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It was over. They had squeezed the life out of It’s heart and watched as the house on Neibolt crumbled to the ground. Eddie wasn’t sure how they’d managed to all make it out alive, but the six of them had. In the end it had been the same magic that saved them as kids: if you believe it’ll work, it will. Eddie hadn’t even needed to watch the spear pierce It, he knew it was a fatal blow and he was more concerned about Richie waking up from the deadlights.

“It’s shrinking!” Bev had yelled, and Eddie grinned as he fell onto Richie.

“Rich, I did it! I killed It!”

Richie’s eyes opened slowly, and it seemed to take him a moment to understand what was happening.

“You’re not –“ He muttered, looking at Eddie with wide eyes. “You’re not dead. Holy fuck, you’re not fucking dead, oh my god-“

“Guys! Come on!”

Mike’s voice had cut through Richie’s words – Richie, who was staring at Eddie as though he were some kind of miracle. Eddie wasn’t sure what was happening, but it struck him for a moment that perhaps Richie had seen their deaths in the deadlights the same way Beverly had.

Eddie grabbed Richie’s hand and tugged, almost dragging the dazed man behind him. Mike was still yelling at them to hurry, and when they reached the circle, Eddie gasped.

It was up against the spikes opposite the losers, body the size of a newborn baby. It’s face had returned to that of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Eddie saw in It’s eyes something he’d never seen there before: fear. The group was silent as Mike took cautious steps forward, then reached into It’s chest. Eddie felt Richie squeeze his hand and he squeezed back, having forgotten they were even still holding hands. He felt nothing but exhilaration as Mike walked back to the group. Without words, they all seemed to understand what to do. Richie dropped Eddie’s hand to grab onto the heart, and Eddie had the wild thought that he could’ve held Richie’s hand forever.

 


 

 

Eddie took a deep breath outside of Richie’s room. He wasn’t sure what was making him so nervous, but he knew if he knocked, there was no going back. He just wasn’t sure where exactly he was going.

It had been half an hour since the group had returned to the Town House, and everyone had immediately headed up to their rooms. Eddie had stepped into his own room and stopped in his tracks. There was blood on the floor, drops leading into the bathroom. Eddie knew there would be even more blood there, along with a bloody shower curtain. Trying his best to ignore the evidence of his struggle with Bowers, Eddie quickly grabbed his suitcases and lugged them out into the hallway.

Thirty minutes passed uneventfully. Eddie opened the suitcase that contained his clothes and grabbed some pajamas to wear after he managed to take a shower. At first he was just waiting for the first person to finish, so he could rush into their room and use a shower that hadn’t been involved in a physical assault with a deadly weapon.

When no one came out after ten minutes, he started fidgeting. He started digging through his bag that had been used as a carry-on, because he was sure he’d bought a book at the airport that he hadn’t even touched, and when he pulled it out he laughed. It was one of Bill’s.

“This place is so fucking messed up,” he muttered to himself, throwing the book back into the bag. He’d had enough horror for this lifetime, thanks. And enough shitty endings, too. Beating It hadn’t brought Stan back. Eddie couldn’t find it in himself to call this a happy ending.

Suddenly his head shot up at the sound of movement behind Richie’s door. He stood up, ready to greet his friend when he exited the room, but nothing happened. He heard the sound of something being dropped to the floor. The creak of old box springs.

He’s going to bed? What the fuck?

Eddie was pretty positive he wasn’t going to sleep for a week after everything he’d seen. How the hell was Richie just going to fall into bed and pass out?

There was a bit of anger that followed him to Richie’s door, but it dissipated quickly. He knew he had a perfectly logical reason to knock. He needed the shower. It wasn’t weird, and he needed to stop questioning his every move around Richie.

After a few minutes of warring with himself in his head, he raised his fist and knocked. His heart pounded as he waited. He could hear the creak as Richie stood up, could hear each footstep get louder and louder until the door was open.

“Eddie?” Richie looked confused at his presence, but that wasn’t what Eddie noticed. He noticed the way Richie’s eyes were bloodshot and puffy, as though he’d been crying.

“I stabbed Bowers in my shower,” Eddie said as an explanation. He wanted to ask Richie about why he had been crying, but he knew that would get him nothing but a door slammed in his face. Better to ignore it. Let Richie come to him if he needed to talk.

“You – In your shower? Did he attack you while you were naked?” Richie was frowning, eyebrows furrowed, and Eddie laughed. It was a face he had made often when they were kids, a stupid face that wasn’t even cute but made Eddie’s stomach twist up in knots anyway.

“No, I was cleaning off fucking leper vomit off my face when he stabbed me, so I…” He paused, suddenly realizing how absurd his actions had been. “I got in the shower and closed the curtain.”

Richie’s face turned downward even more, exaggerating his confused expression. “Did you think he was just gonna leave? Give you your privacy?”

“Shut the fuck up,” he muttered, biting back a laugh. “No, I pulled the knife out of my fucking face and when he lunged I just… held the knife out. Honestly, I don’t know if we can even say I stabbed him. More like he ran into a knife I was holding.”

Richie laughed, throwing his head back like Eddie had Gotten Off A Good One. It made Eddie grin.

“But seriously. I can’t shower in there,” Eddie said, once Richie had calmed down. “Can I use yours?”

Richie opened the door wider and let Eddie step inside.

“Sure, man,” Richie answered, waving his arm toward the bathroom. Before Eddie shut the door behind him, he added, “Just watch out for any sticky substances on the shower wall. I was definitely just jacking off in there.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Richie.”

He knew Richie was smiling without having to turn around, so he just closed the door. Richie’s clothes were still on the floor, haphazardly dropped, likely in haste to get into the shower. Eddie made sure to fold his own clothes, even though he knew he would probably end up burning them at some point, before he stepped under the water.

He took a few moments to let the water rinse any grime that was still stuck to his skin. He stared at the water in the bottom of the tub, watched as it started a dark brown color, slowly fading. There was red, too, and he tore his eyes away. Instead, he looked straight ahead, only to hear Richie’s words ring in his head.

He knew Richie had not actually jacked off in the shower, because Eddie was fairly positive he’d been crying, but it didn’t stop the image from forcing its way into his head.

He closed his eyes, pressing the palms of his hands into them, hoping to shove the image away. It hadn’t worked when he was a teenager, and it wasn’t working now.

“Fucking stop,” he quietly scolded himself, grabbing the shampoo and doing his best to ignore his thoughts. The crush he’d had on Richie when they were kids had hit him full force when he saw him again, and he desperately wished it hadn’t. He’d spent years pushing that shit down, and one day with Richie fucking Tozier and that’s all down the drain?

He couldn’t be too surprised, though. It had been Richie that started his sexual crisis at 13 to begin with.

A new memory hit him and he felt an ache in his chest. He used to have a way of trying to stop thoughts of Richie when they were teenagers. Eddie couldn’t count the number of times he’d muttered those words to himself, and he couldn’t help but quietly say them again.

He’s straight. He’s straight. He’s straight.

Tears stung behind his eyes as he began to scrub at his skin. All evidence of being in the sewers seemed to have left his body, but he couldn’t help but still feel dirty.

 


 

 

“Thanks,” Eddie said. Richie was laying on the bed, arm folded behind his head. Eddie tried his best not to look at the pale skin between his t-shirt and sweat pants. “Uh, I think I’m gonna head out. Maybe get a hotel in Bangor for the night, catch a flight tomorrow.”

Richie sat up, frowning. “What?”

“I mean, I’m not staying in a bloody room, and if I’m already in Bangor I can get an early flight to New York –“

You’re going back to her?

Eddie’s mouth snapped shut. He wanted to say something but his brain seemed to have stopped working.

“After everything we just went through? That didn’t teach you enough of a life lesson?”

“I don’t really understand what you’re expecting me to do here, Rich,” he said finally. His voice was softer than he intended.

“I don’t know, Eds, but don't you dare walk away and go back to a wife you don’t even fucking love!”

Eddie’s hands were shaking. The tears had returned, and he was unable to keep a few from falling. He wiped them away quickly, turning to the side so Richie couldn’t see his face.

“You almost died, Eddie –“

“No I didn’t,” Eddie told him. “I didn’t almost die any more than anyone else. You saw me die in the deadlights, though, right? You were shocked that I was still alive when you woke up.”

Richie looked stunned, like he hadn’t expected Eddie to have realized what happened.

“What? Did you think I forgot?” Richie looked down at the bedspread as Eddie spoke. “I’m never going to forget the look in your eyes when you saw me alive-“

“And you think I’m gonna forget you getting fucking impaled on top of me?” Richie’s voice rose.

Eddie felt his breath hitch, and he reached for his inhaler before he remembered it was gone. “I was – What? Rich, it wasn’t real –“

“It was!” Richie insisted, and Eddie could hear in his voice that he was starting to cry. He clenched his hands into fists at his sides. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. Comfort him? Give him a hug? Tell him to man the fuck up? He stood still, his entire body tense, as Richie kept speaking. “How long was I in the deadlights?”

Richie looked up at him, and the sight of tears on his cheeks tugged at his chest. Richie was crying over him, in a weird way. He took a shaky breath. “I don’t know, maybe two minutes? Not more than five.”

Richie laughed, but he wasn’t smiling. He shook his head, looking almost angry. “It was three days for me.”

“It – what?” Eddie’s voice was barely a whisper. Without even thinking, he moved closer and sat on the edge of the bed next to Richie. Richie looked straight in front of him, head down.

“It wasn’t like Bev said,” he started. “It was like… it was real. I was on the ground, and I thought I had just fallen out of the deadlights, and the first thing that really happened was you. You…”

He huffed a shaky breath.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Eddie told him, even though he desperately wanted to know what Richie had seen.

Richie shook his head. “Maybe if I say it out loud it’ll stop replaying in my head.”

“Rich? Can I – don’t fucking make fun of me or I swear I’ll punch you in the dick –“ Richie snorted. “Can I like, hug you? Really quick?”

He was a fucking idiot. Can I hug you? What the fuck?

But Richie was nodding. Gathering his courage (why do you need courage to hug your best friend, he’s crying, this is what people do, stop making it weird, he’s straight), he leaned over and wrapped a hesitant arm around Richie’s shoulders. Richie turned toward him and let his head fall into the crook of Eddie’s neck. Eddie felt multiple things happen at once: Richie’s arms, wrapping around his waist, clinging to the back of his t-shirt. Richie’s face in his neck, warm tears on his skin. Richie’s body, shaking with each sob.

They sat that way for a few minutes, before Richie seemed to have worn himself out, or run out of tears. Eddie held him, tears of his own springing to his eyes as he listened to his best friend cry.

Richie sat up, letting go of his grip on Eddie and using his t-shirt to wipe his face.

“Richie, that’s disgusting,” Eddie said without thinking, but Richie laughed.

“What’s more disgusting is I probably got snot all over you,” he was smiling, but you could tell how much he’d cried just by looking at him.

Eddie shrugged, reaching over Richie to grab a tissue from the bedside table. He wiped the area of his neck that Richie had cried into and then looked up to Richie staring at him with wide eyes.

“Shut the fuck up,” Eddie said, tossing the tissue back toward the nightstand. It landed on the floor; Eddie didn’t bother to grab it.

“Who are you?” Richie sounded shocked. “You got my snot all over you and you don’t even care? You threw a used tissue on the ground and didn’t pick it up? What have you done with my Eds?”

Eddie laughed and shoved at Richie’s shoulder. “If it was anyone else I wouldn’t even have let them cry on me to begin with.”

He broke their eye contact and looked down when Richie’s face changed. He started to fidget.

“I mean – You’re not…. Diseased. I’ve spent my whole life trying to avoid germs and shit, because I didn’t want to get sick. I’m so fucking delicate that a cold day is going to give me a fatal case of pneumonia. A hangnail is gonna give me… I just… I’ve never been scared of your germs. Like, you’re fucking disgusting, but not in a way that’s gonna infect me. I’m not afraid of you. You’re my best friend.”

Eddie let out a long breath. He wasn’t even sure when he’d started thinking that. Before he’d gotten to Derry he’d been afraid of germs and disease and getting ill. When did that change? When he saw Richie again? But he felt like it wasn’t the first time he’d thought this way. Like maybe he thought the same thing about Richie when they were kids, too.

“But-“

“I know it’s weird,” Eddie cut him off, before he could finish the sentence. Before he could make it a joke. “It’s been over 20 years since we’ve seen each other, and we didn’t even remember each other in all that time. But it was like… Like I knew you were missing, but I didn’t know who you were. And now I know. And you’re still my best friend. Even if you’re still a Trashmouth.”

“I’m not drunk enough for this conversation,” Richie muttered, startling a laugh out of Eddie.

“There’s a bar downstairs,” Eddie responded, feeling like he could use a little liquid courage himself. He wasn’t sure what conversation Richie thought they were going to have – they’d gotten off track but mostly Eddie just wanted to know what Richie saw in the deadlights.

“I’ll be right back,” Richie said, exiting the room and leaving the door open. When he returned, he was carrying a bottle of vodka and two shot glasses.

“Vodka?” Eddie grimaced.

“Listen, man, there weren’t a lot of options. Do you want some or not?”

Eddie sighed. “Yeah. Just one. I want to actually talk, I don’t want to get shitfaced.”

“I would love to be shitfaced right now,” Richie commented, then threw back the shot he’d just poured. He winced as it went down, then cleared his throat.

Eddie debated saying something. He was fully aware that he was kind of known as, to put it lightly, a stick in the mud, and he didn’t want to sound like a parent lecturing a teenager, but… He wanted to have this conversation, and it wasn’t going to happen if Richie was drunk.

“You shouldn’t drink too much, either,” he said quietly, as Richie handed him a shot glass that was full to the rim. He did his best to take his shot the way Richie had, to throw it back and swallow quickly, but he started gagging and only managed to swallow half. He could hear Richie laughing over his own coughs. “I haven’t taken a shot since high school.”

Richie’s eyebrows shot up. “What?”

“I wasn’t much of a party person. I like wine coolers,” Eddie answered, already feeling the blush on his cheeks.

“Oh my god, of course you do,” Richie laughed. He looked down at Eddie’s half finished shot glass and his own empty one. “I’ll finish yours. That’s it, then we’re done. Good?”

There was no other way to describe what Eddie felt other than butterflies. He honestly hadn’t expected Richie to stop drinking just because Eddie wanted to have a serious conversation. He expected to be laughed off.

“Stop making that face, I can be an adult if I want to.” He finished off Eddie’s shot. “Honestly, I’m not even usually like this. The whole, being an asshole to be funny thing.”

“Well, I spent the last 20 years even more neurotic than I was as a teenager, so I guess this little reunion made you regress and me grow up.”

“Don’t do that,” Richie said, sitting back on the bed. He crossed one leg in front of him, the other foot on the floor, so that his body was facing Eddie. “You never said it but I knew you always did. You weren’t as bad as you thought you were.”

“Gee, thanks.”

Richie chuckled. “Fuck off. I’m saying you have low self-esteem, Eddie. Which is probably a shitty thing to say to someone with low self-esteem, but… Here we are.”

Surprisingly, Eddie found himself laughing so hard that he fell back onto the bed.

“Damn, Eds, it wasn’t that funny –“

Eddie calmed down but stayed where he was. He suddenly felt too tired to lift himself back up. “No, I just… You’re right. It was better when we were friends but as soon as I was on my own again… Well. I did marry my mother.”

He was surprised at the ease with which he said it.

Richie sighed. “That’s why you can’t go back.”

Eddie shook his head. “I have to. She’s my wife, I can’t just abandon her.”

“You can,” Richie said. “It’s called divorce.”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “You’re such a fuckhead.”

“And you’re deflecting.”

“I don’t want to hurt her.”

“Hasn’t she hurt you, though?” Richie pointed out. He leaned down, elbows on the bed and head in his hands.

“I don’t think she means to, though,” Eddie answered, avoiding eye contact. He was scared Richie would be able to convince him of anything if he looked too long. “She’s not a bad person.”

Richie groaned. “Don’t you think it would hurt her more to find out her husband only pretended to love her?”

“She wouldn’t find out.” His voice was quiet. He watched the ceiling fan spin slowly above them.

“So you want to live the rest of your life unhappy in a bullshit marriage? You almost fucking died, Eddie –“

“I know you saw that but I didn’t!”

“What about Bowers? A fucking murderer attacked you. He stabbed you! You could’ve fucking died, you absolute fucking dipshit!”

Eddie looked over at Richie. He looked angry.

“Any one of us could’ve died at any second in those sewers. You could die in a fucking car accident tomorrow. You shouldn’t be okay with dying before you actually lived.”

“Fuck you, asshole,” he spat, sitting up again.

“Yeah,” Richie muttered, falling back against the pillows. “Fuck me, I guess.”

Eddie had an answer on the tip of his tongue. He bit his lip to keep from saying it, afraid to give too much away. Thirty years and he was still terrified to break this. He opened his mouth to say something else when Richie angrily wiped under his eye. He was fucking crying again.

“I’m more afraid of the alternative.”

“Why? What the fuck is worse than being miserable?”

“Being myself. And being by myself. Just, myself, really.” He stared at his hands, watched as his fingers fidgeted.

“Eds, I don’t,” Richie paused. Eddie let out a quiet gasp when Richie reached over and grabbed his hand. To stop his fidgeting, most likely. “I don’t understand what you’re saying here. You’re not going to be alone forever, you-you’re a catch,” he paused to clear his throat. “The girls are gonna be fighting over you. Being alone is just a temporary thing.”

“Yeah,” Eddie whispered, looking up at the ceiling as though that would make his eyes stop watering. He was sure Richie could feel his hand shaking, even as their fingers intertwined. He used his free hand to wipe away a stray tear. Now he was the one fucking crying.

“Eddie-“

“If I tell you,” he said, voice shaking. “You have to promise you won’t hate me. You don’t have to stay my friend, just… Please don’t hate me.”

“Eddie, nothing is going to make me hate you. You could tell me you murdered somebody and I’d be cool with it. In fact, I’d be like, hey me too, axe right to the head-“

Eddie chuckled, sniffling. “Beep-beep, dickwad.”

“Eddie spaghetti –“

“Oh my god, shut the fuck up, that’s the worst one –“

“Edward spaghedward.” Richie sang with a grin. Eddie used his free hand to smack his arm. Richie grinned even wider. “C’mon, dude. I swear I won’t hate you, okay?”

Eddie looked at him. His eyes, a light red from his earlier crying spell, were earnest. His hand was securely holding Eddie’s, like he didn’t want to let go. For a moment, he looked like 14 year old Richie, sitting across from him in the hammock. They had teased each other mercilessly, but he had known with certainty that no one loved him more than Richie did.

He took a deep, calming breath. “I’m gay.”

The first thing Eddie noticed was Richie’s eyes widening, his eyebrows arching. Then his hand, tightening its hold on Eddie’s.

“I don’t hate you,” Richie said hoarsely.

“I’ve never told anyone before,” Eddie whispered. He blinked and more tears fell. “And I- I don’t think I can tell anyone else. I have to… I can’t do it, I can’t.”

“You can,” Richie insisted, dropping Eddie’s hand to run his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“No, and you don’t understand-“

“I understand better than you think,” Richie muttered. Eddie frowned. What did that mean? But Richie kept talking. “What I understand is that you fucking died right in front of me. You got impaled by It’s fucking giant talon, flung around the room, and thrown to the ground. I understand that your blood was all over me, and I could feel you dying in my arms! And I tried so hard. I tried so fucking hard to get you out, but they wouldn’t-“

“Rich, it’s okay, you don’t have to- I’m sorry, okay?”

Richie shook his head. He was crying again. “They wouldn’t help me get you out. We left you, they didn’t fucking care enough to help you, we let you die, and they dragged me out but I just wanted to stay, I didn’t fucking care about dying because you were already dead.”

Without thinking, Eddie put his hands on each side of Richie’s face and leaned forward until their foreheads touched. Their eyes met and Eddie felt sick at how desperately sad Richie’s looked. “I’m okay. I’m alive, I’m right here.”

Richie breathed in deeply, sniffled, and put his hands up to cover Eddie’s.

“I had to live two days after you died,” he whispered. “They had to hold me back, I wanted to go back for you. We went to the quarry to wash everything off, and they… They were fucking joking about you, Eds. Fucking joking about how you’d hate getting clean in dirty water and I just – I lost it, I didn’t understand why they weren’t more upset, because you were dead. We watched you die. And we just… what? Go back to our old lives? Go back to being fucking miserable? What would the fucking point of that be? I couldn’t – I couldn’t imagine going back, so I just got in bed and I just laid there. I didn’t sleep, I just laid there. The only reason I know it was two days is because Bev came in and told me. I didn't eat or sleep. And then I woke up. And you were on top of me the exact same way as when you died and I-“

“I get it,” Eddie said softly. He ran his fingers through Richie’s hair, hoping to calm him down. The physical contact that had been terrifying before suddenly seemed the most natural thing he’d ever done. “I’m sorry, Rich.”

“You’re going back.” His voice broke. He closed his eyes so Eddie couldn’t see them anymore.

“I won’t,” he said. He hadn’t meant to say it but as soon as the words left his mouth he knew they were true. “I’m not, okay?”

Richie’s eyes opened again. They were brighter than they had been before.

“I’ll figure something out. You mentioned something about divorce, maybe I’ll try that out. I don’t – I don’t know if I can… If I can come out, but at least I won’t… Maybe I’ll be happier that way.”

Richie let his hands fall so Eddie moved backward, wiping his cheeks again. Richie did the same. In the same moment, they were laughing. Eddie felt so much lighter than he ever had, and for the first time in a long time, watching Richie laugh, he felt happy.

“So, uh,” Richie said, clearing his throat. “Let’s maybe not ever talk about that again.”

“I’m on board with that,” Eddie agreed. “It’s been way too long since we insulted each other, my equilibrium is starting to feel off.”

“You’re a fucking nerd,” Richie told him with a smirk. “But a cute nerd. Cute cute cute!

Eddie felt his stomach drop. He felt 13 again, reminding himself when Richie would tease him that he’s straight. Richie must have noticed the change because he opened his mouth to speak, likely to apologize. Eddie shook his head. “No, I get it. That’s – You did it when we were kids, it’s fine, I know it’s not… I know it doesn’t mean anything. You don’t need to walk on eggshells around me, I’m still-“

“What if it does?”

Eddie stared at him. “What?”

Richie looked down. “You said you know it doesn’t mean anything. What if it does?”

Eddie’s first thought was that he was joking. He didn’t think Richie would be cruel, but it didn’t make sense any other way. He’s straight.

“I never told you what It was, when I saw It by myself,” Richie said after taking a deep breath. Confused, Eddie frowned. What the fuck does that have to do with anything? “Well. Less of what It was, more of what It said. Although, It literally became that giant ass Paul Bunyan statue, fucking chased with the axe, fucking terrifying –“

“Paul Bunyan?”

“- but Pennywise was there. On his shoulder. He told me… Told me not to play truth or dare. Not to pick truth, because you would all find out my dirty secret. He fucking knew. Don’t touch the other boys, Richie. It knew how terrified I was that you guys would find out and hate me.” He didn't look up after he finished speaking.

“I used to think being gay was a sickness. This… this disease that I had, that I was infected with. I thought I was going to go to hell for it, for being sick. And It… It knew. The leper… he offered me blowjobs when I saw him. Fucking terrified me.” Eddie sat with his eyes closed as he spoke, letting the weightlessness sink in.

“I guess we’re pretty fucked up, huh?” Richie said. “I actually feel better. Shoulda done this whole talking about feelings shit a long time ago.”

Eddie snorted and looked at him. He spoke without thinking. “I couldn’t have had this conversation with anyone but you. If we hadn’t found each other again I would’ve died never telling anyone.”

“Me, too,” Richie said softly. Then he yawned loudly.

“Could you yawn any louder? Why the fuck do you sound like an elephant?” Richie laughed. “Seriously, you should get that looked at, because it’s not fucking normal, weirdo.”

“I’ll get right on it, Doctor K.”

Eddie rolled his eyes. Then yawned. He grinned at Richie. “Yawns are contagious. You’ve infected me.”

“Psh. At least yours was fuckin’ cute, I on the other hand apparently remind you of a goddamn elephant-“

Eddie felt his cheeks heat up. It was something that Richie would’ve said when they were kids. It seemed so natural to him that Eddie couldn’t figure out if he even realized what he’d said.

“Do you wanna… uh,” Richie looked around the room. “I mean. There’s blood in your room, and you shouldn’t have to drive to Bangor.”

Eddie’s heart pounded.

“You could stay here, if you wanted to.” Richie was looking away, pulling the comforter down so he could get into the bed.

“I could – I could sleep on the floor –“

“You don’t have to,” Richie interrupted. “The bed’s big enough. I won’t do anything untoward in the night.”

Eddie rolled his eyes and started to pull down the comforter on the opposite side. His cheeks were pink but he didn’t say anything. Didn’t tell Richie that he wouldn’t really mind if he wanted to do something untoward in the night.

 


 

 

Eddie woke slowly. He wasn’t sure what had woken him until he realized there was a light weight on his chest. Opening his eyes, he glanced down to see a large hand resting there.

“Sorry,” Richie mumbled, taking his hand back. “I just – it’s stupid but I was making sure you were alive. I woke up and kinda freaked out.”

“Did you dream about it?”

“No,” Richie said. “But my first thought when I woke up was fuck, Eddie’s dead. And obviously you’re right here but you’re like… creepy still when you’re sleeping, to be honest. So I was just feeling your heartbeat.”

Richie’s face was bright red, and he talked more to the bedsheet underneath them than to Eddie. Eddie wasn’t sure how to respond, he didn’t think there were even words to tell Richie how that made him feel. He rolled onto his side and brought his hand up to Richie’s face again. It had helped last time, and he wasn’t sure he’d ever experienced anything better than feeling that close. Richie scooted closer and put his hand over Eddie’s again. This time he curled his fingers in between Eddie’s. Eddie couldn’t stop staring at their hands, laced together, the warm skin of Richie’s face under his palm. He remembered feeling the same butterflies he felt now when they were teenagers, on the days that Eddie gave in and let himself get a little too close.

“I’m okay.” The words were quiet in the small space between them. Richie’s eyes were searching his face, and Eddie had never felt more self-conscious, suddenly aware of his age and every wrinkle on his face that hadn’t been there when he was 14. He looked down, trying to avoid those eyes, but Richie whispered his name and he glanced back up. His hand slid down a little, his palm resting against Richie’s pulse point beneath his jaw. His heart was racing. Richie tightened his grip on his hand, and Eddie could tell he was nervous. Nervous that Eddie could feel how fast his heart was beating, as though Eddie’s wasn’t going just as fast.

Eddie spent a few moments thinking of what to say, letting his eyes roam over Richie’s features. The same face he’d grown up with, the face he’d spent so much time staring at. He knew Richie’s face better than he knew his own.

“You still look the same,” Eddie told him.

“So… Ugly?”

“Shut the fuck up.” He rolled his eyes. “No, shithead. You were never ugly.”

Richie grinned. “My ego’s growing, tell me more.”

Eddie huffed. “Fuck off.”

“You still look the same, too,” Richie said, a little grin on his face.

“That’s not true.”

“It is! Still so cute!” Eddie was sure if Richie could reach with his free hand he would’ve pinched his cheek. Beneath the blankets, Eddie kicked and grinned when his foot made contact with Richie’s shin. “What the fuck, Spaghetti? Violent…. Kinky.”

“I’m leaving,” Eddie said, trying not to laugh. He pulled his hand from Richie’s and started to roll over.

“No!” Richie yelled dramatically, grabbing at him and pulling him back. They ended up closer than they had been before. “Sorry. Totally not kinky. Very vanilla, five out of ten –“

“You’re the worst,” Eddie told him, unable to wipe the smile off his face.

“Would you like me to stop being the worst?”

Eddie blushed. “No.”

Richie beamed, breaking eye contact and letting out a quiet, disbelieving laugh. Eddie returned his hand to Richie’s cheek and felt how hot the skin was. It made Eddie feel better about how much he knew he’d been blushing, to know Richie was just as effected.

Eddie spent a moment just looking at him. He was the most beautiful person he’d ever seen. He couldn't do this. If Richie felt the same, they couldn't keep going in this direction.

He sighed, pulling his hand back. Richie’s face dropped.

Eddie could barely make his voice work. “I’m married.”

Richie let out a quiet noise that sounded like a choked sob. He closed his eyes tightly, and Eddie felt a vice squeezing his heart. He hadn't been entirely sure he was reading Richie's feelings correctly, but now he knew.

“I’m gonna leave her, okay? But I can’t – I can’t be a cheater.”

“Yeah.”

“You’ll be my first call, after I… After,” Eddie promised, wanting more than anything to make the hurt go away. Richie deserved so much better than this.

Richie nodded and his eyes opened again. He took a deep breath. “Eddie, I'm i –“

“No!” Richie’s eyes widened. “Please wait. Please don’t say it until after.”

Richie bit his lip. “You know, earlier the idea of you getting on a plane to New York was my worst nightmare, but now I’m starting to see the merit in it.”

“Come with me,” Eddie blurted. “When I go to New York. We can get a hotel, I can go ho- to the house to talk to Myra. I’ll call a lawyer in the morning, see how quickly we can get it started.”

His heart was racing. He didn’t think he’d ever felt so anxious as he waited for Richie to answer.

“A hotel?”

Eddie felt hot, as Richie looked at him with what could only be described as lust.

He nodded. “Yeah. A hotel.”

Richie let out a breath. “Yeah. Okay. Fuck. I’m gonna start looking up flights.”

 


 

 

“Planes are fucking disgusting,” Eddie muttered as they made their way to pick up their baggage. Once they had their suitcases in tow, Richie reached over and grabbed Eddie’s hand. He squeezed, then let go. It happened over the span of five seconds, and it still left Eddie feeling breathless.

When they arrived in their hotel room, Richie dumped his suitcase on the floor and flopped onto the bed. Eddie rolled his eyes and picked up Richie’s suitcase, placing both neatly against the wall.

“This place is fuckin’ fancy,” Richie commented. Eddie agreed, but his mind was elsewhere. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m nervous,” Eddie admitted, wringing his hands. “It’s gonna suck, she’s gonna freak out.”

“You’re braver than you think you are, Eds,” Richie said softly. Eddie smiled. He walked over to the bed and leaned down, pressing a soft kiss to Richie’s cheek.

“I’ll be back soon, okay?”

Eddie left the room before Richie could reply, before he could see how red his face was or how badly his hands were shaking.

 


 

 

The driver seemed to understand that Eddie wasn’t in the mood to talk. He’d started friendly conversation when Eddie first got in, but Eddie’s short answers and distracted manner were obvious clues. And when they arrived at the house, Eddie told him to wait, no matter how long.

It was forty-two minutes of screaming and crying, anger and homophobic remarks. But it was done. When he climbed back into the car, the driver seemed to know not say anything. Eddie sat, leg shaking in anticipation, as they made their way back to the hotel. Eddie left a generous tip and pulled the keycard out of his pocket.

He stood outside the door, nerves racing through him. He remembered standing outside Richie’s room at the Town House the same way, and he couldn’t believe how much had changed in the matter of a few days. He inserted the card and the lock clicked. He took a deep breath and opened the door.

He could only see the end of the bed from the doorway, just Richie’s feet crossed at the ankle. Feet and bare leg, and Eddie found himself staring as he removed his jacket and emptied his pockets.

“Eds?”

He swallowed. “Yeah, it’s me.”

“Well I’d be concerned if it was someone else walking into my room. How’d it-“

Eddie had crossed the room in long strides. He took in the image of Richie laying on the bed in a t-shirt and boxers, looking like… Like everything Eddie had ever wanted. He kicked his shoes off on the way, not caring where they ended up, and cursed his decision to wear jeans as he climbed on to the bed. Richie was wide eyed as Eddie straddled him, placed his hands on either side of his head, and leaned down to kiss him.

Richie made a soft sound against his lips, and his hands went to Eddie’s waist. They kissed until Eddie couldn’t breathe, and when they broke apart they immediately came back together. Eddie lost track of time. He couldn’t think about anything other than the way Richie’s mouth tasted, the little sounds he made, the way his hands felt on his back. When Richie turned his head with a gasping breath, Eddie stayed still, his lips pressed against his cheek.

Eds,” he said in a broken voice. Eddie understood, he was sure if he spoke he’d just start crying. He pulled back enough so he could see Richie’s face. He never wanted to look away; he wanted to spend the rest of his life looking at Richie’s face. Richie lifted his head a tiny bit until their foreheads pressed together. Eddie grinned at the familiar position. He let his nose brush Richie’s, marveling at the choked noise it pulled from him. He blinked back tears when their eyes met. “I’m so in love with you.”

Eddie was surprised at how heavily the words hit him. He let his hands roam through Richie’s hair, felt wetness on his own cheeks when he pressed a short kiss to Richie’s lips. He let out a breathless laugh. “Holy fuck, why am I fucking crying?”

Richie laughed. “Same reason I am. Because we’re fucking saps who spent forty years repressing our feelings and now we’re- we’re getting the one thing we never thought we’d be able to have.”

Eddie laughed wetly. “You sound like my therapist. I don’t even have a therapist.”

“You’re so fucking stupid,” Richie told him. “I love you so fucking much.”

“I love you, too.” Richie pulled him into another kiss and pulled Eddie’s body until they were pressed together.

“Okay, you need to take these fucking pants off,” Richie said, pushing him back. Eddie laughed as he pulled his jeans off. When he looked back up, Richie looked mesmerized. “I can’t believe I told you take your pants off and you actually did.”

Eddie rolled his eyes, and while he still had the nerve he pulled his shirt off, too.

“Fuck,” Richie whispered, more to himself than to Eddie. Eddie felt suddenly self-conscious and crossed his arms over his chest, but Richie sat up and grabbed at his arms, pulling them back down. At first, Eddie didn't understand Richie's fascination, why he reached out to touch his chest, right in the middle. Why he leaned in to press a soft kiss there. But he heard Richie's voice, so softly, remind himself, "you're alive," and he understood. Eddie followed him down onto the bed, let himself be guided until he was on his back, looking up at Richie as he pulled his shirt off. Eddie swallowed thickly. He couldn’t tear his eyes away, even as he distantly heard Richie making some comment about his body not being as nice as Eddie’s.

“Shut up, asshole,” he muttered as he reached up to touch. Richie shivered when his hand brushed over a nipple, and his breathing got heavier the lower Eddie moved his hand. He ran his fingers through the coarse hair above his boxers, so incredibly aware of how close he was to Richie’s cock.

Suddenly Richie’s finger was under his chin, lifting Eddie’s face until they were making eye contact again.

“This isn’t going to last if you keep doing that.” His voice was hoarse and it sent a chill down Eddie's spine. “I may not be 18 anymore but you are literally every wet dream I’ve ever had, so –“

“Really?”

“Shut up, of course really, other than your mom-“

“Holy shit, you’re not allowed to say the word mom in bed,” Eddie bit out, and Richie started laughing. Eddie couldn’t help but grin as well, happiness bubbling in his chest. “I’ve never laughed during sex before.”

The admission was quiet, but he wanted Richie to know.

“Not sure I ever even smiled during sex before.”

“You’re not allowed to talk about sex with your ex in bed. Or anywhere else.”

Eddie laughed. “Deal.”

Richie leaned down for another kiss, let his body fall until they were pressed together. Eddie gasped, arching his hips up and seeking more friction, hands roaming Richie’s back. He lifted his hips and let his underwear be pulled down, closed his eyes as Richie removed his own and then it was skin-on-skin, fire running through his veins. Their mouths pressed together and Eddie spared a moment to think about his previous aversion to kissing with tongue, how he’d never opened his mouth for Myra.

And then Richie was grinding their hips together, muttering fuck, fuck, Eds, under his breath.

Rich,” he panted, bringing one hand up to card through Richie’s hair. “Richie, I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m-“

“Me, either, ‘s okay.” Richie’s words were pressed against his cheek, and he used his grip on his hair to turn his head so he could kiss him again. The kiss was slow and messy and wonderful. It ended quickly when Richie wrapped his hand around Eddie, who threw his head back as a loud groan was punched out of him.

It didn’t take long after that. Eddie was vaguely aware he was making noises but Richie’s hand was on him and Richie’s lips were on his neck and he was tumbling over the edge.

“Fucking fuck, that was the hottest thing I've ever seen,” Richie muttered, staring down between their bodies. He went to wrap his hand around himself but Eddie slapped him away, took him in his own hand. The angle was different but he tried to do the things he liked, and from the breathless noises Richie was making it must have been working. He watched when he came, in awe that he’d done that, he’d made Richie come, holy shit-

“Holy shit,” he whispered. Richie’s arms gave out but he managed to maneuver himself so he landed on his side next to Eddie. Eddie turned his head to look at him. “I love you. I know I said it earlier, but. I do.”

Richie grinned. “We’ve got thirty years of I love you to make up for. Also, sex. Thirty years of sex.”

“Wouldn’t that be implying that we would’ve been having sex when we were ten? Because that’s fucking disgusting.”

“Twenty-five years?” Richie asked hopefully.

Eddie laughed. “I wouldn’t have let you touch my dick when we were fifteen!”

“But I wanted to touch your dick when we were fifteen,” Richie argued.

Eddie blushed and sputtered for a moment. “Wh- No- You – You did not!”

“Oh, but I did, dear Eds,” Richie confirmed, nodding his head. Eddie rolled his eyes at the nickname. “I spent like 80% of my time thinking about your dick when we were fifteen.”

“Are you… lying? That – You did not –“

“I think you’re underestimating two things, Eddie my love.” Richie reached behind him and grabbed a damp towel from the nightstand. “I was prepared,” he grinned, before continuing. He wiped up Eddie’s stomach and his own as he spoke, and Eddie could not believe he was in love with this fucking idiot. “First thing you’re underestimating is how horny I was at fifteen. The second thing you’re underestimating is how short your fucking shorts were.”

What!?”

“Those shorts were the best and worst thing to happen to me as a teenager,” Richie continued, as though Eddie hadn’t screeched in his ear.

“Fuck you, oh my god. I'm never kissing you again."

"Yes, you are." Richie darted forward, pressing their lips together, and Eddie found himself giving in. 

"Shut up," he mumbled at Richie's smug face. Richie laughed, and Eddie decided it was the best sound he’d ever heard. He couldn’t wait to hear it for the rest of his life.