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Anything Worth This Feeling

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Bill leans in the doorway of his house, arms folded across his chest as he watches Eddie park their car with a laser-focused intensity. Mike comes out beside him, sticking his head out past Bill, and Stan leans up over him.

“What’s wrong with Eddie’s face?” Stan asks. “Is he dying? Is he choking?”

“He’s being cute,” Mike comments.

“Do you think Eddie is c-c-c-cute?” Bill asks.

“Yup,” Richie shouts through Eddie’s window. “Don’t go making moves on my man, Mikey. I wouldn’t stand a chance against you.”

“Shut the fuck up, Richie, Jesus Christ,” Eddie snaps, still trying to park. Richie shoves at him, and Eddie shoves him back.

“Just park the car, God, you’re not performing brain surgery—”

“Fucking forgive me for trying to drive safely—”

“Park, dipshits!” Stan calls out, hands cupped around his mouth. “I’m not interested in seeing either of you!”

“Rude,” Richie shouts back through Eddie’s window. Eddie shoves his face away again and finally parks the car, pulling up the emergency brake. Bill’s driveway isn’t even on a hill; he rolls his eyes and cuts across his lawn to the car, opening up the back door on the driver’s side.

“Do not wake her up,” Richie says over his shoulder as he climbs out of the car, limbs unfolding in the driveway like he’s a marionette. “I swear to God, Bill, I’ll eat your head.”

“It’s not an empty threat. He’ll do it,” Eddie tells him. He gently shuts the driver’s side door and shoves Bill out of the way. “C’mon, man, she’s sleepy, fuck off.”

“Should you be swearing like that in front of them?” Mike asks. “Isn’t it going to stunt their growth or something?”

“Having Eddie’s genetics is what’s going to stunt her growth,” Richie says, hoisting his son up out of his car seat in the back of the car. The two-year-old’s already grinning, twisting around to try and find Stan; when he lays eyes on him, he shrieks, squirming to get away from Richie. “Mother fucker, knock it off, you’re gonna fall and smash your head open, and I can’t stitch that back together, homie.”

“Down!” Gabe demands, in lieu of any actual answer.

“Put him down!” Stan agrees, reaching out for his godson, and Gabriel goes willingly, pleased as fuck to be back with his favorite uncle. “Gabe, how are you? How was the ride?”

“Slow,” Gabe tells him, and has such a perfectly executed eye roll that Eddie shoots a glare at Richie, who tosses his hands up in the air.

“That’s all you,” Richie tells him.

“That’s your genetics,” Eddie reminds him, and Richie points at Gabe.

“That expression was all you,” Richie says, and Eddie flips him off before he lifts Leah’s baby carrier gingerly off the car seat mount it’s strapped into. “My genetics are what ruined his eyes, get it right.”

Ben’s car whizzes down the street and pulls easily into the driveway, and Eddie shrieks with shock. He groans as Leah’s eyes open, her brow creasing, and Richie’s there before she can even start to cry.

“What’s up, bucko? Did your dad piss you off?” Richie asks her, and Eddie is only able to fight off the urge to smack him on the head because Richie’s already lifting Leah up and tucking her into the crook of his arm. She’s still only about the length of his forearm; her five-week birthday is tomorrow, and they’re all doing dinner and staying over at Bill’s for it, even though they know it’s not really a birthday.

“Go fuck yourself,” Eddie says, as Ben climbs out of his car. Beverly laughs from the passenger seat.

“Good to see you, too, Eddie,” Ben says, slamming his car door shut. They’ve all already seen Leah, numerous times, but Ben’s face lights up when he sees her anyways. Richie waves him off when he comes over to try and take her.

“I’m calming her down, fuck off,” Richie says. Eddie just slings her car seat into the crook of his elbow and grabs the bags he’s got in the back seat before kicking the door shut.

“Did you know she doesn’t have kneecaps?” Mike tells them. Richie glances up at him, horrified, the expression magnified by his Coke-bottle glasses.

“How the fuck dare you,” Richie says. “She’s still sensitive about that, you asshole—”

“God damn it, I actually thought you were mad for a second,” Mike says, and Richie punches him in the arm with the hand not still holding his baby.

“I’ve never been mad before in my life, my man,” Richie tells him, then holds Leah’s face up next to his. His hands are carefully supporting her head, her neck, her whole body; she was almost dwarfed by the wide spread of his fingers. Bill pulls his phone out of his pocket, and Richie grins at the camera as Bill snaps a picture. “How can you be mad at this face?”

“Hers or yours?” Eddie asks. “Because I’m mad at your face pretty much every day.”

“You’re such a—”

“Give her to me,” Beverly demands, and Richie hands Leah over without hesitation, ignoring Ben’s indignant hey!. Bev looks her face over, then grins. “Wow, Eddie, she’s got your exact face. What the hell?”

“That’s not my fault,” Eddie says, for the millionth time.

“Yeah, don’t blame him for having a pretty face,” Richie says, leaning in to grab Eddie by the chin and kiss him messily on the cheek. Eddie groans, so Richie licks his cheek from his jawline to his temple. Eddie shrieks.

“I’m so sorry for you,” Stan says to Gabe, who leans his head on Stan’s shoulder.

“Me, too,” Gabe says, with a fairly accurate impression of the deep sigh Eddie does when he’s exhausted by Richie. It cracks Richie up, but Eddie just scowls at him. Gabe makes the scowl right back at him, face screwing up, and Richie doubles over laughing.

“How’d I get so motherfuckin’ lucky to get a kid like you, hm?” Richie asks, sweeping Gabe up and out of Stan’s grasp, throwing him above his head and catching him, ignoring Eddie’s aborted noise of protest. Gabe buries his face in Richie’s sweater, yawning into the fabric. “Hey, didn’t we sleep in the car like we said we were gonna?”

“…No,” Gabe says, after a moment of hesitation.

“We’re still working on lying,” Richie says to Bev, as if he’s apologetic. She smiles. “Why’re we all standing out here, anyways? You wanna give my daughter the plague? She’s gonna get bit by a mosquito and she’ll give us all malaria, and then where’ll you be, Bill, hmm?”

“Get in the fuh-fucking house, Rich,” Bill says, shoving at Richie’s shoulder. Richie pretends he’s stumbling, and Eddie’s hands shoot up to catch Gabe; Richie just laughs at him and straightens up.

“You’re such a fucking dickhead,” Eddie grumbles. Richie swings Gabe up onto his shoulders; Gabe grabs onto his father’s hair and shrieks, pressing his cheek to the top of Richie’s head. Eddie only realizes he’s smiling at them when Richie looks down at him.

“What’re you grinning at, ya freak?” Richie asks. Eddie hooks two fingers in one of the slits between the buttons of Richie’s shirt and reels him in. Richie has to crouch to let Eddie kiss him without sending Gabe toppling over their heads, but it’s worth it for Eddie.

“Your dumb face,” Eddie tells him. Richie snaps his teeth at him, then grins; Gabe smacks Eddie on the forehead.

“Alright, up you get,” Richie says, standing up straight again and removing Eddie from Gabe’s reach. “What’d I tell you about whacking people?”

“Ask concert,” Gabe answers, hands tightening in Richie’s hair again.

“He means consent,” Richie explains, ducking through the doorway into Bill’s house so Gabe won’t bonk his head.

“You didn’t teach him not to hit?” Ben asks.

“Consent of the governed, my man,” Richie says. He sits down on the sofa with Gabe still on his shoulders, and Gabe doesn’t get down; he just leans into Richie’s head and lays his cheek back down against Richie’s hair.

“How’re you two doing?” Bev asks, planting herself right next to Richie on the couch, keeping her hold on Leah. Ben sits next to her, looking like he’d be willing to duel her to get his turn with Leah, but still patient enough to wait a little longer.

“Fucking tired,” Richie says. “Leah’s a night owl, I’ll tell you. She does not dig the sunlight.”

“Maybe she’s a vampire,” Stan suggests.

“Don’t say it,” Richie says. “If fucking alien clowns are a thing, I will not have you wishing a vampire baby into existence.”

“It doesn’t help that someone works six days a week,” Eddie says. When Leah starts to get agitated, starting to squirm away from Bev, Eddie holds his arms out and she goes easily to him. She slots perfectly into the fold of his arms and settles quickly once she’s with him. It satisfies something weirdly deep and primal in Eddie to be able to soothe his child, and he leans back in the armchair he’s in, getting comfortable with her resting against his chest.

“Oh, hey, yeah, let’s all pile on Richie for getting cool and famous,” Richie says. “How dare I be successful and hilarious—”

“Jesus motherfucking Christ,” Eddie interrupts him, “I should never have married a comedian—”

“First of all, the comedian married you—”

“—and I definitely never should’ve married a guy who wanted to be on fucking Saturday Night Live—”

“Not just wanted to be,” Richie says, grinning. Eddie can’t help it, he laughs before he can stop himself, and Richie points at him. “Oop! I won! Checkmate, motherfu—”

“I would have to be on drugs if I lived in your house,” Stan declares. “I’d just have to be on drugs. I don’t know how anyone can put up with this twenty-four-seven. Gabe, how do you— Oh, he’s asleep.”

“Is he?” Richie reaches up and gingerly slides Gabe into his hands, off his shoulders. Gabe goes limply, already fast asleep; Richie tucks him up against his chest and yawns himself. “He does that. I used to do it as a kid, too.”

“It’s super fun,” Eddie comments. “How are you all doing? I feel like I haven’t seen you in thirty years, somehow.”

“She’s sapping us of our youth,” Richie says.

“It’s actually been three days since I’ve seen you,” Stan reminds him, “and I still prefer your children to you.”

“You love me, Stan,” Richie says, “because otherwise, you wouldn’t be trying to steal me from Eddie—”

“As if,” Stan says, in the same moment Eddie says, “Please take him,” and Richie laughs.

“Oh, wait, actually, I did have a question,” Ben says. Eddie rolls his head against the back of the armchair to see him. “Do you have any newborn hand-me-downs we can borrow from you?”

Eddie’s brow furrows as he looks at Ben, and it’s actually Richie who reacts first, nearly tossing Gabe to the floor before he remembers himself and just hisses, “You motherfuckers, how dare you not tell us the second you saw us!”

“What are you t-tuh-talking about?” Bill asks, and Stan grins, leaning into him on the loveseat.

“Well, when you—”

“Oh, my God,” Bill says, before Stan can even say any more than that. “Wow, just— congratulations, that’s— amazing—”

“That’s amazing!” Stan agrees, throwing his arm around Bill’s shoulders. “We’re so happy for you. How far along?”

“Four months,” Bev says. Richie whistles.

“June? Kicking off the summer right, good work, Benny-boy,” Richie says, and Ben’s face flushes.

“That’s great news,” Mike says. Bev smiles so warmly at him, and Eddie feels— well, something he’s felt more and more over time, but something he never thought he’d ever get to feel, when he was young: content. A bone-deep warmth that he only ever felt when they were all together again spread through his limbs, and he glanced over at Richie, his chest tightening when he sees him.

Richie’s listening to Bev and Mike talk, if his periodic head nods are anything to go off of, but he’s mostly focused on Gabe’s face. Gabe’s conked out hard now, just dead weight in Richie’s lap, but Richie’s got him arranged cradled against his left arm, Gabe’s face buried in the space where Richie’s shirt sleeve meets his skin. His mouth is slightly open as he breathes deeply in his sleep; the freckles across his nose and cheeks are easier to see when he’s not a blur of chaotic motion. Most importantly, though, is Richie with his legs folded up so Gabe’s tucked against him, secure in his hold, while Richie murmurs something softly to him, his cheek pressed to Gabe’s small forehead. Gabe’s black hair curls up right under Richie’s eye, but he doesn’t even blink or try to move it away.

“Hey,” Eddie says. Richie’s eyes flick up to look at him without moving his head. “We should have another one.”

“You’re a fucking lunatic,” Richie says without heat or volume. He does reach out with the hand closer to Eddie and Leah, though, and he strokes one fingertip over Leah’s cheek. “Yeah, maybe.”

“Maybe we should just trade in these ones,” Eddie suggests. Richie grins.

“If I’m trading in family members, I’m gonna do the whole set,” Richie says. “Husband, too.”

“Motherfucker, you wish you could do better than me—”

Richie reaches out, taps Eddie on the bottom lip, then on the tip of his nose. Eddie grins at him, then strokes his hand through Gabe’s hair.

“I couldn’t do better,” Richie says, in a rare moment of solemnity, before he says, “Your warranty is already up—”

“I hate you—”

“Then stop having my children, you moron—”