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Richie Tozier Versus The Flu

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When Eddie arrives at the Tozier household, no one answers the front door, and he’s a little alarmed to find it unlocked. 

 

He has a cotton mask covering the bottom half of his face, latex gloves on, an assortment of over-the-counter medications, a thermometer, a bag of groceries that will come together in a healing dinner, and a change of clothes, in the event the worst case scenario plays out.

 

It was during his free period earlier that day that he found Bill, and was able to inquire after Richie - it’s not totally unusual for Richie to run late in the mornings, but he hadn’t shown up at all for their shared Chemistry class, and he worried.

 

Bill told him that he’d spoken with Richie over the phone just the night before, and knew Richie to be staying at home, sick.

 

“Why did he tell you, and not me?” Eddie had asked, incited.

 

“He p-p-prob-probably just d-didn’t want to f-freak you out,” Bill explained, smiling kindly, “None of us c-caught whatever b-b-bug he’s got, b-but, sometimes, when you know someone’s s-sick, you w-worry that you c-contracted it, t-too.”

 

Eddie frowned, because, while that was true, he didn’t really count Richie among those people - sometimes, if he found out belatedly that someone fell ill after going to dinner with the Losers, he’d panic, and ask everyone to disclose precisely what they ate, and when, to see if he’d possibly eaten contaminated food, too. 

 

Flu season, he barely comes within five feet of anyone in the Losers Club. They all share so much space, and so many objects, it would be a breeding ground for viruses, if their immune systems were even slightly weaker than what they normally are.

 

And despite Richie’s general lack of hygiene, he’s a healthy young man. Taller than average, for sixteen, and getting stronger, too. Not by much - he’s still lanky, still sort of weedy, but he’s able to help Mike load, and unload deliveries when asked, and his chest and shoulders seem to get broader every day. 

 

“His parents don’t take care of him,” Eddie had told Bill, shaking his head, “He’s probably holed up in his room with a flop sweat, and neither of his parents have ever been bothered to help him. We should go see him.”

 

“G-Go see him?” Bill asked, alarmed, “I d-don’t mind, b-b-but I thought you’d n-never -”

 

“He’s sick! Richie’s sick, Bill,” Eddie insisted, thinking Bill was not nearly as upset as he ought to be, “Richie’s sick, and no one’s gonna take care of him, if we don’t.”

 

Bill nodded, frowned, and replied, “I w-w-would go, normally, b-but I’ve g-got my j-job, after school. Is there something else I c-can d-do to help?”

 

Eddie didn’t like asking for money, but he put his pride aside, and did it for Richie - his own allowance wouldn’t cover all the disinfectant he needed to make Richie’s home sanitary again. Nevermind the fresh groceries he had in mind, to get. 

 

“Richie?” Eddie calls, toeing into the house cautiously, “Richie, you upstairs?”

 

“Eddie?” a voice rasps back at him.

 

It feels like Eddie’s entire chest caves in at that voice, knowing well the sound of a sore throat. Odds of it being strep were slim, as there wasn’t an outbreak at school recently, but Richie wouldn’t be down and out over a little cold, either. 

 

The Losers haven’t been hanging about in places they were likely to get bacterial infections, either, though, so whatever Richie has is probably viral.

 

Eddie hears a door open, makes his way more into the house, to the stairs that lead up to Richie’s room, and Richie is standing at the top, holding onto the wall for support.

 

He looks terrible.

 

His hair is matted against his pronounced cheekbones, and forehead, his nose is red, and the collar of his nightshirt is grossly sweaty. He looks pallid, his skin tone more like a light grey, than its usual healthy, pink-to-tan. 

 

“Eddie - get out of here!” Richie tries to shout, seeming genuinely bewildered, “I’m sick, dude!”

 

“There aren’t cars in the driveway, Richie, and I know your parents,” Eddie replies, shifting the weight of the grocery bag on his hip, “I came to take care of you.”

 

Richie is silent for a second, looking as if Eddie’s spoken to him in a foreign language, and then his knees give out, prompting Eddie to drop all he’s holding, and rush halfway up the stairs before he’s stopped by Richie’s flat palm signaling him to yield. 

 

“It’s fine. I’ve got a fever, is all. Been getting dizzy.”

 

“Jesus Christ,” Eddie breathes out against his mask, “Richie, you need water. And a shower.”

 

“I can’t stand long enough -”

 

“A bath.”

 

“It’s too hot in the water, and too cold if I take my clothes off,” Richie whines, “It doesn’t even matter. I’ll shake this off in a day or two, but you should get out of here. I don’t want you to get all panicky and shit.”

 

Anxiety, while present in Eddie, isn’t the ruling emotion.

 

Richie’s voice truly captures his misery in illness, and Eddie’s heart aches for him. 

 

He’s overcome, not with a compulsive need to run as far away as possible, but with a sincere, strong desire to make Richie better, even at the risk of exposing himself more to whatever germs are bouncing around Richie’s general sphere.

 

“Richie - let me handle myself, okay?” Eddie requests, stepping closer, “Let me help you.”

 

“You hate sick people.”

 

Like a curious dog, Eddie tilts his head, and responds reassuringly, “I don’t hate you for being sick, Richie. Is that what you think? Jesus fuck. I hate germs, Richie. Not people. And I really can’t stand the idea of you being home alone like this, so - just shut up, and let me do my thing, okay?”

 

Any other day, under any other circumstances, Richie would have fought him off, but Richie is weak, and pale, and drained. It’s pitiful.

 

On the other hand, Eddie feels useful, finally - he knows how to fix this. He knows how to make it better, he can do something, and he wants to. He’s even a little excited to show Richie how much better he can make it - it’s like when Richie tells really good jokes, and makes everyone laugh, reminds everyone that he’s really, really good at something.

 

Eddie can be good at this. He knows what to do.

 

“First thing’s first - we need to clean you up. When’s the last time you bathed?”

 

“Yesterday morning - can I go back to bed now -” Richie answers miserably.

 

“Okay. I’m gonna run you a warm bath. Not too hot, but enough to steam. It should help loosen your sinuses, it’ll make breathing easier. You’ll feel better just being clean. I promise.”

 

Richie doesn’t say anything back, and he doesn’t say anything when Eddie scoops an arm under his own to help him off the ground, but he’s plainly hesitant to put any significant amount of his weight onto Eddie as Eddie helps him up off the floor, and gets him to the bathroom. 

 

He runs the water, feeling out the temperature through the latex of his gloves, and seating Richie on the lid of the toilet. 

 

“You stay right there, okay?”

 

Richie nods, but seems to regret moving his head as soon as he’s done it. He cups his forehead with both hands, and leans his weight onto his elbows, balanced on his knees. He groans quietly to himself, “ugh, I’m dying,” and, aside from being melodramatic, Richie is the very picture of suffering.

 

With a mighty need to restore balance to the universe, and get Richie Tozier back on his feet, Eddie runs downstairs, grabs the daytime cold and flu medicine, a small, oral flashlight from his first aid kit, and his new thermometer. He brings all of it upstairs with him, and while he sets the medicine on the lip of the sink, he turns on the flashlight, and orders, “turn to me.”

 

Richie lifts his head, and Eddie reaches out to touch Richie’s chin, pulling it down to open his mouth wide; he shines the light into Richie’s mouth, and observes his tonsils.

 

“Your tonsils are swollen as fuck, dude. No wonder your throat hurts. You’ve got something mean ravaging your lymph nodes.”

 

Richie tries to make some sound back, to acknowledge he’s been spoken to, but he only manages to make some indistinct grunt. 

 

“Your throat is red, and aggravated too. I’ve got turmeric tea for you. You’re gonna hate it, but I’ll put lots of honey in it, and stuff. It’ll make you feel better.”

 

He turns the flashlight off, pocketing it, and then he unpacks the thermometer, and offers the metal tip to Richie’s grimace.

 

Too weak to argue, Richie allows his temperature to be taken, and when it comes back as one-hundred and one, Eddie gets more anxious.

 

Definitely not a simple cold, then - a flu, maybe. 

 

“Okay. Let’s get some medicine in you, and then get you into the bath, okay?”

 

“Oh - the liquid shit? Come on - no, Eddie - I hate the liquid shit -”

 

“The liquid shit is more effective, asshole, you’re taking it.”

 

Uggghhhhhh -”

 

“Richie, do not start with me right now.”

 

When he presents the tablespoon of Awful Not-Actually Cherry Flavored Goop to Richie, he’s a little amazed that Richie takes it.

 

He must really be feeling like garbage, to surrender so quickly.

 

“Can you undress on your own?”

 

Swallowing roughly, and wincing at the pain of it, Richie nods.

 

“I’m still dying, though.”

 

“Uh-huh. You won’t faint, though, right?”

 

“No, I’ll just die. As soon as you leave.”

 

“Okay. I’ll be back for you in fifteen minutes. Breathe in the steam when you sit in the water, okay?”

 

Clearly disappointed that his death announcements aren’t being taken seriously, Richie simply nods again with a sad sigh, and Eddie leaves the bathroom, mind and body ready for battle.

 

He goes into Richie’s room first, gathers everything off the floor, considers it all a biohazard, and throws it into Richie’s hamper. He strips the bed of the sweat-soaked sheets, too, and takes it all down the stairs, to the laundry room. He sets it all to wash, and finds fresh sheets to dress the bed in.

 

Before he goes back into Richie’s room, he knocks on the bathroom door, inquiring after Richie, and Richie confirms he’s very much naked, as in the bathtub as his long limbs allow, and is very slightly less miserable, being surrounded by warmth. 

 

Eddie smiles, reminds him that he’ll be back soon, so not to get too comfy, and goes back to his tasks - he redresses Richie’s bed, and sanitizes every surface he can. The room smells distinctly of pine and lemon, and he knows Richie will hate it, but it had to be done.

 

He doesn’t stop disinfecting the room until he can confidently say to himself that he, Eddie Kaspbrak, would willingly lie in that bed, himself, as is.

 

Once he’s done all that, he sets a glass of cool water (no ice), on the bedside table with two Aspirin, and two slices of plain toast.

 

He digs out fresh pajamas, and delivers them to Richie in the bathroom, careful not to glance over at him in the tub, though the temptation is present in his mind.

 

Richie is sick - it’s not sexy - but he’s all spread out in a tub that’s too small for his growing body, with his forearms and calves dangling over the lip of the tub, and he’s all flushed, and he always looks cute without his glasses on -

 

Now is so not the time for your stupid, unrequited crushing, idiot , Eddie scolds himself.

 

“Make sure you dry off as completely as you can, okay? Your hair, too,” Eddie specifies, “Wrap it up the way you make fun of me for. It’s best you not go back to bed with wet hair. Once you’re changed, go straight to bed. I’ll be back up in a second. I gotta spend some time in the kitchen.”

 

“I don’t like being sick.”

 

“No one likes being sick, dipshit.”

 

“But I really don’t like it.”

 

Rolling his eyes, Eddie responds, “yes, this must be such a hardship, lounging like some hedonistic Playboy model in your tub while I run around like my own mother.”

 

“You think I’m hot enough for Playboy?”

 

“I think you’re hot enough to warrant a hospital visit, you fuckin’ idiot,” Eddie replies - there’s no heat behind the words, though.

 

Richie hums in response, asking for five more minutes in the water, and Eddie doesn’t fight him on it. The medicine must be working already, as he doesn’t seem as weak as he did when he collapsed in the hallway - his chances of passing out in the tub have lowered enough that five more minutes won’t make, or break him. 

 

With a determined jut of his chin, Eddie removes the sweaty, germy clothes from the bathroom floor, and takes them to the laundry room to be washed with everything else. 

 

He immediately sprays himself down with disinfectant, changes gloves, and then goes to the kitchen. 

 

Eddie has been visiting the Tozier house since he was five years old; he’s learned where everything is. So, without needing to ask for guidance, he puts up a kettle for tea, later, and elsewhere on the stove, he puts a pot up to boil, and takes out his ingredients, which include pasta, sundried tomatoes, spinach, and full garlic cloves. 

 

“We’re gonna kick this fever right in the ass,” Eddie says to no one.

 

Once he’s unpacked his nighttime medicine for Richie, multivitamins to take with dinner, and he’s changed gloves yet again, he goes back upstairs to check on Richie, bringing a new blanket from the dryer with him. He fluffed it in the dryer for the sole purpose of warming Richie up.

 

The bedroom door is left ajar, so he allows himself inside. 

 

Richie is slouched in bed, his eyes hooded, tired, and glassy, but frankly, he looks remarkably better than when Eddie first arrived.

 

“You changed my bed sheets for me.”

 

The observation is soft, and gentle, and not at all Richie’s usual speed. Eddie’s unsure of how to respond to it, so he approaches the bed with the warm blanket, and unfolds it over Richie.

 

“Did you take the medicine I put on your bedside table?”

 

“You’re pumping a lot of meds into me all at once, Kaspbrak.”

 

“I’d kill this virus with fire if it were an option, Richie - you’re lucky I have the patience to do this myself instead of bringing you to the doctor’s office.”

 

“Why are you doing all this?”

 

“Don’t be an idiot.”

 

Richie doesn’t prod further, but Eddie notices that the water has been sipped at, the toast has been bitten at, and the pills are gone, so he’s satisfied.

 

He smiles, patting down the top blanket of Richie’s bed as he sits on the edge.

 

“What are your symptoms?”

 

“Migraine of the fucking undead, just won’t fuckin’ die. Throat’s killing me. Chills. Too hot one minute, too cold the next. Stomach’s empty, but that seems sort of like a small blessing. I went to bed without dinner last night, so that’s probably the only reason I haven’t upchucked everything in the universe. Feel sorta dizzy, and like the entire inside of my body is bruised. I think that covers it.”

 

“Why’d you go to bed without dinner?” Eddie asks softly, touching Richie’s knee under the blankets.

 

“Didn’t mean it. They forgot.”

 

“They forgot to feed you?”

 

Richie shrugs.

 

“Jesus fucking Christ, Richie.”

 

“No, no, no pity parties,” Richie groans, leaning his head back further, “I fuckin’ hate that shit. Save it for someone who needs it for real.”

 

“Right,” Eddie says sharply, “well, you’ll have to pardon the fuck out of me, Richie, cause your parents fucking suck. They suck. I fuckin’ hate them - this shit drives me nuts. They’re bad at loving you, Richie.”

 

“Is this what it looks like when someone’s good at it?”

 

Eddie blushes to his hairline, his mouth making a thin line beneath his mask; he looks away from Richie, and stands, telling him, “I gotta go check on dinner. Sip that water slowly, but finish it. You need it.”

 

He moves Richie’s trash bin next to the bed, muttering, “just in case the nausea gets worse,” and then he flees the room.

 

As he stirs the pasta in the boiling broth, he can’t help but wonder if he’s ever actually seen Richie this disarmed, before. He thinks he’d remember, if he had.

 

Since sometime in the eighth grade, Richie has proven he can be serious, if it’s called for. It’s not his favorite way to be, and it’s certainly not his default, but he can do it. This is more than serious, though - it’s vulnerable, and shy, almost. 

 

He’s being a whiny bitch, but aside from the bitchy whining, he’s all soft, raspy whispers, and too-long gazes. 

 

He keeps looking at Eddie like he doesn’t understand why Eddie’s doing what he’s doing.

 

It breaks Eddie’s heart, but also makes it swell in size, all full of love he can’t put anywhere.

 

The noodles are cooked in their broth, the spinach is thrown on a pan with olive oil, with the garlic, and sundried tomatoes, and he makes a plate that is easily 80% vegetables, and 20% pasta. 

 

Richie will hate it.

 

“Noooo,” Richie groans, seeing the plate enter his room with Eddie, “That’s not what I want for my last meal. Why are you doing this to me - to us , Eddie?”

 

“You’re such a pain in the ass, Richie,” Eddie mumbles, setting the plate down on his bedside table, with a fresh glass of water.

 

“I’d love to be a pain in your ass, Eds, but I gotta wait for an invitation to that sort of thing.”

 

“Oh my God, I hate you,” Eddie murmurs as Richie chuckles; he presents a fork full of garlic, spinach, and very little noodle in response.

 

“Garlic is smelly.”

 

“Garlic is good for you, and yes, it’s smelly, but you smell anyway, Richie, so fucking eat it.”

 

“I smell like Irish Spring soap right now, actually. Enjoy it while it lasts. Garlic makes people fart. Spinach too.”

 

“Oh my God, Richie, I don’t care if garlic makes you fucking fart - eat it. It’s fucking good for you. It’s virus-killer in a vegetable - eat it.”

 

“I don’t like spinach.”

 

Eddie shuts his eyes, counts to ten, and takes a deep breath.

 

“Richie.”

 

“What?”

 

“I need you to shut the fuck up, and eat your fucking vegetables.”

 

“But vegetables are stupid, and you gave me all the farty kind,” Richie complains, gesturing at the plate, “Spinach is roughage. Isn’t that a funny word? It’s an S-A-T word. Roughage. Roughage is shorthand for ‘makes you poop almost immediately.’”

 

“That’s not what it means.”

 

“Yes, it is.”

 

“No, it’s not - roughage means ‘fibrous vegetable.’ It’s good for your stomach.”

 

“Fibrous means pooping too.”

 

“Oh my God, Richie, just fucking eat the vegetables!”

 

“I don’t want the shits! No!”

 

“Richie!” Eddie exclaims, “You’re a fucking nightmare, you know that?”

 

“Check the clock, hon, I’m a day-mare. Whole different category.”

 

“Oh my God,” Eddie despairs, very near giving up, “What will it take for you to eat my virus-killing pasta?”

 

“I got you right here.”

 

Eddie’s brow furrows in confusion, and, looking dazed, and still feverish, Richie adds, “see? I got you right here, next to me. What else could I possibly want?”

 

If they lived in a cartoon, steam would billow out of Eddie’s ears right then, with a loud whistle. His entire face turns red, he can feel it, and he’s embarrassed, and he thinks to himself that if it were Bev, or Mike, or Stan, in his place, he isn’t sure if Richie would say the same things. 

 

He very nearly regrets coming over at all, because seeing Richie all exposed, and weak, and sweet is fucking torturous

 

But Richie could also be fucking with him.

 

That’s way more likely than Richie being serious about anything.

 

Frustrated, and secretly, a little heartbroken at being treated like a joke when he’s just trying his best at the only thing he knows this much about, Eddie slams the fork back down onto the plate, and shows his hands in surrender.

 

“F-Fine. Whatever, Richie. Fuck you. Eat it, and feel better, or fucking starve here. I’m going downstairs to finish the fucking laundry, and clean the kitchen, and then I’m going home. You suck.”

 

Eddie does just that - he goes back downstairs, and uses his burst of angry adrenaline to clean the entire first floor of the house, wash, dry, and put away the dishes he’d used, and fold the freshly laundered blankets, and clothes that had originated from Richie’s bedroom floor.

 

He’s halfway through folding the laundry, when he hears Richie again.

 

“Eddie? You still here?”

 

Sighing deeply, and grudgingly, feeling pity worm its way back into his damnedable heart, Eddie goes back upstairs, and opens Richie’s bedroom door.

 

“Yeah. What do you need?”

 

Richie presents his empty plate, and glass.

 

“I think I can eat more. I’m feeling better. Is there… is there more?”

 

The plate could sparkle - every bite is gone - and not a drop of water is left.

 

Heart pounding, Eddie’s eyes well up a little, and he smiles, nodding, “yeah. Yeah, I can get you more. You stay right there, okay?”

 

Agreeably, Richie nods, and Eddie takes the plate and glass from him, feeling renewed. 

 

Second serving, he puts more noodles on the plate, more like a 60% noodles, and 40% vegetable ratio, and he even allows ice in the water. He rushes back upstairs, presents the plate, and Richie seems genuinely happy to look at it.

 

“More noodles, thank God. Thank you, Eddie.”

 

Smiling behind his mask, Eddie graciously says to him, “you’re welcome, Richie. I’m folding laundry downstairs right now - you wanna change clothes again, or are you comfy?”

 

Richie’s mouth does a weird little half-twist, like he’s embarrassed, but also pleased? It’s strange. Eddie doesn’t recognize the expression.

 

“I’m okay right now. Thanks.”

 

“Okay,” Eddie answers, “I’ll finish up downstairs, and I’ll be back up in like half an hour, okay? It’s okay if you don’t finish the whole plate. It’s a lot to eat after not eating for like, twenty hours.”

 

“Don’t worry, Eddie.”

 

Surprisingly, Eddie doesn’t.

 

He finishes folding Richie’s blankets, his stupid Hawaiin Dad Shirts, mismatched socks, and mostly idiotic boxers. Most of his underwear looks like a joke collection - he even has a pair that’s got tiny red hearts all over it, like in the cartoons. 

 

He’s got a pair of boxer briefs, though, that look like compression shorts, almost. They’re just plain black, just functional, and somehow - for some Godforsaken reason - imagining Richie in these tight, black boxer briefs makes Eddie unable to function for a full five minutes.

 

Eventually, he has to stop looking at them. The world is still turning, whether or not Richie’s cute, tight ass is in stupid boxers, or fitted briefs. 

 

“I need professional help,” Eddie mumbles to himself, stacking all the clean clothes, and blankets into a new hamper.

 

He hefts the laundry up the stairs, and sets it by the door, peeking inside - Richie’s glass is mostly drained, little is left on his dinner plate, and he’s snoring a little, with a comic book splayed open against his chest.

 

It’s sweet.

 

Eddie returns downstairs, puts up the leftovers, takes out the nighttime medications, and puts the kettle up.

 

He spares a minute to wonder where the Hell Richie’s parents are, and how they justify doing this to their kid - Eddie hates them. 

 

He sweetens the turmeric tea as much as he can, and as he’s gathering his supplies for his last check-up on Richie, he hears a flush from upstairs.

 

At the foot of the stairs, he yells up, “you okay? Nausea got worse?”

 

“No, doctor - weirdly, all the fucking shit-making veggies I was forced to eat made me take a huge shit, like I told you it would.”

 

Eddie rolls his eyes, but he grins, because Richie sounds better.

 

“They’re not shit-making veggies, they’re veggies that are good for your immune system, and help manage flu symptoms, which is why I made you eat them - not to make you shit. But, if you were backed up beforehand, you’re welcome .”

 

“You’re such a bitch, Eds.”

 

“Takes one to know one, Trashmouth - wash your hands, and face well. Don’t brush your teeth yet, though - I’m bringing tea up with me.”

 

He thinks he hears Richie complain to himself that he doesn’t want tea, but whatever it is he says, he keeps it mostly to himself, and Eddie is pleased by the show of humility. 

 

When he sits next to Richie on his bed again, he has a fresh glass of water, a mug of tea with helpful herbs (and more honey than would be recommended, but he knows Richie won’t tolerate anything less sweet), the thermometer, NyQuil, and Vicks Vapor Rub.

 

“Jesus Christ, you’re like a fucking walking pharmacy.”

 

“I’m just covering all my bases.”

 

When Richie doesn’t immediately respond with some bad joke about getting to whatever base with Eddie, Eddie looks to him, worried.

 

Richie’s just staring.

 

“What?”

 

“You spent all day taking care of me, even though I was being an asshole.”

 

“You’re always an asshole.”

 

“I know, but…”

 

“Stop thinking so much, Richie,” Eddie tells him, smirking, “It’s never suited you.”

 

Smiling again, Richie makes a wounded noise, touching his chest in faux offense, “kicking me while I’m down? Shameful, Eddie.”

 

Presenting the thermometer, Eddie doesn’t bother responding, other than saying, “show the good doctor if we’ve made any progress.”

 

While waiting for the beep of the thermometer, Eddie pushes Richie’s hair back from his forehead, and feels there with the back of his hand, but he can’t feel properly with his gloves on.

 

He takes one of them off, then, to feel at Richie’s forehead, and he ignores the wondrous, lingering gaze that follows the motion.

 

Richie still feels hot, but it’s hard to tell where he’ll land on the fever-scale.

 

“Still having hot and cold flashes?”

 

Richie shakes his head, and doesn’t flinch; that’s a good sign.

 

“Headache still there?”

 

Perhaps thinking the same thing, Richie shakes his head again.

 

“Good,” Eddie decides; he’s eliminated most of the fatigue, the nausea, the body temperature fluctuations, and the headache. He’s proved himself useful.

 

The thermometer beeps, and Eddie says, aloud, “ninety-nine point eight. Okay. We’re getting you back to normal. Progress is progress. You’ll probably be down to ninety-nine by morning, and ninety-eight point six again by tomorrow night.”

 

Richie drinks most of his tea, and mostly without complaining, and Eddie removes his other glove, throwing them both in the trash bin by the bed. He tells Richie what teas are good for what symptoms, and why tea is always good for when one feels sick, and he even explains all the methods to his madness that day, and Richie smiles, nods, and sips. 

 

Night has fallen, and once Richie has finished his tea, Eddie makes him brush his teeth with a new brush he picked up on the way to the house, arguing that the old one is covered in whatever germs were in his mouth the night before. 

 

Richie doesn’t fight him on it, thankfully.

 

When he comes back to bed, Eddie makes him take his shot of Nyquil, lets him wash down the bitter taste with chilled water, and then lays him back against his fluffed pillows. He opens the Vicks Vapor Rub, and lowers Richie’s shirt collar enough that he can apply it directly.

 

He’s making small circles on Richie’s chest with his fore and middle finger when Richie reaches for his other hand.

 

Eddie stops what he’s doing, watching as Richie brings his free hand up to his face - he’s still feverish, but he’s not clammy, or as pale as he was when Eddie first arrived. He’s not sweating like a pig either - he still smells like Irish Spring, in fact. 

 

He looks a lot better than he did just an hour ago, actually.

 

His face is very warm, though.

 

It appears that Richie’s already loopy from the NyQuil, his eyelids look heavy, and his loving stare is glazed over with sleepiness.

 

“I love you, Eds. You’re the best. You’re my top favorite. Eddie Spaghetti. I love you.”

 

Blushing again, Eddie clears his throat, and replies, “I know, dipshit.”

 

“Really,” Richie urges, nuzzling Eddie’s palm, “One day, I’m gonna marry you, and then, someday, when you get sick, I’ll take care of you.”

 

Feeling like he’s developing a fever himself, Eddie tells him, “you don’t have to marry me to take care of me when I’m sick.”

 

“I know, but I wanna.”

 

“Dudes can’t marry other - why are you even bringing something like that up? Is this the NyQuil talking? I didn’t realize you were such a lightweight, jeez.”

 

“Maybe one day, guys will be able to marry other guys,” Richie suggests, sighing against Eddie’s palm, “I’ll buy you a gold ring, and I won’t even say anything cheesy. I’ll be all serious, the way you like, for some reason.”

 

“When proposing marriage to me? You’ll deign to be serious for five fucking seconds? Gee, thanks, Richie,” Eddie jokes, wanting to take his hand back, but unable to move.

 

“Don’t be mean, Eddie,” Richie smiles, “I’ve already picked out what I’m gonna say.”

 

“... oh yeah?”

 

“Mm,” Richie confirms, “And we’ll have a house, and it’ll smell like Lysol, and you’ll yell at me for wearing shoes inside, and I’ll kiss you every day.”

 

“O-Okay,” Eddie mutters, heart thundering itself into an attack, “I think maybe it’s time for you to sleep, Richie.”

 

“Alright. Come back, though,” Richie tacks on, “I’ll be sad in the morning, when you’re not here. I’m always sad when you’re not there.”

 

Eddie isn’t entirely sure that Richie knows what he’s saying, but he agrees to come back tomorrow, anyway. Whatever will make Richie stop doing everything he’s doing.

 

When he’s pretty sure Richie has fallen asleep, Eddie begins packing up, and goes to shut off Richie’s bedside lamp - Richie mumbles his name, though, and so Eddie returns, and pets his hair.

 

“You’ll feel uh-hundred times better in the morning, Richie, I promise.”

 

“Feel better now,” Richie responds without opening his eyes, “Gotta tell you. Come’ere.”

 

Eddie leans down closer, and Richie squints his eyes open, pushing himself up just enough to kiss Eddie’s lips, though the mask keeps them from actually kissing.

 

There’s little pressure, but it still happens - even through the mask, Eddie can feel Richie’s lips, feel the way the kiss would have felt. And, this up close, Eddie can see the way Richie’s dark eyelashes fan over his high cheekbones, the gentle glow of Richie’s bedside lamp making him seem even softer - it’s like Richie’s sleepwalking, and dragging Eddie into the dream with him.

 

“Eds - ‘mind me tuh kiss ya again when I’m not sick.”

 

Eddie squeaks, coughs, clears his throat, and pulls the blankets up higher on Richie, patting him down, “please just go to sleep, Richie.”

 

“Love you, Eddie.”

 

Smiling unabashedly at Richie’s soft, restful face, Eddie tells him, sincerely, and with all of himself, “Oh, boy. I love you too, Richie. Sweet dreams.”