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The Mighty Rio Grande

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Arms wrapped tightly around his waist, he could feel them trying to pull him back from Eddies body. But he couldn’t let go. All he could focus on was that he hadn’t told him how much he loved him. How even when he couldn’t remember him no one could fill the void he felt. Like his heart was broken in half and he had no reasoning for it to be. Hands pulled him from him and he screamed pounding on the back of the person halling him away. His glasses slipped from his face and he was completely unable to see a thing.

There were shapes that seemed to be moving slower, but he didn’t know why. He could hear Beverly over everything just screaming they needed to keep moving, not to let go. Just get out of the ground.

His throat was burning with every single scream he let out, it was getting to the point he was sure he was only hearing the noises he was trying to make in his head. He was almost limp against the sweat sticky body, just clutching at the soft shirt and pretending like he wished they had left him.

It finally felt like his missing part was back.

From the moment he saw his worried face looking round the restaurant, trying to work out if it was clean enough and if they were expected to eat from the buffet that was so close to the front doors. He just knew that Eddie would be thinking of all the stuff that could fly in the door and land on the food. It was the release of tension from around his eyes and mouth, when it was voted that they would order food to share.

Talking to him had felt like breathing, like he was finally taking in clean air and colours were brighter. But there was no way he would tell anyone that he had kept bigger secrets and this was just as scary for people to find out. He hadn’t planned on armwrestling Eddie but when he had insinuated that he was as strong as a limp noodle. He couldn’t stop himself.

Within a second he knew his arm would be pinned, so he let him think he would win. Feeling the skin, rough from calluses which could only come from his near obsessive need to keep not only himself but his surrounding area clean. He had almost let out a horrific bark of laughter when he had quickly flipped their hands. Pinning his. He didn’t want to let go and he didn’t, it took Eddie pulling his hand free.

He could still feel the warmth, on both his hand and his cheeks. Not really wanting to look at Eddie but catching eyes with Bill; who did nothing more than smile. And it was a knowing one like he understood what Richie was going through, but not to the same degree. Like he found the part of him that made him feel whole. Although he hadn’t struggled to live without that part of him.

Richie came back when water splashed in his face and he scrambled against the body holding him. He could only see darkness coming closer, voices were shouting from behind him. “Mike! Mike! Get him out Mike!” It was Bev and she was getting increasingly more panicked. It was then he stopped struggling. She knew how they died and whatever he was doing must be making it more of a reality. That he wouldn’t be the only one to die. He would be killing himself and Mike, which he couldn’t let happen. He didn’t want to get out but he couldn’t bring himself to be the reason for someone else to die.

The air that was punched out of him as he hit the ground had him curling on his side, barely registering anything but the pain from his probably broken ribs. He could hear the sound of the building collapsing, the heavy breathing coming from all around him. He tried to focus on anything that would give him any idea of what was going on around him.

Richie could honestly say he was still as scared as he had been the whole time they had been fighting It.

He still hadn’t told his friends his biggest secret and by doing so had cause Eddie to die. Curling on his side, he felt a hand in his hair, pulling it back from his face; prodding at the cut that was somewhere in his hairline. He didn’t know who but he did hear voices of people around them, some shouting to call ambulances and others trying to explain basic first aid.

He couldn’t explain why but he started laughing.

The hand in his hair clutched tightly and then forced him on his back. The face he must be making made Bill’s murmured “Shit.” explained it though. His face would be painted with Eddies and his own blood, he could feel the tears streaming down his face and the way it must be creased up. It was completely hysterical. And not in the way he normally liked.

Hands pulled at him, forced a board under his back and then a hand was in his. One he knew. Beverly. Then the sharp prick of a needle and it was black.

“Flute loop.”

“Huh? What?” He muttered, his mouth tasting like ass and sounding like it.

But he looked to his side and saw a Beverly shaped blob, sitting and he thought smiling. Her hand held over her mouth like she hadn’t meant to laugh but not able to stop herself. The Ben shaped one was sat in the chair next to her, slumped over and his mouth wide open drool probably sliding down his cheek. Yet somehow he looked good, which just wasn’t fair considering he was just a person shaped blob.

“The first thing you say in a week that I can actually understand and you somehow choose flute loop.” He thinks she smiles, brushing her hair back. Bruise coloured blotches cover her skin and she shrugs while he looks at them. They are new, dark and painful looking; obviously from their fight with Pennywise.

And that’s when it hit. He still remembered everything.

He could feel the heat of Eddie’s blood hitting his face and how he still felt warm when he was finally dragged away.

Air. He needed air. But he couldn’t get it.

He clawed at his own chest trying as hard as he could to get the tightness to leave, let the air in. But nothing worked.

Hands holding his to the bed. Shouting at nurses not to sedate him. Beverly screaming that he was okay. Not to touch him. Richie couldn’t do anything but focus on her face, the panic in it had him scared. But she was trying to get him to breathe. Her hand wiggled between two nurses holding him down, tapping gently against his chest.

It took time but he was starting to breath, like air was finally being allowed into his lungs again.

“Hey.” It was a soft whisper, much like the fingers running through his hair and the hand clutching his. “It’s okay. It’s gone and your safe.” He screwed his face up trying to turn away from her. “Richie…” she got closer pressing her head to the side of his, “Richie we are all safe. All of us. A stupid clown couldn’t take us all.”

They had got Eddie out, he wouldn’t rot under a house with only the skeletons of children and the withered mess that was Pennywise. Richie would be able to visit him, talk to him, tell him everything. He could be at rest in a beautiful patch of a graveyard, trees covering him and just be somewhere safe.

“I’ll go tell the others he’s awake.” Ben said in passing, going towards the door. The slide of it letting the loud noises of a hospital finally rip through the reasonable quiet of the room.

Seeing the other Losers was going to be jarring, because really he couldn’t see them. He could see parts of them, it they got super close and he didn’t really want that.

“Bev, I won’t be able to see them.” He whispers, turning to look at her.

The way she pulls away digs in a bag, “It’s all we could find.”

It was sunglasses, lightly tinted ones but sunglasses. He was going to look like a giant dickhead, but he wanted to see them.

He saw the bright smiles as Bill and Mike stumble through the door, Ben rolling his eyes and smiling at their excitement of well him being awake. They keep touching him, running hands over him as if making sure he really is there and awake. And Richie felt a quip on the top of his tongue about how they needed to get a more private room, but he couldn’t. It was like that part of him was gone.

It wasn’t really gone, just displaced. Like it didn’t feel right to make those jokes. Which was a foreign feeling in of itself.

Richie could feel the tears streaming down his face but he felt the air punched out of his chest when Mike started babbling. “You think we could get him out of this room? Maybe some fresh air? We got loads to tell him.” He started pulling the wheelchair round to the side of the bed, his eyes darting to Bev. “You haven't told him. So somewhere quiet would be good, you know where people can't judge him.” He felt himself be slid off the bed, by Mike who was stronger than he looked.

He swallowed as they wheeled him, it must have looked odd. A grown man being pushed around with four grown adults surrounding him babbling about how they scared a clown to death. He did fee his skin prickle with the feeling that they had forgotten Eddie.

He had just died. Yet they were smiling and laughing.

Picking at his knuckles, something he knew he did when he was holding in feelings. The smack of fresh air and the sound of wind had him shivering, it was freezing. He only has a hospital gown on and really it was no better than wearing a paper bag, his ass was probably hanging out.

They shuffled around a bit, trying to find a way to sit together. So they were touching if only a little bit, finally slipping him out of the chair and making him feel like a child. But the heat of Bens body warm jacket had him relaxing, leaning against Bill and clutching it right round his chest.

“What do I need to know?” He whispered, Bills head resting against the crown of his. “Is it about the funeral? Or did his wife turn up? Ready to whisk him from our minds the minute we leave.” Every word had him feeling closer to crying, he didn’t even think he had tears left to cry anymore.

Bill tensed next to him, “Uh not exactly.” He stuttered the not so many times Richie frowned, he knew him well enough he was unsure of what to say and it was coming out through the way he was speaking. “We we we.” He shook his head roughly, looking up at the sky and taking a deep breath, “We came from Eddies room. That’s where Ben got us from.” He sighed, he had rushed through his words to try and stop his stutter.

“It doesn’t make sense, there was this giant hole in his chest. But the further we got from the house it seemed to get smaller like Pennywise did.” Ben sighed, “He’s in a coma, Myra is here. But one of us is always with each of you, we get a funny vibe from her.”

Richie felt odd.

He felt whole and yet broken. He could tell him. Because honestly, what did he have left to loose. Knowing that he would need to start this with something he had never told, something he forced down with all his might. Dated women and hated himself, slept with men and felt like he was breaking.

He had always felt like he was stupid waiting for someone who had his heart and he didn’t know. Richie was a hopeless romantic in love with a memory he had lost. But he could tell him and maybe not feel so hurt when he was rejected.

“I’m gay.” He muttered and looked up the grey cold sky.

It stayed silent. He could hear the far off talking if others in the garden, the sound of the wind rushing through leaves and his own breathing. He didn’t feel lighter. Not how all those books and tv shows made it seem. It was just not lying to anyone.

“Thank you for telling us.” Bev said, holding his hand and squeezing it.

“I’ve been in love with Eddie since I worked out what love was.” And then he felt it, like a boulder lifting from his chest. “I was waiting for him even when I couldn’t remember him. You weren’t the only one holding out for your childhood love Ben. But at least you could see their face and hear their voice. Not a shadow who whispered to you in your sleep.”

They were quiet and he pulled himself up, getting into the chair and staring towards the door.

“Myra isn’t there.” Was all Mike said before he started wheeling him into the hospital. It was odd, feeling people look down at him their eyes full of pity. Like they knew what they had survived, probably that they had been attacked by the escaped murder, Bowers. He just sat, waiting for the elevator.

It seemed like forever when they finally got in the thing, his skin crawled at being stuck in there even if he did have the best people he knew with him. It rattled and shook and smelled of bleach. Which should have made him feel sick but it almost reminded him of Eddie, when they kids. How the smell of bleach almost lingered in the air when he would first join them. But disappear they longer he was around.

It was a slow roll towards his room, they passed who he thought was Myra. She looked exactly like the pictures he has seen of Facebook, it was just unnerving how put together she was. Like she was just going about her normal day. She glared at him which was odd, he didn’t know her and she didn’t know how he felt her husband. Maybe she had seen him on television or the Netflix special, it was popular but very dividing.

He rolled his eyes, she probably thought he was disgusting and shouldn’t be near Eddie. Because he had got those looks from his mother too, when she had once heard him go on a tirade at Bill.

Being rolled into the room, his palms were sweating and his legs were bouncing. He felt like he was both filled with overwhelming excitement and fear. It wasn’t something he wanted to feel again. Then he saw him.

Laying right there in that bed.

He was pale and his hair was greasy, nothing like he had ever seen Eddie. But he watched his chest move up and down, he was alive and breathing. Rolling himself over he could finally breathe.

“So he has a whole it goes right through his chest, didn’t hit anything too major.” Ben rambled, “They put him in a coma to help him heal better, they said they would be waking him up in the next week. So you could maybe talk to him.”

Richie could only do one thing. Pulling his hand into his cupping it, feeling the heat radiate from it and the heavy thump of his pulse from his wrist. He let it out, pressing his head to the top of his hand and crying. It wasn’t anything like before. He wasn’t sobbing, he wasn’t making a noise. He was crying because he knew he was alive. That Eddie would get out of this place, he wouldn’t be left behind under the ground.

They practically dragged him from the room, he was smiling widely the whole way back to his room. Barely listened to the doctors as they went through all the care he would need to do. He didn’t care at all.

The next week was long, but he got used to the slow life that was in Derry. Got used to people asking him about how he was, how he felt knowing that Bowers was dead and weirdly a lot of questions if he was doing another Netflix special. He hadn’t thought about it, but he had also caught himself writing. It wasn’t something he had done since he had been discovered and told his material wasn’t good enough. Richie was writing about his life in the small town and well forgetting he was gay and in love with his childhood best friend.

Five days after he had been let out, he found himself sat with the Losers and going through his new material. He took in how they laughed and made little notes, got rid of things that had faces screwing up and made ways to expand on ideas that had them cackling by the time he got to the end of the joke. He had smiled when they all told him this was much better than all the material he had been saying over the years.

That it sounded more like him. That he sounded like the Richie from when they were kids just better thought out and cleaner. Somehow.

They all made their way too hospital on the day that they were told Eddie could have visitors. Myra had been screaming down the phone, she had only been near the nurse as she had told them Eddie had asked for them.

Walking back into that room so see Eddie sitting up, his head in his hands and humming under his breath as Myra screamed the place down. Had been. Eye opening. She wouldn’t stop asking about where his wedding ring was. How he was going to force her to spend less to pay off the bills the insurance wouldn’t cover. Hadn’t he thought before he came back to see all these people.

He didn’t say a thing till she turned on him. Screaming about how he had watched that disgusting Richie Tozier on Netflix and had changed.

“Shut up! I’m done with all your bullshit! All your fucking bullshit!” Eddie shouted. Which stopped her in her tracks, she just turned and looked at him. Her mouth open and her cheeks wobbling, Richie knew this must have been similar to when he had exploded at his mother. Like everything had built up and he had had enough. “I contacted a lawyer before I came here.” She gasped, like those women on soap operas did over the top and ridiculous. “Which is fine because we don’t have anything we need to split. Because your parents insisted on a prenup. So mine is mine and yours is yours. Which included no spousal support.”

She flew out the door, shoving them out of the way. Richie hit the door hard and slumped a little in shock.

“Knew you had it in you spaghetti.”

“Just fucking don’t Richie.” he slid his head forward so it was resting on the table, continuing to mumble.

Bill’s voice rang out, his stutter barely audible. “I’d cancel your cards man.” He moved forward dropping his cellphone on the table next to his head. While they thought they would be catching up, the next hour was filled with Eddie canceling every card she had access too. Making sure that the companies knew what was going on and to not let her have any access to his accounts. And Richie felt bad, because all he was doing was writing material.

Ben looked over his shoulder as he frantically typed on his phone, making notes. He nudged him and muttered little quips, things that would work and make it smarter. If he didn’t know Ben he really would hate him, being far to attractive and funny to boot; it wasn’t fair.

He finally looked up when he heard, “The glasses are an improvement trashmouth. Maybe they will help with your ability to write.” He beamed.

“Everyone says I’m the asshole.” He muttered, walking closer to the bed. “They should meet you. Biggest one of all and only person to keep up with me.” He didn’t stop his hand reaching out, but stopped it from grabbing Eddies. Just touching his shoulder, touching him. “Glad your alive, you can see the new special.”

“Fuck off! You got it!” Ben shouted tugging him away and spinning him. It was maddening that Ben was still the excited person he had always been, just stronger and bigger.

“Yeah...yeah...they liked my new stuff. Might bring in a better crowd and less controversy than the last one.” He batted at Ben forcing him to let go, “My manager has me booked for a test gig week. You all better be there.”

They all talked for a while, going over what had happened and glad they all remembered everything. Not like before where it started to get fuzzy not even a week after it had happened.

Screaming started from the end of the hall, which meant Myra was at the nurses station. They all cleared out wanting to help the nurses, leaving Richie with Eddie. It was the first time he had been alone with him, ever since they came back. His skin itched.

The silence was deafening. “Richie you better have got me a front seat, with access.” And they couldn’t stop laughing.

--------

He couldn’t stop smiling as he walked off stage. It was the best reaction he had ever had at a show, there had been non-stop laughter and cheering for him to do more when he had ended the show. He sat in his dressing room, shirt off and just smiling.

Knowing that he should put a shirt on, but not really caring. The Losers would be coming through soon and they have seen more of each other than just him shirtless, considering Bev had to help him wash properly the day he got out of the hospital.

The door flew open and they piled in. Ranting about how he was going to be the next big thing. How they had made them laugh so hard they were sure they had rebroken ribs. It was odd as they all sank to the floor, but when he looked up Eddie was leaning against the door. His smile was wide and soft, he couldn’t take his eyes off him. Didn’t even listen to Bev as she talked about the idiot in the row behind them.

He just kept his eyes on him as Eddie walked towards him, slumped down on the floor next to him and rested his head on his shoulder. Just let him grab his hand and squeeze it tight. The feeling of sweaty palms against each other, should not have made his heart race but it did. So he did the one stupid thing he could.

Drawing their joint hands to his mouth he pressed a kiss to the back of them.

Nothing was as jarring as the sudden tug on his hand, finding himself hovering over Eddie and then the sharp tug on the back of his neck. His lips were chapped and dry, it couldn’t feel good to have them against Eddies soft ones. But their stubble brushed against each other and he couldn’t stop. He was kissing the one person he had been in love with for years.

The noises they were making can not have been friend friendly, and it was obvious from the sudden coughing that filled the room that they should stop. He pulled back and looked down at Eddie, his eyes darting to look right at Bill. Who was laughing and holding his hand out. Money slowly being put into it by the others.

“Oh fuck you.”