The week after their fight against Pennywise was hell on the losers. Especially Richie.
Forget fighting an alien spider with the head of a clown, the days that followed were the worst of Richie's life.
After dragging Eddie out of the caverns and to the nearest hospital while he drifted in and out of consciousness and bled all over Richie and the backseat of Ben's rental car, Richie had to watch him be rushed into an operating room, leaving him and the rest of the losers unable to do anything but wait. Three hours passed ⎯the longest, most tortuous three hours Richie ever had to endure⎯ before they received any news. And it wasn’t even good news. Not exactly.
Eddie was alive, yeah but his injuries were bad, really bad and the doctors had him in something called an induced coma that was supposed to help his body heal. A coma from which they didn't know when he would wake up or even if he would.
Richie had refused to even entertain the idea that Eddie might not wake up. He hadn’t dragged him all the way there to lose him like this. They didn't fight an interdimensional clown for Eddie to die like this. No, Richie refused to believe that. Instead he convinced himself that Eddie would wake up. Whenever he visited him that was what he told himself.
And he visited him every day. After three days he was already on a first name basis with the nurses in charge of Eddie. They liked Richie, found him charming and Eddie would've had a field trip at the idea that someone might find Richie charming but they did. And thanks to that they would let him stay after visiting hours were over or slip him some pudding, not the nasty stuff they had for the visitors but the quality stuff they saved for the patients.
But it wasn't just Richie's charm that earned him a special treatment. He heard them talking to each other once, referring to them, him and Eddie, as the lovely couple from room 174. And Richie couldn't blame them for thinking that they were together, not after they saw the state Richie was in when they brought Eddie in (bawling, desperate, borderline crazy with fear and worry) or the way he behaved in the days that followed (staying by his side at all times, not leaving except for showering and changing clothes, not even for sleeping because he did that on the chair in Eddie's room). It didn't occur to him to correct them either, Eddie wasn't awake to judge him for taking advantage of them so that they would bend the rules for him, so there was no need.
The losers also visited Eddie and therefore Richie, taking turns every couple of days, keeping them both company.
If it was Ben's turn he would try to get Richie to eat properly and sleep on an actual bed while he stood watch in his place, but it never worked.
If it was Bill or Mike they would sit with Richie and try to get him to talk. Once one of them even dared to wonder out loud what would happen if Eddie never woke up but Richie's glare had been enough to shut them up.
Richie liked it better when it was Bev there with him. She understood Richie and would simply sit with him in silence and if she talked it was to Eddie, convinced that he could hear her.
It was her turn to visit on the day Eddie finally woke up. Seven days after they fought and defeated It.
Bev was getting herself and Richie some coffee when it happened. Richie was sitting on his usual spot, staring at the TV without really paying attention to it, already drifting off, head lolling to the side.
He jolted awake at the sound and turned to the door, expecting to see Beverly there or maybe one of the nurses, Gloria or Nancy calling for him but there was no one there. For a moment he thought he had imagined it but then he heard it again.
This time he recognized the voice and whirled his head around so fast his glasses almost flew off from his face. Eddie's eyes were still closed but his face was scrunched up in pain. Richie knew that could be just a reflex movement, the nurses had explained that to him after he had seen one of Eddie's fingers twitch and had almost burst into tears but this time Eddie had also talked .
He had right?
This time he saw Eddie's lips move, face twitching in annoyance. "Don't- don't call me that." He said, voice no more than a whisper but Richie heard it clear as day.
"Holy fucking shit!" He gasped and leapt to his feet. "Eddie, holy shit!" He hovered near the bed, wanting to hug Eddie, to make sure he was really there and alive and awake but he didn't want to risk hurting him.
Eddie let out a grunt of pain. "Don't be so loud, damn it." He said, straining to blink his eyes open. Richie had to hold back a cry when he saw Eddie's large brown eyes staring at him. The last time he had seen them, Eddie had been fighting for his life and those eyes had been slowly losing their spark but right now they looked so fucking alive and beautiful. "Am I in a hospital? What happened?" Realisation seemed to dawn on him and his eyes widened with worry. "Pennywise⎯"
"Gone. Dead. For real this time." Richie said, his hands were hanging at his sides, itching to reach out for Eddie. "Thanks to you, you told us how to kill it. You told us we had to make it small, weak. It was all you Eds."
Eddie pursed his lips. "I don't remember that. I remember that you⎯ you were trapped in the deadlights and I got It⎯ at least I thought I did and then It⎯" He cut himself off, eyebrows knitted like he was having trouble piecing everything together.
"It skewered you, right through your chest." Richie said through gritted teeth, the image clear as day in his mind just like it had been for the past week. "We carried you out and the doctors they⎯ they saved you but they didn't know when you would wake up. If you would wake up."
"How long was I out?" Eddie asked, worried.
Eddie raised his eyebrows. "A week? And you're still here?"
"Of course I am you dipshit."
"I thought you'd be back in LA by now."
Richie shook his head, finding the idea fucking ridiculous. Did Eddie really think he would drop him in the hospital and just skip town? That he didn't care about him enough to hang around? That was some real bullshit.
"I couldn't leave without y⎯ without knowing you were okay." He said, picking his words carefully. "Neither of us could."
"The others stayed too?"
Richie nodded. "They come by every few days to check on you."
Richie bit his bottom lip, picking at the blanket that covered Eddie from the waist down, his hand only a few inches away from where Eddie's own hand laid. "I don't really leave. Ever." He said quietly. "I've been here every day. That chair is now forever molded to the shape of my ass."
Eddie snorted, before it made him hiss in pain. "I should've known you've been here all this time." He said, flashing Richie a half smirk. "You look fucking terrible."
Richie let out a watery laugh at that. The realization that Eddie was alive⎯ alive enough to give him shit⎯ hitting him like a ton of bricks and making his eyes well up with tears. " I look terrible? You should fucking see yourself." Richie said, going for teasing and lighthearted but his voice came out strained, a few tears escaping and trailing down his cheeks.
Eddie stared at him, his expression softening, but he didn't mention the tears or the way Richie's voice broke. Instead he reached for Richie's hand on the bed, squeezing it. Richie welcomed the touch and returned the squeeze. "I almost died, I think I get a free pass." He said, not missing the way Richie's eye twitched when he said the first part. "Sorry. I'm just saying you don't have an excuse to walk around with that fuck o'clock stubble. Hospitals have razors you know."
Richie's laugh was slightly less shaky this time, he wiped his eyes with the hand that wasn't holding Eddie's. "You don't have to pretend Eds. I know it gets you hot under the collar or⎯ the hospital gown."
"Fuck you dude." Eddie chuckled and the urge to cry hit Richie again when he realized how much he had missed that sound.
There was a broken cry from the door, followed by the sound of two coffee cups hitting the floor, spilling their contents. Bev was staring at the two of them, hands covering her mouth.
Eddie smiled softly at her. "Hey Bev."
Bev rushed toward him and without hesitation, she wrapped her arms around Eddie, careful not to hurt him. Richie let go of his hand with one final squeeze so that he could hug Bev back. She was crying and Richie felt more tears trickle down his face in response.
After that, they called the nurses and they had called Eddie's doctor. According to him, Eddie was doing great but would still have to stay in the hospital until he recovered completely. Eddie wasn't too happy about it but Richie shushed him when he tried to object.
The remaining losers visited Eddie together that afternoon after Richie was able to sweet talk the nurses into letting all five of them in the room at the same time. At some point while they talked and filled Eddie in on the details that he'd missed, Richie's hand found its way to the edge of the bed. His fidgety fingers kept brushing Eddie's and after a while, Eddie wrapped his hand around Richie's, giving him a look that said stop moving but he didn't let go even after Richie's fingers had stilled.
Not a lot changed after that. Richie would still spend most of his time ⎯his entire time really, in the hospital. The losers still visited but with Eddie out of danger, they soon started to leave Derry, going back to their lives, but only after making them promise they would call or write. It seemed that they wouldn't be forgetting each other this time around and they had all agreed to stay in touch.
During his time at the hospital, Eddie never talked about his wife. Once the nurses brought a bunch of papers for him to fill up and under emergency contact he had hesitated before writing down Richie's name on it. Not Myra. Richie. He had seen it happen but didn't comment on it.
They also didn't talk about what would happen once Eddie was discharged and Richie was afraid to ask. He didn't want to say goodbye to Eddie. Not after he just got him back. Then almost lost him only to get him back again. But Richie wasn't ready to tell Eddie that, he was afraid of what else he might end up saying.
Thankfully it didn't come to that. Richie's unspoken question was answered one night while they were watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Eddie's TV, eating pudding with Richie's socked feet propped up on the bed, chair dangling on two legs.
"Is traffic in LA really that bad?" Eddie asked, eyes fixed on the TV. Richie made a noncommittal sound. "I hope it's not. I'm gonna hate it if it is."
Richie choked on his pudding and the chair wobbled from his racking coughs. Eddie watched him in silence while he recovered from his coughing fit.
"You⎯" Richie cleared his throat before he continued. "You planning a trip to LA that I don't know about Eds? You aren’t even back in New York and you’re already thinking about visiting little ol' me?"
Eddie bit on his bottom lip. He averted his eyes, focusing on the blanket instead of Richie. "I'm not going back to New York."
Richie's eyes widened. "Oh okay, cool. I don't think your wife will like that a lot though⎯"
"She's not my wife anymore." Eddie said and if Richie had been eating his pudding then he surely would've choked again. "I mean she still is, at least until the divorce is finalized." He glanced at Richie and his confused expression. "I called her a few days ago when you were getting us food, it was⎯ ugly but it needed to be done. I couldn't go back to her. I also called my lawyer and he's taking care of all the paperwork. I quit my job too."
"Woah, your risk analyst job? How could you Eds?" Richie teased, but it was a half hearted attempt. He was too focused on what Eddie had said he did, what it meant .
"Fuck off man." Eddie said with no bite. "I guess there's no point in me going back to New York now. There's nothing left for me there."
"And there is in LA?" Richie asked, voice coming out more vulnerable than he would've liked.
Eddie's eyes finally met his and Richie felt a shiver run down his spine at the intensity behind his stare. "I hope so." He said and Richie had been at a loss of words. And just like that they had agreed that Eddie would be leaving Derry with Richie and as a single man, no less.
Three weeks later, Eddie was cleared to go. Richie picked him up, car already loaded with both their things, accepted the hugs from Grace and Nancy, and their instructions on how to take care of Eddie and helped him to the car.
Leaving Derry for a second time felt different but he thought that had more to do with Eddie sitting next to him in the car. It made Richie feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. They drove by the kissing bridge and Richie promised himself that someday he would tell Eddie about what he had carved there, back when they were kids. If he were brave, like Eddie, he would pull over and show it to him right then but he was afraid that it would send Eddie running away from him.
For a mildly accomplished stand-up comedian Richie's apartment in LA wasn't that big. It had only one room and a couch in the small living room. Richie gave Eddie the bed of course, even if the doctor had cleared him he was still recovering, taking the couch for himself.
He would wake up with a crick in his neck more often than not, but he would also wake up to the smell of coffee and the sight of Eddie fucking Kaspbrak sauntering around his apartment in just boxers and a shirt, picking up Richie's mess and berating him about it and that made it all worth it. Eddie was alive and he was there with him. Spending his nights on the couch was a small price to pay in return.
Richie's job was on hold for the moment. His manager was already mad at him for bailing on him mid-tour and he simply sighed when Richie called to tell him he needed some time off. He used that time to help Eddie get a job of his own, after he claimed he was going crazy spending his days cupped up in Richie's apartment. Luckily it turned out that LA was as much of a death trap as New York was and companies still needed risk analysts.
Two weeks after they arrived in LA, Richie woke up from a nightmare to see Eddie hovering over him next to the couch, a worried expression on his face.
"Eds? What⎯ what's wrong? Are you okay?"
"I should be asking you that, you were screaming." Eddie said, sitting on a small space on the couch.
Eddie nodded, his hand finding Richie's and holding it over the blanket. "Yeah, you⎯ you called my name. I thought you were awake and came here to yell at you for waking me up but I saw you were thrashing around⎯ crying."
Richie noticed then that his face was wet and that his throat hurt, probably from screaming. He didn't remember the nightmare properly but he didn't need to, he knew he had been dreaming about the moment It hurt Eddie and everything that came after that.
"Shit. I'm sorry for waking you Eds."
Eddie shook his head. "It's okay. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Fuck no. I'm alright really." Richie said with a tight lipped smile. "You can go back to sleep."
Eddie hesitated, eyes darting to the bedroom door. His grip on Richie's hand tightened. "This couch⎯" He said, squirming where he sat. "It's really uncomfortable."
"It's not that bad."
"Your bed it's a lot better. I'm sure we can both fit in." Eddie said, not meeting Richie's eyes.
"Uh. You want me to sleep with you?"
Eddie blushed and Richie guessed that if he could see himself he would see his cheeks flaring up too. "I'm just saying⎯ you can't be comfortable here especially if you're going to thrash around like that. And if you get another nightmare I'll just kick you awake. It's more convenient than walking all the way here."
Eddie stood up, still holding Richie's hand and dragged him to the room.
They climbed into the bed in silence, each keeping to their side. Eddie shifted, his foot hitting Richie's leg. Richie let out a laugh. "Hey no feeling up the merchandise Eds. At least buy me dinner first."
He could practically hear Eddie rolling his eyes and he let out a snort. "Bite me asshole."
Richie dove forward, biting Eddie's arm playfully while he tried to push him away, both of them laughing and just like that the tension was gone and they were both able to fall asleep.
The following night, while they got ready for bed Richie was going over a few questions in his head. Was last night a one time thing? Or was this their new sleeping arrangement?
But again Richie didn't have to ask the question for Eddie to give him the answer. He stood in the doorway of the room, staring at Richie. "Are you coming or what?"
Richie didn't need to be told twice.
Once in the bed, Eddie scooted over and wrapped himself around Richie without a word, leaving him gaping at the ceiling like a fish, his hands hovering nervously. Richie was scared to touch him and hurt him, his wound had healed but he couldn't help but remember when it had been a gaping hole in the middle of his chest.
As if reading his mind Eddie muttered, "I'm not going to break asshole. I'm not some porcelain doll."
"You would make one pretty doll." Richie said, hesitantly wrapping his arms around him. The position felt awfully intimate. Richie cleared his throat. "Uh Eds?"
"What are you doing?"
Eddie shrugged, not letting go of Richie. "You move too much, it's fucking annoying. Besides if I'm here, touching you maybe you won't dream I'm dead."
Eddie lifted his head, propping it up on Richie's chest to stare at him. "I know okay? I've heard you screaming my name, remember? It doesn't take a lot to figure it out."
"You were always too smart for your own good." Richie said with a shy smile.
"And you were always too slow." Eddie said before he was leaning forward and kissing Richie, with so much force that he pushed his head into the mattress. For a moment, Richie was completely blindsided. Then instinct kicked in and he was kissing him back. He whined against Eddie's lips and he felt almost embarrassed by how pathetic he was, almost sobbing at the feeling of Eddie's lips against him. Eddie's hands weaved into Richie's hair and Richie wrapped his arms around Eddie's waist firmly but carefully, enjoying the feeling of Eddie on top of him, close to him.
Their position became uncomfortable for Eddie though and they broke apart, already panting heavily like a couple of teenagers kissing for the first time. Richie could only stare at Eddie with the most dumbstruck expression ever. "Fuck."
Eddie let out a huff of air. "Not tonight." He said and Richie felt something hot and fizzy bubbling in his lower abdomen. "Goodnight Rich."
"Yeah. Goodnight Eds."
He didn't have nightmares that night.
Or the night after that. Or the one after that.
Two months after they arrived in LA, three months since they had reunited in Derry, Richie was walking back to his apartment, their apartment when he walked by a jewelry store, making an impulsive decision and going in.
He walked out two hours later with a small box in his pocket. He made it back to the apartment later than he intended to and Eddie was already back from work by then. He was cooking dinner, still wearing his suit, no jacket and tie undone. Richie stared for a moment ⎯ogled, really⎯ before Eddie noticed him.
"There you are. Where the fuck have you been? I thought we were going out."
"Sorry Eds I got distracted in town." He said. "How was work?"
"If I tell you will you pretend to fall asleep again?" Eddie said, raising an eyebrow at Richie.
He snorted. "Probably."
"Fuck you man." He snarked but then he asked Richie if he wanted food and Richie almost died at the domesticity of it all.
Richie said yes and they carried their bowls to the living room, sitting on the couch and turning on the TV. Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was playing and Richie took it as a sign. He didn't pay attention to it, instead thinking about the last time they had watched it together, when Eddie talked about coming to LA with him. A lot had changed since then, in just a couple of months. And Richie was about to shake things up even more.
Eddie finished eating before Richie, mostly because he wasn't distracted by what he was about to do. Still he grabbed Eddie's bowl and his own and placed them on the coffee table, feeling Eddie's eyes on the back of his neck.
He didn't turn to look at him right away, needing to gather his thoughts without Eddie being able to see his face⎯ to see how nervous he was.
They had made it this far only because of Eddie. He was the one who divorced his wife, quit his job, abandoned his life in New York to come to LA with Richie and then he had made the first move.
Now it was Richie's turn. This was a question he would need to ask if he wanted to get an answer. There was no getting around that this time.
"Rich? Are you okay?"
Taking a deep breath Richie turned around to face Eddie. "I have to tell you something and I need you to keep quiet until I'm done- I know that's hard for you Eds but I really need you to listen to me."
Eddie frowned, Richie could tell he wanted to argue but stopped himself, nodding instead. "Okay."
"Okay." Richie repeated and grabbed Eddie's hand. "Okay. Eddie I love you. I’m in love with you. I've⎯ I've been in love with you my entire life." He said, seeing Eddie's eyes widen. Not giving him a chance to cut in and before he could lose his nerve he continued. "I might have forgotten about you for a while but the moment I saw you in that fucking restaurant, I was so gone man. I didn't remember shit then, except for the way I used to feel about you, the way you made me feel. Eddie you were my favorite person in the world. I loved you even before I knew what it was like to love someone so much. I carved our initials in the fucking kissing bridge when I was only thirteen for fuck's sake! Even when I didn't remember you I knew there was something missing, you were missing. I met people, I dated some but I never felt about them the way I felt- feel about you."
"That day in the sewers, I thought⎯ I almost lost you, Eddie and all I kept thinking about was that I never got to tell you any of this and then you survived and woke up and I still didn't tell you because I was scared. And then you⎯ you beautiful brave man⎯ you read my mind and you left your life for me and you came here with me and you kissed me and⎯ fuck, I love you so fucking much. I need you to know that. And I know we've technically been together for only two months but fuck, Eddie I've known you my entire life, almost four decades now and I've loved you for just as long and I know I want to love you for however long I live." Richie paused, he hadn't realized he was crying until then, feeling tears streaking down his face, voice coming out watery and shaky. Eddie was staring at him in awe and through his blurry vision and fogged up glasses, Richie could see he was crying too. He let go of Eddie's hand to reach into his pocket for the little box and knelt in front of the couch, in front of Eddie.
"I don't know if this is the right time or if I should wait but I don’t fucking care, I don’t want to wait any longer. There's no one else for me, Eddie. If you had died in that cavern, my life would've ended right there with yours. And I know that's a fucked up thing to say in the middle of a proposal⎯" He let out a shaky laugh and Eddie snorted even though his face was blotchy and red. Richie opened the box and heard Eddie gasp. "I love you, Eds. I want to marry you. I want to invite Bev and Ben and Mike and Bill and throw a big gay wedding just for you and dance with you and kiss you in front of everyone and make them jealous that I managed to snatch you up. I want to be your husband and I want⎯"
"Jesus christ Richie just ask the fucking question!" Eddie snapped but he was laughing and crying at the same time, just like Richie.
"Alright yeah. You actually lasted more than I thought you would without talking." Richie said and before Eddie could hit him, he took a deep breath. "Eddie, Eds, my love, the cutest, bravest man on the planet, will you please marry me?"
Instead of answering Eddie threw his arms around Richie's neck, toppling them over into the floor. Richie landed on his back, with Eddie on top of him, kissing him.
"Is that a yes?" Richie asked against his lips.
"That's⎯" A kiss. "A⎯" Another kiss. "Motherfucking⎯" And another one. "Yes⎯" One final kiss, Eddie pulling back to smile at Richie. "Asshole."
Richie laughed, feeling his heart bubbling up with love and happiness. "Funny that you should bring up motherfucking . You should know I'm gonna have to divorce your mom before I can marry you."
Eddie groaned, dropping his head on Richie's chest. "You had to ruin it."
"Hey! You ruined it first when you interrupted my heartfelt proposal!"
"You wouldn't stop talking!"
"I was sharing my feelings! I have a lot! Almost forty years worthy of them."
Eddie lifted his head, he stared down at Richie with an adoring expression. "I know. I have them too." He said. "I've loved you for just as long Rich." Richie's smile could only be described as blinding. "Now give me my ring."
Richie chuckled, sliding the ring on Eddie's finger. He studied it with a soft smile, rolling it around until his eyes caught the small inscription.
"Is this⎯" He looked up at Richie. "You said you carved our initials⎯"
Richie nodded, interlacing their fingers together. "I wanted to show it to you, when we were leaving town but I wasn't ready. When I was a kid, before leaving Derry I would walk by and see it and for a moment I would let myself think that this was possible. And now it is. I thought it was a nice touch."
"You fucking sap." Eddie said, shaking his head but his voice was thick with emotion.
"What can I say? I'm getting mushy in my old age. Someday you will too."
"I'm older than you asshole." He said rolling his eyes, Richie simply smiled. Eddie smiled back. "We need to get you one too. A ring, with that same inscription."
Richie nodded solemnly, then let out a bark of laughter. "Oh man, we're so fucking disgusting."
Eddie laughed along with him. "We really are but after all we've been through I think we deserve to be as mushy and disgusting as we want."
"Damn right we do."
They simply stared at each other for a moment. Richie still lying on the floor, Eddie straddling him until Richie realized there was something digging into his hip. "Not that I don't love you on top of me Eds but my back is killing me."
"Oh my god! I guess you really are getting old." Eddie said with a snort but abandoned his spot on Richie's lap.
"Fuck you man."
"Help me clean up and we can make that happen."
Richie spluttered, bouncing to his feet in one movement that his back protested to loudly, but he paid it no mind. They cleaned up in record time and Richie dragged Eddie to their room. They fell on the bed already kissing and then Eddie showed Richie just how much he loved him with a lot less words than him but just as much emotion.
Later while they laid there, tangled up together, they both played with the ring on Eddie's finger, smiling every time their eyes settled on the small inscription.
"You know I would've gotten down on one knee for you too, right Rich?" Eddie said, placing a sweet kiss on Richie's chest.
"I know Eds." Richie said and smirked even though Eddie couldn't see him. "I like you more when you're down on two knees though, if you catch my drift."
Eddie swatted at his chest but he was laughing. "You're lucky I fucking love you, you asshole."
Richie's arms tightened around Eddie, sighing happily and closing his eyes. "Yeah Eds. I really fucking am."