would be triggered/would rather not read a major character death could still finish the story. STAY TUNED IF INTERESTED!
Chapter 22: EPILOGUE
THIS IS THE EPILOGUE. TRIGGER WARNING (in case the fic tags weren't hint enough) :: MAJOR CHARACTER DEATH AHEAD.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Walking through 29 Neibolt might as well have been walking through a time warp. The Losers looked around with cautious nostalgia, small details of their newly recovered memories still filling in gaps. Walking through the foyer, Richie glanced into the parlor and remembered POLICE DEPARTMENT CITY OF DERRY MISSING RICHIE TOZIER LAST SEEN JULY 4 DESCRIPTION DATE OF BIRTH HEIGHT WEIGHT WEARING “FREESE’S” T-SHIRT IT SAYS I’M MISSING THAT’S MY HAIR THAT’S MY FACE THAT’S MY NAME THAT’S MY AGE THAT’S THE DATE GIMMIE A SEC NO IT SAYS IT SAYS IT WHAT THE FUCK AM I MISSING AM I GOING TO GO MISSING WHAT THE FUCK
Bill’s hands. Bill’s hands gripping his own so tight he lost feeling in his fingertips for a moment. Eddie’s eyes met his, the rest of his face covered by his tightly tented hands—he could hear his friend’s breath wheezing and his eyes were wild, scared for Richie beyond anything he’d ever thought possible. Shame—Richie felt guilty for scaring him so badly, immediately regretting his brief panic, listening closely to Bill’s words without taking his eyes off Eddie, trying his hardest to calm the FUCK down—
Eddie knew they would have to walk through the kitchen to get to the cellar stairs. He was following closely behind Bill, so close he worried he would step on his heels if he didn’t watch himself. Mike and Richie were side-by-side behind him, Ben and Beverly falling in last.
Entering the kitchen, which was lazily lit with the setting sun through the boarded windows and the empty door jamb where the kitchen door had rotted away, Eddie felt an involuntary surge of memory flood through his head GET EDDIE GET EDDIE OH FUCK FUCK WE GOTTA GET OUT OF HERE NO NO NO NO GET EDDIE LET’S GO GUYS WATCH OUT IT’S GONNA GET US NO NO NO NO
EDDIE LOOK AT ME!
Richie’s hands. Richie’s cold, shaking hands gripping the sides of his sweat-streaked
face and Eddie didn’t want to, he didn’t want to look away from It for a single second lest It charge them, lest it take one of his friends from him, but he had to, he couldn’t stand to watch, and what if that friend that was taken away from him was Richie, what if this was some higher power hinting that this could be his last chance to LOOK AT HIM oh God he’s terrified, his eyes are manic, do my eyes look that manic? Does he look like that because of me? Is he looking at me like that because I’m sitting here, screaming my ass off while his literal worst fear hunts us like rabbits oh God he’s scared for me, he’s petrified for me, we have to get the FUCK out of here—
Bill put out a hand and the cellar door swung open without a sound; the absence of a creak or the rusty grinding of the hinges somehow made the moment even more ominous. After a moment’s hesitation at the top of the steps, he started down into the dim crypt-like room. Eddie swallowed hard and followed close.
As they descended, Eddie made a mental note of how cool it was despite the May heat, how the air was damp with something like the opposite of humidity; it was moist and thick like death. His hand went to his pants pocket, where his inhaler was tucked snuggly against his thigh, and resisted the urge to gasp on it.
Bill approached the ancient well with a confidence that was awe-inspiring. Eddie and the others followed suit. As he walked up beside Eddie, Richie grabbed the rope they had secured to the industrial drop hook all those years ago—with a significant glance at Mike, he dropped it over the side of the well. The Losers watched it disappear into darkness.
“Well, Big Bill,” Richie said, pushing the rope in front of Eddie towards Bill. “Age before beauty.”
Richie had helped Eddie get situated on the rope and had watched him shimmy down with a dull ache in his heart. Something was going to happen. Something that he had seen in his dreams as a bright-eyed kid, something he had been reminded of just hours earlier as a weary adult, something he couldn’t quite grasp the significance of. There was more to this final showdown than he was realizing. He remembered Eddie’s eyes meeting his during their first encounter with It, terrified, screaming uncontrollably—
Eddie’s eyes meeting his from behind a cloud of Richie’s Lucky smoke, sitting comfortably on Stanley Uris’ rooftop, concerned, determined—
Eddie’s eyes meeting his as he recounted the time he found Beverly incapacitated on the curb on Kansas Street, the mind is a lot more fragile than we think, I kept my promise—
Promise. Richie helped Ben grab onto the rope and tried to ignore what felt like a machete to the chest. I broke a promise… but what promise? I came back, didn’t I? That was the Biggie, the Kicker… The Blood Oath.
Richie looked up to see Mike raising his eyebrows expectantly. “I’ll follow you down, Mikey. Right on your tail.”
Richie remembered the tunnels being much wider, easier to maneuver. He supposed that was with good reason—he had barely been five feet tall the last time he and his friends had ventured down there. He heard his name called further down the tunnel and straightened up too much too quickly, hitting his head on the rough ceiling.
“Jesus Christ,” he hissed, rubbing the back of his scalp ruefully. “I’m coming, don’t get your panties in a wad.”
Navigating the tunnels was slow-going. Some innate part of Eddie still allowed him to recall the way to the cistern—either that, or whatever magic had brought them all together that summer. Richie watched him in admiration as he directed Bill at each fork, the sound of running water surrounding them from all sides.
Once or twice Richie was positive he heard shuffling footsteps following along behind them, but every time he turned, prepared to fight, he was faced with nothing but darkness.
The tunnel they had been traversing for what felt like miles suddenly began to widen so that even Richie, at well over six feet tall, was able to stand without slouching. And then there was the opening, the enormous drain into the cistern, the cistern that, while Richie hadn’t realized it before, was the setting of every nightmare he’d had since that summer; every time he woke up in a cold sweat and couldn’t remember why, the damp stink of this horrible cathedral had been in his nostrils.
Richie didn’t have to look up to know what the others were seeing. All of the missing children of Derry, all of those who had disappeared seemingly randomly in autumn 2018 and all of those who had been strung together in what was thought to be serial kidnappings in 2019 before Mike had called them—they were all there. Floating, he thought in a voice that wasn’t his.
“Holy fuck,” he heard Ben whisper. “Holy…” but his voice trailed away at the sight of Bill, who was slowly falling away from his friends, taking tentative steps towards the shadow of a small boy hidden amongst the pile of innumerable trophies in the center of the cistern.
“Juh-Georgie,” Bill gasped, almost inaudible.
“Do you remember, Billy? Do you remember me now?” The voice was small, innocent, hurt. Convincing.
“I f-f-forgot you George. I did, I kn…hoh I did… I forgot. I’m sorry—”
I’m sorry, Richie. I forgot you. I promised—
Richie pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes desperately—he was on the edge of it, the memory on the tip of his brain’s metaphorical tongue—
“Bill, NO!” Bill had stepped towards the Thing masquerading as his long-dead brother and Mike had darted forward to pull him back. In the split second that this happened, the late George Denbrough’s face seemed to melt away, revealing pincers like those of a massive spider, that snapped over the place that Bill’s hand had been just a moment before.
And just like that, all hell broke loose. No time to think of the past now, this was happening in the present, happening again like they all knew it would in some deep corner of their hearts.
Mike and Bill tripped over their own feet stumbling away from It and fell backward together. It took advantage of their momentary weakness and advanced on them, allowing itself to transform into something like a giant pterodactyl. It was absurd seeing such an enormity bursting from a 6-year-old’s body, but with all that had come back to him in the last day or so, he couldn’t be surprised by anything by now—only terrified.
It reared It’s head back and with an almighty screech, bared It’s ten-foot beak down into the stone. Mike and Bill managed to scrabble back in just enough time, watching as the dinosaur’s spear of a mouth plunged into the ground just inches before them, leaving a gaping hole in it’s wake.
Beverly, struck with sudden inspiration, rushed to the collection of dead children’s toys and, after a moment’s frantic deliberation, selected an antique Bullseye slingshot. As she sprinted back towards her friends, she leaned down and grabbed a random handful of rocks from the ground, hoping they would be solid enough to withstand the force of hitting her target.
Bill and Mike were helping each other to their feet and retreating back to the rest of the Losers, all of them watching in horror as the dinosaur shrunk back down, but without getting any less intimidating. It had now taken the shake of the 15-foot Paul Bunyan statue that was erected downtown. “For fuck’s sake…” Richie breathed.
They watched as Beverly stepped to the front of the group, aimed up at the animated plaster, and, biting on her cheek with her left eye closed, fired a stone at the monstrosity’s head.
There was a moment when Richie was sure she had missed, but in what seemed like a stroke of luck, the rock appeared to swerve and nail the motherfucker right in the cheekbone. Where the rock dug in, a pool of light flooded out of Its face.
“Taking ‘Apocalyptic Rock Fight’ to the next level, huh, Bev?” Richie couldn’t help himself, and Beverly turned to flash him an insane smile. She turned back to It, loaded another stone, aimed, and fired.
But right as she let it fly, It spun on the spot and was suddenly a swarm of insects, buzzing angrily in a malleable cloud that went on forever. Ben pulled Beverly back just before she was enveloped in the insects’ furious horde.
“Now what?” she cried, unable, like the others, to take her eyes away from the swarm. It seemed to be expanding, the insects multiplying, pushing the Losers further and further back. The wall of the cistern was fast approaching—soon there would be nowhere to go.
Beside him, Richie felt Eddie gasp convulsively and he began digging through his pants pockets furiously. He looked down and saw Eddie pull out his inhaler. There was a moment of stillness where his friend simply looked down at it, weighing it, assessing its power, and Richie looked down at him in the same way. Battery acid. Richie knew what was going to happen a moment before it took place.
Eddie uncapped the inhaler and gripped it so tightly his knuckles were visibly white in the dim light of the sewer. He seemed to steel himself; his jaw locked, his eyes set, flitting amongst the cloud of ever-moving insects. There was a deep belief in his eyes, a complete confidence in himself, in his power, his weapon, his heart. It scared Richie.
“Ed—” Richie started, putting out an arm to stop him, but he was a second too late.
Eddie stepped out before his friends, held out his right arm until it was shoulder-deep into the swarm, and triggered his inhaler. Even with the incessant buzzing, the roaring of moving water elsewhere in the system, and the screams of the Losers, the soft breath of the inhaler was audible. It gave the friends inexplicable chills, and somewhere deep in their minds they heard something like a wail. Its hurt.
Eddie was staring furiously at the cloud, unblinking, unfazed. And then It changed.
The swarm collapsed in on itself, a solid shape once more, and to his credit, Eddie did not recoil. He stood, his right arm out, held in the grasp of the Leper. Richie could see the tendons in his neck tighten for just a moment. He watched in horror as the Leper tightened Its hold on Eddie’s arm and, with a strength that did not match Its form, snapped both the ulna and radius in one clean jerk. Eddie’s mouth fell open in a silent scream, and Richie started forward to pull him back when the Leper took it one step further and, with a grunt, ripped Eddie’s arm free of its socket, detaching at the shoulder.
“EDDIE!” there was a collective scream from the Losers and they watched as Eddie stumbled back, now free from the Leper’s grasp, falling into Richie as he tried to close the distance between them. Richie dragged him back, distantly aware that Eddie wasn’t screaming—he wasn’t making any noise at all.
Bill must have been acutely reminded of George. With a guttural scream, he grabbed what looked like the remains of a Flexible Flyer and swung it at the back of the Leper’s decomposing skull. It doubled over, shuddered for a moment, and when It straightened up again, the Losers were face-to-face with Pennywise the Clown.
GET OUT. GET OUT TOZIER, BEFORE IT GETS DARK.
That was all it took. Richie’s mind was inundated with a stream of fresh memories, but these were different, these were pure because things were okay, things were okay because he was okay, he was safe, I can’t tell him, it’s not that simple, nothing is that simple anymore but
RICHIE! Eddie’s eyes are soft and persistent and determined and suddenly he’s close, so close I can smell him he smells like wood smoke and chocolate and now his lips are on mine and I think I like it no I know I like it how long have I been waiting for this, subconsciously hoping this day would come and now it’s here but oh God I’ve watched him DIE I’ve watched that Goddamned Clown kill the boy I love and
IF YOU CARED, YOU’D STAY this is my fault boyfriends you won’t forget me, right? Eds, how could I ever I couldn’t ever forget you, Eddie Spaghetti you promise? I promise.
Not in a million years, Rich. Never. I promise.
“I forgot,” he heard himself whisper, with sad realization. “I forgot our promise, Eds. I forgot you.”
Eddie was becoming heavy in his arms. Out of eyes that didn’t seem like his own, he saw the Clown’s jaws stretching, gaping, revealing an unearthly light that was all-consuming, spreading, becoming
(impossibly brighter with each passing moment and Richie’s not even sure if he’s looking at it anymore or if it’s just everywhere and everything consuming him indefinitely until finally)
As the deadlights took hold of Richie, he felt himself lower Eddie to the ground with all the care he could muster. Involuntarily, his legs took him, step by slow step, to Bill’s side, where they stood frozen, entranced. In some other consciousness, he heard Ben screaming, screaming at Bev to KILL IT, KILL IT BEV DO IT NOW and in that same consciousness outside his own body, he saw Beverly load a stone into the Bullseye, reel back, and release with a light huff of breath.
The stone soared over Its head and scuttled to the other side of the cistern. Ben was still screaming. Richie’s mind felt a million miles away from his body and he couldn’t stop hearing Eddie’s voice you won’t forget me right you won’t forget me right you won’t forget me right you wont
Mike pressed a huge rock, the biggest the Bullseye’s leather pouch could handle, into Beverly’s shaking hand. She swallowed hard and aimed between the backs of Bill and Richie’s heads. She let loose. The rock soared. It found home in the deadlights. There was an explosion of light
(everywhere and everything consuming indefinitely)
And an otherworldly yet unmistakable scream rang out through the space, echoing off the ceilings, bouncing repeatedly between the bodies floating above. The brightness reached a climax and then suddenly it was dark
(the contrast is almost painful and there is nothing but cold wet darkness that fills the air and penetrates lungs and obscures vision)
Richie came back to himself in an instant. He felt Bill’s renewed presence next to him as well. There was a moment when no one moved. Beverly was still in a stance appropriate for slinging another rock. Mike and Ben stood on either side of her, chests heaving, eyes wide. Slowly, Ben placed a hand on Bev’s shoulder. It was gone, swallowed by the light. A cosmic void took Its place. They felt It's absence being filled with creation.
And suddenly, Richie was acutely aware of muscle memory screaming at him to RUN
(a life depends on it so keep running because it’s all you can do for him, don’t you know it’s too late, it has always been too late)
Even though his muscles had never actually physically done the running—it had always just been in the Dream. The Dream with a capital ‘D’. The Dream (1992). A classic.
He turned on his heel and
(a crumpled shape becomes visible through the dark there is no such thing as calm and there is no such thing as fairness as life has always been a series of disappointments save)
Richie moves swiftly back to his friend (boyfriend, dolt) and falls to his knees by his side, hefting Eddie’s limp body into his chest. There’s warm blood, sticky on his hands, soaking through Eddie’s shirt. His body is so unevenly weighted with the loss of his arm—it’s still leaking blood into a steadily spreading pool around them, soaking Richie’s pants, but he hardly notices.
Eddie’s head fell softly onto Richie’s shoulder. He could feel his friends around him, approaching slowly; he could feel their realization, their crawling memories coming back, remembering them, remembering not That Summer, but That Autumn, Autumn 1992. A Beginning, and yet also An End.
Much to his annoyance, Richie’s eyes were clouding over. He looked down at Eddie’s face, blood-covered, tear-streaked, but still his faint laugher lines were visible, as were the dusting of freckles over his nose that were the only remnants of a youth forgotten.
“Eds,” Richie sobs, unable to hold back the emotion in his throat. He’s so light, so frail, and there’s so much blood, more blood than should be allowed in one human being, more life than one person can handle. He looks so gone—
“Richie,” Eddie breathed. Richie’s immediate reaction was to get Eddie his inhaler, but ironically he seemed to be breathing fine without it. While his thin chest was rising only minutely, his breathing sounded clear, uninhibited.
“Eds, I broke my promise. I forgot you. I forgot us. I promised you I would always love you and I fucked up Eds, I was supposed to protect you and I fucked everything up, this is my fault—”
“Richie, I forgot. I’m sorry. I promised… and I forgot… I forgot too…”
“I love you,” Richie said, less forcefully than he would have liked. His fight was draining. The magic was depleting. We’re not kids anymore, the stranger voice in his head rang out. “I love you, Eds. I never stopped loving you, there was a part of you with me always, I felt it, Eds, I know—”
“Richie, for the last time,” Eddie whispers. There’s blood on his lips and a soft smile—no, his soft smile, the one Richie would see ghosts of in the friends he made in college or fellow disk jockeys, Eddie Kaspbrak’s signature Soft Smile—playing at the corner of his mouth. “Don’t call me ‘Eds’." Eddie's left hand lifted weakly to Richie's cheek and wiped away a tear. Richie caught that left hand with his own. He could have sworn he felt a heat between their two palms where the scars of their childhood came together. Eddie's dark eyes shined up at him, overbright, and he took as deep a breath as his chest would allow. "… You know I….”
Eddie’s final words died before he did himself. Richie didn’t hear him finish his sentence, but in his mind, in his heart, he heard the last fragments of magic carry Eddie’s thoughts through him.
You know I love you. I always loved you, Rich.
Richie lowered his head and buried his face in Eddie Kaspbrak’s chest, allowing himself to hear the last breath leave his fragile lungs.
So that's that, I suppose. This fic has been a wild ride, I've had so much fun writing these guys. I've really fallen in love with the characters over the last five months. I feel a certain attachment to them, it's hard to explain, and I try not to be too annoying about it but I feel like I'm about to drive my roommate over the edge, so I think it's time I put this one on the shelf for a while.
As a closing note, I just want to say what a new appreciation for childhood I've gleaned from this story (the story in general, not my fic. That would be a bit conceited, dontcha think?). There's something so sad about friendships made when we're younger and what they become (or fail to become) as we mature. The same goes for our ideas and beliefs, our confidence that the world is made for the individual and that nothing can possibly go wrong so long as we're following our designated path. And then there's the things left behind, the things forgotten. I think the forgetting is the worst. But it's necessary. Inevitable.
I don't know. None of those thoughts are complete, but I just wanted to throw them in here somewhere. Maybe just so that when I come back to this fic ten years from now, I can look back and see what I was thinking when I was reading/writing/etc. Its just difficult being in college, starting a real life, and looking back on everything that's changed in the last few years, all of the 'last times' that happened without me even realizing it, and all of the small things that have ceased to exist but I've since forgotten them.
I'm rambling now. I didn't mean to. Live fully, love wholly, appreciate all. Everything ends. It is what it is.
Thank you so much for following along with me, it truly means the world. I love each and every one of you, please continue to create and flower.