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Wild and Weary

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Eddie gets Richie some aspirin and a glass of water to wash it down, tells him "Sit here on the bed and drink this until it's gone or I'll kick your ass." He's still so much smaller than Richie, just like when they were kids, except now Eddie is solid, lined with muscle where Richie is still gangly. Richie doesn't doubt for a moment that Eddie can and would kick his ass, so he sits down and drinks his water while Eddie packs both their suitcases.

He stays there while Eddie goes downstairs to tell the other Losers they're leaving, which he insists they have to do, even though Richie can't deal with it right now. "They love you, Richie, you can't just disappear," Eddie explains patiently.

Richie puts up a little more of a fight about the car. "I have to take my rental back. It's probably, like, auto theft if I don't."

But Eddie is immovable. "I am not getting into a rental car, dipshit, have we met?" So Richie makes a mental note to call the car place in the morning and tell them where he's abandoned their property. Then he thinks better of this and asks Eddie to make a mental note, since Eddie will actually remember.

Their friends are lined up at the door to say goodbye when Richie finally drags his bag down the stairs, and there are wordless hugs all around. Richie wonders if the six of them will ever be in the same place again, but he's holding it together until Big Bill presses his face into Richie's neck and says, "Stan would be so proud of you."

Then he's crying again, for a long time, even after they're on the highway and the others are far behind them.

It takes Richie a few minutes to calm down enough to notice, but Eddie drives much faster than he would have expected from his most cautious friend. For the first time, it occurs to Richie that Eddie's not just doing this for him. Maybe Richie isn't the only one who can't stand another night in their hometown.

"Are you going to sleep?" Eddie asks after a while.

"Not yet," says Richie, even though he's exhausted. "I want to be a lot farther away than this."

"Talk to me, then?" Richie tenses up, and Eddie shrugs. "Doesn't have to be about that. Just give me something to focus on so I don't start to drift off."

"Do you want to hear some new material I've been working on?"

"No, dickwad," says Eddie. "I haven't seen you in 27 fucking years. I want you to tell me about your life."

Oh, Jesus, Richie's life, his sad stupid life. Living alone in California, going to parties with people he doesn't give a shit about, writing jokes in secret and saying other people's lines onstage, still as miserably closeted as he ever was. He can't tell Eddie any of that. Not yet.

"I guess I'm living the dream," he says instead. "I make a lot of money but not enough to forget that I'm gay and start voting Republican."

Eddie cackles at that, and Richie quietly glows. "How much money would that be, you think?"

"Another 50k a year would probably do it," says Richie. "At that point, it's like fuck my right to get married, just give me some sweet tax breaks. Anyway, it's not--" He stops. It's not like anyone wants to marry me is what he almost said, but that's getting too close to depressing reality.

Eddie picks up the conversational ball from there, reminiscing about their childhood, asking Richie if he remembers this and that: the first time they smoked pot, the track meet where Mikey's shorts fell down, the time Bill was babysitting his little brother and Georgie locked him out of the house. Thinking about poor George, forever five, twists Richie's stomach a little, but it's okay, he tells himself. He wants to remember this stuff, even the sad parts. He watches Eddie's profile, animated and lined in yellow light as he drives. Richie doesn't want to forget anything again.

"That was a fucking day," Eddie says, laughing at a story Richie's only been halfway listening to. "Did I ever tell you, I couldn't get the stain out of that shirt? Not to save my life. I had to sneak my mom's wallet and go buy a new one so she wouldn't find out."

"The shit we got up to," Richie says, feeling it's probably an appropriate response even though his mind is wandering.

"Dude, no joke," says Eddie. "Oh, remember when I got murdered by a giant spider monster and then you told me you loved me and brought me back from the dead?" His tone hasn't changed, so it takes Richie a second to catch up.

"Yes, I remember that, you fucking bitch," he snaps, not totally sure if he's angry as a joke or for real. "You said you loved me back and we had the make-out session of my teenage dreams, and then you got all distant."

"Sorry I needed a few fucking minutes to process my death and resurrection before talking about our relationship," Eddie snaps back, then softens. "Seriously, I don't know where to start. I owe you my life."

Oh, that's exactly what Richie doesn't want to hear. "You don't owe me shit," he says. "I'm not gonna hold it over your head." He can't stand Eddie's pity, or his obligation. He won't have love be a debt.

"You're a dumbass," says Eddie without heat. "And I swear you're not even listening to me. I said it back, like, a bunch of times. I love you, Richie." He takes his eyes off the road, just briefly, but Richie can feel his gaze, soft and appraising. "And I'm really hoping the make-out wasn't a one-time thing. I'm just trying to figure out what it all means."

"What it means, like how?"

"Like I'm married, dude," says Eddie, and Richie must have known that was going to come up eventually but he still feels absolutely clotheslined by it.

"Are you… going to stay married?" he asks slowly.

Eddie lets out a sigh before he says, "No."

Richie tries not to smile.

"We're not happy," Eddie goes on, "and I'm not going to waste coming back from the dead on something that makes me unhappy. I'm going to leave. But you gotta understand, dude… I'm married. I have to get a divorce. It's going to take time, and it's going to suck. I've got baggage is what I'm trying to tell you, Richie, I can't just ride off into the sunset with you, you know?" By the end, his voice has risen to something like a plea.

"I mean, the sun's been down for a while, but still--" Richie indicates the car, and Eddie laughs.

"You know what I mean, fuckface."

"Why do I find it hot when you call me fuckface?"

"Because you're a deeply flawed person," Eddie says seriously, and Richie is startled into laughter.

"What do you want, Richie?" Eddie asks some time later.

Richie doesn't think before answering. "Everything," he says. "Anything. Whatever you want to offer and whenever you feel ready. I can wait." Part of him has been waiting for Eddie all his life. He knows it now, knows why he's never been serious about anybody. It's not just that he was terrified to come out; it's that his heart is Eddie's, always has been. "I also want to lick your abs," he adds honestly. "But no rush."

"Maybe after you fucking shower, Trashmouth," Eddie says back.

"Hey," says Richie, looking around at the unfamiliar highway signs, "where are we going?" He can't believe he didn't think to ask until now.

"Boston," says Eddie, "unless you want me to drop you somewhere."

"What's in Boston?"

"My wife." Richie grimaces, but Eddie says "Come on, I have to talk to her in person. We've been married for eight years. I can't just never come home."

"Not with that attitude," says Richie.

"Why are you so annoying?"

"Why do you love me if I'm so annoying?" Whoops, that was supposed to be banter but it came out quiet and vulnerable. Fantastic. Richie wonders if it's too late to run back into the Neibolt Street house and be crushed under the wreckage.

"Because you're a good kisser," says Eddie. Richie grins and leans his head back. His muscles are finally starting to relax. He's finally starting to feel safe.

He doesn't know how much more time passes before Eddie is leaving the highway, and they're pulling up in front of a hotel. Richie dozes in his seat until Eddie comes back with a key card and helps him to their room.

"You and me and a hotel, huh, Eds?" Richie asks. "Thought you wanted to take it slow."

"Tozier, if you can get a hard-on without falling asleep first, I will eat this fucking doorknob."

"That's not what I want you to…" He loses track of what he's saying. Eddie is pulling his shoes off and helping him into bed, tucking the covers around his chin. No one has tucked Richie into bed since, Christ, he doesn't even know. He reaches for Eddie's hand.

"Thank you," he says with all his heart, and then he closes his eyes and sleeps.