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feel this burning, love of mine

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Richie lets himself clench his fists in the shower, fully like a protagonist at the beginning of their third act. He lets the water run down his face and off of his chin long after he’s scrubbed mini hotel soaps across his entire body.

He stares down at the clothes he has out on his bed. His least obnoxious button-up is still wrinkled from wearing it in Boston. He meant to get it washed, but his thought processes as of late absolutely have not included scheduling his dry cleaning. His only other suitable options are two patterned shirts; one with a missing top button, which would definitely not go over well, and a maroon one with a tiny, almost-unnoticeable soy sauce stain on the collar. Richie frowns down at it, but then looks at the other option, covered in a pattern of multicolored parrots and missing that top button. Soy sauce stain it is.

He considers a blazer, too, for a second. A fucking blazer. He’ll wear one for tomorrow’s show, yeah, but for this? This is not an event for a fucking blazer. This is not even an event at all. Why is he like this? 

Richie got a wholeass suite for New York City. He ordered two bottles of champagne and a cart full of room service food. If he was home, he’d try to cook something. But instead he’s decided to get everything that sounded moderately healthy from the room service menu and have it waiting in the room. Richie glares at the stainless steel cart sitting against the wall, then at the covered trays. It’s too much. He’s already done too much. 

He can’t believe he considered a fucking blazer. 

Richie has been on many first dates. It’s arguably what he’s best at. The honeymoon phase is the sweet spot in which he thrives. The “hey Trashmouth” spoken sweetly into his ear at a loud afterparty phase. The phase where Richie gets to perform.

But this is Eddie. There is no performing for him. There is just the fucking leaps Richie’s stomach continues to occasionally make as he glances at his phone for new messages and take delicate sips of a glass of whiskey. He even checks his hair once in the reflection of the microwave, and then stares into space as he contemplates whether or not he should gel it back or not. 

What the fuck is happening to him? 

 

The three weeks were long. The Chicago and Boston shows went alright, and they certainly passed the time. Onstage Richie could feel himself slipping back into normalcy, or at least what he’d called normalcy, before Mike called him and all things in his life changed irreparably. But things outside of performing were still very different. Richie woke up in the middle of almost every night to recover from an Eddie-death nightmare, until the nightly routine became more of a nuisance than anything. He also started remembering more— childhood Derry memories that suddenly resurfaced— replaying in his mind out of nowhere and leaving Richie wondering how he ever could have forgotten these things.

Eddie said the same thing was happening to him. And, according to the group chat between all the Losers, it’s become a common thing for everyone who forgot.

The development of the Losers group chat was undoubtedly the best part of the three weeks, keeping Richie tethered to the fact that everything that happened did in fact happen. It was easy for Richie to begin to fall back into that twenty-seven year mental vacation, as lunches with his agent and meetings around tables became frequent again. But getting a notification on his phone that Ben had sent yet another ancient meme (that had nothing to do with the conversation) brought Richie back to new-reality every time. Ben remembers him. They all remember each other, still. Richie now smiles to himself at every notification, which is embarrassing, but thankfully none of them have been here to see him do it. He loves this small, constant reminder of them in the form of a string of sometimes incoherent messages. He loves it. Even if Bill fucking ruins it by having an Android and turning the entire conversation green. Fucking hot-shot writer Bill. God damn it. 

Richie walks across the suite and places his forehead against one of the massive windows while he waits. He gazes blankly down at the traffic below, letting his eyes unfocus until there’s just a million tiny lights passing by beneath him. He’s been waiting since the city lit up, since the sun sank from the sky and Eddie had texted on my way. Now Richie is just trying to lose himself in the movement below, trying to ignore just how noticeable his breathing changes when he remembers what he’s waiting for, when he remembers that Eddie is even a person that exists, when he remembers he’s on his way

 

There’s a knock. Richie comes back to himself in one big wave. He feels himself removing his forehead from where he’s left it against the glass and can feel himself moving towards the door. And when he opens it, and Eddie is standing there, suitcase in each hand, Richie just fucking stares at him. 

Eddie looks back at him, almost like he wasn’t expecting Richie to open the door. He then takes a few steps into the suite and drops his bags, and Richie somehow closes the door behind him before they’re left just looking at each other, a few inches apart. Eddie’s lips tip up into a smile, and Richie can’t help but follow his lead until he’s beaming.

Eddie’s cheek bandage is smaller, flesh-colored. He’s freshly shaven. His hair is combed back. He smells good. 

“Traffic was so bad,” Eddie says. His right hand comes up and settles on the back of Richie’s neck. 

“It gets pretty bad around this time. I’ve heard,” Richie says. He feels fire where Eddie is touching him. His own hands find Eddie’s hips to pull him closer. And after he can’t stand to look at him and smell his aftershave he kisses Eddie softly, lingering. Three whole weeks without this. He should be given some kind of award. 

Eddie breathily moans into his lips, his hand traveling up to close around the long strands of Richie’s hair at the base of his neck, and Richie thinks oh, so that’s what we’re doing. 

Richie pulls Eddie close, then, kissing him hard, like he’s wanted to. Eddie is pushing back against him, solid and strong and here, which is crazy, and Richie wants to cry and laugh and both at once. He settles for titling his head to deepen the kiss, pulling gently at Eddie’s bottom lip with his teeth before he finally starts giggling from the insanity of it all. 

“What the fuck is so funny?” Eddie asks, breathless. 

“I bought us champagne.” 

Richie finds Eddie’s lips again, roughly taking them between his own as his chest fills steadily with a thousand different feelings and his head empties of all thoughts. Just Eddie. Eddie. Wonderful, gorgeous, motherfucking Eddie.

“This is a nice suite,” Eddie murmurs as Richie attacks his jawline. Richie nips at his ear and pulls away for a moment.

“Thanks,” He says. “I requested it. It’s fucking New York City, after all.”

“Are you trying to impress me?”

“Well I did buy champagne, so. Yes.” 

Richie just can’t help himself, attaching his lips to the side of Eddie’s neck until Eddie shoves him back. 

“I fucking missed you, Tozier,” Eddie says as Richie regains his composure. The corners of his glasses are foggy from his own hot breath, but he can still see Eddie, right in front of him, lips shiny and combed hair already falling out of place.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” Richie says. He grabs Eddie’s face, being careful of the cheek, and kisses him once more, hard. “You should’ve seen me clutching my locket with your photo inside, late into the night. It was so tragic.” He taps Eddie’s cheeks with his fingers and grins. 

“Aw, Rich, that’s pathetic.”

Richie blows air into his eyes as revenge. Eddie flinches, grits his teeth as he closes his eyes. Richie clears his throat. “Now. As I said, I bought champagne. So go put your fucking suitcases in the bedroom and come drink it with me.”

Eddie keeps his eyes closed and sighs. “I need it after all that fucking traffic.” He then wrestles himself out of Richie’s grip and goes to lift his suitcases. “No one in this goddamn city knows how to drive. Or maybe it’s annual ‘drive-while-blindfolded in NYC day’. Fuck, Rich. It was bad.”

“I know, Eds, I know. You’re the only valid driver in this whole goddamn town. Now chop-chop, sweet cheeks! It’s celebration time!” 

From the bedroom, Eddie calls. “What are we celebrating? I thought you’ve had shows here already—”

“We’re celebrating you, you silly bitch!” Richie calls back. He’s trying to pop the cork on one of the bottles when Eddie emerges from the room, shedding his jacket and tossing it to the couch.

“Oh really? Are we celebrating the submitting of my divorce petition? Or me deciding to quit my secure and stable job?”

Richie stops what he’s doing to grimace, but Eddie is smiling and shaking his head to himself, coming over to the other side of the kitchen counter. It’s been a big couple of weeks for Sir Edward Spaghetti. He called the other night and announced that he’s going to transfer to a different firm— any different firm— now that he’s realized his current job has been basically keeping him hostage and stationary for years. It’s part of this reinvention he’s trying, now that Eddie is beginning to understand that his life doesn’t need to suck, constantly and forever. So he’s quitting his job. He’s divorcing his wife. He’s joining his long-lost-best-friend-turned-lover on his comedy tour. He’s truly throwing happiness spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks. 

“We are celebrating that and more,” Richie says. The cork pops, hitting the ceiling, and Eddie yelps even though he knows it’s coming. Eddie recovers as Richie bites his lip to keep from fully pointing and laughing. He takes a breath and continues. “We, dearest Eddie, are celebrating you making it through the shitty NYC traffic. We are also celebrating your willingness to come with me to not one, not two, folks, but seven cities on my fall tour, like a true champ. And finally, we are celebrating Edward Kaspbrak’s amazing taste in men. He really does have the best taste, doesn’t he?” Richie says to an invisible audience in the kitchen. 

Eddie grabs the bottle from Richie’s fingers while he’s not looking and starts pouring champagne into the glasses.

“I do have good taste,” Eddie says softly. Richie gazes at him from across the counter, at the way he keeps his eyebrows knitted as he tries to fill both glasses completely evenly. Eddie’s eyes then flit up. “I picked a man who can sell out a show in New York City only three weeks after a massive fuck up, right at the beginning of his set.” 

Richie raises an eyebrow. “You know I got the call from Mike like forty-five seconds before that fuck up.” Eddie pauses as his glass is halfway to his lips. “That’s why I was like that. I was starting to remember.” Richie grabs the glass in front of him and clinks it against Eddie’s suspended one. “I was remembering you.”

Richie downs his drink in one go. He doesn’t mean to, but he’s starting to feel what he did in that moment. The paralyzing fear, the dread that started to seep in and settle. Memories of an evil that he couldn’t even remember. And an inkling, a feeling in the back of his neck, that there was someone. Someone incredibly important, who he could not fucking remember.

“Well I crashed my car remembering the inkling of you.”

“Romance isn’t dead,” Richie says. Eddie looks at him for a moment too long, then at his drink, before he throws back his champagne as well. 

 

The room service meals sit uneaten on the silver cart as Eddie straddles Richie on the couch, kissing him hard and making Richie’s champagne-twinged head swim. Drown would be a better way to put it. Three weeks was too fucking long. He cried in bed over this guy like every night. And now, Richie is five glasses in and he wants to cry again while Eddie hums against his mouth. 

Eddie has only had two glasses, but he’s still giggling uncontrollably at times, full-on laughing every time Richie’s glasses get shoved against his nose or begin to slip completely off. 

“Just take them off,” Eddie says, and reaches for them. Richie lets him, and in that same moment Eddie goes blurry.

“But I wanna see you,” Richie complains. 

“Too bad, dickhead.”

“I didn’t get to see your pretty fucking face for three weeks. Let me see you.” 

Eddie scoffs. “Whatever.” He leans forward towards Richie’s ear. “You look hot like this.” 

“What the fuuuuck,” Richie whispers back, more to himself than anything. Eddie’s breath tickles his cheek as he laughs. “Should I get contacts?” Richie muses out loud. 

Eddie giggles and clumsily slides the glasses back on.

“Oh, hi,” Richie says. Eddie is looking down at him with lips slightly parted, seemingly glowing gold in lamplight. In the silence, someone lays on their horn far, far down in the city below. “God, you’re so fucking beautiful.” 

He is. But Richie probably wouldn’t have said it, not like that at least, if the alcohol had not fully gone to his tiny, gay brain.

“You’re full on drunk.”

“Drunk in love,” Richie says, like it’s some kind of breakthrough. And then he starts scream-singing Beyoncé, hauling Eddie over so he’s lying back on the couch. Richie kisses him a few more times, and then just lingers above him, breathing. He misses him, even when he’s right here. He wishes Eddie could fucking know that. He needs him to know that. He needs to put his champagne confidence to good use. 

Richie’s hand goes under Eddie’s shirt, and he scrapes his fingers along Eddie’s chest, kissing just where Eddie’s shirt collar meets his skin. All too fast, Eddie seems to go from giggling to taking shallow breaths through his nose.

“Richie,” He says, quickly but carefully. And Richie knows, even through a slight mental fog, that this is a simple declaration of nah. Richie’s hand pauses, still resting on his skin. He might be imagining it, but he thinks he can feel Eddie’s heart beating, very fast. Eddie continues. “I uh. I haven’t drank in a while, so I don’t feel that, great.” He takes a deeper breath before he starts speaking even more quickly. “I’m tired from driving, too, so. I just, don’t. Yeah. Do you wanna watch something?” 

It takes Richie a second. “Yeah.”

“Okay. I’m just gonna, go put on my...clothes for sleeping, and I brought some stuff too, for my stomach, I’ll just take some of that and I’ll be good in a second.”

“Do you want me to get you anything?” Richie asks, keeping a hand on Eddie as he shuffles upright.

“I brought some stuff, for my stomach,” Eddie says, even though he just said that. He rises from the couch and walks towards the bedroom. “But I’m fine. You can pick the movie,” he says. The door closes.

Richie sits, his head swimming against a current. He automatically grabs a remote from the coffee table, starts to flip through channels on the too-bright TV. But he only thinks of Eddie closing the door behind him. 

 

Almost exactly twenty-four hours later Richie chugs an entire water bottle in under ten seconds. He knows he looks more than slightly unhinged, but Eddie still looks a little more impressed than concerned when Richie glances at him from the corner of his eye.

“You good?”

“Fuck no,” Richie says, crunching the plastic bottle in his hands. “I’m never good beforehand.” He closes his eyes for a second. “I threw up on a sound guy right before Ellen.”

Eddie’s eyes go wide. “You’re a mess.” 

“I’m a mess,” Richie agrees. He and Eddie nod along with each other until Richie can feel his stomach churning, and Eddie suddenly grabs his collar. 

“Don’t throw up,” He says, staring daggers. He then kisses the corner of Richie’s mouth, quick. “Don’t. Just don’t. You’ve got this. You’re funny.” 

Richie can’t help but sigh dramatically. “You really think so, Eds?” 

“Yes.” Eddie looks past him, where he can probably see a sliver of the audience past the curtain. “And I’d rather you call me babe than Eds,” he remarks, annoyed, and Richie feels an almost sickly calm fill him, beginning in his chest. Eddie continues, finding his eyes again. “You are funny. When you’re not trying, and when you’re not freaking out about it. So just go out there, and just tell a few fucking jokes about your dick or whatever. And have fun.”

Richie nods along to Eddie’s voice, trying to steel his resolve. A production assistant walks up beside Richie to tell him there’s ten seconds to go, and Richie nods faster. “Okay, fuck. Okay.” He looks to Eddie. “Are you gonna watch it?” 

“New York City—” the announcer begins. 

Yeah I’m gonna watch it. I’m literally standing here.”

“Please welcome—”

“Wish me luck, babe.” 

“Richie Tozier!” 

Richie smiles at Eddie, eyes probably wide with terror, before he turns on his heel and heads for the light. 

Eddie calls after him, something that ends in sweetheart, but the cheering of the crowd overtakes his voice. 

Richie’s practically skipping across the stage by the time he gets to the microphone, smiling and waving.

“Hi, New York!” Richie calls, looking out into only blinding light. The crowd’s cheering continues. “Holy shit!” The cheering very slowly settles as Richie pretends to brush their praise aside. “Get your phones ready people, because who knows what I might fuck up this time.” People in the crowd whistle at that, knowing laughter floating across the audience. “The fun’s just beginning,” Richie adds, and there’s a big cheer at that. Richie breathily laughs along with it, before he just simply lets himself go. He launches into each joke, putting a little flair on everything, tailoring every joke slightly to try to make Eddie laugh behind the curtain. It goes well, he thinks. Performing is weird and all-encompassing and it is undoubtedly Richie’s favorite thing to do in the world.

Richie comes offstage when the lights go out and Eddie is not standing where he was. Richie looks around himself, still breathing hard from that last monologue, and people around him are patting his shoulder, telling him he did a good job. It’s Myra, he’s thinking. She called, and he had to step outside. And that’s okay, it is. But still, Richie wanted to make Eddie laugh. And now that he knows he wasn’t watching, Richie feels himself glaze over. He takes off his blazer and holds it to his chest, and walks quickly to his green room to be out of everyone’s way.

Richie opens the door to the green room and tosses his blazer to the couch before realizing that is where Eddie is sitting. He stops mid-step, and watches as Eddie bats the jacket away, staring daggers at him. In his other hand he is holding a full plate of apple slices and grapes, his legs tucked under him.

“Watch the food, man!” Eddie says.

“I didn’t know you were in here! I thought you’d be watching the set!”

Eddie gestures to the screen that he’s facing, before bringing another apple slice to his mouth. On the screen now, the audience lights are up and people are filing out of the theater.

“There’s monitors in here, dude! Did you know that? It’s pretty awesome. I can watch your whole set from a fucking couch, can hear the direct mic feed—”

“You left the wings to come eat fruit in here?” 

“Only the last like fifteen minutes! And, to be honest, this way is much better.”

Richie shakes his head, a tired smile still forming without his permission, before he comes over and collapses on top of Eddie on the couch. 

“My fucking fruit,” Eddie shouts, but Richie’s eyes are already closed, and Eddie grumbles to himself as he maneuvers his plate onto the floor. “You’re sweating.” Eddie says after a moment.

“You try doing that shit for an hour fifteen.” 

“I won’t, because I value my sanity,” Eddie replies. There’s a long bout of silence where Richie keeps his eyes closed and Eddie slowly begins playing with his curls. “It was a good show. You’re kinda funny.”

“I’ll take it.”

“I can’t believe this is what you do, Rich.” 

Richie buries his head further between Eddie’s shoulder and the couch. “If it’s any consolation, I like, just started doing this kind of stuff. For ten years I got booed off of a lot of stages. My college friends told me to use my loud mouth to try to sell insurance.”

“As someone who works in insurance, I can assure you no one would fucking want you at their company.”

“Thanks, babe,” Richie says into the couch.

Eddie’s fingers pause for a moment before they continue.

“Well I’m sure your college friends feel like real dumbasses now.”

“They’re probably doing just fine. If anything I feel like a dumbass now. I don’t even know what I’m doing ninety percent of the time. I just kind of go out there and say gross things really loudly. Just like when we were kids, right?”

“Shut up, Rich.” Richie relaxes into the feeling of Eddie’s fingers still in his hair. “You know I had to come in here because the audience was scream-laughing after that bit with the dentist? You’re good at this. You make people laugh so hard I have to go hide and recover.”

“Maybe you just have sensitive ears.” 

“I do,” Eddie says plainly. “But Richie. For someone with such a fucking big forehead, you really have such a tiny brain.”

Richie lifts his head from the couch. “What the fuck?” 

“You’re fucking Trashmouth Tozier.” Eddie says, before he looks at Richie, eyebrows raised, waiting.

“You sound like my agent.” 

“Richie. Come on. You know what I mean. You’re good at this. It was a great show.” 

“You don’t have to flatter me. I’m already in love with you.”

Eddie grabs his shoulders as Richie starts to stand up.

“You love doing this, right?”

Richie scoffs. “Uh, yeah, of course. It’s the best.”

“Then it was a good show,” Eddie says simply. 

Richie scoffs again, but he’s too exhausted to counter him, his chest too full to do anything but look back at Eddie, who didn’t leave, who liked the show.

“I can tell you love it up there,” Eddie says. He kisses Richie once, and Richie readjusts so he can kiss Eddie properly, hands on either side of his head back against the couch. Eddie pulls back, looks up at him. “Who would’ve known the jackass I watched on Ellen while folding laundry would have me pinned down in his dressing room.”

“Is this a fantasy of yours?” 

“My only fantasy is you taking a fucking shower after this.”

Richie sighs dreamily. “Then let’s get out of here, baby. I’m about to make your dream come true.”

 

Richie showers, watches Eddie walk delicately around the suite while laughing at something in the group chat Richie hasn’t yet seen, and then they hold each other on the couch. They stare at the TV and what remains of Richie’s post-show adrenaline depletes after a solid five minutes. He falls asleep basically in Eddie’s lap, arm around his middle and head leaning into his side, listening to his steady heartbeat.

Richie wakes up for a few moments, the light and TV still on. The Great British Bake Off is still playing. Above him, Eddie’s head is leaning back against the couch, his mouth slightly open, breathing deeply. What an old man. Richie smiles to himself and turns his gaze back to the TV. Someone onscreen frosts a pastry in such a way that it makes Richie’s heart swell. Or maybe it’s listening to Eddie’s heartbeat against his ear, slow and stable. Richie thinks, for a moment, that he hasn’t had a nightmare yet since Eddie has been here. If he has, he can’t remember. He mentally knocks on wood before his attention is captured again with more pastry frosting. Within a minute, Richie is asleep.

 

In Pittsburgh, Eddie comes back to the hotel room late in the evening with bags of groceries, mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, the greenery even sticking out of the tops of his reusable bags. Which, what the fuck, did he like, pack those to bring with him on tour? What the hell?

“We’re only here for forty eight more hours.”

“Okay, but we’re done ordering pizza to the room for two out of three meals.” 

Richie groans. “Don’t try to change me, Edward.”

Richie is lying flat on his back on their bed, phone resting on his forehead, wearing a t-shirt with his own face on it and the words Trash Daddy bedazzled underneath. He’d found it on Etsy a year ago. It is a size too small and it is his favorite thing he owns.

“No more room service cheesecake,” Eddie says flatly.

“You’re ruining my fucking life.”

“Eat an orange and shut the fuck up,” Eddie replies. He takes an orange out of one of the bags and tosses it at Richie. Richie catches it and pretends to sob while he carefully peels it. 

“Mike is calling in a minute.”

Richie’s eyes widen. “What?”

“Haven’t you checked the group chat?”

“Not since last night, when Mike started sending three hundred pictures of the five course meal he was eating. Why’s he calling? To ask us to get murdered again?”

“No, it’s a group call. I guess Bev just moved into Ben’s place, and they wanna talk about what a nightmare the whole process was.”

“Aw, they’re ahead of us,” Richie says. He eats a quarter of his orange, failing to catch a dribble of juice that escapes the corner of his mouth.

“Rich.”

“What?”

“Am I moving in with you?”

Richie sits up until his phone falls from his forehead to his chest. He swallows his mouthful of orange. “I think that was implied.”

Implied? How do you imply that I’m moving in with you?”

“I dunno. I think falling asleep to each other’s voice for two straight weeks while we were apart was kinda an implication that I want you to live in my house.” Richie says. “And the whole tour thing. And the whole letting you feed me oranges instead of getting room service cheesecake.”

Eddie watches him tear off another orange slice, and then blinks, lifting a hand to his forehead.

“Isn’t this whole thing kind of new though? We don’t know each other that well. This is all kind of brand new.”

Is it brand new? Sure, we forgot about each other for a couple decades, but I wouldn’t call it brand new.”

“You could have committed tax fraud within those two decades,” Eddie says. He’s lifting his hand and punctuating his sentences in the air. “You could be a murderer.”

Richie cocks his head. 

Eddie continues. “I mean normal murder. Not justified clown murder.”

“Does Bowers count?” Richie asks.

Eddie is opening his mouth to answer when his phone starts to buzz. Eddie fishes it from his pocket, glances at the screen, and then answers, putting it on speaker.

“Mike!” Eddie says into the phone, his voice going up an octave.

“Eddie!” Mike says right back, slightly distorted through the phone. “Say hello to Eddie, everyone!”

Through the phone, Bev, Bill, and Ben say their distorted phone hellos.

“Where’s Rich?” Someone asks.

Richie smiles to himself and calls over to the phone. “Eddie, come get me out of these handcuffs, it’s time to talk to our friends.” Eddie gives him the most intense death glare of the day. Richie bites his tongue and shrugs. Bill barks a laugh on the other end of the phone.

“Hi, Richie,” the others say, all in the same sing-song way.

“Hello, friends,” Richie echoes. Eddie is walking over to the bed, still glaring. “I’d like to retract my previous joke, as my dearest Eddie might actually kill me for it. And I would like to keep living so I can talk to you all.” Eddie sits down next to him on the bed, pressing a middle finger right into his face. 

“Wow Richie, you’re so selfless,” Bev says.

“I’m a new man.”

Richie allows the others to take the lead in the conversation, which is a real feat when considering the fact that he is Richie Tozier. He listens to Ben and Bev describe their moving process, which included a flat tire on a moving truck and Ben accidentally shattering one of Bev’s favorite lamps. Poor perfect lamp that can no longer reside in their perfect household and cast light onto their perfect bodies. Ben’s abs might temporarily remain in the dark. Richie nearly sheds a tear.

When asked, Richie tells them tour is going great. Mike is going to the Miami show, which is awesome. And it’s nice, to know that they all care. It’s good to just hear their voices again, to hear them say his name.

Eddie finds his way into Richie’s arms throughout the call and stays there, listening to Mike describe the five course meal they’ve all seen pictures of last night. And Richie feels whole again, in the moments where his thoughts aren’t drifting back to how he just kind of assumed that Eddie would come live with him. He really is so fucking selfish. Even so, he can’t help but tightening his grip around Eddie’s middle and feel a rush of gratification when Eddie relaxes further against him. 

 

That night Eddie stands with Richie in the wings again. He straightens Richie’s tie, a style choice Eddie insisted he at least try, before he stands back and slowly crosses his arms again. 

“Does it have to be LA? I kind of like the east coast.”

Richie swallows. His throat is too fucking dry. He reaches for the few water bottles that are ready for him next to the curtain, and uncaps one as he sighs.

“Eds, you just quit your job. You’re moving out. I already have an apartment. It’s that simple.”

Eddie blinks. “It’s really fucking not. I still like the east coast. I kind of wanted a nice house by the water or something. Somewhere to fucking relax after all this. Doesn’t that sound nice? Just a quiet place where we could fucking relax?”

“My place is like fifteen minutes from the water. Just on the opposite coast. Eddie, babe. Just come with me to some other shows in New England if you wanna see the Atlantic. Come on, Eddie.” Richie chugs water while Eddie immediately counters him.

“That is just fucking...fucked. Get on a plane to go see the ocean, Rich? You make plans like this isn’t me deciding where I’m gonna live, where I’m gonna pay my fucking taxes.” Eddie grits his teeth and blinks, and Richie stares at him. “How many tours are you gonna do? How often is it going to be like this? Am I gonna have to come along on all your tours or am I gonna fucking housesit while you’re gone?”

Richie has abandoned trying to wet his dry mouth. He still swallows before he speaks. “I have no idea.”

Eddie is shaking his head. “This is barely even an attempt at a plan. It’s like you’re asking me to sleep over.”

Richie doesn’t answer. He watches people rush around him backstage, watching them all and trying to look anywhere but Eddie.

Eddie continues anyway. “Am I being unreasonable if I want to live where I’ve lived for the past twenty years?”

“I thought you were all about doing, now, Eds! You’re doing it!” Richie says, unable to keep himself from saying things that burn at his dry throat. “Living with me, that’s doing it! Sitting in an old house by the sea, that’s just not fucking reasonable right now. So yeah, you are being unreasonable.”

“I want that, though.”

“Eddie.”

A PA materializes next to Richie in the dark. “Fifteen seconds, Richie.”

Richie flinches. “Fuck.”

The announcer is already going. Eddie is looking at him, only half of his face illuminated with light from the stage. 

“I love you,” Richie says after a moment. Eddie stares at him, his brow set and furrowed. Richie turns around and walks onstage before he gets a response, if there is any.

That night, Richie does not love performing, and the show does not go well. Richie is laughing too hard at his own material. Everything is hilarious. The idea of Eddie leaving him is funny. Eddie going home, back to New York, because everything about Richie’s life is unstable, is funny. It’s very, very not funny, but Richie is still laughing. Because of course that will happen. Eddie deserves peace and quiet and happiness, not Richie. The Trashmouth Tozier is the antithesis of any and all of that. How selfish, how fucking selfish of him, to tell Eddie he loved him after watching him die. If he had any semblance of selflessness within him, if he had cared about anything but himself, he would have known that even if there was a chance that Eddie might kiss him into his sheets at the Inn, Richie would still be himself, in the end. And Eddie would have to go through the fucking mess of dealing with that.

 

Richie waves goodbye to the crowd, his cartoonish smile hiding tears that are beginning to obscure his vision, and walks offstage. As soon as the light leaves him his smile falls and he looks around for Eddie. He isn’t here. Richie feels tears instantly spring to his eyes. This feels like one of his nightmares, the way his heart is pounding. Fucking, fucking shit. He left, didn’t he. Already. He left. 

Unless he went somewhere quiet. 

Richie finds the green room and whips the door open. Eddie is standing against the wall next to the door, but he still looks surprised when Richie ducks in and closes the door behind him. 

This green room is smaller, and dimmer, and there is no audio playing from the monitor on the wall. It’s silent as Eddie moves carefully closer, until he’s inches away. 

“Sorry I left the wings again.”

“That’s okay,” Richie says on instinct.

Eddie pauses. “I’m sorry.”

He says it so softy that Richie is sure that it is a goodbye.

“It’s okay,” Richie whispers, but it comes out hoarse.

“I think I have this habit where...I don’t want myself to be happy.” Richie looks down at him, as Eddie moves ever closer, and eventually presses his head against Richie’s chest. “It’s a lot safer to say no. To...everything.” 

Richie is beginning to think this might not actually be a goodbye. Just to solidify it, to make sure Eddie doesn’t disintegrate beneath his fingers, he wraps his arms around him and holds him there. 

“I came in here to think, you know? About the technicalities. About LA. But all I could think about was that fucked up thing that came out of the fridge at Neibolt. Stan.”

“That was pretty fucked up,” Richie says, staring at the silent monitor.

“I was so scared, then. When we’d just gone into the house and suddenly there was this very real thing that was trying to kill us. And it was Stan, of all things. It fucking scared me. And it grabbed onto your face and I stood there in the corner and watched. Do you know hard hard I try to not think about that, Rich? That you could have died, and I stood there?”

Richie moves so Eddie has to lift his head. Richie looks down at him. 

“So what?” He asks. Eddie’s eyes go from distraught to angrily confused in half a second. Richie starts to smile. “Yeah, you froze up. But I froze up on stage a month ago. And both of those situations were equally dangerous for the state of my life.”

Eddie closes his eyes. “Can’t you be serious for one fucking second?”

Richie sighs. “I know you’re brave, Eds.” He taps a finger to Eddie’s temple. “Hey, look at me.” Eddie’s eyes open, blinking a few times. “You helped crush IT’s heart, remember that? You did that like an hour after you froze up. You told IT to get fucked, and then you helped kill IT. I’m not worried about how brave you are, at all. I know you’re brave.” Richie puts his arms back around Eddie, who clutches at the front of his shirt. Richie murmurs it into the air. “So if you don’t want to live with me, that’s okay.”

“I do,” Eddie says into his shirt. “All that stuff before, that was just me trying to be right. Trying to rationalize why it’d be safer to say no.”

There’s a moment where Eddie’s just breathing into his chest, and Richie is letting himself smile at the opposite wall.

“I’ve been figuring it out, at least, how to fight the fucking constant feeling that I should be saying no. But I can always tell, when I’ve pushed it aside, when I’ve been brave.” Eddie says. “Choking the leper. Killing IT. Deciding that after you said you loved me, I was going to crawl over to you and kiss you.”

Richie looks down to see Eddie already looking up. “Then I really like it when you’re brave.”

“I’m sure you do,” Eddie says. 

Eddie pushes himself up on his tiptoes to kiss him, as if Richie isn’t already meeting him halfway there. It’s fast and Eddie pushes his tongue between Richie’s teeth, sighing heavily through his nose as he presses Richie back against the door. Richie then realizes that Eddie’s being brave, right here in this moment, and he decides to fully go with it. Richie lifts his hands to grab Eddie’s face, to hold him there. In the process he accidentally forgets about his cheek and Eddie gasps in pain, tearing Richie’s hand from his face and instead pinning it against the door next to Richie’s head. It’s confusing, and kind of fucking hot, and apparently that’s just part of the rollercoaster of things Richie is feeling in this green room. More than anything, Richie is just relieved that Eddie is here, that he’s doing this. Especially after everything Richie just thought about, everything he’d considered, for the past hour.

Eddie pulls back suddenly, and before he can say anything, Richie says “I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“For saying you’re unreasonable. You’re not.”

Eddie shakes his head. “I don’t need a house by the sea. That was just me being—”

“I don’t care. If you live with me, we will not live in that apartment forever. We won’t live in LA forever.” Richie nods, deciding in that moment that yes, this is his plan. “I will do everything I can to make you comfortable, and happy. After everything. You deserve to be so fucking happy.”

The lines in Eddie’s face relax, slightly.

Richie clears his throat before Eddie can respond. “So. Nothing implied anymore. Just spoken right to your face. Will you, Eddie Kaspbrak,” he pauses for dramatic effect, breathing in deeply, “move in with me?”

Eddie laces his arms loosely around Richie’s neck. He leans in close. “I’ll think about it.”

“Ouch,” Richie says, before his eyes close and his lips drift against Eddie’s again. 


In Miami, Mike takes them out to drinks the night before the show. Eddie gets a call from his aunt not long after they get to the bar. Within the past week, Myra has gone to relatives and social media to vent about how Eddie is fucked for leaving her. Richie’s cheeks burn as he looks over at Eddie standing next to the bathroom at the bar as he argues with his aunt for a good hour. In that time, Richie drinks four glasses of bourbon and tries his best to listen to what Mike is saying. He only half listens to what he says back, though, and before long he knows he’s going into unnecessary detail of this childhood story he’s suddenly recounting. 

“And then, Bill told his mom. Which like, what the fuck, friends cut each other’s hair all the time. We did the same thing to Stan a few months later and he told his fucking mom too. God, I miss him so much.” Richie’s hit suddenly and violently with missing him, so much so that he looks to Mike to feel any sort of relief after he’s scraped both hands across his face.

“I miss him too,” Mike says softly. He frowns at Richie, who is trying to compartmentalize his emotions again, replacing those sudden thoughts with the thought of lifting his glass to his lips. Mike sighs. “But you shouldn’t cut your friend’s hair without their permission. That’s not normal.”

“It’s not?”

“No.”

“It was normal for us.”

“I think it was just normal for you, Rich.”

“Whatever. My undiagnosed ADHD-having ass knew how to have a good time.”

Mike chuckles at that. “You sure did.”

Richie looks back towards Eddie again. He is literally pacing, elaborately gesturing with his hands even though he’s talking on the phone. Richie feels the burning in his cheeks move to the pit of his stomach. When he turns back to Mike, Mike is looking too.

“You wanna talk about it?”

Richie rolls his eyes. “We’re supposed to having fun bar talk.”

“Well I can tell you wanna talk about it.”

Richie looks away before he throws back the last of his drink. “Fine.” Richie readies himself, spreading his hands out in front of him. “I feel like I’m trying to coralle Eddie into my bullshit schedule for my bullshit life. You know? And now I get to sit here having fun bar talk while he has to try to rationalize everything he does to his fucking aunt—”

Mike raises his hand to stop him, and reaches for a sip of his second margarita. “Eddie’s shitty aunt is not your fault.”

Richie’s mouth drops open. “Mike. She’s probably a lovely woman.”

“Eddie’s been arguing with her over leaving a toxic marriage for the past hour. I’m gonna take a wild guess and say she’s not the best.” Mike reaches out and grips Richie’s shoulder. It’s strong, and Richie wants to lean into it. “You’re fine, Richie.” He sips his drink again. “Your life is not bullshit. Your life is insane, but it’s amazing.” Richie can tell that Mike saw Richie’s eyes light up slightly at that, and he’s going to run with it. “I watched your Netflix show, and it was so bizarre, I was just thinking this is crazy! That’s Richie Tozier! The kid who hit an ancient, evil clown in the face with a bat when he was fourteen!” Mike laughs loudly at that. “It was good, though, it really was. But the bit with you not washing your dick for a month as a protest...repulsive. Please tell me someone else wrote that joke for you.”

Richie cocks his head and looks at Mike until they both dissolve into laughter. The laughter fades though, and Mike folds his hands in front of him before saying “seriously”.

 

Eddie comes back to the bar soon after, stumbling a bit, even though he hadn’t even had time to drink before he got so sidetracked.

“Hi,” He says, not even getting in his seat, but pressing his head against Richie’s arm. “That was not fun.”

“I’m sorry, baby.” The pet name slips out before Richie can stop himself, and he whips his head to Mike just in time to watch his lips curl slightly.

Eddie continues, unphased. “She’s heard all of this shit, all these things that aren’t true, from Myra. And it’s like, I can’t argue with her, because she’s just too fucking—

“Hey, Kaspbrak, leave it ’till the morning, okay? You shouldn’t have to feel miserable for any longer than you already have tonight. Right, Mike?”

Mike nods, but he’s still looking at Eddie with concern. “Unless you want to head back to the hotel for the night.” He suggests.

“No,” Eddie says immediately.

Richie waits for Mike’s look to deteriorate into relief, but it doesn’t. On his other side, Eddie is looking at the wall, his mind already far away again. So Richie yells the one word he knows will get their attention. “Shots!”

“Richie,” Mike starts, but Richie is already waving the bartender over. He pays Mike no mind, because he is realizing he feels too warm to really mind anything. The feeling falls over him like a light sheet, comfortable, that he can relax into. Eddie is sitting in a chair at his side now, watching intently as the bartender quickly pours out three shot glasses. Richie watches the clear liquid fill the glass. He thinks about Eddie arguing with his aunt. But when he grabs the shot in front of him, he forgets. 

“What are we toasting to?” Richie asks, lifting his drink. Mike reaches across the counter and grabs his glass at the same time Eddie does. He gently smiles and lifts the glass in Richie’s direction. 

“To the Losers,” Mike says, smile widening. Richie hoots and hollers at that, shouts “a classic!”, and the three of them clack the tiny glasses together. Richie throws his shot back, feels it go down smooth, and then slams his glass back onto the table before the others.

“So is Florida all you hoped it’d be?” Eddie asks Mike moments later. “Or have you started to notice that all the articles written about Florida Men are true?”

“Seduced any grandmas yet?” Richie asks immediately after. Mike breathes a laugh at both of them, eating the cherry off of the toothpick from his margarita.

“Yes. No. And...no.” Mike looks at Richie on that last word. Richie gently pounds his fist on the table.

“Aw come on, Mike. Get on it! If I can do it, anyone can.”

“What grandma have you…” Eddie starts, before Richie really looks at him and Eddie rolls his eyes. “Ah, yes. He’s talking about me.”

“I’ll keep you posted,” Mike says.

“Please do,” Richie says. A new song starts over the speakers of the bar and Richie begins to sway back and forth, his hand settling on Eddie’s thigh. 

“Do you want a drink, babe?” Richie asks. 

“I guess,” Eddie answers. “Sweetheart.” He adds.

“I really can’t tell with you two,” Mike mutters. “I really can’t.”

Richie waves over the bartender again and gets Eddie a fat glass of sangria. “It has fruit in it,” Richie says, as Eddie takes it with careful hands. “So you can’t say it’s not good for you.”

Richie gets himself one too, and he sips away as the song continues, slowly losing himself in Eddie and Mike’s conversation and the warmth that spreads and settles in his cheeks.

 

Richie grips the railing along the side of the elevator to keep himself upright, smiling at both the reflection of Eddie in the shiny elevator and Eddie himself. 

“I love you,” Richie says, smiling. Eddie is a vague shape, but a beautiful one.

“I love you,” Eddie says back. The elevator dings and Eddie’s hand grips his arm as they leave and head down the hallway to their room.

“You’re so strong,” Richie muses. Laughter starts to bubble up, and continues as Eddie pushes him into the room. “You’re so ripped. You’re so...” Richie presses his hands to his temples, grimacing from the wine headache he’s beginning to develop. Eddie closes the door behind them. “Did I say goodbye to Mike?” Richie asks. “Maybe I forgot. I should call him.” Eddie bats Richie’s hand away from his phone and it falls to the carpeted floor. Richie gasps. “What the hell!”

“You hugged him goodbye and started crying like you aren’t going to see him in less than twenty four hours. Rich,” Eddie says. Richie feels a hand turning his face and suddenly Eddie’s eyes are right there. “You know, I’m drunk too. And I’m like, never drunk. Why do I have to babysit you?” 

“I’m fine though,” Richie says. “I’m just drunk. You don’t have to babysit me.” He walks over to the kitchen, doing a little dance as he does. His hip hits the countertop as he walks past and he whispers a sharp fuck. “You’re never drunk, Eds. So just enjoy it. Don’t you feel all loosey-goosey? Isn’t this a good time?” Richie laughs to himself, opening the fridge and grabbing a carton of orange juice that Eddie picked up, made with real Florida oranges. “You know, one of the first times I got drunk was off a keg stand in college? And I had to do jumping-jacks, to get myself pumped up—”

“You’ve told me this, Richie.” 

“Oh shit, did I?”

“You’re pouring that orange juice in a bowl right now.” 

Richie looks down. He is. He laughs to himself. 

“I know. This is the best way to drink it.”

Eddie walks over and joins him in the kitchen. Richie sips his orange juice out of the plastic bowl, feeling Eddie’s eyes on him as he laughs through his nose. When he’s done and moves the bowl, Eddie’s standing there, not laughing like Richie though he’d be.

“Richie, lets go to bed.”

“Not yet,” Richie says. “Stay up with me. Drink orange juice from a bowl with me.” Richie pauses, grins. “I love you.” 

Eddie cocks his head. “I love you too.”

“Oh my god I fucking live for that.” Richie leans forward, ready to tell Eddie a secret. “Did you know, that I love you? And, did you know, no one in my family even fucking knows it? But, fuck them, they don’t even know I’m gay. And who cares? They also hate everything I’m doing with my life, so that’s fun. Did you tell her? Your aunt? Did you tell her about me?”

Eddie blinks. “What? No.” 

“Then what did you say to her?” 

“Over the course of that whole hour?”

Richie nods.

“I told her I left because Myra is manipulative, to the point where she ended up controlling every aspect of my life, and now she’s trying to control what other people think of me.” Eddie pauses. “And I told her I want to actually be able to actually live, for fucking once. So I left her.” His jaw tightens, and Richie watches the muscles move, until Eddie looks back towards him and Richie gets lost in his shiny eyes again. “I’ll mention you eventually, you know. I just didn’t tonight.”

Richie doesn’t answer, his thoughts drifting back to orange juice.

“You drank a lot tonight,” Eddie says flatly.

Richie turns away from pouring juice into his bowl to look up. “I did,” Richie says. “Did I embarrass myself in front of Mike?”

“No, I think Mike found it endearing.”

“You don’t,” Richie says.

Eddie stares at him.

“I think I drink when I’m stressed,”Richie says. He is leaning back against the counter with the bowl of orange juice in his hands. Richie laughs despite himself. “And I guess tonight I got fucking stressed.”

“About me?”

Richie waits, drinks the second bowl of orange juice, and then ends up nodding at the tiled floor. “I don’t like knowing that they’re mad at you. And that I can’t do anything about it. And that it’s kinda my fault.”

Eddie rolls his eyes. “My shitty aunt is not your fault.”

“Hey, that’s what Mike said.”

“Neither is Myra,” Eddie continues. “Or me not immediately begging to move in. Or anything else that’s fucked up with me.”

Richie pushes himself off of the counter so he can grab at Eddie, settling on the middle of his arm. He feels himself sway slightly, but Eddie is holding still, keeping him upright. “There is nothing fucked up with you. You are literally so perfect.”

“You really are drunk,” Eddie mutters.

Richie leans forward and drapes himself around Eddie, arms around his shoulders and burying his face into Eddie’s neck. Eddie stumbles too, to keep them both upright.

“I’m drunk,” Richie says, like it’s a confession. 

 

Richie is hit with a few memories, right in his throbbing temples.

The first is the hug after the oath. Eddie’s cast with LOVER written across it, pulling Richie in for a quick embrace before he heads back home. Richie’s hand stung and he was trying to be brave, but behind his glasses his eyes were welling up with tears anyway. Maybe from the cut, maybe from the memory of carving an unspeakable declaration into the kissing bridge only a week prior. Either way, Eddie walked away, and Richie felt like rushing after him, hugging him harder, crying into his shoulder, telling him to come over later. But he didn’t. 

The second memory hits him after Eddie tucks them both into bed, and it’s a shorter one. It’s just Richie falling while walking to the stage at one of his first attempts at stand-up, at an open mic night in college. All he remembers is the swift feeling of falling, the sharp pain of his nose hitting the stairs. He knows he laughed it off, and the audience actually thought his nose bleed was hilarious, but he doesn’t remember the specifics. Just the falling.

The final memory hits as he lies in bed and tries to get the fan to stop rotating from its position on the ceiling. Eddie is already twitching as he falls asleep. Richie lies on his back, Eddie’s fingers resting carefully on Richie’s forearm, while most of the blankets bunched around him, just in case. The memory is of the Orient. It’s taking that shot and looking at Eddie and asking him to confirm, wait, you got married?

“What, to like, a woman?” Richie had said immediately. Eddie locked eyes with him and said fuck you, bro, pointed and annoyed, and Richie felt himself flooded with an uncomfortable sensation just from the eye contact. Funny, how he had just said that, unaware even to himself why he was saying it. He was just immediately firing back against information, thinking I must make this joke, right now, even though we have just met again after twenty seven years. Why? Because

That entire night, Richie felt as if he was only half there. He was stuck trying to decipher memories that weren’t fully there, but still ate away at him. It wasn’t until their fortune cookies started to come alive that Richie fully came to the reality of the situation, or the lack thereof. And he was left calling for Eddie when a fortune cookie flew at his face.

Richie drank that night, to deal with Eddie. Also the clown stuff. But in the beginning it was definitely to deal with the strange, occasional jumps his heart would make within his chest, when looking at the man next to him at the table, for seemingly no reason.

The night after they killed IT, he drank to deal with watching Eddie die.

He drank almost every night during those three weeks.

And before all of this, Richie drank before shows, before family events, before watching a movie on TV, just to make it more funny. Whenever he was stressed. Whenever he felt like it. 

Now, Richie closes his eyes and focuses on the throbbing in his head. He then focuses on Eddie’s fingertips against his skin.

Eventually, he falls asleep. 

 

After Miami, Eddie goes home for a few days. He misses the Milwaukee and St. Louis shows for divorce things that Richie doesn’t ask about, and to start moving his things into storage until it’s time for the long haul to LA. 

Richie tries not to drink the entire week Eddie is gone, after waking up in Miami with a hangover that keeps him in bed half the day. He hadn’t had a hangover like it since his twenties, and it kind of ruins the show that night when Richie’s energy is spent more on standing upright than it is telling jokes.

So he only drinks one night while Eddie is gone this time, after he wakes up from a nightmare where Eddie bleeds out into the stone beneath him. He feels guilty immediately after, which is a new feeling. So he doesn’t drink on the night where another memory trickles in, after a twenty-seven year long absence. 

It’s Bowers falling down the well at the Neibolt house, so fast Richie barely registers it. That image had haunted him for a long time, this body disappearing into the depths below, a long scream echoing until it faded away. Just like that memory, until now.

Now, Richie remembers how he felt. He felt...good. It was what Bowers fucking deserved. Not just because he tried to kill Mike, or hurt Ben, or because he was under the influence of a demonic clown. But also because of the arcade. What he brought to the forefront of Richie’s mind. He was one of the first people to call him that.

Richie still got called it in high school on a few occasions, and even in college, and even by hecklers at his early shows. But only Bowers’ declaration really got to him. Because back then, in the arcade, he could trace the exact source to which it was true. 

 

When Eddie returns late into the night, walking into another hotel room in downtown Denver with his own room key, Richie looks over at him from ironing out a baby-blue button-up for tomorrow and instantly flicks the iron off. 

“Holy shit,” Richie says loudly. Eddie hauls both of his black bags to his side and closes the door behind him. 

“What?”

“Your face.” His face, as Richie’s referring to, is unshaven. Not just that, but the hair is slightly beyond just unshaven stubble. Eddie shaves almost every morning, and when Richie’s fingers brush his skin on a bad day it’s usually nothing more than a small prickle. Richie almost feels himself go weak in the knees, and he leans into the feeling, stumbling over to the door to meet him. 

“Yes, I stopped shaving for a week and two days. Let’s not talk about it.”

“What did I do to deserve this fucking gift?” Richie asks, his hands hovering, ready to grab Eddie’s face. 

“Well my fucking cheek got infected, remember that? And while I was home I went to the doctor again. And he said I can stop using bandages, but the scar is still really fucking gross. So, this is worst case scenario, Rich. I have to grow a fucking beard until it stops being so gross and protruding and obvious.” Richie touches Eddie’s chin, turning Eddie’s face so he can see. There is still a small flesh-colored bandage covering the scar, and Richie frowns. 

“No, you may not see it. Or get your grubby little fingers on it. Even if the doctor says I don’t have to wear bandages, I’m still wearing fucking bandages. It’s healing.”

Richie continues to hold his face though, and runs his thumb along Eddie’s jaw, the dark hairs flicking past his fingers. Eddie is watching him, swallowing. Richie knows he looks entranced. It’s like seeing Eddie in a full three-piece suit. He looks rough, almost disheveled, something that Eddie never, ever allows himself to be. It makes Richie’s breath hitch. 

“You look really fucking hot.”

“Well too bad, because as soon as I can I’m shaving it off.”

Richie closes his eyes. “Please, God, if you’re listening, please give Eddie the ugliest scar imaginable.”

Eddie shoves him backwards. “Shut the fuck up.” He immediately goes for Richie again though, gripping his shirt and pulling him back in. “Ugh. You shithead. I missed you.” He kisses Richie once. “I’m glad I’m home.”

“I’m glad you’re home,” Richie says right back to him. They’re in Denver, Colorado, in a hotel that is definitely not home, but it feels right to say it. 

“I better not get an ugly scar,” Eddie whispers, the worry lines on his face deep as he stares past Richie’s face. “It already sucks enough that it was Bowers who gave it to me. I don’t want to have to look in the mirror and constantly remember that mulleted dickhead.”

Richie remembers Bowers falling down the well. He looks at Eddie’s face, at his wide eyes and the lines deep in his face. He remembers the panic before the blind fury of burying an axe in Bowers as he wrestled Mike on the ground. Eddie seems to be remembering too.

“You stabbed him in the chest. After you pulled that knife out of your face,” Richie says.

“And you murdered him with an axe later that day,” Eddie replies.

“I did.”

“Thanks for that.”

“Of course.”

“You smell good today.” 

“I showered.” 

“Oh, fuck,” Eddie collapses into him, and they both take a few uneven steps back towards the bed. “You’re so...” Eddie whines, like he’s going to start complaining, but it disappears as Richie’s lips return to his. 

For the third time, Eddie allows his shirt to come off, as long as Richie doesn’t spend too much time ogling him. Richie’s fingers can’t help but grip the sides of Eddie’s stomach where the skin is soft and lose his goddamn mind. Eddie starts to undo Richie’s shirt buttons, and it’s so much that Richie doesn’t even let him finish before he’s grabbing Eddie again and kissing him into the comforter. They’re grabbing for each other desperately, Richie’s glasses have fallen off and Eddie’s tongue is everywhere and his skin is so soft and he’s making the smallest noises of contentment when Richie bites at his jaw, letting his lips run across the little hairs. 

“Eddie,” Richie says carefully, next to his ear. They are on the bed, and Eddie hasn’t even had a chance to sit down after his flight, but Richie feels like he has to ask him now. Now, as Eddie is sitting here beneath him, gorgeous and panting. He missed him too much. He wants him. He wants him. Richie’s stomach jumps to his throat for a moment. “Can I…” he can’t finish the words. Deep within him, desire floods faster than he expected it to, as Eddie looks up at him.

“Yeah,” Eddie says quickly. Richie raises his eyebrows. 

“Are you sure?”

 It had often gotten to this point, but Eddie never wanted it to go any further. It made him nervous, very nervous. Richie can see his hands shaking right now. 

“Yeah, I’m sure. Are you? You’re the one who’s...offering.” 

Richie laughs. “Yeah, I’m sure.” 

Richie can’t remember the last time he was so careful with someone. But this is Eddie, who is being brave, right now. And he deserves Richie’s gentlest movements as he unzips Eddie’s sensible pants and palms over his briefs. Eddie sucks in air, his head falling back on the pillows, and Richie stares at him, his bare chest rising and falling quickly, his hands still shaking. 

“You good?” 

“Yeah. Sweetheart,” Eddie breathes, and Richie’s lips tip up at the fact that Eddie’s hips move slightly, without him meaning to, on that last word. Richie’s fingers deftly dip under the waistband and take him in his hand. Eddie for real makes a noise this time. 

“Your cold fucking hands,” Eddie hisses. Richie swears, retreating to bring his hands to his face and breathe into them. Eddie stares at him, his cheeks absolutely pink. Richie knows he’s looking back with such plain desire, not-horny Richie would have to diffuse the situation somehow. But he doesn’t.

Instead Richie’s hand finds him again, and Eddie squirms, trying to find comfort in the intensity. Richie’s own heart is pounding in his ears, he wants to do this right, he wants Eddie to lose himself in it. Finally, with Richie on his stomach and Eddie’s eyes closed, Richie wets his lips, puts on his glasses, and thinks fuck it.

The noise Eddie makes is deeply embarrassing for him, and Richie notes that he will definitely make fun of him for it later. 

 

The Denver show is arguably Richie’s best so far. The laughs are bigger, and it’s mostly because Richie is having so much fun with it, adding in little jokes and audience interactions. Then again, it may or may not be because Richie is absolutely in a post-green-room-incident trance. Eddie has been brave, lately. Very brave.

Seattle and Reno go by too fast, but Richie always gets like this, during tours. He falls into the routine until it becomes him: first the anxiety building up beforehand, then the show persona switching on, then the intense relief when the show is over that either causes him to stay up all night or fall asleep twenty minutes after. 

In Seattle the adrenaline doesn’t fade, and Richie demands they go out, see this city neither of them have ever been to. They find an arcade, which is too perfect, to the point where it makes Richie want to cry as holding Eddie’s hand in the dark and looking up at that flashing, neon sign. Eddie pulls him in, beats him at Street Fighter, and it is all too much. That night Richie can’t help but cry into Eddie’s hair, and even though he hasn’t had a drink in a few nights, feeling dizzily drunk. 

In Reno, he’s too tired after the show to want to do anything. Even so, when Eddie wakes up in the middle of the night and asks for a glass of water, Richie is quick to be out of bed.

 

And then, finally, there is LA.

Richie eats a peach before the show, sitting in his final green room, staring at the group chat’s final few messages.

First, from Bill: There are teens behind us in line talking about how hot you are. Please tell someone to open the doors I can’t take it

Then, from Bev: Break a leg tonight Trashmouth!!!!!

Finally, a picture from Ben of all of them with the marquee, Ben taking up most of the frame, Bev with a hand on his shoulder, Bill with a soft smile in the back, and the left, peeking over Bev’s shoulder, is Mike. 

Richie texts back Mike?!?!???? and then immediately calls him.

“What the fuck, man? I thought you were still in Florida!” Richie shouts as soon as he answers. 

“You think I’d miss out on a Losers reunion?” Mike asks incredulously. “I’ve always wanted to visit LA, anyway.”

“Jesus Christ, Mike. I’m so fucking glad you’re here,” Richie says.

“I’m glad I’m here too, Tozier. I’m excited to see the show again. Maybe you won’t be quite so hungover this time.”

Richie places a hand on his forehead and stares at the floor. “Hey, my hangover added to the experience.” Richie laughs. “Fuck. Thanks for coming, Mike.”

“Of course. I’ll see you in a bit.” Then, there’s a shuffle over the phone and suddenly Bev has it. “Love you, Rich! See you soon!” She shouts. There’s other shouts that get distorted through the line, and Richie laughs along. 

“See you soon.”

 

It is the first show in the last few weeks that Eddie has not been in the wings for. But Richie is already smiling as he’s announced, rocking back on his heels, a half-emptied water bottle in his hands. Someone tells him it’s time to go. And suddenly, he thinks about Stan. 

I know you don’t like jokes about my dick, Stan the Man. But I hope you like the show anyway.

Richie walks out into the light, and it instantly warms his skin, as the crowd cheers. He squints into the unseeable crowd, waves lightly, and comes to stand in front of the mic. As the cheers are still going, Richie looks slightly down to the first row, where off to the side, there they are in the front row. They’re all smiling up at him, the light from the stage making them glow. Bev’s hair is a little shorter, and she seems to be bouncing as she claps in her seat. Mike is pointing at him, saying something Richie can’t make out. Ben and Bill are beaming, and Bill leans over and whispers something to Eddie on the end, who is biting his lip to keep from grinning. Richie winks right at him, and a hand in Eddie’s lap gently turns over to flip him off.

“Los Angeles,” Richie finally says, as the crowd settles down. “Thank you so much for being here tonight.” People whoop at just the mention of the town they’re currently in. Richie loves when they do that. “My family is actually here tonight, which is amazing.” He looks back at Eddie as the audience cheers, and then down the row, and Ben is fully wiping tears from his face now. “So, I can’t wait to hear how disappointed they are in me after this.”

There’s another, final round of cheers. Richie turns towards the light instead, lets his mind go blank until it finds the first joke, and begins.

 

In another restaurant, the Losers make a toast. Richie decides to do the shot, clinking it against Eddie’s last, and throwing it back. Eddie’s phone is dead from taking too many videos during the show and playing them back to Richie, looping him fumbling over his words until Richie threatens to stab his other cheek. Now it sits face down on the table, and Richie knows that until they get to a charger back home, Eddie is undeniably his.

His friends loved the show, and they won’t stop telling Richie that. He thanks them, but lets himself fall to the back of the conversation about his own set. After all, he’d basically talked at them for an hour and a half, and it feels good to just listen, after a while. He loves to hear them talk to each other. Their voices overlapping, each of them laughing so hard they cry at some point. Richie lets himself enjoy the musicality of it all, lets his chest burn with how full it feels. 

Besides, Richie doesn’t need to be the center of attention, because Eddie’s beard is the real star of the evening. Eddie has to reiterate thirty times that he hates this, this is not his choice, this is to hide the disgusting wound that got infected and it’s all their fault for making him wade through sewer water after getting a fresh wound.

“So you’re saying that we’re all responsible for this beard?” Bill asks. 

“Yes.”

“Cheers to that,” Bill finishes, and Eddie collapses back in his chair, saying a general “fuck you” towards the ceiling.

After they say goodnight, promising to spend one more day together tomorrow, Bev and Ben get in an Uber together. They’re both tipsy and giggling and their arms are already draped around each other before the door closes. Bill and Mike decide to go get drinks together somewhere and catch up, and walk off in the opposite direction. And Richie and Eddie start to walk to Richie’s place a few blocks away, Eddie trying to recite as many of Richie’s jokes from his act as he can. 

“Oh, so now you reveal that you can do my entire set for me, now that tour’s over.”

Eddie laughs, loud and unrestrained. “Yeah, put me in one of your blazers and just send me out there. Maybe I’ll get some real laughs.”

“You motherfucker.”

“Oh, that’s accurate.”

“What?”

“When we were kids, I did.”

Richie looks over at him. “What?”

“I fucked your mother.”

 

Tomorrow, Eddie will go back to New York. He will get his things out of storage, and he will begin the process of slowly moving into Richie’s apartment. Richie’s medicine cabinet will get a lot fuller. He will purchase a second bedside table for the bedroom, and another lamp. And Eddie will insist he figure out how his oven works after two fucking years of living there. 

It will be everything Richie has ever wanted in his life.

 

Tonight, though, Richie will take off Eddie’s shirt in the dark and, depending on what he’s comfortable with, touch him until stars float by in front of his eyes. Richie will kiss him until he fucking can’t take it, until he can think of nothing but what a great sound Eddie’s breathing between kisses is. 

And maybe he’ll dream of Eddie, covered in blood and choking, and he’ll beg and beg for Eddie not to die until he wakes up shaking.

But fuck that. Fuck, fuck, fuck that. He will wake up to Eddie, a blurry shape in front of his eyes, telling him that it’s okay, that he’s here. Richie might get up to pee, his too-long legs in Eddie’s grandpa pajama pants, and he might stare at himself in the mirror until the not-memories of a fucked up clown are gone again. 

But then he’ll go back to bed. He’ll wrap his arms around Eddie’s middle and hold him there, selfishly, and listen to Eddie’s breathing go even again. He’ll think of his friends, that are his family, coming over tomorrow to play board games on a Saturday night, when he and Eddie will undoubtedly get into an argument over potential cheating and have to go make out in the kitchen about it.

Richie will think of this, and then let his eyes close. And then Richie will slowly fall back into the comfortable dark.