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Wild and Weary

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The Losers arrive in the morning. Ben and Beverly have a bottle of fresh-squeezed orange juice from the farmer's market and a vase of flowers. Bill has a notebook for keeping track of memories and figuring out a plan. Mike has a receipt for his hotel room.

"I thought you were crashing here?" Bill asks him.

"I am, when I'm not being sexiled like a college kid."

"Your sexile was self-imposed," Richie says. "We would have been more than happy to have you stay. You would have been a big help, actually, when the boa constrictor escaped and I lost my grip on--"

"It's so important that you stop talking right now," Eddie says.

Mike rolls his eyes. "Why do I want to remember you, again?" he asks.

"Think of how empty your spank bank would be without the memory of this face, Mikey," Richie says, framing his cheeks with his hands and beaming. He feels great. Every part of his body is pleasantly sore from last night--Christ, who even knew he could come three times in two hours, at his age? He's had a truly decadent night of sleep with Eddie spooning him, he's freshly and thoroughly showered, his friends are here. Things are going to be all right.

"I know we have big stuff to talk about, but can we do, like, ten minutes of catching up first?" says Ben. "I mean, holy shit, you and Eddie are dating! I feel like we should discuss this."

"What about you two?" Richie gestures to Ben and Bev's linked hands. "We've been friends for all these years and neither of you ever told me you were huge, flaming heteros?"

Ben actually blushes. Beverly laughs. "I was afraid you wouldn't be my friend if you knew," she says.

"I am very tolerant of your perverse lifestyle," he says. "I'm just waiting for Ben to leave the room so I can ask you about his dick again."

Ben blushes even harder, and now Beverly does too. "Ooh, look at them," Richie teases. "I saw that face. Bev's got the insider knowledge now, huh? Or should I say 'inside her'?"

"Are we talking about dicks?" Eddie says with his eyebrows raised, and Richie shuts expeditiously up.

"Oh, shit, Eddie got Richie to stop talking," says Bill. "It's a Christmas miracle in September. No one man should have all this power."

"It turns out it's actually really easy to shut him up," says Eddie. "The trick is--"

Richie doesn't even get the chance to interject on behalf of his own dignity, because Mike and Ben are both yelling "beep beep, Kaspbrak!" and everyone is laughing so hard that whatever (probably humiliating, definitely hot) thing Eddie was going to say is drowned out.

Richie waits until they've calmed, then says loudly, "There's no point teaching them your secret moves, Eds. None of them look enough like your mom to pull it off."

"Oh, fuck you, dude," says Eddie. He appeals to the other Losers. "The fuck do I see in him? Someone remind me."

"Your dick," Richie says, then has the good sense to shield his face from flying napkins.

"How did resolving your sexual tension make the two of you more annoying than before?" asks Mike. "I can't believe I used to hope you'd get together."

"You did?" Richie's not sure whether he's embarrassed or touched. "I didn't know it was obvious."

"Oh my God, so obvious," says Bev.

"I didn't know," says Ben.

"Of course you didn't, because it wasn't written on Beverly's ass," says Bill.

"Wow, you guys, Ben blushes really easily," says Richie. "Has everyone noticed how much Ben blushes? That must be super awkward for you, huh, Ben?"

Bev kisses Ben on his extremely pink cheek. "It's not awkward, it's cute," she says. Richie's heart is so full. Look at his incredible friend, happy with someone who loves her. Look at them all laughing together. Whatever he has to do to keep this feeling, he'll do it.

"How's it going with you, Bill?" Mike asks, pointedly shifting his attention away from the two new couples.

"Okay," says Bill. "I'm not fired or divorced yet. Things are shaky with Audra, though. I want to be honest with her, but…" He sighs. "How do I tell her any of it? I don't even remember half of what happened last week, and the shit I do remember makes me sound insane."

"Yeah," says Mike sympathetically. "It's almost as stupid as one of your books."

"Mikey Gets Off A Good One!" Richie whoops.

"Please, I'm actively trying to change the subject from getting off," Mike says.

Eddie comes out of the kitchen with the box of fancy donuts he went to the store for earlier, because he absolutely can eat gluten, just as Richie suspected. "Do you guys want to, like, sit down? Or are we just gonna stand around giving each other shit all day?"

Everyone helps themselves to juice and donuts and settles in around the table. The conversation lulls, and Richie looks to Mike, expecting him to pick up the ball and run with it. But Mike is looking at Richie and Eddie, as though he's waiting for them to start. Richie's eyes tick to Big Bill, who is also looking expectantly back at Richie. Same with Beverly and Ben. Apparently, by convening this meeting, he and Eddie have also volunteered to chair it.

Richie licks his lips. This should be easy. He's Trashmouth Tozier--talking in front of people is what he does for a living. But it's different in this room, with these people. It's different when he has to talk about something that matters. Richie thinks, again, that he is not ready for this much responsibility.

He looks at Eddie, and Eddie's watching him too, but not the way the others are, like they're waiting for an explanation. Eddie's eyes are warm and dark and safe. They're earth. They're gravity. They are the opposite of floating.

"Okay, shitbags," says Richie, because if he's going to run this show he's doing it his way. "What the fuck is going on?"

"It seems like it's the same thing that happened before," says Eddie. "Once we left Derry, we all forgot. Mike was the only one who remembered, because he stayed."

"Right, but this time nobody stayed," says Richie. "Derry didn't even stay. So if we were following the same rules, you'd think we'd all be forgetting, but it's still clear for me."

"And me," says Eddie. He looks around the table. "Anyone else?"

Reluctantly, they all shake their heads.

"Being here helps," says Bill. "Looking at all of you, it's like--it's there. If we sat here and talked about it for long enough, it would come back to me."

"But when you left it would be gone again," says Beverly. "Me, too."

"Well, I think the solution is obvious," says Richie. "We all need to move in together. Come on, let's Full House this bitch."

"This isn't a sitcom," says Eddie gently. "We need to figure out why some of us are forgetting and some of us aren't. That's the only way we'll be able to fix it."

"What does fixing it mean?" asks Mike. They look at him blankly. "I mean, which of us need to be fixed?" he clarifies. "Is the problem that we're all forgetting, or that you two aren't? Maybe none of us are supposed to remember, now that it's over." He looks down at his hands where they rest on the table. "Memories are a lot to live with."

Twenty-seven years, Richie thinks. Mikey stayed and kept the home fires burning, knowing what they'd all seen, while none of them so much as knew his name. The burden of that, the loneliness--it must have been immense. Mike could have broken under the weight at any time.

But he didn't. And he brought them back together again. Richie doesn't want to let that go to waste.

"We're supposed to remember," he says. "I know it was hard for you, Mikey, but it was shitty for us too. We had all the fear and trauma and loneliness, but we didn't know why. And we didn't have each other."

"Yeah," says Bill. "I missed you guys so much and I didn't even know who I missed. Forgetting isn't easier."

"And besides--there's Stan," says Eddie quietly. "I don't want anyone to forget about Stan."

For a moment no one says anything. In the silence, Richie allows himself to feel the weight of his grief. It's old and new--the familiar ache of emptiness from losing his life's only real friendships, and the fresh hurt of Stan's death.

"Remember when that motherfucker brought a fucking thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle down to the clubhouse?" he says. "Like we were going to sit in the dirt with him and put it together." He looks around the table, and for a moment his heart sinks when he sees no glint of recognition in the others' eyes. Then he feels Eddie's hand on his arm.

"It was a bunch of different birds, right? Native songbirds of Maine or something," says Eddie.

"I should have done the stupid puzzle with him," says Richie. He takes his glasses off and rubs his eyes.

"Richie," says Eddie.

Richie takes a deep breath. "Yeah. So. What did you find in your notes, Mikey?"

Mike shrugs. "Cryptic shorthand written by someone who thought he'd be able to remember what he was talking about. Not a lot of books. Some Derry and Maine history, but not much about the supernatural side of things."

"No Idiot's Guide to Magical Memory Loss?" asks Ben.

"That was in the reference section. You're not allowed to take those home."

"The smoke hole!" Richie exclaims.

Everyone looks at him. "If this is another joke about your sex life--" says Bev, and Eddie rolls his eyes at her.

"No, when we were kids," Richie says. "I can't remember whose idea it was, but we built a fire in the clubhouse and sat there until we tripped balls from smoke inhalation. And I had, like, a vision."

"Oh, right," says Eddie. "I think I had to bail after about eight seconds."

"Everyone got sick and climbed out, one by one," Richie recalls, "and at the end it was just me…" He thinks. "Me and you, Mikey."

Mike shakes his head. "I don't remember," he says, but he sounds uncertain.

"We saw It," says Richie. The more he talks, the clearer it is in his mind. "We were together, and we were back in, I don't know, fucking wooly mammoth times, and we saw It come to Derry."

"Fell from the sky," Mike says. "Holy shit. Yeah. We saw It."

"So what's your suggestion? Breathe smoke until we hallucinate again?" Ben's tone isn't adversarial, but it's clear he's not sold on this plan.

"I don't know, we could all get really stoned and see where it goes from there?" Richie shrugs. "Isn't the whole fucking deal that we get to make up the rules? It works if we believe it works. We just have to come up with something we can believe in that will tell us why this is happening."

"I have an idea," says Eddie. He sounds reluctant, and he doesn't say anything else for a moment.

"Yeah?" Richie squeezes Eddie's knee under the table. "What is it, Eds?"

"We could ask Stan."