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if the children don't grow up

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2016

 

Richie Tozier dreams, sometimes, of heat soaking through the soles of his sneakers from the July tarmac in the town where he grew up, the name of which he can’t quite remember when he’s awake, and of someone small and warm and familiar pressed up against him everywhere. He is aware, in the vivid and inexplicable way of dreams, that he wants to touch this person so much that it feels like he could burn up from the inside out with it, and they - he, big dark eyes and a defiant sort of set to his jaw and the fierce compact weight of him in Richie’s arms, Eds Eds Eds (who -?)   - he looks up at him and says “Rich, fucking touch me”, his impatient little well-loved voice, and  

 

and

 

and Richie wakes up in his single bed in the dorm at UCLA, and in a series of shitty and then eventually less shitty hotels on tour in cities that blur together into a flickering picture-strip of club/bar/hotel and repeat and repeat and fucking repeat, and in his very fucking nice apartment with the sea view and the floor to ceiling windows, wakes tangled in his sheets and gasping in the still, empty dark, and he can’t remember what the person’s face looked like, and he covers his face and weeps like a child that’s been beaten. 

 

There was this time in his first term at college, still freaked about not really knowing anyone, when he caught sight of a high, swingy red ponytail bobbing down the corridor and moved without thinking, halfway to sidling up and slinging an arm around her waist and asking her for a smoke when he realised he didn’t even know her name. He styled it out, thought he could maybe have got her number if he’d had the slightest interest in doing so, but still. It was weird. Flashes of the same feeling, sometimes, watching a girl dancing by herself at a show years later, the lights turning her face pink and blue, how strong and beautiful she was, I’m sick and I’m tired of letting go. Or there was this - there was this guy, in his Comp Lit class, small and dark with a kind of precious frown and finely turned wrists and very faint freckles, and Richie was so fucking desperate to get him to look at him that he failed to learn a single solitary thing about the Beats. He threw pens, and he kicked the back of his seat accidentally-on-purpose, and he wanted with a feral stomach-twisting urgency for him to turn around and blow up at him about it.

 

This other guy, too, in Chicago, who he found on one of the apps a couple of drinks down after his set. He was pliant and needy and incredibly fucking bossy in bed in a way that made Richie feel like every synapse in his brain was lighting up happily one by one and Richie kissed him and kissed him and kissed him, feeling much drunker than he was, and when he came he called him Eddie and immediately felt something like a sob catch in his throat, raw and horrible and confusing. The guy left pretty quickly after that, shockingly enough, and Richie turned his face into the disgustingly high thread count pillow and thought, blurrily, I want to go home.

 

He mostly doesn’t think about any of this shit too hard, both because it’s too fucking weird and also because if he tries to, really tries to concentrate on it, his brain stubbornly slips sideways off it, and he realises it’s a stupid thing to fixate on anyway. Who gives a fuck if some stuff from when he was a kid is hard to recall? Everyone represses shit from being a kid because being a kid, to be completely frank, mostly fucking sucks. Richie’s whole industry is kind of built on that general assumption. He doesn’t need to remember the name of the street he grew up on or the specific smell of his middle school gymnasium or his best friend when he was twelve’s name to know that much. He believes firmly in keeping certain shit locked away in the mental attic, letting it stay quiet and dusty and covered in (cobwebs, he thinks, very clearly and abruptly, and shivers).

 

Then Mike Hanlon calls him and everything goes to shit.

 

1989

 

The summer he’s thirteen the world opens up, their sleepy town sharp and awful, bad things pressing in at the edges of the frame, and Richie gets used to being scared. A summer is a long time, though, so there are good days too. They hang out on the low rocky outcrop by the quarry and Bev makes daisy chains for all of them, enlisting Bill to collect them for her and Ben to help her thread them, and when Bill overestimates how many she needs she makes a crown for Stan as well. 

 

“Why does Stan get a crown,” Richie yelps, “who died and made him king of us,” and Bev rolls her eyes and says “because of his hair, duh,” like that makes any fucking sense at all so Richie retaliates by stealing the rest of the excess daisy pile and conducting a loud investigation into whether any of them love him. 

 

Stan lies down and closes his eyes in protest, like if he can’t see Richie anymore then he can pretend he doesn’t exist, which Richie knows from experience is a flawed strategy. There’s a lot of general groaning and he cheats shamelessly to get the result he wants, which is universal adoration - Mike shrugs like it’s a fair cop, which is why he is Richie’s favourite, thank you - and finishes by flinging his handful of torn off petals in the air and doing a dramatic mock swoon, falling backwards to end up with his head in Eddie’s lap. Upside down Eddie scrunches his nose at him, like, must you. Richie grins, feels it go soft and stupid around the edges, reaches up to bat at his cheek. Eddie dodges, glares at him. Richie’s stomach does a flip.

 

“You’re squashing my balls,” Eddie informs him. 

 

“They’d need to have dropped for that to be a problem, my dearest love,” Richie says cheerfully. Eddie ignores him, does the face he does that means this is meant to be a dignified silence that Richie is experiencing right now. Richie stays where he is and after a minute Eddie’s hand creeps into his hair, tugging just hard enough to hurt, nails scritching over his scalp. It’s all he can do not to arch his back, maybe purr. The sun feels like it has a physical weight, making him go slack and heavy, and Richie closes his eyes and lets himself still properly, thinks about Eddie’s hand in his hair anchoring him to his body, to the earth. The insides of his eyelids are warm, blood-red, and it feels like hours later when he cracks them open again and Eddie’s looking down at him, crease between his eyebrows like he’s concentrating. Richie’s heart stutters, queasy lurch like missing a step, and obviously at that exact moment Bev calls “what’s going on over there, it’s too quiet,” and Richie jumps, snapping back into himself.

 

“I’m thinking about how I’m going to drown him in the quarry!” Eddie says brightly. Richie pouts at him and he grins, suddenly, clear and real, looking out over the water. 

 

“I would be totally okay with that,” Stan says mournfully, not opening his eyes.

 

In the end Richie pre-empts Eddie’s dire plot to drown him in the quarry by shoving him in first instead in the name of self defence. He actually does have the second’s pause that he usually does and is rarely given credit for, where he thinks is this actually a bad idea right before he does the thing anyway, and then he pushes him into the water. When Eddie surfaces, spitting like a wet cat, there’s a brief second where Richie’s life does sort of flash before his eyes - dude is feral when provoked - before he decides he might as well earn his imminent murder properly, takes his glasses off and folds them neatly and jumps in himself, cannonballing (faintly, he hears Eddie yell again as the wave hits him) and comes up shaking water out of his hair like a dog (small, supplementary shriek, outrage levels clearly too high to sustain consistent volume). Eddie hurls himself at him, yelling about wet clothes and pneumonia and presumably other stuff too, and they both go under, and there’s water up Richie’s nose and he can’t see anything really, just the blue-green dazzle of light refracting on the water, and all the horror of the last month feels very far away.

 

1990

 

Halloween is strange and sad in Bill’s house, even a couple of years after Georgie, his small absence yawning wide and bleak and sucking the air out of rooms. The light outside is bright and grey and flat, like a child’s drawing of a rainy day, and the lights inside stay off late into the day. They’re way too old for trick or treating, although Richie likes to remember his halcyon days mistily - “you cleaned up because they wanted you to go away and stop talking ,” Stan points out, and Richie grins and says “use what you’ve got, Stanthony, I lived like a king until December–” “Still not my name,” Stan says, sotto voce - but without discussing it they know they’re taking Bill for the evening like usual, by fair means or foul if necessary. It’s easy in the end, his parents barely seeming to notice, which Richie hates them for just a little bit, even though they’ve always been cool to him and not recognised the enormous bad influence he aspires to be.

 

None of them are great with horror movies now, the old appetite hard to even imagine, so instead they’re having what Bev has coined a Non-Denominational Seasonal Movie Night, which is like a regular movie night but with a higher quality of snacks. She’s in Portland now, of course, but they call her, pass the phone around before they put it on speaker, and she makes Ben turn pink and Mike beam, warm and gentle. When it’s Richie’s turn she greets him hey, Trashmouth, and hearing her voice feels like pressing on a bruise. “Hey yourself,” he says, “when are you going to come back and do something about your many swains, huh, all the livelong day they do nothing but pine, very boring, I try my best to bring some sunshine into their lives but they don’t know what’s good for them–”

 

“Aw, Richie,” she says, “are you not one of my swains?”

 

“Beep beep, Beverly,” he says, grinning so hard it hurts.

 

It’s a nice evening. It pours with rain outside and they gather in close around each other, like cupping a small flame in closed hands. They watch The Breakfast Club, Ben’s pick, and Richie watches him watch Molly Ringwald dance and thinks, frankly, god you poor fucker. Not that he doesn’t get it, because he gets it. He secretly really likes those old screwball comedies himself, everyone talking so fucking fast and the girl always snapping at the hero. 

 

The movie’s good, but when the goth chick goes when you grow up, your heart dies Richie feels kind of tight and panicky in his chest, looking around at his friends, one of them already gone. When he glances at Eddie, curled into the other corner of the sofa, he realises with a jolt that Eddie’s watching him back, steadily. They look at each other for a minute, this kind of secret quiet space between them even though all their friends are there too, the sort of charged space that usually one of them would do something loud and annoying to fill. Richie’s chest still feels kind of tight, but in a nicer way, if not any less scary. Eddie looks away again, wraps his hand around Richie’s socked foot and holds onto it, matter of fact and very solid, his face lit by the grainy glow of the TV screen. The pad of his thumb strokes over the top of Richie’s foot once, twice. Richie wonders if he can feel his toes curl. Ever since the shit this summer he finds it easier to breathe when Eddie’s near enough to touch, warm and alive and himself. He dreams, often, of the corridor in Neibolt, Eddie’s voice coming from a dark room. If he could - if there were any normal, okay way to want this - he thinks he’d huddle himself around Eddie, as close as possible, fitting into all the spaces between them. 

 

The movie finishes and they end up in the kitchen, making slightly more noise and fuss than necessary, trying not to think about how they’re down a member. Richie grabs Ben and dances him around the kitchen - Ben is a good dance partner because he’s obliging and doesn’t try to lead or shriek at him, unlike some people - finishes with a flourish and rounds on Eddie, who says, immediately and in the tone you’d use for a bad dog, “no.”

 

Richie grins, wide, hums I’ve had the time of my life in a menacing sort of way and advances on him and Eddie says, darkly, “don’t even fucking think about picking me up,” skittering back against the counter, head whipping from left to right like he thinks Bill might rescue him.

 

Bill snorts instead and Stan says something quiet to Mike that sounds an awful lot like five dollars and then they do a disgusting complicated little handshake thing. Richie doesn’t lower himself to acknowledge this. Eddie dodges out from under his arm and perches on the counter instead, absently kicking his feet against the cupboard and actively glowering at Richie. It’s dark outside by now, and in the small bright safe kitchen with his friends around him it’s easy to tell himself that nothing’s going to change too much. 

 

1992

 

They’re all in agreement that the carnival is lame but also Stan has a summer job and Richie’s one great and true vocation in life is supporting Stan’s endeavours (even when I didn’t ask you to, Stan says, sixteen and immensely weary) so they spend a lot of time there anyway, supporting him. Mike wins them all prizes on the coconut shy and beams about it, and Bill makes cow eyes at Stan’s pretty colleague that sort of speak eloquently of thwarted romance and sort of make him look concussed.

 

Eddie wanders off and then sidles back with caramel apples for both of them, presenting Richie with his silently. Then he does the weird thing where he eats his at a bizarre sort of ninety degree angle like a cat, possibly to avoid getting any of it on him and possibly just because he’s a freak.

 

“You’re the fucking cutest, you freak,” Richie says.

 

 “No the fuck I’m not,” Eddie snaps, like it’s a reflex.

 

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Richie says delightedly.


“This is thrilling,” Stan says, “I am thrilled.”

 

“The customer is always right, Stan!” Richie says, and Stan says “you haven’t spent any money here all summer!”, his voice going impressively high and strangled.

 

Bill disappears when the girl Stan’s working with takes her break - “what, no, how,” Richie groans, despairing at womankind in general - and Ben and Mike take off not long after but Eddie’s not desperate to go home so they slope away from the centre of the carnival, where it turns into the scrubby public grass it’s covering up. Richie kicks a coke can for something to do, and Eddie drops to sit down on the grass. Faint music drifts over from the whirl of the rides, some dramatic power ballad, I never really cared until I met you. Richie points, silently, at himself, then at Eddie, then mimes a heart beating out of his chest, makes his eyes big and solemn.

 

“You met me when we were like five,” Eddie says, which is technically true but still unromantic of him. Richie flops down next to him, lies on his back and looks up at the sky. It’s a clear night, still a dim, dying summer radiance at the edges, where the black fades into blue. Eddie lies down too, more carefully. 

 

“Hey, wanna stargaze,” Richie says.

 

“No,” Eddie says automatically, “you’re doing a bit,”

 

Richie hums in mild agreement, points and says, “Cassiopeia.”

 

Eddie frowns at him, then visibly gives up and faces the sky. Points slightly uncertainly at a spot that’s clearly miles away from where Richie’s pointing, so Richie catches his wrist and tugs gently to show him. 

 

“See, there - top of the ferris wheel and to the right, no, your other right, there, that’s Cassiopeia, she’s some hot historical chick or something, and over it there’s The Big Turtle,” - not a thing, Eddie interjects - “and that,” Richie finishes with a flourish, “is a rare and beautiful constellation known by the ancients as Bill Denbrough’s Bent Dick, only visible in the Northern hemisphere at Midsummer to the pure of heart and mind–”

 

“How do you know about Bill’s bent dick,” Eddie says suspiciously.

 

Richie leers at him and Eddie rolls his eyes and kicks his ankle, hard. Richie’s still holding on to his wrist, held aloft over their heads, and he wonders if he should let go. Doesn’t let go. Eddie’s looking at the sky, face tinted yellow-pink-blue in turn by the fairground lights. If Richie kissed him, he thinks treacherously, he’d taste of the caramel apple from before. When he speaks again it’s quieter.

 

“My arm’s going to sleep, I’m gonna have pins and needles.”


Richie uncurls his fingers, and Eddie grabs his hand before he can let go and tugs it down to rest in the grass between them, not quite holding it but letting the very tips of their fingers slot into each other. It’s the kind of thing that should feel weirder than it does, probably, especially out here in the open like this, where anyone could wander away from the crowds and stumble over them. Richie can smell cut grass and burnt sugar and he’s briefly very aware of his body, how young it is. He thinks I’m going to remember this, when I’m old , wonders if he can make that come true just by deciding it, tries to memorise exactly how everything feels. This takes a surprising amount of concentrating and it startles him when Eddie says, a little dreamy, “we should get back.”

 

“Yeah,” Richie says.


“Show me another constellation,” Eddie says, not even in his bossy voice, just in the calm expectant one he uses sometimes when he knows Richie’s going to do the thing he wants. Or when he’s too drowsy to be the actual entitled asshole he is in his soul, whichever. He considers for a second, the stars reeling over their heads.


“See the really bright one there?” he says, and Eddie hums affirmatively. 

 

“That right there is Edward Kaspbrak’s Bright And Shining Future, m’boy,” Richie says, in the MovieTone Newsreel Announcer Voice, only pitched slightly quieter than usual. Eddie laughs, turns his head to look at him, curls his fingers so the very tips rest just against the inside of Richie’s palm, feather-light. 


“Asshole,” he says, fondly.

 

1994

 

Everything speeds up as graduation gets closer, days slipping together and everyone so busy, suddenly, Ben gone and Stan and Eddie and Bill all fretting over their college applications. Richie reads East Of Eden for English, which basically blows the top of his head off. And the child's world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing. He finds one of their old photobooth strips shoved into a shoebox and uses it as a bookmark. He thinks, at seventeen and sure he’s a grownup, that they look impossibly young, impossibly small. Thou mayest sounds pretty fucking good to him, though, and he thinks about Eddie’s pretty dark eyes and his mouth and the way he looks at Richie sometimes, like he’s concentrating, trying to work something out. Thinks about his hands, and specifically his hands on Richie’s skin, the way he’s been trying not to think about them for years, and he thinks, very cautiously, maybe. Not here, not in Derry, but maybe somewhere else.

 

Richie gets the bus into Portland to see Paul Westerberg with Bev, holds her hand and screams on the barrier with her and comes back with bruises and a scribbled setlist he pins to his wardrobe, electrical tape flapping off it. Eddie scowls at the bruises and listens to him talking on and on and on about the show, eyes starry, pacing and gesticulating. Come with me next time, he says, upside down on Eddie’s bed, hair falling in his eyes and his glasses sliding perilously down his nose, and Eddie looks like he can think of a hundred very good reasons not to but he actually says, cautious but with that determined set to his jaw he gets sometimes, sure. They’ve got time, Richie thinks, a sudden inexplicable panic bubbling up in his chest, they’re going to have so much time.

 

2016

 

The first whisky at the Jade feels like exactly nothing at all but the second steals through him like a blush, like he’s sixteen again and every time Eddie looks at him he feels like he’s stumbling over something, heart in his throat and big enough to choke him, sticky and shameful and warm. He remembers, so violently that he kind of wants to throw up, a hammock which creaked basically if you looked at it too hard, and the way he felt electrified everywhere Eddie was touching him, so much fucking skin, and knowing that he was completely and totally doomed because of it. This particular intrusive memory aligns nicely with his current feeling of complete and total doom, and Eddie is sitting a seat away from him and Richie still wants him so fucking much he feels like he might die. 

 

The awful thing is how easy it is to fall back into the rhythms they’ve always fallen into, to tease Eddie and make him snap and pull him away from monsters, the panicky alive feeling of him at his side, and how easy it is to want him like he’s drowning in it. They’re practically fucking middle aged, years and worlds away from the kids they were, and Eddie’s married and Richie knows he should feel those things more urgently than he does but apparently no-one told his stupid fucking body (his stupid fucking idiot heart) that. He tries to leave, again and again, and he keeps not managing to. It’s fine. In a couple of days, a day, they’ll either all be dead or if they’re miraculously not then they’ll be gone again, scattered, back to their separate adult lives. Eddie back to his wife and Richie back to LA and his empty apartment and his dreams about being a kid and kissing his best friend.

 

+

 

When he comes back from the deadlights he hauls himself into his body like he’s swimming through light, heavy and dragging, bitter taste of pennies and ozone in his mouth, and the first thing he sees is Eddie, Eddie on top of him, eyes bright and excited, looking at him like he’s the only thing in the world.

 

“I think I killed it, Rich, I really think I did it–” 

 

Richie’s brain’s still sluggish but his body’s quicker, whatever reflexes it kept coiled tight and waiting from that exceptionally shitty summer kicking in and something’s scything towards them and he thinks this is how it happens , the knowledge a sudden drowning rush, tinted the sick orange-white of the deadlights (blood that looks black at Eddie’s mouth and his own hands wet to the elbow like he’s dipped them in buckets of paint, Bev’s voice raw and terribly kind, Richie, honey–)

 

And he moves without thinking and rolls them over, Eddie doing this startled squeak as Richie lands on top of him, and the clown’s fucking claw thing hits the rock to the left of them, gouges up a spray of pebbles. In the distance he can hear Bill yelling, hoarse, here over here you fucking bastard come and fucking get it.

 

Everything in Richie’s ears is much too loud, and the adrenaline feels like it’s going to shake his whole body apart, and he looks down at Eddie under him, his eyes huge and dark in the pale wrong glow of the cavern, and says, voice rough, “Fuck, Eds, don’t you fucking dare get yourself killed on me-"

 

He can feel Eddie trembling everywhere they’re pressed against each other, warm and solid and alive. 

 

He kisses his mouth once, fast and too hard, before he can talk himself out of it.

 

It’s not a good kiss at all, quick and clumsy and tasting of blood and dirt, and his glasses bang into Eddie’s bandaged cheek and he feels more than hears him make a small noise, where their mouths are next to each other. When he pulls back he can’t look directly at Eddie, just hopes that he understands it’s a promise, hopes he’ll have time to make good on it later. Then he hauls himself up and grabs Eddie’s hand and they fucking run towards where Bev’s screaming at the fucking clown like she’s bringing down the wrath of all the gods on it.

 

+

 

They don’t die. Somehow, they don’t die, and they make it out of the building as it crumbles around them, emerge dazed and blinking into the almost offensively normal sunlight. The house folds in on itself like a cheap magic trick, a pack of cards collapsing, and they watch it happen, silent, clutching each other’s hands, Bill gripping Richie’s left so hard it hurts. They jump into the quarry and wash the blood and filth from their hair and splash each other like kids and when Richie thinks about Stan it basically fucking kneecaps him. He looks at the others, at his best friends, and knows their faces are a mirror of his own. They stay in the water for a long while, keeping each other afloat.

 

They haul themselves back to the Town House, aching and barely able to talk. It’s still utterly devoid of other sentient life, which Richie suspects is probably just more Classic Derry Bullshit, but honestly feels like kind of a relief anyway. Bev and Ben vanish immediately and without apology, surprising literally no-one, and Mike and Bill prop themselves up at the bar and dig beers out from somewhere and make all of these super manly stoic faces at each other about it, Bill leaning into Mike’s side heavily all the same, like he can’t quite hold himself up anymore. Richie takes Eddie’s hand and leads him upstairs. 

 

He heads for Eddie’s room, since he figures he’s traumatised enough without being kept from his toiletry bag for any longer. The door clicks shut, and Eddie stops still, still holding his hand, so Richie has to stop too, has to turn around and look at him. His shoulders are narrow and squared, up around his fucking ears, and Richie thinks, sudden and piercing, oh, I’ve known you for such a long time.  

 

“So,” he says, violently wishes he could jam his hands into his pockets but also feels like if he lets go of Eddie’s hand he might sink through the carpet and also, possibly, die.

“So,” Eddie agrees.

 

“Look,” Richie says, hating himself for it, “we don’t have to - talk about it, or whatever,” 

 

“I thought you were gonna die,” Eddie interrupts him, bluntly. “In the - in the deadlights. Stupid, right? I mean, we all saw when it - when Bev - before. And she was fine. I mean, like, horrible visions of our deaths every night for decades aside. You don’t think you’re going to have those, do you? I guess not, since we actually fucking killed it this time. But I wasn’t - I was so scared, I wasn’t really thinking straight, and I realised that I couldn’t,” and he breathes out, shaky, looks down, looks up at Richie, and his voice is very controlled, very steady when he says “that I couldn’t live with losing you, if I hadn’t - if you didn’t know, Rich.” His voice tilts up, almost pleading, and he’s doing this very intense face, brow furrowed, like he’s willing Richie to just telepathically understand what he means, the one that kind of makes him look like Bert from Sesame Street. Richie is ridiculously and unfairly attracted to him.

 

“You don’t need to,” Richie starts again, something swelling in his chest, hot and fierce, the dim roar of a huge and unprecedented joy that’s maybe too big, too much and too real for his shitty desiccated grown up heart. When you grow up, your heart dies, he thinks dizzily, so why the fuck do I feel like I’m thirteen and about to throw up. There’s so much they need to talk about, Eddie’s literal wife and the fact they both absolutely have PTSD and the very real possibility of more fucking magic amnesia and, and. Richie’s had enough of talking, suddenly, for once in his life.

 

“Fuck you, yes I do ”, Eddie snaps, and he looks scared and determined and Richie feels the grin spreading on his face and he steps closer, lifts his free hand to rest it against Eddie’s cheek, says “Eddie, baby ,” and that shuts Eddie up effectively enough but he also gets this adorable pissy look on his face, like he’s trying to decide whether or not to be a bitch about it. It’s the face he’s been making at him basically since the day they met and god, Richie’s loved him his whole fucking life.

 

“Shut up, you’ve been my baby since we were like, twelve,” Richie says, hears his voice cracking on what could be a laugh or a sob, the jury’s out, the jury has left the courthouse and also the state of Maine entirely, “you can fucking get used to it,” and Eddie smiles, sudden and so so bright, like the sun breaking through clouds and shit. He looks almost shy as he turns his face more into Richie’s palm, kisses his wrist quickly, keeping his eyes on him like he’s still not sure this isn’t a trick, mouth against his pulse. Richie thinks that maybe if you cut him open you’d find a thirteen-year-old Eddie’s handprints all over him, down to his bones. He feels - broken open, maybe, and he cups Eddie’s face properly in both his hands and says, voice thick, “gonna kiss you properly now, okay, last chance to run away,” and Eddie surges up on the balls of his feet and kisses him, cutting him off, so ferocious about it he nearly knocks Richie’s glasses off his face. 

 

“Mmph,” Richie says, only staggering a bit, sacrificing one of the hands on his face to slide it around his waist instead, keep him close, coaxes Eddie’s mouth open. Wonders, with a sort of wildly joyful proprietary shiver, if this is his first time kissing a guy, and then Eddie’s fisting his hands in the front of Richie’s disgusting shirt, backing over to the bed and hauling him with him, pulling him down. Richie catches himself, braces an arm on the bed to prop himself up above him and just keeps kissing him, because he feels kind of like his higher brain functions have just happily up and left, like, you can handle this from here. Eddie’s helpfully developed like five extra elbows, all of which are managing to dig into Richie at once, and he’s trying to simultaneously keep kissing Richie and also bite him a little bit and also pull away to say something and also whine whenever Richie draws away a fraction. It’s both disarmingly similar to how Richie thought this would be when he was sixteen and insanely better, and Richie’s stomach does a complicated sort of twist when he realises that he never imagined a version of this where they weren’t young. 

 

That doesn’t stop them from making out like gross teenagers until Eddie finally swats at his chest so he’ll stop kissing him long enough to talk, and then still makes a tragic noise when he pulls back, because he’s a fucking brat. 

 

“Fucking brat,” Richie informs him, happily. 


“I want you to fuck me,” Eddie says, and it would be impressively blunt if he wasn’t, like, scarlet, pupils blown, undone and kind of frantic.

 

Richie whites out very briefly, and then he gently bullies him up onto all fours, hushes him and kisses his thighs and feels them shaking and goes as slowly as he can make himself when every fucking atom of his body is screaming at him to take the brakes off, please. He can't quite face doing this without being able to look at him properly and draws back enough to let Eddie roll onto his back, blink up at him, hi. Eddie’s so tight, though, and Richie thinks, with a shocking coil of heat in his stomach, I’m your first I’m the first person who’s done this to you I always knew I would be– and out loud makes an incoherent, embarrassing kind of noise, glasses slipping down his nose. Eddie’s so fucking tense under him, coiled like a spring, but then he breathes out, wild and shaky, presses himself cautiously against Richie, makes a noise like it’s being wrenched out of him. They’re flush together, skin to skin, and Richie feels like he could probably combust just from this. He’s talking, he realises dimly, this deranged low stream of baby boy you look so good, you’re so good for me happening entirely without his permission, and then Eddie says, familiar impatient bite to his voice except he’s flushed everywhere, pink creeping down his throat, “are you going to - fucking move ,” and Richie grasps his hips and fucks into him properly, watches his lovely tense forty year old face fall open and shocked and beautiful, and he hears himself saying love you, love you, love you as though from a long way away, doesn’t realise he’s crying until Eddie makes a small, pained noise and strokes his thumbs over his wet cheeks again and again, very carefully.

 

+

 

So he takes him to the bridge. The carving’s faded, easier to feel with fingertips in the wavy wood than to see by the dim light. The Kenduskeag coming alive with soft animal noises in the twilight, bats and frogs and shit. So many birds calling to each other and Richie doesn’t have a fucking clue what any of them are. Stan would know, he thinks, ache in his chest. Eddie’s leaning against him and the light’s soft, pretty. Like this could have been a kind place, maybe, if things had been different. Somewhere they could’ve grown up strong and unafraid and left knowing they’d miss it, stayed twined around each other’s hearts, all of them.

 

Eddie touches the letters where they’re etched into the bridge, calls him a sentimental piece of shit and also looks like he’s going to cry, something like wonder softening his face. There you are, Richie thinks with a tiny dearly loved sort of prick to his heart, for about the thousandth time in the last 72 hours. 

 

“So, the thing is,” he says, “if I’m putting my cards on the table here, then the thing is that I’ve been in love with you since like, before I knew how my dick worked, so I don’t really see much point in waiting. We can take it slow, probably we should after all the insane shit, but I’m. I’m all in, just so you know. If you, like, don’t want to take it slow.” He doesn’t say I want to promise you things where everyone can see it, knows that Eddie kind of knows that part.

 

“You knew how your dick worked,” Eddie says almost absently, like that’s the point, looking past the carving to the dark flow of the river, bright chips of light flaking off it. “You talked about jerking off, like, constantly–”

 

“Okay,” Richie says, “okay, but,”

 

“You asshole,” Eddie says, quickly, voice hot, “I’m saying yes. Fuck taking it slow. I love you too. Always have. Outlook from here doesn’t look promising either,” and then, consideringly, ”Fucker.”

 

Richie trips over his own feet a little getting to him.

 

+

 

“Weird leaving again,” Eddie says, looking straight forward, not at him. It’s totally dark outside now, Derry’s lights behind them, sparkly and cosy. Eddie flexes his hand the way he keeps doing, like he’s still getting used to the missing wedding ring. 

 

“Yeah, we’re only like … thirty years too late,” Richie says. He looks at him, wonders if he’ll ever manage to feel complacent about this rather than idiotically, insanely lucky. He hopes he does, figures they deserve to get to be boring and smug and middle aged together. He remembers Eddie leading them through the sewers, the first time, small and bright in the darkness in his red tshirt, how he knew unerringly which turns they needed to take. Bill saying like a cuh-compass in your head . Something pointing north, steady and true. 

 

“Well, what the fuck are we waiting for, I guess,” Eddie says. He smiles at him, just a tiny bit shy, then immediately ruins it by adding “hey, remember when you didn’t have your license yet and–”

 

“Oh, you’re going to be a terrible backseat driver, aren’t you, you little shit,” Richie says, beaming, and then he leans over the gearstick and kisses him, openmouthed and mildly filthy, and then he starts the car.