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All things considered, it's an average day at the quarry. Bev and Mike are playing a very intense game of chicken against Stan and Bill ("Fuck you, Denborough! Fuck you and fuck your fucking mom, too!" "Awh, Bev, don't be such a sore loser, just accept that Bill and I are better!" "In your dreams! Rematch, best 3 of 5,"). Richie and Eddie lounge a few feet down the shore, safely out of the splash zone, Richie leaning back on a hand and Eddie perpendicular to him with his head in Richie's lap, the hand not propping him up running through Eddie's soft, curly hair. Eddie holds a book above his face, pretending to try to read and pretending to glower at Richie every time he interrupts him -- in actuality, he's enjoying the warm sun and the feeling of Richie's hand in his hair. Ben sits a little ways away from the two, actually reading a book he'd checked out of the library. Every so often he looks up at the four splashing around in the water and the two bickering on land and smiles, gently, to himself, and goes back to reading with a fuzzy yellow feeling in his chest.

"Hey, Eds," Richie begins, and Eddie lets out a long-suffering sigh through his nose and put the book face-down on his chest.

"What? I'm seriously trying to read," he isn't, "and don't call me that."

Richie gives him a cocksure grin and jerks his chin towards the other Losers wrestling and yelling in the water. "What'd'ya say we go teach those punks what's what?" Eddie's fairly sure he's pulling some kind of voice, but he can't place what it is. Brooklyn, maybe? In the ten years since they've known each other, his impersonations haven't much improved. Eddie lolls his head towards Richie's chest to get a better look at him. He looks nice like this, wild and tangled hair haloed by the sun, pretty eyes blinking at him through his glasses; he'd gotten better ones since middle school, less like Coke bottles, but they still make his eyes big. Eddie's heart melts, and he wants nothing more than to kiss him silly. He has to resist a smile, but Richie catches the way he presses his lips together and how the corners of his mouth tighten and he grins bigger. He can read Eddie like a book (his favorite book), and he loves it.

"I already told you, I can't swim today. My mom'll be home in, like," he checks his watch, "an hour, and I can't dry my underwear in that time. It was hard enough explaining to her why there was wet clothes in my hamper the first time. She'll freak if she finds out I went swimming in that 'filthy quarry water' again."

"Your mom's fuckin' something , man," Richie says, distaste obvious

"Trust me, I know." Eddie says, and he can't help the twinge of guilt. She's awful, he knows she is, but she's still his mother.

Richie gets that stupid fucking grin on his face. "And by something , I mean-"

"Finish that sentence, Tozier, I dare you!"

Richie throws his head back and laughs, and resigns back to silence.

Eddie stares at the bright blue sky. He wishes he didn't have a freakishly controlling mom who goes through his laundry and his phone and convinced him he was the sickest little boy in the world for the majority of his life. He wishes he could stand up to her more often. But he's afraid -- afraid she'll lock him up again, afraid he won't be able to see the other Losers, afraid she'll trap him in Derry to rot along with this stupid fucking town.

Richie looks down at the boy in his lap. He sees the little furrow in between his eyebrows and the distant look in his eyes and the way his lips turn down a little. He's probably thinking about his mom then, a sore and complicated subject. Can't have that. Richie sits up and pinches the apples of Eddie's cheeks, yelling "Cute, cute, cute!" like he used to when they were kids. He doesn't know why he ever stopped, it's never stopped being true. Eddie swats at his hands yells at him, but it's broken up by golden laughter.

Richie lets go, looking all too pleased with himself. Eddie sits up, his book tumbling forgotten into the dirt. He glares at Richie. "Stop doing that! It's embarrassing, not to mention demeaning! I'm not a dog, for fuck's sake." Richie laughs and hugs Eddie's shoulders, resting his chin on his head. Eddie glowers. "I'm not a fucking headrest, either," he says, and Richie can tell just by his tone that he's pouting.

"I just can't help myself!" That voice Eddie can recognize -- his shitty Southern Belle. "You're too damn adorable sometimes, Edster." Eddie groans and shoves Richie away, but Richie moves his grip to Eddie's waist and he stops, just leans back. Richie smiles internally -- Eds was so weak for having his waist grabbed. They stay like that for a moment, looking at each other with bright lovesick eyes. They both lean in at the same time, so synched after years together, and kiss. It's melting and electrifying and exceedingly chaste, it lasts for just a second but they both pull away with wide smiles and hollering from the other Losers. Eddie laughs and hides his face in Richie's neck, and Richie plants sloppy and dramatic kisses into Eddie's hair. Mike makes loud kissing noises and Bev wolf-whistles while Bill and Stan chant "Richie and Eddie sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"

Eddie pulls himself away from his boyfriend and yells to the others climbing out of the water, "Grow the fuck up, you guys!" His cheeks are red and his nose is scrunched up and Richie thinks he's the prettiest fucking thing in the world. He leans in close, presses a kiss to Eddie's temple, and tells him so. The tips of Eddie's ears warm and he gives Richie a soft smile, his eyes shining. "You're not too bad yourself," he says, and in that moment it was all fucking perfect.

 

***  ***

 

Eddie loves his friends. Really, he does! He'd follow them to the ends of the earth if they asked, hell, he's risked life and damn limb for them before, and he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

But they're fucking idiots .

"Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me?" He says, sitting up on the couch. "Your plan for Friday night is to chase a rabid raccoon ?!" Ever since he picked up more shifts at his shitty shoe store job, trying to pay his own way through college since it was 17 hours away from Derry and his mom and screamed and cried and called at least once a week begging him to come home -- ever since then, the only time he, Richie, and Bev had a couple hours free together was Friday, after Bev's last class at six. So they dedicated then to keeping old traditions alive and doing stupid high school shit. It was usually smoking weed by the lake off campus, or bingeing old shitty movies, sometimes dicking around in convenience stores late at night and seeing how much shit they could do before they were booted out.

Chasing a dangerous, possibly deadly animal and literally poking it with fucking sticks ? That's a first.

Richie huffs and says, "Okay, first of all, we don't know if it's rabid! It could just be a perfectly normal raccoon, and you're just making assumptions because you're biased . And second of all! You're not even gonna be there because your shitty co-worker flaked so, chill,"

Eddie feels a headache coming on. "Jesus Christ , Richie, why do I have to explain to you that provoking a wild animal is a bad idea! One," he begins ticking them off on his fingers, "they can seriously hurt you, like, there's a fucking reason they're wild animals , especially if they get an artery or a vein. Two, it very much could have rabies, it's just a fact, the hell am I biased against -- or you could get dirt in your wound, and then you'll have some nasty infection and I will not take care of you. And three, what if someone busts you for trespassing, or you get hit by some dumbass hunter!" He folds his arms across his chest and says, more sincerely, "Seriously. It's dangerous and I don't want you or Bev to get hurt. I already have enough shit on my plate, I don't need my two brain dead best friends getting fucking gangrene and dying ."

"Awwhh, we're your best friends Eddie-bear?"

"If you don't shut the hell up, I'll punt you to the goddamn moon."

Richie laughs, softens and plops down on the couch next to Eddie, rubbing his shoulder. Eddie relaxes a little and leans into the touch. "We'll be careful, Eds, I promise. Nothing's gonna happen." Eddie chews on his cheek.

"Don't call me that," he says, and goes strangely silent. Richie gives him a little shake and an encouraging smile. Eddie smiles back, weakly. "I know, I just -- I worry. You both do dumb fucking things, sometimes, it's not like… I don't mean to, to control you or anything." Eddie remembers the constricting feeling, the chill in his gut whenever his mom tried to reason him out of something. He never wants to be like that, especially not to Richie.

Richie laughs and hugs Eddie close to him, nuzzling into his hair and giving him a squeeze. "It's okay, Eddie Spaghetti. I'd probably be dead, like, twenty times if it weren't for you, my widdle guardian angel." Eddie scoffs, but it's good natured, and Richie knows he's said the right thing. "Like when I tried to hop into the alpaca den at the zoo?" He laughs and holds Richie's arm wrapped across his chest.

"Yeah, that was really fucking dumb. I thought you were gonna get your stupid skull kicked in."

Richie hums and says "You love this stupid skull,"

Eddie scowls at the shit-eating grin he just knows Richie is wearing. "Hah, maybe, if it wasn't so damn thick!" He reaches back and tries to smack the top of Richie's head, landing a few good hits but mostly just flailing. Richie laughs at him and ducks away from the assault into the crook of Eddie's neck. Eddie puts a hand over one of Richie's clasped around him and puts the other in Richie's hair. It's softer now than from when they first started dating, since Eddie forces him to shower at least every other day and uses Eddie's shampoo, but it's still hopelessly tangled and Eddie's fingers still snag, but it's nice.

Of course, Richie has to ruin it.

He says, voice deep and overly-sultry, "That's not the only thing that's thick about me, babe," and Eddie can't help but laugh.

"If your dick and your ego switched sizes, I'd be a very happy man."

"That wasn't what you said last night!"

"We didn't even fuck last night, Rich!"

"What, so two straight bros can't enjoy some platonic dick complimenting now and again? Who said it had to be sexual, Eddie, damn!"

Eddies rolls his eyes, but he's grinning. "Shit, sorry, I forgot how glaringly straight you were. Fuckhead."

"Was that sarcasm? My dear, precious, sweet little Eds being sarcastic?"    

"Your sweet little Eds is about to beat your ass if you don't shut your rank fucking trash mouth, Trashmouth. I'm trying to cuddle with my infuriating boyfriend here."

"Fine, fine," Richie relents, and Eddie curls against his chest. Richie leans against the back of the couch and pulls Eddie closer, keeping one hand on his waist and putting the other on the nape of his neck, playing idly with the loose curls there. Eddie makes a pleased noise in the back of his throat, and Richie could never get tired of this. Not in a million fucking years.

"By the way," Eddie says, softly. "If you get bit, I'll never let you hear the end of it."  

 

It's two days later, and Richie stumbles into their room, exhausted. Eddie is already in bed, but not quite asleep, and he sits up blearily. Richie casts a look his way and turns on the light.

"Sorry if I woke you up, I was trying to be quiet,"

"Yeah, well, you've always been shit at that," he stifles a yawn. "You didn't wake me, though," Richie gives a tired smile -- he's glad to come home to that adorably cranky face, even at two in the morning and dead on his feet.

"I thought bartending would be some Frank Stallone shit, like Barfly, y'know?" He says, struggling out of his clothes. "Instead it's just getting beer spilled on ya and stupid fucking hours. Goddamn."

Eddie purses his lips when he throws his shirt on the floor -- five years of living together and Richie still couldn't use a hamper for the life of him. He's about to comment on it, something scathing but without any real heat, when he see's Richie's back as he's kicking off his pants It's covered in angry red scratches, most scabbed over, some just raised bumps. Eddie knows he didn't leave them because he's never really been a scratcher in bed and Jesus Christ , Richie would've told him if he made him bleed. He probably would've told Bev too, with an over-exaggerated eyebrow wiggle and some dumb sex joke.

"Holy shit, Richie, what the hell happened to your back?"

Richie tenses. Shit. He panics and blurts out the first thing that comes to mind.

"I'm having an affair."

Which is definitely not a good thing to say, in any way, shape, or form, at any time, for any reason. Eddie, luckily, doesn't take him seriously, which, Richie doesn't know what he'd do if he had. He'd never do something like that, especially not to Eddie .

"What, with a damn cat?" Then, the realization hits Eddie like a fucking train.

"Oh my God," he says, fully awake now.

All Richie can think to say is "Okay, technically , it didn't bite me, so," and Eddie fucking loses it.

"Oh my God ," Eddie says again, between peals of breathless laughter, and he's not entirely sure why the hell he's laughing -- maybe it's the image of Richie with a rabid raccoon on his back, shrieking at Bev to whack it off him, Bev herself laughing so hard her stomach aches, and all the while he's thinking about how Eddie is gonna fucking kill him. Yep, that's it.

"It's just-- You just--" He can't get a full sentence out with how hard he's laughing, and Richie's starting to look a little bit concerned. He takes a step or two towards Eddie with a hand outstretched, but Eddie waves him away. He pushes himself up out of his bed and makes his way to the bathroom, giggling as he opens the cabinets and fishes out a bottle of rubbing alcohol, soaking the thing over the sink. When he takes it back to Richie, he's a little less giggly, but not by much. The whole time Eddie wipes at his back, scrubbing away the scabs so he can disinfect them properly, he's biting back laughter while Richie's biting back yelps.

After he wrings out the rag and tosses it in the wash, Richie belly-flops onto the bed and says "Eddie, dahling, you didn't gotta be so rough," That sounds Italian, but he can't ever be fucking sure. Eddie rolls his eyes and goes to get band-aids and ointment. When Eddie dabs the cream on and presses the band aids on Richie makes exaggerated noises of pain.

"Stop being a pussy," Eddie snaps, "If you weren't such a fucking idiot, this wouldn't be happening." But he leans down and kisses the space between Richie's shoulder blades anyways. Richie turns to look at him with a cheeky grin and before he can say anything, Eddie grabs his pillow and smacks him in the face with it.

 

***  ***

 

Eddie hates hospitals. He always fucking has. He hates the smell, the lights, the people, the invasive touches and even more invasive questions. It makes him sick to his stomach just to think about, not to mention all of the memories of his mother and her crocodile tears and how small and crushed Eddie felt under her insistence. The only damn way you could get him to even step foot in one is in a life-or-death situation, and even then he'd rather be unconscious.

Richie knows this, because Richie knows almost everything there is to know about Eddie, just like Eddie knows almost everything there is to know about him. When you've known someone since you were six and are still together when you're 30, it tends to be like that. So when Eddie gets an awful, horrible fever, Richie stocks up on tissues and soups and vitamin C  and takes as long as he can off work to take care of him.

Eddie tries, multiple times, to get Richie to go back to work, he'll be fine, he just needs to sweat it out. But when he starts mumbling to himself, delusional, he stops fighting. Richie does everything he can think of -- cajoling Eddie into a hot shower, putting a cold rag on his head, force-feeding him soup, hell, even goddamn Vaporub. It doesn't seem to be doing much, but he's keeping all his food and water down, so that's something.

On the fourth day, Eddie wakes up with a wracking cough and his temperature half a degree lower than yesterday. Richie props him up on some pillows and helps him drink. He manages to down half the glass before he whines and pushes it away, crying about grey water and leprosy. Richie shushes him, lies him back down, pets his sweaty hair, and leaves him alone until lunch.

When he comes back with soup -- chicken noodle, with just a little bit of cayenne pepper to clear his sinuses --  Eddie looks at him with clarity for the first time in days. He's not fully there, but his head's above the surface. He doesn't say anything as Richie props him up and offers him the bowl, which he takes, but he looks like he wants to. If Eddie has something to say, it'll come out in time, so Richie sits at his bedside and waits.

Eddie puts his spoon down a few minutes later, and just turns to look at Richie. He looks at his hair and his eyes and his lips and his jaw and his hands and his legs, at all of him. Richie feels exposed, like this sick Eddie can see into his soul, but he doesn't mind. He's shown Eddie every part of himself, time and time again. He loves Eddie and Eddie loves him. That's a damn fact of life.

Eddie's eyes, still cloudy, get this watery look in them, like he's about to start crying, and says "It's always been you, Richie." His voice is raspy and clogged, with tears or sickness Richie doesn't know.

"What?" he says, "What do you mean?" He's half-afraid he's still delusional.

"Everything," Eddie says, like it was the simplest fucking thing. "Everything. It's always been you." He then, with pale and shaky hands, puts the bowl on the bedside table, and promptly starts crying. Richie almost jumps up in surprise, and freezes for a second, just watching Eddie as he curls in on himself and sobs. He's so pretty, even like this, even when he has absolutely no right to be. Richie takes a box of tissues from the table and crawls into the bed with Eddie, sliding up next to him and pulling him close, cradling him. He gives Eddie a tissue and he mops at his eyes and his nose and keeps crying.

"Eddie, baby," Richie coos, "Eddie, what's wrong? Don't cry, Eds, it's alright." He cards his hand through Eddie's hair in the way he knows he likes. Eddie buries his face into Richie's chest and holds onto him with all of his sick strength. Richie holds him through it, muttering sweetly and pressing kisses onto his sweat-slick forehead. "It's alright, I'm here," He says. "I've got you, I've got you."

Eventually Eddie calms himself, just shuddering and dry-sobbing occasionally. Richie rubs at his back, and he sniffs and pulls away. "God, your shirt's disgusting."

Richie laughs softly. "That's not the first time you've ruined one of my shirts with your bodily fluids, babe, and it won't be the last." Eddie's elbow in his rib hurts, but at least he gets him to laugh.

"You want to tell me what that was?" Richie says, his voice low.

Eddie keeps quiet for a moment, then relaxes against Richie's chest again. Richie lets him, doesn't pester him. It'll come out in time. Eddie puts a hand next to his face on Richie's chest and Richie puts his own over it, interlacing their fingers.

"I love you," Eddie says blearily. "So, so much. And, I mean, we've known each other for, for fuckin… God , twenty-four years, Richie!" Richie squeezes his hand, but doesn't interrupt. "I mean, it's like… I think I'm scared. Not like, regular scared, like, terrified scared. What if I wake up one day and you're gone? I don't, I-- the last time I lived a day without you I was six. I don't want to do that, Richie, fuck, I never want to do that again."

"Do what again, Eds?"

"Be without you! Not just, not just without you here . I mean without you, without knowing you, and knowing what it's like to know you. You're the best, Richie, you're the fucking best . You make me really happy, dumb and stupid happy, but you make me scared too. Not you, like. The stuff I talked about."

Richie thinks for a second and asks "Does the happy outweigh the scared?"

Eddie nods against his chest, and falls asleep.

Richie stays awake for a few hours more and, not for the first time, he thinks about what it'd be like to marry Eddie. To introduce him as my husband instead of my boyfriend , to see a gold band around his left ring finger, to just have the knowledge that he's married to him, to Eddie . To spend the rest of his life with him.

He wants to, God, does he want to. But he's not like Eddie. Ever since they were kids, getting the shit kicked out of them by the Bower's gang, even if he's scared out of his damn mind, he's brave. He kicks and screams and never fucking goes down without a fight. But when Richie's scared, he ignores it. He laughs about it and covers it up with lies, crosses his fingers and hopes for the best. And he's scared of marrying Eddie. He's scared Eddie'll regret it, or they'll end up like his parents, or some other horrible thing. He's scared he'll ruin what they have.

Richie sighs and nods off himself.

 

***  ***

 

Richie lifts Eddie's head onto his lap, out of the disgusting greywater. He takes off his overshirt and wraps it around -- fuck , fuck, that's gruesome. He wraps it around the mangled mess of whatever the hell's left of Eddie's right arm. He pulls it tight, a shitty homemade tourniquet, and Eddie keens in pain.

"Shh, sh sh sh, it's okay, Eds, alright? You're gonna be okay," Richie murmurs, and he's not lying, he's not , he'd never fucking lie to Eddie. He's not gonna let him die here in this disgusting sewer, he's not gonna let him die at all . Eddie reaches up towards Richie, and Richie takes his hand and guides it to his cheek. Eddie smiles.

"Don't call me that," he says. "You know I… I…" His eyes fall closed before he can finish, and for a single, terrifying moment, he thinks Eddie is dead. But then his chest rises and falls all too slowly, and Richie knows that he will be, soon, if he doesn't get fucking help. He picks Eddie up, bridal style, and the other Losers are all looking at him.

"I have to take him somewhere," Richie says, voice raw and desperate. "I have to, he'll die if I don't. I'm sorry, but I can't, I--"

Big Bill holds up a hand and says "G-g- go , Richie," and his word has always been law. Despite the whole shit-show, Richie grins.

"Kill that motherfucker, alright? Chop It's gross clown dick off for me. And It's arm, for Eddie." And then he runs, and he doesn't look back.

 

Richie stares at Eddie there, in the hospital bed, and all he can think about is how much he'll want to get out of here once he wakes up. It's easier than thinking about the rounded stump where his right arm ended so damn abruptly, how he'll react to it when he wakes up, how they'll adapt, how it'll affect them. He doesn't know any of that, he's scared of it, but he does know that Eddie hates hospitals, he does know the way his nose wrinkles and it's fucking adorable and he always wants to kiss it away.

The other Losers come by, filter in, all except Mike, who's still recovering. He tries to apologize to Bill, Stan, Bev, and Ben for just ditching them in the sewers, but Bev punches him in the arm before he can get it out. "If you would've stayed, Eddie would be fucking dead . Don't apologize for saving his life, Jesus," she says, and the rest of them agree. "Besides, we managed just fine without you, Trashmouth."

When Eddie comes to, fully lucid for the first time, it's just Richie because Stan and Bill and Mike had all gone to breakfast, and Bev and Ben are still asleep. Richie's grateful for this. He scoots close to Eddie's bedside when he starts to stir, and clasps his only hand between both of his. Eddie groans and blinks awake

"Jesus Christ," he says, voice sore. "I fuckin' hate hospitals so goddamn much, I'm gonna vomit, and it's gonna be disgusting, and I'm gonna make the stupid hospital nurses clean it up because that's their stupid fucking job." It's so fucking Eddie that Richie has to laugh, partly because he knew just how annoyed Eddie would be, and partly because he's so relieved to hear his voice that his knees feel weak.

Eddie lolls his head over to Richie and moves to do something, but the stump of his arm twitches and it's obvious that whatever that something was, it's impeded by his lack of a right fucking arm. Eddie gets this weird expression, like confusion and horror and something else, and looks to his right. He looks for a long time, and Richie, for the first time in a while, doesn't know what to say. God, what could he say? 'Sorry you got your arm torn off by a demon clown'? He just gently squeezes Eddie's hand, and that seems to pull him out of his stupor.

"Oh," is all Eddie says, and Richie watches as a few tears slip down his face. He keeps one hand holding his, and with the other he thumbs Eddie's tears away. Eddie looks back to him.

"I thought you were gonna die," Richie cradles Eddie's cheek and Eddie leans into it.

The memories of the fight seem to come back to him because he asks, "Did you guys kill It?"

Richie smiles. "They did, the rest of the Losers," he says. "I was too busy making sure your ass was still alive, God knows I'd miss it." Eddie rolls his eyes so hard they might fall out of his head.

A voice comes from the hall. "Richie? Is Eddie awake?" Richie turns towards the door, and Eddie just knows he's gonna say something fucking dumb. Call it intuition.

"Yeah, Stathanial! Come on in, see what's left !" Eddie's gonna fucking throttle him.

"You're the goddamn worst, Richard Tozier," And Richie's already laughing, the fucker. "You're a fucking monster! You make Vladimir Putin look like an upstanding citizen. If I wasn't a cripple I would fucking beat you so bad it'd take the police weeks to identify your body."

Mike says from the doorway, grinning stupidly, "We can do it for you," And Richie and Eddie both know things are going to be fine. Not good, certainly not perfect, but fine.

 

(The day before they're set to leave for L.A., Richie and Eddie sit on the shore of the quarry. It's almost exactly how they left it almost 30 years ago. They sit and talk for hours about everything and nothing. The sun is going down, and it reminds them both of the shitty excuses for dates they used to go on here, splashing around and dunking each other, leaping into the water and holding hands as they fall.

Richie goes silent for a minute, then says "Y'know, I'm kind of glad It took your right arm."

Eddie looks at him, a little scathingly, and then looks out over the water. "If you say something about how I give handies better with my left, I'm gonna drown you and leave your body for the sewer rats."

Richie chuckles a little, nervously. "Nah, nah, nothing like that," he says in a stupid voice. He takes Eddie's hand and says, normally, "It's cuz I can still do this," and slides a ring on his finger. Eddie looks at him, shocked and more than a little misty. In that look is everything Richie's afraid to say, and everything Eddie doesn't have the words for. Eddie smiles and cries, the good kind of crying. Richie cries too.

"You're supposed to put the ring on after I say yes, you presumptuous asshole!"

"What can I say, I'm excited to marry my Eddie-bear!"

"Oh my God , shut up !"

"Why don't you make me?"

And he does.)