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those summer nights seem long ago

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The blinding florescent lights of the hospital were the only thing that kept Richie conscious as he sat in the waiting room, still coated in grime and dirt from hours ago. All the other Losers had taken their turns going back to Derry townhouse to shower and change while Eddie was in surgery, but Richie refused. After a while, they stopped trying to get him to leave. There were no number of gentle pleas and, he’ll be fine, Rich s that could convince Richie to leave the hospital. 

He spent the first hour after they brought Eddie to the hospital pacing in the waiting room. With each step he took, he felt the guilt reverberate from the dirty carpeted floor back into his body. The only thing he could think about was the fact that Eddie was where he was because of him. Eddie had saved him from the deadlights, throwing that fucking fence post into IT’s mouth to bring him out of his nightmare, and Richie had been powerless in saving Eddie from getting stabbed through the gut. It didn’t matter how many times the other Losers reassured him that it wasn’t his fault, that he would’ve done the same for Eddie, he couldn’t shake the guilt that was pulling him under and drowning him. 

It took an hour for Beverly to convince Richie to sit down, and even longer for her to convince him to leave the waiting room for at least ten minutes to go downstairs and get a cup of coffee with her. When he eventually agreed, mostly because he was tired of Ben and Beverly giving him that look, he felt like he might throw up. The idea of leaving Eddie, even if Eddie was unconscious in an operating room somewhere deep within the hospital, made Richie feel sicker than he had when he’d gotten that call from Mike. He didn’t think he’d forgive himself if something happened when he’d let Bev convince him to get a shitty cup of coffee. 

Luckily, nothing had happened in the ten minutes it took them to get coffee and some snacks for the rest of the Losers while they waited. Mike and Bill still slept, Bill’s head on Mike’s shoulder with Mike’s arm around him, Ben still sat patiently waiting for any updates, Bev still kept her eyes locked on Richie like he might fall apart at any second, and Richie went back to pacing. It’d been the most miserable four hours of his life, and that was saying a lot, considering where they’d come from.  

 “Rich, come sit,” Bev said about an hour after their quick coffee run, right after she returned from her turn showering. In her hand was a bag full of sandwiches from what Richie assumed was the cafeteria. Next to her stood Ben, who accompanied her to the townhouse and took his own shower and got his own change of clothes. They both looked a lot better than they had when they arrived, covered in dirt and blood respectively, but they still looked as exhausted as Richie felt.

“When’s the last time you ate, man?” Ben asked, sitting down next to Bill and Mike, now awake but still curled up together. No one questioned it, just as no one questioned the way Richie had clung onto Eddie hours ago, begging him with tears streaming down his face to stay with him, to please not leave him. 

“I’m not hungry,” Richie muttered. It was a lie; truth be told, he hadn’t had anything substantial to eat since the Losers had dinner at the Jade, and he was pretty sure he’d thrown all of that up since. Still, he didn’t think he’d be able to handle anything, even if his stomach was starting to grumble in protest. 

“Can you at least come sit with us?” Bill asked, moving from where Mike had swung his arm around his shoulder so he could grab the sandwich Bev got for him. 

Richie was too tired to put up any kind of a protest much longer, so he gave in and flopped down next to Beverly. He wouldn’t admit it, but his friends were right; pacing wasn’t going to solve anything. All it was doing was making him more nervous than he already was. 

Beverly put her hand on Richie’s shoulder as he sat, giving him a sympathetic smile. Despite the guilt and fear that wracked over him, Bev’s gentle eyes eased his nerves for a moment. “He’s gonna be okay, honey.” 

Richie nodded, maybe a little too enthusiastically. He refused to believe that anything could happen to Eddie, refused to believe he was going to come out of surgery anything but completely healthy, but nonetheless, fear still overtook his body with each second they sat, waiting for news that felt like it would never come. Richie might not have feared IT in the sewers, not like he had been before, but he sure as hell scared of losing Eddie. That was the one thing that had stayed consistent from the first time they’d battled IT to twenty-seven years later—Richie was fucking terrified of losing Eddie. 

It took him a couple of seconds to be able to speak again. He felt his throat burning, a sign that he might break out in tears like he had in the car ride to the hospital. He wanted to chalk it up to exhaustion or coming down from an adrenaline high, but he knew better, and so did everyone else sitting in the shitty waiting room with him. 

Richie closed his eyes and forced the tears to subside. Eddie was going to be fine, there was no reason to cry. He had to believe that to keep himself from falling apart. “Yeah, I know.” 

 

 

Richie was the only one of the Losers that was unable to fall asleep as they waited for any kind of news about Eddie. Bev had done her best to stay up with Richie for as long as possible, but once Ben fell asleep with his head on her shoulder, she wasn’t able to keep her eyes open for much longer. It reminded Richie of being fourteen, of Eddie putting his head in Richie’s lap while they watched some stupid movie that Bill recommended, both of them falling asleep not long into it. Richie had nightmares nearly every night until he left Derry and forgot the fact he’d fought a fucking demonic clown with his best friends, but those nightmares were easier to manage when he was sharing his sleeping space with someone who knew what it was like. 

Richie scrubbed a hand down his face, closing his eyes and trying to shake the memories of sleeping beside Eddie. Things were so much easier when they were kids. 

The doors of the waiting room swung open after what felt like another twenty-seven years of waiting. All in all, the Losers might’ve been waiting for six or so hours, anticipating any sort of update. It was the longest five hours of Richie’s life, and as much as he wanted to go home—not the Inn, but his own fucking apartment—there was no way in hell he was going to leave Eddie. Richie’s head snapped up from where he’d been staring at an indistinct stain on the carpet in front of him, his eyes settling on a doctor who looked particularly tired, clad in blue scrubs. 

“Are you Edward Kaspbrak’s family?” the doctor asked, taking a step toward them. 

Richie nodded, standing up too quickly and making his head spin. His head had been hurting ever since he’d hit it on his crash down from being caught in the deadlights, but he didn’t have it in him to care. What was a possible mild concussion when Eddie had been stabbed through the gut by a spider-clown’s tentacle, anyways? 

“Yeah, sorta,” Richie answered. Family seemed to be a small word to describe the bond the Losers had, but it would do for now. Suddenly, he remembered that Eddie had a wife, something he very much wished he could forget. He waved his hand a little in the direction of the doctor as he began to backtrack. “His wife’s in New York, we’re all he has right now.” 

Richie’s stomach turned as the doctor stood in front of him, nodding in silence for what felt like too long. Richie was terrified that his worst fears were about to come true, that Eddie had slipped away sometime during surgery. He wouldn’t be able to live with the knowledge that they’d been able to pull him out of Neibolt, drive him to the E.R., getting blood all over the back of Mike’s car, only to lose him six hours later. 

Bev stood up next to Richie, her hand resting on the small of his back. He hadn’t even realized she was awake until then, nor had he noticed the rest of the Losers starting to stir awake. A sense of relief washed over Richie; he had about a billion questions for the doctor, but for once in his life, he couldn’t form a single word. 

“Is he alright?” Bev asked.  

“He is,” the doctor answered, a slight smile on his tired, wrinkled face. The weight of the world was suddenly removed from Richie’s shoulders; knowing Eddie was alive was the sweetest words that could’ve come from anyone’s lips. Everything else was just background noise. “It was touch and go for a while, and he lost a lot of blood, but he’s stable now. He’s in recovery currently.”

“He… is he awake?” Richie asked, voice hoarse as he managed the question. 

The doctor shook his head. “No, not yet. He’s heavily sedated for the pain, but I’m sure he’ll be awake within the next couple hours.” The doctor eyed Richie up and down, still caked in grime and dirt, unlike the rest of his friends. “You can see him soon, but he won't be conscious.  There’s no rush.” 

Richie held back a snarky response. The doctor was clearly implying that Richie should go home and take a fucking shower instead of waiting around for a sleeping man to wake up. The only thing that stopped him from actually saying anything was the fact that the man had literally saved Eddie’s life. The doctor could’ve pulled out a knife and stabbed Richie in the face like Bowers had Eddie and Richie would still be forever in his debt. 

“Can I—” Richie stopped short, remembering the other Losers behind him. He wasn’t the only one worried about Eddie, he had to remind himself of that once again. He cleared his throat quickly. “ We see him?”  

The doctor nodded. “I’ll have a nurse bring you to his room soon.” 

A nurse escorted them to Eddie’s room not five minutes later, giving the group a compassionate smile before heading out of the room to give them some alone time. 

“He looks so peaceful,” Ben observed. Richie wasn’t looking at Ben, too intent on staring at Eddie, but he could tell he was smiling. 

Eddie did, in fact, look peaceful. If it weren’t for the fact he was bruised and bloodied, an IV in his arm and a monitor beeping beside him, Richie might’ve found the sight more comforting. As it was, it just reminded him that he’d come far too close to losing his friend. 

Richie felt his hands shaking as he stepped further into the room, pulling a chair up to the edge of Eddie’s bed. He vaguely recognized someone coming up behind him, but he couldn’t pull his eyes away from Eddie. He’d saved his life, and now he was paying the price. 

Mike’s voice came from behind Richie after a second. “He hates hospitals. He’s going to hate this when he wakes up.”

Richie let out a shaky breath of agreement. If there was one thing everyone knew about Eddie, it was that he detested hospitals. The germs, the doctors, the memories of millions of childhood trips to the E.R. every time he as much as coughed. Sonia Kaspbrak was likely rolling in her grave at the thought of her son in the hospital, all because he’d saved Richie. 

Richie ignored the way his throat and eyes burned as he stared at Eddie, trying to let his thoughts be drowned out by the melodic beeping of the heart monitor. It didn’t work. Instead, he let his teary eyes scan Eddie’s body, landing on the IV sticking out of his arm. 

( “I fucking hate needles,” Eddie grumbled, pulling tape and gauze from his arm and tossing them across the room, missing Richie’s trash can entirely but not caring. 

“You’d think a guy like you would be used to ‘em by now,” Richie answered, chuckling as Eddie crossed his arms indignantly across his chest. 

“The fuck is that supposed to mean?” He was always so cute when he was angry. Maybe that’s why Richie poked and prodded him so much, even if he’d never admitted it to anyone.  

“Just that I’m pretty sure you’ve had more needles stuck in your arms in the last year than I have in my entire life.” Eddie didn’t respond, just rolled his eyes and grabbed the X-Men comic laying on Richie’s nightstand, starting to thumb through it. They were supposed to be reading it together, but even at 14, Richie was self-aware enough to know that he’d end up watching Eddie instead of reading the comic itself. 

“What the fuck did she drag you along to the hospital for this time?” he asked, settling down in bed next to Eddie. He ignored the chill that ran down his spine as Eddie flipped on his side to face him, his hand momentarily brushing Richie’s arm as he tried to get comfortable. 

“She thought I looked dehydrated.” 

Richie raised his brow. “Couldn’t you just drink some fucking water?”

Eddie threw his hand that wasn’t wedged underneath him up in the air. “That’s what I fucking said!” ) 

“He fucking hates IVs,” Richie muttered. There were tears in his eyes, but he didn’t care enough to wipe them away or stop them. 

Bev put her hand on his shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Rich…”

“I’m fine,” he lied. He knew everyone knew it was a lie, too, but no one pushed him. 

“He’s gonna wake up soon,” Bev reassured him. “He’s okay. Everything’s going to be okay.” 

Richie gulped. He wanted to believe her, but he didn’t know if he could. He wasn’t sure if he even knew what okay was, not after remembering all he’d forgotten.  

He attempted a smile and looked in Bev’s direction. It wasn’t very convincing, but again, he didn’t care, and no one pushed him. “I know.”  

 

 

One by one, the Losers, minus Richie and Bev, left to get their well-deserved sleep back at the townhouse. Richie still sat at Eddie’s bedside, watching him like it was the most interesting show on TV, while behind him, Bev kept a sleepy yet careful eye on her friend. 

The few times Richie had turned to look at Bev, she looked like she was moments away from passing out. Even with a shower and a change of clothes, she still looked like an absolute mess; they all had. There was only so much a shower could do to wash away what they’d just been through. 

“You don’t have to stay,” Richie said after about an hour of sitting by Eddie’s bed. “You should go back to the inn and sleep.” 

“So should you,” Bev noted, sitting up on the couch so she could lean a little closer to Richie. 

“I’m fine.” The reiterated words from earlier stung as they slipped out. He turned his head back to Eddie, still sleeping soundly. Richie wanted to talk to him, wanted to hold his hand, wanted to do something, but he didn’t trust himself when anyone else was in the room. It was one thing to have everyone see him sob with Eddie’s head in his lap, begging him to stay alive, but it was another to have them see him pour out his soul to Eddie at his bedside. 

“No, you aren’t,” Bev responded. Richie should’ve known better than to expect Bev to let this go. “Talk to me, Rich. Like we used to.” 

Richie shook his head. “What do you want me to say?” he asked, setting his eyes on Bev. “Eddie almost died because he chose to save me, and I couldn’t do anything about it. All I did was lay there and stare at him as he…” 

The image of Eddie kneeling over Richie’s body, saying something Richie couldn’t quite make out, something along the lines of, “ I did it! I killed IT!” before getting impaled and flung across the cavern hit Richie like a brick to the face. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to forget the way Eddie’s eyes locked on him, the way he’d cried out his name, and the glassy look in his eyes as he stared at him, barely conscious. 

“What did you see?” Bev asked after a beat of silence, her voice low and her eyes serious but soft on him. 

“What do you mean?” 

“In the deadlights,” she clarified. Her hand gripped tight on the edge of the mauve couch, knuckles turning white as she eyed Richie. 

He bit his lip and shut his eyes for a second. Instantly, images of Eddie’s death flashed through his mind, of the others pulling him out of the house without Eddie in tow, of cleaning Eddie’s dried blood of his glasses in the quarry, of an alternate world where Eddie hadn’t survived and Richie had to find a way to go on without him right after he’d been brought back into his life. 

“I-I saw him,” he started, looking back at Eddie for a second. He had to remind himself that Eddie was alive, that he hadn’t lost him as he had in that alternate world. He looked back to Bev, feeling tears in his eyes again . “When IT stabbed him with that fucking claw, he died. Not immediately, but-but he did. We couldn’t get him out, and Ben and Mike had to hold me back from staying with him and…” 

Richie stopped. He couldn’t admit that out loud, not even to Bev. He couldn’t admit that he’d been so ready in this alternate world to stay behind and let Neibolt collapse in on him just so he wouldn’t be pulled away from Eddie for a final time with no hopes of him coming back. Instead, he wiped his eyes and looked back at Eddie. 

“He was dead, and it was my fault.” 

“Honey, you can’t blame yourself,” Bev said, scooting closer once more and taking Richie’s hand. “You got stuck in the deadlights for saving Mike. Do you regret that?” 

Richie went silent for a second. “No.” 

Bev smiled slightly. “I’m sure Eddie feels the same. Any of us would’ve done what he did, and any of us would’ve done what you did. We’re a team.”

Richie huffed. “You sound like the worst Hallmark card in existence.” 

Bev’s smile widened and she squeezed Richie’s hand. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” 

They were silent for a couple more minutes, Richie going back to watching Eddie sleep, and Beverly keeping an eye on Richie. He thought about reassuring her that she could go back to the inn and sleep, that he didn’t need a goddamn babysitter, but he knew it would fall on deaf ears. Beverly was there as much for Richie as she was for Eddie. 

“Can I… Can I suggest something?” Bev asked after some time spent in silence. She sounded nervous, causing Richie to look at her in confusion. There was that same soft look in her eyes as earlier, only a bit more anxious this time. 

“If you suggest I go back to the Inn and shower and sleep one more time, Bev, I swear to God I’ll—”

“You should tell him.” 

Richie stopped short, instantly forgetting whatever empty threat he was about to fling in Beverly’s direction. “Tell him what?” 

“Rich.” 

He shook his head. He knew exactly where Bev was going with this, and he wanted no parts of it. What she was suggesting was terrifying and stupid, something he’d never even considered doing. 

“Don’t,” he choked out. 

“Richie, c’mon, just…” 

No, Bev!” he snapped. He was going for an angry, but his voice betrayed him, instead coming out as a choked cry. Bev looked at him with too much sympathy and understanding for someone who’d just got unjustly yelled at. 

Richie shook his head fast, trying to stop the tears from coming to his eyes. He didn’t want to do this, not now, not twenty-three years ago. Not ever.  

( The bonfire crackled, lighting up the night as the Losers sat in a circle. It was one of the rare weeks Bev got to come down and visit during summer, which led everyone to gather at Mike’s with whatever booze they could get their 17-year-old hands on, and more snacks than was necessary. 

“You’re so fucking stupid!” Eddie laughed, his face lit up as he tumbled backward from where Bill had thought it would be a good idea to give Eddie a piggyback ride from the drink cooler to the makeshift snack table. Bill, who was one of the more inebriated people at their little party, had dropped Eddie almost immediately, falling on the grass with him. 

“You’re both idiots!” Stan yelled, throwing a chip at Bill’s face. It fell on the ground, but Bill picked it up and ate it regardless. 

Eddie stood up, crinkling his nose up in disgust. He was almost as drunk as Bill, but that didn’t change the fact that he wasn’t about to gripe about how fucking disgusting he was. 

“Do you know how many bugs you could’ve just eaten? Little, tiny, itty-bitty, minuscule—”

“Wh-who ordered the th-thesaurus?” Bill asked. Eddie shoved his shoulder, which just made Bill giggle. 

Eddie rolled his eyes and brushed the dirt and grass off his shirt. “Seriously, you’re all fucking disgusting. Don’t come crying to me when you wake up tomorrow and realize you ate ten pounds of dirt!” 

“It was one chip, Eddie!” Mike added, leaning on Stan’s shoulder, a smile on his face. 

Stan picked up another chip and threw it at Bill. “Two, actually.” 

“H-Hey!” Bill laughed, putting up his arms in fake defense as if a bag of Lays was going to do anything to hurt him. “Now you're j-just wasting snacks!” 

Stan threw another. And then another. And then another. “Oops.” 

“Lemme try,” Eddie said, bounding over to Stan and grabbing a handful of chips before pelting them at Bill. 

That’s when a mini-food fight broke out, all three of them grabbing bags of chips to toss at each other, all while Mike laughed at them. 

On the other side of the bonfire, Richie was sipping a beer and passing a joint back and forth with Bev, right up until the commotion started. Eddie’s laughter made Richie’s chest feel tight; he couldn’t help but smile fondly in his direction. The way the light from the bonfire hit him and framed his features in the pale moonlight only made it that much worse. 

Richie had been doing his best to hide the fact that he was utterly and hopelessly in love with Eddie ever since he’d recognized it in himself at thirteen. The closest he’d been to admitting it to anyone was a carved R + E on the kissing bridge, and he intended to keep it that way. 

That is, until he felt a nudge in the side, coming from Bev. “Whatcha lookin’ at?” she asked, voice sing-songy. She wasn’t as drunk as the others, but she was most definitely high. 

Eddie. Always Eddie. 

“Hm?” Richie played stupid, looking over at Bev. She passed the joint back to him, but there was a knowing look on her face. It made his skin crawl. “I don’t know what you mean.” 

Bev rolled her eyes. “Oh, c’mon, you’ve been all goo-goo eyed ever since Bill tried to give Eddie a piggyback ride. You’re looking at him like cupid just shot you in the ass.”  

Richie’s stomach dropped the second the words came out of her mouth. Richie had been so fucking careful over the last four years, never looking at Eddie too long in public, making sure everyone thought he had the hots for some cheerleader he’d picked at random, not leaning over and kissing each freckle on Eddie’s nose, even if that’s all he wanted to do.  

“Don’t touch the other boys, Richie. Don’t or they’ll know your secret.” 

Those words would never stop haunting him. 

Richie stood up abruptly, the fold-up camping chair falling back with the force of which he stood up. No one other than Bev noticed his absence, as the other four were still invested in their chip war, which they’d now brought Mike into. 

Richie was hyperventilating as he bolted out of sight of everyone, his heart threatening to pound out of his chest with every step he took into the seemingly endless field. He wanted to scream. He wanted to cry. He wanted to… 

He didn’t know what he wanted. He just didn’t want Beverly to know his secret. 

“Richie! Hey, hey, Rich, stop!” 

It was Bev’s voice coming from behind him, but he didn’t stop walking. He felt like he was dying, and turning to face Bev would be the final nail in his coffin. 

“Stop! Richie, stop! What’s going on?” Bev called, finally catching up to him and grabbing his arm. He pulled it away as she did, but he was still forced to turn to see her. She didn’t look angry or disgusted, just confused . Richie didn’t know what to do with that. 

“Whatever you thought you saw, you were wrong,” Richie spat, his hands (no, his whole body) shaking. “Whatever you fucking thought that was it… it was nothing, so just-just fucking forget it... and don’t tell anyone. Please. Especially not Eddie, I-I… he can’t know. No one can know, you hear me, Beverly? No one can fucking know.” 

Bev stared at Richie with wide, confused, eyes, letting him rant at her, contradicting himself with every word. “Sweetie,” she started, taking a tentative step towards him. “It’s okay. Everything’s okay.” 

“No, no, no, no it’s fucking not.” Richie’s head was shaking violently as he forced himself to look at Bev. The idea that someone else knew tore him apart inside, even if that person was Beverly. She was the most loving and accepting person Richie had ever met in all his seventeen years, who’d mentioned in passing some of her gay—and God, no, no, that’s not what Richie was—friends in Portland, but it didn’t matter. This wasn’t Portland. Nor was it New York, or San Francisco. It was fucking Derry, which meant Richie couldn’t feel that way about Eddie, or any other boy for that matter. He couldn’t look at him, he couldn’t smile at him too long, he couldn’t hold his hand and kiss him and tell him he was the one surefire thing that made him happy no matter what he was going through. 

Richie felt his chest constrict, felt tears in his eyes, felt his stomach churn. He was fucking terrified, maybe just as much as when he’d had to bash Pennywise upside the head with a metal bat. 

“Richie, honey,” Bev took another step forward. She put her hands on either side of his arms and looked up at him. He’d gained a good half foot on her somewhere between thirteen and seventeen, growth spurts hitting him left and right. Regardless, he felt small. Vulnerable. 

He fucking hated it. 

“There’s nothing wrong with you.” 

He didn’t believe that. He couldn’t. Not when he’d been told his entire life by bullies in the hallway, the priests in the morning masses his grandmother occasionally dragged him along to, that he was dirty and wrong and monstrous for having these feelings inside him. The snide remarks his parents made at the expense of those people always hit the hardest. He knew that they didn’t know (they’d never know), but their words still stung like he’d just stepped in a yellow jacket nest. 

“I don’t want to talk about this,” Richie managed, his voice shaky as he did his best to hide the fact he was about to break down in sobs. “Can you please just drop it? Even if you can’t forget, please just… just drop it,” he pleaded. Bev looked like she might cry, which was the last thing he needed, so instead of waiting for a response, he shook himself out of her arms. “I’m going back.” 

“Wait!” She grabbed his arm once more, her purple chipped nails scratching his arm just slightly as she desperately tried to stop him. “I need you to know that—”

“That what, Bev?” he snapped. He didn’t want to know anything, not about this. He wanted to go back to the bonfire with his friends, get drunk, and eat his body weight in whatever Bill, Eddie, Mike, and Stan hadn’t destroyed in their food fight. 

“I need you to know that being in love isn’t wrong, Rich. No matter who it’s with.” 

That hit Richie like a bullet to the chest. He wanted to respond, to reassure her that he wasn’t in love with Eddie, but he knew there was no use. He wouldn’t have acted like that if there wasn’t some truth in the fact that he had been making so-called goo-goo eyes at Eddie. 

He couldn’t help it. He’d been too high and tipsy to stop himself from daydreaming of a life where he could walk over to Eddie and capture his lips in a gentle kiss, to pull him onto his lap and hold him close while everyone argued about what movie they should watch, to be able to tell him that he loved him more than he’d ever loved anything in the entire fucking world. 

But it was just a daydream. Richie knew that all too well. ) 

Beverly reached out and put her hand on Richie’s arm, just like she had when they were seventeen. He hated that she knew. It was easy to ignore that she knew the secret he’d been keeping inside for over thirty years when they weren’t faced with it, but now, as Beverly stared at him with gentleness on her face and in her eyes, Richie couldn’t forget. 

“I remember how you felt about him,” she whispered. It was like she was trying to reassure him that she was still keeping his secret, that she always would. “And I see the way you look at him, honey. Nothing’s changed, has it?” 

Richie wanted to scream. He wanted to scream, and cry, and storm off just like he had twenty-three years ago, and he probably would have if not for the fact that Eddie was anchoring him to the room. 

“Sweetie, you don’t have to spend the rest of your life being afraid. You’ve done enough of that,” she tried, her thumb rubbing a gentle circle into Richie’s skin. “You deserve to be happy. Both of you.” 

Richie chuckled, a humorless sound that made him shake. He couldn’t believe that he would make Eddie happy, not the way he deserved. Richie had been so fucking afraid for so long, and he blew his chance twenty-two years ago when he left a shithole town in his rearview mirror, tears streaming down his face, clinging onto the last memory he had of Eddie, clutching onto him for dear life as he hugged him goodbye. 

“I’m afraid,” Richie admitted, because why the hell not. He’d killed his childhood bully, fought a demonic clown, and rushed the man he’d been in love with since he was thirteen into an E.R., all in the span of a day. What was one more terrifying endeavor to add to the mix? “I’m so fucking scared, Bev. I have been since I was fucking thirteen. And… and…” 

He gulped and clutched onto the edge of the chair he was sitting at. He hadn’t realized he was holding onto it until he felt his fingers starting to hurt from how tight his grasp was. 

“I know,” Bev said. Richie couldn’t bring himself to look at her, but he didn’t think he’d be able to look at Eddie either. Instead, he shut his eyes, doing everything he could to block out the images of Eddie being tossed across the cavern, the way he gasped for air and held onto Richie’s hand like it was a lifeline. 

“I can’t,” he muttered, opening his eyes and looking across the room at nothing in particular. “I just… I can’t.” 

The feeling he had twenty-three years ago came back to him, rearing its ugly head like the monster it was. It didn’t matter if he was thirteen, seventeen, or forty. He’d always been scared of the thing inside him, threatening to eat him alive. He’d never been able to say it out loud; the closest thing he’d gotten to admitting that he wasn’t like everyone else was vague and angry conversations with Bev and carved letters on a bridge that no one would be able to trace back to him. And Pennywise had known that, that’s why he threw it in his face after he’d collected his token. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to stop hearing that damn clown’s singing in his ear, reminding him that he had a dirty little secret. 

He never wanted anyone to know. Ever. And now it felt like the whole world might find out, even if it was just Bev, and maybe the rest of the Losers if they put two and two together. That was still too many people in Richie’s eyes. 

“I’m not brave like he is,” Richie muttered, turning back to Eddie. 

“Don’t say that. You’re—”

“Can you go?” Richie cut her off, turning to look at her with pleading eyes. “I just… I wanna be alone for a bit. Please.” 

Bev sighed but nodded nonetheless. She had to realize that convincing Richie of anything right now was a lost cause. 

 

 

Richie sat beside Eddie’s bed in silence for another thirty minutes or so before sleep took him by force. Knowing that Eddie was no longer on death’s door brought some relief to Richie, allowing him to nod off in the chair he’d perched himself in. It was uncomfortable as fuck, his neck leaning at an awkward angle that would undoubtedly give him a kink and his too-long legs pushed partially against the hospital bed, but it was worth it. He would’ve much preferred sleeping at Eddie’s side in a chair that was going to make his back hurt even more than it already did than go back to the Inn. 

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep when the sound of coughing and rustling woke him up. Before he could process what he was hearing, he felt something brush up against his hand, gentle yet desperate all in the same. When he opened his eyes, he saw Eddie, staring at him in mixed exhaustion and confusion. 

Richie sat up fast, ignoring the ache in his neck, legs, and everything in between. The sight of Eddie looking over at him, dazed but alive, was the only thing Richie cared about. “Hey, Spaghetti, you’re up!” he said, smiling wide as he leaned in closer. 

Eddie blinked at him, so slowly that Richie thought for a moment he might drift back asleep. Richie assumed that he was still pretty drugged out, and while he might’ve been conscious, he doubted he was all there. Dilaudid will do that to a guy. 

“We did it, you know,” Richie continued. Eddie might not have been in the best position to have a conversation, but that had never stopped Richie from talking before. “We fucking bullied that stupid bitch to death. All because of you.” He leaned forward a little more, putting his hand on Eddie’s arm for a moment. “I told you that you were braver than you thought.” 

Eddie smiled sleepily and tilted his head in an almost-nod. Richie was sure he’d have to tell Eddie all this again later, but for now, he was fine with giving Eddie some good news after everything he’d been through. 

“And you’re gonna be okay, too,” Richie said. “They patched you up, and you’ll probably have a scar, but fuck yeah, don’t chicks dig scars? Like, don’t they think scars are sexy?” 

Not that I’d know.

Eddie rolled his eyes. Richie could practically hear him telling him to shut the fuck up in the fond yet pissed off way only Eddie could manage. He’d never wanted so badly to kiss someone who told him to shut up as often as Eddie had. 

Before Richie could think of anything else to say, Eddie interrupted him with a series of coughs. He vaguely remembered the doctor saying something about how Eddie would have a sore throat for the next couple of days due to the breathing tube he’d had during surgery. It didn’t seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but still, Richie didn’t want to watch him cough out a lung or anything. 

“Shit, do you need some water?” 

Eddie nodded, still coughing like crazy. 

Richie rushed over to the other side of the room, grabbed one of the little paper cups by the sink, and filled it with water. He came to sit on the edge of Eddie’s bed, helping him up enough that he could take a sip of the water. He had to hold the cup for him too, considering Eddie was barely functioning between the sedative and pain medication in his system, but Richie didn’t mind. He’d saved his life, the least he could do was help him get a drink of water. 

As Richie sat on the edge of Eddie’s bed, helping him drink his water, he was hit with a swarm of butterflies, dancing around in his stomach like they were planning their migration. He knew it was kinda fucked up, considering Eddie was recovering from what had to be the most emotionally and physically traumatizing event in his life, but he couldn’t help the way his heart beat a little faster, especially when Eddie brought his hand up to tap weakly on Richie’s arm, indicating that he was finished drinking. There was something so mind-numbingly intimate about the situation he’d gotten himself into. 

He smiled slightly at Eddie, taking the water away and setting it down on the little table next to his bed. As Eddie stared at him, still dazed and sleepy, Richie was reminded for the billionth time how much Eddie meant to him. He didn’t think he’d have been able to go on if he hadn’t made it out of surgery, or even worse, if he hadn’t made it out of the cavern, just like in that damned deadlight induced nightmare. 

Eddie continued to stare at Richie, in a way that if it were anyone else, he might’ve felt awkward or uncomfortable. But it was Eddie, and things with them had never been awkward. Eddie had always been the one person things were never strange with. When he was with Eddie, he felt like he could always be himself, even when Eddie poked fun at him. 

Still, he didn’t want to push it. Eddie had just gotten out of surgery, and he was clearly exhausted. 

“Do you want me to leave?” Richie asked. It was the last thing he wanted, but if Eddie wanted to be alone, he’d force himself to trudge back to the Inn. “I mean, I probably smell and look horrible. Probably the last thing you wanted to see when you woke up, but—”

Eddie shook his head quick and desperate before he moved his hand to rest on Richie’s forearm. If he didn’t have butterflies in his stomach before, he definitely did now. 

“Stay?” Eddie’s voice was soft and groggy, so quiet that if Richie hadn’t been sitting on his bed, he might not have heard it, but thank God he had. 

Richie nodded slightly, his heart swelling as he stared at Eddie. He covered Eddie’s hand with his and swallowed hard around the lump in his throat. He wanted nothing more than to lean in and press a kiss to Eddie’s lips, but now wasn’t the time. There’d never be a time for that, but still, the thought lingered in the back of Richie’s mind. Instead, he settled for almost holding his hand and nodding like an idiot. 

“Yeah, okay,” he answered. “I’m not going anywhere, Eds.” 

 

 

Eddie slept a lot in the next couple of days. All the Losers came to visit him periodically, but none more than Richie. He spent every second he could at Eddie’s bedside, helping him get out of bed when the doctors deemed it necessary, holding his hand and steadying him as he took baby steps around his hospital room to stretch his legs out, jokingly asking him if he needed him to spoon-feed him Jell-O. Things started to feel natural between them once again, going back to joking around and teasing each other, Richie making I fucked your mom jokes while Eddie called him every insult in the book, all the while smiling at each other, even though Eddie did his best to hide his smile. 

Richie had never felt such joy and relief as he had as he saw Eddie recovering. At first, the doctors hadn’t been sure if he’d be able to walk for a while, but Eddie Kaspbrak was nothing if not stubborn. As much as Richie was sure it hurt, Eddie forced himself to walk a little further every day, bringing Richie along with him every time. 

“You know you can just rest, right?” Richie asked as he helped Eddie, who looked like he was in more pain than he’d been in when he’d literally been stabbed through the stomach not a week earlier. “I mean, you’re in a fucking hospital. That’s what they’re for, right?” 

“Fuck hospitals,” Eddie grumbled, grunting in pain as he settled in bed. “And fuck you. I’m going to walk if I damn well please.” 

Richie put his hands up in protest. “Hey, I didn’t say I was going to stop you.” 

“Fucking good,” Eddie muttered, his head leaning against the pillow behind him. “I’m not letting IT take anything else from me. If I have to spend a fucking month or some shit in the hospital, I’m going to walk around at the very least. IT doesn’t get to take that from me.” 

“I get that,” Richie answered simply. It wasn’t just stubbornness that was propelling Eddie into walking, no matter how much it hurt, it was vengeance. IT took twenty-seven years from them, IT took their childhoods, IT took Stan, but IT wasn’t taking anything else. 

“Good,” Eddie said, exhaling as he grasped tightly onto the edge of the bed. “Now can you please go downstairs and get me a drink? If I have to ring this stupid buzzer one more time just to get some shitty tea I might actually die.” 

 

 

Eddie had been in the hospital for just over a week when it happened. 

Richie had his chair pulled up to the table next to Eddie’s bed, and was getting his ass kicked by Eddie at Scrabble, which Mike had thankfully brought for Eddie to have something to do while he recovered. He could only watch so much daytime TV before he started to go a little crazy, and Richie was happy to keep him as entertained as he could.  

“That’s not how you spell ‘receive,’ you fucking idiot.” Eddie gestured towards Richie’s misspelled word that would have given him thirty-six points, if not for the fact Eddie was throwing a fit over it. 

“What? Yes, it is.” Richie motioned to the letters on the board, pointing to each as he spelled it out. “R-E-C-I-E-V-E. Receive.” 

“It’s C-E-I, you moron.” 

“Is not!” Richie tried. He felt like a kid again, bickering about the rules of a game, or in this case, the spelling of a word. “I before E.” 

“Yeah, except after C. Where the fuck did you go to college?” 

Richie smirked. One thing that stayed consistent in the last twenty-seven years was that Eddie was adorable when he was angry. “Your mom.” 

“That doesn’t even fucking make sen—”

Before he could get the thought out, Beverly came bounding through the door, causing both to turn to face her in confusion. 

“Are you… good?” Richie asked, raising his brow. She looked like she’d just ran a mile in two minutes with a weight around her chest. 

“I tried to stop her,” she said, taking a breath and putting her hand on the edge of the doorframe. “I think Ben is still trying, but he can only sweet talk for so long, and I wanted to warn you before she got here.”

“Who the fuck are you—?” 

Richie was stopped short by Eddie, his hand coming down on the table with a resounding thud, making the scrabble tiles shake. “Myra.” 

Oh. 

Oh. 

Fuck. 

“What?” Richie turned to look at Eddie, who was looking sicker by the second. “I thought you told her not to come?” 

Eddie shot him a glare. “Yeah, well, clearly, she didn’t fucking listen, did she?” 

“Shit,” Richie muttered. He felt something close to anger, maybe jealously, stew inside him. It wasn’t fair that she was here when Eddie clearly didn’t want her around. It wasn’t fair that he’d spent every single day with Eddie for the last nine days, that things were going so well (relatively speaking, Eddie was still in a hospital, after all) and she was just able to show up and make Eddie go from as happy as possible after almost dying to miserable in the span of a couple seconds. 

Richie didn’t know what he was doing as he turned from the pale visage of Eddie to Beverly. His emotions were pushing logic straight out the window and replacing them with a kind of stupid bravery he hadn’t felt ever before. “Can you distract her?”

Bev nodded. “I can try,” she said, dashing out of the room before either Eddie or Richie could process what was going on. 

Eddie cocked an eyebrow up. “What’s going on?” 

“Are you happy?” Richie asked, words coming out too fast as his hand shook underneath the table. 

“Uh. What?” 

“Are you happy?” Richie repeated. “You know. With her? Your mom 2.0?” Eddie rolled his eyes and looked away from Richie, electing to stare at the open door instead of answering Richie’s question. He took that as an incentive to go on. “Because you don’t look happy. You looked terrified the second Bev said she was here. And the other day on the phone with her, you looked fucking miserable at the idea of her coming here, or at the idea of going home with her, I don’t know. Either way you didn’t look happy.” 

“What do you know?” Eddie snapped, turning his eyes back on Richie. “What do you know about how I feel about my wife, my life?” 

Richie gulped, his nails digging into his palm as he balled his fist up. “Because I know you, Eds. I know you deserve to be happy. And whatever the fuck you have going on in New York, it’s not making you happy.” 

“What the fuck am I supposed to do about it?” Eddie asked. His eyes were set somewhere between a glare and a pleading gaze, like he wanted answers, but he was too afraid to look for them himself. “What the fuck do you expect me to do, Richie? My entire life is in New York. I have a job, an apartment, a life, and a…” Eddie’s hand shook on the table. Richie wanted to take it and squeeze it, to let him know he’d be okay, but he didn’t think Eddie would react very well to that. Instead, he continued to dig his fingernails into this palm.

Eddie sighed, a noise sounding far too melancholy to be coming out of a man who had been fighting about the correct spelling of the word receive not three minutes ago. “We don’t all get to live our dreams like you.”

And that was the biggest joke Richie had ever heard in his life. Standing up on a stage spitting out pre-written, disingenuous garbage just to get a paycheck, pretending to be someone he wasn’t, was never his dream. Sure, he wanted to make people laugh, and it wasn’t like being famous hadn’t been a pipe-dream as a kid, but to say he was living his dreams? It would’ve been hilarious if not for the fact it made him shake with grief.  

Eddie had been his dream since he was thirteen. Maybe even before that. He’d forgotten that for twenty-seven years, and now that Eddie was back in his life, it was all he could think about. Anything else was just background noise. 

“I’m not saying you have to live your dreams,” Richie said, biting down on his lip for a second. “But don’t you deserve to at least… I don’t know. Try and be content? Fuck, man, we’ve been through so much shit, you should at least be with someone who doesn’t make your balls go back inside you every time you get a fucking phone call.” 

Eddie stared at Richie, the glare softening and turning into something more desperate. “What the hell am I supposed to do, then? What other fucking options do I have?” 

“Leave with me,” Richie spit out, not thinking about the ramifications of asking something like that. 

Eddie blinked. “Excuse me?” 

“As soon as you’re discharged, let’s just go. We don’t have to stay in Derry, and you don’t have to stay with your wife, or go back to New York. You don’t have to stay with someone who clearly makes you miserable. You survived a fucking spider-clown stabbing you through the gut with its stupid fucking tentacle, you don’t owe anyone shit.” 

Richie paused for a beat, taking a breath and letting everything he’d just said wash over him. It was too late to take it back even if he wanted to. It was the closest Richie had ever gotten to telling Eddie he wanted to be with him, and he wasn’t sure if Eddie got the hint. Hell, he wasn’t sure if he even wanted Edie to get the hint. He wasn’t ready for Eddie to know how he felt; he honestly didn’t think he’d ever be ready, but if pouring his soul out for a second or two convinced Eddie to leave his wife, to be happy, then he’d do it. 

“Including me,” he tacked on, giving a dumbfounded Eddie a slight, nervous, smile. “Look, you don’t have to come with me, you don’t have to do anything, that’s my point. Just… think about it?” 

Richie could hear women’s voices coming up to the door, one belonging to Bev. He could only assume the other was Myra, sounding loud and shrill. She even sounded like Eddie’s mom. Eddie’s eyes went wide at the sound of his wife’s voice. He looked exhausted, but not like he had the week prior when he’d woken up. He looked rundown emotionally; Richie would’ve done anything to take that away from him. 

“Let me think about it,” Eddie whispered, his voice shaking. 

Richie nodded. It was all he could ask for. 

 

 

Richie could certainly see why Myra made Eddie miserable. From the second she pushed her way into the hospital room she’d started motherhenning Eddie, acting like he was her child rather than her husband. It infuriated Richie to watch, but he knew there was nothing he could do other than sit there, sulking in the corner, hoping for Eddie to take him up on his offer to get the hell out of Derry together. 

It was heartbreaking to watch Eddie interact with Myra. He wasn’t necessarily meek, but he wasn’t the same hotheaded, spitfire, so full of life even when laying in a hospital bed, that he’d been before she’d shown up. He was going through all the motions of what a person should do when their spouse showed up, smiling, hugging, kissing (and yeah, that one hurt to watch) but it all seemed disingenuous, like it was an act. Richie couldn’t help but to wonder why Eddie had ever asked her to marry him in the first place, but it wasn’t his place to ask. At least, not when Myra was right there in front of him, checking Eddie over like the nurses didn’t know what they were doing. 

“Baby, are you sure you’re alright?” 

Richie’s skin crawled at the pet name. The only thing keeping him from leaving was the misery in Eddie’s eyes; something inside him told him that he should stay, even if it meant staying on the receiving end of glare after glare from Myra. He got the impression that she didn’t like him very much, and in any other circumstance, he wouldn’t blame her. From the second she’d showed up, he’d stayed perched in the chair by Eddie’s bed, only speaking to her when she spoke to him, and altogether not being the most pleasant of people to be around. It was either that, or he burst out screaming at the top of his lungs, Eddie deserves better. 

Sulking, miserable, Richie was a lot better than that, he decided. 

“I’m fine,” Eddie answered, his lips pressed into a thin line. His fingers twisted around his wedding ring nervously, making Richie want to reach out and take his hand to calm him down. He didn’t think that would go too well with his wife in the room, though, so instead he put his hand on the edge of the bed as nonchalantly as possible, hoping that it would remind Eddie that he was there for him. 

Myra sighed a loud, overdramatic, sigh, walking over to the heart monitor next to Eddie’s bed to examine it. Richie rolled his eyes, making Eddie shoot him a look that clearly said watch it, but there was a small smile on his face. Richie took pride in the fact that the only thing that had made Eddie smile ( really smile) since his wife had shown up was Richie rolling his eyes and making a face at her when she wasn’t looking. 

Richie had to admit, there was a level of jealousy when it came to Myra. It wasn’t fair that this woman who’d treated Eddie, a grown ass man, like a child, got to be with him when he didn’t. It wasn’t fair that she got to hold him and kiss him and hug him and love him and Richie was stuck sitting at his bedside, asking him to leave with him, something that objectively could’ve been spun into something completely platonic. 

“You didn’t have to come,” Eddie said, turning from Richie to look back at Myra. “Really, I’m fine. It was just… a freak accident.” 

Richie couldn’t help snickering, albeit humorlessly, at that. A freak accident, was definitely one way to describe having a demonic clown stabbing you through the gut. 

Myra glared at Richie, who just smiled at her in the fakest way he could. 

“Does he need to be here?” Myra snapped, treating Richie like he didn’t exist. “I haven’t seen you in two weeks, and now you’re… you’re all hurt, baby. You could’ve died!” 

Richie prepared himself to be asked to leave, something he’d been dreading ever since Myra had shown up. He even started to push himself out of his chair in defeat, when Eddie’s hand came to clasp over his. Richie went weightless, falling back in his chair and staring at Eddie. The touch only lasted for a second, but in that second, he’d chosen him over his wife, and Richie was damn well going to cling onto that. 

“He saved my life,” Eddie choked out, sounding a little shaky. It was a lie, Eddie had to know that. The only reason Eddie was in this situation was because he saved Richie, but Richie wasn’t about to point that out to Myra. “And he’s my best friend. I want him to stay.” 

Myra had a raging fire in her eyes; she looked like she wanted to reach across the hospital bed and slap Richie across the face for even existing in the same universe as her husband. She’d apparently completely disregarded the he saved my life bit and fixated on the part where Eddie said he didn’t want Richie to leave. Richie, apparently, wasn’t the only one who was thinking that Eddie was choosing him over his wife. 

Richie, on the other hand, was ecstatic. If not for the overwhelming fear of how he’d react, and the fear of… well, the fear he’d held inside him since he was a child, he’d have leaned in and pressed the biggest kiss to Eddie’s lips. 

Instead, he continued to smile. It wasn’t much, but it was something. 

 

 

It was an excruciatingly long eight hours, but eventually Myra went back to her hotel at the behest of Eddie. He told her that visitors couldn’t spend the night, which was a lie, considering Richie had spent more nights on the hospital couch in the last week and a half than he had at the townhouse. Even if Eddie hadn’t lied, Richie was pretty sure the nurses would’ve kicked her out by the time visiting hours were over. Richie might’ve been loud and obnoxious, but unlike Myra, he didn’t treat the nurses like second class citizens and boss them around. When she finally left, Richie saw the relief on the faces of not only the nursing staff, but of Eddie. 

“So. That was your wife,” Richie said once he was sure Myra was out of earshot. “She’s… well. She sure is your wife.” 

“Shut up,” Eddie grumbled, his head falling back on the pillow behind him. He looked exhausted, not physically like he got occasionally after a long day of recovery, but emotionally. Richie couldn’t blame him. Myra was nothing if not exhausting to be around; Richie was tired himself after spending the day around her, he couldn’t imagine how Eddie felt. More than that, he couldn’t imagine how Eddie lived with her. 

“Seriously, I thought she was gonna kill me, like multiple times.” Richie situated himself so he was more comfortable in his chair; he hadn’t realized until then, but the entire time Myra had been there, he’d been stiff and tense. Now that she was gone, the uncomfortable aura she’d brought to the room was starting to slowly simmer away. “What was her deal? Did she want to jump your bones, or something? Is that why she wanted me to leave so bad? Or am I just that annoying?” 

“You’re just that annoying,” Eddie griped, his head turning to look at Richie. “I’d have asked you to leave too.” 

Richie smiled, a little too wide, maybe, but he didn’t care. “But you didn’t. You actually asked me to stay, if I remember correctly.” 

Eddie rolled his eyes and made a frustrated noise in his throat. “I’m never going to live that down, am I?” 

“Nope!” Richie answered, tone still jovial. Despite his teasing, he still couldn’t help but to wonder why Eddie had been so insistent that he stay with him, even when his wife obviously wanted to be alone with him. “But seriously… why did you lie?” 

Eddie’s quirked his brow upwards. “What do you mean?”

Richie worried his lip between his teeth for a second. “You said I saved you. But I didn’t, Eds. You saved me. You wouldn’t be in this stupid hospital bed if not for me getting stuck in the deadlights.” 

Eddie stared at Richie for a couple seconds, eyes narrowing. He looked dumbfounded, like he was staring at the dumbest person in the world. Which, okay, maybe he was. “You’re kidding, right?” 

“I—”

Eddie didn’t let him finish whatever half-baked thought he had. It was probably for the best. “Rich, I wouldn’t have made it out of the cavern without you. And even if I had, I would’ve fucking bled out on the grass without you there. I’m alive because of you.” 

Richie swallowed sharply. He didn’t like to think about pulling Eddie out of the cavern, of holding his jacket to his wound to keep him from bleeding out, of screaming to the others that he was okay, that he just needed help. It was a nightmare, worse than anything Pennywise could’ve put in his head, because it was real. For a handful of very long, painful, hours, Richie thought he was going to lose Eddie; he didn’t think he’d ever forget how that felt. 

“Yeah, well, it was a group effort,” Richie muttered. It was true, Richie wasn’t sure if he’d have been able to pull Eddie out of the cavern alone without Mike and Ben helping him. Even if he had, he wouldn’t have been able to keep pressure on the hole in his stomach, that was for sure. “I’m just glad we got you out, Eddie Spaghetti.” 

“Jesus, do I have to almost die again for you to stop calling me that?” Eddie asked, glaring at Richie. Despite the glare, there was no venom in his voice. In fact, there was a slight smile on his lips.  

“Maybe, but let’s not test that.” Richie couldn’t take his eyes off Eddie as he spoke, focusing in on the way he rolled his eyes and shook his head, but never dropped the betraying smile. Richie always suspected that Eddie didn’t hate the nicknames as much as he claimed to. At least, he liked to pretend that Eddie secretly liked them. 

“I don’t plan on it.” Eddie was silent for a moment, looking over at Richie like he was studying him. If anyone else had looked at him like that, he might’ve felt uncomfortable, or at the very least said something. It wasn’t just anyone, though, it was Eddie. So instead of speaking, he stared back at Eddie, waiting for him to finish whatever analysis he was running on Richie. “Did you mean it?” 

Richie squinted in confusion. “Mean what?” 

“About me going to L.A. with you. Did you mean that, or was that a joke?” Eddie asked. Richie noticed the way he was twisting his wedding ring on his finger again. This time there was nothing stopping Richie from reaching over and putting his hand on Eddie’s to calm him, nothing but his own fear. That was more powerful than any other force. 

“Of course, I meant it,” Richie answered in lieu of grabbing Eddie’s hand. “Why? Did it sound like I was joking?” 

Eddie shrugged. “At this point I just assume everything you say is a joke.” 

Richie huffed and shook his head. Figured that one of the most important things he’d ever said to someone was taken as a joke. “I meant it. If that’s something you wanted. You could do it, just say fuck it to your old life and come to L.A. with me. Stay with me for a while until you get back on your feet.” He didn’t add that he’d very much like for that stay to be indefinite. For once, Richie was trying not to be selfish. “I think you’d like L.A. It’s like, slightly less disgusting than New York. Slightly.” 

Eddie chuckled, smiling for just a second as he looked in Richie’s direction. The smile didn’t last long, though; after a second, it fell into something more serious as he brought his hand up to scrub over his face, beard coming in scraggly in a way Richie didn’t think Eddie would normally let it. It suited him, though, even if Eddie continued to complain about wanting it gone. Myra had certainly had some negative words about his facial hair, which had just made Richie want to scream. 

“You were right earlier. I am miserable,” Eddie admitted, turning his head away from Richie. He looked down at his wedding ring, continuing to twist it like he’d done so many times. Richie wondered if that was a general anxiety quirk, or if it was only reserved to Myra-related anxieties. “I’ve been so fucking unhappy for…” Eddie paused, shook his head, and bit his lip. “God, man, I don’t even fucking know how long. And it took that fucking clown and almost dying to make me realize that I hate my life. I hate my job, I don’t love my wife, I don’t even like New York, not like I thought I would when I was a kid.” 

There was a bittersweet feeling in Richie’s chest. He remembered being an idealistic fourteen-year-old and making a plan with Eddie to grow up and move to New York together, get an apartment and have a perfect life, leaving Derry and their shitty lives in the past. He wondered if things would’ve been different if they’d been able to make that childish dream work, even if it was just that: a childish, unrealistic, pipe dream. 

A man could dream, though. 

Eddie finally looked over to Richie. There was something hopeful in his eyes that Richie hadn’t seen in a long time—twenty some years, to be exact. Still, he looked sad, and Richie couldn’t blame him. He knew how he felt, living every day unhappy just because you thought it was what you had to do, was exhausting. “Maybe I just need a new start.” 

“So, wait…” Richie gulped, trying his best to hide the grin that was threatening to erupt across his face. “Is that a yes? You do want to leave with me? Say fuck it to this stupid ass town and you shitty wife, and shitty life?”  

Eddie rolled his eyes fondly. “Yeah, dipshit, I do.” 

It took every ounce of self-control Richie possessed not lean over and kiss Eddie right then and there. Despite everything, he was ecstatic; the idea of leaving Derry with Eddie like he’d wanted to twenty-two years ago when he was eighteen made him smile ear to ear, which was enough to get Eddie to beam back at him, the glint of sadness in his eyes starting to fade. 

“Once you’re discharged, we’ll leave. I mean, not immediately, because you’ll probably have to wait around and rest a shitton, but after that we’ll leave, and stop at a million shitty rest stops and not-shitty hotels, and then we’ll go to L.A., and you can start over and have the life you always fucking wanted, except you know, in L.A., not New York, but whatever. And it’s all on me, you don’t have to worry—”

“Jesus, take a breath,” Eddie cut him off. “Are you gonna blabber on like that from Maine to California? Because if so, I might reconsider.” 

Richie knew he was joking from the smirk painted on his lips, but the idea of Eddie backing out terrified him. He took a breath and shook his head. “Get used to it, Spaghetti.” 

“Jesus, I’m gonna regret this,” Eddie muttered. Still, there was something light on his face. “And I’m not asking you to pay my way to L.A. I can help with gas, and hotels, and shit. You don’t need to take care of me.” 

“And I don’t want to take care of you.” 

Okay, so that was a lie. At least, partially. He didn’t want to take care of Eddie in the way Myra did, in the self-aggrandizing, high and mighty way she did, but because he cared for— loved— Eddie. While he supposed Myra must’ve cared for, even loved, Eddie in her own way, he didn’t want to think about it. All he wanted to think about was the idea of spending a week traveling across the country with his best friend in the passenger seat. It was a dream he had as a teenager, finally coming true. 

He sighed before continuing. “But c’mon, you saved my life. You almost died. At least let me do this.” 

“Yeah, well, I didn’t die,” Eddie said, looking at Richie seriously. Their eyes locked for a couple seconds too long, making Richie want to squirm. Or kiss Eddie. Maybe both. He settled for looking away instead. 

“I’m just trying to say thank you. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be, asshole,” Richie said, forcing himself to look back at Eddie after a second or two. 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Yeah, okay, whatever.” 

Despite the dismissive words, Eddie reached over and brushed his hand against Richie’s forearm. Immediately Richie was reminded of when Eddie had woken up after surgery, putting his hand on Richie’s arm and whispering stay, making Richie’s heart stop in the process. It was the easiest thing Eddie could’ve asked him, because there was nothing more that Richie wanted than to stay with Eddie. Richie would’ve stayed forever, and God, did he wish he’d stayed twenty-two years ago, just for a little while longer, just to see where things went. Maybe things would’ve been different now; not that he thought they’d end up together, but maybe they’d never forgotten each other. He would’ve given anything to have kept Eddie with him for the last twenty-seven years, instead of just having dreams of a faceless boy he couldn’t remember but knew all the same, filling his chest with a feeling he’d only felt once.  

Richie felt ridiculous for falling so hard again. He was forty, not thirteen, but he couldn’t help it. No matter how much he tried to ignore it, both then and now, a part of him was always in love with Eddie. It always would be. 

 

 

Eddie was in the hospital for another week before he was discharged. During that time, he broke the news to Myra that he wanted a divorce, that he wasn’t happy, that he hadn’t been happy for a long time, and almost dying made him realize he didn’t want to be a part of whatever it was they had. It wasn’t a marriage, and Eddie could finally admit that. Richie was proud of Eddie for that, even prouder of him for being able to take action. 

Richie had offered to be there for moral support when he broke the news, but Eddie had turned him down, saying that it was something he needed to do on his own. Richie respected that, but it didn’t stop the nerves that settled in his stomach as he paced the length of his room at the townhouse. He knew Myra would attempt to manipulate him into staying with her, but he also knew that Eddie was strong. All the same, he knew Eddie was scared, and he couldn’t blame him. The woman was a spitting image of his mother; it wasn’t fair that Eddie had basically had to stand up to the same person twice over just to get a semblance of happiness. 

When it’s over and done with, Eddie called Richie, asking him to come back to the hospital. Once there, he got the full story of how Myra handled the news. A lot of tears, a lot of screaming, a lot of wild accusations of betrayal, and eventually getting asked to leave by one of the nurses. All in all, it went better than Eddie expected, which said a lot about what kind of person his wife—soon to be ex-wife—was. 

After Eddie was discharged, they stay in Derry for another week until the doctor’s gave him the go ahead to travel. In that time, they mostly hung around the townhouse. Truth be told, there weren’t many places in Derry they wanted to see. Sure, there were places that held good memories, but when it came down to it, most places had been ruined by either IT, childhood bullies, or their parents. It was easier to laze around the townhouse watching TV, eating anything but Chinese food, spend time with Mike before he left for Florida, and check in with the rest of the Losers. 

Everyone seemed to be moving on. Beverly and Ben were off vacationing on a yacht after Beverly had filed for divorce with her piece of shit husband, Mike was off to Florida, and Bill was finishing his movie, and apparently also filing for divorce. Richie had cracked some joke about how Pennywise should’ve just become a divorce lawyer instead of a psychopathic child eating clown, but it just prompted Eddie to throw a donut at him. Despite getting hit upside the face with chocolate icing, it was worth seeing the smile on Eddie’s face. 

 

 

The first day on the road was nothing spectacular. There was a lot of bickering about music choice, a lot of joking and pissing each other off, and a lot of fighting about where and when they should stop to eat, rest, etc. Despite everything, Richie couldn’t help but to think about how, had things been different, if he hadn’t been so scared twenty-two years ago, things could be like this all the time. Or at least, been like this for the last two decades. 

He didn’t let himself think that way long, though. There was no point in mourning the past when his future was looking brighter with each mile they drove away from Derry.

“She won’t stop fucking calling me,” Eddie grumbled, looking down at his phone like it was a ticking timebomb. “It’s been two weeks and she still thinks I’m coming back.” 

“Stalker much?” 

Eddie groaned. “You have no idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if she followed us to L.A.” 

“Don’t even joke about that. If she knows where I live, she might slit my throat and cut off my dick for stealing her man.” Richie mimed slitting his throat with one hand, making an exaggerated dead face with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. It made Eddie chuckle a bit, so Richie counted it as a win. “Seriously, have you considered just blocking her number?”

Eddie sighed and nodded. “Yeah, I have, it’s just…” he paused a moment, his knuckles turning white as he gripped onto his phone. “I don’t know. It’s stupid.” 

Richie glanced over at Eddie for a moment. “You can tell me.” 

Richie had his eyes on the road again, but he could still see the nervous look on Eddie’s face in his peripheral. “You’ll make fun of me.” 

“Maybe,” Richie said, though he didn’t think he would. He liked to make fun of Eddie, that was no secret, but Eddie gave as good as he got. Poking fun at each other was just something they did, but it never extended to anything too serious. Richie never truly wanted to upset any of his friends when poking fun at them, but especially not Eddie. “Seriously, man, just tell me. If I get the urge to make fun of you, I’ll just bite my tongue off or some shit.” 

Eddie huffed something that almost sounded like a laugh. “Fine,” he muttered, letting out a deep sigh. “It’s just… for the last eight years, ten if you count when we weren’t married, she was always there. Always. No matter what, she was there. And now I’m just… ignoring her. Fuck, worse, I’m divorcing her and leaving to the other side of the country.” Eddie turned from his lap where he was flipping his phone over and over in his hand to look at Richie. “And I don’t regret it, I’m excited for… whatever the fuck is in L.A. for me, but I just feel… I don’t know. Guilty.” He paused again and bit his lip. “Is that stupid?” 

Richie didn’t know what to say. He knew what he wanted to say, that Myra had done a number on Eddie just like his mother had. Richie could tell that she’d spent the last ten years making Eddie feel guilty for wanting to be his own person, for not letting his life revolve around whatever it was she wanted for them, but he didn’t say that. Instead, he reached over and patted Eddie’s leg. 

“It’s not stupid,” he said, which was true. Richie didn’t know how a person in Eddie’s situation was supposed to feel, but whatever it was, it wasn’t stupid. “You’re separating yourself from a person who’s been in your life for ten years. Even if you weren’t happy, I can’t imagine how shitty and confusing that must feel.” 

Eddie was silent for a while. Richie was starting to think he was done with this conversation, which was fine with Richie. He wanted to let Eddie talk about his marriage, but he didn’t want to push him. Just when Richie was about to change the conversation and ask Eddie if he wanted to rent a movie when they finally stopped at a hotel, Eddie started to speak again, quiet and shaky. 

“It wasn’t all bad,” he whispered, voice distant and broken. He was looking out the window now instead of at Richie. He thought that maybe Eddie was crying, but he couldn’t be sure, and he wasn’t about to crash a rental car to find out. “There were moments that weren’t awful. They should’ve been happy, you know? I mean, we had a nice apartment, we had money, we went on nice vacations, my mom loved her, she was there for me when my mom died, and-and she loved me. I know it was in a fucked up, creepy, maternal way, I’ve known that for a long time, okay? You don’t have to fucking say it.” Eddie sounded angry now, but even though his words were directed at Richie, his anger didn’t sound like it was. “I just… I fucking hate myself sometimes, because all that wasn’t enough. What the fuck more do I want? Why couldn’t I have just… just let myself be happy?” 

Richie was silent for a while. He didn’t know what to say, and even if he did, it didn’t sound like Eddie wanted an answer immediately. Richie didn’t have his eyes on him directly, but he could tell he was seething, and if Richie knew one thing, it was that it was best to let Eddie calm down sometimes before talking sense into him. 

“I haven’t been happy either,” Richie admitted after a minute or so of silence. “I know that sounds stupid, because like you said in the hospital, I’m living my fucking dreams.” 

“I shouldn’t have said that,” Eddie whispered, his voice still shaky. 

“No, it’s fine,” Richie said, risking a glance in Eddie’s direction. He was right earlier, he was crying. He didn’t blame him, he’d been holding all this in for ten years, it was a wonder it hadn’t exploded until now. “Being a comedian, it was- is my dream, but… I don’t know. I don’t write my own shit. I’m not me when I’m up there. Pretending to be someone you aren’t, pretending to be happy or whatever when you’re fucking miserable… it sucks. And you can only do it for so long until you break down.”

It was a coincidence that that they hit traffic, having to stop at that moment. Richie took advantage of it to turn and fully look at Eddie for the first time since they’d started their conversation. “Eds, it’s okay to break down, you know. It’s okay to not be happy sometimes.” 

Eddie’s eyes flashed on Richie’s, glimmering with tears he didn’t seem to want to let fall. “It just fucking sucks,” he whispered. “I should have this shit figured out. I had ten years to leave, to-to do something different, but I just stayed, and I pretended to be happy, and I—”

“You gotta stop blaming yourself, man,” Richie cut him off. They were still sitting still, some accident off in the distance keeping them idling, but for once, Richie didn’t mind.

He took a risk and reached across the car and took Eddie’s hand, resting on his knee, and gave his fingers a squeeze. It reminded him of when they were kids, unaware or uncaring that they weren’t supposed to hold hands. Even when they were teenagers, both well-aware of the implications of what it meant to hold another boy’s hand, they’d occasionally lace their fingers together, while watching a movie, while lying in the grass and staring up at the stars, chatting about this, that, and the other thing. They’d never talked about it, and now Richie couldn’t help but to wonder why. 

“Eds, you can’t blame for staying, or leaving, or being unhappy, or wanting to be happy. You were in a shitty position, and you deserve…” the world, everything I could ever offer you, all that cheesy shit Ben would write in a poem, but I could never even think without feeling wrong and crazy, “You deserve to be happy, okay?” 

Eddie sniffled and pressed his lips together. Richie was expecting him to pull his hand away, but he never did. Instead, he grasped onto Richie’s fingers even tighter, just like when they were kids and they were watching some stupid horror movie that they for some fucking reason thought would be a good idea to watch. Richie’s heart was beating faster now than it had then. 

“You do too,” Eddie finally responded. He smiled slightly, though there was something sad behind it. “Maybe we’ll both find happiness after this is all over.” 

If you’re with me, I’ll be happy, is what Richie wanted to say. He opened his mouth to say something, anything else, but before he could, he heard someone laying on their horn behind him. He shook out of his daze and looked back to the road, seeing that traffic had started to move again. 

“Shit.” 

“Nice going, dipshit.” 

Richie almost flipped Eddie off, but one hand was on the wheel, and Eddie was still holding his other hand, nervously playing with his fingers like he used to when they were kids. He would’ve crashed the stupid fucking rental car before even considering letting go of Eddie’s hand, so instead, he rolled his eyes. “Fuck you.” 

 

 

They stop in Connecticut about seven hours after leaving Derry. They’d taken a break for lunch, along with plenty of breaks for Eddie to stretch so he wouldn’t get stiff sitting around in the car (though his pain meds certainly helped with that to a degree). By the time they checked in to a nice-ish motel off the highway, sandwiched between a Denny’s and a 7-11, they were both well beyond exhausted. They’d talked about going out to eat somewhere somewhat fancy to celebrate this new journey Eddie was taking, but by the time they hit their beds, that idea was seeming less and less appealing by the moment. 

So, they ordered pizza, and they ate way beyond their limits with smiles on their faces and bottles of coke in their hands. They ended up renting Deadpool from the Redbox outside 7-11, because Eddie hadn’t seen it because Myra hated action and superhero movies and watching it on the surprisingly well-sized motel television. 

Richie was glad he’d seen the movie before and wasn’t missing anything, because he ended up watching Eddie more than the movie. He was seeing longer glimpses of the Eddie he knew twenty-seven years ago, no longer completely bogged down by a life he didn’t want. Richie knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but watching Eddie laugh over Ryan Reynold’s baby hand while eating M&Ms he’d heckled Richie into buying him despite already eating way too much pizza, made Richie think maybe he’d be okay. That they’d both be okay. 

They were asleep by ten o’clock, like the exhausted, middle-aged, men they were. Eddie had practically fallen asleep mid-conversation, or more accurately, mid-Richie giving him shit for taking a shower even though he’d taken one that morning, knowing full well he’d take one the next morning too. Some things never changed, and as much as he would tease him for it, he thought that was okay. 

Richie didn’t last much longer either, falling asleep with the gentle sounds of Eddie snoring in the background, and a smile on his face.

The next thing he knew, Richie was surrounded by blinding white light and a pain that crashed into his head like a wave during a hurricane. He felt like he was drowning in a sea of blood, dirt, and rocks, too weighed down to move or do anything but watch and scream as Eddie leaned over his body, a wide smile on his dirty face. He recognized where they were immediately, knew exactly what was coming, and no matter how much Richie screamed and cried, nothing changed. 

He saw Eddie’s mouth move, forming the words I think I did it, man! I think I really killed IT! but he couldn’t actually hear his voice. Instead, he heard a demonic laughter, crackling and curling around his body, stabbing him through the heart just as Eddie was being stabbed through the gut. 

“Richie?” 

He heard that, he’d never be able to stop hearing that. He screamed, or at least he thought he did, but nothing came out. 

“Richie….” 

He heard that too. He still couldn’t scream. He couldn’t move. And Oh God, it was happening again. Eddie was being thrown across the cavern by IT, and by the time Richie scrambled to his feet and got to him, it was too late. He saw Eddie’s eyes, glassed over and empty, his mouth seeping blood the same as his chest. 

Richie screamed for real this time, so loud that it echoed in the cavern, intermingling with the gargling laughter of IT. He tried to shake Eddie awake, but he felt hands on his shoulders, pulling him away. 

“No! We can still help him, please, we can still help him!” 

He screamed and screamed, but no one listened. The laughter was gone, and somehow he knew that IT was dead, but he also knew that Eddie was dead, and God, no, they were leaving him down in that cavern, feet away from the monster that haunted his childhood and adult years alike, the monster that killed him and stole any chance of happiness he could try and achieve. 

“No, please, we can still help him, guys we can still—”

“Hey, hey, Rich!” 

Richie felt strong yet somehow gentle hands on his shoulders, squeezing him and shaking him awake. Richie didn’t know where he was at first, looking all around the room in shaky movements before his eyes eventually settled on the person in front of him, sitting on the edge of his bed and holding onto him like their life depended on it. It took him a couple seconds to realize who it was. Eddie. 

“Y-You’re… Eddie?” he whispered, voice scratchy, like he’d been screaming. Had he? Had that been real? Or had the screams been fake, just like the rest of the dream? “You’re alive?” 

Eddie looked confused but nodded. “Uh, yeah, last time I checked.” 

Richie was shaking in Eddie’s grasp, staring at him like he would disappear at any second. He tried to breathe, tried to calm down, but nothing worked. Despite being awake, he still felt like he was down in the cistern, watching Eddie slip away in his arms. 

Eddie seemed to notice how terrified Richie was, causing him to scoot closer to Richie and move his hands to rub gently on Richie’s shaking arms. “Hey, what’s wrong?” 

Richie took a couple a breaths before shaking his head. There was no way he was about to tell Eddie he just watched him die, that it wasn’t the first time it happened. It was just the first time Eddie had caught him in the nightmarish act of waking up, drenched in his own sweat and covered in his fears. It was a lot easier to hide his nightmares when they were on opposite ends of a townhouse than when they were a bed away from each other. Richie didn’t know why he hadn’t thought of that beforehand. Maybe he should’ve got two rooms instead of one, maybe… 

“Rich,” Eddie said, his voice gentle, hands still rubbing his arms. “I’m here, it’s okay. Talk to me.” 

“I-it’s nothing,” Richie lied. It wasn’t a very good lie, either, considering he was still shaking, and he was pretty sure he was crying, too. “Wet dream gone wrong, actually. Turned out your mom is into some real weird shit, even in dreamland.” 

“Don’t pull that shit,” Eddie warned. He didn’t sound angry, but Richie could tell he wasn’t going to put up with another your mom joke when Richie was still shaking and crying in front of him. “Talk to me like a normal fucking person, please.” 

Richie didn’t want to. He hadn’t talked to anyone other than Bev about the deadlights, and that was only because she knew what it was like to be stuck in them. He didn’t think Eddie was going to let him out of, though, so he turned away from Eddie and looked down at his shaking hands in his lap. He always shook for too long after these damned nightmares, and he fucking hated it. 

“We were in the cistern,” he started, voice quiet and distant. He wished he could pretend he was describing something that happened to someone else, but he couldn’t. These nightmares, always a little different but with the same ending, Eddie dead and left to rot alone below Neibolt, were too close to being real to be able to distance himself from them completely. “You… you saved me, and you got… you know. Just like it really happened. But, uh, but in my-my dream, I had your blood all over me, and they were dragging me away from you, and you… you were gone, and there was nothing I could do, no matter how hard I try, you-you always—”

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Eddie said, voice soft and comforting. Richie didn’t realize just how much he was crying again until Eddie scooted up next to him on the bed, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and holding him tight. “I’m okay. See? I’m not dead in that nasty ass cavern, I’m right here with you. We’re okay.” 

Richie nodded allowing himself to ease into Eddie’s arms. “I just… I felt so helpless, and alone. I could feel you slipping away, and there-there was nothing I could do. I can still feel your blood on me, and-and…” 

Richie didn’t know where to go from there. He was hit with a wave of exhaustion, and he wasn’t sure if it was the fault of his nightmare or the fact that he truly was tired. Regardless, he felt Eddie press his face into his unruly hair, shushing him sweetly and holding him tight against his body. 

“C’mon, lay back down,” Eddie whispered, easing them both back down in bed. Richie was too tired and too scared of whatever was swimming around in his own head to question why Eddie hadn’t moved back to his own bed, or why he settled down in bed with Richie, pulling him close and holding him close. “Is this okay?” Eddie asked, his hand rubbing a gentle circle on Richie’s arm.

 Richie nodded, unable to speak. He wasn’t sure if it was due to the nightmare, or due to the fact that Eddie’s hand had moved from his arm to smooth his hair down, eventually carding his fingers through his messy locks. He shivered at the contact but noticed that he was no longer shaking. 

With his spare hand, Eddie wiped the tears from Richie’s cheeks. Richie felt like he was living in a dream on the opposite spectrum from the one he’d just endured. It didn’t feel real, but all the same, it felt more real than the nightmare that had scratched and clawed its way through his brain. 

“I’m not going anywhere, Richie. You’re not alone, not when I’m here,” he said, voice still a gentle whisper, his breath tickling Richie’s skin in a way that made him feel like he was on fire. 

Richie nodded, unable to do much else. He thought about telling Eddie he was okay, and he could go back to his own bed if he wanted, but he didn’t see the point. He’d been tormented with nightmares of his best friend, the man he’d been in love with for over half his life, dying for over three weeks. If Eddie wanted to comfort him like this, he wasn’t about to stop him. 

Without thinking, Richie put his head on Eddie’s chest, closing his eyes and planning on going back to sleep. The only thing that stopped him was Eddie’s wince, his body jolting slightly. 

Right, he had been stabbed by IT. That part was still true. 

“Shit, sorry,” Richie said, pulling his head up. 

Eddie smiled softly, pulling Richie back down so his head was resting on his shoulder. His fingers went back to running through Richie’s hair, something that he found beyond comforting. If he could lay there in Eddie’s arms, letting Eddie play with his hair, for the rest of his life, he would’ve without a second thought. It was everything he’d ever wanted since he was thirteen years old, and all it took was a shitty nightmare that made him feel like he was physically dying. 

“I’ll survive.” 

 

 

Richie woke up with an arm around his waist and his forehead pressed to Eddie’s. He wasn’t sure when they ended up in that position, but he wasn’t complaining. For just a second, when he opened his eyes and looked at the man asleep in front of him, he could pretend that he wasn’t terrified of the way he made him feel. He could even pretend that it could be like this all the time, not just because Richie had woken Eddie up screaming and he felt bad for him. 

When Eddie’s eyes started to flutter open, Richie knew he had to stop pretending. Before Eddie could say anything, he forced himself to shuffled out of Eddie’s arms, and sit up. 

“Mornin’,” Eddie murmured, voice a little husky with sleep. Richie couldn’t tell if it was hot or cute, so he settled on a bit of both. 

“Hey,” Richie said, swallowing hard around a lump in his throat. He didn’t want to talk about last night, and he didn’t want to give Eddie a chance to bring it up. “I’m fucking hungry, get your shit together so we can go to Denny’s, would ya?” 

Eddie rolled his eyes and pushed himself up. “Jesus, be patient, I’ve been awake for like two seconds and I gotta change my bandages.” He grunted as he pushed himself off the bed, taking hold of the side of the bed to steady himself. “And take about a billion fucking pills.” 

Richie smirked. “More gazebos?” 

Eddie flipped him off. “Go take a fucking shower. You smell like shit.” 

Richie rolled his eyes, but obliged. He showered quickly, and then waited patiently as Eddie also showered, took his medicine (things he actually needed to take this time, not shit being forced down his throat by an overbearing hag), and changed his bandages. Richie ended up having to help with Eddie’s bandages, but that was nothing new; he’d been helping him ever since he’d been discharged, and despite Eddie’s griping, he didn’t mind helping. He didn’t even mind listening to Eddie’s paranoia over infection; hell, he’d be paranoid too if he’d been stabbed by a fucking clown tentacle. 

They got back on the road after checking out of their motel and a quick breakfast at Denny’s. Neither of them talk about the night before, quickly going back to bickering about the music choice, Richie making fun of Eddie for becoming a risk analyst, of all fucking things, Eddie calling him a dickwad, Richie doing bad impressions and making Eddie laugh despite trying not to. Things felt normal again, even if there was something hanging over them, they refused to talk about. 

 

 

After being on the road for about four hours, they stopped at some little fifties themed diner in Pennsylvania for lunch. It was nearly empty, besides a couple in a booth near the door and an older man sitting at the counter nursing a cup of coffee, so they had their choice of seats, for the most part. 

They settled into a booth towards the back, and waited for the waitress, clad in a poodle skirt like she was straight out of Grease, to come take their drink orders. There was nowhere like this in Derry, yet Richie was still reminded of going out to eat with the rest of the Losers. Sometimes everyone else would leave after lunch, and leave just Richie and Eddie alone, content to sit across from each other and chat about whatever childish concerns they had at the time. 

Back then, it seemed so normal, even when they’d stayed until the owners kicked them out of their booths because they were no longer ordering anything or were just being plain obnoxious. Now, Richie couldn’t help but think that it could’ve been something different, if only he’d said something. He wondered if maybe they could’ve gone out to diners, gone on dates, and had a normal relationship. Maybe it wouldn’t have lasted, and maybe they would’ve broken up the second they hit college, but fuck, Richie thought he deserved to have a shot. A shot at a first love, a first relationship, even if it was doomed to end from the start. 

Eddie seemed to notice Richie’s mood change, even though Richie hadn’t meant to show it. Still, he was glaring down at his hands, tapping angrily as he thought back to his childhood, regretting a million things he hadn’t done. It was ridiculous to even consider, the more he thought about. There was a high chance that Eddie didn’t feel the same way he did; in the end, he would’ve just gotten his heart broken, and he’d have lost his best friend. In the grand scheme of things, maybe this was better. 

“You alright?” Eddie asked, eyes narrowed. 

Richie looked up at Eddie and shook his head a bit, trying to ward off the thoughts. He didn’t want to think about this now, or ever, for that matter. “Yeah, I’m peachy.” 

“Uh-huh, sure.” 

Richie looked away from Eddie. He wasn’t great at lying to any of the Losers, but especially not Eddie. He always saw right through him. “Just thinking about how you’re gonna flip and attempt to sanitize my entire apartment when we get to L.A. Lots of crusty socks I didn’t think to clean up before I left. Didn’t think I’d be having company.” 

Eddie’s face screwed up in disgust, which had been the intention, so Richie took it as a win and grinned along. “Jesus, you’re so fucking gross.” 

“Yeah, it’s ‘cause I don’t have your mom to clean up after me anymore.” 

Eddie groaned and threw a wadded-up napkin at Richie. “Fuck you, don’t tell me then, deflecting asshole.” Richie huffed out a half-laughter. Eddie still knew something was wrong, but he didn’t seem like he was going to keep pressing the issue, which was good enough for Richie. “Do you wanna get one of those big ass milkshakes and share it? Would that get you out of your shitty mood?” 

Richie tilted his head to the side a little. “You know, I probably should’ve said something last night when you ate your weight in pizza and M&Ms, but I thought you were lactose intolerant.” 

Eddie was quiet for a second, looking down at the table. “Yeah, so did I. I thought a lot of things when I was a kid.” He shook his head and tapped his blunt nails on the countertop for a second. “As an adult too, I guess.” 

Richie felt a flash of anger, thinking back to those fucking placebo pills and the inhaler Eddie didn’t need. Eddie never forgave his mother for that as a kid, and frankly, Richie didn’t blame him. Richie was angry on Eddie’s behalf over Sonia making him think he was sick when he wasn't for so fucking long. The fact that he’d basically married the same woman, who seemed hellbent on mother henning Eddie to death instead of letting him have him any agency of his own didn’t make Richie feel any better.

He let out a small noise of understanding and nodded. “Yeah, you pick the flavor.” 

Eddie ordered a strawberry milkshake with two straws along with their cheeseburgers when the waitress finally came over to their table. It comes out before the rest of their food, which seemed a bit backwards, but Richie didn’t care. Everything with them was backwards.

As they sipped their milkshake, occasionally accidentally bumping foreheads as they leaned in at the same time to take a sip, Richie felt his heart race. God, did he feel like a kid on his first date, but ten times worse. He didn’t remember having nearly as many butterflies in his stomach on his actual first date as he did now, but then again, his actual first date had been with some girl who’s name he’d long since forgotten, not because of IT, just because that’s how life goes sometimes, and this… this was Eddie. The same Eddie he’d thrown rocks at cars with, ran through his neighbor’s sprinklers with, and curled up with on a hammock that had never been big enough for the both of them.

They went back and forth with their normal banter as they finished their burgers, occasionally sipping on the almost too large milkshake sitting in between them. Richie still had a slight, lingering, feeling of regret dancing around in his chest as he watched Eddie eat his onion rings, occasionally reaching across the table to steal one of Richie’s fries. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to completely forgive himself for not making a move twenty-seven years ago. Things might’ve been hard back then, but he’d had that streak of fearlessness all kids did, something that had long since faded, being replaced with repression and resentment. 

“Can I ask you something?” Richie asked, looking up from his almost finished fries to Eddie, sipping on their milkshake. He had a nagging question lingering in his mind ever since he’d realized how unhappy Eddie was with Myra, but he didn’t have the courage to ask him. Now, sharing a milkshake and reminiscing on their childhood as Richie dreamed of a life where he’d been able to go on dates with Eddie as a teenager, seemed as good of a time as any. 

Eddie smirked. “You just did.” 

Richie flipped him off and rolled his eyes. “Shut up, asshole.” He sighed and tried to relieve some of the tension in his shoulders by rolling them, but it didn’t do much good. “You don’t have to answer, by the way. You can tell me to shut the fuck up and we can go back to talking about how John Mulaney is funnier than I am.” 

Eddie chuckled. “John Mulaney is funnier than you are. Ask the damn question.”  

“Okay, okay.” Richie took a breath to steady himself. He didn’t know why he was asking this, it really wasn’t any of his business, but he couldn’t help himself. He never could stop his curiosity from getting the best of him, not when he was a kid, and not as an adult. “Why did you ask her to marry you if you never loved her?” 

Eddie’s eyes went wide, and for a second Richie was expecting Eddie to yell at him for asking something so invasive, but he didn’t. Instead, he stayed quiet for a couple seconds too long, his hand wrapped around the base of the milkshake. Just when Richie thought Eddie might dump the remainder of the milkshake on his head for asking, Eddie let out a sigh and started to speak. 

“I-I didn’t,” he said, looking down at the table rather than at Richie. 

“So, wait, she asked you?” Richie asked. In theory, there was nothing wrong with a woman asking a man to marry her, but he could picture Myra doing it as just another means to control Eddie. 

Eddie shook his head. “No, I mean…” He made a noise in the back of his throat, somewhere between a humorless laugh and a sigh, and looked away from Richie. “God, it’s so fucking pathetic.” 

“Eds, c’mon, tell me,” Richie said, keeping his eyes on Eddie. The more they talked about his marriage with Myra, the more he realized how sore of a subject it was. If Richie hadn’t hated the woman solely on the principal that she was married to the man he was in love with, he definitely hated her for making Eddie so goddamn desolate, blaming himself for every little thing that happened in the last ten years. 

Eddie looked over at Richie again, his face twisted into something mournful. Richie regretted asking the damn question; they’d been so fucking happy up until now. “After about a year of us being together, dating, whatever the fuck you wanna call it, she just… her and my mom, they kinda decided that we were getting married. And I just went along with it. I guess I could’ve put my foot down, but I didn’t.” 

Richie felt like shit for asking. It was so beyond none of his business, but he couldn’t stop his curiosity, and now Eddie was sitting in front of him, dejected and stuck in his own head. Richie felt like a fucking asshole. 

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked.” 

“No, it’s fine,” he reassured, putting his hand out for a second. “I probably would’ve wanted to know the same if our situations were reversed.” Eddie paused a moment, looking back down at his hands. “I guess I just let it happen because it seemed easier than facing the truth.” 

Richie raised his brow. “What truth?” 

Eddie’s head shot up, looking Richie in the eye for what felt like the first time in a long time. His gaze was intense and frightened, his eyes wide and glazed over with something Richie couldn’t place. He opened his mouth, but nothing really came out for a second except for a nervous stuttering sound.

“I-I…” Eddie took a deep breath and bit down on his lip. Richie didn’t know why that question had been harder for Eddie to answer than his initial one, but he didn’t want to press any more than he already had. “That I wasn’t happy, I guess.” 

Richie could tell it wasn’t the full truth, but he didn’t want to push him. He already looked upset, and Richie already felt guilty for starting the conversation when he really didn’t have to. He nodded a little, pretending to accept Eddie’s answer at face value. 

“I know how you feel.” 

“You do?”

Richie nodded. “Yeah, yeah, I do.” Richie was silent for a second, giving Eddie a pathetic attempt of a smile. “After a while it’s easier to fake happiness than to actually be happy, you know? It’s hard to be happy when you feel like there’s this chunk missing from you.” 

And of course, he meant losing half his childhood to the hands of an evil clown that lived in the fucking sewers, but there’s another part of him that he’d hidden from everyone his entire life because of how fucking terrified he was. While IT definitely hadn’t helped, it wasn’t entirely IT’s fault. Sure, he heard Pennywise’s voice in his head, singing about his dirty little secret every time he got drunk enough to be able to go home with a guy without really knowing who the voice belonged to, but he also heard Bowers calling him homophobic slurs as he ran from the arcade, or the voice of a pastor, or his father, or some other homophobic bullshit that had ruined his childhood and adulthood alike.

He knew, realistically, that he wouldn’t be happy until he could stop hiding the fact that he was gay from everyone, but God, he was so scared. He’d been so scared for so long that he didn’t remember what it was like to not be afraid of the thing inside him that he couldn’t explain but couldn’t ignore. He’d stopped trying to date and sleep with girls in his early twenties, stopped trying to convince himself it was a phase before that. He’d known for so long that he liked men, only men, but the fear of letting the world around him know… that was something he couldn’t face. 

So, he hid in the closet and made jokes about a girlfriend he didn’t have nor want catching masturbating and told a billion other crude and insincere jokes about being the straight guy everyone wanted him to be. Lord knew that was easier than admitting that he’d always been something entirely different. 

“Sometimes being happy means you have to tell the truth, and that’s scary as shit,” Richie admitted. He couldn’t make eye contact with Eddie as he said it, so instead he looked at the half-empty milkshake. 

They were both quiet for a while, to the point it starts to feel a bit uncomfortable. Richie’s foot tapped off-beat to some Elvis song that was playing in the background, while Eddie shuffled his unfinished onion rings around on his plate with a fork. Richie wanted to say something to break the silence, to crack a joke and bring some levity to the situation, but for once, nothing came to his mind, so he stayed silent. 

“You deserve to be happy, Rich,” Eddie finally said. Richie looked up, eyes catching Eddie’s, soft and caring despite the fact Richie had just asked him something far too personal that undoubtedly brought up some incredibly shitty memories. He opened his mouth to brush off Eddie’s comment, because really, he didn’t know if he could be happy anytime soon, but Eddie seemed to catch onto that. He reached over and put his hand on Richie’s forearm, squeezing gently and igniting something in Richie’s heart that only Eddie could ever ignite. “No, seriously, dumbass. I mean it. You shouldn’t have to pretend to be happy. You deserve to really be happy.” 

Richie could feel his heart pounding as Eddie spoke, staring across the table at him like he was the only fucking person on earth. God, did Richie love him. “Yeah, well, so do you,” Richie managed, his voice somehow not scratchy and choked despite the fact his heart was in his throat, beating so fast he was surprised the entire diner didn’t hear it. “And not with someone who’s the spitting image of your mother and treats you like you’re fucking five.” 

Eddie grinned. “Agreed.” 

He stopped for a moment, keeping his hand on Richie’s forearm. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal, considering they’d shared a bed last night and woken up in each other’s arms, but that was different. Eddie had just been comforting Richie out of a nightmare that was obviously traumatic; now, well, now Richie wasn’t so sure. It was like the day before in the car, how they’d held hands for far too long without letting go or acknowledging the fact that they were even holding hands. Richie wished he knew what they were doing, or if they were even doing anything beyond being friends who were maybe just a bit too comfortable around each other. 

“What do you think would make you happy?” Eddie finally asked after too long of silently staring at each other.  

You, Richie wanted to answer. Always you. He didn’t have the courage, though. So instead, he covered Eddie’s hand with his own, and forced out a tight-lipped smile. “I don’t know, but I’m happy right now. Is that a good enough answer for you?”

Eddie nodded and smiled. “So am I, so I guess it’ll have to be.” 

 

 

“‘I bet he’s in rehab or some shit. Or maybe he went on a bender and forgot that for some reason, people want to see him tell ‘jokes’ on stage,’” Richie read, altering his voice into something more nasally and mocking. “Oh, here’s a good one, ‘I bet he realized he isn’t funny and went back to whatever hole he originated from.’ Originated was spelled wrong, by the way.” 

Eddie huffed, looking over at Richie from where he was lying on his bed. “Would you stop reading those?” He turned on his side, propping himself up on his arm. “They’re only going to make you feel worse.” 

Richie shrugged and continued to scroll through Twitter. Every other tweet he saw when searching his name was either about how he’d bombed his last show, how he’d completely missed his Reno show, and how the rest of his shows had been cancelled with no explanation. It was nothing compared to what his manager was sending him, long-winded messages and voicemails about how he needed to get his shit together, because he really didn’t want to deal with the process of firing him, but he also didn’t want to lose any more money on him. Somehow, the verbal assault he was getting on Twitter was better than his manager’s bullshit, so he stuck to Twitter for the time being. 

“There’s some pretty good theories, actually,” Richie said, ignoring Eddie. “I’m either in rehab, jail, or dead in a ditch in San Francisco. I don’t really know how we landed on San Fran, but I’ll give them points for creativity.” 

“Screw them.” Eddie sounded serious, which was surprising; it was like he cared more about the verbal lashing that Richie was getting than Richie did. It wasn’t to say that Richie didn’t care. Honestly, in any other circumstances, the thought of his fans all thinking he was some massive flake or disappointment would’ve been a nightmare, but considering he’d faced the clown that haunted his childhood not a month ago, he had bigger things on his mind. 

Richie shrugged. “It’s not that big of a deal, really.” 

“No, it is,” Eddie continued. He clearly wasn’t about to drop this. “What the fuck do they know about your life? What the fuck do they know about why you left, or what you went through? They don’t fucking know you, Rich. All they know is you bombed, which, okay, yeah, you fucking bombed. I saw the clip on YouTube, it was bad. You threw up on stage. It was terrible.” 

“This isn’t making me feel better, Eds.” 

“Shut up. I’m just…” Eddie groaned in frustration, flopping back down on his bed. Richie still couldn’t figure out why Eddie was taking this so personally, when the subject of the harassment himself wasn’t. “You don’t deserve the shit they’re saying, alright? You never did. Neither of us did.”   

“I get the feeling you aren’t talking about Twitter harassment anymore.” Richie looked over to Eddie, who was staring up at the ceiling, looking far too serious for Richie’s liking. If he’d known Eddie was going to react this way to a couple of tweets, he wouldn’t have said anything. Honestly, he thought they would’ve made him laugh. “You wanna tell me what’s really going on?” 

Eddie didn’t say anything for a couple seconds, continuing to stare upwards, like the answers to all their problems were plastered up on the textured ceiling of their hotel. Unfortunately for both, they weren’t. 

“I feel like all my life I’ve had someone telling me that what I’m doing, who I am, is wrong.” Eddie turned to look at Richie, his lips pressed into a thin line, kind of a sad smile but not quite. “It fucking sucks and I don’t want you to deal with shit like that too, especially after going through the shit we went through in Derry.” 

“Hate to break it to you, Eds, but I deal with verbal abuse on Twitter whether or not I puke during a show and run off the stage.” Richie smiled a little, catching Eddie’s eyes and trying to convey to him that really, he was okay. “Getting called stupid shit on Twitter is nothing compared to what idiots like Bowers called me when we were kids.” 

“Tell me about it,” Eddie grumbled, turning back to looking straight up at the ceiling. 

There was another couple minutes of silence, Eddie continuing to stare up at the ceiling while Richie continued to scroll through his phone, switching to Instagram, which had significantly less hatred towards him, and significantly more mindless cooking videos he could watch and pretend he’d one day attempt. Not that he’d cooked anything more advanced than spaghetti in years.

He tried to focus on the video of a woman making creme brulee, but his mind kept wandering back to Eddie’s comment about people telling him he was wrong his entire life. He wasn’t sure what he meant by that; sure, he could’ve just meant getting bullied as a kid, and was just being dramatic about it, but it sounded more serious than that. There had been an edge to his voice, like a nerve had unintentionally been hit and he was desperately trying to cover up the pain. 

Richie didn’t want to sit around and think about it when Eddie was sitting only a bed away from him. He’d never been one to sit in silence, anyways. 

“What did you mean? About feeling like you’ve always had someone telling you that you’re wrong?” Richie asked, locking his phone and turning back to Eddie. He didn’t miss the way he winced as he asked the question, which just made Richie even more curious as to what the fuck Eddie had meant. 

Eddie didn’t answer right away, instead continuing his staring contest with the ceiling above him. Richie could see, even from across the room, that Eddie was nervous. He was chewing on the inside of his cheek and his hand had taken hold of the blankets he’d yet to pull back, all the while remaining completely silent. Richie was starting to think that Eddie wasn’t going to answer his question, but eventually, he spoke up, his voice quieter than Richie expected. 

“I think I need to tell you something,” Eddie whispered, not making eye contact. 

Richie raised his brow. “Uh, yeah, okay. What’s up?” 

There was another couple few seconds of quiet. Richie could hear Eddie starting to breathe a little heavier, like he would when he was a kid and thought he had asthma. He closed his eyes and clenched tighter to the bedspread underneath him. Richie had no idea what was going through Eddie’s head, but whatever it was, it was causing a storm. 

When Eddie finally spoke, he opened his eyes but refused to look at Richie. “I’m gay.” 

Richie couldn’t speak. He wanted to, God, did he want to. There were a million and one things he wanted to say, one of which was me fucking too, but he couldn’t bring himself to say anything. All he could do was stare at Eddie and let the little pieces of the last thirty some years that he’d known Eddie fall into place like a puzzle. 

If he was being honest, he wasn’t surprised. He knew it was kind of a shitty thing to think after someone just came out to him, but it was true. They’d always had a weird closeness between them, holding hands and cuddling like it was second nature to them. He didn’t know many straight men who were that close with their friends, that was for sure. 

Still, it was a surprise in its own way. Of all the things he’d expected Eddie to tell him, of all the things he expected to come out of a conversation started by him reading stupid tweets, Eddie being gay was the last on the list. 

Richie realized he’d been silent for too long, but he still couldn’t bring himself to speak. Eddie was just staring at him, looking more anxious by the second. “That’s what I meant when I said that I always felt like…” he shook his head a bit and went back to biting his cheek for a second before continuing. “I think my mom knew. Or at least she suspected. She always made these snide remarks about… those people, and told me that they’d make me sick. And then I was with Myra, so I-I couldn’t, you know? I just kept telling myself that it wasn’t true, and that I was wrong, and that my mom was right, but I just… I can’t pretend anymore. It took me almost dying to realize I’m not wrong, I’m just…” 

Eddie took a breath, stopping his nervous rambling. God, did Richie want to say something to comfort him, but he still couldn’t. He didn’t know how to make something better for someone else when he couldn’t even make it better for himself. 

Eddie shook his head a bit and waved his hand, like he was trying to dismiss everything he just said. “Anyways, I’ve never told anyone before, but since I’m moving to L.A. with you, I figured you should know just in case… you know.” 

Richie didn’t know. The only thing he could guess was that Eddie was saying that to make sure that Richie didn’t have a problem with him being gay, as if it wasn’t partially a dream come true, and partially something that broke his heart. Not that fact that he was gay, really, but the fact that Eddie had to live in the closet for his entire life because of his mother, marry a woman when he could never love her, all because he was understandably terrified. Richie knew all too well what that was like. 

“Are you not going to say anything?” Eddie asked, a bite of venom to his voice. Richie didn’t blame him; he’d be pissed too if all someone did was stare at him slack-jaw after he’d told them the most terrifying secret he harbored. 

“Sorry,” Richie said, snapping out of his daze. “Thanks for telling me. And it doesn’t matter to me, you know. It doesn’t change anything.”

It did. It changed everything, but not in the way Eddie was fearing.  

Eddie sighed in relief. “Good. Thanks.” 

There was another couple seconds of awkward silence before Richie asked his next question, watching Eddie not look at him. “How long have you known?” 

“I think forever, basically. I was just scared.” Eddie made this humorless chuckling noise that sounded choked and painful. “God, it’s so fucking pathetic, but… when I was a teenager, I had this whole idea that I was going to leave and move to New York and have this perfect fucking life that I couldn’t have in Derry. I had this whole plan to tell my mom to fuck off, and then I was going to meet this perfect guy, and fall in love, and everything would be this fairytale bullshit…” 

Eddie went quiet for a second, closing his eyes and clutching the bedspread in his fist once again. Richie could imagine what Eddie was going through in his own way, having his own dreams decades back of leaving and being able to be himself. Unfortunately for both, that never panned out. 

Eddie sniffled before going on. “And then I forgot half my childhood, forgot standing up to my mom, and I just… I lost my courage. And I let her convince me to date this woman I didn’t even like, and then I let that woman convince me to marry her, and I fucking wasted half my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t, all because I was fucking terrified and pathetic, and…” 

The longer Eddie spoke, the more heartbroken he sounded. There were tears starting to push their way out of his eyes, and even though he looked like he was attempting to keep them at bay, it was only a matter of time before they made their way out. Richie couldn’t blame him; he knew what he was going through, at least to an extent. He might not have married a woman he didn’t love, but he’d spent his entire life running and hiding from himself, keeping his sexuality a secret for fear of what the world around him would think. 

Richie pushed himself off his bed and went over to Eddie, laying down next to him in a quick motion. Whatever was going on, he wasn’t about to let his best friend lay in the bed across from him, heartbroken and crying. He started to wrap his arms around him, but Eddie jerked back. 

“You don’t have to do this,” he muttered, sniffling and scooting a bit further away from Richie. 

Richie gave him a look, pressing his lips together and reaching out tentatively to put a hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “I’m not doing this because you told me you were gay. I’m doing this because you’re hurting and you’re my best friend and this is what we do.” Eddie softened slightly, so Richie took a chance and brought his hand up to Eddie’s cheek, wiping the tears away with his thumb. “How is this different than you holding me after a nightmare?” 

Eddie nodded a little and scooted back closer to Richie, allowing him to wrap his arms around him and pull him in close. It was the inverse of the other night when Richie had the nightmare of Eddie dying, except this time they were both significantly more lucid, only teetering on exhaustion. 

“You need to stop calling yourself pathetic, man,” Richie murmured, his thumb stroking Eddie’s wet cheeks softly. “What your mom put you through all those years, feeling like you had to marry Myra… that’s not your fault. Being scared is normal. It doesn’t make you pathetic, and it doesn’t mean you lost your courage. You got there eventually. You left her, you came out to someone, and you’re moving across the country to start over. That’s progress.” 

Eddie sniffled and shook his head, though he leaned into Richie’s hand slightly. “Yeah, it only took me almost dying, though.” 

Richie smiled sadly. “You still got there, didn’t you?” 

Eddie sighed but nodded, seeming to give in. He let Richie pull him in closer against his chest, settling them into a similar position to the one they’d been in the last night. They were quiet for a bit, Richie rubbing Eddie’s back, careful not to hit where he’d been injured. He had his chin resting on top of Eddie’s head, one of Eddie’s arms resting loosely at Richie’s waist. He hated that it took one of them breaking down to end up like this, but he was too afraid to say anything to lead them to this point any other way. 

“It’s not all wasted, you know?” Richie eventually said, pulling his head off Eddie’s to look him in the eye. 

Eddie looked at him quizzically. “What do you mean?” 

“You’ve got time to live your life. You can still meet some guy and have that stupid fucking gay fairytale you wanted when you were a kid,” he reassured, trying to smile as he spoke. 

A part of Richie was selfish and didn’t want Eddie to meet someone else. He wanted Eddie to be with him, laying around and watching stupid movies, eating way too much pizza and M&Ms, and sharing milkshakes. He wanted to continue to be the one that wrapped his arms around Eddie when he was upset, to help him change his bandages and hold his hand when he was getting anxious and no longer had the crutch of his inhaler. Richie was selfish and wanted to be the guy that Eddie had that stupid, gay, fairytale love with, but Richie was also scared. He was too scared to tell Eddie that he was gay, even after Eddie had told him that he was too. It wasn’t fair to expect Eddie to wait around for Richie to get his shit together. 

When it came down to it, Richie loved Eddie. Richie loved Eddie more than he’d loved anyone, more than he thought it was possible to love another human being. Loving Eddie was like breathing, so natural that he hadn’t second guessed himself when he’d found himself head over heels for his first love all over again, even twenty-seven year and a hundred forgotten memories later. Richie couldn’t remember a moment in his life that he hadn’t loved Eddie. Even for all those years he didn’t remember him, there was this daydream playing in his head like an old VHS tape. He didn’t remember Eddie, yet in his head played a grainy video of an angry kid who didn’t have asthma yet carried an inhaler around anyways, who let him crawl into his bed at night because he had a nightmare and didn’t want to be alone, who gave him shit constantly but also grabbed his hand and smiled at him as they lay in the grass and watched the stars. 

Richie had never not loved Eddie, and so he supposed that meant he wasn’t allowed to be selfish. If they got to L.A. and Eddie went off and found some guy that made him happy, who didn’t treat him like Myra did, Richie would be happy for him. He’d be heartbroken, but he’d be happy for Eddie, because he supposed that’s what love really was. 

Eddie stared up at Richie for a couple seconds, their eyes locking. Richie felt like his entire body was on fire. He wanted nothing more than to lean down and kiss Eddie, and God, would it be so easy. Their lips were only inches away, so close he could almost taste Eddie’s minty toothpaste, but he couldn’t. There were a million reasons he couldn’t, and he had to list each and every reason to keep himself from kissing him the way he wanted to. 

“I don’t know if I want to meet someone else,” Eddie whispered. He didn’t wait for a response before he leaned back in, pressing his forehead against Richie’s chest, curling back into the warmth of Richie’s body. 

Richie didn’t know what to say, nor did he know exactly what Eddie meant. He didn’t exactly want to investigate it, either, not when Eddie was calming down in his arms. Richie continued to hold him, and he tried his best to build up the courage to open his damn mouth and tell him that he knew what it was like to hide in the closet, but he couldn’t. He’d never said the words out loud, and the thought of it was so damn petrifying that he felt his stomach ache at the mere thought. 

Instead, he let himself fall asleep with Eddie in his arms, dreaming of a life where going to sleep with Eddie in his arms wasn’t something that happened just because one of them were in pain. 

 

 

They detoured into Chicago the next day instead of continuing onto their journey to L.A., deciding to spend a day sightseeing in a place neither of them had spent much time in, since it wasn’t too far out of the way. From their motel in Ohio, it only took them about three hours, of which they spent trying to decide what they wanted to do. There was plenty to do, but that was one of the problems; they couldn’t decide what to do in the limited time that they would be in the windy city. In the end, they decided to start with a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry. 

The museum itself was fucking huge, apparently one of the biggest in the world. It was as good as an excuse as any for them to pick up the pace as they walked past the mirror maze. They’d heard about what had happened to that Bill and that boy, and while neither of them said anything, it was an unspoken agreement that they weren’t about to chance it, even though they knew nothing was there. 

Instead, they made their way around, looking at ships from World War One, going on a way too expensive interactive tour of the U-505 submarine, which they nearly got kicked off due to their inability to act like adults. Eddie blamed Richie, and Richie blamed Eddie, but when it came down to it, they were both at fault for being complete and total idiots, shoving, tripping, and pinching each other during a tour of a submarine that’d been around for over seventy-five years. It reminded Richie of being thirteen and getting separated from Eddie during a class trip to the zoo because they wouldn’t stop yelling at the birds, trying to get them to mimic different curse words. 

Some things never changed. 

 In the end, they wound up at the interactive storm exhibit. It wasn’t as crowded as Richie thought it would be, but then again, it was 11 A.M. on a Wednesday. Kids were in school, parents were at work, and the last place any kid would skip school and hang out at would be a science museum. Other than Richie and Eddie, the only people in the exhibit was an elderly couple, a small group of tourists, and a father with his daughter who couldn’t have been any older than three. It was a nice change of pace from the busy Chicago streets, Richie had to admit. 

“Hey, Eds, look!” Richie called, standing below the Tesla coil. It’d crackled a couple times before as other visitors had set it off, but Eddie had been paying more attention to the tsunami wave tank at the time. Eddie turned, looking over at Richie, who was smirking like he had been the one to discover electricity. The electricity crackled up as lightning erupted around the Tesla coil. As it did, Richie waved his fingers, still grinning ear to ear. “Look, I’m Thor!” 

Eddie rolled his eyes, but there was a smile on his face. “I fucking wish you looked like Chris Hemsworth,” he responded, meeting Richie halfway as they both walked towards the tornado simulator, the only thing they’d yet to look at. “Seriously, this whole trip would be a lot better for me aesthetically.” 

Richie feigned offense, putting his hands to his chest like he’d been wounded. “Rude!” 

“Oh, fuck off, you know I’m right,” Eddie responded, shoving Richie lightly. There was a pleased smirk on his face, and honestly, Richie couldn’t help but feel a little proud of him. It was the closest thing Eddie had gotten to casually talking about his sexuality. It felt like a step in the right direction, not that Richie would know what that was. He had every chance in the world to come out to Eddie the night before, and yet he’d just laid there with him, holding him and comforting him, sharing his fears in his own way. 

They stood behind the father and his daughter for a little while, patiently waiting as he held her up to reach the controls for the tornado. All the while, she giggled and clapped, watching as the vapor rose and swirled around in front of her. Richie wasn’t really paying attention as he waited, instead checking the Losers’ groupchat on his phone. Ben and Beverly were still out on a yacht on a long, frankly overdue, vacation, and Bill was visiting Mike in Florida, apparently recovering from his own divorce. It was nice to see that everyone was moving on in their own way; they all deserved it after what IT had put them through.

Richie looked up to Eddie to ask if he wanted to make a bet on how long it would take Bill and Mike to tell everyone they were boning, when he saw Eddie’s eyes set on the girl and her father. He was watching with a gentleness that Richie hadn’t expected from Eddie, a soft, yet bittersweet smile on his face. Richie didn’t know what to make of it, honestly. Part of him wanted to chalk it up to Eddie just finding the little girl and her dad cute, which, admittedly, they were. Every few seconds the dad would stop to tickle his daughter, or blow a raspberry on her cheek, making her burst out in even more giggles than the tornado caused, but Richie thought there might be more to it than that. Eddie looked too wistful, too sad, to just be finding a normal interaction between a father and daughter cute. 

Still, Richie didn’t want to pry. At least, not in the middle of a museum. He tucked it to the back of his mind, and nudged Eddie in the side, careful not to put too much pressure on him. Eddie looked at him, looking slightly annoyed, but then again, that was nothing new. 

“So, how long do you think it’s gonna take for Mike and Bill to tell us they’re fucking?” 

 

 

“I can’t believe you have a fucking record player,” Eddie muttered under his breath, thumbing through various vinyl’s with varying levels of disinterest. After the museum, they’d stopped for coffee at Eddie’s behest (because clearly the man needed more caffeine), and then went on to a record store, which had been Richie’s idea. There were plenty in L.A. that he went to, but there was something different about going to one out of town, especially one he hadn’t been to before. Eddie thought the whole thing was a bit silly, but he obliged, letting Richie pull him into the shop by his wrist and browsed alongside him, with only minimal, playful, complaints. 

“Oh, c’mon, record players are fucking cool,” Richie responded, looking up from the record in his hand to Eddie. “You used to have one, remember?” 

“Yeah, because it was the eighties, and my mom was stuck in the fifties.” Eddie set down the Elvis record he’d picked up at random before leaning against the display, cup of coffee still in his hand. “It’s 2016, and you’re like, rich. Seriously, you’re somehow, despite not being funny, a successful stand-up comedian, you’ve been on comedy central, you tour all over the country, have fucking merchandise, and you rented the flashiest, most expensive, car the rental company had. You can’t afford a fucking Bluetooth? Or Spotify premium?” 

Richie rolled his eyes. “It’s not about the money, dude. Vinyl’s are just cool. I don’t know, they’re like, collectibles. Like comic books, or whatever.”

“Uh-huh.” Eddie nodded slowly, looking across to the vinyl Richie had in his hand. “So… you went with a Lana Del Rey album?” 

Richie looked down at the Ultraviolence vinyl in his hand before looking back up to Eddie. He looked smug. Bastard. “Fuck you, man. Born to Die is a classic. I have to finish my collection.” 

“Of course, you do,” Eddie said, shaking his head, though he was smiling fondly. Richie couldn’t help but smile back, the playful teasing making him feel warm inside. Bickering about music taste had been the one thing that seemed to be a constant between them, whether they were thirteen and going back and forth between The Cure or Bowie, or forty and fighting about Lana Dey Rey in the middle of a record store, it was something strangely comforting. 

Richie gave a cursory look around the store. Frank Sinatra was crooning along in the background on a Bluetooth speaker, which seemed kind of ironic for a record store, but whatever. Other than that, it was nice. There were knickknacks everywhere, just cute enough to not be tacky, a lamp in the shape of Elvis’ head, and a vintage-esque decor. The best part was that there was a fairly good selection of records; he knew, despite Eddie’s bitchiness, there would be something amongst the albums he would enjoy. He looked back at Eddie, who was back to sipping his coffee and looking down at his phone, before leaning over the display like Eddie had previously. 

“Pick something out,” Richie instructed. 

“You’re kidding?”

Richie shook his head. “Nah, c’mon, there’s gotta be something in here you like.” 

“Yeah, I’m sure there’s plenty,” Eddie responded. “And I can find it all on Spotify.” He lifted his phone up and waved it, as if Richie didn’t know what Spotify was. 

Richie rolled his eyes and pushed himself off the shelf. If Eddie wasn’t going to pick something out, he was going to pick something out for him. “I’m paying for it, fuckface, just pick something out.” 

Again, with minimal complaint, Eddie went on to look for something to buy. After about ten minutes of careful consideration, he settled on Bella Donna, bringing it to Richie with some amount of satisfaction.

Richie chuckled without meaning to. “Stevie Nicks? Man, you are gay.”

Eddie shoved Richie, nearly knocking him into a lamp that was shaped like Elvis’ head. “Dude, you’re literally buying a Lana Del Rey album on vinyl. I don’t want to hear it.” 

Richie felt his chest tighten at that simple comment. He knew Eddie didn’t mean anything by it, and he had been the one that started it, but that didn’t change the fact that he got a jolt of fear at the thought of anyone, even Eddie, knowing. He wished he could push that feeling down instead of pushing his sexuality down, but he’d spent his entire life hiding. It was so much fucking easier to hide than to tell Eddie his secret, even when Eddie had the exact same damn secret. 

He wished he could’ve made it make sense, but he couldn’t. All he knew was that he was so used to keeping his secret that the thought of telling anyone scared him beyond words. Eddie didn’t seem to notice his fear, which just proved how good he’d gotten at hiding over the years. He let out a breath and nudged Eddie’s shoulder playfully, trying to act as normal as possible. 

“Hey, now you’ll have something to listen to when we’re in L.A.,” he said, ignoring the shaking feeling in his stomach and forcing a smile on his lips. He had to admit, the thought of Eddie listening to his Stevie Nicks vinyl on his record player calmed his nerves slightly. 

Eddie smiled and held his vinyl to his chest. “Can’t fucking wait.” 

 

 

There wasn’t a lot of discussion about what they were having for lunch. They were in Chicago, after all, deep-dish pizza seemed like the only choice for tourists. After walking around for a while, seeing the sights and taking just as many pictures and selfies as any normal tourist would, they settled on a place for a late lunch. 

They sat down, bickered on what to order, and eventually settled on a regular extra-cheese deep dish pizza. Richie’s attempt to get Eddie to try pineapple on his pizza hadn’t fallen on deaf ears, but instead, fell on very angry, opinionated ears, who was apparently incredibly against pineapple on pizza. Richie added getting Eddie to try pineapple on pizza to his mental bucket list, somewhere between go to Hawaii and tell Eddie I’ve been madly in love with him since I was thirteen fucking years old. 

Hawaii seemed more likely than either of those, at this point. 

Once the pizza came out, they dug in, sitting in a comfortable silence with their food. Richie’s mind ran through the last couple hours, between waking up with Eddie pressed against his chest, the museum, the record store, and walking around Chicago taking pictures of everything and anything. Or, okay, in Richie’s case, mostly of Eddie. He wondered if he could get away with setting one as the home screen to his phone; it wasn’t like anyone other than him saw his phone. 

He pushed that to the side, and thought back to the museum, bringing the thought of Eddie watching the father and his daughter from the back of his mind to the forefront. He didn’t want to look too much into it at the time, but he had to admit, it was strange. Eddie hadn’t said anything, but he almost looked like he’d lost something. 

Richie figured now, in the middle of this Chicago pizza parlor, was as good a time as any to ask Eddie what the hell was going on back there. 

“Hey, can I ask you something?” Richie looked up from his pizza to Eddie, who was taking a sip of his coke. 

“Sure, I guess.” 

“I saw you smiling while looking at that dad and his daughter at the museum earlier,” Richie started. Eddie’s face twisted into something awkward, like he’d been caught stealing a cookie before dinner. He tried to brush it off, but Richie knew him too well. 

“That isn’t a question, dickwad.” Eddie pushed his coke back across the table and started to pick up his pizza, but he didn’t bring it to his lips. Instead, he looked back to Richie, like he knew he wasn’t about to drop the subject. Richie wasn’t the only one who knew the other too well. “I don’t know what you want me to say, she was a cute kid and he was a cute dad.” 

Richie bit his lip momentarily before deciding to go for it, ask the question he’d considered but hadn’t really wanted to ask, because it’d seemed too personal. Whatever, they’d woken up in each other’s arms twice on this trip after crying over various traumas, what was one question? 

“Did you and Myra ever talk about having kids? Or try having kids?” he asked. He half expected Eddie to snap at him, because really, it was none of his business, Richie was fully aware of that. Instead, Eddie just stared at him for a couple seconds, not much emotion on his face other than a quiet resignation, before sighing and taking another sip of his coke. 

“No, we didn’t. Myra hated kids… like, with a passion. And even if she didn’t…” Eddie went silent, looking away from Richie. He shook his head, like he’d said too much, even though he hadn’t said nearly enough for Richie’s liking. 

“‘Even if she didn’t,’ what?” 

Eddie looked back at Richie after a couple seconds of mindlessly looking off into the distance. Richie noticed he had his eyes on the highchairs stacked in the corner; he couldn’t tell if that was a coincidence or not. When he finally spoke, it was a quiet, shaky, noise. Richie was starting to feel guilty for bringing this up, but it was too late to back down now. 

“I would’ve been too scared.” 

“Of what?” 

Eddie huffed out an incredulous laugh, looking at Richie like he was the stupidest person he’d ever encountered. “C’mon, man, what do you think of what?” 

Richie shrugged, looking at Eddie with sincerity in his eyes. “I dunno. Tell me.” 

Eddie sighed and put his hand down on the table, pushing his pizza away from him. Richie had clearly ruined his appetite with this line of questioning. “Look at who I married and how she treated me. How do you think she would’ve treated a kid?” He paused for a second, looking down at his hands. He no longer had a wedding ring to twist, so now he was tapping his fingers nervously to a beat that didn’t exist on the table. “And even if I wasn’t afraid of that… I… God, Richie, I would’ve just turned out like my mom. I know I would.” 

“Hey, no, fuck no, don’t say that,” Richie said, too quick to be able to form any coherent and comforting thought. All he knew was that Eddie would never turn into his mother. He understood where the fear came from, and he would never blame Eddie for being afraid of it, but God, it was the furthest thing from the truth. Sonia was stifling, controlling, manipulative, and downright abusive, and Eddie was… fuck, Eddie was the love of Richie’s life. He wasn’t perfect, he had his flaws, but who the fuck didn’t? Eddie might’ve had some pent-up anger, might’ve been high strung, but that was nothing. He was also kind, and loving, and brave, and everything good in the world, as far as Richie was concerned. 

Richie took a breath as Eddie’s eyes came up to slowly meet his. He needed to do something more than say fuck no, so he reached over and put his hand on Eddie’s tapping fingers. “Eds, you’ll never turn into that bitch. Never, ever, not in a million fucking years.” 

Eddie breathed out a slight, unbelieving, noise, and looked away. “You don’t know that.” 

“Yeah, I do know that,” Richie responded, keeping his hand on Eddie’s. He wanted to lock their fingers together like they had in the car the other day, but he was too afraid, so instead he just kept his hand there to keep Eddie from fidgeting so much. “You’re nothing like her. You’ve never been anything like her. You’re caring, and kind, and attentive, and…” the love of my life, you’re the love of my fucking life. “You’re everything any kid could want in a parent. Even when you’re being a bitch, you’re still the best person I know.” 

Eddie laughed quietly, looking back at Richie with a softness in his eyes. Richie added the moment to one of the million other times he wanted to kiss Eddie and moved on. “Seriously, Eddie. You’d be a great dad.” 

“Thanks, Rich,” Eddie whispered, breathing out a sigh of relief. It was followed by a short, but sad, press of Eddie’s lips together, and a little shake of his head. “It doesn’t really matter, though, I guess. It’s too late, now.” 

“Bullshit, not it’s not,” Richie said, leaning back in his chair. He hadn’t realized until then, but he’d been leaning towards Eddie, not ridiculously close, but just close enough that he noticed when the tension was starting to relieve. “If you want kids, have kids. You don’t even have to get married. Fuck all that. It’s the twenty-first century, man. There are plenty of single moms and dads and shit out there. What matters is you’re happy and doing what you want and living the life you want for the first time in your fucking life.” 

Eddie nodded, his hand fidgeting under Richie’s. He thought maybe he wanted his hand back, but he didn’t. Unlike Richie, Eddie didn’t seem so scared to lace their fingers together. Richie gulped, but he didn’t do or say anything, other than acknowledge the fact that his heart was beating ten times faster than normal at the thought of holding Eddie’s hand in public. 

Realistically, a fan, or paparazzi, or just some random person who recognized him could walk in and that would be it for him, which made him want to pull his hand back. But then he caught the smile on Eddie’s face, felt the way his thumb started to stroke a gentle line across his hand, and he thought twice. 

“Yeah, well, I’m not ready for any of that anytime soon. Maybe I’ll just get a cat for the time being.” 

Richie nodded and smiled. “Hell yeah, man, let’s get a fucking cat.” 

Eddie squinted at Richie in confusion for half a second. “Let’s get a cat? As in, both of us get a cat?” 

Richie shrugged. “Yeah, I mean, you’re living with me when we get to L.A., right? Let’s get a fucking cat, dude. You can name it whatever the fuck you want, even something stupid like Kevin, or Colin. I don’t care. Just like, don’t name it Marshmallow or… I don’t know. Walnut. I don’t want my cat to have a food name. That’s fucking weird.” 

“I don’t even know where to start with that,” Eddie deadpanned. After a second, a smile cracked through the stoic face he’d been trying to pull. “No but, I really appreciate you letting me stay with you. I won’t stay long, just until I find a job and get on my feet, and—”

“So what? You’re just going to stay with me, adopt a cat with me, and then leave me to be a single cat dad? Or even worse, we’re going to get into a fucking cat custody battle?” Richie pouted as he fell back in his chair dramatically. “I’ll be heartbroken.” 

Eddie laughed and squeezed Richie’s hand, hard, but not hard enough to get Richie to let go. “Fuck off, I’m serious.” 

Richie sat up, still smiling but trying to look serious again. “So am I. You can stay with me as long as you need. It’s really no trouble at all, I don’t mind.” He paused for a moment, looked down to their hands, fingers still laced together as Eddie continued to rub a gentle line against Richie’s hand, before deciding, fuck it, might as well be vulnerable in this fucking pizza parlor. “Besides, I get kinda lonely. Having someone living with me would be nice.” Especially if it’s you. “Especially if it’s you.” 

Oh, fuck, he hadn’t meant to say that out loud. 

Fuck. 

Eddie nodded and grinned, looking over at Richie with none of the sadness he’d had in his eyes previously. Richie took a little pride in that. “I’ll just make sure to move out by the time I decide to have my 2.5 kids.” 

Richie chuckled, because he knew Eddie was joking, but God, it was so fucking ironic, because Eddie had been the other half of every stupid, childish, suburban dream he’d had as a teenager, even when he thought the idea of two men living together, married with kids, was impossible. Hell, he still thought it was impossible, at least for him. 

Still, it was something to think about, to keep in the back of his mind and daydream about while holding Eddie’s hand. 

Some things never changed. 

 

 

“Do you remember senior prom?” Eddie asked from where he lay across his bed, head upside down to face Richie, laying in the exact same position on his own bed. They’d gotten slightly tipsy on hotel minibar booze after their little day trip to Chicago. It was the first time either of them had gotten drunk since the Jade, and having fucking eyeballs and bats coming out of their goddamn fortune cookies had been an all too sobering experience. Sitting around their hotel room, only slightly drunk on overpriced cocktails, was a much warmer feeling than sitting around the table at the Jade, Richie had to admit. 

Richie nodded, his head light and buzzing. “Fuck, yeah, of course I do.” 

“You went with…” Eddie paused, his face screwing into a deep look of concentration. “Fuck, what was her name?” 

Richie closed his eyes, trying to remember back to prom night. He couldn’t for the life of him remember his date’s name. “Uh. Kristen?” 

Eddie shook his head a bit, like he didn’t think that was right. “Krystal?” 

“Karter?” 

“Kylie?” 

“Fuck, I don’t know, man, it started with a K, at least we can agree on that,” Richie muttered. Eddie laughed, and Richie smiled, eyes opening to set back on Eddie’s brown eyes, staring at him like he was the most interesting thing in the world. He chalked that up to the alcohol. “I remember that you fucking went alone, though.” 

“Fuck you, dude, who the fuck was I supposed to go with? I was a gay seventeen-year-old kid in fucking Derry. There was no way I was asking anyone to go with me,” Eddie retorted. Richie held back the comment of, yeah, me too, dickwad, and instead rolled his eyes. “Besides, I only went because Bill and Stan made me, and because my mom wanted pictures of me in a suit.” 

“Dude, that is so fucking weird.” 

Eddie threw a balled-up chip bag from earlier at Richie’s head. It missed, but it was the thought that counted. “Shut up.” 

Richie made a half attempt at flipping Eddie off, all the while thinking back to that night twenty-three years ago. It was so ridiculously long ago, something he hadn’t thought about in years, and not just because his memories had been stolen by a fucking psychopathic clown, but because what was the fucking point in a forty-year-old looking back on his goddamn prom night? He didn’t remember his date’s name, didn’t even remember if he was dating her or had just asked her at random; either way, it would’ve been some attempt to hide the fact that he was gay, something he’d been aware of yet refusing to admit, always trying to masquerade.

He remembered going home with her that night. He remembered her smiling and telling him her parents were in Wisconsin visiting her grandparents and they had the house to themselves. He remembered kissing her under the stars outside her house. He remembered pulling away, looking into her soft hazel eyes, at her mid-length short, wavy, brown hair, and thinking that she should be everything he wanted in a girl. Yet, he also remembered feeling something wrong deep down in his stomach, clawing at him like it was trying to escape from the inside out. He remembered stuttering out an apology, something about a nonexistent curfew, before bolting away from her in the opposite direction of his house. He remembered hating himself for not being able to make it work with that girl, because the whole time he’d been kissing her, he’d been thinking of Eddie, wondering what it would be like to kiss him instead of some girl he barely even knew. 

Richie shook the thoughts to the back of his head. He might’ve been miserable after prom, but the entire night hadn’t been terrible. Both Bev and Mike were able to come to prom, Bev coming as Bill’s (platonic) date, and Mike sneaking in through one of the locker rooms with the help of Bill and Ben. It wasn’t often that the whole group got to spend a night together in a somewhat formal setting, and while Derry High’s prom had been a far cry from a glamorous event, it was enough for them. 

Richie smiled, thinking back on the memories of his friends enjoying their prom. He remembered Eddie raiding the snack table with Mike, giggling at each other’s cupcake icing mustaches. He remembered Eddie dancing like an idiot to cheesy music with Bev, their fingers laced together as they spun each other around. He remembered Eddie pestering Bill to try the punch before he did because he was certain that someone had spiked it. He remembered Eddie tossing chips at Stan, who was desperately trying to flirt with a date he’d actually been interested in, unlike Richie. He remembered Eddie quietly playing matchmaker and getting Ben and Beverly to slow dance together, claiming that he was ‘too tired’ to dance, and that Bev should go dance with Ben instead. 

Okay, come to think of it, most of his prom memories were of Eddie. Somehow, that didn’t surprise him. He remembered how much he’d wanted to dance with Eddie, too, and there was a part of him that was furious that he had to take some girl who’s name he’d forgotten instead of Eddie and gotten the perfect prom night he deserved. 

Richie didn’t want to think about that anymore. There was no point in getting worked up about something from the past, especially considering how utterly impossible it would’ve been for him and Eddie to go to prom together. So, instead of thinking about it any further, he sat up, only a little shaky, and grabbed the bottle of wine sitting on the table next to his bed and took a long sip. 

“Can I admit something?” Eddie asked after a while of silence. 

Richie put the bottle back down in its place and laid back down in his earlier position, mirroring Eddie, who now looked a bit nervous. “Shit, again? Is this gonna be our thing now?” 

“Shut up.” Eddie was quiet for a second before shaking his head. “Never mind, it’s stupid.” 

“Nah, you gotta tell me now, man.” 

Eddie scoffed. “Like hell I do.” 

Richie pouted the best he could considering he was hanging upside down. “Pleeeeeeeeaaaaaaassssseeeee,” he pleaded, drawing it out in the most annoying way he could, which considering it was Richie, was pretty damn annoying. 

Instead of answering, Eddie grabbed a pillow, and right as Richie expected to be pelted with it, he covered his face with it. “Fuck off.” 

“C’mon, Eddie Spaghetti, tell meeee. Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me! Pleeeease, please, please, please, please—”

“Oh my God, okay! Jesus, has anyone ever told you how fucking annoying you are?” Eddie asked, pulling the pillow away from his face, glaring over at Richie. Despite his expression, there was a slight blush across his cheeks; Richie wasn’t sure if he should attribute that to the alcohol or not. 

Richie smirked. “You. Like every day for about thirteen years.” 

Eddie rolled his eyes and moved the pillow to lay across his stomach, bunching his hands up around the fabric, averting his gaze away from Richie. “I kinda wanted to dance with you, okay?” 

Richie felt his heart drop into his stomach and lost the ability to breathe all at once, because Good Lord, that was some sort of sick joke. His best friend, the same one who he’d been in love with since he was thirteen, had wanted to dance with him at their fucking prom, just like Richie had wanted.

“Really?” It was the only thing Richie was able to choke out, because his heart was too busy beating so fast, he felt like it might explode. 

“Yeah.” Eddie nodded, loosening his grip on the pillow on his stomach for a moment before bunching up in the lilac purple fabric. “I mean, you were my best friend. Bev was dancing with Ben and Mike, and Stan was dancing with his date, Bill was dancing with… well, everyone, and they all looked like they were having so much fun.” Eddie shrugged a bit, his shoulders rolling against the bed. “It’s stupid, I know, but I was a dumb, sad, gay, seventeen-year-old who was a pissed off that everyone got to dance with someone they liked at prom, and I didn’t.” 

Eddie stopped and looked over at Richie, who by the way, was absolutely not breathing at this point. He wasn’t sure if it was just poor, drunk, wording on Eddie’s part, or if he’d just admitted that he’d liked him as a kid. He swallowed hard around a lump in his throat, trying to get himself to say something, anything, but before he could, Eddie started to speak again. “It would’ve been nice if I could’ve at least danced with my best friend, you know? I would’ve felt… safe, I guess.” 

Richie took a deep breath and bit down on his lip, maybe a little too hard, but that was the least of his problems. “I did too, you know.” 

Eddie narrowed his eyes at Richie. “What do you mean?” 

“I wanted to dance with you too,” Richie admitted. If he couldn’t breathe and his heart was beating too fast before, he was going into cardiac arrest now. 

Eddie exhaled and went back to grasping at the pillow on his lap. “You don’t have to say that because you feel bad for me.” 

Richie shook his head, too fast, but again, he didn’t care. “I’m not, I promise.” 

The idea of Richie saying that he’d wanted to dance with Eddie out of pity was ridiculous to him. He’d wanted to dance with Eddie more than anything. He’d wanted to go home with him instead of his date, for fuck’s sake. Had he known Eddie wanted to dance with him back then… 

He didn’t know what he would’ve done. It would’ve been easy to say he would’ve danced with him, but the fact of the matter was, they lived in Derry fucking Maine. Even if they’d just been playfully dancing together, not pressed up against each other like most of the couples at prom had been, someone would’ve said, or done something. But just knowing that Eddie had wanted to dance with him, if only because he was his best friend and Eddie felt safe with him, it filled Richie with a warmness that he knew wasn’t the fault of the alcohol. 

They were silent for a couple seconds until Richie felt a rush of bravery. He might not have been able to do it twenty-three years ago in a room with a bunch of sweaty teenagers in Derry, but he could do it now in their hotel room in fucking Iowa, tipsy on hotel mini bar booze and cheap wine. He pushed himself up from the bed, grabbed his phone, opened Spotify, and scrolled through his albums with an urgency that he’d never had upon choosing a song before. 

“What the fuck are you doing?” Eddie asked, rolling over enough so that he wasn’t looking at Richie upside down anymore. 

Richie finally settled on a song and walked over to Eddie, pressing play on his phone before setting it down next to Eddie’s bed. Old Money by Lana Del Rey started humming from Richie’s phone, soft but loud enough for both of them to hear. “Dance with me.” 

Eddie looked at Richie like he was insane, and okay, maybe he was. He was standing in front of Eddie in a hotel in Iowa, with a Lana Del Rey song playing in the background, his hand out like he was fucking Walmart brand prince charming in an unbutton Hawaiian pullover, slightly tipsy after having a conversation about wanting to dance with each other at their fucking prom twenty-three years ago. Richie was well-aware he was insane, and that asking Eddie to dance to a song that was slow, sad, and romantic, could only lead to disaster, but God, he didn’t fucking care. He’d spent his entire life caring, being so fucking afraid of every single normal, human, emotion he’d had for other men, feeling overwrought with guilt and self-hatred every time he as much as looked at another man, much less kissed or slept with one. 

If he wanted to dance with Eddie, he was going to dance with Eddie. There was no one stopping them. No one but themselves. 

“Dude, I’m not fucking dancing with you to Lana Del Rey,” Eddie said, looking over at Richie’s phone for half a second before looking back to Richie. “This is ridiculous.” 

“It’s my hotel room, I get to pick the slow dance music,” Richie joked, smiling with his hand still out in Eddie’s direction. He tried to hide the fact that his hand was shaking, but he didn’t do a very good job. “Come on, Eds. We didn’t get to dance together in high school. We can do it now. No one’s going to harass us here… except maybe the bed bugs.” 

Eddie groaned, but took Richie’s hand and let himself be pulled up nonetheless. “Don’t even joke about that.” 

Richie was beaming as he pulled Eddie up and away from the beds, over to the open space in front of the TV. He didn’t want to waste any more time bickering before the song ended, so he wrapped his arms around Eddie’s waist, careful not to hit where he’d been stabbed. It had healed well, but still Richie wanted to be as careful as Eddie was. 

Eddie was slow to match Richie’s pace, but after a second, he moved his arms to wrap around Richie’s neck. “I’ve never done this before, so… sorry if I suck, or whatever,” Eddie muttered, swaying in time with the crooning in the background. 

“You didn’t have a first dance at your wedding?” Richie asked, because clearly, he wanted to think about Myra right now. 

“I got married at a courthouse, dickhead,” Eddie grumbled. Richie didn’t mention that there was no way of him knowing that, mostly because he didn’t want to think about Eddie’s soon to be ex-wife any longer than he had to. Instead, he continued to sway with Eddie, neither of them particularly graceful, but neither caring much either. 

“This song is sad as shit, why did you pick it?” Eddie asked after a second, eyes flickering up to meet Richie’s. 

Richie opened his mouth to say something stupid, or smart, or dismissive, but instead, the truth came out. “It makes me think of you.”

Eddie blinked a couple times, looking at Richie with those big brown eyes he’d fallen in love with so long ago. He was so close he could feel his breath on his lips, and fuck, it was intoxicating. 

“Rich…” Eddie whispered, lips so close to Richie’s he was afraid they’d accidentally bump together. Richie could think of worse accidents, though. 

Eddie didn’t continue. Instead, he leaned in enough that their chests were pressed against each other, his forehead resting against Richie’s cheek, continuing to sway back and forth, around in a circle with him as the song played in the background. Richie didn’t know what to make of it, all he knew was that this was all he’d dreamed of for… fuck, forever. Ever since he’d been a kid and knew what love was, this was what he’d wanted. He’d wanted to slow dance in the dark with him, wanted to hold his hand and make him laugh, wanted all the little things they already did, but with the knowledge that he and Eddie held a piece of each other in the way only people who loved each other did. 

Richie thought back on the last couple days. Things with them had always teetered on the line between friendship and something too close to be considered platonic, but the longer they spent alone, cramped together in Richie’s rental car and hotels, the further they got from Derry, the more intense it got. Richie had lost count of how many times either he or Eddie had taken the other’s hand, whether for comfort or just to pull the other in the opposite direction. Their conversations ranged from playful bickering to soft, heartfelt, serious topics that ended with Richie’s heart in his throat and Eddie looking at Richie like he was made of something special. 

More importantly, twice in three days had they woken up in each other’s arms, clutching onto each other like they were lifelines. It couldn’t just be because they were particularly close best friends. 

The longer Richie looked back on it, pouring through their days spent together like chapters in a book he’d helped write, all while swaying in time with a song that reminded him of the boy he’d fallen in love with twenty-seven years ago, the more he had to believe that it wasn’t just him. It made him want to say screw it . For once in his life, he wanted to just scream fuck it! and allow himself, and Eddie too, some semblance of happiness. They deserved that. God, did they deserve that. 

The song ended, going into a different song from the album, but Richie didn’t care enough to pay attention to which song was playing. As Eddie pulled away from him, staring at him with the same hesitance to pull away that Richie had, Richie let himself be brave once again. 

In a quick but gentle motion, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Eddie’s. His lips were soft and tasted like honey Chapstick and strawberry daiquiris from the bar, and suddenly, Richie felt like he was drowning and floating all at once. 

It didn’t last nearly as long as Richie had dreamed it would. Eddie kissed back, soft and startled, but only for a second. After that quick, miraculous, second that Richie felt like he was on cloud nine, Eddie pushed him away, taking a step back from him. The soft, smiling, Eddie from before was gone, now glaring at Richie like he’d just set his house on fire. 

“You… no, you can’t…. You don’t get to do that,” Eddie snapped, his hands shaking as he pointed in Richie’s direction. “You don’t get to kiss me, Richie! You-you don’t get to fuck with me like that!” 

“What?” Richie tried, his voice hoarse. He didn’t know what he’d expected after kissing Eddie, but this hadn’t been it, not even slightly. “Eddie, I’m not fucking with you, I—”

“No, Richie, fuck you! Fuck you!” Eddie screamed, his voice getting louder as he pushed passed Richie and stormed across the room towards the bathroom. He turned around halfway, shooting Richie another look of pure rage. “God, I don’t need your fucking pity, don’t you get that yet? I get it, I’ve had a sad, shitty, life! But just because I’m fucking gay doesn’t mean you can kiss me and make it go all away! That’s not how this fucking works, Richie!” 

“Eddie, stop, I’m not—”

Fuck you, Richie!” Eddie yelled, cutting him off before he could even attempt to explain himself. Richie wanted to tell Eddie that wasn’t what he was doing, not by a longshot, but he didn’t get the chance. Before he could get anything out, Eddie had slammed the door to the bathroom, so hard and loud the picture frames on the walls jumped in their place. 

Richie stood motionless in place, staring at the door Eddie had just disappeared through. He wanted to follow him, but he knew it wouldn’t help. Eddie was too angry, and even if he wasn’t, Richie didn’t even know what to say. All he knew was that the one time he’d convinced himself to be brave, to make a leap and not be so fucking terrified, he’d majorly fucked up. 

He didn’t know what he expected.  

 

 

They don’t speak the next morning. They don’t even stop for breakfast, just grabbed stale muffins in the hotel lobby and got back on the road, refusing to say anything to each other unless they absolutely had too. In Richie’s case, it was because he was afraid he might upset Eddie further, or break what already seemed beyond repair, but in Eddie’s case, it seemed like he was just too furious at Richie to speak to him. 

So, they drove in silence. They didn’t joke around in the car, nor did they play music, or play stupid road games to keep themselves occupied. It was utterly silent, save for the road noise and the occasional chattering of Richie’s GPS, telling him which exit to take. It was miserable, the silence deafening and sickening all at once. With each passing minute that turned into hours, Richie found himself hating himself more and more for kissing Eddie the night before. Along with hating himself, he was angry, not just at himself, but at Eddie too. 

If Eddie didn’t want to kiss him, that was fine. It sucked, but it was fine. Richie would live through that, even if it was fucking heartbreaking. It was more the way he reacted, pushing him away and hurling accusations of him fucking with him, or taking pity on him, or some shit like that. It was bullshit, and Richie wanted to let Eddie know that, but frankly, he was afraid he’d get his head bitten off if he as much as spoke to him. 

The longer they drove, the longer Richie had to think about it. At the end, he concluded that he must’ve misjudged the last couple days in his tipsy state, caught up in the euphoria of dancing with Eddie, pressed against him like it meant something. To Eddie, it clearly didn’t, that’s why he reacted so poorly when Richie had kissed him. It sucked, but Richie decided to resign himself to it. He’d figure out a way to apologize later when Eddie felt like talking to him again. His heart was broken and all that stupid shit, but he could push that down and ignore it like he’d been ignoring the fact that he was gay, that he was in love with his best friend, etc. for so long. As long as Eddie was still in his life, he’d be okay.

Losing Eddie as a friend was too terrifying of an idea to even consider. 

 

 

They were in the car for almost nine hours straight. They took breaks to walk around and eat, of course, but still, it had to be the tensest nine hours of Richie’s life. When they checked into their hotel that night around ten, Eddie almost immediately dropped his things off on his bed and took off without a word. Richie couldn’t blame him, they’d been cooped up together all day, but still, it hurt to watch him throw his shit on the bed next to his and take off without a word. 

Richie gave it a good fifteen minutes before he left the room. He knew where Eddie was, just because Eddie was mad at him didn’t stop Richie from knowing him, but he wanted to give him some space before confronting him. All he could do was hope that Eddie was ready to talk and didn’t tell Richie to fuck off the second he caught sight of him. 

The pool was closed already, but that didn’t stop Richie from hoping the surprisingly short gate (something that would have been a lot easier twenty years ago) that surrounded the pool. He wasn’t surprised in the slightest when the first thing he saw was Eddie, sitting at the edge of the pool with his pants legs rolled up and his feet kicking absentmindedly in the water. The pool was the closest thing they had to a quarry, and despite the quarry being a disgusting, germ infested cesspool (Eddie’s words, not Richie’s) it always brought Eddie some form of comfort, Richie knew that. That’s why he’d always found him there when they were kids, skipping stones or sitting with his feet in the water. 

Richie didn’t say anything as he approached Eddie. Like Eddie, he rolled up his pants legs, and sat down next to him, letting his long legs dangle in the water next to Eddie’s. He didn’t make any attempt to leave or tell Richie to fuck off, so Richie took that as a win. 

The silence continued for another minute or so before Richie convinced himself to speak. 

“I’m sorry I kissed you,” he whispered, looking down at the water. The moonlight was shining off it in a way that should’ve been romantic, if not for the fact he was almost certain Eddie wanted nothing to do with him romantically. He’d be okay with that with time, as long as Eddie still wanted to be in his life. He didn’t think Eddie would want to stop being his friend just because of one stupid kiss, though. They’d been through too much together. 

Eddie didn’t say anything back for a couple seconds, continuing to kick his feet underwater. When he did speak, his voice was quiet and methodical. “Do you remember when we were seventeen, right before senior year started, and we got drunk on that shit Mike stole from his uncle? And we all went swimming in the quarry at night even though I thought it was shitty idea?’ Richie raised his brow slightly, not knowing where Eddie was going, but nodding nonetheless. 

Eddie swallowed hard and looked up, not at Richie, but straight ahead across the pool to the patch of shrubbery near the fence. “You kept picking me up and throwing me in the water, and I kept pretending to hate it, so you’d keep doing it, because you were so fucking obnoxious, and I knew you’d keep doing it if you thought I hated it. But every time you picked me up and threw me, I felt… I felt like I was in heaven.” 

Eddie chuckled a little, reaching his hand in the water and splashing some of the water upwards, not at anything in particular. “And then you threw me, and I swallowed too much water and I couldn’t breathe, and you started to really freak out, and you were acting like I was about to die. And the whole time Bill was slapping my back to get me to spit the water out, you were just… holding me in the goddamn water while I was coughing. And when I could finally breathe again, you were still holding me and looking at me all worried, and my first thought wasn’t I’m going to fucking kill this idiot, or some shit like that, it was… God, I want to kiss him. ” 

Eddie finally turned to look at Richie, and Richie can see tears shining in his eyes. He looked fucking terrified and heartbroken, and Richie didn’t know what to say or do, so he just sat there and stared at Eddie with his hand gripping tight to the side of the pool. 

“Rich, I’ve wanted to kiss you since I was… God, before I was seventeen. I don’t remember not wanting to kiss you. But… I didn’t want it to be out of pity. I didn’t want you to look at your poor, sad, gay best friend who was stuck in a loveless marriage with a woman for eight years and think, ‘wow, this poor idiot must’ve never kissed another guy before, I might as well throw him a fucking bone.’ I didn’t want it to be like that.” 

Eddie sniffled and rubbed his eyes before looking back out into the distance. He looked broken and resigned, just like Richie felt earlier in the car. “Look, it’s fine. I’m not mad at you. You didn’t know. There’s no way you could’ve known how I feel, so it’s not on you, alright? I just… I didn’t want it to be like that. I didn’t want false hope.” 

Richie was awestruck, staring at Eddie like he’d just hit him upside the head with a ton of bricks. Hell, he might as well have. He didn’t know what to think, much less feel. He’d just resigned himself to the idea that Eddie didn’t feel the same, only for Eddie to tell him that he’d wanted to kiss him since before he was seventeen. For the millionth time that week, Richie felt his heart in his throat. 

“What do you mean?” Richie asked, voice shaky as he continued to grip tightly to the side of the pool. 

Eddie sighed and looked over to Richie once again, his face mixed with annoyance, exhaustion, and heartbreak. “C’mon, man, don’t make me spell it out. Connect the fucking dots between I’m gay and I’ve wanted to kiss you since before I was seventeen. I get that you were just… being you. But it-it meant something to me, okay? And I get that it didn’t for you, but—” 

Richie shook his head and reached over, hesitantly putting his hand on Eddie’s leg. Eddie stopped speaking, his eyes falling to the hand on his leg and moving back up to Richie. “Eds…” Richie started, his voice still shaky. It was now or never, he knew that. He couldn’t keep holding this back. “Eds, I didn’t kiss you out of pity, or because I wanted to throw you a bone, or some stupid shit like that. I kissed you because I wanted to kiss you. Because I’ve wanted to kiss you for as long as I can remember but I was always too fucking afraid.” 

It was Eddie’s turn to look awestruck, apparently. “You… what?” 

Richie took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a moment, and steadied himself. “I’m gay.” The world didn’t collapse in on him, IT didn’t come out from the sewers and sing that damn song at him, and Eddie only looked at him with the normal amount of surprise one would expect. Richie took that as a good sign and went on. “I should’ve told you the other night when you told me you were. Hell, I should’ve told you twenty-seven years ago when I realized how I felt about you, but… I was scared. I’ve always been scared, so I’ve never told anyone. Not really, not in so many words. Bev figured it out on her own, and fuck, Stan probably knew because Stan fucking knew everything, but I’ve never said it out loud.” 

Richie felt a weight fall from his chest after he finished speaking. He knew telling one person, even if that one person was the man he was in love with (who apparently felt the same way) wouldn’t fix decades of repression and fear, but just saying the words out loud felt… right. There was a light feeling of relief that bubbled inside him, and for the first time in his life, he didn’t feel so terrible and guilty. 

“Thank you for telling me,” Eddie responded, voice gentle. He covered Richie’s hand with his own, his thumb going back to that stroking motion Richie found so comforting. 

Richie nodded, smiling sadly. “I’m sorry it took so long.” 

“Shut up, no more apologizing,” Eddie said, giving Richie’s fingers a gentle squeeze. “I’m fucking tired of feeling sorry for shit I couldn’t control.” 

“I—”

Richie didn’t get to finish whatever it was he was planning on saying, because Eddie was leaning in and pressing his lips against Richie’s. Unlike the first kiss, it didn’t last for a just a drunken second or two, for which Richie was immensely grateful. He had time to move his hand up to cup the side of Eddie’s cheek, scar from Bowers’ knife fading more with each day. It was perfect, and it left Richie breathless, and he thought maybe he heard fireworks going off in his head, but maybe that was just the cliché romanticism buried deep inside him. 

Kissing Eddie was unlike anything Richie had felt before, and he was absolutely self-aware enough to know it was because he’d been in love with the man for over half his life. Kissing Eddie was pure joy, electric and sweet all at the same time. Richie couldn’t help but smile into each kiss, finally sure that this was real, that this was something they both wanted. Richie wanted to kiss Eddie forever, and with the way Eddie was moving closer, carding his fingers through Richie’s hair and darting his tongue between Richie’s lips, he felt like for once they were on the same page. 

That was, until Richie decided to be a dumbass. 

Richie pulled away from Eddie’s lips, causing Eddie to pout slightly. The pout was quickly turned into a scowl when Richie slid into the pool, causing a splash of cool water to come up and hit Eddie. 

“Dude, what the fuck are you doing?” Eddie yelled, putting his hands up as Richie splashed some water at him. 

Richie smiled and did his best to look innocent. His glasses were soaked, and he could barely see through the spots of water, but he could see well enough to tell that Eddie was looking at him with that fond annoyance he had down so well. “I’m swimming!” 

Eddie splashed some water at him with his hand. “You’re an idiot.” 

Richie gave him his best attempt at puppy dog eyes, moving in the water so he was between Eddie’s legs. He rested his chin on one of Eddie’s knees, which just made Eddie smile wider. He brought the hand that had just splashed Richie up to run through his wet hair, pushing it out of his face, his hand resting lightly on top of Richie’s head. Richie reached his hand up to take Eddie’s spare hand, and without hesitation, Eddie interlaced their fingers together. It was a surprisingly sweet and intimate moment, Eddie looking down at Richie with a loving smile on his face as he played with his hair with one hand and held his hand with the other. 

And while Richie was loving the newfound intimacy that came with the ability to kiss Eddie, it didn’t stop him from wanting to be an asshole. After a second of stroking his thumb across Eddie’s hand, and pressing a kiss to his knee, he gave Eddie one last sweet smile, before pulling him down into the water with him. 

“What the fuck is your problem?” Eddie yelled, pushing Richie back a little once he crashed into him in the water. All the while, Richie was cackling, watching as Eddie turned about ten shades redder than the shirt, he was wearing in under five seconds. “Seriously! I could’ve had my phone, or my wallet, or—”

“You threw all your shit on the bed when you stormed out of the room earlier, idiot. I know because your fucking ex-wife called like thirty-five times before I got the courage to come down here.” 

Eddie rolled his eyes, and splashed Richie. “You’re right, but fuck you. God, you’re such a fucking dumbass, seriously, who the fuck pulls— no, first of all, who the fuck stops kissing someone who they’d just admitted to having feelings for their entire fucking childhood and then some to jump into a chlorinated cesspool, and second of all, who the fuck pulls someone into a pool after just kissing them!” Eddie threw his hands up in the air, some water coming up to splash Richie in the face once again. “Jesus, I can’t believe you. Seriously, off all the fucking dumbass men I could’ve fallen in love with, I chose you.” 

“Oh my God!” Richie was still cackling. “Seriously, holy shit, is this really how you’re saying, ‘I love you’ for the first time?” 

Eddie groaned and splashed more water in Richie’s direction. “Fuck you, so what if it is? You decided to kiss me for the first time while tipsy, listening to Lana Del fucking Rey, when I wasn’t even sure if you were gay or not! How is my thing worse?” 

Richie chuckled and shook his head. It wasn’t worse, really, it was the best thing Eddie could’ve ever said to him. He didn’t feel like bickering anymore, even if it was playfully, so instead of returning a jab, he swam over to Eddie and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him close to him, just like he had that night in the quarry all those years ago. 

Eddie’s frustration fizzled away as Richie rubbed his hands gently against his back, Eddie’s arms coming up almost instinctively to snake around Richie’s neck, legs wrapping around him underwater/ “Hey Eds?” 

Eddie let out a breath, fogging up Richie’s glasses. “Yeah?” 

Richie leaned in, pressing a soft, chaste, kiss to his lips. His glasses knocked against Eddie’s nose, nearly slipping into the water, but Richie didn’t care. “I love you too.” 

“Good,” Eddie whispered, smiling as he leaned back in, pressing his lips back to Richie’s, kissing him deeply, like he would never stop. If Richie had his way, he never would. 

 

 

They headed up to their room after some time in the pool, making out like teenagers. They looked a little ridiculous scurrying their way back to their room, hand in hand, completely and totally soaked, but neither of them cared much. The hotel front desk clerk gave them glares, knowing full well what they had been up to, but they didn’t seem to care enough to get on their cases for breaking into the pool after hours. 

Once in their room, they stripped out of their wet clothes, Eddie took a shower, and Richie tried not to explode out of pure excitement. Everything from Eddie admitting that he’d always had feelings for him, to kissing him, to telling him he loved him, to making out with him under the stars in a pool they’d broken into, felt like a fucking dream. He was expecting to wake up at any moment and see Eddie asleep on the other side of the room from him, but that moment never came.

Instead, after about fifteen minutes, Eddie came out of the shower, his hair wet and clean, smelling like vanilla, wearing a soft pair of pajama bottoms and loose-fitting t-shirt. Richie hadn’t been doing much while Eddie was showering, had just dried off, changed into his own pajamas, and started to scroll absent-mindedly through his phone while sitting at the edge of one of the beds. Throughout the trip, he’d taken the bed on the left side of the room, so he’d perched himself there, but he couldn’t help but to watch as Eddie sunk into the other bed, facing him, pulling out his medication. There wasn’t much left, Eddie didn’t even need to wrap his wound anymore (he still did, because he was Eddie, but that was to be expected), which comforted Richie. Knowing that Eddie was almost fully physically recovered from something so traumatic was relieving. The emotional trauma was something else altogether, he knew that, but he had to take comfort where he could find it. 

Richie stared across the room at Eddie, watching as he swallowed the pills and washed them down with the water from the little plastic cup he brought in from the bathroom. Richie wanted to join Eddie in bed, more than anything, but he didn’t want to push it. Sure, they’d just made out in a pool and told each other they loved each other, but… Richie was still scared. He didn’t want to push Eddie into something he was ready for, nor did he want to make him uncomfortable.

Eddie seemed to notice his hesitance and rolled his eyes. “Would you just get over here already, you idiot?” 

Richie sighed in relief. Leave it to Eddie to read his mind and then make fun of him for his stupid thoughts. He pushed himself up off his bed and walked over to Eddie, who took his hand before Richie could lower himself down in bed with him. Eddie smiled sweetly for a second before pulling him down, so he was in bed with him, sitting next to him. Richie wanted to say something, a stupid joke to alleviate the tension, but Eddie wasn’t having it. After a second, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Richie’s, soft and sweet. His hand came up to cup Richie’s cheek, thumb stroking a gentle circle against his skin, rubbing against the stubble on his cheeks. 

Suddenly, Richie didn’t care so much about making a stupid joke. Especially not when Eddie deepened the kiss and pushed Richie back a bit so he could straddle his legs. It was a visage out of every single wet dream Richie had ever had, but their kisses were still somewhat soft and chaste. Eddie was more sitting in his lap than anything else, which, again, was fine. Richie moved his hands to rest on either side of Eddie’s waist, rubbing his back up and down as they kissed, slow and soft, leaving him breathless and his head swimming. 

The softness didn’t last forever, though. Sooner or later, their kisses became hotter, more desperate, and Richie moaned into Eddie’s mouth because fuck, if it wasn’t everything he’d dreamed of. Eddie’s hands were in his hair, one of his hands had slid up underneath Eddie’s shirt, and they were moaning and breathing into each other’s mouths, kissing like it was the only thing they knew how to do. 

Eddie pulled away from Richie’s lips after a while of making out, breathless as Richie was. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out for a second, just staring down at Richie, eyes locked for a moment before lowering to his lips for a split second. “I, uh, I’m not ready to. You know.” 

Richie nodded quickly, trying to convey in no words whatsoever that, as much as he wanted to, he’d be perfectly fine with just making out like stupid teenagers for the rest of their lives, or just holding each other in bed. Just as long as he knew that Eddie loved him, that was all that mattered. He realized after a second of nodding like an idiot that he should probably say something. 

“That’s okay,” he said, sliding his hand back down Eddie’s back. “We don’t have to.” 

There was relief in Eddie’s eyes as he rolled off Richie’s lap. They arranged themselves so Eddie’s head was on Richie’s chest, Richie running his fingers through Eddie’s hair as Eddie’s fingers traced absentmindedly up and down Richie’s forearm. It was comfortable in the way Richie hadn’t experienced before, because while this wasn’t the first time they’d curled up together, it was the first time Richie wasn’t worried about Eddie, or anyone else, figuring out his secret. Eddie knew, and more than that, Eddie loved him. It was still scary, but knowing that… it took the edge off. 

They laid together for a while in relative silence, curled up while flipping through the channels. Eventually, they settled on a rerun of SVU that neither of them really paid much attention to. Richie couldn’t ignore the insane happiness that bubbled inside him, his body erupting in shivers every time Eddie’s fingers traced along his arm, or on the occasion he leaned up and pressed a gentle kiss to Richie’s lips, just because he could. 

“You know the best part of this?” Richie broke the silence, smiling down at Eddie. 

Eddie looked up at him, his brow furrowed slightly. “What?” 

Richie smirked. “I can stop paying for two bed hotel rooms.” Eddie rolled his eyes and elbowed Richie in the stomach lightly, but enough to make him cough a bit. “Asshole.” 

“Yeah, well, when you inevitably piss me off, I’ll just kick you to the floor, how does that sound?” 

Richie chuckled and leaned down to press a gentle kiss to Eddie’s lips. “You wouldn’t dare.” 

Eddie kissed him back, but when he pulled away, he smirked. “Try me, bitch.” 

 

 

Richie woke up before Eddie the next morning, Eddie’s arm draped loosely around his waist with his head tucked underneath Richie’s chin. Richie didn’t even try to hide the smile that cracked across his face. Seeing Eddie in his arms and knowing that whatever they had was real was all he’d ever wanted. He was lovesick, to say the least, but he didn’t care. He had so many fucking issues, so many problems he’d have to deal with when he got back to L.A, he’d allow himself to be a little annoying in love until then. 

It might’ve been creepy, but Richie watched Eddie sleep for the next few minutes, running his fingers up and down Eddie’s back lightly. He was peaceful as he had been in the hospital, except with more snoring, and less Richie wanting to cry. Richie was able to pretend for a couple of moments that everything wasn’t so scary, that they hadn’t fought a demonic clown from space less than a month ago, that he wasn’t going to have to find a way to come out without tanking his career and mental health all in one once he was back in L.A. For just a little while, he could watch Eddie, snoring quietly in his arms, and be comforted in the fact that he was there with him. 

Eddie hadn’t died down in the cistern like he did in his dreams, he made it out, woke up in the hospital, and chose Richie. Richie kept reminding himself that Eddie chose him, and each time, he felt warm inside. Eddie loved Richie, just as much as Richie loved him. It was the best feeling Richie had ever known. 

Richie couldn’t stop himself from leaning in, ghosting his lips against Eddie’s nose in a gentle kiss. It only took that for Eddie to stir awake, his nose scrunching up at either Richie’s morning breath or being woken up. Maybe both. 

Eddie groaned, and through a yawn, he muttered, “We have to make it a rule that you can’t kiss me until you brush your teeth.” 

Really, Richie hadn’t expected anything else. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to Eddie’s forehead. “That one didn’t count,” he said before starting to push himself out of bed so he could go take a shower and get ready to get back on the road. 

Clearly, Eddie had other ideas. Without as much as opening his eyes, Eddie grabbed Richie’s arm and pulled him back down, curling back against his chest. “Shut up, ten more minutes,” he mumbled, voice sleepy and soft. 

Of course, Richie obliged, and wrapped his arms back around Eddie, letting the shorter man slot his leg between Richie’s and cling onto him like a goddamn spider monkey. He wasn’t in the least bit surprised that Eddie was clingy, but he liked it. He liked the way Eddie held onto him, how he wanted to spend more time in bed with him simply because he could. 

 

 

“I think when we get to L.A. I’m going to start writing my own material.”

It came seemingly out of nowhere, as they sat in relative silence, minus Fleetwood Mac playing in the background, but it’d been on Richie’s mind for months, long before he’d gotten the call from Mike. It hadn’t been a serious thought until he found himself traveling across the country with Eddie, falling somehow more and more in love with him each day. 

Something about Eddie made him want to stop living a lie. He wasn’t sure if that meant coming out right away, but he would’ve liked to be able to at least tell his own jokes about his own life, not some stupid shit written by a writer he didn’t even hire. 

Eddie looked up from his phone to Richie. Richie chanced a glance over at him from the road, and in that quick moment, he noticed that there was no judgement in his eyes. He looked understanding, and ready to listen. “I think that’s a good idea,” he said simply, giving the hand he’d already been holding for the last hour or so, resting on the center console, a gentle squeeze. 

“Me too,” Richie said, still stuck in his own head. It was a scary thought, writing his own material. Even if he removed the fear of coming out to an audience after being The Straight Guy Comedian for his entire career, the fear that he wouldn’t be funny enough, that his fans would hate his new material, that he’d tanked his career when he’d run of stage and there was no coming back from the mess he’d made… it was all too much to think about at once. It made his stomach and head hurt, like he could throw up again at any second. It wasn’t the best feeling to have while driving, so he did his best to push it away, but he wasn’t doing a very good job.  

“Hey.”

Eddie’s voice snapped Richie out of his anxious thoughts. He looked over to Eddie, who gave him a gentle smile, and moved his hand to stroke his forearm lightly. Richie hadn’t realized until then how hard he’d been squeezing Eddie’s hand, but Eddie didn’t seem to mind. He loosened his grip, but under no circumstance was he going to let go of Eddie’s hand. 

There was another beat of silence, like Eddie was expecting Richie to say something. The words didn’t come, his thoughts still too loud for him to be able to form any coherent thoughts. Eddie was patient, though, continuing to stroke Richie’s forearm lightly and give him that damn understanding look.

“Talk to me, sweetheart,” Eddie coaxed. 

“Did you just call me sweetheart?” Richie asked, voice cracking under the pressure of his anxiety. He was too bogged down by his own thoughts to acknowledge that he actually liked the way it made him feel. When it came down to it, he was Richie, and taking things seriously was hard. Especially when he was about to have a panic attack—while driving nonetheless.  

Eddie groaned in frustration. “Jesus, would you rather me have called you a fucking moron while I was trying to comfort you into telling me whatever it is that’s going on in your big, stubborn, head?” 

That was more like Eddie. 

Richie let out a soft laughter before swallowing hard around the lump in his throat. He could talk to Eddie, he knew that, but it didn’t make it any less scary to admit out loud. “It’s just… it’s fucking terrifying, you know? What if I’m not funny enough? Like, I know my writer isn’t fucking funny, but what if I’m worse? And what if I can’t write anything? What if I can only come up with the same fake bullshit I’ve been spitting out my whole career? What if my entire career ended the second I bombed on stage?” 

It came flooding out of him like a fucking damn broke. Once he started to speak, he couldn’t stop, all the while squeezing onto Eddie’s hand like it was a fucking stress ball. His stomach was churning, his head full of self-doubt, and he didn’t know where to begin in quelling any of it. 

“Honey…” And there was another fucking pet name. Richie wondered if this was going to become a regular thing, or if it was just because he was upset, and Eddie was feeling emboldened by the fact he’d had his tongue down Richie’s throat the night before. He was hoping it was the former. “You know that’s bullshit, right?” 

“Wow, thanks, Eds. You’re great at pep-talks,” Richie deadpanned. 

“No, I mean it. I get that it’s scary, but c’mon, Rich. There’s no way you could be worse than your current writer, and not just because he fucking sucks. You’re the funniest person I’ve ever fucking met, and yes, I will deny that I said that if you repeat that to anyone.” Richie chuckled, more of an exhale than anything, but it was progress. Eddie brought Richie’s hand up to his lips and pressed a kiss to his knuckles, lingering for a second, before continuing. “It might take some time, but I believe in you. You’ll come up with something, and whatever it is, it’ll be good, and funny, because you wrote it.”

Richie let out a breath, trying to let Eddie’s words sink in. They were comforting, but some of the fear still lingered. “Thanks, Eddie Spaghetti,” he said, looking over at Eddie, his lips still brushing against his knuckles. Richie sighed, his eyes back on the road once again. “Who knows, maybe I’ll start making gay jokes at my own expense. That could be fun.” 

Eddie furrowed his brow a bit. He clearly hadn’t taken it as a joke like Richie had meant it. “You don’t need to come out if you aren’t ready, you know that, right? Especially on stage.” 

Richie shrugged a little. “Yeah, I know, it’s just…” he paused, trying to collect his thoughts. “I’ve been hiding this my entire life, you know?” He knew Eddie knew better than most, so he didn’t wait for a response. “And it’s fucking sucked. I haven’t been happy for most of my fucking life, and… I don’t want it to stay that way. I don’t want to keep hiding. Especially if…” he trailed off and looked over at Eddie, still holding his hand near his lips. 

“Especially if what?” 

Richie felt ridiculous. They’d made out in a pool under the stars the night before, said, “ I love you,” woke up in each other’s arms, and Eddie was currently holding his hand and pressing kisses to his knuckles every few seconds. All that being said, Richie still felt like he had to ask this stupid fucking question. He groaned and briefly contemplated banging his head against the steering wheel, but decided against it. 

“This is going to sound like the most fucking middle school thing in the world,” he grumbled.

Eddie squeezed his hand and chuckled. “Just fucking say it, Rich.” 

“Fuck, fine,” Richie muttered. He stole a glance over at Eddie for a moment. “Are you like… are you my boyfriend now? Is that what this is? Is that what we’re doing? Are we boyfriends? Are we dating?” 

Richie paused for laughter, expecting Eddie to break out into hysterics at his nervous, juvenile, questioning, but it never came. Instead, Eddie pressed another fucking kiss to his knuckles. The man was clearly trying to kill him. 

“Is that what you want?” Eddie asked cautiously.  

Richie was quiet for a moment before looking back at Eddie. He was scared, because fuck, he’d never had a boyfriend before, and all the women he’d dated back when he’d desperately tried to convince himself he could ignore the fact he had no romantic interest in them had been… well, they’d been women. They were great in theory, but that didn’t change the fact that Richie was fucking gay, no matter how hard he tried to hide it. 

When it came down to it, he was afraid of screwing things up. He had no idea how to be someone’s boyfriend. It was fucking terrifying to think about, even if there was a huge part of him that wanted nothing more than to be able to call Eddie his boyfriend. 

Everything with Eddie was brand new, even though Eddie was the person he’d always been closest with all his life. The only thing that made it a little less scary was that he was madly and deeply in love with Eddie, and if the gentle way Eddie was looking at him meant anything, then he felt the same. 

Richie swallowed hard and forced himself to nod. He was terrified, but he loved Eddie. If had to choose between love and fear, running and staying, he’d choose staying and loving Eddie each time. “Yeah, it is,” he answered. “Do you?” 

Eddie nodded and grinned. “Yeah, I do.” 

Richie let out a sigh of relief. He didn’t know what he was expecting, it wasn’t like Eddie, who’d been in love with him for as long as he’d loved him, who’d just called him sweetheart only a couple minutes ago, was going to tell him he didn’t want to be his boyfriend, but hearing it made him feel warm and light.

“Good,” Richie responded. He wanted to kiss him so fucking badly, but he knew nothing would harshen the mood like him leaning across the car to kiss him on the fucking interstate, so he opted to squeeze his hand gently instead. 

“I still don’t know what I’m going to do when I get to L.A.,” Eddie said, changing the subject kind of abruptly, but Richie went with it. “I hope you don’t mind me just… sitting around, trying to figure my life out for a while.” 

“Of course, I don’t mind,” Richie answered quickly. “Seriously, just having you there with me is a fucking dream. You could never work a day in your life and just stay in our apartment and I’d feel like I’d won the fucking lottery.” 

“Okay, one, you just said our apartment, which… I like that. And two, I’d go fucking crazy just sitting around watching Netflix and cleaning or whatever the fuck.” Eddie sighed and shook his head, twining their fingers back together and letting them rest on the center console again. “I don’t know. I just don’t know what I want to do.” 

“You’ll figure something out,” Richie reassured him. Eddie was a smart guy, he could find a million things that suited him better than fucking risk-analysist. “And I’ll help you. Or at the very least, I’ll sit there and look pretty while you figure it out.” 

Eddie rolled his eyes, but Richie could see the slight smile on his face out of the corner of his eye. “Wow, my fucking hero.” 

 

 

“Okay, keep your eyes closed.” 

Richie had his hands over Eddie’s closed eyes, but if he hadn’t, he was sure Eddie would’ve rolled his eyes. The fact that he’d humored Richie as he’d made him wait out in the car while he checked them into their hotel (which was noticeably nicer than most of the places they’d stayed in the last week) was already enough to amaze Richie. 

“You realize how ridiculous this is, right?” Eddie grumbled. He stumbled a little bit as Richie attempted to lead him to the door, hands still over his eyes. Truth be told, Richie didn’t trust Eddie to keep his eyes closed, and he thought it would be romantic to do the whole covering eyes thing. Eddie obviously thought otherwise. It probably didn’t help that Richie kept bumping him into things as they walked. “Watch it, asshole.” 

“Sorry, sorry, just hold on.” Richie pulled his hands away from Eddie’s eyes for a moment, just long enough to get keycard out of his pocket. “Keep your eyes shut.” 

“Fine, just open the fucking door, I’m tired of holding my fucking bag.” 

“I told you I’d carry it for you,” Richie said as he slid the keycard through the slot. “It’s not my fault you’re stubborn.” 

It’s not my fault you’re stubborn,” Eddie mocked, his voice going up an octave. “Just open the door, prick.” 

“Working on it…” Richie got the door open and turned around to face Eddie. “Alright, c’mere.” 

Eddie adjusted the bag on his shoulder impatiently. “Can I open my eyes yet?” 

“Nope!” 

“God, I hate you.” 

“No, you don’t!” Richie hummed in a sing-song voice. He walked back behind Eddie and covered his eyes again, earning a soft Jesus Christ from Eddie, which he ignored. He walked through the door with Eddie, leading him into the room slowly so he didn’t trip again. He pushed the door shut with his foot once they were both fully in the room, and took his hands away from Eddie’s eyes, letting them rest on his waist instead. “Okay… wallah!” 

Eddie opened his eyes with a great deal of annoyance, but it faded once he saw where he stood. Richie, in what he’d decided to call a moment of romantic impulsivity, had booked a couple’s suite for them, complete with a jacuzzi, king-sized bed (with fucking rose petals on it, no less), and a complimentary bottle of champagne in an ice bucket on the little table in front of the couch. He’d been nervous about it, because everything with Eddie was new, and he didn’t want Eddie to feel like he was pressuring him into anything, but at the same time… 

Fuck. Richie had been in love with Eddie for longer than he could remember. All he wanted to do was pretend like they were a normal couple, one that weren’t fresh off fighting a homophobic space clown that had almost killed Eddie. He wanted to pretend like they weren’t both so repressed and terrified of their sexualities that it didn’t take them until forty to admit out loud that they were gay. He just wanted to feel normal, to be in love, for once in his fucking life. He didn’t think that was too much to ask. 

“Holy shit, Rich,” Eddie whispered, bag dropping to the ground as he looked around the room. “You… fuck, when… how did you manage this?” 

Richie shrugged. “You fell asleep in the car after lunch, so… I pulled over and did some research and made the reservation. I-uh, I honestly didn’t think I’d find anything this short notice, or anything this nice, but they had a last-minute cancelation. It was actually for a honeymoon, so…” And, he was rambling. Shit. He took a breath to stop himself and gave Eddie a nervous smile. “Surprise?” 

Eddie still looked dumbfounded, not saying anything for long enough to make Richie anxious. He was suddenly regretting every decision he’d ever made in his entire life. “Was this too much? Should I not have done this? Shit, I should’ve just taken us to a Motel Six, this is weird, I’m sorry, I—”

Eddie shut Richie up by turning around in his arms and pressing a kiss to his lips. Richie found that he liked being shut up by a kiss much more than any other way Eddie had ever gotten him to stop talking. 

 When Eddie pulled away, he was smiling, his arms wrapped around Richie’s neck, his fingers moving to play with the hair at the nape of his neck. “It’s perfect. Really. I love it.” 

Richie let out a sigh of relief and nodded. “Good. I’m glad.” 

“But… you didn’t have to do this, you know,” Eddie said, fingers still ghosting at the back of his neck. “Believe me, I love it, but… you didn’t have to. I would’ve been just as happy with some motel.” 

“Yeah, I know, but I wanted to,” Richie responded, leaning back into Eddie’s touch. “We’ve never done anything like this. Obviously. And… I don’t know. I wanted to do something special.” 

Eddie nodded and smiled, leaning in and pressing a gentle kiss to Richie’s lips. It was soft and sweet, only lasting for a second or two, but Richie relished in it. Knowing that he could just kiss Eddie whenever, for no reason other than they were in love, and that’s what people in love did, brought him endless joy.

“I guess I have to forgive you for making me trip like ten times out in the hallway now, huh?” 

Richie hummed, leaning in and pressing another kiss to Eddie’s lips. He didn’t think he’d ever get tired of kissing him. “Probably.” 

“Seems fair,” Eddie murmured, low and sweet against Richie’s lips. Richie thought he was about to get another kiss, and Eddie seemed like that’s where he was going with it, but he pulled back right before their lips met again. “Wait… aren’t you afraid?” 

Richie furrowed his brow. “Uh, no?” He looked behind Eddie at the room and then back to him. “Unless I accidentally booked the room with monsters under the bed. I guess I’ll have to protect you, which is fine. I think that’s kind of our thing at this point.” 

Eddie sighed and shook his head. “No, asshole. I meant... aren’t you afraid someone could see us together? You’ve got fans and shit. Wouldn’t it be a fucking issue if someone caught you in a fucking lovers suite with another guy?” 

Of course, Richie had thought about that. He’d thought about everything, from the nonexistent Utah paparazzi, to the chance of a fan seeing him holding Eddie’s hand walking down to the continental breakfast, or any other number of ways he could’ve been outed by simply being at a hotel with his boyfriend. It was terrifying, he wasn’t afraid to admit that it was, but he was tired of living in fear. 

“Yeah, it’s scary,” Richie admitted, fingers playing nervously with Eddie’s shirt as he spoke. “I mean, I don’t think I’m ready to come out publicly. Or at all. My manager doesn’t know yet, and I have no fucking clue how he’ll take it, or if I’ll even have a job afterwards, so… that’s fucking terrifying. And… fuck, I’ve been scared shitless of people knowing I’m gay for my entire fucking life, you know that.”

Eddie nodded, staring at Richie with those soft, brown, eyes that Richie would gladly drown in. His fingers were still playing with Richie’s hair, granting him some comfort, enough to go on. Richie took a deep breath and moved a hand from Eddie’s waist to rest on one of his arms, rubbing a gentle circle against his skin. There was something new about the intimacy between them; it had always been there to an extent, but it was softer now. It made Richie feel lighter, happier, every single time Eddie as much as brushed his fingers against his arm or put his head on his shoulder. 

“But I don’t want to hide the fact that I love you anymore. I’ve been doing that for twenty-seven years, and yeah, okay, maybe I forgot about you for a lot of that, which sucks, but… still.” Richie sighed and squeezed Eddie’s arm gently, a silent thank you for standing there and looking at Richie like he was worth something while he poured his heart out. 

“I don’t want to hide being in love with you, because I am. I’m so fucking in love with you, Eds. And I’m more afraid of pretending like I don’t love you then I am of someone finding out I’m gay. That’s not to say I’m not scared still, it’s just…” He swallowed hard and looked down. He couldn’t speak suddenly, memories flashing back to him, dragging him underwater and weighing him down to sink. 

Eddie moved his hand to cup Richie’s face, thumb stroking his cheek in a soft, comforting, motion. “It’s just what, sweetheart?” 

 Richie didn’t think he’d ever get tired of the terms of endearment. They were something completely new from Eddie, but they made him feel like the most important person in the world.

Despite feeling light from the pet name, Richie couldn’t stop himself from shaking. He took a breath and leaned into Eddie’s hand, pressing a soft kiss to his hand, stalling time so he could order his thoughts into something resembling coherency. 

“I lost you once,” Richie whispered, not looking at Eddie. If he did, he knew he’d break down like he had on their first night. “And I don’t mean when I forgot you, I mean… I really lost you. I saw you die, and now I keep seeing you die every time I have those fucking nightmares. I can’t lose you again.” 

“Look at me.” Eddie continued to caress Richie’s cheek, something so soft Richie thought he might start crying. Then again, he was more likely to start crying due to the memories of watching Eddie die. Whatever came first, he supposed. He forced himself to look up at his boyfriend, looking up at him with a sweet and gentle gaze. “Honey, you’re never gonna lose me. I promise. You’re not getting rid of me, no matter what.” 

“I know, but—”

“Seriously, Rich. I’ve been in love with you since before I was thirteen. You’re not going to lose me because of some stupid shit like being afraid to come out immediately after we start dating.” Eddie smiled and moved his other hand from around Richie’s neck to cup his other cheek so his face was framed between Eddie’s hands. “Sweetheart, I’d hide with you in the closet for the rest of our lives as long as you held me.” 

Richie sniffled, not aware that he’d started crying until Eddie had stroked away one of his tears with his thumb. “I love you so fucking much.” 

Eddie smiled softly and leaned up, pressing a kiss to the corner of Richie’s mouth. “I love you, too.” He removed his hands from Richie’s cheeks and let them fall to his arms, stroking down until they met his wrists, and then his hands, lacing their fingers together. “And as for watching me die… I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say other than, I’m so fucking sorry you have to deal with that, because if I had to watch you die, I’d probably be in a constant state of panic, trying to make sure you didn’t fucking die just going to the bathroom or some shit.” 

“You already do that,” Richie joked, voice quiet but steady. 

Eddie rolled his eyes but didn’t refute it. “Seriously, I’m sorry. If you ever need to talk, or… or you just want me to hold you after you have a nightmare, you know I’m here. I’m always here.” 

Richie nodded, taking a breath and letting it out. “I know,” he answered, giving Eddie’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Thank you.” 

Eddie shook his head and let go of Richie’s hands, only so he could wrap his arms around him. “You don’t have to thank me,” he responded, rubbing Richie’s back as he hugged him. 

Richie didn’t say anything back, just let Eddie hug him, and hugged him back just as tight. He found himself wondering how he got so fucking lucky, right at the second Eddie pulled away to press a kiss to his lips. 

“You wanna go see if we can find somewhere to fucking eat in goddamn Utah?” Eddie asked. 

Richie chuckled a little and nodded. “Fuck yeah.” 

 

 

They went out to dinner at the most romantic place they could find within ten miles of their hotel—a Burger King. They briefly considered trying to find somewhere actually nice to eat, something romantic, but decided against it. Just because they were dating didn’t change the fact that they were still uncivilized idiots who didn’t know how to act in public. 

Okay, that was mostly just Richie, but Eddie brought that out in him. 

Back at their hotel they made use of the jacuzzi, in what was both awkward and nice at the same time. Richie still didn’t want Eddie to think he’d gotten such a romantic suite for them with the intention of them having sex, so when he’d suggested they use the jacuzzi, they ended up stripping down to everything but their underwear. Once the initial awkwardness brought about by Richie’s internal fears was over, they’d enjoyed themselves, ending up making out until the water got cold. 

Afterwards, they end up in bed, lounging together in their pajamas with a movie playing in the background. Richie hadn’t really been paying attention to it, instead looking down at Eddie, head resting on his shoulder, and running his hand through his damp hair. It was comfortable in a way Richie had never been with another person before, even when Eddie occasionally accidentally—so he claimed—elbowed him in the side when trying to find a more comfortable position. 

They’d been silent for some time when Eddie broke it, his fingers absentmindedly stroking a patch of skin where Richie’s shirt had ridden up. “You weren’t my first kiss with a guy, you know.”

Richie furrowed his brow and met Eddie’s gaze as he looked up at him, not sure why he’d brought it up, but content to have the conversation with him if he wanted to. He grabbed the remote and pressed pause on the movie. He didn’t say anything, just nodded and allowed Eddie to get the story off his chest. 

Eddie settled his head back on Richie’s chest. “Once, in college, like… freshman year. I went to this party with my roommate and his friend and… I don’t know. His friend was nice. He was tall, funny, had these big, thick, glasses on…” He looked up to Richie for a second. “Shut up, I have a type.” 

Richie chuckled and pressed a kiss to the top of Eddie’s head. “Go on.” 

“Anyways, he asked me if I wanted to go back to his dorm with him, and I didn’t fucking know what that meant. I thought he just wanted to hang out, because I was this stupid ass eighteen-year-old who’d never even kissed anyone before, so I went with him, and one thing led to another, and we were making out on his bed.” Eddie exhaled and wrapped his arm around Richie’s waist, still not looking at him but holding onto him tighter than he had been previously. 

“And fuck, I liked it. I was tipsy, so… so I guess that’s why I didn’t stop myself immediately, but the second he stuck his hand down my pants all I could hear was my mom telling me…” 

Eddie stopped speaking suddenly, his grip on Richie’s waist getting tighter. Richie rubbed his shoulder gently, coaxing him to go on in his own time. He remained silent for some time, which became a little worrying to Richie. He knew how much Eddie’s mom had fucked him over, and it infuriated him. He wanted nothing more than to be able to go back in time and take Eddie away from his mother, from Derry as a whole, the second he’d turned eighteen. He couldn’t, though. All he could do was stick around and hold him while he tried to talk about it. 

“Sorry, it’s—”

“Don’t apologize,” Richie cut him off, pressing another kiss to the top of Eddie’s head. With his lips still lingering against Eddie’s hair, he murmured, “take your time.” 

Eddie nodded and took a deep breath. After a few seconds, he continued. “I kept hearing her telling me that the other boys were dirty, and they’d make me sick, and I had to stay away from them and not let them touch me, and not to touch them, and… I freaked and ran out. The worst fucking part about it was this guy… he was so fucking sweet about it. He didn’t say anything the next time we hung out, he just kinda smiled at me like he was sorry, like it was his fault I was too scared to let him touch me.”

 Eddie let out a humorless laugh that caught in his throat; it was such a depressing sound, it made Richie instinctively hold onto Eddie tighter. “It just… it fucking sucks, you know? I was so scared and traumatized I couldn’t even let this sweet guy who really fucking liked me give me a handjob in college. I mean, fuck, that’s what college is for, right?” 

Richie rubbed Eddie’s back and nodded. “I’m sorry,” he responded, because he really didn’t know what else to say. “I’m sorry your mom put you through all that, and you couldn’t have a normal college experience. I wish things had been different.” 

Eddie sighed and nodded. “Yeah, me too,” he whispered. “I don’t know why I brought that up, I just… I wanted to tell you.” 

Richie nodded. “I’m glad you told me.” He paused for a moment, looking down at his boyfriend lying in his arms. “I get it, to an extent. I haven’t really… I mean, I’ve fucked around, and I’ve hooked up with guys, but it’s never meant anything. It’s always meaningless sex, and never at my own apartment, because… I don’t know. I can’t explain it. I just always feel wrong and dirty afterwards, and I guess…” Once again, Richie realized he was rambling, and realized that this was probably the last thing that was going to help Eddie. “God, this is a mess, I’m sorry.” 

Eddie looked up at him and shook his head a little. “No, it’s okay, I’m listening,” he said, voice soft. His thumb was stroking lightly against Richie’s stomach, his leg tucked over one of Richie’s, both making him feel comfortable enough to try and open up like Eddie had to him. 

“IT used to taunt me and sing this stupid song about knowing my dirty little secret, and I mean, I forgot it… but I didn’t. Not completely. I forgot IT, but every time I got too close or let myself have sex with a guy, I’d just feel like I was wrong on so many levels. And I was fucking terrified of letting anyone find out, so I never brought guys home, or hooked up with anyone unless it was some stranger.” He shook his head and groaned, his head leaning back against the headboard. “God, we’re fucked up.” 

Eddie chuckled and sat up, maneuvering himself so he was in Richie’s lap, straddling him like he had the night before. Richie wrapped his arms around Eddie’s waist as Eddie cupped his face and pressed his lips against Richie’s. It was soft and sweet and exactly what Richie needed. 

“We’ll get through it together,” Eddie said softly.  

Richie nodded and leaned in again, bring Eddie in for another kiss. It started soft like before, Richie ghosting his fingers up and down Eddie’s waist as Eddie ran his fingers through Richie’s hair, but it didn’t stay that way for long. Just like the night before, after some time of slow, sweet kisses, things between them got hotter, more desperate. Eddie was moaning into Richie’s mouth and Richie was moving his hands underneath Eddie’s shirt, rubbing his back, occasionally dragging his nails down his skin gently, which made Eddie shiver in the best way. 

Richie ended up rolling them over so that Eddie was underneath him, half on top of him and half on the bed. Eddie let out a breathy moan into Richie’s mouth when he’d pushed him gently back against the bed, taking Richie’s hand and lacing their fingers together above his head as he continued to kiss him like his life depended on it. Richie had been a bit nervous about rolling them over, but Eddie’s reaction quelled any nerves he had. 

Richie’s stomach was warm as he continued to kiss Eddie, who’d brought a hand up to wrap around the back of his neck, his other hand still holding tight to his. They’d made out before, in their bed last night, in the jacuzzi earlier, and in the backseat of Richie’s rental car at one of their stops along the way to their current hotel, but it was nothing like this. This was hungrier, and far more intimate than anything Richie had ever felt before. He could feel himself getting hard in his pajama bottoms, and every once and a while he’d feel Eddie pressed against him, which just made it worse (or better?) for him. 

“We don’t have to do this if you aren’t ready,” Richie said, voice a husky whisper. He was practically speaking into Eddie’s mouth, holding him close beneath him. “I don’t want you think I got this room just so we’d fuck, I just wanted to do something ni—”

Eddie shut Richie up with another kiss, his hand moving from Richie’s neck, lowering down his body to rest on his lower back, right above his ass. Being shut up with a kiss was even more effective than a beep beep, so he went along with it, letting Eddie slide his tongue back into his mouth and kiss him as passionately as he had in the pool, if not more so. 

When Eddie pulled away, there was a smile on his face. “I know that,” he reassured Richie. “I want to if you do.” 

Richie had never felt such relief in his life. While he would’ve been content to make out with Eddie for the rest of the night—hell, he would’ve been content to hold him and occasionally press kisses to his forehead—knowing that Eddie wanted to have sex just as much as he did was comforting, especially considering everything he’d just admitted. 

“Perfect,” Richie whispered, leaning back in to kiss Eddie again. 

After a couple more seconds of kissing, he felt Eddie’s hand start to scrunch up the end of his shirt, tugging and pushing it upwards. With only a little hesitation, Richie let go of Eddie’s hand and sat up so he could pull his shirt off. Eddie did the same, revealing the scar that ran the length of his stomach. It obviously wasn’t the first time Richie had seen it, and it wasn’t nearly as gnarled as it had been when he’d first gotten out of surgery, but seeing it when Richie was leaning over him, his own shirt off, felt different. 

Without giving it much thought, Richie started peppering kisses down Eddie’s chest, starting at his neck until he was at his scar, softly pressing kisses at his tender skin. Eddie moaned, his hips jerking up, but it didn’t seem like it was from pain, not by the way his hand moved to Richie’s hair, carding his hand through and pushing it back. It was another sweet gesture that felt so much more ardent now that he was doing it in bed. 

“I love you,” Richie breathed, pressing a kiss to his scar. He’d gotten it because of him, but he knew if he brought that up it would ruin the mood, so he settled for just pressing as many kisses as he could to Eddie’s stomach and chest, hoping he got the point. “I love you,” he repeated, kissing him again. “I love you.” Another kiss, right above his navel. “I love you.” Another kiss. “I love you.” 

He continued to kiss up Eddie’s stomach and chest, up to his lips, each time letting out a breathy, “I love you.” His heart was so full he thought it might explode, but God, it would be the perfect way to go, his lips pressed against Eddie’s, reminding him repeatedly that he loved him. 

Eddie breathed out something between a moan and a sigh, smiling the most beautiful smile Richie had ever seen, making that whole heart so full it might explode issue ten times worse (again, better?). He cupped his hand against Richie’s neck again, coaxing him back into another kiss which he set the pace for, slow and soft and warm, making Richie’s stomach burn with tenderness. 

“I love you too,” Eddie whispered into Richie’s mouth, barely pulling away. There was a heated smile across his lips, warming Richie’s face just as much as Eddie’s breath was. “Kinda want you to fuck me sometime this year though.” 

Richie nearly snorted at that, which definitely wasn’t the sexiest thing in the world, but Eddie didn’t seem to care. He was still smiling against Richie’s lips, holding onto him like he was a lifeline. “Yeah, I can do that,” Richie responded, leaning back in to kiss him again. 

Eddie, impatient as ever, moved one hand to pull at Richie’s pants while the other stayed at his neck, continuing to kiss him, back to urgent and enthusiastic. Richie took the hint and reluctantly pulled away so he could shimmy out of his pajama bottoms, throwing them to the side as Eddie did the same. 

He started to lay back down when Eddie looked up at him, a look of concern flashing on his face. “Do you have…” 

He didn’t need to finish the thought for Richie to get the point. Regardless, he chuckled and leaned over Eddie’s body, opening the drawer to the bedside table, which unsurprisingly, had condoms and lube inside. He retrieved them and plopped them down on the bed next to Eddie. “It’s a lover’s suite. They’re fully stocked.” 

“Glad at least they’re prepared,” Eddie joked, pulling Richie back in for another kiss before he could respond. Something about them not losing their teasing nature, even when they were about to have sex for the first time, made Richie want to smile. Everything with Eddie felt so right, like they two puzzle pieces coming together for the first but not last time. 

They only kissed for another couple seconds before Eddie pulled away, giving Richie a little nod, silently letting him know he was ready. Richie nodded and pressed another kiss to his lips, and then his nose, which made Eddie’s face scrunch and Richie smile. 

“Just let me know if you need me to stop, or slow down, or anything, okay?” Richie asked, leaning back on his knees so Eddie could pull off his underwear, throwing them to the side with the rest of their discarded clothes. Suddenly Richie felt like he was wearing too much, even though he was just in his boxers, but still. Before continuing, he removed his own, throwing to the side with Eddie’s. For the first time, they were both exposed and vulnerable, and while Richie was definitely enjoying the show, it didn’t feel overwhelming. He didn’t have the urge to close his eyes or turn the light off for once, just the urge to lean in and keep kissing Eddie until he couldn’t breathe. 

“Yeah, yeah, just get going,” Eddie said, laying back in bed. 

Richie rolled his eyes playfully, opening the bottle of lube. “And things were so romantic until now.” 

“You’re about to fuck me and we’re in love I don’t know how much more romantic you want it,” Eddie responded, sitting up on his elbows. 

“You’re bitchy when your dick is hard.” Richie finally got situated between Eddie’s legs, putting one hand on his inner thigh and rubbing gently, which made Eddie shiver again. It made Richie wonder what it would be like to kiss and suck his thighs, but he knew there would be a next time, so he filed that away for later. 

“And who’s fault is that?” Eddie asked, flopping back onto the bed, still impatient as ever. 

Richie leaned up and pressed a gentle kiss to Eddie’s lips. “Do you want me to apologize for getting your dick hard?” 

Eddie was quiet for a second. “No.” 

“Didn’t think so.” 

“Whatever, just fuck me already,” Eddie muttered, hand coming up to rest on Richie’s side. 

Richie grabbed the lube once again and settled back between Eddie’s legs. “Working on it.” 

Richie proceeded to prep Eddie, starting with one finger slowly, moving to two after a couple minutes, and only up to three once Eddie was a panting, begging, mess beneath him. If Richie hadn’t been hard before (which he definitely was), he was now. Watching Eddie squirm beneath him, grasping onto either the bedsheet or Richie’s spare hand that he’d grabbed at some point was the hottest thing he’d ever seen, making his stomach twist and coil, feeling something he’d never quite felt before. He never thought sex with someone he loved would make that much of difference, but fuck, was he wrong. 

Fuck, Rich… fuck, please,” Eddie cried, his head pressed back into the pillow as Richie continued to finger fuck him, lips ghosting just over Eddie’s. “Please, please, fuck. Fuck.” 

“Please what?” Richie asked, leaning down and pressing a kiss to the corner of Eddie’s mouth. He’d been practically begging into Richie’s mouth, which just added to the hotness in his stomach. 

“Are you seriously gonna be a dick right now?” Eddie groaned, gasping as Richie continued his slow, agonizing pace. “ Fuck.” 

“Tell me what you want, baby,” Richie whispered into Eddie’s ear. He didn’t miss the way it made him flush, more so than it ever had before. Of course, it’d been a good twenty some years since he’d called him baby , and Richie hadn’t been about to fuck him any other times he had, but still, the sudden flush and gasp was new. “Like that?”

“F-fuck you,” Eddie stammered, smashing his lips against Richie’s again to shut up him. After a second, he pulled away and let his head fall back again. “Would you please just fuck me, Richie, I swear to God .” 

“Anything for you, baby,” Richie said, and fuck, there was that flush again, along with a little whine. “Okay, seriously, is that like a thing for you?” 

“Shut up, please just shut up and fuck me,” Eddie moaned, his hips rising slightly as Richie continued to move his fingers, too slow and too agonizing. 

Richie was working on it, he really was, but now he was thinking about this new development. Slowly, he pulled his fingers out of Eddie, which caused him to gasp and squirm. With his hand that had previously been holding Eddie’s, Richie started to stroke Eddie’s thighs gently, making him gasp. Richie didn’t think he’d ever get tired of hearing all the noises Eddie made; he just wished they’d had longer to do this. He had to admit, he was a little pissed off at himself that he hadn’t made a move twenty some years ago. He could’ve gone home with Eddie after prom, lost his virginity to Eddie instead of a guy in college whose name he couldn’t remember to save his life. 

They had now, though. That was what mattered. He had to keep reminding himself of that. 

Richie grabbed the condom and ripped it open, sliding it on, reminding himself that he’d been painfully untouched throughout the whole process, and grabbing the lube once again. As much as he wanted this, he also didn’t want to hurt Eddie, and as stupid and romantic as it was, he wanted to go slow and make it last as long as possible. He didn’t think it would be very long, considering he hadn’t gotten laid in like a year, and this was Eddie’s first time with someone he actually wanted to fuck, but it was the thought that counted. 

After squeezing more lube into his hand and stroking himself a couple times, he leaned back down between Eddie’s legs. “Are you ready? And don’t be an asshole, I’m serious, I don’t want to hurt you, or go to fast, or—”

For what felt like the millionth time, Eddie leaned up and silenced Richie with a kiss. It was on the softer side this time, Eddie wrapping an arm around his back and pulling him in to kiss him, deep and sweet like how they’d started out. “Rich, I’m ready. I promise. I love you, I want this.” 

Those words eased Richie’s worries, so he nodded, and pressed one last, soft, kiss to Eddie’s lips. “I love you too, baby.” 

And there was that flush again. This time, it couldn’t be explained away by the fact he was being finger fucked, either. Richie didn’t push it this time, though; instead, he just peppered soft kisses across Eddie’s cheeks, all while lining himself up and pressing into Eddie slowly. 

He went slow, easing into Eddie, moving at a snail's pace as Eddie adjusted to him. He was panting beneath him, wrapping his legs around Richie’s waist, and reaching out desperately for Richie’s hand. Richie obliged, intertwining their fingers and pressing their foreheads together. 

“Tell me when to move,” he breathed, trying not to shake or jerk his hips. Eddie felt so good, and any notion of lasting long was gone, but Richie was willing to be patient. Eddie just nodded against Richie’s forehead, breathing heavy, eyes closed. Richie leaned in and pressed a kiss to Eddie’s mouth, messy and uncoordinated, but enough to make him feel something deep in his stomach. 

Eddie’s hand that wasn’t grasping tight to Richie’s came up to rest on Richie’s shoulder, holding tight, like he was hugging him against his body. Richie had never felt so much love before, watching as Eddie squirmed and moaned and adjusted, forehead pressed against his. Looking down at Eddie, feeling him all over him, made him realize that he would’ve done it all again. He’d fight IT, forget for twenty-seven years, come back to Derry again and do it all over, as long as it meant he’d end up there with Eddie underneath him.  

“I love you so much,” Richie whispered, voice catching in his throat. He was so overcome with emotion he felt like he might cry, but he refused. He absolutely was not going to cry during sex, no matter how much he loved Eddie. “I know I keep saying that, but fuck, Eds, I love you so much, I’ve always loved you, I’m always going to love you, I love you so fucking much, baby.” 

Another flush, a little whine, and Eddie digging his nails into Richie’s shoulder, just slightly. Richie didn’t even think he was aware he was doing it, but he didn’t care. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to Eddie’s lips again, which he returned, both soft and desperate all in one. 

“I love you too,” Eddie responded, eyes opening. He moved his hand from Richie’s shoulder to caress his cheek, “Keep saying it. And move.” 

Richie nodded and gave Eddie’s hand a gentle squeeze before starting to move, slow thrusts he tried to keep as gentle as possible in the beginning. Each time he moved, he whispered, “I love you,” into Eddie’s ear, occasionally adding a “baby,” at the end. Eddie was a mess beneath him, moaning and panting, hand back at Richie’s shoulder as he held him tight. Each time Richie whispered into his ear, he’d either moan or jerk his hips up, making Richie moan in time with him. 

“Rich… I-I….” 

Richie got the gist of where Eddie, who had for the most part just been blabbering incoherency with some variation of Richie, fuck, and please. He moved to kiss Eddie again, though it was messy and mostly just panting into each other’s mouths. “Me too,” he murmured. 

He snaked his hand down between them, taking Eddie’s dick in his hand and started to stroke, all the while continuing to thrust into him. His movements had become faster, unable to continue at a snail’s pace any longer. If Eddie’s moans and incoherent whimpering was any indication, he didn’t seem to mind too much either. 

“Love you,” Eddie murmured, pulling Richie in for another kiss. It was less sloppy this time, but it was still open mouthed and mixed with panting. “You’re everything I’ve ever wanted, sweetheart. I— fuck .” 

They were words Richie had always wanted to hear, made better by the act he’d said them during. Richie kissed back for a moment before pulling away, pressing his forehead against Eddie’s once again. “Love you too, baby. Always have. I always will.” 

That’s all it took for Eddie to come, crying out Richie’s name and coming between them, Richie not lasting much longer after him. Richie went limp afterwards, falling on Eddie’s chest for a moment, feeling weightless, before he was able to move. After a moment, Eddie stroking his back and pressing a kiss to the top of his head, Richie convinced himself to move, pulling out and getting rid of the condom. Luckily there was a trashcan right next to the bed, because he didn’t think he’d be able to move right away. 

Eddie was smiling at Richie, propped up on one elbow as he looked down at him. Richie smiled up at him and scooted a little closer, tugging him down so he was laying on his chest. 

“C’mere,” he said, wrapping his arms around Eddie’s back as he laid against his chest. 

“We’re disgusting now,” Eddie observed. Richie wasn’t surprised in the least that those were Eddie’s first words after having sex. 

“Way to ruin the post orgasm cuddling, baby,” Richie responded. Again, the blush. It wasn’t nearly as apparent as it was when they were mid-sex, but it was still there. “Okay, seriously, you have to tell me what the fuck is going on with that.” 

“It’s nothing!” Eddie tried. Richie raised his brow at him, and Eddie groaned, pressing his face down in the pillow next to Eddie’s head. Richie chuckled and rubbed his back, letting Eddie have his moment before continuing to push. 

“You know I’m not going to stop calling you baby, or stop asking until you tell me, right?” Richie said, leaning his head to the side so his lips were close to Eddie’s ear. “Tell meeeeeeee,” he begged, voice just above a whisper. 

“You’re gonna make fun of me,” Eddie grumbled into the pillow. 

“Yeah, because the first thing a guy wants to do to his boyfriend after they make love for the first time is to make fun of him.” 

Eddie’s head shot up. “Did you seriously just call it making love? Are we in a fucking Hallmark movie?” 

Richie smirked. “Got you to look at me, though.” 

Eddie narrowed his eyes at Richie. “Fuck you.” 

Richie smiled innocently and went back to rubbing Eddie’s back. “Seriously, just tell me. It can’t be that bad.” 

“Fine,” Eddie grumbled. He sighed and got comfortable again, though Richie was pretty sure he was just buying time. “It’s stupid, okay? It’s just… no one’s ever called me that before, and it actually made me feel good.” 

Eddie looked embarrassed and pressed his face against the pillow next to Richie’s head again, but Richie couldn’t have been happier. Knowing that there was such a simple pet name that he could call Eddie that would, in his own words, make him feel good, made him feel some sense of accomplishment.

Richie rolled them over so Eddie couldn’t hide his face anymore, pinning him down between his arms with a smile on his face. He leaned in and pressed a sweet kiss to his lips, which Eddie returned with a sigh. 

“Do you have any idea how much I love you?” 

“You only just told me a couple hundred times,” Eddie responded, smiling against Richie’s lips. 

“Yeah, and I’m gonna tell you about a hundred more times,” Richie said, pressing a kiss to Eddie’s lips, then his cheeks, then his nose (another scrunched up face), and then his forehead. “You’re the love of my life, baby.” 

Eddie chuckled and pulled Richie down so he was kissing him on the lips again. “You’re never going to stop calling me that, are you?”

Richie shook his head. “Do you want me to?” 

Eddie hummed. “Nope,” he answered. Richie thought as much. “I do want you to get off me so we can take a shower, though. Seriously, we’re gross.” 

“Fine, fine,” Richie agreed, rolling off Eddie. He looked across the room, eyeing the jacuzzi. It was technically a tub. “Split the difference and take a bath with me?” 

Eddie smiled and leaned over, pressing a kiss to Richie’s shoulder before pushing himself out of bed. “Sounds good to me.” 

 

 

Richie fell, his head thudding against the hard rock of the cavern. The wind had been knocked out of him, and he was still dazed from the blinding deadlights he’d fallen out of. It was all happening too fast, suddenly Eddie over top him, in between his legs, his hand on his cheek with a smile on his face. He looked proud and relieved, looking down at Richie like he held his heart. 

“Hey, there he is! Hey, Richie, listen, I think I got IT, sweetheart!” His smile widened and he stroked Richie’s cheek gently. “I did, I think I killed IT for real—” 

Richie knew what was coming next, but just as always, he couldn’t stop it. No amount of screaming or wanting to pull Eddie out of the way could stop what came next; before Eddie could finish speaking, there was a ferocious laughter that erupted through the cavern, and he was impaled, straight through the stomach by Pennywise’s damn claw. Richie heard Bev’s screams, felt Eddie’s blood splatter all over his face, watched as Eddie grasped at the claw protruding from his gut, but there was nothing he could do.

He’d watched this happen over and over, and each time it was different, but this time… this time it was worse. Eddie wasn’t just someone he’d been friends with once, someone he’d loved once, but someone who he currently loved, someone who currently loved him. He’d stroked his cheek and called him sweetheart, that was brand new. 

In the back of his head, he had implanted memories, fabricated in the way they can be in dreams. He knew that Eddie was his, maybe his boyfriend, maybe even his husband, he didn’t know, but he knew he was his. They were together, lived together, knew what it was like to have a life together. It made it even more painful to watch as he stared down at Richie, knowing that his life was coming to an end. 

“Eddie…” 

“Richie…” He reached down, his bloody hand ghosting across Richie’s face. Richie wanted to take his hand, to pull him to safety, but he could never control his movements in these damn nightmares. With blood spurting out of his mouth, a nightmare in it of itself, Eddie cried out once more, “ Richie...”

Then he was flung across the cavern, just as he always was. Richie screamed, pushed himself up and ran to where IT had thrown him, but it was too late. It was always too damn late. He heard the rest of the Losers behind him, telling him something about needing to defeat Pennywise, but he couldn’t listen. All he could do was pull Eddie into his arms and cry, holding his bloody, broken, body against his. 

“Baby, please, wake up, please… baby…” Eddie didn’t wake up. He never woke up. All Richie could do was sob and hold his body, praying to a God he’d never believed in that Eddie would come back to him. “ Eddie , baby, please, please, wake up, wake up, please—” 

“Richie, sweetheart, wake up!” Richie jolted awake to see Eddie next to him, sitting up and shaking him into consciousness. He was having a hard time remembering to breathe, struggling to find the difference between the nightmares and reality, all the while grasping onto Eddie’s arm like he was afraid he’d disappear. He’d watched him disappear into nothingness far too many times since they fought IT for him to ever stop fearing that being a possibility. 

Without another word, Eddie wrapped his arms around Richie, pulling him in so his head was pressed against his chest, just like it had been the first time he’d caught him in the middle of a nightmare. The major difference was this time, Eddie was stroking Richie’s hair and pressing sweet kisses to the top of his head. 

“It’s okay, sweetheart. I’m here, I’m not going anywhere,” Eddie whispered, lips brushing against Richie’s hair. “I’m safe. We’re both safe. Everything’s okay.” 

Richie couldn’t do anything but nod and wrap his arm around Eddie’s waist, reminding himself that he was still there with each rise and fall of his chest. Richie knew Eddie was still alive, but that didn’t change the fact that he had images of him dying in a dozen different ways haunting him, playing in his head like a movie no one should ever have to see. He didn’t know if it was the deadlights causing him the dreams, or if it was just plain old-fashioned trauma, but either way, he was desperate for it to stop. It always left him feeling broken, just like he was in his dreams, helpless and useless as the love of his life slipped away in his arms. 

“It was different this time,” he muttered once he was able to find his voice. “You called me ‘sweetheart’ and you stroked my cheek like you did yesterday, and…” Richie didn’t know where to go from there, didn’t know how to describe to Eddie that he knew that he’d just watched a reality where he’d lost him after loving him for those twenty-seven years they’d lost, so instead he just buried his face in the crook of Eddie’s neck and closed his eyes. It hurt too much to think about, much less talk about. All he wanted to do was forget, to stop having those goddamn dreams. 

“I’m here, honey, it’s okay.” Eddie stroked his fingers up and down Richie’s arm and pressed a kiss to Richie’s forehead, keeping his lips there for a second before pulling away to look Richie in the eye. “I’m always gonna be right here, I promise.” 

Richie nodded and let Eddie lean in and press a soft, comforting, kiss against his lips. Richie had to keep reminding himself that this was what was real. Eddie kissing him, his arms secure around him, and the fact that they’d had sex for the first time just hours previous, that was real, not Richie’s nightmares. It was small, but along with Eddie holding him, it was enough to start easing him back into a relative state of comfort. 

“Go back to sleep, sweetheart,” Eddie murmured, kissing the corner of Richie’s mouth. “I love you.” 

Richie hummed softly, trying to ease himself back into a state where sleep was a possibility. It was easier with Eddie there with him, that was for sure. “Love you, too.” 

 

 

Richie woke up with his head on Eddie’s chest and Eddie stroking his hair absentmindedly while scrolling through his phone. His dream from the previous night wasn’t so daunting in the morning light. Still, he thought the fear the nightmares brought him would always live with him, even if he could bury it at times. 

When Eddie noticed he was awake, he looked down at him with a smile, and pressed a kiss to his forehead. It eased any remaining terror from the night before. 

Richie yawned and stretched, doing his best not to knock into Eddie. “Morning.” 

“Morning,” Eddie responded, hand still playing with his hair. Richie hummed and leaned into his touch. “Your hair is a mess.” 

Richie chuckled and rolled his eyes. “Whose fault is that?”

“Still yours.” Eddie smiled and reached over to the nightstand, grabbing Richie’s glasses and handing them to him. “There you go, blind ass.” 

Richie took his glasses and put them on, happy to be able to see Eddie again instead of just a vague, Eddie shaped, blob. “You love my blind ass.” 

“Unfortunately,” Eddie teased. He leaned in and pressed another kiss to Richie’s forehead before going back to his phone, clearly just as hesitant to get out of bed as Richie was. 

They laid in bed in comfortable silence for a while, Richie keeping his head on Eddie’s chest as he started to scroll through his own phone, checking emails, ignoring voicemails from his manager, and staying the hell off Twitter. 

Lying in bed with Eddie, having this level of domesticity, made Richie feel warm inside. For all those years when he’d forgotten about Eddie, he’d never wanted anything so simple and intimate with anyone. It all seemed too terrifying, and never worth it. It was different with Eddie, though. Everything he’d ever been through that led him to laying in bed, playing a stupid game on his phone while Eddie stroked his hair, his head resting on Eddie like he was a pillow, it had all been worth it. 

“Do you think we should tell everyone else?” Eddie broke the silence, looking away from his phone to look at Richie. “The Losers, I mean.” 

Richie bit his lip. He’d thought about it, and really, it wouldn’t have been that big of a surprise to any of them, he knew that. They’d all seen him in the hospital when Eddie was on the verge of life and death. More than that, they all knew how they’d acted their entire childhoods, always too close to be platonic. It was still daunting, though, even if it was the people he was closest to. 

“Do you want to?” Richie averted the question back to Eddie, looking up and locking eyes with him. 

“Yeah, I do,” Eddie answered. “But like I said yesterday, I’m not gonna force you out of the closet if you aren’t ready, so if you aren’t ready to tell them, that’s fine, but…” Eddie hesitated, pressing his lips together, before continuing. “I want to tell them I’m gay, at the very least. I don’t want to hide that from them anymore.” 

Richie nodded and gave Eddie a gentle, understanding, smile. As terrified as he was to let people know he was gay, he had to admit it sucked to keep a secret, especially from the people he was closest to. “Yeah, me neither,” Richie responded, dropping his phone down by his side and reaching to grab Eddie’s hand, lacing their fingers together. 

“Good,” Eddie responded, grinning and leaning in to press a soft kiss to Richie’s forehead. God, did Richie hate the no morning breath kisses rule, but if his consolation prize was forehead kisses, he’d take it. 

“So… how should we tell them?” Richie asked. 

“Uh… Good question. I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” Eddie admitted, playing with Richie’s fingers as he spoke. 

“Great, so you’re gonna leave all the thinking to me?” 

Eddie snickered. “Honey, if I left all the thinking to you, we wouldn’t have made it out of Maine.” 

“Fuck you,” Richie muttered, poking Eddie in the side, making him squirm and giggle despite looking like he was trying not to. Twenty-seven years later, and he was still ticklish. Richie loved that. “Seriously, though. Do you have like, a single idea?” 

Eddie rolled his eyes and flicked Richie’s head lightly. “I don’t know. Maybe we should wait until we see them in person.” 

“Fuck no, that could take months,” Richie argued. 

“Alright, genius, do you have any better fucking ideas?” 

Richie thought for a moment, chewing on his bottom lip and looking up at Eddie. He turned his gaze to his phone laying by his hand, smiled, and grabbed it. He opened the camera and leaned back on Eddie’s bare chest, hickeys from the previous night dusting his chest, before raising his phone so he could get them both in the picture. “Smile.” 

“Really?” 

Richie looked up at Eddie, quirking his brow up. “Do you have any better ideas.”

Eddie opened his mouth, likely to fight back, but after a second, he just shrugged and wrapped and arm around Richie’s chest. “Take the damn picture, then.” 

He did, and once Eddie okayed it and Richie took a second to think about how ridiculously hot the picture is, he opened the Loser’s groupchat and sent the picture. 

 

RICHIE: road trip is going great guys 

BEV: FUCK YES 

BEV: BEN OWES ME $20 

RICHIE: were you seriously betting on when we’d get together 

BEN: … 

BEN: No, we were betting on who would tell us they were together first: you two or Bill 

and Mike 

MIKE: :| 

 

The next message that came through was from Bill, a picture of his head on Mike’s chest, propped up just enough so he could flip off the camera. Mike was smiling in the background, and Richie couldn’t help but grin ear to ear at the picture. He’d been worried about nothing, just as he’d suspected. 

Eddie was smiling next to him, chuckling down at his phone. Richie felt that warmth in his chest again, looking from his boyfriend—he’d never get tired of calling him that—to his phone at the conversation between his friends. Everything felt one-hundred percent right for the first time in a long time. Maybe ever. 

 

EDDIE: Gay rights 

 

“Is there anything else you want to do before we get to L.A.?” Eddie asked, turning to look at Richie. Normally, they’d plan something like that in the morning before they left their hotel, but they mutually decided that sex was a lot better than any kind of road trip planning. 

Richie chuckled and shot a smile at Eddie, sitting in the passenger seat with his fingers tapping in beat with Lana Del Rey, despite having made fun of him for his music choice not days earlier. Their first kiss had been to a Lana song, though, so maybe that was enough to change Eddie’s mind, even if the experience had been less than perfect. 

They’d been on the road for about six hours, minus stopping for lunch, and in Nevada for about thirty minutes. They’d probably be stopping at a motel once more before they got to L.A., mostly because Richie wasn’t wild about driving for another five hours just because he wanted to be home. He didn’t mind motels so much, though, as long as he got to sleep next to Eddie. 

“Hey, we could go to Vegas and get married,” Richie joked, not thinking much of it as he set his eyes back on the road. He expected either a chuckle, a roll of the eyes, or a shut up, Rich, from Eddie, but he got none of the above. Instead, Eddie turned to look out of the window, keeping quiet, his tapping fingers becoming more incessant, no longer following the beat. Richie narrowed his eyes and shot a glance at him for a second, noticing his uncomfortable posture and demeanor. “Eds, baby, I was joking.” 

“Yeah, sorry, I know,” Eddie muttered, shaking his head and turning back to Richie. He had a strange, somber, smile on his face, looking a little embarrassed and apologetic. “It’s just… Shit, I don’t know. If I wasn’t still legally married, I might’ve said yes.”

 Richie nearly crashed the damn car. Not really, but if there had been anything happening on the road that required more than average attention, he definitely would’ve. There was no way he could pay attention to driving, or fucking anything else for that matter, when Eddie had basically just said he’d marry him in fucking Vegas. 

“Shit, really?” 

Eddie shrugged and looked down, starting to pick at a loose string from the shirt he’d borrowed from Richie instead of looking at him. “Maybe. I don’t know.” 

“Fuck,” Richie muttered. He didn’t know what to think, or say for that matter, so he took one hand off the steering wheel and put it on Eddie’s thigh, stroking lightly and comfortingly. It took a couple seconds of awkward silence for Richie to be able to cough up something resembling a proper response. “You know what, fuck that. Fuck Vegas. You deserve a better proposal than a joke. When I do propose it’ll be romantic as shit.” 

Eddie laughed, and looked up at Richie, slipping his fingers underneath Richie’s hand so he could twine their fingers together. “I’m looking forward to it.” He was quiet for a second, stroking Richie’s hand in the way he liked, before continuing to speak. “Is this crazy? We’ve only been dating for three days. We shouldn’t be talking about getting married.” 

Richie huffed. “Yeah, well, we shouldn’t have had to fight a demon space clown who tried to hate crime us twice, either. But shit fucking happens.” 

He hadn’t meant for it to come out so harsh, nor did he mean to take out the fact that he was still fucking furious that he’d had to go through something no one should have to go through twice on Eddie .

Richie sighed and gave Eddie’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Sorry, it’s just… I dunno, man. Nothing about this shit has been normal, so, fuck it I’m tired of waiting. I’ve been in love with you since I was fucking thirteen. I don’t wanna wait forever to spend forever with you.” 

Richie could see the smile on Eddie’s face in his peripheral. He knew he’d never get tired of being the cause of his smiles. “That was maybe the most romantic things you’ve ever said to me.” 

“Oh, come on!” Richie argued, turning to look at Eddie for a second. “I said plenty of romantic shit last night!” 

Eddie smirked. “Yeah, but your dick was inside me, that negates like half of it.” 

Richie rolled his eyes, and for a second considered pulling his hand away just to flip Eddie off, but he decided against it. The fact that he liked holding someone’s hand more than flipping them off was truly his biggest form of character development, he thought. 

“Does not,” he grumbled. “Fuck you, I was romantic as shit last night.” 

Eddie shook his head with a smile on his face, chuckling low and quiet. Richie accepted that as the closest form of agreement he’d get, so he held it and sat with it in silence for the next couple moments. There was something different about bickering with Eddie mere seconds after talking about getting married, something sweet and natural that made him soft inside. 

“You know…” Eddie started, slow and nervous. He looked up at Richie, and their eyes met for a second. Richie was looking at the love of his life, and despite the fact that they’d only officially been together for three days, he wasn’t freaking out about marrying Eddie one day. He’d wanted to marry Eddie since he was a kid, even when that wasn’t a possibility. In every childish, suburban, dream, it’d been Eddie beside him in the kitchen, sitting around in the living room watching T.V., doing the stupid, boring, domestic shit he saw his parents doing. He’d never wanted any of that with anyone like he did Eddie. 

“What do I know?” Richie prodded. 

“Hush,” Eddie continued, squeezing his hand a little too tight to get him to shut the fuck up. “When we do get married, I want to actually have a wedding.” 

Richie furrowed his brow. “Yeah, that’s how getting married work, dipshit.” 

“Shut up, asshole. I mean…” He grasped onto Richie’s hand again, hard but not in the same way as before. It was for comfort this time, which Richie didn’t mind whatsoever.  “When Myra and I got married, it was at a courthouse. I think mostly because everyone had a feeling that if we had a big wedding I would’ve fucking bolted out of fear before even getting my tux on, but still.” 

Eddie sighed and loosened his grip on Richie’s hand, switching to playing with his fingers instead of squeezing on with a vice grip. “I’m glad we didn’t have a real wedding, I really am, because… I didn’t want one with her. At all.” He looked up at Richie. “But I want one with you.” 

 Richie never put too much thought into marriage or a wedding the last twenty-two years he’d lived without Eddie’s memory in his head. Just like when he was a kid, he thought that getting married to a man would be an impossibility. Even when he saw the news about how more and more states were legalizing gay marriage, and then eventually the whole country, Richie thought it would always be an impossibility for him. He’d never feel safe to come out, and more than that, he’d never have a reason to. 

And then Eddie came back into his life, just as hyperactive and easy to rile up as he was at thirteen, and Richie was back to imagining the white picket fence life with Eddie. It was all he’d ever wanted, he’d never stop wanting it, even when he didn’t remember Eddie. Now, the best part was knowing that Eddie felt the same way, sitting beside him talking about marrying him while playing with his fingers, looking at him with a warmth in his eyes that would never stop making Richie go weak in the knees. 

“Alright, so, fuck a Vegas wedding. We’ll get married on a beach, or a church, or… I don’t know. We’ll figure it out. But we’ll have a real wedding,” Richie said, nodding like he was reassuring them both. “That’s not me proposing, by the way. I’m just saying.” 

Eddie chuckled and brought Richie’s hand up to kiss his knuckles. “Good,” he said, voice soft and happy. He laced their fingers together again before going back to leaning his head against the window, watching the scenery like he’d been before.

Richie took a glance at him and felt his heart flutter. Knowing that one day the man beside him, holding his hand for no other reason than they liked to be touching, just like when they were kids, would be his husband filled him with so much joy he could barely contain himself. 

 

 

They had sex again that night, and despite the fact they were in a Motel Six instead of a romantic hotel suite meant for someone on their honeymoon, it was just as sweet as the night before. Richie couldn’t stop kissing Eddie’s face, his cheeks, nose, and lips, whispering just how much he loved him with each kiss. Eddie refused to let go of his hand unless he had to, relishing in their laced fingers as Richie thrusted into him while whispering a string of, I love you, baby ’s.

It wasn’t like he was keeping track, but if he was, Richie thought he would’ve lost count of how many times he’d told Eddie he loved him. He didn’t care, not in the slightest. He didn’t think he’d be able to go a single day for the rest of their lives without telling Eddie how much he loved him. The best part was, each time, Eddie would whisper it back, or kiss him so sweetly that he didn’t have to. Richie felt this immense, overtaking, feeling of luck and love coursing through his body with each gentle touch. He didn’t think he’d ever be able to feel like this with anyone without a pervasive sense of guilt, much less the love of his life, but there he was. 

He’d never been so happy in his life. 

 

 

“Okay, I just want to preface this with the fact that I never have people over,” Richie started, leading Eddie to the door of his apartment. All he had was a duffle bag, while Eddie had his two huge suitcases and separate toiletry bag, which had seemed a little extra back in Derry, but now that it was his only belongings, it didn’t seem so crazy. “And I didn’t expect to be coming back from Derry with the love of my life. If I had I might’ve cleaned up.” 

Eddie shot Richie a knowing smirk. “No, you wouldn’t have.” 

Richie hated and loved how well Eddie knew him in equal parts. “Okay, no, I wouldn't have.” He sighed and put his hand on the already unlocked doorknob, bracing himself for what was to come. “Whatever just… keep that in mind.” 

Eddie rolled his eyes and nudged Richie’s hand the best he could with his bag in his hand. “It’s fine, seriously. It can’t be worse than living in a bubble.” 

He had a point with that. Richie might’ve had a less than clean apartment, but at least it was lived in. He could only imagine what Eddie’s apartment in New York looked like, what with Myra’s Sonia like tendencies. He didn’t want to think about that, though, so instead he pushed his door open and stepped in, Eddie following right behind him. 

“Home sweet home,” Richie said, turning to look at his boyfriend’s first impression of his— their— apartment. He was grimacing, looking around like the whole place was covered in ten layers of dust, which, okay, might’ve been the case. “Hey! I told you it was bad!” 

“And you were right!” Eddie responded, looking around with his teeth clenched together. He let out a breath and shook his head, setting his suitcase down and turning to face Richie. He put his arms around his neck and pulled him into an almost hug. “It’s fine. I mean, it’s not. It’s disgusting. You live in squalor, babe, so I’m going to deep clean the hell out of this place.” 

Richie raised his brow. “But?” 

Eddie grinned and leaned in, pressing a kiss to Richie’s lips. It was quick, but Richie smiled into it nonetheless. “I’d rather have to clean your nasty ass apartment than live with someone I didn’t love. And I love you very much.” 

Richie never thought someone telling him his apartment was disgusting would make him feel so utterly and completely in love and giddy, but Eddie had that effect on him. He placed his hands on his waist and leaned in, pressing a kiss to his forehead. 

“It’s our apartment now,” he reminded him. He didn’t want Eddie to feel like he was a stranger in someone else’s home; the apartment was as much Eddie’s as his. He’d made his home in Richie’s heart, he might as well make himself at home in his apartment. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to his lips this time, squeezing his side lightly. “And I love you too. Very much.” 

“Good,” Eddie murmured, tightening his grasp around Richie and leaning back up, kissing him again. It wasn’t as soft this time, but it was just as sweet and passionate as every kiss managed to be with Eddie. Richie felt lightheaded and happy, knowing that he was at home with the only person he’d ever truly loved, the only person he ever wanted to love. 

He knew that everything from there on wouldn’t be easy. They would likely drive each other crazy living in such close quarters. Richie still had to come out to his manager and audiences alike. Eddie needed to figure out what he wanted to do career-wise. They were both still dealing with decades of repressed trauma, whether it be from IT, their sexualities, or in Eddie’s case, an overbearing and abusive wife and mother. It was scary to think about how much work they’d have to put into their lives to get them on track, but Richie wasn’t as terrified as he had been once upon a time. As long as he had Eddie by his side, as long as he got to wake up next to him every morning, he knew it would be worth it in the end. 

 

 

A week after Eddie moved in, they had their apartment cleaned and redecorated. Eddie had made good on his promise to deep clean the apartment, and while Richie tried to help him, all he got was some variation of, “ Stop, you’ll just make it as disgusting as it was before.” Even with Eddie’s griping about how disgusting Richie’s apartment was—he refused to call it his apartment until it was clean—Richie could tell that his boyfriend was happy. 

There was a kind of contentedness Eddie carried with him, whether he was lecturing Richie about the different kinds of shower cleaner, bickering about what thread count they wanted, or simply lying in bed, cuddled up watching something on TV. Richie knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Eddie was happy with him. 

Once Eddie was content with his deep clean, they set out to IKEA. Richie wanted Eddie to feel at home in their apartment, so they’d decided to pick up a few things that were his choice. Richie had expected it to be somewhat boring, and involve a fair deal of their normal bickering, but as it turned out, it was like taking a kid to a goddamn candy shop. Richie didn’t pry, but he got the feeling that Eddie hadn’t done much of the decorating in his apartment with Myra, which made Richie want to let him redecorate the whole damn apartment, just to give him that opportunity. 

In the end, they get a new couch, a new bedspread, some shelves, and various shit that Eddie saw and decided had to live in their apartment. Richie was glad he had a fair bit of savings, and that touring paid pretty well, because there was absolutely no way in the world he could’ve said no to Eddie every time he picked something up and said, “What about this?” 

That night they set up the bookshelf they bought, which nearly prompted them to kill each other, but they got there eventually. While Eddie redecorated, placing some of the random knickknacks he’d bought on the shelf alongside Richie’s vinyl’s, Richie felt a surge of love rush through him. It was so sickeningly sweet and domestic that Richie thought he was dreaming for a second. The only thing that kept him grounded in reality was Eddie turning around and smiling at him, showing off the shelf with a dramatic wave of his hand. Richie grinned and opened his arms for Eddie to join him on their new couch. 

They ended up fucking on their new couch, Eddie in Richie’s lap with his forehead pressed against Richie’s. The record Eddie bought in Chicago played in the background, mixing alongside their moans and declarations of love. Richie felt more at home then, Eddie kissing him messily as his fingers tangled through his hair, riding him slow as he moaned into his mouth, than he ever had anywhere else in the world. 

 

 

A month after Eddie moved in, Richie started writing for his new set. It was a constant headache, and a lot of self-doubt and insistence that he was doing it all wrong, but each time he looked over the jokes he had written, little anecdotes about his life with Eddie, jokes about his sexuality, and more jokes about his sex life than he’d ever thought he’d be comfortable sharing, he had to remind himself that it was real. Nothing on the page was a lie, except for maybe a few white ones to cover up the fact that he didn’t think an audience would buy that he’d forgotten half his childhood due to a demon clown that tried to kill him and his boyfriend. 

He’d come out to his manager not long after they settled into a routine living together, not wanting to add any more pressure onto them than need be. Coming out went just about as well as he expected it to. His manager wasn’t necessarily mad that Richie was gay ( “I don’t give a fuck who you fuck, Tozier,” had been his exact words) but he wasn’t exactly happy about it on a professional level. Despite claiming not to be homophobic, and not giving a shit about what Richie did with his personal life, he never missed an opportunity to let Richie know how inconvenient it all was, and how it was too late in his career to rebrand himself. 

Richie had crossed his arms across his chest and glared down at his manager. He didn’t care how much his manager bitched, he wasn’t backing out on this. “Yeah, well, it’s too late in my life to keep pretending to be someone I’m not,” he’d snapped back. His manager backed off a little after that, but Richie was well aware he wasn’t pleased with his client’s decision to let himself be happy for once in his life. 

Richie came home one night, a little over a month into Eddie living with him. He was exhausted after what felt like years of endless meetings with managers, firing his old writer ( good fucking riddance), contract negotiations, and about a million other boring shit that Richie hated. He felt rundown, like his entire body was running on fumes, and all he wanted to do was flop down on the couch and forget the entire day had happened. 

When Richie stepped into the living room, the first thing he saw was Eddie. It was the best thing to come home to, especially when Eddie turned to him and gave him a soft smile from where he was laying on the couch, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia playing in the background. 

On his stomach was a ball of orange, black, and white fur, purring away as Eddie scratched his head. They’d only had the cat, which they affectionately named Brandon, for a couple weeks, but Richie was already willing to die for him. Even when he woke them up at four in the morning because he wanted food, or that one time he somehow pushed the door open and jumped on the bed with them while they were having sex. 

“You okay, sweetheart?” Eddie asked, giving Richie a sweet look. They’d been together for just over a month and Richie had concluded that he liked being called sweetheart just as much as Eddie liked to be called baby. It made him feel anywhere from safe to giddy, but without fail, always made him feel loved. 

He sighed and walked over to Eddie, shucking off his jacket and flopping down on the couch with Eddie, falling on top of him so he was squishing him into the couch. Brandon wasn’t too pleased with his other dad disturbing what was likely his nineteenth nap of the day, so he shot up and took off towards the kitchen to eat his feelings. If Richie hadn’t looked so miserable, he was sure Eddie would have pushed him off and called him an asshole for not warning him, but instead he wrapped his arms around Richie and let him curl up, half on top of him and half sandwiched between him and the couch. 

Eddie moved a hand up to slot through Richie’s hair, brushing it out of his face and playing with it in the way he knew Richie liked. “You wanna talk about it?” 

Richie was quiet for a while, his head on Eddie’s chest and his eyes closed as he let himself revel in Eddie petting his hair. “I didn’t think coming out would be this exhausting,” Richie admitted into Eddie’s chest, voice muffled by the cloth of his own shirt Eddie had borrowed. Even after buying a whole new wardrobe with the money he'd earned working at the animal shelter they'd adopted Brandon from, Eddie still wore Richie’s shirts more often than not when they were home. Richie wasn’t complaining in the slightest, though. 

Richie hadn't expected Eddie to end up working with animals, considering how messy and dirty of a job it could be, but in the end, it made Eddie happy. He liked helping them, liked seeing them go home with loving families that would treat them right. He wasn't sure if it was permanent, and Richie didn't think Eddie did either, but for now, he was content, even if he occasionally talked about a big career change, even going back to school. Eddie was thinking about everything from becoming a therapist to a social worker, and while that seemed daunting, it was nice to see him have life in his eyes when talking about his career.

In the end, whether he was talking about going back to school, or complaining about his coworkers at the shelter, it made him a whole hell of a lot happier than risk-analysist, that was for damn sure. 

“I knew it would be hard, but… God, there’s so much shitty legality involved when you’re a fucking comedian, apparently. And I’m tired of hearing my manager tell me about how this is such a shitty career choice, as if I’m doing it for my fucking career.” 

Eddie hummed slightly. “Do you regret it?” 

Richie looked up at Eddie, feeling comfort in his understanding gaze. “No, I don’t, I’m just tired.” 

Eddie gave him a sympathetic smile and leaned down to press a kiss to the top of his head. “I’m going to fucking kill your manager,” Eddie said, voice somehow sweet and loving despite the fact he’d just threatened to kill a man. 

Richie laughed and leaned up, scooting up enough that he could kiss Eddie for just a second. “Please don’t. You’re no use to me if you’re in jail.” 

Eddie almost looked offended. “Why do you assume I’d get caught?” 

Richie rolled his eyes fondly and let his head fall back on Eddie’s chest. “Because you’d spend too long at the crime scene trying to fucking clean it up. Not even the blood, like, you’d find something that needed to be vacuumed or some shit.” 

“Fuck you. You’re right, but fuck you,” Eddie said, though he was laughing along with Richie. After a beat of soft laughter, he rubbed Richie’s arm gently. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” 

Richie shook his head slightly against Eddie’s chest, nuzzling his way back into his arms. Richie was far too tall to be laying on top of Eddie like he was, and his feet were spilling off the end of the couch unless he curled his legs in, but he didn’t care, and neither did Eddie. “Just hold me for a while,” he murmured, moving one of his hands to rest on Eddie’s side, holding onto him for no other reason than he could. 

Eddie rubbed his arm and pressed another kiss to his head. “Always, sweetheart.” 

 

 

Half a year after Eddie moved in, Richie was about to perform his new set for the first time. He’d been writing and working almost nonstop for the last five months, performing the whole thing to Eddie about a dozen times out of sheer nerves. Eddie, like the good boyfriend he was, always sat back patiently and listened, giving him tips where he could, and reassuring him that everything would be okay. 

Despite his boyfriend’s reassurances, Richie was nervous as shit standing backstage, watching as the crew ran around, making sure everything was set, holding onto a bottle of water so tight he was sure it might burst. He vaguely recognized Eddie standing next to him, rubbing his back, but it was hard to pay attention to anything other than his manager, droning and ranting on about the same shit he’d been on about for the last six months. The only difference was, now he was doing it mere minutes before Richie was set to go out on stage. 

“This better go over well, Tozier,” he barked, halting his pacing to turn to look at his client. “I swear to God, if this doesn’t pan out, I’ll—”

“Jesus Christ, dude, if you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to find the nearest bridge and throw you the fuck off it,” Eddie snapped. If looks could kill, Richie would need to find a new manager stat. 

His manager glared at Eddie for a second before grunting, throwing his hands up in the air, and storming off. It was no secret to anyone who worked with Richie that his boyfriend and manager did not get along, and it was solely because of the way Eddie thought he treated Richie like shit. It didn’t bother Richie so much, because while his manager wasn’t his favorite person in the world, he could recognize that he was good at his job. It didn’t change the fact that all 5’9” of Eddie shifted into protective boyfriend mode whenever he was around, always touching Richie, always coming to his defense and telling his manager to shove it if he said something Eddie didn’t like. Richie had to admit, it was sweet, and also kinda hot. 

He couldn’t really think about any of that now, though. Not while his hands shook, and he felt like he might throw up all over again. Eddie, of course, noticed how nervous Richie was, and turned to put his hands on Richie’s arms and look him in the eyes. 

“You know I love you, right?” Eddie asked, soft, reassuring, smile on his lips. All Richie could do was nod and swallow around the lump in his throat. He couldn’t find any words, not when he was moments away from coming out on stage, telling the world the secret he’d been hiding his entire fucking life. Eddie put a hand up to Richie’s cheek, stroking gently with his thumb, granting Richie the smallest bit of comfort. “Everything’s gonna be okay, sweetheart. You’re gonna do great, you’re gonna make everyone laugh. Even me, even though I’ve heard this set three hundred times. I love you, so I’ll pretend you’re funny.” 

Richie laughed, feeling a bit of calm hit him with Eddie’s words. He knew he was joking and trying to make him laugh, because in the back of his head he heard Eddie’s voice from a couple months back, telling him he was the funniest person he’d ever fucking met. 

The nerves didn’t disappear completely, but Eddie helped. He nodded slowly and took a deep breath, holding it for a second before exhaling. He could do this. It would be fucking terrifying, and he was sure he’d feel sick the entire fucking time, but he could do it. 

Eddie leaned up and pressed a kiss to Richie’s lips, quick and reassuring. Right as he pulled away, someone from the crew yelled a hurried, “Ten seconds, Richie!” 

He felt his stomach dropping again, but he did his best to ignore it. He could do this. 

Richie let out a nervous sigh and locked eyes with Eddie again. “I love you.” 

“I love you too,” Eddie said, releasing his grasp on Richie and taking the now crumpled up water bottle from his hand. “You’ll do great.” 

Richie nodded and started off towards the stage, vaguely aware of a voice announcing him to the crowd, and all too aware of a crowd cheering for him. He made his way across the stage, trying his best to appear as normal and composed as he would on a normal night, waving to the crowd slightly on his walk to the mic. He tried to tell himself that no one could tell how nervous he was from way out in the audience, but that didn’t help once he looked around and saw just how fucking many people were in the audience. All these people would know his secret soon, and then more people would know, and then he’d probably start trending on Twitter or some shit. 

It was now or never. He looked stage left for half a second, eyes fixed on a smiling Eddie. He knew he wouldn’t have Eddie back there all show, that he’d be in the crowd soon enough, and frankly he wasn’t sure which he preferred. He took a breath and let his eyes fall to the reserved seats for the rest of the Losers, all staring up at him with wide eyes and smiles on his face. He could do this. 

“So! You all came. That’s surprising.” There was a laugh, which was a good start. Sometimes the first laugh was all that he needed to shake his residual nerves, but he knew one quick laugh at a not even all that funny joke wouldn’t do him much good this show. 

“No, seriously! The last time I did this, I forgot a joke, lost my lunch on stage, and then disappeared for like seven months. And the worst part is you guys saw me do that and went… ‘ Yep!’” He nodded emphatically and grabbed tightly onto the microphone stand to steady himself. “‘I’m gonna buy a ticket for this prick’s next show. This is the kind of guy I absolutely have to see again. Real class act, that guy.’ It’s not like... a kink, is it? Actually, no, don’t tell me if it is. Because I don’t think I could live with myself knowing that.” 

There was more laughter, and Richie started to settle in. He had to keep repeating I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, internally, but he felt like maybe things weren’t going so bad. He looked into the crowd again, and saw Eddie now sitting with the rest of the Losers, next to Bev. Even with the low light on the crowd, he could see Eddie’s smile. 

“Yeah, okay, so, maybe some of you want the truth. Most of you probably don’t care and cane for dick jokes, but I promise, there’s dick jokes later down the line. They’re like the chocolate in the middle of a lollipop, you just have to sit and wait for me to get to it. How many fucking licks will it take? Let’s fucking find out. That’s a starter dick joke for you, to tide you over until we get to the rest.” 

He let go of his vice grip on the mic stand and instead held onto the mic tighter. With the bright lights shining down on him, making him sweat already, he could almost pretend this was any other show. It wasn’t too late if he wanted to chicken out and go back to the girlfriend that didn’t exist jokes, but every time he thought of Eddie, that idea slipped away. 

“I’ve thought of about a million ways to do this, some of them included long winded explanations of why I ran off stage, where I’ve been for the last seven months, and overall, what the fuck is wrong with me, but they all get so fucking overcomplicated. And complications aren’t funny. If I were giving a Ted Talk, I might say, fuck it, and get right into all the complicated and boring details, but it isn’t. I tried to get in touch with the Ted Talk people to see if I could do that instead, but they just emailed me back and said, “ Hey! Fuck off!” So, I guess you guys are stuck with me.” 

There was another round of laughter, and Richie tried to revel in it, because a part of him felt like it might’ve been the last laugh he’d ever get on stage. His manager’s words rang in his ears, telling him that he could ruin his career, that it was too late in life to rebrand himself, but he had to ignore it. He couldn’t live the rest of his life this fucking afraid to be the person he’d always been. 

“So, I guess the easiest way to do this is just to say it.” He took a breath, gave the audience a nervous grin that was only partially for show, and tried to remind himself that this was the best thing. “I’m gay!” 

There was a strange mix of laughter and cheering in the audience, and Richie felt like he might faint the longer he stood in silence, waiting for either the audience or his nerves to calm down enough for him to continue. He looked down to see Eddie and the rest of the Losers cheering, Eddie more enthusiastic than the rest, and convinced himself to go on. 

“That’s not a joke, by the way. I’m really gay. I had a dick in my mouth last night and everything. I don’t have photographic evidence or anything, mostly because my boyfriend would kill me, but I swear. I’m gay as fuck. Like, in love and dating my childhood best friend levels of gay. We went on a road trip for a week and slow danced to Lana Del Rey before I finally got the balls to kiss him levels of gay. We live together, have a cat, a shared Netflix account, and a fucking grocery list on the refrigerator levels of gay. Like, I’m gay gay.” 

More laughter, but nothing different from a normal show. It wasn’t like the laughter he’d heard in the hallways from the Bowers’ gang, calling him every homophobic slur under the sun every time they saw him, or the kind of laughter he’d heard directed at other gay men just living their lives. They weren’t laughing at him because he was gay, they were laughing at him because he was a fucking comedian, and that’s what he was being paid to make them do. He found relief in that. 

“I hid it for about all my life, because I was scared, but man, you can’t do that shit when your boyfriend is as loud and annoying is mine is. There’s no way I could pretend to be straight while walking around Kroger with this motherfucker, fighting about cleaning products and which kind of Oreos is better, regular or Mint Chocolate Chip.” He paused and put a hand out, eyeing Eddie in the audience. “It’s Mint Chocolate Chip, by the way. No one listen to the little asshole wearing baby blue in the front row, looking at me with this weird mix of God, I wanna strangle him and God, he’s the love of my life in his eyes.”

He couldn’t see it, but he assumed Eddie was either rolling his eyes or flipping him off from his seat, despite having heard the joke before. “Seriously, my boyfriend is like 5’9” of gay rage and hypochondria, and I saw him again after twenty-two years, and my first coherent thought was, ‘Wow! I sure hope he likes dick!’” 

There was more laughter, and Richie started to feel more and more at ease. He still felt shaky and thought that he might end up collapsing directly into Eddie’s arms come show’s end, but for now, he was steady. 

“I’ve seriously been in love with this little motherfucker for like twenty-seven years, and now that we’ve officially been dating for a little over six months— yes, it took us forever, don’t worry about it—there’s no way I can hide the fact that I’m gay anymore. Even if I wanted to, I have this tendency to call him baby or cute in public just to see him blush, and sometimes I pinch his cheeks to piss him off. And worse than that, Eddie will see a room full of places to sit, and he’ll sit in my lap every fucking time. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, or where we are, if my lap is open, my boyfriend is sitting in it. There’s nothing heterosexual about a guy sitting in another guy’s lap as he pinches his cheeks and calls him baby, so, really, there was no hiding this. We’re too fucking gay, and I’m fine with that. I have to make up for twenty-seven years of lost time.” 

More laughter, and Richie felt content. The rest of the set didn’t feel so terrifying with his big secret out in the open. There was a lot more jokes about him and Eddie, some about the rest of the Losers, and then various random anecdotes he’d come up with, but it was all him. People were laughing at his jokes, authentic and real. It was one of the best things he’d ever felt. 

“So, yeah, I’m gay. That’s been established. So, the homophobes in the audience, first of all, fuck you. You guys are the reason I felt so goddamn guilty and dirty every time I sucked dick for the last twenty-two years. Second of all, you’re about to be real uncomfortable for about an hour and a half, because there’s a good portion of this set that’s about me sucking dick. So, prepare yourself for that. At least there’ll be dick jokes.” 

 

 

Richie walked off stage to a crowd still cheering for him, feeling like his heart was going beat straight out of his chest. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to throw up, cry, scream, celebrate, or maybe all four at once, somehow. 

The first thing he saw when stepping off stage was Eddie, already smiling at him and rushing towards him. Before Richie could say anything, Eddie enveloped him in a hug, holding him tight and squeezing the life out of him. Richie hugged back after a second, his anxiety momentarily stopping him from remembering how to be a human being. 

“Was that bad?” Richie asked, face buried into Eddie’s neck. He pulled back after a second and looked his boyfriend in the eye, hands shaking where he grasped Eddie’s arms. “Was it too much? Did I fuck up too much? Was—”

Eddie rolled his eyes and leaned in, kissing Richie to get him to shut up. Eddie pulled away after a second but pulled Richie a little closer to him. “It was perfect, honey,” he said, giving his side a gentle squeeze. “I’m so proud of you.” 

Richie let out a sigh of relief and let himself go back to hugging Eddie, burying his face in his hair and holding him tight against his chest. He was still nervous as hell for the response he’d get from his manager, the Netflix executive somewhere in the audience, and the general public, but all the same, he felt a weight off his shoulders. He didn’t have to pretend to be someone he wasn’t anymore. He didn’t have to carry around a secret that weighed more than he did. 

For the first time in his life, he felt free. 

 

 

Later that night, after they finished having sex, Richie took a picture of Eddie. He was sitting on the edge of their bed, only wearing one of Richie’s Hawaiian print button ups, unbuttoned and loose around his shoulders. Richie always loved when Eddie wore his clothes, whether it was his button ups, t-shirts, or hoodies. Eddie knew that, which prompted him to almost constantly have one of his boyfriend’s old shirts on while lounging around the house, and even occasionally going out in one of Richie’s button ups, unbuttoned but still all too perfect on his frame. 

The light was low in their room, serene and romantic, making the picture even more intimate. Richie smiled as he looked at the picture, smile only widening as he looked up at Eddie, still sitting on the edge of the bed, messing around on his phone. It was such a simple moment, but Richie refused to take it for granted. The fact that Eddie would wear his shirts after (and sometimes during) sex, that he would lounge in bed with him and kiss him for no other reason than Eddie loved him just as much as he loved him, meant so much to Richie. 

He opened Instagram with a sense of strange pride. Everyone in the audience of the show from a couple hours ago knew he was gay, now. They all knew he was in love, that he had a boring, domestic, sweet life that he’d never trade for anything. And as terrifying as it was, he was fine with that. 

Richie uploaded the picture with the caption the love of my life, before tossing his phone to the side. He’d deal with the comments and screaming from the internet later, it was all background noise to him when Eddie was in bed with him. 

He scooted over to Eddie’s side of the bed, wrapping his arms around him and kissing the side of his neck. “I love you,” Richie murmured, pressing another kiss to his neck. 

Eddie just hummed and tilted his neck back, allowing Richie more access. Richie didn’t think he could get any happier than he was in that moment. 

 

 

A year after Eddie moved in, the Losers were sitting around a table at some family owned restaurant Mike had suggested while they were visiting Mike and Bill in Florida. Bill had moved from L.A. to Florida two months ago to be with Mike, and they both seemed ten times happier than they had been the last time the Losers had gotten together. According to Mike and Bill, long distance sucked, and they were glad they were finally able to live together like Richie and Eddie, and Ben and Beverly. 

“Seriously, what’s the point of getting seven chairs anymore? Eddie always ends up on Richie’s lap. Without fail,” Bev observed, pointing at Eddie, perched on Richie’s lap, with her fork. 

Richie laughed, but he still felt a sting deep down. They always got seven chairs, leaving one open in Stan’s memory. Richie would sometimes look across the table at the empty chair and feel a pang of heartbreak, missing his oldest friend with his whole heart. He wondered what Stan would’ve thought of him and Eddie, but part of he knew that answer. Stan knew how he and Eddie felt about each other, he had to. Stan knew everything. 

Richie wrapped his arms around Eddie’s waist and kissed his cheek despite the awkward angle. The fact that they were still eating didn’t stop Eddie from plopping down in Richie’s lap mid-meal, but that was fine with Richie; he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“It’s not my fault he’s a good seat,” Eddie said, causing everyone to chuckle.

Richie looked around at his friends, Mike with his arm around Bill’s chair, hand rubbing his shoulder absentmindedly, Bev leaning into Ben slightly, and Richie with Eddie at home in his lap. There was an insane rush of love that hit him, looking around and seeing all his friends as happy and in love as he was. He just wished Stan was there to see it, to be a part of it. 

Richie nudged Eddie in the side slightly, prompting him to look at him. When he did, Richie tilted his chin towards himself and kissed him, soft and sweet, not caring at all that his lips tasted like butter and garlic from his noodles. They were smiling into each other’s lips, not caring whatsoever that they were in public. It was one of the many perks of being out; Richie could kiss Eddie wherever, whenever, he wanted. 

“Aaaand they’re making out again,” Bill noted, motioning over to Richie and Eddie, still kissing. “This is how we almost got kicked out of the last place, guys.” 

Eddie pulled away for that. “ No, we almost got kicked out because this dumbass tried to kiss me too close to a water fountain and I almost fell in.” 

Richie rolled his eyes and pinched Eddie’s side, causing him to make a weird, yet cute, squeaking noise as he squirmed. “Who the fuck puts a water fountain in a restaurant, anyways?” 

Ben, always the architect, shook his head. “Please tell me that isn’t a serious question.” 

“No, he’s just that dumb,” Bev answered for him. 

Everyone laughed as Richie flipped Bev off, his other hand still wrapped around Eddie’s waist. “Fuck you, if I wanna kiss my fiancé near a water fountain at a shitty buffet I’m going to.” 

Richie couldn’t for the life of him figure out why everyone was staring at him with wide eyes. His confusion only doubled when Eddie elbowed him in the side with a frustrated look on his face. 

Ow! What the fuck was that for?” he asked, glaring at Eddie in his lap. 

Asshole, we were going to wait and tell them later!” Eddie snapped. He looked like he was trying to be pissed off, but it was coming across very well, not when he was still sitting in his lap, an arm slung around his shoulders to keep him steady. 

And then Richie realized what Eddie meant. He’d accidentally let the fiancé card fall from his deck, when they’d meant to save it until after dinner. Richie thought he deserved some credit, though. They’d been engaged for a week, and the only person he’d told was Brandon who… was not a person. 

“Oh, fuck. Oops?” 

Eddie rolled his eyes and groaned before turning back to the rest of the Losers. “Yeah, so, we’re engaged.” 

The room erupted in congratulations, everyone smiling at them with wide eyes. It felt good to have his friends not only know that he was gay, but that he was so in love with someone that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with them. Fearing his sexuality wasn’t entirely a thing of the past, but it was easier now. Everything was easier now, with Eddie always by his side, pressing kisses to his cheek, calling him sweetheart, and poking fun at him like they had as they were kids. 

“How’d it happen?” Mike asked, twining his fingers together with Bill’s. 

Richie took a sip of his beer before answering. “I asked him while we were fucking, and he said yes. Obviously.” 

Mike barked a laughter, Bev rolled her eyes and groaned fondly, Ben shook his head and smiled, and Bill chuckled and responded with, “Of course you did.” 

The thing was, Richie downplayed it. He had asked during sex, but it wasn’t as crude as he’d made it out to be. He remembered the candles on their nightstand, music playing quiet in the background, his fingers laced with Eddie’s above his head, and whispers of how much they loved each other. It was only a week ago, on their anniversary, and Richie had been reminded for the billionth time that Eddie was it for him. All he’d ever wanted to do was be with Eddie, to love Eddie, and now that he could, he never wanted to stop. He wanted everyone in the world to know that he loved Eddie with his whole heart, and that he’d never fucking stop. 

( “Marry me, baby, marry me,” he whispered, breathy and nearly incoherent as he thrusted into Eddie, feeling heat in his stomach and a loving warmth spreading all over the rest of his body. “I love you so much, so fucking much.” 

He hadn’t really meant to say it, and for a second, he expected Eddie to be pissed that he’d proposed during sex instead of something more fantastical, but Eddie just cupped his cheek and pulled him back in, kissing him hard and passionately, so long that Richie thought he’d suffocate on Eddie’s lips. 

And what a way to die that would be. 

“Of course, I’ll marry you,” he whispered, sweet smile on his face as he grasped onto Richie harder, squeezing his hand, and panting in into his mouth as Richie continued to fuck him too slow. “I love you, sweetheart. I love you so fucking much.” ) 

“Seriously, there’s no better orgasm than immediately after the love of your life tells you he’ll marry you.” And then came another elbow in the side from Eddie. “ What? I can tell jokes about our sex life on stage but not with our closest friends?” 

“Yeah! Because these assholes aren’t paying you for telling jokes about fucking me, are they?” Eddie shot back. The room was full of laughter, more congratulations, and Bev going on to say she was going to help them plan the best wedding in the entire fucking world. 

All the while, Eddie leaned his fingers down to lace together with Richie’s. Richie felt Eddie’s engagement ring knock against his skin, and he remembered how he used to see Eddie twist his wedding ring around constantly back when he was still married to Myra. In the last couple days since they decided to go out and get each other engagement rings, he hadn’t once seen Eddie twist it around. Any time he was anxious, he would take deep breaths, grab Richie’s hand, or remove himself from the situation, usually bring Richie along with him to help calm him down. Richie thought he might’ve been overthinking it, but the fact that his anxiety never brought him to his engagement ring, when it used to always bring him to his wedding ring, made him feel a strange sense of relief and pride. He was glad that marrying him wasn’t something that was causing Eddie any kind of undo anxiety. 

Happiness washed over Richie as he smiled up at Eddie, pressing a kiss to his cheek again, not caring about the awkward angle. Everything was as close to perfect as it could be, and while things weren’t always easy, Richie never regretted a second of the last year. He wasn’t hiding anymore, neither of them were. 

They were in therapy, dealing with what they could considering they couldn’t exactly tell a therapist about a demon clown from space who tried to kill them twice, but they could talk about the normal stuff. Richie could talk about how scared he’d been of his sexuality for all his life, how he couldn’t open up to anyone or talk about his feelings without turning it into a joke, and something his therapist called Imposter’s Syndrome. Meanwhile, Eddie could talk about his own struggles with his sexuality, his mom, Myra, and his anxiety. Richie hadn’t had a nightmare in months, and the last time he did, Eddie was there, holding him, kissing him, and telling him how much he loved him. 

In short, they were getting better. It didn’t change the fact that Richie was still scared sometimes, whether it was over his sexuality, or losing Eddie like he had in those damn nightmares. He wasn’t alone, though. More often than not he saw Eddie reaching for an inhaler that didn’t exist, or shaking when he thought too long about his mom, Myra, and how he’d lived so unhappily for so long. His therapist had told him something about how progress wasn’t linear and how he’d have good days and bad, and that was for damn sure. 

The bright side was, for the most part, his fears felt more reasonable and easier to handle, now. More often than not, he was afraid that an audience wouldn’t handle his jokes about being gay well, he was afraid of spiders and clowns because they reminded him of IT, and most of all, he was afraid of being a bad fiancé. He was afraid that maybe he’d be a bad husband, and one day down the line, he might be a bad father. They were all fears, terrifying in their own rights, but none of them consumed him like they used to. There was something freeing about owning his fears and working through them instead of letting them control him and push him further and further back into the closet. 

Richie was still scared, and maybe he always would be to a degree, but it was nothing compared to the thirteen-year-old boy who realized on one summer night as he laid in the grass, staring up at the stars next to Eddie, that he’d like nothing more than to kiss him. It was nothing compared to sitting in the hospital, waiting to find out whether the love of his life died or lived. 

Richie smiled as he heard the rest of the Losers’ voices, teasing him for proposing to Eddie during sex instead of doing something romantic. Richie didn’t care, because he and Eddie knew what that night had been like, and that was all he needed. It was something so private and intimate, Richie didn’t even want to begin to tell anyone how romantic it really was. 

Eddie turned to look at Richie and smiled, leaning in and kiss him soft and gentle. “I love you,” he said, voice a whisper so no one other than Richie could hear. 

Even though Richie stood on a stage and told jokes about how much he loved his boyfriend, about sucking his dick and fighting with him in the middle of Kroger, sometimes they liked to whisper sweet things to each other so only they could hear. It was something only for them, and Richie was more than fine with that. 

Richie leaned into Eddie, holding him close and smiling at him like he was the only person in the room. The thought that Eddie would be his husband soon, once they figured out how the fuck to plan a wedding, made Richie’s heart swell. It was all he ever could have wanted and then some. 

Richie pressed another kiss to Eddie’s lips, squeezing his hand gently. “I love you too, baby.”