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Versions of the Same Mask

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“Fuck that! I don’t need a partner. I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve never worked with anyone except you. So why the hell would I need one now?”

Bill sighed, a long, deep sigh of someone who was used to Richie’s colorful language and various irritations. The two had been friends since they were kids, he knew that Richie had already made up his mind without even hearing the details of the case. Luckily, Bill also knew how to change his mind.

“Because Richie, this isn’t some dumbass who jumped bail. It’s Ben Hanscom. He’s an international celebrity- and that was before he married Beverly Marsh. They’re America’s favorite couple and he’s missing.” Bill said it slowly. Partially because it helped to contain his stutter. But largely because he hoped it would makes things sink into his friend’s thick skull. They were lucky that Beverly had even considered them since they were low rung bail bondsman. It was only because Richie had helped Bev years ago that she even knew who they were. Richie must have made a good impression for her to call him now, something he didn’t usually excel at and Bill wasn't going to let that goodwill go to waste. He wanted to take this case on, even if Richie didn’t. Partially for the fame but largely for the payout. It would bring them from struggling business to comfortable very quickly.

Richie crossed his arms, glaring down at Bill. “I. Work. Alone.” He gestured around their small office. “We work alone. We’ve never needed some fancy ass detective to get the bad guy.”

Richie was right, but Bill wasn’t about to tell him that. The two had been in business together for a little over seven years, after Richie had finally given up on his music career and Bill had left the corporate world. They had found out that Richie was surprisingly good at hunting people down,and it didn't hurt that Richie blended in at all the dive bars their charges frequented. Sometimes Bill would help him, if it was a particularly dangerous case, but normally he handled the finances and paperwork, something that Richie was terrible at. Bill was one of the only people that Richie trusted to have his back.

The team occasionally took on missing people cases as well but the bulk of their money came from being bounty hunters. Both preferred it that way. The rules were easier and they rarely had to get involved beyond finding someone who was clearly guilty and bringing them in.

Their business was in a strip mall, nestled between a sandwich shop and nail salon. Outside was a small sign that read ‘The Tackle Box’ and underneath, in smaller font, ‘Gotta catch ‘em all’. They could probably afford to move to be better location but both of them liked it here, it made it easier for clients to find them and rent was cheap. Plus they probably helped keep the sandwich place in business, both ate there at least four times a week. Richie liked to tell Bill that they needed to remember their roots whenever Bill brought up moving to a new location and eventually he had stopped asking.

Bill threw his hands up. “Fuck Richie. Fine. Should we turn down the case then? Because you getting it is contingent on working with the detective Beverly hired. But if you don’t want the money, fine.” Bill made like he was picking up his phone, putting it on his shoulder as he slowly dialed. He could see Richie thinking over his options. A long finger shot out and hit the receiver as Bill finished dialing the number for their favorite pizza joint. What Richie didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

“How much money are we talking?” Richie was still pretending not to be interested, examining a stain on his flannel shirt. Bill suppressed a shudder as Richie licked it, his favorite way to figure out what it was.

“A million if you find him. Plus double your hourly rate and all your expenses.” Bill watched as Richie’s eyes widened. Got him .

“Fuck, that’s a lot of money.”

Bill nodded, “Even when you split it with your loving business partner.”

Richie laughed, “Don’t worry Billiam. I would never cut you out. I love you too much.” Richie grabbed a beer from their mini fridge and fell into the chair across from Bill, finally ready to talk about the case. “What do we know about Ben? And about this detective?”

“Here’s what Beverly and her team sent us.” Bill said, pulling out a folder.

 

Eddie

Eddie crossed his arms as he scrutinized his business partners. He was sure they had gone of the deep end for even suggesting this. They knew what he would say. “A fucking bounty hunter? Why would she hire him? This is insulting. I’m turning down the case.”

Stan and Mike exchanged quick looks before looking at him. “He found her shitty boyfriend, years ago.” Mike explained. “No one else could. He had been beating her and then skipped town for the trial. And this Richie guy, he found him within a day of being hired. It was before she was quite so famous, back in her soap opera days.”

Eddie’s brows furrowed, still unhappy. “A bounty hunter though.” He let the disdain show through in his voice. “Do you think he takes showers? Don’t they live in their trucks?” Bounty hunters were the lowest rung on the PI ladder and everyone knew it. Even if Beverly liked this one Eddie didn’t see how he could possibly be helpful.

“Eddie, it’s a million dollar payout. You can stay in a hotel while he stays in his truck.” Stan said.

Eddie made a displeased noise, turning to the small bar in their office and pouring himself a drink. “It’s bullshit. I’m going to end up doing all the work but we’ll get the same payout.”

“Pour me one too.” Mike told him and Eddie poured a second scotch before sitting at the table with his friends.

“A million dollars is a million dollars. You can ditch him. You’re good at losing tails.” Mike said, accepting the drink from Eddie.

Eddie pointed a finger at Mike, “I know what an attempt to butter me up looks like Hanlon.”

Mike smiled, “If you didn’t I would have thought you were losing your touch. That doesn’t mean it isn’t working.”

He nodded and let out a quick laugh. “You’re right. Still, a bounty hunter? They’re all noise and brute force, how am I supposed to work with him?” Eddie preferred working alone, it was easier to fly under the radar. His team was known for their discretion and every bounty hunter he knew liked to enter a room loudly, usually with guns drawn.

The three of them made up the business ‘Leaders in Following’, a small but efficient detective agency in California. They were consistently ranked as the best on the West Coast, unmatched in finding missing people and data. They were proud of their reputation, earned through hard work and refusing any shady dealings with criminals. It had taken nearly a decade but now they could pick and choose cases, trying to take on rich clients with cheating spouses so they could also do pro bono work helping battered spouses for free. What they had worked and all of them knew it.  It worked because all of them were dedicated. They all had cots in the back room for days when going home wasn’t worth it because they’d just be back early the next morning.

“You remember that it’s a million dollar payout and fucking suck it up.” Stan told him, arms crossed which indicated that he was done listening to Eddie complain. Eddie glanced at Mike, who gave him a small shrug that said ‘he’s right’.

Stan and Mike had been married for five years and the business had survived the early parts of their relationship and various small fights and disagreements. They did the majority of the office work, researching, gathering information and helping Eddie when he needed it. Occasionally, Stan would go out to snap photos of cheating spouses while pretending to be birdwatching, or Mike would pose as an inconspicuous office worker to record someone, but Eddie was the one who took on most of the fieldwork. He preferred it that way. He liked being out, hunting down clues and talking to people.

It worked because people assumed he was small and weak, not a threat, and would open up to him, telling him about the weird email they saw or something unusual they noticed. Eddie preferred it this way. What they didn’t know was that he taught karate in his spare time, or that he usually had a firearm and a knife or two strapped to him. It was rare that he had to use any of them but when he did he always caught the other person off guard and incapacitated them. He liked to be underestimated.

“Fine. Fine. What do we know?” Eddie asked, giving into his partners and sipping his drink. Stan was right, turning down that payout because of a shitty partner was insane. And he could just ditch him if necessary.

Mike opened one of two folders, turning it so Eddie could see. “Here’s the info on Ben.  He and Bev were at a fundraiser. He left to go to the bathroom around 8:15 pm and never came back. After a few hours the local PD was called and they started searching for him. The last person to talk to him was the bathroom attendant.” Mike slid a photo across to Eddie of a younger man. “Who said that Ben tipped him ten dollars and left. He’s last on camera here.” It was a picture of outside, a handsome tanned man was leaning over and smelling a flower. The photo was time stamped as 8:27 pm. “And that’s it. He’s not on any other cameras, none of the other guests saw him leave. Seems to have disappeared without a trace.” Mike finished, waving his finger mysteriously. Eddie chuckled.

“Do we suspect the wife?” Eddie asked, thumbing through the papers. Eddie didn’t follow much celebrity news but everyone knew who Ben Hanscom and Beverly Marsh were- and adored them.

Stan took over, handing Eddie some photos of the two together. “Not really. We haven’t ruled her out but, from everything we’ve found, they’re actually as happy as the press makes them sound. They’ve got a pair of two year old twins that they adopted and seem to be disgustingly in love.” Eddie flipped through pictures of them holding their kids, the two holding hands and kissing. “Plus, she’s been hounding the local cops. And hiring you was her idea. I doubt she’d hire you if she was guilty.”

Eddie nodded in acknowledgement. Once he finished looking through the photos he asked, “What else?”

Stan pushed more documents towards him. “Here’s what we found out about Ben. He started out in TV show but then began getting small roles in movies. Once he got that part in the Marvel movie his career skyrocketed. He met Beverly on set and the rest is history.” Stan flipped to a new page. “List of his close friends and family. His normal comings and goings over the past few months. Nothing really stands out. Didn’t see any odd transactions in his bank account.”

While they took great pride in not working with criminals the team didn’t have the same feelings about online crimes. Stan was an accomplished hacker and was happy to use his skills as necessary. He did the background research into people while Mike did any of the physical research. Mike would lose himself in books for hours, reading about blood spatter or a particular dog breed. More than once Eddie had come back to the office to the two of them both bent over, muttering to themselves with cold pizza untouched in a box. They called it their own personal brand of date night.

“So he’s clean and doesn’t have any enemies?” Eddie asked, looking at the boring list of Ben’s movements. Daycare, groceries, movie studio.

Mike nodded. “Pretty much. He’s an All American hero.”

Eddie rubbed his eyes, pouring himself more scotch. That wasn’t very helpful for figuring out who took him. If he didn’t have any enemies then it was likely a regular kidnapping for ransom- but it had been nearly a week and no demands had been made. “And Beverly?”

“She’s got more of a past, spent the night in jail a few times for public drunkenness and having some pot on her. Nothing major but enough that it’s on her record. Then lots of 911 calls and the court case with her ex. Nothing since then.”

Eddie looked at a mugshot of a fierce looking woman, glaring at the camera. He could practically feel her giving it the middle finger. The photo was dated nearly a decade ago, before she met and married Ben. The next photo was her now, at a red carpet premiere. Her long red hair flowing down her back while she smiled at Ben.

“Do we have any leads?” He asked.

Stan jumped in again. “A few. A catering van was seen leaving the benefit and the cops haven’t been able to find it. Ben got a weird phone call, the audio transcript is in there. And it sounds like Beverly’s dad was pretty mad when she refused give him money, he showed up at their house, drunk, a couple months ago, so he may be worth checking out.” The last few pieces of paper in the file were dedicated to these leads.

Eddie decided to look at them later. He pushed his chin at the other folder. “What’s in there?”

“It’s everything we’ve got on Richie Tozier, the guy you’ll be working with.” Mike said, offering Eddie the folder. He opened it, seeing a photo of a lanky, tall man in an Offspring t-shirt with a ratty flannel over it grinning stupidly up at him.

“He’s your type.” Stan said.

Eddie looked up at him. “Is that your professional opinion?”

“Yes.” Stan flipped the page and pointed to the details. “Hates authority. Loose cannon. Likes to investigate without checking in. Known for having a filthy mouth and hitting on anything with a pulse.”

Mike laughed and Eddie shot him a look. “What? He does sound like your type. And I know you like curly hair.”

“Just for that, I’m buying only gin from now on. No more tough guy scotch.” Eddie threatened and Mike held his hands up in mock innocence. Both laughed.

“And he’s single.” Stan threw in.

“Not a exactly a crucial detail.” Eddie said, still looking through the folder. It sounded like Richie was smart, he graduated high school a year early but then dropped out of college, never getting his degree. He and his friend Bill had opened their bounty hunting business at 24 after both trying other careers and had quickly gained a reputation of doing whatever was necessary to get the mark. They had never worked with anyone else and their operation seemed to be held together with spit and hope. There were some photos of him with Bill, his arm thrown over Bill’s shoulders, and Eddie briefly wondered if they had ever dated.

He looked at the other photos of Richie that Stan had included. Even if they had only said it to get a rise out of him Stan and Mike were right. He was Eddie’s type. He had a different expression in every photo, probably because he was talking in all of them. Eddie could already tell that he was always talking, the little he knew about Richie indicated that he was a regular motormouth who used obscenities like other people used adjectives. Eddie sighed to himself. Even if he was interested, which he wasn’t, Richie was strictly off limits for the case. If they were working together they needed clear heads, which meant no flirting and definitely nothing else. Plus Eddie was still convinced that he was a ruffian who slept in his car.

“So are we taking the case?” Stan asked, both of them looking at Eddie. “It’s high profile. A bit different from finding people with their pants down or locating missing jewelry.”

Eddie nodded. “I’m in, if you two are.”

Mike grinned and Stan gave a sharp nod. “We’re in.”

“Well then, let’s find Ben Hanscom.”

Chapter Text

Eddie showed up for the meeting with Beverly Marsh precisely ten minutes early. Enough time to find his way if he got lost but not so early he was inconveniencing her. Her home was a tucked away tudor that was almost an hour from his office. He looked up at it, it was a gorgeous house, expensive but not ostentatious. He appreciated that.

He knew he was about to live out many people’s dreams, meeting with a famous actress, but he was nonplussed. What he cared about was finding Ben and getting paid, meeting her was just a necessary part of that. His main hope was that she was willing to give him the information he needed without hiding behind lawyers and PR people.  He rang the doorbell, which was opened by a harried looking maid. She refused to answer any questions he had and asked him to wait in a small waiting room off the main entry.

At exactly 11am he was ushered into a living room. Beverly was already sitting there, drinking a cup of coffee. Eddie wasn’t surprised to see that Richie wasn’t there. She stood as she saw him. “Hello, Edward? Nice to meet you.” She offered her hand and he shook it before sitting.

“Just Eddie is fine.” He looked around the room. It looked like this was the visitors living room. It was very clean and orderly, with a big leather couch and chair to match. An unlit fireplace took up the center of the room and it was decorated with framed posters from their movies, including some of Ben’s less successful inde ones. Eddie thought he recognized the room from interviews of them that he had watched while preparing for the case. “Thank you for meeting with me.”

She nodded, giving him a small smile. “Thank you for taking the case.”

He pulled out his notebook and tape recorder. “Is this okay? I like to keep everything recorded so I can listen later.”

She nodded. “I don’t mind. Do you want some coffee?”

He shook his head, turning on the recorder and leaning back into the chait. “You’re all business aren’t you?” She commented.

He looked at her, it was easy to see why people liked her. She seemed very warm and caring, even now with her husband missing. Her eyes danced and he realized she was teasing him. “Mrs. Marsh-” He started.

“Bev. Call me Bev.” She interrupted.

“Bev,” He started again. “You hired me to do a job. I want to do the best I can at it and part of that means that I need to keep myself removed from you, and the case. I need to stay objective. I hope you understand.” It was a rule he kept, he tried not to get feelings involved- which included getting to know the clients on personal level. He found that it affected his judgement and lead to poor results.

She cocked her head slightly. “Sounds lonely.”

He shrugged, trying to stay polite. “It’s my decision.”

“Of course.” She nodded. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

He shrugged, wanting to move the conversation back on track. “Why don’t you just tell me about the last time you saw your husband.”

She nodded, understanding that that piece of the conversation was over. “We were at a fundraiser for a new library. Ben loves reading, he’s on the board for the local library association. He’s such a sweetheart.” She described what she remembered from the night, which wasn’t too different than what she had told the police. They were together most of the night and then Ben went to the bathroom. When he didn’t come back she panicked and starting looking for him. When they couldn’t find him she called the police.

As she was explaining the police arrival someone else entered the room. Eddie turned to look as Bev jumped up and leapt into his arms. “Richie! You’re finally here!” She said, her head buried in his shoulder. Eddie looked his new partner over with a critical eye. He was wearing a pink and orange flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up over a faded shirt that read ‘My eyes are up here’ along with ratty jeans and converse. Eddie wrinkled his nose, amazed how unprofessional he was.

Eddie smoothed his outfit out, feeling wrinkled just looking at Richie. He was in dark jeans and a button up shirt. His normal working outfit. Richie looked like he had just rolled out of bed, Eddie swore he could even see pillow lines on his face. He grimaced inwardly, already regretting agreeing to work with him. He was an hour late for their first client meeting and looked like he had just come from a rock concert.

Once he got past Richie’s disheveled appearance he did have to admit that he was attractive. Laughing green eyes poked out from under his curls, high cheekbones and a lanky frame. And he was clearly comfortable with himself. Eddie saw a rainbow flag on the inside of his right forearm. Eddie hated when Stan was right- Richie was totally his type, if only he wasn’t already annoying Eddie.

Richie was patting her shoulder. “Course I am Bev, sorry I’m late.” He moved back and smiled at her. “How are you holding up?”

She frowned. “What do you think? Awful. Everything is fucking awful. I want to go look for him, but I can’t. We have so much security around the house I can’t take a piss without someone watching. And the lawyers.” She rolled her eyes. “Everyone is so worried about me putting forth the right image. No one actually wants to help!” Eddie was surprised how open she was with Richie, basically pouring her heart out.

“Lawyers are soulless assholes, they only care about the bottom line.” He said, earning a small grin from her. He continued, “The kids need you Bev. Remember that. You can’t run off and solve this crime, you’re the only one they have now.”

She nodded, sitting back on the couch, Richie following her. “I know, I know. They’re so young they don’t understand. They keep asking where dad is.” She looked near tears but instead took a deep breath, pulling her shoulders back. “But that’s what I hired you two for, to find him.”

Richie looked at Eddie for the first time and grinned at him. “Hiya Eds.” He stuck out his hand and Eddie shook it quickly.

“Eddie.” He corrected.

Richie shrugged, unconcerned. He turned back to Bev. “What did I miss?”

“Just some detective work.” Eddie quipped, which only made Richie smile.

“I’m sure you’ll catch me up later. Just continue where you left off Bev.”

Bev smiled at him and started explaining what happened once the police arrived, with Eddie asking questions. Richie didn’t speak, he was watching Eddie intently. It was distracting. He felt like he had something stuck in his teeth.

Eventually Richie interrupted Bev, “Can I get a pop darlin’?” He asked. She nodded and rose, leaving the room. Once the room closed Richie turned to Eddie, brows furrowed. “What are you doing?”

“My job.” Eddie replied smoothly. “You probably wouldn’t recognize it.”

Richie scoffed. Or meant to scoff, it sounded like a cross between a sneeze and and tsk and it made Eddie smile despite himself. “Your job isn’t to suspect our client.”

“My job is to suspect everyone until the evidence proves they didn’t do it.”

Richie smirked. “So you suspect me too cutie?”

“My name is Eddie. You learn if it we’re going to work together.” Eddie couldn’t stand nicknames. His mother used to call him a variety of them and hearing them reminded him of her and made him sick to his stomach. “And I haven’t cleared you yet, though you don’t have a motive. She,” He pointed to a picture of Beverly. “Does.”

Richie picked up the picture, looking at it fondly. “You don’t know Bev. She’s the sweetest person I’ve ever met. And she loves Ben with all her heart. Take my word for it, she didn’t do it.” Eddie heard the sincerity in his voice, he really believed it. Too bad that meant nothing to Eddie.

“I don’t know you well enough to know if your word means anything.”

Richie looked at him. “You’re fun at parties, huh?”

Eddie shrugged. “I don’t go to many parties. I’m too busy running a successful detective business.”

Richie gave Eddie a long once over, long enough that Eddie wanted to fidget, to cross his arms, but it felt like Richie would win if he did. So instead he glared at the taller man.

Richie was unaffected. “You should go to parties. It might help you relax. Those shoulders are so tense they might snap. Plus, you’d be even cuter if you smiled.”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Did you miss the memo? You aren’t supposed to tell people to smile. It’s rude.”

“I get the feeling you like rude.” Richie winked and Eddie just scoffed. He was used to guys like Richie- hell, he had dated several of them. They were always like this, flirty, liked to put people off their game, 90% bullshit and 10% actual substance. In short, exhausting and not worth his time.

“Look, Bev hired both of us. We have to work together. Can you at least try to keep it in your pants?” Richie opened his mouth and Eddie held up a hand. “Please don’t make a joke about your pants.”

Richie grinned. “That wouldn’t have been very original. I was going to make one about your pants but,” He held his hands up in a gesture of innocence. “Since you asked oh-so nicely I won’t. I’ll follow your rules as long as you promise not to fall for me.” He winked again.

Fat Chance Eddie thought as he nodded. “Deal.” He stuck his hand out and Richie shook it. That was when Beverly came back in the room.

“Oh good, you two are getting along. I had hoped you would.” She handed Richie the can and finished her recollection of the evening, ending by asking what they needed. “Obviously I’ll fund you and your expenses. I just need receipts so I know you’re not running to Vegas for an orgy or something.” She smiled at them, letting them know she was joking. Eddie could see a brief glance of why everyone loved her. Beverly was known for having a slightly dirty sense of humor and for playing pranks on her friends and coworkers. But now, she seemed deflated, a shell of the woman who videotaped her husband’s reaction as he bit into an oreo that had toothpaste instead of frosting.  Eddie found himself wanting to bring back that woman, to hear her slightly too loud laugh again.

It wasn’t something he normally felt. Of course, he always wanted to help his clients but he kept them at arm’s length. With Bev, he wasn’t sure he had that option. She was actually the person that the media wanted her to be. Throughout her whole story she made off color jokes that made Richie snort and Eddie smile.

He focused, Bev was still talking. “But beyond that, what will you need?”

“Access to Ben’s office, and his computer, if possible.” Eddie said. Richie shrugged.

“Of course.” She stood, grabbing a small bag from behind her. “I bought both of you burner phones, per Richie’s suggestion. I have one too. My number is already in there, and then you have each other’s. I’d like to keep this out of the press as much as possible, so please keep a low profile and don’t speak to reporters. I hope you both understand.”

Richie put a hand on her arm. “We will. Don’t worry.”

Eddie took the phone with a sharp nod, watching them interact. It seemed that the folder Stan put together had left something out. The two seemed closer than he had indicated. He had thought they were just casual friends but Beverly seemed to draw a lot of comfort from having Richie around. He made a mental note to have Stan look into it.

“I’ll take you to the office.” She said, leading them out of the room. She lead them down several hallways and Eddie admired the careful taste of the house- artwork hung all over, some postmodern and some finger paintings. Various pictures of the happy family and the couple with their extended family were hung up. Eddie paused to take pictures of some things, thinking they may be relevant later. Nothing he saw indicated anything beyond a normal, happy (if incredibly rich) family.

“Here we are.” Beverly said, opening the door to a smaller room. “I have a few things to do so I’ll be going. If you need anything please text me, otherwise I’ll have someone swing by to help you find your way out in about thirty minutes.” She paused, tapping a finger to her lips. “I think that’s everything.” She looked at them warmly. “Thank you again. I know that both of you will find my Ben.” She smiled and Richie moved in for a hug.

“We will Bev, you can rest assured, we’ll find him.” He told her, patting her back.

She nodded and released him. Eddie held his hand out for a handshake but Beverly wrapped him in a big hug. “We’re huggers here Eddie.”

He stiffened before relaxing into her arms. “Thank you Beverly.”

She released him, smiling. “Bev!” She reminded him. “You’re going to be delving into every part of my life soon the least we can do is be comfortable with each other.”

He chuckled. “Well Bev, we’ll do what we can to get Ben home safe.”

She smiled. “Thank you, both.” She gave them one more head nod then left, closing the door behind her.

Eddie looked around the room. It was a simple office, taken up mostly by a big corner desk. He was surprised to see that most of the furniture looked like it was from Ikea or a thrift store. There were a few pictures of the family and some of Ben when he was kid.

“Our main man was a chubby kid.” Richie commented, picking up a picture. “Bet he got picked on a lot.”

Eddie nodded, looking at the photos of Ben with his parents and other family. He snapped photos of them, sending them to Stan asking that he verify who the people were.

“So what’s first Eddie Spaghetti?” Richie asked, rifling through the drawers.

Eddie looked up from his text, glaring at Richie. “Sorry what did you just call me?”

Richie smirked. “No need to be sorry about anything cutey.”

“I don't like nicknames.” Eddie said, drawing himself up. “And I don’t like flirty bounty hunters.”

“What about flirty bail bondsmen?” Richie asked, looking very pleased with his joke.

“Even less attractive.” Eddie replied and Richie laughed. Eddie continued looking around the office, taking pictures and looking through some documents. Nothing out of place. Nothing to indicate any shady business. Nothing to go on. Richie was watching him from the spinning chair. He kept making fast loops, winking at Eddie every time he spun.

“Are you going to help?” Eddie finally snapped after five minutes of this. “Or just watch me do all the work?”

Richie stopped his spinning, lurching a little as he stopped. “What should I do?”

Eddie threw his hands up. “Maybe look for clues?” Richie still looked at him blankly. “Do you know what a clue is? Or do you just shoot things and then drag the body back?”

“I don’t need clues, I follow my instinct and find people. It’s worked pretty fucking well so far.” Richie said defensively.

“Your bullshit isn’t going to work here, you need to actually do some detective work. Look for evidence, talk to people, discover motives.” Eddie said, explaining slowly as if Richie was a child. “Does the make sense?”

“I’m not a dumbass. I just prefer the easier route- go to the bar, find the bad guy, justice is served.”

Eddie crossed his arms, looking at Richie. He knew Richie wasn’t dumb, he had a whole file that said otherwise. But it didn’t mean that he liked working with him. He sighed. “Look, we have to work together. I guess. So let’s figure out what we’re going to do. We can split up and investigate the leads. Then meet and talk after.”

Richie shook his head. “Nope.” He said, popping his ‘p’.

Eddie raised his eyebrow. “No?”

“I’m sticking by your side cutey, you don’t trust me but I don’t trust you either. I don’t want you to break the case and take all the fame. I’m gonna be on you like white on rice.”

He sighed, looking at this Boba Fett themed giraffe that he was stuck with. “Fine, we’ll work together. What do you think happened?” Eddie kept looking through the office as Richie talked.

To his surprise, Richie answered right away. “Normally I would think it was ransom, since they’re obviously loaded but there’s no note. We would have gotten something by now if that was the goal. Ben seems clean so I don’t think it’s a gambling debt. Doesn’t seem like the type to run off with a mistress.” Richie paused and Eddie looked at him. He was deep in thought, running a thumb along his bottom lip. To Eddie’s annoyance he looked hot, his eyes focused on a far away spot and, for ounce, he wasn’t talking.

Eddie had to tear his eyes away from Richie’s lips and thumb as he continued. “I’m worried. I think this might be a revenge crime and that scares me. It means that someone could be planning on doing something bad to Ben and that gorgeous hunk of a man doesn’t deserve it. Neither does his family.”

Eddie nodded, he had drawn similar conclusions. If this wasn’t about money it meant someone was pissed or obsessed. Neither boded well for Ben’s safety. “I’m concerned that it could be a rabid fan. We should check with his assistant to see if anyone was getting too close.”

“Good idea Eds. And I think we should go to the place Ben was taken, look around and see if the police missed anything.”

Eddie stood up, he had finished looking and didn’t find much of interest. He grabbed Ben’s laptop and looked at Richie. “That’s not my fucking name. But I agree with the idea.”

Richie grinned at him, clearly delighted by Eddie’s response. “This is going to be great. You’re fucking adorable when you’re angry.”

Eddie gaped at him, furious. “Excuse you? You do not get to call me adorable you oversized string bean.”

Richie threw his head back and laughed. “Yea Eds, we’ll get along just fine.” He threw an arm over Eddie, leading him out of the office.

Eddie ducked out for his arm, glaring at Richie. “If we’re going to work together, and you insist on sticking with me we need to get a couple things straight.” He waited until Richie turned to him, the stupid grin on his face.

“But Eds, I’m anything but straight. And I get the feeling the same is true for you.” He said with a wink. “But hit me.”

Eddie sighed. Richie was as exhausting as he had assumed. He continued, counting on his fingers. “One, no nicknames. We’re professionals and I refuse to diminish that with inane nicknames. Two, no hitting on me- including calling me cute, adorable, whatever. We’re partners, not on a second date. Three,” Eddie waved at Richie’s outfit. “Can’t you try to dress a bit more professionally? I’d like to be taken seriously and not have people think we’re there to fix the garbage disposal.”  Eddie stopped, looking at Richie.

“You’re done?” Eddie nodded and Richie continued. “Well then buddy, I’ll take all of that under consideration. Except for the clothes. Not all of us dress like we’re meeting our boyfriend’s parents for the first time.” Richie said, looking at Eddie’s outfit. “But I have some conditions too.”

Eddie leaned against the wall and gave a casual wave of his hand, telling Richie to go on. Richie started counting on his long fingers. “One, you need to chill out a little. We’re on the same side here so I’d appreciate if you acted like it. Two, we share all the information our teams find and any clues that we find. I want to find Ben safe, that’s my goal and I don’t want to be working against you for it. Deal?” He asked, extending his hand.

Eddie thought about it for a second. He still wasn’t sure he trusted Richie. Actually, he knew he didn’t. He didn’t know him well enough to trust him. But they did need to work together. And he was right about one thing- they had the same goal.

So he extended his hand, “Deal.” Richie’s larger hand enveloped his and he felt a jolt from the contact. Richie’s fingers curled over his hand and he smirked. Eddie jerked his hand back and pointed again. “No flirting.” He repeated.

Richie put his hands up innocently. “I can’t help it if you’re getting a hard on from a handshake. You need to get laid.” He said, grinning. Eddie was about to retort when a maid appeared in the doorway, asking if they were ready to go. Both nodded, letting her lead them out.

Eddie decided that this first meeting told him most of what he needed to know about Richie- he didn’t take things seriously but he did care about the case. Eddie could work with that. And he could ignore how damn attractive his smile was.

Chapter Text

Eddie arrived at the event center after Richie, which didn’t surprise him. After watching how he peeled out of the parking lot on his beat up moped Eddie was surprised he was still alive.

“You’re going to kill yourself, driving like that.” He told Richie, who was leaning against the wall, a bright blue tootsie pop in his mouth.

Richie pulled it out with a wet pop, grinning at Eddie. “Worried about my safety there partner?”

Eddie shook his head. “I just don’t want to get stuck in the back up while they peel your body off the pavement.”

Richie just laughed and opened the door, ushering Eddie in with a sweep of his arm. “After you my good sir.”

Eddie walked in, looking around the open room. They were in the entryway of an old theatre that had been converted to an event space- peeling frescos decorated the vaulted ceilings and faded red carpet covered the floor.

Someone shuffled over to them. “Can I help you?”

“I sure hope so! I’m Jonah Hex and this here is my fiance, Hercule Poirot. We’re interesting in renting this charming spot for our wedding. Think we could poke around?” Richie asked, smiling broadly at the woman and gesturing with his lollipop.

She smiled back, nodding happily at them. “Oh of course! Congratulations to both of you! When’s the wedding?”

“May.” Richie lied easily. “I wanted to elope but this one-” Richie pinched his cheek and Eddie glared at him. “Insisted on a spring wedding. But look at this face! How could I say no?” He gave Eddie a convincingly soft, in love look and sighed.

She beamed at both of them, nodding happily. “Of course. Feel free to look around. We offer a variety of packages and would love to help you with your special day. Please let me know if you have any questions Mr. Hex. ”

“I’m sure we will!” He said, shooting finger guns at her before slipping his hand into Eddie’s and leading them away. “Babe, this place is just divine. You were so right, my mom’s garage can not compete.” He cooed.

Once they rounded a corner Eddie tugged his hand back, glaring up at Richie. “What the fuck was that? Why didn’t you tell her we’re investigating?”

Richie sighed and shook his head. “Eds Eds Eds, we’re keeping a low profile, remember? We’ll get the same access this way, probably more. And we don’t have to reveal that we’re working for Bev. You can go anywhere under the guise of wedding planning. No one says no to two adorable grooms.” He held up his hands as if to say ‘tell me I’m wrong’.

Eddie bit back an angry retort and let himself think for a minute. Richie was right. Bev asked them to keep a low profile and this way they didn’t have to admit that they were detectives, which always raised people’s hackles. Plus, people were nicer when they thought you were going to spend a bunch of money.

So he nodded.  “That’s- actually a good idea.” Eddie admitted. “But why the dumb names?”

Richie looked appalled. “Eds! Jonah Hex is a famous bounty hunter! And Poirot, I mean, a tiny genius- just like you.” He said, grinning. “You haven’t heard of them?”

Eddie shrugged. “Not my cup of tea, I guess.”

Richie shook his head sadly. “We will discuss that later. I’m not letting this go. But for now,” He put his hands on his hips, looking around. “Where do we start?”

“Let’s retrace Ben’s steps.” Eddie suggested and Richie nodded. They went to the event room, when Ben had been with Bev for most of the night. Eddie took note of the exits (4) and the cameras (1 real, 5 fake) and texted Stan to ask for the video from the night. All they had seen was the still of Ben outside and Eddie hoped that he was caught on camera, even for a brief time.

Otherwise the room wasn’t helpful. Eddie didn’t expect to find a smoking gun there and he wasn’t proven wrong. It was just a well kempt event space.

Anytime staff appeared Richie would grab Eddie’s hand and gush about the colors and set up, asking a variety of questions that could be related to a wedding. He actually got some useful information from one over excited waiter. He was asking about any celebrities who had been there and the younger man told them about someone trying to sneak into the benefit the night Ben went missing, relaying the tale with hushed excitement. Richie feigned shock and Eddie quietly hit ‘record’ on his recorder. None of his records had talked about someone trying to sneak in and this waiter was more than happy to talk about his brush with fame. It sounds like the intruder didn’t make it far, he didn’t have an invitation and was turned away, though someone found him trying to sneak in through the kitchen. They exchanged a glance at the new information, silently agreeing to look into it further.

After that they went to the bathroom where Ben was last seen by another person. Eddie didn’t expect to find much here either. “The bathroom attendant said that Ben seemed fine when he left the room. And he didn’t look concerned on the camera. I know he’s an actor but it seems like, if he knew something was going to happen, he would have been nervous.” Eddie said, examining the room. One entry, one exit. There was a small sunken window but Eddie couldn’t quite see it.

Richie nodded. “Agreed.” He looked at Eddie, who was jumping up to look at the window, and raised an eyebrow. “Need help?”

“No,” Eddie was contemplating crawling on the sink when he felt arms wrap around his hips, lifting him up. “What the fuck?!” He said, turning to glare at Richie, who shrugged unapologetically.

“You looked like a tiny rabbit, trying to jump on the counter. Hurry up and look at whatever you were looking for. You’re heavier than you look.” He said, clasping his forearms around Eddie’s hips.

Eddie huffed but looked at the deep window sill. It was small- he could probably fit through it but didn’t think Ben or anyone else could have. And it was dusty, which meant that it was unlikely that anyone had used it recently.

“What are you doing?” Someone had come in, startling them.

Richie quickly put Eddie down and turned to the invader, frozen. Eddie wiped off his pants and looked at them, shaking his head. “Checking this place for cleanliness. That window is disgusting. Do you ever clean in here?”

“Of course we do! We focus on other parts of the bathroom, not the window.” The attendant said, obviously offended.

Eddie huffed. “If you don’t clean the whole room none of it is clean.” He whisked past the man, not giving him a chance to respond. Richie hadn’t moved. “Come on babe.” He said, holding out his hand.

That snapped Richie out of it and he followed Eddie, grabbing his hand and not looking back at the surprised attendant.  Once the door shut he whispered, “Nice job Eds, that was convincing.”

Eddie shrugged.  “You’re not the only one who can lie. Plus, it was true. If the window sill is dirty they’re lazy cleaners.”

Richie whistled appreciatively. “Sexy and clean. I hit the fucking jackpot.” He winked at Eddie again and Eddie found himself smiling. Richie was disarming. He was irksome but Eddie was already getting used to his brand of annoying.

“Whatever. Let’s go where Ben was last seen.” Eddie said, turning away before Richie could say anything else.

The outside area was surrounded by buildings- the event space, apartments and some offices enclosed it. It was small, with a koi pond and some well kempt plants and flowers. The building towered over them, offering no obvious escape.

“It's interesting that there’s no more video of him.” Eddie commented as they looked around. “There’s a camera inside every door. How did none of them see Ben leave?”

Richie was a few feet away, trampling over some bushes. Eddie was about to tell him to stop when he called out, “Eds come here.”

Eddie sighed. “We fucking talked about nicknames.” He said, walking over. Richie pointed to the ground, there was a small manhole cover between all the plants. “Oh.” He said appreciatively.

“Shall we?” Richie asked.

“Can you lift that with your noodle arms?”

Richie scoffed, bending down and trying to pick up the heavy cover. Eddie didn’t bother to correct his stance, he’d figure it out when his back ached in the morning. Eddie was leaning against a tree, watching Richie struggle, when he heard someone approaching.

Eddie’s detective sense tingled and he pulled Richie behind a tree, clamping a preemptive hand over his mouth and turning on his recorder with the other one.

He heard two people talking, approaching where they had just been. “Think those fancy fuckers found the manhole?” A male voice asked.

“Last I saw they were poking around the bathrooms.” A woman replied.

“Like they’ll find shit there.” The voices stopped. They were over the manhole, less than a foot away. “I don’t see them.”

“Good. I know Smith said we could kill them if we had to but I don’t feel like dealing with a body today.” Eddie tensed, looking at Richie. His eyes were wide and he stared at Eddie. He put a finger to his lips and lowered his hand. He didn’t trust Richie to stay quiet without constant reminders.

He heard them kicking the manhole. “Looks intact.” Then a propane torch starting. “Let’s make sure it stays that way.”

The pair stopped talking and Eddie swore in his mind as he heard the torch sealing their newest lead. He and Richie stayed quiet, waiting for them to leave and listening for any other clues as to who they were. The two mostly rambled about some radio show they both liked, joking about the ‘double your paycheck’ section and if they would double under the table transactions.

It took Eddie several minutes to realized that he and Richie were pressed against each other, Richie’s hand was on Eddie’s arm and Eddie’s had fallen to his shoulder. He didn’t dare move, not wanting to make a sound. Eddie was pressed against the tree, not painfully but enough that he could feel Richie’s lanky form against him. He swore he could feel Richie’s hip bones jutting into him, the man needed several good meals.

To Eddie’s extreme annoyance, he liked it. He liked being under Richie and the weight of him.

No ! He sternly reminded himself, trying to focus on listening. He wasn’t someone to get carried away. Especially by someone who smelled like the gasoline and pixie stix.

“There. This job’s done. Now we need to find the two nosy fags.” The man said, turning off the torch.

“You’re not supposed to say fag anymore Mark.” The woman scolded.

“I don’t fucking care what we call them. They’ll be dead in a few days.” The two started to walk away, their conversation growing quieter and quieter.

They waited until the footsteps receded to move. Richie exhaled loudly, looking at Eddie. “Fucking hate being quiet.” Richie said, stepping around the tree.

Eddie followed, looking down at the newly sealed manhole. He was pretty sure they could still get access to the area, Mike could probably find the sewer blueprints in the library. But the conversation they overheard weighed on his mind.

“This is bigger than I expected.” Eddie said, looking up at Richie.

He turned to Eddie, eyebrow raised. “We’re getting paid a million dollars, did you think it would be easy?”

“I didn’t expect death threats!” Eddie retorted. “We’ve been on the case less than 24 hrs.”

“Are you going to quit?” Richie asked. He sounded disappointed.

“Aren’t you?” Eddie asked, surprised that it was even a question.

Richie shook his head. “Bev needs us. I’m not leaving.”

“Even after that?” Eddie asked, pointing in the direction the people had gone.

“Especially after that.” Richie said, setting his jaw. “Something big is happening, I want to know what’s going on.”

Eddie looked at him, shocked that Richie would choose answers over safety. ‘Really? You think your curiosity is worth your life?”

“I think giving Bev peace of mind is worth overhearing some vague threats from two bit criminals.”

“You don’t think that was real?”

Another head shake. “No, if they wanted us dead they would have just put a bomb in our house, make it look like a gas explosion.”

“You came up with that alarmingly fast.” Eddie said, raising an eyebrow.

Richie shrugged. “Point is, I don’t believe them. But if you want to leave, fine. I understand. I guess I overestimated you.”

Eddie looked up at Richie, not letting himself rise to the obvious bait. He thought over what Richie said, and what they overheard, trying to be logical about it.  He had never given up on a case, even when it got hairy. It wasn’t in his nature. He had handled death threats before, and attempts on his life, and he’d come through with minimal scars. It was part of the job. The trade off for not sitting in an office working on TPS reports.

But this, people knew where they were. And were making threats. It was a hell of a first day.

Most of Eddie told him to run, to tell Bev that he was sorry but he couldn’t do this. It was the smart choice.

But part of him reminded him that then Richie would be alone. And Eddie found he didn’t want that. He couldn’t leave this idiotic ent alone he’d be dead in a day.  And he did like to see things through. He was interested too, this was bigger than he expected. It wasn’t just a snatch and grab, it was something more. And, self preservation be damned, he was curious to see what exactly.

“I’m not leaving that easily.” Eddie told him, and Richie grinned, obviously relieved. “But we need to be careful. And we need the footage from these cameras.”

Richie nodded happily. “Richie and Eddie, team of the century.”

Eddie couldn’t stop the smile that appeared on his face. He looked at Richie. “Maybe, one day.”

Richie’s face lit up like Eddie had given him the perfect birthday present. “Eds, that one day will come. I promise you that.” He said it so earnestly that it threw Eddie.

“I- okay. Whatever.” Eddie wasn’t ready for whatever that implied. “Let’s get those tapes.”

They walked to the small security room and waited outside until a bored looking twenty-something showed up, popping her gum loudly.

“Howdy there miss.” Richie said in a surprisingly passable southern accent. “I was hoping you could help me with a little something. The missus wants ta rent this place for a party but she needs ta see the place all-” he waved his hand. “In action like. Now, could I maybe grease your palm with a Jackson to get them boring ol’ tapes from today?”

The woman looked Richie up and down. The look would have been suspicious if it seemed like she cared enough to actually be suspicious. “You could. But someone from the security company just swung by and took them. I was helping load them into their car.”

Eddie wanted to swear but settled for frowning. Richie recovered quickly. “What a damned shame. What’s the name of that company, if-in you don’t mind me asking?”

“Torchwood Security.” The woman said, popping her gum again. Eddie cringed at the noise. “I need to go now. Gotta put new tapes in.” She opened the door and disappeared.

“Shit.” Richie said, slipping back into his normal voice.

“There goes our best lead. They probably just made some fake badges and waltzed in here to steal the tapes. Fuck.” Eddie said, slumping against the wall.

Richie looked at him, mouth pulled into a frown. “We can figure something out. All that stuff is uploaded to the cloud now. Maybe we can get it from the source.”

Eddie nodded, “I’ll call Stan to see what he can do. And if he can get those tapes from the night Ben went missing.”

They decided that there was nothing else to find here and went outside. Richie paused at his bike. “Are you going home?”

Eddie looked up from his long message to Stan, double checking that he had asked everything. “Are you asking me out?”

“Thought that wasn’t allowed.” Richie said, smirking briefly. “But no. I was going to say that I don’t know if it’s safe, after what we heard. Maybe stay at a hotel.”

Eddie raised an eyebrow. “Thought you weren’t worried about that.”

“Don’t want anything to happen to that sexy ass. Least, not via someone else.” Richie said, winking. “But I think some caution is warranted.”

Eddie nodded. “I have a safe house- apartment- that I can stay at.” Richie’s eyebrows shot up, impressed. “It became a necessity a few years ago, to give battered spouses a safe place to stay. What about you?”

“I’ll sleep in my truck.” Richie said and Eddie glanced at his bike. “Okay, I’ll sleep at Bill’s.”

Eddie sighed. “I’m going to regret this but, do you want to sleep at my place? There’s a couch. You’ll barely fit but you probably won’t get blown up.”

Richie’s face lit up. “Aw Eds, you do care! Sure, I’ll be over after I grab some stuff from my office.”

Eddie nodded. He told Richie the address, making him repeat it three times before getting into his car. He called the office as he left, telling them to put him on speakerphone as he drove. “Hey, sent you both a list of some things we need. I’ll be visiting my grandma tonight.” It was the code they had come up with to let each other know that something had happened and they’d be at the safe house.

“Say hi for us.” Mike replied.

“How was Richie?” Stan called.

Eddie thought for a minute. “Surprising.”

Chapter Text

Eddie rolled his shoulders as he took off his coat, hanging it on the small coat rack in the entryway. He did a quick sweep of the apartment, checking that he was alone and that everything was how he had left it. It didn’t take long given the small space. It was a studio apartment that had only the necessities- bed, couch and gin. Satisfied that he was alone and that no one had been here since him, he made himself a gin and tonic, a little annoyed that he didn’t have fresh limes, and sat on the couch, pulling out his laptop.

He went over what they knew. Someone knew they were on the case- and was following them closely enough that they had nearly been caught. These people didn’t want them to see something in that was under the manhole cover. And they had been willing to kill him and Richie.

Eddie finished his drink with that thought. He didn’t like being followed and he didn’t like how quickly this had escalated. He kept going back to the thought of how they were found so quickly. Did someone tell them? Or were the pair just that easy to follow? He knew that their first stop had been an obvious one- going to the scene of the crime. What worried him more was that they had just been hired and that no one outside of him, Richie, Bev and their teams knew that. It seemed that the news had traveled quickly, despite Bev’s request to keep it quiet. He made a note to ask Bev who she had told about hiring them.

He mulled it over as he spread out the evidence, pinning everything up on his bulletin board that took up most of one wall. They had a lot of evidence that didn’t seem to relate- Ben going missing from the fundraiser, the delivery van no one could find, the lack of ransom demands.

Eddie made himself a second drink as he thought about their next move. He wanted to investigate the sewers below the manhole cover, though the thought of going down in them made his stomach clench. He may need to put a pair of fishing waders on his expense account. They had several other leads to investigate as well and he thought about each of them as he pinned the notes to his board.

He frowned and tapped his lip, looking at the finished products, a jumble of pictures and notes, most of which didn’t seem to connect.. He was staring at it trying to figure out what he was missing, when he heard the secret signal on the doorbell- two short buzzes and a pause, then a third long one. He went to the camera to check who it was before buzzing them in.

Richie’s big eyes met his, peering into the camera from behind his glasses and standing on his tiptoes. While Eddie couldn’t hear him he could see that Richie’s mouth was moving- he sighed, no surprise there.

He buzzed Richie in and waited for the door to open, still looking at his board. “Hi there Spaghetti.” Richie said. Eddie opened his mouth to admonish him and Richie held up a hand. “It’s after hours, pretty sure nicknames are allowed.”

“It’s never after hours. Not until Ben is home safe.” Eddie told him. He saw that Richie had duffel bag and a paper bag. “Please don’t tell me you carry your laptop in a paper bag.”

Richie laughed. “Not since a raccoon chewed through it and I lost a perfectly good laptop.” Richie walked over to the table and started placing take out containers on the table. “I figured you were saving my hide, I could feed you.” He swept his hand across the selection. “All the best msg our fair city has to offer. I hope you like Chinese.”

Eddie’s stomach rumbled at the sight. “Thanks, that’s actually really nice of you.”

“Always the tone of surprise.” Richie quipped. “Does this place have plates or are we eating out of the containers?”

Eddie walked past him into the galley kitchen, pulling out two plates. “What are we, animals?” He joked, handing a plate and fork to Richie, who was smiling at him. “What?”

“Your safe house is better stocked than my apartment.” Richie said, moving to sit at the small table while Eddie got them both water.

“You don’t have plates at your house?”

Richie, who was already shoving noodles straight from the container into his mouth, shook his head. “I haf plates!” He said, spewing food on the table. Eddie cringed and Richie looked down, swallowing before saying, “Sorry.” He took a napkin and cleaned up most of the mess.

“Don’t get invited to many fancy meals do you?”

“No, I mostly eat out of fast food wrappers.” Richie said, pouring some sauce over his chicken.

Eddie handed him a glass and sat, knitting his brows. “Really?”

Richie shrugged. “Yea? It’s easier.”  

“Don’t you get sick of it?”

“Eh, not really. There's enough variety that I get all the major food groups- starch, sugar and alcohol. Aren’t you always on a case? How do you have time to cook?”

“I used one of those meal delivery things, where they send you the ingredients and you cook it.” Eddie explained, spooning rice onto his plate.

Richie shook his head. “Never heard of it.”

Eddie grabbed a dumpling, waving his hand. “I’ll show you sometime.”

“You asking me out on a date Eds?”

Eddie stopped pouring sauce on his chicken and looked at Richie. He could feel a blush spreading on his cheeks as he tried to recover. Then Richie laughed, slapping a hand on his knee. “Don’t worry! I know your rules! No dating, no sex, no fun blah blah blah.”

Eddie nodded. “Right, exactly. My rules.” He looked down at his plate, willing his face to return to the correct color. He wasn’t sure why he cared so much that Richie had been so willing to make it into a joke.

“You’ve got a great conspiracy board there. Just needs some twine.” Richie said, pointing to Eddie’s clue board after a minute.

“Thanks.” Looking at it gave Eddie something to do besides think about his feelings. Between bites he explained what he was thinking. “I asked Stan for info about the sewer system and tapes. But we might need to go spelunking down there ourselves, to see if there’s anything useful.” Eddie wrinkled his nose, still loathe to do down there. “And I gave him Ben’s laptop before coming here so hopefully he’ll get back to us soon.” It didn’t feel like it was earlier today that he had met Bev and Richie. So much had happened since then.

Richie nodded. “Bill would probably help too, if we need another hand in investigating.” Richie’s eyes lit up. “We can send him into the sewers!” He laughed. “Bill will hate it. Let’s do it.”

Eddie giggled at Richie’s obvious delight. “You’re terrible!”

“Fuck that noise was cute!” Richie said, looking at Eddie happily. Then he slapped his forehead. “Shit, sorry forgot about your rule.”

Eddie shrugged, “Maybe this is afterhours.” He said, watching Richie’s reaction, which was pure delight. Part of Eddie’s brain screamed about his rules while another, larger, part enjoyed Richie’s smile.

“Excellent.” Richie smirked. “So can I ask you a personal question then?”

Eddie eyed him warily. “You can ask but I might not answer.”

“Wouldn’t expect anything less.” Richie said, stabbing some pork. “Why’d you get into all this?” He asked, waving his fork around. “A job that requires a safe house doesn’t exactly scream Eddie Kaspbrak, from what I’ve seen.”

Eddie nodded. He got the question a lot. It was part of people underestimating him. They wanted to know why he did it, when it was so dangerous and he was so frail . “I like helping people. I’m good at seeing the forest through the trees, picking up on the big picture after looking at all the clues. It’s satisfying.”

Richie nodded like he was considering it then pointed his fork at Eddie. “That’s a really great bullshit client answer. Now, how about the real one?”

Eddie smiled, impressed that Richie had seen through his bullshit. “Okay, the real answer.” He took a sugar bun and leaned back. He could practically hear Richie thinking about calling him sugar buns and stopping himself.  

“The real answer.” Eddie started and Richie leaned forward, elbows on the table, utterly focused on Eddie. It was a little intoxicating, to have the full force of Richie’s attention on him.

“I was coddled growing up, to put it lightly. My mom was, she was overbearing. I never got to do anything. She wouldn’t let me play outside in the summers, wouldn’t let me go out for sports or clubs. Nothing. The only thing she let me do was read. So I did, I read everything I could. I fell in love with detective novels. The old grizzled gumshoe detective who could gather clues and solve the case? Be the hero? Get the girl?” Eddie snorted. “This is when I thought I liked girls. Big news for 15 year old Eddie. But that’s another story.’

“I wanted that.” He continued. “I wanted to solve mysteries and use my brain to help people- and also to be in the thick of things, something I never got to do as a kid. And, luckily, I was good at it. I’m good at this, at seeing what other people missed and figuring out what people aren’t saying.  We have a high success rate, we work hard and I’m proud of it.” Eddie finished, eating the sugary treat. He hadn’t told many people his story. Stan and Mike knew, along with some other close friends but that was it. Richie was the first stranger he had told and he wasn’t sure why.

Richie had been surprisingly quiet while he spoke. Eddie worried he had said too much. But then Richie nodded. “Sounds like you had a rough childhood.” Eddie steeled himself for the pity but none came. “But shit, your spite really worked out for you. You guys are one of the most successful agencies in the state. Your mom should be proud.”

Eddie shrugged. “If she knew maybe she would be. We don’t talk.” He licked the sugar off his fingers, noticing how Richie’s eyes were trained on his mouth. He felt a twitch in his pants and swallowed, reminding himself again of his rules.

“What about you?” He asked, wanting to steer the conversation away from his mom. He wasn’t ready to explain anymore of that to Richie, not yet.

Richie shrugged. “Nothing so dramatic. I suck at that there book learning so I dropped out of school. Did some shitty jobs for a while until I convinced Bill to start this ridiculous enterprise with me and, shit, we’re good at it!” He grinned. “So we keep doing it.”

Eddie laughed, asking Richie about how he met Bill. Richie was halfway through a story about getting drunk with Bill in high school and trying to steal a street sign when the doorbell rang again, the secret signal. Eddie stood and checked the camera before buzzing Stan and Mike in.

“Eddie, that shit you wanted was not easy to get. You definitely owe me for this. Hacking into the cloud? I demand some of those fancy chocolates that you always tell me are a waste of money.” Stan said, walking in and handing him an overnight bag that Eddie kept stored at the office. It was then he noticed Richie sitting amongst all the food. He raised an eyebrow to Eddie. “Are we interrupting something?”

Richie nodded as Eddie exclaimed, “No!”

Stan walked over to him. “Nice to meet you in person. I’ve looked through enough of your files that I feel like we’ve already met. Though I’d love to hear you fill in the blank for some of the police reports.”

Richie stuck his hand out. “Well, good, I hate small talk. And I’d be happy to, after a few beers.” Stan shook his hand and frowned. Eddie assumed it was sticky from the sugar buns.

Mike walked over too. “Mike.” He said, also shaking Richie’s hand. Stan discreetly walked to the sink and washed his hands.

“We thought it was safer to be here together.” Eddie explained, falling into the overstuffed chair.

“Yea, we’re gonna need a recap on all that,” Mike said, grabbing an eggroll and sitting on the couch. Stan curled up next to him, feet tucked under him.

Eddie told them what had happened, with occasional interruptions from Richie. Mike’s eyes widened as they got to the part with the death threats. “Eddie, are you sure this is a good idea?” He asked once they finished. “I mean, is this worth the money?”

Eddie nodded. “I think it is. I want to know what’s going on. And, like Richie said, it’s unlikely anything will actually happen.”

“You’re in the safe house.” Stan said, gesturing. “You’re clearly a little worried.”

“It was my idea.” Richie said, “Eds was going to just glare at the bullet and force it to retreat.”

“Shut up.” He said, without any real heat. He saw Stan and Mike exchange quick glances as he continued. “I’m being smart. Caution is smart. But I don’t want to quit.”

Stan nodded and Eddie knew the conversation was over. His friends may still think this was a bad idea but they would go along with it if it was what he wanted. Eddie appreciated it.  “Good. Because I spent a bunch of time on this.” Stan produced a small thumbnail drive. “I got you the tapes from the cloud for the night Ben went missing and today.”

“I didn’t get the sewer plans yet.” Mike said, “I spent over an hour talking to Ben’s assistant, pretending to be from some gossip rag. I got a couple leads that I’ll email you.”

“Thanks both.”

Richie was gaping at them. “Man, Bill is fucking useless. I’m joining you guys.”

“We’re not hiring.” Stan said, standing to look at Eddie’s board.

“Fine, I’ll join as Eddie’s sexy side piece.” Richie said, winking at him. Eddie rolled his eyes and walked over to Stan as Richie offered Mike some food, since he had been eyeing it up.

“Do you have any ideas where he is?” Stan asked, pulling at some pinned receipts.

Eddie shook his head. “Not yet.”

“Do you trust Richie?”

Eddie knew what the question meant, that Stan had found a lead and wanted to know if Eddie wanted him to tell him now, where Richie may overhear. Eddie glanced at Richie, who was laughing at something Mike said.

“I don’t know. But we promised to work together. So I need to trust him enough for that.”

Stan nodded, accepting Eddie’s answer. “I found something on Ben’s computer. He has a storage unit in Portland.” He slipped a post it into Eddie’s hands. “For three years now. Probably worth checking out.”

Eddie nodded. “Thanks.”

Stan gave him a sharp nod. “It’s my job.” He looked over the board then cringed as Richie launched into a raunchy story about a pinecone and raccoons. “You really want to work with him?”

Eddie gave a small laugh. “You say that like I have a choice.”

“You invited him here. You’ve never invited anyone here.”

“I’ve never gotten a death threat aimed at me and and my partner.”

Stan looked at him, eyebrow arched. “Partner? Am we being replaced?”

“You know what I mean.”

Stan nodded slowly. “I think I do.” He threw a look at Richie. “He seems like a good person Eddie. Mike already likes him.”

Eddie saw that Mike was showing off pictures of their four ferrets, something he did the minute anyone let him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He shrugged. “Just that, if he sticks around, we won’t hate it.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He said blandly, sticking the post it up on the board.

“Mhm.” Stan said before walking back and leaning against Mike, his hands wrapping around Mike’s shoulders. Mike picked up an eggroll and offered it to Stan and Eddie felt brief jealous at the ease of their relationship. As he was watching them he felt something hit his head.

“What the fuck?” He exclaimed, spinning to look at Richie.

“Your fortune cookie.” Richie said, pointing at the ground. “You were too slow.”

“You didn’t warn me!” Eddie said, bending down and picking up the cookie. He saw that Stan was hiding a grin and Mike looked delighted. Eddie hated them a little then, for being so obvious. He knew Richie saw their joy too.

“I think it’s time for us to leave.” Mike said abruptly, standing. “Stay safe you and keep us updated.”

“Yes. Please do.” Stan added as they walked to the door.

“Thanks, hate you both.” Eddie called out, waving as the door closed.

He turned to Richie, who was grinning broadly. “What?”

“Your friends are cool.”

Eddie furrowed his brows. “Okay. Thanks.” He started to clear the plates, surprised that Richie stood and helped him put the food away and wash the dishes- though he did keep trying to make bubble beards.

They finished and Eddie walked to the couch, pulling out his notes again, planning to talk them through with Richie. Richie sat next to him, slightly closer than necessary, which Eddie could already tell was Richie’s way.

“Put that away.” Richie ordered.

Eddie frowned. “Why? Don’t you want to talk about the case more?”

“No. We’re both too tired to be useful.” Eddie was tired, it had been a long day. Richie looked through his bag and pulled out a handful of DVDs. “We’re watching Pirot. You can’t be a proper detective until you’ve learned from the best.”

Eddie looked at Richie’s expression, hopeful and excited. He couldn’t say no to his stupid puppy eyes. “Fine, pop it in.”

“Excellent!” Richie sprang up and put the movie in the DVD player, explaining the characters to Eddie as the show started.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Eddie woke up first and looked over at Richie, whose limbs were hanging off the couch. Eddie had been right, he didn’t really fit on it. His arm was flung over his head and his leg had fallen off the couch and onto to the ground. Eddie was surprised that he hadn’t tumbled off yet.

He quietly stood and started the coffee. They had stayed up late, watching movies and trying to impersonate Pirots’ precise speech. Eddie had laughed more than he had in a long time and he had learned that Richie snorted when he laughed too hard. And that he got cuddly when he was tired. He had ended up with his head on Eddie’s shoulder, folded next to him. It was endearing.

And off limits, he reminded himself. All of this was off limits. Like an idiot, he was breaking his own rules. But he couldn’t help it. It was stupid, they barely knew each other but Eddie felt a connection there, a comfort in their bickering that he rarely found. And he didn’t want to push it away, not just yet.

He pulled out a cereal box and milk, pouring himself a bowl and looking through his notebook. He had stayed up after Richie, trying to jot down all his notes and thoughts. He hadn’t told Richie about the storage locker yet. When he tried Richie had put a finger to his lips, insisting that it could wait. Eddie tried to bring up the captured man that was possibility in danger and Richie replied that they weren’t going to solve the case that night and pointed him back to the movie.

He was finishing his cereal when Richie finally woke up. Eddie watched as he fell off the couch, barely catching himself before his face hit the floor. He grabbed his glasses as he stood, stretching to reveal a small trail of hair that disappeared into his sweatpants. Eddie glanced away.

“Is that your little black book Eds?” Richie asked, sauntering over and pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“It’s my notes, for that missing person case we’re working on, remember?”

Richie sat across from him, stealing Eddie’s bowl and pouring more cereal and milk into it. Eddie almost commented about how unsanitary it was but decided that it wasn’t worth it. He filled Richie in on the storage unit, the little he knew.

“So I think we need to go to Portland.” Eddie finished, watching Richie slurp down the leftover milk.

Richie wiped his chin, nodding. “Agreed but let me call dear Beverly first. Maybe she knows what’s in it and we can avoid this trip.”

Eddie doubted it but shrugged, watching Richie grab his phone and pace around the small area as he called Bev. “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya, guv’na!” Richie said in an Irish accent when she answered.

Eddie couldn’t hear Bev’s side of the conversation but he guessed how it was going- no, she didn’t know about the storage unit, no it wasn’t possible that Ben had told her and then she forgot. He cringed as Richie tried uselessly make it sound like it was nothing. Eddie was sure that all they had done was worry her, he heard Richie promise to fill her in on details once they looked through it.

“Well, Bev doesn’t know about the unit. But she gave her blessing for us to spend whatever we need to go to Portland and investigate.” Richie said, falling into the chair next to Eddie.

Eddie nodded and pulled up information on flights leaving CA that day. Richie whistled as he saw the prices. “We should just road trip it Eds.”

“You want to drive ? It’s 12 hrs.” Eddie asked, looking at him.

“Yea, road trip! The open road, snacks, some tunes, and road head.” Richie said, winking at him.

“That settles it. We’re definitely flying.” Eddie said, turning back to his laptop and grabbing a credit card.

“Sure it’s worth the cost Eds? We’ll have to rent a car there anyway.”

“A man is missing Richie. Time is of the essence.” Eddie replied, ignoring the fact that, in reality, he didn’t want to be trapped in a car with Richie for 12 hours. It felt like too much- too much what exactly, he wasn’t sure. And he didn’t want to find out.

“You’re the boss.” Richie said, pulling out his own laptop. “I’ll book us a hotel.”

After Eddie booked the flights he turned to Richie again.  “Stan gave me a flash drive.”

“Sexy.”

Eddie furrowed his brows. “It’s the contents of Ben’s computer, I thought we could look at it, together?”

“Double sexy.” Richie said, grinning wolfishly. “I’m in.”

“You’re impossible.” He pushed the flash drive in, ignoring that Richie had moved close enough for Eddie to feel his body heat.

The flash drive didn’t have much on it. Stan only included potentially relevant items so there were only 4 or 5 files. One was a receipt for the storage unit. Another was a discarded email draft about how Ben thought someone was following him- someone in a tan jacket seemed to be appearing at every corner. The next was a document that looked like a contract for his next movie. Stan had added a note about how he included it because he thought someone may have used it to learn his comings and goings. There were only a few people who knew he was signed on and Stan included a list of names. Another receipt for a catering company.

“Wait.” Richie said, as Eddie went to close the document. It looked like it was for one of the kid’s birthday parties. Stan had included it as an example of people having their address.

“What? Do you want to order a clown?”

“No. I fucking hate clowns.” Richie stood and grabbed a photo off the bulletin board. “Look.” He shoved the black and white photo over Eddie’s keyboard.

“Well, fuck.” Eddie looked at the mysterious catering van that didn’t seem to exist. They hadn’t been able to find any mention of the company or it's name anywhere. Except on this invoice, which bore the same logo.

“Exactly.” Richie was leaning over him, eyes darting between the two image. It was a boring logo. A spoon and fork with the words ‘Soylent Catering’ between them. “Looks like this jumped up on our priority list.” Richie’s breath hit Eddie’s cheek and he smelled coffee.

“I guess.” Eddie said, scooting his chair away, trying to gain some distance. “We’ll have to check this out once we get back from Portland.” He almost wished he had seen this first, he was slightly concerned that Portland was going to be a waste of time and this felt like a solid lead.

Richie nodded. “Very interesting development.” He said steepling his fingers. ‘Very interesting indeed.” He was doing some sort of accent Eddie couldn’t place but he found it funny. Richie seemed pleased when he laughed.

Eddie glanced at the time. 9am. “We have about six hours until we need to be at the airport. Should we check out the manhole?” He still wasn’t thrilled about the idea of spelunking in waste but they couldn’t waste the day.

Richie shook his head. “I already told Bill to do it. He’s getting half this payout, he should do something.” Richie’s eyes lit up. “I hope he send before and after pictures of his outfit. I should tell him we need them for… evidence.” Richie pulled out his phone, texting Bill.

“Okay, I’ll have Mike send him the plans too.” Eddie tapped out a message to Mike before he forgot. “How about checking out the leads from Mike?” Mike had sent him the named he had gotten from Ben’s assistant. A few intense fans. Eddie wasn’t expecting much but they should still check it out.

Richie nodded. “Shower first. Then leads.” He stood, grabbing a small bag from his overnight bag and heading to the bathroom. Eddie heard the water running then a loud crash as Richie, presumably, made all their toiletries fall. He giggled hearing Richie swear loudly.

Eddie was thinking about whether they had time to stop at his apartment- and if it was a good idea- when Richie came out of the bathroom, whistling and wearing only a towel.

“What are you doing?” Eddie squeaked, averting his eyes from Richie’s torso.

“Eds! I’m over 6 foot and that bathroom is tiny. I know you don’t understand but I need several feet of space to squeeze into those ass hugging skinny jeans.” Richie walked over to his bag, bending over and grabbing clothes.

Eddie’s eyes traveled over Richie’s back, looking at the bumps of his spine. He wanted to run his fingers slowly over them. The towel covered Richie’s ass but not much else and Eddie had a strong desire to walk over and let his hand roam over Richie’s thighs and up, disappearing up into the covered skin, touching Richie.

He closed his eyes, stopping himself before his thoughts went any further. Silently, he stood and grabbed his clothes and toiletries, disappearing into the bathroom before Richie whipped the towel off. Luckily, there was still hot water and Eddie let it flow over him, his hands reaching down to his half hard cock without realizing it. He bit his lip, swallowing a moan as he touched himself. He didn’t let himself question who he was thinking about, just quickly jerked off, spraying the shower wall as he came.

He finished his shower, telling himself it was a one time thing, that it was because of the small space and close contact. Richie was his partner in the case, nothing more.

Richie was examining Eddie’s board when he came out, dressed and ready. The two grabbed their supplies and headed out, driving to the closest of the fans.

---------

“That was a bust.” Richie said, several hours later. They had just finished talking to the last person on Mike’s list. All of them were rabid Ben fans but Eddie and Richie agreed that none of them were actually dangerous.

“At least we can cross something off our list. One lead closed.” Eddie said as they crawled into his car.

“You’re right.” Richie agreed.

Eddie started driving, going to his apartment. They had decided that it was probably safe to stop at their places before leaving for the airport. They just needed to be cautious about it. On the way they talked about the plan for Portland. Eddie had booked them one way tickets, unsure when they would be back. Richie had called Bev again, asking if she knew anyone in Portland. She said she would check but no one came to mind.

“I don’t think we’ll need to be there for long.” Eddie said as he pulled into his parking spot. He glanced around, looking for anything unusual. Everything seemed okay so they walked to his apartment.

“You don’t?” Richie asked, taking the stairs two at a time. “I think it’ll be a long, long trip.” He winked at Eddie.

“I don’t even know if that was an innuendo. You’ve been making them all day and I honestly can’t tell anymore.” Eddie said tiredly. Talking to the fans had been exhausting. All of them had offered to help, explaining the theories that were going around on the internet chat boards. They had politely declined and had managed to wrestle back a pair of Ben’s socks that one had stolen from a movie set and then offered to try a locating spell on to find him.

Richie let out a loud laugh. “Two days and you’re already used to me. Not sure if I’m thrilled or disappointed.”

Eddie nodded, half listening, as they reached his apartment. Again, he checked for anything amiss before opening the door. He knew he was probably being paranoid but didn’t want to risk it. His door was still locked and, when he opened it and peered in, everything looked as he had left it.

Richie strolled in before Eddie could stop him, commenting on everything in his small apartment.

“Why the spare bedroom?” Richie asked, “Got a lot of overnight guests?”

“Maybe.” Eddie replied, walking into his room.

Richie followed and sat on Eddie’s bed, watching as Eddie packed his clothes and other essentials. “Wait, do you?”

“Do I what?” Eddie looked up from deciding between two jackets. He’d pack them both, he didn’t know when he’d be home again.

“Have a lot of overnight guests.” Richie asked, looking directly at Eddie as he said it.

“Does it matter if I do?” Eddie asked, starting to pack his socks and underwear. He grabbed some work out clothes too.

“No. I mean, I’m just curious, I guess.” Richie was still watching Eddie pack his giant suitcase. It was mostly full. Eddie grabbed a couple nicer outfits, unsure what he would need.

“I have them occasionally.” Eddie said, looking a Richie. “Like I’m assuming you do?”

Richie shrugged. “It’s been a while since I’ve had a guest.”

Eddie finally stopped to look at Richie. He was sprawled over Eddie’s bed, leaning against the headboard, legs spread wide and playing with a small statue he kept on his bedside table. Eddie knew what they were talking about, and why. But they couldn’t talk about this. He was attracted to Richie, yes. It was undeniable. Even now, he couldn’t stop thinking about Richie on his bed in the same position but with less clothes.

But he couldn’t let this cloud his judgement. They needed to find Ben. After that, he allowed himself, maybe. Once he knew that it wasn’t only the close space that drew them together.

With that thought, Eddie looked at Richie and smiled. “Sounds like a personal problem.” He made another decision and crouched down, grabbing a small box from under his bed.

“Kinky.” Richie said, watching Eddie open the box.

“More than you know.” He said, pulling out handcuffs and a taser.

“Eddie Spaghetti! I never would have guessed!”

Eddie laughed, pulling out his handgun and the bullets as well. Everything went into his suitcase. He looked around his apartment once more, wondering when he’d be back. He wasn’t here often enough for it to really feel like home. If he was honest with himself, the office felt more like home than this place did. But he still liked it. And he’d miss it. They agreed to say in the safe house until Ben was home or they found whoever had threatened them. The two things were likely to happen in close succession anyway.

He turned to Richie. “Okay, I’m ready to go.”

“Onward and upward my minute man.”

Eddie just sighed. He had already given up on correcting Richie’s nicknames. It wasn’t worth it. Another barrier crumbled. Richie directed Eddie to his apartment.

“You live like this?” Eddie asked as Richie swung the door open after following the same precautions they had at Eddie’s apartment. All things considered, he probably shouldn’t be surprised. The apartment was clean, only because nothing was in it. There was a futon laid out as a bed and a TV with a console attached to it. Otherwise, the space was occupied by a shabby chest of drawers, a bookshelf, and a folding table with a chair. It made Eddie a little sad to look around, it was even less personal than his apartment. He wondered how little time Richie spent here, from what he had said it sounded like he was on the road more often than not.

“Yea, I prefer the simple life Eds.” Richie said, grabbing a duffle bag and shoving clothes into it. Eddie leaned against the counter as Richie packed. “You know like the Amish and shit.”

Eddie refrained from pointing out the video games and instead said, teasingly, “This is probably why you don’t have many guests.” He pointed to the lumpy bed. “Who wants to sleep on a futon after college?”

Richie looked at him then his bed. “You’re probably right Eds. Say,” A grin lit up his face. “Wanna help me test out beds after this? It’s more fun with two.”

Eddie laughed. “I think you’ll be just fine on your own.”

“Ah Eds, I always am.” He said with a wink.

Richie’s packing took even less time than Eddie’s. In less than five minutes he was ready and they were on the way to the airport.

Eddie wasn’t surprised to find out that Richie handled the airport with his signature chaos. He kept chatting with the people they were in line with, asking them questions and even holding someone’s baby for them. On the plane, Eddie had been intending to read but Richie ended up befriending a flight attendant and getting them free drinks for the short flight (plus their phone number which made Eddie’s stomach clench).

“You’re absolutely exhausting to travel with.” Eddie told him as they finally pulled up to the hotel in the rental car.

“You didn’t seem to mind me after those free scotches.” Richie said with a grin. He patted Eddie’s breast pocket where he had two more stored. He couldn’t drink all of them but the attendant insisted both take some for the road.

“Yea well, neither did Avery.” Eddie grumbled and Richie looked at him, delighted, as he grabbed their bags, handing Eddie his.

“You jealous Eds? Because I’d much rather flirt with you- you’re the one with rules here.”

“No, I’m not jealous,” Eddie replied stubbornly. “I just think that you should learn to blend in more.” He walked to the motel and pulled open the door, not checking if Richie followed.

“Impossible! You can’t turn off this animal magentism!” Richie called loudly from behind him.

“Hello, Eddie Kaspbrak checking in.” He told the front desk employee.

She smiled and looked up his name then frowned slightly. “I don’t see that name here. Would it be under something else?”

“Darling,” Richie said, striding up behind him. “I gave them our new married names.” He smiled broadly at the employee. “Newlyweds. He forgets. It’s under Joe Hardy.”

“Understandable. Congrats you too.” She looked up their name, checking them in and handing Richie two keys. “Enjoy your stay!”

As they walked to the elevator Eddie rounded on Richie, trying to keep a joking tone but some anger crept in. “Newlyweds? Just yesterday we were engaged. This relationship is moving a little fast for me.”

Richie shrugged. “I’m not taking any chances losing you.” His grin faltered as he saw how annoyed Eddie was. “Look, giving a fake name makes more sense. I routed it through some fancy transfer so it can’t be traced so we won’t have any unexpected guests. I thought this through.”

“Except that the Hardy boys were brothers.” Eddie retorted and Richie shrugged again, unconcerned.

Eddie searched for his frustration but found none, which annoyed him for a totally different reason. Richie had put some thought into it. He was thinking about their safety- even if it was in a different way than Eddie expected. And Eddie appreciated it. He wasn’t used to having someone look out for him or to think about his safety. It was strange, the gesture of routing the funds so they were untraceable may have been one of the more romantic things someone had done for him in a long time.

“As long as there’s two beds.” Eddie said, resigned, as he opened the door.

To a large, multi room suite that centered around one large bed, complete with rose petals and chilling champagne.

“Whoops?”

Chapter Text

Eddie turned to Richie, who already had his hands up in the ‘don’t shoot’ action. “I swear I didn’t know. They must have upgraded us when they heard ‘honeymoon’.” Richie walked to the champagne and plucked the small card off it. “Congratulations to the beautiful newlyweds. We wish you all the happiness.” Richie read aloud. He gave Eddie an embarrassed grin. “Free champagne though! That’s cool!”

Eddie sighed and put his bag down, looking around the room. There was a small office space off to the right, near a counter that had a microwave and small fridge on it. On the left was a large bathroom with a shower that would definitely hold two people. Eddie banished the thought from his mind as he looked started to unpack, hanging his clothes up in the small closet. He needed something to do with his hands while he processed this.

He turned as he felt Richie watching him. “I really didn’t mean for this to happen.” Richie said apologetically.

“I know.” Eddie wasn’t necessarily mad at Richie but he was annoyed, not at Richie but at the situation. Staying in a room with him only made everything harder. And sharing a bed would make denying his growing feelings nearly impossible.

But he was a professional, he reminded himself. He could handle it. He had to. “Should we order some food?” Eddie asked, turning back to Richie, who looked surprised. He clearly expected more of a fight from all this.

“Sure. What cha feeling Eds?”

Eddie shrugged. They had decided to go to the storage unit tomorrow, not wanting to go at night because they were unsure how long they would be there.

They ended up ordering pizza and pulling out their laptops, catching up on emails from other cases and any new information for this one. Stan and Mike hadn’t found anything else and Bill would be going down in the sewers tomorrow so there was no news there.

Eventually Eddie was forced to admit that he was tired. He had been trying to put it off but he kept yawning, and saw that Richie did too.

“Should we?” Eddie asked, pointing to the bed. Richie nodded. They took turns changing and Eddie was at least grateful that Richie wore pants and a shirt to sleep. He wouldn’t be sleeping next to him in only boxers.

They crawled into bed and Eddie was grateful for the small mercy that it was big enough that they weren’t touching. Both were careful to stay on their side of the bed. Eddie listened to Richie’s breathing change from shallow to deep and low. He found the noise comforting and fell asleep quickly, curled away from Richie and his sprawled body.

When Eddie woke up the next morning he was in Richie’s arms, Richie’s chest pressed to his back, making him the small spoon. He wasn’t surprised that Richie was a sleep cuddler- the man couldn’t keep his arms to himself when he was awake, it stood to reason he’d be worse at night- but he was surprised how much he liked it. Eddie didn’t normally like to cuddle, he liked his space but this, pulled close to Richie, feeling his breath hit his neck, he liked it. He could get used to this. He fit well in Richie’s arms, like he was made to be held by the lanky man. He felt safe.

Eddie relaxed, letting himself be held and enjoying the warmth. Until Richie shifted closer and Eddie felt something hard poking his back. Heat pooled in Eddie’s stomach and he leapt out of the bed, pushing a hand through his hair in distress.

Luckily, Richie slept through it, allowing Eddie looked down at him, his hair flared out and glasses off. He was fucking stunning. Eddie wanted to reach down and swipe a curl out of his face. His hand was halfway to Richie when he stopped himself, realizing that there were still some lines that they hadn’t crossed and Eddie wasn’t going to be the one to do it. He pulled his hand back and changed into work out clothes, going to the hotel gym.

An hour later he felt better, his muscles were tired and he had worked off some of his hormonal impulses. At least, until he opened the room door and found Richie lounging in boxers on the bed.

“What are you doing?” Eddie screeched, covering his eyes against the lanky nearly naked Richie.

“I-” Through the gaps in his fingers Eddie could see Richie scrambling to stand and pull on clothes. “You were gone! And I like being naked! This felt like a good compromise.”

Eddie just kept his eyes closed until he heard Richie stop moving. “Okay dressed.” He looked up, seeing Richie in another aged band shirt and ripped up jeans. He shouldn’t look so beautiful in such a grungey outfit, it wasn’t fair.

“I’m going to shower.” Eddie said, grabbing his clothes and disappearing, trying to banish the image from his mind. Eddie showered quickly then came out. It looked like Richie hadn't moved, he was still standing in the middle of the room.

“I really wasn’t trying-” Richie started.

“You’ve been saying that a lot this trip.” Eddie interrupted. He was being rude, he knew it. But dammit, Richie was testing his resolve over and over and he wasn’t sure he could take much more of it. He was frustrated with himself, he’d known Richie for two days. He shouldn’t be this attracted to him. And he was annoyed at constantly repressing what he wanted. Which was to pull those clothes back off Richie and push him on the bed. Anyone in his situation would be a little snippy.

Richie was watching him, clearly working on a reply and Eddie sighed. It wasn’t Richie’s fault that he couldn’t control himself but he didn’t want to be in the hotel room any longer.  “Sorry. I just- I need some coffee and food. Let’s go.”

They were silent as they ordered breakfast and drove to the storage unit. It was without a doubt the longest that Richie had been quiet since they had met. It was strange and made Eddie uneasy but he couldn’t think of a way to break the silence. Richie scrolled through his phone as Eddie drove, leaving Eddie to fiddle with the radio and try to find an acceptable station.

“We’re here.” Eddie finally said, pulling into the parking lot. Richie put down his phone, looking at Eddie for the first time and Eddie knew he had to say something. He hated this feeling, like they were fighting even though neither did anything wrong, per say.

Richie reached for his door handle and Eddie leaned over, clamping his hand over Richie’s and stopping him from opening it.

“Wait.” He said, looking up at Richie from his somewhat awkward position. He instantly knew that this had been a bad idea. He was basically leaned over Richie’s lap, his face below Richie’s bent head.

“Trapping me in here Eds?” Richie asked, his voice low and amused. He smiled and Eddie felt a blush on his cheeks.

“No, I- no.” Eddie sat back up, giving them some distance back. “I know the room and the bed was an accident. It was just, it’s been a long time since I’ve shared a room with someone. It’s hard, you know? And we barely know each other.” He had decided on the semi-lie on the drive over. It had been a long time, and they did barely know each other, but that definitely wasn’t the reason he was on edge.

Richie’s expression softened and he nodded. “I know, I’m in your personal space. I didn’t think when I booked the room.” He laughed quickly. “I never think, I guess that’s part of the problem.” He looked at Eddie. “Sorry. We can switch hotels, if you want? Rebook and get separate rooms?”

Richie was giving him an out. It was a good idea, he knew it. It would be smart to remove the temptation.

But, stupidly, Eddie shook his head. “You went through all this trouble to keep us safe. It’ll be fine. It’s only for a few nights.” And they were safer together, he justified to himself. Someone could still be after them.

Richie nodded, seeming relieved. “Good, yea, okay.” He glanced at Eddie again. “So we’re good?”

Eddie nodded. “We’re good.”

“Let’s go crack this case.”

They walked to the small office, Eddie feeling better now that they had talked. Richie seemed happier too, he was chattering at Eddie about a squirrel documentary he watched recently.

They were met by an older man with a scraggly beard that had dorito flakes in it. Eddie was immediately put off by him but Richie went into his routine, cracking jokes and making fast friends with him. They asked about Ben, and his unit, learning that he had had it for nearly five years. He paid for it a year at a time, all over the phone. Richie asked if they had ever seen Ben and were met with an uninterested shrug. Everyone was given two sets of keys so they could go to the unit without ever stopping by the front desk. There was no need to talk to the office unless someone needed a new unit or to stop payment.

They also asked the attendant for the videos from the cameras they had seen walking in but the man had laughed, saying all the cameras were fake. There was no reason to pay for real cameras, no one wanted to steal people’s old photos and furniture apparently.

The attendant had been reluctant to give them a key until Richie told him a sob story and slipped him some cash. Eddie was sure the latter had more to do with their success.

Eddie glance around as Richie unlocked the unit. They were the only ones there, in the lines of storage stacks, but he swore he felt someone’s eyes on them. It was ridiculous, he was sure. Their car had been the only one in the parking lot and they hadn’t seen another soul as they walked to the back to the unit. Eddie knew he was being paranoid but that didn’t stop the hairs on the back of his neck from standing on end. He wished he had brought his gun. He had only fired it once, a warning shot to someone who was advancing on him, but he practiced with it monthly. He hoped to never use it but was a proponent of ‘better safe than sorry’.

As Richie pushed the door open Eddie found that he was holding his breath. He felt a little silly. It was unlikely that this would be the smoking gun but part of him felt like there would be something in here, something real and tangible that would help them find Ben. He hoped he wasn’t wrong.

The unit opened and it was surprisingly empty. There were a few boxes and an old kid’s bike in the corner but not much else. Richie flicked on the light, illuminating the area. “Charming.” He comment, walking in.

“Why would he hide this from Beverly?” Eddie wondered out loud, glancing behind him once more before walking in and opening a box. It looked like it was some of Ben’s stuff when he was a kid- inside were model airplanes, books and action figures.

Richie, who was opening a different box, shrugged. “I’m not sure. It’s not like he’s hiding a furry suit in here or something.” He spun on his heels, looking around with a critical eye. “And everything is dusty, like it hasn’t been touched for a while.”

Eddie nodded, also examining the room. The box he had opened had dust and a few cobwebs on it. So did the others. But he spotted one in the back corner that didn’t. It was still dusty but the dust had been disturbed, like someone had placed something on it recently.

He walked over to it, looking around at the back of the box. “This doesn’t seem like Ben’s style.” He said, picking up a battered leather jacket.

He handed it to Richie, who smelled it. “This jacket smells like Marlboros. I don’t think Ben smokes.” He turned out the pockets, finding a small box of matches in one of the pockets. “Kilgrave Clubs.” He read, turning the box in his fingers before looking at Eddie. “Looks like it’s in Portland.”

Eddie, who had been looking in and around the box for any other clues, walked over. The match box had a small purple silhouette of a martini with the club name over it. “Looks like we’re going clubbing tonight.” He said.

Richie grinned. “Excellent, I hope you brought some tiny shorts to dance in.”

--------

 

Eddie was on his third outfit, trying to decide what to wear. They had looked up the club while they ate lunch in a local diner after leaving the unit. They had spent another ten minutes there before admitting that there wasn’t anything useful.  The club looked like a seedy place, the website advertised cheap drinks and loose girls. Eddie wanted to wash his hands after looking at it.

He scowled at his outfit again, not happy with the appearance it was giving off. He wanted to look tough, but not like he was trying to look tough. Mostly, he wanted people to leave him alone at the club. He had a guess what type of place it would be and doubted it was friendly towards gay men, especially ones who would be asking questions.

He was also distracted by Richie, who on the phone talking to Bill. He had gone spelunking earlier. Their conversation was taking forever because Richie kept asking if he had taken pictures and if he had seen anything swimming in the muck.

“Gotta watch out for those fishes that swim up your dick.” Richie was saying. Eddie suppressed a laugh and changed his shirt again, finally deciding that it was good enough.

“So big Bill, enough bullshit, did you find anything useful?” Richie asked, putting him on speaker and motioning Eddie over.

Bill sighed. Eddie knew that Bill had been trying to tell him this for twenty minutes. “The sewers under the theatre lead to three places. One of them goes to lake, the exit had a sturdy grate over it. I don’t think anyone escaped through there. A second exit goes to a processing plant. They may have gone that way- but there was a ladder they’d need to climb, which can’t be easy with a hostage.”

“And the third?” Richie asked. Both were leaning in hopefully. Richie’s hand brushed Eddie’s and he resisted the urge to grab it.

“Oh well, that one lets out near a bunch of abandoned warehouses. Pretty fucking convenient huh?” Bill laughed. “I looked around the warehouses a bit, didn’t find much. I might go back later, see if I can find any clues.”

“Did you find anything in the sewers?” Eddie asked.

“Few things.” Bill said. “It looks like your hunch was right, that’s how they got him out. Under that manhole cover that got closed up I found some rope and a knife. Nothing too interesting but I think they must have somehow gotten him down that ladder and into the sewers, before taking him to the warehouses.”

Eddie sighed. This information was interesting but not really helpful. It didn’t tell them where Ben was now, or help them figure out who took him.

“Thanks Bud, let me know if you find anything in the warehouses.”

“Good luck at your club.” Bill said as he hung up.

Richie turned to Eddie, about to say something but instead staring at him. “What?” Eddie asked, worried he had something on his face.

“Nothing you look-” Richie’s eyes dragged over him. “Good.” He finished.

Eddie flushed. “I’m not wearing anything special.” He wasn’t. It was a black t-shirt and dark wash jeans.

“Well, it looks good.” Richie said, turning away. “I guess the sewers weren’t the revelation we had hoped for.”

Eddie nodded. “But it’s something else crossed off. Now it’s just that catering company, the strange phone call and this club.”

“Look at you Eds, ever the optimist.”

Eddie laughed. “I don’t think I’ve ever been called an optimist.” He glanced at the time. “We should get going soon. Are you going to change?”

Richie looked down at his outfit, the same one he had worn to the dusty storage unit. “No?”

Eddie chuckled to himself. “Well then, let’s go.” It was already past eleven, when they decided they would head over.

They had agreed to split up at the club, trying to cover more ground and look less conspicuous as they asked about the owner and tried to gather any other info. When they got there Eddie almost regretted that decision. The place felt unsafe. Eddie didn’t like how few exits there were, and how low lit it was. He worried about people hiding in dark corners, people who could mean them harm. Eddie shook his head, trying to tell himself that it was just a dingy club, not a murder zone. It was low lit, probably to hide all the stains and broken things not to conceal hit men. The design was simple, a bar and a dance floor with a DJ. It looked like it had been decorated once in the 90’s, Eddie saw some faded neon on the walls, under torn band posters. He wished that their internet search had turned up more, so they could have avoided coming to the club at all, but they hadn’t found the owner or any useful info after hours of searching.

“See you on the other side,” Richie said with a wink as he headed to the dance floor. He was going to talk to people on the dance floor and Eddie was hoping for a chatty bartender.

“What can I get you?” A young woman asked as Eddie slid into a stool.

“Gin and tonic.” He said, smiling warmly at her as she smiled back.

She slid him his drink a minute later and he took the opportunity to ask how long she had worked there. She gave him a quick once over and then must have decided he wasn’t flirting. “Almost since we opened, three years ago.”

Perfect, a bartender who was willing to talk and who had worked there for a long time. It was like Christmas. And, he would bet that she was excited to talk to someone who wasn’t trying to get in her pants. Not my type girl, believe me, Eddie thought and a quick flash of a grinning Richie sprang into his mind before he banished it and listened to her.

“Three years? Pretty new place then.”

She nodded, paying half attention to their conversation as she filled orders. “Yea, but we do well. The area needed a good local bar.”

“Your boss must be a pretty smart guy then, to figured that out.”

She shrugged. “I guess. I work under Pat, not the owner.”

Eddie filed the name away for later, thinking it sounded familiar but not knowing why. “What’s the owner’s name?” He asked.

And immediately knew it was too far. She turned, looking at him with suspicion. “Why?”

He shrugged, “Thinking about opening a bar, might be good to hear from someone who has a successful one.”

She nodded, accepting the answer and Eddie changed the subject, trying to keep her talking. After forty minutes, with no other useful information, he felt someone slid next to him and put his mouth near Eddie’s ear.

“Hi cutie, come here often?”

Eddie turned to see a slightly sweaty Richie. He had clearly been out on the dance floor, he asked for a glass of water and downed it quickly before turning back to Eddie. “Well? What do you say we cut a rug?”

“I’m not much of a dancer.” Eddie said, finishing his drink.

“Oh, I’m a good enough dancer to make up for any of your deficiencies.” Richie said, leaning into Eddie. Eddie could smell his musky sweat and knew he should be disgusted but instead he thought it was sexy- and found himself wishing that Richie had worked up the sweat with him instead of strangers.

“No thanks, stud.” Eddie said, signaling the bartender for another drink. But before he could Richie was slapping money down, paying for Eddie’s drink and pulling him onto the dance floor.

“What are you doing?” He hissed, trying to yank his hand back. “We’re not supposed to be talking!” Eddie said as Richie took him to the center of the dance floor. They were quickly surrounded by people, writhing and thrusting next to them. Eddie hated it. Richie’s hands snaked around Eddie’s waist pulling him near as he started moving. A part of Eddie’s brain was screaming at him to move back but most of his was only paying attention to how close Richie was. Eddie was pressed against Richie, their chests flush. Richie’s arm was firm on him and Eddie could feel his sweaty hand through his thin shirt, one of his fingers on Eddie’s skin where his shirt had ridden up.

Richie bent down, whispering in Eddie’s ear. “Two guys have been watching you since we entered. And another has been following me. They knew who we were before we came in.”

Eddie immediately started to subtly scan the crowd and Richie added, “10 and 3pm.” Eddie looked, seeing two men at his 10 o’clock, leaning against a pillar and talking, trying to look like they weren’t watching them but Eddie saw their eyes flick to him and Richie every so often. At his 3pm someone was standing at a tall table, surrounded by beer bottles, but Eddie could tell he wasn’t drunk. Instead he was hawkishly watching them.

“Let’s get out of here.” Eddie said, feeling alarmed but Richie shook his head.

“We gotta wait, eventually I think at least one will get bored and it’ll be easier for us to escape.” He pressed his hands into Eddie’s hips. “For now we need to dance Eds. Try to look like you’re having fun.”
Eddie frowned and Richie laughed. “Perfect.” He started moving his hips and Eddie watched, surprised that Richie did actually have some moves. Eddie found himself watching Richie danced- how his shoulders slid back and forth, how his neck looked when he threw his head back, how his hands felt on Eddie. He was more fluid than Eddie would have guessed, able to flow with the music in a sensual way.

Eddie still wasn’t moving so Richie spun him around, pressing himself against Eddie's back. “You gotta move a little Eds, otherwise it’ll look suspicious.”

If Eddie was having a hard time before this was worse, he felt Richie moving against him, his hips pressed against Eddie and one of his hands splayed over Eddie’s waistband, gently pushing him so he would move. Eddie let him, his hips starting to sway slowly under Richie’s direction. He put his hands up, threading them in Richie’s hair and arching back. He needed to look the part, he told himself, even as he heard Richie’s sharp intake of breath.

“Eds, is that a gun in your pants or are you just happy to see me?” Richie asked, his breath hitting Eddie’s neck.

He looked up. “It’s a gun.” He replied, enjoying Richie’s earnest laugh.

Richie looked down at him again and all Eddie could think about was that this was a mistake. Richie was too close to him, their mouths nearly touching.

“Oh Eds, you’re one of a kind.” Richie said, putting his head in the crook of Eddie’s neck, not quite resting on him but nearly. They moved together for a while, Eddie getting lost in the music and in having Richie so close. Eddie wanted to ask what he was doing, what they were doing, but he looked up and noticed that the solo man watching them had disappeared.

“Richie.”

“Hm?” Richie said, still moving against him.

“We’ve got our chance, let’s go.” Eddie said. “3pm has left.”

Richie looked up now, glancing over and seeing that Eddie was right. “Exit stage right.” He said, grabbing Eddie’s hand and pulling him along. Eddie glanced back to see if the others watching them had noticed. Unfortunately, they had. They were working their way over to them, going slow so as to not attract attention but moving purposefully. It alarmed Eddie how intune they were with Eddie and Richie.

The club suddenly felt hot and overbearing.  He hated it, he felt stifled and uncomfortable. Eddie found himself gulping the hot air into his lungs. He wanted his inhaler, something he had given up over a decade ago. He didn’t need it, he reminded himself, he was fine. Richie’s hand was sweaty on him and he wanted to pull back but also wanted Richie to keep him close.

“Richie, they noticed.” Eddie said with urgency. Their pursuers must have noticed that they were getting away and had sped up, knocking over a couple of dancers over in the process. They didn’t even turn back as someone started swearing at them.  Richie nodded and sped up, keeping a firm hold on Eddie’s hand. He was heading towards a back exit and Eddie hoped that the place was shitty enough that the alarms weren’t hooked up.

After what felt like hours, they reached the exit, the others still gaining on them. Eddie looked again and saw that both had guns out, held low but glinting against the lights. A real bolt of fear passed through Eddie as he told Richie. They had parked in a lot a few blocks away, trying to be inconspicuous. Eddie wasn’t sure that they could make it back to the car while keeping a low profile.

They finally reached the door and Richie shoved it open. Thankfully, no alarm sounded and they were plunged into silence as they entered the alleyway. Wasting no time Richie turned right, towards their car, and both started running.

Their pursuers weren’t far behind. “Hey fuckers! Stop!” One of them called and Eddie heard Richie laugh and saw him flip them off.

“No thanks!” He called back.

Eddie ducked as he heard a shot go off near him, thankfully missing him and Richie. He turned back, alarmed and one yelled, “We will shoot you! But we don’t want that, just come with us!” He was shocked that they were already shooting at them, even if it had missed them by a wide margin. It may have been a warning shot but still, in a confined alley like this it could ricochet.

“Left.” Richie said, taking a sharp turn. Eddie nearly missed the warning but turned quickly, following Richie into another, narrower alley.

Eddie pulled his own gun out, taking the safety off. He heard the other men turn the same corner and another shot being fired, this one sounded closer to them. “Fuck, they really want to kill us.” Eddie said, feeling shock and fear pulse through him.

“I’m aware Eds.” Richie didn’t seem shocked by this development like Eddie was. He couldn’t believe that two men with guns were chasing them. And out in public. They weren’t concerned about who saw, and that scared him more than anything else.

Richie took another sharp turn, tugging Eddie with him. He didn’t understand what Richie’s plan was but he seemed to know what he was doing so Eddie followed. After a few more twists and turns they spilled out onto a main street, with Richie leading them across the street and into the open. More shots rang out as they emerged from the alley, the pair wasn't worried about being quiet.

“We’ve got to zigzag.” Eddie said as they entered the open area. Richie nodded and they started to zip back and forth, trying to avoid the oncoming bullets.

Eddie thought they were getting further from the car but he wasn’t sure anymore.  He could only think about the guns behind him and the way his lungs burned. It felt like they had been running for hours, though he knew it was likely under ten minutes. He heard Richie panting next to him and worried about how long they could keep this up.

The men behind them still followed, occasionally firing a shot. Eddie felt one go by his ear, still missing him, but they were getting closer now. Richie was weaving between the small trees, his hand still on Eddie’s. Eddie couldn’t see them but he could hear them, they swore loudly whenever Richie and Eddie bobbed out of sight.

“Here.” Richie whispered, pulling Eddie quickly to the left and onto a playground. Richie scampered into a slide and Eddie followed without hesitation.

They held themselves up in the slide, both trying to breathe quietly. Eddie heard the two talking. “Where the fuck are they?” One asked.

“They can’t be far, we were right behind them!” The other said. “Come out fuckers!”

Eddie heard the crunch of gravel to his right and held his breath, praying that they didn’t check the slide. He moved so he had his gun at the ready, pointed to the bottom of the slide. He was tense and afraid, but he wasn’t going to go down without taking one of them out first.

The next thirty seconds were the longest of his life. He tried not to breath as they walked around, looking in trees and under benches for them. The pair kept talking about how pissed their boss would be that they lost the two. It seemed to be their only motivation to keep looking.

“There’s a river over here!” Eddie heard one call. “They probably thought they could lose us in it!”

“Dumbasses.” Eddie heard and the footsteps started to fade. Once he couldn’t hear them anymore he counted to ten then let out a long breath.

He looked at Richie, who was perched above him, all four limbs holding him up, and suppressed a giggle, feeling practically giddy. “You look like a spider.”

“Then you’re my fly.” Richie said as they crawled out, Eddie glancing around, gun held at the ready.

“That was some good thinking.” Eddie said as they started cautiously back to the car. They didn’t see the men again and Eddie was starting to finally relax, his heart beating less frantically.

“Memorized the blocks earlier.” Richie said. “Thought it might be useful.” Eddie thought he heard something off in Richie’s voice, the normal joking tone wasn’t there.

Eddie was again impressed by Richie’s ability to prepare and he said so, much to Richie’s delight. “Gotta keep my Eds safe.” He said, smiling. Eddie expected him to put an arm around him but instead he just got a warm smile.

“I’m not your Eds,” He said, without any real heat. Richie had probably saved their lives. It was taking all of his self control not to jump him, to celebrate the fact that they were still alive.  

The drive back to the hotel was quiet, both processing the events of the night. “That was wild.” Eddie said, falling onto the chair once they got into their hotel room. He looked at Richie, who was pale, his skin still covered in a thin layer of sweat, and was about to make a joke about how he needed more cardio in his life.

But Richie spoke first, lifting up his shirt slowly to reveal a bloody mess. “Think I was shot Eds.” Richie said, “Pity. I’m allergic to bullets.” With that, he collapsed onto the bed.

Chapter Text

Eddie gaped at Richie, unable to process the gory scene combined with a passed out  Richie. It felt like his brain had short circuited and for a minute he could only stare.

‘He could be dying, you need to move!’ He told himself sternly, reminding himself to breath as he lifted Richie’s shirt and saw blood, some sticky and some already dried.

He tried not to pass out as he grabbed the first aid kit that he had packed. “Fuck, Richie, you’ll be okay. Fuck .” His hands were shaking and he could barely even look at the prone figure of Richie. Eddie gripped the the table, trying to quell the fear that was rising in him.

Eddie was generally good with emergencies- helping people in need, fixing issues. And he knew about medical things - how to treat poison ivy, what medicine was best when you were sick. But he couldn’t handle blood. He had never dealt with a bullet wound and even seeing the distinct shade of red was making him sick to his stomach. But Richie needed him and Eddie knew he couldn’t do this alone.

He grabbed his phone, putting it on speaker and he pressed the number 2. “What?” Stan’s cranky voice answered. Eddie glanced at the clock and realized that he had probably woken him up.

“Richie was shot. And I don’t know what to do.” He was trying to keep his voice even but the panic was seeping in. He was sure Stan heard it. “I need help. Please Stan.”

“Is he awake?” Stan asked, sounding instantly more awake.

“No, he passed out.” Eddie was pacing around the room trying to avoid looking at Richie.

“You have to take him to a hospital!” Stan said, whisper yelling at him.

Eddie shook his head. He had already ruled that option out. “No, I can’t. They’re watching them, I’m sure of it. They were waiting for us. Stan, help. Please . What do I do?”

To Stan’s credit he didn’t ask any other questions, or insist Eddie bring him to someone more qualified. They had been friends long enough that Stan accepted Eddie’s word, even if he disagreed. “Feel for a heart rate.” He heard Stan shutting a door behind him, probably leaving Mike to sleep.

Eddie reached slowly around Richie’s neck, avoiding glancing down. He felt a healthy beat under his fingers and let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “It’s beating. It’s strong.”

“Good. That means he probably doesn’t have internal bleeding. Where was he shot?”

“His- his side. His left side. Above the waistband of his pants.”

“Okay, you’ll need to cut his shirt off so we can look. Put some gloves on first.” Stan’s voice was calm and firm.

Unable to stop himself, Eddie asked, “Is he going to be okay?”

Stan paused before answering. “I don’t know, it depends where the bullet is. But his heart is still beating, let’s start with that.”

Eddie put on gloves then cut off Richie’s shirt, noticing a tattoo on his left shoulder. He spread the shirt out, trying to get it away from the wound. “Okay, it’s off.”

“Great. Eddie, you’re doing great. Now, I need some details. How big is the hole?”

“Small? I don’t fucking know.” Eddie replied harshly. He took a breath and added, “Dime sized, maybe.”

“Good, that’s good, it probably means that it did less damage.” Stan remained calm even as Eddie was barely holding it together.  “You’ll need to clean the wound. Be careful. See if there’s an exit hole.”

“Clean the wound?” He repeated, bile rising in his throat.

“Yes Eddie, we need to be able to see what’s going on. Pretend it’s halloween blood or something.”

Eddie close his eyes and nodded, getting some paper towels wet. He patted around the wound, ignoring the redness and how much there seemed to be. ‘Helping Richie,’ He reminded himself, changing out the paper towels until they no longer turned pink. It took awhile,  he kept shaking and didn’t want to press down on the wound and hurt him. Stan offered support throughout.

“There’s no exit hole.” Eddie said finally, looking down at Richie. He could just be sleeping but Eddie didn’t know how much blood he had lost. How much could someone lose before it was a problem? He’d never had to worry about it before and now he wished he knew.

“Then the bullet is still in there. That’s good, it means he probably won’t bleed out. We need to get it out and patch him up.”

Eddie’s eyes opened in horror. “Stan. I can’t. I can’t.” He stammered.

“You have to.” Stan’s voice was firm. “For Richie. Can you do it for him?”

Eddie nodded. He knew Stan couldn’t see him but he kept talking to Eddie like he knew he would agree. “Boil some water then sanitizer the tweezers. Clean the wound while the water is boiling. You can do this.”

Eddie listened to his directions in a daze. Stan’s voice was strong and comforting, leading Eddie through the steps. He thought he was going to pass out when he had to find the bullet. He had to stop several times as his vision blurred. The squelching noises, combined with all the blood, made him queasy. Richie jerked once or twice and Eddie muttered apologies.

Finally, he found it, pulling it out triumphantly. “Stan, it's out.” He said, dropping the small deformed metal in the trash. He breathed a sigh of relief. The hard part was over- he hoped.

“Tell me more about the wound.”

Eddie described it as best he could, with Stan asking more questions. He thought it was a glancing wound, which meant that it wasn’t deep or life threatening. It seemed to have missed all major organs and muscles. It was the best case scenario for a bullet wound.

“Why hasn’t he woken up then?” Eddie asked as he cleaned the wound again. Richie jerked slightly as the antiseptic hit him.

“It takes time. He got shot Eddie, he might be out for a while. The adrenaline probably wore off and he collapsed.”

Eddie applied quickclot and  bound the wound. Once that was done he sat down, feeling himself unravel now that the task was completed.

“I think he’s going to be okay Eddie. But you need to watch him. No fluids until the pain goes down. Keep the wound clean. You really should take him to a doctor.”  Stan was saying and Eddie nodded along, too exhausted to really reply. “And no strenuous activity.”

The way Stan said it implied more than just weightlifting. “It’s not like that.” Eddie muttered.

“Give it a day.” Stan said. Eddie didn’t respond, he was too tired to defend himself.

“Eddie, what the hell happened?” Stan asked after another beat.

“Stan.” Eddie was completely exhausted, barely keeping his eyes open now that the danger had passed. “I’ll tell you tomorrow. I promise. Thank you for everything.”  Stan reluctantly agreed and Eddie hung up, falling into one of the chairs, instantly asleep.

--------------

When he woke up it was still dark out and his first thought was Richie. Eddie went over to the bed to check on him. He was laying on his back, which Eddie thought was probably a bad idea but he couldn’t bring himself to flip the gangly man. He was sleeping soundly and some of his color had returned. Eddie took his wrist and felt a strong pulse. As he started to let go Richie’s hand grabbed his, holding him there. Eddie looked down, Richie hadn’t woken up, the action was unconscious.

“God Richie you scared me.” Eddie whispered to the sleeping figure. “I thought- for a minute. You passed out and I was so worried. You fucking idiot. You should have told me sooner.” He felt tears on his cheek and he wiped them away with his free hand. “You can’t die to protect me dumbass. That’s not how this works. You don’t get to do that.”

Richie responded to none of this, his back slowly rising and falling. Impulsively Eddie bent down and kissed him on the cheek. “If you don’t live I’ll kill you myself.” He whispered.

Then he pulled his hand back and went to shower. He smelled ripe and wanted to wash off everything that remained from last night. He glanced back, slightly worried about leaving Richie alone and decided to leave the door open, in case he woke up and needed anything.

Eddie undressed, thinking that he may need to burn his clothes, and turned the shower on as hot as it would go. He stayed in there for a long time, finally processing what had happened last night. People had been chasing them, with guns, and Richie had been shot. It could have been much worse but the fact that they seemed to know that the pair would be at the club worried Eddie- and convinced him that they needed to take even more precautions. Eddie wasn’t sure what. He would worry about that when Richie woke up.

If he woke up.

Eddie didn’t let himself continue that train of thought. It looked like Richie was just sleeping this morning, not passed out. Though Eddie knew if he didn’t stir soon he could have to wake him up, just for his own peace of mind.

But that didn’t happen, about halfway through his shower Eddie was lost in thought, trying to connect the dots, when he heard something. He instantly paused and tensed, worried that someone had broken into their room.

He grabbed a shampoo bottle, the only thing within reach and waited, trying to control his breathing. The shower door swung open and an equally naked Richie stood in front of him.

Relief washed over Eddie before he could process what he was seeing. “You’re awake!” He said, nearly screaming with delight. “Oh fuck, you scared me!” He started to reach out but saw that Richie hadn’t moved. That was when Eddie realized that they were both naked and dropped the bottle, covering himself.

“I thought you were working out!” Richie said, finally snapping to and covering himself- but not before Eddie’s eyes had swung down and he had seen everything. His mouth was practically watering at the sight of Richie. He just got shot! He reminded himself. But he couldn’t stop his eyes from flicking to Richie’s hip bones and the V they formed.

“I wasn’t going to leave you.” Eddie told him, realizing how weird this conversation was. The shower was still on, both were naked, but Eddie’s didn’t care. The elation he felt from Richie being awake and walking washed everything else away. “Not after last night.”

“My knight in shining denim.” Richie said, smiling at him.

“You scared the fuck out of me.” Eddie added, still revealing in the fact that Richie was standing.

Richie’s eyes softened and he looked in the shower. “Can I join you?” He asked cautiously.

Yes . “No,” Eddie said, watching Richie’s face fall. “Richie, you passed out last night. I can’t- we can’t- not now.”

Richie brightened a little at this, likely only hearing the ‘not now’.

“I’m nearly done anyway. We can swap.” Eddie said, starting to worry about standing naked in front of Richie for too much longer. Every part of him wanted to pull him in and kiss him senseless. He hadn't realized how much he was this worried about losing him until now, when Eddie knew he was okay. It felt like a weight had been lifted from him.

“I’m good with swapping.” Richie said, stepping into the shower. Eddie took a step back. It was big enough that they weren’t touching but they were definitely close.

Eddie’s resolve was crumbling, especially as Richie leaned in slightly. But as he did Eddie saw a quick grimace of pain, knowing that he stretched his wound.

Taking a deep breath Eddie stepped out of the shower. “Try not to get your wound wet.” He said.

Richie smirked. “But things are so much better when they’re wet, don’t you think Eds?”

Eddie fought a blush and ignored Richie’s come on.  “We can change the dressing after.”

“Nurse Eddie, I love it.” Richie said, winking at him. Eddie shut the door behind him, exhaling loudly.  He dressed, trying not to think about what had just almost happened. Which was trying not to think about pink elephants. The more he tried the more it was all he could think of. Richie’s hands being slightly too slow to cover himself, Richie’s impossibly lanky form being so close to Eddie, Richie being all too much for him. Another barrier had crumbled and Eddie wasn’t sure how many he had left.

Richie stepped out of the shower twenty minutes later, in jeans but no shirt. “Alright, your patient is ready.” He said. “Poke me doc.”

Eddie stood, offering Richie some pills. “Antibiotics, to ward off infection. You’re going to need to take it easy for the next few days. Probably longer.”

“Are you saying I’m trapped in this hotel room with you? For days? Poor me.” Richie said, winking at him.

“I’m saying that you’re staying put for a while. Now lie down.” Eddie directed.

“You’re even bossier when you’re playing doctor. I’ll remember that.” Richie laid down on his stomach. Eddie resisted the urge to run his hands over Richie’s back and instead focused on the wound. He had done a poor job of keeping the bandage dry, which would make it easier to peel off. Eddie put on gloves and got started, slowly removing it off and stopping when Richie flinched under him.

“I can’t believe you didn’t fucking tell me you were shot.” Eddie said, continuing to peel once Richie relaxed.

“Other priorities Eds. Plus, I knew you’d bandage me up real good.” Richie let out a hiss of pain as the last of the bandage came off, exposing the small hole. Eddie saw that it was slightly red around the edges and immediately the thought of ‘infection!’ blared in his head. But no, this may be normal. It was less than a day. Eddie couldn’t let himself be worried- yet.

“You were still an idiot.” Eddie told him, his voice small. Looking at the wound in the daylight he was scared. It felt so much more real now, when he wasn’t in fight or flight mode. He really could have lost Richie if the bullet had been in or up a few scant inches. The thought made him pause and he had to close his eyes and take a few shaky breaths.

“Eds?” Richie asked, turning to look at him. He saw Eddie’s state and stood, gathering him in his arms and trapping Eddie’s arms by his side. Eddie wanted to yell at him about an exposed wound but instead he found himself trying not to cry.

“You could have died .” Eddie said, pressed against Richie’s bare chest. “You fucking idiot.”

Richie stroked Eddie’s hair. “But I didn’t. I’m probably immortal now.”

Eddie let out a strangled laugh. “Let’s not test that theory.” He leaned into Richie’s arms, letting himself be held and listening to Richie’s heart beat. Every beat reminded him that Richie was alive. Gloriously alive.

It took nearly ten minutes for Eddie to make himself step back and when he did the expression on Richie’s face nearly pushed him back into his arms. It was full of warmth and concern. It had been a long time since someone looked at him like that, maybe never.

“You’re the one shot and you’re taking care of me.” Eddie finally said. “It’s all wrong.”

“I don’t mind.” Richie replied, reaching out for Eddie again.

But Eddie shook his head, taking a small step back. “We need to bandage your wound. Lie down again.”

Amazingly, Richie complied. “How do you feel?” Eddie asked as he cleaned the wound.

Richied hissed with pain and said, “Like I got shot. It’s not a good feeling. I can’t believe you ruined my shirt by the way, I liked that shirt.”

“I did you a favor.” Eddie said as he put a new bandage on. “We need to keep this clean. Keep you off your feet. No baths.” Eddie knew he was repeating things but he needed Richie to understand how serious this was. “No more playground parkour for a bit.”

“Yes doc.”

Eddie finished rebandaging the wound and Richie sat up. After Eddie peeled off the gloves he felt Richie’s forehead. “You don’t seem too warm so I’m hoping there’s no infection.”

“Am I going to live then?” Richie asked, standing and pulling on a shirt.

“You’ll be a thorn in my side for years to come.” Eddie told him.

“Love the sound of that.” Richie said with a grin. Then he patted his stomach, “Let’s go eat, I’m starving. Getting shot really takes something out of a guy.” Eddie nodded, following Richie out of the room and watching him carefully for any signs of pain.

Chapter Text

Eddie kept an eye on Richie all day, which didn’t seem to bother Richie in the slightest. He let Eddie coddle him, checking his temperature and asking how he was every hour- his only condition being that Eddie stay with him. At one point Eddie was thinking out loud that he should go and get more medical supplies and Richie let out a fake whine, saying that he needed his Nurse Eds. Eddie didn’t end up leaving.

It wasn't until they were eating lunch at a nearby restaurant that Eddie finally thought to ask, “Richie, did you find anything out yesterday?” He’d been so preoccupied with worrying about Richie surviving that he hadn't thought of the case or Ben all day.  He had called Stan earlier, to thank him and to fill him in on what happened. Stan had asked, reasonably, if Eddie was going to leave. He told Stan the truth, that he wasn't sure. Stan had given him the standard ‘be careful’ lecture but Eddie could tell that he was worried.

Richie nodded, making a face at the salad Eddie had insisted he order. He had been unhappily poking at vegetables and asking what they were. (‘Tomato Richie, you have to know that’, ‘Why is it so small ?’ ‘It's a cherry tomato’ ‘Doesn’t taste like a cherry.’)

Richie nodded. “I overheard some interesting tidbits about one of the owners. His name is Henry Bowers and he owns another property across town.”

Eddie perked up. “Oh? Did you find out what it was?”

“A warehouse. It was used for international shipping until recently.”

“Another warehouse? Great place to hide someone.” Eddie said, eating his own salad. He had given Richie his cheese and croutons, trying to appease him, and now he regretted it. His tasted like lawn clippings. “We should ask Bill if he-”

Richie interrupted. “My thoughts exactly. I text him earlier today, asking about the other one. That one was owned by someone else, Al Smith or something like that so it’s probably not connected. But this one feels like a good lead.”

Eddie leaned back, thinking about their options. “I’ll bring you back to the hotel and go check it out.” He said. “Maybe we can find Ben tonight.” The thought of wrapping the case was exciting - they could go back home and Richie could see a proper doctor.

Richie scoffed and looked at him. “Sorry, what? You think you’re going to go on your own? No fucking way.” Richie pointed to his back. “If this happens when we’re together what do you think will happen if you’re alone?”

Eddie shook his head. “That’s exactly why you can’t come. You were shot!”

“It’s just a flesh wound.” Richie said, trying to make a joke, but Eddie shook his head again, stronger this time.

“No jokes Richie. You’re hurt. It’s dangerous for you to come- what if we need to run away? You can’t, not like that. You’d be putting both of us in danger.” Eddie said, hoping that mentioning that he may be hurt would work.

And it did. Concern flashed across Richie’s face but instead of giving in it seemed to strengthen his resolve. “No. It’ll be worse if you’re alone. The game’s afoot my dear Watson, we need to stick together.”

He pointed at Richie with his fork. “I am not Watson in this scenario.” Eddie saw the set in Richie’s jaw and sighed, giving in. “Okay, okay. We’re going to wait until tomorrow though,” He said. “At least give you some time to heal.”

“Deal-o Eddie-o.” Richie said as he dove back into his salad. Eddie tried to ignore the warning bells in his head, screaming at him that Richie could get hurt again or worse, killed. He understood the danger in going alone but bringing Richie didn’t feel any safer.

But he let it rest, for now at least. He could see that arguing with Richie would get him nowhere.

After lunch, they were going to head back to the hotel but Richie begged for a walk. “I’m going stir crazy, a man needs to breath!”

He glanced at the taller man. “It’s been less than three hours.”

“Gotta let me out every two or I start scratching at the walls.” He feigned scratching above his head and Eddie laughed. He agreed once Richie promised to let him know the second something hurt.

They started their walk, Eddie glancing at Richie every few seconds to see if he looked like he was in pain and Richie chattering on and on about whatever came to mind. It was nice. It could have been any two normal people walking if not for the bullet wound and the gun strapped to Eddie’s chest.

“I need a break Eds.” Richie said as they came to a small beach.

“Are you okay? Are you in pain?” Eddie asked, instantly worried and starting to reach for Richie’s shirt to check the wound.

“Stop, I’m fine.” Richie said, pulling his shirt back down and flapping Eddie away. “It’s pretty here, and there are some prime rocks for skipping here.” Richie said as he started to bend over, groaning when he got halfway.

“Stop!” Eddie said, holding his hands up. “Jesus, Richie. How can I trust you tomorrow when you hurt yourself picking up rocks? Just point and I’ll grab them.”

Richie grinned. “Happily.” He directed Eddie towards the flattest rocks and Eddie collected an armful of them before handing them one at a time to Richie, who started skipping them across the water while Eddie watched.

“Like riding a bike.” Richie said, as his second one sank. “Give me some time.”

“No rush.” Eddie said, enjoying watching Richie. He seemed so much lighter than Eddie had seen him so far. It was different than the silly Richie, or the one who seemed to be performing for other people. This Richie was carefree, delighted by the way the rocks skipped on the water.

“Six skips!” He said, looking excitedly at Eddie. “My record is 9. But it’s been years.” He looked at Eddie and the remaining rocks apologetically. “I’ve been taking all the rocks, you try.”

“I’m okay. You keep going.”

Richie turned to him now, head cocked. “Why?”

“I don’t-” Eddie sighed. “I don’t know how. I’ve never done this.”

“You must have been a sad kid.” Richie said.

He shrugged. “Kinda.”

Richie moved so he was behind Eddie, putting a rock in Eddie’s hand and covering his with it. “I’ll teach you.”

Eddie was sure he wasn’t going to learn anything like this, with Richie pressed against him. An image of this morning flashed in his head and he had to close his eyes.

“Just swish, and flick.” Richie was saying. “It’s all in the wrist. Like so many good things.” He drew Eddie’s hand back and showed him how to flick his wrist. “Now you try.” He whispered into Eddie’s ear before stepping back. Eddie took a deep breath as he did, trying to control his heart rate.

Eddie glanced back and Richie flashed him a smile. He turned and tried to remember what Richie had told him and not just how he felt against Eddie. He drew his hand back and tried to flick his wrist as he released the rock. It didn’t skip once.

“Try again.” Richie said encouragingly from behind him.

Eddie tried twice more and failed each time. “Richie I suck at this.” He gave the next rock to Richie. “You take over, I’m fine watching, really.”

“No,” Richie was behind him again, taking Eddie’s arm and guiding him through the motion. “It’s just your first time.” It took all Eddie had not to lean back into Richie and he felt a chill when Richie stepped back.

Eddie took a breath and tried again. This time the stone skipped twice before falling in. He turned to Richie, delighted. “I did it!” He rushed forward, giving Richie a hug before he thought about it,  barely remembering to avoid the wound.

Richie was grinning as he hugged Eddie back. “You did!”

Eddie looked up at him. “Thanks teacher.” His voice was breathier than he intended but he couldn’t help it, staring up into Richie’s darkened eyes.

“Anything for a willing student.” Eddie tried to draw back, the reminder of ‘too close’ ringing in his head, but Richie held him tight. “Eds, when are we going to talk about this thing between us?”

“What thing?” Eddie asked, feigning ignorance even as he fought to keep himself steady.

Richie leaned down, his lips nearly on Eddie’s. “This thing.” He said, locking his eyes with Eddie’s. “I know you feel it too.”

Eddie shook his head, not denying the feeling but rather the question. “There’s nothing to talk about Richie. All this is because we’ve been trapped together for days.”

Richie pulled back and Eddie could finally breathe. It was disappointing. “That’s not true, and you know it.” He looked discouraged.

Eddie took a step back. “We’re on a case. We can’t act on...whatever this is.”

“You know what it is.” Richie said. “Why won’t you admit it?”

“We barely know each other.” Eddie said, trying to make him see reason. “This can’t be anything more than lust, it’s not worth fucking up the case for.”

Richie walked over to a bench and sat down. “Well then, what do you want to know?”

Eddie sat on the other side, out of Richie’s reach. “That’s not what I meant.”

“I know. But we need to start somewhere if we’re going to get anywhere.” Richie said simply, stretching out. His arm was across the back, nearly touching Eddie. He wanted to lean into Richie’s side, let his arm drape across him. “Ask away, I’m an open book.”

He knew Richie was deliberately misunderstanding him but he couldn’t bring himself to mind. Plus, he’d been wondering something since last night. “You have a tattoo?”

Richie turned to him, smiling slyly. “Were you checking me out last night doc?”

“More like performing life saving procedures.”  Richie’s hand tickled his shoulder, inviting him to move closer.

Eddie shook his head and Richie sighed. “Fine. Fine. I got it when I dropped out of college. The last thing to complete my rebellion.” He laughed. “It’s not even a good tattoo but I loved the concept. It’s a Celtic knot, it symbolizes the interconnectedness of life and eternity. There’s some really cool, complicated designs. Mine was done at 1am by a guy who probably couldn’t spell knot.” He laughed. “I’ve always wanted to get it redone but haven’t been able to justify the cost.” He looked out at the water. “Maybe after this though.”

“You still don’t want to give up?” Eddie asked, a little surprised. They had been talking about the case off and on all day but for some reason Eddie had assumed that Richie would want to leave- or maybe just hoped.  “Why? Why are you so adamant about sticking with this?”

Richie sighed, looking out at the water. “Alright Eds, time for some Richie background. I said I was an open book and I am. But you might not like all of this.”

‘Bev and I met years ago, when I helped her get away from her ex.” Eddie nodded, he knew that much. “But that’s not the whole story. Bev stayed with me after, she was too scared to go home. She stayed for, pfft, weeks? A month?”

Eddie wanted to ask if they slept together. Something in Richie’s voice made him feel like they had but he couldn’t bring himself to ask.

“After that month she went back to her life as a celebrity but she never forgot me. Back then, Bill and I were small potatoes- I don’t even know how she heard of us. But we were barely getting by, there were days that we split a pack ramen and nothing else. It was rough. And-” He paused, seeming to have a hard time with the next part. Eddie put a hand on his thigh, trying to be reassuring.  Richie smiled at him before turning back to the water. “ I wasn’t my best self then. I drank a lot, more than I should have. It was probably depression, but I didn’t know it. Not knowing what I wanted, not being good at the only thing I was interested in doing, dragging my best friend down with me.” He sighed. “It wasn’t easy. In fact, it fucking sucked.”

“But Bev, feisty firecracker Bev, our girl swung by the office one day with a fruit basket and saw what was happening. After that, she didn’t take no for an answer. She paid for advertising for us, got us a better website, stocked our pantries. She wouldn’t leave us alone until she was sure we’d be okay.”

Richie let out a small laugh. “She was fucking amazing. I owe her everything Eds- my life and probably Bill’s. So yea, I’m sticking with this. Even after I got shot. I owe her that. And if I die, well, I hope I find Ben first.” He looked at Eddie again. “But you can leave, I’d understand. You don’t owe Bev anything and we’re in deep shit.”

What Richie didn’t know was that Eddie did owe her something, he thought, looking at the other man’s profile. Richie seemed determined not to look at him until Eddie spoke again. Eddie knew that he owed her for saving Richie the first time. Without her he never would have met Richie. Even after only a few days he knew that Richie was right, that they had something. For that, he couldn’t leave this case.

“I’m staying.” He said, putting an end to the conversation. He looked at Richie. “We should get you back.” He stood and offered Richie his hand, pulling him up as Richie stumbled into Eddie.

They looked at each other, Richie’s hand still in Eddie’s as Richie’s free one moved some of Eddie’s hair back.

“One day Eds, I’m going to kiss you.” Richie said confidently. “And I think you’ll kiss me back when I do.”

Eddie knew he would but for right now, he took a step back. “Come on old man, you need some rest.” Richie dropped his hands and they began their slow walk back to the car. They spent the evening playing cards and watching old movies. They talked until Eddie finally gave in, saying he needed to sleep and turned off the lights, and then kept talking for another hour. Both fell asleep on their sides, facing each other.

Eddie woke up first the next morning, getting dressed and silently packing a fanny pack and his gun.

He had decided yesterday that he was going to investigate the warehouse alone. He couldn’t risk Richie coming with, not when he was still recovering.

“I’ll be back before you wake up.” He promise the sleeping Richie, kissing his cheek before slipping out the door.

Chapter Text

Eddie took a cab, hopping out a few blocks away from the building and paying in cash. As he walked he surveyed the building. It was low and long, only four stories tall but it stretched nearly a block. He didn’t see any cars nearby and, as he starting trying the doors, he found that they were locked. Not a great start.

He started to make his way slowly around the building, trying all the doors and windows. He thought back to the email that Stan had sent him, after their phone call where he updated him on Richie and the situation. Stan had done some research into the building, most of it wasn’t relevant- it was owned by a Bob Gray before this and Henry had purchased it 6 months ago. There wasn’t any indication of what he wanted to do with it, like Richie had mentioned it was previously used as a shipping warehouse but now seemed abandoned. From what Eddie could see through the dusty windows the place was empty. He could see some shelves and equipment but no people. He was starting to worry that this was another dead end.

But he resolved to keep going, he needed to eliminate it completely before he could cross it off his list. He looked for any signs of comings and going as he crept around the building.

Finally, on the far end and between this and another building, he saw something. A familiar van, with the words ‘Soylent Catering’ etched on the side. His breath caught, this was something substantial, finally.

He peered around, looking for signs of people, and then crept up to the van. The hood was cool, so it hadn’t been moved recently, but he could see a crumpled receipt inside with yesterday’s date. Someone had driven here not too long ago. Eddie wondered if they were still around.

He was still poking around the van, debating if he should break in, when he heard a noise. Someone was approaching. He looked around wildly, there was no place to hide- he was in a wide alley. His best options were a doorway or under the van.

Deciding quickly he dropped down and scampered under the van, trying to control his breathing. He grabbed his gun, hoping that he wouldn’t need it.

The footsteps approached and Eddie held his breath, watching as a pair of shoes appeared. He frowned. Pink converses weren’t exactly the shoes of a murderer. He waited until the figure passed then moved quietly to the edge of the van and peered out, seeing a familiar mop of black curls.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” He hissed as he crawled out.

Richie whipped to him, hands up in a mock martial arts stance. He saw Eddie and exhaled. “Fuck Eds, you scared me.”

Eddie brushed himself off and looked at Richie. He was wearing what Eddie guessed was his most defensive outfit- jeans without holes and a zipped up leather jacket.

“Richie! You can’t be here.” He said, keeping his voice low and glancing around. “Go back to the hotel.”

Richie scoffed, less concerned about noise than Eddie. “Were you always planning on leaving me behind or did you decide this morning?” he asked, ignoring Eddie’s comment.

“I didn’t -” Eddie started to protest but Richie shook his head.

“You absolutely did. Don't deny it. I’m sure you had the best of intentions but Eds, we’re partners. You don’t have to do this alone.”

Eddie put his hands on his hips, refusing to be cowed. “You were shot less than 48 hours ago. I’m not being noble I’m being rational.” He had to stop himself from stomping his foot, knowing he would look childish. But he was worried. He didn’t even want Richie out of bed, let alone investigating. “I don’t want you to get hurt again, I can’t-” He paused, looking at Richie. “I can’t handle it.” He finished softly, not looking at Richie.

“Eds,” Richie stepped up to him and curled his hand on Eddie’s cheek. Eddie let himself lean into the gentle touch, admitting to himself how much he cared about Richie. Seeing him here scared him more than the thought of meeting with kidnappers. He wanted to protect this gangly idiot.

As Eddie was coming to terms with all of this Richie was still watching him. Eddie’s eyes flickered up, looking at him and sighing. “You shouldn’t be here.”

“Neither should you, but here we are.” Richie said quietly, his hand still on Eddie’s cheek, keeping it warm in the cool morning air. Richie bent down and Eddie closed his eyes, tilting his head up.

Before their lips met there was a loud clatter from inside the building. They leapt apart, Eddie’s hand going to his gun, and both looked at the building. When no one came rushing out they relaxed.

“At least we know someone’s home.” Richie said, running a hand through his hair.

Eddie looked at him again. “You really won’t leave?”

“Nope,” He said, popping the ‘p’.

Eddie thought about arguing with him but he didn’t really want Richie to leave. At least here he could watch Richie. “Let’s find a way in then.” He said. Richie nodded happily and they started to wind their way around the building, eventually finding a fire escape.

Richie had to jump to grab and pull down the ladder, looking pointedly at Eddie as he did. “See? You need me.”

“I would have figured something out.” Eddie replied ruefully. Though, truthfully, he wasn’t sure that he would have. But Richie didn’t need to know that. They climbed up, trying the windows at each floor.

Once they reached the top floor both paused. Eddie out of annoyance and Richie because he was out of breath. They had checked each of the windows but it was too dirty to see anything. Eddie was starting to worry that this dilapidated warehouse was actually an impenetrable fortress.  

“Now what?” Eddie asked, trying in vain to look through the window. They knew someone was in there from the sound earlier but hadn’t heard anything since.

“We could break it.” Richie suggested.

“Too loud.”

“It’s the fourth floor, they won’t hear it.”

“We don’t know what floor they’re on.” Eddie countered.

Richie nodded, “Good point.” He looked around, trying to think of what to do. Eddie saw as his eyes light up. “You can pick locks, right?”

“Yes,” Eddie agreed slowly. “Why?”

“We’ll get you to the roof and there will be a door leading down. Pick the lock, let me in. Bing bang boom we’re back in business.”

Eddie looked up to the roof. It was still another 8 or 9 feet above them. “How?”

“I’ll boost, you scramble.”

Eddie wanted to argue. He was worried about Richie getting hurt and about how stupid he would look pulling himself over the edge. But he didn’t have any other ideas so he nodded. “Don’t hurt yourself though.” He said as Richie stood.

“Can’t, you’re so small you weigh practically nothing.” Richie bent down and cupped his hands. “Step on in.”

Eddie thought about saying something but didn’t, instead just stepping into Richie’s hands and accepting the boost. Richie lifted him as high as he could and Eddie tried to ignore the groan of pain the he heard.

He got his arms over the edge, then a leg, then the rest of him toppled over. “You okay?” Richie shouted.

Eddie popped his head over. “I’m fine, I’ll be right back.”

Richie made a face. “I don't think you’re supposed to say that.”

Eddie shrugged and left, walking to the door in the middle of the roof. He paused at it, straining to hear anything. When he didn't he tried the door, hoping it was unlocked. Naturally, it wasn’t so he got to work picking it. It was a simple lock and soon he was inside.

He made his way slowly down the stairs, listening for any sound. There was nothing. He entered the fourth floor and looked around. It was empty, Eddie wasn’t sure it had even ever been used. The place was dusty and he couldn’t see any signs of people. He looked at the window where Richie was waiting and debated leaving him outside. It was a better idea but he couldn’t do it He carefully made his way over to where Richie was waiting and unlocked the window.

“Hear anything?” Richie whispered as he crawled through and closed the window. Eddie shook his head.

“I thought we’d try the stairs?” Eddie whispered, pointing to them on the other side of the floor.

Richie nodded and they started, trying to stay quiet. They made their way to the third floor, which was as abandoned as the fourth. Same with the second.

Opening the door to the first floor Eddie could tell that this was where they would find something, if there was anything to find. The floor was open but there were tall shelves forming rows and small forklifts scattered around. They started walking around the edge, straining to hear anything. Eddie thought he could hear faint talking. Finally , he thought.

‘Do you hear that?’ He mouthed to Richie, who nodded. Eddie pulled out his gun and they continued, staying behind cover.

As they got closer they could hear a man talking. “I think we threw them off the trail, and we definitely shot at least one of them.” Eddie thought he recognized it as one of the people who chased them before.

“I don’t fucking care.” Someone else growled. “We’re still moving Ben. And next time you need to fucking kill them, not just shoot them. I’m sick of this cat and mouse shit. This job is too valuable to fuck up.”

Eddie paled and looked up at Richie, who gulped. He reminded himself that this wasn’t new information, people had been trying to kill him since he got on the case. But he wasn’t used to hearing it.

“Yes boss, we’ll take him to site B right now.”

“Fucking right. You know that Al wants to finish this soon.”

‘Let’s get closer,’ Eddie mouthed to Richie. He wanted to see the people, maybe get a picture of them.

Richie shook his head but Eddie started moving forward, half crouched. He guessed that they were thirty feet from the voices. When he had gone about ten he carefully stood and peered over the forklift he was behind. He could see someone in a greaser outfit- leather jacket, blue jeans and a mullet. He was chewing on a toothpick and looked pissed. The other person Eddie recognized as one of the men who chased them. He carefully raised his phone and took a picture.

Click .

The sound seemed to echo, magnified by all the empty space. Eddied ducked but it was a second too late, he saw two heads whip to him.

“The little fucker is here. Get him!” The greaser shouted, pointing at where Eddie was. The other man took off towards him but Eddie was already running back to Richie.

Richie had heard the whole thing and grabbed Eddie’s arm, pulling him into an aisle.

“Fucking shoot them this time!” Eddie heard the first man call out and all he could think about was how tired he was of getting chased by men with guns.

But this time was worse because he knew that Richie couldn’t last as long, not with his wound. Eddie glanced and Richie and decided that he’d shot the other man, if it came to that. He’d rather get away but if it came down to Richie or the other man Eddie knew his decision without question.

Richie turned down an aisle, both of them running at full speed. Eddie was worried. There wasn’t much to hide behind, wide open spaces with some boxes. It wasn’t like before, where there were twists and turns.

“You won’t get away this time, I know this warehouse!” The man shouted. It sounded like he was gaining on them. Eddie could tell that Richie was trying but he was moving slower. Eddie wasn’t sure why they hadn’t been shot at yet but decided to count their blessings.

“Where are we going?” Eddie asked, trying to be quiet.

“Outside.” Richie said, continuing to drag Eddie. He saw an exit and both burst through it.  Once outside, Eddie saw they were on an abandoned block. To the left was an open street, on the right was a junkyard.

Both ran right. Eddie was grateful that they were maintaining a lead. The many burst out a minute after them, shouting again and firing at them. It was a wide shot, missing them completely.

Eddie glance at Richie, he already looked like he was in pain. Eddie was sure he had popped his stitches and was probably hurting himself more with this running. But they didn’t have a choice. They darted towards the junkyard, weaving to avoid the bullets.

Thankfully the gate wasn’t locked. They ran in and started running between in the cars. Their pursuer must have realized that he was close to losing them, Eddie heard more shots being fired. Eddie was almost more worried that he’d hit a gas line on a car than either of them. He was a terrible shot.

They ducked behind a bus and Eddie knew they had a few precious seconds where they couldn’t be seen. “Here.” He whispered, pulling Richie into a truck bed. He just needed the man to run past them, then they could find a better hiding spot or escape. He hoped that this was a ‘so obvious he’d miss it’ spot.

He and Richie laid down, trying to stay low and quiet. Both were panting, their breaths coming out in small huffs. Eddie wanted to ask how Richie was but couldn’t, not yet. Richie wrapped his arms around Eddie and Eddie buried his head in Richie’s chest, laying half on Richie, holding him tight. Eddie decided that if he was going to die this wasn’t the worst way to go, next to Richie, enclosed in his arms.

The thought had just crossed his mind when Eddie heard the other man, he was panting and swearing. “Where the fuck did they go?” The voice sounded like it was right next to them and Eddie froze, not daring to breath. His heart was beating rapidly and his gun was curled in his hand. Eddie was ready to take whatever action he needed to. He couldn’t let Richie run anymore, he was already terrified for what damage already happened. If the man glanced over here Eddie was going to shoot him, consequences by damned. Eddie was terrified but he wouldn’t let it win, not when he could hear Richie’s heartbeat, strong and alive.

For a tense thirty seconds they heard him debate which way to go and then, receding footsteps. Neither moved for another minute and then Eddie propped himself on his elbows, letting out a low breath. “Fuck, that was close.” He said, his eyes falling to Richie, who was watching him with concerned eyes.  

“Are you okay?” He asked, lifting his hand and wiping away some dirt away from Eddie’s cheekbone.

Eddie’s heart was thumping wildly in his chest, it felt like they’d barely cheated death again. Eddie didn’t know how many lives they had but he was sure they’d used another today. And now Richie was worried about him even though he was the one with the bullet hole.

So Eddie did something reckless, he bent down and kissed Richie, smashing his lips into Richie’s. When Richie didn’t respond Eddie pulled back, ready to apologize, but Richie followed him, cupping his hand on the back of Eddie’s head and kissing him hard. Adrenaline flowed through Eddie and he pushed himself into Richie, straddling him and weaving his hands into Richie’s hair. It was stupid and reckless and he didn’t care. All he could think about was Richie’s lips, finally on his, and his tongue dancing against Eddie’s.

Richie broke away first, looking at Eddie and panting slightly. “Eds, what-”

Eddie kissed him again. “Can we talk about everything later? Right now I just want to be back in the hotel room.” He wasn’t going to have sex in the back of a dirty truck, he still had some standards.

Richie swallowed and nodded, clearly not about to press his luck. Eddie sat up, checking to see if the man had doubled back. He didn’t see anything so they stood, crawling out of the dirty truck.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Richie said and they went back to the entrance, checking for any sign of him. Eddie was anxious but now it was tempered with the heated looks that Richie kept giving him.

They carefully made their way away from the building, hiding once in a doorway when a car backfired. Eddie to the opportunity to pull Richie down and kiss him again, pressing Richie against the wall and not letting him go for a solid five minutes.

“Who are you and what have you done with Eddie?” Richie asked when he finally pulled back, his hands squeezing Eddie’s hips.

“Are you complaining?” He asked, pressing a kiss against Richie’s jaw line. He let his hands wander on Richie’s back. It felt like now that the floodgates were open he couldn’t stop. He was making up for all the touches he had denied himself.

“Absolutely not. Let’s get a cab.” Richie said, threading his fingers with Eddie’s and checking before pulling him out.  “Before I have sex with you on a doorstop.”

Eddie followed as Richie took them to a main road, hailing a cab and giving him the hotel address. In the back of the cab Eddie couldn’t stop himself from continuing to touch Richie, his hand wandering under Richie’s shirt, playing with the his chest hair.

“Should have known you were into voyeurism.” Richie said as Eddie kissed him again. “Thrill seeking career and all.”

In response he pinched Richie’s nipple, making him squeak and causing the driver turn back, glancing at them. They were turning into the hotel parking lot so Eddie couldn’t bring himself to be concerned. Richie gave the man some cash and they stumbled out. Eddie knew that they probably should have been dropped off a few blocks away but he didn’t care, especially as Richie’s hands found his hips and he kissed Eddie deeply.

“Let’s go inside.” Eddie said. The two made it slowly up the stairs, pausing to push the other against a wall and attack whatever skin they could. Eddie knew he’d be covered in bruises tomorrow, badges of what happened.

They finally made it back to their room, Richie immediately ripping off Eddie’s shirt and running his hands over Eddie’s chest. “God Eds, look at you.” Richie said, his fingers roaming playfully.

“You’ve seen me.” Eddie said, thinking back to the shower.

“But now I get to look and touch.” He said, running his hands down Eddie’s arms. “It’s so much better.” Eddie blushed from the tenderness in Richie’s eyes. He tipped Eddie’s chin up, kissing him softly. “I’ve wanted this since I saw you.”

“Richie,” Eddie breathed, unable to take this.

“No I know, you wanted to run the other way. But I knew you’d come around.” He smiled. “It just took me getting shot. Bit more of a gesture than I intended.”

As Richie said that Eddie pulled off Richie’s shirt, looking at his wound. He hadn’t bled through the bandage but Eddie was still worried. “We should change this.” He said, starting to turn away to grab supplies but he felt hands on his wrist.

“We can do it after. I promise to let you worry all you want.” He lead Eddie to the bed, pushing him down. “But right now, I need you to be naked.”

“Richie, I really think-” But Richie bent down and silenced him with a kiss. “I was hoping you’d be vocal in bed but I pictured it a little differently. I promise, I’ll let you know if it hurts.” He chuckled, “In a way I don’t like.”

Eddie wanted to protest but Richie’s fingers were on his pants, unzipping them carefully, his hand palming over Eddie’s crotch. Richie flung his pants to the side and bent over him, mouthing over Eddie’s underwear, convincing him to forget about Richie’s injury as he felt Richie’s hot breath on him.

“Richie,” He moaned, feeling himself growing harder as Richie’s fingers hooked on the waistband of his underwear, pulling it down at a glacial pace. He tried to wiggle to make Richie move faster and Richie squeezed his hips.

“Let me enjoy this Eds. It’s like a present.” His fingers danced on Eddie’s hips, almost tickling him. He finally freed Eddie’s erection and bent down, taking the tip in his mouth, swirling his tongue on it. Eddie’s hips bucked up, wanting more, but Richie was undeterred, moving back in time with him. He continued to lick, his tongue sliding on Eddie’s slit.

“Richie, fuck, come on.” Eddie said, grabbing the bed sheets. Slowly, Richie moved his lips down, watching Eddie’s reaction as he did. Eddie groaned, soaking in the sight of Richie’s mouth slid over him, his dick disappearing into it. Richie’s nose hit Eddie’s stomach and he panted, feeling the warmth of Richie’s mouth around him, the pressure of his tongue. Then Richie started bobbing his head, still going at an infuriatingly slow pace.

“God Richie, faster.” Eddie begged.

Richie pulled his lips off and looked at Eddie, shrugging. “I don’t want to damage my wound.”

Eddie glared at him. “I hate you.”

He stood, pulling off his pants and boxers and Eddie finally got to stare at him, taking in the long torso, the v of his hips and his very long, hard penis. All Eddie wanted to do was touch him, to run his hands over his lanky body.  “I don’t think that’s true at all.” Richie said with a smirk, before turning and rummaging in his bag. Eddie looked at his back and how it curved, his eyes drifting to the bandage.

“Stop staring.” RIchie said, standing back up with lube and a condom. “I’m fine.”

“You were certainly optimistic to bring those.” Eddie told him, watching as Richie poured lube on his fingers and rubbed them together. The thought of those long fingers in him made him giddy.

“I mean, I was going to get laid somewhere on this trip, by you or someone else.” Richie told him, crawling back on the bed and gently circling Eddie’s hole. He laughed as Eddie’s glare turned into a groan. Bending down and kissing him he added, “But I wanted it to be you. I just wasn’t sure how long you’d take to come around.”

“You know what” Eddie started but then Richie pushed a finger in and Eddie forgot his words, gasping at the feeling. He was right, Richie’s long finger felt amazing in him and he wanted more.

“What were you saying?” He asked, still smirking.

“I’m not going to agree with you just because we’re about to have sex.” Eddie warned him, trying to make his voice sound less wrecked.

“I certainly hope not.” Richie said as he bent down, kissing Eddie’s hips and making his way slowly back to his erection, licking up the large vein. Eddie closed his eyes as Richie added another finger. “I’d be very disappointed if you did.”

Richie opened Eddie up, taking his time despite Eddie’s protests. Finally, when he had made Eddie cry out several times from his fingers brushing his prostate, he asked, “Are you ready?”

“Fuck, yes.” Eddie told him, watching Richie roll on the condom.

Richie bent down to kiss him again. “I really want you to ride me but I think you’d argue that it’s not safe. But once I’m healed Eddie, I want you bouncing on my cock.”

Eddie blushed, trying to think of a response, but Richie was pressing into him and Eddie wrapped his legs around Richie, groaning as Richie filled him.

“Eds, god you feel so good. And you look so good, all wrecked and gorgeous.” Richie told him, leaning down and kissing him. Richie started moving, drawing his hips back and thrusting into Eddie, continuing to praise him the whole time.

Eddie could only watch Richie, hovering above him, his hair swaying as he moved. Eddie didn’t know how he had resisted this for so long but now he knew he’d never get enough of it. He grabbed Richie’s hair, pulling him down for a bruising kiss.

When Richie moved back he pulled Eddie up with him, bringing him into his lap. The new angle made Eddie cry out and Richie kept moving his hips as he sucked a bruise into Eddie’s collarbone.

“Everyone will know you’re mine Eds.” Richie said, pulling back to admire his work.

Eddie buried his head in Richie’s shoulder, not able to talk as Richie kept hitting that spot. Richie’s hand went to Eddie’s dick, stroking him as he whispered small praises. “ Richie ,” was all Eddie got out as he came, covering both of them in his cum.

Richie lasted only a minute longer, his hands squeezing Eddie’s hips as his own orgasm rocked through him.

Both fell back on the bed, Richie cuddling next to Eddie’s side. “Fuck,” Richie said, looking at Eddie and kissing him again. “We’ll need to do that again.”

Eddie laughed, turning on his side to face Richie. “We can do that plenty more, especially once we’re off this case.”

“All business again already.” Richie said, pretending to pout. He sat up, pulling on his boxers, “I need a snack, any vending machine requests?”

“A kit kat.” Eddie asked, watching Richie get dressed.

“Your wish is my command.” Richie said, bending down and kissing him again. “Promise me you won’t get dressed. I only did it so I didn’t give the old ladies a peep show.”

Eddie smiled, “I promise.”

Richie nodded and left the room, blowing Eddie a kiss. Eddie stretched out on the bed, feeling happy and sated. He sat up and put his boxers back on, not wanting to be completely naked, then laid back down.

He heard the door open and called out, “I should have asked for some soda too. I’m thirsty.”

But instead of Richie coming through the door it was three large men that Eddie recognized. Eddie scrambled to run away as they advanced on him. He was easily caught, two held him down while a third tied him up and gagged him. Eddie fought back as hard as he could be he was no match.

“Final caught you you little fag.” One said. Eddie recognized him as the man from earlier. “No more running.”

“Yea, we were sick of chasing you and your boyfriend.” Eddie thought it was the man who closed up the manhole.

Eddie tried to say something but all he could taste was the thick fabric of the gag. He glared at them. To his dismay, the third was their cab driver from the ride back. He grinned and nodded at Eddie. “That’s right asshole, you were so busy with your make out session you didn’t even think to check if i was a real cabbie. And now you don’t need to worry, you’ve got an appointment with the boss.”

That was the last thing Eddie heard. He felt something hit his head and then, darkness.

Chapter Text

Eddie

When Eddie woke up he was immediately aware of two things. The first was that he was tied up. His chest and legs were bound to a chair and his hands were tied tightly behind him.

The second was how much his head hurt. It felt like someone had cleaved it open with an ax and that was before he tried to move it. There was dull pain all over, his lower back, his legs, but his head was the worst of them.

“Oh fuck,” He said, squeezing his eyes shut, trying to ignore the pain.

“Good, you’re not dead.” A kind voice said.

Eddie opened his eyes and turned to look at the voice. It came from a handsome man, chiseled jaw and dimpled chin. Eddie could see why his face graced the cover of so many magazines.

“Ben?” He asked, shocked.

The world famous actor nodded. Eddie looked him over. A few cuts and bruises, and he looked like he hadn’t showered in days. He was tied up too, sitting on a dining room chair. But otherwise he seemed fine.

“You’re okay.” Eddie said, letting out a sigh of relief. He hadn’t wanted to think that Ben was dead but until now he couldn’t have been sure.

“I am. Are you?” He was looking at Eddie with concern. Eddie wanted to laugh that Ben was worried about him.

“I’m Eddie Kaspbrak, I was hired by Bev to rescue you.” Eddie said.

Ben looked Eddie up and down. “You’ll excuse me if I don’t exactly feel rescued.”

Eddie looked at himself. Besides being tied to a chair he was nearly naked, wearing only his briefs. He was covered in bruises and dirt. He certainly didn’t seem to be in the position to rescue anyone. “I’m working on it.” He replied.

Then he looked around the small metal room. There were no windows and a door on one side. When they hit a bump Eddie realized that it wasn’t a room. “We’re in a truck,” Eddie said, still looking around, trying to see if he could use anything to escape. He instantly regretted it. His head hurt whenever he moved it and he could feel dried blood crack as he turned.

“They said something about moving me.” Ben told him.  Then, licking his lips, he asked, “How’s Bev? And the kids? Are they okay?”

Eddie nodded, “They’re fine, worried about you.’

Ben exhaled, closing his eyes for a minute. ‘Thank god, I was worried they got taken too. They wouldn't tell me anything.”

“What happened?” Eddie asked, eager for the details and to focus on anything besides his aching head.

Ben explained. Most of it Eddie had already pieced together. He and Bev had been at the benefit and he had gone outside, to the pond. There, someone had bound and gagged him, dragging him into the sewers. Then he was put in a truck and taken to a warehouse. He’d been moved every few days since then. The captors fed him but otherwise he was left alone.

“Being moved was the only way I knew what day it was. I haven't seen the sun since my first room. They usually put a bag over my head, I think so I couldn't guess the city we were in.” Ben sounded surprisingly accepting of all of it. As he told the story he mainly seemed concerned about Bev and his kids, asking about them and how they were handling it several times.

As he talked guilt washed over Eddie. While he was flirting with Richie Ben had been trapped and left in a room. He had known it was a bad idea, that Richie was a distraction, but he had let himself fall into it.

“I’ll help you.” Eddie promised, needing to make things right. “Do you know who took you?”

Ben shook his head, “They keep talking about the big boss but they never use a name. I have no idea.” He shrugged helplessly. “I’m not very helpful.”

“We’ll get out of this.” Eddie told him. He had found Ben, it was something. Even if it wasn’t exactly that valiant rescue he wanted.

“How? I tried rushing them the first day and they just punched me.” Eddie looked and saw some faded bruising around his eye. “And they said next time it would be something more permanent.”

“They haven’t said what they want?” Ben shook his head and Eddie sighed. He supposed that didn’t really matter but he wanted to know who was behind this. “There’s two of us now, we can get out of this.” He said with as much confidence as he could.

Ben gave him a sad smile. “Sure - Eddie was it?” Eddie nodded. “I’m sure we can.” Ben wasn’t sure, not at all, but Eddie could tell he was trying to be and that was worth something.

 

Richie

“Okay Eds, they were out of kit kats so I got you M&Ms and a snickers. Hopefully one of those will salve that sweet-” Richie stopped. He had walked into the room, not realizing that the door was open. Eddie was gone and there had clearly been a struggle, several things were knocked over and a lamp was broken.

“Fuck. Eddie? Eds?!” RIchie called, dropping the candy and looking all over the room for any sign of him.

Nothing.

His stomach dropped. He knew that there was no way Eddie left the room on his own but he hadn’t seen anyone in the hall. A million questions flashed in his mind. How had they found them? How had they gotten out unnoticed? He kept looking around, finally seeing some blood on the floor. He swallowed hard as more questions boiled up. Was Eddie okay? Was he even alive?

He shook his head, he couldn’t think like that. He had to assumed Eddie was alive. He was a fighter, there was no way he’d get taken out without taking out a few of them.

Eddie had to be okay or Richie would never forgive himself.

Richie gave himself one more minute to look around the room, absorbing the scene and trying to calm down. Then he made himself form a plan. He needed to help and he needed the security footage before it disappeared like others had.

He grabbed what he needed and went to the front desk, tapping out a text message as he walked. He sent it to Bill, Mike and Stan. He knew they would call him, demanding more details, but this was the easiest way to tell them right now. The first few hours were crucial and Richie couldn’t waste them by telling the story three times.

“I need to see the security footage.” He told the bored looking front desk attendant.

Who just scoffed, not even looking up from his book. “Sir, I can’t show you that.”

Richie thought he had been handling things well but this bored dismissal set him off. Richie’s tone slipped from kind to venomous. “My partner was fucking taken from our room and I need to see it.” The attendant didn’t move, looking shocked. “Right fucking now!” Richie spat out, pounding his fist on the desk.

This at least changed him from bored to stunned. “Oh-okay.”

“Good,” Richie went behind the desk, standing behind the attendant as they queued up the footage.

Predictably, as he waited he got a call from Stan. “What the hell do you mean Eddie’s gone?” Stan demanded. His was pissed, Richie could tell. But his anger at Richie paled to how Richie felt about himself. He was so stupid to leave Eddie, stupid to think they wouldn’t be followed. Richie heard Mike making comforting noises behind him.

“I went to the vending machine and came back and he’s gone, he must have been kidnapped.” Richie tried to keep his voice calm. He needed facts and data, not to let the bile rise up and have the panic take him.

Stan didn’t seem to feel the same. “You have to find him!”

“No shit!” Richie said, losing some of his cool. “Instead of yelling at me could you fucking help? I’ve got our mysterious catering van on camera leaving the hotel less than 10 minutes ago, Can you hack into security cameras or something and figure out where it went?”

Richie heard Stan start a sentence but then he heard Mike say something. Muttering, Stan put the phone down and Richie heard tapping. “I need the license plate.” Stan said, his voice further away now.

Richie read it to him and waited silently, trying not to scream at Stan to hurry up. The attendant was looking at him with a mixture of awe and fear. “Is this legal?” He asked.

“No. So you better keep fucking quiet about it.” Richie said, giving the boy his most intimidating glare. He withered.

Stan finally spoke. “Got it, it went south down Central Ave. Richie you’ve got to hurry if it gets on the highway I can’t do shit.”

“Roger.” Richie said, walking back from behind the desk. “You’ll stay quiet?” He asked the kid, who nodded. “Smart.”

Richie didn’t think he would actually stay quiet but he hoped that he was scared enough that he wouldn’t call the cops right away. Richie needed the head start.

“Sir?” The attendant asked as Richie walked to the front door. He looked back. “Are you going to hurt them?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely.” Richie said, before walking through the door. He hadn't told Eddie, or anyone else really, but being a bounty hunter was a dirty job. Sometimes you needed to do things that you may not agree with. Richie was used to toeing the line, trying to figure out where his line was. The longer he was in the business the further along his line moved. He had done things he wasn’t proud of but they were all necessary at the time and he didn’t regret his choices.

For Eddie, he already knew there wasn’t a line. If they harmed one hair on his head he would kill them all, consequences be damned.

 

Eddie

Eddie couldn’t tell how long they had been driving, it felt like hours but his head pain made it hard to gauge. His muscles were sore from being tied up, the ropes cut into his wrists and ankles and he could feel exhaustion creeping behind his eyes.

He had asked Ben a variety of questions, trying to learn more about the people holding him hostage but he really didn’t seem to know anything more. It frustrated Eddie, how little Ben had noticed but he forced himself to remember that Ben was an actor, not a detective. He wasn’t used to paying attention to details or gathering clues. Not like him and Richie.

He felt a pang of guilt as he thought about Richie. He wouldn’t be in this mess if he hadn’t let his guard down and given into his own foolish urges. It was Eddie’s fault he was here. He should have noticed who the cab driver was, should have been able to tell that he wasn’t a real driver. Instead, he had been preoccupied by Richie’s lips and hands. It was a stupid mistake and it had cost him.

This is why he had his rules because terrible things could happen when he forgot about them. Now he was nearly naked and in a van with no idea where they were going. He had no weapons and a hostage to protect. He was trying not to let the desperateness of the situation sink it but things were bad. He wasn’t sure how, or if, he was going to get out.

“You okay over there?” Ben asked, his warm eyes turning to Eddie. “I can practically hear you thinking.”

He forced himself to laugh. “I’m supposed to be helping you, not the other way around.”

Ben shrugged, as much as he could. “We can help each other. There’s no shame in that.”

Eddie nodded, looking around the van again. There was nothing they could use but they had to try to escape now.  This was the best chance they would have. “Can you move your chair behind me? Maybe I can untie your ropes.”

“I’ll try.” Ben hopped on his chair, trying to turn. After a few minutes he gave a half laugh. “I don’t think I can.” He had moved only a few inches.

“I’ll give it a shot.” Eddie started hopping on his. “This is a lot harder than it looks.” He said, frowning.

Ben nodded. The two were a little closer now but nowhere near close enough for Eddie to untie Ben. “I’ll keep moving.”

Eddie kept trying, moving a few inches each time, and he remembered another thing to ask. “Ben?”

“Hm?” Big brown eyes swung to him and, even through the layers of dirt and grim he could see the handsome man underneath.

“Why did you have that storage unit?”

Ben froze, his eyes cast on the floor. “You found that huh?” Eddie nodded, watching an array of emotions pass over his face.

“I’m not a bad husband you know.” Ben said, still not looking at Eddie. “I love Bev, and the kids.”

“I know.” Eddie said, though he really didn’t but he believed Ben.

“When I got the call I tried to think of other options, of what I could do. I really did. I should have gone to the cops. I know that now.” He gave Eddie a sad smile. “But at the time this made sense.”

“What did?” Eddie asked. He didn’t want to interrupt but Ben seemed to be lost in his memories and had stopped talking.

“What I did. Why I had to get the storage unit.” He turned to Eddie, his eyes wide. “Do you think that’s why they took me?”

“Maybe?” He replied honestly. Then, with some urgency he asked, “Ben what happened?”  He could feel the van slowing down and knew they didn’t have much time.

Ben seemed to notice too, his eyes swung to the door. “Ben, quick!” Eddie urged.

But Ben was grimacing, staring at the door. Eddie leaned over, trying to whisper to Ben but instead he tipped over, grunting in pain as his shoulder collided with the metal of the floor.

The door opened and a jeering man Eddie recognized as Henry stood in front of them. “Trying to suck this one’s dick too? Man, you’ll do anyone.” He said, sliding aside and letting his lacheys enter. Two of them grabbed Ben and another two Eddie.

Eddie struggled in the chair, trying to get out as cold fear washed over him. He knew the rules. Once you entered their location the chances of being found were cut by half and it only got worse the longer you were in their hands.

Eddie hadn’t told Ben. He didn’t need to hear that he had defied the odds. Besides, it wasn’t Ben that needed to worry. If they hadn’t hurt him yet they probably wouldn’t.

It was Eddie who had to be worried. He was the spare. And the look in Henry’s eye suggested that he knew that too.

“No more escaping little mouse,” Henry said, pinching Eddie’s cheek. “You’ve cause me quite a few problems.”

Eddie spit on his face. “Fuck you.”

Henry’s grin grew as he wiped the spit away. “You’re going to regret that.” Eddie felt something hit his head again and everything went black again.

 

Richie

Richie was speeding down the highway. They had lost the van and Stan was checking cameras near exits to see if it had turned off on any of them. Bill was looking up local warehouses and trying to find if they had recently been bought. All of them were on a chaotic call together.

“What the fuck do I do Stan?” Richie grunted. He knew that speeding wasn’t helping but he couldn’t slow down. He felt Eddie slipping through his fingers and he needed to do something. Right now, the only thing he could do was to drive dangerously fast down a highway and try not to tell at his friends.  

“I don’t know Richie, I didn’t lose him.” Stan replied tersely.

“Are you blaming me for this?” Richie asked, swerving to avoid a slow moving van. His knuckles were white on the steering wheel and he was tight with tension. And Stan was saying exactly what he was feeling. That this was his fault, that he had let his guard down and fucked up shit had happened.

“Well Eddie was with you. This has never happened before and now my friend is missing and we can’t find him and-” Stan’s words stopped with a sob. Richie heard Mike comforting him in the background and Richie felt jealousy roll over him. He wanted someone to comfort him now. Of course, the person he wanted was the reason he was distressed. He longed to say something to Stan, or to give into his own fear, but he couldn’t. If he started crying now he’d never stop.

“Richie,” Bill piped in. “I found something.”

“What?” Both he and Stan screamed. Richie leaned over as he got a photo, ignoring the shooting pain in his side.

“I found a warehouse that was recently bought by Bob Gray, that’s your guy right?”

“I could fucking kiss you Bill, send me the address right now.”

Richie heard a ping on his phone and punched it into his phone. It was less than fifteen minutes from him. For the first time since he stepped into the hotel room he felt some hope.

“Richie,” Mike’s concerned tone filled the phone. “You can’t go alone. That’s insane. You don’t know how many there are. Or what you’re walking into.”

“I can’t exactly wait for one of you to show up. Eddie could be hurt.” Richie got in the right lane, tailgating the person in front of him to get them to speed up. The exit was less than a mile away.

“You could be hurt! You already are.” Mike said, “You need to stop and think for a minute.”

“Sorry Mike you’re breaking up.” Richie said, ending the call with a flick of his thumb. He focused on driving and coming up with some sort of a plan. Eddie’s gun pressed into his stomach and Richie tried not to think about what might happen in the next few hours.

Chapter Text

Eddie

The men took Ben and Eddie into the warehouse and brought them to a small room,. It seemed to be an old office, there were filing cabinets and a battered desk took up a corner of the room. There was one door leading in and out and a window so they could be watched at all times.

“Play nice boys.” Henry said then he paused in front of Eddie, taking Eddie’s chin in his hand and grinning down at him. “I’ll be back for you soon.”

Eddie wrenched his head back, glaring at Henry. “Fuck you.”

Henry patted his head patronizingly. “Oh, kitty has claws. Good. You won’t be boring. Make sure to keep that sense of humor when I pull out your fingernails later.”

Eddie set his jaw, refusing to show any weakness. “I don’t plan to be here that long.”

Henry barked out a laugh. “Expecting your boyfriend to come rescue you? That bounty hunter?” Henry sneered at him. “I don’t think he could navigate out of a paper bag. I wouldn’t count on him if I were you.” With that he turned on his heel and walked out, slamming the door behind him. Eddie heard the lock click.

“Fuck that fucker!” Eddie said, struggling against the ropes that were holding him. It didn’t help. They had checked and retightened the ropes before leaving them in the room. Eddie could barely move his wrists now. “Fuck!” He could feel the frustration flowing through him, knowing that he was truly fucked. He had let himself be taken to a new location and now he was tied up with a civilian. He didn’t know how he was going to get out of this, especially while keeping Ben safe. He couldn’t assume that Richie would find them. He had none of his tools or tricks. He was nearly naked and completely alone.

In other words he was, “Fucked.” He whispered, letting his head fall forward and trying not to cry. It wouldn’t help and he could feel Ben watching him. He didn’t want to scare Ben or make him think that it was hopeless, even if it felt like it was.

He gave himself a minute to let the situation wash over him. A minute of self pity and regret. That was all he allowed himself because otherwise the fear would swallow him whole.

When the minute ended he looked up, swallowing the last of his fear. “We’re going to get out of here.” He said it as much for Ben as himself. “We need to open the drawers and see if any of them have scissors or something to cut the ropes.” It wasn’t a full plan, even if they got out of the roped they were locked in the room and outnumbered. But it was something.

“Eddie they’re watching us.” Ben said, his eyes flicking to the window.

Eddie followed his gaze. He could see Henry and his goons, sitting around a table and playing cards. “No they’re not, not as long as we’re quiet.” Eddie started to slowly move his chair to the desk, checking that the men didn’t look up.

Ben looked nervous but he started moving towards the filing cabinets. It was slow work, it wasn’t easy to move in the chairs and Eddie’s legs were already aching.  As they moved Eddie finally asked the question that he had tried to ask in the van. “Ben, why do you have the storage unit? What was it for?”

Ben stopped rustling and looked at Eddie, his eyes wide. “I thought you knew.”

“I don’t.” Eddie said, trying to turn around and open a drawer.

“Bev’s dad.” Ben said, his voice heavy with regret. “That fucker .” It was the first real emotion Eddie had heard from him.

Eddie paused, trying to remember anything about Bev’s dad. Nothing came to mind besides a vague memory that he was a drunk and had asked for money a long time ago. They hadn't considered him a contender for this, thinking that he wasn’t motivated enough to try anything.  “What did he want?”

“Money, what else?” Ben started struggling to open the drawer again. “Demanded that I pay him for taking his Bevvie away. Disgusting asshole.” It was the angriest that Eddie had heard him, his voice was pure venom.

“Did you?” Eddie asked, finally opening a drawer and hopping around  to look into it.

“Not at first.” Ben said. “Not for months. He kept showing up at the studios, or the kids school. We got a restraining order on him, did everything we could. But he didn’t care. He just kept showing up.”

Ben paused and Eddie could tell he was lost in memory. “Then he cornered me one day, when I was leaving a poker game. Tried to threaten me and when that didn’t work he showed me this photos.” Ben spat the word out. “These photos of Bev when she was 13, 14, that he took. She was-” Ben stopped and Eddie halted his hopping to look at him. Ben’s face was twisted in anger and disgust. “She was nearly naked. Her eyes were so hollow Eddie. I don’t- she doesn’t talk about what happened much. I didn’t know.”

He stopped again. Eddie gave him a minute to collect himself, trying to continue his movement in the kindest way he could. “And he told me that he’d publish them. In every paper he could. Unless I paid him. He just wanted some money to get back on his feet, that’s what he said. So we set up the storage unit. I’d leave the money on the 15th, he’d pick it up on the 21st. That was it for a few years. Then, a few months back, he started demanding more. Every time, another one thousand, another five thousand...then it was an additional fifty thousand. And I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep paying him, you know? As long as I paid him he was winning. So I refused. And he threatened but I wouldn’t back down, not this time.” Ben sighed. “Then, a week ago, I woke up in a concrete room.” Eddie was surprised how strong and passionate he sounded, in the van he had been dulled, quiet, but that was gone.

“Why do you think he hasn’t asked for ransom money then?” Eddie asked, finally able to see in the drawer.  Pens, post its, other office supplies. Nothing sharp.

“No idea. Maybe to add to the fear? I don’t know how this fucker works.” Ben started moving again, turning back to his open drawer. Eddie cringed at how loud Ben was. Luckily, the men outside were drinking and didn’t seem to hear them over the laughter and music.

“You seem more...animated.” Eddie commented, finally spotting something useful. A pair of scissors. Now, he needed to turn again and grab them with his bound hands. Easy peasy.

“I feel like I’m waking up.” Ben replied, “Don’t know why.”

“Well, I like this guy a lot more.” He did. This Ben was more interesting, angry and bitter, but interesting.

“Me too.” Ben grinned at him and started to hop again, making slow progress.

Until he accidentally scraped his chair against the tile floor, making a loud sound. Eddie flinched and looked, seeing one of the men standing to come check on them. He moved quickly, not worried about the sound he was making now. He had to tilt the chair forward to get his hands high enough to grab the scissors. When he did, he quickly grabbed them and then closed the drawer- right as the door opened and one of the lacheys entered.

“Vic, always a pleasure.” Ben said as one of the dumber looking ones strode in.

“Shut up,” Vic said, turning to Eddie. “Boss said you’re making too much noise.” Eddie opened his mouth to reply and Vic slapped him across the mouth, hard enough that Eddie’s chair tipped and he fell painfully to the ground. “Stay quiet.”

Vic left and Eddie let out a groan. He had landed on his shoulder and now he was lying on it. He could feel an ache spreading up his shoulder and down his back.  But he managed to keep ahold of the scissors. “I hate him.” Eddie said, resting his head on the floor. There was no way he could sit back up.

“Me too man.” Ben said, looking down at him. “Life’s a bitch,”

Eddie laughed. “Gallows humor, huh?”

“When there’s nothing else at least we have that.”

Eddie rested against the floor, watching as Ben kept moving and trying not to think about the pain. He tried to move or flirt but couldn’t and resigned himself to this. They talked, Eddie asking more about Bev and the kids and Ben asking about his work.  It was weirdly normal and easy. Ben kept opening drawers and finding nothing but Eddie had the scissors and kept trying to cut the ropes. He could feel them weakening, slowly. Despite everything Eddie found himself relaxing slightly.

Then they were interrupted again. This time it was Henry who threw open the door.  He grinned at Eddie at the floor. “Right where you belong.” Henry said, delivering a pointed kick to Eddie’s stomach. Henry’s steel toed boots collided with Eddie’s bare stomach and he groaned as pain bloomed.

“That’s just the start.” Henry told him, grabbing the chair and yanking it upright. “We’re gonna have some fun short stuff.”  Eddie thought he was drunk, his movement was clumsy and eyes looked glassy. He wasn’t sure if that worked for or against him.

Once upright Henry took the back of his chair in a hand and pulled it along the floor, making a terrible scraping sound. Ben’s eyes widened as Eddie was dragged away. “What do I do?” Ben whispered.

“Keep looking.” He whispered back. Luckily, Henry hadn’t noticed the scissors, too caught up in explaining in great detail what he was going to do to Eddie. Eddie hoped that he was all talk and no bite but worried he wasn’t. Henry seemed slightly unhinged and somehow Eddie guessed that Henry would do all the terrible things he was describing. He closed his eyes and tried to think of a plan, anything, but nothing came to mind. He could only think about all the pain he’d be enduring soon.

Henry dragged him to a small corner, slamming the chair down as he stopped.

“Where should we start? Earlier, I promised to take off your fingernails but maybe we should start with something smaller.” Henry turned to a table with an array of knives and tools on it, selecting a small paring knife. “This looks fun, doesn’t it?” He turned to Eddie, running the knife over his cheek.  “I thought about drugging you, like we did for Ben. But this will be so much more fun.”

“Drugging him?” Eddie asked, trying to lean away from the knife. It was cool on his skin and he hated it how fast it made his heart thump.

“In the food. Dumb fuck never even figured it out.” Henry gave him a crazed smile. “The boss wanted to keep him quiet, didn’t want him escaping.”

“Is that why he didn’t ask for ransom?” He asked as Henry ran the knife over his neck, tracing his Adam’s apple with the sharp point.

“Ah that. Boss doesn’t want money. He just wants Bev to be afraid. He wants her to know that he can take what’s important to her. He’s going to start sending body parts soon, some gifts for his baby girl.”

“You’re fucking crazy.” Eddie spat out.

Henry’s eyes flashed and the knife lashed out, cutting Eddie’s cheek. “Look what you made me do.” Henry said, wiping the blood with his thumb and licking it. “Wasn’t planning to mar that face, I wanted to send it to your dumb boyfriend intact.” He ran the knife over Eddie’s throat again. “Think he’d like that? Your pretty little head in a box?”

Eddie knew then that Henry wasn’t lying or exaggerating. He would kill Eddie and wouldn’t feel any guilt or remorse over the act. That made him much more dangerous.

“Is that who you are? Big man taking on someone who’s tied up? Drugging your hostage? Pitiful.” Eddie still refused to let his fear show, he spat the words out with as much anger as he could. Part of him hoped that Henry would rise to the challenge and untie him but mostly he needed him to keep talking while he kept cutting the rope.

Henry didn’t take the bait. “We already caught the prey, now it’s time to play with it.” He dragged the knife across Eddie’s bicep, causing a thin line of blood well up. Eddie didn’t flinch, glaring as Henry cut his other arm the same way.

“Tough guy, huh?” Henry turned, grabbing something else. “Let’s try this.” In Henry’s hands was a small cooking torch. He turned it on. “Maybe we’ll start here.” He put the flame near Eddie’s thigh, close enough that he felt the heat but not so much that it burned him. “Or here.” He moved it up Eddie’s leg, to his crotch.  

Now Eddie’s response was real. He clenched his thighs together, feeling the heat on his groin as Henry leaned in.

“If you want to survive this, you better start begging.” Henry said, his rank beer breath hitting Eddie’s cheek. “Maybe I’ll show you some mercy.”

“Never.” Eddie said, turning to look at Henry straight on.

“Your funeral.” Henry said, moving the flame up and pressing it to Eddie’s stomach.

He didn’t try to hold back his scream.

 

Richie

Richie was outside the building, trying to think about how to break in. He had spotted the van so he knew Eddie was there but didn’t know how many people were inside or where Eddie was. But he didn’t have the luxury of waiting too long. He had no idea what they were doing to Eddie.

Since he hung up on Stan and Bill they had been calling him non-stop so he turned off his phone. He’d deal with them after Eddie was in his arms. Until then, he didn’t care how angry they were.

A loud scream made him tense up. It was Eddie, he knew it. The noise spurred him on, forcing him to give up his planning and to take action. Taking a deep breath he opened the door, slipping inside the building.

Pulling out the gun Richie start to slink along the wall, moving slowly and watching for people. He resisted the impulse to run to the sound knowing that, for once, he couldn’t afford to be reckless.

As he moved he saw three men sitting at a table, a radio playing loudly between them. They looked drunk, laughing loudly and slapping the table. They weren’t a challenge but he wasn’t sure he could take on three of them before they got a shot off.

Taking a quarter from his pocket he threw it as far left as he could, hoping they’d hear the noise over their loud burps and jokes.

One did. Richie saw as his head whipped left. “Vic, go check that out.” The man growled.

“Fuck that, you go. You’ll look at my cards if I leave.”

The first man turned to him, glaring now. “Just fucking go check it out you dumbass.”

Vic stood, mumbling to himself, leaving two of them at the table. Richie still didn’t love those odds but he didn’t have another distraction.

Getting as close as he could he snuck up on the pair, Richie was nearly behind them now. Pursing his lips, he raised the gun and fired. He desperately wanted to tell them that this was for Eddie, and for the bullet wound in his back but resisted. Luckily, he was expecting the backlash and didn’t stagger against it. The shot hit one of the men solidly in the back of the head and he slumped over, dead.

The one who ordered the first away stood, grabbing a gun, but Richie was faster, firing again and hitting him between the eyes. “Fuck both of you,” Richie whispered, watching them to make sure they didn’t move. He was grateful for Eddie’s silencer, the shots were loud for him but didn’t seem to disturb anyone else.

He crouched, waiting for the third to return. “What the fu-” The third man didn’t get to finish his thought as Richie squeezed off another shot. His heart was hammering in his chest and he refused to let himself feel bad for killing them in cold blood. He couldn’t afford pity right now, not with so much at stake.

Then Richie forced himself to count to thirty, in case someone else came. When no one did he started moving again. Behind the table was a room with a window. He could see someone else in there, staring at him. Richie walked over and unlocked the door, stepping in.

The man inside turned to him, clearly shocked. He had been looking in a drawer (as best he could since he was tied up) but had stopped, probably due to the commotion outside.

“Fuck, Ben?” Richie asked, lowering his gun.

“Who are you? Where’s Eddie?” The man asked suspiciously, clearly not trusting him.

Richie ran over to him, pulling out a pocket knife and starting to cut the ropes. “I’m Richie. Bev hired Eddie and me to find you.”

“You’re with Eddie?” He asked, still skeptical. Richie appreciated that, he had no idea what the man had gone through, he was right to be suspicious but right now Richie didn’t have time to explain who he was, he pressed on.

“Yes, where is he?” Richie asked, finishing a hand and moving to Ben’s feet.

“Henry took him, ten minutes ago. I heard him screaming…”

Richie paused, swallowing. It was Eddie, just like he had feared. He couldn’t let himself dwell on it though, he had to get Ben to safety and then he could focus on Eddie. He finished cutting Ben’s feet free and helped him stand. “Do you know how many guys there are?” He asked, watching Ben. He was rubbing his wrists but seemed otherwise unharmed.

“I’ve seen at least 6, including the ringleader, Henry.”

Richie nodded, then glanced outside again. “Can you use a gun?” Ben shook his head. “Well you’re going to learn.” He showed Ben one of the guns from the men he’d killed. “Take the safety off, point and shoot until they stop moving.” He explained. “Now, take my phone and run. Call 911 then Bev, okay?” He pressed the gun and phone into Ben’s hand and waited for him to reply. “Do you understand?”

“Shouldn’t I- can I help? I like Eddie.” Ben asked, accepting the items and looking at Richie.

Who shook his head firmly. “No, please. I can’t worry about you. Just get safe and we’ll all have a beer later, when we’re all safe.”

Ben looked like he wanted to argue but then another scream ripped through the area and finally Ben nodded. “Okay, I’ll go.”

Richie clapped his shoulder. “Good man, stay quiet okay?” Ben nodded again and the two left the room. Ben going right and Richie left. He wasn’t sure if giving Ben a gun was a good idea but he couldn’t send him out unarmed.

He didn’t let himself watch Ben leave, forcing himself to trust that the man could save himself. Eddie might be pissed that Richie didn’t make sure Ben was safe but he didn’t care, Richie couldn’t handle another one of those screams. His stomach was already twisted with worry about what was happening to Eddie. He wanted to take solace in the screams because it meant that Eddie was still alive but couldn’t, he didn’t know what state Eddie was in or how badly hurt he was.

Sticking close to the wall, he moved closer to the source of the sound. Before long he heard talking. Someone was taunting someone else. “Thought you could handle this, we’ve barely even started and you’re already close to passing out.”

Richie stopped, peering around the corner. He could see the back of someone, leaning over a chair. Then Richie bit back a gasp. In the chair was a tied up Eddie. He looked liked shit, he had one black eye and Richie could see that he was covered in burns and cuts, blood running down his arms and legs. He looked awake but barely, his head was rolled forward but his eyes were open.  Richie wanted to run to him, feeling anger rise in him that someone would do that to Eddie.

Richie put the gun away, worried he’d hit Eddie if he shot, and tried to think of what to do.

“Fuck you Henry.” Eddie said, looking up and spitting at Henry. Richie could see blood in the spit but he was still proud of him for not giving up.

“Ooh, big talk for a kitten. Maybe we should move onto the big guns.” Henry said, standing and putting a hand on his hip. “This little knife was fun but I have so many other toys.”

Henry turned and went to a table and Richie saw him grab sheers. “These will be great for cutting off some toes and fingers.”

Now Richie couldn’t stop himself. He saw red and lunged at Henry, throwing himself on the other man’s back and tackling him with a raw scream.

“Richie!” Eddie screamed as they both went down, the shears clattering loudly as they landed a few feet away.

“Who the fuck are you?” Henry asked from under Richie.

Richie scrambled, trying to grab Henry’s head and smash it into the concrete. “You fucker!” Richie screamed, ignoring Henry’s question. “You bastard!”

The pair struggled and Richie soon realized his mistake. Henry was much stronger. He had the element of surprise but Henry was soon overpowering him, flipping them so he was on top of Richie.

“Oh, the other fag. What a surprise.” He said, settling on Richie’s thighs. He grinned down maniacally and it worried Richie. The man didn’t look entirely human, the crazed look in his eyes plus the blood spattered across his face made him look strangely disconnected from the world. He looked like someone who liked to hurt people, who enjoyed every second of it.

Richie tried to grab his lapels and pull him down but Henry grabbed him back, bending Richie’s thumbs out painfully. “No no, that’s not how the story goes.” Henry explained, smirking. “I was already enjoying this but now, killing you in front of your fuck boy? It’s more than I could have asked for.”

Richie kept struggling, trying to pull free but Henry’s grip tightened, Richie was worried he could break bones with that grip.

“You were so proud, weren’t you? Thought you were doing so well.” Henry said, leaning down over Richie and whispering in his ear. “You fucking idiot. You worthless fool.” He accentuated his words by pulling Richie’s hands more and Richie let out a whimper of pain, trying not to think about how he had failed Eddie as he felt pain bloom in him.

“I’m stronger than you and I’ve been doing this for years.” Henry sneered. “You can’t take me on alone.”

“He’s not alone.” Richie heard before Henry’s full weight fell on him. He let out a painful wheeze at the weight of the other man, feeling his stitches give way and knowing that he was bleeding from his bullet wound.

“Eddie!” Richie said, scrambling out from under Henry, who was now passed out. Eddie was holding a fire extinguisher in his hand, having clearly hit Henry with it.

“Kill him.” Eddie said, staring down at the man. Richie could tell he was trying to keep his voice from shaking. “Please.”

Richie pulled out the gun and fired it into the back of Henry’s head, grimacing as the gore spattered on the floor. Then he looked at Eddie. He was standing but looked unsteady, still staring down at Henry.

Richie grabbed Eddie’s chin, tugging it up to meet his eyes. “Are you okay?” He asked, looking over Eddie’s bruised face. He didn’t think anything was permanent but couldn’t tell for sure.

Eddie nodded, “I’m fine.”

Richie couldn’t stop himself, he pulled Eddie into a hug, trying not to squeeze him. “I’m so sorry.” He said, feeling Eddie slump against him.

“Don’t be, it’s my fault. This is what I get for falling for you, for getting distracted.” Richie stepped back like he was slapped. Eddie tone was cold, void of emotions.

He stepped back, alarmed. “Eds, don’t say that, fuck, I can’t handle that.”

But Eddie didn’t respond. Richie could feel Eddie trying to put distance between them and he hoped it was temporary, his way of dealing with this and nothing more. Instead of responding to Richie Eddie asked, “Did you find Ben?”

He nodded, unbuttoning his shirt and handing it to Eddie, who looked at him skeptically. It left Richie in his undershirt. “It’s better than nothing.” He said and Eddie took it. The fabric was comically large on him but at least he wasn’t in only his underwear. “And yes, I sent him off with my cell phone and a gun. Now we need to get you out of here.” Richie wanted to help Eddie, maybe even carry him out, but could tell Eddie wouldn’t let him. He gave a small nod and both started walking. Richie had a million questions but could tell that Eddie wasn’t in the mood to talk, not now.

“I’m glad you’re okay.” Richie finally said as they neared the door. “I was so worried.” He was trying not to break down from the relief of finding Eddie and Ben and that both were alive and okay. He could tell that Eddie was in a lot of pain but he was walking, he had all his limbs, that was a victory.

Eddie looked at him for the first time. “Thanks Richie.” Slowly, Richie grabbed Eddie’s hand, happy that he didn’t pull away.

They were nearly to the door when a voice called out. “Not so fast boys.”

They turned, looking for the voice. Richie had to crane his neck up to see the source. Someone was standing on a scissor lift, raised high above them. “Hello there.” The man waved down at them, lowering the machine slightly. “Pleasure to finally meet the men who have been making my life so fucking difficult.”

“Who the fuck are you?” Richie asked, suppressing the impulse to push Eddie behind him.

“Al Marsh. Or Bev’s dad. Or Ben’s father in law. Or your new friend. However you want to look at it.” The man was about twenty feet above them now and Richie could see the resemblance to Bev, same nose, same broad lips. But where Bev always seemed to be smiling, her happiness just radiated out of her, this man looked worn, almost dulled by the years. Richie was sure that all the drinking hadn’t helped. He quickly pieced together that he must has taken Ben, it made sense, from what Richie knew about him. The man was a bottom feeder, a useless drunk who used Bev for years.

“What do you want?” Eddie spat out.

“I want to talk. And trade.”

“You don’t have anything we want!” Eddie yelled back.

“Don’t I?” With a flick of his wrist a metal arm swung towards them, with Ben hanging in the end, arms bound by chains.

Richie didn’t put the gun down though. “Ben! You okay?” He yelled, keeping his eyes on the man.

“Been better!” He yelled back then, to Al, “Fuck you!”

“Shit.” Eddie whispered and Richie pulled out his gun, aiming it at the man.

The man shook his head. “Now now, none of that. If I let go of this, Ben will plunge to his death. Don’t want that do we?” Richie set his jaw, glaring up at the man.

“What do you want?” Eddie shouted.

“Easy.” He said, leaning on the railing, one hand still lazily on the lever that controlled Ben. “I want one of you to stay. You killed all my men, I should get to kill you. An eye for an eye and all that shit. One of you stays and the other leaves with my son in law.”

“No!” Eddie snarled.

“You don’t have a lot of bargaining power here.” He said, taking his hand off. Ben immediately plunged down a foot, screaming, before Al put his hand back. “See? I’ve got all the chips boys. And I think I’m being very fair. You killed four men, I saw the remains on my cameras. I only want one of you.”

“Fuck you!” Eddie shouted. “We’re not going to play this game!”

Bev’s dad opened his mouth to reply but Richie shook his head, taking a step forward. “I’ll stay.” He said, ignoring the gasp from Eddie. “Take me.”

Chapter Text

Eddie

“Richie no!” Eddie cried, grabbing his hand to keep him back. “What are you doing? You can’t go with him! You don’t even know if he’s telling the truth!” He said, swallowing hard and trying not to wince from the quick movement. Every part of him hurt, he could feel the burns on his skin as he breathed and the cuts when he moved. But he would have endured what he had and more to keep Richie safe. He held onto Richie’s hand like a lifeline, staring into his eyes.

Richie turned to him, his green eyes finding Eddie’s brown ones. “You’ve been through enough Eddie, let me do this. It’s my fault anyway.”

Eddie’s stomach fell. The guilt was written on Richie’s face and Eddie wanted nothing more than to go back in time and shove those words back in mouth. At the time he said them because he believed them but it was his fault, not Richie’s, for breaking his code. But he had been wrong, he understood that now, being with Richie wasn’t a weakness. He held back a sob as he thought about everything he wanted to do with Richie. He wanted to go on a date with him. He wanted to have sex with him again (and again). He wanted to hold his hand and kiss him under the stars.

Eddie felt tears fall down his cheeks. He hadn’t cried during the torture but thinking about never holding hands with Richie, that broke him.

Richie put a hand on his cheek. “He’s got us by the balls Eds, and I’m not letting you get hurt on account of me, not again.” His tone was loud enough to be heard by the others.

“Richie I was wrong, I was angry. Don’t do this. We can figure something out!” Eddie said, leaning his head into Richie’s warm hand. He kept his eyes trained on Richie, memorizing his stupid face while trying to think of a way out.

“Richie don’t! Don’t do this!” Ben was shouting. “Tell Bev I love her and you two run.”

Richie turned to Ben, shaking his head. “You’re the hostage here. Our job is to save you. Whatever it takes.”

“Richie, no.” Eddie said softly, for only Richie to hear.

“There’s no other way.” Richie said, leaning in to kiss Eddie. Their lips met and Eddie heard Richie whisper, “I’ll be okay, I have a plan.” Then he drew back, acting like he hadn’t said anything. Eddie’s eyes widened and he desperately wanted to pull Richie back, to demand that Richie tell him what he was planning but knew he couldn’t, not without risking everything. He just hoped that Richie’s plan wasn’t to sacrifice himself for them. He couldn’t handle that. He’d been through too much today and couldn’t imagine walking out of here without Richie.

“I’ll miss you.” Eddie told him, still holding onto Richie as he stepped back. He had to keep pretending that he thought Richie was going into this suicide mission.

It wasn’t hard. He felt his lip tremble as Richie walked to the crane. “Now what? How does this exchange go exactly?” Richie asked with as much swagger as he could.

Al leered at them. Hate and disgust curled in Eddie. This man had done terrible things to Bev, and now to Ben. He deserved to rot in prison, if they even let him make it there. “I’ll come down to you, you climb up, I lower Ben. Simple.”

“What are you going to do with him?” Eddie yelled up, trying not to tremble. Even though he trusted Richie he didn't want him to get on that platform. There were too many variables. He tried to think of anything he could do to stop this but, if he was honest with himself, he had no weapons and was barely standing as it was. He was basically useless.

“Henry isn’t the only one who likes to play.” He felt Bev’s dad look him up and down and crossed his arms, trying to cover himself. “Since Henry got interrupted I’ll take my time with him, make up for what Henry will never get to finish.”

Eddie saw Richie’s jaw tighten, his fists curl at his sides. Eddie wanted to run forward and plead with him not to go but knew he couldn’t. Because it wouldn’t be to play along, Eddie would grab Richie and never let go. More tears fell down his face and he grabbed his arms to keep himself from doing just that.

The crane stopped and the door opened, a gesture for Richie to step in.

“Richie no!” Eddie couldn't stop himself from crying out as Richie took the step. He wiped the tears from his face as Richie turned to him, giving him a small wave and closing the door.

“There, I’m fucking here, now-” Richie was cut off as Al produced a small knife and plunged it into his side. Richie cried out and fell to the ground.

“Richie!” Eddie screamed, running up to the crane even as his body protested it.

“Just in case you got any fucking bright ideas.” Al said, raising the crane again.

He could see Richie slumped on the floor but couldn’t tell if he was breathing. “I thought you were going to torture him!”

Al shrugged. “Changed my mind.”

Eddie couldn’t move as the crane kept rising. He knew that he could be getting Ben and leaving but he couldn’t.  All he could do was stare at Richie’s prone form.

“Richie stand, move, please. Please. Don’t be dead.” Eddie whispered. “Please.” He knew Richie couldn’t hear him but there was nothing else he could do. He was powerless down here.

Then, suddenly, Richie rose up. It wasn’t elegant or fast but he did it quick enough that Al didn’t see. Richie moved back, angling himself and then firing a bullet into Al’s head. Eddie gasped, running over to where Ben was going to fall, ready to try to catch him.

Ben squeezed his eyes shut, preparing himself to fall.

But he didn’t. After a second Eddie looked up, seeing that Al’s body was flush against the lever, holding it in place.

His looked over to Richie, seeing that he was slowly standing, gripping the edges of the platform as he went over to the levers.

“Fuck Richie, fuck.” Eddie said, letting himself exhale. “I thought-”

“I’m alive.” Richie called out. “Not doing too hot though. I think I ripped those stitches like you warned me.”

Eddie laughed, the sound was choked from his tears. “That’s fine Richie, we’ll get you to a real hospital just fucking get down here.”

“On it.” Eddie watched as Richie moved slowly to the lever. It was obvious that Richie was in a lot of pain, he had a hand clenched to his side and looked pale. He moved Al aside and lowered Ben safely to the ground.

Once Ben was down Eddie went over to him, trying to find the end of the chain to release him.

“Fuck, is he going to be okay?” Ben asked, watching as Richie tried to work the crane and lower himself.

“He has to be.” Eddie said, refusing to consider any other outcome.

 

3 hrs later

“I need to fucking see him!” Eddie screamed at the nurse who was bandaging his arm. “I’m fine!” He tried to jump away but she held him down with a surprisingly strong grip.

“Sir, you’re nearly done. And your boyfriend is still asleep anyway.”

“He’s not my-” Eddie started but then winced as she applied antiseptic.

“There, you’re done.” She said, applying one last bandaid. “Now you can go see him. Can I convince you to stay in the wheelchair?”

Eddie shook his head firmly and she sighed. “He’s in room 202.”

“Thanks,” He said, heading out the door and to Richie’s room as fast as he could. The last few hours were a blur. Once he got Ben freed they had called 911. Richie had been rushed into surgery and was just getting out now. The cops had sent all three of them to the hospital, letting them put off answering any questions until they were patched up. He hadn’t heard how the surgery went, they insisted on looking at all his cuts and bruises.

He paused at the door, seeing that Ben and Bev were already there. Bev had been their second call and she had borrowed someone’s jet to get here, arriving at the hospital minutes after them. All of them had been whisked away to different rooms but it looked like Ben had finished first. It made sense, he had the fewest wounds, largely superficial ones.

They were next to Richie’s bed, Ben leaning against Bev, holding hands. Eddie gave himself a second to see what they had done, reuniting these two.

Then they saw him and both waved him in. “Should you be walking?” Ben asked as Eddie walked in.

“I’m fine.” He replied, looking at Richie. He looked like he was sleeping, Eddie could see the rise and fall of his chest. He realized how beat up Richie looked, dirt smudged on his face and bruises on his arms. Eddie hadn’t looked at himself but he was sure he looked a lot worse. It was a miracle they had both walked out of this.  Eddie resisted the urge to pull down the blanket and see the wounds. He was worried what the bullet and knife wound would mean in the long term.

“Did the doctors say anything?” He asked. Bev had stood and offered him her chair. He wanted to refuse but couldn’t. Everything hurt. “Thanks.” He said, slipping into it and trying not to groan. They had given him pain meds but things still ached. He had refused to take anything that would make him sleep, he had to see Richie first.

“He should be okay, he’ll need to take it easy for a few weeks while he heals but it sounds like he’ll be okay.” Bev said.

“Thank fuck,” Eddie said, grabbing Richie’s hand and squeezing it. “When is he going to wake up?”

“Should be soon.” Bev said, giving Ben’s shoulder a squeeze. “We’ll leave you two alone but once you’re both released we’ll fly you home.”

Eddie gave her a small smile. “Thanks Bev.”

She shook her head, “No, thank you. I don’t know what would have happened without you two.” She put an arm around Ben. “You brought him back. I hadn’t dared to hope.” Eddie watched them exchange a quick kiss, both smiling at each other. “We can talk later though. I know the police are eager to talk to Ben.”

Ben groaned. “I’m not looking forward to that. I don’t think they’re thrilled that you guys didn’t call them earlier.”

Eddie shrugged. He didn’t really care how they felt. He and Richie had done what made sense for them.

“I’ll tell them it was because of me.” Bev said, looking from Eddie to Richie.

“You don’t need to lie Bev.” Eddie didn’t want her to get into trouble because of their decisions.

Bev gave him a small smile. “You brought my husband back Eddie, I’m not letting the cops come down on you for doing something they couldn’t.”

“Plus you’re family now.” Ben added. “We’ll be seeing you both for Thanksgiving.”

Eddie laughed and nodded. “Okay, well. Thanks.”

Bev shook her head, looking at Ben again. She seemed surprised and happy every time she looked at him and Eddie knew that whatever happened was worth it. “No Eddie, thank you.” The pair waved and left, hand in hand and heads bent close.

Eddie barely noticed. His attention was already on Richie. He moved his chair closer, leaning on the bed. He waited until the door closed to speak. “Fuck Richie, I thought I lost you, several times. You can’t do that to me.”

“Only if you promise not to do it to me.” Richie said, not opening his eyes.

“You’re awake!” Eddie exclaimed. “How long have you been awake for?”

Richie’s eyes popped open and he smiled at Eddie. “Long enough to hear you worry about me.”

“You ass.” Eddie said, gently hitting Richie’s arm. Then he looked Richie over again. “You’re okay?”

“I’m great, I lived, you lived, I’m going to be swimming in lime jello soon. What more could I want?”

“Not to have two additional holes in your body?” Eddie saw Richie smirk and open his mouth. He hurried to cover Richie’s mouth with his hand. “Don’t, just don’t make a joke. Please. We barely lived. I don’t want your stupid jokes.”

Richie’s eyes followed his, looking sad, until Eddie took his hand off his mouth, wiping it on Richie’s sheets. “You’re wrong Eds, now is the perfect time for jokes, it's all we’ve got.”

“That’s not true.” Eddie said, swallowing and taking Richie’s hand again. It curled into Eddie’s, careful of the cuts and burns and Eddie marveled at how well they fit together, Richie’s large hand in his. “We’ve got each other.”

“We do?” Richie asked nervously, “I thought all this was because we broke your rule and slept together.”

“It was.” Eddie agreed, eyes scanning Richie’s face. “But, I don’t know, maybe I’m an idiot, because I still want to be with you.”

“Even if I make you less sharp?” Richie asked, still seeming unsure.

“That’s not true.” Eddie replied, scooting the chair closer. He wanted to be as close to Richie as he could, in fact, he wasn’t sure he ever wanted to leave Richie’s side again. “You see connections I miss. And you have ideas I would never have thought of. Getting Ben back to Bev, that was because we worked together, as a team.” Eddie wanted to say so much more but he wasn’t sure he could explain how he felt.

“You want to be teammates?” Richie asked, “Inviting me to join the Scooby Gang?”

Eddie shook his head, looking down at their hands. “I don’t want to be teammates Richie, I think you know that.”

“What about all those charming rules you have?” Richie asked, licking his lips.

“Fuck them.” Eddie said. He had survived the torture, he’d been tied up and his shoulder was fucked up, Richie had a bullet and stab wound, Eddie didn’t care about his rules anymore. He cared that they survived.

“I never thought I’d see that day when Eddie Kaspbrak said ‘fuck the rules’,” Richie said with a smirk.

He shrugged. “A lot of things have happened that I didn’t expect.”

Abruptly, Richie grabbed Eddie’s shirt and pulled him close, kissing him soundly. He kept tugging until Eddie was on top of him, opening his mouth to deepen the kiss. Eddie tried to be careful of Richie’s wounds but Richie didn’t seem concerned, he was kissing Eddie like there was no tomorrow. Which, Eddie understood. Earlier that day neither had been sure that there would be.

Eddie gave in, bracing his hands on either side of Richie’s head and lowering himself as much as he dared, wanting to be closer to Richie. Richie’s hands ran over his back, slipping them under Eddie’s shirt, exploring Eddie’s skin. Richie’s hips bucked up, seeking more friction and Eddie let out an embarrassingly loud moan, which only seemed to edge Richie on. His fingers kept moving, now cupping Eddie’s growing erection. Part of Eddie told him that they needed to stop, both were injured and probably needed to sleep, not to do this but the rest of him just wanted to have Richie touch him. His head was cloudy with desire and he pulsed against Richie, seeking friction.

“Mr. Tozier is everything-” Eddie started as he heard another voice. He glanced over, seeing that a nurse had entered the room. “Your heart rate spiked so I came to check on you. I see that everything is fine though.”

Eddie blushed from head to toe, sitting back on his haunches and still on top of Richie. Both were ruffled with swollen lips, there was no question what the had been doing. Richie just smiled at her, “Just celebrating being alive.”

She smiled back. “Watch those stitches Mr. Tozier, we want to send you home soon.”

He nodded, “Aye aye captain.” Giving her a small wave as she left the room. He turned back to Eddie, “You're not going to let me give you a blow job while I’m in this bed are you?”

Eddie groaned, thinking about Richie’s mouth on him but shook his head. “No, I wouldn’t be a very good boyfriend if I let you hurt yourself more.”

Richie’s eyes grew. “Boyfriend you say?”

He nodded firmly. “I think saving my life means your my boyfriend now.”

“Whatever will I tell Ben, I think he has a crush on me.”

Eddie hit Richie’s shoulder then leaned down to kiss him lightly. “Get better, please. Then we can go on a real date.”

“I’d like that.” Richie said, smiling up at him. Then he shifted over, lifting his arm up. “Stay with me? I’ll sleep better if I know you’re safe.”

Eddie wanted to protest that Richie needed to sleep and heal but couldn’t bring himself too. Instead he nestled into Richie, letting him wrap an arm around Eddie. He knew things weren’t over, they would have to talk to the police and they hadn’t found the people who sealed the manhole but for right now, Ben was safe with Bev and Eddie was here with Richie. And that was all that mattered.