When Richie first saw Eddie’s lifeless body lying on the ground in front of him, his mind was stubborn. Every logical part of him could see the signs. The glazed over look in his eyes, the lack of movement, the slack mouth, the blood, so much fucking blood… but still there was a disconnect between what he saw and the ability to interpret the full meaning. In that moment, he felt positive that he was sleeping. That this had to be a horrible nightmare that he would wake up from. It’s a weird thing, when your whole life is falling apart in front of you, it never feels real. It’s like an out of body experience. Because there’s no way that only a moment ago things were okay, or at least, as okay as things can be when you’re in a sewer fighting an ancient clown alien, and the next moment everything is crumbling around you. In that moment, it's impossible to rationalize it, that there’s no going back in time, no way to undo the mistakes, no reset button, just the cold bitterness of reality and the weight of your pain and regret.
So he denies the signs. He tells the others that Eddie is okay, that he will be fine, because if they could win a fight against a shapeshifting demon, then there’s no way that this is completely out of the realm of possibility. There must be a way to save Eddie, there has to be a way to save Eddie, because if there isn’t…
The others won’t listen to him, though. The others are crying and pleading with him and insisting on the impossible, that Eddie is gone. Richie wants to scream at them for giving up so easily, for not seeing that there’s still a chance. For not understanding that if it’s true, if Eddie is dead for good, then it will rip his heart to shreds. He just lost Stan, losing Eddie would break him. When he hears Bev’s voice and sees the sympathy and sorrow in her eyes, something clicks in his mind. He wants to throw up, sob, crawl out of his skin, wake up out of this fucking nightmare but he can’t.
He clings to him. It’s all he has left to do and it’s the only thing he wants to do. He needs to be close to him and give him every bit of love and affection in him that he’s had to keep locked away for decades. The others grab ahold of him and for a moment he hates them. In retrospect, he knows why they did it. It’s because they love him and because they had already lost two friends in the span of two days and they wouldn’t let him add himself to that list. He would do the same for them. But right then in that moment, he couldn’t understand how they could be so selfish. They all had a life to go back to, they had a chance at happiness and love, but they were dragging Richie away from the remains of his only glimpse at a happy ending and into a cold and bleak nothingness.
Something in Richie snaps. There’s no telling exactly when it happens, but it isn’t instantaneous. It’s a gradual thing, where he can feel his mind slipping away and the lines between his delusions and reality become so blurred that it’s exhausting to try and distinguish between them. At first, reality was all he had. In the hours after watching Neibolt crumble, all he could think about was the reality of it.
It was like a mantra; Eddie is dead. He isn’t coming back. I couldn’t save him. He died saving me. He’s still down there. I never told him. It should’ve been me.
Everything felt heavy. He saw his legs moving but didn’t know how he was doing it. He didn’t care how much he had heard about the stages of grief, he was positive in that moment that this empty feeling would never go away, that he would never smile again, and that the only escape to this would have to be death. Perhaps insanity was his body trying to find another way out. Maybe it was a kindness.
It starts slow. Richie hasn’t left his apartment much since he returned home. He told his manager that he was going to need a break due to a loss and that he needed all of his foreseeable shows cancelled and refunded until further notice. Of course there was a bit of a fight over it, his manager insisted that this decision was much too drastic and that they could work together to figure out a middle ground, but Richie held his ground. He hasn’t spoken to many people since then. His manager checks in every now and then. He speaks with the remaining Losers most, although he can only stomach listening to them talk about their new relationships and opportunities for so long before he has to call it a day. He’s happy for them, of course he is, he just doesn’t want to sound bitter or make them worry about him by admitting that he hasn’t gotten any better. So mostly he isolates himself, sleeps a lot, and goes on the internet when he has the energy.
About a month after he left Derry, he comes across an article about a woman who survived getting impaled by a shard of glass. The article says that she was near death by the time she got to the hospital, but after some time in the ER, she had a miraculous recovery. His mind wanders to Eddie, as it always does. What if he survived? What if he was just on the brink of death when we left him? He ignores the minor details like the fact that the glass the woman was impaled with was significantly smaller than It’s claw was or that she was at the hospital within an hour of her injury. He goes down a rabbit hole, searching through articles about miraculous recoveries until another one catches his eye. A young boy who was thought to be dead was found under rubble after an entire week of being buried down there alone. Eddie was buried under rubble. If that woman could survive getting impaled and this boy could survive being buried, what if Eddie had too?
Suddenly Richie feels the most awake that he has since the day of the fight. His mind is full of what ifs. He starts imagining the scenario clearly, Eddie must’ve woken up after they left him. He was hurt badly, but he survived. When the lair crumbled over him, there could have been pockets of space left behind. Possibly some tunnels. Maybe Eddie is still down there and can’t get out. Oh god, what if he’s down there waiting for him? He must be freaking out! There’s no food or clean water or first aid kits down there, Eddie would be so pissed for leaving him behind to deal with that for so long.
Before long, Richie was on a plane to Derry. He hadn’t told any of the other Losers about his revelation yet. They were the ones who dragged him away from Eddie, he already knew they didn’t believe he could’ve lived. He can’t wait to prove them wrong and surprise them by calling them up and telling them that he found Eddie alive and well. He knows that Eddie will definitely need to go to the hospital once he finds him, he’ll probably be in bad shape after a whole month down there alone. His biggest fear is that Eddie won’t forgive him for leaving him there for so long, for letting the others convince him to give up on him so quickly. He’ll try to make him understand.
He drives to the remains of the Neibolt house and tries to find a good place to begin digging. He keeps imagining all the different ways he could greet Eddie, how he’ll apologize to him, how he’ll take care of him, how he’ll finally tell him the way he feels, and while he's wrapped up in his thoughts, he barely notices the time pass. He gets cuts and splinters and bruises from trying to move the rubble, but he doesn’t feel the pain much. At some point, he looks up and notices that it’s dark. But that can’t be right, he got here at 3 in the afternoon, he couldn’t have been here for that long. He checks his phone and sees that it’s 9 PM.
No, no, that can’t be true. If he had been here for six hours he would be more tired. He looks around and sees that he has barely made a dent in the rubble and panics more. If he was here for six hours, he would be closer to Eddie by now. He would’ve found Eddie by now if he was here for six hours. In that moment, it’s like his brain and his body finally reconnect and the exhaustion overwhelms him. He looks at his hands and sees all the cuts he doesn’t remember getting. He feels the sunburn on his cheeks that must’ve started hours ago. His heart drops and he falls to his knees.
It’s useless. Eddie might be down there but Richie alone could never get to him like this. He wants to scream but all he can do it stare at his shaking hands as he tries to figure out some other way that he can save the love of his life. He starts looking around helplessly when something catches his eye in the wreckage near the top of his pitiful hole. A jacket.
How had he not noticed it earlier when it was right there? He scrambles to his feet and grabs it and stares in wonderment as he realizes that it’s his jacket. It must be the jacket that he left with Eddie to stop his bleeding. It has to be his. Which means Eddie must’ve gotten out somehow. He must have left the jacket behind for Richie to find as a way to tell him that he got out safe. Richie feels tears welling up in his eyes as he clutches the jacket to his chest desperately and laughs because Eddie is alive and he’s safe and he wanted to make sure he knew that. Richie gets back in his car and doesn't stop smiling the whole drive back to the townhouse.
The next few weeks were complicated for Richie. He knew now that Eddie was alive, but now he had to find a way to find him. He found it a bit odd that Eddie hadn’t tried to reach out to him, or any of the Losers for that matter, to tell them that he made it out alive. Richie didn’t dwell on it too much, though. It’s possible that Eddie is mad with them for leaving him behind. Richie would understand that. He was mad at himself for that as well. But if he could just find a way to get in contact with Eddie, he could explain to him that he didn’t want to leave him behind and then Eddie would hopefully forgive him and everything would be okay. He just needed to talk to him.
Eddie wasn’t picking up the phone. It’s been over a month, so Eddie must have had the time to get a new phone by now, right? It’s possible he changed his number, though. Richie decides to finally bite the bullet and tell the other Losers the new information. He starts with Beverly.
“Richie! I’m so glad you called!” she says right after picking up. There’s a noticeable hint of relief in her voice. “How have you been? You haven’t been responding in the group chat lately, I was starting to get worried.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry about that. I’ve been a bit busy. That’s actually, uh, why I called. There’s some stuff I need to tell you. Is Ben with you?” He figured it would be easier to fill them both in at the same time.
“Yep, you caught us at a good time, we just got back from dinner.” She pauses for a moment and Richie can hear Ben’s voice faintly in the background. “He says to say hey.”
“Hi, Ben. Could you put me on speaker? You’ll both want to hear this.”
She does and he starts to explain what he put together. They both try to interrupt him a few times and he can hear the hesitance in their voices but he insists on finishing first. When he does, there’s silence on the other line.
“Hello? Did you hear what I said? Eddie is still alive! He hasn’t contacted you guys right? No, you would’ve told me. I know you would. But I need your help in tracking him down.”
There’s still silence on the other end until Ben clears his throat and says “Richie, um, I don’t- I don’t know what to say.”
Richie snorts, “Well some excitement is expected at least? I mean come on, guys, there’s hope!”
That’s when Richie hears a cry come from the phone. He’s taken aback. “What’s… what’s going on, guys? Why aren’t you excited?”
Beverly begins to talk and Richie can tell she’s crying. “Richie, honey, I want you to think about this. How could he have gotten out of there? Even if he was alive when we left him, he would’ve had to crawl out of there by himself and he wasn’t in the right shape to do that. He couldn’t have.”
Richie is hit with the realization that they don’t believe him. Even though he expected this to be somewhat difficult, he didn’t doubt that they would believe him after he told them the whole story.
“But… but the jacket. He had to get out for the jacket to be outside.”
Ben jumps in now, “I don’t know how the jacket got up there, buddy, but I don’t think Eddie left it there. I’m sorry, I know this isn’t what you want to hear but-”
“No, no, you’re wrong. You guys are able to believe in all the crazy bullshit we’ve gone through but somehow I’m the crazy one for thinking there’s a chance that Eddie could be alive? Why can’t you just be happy?” His voice breaks on the last word and he realizes that he needs to hang up. He doesn’t want to hear their sympathetic, careful voices. He doesn’t want to be talked to like a child. He knows Eddie is still alive and he will prove them wrong himself if he has to.
“Richie, do you think maybe you could come stay with us for a bit? Maybe we can talk about this more in person-” Beverly begins her pitch but Richie hangs up on her. He’s not a fucking mental patient.
But he still can’t ignore the way his heart is beating out of his chest and look at the jacket sitting on his bed and wonder, if only momentarily, if the jacket he left with Eddie was darker than this one. Hadn’t he worn a jacket to Neibolt the day he went to dig? Did he take it off at some point? He shakes his head and shoves the thought down. This is the right jacket and Eddie is alive, he knows it.
Another few months pass and he sees Eddie’s face everywhere. He goes on walks just to look for him, just for the possibility that Eddie came here to look for him but didn’t know his address. Maybe he’ll find him wandering around looking for him too. He sees him all the time. Random people walking past him on the street always seem to have his face until Richie’s heart leaps and he looks again, only to be disappointed when he’s met with a stranger’s face instead.
He hears his voice. At least 20 times a day he swears he hears him. Every single time, he reacts with the same hopeful excitement, only to see nothing. He would think he was being haunted by Eddie’s ghost if he didn’t know Eddie was alive. He dreams of being reunited with him so much that some days he wakes up surprised to see that Eddie isn’t laying next to him. He checks reports for unidentified, living John Does. It’s possible that Eddie could’ve gotten a head injury and was a bit confused. Maybe he was unconscious at a hospital somewhere. Or at a shelter. He worries about Eddie a lot.
But sometimes he’s a bit angry with him. He understands if Eddie is mad that they left him, but if he is in his right mind, he must know that they would want to know if he is okay. He must care about them enough to want to reassure them that he’s alive. Unless… what if he found out his secret?
He doesn’t know how Eddie could’ve possibly figured him out. Pennywise was dead so he couldn’t have told him. It’s possible that Eddie could hear him react to his death, since he wasn’t actually dead. Maybe he heard him cry over him and connected the dots, the others seemed to be able to figure it out based off of that. What if he felt him hold him and was disgusted? What if he has already reached out to the other Losers but made them promise not to tell Richie? They wouldn’t do that, though. Right?
He hadn’t even tried to call Bill or Mike to tell them Eddie was alive. He figured he didn’t need more of the crazy treatment, so he would wait until he was able to find Eddie. But he thinks about how careful they have all been around him the past few months. He figured it was because Ben and Beverly told Bill and Mike that he was going crazy because of their phone call. What if it’s because they know something he doesn’t? What if they’ve been keeping Eddie from him? What if this is a way to spite him for his sexuality and his feelings for Eddie? The thought starts as a bit of paranoia but slowly begins to boil until he feels an overwhelming amount of rage directed towards his friends. They must know. They must be laughing behind his back. Laughing as they treat him like he’s losing his mind. He picks up his phone and calls Bill. Bill is their leader, he would’ve been able to stop this ruse if he tried.
“Hey, Richie, what’s up?” Bill says when he picks up. He sounds friendly. Richie hates him for it.
“When were you gonna tell me?”
“What? Tell you what? I need more context, man.” He chuckles a bit, lighthearted. He isn’t even taking it seriously.
“You know what. Eddie. I know, you can shut down the act.” He tries to keep his voice calm, he needs him to admit it.
“What- What about Eddie? Is everything okay, Richie?” There’s that voice again. The careful voice that they all put on with him lately. The voice that tells him that they’re worried he’ll break if they make one wrong move.
“He’s alive. We both know it. What I don’t know is how long you've been in contact and why you would keep it from me.”
There’s a long pause and a deep breath before Bill starts talking again, even more carefully this time, “Richie, I don’t know what you’re talking about, okay? Eddie is dead,” his voice catches a bit when he says this but he continues, “has been for months. I haven’t been in contact with him. If I was, I would never keep that from you.”
Richie’s leg is shaking and his hands are twitching. Why would his friends lie to him about this? Why would they keep Eddie from him? Was this even Eddie’s idea or are they lying to him as well?
“Stop! Stop lying! Stop making me feel like a crazy person, I’m- I’m not, he’s alive, and I know you know. I can feel- I can feel it. Let me talk to him. Let me talk to him.” His voice is shaking with rage now. It feels hard to breathe.
“I’m not lying, Richie, I promise. Please listen to me, man. I don’t think you’re doing well. I’m worried about you. If you want, I can fly out to California to see you? We can catch up and clear this all up. Please, it could be good for you.” Bill is crying now. Richie is so goddamn tired of his friends crying because of him. He doesn’t want their pity. Just like he didn’t want them to drag him away from Eddie’s body. It wasn’t their choice to make.
“Fuck you, Bill. Fuck you. You tell Eddie I’m gonna find him. I’m gonna. I have to.” Then he hangs up. He ignores the phone when Bill tries to call again. And again. And when the others try afterwards. One after another. He can’t trust them. He doesn’t even know if he can trust Eddie right now. But even if Eddie is hiding from him, he’ll forgive him once he finds him. He has to.
A year passes. His manager gets fed up with him and quits. He’s okay with it. He has enough money. Time has been passing differently. He’ll go months at a time barely leaving his bed, wanting to stay in his dreams with Eddie. Some days he wakes up and realizes he was ridiculous to blame his friends for lying to him and reaches out to them. A week later he’ll forget about that and feel certain that they are conspiring against him again. He starts drinking more. A lot more. One day Mike shows up at his place to check on him without a heads up. Richie slams the door in his face and curls up next to the door, listening to Mike's attempts to plead with him and calm him down, but he doesn't budge, he just sobs until he leaves. He calls Eddie’s number every night and it never really occurs to him to stop even after the number has been disconnected. Sometimes he hears Eddie’s voicemail anyway.
One day he wakes up and Eddie’s beside him, smiling at him. It takes him a moment to process what he’s seeing, because he’s used to seeing this in dreams. But he’s awake. For a minute he just stares and Eddie begins to laugh.
“You really look like you’ve seen a ghost, dude.”
“What-what are you- are you real?” He stammers out.
“Well, I think I am. I’m here, aren’t I?” Eddie is smiling, acting like this is the most normal thing in the world.
Richie reaches out and touches him, lightly. He can feel him. He thinks he can feel him. It certainly feels like he can feel him.
“Oh my god. Eddie, oh my god.” Richie lunges forward and yanks him into a tight hug as Eddie chuckles and hugs him back.
“Good to see you too. But ew, you seriously need a shower. Also, do you ever clean this place? I mean seriously, I expected it to be bad, but this is horrendous. I counted 9 empty beer bottles in the kitchen alone and there must be double that in here. You need to hire a maid, I’m sure you can afford it. Because, for reasons beyond my understanding, there are a lot of people out there with bad taste who seem to love your comedy.”
Richie just laughs through his tears. He didn’t even notice when he started crying. He just holds Eddie closer because he is there. He is here and that’s all that matters.
They talk for a long time. Eddie doesn't give a very straightforward answer about where he has been this past year and a half. Richie doesn't mind. He just wants to hear Eddie talk. He holds him close and runs his fingers through his hair as they talk about everything and nothing for hours on end.
“I’ve been in love with you since we were kids.” Richie blurts out during a lull in the conversation without much fanfare.
All Eddie says is “Oh.”
Richie tenses. Eddie’s back is facing him but he’s still wrapped in Richie’s arms. It feels like an eternity before Eddie slowly rolls around to face him and looks him in the eye. For a moment, Richie can’t breathe. Eddie leans in and kisses him. Slowly, carefully, and the best thing Richie has ever felt.
Richie can’t believe his luck. Eddie loves him back. He says he always has. They spend days in bed together doing nothing but telling each other everything they never got to before and loving each other the way they always dreamed of getting to. Eddie helps him clean his apartment, which is a relief. Eddie was always better at keeping things neat than he was, so he figures this is just another way that they compliment each other. With Eddie’s encouragement, he starts showering more often. He finally shaves and gets a haircut. He’s eating more and drinking less. It’s the best he’s felt in years.
But some days Eddie isn’t there. Richie panics on those days. He questions things on those days. He questions if it was ever real on those days. He feels like there’s something choking him, holding him underwater. He can’t stand those days. But Eddie always comes back. He’ll walk into the living room and Eddie will be sitting on the couch reading a magazine as if he never left. Richie doesn’t ask how he got in or why he never heard the door open. Eddie is there, that’s all that matters.
Eddie tells him that the Losers never lied about hiding him so Richie decides to apologize to them and says that they can come visit if they want. He wants to surprise them with Eddie, he can’t wait to see their reactions. He’ll try not to be too smug when he tells them I told you so.
Mike is the only one who can come to California right away. When he arrives, Richie hugs him.
“Mikey! It’s good to see you, man. It’s really good to see you.”
“I can say the same about you, Rich. I won’t lie, we’ve all been pretty worried about you. I was really happy to hear from you. You look good!” He smiles and it’s warm and genuine and Richie wonders how he could’ve ever thought that Mike would lie to him. How any of them could’ve.
“Yeah, i just wanted to say, I’m really sorry for how I treated you last time I saw you, Mike. I should’ve known the only time you’d lie to me is when you tell me I look good.” He playfully smacks Mike on the arm and he laughs in response.
“This is a nice place you got here. Definitely cleaner than I thought it would be.”
“You know me too well, my good sir, because I’m not the one responsible for the clean apartment. I have a surprise for you, actually. Follow me.” He’s bouncing on his feet now, heart beating quicker with excitement as he leads Mike to the closed door of his bedroom where Eddie is waiting.
“I’m nervous. Do I want to know what this surprise is?” Mike says, good-naturedly.
“I think you’ll like this one.” Richie opens the door then, only to see his bed is empty. His eyebrows furrow and he looks around the room in confusion. “Eddie? Where’d you go?”
Mike’s face falls. “Did you say… Eddie?”
Richie is still distracted looking around the room, getting increasingly frantic as he searches. “Yes, Eddie. He’s here. I promise he was just here, I was gonna surprise you. He was here. He was right here.”
Mike’s heart feels like it’s breaking. He’s known it for awhile now, they all have. Richie wasn’t the same since Eddie’s death. Months of silence followed by texts and calls telling them he has a lead about Eddie. Forgetting what he had already told them, repeating things, getting distracted mid-conversation. He would accuse them of conspiring against him but then act like nothing had happened a week later. Sometimes he would send texts that were almost complete nonsense. But other days he would be himself again. Even more than usual lately. He would apologize and make jokes and talk about making plans to visit them and tell them about the new material he was writing. When he invited them to his place, they all hoped this meant he was improving.
“Eddie! There you are!” Richie says, looking past where Mike was standing. Mike turns around slowly. No one is there. He feels ill. Richie continues to talk to an invisible Eddie but Mike can’t hear any of it. He runs to the bathroom and throws up.
“We need to help him somehow.” Mike says in a hushed voice right outside Richie’s apartment. He called Bill as soon as he got a moment to step out. “He’s fully delusional at this point. He’s having full conversations with someone who isn’t there. He’s not in his right mind, he needs help.”
“What are we gonna do, commit him? If he starts talking about any of the truth about Derry, it’ll only make things worse. They’ll never let him out.”
“So what? We just let him continue to delude himself? We don’t know how far this will go. What if he hurts himself or what if he starts hallucinating in public and someone else has to commit him?” Mike has to quiet himself down again after he realizes he had started raising his voice.
“Bev and Ben have been saying they want to try and get him to live with them ever since he showed up to their wedding and acted weird and detached the whole night, remember? Most people there thought he was on a serious drug trip or something. Why don’t you convince him to try and stay with them for a bit. You and I can visit when we can.”
So Mike calls Ben and Beverly and they say they are more than willing to let him come stay with them if he can get Richie to go. Convincing him is easier than he expected. He tells Richie that Ben and Bev have a pretty packed schedule in the next few months but he knows they would love to see Eddie. He feels bad lying to him. Playing into his delusion. But he knows this is the only thing that will work for him at the moment.
Richie goes to New York. Eddie tells him that he’s missed New York and that he can’t wait to be there with him. Richie holds his hand on the plane and ignores the weird looks he gets. Now that he can be with Eddie, he’s not going to feel ashamed to be with him.
It’s great to see Ben and Beverly again. There’s something off about how they react to Eddie, but at least it’s a better response than Mike. Mike must’ve thought that he was going crazy when he saw Eddie, but Richie understands. He felt that way too at first. But he thinks that he was able to convince Mike that he wasn’t just seeing things, because he could see Eddie too!
Ben and Beverly don’t react to Eddie until Richie mentions him, which he thinks is odd, but when he does they smile and say hi to him. It feels a bit forced though. They don’t hug him like they hugged Richie. That’s okay, everyone reacts to their presumed dead friends coming back from the dead differently.
“Guys, we actually wanted to tell you something.” Richie says when they all sit down in the living room.
Ben’s smile is plastered on and he feels like Beverly might break his hand with how tightly she’s gripping it. He puts on a cheery voice all the same. “Yeah, of course, you can tell us anything.”
“Well, Eddie has been living with me lately and… fuck it I guess I'll just say it, we’re together now! I’m sure you had your suspicions but I know I never technically came out to you and I know Eddie didn’t either but we wanted to fill you in on the news.” Richie is beaming in the direction where Eddie was supposedly sitting and he reaches his hand out to squeeze his thigh.
“Don’t judge me too harshly for being attracted to Trashmouth here, it surprised me too.” Eddie teases and Richie laughs and fondly tells him to shut up.
Beverly has to swallow a lump in her throat before she responds, “Wow! That’s, uh, amazing, Richie. We want you to have whatever makes you happy. And- and you too, Eddie.”
Ben can tell that she’s barely holding it together so he jumps in, “Yeah, of course, and I hope you know we support you no matter what. Thank you for telling us, Rich. Or- both of you. Really, I’m sure that was hard.”
It’s nice to have company other than just Eddie. He’s missed his friends a lot. He likes staying with them. But some days they act weirdly. One day in particular. He told Beverly that he was thinking of proposing to Eddie and she froze up. That wasn’t the reaction he had been expecting to get.
“What’s up? Do you think it’s too soon? Don't tell me you're against gay marriage.”
He laughs, so she knows he's joking. But Beverly is quiet and he can tell she’s tearing up. Maybe they’re happy tears.
“Rich. I don’t- I don’t know how to say this. But it feels wrong lying to you every day. Feeding into this, it can’t be good for you.”
Richie gives her a genuinely puzzled look in return.
“Honey. Eddie isn’t here. He’s never been here.”
Richie laughs, “Uh, I’m pretty sure he’s here. He’s in the other room, we had a whole conversation before I came out here, did you not hear that?”
“I know you see him and hear him but everyone else can’t. I think you’re having hallucinations. I’m so sorry we didn’t come to California and help you before this started, Richie, we should have known. If you want, we can try to get you some help, Bill doesn’t think it’s the best idea but-”
“Stop.” He cuts her off and his tone is so harsh it makes her jump. “Why would you joke like this? Why- why would you say something like that? That’s not funny.”
Beverly reaches over to hold his hand but he yanks it out of her grip, she continues, “I’m not lying, I wouldn’t do that to you but I don’t know how else to help you, honey. I- I just want to help you, this isn’t healthy. I know you loved him, but you deserve to move on with someone new.”
“No, no, no. You’re being ridiculous. Eddie is real. He’s real and alive and he loves me and he’s inside right now and I don’t know what you’re talking about but maybe you’re the one who needs to get help. I’m not crazy! Don’t treat me like I’m crazy, Bev!” He’s yelling now and Ben walks out to check on them.
“Hey, hey, what’s going on out here?” He looks between them nervously. Beverly is sobbing.
“Your wife is losing it, that’s what. She’s saying that-” He suddenly feels like he can’t catch his breath. His heart is hammering in his chest and he needs to get away from this situation.
He tries to walk past Ben to get back inside, but Ben blocks his way and holds him by the shoulders.
“Richie, I don’t know what’s going on but I think maybe you should stay out here and we’ll talk about this, okay?” His voice is patient and cautious. Richie can't handle to hear any more of it.
Richie continues to try and maneuver himself out of Ben’s grip. He doesn’t want to be touched right now, his skin is crawling, he only wants to be touched by Eddie, why won’t Ben let him go? Why can’t he see that he can’t breathe and he needs to be anywhere else but here?
Richie punches him. Ben lets go and stares at him, shocked. Beverly gasps and it stuns her sobs for a moment.
“I’m- I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that, I just can’t- I can’t be here right now.” He runs inside and feels like he can finally breathe when he walks into his room and sees Eddie laying on the bed.
“Hey, what’s up, what happened?” He immediately gets up and cradles Richie’s face, staring at him with a concerned look.
Richie sobs and holds onto Eddie like he’s afraid he’ll vanish any moment and the only thing anchoring him there in this moment is Richie’s touch. Eddie rubs his back and shushes him, he brings him back to bed with him and runs his fingers through his hair, murmuring, “It’s okay, I’m right here, it’s okay.” Until Richie falls asleep.
Later that day Beverly comes into his room and apologizes. She says it was wrong of her to say something like that to him. When she spares a moment to say something to Eddie, Richie feels like a weight was taken off his chest. Beverly doesn’t try to bring it up again.
He moves in with them. Things get foggy sometimes. Days pass weirdly. There are still days where he can't find Eddie and there are times where he distinctly remembers the day he went back to the Neibolt house and thinks that the jacket he found might have been the jacket he took off earlier in the day. He shuts down those days. Sometimes Ben or Beverly will come to check on him and he’ll be staring off and muttering incoherently to himself. They can’t snap him out of it so they hold him and cry. Other days he’ll stay in bed and cuddle with Eddie all day, kissing him and telling him everything he loves about him. Those are good days. But for some reason, Bev still looks upset when she sees him like that. He assures her that he’s okay, that he’s happy, but it’s hard to tell if that helps her or not.
Some days he’ll be his old self. He’ll laugh, crack jokes, he won’t talk to Eddie too often and things feel clearer. Other times he’ll forget how old he is, not recognize Ben or Beverly or even himself in the mirror, and he’ll cry. Some days Ben and Bev wonder if it would’ve been kinder to let Richie stay with Eddie as the world crumbled down on the both of them. They hate themselves for thinking it.
The years pass and Richie doesn’t get better. He has more bad days than good. He’s unresponsive or nearly incoherent most days. His friends are always patient with him, but when he’s more lucid he knows that their lives would be easier if they didn’t have to take care of him.
He’s in his mid-50s when it happens. Richie wakes up in the middle of the night and sees Eddie. Not Eddie when he was 40, but Eddie when he was 13.
“Hey, idiot, wake up,” Eddie flicks him on the nose and speaks in a loud hushed voice.”I have something to show you.”
“I’m trying to sleep.” He mumbles.
“Since when did you become the boring one? Old age really got to you, huh?”
He laughs. “Okay, fine, asshole, I’ll bite. What do you want to show me?”
“You gotta follow me. I promise it'll be good.”
He gets up and follows Eddie as he climbs out the window and onto the roof. It’s freezing out, snow is falling, and he doesn’t have a coat. There's a shocking amount of stars above them. When he lays down next to Eddie, he remembers a night just like this from when they were kids. A night after he snuck into Eddie’s room and made him go on the roof with him. It took a lot of coaxing, but afterwards, Eddie admitted that he was glad he was there with him and their hands brushed and Richie’s heart felt like it was in his stomach when he looked over at Eddie and he was looking right back at him. It was the best night of his life.
“I’m sorry for how things have gone for you since I left.” Eddie says.
Richie smiles sadly, “Hey, it’s not always bad. I still get to see you.”
He notices that his voice has gotten higher. He looks down at his body. He's 13 again too.
Eddie reaches a hand up and strokes Richie’s cheek and he can feel his breath get stuck in his throat. He never stops having that effect on him.
“We deserved our happy ending.” Eddie says, and then he scoots closer to him and leans his forehead against his.
“I don’t know, Eds, I’m pretty happy right now.”
“Good. Let’s stay here, then. I'll never leave you again, Rich, I promise.”
From that moment until his last breath, Richie feels truly content.
They find him the next morning. Ben and Beverly are a wreck, they feel like they are somehow to blame, but Bill assures them that they did nothing but help him for years.
“I just wish we could’ve done more, you know?” Beverly says between cries as Ben rubs her back after they get off the phone. Ben nods and clears his throat to speak.
“You know… he was smiling. When they found him.” Beverly doesn’t respond so he continues, “I just think that maybe- now he can be with him. For real. Maybe that's good for him, you know?”
She nods and they hold each other closer.