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feel this burning, love of mine

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In the seconds when Richie’s head weaves languidly in and out of consciousness, he hears Eddie’s voice. He tries to come to, eyes lolling open and closed, before falling back into the comfortable dark. But his mind chases that distant noise. Eddie, talking so quickly that the words tie themselves together, a rope that slowly hauls Richie back to the surface. Richie wants to move his lips to smile. Even if he’s cursing him out right now, calling him a motherfucker, or a shithead, or whatever...it’s always so good to hear Eddie’s voice...it’s always, so good...

Richie opens his eyes. His heartbeat thrums loud in his temples. His back aches. The blurry figure so close to his face begins to take form, and it’s Eddie, it has to be. Richie still can’t really hear what he’s saying. Richie opens his lips, half a murmur and half a groan escaping, blinking heavily. Eddie appears after the third blink, silhouetted by unworldly light and so close. Richie tries to listen, tries to understand what he’s saying, and then a spike bursts through the front of his chest. The ringing in Richie’s ears is so sudden, the shock so quick, that he only sees Eddie mouth his name before he’s pulled back on the spike and thrown aside.

   

 

And then Eddie is dying. Richie is at his side and his fingers are shaking so badly he can barely hold his jacket to the wound to staunch any blood. Eddie is looking sometimes at him and sometimes past him, far away, and Richie doesn’t understand why or how this is happening. 

“Hey, hey. Look at me, Eds. Look at me, come on,” Richie says, and takes Eddie’s uninjured cheek in his shaking hand. He turns Eddie’s head to look at him and leaves his hand there, pinky under his chin to keep him from nodding forward. “You’re okay, yeah? Yeah.” Richie doesn’t know why he’s smiling, unconvincing as his lip quivers, but it seems to give Eddie some sort of comfort as he leans his head into Richie’s hand.

For a moment, Richie tears his eyes away to check behind him, to check for the others. Where the fuck are they? Did they not see Eddie get fucking impaled and tossed down here? And did they not see Richie blindly stumbling after him into this cavern? He pauses and tries to listen over his heartbeat. He hears their shouts, too far and too echoed to make out. So they must be coming. They have to. But other than their distant calling and Richie’s heart pounding, there’s awful silence. IT must be preoccupied on the other side of the lair. Or maybe IT’s taking a five minute break to think up some other fucked up form to take to torture them. Whatever’s fucking happening, Richie needs to hope that his friends are safe. He needs to hope they’re coming soon. He really fucking needs them to come soon.

He turns back to Eddie. His eyes are still locked on Richie, like they never moved. Suddenly, he reaches out and grabs the arm that’s cradling his cheek, right above the elbow. He grips harder than Richie would have thought possible, especially now.

Eddie struggles to get out a single “Richie” and another dribble of blood escapes his lips. Richie looks over his whole face—eyebrows knitted in the way they always are, both cheeks flecked and smeared with dirt, eyes shining with tears. He doesn’t try to blink them away and one falls down his cheek, and Richie’s heart is breaking. He wipes his own dirty thumb across Eddie’s cheek where he’s holding it, tries to wipe the filth away.

“Mhm?” Richie asks, and pulls in a shaking breath. If he tries to say more, his own tears might spill over.

“I’m cold,” Eddie says. Richie’s face crumples and his heart sinks as he drops his head to squeeze his eyes shut. He feels himself rock forward and backward on his knees before lifting his head to look at Eddie again. He has to look at him. He needs to be looking at him.

Fuck, Eddie…” Richie gets out before he’s sobbing. But he continues like he isn’t. “I’m pretty cold too, man. I just had to give you my jacket.” Richie tries to breathe, but he can’t before another few sobs wrack him. He looks up as Eddie smiles passively and coughs, or maybe laughs, once. 

“Don’t leave,” Eddie says quietly, and god fucking damn it, it breaks him that Eddie thinks he ever would. 

“No, fuck no, Eddie. I’m not going to.” He adjusts his grip on the jacket against Eddie’s stomach, winces when Eddie gasps in pain. Richie’s lip shakes again as he just keeps talking. “Frankly I’m insulted that you’d think I’d leave you, after just remembering you're my best fucking friend in the world, after twenty seven fucking years. My clown-murdering partner in crime! How could I ever leave you? Fuck no, I’m not leaving you, Eds. Idiot,” He laughs emptily, rubbing Eddie’s cheek, and pauses, beginning to nod to himself as a goal flits into his mind. “I’m going to pick you up, I’m going to get you out of here, to a hospital. Right now. And—” Eddie’s grip on his arm tightens, and he stops.

“No.”

“Eddie.”

“I...I have to know,” Eddie continues, and coughs. It sounds too wet. And he continues, strained, the sound of blood in his throat. “If...when...we were kids,” He winces suddenly, and it takes him a second to catch a few shallow breaths. Richie wants to grab him right now and haul him the fuck out of here. But Eddie is insistent on holding him there, with trying to speak, so Richie tries anything, anything, to make this better.

“Did I fuck your mom? You bet I did.”

Eddie shakes his head weakly. “Did you have,” He continues, and Richie is waiting. Eddie’s eyes sparkle with tears as he finishes. “...a crush on me?”

Richie’s stomach drops sharply, because Eddie is dying. And he’s insisting that Richie think about then, about that, right now, as he’s dying. That was all supposed to be buried deep, past all the other fucked up things that culminate in Richie Tozier, and that garbage lid was supposed to stay shut. That knowledge, recently rediscovered, about who Richie is. That memory, unearthed, of loving Eddie. 

Of looking at him through thick glasses across the quarry, just a shirtless shrimp, and feeling something anyway. Of arguing, and loving it, because Eddie was looking at him with fire in his eyes and shoving him back. Of heat on his cheeks from happiness and sunburn that lingered for days. Richie loved him, back then. And then he up and forgot about it, and about being able to love anyone, for that matter, for twenty seven fucking years.

It was shocking to remember that fact, at the restaurant that first night. His second shot burned as it went down and he reveled in the warmth, but turning to see Eddie fucking Kaspbrak laughing at something Ben said—that somehow made his insides burn. And that feeling, buried so deep after years and years of clown magic bullshit, possessed him again. And he felt drunk on it. There’d been no relief ever since he’d been back, even with everything else that should’ve been on his mind. So he tried to put it off. Tried to turn every moment with Eddie into a chance for Richie to push it aside. But he constantly burned, despite doing his fucking best to not feed into it or acknowledge it again.

Now Eddie is waiting for him, as he dies, to acknowledge it again.

“I did,” Richie answers. Eddie opens and closes his bloody lips at that. “Sorry.”

“No,” Eddie murmurs, and the hand that’s gripping his arm softens, and his thumb begins to move, back and forth. Richie gets senselessly lost in the feeling of it, forgetting that Eddie is bleeding out onto the stone beneath them. “I…” he stops, searches Richie’s eyes desperately, but only wet gurgles escape his throat until he closes his mouth again. It brings Richie right back into what can’t be fucking happening, and he sees Eddie’s face whiter than it was, his lips stained red with blood but noticeably blue. His breath is coming in slow, short, wet bursts. 

“I still do,” Richie decides to say, and for a confession it brings no relief. Eddie is dying. His friends are not here. Eddie looks back with nothing more than a look of slight confusion. Richie bites his tongue to hold back a sob, and doesn’t look away.“I still have the biggest fucking crush on you. I can’t even call it that anymore. I just love you.” He paws at Eddie’s cheek, hands so shaky and clammy that they start to slide off. “So I need you to stay, right here with me, so I can keep you, and keep on fucking crushing on you and annoying you, until we kill IT and you can go home. So you...you fucking…” he’s crying now, because Eddie’s arm has fallen from where he’d gripped Richie’s arm. His head is heavy against Richie’s hand, and his eyes aren’t looking at him anymore. Richie watches for a breath, and he sees one, short and shallow and aimless. “Fuck. FUCK. Please, Eddie. No. No no no no...Eds please, please don’t fucking go, please. Eds. Please!” He ducks his head forward to lean it against Eddie’s shoulder, his hand still holding Eddie’s head upright, the other pressing his jacket into the wound as hard as he can. He wails into the collar of Eddie’s shirt, and he feels the breaths beneath him stutter, and Eddie doesn’t move, doesn’t answer him. Richie murmurs helplessly. “I love you. I love you, I love you, Eddie. Please.” 

He waits, pausing his sobbing, to listen for another breath beneath him. It doesn’t come.

Richie keeps his head against Eddie’s chest and tries to feel nothing at all.

 

Instead, Richie feels Eddie’s chest shaking, feels his stomach moving beneath his jacket that Richie’s still pressing into. He hears laughing, loud and maniacal and echoing against the cavern walls. Richie pulls back, eyes wide and heaving. He watches as Eddie laughs right at him, slapping his knee, letting Richie’s jacket fall away to the side as he doubles over. Richie tries to feel elation, tries to reevaluate the fear and sadness he’s feeling, but Eddie starts to change, and Richie’s hope turns to horror. 

The corners of Eddie’s mouth split at the seams. An invisible knife pulls a deep cut at the corners of his mouth, and drags up along his cheeks as a laugh bubbles up from deep within, unhinged guffaws dissolving into giggling and biting his lip as he looks up at the cavern ceiling. The cut travels slowly up his face, skipping over his eyes before continuing, and the knife stops just as Eddie’s head snaps back down to grin at Richie. 

“Beep beep.”

Richie scrambles to his feet just as Eddie rises, janky and inhuman. He rushes forward, blood still gushing from his abdomen and following closely behind as Richie scrambles back up the cavern towards the opening. His boots slide on the rock and he fumbles, climbing on all fours when the incline increases. Fuck. Oh fucking, fucking shit. 

“Richie, you said you’d stay,” IT pleads, voice morphing into Eddie’s on that last word, and the rage bubbles up inside of Richie as he turns to look over his shoulder. 

“I would have, you fucking bitch,” Richie says, and pauses his climbing. IT is catching up to him fast, Eddie’s fingers sprouting into claws to grip the stone beneath him, and Richie readies his leg to to kick IT right in the fucking face. But IT reaches out with Eddie’s arm and grabs his other leg instead, pulling him down and leaving Richie on his stomach. Trying to fight the lack of air in his lungs, Richie rolls out of the way as Eddie’s fingers slash the ground where he just was. Richie tries to crawl again, but his eyes are locked on Eddie’s smiling face as it slowly melts into Pennywise.

“I know your secret, I’m gonna tell your secret,” IT sings, voice still mingling with Eddie’s as IT creeps towards him, teeth gnashing, and Richie feels the fear, the real fear, in him. But he feels the rage much more.

He kicks his leg out again and hits Pennywise’s right in the buck fucking teeth. He sees a few chips like white paint fly off of Pennywise’s face as IT falls backwards and off of him, tumbling back down into the cavern and landing in a pile of bent limbs at the bottom. Richie takes a moment to catch his breath, and waits, before the stone beneath him collapses and he falls into nothingness. 

 

He lands on his side, and his eyes open before any other senses return. This time, when someone reaches out for him, he flinches and grabs blindly up to stop them, blinking furiously to get the fog to clear from his eyes until he sees the figures above him. He sees Bev first, her face twisted with worry, and she smiles desperately when she sees Richie’s eyes lock on her.

“Richie.”

“What the...fuck...” Richie starts, but it fades away as the others become clear. Bill and Ben pull his arms so he’s upright. He’s in a different cavern, this one darker, casting deep shadows across Bev’s face as she combs the hair off back off of Richie’s forehead where it’s stuck with sweat. He tries to take a deep breath. 

“What are you doing down here?” Mike asks, kneeling and leaning closer to him. All of them lean closer, Bev placing a reassuring hand on his leg, Bill keeping his shoulders upright. And finally, Richie sees him over Ben’s shoulder—bandage on his cheek, eyebrows knitted the way they always are, his puppy dog eyes so worried. So typical. Richie’s tears up without any warning. 

“Eds,” Richie croaks, and reaches for him like a child. “Oh my fucking god.” He moves his unsteady legs to push past his friends and grab onto the back of his neck, pulling him into a hug that Richie feels push the air out of Eddie’s lungs. But Eddie catches his breath, normally, fully, from an unpierced chest, before placing one hand on Richie’s back and patting. 

”Hey, yeah. I’m also here.”

“You sure fucking are,” Richie says into his shirt, into the same place he’d rested his head after Eddie stopped answering him. The memory feels so close, feels like it’s still happening, but it’s not, and it never was. Richie nuzzles deeper into Eddie’s shirt. “God, IT is a fucking monster.”

“I think we’ve established that, seeing as we’re here to kill IT and whatnot,” Eddie says, and then pulls Richie back from him. Richie breaks away, embarrassed and out of breath. Eddie looks at him, and Richie tries to focus on the lines on Eddie’s forehead rather than his eyes. It’s all too much.“Hey, Rich, are you good?” Eddie asks, moving his head so he can try to catch Richie’s gaze. “Why are you down here? We’ve been looking for you. IT disappeared and we all spent precious fucking time looking for you, I hope you’re happy—”

“IT was fucking with me, man.” Richie quickly shakes his head, trying to be rid of the creeping images that try to appear behind his eyes. 

“Then we must have all just gotten personally tortured,” Ben suggests as he looks around at the others. “I was almost just buried alive.”

“I almost drowned. In blood,” Bev says, gesturing to her current state, and Richie realizes her hair is matted against her head in a thick sheet, her body covered in smears of red. She and Ben then look at each other in a way that Richie can’t afford to think too hard about.

Bill seems to have his own thing that he’s just had to face from the trembling breath they all hear him take, but Richie is suddenly tearing up for real now, and they’re all looking at him again.

“What happened?” Bev asks, and gently straightens the crooked, cracked glasses on Richie’s face. 

Bill’s breath had made him remember Eddie, unable to speak from the blood that clogged his throat. “I watched Eddie die,” He says before he can stop himself. He doesn’t look at any of them, and instead stares down at his own dirt-covered shoes. “Well. I thought it was Eddie. But it wasn’t. IT just kinda made me watch Eddie die. Slowly.” He tries to say it all in the least panic-inducing way possible, but he still feels a certain pair of eyes suddenly bore holes into him. He sees out of his peripherals all the others turn to see Eddie’s reaction. Richie hears Eddie clear his throat. He continues before anyone can say anything. “IT made it seem like he got uh...impaled. After saving me from the deadlights. And then he bled out.”

“The deadlights?” Mike asks incredulously, and Richie finally looks up. “None of us ever saw you get caught in the deadlights. We all found a cave to regroup in and you were just gone. That’s when we realized IT was gone too. We thought maybe you’d gone off to fight IT alone, or we thought maybe IT…”

“We had no idea where you were until we heard you s-screaming,” Bill says. Richie watches Mike wipe a hand across his forehead repeatedly and sigh. All of that was bullshit. The deadlights, Eddie dying. All of that was IT. Bill swallows. “You were screaming for—”

”We were so scared,” Bev finishes.

Richie raises his eyebrows in realization, and looks between all of them, minus one. He forces a flat smile. “Well, I was just down here. In this cavern. Being psychologically tortured. You know how it is.”

Above them, there’s a muffled screech and pounding against the cavern ceiling. Debris drifts down slowly from the ceiling of the cavern onto them in the panicked silence that follows. It seems like the spider-IT that killed Eddie the first time is rearing up for another round. This time for real. 

“I think IT’s done fucking with us,” Bill says, and none of them have to say anything to agree.

Richie sighs and rises to his feet, the others following. He wipes the dirt from his button-up and forearms, frowning when he shivers from the cold.

“IT ruined my fucking jacket,” he says, before he steadies himself. “So let’s kill that motherfucker.” 

 

They do. It’s hard, and it’s only when Eddie has an epiphany that it really begins to work. But the way they do it fucking rules. Richie gets to hurl all his anger at IT’s face, gets to feel brave again, gets to watch IT pathetically shrink in fear, and gets to hear Eddie go absolutely wild with the word “fuck” in the face of that shitty ass clown. They corner IT, watch the clown shrivel up revoltingly, and they all get to crush the heart together. It’s awful, but it’s also joyous and thrilling as they escape the collapsing lair, and Richie is just thinking towards whatever level of hell IT is currently on that it’s what you deserve, to die. To die down here because of us, you fucking asshole clown.

 

The house on Neibolt collapses. Richie splays himself out on the sidewalk afterwards and lets himself bake in the sun. There was a large part of him that, upon entering that house, really didn’t think he’d feel the sun again. He’d tried to be brave about it, but his hopes had gotten pretty bleak in those final hours— so lying on the sidewalk, he tries to simply feel the warmth on his face and know that it’s over.

He feels a presence next to him, and it’s Mike, lying on his back next to him. Richie doesn’t even try to imagine how exhausted, and how relieved, he must be. He squints one eye open to watch as Ben slings an arm around Bev’s shoulder, silently pulling her into a long embrace. Bill is still looking towards the pile of rubble, hands in his pockets. And finally, right next to the sun, Eddie is standing and staring at him.

Richie does a tiny, definitely imperceivable, double take. He lifts his hand to shield his eyes from the sun, and there’s Eddie, arms loosely at his side, looking super fucking uncomfortable as he stares Richie down in silence. Richie’s heart soars at simply seeing him there. Yes, Eddie does look very concerned, but thinking about that demands way to much brain power right now. Richie’s brain is on do not disturb mode and he wants to keep it like that for at least ten more seconds.

“Eduardo, come join the siesta,” he insists.

Eddie just sniffs and looks away, rolls himself back on his heels. “I’ve sat in enough filth for one day, thanks,” he says. “There’s dirt in my fucking nostrils. There’s clown heart goop on my hands. This entire trip has been so fucking disgusting.”

“We should go wash off,” Bev suggests. 

Eddie points at Bev and nods insistently. “Listen to the brilliant Bev. Let’s go wash off, let’s go back to the—”

“The quarry,” Bill says, finally turning around. “We should go to the quarry.”

“Now that’s the full circle bullshit I’m into!” Richie exclaims. He revels in the way that Eddie’s dirt-filled nostrils flare, as he opens his mouth to propel into a spiel on the ninety five reasons they should not try to get themselves clean in the quarry. Richie leans back with his hands behind his head to listen to reason number one. 

 

But Eddie isn’t even the last one to jump. Sure, he comments profusely on the no trespassing sign, but Richie can tell he’s tired, they’re all so tired, and no one is even bothering to counter his arguments anymore. Bev’s leap off the edge is the final silent insistence that he is, in fact, going to jump in that water along with his friends.

“My bandage is going to get so fucking full of this fucking water, we have to get out of there after like three minutes I swear to god,” Eddie is saying, as Ben takes a running leap and disappears over the edge. Eddie toes off his shoes. “And Richie, if you splash me down there, I will literally send you my medical bills when my cheek inevitably gets infected and I have to transplant half my face. You absolute shit.”

“Okay, fuck you, fine,” Richie says, but he’s softly smiling. The summer sun is highlighting the sweat on Eddie’s brow. The lines on his forehead are so deep from all those years of worrying. Richie feels something burning so deeply in his chest that he can’t stop himself from placing a hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “Hey. Don’t worry,” Richie says, more softly than he intended to, and then he starts to walk backwards towards the edge, still looking Eddie’s way. “I’ve had my own Netflix special. I can afford to pay your face transplant bills.” Then Richie turns and takes those last few steps before he jumps off the edge, embracing the feeling of endless falling, memorizing Eddie’s look of fond annoyance.

When he hits the water, Eddie is still there. But he is spurting blood from his chest into Richie’s mouth, on his chin, on his clothes. Richie is sinking deeper and deeper underwater, his mind suddenly replaying it all in the silence. Eddie is dying, prompting him to confess, and then laughing about it. Richie wills himself to let it go, let it float away in the water around him. But he hears the laughing come and go in waves, hears IT’s voice say “I’m gonna tell your secret ”, hears Bill saying “we heard you screaming”. Richie hates not being able to breathe down here. He kicks and claws towards the surface, bubbles streaming from his nose, and gasps for air when he breaks the surface.

“You okay, Rich?” Ben asks, floating towards him. 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m—“ Richie starts, before someone hits the water a few feet from him and sends a wave of water across both him and Ben. Richie wipes his unruly hair back as he blinks the water away, and up from the depths comes Eddie, sputtering and swearing as soon as he gets a breath. 

“Oh god. The microorganisms,” He’s saying, and Richie can’t help but bark a laugh and swim towards him. “I wish this wasn’t so fucking refreshing.” Eddie wipes the water from his eyes. “I wish I wasn’t peer pressured into this like we’re all in fucking middle school again...I swear if I wasn’t on an insane adrenaline rush from all the clown-killing I’d...” he finds Richie’s gaze and gives up on what he’s saying to laugh. Richie swims up close and around him, the two of them wordlessly paddling around the other and giggling like kids. Eddie is the one who starts the splashing, and Richie dives under the water and tries to grab his legs in retaliation. Eddie fights him off, but not for long, and they end up both toppling over into the water. They push each other under, and Eddie calls him every name in the book after he gets water up his nose, but it’s worth it. 

 

Once they’ve all exhausted themselves they sit on the shallow end of the quarry, silent for some moments, chatting lightly in others. One of them might chime in to reflect on a little thing from their separate lives, or reflect on that summer they spent together. Or reflect on Stan. That brings another silent moment for them to lie back and settle into. 

Later on, Richie is a little further away from the others as Bill talks about his first time on set. He’s washing the dirt out of the crevices of his glasses under the water. There’s blood on them, but it’s not real. It’s just pretend blood, from a bad prank this clown pulled on him. Who is dead, by the way. Who he helped kill.

That makes Richie smile to himself, digging a fingernail deep into the corner of the glass. Richie hears movement in the water and Eddie is suddenly beside him. Richie looks over just as Eddie sits down, waist-deep in the water and grimacing, and Richie just goes back to his work. His heart is pounding despite himself, but he can ignore that. He should be a-okay in any conversation. As long as Eddie doesn’t have the audacity to bring up IT making Richie watch him die.

“So IT made you watch me die,” Eddie starts. Richie pauses, watching the water ripple over and distort his glasses. “That’s fucked up.”

“It’s been a fucked up couple days,” Richie answers after a moment. “That was just a fun little bonus.” 

Eddie doesn’t laugh. He just stares at Richie scrubbing the same spot on his glasses over some spec of dirt that’s lodged deep in one of the cracks. “I can’t imagine watching you...or any of us... die. Slowly, apparently. Bleeding out.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t crazy about it,” Richie mutters. He swallows as he lets a few key images of the memory come to mind. “Convincing performance, though. Until your face starting splitting open into Pennywise’s fucked up clown makeup. That’s when I started to think to myself hey, I think something a little fishy might be going on here.” He says it in a voice and everything, trying to get Eddie to smile, to see it out of the corner of his eye.

Eddie’s mouth stays flat. “Jesus,” he murmurs. 

“But I kicked IT in the head and sent him flying like twenty feet, so. At least I got to prove my brute strength.” Eddie does huff a laugh at that. Richie’s eyes move to watch Eddie’s fingers move lightly over the water, barely touching it.

Eddie’s voice is softer when he continues. “IT always knew how to mess us up, like, personally. The leper, for me, always the leper. Georgie, for Bill. So, is that what you were afraid of? Watching us die?”

No, Richie instantly thinks. Kind of, he then tries to rationalize. And then the slow-burning heat that lives in his chest radiates up to his cheeks as he thinks, intrusively, it was that I said I love you. It was that I know I will never be with you, ever, in my life. It was that I will keep living in quiet shame and if you ever do know, you will hate me. And that you will leave, and I will have never told you. And that if I do, it will always be always too late.

“Yeah,” Richie says. Eddie hears the crack in his voice, which fucking sucks. But Eddie doesn’t say anything, just moves his hand that was tracing patterns on the water to instead lean his fingertips gently against Richie’s arm as he cleans his glasses. Richie tries not to think about it, tries not to associate it with Eddie moving his thumb back and forth as he died. Richie tries not to think at all. But then he’s saying things.

“I think it was more you, though. It would’ve been awful, so fucking awful, if it had been anyone. But because it was you,” Richie clenches his teeth and talks through them. “It was so fucking terrible to watch. And you would’ve hated being down there the most, I think. I would have tried to get you out of there, even when you.” He has to swallow thickly again. “Died, or...maybe I would have just refused to leave you altogether.” He pauses, looks at Eddie’s fingertips. Richie doesn’t really want to know, but he has to ask. “Did you hear me? Talking to you. To IT, I mean. Down there.”

“No,” Eddie says carefully. Richie’s chest deflates slowly in relief. But then Eddie’s fingers move away, and he flexes his hand instead. “This is just fucking awful, Richie, but. When we started to get close enough to hear you, it just sounded like...begging. Fuck, man, I’m so sorry,” Eddie says, and its his turn to grab the back of Richie’s neck and pull him closer. Richie drops his glasses and instinctively turns to wrap his arms around Eddie, keeping a hand on the back of his head and holding him close, inhaling the smell of skin and the sweat on his neck. He’s crying, and he hopes Eddie doesn’t notice. But Eddie whispers “I’m here,” and Richie sort of loses it. He sobs once, audibly, and it makes Eddie pull him closer. “I’m so fucking sorry,” Eddie murmurs into his chest. As his heart pounds from the proximity, Richie thinks that he’s sorry too. He’s fucking sorry too. 

“Fuck that fucking clown,” Richie says instead. 

“Fuck that fucking clown,” Eddie echoes, muffled by Richie’s shirt. 

 

They leave the quarry after spending ten minutes looking for Richie’s glasses. Eddie curses him out for it, for making him spend even more time in this water, and it makes Richie feel worlds better. 

They go back to the Inn. It’s more somber than a celebration, and everyone agrees with Eddie that it’s just time to take a fucking shower before they even attempt a meal. So Richie does. He waits at the door to his room so he can watch as Eddie walks to his, muttering to himself, gesturing wildly to only the air before he closes the door behind him. When Richie turns his head back to the stairs, he is left watching Ben and Bev looking at each other deeply on the stairwell, talking hushedly, and down in the lobby he watches Bill insist that Mike simply use his shower and borrow some clothes so that he doesn’t have to go back to the library.

And then Richie takes a shower. He lets the water run over him for a long time before he really does anything.

After this, they will all go home. Ben and Bev will probably run away together. Bill will go back to set. Mike will finally be able to move on. And Eddie will probably go to many, many doctors appointments to get his stab wound checked out and his entire body scanned for microorganisms. And then he will go back to his wife.

Meanwhile, Richie will start a cross country comedy tour in three weeks and hopefully be able to start repressing all of this bullshit.

But goddammit, he doesn’t want to forget. Richie presses a fist against the shower wall in front of him before he drops it, ashamed at how fucking dramatic that is. The selfishness burns wildly within him now. To see Eddie again, at the restaurant, and feel it again. That’s one thing. To walk back through his places of his childhood, to feel the memories seep slowly back in, that’s another. To remember that he is in love, and still fall deeper into it, now that is just fucking something. But to confess, and watch Eddie die, and then get him back again. It feels like a second chance. Eddie will go home, that is for sure. But Richie cannot just let him leave, not without him knowing that Richie has made an insane realization— that he never wants to lose Eddie, in any capacity, ever again.

But, shit. How do you even lose someone you never had?

 

After spending way too long in the shower, to the point where he’ll have to make it seem like he was jacking off instead of sobbing, Richie steps out of his room to Ben waiting for him with two bags of McDonalds, one in each hand. 

“No onion for the picky boy,” Ben says, holding one of the bags up. 

“Have you been waiting out here?” Richie asks. Ben shrugs, which Richie doesn’t think is an appropriate answer, but Ben just holds out the bag and shakes it until Richie takes it. 

“You got me a fucking Big Mac, man?” Richie asks, looking inside. “No onion and everything?” For the fourteen thousandth time on this godforsaken day, Richie feels like he’s going to cry.

“Actually, Mike got us all Big Macs, but I’ll take partial credit for delivering it to you.” Ben digs into his own bag and shoves a handful of fries in his mouth “Also there’s a party in Bill’s room,” Ben says between chews, and Richie feels his stomach both leap and drop simultaneously. It’s all very confusing. 

Even so, Richie feels like he’s finally just gained his appetite back for the first time since being back in Derry, and fuck, were McDonald’s fries always this good? When Ben opens the door to Bill’s room Richie realizes that both he and Ben are standing there with fries literally hanging out of their mouths, silently chewing as Richie reaches to shovel in more. Mike claps for them as they walk in, and Richie hands him a fry in compensation as he situates himself on the floor at the foot of Bill’s bed, right next to Eddie. Bev stirs her McFlurry meticulously as she lies on her stomach across Bill’s bed, as Bill sits with his back against the headboard taking careful bites of his burger. Ben and Mike sit and eat on the small loveseat next to the bed, flipping through channels on the small tv across the room, until they find Golden Girls and Ben grips Mike’s arm in warning when he tries to change it. Bev starts to go on about her favorite episodes and Ben joins in, and Richie undoes the wrapping of his burger, telling himself this is the only love he needs.

Richie takes a massive bite before he’s even swallowed his last handful of his fries. 

Eddie is eyeing him. “Why do you always eat like you’re being paid to prove how good the food is?”

“You eat like a bird,” Richie says through a mouthful, wiping sauce from the corner of his mouth. Eddie’s face slowly contorts into incredulous fury.

“I do not fucking eat like a bird what the fuck does that even mean—

 

Minutes later, after insisting he doesn’t eat them, Eddie is finishing Richie’s fries. Eddie eats each one four bites at a time. Richie can’t even focus on the episode they’re all watching and laughing at, because he’s just so enamored with the way it’s always four bites. Eddie reaches back into Richie’s bag without looking, pulling a fry out and laughing at the joke on screen, before biting it. Four bites, again. 

At one point, Eddie starts to say something, turning quickly Richie’s way, and stops when he sees Richie is already looking. And he doesn’t do anything, doesn’t try to continue and doesn’t snap at him. He simply looks his way, and Richie feels the urge to lean forward and kiss the salt off his lips. It’s fleeting, and he hates himself, and it leaves his limbs feeling heavy for a long time after he turns away.

 

It was, and is, his greatest nightmare to have Eddie know. After twenty seven years, that was still what IT wanted—for Richie to feel that shame, that deeply rooted gnawing that you’re fucked for wanting him, for ever wanting him, for ever even considering wanting him. And it worked.

When he was a kid, Richie carved R+E into the kissing bridge. It was a thoughtless act that he regretted, despite the cartwheels his stomach did in the process. The embarrassment of knowing he did that had burned for a long time— until it suddenly didn’t, because he’d forgotten. But Richie remembers now.

In the dim light from a single lamp in his room, Richie decides that it’s okay. He is going to be the fucking creepy childhood friend that’s in love with a married man, and he is going to tell him. Because maybe in the rejection he can finally get this out of his system, someday, when they’re a thousand miles apart again. Maybe Richie can write a fucking poem about it, or a joke, or maybe he can just forget again. But at least it might get rid of that shame he felt carving R+E in the the kissing bridge all those years ago.

 

He lifts his hand and knocks on Eddie’s door at about two a.m., when he’s finally too sleeplessly delirious to stop himself. 

“Room service,” Richie softly croons, before a sudden realization of oh wait, fuck, not funny, he actually wants Eddie to let him in, and instead he murmurs “It’s Richie, actually. Not room service.” 

Richie hears the padding of feet over to the door, and then the door opens. Eddie is wearing a matching navy blue pajama set straight out of a sixty-five year old retiree’s wet dream, which Richie will absolutely laugh to himself about later, but right now he can mostly only concentrate on the fact that Eddie is definitely the fucking most beautiful thing that Richie has ever seen in his life. 

“You got me excited thinking my two in the morning room service buffet was here, asshole,” Eddie says, before his face collapses into a smile. Richie wants to melt into the floorboards and become one with the earth. Eddie leans against the doorway. “Can’t sleep?”

“Course not,” Richie answers plainly. “Can you?”

“No.”

Richie pauses. “Can I stay up with you for the rest of the night?”

“Rest of the morning,” Eddie corrects, and gestures for him to come in. 

So Richie does. He looks around, at Eddie’s single black suitcase that’s propped open, a pile of perfectly folded shirts and pants inside, next to the pile of his absolutely filthy clothes that he was wearing today. On the bedside table, there is an unreasonably large bottle of disinfecting alcohol, replacement bandages, and an assortment of pill bottles. The bathroom light is on, and a dirty towel is on the floor in front of the shower, noticeably stained with dirt and blood. Richie moves wordlessly through the room and falls onto Eddie’s bed face first. Richie hears the door of the room click shut before Eddie snaps “get off the comforter, you walking disease.” 

“Fooled you,” Richie says into the sheets. “I just wanted to sleep on a comfier bed. This is my room now.” Eddie grabs him by the shoulders from behind and pulls him up until he’s standing again, and Richie turns around, looking down at the smile Eddie’s trying to hide.

“Oh shit, looks like Eddie Spaghetti is noodle-armed no longer! Are you fucking buff, dude?” He tries to grab for Eddie’s bicep, and Eddie pulls away. “Do you have a secret six pack you’ve been hiding from us? I guess that’d make sense, you don’t usually eat anything but like. Lettuce and raw meat, like an animal—”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Richie reaches for his bicep again and catches it. “Holy shit, there’s muscle here. Actual muscle. Can you bench press me, Eds? Please bench press me,” Richie begs him, gripping his arm tight and coming closer, and he can feel himself becoming more and more giddy. He’s touching Eddie, who is alive, and in a sick sort of way Richie is glad that soon this will all be over and Eddie will hate him, so he can unabashedly enjoy this. 

“You are so fucking annoying,” Eddie mutters. “Have you just been chugging Redbull all night in preparation to come irritate me at two in the morning?”

“I’m on a post-clown-killing high,” Richie says dreamily, and lets Eddie go, sitting on the edge of the bed where he knows Eddie won’t yell at him.

“I guess I am too,” Eddie says, and then lifts a hand to his forehead. “I feel insane.”

“Tell me about it,” Richie says.

“Do you really want me to tell you about it?”

Richie nods on instinct. But Eddie looks at him dead seriously before he squeezes his eyes closed. 

“I told Myra that I want to separate. Like an hour ago.” After he says it, it seems to dawn on him too, and both he and Richie end up raising their eyebrows at each other in sync. Richie is feeling eight thousand different things at once and hopefully showing none of it. 

“Oh?” Richie asks. “H-How’d she take it?”

“I don’t know,” Eddie says. Richie cocks his head microscopically. “I texted her.” 

Richie doesn’t even give himself time to process that one. “You texted your wife that you want to separate?”

“Listen. Shit. I was feeling, you know, this post-clown-killing high! And I was thinking fuck, I love my friends, I love the way I feel. And Myra...for a long, long time, Myra hasn’t made me feel like that at all. She’s like...she’s like my mom, okay? And I don’t want to live trying to please my dead mom anymore. So, because I know what she’s like, Richie, and I know that she’d never even let me get a fucking word in if I called her up and said ‘Hey, I just had a life changing alien clown related experience, I want a divorce’, I wrote a long and well crafted text. More like a letter, really. A digital letter explaining how I feel. And um. Well, I sent it at one in the morning so I still have a few hours before I find out what she has to say. To me, over the phone, probably for like five miserable hours.”

“Holy fuck,” Richie says after a moment. Eddie stares at the wall behind Richie. They stay like that, for a long time. Richie couldn’t say anything if he wanted to. He’s cycling through the few safe thoughts he’s allowed to have— it’s good that Eddie is trying to find happiness. Eddie deserves happiness. Eddie also has surprisingly strong biceps. Eddie is also beautiful, all the time, holy shit, there’s like, moonlight catching a wisp of his hair through the curtains. 

“So. Anyway,” Eddie sighs and presses the heels of his hands into his eyes and scrubs them. He huffs a breath. “I bought dried mangos on the drive over.” He looks at Richie then, and looks so, so very tired. “Do you want some?”

“Uh, hell yes,” Richie answers. Eddie walks over to his suitcase and pulls them out of a side pocket, throwing the bag over. “Eddie my love, you are out of this world. It’s really too bad that I married your mom, because if I didn’t, I’d—” Richie gets a pillow to the back of the head, and as he recovers, he feels the weight shift on the bed as Eddie sits against the headboard. Richie dissolves into helpless laughter— he’s joking, yes, and calling Eddie his ‘love’ is nothing more than a childish quip, but Richie feels so free, right now. Eddie still will hate him, of course. But at least he isn’t going back to Myra. At least he’ll be happy.

He pulls the bag of dried mango open, takes a few in his hand, and passes the bag back to Eddie. Carefully, Richie leans back on the bed, letting his back lightly fall onto it, waiting for Eddie to tell him to stop. But there’s only silence as they chew mango slices and Richie stares at the ceiling.

“So it’s over,” Eddie says. Richie stops chewing. 

“Yeah. You’re gonna be single. And at forty, jeez, it’s gonna be rough out there. Trust me, I know.”

“I meant the clown shit, you idiot,” Eddie says, but his voice is softer when he adds “let’s not talk about the other thing.”

Richie tears a dried mango slice in half. “Okay. Well, yeah. Yeah, it’s over. IT is over. No more IT.”

“I’m excited for us to get to be normal people again.” Eddie pauses. “But IT was the main thing we all had in common. Now we’ll have nothing to talk about.”

“We’ll end up just calling each other every couple of months to talk about our gardening projects. How our backs hurt.” Richie arches his back against the bed. “Fuck, my back already hurts so fucking bad, that joke doesn’t even work. Doesn’t your back hurt like all the fucking time?”

“All the fucking time!” Eddie agrees. “I have a great chiropractor though.”

“Jesus, we’re all going to end up on group skype calls talking about our chiropractors.”

“I have a great chiropractor, I’ll talk about him all the time.”

Richie smiles to himself as he chews. He’s confident, this time, that if he can help it he won’t forget his friends. He will drop everything for group skype calls to talk about chiropractors. Even when Eddie hates him, he’ll do everything to keep the others. Sure, they might all share the collective trauma of the clown shit, but they’re also just the best. And Richie hasn’t had anything like that again in his life. Ever. 

In the silence between them, Richie starts thinking about Eddie again. This seems to be becoming a common recurrence. 

“Risk analysis,” Richie muses out loud.

Eddie scoffs. “Oh, now what the fuck are you on about?”

“Just thinking about you. Analyzing risk,” Richie says. He wonders, to himself, how Eddie would analyze the risk of what he wants to say. 

“It’s a good job. I’m good at it.”

“Explain it to me.” Richie bends his neck to look up at Eddie. From upside down, Eddie’s look of suspicion is still obvious. He rummages through the mango bag instead of answering. “Apologies, dear Edward, but I am a simple jester, I don’t understand office work of like, any capacity.” 

Eddie sighs deeply. “Well, I spend most of my time assessing different data that—“

Richie is already pretending to sleep. 

“You fucker. You fucker. I knew you were going to do that, I knew it, and I still fell for it. Fuck.”

“You didn’t assess the risk, bro! You didn’t analyze the situation!” 

“Analyze this” Eddie shouts, grabbing the pillow next to him and, to be frank, beats the shit out of Richie. 

“I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry” Richie pleads, and Eddie is out of breath by the time he concedes. Richie pants, trying to recover. “We’re forty years old and you just beat me up with a pillow.”

“You deserved the beating. And stop talking about how old we are. I don’t feel that old! I mean, with your lifestyle you probably feel like you’re eighty, but for—”

“For someone who’s ripped like you? For someone who eats only PetSmart brand rabbit food and raw steak?” Richie gestures wildly, looking only towards the ceiling. “You’re missing out on the three a.m. Taco Bell experience, Eds. The mental breakdown foods. The foods of melancholy.”

“I feel my melancholy just fine while eating gluten free bread.”

Richie sighs, concentrates on a crack in the ceiling. “You know, fucked up as it is, this is like the least melancholic I’ve been since, I dunno. Twenty seven years ago. Last time we beat up a clown.” He sighs. “Maybe clown killing is the only thing that brings me joy.”

“You’ve been a professional comedian for years, Rich.” Eddie seems to get progressively more heated as he continues. “You’ve had a Netflix special, you’ve been on Ellen, Richie! What the fuck? You met Ellen! How could this make you happier than that?”

You, Richie wants to say. But he doesn’t. How does he explain? How does he talk about the loneliness, the thousands of hotel rooms, the nice apartment that doesn’t feel like his own? How does he talk about giving up on writing his own material, about playing Stardew Valley on his iPad every Saturday night for the past six months while his friends go out, about crying in the shower every fucking time? All that time, he never knew what the fuck was up with him. He just knew that he liked to drink, and he liked to make people smile, and that he was deeply flawed in some sort of deep, instinctual way. Every relationship he’d ever had had lasted less than a year. He’d lose interest, mostly. Or he was distant, very distant— he was the Trashmouth they knew at first, but he’s a lot less fun after a while, when alone and still trying to keep up the act. He’d mostly given up on all that, and his career had thanked him for it. And he was gaining traction. And he’d met Ellen. And he’d felt nothing.

Until he got that call from Mike. Until that shot went down like fire and he remembered Eddie Kaspbrak. How does he explain all that

He doesn’t. He asks a question. “Did you watch me on Ellen?”

“Myra had it on,” Eddie defends. “And I didn’t know it was you. You know that. I just happened to watch you on Ellen. And your Netflix special. But that’s because Netflix’s autoplay feature is fucking awful and just starts shit even when you don’t want—”

Richie shakes his head as he laughs. “And? What’d you think?”

“It sucked ass,” Eddie deadpans. Richie’s smile towards the ceiling falls. He thinks Eddie is looking at him, because he keeps going. “I’m kidding. I dunno, what do you want me to do, kiss your ass? I’m your best friend, shouldn't I tell you the truth? It was lowbrow at points, Rich. It was a little Amy Schumer-ish.”

“How fucking dare you say that to me,” Richie says, flipping over onto his stomach and scrunching his nose in disgust even though he’s smiling. “I could outperform Amy Schumer with duct tape over my mouth, and you know it. And lowbrow? I literally go by Trashmouth Tozier. You can kiss my ass, Kaspbrak.”

“Jesus, I’m sorry, learn to take critique,” Eddie says, raising his hands in defense, biting his lip to keep his grin in check.

Richie is already laughing by the time he starts to argue. “You’re a pathetic attempt at a best friend. If you were really my best friend you would have been there, in the Netflix special audience,” He pretends to sob, pointing a finger at Eddie as Eddie cracks up. “—cheering me on and smiling like you’re having the time of your life every time the camera cuts to you in frame.”

“I would have been there!” Eddie says. “If I’d remembered you existed!” 

Richie laughs until he isn’t laughing anymore, and resigns to silently eating another piece of mango, even though he isn’t hungry. Eddie watches him. 

“I would have loved that,” Richie says. “If you were there, for the past twenty seven years, I would have had a much fucking better time.”

Already, his heart is hammering. He’s already eaten half of this bag. And now Eddie is going to hate him and regret ever letting him have any.

“You didn’t really miss me that much.”

Richie scoffs, the first thing that’s really offended him all night. “Fuck you. I didn’t know that I could miss you. But now that we’re all back...I know I did. Everything has always just felt...off. Like, now that I’m here, I think maybe even if I could have just remembered you, I wouldn’t have felt so shitty all the time.”

Eddie is silent. Richie glances up at him as he crosses his arms over his knees, pulling them in tight. Richie remembers him doing that as a kid. He was so small. So introspective, at times. Richie feels like he sees Eddie at thirteen again as he watches the cogs turn in his mind.

“I missed you too,” Eddie says softly, and glances back. Richie can’t keep the eye contact for more than a second before he looks away, blinks down at the comforter. He can’t stand those eyes. The way they looked at him, so big and pleading, as blood dripped down his chin, as he died. Richie’s breath hitches, and he knows that Eddie knows what he’s thinking. “You begged for me not to die,” Eddie says.

He’d said it at the quarry, and now he’s saying again. Almost like he can’t believe it. 

Richie swallows. Clenches his jaw for a moment. This will all be over, so soon. Richie steadies himself, pulls himself so he’s sitting up, cross legged in the middle of the bed, and finally looks back at Eddie.

“I did,” Richie says. “It was the worst. The worst pain I’ve ever felt.”

“I’m sorry,” Eddie whispers. 

“You can’t be sorry, it wasn’t you, Eds. It was IT, who knew, IT fucking knew that that would break me. IT knew how happy I was to have you again, and how fucking heartbroken I would be to...watch that.” Now, Richie. Now, now, now. Fast, like a bandaid. The taste of sugar and mangos hangs heavy on his tongue. He looks up at Eddie, whose eyes are so sad, his lips parted, and Richie will hang onto this moment before the collapse.

“Rich—”

“But watching you die wasn’t really my fear, though.” He swallows, hard. “IT knew, even from when I was a kid, a secret. A dirty little secret. ” He says it, in the voice and everything. He talks fast, his ears beginning to ring, his eyes darting to the floor, to the bed, to the ceiling. “And then, as you were dying there, fucking choking on your own blood, like what the fuck, you asked me to tell you if I’d ever, when we were kids, had a crush on you.” He laughs despite himself. “And you were dying, and I had to, so I told you the secret, I told you the truth, that I hadn’t remembered until I saw you again. And I told you to keep holding on, to stay here, with me. To please not fucking die. Because I still. I still had that crush, even now. Still had that secret. That I like, big time like you. Love you. And then you died anyway. And all I’d done was said the secret out loud. And it didn’t matter at all, because I’d waited too long, and it was too late and you died anyway.” He’s crying. Fuck, he really is, he really is crying. Richie wipes his hands across his face, and fails to steady his breathing. It’s over. It’s over. “But it wasn’t you, of course. It was IT.” Richie struggles, smiles behind the hands over his eyes. “And IT laughed in my face and chased me and I kicked IT in the head. But, I guess IT got what it wanted out of me. I was so, so fucking scared. And I have been.” 

He doesn’t want to uncover his eyes. This really is going to break his heart, whether he wants to acknowledge that or not, when he sees Eddie’s face. But he does, and he blinks, bleary eyed.

“Richie.”

Richie forms a tight-lipped smile, braces for it. “Mhm?”

Eddie opens his mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. Richie keeps the tight smile, knowing his eyes betray it all. Eddie lets go of his legs, gets on his knees, and crawls over to where Richie is sitting. And then he sits down too, next to him, bracing his weight on one arm and leaning his legs against Richie’s. And then lets his head fall against Richie’s chest. Eddie must hear his heart pounding, but he doesn’t say anything. Richie waits for the inevitable. Instead, Eddie lifts his other arm and presses a hand to Richie’s chest, bending him back until Richie gets the idea and lies down, stretching his legs out so that his feet bump the headboard, and Eddie adjusts his head so it’s against Richie’s chest as he lies there, curled up against him. Richie just breathes. They both do.

“I love you,” Richie says, just to cement it. Just to put that final nail in his coffin. If Eddie didn’t hear it the first time, he did now.

“I know,” Eddie says. “You just said that. Can’t you be quiet for one full minute?”

“Shit, okay,” Richie says, and he resigns himself to lie there, head empty, which is impossible. “But like, I really love you in a gay way, and now you’re cuddling me, so I don’t want you to think I’m just saying I love you in a friendship way. Like, if you’re gonna kick me out of your room, do it. I’m ready for it. I really don’t want a pity friendship cuddle right now.”

“Jesus, you are unbearable.” Eddie lifts his head and looks up at Richie. From this close, his eyelashes are thick, the worry lines around his cheeks prominent even when he’s not frowning. “You always were so, so, unbearably irritating. I’m so disappointed that hasn’t changed.” He inches up so he’s leaning on his elbows, looking down at Richie’s face. He reaches out and rubs a finger along Richie’s jaw, playing with his stubble. Richie swallows.

“You have to stop fucking with me, man. Like, I’m actually, legitimately in love with you. This is like torture to me.” 

Eddie looks at him incredulously, and then rolls his eyes to high heavens. “Fucking fuck, Richie! Who the hell would do this to a friend!? Do you live your whole life this clueless? How are you alive? You‘re so fucking...you... fuck.” Eddie looks down at him, and fear flashes across his eyes. It’s the last thing Richie sees before Eddie’s lips crash into his and Richie’s eyes close on instinct.

It’s a clumsy kiss— Eddie’s tongue creeps out after only seconds and Richie makes an audible noise of surprise, which causes Eddie to make an audible noise of confusion, all while the kissing continues. Richie is losing it, really losing it, this dream fucking rules. He reaches up to touch a hand to Eddie’s face, lifts his head up from the bed up to kiss back harder, Eddie’s tongue soft against his, and everything tasting like fucking mango. Richie is focused on the feeling of it, but also mostly because he is just internally yelling very loudly instead of thinking. 

Richie keeps sitting up further, still kissing back as he props himself up on his elbows, Eddie’s hands on both sides of his face, suddenly straddling him with both legs. Richie sits up all the way, and grabs at Eddie’s back, fisting his hands in those grandpa pajamas and finally having his first coherent thought: these are actually really fucking soft. 

All too soon, they’re out of breath, and Eddie leans back so he’s kneeling, eyes locked on Richie and looking all sorts of nervous as he breathes. Richie can’t help himself as he darts forward and goes for his neck, his glasses bumping against Eddie’s chin before he gets a good angle, and he presses soft and lingering kisses one by one to Eddie’s throat as he attempts to catch his breath. 

“Okay, you got me. I love you, you fucking freak,” Eddie says, breathless.

Richie pulls back, eyes half closed and chest burning. “I would have kissed your neck a long time ago if I knew that’s all it takes.”

Eddie shoves him away.

“Fucking...shut up.” Eddie pulls his pajama shirt back into place where it had shifted to the side. “I’ve loved you, Richie. Of course I did. Of course I do. I just. Tried not to think about it. You know how I am.” Richie does know how he is. But he didn’t think that also applied to loving him. Eddie’s cheeks are flushed, and he just stares at Richie for a moment. “Jesus. I’ve never even kissed a guy.”

“You did okay,” Richie answers, and Eddie lazily flips him off. Richie cocks his head. “How was I?”

“Dirty,” Eddie says. Richie raises an eyebrow. “Like, physically fucking dirty. Did you brush your teeth tonight?”

“Of course, yeah,” Richie says, but to be honest, he doesn’t remember. They simply watch each other, and for the first time, Richie isn’t afraid. “Fuck. Come here,” Richie says just when he realizes he can, and Eddie obliges, lifting his hand to cradle Richie’s face again. Richie kisses him once, hoping Eddie understands how much his heart is aching, before he ghosts their lips together a few times, just reveling in the pain. “I don’t think you can even know how happy I am,” he says against Eddie’s lips. “That you didn’t kick me out. That you didn’t die.”

Eddie collapses into him at that, clutching at his neck and kissing him once, hard, before pressing his face into Richie’s shoulder.

“Fuck you, Richie. Fuck, fuck you.” He breathes. “I’m sorry.” Richie feels his breath stutter against him. “I’m sorry. Fuck, I’m so sorry and so mad, and so happy that we fucking killed IT after you...had to…” Eddie shakes his head, his words running out of their usual steam. “We lost all that time. We lost all that fucking time. I’m so sorry...that I wasn’t at your Netflix special.” And that’s what finally gets Eddie to break, and Richie feels him holding his breath, trying to hold it in.

“Hey, Eds. Hey.” He rubs circles on Eddie’s back until Richie feels him crying. He lets Eddie hold onto him. He’s still so small, fits so well against him. When Eddie pulls back and apologizes profusely Richie keeps his eyes right on him, smoothing his hair back in long strokes until he’s just petting him. Eddie relaxes, shaking breaths calming, and he leans forward into Richie’s chest. “You can be at the next Netflix special,” Richie says gently. “And the next and the next, because I’m a very successful comedian, and there’s nowhere to go but up.” Eddie groans, fondly, into Richie’s chest.

 

Ten minutes later they’re kissing again, because they can’t help it. At least Richie can’t help it, feeling drunk on relief and the feeling of Eddie against him. It’s honestly just too good to be true, but he did kill IT, so he’ll trust this Eddie. For now.

Eddie pulls away, and Richie opens his eyes to Eddie’s pupils blown huge. “I love you,” he says. Richie stares back at him, the burning in him dimming to a warmth that spreads all the way to his fingertips that he brushes across Eddie’s cheek. “I meant it before, of course I did.” Eddie says. “But I need you to know. Back then, I did. When we were kids. And when you banged that fucking gong and announced your presence, I did. And when you hugged me, in the lair, and when you came to my door at two in the morning. All that time. Know that.”

For once in his life, Richie cannot say anything at all. 

 

They fall asleep on top of the covers, limbs tangled through one another, Richie fully embracing how soft Eddie’s old man pajamas are against him. Eddie’s head is tucked into Richie’s neck, and Richie’s glasses are on the bedside table, and the bathroom light is still on. They’ve been lying there, simply breathing, for a few minutes, after a conversation on the best flavor of La Croix had faded into nothingness. 

Before they fall asleep, Eddie whispers into his neck.

“In the morning, if you wake up before me, don’t leave.” Richie sleepily smiles at the blurry outline of pill bottles on the bedside table.

“I won’t.” 

 

Chapter Text

For the next few hours, Richie does not dream. 

He simply wakes up on top of bed covers that aren’t his, in a room he is not checked into. Before he does, he drifts in and out of sleep for a long time, in a way where he simply becomes aware of the softness beneath him before he’s pulled under again. It feels like he hasn’t slept in forever. It must have been weeks. It could have been years. He hasn’t slept in since...since he…

Richie’s eyes open to see his arm reaching out across the covers. His fingers are splayed out. There is dirt caked under his nails. He is reaching towards something that is not there. 

His body reacts before his mind does, and Richie pushes himself upright, whipping his head around to every corner of this room that is not his, but it doesn’t reveal anything that he doesn’t already know. Eddie is not here. 

Richie feels embarrassment flood him first, as he fishes for his glasses on the bedside table. He is in love with Eddie. He told Eddie he is in love with him. Didn’t he?

And Eddie is not here. 

Then the embarrassment gives way to a wave of recognition, as he remembers, oh wait, Eddie had said he was in love with him. Too. Also.

And it wasn’t a dream, because Richie is here. On Eddie’s bed, with sunlight streaming in through the windows. Unless he and Eddie went and traded rooms during the night. Or if Richie is dreaming after all. Fuck. Eddie. The Orient. The tokens. Pennywise. Eddie choking on blood. The quarry. The kiss. The other and the other and the other kiss. Eddie. Loving him? What the fuck? What the fuck is going on?

Where is he?

Richie stands. Eddie’s suitcase is still in the corner. The bathroom light is off, but Richie still peeks inside. His other two suitcases of toiletries and first aid supplies sit unattended. Richie throws open the door of Eddie’s room and stretches to look down the hallway, listening. He hears only one fucking obnoxious bird tweeting right outside of one of the windows. He steps out of the doorway, standing there in a ratty college tee and sweatpants that bunch at the ankles. None of his friends are out of their rooms. The lobby below is silent. How early is it? 

Disregarding everything, Richie pads barefoot down the stairs and across the lobby. He doesn’t know why he doesn’t just go back to his own room—except he does, and it’s that he’s in love with Eddie and he needs to know if Eddie’s car is still here.

 

Richie pushes the door open and finds him. He’s sitting on the curb to his left, facing away from him. Muttering to himself. No, as Richie gets closer he sees that he has his phone pressed between his ear and his shoulder, his arms wrapped around his knees and pulled up against him. Richie stops in his tracks. Because oh. Right. 

He stands there, ten feet behind Eddie, and decides to turn around. How could he forget, that before those kisses and the confessions and everything, Eddie like, just decided he wanted to get a divorce? Richie should not be here for this. Even though he knows he shouldn’t, and it’s really not the case at all, he feels like Eddie’s mistress or something.

Richie’s bare foot steps on a rock as he starts to back away and he hisses through his teeth. Eddie’s back straightens and he whips around, eyes wide with terror before lock on Richie. Richie feels white hot embarrassment again as his face instantly decides to smile. He feels thirteen, in the way that his heart just decides to skip as Eddie stares at him. Richie takes a few more steps back, gesturing vaguely and mouthing sorry, shit, I didn’t know where you were, sorry, please continue. He points behind him, towards the door, shrugging and walking unevenly as his foot continues to throb. And Eddie slowly starts to smile, and rolls his eyes, and it isn’t until he has to say “yes, I’m still here” into the phone that his smile falls and his gaze moves away. 

Richie begins to turn away, biting the inside of his cheek. But Eddie stops him, whispers a small psst to get Richie’s attention, and waves him over. Richie cocks his head and grimaces, shaking his head, starts mouthing another assortment of things like, no, no I’ll just be back later, keep talking, keep talking to your...wife…

But Eddie snaps, points at him, and then at his side. As Richie walks over, Eddie says into his phone, gently, “Myra, Myra. My phone is dying, I haven’t slept all night, please just let me call you back in a few hours. Okay? We’ll talk in a few hours.” 

Richie sits down next to him on the curb, curls his toes in and stares at his feet. Eddie keeps trying to say goodbye, the voice on the other end continuing to cut him off, until he finally says it once more and hangs up. He then silently turns his phone off. Both he and Richie watch as the screen stutters and then turns black. Eddie then gently places it on the pavement in front of him. They stare at it. Then Eddie scrapes both his hands through his hair and groans for like thirty seconds.

“Morning,” Eddie says after. 

“How long have you been out here?” Richie asks. 

“Too long,” Eddie deadpans. “I dunno. Since four? What time is it now?”

“I have no idea.” 

“Well the sun came up while I’ve been out here. So that’s something.”

Richie pauses. “Was it nice?”

“Fucking, what? Was it nice, Richie? Listening to my wife lose it for like five hours over our imminent divorce?”

“The sunrise,” Richie says.

“Oh,” Eddie murmurs. Richie listens to Eddie push air out of his nose, watches out of his peripherals as Eddie wrings his hands. Richie sits perfectly still. Eddie then finally leans over into Richie’s shoulder, breathing out as he does, and nestles his head there. He stays there, silently. Richie lets his cheek fall on top of Eddie’s head and he closes his eyes, smelling Eddie’s lavender shampoo. 

They both stay like that, before Eddie speaks again. 

 “Did it scare you that I wasn’t there when you woke up?”

“Yeah, it did.”

“Sorry,” He says. He sounds exhausted. “I didn’t want to wake you when she called. But I also made a decent amount of noise getting ready to go out here, so you must sleep like a rock.”

“Oh, I do.”

“You also snore.”

“Well you twitch when you’re falling asleep.”

“Touché, asshole.” 

They sit there a moment longer. Richie watches a breeze ripple through a clump of trees across the street. 

“Did you have nightmares?” Richie asks.

Eddie lifts his head at that, and Richie meets his gaze. 

“Oh my fucking god, Rich. I left.” He searches Richie’s eyes in a way that Richie is not used to. “I left you there. Did you? Did you have nightmares?” 

Richie starts to smile. “No, that’s why I’m curious. I slept like, surprisingly well.”

“Oh. Well, thank fuck,” Eddie says. He blinks a few times as he looks away. “I hope you never do.”

“I’d actually love to relive the previous twenty four hours. Preferably every single night for the rest of my life. See my old friend Pennywise every time I close my eyes.”

Richie doesn’t mention the other thing that he definitely does not want to dream about, ever, in his life. He just closes his eyes again and leans his head back on top of Eddie’s.

“Idiot,” Eddie says.

As they sit there, Richie’s stomach is dropping in a way that is prolonged and uncomfortable. Eddie is right here, and Richie wants to grab him, and hold him, and kiss him until his lips go numb. But he can’t. There’s something about the sunlight hitting their faces, the absence of the dark and the privacy of Eddie’s room. There’s something, also, about the fact that Eddie has been out here talking to his wife since four in the morning. 

“Listening to her yell is more terrifying than all the stupid clown shit,” Eddie says, like he’s listening to exactly what Richie is thinking. “It’s like, a deeply rooted fear, now. Like a Pavlovian response for me, for my blood pressure to go out the wazoo as soon as she starts going.” He pinches his fingers over the bridge of his nose. Richie slings an arm around his shoulder and pulls him closer. 

“You shouldn’t have to deal with that,” Richie says into his hair. “That’s fucking bullshit.” Richie cringes at his attempt at comfort. Eddie doesn’t seem to mind. 

“It’s fucking exhausting. She wants me to come home and talk to her.”

Richie keeps his eyes closed. 

Eddie continues. “And I have to go home. I have to get my stuff. I have to talk to her. But, fuck, I really don’t want to. It’s going to be terrifying.”

In the silence, Richie stares at one of the pebbles on the asphalt in front of them. He tries, for a second too long, to move it with his mind.

“Well, give yourself a few days,” He says. “Don’t go home yet.”

“Okay.”

Richie asking him to stay is selfish, of course. But after everything, Eddie shouldn’t have to go home yet. He deserves a few days without terror. Richie thinks to himself that it’s funny, in a very not funny way, that even defeating an alien clown can not ease Eddie’s deeply rooted fears for more than twenty four hours.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Richie asks. 

“Back to New York? To Myra?” Eddie asks incredulously. 

“Yeah.”

Eddie, surprisingly, moves his head to press a kiss into Richie’s shoulder.

“Fuck no, Rich. But thank you.”

Richie laughs. He answered so fucking quick. 

“I’m sorry!” Eddie cries. “But I really just don’t want you there.” They’re both laughing, curled up against each other. “Like, oh my fucking god it would be awful.”

“I feel like she and I would really get along.”

“Okay, fucking stop talking. Stop, just stop.” Eddie shakes his head to himself and pulls away. Richie leans forward into the empty air. “I’m going back to bed.” Eddie stands and bends his back. “You coming? Or is it your turn to sit out here for hours?”

Richie groans as he pushes himself to stand. “Yeah, fuck this. I’m barefoot, it’s cold.”

Eddie looks him up and down before he turns around, mumbling to himself. “Barefoot out here...dumbass.”

 

They walk back into the Inn. Eddie holds the door open for him and Richie accidentally pats his bad cheek. They climb the stairs quietly. And then, when they reach Richie’s door, he pauses. Eddie looks at him curiously.

Richie swallows. “Do you want me to…if you want to try to get a few hours of sleep...I can…”

Eddie’s eyebrows raise. “I kinda...I want—”

“Okay, that’s fine, don’t worry—”

“No, no.” Eddie interrupts. “I want you to—” 

“Oh.” Richie says.

Eddie smiles earnestly, nodding a few times, and it’s almost unlike him. Richie really does feel like a kid again. Eddie loosely grips the front of Richie’s shirt and walks them to his door, poking Richie’s back to get him inside, and closing the door behind them. 

“What is going ooooon,” Richie says, turning around and whisper-screaming in Eddie’s face. 

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Eddie whispers back. 

“You want me in your room, you’re...touching my arm,” Richie trails off. He is. Eddie drags his fingers up and they settle on Richie’s neck. Richie can feel every fingertip, and where he touches the heat spreads, right up to Richie’s cheeks. It’s strange, how they could walk through the Inn without thinking of touching each other, only to settle on each other once again as soon as the door to Eddie’s room clicks shut. “This is just so, so fucking out there for me. I slept in your bed, I feel like a debauched teen.” 

“Jesus, just how bad was your romantic life?”

“It was good! It was good, trust me, look at me.” Richie cocks his head and looks up at Eddie through his lashes. Eddie rolls his eyes. “It just wasn’t this. It wasn’t like this.” 

Eddie can’t seem to help that his tongue comes out to wet his lips. “You are something fucking else.” He blindly reaches for Richie’s hand and loosely holds their hands together. “You should be observed by scientists.” 

Richie kisses him, after it’s too much not to. Eddie is soft against him, leaning into it, his arms lazily snaking around his neck and Richie pulling them against each other. As Richie lazily opens his mouth and turns his head, Eddie stops him, pulls back, and glares. 

“You definitely did not brush your teeth.” 

Richie squeezes his eyes shut. “Shit.” 

 

The losers spend one full day together before Bill makes the call that he has to go home, has to get back on set— studio execs are beginning to piss their pants over his absence. He says it over dinner, and Richie gets it, he does, but he wants to attach himself to Bill’s ankles and beg him not to go. He selfishly wants to be with his friends. Like, for forever and a day. All that bullshit. He doesn’t want it to end so soon. 

Maybe Richie reacts with trying to hide teary eyes because that day was just so fucking good. They spent most of it outside, at an unmaintained baseball field inside a nearby park. Mike supplied picnic blankets, Bill picked up lunch. They spent the entire day there, in one of the few places in Derry that had zero trauma attached to it, lying about in the sun. If IT had murdered them all somehow, it would have been the heaven they’d have all simultaneously showed up at.

Mike begged Richie to do some standup for them, and Richie had insisted he’s not some dancing clown. That joke did not get the laughs he was hoping for. But Richie did do a few jokes, using a plastic fork as a microphone, and they all laughed at a few of them. The dick length jokes don’t go over well, but an improvised story about Richie’s first keg stand does. Eddie guffaws at the description of Richie doing drunk jumping jacks to get himself pumped up. Richie beams at him, laughing through the joke, and thinks that if it makes Eddie laugh, maybe he should try to add it to the set. 

Richie doesn’t tell the others that day, though. Eddie doesn’t either. They act like themselves, but they just sit on opposite sides of the picnic blanket. And they fall right back into it, the pre-confession mode. But Richie still invents ways to get Eddie close to him. A race to a tree and back. A peach juggling contest. Inviting Eddie to watch as Bill draws a little portrait of Richie with a pen on a napkin.

Why wouldn’t he try to keep Eddie close to him in every way he can? Surely the others can’t attribute that to anything. Touching Eddie was a thing before. Before Richie could even conjure up why it was a thing. His hands just gravitated to him, just wanted to touch. His shoulder, to shake it playfully, press fake punches soft across his cheek.

Now, when he does, Eddie looks back at him, and his eyes say I understand this. I do. You are saying I love you. And I am letting you push your knuckles against my good cheek. 

 

Hours after dinner, Richie says goodnight to his friends and heads up to his room. Before he does, he stretches his arms above him, cracking his neck as he does, and locks eyes with Eddie. Eddie is already looking at him, supposedly neutrally, as he holds a glass of water in a death grip up to his lips. Richie bites the inside of his cheek, lets his arms fall, and turns on his heel. He heads up the stairs and almost trips while his mind is busy trying to debate if Eddie is watching him go or not. 

Forty-five minutes later Richie is huffing a single breath in disbelief before colliding his open mouth back against Eddie’s. They stumble back towards the bed, tripping on each other’s feet. It has been a mere twenty-four hours since Richie had convinced himself that Eddie was going to despise him for even thinking of doing this, and Richie decides that yeah, he does. Despises Richie for untucking his shirt from the front of his good pants and running his cold hand up his chest.

Eddie bats him away, trying to regain his footing as he leans against the edge of the bed. 

“Your hands are freezing as shit. Fuck, Richie. Is your blood circulation like, good?”

Richie mouths at Eddie’s lips. “All the blood is going to my d—”

Eddie literally slaps a hand across Richie’s mouth and holds it there. 

“Do not.”

Richie weasels his tongue out and touches it to Eddie’s hand. Eddie pulls it back and stares at it, and then Richie, with disdain.

“All right, go sleep in your own room, in your own crib, tonight. If you wanna act like a fucking toddler.”

“No,” Richie complains, as Eddie gestures to the door. He grabs Eddie’s hand and wipes it off with his own shirt. “I’ll stop being annoying. Just lemme kiss your handsome widdle face,” He pouts, leans forward, and Eddie kisses him back, once. 

“It’s impossible for you to stop being annoying,” Eddie says. “Can I put on my pjs maybe?”

“Your widdle pjs?” Richie asks, face still inches away. He pouts his lip again. Why is he so fucking adorable? He says pjs!

“My clothes for sleeping,” Eddie corrects in a deeper voice, pulling back and walking towards his suitcase. “You know, like clothes with that exact intention, not just oversized sweatpants and a college tee that’s torn in a way that gives me a fucking...choker.”

Richie fiddles with his t-shirt, pulling at the disconnected collar that has undoubtedly become a choker at this point. Richie likes this shirt though. He pulls the torn fabric over his lip like a mustache, and watches as Eddie pulls another obscenely tasteful pair of pajama pants out of his suitcases and a white t-shirt.

“Look. I’m compromising for you,” Eddie says, as he pulls off his polo of the day. “Because I know you judge me for my comfortable pajamas, and you judge me for the fact that I actually care what I put on my body, even though I shouldn’t even take any of your dickwad opinions on that because you are so, so…” Eddie is continuing, but Richie is watching Eddie’s bare back move as he pulls on the white shirt, his shoulders moving underneath it as he adjusts the sleeves. Richie is still surprised to see the muscle definition in Eddie’s surprisingly jacked arms. God. He is so, so...

Eddie looks back over his shoulder and knows exactly what Richie is doing. “You mind?”

“Do you mind?”

“This is my room.”

“I’m your guest.”

“Richie. Fucking please.”

Richie gets it. This is Eddie. Eddie is not the showy type, in any sense. He’s the type where Richie couldn’t decipher his feelings until he was literally a centimeter away from kissing him. Maybe that is Richie’s own dumbassery, actually. But Richie does know that Eddie is not doing to strip tease him right now, while he changes into his pajamas. Richie doesn’t even know what he would do if Eddie did that. His own intimacy issues would probably kick in and he’d end up just giving Eddie a round of applause or something. Jesus.

Richie continues to fiddle with his torn shirt, moving around the room, picking at some peeling wallpaper. 

“Okay,” Eddie says. “Are you tired?”

“Yeah,” Richie says, looking over.

“Good.”

Eddie walks to the bed and gets under the covers on one side, bunching up the pillow under his head, and closes his eyes. “Then come sleep.”

Richie walks over to the bed and carefully climbs in. His heart is pounding in his ears despite himself. He gets the covers over him, and then moves in closer. He tentatively reaches a hand out across Eddie’s middle and pulls so he’s flush against him. Richie kisses his neck once, twice, and it somehow gets Richie to relax, his breathing slowing. Eddie holds the hand that’s slung over him.

“We should tell them tomorrow,” Eddie says. Richie internally freezes up, and he thinks his body follows. “They won’t mind.” Eddie squeezes his hand. Richie realizes he definitely externally flinched.

“They’re gonna give us shit, though.”

“Well yeah they are. We’re us.”

Richie murmurs in agreement. “That’s true. We are us.” He pauses. “Tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow,” Eddie answers.

Okay. Tomorrow. 

It’s different than the last night, holding Eddie. Everything feels more solid. It all feels more real. The adrenaline of it all only thrums gently, deep within him. Richie’s head is clear. And so is his vision, as he focuses in on the pill bottles on the bedside table. Shit.

Richie removes his hand from Eddie’s so he can slide his glasses off. He then dangles them in front of Eddie’s face.

“Can you—”

Eddie groans, and takes them, leaning forward to put them on the table. He then nestles himself back under the covers, shimmying back into Richie’s arms.

“Thank you,” Richie says, and he’s really thanking him for a million different things. “Eds.”

 

The next morning, Richie slips out of Eddie’s bed, who sleepily holds his hand as he stands and only lets go after Richie squeezes his fingers. He slips out of the room and pads back across the hall to his door.

Just before turning the knob there’s a noise down the hall, and Richie feels terror course through him as he pulls back from he door and stares as Bev’s door opens. She looks up from toeing on a pair of slippers and locks eyes with Richie. She starts to smile, but it pauses halfway across her face as she registers his panic. 

“Good morning,” Bev says carefully. 

“Hey,” Richie replies. His voice cracks, and he clears his throat, pounds his chest with his fist, and laughs.

“I thought I heard someone out here.”

“Yeah,” Richie says, after having no fucking clue what to say.

“And...what’re you doing?” She asks. 

Richie speaks before he can think. “I took a walk.” He pauses just long enough to nod too many times. “It’s a uh, part of my comedy ritual. I take morning walks and think of my material. My jokes.”

“You don’t write your own jokes.” Bev says.

“Well.” Richie contorts his face. “Well, I…”

Bev looks at him, waiting.

“Okay, okay. Whatever. Fuck it,” Richie says. “We’re probably gonna go out to breakfast and tell the others in a couple hours or whatever. Whatever. But. I was uh. In Eddie’s room.” He vaguely gestures towards Eddie’s door, leaves his arm up, and waits.

Bev looks towards the door, then back at Richie. Her eyebrows slowly raise and her look of confusion turns to a full on grin. 

“Did you sleep together?” She whispers. 

“What?” Richie whisper-screams right back. “No. No, I mean. We did like, fall asleep, but it was very cute, very PG. Fuck, Bev, this is so weird, we’re like...just now figuring this out, obviously, and—”

“Right, right, I’m sorry I’m sorry,” Bev says, and steps out of the doorway with her arms opening. She’s coming for him, for a hug. “Oh, I’m so happy for you, Rich.” She says, pulling him close. Richie lets his arms close around her. Her arms stay around him as she adds “poor Eddie” and Richie then squeezes her until she pounds on his back to stop. “Kidding. Kidding, kidding. You’re crushing me, asshole.” He lets go, and she pulls back, huffing in mock-annoyance before she sighs and smiles again up at him. She touches Richie’s cheek with her careful fingers. She always had this way about her, when they were kids. Like she always knew some secret you’d never find out. Her eyes still shine just like that. “Richie. Good job.” 

He doesn’t know exactly what she means, but he thinks he might.

 

They tell them all over breakfast, just like Eddie wanted. It’s met with a chorus of cheers and applause in the middle of the café, the fucking monsters. Richie keeps a hand on his forehead, looking down, trying to block his eyes from them as he smiles. 

“Aw, Trashmouth is a softie,” Bill croons. 

Richie flips him off. He then looks to his left at the table, and Eddie is smiling at him, his cheeks pink.

Richie tries to look them all in the eye again. “We wouldn’t have told you if we knew you were gonna be like this, fuck. We shouldn’t have said anything.”

“You love me,” Eddie says. “Don’t you want our friends to know you love me—“

“Shut the fuck up, you love me! You love me too! ” Richie counters, heated. “Just because a clown used that love against me doesn’t make me the sappy love one! You’re the little spoon!” He looks around at his friends. “Eddie is a little spoon!”

“Shut up Richie oh my fucking god I will murder you.” Eddie hisses through his teeth. He raises his fork like a dagger and Richie steals a bite of his toast while he’s mimicking going for Richie’s jugular. That sends him off, cursing Richie out. Richie then starts to pretend gag, because oh fuck, it’s gluten free bread, he forgot. Eddie calls him a fucker for the eighteenth time in a row, and thank god this café is mostly empty.

Richie can see Mike out of his peripherals, just eating eggs and smiling to himself. Richie turns to him and beams.

“We big time love each other. In a really fun, gay way.” Richie settles on. Eddie mimics stabbing him one more time before he lets his fork clatter to his plate. 

“It’s true. We do.”

Their friends simply look at them, small bemused smiles on their lips, and Richie thinks back to Eddie last night. They’re them

“This has been quite the trip home,” Ben starts. He then looks to Bev beside him and his handsome face lights up. “Bev and I are together too.” 

There’s excitement all around, but Richie adds in a loud “we know!”

“Aw come on, we let you formally announce yours!” Ben cries.

“Well you didn’t know about ours!”

“Well,” Bev starts. 

Bill snorts a laugh. “Uh, Rich. You’re not smooth. We knew.” Richie feels himself go hot. Bill knew? They knew?

Richie turns to Eddie, who is pointing a finger and laughing. Richie goes to bite his finger on instinct.

“You’re not smooth either, doe eyes,” Bill says to Eddie. Eddie’s smile collapses and he turns his gaze to Bill. They all turn to Bill.“You both show your love through irritation. And god, do you irritate each other.”

“That’s beautiful, Bill.” Bev says. 

Mike and Ben nod in agreement. Richie’s cheeks are still hot, his stomach doing backflips, but he decides that he doesn’t mind it.

“So,” Mike starts. “Bill’s going back to set, I’m going on a Florida-bound road trip— what about the rest of you?” 

“Well, Bev and I were thinking sailing,” Ben says. “You know, just to clear our heads. Get away from it all for a little while. I have a condo in Santa Monica, we’re gonna—”

“Live out your perfect beautiful person bohemian fantasy, we get it, you’re both perfect and beautiful,” Richie says without thinking. Bev rolls her eyes to high heaven in response.

“What about you, Rich?” Ben asks, sipping a mimosa and raising his eyebrows. He addresses Richie, but he looks at Eddie too. 

Richie glances to his left as Eddie clears his throat. 

“Well. I have to go home. To divorce my wife,” Eddie says plainly. Mike leans back in his chair. They all silently look to Eddie to continue, but Richie doesn’t know how he would possibly follow that up.

Richie laughs, because that’s what the fuck he does. “And I’m going back to Chi. I start a cross-country tour in twenty-two days. I’m coming to Florida by the way, Mike.” Richie says with a wink.

Mike ignores that last bit. “Are you two going to…?” 

Richie bites the tip of his tongue. “We haven’t really…talked about any of that.” Why does he still feel so hot? 

“We should probably talk about that,” Eddie says, and when Richie looks over Eddie starts searching his eyes.

“Come with me,” Richie decides to say.

Eddie rips his bitten piece of toast in half and shoves it in his mouth as he starts to shake his head. “I can’t come on your whole tour with you, Richie.” 

“Just a few stops then. Or more. Or all of them.”

Eddie stares at him. “Richie. You can’t peer pressure me into coming with you on a long ass tour.”

Richie looks to the others for help, and they’re already staring Eddie down. 

“Do the tour, Eds,” Ben says.

“Fucking why?” Eddie asks.

“So you can be with him!”

“And practice living with him,” Bev adds.

Eddie continues to shake his head, closing his eyes as he flounders for an answer. “I can’t just—”

Richie slumps forward in his chair, looking up at him. “I’m begging you, Eds. Just a few stops? Please.”

Eddie’s answer is instant. “Okay.”

For the third time that breakfast, they all erupt into cheers. Eddie waves them off, frowning, but he bumps his foot against Richie’s under the table.

“It’s not like I’ll have anything better to do,” Eddie says, and then chugs the rest of his orange juice. Richie sits there, satisfied, and he’s sure his friends can tell. He thinks they’re satisfied, too. 

 

 

Saying goodbye to Bill sucks. It comes too soon, only a few hours after breakfast. They all stand in the lobby and say their goodbyes. Even though they promise this won’t be the last time they see each other, not by a long shot, everyone still tears up. Richie knows they all feel it. That this family had been kept apart for too long. And because of that, they can’t stay. That they have to go back to how it was. 

“Write a good ending this time, bud,” Richie says while he holds Bill close. Bill laughs lightly and pats him on the back a few times. 

“Fuck off, Richie,” Bill says. “I will.”

Bill and Mike hug the longest, saying soft things to each other, Mike insisting that his next stop will be California, that he’ll see him soon. They all watch him go, waving to him as he gets in his car, and watch him drive away.

And then Eddie gets a call. His phone vibrates rhythmically in his pocket and Richie is standing so close that he can easily see who it is. Even though he has no right, his jaw still clenches when he sees it’s Myra. Eddie looks up at Richie apologetically, and then says softly to the others “I’ll be right back.”

He answers as he walks upstairs, with a meek “hello”. He walks briskly across the hall towards his room, and Richie loses sight of him just as Eddie says “I know, I know, I’ve been busy—” and then seconds later, the door to his room closes. Richie turns back to face the others, and he swallows. He can’t keep up a facade with them anymore. Not since they know. Not since they’re family. 

“I need a drink.”

Richie goes behind the bar and makes something for himself. The others sit at the bar stools and watch him. Richie makes a rum and coke for each of them too, but only Bev takes a few sips of hers before grimacing and leaving it be. Richie leans forward and nurses his drink, keeping it against his lips, and stares at some wood detailing on the wall opposite of him. He made his drink too strong. But the burning feels good. He thinks about Eddie, arguing with his wife. His wife, that makes him sound like that. That Pavlovs him into feeling terrified every time she opens her mouth. 

Richie finishes his drink.

Richie watches Ben plays with Bev’s hair as they sit together by the fireplace.

Richie has a thumb war with Mike and loses hard.

Richie holds Eddie desperately during the night.

 

 

Eddie decides to leave the next day. Richie decides he will too. 

Saying goodbye is harder when he’s the one that’s leaving. Bev cries, but insists it’s out of happiness. Mike tells him he’ll see him at the Miami show, and Richie promises through misty eyes to get him a VIP pass, like all of his biggest fans deserve. Ben crushes him in a hug and tells him to stay safe.

Richie takes one last look at the Inn before he goes. He decides, despite all better judgement, that maybe he’ll come back sometime. Even after everything. 

“See you soon,” Richie says. Eddie is finishing his hug with Bev, who has her mouth close to his ear, and Eddie is nodding. When Eddie pulls back, he is blinking shiny eyes and twisting his mouth out of a frown. Richie reaches a hand for him, and Eddie wordlessly takes it. The others coo accordingly, and Richie gives a short bow before he pushes the door open. Richie waves one last goodbye, swallows against the lump in his throat. Then Eddie follows him out into the sun.

Standing next to Eddie’s car, Richie really hopes the others aren’t peeking from the door. Eddie closes the trunk to his car after shoving the last suitcase inside and then finally locks eyes with Richie. Richie is suddenly hit with a thought— if he wasn’t still coming down from a post-clown-killing high, if he hadn’t confessed as Eddie died in his arms, would he have said it? Would Eddie have said it back? Would they just have gone home, without this moment where they gravitate towards each other?

The idea makes Richie want to fucking cry. He takes one of Eddie’s hands instead.

“Are you mad I’m making you come on tour with me?”

“No,” Eddie says, smiling. He looks down at the pavement. “It’ll be good.” He sighs. “I’m trying to stop analyzing every fucking thing. I kinda just want to start doing.”

“I know how you feel.”

“Do you? I have a degree in analyzing shit, Rich. What do you have a degree in, clownery?”

“Yes. I got my doctorate, actually.” Eddie nods, impressed. Richie is so fucking in love with him. “Well. I hope you have a good three weeks. Until I meet you in New York.”

“I won’t. But I’ll have something to look forward to.”

Richie gently reaches up and touches the bandage on Eddie’s cheek with his fingertips.

“Did you pack get that thing of extra bandages on the sink?”

“Mhm,” Eddie murmurs. 

“Good.”

Eddie leans into his hand and looks up at him. The lines in his face soften.

“I’m gonna miss you so fucking much,” Richie says. The left side of Eddie’s mouth tips slightly up. Richie can’t keep himself from saying it. “I’m afraid that when I go back to Chicago, it’ll feel like this was all a weird, clown-magic-fueled dream. And you’ll go back to New York, and you’ll forget about me.”

“Well I’m afraid you’ll go back to Chicago and realize that you’d rather not be with me after all. And I’ll just be divorced and forty and alone.”

Richie scoffs. “That scenario is literally impossible, Eds.”

“Well your thing is literally impossible.”

“Then let’s just not do those things.”

“Fine.” 

Eddie is holding loosely onto the hand that Richie has on Eddie’s cheek. Richie kisses him. Eddie only lets the kiss linger, no matter the fact that Richie desperately wants to push him against the car and try to memorize Eddie’s lips. But Eddie is soft, patient, and it feels like an actual goodbye. Richie hates it. 

“I’m glad I came back,” Eddie says as he pulls away. “To Derry. Even though I got stabbed in the cheek. And thrown up on. And had to kill a clown again.”

“Are you saying I was worth all that?” Richie asks. He kisses one of the dimples in Eddie’s cheek. “I’m touched.”

“Yes, you’re worth getting vomited on and stabbed. On certain occasions.” Eddie gently pushes Richie away. “I need to go.”

“I love you,” Richie says, as Eddie opens the car door.

Eddie turns back, his eyes wide. “I love you too.” Richie watches Eddie’s mouth twitch from a smile to a frown, and he’s glad that they both can’t decide whether or not they should be happy or sad as this is happening. Eddie looks up before he closes the car door. “Bye.”

“Bye.”

Eddie starts the car. He rolls down the window. Richie’s heart aches when he sees Eddie’s eyes are shining behind a smile.

“This is so fucking ridiculous,” He says, pulling out of his spot. “I love you, Tozier. You crazy motherfucker.”

It is ridiculous. That they are saying they love each other, that they will see each other again. Richie doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so he starts to do Pennywise’s little dance instead, singing a tune under his breath until Eddie honks the horn and scares him out of it. 

“See you in New York,” Eddie calls. Richie blows him a kiss and then flips him off. Eddie mirrors it, laughing to himself.

Eddie pulls out of the lot and drives down the street, beeping the horn twice as he does. Richie is left standing in the parking lot, looking after him, until he finally turns a corner and disappears from view. He keeps his hands in his pockets, balled in fists, and closes his eyes.

 

Richie drives home. He sings along to the radio loudly with the windows down. He gets recognized at a gas station. And then he’s back in Chicago, back in a hotel room. Richie closes the door of his room behind him, throws his stuff down, takes off his clothes, gets under the covers, and then falls the fuck asleep.

The previous three nights, Richie drifted off to Eddie’s breathing and dreamed of nothing at all. 

Now, Richie drifts off to the sound of an air conditioner. And dreams. 

 

Eddie is above him, calling his name, smiling. Then there’s the initial spurt of blood as Eddie is being stabbed through, lifted up, thrown aside down a deep pit. Richie’s legs aren’t working right, but he crawls towards the pit, sliding along blood-covered rock. He slips, and he falls, far, far down into the pit and lands alongside Eddie. It hurts, it all hurts, and he can’t use his legs at all anymore, dragging himself towards Eddie, who’s calling out for him, crying for him, reaching for him. Richie does his best, but it’s such an effort, and his own body is bleeding and hurting and by the time he’s looking down at him Eddie is scarily pale. 

“Eddie,” Richie sobs.

“Richie, it hurts,” Eddie wails, and the blood that comes out of him is too much, too much, it flows out from him and spreads out against the ground beneath them and covers Richie’s hands.

Richie tries to open his mouth again, tries to speak, but he can’t. He chokes on his words, gasping air into his lungs, but blood dribbles out of his own mouth onto Eddie’s neck.

“No,” Eddie wails. “No, no no no…” he’s sobbing, gripping Richie hard, and the blood just pours from him as he sobs. Richie needs to tell him he loves him, needs to save him…

But he is choking, spitting blood. Eddie falls back, his expression blank, his grip failing. Richie still cannot make any noise. There is so much blood. Eddie’s lips are blue. His eyes are open. 

 

 

Richie wakes up with a strangled cry stuck in his throat. He rolls over, kicks the covers off of him, and presses his palms into his eyes before he sobs. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Eddie is not dead. He knows Eddie is not dead. But fuck, it still feels like it’s happening. He can remember it so vividly, even if neither the memory or the dream is true. His half-asleep mind is trying to trick itself, trying to convince him it’s real, but it’s not, it’s not, Eddie is just at home. He’s not here, but he’s safe.

Richie had gotten kind of used to sleeping next to him. He got used to drooling on Eddie’s pillows and getting yelled at for it. To talking with him about the most mundane things until Eddie was suddenly asleep, breathing evenly. To having Eddie to cling to during the night, to waking up with his heart fluttering like a fucking teenager. 

It was three nights. But those were three good fucking nights. And Richie misses him. 

Richie checks the time. It’s 3:45. He absolutely cannot call Eddie to complain that he misses him. Firstly, because Richie cares about him and wants him to get all the sleep he can. And secondly, because that is just too fucking soft of him.

So Richie gets up, puts back on the same clothes that are still on the floor, and leaves. He rides the elevator down to an empty lobby, and he smiles at the woman at the front desk, who definitely looks at him like he’s on something.

 

Richie walks down the street, which is still littered with people. Richie thinks it’s a Thursday. People are probably headed to work already, headed to the trains that’ll take them a million different directions. Richie stays on the same street, though, and just heads towards Millennium Park, a straight shot from his hotel.

He stops at a Dunkin Donuts, takes meticulous care picking out a dozen, and then walks to a bench a little out of the way of the Bean and watches the cars go by. He eats five donuts too quickly and stares at nothing. Finally, when the sun starts to rise, he watches it make its slow crawl up the sky. 

Morning joggers go by. Richie’s stomach hurts from the five donuts, and the sixth he’s still picking at. He thinks about how he would never be able to fucking do that in his life— wake up at the crack of dawn to go run instead of having a subtle breakdown and five donuts. He thinks about how many mornings he’s had like this. He thinks about Eddie eating fucking lettuce for breakfast and having no fun ever in his life. He thinks about Eddie looking at him after Richie just flat out said I love you. 

At 5:15, Richie’s phone vibrates, and Eddie’s name appears illuminated on the screen. It almost feels like a dream, impossible that he could be calling when Richie is sitting here aching for him. But when Richie answers, he’s there. 

“Richie?”

“Morning.”

“You’re up? Or did I wake you?”

“No, I’m up. I’m super up.”

“Oh. Are you outside? I hear traffic.”

“I’m at the park.”

“You’re at the park...at five in the morning? Rich, did you sleep okay?” 

Richie pauses, sighs through his nose. “No.”

“Fuck. I knew it, I could feel it, some kind of Richie-based disturbance in the fucking universe. God, Rich, I’m sorry. Nightmares?”

“Yeah, a bad one. Bout you.” 

Richie,” Eddie says. Selfishly, the concern in Eddie’s voice calms Richie down, makes him sink down further against the bench. “I should have just let you come with me.” 

Richie shakes his head to no one. “No, it’s okay. I do have other shows. It’s responsible that I’m here.”

“Yeah, but. I just.” Eddie sighs, and there’s movement on the other end of the phone. “How’s the park?”

“Good. It’s nice out. The Bean is big. The city is moving. I just ate three glazed donuts and two jelly ones.” Eddie groans into the phone. “Which would you have had?”

“First of all Rich, that’s fucking disgusting. Second of all, neither, because gluten. But I know of a place over here that does all gluten free ones. I’ve never tried them, because fuck those empty calories. To be completely frank I’d probably do a gluten-free bagel with almond butter, it’s way healthier and it won’t fuck up your system the entire day, plus it probably tastes way—”

“That wasn’t even an option, you dick.”

“Well it’s the truth! That’s what I would pick!”

Richis sighs. A fucking almond butter bagel. “How’s New York?”

“I uh. Talked to Myra. Went to a doctor’s appointment. Now I’m at a hotel.” There’s silence on the other line, and Richie is about to make some other meaningless joke, but Eddie continues. “You know, I think she’s starting to really get it. That I’m not...that I’m not gonna be persuaded. But it’s still shitty. And it’s gonna be shitty.”

Richie has never had to comfort the love of his life through a divorce before. So he says the most comforting thing he can think of. “That blows.”

“Yeah, Rich.”

“Did you sleep okay?”

“Kinda. No dreams. But I am awake right now, so that’s not great.”

“It’s good to hear your voice though.”

“It’s good to hear yours too,” Eddie says. “I miss you.”

Richie doubles over, gripping his chest and pulling at his shirt, and he’s so glad Eddie can’t see. Eddie misses him, too. He lies down on the bench, phone to his ear, grinning. 

“Aww, after less than twenty-four hours without me?” 

“Unfortunately, yes. I kinda miss your giant limbs covering me while I sleep and nearly crushing me in the night.”

“I miss your sleep-talking about insurance policies.” 

“I miss your drool pile. You absolute animal.”

“I miss your sweet ass.” Richie says, and a passing jogger looks his way. Richie grimaces and stares at the sky instead.

“I will hang up,” Eddie warns.

“Please don’t, I’m enjoying the park with you.” 

“Fine,” Eddie mutters. “Now I have a legitimate question. I’ve always wanted to know. Just how big is the Bean?”

Richie turns to look at it in the distance and squints. “I dunno, like, one spider-Pennywise tall. And two wide.”

“Impressive.” 

“So unfair. Derry got a giant Paul Bunyan bullshit statue? And Chicago gets the fucking Bean?” 

“Chicago is a massive city with like millions of other priceless pieces of art, Richie.”

“Yeah, but Derry deserved a Bean. I’d like to see IT try to turn a fucking bean into something scary.”

Richie listens to Eddie laugh into the phone, distorted and loud, until he’s giggling along with Richie, right in his ear.

“That’s fucked.”

“IT says ’it’s time’. Not time to float, but time to get crushed by a fucking rolling Bean.”

They laugh for a long time. Richie eats another donut despite himself. It makes his stomach hurt more, but at this point it might as well happen.

“I miss everyone,” Richie says.

“Me too.”

“I miss you.”

“We’ve established this already.”

Richie watches a cloud pass overhead. It’s actually morning, now. An actual day. And he is a somewhat established comedian lying on a bench with a box of six donuts on the ground next to him. On the phone with the love of his life. Staring wistfully at the sky.

“A bagel is not a donut. You still need to answer my question.”

 

Richie spends the rest of the day watching movies on the hotel TV. He doesn’t get dressed. He gets three rounds of room service. He talks to his agent and sets up a rehearsal day for his show next week. Watches another movie. Doesn’t pay attention. Thinks about his friends, what they might be doing. How their lives are moving forward. How what he’s doing right now feels a lot like what he’d been doing for the past six months, before Mike’s call. Alone. Waiting on people who are too busy to call. Not thinking of jokes. Whiskey before bed.

As soon as the sun goes down, he falls asleep. 

 

 

Richie dreams again. 

 

He is in the quarry. His eyes are open against the green water. He rises up towards the surface, filling his lungs with air when he reaches the surface. When he looks around, blinking water from his eyes, he sees his friends wading through the water ahead of him. They are scrubbing dirt from their faces. Bev is pushing the water through her blood-matted hair. They are safe. They are out. They are alive…

Eddie is not. It hits Richie like a sudden wave, and he can’t stop the sob that racks him as he weakly swims. Richie does not know why, or how, but he knows that Eddie is dead. That IT killed him. Richie pushes himself under the water to hide from his friends, sobbing into the silence, pushing bubbles out of his mouth, getting water up his nose. When he’s too tired to keep crying, he floats.

When he breaches the surface again, his friends are gone and the water is still.

 

Richie wakes up crying. He stares out the window of his hotel room. He eats a complementary bag of pretzels. He stares at his phone. It’s 4:50. He doesn’t want to call Eddie. But the dream is still replaying itself in his mind, looping that feeling of realizing that Eddie is gone.

He settles on a text.

Bad dream again. Take it as a compliment I guess, my subconscious is obsessed with you. 

Three minutes later, he sends another message.

You don’t have to call me, just felt like I should tell you. Miss you Eds :-(((( 

Twenty minutes later, Richie’s phone is vibrating from a call, not a text. Richie only lets it vibrate once before he is putting it on speaker and lying his phone on the pillow next to him.

“Go back to sleep.”

“I had a bad dream too,” Eddie says. “I just woke up.”

“Fuck. Our brains are broken,” Richie mutters. “What was yours about? Risk analysis?”

“Bout you.”

Richie blinks at the phone on the pillow. “What happened?” He murmurs.

“You got sick.”

Richie tears up without warning. He does not want to think about why he does.

Eddie clears his throat. “What about yours?”

“I think you know.”

Richie lies there and stares at the phone. Why did they agree to three weeks? Why did Richie think that he’d be fine without Eddie, after he suddenly had him again? After all the fucking terrifying shit they’d just been through? Now they’re dreaming about each other’s deaths. Now they’re both waking up in the early hours of the morning to listen to each other’s voices on the phone. Now they’re trying to become normal people again, without each other.

Richie went twenty seven years without even remembering Eddie existed. Now he leaves his arm out on the opposite side of the bed and tries to rationalize that three weeks isn’t really that long.

 

*** 

 

They’re in the Loser’s underground clubhouse when Eddie tells Richie that under no circumstances can he come over to his house tonight. His mom has had it with Richie’s language, can hear him all they way from Eddie’s room when they hang out late into the night. Richie, lying the hammock and studying the look on Eddie’s face, agrees. Whatever, dickwad, he won’t come over. 

He comes over anyway. He tells his mother he’s sleeping over and packs a backpack full of comics for them and a stolen bag of chips. He dumps his bike behind the bushes on the side of Eddie’s house and climbs a tree to the outcropped roof. And then he creeps carefully to Eddie’s window, taps two fingers against the glass. 

Eddie rises from his bed like a zombie, slowly looking to where Richie is waving wildly. Eddie then starts gesturing wildly, motioning for Richie to get the fuck off his roof, to get the fuck out of here, what on earth are you doing

Richie simply twiddles his fingers at Eddie and motions for him to flip the latch to his window. Eddie kneels on the floor at the window and silently mouths a prayer to Richie, hands folded, for him to fucking leave. 

Oh, no no, señor, Richie mouths back. He opens his backpack to show all the comics he’s brought, and Eddie’s eyes go instantly wide before he looks up at Richie, his face slowly contorting into resignation. He undoes the latch. Richie somewhat quietly climbs in. 

“Good evening,” Richie whispers in a British accent, throwing his bag onto Eddie’s bed. 

“I told you not to fucking come over, asshole,” Eddie whispers back. He is wearing a pair of dinosaur pajama pants. Richie actually thinks they look pretty cool, but he still points to them and giggles before Eddie slaps his hands away. “You’re too fucking annoying to try to have a secret sleepover. We’re going to get caught in like thirty seconds.” 

“Not if we’re quiet. Now shut up. I brought chips.”

“Chips are like, the loudest food, Richie.” 

“Then we’ll eat them really slow,” Richie says. He hops onto Eddie’s bed and pulls out the bag, which crinkles obnoxiously in the silence. Eddie presses his hands to his temples.

“Rich if we get caught we will literally never be able to hang out again. Not at sleepovers. Not all school year. My mom, she’ll have a fucking aneurism—”

“Eddie, shush. You’re gonna get us caught.”

Eddie bounds over to the bed and wrestles Richie, pushing him against the bed and trying to grab a pillow to hit him with. Eddie accidentally falls over onto the bag of chips and it makes a very audible crunch. 

“Fuck,” Richie whispers. They sit there in perfect stillness, waiting for movement from downstairs. After a moment, there’s nothing.

They devise a plan, in the end. Both of them under the covers, flashlights on the comics, using an extra blanket to smother the sound of the chips when they reach their hands in. And chewing slowly. Very slowly. 

Richie will remember this night, until he suddenly won’t. He’ll remember it because Eddie is so bad at trying to laugh quietly, because they accidentally tore one of the pages of his new issue, and because they fall asleep side by side, under the covers. Because Richie felt it, back then. Knew that he did not want to really put a name to it, because that would make it real, and make him fucked up. But he felt it anyway. 

And he felt it, when Richie woke up in Eddie’s bed and found his glasses folded neatly next to him on one of the pillows. It was something he definitely did not do himself.

Chapter Text

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.