Richie is halfway through a coffee and zoning out when he realizes everyone’s looking at him expectantly.
“Wh-” he stops, coughs. Pounds on his chest as the coffee goes down the wrong tube. A woman three seats away snorts.
“Shut up,” Richie tells her.
The circle titters. The woman - Marigold, event planner, eight years older than Richie and never lets him forget it - flips him off with a bedazzled nail.
Richie grins, flips her off in return. Everyone’s still waiting, so Richie puts down his coffee on the ground and says, “Sorry! Uh, I’m Richie and I’m an alcoholic.”
“Hi, Richie,” the circle echoes back.
Richie nods. “So, yeah - I drank a lot, then I stopped for nine years because a doctor said I had to or I’d probably die. And I stopped and I know now that I was white-knuckling it, like - nothing had been fixed. I was still me, I was pretty much a dry-drunk for ages. Then something really fucked up happened, and I dove right back into old habits. It wasn’t great, but it felt - inevitable? And then something really good happened that kind of erased all that bad shit, and my life got really great, but I was still, like. The same guy who had to drink, underneath. I did a lot of growing as a person through that, but there were still all those foundations-”
Richie checks the clock on the wall. It’s perilously close to 6pm.
“ Anyway ,” he says. “Most of you know the story - I tried white-knuckling it again, had a binge session, but by that point I actually had a support group to fall back on and they suggested I go to AA. So two years ago, I did, and now I’m two years sober, baby.”
A small smattering of claps, mostly from the people who don’t frequent this meeting. Everyone else knows his story.
“Fuck yeah,” Richie says. “Anyway, I’ve been going to a lot of meeting this week, more than normal - I’m getting married in a few days, and I’m worried about the booze. Like, Eddie suggested we just have a dry bar, but I’m not gonna do that to everyone who can drink normally and wants a cosmo, you know? So we’re having an actual bar- bar, and I’m 85% sure things will be fine, but my brain has lied to me before. So! Attending more meetings, calling my sponsor, working through the steps a second time, blah blah blah . Uhhh. What else? I’m going good. Really good, I never - expected to be this good, ever. But I am! Life beyond my wildest dreams , whatever. It really happens. And I know I wouldn’t have all this shit if I still drank. I’d still - I’d have it, but it’d be… not as good. By far. And I think maybe it’d… I don’t know. I’d isolate more and communicate way less and have mood swings and be even more emotionally immature than I am now. And I’d end up spiraling somewhere really dark, eventually. Which wouldn’t be great. Uhhh.”
He glances over at the clock just as it ticks over to 6.
“Aaand that’s a wrap,” he says. He claps his hands. “Tip your waitresses, folks. And by that, I mean put the money in the hat.”
The cowboy hat - it used to be a basket, apparently, but that changed shortly before Richie came in - gets passed around as the chairperson reads out the usual shit that Richie tunes out.
“And now we will end on the Serenity Prayer,” the chairperson says.
Everyone stands. Richie does too, and the words start, automatic: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change -
It’s not weird anymore, though it’d taken a while to get used to it. It helps a lot for Richie to think of the turtle god while he says it. Turtle God, grant me the serenity, etc.
It’s the only way he’s been able to accept the whole higher-power thing they highly recommend in the rooms - as in, most people will give you the side-eye if you say you’re never going to at least try the higher power thing. Nine times out of ten they aren’t weird about it, but they still recommend prayer, even if it’s you believe in an utterly meaningless existence and praying is just a coping mechanism. Since the start, Richie’s been saying his prayers like this: Turtle God, thank you for my sobriety today and may I have another day of it tomorrow. Thank you, turtle god.
The prayer finishes, and the meeting along with it. The guy next to Richie, Glen, slaps his shoulder.
“I won’t be around any other meetings this week,” Glen says. “But I’ll see ya at the wedding! Stock up on soda, man. You’re gonna be fine.”
“Knock on wood, comrade,” Richie says, and bends to tap on the wood of a chair.
Glen slaps him on the shoulder again. “Take it easy, Rich. Call me if you need an ear.”
“Yeah, you too, Glen. See you at the wedding.”
Richie looks around. A few people have left, but most of the group has stuck around to talk to someone. When someone comes around for his cup, Richie bends to pick it up and give it to them.
He looks over to Marigold to see she’s already swishing her way over. She swishes everywhere - she’s a human personification of those colorful bead doorways, all strange jewelry and billowing clothes with, yes, a lot of beads. All her clothing is handmade and weird and, according to Bev, brilliant. Bev currently owns three scarves Marigold made.
She doesn’t slap his shoulder, or hug him, or do anything that had freaked Richie the fuck out when he’d first come into the rooms. Marigold had been refreshingly non touchy-feely. Instead she stands a normal distance away and grins.
“Look at you ,” she says.
He rolls his eyes. “I know, I’m glowing. Wait, that’s pregnant women. How are you, Mar?”
“Busy,” she says. “I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, Richard, but I’m currently working on a gay couple’s wedding and one of the men is an absolute groomzilla.”
“Is he?” Richie puts on his best innocent smile, which has never fooled anyone in the history of man. He’d figured this out early and has been using it for comedic effect since age 4.
“Oh, he’s terrible.” Marigold toys with one of her many rings. “Awful! Keeps calling me to check if things are okay. Am I sure things are going according to plan? Yes, but am I sure the DJ knows the song list? Am I really, truly sure- ”
Richie shakes his head. “Some people.”
“Some people ,” Marigold says. She pushes her hair behind her ears and her earrings rattle - today they’re birdcages with teeny plastic bluebirds inside.
The sarcasm gives way to warmth. “So is it still paradise in paradise?”
“Eh,” Richie says. He fights to keep his smile from getting loose. “It’s alright.”
Marigold starts to say something. They both pause as goodbye -s come from the door and they turn to wave at the people leaving.
“Well,” she says as they turn back. “You look miserable.”
Richie throws his head back as he laughs. “Yeah?”
“Oh, positively morose!”
Richie tries to make a sad face, but his mouth keeps twitching up. He pulls his lips down with his fingers until Marigold gives in and giggles.
“I’ll try to make Eddie cut down on the phone calls,” Richie says.
She shakes her head. “No, it’s fine - it’s his big day, of course he wants it to be perfect. Unlike some men.”
Richie throws up his hands. “It’s a wedding! There’s music, there’s food, how much do we really need to organize? Do not answer that,” he adds when she opens her mouth. “I am perfectly aware of the hellscape of wedding planning, don’t make me look at Eddie’s spreadsheets again, I won’t be able to take it.”
They move out of the way so a girl can pick up the books from their seats and pile them into a box. Richie feels vaguely guilty at not helping - there’s a guy taking the banners down, and a girl in the kitchen washing the cups.
“He wants to get it right this time,” Richie says. “This wedding - matters, y’know? His last one-” he waves a hand. “But this one matters .”
Marigold’s eyes soften. “I know, Rich. And it will be right.”
“It’d better,” Richie says. “I think if something goes wrong Eddie will 100% have an aneurysm. Like - the bowties end up not matching the cumberbunds?”
He mimes an explosion around his head.
Marigold hesitates. “Do you-”
“Of course we’ve checked they match ,” Richie says despairingly. “We’ve done everything , alright, we went around to every goddamn store and called the online people and looked over everything . Can I live , Mar? It’s gonna be fine.”
“That’s my line,” she says.
She reaches out and taps his elbow. Those are the kind of touches she does - elbow taps and the occasional arm-squeeze, but only in very special occasions.
“Cuddle Blossom for me.”
Richie gives her a salute. “For you, ma’am? I’ll hug her ‘til her fur comes off.”
“Aw,” she says. “Like the velveteen rabbit. All loved off.”
“Yup, one naked husky coming up. You know what they look like with no fur? So weird. I can’t believe you’re condemning Blossom to this.”
She laughs, taps his elbow again.
“See you,” she says.
“See you , Mar,” he replies.
Richie heads home.
By the time Richie closes the door behind him, Blossom is already on him. She leaps up, bouncing up almost to his forehead, which is impressive. She can jump up above Eddie’s head if she really tries, which means she can jump up to Richie’s face.
“ Hi ,” Richie says, dropping immediately to his knees. Blossom stops bouncing and starts nuzzling him instead, ducking her head into the space between his neck and shoulder, her paws on his shoulders. It’s like how a human would give a hug. It’s one of the first things she’d done when they went to see her at the rescue center and it never fails to make Richie melt instantly.
“Aw,” Richie coos. “I missed you too, baby. How was your day? How was your walk? Did you not get your walk, is that why you’re so bouncy-”
“She got her fucking walk, she always gets her walk, stop saying she doesn’t get her walk,” Eddie yells from the kitchen. “If she’s telling you she didn’t get a walk, it’s a lie! I walked her for three hours today, she terrorized a pug!”
Richie grins into Blossom’s fur. He pulls back, smacks a kiss to her forehead and gets licked for his troubles.
“She terrorized a pug,” Richie says as he heads for the kitchen. Even from the living room he can smell something good cooking - spices, though Richie couldn’t tell you what kind if you put a gun to his head.
He scratches behind Blossom’s ears as he walks. “That doesn’t sound like her.”
She stares adoringly up at him. She’s way better at that innocent smile, probably because she means it. If such a thing as a pure soul exists, it’s this gorgeous husky.
“The pug started it,” Eddie says. “But she finished it.”
“Atta girl,” Richie says. When he reaches the kitchen, he leans on the fridge. Eddie’s at the stove, cursing under his breath as he stirs something in a pot that looks suspiciously curry-like.
“Ooh,” Richie says. He steps closer to dip a finger in, only for Eddie to grab his wrist.
“Don’t,” he says. He drops his hand. “It’s not ready.”
Richie takes the wooden spoon out of his other hand. It’s covered in the same orange, oily yellow as the stuff that’s bubbling in the pot “Is it gonna give me anything? Salmonella?”
“No, just - come on, man, don’t lick the spoon-”
Eddie puts his hand in front of Richie’s mouth, which only makes his hand get dirty as Richie smears the spoon against it. Eddie makes a face.
“Gross,” he says.
Richie takes Eddie’s curried-up hand and licks it clean.
Eddie sighs, but lets him. When Richie’s done, Eddie curls his wet hand against the curve of Richie’s cheek.
Richie fights the urge to wrinkle his nose. Eddie’s definitely waiting for it.
“How was your day, love of my life,” Richie says, instead of giving Eddie the satisfaction of being slightly grossed out by his own spit.
“Normal,” Eddie says. He drops his hand, wiping Richie’s cheek with the back of it, then wiping both sides on Richie’s shirt. “If you’re gonna take over the spoon, start stirring, it’s gonna burn otherwise.”
Richie moves obediently over to the stove and starts stirring. The coconut milk’s already been added, which means it’s probably Ben’s curry recipe. Guy’s big on coconut milk, as he is with all types of milk, animal or otherwise. And it’s yellow, which means - some kind of spice combination that Richie definitely can’t remember without looking up the recipe from their group chat.
“How was the meeting,” Eddie asks.
“Normal,” Richie replies. “Marigold says to stop freaking out about the-”
“I’m not freaking out , I’m just confirming something.”
Richie grins. “Sure you are, Eds.”
“I am !”
Blossom bumps against Richie’s legs. He bumps her back with his knee, strokes her with the hand he isn’t stirring with.
“Has she eaten,” he asks.
“Yeah,” Eddie says. Then, like an afterthought: “Oh, right-”
He walks off. Richie watches him go and looks down at Blossom, who sits down and wags her tail.
“You’ve already eaten,” Richie tells her. “Don’t look at me. You wouldn’t like curry anyway, with your sensitive dog tastebuds. Do dogs have naturally sensitive tastebuds or is that our fault for feeding you bland food? Have you had anything spicy, ever? Huh?”
She blinks up at him adorably. Richie resists the urge to drop to the floor and kiss her muzzle.
From the bathroom, Eddie calls, “Blossom! Come here!”
“You heard the man,” Richie says when Blossom’s ears perk up, but she doesn’t move. “Go on.”
Blossom looks hopefully up at him.
Richie keeps stirring. “I know this isn’t your favourite part of the day, but it’s necessary. Hey, did you know that from the ages of 13 to 17 I somehow forgot that you had to brush your teeth twice a day? I just blanked. Eddie freaked out so hard when I told him. Your dad was a dentist, asshole! He’s still mad about it. I still think once a day sounds right, it suits you fine-”
Blossom puts a paw on Richie’s knee.
“I know he has the energy of a chihuahua,” Richie says to her, “or some other kind of very tiny angry dog, but we both know he’s the alpha in this house.”
He points down the hall. “Go go go.”
She whines, but drops her paw and heads obediently out of the kitchen.
Richie listens absently, still stirring, as Eddie coos over Blossom and starts in on the teeth brushing. He can’t see Eddie from the kitchen, but he can picture it, he’s watched it enough times by now: Eddie lining up that special meat-flavoured toothpaste on the special dog toothbrush, then coaxing her to stand still and let him handle her mouth long enough for him to brush her teeth thoroughly enough for his liking. She’s gotten very good at tolerating the nightly teeth-brushing, but that still means she’ll pull her head away at least once.
Richie listens to the faint sounds of Eddie talking to her as he brushes her teeth. It’s the usual stuff - you’re doing such a good job, good girl, yes you are - but it still makes Richie grin like an idiot.
If you do this, you’ll get the life beyond his wildest dreams. Some of the AA stuff he’s still not sure about, but this one’s worked out, and better than he ever thought it would. The bad shit - the timeline where Eddie and Stan were dead and Richie was spiralling - feels very far away, impossibly so, as he stands in the kitchen and stirs the curry Eddie’s made them and listens to his fiance ask his dog to please keep still so he can get to her molars.
“We’re sure this is the place, right,” Eddie asks the next night.
Richie checks his phone. It’s still five minutes to when they’d agreed to meet the rest of the Losers after their flights came in.
“Oh, shit,” Richie says. “We wanted the other Indian-Chinese fusion place called Dehli-licious on this side of town. My mistake, back in the car-”
Eddie elbows him in the stomach, but gently.
Richie still wheezes for dramatic effect, then straightens up.
“We’re in the right place,” he says.
He slings his arm around Eddie’s shoulder. Eddie leans into him. It’s comfortable, and it had taken six months into their relationship before this had become a thing - before that and they were too self-conscious, even when they weren’t in public. Touching each other like couples do, in the way they wanted to do - they’d been too stuck in their own heads, at first. Casual couple-touches had just made them think about how weird this was, stepping over this barrier.
Now, though, they’re used to it. After a second, Eddie puts his arm around Richie’s waist. They both glance around them, checking for disgusted looks, but that’s just - habit. This isn’t Derry, but hate crimes happen anywhere, even in LA.
At one minute to the time they all agreed on, the rest of the Losers pull into the parking lot in a rental car.
Here we go, Richie thinks, and for about twenty minutes there’s not a second of silence. It’s the good kind of constant noise, filled with laughter that makes Richie’s ribs ache and wonder how the hell he lived without this. He hasn’t had the Losers back for long - two and a half years, maybe, depending on how he figures the time travel into it, and he has no idea how he made it through life without them. There had been this huge thing missing ever since he left Derry, and at first he hadn’t recognized it, hadn’t known it was there, and when he figured it out he’d just figured it was the product of a not-so-great childhood and left it at that.
Getting it back had been, and still is, like waking up after sleepwalking, or from a bad dream you thought was reality.
They clamour into the restaurant and into the table they’d reserved. Richie does his best to behave, but he still catches the wait staff trading looks like we’re gonna have to kick these guys out in a few hours after they get too rowdy. Richie drinks water pointedly in their direction when they come with food.
They set the fusion food out on the table, and there’s a brief pause as they notice the fortune cookies. It’s a very brief pause.
“Who,” Eddie starts, glancing over at Richie, “the fuck- ”
Mike is already laughing. He holds up his hands.
“I thought we could associate it with good memories,” he says. “Especially Richie, who’s the only one who remembers these things attacking us.”
“I don’t know, watching them vibrate ominously as we hightailed it out of there wasn’t great,” Stan says, eyeing the fortune cookies warily. He turns to Rich, but keeps his eyes on the cookies. “Remind us what they turned into in your first timeline?”
Richie doesn’t fully remember, to be honest. What he does remember is that slimy, squirming, tentacled eye. It had looked at him in this way that made Richie feel uncomfortably, terribly seen .
“Big bag of horrors,” he says instead. “Rather not dig into that again, Staniel.”
“Fair,” Stan says.
Bill reaches out and takes one.
“Well, I think it’s a g-good idea,” he says, elbowing Mike, who beams. “To making good memories out of t-traumatic ones!”
Bev raises her glass - water, because no matter how many times Richie tells them it’s fine if they drink, they always stick to water when he’s around.
“Hear hear,” she says. She takes a fortune cookie.
Eddie takes two and hands Richie one. He raises his eyebrows as he hands it over, but Richie’s already shrugging. It’s alright .
Still, he holds his breath as he cracks it open. He can remember, even if it never happened for the others, not in this timeline - the slips of paper that they put into place until it spelled out that Stan couldn’t cut it.
He glances over at Stan, who is beside him. Stan is unfolding his slip of paper, which he shows to Richie once he catches him looking.
Richie snorts. “ A friend is a present you give yourself. Aw.”
“I wish I still had the receipt for you,” Stan says dryly. “Then I could return you.”
Richie bends backwards in his laugh.
“What does yours say,” Eddie asks.
“What? Oh.” Richie looks down at his own. He’s cracked it open, but hasn’t turned the paper over to read it. He flips it over in his fingers. “ You have done well. ”
“That’s not very fortune cookie-y,” Stan says.
“Nope,” Richie says. He presses his fingers over it. As he reads it again, the words in his head sound big and familiar. The back of his head tingles, like it had done when he used to get the dreams of him drawing the sigil in his own blood. Then his head throbs, a full, cosmic beat of it, and he winces.
Eddie touches the back of his neck. “You alright?”
“Peachy,” Richie says. He rubs at his forehead, gives Eddie a reassuring smile. “I’m good. Maybe - maybe got some communication from our lord, the turtle.”
Eddie blinks. “Right.”
“The one who helped me travel in time,” Richie supplies.
“I know,” Eddie says. “I didn’t think you meant the other turtle. You know, out of all the turtles we know.”
“What’s happening,” Ben says.
“Rich got a message from our lord, the turtle,” Stan replies.
“Oh,” Ben says. “Right.”
Richie lifts the slip of paper to his lips. Says, “Hey man, I’m still waiting on you to tell me what kind of stuff you want me to sacrifice to you. I brought turtle food from the petstore. Hit me up.”
“Should we start saying grace,” Ben says. “You know, to the turtle god?”
Richie clocks him at maybe 40% serious. Stan makes a deeply unimpressed noise, and the table lapses into their usual circular arguments, where Ben and Mike spout out random facts about turtles and gods and the rest of them shoot them down, and then things go the normal amount of sideways and the topic somehow veers to the treatment of zoo animals and Richie isn’t really sure how they got there but he’s enjoying the ride.
When Richie heads to the bathroom, Stan follows. They fall into companionable silence as they walk into the narrow hall that leads to the bathrooms, and Richie feels something that’s faded the longer he’s got Stan back: intense gratefulness that his friend is here again. He’s gotten the others back, sure, but Stan had died in that first timeline. He’d died and Richie was stuck loving a friend who he’d known from the ages of 7 to 16, then never saw again. He’d looked at pictures of Stan, after leaving Derry the second time, pictures of Stan at his wedding and Stan a year before his death and thought I never got to know him. I love him, but I never got to know him again, this new version of himself he grew into .
Now Richie knows him. It hadn’t taken a lot of time, getting to know this grown-up version of Stan, just like it had taken barely any time with the others - they’d all changed, sure, it had been 27 goddamn years - but their cores had stayed the same. Learning this grown-up version of Stan had been like playing an old song on an instrument you thought you’d forgotten: after a few seconds of playing, the muscle memory turns out to be all there, and you just pick up from where you left off.
Richie bumps their shoulders together as they walk down the hall. Before they hit the bathroom, Stan catches Richie’s shoulder.
“Before we get our dicks out,” Stan says, “I wanted to ask - do you think the other you died? From your old timeline? Did you leave the consciousness that was in your body, left that body for dead in your timeline, then replaced the consciousness of the Richie that was in this timeline? Or - or did we replace that timeline all together, rewrite it?”
Richie thinks about brushing him off, telling him not to be so morbid, but he’s working this programme that’s all based on honesty , which - okay, has always improved his life, even if it hurt like hell performing all the honesty.
“Dunno,” Richie says. “Like - who knows? Literally, who knows? And does it matter? I think we just replaced the timeline, but even if we didn’t and there’s some fucked up version where I, uh, ‘died’ with my consciousness vacating my body and the other Losers had to, uh.”
Carry on without me and you and Eddie , Richie doesn’t say. He clears his throat.
“I don’t know,” he repeats. “And I - I kind of don’t care? We’re here , man. You and me and everyone else.”
He clasps Stan’s shoulder, shakes him a little.
Stan doesn’t look convinced, but he does look less troubled.
“I’m pretty sure we just replaced that timeline,” Richie tries. “It’s what I like to believe, anyway. It’s less depressing.”
“I thought you didn’t care,” Stan says.
Richie sighs. “Shut up, man, I’m being as honest as I can, don’t confuse me.”
Stan snorts. They both stand back from the door as a guy leaves the bathroom.
“Well, I’m glad we have you,” Stan says.
Richie thinks about making a joke, then remembers Bev getting that phone call, whispering in the bathtub before Patricia did. God, things were so much easier when Richie was a big cracked ball of repression held together by shitty jokes and other bad coping mechanisms.
“Me too,” Richie says instead. “Hey, at your wedding did you guys do the chair thing? Where they lift the bride-”
“We did. And they lifted me, too.”
“Cool,” Richie says. “Anything interesting happen? Did they drop-”
“The chair dance went fine, Rich.”
“Boring,” Richie says. He pushes the door to the bathroom open. “Okay, let’s get our dicks out.”
“Fine, but I’m telling Eddie,” Stan says blandly, and follows him into the bathroom.
When they get back to the table, Eddie is talking about wedding plans. He’s currently talking about the flower arrangements, which is yet another thing that Eddie had gone in not caring much about and ended up threatening to kill himself or others over while on the phone to a guy who said they couldn’t have orchids. This has been pretty much how it had gone for everything tangentially related to the wedding, and Richie is thriving over it. Watching Eddie yell about anything is fun, watching him yell about their wedding makes his stomach flip like he’s a teenager all over again.
“Did you know flowers have meanings ,” Eddie is saying as Richie slides into the seat next to him. “Don’t tell anyone outside of the group, because if this gets out no one will ever take me seriously again-”
“He’s choosing flowers that indicate our eternal love,” Richie says.
Eddie rolls his eyes as everyone aw’s. “Yeah, yeah, shut up, it’s not as sappy as that.”
“It totally is,” Richie says. He mouths eternal love and clasps a hand over his heart.
Eddie kicks him lightly in the shin.
“I just want the flowers to be significant ,” Eddie continues. “Is that okay with you, Richie? Huh?”
“I’ll allow it,” Richie says, and settles in to listen. He loves this part. He’s heard it all before and is happy to hear it again.
They get home to an overjoyed Blossom, who only has to get instructed off twice before she stops trying to jump up on them. Richie’s very glad they took her to that puppy training course when they first got her. They have her graduating certificate framed on the lounge wall.
She goes and curls up in her dog bed near the couch, and Eddie and Richie go into the kitchen to finish up with the dishes. They own a dishwasher, but Eddie gets them to the point of being professionally cleaned before they go in there, which means Richie does, too.
Eddie hums along to a song, some pop hit that Richie doesn’t remember the name of. He does remember the tune, however, so he hums along with Eddie as they hip-check each other and wash the dishes before slotting them into the dishwasher. It’s quiet and companionable and as Eddie’s putting the last of the utensils in the dishwasher - sharp sides down so they don’t fall on them and impale themselves, because apparently that’s an issue - Richie is overwhelmed by something he’s feeling a lot nowadays. He’ll get silent as he gazes stupidly at Eddie until Eddie notices and asks what and Richie will have to come up with something that isn’t I am so in love with you I wanna cry, but I also don’t want to cry, so I’m just standing here basking in your presence .
Eddie notices as he’s going to flick the kitchen lights off. He flicks two off, then pauses on the last one as he glances back at Richie.
Richie is leaning on the counter. He’d been halfway through drying his hands on a dishtowel when the feeling had hit him. He’s sure he looks as dumb as he always does when this happens.
Eddie’s says, “What?”
Richie shakes his head. He hangs the dishtowel on the rail on the oven door, then walks up to Eddie until he has him boxed up against the wall, foreheads touching.
“We’re getting married ,” Richie says. “I’m marrying your short ass.”
Eddie snorts, nudges Richie’s forehead harder with his own.
“I know, man,” he says. “I’ve been up to my eyeballs in planning it this whole time, remember?”
“Oh, right.” Richie closes his eyes, listens to their breathing. “Hey.”
Richie pulls Eddie away from the wall. There’s still light in here, but barely, so everything’s soft around the edges as Richie starts swaying them to an invisible tune.
“ How long has it been since we waltzed ,” he says in his best Gomez Adams voice.
“Loser,” Eddie says. It comes out sounding like an endearment.
They resume the position they’ve been using in their dance classes, one of Eddie’s hands at Richie’s waist and the other in Richie’s hand as Richie leads them around the kitchen in slow circles, humming nonsense.
It doesn’t take long for the proper dance stature to dissolve, Eddie tucking himself in close to Richie and linking both his arms around his waist, Richie’s arms around Eddie’s neck, stroking through his hair.
They stay like that, swaying, for about a minute before Eddie says, “I’m still not taking your name.”
Richie lifts his head up enough to look him in the eyes. “What was that, Mr. Tozier?”
“Tozier’s way better than Kaspbrak,” Richie whispers.
Eddie just laughs and leans up so their foreheads press back together.
Richie resumes humming. For a second he doesn’t realize what he’s humming, then Eddie says, “Are you doing the intro to the Dick Van Dyke show?”
“Romantic,” Eddie says.
Richie rubs his hands in long lines down his back. “Yep, this is what the whole wedding’s gonna be like, so get used to it, bucko.”
“ Bucko ,” Eddie repeats. Then, drawing back to look in his face: “Wait, do you not remember the wedding playlist we picked out?”
Richie looks at him blankly.
Eddie sighs. “We went over it a million times, Richie!”
“We talked about a lot of songs! I can’t remember which ones we picked. Didn’t I just tell you to make the final call? I trust your song choices.”
“You do not . And we agreed on all of them! You even put a few in that you had to convince me about! Can you not remember any?”
Richie tries to put his mind back five months before this or whenever they were going over the track list. He can vaguely remember him and Eddie throwing CDs at each other and then teasing the population who still uses CDs and then going on a Youtube spiral of all the songs they used to listen to on Ben’s radio.
“El...vis?” Richie winces. “He’s on there. He’s definitely on there. He is, right-”
“Yes, Rich,” Eddie says. “Elvis is on our wedding playlist.”
“Is Don’t You Forget About Me on there?”
“That’d be funny.”
“No it wouldn’t.”
“Come ooon- ”
“Only a few people at the wedding would get it.”
Richie nods. Leans their foreheads together again, says, “Well, this is exciting. It’s like a surprise. Whatever will my groom and I dance to next? Let’s find out! Man. I’m so pumped.”
“You weren’t before?”
“What, no, why? But now there’s the surprise playlist, oh man . I can’t wait.”
Eddie snickers. Richie watches his face crease with it. Sometimes he’s a carbon copy of what he looked like as a kid - more than the others, even. A lot of the time Eddie will make a hand gesture or a certain facial expression and Richie will be transported back to the 80s, watching Eddie complain about some deeply improbable disease or yelling at a movie screen.
There are a lot of things that have changed since they were kids that Richie’s happy about. They’ve all grown up, finally, after the memory fuck that is Derry kept them in stasis for so long. A lot of neuroses turned inwards and went septic during those years - Bev and Eddie married their parents so they could experience a familiar kind of hurt; Richie took up drinking to run the fuck away from the things he didn’t want to feel; and so on - Richie is bone-deep relieved that these things have changed, that they grew past it. But he’s equally relieved that there are some things that haven’t changed, like the way Bev holds a cigarette and the soft way Ben smiles; like the frustrated face Bill gets after one too many stutters and Stan’s eyeroll; like loving each other.
Eddie snickers and Richie watches the familiar shape of his face and everything and nothing has changed. Richie closes his eyes and Eddie is imprinted on his eyelids, age 8 and 12 and 15 and 42, always the same and yet radically altered. Richie thinks fleetingly of the turtle floating at the edges of his mind, the edges of his dreams, beyond the edges of this universe, and sends out a small prayer: Thank you for him. For this.
He rarely gets a response to these, so he stumbles against Eddie when his head throbs full of aching light. Richie gasps.
“What,” Eddie says, steadying him. “What’s up? Richie?”
Richie shakes his head. There are spots fading behind his eyelids that are still fading when he opens his eyes.
“I’m good,” he says. “That was just, uh. Our resident turtle god, stopping by to say hi.”
“Oh,” Eddie says. “Uh. He say anything?”
“Nope,” Richie says. “Just-”
He waves vaguely around his head. “Light? And - like, the notion of you’re welcome! If that can be communicated without language. Which apparently it can.”
“Right,” Eddie says. “Uh. Cool.”
He takes Richie’s head in his hands and pulls down until Eddie is facing Richie’s scalp.
“Thanks for dropping by, turtle god,” Eddie says. “And, uh. Y’know, thanks for the rest of it.”
“Your life,” Richie supplies where he’s facing the floor, which has never anything other than clean since Eddie moved in.
“Yeah, that,” Eddie says. “And Stan. And - yeah. Can’t thank you enough.”
He taps the sides of Richie’s head, then tilts his face back up so they’re looking at each other again.
“Did any of that go through,” he asks.
There’s an answering throb in Richie’s head that makes him, for the first time in his life, intimately aware of the shape and size of his skull.
“It went through,” he says.
“Okay,” Eddie says. “Uh, cool.”
They stand there for a moment, still pressed together after their half-hearted dancing.
Richie blinks away the sunspots that had come from communicating with a god-turtle and says, “Bed?”
“Bed,” Eddie agrees.
For breakfast the next day, Richie meets up at a cafe with Ben. Richie gives himself a personal bet - he’s gonna give it five minutes before he pushes Ben into asking him whatever he’s gonna ask him, which he’s pretty sure he knows already, since there’s only one reason Ben would purposely not include the rest of the group right now.
It takes two minutes. They hug, sit down and order breakfast and Richie makes small talk and watches Ben twist his hands together until he blurts, “I don’t want to steal your thunder, Rich, but how do you think I should propose?”
Finally . Richie leans across the table and grabs his face, smacks a loud kiss to his forehead.
Ben leans with it obediently. He gets the usual smile he gets when confronted with affection from the Losers, which is always adorable.
When Richie has settled back into his chair, Ben says, “So?”
“Don’t do it ‘til January,” Richie says. “I have a thousand bucks riding on this.”
Ben opens his mouth, then closes it. His eyebrows furrow.
“A thousand- ”
“Yep,” Richie says, popping the p. “Also, it’s hilarious to me that you’re coming here for proposal advice. Do you remember how I got engaged?”
It had been great . Awful, but great . Richie had stressed over a ring for months, then stressed over how and when to do it, Facetiming everyone who wasn’t Eddie to whine about it. Then one day at a restaurant Richie had been drinking a sparkling grape juice when something metal had come into contact with his lips.
He’d pulled the glass back to examine it. Amongst the fizz, sinking back to the bottom, there had been a ring.
Richie hadn’t noticed Eddie’s expression, or he probably would’ve twigged. Later, his excuse was that he was really fucking tired that day, he hadn’t been firing on all cylinders, but even then he’d probably deserve all the teasing his friends put him through, because his first instinct was to flag down a waitress and say, “Excuse me, one of you dropped their ring in my drink, could I get another one?”
The waitress went to take the glass, then paused. She gave him a Look.
“Uh,” she said.
At this point he’d noticed Eddie staring at him in a strange combination of daggers and incredulity.
“What,” Richie had said.
The waitress hiked up her smile and said, “I’ll... be right back, Sirs.”
Eddie kept staring. He dropped his head in his hands. “You are the biggest idiot ,” he started, and then muttered the rest of it into his hands.
Richie had sat up in his chair. He’d started to say what, it’s not my fault the wait staff are clumsy when it had clicked. He glanced back at the glass the wait staff hadn’t taken from him, because she’d twigged on to what was happening, which was - Oh, that - okay . Oooo kay.
“Fuck,” Richie had said.
Eddie lifted his heads from his hands, his eyes wide.
Richie dug a small velvet box out of his jacket pocket. He shoved it under Eddie’s nose.
“I,” Richie said, “have been trying to propose to you for months . I’m not - you are not getting to it first. I’m proposing.”
Eddie stared. “What? You can’t - you can’t override my proposal!”
“Yes I can!” Richie scrambled out of his seat and onto his knees on the restaurant carpet. “Eddie, will you-”
“Fuck you, asshole-” Eddie grabbed the glass Richie had just put down on the table, dipped his fingers in and resurfaced with the wet ring, then he fell on his knees in front of Richie, brandishing the ring in his face.
“ You marry me !”
“No, you fucking-”
Richie had spluttered. “Of course not NO! I have a ring , dipshit! Why would I say no, I’m the one asking! Are you fucking marrying me or not?”
Eddie’s eyes had been as wet as the hand holding the ring, his voice going hoarse as he said, “Yeah, obviously, asshole! Will you marry me?”
“Okay, good ,” Eddie said. “So we’re marrying each other-”
“I proposed first.”
“You did not ,” Eddie yelled, and yanked him into a kiss by his shirt.
This was about the point that Richie realized that the whole place had been watching them for a while now, and they demonstrated this by bursting into applause.
So: awful. And so great. It still made Richie smile, thinking about it.
Ben jolts him out of this by snapping his fingers gently in front of Richie’s face. He’s smiling too, that soft smile that he gets when Richie gets anywhere close to vulnerable, like Ben’s proud of Richie or something equally mortifying.
“You’ll be fine,” Richie says. He takes a sip of his coffee. “Seriously, you could propose at the side of the road after the car’s broken down and she’ll be just as ecstatic as if you did it at - a baseball game.”
“Bev would hate-”
“I know, I don’t know why I said it.” Richie takes a bigger mouthful of coffee. It’s gonna be a long day.
Richie goes to a meeting, prays to the turtle god, then heads to his agent’s office to talk about how his recent comedy special is doing on Netflix, then back home, to find that Eddie’s out of the apartment and Richie’s being ambushed with a surprise bachelor party. Richie assumes that Eddie’s getting his own somewhere, which makes sense up until Richie does a headcount.
“Wait,” he says. “Is Bill the only one at Eddie’s bachelor party? Why is everyone else here?”
Down the hall, a toilet flushes. Bill walks out into the lounge.
Richie points at him. “Why! Who - is Eddie sitting somewhere alone in a strip club? Did you guys leave him in a strip club, you know he hates them - no, you wouldn’t do that. I thought we weren’t doing bachelor parties, guys, we agreed-”
He lets Mike move him so he’s sitting down on the couch. Mike is making an expression like they just realized something that ought to have been very obvious and now he’s kicking himself for it, but he doesn’t seem too worried by this. He takes Blossom’s lead, who is both confused and deeply excited to be going on a walk with people she doesn’t know well.
“Bye have fun,” Mike says, rushed, and everyone says something similar as they stumble over each other trying to get to the door. Bev hits the light on her way out and Blossom barks.
Richie calls at them, “What-”
A disco ball light feature starts up, spreading multicoloured light over the walls. Music starts to thrum.
“What,” Richie repeats, to himself this time. He cranes his head back towards the door. “Guys, did you actually - I was joking, you know I don’t actually want a-”
A stripper appears in the hall doorway.
Richie is halfway through saying “oh god no thank you” when his eyes catch up to his head and he stops from where he’d been pushing himself up from the couch.
Eddie raises his eyebrows. He’s wearing pants and not much else.
“Oh,” Richie says. He sinks back into the couch. “Fuck. Okay. Hi.”
“Hi,” Eddie says. His mouth is twitching. “It’s good you didn’t laugh, I would’ve kneed you in the balls.”
Richie gestures at him. “Why would I laugh? You’re-”
He clears his throat. “You look, uh. You look good. Are you gonna-?”
“Oh,” Richie says, sounding very faint even to himself. “Cool.”
“I did a workshop.”
“You did a-” Richie swallows, throat clicking as Eddie walks forwards with confidence that Richie isn’t used to. “Cool.”
“I kind of sucked at it,” Eddie continues. He rips his pants off, no music beat to provoke it, but Richie’s not fucking complaining. His breath catches at the sight - Eddie’s wearing those flimsy panties from that adult website that he’d showed Richie about during one very confusing and deeply arousing conversation a month ago. They’re lacy, they have little bows at the hips and -
Eddie turns around, slow and easy, like he’d actually learned something from that workshop. Richie makes a noise in the back of his throat.
There’s a gap in the back of the panties, in a very convenient place. It’s heart shaped.
“You’re doing great so far,” Richie says. He crosses his arms, then uncrosses them. He suddenly has no idea what to do with his hands, which is not a new feeling.
Eddie staks closer, climbs up on the couch so he has a knee on either side of Richie’s legs. He’s almost in his lap, but not quite.
“No touching,” Eddie reminds him, and then does a full-body roll that Richie wants to make a joke about, but his brain is unfortunately offline.
“Got it,” Richie says, strained. He cants his face forwards to kiss him, but Eddie turns away.
“What did I say,” he says. He skims his nose against Richie’s cheek then glides his bare chest in Richie’s face.
“Right,” Richie says. “Uh.”
Eddie laughs. His eyes are intense in a way that Richie usually only sees when Eddie’s fucking him.
“ Behave ,” he says, and then turns around in Richie’s lap, grinding down.
Richie makes another strangled noise and balls his hands against the couch. He’s gonna have to get his friends something later to thank them for coming up with a bachelor party Richie couldn’t have imagined until it was right in front of him in tearaway pants.
Richie wakes up with a deep contentment that’s quickly followed by a vague flash of nerves.
Today’s the day.
He looks beside him. Eddie’s a blurry vision of loveliness, his face smooshed into the pillow. Richie reaches over to get his glasses, and when he looks back, Eddie’s got his eyes open a little.
“Well,” Richie says. “Wedding night’s not gonna top that. You ruined it, Tozier.”
Eddie hums into the pillow, then says, sleep-slurry: “‘m still not taking your name.”
Richie leans over him and whispers, “I’m gonna forge your signature on the paperwork.”
Eddie drags the pillow out from under him and hits him in the face with it.
They have until the afternoon, so until then it’s a relatively normal day. They eat breakfast together and almost end up in bed again only to be interrupted by Bill and Mike dropping off Blossom. Eddie takes her on a walk.
Richie goes to a meeting. Even if he can’t name everyone, he knows their faces and can recall a bit of everyone’s story, probably, if he tries hard enough.
It’s ho-hum until they get to the guy next to Richie, who’s been in the fellowship eight years, has six years of sobriety and has just relapsed over the weekend. Richie joins in with the sympathetic noises when the guy chokes up about it - it was so dumb, nothing even happened , it didn’t seem like a big deal so I just walked down to the bottle store - and tries not to let the fear take hold.
That’s Richie’s worst fear of relapse. Sure, he worries about something bad happening and him spiralling like he’d done after Eddie and Stan died in his old timeline, but more than that he worries that one day it just won’t seem like a big deal and he’ll just - take a drink. And then another. And another. That was always how it went in his nine years of mostly-sobriety. Nothing would happen , it would just seem like a good idea to randomly buy a bottle of wine. Then that night he’d come back for one or two more.
That was how it had gone when he’d had a binge session just before coming into AA - Eddie had been back by then, and him and Richie had been living together for a few months before Richie had - he still doesn’t know why he did it. He’d just wanted , and it just sounded like a good idea to pick up a bottle of wine from the supermarket and drink it while Eddie was working late. There had been all the old warning bells going off in his head, like what the fuck are you doing, you’ve finally got a good thing going, why are you fucking this up and Eddie’s gonna notice and everyone will get worried like they were in the bad timeline but they’d all bled into the background as the alcohol kicked in. He’d convinced himself that he’d be able to keep it a secret, and he had. He’d swilled some mouthwash and went to bed early and didn’t make a lot of conversation with Eddie so he wouldn’t pick up on anything being weird. He’d woken up the next day feeling guilty and still didn’t tell Eddie about it.
Still, Eddie found out pretty quick after coming home three days later to find Richie stumbling around the apartment, slurring something about going to six flags and also that he’d broken one of Eddie’s favorite mugs.
Richie doesn’t remember that part, Eddie had to tell him later. He doesn’t remember a lot about that night. He vaguely remembers crying, which is humiliating, and puking with Eddie rubbing his back, which is even worse. He remembers Eddie’s face all tight and worried, his voice low and quiet and then high and pitched, though he doesn’t know the context. He remembers listening to Eddie call the others from another room. The morning after that, Eddie came to Richie’s first AA meeting with him, and the rest is history.
Richie doesn’t get a chance to share, they end on the guy who’s relapsed, which is always a downer. The mood is a little stifled as everyone lingers around, chatting. Richie ends up talking to another regular, who mentions that Richie’s wedding must be coming up soon.
“Today, actually,” Richie says.
The guy beams. “Oh, wow! That’s so great. Are you excited?”
“Yeah, I’m pumped,” Richie says. He pockets his hands.
Richie thinks his name might be Henry. He knows for sure that the guy lost his wife and his to his last relapse ten years back, and before that he cheated his business partner out of thousands of dollars and for a few years somewhere down the line he spent a lot of time in holding cells for petty theft. That’s sometimes how it goes here - you know this person’s darkest shit, but the name’s a bit foggy. You run into someone and know about the period in their lives where their daughter refused to talk to them and they got fired for stealing and about twelve other dark secrets, but you don’t know what the hell they do for a living.
Maybe-Henry, definite-divorced guy asks, “Worried?”
Richie blows out a breath. “Uh. Yeah? I don’t know, have you gone to a wedding without drinking?”
“Oh, yeah. Lots.”
“How do you do it? Even without being the groom… ”
“You do it the same as everything else,” the guy says. “One day at a time.”
“Or one hour at a time,” the guy continues. “Sometimes one minute at a time. And be sure to talk to your sponsor.”
“Right,” Richie says.
He calls Clancy on the walk to the bus.
“Hey, Rich,” Clancy says. “How are you going on your big day?”
“I’m fine,” Richie says. He rubs his thumbnail over the edge of his phone. “Hey, you got married sober, right?”
“How’d you do it?”
“You just do it,” Clancy says. “You don’t take that first drink.”
Richie sighs. He hates those fucking sayings sometimes - one day at a time! Don’t pick up that first drink! But they’re classics for a reason, even if sometimes he feels like he’s gonna beat his head against the wall if he hears someone say them one more time
Luckily, this is one of those times where the sayings sound like more than just noise that people say over and over until they lose meaning. Don’t take that first drink has done Richie well so many times he can’t count. It’s simple and easy to follow: don’t pick up the fucking glass. If someone offers you booze, say no. Pour yourself a juice and cling to it the whole night if you have to.
“Hey, I’m still sorry I can’t be there,” Clancy says.
Richie waves him off. “Dude, no, you’re on holiday. I’m not mad you didn’t schedule your life around my wedding. We’ll catch up when you get back.”
“We’ll catch up-”
“I mean in person. Obviously we’ll talk before you before you get back.”
“Heck yeah we will,” Clancy says, because he’s one of those guys who says heck non-ironically. It had taken Richie ages to stop making fun of him for it. “Hey, call me if you get an itch, okay?”
“You got it, no Itchy Richie,” Richie says. Then, more seriously: “I’m feeling okay, I don’t think there will be any problems, but - y’know, knock on wood.”
“Good luck, Rich. And congratulations.”
“Thanks,” Richie says.
“Give Blossom a pat from me.”
Richie sighs, but he’s smiling. He can’t blame everyone for loving his dog so much, he’d be a total hypocrite. “I’ll put you on the list, man, but you know Blossom, a lot of people already have pats ahead of yours.”
“Aw. Well, you’ll get to me eventually.”
“Sure will,” Richie says. “See ya, Clance.”
“See ya, Rich.”
Richie hangs up. He knocks on wood when he passes a bench, just in case. He’s not superstitious, but he also has inside knowledge when it comes to magic being real. He’s not taking any chances.
Richie catches a bus to the beach house the wedding will be in front of. When he knocks on the door, it opens in seconds to reveal Marigold, frazzled and magnificent.
Richie is halfway through saying hi when he drags him in by the collar.
“Your suit’s in the spare room,” she says as she heads down the hall. “Go put it on!”
“We have ages,” Richie calls.
She flips him off without looking back.
Richie heads to the spare room. His suit is laid out inside a plastic protector. He’s got it unzipped and is pulling his shirt off when Marigold barges in.
“Um,” Richie says pointedly as she bustles around the room, grabbing a vase of flowers from the vanity and barely giving Richie a glance.
“When you’re decent,” she says, still heading around the room and grabbing something from the curtain and some beads from another pass by the vanity, “come out and tend to your husband-to-be, he’s groom-zilla-ing again.”
Richie sighs, long and loud. “God, I love him.”
Marigold leaves the room in her usual flurry of beads and tassels and Richie finishes pulling on his suit. His wedding suit. Jesus.
Then he heads out to find Eddie. It doesn’t take long, all he has to do is follow Eddie’s screaming to the source.
“What’s happening,” Richie asks Stan, who is standing there watching Eddie blow up like he might as well have some popcorn to go with it. “Hi, Pat.”
Patricia Uris, who had been looking worried and now looks very relieved, leans sideways and kisses Richie’s cheek. “Hi, Rich.”
“The DJ can’t make it,” Stan says.
“The-” Richie feels some actual panic. “Oh, shit.”
“Yup,” Stan says.
Patricia squeezes Richie’s hand briefly. He squeezes back in thanks, then drops it. He feels like he’d be freaking out more if Eddie wasn’t doing it enough for the both of them. Eddie’s screaming - partly at Marigold, but mostly just at the world in general and also his phone. He does a lot of shaking his phone and yelling down at it like it, as an object, wishes him ill.
“Babe,” Richie says. He waves his arms. “Babe!”
Eddie’s eyes catch on him, then stick. He blinks. “Am I supposed to be seeing you right now?”
“What, was I invisible before?” Richie makes a show of patting himself down.
Eddie scowls. “No, asshole, I mean you’re in your wedding suit!”
“I am. Why aren’t you dressed yet, haven’t you been here for ages?”
Eddie points at him. “Do you know how much stuff could go wrong if I put on the outfit and something happens? I could get - the caterers could spill something on it! Bev could be putting on lipstick and accidentally drop it on my pant leg! The more time you wear a suit, the more chances there are for things to get on it-”
Bill emerges into the room, out of breath.
“We c-can do this,” he says. “W-we can just link up one of our phones and download the playlist, Ben’s going to go buy s-s-s- fucking sssss- peakers and wiring -”
Eddie’s halfway to hyperventilating. He sits down on the ground.
Richie crouches in front of him, careful of the suit when Eddie gives him a warning look.
“Hey,” Richie says. “You good?”
Eddie makes a face.
“Right,” Richie says.
Eddie wheezes. When he has enough breath, he says “I just - I want it to go well.”
“My last wedding was, uh.” Eddie scrubs his hands down his face.
“It was fine,” Eddie says. “Everything went… fine. But - but this is you . It’s us , man.”
Richie chins himself on his hands. Waits for Eddie’s gulping breaths to die down a little. Then he takes Eddie’s hand and says, “Eds. The decorations could all spontaneously combust-”
Eddie makes a confused noise like he hadn’t considered this as a danger and now wants to.
Richie shakes him gently. “-and the flower guy could deliver flowers that mean jealousy and evil and I fucking hate your guts, go die , and the tide could come in and wash away everyone’s chairs and I honestly wouldn’t care. Because I get to marry the guy I’ve been in love with since I was 10 years old.”
“Yeah,” Eddie croaks. He wipes at his eyes. He’s not crying, but he seems close. He sniffs.
“Yeah,” he repeats, quieter. He turns his hand over so he’s actually holding Richie’s hand instead of just letting Richie hold his. He squeezes.
Richie squeezes back.
“I still want the sand to behave itself,” Eddie says. “I refuse to get sand-”
“You and sand , man.”
Eddie throws his hands up. “It gets everywhere, Rich! You know how many germs-”
“I am still shocked you agreed to marry me on a beach,” Richie says. He takes Eddie’s face in his hands and knocks their foreheads together, then evens out into a gentle lean.
Eddie fists his hands in Richie’s shirt, then his grip lessens. “How are you doing,” he asks, in that specific voice that can only mean one thing.
“I’m good,” Richie says. “No cravings. If someone offers me a beer I’ll slap it out of their hands. Throw it into the sea.”
Eddie nods, then: “Just constantly be holding some juice. I’ll refill your cup all the time so you never go empty so no one offers you anything else.”
“Aw,” Richie says. “My fiance’s so nice to me.”
“Shut up,” Eddie says. He’s calmed down now, but he’s still breathing strangely every few breaths, so Richie bends closer.
“I can’t stop thinking about you in lace,” he says, mostly to distract him and partly because he’s never gonna be able to hear Eddie say behave without flashing back to Eddie on top of him in panties while strobe lights and music throbbed around their lounge.
Behind them, Stan makes a noise that sounds a lot like oookay, leaving . Richie doesn’t look away to see if he does or not. He nuzzles Eddie’s neck and is vaguely aware of Marigold starting to leave the room.
“Rich-” Eddie sighs, lowers his voice. “We cannot fuck before our wedding.”
“ MmmEddie .”
“Our friends are still in the room, man.”
“They can leave. Or watch, if that’s their-”
“We don’t have time-”
“We have definitely had quickies shorter than the time we’ve got-”
Eddie’s breath hitches as Richie sucks on his neck. “Don’t you dare give me a hickey-”
“Oh hey, it’s Adrian and Don,” Bill says from the hall, very loudly.
The others chorus, “Hi, Adrian and Don!”
Richie takes his face out of Eddie’s neck.
“Later,” he says. He stands, helps Eddie up and lets Eddie straighten his tie before they head out into the hall.
Adrian looks good, all sun-kissed and healthy, only a small scar on his cheek to show for almost getting eaten by a clown a few years back, much like Richie’s cheek-scar from getting a little stabbed by Bowers.
He’s shaking Mike’s hand when Richie emerges into the hall, at which point Adrian immediately launches himself into Richie’s arms.
Richie laughs, slaps Adrian’s back. “Hey, man.”
“Hey!” Adrian squeezes him, then steps back. “Look at you, man! How does it feel to almost have a husband?”
“Feels good,” Richie says. He grins as Don comes up to Adrian - he finally learned the boyfriend’s name on his and Adrian’s first call after Derry - and puts an arm around his waist.
Richie mirrors him, sliding an arm around Eddie’s waist as Eddie joins them.
“Hey, you guys made it,” Eddie says. “We thought you’d still be in Vegas.”
Don shakes his head. “We sped through it. We’ll head back after this.”
“Yeah, couldn’t miss this,” Adrian says, all loose, cocksure smiles and unashamed confidence that got him killed in Richie’s first timeline. “Us small town queers gotta stick together, right?”
“Fuck yeah,” Richie says. He holds his hand out for a fistbump and Adrian bumps it, miming an explosion as he pulls away.
Adrian fistbumps Eddie, too, and Eddie returns it sheepishly. Richie glances over - he’s still frazzled, but the bad nerves seem to have mostly dissipated. He seems relieved to see Adrian and Don, which Richie can relate to - they’re good guys, sure, but they also represent things to them both that they haven’t talked about, but only because they don’t need to. In a way, they’re what Richie and Eddie could’ve been, if they’d been a little braver or born a little later or hadn’t gotten their memories erased. Seeing them is always like getting a bittersweet glimpse into what could’ve been, in another, kinder life.
They all step back as the flower guy places flowers in vases around the desks that strew the hall.
“Nice,” Adrian says. He thumbs at a flower petal, then looks at Eddie. “What’d you end up going with?”
“Uh,” Eddie says. He points. “Geraniums-”
“True friendship,” Richie supplies.
Eddie points again. “Carnations-”
“Admiration,” Richie says. “And my heart aches for you .”
Eddie rolls his eyes, but doesn’t pull away when Richie tugs him closer. He points at the last flowers in the bunch: “And forget-me-nots. Those are obvious.”
“Right,” Adrian says. He’s gotten the low-down on the whole… situation, with Derry, and with memory, and everything that came with it. Luckily he’s seen enough shit in that town to buy it - he’d gotten a good look at IT when it had tried to eat him, take two, a few hours after they saved him at the carnival. He’d fought it off, but only because Don had burst in and shot IT in the head with a rifle he kept under the bed.
That was why Adrian had gotten Richie’s number in the first place. He’d sought Richie out the morning after they killed IT and said, run away from clowns, huh? What the fuck was up with that? What’s going on? And Richie had sat him down and explained. Both of them had been on the verge of getting the fuck out of Derry at that point, so they’d exchanged numbers.
“Sweet,” Adrian says. He bounces a little, holds up his hand again, for a high five this time. “Gay fucking rights, man!”
“Gay rights,” Richie echoes, grinning, and high fives him hard enough that his hand smarts.
The rest of the time before the wedding is a blur. The music gets set up, and Eddie almost has a conniption when it looks like they run out of extension chords before they find more coiled up in a drawer under Marigold’s sink.
“Thanks for this,” Richie tells her as they watch the rest of the guests arrive. “I know this isn’t-”
She taps his elbow. “Shush. I’m happy to do it.”
They watch the guests flow to the bar that’s set up on the deck. There’s a steady line and the bartenders have their work cut out for them.
“How’re you doing,” Marigold asks.
“I’m good,” Richie says. “No cravings, which is great. Just gotta keep in mind that no matter how casual, small and toootally-fine my brain tries to convince me it is, having a drink would not be a good thing.”
She nods. “Keep it up,” she says, and then, haltingly, she puts an arm around his shoulders and squeezes. She’s tiny and he’s tall, so she has to lean up a lot to do it.
He rubs her back and pretends not to notice how she’s tearing up behind her triangle, orange-tinted sunglasses.
“Doing good,” she says, and gives him another squeeze before letting go.
There’s a throb in Richie’s head that feels alien and comforting and a lot like agreement.
“It’s time,” Mike says, and Richie heads inside Marigold’s house and into the spare room he’d gotten dressed in. It’s crowded - the Losers are all there, plus Blossom and also Patricia, who mouths you look great as he comes in.
I know, right , he mouths back. He looks at Eddie, who is now, finally, in his wedding suit. Richie’s eyes prick as he watches Eddie adjust his tie. He can’t help the over-the-top cheesy smile he shoots Eddie, which turns more solid as Eddie smiles back.
Mike stands formally in front of everyone, waiting until everyone’s in place before he clears his throat.
“Hi, everybody,” Mike says. “Welcome to the pre-wedding wedding, where the grooms have their real wedding before going out and having a wedding for the sake of their distant cousins and less important friends and work colleagues and people who may or may not be in AA and say they met Richie somewhere else. I have taken a strenuous online course to be ordained, so that I might marry two of my best friends to each other. You’re both welcome.”
“Thanks, Mike,” Eddie and Richie chorus.
Mike nods at them. “You may now do vows.”
Eddie says, “You may now do vows ? Did that online place not give you a script?”
“It did. I’m ignoring it. This is an informal wedding, guys.”
“Wow, I hadn’t noticed,” Richie says, looking around them. There’s a bed with a bunch of books piled on top of it to their left and a lot of what looks like boxes of fabric stuffed under the bed, and a vanity strewn with strange jewelry poking into Richie’s hip.
Mike looks at them expectantly.
“Right,” Richie says. He turns to Eddie, swallows. Thinks briefly of Eddie at 8, at 12, at 15 - brown eyes too big for his head, always, nervous and angry and smothered and fucking terrified of himself to the point where he buried something and refused to even think the words. He thinks of Eddie in the bad timeline, the first one, staring at Richie with IT’s claw coming out of his chest. Eddie in the second timeline, this one, the good and real one that wrote over the shitty version - Eddie learning to make curry and eating foods he never used to be allowed and admitting he’s not allergic to dogs and that he would actually like to have one. Eddie admitting that he wants a lot of things. Admitting he wants Richie , which still stuns Richie, the fact that Eddie wants him and that he lets himself want him; Richie is very familiar with denying himself shit he wants and not really knowing how to let himself want it when it’s in front of him.
It chokes him, how much he fucking loves this man. Richie opens his mouth to say the things he’d rehearsed in the mirror about eight million times in the past few months and all that comes out is, “ Chuhhh .”
He coughs, wipes at his eyes.
“Come on, man,” Eddie says, but his eyes aren’t exactly dry either.
“Shut up,” Richie says. He sniffs. “Uh. So, I had to live without you - first when I got my memories fucked by a murderclown, then by you dying. And both of those times, without you - they sucked. They were really, really awful. The first time, when I was just growing up without you and then just living my life - I didn’t even know I was missing anything. I thought I was - y’know, not great, but doing okay. And then I remembered you, and it all came rushing back, oh shit, here’s this guy I was in love with, turns out that never stopped. It had been almost 30 years and I still-”
Richie drags in a breath. “Shit. I don’t want to steal anything from anyone else’s wedding.”
A laugh goes around the room, and Richie winks over at Ben and Bev, who both try not to smile.
“Anyway,” RIchie says. “Shit. Not crying, I’m not crying. Everyone shut up. Anyway , turns out I’ve always loved you. And then you - uh, you died, in the shitty timeline, and I was - I collapsed. Like, I just - imploded my whole life and my whole self and everything was so bad until I got the chance to go back and save you - and Stan, you’re welcome, buddy-”
He finger-guns at Stan, who finger-guns back with a completely straight face which softens when Patricia’s grip tightens on his free hand, her head dropping down to his shoulder.
“-and I went back. And saved everyone’s asses. And I got - I got this impossible thing that I never thought I’d get. Not like this, anyway.”
He takes Eddie’s hands, rubs his knuckles. Eddie’s mouth is wobbling, it looks like he’s about three words away from bursting into tears and Richie’s right behind him.
“Right, so-” he blows out a shuddery breath. “Whatever. Point is, life without you sucked and I don’t want to ever do it again. I want this, whatever the fuck you’ll give me, forever. I’m really fucking happy - I’m so grateful - that I get to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“Jesus fucking shit ,” Eddie says, and pinches the bridge of his nose hard, wipes at his face. “Are you done? Is it over?”
“Yeah, I’m done.”
“Great,” Eddie says, voice thin. He clears his throat. The next words come out stronger, but not by much.
“Rich,” he says. “I, uh. You know, right? I don’t have to say all of it.”
“Obviously,” Richie says. “Wait, are these your vows ? Your real life, actual-”
“Of course that wasn’t-”
“These vows suck , Eds.”
“I’m getting there, asshole,” Eddie says. “I - shit. You aren’t allowed to pace during the vows, right?”
“Uh,” Mike says. “There aren’t any hard rules against it? But this room is kinda cramped, I don’t know if you could-”
“I know, I know,” Eddie says. He hasn’t let go of Richie’s hands. Richie can’t tell if it’s his hands or Eddie’s that are sweaty, but it’s probably both.
“So,” Eddie says. “Uh. I love you?”
“Great vows, babe. Really-”
“Quit interrupting,” Eddie says. “Mike, make him quit interrupting!”
“The wedding officiant rules that you’ve gotta quit interrupting, Rich.”
“I’m quiet,” Richie says. “I’m a mouse. I’m Start fucking Little.”
“God, why am I marrying you-” Eddie lets go of Richie’s hands to rub his face, then grabs Richie’s hands again, saying it in a rush: “I’ve loved you since we were kids, too. I could never acknowledge it, and it makes me really mad that we could’ve had - we could’ve - whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is we have each other now, and that’s - I never thought I’d get to have this, either. Like - you make me feel so fucking good, Rich. You annoy the shit out of me and sometimes we get kicked out of stores for screaming at each other, but it’s - you always-”
Eddie takes a breath like he’s about to duck his head underwater, then, “We’re fucking good for each other, man, you know? We’re good . I didn’t think this - existed. At least for me, I didn’t think I could love someone like this without it being - bad, deep down. Smothering and - and toxic , and something I have to bear with. But - even when we’re screaming at each other, I know we’re both still having a good time? And under all of that, it’s all just - love, and kindness, and making each other brave, making each other our best selves. We’re so good for each other, and we’re fucking good to each other, and I’m - I’m grateful, too. I’m so fucking grateful that we get to have this, I can’t imagine what it would be like having to go on without you and I’m really relieved I never have to find out.”
He finishes with a sucking breath like he’s just resurfaced. Richie can’t see him properly now, his sight is blurry with tears and he can’t wipe them away because Eddie’s clinging to his hands.
“Okay,” Mike says. He’s openly crying, and upon glancing at the others, Richie realizes that there’s not a dry eye in the house.
Mike sniffles. “ Hoo ! Okay. Let’s do this. Can the ringbearer please present the rings?”
Stan gives Mike the rings and Mike uses the time to wipe his face with his sleeve before taking the rings and saying, “Eddie, please place this ring on Richie’s finger and repeat after me: I give you this ring to wear with love and joy. As a ring has no end, neither shall my love for you. I choose you to be my husband this day and forevermore.”
“Motherfuck,” Eddie says, voice cracking. “ That’s what you went with?”
“Hell yeah, it is.”
“I thought you were going with the - nevermind.” Eddie swallows, takes Richie’s hand. Richie tries to hold his fingers as straight as he can, but they’re trembling as Eddie slides the ring on.
“Rich,” Eddie says. “I, uh. Mike, what’s-”
“ I give you this ring to wear with love and joy. ”
“Right,” Eddie says, and repeats it, then the next part. Richie’s heart is already twisting, but it clenches especially as Eddie says husband .
“Good,” Mike says as Eddie finishes. “Rich?”
Richie takes the ring, then croaks, “I know it just got said like four times but I can’t remember-”
“ I give you this ring to wear- ”
“Right, right.” Richie repeats it after Mike and slides the ring home onto Eddie’s finger. It’s really a slide, as Eddie’s hands are slick with sweat, or maybe that’s Richie’s fault.
Mike says, “You may kiss-”
Richie doesn’t wait for him to finish. He’s spent too much of his life waiting for Eddie, even when he didn’t remember he existed.
The kiss is wet, since both of them are crying, and Richie has the phrase the rest of our lives, the rest of our lives , on a loop in his head as his friends cheer tearily around them.
“We can’t cry like this out there,” Richie says when he’s stopped clinging so desperately to Eddie. “There are gonna be photos .”
“I think we’re gonna be messes no matter what,” Eddie says. “We might just have to embrace it.”
“Wow, who are you and what have you done with my husband?”
“I’m right here,” Eddie says. He’s rasping. They’re both still crying, trying to clean themselves up. Outside, people are waiting for them.
“Yeah you are,” Richie says, and leans down to press their foreheads together before pulling away and letting Bev clean him up properly, with wet-wipes.
Blossom is the flowergirl. She trots neatly down the aisle with a basket in her mouth like a fucking angel and sits down at the end of the aisle, tail wagging, looking down it for her owners.
They emerge down it one by one - Richie first, with Stan on his arm, and then Eddie, with Bev. Mike is waiting with Blossom as everyone gets into their places, and this time there’s significantly less crying, but not no crying. Richie is pretty sure everyone’s eyes are going to be impossibly blotchy in all of these photos, but he doesn’t care.
Blossom starts barking when they have their first - or, technically, second - kiss as husbands, excited by how everyone’s clapping and crying, and Ben strokes her until she calms down.
Richie valiantly manages not to cry during the speeches, which is impressive. The Losers pull out all the stops, and they each get a turn, because they can’t exactly pick and choose when it comes to their friend group.
“Richie and Eddie,” Stan says when it gets around to him, “were so annoying as kids.”
Richie laughs and thinks of standup : pause for laughter. It definitely gets a round of it.
“I’m serious ,” Stan continues. “You guys don’t know how irritating they were. Always screaming at each other and wrestling over the stupidest shit - and none of it mattered, they just wanted an excuse to touch each other, because it was the 80s and they couldn’t deal with it in any real way. And then we all moved away and didn’t see each other for ages. And when we reconnected - I thought I had traveled back in time. They were, somehow, just as annoying. Nothing had changed.”
He looks at the two of them, sitting in the middle of the table lined up in the sand. Richie flicks him a salute.
“Nothing,” Stan repeats. “They moved away from each other in their teens, now they were 40 and they were still in love. I’m really glad we all found each other, but that goes triple for you two. I’m glad you finally sorted your shit out and you can just make out instead of pretending to care about who gets their turn in the hammock.”
“The rituals are intricate,” calls Adrian Mellon from another table.
Richie points at him. Adrian gives him the punk rock hand sign.
Their first dance is to “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” the Elvis version, which Richie had originally thought would be corny as fuck . And it is, but it’s also hard not to tear up at Elvis - who is actually a lot better than Richie remembers - crooning take my hand, take my whole life too -
“Are you gonna start crying again,” Eddie says, his head leaning against Richie’s shoulder.
Richie pulls him closer. “Nope.”
“Also no.” Richie grins into his hair. “This was a good song choice.”
“Told you,” Eddie says. He pulls back a little, and Richie looks down into his face. He waits for Eddie to say something, but apparently that was all he wanted: to look at Richie. Richie feels his grin wobble, then settle into something solid.
It’s just them dancing, the rest of the wedding party watching as they twirl slowly on the sand. It’s definitely fucking up their shoes, but Richie doesn’t care and Eddie, going by his occasional glance, doesn’t care enough to say anything about it.
“Hey,” Richie says. “How was your prom?”
“My prom? It sucked. I went with a girl.”
“How was yours?”
Richie thinks about it. He’d been maybe two years out of Derry by then, and absolutely fucking miserable , though he hadn’t known it yet. Prom - he remembers drinking, mostly. He remembers drinking until he could dance with the girl he’d chosen as a date, who was also gay, though neither of them ever said the words aloud, just had a lot of pointed silences. She had giggled into his shoulder the whole time and joined him in vomiting in the parking lot at some point. He’d peed in front of her and seen her pee. He’d helped her lift up her dress to do it, squatting behind the school gym. That whole night was a raspberry-and-vodka-flavoured blur.
“It sucked,” he says. “I missed you.”
“You didn’t remember me.”
“Yeah,” Richie says. “But I still missed you.”
Eddie nods. He gets it like all of the Losers get it - everyone had gotten that fleeting yet overwhelming feeling of oh god, something crucial is missing from me, what is it , over the gap they didn’t remember each other. Mike had gotten that too, only he’d known what he was missing. Richie still didn’t know if that was worse, having a name for that hurt.
The song fades out. The next song clicks over.
Richie says, “Hey, what did we end up picking for the-”
The lyrics kick in.
Caaaaan - ?
“Oh, fuck yeah,” Richie says. He remembers picking this one now.
Eddie grins. The song continues: find meeeee... somebody toooo -
The Losers chorus Loooove all in one, as the rest of them rush out onto the sand. Bev has taken off her heels and Mike has taken off his suit jacket; it’s starting to get dark but it’s still warm out.
Richie swings Eddie in a circle as the Losers cluster around them, and Richie has to do his best to sing around his huge grin. This is something they had done that one summer, they’d all crowded around the radio in Ben’s room and jumped on his bed and danced around the room as Queen vibrated through the walls. It had been one of the first fuzzy memories to come rushing back after Mike’s call.
Back then, before Richie had found alcohol and confused it for everything he wanted - that, screaming Queen back in Ben’s bedroom with his friends, had felt closer to freedom than Richie would get for a long time. Even when he couldn’t remember the Losers, this song would always lift his spirits. He always assumed it was just Queen, although none of the other songs gave him quite the same feeling.
Nowadays, the song makes him think directly of the Losers, of everything they give each other and what they mean to each other, and, obviously, Eddie. He has this vivid memory of being 15, in the middle of belting out love and looking over at Eddie only for his throat to catch on it, the light feeling going heavy with dread at the reminder that he’s in love with his best friend.
Richie’s throat doesn’t catch this time. He twirls with Eddie in the sand, all his childhood friends around him in perfect unison as they sing, Blossom doing excited circles around their feet.
The chorus amps up.
Richie does an air guitar solo. Eddie grabs him, puts his mouth close to his ear, says, “Okay, this song was a good choice.”
“Told you,” Richie says. He kisses Eddie because it’s their wedding, and because he can, and because he can’t remember ever being this happy before, even with all his memories restored.
Eddie’s beaming when he pulls back, but his face twists as he glances downwards.
“Whoa,” he says, steering them sideways.
Richie pulls them to a stop. “What?”
“Nothing,” Eddie says after a moment of scanning the sand. “I thought I saw - we don’t get turtles in LA, right?”
“No,” Richie says, slow. “We don’t. But we- ” he gestures around at the Losers. “-might get turtles in LA.”
Eddie blinks. Richie watches him go through the thought process of huh, in all this confusion I forgot about the turtle god that only our group of friends about.
“Right,” Eddie says. He looks down where he pulled them both away from. “Thank you, Mr. Turtle God, Sir.”
“Thanks, Sir ,” Richie says. He looks over the sand, but there’s nothing. No turtles, normal-sized or otherwise. Then, in the depths of his head, there’s a hard, cosmic throb that somehow broadcasts gratefulness and light.
“ Whoa ,” Eddie says. Around them, the Losers stumble to a stop, some of them touching their heads.
Bev says, “Was that-?”
“Seems like it,” Richie says. He holds Eddie closer, puts a hand near his neck to feel Eddie’s heartbeat, hot and fast.
Around them, the rhythmic beat of a piano echoes. The song is still going. It doesn’t take them long to fall back into it.