Eddie opens his eyes to an endless nothing.
It’s… disconcerting. He blinks a few times, waiting for his eyes to adjust, but nothing changes. It’s just nothing, all the way down.
Eddie would panic, but he’s pretty sure he’s in shock. Or, he was, after being gutted by Pennywise. Where is he? Two seconds ago he’d been bleeding out, propped up against the wall of a cave, watching the other Losers scream Pennywise to death.
Am I dead , Eddie thinks. He raises a hand, presses it against his torso, but it’s all there, solid and accounted for. He’s wearing the clothes he was wearing when he -
Eddie sucks in a breath, which is comforting. Breathing means his lungs are working, which means he still has organs. Unless it’s a metaphorical breathing, where nothing’s real but it’s happening anyway, which is - less comforting.
“Um,” Eddie says. “Hello? Anyone here?”
Nothing happens. Eddie clutches at his shirt, which had been torn open along with the rest of him. His shirt is intact. His skin is intact. His organs - his organs might be metaphorical now, and he’s a spirit or a soul or whatever, but he can feel his lungs fill and his throat restrict and his heart beat hard in his chest.
“Hello,” he calls. “Seriously, this is - am I dead? I’m dead, right? Where am I? Are my friends okay?”
For a moment, there’s nothing again. Eddie starts to ask again, and all at once a giant fucking turtle appears in front of him, fins moving as he drifts gently up and down. It’s a normal looking turtle - not that Eddie knows anything about turtles, but he knows enough to know this one looks right, except it’s just about the size of a building. It swims down so Eddie can meet one of its eyes, which is almost as wide as Eddie’s entire body.
HELLO , the turtle says, in a voice so big and deep Eddie feels it in his blood, if he still has blood now.
EDDIE KASPBRAK, CORRECT?
Eddie screams. He’s not proud of it. It’s a tiny scream Richie would never let him live down, and the thought of Richie - of everyone gathered in the dark trying to kill the fucking clown - brings him back, grounds him.
“Y-yeah,” Eddie says. “Are you - uh, you’re - are you-”
NO , the turtle says. I AM MATURIN.
“Nice to… meet you?” Eddie gives himself a shake. He’s already trembling, so it doesn’t help. “Look, I’m - I was kind of in the middle of something, do you know if-”
THEY WILL KILL IT.
Eddie sags. “Oh, thank fuck. I mean - I mean, uh. What are you? Other than - Maturin. Why am I here? Am I - is this-”
NO , Maturin says. THIS IS NOT WHERE YOU GO. YOU ARE NOT GOING THERE, YET.
“O...kay. So do I just-” Eddie looks around. Still a big lot of nothing. “Stay here?”
YOU WILL GO BACK , Maturin says.
Eddie’s heart - metaphorical or otherwise, he doesn’t care - clenches. “You mean I’m not staying dead?”
A pause. Maturin’s eyes, large and looming, look - something. Sad? No -
YOU WILL GO BACK , he repeats, slower than before, and yes, okay, sadder . Eddie doesn’t like what that implies.
He’s about to say something about this when there’s a jerk in his navel, and he’s jolted out of the nothingness.
The jolt is the last physical thing Eddie feels for a while.
Eddie opens his eyes to the inside of IT’s lair. He’s not slumped against the wall anymore; he’s standing, and he’s not in pain. In front of him, the Losers are still screaming as IT deflates.
“Holy shit,” Eddie rasps. He starts forwards to join them, not thinking too hard about anything other than I need to help before a hand on his shoulder stops him.
Eddie turns and just about shits himself.
It’s Stan. Eddie hasn’t seen him, hasn’t even seen a photo, but it’s obviously Stan. He looks the same, down to the sensible sweater, and even if he didn’t - even if he was horribly disfigured and his voice was shot, no distinguishable features to speak of, Eddie thinks he’d still recognize him. He’d recognize any of them.
“Hi,” Eddie says. It’s thin and the start of hopeful. Maybe the turtle - Maturin, whatever - maybe it brought them both back, maybe -
That line of thought stops dead when he notices Stan’s hand on his shoulder. The wrist is cut deep, the wound hasn’t closed, but it isn’t bleeding.
Eddie makes another noise, not quite a scream but not anything else either.
Stan drops his hand.
“Hey, Eddie,” he says. “Welcome to the peanut gallery. I wrote you a letter, but I guess you won’t get it now.”
Eddie stares at him. He starts to breathe hard, but there’s something strange about it.
Oh , he thinks distantly. There’s the no-organs thing. Feels weird.
His heart should be beating wildly. He should be seconds away from a panic attack, which he feels mentally, but not physically. Physically, he feels absolutely fucking nothing. No pain, but also none of the chill that had been in the Lair.
He looks down and hears himself moan. He’s glad he can do that, at least, even if he doesn’t have lungs to do it with.
His torso is eviscerated. He hadn’t looked down at himself after IT pulled his arm-spike out, but this - yeah, this is probably what it looks like. It wasn’t like this in the space with the turtle.
Stan’s gaze is sympathetic. “How’re you doing?”
“I - I-” Eddie swallows. He can still swallow. He has no spit, no throat, no stomach - he should be dizzy now, that thought should make him dizzy, but nothing happens.
“Yeah,” Stan says. He pats Eddie’s arm, pulling his hand back when Eddie eyes his wrist. “You get used to it.”
Eddie opens his mouth to ask you’ve been watching us or did you see the turtle too or just say oh god Stan I missed you, this is all so fucked up, but what comes out is, “Can we help?”
Stan looks over at the Losers.
“We can’t talk to them, or touch anything,” he says. “I’ve tried.”
Eddie flounders. When he starts over to the circle the Losers are crowded in, hunched over, screaming at the clown - Stan follows him.
They linger near the edges, watch as the insults shrink IT into a strange, small creature that snaps at Mike but can’t do anything as they pry the heart out of IT’s chest.
Eddie reaches out. After a second, Stan does too.
It doesn’t do anything, their hands go straight through, but they keep their hands around the heart anyway, squeezing along with the others as the heart disintegrates, turns grey and dissolves.
“We did it,” Eddie says. “Holy shit, guys-”
Richie talks over him. “Eddie,” he says, and for a second Eddie roars with hope - then Richie is turning and stumbling over to Eddie’s body.
Fuck. Eddie sucks in a breath. He hadn’t looked, but now he’s stuck staring at it, his own unblinking eyes.
Richie doesn’t seem to get it, which makes it worse. He says Eddie’s name some more, tells him IT’s dead -
Eddie wants to look away.
He can’t look away.
Richie goes quiet, looking into Eddie’s face, which is lolling sideways.
“Eds,” Richie says, quiet and terrible.
Eddie waits for him to get up and get out, because the place is coming down around them now. The walls, the ceiling - it’s all shaking, crumbling, rocks falling, but Richie just doesn’t stop, because when does he ever?
“Rich,” Bev says, her voice hitching in ways that make Eddie want to crawl into a hole. “Honey, he’s dead.”
Richie turns to look at her, but only for a second. Then he - clings , Eddie can’t think of another word for it. He turns back to Eddie’s body, his bloody corpse with a hole in the middle, and hugs Eddie to him like - like -
Beside Eddie - the real one who’s moving and talking - Stan makes a noise.
Eddie thinks he might make one, too, but he’s not paying attention. Richie’s still clinging, Eddie’s body is floppy and unmoving in his arms, and the others are pulling at him.
“Richie, we gotta go,” Bill says.
Mike says, “It’s coming down around us-”
And the whole time, Richie’s saying a stream of no guys, we can still help him, he’ll be fine, we can still -
“Richie, just go ,” Eddie says. He walks forwards, towards him, as Richie tries to fight the others off.
“Don’t be an idiot,” Eddie says over the others as they try to talk Richie into leaving. “Richie, I’m already gone, don’t you dare fucking die down here-”
Ben gets an arm around Richie’s torso and pulls. Eddie watches, horrified, as Richie fights him the whole way out of the cistern, less turning around and punching him and more pulling at his grip, trying to get away, to get to Eddie’s body.
“Come on,” Stan tells Eddie as they reach the well. “We can’t climb, but we can follow. Just think about one of them and we’ll appear near.”
Eddie looks at him. He’s barely looked at Stan since Richie - since Richie -
Stan’s hand is on his shoulder. This, at least, is a comfort, even if Eddie can’t feel it.
“Just think of Bev,” Stan says.
Bev is already up the top of the well. Eddie doesn’t look up at her, just closes his eyes. Beverly Marsh - Bev, with her cigarettes she’d shared with Richie, the ones they tried to give to him while he lectured them on lung cancer. Bev, jumping off that cliff in her underwear, her hair glinting in the light -
Eddie opens his eyes. The ground is sensationless under his feet, he still can’t feel anything - his clothes on his body, his body at all - but suddenly he’s at the top of the mine, next to Bev, who has her lips pursed and tears coming down her face as she watches the others climb up.
“I’m alright, Bev,” Eddie tells her.
Bev doesn’t hear him. It’s expected, but it stings.
Eddie and Stan follow them out of Neibolt.
Richie doesn’t stop trying to pull away from Ben until they break out into the street and the house collapses into itself. He’s still screaming - Eddie’s name, mostly, and no no no , and guys, we can still save him , in this horrible, choked voice that Eddie hasn’t heard and never wants to hear again.
He quietens down after a while. He shoves Ben off of him and walks towards the house and doesn’t let anyone touch him even though they all try to.
Eddie tries. Even Stan tries. Their hands sink through his arm.
“He’ll be okay,” Stan says.
Eddie looks over at him. If he had a body, he’d be crying. But he doesn’t, so all he’s left with is this knot of impossible feelings in his chest, which goes down into a hole that takes out most of his stomach.
Stan doesn’t look too sure about his statement, but Eddie doesn’t call him on it.
They keep following. What else can they do?
The Losers - all of them, even if two of them are invisible to the others - head to the lake. While they walk, Eddie catches up with Stan.
“Maturin said the same thing,” Stan says when Eddie tells him about it. “Very vague, that turtle.”
“So what do we do ,” Eddie says. “Are we stuck like this? Just - following our friends around for the rest of their lives? For the rest of our - existence? What do we do when they die? What do we do when-”
“Eddie,” Stan says. “I died, like, two days ago. I have no more idea than you.”
That shuts Eddie up for maybe three seconds.
“I just,” he says, and sighs. “I wish I could-”
Stan nods. “Yeah. I - yeah. This is… not great.”
He flexes his hands. Eddie watches the skin around his slit wrists shift.
“It wasn’t the same without you,” Eddie says.
Stan snorts. “I know. I was watching, remember? You guys are lost without me.”
Eddie tries to laugh. To the left of them, the Losers - the ones left alive - walk without touching each other. Their faces are dazed, at best. At worst -
“I should’ve...” Eddie stops. He doesn’t know where he was planning to go with that. He should’ve done a lot of things: realized his dynamic with Myra was familiar because it was toxic and left her. Gotten a job he actually liked. Gotten a life he’d actually liked - he’d thought he was happy, sort of, but only when he was missing his childhood memories. He hadn’t thought he was miserable , anyway. And now - now he’s dead, so it doesn’t matter anyway.
When Stan looks over, questioning, Eddie shakes his head.
They’ve put a barrier up at the cliff, which is good. Nobody should be jumping off of this thing. Eddie’s surprised none of them died doing it when they were kids.
Bev goes first. Of course she does.
Eddie doesn’t smile when he watches her leap, but he thinks he’s close to one.
He watches them leap, one by one.
“I’ll see you down there,” Stan says. He vanishes and then appears in the water beside Mike.
Eddie takes a shaky breath. He closes his eyes, pictures Richie - slumped, blank-eyed Richie who’s now sitting down in the water staring at his glasses.
He appears on Richie’s left. The others are swimming around, but Richie’s just sitting, cleaning his glasses. They’re bloody, and Eddie’s nonexistant throat lurches when he realizes it’s his blood on the glass, he’d sprayed Richie when he’d gotten stabbed.
“It’s good you didn’t have your head under the water for long,” Eddie says. “You could-”
He stops when he hears his name. It’s Bev, saying something like Eddie would hate this.
Everyone stops swimming.
“I do,” Eddie says quietly. He wants to avert his eyes. He wants to feel the water - dirty as it is, it makes him want to scrub himself even though it’s not technically touching him right now, it’s all just going through him. He wants a lot of things.
He misses what the others say about how he’d hate it. He’s too busy watching Richie, who doesn’t move when Bev says, “Right, Rich?”
Eddie’s looking down at the top of Richie’s head, so he doesn’t notice it when Richie starts crying. It comes on slowly, and then Richie’s shoulders begin to shake -
“Oh,” Eddie says. “Hey - no, come on, I’m okay, Rich-”
Richie doesn’t hear him. Of course he doesn’t. He crumbles in on himself and sobs like a child, big, loud sobs that have Eddie trying uselessly to touch his shoulder, his hand, anything -
The others crowd around him and Eddie steps out of the way to let it happen. It doesn’t matter, they would go through him anyway, but still - he moves out of the way so the others can get into Richie’s space, then reaches out and hovers a hand on Richie’s head.
Stan joins in, a hand over Richie’s shoulder.
“We’re here,” Stan says. He doesn’t sound hopeful, but he says it anyway. “We’re right here.”
“Yeah, we’re not gone,” Eddie says. “We didn’t leave you.”
Richie doesn’t stop crying. The others trade long, wet looks as Richie shudders against them, and Eddie can’t do anything about it. He wants -
He walks around and crouches down so they’re face to face. Richie has his glasses off, his eyes closed as he cries. Eddie’s known this new version of Richie for a couple of days and he’s somehow so familiar. Eddie could close his eyes and sketch an image of this man on the darkness of his eyelids.
“Rich,” Eddie says. He reaches out, touches Richie’s cheek. His fingers go through like they aren’t touching anything at all. It’s freaky to see, so Eddie pulls his hand back.
“Hey,” Eddie says. “I’m not - I’m okay, Richie. You don’t have to…”
He trails off. What can he say? Even if he did know what to say, Richie can’t hear him.
Eddie straightens up and stands back. Eventually Richie stops crying and says something that makes them all laugh, Stan and Eddie included - I don’t have my glasses so I don’t know who all you people are , it’s inappropriate but so totally Richie that Eddie’s laugh comes out relieved and sharp.
I missed you , Eddie doesn’t say, because it wouldn’t matter.
The walk back to the Inn is better. They lean into each other more, even if Richie seems reluctant to let Mike link arms with him.
“What are we, middle schoolers in the Anne of Green Gables era,” he says when Mike does this, but he doesn’t pull away.
“Thanks,” Eddie tells Mike. For being there for him, for staying in Derry, that must have been awful -
Without thinking much about it, Eddie links arms with Stan. At Stan’s dry look, Eddie says: “What? We can’t touch anyone else.”
They both pause. It takes a second for Eddie to realize they’re waiting for Richie to come in with a dick joke.
Stan adjusts their arms so it’s more comfortable. “Missed you too, Eddie.”
“Missed you, Stan,” Eddie echoes. He tries to picture Stan’s first couple days of being dead, trailing after them and trying to get them to notice he’s there, and is suddenly glad that Stan’s dead so he can have someone to talk to. It’s a horrible thought and Eddie feels terrible about thinking it, but he looks sideways at Stan and thinks that Stan probably feels the same way about him dying - he’d rather him be alive, but he’s relieved he isn’t alone.
Stan walks around everyone’s rooms.
Eddie sticks with Richie. Out of all of them, Richie’s doing the worst - he doesn’t get changed out of his damp clothes, just crawls into bed and stares up at the ceiling and is utterly unconvincing about being okay when the others come by to ask how he’s doing.
“He always liked you best,” Stan says when he comes around to Richie’s room again.
Eddie frowns. “What? You were his best friend, too.”
Stan shrugs. “He liked you differently,” he says, and that makes something sharp form in Eddie’s mind, something he doesn’t want to get near lest he cut himself on it.
It doesn’t take long before everyone crowds into Richie’s room like they’re kids again, ready for a sleepover. Somehow they all manage to cram onto the double bed, even though it means a lot of them overlap, elbows and feet jammed together.
“I’m fine, guys,” Richie says, but it sounds so tired that no one believes it.
“You’re not, asshole,” Eddie says. “Let people in, for once.”
That had been a big thing, Eddie remembers - Richie would sling joke after joke and not stop, especially if someone veered too close to what Richie counted as personal. Anything about his parents being neglecting or Richie having any kind of issue related to Feelings and Richie would piss off whoever it was until they left.
Eddie remembers storming off more than once. There’s a guilt there attached to those memories, a guilt that was there even when he was a kid, though that had happened only in glimpses - Richie had been good at avoiding the subject of him possibly being Not Okay, and he had emotional walls the same way Eddie had mental ones: thick and solid and impenetrable, even, sometimes, to themselves.
“I loved him,” Richie says, and Eddie’s brain goes quiet, then into overdrive.
Richie reaches up and rubs at his eyes. They’re red under his glasses.
“Like,” he says, “ Love -love. Y’know. Did you know? I was always so fucking scared someone knew.”
No , Eddie thinks, and it’s mostly not a lie. No, I didn’t know - if I did, I never let myself complete the thought, like I never let myself complete any of those thoughts, oh, god, Rich -
Bev curls a hand around Richie’s ankle, because she’s lying lengthways, near his feet.
“Honey,” she says, soft.
Richie’s crying again, and Mike’s the one lying next to him so he puts an arm around him in a damp hug, and Mike reaches over and touches Richie’s ribs through his shirt, and Ben is lying lengthways with Bev so he sits up and leans to take Richie’s hand.
Richie covers his face with his hands. He’s shaking again, with how hard he’s crying, and Eddie -
Eddie turns and walks through the wall. Because he can do that now. Because he’s fucking dead and Richie’s mourning him, Richie’s mourning the man he - that he -
Eddie sits down against the wall. Or, mostly - he can’t lean on it, but it’s the same principle as the floor - he doesn’t fall through it. Stan appears not long after, folding his legs under him. Eddie eyes him, thinks about folding his legs. His joints wouldn’t ache, after. Nothing aches. He could sit with his legs crossed for eternity, if he wanted.
“Did you know,” Eddie asks.
Stan nods. “He told me when we were 15. Or, he half told me, I figured the rest out.”
“Okay,” Eddie says. He thinks about saying something else, something to suit the situation. He could ask questions, because a million are swimming through his head. But all that comes out is another, “okay,” which doesn’t convey anything at all.
Ghosts don’t get tired, which is annoying. Eddie likes sleeping. He doesn’t like dreaming, his dreams had always been overwhelming and confusing, but sometimes he’d get to have a dreamless sleep, which was his favourite.
So, Eddie and Stan are stuck watching everyone sleep. It’s boring, even with the whole ‘you’ve all made it out okay, oh god I’ve missed all of you.’ The luster wears off everything, Eddie figures.
Eddie and Stan get to talking. There’s not anything else to do.
“I think,” Stan says, and swallows. “Killing myself might not have been… the best idea.”
“You think, Uris?”
“I still would’ve choked,” Stan says. “I wouldn’t have been able to go back in the house.”
“I couldn’t, Eddie.”
“You could,” Eddie says. “You did, just now-”
“I’m dead,” Stan says dryly, waving a hand over his body with his hand attached to a slit wrist. “It’s fine once I’m dead.”
He goes quiet then, and Eddie can see him turning something over in his head. Eddie imagines him with them at the Neibolt, flinching away from it, walking around the porch trying not to go in, then following them inside.
“Maybe,” Stan says. “I - if I’d seen you guys first. Maybe.”
He goes quiet again. A minute or so passes, where there’s no sound but the Losers’ quiet snores, before Stan says, “I hope Patricia’s alright. That - the call with Bev, she sounded…”
“Yeah,” Eddie says. “But maybe she’ll - be okay.”
Stan nods. He doesn’t look convinced.
“She’ll be okay,” Eddie says, and gets a flash of before: Richie sobbing, Stan telling Eddie he’ll be okay.
Eddie’s hands clench against his knees. He presses his fingernails into his leg - nothing. There’s nothing, not even pressure.
“What’s she like,” Eddie asks.
Stan hums. Smiles. “She’s great,” he says softly. “You all would’ve liked her. She’d be an honorary Loser.”
“I’ll bet,” Eddie says.
They don’t speak for a while after that, listening to the Losers sleep. Eddie closes his eyes, tries to feel tired.
There’s a small breath from beside him, and Eddie looks over to see - nothing. Where Stan had been, there’s now empty air.
“Stan,” Eddie says.
Eddie gets up, walks around. Checks each of the Losers’ empty rooms, even his own. Goes back to Richie’s room, where the Losers are sleeping in that one bed.
Maybe he’s gone to Patricia , Eddie thinks. That’d be nice. Awful, with Stan not being able to communicate with her and her not being able to see him - but still nice.
He sits back on the floor, leans his head back against the bed.
He closes his eyes, tries to feel tired.
He thinks vaguely of that time Richie forgot the word bedframe and instead said bones. Bed bones . It had been funny at the time. Eddie remembers laughing, his ribs hurting from it, Richie grinning as Eddie doubled over -
Richie loved him. The thought came, as annihilating as it did the very first time: Richie, 13 years old and grinning and watching him with bright eyes. Richie had loved him back then, he’d been in love with Eddie.
Fuck , Eddie thinks, and it’s twisted up with everything he never allowed himself to think: Richie .
In front of him, an intake of breath.
Eddie opens his eyes to see a vast space of nothing.
He climbs to his feet, looking around. He has feeling back, which is fucking great - he flexes his fingers and scratches his face just to feel it, the sensation of it all. He looks down - his torso is intact again.
“Hello,” he calls. “Maturin? Was that your name? What am I-”
He turns around -
It’s not Maturin.
Richie is standing there, wearing the same damp clothes. He’s trembling. His eyes are wet.
“ Eddie ,” he breathes.
“Oh,” Eddie says. His breath hitches, and he can feel it, the air stalling in his throat.
“I - hi! You can see me?”
Richie blinks hard. “Of course I can - yeah, I can see you, man, why wouldn’t I be able to see you?”
“You’d be surprised,” Eddie says. He starts forwards, and Richie makes a strange flinch, forward and then back, like he both wants to meet him in the middle but also to run away.
Eddie can fucking relate.
“Hey,” Eddie says. He keeps coming closer, but slower now. “It’s okay. Alright? I’m okay, you don’t need to freak out.”
“I’m not freaking out,” Richie says, his voice thick and jumbled. “I - I’m - oh, fuck, Eddie .”
And he collapses at the ground at Eddie’s feet.
Eddie freezes. Richie’s crying again, the same heaving sobs from the lake.
“I’m so sorry,” Richie’s saying through the tears. It’s hard to make out. “We didn’t get you out. Oh, god - we left you down there, in the dark, in the fucking dark-”
Eddie drops to his knees, touches Richie’s shoulder. It’s dirty and damp and disgusting and Eddie has never been more glad to touch a person in his life.
“Hey,” he says. “Rich-”
“You hate the dark,” Richie cries.
“I’m dead!” Eddie squeezes Richie’s shoulder, his arms. “Rich, I’m not - I’m not there. I’m here , with you. Hey, look at me - it’s me, Rich, it’s really me. I’m not down there. You didn’t leave me down there, buddy.”
Richie sniffs. Jerks away, but only a little bit, not enough to get Eddie to stop touching him.
“Shut up,” he says.
Eddie grabs him tighter. “It’s me ! I promise, come on, man - after everything, a killer alien clown and magically erasing our memories of each other, you can’t believe that I can - communicate to you, from the dead, through your - your dreams?”
He assumes that’s what’s happening here. Probably. He has no idea how the nothing-space features into it, but -
Richie looks at him. He’s truly gross, rumpled and smeared in algae and blood, face blotchy from all the crying, and Eddie wants desperately to keep looking at him.
“Don’t give me hope, man,” Richie says.
Eddie opens his mouth, but there’s a hard yank -
-and then he’s sitting in the Losers’ hotel room, sitting in the same place he was when he left it. If he did leave it. What the hell was that ?
“Oookay,” Eddie says.
He stands up and is about to make his way to Richie when Stan appears next to him.
Eddie jumps. “Jesus!”
“Nope,” Stan says, and blinks. “That was - weird. What happened, did I disappear?”
“Huh.” Stan stands up.
“Did you go and see Patricia,” Eddie asks.
Stan shakes his head. He looks down at the bed, all of the Losers curled on top of it.
“I think I went into Bev’s dream,” he says. “It was in the same space we met Maturin - I could feel again, physically. She could see me. We talked.”
Eddie heads over to Richie’s side of the bed.
“Yeah, I think I went into Richie’s-”
Richie’s crying in his sleep. His expression is clenched, but only a little, like it had been clenched hard before but was now relaxing. And he’s crying, just like he was in the dream, though nowhere near as hard - compared to that, this is almost peaceful. He sniffles occasionally and turns his face into the pillow.
“So this is a thing now,” Stan says.
“Uh,” Eddie says. “Maybe.”
“I’ll take maybe,” Stan says, and comes to stand with Eddie, watching over the Losers.
“This is a relief,” he continues. “I thought we were going to be stuck talking to just each other for eternity.”
“Could be worse,” Eddie says, almost on autopilot: Stan says something bitchy. Say something bitchy back . Old habits, and that. “We could be stuck with Richie.”
Stan laughs. “We’d try to strangle him but we’d already be dead. Useless.”
Eddie regrets bringing him up. He touches the hole in his body, then prods further when nothing happens - it’s strange, touching your own body and feeling nothing. It’s also strange to feel nothing when it’s a huge bloody hole you’re poking at, but whatever.
“I miss feeling things,” he says absently.
Stan eyes the massive hole that killed Eddie.
“Not that ,” Eddie says. “Just-”
The air on his skin. Sun on the back of his neck. A hot shower, or even just rain, the feel of water down his face, the wetness of it. Dryness, slickness, pressure - any sensation, anything at all. The ground under his fucking feet -
“Stan, we gotta do something.”
Stan shrugs. “We know we can communicate now. That’s good. We can convince them we’re here.”
“Yeah! Maybe - maybe if they know, we can all do something about it. Together.”
Stan sighs. “Worth a shot. What else do we have on our schedules?”
They watch the Losers sleep for a long time. When they try to get into their dreams again, they can’t.
“Maybe it only works once a night,” Eddie suggests.
“Great,” Stan says. “I love these goddamn ghost rules.”
It’s good to see Stan again. Eddie keeps that in mind: even with everything having gone horribly wrong, even with him dead and Richie grieving and in love with him and Eddie having wasted his entire fucking life - it’s good to see Stan again.
The next day, Eddie finds himself on a plane to LA. He’s standing in the aisle, since there are no empty seats and he could technically sit on an occupied seat, but it’d be weird .
Stan materializes about two hours in.
“How is he,” he asks, nodding at Richie.
“He’s okay,” Eddie says, instead of he stared listlessly out the window, looked like he was about to cry, then took a sleeping pill and conked out 20 minutes into the flight . “Everyone else?”
“They’re good,” Stan says. He leans on a chair and doesn’t flinch when an air steward walks through him.
Eddie moves out of the way. Stan’s adapting way better to this whole ghost thing than he is. People walking through him is fucking creepy.
“They’re all thinking about us,” Stan says.
“I know,” Eddie says. He blows out a breath. “God. I hate this.”
“Yeah,” Stan says. “It sucks.”
“This better not be permanent.”
“If we see a light,” Stan says, “we run for it.”
Eddie nods, but it sits wrong. He thinks of Maturin, the deep rumble of his voice, the sound going all the way through Eddie, but not in a bad way, like a concert, the noise sharp and shattering. Maturin’s voice had been - good. Kind. Comforting, almost, like the slow flap of his flippers.
God. Eddie’s life is so fucking weird. Or, not life -
“Maybe we can come back,” Eddie says.
Stan eyes him. Another stewardess walks through him.
“I don’t know,” Eddie says. “It feels impossible. My body’s-”
He gestures at the hole. “-and you lost enough blood to die. It’s not like we could hop back in. But - impossible things have already happened to us.”
If Stan thinks much of this, he doesn’t say it. He looks out the window and says, “Do you think we could fly outside of the plane?”
“We’re dead. Richie’s there, we could materialize next to him - just outside the plane.”
Eddie thinks about it. “...Would we still be flying with the plane?”
“No clue. Let’s find out.”
Despite Eddie’s warnings, Stan walks out the side of the plane. He immediately vanishes, and Eddie looks over to find Stan standing next to him, looking vaguely surprised, but not very bothered.
“Okay,” he says. “Nevermind.”
Richie would’ve loved that , Eddie thinks. He would’ve flipped his shit .
By the look on Stan’s face, and how he’s watching Richie drool onto his shirt, he’s thinking the exact same thing.
When Eddie’s back at Richie’s apartment, he realizes that Richie’s taken his goddamn suitcase.
“Thief,” Eddie says. “Hey, Trashmouth. You took my stuff? Hey, Rich-”
Richie stares down at the suitcase he’s just dumped on his bed. He stares at it for a while, flexing his hands at his sides, before he visibly braces himself and opens it quick, like something’s gonna pop out and sting him. He whips the lid back and then just - stares some more. His expression crumples, then straightens out again, mostly.
“Richie,” Eddie says.
Richie swallows. Eddie watches his throat work, automatically going to look away once he catches himself doing it, then remembering oh right, he can’t see me.
Slowly, Richie reaches out and touches the suitcase. The leather of it, the rim where the lid closes. Then he touches Eddie’s socks, balled up in his shoes. He touches Eddie’s shirt, just as gingerly as he’s touched everything else, and then he curls his fingers in it.
Eddie crosses his arms. He wishes he could feel it, the pressure of his own arms.
Richie stays like that, fingers curled in the shirt, and Eddie watches his expression flicker before he pulls the shirt out.
I loved him , Richie had said. It echoes in Eddie’s head. Like, love -love -
Richie presses the shirt to his face.
Eddie’s breathing stutters. This is - this feels more intimate than his 15 years of marriage. He looks away, because this is - he’s witnessing something Richie never meant for anyone to se.
Then Richie mumbles something into the shirt and Eddie is drawn back in.
It takes him a moment to figure it out, and by that point Richie is giggling weakly, which helps: Eds, I swear . Fucker had quoted - or, half quoted - Brokeback Mountain.
Richie’s giggles turn raspy and then gutter out. He grips the shirt tight, shoves it against his face like he’s warding off hurt, then throws it back down into the suitcase.
“ Fuck ,” Richie spits. He pulls his hands through his hair, paces the room fast enough that Eddie has to move out of the way to avoid getting walked through.
By the time Richie ends up back at the suitcase, he’s walked several loops around his room and his breathing has evened out.
Eddie watches as Richie takes the shirt, folds it neater than Eddie’s seen him fold anything - Richie’s clothes were permanently wrinkled as a kid because he stuffed them into his drawers instead of folding them, and Eddie would bet actual money that Richie still did an approximation of that. But here, Richie smooths the shirt out until it’s tidy again, and then presses it back in the suitcase. Then he closes the case and puts it under his bed.
After that, he gets on his bed and cries himself to fucking sleep.
Eddie watches all of this. He walks out to the lounge at some point and sits down on the couch, because this shit hurts to watch. If he could feel physical sensation, his stomach would be a writhing knot, his head and heart would be hammering, his eyes would be pricking. It hurts in his - in his fucking soul . God. Richie .
Every once in a while, he’ll go to check if Richie’s asleep yet. When he thinks he is, Eddie closes his eyes and concentrates: Richie , he thinks. Richie - come on, let me in, asshole -
On the third try, Eddie can suddenly feel his body again.
He opens his eyes. Richie is in front of him, looking very tired.
They stare at each other.
“You acted out the Brokeback Mountain scene,” Eddie blurts.
Richie doesn’t react. Then his mouth twitches.
“Yeah, man,” he says. “Small town America queers. My kind of shit.”
Eddie looks away.
Rich says, “Fuck, I loved you.”
Eddie sighs. He looks at Richie, but doesn’t meet his eyes.
Richie doesn’t seem to mind: “I know you didn’t feel the same,” he continues, “But - god, I wish you were here.”
“Would you have told me? If I was alive?”
“What?” Richie snorts. “No way, Jose .”
“What?” Richie hunches into his shoulders. Eddie can remember him at 15, 16, growing into that body, all lanky, too fast for him - he’d forget he was tall, sometimes, or that his limbs were longer than he was used to, and he’d bang into things.
“It’d just make things awkward,” Richie says. “Why do you think I never told you when we were kids?”
Eddie tries to find something to say to that.
“We were kids ,” he tries. “It was the 80s and 90s, and we were in Derry. Things are different now.”
Richie laughs, but there’s nothing behind it. “Are they?”
Eddie can’t reply. Are things different - Eddie married a woman. Eddie shoved down everything that screamed at him not to marry Myra, but he shoved down harder on everything that told him not to marry a woman , because what else could he do?
Richie kicks at nothing, scuffing his shoes.
Derry still had its claws in me , Eddie wants to say. I couldn’t remember I had been brave, Rich, I couldn’t-
“It doesn’t matter,” Richie says. His eyes have this blank, dead look behind them.
“But if I was alive,” Eddie says, “you still wouldn’t-”
“I just want you around, man,” Richie says. He shrugs. “Confessing my tragic gay love would ruin that. I’d take pining over you forever, though. If you were alive. I mean - I still am. Things would end up the same. I’d still end up alone.”
“ Richie- ”
“I don’t care,” Richie says. He blinks hard, rubs at his eyes. “I wouldn’t care about being alone - romantically, or whatever - if you were just around. You being around would be…”
He sighs and it comes with the weight of the world. His shoulders slump under it.
“It’d be enough,” Richie says. “Fuck. I miss you, man.”
“I’m here,” Eddie says. “Me and Stan, we’re here, you’re not-”
Alone , Eddie doesn’t say, as he’s shunted back into Richie’s room, not able to feel the wood under his feet, watching Richie’s face crease in his sleep.
Stan keeps an eye on the others.
Eddie mostly follows Richie around. Not that there’s much following to do - Richie stays in his apartment, for the most part. He watches a lot of movies and drinks a lot of boxed wine. He orders food and ignores phone calls, unless they’re from the Losers, which he usually answers. But sometimes he ignores them, too, no matter how much Eddie bitches to him about it in his dreams.
Richie also sleeps a lot. Eddie can’t figure out if seeing Eddie in his dreams is helping or harming.
Stan visits him in his dreams, too, and tells Eddie that he thinks everyone’s coming around.
“Slowly,” he says. “But hey, we’ve got time. You doing the rounds might help.”
“What about-” Eddie pauses, looks at Richie, who is sleeping on the couch.
“I got him,” Stan says. “Now go on, bend those ghost rules.”
It’s a joke, mostly - turns out they can visit more than one person a night. Sometimes. The amount of time they get with the dreamer is arbitrary, too. There doesn’t seem to be any rules on this, though both of them try to make them up and don’t come up with anything concrete.
So, Eddie makes the rounds. It’s good to see them again - Bill, Ben and Mike, even though they all cry - Mike most of all, saying he’s sorry for calling him back, that he would’ve died for him.
Eddie hugs him and repeats, “I know,” until Mike stops crying.
He’s still not used to it: people are really fucked up over him dying. And by people he means Losers . The friends he never really stopped loving, even when he couldn’t remember them. The people he loves most in the world - they all would’ve died for him, Eddie knows. And he would’ve died for all of them. He did . So did Stan, in his own way.
Eddie is suddenly glad he can’t feel tired when he gets around to Richie.
“Tell the others about these dreams,” he says, which is what he’d said to everyone else, except Ben, who he’d been torn away from before he could. “Stan’s been talking to the others too - we show up in this same space. You’ve all been dreaming like this, you’ve all been talking to us.”
Richie pulls his knees close to his chest. He’s sitting down - they both are, with Eddie on his knees in front of him.
“I think I dreamed of you,” Richie says. “When we were apart. When we got mind-fucked and forgot. I’d wake up with this - this pit in my chest. Like I was missing something.”
“Yeah,” Eddie whispers. “Me, too.”
He swallows, mostly to feel the motion of it - the same reason he presses his hands to the ground and breathes in and savours every sensation, because unless he’s in a dream, he can’t feel shit.
Eddie says, “I’d wake up crying sometimes and I would never know why. It was only when I saw everyone again that I remembered. I - I missed you guys so much.”
Richie nods. A smile flinches over his face and is gone.
Eddie breathes in. Feels his lungs inflate.
“I’m gonna go talk to Bev after this,” he says.
“Have fun,” Richie says.
“I will,” Eddie says. “I’ve missed her.”
“I thought you said you talked to her?”
“Not yet. I’ve been too busy with you, dickhead.”
“Aw,” Richie says. “I’m flattered, Eds.”
He says it jokingly, but his eyes are so full of - hope, but hope that’s barely there, hope weighed down by everything else, that Eddie wants - he wants -
You’re dead, Eddie reminds himself. You have literally nothing left to lose.
“Rich,” he says.
Richie looks at him, wary and expectant. Eddie’s used to this by now - whenever he tries to convince Richie he’s real, Richie gets this look like Eddie’s trying to sell him something too good to be true.
Eddie isn’t sure what he’s going to do - or, he knows, but he isn’t sure how to go about it - and he wavers for a second before deciding fuck it and leaning in -
And then he’s back in Richie’s apartment, standing next to Stan and doing his best not to feel like too much of an idiot.
“How’d that go,” Stan asks.
Eddie tries not to glare at him. He 40% succeeds.
“I’m gonna go talk to Bev,” he says.
He and Bev appear facing each other.
Bev blinks. Her mouth twitches downwards, like she’s about to cry, and Eddie resigns himself to someone else crying over him as she runs at him.
He opens his arms. Bev flings herself into them.
“Hey,” he says. “Good to see you, too. I’m glad you made it out of the cistern.”
“Hi,” Bev says, muffled into his neck. She pulls back, looks at him with liquid eyes. At least she’s smiling. “You should’ve gotten out, too. Got to - grow up. I’m - I’m so fucking sad you didn’t.”
“Yeah,” Eddie says. Grow up. God, he wants to grow up.
Bev wipes her face with her arm. “What would you have done?”
“If I lived?” Eddie doesn’t have to think about it. “Leave Myra. Maybe quit my job. I-”
The next bit gets caught in his throat. He thinks fleetingly of Snow White.
“I,” he says, but he can’t cough it up. “Richie, he-”
It won’t come. He’s pushed down on it too hard for too long.
Bev says, “Yeah?”
Bev’s smile gets watery again. “I think I kinda knew.”
“Yeah?” Eddie chokes on a laugh. “ I barely knew, Bev. Not when we were kids, and not...”
Bev shrugs. She’s in a tank top and shorts. Eddie imagines her somewhere warm, with Ben.
“Some things you can’t bury,” she says. “They always come back up.”
Eddie nods. Basks in her, just a little, like he’s done with everyone else - god, it’s good to see you. It’s always, always good to see you, it’s been so long, I missed you -
He takes a breath. Later .
“We’re not gone,” he says. “You know that, right? We’re still here. We can’t - we can’t leave, something’s wrong. Everyone’s been getting these dreams, Bev. You dreamed of Stan, like this-”
He gestures around them. “-and now me. We’re around, but you can’t see us or hear us unless we go into your dreams.”
Bev is getting that crease between her eyebrows. He can see her want to believe, but her face says that she’s already had this pitch from Stan and she isn’t sure she wants to believe it and then find out she’s wrong.
“Just tell the others about it,” Eddie says. “Just - say you’ve been dreaming about us, in this space. If the others say they’ve been doing it too, explain the stuff we’ve been saying. They’ll all-”
It’s never familiar, the shunt back to unfeeling. Eddie finds himself back in the room with Richie, Stan standing over him, his arms folded.
Stan raises his eyebrows expectantly.
“Uh,” Eddie says. “I’m heading to Bev’s, want to come?”
Stan looks at him. Looks down at Richie.
“We can leave him alone for a moment,” Eddie says. “He’s not a puppy. Or a baby. Even if he was, we couldn’t do anything to stop him jamming a fork into the electrical outlet.”
Stan gives him a look he doesn’t want to interpret, then says, “Okay. See you there.”
He vanishes. Eddie hears himself breathe in the quiet room, even if he can’t feel it.
He goes to stand over Richie, who’s sprawled out on the bed, twisted in his blankets. Eddie wants to say something, but has no idea what to say, and Richie wouldn’t hear it anyway, so instead he hovers a hand over Richie’s blanket-clad shoulder and then closes his eyes and thinks of Bev.
It takes half an hour of watching for Bev to wake up and roll over, staring at the ceiling.
“Come on,” Eddie says. “Come on, Bev.”
She keeps staring at the ceiling. It’s still dark out. She sits up, and looks around the room like - like someone else might be there. Her eyes skate right over Eddie and Stan, but - it’s something.
She stares for a while longer, then shakes Ben awake gently.
“What’s up,” he rasps as he comes awake. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” she says. She kisses his forehead, then says, “I’ve been dreaming about Eddie and Stan.”
Eddie whoops. Stan shushes him.
Ben’s forehead creases, then smooths out. “So have I, babe.”
Babe , Eddie mouths.
Stan nods like right ?
Bev’s lips purse. “I’ve been dreaming about them in a white - no, not white. An empty space, that goes on forever, and - it’s mostly Stan, actually, I only just dreamed about Eddie. They both said they - that they aren’t-”
By this point, Ben has started to sit up. The sleep leaves him.
“They’re still around,” Ben says.
Bev nods. Her eyes are shiny.
“There we go,” Stan says. “Was that so hard?”
Eddie heads back to Richie’s apartment when Bev calls him. She calls him first, which makes sense - it’s about Stan and Eddie. Richie’s best friends.
Richie groans when the phone starts ringing. Eddie watches him flail around, put on his glasses and pick up the phone, glare at it for a second before his face softens at the caller ID.
“Hey, Bev,” he says.
Eddie stands closer, but he can’t make out what Bevs’ saying. Whatever it is, it makes Richie say, “Good.” Then, “Uh… I guess. Hasn’t everybody?”
Slowly, his shoulders get more rigid.
“Uh,” Richie says. He clears his throat, sits up properly. “You’re sure? You’ve - called everybody?”
“Well, you and Ben might-”
“I know, I - yeah. Yeah, big eternal space. Both of them try to convince me they’re not - that they’re still around.”
Pause. Richie rubs at his face with his free hand.
“Yeah, okay,” he says. “I - call everyone else and then get back to me, okay? Yeah. Love you too. Bye.”
He hangs up, then stares at his phone.
“Come on,” Eddie says. He’s not sure what he’s asking for.
Richie gets up. He’s only in his boxers, and Eddie finds himself in an internal battle of don’t look oh my god that’s so weird and he can’t see me, I could look all I want . He settles for staring resolutely at Richie’s face and letting his eyes flicker down before returning guiltily to Richie’s face.
Richie starts pacing around his room, then heads into the lounge and paces there. He doesn’t let go of his phone.
Stan appears after five minutes, arms folded, next to Eddie, watching Richie pace.
“He’s taking it well,” Stan says.
Eddie makes an uncertain noise in his throat.
Stan pats him on the shoulder. “I’ll be back,” he says, and then vanishes again. Eddie imagines him showing up in Bill’s apartment, maybe Ben’s, as their phone starts to ring.
When Richie’s phone rings 15 minutes minutes later, Richie answers it before it’s finished with the first ring.
“Hey, yeah, what happened? Is everyone else-”
Eddie watches him stop. Watches his face flicker through about twelve emotions before settling on ‘I’m not dealing with this right now’ blankness.
“Alright,” he says. “I - okay. So, we gotta - yeah. I’ll start looking at flights. I’ll send you - yeah. Okay. I’m fine, Bev, you don’t have to - okay. I love you too.”
He hangs up. He takes his phone away from his ear, but absently, like he’s not fully in control of his limbs. He looks around the apartment, and the blankness is shot through with something that looks a lot like hope.
“Guys,” he says. “If you’re hearing this… uh. We’re gonna shove you into the light, okay? Don’t worry.”
He pushes his bare feet against the wood panels of the lounge. “Guess I gotta go back to sleep if I want an answer.”
“Yeah,” Eddie says. He waits, stupidly, for Richie’s shoulders to twitch, for his eyes to widen - but all Richie does is head back to bed and pull the covers up over his head.
And waits .
By the time Eddie finds himself in the vast endless space, the sun’s nearly up.
“God, that took ages ,” Eddie says as soon as Richie appears. “Ever heard of chamomile tea, asshole?”
Richie doesn’t respond. His fingers twitch along with his mouth.
“It’s really you?”
Eddie throws up his arms. “Who else, dickhead?” He’s probably going too hard on the names, but it’s Richie , and Eddie can’t -
“Eddie,” Richie says, and the blankness is all gone now, his eyes filling. “If this isn’t you - I can’t-”
“It’s me,” Eddie says. He closes the distance, almost - he gets close enough that they could hug if they wanted, then stops. “It’s me, Trashmouth.”
Richie’s gaze devours his face in a way it barely did in the previous dreams - back then it was this or carefully avoiding Eddie’s gaze, like he didn’t want to look at Eddie too long lest he burst into tears.
“You’ve really been around,” Richie says.
“So you’ve - uh.” Richie goes to pocket his hands, then looks to have a minor crisis when he realizes he’s wearing boxers. “Uhhh. So when I confessed my tragic gay love for you, that was really - you.”
Eddie goes to speak, then finds he has to clear his throat. Bodily functions are strange after he’s been divorced from them.
“Yeah,” he says. He tries to say more, but doesn’t know where the hell to go from there.
Richie retreats into his shoulders. “Shit. Sorry-”
“Don’t be!” Eddie goes to touch his arm, then stops. Richie’s pretty much naked, and looks as uncomfortable about this as Eddie is.
“I,” Eddie says, and swallows. Dry mouth. “I-”
He grits his teeth. “Fuck. I can’t say it. Why can’t I say it? I’m dead, what else do I have to lose? It’s not like I’m gonna - get sick, or get the crap kicked out of me. Why can’t I say it?”
Richie’s eyes are wide. “Eddie-”
“Richie,” Eddie says, and his voice breaks. He couldn’t even form the words, as a kid - he never let himself think them. Now, he’s thinking them so loud he can’t think anything else, but he can’t force them up his throat.
“I-” Eddie squeezes his eyes shut. “Always, okay? Even when I couldn’t remember. It was always-”
A jerk behind his navel, and Eddie feels himself start to say no, wait -
And then he’s back, watching Richie sleep.
Eddie lets out a long, frustrated scream, because he’s a ghost and no one can hear him, he doesn’t have to worry about waking the neighbors. Then, after waiting for Richie to wake up and having Richie keep sleeping, he stomps around the apartment and tries fruitlessly to knock things over or turn on the TV.
“Ghosts are supposed to get powers ,” he yells as he does the Professor Xavier fingers-to-the-head thing at a lamp. “Come on! Ghost powers, activate!”
He swipes at the lamp. His hand slides through it.
“Mother fucker! ”
“Have you not had the lack-of-ghost-powers freakout yet,” Stan says.
Eddie yelps and turns around.
“Maybe,” he says.
“I had mine after the first two days,” Stan says. “We really got cheated.”
Eddie sags. “I really want to explode something electronic.”
“I feel you, buddy,” Stan says. He comes up and squeezes Eddie’s shoulder, and Eddie squeezes him back. They can’t feel it, but it’s the principle of it all - they can’t exactly touch anyone else. Not that Eddie’s touched a lot of people in his adult life; he hadn’t really noticed how touch-starved he was until the memories of Derry started flooding back. But now he has them, and it turns out Eddie is one touch-starved guy.
“How’s everyone doing,” Eddie asks.
Stan shrugs. “About as good as you’d expect.”
They have a group Facetime at 10am, LA time.
“What I wanna know is,” Richie says, “are they watching us go to the bathroom?”
“No,” Stan and Eddie say.
Bill sighs. “Why would they do that, Rich?”
“It’s what I would do if I was a ghost!”
“You’re disgusting,” Eddie says. “You know that, right? I know you can’t hear me, but I hope my ghost powers activate now and push the feeling of me being disgusted-”
“I bet Eddie is cussing you out right now,” Mike says.
Eddie lets out a startled laugh. Stan nudges him.
“Sounds like him,” Richie says. A small, cautious smile makes its way across his face, then straightens out. “But - seriously, guys. We gotta get them into the light. We can’t doom them to an existence of following us around forever. Or until we die, I guess. But let’s not find that out.”
Ben says, “Do they have to go into the light?”
“What? Of course they do, Ben. That’s where ghosts go.”
“But can’t we-” Ben looks over at Beverly. They’re sharing a screen, the two of them leaning together comfortably. “We could try to bring them back, is what I’m saying. If it’s possible.”
“It’s not,” Richie says immediately. “So how about we scrap that idea and start thinking towards what’s actually gonna work?”
Stan puts his hand through Richie’s head. “We can at least try, Rich.”
Eddie takes Stan’s hand away.
Bev says, “Richie-”
“No,” Richie says. When the others look at him, he sighs. “I’m not getting my hopes up, okay! We’re not - we’re not. We can’t , anyway, so there’s no point-”
“I don’t kn-know about can’t ,” Bill says. “D-do you g-guys - in the dreams, do you guys notice anyone else? A p-presence.”
There’s a pause as everyone’s eyes get wide.
Stan and Eddie look at each other like what just as Bev says, “Maturin.”
“Oh,” Stan says. “They saw - when did they see-?”
“The turtle couldn’t help us,” Bev says slowly. “But - can it still not? Maybe there’s something we can do. Together.”
Richie seems entirely unconvinced.
Eddie slaps his head. His hand goes through, but the thought is there.
Stan and Eddie convene on the beach at Bev and Ben’s house.
“So they saw the turtle,” Eddie says.
“Yup,” Stan says.
“So-” Eddie claps his hands together. Looks at Stan expectantly. Stan looks back.
“So what does that mean,” Eddie says.
“No idea,” Stan says. “This is all new territory for me, this whole turtle-god thing.”
“For you- ” Eddie stops and sighs. “Okay. Okay! So, we should - can we go see the turtle-god?”
“We do know his name. Maybe we should just be calling him Maturin.”
“ You’re the one-” Eddie stops again. “No, okay, let’s just - do what we do when we want to go see the others’ dreams. Let’s-”
“Concentrate on our turtle god,” Stan says. “Got it.”
Eddie takes a moment to reconsider his whole life, then closes his eyes. Thinks about an impossible being with a voice that vibrates in his bones, floating in a space that never ends. He thinks about the soft movement of his flippers, the patterns on his shell, his big, sad eyes.
“Is it working,” Eddie says.
A pause. Stan makes a noise in his throat, and Eddie realizes that he can feel his own throat, the movements of it.
He opens his eyes.
The world has vanished. In its place is Maturin, floating gently in front of them.
HELLO , Maturin says. YOU’RE BACK .
“We’re back,” Eddie agrees. “Hey, uh - what you said, about us not going - or, about us not - uh.”
“Can we get brought back to life,” Stan asks. “Or should we be strictly aiming for going into the light?”
Maturin continues to float. His flippers move, but lazily.
Eddie and Stan look at each other.
“We just want to know,” Eddie says, “so we can tell our friends what to look into.”
HMM , Maturin says. It’s very strange, hearing him hum. For a moment he just looks at them, blinks with his huge fucking eyes.
Then he says, IF YOU MANAGE TO GET EVERYONE INTO THE MACROVERSE AT ONCE, I WILL SEE WHAT I CAN DO.
“You’ll… see what you can do,” Eddie says. “Wait, how do we get everyone into the - is that here?”
MIKE KNOWS. OR HE WILL.
“And that will-”
I WILL SEE WHAT I CAN DO, Maturin repeats. I AM… NOT ENTIRELY CONFIDENT. BUT THE MAGIC YOU HAVE CREATED TOGETHER GIVES ME SOME HOPE. IF YOU ALL GATHER HERE TOGETHER, IT IS THE BEST CHANCE .
Stan says, “The best chance at-”
“-what,” Stan finishes.
They’re back on the beach. The sand isn’t between their toes, and if it was, they couldn’t feel it.
Stan sighs. “Well, that was helpful. Thank you, Mr. Turtle God, sir.”
Eddie slaps him in the shoulder. “Don’t mock him, he’s a - he’s- is he omnipresent?”
Eddie kneads at his face. “Great,” he says. “Okay - well, that’s something to report back.”
“Yep,” Stan says. He kicks at a rock. His foot goes through it. “Now we just have to wait until someone falls asleep and tell them. Here’s hoping we can get into their dreams.”
“Here’s hoping,” Eddie says.
Bill falls asleep first, but for some reason neither of them can get in.
“Fucking arbitrary ghost rules,” Eddie says.
Stan agrees, and they go to Mike. He’s on a plane, napping.
Stan vanishes. Eddie tries to follow into the dream, but can't.
He goes to Richie instead, who is also on a plane, but not napping. Eddie doesn’t think it’ll take long, though, as he watches Richie dry-swallow a sleeping pill.
“Dry swallowing isn’t good for your throat,” Eddie tells him, though he can’t say shit. He used to do that all the time.
Ten minutes later, Eddie opens his eyes into the marcoverse. Because apparently that’s what it’s called.
“Hey,” he calls to Richie. “We don’t watch you going to the bathroom, asshole.”
Richie grins. Eddie aches .
“Next you’re gonna tell me you haven’t snuck into a girls’ changing rooms, either,” Richie says.
Eddie gives him a look. Richie squirms under it, and Eddie resists the urge to do the same - there’s so much underneath it.
“We talked to Maturin,” he says.
He shrugs. “He said we have to all get to this space together. The macroverse, he called it.”
“Macroverse,” Richie says. “Got it. How do we-”
“No clue. He said Mike would know.”
“I think that’s gonna be news to Mike,” Richie says.
You’re braver than you think , Richie had said. Eddie wants, so badly, to be brave.
He comes closer, enough that Richie swallows.
“Hey,” he says. “That thing I was saying earlier-”
“Eds,” Richie says. It sounds like don’t , but also like please , and the two might not be related.
Eddie thinks about stopping, but then he feels his heart in his chest, beating.
I died, he thinks. I died and I never said it. I still can’t, but -
“I meant it,” he says.
Richie’s face crumples, but only for a second. Then he’s breathing in deep, saying, “If you’re saying what I think you’re saying-”
“I don’t know if I can handle that,” Richie says in a rush. “It’s - it’s great, don’t get me wrong, but - fuck . Eddie, you’re fucking dead. You’re - around, but we can’t...”
Eddie steps closer. His hands are shaking, he can feel them, and it’s a bad feeling but he’s so goddamn grateful to feel it, to feel anything. He digs his nails into his palms and there it is, the pricks of pain.
I’LL SEE WHAT I CAN DO, the turtle had said. It wasn’t a promise, it wasn’t anything, and Eddie might be gone from here, be somewhere else , very soon. And Eddie’s a mess of repressed shit he’s been holding back his whole life, things he hasn’t been allowed, things he hasn’t allowed himself , and he’s standing in an impossible space with this guy he’s loved since he was a child.
“Richie,” he says. He says it to taste the word in his mouth, feel his tongue touch his teeth. He never thought he’d miss being able to feel his tongue against his teeth. He’d never thought he’d miss a lot of things.
Richie’s shaking, too. Eddie can see it in his shoulders as he comes closer and touches Richie’s arm and leans up and in.
Kissing Richie Tozier feels a lot like waking up from a bad dream. It feels like entering the macroverse and being able to feel the heart beating in his chest again. It fills Eddie’s chest, his entire body, down to the tingling ends of his fingertips: the soft solidness of his mouth, the noise that Richie makes that is pained, but not just pained. Richie’s hands come up and cup Eddie’s face, and Eddie leans into it. Richie’s hands - he’d watched them a lot, Richie’s hands. He hadn’t remembered that until just now. Richie had used to touch him a lot, little touches, nothing touches that Eddie had paid more attention to than he’d liked. Richie had touched him more than he touched anyone else.
His hands are warm on Eddie’s face, almost as warm as his mouth.
Eddie wants -
There’s a strong, steady pull, and it’s fast enough that Eddie doesn’t have time to do anything put gasp, and then he’s back on Richie’s plane, watching Richie’s slack face as he leans against the window.
“Fuck,” Eddie says. “ Fuck .”
He closes his eyes and thinks of Stan.
When he opens them, he’s standing in the aisle of a different plane, standing next to Stan, who is next to a sleeping Mike.
“What’s up,” Stan asks. From the way he eyes Eddie, Eddie guesses that a lot of things are showing on his face.
“What’s up,” Eddie says. “Well, Stan, what’s up is that I’m a massive fucking coward who’s wasted his entire life repressing shit from his childhood and letting it turn my life into a toxic wasteland, and then I fucking died without getting to fix it.”
“Preach,” Stan says.
Eddie ducks out of the way as a steward comes down the aisle. He makes a face as Stan lets him pass through.
“Come on, man,” Eddie says.
Stan looks unconcerned. “No cold spots,” he says. “No nothing. This ghost gig is a big disappointment, I have to say.”
“Yeah,” Eddie croaks. He rubs his hands down his face. “Yeah.”
Everyone meets up at Ben’s house, which is big and fancy enough to make Eddie uncomfortable. It is, however, clean enough to make Eddie calm, which balances out the discomfort.
“This is how people are supposed to live,” he tells Richie, who has his shoulders up around his ears. Eddie guesses the house is big and fancy enough to freak Richie out, too. That, or the cleanliness is strange to him. Eddie had spent a lot of time walking around Richie’s apartment despairing at his living situation. He hasn’t washed a dish since he got back from Derry. That can be chalked down to being messed up over Derry, but there’s mold in the bathroom. There’s no excuse for mold, and it had obviously been growing long since Eddie got there.
Mike arrives last, and after all the hugs, everyone looks at him expectantly.
Mike sighs. “So everyone’s got through the grape vine that Mike knows how to get to the marcoverse, huh?”
“Well,” Mike says. “Uh. I don’t know- know, but I brought a few options.”
“Did you s-steal from the Native Amerians again,” Bill asks as Mike goes rummaging through his duffle bag.
“Ha, ha,” Mike says. “ No . I brought everything legally. Well - mostly legally.”
Then he starts bringing out jars and baggies that make Eddie’s eyebrows rise.
“Oh, so we’re doing drugs,” he says. “That’s the plan, we’re doing drugs? This is-”
“So we’re doing drugs,” Richie talks over him. “This is your big plan, Micycle? Smoking a fat one-”
“We’re drinking the drugs.”
“Oh! Cool!” Richie gets up and starts picking up the jars, twisting them around. “So we’re - we’re gonna do drugs until we get the right-”
“ Mike .”
“I’m sorry, you got a better idea, Richie?”
Richie puts his hands on his hips. Stares Mike down for a few seconds.
“No,” he says, and Mike swipes the jar out of his hand.
“Then yes, we’re drinking drugs until we get to the macroverse.”
“This is not how I thought this week was going to go,” Ben says, and gets six hums of agreement, though he can only hear four.
They leave two spaces for Eddie and Stan, and brew them their own glasses of - whatever drug Mike has dragged along.
“You took this on a plane ,” Bill says as Mike pours.
“Guess Maturin must like me,” Mike says. “Drink up.”
Everyone takes a drink. Eddie bends and tries to pick his glass up from the floor. His hand goes through it. He tries to manifest ghost powers to tip it over. Nothing happens.
“This is disgusting,” Bev says, strained, as she comes up for air.
Mike makes a noise into his glass, then swallows and says, “Okay, everyone into the circle.”
Everyone takes their places in Ben’s living room, which is one of many. The people who can join hands, do, and everyone else reaches over a Eddie-and-Stan shaped gap. Mike’s holding no one’s hand, he had been between Eddie and Stan when they did the blood ritual as kids.
Eddie and Stan hover their hands over their friends’ hands.
It’s the same as last time. Eddie doesn’t know how he can remember it right, but it’s the exact same order as last time.
“Oh,” Ben says. He makes a face. Eddie assumes the trip is hitting, because everyone around him is blinking hard, dazed.
“Wow,” Bill says. He’s starting to slur. “Th-this is much wuh-worse than last t-time.”
“Yep,” Mike says. “Yep yep yep yep ohhhh man .”
Eddie and Stan look at each other.
“I’m suddenly glad I can’t drink anything,” Stan says.
Eddie goes to agree when there’s a tingle in his fingertips.
Stan’s eyes go wide. “Do you-”
“Yeah,” Eddie says. The tingle builds. The world goes blurry. “Oh, shit- ”
Thy drugs are quick, Eddie remembers. Where was that from? Shakespeare, sure, he now has vague memories of freshman year at Derry High School. Richie had been in the row behind him and kept throwing notes. Eddie remembers turning around and whisper-yelling at him. He remembers Richie grinning in response, remembers the light catching him just right one day, remembers the breath leaving him as it haloed around Richie’s head -
The rest of the line comes.
Thus with a kiss, I -
Oh , he thinks. Right .
Ben’s house disappears around him.
He loses time, maybe. He can’t remember anything, and then he does, and the drugs are out of his system and they were never there in the first place. He’s in the macroverse dressed in his usual attire, the clothes he’d died in, minus the stab wound.
For the first time, there’s more than one person around him: the Losers, in a circle, all holding hands. Eddie’s holding hands, he’s got Richie on one side and Mike on the other, and both the hands tighten around his as they notice him.
“Holy shit,” Eddie says.
Stan says something along the same lines.
The Losers dogpile them.
Eddie finds himself in the middle of a seven-way hug, Stan shoved in with him, everyone’s arms tangling as they try to work it out.
“Hi,” Eddie says. “Hi, guys-”
He might be crying. If he is, no one can fucking judge him, because everyone else is, too.
“We did it,” Mike says. He’s beaming and wiping his eyes. “Thank god. I thought we’d have to try so many drugs.”
Eddie waits for Richie to make a joke, but Richie’s busy clinging. He’s got one arm around Eddie’s neck and one arm around Stan’s, his face pressing into their shoulders.
Eddie wants to close his eyes. He’s overwhelmed by all of it, being able to feel things again, and having his friends around him and actually seeing him, hearing him speak. But he’s worried that if he closes his eyes they’ll disappear, so he keeps them open and drinks it all in.
I missed you, he thinks. I only just got you back -
YOU MADE IT , Maturin says.
Eddie jumps. The hug loosens enough that Eddie can turn and face him. He’s his usual turtle-y self, which only makes Eddie want to close his eyes more.
“Yeah, we made it,” Eddie says. “We got here. Uh. Where do we go from here?”
“You said you could help us out,” Mike says. “Uh. Sir.”
NO NEED TO CALL ME SIR, MIKE.
“Right, uh. Maturin.”
THERE WE GO , Maturin says. IT IS GOOD TO SEE YOU.
The Losers look at each other in their tiny cluster, bundled so close together despite the endless space around them.
“Uh,” Bill says. “G-good to see you t-too. Can you help us?”
I THINK SO, Maturin says. He sounds almost cheerful. YOUR MAGIC - YOUR BOND - IS STRONGER THAN I THOUGHT.
“Good,” Bill says. “Great. That’s g-good, right?”
YES. IT IS.
Stan says, “Hey, are we going to go to - wherever the dead go, or are you bringing us back to life? Or some secret third option?”
GIVE ME A MOMENT .
He closes his eyes. Eddie almost misses them, despite their bewildering nature - if he looked close enough, he thought he could see galaxies in his pupil.
Richie takes his hand. Eddie looks over at him. Richie’s looking up at the turtle, looking both punch-drunk and determined, and he glances over when Eddie’s been looking for a few seconds. The glance lingers.
“Hi,” Eddie says.
Richie smiles. It wobbles. “Hi.”
I don’t think I’m going to stay dead , Eddie wants to say, but he doesn’t quite believe it. He wants to believe he’s going to live. He wants -
He kisses Richie. It should be weird, doing this with all their friends gathered around them - Bev has her hand on his shoulder and Ben’s side is pressed up against him and he’s pretty much surrounded from all sides - but Eddie puts the worry out of his mind.
He puts his hands on Richie’s face. He’d enjoyed it when Richie had done it to him. Richie’s warm again, blood beating a comforting beat under his skin, taking shaky breaths and putting his hot hands into Eddie’s hair.
Fuck, I want to live , Eddie thinks. I want more of this, I want -
There’s a tug, harder than anything Eddie’s felt before, hard enough to explode pain behind his eyelids and his sternum and for a second Eddie remembers IT’s claw emerging through his front, the numb horror of it, and -
Eddie wakes up in the lip of a sewer pipe.
“Oh, fuck ,” he rasps as he takes it all in: the dirt and grime and actual, real sewer shit on his skin and clothes, the long-congealed blood, the huge, IT-claw sized rip in his shirt.
He feels at his torso. It’s fine, all sturdy skin. He presses down, bites his nails into it, and his skin twinges in answer.
He climbs out of the pipe and into the river, still putting his hands on his face, his hair, his ribs. He wobbles to a stop and tries to feel his heartbeat, and there it is, fucking racing .
Eddie whoops loud enough that his throat hurts, which is a trip, god, he’s even missed his throat hurting, he’s missed all of it. And he gets to have it, he’s allowed, he’s alive -
“FUCK YEAH,” Eddie screams, and then sewer juice drips from his cheek into his mouth and he starts to gag.
Payphone. His cellphone is broken, presumably still down in IT’s mangled lair, so he has to get to a payphone. It’s a good thing he’s in Derry, where you can still find them on most street corners.
He gets some weird looks from people he passes, which isn’t many. Eddie waves back and watches them scurry away. Fuck ‘em. He’s alive. He’s covered in sewage and he’s going to need to have a lot of awkward conversations with tax companies and everywhere else that declared him dead, he’s pretty sure the Losers posted about his death on his Facebook page - he’s going to need to do a lot of damage control, is what he’s saying.
But then - then , the rest of his life.
It’s only when he gets to a payphone that he realizes that he doesn’t remember anyone’s numbers.
“Shit,” he says. He stands there in the booth, trying to figure out what to do, and then heads to the Derry Library, where he sits down at the public computers, logs into Facebook - his account hasn’t yet been deactivated, thank fuck - and looks up each of the Losers, sending them the same message: hi, not dead, woke up in Derry, am on their shitty library computers so i don’t have a webcam, someone give me ur number so i can call it on a payphone thanks.
Ben replies in under a minute.
“Bless you, Ben,” Eddie says as he copies the number onto a piece of paper and goes back to the payphone.
Ben picks up on the first ring. “Hello?”
“Hey,” Eddie says. “It’s me - have you guys heard from Stan?”
“Not yet,” Ben says, after a pause. From the sounds of it, Ben’s put him on speakerphone. “Eddie, are you-”
“Yeah,” Eddie says. He laughs. “Maturin really pulled through! I’m - I’m okay, guys. I’m alive.”
There are sounds that definitely aren’t Ben, Bill saying oh thank god and Mike yelling and Bev maybe crying, he can’t tell. He can’t hear anything from Richie yet.
“We thought maybe,” Ben says, and pauses.
“I know,” Eddie says. “Um, I - I don’t have my wallet, or anything. Even if I did, Myra’s definitely cut them off by now. I-”
“We’ll be on the first flight to Derry we can get on,” Bill says.
“What? Fuck no,” Eddie says. “Don’t come back here, I’ll - I can’t rent a car or anything, but I can walk to the next town over, it only takes a few hours. What’s that town, we went on a school trip in sixth grade-”
“Devonport,” Bill says.
“I’ll walk to Devonport and meet you guys there,” Eddie says. “And I’ll - I don’t know, I’ll keep calling from a payphone, since I don’t have money to buy a cellphone. Uh. Hey, is Richie there?”
Richie speaks up immediately. “I’m - I’m here.”
“Hi,” Richie says, sounding watery. “You aren’t dead, probably.”
“I don’t know, we can’t see your face, it could be-”
“I’m alive,” Eddie says. “Hey. Hear my voice? I’m not dead, and I’m - I’m gonna see you soon, and then I’m gonna divorce my wife and get a new job and maybe come to LA if you want me to come to LA.”
“I want you to come to LA,” Richie says, strangled, after a few seconds of stunned silence pass.
“Okay,” Eddie says, instead of collapsing into a panic attack. “Great. See you.”
Eddie hangs up. Then he calls the number again.
Ben picks up. “Eddie?”
“I love you guys,” Eddie says.
Ben laughs. It’s filled with relief. “I know, man. We love you, too.”
There’s a chorus of it. Eddie smiles. He keeps it with him, the memory of I love you -s the whole walk to Devonport, and only feels a little cowardly for not directing it specifically at Richie, picking him out of the crowd: I love all of you, but I love you differently, like love- love, okay?
Eddie finds a payphone outside of Davenport and calls them just as they’re about to get on a plane.
“Stan called,” Ben says, and Eddie tenses. “He’s okay. He asked me to give you his number-”
Eddie scribbles it down on his hand and calls it.
“Stan Uris speaking,” Stan says, and Eddie goes to lean on the payphone wall before noticing how disgusting it is.
“Stan! Hey, it’s-”
“Eddie,” Stan says. “ Hi , I’m making my way to the airport now.”
“Are you okay? Ben didn’t give any details-”
“I’m okay,” Stan says. “I, uh. I clawed my way out of a pine box.”
“ Jesus .”
“They’ve been making comparisons.”
“Maturin put me just near the outside of the sewers!”
Stan is quiet for a moment. “Huh,” he says. “What a bastard.”
“You clawed- ”
“Yup. Gave a family visiting their grandfather a really bad fright. Pat - uh, Patricia almost fainted when I made it home.”
“ God . Is she-”
“She’s, uh,” Stan says. He laughs, but it’s strained. “She’s relieved I’m okay? She’s very confused, which is why I’m - no, I’d still bring her along anyway. I’m not leaving her again.”
“We’re telling her?”
“Yeah,” Stan says. “We’re telling her. I think it’d be easier for her to believe if it’s all seven of us saying it, rather than just me. She’s here, by the way.”
“Oh. Uh. Hi, Patricia.”
“Eddie says hi,” Stan says. He pauses. “Patricia says hi.”
“Hi,” Eddie says. He clears his throat. “Okay, I’m gonna go sit outside a motel until you guys get here, because I don’t have any money to book a room. Did Ben tell you which-”
“Yeah, he told me.”
“Okay,” Eddie says. “Good. Uh. See you.”
“Love you, Eds.”
“Love you, Stan.”
“I’m glad we didn't have to spend eternity as incorporeal specters unable to communicate with the world except through our friends’ dreams.”
Eddie laughs. It goes a little haywire.
“Yeah,” he says. “Me too, man.”
Eddie sits on the stairs up to the motel and gets used to having a body full-time again. Hunger isn’t great , but he’d take it over the absolute Nothingness he’d felt as a ghost.
He digs his nails into his palms, then lets go, then repeats. He doesn’t tear skin, he just likes the reminder. He feels the wind on his face and turns towards it. He feels the disgusting sewer shit that’s dried on his skin and wants to crawl out of his body, but - yeah, no, he definitely wants to shower more than he wants to feel things right now. He’s covered in literal shit and his own blood .
A surprising lack of people come up and ask if he’s okay, or calls the cops on him, which is - nice. Maybe.
When a car pulls up with a bunch of familiar faces in it, Eddie jumps to his feet.
“Hi, please can someone get me a room so I can shower,” he calls as the car doors open. No one goes to the trunk for their bags, they all start towards him.
Eddie takes a step back. “Hey, no, no one hug me, I’m so disgusting right now. Hug me later. Also, does anyone have any food? Or water?”
Ben digs in his pocket and comes out with an energy bar.
“ Thank you,” Eddie says, and grabs it. He peels it and tries to eat it without touching his skin to anything his mouth is going to touch. As he eats, he looks over at Richie, who is looking like he might cry again.
“Hey,” Eddie says through his mouthful. God. This is not the impression he wanted to make.
Richie nods at him like he can’t reply right now, and then jerks forwards at him.
Eddie steps back again, up a step. “Dude, I’m so gross, this is literal shit and blood-”
Richie wraps him up in a hug anyway. Eddie makes a noise of protest, arms at his sides.
“Fucking hug me back,” Richie says.
Eddie sighs and does. He lets his head fall against Richie’s shoulder.
“We’ll get you a shower,” Mike says, and they start heading into the motel.
Eddie sticks behind for a second, still hugging Richie. When he pulls back, Richie has - stuff on his shirt that means they’re gonna have to burn it.
“Do not kiss me,” Eddie says when Richie’s face comes close. “I’m going to have a shower, and then you can kiss me.”
Richie’s face, which had gone shuttered when Eddie told him not to kiss him, smooths out with relief.
“Yeah, yeah,” Eddie mutters. He knocks Richie’s chest with his hand. “Come on.”
They walk up the rest of the steps into the motel. Eddie doesn’t pull away when their shoulders press together - or, Eddie’s shoulder and Richie’s arm, he’s a tall guy - and braces himself for getting a very strange look from whoever’s working at the check-in desk.
It’s a girl, high-school age, looking very bored. She does a double take at Eddie.
“Oh my god, did someone kill you,” she asks.
Eddie chokes. Beside him, Richie’s laugh makes him bend over with the force of it. The rest of the Losers are slower to take it up, but by the time Eddie’s ribs start to hurt, everyone’s cracking up, most of them crying with it. Bev has resorted to silent snorts, leaning on Ben, who is shaking with it.
“Sorry,” Bill says, when he can manage it. “Uh, credit card, please.”
The girl, who has been watching them devolve with a bemused expression, says, “You got it,” and rings them up for their rooms.
It’s the best shower Eddie’s had in his life . He washes his hair four times and scrubs his body pink and raw before climbing out to the big fluffy towel which is well above his expectations.
Everyone is still gathered in his room when he comes out wearing Bill’s clothes. They’d all decided that Bill was the closest to Eddie, size-wise.
“Shit,” Eddie says. “It’s good to be clean.”
Mike passes him a glass of water. Eddie chugs it and takes the next thing Mike hands him, which is a Mars bar.
Eddie wolfs it. He slows down when he remembers Richie is watching, which he is - Richie’s watching him like a hawk, like he’s worried Eddie’s gonna disappear if he blinks.
Eddie throws the wrapper at him. “Blink, you weirdo.”
“I’m blinking,” Richie says, and blinks about twelve times in four seconds, staring at Eddie when his eyes are open.
Eddie wants to laugh but it catches in his throat. I want, I want, I want -
He goes over and stands close enough to Richie their noses graze.
Richie stops blinking.
Eddie is on his tiptoes, but only a little. It wouldn’t take any more for him to lean in, to - to -
Eddie hesitates, then keeps hesitating.
“We can leave,” Ben offers.
“No,” Eddie says. He glances over at him. “No, it’s - fine. I, uh.”
He turns back to Richie. “Sorry. I know I shouldn’t be so-”
Richie’s already shaking his head. “It’s fine.”
“We’ve done this before,” Eddie says. “Twice.”
Richie shrugs. “It was a dream,” he says. “It wasn’t real.”
It’s both the best and the worst thing he could’ve said, and it propels Eddie forwards. He grabs Richie by the shirt and pulls him down so he doesn’t have to tip-toe, and Richie seems all too happy to bend.
Eddie doesn’t forget that there are people around - friends, sure, but still people, people who can see him, people who can see him kissing a man - but it mostly dies down as Richie touches his face with hands that Eddie had spent so long staring at when they were children.
“Real enough for you,” Eddie says when he draws back.
Richie looks dazed. “Uh,” he says. “Uh. I. Might need some repeats. To make sure.”
Eddie smacks him in the shoulder, but not hard. More of a love tap.
When Stan gets there, they go to crowd him and then stop when Patricia walks in with him. She’s pretty, but more than that, she looks kind. She also looks very wary, though she’s trying to cover it up with politeness.
“We’ll answer whatever questions you have,” Bev tells her.
Patricia looks relieved to see another woman there. “Thanks,” she says. “Uh. Stan hasn’t actually told me much yet.”
“It all sounded insane,” Stan says. He pushes hair out of his face and Eddie sees that his wrists are completely healed, they look like they’ve never been scratched, let alone cut. That must’ve been fun to try to explain.
Stan continues, “I thought I’d wait until I had people to back me up. I told her some things - hey, honey, that’s Eddie. He died, too.”
Stan waves. After a moment, Patricia does too.
Eddie waves back. Then he yawns, enough that he has to cover his mouth. “Sorry. Jesus. Oh man, I missed being tired.”
“You can head to bed,” Mike says. “We can take care of this.”
“Are you sure? I can-” Eddie punctures this with another yawn. “Shit-”
“Go to bed,” Ben says. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”
Eddie relents. “Fine,” he says, and goes to hug Stan. Stan hugs back tightly, and Eddie makes a note to thank him later for being there for him when they were both dead.
“Good to see you again,” Stan says as they pull apart.
“Yeah,” Eddie says. “You, too.”
Stan glances over at Richie, who has started following Eddie when he walked towards the door. He gives Eddie a pointed look.
“Shut up,” Eddie says. “You, with your smug fucking face, shut up-”
“Not smug,” Stan says. “Just happy for my friends.”
Eddie can’t find anything to say to that. He claps Stan on the shoulder and then reaches back to take Richie’s wrist.
“Come on, Trashmouth,” he says.
Richie goes. He doesn’t even make a smart comment about it, which is how Eddie knows he’s going through a Thing.
When they make it to the hall, Richie takes Eddie’s hand. Eddie lets it happen, even if it makes him glance around the hall to check for people.
Richie doesn’t let go of his hand when they make it to Eddie’s room.
“I’m not gonna disappear if you let go of me,” Eddie says. “Can I pee by myself? Huh? Will you let me pee by myself, Rich?”
“I’ll allow it,” Richie says, not quite deadpan. “What’s it like having bodily functions again?”
“Weird,” Eddie sighs. “Most of them, I didn’t miss.”
Richie’s eyebrows go up in the way that always suggests something dirty. “Most, huh?”
Eddie goes to tell him to fuck off, then pauses. He’s tired , okay, his inhibitions are lowered, and he’s just come back from the dead.
You fucking died, Eddie reminds himself. Be more than a dead man.
“Yeah,” Eddie says, turning to face him. “ Most . Want me to show you which ones I did miss?”
Richie’s face does a complicated series of twists. “Uhhh. Is it peeing?”
“No, Rich, it’s not peeing.”
“Okay,” Richie says, high-pitched. He starts shifting from foot to foot. Eddie doesn’t think he realizes he’s doing it. “But, uh. I’m definitely gonna cry, though. Just letting you know in advance so you don’t freak out.”
“Uh,” Eddie says, all the bravery from before draining out of him and getting replaced by good ol’ anxiety, blooming up and strangling his nervous system. “Alright? I mean, I’ll probably - okay, don’t laugh at me, I didn’t actually miss jerking off while I was dead, I didn’t jerk off much when I was alive, I kinda tried not to ‘cause it - I - lots of stupid repression reasons. You get it.”
Richie nods frantically.
“And, uh-” Eddie clears his throat. It’s not an attractive sound. “Also I’ve never had sex that I enjoyed and we’re both, uh, pretty overwhelmed, so it’s probably not gonna be-”
“We could just sleep,” Richie says, and Eddie sags like his strings have been cut.
“Oh, thank god. Not that I don’t - not that I don’t want . I do want . I just-”
Richie nods some more. He’s hunching again, but his pupils are very big, they had gone that way about the same time Eddie had said want . Eddie looks into them and thinks of galaxies.
Eddie wakes up to a world of white. Then he rolls over so his face isn’t buried in a pillow and he’s in a motel room bed with dubiously washed sheets, Richie snoring quietly within touching distance.
Eddie lies on his side, watching Richie sleep. He remembers from their old sleepovers that Richie either slept sprawled out like he needed to take up the whole bed or he’d die, or he slept curled up like a pillbug.
Right now he’s pillbugging. It’s adorable. Eddie feels himself smile.
He’s falling back into a doze, blinks getting longer and heavier, when Richie’s eyes come open.
“Hey,” Richie slurs when he sees Eddie.
“Hey,” Eddie says. “Good dreams?”
Richie uncoils from being a pillbug. “Yeah,” he says, stretching. “You were there.”
Richie hums, rolling onto his side fully.
“Uh,” he says. “We were at the kissing bridge. We weren’t talking, but somehow we could still communicate. Maybe telepathy. I think at some point we wrestled? Then your arms turned into pasta so you could grab me better and a monster truck started chasing us and suddenly we were in LA for some reason. It was a dream, dude.”
“But otherwise good, except for the monster truck.”
“Yeah,” Richie says. He reaches over the other side of the bed and gets his glasses, sliding them before lying back down to face Eddie. “What about you, good dreams?”
Eddie thinks about it.
“I don’t remember,” he says. Then, “I’m glad you’re here.”
Richie grins. It’s not his usual look-at-me grin he gets when he’s joking around, it’s one of the softer ones, the ones he used to give Eddie when they were alone, when there was no one else to perform for and Richie was tired, or Feeling A Lot, which was the usual combination that got his goofy facade to slip.
“What do you want to do today,” Richie asks.
“Uh,” Eddie says. “Pick up and put down things every thirty seconds to make sure I can still interact with the living world. Hug all our friends. Maybe start calling everyone I need to call to tell them I’m not dead. Get my bank account back. Eat food , fuck, I missed food. Kiss you,” he adds.
“Cool,” Richie says. “Everything else we can get to, but we can make that last one happen right now.”
Eddie rolls his eyes, but shuffles towards him and then leans over him, bracing himself over him with his hands. He takes a second to watch Richie’s face, the pillow-marks in his cheek twitch with his smile, the softness of his eyes that blurs a little with fear, with disbelief.
“Hi,” Richie says.
“Hi,” Eddie says, quiet, and bends down to kiss him.
Richie kisses back. In the back of his mind Eddie remembers the two of them as kids and wonders what would’ve happened if they had gotten their shit together back then, if Eddie hadn’t had to go his whole life without kissing him and realizing oh shit, this is what I’ve been missing .
The thought fades. It’s not worth thinking about, anyway - all that shit’s behind them, and whatever stupid choices they made in the past, now they have the future.
Richie reaches up and strokes Eddie’s face; long, slow lines over his cheekbones.
Eddie thinks briefly of miracles - a giant turtle floating in nothing. The magic of a group of friends, joined by their bloody hands. Memories being taken away and then flooding back. A group of childhood friends meeting for the first time in 30 years and loving each other like no time had passed. Coming back from the dead as a ghost; coming back again with a beating heart.
Eddie breathes out through his nose.
“Your breath is gross,” he says into Richie’s mouth.
Richie laughs. “Says you, stink-breath.”
“Ooh,” Eddie says. “Ooh, stink-breath , how am I ever going to recover-”
Richie pinches his cheek.
“You are such an asshole,” Eddie says. “Brush your fucking teeth after this.”
Then he settles down against Richie’s chest and keeps kissing him.
Richie, who had been pushing himself up, presumably to go to the bathroom, makes a noise of surprise and relaxes back into the bed.
Eddie tangles his hands in Richie’s hair, rolls the threads of it through his fingers, and thinks of two big and small miracles:
One, that he can touch Richie.
And two, that he does.