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Third Chapter Declarations

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Sweat drips down the back of Eddie’s neck as he rushes across the street. It’s late in the evening, the sky turning a spectacular shade of orange, but this is Los Angeles at the tail end of summer. Even the asphalt seems prepared to melt.

Eddie’s hands shake as he hands his card to the woman behind the ticket counter. He’s faced down an actual monster from space and almost died (did die, the paramedics said his heart stopped twice) and somehow this is what scares him now. She smiles at him and doesn’t comment on it as she hands him a ticket.

Richie Tozier

Coming Out of My Cage Tour

“Thank you,” he says to the woman as he clutches the ticket like a lifeline.

“Enjoy the show. You’re lucky, we’re almost sold out.”

Eddie nods and ducks inside with the rest of the crowd. He takes a seat in the back, far out of reach of the stage lights, and wipes his palms on his jeans. He feels like a character in the final act of a romantic movie, flying to the other side of the country just to make some grand declaration.

Insane. Absolutely insane.

He wishes he still had his inhaler. The audience takes their seats and falls silent as the lights go dark. The stage lights snap on. Richie jogs out, waving and grinning and bowing like he lives off the applause. Eddie thinks he wouldn’t be surprised if that turned out to be true.

“Strap in, folks,” Richie says, grabbing the microphone off its stand. “Because tonight, we’re getting personal.”

Eddie sinks deeper in his chair and tries not to glance repeatedly at his watch. He tries to laugh in all the right places but he can’t stop thinking about how this is a mistake. He could’ve just called.

When the show starts to come to a close, Eddie slips quietly up the aisle, out of the theater, and around to the back door. A man winks at him as he opens it.

“Dressing room is down the hall, last door to the right,” the man tells him.

“Thanks,” Eddie says, and slides him another twenty for his troubles.

The last door on the right is brown and plain, without even a plaque to separate it from the dozens of others. Eddie takes a deep breath and peeks in slowly, even though he’s sure that it’s empty.

The room on the other side is small and unassuming. There’s a single couch and a single chair and a single mirror atop a single vanity. Eddie glances around, cataloging escape routes (there are none) and settles to wait on the couch. It’s rich brown leather and looks newer than anything else in the room.

Minutes tick by on Eddie’s watch. He considers for the first time that Richie might not come back here at all. It’s not like he’s left his wallet or something behind that he would need to get. Eddie could be waiting all night, until he plucked up the courage to sneak back out. Why aren’t there any fucking alternative exits from this room? A fire hazard, that’s what it is.

Eddie’s working himself up to a nice panic when the door crashes open.

Richie’s lips part, forming the first syllable of “Security.” Eddie hesitates, stands and that mouth breaks into a smile.

“Eds!” Richie spreads his arms wide, his eyes still shining with the high of the show. “Who did you blow to get in here?”

“You’d be surprised what a few twenties can buy.” Eddie clasps his hands in front of him, feeling as awkward as he did when they were kids.

“Did you see the show?” Richie closes the door behind him and drops down on the couch. The leather creaks.

“Yes.” Eddie sits slowly, perching himself on the edge.

“And?” Richie raises an eyebrow at him. “What’d you think?”

“I think it’s time for you to hire a new writer.”

“Harsh.” Richie laughs and then eyes Eddie’s face, strangely serious. “Not that I’m complaining, but what are you doing here? In LA? In my dressing room?”

This is it. The big moment. Eddie’s gone over this a thousand times in his head, spent every moment on the plane writing and rewriting his speech. Now his laptop isn’t in front of him but Richie is and he doesn’t know how to say this.

Eddie’s thumb strokes over the place where his wedding ring isn’t. Richie’s eyes follow his gaze. “Where’s the ring?”

“I ended things with Myra.” Eddie stills his hands.

“Too much for you, was she?” Richie teases. “I bet she was a real tiger in bed. You need to find someone more your speed.”

“Beep beep, Richie.”

Richie sobers a bit. “What happened?”

“I never should’ve been with her in the first place.” Eddie shrugs, frowning at the tan line around his finger. “I married my mother. And don’t say it.”

“I wasn’t!” Richie says, a little bit too defensive. “Besides, I don’t see how you could marry your mother when I—”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Eddie mumbles, and kisses him.

It’s really the only way he’s going to get this out, especially with Richie’s endless rambling and terrible jokes. Richie isn’t prepared and his mouth is still moving as Eddie presses their lips together. They clash, awkward and a little bit sloppy.

“Oh,” Richie says and his mouth softens to cover Eddie’s. They fall into a rhythm and it’s still a little bit out of sync, but this, at least, feels like a real kiss. Eddie’s struck by the rasp of Richie’s stubble against his face, how solid the other man’s jaw is. He’s never kissed another man before, hasn’t kissed many people at all.

When they break apart, Richie stares at him. Eddie thinks this might be the first time in his life that he’s ever been speechless. He enjoys having caused this experience before he says, “That’s what I was trying to tell you.”

Richie swallows, licks his lips. “How’d you know?”

“You saved my life.” Eddie presses his palm just below his chest, over the scar. “And, when I saw your coming out video, hindsight might be 20/20. Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“When we were kids, I thought we’d have more time. I didn’t know that we would forget. I don’t know how I could forget you.”

“And then?” Eddie presses harder against the scar, trying to force away the memory of Pennywise’s claw slamming through his torso.

“You were married.” Richie reaches between them and takes Eddie’s hands. “That would widely be regarded as a dick move, even for me.”

“I’m not married anymore.” Eddie lets their fingers tangle together, Richie’s long and calloused, his own pale and shorter. “Maybe we should go have dinner somewhere.”

“Eds, are you asking me out on a date?” Richie pretends to swoon like an eighteenth-century heroine. “I’m afraid I don’t have much of a dowry—”

“Jesus,” Eddie hisses, starting to regret the whole of his life choices. “I’m trying to say I like you, asshole.”

“I love you too, Eddie.” Richie shifts nearer on the couch, his eyes flickering down to his lips. Eddie’s breath hitches and he doesn’t move as Richie leans in. Their lips come together, barely more than a touch, and Eddie lifts a hand, cupping Richie’s cheek.

Eddie traces Richie’s bottom lip with the tip of his tongue, reveling in the shiver that runs through his body in response, the shudder of his breath. For once in his life, he’s not thinking about germs or contamination. There are far too many other things on his mind right about now.

Like the way Richie’s hands come to his sides, holding on gently, like he’s afraid if he clings too tightly Eddie might disappear. The way Richie tastes a little like scotch, even though Eddie is certain he doesn’t even like scotch.

It could be minutes or hours before they break apart. Richie’s lips are swollen red and shiny and he looks gorgeous.

“We should go,” Eddie says. “I don’t know how these things work but I don’t want to get locked in here.”

“I don’t know,” Richie says thoughtfully. “Sounds kinda romantic. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have sex on stage rather than just talk about it.”

Eddie shudders. He’s thought about it—of course he has—but it’s easy to think about in the abstract. He wants Richie but it feels like a big step after so many other big steps.

Richie quiets. “Come home with me. We—we don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. Just please stay.”

The answer to this comes easier. “I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather go.”

“My car’s right outside.” Richie stands and tugs Eddie to his feet. He doesn’t let go as he leads the way out of the building and around to a darkened parking lot. There it is, his cliché as hell cherry red Mustang convertible.

Richie opens his door for him and waits. Eddie hesitates, staring into the rich interior. “This thing is a deathtrap,” he says.

“Don’t insult her right to her face.” Richie’s hand comes to rest at the small of Eddie’s back. “I won’t let anything happen to you, I promise.”

Eddie gets into the car. Richie climbs into the drivers’ seat. The car roars to life, loud and obnoxious and 100% Richie. Eddie doesn’t say anything, not wanting to distract him as they pull out onto the street.

“How far away do you live?” Eddie asks, once they’re on the (somewhat) empty highway.

“Eager to get me home?” Richie’s voice is low and it does things to Eddie’s body that he doesn’t want to look at too closely. “With this traffic, about fifteen minutes.”

“I’m going to need you to brush your teeth if you want there to be any more kissing,” Eddie says, before he can change his mind. “You taste like scotch. You don’t even like scotch.”

“My writer suggested it.” Richie grimaces, licking his lips.

“You drink scotch for the aesthetic.”

“Well, when you put that way…yes.”

Eddie rolls his eyes. “You should definitely hire a new writer. One that encourages breath mints instead.”

“I’ll send you the next set of applications.” Richie ducks off the highway onto an exit. “You can analyze their risk.”

“That’s not how it works,” Eddie says, but he’s smiling. Richie reaches across the center console, looking for Eddie’s hand, but he snatches it away. “Both hands on the wheel, please.”

“I just wanted to make sure you were really here.” Richie’s smirking as he places his hands on the wheel precisely at ten and two. “I can’t believe you came all this way, just to see me. You know I’ll be in New York City next weekend?”

“I needed to get away.” Eddie doesn’t say that after twenty-eight years he didn’t want to wait another day. Richie nods, understanding in his eyes.

They turn into a gated community and Richie waves to the man in the guardhouse. Eddie stares out the window, waiting to see mansions, swimming pools, fences plated in gold. Instead, he finds perfectly normal houses—if a bit larger than the ones they grew up in.

Richie turns down one side street and then another until they reach the end of a cul-de-sac. The garage opens next to a two-story house with white siding and a perfectly manicured front lawn. Hibiscus spill from the window boxes and there’s a lilac bush growing at the corner of the garage.

“You live here?” Eddie says as he climbs out of the car.

“I know, I know.” Richie closes the garage door and leads the way. “The wild orgies and gold-plated toilet seats are inside. Have to keep up appearances, you know?”

Eddie snorts but finds the inside of the house no more unusual than the outside. He’s pretty certain it was decorated mostly by a designer—the color scheme meshes too perfectly and all the basic furnishings are covered—but it’s still clear that Richie Tozier calls this place home.

For instance, Eddie’s pretty sure an interior designer would not choose to place Street Fighter in the living room of the average home.

“Really?” Eddie says, pointing at the arcade game.

“It’s how I like to spend my summers.” Richie drops his wallet onto the coffee table as he makes his way across the room. “Make yourself at home. Just don’t move the action movies.”

Eddie takes in the entertainment center—light wood supporting the largest TV he’s ever seen, along with an impressive collection of DVDs—but doesn’t touch anything. He wanders to another wall, lined with bookshelves. A couple shelves are lined with video games but most of them are displaying comic books. In between is a massive fish tank that seems to contain only a single creature.

The fish is striped brown and cream, with milky eyes and long antennae. Eddie is still watching it swim lazily about the tank, in and out of the greenery, when Richie returns.

“That’s Cat,” he says, dropping down on the couch. “She’s a good friend of mine.”

“Are you saying your best friend is a catfish?” Eddie abandons Cat in favor of joining Richie on the couch.

“Maybe.” Richie’s fingers play along the back of his arm. “Is there something you want to do?”

There are a lot of things Eddie wants to do right now but none that he feels quite ready for. He feels like he’s been spit out of a whirlwind—almost dying, defeating Pennywise, going back to New York, getting divorced, flying to LA, kissing Richie. It’s a lot to process.

“A movie?” he says.

“Sure.” Richie climbs off the couch, considers his collection for a few minutes, and then pops in Die Hard. As he pulls the DVD from the shelf, Eddie gets a glimpse of another case tucked in behind it, suggesting a very different meaning for the word hard.

When Richie sits back down, Eddie curls up underneath his arm, resting his head on his chest.

Richie is warm and comfortable and it isn’t long before jet lag is weighing on Eddie’s eyelids. He lets them slip closed and is asleep before Takagi dies. It’s the best sleep he’s had in months, the first time since leaving Derry for the second time that he doesn’t drag himself out of a nightmare.

When Eddie wakes, the TV is off and the lights are still on and Richie is watching him with a soft expression that Eddie’s never seen before. It makes his insides wiggle.

“Jet lag, Sleeping Beauty?” Richie murmurs.

“Shut up.” Eddie takes Richie by the hand and stands. It takes him only a couple steps to realize he has no idea where Richie’s bedroom is. “Is it time for a tour of the house?”

“If I’m not mistaken,” Richie says, low and rolling, “I know exactly where to start.” He leads the way up a set of carpeted stairs and through the first door on the right. The resulting bedroom contains only a canopy bed, a dresser, and a side table. Probably because most of the space is taken up by the bed.

“A California king?” Eddie says, eyebrow raised.

“I am in California, love.” Richie sits down on the end of the bed. “Do you really want the full tour?”

“No.” Eddie glances around the room, noting the doors (just the one they came through) and the windows (four of them, satin curtains offering only a peek of the balcony on the other side). He shakes his head and steps up between Richie’s legs. He savors the reversal in their height difference, pushing his hands into Richie’s hair. It’s longer than when they were in Derry last, the ends hinting at the curls he had as a kid.

“Tell me if I do something you don’t like,” Richie says. There’s fear bared in his eyes, fear that he might do something to mess this up, that Eddie will leave him again.

“I will,” Eddie promises and kisses him.

This one is a steady give and take, with plenty of time to explore each other and learn what makes them tick. Eddie thinks Richie is quite a good listener when his mouth is too busy to speak. He also thinks that he’ll remember the way Richie moans when he runs his tongue over the roof of his mouth for the rest of his days.

Eddie’s lips are already spit-slick and swollen by the time Richie pulls him down on the bed next to him. He sinks into a mattress that feels like a cloud, panting for breath as Richie leans over him for another kiss.

Richie becomes almost quiet then, his lips cautious and gentle in a way that Eddie doesn’t know how to respond to. He wants Richie so badly it terrifies him but taking that leap—he doesn’t know if he can do it without Richie showing him the way.

Eddie feels too hot in his own skin, like the Los Angeles heat is seeping into him in spite of the air-conditioned house. He sits up, breaking out of the kiss with an audible pop.

“Is—” Richie’s voice stutters out as Eddie drags his own shirt over his head. “Oh.”

“Less clothes.” Eddie reaches over, catching Richie’s face in his shirt in his haste to get it off him. “It’s too hot.”

“Okay, okay.” Richie flails a bit, trying to help and only getting in the way. “No need to tear my clothes off.”

Eddie tosses the shirt aside and they come back together, bare skin pressed to bare skin. It’s intoxicating in a way that he’s never felt before and all he knows is that he wants more.

Richie pulls back but he doesn’t go far, moving over Eddie’s jaw, his throat, his collarbone. He pauses there, sucking a string of hickeys along the bone like they’re fifteen.

“What?” he asks at Eddie’s raised eyebrow. “I’m making up for lost time.”

“It’s too hot for turtlenecks, you know.”

Richie laughs, open-mouthed and hot against Eddie’s chest. “Please tell me you didn’t bring any to LA.”

Any response Eddie might have made cuts off in a moan as Richie circles his tongue around his nipple. Eddie arches his back, so hard that he might come in his pants like they really are fifteen again.

“Interesting,” Richie says, like he’s writing a scientific thesis on Eddie’s responses, and continues his path downward. He presses kisses and touches into Eddie’s chest, sides, stomach. He pauses at the knotted starburst of a scar stretched from Eddie’s sternum down past his navel. It’s a horrible mess of pink and gray skin, a reminder that Eddie tries not to look at too often. He wishes that he could magic it away like the blood pact scars on their hands.

“I’m sorry,” Richie says, kissing it at the center. “I’m sorry, Eds.”

“Don’t say that.” Eddie doesn’t want to think about those moments spent crouching over Richie, how close they’d been, the horrible burning piercing ripping pain that spread out from his torso to every nerve in his body.

He’d died in the moments that followed and he doesn’t want to waste time on that now when he feels so alive.

Richie kisses the scar one more time and then hooks his fingers in the hem of Eddie’s jeans. Eddie doesn’t say a word, just braces his heels against the bed and lifts his hips up.

Richie takes his jeans and briefs off all at once. It’s not the first time Eddie’s been naked in front of him, but it is the first time as adults, the first time in Richie’s bed, the first time he’s been looked at with such intent. Eddie stares at the ceiling, unable to consider the possibility that he might see disinterest or even aversion in Richie’s eyes.

“Hey,” Richie says, soft. His fingertips trace circles on Eddie’s calf. “Eds. You look beautiful.”

Eddie looks over, then, his breath catching at the wonder, the lust, in Richie’s eyes. He nods, letting his legs fall back onto the bed. Richie picks up where he left off, lips brushing over the point of Eddie’s hip, the happy trail of blond hair, the seam where his pelvis meets his thigh. He ignores Eddie’s cock, flushed and hard right in front of him, in favor of drawing a line of wet kisses down Eddie’s thigh.

Eddie’s cock twitches and he tightens his back, resisting the urge to buck his hips in the direction of Richie’s face. He doesn’t know a lot, but he’s pretty sure that’s considered rude.

Richie moves back up and Eddie’s cock brushes against the side of his face, leaving a streak of pre-come behind. Richie looks up at him through thick eyelashes, lips cherry red and obscene. “Is this okay?”

Eddie reaches down, cups the side of his face. His thumb presses against the hollow of Richie’s cheek. “Condom.”

Richie whines, tongue swiping over his bottom lip. “I want to taste you.”

Eddie runs a hand through Richie’s hair, making it stand on end. “Not tonight.”

Richie nods and rolls off the bed. The tight fit of his jeans does little to disguise the obvious bulge underneath. He digs through the end table for a moment and raises a box of condoms. He plucks one out and tears it open.

“Sure about this?” Richie asks, settling back down on the bed, only inches away.

Eddie could scream. There’s heat racing up and down his spine, and he’s sure that if Richie doesn’t touch him soon, he’ll explode. “Please.”

Richie rolls the condom on, his fingers long and nimble. His touch alone is almost enough to set Eddie off and he bites down on his bottom lip. He’ll be damned if he lets this end before it’s even begun.

Richie lowers himself down and pauses, lips so close that Eddie can feel the brush of his breath. He stares down at Eddie’s cock, like he can hardly believe this moment is real, and then licks from base to tip all at once.

Fuck,Eddie hisses, and Richie takes him all the way down.

It’s warmth and wetness and it’s Richie staring up at him with eyes filled with lust and love. He hollows his cheeks and sucks. Eddie loses control, hips fluttering up off the bed.

“Sorry, sorry.” He flops back, legs stretched out flat. “I didn’t mean to.”

Richie draws back, mouthing at the head. “It’s okay. You can let go, Eddie. I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t.” Richie takes him back down inside and waits, tongue pressed against the underside of his cock. Eddie braces his legs against the bed and fucks up, as gently as he can. Richie’s hands wrap around his thighs, urging him on.

Eddie grasps at the bed, his hands clenching on silk sheets. He can feel something inside of him ready to snap. One of Richie’s hands starts to wander, thumb running over the soft skin of his balls. It’s too much, it’s all too much.

Jesus.” Eddie’s orgasm roars through him, the muscles in his thighs tightening, his back arching. He pants a laugh as he comes down, flopping against the bed.

“That your first orgasm?” Richie sits back on his knees, licking his lips. He removes the condom as Eddie lets out a whine at his touch against oversensitive skin.

“You just can’t help it, can you?” Eddie’s too busy trying to catch his breath to put a proper amount of heat in the words. “Of course not.”

Richie leans off the bed and drops the condom into a waste bin. “But was it—”

“Shut up and come here.” Eddie grabs him by the shoulder and drags him closer. The zipper of Richie’s jeans proves to be more difficult than Eddie expected. His fingers are shaking and he just can’t get the angle right. Richie lets him struggle for a minute before he takes pity and yanks them open.

Eddie pushes them down just enough that Richie’s cock comes free. He stares down at it, losing reality in favor of his own thoughts. He’s really about to have sex with Richie. He has had sex with Richie.

Richie lets him have this in silence, although Eddie is sure he’s biting down any number of crude jokes and comments. Eddie wraps his hand around the base, almost fascinated. Richie is hard, the skin soft and hot, curving a little to the left because of course not even Richie’s cock is straight.

“Show me what you like,” Eddie says, and he does. He wraps his hand on top, guiding the strokes, the pressure, the quick swipe of a thumb at the end of each downstroke. Pre-come beads at the tip and Eddie catches it on his fingers.

He waits for it to feel gross—it is a little sticky—but it doesn’t. It feels right.

Richie lets go, clinging to Eddie’s chest and shoulders. He’s trembling, his forehead tucked in the crook of Eddie’s neck. Broken moans climb their way out of his throat.

Eddie speeds up his strokes and Richie’s breathing quickens, the muscles in his back tighten. “Eddie,” he groans as he comes, still clinging to him.

It’s too late by the time Eddie realizes how close they are, at least as long as he doesn’t  want to get come all over him. It’s hot and definitely sticky and a little gross. Richie lifts his head as he catches his breath, studying the mess across Eddie’s legs. “Sorry,” he says. “I should’ve warned you.”

“It’s fine,” Eddie says, and it is. He presses a kiss onto Richie’s sweat-slick forehead.

“Come on.” Richie pushes himself off the bed and nearly trips in his own jeans. “I’ll take you on a tour of the shower next.”

Eddie climbs back into bed a few minutes later, hair still wet, smelling of Richie’s soap. His eyes are already half-closed as he sinks into the mattress and rests his head on Richie’s chest.

“I love you,” Richie murmurs into his hair but Eddie is already fast asleep.

“Eddie, wake up. Eddie please. Please wake up. Don’t leave me.”

Eddie bolts upright in bed, heart thundering in his ears, to a darkened bedroom and a still-sleeping Richie. He’s squirming, hands grasping at Eddie’s chest, his face twisted into desperation.

“Richie.” Eddie shakes his shoulder. “Wake up. It’s just a nightmare.”

Richie inhales sharply as his eyes shoot open. A tear rolls down his cheek. “God, I—”

“I know.” Eddie twines his fingers through Richie’s, lifts a hand to his chest, over his heart. “I’m okay. I’m alive. You’re stuck with me now.”

“It was so real.” Richie’s crying in earnest now, tears rolling down both cheeks.  Eddie leans over him, pressing kisses into his cheeks and forehead and the tip of his nose.

“It wasn’t real. I’m okay. We survived.”

Richie wipes his face with the back of his hand and pulls Eddie down half on top of him. Eddie squirms until he finds a comfortable position. It’s nearly an hour before Richie’s breathing steadies back out and they both fall asleep again.

Eddie wakes to sunlight falling across his eyes. He sighs his disappointment and reaches across the bed, finding it still warm but empty.

“Richie?” He lifts his head, eyes landing on the balcony just outside the window. There he is, leaning against the split wooden railing, wearing only a pair of bright blue boxers, hands wrapped around a coffee mug. He turns as Eddie starts to stir and ducks around the corner.

Eddie’s halfway out of bed by the time Richie joins him, the coffee mug mysteriously absent.

“I would love to make sure you don’t leave this house for the rest of the week,” Richie says, sitting down on the edge of the bed, “but my flight to Seattle leaves at two.”

“Oh.” Eddie clenches the blankets in his fists. “I’m sure I can get a flight back to New York this afternoon.”

Something flickers in Richie’s eyes and Eddie waits for him to make a comment about him coming here without a return plan, like he intends to stay. Then he says, “What if you didn’t?”

“This is a nice house,” Eddie says slowly, “but I don’t think I really want to stay here alone. I’m not a catfish, Richie.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Richie swallows hard, like he’s forcing down a joke. “Come with me to Seattle. I’m sure people will keep taking risks without you.”

“That’s not really—”

“Please.” Richie takes his hands, untangles his fingers from the sheets. “I have Seattle tonight, then Nashville, then Philly, then New York. Spend one week with me and then you can go back to telling people how to live their lives.”

Eddie snorts. “Do we need to leave now?”

“Not for a couple of hours yet.” Richie’s whole face lights up in a grin.

Eddie pulls the covers down, letting the edge tent over his already-hard cock. “Then get back in here.”

Richie hesitates, his face so close that Eddie can count his eyelashes. “How do you feel about the taste of coffee?”

Eddie rolls his eyes. “Don’t make a habit of it.”